Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Bucket List Update

We're having a great time checking things off of our summer bucket list and I think that these pictures speak for themselves.

#9  Play Tennis

#11  Go to the beach

#19 Swim in our pool after dark

#20 Go Bowling

Big with her cousin and auntie - "serious" bowling partners 

#21  Take the girls to the Cafe at the American Girl Store

You can even borrow an American Girl to eat with!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Smoked Salmon over Potato Cakes

Normally when we have salmon, my husband grills it.  I've only recently discovered how much I like smoked salmon and when I saw this recipe in a recent Cooking Light, I really wanted to try it.  It was a perfect light summer supper but would also be  an awesome idea for brunch or a luncheon.  I thought that some of the traditional toppings like creme fraiche and capers would also go really well.  I had a bag of frozen hash browns (just potato - no other ingredients) and thawed out the correct amount.  

If it's too hot to turn on your oven, try a crock pot recipe instead and remember this for when it cools off a little!!

Smoked Salmon over Potato Cakes (4 servings)
from Cooking Light

6 cups grated peeled baking potato
1/2 cup thinly vertically sliced onion
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
5 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
cooking spray
3.5 ounce package of smoked salmon
dill sprigs

Place an 8 inch round metal cake pan* in the oven.  Preheat oven to 425 with the pan in the oven.

Combine potato and onion in a large bowl.  Combine salt, pepper, cheese and eggs in another bowl, stirring well.  Combine egg mixture and potato mixture.  Remove preheated pan from oven  and carefully coat with cooking spray.  Place potato mixture in the pan and pack down slightly.  Bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand in pan 10 minutes.  Invert potato mixture onto a plate.  Cut into 8 wedges; top evenly with salmon and dill (1 serving = 2 wedges = 391 calories).

*Instead, you can use ramekins.  I made large 2-cup ramekins but you could also divide it between smaller ones.  Reduce cooking  time by 10-15 minutes if you do this.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Plums & Peaches

I love summer fruit and especially stone fruit - plums, nectarines, cherries, apricots, peaches . . . yum!  We have two massive plum trees that weren't in the best of shape when we moved in.  The plums didn't taste very good and they made a big mess.  We talked about cutting them down but instead, pruned them way back.  This year, the plums are delicious and abundant.  We're even getting about as many for us as the squirrels are eating.  I wanted to bake something with them and made a Plum Cream Cheese Tart.  My husband and kids gave it 2 thumbs up.  It's a good make ahead dessert because it needs to be refrigerated for awhile after baking.

Then, after my weekly visit to Farmer's Market, I decided to make the Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ sauce that we really enjoy.  So, here are a few ideas of what you can do with stone fruit - if you can wait that long without gobbling up the fruit!

Plum Cream Cheese Tart (serves 8)
inspired by

dough for one pie crust
6oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. grated orange peel
2 eggs
2 large plums, pitted and sliced (may need more depending on size)

Heat oven to 425 degrees and press pie crust dough into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Trim edges if necessary.  Prick the dough all over and bake 7-10 minutes or until very lightly brown.  Cool for 5 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.  Add orange peel and eggs until smooth and well blended.  Spread in your partially baked crust.  Arrange plum slices on top.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until filling is set.  Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour until chilled.  

Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce (4 servings)
from Bon Appetit 6/11

1 c. chopped peeled fresh peaches
1/2 c. ketchup
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine the first five ingredients in a small saucepan.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until peaches are very soft and flavors meld, about 10 minutes.  Remove pan from heat; let cool.  Pour peach mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place half the sauce in a medium bowl (or large ziplock bag).  Add chicken and turn to coat.  Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or in a refrigerator for up to 8 hours, turning occasionally.  Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce.

Prepare a grill to med-high heat.  Brush the grill rack with oil.  Grill chicken until browned and almost cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side.  Brush on all sides with reserved sauce.  Grill until glazed and cooked through, 1-2 minutes more per side.  Serve remaining sauce with the chicken.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chia Seed Pudding

I rarely skip breakfast - I need something in my belly and some caffeine to start the day.  My girls usually have a bowl of cereal, frozen waffles, or on a good day, homemade pancakes.  I like a little more protein and less calories so I often have greek yogurt with homemade granola or a hard boiled egg and a piece of fruit.  I don't often eat hot breakfast because I've gotten used to the kind of things I could grab  and go with when I worked early mornings.

When you're busy, or if you typically skip breakfast, make ahead breakfasts are such a good idea - my friend Steph makes this great overnight oatmeal that you should check out.  Lately, I've been making chia seed pudding.  It's sweet, filling, and you make it the night before so it's there to just grab and eat in the morning.  The first time I saw this on Pinterest (from the Baked Bree blog), I went and got the ingredients that day and whipped it up for myself.  Delicious!  The chia seeds form a gelatinous ring around them when soaked so it's a great pudding like consistency in the morning.  Chia seeds are a complete protein (all amino acids present) and considered by some to be a "super food" nutritionally.  Try it - you'll like it!

Chia Seed Pudding (1 serving)

3T chia seeds
1 cup almond milk or coconut milk
1 T agave nectar or honey (optional)
2 tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract (also optional)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (or other fruit)

Mix together the first 5 ingredients and refrigerate covered overnight.  In the morning, stir it and top with fresh blueberries and any other toppings (nuts, coconut, other fruit).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Strawberry & Cucumber Salad

Make this.  You'll thank me later.

Strawberry & Cucumber Salad
from Trader Joe's Claremont

4 cups quartered strawberries
2 T thinly sliced basil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar*
1 tsp. sugar
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss gently to coat and cover and chill for 1 hour.

Combine the cucumbers and lemon juice and toss to coat.  Add cucumber, salt & pepper to chilled strawberries and gently toss together.

*I had some really good fig balsamic vinegar and it was perfect for this dish.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry

After determining that stir fry is one thing my girls like to eat for dinner, I've been trying out some new variations.  I love coconut curry and was tempted to put some green curry paste in this dish but I didn't want to push the envelope with them too much.  We have two kinds of basil growing in our garden - the larger leaf, sweeter Italian basil and the narrower leaf, cinnamony Thai basil which was perfect here.  You can thinly slice, roughly chop or leave the basil leaves whole (I did the latter), depending on your preference.  I also chopped the Serrano chiles in larger pieces so I could pick them out of the girls' portions.

Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry (2-3 servings)

1/2 cup coconut milk (not lite)
2 T soy sauce
1.5 T rice wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 T olive oil
2 serrano chiles, diced (or Thai chiles if you can find them)
1 large shallot, sliced (or 1/2 cup chopped white onion)
2 T fresh ginger root, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into half inch chunks
3 green onions, chopped
1-2 cups fresh basil leaves (Thai basil if possible)

Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.

In a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium high heat.  Stir in the chiles, shallot, ginger, and garlic and cook until lightly browned.  Mix in chicken strips and cook about 3 minutes or until browned.  Stir in the coconut milk sauce.  Continue cooking until the sauce is reduced and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the green onions and basil.  Serve over hot cooked rice.

With 1/2 cup of jasmine rice:  506 cal/serving (36 g protein)

Monday, June 10, 2013


I was walking with Middle to Farmer's Market yesterday and reflecting on the wonderful early summer joys that are especially fleeting.  It's sometimes a challenge for me to slow down and just enjoy the things around me but it's important when they are things that don't last too long.  And let's face it - the good and the bad, the hard and the fun, the tears and the laughs - nothing under the sun lasts very long!

Cherries in season
Jacarandas in bloom
Desert flowers in bloom

Lego creations before little sisters get ahold of them
Donuts in the hands of kids
And, probably the best example of something fleeting:  teeny tiny babies before they grow up
"So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting."  Ecclesiastes 11:10

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Coffee Cake

What's better than nuts, chocolate and coffee all together in the same cake?  Not much!  I love a good coffee cake and although my quest to wear a bathing suit this summer (after three kids - yikes!) means that I'm cutting back on sweet treats, I can't wait to make this one again.  It's not overly sweet, it's super easy to make, and the combination of flavors was delicious.  

Pecan Chocolate Espresso Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep a 9-inch square baking pan with baking spray or butter.   

Combine the flour, both sugars, butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed, then on medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Pull out 3/4 cup of the mixture and place in another mixing bowl. Stir in the pecans, chocolate and espresso powder to form the crumb topping.

Sprinkle the baking soda onto the remaining flour-butter-sugar mixture; add the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla and almond extracts. Beat on medium speed just until combined. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Report: Little House on the Prarie

Today my big girl graduated from preschool where she has been attending a "Transitional Kindergarten."  On the list her teacher sent home of "Things I Love" one of the items was "being an author and illustrator."  Big has made a few books this year and loves books a lot.  I can't wait to see her world open up as she can read to herself in the next few years!

A new feature on the blog is going to be book reports for the chapter books that Big & I read over the summer.  First up, Little House on the Prairie.  We finished Little House in the Big Woods a few months ago.  Here is Big's overall opinion:  "You should read this book because it's really good and you can learn a lot about how people lived a long time ago."

What was it about?

This book is about these people that have to move in to a new house.  Their old one was in the woods but this one is on the prairie.

Who wrote it?

The main character named Laura.

Who are the other main characters?

Pa, Ma, Mary, and Baby Carrie.

What part did you like the best?

My really favorite part was when they see Indians for the first time.  They didn't know that they weren't supposed to be living in the Indian territory.  I liked that the Indians came into their house and they had never seen an Indian before.

Who was your favorite character?  Why?

Mary and Laura.  They are the two little girls and I'm a little girl.  Mary is the big sister.  She is 7.  Laura is the little sister.  She wrote the book.

What ways are their lives like yours?  What ways are their lives different?
I have blond hair like Mary.  I like to pretend that I am moving too in my little play house.  There are 3 girls in their family and 3 girls in our family.  They planted a garden and I planted a garden.

They lived a long time ago and they lived out in the open and they didn't have any kind of screens or any electricity.  Their dad has to hunt for their food and we get to buy it.

Did any part make you sad?

Yes, the part when they thought Jack had died.  And, Jack is the dog.

What do you think will happen in the next book?

It's going to be Laura's birthday again.  I think they are going to move to a place with a creek and Laura is going to find all these new treasures in the lake.