Monday, March 24, 2014

Baked Salmon with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce

Salmon.  You know it's good for you, but maybe you find the strong flavor a bit off-putting.  

This may be the salmon recipe for you.

The creamy Greek Yogurt sauce that accompanies this salmon recipe is fresh, bright and both complements and subdues the fish-y flavor of the salmon.

In other words, this could be your family's answer to a picky salmon eater.  (Take a note from my playbook:  call it fish with ranch dip--works great for my G).

Baked Salmon with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce

1 1/2 pounds salmon
1 cup low fat Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped capers (optional--if you omit, add extra 1/4 teaspoon salt)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the salmon, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the salmon is fully baked (flakes with a fork, but not dry--cooking time will depend on the thickness of your salmon).

While the salmon is baking, assemble the remaining ingredients and make the quick and easy sauce:

Combine the yogurt, red onion, garlic, dill weed, lemon zest and lemon juice:

Add the salt and pepper and stir well:

If desired, add some capers (or salt):

Add some horseradish (optional):

Once the salmon is baked, top with some of the creamy lemon dill sauce and a lemon slice, if desired:

Serves 4.

Salmon.  It's what's for dinner!

Life is sweet,

Monday, March 10, 2014

Two Crust-y Solutions

They are a common site in kitchens with kids (and probably some grown-up kitchens too):

Chances are, if you are a mom, dad or have ever fed anyone under the age of 10, you know that for some kids, crusts rank right there between brussel sprouts and mushrooms in the category of "you don't expect me to actually eat those, do you?"

Since R has never been a fan of sandwiches, the issue of crusts never really arose.  But my sweet G is a huge PB&J fan.  He eats a lot of PB&Js, but PB&Js without the crusts, of course.  Which leaves me with lots and lots of bags of crusts (yes, I know, you can make the sandwich with crusts and hope that your kiddo eventually says "hey, these crusts taste okay!" and I do try this periodically, but we have yet  to hear G say this.):

Since I'd rather not waste the crusts, especially the crusts of rather pricey gluten-free bread, and since gluten-free breadcrumbs and croutons are expensive, how about a quick way to put your crusts (gluten-free or otherwise) to good use?

There are two easy and tasty solutions to the crust conundrum:  Croutons and Breadcrumbs (which taste waaaay better than canned or store-bought breadcrumbs!).

First, Homemade Crust Croutons:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Take the crusts and cut into fairly uniform, bite-sized pieces.

Add some ground pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dried basil (about 1/2 teaspoon each to about 6 cups bread pieces--or adjust for your amount of bread):

Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, toss well and spread evenly on a baking sheet, avoiding overcrowding (use two baking sheets if necessary):

Bake 20-30 minutes, turning in pan one time while baking:

Voila--croutons way better than any you buy in the store!  Store in an airtight container a room temperature, or freeze to last longer.

Next up:  Homemade Bread Crumbs:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Then, use a food processor or coffee grinder:

Simply process until the desired fineness is reached:

Place on a cooking sheet or stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until desired brownness is reached:

Store in the freezer until you're ready to use!

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No More Brown Guacamole

"Ugh, my guacamole always turns brown!" could top a list of First-World problem statements I've caught myself saying.

You've heard of First-World problems, right?  They're some of life's minor complaints and irritants that those of us who have been blessed beyond measure find ourselves uttering because we have it so.  crazy.  good.

Things that folks in many places around the world couldn't even comprehend saying because they have much bigger, larger or more urgent worries.  

So while browning guacamole is far from a catastrophe, it is something that I've tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer for years…until now.

Sweet Pea Husband gave me an idea a few weeks ago, and ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to share with you that it is a fool-proof, easy and simple solution.

The answer?


Yes, just water.

(Isn't it cool that many of life's issues, whether large or small, often have very simple solutions?)

Here's how it works:

Make up your fresh guacamole.  Need a recipe?  We like making this simple guacamole:

Eat what you want, share what you want or keep it all for later.  Place in a lidded container:

Smooth the top:

Cover with water so no part of the guacamole is exposed:

Refrigerate until you're ready to eat or serve, then remove from the fridge:

Simply pour off the water, stir in any minor residual water and enjoy!:

Same guacamole, one day later!

Because avocado has a lot of healthy oils in it, the water doesn't seep into the guacamole (oil and water don't mix, right?) and any trace of water you mix into the guacamole doesn't change the texture or flavor.

Pretty cool, eh?

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Really Natural Mint Chocolate Chip Snow Cream

Here in Sweet Peaville we're experiencing our sixth, yes sixth, calamity day.  Not sure how I feel about the term "calamity" day since most of our days were far from a calamity; no huge snow or ice event, just cold, cold, cold.

But today our calamity is snow and ice that made a mess of our roads and driveways. With R and G home from school, I tried to employ their strength in clearing our driveway.  While they were helpful, the snow and ice that accumulated last night is so heavy that when I put my first shovel scoop throw the mass and tried to lift, it was too much.

This is the type of snow that causes weather forecasters to say on the television, "don't over exert yourself!" and "make sure you're up for shoveling."  It is heavy snow, seemingly having the weight per square inch of lead.  This is only a slight exaggeration.

Today also marks the beginning of the "Blizzard Bags" that many Ohio schools are using as a way to compensate for being out of school so much this winter.  R and G brought theirs home yesterday which was rather foreboding since I still held out hope that there would be school today (ha!).  In G's packet he had an assignment to make snow cream.

In classic G form, he took a look at the recipe for vanilla snow cream and asked, "what if we added peppermint and chocolate chips and make Mint Chocolate Chip Snow Cream?!"

I loved this idea.  It was really tasty, and since many of my readers probably have some white stuff in their yards, I share this recipe to inspire!  What flavor combination will you try??

Really Natural Mint Chocolate Chip Snow Cream

4 cups fresh, clean snow (as G said, "avoid yellow snow!!")
1 cup milk (we used almond milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
a few drops peppermint essential oil (we love DoTerra Peppermint Oil)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Gather your snow:

Add the milk, vanilla and peppermint oil, and stir well:

Add the sugar and chocolate chips and stir again:


G, sporting his recently lost tooth-gap-y grin

Makes 4 cups snow cream.

Life is sweet,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pear Fennel Soup (Vegan/Gluten-Free)

Sometimes I read recipes and my mouth starts to salivate (same thing happens when I watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but I digress) as I read the ingredients and imagine their tastiness.

Other times I read recipes and I think, "huh."

This recipe was a product of my curiosity after I read about the idea of combining fennel and pear in a soup…followed by a "huh."

So I tried my own version of combining pear and fennel in soup and my "huh" quickly changed into a "yum!"

This is simple eating at it's finest.  Fresh flavors.  Natural sweetness.  Refined flavors.  All in about 20 minutes flat.

Pear Fennel Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
2 small fennel bulbs
2 medium pears, ripe, but not overly soft
1 cup apple juice
4 cups waters
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Cook 2-3 minutes.

Slice the fennel and core and slice the pear (no need to peel) and chop roughly.  Add to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add the apple juice, water and salt and pepper (about 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste) and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree, either with a blender (be careful--it's hot!) or immersion blender.

Serve with fresh fennel fronds (from the top of the fennel bulb).

Say it with me, "yum."

Serves 6.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Homemade Suet Bird Feeder

In the cold, cold winter, there's just something about having a bird feeder out the window and seeing a Cardinal or Blue Jay eating.

A couple weeks ago, G and I made a homemade feeder.  I had a can of saved bacon grease lingering in the fridge, which we mixed with some bird seed and cranberries to create a cool feeder that the birds have long since devoured.

Full disclosure:  we had very cold weather when I put this outdoors.  If you want to keep the feeder from "melting" in warmer weather, mix peanut butter in place of about half of the bacon grease.

Homemade Suet Bird Feeder

2 cups bacon grease (or, bacon grease combined with peanut butter)
3-4 cups bird seed
cranberries (optional)
twine, pipe cleaner or other items for hanging
pie pan, or other "form" to pour the melted grease into

First gather your materials:

Melt the grease and add to the pan (if it isn't fully melted, just stir well):

Keep stirring:

Add 3-4 cups of bird seed:

(optional)  Add cranberries in a design:

Continue adding cranberries (I love when G makes this face, it's his "concentration" face):

Add the string or pipe cleaner before it hardens, pressing it in so it is well covered:

Let cool:

And hang!:

Life is sweet,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Kale Salad (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I love R's piano teacher.  She and her husband teach piano out of their home, and the fact that they have four children themselves, makes waiting with G while R's lesson takes place, super easy.  Their waiting area is full of Legos and other great toys, so I see the lesson each week as a time to let G play, while listening to piano and do some reading.  It is close to an ideal situation.

At one of R's lessons in November, the teachers shared a bowl of this salad with me, because, in their words, "we thought you would like it."  They know my food slant, and man oh man, they were right!  I loved this salad…so much so that I tweaked the recipe a bit and made it for Christmas dinner.

Full of greens, healthy vegetables and brown rice, this salad is a nutritional powerhouse!  Just right for a healthy New Year side dish or light dinner.

Winter Kale Salad

4 cups chopped fresh kale, stems removed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 small bulb fennel, sliced very thin
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
juice of one lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or other vinegar)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the kale, cranberries, fennel, red pepper and red onion.  Add the brown rice, while it is still warm, if you are able.  Doing so will slightly "cook" the raw veggies and hydrate the cranberries a bit, improving the texture of the salad.

Add the almonds to the salad and mix well.

In a lidded jar, combine the lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, mustard and olive oil.  Shake very well and pour over the salad.  Toss well to combine fully.

Serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a light meal.

Life is sweet!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 13 Real Food, Real Good Recipes of 2013

13 has always been fine by me.  Not one to believe in luck/unluck, I've never had a problem with 13.

2013 was a good year.  Sure, it was full of ups and downs, but as I pause to think of that for which I am thankful this year, I am overwhelmed.

Before '13 closes, here are my:

13 Favorite Real Food, Real Good Recipes of 2013

Tilapia with Mango Salsa:

Avocado Hummus:

Make Again Enchiladas:

Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse:

Easy Hash Brown Waffles:

Darn Good Skillet Dinner:

Homemade No-Bake Raw Energy Bars:

Super Spinach Salad with Warm Maple Dijon Dressing:

Fletcher's Thai Green Curry Noodles:

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Herbed Chickpea Salad:

Easy Overnight Vanilla Cinnamon Granola:

Slow Cooker Carolina Pork Barbecue:

These are all recipes that have been enjoyed by our family again and again.  I hope they become new family favorites for you in 2014!

Happy New Year!