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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Strawberries and Cream

Yesterday was a perfect summer day.
Sunny. 84 degrees. Bright. Warm. Breezy.
And I was stuck inside working a 22 hour overnight shift through the holiday.

I did, however, manage to stumble upon
some juicy pieces of office gossip in that time.
It almost made it worth it.
And, it did, at least, make the hours tick by just a little faster.
(But those are stories for another day...)

I had wished to be able to spend the holiday
lying somewhere quiet, soaking in the sun.
But, there will be other days, and other opportunities
before the summer ends, to be sure.

In the mean time, I did manage to whip up this brilliant
vanilla layer cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.
(Click on any of the images below to get the recipe.)

Channeling some Betty Crocker energy this weekend,
I made two versions of this cake.
After giving away most of the first
(and a dozen cupcakes)
to friends and family,
and then inevitably receiving their mostly complimentary feedback,
it was decided that the cake needed
to be a bit fluffier, and richer in vanilla flavor.

So, I tweaked a few things.... and made another.
And, just in time to take a few slices into work with me.

(The rest I left behind for my husband -
who must of enjoyed himself while I was at work
- if the carcass of a cake that was left behind is any indication...)

This second version didn't make its way into the hands of friends or family,
but was greedily eaten up by my husband and I,
while we shared a brief moment of phone time together
(as he prepared for bed at home, and I at work).

From my kitchen to yours,
Happy Cooking!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eggs in a Hole - Rethinking a Classic Breakfast Dish

I've been spending far too many mornings lately pulling the covers up over my head and pretending that the world does not exist. I lie there in the dark cavern of the bedroom and listen to the *tink tink* of the baseboard heaters and the hum of the fan until I am immersed within dreamworlds where everything is happy and calm... I lie there, skipping breakfast … and the cold of the morning, until I convince myself that I am ready to brave the day and the impending gray waves of disappointment.

(Gray Day - Acrylic Painting by Lucia Johnson)

The anxiety (of being involuntarily unemployed and uninsured) has taken root deep inside my muscles, making it hard to breathe... and even harder to move forward and push past my own frustration. Slowly though, I am beginning to realize that every transition begins with an ending; An ending, followed by a period of confusion and distress, and then, finally, a new beginning. I hold onto that tiny glimmer of my heart's hope deep into the night, and then, this morning (for the first time in far too long) I awoke hopeful, with a mission to wade through the muck... and find a little happiness.

(Rainbow Path, Photographic Image by Irina Photography)

I know that every path toward survival starts with just a few optimistic steps forward. However small (or insignificant) those first steps may seem, they are often the most important... taking them is like making a promise to yourself that you will in fact....survive. So today I tempted myself out of bed before 8 am with the promise of a delicious breakfast treat, figuring that if I can at least get up to face the day, that is one step closer to a positive change than I was yesterday.


Inspired by the simplicity of an egg, good bread and butter I recreated a classic dish of my childhood: "Eggs in a Hole" (also known as Eggs in a Basket, Toads in a Hole, and One-Eye Jacks, among other things). This version has a whole lot of flavor, and the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Pair one of these "sandwiches" with a bowl of fresh fruit and cup of coffee and you will be well on your way toward a beautiful day.

Today's Recipe:

Eggs in a Hole
(Serves 2)
4 thin slices of honey smoked ham
4 slices multi-grain bread
4 large eggs
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Maple syrup, for drizzling

In a wide and shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, salt and cinnamon.

Carefully cut a hole out of the centers of two slices of bread, and then dip each of the four slices of bread into the sweetened egg/milk mixture. Meanwhile, melt the butter on a large griddle or fry-pan and then lay the bread slices into the pan in one layer. Carefully crack an egg into the holes in the remaining bread slices and cook (all slices) until the bottoms are well browned (3 min), flip, and continue cooking (another 2 min).

Note: If you do not have enough room for all four slices to lay flat, complete this step in two batches, cooking the whole slices first and the egg slices second.

Serve by layering, for each sandwich: one whole slice of bread, two slices of ham, one egg/bread slice and a drizzle of maple syrup. Enjoy!


The tunes getting me through the day:
Rain - Patty Griffin
More Time - NeedtoBreathe
Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
Let Go - Frou Frou


How do you make it through hard days?

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!!



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!


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 ...


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....


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!



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

Delicious Intentions - Blogged