Monday, March 26, 2012


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


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)


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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fashion torture

Ravings: How is everyone doing on making changes for National Nutrition Month? Jason and I continue to plug away and are gearing up for our sugar fast. I'm ready to start any time now, but he wants to wait until his office's biggest loser challenge!

I think that I mentioned my New Year's Resolution was to dress more fashionably, and I really have been making an effort. It goes infinitely better in the morning, as I'm rushing around to get myself and everything else ready, when I pick out my clothing and accessories before I go to bed. I have come to the painful realization that Jason is spoiled, which is of course, completely and totally my fault. However, it is still irritating. One of the many ways this manifests itself is in the morning routine. It has now become my responsibility to make him breakfast and get him out the door on time. I know, I know....he's an adult and I need to confront my need to please. That could take years of therapy and this is a blog, so let's not go into that right now. We all know I have some issues.

The point I am trying to make is this. If you want to start your day with a positive attitude, DO NOT try on tights/pantyhose in the morning! As a general rule, I avoid these garments at all costs, but in my attempt at replicating some sort of current fashion, I gave it a shot this morning. I am wearing a cute, black wrap dress with a swingy grey sweater and thought some black patterned tights would look cute with my tall black boots. But, would they have hidden the scrapes and bruises I obtained from trying to get them on! I am now smacked with memories of why I avoid these things. First, is it even remotely possible to put these torture devices on gracefully? My body no longer bends and twists in the ways necessary to pull these on without falling down and/or breaking a limb. To be honest, I'm not sure it ever did. Secondly, ouch! I can't spend all day sitting at my desk unable to breathe beyond a shallow wisp of air. And lastly, what if I have to go potty? I'm mean seriously, it's not like I can go 9 hours without a trip to the restroom. Besides being embedded in my flesh and risking possible skin abrasions, how would I ever get them back on, even if I could persuade myself it was necessary? I'm not wearing them! There's only so far I'm willing to go for fashion.

Cravings: Jason was out of town all weekend, and I was busy running from town to town on Sat, so there really wasn't any cooking happening this weekend. I do have a recipe to share from last week, although I can't remember when I actually made it and it's a classic. Last night was grocery shopping night, so we threw together some spaghetti and store bought garlic bread. Although really yummy, not really a highlight of my culinary talents because it's basically chopped tomatoes and some spices.

Pasta Carbonara

1 package noodles
1/2 cup of pasta water, reserved
4 bacon slices (this was for two)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup peas
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions. Cook bacon slices. I cooked ours in the oven because we only put the bacon on mine and Jason's, but you can fry it and then use the bacon grease to cook the other stuff. Saute the garlic in a bit of oil (or the bacon grease), add the peas to warm, then add the milk, eggs and cheese and immediately add the hot pasta and the reserved pasta water. Mix until creamy. Serve with the bacon and bit more cheese sprinkled on top.

Friday, March 2, 2012

National Nutrition Month

Ravings: It’s National Nutrition Month! The theme over at is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” So for today’s blog, I thought I’d talk about what that means to me. I grew up with the family that stressed eating what was on your plate, which was often centered around protein and starch, with a vegetable as a garnish. The old meat and potatoes family. I was fortunate, however, in that my parents embraced a kind of hippy lifestyle, so my early years included very few processed foods, and my vegetables were almost always fresh or canned from our garden. We also grew up in the country where it was pretty standard to buy bulk meats that had been locally farm raised. My parents were progressive without even realizing it. At the time that was the more economical way to feed your family. As my sister and I got older, our diets became more and more mainstream, until you are living on your own and buying into all the convenience foods that were being mass marketed. In my early college years I did become a vegetarian and ate that way for several years, until I caved to the pressure of a boyfriend’s mother who always made me feel guilty. However, even in those years, my diet had a significant amount of refined carbs.

Enter my husband, who as a practically lifelong bachelor, had a diet of fast food, takeout pizza, and cereal. We combined our two lifestyles and became the typical American family. We ate takeout a couple times a week and planned our meals around the protein, mostly consisting of red meat or some chicken. We both gained weight. I think we both just ate more. It wasn’t that we ate all “crap food,” we just ate more food because I was cooking regular meals.

And then on a road trip with my mom, I read Fast Food Nation, and it changed my life. I couldn’t get enough information fast enough. I then watched Food, Inc and read every article I could find. I shared this information with Jason and forced him to watch Food, Inc, and we made the decision to give up fast food. It was really difficult for Jason at first, and it took him the longest. He would crave it, and occasionally I would cave. It only took about three times and he stopped craving it. He said it didn’t taste as good as he thought it would and just ended up making him feel lethargic and “yucky.” I then started to buy some organic produce and we purchased some locally raised chickens and a half side of pastured beef. We just kept feeling better, and I kept doing more and more research. We are now almost all organic. Some things I don’t buy organic because you do have to consider the cost/benefit of each product. We buy locally raised grass fed beef in bulk, free range chicken and eggs, and the occasional pastured pork. We have cut out as much processed food as possible. Jason still likes to snack, but I make sure it has no hydrogenated oil and as few ingredients as I can find, preferably pronounceable ingredients.

Jason’s son moved in with us when he turned 18, and he’s a vegetarian, so we also have to make that shift, which has been really good for my meal planning process. Now instead of selecting a meat product and planning my meal around that, I try to make meat the side dish. I’m also trying to incorporate more fish and ramping up the whole grains. It takes time and preparation, and I will admit costs a bit more, but I believe that we are worth it. And because we feel so much better, our health care costs will be less.

I would love to hear other’s stories about how they have changed their diet and gotten their plate in shape.

Cravings: In a nod to my desire to limit gluten, I decided to make a noodle free eggplant lasagna. It was super yummy and totally filling, which is always one of my husband’s greatest fears in eating a meatless meal.

Eggplant Lasagna

26 oz chopped tomatoes
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced longways
several sweet peppers, sliced longways
1 tub ricotta cheese
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 large tomato, chopped
1-2 Tbsp fresh basil
1-2 Tbsp fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Put about a 1/2 cup of the chopped tomatoes on the bottom of a baking dish. Add some basil and oregano. Then layer the veggies and cheese, adding the tomatoes and spices as you go. I used the eggplant like noodles. I finished by topping the lasagna with the fresh tomato, the spices, some mozarella and the parmesan. Bake it for 30-40 minutes at 350.