I packed 5 books to go on a recent family trip to California. My husband, the techy, pointed out that I could easily have read them on my phone. I shrugged. With two car seats, a stroller, and camera gear and formals for a wedding, we weren't exactly traveling light to begin with.
At the end of the "P" dinner, I asked Nora what letter she'd like to do next. Naturally, she picked a letter she knew well "O". My heart sank. It sounded really hard. My husband said "Good. We can have okra." Oh no! Something else to be a challenge! Fresh okra isn't available where I shop regularly. I thought I had created a mess. But as you can see from the menu I pulled together, I survived.
I love food centerpieces at Thanksgiving. After all, food was such a big reason why Thanksgiving was celebrated. This tomato centerpiece cost me all of $5 to make because that's how much the colored gourmet tomatoes cost. It took about 5 minutes to put it together because I gently dumped the tomatoes into the bowl. And the best part to me is that it's edible! I don't have to store it until next year!
I'm not a fan of boxed vegetable broths. They're too expensive and too sweet. (Why do some of them add pear juice?) Instead, I use these vegetable cubes in every soup I make these days. This is not a broth because it isn't clear. But I love the flavor. It's a great secret for a mom of a picky eater because it leaves the veggies in for food value, but they're too chopped up to be easily recognized and picked out!
If you're hosting the Thanksgiving dinner this year, you might have started your menu in the last couple of weeks. But then you found out one of your guests is *gulp* a vegetarian. You think everything has just blown up in your face. How do you impress your brother's girlfriend (if indeed you want to impress her) when she doesn't like turkey?
I've been to 31 Thanksgiving dinners in my lifetime. I'm happy to say I have progressed from the only-olives-on-the-fingers stage. And I have some advice to offer.
I love my homemade bread recipe. I know the recipe by heart. And I know how long it takes me in the kitchen to make it. But. . .this time, it just didn't seem right to serve loaves of bread to our guests. After all, it's Thanksgiving. And rolls are the traditional thing to do. So, I got to work and made homemade brown-and-serve rolls from my same bread recipe to be frozen for just a week until Thanksgiving Day.
Wheat Roll Recipe
a little over a cup warm water
3 1/2 T brown sugar
4 T oil
3 cups high gluten bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour (white whole wheat is nice)
2 t salt
3 t yeast
Put ingredients in bread machine in order. Put salt in one corner and yeast in opposite corner. Turn machine to mix only setting. After the first rise has completed, the machine will beep. Remove the dough and knead for a second time, about 5 minutes. Roll out dough into a thick square. Use a pastry scraper to cut the dough into 35 pieces (5x7). Line a tray with parchment paper or a Silpat. Roll each piece of dough lightly between your hands and place on the tray. Let rise 1 (one) hour.
Complete baking day of: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake rolls for 30-35 minutes until nicely brown on top. Remove to racks to cool. To do this, place a clean pan or an extra cooling rack on top of the rolls and flip them over. Then place the intended cooling rack on the back of the rolls and flip them back over. Cool slightly and serve.
For Brown-and-Serve Rolls: Preheat the oven to 275°F. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes until set. Remove pan from oven, but leave the rolls on the pan for 20 minutes as they will continue to bake a bit. Remove to racks to cool. To do this, place a clean pan or an extra cooling rack on top of the rolls and flip them over. Then place the intended cooling rack on the back of the rolls and flip them back over. Cool completely. Wrap in foil or freezer-safe plastic bags to refrigerate or freeze. To brown, preheat oven to 400°F. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.
Not very long ago I realized how invaluable a blender can be in mixing batters. And so I started making blender pancakes. I mix the entire batter in the blender in a couple minutes while the griddle is warming up. Then, the pancakes cook on the griddle while I clean up and maybe cook some oatmeal to go with them. My Blendtec takes a triple batch that feeds my family from the freezer for 2 weeks.
Life is hectic with two kids. So I borrowed a book from the library called "The Family Dinner". The author, Laurie David, gained inspiration for an organized family dinner by looking for a way to bring calm and connection to her hectic life with two daughters.
We already have dinner together most nights. And luckily, with a work from home daddy, we have an option for breakfast and lunch, too. The problem is the occasionally-working-out-of-the-home-mommy.
I've mentioned this fantastic recipe before, but I wanted to mention it again because a) sometimes old posts are forgotten and need to be referenced again and b) I've made some changes that make these healthier and easier. And since two people in the last week have asked for this recipe, I figured I'd better get it posted.
Combine wet ingredients in one bowl (I recommend my blender.) Combine dry ingredients in another, leaving chocolate chips until last. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. When just mixed, gently stir in chocolate chips. Scoop into muffin molds. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or toothpick comes out clean.
This adorable book is about gluttony and disobedience. And there's nothing like serving a snack of blackberries and bread while reading this book to highlight what Peter was missing while he was sick in bed drinking tea. OK, maybe that's a little deep for a 2-year-old. But the blackberries are already wonderful this season. And it's nice to accidentally acquire them and the book at the same time to make the book come alive just a little bit.
I have some favorite books from my childhood. But there are plenty of classics I don't ever remember reading. Never mind how old the book is. If it's a fun read and I can mix in some kitchen-time, it's a winner!
Over Christmas, my mother-in-law shared with me books about books. They listed the recommended books to get and read to your child. The key of course is to get books that appeal to yourself, too. Cause how many times have you imagined hiding a child's favorite book because you just can't take reading it again another night?
I've spent my life involved with medicine. My father graduated from anesthesia school the year I was born. I chose to go into the medical profession. Now, I get to stay at home most of the time and teach for the medical profession. I understand the importance of healthy eating and healthy living.
It's been said of me that I squeak when I walk because I'm so cheap. That's about right. I am tight with money. But I think it's quite obvious that we eat well. We love to eat good food. And yet, most of the time, eating well generally means eating vegetarian.
Some of these words have been on my "eliminate" list for a long time. Food writer Heather McPherson of Orlando Sentinel calls them "banned". But they are powerful words that might help you make better food choices in the coming year.
Here's my list for a monthly "challenge" to break up my cooking habits as I mentioned in my New Year's Kitchen Resolutions for 2013. It seems that two kids is a lot harder than one, and my cooking has gotten into a rut. Mind you, a good rut. I've enjoyed it. But I think the twice-a-week broccoli might be getting old.
New year's are wonderfully clean slates. And while I've tried not to wait until now when something needs to be changed, a new year gives me a reason to really rethink my life and what changes need to be made. And so I realize some things that need to be done in my kitchen. Now's as good of a time as any to start.
And here we are, just days until Christmas. Where has this holiday season gone? Maybe you can't remember because you've grazed (meaning snacked on treats in the lounge) your way through your surgery schedule as my dad claims to have done today. (Or maybe you're now a SAHM who fondly remembers those days of cookies constantly being delivered to your office and are jealous of your father who not only gets to sample all the sweets, but also has time for a regular workout routine to burn off all those calories.) Um, yeah, it's really the patients that I miss.
While I thought the homemade cashew cookie bars were the best I'd made, the majority of the family voted for these cherry ones. I made the first batch at the end of October and sent them with my in-laws on a trip. They really seemed to enjoy them and made them last as long as possible.
Recipe for Dark Chocolate Cherry Lara Bars
50 or about 2 cups dates (I believe the ones I use, Deglet Noor, are smaller.)
1 cup dried cherries
1 1/8 cup almonds
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until dates and nuts are chopped and mixture sticks together. If using a Blendtec, process on "Dips." You may wish to run the cycle twice. (I don't recommend more than that!) Scrape mixture into a Silpat- or parchment-lined 8x8 pan. Fold Silpat or parchment over the top of the mound. Form into square. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Cut into desired shapes--bars, squares, anything.
When zucchini is in such abundance, it's just so hard to not want to make yummy soups with it. This is a problem since my husband is against soup when it's so hot in Florida. (It was over 70 today.) For this I really can't blame him. So, in those cases I make less broth or serve myself more broth and give Paul less. Then, my bowl is labeled soup and his is labeled stew. Rarely do I get away with that switch, though. It was easy when I could remind him I was pregnant. Then he accepts that this is what's for dinner. How did I get such a wonderful guy?
Zucchini Pasta Soup
1 medium zucchini, diced small
1/2 cup ditalini or similar sized pasta
3-4 cups vegetable broth
Bring broth to a boil. Add zucchini and pasta. Cook according to pasta package directions. For crunchier zucchini, add it about 5 minutes before the pasta is done. Serve immediately.
Changes/Additions/Alternatives: As mentioned above, the cheese is great. Feel free to mix up the veggies. I've also made this with a base of blitzed onion and celery added to the broth. It adds great flavor and extra fiber.
Reader Question: Part of the challenge for us is food preparation feeling like a chore. . .
I've always enjoyed my time in the kitchen. But I feel much more like it is wrong to spend too much time in the kitchen with two kids demanding my attention. (And why would you not want to spend all your time with that super-cute kid pictured above and his big sister?) So, here's a couple things I am doing. I hope these ideas can help you and encourage you to come up with some ideas of your own.
Homemade Lara Bars seem to be a bit of a fad. But I don't mind joining in. My Blendtec makes it easy. And frankly it's such a healthy sweet-tooth-treat, and the homemade version is so much tastier and cheaper, I just don't mind if it is a fad. For those of you that are following my diet, just 1/4 cup of dates is 4g fiber. The cashews are 5g per cup. While it isn't high in water, it's certainly easy to eat the high fiber and drink a glass of water right beside it.
Recipe for Homemade Cashew Cookie Lara Bars (for 2-4 bars)
1 1/3 cups Dates
1/2 cup Salted Cashews
1/8-1/4 t. Vanilla Extract (more if you love vanilla as I do)
Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until dates and nuts are chopped and mixture sticks together. If using a Blendtec, process on "Dips." You may wish to run the cycle twice. Remove mixture onto Silpat or parchment paper. Fold Silpat or parchment over the top of the mound. Form into square. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Cut into desired shapes.
For 8x8 Pan
4 cups Dates
1 1/2 cups Salted Cashews
1/2 t. Vanilla Extract /li>
Process as above, but mold in 8x8 pan lined with parchment paper.
This hasn't happened to me in a long time. I stocked up on some great produce items at a great price and then needed to search my cookbooks for recipes that let me use up the sweet potatoes and butternut squash before it went bad. OK, that's not really that hard to do in this house.
Put apple and water in blender and whiz until juice. (If using Blendtec, use "Whole Juice" button.) Combine sweet potatoes and juice (I just pulse the Blendtec a few times.) Set aside. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Add juice and sweet potato mixture and stir just until wet. Drop 1/4 cup mixture into 12 spots on Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425F for 16-20 minutes or until biscuits are puffed, browned, and maybe even crisping on the tops and edges.
For complete Blendtec Use
Cut butter in Blendtec using "Pulse". Add juice/sweet potato mixture, then pour dry ingredients on top. Use "Batter" setting to combine ingredients. If dry ingredients are not all mixed at end of cycle, remove blender jar from base and finish stirring with spatula. Scoop batter out of Blendtec with the spatula.
Don't get thrown off by the picture. This was only 5 months along.
I never-ever-in-a-million-years thought I would need to go on a diet. After all, i was nicely sized in my teenage years and 20s. As long as i could fit in my clothes, i thought i was doing fine. Consequently, I never-ever-in-a-million-years thought I would enjoy a diet or even brag about being on one.
But I am. I am on a diet. I am enjoying it. And I am bragging about it.