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Monday, November 30, 2009

Ginger-Spiced Chai Smoothie - Happy Monday!

With Thanksgiving finally over, and Christmas right around the corner, I seem to be busier than ever..... and with a steadily decreasing amount of time in which to get it all done....

Every year the holiday season is hectic, what with the getting orders out in time for Christmas delivery, and making (and mailing) my own gifts to family and friends– not to mention all the traveling to see them! I am amazed each year when I manage to come out on the other side of the New Year, having actually completed all the items on my to-do list, and even survived in order to do it all over again next year.

This year though, seems even crazier than usual because on top of all the normal goings-on this time of year, my husband and I are moving some eight hours North-West, to Buffalo, NY – just two short days after Christmas! It has been a colorful juggling act, keeping on top of everything – and keeping track of all the boxes: boxes for customers... boxes for family....boxes for friends...and just boxes on top of boxes on top of boxes, waiting for their trip to a new home.

To keep it all straight, I have resorted to an almost manic use of neon-colored Post-Its and Sharpie markers. Everything labeled – color coded – for my sanity's sake. Keeping a firm foundation in my daily routine doesn't hurt either – which is why I am adamant about starting my day at the same time each morning, eating my meals at the same time each day, and maintaining a regular rotation of household chores. I find comfort in the monotony of these little things...


And, as you all must know by now, one of those little things that I love is my morning smoothie!


I know, you think it CRAZY that I am still making my icy smoothies each morning, even though outside, the dew has turned to frost, and the daily temperatures are no longer rising above fifty degrees....

But, it seems that, when I sleep, my body temperature rises dramatically. My husband calls me his personal radiator, and sometimes I even get so hot that I must crack the window... even deep into the winter when the air is frigid and dense.

So, each morning when I awake, I still find the cool beverages to be quite soothing. This gingery-spiced beverage is one of my favorites. It is sweet, but also spicy, and so has a bit of an illusion of warmth despite its chill...


Ginger-Spiced Chai Smoothie
(Serves 2)

1-1/2 cups hot water 2 bags Celestial Seasonings Chai (Vanilla-Ginger-Green Tea)

2/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt

1-1/4 cups soy milk (vanilla or plain)
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla


First, steep the tea bags in the hot water for 3-4 minutes. Remove the tea bags and transfer the liquid to a small ice cube tray and freeze. Combine these cubes with the remaining ingredients and blend until frothy and smooth. Enjoy!!


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FIND MORE SMOOTHIE RECIPES IN OUR ARCHIVES!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Back to Basics - Peachy Lean Smoothie

Oh no! I've disappeared from Blog-world ...... yet again!!
I admit it! I have definitely been slacking on my posts lately!

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If you would go and ask any of my real-life friends, you would quickly discover that I sometimes -- ok, frequently -- drop of the radar for days -- sigh, sometimes weeks -- when I get all-absorbed in some sort of creative project.

Or, you would learn that, as a child (and then well into my teens) I would frequently be late for dinner, lost in some fantastical world of literary brilliance. I would emerge, well past dark, to rejoin the real-world after completing an entire novel in one day (taking it with me to read on the bus, at school, during classes, at home, at the dinner table.... everywhere and anywhere ... until it was completed).

What can I say? I like to lose myself in the process ... and so I do ...

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Unfortunately though, last week's hiatus was not that sort of occasion....

It was, alternatively, a miserable illness that dismantled my entire life ....
for the better part of a week.


One of those nagging head colds that builds up unbearable pressure inside your skull - so you cannot focus - with the constant coughing and sneezing - endless coughing coughing coughing and sneezing sneezing sneezing - leaving you dizzy from the lack of oxygen and the brain rattling - and, let us not forget, the clogged sinuses and phlegm buildup that prevents you from breathing freely - and inevitably leads to more coughing and sneezing --> and then, oh my goodness, on top of it all, no amount of Nyquil in the world could help you get any kind of decent sleep!

So...... after lying in bed for days, sipping mugs of chicken broth, and glass after glass after glass of tea or water - watching endless reruns of Grey's Anatomy and basically being a complete baby about the whole ordeal --- I had, I'll admit it, absolutely no interest whatsoever.... in sitting down in front of the computer to write blog posts....

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But.... after a few clear-headed days now to regather my wits (and get out of the house) - I am back on a .... somewhat dreary Monday morning, with a brand new smoothie recipe.

I won't go on and on about how rich in Vitamin C, potassium, and beta-carotene this smoothie is.....

Instead, let me just tell you how delicious it is!!
Simply, it as close as you'll ever get to fresh peach cobbler....
without ever turning on your oven!



Peachy - Lean Smoothie
(Serves 2)
2/3 cups low-fat peach yogurt
1 to 1-1/2 cups sliced peaches, frozen
1/4 cup Whole Fruits peach sorbet
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice

Combine the yogurt and soy milk in a blender.
Add all the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Serve immediately!

Per serving: approximately 185 calories, 3 g fiber and 9 g protein. Also high in Vitamin C and Potassium.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Enchilada Breakfast Creation

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a family of four spends $80 more a month on groceries than they did two years ago.

Ok. So $80. You think, that does not seem like so much.
But.... Let us take a look at that within the current economic context.
American families today are also feeling the burden of increasing energy prices, housing market uncertainty, and growing health care costs.
And, in an alarming reversal of past progress, real household income for the typical family has declined over the last seven years!
So, how are families able to actually shop healthy but still afford what they are buying for their meals!?

Well, first of all, take a cue from the $5 Dinner Mom, and start cutting coupons, following sale trends at your local grocer, and optimizing savings with her strategic planning techniques.

Then, start making better use of your left-overs by creating new dishes, instead of just reheating the same old thing two days in a row.
Usually when you think about a meal your focus is just on that one meal.
But wouldn't life be so much easier if thinking about one meal.... led to another meal with less work?

Yes - it would!
(Plus, being more creative with the food you already have will most certainly save you more money on groceries.)

So, here is one of my favorite left-over creations: An Enchilada and Baked-Egg Breakfast. It is so simple, and totally satisfying.

Baked-Egg Enchilada Casserole
(Serves 2)First, start with two left-over enchiladas.
(Use my Mostly Mushroom Enchilada recipe or my Black Bean Enchilada recipe as a base.)
Split the servings and layer them over a bed of rice inside two serving-sized baking dishes. Now, using the back of a spoon, make an indent into the center of the enchilada and then crack a single egg into each crevice. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes (or until the egg whites have just set). Serve immediately and enjoy!!

Per serving: approximately 469 calories, 27 g fiber and 23 g protein. Also high in calcium and iron!


Check out our RECIPE ARCHIVES for MORE BREAKFAST IDEAS!

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What do you do to make the best use of your leftovers??

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Mondays - Strawberry-Passionfruit Smoothie

When you have a smoothie (or two) a day, your fruit and yogurt reserves tend to run out quickly. Unfortunately, this week, there was not much in the way of fruit sales at our local grocer, and even worse, we were running low on smoothie fixings even before our weekly trip to the market.

So, this morning when I went to prepare the morning concoction, I was a little discouraged to find our frozen fruit reserves down to one zipper-lock bag of sliced strawberries..... our yogurt supply down to the last little scoop.....and just a mere two cans of Goya nectar left in the pantry.....

But, nevertheless, I managed to create yet another tasty treat to start of the week!
This one in particular is pretty simple, and may even require a bit of extra sugar for those of you with a sweet-tooth...but it has a lot of protein and fiber.... so even if you add the little bit of extra sugar, I'd still call it a healthy breakfast treat!


Strawberry - Passion fruit Smoothies
(Serves 2)
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 to 1-1/2 cups sliced strawberries, frozen
1/2 - 11.5 oz. can Passion Fruit Nectar
1 to 1-1/2 cups plain soy milk (or low-fat milk)

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 235 calories, 12 g fiber and 11 g protein. Also high in Vitamin C!

Check out our RECIPE ARCHIVES for more SMOOTHIES!!

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What is your favorite smoothie flavor?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Handmade Holidays

As a kid I remember my mom cleaning the house on Saturday mornings with the windows open and Shawn Colvin blaring on the stereo. Every weekend, as a family, we had to spend a few hours cleaning house before any fun could begin. I suppose, to my mom, kids were cheap labor. For ten bucks she could get me (and my friends) to do things that she probably couldn't hire a cleaning lady to do for a hundred... It had to be a real bargain.

But, as much as I dreaded cleaning day, when we worked together, it really never took us very long to get a clean house and get out the door. Now, I have to admit, I still wake up on Saturday mornings and, after putting on my ratty jeans and a t-shirt, set out to finish the laundry, vacuum, and then clean the kitchen and the bathroom. However, without a house full of little rug-rats to set to cleaning for you, the tasks tend to take quite a deal longer...

You would think that without the rug-rats there would be LESS TO CLEAN, and it would all just even out, but no, cleaning up after my husband and his bachelor brother, is practically a full-time job. So, needless to say, I was astonished when, come Friday night, I had managed to finish all the laundry (yes, even put it all away), vacuum, and clean the kitchen!

So, Saturday morning, all that was left to do was clean the bathroom, and then sit back, relax, and do anything I wanted.... Sure, I could have spent the time wisely, getting ahead on any number of projects and so forth, but instead I just made myself a hot cup of cocoa and curled up in front of my computer to do some"window shopping" at ETSY.com.

I came across a few truly splendid items that would be perfect for making any of your holiday festivities creatively handmade and exciting!
I just had to share....
(Just click on any of the images to jump to that featured item on ETSY...)

First of all, I just adore these little paper acorn parcels. These sweet little nuts would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, to share treats with your guests and bring a smile to your family! The shop owner is Jessica Wolf; artist, wife, nature-lover and smartypants. All of her designs are one-of-a-kind, and she offers personal customization and bulk discounts!
How cool is that?


Next were these tangerine and chocolate linen place mats. The color scheme is right up my alley, and aren't they just perfect for any upcoming autumn dinner parties....say Thanksgiving...?
And, if you like these, the KainKain Shop has many more modern, contemporary and affordable items in home decor!

Finally, just before leaving, I stumbled upon these incredibly unique little wine glass charms. These handmade bottle cap charm's are a fabulous way to accessorize and identify your wine glass, martini glass etc. Beautiful and unique, these little accessories are a great way to add a bit of vintage-inspired flair to all of your social gatherings! Find more of Tiffini Elektra's artwork, jewelry and apparel at her shop, tartx.

Happy Monday!!

Shawn Colvin - One Cool Remove
Shawn Colvin - Steady On

Mostly Mushroom Enchiladas

Long gone are the days when the only mushrooms in the produce aisle were white button, portobello, or cremini. Some stores now display up to dozens of different varieties, including some of my favorites – shitake, morel, and chanterelle. But no matter what the variety, mushrooms are easy to prepare and will always add an intense flavor boost to your dish, in everything from soups, stews, and sauces to meats, stuffings, and egg dishes!

TIP: When buying mushrooms, try to buy them loose (rather than prepacked), and sort through looking for mushrooms with whole, intact caps and a light, springy texture; avoid those that are discolored or dry and spongy.
Visit my TIPS page for more on how to select, clean and store mushrooms.


For this recipe I really wanted to make a "meaty" feeling dish.....without the meat.

To do that, I chose to use portobello mushrooms, which have a dense, steak-like consistency and a robust flavor, white button mushrooms, which also develop a rich and meaty flavor when cooked, and shitake mushrooms, which are dense, chewy and a bit nutty in flavor. The result was a complex, sweet and nutty flavor complimented by the heat of jalapeno, and gooey goodness of melted cheese. (My favorite part --> the crispy cooked cheesey edges....)

Mostly Mushroom Enchiladas

(Makes Approximately 8-10)
1 portobello mushroom cap, cleaned and chopped
6-8 white button mushroom caps, cleaned and chopped
2-3 shitake mushroom caps, cleaned and chopped
1 - 15.25 oz. can Golden, Whole Kernel Corn, drained and rinsed
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved (or quartered, if large)
2 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and chopped
1 large red pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
6 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 - 10 oz. can Hot Enchilada Sauce
8-10 corn tortillas (or flour, if preferred)

In a cast iron skillet, first heat a tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onion, peppers, and tomatoes. Continue to cook over a medium heat until the onions and peppers soften, and the onions begin to turn translucent. Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl with with rinsed kernel corn and set aside.

Add a small amount of olive oil to the skillet again and saute the thinly chopped mushroom pieces over medium heat for about five minutes, or until they release liquid. Then increase the heat to high and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates, about another 8 or so minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the heat at this point and add them to the other filling components. Mix thoroughly.

Now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a baking dish (I used one that measured approximately 8 inches x 13 inches) by greasing the bottom and edges with a small amount of olive oil, and then pouring about 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce into the bottom.

Next, roll up the mushroom filling inside the 8 to 10 corn tortillas and arrange them in the baking dish, topping with the remaining enchilada sauce and then the pepper jack cheese.

Since the filling has already been cooked, the baking time is quite short!
Bake for only 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese topping melts, bubbles and begins to brown at the edges. Remove from the heat, let cool about 5 minutes and then serve over rice with sour cream! Enjoy!

Per serving: Approximately 357 calories, 17 g fiber and 18 g protein. Also high in Vitamin A, C and Iron.

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Hop on over to our RECIPE ARCHIVES for MORE MEATLESS MEALS!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Very Veggie Breakfast

Despite our very different ideas of what constitutes a “fabulous meal,” I can always rely on my husband and I to agree on what to eat for breakfast. Whether I am just fishing for compliments on my cooking, or I am just too tired to want to argue, I can always count on a good omelet (or egg sandwich – or breakfast burrito – or, yes, even pancakes) to have us both leaving the table sated and smiling.

I suppose that is how we adopted our weekly, Sunday morning “breakfast in bed” routine. No matter what else is going on in our lives, we make sure we have that time together, just the two of us. While some couples have a “date night” routine, my husband and I prefer to sleep in late on the weekend, then whip up breakfast in our pajamas and crawl back into bed to watch cartoons. This weekend was no exception, and we may have even out-done ourselves with this super-veggie-stuffed, cheesy masterpiece of an omelet– served with a simple side of sauteed garlic potatoes and three episodes of The Venture Brothers.

The omelet, which was executed beautifully, if I do say so myself – was incredibly filling. In fact, I found it impossible to finish my portion – and my husband, after the fact of course, said he surely shouldn't have finished his... The completed dish could easily feed three - maybe four - adults (with a side of potatoes and toast). By cooking up the onions, peppers, mushrooms etc. ahead of time, their distinct flavors are made more vibrant and cohesive. The filling develops this harmonic blend of sweet from the onion and bell pepper, pleasantly pungent earthiness from the mushrooms, with a lingering hint of spice from the jalapenos and peppery cheese.

I dare you not to enjoy!

Cheesy Vegetable Omelet
(Serves 2-4)

4 large eggs + 2 large egg whites
(beaten with a splash of half and half)
3/4 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
4-5 white button mushrooms, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 small red pepper, finely diced
8-10 grape tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
Olive Oil, to cook

First, I sauteed the diced vegetables in about one tablespoon of olive oil.
Start with the peppers and onions for 2 minutes over a medium heat, then add the celery, and lastly the tomatoes and mushrooms. Cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until the entire mixture has softened and browned.

Now, everyone has a different technique for creating that perfect omelet, but in my kitchen, I always have the most luck with a large cast iron skillet and an evenly heated oven.

I'll lightly grease the skillet with a touch of oil, pour in the scrambled eggs (they'll cook more evenly if you have let them warm while you were preparing the filling), and cook, until just set (about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees). Once the egg mixture has set, pull the skillet out of the oven and layer the cheese and the filling on one half of the omelet shell. Finally, use a spatula to gently loosen, and then fold over the other half to create that perfect omelet. Cut in half (or thirds - or quarters) and serve with a side of potatoes and toast! Enjoy!

TIP: Loosen the edges of the omelet with a knife before attempting to flip the omelet to prevent breaking.


Per serving (assuming 3 servings): approximately 420 calories, 6 g fiber, and 30 g protein.
Also high in Vitamin A, C and Calcium.


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FIND MORE OF OUR BREAKFAST RECIPES HERE!

Confessions

I have been told that confession is good for the soul. The release is thought to relieve a burden from the mind and with it, a bit of tension
(or anger – sadness – regret).


(image: Silent Confessions by WeberPhoto)

Confession:
I find my husband's endless list of food dislikes to be tiresome.

He says he likes mushrooms (but only in his eggs - and only if they are cut up into itty bitty little slivers of flesh). He says he likes beef (but only if it is ground up, or shredded – oh, and overcooked and seasoned to death).

He says likes vegetables (meaning, he likes onions, bell peppers, asparagus and green beans.... but not eggplant, squash, spinach, zucchini. potatoes, celery...and on and on....

Oh, and he doesn't care for pork (unless it is bacon)...and wait, no chicken, or lamb either...
Also, no nuts or seeds in the bread. No. No. No.
There are a lot of Nos.


Confession:
I acknowledge that I can be quick to anger –

and too easily offended...

When he (who happily eats Hamburger Helper - ick -
and 'ground beef mixed with ranch dressing and tortilla chips' - ew )
criticizes the dinner - I slaved over -
because the “meat chunks are too big,”
or it “would have been better with meat”
… but only if the chunks weren't “too big,” right?


Confession:
I would give just about anything for him to, no matter what I serve him, think it was the most delicious thing h
e's ever eaten.
And despite the continued frustration when he doesn't... I still go on striving to create aromatic and flavorful dishes that just might one day, be his delight.

(image: Confessions II by ChristyDeKoning)

On the occasions on which I choose to discuss these short-comings, I am often brushed aside as a “food snob.” But the issue is not snobbishness - it is a deep-seeded frustration with his unwillingness to try new things or admit that he may have been wrong about an ingredient.

Slowly, I am accepting that I will forever be cooking for a picky eater.
and SLOWLY, I am beginning to embrace the challenge:
- of getting him to broaden his horizons -
- of creating dishes that are so undeniably delicious that he cannot find fault -
- of sneaking vegetables into his meals -
(right past his “there is something foreign” alarm)
.

Slowly, he is accepting that sometimes I just can't control my temper.
and SLOWLY, he is beginning to learn that sometimes:
- it is just easier to walk away -
- I may even concede that some things are just not worth fighting about -
(no matter how much I just want him to acknowledge I AM RIGHT...)
- And....sometimes......
- There is just nothing better than my Spaghetti and Meatballs -

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weekly Smoothie Recipe - Frothy Iced Mocha

It is oh-so easy to get distracted when you have a lot to do! Often this is because it is just too hard to focus clearly on any single thing. When this happens to me, which it does all too frequently, I try to stop, write things down, and sketch out a to-do list to get me through the day...

Unfortunately, I still have not figured out just how to stick to the list. In fact, it is not unlikely for me to add about a million more things to it before I even finish the first thing on the list – resulting, inevitably, in most of list remaining -- still unchecked -- at the end of the day.

Indeed, it isn't so much the making of the list, as it is the tackling one thing on it at a time, and committing to completing one task before moving onto another, that keeps you on track and moving forward. As I begin to find a routine that works for me, and allows me to best get things done, it becomes easier to commit to sticking to that schedule each day!

My smoothie and breakfast routine, which I've been maintaining for well over six months now, is one of my minor successes. As small as the achievement may seem, I should point out that until this year, my first meal would not occur until well after noon. So, being able to pull myself out of bed and then pull together a meal - all before I start my daily to-dos - has been a huge lifestyle improvement, and certainly a small step in the right direction.
(The next step, certainly, will have to be adding in a regular exercise regiment, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves here....)


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So, this week's smoothie is a bit of a deviation from my regular fruit-yogurt smoothies. This rich, chocolaty treat is more of a dessert than a breakfast drink, but the added coffee is a great pick-me-up for the morning. Certainly not a daily extravagance, this little delight is a great way to punch up the start of the week, especially when you need that little extra shove out of the weekend.
Enjoy!!

Mocha Smoothie

(Serves 2)

2/3 cup plain yogurt*
2-3 tbsp. chocolate syrup
1 tbsp. confectioner's sugar (or more for sweeter results)
Approx. 2 cups of brewed coffee, frozen into ice cubes
1-1/2 cups soy milk (or low-fat milk)

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt - or tofu, then the chocolate syrup, coffee cubes and milk), and blend until smooth and frothy.

Serve immediately, and enjoy.

*The yogurt gives this smoothie a "tang" that my husband just does not appreciate. In his opinion it "taints" the coffee flavor, and so when I make these for him I'll substitute in 1/2 cup firm-tofu for the yogurt, as it has no flavor of its own...

Each (yogurt) smoothie contains approximately 277 calories, 2 g fiber and 12 g protein. Also high in Calcium!



FIND MORE SMOOTHIE RECIPES HERE

Monday, November 2, 2009

Amidst Chaos and Distraction

(image: Finding Peace Amongst Chaos, by JessicaJoy)

We all know that even the smallest distractions can be bothersome. Whether it be the nagging little annoyances around the house (the kitchen sink is filled with dishes again, or you pull a book off the shelf only to get a face full of dust and now you are wiping down EVERY surface in the house just to be rid of those clingy little dust bunnies), or the surprises that creep up in your email, ensnaring your curiosity and driving you just a little further off course (a new sale at your favorite shop, or a note from a friend, or a fan!), there is always something lurking around the corner ready to dismantle your entire to-do list.

When you are self-employed (or, in my case, out of work and struggling to get by on freelance work until something new and better comes along) it is often too easy to let the distractions become completely overwhelming! After all, there is no one (but yourself) to keep you on track, set your hours, and push you toward a deadline! Some days, as hard as you may try to resist them, you even lose the battle with these diversions and allow yourself to be pulled astray, and then before you know it, the day has passed and you have not gotten a single productive thing accomplished! Oh no!

And, well, we all know that it is not uncommon for me to be distracted here and there by any number of things (a sudden craving for fudge brownies, an unexpected inspiration, an email – or a phone call), but over the past few weeks it has been a constant struggle to do anything but chase these distractions down. For the first few days I sank a lot of energy into resisting them, but after a while I decided to just give-in and see where they would take me.

I admit, at first, I did little more than listen to music, write emails to friends, and spend entirely too much time stalking my friends' Facebook pages.... but once that was out of my system I ended up spending the rest of the week in the kitchen stocking the fridge with hearty meals, in my workroom designing (and making) some new jewelry for Graceful Elements, and just letting my mind wander and letting all that chaos just work itself back out.

I was surprised that I did not get secondarily distracted by tidying tasks around the house, and since I didn't do much writing (obviously, you will have noticed the lingering silence here), I also managed to avoid many of the distractions I run into on the web (frequently checking email, browsing pages of handmade treasures on ETSY, or reading the most recent postings from my favorite bloggers – and envying their ability to ... stay on task). But by turning off the computer (and the TV – and my phone), I did manage to finally clear my head, develop some coherent trains of thought, and reinvest myself in my goals and aspirations.

Obviously, I have yet to find some magical cure for this recurring lack of focus, but over the past week I have discovered that sometimes it is beneficial to wander along an unplanned path, to allow yourself to be open to new possibilities and new opportunities, and that you can surely find inspiration in unexpected places …

So long as your eyes are open (and looking in all directions).

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So, what little things do you do to keep distractions in check? Or do you let yourself stray from the task at hand to pursue the unanticipated adventure?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Corn Custard - Reimagining a Grandmother's Recipe


Please excuse the lack of blogging the past few days...
I have been feeling ill and, truth be told, have done very little besides sleep, read magazines and watch movies, and I certainly have not done any cooking.

When I finally started feeling better last night, I was so thrilled that I still had a few of these corn custard cups in the freezer from last week's cooking binge! It allowed me to get a quick something into my stomach, without resorting to canned soups or, worse, quick take-out.

Not to mention that the small portion sizes were perfect for not overdoing it with my first real meal in days...

The recipe itself is a reinvention of a dish I remember my grandmother making for Easter brunch. Her recipe is essentially one box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, butter, eggs, creamed corn, onions and green peppers and then baked (in one large casserole dish) until set. But when I set out to make these last week I wanted to spice the recipe (and cut way back on the butter), so with what I had available in the fridge (and pantry) this is what I ended up coming up with.

Overall, I really enjoyed the updated dish. It wasn't as dense, or greasy, as the original dish (which, of course, is what my husband says he like about it in the first place), but instead, was light (like a quiche) and had an airy, bread pudding-like consistency. The thyme gave them a wonderful aromatic flavor, and the small tomato chunks were like pieces of sweet treasure. Plus, I added bacon! You can hardly ever go wrong with bacon!


So, go ahead and eat these for breakfast or lunch! They reheat quickly in these serving size portioned dishes and can even be taken along to work!


Corn Custard with Bacon and Tomatoes

(Makes approximately 5 custard cups)


2 tsp. olive oil
2 - 8.75 oz. cans kernel corn, drained and pureed
(yields approx. 1 cup corn mush)
3-4 slices bacon, cooked and sliced thin
1 small onion, finely diced
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup half and half cream
1 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 5-6 ramekin cups (lightly) with olive oil. Set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saute pan, and cook the onions 3-4 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Then, mix together the corn, onion, tomatoes, bread crumbs, half and half, bacon and thyme. Add in the eggs and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Spoon the mixture into the ramekin cups and place them in a large baking dish. Add enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the cups. Lay foil loosely over top of the dish and bake for 30 (or so) minutes, or until the centers of the custard cups set.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Per serving: approximately 328 calories, 11 g protein and 4 g protein.

FOR MORE BRUNCH RECIPES CLICK HERE!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Make-Ahead Meals: Baked Penne with Sausage

There is nothing I like more than being able to, after a long day, enjoy a hot and steaming plate of home-cooked goodness, without having to lift a finger!

How is this possible, you ask?


Well, the trick is to have a few make-ahead meals prepared and stocked up in the fridge (or freezer) for those days when you know that you just won't have time to pull together a well thought-out dinner. Last week, we survived off these such dishes... and this one, in particular, fed us for 3 days (and a few snackings).

It is not the most daring, or creative meal...
No, it is simply a home-cooked family favorite, that is both easy and cheap!



Baked Penne with Sausage

(Serves 6, approximately)


1 - 14.5 oz. box Penne Rigate (I use Smart Taste brand for extra fiber and calcium.)
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 lb. spicy Italian Sausage, cooked and coarsely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, seasoned to taste
(I prefer fresh, but canned are convenient and cheap to have on hand...)
6 to 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
(Again, I prefer fresh, broken up into bite size chunks, but a bag of shredded is cheaper...)


First, cook up the pasta to al dente in a big pot of boiling (salted) water.
Drain, rinse and set aside.

In the mean time, saute your onions and peppers in a bit of olive oil until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Remove from heat.

Next, season the crushed tomatoes to your personal tastes... I throw in a ton of oregano, basil, thyme and some cayenne for a little extra kick. Add the onions, peppers and sausage and then stir in the cooked pasta until the sauce has evenly coated the noodles.
Transfer to a large casserole dish and top with shredded mozzarella.

At this point, you can cover the casserole dish with foil and store it in the fridge, or freezer, for later use...

OR

Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese melts and begins to bubble and brown around the edges (approximately 30 minutes).

Serve with a side of garlic sauteed green beans and garlic bread. Enjoy!

Per serving: approximately 500 calories, 12 g fiber and 35 g protein. Also high in calcium and Vitamin C.


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekly Smoothie - Strawberry Guava and Cantaloupe

Cleaning out the pantry this weekend I stumbled across a few rogue cans of GOYA Guava nectar and a bottle of HERO Guava nectar -- so I figured it was about time to make some smoothies!

After a little experimenting (I haven't used the guava nectar nearly as often as the mango and pear varieties), I developed this successful recipe. It is our favorite, so far, of the concoctions.

The guava nectar had a creamy richness that added a delectable punch of flavor, and the combination with cantaloupe and strawberry gave a little extra sweetness that was a refreshing change to our recent smoothie routine.


And don't you just adore that rosy color....?


Strawberry Guava and Cantaloupe Smoothies

(Serves 2)



1/2 cup plain yogurt
12 oz. (1 can) Guava nectar
1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen cantaloupe

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt, then the frozen fruit, and then the juice), and blend until smooth.

Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 206 calories, 12 g fiber and 8 g protein. Also high in Vitamin C!
(Find out more of the health benefits of Guava fruits here.)


FIND MORE SMOOTHIE RECIPES HERE

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Banana Pancakes - A Splendidly Sweet Morning

Yesterday I spent more than half of the day meddling in the kitchen. I put together dinners for the next four days (just into the oven and 40 minutes later, voila, a home-cooked meal), breakfast items (because I can't live off of smoothies and hard boiled eggs forever) and even a few snacks (to fight off my mid-day munchies, without spoiling dinner).

Yes, it was a busy day in my kitchen... But I enjoyed every minute of it, and now, even if I don't feel like cooking, there will be something in the kitchen ready to eat...

This morning, it took just 10 minutes to throw these pancakes together (since the batter was already made), and my husband and I got to enjoy a splendidly sweet little breakfast together before he had to go to work (working for the third full day this week, which is a small - but definite - improvement).

Banana Pancakes
(Makes 8-10 Pancakes)



2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur brand flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp. maple syrup
(and you add walnuts, pecans or even chocolate chips... extra yummy...)

First, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the mashed banana and stir until the flour is moistened. Then add the milk and syrup and stir until the batter is smooth. Cover and set aside for 1 hour (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and melt a small amount of butter into the bottom (this will give you those nice crispy edges on the pancakes). Cook the pancakes in small batches, using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes (or until bubbles begin forming on the surface), and then flip and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

Serve drizzled with maple syrup (unless you used chocolate chips, and then that should be sweet enough even for kids).

Enjoy!

Per serving (2 pancakes): Approximately 200 calories, 5 g fiber and 7 g protein.


FIND MORE BREAKFAST RECIPES HERE

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lonely Kitchen...

Image Courtesy of HeyStella


Truth be told.... I didn't spend any time in the kitchen yesterday....

For breakfast, I grabbed a smoothie and two hard-boiled eggs from the fridge and went about running errands and getting some cleaning done around the house (laundry, vacuuming etc.).

Then, I had lunch plans (seriously overdue lunch plans...) with a dear friend, and out of sheer laziness, I ate the leftovers for dinner... It was, after all, the end of our "grocery week," and we were running low on supplies, and I was running low on inspiration...


Today was a bit better though.
Well, not in the breakfast department, but I did spend a good deal of time in the kitchen today, preparing meals for the rest of the week (and the week-end).

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week for just that reason...
It is the day that I get to go to the grocery store and start cooking for the week with a bunch of new ingredients! Since I've started going alone (in the morning after my husband has - hopefully - gone to work) I've actually managed to stay under (our meager $50/week) budget AND save over $20 in coupons and club card deals.

It has only been two weeks, but I feel great about this new trend and am optimistic that it will continue! As long as I continue to keep my husband (as much as I love him) out of the scenario, so that I don't get to the checkout and wonder, where did these Pop Tarts (...cookies....chips....sodas....) come from?


It was a good grocery week last week, but even better this week -- especially when, as I was at the check out, the sweet lady that always rings us out made note of my suddenly coming to the store alone... and also made note of how much less I was spending...

Seeing the ring on my finger, she touched my arm, leaned over and whispered, "you just can't trust men in the store. It is like keeping track of a little kid. They want everything they see!"

I had to laugh.... and certainly agree....



Yes, I think this trend will continue....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoothie of the Week - Creamy Cantaloupe Cooler

The change of seasons, while beautiful and refreshing, has left me feeling a bit under the weather... For the past few days I have been fighting a nagging head cold, stuffy sinuses, sore throat, headaches, and while it is not so bad that I cannot get on with my day, it certainly was not motivating. In fact, it put quite a damper on my weekend endeavors, and I barely even stepped foot in the kitchen except to warm up some broth and make egg drop soup.

I'm still not feeling one hundred percent, though the pressure in my head has finally began to subside, so this morning I really wanted to boost my Vitamin C intake to kick this cold once and for all. So, since I had a cantaloupe (on sale for $1.50 ea. this week), grapes (also on sale, $1.99), and strawberries (left-over and already frozen) I decided to whip up this cool and creamy smoothie, which has 121% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C!

Its mildly sweet flavor, and cold creamy consistency was even soothing on a sore throat, so how could you go wrong?

Creamy Cantaloupe Cooler
(Serves 2)
1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
1 cup (each) cantaloupe, strawberries and green grapes, sliced and frozen
1 cup plain soy milk


Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt, then the frozen fruit, and then the milk), and blend until smooth.

If the smoothie is too thin, add ice and blend to thicken.
If the smoothie is too thick, add more soy milk and blend.

If the smoothie is not sweet enough, add just a teaspoon (or two) of sugar and re-blend.

Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 174 calories, 4 g fiber and 8 g protein. Also high in Vitamins A and C.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup: Upgraded

I was never a big fan of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Don't get me wrong, in theory it could be an incredible meal, but too often it is an experience in soggy greasy bread, flavorless "American" cheeses, and bland watery soup.

But yesterday I was inspired by the latest posting over at Good Things Catered, to create a "dressing up" of this childhood classic...

To re-create the dish in an appropriate and satisfying manner, while staying true to the essence of the original tradition...


Enjoy!

Tomato and Sweet Pepper Soup
with Grilled Cheese and Veggie Panini
(Serves 4)
The Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large red bell peppers
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (
(You can use almost any kind of tomato, even canned tomatoes if you prefer...)

1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
a dash sugar

Start by removing the core and seeds from each pepper. Then, slice them into quarters and place them (skin sides up) on a broiler pan. Broil until the skins begin to bubble and char, and then remove and cool (either in a brown paper bag, or a covered bowl).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan with the onion and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent (approx. 10 minutes). Remove the skins from the pepper slices and roughly chop the remaining flesh.

Transfer the onions, peppers, tomatoes, sherry, stock, sugar and spices into the ceramic base of your slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Then, after the soup has cooled for 10-15 minutes, blend in batches until smooth in consistency.

**Now, I prefer to run the soup through a sieve once and then re-blend the remaining pulp and stir it back into the thin broth. I do it this way because only one blending leaves the soup too grainy.... and I without the pulp it is too thin.....

Of course, you can certainly adjust this process to your personal cooking style.

You are almost done!
And here comes the best part....
This soup is fabulous hot OR chilled!

You can ladle the soup, at this stage, into warmed soup bowls, or refrigerate for 3 hours and then serve in chilled bowls.

**I served a version of this soup at my wedding this summer, and at is was a big hit!
It was made with Heirloom tomatoes and then chilled.... fabulous!

The Panini

8 slices of bread (I used sourdough, but you can use whatever you prefer)
Thinly sliced sharp white cheddar (or your favorite cheese)
*The amount of cheese will also vary greatly depending on personal tastes, but we used about 4 oz. for 4 sandwiches.*
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
**Portobello mushrooms are also a great addition to these sandwiches.

Melt butter in a fry pan and add the onions. Cook over a medium (medium low) heat for 10 minutes. Add in the red peppers (and/or mushrooms) and cook for another 10 (to 15) minutes, or until onions are well caramelized and the peppers (and/or mushrooms) are soft.

Layer the onions and peppers between two layers of cheese and two slices of bread. Grill on a non-stick panini press, electric grill/griddle, or fry pan until both slices of bread are toasted and brown, and the cheese is fully melted. Serve with warm (or chilled) tomato/pepper soup. Enjoy!


Per bowl of soup and 1 sandwich: approximately 502 calories, 7 g fiber and 18 g protein. Also high in iron, calcium and Vitamins A and C.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baked Eggs (Over a Bed of Creamy Leeks and Peppers)

Yesterday I had spent the morning baking out my frustrations (into a beautiful loaf of Banana-Walnut Bread), which I then followed up with a much needed Yin Yoga routine and a hot shower.

Through a series of poses held for 5 minutes apiece, Yin Yoga conditions you to become more comfortable with discomfort thereby forcing you to develop techniques to calm the mind, shift your focus away from the discomfort and release your muscular - and emotional – tension.

The combination seemed to be just the ticket....

While it is still too soon to say whether or not this will be a maintainable change, it is clear that just that little bit of exercise (and meditation) was enough to finally allow me a decent night's sleep and a rejuvenated outlook on my present, and future, goals.

In fact...I woke up energized for the first time in ages...which in itself, was enough to bring forth a little bit of sunshine....

So, to celebrate the new morning, and my new outlook, I whipped up these deliciously creamy eggs for a breakfast that would reflect my hopes for the day. Simple, but splendid, nothing is more satisfying than a perfectly cooked egg. These slow-cooked bundles are delightfully mild - each bite a succulent morsel of sweet cream and savory yolk.

Baked Eggs with Creamy Leeks and Peppers
(Makes 4 Eggs)
4 eggs
1 tbsp. butter
2 small leeks, finely sliced
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. Half and Half
a dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

First, lightly grease the ramekin cups with olive oil and then set them aside.

Add about 1 inch of hot water into the bottom of your slow cooker and set to high.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, leeks and red peppers in a saute pan and cook them over a medium heat until they begin to soften. Add about 3 tbsp of the half and half cream and cook the mixture another 4-5 minutes.

Spoon the leek and pepper cream mixture evenly among the four ramekin cups and then add 1 tsp of extra cream into each cup with just a dash of salt and pepper.

Crack one egg into each cup, sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg, and then cover with clear plastic wrap. Place the ramekins into the slow cooker (the water should be about half way up the sides of the cups) and cook them for approximately 30 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolks still runny.....

Serve immediately.... and enjoy!

Per egg bundle: approximately 127 calories and 7 g protein. Also high in Vitamins A and C.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baking Away the Blues with Banana Coffee-Cake Loaf

It has not escaped anyone's attention that I have been snappier than usual over the past few weeks. I find it hard to mask my emotions, (my husband says I would be awful at poker) and lately my frustrations have taken dominance over all else, making me edgier than usual, and more prone to confrontation, and verbal combat.

I am..
Frustrated trying to build a business from home...alone...
Frustrated that now married, my husband and I are still living in a crappy little apartment with my brother in-law as a roommate....
Frustrated that my husband is recently, and unexpectedly, out of work....
and
Frustrated that all of that leaves us without the necessary resources to THRIVE...


--With all these looming worries it is any surprise that I'm on edge?--

But, I am trying my hardest to muster up some much needed optimism, as I am much more productive (and creative) when I am happy... and both productivity (and creativity) are certainly at the core of building a successful home business.

I started by trying to calm my mind and sooth my nerves...SO...I baked...


The expected order of things and the consistency of the steps provide a good outlet for my tension. The process allows for a calming clarity and focus in its repetition.


Banana Coffee-Cake Loaf

(Makes 1 Loaf)

2 cups mashed banana
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (or 1 1/4 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup unbleached all-purpose and 1 cup self-rising)
1 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
¾ cup walnuts, chopped

Begin by preheating the oven to match your temper (350 degrees).

Then prepare your overripe bananas, by steadily, but forcibly mashing them into a moist paste, as if they were your enemy. Set aside.

Now, cream together butter and sugar by hand, envisioning your fury being pulled from you (like a thread being wound around the mixing spoon as you continue to stir).

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until all traces of the yellow yolk (your yellow balls of threaded fury) disappear into the creamed butter mixture. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, shaking loose all of your lingering worries and regrets.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture until your worry and fury become a tough and sticky muddle. Then add the mashed banana and watch as the tangles smooth themselves out.

As you continue stirring allow your muscles to work out their knots. Giving into the ache and exhaustion, gently fold in the chopped walnuts as if they were the seeds of hope.

Pour the finished batter into a large buttered loaf pan. Finally, sprinkle a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter (worked into a sugary crumble – approx. 3 tbsp. sugar, 1-2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tbsp. Butter), like a refreshing rain, onto the top of the banana loaf.

Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until set. (When done, a knife inserted into the center should come out clean, and the top should be sticky and caramelized.) Remove from the heat and let cool completely before slicing. Observe how a steady burn can leave behind fertile ground for a fresh start. Enjoy!

Per serving: (assuming approximately 14 slices) 277 calories, 2 g fiber and 5 g protein.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rich Chocolatey Goodness

For the past few weeks I have been hunched over in front of the computer, lost in code, as I built the new site.

When I finally uploaded the final pages last night (or was it this morning?) it was a truly exulting experience. I took a shower, stretched my aching back, and after a few hours even regained feeling in my fingers...

It was clearly time for a reward! So, late last night I whipped up these delectable little treats, and my husband and I curled up in front of a good movie for a long awaited evening together.



Chocolate Banana Smoothie


Makes Approximately 2 Servings

1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate rice (or soy) milk
2 bananas, sliced and frozen
1 tbsp. ground almonds

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt, then the frozen fruit, ground almond and then the liquid ingredients), and blend until smooth.
If the smoothie is too thin, add ice and blend to thicken.
Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 215 to 240 calories, 5 g fiber and 11 g protein.

NEW SITE LAUNCH


Yes.... I know my postings have been a little sparse as of late, and there really is no excuse.... EXCEPT to say that I have been working hard building a new site for ALL THINGS FOOD!

And.... IT'S FINALLY FINISHED! Just click on the image above to start browsing the new site. Find recipe archives, cooking tips and so much more.

We'll be updating the site weekly, so make sure to Join the Mailing List, or check back often to keep up with all the additions!

AND DON'T FORGET TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS!


Check back this afternoon for our WEEKLY SMOOTHIE RECIPE.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lemony Sweet

Today was one of those days where time just got away from me.
I started on a few projects (you'll notice the new blog format, for one) and before I knew it was 9:00 o'clock.

So anyway, here is the lemony berry pound cake recipe I promised.... It is a very simple, but intensely flavorful cake. Without the icing it can even serve quite nicely as a breakfast (or brunch) accompaniment.


Lemon - Blueberry Pound Cake
(Makes 1 Cake)
2 sticks butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp. to 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon rind
1 to 1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then butter and flour the bottom and sides of a large loaf pan - or bundt pan.

Next, cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at high speed. Add the eggs (one at a time), then the milk, lemon juice and lemon extract. Set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, lemon rind - and a dash of salt). Slowly add this mixture to the creamed sugar mixture from the previous step.

MIX BY HAND. You want to mix the batter just enough to blend all of the ingredients thoroughly without excess beating.

Fold in the fresh blueberries with the last addition of dry ingredients and then pour into your pre-greased loaf pan or bundt pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before slicing and then top with your favorite lemon (or vanilla) glaze icing - or simply some powdered sugar or whipped cream. Enjoy!


Per serving (based on 12 slices): Approximately 342 calories, 1 g fiber, 4.2 g protein and 17 g sugar.

A Banana Berry Breakfast

Here is this week's smoothie recipe..... a day late.
We've been having some problems with our internet connection, but they finally came to fix it yesterday …. so hopefully there will be no further outages.
Also on the menu today: Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake (so, check back later for that recipe).



Banana Berry – Breakfast Smoothie
(Serves 2)

1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
3/4 cup soy milk (plain)
1/3 cup pineapple juice, chilled
1 cup fresh blueberries
½ cup frozen sliced strawberries
1 small banana, sliced

Combine ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately, and enjoy. To make more than two servings just make multiple batches in quick succession and serve immediately.

**Tip: To make these ahead of time, blend and store in a tightly sealed jug in the refrigerator until needed. Shake to remix before serving. Note – the smoothies may be thinner in consistency when made ahead.

Each smoothie contains approximately 204 Calories, 5 g fiber, 8 g protein and High in Vitamin C.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Corn Soup Under $5

Find me blogging over at $5 Dinners tonight!

The Feature:


Cold Corn Soup
Click Here!
 
Delicious Intentions - Blogged