Tag Archives: recipes

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!

GRILLED CREAM CHEESE & FRUIT
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!

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Where’s the beet?

9 Feb

Right here, baby! Oh, my goodness, I’m in heaven. I spent much of 2010 tasting veggie burger recipes and creating my own veggie burger recipes…in search of the perfect one. I have finally found it. This is so incredible, I wish I could take full credit for it, but I can’t. This recipe comes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, well-known vegan chef, cookbook author, and my new best friend – although she doesn’t know that!

If you’ve tried the store-bought veggie burgers, you’ve experienced that overly-compressed, flavorless disc whose only purpose is to fill your belly when you’re on the run and Burger King is the only restaurant in sight. Don’t buy those anymore, unless you are traveling and the only food in sight is BK! Make a bunch of these and store them in your freezer for future quick meals.

If you’ve experimented with homemade veggie burger recipes, you’ve enjoyed really good tasting “burgers” more comparable to a crab cake or potato pancake. Though I’ve enjoyed many black bean burgers, chickpea burgers and vegetable-based burgers, nothing compares to this one. Nothing.

It is dense, but not compacted. It has bite. It has flavor. It is not a colorless blob (quite the opposite, actually). And it takes the standard burger toppings as well as any beef burger you’ve tried before. Is it exactly like a beef burger? No. Does it beat the pants off of any veggie burger in existence? Absolutely.

Besides being mouth-wateringly good (is that even a word?!), these were a cinch to put together. The night before we had these, I made teriyaki stir fry for dinner. Since I had to cook rice for that, I cooked extra and put it in the fridge overnight. And since I already had the stove going, I went ahead a threw another pan on and cooked the lentils for this burger recipe. I put those in the fridge overnight, too. To assemble these burgers, it’s a matter of shredding a large beet with the food processor then throwing the rest of the stuff in and pulsing until well-combined. Easy breezy.

I prepared the recipe as written here, but made a few minor changes. And I mean minor. I really think Worcestershire sauce gives foods that “meaty” taste, so I added 1 teaspoon to the recipe. Next time I make them, I may bump it to 1-1/2 teaspoons. I mixed it all up as she explains, but I could not get them to stick together. I don’t know if my rice and lentils were a little drier than hers because I made them in advance, or what, but I mixed in 2 tablespoons of Veganaise and it came together perfectly. From the recipe, I made six burgers, each about 4 ounces. After I made all the patties, I sprinkled McCormick’s Reduced Sodium Grill Seasoning on them. That’s it for changes.

Isa cooks hers in a pan on the stove, but I grilled mine. Jason and the kids were all having beef burgers (from the locally-raised, pastured cow we bought last fall), so I decided to grill the veggie burger. I cooked one for me and an extra one for them to taste. (The other four were wrapped separately then put in a freezer bag in the freezer, uncooked.) Before grilling, I brushed both sides of the burgers with a little canola oil. I wasn’t sure if they would stick to the grill grates, so I used my Weber grill pan that I normally use for vegetables. It worked perfectly. They came out nicely browned on the outside. I melted a slice of vegan cheese on it, slid it onto a whole wheat bun, then piled it with all the usual burger toppings – mayo, catsup, mustard, onion, pickles, lettuce and tomato.

One bite and I was smiling. Oh, man. Fantastic.

Madison and Jason liked it (Jason ended up eating half of the extra burger after his beef burger). Logan is sick so he didn’t even eat dinner last night. Brady didn’t try it because of the color. He thought it looked like raspberries! I will admit, before you cook them, the color looks very much like raw beef. After you cook them, the color is only slightly darker. The outside gets a nice brown “crust” but the inside stays dark red. I mentioned this to my mom this morning and she had a brilliant solution – use yellow beets instead of the usual red. I’m adding yellow beets to the seed list for this year’s garden!

Here are some photos of the world’s best veggie burger. Thank you, Isa!

The mixture heading into the fridge.

My 2 beet burgers ready for the grill with the family’s 4 beef burgers.

The wonderful, piled high burger I savored through dinner!

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

Logan rocks the fishing derby!

15 Jun

As the school year winds down (today is their last day), things have been crazy busy with field trips, birthday parties, sleepovers and scout activities. We are having so much fun, but are definitely ready for summer vacation to get underway so we can sleep in a little later, float around the pool in the afternoons and clean some closets (Shh! The kids don’t know about the closet-cleaning part!).

Last night was the year-end Cub Scout event. Our Scoutmaster lives on 40 acres and has a small lake on his property, so he hosted a fishing derby. Everyone brought a dish to share and the kids had a blast fishing. But the highlight of the evening was my one-and-only Logan, who not only caught the most fish, he took home the trophy for catching the biggest fish! He caught a 14.5″ bass, but his winning catch was a 17″ bass. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. My animal-loving kids had no problem releasing their fish back into the lake. It was definitely a night to remember.

Logan with his Scoutmaster and his 14.5″ catch; Logan with Dad and his trophy-winning 17″ catch

Because I have two boys in the Cub Scout Pack, we contributed two things to the potluck — super easy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from the Duncan Hines website) made with farm fresh eggs, and a delicious little salad that takes advantage of fresh herbs from the garden (recipe to follow).

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but the wild turkeys that have been visiting our property for the last 5 or 6 years decided this year that my garden looked tasty. About 2 weeks after I got the initial seeds in, they stomped their way through all the beds, digging up dirt, tossing seeds everywhere and leaving large holes in areas I had already planted. What a mess. Because many of the seeds had not even sprouted yet, I decided not to weed or try to figure out what was left until I could identify them above ground. So I waited. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m left with half a row of peas and half a row of beans still in place. I’m missing all of my Swiss chard and most of the rainbow chard. Though my zucchini and yellow squash are growing, I have discovered squash plants growing in other areas where I didn’t even plant them. To top it off, the weeds have gone crazy. I’m so disappointed in my mess of a garden that I can’t even bear the thought of pulling all those weeds out.

The only thing to truly survive is my area of herbs. I planted these from seedlings I bought at the local greenhouse so they are nice and strong and growing well. They came in handy for this recipe. The Mediterranean flavors of this salad work well with just about anything you grill, but especially with veggie burgers, chicken or fish (ethically raised or wild caught, of course). Though this started as a recipe from Cooking Light magazine (June 2005), I have changed it enough that I’m calling it mine. The nice thing about it is that it actually tastes better the next day, so assemble it ahead if you can. Plus, it can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it ideal for a potluck or summer barbecue.

Mediterranean Chickpea and Fresh Herb Salad
serves 8

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped red onion
20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Stir in fresh herbs. Add the chickpeas, black beans, onion, tomatoes and olives. Stir well to combine and coat everything. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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
salt
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

Dressing:
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

Salad:
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

Spring is here…even though it’s still below 40 every day!

27 Mar

As usual, my “full plate” has been overflowing! We received a Home Depot gift card from my parents this past Christmas and I decided to update both of our bathrooms the last week of February. We painted, laid tile, installed new baseboards in one bathroom, and just gave them both an all-around new look. It had been almost 10 years for the one bathroom, so it was time. They look fantastic…thanks mom and dad!

Just a few days after we finished up, I got slammed with the flu. I mean slammed. I can’t even remember the last time I was that sick. I actually could barely get out of bed 2 of the days. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Two weeks later, I’m still battling the cough occasionally, but at least I’m back to functioning.

Now that spring is here, I’m looking forward to fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market and planting our garden. My mom sent me a seed catalog and I’m excited to get a new plan in place for my raised beds.

Even though it will be a few months before I can harvest anything, I’m in the mood for the taste of crisp salads and beautiful veggie combinations. I decided to make a quinoa salad last weekend and it turned out to be something you’d want on a warm summer day. It has a light flavor and plenty of vegetables. I will definitely be serving this up at a few backyard gatherings.

If you haven’t had quinoa before, you are missing out! Quinoa is a grain-like seed that has a nice chewy texture. It’s gluten free and is a nutritional powerhouse. Full of vitamins and minerals, it is an excellent source of iron, magnesium and zinc — which are good for blood pressure control and diabetes. Quinoa has just 220 calories per one-cup serving and provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. The protein in quinoa provides all eight of the essential amino acids we need, making it an ideal food for vegans and vegetarians.

Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice, but you have to remember to rinse quinoa in cool water before starting your recipe. If you don’t, it has a bitter taste. So rinse it well in a fine mesh strainer or colander with tiny holes. Then cook per package directions.

I made this salad only an hour or so before dinner, but the flavors were much more developed the next day when I ate the leftovers. I would highly recommend chilling this overnight before serving. It does not get soggy. It’s delish!

Spring Quinoa Salad
serves 6

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 English cucumber, chopped
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
salt and pepper

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Chill for about 1 hour.

In a blender, combine lemon juice, vinegars, dijon mustard and garlic. Puree. Slowly drizzle olive oil into running blender until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion and olives. Add dressing and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Chill overnight. Enjoy!

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!