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November 30, 2012

Autumn Root Vegetable Chili


I have made so many sweet potatoes dishes in the last month. This is my favorite time of the year and sweet potatoes are one of my favorite fall foods. I was fortunate enough to receive a substantial amount of yams and sweet potatoes from a friend's garden. I think in total I ended up with over 20 pounds of vegetables. Thanks to this bounty of fall harvest I was able to prepare a large amount of my Thanksgiving dishes without having to spend much of anything at the grocery store. Even before I was given all the free garden goodness I had already been making a ton of sweet potato recipes. One of my favorite ways to utilize sweet potatoes is to use them in chili. My whole family loves chili and sweet potatoes give it an additional flavor and is full of vitamins. Recently I tried a new recipe for Autumn Root Vegetable Chili from the November issue of Family Circle magazine which looked like the perfect fall vegetarian meal.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 33 minutes of cooking time, 25 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. This recipe is a little bit prep intensive. Since the majority of ingredients are vegetables there is a lot of peeling and cutting. One way I save time on prep is to cut all the vegetables either in the morning or on the night before. That way I only have a half an hour of cooking at dinner time. The recipe suggests a cooking time of 25 minutes. However, I felt that the sweet potatoes weren't as soft as I wanted them after that amount of cooking time, so I cooked the chili an additional 10-15 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I love the color on this dish. It would be a great meal to serve to guests since on the plate it looks very fall like. The flavor was mild enough that my two kids liked it, while well rounded enough that my husband and I enjoyed it. If you prefer spicier chili I would recommend increasing the chili powder to up to a teaspoon. I always adjust the amounts of spices to suit my family's needs.

For the recipe go to Autumn Root Vegetable Chili. (registration required)

The Honest Company

 

Having grown up in the Northwest I was surrounded by healthy living. My mom always used vinegar and baking soda to clean and since I was allergic to almost all purfumes we used natural detergents. I thought it was perfectly normal to go to the farmer's market on weekends and buying organic wasn't a choice since the whole store we often shopped at only sold organic produce. Since we also never had a lot of money I soon discovered that it wasn't just great for you to eat and use natural products it was also much more economical. Instead of buying things at the grocery store my mom made them. She was also fabulous at sewing my clothes and would replicate anything I saw at the store (with the exception of jeans). When I moved and met my husband I mostly kept all these ways of life. It took me a while (8 years) to convince my husband that cooking everything from scratch and trying to re-use as many things as possible is worth it. I am happy to say that he now can scope out great finds at the flea market and makes my kids food at home instead of always stopping for fast food. Since many natural products can be expensive I try to find products that work for my family while also be sustainable and eco-friendly. Given the way that I try to run my life I am always looking for new products that fit in with this image and make my life easier.

The Honest Company has products that are not only sustainable and safe, but work well and look beautiful. The also give money, time and products for every purchase made. Their non-profit partner provides needy families with baby gear and and clothing for kids up the age of 12. Here is a video explaining the company:



The Honest Company abides by the following principles:
  • Create a culture of honesty
  • Make beauty
  • Outperform
  • Service matters
  • Sustain life
  • Be accessible
  • Give back more
  • Fun

Here are two examples of their products:


The photo above is of their laundry detergent. It promises to be all natural and not effect people with sensitive skin. I can attest that it did not cause either my son or I (we have contact dermatitis) any problems with our usual laundry loads.




The photo above is of their healing balm. A little goes a long way, with only a tiny amount needed for even very dry hands. My hands always dry out over the winter and this product went on smooth and worked the way it promised.
The Honest Company was started by a mom and a dad who, like many modern parents, were increasingly worried about products made with questionable chemical ingredients. But the alternatives they found were often expensive, inaccessible, bland, or ineffective. In response to this clear need for something better, they created The Honest Company to ensure that parents (or anyone for that matter!) could easily find natural and non-toxic eco-friendly products that are beautiful, effective, and affordable. From customized product bundles to diapers and wipes to an ever-expanding line of cleaning and personal care products, you can find everything you need at Honest.com and have it delivered directly to your front door.
Give it a try! Click here to become a member of The Honest Company community and start your free trial today.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Honest Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

November 29, 2012

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Shallots and Parmesan


Growing-up the holidays were always a big deal. My mother was the oldest of 12 kids and family members were always in and out of our house. The holidays put everything into over-drive. My mother would cook and clean for weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her lists actually had sub-lists; I'm not kidding, the big lists had baby lists. The holidays were also the time that I really learned to cook. With so many dishes coming in and out of the kitchen I quickly learned to tell if something needed more spice by tasting not following a recipe exactly. There were also certain recipes that were always made every year. When I moved to West Virginia I followed on these traditions with my kids. I change up my menu every year, but there are a few dishes which are staples. One of my husband favorite holiday recipe is for Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, here is the recipe:

1 1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed
4 bacon slices
1 braeburn apple, peeled and diced
2 tb minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Cut Brussels sprouts in half, and cut into shreds. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon and drain. Reserve 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in skillet. Crumble bacon. Saute apples, shallots, and garlic in hot drippings over medium-high 3 minutes. Stir in wine and next 3 ingredients, stirring to loosen from bottom of skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, saute 8-10 minutes or until sprouts are crisp tender. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and crumbled bacon. 

I make this recipe every Thanksgiving and even my father-in-law who hates Brussels sprouts loves it. Since I love Brussels sprouts so much I could eat them any way imaginable, but this is my favorite recipe, it really is delicious. Enjoy!

Sears Holiday Cheer + $15 Sears Giftcard Giveaway

This is the first year that my two boys are really getting into the holidays. I think last year my youngest was too little and my oldest just wasn't that interested. This year is a total 180. The moment that the Christmas stuff started appearing in stores (which I swear was August this year!) my two boys began a non-stop Christmas marathon. Everything is about Christmas. So much so that they were ready to put up decorations before we had even finished eating Thanksgiving dinner. After countless begging episodes at the store I finally gave in and let them buy their own Christmas tree and decorations. They had a great time putting up the tree and decorations after Thanksgiving dinner .

Since I am a food blogger my holidays always revolve around food. I come by this obsession from my mother who as the oldest of twelve kids taught me to serve huge dinners to large groups of people. I still to this day make enough food for an army. I do have a few quick tips to make your holiday food prep easier:
  • Cut as many vegetables the day before as possible. This not only saves time, but your sanity as well. 
  • Wash all your special plates and platters in the days leading up to the holiday. Waiting until the last minute will just add to your busy day. 
  • It's okay to use paper plates when serving appetizers. I always use nice china at the dinner table, but when serving appetizers I love to use holiday themed paper plates. It saves a lot of time on dishes. 
  • Make lists. Lists are your friends. The more things you write down the less you will forget. 
  • Let people help you. I used to be horrible about this tip, but as I have gotten older I have realized that letting others help is such a blessing. 
  • Prep anything that can be done the day before. Many dishes can be partly or fully cooked and then re-heated such as casseroles etc.
  • Most important of all, remember to enjoy the day. Your kids will grow-up quickly and no one will remember if your pie was perfect. You will regret if you don't enjoy the time, so remember to make yourself sit down and relax after all the cooking is done. 
In addition to the food I love decorating for the holidays. Recently I was given the opprotunity through Sears and Smiley360 to enjoy a $15 dollar giftcard to Sears to use to make my home ready for the holidays. I wasn't sure what the selection at my local Sears store would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many great things there were to offer.

There were multiple types of artificial trees:

And Christmas ornaments in great reds and blues such as those below:



They also had some cute Hello Kitty Christmas decorations that my youngest thought were adorable:



After looking through the large selection I chose this great set of ornaments for my tree. I love the great silver color and my two boys simply fell in love with them. Plus they work great on the tree and really stand out.



Interested in finding out more about Sears holiday selection? Here are some great links:

Sears Online Christmas Shop, the Sears Cheer Headquarters and the Shop Your Way Rewards

Now for the fun part. I have been given the opprotunity to give away a $15 dollar giftcard to Sears. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: I received a $15 dollar giftcard from Sears and Smiley360 in order to facilitate this review. As always all opinions expressed are my own.  

November 28, 2012

Beef Stew with Potatoes and Parsnips


I absolutely love soup and stews. There is something incredibly comforting about making and eating a big batch of homemade soup. The last couple of months my two boys and I have seemed to be passing the same cold back and forth between the three of us. As soon as one of us gets better the next one gets sick. Since we have all been feeling under the weather I have been making a large number of soups. Plus cold weather and soup seem to go hand in hand, so it works all around. My whole family seems well this week just as the weather has gotten much colder so it's time again for a new round of soup and stew recipes. I love being able to eat the leftovers from a batch of soup I make on the weekend. It is a quick and hearty lunch option. Last month I made a new recipe for Beef Stew with Potatoes and Parsnips from Everyday Food magazine, which looked hearty and perfect for the colder weather ahead.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes a total time of 1 1/2 hours, 25 minutes of which is active, and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local store. I did make a few modifications in order to make the recipe gluten free. Instead of using all-purpose flour I substituted gluten free cornstarch. I do this frequently with recipes and it works very well. I made this dish in my dutch oven. If you don't already own and use a dutch oven, I highly recommend it for your holiday wish list. My dutch oven is one of my favorite kitchen tools. The recipe suggests letting the stew cook for an hour in the oven. I actually let my stew cook for slightly longer in order for the stew to fully thicken. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was really impressed with this recipe. It came out tender and delicious with little effort. I liked that this stew only takes an hour and a half instead of the 2-3 hours required by a lot of other beef stew recipes. Adding the vinegar at the end of the cooking takes this soup from good to delicious. I was skeptical when I added the vinegar, but after tasting it it made all the difference to the final taste. I will definitely make this stew again.

For the recipe go to Beef Stew with Potatoes and Parsnips.

Crock-Pot Seasoning Mixes and Recipes


As anyone that has read this blog for any amount of time knows I love my crock-pot. I make slow cooker recipes at least once a week and rely on them during the week to save time. Since my oldest is in school now and I am home schooling my youngest for pre-school my days seem to have less time instead of the more that I expected. I try to make as many things as I can from scratch, but there are still those days where I run out of time. During these days it's great to have kitchen 'helpers' which allow me to use fresh ingredients in combination with pre-packaged mixes. I was fortunate enough to be given 3 pouches of Crock-Pot Seasoning Mixes to try in my home kitchen.

Since I can't eat wheat I tried one of the seasoning mixes and had my two kids and husband try the other two. The three seasoning mixes that I received were:
  • Savory Pot Roast
  • Hearty Beef Stew
  • BBQ Pulled Pork
For the Savory Pot Roast variety I made the recipe for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. Here is the recipe:


Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hrs on LOW/4 hrs on HIGH

What you will need:
  • I medium onion, sliced
  • 3-4 pounds, beef short ribs
  • 1 pkg Crock-Pot Savory Pot Roast Seasoning Mix
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 pound small red potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place onions in bottom of slow cooker and add short ribs. Combine seasoning mix, wine, and ketchup. Pour over short ribs. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Remove potatoes and place in large mixing bowl. Add butter and mash with potato masher or fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove excess fat from sauce by pouring into a fat separator or skimming from surface using large spoon. Serve ribs and sauce over smashed potatoes.

Serves 4.

I made this recipe for my in-laws when they were over and my father-in-law loved it. My mother-in-law thought that the mashed potatoes that had cooked in the beef juice were the best part of the dish and my two boys gobbled up their servings.

The second recipe that I tried was to make Carnitas using the BBQ Pulled Pork seasoning mix. Here is the recipe:
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hrs on LOW/4 hrs on HIGH

What you will need:
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pkg. Crock-Pot BBQ Pulled Pork Seasoning Mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 4-5 pound pork shoulder
  • 1 jar Ortega Salsa
  • Ortega Soft Flour Tortillas
  • 1 medium white onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Place onions in bottom of slow cooker. Combine seasoning mix with water and pour into slow cooker. Place pork shoulder in slow cooker. Add cumin and salsa. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Remove shoulder and place on cutting board. Remove excess fat from sauce by pouring fat into separator or skimming from surface using large spoon. Shred pork and return to slow cooker. Cook on high 10-15 minutes. To serve, place some pulled pork on steamed flour tortilla and top with tablespoon of diced onion and cilantro.

Serves 8-10.

My husband was a big fan of this recipe. This was the only seasoning packet without wheat so this was the recipe that I tried. I thought that the meat turned out really well, it wasn't overly salty and the meat turned out very tender. My two boys were very happy with this recipe and thought that the meat was delicious.

For the final recipe I used the Hearty Beef Stew Seasoning Mix. Here is the recipe:


Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hrs on LOW/4 hrs on HIGH

What you will need:
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 pounds top round or eye round beef, cut into thin strips
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pkg. Crock-Pot Hearty Beef Stew Seasoning Mix
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Place onions in bottom of slow cooker. Add beef and mushrooms. Combine seasoning mix with water and pour over beef and mushrooms. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Remove 1 cup of sauce and whisk sauce with cornstarch; pour back into slow cooker. Cook on high for 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Fold in sour cream and stir until well incorporated. Toss in parsley and serve over rice or noodles.

Serves 4-6.

My husband and two boys were the guinea pigs for this recipe. Since it had wheat I made this dinner for the rest of my family. My husband was impressed with how tender the meat was and that it wasn't overly salty like other crock-pot mixes can be. He liked it so much that he took the leftovers for work the next day. 

Overall, I was impressed with the seasoning packets. I am always hesitant with pre-packaged spice packets since they can taste too salty or over processed. I was happy that none of these packets had these problems and my two kids loved all three varities. For a quick weeknight meal when you are pressed for time these packets would be a great kitchen 'helper'.

Do you have a great crock-pot recipe? Right now simply enter an original recipe using Crock-Pot® Seasoning Mixes for a chance to win groceries for a year worth $8,000! To enter go to "Crockin' in the USA" Sweepstakes!

Interested in learning more?

For more information and usage instructions on Crock-Pot Seasoning Mixes: http://bit.ly/Wpgdfh
Crock-Pot Seasoning Mixes on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/RfyM2y
Crockin' In The USA Sweeps: http://on.fb.me/P0eyw7
 
Disclaimer: I received three Crock-Pot Seasoning Mixes in return for this blog post through the Smiley360 Blogger Circle. As always all opinions expressed are my own. I received permission to print all recipes in this post.


November 27, 2012

Slow Cooker Ham and Navy Bean Soup


My freezer is currently full of soup. In the last couple of months I have made numerous soup recipes and frozen a great deal of them. I freeze in single serving containers in order that all I have to do for a great lunch is pull one out and reheat. It's a great time saver and so much better than canned. I'm also lucky that both of my kids are huge fans of soup and stew. They actually get excited when they discover soup on the stove for dinner. It might be genetic since I seem to always reach for soup when I need some good old fashioned comfort food. There are few things better than a great bowl of soup, a warm blanket and a great book on a cold fall/winter afternoon. Since I also love my slow cooker this time of year I am always looking for new soup recipes that utilize the crock-pot. Recently, I tried a new recipe for Slow Cooker Ham and Navy Bean Soup from the holiday recipes magazine from Better Homes and Gardens, which looked easy and perfect for a cold winter afternoon.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes 5 1/2 hours of cooking, 40 minutes of prep and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I chose to use navy beans instead of Lima beans for this recipe. I would love to say that I love Lima beans, but I don't. They are the one bean that I just can't learn to love. My husband loves kale, so that is what I used in this recipe. As I've stated numerous times before I make my own chicken broth and this recipe was no exception. Instead of quick soaking my beans I chose to let the beans soak overnight. I find overnight soaking much easier and less time consuming. Make sure to adequately salt this soup once it's done. I found that I had to add a substantial amount of salt. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If your looking for an easy slow cooker soup recipe, this dish fits the bill. It is very easy to put together and the flavor was perfect. My whole family really liked the flavor and I love that it uses kale which is very healthy. This recipe would also work well with a variety of dried beans, so don't be afraid to experiment.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Ham and Lima Soup.

November 26, 2012

Asian Ginger Beef


I spend most of my early twenties drinking lots of coffee and not eating all that healthy. I blame the combination of running, working and taking a full course load at University of Washington. Add to that I had the brilliant (not) idea of double majoring and a commute that took at least 1 1/2 half and food always seemed to take a back seat. I literally had very little time to prepare pretty much anything so I relied on large amounts of caffeine and the occasional meal out. Luckily for me Seattle is full of great restaurants that when planned well can be reasonable on a limited budget. One dish that I loved throughout college was stir-fry. Whether made at home or restaurant bought it was always full of flavor and delicious. Most importantly it contained a large amount of vegetables, which with my food habits was probably the largest amount of vegetables I consumed every month. Luckily after I moved and met my husband I also discovered that vegetables are delicious and should be eaten daily. My two boys have grown-up with a very different relationship with food and eat more fruits and vegetables that I think I ever did. Last week I tried a new recipe for Asian Ginger Beef from All You magazine, which looked very simple and full of vegetables.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 14 minutes of cooking time, 10 minutes of prep, and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Since I can no longer eat gluten I use gluten-free soy sauce. I also make my own beef broth, since I believe that it tastes better than store bought. Instead of serving this recipe over white rice, I used brown rice. I stopped serving white rice approximately 6 months ago and after an adjustment period my two boys prefer it over white rice. The recipe suggests to allow the mixture to cook for 1 minute after adding the sauce. I did things a little bit differently. My veggie mixture was a little watery from the frozen veggies so I increased the cornstarch to a full tablespoon and let the mixture cook until almost all the liquid was absorbed. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two kids really enjoyed the beef in this recipe and ate all the beef out of their serving. My husband and I thought that the dish was a decent beef stir-fry recipe, but neither of us thought the title ginger beef was accurate. The flavor of the ginger was not overly noticeable. In order for this recipe to be ginger beef I would suggest increasing the amount of ginger to suit your taste. As written, the dish was a nice beef stir-fry, but was light on the ginger. With an increase in the amount of ginger I think that it could be a quick and child friendly ginger beef recipe.

For the recipe go to Asian Ginger Beef.

November 25, 2012

Slow Cooker Corn Chowder with Shrimp


My family enjoyed the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers tonight. Right now I am eating the remainder of the sweet potato pie with a big helping of whipped cream. I survived all the chaos of the Thanksgiving cooking and was able to get a few great deals shopping this weekend. Now the craziness of December starts with my youngest son's birthday next weekend. I can't believe that my youngest is turning four! Since the holidays always mean crazy schedules and a press for time, I love using my slow-cooker to make dinner just a little bit easier. Eventually I will also learn to use the pressure cooker that I have in my pantry. So far I have used it to can veggies and soups, but I seem to never use it as an actual pressure cooker. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution this year. Then again I am horrible at keeping resolutions, so maybe not. Either way I fall back on my crock-pot extensively during the holidays. Last week before the massive cooking endeavor of Thanksgiving I tried a new recipe for Slow Cooker Corn Chowder with Shrimp from All You magazine, which looked perfect for the full house of company I had for the week.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes a total time of 6 hours and 15 minutes, 15 minutes of which is active and makes six servings. I always have to go to multiple stores in my area when making seafood recipes. For whatever reason my local superstore insists on only carrying farm raised fish and shrimp. Having grown-up in the Northwest I shudder at the idea of eating farm raised seafood. I had too many friends that worked in the fisheries dept. and instilled in my head never to eat anything farm raised. So in order to find wild caught U.S. shrimp I have to drive to the grocery store in the suburbs. I had no problem finding any of the ingredients. I made my own chicken stock and as I always do I bought Italian flat leaf parsley. I am not a fan of curly parsley, the texture isn't something that either my husband or I enjoy. Make sure to fully salt this dish. I had to add a decent amount of salt after this recipe was done since the potatoes had soaked up any of the salt added to the soup in the slow-cooker. Finally I did add the heavy cream, without this step it is more of a soup than a chowder. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I served this recipe while my in-laws were at my house and everyone enjoyed it. My oldest son thought the shrimp was the best part, but he always eats more shrimp than anyone else in the house. Make sure that your potatoes are diced small or they won't fully cook in the slow-cooker. My potatoes were a little larger than I would prefer so I would change it if I made this recipe again. For an extra flavor I would suggest adding crushed red pepper. It really would make this dish better since the spices weren't noticeable the way that the recipe is written.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Corn Chowder with Shrimp.

November 22, 2012

Gluten Free Cheddar Chive Corn Muffins


This has been a long day. I started cooking and baking yesterday and finally sat down this evening. Everything turned out great thankfully and I even had time to do a a craft with my two kids. Index cards, glitter and ribbon can make great place cards and my kids had a blast helping me make them. I am also happy to report that my first gluten free Thanksgiving went off without hitch. My gluten free pie crust was wonderful and the coffee cake muffins I made for breakfast were delicious. I went non-traditional and made Cornish game hens instead of turkey and my two boys devoured them. They were definitely a hit. Now that I have made Thanksgiving gluten free I am much more confident with my gluten free baking skills and I feel so relaxed. It was  great Thanksgiving. Gluten free baking can be hit or miss. Sometimes things turn out great and other times they are a disaster. Recently I tried a new recipe for Cheddar-Chive Corn Muffins from the December issue of Food and Wine which I made into a gluten free breakfast for my family.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 12 muffins. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I chose to use red pepper jelly since that was the variety available at the store I shopped at. Instead of the 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour I used a gluten free all-purpose flour that uses coconut flour. I also used muffin liners since gluten free muffins tend to fall apart easier than those with gluten. Finally, I ended up with 15 muffins instead of the 12 stated by the recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe.

The pepper jelly/cream cheese spread in this recipe was delicious. I served the leftover jelly with crackers and it made a great spread. The muffins turned out well, they rose effectively and were not dry like a lot of gluten free recipes can be. The cheese made the muffins savory and slightly sweet, with the pepper jelly making a great compliment.

For the recipe go to Cheddar Chive Corn Muffins.

November 20, 2012

Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken


Being a food blogger is a unique online task. When I first started this blog I had no idea what I was doing. I knew that I loved cooking and hated trying lots of recipes that didn't turn out as I expected. I'll admit the first year was rough. It took me over six months to get a rhythm and blogging style. My pictures the first year were hit or miss as well. Some photos turned out great, others not so much. Then over the summer I decided that I needed to up my blogging game. I started spending more time on my photos and making a commitment that I would post regularly. I also accepted that food blogging can be very trying. Not only do I have to prepare the meal plans, cook the recipes, and take the food photos, but I also have to find a way to relate everything back in a blog post that I hope someone will want to read. A food blog can definitely lead to burnout. It can also be a lot of fun and I love it. I think the one thing that readers often are confused by is why I don't have photos of myself online. I never have even on my private Facebook page. I prefer to keep my online and offline lives separate. The rise of television cooking shows has made foodies overly personal image driven, which to me defeats the purpose of the food. At the end of the day I am the food that I cook and the words that I write. Hopefully that is enough to make a few people keep coming back. Now back to the point, the food! Last week I tried a new recipe for Apricot Chicken from All You magazine, which with only 7 ingredients looked simple and delicious.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes 4 hours and 10 minutes of cooking time, 15 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. As I have talked about numerous times before I used homemade chicken stock. It took me longer to brown my chicken than the suggest 3-5 minutes per side by the recipe. I prefer my chicken to be decently browned to prevent sogginess in the crock-pot. My total time for browning was approximately 15 minutes. I also allowed the onions to fully brown before placing them in the slow cooker. My husband has a thing against non-caramelized onions in the crock-pot and won't eat them. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My family really enjoyed this recipe. The taste is simple and great for picky eaters since there aren't any spices. If you are looking for a dish with a lot of spices and undertones this recipe isn't for you. However, if you are looking for a recipe that is simple enough for a weekday meal and pleases even young picky children this dish is perfect. I also like that it has 32 grams of protein per serving, which is great for my two growing boys.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken.

November 19, 2012

Triple Bean Bake with Bacon


My mother cooked a lot of great meals growing-up. We never had a lot of money, but she was always able to make something delicious. The one food that she never really made was beans. She would occasionally use beans in chili or soup, but it wasn't a huge stable in our diet. I think a lot of it had to do with my dad being a huge meat eater and the local church by our house giving out meat every week to families. It was also the 80's when everyone ate more meat than they do now. Even when I moved out on my own and was a vegetarian I ate a lot of tofu and nuts, but beans were always an after thought. None of my friends seemed to eat a lot of beans either, so maybe Seattle in the 90's had a bean aversion. When I moved to West Virginia, beans were everywhere. Restaurants, grocery stores you name it beans were there. It took me a long time to adjust to eating beans on a regular basis, but eventually they became a stable in my diet. My two kids have always eaten beans and absolutely love them. They become very excited when I make a recipe with their favorite type of bean. Last week I tried a new recipe from the June/July issue of Taste of Home magazine for Triple Bean Bake with Bacon, which looked sweet and full of one of my family's favorite foods, bacon.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of baking, 15 minutes of prep and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. My husband is very particular about the type of bacon that we buy and insists on thick-cut. I do admit that thick-cut bacon is delicious and works very well in recipes. I prefer to keep my bacon whole when frying and then cut it into pieces when finished. The texture is better and the bacon is crispier when fried in this manner. I let my beans bake for an additional 15 minutes after the suggested baking time in the recipe. This additional time allowed the beans to fully thicken. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These beans turned out very sweet with a bit of a kick from the horseradish. My two boys really loved these beans and ate their whole servings. The level of sweetness could be adjusted based on the strength of the horseradish that you use. Milder horseradish will make for sweeter beans. I do suggest the additional baking time in order for the beans to thicken completely. This dish would be a great side dish for roasted or fried chicken.

For the recipe go to Triple Bean Bake with Bacon. (registration required)

November 18, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Tangerines and Olives


My two sons are really into the holidays this year. Last year my youngest was just too little to really understand what was going on around him and my oldest just wasn't interested. This year is a total 180. They had great fun picking out a little tree that they could place on a table and decorate all by themselves. Granted mommy did have to steer them away from the horribly tacky ornaments and towards a color scheme that would match the rest of my decorations. Then I had the task of explaining that since I was hosting Thanksgiving that the tree would have to wait to be put up until Friday morning. Needless to say that didn't go over too well. I think this might also be the last year for Santa with my oldest. He has made more than one hint that his friends have been talking about who the 'real Santa' is. I am very proud of him though for still keeping up appearances for his younger brother. It's the small gestures like these that make me happy that my kids have each other for brothers. So as Thanksgiving week begins I am very thankful for the fact that my family has each other and that my kids are turning into great little men. However, the one exception to their normally great behavior is food. When they were younger they ate anything. Then about 6 months ago everything began to change. Now they eat more than I would think would be possible for their size, but have also become very, very picky. Luckily they love chicken and it has become my fall back protein choice. Recently I tried a new recipe for Roasted Chicken with Tangerines and Olives from Everyday Food magazine which looked very simple and full of protein.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes a total time of 50 minutes, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. The one big modification that I made to this recipe is to use chicken thighs and drumsticks instead of a whole chicken. I absolutely hate butchering chickens. Any other type of meat I have no problems with, but chicken drives me crazy. Granted it would help if I had more disposable income and could afford the awesome knives that they have on all the cooking shows. As it is I have the knives that I can afford and even when I sharpen them before every use they are still not great for butchering chicken. So I took the easy way out and bought pre-packaged thighs and drumsticks. For the olives I used stuffed green olives. My two kids love pimentos and they are the easiest type of olive to find in my area, so I used them. Honey is a food that I am particular about. I always buy as local of a honey as I can find. My husband and two boys both have nasty allergies and the closer the honey the better. Luckily there are multiple local honey producers in the immediate area that I live, which is great. Finally, I allowed my chicken to cook slightly longer than the final 10 minutes suggested by the recipe. I prefer my skin to be crispy and well browned so I allowed an additional 5 minutes of baking time. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys were big fans of this recipe. They loved the olives and ate the majority of the roasted tangerine slices. I liked that the recipe was very simple and had 53 grams of protein per serving. I try to make most of my family's dinners high in protein so this recipe was a perfect fit. If you aren't a fan of chicken skin this recipe would also work with skinned chicken. I would suggest keeping on the skin until the last ten minutes, then remove it and baste the meat with the honey and tangerine mixture. Overall a simple and sweet roasted chicken recipe.

For the recipe go to Roasted Chicken with Tangerines and Olives.

November 17, 2012

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja


I made the mistake of going grocery shopping today. Emphasis on the word mistake. I should have known that it would be crazy since it's the weekend before Thanksgiving. To make matters worse the grocery store that I chose to shop at was out of everything and had the genius idea of stocking in the middle of a busy shopping day. Not the brightest idea. Add unpleasant shoppers and two screaming children and I think that I am staying inside my house the rest of the week. Don't get me wrong I love cooking and visiting family during the holidays. What I don't enjoy is the delightful attitude that people seem to acquire during this time of year. The worst seems to come out in particular at the sample stands, a little old lady literally pushed my oldest son out of the way in an attempt to get the last sample. Luckily the shopping part is over and now I can focus on the cooking, which I love. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving this year since my two boys will both be old enough to help me in the kitchen. I'm going to prep a lot of things the day before so I can just enjoy spending time with my children while they are still young enough to want to spend time with me. They are growing up way too fast and before I know it they will be all grown-up. So this year I am going to make sure to enjoy the little things and not stress out about everything being perfect. Cooking with my oldest isn't something that I do just during the holidays. Last week my son and I prepared a new recipe for Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja from the March issue of the Food Network Magazine, which with minimal prep is a great way to have kids help in the kitchen.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 8 hours of cooking plus 15 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Obviously my six-year-old is too small to do most cutting, so he had the job of adding everything to the crockpot. I chose to leave all the seeds in the jalapeno, my two boys are currently in stages where they actually like spicy foods so I am enjoying it while it lasts. I am relatively picky about ketchup and will only use brands made with real sugar. The flavor is better and I try to not add a lot of high fructose corn syrup into my family's diet. I don't use flank steak frequently, but I did for this recipe. After making this dish I will definitely buy this cut again, it was so much more tender than the chuck roasts I have been buying. Instead of serving over white rice I served this dish over brown rice. As I have stated previously we rarely eat white rice and my two boys actually now prefer the taste of brown rice. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The flank steak in this recipe turned out delicious. This isn't a cut I normally purchase, but after this recipe I am hooked. It was so tender and much better than the chuck round roasts that most crockpot recipes rely upon. The unseeded jalapeno lent flavor, but wasn't too spicy for my two boys. Overall, a slow cooker recipe that my whole family enjoyed that was easy enough for my six-year-old to help me with.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja.

November 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Spiced Beef Stew With Sweet Potatoes


I can't believe that Thanksgiving is next week! My two sons are very excited about the fact that their nannan and papa are coming to our house on Thursday to eat. I have decided to make it low key this year. I know a lot of people look to food blogs for great holiday recipe inspirations, but the holidays are the time of the year when I like simple and understated. Yes, I have the kitchen skills where I could go all out for three days preparing food for Thanksgiving. However, the food wouldn't be any better than the Turkey that my mother made in our tiny kitchen growing-up. To me the holidays have always meant family and togetherness and the food should go along with that theme. So this year I am making individual game hens. My family has never been a fan of turkey and I see no reason to insist on a tradition that no one favors. As sides I will make red mashed potatoes and a Brussels sprout dish with bacon and white wine. I have used these recipes since I first started hosting Thanksgiving. I know them inside and out and they are delicious. The only new things this year will be desserts. Since I am gluten free now I am going to try a bundt cake recipe which I am going to make gluten free and truffles so if the cake is a disaster, at least we still have chocolate. Most importantly I will call my dad and family back home as they gather at my aunt's house like they do every year. Even though I won't be there in person I look forward to these conversations which bridge the miles. I hope when my kids grow-up they will have some of these same traditions with the family members they can't be with in person. So after this long post on Thanksgiving I thought that a sweet potato recipe would be a perfect fit. Last month I tried a new recipe for Slow Cooker Spiced Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes from the November issue of Southern Living Magazine, which looked like a perfect fall dish.

This recipe has 16 ingredients. It takes a total time of 6 hours and 50 minutes and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. As I have talked about previously I make my own beef broth and this recipe was no exception. Since I don't eat gluten instead of all-purpose flour I substituted gluten free cornstarch. I mixed the corn starch and beef broth together before adding to the slow cooker in order for the corn starch to fully dissolve. I am very picky about my chuck roasts, since I have gotten a few horribly tough ones in the last year. I have found that Angus roasts really are worth the little bit of extra money. Sweet onions this year can be hit or miss. The onions that I bought claimed to be sweet, but they definitely aren't the sweet onions available in the summer, they had a much stronger bite and had my eyes watering like crazy. Finally, I would definitely recommend slow cooker liners if you don't already use them. They are so much easier to use than having to clean the slow cooker after every use. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

While this recipe has a number of ingredients the actual prep work is almost all cutting the vegetables. The stew turned out thick and tender and my two boys really loved it. I take this as a compliment since they are so hit or miss with what they will eat these days. I served this as a dinner for my family of four and there was enough leftover for two additional lunches. Overall, an easy crock-pot beef stew recipe that will be perfect as the weather turns colder.

For the recipe go to Spiced Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes.

November 15, 2012

Kung Pao Chicken


I can't believe how quickly my kids are growing-up! My youngest is turning four in just a couple of weeks and is definitely starting to assert his independence. Right now he is having a long debate with me about the reasons that he needs to have jam with a piece of gluten free bread. I must admit that the kid has a lot of willpower. With my children growing older I seem to have less and less time to spend on pretty much anything. Instead of getting my shower first thing in the morning like I used to, I am lucky to have one before going to bed. My time is more and more limited which means that I am relying on recipes that take little prep and cook time, especially on busy weekdays. That doesn't mean that I don't still love involving and delicious recipes, it just means that they are once a week instead of everyday. It also doesn't imply that I have given-up on big flavors and great food. There are some great recipes that take little time to make, but turn out as well as recipes that take three times as long. Recently, I tried a new recipe for Kung Pao Chicken from the October issue of the Food Network Magazine, which with 25 minutes of total time looked perfect for my active and busy household.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes a total of 25 minutes, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Instead of using frozen stir-fry vegetables I chose to use fresh vegetables. The flavor of fresh vegetables is much better and I could control the exact type used. Since I don't eat gluten and most cheaper soy sauce has gluten as a main ingredient I used gluten free soy sauce instead. When I first stopped eating gluten I had no idea how many things use wheat as an ingredient, I've learned to be very vigilant with my label reading. Instead of chicken breast, I used chicken thighs. I prefer chicken thighs for flavor, they really are worth the extra amount of fat. Since I used fresh vegetables my total cooking time was increased. I let my dish cook for an additional 5 minutes after adding the sauce. Finally, I added a pinch of crushed red pepper to enhance the flavors. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys really loved this recipe. I like that it took less than a half an hour start to finish. The fact that the recipe has 41 grams of protein is another great selling point. My two boys are both in growth spurts so high protein meals are essential. This recipe doesn't have traditional Kung Pao Chicken flavors, but would be a good dish for people that want a more mellow stir-fry. I would suggest increasing the ginger slightly if you want to add a larger flavor punch in addition to the addition of crushed red pepper. If you are expecting leftovers I would double this recipe. The dish made exactly enough for my family of four. If I made this recipe again I would double it to have lunch the next day.

For the recipe go to Kung Pao Chicken.

November 14, 2012

Mexican White Bean Soup


I grew-up in a working class family. Both of my parents worked very hard to provide the small amount of things that we had. We were lucky that my parents had lived in the same very small two bedroom cottage in Seattle since the early 1970's and the rent had never been raised. When they finally moved out in 1998 they were still only paying 300 dollars a month rent (which is unheard of in Seattle). Both of my parents barely graduated high-school and they worked jobs that most people would turn down. There were many months when my poor mother took me to the food bank line at the local church holding back tears. I was oblivious to most of the problems. I thought the fact that my mom was a great Tupperware dealer and got us a brand new television was neat. I didn't know that that the only way that my parents could afford anything when my dad was working at less than great nursing home was for my mother to sell Tupperware at night. I also didn't realize that the bean soups that my mother made so frequently were because beans were the stable that came from the food bank. I do know that my mother was a great cook. She could take three common ingredients and make food that I would pay money for at a great restaurant. I wish that I had half the cooking skills that she had in one hand. She is also the reason that I love to cook. I never learned to cook from my mother, I learned to love food. Cooking was an experience, there were no cookbooks just tasting, pinching and perfecting. She owned her kitchen. So when I go through my magazine recipes the ones that always catch my attention tend to be simple and make something great out of minimal ingredients. Last month I tried a new recipe for Mexican White Bean Soup from the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which looked like a recipe that would have fit perfectly in my mother's kitchen.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time, 30 minutes of prep and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. As I normally do I made my own vegetable stock. I decided to make vegetable stock instead of chicken since I make at least one vegetarian dinner a week and this was a perfect fit. I used the whole 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, my family likes food with a little kick. Instead of doing a quick soak on the navy beans, I let mine soak overnight. I find the overnight soaking method less time consuming and is the method I almost always follow. Finally, I let my beans cook for slightly longer than the 1 1/2 hours suggested. I cooked the beans for 1 1/2 hours then blended with an immersion blender (a blender would also work just as well) and then cooked for an additional 1/2 hour. I like my bean soup to be very tender and the additional time helped to accomplish the right consistency. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My husband and I really liked this soup. If I wasn't making this for my kids I probably would have increased the cayenne pepper even more, maybe up to a full teaspoon. I did top the soup with sour cream and cilantro and added additional cayenne to my husband and mine's servings. This recipe is great for the colder months to come and would be perfect served alongside a crunchy and crusty bread.

For the recipe go to Mexican White Bean Soup. (registration required)

November 13, 2012

Gluten Free Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread


I really love bread and baked goods. As far back as I can remember I have wanted donuts over potato chips, bread over Cheetos. My mother on the hand had a rather large potato chip and popcorn obsession. She could take or leave bread, but anything salty she would go to town on. When I had my doctor confirm my fears that gluten was the reason I was having a vast array of problems I had my food life flash before me. No more bread or baked goods, I was devastated. However, I then got determined. There was no reason I couldn't still eat the foods I love with a few changes. So I set about re-working recipes to be gluten free. I have been lucky that I have had far more successes than failures. Next week is Thanksgiving and then Christmas will be here before you know it. I am a little nervous about dealing with being gluten free during the holidays. I have a major sweet tooth and I know that almost all the food will be things I can't have. So I have been making all my favorites at home modified. Last week I made pumpkin bread and muffins and they were delicious. Next week I am going to attempt a gluten free pumpkin pie. One of my favorite baked goods is cornbread. Cornbread with butter and honey is so good! Last month I tried a new recipe for Gluten Free Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread from the November issue of the Food Network Magazine, which looked easy and flavorful.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes a total of 1 hour, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 6 to 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and I made no ingredient modifications. I found a great gluten free flour that uses coconut flour. It is perfect for gluten free baked goods, my two boys can't tell that they are eating gluten free. I have a horrible time with cast-iron skillets. Growing up in the Northwest I never owned one until I moved to West Virginia. The first year my husband and I were married my mother-in-law gave me a cast iron skillet. I washed it and it rusted. That was a lesson I learned quickly. I also decided that I am horrible about keeping cast iron seasoned. So I rarely use cast-iron skillets, I just can't seem to get the hang of them. For this recipe I made muffins instead. The recipe made a total of 12 muffins, which I cooked at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Make sure not to overly stir the batter. Stir just until combined, it will make your cornbread rise more effectively. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

For gluten free cornbread this turned out pretty well. I would suggest a few changes though. First, I would not seed the jalapenos. The cornbread needed more flavor and keeping the seeds would definitely provide this. Second, I would add more fat into the batter. I always use bacon grease melted into the bottom of the pan or muffin tin. This method would definitely help this recipe. Most cornbread recipes have at least 1/4 cup of butter, so the fat in this recipe needs to be increased. Finally, instead of cheddar cheese I would use Monterey Jack. The cheddar cheese just ends up tasting a little on the bland side. With these changes I think this recipe could be a great gluten free option.

For the recipe go to Gluten Free Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread.

November 12, 2012

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread or Muffins


Cold season has definitely hit my house. My two boys and I seem to have had a cold for the last two weeks straight. I am not one of those people that does well sick. I tend to be irritable and a wee bit snappy. It doesn't help that last winter the cold that I had turned into pneumonia and then two trips to the ER and a hospital stay. I think the whole ordeal has me a little paranoid. Add that to the fact that the two times I have intended to get my flu shot this year some sort of mini-issue has prevented it from happening. Luckily I got the pneumonia shot last year and I am determined to get my flu shot before the end of the month. The beginning of cold/flu season always has me thinking of food. Weird I know, but colder weather and feeling under the weather makes me long for soup and comfort food. As I have talked about before this is my favorite time of the year. I absolutely love fall flavors, with pumpkin being my number one favorite fall food. However, this is the first year I have been eating completely gluten free, so things have been a little different. The fall back staples in my fall recipe file have had to be modified. Some recipes have worked gluten free really well. Others have been pretty much disasters. Last month I tried a new recipe for Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread from Everyday Food which worked great as both bread and muffins.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 1 1/2 of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I found a great coconut flour based all-purpose gluten free flour which I love. It makes the best cookies and baked goods and my kids can't tell the difference from regular wheat flour. Make sure to not overly beat the mixture once the pumpkin and buttermilk is added. Overly stirring will cause the bread to not rise properly and have a dense, not fluffy texture. I had to cover the bread with foil approximately a half an hour into baking to prevent over browning. I actually made this recipe twice. The first time as bread and the second time as muffins. For the muffins I made 12 total and baked them for approximately 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. I used muffins liners since I love how they look and they are so much easier to deal with than trying to get muffins out of a pan. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved this bread. It doesn't have an overly strong nutmeg/cinnamon flavor. If you are a fan of a strong spice flavor I would recommend adding a small amount of ground cloves to the recipe or even a bit of ginger. I often add ground cloves to my pumpkin bread recipes and it does a great job of adding a little something extra. This recipe worked well as both bread and muffins and we ate the whole bread in less than a day. A great gluten free recipe that I will definitely make again.

For the recipe go to Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread.

November 10, 2012

Honey Cashew Chicken


Living far away from your family can be hard. When I first moved to West Virginia from Washington I was in graduate school and I was able to fly home every break. However, the summer after I moved I got married and the number of times I was able to fly home diminished. Then I graduated and my mom got sick with cancer. I flew home when I found out she was sick and then I got pregnant with my son. Regrettably I wasn't able to fly home before she passed away. Another kid later my father and the majority of my closest friends still live in Seattle. Most days everything is fine, until home sickness hits me. This has been one of those weeks where it seems home is very far away. It probably has something to do with the fact that the holidays are coming up and that was always my mom's favorite time of the year. She came from a large family and the holidays were something she reveled in. The parties, the gifts, the wrapping, she loved it all. While I love the holidays, I have never been as good at all the prep as my mother was. However, I carry on all the traditions from my mom for my two boys. I am a big believer of carrying on family traditions and work hard to maintain these connections. As I've stated before one of the main ways that I remember my mother is through cooking and baking with my two kids. Last month we tried a new recipe for Honey Cashew Chicken from All You magazine which 38 grams of protein looked like a great high-protein option for my family.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cooking time and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Since I don't eat gluten I used gluten-free soy sauce. A lot of brands of cheap soy sauce use wheat as a main ingredient, so I always check labels. I used homemade chicken broth so I had to add more salt for this recipe than if I had used store bought. Make sure to take the strings out of the snow peas. The one time I forgot to string my snow peas I quickly learned that they must be completely trimmed or they are almost uneatable. My family likes our food on the spicy side so I added more crushed red pepper than the recipe suggested. I would estimate around 1 teaspoon. Finally, I allowed the dish to cook for approximately 3 minutes after adding the sauce to ensure all ingredients were fully cooked. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved this recipe. Snow peas are always a hit in my house and this recipe was no exception. They literally picked all the snow peas out and ate them first. The chicken had a great flavor and the dish was perfect over brown rice. Definitely a recipe I would make again.

For the recipe go to Honey Cashew Chicken.

November 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Posole


This has been one of those days where it seems everything is going wrong. I'm like King Midas in reverse, everything I touch seems to be turning bad. It started this morning with my coffee, which I managed to spill all over myself. Great start to the day. Next I made a great new apple oatmeal recipe. However, when I tried to take photos, the light was horrible and my photos just wouldn't work. So I moved on to making what looked like a delicious recipe for almond cherry granola bars. They were a disaster, they didn't stick together and tasted way too salty. The kitchen was not my forte today. So I gave up this evening and we had leftovers. I decided that making dinner was asking for disaster. All the kitchen disasters today reminded me of my mother. I always thought she was such a creative cook and I loved all the inventive recipes she seemed to come up with. When I was a teenager I finally learned the truth. My mom made a lot of kitchen oppsies. Things would go terribly wrong on a recipe and she would re-invent it into something new. I was so impressed after learning this fact and to this day I wish that I had half her kitchen genius. Along this line today when my granola bars went south I turned them into twice baked granola. My kids loved it and had no idea that mommy was having a bad day. Luckily, I only have this type of day every once in a while. Most magazine recipes I try turn out great with various modifications. Last month I tried a new recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Posole from All You magazine, which looked easy and full of protein.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 7 hours of cooking time and 15 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and I made no ingredient modifications. As I normally do I made my own chicken stock and didn't add salt until I made the recipe. I chose to use white hominy because for whatever reason it was 10 cents cheaper. I allowed the dish to cook for 8 1/2 hours for the flavors to fully develop. Make sure to salt at the end, even with store bought stock this recipe will need it. I served the soup with gluten free corn chips, lime wedges and cilantro and served sour cream on top. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With 29 grams of protein and only 9 grams of fat per serving this recipe is a great weeknight meal. I love any type of crock-pot recipe, they are a great time saver and this recipe is low on prep time which I like. My two boys fell in love with this soup. The chicken was tender and perfectly cooked and the broth was delicious.

For the recipe go to Slow Cooker Chicken Posole.

November 8, 2012

Buttermilk Roast Chicken


My oldest son is in a food phase. When he was little he was very easy to please. So much so that he loved spicy foods and I once caught him eating a whole jalapeno out of the fridge (and he loved it!). That all changed when he started school last year. Gone was my easy going child, replaced by a child that whined and complained about literally everything I made. Well, with one exception cookies. Since cookies all the time aren't so great, it has been a struggle figuring out what he will and won't eat. Luckily I have learned that his wants fall into three categories: chicken, pork and shrimp. If a meal has one of those meats clearly viable he will eat it. However, always to be one to keep mommy on her toes I learned last week that if you put a green cilantro sauce (which was delicious) on top of the roasted chicken he will complain the whole meal and refuse to eat his serving. Dinner time has turned into a stare down between the two of use. I will give the kid that he still asks to be excused, so at least his great manners haven't been completely eroded by his peers. So if you have noticed a lot of chicken, pork and shrimp on my blog lately you now know the culprit. Last month I tried a new recipe for Buttermilk Roast Chicken from Everyday Food, which looked simple and perfect for my very vocal six-year-old.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I have horrible luck finding fresh herbs in my area and had to go to two separate stores to find fresh dill. I really wish that the neighborhood animals wouldn't destroy any outdoor herb garden I have ever tried to start. My indoor cats have eaten every attempt at growing them indoors also, so it seems to be a trend. I let my chicken sit in the fridge 24 hours before cooking. I like a long marinade time on my meats, I think the flavor lends better that way. Make sure to pat the chicken fully before placing it in the oven to roast. If you miss this important step your chicken will not have that great crispy skin that most people love, but instead be soggy and unappetizing. I found that I had to cook my thighs a little longer than the 25 minutes suggested by the recipe in order to be at the appropriate temp. If you don't have a great thermometer to temp meat, put it on your Christmas list. I had to force myself to spend a hundred dollars on the one that I have and it was the best kitchen gadget I have bought in a long time. It makes making any type of meat so much easier and prevents over-cooking, which can have a great deal of impact on the taste of your food. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If you are looking for a simple roasted chicken dish with a great herb flavor this recipe is perfect. It isn't fancy, it's just an easy weekday meal. Everyone in my family (including my picky son) enjoyed this recipe. My husband isn't a fan of chicken skin (I on the other hand love it!), so he picked his skin off and thought that the meat was very moist from the marinade. This recipe would be great with rice or couscous infused with olive oil and fresh dill. The dill in the rice and the chicken would work well together. Green beans with butter and dill would be another delicious option.

For the recipe go to Buttermilk Roasted Chicken. 

November 7, 2012

Chicken and Three Bean Chili Verde


There is something about fall that just screams for chili. It is comforting and warm even when the weather rages outside. My husband loves chili and has definite opinions about the right and wrong way for it to be prepared. When we first met I had been a vegetarian for a number of years and only knew how to make one type of meat chili. Let's just say that he wasn't impressed. Luckily for him I am a quick learner and I love trying new recipes. After a couple of years and a number of failed attempts I learned the right and wrong way to make a great bowl of chili. While I still like chili with lots of beans my husband insists on meat so I am always looking for recipes that compromise between the two. Last month I tried a new recipe for Chicken and Three Bean Chili Verde from the October issue of Southern Living magazine, which looked like a great compromise chili for my family.

This recipe has 18 ingredients. It takes a total of 45 minutes and makes 12 cups of chili. As I normally do I had to go to multiple stores to find poblano peppers. Some weeks they are easier to find and other weeks not available anywhere. For the chopped chicken I used leftover grilled chicken with a bbq rub. It was a perfect fit. Instead of using bouillon cubes and water I used homemade chicken stock. I am not a big fan of bouillon, I find it way too salty to use in recipes. I don't salt my homemade stock, instead I salt the recipe itself. Instead of tortilla chips I used gluten free corn chips since I am able to eat them. I did find that I had to use additional chicken stock after the chili had cooked. Otherwise the chili would have been way too thick. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If you're looking for a recipe that can feed a crowd this would be it. This recipe had enough for a meal for my family of four plus leftovers for two more meals. My two boys really loved this recipe. They especially enjoyed the chicken and picked it out and ate it first. The flavor on this chili is delicious. It has a perfect blend of flavors and the chicken was tender. Definitely a recipe I would make again.

For the recipe go to Chicken and Three Bean Chili Verde.

November 6, 2012

Squash and Lentil Stew


This has been a long day. Not for the reasons you might think. Don't get me wrong, I love the excitement of election day, but this year it has taken a back seat to the rest of my day. This afternoon my two boys were in the kitchen together. I should have known right there that something was wrong. When my two boys are being quite together something is brewing. I walk in and my youngest son is partially bald and surrounded by his cut hair. You guessed it, my oldest son had given his baby brother a haircut. Now on most boys this wouldn't be a huge deal, but my son had very long beautiful hair. He has always loved his hair long and cried as soon as he realized it was gone. Of course I was trying to figure out what my oldest son's reasoning was. When he finally told me I had to try not to laugh. Apparently my youngest son had been saying 'potty' words and my oldest decided that he needed to be punished...by cutting off all his hair. Gotta love kids! So tonight's blog post goes back a couple of weeks to a great stew recipe I tried. Last month I tried a new recipe for Squash and Lentil Stew from the October issue of Family Circle magazine, which looked perfect for fall.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 56 minutes of cooking time and 20 minutes of prep and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I have never seen French green lentils locally, so I used brown lentils instead. Instead of store bought chicken stock I used homemade. I don't salt my homemade stock, but instead salt the stew itself once it's finished. For the carrots I used baby carrots. I find baby carrots easier to deal with, especially since they are already peeled. I let my onion, celery and carrot mixture cook longer than the suggested 5 minutes by the recipe. Instead I allowed the mixture to fully soften. Make sure to fully salt the stew once it has completed cooking. Even with store bought stock this recipe will need a good amount of salt. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With 8 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein this recipe is a great low-fat meal. My two boys really liked the butternut squash and ate all of it in their servings. I liked that this stew is full of vegetables and beans and has a great flavor. I would suggest letting the stew cook slightly longer than the 40 minutes suggested in the recipe. I think it would allow the lentils to be even more tender and the flavors to fully incorporate. Overall, a great fall recipe.

For the recipe go to Squash and Lentil Stew. (registration required)

November 5, 2012

Keralan Vegetable Stew


Cold season seems to have hit my house. Last week I finally recovered from the cold that I had picked-up from my oldest son when my throat started hurting. This week everyone in my house has been sick. I love how once my oldest son started school I have gotten every single cold that has gone around school. The one good thing about when my whole house has a cold is that I can make spicy foods. I love anything spicy. Growing-up my mom invented an peanut noodle dish with chili oil that I loved. The only problem was that my dad hated spicy foods and every time my mom made the dish it seemed to get spicier and spicier. I loved it, my dad hated it. My kids are hit or miss with spicy foods. The older they seem to get the more opinionated and picky they become. So when everyone ends up ill I make dinners spicy. Recently, I made a new recipe for Keralan Vegetable Stew from the September issue of Food and Wine magazine, which looked full of flavor and delicious.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes a total time of one hour, 20 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I have never seen fresh curry leaves in my area, so I chose to use bay leaves instead. I ended up having to go to two separate stores to find frozen pearl onions, which is normal for my area. Instead of serving the dish over white rice I used brown rice. I prefer brown rice and rarely eat white rice. I ended up letting the stew simmer for almost an hour instead of the 30 minutes suggested by the recipe. I kept the heat very low and let the flavors meld. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I must have gotten some very spicy Serrano chiles because this recipe had a lot of kick. It was way too spicy for my kids as written, but once I added Greek yogurt it was much better. I would suggest seeding the chiles or using a milder chile if you are looking for milder flavor. I will say that if you have a cold this dish will definitely work on your sinuses. Additionally, the flavors were very delicious and the vegetables came out perfect. Since my family really loves curry this dish was perfect for us.

For the recipe go to Keralan Vegetable Stew.

November 4, 2012

Hearty Quinoa and Corn Chowder


For the last couple of weeks it seemed that fall had by-passed my area. Trick-or-treat was postponed due to snow and power outages, which I never remember having happened before. My oldest son remarked that it looked like Christmas outside....in October. Luckily this weekend the weather was in the 60's and it actually felt like fall. I am someone that absolutely loves fall. The leaves changing and the start of the holidays puts me in a great mood. All the baking and cooking remind me of growing-up in a very large family (my mom was the oldest of twelve). There is something so relaxing about baking an apple or pumpkin pie and a meal with lots of sides. One of my favorite fall dishes is soup. I love pretty much any type of soup that can be thought up and I make soup or stew at least once a week in the colder months. Recently, I tried a new recipe for Hearty Quinoa and Corn Chowder from the October/November issue of Taste of Home magazine, which looked perfect for the crisp fall weather.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking and makes 14 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, even the super store in my area now stocks quinoa, which is a welcome change. Since I am now eating gluten-free I substituted the all-purpose flour used in the recipe for gluten-free cornstarch. I use cornstarch in recipes frequently, especially soups and stews, it thickens just as well as flour and can be found gluten-free. Since corn isn't in season I used frozen corn and as I normally do I made my own vegetable stock. If you have never made your own veggie stock, you really should try it. Vegetable stock can literally be made with any leftover fridge veggies, onions, carrots and a few bay leaves and let it simmer for a couple of hours. I do not salt my homemade stock since I like to add salt to the recipe directly instead. The recipe stirs in the last ingredients and serves the chowder immediately. I let my chowder cook for another 15 minutes on a low temp in order for all the flavors to blend. With soup I prefer a little longer on the cook time in order for the soup to be just right. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If you are looking for a recipe to feed a crowd this is the one to pick. This recipe made enough for two meals for my family of four plus a bunch of freezer leftovers. My two boys really like this soup. They both thought that it was corn soup and didn't notice the quinoa at all. I liked that it has quinoa and pinto beans for protein with the traditional chowder consistency and feel. If you are trying to watch your calories and fat the heavy whipping cream could be substituted for milk. I do this frequently in recipes. Just make sure that you add enough flour for the chowder to thicken adequetely. Overall, a great fall recipe that is very kid friendly.

For the link go to Hearty Quinoa and Corn Chowder. (registration required)

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