Sometimes I have thought about what to open that night before 8am...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Thought on Resisting Temptation

Today I am baking Tim's Birthday cake, chocolate cake, marshmallow filling, chocolate ganache frosting. I am also baking 96 carrot cake cupcakes and frosting 200 carrot cake cupcakes for an entirely separate party. To say this is a recipe for disaster while just getting started on my Healthy Eating Makeover 2011, is to put it mildly.

But then a thought occurred to me. Why not make a healthy snack as readily accessible as the bounty of unhealthy cake-related hoo-haw all around me?

So I washed a bunch of strawberries, put them in a bowl, and sat them smack in the middle of my work station.
And you know what? It worked. Having them right at my fingertips, helped me to make the right choice... I didn't even lick the spoon!

So, as I am headed into a holiday weekend filled with barbecues and parties, and I am facing making something to bring to each one, I think I am going to employ this trick.

Tomorrow I'm chopping up a cucumber!

Avocado Orange Salsa

Recipe by my friend Mary. Enjoyed at her Orange Harvest Party.

1 large orange, supremed.
1 ripe avocado, diced medium
2 tbsp minced red onion
4 tsp juice from 1 lime
1 small jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh cliantro leaves

Combine all ingredients. Salt to taste.
Makes 1 cup. (I recommend tripling it. You won't be sorry!)

We ate this as a dip, but can you imagine it as a topping for fish tacos? Or over a lovely grilled chicken breast. Or on a burger.
The possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orange Harvest Party

My dear friend Mary can throw a party. The type of party that has you scratching your head in disbelief. She is incredibly creative and talented, and i am so thankful that we finally live on the same coast again so that I can reap the benefits of her creativity.

Two weeks ago, she invited us to her house to help harvest their orange tree. You won't believe what we found when we got there.
Hand crafted bags hanging from a hook in the tree inviting us to fill a bag and take it home.
Mary made the bags from burlap and they were lined with vintage fabric from her grandmother. They were charming and Karen Ray has now appropriated the bag for her own use.
The tree was the perfect height for picking, and you could do it by hand or with a picker that Mary provided.
Some people got a little carried away with the picker... not to name names, TIM!
There was a bounty of food and every item had a hint of orange flavor or was orange in color. The menu was tacked to the umbrella out on the patio. Some ideas are so simple and yet have such a large impact. The menu included:
Victor's homemade hummus with pita chips.
Avocado Orange Salsa with Tortilla Chips.
This was my personal favorite, and I will share the recipe tomorrow.
Marinated Orange Olives

White Sangria with Oranges and Mango
Orange and Fennel Salad
3 types of skewers:
Beef with Orange and Garlic, Honey Orange Garlic Chicken, and Ginger Chili Citrus Shrimp.
And then there was dessert. Homemade gelato in two flavors! This is the Orange Rosemary.
Which was served with a dark chocolate and orange marble cake.
and this is the Orange Mango Gelato.
The kids played in the back yard.
And had quite the feast of their own!
There were crafts to make.
And quite possibly the biggest, most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen!
And the adults? 
Well, lets just say the party brought out the child in all of us!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strawberry Banana Bread

My mom bought me this cookbook when I was 13 years old. It is my go to source for quick breads of all sorts.
 It isn't easy to put your hands on a copy in 2011, but I did find a few available through Amazon. My copy is dog-eared and dirty, but I think that speaks to the caliber of the recipes inside. Every one is moist, delicious, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

For Father's Day, I made the Strawberry Yogurt Banana Bread with Strawberry Yogurt Glaze. The recipe calls for baking this in two heart shaped molds, but I always bake my quick breads in a bundt. It makes for easier slicing, easier serving, and looks lovely on a cake stand.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup strawberry yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 medium banana, mashed

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup walnuts (I left these out as Tim doesn't like walnuts)

Beat together first 6 ingredients until blended. Combine and add the next 3 ingredients and stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in the strawberries and walnuts. Do not overmix.

Divide batter between 2 greased heart molds (or 1 bundt) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes and then remove from pans and continue cooling on a rack. When cool, brush tops with Strawberry Yogurt Glaze.

Strawberry Yogurt Glaze:
2 tbsp Strawberry Yogurt
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Stir together all the ingredients until blended.

 I served it with a Green Monster, and a lot of love, of course.

To all the Dads out there: I hope you had a wonderful day, filled with love and appreciation for all you do for your family. Your hard work, wisdom, humor, love and affection make our world go round!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Under the Weather

1 Multi-Vitamin+1 Sudafed+1 Mucinex+2 Ibuprophen= Getting out of bed in the morning.

This cold is whooping my butt. It has gone on and on and on, and honestly, I'm just about sick and tired of it.

So please forgive my absence, but I have been more focused on this:
 And I haven't even added any tequila to it.

I did however menu plan at the beginning of the week.

There have been a couple of big hits so far. The Lettuce Wraps from Monday are a staple in our household. I make two types, chicken, as the recipe suggests, and then I substitute grilled tofu for the second batch. With no cooking involved, they are an excellent plan for a hot summer evening.

Last night, Tim made the Baked Ziti with Summer Veggies. It was delicious. I mean it. So simple, filling, and just down right good. That one goes directly into the recipe file. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Make this for dinner.

As always, both recipes came from Cooking Light. I swear that magazine has my number, and for that I am very, very thankful.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pizza Wine

 It has been a while since I posted a wine, and one of the main reasons for that is that we have been drinking them and throwing away the bottles before I manage to take a picture! Today, I was determined to make sure that didn't happen. So, I took the picture before we ordered the pizzas tonight.
The one on the left is Tim's favorite, the one on the right is mine. We have bought at least 3 bottles of each in the last month. They are both great for pizza, picnics, and other summer whatnot. And both can be purchased for between 10-12 dollars.

Las Rocas Garnacha (2008)- Medium bodied, lots of fruit, with a peppery bite and just a hint of smoke. Very drinkable and yet a little surprising each time you put your nose in the glass.

Gabbiano Chianti Classico (2007)- Medium bodied, with oak on the nose and the palate. Full of fruit, excellent with pizza, but even this vegetarian thinks this wine screams for Bolognese or a big thick steak on the grill. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vegetable Yakisoba

We have been making an effort to eat vegetarian a couple of times a week lately. This change was prompted by Tim looking for more natural ways to control his acid reflux. Tim has been on medication for his reflux his entire adult life, and to be honest, he is done with pills. One of the things Tim discovered in his research was that eating a more alkaline diet would help control both his reflux and in turn his heartburn. As we started researching which foods were acidic and which were alkaline, we were shocked by what was on each list. For example, the alkaline food list includes lemons, limes, tomatoes, most vegetables, and soy products. Acidic foods include milk, meat, cheese, most sweetners, coffee, beer, and wine... We were flabbergasted. Milk is acidic? Lemons are alkaline? We considered ourselves knowledgeable food people, and this shook us. It was time to make some changes.

This does not mean Tim is becoming a vegetarian, He would never give up meat or wine entirely! We are making some small adjustments to our weekly menu, and measuring the results. An added perk is that it makes cooking for myself easier. Twice a week the whole family is eating the same thing!

Which brings me to last Thursday night. I created this dish on a whim, and I am incredibly proud of how it turned out. When asked, Tim said there was nothing he would change. Plus while it is packed with vegetables, it still has massive kid appeal. They could even help make it. It is that easy!

1/2 package Baby Carrots
1 package Shitake Mushroom
2 handfulls Snow Peas
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 bunch Green Onion
Bok Choy (I used 1 Baby Bok Choy)
1 package Udon Noodles
2-3 tbsp Sesame Oil
1/3 low sodium Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Honey
1/2 - 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
 Chop your vegetables. If you do a variety of shapes it will add texture to your dish.
Cook Udon Noodles according to package instructions. Drain, rinse and set aside.
While the noodles are cooking start on the sauce.  In a small bowl or measuring cup whisk together Soy Sauce, Honey, and Crused Red Pepper Flakes. Have a glass of wine while you are doing it. I am still me after all.
 In a large skillet or wok over high heat, add 2-3 tablespoons of Sesame Oil. I will usually start with 2, and then after I add the vegetables, add a little more if it looks like it needs it.

 Add your carrots and sautee for a minute or two, then add the remaining vegetables and sautee for an additional 3-5 minutes (until crisp tender).

 Add your noodles and the sauce, and toss until well coated, everything is combined, and heated through.

This makes 4-6 servings.


Note: If you would like to look at a complete Food Alkalinity Chart you can find a very good one here. It is a fascinating read!

Friday, June 10, 2011

If There Was One Thing You Could Change, That Would In Turn Change Everything, Would You?

Two months ago I decided to try something new in the morning. On one of the blogs I follow, Oh She Glows, Angela talks a lot about the Green Monster. In fact, there is a whole movement associated with it. Angela said it would improve your hair, your skin, your energy level. To put it mildly, I was skeptical.

So why did I try it? Honestly, I was desperate. I am 38 years old, and I still have break outs all the time. Since we have moved cross country, I have had major hair issues. It is thinner than it has ever been (and my hair is baby fine), and I have had a massive amount of breakage. Consequentially I have a much shorter haircut than I like. And then there are those 10 pounds. 1 year and 10 pounds. That is a big difference on a 5'2 frame. Oh and a good majority of those pounds landed around my middle, which is not an area I have ever had trouble with before now. Basically ...

I was a hot mess.

So here I am two months later, and what are the results? My skin is clear. I swear it's true. I don't remember the last time I had a zit, or a blackhead for that matter. The hair is growing. I haven't noticed any dramatic thickening, but I definitely have less breakage. I think the hair will be a more measurable difference over time. As for the weight, there has been no difference, but I haven't changed my eating or exercise habits either. Until this week that is. This week I am trying to get my act together... again. What I have noticed is a thinning through the waist. Maybe that is due to the cutting down on refined sugar. Prior to the Green Monster I had two hot teas a day and about 1.5 teaspoons of sugar in each one. Since I have started the Green Monster, I have dramatically cut down on my tea consumption. I never have a tea to get going in the morning, and I only occasionally have one at any other point in the day. Usually if it is raining...

What is shocking is the unexpected changes. Let me start with an apology to all the men reading right now, but it has to be noted. My period has shortened in duration, my flow is lighter, and I have almost no clotting.This is a big difference from the girl that had to have a DNC because of fibroid cysts. The girl who couldn't leave the house on Day 2 each month. Additionally, my energy has doubled. A shake in the morning and I am awake and energized for the day. I have been able to substitute it for my morning tea, and my breakfast. One shake and I am good until lunch. Plus it is two servings of fruit and veggies prior to 9am. When does that ever happen?!

So here is the question again. If there was one thing you could change, that would in turn change everything else, would you do it?

The Green Monster - As created by Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows
1 tbsp Flax Meal
2 cups baby spinach
1 whole banana
8oz milk (I use skim, but you could use Almond, Soy, Lowfat)
5 or 6 ice cubes

In your blender layer, flax meal, spinach, and banana. Pour milk over top. Blend until smooth. Add ice cubes and blend again. Enjoy!


Tim has made this switch as well, and he has had the same skin and energy benefits that I have. The hair and the period, not so much..

Monday, June 6, 2011

What's On My Plate

Lately we've been going to the grocery store A LOT. And when I say A LOT, what I mean is every freakin' day. This is crazy for so many reasons. 
1. It is a waste of my time and Tim's time.
2. It is almost impossible to maintain a food budget when you shop that often. We definitely fall into the habit of impulse buying when we are there without a list. (side note: do not fall for the exceptionally well done Oreo Fudge Creams commercial. "Shut the front door" they are not that good.)
3. If we are grocery shopping everyday, we are not menu planning. If we are not menu planning, we are not eating as well as we should.

Today I am trying to get back on track. I menu planned this afternoon... well sort of. I decided I was not going to the grocery store everyday. Therefore I menu planned as I was driving to the grocery store. It is not the best menu I have ever written, but I did manage to buy all of the ingredients for the dishes I picked, and I remembered lunch food and breakfast food. 

Here's to getting back on track!
The first item on the list was the Farmer's Market Pasta made with the bounty from Saturday's Farmer's Market adventure. It looks much more beautiful than it was delicious. The Agretti was good, but will probably not make a reappearance on our table. The texture didn't soften enough. It had a grassy mouth feel, and I am not a cow. The baby artichokes were a huge disappointment. We have both had baby artichokes before and loved them. The beauty of a baby artichoke is that you can eat the whole thing. You don't need to peel them. You eat the leaves, the heart, the entire delicious goodness. The guy at the stand assured Tim that was the case with the ones he bought. They were beautiful and purple. They were also woody and tough. A basket of them was $3. Two extra large artichokes were $5. Lesson learned the hard way. What was scrumptious was the white wine lemon sauce that Tim created. It was so good we had to toast off some rolls to sop up every last drop!

So enjoy the lovely picture, but realize that not everything is as good as it looks.
What was shockingly good was the Cherimoya. The guy at the stand said it was a tropical fruit and the flavor was a cross between a pineapple and a banana. You cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and eat it with a spoon.
 What we got was more mango, banana, vanilla custard than pineapple/banana. It was divine. The seeds are throughout, so you have to work at it the same way that you worked on a watermelon when you were a kid. But the fruit is so gentle that it feels like you are having dessert. You could not eat one of these everyday. It is way too rich. But you should experience it. Cherimoyas should be served ice cold.
A perfect fruit for the deck on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Farmer's Market Love

If this were a love poem it would be written by Browning. A love song? Marvin Gaye. A painting? Hanks.
But this?
This is a Farmer's Market.
This is the blending of sights, and smells and flavors.
This is a gift.

This is The Little Italy Farmer's Market. I have traveled all over the city sampling the area Farmer's Markets, and none can hold a candle to this one. This is the type of Farmer's Market that you plan your day around. The one your child begs to attend. The one that feels like you've been on a date and not just food shopping.

And to prove it, I took a lot of pictures.

At the beginning of the market is the big, orange, coffee truck. It is not to be missed. The coffee is delicious.
And it is made with love. Really. I am a fan of Starbucks, but they cannot hold a candle to this.

 The produce is spectacular. Yes, I live in Southern California, but the selection at this market is beyond compare.

Gorgeous stripey beets...
 Blood Oranges by the bag...

 Cherimoyas. Wait, what exactly is a Cherimoya. Well, the man selling them said they were a tropical fruit. In flavor they resemble a banana crossed with a pineapple, but you eat them with a spoon. We bought 2.
 Oh, and flowers. Starting with my favorites! Nothing says happy, quite the way a Sunflower does.
 But there are flowers you've never seen before too. Like this one. The Pencia.
 And this one, which I think came from Alice in Wonderland, simply labeled, "Smell Me.". Who wouldn't succomb to such a basic plea.
There are musicians playing accordians, which will shockingly have you clapping along.
And it is dog friendly. In fact, there might be as many dogs as people. 
 You would be a vision strolling through the market with this basket over your arm, full of the day's produce.
And speaking of produce let's get back to it.
Agretti. What is it? Well I've been told it is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. It is a green, not an herb, often served in pasta and delicious with lemon. Yes, we bought a bunch.

 Oh! Le Creperie. Even if you aren't in the mood for crepes, stop and watch him work. He is an artisan. One man, two skillets, and a line down the block. Worth the wait.

 Why yes, Karen Ray did get Nutella.
This is a sneaky picture of my favorite cheese place, Spring Hill. You've heard me talk about them before, here and here. I bought some today too. We will be serving it with Ranier Cherries tomorrow.
 mmmmmmmm. It's getting to be peach season. Fire up the grill.
 And more music.This time it's Spanish.
 The market is on Saturday, and if you live within driving distance it is not to be missed. We were there 2 hours, and could have spent the whole day!

And if all of that isn't enough to tempt you into visiting...
This is the days haul.