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Monday, December 19, 2011

Deck the Halls With Kale?

The holidays historically represent a time of family, friends, merriment, and of course delicious, sugar packed  treats.  It wouldn't be Christmas at our house without my Mom's peanut butter fudge, homemade cinnamon rolls, whoopie pies.....a time for indulging in all of our favorite treats we otherwise work so diligently to avoid the rest of the year.

I am the first to admit being a repeat offender of such indulgences.  Every year for as long as I have had a kitchen of my own, I would bake for hours knowing full well I would regret it in January.  Chocolate, real butter. sugar, sugar and more sugar.  It seems the holidays are the perfect excuse for consuming all to much of all things so temptingly divine.

Enter the first holiday season with a 6-month-old in the house and suddenly it is December 19th and I have yet to bake a single thing, sprinkle anything with sugar or roll out any dough.  I haven't even finished (and in some cases, started) my Christmas shopping.  My former pre-baby self would be horrified.  My former pre-baby self (who had her Christmas shopping done shortly after Thanksgiving and her baking completed soon thereafter) would wonder what happened to the energy-filled, holiday loving woman she once knew.  Christmas parties? Yes, please.  Holiday dinners and nights out celebrating with friends over a glass (or several bottles) of wine? Absolutely, but this woman is foreign to me now.

Instead of wallowing in the joys of Christmas past, I have decided to find comfort in the new traditions.  Bedtime Christmas stories with our little one, the wonder we see through her eyes when she looks at our Christmas tree all lit up and decorated, the Christmas outfits and pictures with Santa - all new experiences and all better than anything I can remember doing before.  Sure, I miss the nights out, the baking, the celebrations with friends;  however, I am also incredibly thankful for the new traditions, the new memories.  The cookies, parties and traditions of years past (I've realized) were just place holders reserving the space in my heart now completely consumed by the love I have for my precious baby girl.

SO...instead of offering a sugar coated, naughty, calorie-dense holiday recipe for you to add to your list of indulgences....I have decided to provide you with a delicious, crave-conquering, nutrient packed, low-calorie snack, instead.

Kale Chips are just the treat to munch on before hitting up your next holiday party or pack them to go in your suitcase or travel bag.  A few of these delicious, crispy treats will keep you feeling satisfied and keep your digestive system on track when you indulge in one too many holiday treats or glasses of wine.  Kale is packed full of nutrients such as: antioxidants, beta-carotene, folic acid, Vitamin B6, and fiber, to name just a few.

I know what you're thinking.......but I promise, you will be amazed by how much you will love this crunchy snack and you will thank me for it come January.  The recipe couldn't be easier if it came prepackaged on a shelf somewhere near you.  Try it, give it a whirl!  Everyone could use a little more "green" in their diets this holiday season and this is a great place to start.

To my readers....wishing you a joyous holiday season and a very happy, healthy New Year.  I will not be blogging next week but will see you again in 2012.

KALE CHIPS


1 Large Bunch Organic Kale
2 Tablespoons Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Season Salt
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Wash Kale and remove leaves from heavy stalks.  Break into bite sized pieces and dry using a salad spinner
  • Lightly spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray

  • Lay Kale out evenly on the prepared cookie sheet
  • Sprinkle Kale evenly with season and sea salts
  • Bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until edges are just brown
  • Remove from oven  
  • Use a spatula to remove Kale from cookie sheet, place on a paper towel and cool for 5 minutes

  • Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sous Chef #1: Pregnancy Tips Straight from the Source

Pressure Cooker is excited to announce a new monthly series, "Sous Chef", showcasing guest bloggers who will offer advice, share their own stories of pregnancy and motherhood and may even offer up their favorite recipes to share with all of you.

I am excited to present our first Sous Chef today, Beth McVey, who is expecting her first little one at the end of January.  Beth is one trimester away from becoming a chiropractor, a fabulous cook in her own right, a sweet and funny woman who I am proud to call my sister-in-law and friend.  I am honored she has taken the time out of her already packed schedule (finals, holidays, did I mention she is also 8+ months pregnant?) to offer Survival Tips for Pregnancy along with a fabulous recipe for homemade protein bars below.  I know you will enjoy this post as much as I do!


Pregnancy Survival Tips for Mommies-To-Be
 Beth McVey

            Let me begin by saying if you are a female and plan on having children soon, you may want to wait to read this after you have had your baby.  I wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for changing any plans you may have for starting a family J  (only kidding, starting a family will probably be the best decision you will ever make).  Here is a short list of things (in no specific order) that I wish I had been warned about before my pregnancy…..you’re welcome.

#1
Often when women first find out they are pregnant they have the mentality that they want to stay in great shape and stay healthy, which in and of itself is a wise thing to do.  However, if you are doing it because you want to be the fittest pregnant woman out there so you don’t get a chubby tummy, STOP!! If you are trying to peel your eyelids open to stay awake so you can work out at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.  Having tight abs will backfire on you, it’s better to keep your abs flabby because they will stretch out anyway. All that hard work will soon be diminished.  It’s time to face reality; your body will never look the same.  

#2
Remember that really cute black pea coat that you got last winter?  Don’t try to stuff yourself in it, the buttons will pop off and you will be that chubby lady wearing a small coat….with no buttons.  Face it, it doesn’t fit!  Just hold out hope that it will fit next winter after you have the baby.

#3
Stop buying cute pumps now!  You will get swollen feet and it is a possibility that they may grow a little bit due to the changes in your hormones (which is tough to avoid, especially at the end of your pregnancy).  Keep your feet up as often as you can to help minimize swelling and remember, there are a lot of really cute shoes in your closet you will want to fit into after you have the baby!  If you absolutely have to wear heels, wear them in the beginning of your pregnancy and then try to move on to flats because your feet (and your back) will hate you when you get further along.  Not to mention trying to stuff your chubby toes into pointy shoes (that barely fit before you were pregnant) is not at all attractive.  It is also possible that your anklebones may disappear or you may have wrinkles on your feet, if you can see your feet at all.  Rest assured, the wrinkles will disappear and you will be able to see your anklebones again after the baby arrives but for nine months, you get to be the girl with the ugly feet. 

#4
After a certain period of time you will want to stop looking in the mirror (especially at your behind) as it is not your body anymore, it is your baby’s. Mirrors are not your friend, they will make you cry….walk away from the mirror ladies.

#5
Sleep.  Sleep now.  Take naps as often as you can.  You will hear this often when  you are pregnant and yes you need sleep and yes you appreciate hearing from everyone you know how exhausted you will soon be but really?  Think about it.  Your big belly will get here long before the baby does, how is it possible to sleep with an extra 30 pounds attached to your belly?  It’s like having a watermelon stuffed under your shirt! Run to the nearest store and buy a body pillow, it will become your new best friend.

#6
Just because you are pregnant does not mean that people are going to be nice to you.  People are not going to let you go first in line because it looks like you have a bowling ball stuffed up your shirt. People are not going to let you sit in the aisle seat on the airplane so you can get up to go to the bathroom with ease every 8 minutes.  The golden days of people opening doors for you and helping you pick something up off of the ground are over.   

#7
Even though you couldn’t wait to be pregnant and snuggle up in oversized sweatpants and sweatshirts there may be a few days when this doesn’t make you feel any better about how big you actually are.  Some days, it is going to be tough being pregnant.  Barely being able to put on shoes and socks, sit or lay down in a comfortable position without your back having an out of control spasm, or feeling like you have to pee again even though you just went 10 minutes ago, there will be times when it is really tough.   But that’s ok rest assured there really is an end in sight.  The baby cannot stay in there forever (even if sometimes you think how lovely that may be and really want to figure out how to make that happen).  

#8
The first time you feel the baby move, it’s ok not to cry tears of excitement and joy.  If you think it’s weird in the beginning, that’s ok.  Soon, you will realize that it really is a magical thing and you will eventually love the feeling. 

#9
You may cry at anything and everything.  Just remember to always look up when crying and dab your eyes so your mascara does not go all over your face.  Also remember this is something that you are allowed to use to your advantage whenever you want so use it and use it often.  Soon the only tears that will matter in your house will be that of your baby’s so take advantage of the extra attention, comforting and hugs while you can!

#10
Plan on extra time when you go places where walking up stairs is required.  It will be very hard to breathe.  It may feel like you are going to die but I assure you you won’t.

#11
Lastly, enjoy the peace and quiet of your house now because it will be a very long time before you can hear yourself think again. 

I truly haven’t hated being pregnant.  I have been extremely fortunate throughout my pregnancy by feeling great with no complications.  Even with all of the uncomfortable and weird things happening I would be pregnant again in a heartbeat (although check back with me on this after the baby is born J). 
Pregnancy truly is a blessing for my husband and I and we are more than thrilled to be adding a little addition to our family.  I can’t imagine what it will be like to hold my baby in my arms and experience that kind of love for the first time.  

Below is one of my favorite recipes especially if you have a sweet tooth during your pregnancy like I do.   These homemade protein bars offer a high content of essential protein and taste just like a cookie so plan to make room for more than just one. Oh and you will have to forgive me, my pregnant brain was in full force and I forgot to take pictures for this recipe.

Survival Bars
Ingredients:
3 Cups Organic Raw Oats (preferably gluten free)
1/2 Cup Ground Flax Seeds
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Organic Shredded Coconut
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Himalayan or Sea Salt
1/4 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
2 Cups Organic Greek Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Raw Agave Nectar (you can substitute organic maple syrup or raw honey)
1/2 Cup Organic Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon Organic Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Organic Coconut Oil, melted
1 Bar of Organic Chocolate, chopped or 1 cup Organic Chocolate Chips (70% dark is best)
1 Cup Organic Chopped Seeds or Nuts (or a combination )
1/2 Cup Chopped Dates, Raisins, Figs or Other Dried Fruit, optional
1 Cup Vanilla or Chocolate Whey Protein Powder, optional (or use 1-2 cups if you want the bars to have significant protein content)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with a little coconut oil or organic butter.
2. Combine dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar) in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (Greek yogurt through coconut oil).
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, and then add in the chocolate.
5. Taste a little of the homemade protein bar mixture. Is it tasty? You can add more peanut butter or the optional nuts at this point if you like. Is it sweet enough? If not, you can add some additional sweetener or some of the optional dried fruit. Now is also the time to add in the protein powder if you are going to use it. Mix well using very clean hands (warning--it will be sticky!)
6. Spread the mixture into your prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, let them cool a little, and then slice the bars as you desire. Your homemade protein bars can be sliced into squares (or into a more typical bar shape if you prefer).
7. Spread the bars evenly onto a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes more. Allow to cool, and then wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Can You Say Quinoa?

Quinoa, pronounced "Keen-wah", is a powerful wholegrain packed with antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients, and amino acids.  Small and round, this unassuming grain can be used in place of rice, used in casseroles, as a topping for salads, or is also available in pasta form.


Quinoa comes in three main varieties of grains (easily distinguished by their colors; cream, red and black) with each variety having a slightly different flavor.  Quinoa as a whole has a nutty, hearty flavor and is a delicious option to your standard rice.  Check out this link to the Whole Foods web site explaining the benefits and nutrition content of Quinoa: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice

I have used Quinoa frequently instead of pasta for the last year or so and it is the one pasta replacement option my husband doesn't turn his nose up at.  It looks like, tastes like and has the texture of spaghetti and given its healthy goodness, I don't think I will ever go back to regular pasta.

Quinoa can also be used in place of rice cereal as a baby's first food.  We have started Quinoa with our daughter this week and it's an easy way to pack a large amount of nutrition into a few small ounces. Steamed and pureed, it's an economical easy way to make your own baby food and it stores easily in the fridge or freezer.  Recommended as a Level 1 Grain by Baby 411, Quinoa is fast becoming a popular, versatile grain for your whole family.

Try it, get to know it....you won't be disappointed.

Here is a delicious example of an easy, wholesome dish using Quinoa, let me know what you think!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients



6 Organic Large Green Bell Peppers
1 Cup Quinoa
2 Cups Water
1 Lb. Grass Fed Ground Sirloin
1 Medium White Onion, peeled and diced
1 16 oz. Can Organic Diced Tomatoes
2 Cups Organic Tomato Sauce
3/4 Cup Organic Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
2 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
2 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Sea Salt

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, combine Quinoa and Water, bringing to a boil

  • Cover and reduce heat to Medium Low, simmering for 10 - 15 minutes (until water is absorbed completely)


  • Set aside
  • Cut the tops off of the green peppers, discard the stems from the top and chop remaining portion finely

  • Hollow out the innards and seeds from inside of the peppers
  • Lightly spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray, place peppers in dish side by side, open side up
  • Set aside and preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over Medium heat
  • Add onions, cooking for 5 minutes or until just clear
  • Add ground sirloin
  • Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until beef is well cooked
  • Add green peppers, diced tomatoes and spices, stirring frequently for 3 minutes
  • Add tomato sauce and reduce heat to Low, simmering for 5 minutes

  • Add reserved Quinoa to skillet, stirring to combine

  • Using a large spoon, scoop the mixture from the skillet into the peppers until just beneath the top
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle tops of peppers evenly with cheese

  • Return to oven (no aluminum foil) for an additional 10 minutes
  • Serve immediately

    • Enjoy!

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Cyber Monday Soup

    The turkey has finally disappeared, the last piece of pie consumed and family has departed back to their respective homes.  Thanksgiving is over and this means only one thing to me....CYBER MONDAY has arrived!

    For those of you unfamiliar, Cyber Monday is the "Black Friday" of the online shopping world.  Personally, I very much dislike shopping at the mall, at department stores or at big box retailers.  I always have.  The one kind of shopping I enjoy (and have become rather proficient at) is online shopping.  For myself, for my husband and daughter, for gifts, for diapers, even for groceries; shopping online is a daily occurrence in my house and today is a day I look forward to all year long.

    If you venture out into cyberspace today you will find almost every retailer has incentives, discounts and sales. Free shipping, two for one, 20% - 60% off your orders, the deals are plentiful!  I have found several online stores I love and would love to share them with you.

    TheFind.com  is one of my favorites.  This site offers the ease of typing in an item you are looking for and then provides photos, pricing and links to thousands of retailers offering what you are looking for.  It saves time by consolidating your search and allows you to compare prices without having to toggle back and forth between web pages.

    ShopStyle.com  is similar to the find but is clothing specific.  You can search for clothing, accerssories, shoes, etc. offering women's, men's and children's options all in one place.  Type in "Brown Leather Riding Boots" for example and it will provide a plethora of photos with pricing which when clicked on, take you to the retailers web site for purchase.

    Zulilly.com is one of my absolute favorite children's and maternity online stores.  This site is a membership site, enter in your email and receive daily offers deals year round on some of the top children's brands (clothing, shoes, accessories, decor, toys and more) as well as maternity wear and accessories.  Zulily offers daily discounts from 20% - 60% for a limited period of time (usually 72 hours or until items are sold out) and with designers and stores changing daily it always offers something new for all of your needs.

    Today was a perfect Cyber Monday, rainy and cold, a wonderful day to stay inside and shop online.  And the good news is the day is not over, the deals are still plentiful, so get online before the day is done and enjoy the savings!

    Below you will find a hearty and healthy Chicken Veggie Rice Soup recipe that is perfect for a rainy, cold Cyber Monday.  Easy and delicious you can make this soup while shopping to your hearts content online.  Also a great post-Thanksgiving soup if you still have leftovers. Just substitute chopped cooked turkey for the chicken and skip the first three steps in the directions.  Add the turkey when you add the peas and there you go, your fridge is clear of Turkey Day remnants.  Enjoy!

    Chicken Veggie Rice Soup

    Ingredients
    12 Cups Organic Chicken Broth
    1.5 Pounds Organic Chicken Breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
    24 Oz. Organic Kidney Beans, drained
    4 Medium Organic Yellow Squash, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
    6 Medium Organic Carrots, peeled and cut into nickle-sized slices
    1 Bunch Organic Celery, leaves removed and chopped
    1 Large Organic Yellow Onion, peeled and diced
    1 Bag Frozen Organic Peas
    3 Cloves Garlic, minced
    2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
    3 Teaspoons Sea Salt
    3 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper, divided
    2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
    2 Teaspoons Oregano
    2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
    1 Teaspoon Cumin

    Directions 

    • In medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium and saute garlic for 3 minutes.
    • Add chicken pieces, sprinkle with oregano, garlic salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, cooking for 8 - 10 minutes or until cooked through
    • Combine chicken broth and rice in a large stock pot over medium high heat, cover and bring to a boil
    • Boil for 7 minutes
    • Add onions and celery to stock pot, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes
    • Add carrots, kidney beans, squash, remaining spices and chicken to stock pot, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    • Add peas, cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue to simmer for an additional 15 - 20 minutes or until carrots pierce easily with a fork.
    • Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  This soup can also be frozen (allow to cool at room temperature first) and will last up to 6 months.
    • Enjoy!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Thankful? Yes, indeed.

    Thanksgiving is upon us you will no doubt be seeing a plethora of "thankful" blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets this week.  I have no doubt we are innately all thankful for many things but having the opportunity to tell those we love, those we admire and those who support us how thankful we are, is such a gift. I hope you will take time over the upcoming holiday to surround yourselves with family, friends, goodness, love, thankfulness and of course, wonderful food.

    T......is for THANKFUL which I am for so many, many things.  Good and bad, life does not always let us choose the destination but  I have found the journey is often the greatest, most surprising gift.
    H.....is HARPER, for the precious gift of our healthy, wonderful, beautiful, sweet girl.
    A.....is for AHHH!  I finally feel at 31 years old that I have found my purpose, my peace, my place and could not be happier.
    N.....is for is for NATE, my brother who I have had the great fortune of also calling my friend. He is a husband, uncle and father-to-be who I admire so much. He has an envious work ethic, he makes me laugh and he has such a generous, kind heart.  I am so very lucky to share life's journeys with my brother!
    K.....is for KEVIN, the most wonderful, supportive, loving, thoughtful husband and father I know.  I am thankful every day to have my best friend, my greatest source of laughter, and someone with the patience of thousands, by my side.
    S......is for SISTERS, who this year and always have been a great source of laughter, support, friendship, and pure joy in my life.  Although not sisters by blood, we are sisters at heart and I am so fortunate to have you both.
    G.....is for GOING PLACES, which we have done a lot of this year.  Spending time with friends and family we love (who live too far away) is so valuable to us and I am so thankful this year has been filled with so many wonderful places and most importantly, with some of our favorite people.
    I.......is for INCREDIBLE FRIENDS who have wiped my tears, shared my smiles and have been with me for so many of life's ups and downs.  You are all so special to me and I am truly thankful for each of you.
    V.....is for VARIETY and learning to embrace life with all the changes it brings.
    I.......is for INTROSPECTION which I have done much of this year.  It has made me question myself at my core but has allowed me to reach a place where I realize I am happy with me, happy with life and thankful for all of the good and bad that I bring to the table.  I am a stronger person because of it, with a quieter head and softer heart and I am so thankful for that.
    N....is for NINE MONTHS of cravings, tears, fears, smiles, kicks, tumbles, fist pumps and wiggles in my belly.  Although it is well known I was not a fan of being pregnant, when I hold my daughter I would happily do it all again and again - I am thankful for the great gift and honor of carrying my sweet baby girl.
    G....is for GRANDPARENTS. Grandma, Grandpa, Grammy & Gramps...as our parents we questioned you, we challenged you, we made you laugh, we made you cry, we have made you proud (which I know because you tell us so!), we have started our own lives with the foundation you poured your hearts and souls into.  Getting to know you as GRANDPARENTS, we now see all of the things we missed while we were looking at "our parents" - your love, your care, your helpfulness, your support, hugs and kisses....Harper is so incredibly lucky to have you in her life and so are Kevin and I.

    THANKSGIVING is a wonderful occasion celebrating THANKFULNESS, such a powerful, wonderful gift.  Wishing you many days, things and people to fill your hearts with thankfulness today and always.

    I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes and an excellent substitute for the mound of mashed potatoes that typically accompany the Thanksgiving Day turkey. Easy, delicious and wholesome, Cauliflower Mash is a delightful side to any dish!

    Cauliflower Mash

    Ingredients:
    2 Heads Organic Cauliflower
    1 Cup Organic Light Sour Cream
    3 Tablespoons Organic Parmesan Cheese, shredded
    1 Cup Water
    Salt and Pepper to Taste

    Directions:

    • Chop cauliflower into 1 inch pieces (eyeball, doesn't have to be exact) 

    • In a medium saucepan, combine water and chopped cauliflower 
    • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, boil for 10 - 15 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork
    • Remove from heat and strain excess water
    • Place cauliflower in a medium mixing bowl and blend with a hand mixer until smooth.
    • Fold in sour cream and mix by hand until well combined
    • Add salt and pepper to taste
    • Sprinkle with cheese just prior to serving
    • Enjoy!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Chocolate Chip Comfort

    I have had a decidedly uneventful week this week.  The weather has been cold, too cold to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  The sky is dark at 5:30 p.m. now and makes for one sleepy little lady by 7:00 p.m.  We stayed home this weekend and enjoyed doing a whole lot of nothing (divine!) but on that note, quiet weekends do not interesting blog posts make.

    So, since I deprived you of a recipe last week, I thought I would offer up one of my all time favorites for you to enjoy.
     
    Call me old fashioned but I sincerely believe every Mom should have a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe in their cooking repertoire.  I substitute brown rice flour for all purpose flour and I promise you won't be able to tell the difference.  In fact, I would argue the cookies are actually more flavorful using the brown rice flour and are certainly more wholesome.  Also, you can use margarine instead of butter if you choose however I am a big proponent of cooking with real food - real butter, real sugars, etc.  You can feel good about this wholesome recipe and trust me, if these chocolate chip cookies don't bring you comfort on a cool day, you are in for a very long winter.

    In addition, I always double the recipe (you will notice this in the photos) and put 75% of the dough in the freezer for later.  I love being able to make a few cookies at a time fresh from the freezer when the craving calls or when I have guests expectantly or otherwise. Please see below for instructions on freezing the dough.

    Chocolate Chip Cookies
    2 1/4 Cups Brown Rice Flour
    1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
    1 Cup Organic Salted Butter, softened
    2 Large Organic Eggs
    1 Cup Organic Brown Sugar, packed
    1 Cup Organic Granulated Sugar
    1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
    2 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I use Ghiradelli because they are all natural)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    • In a medium mixing bowl, combine rice flour and baking soda and set aside

    • In a large mixing bowl, combine sugars and butter, blending at medium speed until smooth

    • Add eggs and vanilla, stirring to combine

    • Slowly add in flour combination to butter and sugar combination, mixing by hand until well blended

    • Stir in chocolate chips

    • Spoon dough onto ungreased baking sheet (approximately 1.5 inch rounds)

    • Bake for 10 - 11 minutes or until edges begin to brown

    • Remove from pan and cool on rack for 5 minutes

    • Enjoy!

    Freezing Directions
    • Place a large piece of waxed paper on a cutting board
    • Scoop 2 Cups of dough onto the waxed paper

    • Form dough into a log

    • Roll log in waxed paper


    • Place covered log into a zip closure freezer bag

    • Repeat until dough is gone.
    • To serve, remove from freezer and cut portion of log you wish to use.  Spoon dough onto cookie sheet and bake as directed above.  Return unused portion to the freezer. (dough can be frozen for up to 6 months)


    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Lesson Learned

    We had the wonderful pleasure of heading west to visit some of our favorite friends in San Francisco this weekend.  Traveling anywhere with a 5 month old is a gamble but a four and a half hour flight is truly risky.  Luckily, our daughter was a gem on the way to San Fran, kicking off an amazing weekend.

    Lesson learned.....it was too much to ask for the flight home to go as well.  Take the three hour time change in conjunction with a flight time around normal bedtime and turning the clocks back, suddenly we found ourselves as "those people".  Those people who had a screaming, inconsolable, exhausted baby.....on an airplane for four and a half hours.  She started fussing as we taxied and didn't stop until she passed out from exhaustion three hours into the flight.

    YES, we were those people who were trying anything and everything to comfort our little girl; those people who looked like we must be borrowing someone else's baby because certainly this couldn't be our own child we were trying unsuccessfully to quiet.  I was sweating profusely while I tried to rock her in my seat.  I was flashing everyone around me as I tried to nurse her while she kicked and flailed so much she was everywhere but under my nursing cover up. We were those people getting scolded by the flight attendants for trying to walk with her up and down the aisle while the seat belt sign was on.

    My husband was doing his best to help quell the situation by showing her toys, singing to her, trying to make her laugh - she batted at him with the aggression of a seasoned warrior, she wanted nothing to do with any of it.  We were those people who tried politely to ignore the woman across the aisle asking if she could help.  Did we want her bracelet for the baby to play with?  Offering genius advice such as, "Maybe she's hungry?".  Oh, well of course!  Why didn't we think of that?  I really thought as we passed over Kansas they might open an escape hatch somewhere and gently push us out.....and at that point, I may not have even resisted.

    We have all been on a flight with a crying baby (or several) but only now do I fully understand the hell that I have seen on the faces of those poor parents.  You are trapped, there is nowhere to go, nothing to be done.  When you have exhausted all options and still have a screaming child, when you have started to tear up yourself because you feel helpless, when you start to wonder if something more serious is happening with your baby, just as the panic sets in - this is when it stops.  Finally, an exhausted baby slumps against your shoulder and is quiet.  A collective sigh passes through the cabin from everyone around you who have been covering there ears with pillows, shaking their heads, rolling their eyes.  Finally, quiet.

    By the way, if you are ever in this situation and the baby screaming is not yours, please refrain from offering your wisdom to the parents.  It's bad enough when as the baby's parents you can't do any of the usual tricks to keep the peace, but having complete strangers suggest obvious solutions (although well meaning) could lead to violence.

    Lesson learned........we survived, however, the battle aboard flight 794 is forever ingrained in our minds.....as well as that of the other 180 passengers on board.

    You will notice I do not have a recipe to post this week (unless you want a recipe for a travelling disaster, then please see above) but will have something delicious to share again next time.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    The Jack of All Trades

    The leaves are changing colors, the air has a familiar chill and the Jack-o-Lanterns have once again returned to grace the porches of neighbors' homes.

    We carved our first pumpkin with our daughter this year (I don't think I have carved a pumpkin in 10 years or more so don't judge the creation that follows).  As we were carving, scraping, cutting shapes and toasting seeds, I couldn't help but feeling akin to the friendly little pumpkin we were transforming into a Jack-o-Lantern.

    As a mother you are constantly digging deep within yourself to provide your children, your husband, your friends and family, with the very pieces of you they crave.  You haven't quite lost the roundness of your former pregnant self and you may even find you have more wrinkles now, more stress showing on your face.  The Jack-o-Lantern often has missing teeth, squinted eyes, or a crooked nose yet they are expected to shine brightly and light the way for those around them.  Like motherhood, although fulfilling, facing the world with one tooth, a crooked nose,and a lingering roundness, can be a daunting task.  But you do it.  You do it because it is your life's purpose.

    The Jack-o-Lantern is one of the most favored traditions of celebrating Halloween and even with the advances in technology, the moving, noise-making, blinking lawn toys so plentiful, the Jack-o-Lantern is always present, always a must.  The tools for carving have become better, the designs more creative, but the premise is the same.  To offer a laugh, a comforting glow, a familiar face for a traditional holiday.

    Mothers are much the same.  The tools and technology for motherhood have changed immensely and rapidly, but the underlying purpose and the natural instincts are still there.  Mothers give their souls to their children and family with the only expectation of return being a laugh, a smile from their child.  A hug and a feeling that the light within you shines brightly to guide their way.  To them, a missing tooth, an added wrinkle, and sagging eyes are not what defines you.  To them you are the tradition, the comfort, the familiar  face that delights and enchants them time and again.

    So the next time you see a Jack-o-Lantern I hope you will appreciate the pumpkin they once were and the transformation they have made.  There is a reason we don't carve squash or potatoes....there is a reason pumpkins and mothers are uniquely perfect for the privilege of being the chosen ones.

    Below is a sweet twist on an old favorite, Cinnamon and Sugar Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, enjoy!




    1 - 2 Cups Fresh Pumpkin Seeds, rinsed and patted dry
    2 -3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    3 Teaspoons Cinnamon
    1/3 Cup Organic Granulated Sugar
    2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
    1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
    1 Teaspoon Iodized Salt

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees.


    • In a medium bowl, soak seeds in 1 - 2 Cups of water with iodized salt for approximately 15 minutes.
    •  Remove any remaining pumpkin innards from seeds (remove more easily after they soak in the salt water).  Drain excess water and pat seeds dry with a paper towel.  
    • In a separate bowl, combine dry seeds with olive oil, cinnamon and pumpkin spice, tossing until evenly coated. 



    • Spread evenly onto a cookie sheet (single layer) and bake for 5 - 10 minutes (watching closely so as not to burn).  
    • Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt while still warm.  Enjoy!

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Sugar and Spice

    I always knew I would have (and wanted) a house full of boys. I was a woman who hated to shop, loved watching football and loved playing golf, was remedial with hair and makeup.....surely a woman like me was supposed to have boys?

    My husband and I chose to have an elective ultrasound right before Christmas last year to find out the gender of our baby. We asked the technician to keep it a secret while she scanned my belly (although I was certain she was seeing what I already knew to be true, definitely a boy).  She gave us a CD of the images and told us she had noted on the last slide what the sex of our baby was. We took the CD home and opened it together later that evening when we celebrated our Christmas together.

    When we got to the last image and I saw "It's a girl!" written on the screen I looked at my husband and burst into tears. How could it be? We had been lovingly referring to our little one as "buddy", "little guy", "champ" and not to mention all of the old wives tales pointing to it being a boy....I was in shock.  At one point, I remember thinking how glad I was that we had chosen to find out the sex of our baby before the birth because had I reacted like that at the hospital when the doctor shouted "it's a girl!", I would have probably been paid a visit by DEFAX.

    I realize now I was crying not because I was sad or upset but because I was terrified. What kind of a Mommy would I be to a little girl? What kind of a relationship would we have? How would I ever survive her teenage years? Prom? First dates? Dresses and hair bows, ballet and ponytails, I was beyond petrified.

    I felt like a terrible mother and person for being so upset.  I felt guilty for not immediately being thankful for the fact we had a healthy baby and even more guilty for admitting openly that I was disappointed.  After a good half an hour of tears, my sweet husband told me he had seen "It's a girl" on the computer screen while we were having the ultrasound and knowing how upset I would be, was scared to show me the CD (which is why he was 2 hours late coming home that evening!).  He then whispered to me that secretly he had always wanted a little girl and he had all the confidence in the world that I could do this, that I could find a part of me I didn't think was there.  Together we would give this little girl our souls and she would delight us in ways we couldn't imagine.

    He was right. (and I hate admitting that, ever.)

    As soon as I accepted that our sweet little girl was growing inside me (and after I apologized profusely to her for referring to her as a boy for 17 weeks), something began to change.

    My heart melted at the thought of ballet shoes, pigtails and kisses. My soul leaped at the thought of my husband dancing with her at her wedding. My fear, although still present, was slowly giving way to excitement. I could do this and I was determined to take my fear and use it to find the best in myself that I could, in turn, offer to our sweet little girl.

    Sugar and spice and everything nice....that's what little girls are made of indeed, and so much more!

    From the very moment I heard her cry, from the first time I held her and looked into those loving eyes, I knew this was how it was supposed to be.

    In her, I saw pieces of me and of my husband. In her, I felt such pride and gratefulness that she had chosen me for her Mommy. I felt so unbelievably scared, yet calling her "my daughter" were the most natural words I have ever spoken. I felt undeserved of such an amazing gift and I knew I would cherish it more than anything before or after....she was my sweet, happy girl, the apple of her Daddy's eye.

    With every snuggle, every coo, and every cry I was able to comfort, she slowly melted my fears. She was perfect, she is my everything. As if she is a wise old soul she often looks at me like "Don't worry Mommy, we can do it and you and I will both be fine."

    She was exactly what I never knew I wanted or thought I needed - she brings out the best in me and has no idea how thankful I am for the pink.....the bows.....the ballet slippers.

    Sugar and spice is more than nice; it's surprisingly, wonderfully, amazingly, perfectly suited for this Mommy.

    In honor of the beautiful sugar and spice in my life, you will find a recipe for a delicious Pumpkin Spice Smoothie below (pictures to come later this week).  Enjoy!


    Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Blend Time: 1 minute
    Servings: 1-2

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 Cup Canned Pumpkin 
    1 Cup Frozen Apricot
    1 Cup Organic Vanilla Greek Yogurt
    1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
    1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
    1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
    2 Tablespoons Light Agave Nectar
    1 Cup Ice

    Directions
    1. Combine all ingredients in blender
    2. Blend on medium speed until smooth (approximately 1 minute)
    3. Serve immediately, enjoy!

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    My Little Meatball

    My little girl is almost five months old already and I cannot imagine where the time has gone.  She has filled my days with countless smiles and given me boundless joy - she has challenged my idea of parenthood and has filled my heart with a love I had not previously understood existed.


    This weekend we left her for the first time to attend an out of town wedding and I have to say, I thought my husband was going to have to peel me out of our house - but we survived and so did she.  I was sad without her - I wanted to kiss her, see her smile, snuggle with her - and yet I also cherished the time away.  

    It's funny....I am writing this tonight with one eye closed (as I have yet to recover from this amazing weekend - thank you Sarah and Dave Paul) as my head hurts, I'm tired, my feet hurt - yet I could run a marathon if you told me my daughter would be waiting for me at the finish line.  

    I couldn't WAIT to get home to squeeze her today - and when I got home, she wanted NOTHING to do with her Mommy.  I don't know if she was mad at me for leaving her, sad that her Grammy and Gramps left to go back home, worried we would leave her again, mad that she didn't get to celebrate with her Auntie Sarah and Uncle Dave - whatever it was, she was NOT a fan and was actually scowling at me.  It took several hours until she cracked a smile, then eventually a laugh and then another...until we ended the night with her usual abundant snuggles and all was right in my world again. 

    Moral of the story?  I'm never leaving my little meatball again....ever.
    (or at least until Friday.....)

    As promised, you will find a meatball recipe to accompany the marinara recipe from last week. These are great served Italian style or work well with a gravy or sweet and sour sauce - they also freeze well so feel free to double the batch and keep some for another time.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 - 30 minutes
    Servings: 8

    INGREDIENTS:
                       
    ½ Pound Organic Ground Bison
    ½ Pound Organic Ground Lamb
    ½ Pound Organic Ground Veal
    2 Organic Eggs
    1.5 - 2 Cups Italian Bread Crumbs (eyeball the last 1/2 Cup - you want the mixture to look moist)
    2 Tablespoons Oregano
    1 Tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
    2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
    2 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Cooking Spray

    Directions
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    ·      Spray broiling pan with cooking spray and set aside. 
    ·      In medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, mix together by hand until combined 
    ·      Roll mixture into 1-inch balls using palms of hands
    ·      Place on prepared pan in even rows approximately 1 inch apart 
    ·      Brush meatballs lightly with olive oil and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until cooked through. 
    ·      Can be frozen for up to three months
    ·       Enjoy!

    Before Baking 
    Enjoy!

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Pasta Sunday

    I had such strong pasta cravings during my 2nd trimester, I was convinced my daughter was going to exit the womb with a meatball in each hand and a pile of pasta on her head.  In an attempt to calm my cravings, my husband declared Sunday's as Pasta Sunday "with his girls" which not only helped me monitor my pasta intake, but also created the first of many fun traditions for our family of three.

    I can't help but think my pasta cravings were a matter of genetics.  Growing up with an Italian grandmother was heaven on Earth - in heels and pearls, always a marinara brewing on her stove, she would chop and stir with grace while we sat and salivated over what was soon to be our best meal yet....again.

    Although she is no longer with us, whenever I make her marinara (or mine now adapted from hers) I can't help but feel connected to her, to my childhood, to my soul.

    The trick to any good pasta dish, I believe, begins with the marinara - the pasta becomes merely a vehicle by which the marinara travels a lovely journey across your palate, down into your belly, warming you slowly from the inside out.

    Finding the time to make a marinara from scratch is difficult with a little one in tow, however I have found if I make a big batch once a month I can freeze the left overs and very easily defrost and enjoy whenever Pasta Sunday comes around.  Easier than you may think, the sauce below can simmer for a few hours while you get on with your day - the smell wafting through the house is reason enough to take the extra time to make it from scratch.

    In addition to pasta cravings, I also found I had a carnivore of the highest demand growing in my belly.  I searched high and low for just the right combination of meats to make the most delightful, decadent, delicious meatballs.......and good news, I think I have cracked the meatball code. Stay tuned for next weeks' recipe.....soon enough you will not only be able to master marinara but you will be able to enjoy it over a mountain of fabulous meatballs.  

    For now, enjoy the recipe below and maybe even start a pasta tradition of your own..........


    Prep Time: 20 Minutes
    Cook Time: 1 -2 Hours
    Servings: 10

    INGREDIENTS:
    2 Cans (28 oz. each) Organic Crushed Tomatoes
    2 Cups Organic Beef Broth
    4 Roma Tomatoes (very ripe work best), washed and diced finely (do not discard innards)
    3 Cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped finely
    1 Organic Medium White Onion, peeled and chopped finely
    1 Cup Organic Pureed Carrots (approximately 3 large carrots, peeled, boiled and pureed)
    2 Cups Organic White Mushrooms, washed and sliced
    3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    1 Tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
    2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
    2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
    2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
    1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
    3 Dried Bay Leaves

    Directions

    • Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat
    • Add garlic and onions, sauteing until onions are just clear
    • Add all remaining ingredients, stirring continuously over medium heat for five minutes
    • Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 - 2 hours (it will be ready after an hour however the longer you can allow it to simmer, the more flavorful it will become)
    • Remove bay leaves just prior to serving
    • Enjoy!



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