Friday, April 29, 2011

And the winner of the Microplane tools-


#26 Ben and Suzanna


Email me your mailing address at and I will send your goodies on their way.

Bummed you didn't win? Check back next week for a very special Mother's Day gift giveaway!

Have a sweet weekend,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Housekeeping and two more days for entering the Microplane Giveaway

Finally added a "printer friendly" button to the bottom of each post. Now you can print my recipes with ease. Actually, SPH added the button. If I had attempted this feat, it wouldn't have been pretty.

Also added--a handy little button bar to share recipes through email, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Or, you can use it share the current giveaway with others.

Lastly--my recipe index is up to date.

How'd all these items get done in one day, when they've been on my TTD ("things to do") list since January?

My mom and dad are visiting. Two extra sets of willing hands=lots of extra time to tackle all my projects.

And remember--two more days to enter the Microplane Giveaway!

Peas and love-

Monday, April 25, 2011

Microplane Tool Trio Basket Giveaway

I heart my Microplane zesters, graters and other kitchen tools. These high quality tools work beautifully and never let me down:

Now I have a question for you: how many of you prepared baskets for little ones to celebrate Easter?

One more question: how'd you like a basket of goodies for you?

All three of these Microplane tools are ready for your kitchen. As we've begun to plant our herb garden for the summer, I look forward to a lot of use from this herb mill that chops and minces herbs with restaurant-like results.

The peeler? Perfect for the cucumbers we hope to grow.

And the pizza cutter? Well, I use it not only for pizza, but for quesadillas, even pancakes (nothing cuts 'em quicker or better!).

Want to win the basket of Microplane goodies? I'll mail you the herb mill, peeler and pizza cutter if you are chosen.

To enter, I'll give you three opportunities to enter:

1. Leave a comment letting me know you have liked Sweet Peas and Pumpkins on Facebook. If you already like SP&P, then simply leave me a comment that you already do.

2. Register to follow SP&P (see the lower right hand column to sign up) and then leave me a comment that you do. If you already follow SP&P, go ahead and leave that comment.

3. Do you know I also blog over at I do. Register and leave a comment on one of my posts this week at my blog.

Three chances to win three really super great Microplane tools!

I'll choose one winner using on Friday, April 29 at 2 pm EST.

A sweet prize!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easy Carolina Shrimp and Grits

I made Shrimp and Grits recently and opened my SP&P Virtual Cookbook to pull up the recipe. There wasn't a recipe listed! Then I remembered: despite being one of my ultimate "go-to" pantry/freezer dishes, I have never shared my recipe on this blog. I plan to fix this problem now, so you too can know just how simple this beautiful recipe can be.

First, stock your freezer with some frozen uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp when it next goes on sale. Shrimp is sold by size, with larger shrimp sold in 21-30 count bags and ranging all the way down to the shrimpy shrimp, 51-60 count. The number on the bag indicates how many shrimp are in the pound, so the smaller the number "count," the larger the shrimp. When frozen shrimp goes on sale, stock up! It is usually about 50% off during a good sale.

Next, buy some instant grits. Grits are ground corn, and therefore, a whole grain source. You simply simmer them on you stove top and they are done in about 5-10 minutes. We usually add a touch of cheese and some salt and good ground black pepper, but you can try them any ole' way you like. If you are like me and were raised north of the Mason-Dixon Line and have never tried them (my first taste was in North Carolina with SPH), make sure you go buy some soon. They are so good and a busy cook's friend.

Okay, now that you have your shrimp and grits in hand, let's transform them to Shrimp and Grits.

Easy Carolina Shrimp and Grits

1 pound medium size shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup Quick Grits, cooked according to package instructions (usually makes 2+ cups of grits)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
chives for garnish (optional)

Thaw your shrimp, if necessary. You can do this under some cold water, or overnight the night prior.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add the shrimp and toss lightly to coat.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp, making sure not to crowd them (if you crowd them, the moisture from the shrimp cannot escape adequately and you end up with chewy, steamed shrimp, rather than nicely seared, slightly crispy and tender shrimp).

Cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque and orange-y, not gray:

Meanwhile, cook the grits according to the package instructions. Remove from heat and add the cheese, salt and pepper.

Plate some grits, topped with the shrimp and sprinkled with some fresh chives, if desired:

From start to finish, this recipe is done in about 15 minutes. How's that for good food fast?

Have a sweet Easter weekend,

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holidays, Meals and Giveaways

Passover, Earth Day and Easter...all in the next 7 days. Need a little help in planning your celebrations?

Tomorrow I'll post on some ways to keep everyday Earth Day in your kitchen.

Meanwhile, here are some fun spring holiday ideas for your kitchen:

Easter Cookies with Royal Icing

Blown Eggs

Homemade Easter Egg Dye

Last week I took a break from cooking since SPH was on a work trip all week. This week, it's back to the kitchen:

Northstar Cafe Burgers
, Roasted Potatoes, Side Salad
Zesty Citrus Glazed Chicken (new recipe), Garlicky Green Beans, Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Mango Salsa

Lastly, I have not one, but two uber-cool giveaways coming up in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Have a sweet week,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taco Lasagna with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce

(Two quick side notes:

1. Did you watch the Food Revolution last night? Betcha never look at mass produced ground beef the same way again.

2. Had a few glitches uploading this post. Mea culpa. But the fact that I just returned from the eye doctor and having my eyes dilated might help my errant typing.)

We love tacos in the Sweet Pea home, but sometimes, tacos can equal a lot of last minute preparation. We end up with components for the tacos across the counters, and while this is not something about which I want to complain, it does make for a lot of set-up and clean-up on a busy weekday night.

Enter Taco Lasagna. This handy one dish wonder combines your favorite parts of tacos in a layered lasagna to make it a breeze to bake and bring to the table. It is perfect for a Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday…) night when you have after-school activities or have to work late. You can even assemble it in the morning and then simply bake for supper time happiness.

We make our Taco Lasagna with black beans, but you can very easily substitute ground meat, turkey or even shredded chicken. Make it your own to suit your family’s tastes!

Taco Lasagna with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced (optional)
3 cups black beans (about 2 – 15 ounce cans, drained and rinsed) –OR- one pound of meat,turkey or chicken
1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1 recipe Go-To Taco Mix or packet taco seasoning
¼ cup beer or water
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
6 tortillas, preferably whole wheat

If cooking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees. If making ahead, wait until you are ready to bake.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Once warm, add the onion, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno, if using. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown slightly.

Add the black beans (or meat, turkey or chicken) and corn and stir well. If using meat, turkey or chicken, cook, stirring occasionally until the item is fully cooked. Once the meat is cooked, or immediately if using black beans, add the taco seasoning and beer/water. Stir and bring to a heavy simmer. Reduce to a slow simmer and let simmer until beer/water evaporates, about five minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste (probably about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon will do you).

In a 9 x 13 baking dish, layer two tortillas to cover the bottom. Add ½ of the black bean or meat mixture. Top with 2/3 cup cilantro lime sauce and 2/3 cup cheese.

Repeat and then top with last two tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. If baking a pre-made Taco Lasagna, add an additional 10-15 minutes. Bake until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Season Two



8pm EST

Season Two: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I'll be watching...and you?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Avoiding the gunk

I've been mulling this post for awhile. Through the years I have become an unrepentant label reader, and my friends will frequently ask, "how do I know what food to buy and where to find all natural products?" I am not an expert, and I am not perfect, so I've been hesitant to write up a list that in any way makes it sound so. But on the other hand, it is quite simple to avoid unnecessary food gunk, so without further adieu:

Here is my check list of ways to avoid UFIs (Unidentifiable Food Ingredients/Ultra Funky Ingredients) in your food. After my last post a couple people asked specifically about food-dyes, but this is a good way to check all your food ingredients:

*The easiest way: shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or other natural food stores. Although this strategy runs into two issues: Whole Foods can be pricey and Trader Joe's does carry a few items that have gunk in them, so you have to also follow up with...

*Read your labels. Look at the ingredient list, and if you run into a bunch of ingredients with numbers, or unpronounceable words, chances are you are skating into food funk territory. There are items though, like tocopherols (Vitamin E) or citric acid (Vitamin C) that may sound a bit funky, but are just scientific names. Which leads me to the next step...

*Bookmark, specifically their glossary of food ingredients. You can find almost any unknown food ingredient in this list, and since they are color-coded, you can easily see if they are a beneficial item or a cautionary ingredient. As you learn more about the food you are eating...

*Make a mental or written list of name brand and store items that are all natural. For me, this list includes a random list of foods such as Target Brand Natural Applesauce (just apples, no high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or artificial ingredients), Newman's Own Salad Dressings, Trader Joe's Organic Ketchup and Whole Foods Tortillas. Each of these are a good stand-ins for mass manufactured items that tend to have gunk in them (check out the ingredient list of a traditional tortilla next time you think of it and compare it to Whole Foods). Already at the grocery store and need a little help? Then check out this cool app...

* is an app you can download and then use at the grocery store to scan bar codes to alert you to any potential gunk in your food. (Thanks Jenn for the tip!) If you don't have a smart phone and still need help in the grocery then...

*Use your judgment: food that is day glow rainbow colored, or not quite right (chili cheese flavored chips) probably has some level of gunk in it. In the end though, most families decide it is impossible to avoid all food gunk and decide...

*Just do your best. Birthdays, holidays and other special occasions often call for special occasion foods, often with bright colors and some gunk too. We do a 90-10 rule in our home, aiming for at least 90% all natural foods, and no more than 10% (roughly--I do not get out a calculator!) of gunk.

And yes, "gunk" is a highly technical term.

A scientist I am not, just a mom who wants to keep my all natural kids as natural as possible-

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Just in time for Easter:

The best part? Check out the ingredients:

Thank you Trader Joe's, for making some really tasty, really super cool jelly beans, that use pumpkin, hibiscus, carrot, apple and currants for coloring instead of some color conjured up in a science lab. Or as the front of the bag reads, "with colors from fruit and vegetable sources."

Why should you care about food dyes if your food? Read here. Or here.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Real Life

What you can't see in this picture: a completely dirty cook top, pasta spilled all over the floor, and a sink full of dishes.

What you can see:

Real life in my kitchen. Today I cooked up a quadruple batch of a recipe: two to share with friends who had a new baby and one who has been hospitalized, one to eat for dinner tonight and one to freeze for future use. I figured if I was making a triple batch, I might as well quadruple it to give myself a future night off from cooking.

Speaking of cooking, here's our meals this week:

Chicken and Vegetable Tetrazini, Roasted Asparagus
Indian Burgers and Indian Sides (Trader Joe's)
Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Tofu Stir-fry
Falafel, Hummus, Tzatziki, Baba Ganouj

Here's to Real Life and all the messes-

Friday, April 1, 2011

Superhero Mode

Whenever I put on my apron, I often feel as though I am shifting into Super Mom mode. Who is Super Mom? Super Mom can simultaneously make dinner, help with homework, put together Playmobil motorcycle pieces, referee sibling spats and think about what she needs to do the next day.

I am guessing you are a Super Mom (or Dad) too.

Being a mom is tough business, but I like to think that moms are just a wee bit tougher and yet full of love and compassion.

My apron puts me in "it's time to get things done" mode, and the fact that my own mom made it for me means each time I put it on, it is almost as if I am getting a long distance hug from mom.

This afternoon G made me a superhero shield out of foil. I was already wearing the apron since I just whipped up a dessert for dinner tonight at our friend's home. When G asked me to take a picture of me with the shield, I turned over the camera, and this is the picture he snapped:

A portrait of me, in full Super Mom mode, complete with a shield and all. I think this makes me an official superhero.