Sunday, January 27, 2013

Menu For The Week

I must admit that my menu is a goal for me, kinda like my skinny jeans. It's an ideal that I hold up and then shoot for. Sometimes I aim and bulls eye! Sometimes I aim and don't even hit the target. That's ok though, not the end of the world. I like to have a plan in case I need it, and most days I do. It helps me remember to pull meat out of the freezer in the morning instead of force thawing everything at the last minute. It pulls my shopping list together quickly and makes my bill a lot smaller. I do try to use what I've already got and minimal extras. It doesn't always work out. Like sometimes I just have to make that beautiful dinner I saw them make on America's Test Kitchen. Their recipes always turn out exactly wonderful. Or I'll want to try a new technique I saw on some other show...not really. It's usually America's Test Kitchen! We love our Saturday morning PBS! That's what having no paid cable will do to ya. Oh well. Many a memorable Saturday night's dinner came about from a morning of cooking shows. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Anyway, the planning part usually starts with a mental inventory of what is in the fridge. Then I either look up recipes or fish through my magazines and recipe box for the tried and true ones. Sometimes I'm craving something and that'll go on the menu. Once I've got the plan I go look in the refrigerator to see what is actually in there and if there's anything I missed. My grocery list is made from there. Nothing fancy.

So here's this week's menu:
B - Dr. Oz's Berry Strong Smoothie - I saw him make it last week and am excited to try it!
L - Chickpea Sandwich (We made this last week and it was a little onion-y so this time I'll rinse the onions before they go it. We've seen Rick Bayless do this a lot and it has always worked to take the bite out.) with Veggies and Greek Yogurt Dip
D - Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup, (I didn't make it this weekend) Mediterranean Vegetable Penne (from an old Clean Eating Magazine. They've got lots of recipes on their site, but not this one. They also have clean meal plans with shopping lists if you're looking for help in that area.)

B - Oatmeal with Bananas, Honey, & Almonds
L - Turkey Chili (left over from last week)
D - Black Bean Chicken

B - Smoothie
L - Salad & Roasted Cauliflower Soup
D - Grilled Shrimp with Veggie Stir Fry

B - Toast with Peanut Butter & Bananas
L - Left over Chicken Succotash & Sweet Potatoes
D - At my mom's house. Last week we had Turkey Spaghetti. It was awesome!

B - Pancakes (I will make them this week!)
L - Veggie Fried Rice - This usually consists of day old white rice tossed together with whatever random veggies I've got in the fridge. I'll post pictures and a basic recipe.
D - Steak (Cooked in a cast iron pan it's sooo good! This is all Josh!), Whole Wheat Freezer Rolls, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Veggies

B - Omelettes
L - Left over Penne or Soup
D - Out...or maybe I'll crack open the giant can of Que Bueno I just bought at Costco. They were giving samples. I couldn't help myself.

That about does it. I'm going to track my foods this week and see what I am actually able to stick to. I intended to go mostly veg after the new year, but it is almost February and yesterday our menu consisted of the trifecta: breakfast burritos, pizza for lunch, and burgers for dinner. Not exactly healthy. Definitely not meat free. Here's to a healthier week!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast

Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast
Before Josh and I were married I had never made french toast. Actually after we were married I would use it as an excuse to get him to make breakfast whenever we were craving it (or I just didn't want to cook!)! It seemed like such a difficult thing to me for some reason. I'm a rule follower kind of person so to not have a recipe made it seem like such an impossibility. As I learned how to let go and let cooking become an art I realized that I could do much more without a recipe than I ever thought.

Either way, french toast isn't very difficult at all. I don't know why I was so scared of it. Last week I saw a post somewhere about a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, which to me seemed like DUH! We eat peanut butter banana toast at least 3 times a week around here. I had to figure out how to make that better, more weekend appropriate, glam it up so to speak. Well, here you have it: Peanut Butter Banana French Toast with Honey Drizzle. So unfancy. So good!

I was going to make pancakes on Friday, but this sounded so much more appetizing. It was just as easy and rather quick once the sandwiches were made. I added a little cinnamon to the eggs and it was perfect.

Peanut Butter Banana French Toast
8 slices Whole Wheat Bread
4 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Banana
3 Eggs (you can use just egg whites if you want to save a few calories, but you'll need more eggs)

First, prepare your eggs. I use a square pyrex dish. Crack the eggs in, sprinkle with cinnamon, (as much or as little as you like, you really can't go wrong!) and scramble them up. Heat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat.

Meanwhile, on a plate or cutting board assemble your sandwiches. I used about a tablespoon of peanut butter per sandwich, but it's up to you how much you like. I didn't want mine oozing out while I was cooking so I spread it thin, a little on each slice of bread. Next, slice the banana onto one slice of bread with peanut butter. I'm a little anal about having thin slices and lining them up just so. You'll probably only use about 1/4 of a medium banana.

Close each sandwich and press the edges together to decrease the chance of anything flying out when you flip it. You can do this to each sandwich right before you place it into the eggs. You may want more or fewer banana slices, but really they're just there to enhance the flavor, not be the flavor. Go ahead and place the sandwich into the egg mixture. Move it around to coat, then flip and do the same on the other side. When you're ready to cook, drop a good sized pat of butter onto your griddle or skillet. If it melts and foams up immediately you've got the right temperature. If it browns really fast, turn the heat down just a bit. Spread it around to coat the cooking surface. Remember you're going to flip the sandwich and you want there to be enough butter so it doesn't stick or burn. I used a stainless steel griddle so I needed more butter than if I had used, say, a non-stick skillet.

Next, put the sandwich onto the griddle or skillet right in the butter. Let it cook for a minute or two. The goal here is to cook the egg and warm the sandwich. You want it to be browned and crisp on the outside and ooey and gooey on the inside. Once it starts to brown flip it over carefully. Press down on the edges and let it cook for another minute, until it's browned on the second side.

Serve it up! I drizzled honey over mine. Then we added a drizzle of real maple syrup. Then I added honey roasted almond slivers from Trader Joe's. Sorry I don't have a picture of all of that. I ate it too fast!  Josh had his with just syrup. And you can have yours however you like too!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

I'm not a big chili fan. I don't know why. It's really yummy and can be so good for you. The only time I used to eat chili was in a bread bowl at Boudin on Pier 39 in San Francisco. About a year-and-a-half ago we started working with Least of These Ministries, which is a local ministry to the needy here in Tracy. Once a month our church provides a hot meal for them to take to the homeless people they've developed relationships with. It's a really cool ministry and Brian and Lydia who run the ministry are great! Anyway, they asked us to try to provide healthy meals as the food available to most homeless people is totally unhealthy. So in my search for healthy meals that would be easy to make in large quantities I came across a Jaime Oliver chili recipe. It was choc full of healthy ingredients: beans, tomatoes, peppers and onions. It turned out it was also full of flavor! Everyone loved it. We even came home and made a batch for ourselves!

Since then I've not been able to find the recipe online again and only have the one I saved from somewhere in cyber space. I have made a few changes here and there, the main one being that I use ground turkey instead of beef and sausage. Gotta save the calories where we can, but there's no way I would do it at the expense of flavor!

Turkey Chili
1 pound ground Turkey - I use the dark/white meat mix because it has a little more flavor and breaks apart more like ground beef. You can feel free to use all white meat.
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper diced

2  stalks chopped celery
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
Ground cumin
Chili powder
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 package chili seasoning mix*

S & P
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped green onions, for garnish

*Chili seasoning recipe follows

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. I use a chopper to make sure my veggies are diced small. If you have a picky eater you're trying to fool you can put them in the food processor and chop away. They'll still cook up the same and add the same flavor, they just won't be discernible to those little eyes!

Saute for a couple minutes till the onions become translucent. Push the veggies to the side and add the meat in the middle. You may need more oil at this point, but give it a try without at first. Add cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper. I don't measure at this point, just a nice sprinkling over everything. You've got to season turkey a little more heavily than you would beef or sausage.

Break up the meat and let it all cook out till the meat is browned. While it cooks up, get your slow cooker heating up. Drain and rinse all the beans.

Add the beans and all the tomatoes to the crock pot. I always use the diced tomatoes, but I've been know to substitute whatever I have in the pantry for the whole peeled tomatoes. If you don't have time to let it cook all day crushed tomatoes or even tomato sauce works as a substitute. You could even just leave out the extra if you want it chunkier. I promise the end result is not "tomato-y" as it might seem like it could be, so please don't leave out the tomatoes for that reason. I have also discovered petite diced tomatoes which would help with cooking time as well. Anyway, at this point it may seem that it's not all going to fit in the crock pot, but trust me it will! 
Once the meat is browned add the meat and veggies to the pot.

Now comes the fun part: make the chili seasoning! You can find the original recipe here. I made some changes based on my taste and what I had on hand the first time so this is how I make it:

Chili Seasoning
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp instant minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)

Combine ingredients and add it all to the chili! Mix it in and add S & P to taste. Let the chili cook all day on low. My crock pot is crazy hot so I can hardly ever leave anything all day. The general rule is 5 hours on high and 8 on low. Mine is about 5 hours on low. It won't hurt the chili to cook longer than these guidelines. It's really hearty. Taste it and add salt and pepper to your liking. I like to under season just in case the cheese is salty. Everyone can add a little extra salt or pepper if they need it. Serve with your favorite chili toppings or try cheddar cheese, sour cream/greek yogurt, or green onions.

Feel free to drool. I think the bowl is!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Mmmmm...Chai. I just can't stop saying it. I love Chai. My first introduction to it was by my BFF Cynthia. She used to get the lattes at Starbucks, which I must say are disappointing once you've had the real deal. I always called it pumpkin pie in a cup. Not a compliment. Anyway, the drink still intrigued and called to me. And like most things I resist at first, I came around to it...not the Starbucks one, just the idea of it. One day a couple Septembers ago we went to a yummy Indian restaurant in Seattle called Saffron. The food was delicious and it was there I fell in love with chai.

Ever since that amazing cup, which came with free refills served from a coffee caraffe, I have been on a journey to replicate it. I immediately came home and started looking up recipes. For a while I was making a coffee maker version but it wasn't producing consistent results. I also tried a couple of stove top versions but for some reason couldn't get the tea right. Sometimes it was bitter, other times flavorless. I don't know what I was doing wrong but wrong it was.

Then one day it happened...Josh was talking with a co-worker who shared that she drinks homemade chai every morning and it's super easy. He mentioned how much I love chai and the heck of a time I was having finding a good recipe. Needless to say she passed hers on and today, right now in fact, I am drinking the best chai ever! It's so easy and delectable. Thank you Kajal!

The first step is to prepare the Masala, the spices that make the tea taste like chai. This can be done easily in a coffee grinder. You'll want to make enough to have around for whenever you want this delicious drink. I keep mine in a plastic baggy in an airtight container.

1 part black pepper - the original recipe called for more but it was a bit too spicy for me, 1 part seems to be just right, but feel free to play around with it.
3 parts ginger
2 parts cardamom
2 parts cinnamon

Put it all into the grinder and buzz away till it's fine ground. You can buy the whole pepper corns and cardamom seeds to get a fresher taste. The last batch I made I used all pre-ground ingredients and it is still wonderful.

Here is the exact recipe I was given:
-          Water
-          Masala
-          Loose Black Tea from Indian store
-          Sugar
-          Milk

1.       In small sauce pan add: ½ cup water, a couple pinches of the Chai Masala, 1 teaspoon of Tea, and sugar to taste.
2.       Bring the water mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
3.       Once it comes to a boil, add in ½ cup milk and stir. If at this point, you want to taste and add more of the ingredients in step 1, you can (ie masala, tea, or sugar).
4.       Bring this water/milk mixture to a boil.

Just added the milk
5.       Once it comes to a boil, it’s done.
6.       Use a strainer when pouring into cup.

Bought this strainer at Walmart!

-          I like my water/milk mixture to be equal. If you want it to be more watered down, then you can do more water less milk (ie ¾ cup water, ¼ cup milk) and vice versa.
-          The more Masala you add, the spicier it will get, so this will just have to be trial and error to figure out what you like.
-          The more Tea you add, the stronger it will get (more of a bitter taste like a strong coffee).
-          If you like the ginger taste, many people (including myself), grate a bit of fresh ginger into the water in addition to the other ingredients. This will give it a kick.

There you have it! The tastiest chai to be enjoyed at will. I will admit that I use rather large "pinches" of the masala when making my chai. Don't be afraid of the spice. I use 1-1/2 tsp sugar for this size batch. I also did an experiment to make decaf chai. I used decaf Lipton tea bags since they didn't have loose leaf decaf. I found that you need a more than one bag to equate one tsp of tea, so just keep that in mind if you'd like to try decaf. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chilaquiles Verdes

For some  reason I don't recall eating chilaquiles growing up.  (Pronounced: chee-lah-key-less... not chilli-killies as I have heard them called! lol)  I'm sure I had them. Or maybe I refused them. Either way it's a sad story because they're so stinkn' good! In college we had "Stir-fry Fridays" and every once in a while these were on the menu. Of course they were covered in oil and super-deliciously greasy and tasty.

Funny thing about chilaquiles is that they are a vegetarian meal, but as you may know they have no vegetables, unless you count whatever chiles were processed in the making of the sauce, or the optional salsa topping. Anyway, this is not a healthy recipe nor should you try to make it any healthier because it wouldn't be nearly as delicious. This recipe is for your cheat day. Or in our case as the last hurrah of a cheat weekend. We ate these with beans and salsa. Delicioso!

Chilaquiles Verdes
7 Corn Tortillas
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
5 Eggs, scrambled
1/2 c or so Green Enchilada Sauce - I make Chile Verde in the summer when the New Mexico chiles are in season, but when they aren't I just use a can. We like Las Palmas.
1 c Cheddar, shredded - you could use whatever kind of cheese you want, Pepper Jack would be amazing, I just happened to have cheddar on hand.

First thing is to heat the oil in a large sautee pan or skillet over medium high heat.  Cut the tortillas into triangles. Just use a sharp knife and cut straight through all the tortillas at once.

Drop the tortillas into the pan and toss to coat with oil. I used tongs to turn them all around and make sure everyone was nicely coated. You may want to adjust the oil. The recipe on the can of enchilada sauce I used called for 4 cups of oil! I guess those ones are deep fried! This way the tortillas get crispy but not deep fried by any means and you can use much less oil. Give the tortillas a few minutes on the first side then start flipping them over and moving them around to make sure everyone gets browned and toasty. You can start by checking one or two pieces. You'll notice if they're not browned up yet they'll be limp and then they can tear apart easily so be careful. This is the most tedious part about this recipe but it's totally worth it! Here's what they should look like about halfway done. Starting to brown nicely.

Once the tortillas are crisp pour the eggs over them being sure to cover all the chips. You can turn the pan to move the eggs around so everything comes together. Allow them to cook for a minute, then with a spatula scoop up and turn over a portion at a time to cook the eggs through. Once all the eggs are cooked pour the sauce all over everything. Now listen to the sizzle! Yum! Turn the pan a couple times to allow the sauce to combine with the eggs and chips. Turn the heat off. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and cover.

Let it sit for about 2 minutes or so till the cheese is sufficiently melted and gooey. Serve it up!

This was enough for Josh and Jeremiah and I. Like I said we had refried beans on the side and some salsa on top. You could even put beans on top or underneath and eat it all together. All the measurements here are to taste so feel free to experiment. I have also made this with Carne Adovada, which was Uh-Mazing!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Week's Menu

Me and my kiddo!
I thought I would post my menu for the week with links to some of the recipes I'll be using. Menus are sometimes tough for me to put together but they are so helpful! Sometimes taking the time to plan them out helps me remember recipes I've used in the past that we really liked but maybe forgot about or just haven't used in a while. Anyway, menus are also helpful because when I'm having a lazy week I can just use one that proved successful in the past. Tee hee!

Here goes:
Meatless Monday
B- Fruit & Chocolate Smoothie: Blend together 1 ripe Banana, 1 c Strawberries, 1 clementine, 1/2 c Almond Milk, 1/2 c ice water, 1 Tbsp ground flax, 1 tsp Dark Chocolate & Dutch process cocoa blend. You can really substitute any fruits or any kind of milk. This is just what I'm drinking this week.
L- Chickpea Sandwiches, probably with Sandwich Thins and spinach, & cucumbers with hummus
D- Massaged Kale Salad & Broccoli, Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes

B- Oatmeal with Bananas & Honey
L- Left over Kale Salad & Spicy Black Bean Burger Sandwich with spinach & peppers
D- Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Turkey Chili (I have a Jaime Oliver recipe that I base my chili on but I can't seem to find it online. I'll have to write a post about it because it's super easy and, of course, yummy!)

B- Whole Wheat Toast with Peanut Butter & Banana Slices
L- Broccoli Slaw & Kale Salad with left over Turkey Chili
D- Baked Mahi (From Costco) with Garlic Brown Rice & Quinoa (also from Costco) and Roasted Green Beans - toss green beans with olive oil, S & P, place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a preheated to 400 degrees oven for about 15 minutes. Nutty and delish!

B- Fruit & Chocolate Smoothie
L- Chickpea Sandwiches, peppers, carrots, Dill & Herb Yogurt dip from Costco
D- We eat dinner at my parent's house on Thursdays. Yay! Thanks mom!

Friday (Josh is home on Fridays so we usually have more of a weekend menu)
B- We tried these Whole Wheat Apple Blender Pancakes last week and they didn't quite cook up right so I'll probably try them again because the taste was right on! Or I'll make my Buttermilk Pancakes that are so stinking good even my parents couldn't tell they were healthy.
L- Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup & some sort of sandwich or salad (Let's not kid it'll probably be grilled cheese because, well, it's the weekend!)
D- BBQ Chicken Pizza & Salad - We love to make our own pizza! We have a few secrets which I will definitely share sometime.

Saturday is a left overs day and we usually go out for lunch or dinner at least once on the weekends so I don't really plan it out. I will take pictures of whatever we come up with though to be shared in the future.

Sundays breakfast is a rush and usually whatever we can get to quickly. For example this morning Josh had peanut butter toast, Jeremiah had Honey Nut Cheerios, and I had a smoothie. We eat lunch at my parents house, which could be anything from roast beef and mashed potatoes to spaghetti! And dinner is whatever we can come up with... my next post will be what we had for dinner tonight. Delicious Chilaquiles! Mwah ha ha!

Well that about sums it up. I really don't know if this will be helpful to anyone else, but I will sure know where to find my recipes this week! Way to go me!

Tomato Sauce Chicken Tacos


One night we had some left over shredded chicken and nothing planned for dinner. Josh is big on making sure the chicken isn't dry so I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to re-cook the chicken without over cooking the chicken. Then it hit me: A little chicken stock and tomato sauce would perk that chicken right up. Season it and slap it in a tortilla. Tomato Sauce Chicken Tacos! Yum!

Tacos are great because they're quick and easy. Plus you can put just about anything in them. They are also a simple way to incorporate veggies, like peppers and onions.

Tomato Sauce Tacos
1 lb left over Chicken - If making fresh I usually boil or poach it. You could also buy a roasted whole chicken.
2 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 cup Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup Chicken Stock
Goya Adobo Seasoning with Cumin - You can find this in the Hispanic Foods aisle at your grocery store or your local Mexican market.
S & P
Yellow onion, sliced thin
1 each Red & Green Bell Peppers - or whatever color you have. This is really dependent on your preference. Slice 'em thin!
Corn Tortillas

Begin by shredding the chicken. I like to use two forks. This helps if the chicken is hot, but it is also much quicker than by hand, I think. Use one fork to hold the chicken and the other to tear it up.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a 10 in. sautee pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook until they start to brown and begin to soften. Season with Goya seasoning. If you've never cooked with it take it easy but don't under-season. A nice even sprinkling over the pan should do it. Seasoning each step along the way will build layers of flavor, but it can also lead to over seasoning, so watch it! (If you want extra garlic flavor this would be a good time to add a couple cloves minced garlic and let it cook out for about 30 seconds. Mmmm garlic!) Once the peppers and onions have cooked out add the chicken and season with Goya again. Then toss together to coat the chicken with olive oil. Now you can add the tomato sauce and chicken stock. Mix it all up and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow the chicken to heat through. This last step shouldn't take long, a few minutes maybe. Here's what it should look like:

Make sure to taste your chicken, then add S & P as necessary. You may find you need nothing extra or you need a lot more seasoning. I like a little extra kick of pepper at the end.

Leave the meat mixture covered on low heat while you heat your tortillas. You can do this over an open flame on a gas stove or on a comal, which is a cast iron griddle. If you have neither of those just use a large flat pan and make sure it's nice and hot. Either way they'll turn out delish! Once mine have heated through I fold them in half and put them on a plate, then cover with a dish towel to keep warm. If they break apart when you fold them they're not hot enough.

Once your tortillas are ready fill 'em up! I only made five tacos this night but I think you could probably get about 12 tacos out of this much meat. Then top with your favorite toppings. We used cheese, salsa, and guacamole. Well, Josh used guacamole. I still can't stand it!

I heart Tacos!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Broccoli Slaw and Kale Salad

Healthy & Delicious!
Recently I found this bagged salad mix at Costco that until now I would have never picked up, let alone devoured like I did. It was Super 7 Kale Salad or something like that. It was delicious! Well the next time I went shopping, hoping to pick it up again, they didn't have it. So sad.

Fortunately I had studied the bag carefully to see what was in it, mostly because I couldn't believe it tasted so good with all the veggies I was seeing in it! I decided to try my hand at making it myself. It couldn't have been easier and tasted exactly like the bagged one, which probably isn't such a huge deal since I used pre-cut and washed bagged versions of most everything. Haha!

Broccoli Slaw and Kale Salad

1 bag Broccoli Slaw - I got a small 16 oz bag from Trader Joe's that had carrots in it too.
1/3 head of Red Cabbage, sliced thin
2 cups Kale, chopped, stems removed - I used bagged, chopped the pieces smaller and removed any large stems.
1 cup Brussels Sprouts, sliced thin - I was skeptical about them too. Just add them!
Pepitas - roasted pumpkin seeds
Dried Cranberries
Poppy Seed Dressing

Mix all the greens together in a large bowl. You can store it in a sealed gallon zipper bag just like this for about a week or so. Throw a paper towel in there along with the salad to soak up the moisture. You can actually do this with any greens you want to keep fresh.

When you're ready to serve sprinkle the pepitas and cranberries on top and add poppy seed dressing.

The best thing about a salad like this is that the greens are hearty so they won't wilt quickly.

You can actually dress this and let it sit for awhile before you're ready to eat it. Enjoy!

Zuppa Toscana with Chicken Sausage

Today was a meat and potatoes kind of day. Yesterday I tried a pasta recipe that was not met with rave reviews so I decided to make up for it with a little comfort food. I found a Zuppa Toscana -- like the one from Olive Garden...mmmm -- recipe in a cook book that I have. I've always wanted to try it but never have. Well today was the day! It was pretty good. I only had chicken sausage and left out the bacon and cream but it was still quite satisfying. Next time I think I will cut the sausage back to a half pound and increase the potatoes to three.

Here's the recipe with my few little changes to make it a little bit healthier.

Zuppa Toscana
1 lb Italian Chicken Sausage
2 tsp Olive Oil
4 cups water
32 oz Vegetable Stock
1/2 Yellow Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Russet Potatoes scrubbed and sliced
2 cups Kale, stems removed, chopped
S & P to taste

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot or dutch oven and add the sausage. Cook through and break up the pieces as it cooks. Scoop the sausage out and drain on a paper towel. In the same pot cook the onions and garlic till the onions are translucent and the smell is amazing.

Now pour in the water, broth, and add the potatoes. Heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. When the potatoes are soft add the sausage back and simmer for another 10. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for another 10 while the kale wilts.

Serve it up and sprinkle with Parmesan. So yummy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ode to Broccoli

Broccoli is a vegetable that is a go-to for us. For some reason my mother was able to convince me that the "little trees" were yummy, so it's a vegetable I've always eaten. It's also one of the veggies she always made from fresh... so... I'm just saying that might have had something to do with it. Fresh is best! One of the best ways to incorporate veggies into your diet is a side dish at dinner. I know...duh! Seems so simple but many nights I completely forget to plan a vegetable.

So here my best Broccoli advice! It is good prepared several different ways: steamed, sauteed, roasted, and for some people raw. I don't like raw broccoli but that's just me. When I cook it I cut into the smallest pieces possible so I can take small bites of it along with something else on my plate that is not a vegetable. Actually I do this with all my veggies. They hide better that way.

Salt & Fresh cracked Pepper or Montreal Steak Seasoning - a little trick I learned from Rachael Ray.
Steamer basket

Prepare the saucepan with about an inch or so of water. Once the water is simmering place the steamer basket inside and drop in your broccoli pieces. Cook to your preferred doneness. This is a point of contention at our house as my hub likes his broccoli bright green with a little crunch and I like mine slightly less bright and softer. We're working on a happy medium, but I keep telling myself that less cooked is better for you. Anyway, 5-7 minutes should do the trick. Add a little S & P and you're good to go. Or you might try Montreal steak seasoning. I know it sounds weird but it's a little spicy and quite delish! Also try to forgo the butter. It really doesn't need it.

Oil - I usually use Olive oil
S&P or Montreal Steak Seasoning
Sautee pan

Heat a bit of oil in a sautee pan, try not to use too much just enough to not burn your broccoli. Start with about a teaspoon or so and work from there. Toss in your broccoli, and season. Cook till it looks right. If you're not sure you can always pull a piece out and taste along the way. I'm not a huge fan of sauteed broccoli. I think it tastes funny but Josh likes it! Go figure.

Recently I have discovered roasted broccoli.  Mmmm! So good! Nutty and delicious and everyone agrees on it. Not as quick and easy as the other methods but worth a little extra time and prep. I found a great recipe for roasted cauliflower in Bob Harpers book "Skinny Rules." I thought it worth a try since I only knew one way to cook cauliflower before that and it included a lot of butter. Which may make a delicious post one day. Anyway, I decided to try this same method on broccoli and it was just as yummy.

Olive Oil
Sheet tray

First step is to boil a large pot of water and preheat the oven to 450. Once you've got your broccoli all cut up and rinsed drop it in and boil for 3 minutes. Avoid the temptation to cook it longer. It'll work I promise! Now drain it and pat dry. Place in a pan. I use a sheet tray but you could use any glass baking dish. I also line it with foil so as not to dirty it. Fewer dishes? Yes please! Once you've got it all in the pan drizzle with olive oil and season. Now get in there and toss to coat all the broccoli. If it's too hot use tongs. Roast in the oven for 12 minutes.

It almost seems silly to write an entire post about how to cook broccoli but I think learning to prepare veggies the way you like them is important. Keep trying till you find a way you love it. You'll eat more that way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hummus and Veggies Pita Lunch

Hummus+Cucumbers+Feta+Tomatoes = Delish!

One stop along my journey was a year's subscription to Clean Eating Magazine. I really enjoyed it but at that point wasn't fully ready to commit to anything so natural. I've got to admit I love my processed foods! There were quite a few recipes I tried that I really liked and that's where this originated. It is really one of my favorite lunches, especially when I am wanting to feel particularly healthy. It's also super easy, which makes it perfect for days I've failed to plan my meals.

For the record I hate tomatoes. I like pretty much anything you can make from tomatoes, fresh or cooked, but I don't like raw tomatoes. I know it's weird, it's just the way it is. Salsa is one of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes...and if you've come looking to find my recipe for it here NO SUCH LUCK! Tomatoes are super healthy so I have tried and tried to like them. One way I make them edible raw is by removing the seeds and the (yucky!) gel-like stuff in the middle. Now I'm sure that's probably where all the good-for-you stuff lives, but it's the only way! It is definitely where all the tomato-eyness lives so if you hate tomatoes like me try it and see.

Here's the recipe:
1 pita, toasted - I like the whole wheat sesame pita from Trader Joe's. Yum!
Cucumber diced - I prefer cucumbers to tomatoes so I use more cucumber than tomato.
As much tomato as you can stomach, diced - for me it's about 1/4 cup.
Hummus - I really like Sabra roasted garlic hummus. My 3-year-old eats it off the spoon!

Assmble: After you've toasted your pita, start with the hummus. Spread it evenly over the pita. Use as much or as little as you like. I usually use about 1 Tbsp. Now sprinkle cucumbers and tomatoes over the hummus. I believe the original recipe called for 1/2 to 1 cup of veggies. I sometimes add chopped baby spinach. (You can't taste it I promise!) Then sprinkle feta, again as much as you want, over the veggies. And voila!

I usually cut it in half to make it easier to eat and scoop up all the veggies and cheese that fall off the pita onto the plate. As you add your feta remember to check out the serving sizes. The goal is health not just hiding the veggies with the cheese! I would start with a tablespoon and see if that agrees with your taste buds, then work your way down to a sprinkle from there. Also, I a whole wheat sandwich thin this time around because that's what I had in the fridge, but the pita really tastes best!

As a side note I made a kiddo version of this for Jeremiah, my 3-year-old. He had a sandwich thin, one side spread with hummus, one side with cream cheese, in the middle: thin slices of cucumber. He gobbled it up!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Green Beans Don't Come From a Can?!

The Beginnings
I have been on a food journey. Not just lately but for awhile now. It all started a little over 6 years ago when my husband and I were dating. We decided to participate in a "Daniel fast", which is like going vegan for a specified amount of time. I thought I was going to die. I'm pretty sure I complained the entire two weeks of potatoes and beans. That was basically what I ate, with the exception of a few spears of broccoli. I was so hungry! No sugar, no meat, only whole grain carbs! Who could live like this!?! It was then I began to realize I eat like a kid. At 24 that's kind of a big deal.

Growing up you couldn't get me to taste a new veggie. I scoffed at carrots and cauliflower, and threatened to vomit at the sight of a green bean. You may think I'm joking... I am not. One of my less attractive qualities is stubbornness, and it always showed come dinner time. My parents never forced me to eat anything, just try it once. So I would and if I hated it I never tried it again.

From the realization of my childish ways came a new determination to eat better. I wanted to be healthy, so I decided to learn how to cook veggies and started adding them to my meals. Now here I am six years later actually considering vegetarianism, or at least "flexitarianism". It's a real thing, I swear! Flexitarian means that you eat mostly plants and every once in a while you have a big mac and a milk shake, or my favorite pepperoni and olive pizza from Round Table.... mmmm... My mouth is watering. Anyway back to what I was saying...My desire to be healthy has driven me to eat all sorts of things I would have never before considered: flax, oatmeal, brussels sprouts, kale, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, celery.  The list really isn't that exotic, but these are things I would never have opened up for.

What I've discovered over the last six years is that trying a food again and again is what makes you love something you thought you hated. I'm still working on avocados, and can only eat a tomato without the seeds or cooked until it is unrecognizable, but it's working, a little at a time. And I could eat oatmeal for breakfast every day now! Spinach salad, bring it on.

I know I'm not the only person who can't stand the sight of a beet or has never tasted a bean sprout. So I thought I would share what's worked for me and how I hide veggies from myself in food that is, well, delicious. I love to cook and experiment with food. I know some people aren't like that and maybe you don't want to do all the leg work to figure out how to incorporate more veggies for you or your kiddos. That's where I come in. 

My plan is to get my meat-loving, veggie-hating friends on board as tasters and testers. (Watch out guys I'm coming for you!) I hope to share yummy recipes and exciting new food adventures with you. And I would love to get feedback, celebrate triumphs over the artery-clogging diet we are all so used to. So let's get to it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mother of Two

Wow! Five months go by so fast! I cannot believe how difficult and wonderful they have been. Today Little Z is 5 months old. He is the sweetest, most adorable baby. I love him to pieces! Having two little ones has proven to be a challenge though, more than I was expecting to say the least!

People told me it would be harder, but I guess I just didn't believe them. Over these past months I've realized that moms are amazing. Not like, "I'm a mom and I'm amazing." But moms in general. I say if you've got more than one kid and you haven't killed anyone yet -- AMAZING! No, but seriously, I don't know how you can truly appreciate what moms do if you've never had to do it. Not just having and raising kids, but keeping your emotions under control, loving unconditionally, dealing with tempers and tantrums -- from kids and spouses and the ones you have in your head, listening to the same questions over and over, saying the same things over and over, cleaning, cooking, making all the boo boo's go away, and the list goes on! Just thinking about it makes me want my mommy! 

I know above all else I've needed my faith and family more than ever through having children. I've had to allow people to help and God to heal. I've had to take some long looks inside and decide who's more important, me or them. One of the scriptures that has helped me so much through this is Philippians 2:3-4 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." When I think about this in the context of family it rocks my world. It's easy to see this in a ministry setting, or even when thinking about work relations, or people less fortunate than you. But when you start thinking about your family this way it almost seems crazy! 

Many moms will tell you they put themselves last on the list. They'll say things like "I never buy anything new because all the money's going to the kids," or "I wish I had a few minutes a day for myself," or "I don't even have time to take a shower!" But I don't think that's what this verse means. It's deeper than that. It means that at the core, in my heart, I believe that my husband, my children, my mom/dad/siblings are the most valuable people in my life. I take care of me so I can take care of them. I put on my prettiest face for my husband. I put on patience and love for my children. I put on understanding and help for my parents. I put on kindness and a listening ear for my siblings. You see it's not that I get to be "the real" me with them -- which, by the way, bothers me when we think that's the crazy person living inside of us, but that's a different story -- but it's about being the best me because that's how important they are.

I know this isn't easy or comfortable for the most part, but with practice and lots of prayer I know I have begun to feel like this is me. I am a kind and loving parent. I am beautiful and respectful wife. I honor and help my parents and love my siblings. Not always. Never perfectly. But intentionally and carefully. I am learning that if I can be unselfish and understanding at home, it becomes that much easier everywhere else.

*As a side note, while I'm writing this my almost-3-year-old is "juggling", which means he's basically throwing balls in the air and hitting everything breakable in the house, including me! Whose idea was it to buy him those juggling balls anyway!?!

Look it up!