Monday, May 28, 2012


Yes, I am still here. I have just been uber-swamped with projects, cold bugs and planning my daughter's birthday party which is today.  I'll have pics and recipes of the event up soon!  :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Wow!  The weekend is only half over and I feel like I've accomplished so much! Don't you just love days like that?  I feel especially awesome because my husband was gone all morning at an archery competition so I was on kid-duty as well.  Luckily Big Sister played at the next door neighbors all day and Little Brother was kept busy with the garden hose for a looooong time, allowing me to work my butt off. Here's a little rundown of my day:

1. Ate breakfast with the kids, read our new library books again, then they watched cartoons while I drank some coffee and read my magazine, and had a nice chat with my mom ♥
2.  Did 2 loads of laundry and it's all put away!
3.  Cleaned all of the floors in the house
4.  Cleaned the laundry room that looked like it was right out of an episode of Hoarders.  Seriously, I should have taken before and afters.  While I did that I also got all of my sewing supplies and fabric stash organized- something I've needed to do for a loooooong time.
5.  I prepped and put 2 coats of paint on a furniture project I'm working on.  Did you know I also custom paint furniture?  You can see my work at Pierce Street Furnishings. I'm really excited about this because it's my last project to wrap up for my first booth at the local consignment and antique mall.  They are having an outdoor sale and I rented a booth for the weekend.  If the sale goes well I might consider renting a booth inside their shop to sell my wares :)

It feels great to have all of this accomplished and know that a lot of my not-fun things are crossed off of my list so tomorrow I'm free to do lots of REALLY fun things! Like grilling out and eating this delicious pasta salad :)

1 pound corkscrew pasta
1/4 pound Genoa salami, chopped
1/4 pound pepperoni sausage, chopped
1/2 pound Asiago cheese, diced
1 (6 ounce) can black olives, drained and chopped or fresh pitted kalamata olives
1 jar artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix- look for a low sodium one
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, and cool under cold water.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, salami, pepperoni, Asiago cheese, black olives, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and tomatoes. Stir in the envelope of dressing mix. Cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad, and mix well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies

I know you can't tell by the title of this post, but I've been really kicking up my healthy habits lately.  I've cut caffeine almost entirely out of my diet, along with the cream and sugar that goes with it.  I've been devouring fruit and whole grains, cutting more meat out of my diet and trying to stay away from sweets.  I'm also back into a regular exercise habit, working out about 5 days a week, either running or yoga.  I'm feeling great, sleeping wonderfuly and feeling much more even-keel emotionally since I said bye bye, caffeine.  

So, you can imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale the other day and had GAINED 3 lbs.  Now of course, I'd like to think that I gained 3 lbs of muscle in the past few weeks, but I just don't know if I believe that.  I thought, maybe I'm just bloated...

2 days later, the number when up another half a pound.  What the hey!?  Now, I know a 3 lb. gain is not that big of a deal, and I don't want to come across as one of those women that obsesses about their weight, because I really don't.  If I feel good, work out and eat well I figure my body will find the place it needs to be to work optimally.  It is a bit of a bummer though to see those numbers creep up when you expect them to go down.  So, what's a girl to do?  Make brownies, of course!  Now I know this doesn't make any sense at all, but I've learned in the past that if I gain a bit and then OBSESS trying to lose it I am miserable and don't lose an ounce.  If I just say, oh well, and continue my healthy habits I always end up back where I need to be without all the stress and guilt.  So, yes.  I want to lose weight.  I am eating brownies. :)

This particular recipe comes from Baking Obsession and I like it not only because it is delicious, but also as far as desserts go it's got a lot going for it health wise.  Walnuts are a terrific source of heart-healthy fats and dark chocolate and cherries are both high in antioxidants.  Add that to the mood boost you get from eating delicious food that you made yourself, and what could be better?

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, salted or unsalted
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
1/3 cup dry cherries, chopped
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add the chocolate to the butter, stir over low heat until melted.Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add the flour, and salt and stir energetically for 1 minute, until the batter loses its graininess and becomes smooth and glossy.  (*This is an important step, unlike most brownies you need to really incorporate these ingredients.)

Stir in the chopped nuts, cherries, and the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely before removing the brownies from the pan.

The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days (though  I'd never know....) at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fresh Mango Salsa

My current fruit obsession has moved on from strawberries to mangos.  Has anyone else noticed how delicious they are this time of year? It's finally gotten HOT here, today is our first day in the 90s and I've been working in the yard a ton.  It's so nice to come in and snag one of these refreshing little babies out of the fridge and eat it nice and cold.  If you're not sure how to choose, store or slice your mangos, you can find all of that information here.  And be sure to visit my facebook page to learn about the great health benefits of mangos.

I also like to make mango salsa in the summer time.  It's delicious served with chips or over grilled chicken, or wrapped in a pita with some arugula and roasted turkey for a quick lunch.  This recipe for Mango Salsa comes from Make it Naked.  You can find the original here.  I love the addition of the avocado... it makes it sort of a guac/salsa fusion and it's delicious!  Don't you want to just stick a fork into your computer screen??

1 mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, diced (I used a garlic press)
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lime

Wash, peel and seed all ingredients where necessary. Chop the mango, avocado and tomato to uniform sized pieces. Chop the rest of the ingredients as necessary.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 15-30 minutes.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Buttermilk Pound Cake

Since it's strawberry season we've been eating a lot of strawberry shortcake around here.  We like to have it on angelfood cake or pound cake rather than those little round storebought shortcakes.  I think those just have a gross texture and taste like chemicals.  This cake is so easy to whip up.   It makes a lot and freezes well.  I like to slice it all up the day I make it and freeze it in ziploc bags.  Whenever you want strawberry shortcake, just pull a slice out and let it thaw for 30 mins or so.  Delish!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar. Mix in the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon and the vanilla extracts. Gently mix in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Pour batter into the prepared pan.               

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes. Do not open oven door until after one hour. When cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan it is done. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Warm Lentil Salad

Today was a day to use up leftovers in my fridge.  I had a grilled bratwurst, some grape tomatoes, and green onions that were all on their way out.  So, I threw together this lentil salad.  It's high in protein and fiber, and you could really put whatever you wanted in the bowl.  You could easily make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat or using tofu or eggs in their place. I made a single serving, but I adjusted the recipe to serve 4.

4 cups water
1 cup dry lentils
assorted vegetables: cucumber, grape tomatoes, green onions, carrots, etc.  Whatever sounds good!
left over hardboiled eggs, tofu chicken, sausage or steak cut into bite-sized pieces
Balsalmic Vinaigrette (we like Ken's and Newman's)
salt and pepper to taste
Seeds for garnish (sunflower, flax, hemp, sesame, etc.)

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Pour the lentils into the water while stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, about 30 minutes. Drain well.         

Meanwhile assemble your veggies and meats.  Cut everything into bite-sized pieces.  I like to warm my meat up as well.  Though if you're using chicken or steak you could chill the entire salad and have a cold lentil salad that would be really refreshing on a hot day.

When the lentils are finished, toss everything in a large bowl.  Drizzle with balsalmic dressing to your liking.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and seeds.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Seed Bread

I have been trying to be better about making my own bread rather than buy store-bought. It's so much cheaper and I know exactly what's going into it, which I love.  But often times I'll make it and it just doesn't turn out right.  It tastes good, but doesn't make the greatest sandwiches.  And that's what everyone wants, right?  Good sandwich bread!  I've been experimenting with my breadmaker trying to come up with the best recipe for a whole wheat bread that my family will eat.  Many come out too dry or crumbly.  I really wanted to make mine 100% whole wheat, but it just never quite cut the mustard. So finally, I admitted defeat and used a portion of unbleached all-purpose flour.  I hate to say it, but it's so much better.  I add whatever seeds I have on hand.  I usually use hemp seeds because they disappear.  When you have a picky little girl that wants to know, "What are all these THINGS in my bread?!?" if she sees one tiny speck, you learn to get creative with hiding the healthy stuff.  Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, ground flax or even sunflower seeds would be yummy, too.

When it's done I let it cool and then slice up the whole loaf and store it in a ziploc.  I've found the rest of my family is more likely to eat it if it is pre-sliced and therefore easier to use.  Be sure to eat a slice warm with butter.   It's a slice of heaven!

This recipe makes a 1.5 lb. loaf.

1 c. + 2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon honey, sugar or agave nectar
1 tablespoon non-fat dry milk powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Add all ingredients to your bread maker in the order listed.  Use the basic or white bread setting.  I use the light crust setting because it's a little less crunchy and seems to slice easier.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Apple Pie Muffins

I've been trying to stock-pile my freezer lately with some good staples and breakfast items that I can pull out for a quick meal and not have to reach for a can or a box of cereal.  So far I've whipped up a double batch of Best Ever Pancakes, which I froze and stored in a ziploc freezer bag.  Yesterday I made freezer cinnamon rolls from Money Saving Mom.  You can find that recipe here.  I also made a big batch of black beans and froze them in 2 cup portions (about equal to one can of beans) so they will be ready to use whenever we need them.

Today I made these muffins.  When you're ready to eat them, you can either pull them out of the freezer the night before and they'll be defrosted when you wake up, or you can pop them in the microwave for up to 1 min (watch them, they heat up quickly!) and smother them with butter..mmmmm....

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups diced apples           
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper muffin cups.               

In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla and 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar until sugar has dissolved. Pour into the flour mixture and sprinkle the diced apple into the bowl as well. Stir just until everything is blended. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin, filling the cups to the top.               

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour and cinnamon. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of melted butter while tossing with a fork until well blended. Sprinkle this over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed.    

Enjoy them now or let them cool on a wire rack and then freeze in freezer bags.            

Friday, May 4, 2012

Classic Quiche Lorraine and a No-Fail Pie Crust

I'll never understand where the saying "Real men don't eat quiche" came from.  This classic quiche is filled with bacon, eggs, cheese, cream tucked inside a rich pastry.  What's a guy not to love?  This is a really simple, easy dinner to whip up and doesn't cost a lot of money in ingredients.  It's even faster if you have crumbled bacon and pie crusts ready and waiting in your freezer.  I like to prepare these two things in large batches since they are a bit time consuming, freeze them and just thaw when I'm pressed for time.  We had this last night with a quick fruit salad but it would be equally good with a green salad. 

When I make a fruit salad I simply chop all of the fruit into bite-sized pieces.  Then I mix it with just a few squeezes of lemon juice to preserve the color.  Then I add a handful of shredded coconut and maybe some raisins or dried cranberries if I have them on hand.  The coconut and dried fruit gives a nice chewy texture to the salad.

The pie crust recipe that follows is my go-to recipe.  Don't be intimidated by making your own pie crust! It is so simple and the results are so amazing, once you've done it a few times you'll never go back to those store-bought processed crusts.

1 single crust of Rich Butter Pie Crust (recipe follows)
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. shredded gruyere or swiss cheese
4 eggs
2 cups half & half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
dash cayenne pepper
dash nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425. 

Line a deep 9" pie dish or quiche pan with pastry and flute the edges as you like.  Sprinkle bacon evenly over the unbaked shell.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over that.  In a large bowl mix eggs, half & half, milk, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg, well.  Carefully pour over the bacon and cheese.  Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 25-30 mins longer until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let stand 5-10 min. before serving.

Rich Butter Pie Crust

This recipe is for a single crust pie.  It is easy to double for a double crust pie.

1 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
3-4 Tbsp. cold water

Stir flour and salt together in a medium bowl.  With a pastry blender or fork cut in the butter until the pieces are the size of small peas.  Add the smaller amount of water and toss with a fork until it begins to come together.  If necessary add remaining water to crumbs in the bottom of the bowl.  It is very important to not overwork the dough.  You want the ingredients to stay cool. It may seem a bit crumbly, but that is what makes it oh-so-flaky in the finished dish.  Gather the dough in your hands and press into a ball.  Roll out to desired size, or tightly wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum foil to freeze.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Summer Quinoa Salad

If you haven't tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) yet, now is the time!  It is a great source of protein for vegetarians as it is a complete protein, meaning that unlike beans and most other protein sources it has all of the amino acids the body needs in one source. It is also gluten-free. It is super easy to cook and can be used just about anywhere you'd use rice.  Even if you aren't vegetarian this is a great pantry staple to have for Meatless Mondays or any time you want a lighter meal.  Because quinoa is protein rich, and a whole grain it is really filling.  Great for those of us looking to shed a few pounds. :)

This salad is yummy and refreshing.  The cranberries give it a pop of color and sweetness and the cilantro is super fresh. If you're not big into cilantro you could substitute another fresh herb.  Basil would be amazing!  I'm allergic to almonds so I use pecans, but I think you could use any nut you had on hand.  I think I might try peanuts next time.  I think they'd really be good with the curry flavor.

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds or other nut
1/2 cup minced carrots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
S & P to taste

Pour the water into a saucepan, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then pour in the quinoa, recover, and continue to simmer over low heat until the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Scrape into a mixing bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until cold.

Once cold, stir in the red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red onion, curry powder, cilantro, lime juice, sliced almonds, carrots, and cranberries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.               
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