Monday, January 31, 2011

Men in the Kitchen

Who says men can't cook?

This weekend I was excited to see a cooking demonstration by Martin Yan, of "Yan Can Cook," my first favorite television cooking show star. I grew up watching Martin Yan on PBS, my first exposure to Chinese cooking.

Later that same day, SPH was in the kitchen whipping up a version of Pastitio, a great recipe I will be sure to share soon. I love men in the kitchen:

I know many of you out there (Jenn, Erin, Whitney, just to name a quick few...) have men in your life that can cook/grill/smoke food like nobody's business. So again, who say's men can't cook? Not I, says the fly.

This going to be a busy kitchen week for me...more on that tomorrow...but in the meantime, I have a few meals planned to get us through to the weekend:

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Corn Chowder and Spinach Salad
Chicken Paprikash and Braised Cabbage
Szechuan Beef and Broccoli
Black Bean Tostadas, Guacamole and Mango Salsa

Oh, and one last thing--this weekend I signed up for our third year with New Century CSA. Interested in a CSA? Check out

Have a sweet week-

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter Pumpkin Pasta

Of all my emergency/go-to/pantry-dive dinners, pasta dishes are the undisputed champion. Why? All you have to do is boil up some pasta, conjure up a sauce and add whatever you have on hand and voila, you are a kitchen miracle worker, creating dinner out of (seemingly) thin air.

But why reach for the marinara sauce when you can do something novel and use pureed pumpkin to create a quick and easy sauce? Yes, I wrote "pumpkin."

Pumpkin puree makes a really rich tasting and savory sauce for this pasta dish, which can be made with sausage, or vegetarian...both versions are quite tasty!

Winter Pumpkin Pasta

1 pound small pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound portabella or cremini mushrooms, or alternatively, turkey sausage, crumbled
1 small onion, diced
4 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 - 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup white wine or broth
1/2 cup light sour cream
a few dashes hot sauce, optional
fresh parsley, optional

In a stock pot, boil the pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms or sausage, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with salt, thyme, rosemary and pepper. Cook well, for about 6-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown or sausage is fully cooked.

In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin and wine or broth. Stir well. Add to the skillet and mix to incorporate.

Add the sour cream and stir well. Remove from heat.

Place pasta in a serving bowl and cover with pumpkin sauce. Sprinkle with hot sauce and parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.

Have a sweet weekend,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Have you tried Indian cuisine yet?

A long time ago I was under the horribly mistaken assumption that a trip to an Indian restaurant would equal a trip to the CVS to pick up some Pepto. Wrong, plain wrong.

If you want to try your hand at some really lovely Indian food but don't want to go too far out of your palate's comfort zone, here is a great place to start: Chicken Tikka Masala. The only two items in this recipe that might be a bit new to you are two wonderfully healthful Indian spices: Garam Masala (which in turn is really just a spice blend of common spices) and Turmeric.

But wait, it gets better: you can make it in your slow cooker.

If you are like me, this time of the year menu planning can rely heavily on the slow cooker. Here's a new recipe to spice things up and end your slow cooker blahs.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
2 tablespoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 tablespoons grated ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 - 2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup light sour cream
cilantro (for garnish--optional)

Place the chicken in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the garam masala, salt and turmeric. Set aside.

Use 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture and add to the flour. Stir well. Pour over the chicken, tossing well to ensure the chicken is fully coated.

Add the tablespoon of oil to a large skillet and heat until very warm, but not smoking (use medium high heat). Add the chicken and brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes a side. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Pour the chicken, onion, garlic and ginger into a slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, peas and remaining spice mixture. Stir to incorporate the spices.

Cook on high for 4-6 hours, low 8-10.

Once ready to serve, remove the chicken pieces and add the sour cream. Stir well. Add the chicken back into the slow cooker.

Serve over rice with cilantro on top (if using).

Serves 4-6.


Monday, January 24, 2011

New Week + No Birthdays = Mom is Happy

I love birthdays, really, I do.

But after a week long celebration full of parties, cakes, house guests, presents and sugar rushes/party highs, I am ready to return to normal mode. Not that I want to wish this special annual tradition away; I actually love it, but you can only be in hyper-birthday mode for so long.

SPH and I have a special tradition at the end of Birthday Week each year, one that is sort of wink and a smile type of tradition. At the culmination of the week, we open a bottle of champagne and toast to another year of being parents.

We toast to all the moments of "just barely surviving" as well as "really thriving" parenthood memories. The past year was an up and down year, full of vacations, and yet surgeries; new homes, and (ehh, the memory) flooding our old home the eve before our move; and lots and lots of every day memories.

A family member has the following quote in her home, and I think it sums up good way to reflect on the last year:

"Enjoy the little things in life...for one day you'll look back
and realize they were the big things."

I've decided to forgo the grocery store this week. After a weekend trip to get some last-minute provisions and basic essentials for our family birthday celebration last night, I am going to try and rely on our pantry and freezer and get a bit creative for our meals:

Baked Cheese Tortellini and Green Beans, Pineapple
Lentil and Ham Soup, Grilled Cheese
Rice Noodle Salad with Asian Vegetables and Tofu
Tacos (will improvise based on what we have in the freezer--I have the cheese, tortillas, tomato)
Asian Salmon Burgers, Sauteed Broccoli

Here's hoping you can find the joy in the little things this week,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Amazing Disappearing Fruit

I have two young boys, inching ever closer to the teenage years, aka, the eating years.

I am wondering how on earth I will keep enough food in this house when they are teens since four days ago our fruit supply included:

a quart of strawberries
8 kiwis
2 mangoes
3 pounds of pears
3 pounds of apples
5 pounds of clementines
3 pounds of bananas

=nearly 20 pounds of fruit!

Let me preface the picture below with the warning: my boys *love* fruit and I am all too happy to help provide them with ample opportunities to fuel this love. I know we go through fruit fairly quickly, but it hit me today how quickly and I had to take a picture of what our 20 pounds of fruit looks like four days later:

We still have our after-school snack and dinner for today, so I am guessing by day's end, we will have pretty much depleted our fruit four days.

Milk, eggs, bread and snacks go quickly in our home too, but I was amazed at our fruit consumption. At this rate I have decided we probably need to plant some fruit trees in our backyard, for this will be the only way to keep a steady supply in our home about 10 years from now.

What foods disappear fastest in your kitchen?


Monday, January 17, 2011

Bring on the Birthday Cake

This is our annual big birthday week at the Sweet Pea home. Both R and G will celebrate their birthdays in the next week. Be still my heart. 4 and 7? Seems impossible, and yet, in so many ways, perfectly right.

No school today, so this morning I broke out the Play-doh (it was in one of the last boxes we unpacked over the holiday break), and the boys are experimenting with some birthday treat ideas.

R's making a cake:

While G works on the ice cream sundaes:

Not a bad way to spend a morning off from school, eh?

Our meals for the week:

Fish Tacos, Mango Jicama Salsa, Frijoles Refritos
Homemade Falafel, Hummus, Tzatziki, Kiwi
Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Gnocchi with Low Fat Alfredo and Vegetables and Roasted Butternut Squash
Indian Night--Dal, Roasted Chickpeas, Naan, Trader Joe's Indian Packet or two
Perfectly Simple Chicken Orzo Soup

One last thing--be sure to check out my new take on macaroni and cheese from last week's post. It's a great recipe that has won rave reviews in our home.

Have a sweet week,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Taste of Summer in January

Last summer my mom went blueberry picking and shared a portion of her bounty with us. The remaining last two pints of blueberries have sat in our chest freezer since last summer.

In a recent moment of inspiration, I whipped up this easy recipe and...

Oh. My. Goodness.

This dessert is seriously good, seriously healthful and seriously satisfying.

Blueberry Ginger Crumble

2 pints (or 24 ounces) frozen or fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup all purpose flour
juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax seed (optional--gives it a slightly nutty flavor)
2 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the blueberries, sugar, ginger, flour and lemon juice, tossing well to fully coat each berry.

Pour the berries into a deep dish pie pan or 8x8 glass baking dish

In a medium bowl, mix the oats, brown sugar and flax seed. Add the butter or Earth Balance and mix with the back of a fork until the mixture resembles very coarse sand or pebbles.

Top the berries with the oatmeal mixture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the oatmeal is slightly browned and the berries are bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

Life is sweet,

PS--Mom, do you still have those extra blueberries you offered me? I'll take them!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Star Wars Fruit

You know you are in a house with preschool and school-aged boys when an adventure to open a pomegranate elicits words like "It looks like inside the Death Star!" (Darth Vader's ship, for those, who like me until a few years ago, are "Star Wars" illiterate)

(Death Star? Use your imagination...)

Every once in awhile we call a dinner an "Adventure Dinner" and try out something new. This past week it was pomegranate. Now, we've had pomegranate before, but not fresh from the whole fruit in a long time. We shared one big pom and I was giddy thinking of all the antioxidants the boys were consuming. Yes, it's the little things.

As I type, some of my Southeast Peeps have school off today and gobs of snow/rain. Imagine two little boys up here in Ohio waiting for those same precipitation-filled clouds to move north. They're hoping to go sledding tomorrow afternoon...we will see!

In the meantime, I have a whole week's worth of warm-you-up meals planned:

Broiled Citrus Flounder, Steamed Broccoli, Rice
Lightened Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Crab and Pumpernickel Croutons
Lightened Cassoulet (new recipe) with Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Fast or Slow Chili
Savory Pumpkin Pasta (new recipe) and Spinach Salad

Have a sweet week!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Enchilada Rotini

Sometimes when I come up with what I believe is a really novel recipe idea, I google it only to find out there are countless renditions already floating around on the internet. So when SPH suggested trying to come up with a warm pasta dinner dish, using enchilada sauce in lieu of a traditional red sauce, with lots of Mexican flavors, I figured there were lots of existing recipes.

I was wrong.

In my internet searches, I found a handful of cold, picnic/potluck type pasta salads that had Mexican flavors, but no true warm pasta dinner recipes. I took this as a sign to start creating.

I love this type of recipe: the base of it, basically the pasta and sauce, can stay the same, but beyond that, the sky is the limit. It can be made with meat, vegetarian or even vegan. In fact, to make this dish I sauteed up a bunch of different vegetables and told the boys to "pick any three:"

And while we used black beans, zucchini, corn, red onions, and tomatoes, you can easily customize this recipe to whatever you have on hand (other suggestions: olives, bell peppers, squash or diced chicken, beef or pork).

Enchilada Rotini

1 pound small to medium (rotini works great) pasta, preferably whole grain
1 -12 ounce jar red enchilada sauce
1 - 8 ounce tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 kinds of vegetables, about 1 or 2 cups each
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne
toppings: chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese (both optional)

Boil pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the enchilada sauce with 1/4 cup tomato sauce. Taste. Since every brand of enchilada sauce is different, test it's spiciness level to your family's preferences. If you need it milder, tone it down with additional tomato sauce.

In a medium skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add whatever vegetables you are using for the meal. If you have a less picky family, you can group them all together in the pan to cook at once. However, for our family, I started with the onions, then the beans, and worked my way through the list. As you cook the vegetables, use the cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne to season as you cook. Cook the vegetables until they are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Drain the pasta and pour into a bowl. Pour the enchilada sauce on top and toss well. Add the desired vegetables, and top with cilantro and cheese, if desired.

Serves 6.

To demonstrate how versatile this recipe can be, here is my version of Enchilada Rotini:

And here is G's:

Have a sweet weekend all-

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Barbecue Chicken Meatloaf

I am over at today sharing a new family favorite recipe for Barbecue Chicken Meatloaf. I worked on this recipe over the holiday break and oh-my-goodness, we are hooked.

You know how some meatloaf recipes are a bit, hmmm, bland? This is not.

You know how sometimes things with the word "barbecue" in it are too spicy for kids? This is not.

You know how meatloaf can sometimes be a bit greasy and diner-ish? This is not.

For all these reasons and more this recipe was a hit! Click here for the recipe link.

Have a sweet afternoon,

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Sound

If you were able to hear my home as I type this post, you would hear a very sweet sound...


R and G both returned to school this morning, much to their delight. As wonderful as it was to have all four of us home for the last two weeks of the year, we were all happy to return to our routine today. R to see his friends and get back to 1st grade, G to experience all the messy fun of preschool, SPH to have one extra day off to ease back into work and Yours Truly, a chance to catch my breath between the activity of break and the busy-ness of the weeks to come.

(quick pause to relish the silence, again)

It was an active break, full of Christmas activity, winter activity...

(G, me and R on a fun sleigh ride to go grocery shopping on Christmas Eve)

And yes, kitchen activity. With SPH home for the break, I had lots of time to get my cooking on, and I am excited to share some new for 2011 recipes. I'll be blogging a lot over on too, sharing new, healthier renditions of family-favorite recipes.

So get ready to get inspired. I'm fired up for the new week and new year--I hope you are too!

Speaking of all these "new" things, here are our meals for the new week:

Chili-Lime Tilapia, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Eggplant
Caramelized Onion Calzones, Lemon Glazed Green Beans, Pineapple
Tofu Stirfry with Brown Rice
Chicken Taco Soup with Baked Tortilla Chips
Northstar Cafe (Vegetarian) Burgers, Oven Fries, and Broccoli

Have a sweet start to your week,