Friday, June 29, 2012

Marinated Green Bean and Red Onion Salad

In my humble opinion, I think this healthy recipe would rock as a cook-out dish this summer.


First, it tastes good, real good.

Second, there's no mayo or anything that can quickly turn bad in the heat.

Third, you can alter the beans in this recipe to your heart's content.

Fourth, it is wheat-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan and vegetarian.  I can't think of a single allergy that would prohibit anyone from eating it.  (But I am not a dietician, please tell me if I am wrong!)

Fifth, if you use canned beans, you don't have to cook a thing.

Sixth, did I mention it is tasty?

Have I convinced you to try this awesome picnic recipe?

Marinated Green Bean and Red Onion Salad

3 cups green beans (either 2 -15 oz cans, drained or frozen or fresh green beans that have been steamed)
1 - 15oz can chickpeas, drained (or approximately 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 - 15oz can black beans, drained (or approximately 1 3/4 cups cooked black beans)
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon brown or Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup agave nectar)

In a large bowl, combine the beans, chickpeas, black beans, red onion and bell pepper.

In a jar with a tight lid, combine the remaining ingredients:  vinegar, olive oil, water, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar.  Close tightly and shake well.  Pour over the beans and stir well to combine.

Let marinate at least 1 hour before serving, or up to 2 days in advance.  If you marinate for more than a few hours, stir the mixture once or twice before serving to evenly distribute the yummy marinade.

Serves 8.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Caramelized Onion Quinoa

Alongside the zesty Grilled Southwest shrimp recipe I shared on Monday were two delicious sides.  Today, I share a recipe that SPH declared, "his favorite quinoa recipe."  Nice!

Caramelized Onion Quinoa

2 cups water
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1 large onion, preferably Vidalia or another sweet onion
2 limes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley or cilantro

In a covered saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  Add the quinoa and return to a simmer.  Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and remove the lid.  Allow any additional water to evaporate.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Slice the onions and add to the skillet.  Spread the onions out evenly.  Allow to cook slowly and do *not* stir or move the onions around too much.  The less you fuss with the onions, the quicker they will caramelize and brown.  Stir only every few minutes.  Once brown, remove from heat.

In a large bowl pour the cooked quinoa and add the caramelized onions.  Mix well.  Add the juice of the 2 limes, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and herbs, if using.

Serves 4.

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 fruits and vegetables.  Throughout the year, I keep this list handy to prioritize which produce I buy organic (like apples, spinach and celery) and those that I buy conventional (corn, avocado, eggplant and asparagus).

The list represents research the EWG does each year to see what produce is clean (very few pesticides and chemicals) and which produce should be purchased organically, if possible.

If nothing else, it is an interesting list that you can find on EWG's website.  Here's the quick rundown:

Dirty Dozen:

Sweet Bell Peppers
Green Beans (extra)
Kale and Greens (extra)

Clean 15:

Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas (yay!)
Sweet Potatoes

Remember, if you can't find organic produce or if want to make sure your produce is clean, check out my  Homemade Fruit and Vegetable Produce Wash!

Life is sweet,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Southwest Grilled Shrimp with an Avocado Mash

Sometimes during summer I feel out of sync.  Off schedule.  "What day is it again!?"  This isn't to say there isn't beauty in the summertime daily flow, but it is just different.

We've been traveling and visiting family a fair amount in the last month, and then this past weekend R and SPH had a camping trip.  After a few weeks of going here-and-there, we celebrated the return of Sunday dinner at home with a trio of new recipes, all enjoyed in the summer breeze on our back patio.

This delicious trio also complemented our afternoon trip to the swimming pool.  The green bean salad and quinoa were made ahead of time and waiting in the fridge, the shrimp was ready to be grilled and the southwest rub was mixed and ready to dust the shrimp, lastly I smashed the avocado with a bit of lime and salt.  Honestly, it took about 15 minutes after we were home to get dinner on the table.  Beautiful.

This week I'll be sharing this recipe trio, starting with a vibrant recipe that combines the zesty flavors of the southwest, dipped in the cooling smoothness of avocado flavored with a touch of bright citrus:

Southwest Grilled Shrimp with an Avocado Mash

For the Shrimp:
1 pound large shrimp, de-veined and peeled*
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the Avocado Mash:
2 ripe avocado
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high.

Pat the shrimp dry.  In a medium bowl combine the chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, pepper, salt, thyme and garlic powder:

Toss the shrimp in the spice mixture until fully coated.

Grill the shrimp for 2-4 minutes per side, or until fully cooked.

Meanwhile, combine the avocado, juice of one lime and salt in a bowl.  Mash with the back of fork until blended.

Serve the shrimp with the avocado mash for dipping.

Serves 4.

*You can often buy shrimp already de-veined and peeled at the grocery.

Oh, and would you indulge me a moment of proud-mommitis?  Here's R, learning archery during this past weekend's camping trip and looking pretty true to form!

Go R!

Life is sweet,

Thursday, June 21, 2012


We're home, and after a day of traveling back from the beach, home feels good.

In the past week I decided to take a mini-hiatus from blogging.  The only pictures I took were on the beach:

A shadow self-potrait
R, G and SPH launching play twirly-rockets on the beach at dusk

Oh, guess I did take a picture of food, but it wasn't anything I prepared!

So, I'll be back with some new recipes and such, but in the meantime, this girl needs to unpack!

Life is sweet,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Remember my pictures on Monday of our family reunion food?  Today I thought I'd share my new recipe for watermelon salad.

This salad screams "refreshing" to me.  The creamy feta offsets the bite of the mint, while the watermelon adds a wonderful sweetness.

When I made this for our family reunion this past weekend, some of my family said they could do without the feta.  Whatever floats your boat; if you're not a "stinky cheese" fan, you can easily omit it!

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

8 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin
4 ounces feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar

First, peel and slice the watermelon.  The best way to do this easily is to cut off each end of the watermelon, and then sit it upright.  Once upright, cut off the sides of the peel like this:

Once the peel is removed, begin to dice the watermelon until you have about 8 cups.  Place the diced watermelon in a bowl.

Add the mint, red onion, feta cheese, salt and pepper to the watermelon.  Toss gently to combine.

Serve the watermelon salad, drizzling with a bit of balsamic dressing on top with each serving.

Serves 12.

Life is sweet,

Monday, June 11, 2012

Good-bye School, Hello Summer!

R's last day of school was last Thursday.  I helped coordinate his last-day-of-school party, which G attended (twist his arm) with me. 

The final school bell of the school year rang, we gathered up R's items (but forgot his red hoodie; gosh, I hope the school is open today) and went outside to meet SPH who swung by to pick us up on our way to go camping  with my extended family for the weekend.
R's class doing their last "Texas Hug."

Side note:  don't volunteer to coordinate a last day of school party *and* try to pack for a three-day camping trip.  Too much! 

The long weekend in the woods was wonderful:  hiking, swimming, time to talk amongst extended family, campfires, crafts, lots and lots of dirt and food, lots and lots of delicious and creative food:

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
Candied Bacon (yeah, these lasted about 32 seconds)
 One thing you should know:  my family is a family of chefs.  Even the kids get in on the action, here is G earning his Kitchen Samurai status:

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't share G's falling off a 6 foot ledge into some water where he, SPH, R and some other family were fishing, SPH's rescue of G, G's stepping on a nail that pierced his Keens and his foot, and various other sorts of drama.

I am beat, but in the best sort of way.

Perhaps I need to go help myself to another cup of tea, for today is the first day of summer vacation.  You know, the time of the year when your kiddos are with you all day, every day?  A great time of year in so many ways, but just different.

So as I ease into the summer schedule, I hope you're enjoying yours too.

After all...

Life is sweet,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita, not pizza margarita, so put away your tequila and limes and grab some fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.

This simple recipe is a great example of why delicious food doesn't have to be complicated!

Pizza Margherita

1 pound pizza dough (either homemade or store-bought)
6-8 roma tomatoes
20 basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll the pizza dough in two rounds.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until slightly brown.  (I like to pre-bake the crust for this pizza, since the "sauce" is fairly wet and if you don't pre-bake, the crust can be mushy in the middle).

While the dough is baking, thinly slice the tomatoes.  Slice the basil, reserving several leaves for topping the pizza after it is cooked.  Add the tomatoes and basil to a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Stir well to combine.

Remove the crust from the oven and let cool.

Slice the mozzarella and set aside.

Once the crust is fairly cool, add the tomatoes on top.

Add the mozzarella.

Bake for 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Before serving, slice the remaining basil and sprinkle on top of the pizza.  Drizzle with remaining teaspoon of olive oil, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grilled Chicken Satay with a Coconut Peanut Sauce

Here's the scenario:  You are hosting a summer shin-dig of some sort and you want to use your grill.  Who can blame you?  But you don't want to do grilled burgers or hot dogs, again.

Why not try something outside the box, something different?

Chicken Satay is a popular Asian street food of skewered and grilled meat.  Almost every Asian country has their take on Satay, but one of the best-known ways is to skewer marinated chicken, grill it and then serve with a peanut sauce.

SPH developed this recipe for Chicken Satay that is quick, healthful and definitely more exciting than your typical grilled burgers and hot dogs.

The boys love Chicken Satay and I believe it goes back to a theory I have about food on sticks. Kids love to eat foods on sticks. Popsicles, Corn Dogs, Lollipops, these are all fun foods to eat. The bonus with this recipe is not only are they fun to eat, but they are healthful too.

This recipe uses exotic ingredients, but don’t let this deter you—the flavors are worth it!

Grilled Chicken Satay with a Coconut Peanut Sauce

¼ cup of light coconut milk
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Coconut Peanut Sauce:
2 teaspoons fresh ground ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped fine
1/3 cup peanut butter
½ cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Prepare the chicken:
Mix all ingredients except chicken. Marinate chicken in mixed sauce for 2-4 hours, or overnight, before grilling.

Skewer the chicken and grill, about 6-8 minutes, flipping once.

Make the peanut sauce (can be made ahead 1 day):

Combine in a sauce pan, bring to a simmer for a 1-2 minutes.  Let cool and thin with more coconut milk if desired.

Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

Serve the grilled chicken on a platter, with the sauce on the side for dipping.

Serves 4-6, in a way more creative way then burgers or hot dogs.

Life is sweet,

Monday, June 4, 2012

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Jam

G and I took a trip last week to a local farm to pick strawberries.  My favorite part, besides eating fresh picked berries, is the delicious, jammy smell of the fields.  The farm smells like a giant jar of strawberry jam.  Just look at the gorgeous berries we collected:

Strawberry Trivia:  They get their name from the straw that farmers place under the plants to reduce rotting
G was quite the strawberry gatherer:

Strawberry picking tip:  wear old, dark colored clothes to prevent staining--picking berries is juicy work!

  Once we returned home, we decided to whip up some jam, using just three ingredients:

We used extra lemon and created a delicious jam the tastes just like Strawberry Lemonade!

Strawberry Lemonade Jam

4 cups strawberries (about 1 1/2 quarts), stems removed
1/4 cup agave nectar (or 1/2 cup sugar)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
pinch of salt

Remove the stems of the strawberries and mash with a fork:

Add the agave nectar and zest, stir well:

Reserve the lemon juice for another use (try it in your ice tea, perhaps?), then place the lemon halves and your strawberry mixture in a sauce pan (the lemon has natural pectin to help thicken the jam).  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, if desired:

Bring to a boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered, or until the jam reduces by about half:

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.  I am not a canner, but you could can this too!

Enjoy!  The tartness of the lemon really complements the strawberry-agave flavors.  We've been enjoying this jam all week, we might need to go back to the farm and get more berries!

Life is sweet,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Meatless Monday: Greek Quinoa

R has just a few more days of school left, so we're counting the days until summer officially begins.'s coming fast.

In the summer, I love whipping up main dish salads early in the day that we can have for dinner.  That way, dinner is done and ready to go, if we choose to head to the park, playground or pool.  Also, who wants to cook in the heat of the afternoon?

For this coming week's Meatless Monday, try Greek Quinoa, the perfect make-ahead dinner salad.  This quinoa dish is fresh like early summer.  Bright, tart lemon flavors combine with the earthy Greek seasonings to create a beautiful marriage of tastes.

It looks beautiful, too:

Here's this week's Meatless Monday Grocery List:

1/2 cup packed fresh baby spinach
1 small cucumber
1 small red onion
1 bell pepper
1 lemon
1 clove garlic

1/2 cup pitted olives
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
quinoa (you will need about 3/4 cup to yield 2 cups cooked)

olive oil
dried oregano

Have a great rest of your weekend,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Homemade Earth-Friendly Insecticidal Soap (Repels Deer and Bunnies too)

This is my favorite time of the year to cook:  our garden is growing and often I find myself walking outside to grab something for dinner from our garden.  Trouble is, some critters, bugs and worms are having their dinner from our garden too!

If you're growing your garden organically, one of the most effective way to control pests is to use insecticidal soap.  You can purchase insecticidal soap at the store, but it is super easy to make at home and will save you from having to run an extra errand.

For the most simple insecticidal soap, you can dilute 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to 1 quart of water.  My version incorporates garlic and red pepper flakes to also deter bunnies and deer.

All you need:

Homemade Insecticidal Soap

Make the base:
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 cup water

Make a batch of insecticidal soap:
2 tablespoons base mixture (above recipe)
1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap
2 cups water

Make the base:

Remove the garlic cloves (you don't need to peel them though) from the head of garlic.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 cup water to a blender and process until it forms a runny paste.

Pour the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any small chunks of garlic or pepper flakes.  The remaining water is your "base."

Yields about 1 cup of base.

Make a batch of insecticidal soap:

Mix 2 tablespoons of the base mixture, with 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap and 2 cups water.  Combine in a squirt bottle and spray away!

A couple important notes:

*Insecticidal soap works best when done on a day without rain.  Rain will wash it away, and you want to keep the mixture on the leaves as long as possible to deter pests.

*Be sure to spray the backs and fronts of the leaves of the plants.  Many pests hide on the underside of the leaves.

*You may respray daily, as needed.

*This insecticidal soap can be used even if you are about to harvest your vegetables.

Our poor collards were attacked over the weekend.  Insecticidal soap to the rescue!

Happy gardening!