May 31, 2012

Three-Pea, Cashew and Tofu Stir-Fry

My husband has decided he's on a health kick. In the last couple of months he has started walking every night and cutting down on the amount of fat and calories in his diet. I have been trying to get this to happen for years, but apparently lately he has had some sort of change of heart in regards to his bad habits. This is a welcome change and he has embraced eating less red meat and more vegetarian meals. Tofu has been the hardest food to add to my family's diet. They will willing eat beans, lentils and soups without meat, but tofu has been more of a problem. Luckily I have discovered that my kids in particular love stir-fry using tofu and the May/June issue of Eating Well magazine had a recipe for Three-Pea, Cashew and Tofu Stir-Fry which looked perfect.
This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 50 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I had to go to two stores in order to find both snow peas and sugar snap peas, but that is normal for my area. My tofu took slightly longer than the 8 minutes suggested by the recipe in order to fully brown. I also made sure to let my tofu drain for a full hour to ensure that all the water came out. Finally, I let the peas cook longer than the recipe to ensure that they were soft enough for my two boys to eat. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was surprised by how much my two boys loved this dish. They were particularly fans of the sugar snap and snow peas and ate their servings, plus part of mine. My husband and I enjoyed this stir-fry as well. The only draw back that I found was that the tofu wasn't salty enough and needed a little more flavor. I would suggest adding some of the sauce to the tofu after it is browned and letting the tofu sit and marinate while the vegetables are cooking. This would greatly improve the flavor of the tofu. Overall, a great way to add more vegetables and tofu into your diet.

For the recipe go to Three-Pea, Cashew and Tofu Stir-Fry.

May 29, 2012

Cincinnati Chili

Growing up my father was a huge red meat fan. My mother tried for years to integrate more vegetarian dishes and to eliminate red meat from our family diet. She would make great peanut noodles, which my dad decided were too spicy and complained had no meat. Then she tried stir-fry, which my dad thought was great, after he added ground beef. After a couple of years my mom thought she had succeeded in getting my father to stop eating red meat, I knew better. He would sneak out to McDonald's and buy their cheap hamburgers and eat two on the way home. My mother was successful in turning one person into a vegetarian, me. I was a vegetarian starting my freshman year of high-school until my junior year of college. Then I slowly added back fish and chicken. Then I met my husband. My husband and two boys have been known to eat an entire pack of bacon in one sitting. The men in my family are definitely big red meat fans. Since I am more a once a week at most red meat eater, I have slowly been able to convince the rest of my family to follow my lead. One dish that my husband absolutely loves though is Cincinnati chili. He can go on a twenty minute tangent on the various difference and qualities between the various Cincinnati chili brands. I have made Cincinnati chili at home a number of times, but never in the crockpot so I was interested when I saw a recipe in the February issue of Family Circle for Cincinnati Chili done completely in the slow-cooker.
This recipe has 16 ingredients (plus 3 optional). It takes 15 minutes of prep and 8 hours on low in the crock-pot and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Like I almost always do I ground my own Angus beef. I find that when I grind my own meat the texture and flavor is much better. Plus the attachment for the KitchenAid is inexpensive and very easy to use. I would normally make my own beef stock, but my normal grocery store was out of beef bones, so I bought 100% natural beef stock instead. For the toppings I added cheddar cheese on the plate. Normally my husband also likes chopped onions and occasionally beans (a five-way), but chose to play it simple with just cheese (a three-way). I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.
For people unfamiliar with Cincinnati chili this is a very accessible recipe. The chili is on the mild side similar to Dixie chili, a smaller chain in Northern Kentucky. My kids really liked this recipe, they even had seconds. Make sure to taste and salt this recipe before serving. I had to add a couple of teaspoons of salt to make the flavor right before serving. I love that this recipe uses the crockpot and the flavor is still the same. Most Cincinnati chili recipes use garlic and onion powder so I was skeptical when the recipe used fresh ingredients. However, the finished result was perfect, so my assumption was misplaced. Overall, a very easy way to make Cincinnati style chili recipe.

For the recipe go to Cincinnati Chili.

May 28, 2012

Skillet Gnocchi with Shrimp and Asparagus

It was very hot here this weekend. Almost 95 degrees with high humidity; all I can say is yuck. Thanks to all the very warm weather like it does every summer my kitchen has started its fast decent into a sauna. I try to minimize the amount of time I run my oven during the middle of the day and instead rely on my stove and crockpot to do the majority of my cooking. Additionally, I try to lighten up my menu. I use less heavy sauces and thick stews and more seafood and fresh vegetables. I learned this from my mom who insisted that the foods that you eat have a direct correlation to how hot you feel. I also vividly remember being given hot coffee when the weather was sweltering to cool me down. At the time I thought it was somewhat crazy, but I realized this weekend when I was drinking my hot coffee in the middle of the day, my mother seems to be ingrained in even the little slightly strange things that we now do alike. One of the other things that my mom and I had in common was our love of shrimp. Shrimp is one of my favorite things to prepare in the summer and I was drawn to a recipe in a recent issue of Eating Well magazine for Skillet Gnocchi with Shrimp and Asparagus, which looked light and perfect for the hot summer months ahead.
This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. As I always do with seafood I had to go to the nicer grocery store in town to purchase non-farm raised shrimp. This to me is a deal breaker. I went to school with people who worked in the fisheries dept and the studies that they worked on with mercury levels and farm raised fish and seafood are disturbing. I have two young boys that don't need to be exposed to high mercury levels. Since the major super store in my area does not agree with my ideas I always have to go to the nicer suburban chain grocery store to buy seafood. I always seem to take forever to prep shrimp, so my prep time was longer than the recipe suggested. A pound of shrimp normally takes me approximately 15-20 minutes to peel and de-vein. I have been very pleased that I am now able to buy shallots by the pound. Previously 3 ounces cost 1.99 and now a whole pound is only 3.99, that is a substantial price difference. So I am very happy for this new bulk option. As I always do I made my own chicken stock, I don't salt my stock in order that I can control the amount of sodium in my family's diet. I was very happy to find great locally grown asparagus, I prefer to buy local as much as possible. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Both my husband and I were surprised that the gnocchi was the real winner in this recipe. Most of the time in shrimp dishes the shrimp is always the star. However, in this dish the shrimp was a little lacking in flavor, but the gnocchi was delicious. I think that the shrimp would have been better if it was seasoned more before going in with the other ingredients or even marinated before cooking. The asparagus was delicious and honestly this dish would be just as good (and a lot cheaper) if you left out the shrimp and made it vegetarian. My kids loved the recipe, so it was very family friendly.

For the recipe go to Skillet Gnocchi with Shrimp and Asparagus.

May 27, 2012

Chicken-Peanut Stir-Fry

Stir-Fry is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. Growing up in Seattle I was lucky to be surrounded by numerous restaurants and an entire international district full of delicious food. Best of all were all the ethnic grocery stores that were literally everywhere. I never had problems finding any ingredients and was fortunate to have friends moms teach me to make dishes that were far from my comfort zone. These were the foundations for my love of cooking. I tried just about every type of recipe that I had someone that could teach me to prepare and would spend hours looking through the various groceries stores for ingredients that I had never heard of. Some ingredients I loved and some not as much. An example is gooey duck, I have tried it more than once and still can't get a taste for it. One of my friends from back home though insists that it can be delicious. When I moved to West Virgina I was in for a shock. There was one international market in my area and a small Lebanese market. A couple of years ago the international market closed so I am down to one store to discover hard to find ingredients. I have also discovered how generous my friends and family are back home. Numerous times I have received care packages filled with ingredients not available in my area. I have also successfully converted my in-laws to branch past the food that they were used to eating and discover how great new foods can be. I was pleased to discover that the June issue of the Food Network Magazine had a recipe for Chicken-Peanut Stir-Fry, which looked delicious and easy to prepare.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I had to go to multiple grocery stores to find all the ingredients. Nappa cabbage can be hit or miss to find in my area and I picked a week when it was sparse. Luckily I was able to find it at the third store I tried. I had no problems finding any of the other ingredients. Instead of basmati rice I used the jasmine rice I already had in my cupboard. My chicken took longer to cook than the time suggested by the recipe. I think that I might have cut my chicken slightly larger than suggested and hence why it took longer to cook. Finally, the bunch of scallions that I bought was very big so instead of using the whole bunch I used four scallions in total. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved this recipe and ate their whole servings. I love that the recipe has 35 grams of protein per serving and is lower in sodium than most stir-fry recipes. Since the soy sauce and peanuts were salted I found that I didn't have to add additional salt, which was a pleasant change of pace. This recipe states that it makes 4 servings and it makes exactly that amount. There was just enough for my family to eat for one meal with no leftovers. If you are serving more than four people or want leftovers I would suggest doubling the recipe. Overall an easy Stir-fry recipe that even people that have never made stir-fry before would be comfortable preparing.

For the recipe go to Chicken-Peanut Stir-Fry.

May 26, 2012

Lentil-Chickpea Chili

Have you ever had one of those weeks? The kind where everything seems just a little bit off. I am definitely having one of those weeks this week. My oldest got out of school for the summer on Tuesday, it was 95 degrees today and I feel blah. It doesn't help that I spent the evening watching Great Expectations on Masterpiece Theater, I love Dickens, but not great for my mood. So where does that leave me, making crockpot dinners for the week. I have had very little motivations to cook anything complex or taking hours to prepare. Luckily there have been great slow-cooker recipes in a number of magazines in the last couple of months. I love using the slow-cooker when the weather is too hot to cook or I just don't feel like dealing with dinner at all. Thankfully the February issue of Family Circle magazine had a recipe for Lentil-Chickpea Chili, which with 15 minutes of prep looked perfect for the less than perfect week I have been having.
This recipe has 16 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes of prep and 8 hours on low in the crockpot and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the other ingredients at the my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. I was particularly happy that I found out that one of the stores in my area now has shallots by the pound. A huge difference in price, before I could only find the pre-packaged shallots which are $1.99 for 3 ounces. Now I can buy them for $3.99 a pound, talk about a huge price difference! I completely forgot to make flatbread, so instead I served the chili with homemade whole-wheat bread, which worked just as well. After adding the chickpeas (I left out the cilantro) I allowed the chili to cook for an additional 15 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With 22 grams of protein and completely vegetarian this dish is a nice change of pace for my family. I have been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals and this recipe was easy to prep. This makes a large amount of chili! It states that it makes 8 servings, but honestly it looks like I still have 10 more servings in my freezer. I really liked the flavor of this soup, it was flavorful without having to add meat. My husband wasn't a fan of the chickpeas, but that is normal for him. He prefers chickpeas to be mashed or completely cooked until almost mushy. I was surprised that my boys ate their whole servings and asked for more. Overall this was a very easy slow-cooker recipe that was well received by everyone in my family.

For the recipe go to Lentil-Chickpea Chili.

May 25, 2012

Country-Style Barbecue Ribs

I can't believe how quickly this year is going, it's already Memorial Day weekend! My oldest had this last day of kindergarten this week. Apparently he decided to take part in the talent show at school at the last minute and now is mad at me for not being there. Oh well, mommy fail for the week apparently. Memorial Day means one thing to me, the beginning of the barbecue season. I absolutely love to barbecue. Growing up my dad was always in charge of the grill. Now granted we had a charcoal grill (my husband and my father have that in common neither one will touch a gas grill) and for whatever reason my dad tried to almost burn himself while trying to start the fire every year. One would think that he would eventually not do that, but alas he had the same problem with camp fires every year as well. The beginning of summer is one of my favorite times of the year. There is something very nostalgic about having a barbecue with ribs, chicken, great potato salad and of course a spectacular dessert. Unfortunately my husband and I never seem to actually have the time to grill any more so instead I have found a great alternative for making ribs, my slow-cooker. The June issue of Family Circle magazine had a recipe for Country-Style Barbecue Ribs, which with 15 minutes of prep looked perfect for a busy summer dinner.
This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes of prep and 9 hours in the crockpot and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, most of them I already had on hand. This recipe is very straightforward the only changes I made were to use light brown sugar since that is what I already had in my pantry and to use slightly more than the 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke. After tasting it I thought it would benefit from a slight increase. As I always do I chose to cook this dish on low, I prefer cooking on low in my crockpot. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I felt that this recipe didn't make enough sauce once it was done. There were only a few tablespoons of sauce left to brush the ribs with. If you are like my family and love sauce you should definitely double the sauce amounts. The sauce was mild and would appeal to people that like simple bbq sauces like Kraft. If you are like my husband and like more bite to your sauce than you should look for another recipe. My two boys loved this recipe, it was very child friendly. The pork was very tender and falling off the bone, which is perfect. Overall, a very easy slow-cooker recipe that has 38 grams of protein per serving.

For the recipe go to Country-Style Barbecue Ribs.

May 24, 2012

Gnocchi, Sweet Corn and Arugula in Cream Sauce

I love this time of the year. The weather is still mild and the humidity hasn't made life miserable like it does later in the summer. Best of all, there is always ton of inexpensive and abundant produce at the store. Fall and winter are always a little depressing in the fruits and vegetables sections of the grocery stores in my area. I'm lucky if I can find much more than spinach and greens fresh in the middle of the winter and the frozen selection is limited at best. Later in the spring and summer though there are always a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits to select from and I cook with them frequently. The last few years the corn available in my area has been hit or miss. Last summer it was pretty horrible and I only bought it a few times. This year has been the exact opposite, the corn was available early, cheap, and deliciously sweet. So I have been looking around for new corn recipes and  found one for Gnocchi, Sweet Corn and Arugula in Cream Sauce in the May issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
This recipe has 7 ingredients (8 if you chose to use crushed red pepper). It takes 20 minutes start to finish and makes 4 servings. So I went into this recipe with the intention of buying fresh corn, however, as you can see from the photo I ended up using frozen. Thanks to grocery shopping with a very hyper 3-year-old and a complaining 6-year-old my fresh corn plans were forgotten and I had to rely on the frozen corn in my freezer. I had no problems finding any of the other ingredients. For the dried herbs I used oregano, I love using dried oregano in pasta dishes. Instead of using a dutch oven, I used a stock pot to cook the pasta and then moved the finished pasta and cream sauce to a large saute pan to finish cooking. I have a very large and heavy dutch oven that takes a very long time to boil for pasta, so I prefer to use a pasta or stockpot instead. Additionally, I let my arugula cook until wilted. The recipe just states to stir in the arugula, for me I like my arugula a little more wilted since it has such a strong peppery taste. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.
This is a very easy recipe to make. The prep work is very minimal and I was pleased that the amount of salt indicated was perfect. Oftentimes recipes vastly underestimate the required amount of salt, but this recipe was spot-on. My two boys were unsure of the gnocchi since I have only served it to them a few times, but once they tried it they loved it. My husband and I liked that it was different than previous pasta recipes that we had tried and the cream sauce had a nice flavor. We both felt that the arugula is somewhat unnecessary. The flavor of the cream sauce is dominant so the peppery flavor of the arugula doesn't really show through. It's a great way to add greens into your diet, but didn't do much for the flavor of the dish. Since it isn't essential for flavor you could substitute spinach or leave out the arugula completely if you chose. Overall, a very simple pasta recipe.

For the recipe go to Gnocchi, Sweet Corn and Arugula in Cream Sauce. (registration required)

May 23, 2012

Butter Chicken

This has been a crazy week. My oldest had his last day of school yesterday and I seem to have a to-do list a mile long. I would love to say that I am super organized and am great about getting everything done. Before kids I had lists and everything was always done on time or early. All that changed after my youngest was born. With two kids there are days that my house looks like the same disaster it did at the start (even though it has been cleaned 10 plus times) and instead of taking items off my to-do list I have added more. So I have learned to keep at least a few simple meals plans on stand-by every week. Without these quick dinners things would turn into chaos at dinner time. One of the best things I have learned is to utilize my crockpot. I can normally carve out about a half an hour in the morning to prep and put everything nicely in the crockpot for dinner. Then I don't have to stress when my two boys are in the kitchen screaming for food and my husband joins in after getting home from work. The May issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Butter Chicken, which with 20 minutes of prep and 30 grams of protein, looked perfect for my busy week.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of prep and 5 hours and 15 minutes of cooking and makes 8 servings. I had the worst time finding garam masala in my area. All the large grocery stores have decided that everyone in my area only wants to buy 10 types of onion and garlic powders and little else. Insert mini rant on the horrible food choices in my state, if we aren't given quality ingredients to cook with then how do you expect our kids to grow up healthy! I digress from my rant. I was finally able to find the garam masala at the small Lebanese market by my house. This market has saved me so many times when I needed specific spices. They have a great selection and the prices are reasonable. I miss when small grocery stores were in every neighborhood and you could actually find things that were needed. I had no problems finding any of the other ingredients and made no modifications. I chose to leave off the cilantro at the plate since I was serving it to my kids. Instead of a food processor, I used my blender. Honestly, I use my blender more frequently, I find that it does a superior job when combining liquids or liquifying. My onions took much longer than 7 minutes to cook. I prefer my onions to be completely caramelized before placing in the crockpot, it makes for a greater amount of flavor. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sauce in this recipe was delicious. There was more sauce than the magazine photo represents. I would say most of the dish is sauce and then a small amount of meat. The photo is a little misleading, it makes it seem that the dish is mostly chicken with very little sauce. Either they were using breasts with no fat or miraculously found thighs with no fat! I actually liked that the dish was full of sauce, it made a great topping to rice and still had lots of protein from the chicken. If I made it again I would pulse the sauce longer like I did so it had the larger amount of sauce, the sauce was delicious and the best part of the dish.

For the recipe go to Butter Chicken.

May 22, 2012

Pork Shoulder Roast with Citrus Mojo and Green Sauce

As you all probably know by now my family loves pork. Not just a little bit, but literally my husband could be a vegetarian as long as he could still eat pork. My two boys are pretty much the same way, if I tell them that pork is for dinner they run to the table. Pork shoulder is a popular dish in my house and I make it approximately once a month. Most of the winter I make it in the crock-pot and in the summer I smoke it all day on the charcoal grill (my husband won't allow a gas grill in our house). One method that I make less frequently, but tastes delicious is oven roasted. The May issue of Food and Wine magazine had a recipe for Pork Shoulder Roast with Citrus Mojo and Green Sauce, which looked like a great recipe for oven roasted pork.

This recipe has 13 ingredients for the pork and 9 ingredients in the creamy cilantro-lime sauce. It takes 8 hours of cooking plus 8 hours of marinating, 45 minutes of which is active and makes 8 to 10 servings. The only pork shoulder that I was able to find at any of the stores in my area was 8 pounds, so I increased my cooking time accordingly. Instead of fresh lemon juice, I used bottled lemon juice. I would normally use fresh, but my two kids ruined my lemons, I love my three-year-old! Additionally, I used bottled orange juice, the price and time to squeeze fresh oranges was more than I wanted to spend. I marinated my pork shoulder for 10 hours total. Finally instead of a white onion for the sauce I used the sweet onions that I already had. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sauces when combined together with the pork was delicious. It was a little rich for everyday, especially with the mayonnaise sauce, but would be great for party. When I first started eating this dish I ate the sauces separately and wasn't impressed. However, once I ate them together the taste was great. They definitely should be served together. My two boys were not sure about the green sauce, but once they tried it they were fans. This makes a large amount of leftovers, I would say enough for at least three more meals. Overall, a nice change of pace from the normal pork roast recipes that I prepare.

For the recipe go to Pork Shoulder Roast with Citrus Mojo and Green Sauce.

May 21, 2012

Southwestern Turkey Meat Loaf

Growing up my father could make two dishes, fried potatoes and meatloaf. We ate a lot of meatloaf on the nights my mother was at work, a lot of meatloaf. Now don't get me wrong, my father's meatloaf was pretty good, it was moist and the sauce had a nice taste. It was just that after having the same meatloaf for the first 18 years of my life, I became a little bit burnt out. So in college and most of the first couple of years of my marriage I didn't have meatloaf. Then about five years ago I slowly transitioned myself back into cooking and eating meatloaf. I discovered that turkey meatloaf can be delicious and a lot less fat than its traditional counterpart. As I was looking through the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine I noticed a recipe for Southwestern Turkey Meatloaf which looked simple and delicious.
This recipe has 11 ingredients and 5 optional ingredients. It takes approximately 2 hours of prep and cooking, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 8 to 10 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local store and made no ingredient modifications. Make sure to adequately rinse the canned beans or they will taste metallic. I chose to use tortilla chips for this recipe, it was the one type of chip I could guarantee my boys would eat the leftovers. I used mild picante sauce, but if I was to make this recipe again I think I would use a hotter sauce. The taste was a little too mild for me. For the toppings I chose to use cheese, jalapeno and lime wedges. My meat loaf took a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes exactly, I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was very impressed by how flavorful this meatloaf turned out. It makes a very large meatloaf. I made one giant meatloaf, but it could just as easily make two smaller meatloaves. The meatloaf was a little dry by itself, but with the cheese and lime it was much more moist. I think if I made this again I would add the whole bottle of picante sauce and add a tablespoon of taco seasoning. With only a teaspoon of seasoning, the flavors weren't bold enough for my liking. For a turkey meat loaf recipe this dish turned out well and my youngest son absolutely loved it.

For the recipe go to Southwestern Turkey Meat Loaf.

May 20, 2012

Ramps The Cookbook Review + Sweet and Sour Ramps Recipe

If you've been a long time reader of this blog, you know that spring in West Virginia means one thing in my household, ramps. I am lucky that my in-laws live in an area where ramps are abundant and every spring my mother-in-law brings me pounds of ramps to clean and cook. In case you are new to this blog and are completely unaware of what ramps look like here is a picture of an uncleaned early ramp.
I always receive early ramps which are very different from late season ramps which have large green leaves. Early ramps have a much stronger flavor and are my favorite to cook with. Here is a picture of how the ramps appear all cleaned up and ready to cook with.

Given my love of all things ramps I was excited when I received a copy of a new cookbook to review, "Ramps The Cookbook: Cooking with the Best Kept Secrets of the Appalachian Trial" published by St. Lynn's Press. Finding ramps recipes is often times difficult and being able to find them all together in one cookbook is a great idea. This cookbook is very well organized and includes recipes and pictures from a number of my favorite food blogs. One of the things that I enjoyed the most about this cookbook is that it has a very well written introduction that includes photos and a general description of what exactly is a ramp. I have received so many questions asking me to explain what a ramp is since the reader had never seen them before and having this introduction is a great resource for novice ramp cooks. The main part of the cookbook, the recipes, are broken into sections: sides and main dishes, salads and soups, ramps and eggs, biscuits and muffins, sauces, dips, etc., juice and jam and year-round ramps. I really like that there are so many recipes and that they are broken into easy to navigate sections. Since I had early ramps I chose to review the recipe for Sweet and Sour Ramps.

Sweet and Sour Ramps
*Re-printed with permission from St. Lynn's Press*
Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 2-3 dozen young ramps
  •  3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light-colored honey
  • Fresh ground black pepper for garnish

Clean the ramps and remove the leaves or green parts (use them for another recipe). 

Saute the ramps in olive oil over medium-high heat until they brown, about 5 minutes.

Add vinegar and honey and swirl to combine in the pan. Turn the heat down and simmer until the liquid reduces to a glaze, about another 3-5 minutes. 

Serve hot or at room temperature with black pepper to taste. 

 With five ingredients this is a very simple recipe that allows the flavor of the ramps to shine through. It takes approximately 8 minutes of cooking. The prep time is hard to gauge since it would vary on how you purchased your ramps. I always receive my ramps uncleaned and it takes me around an hour to clean two pounds. Later season ramps are easier to clean since the shoots have turned into leaves. I have always found the shoots to be the hardest part to clean. I did modify the recipe slightly. I found that 3 tablespoons of olive oil was a little too much for the ramps that I had. Instead I used 1 tablespoon and the recipe worked perfectly.

I love the idea of a whole cookbook based solely on ramps. Having everything in one book and well organized is a great resource. There are many more recipes that I plan to make in the future. I freeze my ramps after cleaning, so this will allow me new recipes all summer!

This cookbook is a well put together collection and is something I could see being a great gift for cookbook (or ramp) lovers. The book can be purchased at your favorite book store or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Disclaimer: I received a promotional copy of this cookbook from St. Lynn's Press in order to facilitate this review,  I received no further compensation for my post. The Sweet and Sour Ramps recipe is printed with permission from St. Lynn's Press. As always all opinions expressed are my own.

May 19, 2012

Spring Minestrone with Chicken Meatballs

Anyone that reads this blog regularly knows that I love soup. It is probably one of my favorite foods and I could literally eat it twice a day. My two sons are the same way. At dinner tonight they informed me that they weren't hungry and therefore not eating. After they had the soup in front of them they happily ate their whole bowls. In the last couple of months my husband has decided that he wants to lose weight and I have been making a conscious effort to make more low-fat meals. Soup is a great way to incorporate lower calorie foods and I have been experimenting with a number of recipes. When I was looking through the April issue of Bon Appetit magazine the recipe for Spring Minestrone with Chicken Meatballs caught my eye and it looked low in calories and delicious.
This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I chose to leave off the chopped fresh basil topping, my basil went bad in the fridge and I chose not to purchase more. I made my chicken broth from scratch like I always do. Stock from scratch tastes so much better and is a lot cheaper! The recipe states that it makes 28 meatballs, I found that I only made 17 meatballs. in total. I like larger meatballs so that might be the reason. I let the finished soup cook for around five minutes to ensure that the meatballs had fully cooked. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The flavor of this soup is absolutely delicious. The broth tastes almost similar to the broth in wonton soup, it really has a lot of taste. My husband and two boys were huge fans of this soup and ate multiple servings. I found that this recipe made more than the four servings suggested. It made enough for dinner for my family of four plus leftovers for lunch the next day. This is a soup that I will definitely make again!

For the recipe go to Spring Minestrone with Chicken Meatballs.

May 18, 2012

Strawberry Mousse Cake

My son only has days of kindergarten left and that means one thing, a summer full of two kids all day long. Don't get me wrong, I love both of my kids tremendously, however, when they are together for long periods of time they fight. The smallest thing that the other one does will get on their nerves and they will cry, scream, you name it. So what do I do? I eat sweets. Not a lot, but a small slice of great homemade cake can relax me after a stressful and crazy  week. I love cake, especially with homemade frosting, yum! In the spring I love using fresh strawberries and I was excited when I saw a recipe for Strawberry Mousse Cake in the April issue of Southern Living magazine.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. I takes 5 hours and 15 minutes of total time, 45 minutes of which is active and makes 10 to 12 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. I did have to make a few changes to the recipe. The first issue was with the time the recipe stated for the gelatin to set. The recipe states for the gelatin to set for 30 minutes, that is way too short. I tried using the mousse after it had sat in the fridge for 30 minutes and the cake layers slide off. I put the gelatin back in the fridge and let it sit for an hour and then it was much easier to deal with. Finally, I changed the frosting recipe. The frosting didn't add any vanilla extract. I have never made frosting without vanilla or almond extract, so I added a small amount of both and then set it in the fridge until I frosted the cake. This helped the frosting not to be runny and the flavor was great with the addition of the extracts. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.
The flavor of the fresh strawberries in this cake was delicious. I served this cake for mother's day and I was very pleased with the results. Make sure to change the frosting and mousse components of this cake and it will turn out perfectly. This cake only lasted two days since it was so popular! Overall, a great spring cake and a yummy way to use fresh strawberries.

For the recipe go to Strawberry Mousse Cake.

May 17, 2012

Slow Cooker Lamb and Cilantro Curry

With the weather turning warmer my house starts to turn into a sauna. We live in a great old brick house, the only problem is that it traps heat in the winter and loses heat in the winter. It's not horrible until I turn on the oven for hours at a time, then it is rather unpleasant. The high humidity doesn't help the situation either, so in the middle of summer I turn to my crockpot. I'm not a fall/winter crockpot user. I actually find that I use my slow-cooker the most in the hot summer months, it does wonders for keeping my kitchen cool when the heat rises. Since I make crockpot recipes so frequently throughout the year, I am always looking for new interesting recipes and I was happy when the march issue of Family Circle magazine had a recipe for Slow Cooker Lamb and Cilantro Curry.
This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of prep and 8 hours on low in the crockpot and makes 6 servings. Due to my forgetfulness (thanks to my kids :) I actually ending up buying pork, instead of lamb. I definitely think I need more sleep...So needless to say I made a major modification to this recipe and used pork shoulder. I always braise my meat before placing it into the slow-cooker. This recipe doesn't have that step, but I highly recommend it. Braising helps to seals in the flavor and moisture in meat and makes all the difference for keeping meat moist. Instead of pulling off the leaves of the cilantro (which is time consuming) I chopped the tops off and placed them in the blender. Finally I used a fresh lemon for the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. One large lemon makes about 3 tablespoons of juice. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

This recipe is very easy to prepare. Even with my large modification to the meat the end result turned out well. The pork worked well with the flavors of the curry. I would recommend adding more curry powder if you are a fan of a strong curry taste. This dish only has 1 teaspoon of curry powder, which leaves a mild curry flavor, for bolder flavor I would suggest adding up a tablespoon of your favorite curry powder. Overall, a very easy crockpot recipe that made enough for multiple meals.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Lamb and Cilantro Curry.

May 16, 2012

Orecchiette with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I have a confession to make, I love Brussels Sprouts. I know to most people they are on the bottom of their list of delicious vegetables, but that is in great part due to over cooking and bad recipes. Growing up I was always the only kid that would take seconds on the buttered Brussels sprouts that my mother made, they were yummy! I was fine when everyone else turned up their noses at my beloved vegetable, it just made more for me to enjoy. When my two sons were old enough for solid foods I was pretty sure that they would follow the suit of most kids and absolutely hate Brussels sprouts. So I didn't make a fuss, tossed some Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them in the oven. Much to my surprise my kids loved them! I have also been able to convince both my husband and father-in-law that Brussels sprouts can be part of a great meal when roasted and tossed with pasta. Roasting makes all the difference in the world, if you haven't tried preparing your vegetables this way, you really should. Given my love of roasted Brussels sprouts I was interested when the February/March issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Orecchiette with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which sounded perfect for my family.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cooking and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of these ingredients at my local grocery store. I did chose to leave out the minced fresh parsley, my two boys aren't fans. Instead of white wine I used the dry sherry I already had in my fridge. The recipe doesn't specify whether to use salted or unsalted butter, but I almost always use unsalted, which is what I used in this recipe. The recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups of pasta, instead I used the full pound of pasta which I had purchased. Most important for success with this recipe is to make sure to turn the Brussels sprouts often to promote even roasting. It really does make a difference! I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I served this recipe when my in-laws were in town. I wasn't sure if my father-in-law would eat this dish since he pretty much hates Brussels sprouts. Luckily he ate the recipes without complaints (yay!). I loved the taste of the roasted Brussels sprouts, they were delicious! The leftovers heated up well the next day and this recipe made more than enough for a dinner for 6 people plus leftovers the next day. Overall, a very easy pasta recipe full of vegetables.

For the recipe go to Orecchiette with Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

May 15, 2012

Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole

I love chocolate! There is something great about eating a piece of chocolate after a particularly bad day. It literally almost erases all the negative things that have happened and leaves me in a great mood. The only problem is that my two kids share this love and my chocolate stashes never seem to stay hidden. I particularly love when they put the wrapper back so that I think there is still candy and then open it to discover that it has been completely scavenged. That's really awesome (not!). Luckily I have discovered that chocolate can also be great to cook with and since recipes normally use bittersweet chocolate my two kids leave the baking chocolate alone. Given my love of chocolate I was very pleased to see a recipe for Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole in the December issue of Everyday Food Magazine,
This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes 4 1/4 hrs, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. I ended up leaving off the cilantro on the plate since I completely forgot about it, opps! I did find that 4 pounds of chicken thighs ended up being far more than 12 thighs for me, I think my grocery store must sell smaller thighs than the ones the recipe used. Since everything was going into the blender I didn't overly chop any of the ingredients before putting them in. I have a very good blender that can pretty much chop anything, including ice. As I always do, I chose to cook this recipe on low, I prefer the flavor on low for a longer amount of time. For the toasted almonds, I toasted my almonds on the stove, I find it much quicker and easier than the oven. When the recipe is finished make sure to pour off the layer of fat and soak up any remaining fat with a paper towel. There was a good cup of fat that I had to pour off and without this step it would have been far too fatty. With this modification the recipe was perfect. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two kids loved this recipe. At first they were reluctant to eat it, but as soon as I mentioned that it was chocolate chicken, they ran to their plates. I did find that I had to add salt to my husband's and mines servings, but that it normal for most recipes. I liked that this recipe was full of flavor, but mild enough even for people that don't like spicy foods. The sauce was absolutely delicious and the chicken thighs ended up melt in your mouth tender. Overall, a great slow-cooker recipe that I will definitely make again.

For the recipe go to Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole.

May 13, 2012

Spinach-Herb Pesto

This is the time of the year that there never seems to be enough time. Between end of the year school madness, t-ball, birthdays, holidays etc. I always seem to be behind. I would love to say that I have hours everyday to prepare complex great tasting meals, but the reality is that I don't. There are nights that I can spare a couple of hours to prepare dinner, those are the nights that my three-year-old actually decides to take his afternoon nap. I love those naps when they happen, I am able to get so many things done! However, the majority of the time my youngest refuses to nap and my days are hectic at best. So to the rescue comes my trusted menu plan. Each week I have at least two very easy recipes that takes less than a half an hour to make start to finish. One such recipe from the March issue of Southern Living magazine is for Spinach-Herb Pesto and takes a total of 15 minutes and is full of fresh vegetables.
This recipe 10 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes, all of which is active and makes 3/4 of a cup of pesto. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. There is no need to overly chop the herbs and veggies before placing them in the food processor, the machine does a great job on its own. I would recommend using a food scale and measuring 2 ounces for the cheese, 2 ounces was a lot more than a 1/2 cup according to my measuring cups. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Pesto is one of my favorite dishes and this recipe turned out very well. The lemon flavor compliments the herbs and spinach nicely and the overall taste was delicious Both of my children ate their servings happily and had no idea that they were eating spinach instead of regular pasta. An easy way to add more spinach and herbs to your dinner table.

For the recipe go to Spinach-Herb Pesto.

May 12, 2012

Matzo Ball Soup

If you've read my blog for any amount of time you know that I love soup. I'm not one of those soup lovers that only enjoy soup in the fall and winter, I absolutely love soup year round. However, it wasn't always that way. Growing up my mom's idea of soup came from a can and was almost always condensed chicken noodle. Don't get me wrong there is something comforting about canned chicken noodle soup, but it pales in comparison to homemade. When I moved out on my own in college I ate a lot of soup, and I mean a lot. My favorites were cream of asparagus and cream of broccoli. Soup was cheap and I had very little money after paying my tuition, rent, and household expenses. I think I probably ate soup at least twice a week for four years. After meeting my husband in graduate school I still ate a lot of canned soup. This didn't change until approximately six years ago when my oldest was born. I decided that I needed to start cooking from scratch after my mother passed away from cancer nine days after my son was born. Given that my grandmother also passed away from cancer I decided to take my future into my own hands and completely change my diet. I basically taught myself to cook through cookbooks, the internet and the knowledge that my mom had given me growing up. And I feel in love with soup. Over the last six years I have made a large amount of homemade soup and gotten very adept at it. As I was looking through the April issue of the Food Network Magazine I came across a recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, which looked delicious and full of fresh herbs and flavor.
This recipe has 11 ingredients in the broth and 9 in the matzo balls. It takes 4 hours and 20 minutes of total time, 35 minutes of which is active and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I did forget to buy coriander seeds, so I left them out of the broth completely. I would suggest making the broth the night before. I let my broth cool in the fridge for 3 hours and while a large amount of fat congealed on the surface there was still a large amount that could still use the extra cooling time and another skim. Additionally, I would recommend straining the broth to further reduce the fat. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.
My two boys loved this soup, so much so that my oldest son drank all of it out of his bowl and then moved onto his younger brothers. I thought the flavor of the broth was delicious. It had a more distinct flavor than regular chicken broth and made a great base for the matzo balls. The matzo balls themselves needed a little more salt, but other than that were delicious. I liked the addition of the ginger and onion, it really made the taste more distinct. Overall, a flavorful soup recipe that makes lots of delicious leftovers!

For the recipe go to Matzo Ball Soup.

Diet Pepsi + Mother's Day Delights, Coming to You This Weekend

I have a confession. I love finding free samples and coupons. Growing up my mom was the queen of finding great things at the second hand store (including a vintage Dior coat for 10 dollars that I love to this day!). I have followed this tradition and I am one of those crazy people that will get up in the morning after Thanksgiving to battle the other millions people for savings. So with that in mind here is a freebie for those of you in the following cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Buffalo, San Francisco, Miami, Washington D.C., Kansas City, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Milwaukee, Cleveland. I wish I still lived in Seattle to take advantage of this! So here's what's happening:

"This Mother’s Day weekend, Diet Pepsi will be surprising and refreshing their biggest fans – moms! While you’re out and about, make sure mom has a Diet Pepsi in hand because this Mother’s Day weekend, street teams will be stationed in 15 cities nationwide, scouting out moms and rewarding them with refreshing treats – like gift cards and custom totes filled with goodies, coupons – and of course some Diet Pepsi!   Keep an eye on the Diet Pepsi Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the weekend for updates and visit to see if we’ll be hitting a city near you!

And for some added fun – from now through May 13, consumers that buy three 12-packs of Diet Pepsi save $3 on flowers for Mother’s Day at SuperValu stores in these 15 cities."

I hope some great moms in this cities are able to take advantage of this offer!

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post and as always all opinions are my own.

May 11, 2012

Pasta alle Erbe

My husband absolutely loves mustard greens. If I served them everyday he would eat them happily. Before we met I had never even eaten greens much less knew how to cook them. Having grown up in Seattle I have always been great with fish and seafood dishes, but greens were an absolutely foreign idea to me. The first time I had greens was at a restaurant and they were braised. Absolutely delicious and amazing! After eating them that first time I scoured the internet for ways to cook them myself at home. My husband was no help since he had eaten a lot of greens, but had no idea how to cook them himself and my mother-in-law never served them. For the first couple of years I made traditional greens with a smoked ham hock or braised in olive oil and they were great. However, eventually I became bored with the same ways of preparing them over and over again. So I have branched out and tried new recipes and methods of cooking. One of my favorite preparation methods is to use greens in pasta, so I was enthusiastic when a recent issue of Eating Well magazine had a recipe for Pasta alle Erbe that utilized large amounts of mustard greens.
This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 40 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 8 servings.  I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. Since the recipe gives a variety of choices for the greens used I choice to use mustard greens, since they are very popular in my household. Instead of whole-wheat fettuccine I chose to use regular fettuccine. Recently, I have been serving a large amount of whole-wheat pasta and my family has become a little burnt out, so I chose to take a break from it for a week. My sauce was pretty watery at the end of the cooking time suggested by the recipe so I allowed the sauce and greens to cook a little longer until all the liquid was absorbed once it was added to the pasta. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With only costing $1.50 a serving and full of vitamins this recipe is perfect. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. The taste of the greens complimented the sweetness of the tomato sauce giving the finished dish a unique flavor. Make sure to wash the greens very well or your pasta will be gritty (because of the sand). Overall, a delicious recipe full of flavor and a great way to eat more greens.

For the recipe go to Pasta alle Erbe.
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