Friday, April 30, 2010

Believe It, Be It

I've struggled lately on my weight loss journey. I lost all of the motivation and determination that I had back in December and early January. I lost it when my grandma was diagnosed with her leukemia, but I was able to maintain for quite a long time. Even after she passed away, just 6 weeks after learning about the leukemia and I was facing very strong emotions and terrible grief, I still continued to maintain. As things have settled down and we have cleaned out all of her things and reality has truly set in that she is gone, I find myself still grieving as strongly as I did from day one, it seems. I have turned back to my vice, as terrible as I know it is for me, and as badly as I really don't want to do it... I have been drinking pop. Everyday. Many times a day. Probably about 5 pops a day. And I drink regular pop, so lots and lots of empty, liquid calories. Combined with the issues I've been having with my feet (and my lack of motivation, self-control, etc.), this has led to my gaining back the 12 pounds I had lost. So now I'm back where I started.

And it just plain sucks.

I have tried a few times lately to get my motivation back, but have not been too successful. But I'm hoping things will be different now. A good friend of mine and I have agreed to be each other's accountability partners. She also struggles with weight and losing it, so we both know what the other is going through. We are trying to push each other, praise each other for our accomplishments, keep each other motivated, and just keep on track of each others food and exercise logs through the website FitDay. This is our first week at it, but so far so good.

I have also been reading the book "Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life," by Ali Vincent. It is a very inspiring book and is really helping me see some things about myself. I believe that most people that say they want to lose weight just want (and expect) it to be easy... or at least easier. I know I have. But I also know that its not easy and it never will be easy. I also have realized that losing weight and getting healthy really involves a lot more than just exercising and eating better. I realize you have to face the mental issues and emotions that have been holding you back all this time. You have to discover and admit to yourself and others that you have a problem, that you're not happy, and most importantly why you're not happy. And I don't mean what parts of your body you're not happy with. Really why you're not happy. What caused you to make those bad choices that led you to where you stand now.

So I realize I need to admit some things before I can really move forward... so I figured why not just put it all out here on my blog? I realize this is just a start and I still have a lot of discovering to do about myself. But this will help me to do that and will give me the kickstart I need, at least.

So here goes...

I'm not happy with myself. I feel like I have lost so many of my dreams, goals, and my sense of self. There are (many) days when I just don't want to go anywhere. I don't want people to see me looking this way. I'm ashamed of the way I look. And I don't like people knowing I feel badly about myself.

I also don't like making excuses (why are we all tuned to be so good at making them, though?). I know I have made bad choices during the last 8 or 9 years as I've put on the weight equivalent to an extra person. I need to just forgive myself for these bad choices and move on. I thought I had, but I realize now that I really haven't. So I am trying.

I have figured out what some of the "causes" are for my weight gain, but I don't know that I'll share them all on my blog. I may share with some of you individually, but I don't want to air my dirty laundry here. Its tough to face some of the old issues... digging up the past sucks... especially when I thought I'd moved on from then... and I have in most ways, but I need to face some things again to (hopefully) fully overcome them... I guess that is part of the process. :)

So I am going to move forward and I will be successful at the end of this journey. It'll be a long journey, but its one that needs to be taken.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Three more fruit trees have been added to the orchard. We now have added 1 balaton tart cherry, 1 redhaven peach, 2 sweet cherries - bing and emperor francis, and 1 braeburn apple tree. Add those to the existing 2 bosc pears, 1 oriental pear, 3 bartlett pears, and 7 or 8 random apple trees that I haven't identified yet. I think we're in good shape. I've been doing lots of research into backyard organic orcharding, but I still have a long ways to go. I will be focusing on that research a lot this week. I just feel like I need to get my plan up and running... like 3 weeks ago... since the bartletts have been flowering and the others are soon to follow. Controls need to be established now if I have a chance of beating the issues in the pre-existing orchard (apples and pears).

This week will be another fun week. Today is low key, just doing what we do. Tuesday I have Zumba. Wednesday I will likely be in Detroit for meetings. Thursday is a big day at work with our presentation and hearing on the DRIC. We've been working for years now and it all leads to Thursday. We'll get an up or down vote in the next month, so its going to be pretty intense for awhile. Friday is my flex day, which means Kindermusik. I think Carson and I are going to go visit a cow share farm to check it out after Kindermusik if its not raining. Saturday we are heading out to Holland for Tulip Time in the morning - assuming its not raining. Then we'll be heading back to the Detroit area to hang out with some friends.

So here's the plan...

Sunday -
(make bread for week; make steel cut oats for week; paint?)
B: omelets with mushrooms, spinach, and swiss
L: leftover pizza soup
D: tbd

Meatless Monday -
B: steel cut oats with strawberries and bananas
L: S & K - spinach salads with strawberries, mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, mozzarella, and strawberry vinaigrette; C - PB&J sandwich, string cheese, green grapes
D: huevos rancheros; fresh fruit

Tuesday - Zumba
(clean kitchen and bathroom)
B: PB toast; banana
L: chips and salsa; cucumber and carrot slices; sliced co-jack cheese
D: chicken divan with broccoli and cauliflower; fresh fruit

Wednesday -
(work outside; vacuum and dust)
B: steel cut oats with peanut butter and bananas
L: leftover chicken divan
D: eating at my parents' house

Thursday -
(work outside)
B: yogurt with peaches
L: hard boiled egg; string cheese; fruit
D: goulash; cornbread; fruit

Friday - flex; Kindermusik; farm visit?
(make quinoa salad to take to our friends' house on Saturday)
B: waffles from freezer; fresh fruit
L: leftover goulash
D: chicken saag (since we didn't have it last week); brown rice; fruit salad

Saturday - Tulip Time; hanging out with friends
B: scrambled eggs with veggies; fresh fruit
L: eating in Holland
D: eating in the Detroit area

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spinach and Chickpeas

I was going through my pictures and realized I never posted this a few weeks back. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and thought it looked and sounded pretty tasty. It was! And I simplified several things to make it pretty fast and easy to make. This was a tasty, different meatless meal. The flavors were great and it was fun to eat on the little toasts. We all really liked it a lot.

Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpeas)

1/2 pound dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender* or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread, crusts removed and cut inset small cubes
1/2 cup (2 ounces) tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt. Do in batches, if necessary and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside. (I skipped this step at this point and just added the spinach at the end to wilt.)

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown. (I changed this step and just toasted my bread.)

Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. (I skipped the food processor and just added the ingredients to te skillet.) Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper. (This is when I added my spinach to wilt down.)

If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Raw Lettuce Wraps

We have been eating more and more raw things lately. We've even had a few nights of all raw meals. We are loving these raw lettuce wraps and have had them a few times now. These pictured just have avocado, cucumber, and carrots. (Kevin has his without the avocado since it gives him an allergic reaction this time of year.) I've added tomato, green bell pepper, and sweet onion to them, as well. They were great both ways! These are a little awkward for Carson to eat, so I just dice up the veggies we're having and shred a little lettuce for him to just eat with a fork. We usually have these with a fresh, raw fruit salad for a raw dinner that is very tasty and very healthy!

Raw Lettuce Wraps

Romaine lettuce leaves
Avocado, smashed
Any other veggies you like - bell pepper, mushrooms, tomato, onion, etc.

Wash your lettuce and lay out the number of leaves you need. Smash your avocado and spread on the romaine leaves. Use a veggie peeler or cut in small dices the remaining veggies. Layer them on top of the avocado. To eat, roll in the sides of the romaine leaf to make a wrap and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Butterscotch Bars

Today is Administrative Professional's Day. Our office always brings in treats on special days like today and we present the treats, a card, and a gift to the administrative professional in our office in thanks for everything she does for us throughout the year. I ended up getting home late after my Zumba class because I stayed late with a couple of old friends to catch up after class, so I needed to think of something quick and easy to make. I thought of these butterscotch bars which I had originally seen posted on Heavenly Homemakers and my SIL, Mary, had made a couple of weeks ago. These were so fast and easy to throw together. It literally took Carson and I less than 5 minutes to mix everything together and pop them in the oven to bake. These are very tasty and will definitely be a great recipe to have on hand for another night that I'm pressed for time and need to make something quick. And they were a total hit with everyone in my office!

Butterscotch Bars

1 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cups sucanat
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Stir melted butter and sucanat together. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in flour and mix until well combined. Pour batter into a 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crockpot Short Ribs

I ended up making short ribs for dinner the other night. I used a recipe from AllRecipes and served them with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. I used short ribs from our beef we bought last summer. These were so tender (and kinda fatty) and so yummy. The meat just fell off the bones. The sauce that these cook in is absolutely delicious! We all loved this meal. Although Carson's favorite was the asparagus - that still seems to be one of his favorite veggies. I forgot to take a picture.

Crockpot Short Ribs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 pounds beef short ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice onion, sliced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chili sauce
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons flour, salt, and pepper. Coat the short ribs with the flour mixture. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown short ribs in olive oil. (I skipped this entire step)

In a slow cooker, combine onions, wine, chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and chili powder. Mix thoroughly. Transfer the short ribs from the skillet to the slow cooker. Cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Remove ribs, and turn the slow cooker control to High. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour with 1/4 cup water, and stir into the sauce. Cook for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lemon Glazed Berry Scones

Another recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod that I made this morning. These scones were very easy to put together and are so delicious! I like this method best for making scones... the drop method. Saves just a little more time, which is always good. We all loved these scones. Carson kept walking around saying "mmm, so good blueberry scones - I'm lovin' it!" :)

This is a picture without the glaze - I forgot to take one after the glaze.

Lemon Glazed Berry Scones

2 cups unbleached flour, plus more for rolling berries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut in chunks
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 pint berries (I used frozen blueberries)
Turbinado Sugar, for sprinkling on scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and zest; mix thoroughly. Cut in butter using 2 forks or a pastry blender. The butter pieces should be coated with flour and resemble crumbs.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk and egg together, and then add to the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate, do not overwork the dough.
Roll berries in flour to coat, this will help prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the scone when baked. Fold the blueberries into batter, being careful not to bruise. Drop large tablespoons of batter on an ungreased cookie sheet. I used my Silpat! Sprinkle scones with Turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until brown. Cool before applying the lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 lemons, juiced and zested

To prepare Glaze: combine sugar, zest, and juice and whisk until smooth. Drizzle or brush on top of scones.

Cashew Avocado Chicken Salad

I made this chicken salad for our sandwiches for lunch this afternoon. I got the recipe from my SIL. It is absolutely delicious! Its nice and creamy and just so good! Kevin just tasted a tiny bit of it since he was afraid of the avocado giving him an allergic reaction this time of year, but he did like it. Carson and I both loved it! I will definitely be making this regularly. It was especially good on our homemade whole wheat bread! Yum!

Cashew Avocado Chicken Salad

4 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, shredded (I used some pre-cooked and shredded chicken that I had frozen)
1/3 cup prepared Ranch salad dressing (I used mayo and some of my ranch dressing mix)
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 cup cashews (I chopped mine to make it safer for Carson to eat)
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the cooked chicken, dressing, dill, cashews, and avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

I served mine on homemade sandwich bread with provolone cheese and baby spinach leaves.

Meal plans and the week ahead

What crazy weather we are having these last few days. We dropped 20 degrees per day for three days... 80s, 60s, 40s... and did I mention that it snowed yesterday when we were outside in shorts on Thursday? Only in Michigan. :-P Today looks better, at least, and so does the rest of the week.

Our orchard and berry patches grew last week. I planted the two fruit trees we picked up, the five blueberry bushes, and seventeen raspberry bushes. I also planted 25 crowns of asparagus and a few rows of each of lettuce, spinach, and rainbow chard. I'm a little late getting the greens in the ground, but they'll still be ok. We're anxious for them to all start growing, especially since we've been eating more and more raw veggies and salads these last couple of weeks.

This week will be pretty quiet. We don't have any plans today. We're just hoping to get a lot done outside and around the ranch. Tuesday I have Zumba. Wednesday I have a hair appointment... I had my dates mixed up last week. Thursday is Earth Day! We'll be doing some fun things to help Carson learn about this important day. Friday I am going to pick up three more fruit trees that we've ordered and we're planning to have a family movie night/date night in since it looks like it'll be raining. Saturday morning, Carson and I are going to do a 2K walk for Kids in the Kitchen with some friends of mine... as long as the weather is good, at least. And we may be going over to my friend Tiffany's house for a BBQ for dinner after the walk and festivities that follow the walk, again weather dependent.

Here's the plan...

Sunday ~
(make lemon glazed berry scones; make bread for week; work outside in the yard - weed front flower bed, clean out and weed flower bed behind garage, clean out flower bed on south side behind fence, chip branches if chipper is fixed)
B: raw smoothies with banana and young coconut
L: cashew avocado chicken salad sandwiches; raw fruit salad
D: TBD... we may go over to my in-laws' if they're doing movie night

Meatless Monday ~
(work outside)
B: lemon berry scones
L: hard boiled egg; string cheese; raw fresh fruit salad
D: zucchini parmesan (with zucchini from freezer); homemade garlic toast; strawberries

Tuesday ~ Zumba
(clean kitchen and bathroom)
B: PB toast
L: leftover zucchini parmesan
D: spinach salads with strawberries, slivered almonds, mozzarella cheese, and poppyseed dressing; homemade bread

Wednesday ~ hair appointment
(vacuum and dust; work outside)
B: lemon berry scones
L: misc.
D: pizza soup in the crockpot; homemade bread; raw fruit salad

Thursday ~ Happy Earth Day!!
(plant Carson's special plant; do some earth day themed crafts; read some earth day books; give Carson his earth day gift)
B: yogurt with strawberries
L: leftover soup
D: chicken saag; steamed brown rice; raw fruit salad

Friday ~ pick up fruit trees in Eaton County; if its raining we'll do a family movie night/date night in
(pop some fresh popcorn; watch The Lion King with Carson; then date night in for Kevin and me after Carson goes to bed - we'll just rent a movie from On Demand)
B: raw fruit salad
L: leftovers
D: order pizza

Saturday ~ Kids in the Kitchen 2K walk; BBQ at Tiffany's and Mark's house
(make oatmeal berry muffins; plant fruit trees; paint if its raining; make and can cream of celery soup)
B: scrambled eggs; toast with jam

Friday, April 16, 2010

Veggie Quinoa Salad with Pesto Dressing

I saw this salad posted on Food in Jars earlier this week and decided to switch up my original meal plans to make it since I already had everything on hand and it just sounded delicious. We had it for dinner last night and it was so, so, so good! A perfect warm weather, meatless dinner! We all loved it! I will definitely be making this a regular meal on our table! It'd be a great salad to take to a potluck, too, since it can be served slightly warm/room temp or chilled.

Vegetable-Stuffed Quinoa Salad with Pesto Dressing

2 cups quinoa (cooked in 4 cups water)
1 bundle asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red pepper, chopped (I used a green one since that's what I had)
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped (I added some chopped chives from my garden instead)
1/2 english cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
6 ounces feta, crumbled
4 ounces of pesto
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
olive oil (some for roasting asparagus and some for the dressing)
Toasted almonds (optional)

Cook the two cups of quinoa by combining it with four cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce temperature. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until it is tender. When it is finished cooking, spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool.

Spread the asparagus out on a small cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Combine chopped red pepper, onion, cucumber, parsley and drained garbanzo beans in a large bowl.

Whisk the pesto, vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil together until runny. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add quinoa to the chopped vegetables. Gently stir to combine. Add the crumbled feta and dressing and fold in. Top with toasted almonds and serve. Can be made up to 24 hours in advance.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

We got back last night from the Cleve. We had a great time! Cleveland has such a bad rap, often likened to Detroit, but it has come farther than Detroit has in recent years. Anyway, we found it to be a nice place and with it only being 3 1/2 hours away, it is a great destination for a weekend trip. So now we're getting back into the swing of things at home. Tuesday I was supposed to have Zumba, but I got a call on Friday saying its canceled this week. Wednesday I'm getting my hair done. Thursday we'll be picking up a sweet cherry and a tart cherry tree in Shiawassee County. Friday is supposed to be my flex day and Kindermusik, but it is going to be a pretty big day at work, so I will likely be in Detroit at a press event in the morning and then at Schoolcraft college in the afternoon for a Joint House Committee Hearing. I'm thinking I might switch my flex day to Tuesday or maybe next Friday instead. We'll see. We also have to pick up our blueberry bushes in Ingham County on Friday. Saturday we're heading to East Lansing to MSU Small Animals Day with my old college roommate, Tiffany, her husband, Mark, and son, Tyson. Should be a fun week!

As far as projects this week... we'll be working outside whenever we can. Tonight we'll be tilling up the raspberry patch so I can plant the raspberry bushes that arrived from Fedco over the weekend. I'll also be planting the asparagus, as well as a round of lettuce and spinach. I'll work on a few other remaining spring cleaning projects on the nights that it is raining. Otherwise, we'll just spend our time outside as much as possible.

Here's the plan...

Sunday ~ Cleveland

Meatless Monday ~
(make bread for week; work outside - till and plant raspberries, plant asparagus, spinach, lettuce)
B: yogurt with peaches
L: PB toast; string cheese; apple slices
D: whole wheat couscous with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta;

Tuesday ~
(paint in Carson's room? or clean under bed in master bedroom)
B: PB toast
L: leftover couscous
D: beef short ribs; mashed potatoes; corn (from the freezer); raw dinner... raw lettuce wraps (romaine leaves with smashed avocado, shredded cukes and carrots, diced tomato); strawberry and banana fruit salad

Wednesday ~
(work outside or paint in Carson's new room; clean kitchen and bathroom)
B: smoothies with bananas, strawberries, almond milk
L: leftover short ribs; potatoes; corn; strawberries S - eating at IPPSR forum; K & C - misc.
D: grilled chicken marinated in italian dressing; raw broccoli hoisini salad; spinach salads with strawberries, mango, slivered almonds, poppyseed dressing; corn on the cob (from the freezer)

Thursday ~ Pick up trees in Shiawassee County
(vacuum and dust entire house)
B: banana bread from freezer raw smoothies with banana and young coconut
L: leftover chicken; broccoli salad
D: pizza soup in the crockpot; garlic bread quinoa veggie salad with pesto dressing; raw fruit salad with strawberries, mango, bananas, and grapes

Friday ~ Flex/Kindermusik? Detroit? Pick up bushes in Ingham County
(plant asparagus and work outside)
B: banana bread from freezer
L: S - eating at my meetings or on the road between them; K & C - leftovers
D: leftovers? cashew avocado chicken salad? TBD...

Saturday ~ MSU Small Animals Day
(plant fruit trees and blueberry bushes)
B: scrambled eggs; toast with strawberry jam
L: out to lunch in East Lansing
D: TBD... maybe crockpot rice and beans or else raw dinner... spinach salads with strawberries, mango, and avocado

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Raw Carrot & Cucumber Salad with Peanut Dressing

I've been trying to add in more and more raw, living foods into our diet and meals. The benefits of eating raw, living food are just too amazing to ignore. I highly doubt we'll ever become totally raw, but I think it would be nice to eat half raw at some point. And now that Kevin is starting to jump on the health food bandwagon and is thinking about what he eats a little more now than he ever has, he's actually game for trying this, too! So hopefully you'll be seeing more and more raw recipes on my blog in the weeks and months to come. I have quite a few recipes bookmarked, printed, or saved on my link list on this blog that I want to try. It'll be easier now that the summer growing season is about to start and the availability of fresh, local, raw foods will be more readily available.

Anyway, we tried a raw carrot and cucumber salad with one of our meals this week. I found the recipe on Gone Raw. This was really good. I didn't use a chili pepper in my dressing since I didn't have one on hand and didn't feel like buying one. I just squirted in a little Sriracha chili sauce - not much because I didn't want to make it too spicy for Carson. We all liked it and I think I'd definitely make it again!

I'll update with a picture later on.

Raw Carrot and Cucumber Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

2 medium-large carrots
1/2 cucumber
hemp or sesame seeds

Spicy peanut dressing:
1/4c peanut butter (or almond butter if you prefer)
1.5 tbsp tamari (or nama shoyu to be truly raw)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
cayenne pepper or chili pepper, finely minced and seeded to taste (I just used a squirt or Sriracha)
1/4c water (start with 1/8c and add more as needed)
Add a bit more water as needed to get the right consistency

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a bowl.

Using a veggie peeler, peel thin strips of the cucumber and carrots. You may want to chop the veggies in half first so your pieces aren't too big. Put into a bowl and toss with the dressing until well coated. Top with hemp seeds or sesame seeds.

Note: because of the water in the cucumber, if this salad is saved for the next day or two, it can get watery. So, store the salad separate from the dressing and when you want to eat it, take some and put in a bowl and dress.

Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

My friend, Kati, discovered she has celiac disease about 6+ months ago. Ever since, she's been living the gluten free life and is feeling amazingly different and better. She has started a website featuring lots of delicious recipes that are all gluten free. These are all family recipes or just recipes that have become favorites of hers and Ben's that are either naturally gluten free or that she has converted to being gluten free. She just started the site at the end of March, so it is growing every week or so. Check it out - even if you don't need to eat gluten free! She's the Gluten Free Girlie.

As I've mentioned, I've been trying to clean out some things from the pantry, fridge, and freezer for the last few weeks. When I came across this recipe for spinach and sun-dried tomato risotto on Kati's site, I knew we had to try it. Not only did it sound delicious, but I had some organic arborio rice, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach that I needed to find some uses for. So I made it for dinner this week and it was absolutely delicious! After every bite, Carson declared it "deeee-wishous!" He loved it! I loved it! Kevin loved it! A definite keeper!

I'll update with a picture later on.

Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups spinach
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons basil, fresh and minced or dried flakes
1/2 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

In a food processor, finely chop spinach with 1 tablespoon of oil. (I also added the tomatoes)

In a frying pan or wok, heat the oil and sautée the onion until transparent. Add the rice, stirring until the rice is a little transparent. Add the tomatoes. (I actually kept my tomatoes out and chopped them up in the food processor with the spinach.) Pour in the stock, 1/2 cup at time, continuously stirring. Do not add more stock until the rice absorbs the already added stock. After about 30 minutes the rice should be creamy.

Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach, ricotta, basil and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 3-4 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pesto Cheesy Chicken Rolls

Another catch-up post. I made these a few weeks ago and we're having them again this week. These are super easy, especially with only three ingredients, and super tasty and a great way to use up some homemade pesto! I got the recipe from AllRecipes. We all love them! I made them as written below the first time. This week, I'm going to use up some irish white cheddar cheese with some garlic scape pesto. Yum!

I'll update later with a picture.

Pesto Cheesy Chicken Rolls

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
1 cup prepared basil pesto
4 thick slices mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pesto sauce onto each flattened chicken breast. Place one slice of cheese over the pesto. Roll up tightly, and secure with toothpicks. Place in a lightly greased baking dish.

Bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until chicken is nicely browned and juices run clear.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Scones

Another catch-up post. I've made these twice now - the first time a few weeks ago and most recently on Saturday morning. This recipe is another delicious sampling of the recipes found on Two Peas and Their Pod. These scones are absolutely delicious -super moist and flavorful with just the perfect extra sweetness from the white chocolate chips! They are very easy to make, too, and come together very quickly. Carson and I love them. Kevin would if he'd try them (and get over his dislike for pumpkin). I have never made the glaze to go with them since I think they're just perfect without it, but I'm sure they get even better when you add the glaze. For me, though, I'd rather save the extra calories and sugar, I think.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Scones

Scone Dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cream
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling the tops of the scones

Spice Glaze:
1c. powdered sugar
1/2t. cinnamon
1/8t. cloves
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Add as much milk until desired consistency. Drizzle or spread over scones.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. I use my hands! The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the white chocolate.

In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla and then add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round and about 11/2 inches (3.75 cm) thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 3 pie-shaped wedges (triangles). Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with the cream and sprinkle a little Turbinado sugar on top.

Place the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to prevent the bottoms of the scones from over browning. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and drizzle scones with the glaze.

Fruit Salad

I made this quite a few weeks ago now... I'm just still very behind on posting. Hopefully I'll actually catch up one day. :) Anyway, I had some mini marshmallows and some canned fruit to use up, so I decided to make this quick and simple fruit salad to take over to my grandpa's house a few weeks ago. Its definitely not healthy, but it used up some stuff in my pantry and it tastes good, so oh well. This is just a simple, common fruit salad recipe that everyone seems to make. I pulled this from AllRecipes.

Fruit Salad

1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained
2 (11 ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, halved
1 (16 ounce) package miniature marshmallows
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream (I used half sour cream and half vanilla yogurt b/c I only had half a container of sour cream left)

In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, oranges, cherries, marshmallows and sour cream together. Chill and serve.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

I have some buttermilk to use up, so I decided to make a batch of buttermilk drop biscuits during my baking spree on Saturday morning. (I got up early and made lemon bluberry cookies, blueberry buckle, pumpkin white chocolate scones, and buttermilk drop biscuits all before 9:00 on Saturday morning. :)) I got this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod. Kevin and I aren't normally biscuit fans - we normally find them (the store bought kind or the kind in the tubes that you bake) to be too dry/crumbly for our liking. But we both really like homemade biscuits. So I thought we'd probably like these. And we did! The three of us each had one for breakfast yesterday morning and I froze the remaining biscuits for later. These were super easy to make and came together so fast! Definitely a good keeper biscuit recipe! I'd like to make them again and experiment with adding cheese, chives, veggies, etc. Yum!

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup cold buttermilk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes), plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps.

Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Using greased 1/4-cup dry measure, scoop level amount of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (biscuits should measure about 2 1/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high). Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.

Brush biscuit tops with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter (I skipped this). Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Meal plans and the week ahead

Happy belated Easter! I'm posting a day late... I haven't been on a computer at all since last Wednesday... and its been very nice! :) So anyway, here's my weekly planning post... It's going to be a fairly busy week topped out with a (hopefully) fun trip! Yesterday we went to church with my in-laws in the morning. Then we went over to my mom's house for dinner with my extended family. I don't have Zumba this week since its spring break. It'll give me more time to prep/pack for our trip. We leave Friday morning for Cleveland for the weekend. My cousin, Kyle, is going to be staying at our house while we're gone. So I want to make sure the house is nice and clean and that we have clean bedding on our bed for him before we leave on Friday. Plus, I hate coming home to a dirty house. I always have to clean, clean, clean before we leave for a vacation. I go so far as to run the vacuum one last time right before we walk out the door... I know, its crazy... but I also know quite a few other people that do the same thing, so I guess its not too crazy. :)

So we didn't work on Carson's new room at all last week. It was just too nice outside, plus Kevin ended up in Lafayette again for a couple of days. So we still do not have painted walls or doors or trim. Oh well. I'm not too concerned with it. It will get done in due time. Right now, we're trying to get as much done outside as we can before things start getting overgrown. We've been making very good progress and have one debris pile cleared and about 85% of the enormous debris pile has been cleared. We'll be finishing that up and cutting down nine trees soon, as well... at least we hope we can cut them down on our own. They're pretty huge/tall trees - 4 dead ash trees, 2 half dead pines, and 3 huge infested old apple trees that are within the fenced part of the yard (where I don't want them). And we also have some landscaping projects to tackle in the front yard in the next few weeks, as well.

Anyway, this week looks like it'll be raining most days. On the days it doesn't rain, we'll continue working outside to finish up the debris pile. If it rains as many days as it looks like it will be, hopefully we'll get at least one coat of paint on the walls in Carson's new room. My focus, though, will be packing for our weekend getaway and cleaning.

Here's what's on the menu...

Easter Sunday ~ church with the in-laws; dinner at my mom's
B: homemade buttermilk biscuits with local honey and strawberry jam
L/D: ham, mashed potatoes, corn, carrots/broccoli/cauliflower, jello salad, rolls, desserts (I brought lemon blueberry cookies and blueberry buckle)

Meatless Monday ~
(work outside)
B: pumpkin scones
L: ham sandwiches; misc. leftovers from Easter
D: spinach and sun dried tomato risotto; leftover cuke/avocado/tomato salad from Saturday; leftover meringue/whipped cream/berries from Saturday's dinner

Tuesday ~
(clean kitchen and bathroom; clean off dressers in master bedroom; clean out closet in master bedroom)
B: smoothies with peaches, mango, bananas, almond milk, and protein powder
L: leftover risotto; apple slices with PB
D: pesto cheesy chicken rolls; spinach side salads raw carrot and cucumber salads with spicy peanut dressing; corn on the cob (from freezer)

Wednesday ~
(pack suitcases and Carson's toys; dust and vacuum entire house)
B: toast with PB
L: leftover chicken and salad
D: hot dogs; mac 'n cheese; apple slices

Thursday ~
(pack the car; finish any cleaning; write out instructions for Kyle)
B: smoothies with blueberries, apples, yogurt, almond milk
L: misc. to use up stuff in the fridge
D: misc. to clean out the fridge

Friday ~ Cleveland
(change sheets on bed; wash dirty sheets; pack last remaining items in the car; vacuum)
We're hoping to be on the road by 9 so we can be in Cleveland by lunch time and hit up the Zoo if the weather still looks good.

Saturday ~ Cleveland
Depending on the weather Saturday and Sunday, this will either be a museum day (Great Lakes Science Center and Museum of Natural History) followed by a trip to one of the metroparks; or it'll be a day spent at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (hiking/bike riding the Tow Path, riding the scenic train, finding some waterfalls, etc.).