Pages

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The hidden costs of the farm bill.

Ravings: If you aren't familiar with the farm bill and how it effects you, please do some research. It's a incredibly large piece of legislation that covers a variety of food and agriculture related issues and is only re-examined every 5 years. This infographic relates to the commodity spending portion of the bill.

Via: TakePart.com


Cravings: This is basically an update on the house buying because it seems my free time is consumed by this. We've had the inspection and everything looks great. We are making our formal loan application this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

Because I have been so consumed with this process, I have been completely unorganized about documenting my recipes and taking pictures of what we eat. I promise I will get back on track once this all settles down.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Still holding my breath


Ravings: A child in a school uniform with a backpack that’s half as big as they are never fails to put a smile on my face!

House update: It looks like we are buying a house. After some tense negotiations over the weekend, we came to an agreement on price and signed all the paperwork. Now it’s just a matter of getting home inspections and all the mortgage paperwork. Because Jason recently started his job, we have to wait until he has 4 weeks of paystubs, so we can’t formally apply until mid-June. We are pre-approved so getting financed shouldn’t be an issue, but I’m still holding my breath. The universe can be a bitch and we’ve already established that she doesn’t like me. I haven’t even started packing because I don’t want to jinx it. Which is funny because we have renters planning on moving in Aug 1st, so we kinda have to leave no matter what!

Maybe I’m just avoiding packing up an entire house!



Cravings: My sister and I tackled 10 quarts of strawberries this weekend, resulting in 24 pints of strawberry freezer jam. Ironically, both of our freezers are completely packed with beef that we just purchased, so she had to do some re-arranging to fit it all in. After the freezer jam jars were sealed and refrigerated, we took a trip to the store to buy some containers to put all the steaks, roasts, ground beef in and hopefully make enough room in her upright freezer. I will have to get a picture of that! I'm not ever sure if she's taken on that project yet. We decided it didn't make much sense for me to transport half of the jars to my freezer just to have to pack them up again in a few weeks (hopefully!). My awesome sister took some pictures of the process without getting either of us in the photo. This is one of the reasons I love her so much!

This is while we were still working on the last batch.

Strawberry Freezer Jam (ingredients shown are per batch. We did 3 batches at a time)

3/4 cup hulled and mashed strawberries
2 Tbsp Ball Real Fruit Instant Pectin
2/3 cup granulated sugar

Hull and then mash the strawberries using a potato masher. We did this in a shallow dish so it would be easier.

Hulled strawberries

turned into mashed strawberries
In a large bowl, mix together the pectin and the sugar.

Can you tell this isn't the first batch?
Stir in the strawberries until well mixed and then spoon into jars. Let them sit for about 1/2 hour, then wipe them down and put the lids on. Store in the freezer.


We actually had a lot of fun. And the kids "helped" for like a minute, and mostly they just tasted!

I also have a dinner recipe to share. This one was super easy and both Jason and CJ loved it. I thought that I had some fresh basil in the fridge, but I didn't so I just made up a pesto with fresh herbs that I did have. Jason killed my basil plant, so I now have to buy it and it doesn't last long.

Notice how the parsley leaf mimics the leaf on the plate? I totally didn't plan that!

Pesto Quinoa

1 pint grape tomatoes
1/4 sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup corn
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup walnuts
2 Tbsp fresh oregano
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Spread tomatoes on a sheet pan and roast in 350-375 degree oven while chopping up the other veggies, about 15 minutes. Add the other veggies and roast for another 15-20 minutes. While that's roasting, bring quinoa and water to boil in a pot over med-high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. To make the pesto, put the walnuts, oregano, parsley, salt, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and blend together. You may need to add more oil to make it a smooth consistency. Once everything is done, mix it all together in a bowl and add the toasted pumpkin seeds. Yum!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Holding my breath.


Ravings: Turns out I am not a stress writer. No excuses, but my explanation for being entirely absent the last 2 weeks is that I apparently do not focus under stress. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of showing our house and looking at houses. We decided to put our house on the market as a rent to own and see what happened. I was shocked at the number of inquiries we received. Given that we were pretty certain we could rent our house out, we started looking at houses. After 2 weekends of marathon open houses and house tours, we walked into a beautiful home full of windows and light and utter possibility! Jason knew immediately that he wanted the house, but it takes me a lot more anxiety and thought to make decisions like this.
So after countless phone calls with mortgage brokers and many sleepless nights for me, we are making an offer. Jason is already planning where to put furniture, but I am still holding my breath. I won’t start making plans until the papers are signed. I just don’t trust the universe. I have been disappointed way too many times. I do love Jason positive outlook and probably would have backed out of this whole thing if it weren’t for him. It’s just been such a balancing act of finding the right renter at the right time to buy a house and get moved. It’s just been completely emotionally overwhelming for me. But at this moment in time it appears that the stars are aligning. I’ll keep you posted.


Cravings: While I haven’t actually taken hand to keyboard (my play on pen to paper), I have been keeping track of my recipes. We've been eating a lot of salad because Jason doesn't get home from his new job until 7:30, and after working 12 hours he's exhausted and not really wanting a big heavy meal. My sister and I will be making strawberry freezer jam, freezing broccoli, and doing something with peaches this weekend, so I’ll have some preservation recipes for you next week. This will be my first time making freezer jam!! Here are a few recipes from the past couple weeks.


 Pork Chops with Mango Salsa and Glazed Carrots

1 mango, diced
1 jalepeno, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

2 pork chops
salt and pepper

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar

For the Salsa: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

For the pork chops: Salt and pepper both sides of chop. Heat skillet on med-high with a small amount of olive oil. Cook chop until cooked through, about 6 minutes each side depending on thickness.

For the carrots, melt butter in saucepan, add carrots and brown sugar, cook on medium until desired tenderness. 


Chopped Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Chopped Salad is so easy. It's basically just a mix of chopped up veggies. Whatever you like or whatever you have on hand will work. I served it with a pre-made roasted red pepper soup from Trader Joes and a couple rolls (not homemade, in case you were wondering). For our salad, I used mixed greens, red and yellow peppers, shredded carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, and avocado. The dressing was a mix of Dry Ranch Mix, 1/4 cup of greek yogurt, and 1/4 cup of buttermilk. 


Pizza "Rice"

2 cups kamut (or an other rice like grain)
4 cups water or stock

2 red peppers, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano

Slices of pepperoni
Sliced mozzarella cheese (Use the good stuff. It's worth it!)
Shredded parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, bring the kamut and water to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until done. Kamut takes a long time and has a slightly chewy texture if you decide to use that. 

Mix veggies and herbs in a baking dish with some oil and broil about 15 minutes.

Once your grain and veggies are cooked, mix them together in the baking dish. Put on a layer of pepperoni, a layer of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven that you turn down to 350 just until cheese is melted. Jason loved this by the way!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Just get through it

Ravings: Mother’s Day is just a rough day for me. It’s a day filled with conflicting emotions, pain, sadness, gratitude, and love. I would like to say that I’m glad it’s over, but it seems to be staying with me. It’s the roller coaster of emotions that are so impossible to plan for or deal with. Bad days I can face, even if I don’t always know they are coming. There’s just something about the ups and downs and the complete confrontation of the loss that creates a profound loneliness that is difficult to shake. It comes over me like a wave, drowning me in sadness, and then easing off a bit, allowing me to see the sunshine and feel the warmth on my face before pulling me under again. And the heaviness of it is still with me this morning.

For me, it seems to be the hardest day of the year. Other significant days have difficult moments, but Mother’s Day is permeated with loss. I have mitigated much of my grieving by not declaring this state as final. I allow myself the possibility of not knowing what will happen down the road. I’m not sure if this is healthy or unhealthy but it allows me to not be overtaking with grief. It offers some hope, and sometimes hope is enough. I use this hope to get me through the other days, but Mother’s Day strips me of that protection. It’s raw and painful and real. It’s a day that will never be about me.


Cravings: It’s a bit difficult to switch to food after that outpouring of emotions, but I do love food and maybe this will help me lift that fog. First up from last week is an Italian black bean burger with a side of watermelon. Then from yesterday is a slow roasted butt roast with roasted tomatoes and mashed potatoes. I cooked for my mother-in-law, which prevented me from staying in bed all day. And Sat morning I made some more dog treats and some granola nests with yogurt, nuts and berries.


Italian Black Bean Burgers

2 cups cooked black beans
1 Tbsp homemade Bam Seasoning
3/4 cup panko
Mozzarella cheese slices
2 eggs
1 container chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
4 eggs
arugula

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until incorporated. Form into patties and fry like a regular burger, placing the cheese on top toward the end so that it can melt. These don't actually need to be cooked, just warmed through so it doesn't take very long. These would probably not hold up well on a grill, however. They aren't as held together as a regular burger. In the meantime, combine tomatoes, basil and oregano in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered for about 10 mins, then lower the temperature so that it's barely simmering. Crack each egg on top of the tomato sauce, being careful not to break the yolk. Cover and allow to cook for another couple minutes. To serve, put a handful of arugula at the bottom of a large bowl or on a plate, top with a burger, then ladle some tomato sauce and an egg on top of the burger.

The watermelon slices aren't quite sweet yet, but they were refreshing and went very well with the spice and acidity of the Italian Black Bean Burgers.


Slow Roasted Rolled Butt Roast

1 rolled butt roast
1/4 cup Jason's spice mix

In a hot skillet, brown all sides of the butt roast. Rub spice mix all over outside of roast. Place on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil or in a roasting pan. Roast at 250 for about 1 1/2 hours or until desired doneness.

Roasted Tomatoes

1 package grape tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Spread tomatoes on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 250 for about 1 1/2-2 hours. Shake pan to keep them from sticking a couple times during the cooking process.

Mashed Potatoes

5-6 small to medium red-skinned potatoes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Chop up potatoes and put in a pan of boiling water. Boil until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 -3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Once drained, put the cooking liquid back in with the potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Add the butter, buttermilk and yogurt and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper as desired.


Granola nests with yogurt, nuts and berries (adapted from Mommie Cooks, found on Pinterest)

4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp allspice
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup almond meal

In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, brown sugar and allspice and melt together. In another bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Add the butter and honey mixture and mix well. Mush granola mixture into and up the sides of a muffin tin to form a nest. It's very sticky so it helps to spray your hands with non-stick spray. Bake at 325 for about 15 minutes and allow to cool. Fill with whatever ingredients sound yummy. We used plain yogurt, blackberries, raspberries and pecans and then drizzled with honey.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More housing anger

Ravings: It's been a really stressful few weeks. My anger is about to boil over at any given moment of the day, so I haven't been able to write this blog in any meaningful manner. I have several posts in queue, but haven’t been able to polish them enough to post them. I am keeping track of the little we are cooking, and I promise to get caught up. I hastily typed up an angry letter to Governor Kasich today and thought I share it here.

Dear Governor Kasich,

I am writing to you because I do not know who else to turn to. I am angry beyond words and want things to change. I am an intelligent, educated, professional woman and I am at a loss for what to do. I purchased a home 12 years ago in a modest neighborhood for what I could afford, which was considerably less than what the bank was willing to loan me. I knew my own financial situation and didn’t want to extend myself beyond my means. I also wanted to be prepared for any “just in case” scenario. I have had setbacks, but have always been financially responsible, making sure that I paid my mortgage payment in full and on time every single month. In fact most months I pay a bit more than my monthly payment.

Since the housing crisis began my neighborhood has become a war zone. There is frequent fighting, yelling, screeching cars in the middle of the night, often resulting in the police being called to a neighbor’s home, waking us all up at all hours. Recently our neighbor’s house and car were set on fire late in the evening. Gang violence, random shootings, and most recently a woman being stabbed to death on her back porch less than two blocks from my home are becoming the norm. My husband and I desperately want out of this neighborhood, but we are stuck. The worst part of it is that we are in this situation through no fault of our own!

We both have established retirement accounts and a fairly good safety net in our savings, but even if we drained our savings we can’t leave our home responsibly. Even after 12 years of paying the mortgage, our home is currently worth about half of what we still owe. We don’t qualify for any assistance programs because we aren’t behind on our mortgage. To add insult to injury, we still have to pay the monthly mortgage insurance premiums, despite 12 years of faithful payment, because our house in now worth less than our car!

We have spoken with a realtor and there is no way that our available cash will allow us to sell our home at market value and be able to pay the difference of what we owe and all the closing costs. I have contacted my mortgage company, who was unable and/or unwilling to work with us. They would be willing to do a short sale, but only at the cost of ruining my credit. It seems a bit unfair that I should have to ruin my excellent credit rating in order to move my family to a safer neighborhood for a problem that I neither created nor contributed to.

Why aren’t there any programs to help the responsible home owner? Why are we being asked to shoulder the burden for the bad behavior and decision making of others? I have worked my entire life for the betterment of society, knowing that I would never strike it rich as a social worker, but hoping that my hard work and dedication to doing the right thing would allow me a safe and comfortable life.

I feel like our options are to continue to live where we are and put our physical and mental well being at risk or to become part of the problem by walking away from our mortgage. I want to be responsible, but I also want to feel safe. I shouldn’t have to choose.


I don't know how to make the whole thing indent yet. One more thing I need to work on!


Cravings: Because my husband is so amazing and I've been overwhelmed by all this stress, he made me dinner! I told you he has the ability, he just likes to deny it most of the time. He handles stress so much better than I do. He doesn't take time to worry. He just takes action. He balances my tendency toward anxiety and pulls me back to reality.


Unfortunately, he doesn't ever remember what he puts into things as he cooks. He just pulls things out of cupboards and adds until he thinks it tastes good. It generally does, but it makes it impossible to blog about or even recreate. But what a sweetie!



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wish me luck!

Ravings: I meant to tell you about this before, but I’ve been slacking on the blog. I have a lot going on right now, but I’m making a renewed effort!

I’ve entered a recipe contest! Trader Joe’s is hosting a Quintessential Quinoa Recipe contest and I entered it! I’m not expecting to win, but it was kinda cool just to do it. Jason, of course, was only concerned with what I could win and when I told him that I win bragging rights, he lost interest. He’s funny that way. At this point, I have no doubt that he has completely erased all memory of me even telling him I entered. Gotta love him, right?

I do love quinoa and wasn’t sure what to enter, so I ended up submitting two recipes. I’m not sure they accepted both, but it didn’t specifically say you could only enter once. It says the winner will be announced in the May enewsletter, so everyone keep your fingers crossed until then.

Seriously, keep them crossed!


Cravings: Here are the two recipes I submitted. For the contest you have to use all Trader Joe’s products, which I do love, but if you don’t have an easily accessible Trader Joe’s, feel free to use what you have available.


Chocolate Cherry Quinoa Bars

1/2 cup Trader Joe's Cherry Cider
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Organic Quinoa
1 cup Trader Joe's Pitted Dates
1 Tbsp Trader Joe's Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsps Trader Joe's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Just Almond Meal

In a small saucepan, bring cherry cider to boil and allow to reduce to about half. Grind quinoa spice grinder until it reaches a flour-like consistency. It's ok if it's not perfect. In a food processor, combine dates, vanilla and reduced cherry cider and process until it forms a thick paste. Transfer to a mixing bowl and mix in the quinoa, cocoa powder and almond meal. Mix until thoroughly combined. You might have to get your hands dirty here. Mush the mixture into a rectangle shape on a sheet pan (I used a small stone baking pan with sides) about 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool a bit then cut into desired size bars.


Quinoa Croquette

1 cup Trader Joe's Organic Tricolor Quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion from Trader Joe's
1 Tbsp Trader Joe's Traditional Olive Tapenade
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Organic Tricolor Quinoa
1 Tbsp Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
1/4 cup Trader Joe's parmesan cheese
2 Trader Joe's eggs
1 cup Trader Joe's Japanese Style Panko Breadcrumbs

Cook the 1 cup of quinoa in the water by bringing to a boil, cover, turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, leaving it covered for another 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

While that's cooking saute the onions until soft and translucent. Set aside to cool.

Grind the 1/2 cup of quinoa in a spice grinder until a flour-like consistency. Then add everything except the panko to a large mixing bowl. Mix and form into small patties. Coat with the panko and pan fry in a tiny bit of oil until crispy and warmed through.

Serve with Greek Inspired Salad.

Are your fingers still crossed???



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Customer Service

Ravings: Groupon, and the sites that followed it, came on like a storm and have taken over internet bargain shopping. If you are unfamiliar then I am completely amazed that you navigated your way to this blog! As a consumer, I love Groupon type sites. But I am also aware that they aren’t revenue generating for businesses. I think the idea is that is supposed to be a marketing tool, hopefully creating some interest in your business/service and creating a new repeat customer. As a business, you control the number of whatever service/product you offer for sale at the discounted price, and you are immediately aware of how many are sold. I would hope you would then keep track of how many are used, and in the case of a service like a salon of who used them. Salons that I frequent keep track of lots of identifying/demographic information for marketing purposes. I would also think that you would want to know if the Groupon created any repeat customers.

But maybe these business owners aren’t thinking this far ahead, because I have recently had a horrible experience. I have had other Groupons that expired before I could get an appointment and the business was more than happy to extend the date in an effort to make sure I was a happy customer. Apparently Bella Mia West Salon isn’t too concerned about my satisfaction as a potential customer. A few months ago my amazing husband bought be a message Groupon just because he loves me and knows that when I’m relaxed he ends up happier. I haven’t had a ton of free time to go get a message, but knew that the expiration date was coming up in a few weeks so I decided to just make the time. I called and told the man on the phone that I had a Groupon and was calling to schedule the message. He firsts asks me which Groupon, which indicates that have several going at the moment and after telling him, he gruffly states “We have no available Saturday appointments before the expiration date.” So I say, that’s ok, I can come in the evening. He then says the only available appointment this week is Friday at 10am. I remind him that I can’t come during the day. So then he tells me they have next Friday at 11am. I can see where this is going and say “I have a 9-5 job. I can’t come during the day.” So he proceeds to tell me that they have no other available appointments left before the Groupon expires. I hesitate a moment, waiting for him to say that they will extend the date and ask when I can be available after that. But nothing. He just breathes into the phone. So I say “Will you honor the Groupon past the expiration date since you have no openings.” He proceeds to tell me that they will only honor the purchase price, which Groupon requires. I remind him that they have no openings and he responds that I should have called sooner. Things take a downward spiral from there. But he basically told me it’s not his problem that I can’t get an appointment when it’s convenient for me and he doesn’t care if I’m upset about that.

Clearly he also doesn’t care that I will never patronize that establishment and that I will make sure everyone I know is aware of my experience. I can’t imagine how poorly they treat actual customers if they treat potential customers this badly!

On the up side, Groupon was awesome and refunded my money, no questions asked. This is why Groupon has done so well! They have wonderful customer service.


Cravings: I am so not caught up on organizing my recipes, and I believe I entered some sort of time warp this past week because I can't even recall what I cooked! It's on my to do list. I promise!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Deep breaths

Ravings: I’ve calmed down a bit since the last post and gained some perspective. I’m still angry, but I realize it could be worse and we do have options. They may not be options we like, but at least they are options. My husband is very good at keeping me level and realistic about this kind of stuff. He just doesn’t react emotionally like I do. And that makes me calm.

It’s not that he’s not angry. He is. Very. And he will rant about it. He just picks a time to do it when I’m not about to drop my basket. I honestly don’t think he does this on purpose. I truly think it’s just who he is. Because he’s not really a deep thinker when it comes to emotional reactions, especially mine. It might be that he’s terrified of what me losing it would look like, and somewhere deep down he knows that we can’t both be falling apart at the same time. Or, it could just be that he’s afraid I won’t make dinner if I’m too upset. Aren’t men driven by primal instincts? Now that I type that out, I think it’s all about the food.

We have decided to adopt a wait and see attitude. We’re waiting to hear back from the realtor with an expanded comp area, and if we still can’t afford to take the hit, we’ll wait another year and pour more money into paying down the mortgage as much as we can. I have to not think about it too much because it pushes me dangerously close to edge when I do. The fact that we are throwing money out the window because of everyone else’s bad behavior is almost more than I can take. It would be very easy to go to that dark place in my mind where I am angry with the world for all the injustice hoisted upon me, but I choose not to. I choose to be grateful for what I do have and to continue to fight for what I want.


Cravings: It’s been a fairly slow cooking week. We haven’t been home for dinner every night like we typically are. I did work up another variation for the Chocolate Cherry Bars for a contest I'm entering and I've included the recipe for those.


Venison Stiry Fry

1 lb venison back straps (could also use beef)
2 tsp homemade "Bam Seasoning" (recipe to follow)
1/3 cup Worcester sauce
1/4 sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced thin

Marinate venison in seasoning and worcester sauce for an hour or more. Saute onion and red pepper until soft. Add venison and saute for a few more minutes until cooked to desired doneness. I served it with Sweet Potato Gratin and peas.

Bam Seasoning (adapted from Emeril Lagasse on Food Network.com)

2 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme

Mix all ingredients and store with other spices.

Sweet Potato Gratin (adapted from the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Fitness magazine)

3 Tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
pinch of nutmeg
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup smoked gruyere cheese, grated
1 large sweet potato, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup panko

Saute onion in butter until soft and translucent. Add pinch of nutmeg and flour, stir to incorporate. Add chicken stock and simmer a few minutes. Add half the gruyere cheese and stir until melted. Add sweet potatoes and stir to mix well. You may need to add a bit more stock to make sure it's on the wet side. Pour into a casserole dish. Top with the other half of the gruyere, the parmesan and the panko. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.



Chocolate Cherry Quinoa Bars

1/2 cup cherry juice
1/2 cup quinoa
1 Tbsp flax seeds
1 cup pitted dates

1 Tbsp almond extract
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup almond meal



In a small saucepan, bring cherry juice to boil and allow to reduce to about half. Mix quinoa and flax seeds together and grind in a spice grinder to a flour-like consistency. It's ok if it's not perfect. In a food processor, combine dates, almond extract and reduced cherry juice and process until it forms a paste. Transfer to a mixing bowl and mix in the quinoa and flax and add the cocoa powder and almond meal. Mix until thoroughly combined. Spread onto a baking sheet into about 1/2 inch thick rectangular shape and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool a bit then cut into desired size bars.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some serious bitching

Ravings: Let me just warn you before you read on that I. AM. PISSED!!! If you want to just skip to the food part, feel free. I’m not sure how bitter and angry this post will turn out.

Jason and I met with the realtor on Friday. We went in prepared. We are well aware of the current housing crisis and that our neighborhood is crumbling around us. We had also met with a realtor a few months ago who had given us a number that was slightly below what we owe, but we wanted to be prepared for when spring came to get out and prepared for what we thought that would cost us.

So when I say we were prepared, I mean I truly believed we knew what we were dealing with and had prepared for the worse case scenario. We’ve payed down the mortgage as much as we could and saved enough to cover what we thought we be the difference, including closing costs. We knew we were going to lose money. We had NO IDEA it would be this much!!

Here’s the down and dirty. Everything in our immediate neighborhood that has sold within the last year has been repossession or short sale. And the highest sale price is less than half of what we still owe! Now we were prepared to take a hit, but that’s a knockout bunch. We just don’t have the cash to do that.

Jason left shortly after the realtor for the weekend, so I was left to my own bitterness for the weekend, and I took full advantage! I have worked myself up into full blown rage. I am angry with everyone! I am pissed at the idiots who bought houses they couldn’t afford. I am pissed at the banks that preyed on people by offering unpayable mortgages. I am pissed at the government that allowed it all to happen and then bailed out the idiots and the banks, while leaving those of us who did it right with the check.

I did not buy a house I couldn’t afford, even though the bank said they would loan me the money for one. I got a good loan with a good rate by doing my homework and knowing my reality. I have faithfully paid my mortgage payment in full or more on time every month. So why am I the one getting screwed? Why am I then one who has to try to sleep in a neighborhood that feels like a war zone while the bank execs still have vacation homes? Why do I still feel horrible at the thought of even being late on a payment when no one cares that I’m still faithfully throwing money away every month paying for a house that is currently worth less than my car? Why do I feel like I still owe the system something when they have done everything to bail out all the irresponsible people involved in this while turning their backs on us responsible citizens?

Where is my bail out? I don’t even want that much. I just want out of this neighborhood so that I can sleep without fear of death!



Cravings: Given my above rant, I deserve some huge kudos for sticking to my sugar fast. Saturday, sitting at home alone, feeling sorry for myself was torture. I just wanted to sit on the couch eating ice cream and chocolate and watching bad tv, but I didn’t! Well, I didn't eat the ice cream and chocolate, but I did sit on the couch for a while and read magazines and watch 5 episodes of Chopped: All Stars. It made me feel a little bit better. Not as much as ice cream and chocolate, but I made a commitment and I have been faithful to the no sugar for 2 weeks plan.

I was able to get somewhat ambitious and tried a practice recipe of chocolate cherry protein bars for a girlfriend of mine and made Shadow some new dog treats. I really liked the bars, but CJ tried them and said they were just ok. I think he was expecting a brownie because they kinda looked like that. And yes, I totally forgot to take a picture of them. I haven't gotten a review back from Michelle (she's who I made them for) because I had to give them to her through her sister. Shadow loves his new treats however, which sort of surprised me because I forgot to add the egg to the recipe and they ended up being softer treats, but he's asking to go outside every 20 minutes so he must like them!

I also have a Seafood Stew (Cioppino type) recipe to share. I thought it was yummy, but Jason the reluctant fish eater put it in the "it's ok if you don't make this again" category.

Chocolate Cherry Protein Bars

1/2 cup cherry juice
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup walnuts
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup ground oats or oat flour
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds or flax meal
1 scoop protein powder (I used vanilla because it's what I had)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (use the good stuff!)

Put the cherry juice in a small saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Then add the juice, dates, walnuts and vanilla to a blender or food processor and process until mushed up and well blended. I used a blender and had to push the mixture back down the side several times. It won't get runny. Then put the date mixture in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until well blended. Mush the mixture into a rectangle shape on a sheet pan (I used a small stone baking pan with sides) about 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool a bit then cut into desired size bars. I also coated half of them with more of the oat flour to make them a bit less sticky.


Shadow's Meaty Dog Treats

1 cup rolled oats
2 Tbsps flax seeds
1 cup meat (I used the giblets from the roast chicken I did and some of the leftover chicken)
1 cup cooked butternut squash
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dried mint
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Put the oats and the flax seeds in the spice grinder or just use oat flour and flax meal. Put the meat and the butternut squash into a food processor and process until ground up and well combined. Put the oat mixture and the meat mixture into a bowl and add the salt, mint and parsley. Stir until well combined and dough like. My dog biscuit cutter suffered a tragic garbage disposal accident, so I just rolled the dough into small balls and smashed them to make tiny little circle biscuits. You can make these with a cookie cutter though to whatever size is desired. Bake on 350 for 30 minutes. Allow to cook completely.

Seafood Stew

1 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 fillet wild alaska halibut, cut into chunks
1 lb raw shrimp
1 lb mussels
Chopped Fresh Parsley to garnish

Saute onion in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add garlic and saute a minute more. Add tomatoes, wine, stock, oregano and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, covered. Add the halibut and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and mussels, recover and cook another few minutes until shrimp is done and mussels have opened. Garnish with parsley to serve. I served this with some sourdough bread spread with olive oil and roasted garlic and a glass of the dry riesling I used in cooking it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Take me away....

Ravings: This week has been a flurry of activity trying to get the house prepped and staged for putting it on the market. It’s been hectic and stressful and has created quite a bit of tension in our home. It’s amazing to me the stuff you see wrong with where you live when you are really looking. But it’s as good as we can get it and we have a meeting with a realtor scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed that we have a chance of getting at least what we still owe on it!

There are a million reasons to wait, and I have reviewed them all. We can easily afford this mortgage. We are likely to get less than what we still owe and will still have to come up with closing costs. Jason recently lost his job and other than some soft leads has nothing lined up for the near future. I could realistically be laid off at any moment because of all the cuts to education and mental health. (I do think the probability is low on this point.) If the house does sell we will probably have to move into an apartment until Jason finds another job.

But the final decision to make the move now was based on the need for sanity. While the past week of getting the house ready has created some stress, living in the neighborhood creates an even greater and sustained amount of stress. It is shocking to me that my neighbors’ behavior has such a profound effect on our moods, and therefore on our relationship and everything else in our lives. Almost nightly throughout the warmer months, one or both of us is awakened in the middle of the night to yelling, motorcycle engines revving, or loud screeching cars. I sometimes feel like we live in the ghetto. In fact I frequently refer to our street as the ghetto. The crime rate in our community is astonishing and two months ago a man murdered his girlfriend on their back porch, about a block from our house, and then fled on foot looking for a place to hide. Needless to say, I was terrified!

We have to get out!

And so here we are, hoping and praying we can get out with minimal damages, but willing to take a few risks to save our sanity. Wish us luck!



Cravings: I found this missing recipe from last week. I can’t believe I forgot it because it was so yummy and incredibly easy to make! It’s one of those “what can I make tonight” go to meals. I adapted the recipe from a gluten free recipe I found on Pinterest. The original recipe is a gluten free tart shell but I just used a store bought whole wheat pie crust.


Asparagus and Pea Quiche (found on Pinterest and adapted from Tasty Yummies)

3 eggs (local free-range are the best)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cups fresh asparagus, chopped smallish
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
2 cups organic half and half
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to tast

Thaw peas. Wisk eggs in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into the pie crust. Mine was extremely full, so you might want to put a sheet pan under it just in case. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375. Serve with a side salad. This one contains mixed greens, chopped walnuts, red onion, orange segments and more of the mint and chives. We used an orange juice, oil and vinegar dressing. This could be my new comfort food.

Tuesday was a roasted beet salad with the rest of that creamy delicious white bean dip. This photo does not do this salad justice. It was beautiful and filling. I promise one of these days I will improve my photography skills!


Roasted Beet Salad
 
4 roasted beets
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Mixed greens
Dressing of choice (we used some Ken's Raspberry and Walnut)
 
To roast the beets, cut the tops off and save them for later use, then cut the "tails" off and discard. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place on a sheet pan. Roast at 450 for about 20-30 minutes. Take them out of the oven, unwrap the foil a bit and allow them to cool. Once cooled enough to be handled, use the aluminum foil to scrape the skin off. This is very messy so do it over the sink! Cut the beets in half and slice.
 
Assemble salad and serve.
 

We served the salad with the leftover White Bean Dip with Rosemary, some red pepper slices, cucumber sticks and pita chips.

Last night we tried to use up some of the left over roasted chicken. I still have enough for at least another two meals so that will go into the freezer at this point. I also saved the giblets and boiled them last night to add to my next round of Shadow treats. The dog bone cookie cutter ended up in the garbage disposal and got all mangled so not sure what shape these will be. It's on my to do list for the weekend. We did an open faced chicken club sandwhich and lemon rice soup, which much to my surprise Jason loved! He's not a fan of cooked lemon so I was bracing myself for the thumbs down, but he said it was really good.




Open-faced Chicken Club (adapted from the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Cooking Light)

1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tsp salt
4 slices cooked bacon
1 tomato, sliced
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
mixed greens
1 cup shredded chicken, rewarmed in the same pan as you cook the bacon
2 slice sourdough bread, toasted

Make the avocado cream by mixing the avocado, greek yogurt and salt in a bowl until creamy. Assemble the sandwhich by spreading the avocado cream on the toasted bread and piling up all the other ingredients. Jason ended up eating a second one and added a top piece of bread for ease of eating.



Lemon Rice Soup (also adapted from the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Cooking Light)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (I used meyer lemons, which I adore)
2 tsps corn starch
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Saute onion in a bit of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Then add broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling add rice, turn heat down and simmer for 20-30 minutes until rice is cooked. When rice is cooked, combine lemon juice, corn starch, egg, salt and pepper in a small bowl and wisk together. Drizzle this mixture VERY slowly into the soup while constantly stirring. If you drizzle too fast or don't stir you will get scrambled eggs in your soup. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Catching up by rambling.

Ravings: So the minor sickness from last week turned into 2 days of staying home from work, lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. I’m really good at that when I’m sick. I almost went to the doctor. That’s how bad my throat hurt. I did very little eating and therefore, very little cooking. I’m not even sure what Jason ate. Thinking about eating hurt my throat!

My 2 days of bed rest led right into a 4 day weekend, which would have been really cool if my throat hadn’t been on fire for like a week. I started to feel a bit better by Friday, but still wasn’t really up to eating normal food. By Saturday though, I was ravenous, which was a good thing because we spent the day at my dad’s celebrating Easter. My step-mom cooks for a 3 day wedding banquet no matter the occasion, so I was able to catch up on all the calories I’d lost while being sick. Seriously, there were 6 adults and 2 kids. My nieces are 7 and 5 years old and combined ate 1 noodle, 2 tomatoes, and 4 strawberries for dinner. They also ate about 400 lbs of candy, but I’m not counting that in the amount of food that was prepared. There were enough leftovers to feed a small suburb!

The rest of the weekend was spent trying to ready our house for meeting with a realtor. Thanks to Jason’s untimely lay-off, he has completed his entire list of projects and my sister came over on Sunday to help with cleaning and staging. I called the realtor this morning and am just waiting for a call back to set up the appt. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Oh, and I started the sugar fast yesterday. Jason already caved. Big surprise right? CJ brought Pepsi home from his Easter party and Jason just couldn’t resist. So far, I’m doing pretty well, not even really craving it, which is surprising. I’ll keep you posted on how I’m feeling. Basically, I’m trying to avoid any added sugar. No brown sugar, white sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, etc. We eat so few processed foods at this point, I’m not too concerned about that, but I did choose not to buy almond or coconut milk yesterday at the grocery store because of the added sugar. I opted for the rice milk. Just keep the chocolate away from me!!!


Cravings: I’m fairly certain there was at least one other meal that I took a picture of for the blog, but I must not have emailed it to myself, so if I find it I’ll add it to the next post.


Bang Bang Veggies (found on Pinterest and adapted from That's so Michelle)

For the sauce:
1/8 cup greek yogurt
1/8 cup mayo
1/4 cup sriracha
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar

Mix all ingrendients together and set aside until ready to serve.

For the veggies:
1 head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
Salt & pepper
Combination of olive oil and coconut oil (about 1/4 cup total)
Green onion to garnish


Cut cauliflower and broccoli into bite sized florets and put them into a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and toss to coat the veggies. Then add two eggs. Stir until all veggies are coated again. Then add the bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the veggies for several minutes until the desired doneness. I still wanted them kinda crunchy, so it only took about 5 mins. Top with desired amount of sauce and green onions to serve.

I served this with the white bean dip with veggies and some assorted olives.



White Bean Dip with Rosemary (from Meal Planning 101, found on Pinterest)

2 cups frozen white beans
4-5 cloves roasted garlic (recipe follows)
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp cumin
enough oil to get it creamy (I used about 1/4 cup olive oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onion to garnish

Combine all ingredients through cumin in a food processor. Process while drizzling in oil until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with green onion and serve with raw veggies.

Roasted Garlic
4-5 cloves garlic, not peeled
1 Tbsp olive oil

Wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 375 for about 30 minutes or until soft. The garlic will mush out of the peel when squeezed.

Yesterday I made another one of the giant Thanksgiving turkey sized chickens that are in my freezer. This will be enough chicken for at least 3 meals! I recommend finding someone who raises chickens for the local fair. They are so good.

 
Roast Chicken
 
1 whole chicken, thawed
1/4 cup butter
1 cup beef broth (I used beef only because that's what I had and it turned out great!)
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large sprig of fresh thyme
4-5 potatoes, chopped
4-5 carrots, chopped
 
Put half the butter and the herbs inside the cavity of the chicken and the other half of the butter dotted over the top of the chicken. Add the beef broth to the pan and roast uncovered at 450 for about an hour. Cover the chicken and turn the heat down to 350 and cook for another 3-4 hours. This will vary depending on the size of your chicken. Add the chopped potatoes and carrots. I had to remove liquid at this time, but I reserved it to make some gravy. Roast another hour uncovered at 350. Serve with mushroom gravy. Jason said it was the best roast chicken he's ever eaten!
 
Mushroom Gravy
 
1 package sliced mushrooms
1-2 cups reserved cooking liquid
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemarry, chopped
1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
 
Saute mushrooms in a bit of butter until begining to soften. Add the cooking liquid and boil for a few minutes, reducing the liquid a bit. Turn heat down to med-low and sprinkle in 1 Tbsp of cornstarch and mix well, breaking up any clumps. Add herbs and turn off heat while chicken rests for a bit. Serve over roast chicken or anything else!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Changes

Ravings: Considering I was sick all weekend, you would think I would have a ton to rave about, but I don't really. Let's be honest...this scares you as much as it does me. It must just be because I am writing this in the morning after only one cup of coffee!

So I will just talk about the new section of the blog! I hope you noticed that I have completed the index of recipes. If you didn't, look up! It's labeled Recipes. I know, genius, right? It was surprisingly difficult and I'm not sure I'm in love with the categories, so if you have any suggestions, please send them my way! I'm wondering if I should cross-catergorize, specifically.



Cravings: I have several recipes to share today. I did a bunch of baking on Sunday, so I'm including those recipes, and two dinners from last week. I made another one of the Bob's Red Mill gluten free pizza crusts and added dried basil to it. I'm still not in love with the texture, but it is growing on me.

Margherita Pizza

1 package Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free pizza crust mix (makes 2 pizzas)
2 tomatoes, sliced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
large bunch of basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

I'm not sure you really need a recipe for this. It's such a classic, but it is so yummy! Just make sure you use fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. It really makes a huge difference! I also wait to add the basil until the pizza is cooked.



Mediterranean Venison Stew

1 lb venison tenderloin (backstraps)
1/2 onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
3 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp star anise (mine were all broken so it's the equivalent of 1 Tbsp)
cinnamon stick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup spinach
fresh mint and parsley to garnish

Briefly brown the tenderloin. (You could substitute any other meat if you don't have venison.) Then add the tenderloin and the rest of the ingredients through the garlic to a slow cooker. I used a tea infuser for the star anise, but you could also use cheesecloth, or leave it whole, but you have to fish it out at the end. Cook on high for about 7 hours, then add the tomato and the spinach, turn down to low and cook for another hour. I served this over a mashed potato and parsnip mixture and garnished with the mint and parsley.

For the mashed potato and parsnip mixture, just chop equal amounts of potato and parsnips. Boil until soft. Mash and add butter and/or cream. However you make your mashed potatoes will work.



Gluten-free Banana Bread Muffins (adapted from Dashing Dish, found on Pinterest)

1 small banana
2 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt
3/4 cup rolled oats
2 scoops protein powder (I used vanilla whey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. I used a blender and had to push the dry stuff down a few times to get it to mix in. Pour into muffins tins lined with silicone liners or spray your tin well. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These are a bit denser than traditional muffins, but they are very moist and the banana flavor is pretty mild.



Homemade Luna Bars (adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
1/2 cup sticky sweetener (I used a combination of honey, agave and maple syrup...long story)
2 tsp vanilla extract (use the real thing!!!)
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups rice crispies
2 scoops protein powder (I used vanilla whey)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp butter

Mix together the peanut butter, sweetener, vanilla extract and salt. Then melt it in the microwave or on the stovetop and mix until creamy. In another bowl, mix together the rice crispies and the protein powder. Then pour the peanut butter mixture over the rice crispies and mix together really well. I ended up using my hands. It helps to spray them with cooking spray first. Then spread them into a pan lined with wax paper or parchment and smash it all down really well. Then melt the chocolate chips. I ended up having to add about a tablespoon of butter to mine to get it creamy. You may not have to do this. Then spread the chocolate evenly over the rop of the rice crispies and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate has set. Slice and enjoy! I'm storing them sliced in a plastic container in the fridge.



And finally....the homemade dog treat review. Shadow said these are yummy and crunchy and filled with love! I speak dog, so I know exactly what he says! So you know that Jason and I have completely changed the way we eat, and for those of you who know me, you know that I would never leave Shadow out of this. Suprisingly, it has been a bit more of a challenge to find healthy organic dog treats. He loves the dried lamb ears, but they are super expensive and he doesn't need an entire lamb ear every time he goes potty. He would completely disagree with this statement, but I control the food and he doesn't have thumbs, so it restricts his ability to open the containers! Anyway, part of this switch is to limit the amount of grain he gets. Dogs don't naturally eat grain, but it tends to be the first ingredient of most dog foods and treats because it's a cheap filler. So here is my first attempt at a wheat free dog treat. It's not completely grain free because I didn't know how to get it crunchy without any grain. It was surprisingly easy and he really does seem to like them. Oh, and yes I did buy a cute little dog bone shaped cookie cutter! I didn't get a baby, so cut me some slack!



Shadow's Dog Treats

1 cup rolled oats (Put through the food processor to make it a more flour like consistency, but you could just buy oat flour)
1/2 cup flax seeds (I also put these in the food processor, but you could also just buy flax meal)
1 Tbsp dried mint
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cooked butternut squash
1 egg

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a stiff dough. I did have to add a couple tablespoons of whole wheat flour to get the right consistency, but next time I will just use more oat flour. Then knead for a minute and roll or flatten with your hands (I used my hands) to about a 1/2 inch. It doesn't have to be perfect. Then use the cookie cutter to cut out the shapes and then put them onto a tin lined cookie sheet. Gather up the unused dough, knead it back together and roll it out again, just like you would cookies, until you've used all the dough. Bake at 350 for about 15 mins, more if you are making bigger biscuits. Turn biscuits over and bake for another 15 mins, or more for bigger biscuits. Allow to cool completely before feeding to your dog!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Freedom

Ravings: Good news for us! Potentially bad news for other drivers in the Cleveland area. CJ got his driver’s license. He so excited and Jason is so proud.
Makes me think back to my youth. Let's not talk about how long ago that was though, ok? I loved the idea of having my license. It felt like it opened up a whole new world. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded on all sides by farmland. There were 6 houses on my street from corner to corner, which was probably about a mile, and none really on the adjoining streets. My actual house was set back from the road a bit in a patch of woods. Until my driver's lincense I was dependent upon those woods and my imagination for entertainment. We did have a TV, although we weren't allowed to watch it all day like kids do now. There were also books. A lot of books. And I often lost myself in a book. Stories allowed you to transform into anything and took your mind to different worlds. When I was a bit older, we got a game system, but again time allotted to playing was limited, especially if it was nice outside. But if I couldn't find what I was looking for in a book, there was always an adventure to be made out in those woods. Discoveries to make. Places to hide from imaginary creatures. Castles to construct out of fallen branches and things found in the garage. Faraway lands to travel to with exoctic plants and picnics of stolen goodies from the kitchen.
I loved that woods, until I was old enough to realize that a driver's license brought real adventures and discoveries. And then I couldn't wait. Time seemed to crawl. The woods lost it's magic and my books could no longer totally capture me. I needed my driver's license almost as much as I needed oxygen! I was stuck in this place, unable to escape the stiffling sameness of it all. I knew there was something more, something so exciting if I just had a way of reaching it. I took my driving test on my 16th birthday. I refused to wait. I think I may have forced my mom to drive me there at 6am to ensure I was the first one in line. I truly believed I would die without that tiny laminated piece of paper granting me permission to see the world.

As we all know....Thinking about it was so much more exciting that having it. At least when you live in the country. My ticket to freedom turned out to be an excuse for my mother to have me do all her errands. What I failed to realize in my tunnel vision qwest for legal permission to drive was that the license does not come with one's own car! Now I had the state's permission for limitless freedom, but needed my parent's consent to borrow the car. What a cruel joke.


Cravings: This was a busy weekend, so I only have one recipe to share. Jason and I went to Columbus on Fri to watch his beloved Carolina Hurricanes. (They lost, so let's not dwell on this.) It was a nice trip, but we ate sandwiches in the car. Saturday was girls night out to see The Hunger Games and dinner at B Spot. We all love Michael!!! Then Sunday I convinced Jason to go grocery shopping with me and we ate burgers and chips when we got home. I didn't take a picture of it and please, please tell me you can make a burger without me giving you a recipe!

In my effort to waste less, I pulled the leftovers out of my fridge and came up with this pretty yummy soup! I'm calling it Curried Lentil Soup. I served it with a side of pita and hummus, and some brie with strawberries and mango drizzled with honey for dessert.



Curried Lentil Soup

1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup rice, pre-cooked (leftover)
2 cups lentils, pre-cooked (leftover)
1 can coconut milk
2 cans water
1 Tbsp red curry paste
1 Tbsp curry powder
Sunflower seeds to garnish

Saute the onion in a bit of oil (I used a mix of coconut and olive oils) until softened. Add carrots and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except sunflower seeds and cook on low for about 5-10 minutes, just until everything is warmed up. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds to serve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More lemonaide

Ravings: I know. I know. It’s been days since I’ve written. But, did you read my last post?? My life is crashing down around me. Cut me some slack already.

Ok. That’s not entirely true. Secretly, I’m kinda enjoying Jason’s “time off.” He’s gotten more house projects done in the last week than we completed all of last year. We are putting the final touches on his resume also, so for those of you waiting on this, it will be done very soon! It’s pretty amazing the amount of energy and motivation he’s had. I would still be in bed feeling sorry for myself and eating ice cream, while trying to convince myself to get up and be productive. I’m not sure if this is denial and he’s decided that if he just keeps moving he doesn’t have to face reality, although the speedy completion of the resume seems to indicate otherwise. Or if this is his way of flipping off depression. Like he’s saying, “You can’t get me this time!” Either way, this is working for me. Because we all know it’s really just all about me, right?

Seriously, I was afraid that this would send him spiraling, but it really hasn’t. He’s optimistic that he will find something and is looking at this time as an opportunity to tackle all these unfinished projects. I’m so proud of my husband. I really did get lucky!!!


Cravings: Who doesn't love soup? I think it's the ultimate comfort food. So despite the unseasonably warm weather I created a creamy, comforting soup, served of course with a grilled cheese sandwhich. Then because the kale is coming back, I had to find a way to work it in and I saw this chicken recipe on pinterest. It was titled "Man-pleasing Chicken" and since my husband is such a rock star this week I just had to make it!


White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

2 packages mushrooms, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups white beans (these were from my frozen stash)
4 cups water (could also use stock)
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried sage
1 cup cream of whatever soup mix (recipe to follow)

Roast mushrooms in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Saute onions in a bit of oil until softened. Add garlic and saute for another couple minutes. Then add beans and water and simmer for several minutes. Add thyme, sage, and soup mix and simmer for a few minutes before serving. I served this with a grilled cheese sandwhich using swiss cheese and tomato slices.

Cream of Whatever Soup Mix (from 1 Orange Giraffe)

1 cup non-fat dried milk

3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup bouillon (if you have cubes you have to smash them up)
4 Tablespoons freeze dried minced onions
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme (I couldn't find the thyme so I used dried parsley instead)
1 teaspoon pepper

For the equivalent of one can of condensed cream soup, mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cup water. Cook until thick.


Man-pleasing Chicken (found on Pinterest adapted from Witty in the City)

2 chicken breasts (original recipe calls for chicken thighs, but I didn't have any)
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper and put in a baking dish. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the chicken. Flip chicken over coating both sides with sauce. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 450. I served with a mixture of white rice and Himalayan red rice, and a side of sauteed greens.

Sauteed Greens (previously posted here)

I did tweak the recipe a bit by using Rainbow Chard instead of Broccoli Rabe and I added about a Tbsp of fresh chopped rosemary.




Friday, March 16, 2012

A Life Derailed

Ravings: I have started to write this post at least a half dozen times, but couldn’t really face it. Life, however, doesn’t wait for you to catch your breath so I’m just going to plow ahead and hope it all comes out in coherent sentences.

Jason has been laid off.

There I said it. Well typed it, which I think is actually harder. Speaking the words puts them out there, but they can float away into thin air and be ignored. When you put them down in writing (and then publish them on the web), they never really go away, which somehow makes it more real. But it is real, and we have to face it.

When he showed up at my office last week looking like an abandoned puppy, I didn’t even have to hear the words. I could read them on his face. And I’ll admit I panicked. A million thoughts flood your brain in that moment. “How will we pay our bills? Now we can’t move out of this crappy neighborhood. Jason’s going to get depressed again.” And all the thoughts that piggyback on those thoughts. It could easily spiral into a very dark place, but then I see look on his face and I know in this moment he needs me to be strong, to tell him it will be ok, that we will be fine.

And we will be ok. We are a lot better off than a lot of people in these situations. We’ve planned for financial crisis, and we can survive, but it doesn’t take away the psychological impact of going to work one morning and being told you no longer have a job. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to sacrifice. A lot!


Cravings: I just read an article this morning that said that the average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month, which translates to $40 per month or $480 each year. I don’t think we are anywhere near that, but given the need to make every dollar count now, I am going to start paying closer attention to what we throw away.

Since it's been a few days, I have a few recipes to share with you. I realized I'm am becoming much more dependent on existing recipes than on creating my own. Hopefully I can get some creativity back soon! I found this recipe for barbacoa when I was researching how to recreate the Chipotle version. I think it's actually better!



Beef Barbacoa (adapted from Food People Want)

1/3 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice
3-4 canned chipotle chiles

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons table sea salt
2 tablespoons safflower oil
4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
3/4 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
3 bay leaves
The original recipe is done in the oven after cutting up the roast. I threw it all in the crockpot and cooked it for about 12 hours on medium. Then pulled the meat apart with a fork and reduced the sauce a bit on the stovetop. I served it with homemade tortillas, spinach, tomatoes, green onions and Greek Yogurt.
 
Homemade tortillas (adapted from 100 Days of Real Food)
 
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup oil (I used half olive oil and half coconut oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water (heat in the microwave for 1 min)

The original recipe is made using a mixer with a dough hook, which I don't own, so I just used a bowl, a spoon and my hands to mix the dough. I rolled them all out at once and then cooked then in a hot skillet sprayed with coconut oil, however this didn't work as well as I hoped, so I recommend rolling them out as you cook them. Cook them on high for 45 seconds to a minute on each side.
 

Pumpkin Pie Pudding (adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie's Chocolate Frosting Shots)

1 can coconut milk (poured into a bowl and left for a few hours)
1/2 can pumpkin puree (I froze the rest)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Chocolate chunks/chips to top
Sugar cone bowl to serve (you can also just serve in a bowl, but I had these in the pantry)

The coconut milk should get thick and have some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. I poured liquid off and used it in a smoothy the next morning, but you can leave it. The pudding won't be quite as thick if you leave the liquid in it though. Add the rest of the ingredients through the brown sugar and mix on high until it thicken and looks like mousse. Fill the sugar cone bowl and top with chocolate chunks.



Roasted Veggies with Lentils and Flounder

Assorted Veggies for roasting. I used:
1 red onion, chopped
4 small beets, peeled and chopped
1 package mushrooms, sliced
1 jar roasted red peppers, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
2 cups lentils
6 cups water
1 flounder filet, split in half
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil (I used safflower oil)
Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic glaze

Begin roasting onions and beets first in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then add the rest of the veggies and roast for another 15 minutes. Boil lentils in water until soft. Right before ready to serve, pan fry flounder in the butter and oil. To serve top lentils with a bit of balsamic vinegar, pile on veggies and top with the flounder. Drizzle on some balsamic glaze. Enjoy!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Derailed

Ravings: I’m not even sure how to begin this post. I know it’s been a week since I’ve posted anything, despite having planned to post at the end of last week. I even had one started. I swear!!!

However, life has left me a bit dazed the past few days. So while I figure out how to put it into words that are at least slightly coherent, just enjoy the recipes!


Cravings: It was fish night again, but it went pretty well this time. I think I'm getting better at this. It was flounder, however, which is one of the rare fishes he will eat willingly. I'm calling it Spice Crusted Flounder with Rajma Masala (that part I didn't make up).


Spice Crusted Flounder

1-2 flounder filets (Jason and I split one and it was plenty)
1 Tbsp five spice powder
1 Tbsp turmeric

Coat the fish with the spices and cook it on a baking sheet (lined with foil for easy clean-up) at 350 for 5-10 minutes.

Rajma Masala (from The Steaming Pot)

Rajma (red kidney beans) – 1 cup

Tomatoes – 4
Onions – 1
Ginger – 1-inch piece
Garlic – 6 cloves
Green chillies – 2, slit vertically
Chilli powder – 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder – 1 tablespoon
Cumin powder – 1 teaspoon
Garam masala – 1/2 teaspoon
Oil – 1 tablespoon
Salt – to taste

The original recipe starts with how to cook the dried beans, but we had then frozen, so I just used those and added some water. Grind the onions, garlic and ginger together to a fine paste. Heat the oil in a flat-bottomed pan. Pop in slit green chillies. When the chillies change color, add the onion-ginger-garlic paste. Fry on medium-high heat till the paste turns golden-brown. Add coriander powder, cumin powder and red chilly powder. Mix well and cook for a minute. Puree the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high and mix in the tomato puree along with some salt. Cook, stirring frequently till the oil begins to leave the sides of the pan (8-10 minutes). Mix in the boiled rajma at this stage along with a cup of the water it was cooked in – add more if you want a thinner gravy. Cook covered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When nearly done, stir in garam masala.
 
Serve the fish over the Rajma Masala with a dollop of sour cream and a side salad. Yum!

From later in the week:



Spicy Garlic Stir Fry

1 package rice noodles
4 cups veggies for stir fry (we used a combination of broccoli, red peppers, and snow peas)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp sriracha
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
sliced napa cabbage and green onions to garnish
toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Chop veggies and begin to stir fry. Mix soy sauce through honey and add to veggies just before the are done. Cook for a couple more minutes to coat veggies and allow sauce to heat through. Serve veggies on top of noodles and garnish with the cabbage, green onions and sesame seeds.

For dessert, we had sliced strawberries over Greek yogurt, drizzled with honey and a Coconut Lemon Meltaway.



I also made a healthier version of General Tso's chicken from a recipe I found on Pinterest. The flavor was fantastic, but the chicken just wasn't crispy enough. I'm trying to decide if I should fry it longer or try baking it in the oven. Any suggestions?


Healthier General Tso's Chicken (from Kitchen Simplicity, adapted from Martha Stewart)

Sauce:


1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 cups snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Chicken and Coating:

2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

For sauce: Mix together water and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Set aside. For chicken: Whisk together egg whites, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Stir in chicken. To cook: Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of oil. Add half of chicken to pan, dripping off excess coating. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from pan, add more oil if necessary and repeat with remaining chicken. Set the chicken aside. Add sauce to skillet and cook until snow peas are tender and sauce is thickened. Add chicken (and any collected juices) to skillet.Toss to coat.

We served over brown rice.