Thursday, March 28, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Got Hard Boiled Eggs and Ham?

I'll let the front of G's card to his kindergarten teacher speak for me:

Of course I took a picture of it!

Here's a healthy meal plan for the week after Easter (and for you, Karen!):

Meatless Monday:   Egg White Salad with Chives, Kale Chips, Fresh Strawberries


Garlicky Smashed Tomato and Arugula Spaghetti, Fresh Pineapple

Lightened Quiche (use leftover ham and veggies from Easter if you have 'em), Steamed Broccoli, Clementines

Vegetarian Taco Soup, Baked Tortillas, Apple Slices


Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables, Rice, Pears

Homemade Pad Thai, Mango

As we get ready for Easter weekend and all the joy and hope that Easter brings, I hope that the message of Easter and new life blesses you!

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tilapia with Mango Salsa

I know so many of us are just waiting...watching...hoping...for Spring and warmer weather.  It's this time of the year that recipes like this can give me a little vacation to the tropics, right from my dinner plate.

I use breaded Tilapia for this recipe, but by all means, if you have another white fish or even chicken or pork, the mango salsa will work great with those too!

You can "bread" the fish with either panko or breadcrumbs, or if you want it gluten-free, use crushed gluten-free cereal such as Rice Chex, Corn Chex, GF Rice Krispies...or even crushed tortilla chips, potato chips or rice crackers.

Tilapia with Mango Salsa

4 filets Tilapia
1 egg, beaten well
1 cup breading
salt and pepper to taste

Mango Salsa:
1 1/2 cups diced mango (about 2 mangoes or use frozen)
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the fish.  In one shallow bowl, beat the egg.  In a second shallow bowl, add the breading and salt and pepper to taste (salty chips won't need extra salt).

Dredge each fish filet in the egg, then dip in the breading, pushing gently to assure full coverage.

Place each fish filet on a cooking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Repeat with all the fish.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.

While the fish is baking, mix the salsa:

Once the fish is cooked and the salsa is mixed, you're ready to eat!

Makes 4 servings.

Life is sweet,

Friday, March 22, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Global Potluck

I love the two Sweet Pea's elementary school.  Hardly a week goes by without me saying "I love this place," or "thank you for leading us here."  The best part?  The boys love the school going, love learning, love sharing what they've learned.

I'm a very thankful mom.

But two things this week that made me really step back and say, "wow!"  The first, is a partnership our school is doing with artisans in Third World Countries, involving fair trade and education.  Wow.

The second was a potluck that R's teacher put together, complete with a World Cafe theme.  R's class has students and families from Egypt, Ethiopia, Brazil, Germany, just to name a few.  Each family brought a dish from their heritage.

We ate *good* at the potluck:

You ready to eat good (and healthy) next week?  Here's a meal plan:

Meatless Monday:  Lentil Soup, Bread, Arugula Salad, Kiwi

Pork Loin with Apple and Sage, Rice, Blood Oranges

Sweet Potato and White Bean Enchiladas, Mango

Chana Masala, Quinoa, Naan, Pineapple


 Olive Bar Fish, Grits, Green Beans, Pear

 Curried Chicken Salad over Greens, Pita


Have a great weekend!

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poached Eggs and Avocado Sandwiches

Today is the first day of Spring, but if you stepped outside where we live, with no knowledge of the calendar, your cold cheeks would belie the Vernal Equinox and relay this message to your brain:  it’s the middle of Winter!  

The high temperature on March 20, 2012 in Columbus?  84 degrees.

The high today?  35 degrees.

Ugh.  I want real Spring!

You know, the Spring with daffodils and flowers abounding?  Despite the daffodils still sleeping in their buds, a friend has been sharing another symbol of Spring, her backyard coop chicken eggs. 

The egg is an ancient symbol of hope and new life, so perhaps it is apropos that on this, the first day of Spring, I share a favorite, simple way to enjoy eggs?

Poached Eggs and Avocado Sandwiches

6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, thinly sliced
sandwich items--your choice

This isn't so much a recipe as a way to serve poached eggs that will taste so good you may have a little tear in your eye.

First, get a heavy skillet or pan and fill it with about 2 inches of water.  Place the outer rims from mason jars (or something similar that can withstand boiling) in the bottom of the pan:

Add 1 tablespoon vinegar per quart (4 cups) of water, and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a strong simmer.

Crack eggs, one at a time, into a bowl, and gently pour into the rims of the mason jars.

Allow the eggs to simmer for 7-8 minutes for large eggs, longer if you wish to have firmer yolks.

Once the eggs have simmered, gently remove one with a slotted spoon.

Place onto a plate, lined with paper towels.  Test the inside.  Is the yolk done to your desired consistency?  Then remove the rest of the eggs or allow to simmer for another minute or two and repeat the test.

Serve on top of your favorite sandwich, sprinkle with salt and pepper, along with a few avocado slices.

If you or your family can't tolerate dairy, this is the closest thing I've found to replace cheese on a sandwich or burger.  The creaminess of the avocado, paired with a slightly gooey yolk...sandwich heaven.

 Makes 6 poached egg sandwiches.

Life is sweet,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Barbecue Brunswick Stew

My husband was born in North Carolina and spent his entire childhood and early adulthood living in the Southeast--mainly North Carolina and Virginia, but also South Carolina and Georgia too.

Son #1 was born in Virginia and he tells me that he'll always be Southern at heart.  He reminds me too, when he craves okra, dad's amazing barbecue, lima beans and all the good Eastern Shore seafood.

Our family came up with this recipe for Brunswick Stew, a cross between all the different versions out there (Brunswick, Virginia and Brunswick, Georgia both lay claim to the birthplace of Brunswick Stew and there are many different versions out there--ours does not, thankfully, contain one classic ingredient--squirrel) and added some Sweet Pea family touches, like okra and barbecue sauce.

I like to think of this as Brunswick Stew, gone a little fancy.  Pair this with a little bit of my Soft Cornbread, and you'll be all sorts of happy.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Brunswick Stew

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 cup frozen cut okra
1 -15 oz can creamed corn
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 -15 oz can chicken stock
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 pound shredded smoked chicken or pork*
fresh parsley (optional)

Combine all ingredients except parsley in the slow cooker.  Stir well.

Cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours, LOW 8-10 hours.

*you may add just regular uncooked chicken breasts or thigh to the soup and then remove them before serving, and shred the meat, and then return to the soup.

Before serving, top with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.

Life is sweet,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Early "Spring" Planting

Inspired by the 50 degree temperature, "Vernal Equinox" on the calendar next week, and friends who love to garden sharing that they've planted, I ventured outdoors this afternoon:

My new garden caddy.  Won't look this clean ever again.

I started digging in the earth to plant sweet peas (well, of course they would be my first choice!), lettuces, swiss chard and collards.

I came across this, a vestige of gardens past, an old garden marker that used to read, "cilantro," I believe:

But then, what's this?  Underneath a winter's worth of dirt and leaves?

Cilantro!  Gingerly peaking out of the ground as if to say, "is spring here yet?"

I also found signs of two not-so-little boys, and how much they love playing in the dirt too:

Poor Luke, looks like he lost his right hand to frost bite.

Spring is coming...the season of new life and rebirth.  I can hardly wait.

Life is sweet,

Healthy Meal Plan: Sweet Peas and O'Pumpkins Style

Need a quick and easy way to shamrock your food this St. Patty's Day?  Pull out some cilantro and you're all set.

Need a quick and easy way to plan your meals next week?  Check out these ideas and you're all set.

Healthy Weekly Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday: Make-it-Your-Own Asian Noodles and Salad, Fresh Pineapple

Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash with Peas and Egg Noodles and Apple Slices


Pizza Soup, Broccoli, Pears


Chili Lime Salmon, Grits, Collards, Blood Oranges 


Breakfast for Dinner:  Poached Eggs, Potato "Waffles," Fruit

 Darn Good Skillet Dinner, Grapes

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Life is Sweet,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vegan Creamy Quinoa Breakfast "Oatmeal"

We love oatmeal and all the millions of ways you can dress it up, mix it up and eat it up.  Did you know you can do the same thing with quinoa?  Yes, quinoa (KEEN-wah): the super grain, the full-complete-protein, the tasty alternative to oatmeal.

Quinoa, it's what's for breakfast.

Vegan Creamy Quinoa Breakfast "Oatmeal"

3/4 cup quinoa
2 cups vanilla almond or soy milk (can use dairy milk if "vegan" is not important to you)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (use a full teaspoon if using non-vanilla milk)

pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional--can replace with fruit)

Rinse the quinoa well in a fine sieve.  This removes the outer germ and makes the quinoa much tastier.

In a medium sauce pan, bring the milk, cinnamon, vanilla and salt to a boil.  Add the rinsed quinoa.  Reduce to a simmer.  Cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove lid, stir and continue to simmer until desired creaminess is reached--remember, this is a creamy quinoa, so not all the liquid will be absorbed, but you don't want the quinoa to be undercooked, so give a spoonful (cool it off first!) a quick taste to see what you think.  You probably will want to simmer an additional 2-5 minutes.

Add the maple syrup, if desired.

Serves 2-3 as a hearty breakfast.

Need some inspiration on how to jazz it up?  Here are our favorite combinations:

Almond and Apricot Creamy Quinoa Breakfast:  add a small handful of slivered almonds and sliced dried apricots.

Apple and Raisin Creamy Quinoa Breakfast:  dice up half an apple and add some raisins.

Chai Tea Creamy Quinoa Breakfast:  while the quinoa is simmering uncovered, add a decaffeinated Chai tea bag to allow the Chai flavors to steep.  Add any desired fruit.

Pumpkin Spice Creamy Quinoa Breakfast:  add a pinch of nutmeg and ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 cup pumpkin puree.

Blueberry Walnut Quinoa Breakfast:  add 1/2 cup blueberries and a small handful of chopped walnuts.

Pineapple Ginger Quinoa Breakfast:  add minced fresh ginger to taste (or ground ginger) and 1/2 cup chopped pineapple.

What will be your favorite?

Life is sweet,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Starting Seeds Using a Coffee Filter

Yesterday the temperature reached 70 and I got my hands a little muddy preparing our garden for the herbs and vegetables.  I love this time of the year, when you can almost taste spring in the air.

This is the third year I'll  be growing seeds indoors to get a jump start on our vegetable garden.  I feel like a science teacher as I prepare seeds with R and G.

We tried a new seed-starting method this year, beginning seeds in plastic bag with a wet coffee filter.  Seeds seem to germinate more quickly this way, and for seeds like peppers that take extra long to sprout, this method can give seeds a kick-start.

Here's a quick tutorial on starting seeds with a wet coffee filter:

1.  Gather your supplies:  seeds, coffee filters, baggies.  Label the baggies, so you know which seeds are which:

 2.  Wet the coffee filter until saturated and add a few seeds.  Seal the bag:

3.  Place the bag near something warm:  on top of your fridge or by an HVAC vent.  Seeds do not need light to germinate (remember, they're underground usually during this process) and you shouldn't have to re-water.

4.  In about 4-7 days, you will see them sprouting!:

 4.  Carefully remove the seeds (using a coffee filter makes it much easier than a paper towel):

5.  And plant in a soilless mix.  Need a tutorial on making homemade cups of soil?  Click here for the tutorial on Seed Starts for Vegetable Plants.

After a few more days, you'll have little seedling plants, ready to grow and thrive in your garden!

Once your danger of frost has passed, you can place the plants outdoors, after you have hardened your plants: Seed Starts, Part 2 (how to "harden" seedlings before planting).

Happy Spring!

Life is sweet,

Friday, March 8, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Brothers Together

These are the moments that make all the tough parenting moments more than worth it.  R helping G work on his reading, all without me or SPH asking him to do so.  What a pleasant scene when I walked downstairs.  Precious.


Wasn't it just recently that R was teaching G how to enjoy his play gym?

This is one of my favorite early pictures of R and G together.  R was convinced G would be able to better enjoy the play gym if only R could teach him how to reach for the toys, how to roll over, etc.  G was about 1 week old.  :)

Time flies.

Speaking of time, don't forget to Spring Forward this weekend!

Here's your Healthy Meal Plan for next week:

Meatless Monday:  Burrito Bowls , Mango 

Citrus Glazed Chicken, Grits, Green Beans, Mandarins

Lightened Gumbo, Bread, Apple Slices

Lemon Caper Pasta, Arugula Salad, Kiwi

Peanutty Stirfry
, Pineapple

Sesame Ginger Chicken Burgers, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Marinated Cucumbers 

Life is sweet,