Pizza Soup with Parmesan Dippers – I Am No Longer a Californian

IMG_0197The first half of my life I was a Californian.  And now I am not…

The kids and I took off to Southern California.  We were itchin’ for some warmth, sand and sea.  Four days into our trip my husband lets me know that there was a good steady snow fall back at home and he was in the house with a fire.  I was sitting at Ventura Pier when I was told this news.

So I sat there.

Looked around a bit.

Felt the sun kissing my shoulders.

Watched my two sons completely enveloped by the sea, sand and surf.

Hearing the gulls above me vying for my Cheetos and I thought to myself…

I want to be home.

In the mountains.

As snow falls.

Tucked, cozily in my home.

A fire raging inside our stone hearth.

A good book on my lap.

The boys playing a board game.

A steaming cup of tea at arms reach.

Soup on the stove top and bread baking.

I realized then that I am no longer a Californian.  I no longer prefer the sea over the mountains.  I no longer see California as I once had.

I love my family and my friends in California,

but I also love my family and friends in Colorado.

After five years, Colorado is now what I consider to be my home.

Our home.

Our first full day back I decided to play in the kitchen as snow fell.

There was a fire in our hearth.

I was baking home-made pizza dough.

Soup on the stove top

Kids playing checkers.

A good book awaiting me.

A steaming cup of oolong.

This soup recipe is versatile to the extreme!  Make it vegetarian with all of your favorite vegetables.  I made mine this way only because it was what I had in the kitchen and I was not wanting to get in my car.  In fact I took out of the freezer a pound of pork sausage and some leftover home-made pizza sauce as well as some home-made chicken stock.  It was a great way to make room in the freezer for my next big shopping.

I wish I had pepperoni and mushrooms… but that’s okay.  This soup came out so full of flavor, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  Take some short cuts by using store-bought pizza dough, pizza sauce and chicken broth or stock.

A perfect warm, tasty, healthy, quick meal.  Happy cooking friends.

IMG_0193

Pizza Soup

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

IMG_0188

My home-made pizza dough rising next to the warmth of the simmering soup = heaven.

1 lb of pork sausage

1 medium to large onion (white, yellow or red), small chop

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon dried chili’s (or more if you like spicier)

1 cup pre-made pizza sauce

4 cups chicken broth or stock

1 can diced tomatoes

Preparation

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4 quart braiser pan.  Add sausage.  While browning, break up to smaller bits.  Once cooked through, remove from pan onto a paper towel-lined plate.  Let rest.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and add chopped onion and garlic.  Saute until translucent.  Add oregano, basil, thyme, salt and chili’s.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Add sausage.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Allow soup to simmer for 20-30 minutes.

When serving, top with some shredded mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese.  Add some more dried chili’s.

Parmesan Pizza Dippers

I used very specific ingredients.  Allow yourself to play if you don’t have the ingredients I had.  Use regular olive oil and salt and pepper, then add shredded parmesan cheese.

IMG_0189Ingredients

Pizza dough (store-bought or home-made)

Trader Joe’s Organic Garlic Olive Oil

Savory Spice Shop’s Parmesan Pesto Sprinkle

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Using a rolling-pin (or your hands if you really want to have fun), roll dough into a rustic circle (aka imperfect circle).
  3. Gently lay dough on a pizza stone or jelly roll pan lined with parchment.  Brush a light layer of olive oil, sprinkle with spices.
  4. Prick dough all over with a fork.
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes.
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Oh my. Yes please. And thank you.

 

Healthy Lasagna: Embracing the Roller Coaster of Change

Notice the little boy running to his seat in the background.  The savory, delicious smell permeated the whole house.

Notice the little boy running to his seat…the savory deliciousness permeated the whole house.

Wow.

What a week.

To say the least.

The roller coaster of going through an experience is exhausting.  When I first got on the ride, it was in August and although hectic, it was not scary.  So then I hit the first major dip of the ride and instantly I am struck with panic:

No.no.no.  I want to get off this ride.  I can’t handle it.  Too scary.

Enter life lesson:

Don’t get off the ride prematurely.  Don’t act on those first initial emotions.

As soon as I was able to welcome and honor the sadness, betrayel….change.  I was then able to let all of the rest go…embracing the latter.  I was able to feel those extreme emotions, sense that I wanted to jump but hung in there knowing that as long as I am in that emotional place, I am not connected to my higher power.  That I need to work past that initial shock, regain my balance, see the bigger picture (primary purpose), put my hands up in the air and fly.

So that’s what I did.  Along with my fellow co-workers.  The ride is far from over.  But what I will forever hold dear was honoring all our different emotional stages without judgement.  Ultimately we stand as one, shoulder to shoulder with our intentions on the primary purpose.  We will prevail.  And we will be stronger for it.  So will the school and ultimately…the children.

My major life lesson, which helps me to know that I actually am teachable and that I do retain new thoughts and actions:

I was able to sit comfortably in my uncertainty with blind faith.

So after that week I was still a mom, a wife and hungry.  I wanted something comforting, yet healthy so I chose this lasagna dish compliments of Food Network Magazine circa May 2013.

 The beauty of this recipe is not only the fact that it is quick enough to make after work, or that it can technically be a one-pot meal, but that it is so very interchangeable.  And an excellent way to hide the goodness of vegetables to those picky ones who despise anything green.  Some options that would be delectable in lieu of the celery and carrot mixture:

  • Spinach and mushroom
  • Butternut squash and kale
  • Pumpkin and sausage

The light bechamel sauce that you make is outstanding.  You would never know there are no creams or milks in this dish.

Relax and relish in the fact that this lasagna is healthy.  I hope we all can learn to embrace the ever inevitable change that life brings us.

Happy cooking friends.

Ingredients

9 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles

1 small shallot

3 cups fat-free low-sodium organic vegetable or chicken stock

3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh organic parsley

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped celery

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)

1 large egg

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

Preparation

  1. Position a rack int he upper third of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees.  Fill a bowl with hot water; add the noodles and soak 10 minutes.  Drain and hang side by side over the bowl’s edge so the noodles don’t stick.
  2. Meanwhile, mince the shallot in  food processor.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot and 1 cup of broth; cook 3 minutes.  Add the flour and nutmeg; whisk until smooth, 1 minute.  Whisk in the remaining 2 cups broth; cook, whisking, until thickened, 7 minutes.  Whisk in 1/4 cup ricotta and the parsley; remove from heat.
  3. Mince the celery and carrots in the food processor.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and the egg; pulse until smooth.  Spread 2 tablespoons of the shallot sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.  Top with 3 noodles and half of the mozzarella mixture.  Repeat the layers, ending with the noodles.  Top with the remaining shallot sauce, the tomatoes and the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.  Bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Shallot, parsley celery, carrot and tomato trimmings
  • Egg shell

Recycle

  • Broth container/lid
  • Ricotta cheese container/lid
  • Mozzarella cheese packaging

Reuse

  • Plastic bags vegetables came in

B.L.A.T. – Death to the B.L.T.

balt1Bacon

Lettuce

Avocado

Tomato

Toasted Wheat Bread

Mayonnaise

If you are feeling frisky: a dash of celery salt

balt

That is it.  No fancy-pants allowed.

We all know how fancy one can get with these sandwiches but come on.  Add avocado and be done with it.  Fantastic weeknight supper.  I used an heirloom tomato compliments of a friend, my home-grown lettuce and some really good whole-wheat bread.  I like to use a thick-cut bacon (peppered is da bomb!!!).  If you live in SoCal.  Lucky duck, you are.  If not, welcome to rock-hard-avocado-central.  Pop that puppy in a paper bag and wait a day or two.  It’ll soften.

If you don’t have time to pan fry the bacon, microwave it for about 6-7 minutes sandwiched between paper towels.

Doesn’t matter how you stack it.  There is no art in this no matter how many people say there is.  Just stack it and eat it.

Bacon is for dinner.

Need I say more?

Naw….

Salami and Provolone Chicken Roll-Ups

024I just did a post on Mediterranean chicken.  I disliked not only what I was babbling on about but I disliked the recipe.  I know, I know….so why did I post it in the first place?  Um, it was good.  Then again, what I just made tonight was even better.  And it is my recipe, cheaper, tastier and less ingredients.

Here’s what

Flip on that oven to 400.  Do it.

Flip on that oven to 400. Do it.

I had purchased a large thing of pork cutlets on clearance about a month ago.  I’m taking those out and utilizing my fantastic find. There are 8 cutlets, perfect.  Feel free to use 6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  Or one ginormous boneless/skinless turkey breast.  No matter what you’re using, you are going to get the opportunity to pound out some anger maybe?  Frustration?  Money woes?  Relationship woes?  Whatever is making those shoulders slowly raise to your ear lobes, let’s see if we can work on getting those lowered a bit.

Between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Pound it to a nice thinness.

Between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound cutlets to a nice thinness.

Once aggression has receded, lightly season with fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt.  Both sides.

Once aggression has receded, lightly season with fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. Both sides.

Start getting a large skillet of several tablespoons of olive oil heated.

Start getting a large skillet of several tablespoons of olive oil heated.

As the oil heats.  Gather 8 slices of provolone cheese and 16 thinly sliced genoa salami.  Take one slice of cheese, 2 slices of salami and roll up.  Use a toothpick to secure.  Set aside and repeat with the rest of your meet.

As the oil heats. Gather 8 slices of provolone cheese and 16 thinly sliced Genoa salami. Take one slice of cheese, 2 slices of salami and roll up. Use a toothpick to secure. Set aside and repeat with the rest of your meat.

I was lucky enough to find this huge bag of pre-sliced Genoa salami on clearance for 50% off!  I put it in the freezer as soon as I got home knowing this was going to make a fantastic meal one day….here we are.

Add roll-ups to the heated oil.  Cook on medium heat 2-3 minutes per side.

Add roll-ups to the heated oil. Cook on medium heat 2-3 minutes per side.

Make sure all sides are nicely browned.

Make sure all sides are nicely browned.

While cutlets are browning, let’s make the sauce.  You’ll need 1-2 garlic cloves, minced, 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano.  Stir until all mixed.

010

Once cutlets are evenly browned on all sides, remove from skillet and put them in a casserole dish.  Top with home-made marinara.  Bake for about 20 minutes in pre-heated oven.

Once cutlets are evenly browned on all sides, remove from skillet and put them in a casserole dish. Top with home-made marinara. Bake for about 20 minutes in pre-heated oven.

While cutlets are baking, heat a large pot of water.  Cook pasta as directed on bag.

While cutlets are baking, heat a large pot of water. Cook pasta as directed on bag.

I decided to add some fresh spinach to our dinner.  You know, something green.  So I went to my garden and picked some and on my way back I noticed……..

myself.

What the....

What the….

What am I wearing?  I literally look like a housewife/farmer lady from the 1920s.  I mean an apron, which can be cute, just not at this time.  A peasant skirt that needs to be donated ASAP.  CROCS!  Oh my god.  But not just crocs, a pair of crocs with some thick, awful socks.  I swear to you, to all of you….I use to be cute.  Stylish.  Pretty.  Youthful.  I use to have time to brush my hair for gods sake.  Do I get props for wearing the beaded necklace Aiden made me?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A thousand times.  No.

Ugh.  UGH!

Well, anyways….

No baby spinach allowed.

No baby spinach allowed.

30 seconds before your noodles are to be drained, add that washed spinach to the boiling water.  Heat until wilted, it will happen rather quickly.

30 seconds before your pasta is to be drained, add that washed spinach to the boiling water. Heat until wilted, it will happen rather quickly.

So then, get a large beautiful bowl.  Fill it up with the strained pasta and spinach.  Using tongs, place cutlets on top.  Pour remaining sauce over everything.

Eat up.

It’s good.

I promise.

Especially that ooey gooey cheese…

Don't forget to remove the toothpicks before serving.

Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks before serving.

A quick shout out to me, 15 years ago....awe, those were the days, sitting on the edge of Waimea Canyon.

A quick shout out to me, 15 years ago….awe, those were the days. Not a care in the world, on top of the world or at least on top of Waimea Canyon.

Hoisin Pork with Rice and a Trifle to the Rescue

001My husband had a few buddies over for a long weekend of fishing.  Straight fishing kids.  Nothing but fishing.  Boy, did those boys stink.  Either way it was awesome to see our friends come all the way out from Southern California to hang out.  They are good friends and to see my husband that happy was worth it all.  I tried to cook good food, have cookies in the cookie jar, good deli meat for quick sandwiches.  And when one of the guys shared his birthday with us I made sure to have a cake.  Unfortunately my frosting didn’t set (I guess the recipe wasn’t lying when it asked for heavy whipping cream and not the half/half that I used since I was too lazy to lug the kids back to the market for that one ingredient I forgot).  So let me just give you some advice.  If you find yourself with a lovely cake, and the frosting has not turned out as you had hoped, make a trifle.  All you do is rummage in your pantry and find a box of pudding, any flavor will work really.  Make that pudding.  Crumble half the cake into a bowl.  Follow up with some pudding, drizzle on some of that “frosting” and top with whipped cream.  Repeat.  Serve in bowls with large spoons.  It was so yummy, I totally redeemed myself for not having a traditional caked with frosting.  The guys loved it, as did I.

Here is a gorgeous strawberry shortcake trifle, perfect for summer.  Thanks Bing images.

Here is a gorgeous strawberry shortcake trifle, perfect for summer. Thanks Bing images.

There are many variations to trifles such as chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and crumbled heath bars.  Or what I did, yellow cake, vanilla pudding, chocolate drizzle and whipped cream.  Be creative and have fun with it.  They also have some cool trifle bowls that are clear glass to show the many layers.  Fun!

Back to pork.  Well first, I love hoisin.  It’s a nice mild Asian sauce.  Like the Asian version of our barbecue sauce.  So yummy.  Any chance I get to cook with it, I’ll take it.  So when I opened up my current Food Network Magazine and found this recipe under the “Weeknight Cooking” I decided to indulge.  This meal is quick, easy, healthy and delicious.  I started out with an organic pork loin (huge) that I had found on sale at the market several weeks back that I took out of the freezer a few days prior to let it defrost in the refrigerator.  My mom thinks I’m nuts to serve a pork loin for company.  Most of the time they turn out too dry.  With that in mind I decided to do a brine of water and salt and let it rest for the day soaking in that salty bath.  I know if I brine meat, the cook time is shorter as the salt “cooks” the meat a bit.  This piece of meat was a lot larger than what the recipe calls for so I doubled the cooking time.  I still broiled it, that way I was able to achieve that delicious crisp on top.  I loved how you only use half of the sauce to marinate the meat and the rest you serve with the cooked meat.  Who doesn’t like to dip a fine-cut of loin into a delicious home-made asian barbecue sauce?

I don’t ever have frozen rice at the house so I decided to make a batch of white rice as opposed to the frozen brown.  If I wasn’t entertaining 3 large “meat and potato” men I would have liked brown rice.  Alas, these guys are white rice guys and as a hostess my job is to cater to the guests.  I added the snow peas, olive oil, ginger and sesame seeds at the very end of its cooking so that the snow peas were able to get a nice cooked, yet still crisp consistency.  It was a yummy meal and I was so happy to share this new recipe with some great friends.

Happy cooking friends!

Ingredients

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)

1/2 jalapeno pepper (seeded for less heat)

4 scallions, sliced

Freshly ground pepper

1 3/4-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed

Kosher salt

1 1/2 pounds frozen brown rice (about 5 cups)

4 ounces snow peas, trimmed and halved

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

2 medium carrots, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat the broiler. Combine the hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon vinegar, the jalapeno, half of the scallions and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender or mini food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Slice the pork tenderloin in half lengthwise and place both pieces cut-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and brush with half of the hoisin sauce mixture. Broil until golden brown and just cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Combine the frozen rice, snow peas, 1 tablespoon each olive oil and vinegar, the ginger, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until the rice is hot and the snow peas are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Toss the carrots, the remaining scallions and 1 teaspoon each olive oil, vinegar and sesame seeds in a bowl. Thinly slice the pork; serve with the rice mixture, carrot salad and remaining sauce.
Don't skimp on the carrot relish.  What a lovely fresh crunch it adds to the dish.

Don’t skimp on the carrot relish. What a lovely fresh crunch it adds to the dish.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Meat may take longer to cook up here.  Since you are broiling, you cannot turn down the heat to cook longer.  Just keep an eye on it.  Use a meat thermometer to make sure it is cooked, yet not over cooked.

Compost

  • Jalapeno, scallions, peas, ginger and carrot trimmings

Recycle

  • Hoisin container/lid if empty

Reuse

  • Plastic bags vegetables came in

Pasta with Sausage Meatballs

CT_FNM_01PastaTurkeyMeatballs1_028.tifMy Grandma so lovingly got me the Food Network Magazine.  With my two small boys I don’t ever seem to get any cooking shows in, so this is the next best thing.  The first issue came and on the cover was pasta, meatballs and something green.  How can one go wrong with pasta and meatballs?  This is another one of those fast, easy, healthy and delicious meals that I promise you.  I have also made it quite cheap.  I noticed the recipe asks for 8 oz of sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed.

001Well, I just happened to have a few packages of some breakfast sausage I got on clearance from the market.  I normally would not brag about my clearance meat findings but this was a score!  It was not only 50% off but it was locally made in Boulder and it was pretty green/clean.  No MSG, no nitrates, no preservatives and no added water.  No artificial ingredients and minimally processed.  All words that SING in my ears!  See, normally I love sausage but refrain from buying any unless the budget OK’s me to spend a little extra on brands such as this.  I just think pink slime and get all grossed out when I look at store-brand sausage.  I found like 3 of these Boulder Sausage packages and grabbed them so fast.  They are all in my freezer waiting for me to utilize them in such a way as this!  Another added bonus in using this package of sausage is that I don’t have to waste time on removing casings.  Also, I don’t like sweet Italian sausage.  It is actually too sweet for my taste.  I tend to not like any sweet in my dinner foods.  Leave that for dessert please…

This recipe is very forgiving.  It calls for a particular pasta, orecchietta, which I love but I wasn’t about to spend money on a type of pasta when I have 6 bags of varying organic pasta I get from Costco in my pantry.  I used penne.  Also, organic broccoli crowns were on sale at the market so I substituted those for the broccolini.  You can also substitute peas in there or maybe saute eggplant and bell pepper for a good Italian twist.  Use what you have or make this recipe as printed.  Either way, this comes together so quick and easy and the family loved it.

Happy cooking friends!

Ingredients

Kosher salt

12 ounces orecchiette pasta

2 bunches broccolini, cut into bite-size pieces

8 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 large egg

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs, adding the broccolini during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and broccolini.
  2. Meanwhile, roll the sausage meat into about 20 small meatballs. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Pour off any drippings from the skillet, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add the pasta, broccolini and meatballs. Whisk the egg with the reserved cooking water in a small bowl, then add to the skillet and stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the pasta among bowls. Sprinkle with the cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Pasta make take longer to cook.

Compost

  • Broccolini and garlic trimmings
  • Egg shell

Recycle

  • Pasta and cheese packaging

Reuse

  • Plastic bag vegetables came in.

Bacon and Egg Muffins – The Opening Act For Easter Brunch

eggmuffinsThe opening act is the most important in my eyes.  I mean, if you think about it, it is a very busy morning.  The kids, with their eyes poking out of their sockets will be entertained by what the easter bunny had filled their baskets with.  Before running out of the door to find what eggs the bunny had hidden I will need to fill their bellies with goodness before it is terrorized with sugar.  I have decided on these muffins.  I love that they are small, a perfect individual portion for a child and when accompanied with some fresh fruit (we picked up an insanely delicious pineapple) and milk it is truly the perfect breakfast for this festive day.  I ripped this recipe out of a complimentary Better Homes and Garden magazine that was sent to me.  The only changes I will make to this otherwise perfect recipe is to omit the optional maple syrup (the children will be getting enough sugar this day as is).  Also, I have a huge bag of self-rising corn meal mix that I had used in my corn fritter recipe so I will use that instead of the flour, baking powder and regular cornmeal that the recipe calls for.

This picture was taken last year for my oldest sons Easter party at school. All I did was make vanilla cupcakes and top with green colored frosting using a Wilton tip 2010 to make "grass". I then added some small flowered-shaped sprinkles and then top with one or two small malt-chocolate eggs.

This picture was taken last year for my oldest sons Easter party at school. All I did was make vanilla cupcakes and top with green colored frosting using a Wilton tip 2010 to make “grass”. I then added some small flowered-shaped sprinkles and then top with one or two small malt-chocolate eggs.

Since this is just the opening act I will let you all know what other yummy recipes I have planned for this special day.  I am, of course going to make the braided easter bread that I had posted a few weeks ago.  I have purchased a beautiful spiral cut ham and will bake that according to the package instructions.  I just picked up a beautiful bunch of organic asparagus that I will simply saute in some olive oil, kosher salt a dash of freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes so that the flavor of the asparagus is not lost in a sauce.  I also picked up two lovely organic artichokes that I will prepare for my husband and I as that is quite a treat.  We love them.  And then comes the potato dish.  My husband loves scalloped potatoes and I love his smile so I have decided to make those as another side dish.  This Golden Scalloped Potato dish is spectacular.  I found it on my beloved epicurious.com and have not looked for another.  It’s so simple and so delicious.  I love the leftovers (if there are any) of this potato dish and some ham.  Perfect, although I would need something green in there for a balanced meal, wouldn’t I?  So that is our meal.  We have some lovely friends coming over to share this with which will be great fun.  For dessert, I am simply making cupcakes with a very easy piping job on top.  Here is a picture of them.  The kids will love them!

Here is the recipe for the bacon and egg muffins.  Happy easter, happy egg hunts and happy family time!  My tip would be to keep the menu simple (as I have done above) so that you will not have to miss any of those precious moments.

Ingredients

4 slices bacon, cut in thirds

5 eggs

Salt and ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil or butter, melted

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Maple or cane syrup (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large skillet cook bacon just until it begins to crisp. Drain and reserve drippings. Return 2 tsp. drippings to skillet. For scrambled eggs, in a small bowl beat 3 of the eggs, 2 Tbsp. water, and a dash each of salt and pepper. Cook eggs in hot skillet over medium heat without stirring until eggs begin to set on bottom and around edges. With a large spatula, lift and fold for uncooked portion to flow underneath. Cook until set yet still moist. Transfer to bowl; set aside.
  2. Brush twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with some of the remaining bacon drippings. Set muffin cups aside. In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. In a separate bowl combine milk, oil, and remaining 2 eggs; stir into flour mixture. Fold in scrambled eggs and cheese. Spoon into muffin cups (cups will be full).
  3. Place one bacon piece on each muffin. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until light brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. To loosen muffins from pan, run a small metal spatula or table knife around edges of muffins; remove from pans. Serve warm with maple syrup.
Cupcake designers.  Will work for a cupcake.

Cupcake designers. Will work for a cupcake.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • If you do not have self-rising corn meal mix, increase flour to 1 1/4 cups and decrease baking powder to 2 teaspoons.

Compost

  • Egg shells

Recycle

  • Any used container such as: corn meal bag, egg carton, flour bag, baking powder container, milk container, vegetable oil container and cheese bag.

Reuse

  • Since you only need 4 slices of bacon, you can either put the rest in a Ziploc bag and freeze for a later time or fry the rest up within the next couple of days for breakfast, before they go bad.

Chicken and Spring Vegetable Lo Mein – Springful Wishing

vegetable-lo-meinYou know, that one day in March where it fools you into thinking Spring is actually here.  It’s warm.  So you put on one of the dozen new Zulily sundresses you have been purchasing as the blizzard blows.  You see some buds on the trees so you then put on the dusty flip flops.  You walk outside and are instantly stunned that the twenty degree weather is actually cold.  But whatever, it will warm up.  Surely, it will.  Afterall you’re going to Denver today, always 10-15 degrees warmer than on this mountain top.  You spend the day in Denver with the kids and husband, touring stpattysBass Pro Shop, watching your children’s eyes pop out of their heads at the height of the buildings.  Eat at a restaurant that is not called “Grandmothers Kitchen” or “Hungry Bear”.  All the while your sweater you threw on at the last-minute seems to be stretching as you have clung to it so tightly all day.  And then, driving home as your husband has had too many green beers (Oh, Happy belated Saint Patrick’s Day!) it starts to hail and sleet.  A fleeting thought goes through your head as you look down at your sundress and flip flops – PSYCH!  March got ya again.  Early April Fools on you!  And as you walk into your cold house, hurriedly starting a fire – a smile appears.  Because you are a smart cookie, yes you are!  All day long, without the work of you, a classic Saint Patrick’s meal has been cooking away in your beloved slow-cooker.  A wonderfully warm, hearty meal, ready to be eaten.

Note to self: it snows more in March than in any other month of the year.

Afterthought: I will still pull out a sundress a year from now with hopeful thinking.  Whatever.

Here is a hopeful meal.  Spring vegetables.  How lovely, for all of you people who get to have Spring.  This is for you.  As for me?  Not just yet…

This meal is one of those meals that has insane taste, comes together quickly and is very healthy.  Also, forgiving…substitute shrimp, tofu, beef or pork for the chicken.

Happy cooking, and all you who get a real Spring-enjoy!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil now as it is less processed and better for you)

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 – 8 oz package dried lo mein noodles (I found organic at my local City Market!!)

1 small head cabbage, thinly sliced (3 cups)

1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and cut into match sticks

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons dry sherry (or chicken broth with a splash of white vinegar, which I will be using)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups cooked chicken, sliced into bite-sized pieces

Salt

1/4 cup chopped peanuts, for sprinkling

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat.
  2. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.  Add the cabbage, bell pepper, mushrooms, snow peas and carrot; cook for 30 seconds.  Drain the noodles and vegetables thoroughly.
  3. Turn the heat under the skillet back to high.  When the onions sizzle, add the soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil and let the mixture bubble for a few seconds.  Add the noodles and vegetables; toss well.  Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked and the peppers are tender but still slightly crunchy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add the chicken and cook, stirring often, to heat through.  Season with salt and sprinkle with the peanuts.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Onion, garlic, ginger, cabbage, bell pepper, mushroom, snow peas and carrot trimmings.

Recycle

  • Noodle and peanut packaging.
  • Any used container such as oil, sherry or soy sauce bottles.

Reuse

  • Plastic bags the vegetables came in.
We turned down the spa heat and made it into an indoor pool.  The kids are ready for Spring/Summer as well...

We turned down the spa heat and made it into an indoor pool. The kids are ready for Spring/Summer as well…

Enchiladas – Rojo Style

Enchiladas aWhen I want to make something, for instance….red enchilada sauce….and I have yet to concoct a recipe to call my own, I look through my gazillion cookbooks (yes I need a gazillion because yes, I use every single one of them!  If not for recipes than for inspiration).  I like to check out what different takes there are, pull what I like, leave what I don’t and ultimately come up with a recipe that has been inspired by a handful of cooks.

004That is what I did tonight.  I knew that I wanted a red enchilada sauce.  Anytime I have to study anything, I am a happy nerd, I mean girl.  So I run to my bookcase full of delicious cookbooks and I start looking in my go-to’s which are the Bon Appetit duet my lovely mother-in-law got me one year for Christmas.  I pull some ideas, such as a pinch of cinnamon.  Yum.  Then, my eye catches an oldie, but a goodie.  It was one of those cookbooks I inherited from my mother when she moved out of our childhood home and was done with a lot of her stuff.  Downsizing if you will.  This book is so old the spine is ripping and the pages are smudged.  The cover is straight out of the 1950s (copyright says 1955).  The book: Elena’s Fiesta Recipes.  Perfection.  Let’s party, Elena style.  Actually, I am not following her “Enchiladas Senora Style” recipe exactly, but I am taking it as my inspiration.  Whoever Elena is, I am almost certain she rocks fiestas!

This recipe is super simple, fast and delicious.  Add a side garden salad and some refried beans to make it complete.  I very rarely cook with ground beef.  In fact, ONLY when I can find organic on sale.  I refuse to let my loved ones eat pink slime.  So I just happened to find a 1 lb package of organic ground beef on clearance and wanted to get it out of my freezer.  I have some home-made quality corn tortillas and some sharp cheddar.  I also knew that I did not want it as spicy as I normally like it as the kids will be dining on this feast. For a super simple substitute, instead of frying up some ground beef, pick up a rotisserie chicken and just use already cooked and spiced shredded chicken.  This comes together quick and bakes beautifully.  Make the sauce the weekend before and just take it out the night you come home from work.

007Just a second while I step up on this soapbox.  Alright, let me just bring us all back to an organic awareness.  If you haven’t read my write-up on Buying Organic, I strongly suggest you do.  I have tips on what is priority if you are unable to afford a full grocery cart of organic products as well as food saving ideas to be able to afford organic products.  For this meal, I am using an organic onion, organic garlic, organic beef broth, the dried seasonings, organic beef and serving it with organic sour cream and organic cilantro.  What is not organic is the can of crushed tomatoes (although I do not by the cheapest, I look at the ingredients and make sure I can pronounce all 2 of the ingredients: tomatoes and citric acid), cheese, tortillas and sunflower oil.  Do what you can, even if you just substitute one ingredient for rganic, you rock!

Gracias Elena, queen of fiestas!  Happy cooking friends…

Ingredients

1 lb organic ground beef, rotisserie chicken or cubed pork

1 small or 1/2 large organic onion, finely chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

3 garlic cloves

1 cup beef or chicken broth

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 1/2 tablespoon ground ancho chili pepper (or chili powder)

1 teaspoon each salt and garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon (or cinnamon or cardamom)

about 9-11 tortillas

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Sour cream

chopped cilantro

Preparation

  1. In a fry pan on medium-high heat, cook meat, breaking up ground beef into small pieces, if that is your meat of choice.  Using the lid to the fry pan, drain fat.

    I find that a potato masher works well to initially break up the ground beef.

    I find that a potato masher works well to initially break up the ground beef.

  2. Return pan and meat back to the stove on medium heat, add onion.  Cook until onions are done, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a food processor process tomatoes, garlic, broth, oil and seasonings.  Pulse until smooth.  Pour about a cup of the sauce into a shallow dish.
  4. To help make the corn tortillas a bit more malleable: heat corn oil on medium heat, in a fry pan and fry the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side.  Stack on a plate lined with a few paper towels, sprinkle with a little kosher salt.
  5. in a 9×13 baking dish, pour about 1/2 cup of sauce onto the bottom and smear until the bottom of the dish has a thin layer of sauce.  Dip both sides of the tortillas into the sauce in the shallow dish before adding to the baking dish so that they are nicely coated and in turn have flavor.  Add about 3/4 cup of beef/onion mixture and sprinkle with a little cheese in each tortilla, in all using about 1/2 cup.  Roll tortilla so that the seam is on the bottom so they will remain closed during the baking process.  Repeat until beef mixture is done.
  6. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the filled tortillas.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake until cooked through about 20-30 minutes.
  7. Serve with sour cream and cilantro, side of refried beans and something green like a nice, fresh garden salad.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Onion, garlic and cilantro trimmings

Recycle

  • Cheese bag, tomato can/lid

Reuse

  • If you find that you made a lot of sauce, too much for this dish, freeze some for a later time!
  • Plastic bags vegetables came in

Red Curry Pulled-Pork and Slaw Sandwiches

currypulledporkI salute you single parents out there.  My goodness.  I was one for three days this past week and I’m tired.  Friday was fun.  My youngest hit the back of his head on the wood coffee table.  As I was cradling his head with my hand, trying to get some of the Reiki energy flowing I noticed my hand felt funny.  I look and it’s full of blood.  I look at his head, move the hair out of the way, yeah.  I see white.  So calmly, very calmly I tell my oldest: “get your shoes on and socks for your brother.  We’re going to the hospital.”  I’m sure it was the tone of my voice that actually made this otherwise slow-moving 4-year-old to hustle.  I wrapped Ethan’s head in a towel and strapped them in their respective car seats.  I drive somewhat erratic.  Illegally passing slow drivers.  Why on Earth do people drive below the speed limit!?  When I get to the hospital, I pay no attention to the blood all over my sweatshirt and on my son who seems to have stopped crying and is saying “Mom, I’m fine, let’s go home.”  Um no, I see white.

I am one of those parents, thank goodness, where when there is an emergency I instantly go into “problematic mode”.   I believe I got that by watching my Aunt Sheri take control of situations that would normally make others faint.  I don’t scream, cry or hesitate.  I figure out what necessary steps I need to take to get my kid well.  For that instance it was what steps do we need to take to get into the car.  Once the boys are strapped in I am in control.  I no longer need to depend on my 4-year-old to get shoes on.  I take the driver’s seat.  Yet, the after thought is a whole other story.  Once the children are well and out of sight, I lose it.  I cry with all my might.  I cry for the fear I had.  For the fact that I was alone.  That my child depended on me completely to take care of him in this crisis.  And of course the fact that I never thought I was capable to take care of myself, let alone two beautiful boys.  The whole situation was a terrorizing blessing.  I wish it never happened, but it did and we got ‘er taken care of!

The conclusion of course is that I was blessed with an ER that is always empty every time I go.  A staff that gets me in a room within 2 minutes.  And an ER doctor who comes in, is a mom of 3 boys and talks to me as if she were my friend.  She says that we could staple his head, but that would really only help with the scarring.  Since it is under his hair she said that would only be cruel to put a staple in, lets just clean it and apply anti-bacterial ointment on it twice a day for a week.  “Okay” I say with a smile and relief.  We are in and out of the ER in 30 minutes.  God I love small town living!  Oh, and praise iPhones!  My 4-year-old was wonderfully preoccupied with Angry Birds so that I could attend and nurture my youngest angel.

Okay, on to food.  Anytime I see a pork shoulder or chuck roast on clearance I buy it and freeze it for a rainy (or snowy) day.  So here I am trying to clean out my freezer to make room for a Costco shopping and here I find like 5 roasts.  Good lord.  I’m too frugal for my own good.  I need to start using these bad boys.  I find a recipe in my recent Eating Well Magazine that sings a lovely tune to my ears!  Red Curry Pulled-Pork.  Yes please, right now, in my mouth.  We get to cook and forget it with our wonderful slow cookers!  Even better.  I had all of the ingredients except for some yummy hoagie rolls from the bakery and I like to broil on some jack cheese right before serving.  My changes and why:  The slaw, I cheated.  I used already sliced 3 colored slaw mix in a bag and just made the delicious sauce from this recipe.  I also only had regular coconut milk, not the “lite” so I used what I had.  Thankfully I have fish sauce leftover from the spicy curry soup I had made the other week.  This recipe calls for a smaller slow cooker for optimal results.  I do not have one so I used my large one and it worked just fine.  I did have to add about 1/2 cup water as it did dry quicker.  I am not sure if that is my high altitude living situation or my larger slow cooker.  Either way, keep in mind to add water if necessary.  Also, please see High Altitude Adjustments following the recipe if you live above 5000 feet.

This meal is great because although we still are having some really cold nights, this is warm and not soup.  I feel we are on soup overload for a bit.  PLUS-I can have this cooking and have it done for when we all get home on those late work-out nights.  It’s a win win.  Happy cooking friends!

Ingredients

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup Thai red curry paste, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

3-3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt, trimmed

2 20-inch whole-grain baguettes or 10 whole-wheat buns

1/4 cup “lite” coconut milk

Zest of 1 lime

Slaw

2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage

1 cup shredded carrot

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lime juice

4 teaspoons canola oil

Pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. Whisk brown sugar, 1/4 cup lime juice, 3 tablespoons curry paste and fish sauce in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add pork and turn to coat. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours (or on Low for 8 hours).
  2. Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Pour the cooking liquid into a large glass measuring cup and place in the freezer until the fat rises to the top, about 10 minutes.
  3. To prepare slaw: Combine cabbage, carrot, cilantro, lime juice, oil and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. If using baguettes, cut each into 5 pieces (about 4 inches each). Toast or heat baguettes (or buns), if desired. Shred the pork using two forks. Skim the fat from the chilled liquid. Return the pork and liquid to the slow cooker; add coconut milk, lime zest and remaining 1 tablespoon curry paste and stir to combine. Serve the pork on baguette (or buns) topped with the slaw.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • I found the liquid evaporated quickly.  You may want to add some water if you notice it getting too dry.
  • It may cook quicker.  I found 5 hours on low was sufficient.

Compost

  • Used limes.
  • If you sliced up your own napa cabbage and carrots, those trimmings.
  • Cilantro trimmings.

Recycle

  • Coconut milk container
  • Curry paste jar.

Reuse

  • Pork fat that trimmed off would add great flavor to a pot of beans.
  • Plastic bags vegetables came in.