Monday, September 28, 2009

For Grandma

I've been MIA for a while, mostly because the last two weeks have been full of surprises. About 3 weeks ago my Grandma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and last Monday she passed away. Last November my grandpa passed away, and Grandma expressed to us after being diagnosed with cancer that she was simply ready to be with her husband and to be with the Lord.

Nonetheless, I will always remember my grandma as the healthiest woman that ever was. Her mom lived to be 96, and we just assumed Grandma would do the same. As an 86 year old woman, she had yet to go completely gray! Every day she walked a few miles, did her weights, ate sensibly, and finished the New York Times crossword puzzle. She was sharp as a whip! She also recycled and reused EVERYTHING. I remember when visiting her I asked for a plastic ziploc bag - she pointed to a drawer filled with mismatched washed and reused ziploc bags she had collected over the years. I immediately thought of the 20 ziplock bag cartons I had from Costco in my pantry. What a waste! What a nation of consumers and waste creators we are now!

It was Grandma I turned to when my passion for food - more specifically food sources - began to "grow." She and my grandpa raised their own cattle, chickens, and always ate from their own garden in their younger years. Grandma gave me the low-down on how to work the soil, and how to compost. I will always remember Grandma's famous meal she would make for us when we went to visit in Oklahoma: Fried Chicken, okra, and Cherry Pie.

Anyway, last year Grandma framed her famous Apple Crisp recipe for me as a Christmas Gift. When fresh apples arrived from CSA last Tuesday, I knew what had to be done.

Without further ado... for you, Grandma:

Betty's Apple Crisp

4-5 apples
3/4 Cup Quick Cooking Oatmeal
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 cup Butter (softened)
Walnuts (optional)
Peel and slice the apples, then place in the bottom of a baking dish.

Combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and then cut in the butter.
(I added walnuts)

Sprinkle over the apples, and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

What was left of it...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Simple Swees Shard Spaghetti Supper

Every game day or track meet must be prefaced with a spaghetti dinner, its only tradition! Keeping tradition alive I made this the night before my first true long run of the training season a few weeks ago - 18 miler.

I was inspired by CSA's delivery of this beeee-autiful swiss chard (I can't help it, this must be pronounced swees shard when I deal with it).
Simply sautee your swees shard with onions and garlic. Sprinkle the top with crushed red pepper. Watch in delight as your onion and garlic turn red from the stems. I love that!
I added a few chopped tomatoes from the garden and a can of drained canellini beans...
Finished it off with a squeeze of lemon, salt, and a sprinkle of parm served over fettucini.

Friday, September 11, 2009


When I was younger (okay ... today still) my favorite joke was about three robbers who break into a barn. The farmer goes around the barn and asks the cow if there's a robber back there, to which the robber, hidding behing the cow, replies "moooo!" Anyway then the farmer moves around the animals and finally onto a sack of potatoes... "Anybody back there?" And the robber goes "POOO-TAY-TOES!!" Ha. Makes me laugh every time.

So as you can tell the star of the dish is PO-TAY-TOES. I was so so excited that my CSA would be delivering freshly dug potatoes from the farm this week. I had heard and read that you have never truly had a potato until you've had a fresh potato. I also had some leftover corn from the previous week's delivery. Perfect for the soup I wanted to try.

Grilled Potato and Corn Chowder

Preheat your grill to medium high heat. Put a grill basket on the grill to warm it up.

* (I really went out on a limb here people, I NEVER grill, I had to call my husband to see how to turn it on. Guess what... its sooo easy I can't believe I thought it was some magical tool only Kevin could use. But you could skip this step altogether if you need and just boil all the veggies, and even used canned corn if you're really pressed. Whatever works!)

Place ~7 red potatoes with 2 teaspoons salt in a saucepan; cover with water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, and then let it stand in the hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and cut into 1/4 inch cubes.

Place 3 ears of shucked corn on the grill rack coated with cooking spray. Place chopped potatoes in grill basket coated with cooking spray and grill both 15 minutes or until slightly charred.

When corn cools:
  • cut kernels from cob
  • Place 1 cob worth of kernels in a food processor with 1/3 cup half and half and process until smooth.

Sautee 1/4 cup chopped onion in 1 tbl of butter. Add salt and pepper (red pepper if you have it). Stir in potatoes, remaining corn kernels, 2 cups reduced fat milk, pureed mixture, and 2 thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and add 3 tbl finely chopped chives. Let it sit and thicken up.


I had to supplement my fresh potatoes with 2 from the store because I didnt have enough. You wouldn't believe the difference - when I sliced the fresh potatoes they were golden inside, pumped full of nutrients, with a naturally buttery tatse. I couldn't stop popping little pieces in my mouth. The ones from the store were white and flavorless. Potatoes are in season so go to your farmers market and get your potatoes this weekend!!

And about CORN... did you know that corn is a grain? It delivers all the same nutritional benefits of other grains; reduced risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Its rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help reduce the risk of age related macular degeneration. You can't beat fresh, but frozen kernels are almost identical nutritionally.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oh, Bother

That is what Drew always says when he is "cross," thanks to his new buddy Thomas the Tank. I'm cross that I left my camera at my parents house this weekend, so I have no way to document my meals for a while! Bother!! :)

Nonetheless, here is a quick recap of whats simmering at my house tonight... What's better than a bowl of soup on a rainy "fall-ish" night like tonight?

I make this often, and I love it because I usually have enough of the ingredients on hand to make it at the end of the week when my fridge is empty and a trip to the store is in order.

It pairs nicely with some grilled cheese sandwiches!

Spicy Black Bean and Tomato Soup
*serves A LOT. but as Kate Gosselin says, (while publicly berating her husband while he makes her dinner) "what's the point if you do all the work and don't have enough for leftovers??"

In a skillet, sautee

  • 2 slices of chopped bacon (OMIT for vegetarian!)
  • a few stems of chopped celery
  • 1 to 2 yellow cooking onions, chopped
  • a couple cloves of garlic - as much or as little as you want
  • 1 chopped carrot

Let soften up for a bit (5 minutes?), before adding the following spices

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chipotle chile pepper (again, as much as you can handle, this stuff is spicy, and I like spicy. Its similar to cayenne ground red pepper but with chipotle which gives the soup a smoky taste.)
  • salt and pepper
  • grate the rind from one lime

Let it sautee together a bit longer before adding your canned ingredients:

  • 2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes, do NOT drain
  • 2 14.5 oz of canned black beans. I like to give them a rinse in the colander in addition to straining because I hate the gooeyness on the beans.
  • About 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, or more if you like it "soupier"

Let all ingredients simmer for 20 minutes or so over medium heat. Transfer to a blender (don't forget to leave your top off! Your blender... get your mind out of the gutter) and puree. I like to leave mine a tad bit chunky.

Transfer to a soup pot and squeeze in the juice from that lime you grated earlier as well as some fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt if you're feeling crazy.

*****KID TIP: I've been known to slather a layer as "tomato sauce" on homemade pizzas for the kids. Drew has no idea he's licking up beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions!

I'm headed to a track workout tonight, but given the cold rainy weather, this oughtta warm me up when I get home!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lightened Up Lasagna

The perfect way to use up all your summer veggies. The basil ricotta is very light tasting and perfect for a "summer" lasagna.

Zucchini-Basil Lasagna

Preheat the oven to 350.

Boil your lasagna noodles, I used whole wheat.

In a sautee pan, sautee 3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 medium onion chopped, 2 small zucchini chopped. Add either...

Quick Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce:
Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and the following spices to cover the top so just the red shows through: paprika, garlic powder, parm cheese, 1 tsp sugar, crushed red pepper, basil, a dash of oregano and a bay leaf. If you can handle it, go heavy on the crushed red pepper - its the spicyness of the sauce that blends with the sweet basil that makes this so good!


1 bottle jarred spicy tomato sauce (Arrabbiata)

In a blender, mix 2 cups of fat free cottage cheese with 1 egg and at LEAST 1 cup of fresh basil leaves. The more the better!! The cheese will turn green.

Spread 1/4 cup Zucchini sauce mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over zucchini mixture; top with one-third cottage cheese mixture, one-third zucchini mixture, then repeat until ingredients are all used up. Top with the sauce and a sprinkle of part-skim mozzerella cheese.

Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until lasagna is thoroughly heated.

I CANT FIND MY PICTURE!!! But we all know what a lasagna looks like :) Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

I'm a chocolate girl so I prefer my cookies chocolate chip. I love love the combination of oatmeal and chocolate chip. This recipe was great because it used a ripe banana to cut back on sugar, and also this recipe cuts back on the butter (most recipes call for 2 sticks of butter and almost 2 cups of sugar). I had one of these cookies before a long run, and they were the perfect mix of sugars, oatmeal, nuts, caffeine from the chocolate and potassium from the bananas to fill my belly before the run. It also gave me the tiniest bit of guilt I needed to push my body a little harder that morning ;)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine 1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat with a blender, add 1 egg, and continue to beat well.

Mix 1- 1/4th c. flour, 2 cups old fashioned oats, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt into a separate bowl. Mix, and then add to wet ingredients slowly, beating with a mixer at medium speed.

Stir in 1/2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 c. walnuts (optional)

Bake at 350 for 18 minutes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sweet Pizza

Last night I tried a new recipe from my latest issue of Cooking Light.

Chicken, Red Grape and Pesto Pizza
Top refrigerated pizza dough with olive oil and chopped garlic. Prebake refrigerated pizza dough (depends on the brand but probably about 10 minutes at 400). While the pizza dough is in the oven you can chop grapes and shred chicken. Remove from oven and add a thin layer of pesto.
If I was really awesome I would have some frozen pesto I already made in the freezer, but I haven't gotten to that yet this summer. So jarred pesto will do!
I bought rotisserie chicken that morning, of which I shred the whole bird and stored in the fridge for when necesary. I topped about 1/3 of this shredded chicken over pesto, to cover.
Sprinkle about 1 to 1/2 cups of halved red grapes over the chicken.
Top with fresh slices of real mozzerella, just a little goes a long way. Sprinkle the top with grated romano. Top with scallions (optional, I just had them from the garden, and they looked pretty).
Bake an additional 10 minutes at 400. Then enjoy!
The verdict: Kevin could have gone without the grapes, but I happened to love them, a lot. A lot a lot. The sweetness of the grapes with the parm was delish. This meal was super easy too. Hardly any mess and it only took 20 minutes. Next time, to lighten it up a bit, I would use less or eliminate altogether the mozzerella. It really didn't add that much besides the addicting gooey-ness of cheese. Cheese is yummy - but not the star of the dish.

Fiesta, Fiesta!!

What better way to send a US Soldier off to Afghanistan than... Mexican food?! Well in my family, that makes total sense. A celebration is just not a celebration if there are no margaritas or salsa present!! This weekend we had a little last minute fiesta with about 15 family members for my wonderful, heroic cousin Luke. This week he will be headed to Afghanistan as a photo journalist, and we wanted to stuff him with food and drink before he leaves. I decided I had enough grilled chicken fajitas I could handle this summer, so I took a little different route. This was super easy for a party of people and everyone enjoyed it! (Or so they said) :)

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Carnitas
(serves 10-15)

2 4lb packages of pork shoulder (AKA pork butt - really can't say that with a straight face). I used 1 slow cooker per package.

In a small bowl mix 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp chile powder, salt and pepper. Rub dry mix over meat.

Layer a few bay leaves at the bottom of the slow cooker. Add pork. Pour about 1/2 cup of chicken stock around meat. Top with a bunch of fresh cilantro and the juice from 1 lime. Don't even need to chop cilantro - just throw it on top. Did you know the cilantro stems have the most flavor?

Let this cook 4-6 hours. When it is done, remove from the crock pot onto a cutting board and shred the meat. It will be so tender you hardly have to shred at all, just tear it apart. Remove and discard excess fat and bones.

Toss the shredded meat with about 1/3 or 1/2 of a 12 oz. can of enchilada sauce, and then before serving bake at 350 for about 20 minutes to crisp up the top.

Slacker's Mexican Rice

The night beofre I made rice with dinner so I was sure to make extra to convert into Mexican Rice. I made about 5 cups worth in the rice cooker and then stuck it in the fridge until I was ready. To make quick mexican rice -
Sautee garlic and white onions until translucent in olive oil over medium high heat. Add 1 can of diced green chiles. Add cold rice, and separate with your fingers if there are clumps. Add a bit more olive oil over rice to help it cook. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, and the remainder of enchilada sauce (my dad wasn't happy I cheated here, but a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do).
Add about 1 tsp or so of cumin and salt to taste. Squeeze the juice from 1 lime over rice. Remove from heat and toss in fresh cilantro. Throw this in with the meat for 20 minutes to melt cheese (if you want on cheese on top) and again, crisp up the top.

The beans above are pretty self explanatory - but I do add almost an entire jar of salsa and a little enchilada sauce, as well as sauteed onions and garlic just to give it a kick. And top with cheese, obviously!

For less carnivorous guests, I also made some quick fajita veggies. Sauteed garlic, onions, green pepper, red pepper, zucchini and tomatoes in a simple fajita seasoning package were a good way to utilize some summer veggies and add some color to the meal.

And finally, what is a party without some beverages. I decided to use up the plethora of peaches I had in a White Wine Sangria. Beware, this is so delicious, it's easy to drink it like juice!

White Wine Sangria

1 bottle of white wine - I like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio

Add whatever fruits you have on hand - but don't leave out the citrus (lemons, limes, oranges)! What I had and therefore used was peaches! As well as lemons. Squeeze the juice in first and then throw in the rind. Add 2/3 cup of sugar and stir. Fresh mint also gives this a nice flavor. Add about 1/2 a liter of club soda before serving to give it some sparkle.