Tag Archives: breakfast

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

It makes me a little sad that I only have one child young enough to do cute little Valentine goodies like this…

Logan’s 2nd grade class is having a traditional school party with games, treats and crafts, so we made these treat bags for him to pass out. Brady’s 5th grade class is doing a luau instead of a Valentine’s Day party, with tropical treats and games like the limbo. And poor Madison? Well, Brady asked her what they do for Valentine’s Day at the junior high and she said, “uh, you walk around and say Happy Valentine’s Day to your friends and then go to class.” He looked at her like she was crazy.

Actually, the junior high had a Valentine’s dance last Friday. Madison went with her BFF, Brooke, and they met up with a bunch of friends at the dance. It makes me even more sad to see how grown up she looks in her dress for the dance!

So I haven’t figured out a fun dinner yet for Valentine’s Day, but I did do a tasty little treat for last night’s dinner. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do have a few favorites that I DVR. One of those is Chopped on the Food Network. I’m addicted to this show. And it doesn’t sadden me one bit that Brady, my 10-year-old, has taken a liking to Chopped either! Chopped is a competitive show that starts with four contestants presented with a basket of “mystery ingredients.” They must create an amazing appetizer, which is then judged by the panel of expert chefs. At the end of the round, one competitor is chopped. The next round features another basket of mystery ingredients which must be turned into an entree. The last round is dessert, with just two competitors remaining. The one not chopped wins $10,000.

Over the weekend, Brady and I watched a recorded episode that was a special event. Rather than four restaurant chefs, the competitors were real “lunch ladies” and White House chef Sam Kass filled in as a guest judge. It was a great show, filled with a lot of emotion as these wonderful cafeteria workers talked about the kids they feed, the meals they try to keep healthful, struggling with budget limitations, and the many children who come to school hungry because there’s no food at home. The love they have for the students in their schools is immense.

As the show made its way to the dessert round, Brady and I watched with anticipation of what the mystery ingredients might be. The remaining two competitors mentioned that dessert is not really part of the typical school lunch. The mystery ingredients they had to work with were cream cheese, fresh grapes, canned pineapple and sunflower seeds. Both of these amazing ladies created a healthy dessert, but the winning dessert had Brady drooling! It was basically a dessert grilled cheese. The contestant took the cream cheese and mixed it with the crushed pineapple, fresh grapes, and other fresh fruit. She then spooned it between two thick slices of bread, buttered both sides, and grilled it. To serve, she sliced it in half, drizzled a little melted chocolate on top and sprinkled it with the sunflower seeds. What kid would not want that?!

Yesterday, while at Aldi, I picked up the ingredients I needed to make these. I bought whipped cream cheese (substitute Tofutti if you want it vegan), a can of pineapple, fresh grapes and, believe it or not, some gorgeous strawberries from Plant City, Florida!

I wish I’d taken a picture of Brady’s face when I told him that’s what we were having for dinner! They were delicious! Actually, they’d make a perfect breakfast. The amount of chocolate is minimal and the sandwich is stuffed with cream cheese and fruit. I didn’t have the sunflower seeds, so we left them off, but I think toasted almonds would be a nice touch. Here’s the recipe, if you want to call it that. Oh, and have a fork handy. These are messy! And what kid doesn’t love that?!

I wish you all a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with the company of your loved ones!

makes 4 sandwiches

8 oz whipped cream cheese or Tofutti, softened
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
6 large strawberries, stemmed and chopped
1 cup grapes, halved
1/4 cup apricot fruit spread (All Fruit)
8 slices whole wheat bread
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
toasted slivered almonds or sunflower seeds, optional

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and fruit until well incorporated. Divide evenly between 4 slices of bread, spreading to the edges. Spread 1 tablespoon of the apricot fruit spread on each of the remaining 4 slices of bread and place jam side down on top of the cream cheese covered bread, forming a sandwich. Heat a pan to medium and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Grill each sandwich, flipping once, until toasted and golden brown. Remove to a plate, cut in half and drizzle with melted chocolate. Garnish with toasted nuts, if using. Enjoy!


A great Father’s Day weekend!

19 Jun

What a fun day yesterday! We packed up the kids and headed north a few miles into Ida to the pick-your-own berry farm. I have great memories of doing that as a child and was pretty geeked about sharing the experience with my own kids.

We went to Whittaker’s Berry Farm, which I think might be the same place my parents took my sister and me to pick strawberries when we were growing up. It was called Rauch’s Berry Farm back then, but it had a sense of familiarity. Anyway, the kids had a good time and we came home with 20 pounds of strawberries. I got to work washing and hulling and made 10 jars of freezer jam (recipe below). Then I started chopping them up for the freezer so we can enjoy them later in smoothies. For dinner, I made a big salad of mixed greens, sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, red onion and a sprinkle of goat cheese. Since I didn’t have any of that delicious poppy seed dressing mixed up, I drizzled on Newman’s Own Low-fat Sesame Ginger dressing. Delish!

Next on the list is a strawberry pie and some strawberry shortcakes. Now, I’m not a big fan of strawberry pie — the one with fresh berries coated in a strawberry Jell-o sauce in a baked shell. It’s okay, but Jason loves it. And since it’s Father’s Day, I guess I could make one. Personally, I’d rather have strawberry shortcake. The real kind with fresh strawberries layered between a sweet biscuit-like shortcake. That’s the one I loved as a child. We always had it in a bowl and poured milk over it so the shortcake got soft and creamy. I’ll blog a recipe and photos of that after they’re done.

Here’s the recipe for the freezer jam. It’s straight off the package of fruit pectin. I figured that was my safest bet since this is my first attempt at this. It’s sweet, delicious and vegan, so go for it!

Strawberry Freezer Jam
makes 2 half-pint jars

1-2/3 cups smashed fresh strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin

In a medium bowl, whish together the sugar and pectin. Add the strawberries and stir for 3 minutes. Pour into clean jars and let stand for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Happy Father’s Day!
Since it’s Father’s Day, I want to say I hope you get to spend the day celebrating your dad, father-in-law or the father of your kids. If my dad were in town, I’d be making him a big serving of strawberry shortcake, because he deserves it! They don’t get any better than him. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! XXOO

Here’s how my hubby started his Father’s Day — French toast with our homemade freezer jam, pure maple syrup, fresh-picked strawberries and a side of breakfast sausage (Organic Prairie Breakfast Links, made from humanely-raised grass-fed pork). The kids loved it, too!

June 19, 2011

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

3 Mar

Wow. I can’t believe March is here and it’s been almost a month since I posted anything on my blog. I apologize to those of you who have been looking for new recipes! I spent all of January’s and most of February’s “blog time” doing the one thing I dread most. The 4 or 5 hours a week I was spending on writing and creating recipes and blog posts has been used for exercising. Then, for the last two weeks, all of my spare time has been spent remodeling two bathrooms (paint, tile floor, baseboards, new wall hangings, etc.). I’m trying to get back into my morning exercise routine, yet the winter doldrums keep dragging me down.

But, spring is coming and that means gardening, fresh vegetables, and a whole new outlook on what to make for dinner. Plus, I finally got my new stove so now I have an oven that works! I promise you, new recipes are coming!

Maybe you already know this, but yesterday would have been the 107th birthday of Dr. Seuss, the amazing author of children’s classics such as Green Eggs & Ham and The Cat in the Hat, among hundreds of other stories. Dr. Seuss is a big hit in our house. All of my kids have enjoyed his crazy, rhyming stories as they’ve learned to read. As they headed off to school yesterday, one of them mentioned it was Dr. Seuss’ birthday. That got me thinking…about something fun for dinner.

Yep, I did it — I made green eggs and ham for dinner. The eggs were fresh from our local farmer (I waited in the car for him to gather the eggs from the barn yesterday). I simply whisked them for scrambled eggs and added a squeeze of green food coloring. I still haven’t found a local source for ham, so it was not exactly *happy* ham, but it was nitrate and nitrite free and minimally processed, so I included a small amount for my omnivore boys. I made Whoville Taters (cubed potatoes, tossed in olive oil, seasoned, and roasted in the oven) and Starbellied Sneetch toast.

For dessert? Some Cat in the Hat yogurt parfaits! I simply took vanilla yogurt (made with coconut milk) and mixed half of it with thawed frozen raspberries and some stevia. I mixed the other half with a little coconut extract and chopped ripe bananas. Then I alternated layers of the two yogurts to look like the stripes on The Cat in the Hat’s hat. The effect would have been better if I had tall, skinny glasses, but I used what I had and I didn’t hear any complaints!

It was a fun dinner and led to Brady running upstairs and digging out ALL of the Dr. Seuss books to read before bed last night. We didn’t make it through all of them, of course, but it was a great way to celebrate such an important birthday!

Bon Appetit magazine: I like where you’re heading.

3 Nov

I’ve been a Bon Appetit magazine subscribe for a long time. Years, actually. And I’ve made many, many recipes from the magazine and the Epicurious website. I love the unique ingredients, the unusual flavor combinations, and the overall “gourmet-ness” of the recipes.

But when I went vegan in January, it seemed like none of the recipes would work for me anymore. Too much meat, cheese, cream and eggs. I decided to take a break from my subscription for a while and started receiving Vegetarian Times instead. Last month, my kids had a magazine sale at school. To help support the school, my mom ordered a bunch of magazines including Bon Appetit for me again. I’m so glad she did.

For one thing, my first issue arrived yesterday and it’s their annual big, bad Thanksgiving issue. For another thing, there are recipes actually geared to those on special diets! There are 25 recipes marked as “vegetarian,” twelve that are vegan, and one that is specifically made with gluten-free flour. Since I’ve been toying with the idea of trying a gluten-free diet, I saw that recipe and knew I had to give it try.

And so begins the first of my Thanksgiving recipe testing…with Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Biscuits from the November 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.

The recipe is not vegan, but was easily converted. I substituted Earth Balance vegan butter for the regular butter and made my own vegan buttermilk by stirring 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar into a 1/2 cup of almond milk. I used the brand of gluten-free flour recommended by the magazine.

The flavor of the finished biscuit was really good. Just a little hint of sweet potato, a nice nuttiness from the toasted pecans, and mild sweetness from the maple syrup. And I liked how the top cracked little. If you smear on some (vegan) butter while they’re still warm, it melts into the cracks and crevices. Mmm…

My only complaint with them is that they didn’t bake up big and fluffy. They are moist on the inside and firm on the outside, but not tall and light like a traditional biscuit. The next time I make them, I think I will not roll them quite as thin and bake them at a slightly lower temperature, so they end up a little thicker when done. Otherwise, quite delicious. My kids loved them!

The original recipe is here. My veganized version is below.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Biscuits
makes 16

1 large red-skinned sweet potato (about 1-1/4 pounds), pierced with fork
1/2 cup plain almond, coconut or soy milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/3 cups gluten-free flour plus additional
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled vegan butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (Earth Balance)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 425┬░F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

Microwave potato until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Halve; scoop out 1 cup flesh. Cool.

In a small bowl, stir the apple cider vinegar into the almond milk and set aside.

Blend 1-1/3 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in processor. Add butter; pulse to coarse meal. Add potato, almond milk mixture, and syrup. Process to blend. Add nuts and pulse to blend.

Sprinkle work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the food processor with floured hands. Pat into 9-inch square. Cut into 16 biscuits. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 18 to 22 minutes. Enjoy!

No need for Starbucks this morning!

19 Oct

I am in la-la land right now. Seriously relaxed. (I should go check my blood pressure. It’s probably at a record low!)

I just made a homemade chai latte that is out of this world.

In case you haven’t experienced this tasty drink, chai tea is a rich beverage with a complex blend of flavors. It’s a North Indian specialty made of black tea, brewed with a combination of spices, then mixed with sugar or honey and your favorite kind of milk. It is traditionally consumed sweet and warm because the sweetness brings out the flavors of the spices.

Most recipes suggest using Darjeeling, Assam, or just plain black tea leaves. I used a Rooibus for my brew today. I purchased the loose-leaf tea from Teavana in the mall. Chai spices usually consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and pepper. If you don’t have the spices in their whole form as listed in the recipe, don’t buy them in the little jars at the grocery store. They will cost you a bundle. Go to your local health food store where they sell spices in bulk. I bought mine in Toledo at Phoenix Earth Food Co-op. You can literally buy the exact number you need. The cardamom pods were something like $34 per pound, but I put 12 pods in a little bag and paid less than a dollar.

I found a basic chai recipe in one of the many vegan cookbooks I read last winter. I believe it was called The Complete Vegan Kitchen. I modified the recipe slightly and came up with this deliciously sweet and frothy latte. I’m going to have a hard time not drinking the entire batch in one day! (It’s a good thing I don’t have any biscotti in my house…)

Chai Latte
makes 6 servings

4 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
7 whole cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
8 black peppercorns (whole)
pinch of fennel seeds
3 tablespoons loose-leaf tea such as Rooibus, Darjeeling or Assam
1/2 cup sugar*
3 cups almond milk, coconut milk or soymilk

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, peppercorns and fennel seeds. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tea leaves and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a mesh strainer. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

To serve, heat 1/2 cup of tea mixture and 1/2 cup of your favorite milk. Whisk together until frothy. Garnish with a dash of ground cinnamon, if desired. Enjoy!

*You can substitute honey or stevia for the sugar. Use slightly less than 1/2 teaspoon of liquid stevia.

Happy Birthday, Jessica and Pooh Bear!

14 Oct

Today is Winnie the Pooh’s birthday. I’m not sure if it’s his exact birthday, since he started as a child’s stuffed animal and then became a character in A. A. Milne’s beloved book series, but October 14 is often recognized as his birthday because it is the date of the first printing of the original book. I’ve been a Pooh Bear lover for a very long time (the classic Pooh; not so much the Disney Pooh). When Madison was born, I couldn’t wait to paint a classic Pooh mural on the wall of her room. And when she outgrew it 5 or 6 years later, I was almost in tears as her new favorite color of paint was rolled over Pooh and his friends.

Today is also my niece Jessica’s 13th birthday. She’s officially a teenager! Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday she was having a Little Mermaid birthday party with her cute little party hat on. This year, she’s going shopping at the mall with a friend to celebrate her big day. Happy Birthday, Jessica! Hope your day is fabulous!

In honor of these two sweeties, I baked some cupcakes today. (What?! More baking?! My husband will be wondering who I am and what I did with his real wife!) But these aren’t just any old cupcakes. These are moist, delicious honey cakes! There’s nothing Pooh Bear loves more than honey, you know. They are lightly spiced with sweet apple undertones. Topped with frosting, they make a perfect birthday party treat or after-school snack. Or, skip the frosting and drizzle with a little honey to serve with brunch. Fabulous!

Honey Cakes
makes 1 dozen

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs (try substituting Ener-G egg replacer for vegan cakes)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups grated apple (peeled)
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar and applesauce. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Blend in honey and vanilla. Stir in the grated apple.

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Slowly add to the sugar mixture while blending with the beaters on low, until it’s all incorporated. Divide batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one cake comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Cool a few minutes in the pan then move to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. Top with vanilla or cream cheese frosting, or drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

The Classic Pooh wall mural I painted. This was taken before the curtains were hung or any furniture was moved in.

p.s. It’s also National Dessert Day!