Month: April 2016

Szechuan-Style Green Beans

This dish is amazing. Yes, you can serve it as an awesome side. But I am telling you this dish could stand up to being a meal in itself. Seriously, it is that good and flavorful. Even better, it’s easy and quick! Yay! The original version can be found in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, It’s All Easy; which I am loving btw… It’s makes healthy eating fun! A couple of the ingredients might not sound familiar, so here’s a quick note: you could probably replace the tamari with soy sauce and the sambal oelek with a chili paste (such as Thai). Enjoy!

 

As organic as possible:

Salt

2 tsp minced fresh Ginger

2 tsp Sambal Oelek

1 Tbsp Tamari

1 tsp toasted Sesame oil

1 1/2 tsp Maple syrup

1/2 pound Green Beans

3 Tbsp Olive or Peanut oil

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the green beans.

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, sambal oelek, tamari, sesame oil, and maple syrup to make the sauce.

Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook just until the water comes back to a boil, about 3 minutes; drain well and dry on a kitchen towel.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or wok over high heat. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the green beans and cook until sizzling and beginning to blister, about 3 minutes. Add the sauce, turn off the heat, and let sit for 2 minutes before serving. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Life

I’m not gonna lie, lately I’ve been distracted. I’ve been making dinners and not taking pictures. I’ve hardly done any blog reading. I’m day 4 into a 21 day fix eating/workout challenge, and my out-of-shape self is really sore!


All of the kids (okay 3 out of four) have started their sport programs. (Between that and church, there are my weekends.)

I’ve redecorated my downstairs bathroom, and around my fireplace. My “country cottage” look is finally taking shape! (I can’t wait to tackle the kitchen.)


The yard is screaming for some attention. Thankfully that is not my yard in the picture. But spring has sprung and a couple of my flower beds have (almost) as many dandelions!


You know that saying “there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” it’s true- at least concerning all of the warm weather outdoor play time.

Brown Eyed Baker’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

A good dip is hard to beat. I mean, how many times have I spoiled my dinner filling up on a crazy delicious appetizer… with no regrets? Too many to count probably, and totally worth it every time. I love the combination of creamy artichokes, slightly bitter spinach (for a little depth), smooth cream cheese, and salty Parmesan. Who doesn’t? I’m drooling just thinking about it. I owe my friend AnnMarie credit for bringing this winner to my attention.

As organic as possible: (you know I have to say that)

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1½ cups (6 ounces) finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Paprika, to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Press the excess moisture from the spinach.

Combine the artichokes, spinach, 1¼ cups of Parmesan cheese, 1¼ cups of Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and garlic in a bowl and mix well.

Spoon the artichoke mixture into a 1½-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheeses on top, and then sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with tortilla or pita chips, crackers or vegetables.

Thank you Annie for sharing this recipe with me! View the original at www.browneyedbaker.com

Erica’s Apple Baked Brie

A friend of mine made this, so I feel at ease to boast and say, “Look at this gorgeous presentation!” I am a long-time fan of baked brie. If you are not familiar with the cheese, it is a soft French cow’s milk cheese, most often encased in an edible covering of white mold. Depending on the process it can range from very mild to a strong musky flavor. (I am not one to shy away from a pungent cheese). Usually I do mine wrapped in a puff pastry, but I love that Erica used a croissant pastry dough! It made for such a lovely crust! Of course the rustically sliced apples were beautiful too… and then the taste! Sweet apples and brown sugar with warm creamy brie on slices of fresh bread, grainy crackers, and ripe fruit. La vie en rose!

1 – 16 oz round Brie

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

1 apple (plus 1/2 for decoration, optional)

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) Butter

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

1 Egg

 

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Thinly slice or dice (your preference) the apple and sauté it in the butter. Add the brown sugar to the butter and apple mixture, and gently stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened. Place the beautiful apple syrup on top of the Brie and wrap it in the crescent rolls. Whisk the egg and brush it top of the dough. Optionally, cut a few slices of apple for decoration and position them on top in a circular pattern. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is warmed through. Allow to set for a few minutes before serving. You want the cheese to be warm and spreadable, but not to ooze. Serve with slice rounds of bread, apple slices, and or crackers.

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Loving Lately 📚

It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow

It’s been about a whole month (I think) since I’ve purchased a cookbook. And since Cravings by Chrissy Teigen has been on the list that whole time, I am bragging about my restraint. I knew that Gwyneth Paltrow (GP) had published a new cookbook. I just hadn’t walked by it in a store -until I was in Target yesterday and I broke my streak. Don’t worry, I’m totally good with it, and my excitement outweighs all other emotion.

I loved GP’s first cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. I follow her recipes to make my own vegetable and chicken stock. And I’m a fan of her pasta sauce too. I appreciate that GP keeps healthy alternatives in her recipes. She includes some meat and seafood, but it’s listed right up there with vegetarian and even vegan options. It is to her credit that I bought my first jar of Vegeniase (a vegan mayonnaise) years ago. Because if food tastes good, it’s just an added bonus if it’s healthy for you too!

I’m not even a third of the way through, stuck on GP’s “Beet chips” to be exact. Oh my goodness they look so good next to her cilantro hummus! Her “Fried Egg Sandwich” looks amazing and I am heartbroken that I don’t have chickens of my own to lay eggs, because I know my store bought organic eggs are not going to have a yolk that orange. The “Migas,” a Mexican inspired scrambled eggs with queso fresco, salsa and even corn chips are singing to me. (Honestly, I think I here a Mariachi band… and who wouldn’t want to wake up to that kind of fun?) The “Bacon Avocado Toast” with almond butter? That’s a combination I wouldn’t have come up with, but now feel like it’s mandatory to taste! And don’t get me started on the uber-inspiring “noodle jars,” a pre-made jar with Thai flavor and noodles… just add boiling water when ready to eat. Brilliant!

I have to go, I have a book to read.

Identity Crisis -of Sorts

It’s in those times, when you’re ready to do a full-on overhaul; because nothing you’ve done seems right, when you have to ask yourself the hard questions: “Who am I? …Do I even have a style?” It’s as if all the sudden, or actually maybe it’s been progressively happening for a while… anyway it is in this moment… that I admit I can’t stand the color of my kitchen!

Oh sure, like half of America, I’ve been watching Fixer Upper. And I’ve convinced myself that unless Chip and JoJo Gaines come and do a complete renovation; tear down walls, access all natural light and put up as much shiplap as we can find, my home will never be complete. Of course, without any real experience taking care of animals, I consider myself to be a farm girl. So naturally I have a tendency to think my home should resemble a farmhouse… But in reality I’m far more traditional (and my backyard is more pool than lawn). I do appreciate country decor; primitive, traditional and inspired by folk art. I really love English Cottage. I can be carried away by the contrasting elegant and rural touches of French Country… the idea of a beautiful chandelier with tear drop glass prisms over a rustic farm table. Swoon. I’ve been known to walk out of Pier I with curtains replicating fabrics straight out of Bombay. I love my traditional Irish plaid wool blanket we brought home from the Emerald Isle (it’s my favorite throw for the back of our rocker)! Maybe my “look” is considered eclectic? But I don’t want to be eclectic! What does that really mean anyway? Hodgepodge-esque? (Which is even more upsetting when you add in that on any given day I’m really inclined to feel like I live in a toy store!)

Thankfully, before I got too crazy, my mother talked me out of painting all of the refurbished brick in my living room around the fireplace. It seemed far less permanent to paint the walls a trendy light blue/gray. So in true DIY form I put down drop cloths and rolled out a color coating adjacent to the brick, and fortunately I only covered 1 and half walls before I came to my senses and realized I hated it. It’s sooo bad. Ugh! But I really like the black cast-iron-ish paint we put over the out-dated brass fireplace frame. And I love the darker stain I put on the mantle. Baby steps. Slowly I’m figuring it out, I’m thinking I am Country Cottage (it makes sense in my head)… and soon I will tackle that kitchen. 

Dorito Taco Salad

This is like in a food group all of its own… or it should be. We should be required to have one serving every day. It definitely is a mandatory staple at all potlucks. It’s colorful and textural and down right appetizing. If you’ve tasted Dorito Taco Salad before then you know what I’m talking about. If by chance you haven’t, well then today is your lucky day! And may I suggest that you change all other dinner plans?

 

1 lb Hamburger

1 pkg Taco seasoning

l bag Nacho Cheese Doritos (10 oz.)

16 oz.  Catalina salad dressing

8 oz. (2 cups) Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 head Ice Burg Lettuce

 

(Side note: I know that saying “as organic as possible” seems odd in this case… but every bit is worth doing! Even the hamburger, lettuce and cheese!)

Brown hamburger and add taco seasoning according to package directions. Set aside to cool. Break lettuce into bite size pieces. Crush chips to bite size. After meat cools add to lettuce and cheese mixed together. When ready to serve add chips and dressing. It’s best to mix every thing just before serving if possible (otherwise the Doritos begin to lose their crunchy texture).

Other optional toppings include sliced scallions, salsa, olives, diced green pepper, etc., but you will never be disappointed with the basic. Furthermore, you might want to have another bottle of Catalina dressing and bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos on hand and add to taste, because sometimes as a party goes on I like to add more Doritos and Catalina, and toss.

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Loving Lately 🔪

Loving Lately: My Fiddle Bow Knife

One of my very favorite things I bought on vacation is a knife. It was completely unexpected. There I was at the Marco Island Farmer’s Market, looking at locally grown vegetables, freshly roasted coffees and sampling chocolates, when a vendor’s booth of lovely handcrafted woodwork caught my eye. Jerry Oppenberg had cutting boards in every custom shape you could think of; a silhouette of golf clubs in a bag, a football helmet, fish… you name it. I could tell he and his wife made for a great team. She was bustling around the booth, placing things just so and he was explaining how he would make any custom design you desired, all the while demonstrating his signature “fiddle bow” knife at the center of their display. Naturally, being attracted to kitchen gadgets, I had to ask for a try. It was love at first… slice!

Clearly it’s not replacing my chef’s knife, or paring knife. It’s not made for making quick work of a pile of onions needing dicing, or bulks of potatoes needing to be cut for boiling. It has a place of its very own, for slicing baguettes and crudités while visiting with mom in the kitchen. It’s for slicing citrus fruits to be put in a pitcher while chatting with friends on a summer afternoon. And for slicing thin rounds of tomatoes, gorgeously sweet and juicy to place on top of white crusty bread with a drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkling of sea salt for an impromptu gathering of loved ones.

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I’ll be honest with you too, I haven’t mastered a slice of tomato that thin without using my mandoline. And something else I appreciate is the angle. Because of its saw-like function, it’s so easy to sit while cutting. No need to stand and apply pressure from the top! They come in a variety of wood finishes (with cutting boards to match). And because they are handmade, there is a selection for all of the left-handed users out there! Care is easy too, just wipe with a warm soapy cloth and rinse.

For more information or to get one for yourself visit BOWKNIFE.COM

 

Puck V Legasse: Duel of Dinner

In the movie Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, there were two superheroes in their own right battling it out in a brawn vs. brawn sort of way. I thought it would be fun to do a comparison of a couple chefs who’s cuisine I recently sampled and see if there was an overall winner; a duel of dinner! To begin, let’s set the stage with two well known and successful chefs, namely Emeril Legasse and Wolfgang Puck, that for all intents and purposes have reached their own individual superhero status in the world of celebrity culinarians. They both are successful TV personalities, have written popular cookbooks, and have reached international acclaim as restauranteurs. They also each happen to have their own restaurant, Wolfgang Puck and Emeril’s Orlando, in Orlando, Florida outside of two famous amusement parks, Disney World and Universal Studios respectively.

When Disney Springs was still Downtown Disney, we visited Wolfgang Puck’s “The Cafe”. I ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli and my husband ordered a wood fired pizza. (I can’t remember what we ordered the kids… only two of them then!) I do remember we really enjoyed our dinner. This time we had reservations for “The Dining Room,” his upstairs venue with a completely different menu. I have to say, I was really excited to visit Emeril Legasse’s and Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants. To me that just screams vacation, mommy style.

(Side note: Fair or not, if two such well known chefs are going to put their name on the side of a building and imply that their very own recipes can be purchased and tasted inside, I have an expectation that I am going to be impressed. I don’t pretend to have some well-trained palate that can pick up subtleties others would often miss. I’m only saying that if I am going to pay tourist prices for a celebrity chef meal for a family of 6, I’d like it to taste good… Okay?)

Our first stop was at The Dining Room by Wolfgang Puck. It had been a long day on the road (we drove in from Atlanta, Georgia) and we were happy to finally be at our Disney World resort. After we were seated upstairs, we placed our orders. Since I’m on my health kick I ordered the Sweet Corn Chowder (with crab, paprika oil and basil), along with the Apple Salad (with golden raisins, almonds, blue cheese, parmesan, and a sherry vinaigrette). They were very accommodating when Owen ordered a Blackened Shrimp that wasn’t exactly on the menu; My oldest son was excited to find out they offered a children’s steak option; My next two children are pretty consistent with their desire of chicken tenders, and the baby was taken care of with a (non-dairy) pasta marinara.

My soup was fantastic, absolutely delicious. Owen thought the shrimp was probably the best shrimp dish he had ever eaten. Isaiah devoured his perfectly done and tender filet. Naomi and Elijah were happy with their chicken and Noah LOVED the pasta. Just because I could, I tasted a piece of the kid’s chicken. Sometimes I think the best way to know if something is special is to try what you make or order on a regular basis. It was crispy, moist, very flavorful and did not disappoint. But honestly, the baby’s pasta surprised me the most. It looked like a regular spaghetti with a light coating of red sauce, but the amount of concentrated garlic and tomato flavor that clung to those thin noodles was impressive! It was an overall great meal.
A few days later we visited Emeril’s Orlando for a late lunch/early dinner between switching parks at Universal Studios. It was kind of fun that they were offering a free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of any entree. Yay! With the exception of myself, our orders were coincidentally similar to the ones at our other celebrity chef’s restaurant. This time I ordered White Bean & Cheese Enchiladas served over Steamed Mussels (pictured above). Owen ordered the New Orlean’s Barbecue Shrimp with a side of white rice. Isaiah ordered another steak; the middle kids ordered their chicken and fries, and again we ordered the baby a pasta marinara.

I don’t know how I missed the part about the enchiladas being served over mussels. I don’t eat mussels! What was I thinking? Regardless, it was presented beautifully and the enchiladas were delicious. Owen’s shrimp was good, but not nearly as impressionable as the shrimp he tasted the other day. Isaiah ate his steak, but it wasn’t a juicy or flavorful as his previous filet. Naomi and Elijah only took a couple bites of their chicken. The tenderloins were very meaty and the crust really didn’t stay on which made them difficult (particularly for a 3 year old) to handle. To make things worse, Noah took one bite of his pasta and spit it out. To be fair, the pasta was not on the menu, they made it to accommodate the special needs of the baby. But he couldn’t be coerced into another bite. Believing it couldn’t be that bad, I tried it myself… it was edible, but I didn’t want another bite either. At least there was dessert!

In short, here is my theory: Everyone knows that Superman is awesome, but anyone can beat him if they have kryptonite; which makes Batman the clear winner. In this scenario the kryptonite was flavor, and Wolfgang Puck won hands down. Maybe on any other given day it could have gone the other way. Perhaps if we had adventured out from our repetative orders, we would have been pleasantly surprised by a different outcome. And I’d like to add that we had great service at both places. However, as it stands, the next time we’re in Orlando, we’ll make sure to get reservations… with one of them. 😉

 

Lollipop Sugar Cookies

Kids love sugar cookies… Adults love sugar cookies… And I have no idea why, but let me just tell you that if you put them on a stick and call them “lollipop” cookies it increases the awesome factor by 100%. Because everyone loves Lollipop Sugar Cookies! They holler “Look at me, I’m so fun! I taste like candy!” As far as great baking projects to do with the kids go, these are at the top. Just put out the toppings and let their imaginations soar! It really doesn’t get much easier. (And you can even refrigerate the dough ahead of time until you’re ready to let the amusement begin! Bonus!)

As organic as possible:

1 1/4 cups Sugar

1/2 cup Vegetable Shortening

1/2 cup Butter

2 eggs

1/4 light Corn Syrup

2 tsp Vanilla

3 cups Flour

1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

24-26 Popsicle Sticks

Variety of Toppings (Sprinkles, colored Sugars, nonpareils, miniature candies, etc.)

 

Cream the sugar, shortening and butter in a large bowl by mixer or hand until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, continuing to mix, followed by vanilla and corn syrup. Mixture should be light and creamy.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir together with a whisk until incorporated. Add to creamy egg mixture about a third at a time, mixing until all is combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to a couple days. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 – 2 inch balls. Place a popsicle stick into the center and place on a baking sheet. With the palm of your hand press to slightly flatten the dough (about an inch high), to create a surface to decorate. Top the lollipop sugar cookies however you’d like! (Decorations may need a gentle pat to stay on.) Then bake for 8 1/2 – 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and allow to sit about 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. When completely cool serve your Lollipop Sugar Cookies and watch the kid come out in all!

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