Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Roasted Portabella Sandwich, Wordless(ish) Wednesday

Roasted Portabella Sandwich

Roasted Portabella Sandwich

Roasted Portabella Sandwich

makes 2 sandwiches

2 portabella mushrooms, stems removed
2 thin buns (Orowheat 100% whole wheat sandwich thins recommended) or pita bread
2 tablespoons hummus
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
pepper
1 cup arugula
1 roasted red bell pepper or equivalent amount in strips
2 slices red onion

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over each portabella mushroom cap and rub with fingers to coat the whole thing. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake mushrooms for 20 minutes or until tender. Alternately, you can grill them on the BBQ.

When mushrooms are done, spread 1 tablespoon hummus over each sandwich thin half. Place 1/2 cup arugula on the sandwich bottom, place the mushroom on top, then add 1/2 of the roasted red bell pepper to each and top with red onion slices.

This is a pretty basic (and vegan) sandwich that we enjoy on weekends and can be altered in a number of ways. Sometimes I add garlic and rosemary to my mushrooms before baking. Other times I toss the arugula leaves in a simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette before placing on my sandwich for added flavor. Salt and pepper are musts in this sandwich, although other seasonings would be great too. So season, season, season, or things could get pretty boring, really quickly.


and then, she {snapped}
The Paper Mama
Live and Love...Out Loud
”Better
Wordish Wednesday

Monday, March 28, 2011

Potatoes O'Brien

O' Brian Breakfast Potatoes

My mother used to make a breakfast potatoes often on Saturday mornings while I was growing up. I realized the other day that I don't think I have made them at all. Not once. But, I order them at restaurants so it's not like I have been deprived for the last 9 years. It was high time, I decided to make them for myself. After all, I had leftover Yukon golds waiting to be used, no meal plan in place and my friend Kel was coming over for breakfast. The perfect storm.

Instead of regular potatoes I decided to make them O'Brien style with onions and bell pepper. I love that combination and have a very vivid memory from childhood about visiting my Grandparents in Colorado (I lived in California at the time) along with a group of missionaries or some church thing like that. One morning they made breakfast burritos. Not just any breakfast burrito but the best breakfast burrito I have ever eaten. The one that I couldn't have known at the time I would compare to all other breakfast burritos for the rest of my life. I can't remember exact specifics other than it had scrambled eggs, cheddar, potatoes and sauteed bell peppers. The bell peppers made it awesome. I remembered that this particular morning when I knew I was going to make these potatoes with the goal of making breakfast wraps. Instead of sauteing strips of bell pepper separately, it made sense for this morning anyway, to chuck them in with the potatoes, so that's what I did. They browned and crisped up beautifully and were seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder. They would make my mother proud. Kel, on the other hand was a little harder to please. I learned this as I watched her carefully pick every bell pepper out and place it on the side of her plate. She doesn't like them. Go figure. I am learning she doesn't like a lot of things. She is one of those picky eaters that I can't stand. But I love her. I loved her before I knew about this picky eating business or it might have changed the course of our friendship. Only kind of kidding. OK fine, I'm all the way kidding but I still can't stand it.

Breakfast Wraps

The secret to getting these to crisp up is using a flat spatula for turning, and not turning them until they have cooked in the pan for 5 minute intervals. This gives them time to sit and brown and soak up the seasoning. like I mentioned above, I made breakfast wraps with these bad boys. I layered a wheat tortilla wrap with the potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon (I would have used sausage if I had it) and a light dusting of Parmesan cheese, then rolled them up and cut them on the diagonal. They were really, really good. Cheddar would be great on these wraps, as would a little avocado and even a bit of salsa if you are into that sort of thing.

Potatoes O'Brien
adapted (a little) from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Hashed Brown's recipe
serves 4-6

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and 1/2-inch diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons minced scallions, for garnish

Melt butter in a large (10-12-inch) saute pan. Add the potatoes, onions, bell pepper, salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally with a flat spatula, until the potatoes are evenly browned and cooked through. (Allow the potatoes to cook for 5 minutes before turning.) Turn off the heat and add the scallions. Serve hot.

Use any leftover potatoes in a frittata the next day. You can peel and dice the potatoes early and keep them in the refrigerator in a bowl of cold water. Drain them and dry them well with paper towels before frying.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crab and Avocado Salad with Japanese Dressing

Crab and Avocado Salad

Danielle, you know her from my family and friends page, came over for lunch the other day. I had seen Nigella Lawson make this salad a while back on The Cooking Channel and had remembered it, hoping to make it someday. The problem is no one I know loves crab, least of all my husband, who rejects crab cakes on any restaurant appetizer menu. He would eat it if I made him, but If I was going to spend the money on crab, it was going to be served to someone who was going to fully appreciate it. Enter Danielle. Lover of all things from the sea. I think. Actually, she is more accurately just a lover of all food. Period.

Crab and Avocado Salad

We both like seafood. We both like Asian flavors. And we both like fresh food. This salad fit into all three categories nicely. Danielle was the person to make this for. Most of the time I like my salads thoroughly tossed but not in this case. This is an arranged salad. It has to be or else the crab meat would get lost amongst the leaves. You start out by making the dressing which is a snap, providing you have mirin. Take a mental note now and buy mirin on your next trip to the store. And wasabi paste. Buy that too. Next you make the crab salad. You toss the crab meat in a bowl with chilies, cilantro, salt and some of the dressing. Then you toss some peppery arugula leaves in a bowl with the rest of the dressing and put it on the bottom of your serving plate. Next you pile the crab salad into a measuring cup, press down so it will mold and empty it into a gorgeous mound on top of your leaves. Scoop out some avocado, haphazardly with a melon baller and place around the arugula and top it all with a lime wedge for sprinkling. It's simple but looks fancy.

Crab and Avocado Salad with Japanese Dressing
adapted from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express

serves 2 meal sized portions, 4 appetizer portions

4 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6-8 drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 long red chile pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 1/4 cups crab meat (or 2 10-oz cans)
Approximately 2 teaspoons lime juice, and 2 wedges for serving
5 cups arugula
1 ripe avocado
2 teaspoons chopped chives or cilantro, plus more for sprinkling

In a bowl that will take the crab meat later, whisk together the mirin, wasabi, rice vinegar, sesame oil and salt. Then remove around 5-6 teaspoons to another big bowl that will fit your salad in later.

To the first, more generous amount of dressing, add the finely chopped chile, chives or cilantro and then the crab meat, and fork through to mix thoroughly.

To the smaller amount of dressing in the other bowl, add the lime juice and then the salad leaves and toss well to mix before arranging on 2-3 plates.

Spoon the crab mixture into a regular metal kitchen third-cup measure squishing down to get it all in, then take it over to a salad-lined plate and unmold in the center of it. just turn over, tap and the crab meat should fall out. Continue with the remaining crab meat and other plate.

Using a rounded half spoon measure, or melon baller, scoop out curls or humps of avocado and dot around and on top of the salady bits. Spritz with a little more lime juice.

Sprinkle some of the reserved chopped chives or cilantro over the mounds of crab and place a lime wedge on top of each.

As always, feel free to play around with the dressing measurements. Make it per recipe instructions, then taste. Want it more acidic? Add more vinegar. Like more sesame oil? Add it in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Olivia's Favorite Buckwheat Pancakes (vegan and delicious)

Buckwheat Pancakes

I'm feeling thoughtful and reflective tonight. I have so many things I want to express and yet don't really have the words. Olivia, my 2 year old baby is becoming so aware of the world around her. Tonight we made a trip to Blockbuster, as we often do. Jeremy opened the door to the backseat on Olivia's side like he does every time he lets the kids come in the store, while I usually elect to wait in the car with the baby. Olivia watched, delighted as Jeremiah shuffled past. She started to giggle and kick her feet wildly which resulted in Isabella trying to dart past her as fast as she could. Once Isabella was out, Jeremy shut the door and started walking inside. What he didn't know is that the second the door closed Olivia went from laughing to arching her back and letting out a very loud yell. She then burst into tears as she watched her Dad, brother and sister walk further and further away. She cried loud. She wanted everyone to know that she was NOT happy with being left behind. She wanted to go too. She wanted to be apart of the action. It was heartbreaking and so great at the same time. I'm so used to her being complacent and unaware of most situations, like being left behind.

The thing is, Livy has something called Angelman's Syndrome. That poor little girl has been poked, prodded and tested for everything under the sun before we finally got a diagnosis earlier this year. She's the toughest little thing I know. She's very delayed. She doesn't talk. We don't know when she will walk. And she is generally just content. Only lately, she has been complaining more. Complaining in Olivia's case is good. It means she understands what is going on and can express that she is having none of it. It makes me laugh. It makes me happy. I feel that deep tug in my heart when I see that she is starting to understand and be aware. She is thinking for herself and she is smart. Usually mothers get frustrated when their kids start to crawl because when you set them down they will move. They are not going to be in the same place. I never had that problem with Liv. I set her down time and time again and she would just stay there. She couldn't crawl. That is until about a month ago when she started to scoot on her bottom. Now, she is a wild banshee (my favorite descriptive word for the kids) scooting all over the place. She used to just scoot around the room, here and there, from this toy to that one. But now it's not uncommon for me to set her down in the kitchen so I could grab some butter from the fridge, turn around and finally find her past the living room, all the way down the hall and in the gym where she is trying to shut the door behind her as if to lock me out. She squeals, kicks and laughs when I find her in there. I can tell she is proud of herself and her new found freedom. Nothing could make me happier or prouder. I am so much better for having her in my life. I am lucky.

Olivia with sister Isabella on her beloved therapy horse, "Rody".
IMG_3721

Because she is delayed, we try to keep her mind as clear as possible, feeding her lots of fruits and vegetables and limiting her sugar. These pancakes are a weekend treat for her and she loves them. They are naturally sweet from the bananas and cinnamon and that's why she's crazy for them. She doesn't get syrup with hers, but I usually put a tablespoon or two of pure maple on mine. These are easy to whip up because you just mix everything in the blender. Very fast very healthy and very good. The only thing I would say is that the consistency of these vary quite a bit. Sometimes they never totally "cook through". They are mushy on the inside. There are no eggs or dairy in the recipe so from a safety standpoint it is perfectly fine. They still taste great and are thin, so it's not bad. I never mind when they are mushy in the middle, but it drives Jeremy crazy. However, they always set up nicely, and keep their shape, so no issues there. I think it has to do with your bananas. If they are overly ripe and mushy it causes the batter to be more that way. If they are firmer to begin with, your final product will be too.

Buckwheat Pancakes

This is a great way to eat pancakes in the morning without having to deal with the heavy food coma after.

Buckwheat Pancakes
adapted from Thrive, The Vegan Nutrition Guide To Optimal Performance In Sports And Life, by Brendan Brazier

serves 2-3

1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (or whole flaxseed)
1/4 cup hemp protein (protein powder)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 banana
2 cups water
1/2 cup barley flakes plus more for sprinkling (or oat bran or buckwheat, sprouted or cooked) we use oat bran.
coconut oil or Earth Balance Butter for cooking

In a bowl, mix buckwheat four, flaxseed, hemp protein, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a food processor or blender, (we use a Vita-Mix) process or blend the banana and water while slowly adding the dry ingredients, until mixture is smooth. If using a blender, add the mix about a 1/2 cup at a time, blend and add more, and so on. Stir in the 1/2 cup barley flakes or oat bran with a spoon or spatula.

Lightly oil a non-stick pan or griddle with coconut oil or earth balance butter over medium heat. Pour in pancake batter to desired size, sprinkle with the barley flakes or oat bran and cook for about 5 minutes or until bubbles begin to appear. Flip, sprinkle with more barley flakes or oat bran and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.

I suppose sprinkling the barley flakes on top of each pancake is optional but that's how we do it. We have a great whole foods store in Steamboat called Bamboo Market where you can find all of the ingredients listed above. Most health stores will have this stuff in any area. The hemp protein is just the same thing as protein powder. We all know what that is, right? Well, since it's made with hemp, it's vegan which is what you are going for in this recipe. The coconut oil can be used again and again so it's a good thing to have on hand. It's very good for you. I like to put a little coconut oil on my toast instead of butter with a little honey (It firms up at room temperature like butter would in a refrigerator, but melts on the hot toast). I also use it on my son's face when he gets little rough patches or his chin gets irritated because of his sensitive skin. Flaxseed is wonderful for your body and we don't get enough of it so this is a great way to sneak some in. We also put flaxseed in our morning smoothie most everyday. If you can find it ground, it's better because then you won't have seed chunks stuck in your teeth!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Artichoke and Shiitakes

Spring Risotto

Yum. This was dinner. It was awesome. And easy. I've have said it before and I'll say it again...Risotto is easy peisy. This one only needs stirring for 20 minutes or so, and it's easy because you can prep all of the ingredients in advance and then when it's show time all you have to do it stir, add wine, stir, add broth, stir, add broth, stir add more broth, then after a bit a little cheese, then the vegetables, then you are done. This task can be made much more enjoyable when wearing black heels, playing a little Harry Connick Jr./ Michael Buble, and sipping Sauvignon Blanc. I know from experience.

Spring Risotto

When done, the risotto should be a bit loosey goosey, not really thick. The cheese will help to tighten it up a little, but for the most part risotto shouldn't keep it's shape too well. If you get to the end and have used all your broth, taste it. If the rice is undercooked or the whole thing is very thick, add more broth or water or wine until it cooks a little more and is thinner. It should be starchy and gooey, but still loose. I would be surprised if you needed more liquid, but these things do happen sometimes, so just beware. If you don't like asparagus use peas or spinach instead. You can play around with risotto. I adore shiitake mushrooms and want to tell you to definitely use them, but if you can't find them fresh or don't like them (gasp), you can use regular button mushrooms to substitute. I won't tell.

Spring in a bowl. Bon Appetit!

Asparagus, Artichoke and Shiitake Risotto

Adapted from Gourmet, May 2003 by way of Smittenkitchen.com

Makes 4 main-course servings.

5 cups chicken broth (40 fl ounces)
1 cup water

1/2 a yellow onion, chopped

1 pound thin to medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, leaving tips 1 1/2 inches long

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 can plain artichoke hearts, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup, though I used half)

Bring broth and water to a boil in a 4-quart pot. Add asparagus and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then drain and pat dry. Keep broth warm, covered.

Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a bowl.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Ladle in 1 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and looks creamy, 18 to 20 minutes. (Save any leftover broth for thinning.)

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese, remaining tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in asparagus, artichokes and mushrooms, then cover pan and let stand 1 minute. If desired, thin risotto with some of remaining broth. Serve immediately with remaining cheese on the side.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Sticky Cherry Pudding Cake and My Sister

Sticky Cherry Pudding Cake

"Kaylee is constipated...sigh". That is what my sweet younger sisters status update on Facebook read the other day after I hacked it. Well, not really hacked. She left her account up and running on my computer. She had to fly into town last minute from Seattle, where she currently lives to attend a funeral while I was away in Arizona. She stayed in my house. She used Facebook on my computer and never logged out. Oops. I'm mean like that sometimes but I can't help myself because I think it's so dang funny! Plus, I'm nice enough to not put anything too incredibly embarrassing. She had it coming anyway. She was a horrific child.

I grew up kind of ghetto. Not that it has a whole lot to do with it but it lays a backdrop for my defense. I sent Kaylee, a text not too long before the hacking episode from my husbands phone that said "It's Krysta. I'm at the Rio telling everyone what a weird, funny and bitchy little girl you were. We were reliving your Pocahontas 7th birthday party when you didn't let Chantal swim. Also when I spanked you so hard it gave you welts. And when Mom and Dave used to leave us home on Saturdays to clean while they went out and how you got on my nerves so bad that I locked you outside naked when I couldn't spank you anymore. These are my childhood memories" I'm sort of a long winded texter. I have a really great relationship with my sister now and we had a good laugh about it. But, I'm not lying when I say when I say she was a really rude kid. My Aunt Jenny has the video of Kaylee's 7th birthday pool party. It was Pocahontas themed like I previously stated. In one scene of the video Kaylee's friend Chantal is seen sitting in a yard chair, towel wrapped around her body, hair wet, longingly looking out at the pool. She's shivering and her lip is quivering. Not really, I'm just making it more dramatic. Anyway, My Grandpa is shooting the video and says "Why Chantal, why aren't you swimming?" Chantal looks up into the camera with puppy dog eyes and says sweetly "Kaylee won't let me"...cut to Kaylee swimming alone in the huge pool with smug look on her face, staring down the camera as if saying "to hell with you Grandpa, what are you going to say? After all it is MY birthday". Grandpa continues to film Kaylee selfishly swimming alone and mutters "Kaylee, you mean ole thing" or something like that under his breath. It's hysterical. There is another part where she is opening her presents and as she is ripping the paper and spies what the object is she starts snottily bragging "I knew it! I just kneeeeewww it!" in the most annoying I want to smack your face voice ever. Then there's the other part where my other little sister, Brittany who was like 2 at the time is trying to "help" Kaylee open her presents. Kaylee, no joke, turns seemingly into the devil and screams at the very top of her lungs, violently, right into Brittany's face "STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" She flips a shiznit. It's scary. And hilarious.

This is me and my punk sister: I look tired and green. I probably am.
Me and Kaylee

Don't worry, I got her back. In that text where I refer to locking her outside naked? Well we lived in an apartment complex that was set up in a circle around a courtyard so everyone could see everyone else. The day I locked Kaylee outside, Nick, her crush for years, was outside playing. He was laughing. It was awesome. She really was a brat, you see. She was supposed to be helping me clean our room and she just refused. Not only refused but sat and taunted me about how she was not helping or going to. This was the only punishment I could think of since I couldn't spank her. And she wasn't really "naked". She had Little Mermaid underwear on. I'm not totally indecent.

I'm not ghetto anymore just in case you were wondering. Neither is Kaylee. But Kaylee does remind me of cherries and in what has to be the worst segway in the history of mankind, I will now talk to you about sticky cherry pudding cake.

Sticky Cherry Pudding Cake

This is the stuff of dreams. I had you at the name didn't I? Sticky (always good when describing something sweet) Cherry (cherry desserts are insane) Pudding Cake (needs no explanation). I saw this on the Pioneer Woman website and couldn't stop thinking about it. I might have made it the day I saw it. How could I not? It was very moist, as it should be and very, very sweet in a good way. I topped it with unsweetened whipped cream because between the sweet cake and really sweet, sticky red sauce, it was...well, sweet. The unsweetened cream cut through the sweetness and grounded it. This is really easy to whip up and can easily be doubled for a bigger pan to feed more people. That is, if you don't eat it all yourself. And you could. With this dessert, it's a real danger. (Kaylee, keep reading until the bottom after the recipe)

Sticky Cherry Pudding Cake
adapted from ThePioneerWomanCooks.com, Ree Drummond

Serves 6

  • Cake
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoons Salt
  • ½ cups Whole Milk
  • 1 can (15 Ounces) Cherries In Syrup (NOT Cherry Pie Filling) Drained, Juice Reserved
  • ½ cups Pecans, Finely Chopped
  • Sauce:
  • 1 cup Juice From Cherries (add Water To Make 1 Cup If Necessary)
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon All-purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • Unsweetened Freshly Whipped Cream

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter a square 9 x 9-inch baking dish.
Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and mix well. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt then add to mixing bowl alternatively with milk. Add cherries and chopped nuts and mix gently. Pour batter into buttered pan and smooth out the surface. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown on the surface and no longer jiggly.
While cake is baking, make the sauce by combining cherry juice, sugar, and flour in a small saucepan. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thick. Turn off heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter and vanilla extract.
Drizzle 1/3 of the sauce on the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven. Spread to distribute over the surface and wait ten minutes before serving so the sauce will seep into the top of the cake a bit.
Spoon out pieces of warm, sticky cake and top with unsweetened whipped cream. Your welcome.


Kaylee, I love you and miss you, sister! If you were here I'd give you a big hug and you would sit on my lap while I played with your hair and we would giggle. Actually, that would not happen at all because over the top public displays of affection between sisters make us both uncomfortable. Especially, if it involves hair. Although didn't you dedicate the song "Wind Beneath My Wings" to me once? That's pretty cheesy. And isn't my ring tone when you call, "I'll Stand By You"? It is. Maybe we are just affectionate in a different way. Not the physical way. Definitely NOT the physical way. OK, but seriously, you'll always be my NMKMSD. That's what I wrote in the dedication for her senior year book for all of you who don't know. She used to babysit my kids a lot when she lived with us while in high school. It stands for "Nurse Maid Kaylee, Master Snoop Dogg". Because that's what I called her. Sometimes I'd just shorten it to "Nurse Maid" and would yell things across the house at her. Stuff like "Yo, nurse maid! Jeremiah needs a diaper change. Get on it!" That's more our style. It's how we roll.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake

Every St. Patrick's Day since I was a wee thing I made it a tradition to get to Mc Donald's and order one of their Shamrock Shakes. Even now, it's a given that come the 17th, my kids and I can be found in the drive-thru of our local Mc Donald's which is an event in itself considering we never go there.

This year, I sent my girl Isabella to school decked out in green galore, ready to pinch classmates that were not doing the same. This would be fine but the problem was it wasn't St. Patrick's Day. It was the day before. Worst. Mother. Ever. I picked her up with my son who was also wearing green from head to toe and Livy who was sporting mint green pants. She got in the car wide-eyed and squealed in her embarrassed/slightly amused voice Mom! It's NOT St. Patricks Day today! I felt bad. After all, we had made the date to get our shamrock shakes after school which, under the circumstances was not happening until the next day, the real holiday, when they would be available.

Shamrock Shake

What's a Mom to do? I'll tell you what I did. I'll tell you alright. I went to the grocery store and picked up mint extract. I was hell bent on making my own homemade shamrock shakes. I was tired, and it was the end of the day, but I pulled it together and whipped out an almost perfect knockoff of the real thing. Only better, in my humble opinion. Here's my recipe for the cool, green and minty concoction and the happy little girl who got to drink it.

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake
Makes 2 small or 1 large shake

2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 1/4 cups milk
15 drops green food coloring
1/4 teaspoon mint extract

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

You can find mint extract by the vanilla extract in most grocery stores. Happy REAL St. Patties day! That's what I'll be telling my daughter tomorrow morning, anyway, when she will be wearing her pajama shirt to school since it's the only other green item she owns. And yes, you will most definitely find us at Mc Donald's tomorrow at 3:35pm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maple-Soy Wild Salmon

Maple Soy Salmon

This is the way you want to prepare your fish when you have access to really fresh salmon. I used wild and it was really good. I only go shopping at our local meat and seafood market on the days they get deliveries to ensure I get the freshest fish possible. Fresh fish should never smell fishy. If it does, don't eat it. I don't ever buy seafood at the grocery store, although we don't have a whole foods or Trader Joe's or I might. I'm particular with where my fish comes from. It if tastes fishy in the least, it's hard for me to eat.

Maple Soy Salmon
This marinade is delicious and subtle. It highlights the salmon and showcases it's delicate flavor rather than masking it. I got this recipe from a People magazine special publication which features different celebrities favorite recipes. They called it "cooking with the stars". This recipe is Michael Buble's which is another reason to make it. He's such a cutie, isn't he? His father was a commercial salmon fisherman and so was his grandfather so he is particular about how his fish is prepared. For wild salmon, this is how he makes it. He's insists "the simpler, the better". Indeed. He sold me.

Maple-Soy Wild Salmon
adapted from People "Cooking With The Stars" from Michael Buble

serves 6

3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1-2 1/2 to 3 lbs. wild salmon fillet, skin on
Lemon slices for garnishing and squeezing

Combine maple syrup, spy sauce and ginger in a small bowl. Place salmon in a baking dish and pour marinade over fish. Turn the fillet over so that the meat side of the fish is in the marinade.. Cover and refrigerate 2-4 hours. Preheat grill or grill pan over medium high heat or preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

If grilling, remove fish from the dish and place on a sheet of aluminum foil.. Place salmon, foil side down, on a grill and cover loosely with another piece of foil. Grill until salmon is flaky and center is cooked to medium, about 20 minutes.

If baking, flip salmon back over in the dish so that it is now skin side down and place in the oven. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until flaky. My oven takes the full 25 minutes, sometimes a little longer.

Remove fish and using a large spatula, move salmon onto a platter and discard skin if desired. Serve with lemon wedges.

I served this salmon with sweet and spicy sweet potato wedges and a simple butter leaf salad with a shiitake sesame vinaigrette. To make the potato wedges, peel and cut 3 small sweet potatoes into 1/2' thick wedges. In a bowl whisk together: 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss and spread out on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle wedges with a little more oil and chili powder for color. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then toss and roast for another 15 minutes until done.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And The Winner Is....

video

I decided to go ahead and choose the winner the old fashioned way, drawing a name out of my mixing bowl.

The names:

IMG_3677


The winner was picked from a sea of little white papers with pink writing. The lucky winner?

Katie!

"Omgoodness I would DIE to win this!!!! I just got finished reading the book Skinny Bitch on vacation and it has literally made me want to go organic since! that is so funny you just happened to post this. I'm a follower, obviously :)"

I'm glad you don't actually have to die to win this. :) Send your mailing address to me (kmacgray44@hotmail.com) and I will get this sent to you ASAP.

I went to a party two nights ago and a few women who live in my town told me they read my blog. I would have never guessed! Thank you all for taking the time out to get to know me, read my recipes, frustrations, struggles and joys and also being my friends. I am humbled and grateful whether I know you are reading or not. And I so enjoy getting to know all of you back.

Krysta

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Harry and David Organic Fruit Giveaway

Hi!

I got a Harry and David Fruit of the Month club as a gift for Christmas this year and I love it. It's so fun when my little packages arrive full of ripe deliciousness. So, I decided to share the love with you all. I'm offering a 4-month organic package where you get pineapples in March, Cherries in June, peaches in September, and Royal Riviera pears in December.

To enter you must:

1) Follow me and leave a comment, that's all!

2)For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway and link back to my blog (leave your blog url in the comments section so I can make sure to find you)

Since it's my first giveaway and my audience is small you have a good chance at winning!

Check out the Harry and David page to see exactly what I am giving away by clicking the link below

Winner will be announced in two days.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

I love Minestrone soup! We went to the Olive Garden on our way to Arizona for dinner. I ordered Minestrone soup, of course, and salad to start off with. As I was eating I wondered why I don't make Minestrone at home more often? Then I remembered it's because every time I have made this particular soup, it turns out somewhat bland. Minestrone is primarily made up of fresh vegetables and vegetable stock with some beans and pasta. All that is great, but it could use a little help in the flavor department if you know what I mean. Some complexity and depth to it would be nice too. If the Olive Garden could accomplish that then I decided I could too, dang it!

I googled about a dozen different recipes and analyzed each one. Most of the soups are very similar. They differ in the varieties of vegetables used and call for different stocks. Some use beef stock, although I read that vegetable stock is "correct." We avoid a lot of meat product over here so veggie stock sounded good to me. Most of the recipes called for salt and pepper to be used to flavor the broth. That's it. That was not going to work for me. At Olive Garden, there is definite Italian flavors going on in the soup that you just cannot achieve from salt and pepper alone. There is also this complexity going on in it that doesn't come from just stock. There is something else to it. I researched and came up with my own recipe relying on one more heavily than the others for an outline of right quantities to use and so forth. I will give credit to Todd Wilbur for the recipe which is actually based on a knock off of the Olive Garden's. It is similar, but not exactly spot on. Olive Garden's tastes like they put a Parmesan cheese rind in their soup. It's something Giada De Laurentiis does a lot. I can't guarantee they do, but it tastes like it to me. I didn't add that in to my recipe because I didn't have any rinds on hand. If you do, throw one or two in. It would be heavenly. If you don't know what I'm talking about I'll explain. Next time you buy a wedge of Parmesan, use it all until only the end remains. There will sill be some cheese left on the end. That is great. Then, throw it in a plastic bag and store in the freezer to toss into soups when needed. The rind will soften and impart a Parmesan flavor to the pot.

Minestrone Soup

I decided to add both tomato paste and red wine to my veggies before adding the stock to boost flavor. The red wine is optional, but add it if you can. There are a lot of seasonings in this soup. Sorry bout that, but it's the right seasonings that will make this soup shine instead of tasting like every other vegetable soup you have ever made in your life and will keep it far from the dreaded bland zone. I used dried oregano, basil and thyme, then added pepper, onion salt, Lawrys salt, garlic powder, and finally celery salt. Onion salt is perfect for this. If you don't have Lawrys salt, sub for more onion salt. Same for celery salt. However, If you can get all of them in there they work together really great. Dried herbs work better than fresh in this case.

This a hearty soup, chock full of ingredients.

Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup
adapted from Todd Wilbur

serves 6-8

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup chopped zucchini (about 1 small)
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 stalk celery, minced
4 teaspoons minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
4 cups vegetable stock (do not use chicken broth)
2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained
2 (15 ounce) cans white beans (great northern or cannelini), drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, left un-drained
1 medium carrot, chopped finely
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 a small can of tomato paste (eyeball it)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon Lawrys salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
3 cups hot water (if not using wine, add another 1/2 cup)
4 cups fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup small or medium shell pasta (I used whole wheat)

*Parmesan cheese rind, optional

Heat three tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Saute onion, celery, green beans, zucchini, and carrots in the oil for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring.

Add the 1/2 can of tomato paste and stir in with the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock to the pot, then add the red wine, hot water, tomatoes, beans, spices and Parmesan cheese rind if using. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer with the top on for 30 minutes.

Add spinach leaves and pasta and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. It may need more salt or herbs depending on your preferences.

Olive Garden has the added luxury of being able to let their soup sit together for a while before serving. This gives time for all the ingredients to soak up the broth and really take on its flavor. Instead of tasting like seasoned broth and a chunk of tomato, the tomato tastes like the broth when allowed to sit. It makes a difference. That's why I recommend letting the soup bubble gently after most of the ingredients are in for a while before adding the spinach and pasta. If desired you can stop at this step, cover and refrigerate. Add the pasta and spinach just before serving and allow to cook together. Try to cut all your veggies the same size. It makes a big difference for the final product in my opinion.

If you have leftovers, keep in mind that the pasta will swell up so you might need to add extra vegetable stock the next day.

Just a side note: I didn't use zucchini because they were out at my store. I just added more green beans to make up for the amount of zucchini called for. Minestrone soup doesn't have set vegetables that are supposed to be used. It is what ever is in season, but the combination above seems to be the most consistently used.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Have you ever left your house on vacation for a while then come back and realized what a complete and utter slob of a person you are? Seriously. I cleaned, like I always do before I left. I did the laundry, I made sure stuff was picked up because there is nothing I hate more than coming home to toys and random papers strewn about. I cleaned out the fruit bowl. I folded the throw on the couch. But when I came home and walked around a bit I started to think dude, who lives here? This is seriously gross. I walked through my house like I was visitor since it had been so long. I couldn't help but critique my own cleaning skills, which was never my strong suit anyway. When is the last time you dusted? Is it conceivable that I have never, ever cleaned the glass to my shower door? When was the last time the vacuum had made a trip up the stairs? I paused and took a good long look in the mirror. Then it hit me. The words echoed in the my head over and over. I'm a crappy housekeeper. What the? I. AM. A. CRAPPY. HOUSEKEEPER. I keep my house...somewhat badly. No, it's bigger than that. I am downright bad at keeping house. It's no bueno. Mal, muy mal. I said it to myself as many times as it took for the reality to sink in. I needed to feel it, people. How did this happen anyway? I'm not awful, right? I mean, I keep my house as tidy as I can. I try to keep clutter at bay, although sometimes rather unsuccessfully. I vacuum the living room frequently. I keep up with the laundry. Lord knows I sweep my floor twice a day and the kitchen is always clean. Mostly. I have always considered myself a pretty on top of it person but the truth just stared me down. Truth in the form of dust, soap scum, toothpaste smeared sink bowls, toilet rings (faint, but definitely there), and patches of paint and glitter glue and various other unidentifiable substances on our kitchen table that I keep causally wiping over and over with antibacterial spray and hoping that one time it will just magically disappear. I realized while I'm alright at the day in and day out type of cleaning I pretty much suck at the deep cleaning. It is what it is.

So, I took myself to the store today and bought all sorts of fun things. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, tile and tub cleaner, paper towels, Lysol wipes, Pledge wipes, new toilet bowl cleaner, a new dish wash brush, new soap, glade scented oil plug ins and rubber gloves because eeew, I'm not about to touch the toilet without them. Then...man, I started. And I went to town. China town. Shanghai. What? That doesn't makes sense? Oh, sorry it comes with the territory. Randomness that is. I'll do as I decide and let it ride until I've died and only then shall I abide this tide of catchy little tunes of hip three minutes ditties, I want to bust all your balloons I want to burn all of your cities to the ground. And broccoli, but that's coming up later. Wait, what?? Anyway, Once it was all done, my house smelled fresh and looked shiny again. I promptly threw out the rubber gloves. I know some people keep them to reuse again but eeew, I just cleaned toilets for heavens sake!

I felt purged, free and clean. Then it was time to make dinner. After the cleaning spree I knew I wanted something healthy. I had been good to my house and now I wanted to be good to myself. Well there was that and the fact that I figured I had to have burned an awful lot of calories with all the bending and vigorous scrubbing and all so why mess that up now? Keep it going, I say! So I made Parmesan roasted broccoli. Don't worry I also ate oven baked eggplant Parmesan, with only a tiny bit of cheese. The broccoli though, was excellent.

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

It's not really just Parmesan broccoli. It's Parmesan, lemon, garlic, pine-nutty broccoli, baby! Broccoli only gets so interesting, you know. The broccoli is tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted at such a high temperature that when done it's crisp tender and caramelized on certain parts. Adding to this you douse it with more olive oil, lemon juice and zest, Parmesan cheese, basil, toasted pine nuts and toss. Take a bite. Swoon. Repeat. Now, I didn't have basil on hand so I left it out. I know, shame. But it was still delicious. This is easy and the perfect side to a weeknight meal.

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics, Ina Garten
serves 6

4 pounds broccoli (about 8 cups when cut)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.

Oh, and sorry about the outburst above. But I love Blues Traveler. What can I say?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sangria

IMG_2789

I'm back! The cold has welcomed me home with open arms, I'm afraid. I had tons of fun on my trip and I'm sure you will hear more about it in the next post, but for now I'm just popping in quickly in-between laundry and unpacking to share this drink with you. I just posted a cocktail not too long ago but I had not been cooking much on my trip so I don't have a new "real" recipe to share. However, I had been doing a whole lotta drinking, so...here she is.

I swear I'm not an alchie, but when life gets me down (or it's bone chilling cold for months on end with no breaks and you are a little worn out anyway) vacation and drinking is all I can think about. A book in one hand and a steady stream of drinks in the other. That's what I'm talking about!!! Uh, as long as I have plenty of water in between, don't drink too much, and am in bed by 10:00pm because, really, I am a weenie and like to take the proper precautions.

Clarification for my Grandma: I don't "dream" about drinking. There is no need to be concerned. Besides, cut me a break, you had four little kids (or three, depending on which Grandma we are talking about) and they were all girls for crying out loud. You know how daunting it can be. You also know how by the end of your second cocktail everything that seemed horrific and stressful before just somehow magically melts into giggly silly dreaminess, if only for an hour. Um, you do, don't you? Shoot. Yes, yes!! I am almost certain I have been with you when Grandpa has been making his Moscow mules or vodka tonics out on your porch on a summers evening. You can't even deny it now. Those rare nights were positively dreamy weren't they? uh, huh. You know it's true. Vindication. Ok, moving on.

And so, behold... Our vacation with the Fielding's looked like this:

IMG_2853

IMG_3034

IMG_3103

My hubby and the kids, plus Taylor and Reese but minus Olivia :)
IMG_2948

Shawn and Melissa
IMG_2968

IMG_3317


It also looked like this:
IMG_2788

It's the first drink I made for us in Arizona. It was our welcome drink if you will. I love Sangria if it's made well. I blogged about a Texas White Sangria last summer that I love but this recipe is more traditional in that it uses red wine and is helped out by a little brandy. The citrus is just right at tying it all together and rounding out the sweetness. This drink is refreshing. Grill some shrimp on a kabob with chunks of chorizo and lots of paprika, rosemary, olive oil and salt and have a Spanish night. Why not? Sangria screams special celebration to me.

Sangria
adapted From Everyday Food, Martha Stewart

makes 9 cups

4 oranges, 2 juiced, two halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/3 to 1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1 bottle chilled dry red wine
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 cups seltzer or club soda
ice cubes

In a large pitcher, combine orange juice, sugar, and brandy; stir well to dissolve sugar. Add wine, orange slices, lemon slices, and seltzer. Stir. Fill glasses with ice; pour sangria over and serve immediately.