Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeling the love


I am completely humbled and in awe of all the comments I've received over the last few days. You guys rock.

So numerous have been the comments, emails, facebook comments and phone calls that SPH has jokingly told me, "I'll be sure to criticize your next few posts, just to keep your ego in check."

What is so humbling is that this blog, all of this, started on a whim. A divinely inspired whim, I am sure...I praise God for leading me down this very unexpected path.

I started writing about one of my favorite things in the whole world, cooking and eating healthy, natural, or as my boys call them "power" foods and recipes. Never did I stop to think where this writing gig would lead, I just wrote one post, then another, and another...

So...thanks. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for all the kind words. Thank you for all your support. Keep the comments going, good and otherwise.

In other news, Spring is in the air, I can just feel it. Yesterday G and I spent sometime planting red onions and checking on our garlic's progress:

We prepared an area for herbs and checked out where we plan to plant our new vegetable garden.

Winter seemingly arrived on December 1, when we experienced the first snow of the season. Here's hoping the calendar's change to March 1 will begin our Spring in earnest.

And since Spring is the season of rebirth and new beginnings, this week we're trying some new recipes:

Vegetable Tempura, Asian Salad
Huevos Ranchero Tostada and Strawberries
Whole Wheat Spring Risotto
Warm Cobb Salad and Flatbread
Indian Roast Chicken with Roasted Garam Masala Cauliflower
Tuna Pan Bagnat and Lentil Soup

Oh, and in case you missed it, thank you.

Y'all are so sweet-

Friday, February 25, 2011

The news...

Long time readers of this blog know how much I heart Jamie Oliver, his recipes and his overall food philosophy. This isn't a new admiration, I've been a fan since SPH and I lived in London ten years ago and I would habitually watch his cookery shows.

When we returned to the United States, he came to my work to promote healthy eating, and SPH and I had a chance to meet our favorite food celebrity:

So you can imagine my delight when I got word from Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation that they loved my blog and had chosen it as a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Blog of the Month.

I think I actually got up from my computer and did a little jig, I felt so giddy.

One of my biggest food mentors, recognizing little ole' me and my food writing. Whoa.

I am so humbled. And, in need of a new photo of myself for the blog...yikes.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegetarian Moussaka Pasta

We've been using a new term in the Sweet Pea home:

(Da da da daaaah!) Adventure Dinners!

R actually coined the term, and in my view, any sense of ownership children have toward healthy eating is a fantastic thing.

Here's how our Adventure Dinners work:

When I am going to be making a new recipe that has an unfamiliar ingredient or represents a new cuisine to R and G, I announce earlier in the day, "We're having an Adventure Dinner tonight!" (always said with great enthusiasm and excitement)

The idea here is to hype up a new meal so they are excited about trying something new rather than looking at their plates and asking with trepidation, "what's this?" I usually pair the Adventure Dinner component with some sort of fun fruit or side that complements the meal and is bound to garner additional excitement.

Our latest Adventure Dinner was a Sweet Pea original recipe for Moussaka Pasta that SPH and I created together one recent Sunday afternoon (my favorite way to cook). I am quite sure if I had told the boys that we were having pasta with eggplant and tomatoes, they would have recoiled. However, when I used the terms "moussaka" (with attempted Greek emphasis to make it sound exotic) and "adventure," the boys were game for trying a new food adventure. We talked about where Greece is in the world, shared about SPH's visit there in college and what other foods they eat in Greece.

Moussaka traditionally features lamb and eggplant, this is our vegetarian version.

Vegetarian Moussaka Pasta

1 pound campanelle pasta (our other small pasta)
2 medium eggplants
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley (optional)

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, set your oven to broil. Poke each eggplant with a fork several times and place under your oven broiler. Broil, about 15 minutes, or until the outside of the eggplant is shriveled. Remove the eggplant and let stand 5 minutes. Peel the skin and place the eggplant flesh in a sieve (this allows the bitter juices of the eggplant to drain away).

Meanwhile, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the eggplant flesh, tomatoes, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat.

In a medium sauce pan over medium low heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir well until the mixture is a thick glue consistency. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Increase the heat on the pan to high and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Once thickened, remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese.

To serve, toss the pasta, eggplant and Parmesan cheese sauce. Top with fresh parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.

We considered this Adventure Dinner entree a success! The boys loved the cinnamon taste in a savory dish, and I devoured my entire bowl.

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More my speed

After SPH's big weekend tent camping trip with R, yesterday I took on a Cub Scout trip that was more my speed: a trip to the Ohio Wildlife Center. This not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center serves more than 5,000 hurt and orphaned animals in Central Ohio each year.

R, his Cub Scout Den and parents were treated to a great presentation, which included an elderly, tame and friendly groundhog:

I tried to ask the groundhog what was up with the colder temperatures, especially after the mid 60s we were enjoying last week...that I believed his cousin Phil had predicted an early spring, but he just waddled away. Groundhog are like that sometimes.

On the meal front, we're going International this week:

Thai Green Curry with Tofu, Red Peppers and Green Beans and Brown Rice
Chicken Taco Soup
Orange Chicken and Broccoli

Indian Night--Mango Dal, Basmati Rice, Mater Paneer, Naan

Have a sweet week,

Psst: I have exciting (I am giddy) Sweet Peas and Pumpkins news later this week!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seven Bean Soup

Looking for a super soup for a crowd? The recipe I posted today on is just what you need. It is great for a large group, but perfect to make now, and freeze the extra for a busy weeknight dinner.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mini-Cornbread Taco Lunchbox Bites

Confession Time:

I've gone on local television to share "tips for healthy school lunches" as if I have wisdom on the matter and I've worked hard to come up with new and novel ways to pack a school lunch to share on this blog. Sounds like I would know how to get a 7 year old, 1st grade boy to eat a good lunch at school each day, right? Not even close...

While R is a super eater at home, more often than not, he comes home with a good bit of his lunch uneaten. We've explored all sorts of theories...

"Do you like what I pack for your lunch?"
"Usually*, yes!" (*save for a couple experiments with steamed vegetables in his Thermos Funtainer)

"Do you have enough time to eat?"
"I think so..."

"Are you distracted by something?"
"Sometimes." (we're working on this)

I've tried not to hound R about the eating, since he eats well at home and I do not want lunch to become a power struggle. But since on occasion I welcome a very hungry grump-o-saurus home from school, I know there is room for improvement on the packed lunch front.

And so, with this in mind, I was thrilled when my Aunt J shared this appetizer on Super Bowl Sunday. She lovingly left the extra with us, which became R's lunch for a couple days afterward. They are easy to make and can be altered to your heart's content. Oh, and go ahead and freeze a few of them for future school lunches!

Mini-Cornbread Taco Lunchbox Bites

1 batch of cornbread mix (either store-bought, or you can use this easy homemade recipe)

Taco Ground Meat
Refried Beans
Sloppy Joe Filling
Bean Dip

Shredded Cheese
Sliced Olives
Diced Tomatoes

Preheat oven to temperature stated on cornbread mix recipe.

Mix the cornbread recipe according to package or recipe instructions.

Spray a mini-muffin tray with cooking spray or lightly grease. Fill each muffin holder about 2/3 full with cornbread batter.

Cook for 7-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes.

Turn the oven to 400 degrees.

Using a melon baller or small spoon, remove the inside of each mini-cornbread muffin.

Fill with one of the suggested fillings above, or get creative and use your own idea. Top with cheese, olives or tomatoes; or again, get creative.

Place the muffin tray in the oven just until the cheese melts or the filling is warm, about 3-4minutes.

Makes approximately 24.

These little beauties were a hit in R's lunchbox. Thank goodness for small lunchbox victories!


Monday, February 14, 2011


One of the of many reasons I love SPH: he is a manly-man. This past weekend, he proved it by taking R camping. Outside. In tents. In 20 - 30 degree weather. It was a Cub Scout "family camp-out" but I willingly volunteered to hold down the fort while they went camping.

Sometimes as a mom, you have to make sacrifices.

G and I secretly planned to visit our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner Friday night while R and SPH loaded up my car:

(all of this gear had to be carried to a campsite a quarter mile down from the parking site)

Not only were SPH and R willing to camp outdoors in bone-chilling cold, they were excited.

G and I woke up Saturday AM to visit Franklin Park Conservatory and bask in the tropical conditions, while looking at some really cool plants and Dale Chiluly glass art.

And since SPH had assured me you can't die of hypothermia in your sleep, I felt confident after the weekend was through, I'd see SPH and R again. Which we did, and after a lazy Sunday, we're ready for another week.

Our meals for the week:
Honey Mustard Drumsticks, Twice Baked Potatoes and Broccoli
Black Bean Soup, Homemade Bread
Lemon Caper Pasta
Slow Cooker Carolina Pork BBQ, Coleslaw, Baked Beans
Chipotle Taquitos and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Rookie Cookie's Thai Wraps

Hope your Valentine's Day is sweet,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweet Treat Pretzels

Valentine's Day is just three days away and maybe you are looking for an easy treat to make for someone special in your life. May I suggest chocolate dipped pretzels?

All you need is chocolate chips and pretzels to make someone's day extra happy.

First, melt the chocolate in 30 second increments on HIGH in your microwave, stirring between each session, until the chocolate is fully melted.

Next, dip pretzels, using kitchen tongs to pull them out and gently tap them free of excess chocolate.

If you care to, you can sprinkle the top while the chocolate is still wet.

Or you may keep dipping until your chocolate is nearly gone. Then comes my favorite part, taking the broken pretzels and mixing them with the remnants of chocolate.

Not pretty enough to give away, you will have to eat this tasty concoction yourself. This is the sacrifice you must make as official chocolate dipper. Never has something so broken and ugly been transformed into something so beautifully delicious.

Cool the dipped pretzels in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. Then, combine confectioners sugar (about 2 tablespoons) and a touch of milk (about 2 teaspoons) to make a quick and easy frosting.

Pour the frosting in a plastic bag, snip a very small hole in one end and pipe some white hearts on top.


Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heart Shaped Ravioli

So here's the thing about homemade pasta: it intimidates me.

I've never made homemade pasta, but I suppose someday soon my curiousity will trump my apprehension. Until then, I've found a secret weapon in homemade ravioli-making:

Egg roll wraps make a beautiful ravioli that you can fancy up to your heart's content.

Follow these easy steps to make your own ravioli, perhaps for Valentine's Day on Monday...

Heart Shaped Ravioli

1 package Nasoya Egg Roll or Won Ton Wraps
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons fresh herbs (I used Italian Parsley--but you can mix in basil or oregano too)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 tablespoons marinara sauce (optional--I used some to add a bit of extra zest)

Place the wraps on a cutting board and using a cookie cutter, cut pair of wraps into shapes:

Mix the remaining ingredients together and place an approximate teaspoon full on the middle of each heart, being careful to allow a border to press the sides together:

Using your finger, spread some water on the "top" heart as well as the border of the bottom heart:

Press the sides together to adhere:

Boil for 2-3 minutes. Serve with your favorite pasta sauce. I used a new family favorite Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce, one I will share soon.

The sky is the limit on shape selection. G already has a request pending for train ravioli.

Life is sweet,

Monday, February 7, 2011

Next Stop, Valentine's Day

SPC's 2011 Celebration Calendar:

New Year's Day College Football Extravaganza...check

G's and R's Birthdays...check and check

Chinese New Year...check

Super Bowl...check

Valentine's Day, here we come...

I'll be sharing a recipe for easy (yes, I wrote "easy") heart shaped pasta later this week:

But for now, I finishing up some photo shoots of food while G is resting. Yes, I wrote "photo shoots." I am trying to work on my photography, and it takes me a good bit of concentration to get it all right, so when the kids are away, mom will play (with her camera).

I am taking it easy again on the meals this week. I have a slew of frozen soups, one-dish wonders and the like, so we'll be digging out some yummy eats from our freezer this week, as well as trying two new recipes:

7 Bean and Sausage Soup
Wild Mushroom Calzones

Have a great week all-

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hot Ryes

We loved having two* snow, er, ice days this week. Of course, we were among the very fortunate in our neck of the woods and retained our power the entire storm...and SPH worked from home the first two days of the storm, so I had a second set of hands when needed. But all in all, a fun experience:

We made hot pretzels:

Inspired by the weather, we made iced oatmeal cookies:

We played and learned and created and hunkered down in front of some really good fires.

You know the funny thing about unexpected days off from school? You get out of routine and once things return to status quo, you realize that the world did not stop during your little respite and break.

This morning I realized "holy cow, Chinese New Year Supper Club is tomorrow night!" and "oh yeah, we are hosting our extended family for a Super Bowl party!" Hmm...time to get crackin' on some recipes and menu ideas.

Here's a recipe that is a perennial Sweet Pea favorite appetizer. We call them "Hot Ryes," yet serve them on Pumpernickel bread. Hmm...time to get crackin' on a new name.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a last-minute new Super Bowl appetizer idea, these are sure to please.

Hot Ryes

1 small loaf of mini-Pumpernickel Bread
1 - 4 ounce can chopped olives
1 green onion, sliced thin
2 - 3 slices bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice mini-Pumpernickel Bread slices on the bias, to make the each slice into two triangles.

Mix remaining ingredients. Spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of the mixture on top of each Pumpernickel triangle.

Bake 10-15 minutes.

Makes 5 dozen pieces.


*R's school is the only school in our school district that is still without power. We're hoping tomorrow will be back to business, er, learning, as usual!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bumped By,,,

This morning I was scheduled to do a segment on Good Day Columbus, a stir-fry recipe and cooking demonstration for Chinese New Year.

Instead, I was bumped from the show schedule.

Bumped, by a big celebrity...

A big "to-do" that everyone, everyone is talking about, thinking about...

So big that almost everyone in the country is being affected in one way or another...

She is the talk of this town...

Any guesses?

Still wondering?

Here's a clue:

I was bumped by ice. Ice! The above picture is from our yard, where everything looks as though it has been touched by an ice queen.

Better to by bumped from a television show by an ice queen, than to be one, right?

At least I have everything mise en place for tonight's dinner!

How are you all fairing with this big monster winter storm?

We're hunkering down with a living room picnic lunch and some hot pretzel-making...

Stay warm and safe all!!