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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas feast

I spent hours in the kitchen on Christmas Eve working on some foods I planned to have on Christmas day. Inspired by my new Pioneer Woman cookbook, most of what I cooked came from there. If you don't have it, get it! There's some great recipes in there.

Here's what our Christmas day feast included:

Breakfast:
PW's Cinnamon rolls (half w/ coffee flavored icing, half w/ orange marmalade icing) and coffee
So worth the effort! I made the dough in the afternoon and cooked them the night before, reserving half of the icing so when I heated them up on Christmas morning I had fresh icing to top them off. Yes, they're full of fat, but hey...it's Christmas! Plus, I used half whole wheat flour so I felt a little better about that.

Lunch @ my mama's = tons of casseroles and sweets

Evening appetizers:
PW's Burgundy Marinated Mushrooms
PW's Hot Artichoke Dip
Turkey and beef meatballs cooked with grape jelly and chili sauce
Beer bread (Thank you Trader Joe's for the mix!)
Blueberries & Strawberries w/ vanilla greek yogurt and cinnamon
Various apps from Trader Joe's
PW's Chocolate Sheet Cake
No bake cookies & other sweets

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thank you Trader Joe's...

for keeping me sane this Christmas season. The only thing is, who are all these people that are crowding my store? They make it very difficult to navigate the aisles and get what I need.

Anyhoo,

I needed something easy for tonight. David headed down to Alabama this morning to pick up his grandmother and I didn't expect him back until after dinner. I was planning on raiding the fridge for leftovers for the boys and I. So, I was surprised when he called at 4 and said he was about 2 hours away. So, Trader Joe's came through for me tonight with a simple but almost home cooked meal.

Our dinner tonight:

TJ's eggplant parmesan (frozen section), fried up in some garlic infused olive oil.
Layered in a dish with TJ's Toscano marinara sauce from a can and yes, it's good!, parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and basil. Pop in the oven on broil (low) until cheese is melted. Served atop TJ's "just spaghetti" (frozen section) which is already cooked and so easy to heat in the microwave. Steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese, lemon juice and seasoned salt on the side and a tossed salad.
Fresh strawberries and blueberries for dessert topped with whipped cream, honey and cinnamon.
Easy, elegant, and yummy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Note to self...make these every Christmas!

Christmas is not the time to watch what you eat. Or, I guess you could reason that it's exactly the time to watch what you eat. If I know I'm headed to a function where there will be lots of tasty treats, instead of being that person who tries to avoid all the greatness, I'm usually the person who has no fear of indulgence. Maybe I'll regret that in a few years, but I do try to eat light the rest of the day. And for the record, I've been running a lot these days. I'd like to start off the year with a 10K in January.

But I digress.

Here's a couple of recipes that are hits. And yes, they're not light, but they are oh so good!


The first one is a great sweet appetizer, perfect for entertaining or for taking to a party. I've served it several times and it's always been devoured. It's quite easy to assemble and can be made in advance. And for all you who hate coconut, please make this for the people in your life that love it. I promise, they'll love you forever! Instead of only serving it with fruit, I also serve it with some simple crackers.

Sweet Cheese Ball

And for all those cookie swaps that we ladies inevitably get invited to, here's a favorite cookie recipe that's also quite easy to make. I opt to make the recipe with pecans instead of almonds, but that's just my preference. I also cut the vanilla extract to 4 tsp.

Italian Wedding Cookies

Merry Christmas friends!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

snacks straight from literature



I love reading books I grew up with to my boys. One book we finished recently was the first book in The Boxcar Children. I loved that book as a child. In the book, the "boxcar children" had a job picking cherries for a doctor. After they picked all day, they were rewarded with cherry dumplings, made by the doctor's mother. Everytime I'd read the words "cherry dumplings", Wyatt's little ears would perk up and he'd say "Mom, can we please have cherry dumplings someday." A few days ago I finally gave in and came across a recipe for Boxcar Children Cherry Dumplings. The recipe itself is very simple, only calling for a couple of cans of crescent rolls and a can of cherry pie filling. I know, I know...crescent rolls go against everything I believe in for healthy eating. I normally avoid them but tis the season, right? I know there are much better recipes out there, but this was easy, one my kids could help make and quick. If you make them, I'd suggest to not overfill the dough with cherries. You'll have some cherry pie filling left over so I would top the finished dumpling with more cherries and whipped cream or ice cream.

After reading The Boxcar Children we started Farmer Boy, the childhood story of Almanzo Wilder (Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband). In the first part of the book, Almanzo's family has an evening snack of popcorn, apples and apple cider by the warm fire. So the other day when the boys were asking for a snack, we had...you guessed it...a "Farmer Boy" snack of apples, popcorn, and apple cider by our fire. It's the little things you know!

Alright, I'm on to make a swiss chard pizza tonight for dinner. For dessert...Pioneer Woman's chocolate sheet cake! But, more on Pioneer Woman later.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thai coconut soup


In the first few years of mine and David's marriage, we fell in love...with Thai food. Our absolute favorite was Chicken Coconut Soup. We'd order up a "hot pot" and slurp up every last bite as the fire in the hot pot crackled away. If you've never had this soup before, the flavors might be completely new to your taste buds. The combination of coconut milk, lime juice, lemon grass, and curry can be daring if you're not an adventurous eater. But even if you're not, I would still encourage you to try this. I know many who turn their little noses up at international foods but still love this soup.

We tried several times years ago to duplicate this soup at home but were never satisfied with the results and decided to just leave it up to the professionals. Until now.

One of the food blogs I frequent posted this recipe she adapted from Allrecipies. After trying it out today, it definitely passes the taste test. Instead of shrimp I used cooked shredded chicken. I also used a little more lime juice and red curry paste than she calls for. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to the recipe as written.
Serve it up with some Naan bread! Or better yet, buy yourself a hot pot, have some fellow Thai food foodies over and impress the heck out of them!

Thai coconut soup with chicken or shrimp

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beef Stroganoff

Last night I searched the net for a good beef stroganoff recipe. There's tons out there so I just winged it and made what I thought would be good. Good thing I trusted my gut because it was pretty darn good. I'm going from memory here, but I wanted to get my method down so I can make it in the future. There were no real exact measurements so if you want exact measurements than this will frustrate you.

Ingredients:

1 lb to 1 1/2 lbs. beef steak cut into 1 inch chunks (sirloin, tenderloin, or the tenderest cut your money can buy)
butter
flour
1 sweet onion, sliced into strips
bacon (optional), cut up into pieces
garlic
red wine
2 1/2 cups beef broth
mushrooms
worcestershire sauce
sour cream
cooked buttered noodles

In a cast iron skillet, melt about a tablespoon of butter. Lightly coat the beef in flour, shaking off any excess. Salt and pepper the meat, and sear the beef over med high heat on each side until brown. Remove from pan to a towel lined plate.

In a separate deep pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook the onion strips over med low heat until soft and lightly browned. If using bacon, skip the butter and fry the onions and bacon in the bacon drippings. Once cooked, add a few minced cloves of garlic and cook a minute or so, being careful not to burn. Deglaze the pan with a good amount of red wine, probably 1/2 to 1 cup, making sure to really scrape the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Cook until liquid is decreased by half. Add about 2 cups beef broth. Once the mixture starts simmering, add a package of sliced baby portabella mushrooms. Add a few shakes of worcestershire sauce. In a separate bowl, pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup beef broth. Heat in microwave until hot. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of flour into the broth and whisk until thick, making a thick roux. Add the roux to the mixture in the pan. Stir and simmer over med/low heat until thickened. Add the beef to the pan. Cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add in about 1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream, until desired creaminess is achieved. The stroganoff should not be runny, but smooth.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

For this week's soup I dug out my Mitford Cookbook for a recipe I've made only once before. It was great the first time, but a little messy with having to transfer the soup into the food processor in batches and puree, so I never made it again. I couldn't wait to try it out with the immersion blender. Man, what a difference that makes. It was SO easy! I love that thing!
Anyway, here's my take on the recipe:

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

2 TBS olive oil
1 cup chopped green onions or shallots
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped jarred roasted red peppers, drained
2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans whole stewed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 - 1/2 cup half and half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sour cream or cheese for serving

Warm the olive oil in a large heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Add the green onions and saute until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, red peppers, tomatoes, sugar, garlic and basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add in the half and half (or whipping cream if you're going for it!) until desired creaminess is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sour cream or parmesan cheese.

Swiss Chard Pizza


I treated my aunt Kathy and I Friday night to this wonderful pizza posted by Kara on her blog. I got some nice swiss chard in my CSA box this week and this was the best recipe for it! I will definitely make this again, and I think next time I might toss in a little sauteed granny smith apples. It would really compliment the walnuts and cheese. Kathy's going to make it topped with grilled chicken. Oh, and to make it easy, I used pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe's.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My new toy and a new soup



I've always wanted an immersion blender. I always knew it would be something I wouldn't use a ton, but when I'd need it, I'd be so thankful for it. Why keep putting it off? Turns out they're only like $30, and with a coupon I got mine for $25. Let me tell you, I'm already pleased with the purchase. It's amazing how well that baby works! No more transferring soup in batches to the blender, spilling it all over the counter. I've avoided making so many things for that reason alone!

And so what did I use my new purchase on? This soup I finally decided to make: Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup.



The immersion blender came in SO handy on this one. You could still make it without one, but you do have to do the whole transfer in batches thing. Either way, it's definitely worth it. Similar to the curried butternut squash soup I've made before, just without curry, so if curry scares you, try this one. Oh, and if you hate carrots, don't worry, it's not too "carrot-y." Really.
We had it for lunch today, along with a sandwich inspired by Jen (who makes wonderful sandwiches).
Turkey on whole wheat with horseradish cheddar, cranberry chutney, mayo, and sliced apples. Fry it up in a pan with a little butter. Yum! And we like to dip our sandwiches in our soup!
I'm thinking it would be fun to make a new soup once a week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

I saw a recipe very similar to this online tonight and decided to try it out. The results were amazing! Who knew brussel sprouts could be SO good?

Balsamic Brussel Sprouts:

Rinse brussel sprouts. Remove the ends, quarter them, and place in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with enough good quality olive oil to coat, sprinkle with a good balsamic vinegar to coat, toss in a couple of minced garlic cloves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until done.

Bolognese Sauce

I realized I have never posted my Bolognese sauce. I guess that's because I made it different every time. Sometimes I add more sauce, sometimes more milk. Either way, I wanted to post it as a guide for future reference. We had a yummy dinner tonight. We had penne with bologonaise and balsamic roasted brussel sprouts with sourdough garlic bread. I'll post the brussel sprouts recipe in another post...they were seriously that good. This recipe is totally doable ahead of time.

Bolognese Sauce

Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery (optional)
2 carrots, run through the food processor to make them very finely chopped (almost like a paste)
4 cloves of garlic
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
Large can of marinara sauce or 1 jar of good quality pasta sauce
a couple shakes of red pepper
Italian seasonings to taste
salt
pepper
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
parmesan cheese

Method:
In dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute the onions until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and sauté for a few minutes more. Add the beef and cook until browned. Add the wine and remaining ingredients, adjusting as desired. Simmer for 45 min. Serve over pasta topped with parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Italian Chicken

I've been losing my mojo in the kitchen these days. It's been awhile since I've made a really good dinner, in my opinion. David's always very gracious, but frankly, my dinners lately have been flops. It's pretty frustrating when I'm trying so hard to make family meals happen even if there is soccer practice at night. That will soon be over and I'm SO glad. We're just not up for being one of those families that have an activity every single day of the week. We all love our time at home, and it is, after all, the simple moments at home that stick in a child's mind.
Tonight was a rare Sunday evening that David was home. I'm been used to my Sunday evenings with just me and the boys, and admittedly, if he had been gone, I would not have gone to the trouble of really cooking. But he was home, so I did cook, and finally I made a decent meal. It's worth making again so I wanted to make sure I got it down. I have no name for this, although Italian Chicken might be a good one:

Italian Chicken

Needed: chicken breasts, mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, an egg, Italian Seasonings, whole wheat flour (may use white all purpose), good quality marinara sauce, butter, salt, pepper, and toothpicks.

Method:
Preheat oven to 400

Take a few chicken breasts and pound them down until they are pretty thin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sprinkle a good amount of shredded mozzarella cheese on top. Roll the breast up and secure with toothpicks. Dip the whole thing in whole wheat flour, then an egg mixture (egg w/ just a splash of water or milk) all mixed up, and finally , dredge the whole thing in breadcrumbs. I use my homemade ones that are healthier. I also mix in some Italian Seasonings and grated parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs, but that's just me. Place the breasts seam side down into a baking dish, pour a mixture of melted butter and oregano over the top and bake at 400 until done (maybe 40 minutes, depending on the thickness). While it's baking, simmer a jar of marinara sauce on the stove. Once the chicken is done, remove from oven and slice so they resemble medallions. Pour just enough marinara sauce over the top to lightly cover, sprinkle with more mozzarella and pop back into the oven until the cheese is melted. Really good all on it's own and even better served over a top of pasta.

It really wasn't all that hard to prepare. While the oven was preheating I was able to get the chicken assembled from start to finish. I'll be glad to add this to the list of "definitely make again."
My mother in law said the sweetest thing today. She said "I was excited about eating lunch here. I always love your lunches!" That was so sweet to me because lunch is not my favorite meal of the day, although it is growing on me. Sometimes I just eat bits and pieces of things...hummus, vegetables, salad, crackers, cheese, etc. I'm not a big fan of sandwiches, mainly because I'm not very creative in that department. Lunch today was pretty simple, but I have to admit it was pretty good. Too bad I can't take much credit for it. I heated up some of Jen's Pepper Cheese Chowder from our soup swap, topped it with bacon, cheese, green onions and hot sauce. I also threw togehter a nice salad of mixed greens, CSA box radishes, broccoli, tomatoes, heart of palm, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, green onions, carrots and gorgonzola cheese. I also made some sweet tea (sweetened with agave) and threw in a little chai. For dessert, a Trader Joe's cherry pie. As long as there's a Trader Joe's around, I don't think I'll need to make a cherry pie ever again. This was a lunch worth repeating.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall CSA time again!

It's Fall CSA time again. I almost didn't sign up, but changed my mind at the last minute remembering how much I love Fall produce. I enjoyed the Summer CSA box, but I did tire of the weekly commitment of having to pick it up on Thursdays between 10:30-11:30. Plus, with the abundance of Summer produce on roadside stands, I felt that I could easily get fresh and organic produce just from the local gardens. But Fall produce is a little harder to come by.
I loved getting the box last Fall, so here I go again!

Today my box contained broccoli, tomato, radishes, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, purple bell pepper and hot peppers. I'm all about planning these days so I need to commit to a plan to utilize these things and stick with it. I think this will help me out with what to eat on the 4 nights a week David is gone. I'm really excited about the spaghetti squash and I'm thinking I'll have that for dinner a couple of nights, along with a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli. I also have some cubed butternut squash. I'm going to caramelize that and toss that into a spinach salad, along with the tomato and radishes, walnuts and feta cheese.

Right now I'm enjoying a tasty tomato soup made by Kara. The garlic and fresh tomatoes make for a very bright and clean tasting tomato soup! I added some sour cream, cheese, and a crumbled bacon. Thanks Kara!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvest Salad


And speaking of Harvest Salad in my last post, I had to share the recipe. My friend Kelle made this for me after I had Wyatt and it's seriously delicious and so right for this season. Like most of my recipes, you can change out some of the dried fruits for others, but I'd advise you to keep the figs in (unless you're totally opposed to figs).

Harvest Salad

1 pkg. fresh spinach

Mix together in a bowl:
2 red pears, chopped - toss in lemon juice
1/2 cup dried apricots and figs (or other fruit mixture. I like apples, blueberries, figs, and cranberries)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 small purple onion, thinly sliced
1 cup Jicama, finely chopped

gorgonzola cheese for topping
toasted nuts, for topping

Dressing: I like to double this to have extra
3 TBSP Cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 c. olive oil

Whisk together and pour half (if you've doubled the dressing, all if you haven't) over the fruits. Toss together and refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
Top the spinach with the fruits, gorgonzola cheese and toasted nuts. Top with more dressing if desired.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Slow cooking


I have a feeling that this is going to be my sanity this Fall.

Our week nights are being taken up with soccer and I'm not happy about it. True, it's my own doing signing up the kids for this, and honestly, I'm doing it for Wyatt. He's finally old enough and has been begging to play. In hindsight, I should have just signed him up, waiting to put Ethan in baseball in the spring. One kid, one sport a season. I think that will be our plan in the future. I'm so adamant about us having a decent family meal together at our kitchen table. It's so important. With soccer practice and makeup games happening right at the dinner hour (6pm) on the weeknights, we are either stuck grabbing a quick bite out after or eating an early dinner just before. I'm opting for the early dinner as much as possible. To make this happen I need my crock pot.

I have a feeling this website will be my new BFF. I saw it posted on Jen's blog awhile back, but after giving it a closer look, I'm really impressed. This girl is into healthy eating! I've shied away from many crock pot recipes because so many of them out there are full of fat, sodium and processed ingredients. She's really put some thought into her recipes and most of them are gluten free. I'm starting this week with her Pesto Chicken and Sweet Potatoes, Orange Chicken and Sweet Potato Chili (Vegan). I'm thinking the chili would be amazing with some sweet cornbread on top!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pasta with Chicken Sausage

Do you know how often I come to my own food blog for meal ideas? It's a lot. I like to know what works for us. And this next recipe is one that works!

With our weeks being very busy now with school, soccer, AWANA, and other various activities, often the first thing to go is eating at home. I'm determined to make it happen as much as possible. I'm passionate about my little family sitting around our table as often as possible eating a homecooked meal.

Tonight's one of those nights it would have been very easy to let that go. With Wyatt having soccer practice at 6-7pm, you'd think we'd just run out for a bite to eat after. And I just can't seem to get organized enough to have dinner ready at 5. Maybe that's something I need to work on for the future. But for tonight, I needed something easy to throw together while David took the boys to the soccer field.

This is a recipe that was inspired by a Real Simple recipe. It's quick, easy, and versatile. And most importantly, it passes the kid test. I'm making enough so we'll have leftovers for tomorrow.

Pasta with Chicken Sausage

12 ounces rigatoni (or other desired pasta)
2 tbs. Olive Oil
1 onion, sliced
6 ounces fully cooked chicken sausage links sliced (I prefer the chicken with apple kind)
Broccoli florets or peas if you have them
Parmesan cheese, grated

Optional:
White Wine
Half & Half (Or whole milk or heavy cream if you really want to go for it)
grated fresh nutmeg

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onion, stirring often. Let it get nice and brown, about 5 minutes or so. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until browned. While that's going on, cook pasta according to package directions. For a light, no-heavy sauce pasta, add the broccoli/peas and 1 1/4 cups water and simmer, uncovered, until the broccoli or peas are tender. Toss with the pasta and top with cheese.

Or...if you want a more saucy (and yes, fattening) version, after the sausage is browned, add a few good glugs of white wine and deglaze the pan. Once the wine has almost all been absorbed, add a good amount of your half and half (or milk or cream, or a combo). This is where I'm going to throw all you "exact measurements" people off. Just add as much as you'd like for the amount of sauce you'd like. Keep in mind the more you add the more runny it will be. I'd estimate I add about 1 1/2 -2 cups combo of half and half and 2% milk. Let it simmer a bit to thicken. Add some grated nutmeg. Add the veggies (if you want them) and simmer until tender. Another idea is to add about 1/2 to 1 cup of pumpkin for a wonderful Autumn dish.

Toss with the cooked pasta and top with cheese.

Skip lighting a scented candle that night because your house will smell amazing just from the cooking.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fresh Vegetable Soup...or as I call it: CSA box soup

I'm doing a soup swap with some friends this week. We're each making a huge batch of soup then dividing it into 5 large portions. We keep one batch for ourselves then when we meet up this week, we all trade our other 4 batches. The idea is that you cook once, but end up with 5 different types of soup for the freezer. As I type I've got two large pots simmering away on the stove.

I love soup. Love all different types. Ever heard of Apple and Parsnip soup? It's amazing. So is Curried Butternut Squash soup.
For me, part of the joy of soup is the making of it. I love the process of taking a bunch of fresh vegetables, chopping them up, sauteing garlic and onions in EVOO, tossing the veggies in, along with some broth, and letting it simmer away.
By far, my favorite soup to make is Fresh Vegetable Soup. I found a great recipe in Cooking Light years ago and I've been making it ever since. Of course, I've added my own little changes. Whenever I make vegetable soup, this is always the version I make. Although I pretty much know how to make it from memory, I still rely on the recipe just to make sure. When I went to find the recipe a few days ago, it was nowhere to be found. I looked high and low to no avail. Did tons of internet searches to find it, but still couldn't come up with the exact one. I was all prepared to just wing it and do it from memory, but decided to make one last attempt and finding it and thankfully it was found, just stuck in between some random cookbooks.

I'm now posing it here so I'll forever have it. No more searching high and low.
The recipe is more of a guide, as all the vegetables listed can be substituted with whatever you have fresh on hand. Thanks to my CSA box, I had a lot of nice goodies to work with. If you have no potatoes on hand, substitute some dried macaroni. To make it even more hearty, add some shredded cooked chicken or ground beef.

Fresh Vegetable Soup

2 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 C. Chopped Onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 C. Chopped Celery (about 4 stalks)
2 C. cut green beans
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 C thinly sliced carrot
1 cup. frozen baby lima beans
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 cup. peeled and chopped potato
3 teaspoons dried Italian seasonings
4 (14 1/4 ounce) cans organic beef broth or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
2 cups chopped seeded tomato
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes
2 cups shredded green cabbage
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for topping

1. Heat oil in a large pot over med. heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2 min. Stir in celery and next ingredients through tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 min.
Add cabbage salt and pepper, cook 5 min. or until cabbage wilts. Serve with cheese.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mmm...Summer

This is what I LOVE about Summer...all the fresh vegetables.
Being a southern girl, that's what I grew up on in the warmer months. My family reunions are filled with vegetables. Granted, a lot of them are fried, but many are just sliced up as they are.

Our table tonight:
Smashed potatoes
Corn - cut off the cobb with melted butter, salt and pepper
Fried okra (thank you Kara for advising me on how to make it your way, which is the best!)
Sliced tomatoes w/ torn basil, salt and pepper
fresh cantaloupe
Blueberry cornbread






Nothing fancy with the pictures here...just a true to us snapshot of our little family's dinner table. The cantaloupe didn't make it into the shot.

With the exception of the blueberry cornbread, everything came right out of my CSA box. Even right down to the basil. So, not only was everything delish, it was a good feeling to know that our meal tonight didn't have to travel far and by us purchasing it directly from the farmer, we're helping his family out. We explained the concept of buying local to our kids tonight around the dinner table.

And who out there is turning up their noses at the idea of blueberry cornbread? Don't knock it till you try it. It's a recipe from Hans Rueffert's book Eat Like There's No Tomorrow. Haven't heard of him? Check him out. Amazing chef, cancer survivor, and man. I've had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions and I really respect the man. I'm not giving you the recipe for the cornbread because I want you to buy his book!
There's some great recipes in there, especially for those who love to make the most of Summer's bounty. And I love the title! For someone who lives to eat, rather than eats to live, it's right up my alley.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Roast Beef Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Here's something super easy and requires no cooking for the hot Summer. It's one I adapted from Real Simple Magazine (put my own twist on it). It saved me from serving my family cereal for dinner tonight...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Roast Beef Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Toss the following into a salad, or use whatever you have on hand:
good quality mixed greens and romaine lettuce (Boston lettuce works nicely)
sliced tomatoes
cucumbers
carrots
sliced red onion
marinated artichoke hearts
sliced heart of palm

Top with crumbled goat cheese, sliced deli roast beef (warmed up a bit), and a good balsamic vinaigrette or TJ's Tuscan Italian dressing.
Or...make your own dressing of 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Morning glory muffins



When life gets busy (when is it not??), I need something quick, healthy, and delicious for breakfast. Something that doesn't take long to prepare and something packed with fiber. When I was losing weight a couple of years ago, one thing I was doing was really paying attention to my fiber intake. I didn't watch calories or fat grams so much, but I did aim to eat foods high in rich fiber. It fills me up and evens out my blood sugar keeping me from getting super hungry. I adapted a recipe for "morning glory muffins" from cooking light, making it more of my own creation. These babies have some great ingredients in them such as flax seed, wheat germ, wheat bran and oats. I make a big batch of them and keep them in the refrigerator in a ziplock bag so all I have to do in the morning is heat one up and throw a little Smart Balance on and I'm good to go. I usually try to have a fresh fruit, such as a banana, blueberries, or a peach along with a 8oz. glass of 1% milk. Sometime around 11am I'll also have some string cheese and an apple and I usually hold off on lunch until 1pm. I've heard it said that you have to eat to lose weight. I think that is so true, especially in the morning. I have to eat several times in the morning hours or else I'll be totally famished by 12 and will head for whatever is fast, easy and usually not so healthy. If I start the day off right I'm much more likely to keep it up and eat well throughout the day and not fall prey to sugar cravings.

Oh, and they make a great nighttime snack as well!

So, without further adieu, here's my adapted Morning Glory Muffin recipe:

Tip: Store wheat germ, wheat bran flaxseed and Scottish oats in the refrigerator or freezer in a ziplock bag. I'm able to fit them all into one bag and just grab the whole thing when I need to make the recipe. Keep them in their own individual bags in the larger ziplock bag.

Yield
18 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)

Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 cup whole wheat flour (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces) (I use King Arthur's White Wheat)
1 cup regular oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar (can use less if desired)
1 tablespoon wheat bran
Good pinch of each: ground flax seed, wheat germ, and Scottish oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt (I use 2% Greek Yogurt but you may use fat free plain)
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup chopped dried fruits (mix and match raisins, blueberries, apples, cranberries, cherries...whatever you have on hand)
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans. Walnuts are nice as well)
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed (about 2 tablespoons whole)
3 tablespoons wheat germ
3 tablespoons Scottish oats

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°.

Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in dried fruits and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with a mixture of the flaxseed, wheat germ and Scottish oats. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Turnips

I got a lot of goodies from Farmer Chad today, but my favorite was the turnips. Yes, I said was. Eventhough I was starving by the time I returned home after running errands, I waited to eat until I could boil those babies until tender, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and dig right in.

I sure do love turnips.
Why do people turn their little noses up at them?

I don't get picky eaters.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's CSA time again!!!

And I'm so excited! I'm ready for some farm fresh food and creativity in my kitchen. It's definitely needed. As much as I enjoyed the Fall/Winter selection, I bet I'll enjoy the Spring/Summer variety even more. I love fresh summer produce. I have some pics of the goods, but can't upload them right now.
Today's box was great:

Two large bunches of leafy lettuce (I'll have salads twice daily I'm sure)
A couple of verities of greens (I love braised greens!)
A bunch of small carrots (for the salads....Ethan could eat all of them on his own)
A small bunch of spring onions (for cooking with and salads)
And a small container of bright red strawberries (snacks for the boys, and topping for greek yogurt or steel cut oats for me)

I like that getting the CSA box forces me to eat fresh; you don't want the food to go to waste.

The past couple of months have been hard for me to eat well. I try when I can, but my sweet tooth is working overtime and I find myself out of the "comfort zone" of where I want to weigh. Nothing that can't be easily remedied with more exercise and eating better. I have a goal in mind for myself of where I'd like to be in about a month and I'm going to work hard to get there.
The most difficult thing has been that I just can't get a workout in. Not at the gym at least. I simply don't have the time right now to go to the gym. Our schedule is jammed packed.

I was able to get two good workouts in this week at home doing a combo of the treadmill and a 20-min circuit that I made up (intervals of 1 minute cardo like jumping rope/jumping jacks and 1 minute weight or resistance). The first workout had me very sore for the next two days, so I feel like it was effective.

The truth is I was making more progress when I was going to the smaller women's only circuit gym (Shape Express) than I have being at the big gym. It's not a surprise to me; I knew this going into it. There really is something to a good effective 30- minute circuit training workout that combines cardio and resistance at the same time than to doing 30 minutes of intense cardio and 30 minutes of weights, which is what I usually end up doing at the "big" gym. I know taking classes would help, but I just can't make it to the classes. They're either during school or in the early evening. I'd need a mid-day class.
But...the big gym offers great child care and kid's activities, something the small one didn't have.
I'm thinking if I can come up with a really good 30 minute circuit I could do at home I'd be set.

Whatever I do, I need to make it happen. Lack of exercise isn't only showing on the scale, it's showing in my stress level, sleeping, and just not feeling relaxed. The days I've done it, I feel so much more relaxed.

There...I've put it all out there so now I'm committed!

Friday, April 17, 2009

White Chicken Chili

I totally meant to post this recipe at Christmas, especially since this is what I made on Christmas Eve for the family. And here it is April and I'm posting a Christmas recipe! It's great for any time of the year, though. It's also a wonderful option for serving at larger gatherings. You can do a tex-mex thing with it and let people top the chili with various toppings (sour cream, salsa, pico, chips, shredded cheese, etc.) It went over great. I pretty much made it just as the recipe calls, although I decided to use dried white beans and soak them overnight in lieu of the canned. Make it the day before and you won't be disappointed!

White Chicken Chili

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Some of you may have seen this before; it was in my inbox this morning from a naturopathic/homeopahtic doctor I've been to. Very cool! Gives new meaning to the children's prayer "Thank you God for our food."

Nature's Pharmacy! Amazing!


God left us great clues as to what foods help what part of our body!


A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... and YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopene and are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers! It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually help balance the blood sugar of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries

Oranges, Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes.

Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quesadillas

Yummy quick dinner tonight for myself, the boys and my mother in law:

2 types of quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas:

1.) Shrimp, cheese (low-fat shredded Mexican), and grilled onions with a little creole seasoning sprinkled in &

2.) sliced apple and cheese

Served with sour cream with a bit of fresh lime juice mixed in and TJ's peach salsa.

Easy and yum!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Kitchen This Week

Monday....Sweet and Sour Chicken with brown rice...Wyatt's absolute favorite. It's the only time he asks for more chicken.

Tuesday night...Roasted Chicken with carrots, potatoes and onions. Also tried my hand at braised cabbage. It was pretty good!

Wednesday lunch...Quick Thai Corn Chowder. We're having kids over to play today, so maybe ordering a pizza and throwing together a salad is in order if they're all still here at dinnertime.

Thursday...eating out or eating leftovers.

Out of town this weekend! We're heading down to the Strawberry Festival in Tampa...I've heard they have the best strawberry shortcake ever! Good friends and good times ahead.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day Part 2

I know Valentine's Day was so last week, but indulge me a bit. If you read my food blog from last year, then you know that Valentine's Day is a much celebrated holiday in my house. No so much for the "romantic" part, but just as a good excuse to celebrate the love we have for each other. It all started when I was a child. Valentine's day is my mom's birthday, so growing up, we had a double celebration. My mom, sweet lady that she is, would always go all out getting gifts and sweets for all of us. Plus, we always had a nice meal and homemade cake to look forward to. Over the past several years, I've tried to recreate that idea for my kids. We have an "I Love You" dinner. It's quite a simple idea actually. I love my men...all three of them, and instead of hiring a sitter and feeling like David and I have to go out as a couple, I'd much rather stay home, cook a really yummy meal, decorate, light candles, and give gifts to my guys. We've also invited my sweet Aunt Kathy to join us for the past few years. It's always been such a night to look forward to and one I do from my heart.

This year I decided to make it a little bit of a bigger deal by inviting my parents, my mother in law, and both my aunts to celebrate both Valentine's and my mom's birthday. My aunt made a coconut heart shaped cake and an appetizer. I did the salad (spinach, strawberries, red onion, pecans, cucumbers and poppy seed dressing) and the entree: Granny smith apple and sausage penne. I also went a little overboard and made sure everyone had a small gift (really..not a big deal. I totally scored on necklaces and bracelets with $20 price tags but only paid $2).I also decorated with flowers and candy kisses. Very festive and fun. It was all a total hit.

Right before dinner, Ethan snuck upstairs and came back down totally dressed up. It was all his idea. He said he wanted to "look nice" for dinner. That made my heart melt!











My mom looks pretty good for 71, huh?

It seems like most families have one special day a year that they do differently than anyone else. This is ours.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tex Mex Bowls

It's time for me to make a confession. I've been terrible lately at making meals at home. Our schedule the past several weeks has had us away from home during the late afternoon hours and it's just so hard to arrive home after 6pm with a starving family and expect to whip up a decent meal in minutes. It's been so much easier to go to our favorite "kid's eat free on Tuesday nights" restaurant. Hey...if we have to eat out, at least we're not paying for the kids. Problem is...it's usually junk the kids end up eating (hot dogs, grilled cheese). Sure, it's nice to go somewhere else where they cook and clean up and we return to a perfectly clean kitchen. Still, it's more money unnecessarily spent on a not so decent meal. In my defense, there's been plenty of nights I have planned ahead and organized something very easy to make on these busy days, but my well meaning husband is very good at talking me out of going to the trouble of making dinner and our behinds end up in a restaurant booth. It's a guilt ridden process: I feel guilty for spending the money on poor quality food, guilty that my kids are eating it, guilty that I couldn't be more on the ball and have dinner ready myself, and guilty that I'm probably consuming way more calories than I would at home. Planning has got to be key, but I've also got to plan meals that can be cooked earlier in the day and warmed up just before serving. I'm becoming more friendly with my crock pot again. Staring in March, the boys will have some type of activity nearly every day that will have us out of the house in the later afternoon hours. I won't have the time to devote to making dinner at dinner time.

It's can be weird to think about preparing dinner in the AM hours, but that's what I think will save us. Take today, for instance. I'm taking one of our favorite meals...grilled chicken, black beans and rice and making most of it in the morning. I soaked the beans overnight; very easy to do. Threw them in the crock pot along with some onions, garlic, cumin, curry powder, salt, white wine, rice vinegar and chicken broth. I'll cook them on low for 6-8 hours and cross my fingers that they won't get overdone.
The rice (brown jasmine) was cooking while I made the boys lunches and the chicken is marinating in the fridge. Once we get home tonight after 6pm, I'll throw the chicken on the grill, heat the rice, and maybe even toss a salad together. The final plan will be to make Tex Mex Bowls...layer in a bowl: rice, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, chopped chicken, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream.
If all goes well, we'll be sitting down to dinner around 6:30. Not too bad.

Another great idea for these types of meals is bar-b-q chicken Kelle's way. It basically consists of throwing a few chicken breasts into the crock pot, pouring a bottle of gourmet bar-b-q sauce, perhaps a few chopped onions and garlic powder and let it do it's thing until dinner time. I love bar-b-q this way since I can control the type of meat (hormone and antibiotic free). Plus, the leftovers make great lunches.

I'm going to have to brainstorm to come up with more ideas like these. There's always the typical pot roast, but we don't each much red meat in our house. Maybe some good chicken recipes are due.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some things I'm crazy about

I know I've mentioned it before, but there are a few things in the world of food that I'm crazy about. If there's something on the menu with these choice ingredients, I'll definitely be getting it. To name a few...Coconut, butternut or acorn squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. And why do I love these things so? They're all sweet, of course!

Upon doing a little search of these ingredients, I came across a few recipes I'll be making in the future. Just thought I'd pass along the goods:

Coconut Ginger Spiced Carrot Soup - different, I know, but I bet it's delish!

Coconut Mashed Sweet Potatoes - Hello! How have I never heard of this before?? It's a Hawaiian dish.

Acorn squash quesadillas -
Yum!

Thai Coconut Corn soup - Thanks Jen Gordon!

Maybe I'll get creative and come up with some of my own.
One of these days I'll share my recipe for my mom's famous homemade coconut or chocolate pie.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Marinara, veggie lasagna and soup



My life has to be all about planning these days. Planning meals, planning lessons, planning what errands I'll run on what day, planning when I'll work out, planning the boys' activities, planning when not to cook, etc. I like to try to spend some time on Sunday each week making my plans for the week. I need to plan on two decent cooked at home meals this week. Why just two? Well, thanks to the baptist church down the road, our boys attend AWANA on Wednesday night and we have a date night each week. Wednesdays are my night off from cooking and eating at home. Out of the other 4 nights (I'm counting weeknights here), I know we'll be heading out of town on Friday, so that leaves Mon., Tues., and Thurs. I'll plan on cooking two nights and having leftovers the other. Of course, good planning requires a big trip to the grocery, which I took care of this afternoon.

So..what to make. I've already gotten a head start on that one. As I type, my house smells amazing thanks to the big pot of homemade marinara I have simmering on the stove. There's enough in there for several meals, so I'll freeze most of it. Let me just say that I don't always make a homemade marinara. There are plenty of good ones out there at the store, so I usually start with a jarred variety and add to it. However, I got inspired this time and decided to make it from scratch. It's really quite simple and not too time consuming. Plus, it leaves you with so much that you can just freeze it in one or two cup batches and have plenty on hand for next time.

So...here is the Basic Marinara recipe from Cooking light.

On our menu for tomorrow night...Vegetable Lasagna inspired by Heather. Actually, that's probably not the most accurate title. It's not technically veggie, I do add meat to it, but there's sure a lot of veggies used. I'll utilize the veggies I have on hand and add some sweet Italian chicken sausage to the marinara. This lasagna is amazing and I'm convinced it's due in part to the addition of pumpkin. It adds such a subtle sweetness. I also love the fact that the veggies are all buzzed up in the food processor so the kids don't really notice them. It's a great way to slip some veggies into their mouths with them even knowing it.

For later in the week, I'm trying a soup I've never made before. Sweet Potato and White Bean Soup with Sage Walnut Pesto.
I just love making soup. I love the versatility of it. It can satisfy lunch or dinner, it will freeze well (usually), and I enjoy the process of making it. It may be a bit ambitious to serve this to the kids, but we'll give it a try. Of course, I'll have bread, fruit and salad to satisfy them if they turn their little noses up at the soup.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sole with sides


In my last post, I mentioned a cookbook a friend game me called Apples For Jam. Such a cool cookbook to just sit down and read. Even better to cook from!

For my first recipe from this book, I made pan fried sole with lemon garlic butter. Quite easy to make. You simply make a sauce of 3 tablespoons butter, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika, salt, and the juice of a lemon. Cook the butter and garlic over medium heat until it sizzles. Add the paprika , season with salt and sizzle a bit more. Once it turns golden, add the lemon juice and cook for another minute. Keep warm while you get to the fish.
Lightly coat filets of sole in flour and sauté until golden, salting and peppering each side as you turn. Serve the fish topped with the sauce and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

The recipe has it served alone, but I put it atop a mix of regular and whole wheat spaghetti noodles tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and crushed garlic. It would be wonderful with a little sauteed spinach thrown in as well. I'll use the leftover noodles for the boys dinner later this week. Maybe I'll throw a little cheese in and make a side of peas. I need something really easy since David will be gone for three nights this weekend.

For the sides, I made snow peas with butter, salt and pepper, and made the same sweet potatoes as the night before (see the last post). Still every bit as delicious.

David raved over it and the boys ate pretty well. I've realized Ethan just doesn't care for sweet potatoes, but he ate everything else on his plate.

It may sound weird, but I'm kinda craving a salad with the snow peas and sweet potatoes thrown in. Perhaps that will be my lunch today.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A meal revisited, with a couple of newbies

It was so good to finally get back in the kitchen and cook a decent meal after not really cooking for a couple of weeks. It's therapy for me.

I used my own blog tonight for inspiration. After scouring through some past entries, I remembered how good the black beans and brown rice and grilled chicken meal was. I'm telling you, the curry in the black beans is amazing. Don't be afraid of curry. At least not curry powder. It adds a slight sweetness to the beans. I planned ahead and soaked dry beans a couple of days ago, so no canned beans tonight. I used TJ's Island Soyaki Marinade for the chicken and made a huge batch of brown jasmine rice.
I got to put my new Christmas present to use for the first time; a slicer/shredder attachment for my Kitchen Aid (thank you David!). I shredded a block of raw milk cheddar cheese in about 20 seconds! Awesome! I used the cheese to top off the chicken, which topped off the black beans, which topped off the rice.

I also had some lovely sweet potatoes courtesy of the last CSA box that needed to be used and I found the best recipe online for Maple glazed roasted sweet potatoes.
These may have been the best sweet potatoes I've ever made. I don't know if it was the cooking method or if they were just really good potatoes, but they were so soft and buttery. They tasted just like those terrible sweet potato patties you buy at the grocery that are full of buttermilk, corn starch, and food dyes. This version only had two tablespoons of butter; that's way less than I normally use. I'm sad to say there's no leftovers of those babies.

I'll probably use the black beans and rice again for lunch tomorrow; maybe even scramble an egg into them for some protein.

I got a little inventive with dessert as well. While the boys, David included, made build you own ice cream sundaes, I took a healthier route. I made my own version of one of my favorite desserts found at Thai restaurants; Sticky Sweet Rice with Mangoes. It may sound weird, but trust me; it's amazing. I'm normally a chocolate or cake person, but I tried this dessert at a local Thai place and have gotten it ever since. I've never attempted to really make it myself. Everytime I've asked a server if it's difficult to make, they've all said yes. I figure I'll leave the real thing up to the experts.
My knock off version wasn't so bad, though. I took some of the brown rice from dinner, topped it with sliced mango, and poured a little TJ's organic sweetened condensed milk over the whole thing. Not bad at all. It satisfied my sweet tooth!

I love brown rice! I'm considering having it for breakfast tomorrow. Maybe I'll top it with maple syrup and pecans, just like I do oatmeal.

On a side note, a sweet friend gave me a cool cookbook she found at Anthropologie called Apples for Jam. It's got some great recipes in it and I'm getting really inspired to start cooking away.