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Archive for the ‘Easy’ Category

One of my resolutions this year is to eat healthier (of course).  It always comes after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s- we eat like the year is going to end (pun intended), and punish ourselves later by limiting everything we like, right?  Well, I’m hoping it’s not a punishment, but more of an unhealthy “flush”, if you will.  So my challenge is to find healthy alternatives that are still great, just less greasy with more overall nutrition.  So yesterday our very loved San Franisisco 49ers played in the NFC Championship Playoffs, and sadly lost to the New York Giants.  My husband is from the Bay area, and this was an extremely somber occasion as we hoped for them to make it to the Super Bowl.  None-the-less, at least our stomachs didn’t suffer a loss from the poor game food that is accustumed.  And seeing as the Super Bowl is not just for football fans, but has become more american culture, I thought perhaps an amazing Super Bowl salsa would be useful for anyone who wants an amazingly flavorful  and fresh snack with the added bonus of it being healthy.

SuperBowl Salsa

Ingredients
4-5 plum tomatoes, small dice
1/2 of a large red onion, small dice
1 avocado (i used a zutano, but hass will work fine as well) diced.
1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can of corn kernels (i use the “no added salt” kind) drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
1/2 cup of lime juice (about 4-5 limes)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 

Directions:

In this recipe technique is the most important from an okay salsa, to a spectacular one.  You want to make sure your onions are evenly diced and small enough to not be pungent. 

Keep most of your vegetables evenly diced and your results will be impeccable.  In a large bowl mix together all of your ingredients except your avocado, adding enough lime juice to wet and dress all your vegetables. 

Add salt and pepper to flavor as you like, and at the very end gently toss your avocado, coating with the lime juice to prevent from browning.  Serve with corn tortilla chips.  You can even spoon this over salads or top grilled meats with it for a tropical twist.   Beware:  I’ve been told this salsa is very addicting–and I have to agree!  Enjoy without the guilt!

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Besides all the baking and hosting dinner parties, this time of year is also associated with colds and the “sniffles”.  So every good wife spouse should have a good chicken soup up their sleeve, right?  Well, here’s mine.  It is a south-american style soup, in keeping with the one my mom always used to still makes us to this day.  It’s easy, usually using the ingredients I have on hand, and my husband loves it and requests it now every time he’s sick.  Of course, ladies, you can probably identify with this scenario:  men tend to milk their sick days for everything they’re worth!  But I guess it’s ok to take extra good care of them once in a while, right?  😉

Ingredients
2 lbs of chicken parts (sometimes I use drumsticks or thighs… even used chicken necks)
1 yellow or Spanish onion, chopped
2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
½ cup of lentils
½ cup brown rice
½ cup pearled barley
2/3 cup of diced potatoes
½ cup small pasta, like ditalini or orzo
water
salt & pepper to season
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of paprika
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
chopped parsley for garnish
 

Directions

Sautee onions, celery, and carrots in a heavy bottomed soup pot with the warm olive oil.  Allow onions and vegetables to soften at med-high heat.  The onions will become translucent.  Now add your chicken, skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Allow the chicken to brown on both sides. 

I used chicken necks- only about $1 and change and they flavor the broth really well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once browned, add about 10 cups of water, or about 2/3 of the way up on your pot.  Stir and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen and tidbits.  Season your water with a little salt, pepper, and your cumin, paprika, bay leaves, and rosemary sprigs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once water has come to a boil, add your grains and potatoes (except pasta) and reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the grains are cooked and your potatoes are tender.  

 

 

 

 Remove your chicken, remove the skins, and with a fork shred or chunk it and then add it back to your pot.  Discard the skin and bones.  Also, fish out the rosemary stems (if the leaves have fallen off, that is ok) and bay leaves.  With a large spoon skim as much of the fat that has floated to the top and collected along the sides of your pot. 

 Now add the pasta to your pot, and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check for seasonings at this point and adjust to your taste.  Jeremy says this bowl nurtures a sick kid back to life!  It is definitely a heartier, thicker chicken noodle than normal, but with all the good-for-you grains and veggies in there, you will certainly get a boost of vitamins.   Feel better soon!

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Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful!  And there were plenty of creative dishes made from turkey leftovers, but I didn’t think to take pictures until after we had already finished the dishes!  I’ll still share the recipes, but they’re never as much fun without the photos 😦 .  Today our family got back on track with work, house chores, and healthy eating.  So today’s recipe is ridiculously easy, but the star of it is the balsamic vinaigrette.  What a life changer it is when you finally are able to enjoy the same (or better most of the times) vinaigrettes in your own home that you find in good restaurants.  It makes eating salads so much better!  And part of the reason I always have dijon mustard in my refrigerator (and pantry-wouldn’t want to ever run out!) and balsamic and a few other vinegars on my counter, is so I can always whisk up a quick vinaigrette.  A great way to add flavor to something without adding unwanted fat.  At least it’s unsaturated fat when you’re using olive oil. 

Rotisserie Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts from your rotisserie chicken
1 cup of gourmet or heirloom tomatoes
3 tbsp of crumbled feta cheese
1 8 oz bag of butter lettuce or mixed greens
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 small clove of garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
 
Directions:

Dice up your chicken breasts and set aside.  Remove the skin if you want a leaner dish.  Chop your tomatoes into bite-sized portions.

In a large salad bowl place your mustard, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.  Peel and dice your garlic clove on a cutting board, after dicing it add a little salt to it, and with the side of the blade of your knife smear the garlic to make it into a paste.  Add this to your bowl and whisk.  Next slowly drizzle in your 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking as you add it.  You want to create air bubbles so you will emusify the vinegar with the oil; resulting in a thicker vinaigrette.  Toss your chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and feta with the vinaigrette and serve.  This is another “fastfood” item I love to make when I’m short on time.  It takes about 5 minutes to put dinner on the table and it’s healthy and tasty 🙂

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My son and I went for a run the other morning.. the weather in Florida was just perfect!  And afterwards to replenish our energy I decided to make a smoothie, I used only what I had around the house, and it ended up being amazing.  It is more like a fresh juice than a smoothie, but it was really nice!  If you like it to be thicker use frozen bananas instead.  It was heavy enough for after a run, yet light at the same time.  And parents- this is a great way to get your kids to drink a juice with a veggie in it-pumpkin!  It adds a nice touch to it, but seriously, if I hadn’t made this, I wouldn’t know there was pumpkin in it!

Tangelo Banana and Pumpkin Smoothie

Ingredients
Half of a Tangelo (or orange)
1 ripe banana
2 tbsp pumpkin pureé
2 cups ice
 

Place your banana, ice, squeezed tangelo and pumpkin in your blender and blend!  It is an incredibly refreshing drink, of course my son loved it!  Enjoy it outside with family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Over the past weekend, my friends April, Whitney, and I gathered together for what I believe was our 4th annual “homemade gifts day”.  It’s become a really fun tradition to get together and enjoy our time in the kitchen; something we all have agreed seems so natural for women to do.  Of course, if this isn’t your cup of tea I do not mean to discourage you in any way!  Everyone has different strengths- but for us, cooking, baking, and canning for a whole afternoon seems to go by so quickly!  We just chat away, enjoying each other’s fellowship, and feeling very productive at the end of the day from the fruits of our labor!  And of course, Whitney (another huge foodie) made us an amazing lunch that consisted of Sweet Potatoe, Carrot, & Rosemary soup with warm Prosciutto, Pear, & Gruyere Paninis-now that is a complete afternoon! 

You can look forward to this recipe soon!

On this particular day we decided to try out my newly learned canning “techniques”.  And we decided to can Whitney’s mother-in-law’s Cranberry Chutney, pear butter, and pickled dilly veggies.  Today I’m going to share the Cranberry Chutney recipe with you.  This is a gorgeous chutney*, it looks so festive in its pretty mason jars, just ready to celebrate the holidays, and of course, it’s also delicious!  This makes a great gift paired with a home-baked bread or served along any poultry or game. 

*What is a chutney?  Pronounced CHUT-nee, the word come from the East Indian chatni, this spicy condiment usually contains fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices.  It can range in texure from chunky to smooth, and in degrees of spicyness from mild to hot…The sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese.  Barron’s, The New Food Lover’s Companion.

Holiday Cranberry Chutney

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. cranberries
  • 1 c. orange segments
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. chopped unpeeled apple
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all your ingredients in a non-reactive medium-large saucepan and set over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until cranberries have burst.

Aren't the colors gorgeous?!The fruit mixed with the sugar, vinegar, and spices.

Simmering cranberries starting to burst.

Spoon into sterilized jars and follow standard waterbath procedures if you want to keep these in your pantry.  Otherwise enjoy fresh and refrigerate the rest.  Should last about a week in your fridge! 

 
 

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Florida Chili Con Carne

Last night Jeremy and I had to be somewhere at 6pm, and I wanted to make sure I had dinner ready before he got home.  I had a pound of lean ground beef in the fridge, and I wanted to use it to make something seasonal (of course).  So I looked in my fridge and saw that I had onions, beef stock, leftover pumpkin pureé and some jalapeños.  And in my pantry I have an array of canned beans and stewed tomatoes, as well as a leftover bottle of Merlot, so I decided I had everything I needed to make a chili con carne.  Except, Florida is sometimes too hot to really enjoy a pretty hearty, or in other words, heavy, dense stew.  I mean, let’s face it, we don’t need all those extra calories to survive the harsh, brutal, non-existent winters we have down here.  I know my Canadian-snow-bird-neighbors would agree :).  So I decided to see if I could thoughtfully create a lighter chili, without sacrificing any flavor… and I think I have achieved it!  My husband certainly thought so (he usually complains of, hmm.. bloatedness, heartburn, and heaviness after eating two or three bowls of chilli) :).  This time he was quite happy with the lack of side-effects..haha.  In other words, this chili will satisfy your desire for chili, without being heavy on your stomach, and there is a secret ingredient that gives it a creaminess (without being dense) that you wouldn’t imagine- you got it- pumpkin!

Florida Chili Con Carne

Ingredients
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (leave seeds in if you like it spicier)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 cayene pepper
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 32 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes
1 cup of pureéd pumpkin
16 oz of beef stock
1 ½ cups of merlot or red wine *(can be substituted with more beef stock)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems
1 16 oz can of black beans
1 16 oz can of red beans
3 cups of prepared brown rice
 

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Once hot add your onions and garlic, stir and allow them to sweat and soften. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add salt and pepper, as well as your diced jalapeños. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When onions start to look translucent add the ground beef, break up with a wooden spoon and allow to brown.  Add your spices and seasonings to the beef. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once your beef is browned add your entire can of tomatoes in, juices and everything, and use kitchen shears or the back of your spoon to chunk your tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Add the beef stock, merlot, and pumpkin pureé and stir. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, chop your cilantro stems and add them into your chilli along with the 2 types of drained beans. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allow your chilli to simmer, this could be 40 minutes on a lower heat.  Or in my case, about 20 minutes (with me carefully watching it) on high heat, since I had less time today, while stirring ocassionaly.  In the meantime prepare some brown (or white) rice in another pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally when the chilli looks like it has thickned a little, and reduced slightly in amount, add the chopped cilantro leaves, stir, and take off the heat.  Serve over a bed of rice, and you can dollop it with sour cream or greek yogurt if you’d like.  I didn’t have any, and it was simply delicious by itself with the rice. 

 

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So things are getting back to normal in our house.  After 4 or 5 loads of laundry, plenty of dishes, vacuuming, a strict potty regiment (trying to get Lucas into cloth underwear fulltime, this means no accidents please!), vacuuming, and grocery shopping a good bit of that food creativity was drained a bit. But no worries!  Good thing I have a plethora of tried and tested recipes that I love!  And since my dad (yes, again, my dear father has bestowed on us some more goods) 😉 sent me home with a huge NY Strip left over from yesterday’s barbecue, I thought of the perfect way to use it: a Penne with Beef and Arugula recipe.  Again, this one is a Giada recipe, and who can blame me??  She is a cute italian chef who maintains her figure and lightens up her dishes so you don’t have to unbutton your pants when you’re finished with your pasta!  Not to mention, I don’t think any of the dishes I’ve made from any of her books are just “okay”.  Plus this recipe has arugula in it.  And I don’t need too many excuses to use that it my dishes.  If you haven’t cooked with arugula yet, please let me encourage you to do it.  This peppery slightly lemony green is just bursting with flavor and is just as delicious raw in a salad, as it is warm, served in pasta, or just used as a simple bed to place grilled steak over.  Let’s be done with boring iceberg lettuce and move on to the amazing greens God has given us to eat!  Not that God didn’t create iceberg lettuce.. but for you Florida folks, it is 2 for $5 this week at Publix, and Barilla pasta is buy one get one free.  So this is the perfect week to try this recipe!

Penne with Beef and Arugula

Ingredients

1 (1 lb) NY strip steak
1 tsp herbs de provence (if you don’t have this mix your favorite dry herbs, like oregano, rosemary, etc)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
1 lb penne pasta ( i used 13 oz of Barilla Whole Grain pasta)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for steak and pasta water
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (ran out so I used a lesser amount of dried basil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chopped arugula
 

Directions:

Season the steak with salt and freshly ground pepper, herbs de Provence, and minced garlic.  In a skilled, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook steak for about 7 minutes on each side.  Remove the meat from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Thinly slice  the steak.  Set aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender, but still firm to the bite (al dente), stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, fresh herbs and 3/4 cup olive oil. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a large bowl toss the pasta with half of the salad dressing and the reserved pasta water. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the arugula and steak, more dressing (if needed), and season with salt and pepper, as needed.  Toss and serve. 

This is the perfect picnic/date food, by-the-way.

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