Category Archives: Recipes

Bringing the outdoors in

With the usual hot temperatures hanging around outside, I decided to keep things interesting this week by bringing the outdoor feel inside.  For a family who likes to be outside more than not, creativity is a must to get through the summer months here.

For dinner one night last week, we spread out a blanket on the living room floor and feasted, picnic-style, on hot dogs, baked beans and tomatoes. It was like we were camping with a TV and without bugs… next stop, imagination station.

_DSC4458On Saturday night, we pulled out the Aerobed and had a movie night/sleepover. I’m really not sure why we haven’t done this since Christmas because it’s so much fun and takes very little effort. It’s especially worth doing while we have a great snuggler in our midst.  I mean, who can resist that precious face? I know I can’t, even when I had a couple limbs thrown at my head and multiple blanket adjustments throughout the night. Ah, motherhood._DSC4468

Of course, with a movie night comes homemade popcorn, and I found this really good popcorn seasoning that is worth trying.  I made extra to have on hand the next time we make popcorn because it was a hit in this family.

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HOMEMADE POPCORN SEASONING

Ingredients:

4 T celery salt (Here is how to make your own celery salt.)
4 T dried parsley flakes
6 t garlic powder
6 t salt (I recommend Real Salt.)
6 t ground summer savory (can try subbing thyme, but it will be a tad stronger)
2 t dried marjoram
2 t dried thyme
1 t pepper
1 t turmeric
1 t ground sage

Directions:

Combine all in a small bowl.  Store in glass or plastic container with a tight fitting lid.  Stir or shake occasionally before use to redistribute ingredients.  Simply sprinkle on top of freshly popped popcorn and enjoy!

How was your weekend? 

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Summer Bliss: Frozen Hot Chocolate

Frozen Hot ChocolateThis oxymoron-titled beverage is nothing new to the Pinterest and blogosphere, so I’m here to tell you if you haven’t tried it yet, now is the perfect time to whip some up on a nice warm (or hot in our case) summer day.

There are many takes on this chocolatey, iced-cold goodness, but the one we gave a try was from Tasty Kitchen.  My 5-year-old daughter did most of the work, adding and blending the ingredients, so it was really easy to make.  If you’re like us and don’t have a double-broiler, a microwave-safe glass bowl sitting over a pot of boiling water works just fine. The photos above show the process starting in the upper left corner and working clockwise. It was a delicious way to close out a hot day, particularly after a really healthy kale salad dinner, ahem. Next time we’ll add whipped cream and chocolate chips on the top, although it’s still great without the added calories.  Enjoy!

FROZEN HOT CHOCOLATE

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • 1 package Hot Cocoa Mix (about 3 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • ⅓ cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • ⅓ cups White Chocolate Chips
  • 12 ounces, fluid Can Evaporated Milk, Divided
  • 4-½ cups Ice
  • Whipped Cream, To Taste
  • Mini Marshmallows, To Taste

Preparation

Combine sugar, cocoa mix, and butter in the top of a double boiler that is set over gently boiling water. Stir often until melted and a smooth paste forms. Add semi-sweet & white chocolate chips; stir. When chips begin to melt, slowly stir in 1/2 cup of evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Combine the chocolate base mixture, the remaining evaporated milk and ice in a blender (you can do this in batches) and cover. Blend until smooth. Pour into frosty glasses. Top each with whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional chopped chocolate chips & mini marshmallows, if desired.

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Tuesday Tea

Oolong Tea. This tea has been touted as an antioxidant that helps with weight loss, promoting heart health and reducing high blood pressure and treating skin disorders. I just really love its nutty, no frills flavor. I prefer to drink it after lunch as it helps settle my stomach and keeps the digestive tract moving. I bought the Triple Leaf brand at Sprouts.

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With the onset of warm weather, the presence of more fruits and vegetables in the markets and the pure and simple need to put food into my body that I can pronounce, I’m on a mission to make and eat more foods that are in their most natural state. We eat pretty well in my house, but there’s always room for improvement.  Ok, so I may have to steam my broccoli versus eating it raw because, well, that just keeps me from dipping it in dressing I don’t need. I figure as long as I’m not adding it to a cheesy casserole, I’m a giant step ahead.

You may remember I’ve been here before back when I did the summer real food challenge. I introduced my family to some great recipes we still eat to this day.  One of the best things I learned then, and even now, is I don’t have to slave in the kitchen to eat this way.  And trust me, if I had to, I wouldn’t do it.  Every Friday or Saturday, I plan our meals for the following week.  I go to the store and load my fridge with the good stuff – lots of green, red, orange and yellow – and most of our dinners consist of simple eats like a veggie, pita and hummus plate or quinoa salad with apple slices.  I like to eat light at night and it’s a win-win for me because I avoid the exhaustive meal prep, I eat right and I leave the table feeling satisfied but not full. I really hate that full feeling, don’t you?  It’s just not necessary and it makes me feel bad and a tad bit grumpy.

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damndelicious.net

Tonight we had the Chopped salad with cilantro lime dressing from Damn Delicious. The one thing I changed is I replaced the yogurt in the dressing with half an avocado.  It was still creamy and, yes, damn delicious.  I will certainly make this again.

Do you have any favorite “clean eating” websites?  If so, please share! 

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Homemade Ginger Chews

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As you may have read here, here and here, I’m a big fan of fresh ginger – the spicy taste, the aroma and the health benefits.  Did you know ginger can help alleviate nausea, sore muscles, boost the immune system and promote digestion?  Check out The Ginger People to learn more.  Meanwhile, I’ll take the largest root available, please.  Of course, it does mold quickly once cut, so time is of the essence when working with this little gem.

While visiting my mother-in-law a few weeks ago, she shared with me these delicious homemade ginger chews.  Once I returned home, I immediately purchased a root and took to the kitchen.  These are easy to make, they taste amazing and you can reserve the liquid to add a little kick to your next club soda cocktail or juice.

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HOMEMADE GINGER CHEWS
Peel and very thinly slice 1 large ginger root (about 8 oz). In a large saucepan, cook 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup and they still taste great) and a pinch of salt over medium heat until just boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add ginger slices. Simmer gently, uncovered, 30-40 minutes or until syrupy. Remove from heat; let stand 1 hour. Strain the ginger, reserving the liquid for another use (see above suggestions). Arrange ginger slices on a wire rack set over a shallow baking pan/cookie sheet. Dry overnight.  Eat plain or add 1 cup of sugar to a large bowl and toss in ginger to coat. Store in sealed container and refrigerate up to 1 month.

Do you have any favorite ginger recipes?  If so, please share them in the comment section.  

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The Gift of Juicing

For my birthday a few months ago, my husband bought me the juicer I’ve had my eye on for a while. My interest in juicing started when one of the chefs at my work brought in some “green” juices for all of us to try.  They were delicious – carrying  the distinct earthly flavor of kale, spinach and celery, combined with the sweetness of apple, the fresh taste of cucumber, the bite of lemon and finally topped with the spice of ginger.  It was a healthy afternoon “snack” that left me seeing more regular juicing in my future.  Of course, in my mind’s eye I saw a fridge full of healthy greens and fruits and mornings slurping down healthy concoctions instead of my regular caffeinated beverages.  In reality, I’m getting there…slowly.  In reality, it takes A LOT of fruits and veggies to make a 16 oz juice.  In reality, sometimes I just prefer a warm, caffeinated cup of chai tea to welcome a cold winter morning.  But, in reality, I love my juicer and I love experimenting with different flavors I would have never thought to combine otherwise.

To accompany my new appliance, I bought The Juicing Bible which contains everything from juicing recipes, to herbal and tea remedies.  It’s not only a great recipe book, it’s a great introduction to nutrition and overall well-being.  Two of my favorite recipes so far are the Green Drink (as noted above) and the Orange Zinger:

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GREEN DRINK (earthy in flavor)

5-6 full leaves of kale (stems completely removed as this juicer does not do well with tough stems)
Handful of spinach
2 apples (I like gala or fuji)
2 celery stalks
1 cucumber
1 lemon (rind removed)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger (unpeeled)

ORANGE ZINER (sweet in flavor)

2 oranges (rind removed)
3 large carrots (unpeeled)
1 apple
1 inch piece of fresh ginger (unpeeled)

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Christmas Weekending_Part Three

This weekend was filled with homemade goodness, traditions and a couple little surprises and play in between.  Yes, this weekend was right up my alley.  It started with D receiving a surprise Christmas gift from a lady who works at our neighborhood coffee shop.  A little finger puppet penguin that was D’s constant companion this entire weekend.  It made my heart swell to see her appreciate the small gesture so much.  And to Terry at Starbucks…building loyalty through the children…well played!

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Saturday night was our traditional Christmas lights tour through our community, topped off with some delicious homemade hot chocolate:

HOT COCOA MIX (courtesy of Cooks Illustrated)
1 cup sugar
6 oz unsweetened chocolate bar, chopped fine
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
5 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Process all ingredients in food processor until ground to powder, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months.  For one serving of hot chocolate, heat 1 cup of whole, 2% or 1% low-fat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts to steam and bubbles appear around the edge.  Add 1/4 cup of hot chocolate mix and continue to heat, whisking constantly, until simmering, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Pour hot chocolate into a mug and serve.  We prefer a little more milk so it’s not as rich, and, of course, we add mini marshmallows.

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On Sunday morning, we walked to our neighborhood park to play on the swings and kick the ball around on the field. D has pretty good aim and foot work so we’re hopeful she will want to try soccer one of these days.  If nothing else, it could help her focus her competitive nature.

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Sunday afternoon was spent making goodies for work and handmade cards for teachers.  I love our time in the kitchen!

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ROLO DELIGHTS
Small Pretzels
Rolos Candies
Pecan Halves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place pretzels in single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Place one Rolo candy on top of each pretzel and bake in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes until Rolos are soft but not melted. Immediately press one pecan half down on the Rolo and pretzel and let cool completely. Simple, sweet and salty!

_DSC3292 _DSC3293To top off our weekend, we walked to our own neighborhood Candy Cane Lane to check out the spectacle of lights on foot, and D received a couple sparklers from the neighbors to add to the festivities.  A great weekend, indeed!

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True Food’s “The Natural” Ginger Soda

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True Food Kitchen Website

One of my favorite places to eat here in the Phoenix area is True Food Kitchen.  They embody my three favorite things in a restaurant – healthy, delicious and relaxing.  Sitting out on the wrap-around porch, sipping “The Natural” and enjoying light fare puts me in a perpetual summer mood, whether it’s August or February.  You know, that feeling of being on vacation with only thoughts of “I have no place to be, I may as well stay here and have another”.

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True Food Kitchen Website

Well, you can only imagine my excitement when I found I could bring a little piece of that bliss home with me.  No, not the wrap-around porch, although that would be my preference.  I’m referring to their delicious ginger soda drink called “The Natural”.  It’s refreshing, yummy and easy to make.  I found the recipe on the Phoenix New Times website after a quick Google search and I was very pleased with the outcome.  I make it one glass at a time instead of by the pitcher since the Club Soda will lose its fizz quickly – just a word of caution.  If you like ginger, this drink is for you!

INGREDIENTS:

Syrup
½ cup Agave Nectar
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finally chopped
1 cup Sparkling Water

Ginger Soda (pitcher)
½ Cup Ginger Syrup
3 Cups Sparkling Water
Ice Cubs

DIRECTIONS:

1. To make the syrup first peel the ginger
2. Next grate the ginger on a cheese grater
3. Measure out the Agave nectar (1/2 cup)
4. Measure out the Sparkling Water (1 cup)​
5. Place the agave nectar, ginger, and sparkling water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until your house fills with a strong smell of ginger, about 1 hour. Let cool. ​
6. NOTE: you can refrigerate this mixture for up to 1 week​
7. To make the soda: By the pitcher, combine ½ cup syrup with the soda water. By the glass, combine 2 teaspoons of the syrup with soda water​
8. Pour over ice and serve cold

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