Friday, May 15, 2015

Down on Amy's Farm

This spring I took a couple of months off of work to spend more time at home and with the kids.  One of the highlights of my time at home has been our "farm class" that I've taken them to on Monday mornings.  It's a parent-child class where we get to explore plants and animals on the farm and usually involves a craft, story time, and some songs as well.  When a friend first told me about it, I thought that I'd never have time to drive down to Ontario/Chino every week and do this but it's been awesome.  Jordyn has a new little friend that takes the class and it's been fun to watch the two of them together.  The farm also has a farm stand, tours, does field trips, and holds workshops.

 I think that the pictures will express the experience better than anything else I could write!

This mama and baby posed for their photo!
Hanging out in the garden - near Easter, we had an egg hunt in the rows
The kids usually got to feed an animal and learn about it - this week, we picked and ate carrots from the garden, saving the tops for the chickens.
There is literally nothing much cuter than piglets . . . 
The kids were encouraged to taste and try stuff - here, a variety of heirloom broccoli with edible flowers.  I saw my girls eat Rainbow Chard, Dinosaur Kale . . . all sorts of green delicious things!

She's an animal lover and natural farm girl - she loved every bit of her experience.
Before holding baby turkeys, the kids had to practice with little stuffed animals to show they could be gentle and not squeeze them to death.
Milking the cow!  We waited for weeks and this was one of our favorite days.
To visit Amy's Farm:
7698 Eucalyptus Avenue
Ontario, CA 91762

Here's a recipe for a healthy morning treat before farm class, school or any other adventure.  I've seen versions of this floating around on Pinterest and was intrigued by the concept - a cross between a pancake and a muffin with a decent amount of protein and fiber.  They're gluten free and filling.  I can see how they'd be easy to take and eat on the run.  The method in the original recipe called for putting all the ingredients in the blender but even with my VitaMix, I ended up with a lumpy mess at the bottom and the almond meal stuck to the blades wasn't fun to clean.

Almond Blueberry Pancake Muffins (makes 8)
original recipe on the Kitchenthusiast

1/4 cup Greek vanilla yogurt
2 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1.5 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/3 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin.  In a large bowl, combine yogurt, butter, syrup, and almond extract.  Whisk together.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Add the eggs and egg white and stir until incorporated but do not over mix (the batter will be thick). 

Divide the batter among the muffin tin cavities until each one is about half way full.  I got 8 muffins from this recipe.  After putting the batter in, sprinkle blueberries onto each one (I left a couple plain).

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until slightly golden and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.  Cool 2-3 minutes in the tin, run a knife around the edge of each cup and carefully remove.  They're good warm but they'll also store in the fridge for 3-4 days.  I didn't mind them cold but you can reheat in a 200 degree oven for 3-5 minutes.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Spring Soup

When we had a brief interlude of cold(ish) weather and some rain recently, I was excited for the opportunity to make some soup.  I've made a version of this sausage & kale soup in the past and a pasta recipe that's similar (which you can read here and here) but this one was my husband's favorite by far.  He loved the swap of gnocchi for the usual potatoes and we both really liked the roasted red peppers.

I really recommend using the spicy (hot) Italian sausage because it gives the soup most of its flavor and spice.  With the half and half, potato gnocchi and broth, I didn't find the end result to be very spicy but well seasoned.  In fact, I added additional red pepper flakes and black pepper to up the spiciness, even with hot sausage.  I bought uncooked links of spicy chicken Italian sausage and squeezed the sausage out of the links.  I found the gnocchi with the dried pasta and used the DeLallo brand, which I liked.

Sausage & Kale Soup with Gnocchi (serves 4)

1 pound ground italian sausage (use the "hot" kind)
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 (12oz) jar roasted red peppers
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 pound potato gnocchi
1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper

Add italian sausage and diced onion to a large dutch oven and cook over medium high heat until the sausage is browned and crumbled.  While it's cooking, chop up the roasted red peppers.  Drain the grease.  Then add in the chicken broth and red pepper, bringing the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat.  Once it simmers, reduce heat and add kale and gnocchi and stir to combine.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the gnocchi are cooked through and tender (check the cooking time on the package of gnocchi).  Stir in the half and half.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When your neighbor gives you lemons

One of the things I love about where we live is having great neighbors . . . the kind that say "hi" to my kids and put up with their antics, the kind that stop while out walking their dog to chat, the kind that have your back.  I'm not sure what the residents of our quiet cul de sac thought originally when we moved in with the kids, but we love it and are here to stay!

Our next door neighbor has been giving us citrus from her trees and I made a third variation on the lemon crinkles I've been making recently.  This time, I found a recipe that uses almond paste which is one of my favorite things ever.  You really do have to crumble or grate it from the tube or else the dough will be pretty lumpy and the cookies will be uneven.  I made a double batch  in my stand mixer and baked half of them the first day and refrigerated the dough for 2 days and then baked the rest to give some to my book club friends.

The verdict:  These Almond crinkles are my favorite but the cardamom ones are a close second!  Even though there's no photo of the end result, here's the almond paste you're looking for:

Lemon Almond Crinkles (4 dozen)
recipe from Odense website

1 (7oz) box almond paste
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 T grated lemon rind (1 large lemon)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. Confectioner's sugar

Put the sugar, butter, egg, lemon rind and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Crumble or grate the almond paste over the top.  Beat together until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix until well-combined.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  The original recipe said the dough would keep well in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

Line  baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll dough into balls and roll in confectioner's sugar.  Place 2-3 inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes or until puffed up and lightly colored on the edges.  Cool on wire racks and store in an air-tight container.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring adventures

We've had some pretty fun spring break adventures - a week and a half's worth.  If you know me at all, you know I took about 400 pictures during that week and a half and it's hard to sort through them sometimes, but these are a couple of my favorite shots.

Back before spring break and our trips, there was Easter.  My mom and dad made a delicious Easter supper and one of the things we enjoyed was this cauliflower hummus.  I know it sounds a little strange but the curry powder goes great with the traditional tahini flavor and the texture was awesome for dipping veggies or crackers.  

Roasted Cauliflower Hummus (yields 1.5 cups)
from Cooking Light, Apr 2015

1 cup cauliflower florets
2 tsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. curry powder
2 T tahini
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 15oz can unsalted chickpeas, drained
3 T water
1 garlic clove
2 T chopped, pitted green olives
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss cauliflower with 2 tsp. olive oil, curry powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.  Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 450 for 20 minutes or until tender, stirring after 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine tahini, lemon juice, 1 T olive oil,  chickpeas, water, and garlic clove.  Process until smooth.  Add cauliflower to the food processor, reserving 1 T of the cauliflower.  Process until smooth.  Taste - add more salt and pepper if desired.

Top hummus with reserved 1 T cauliflower and chopped olives.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kale and Cabbage Slaw

From his initial dislike of kale salads, my husband has done a 180 degree turn.  We both especially like the Kale Dianne Salad at Green Street and the Kale Salad at Seco when we're in Pasadena.  I've tried a few other combinations and came across this slaw recipe on Pinterest.  Kale seemed a natural fit for coleslaw and I had a container of buttermilk hanging around that I needed to use.  I initially added way too much dressing and my husband thought that the kale to cabbage ratio needed to be revised (I kept the original amounts below but you could get away with half and half).  We ate it with the chicken in the last post so you can see the salad on that photo!

Cabbage and Kale Slaw
from Simply Recipes

1 T minced shallots
2 tsp. dijon mustard
2 T white wine vinegar
6 T buttermilk
2/3 c. olive oil
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of pepper

4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup, packed, thinly sliced kale (center stems removed before slicing)

Start by toasting the caraway seeds in a pan on medium heat.  Do not brown, just heat until they are fragrant.  Then, use a herb grinder or mortar and pestle to grind them.

Put the shallots, mustard, vinegar, buttermilk and olive oil in a jar and shake really well.  Whisk in caraway, salt and pepper.

Combine the salad ingredients (cabbage, onion, kale) and drizzle with the dressing.  You won't use all the dressing.  Let the salad sit for about 15 minutes before serving.  Add more dressing if needed or desired.

Monday, April 6, 2015

World's Best

I'm a sucker for recipes like this that claim to be the "world's best chicken" - a few ingredients added to chicken breasts and *presto*!  I've made several versions and this was the latest (from Pinterest - where else?).  It wasn't bad - I don't think it's the "world's best" and I'd probably go back to the honey mustard chicken that we're sort of addicted to but it was a nice change.  The chicken breasts were juicy and flavorful and the kiddos ate it.

The "World's Best Chicken"
original recipe here

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh rosemary

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper until smooth.  Spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray or olive oil and place the chicken breasts in it.  Dump the sauce over the top, coating each piece of chicken.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees.  Serve with chopped rosemary on top.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bird's Nest Treats

Easter is almost here!  Last year I made these cute bird's nest treats with jellybeans, coconut, and dark chocolate.  Last week, my girls had a babysitter who brought bird-themed activities over and these snacks were one of them.  They're larger then the other ones but were fun to make and pretty delicious.

Hope these can be a treat you make with your kids to celebrate spring and the promise of New Life at Easter!

Pretzel & Peanut Butter Bird's Nests

Pretzel sticks (not sure how much - buy a bag)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Mini Robin's Eggs

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or a double boiler.  Whisk in the peanut butter until smooth (You could melt the peanut butter a bit too to make it smoother).

Add pretzels, breaking them into smaller pieces with your hands, and mix.  Keep adding pretzels until the mixture resembles something you could mold into mounds / nests with your hands.

Scoop out little mounds and place them on parchment or waxed paper.  Put 3 Robin's eggs on top.  Let them sit for at least an hour to harden up or put them in the refrigerator for a little while.