Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Snack Mix

Christmas time is here!  I love the holidays and came across these two drawings from Little and Middle the other day.  When we got out our nativity sets, Little started spending lots of time setting them up and playing with them.  The other day, one of the angels broke her wing so baby Jesus let her lay in the manger while it healed.  But, Little told me, it meant that the angel couldn't go to the beach anymore.  

Ok, this is what you want to be snacking on this holiday seasaon!  David Lebovitz has come to the rescue once again with "that thing I didn't know I wanted to eat but am now obsessed with."  My photo may not be the best here but you get the idea.  It's a little (not too) sweet, a little spicy, and salty - the perfect counterbalance to sweets, other appetizers, and would go nicely with a Christmas cocktail.

A couple of notes:  I used pecan halves and whole almonds but you can also use cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts . . . I think larger nuts (rather than sliced) work better.  My bottle of cayenne is super spicy (even for me) so I used less than the amount below.  Once it gets too spicy, it's hard to tone it down so I'd start with less and add more if needed.  I used the gluten free pretzels from Trader Joe's this time around and they were great.

Spiced Glazed Nuts & Pretzel Mix
from The Sweet Life in Paris

2 cups mixed raw nuts
1 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cayenne or other red pepper 
1 1/2 T maple syrup
1 tsp. flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups pretzel twists (gluten free or regular)

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring once. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cayenne, cinnamon and maple syrup.  Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated.  Then stir in the pretzels and sea salt until everything is completely coated.  Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice.  Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the pretzels and nuts as they cool. Once cool, you can store this in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Eating all the cheese . . .

Last weekend, I hosted a dinner party for some of my husband's friends and work colleagues.  It turned out to be smaller than I originally thought (6 adults) and it was so much fun!  I haven't had a chance to cook for a group like that in awhile, and I did the appetizers pictured here, a soup first course, a seafood main dish, and an awesome dessert (if I do say so myself!).  The other recipes are ones I've made before with good success.  I didn't anticipate how challenging it would be to triple the main dish (I usually only make it for the two of us) but despite leaving out an ingredient, it turned out pretty great.

So, this appetizer was delicious.  I ate.  so.  much.  cheese.   And it was worth it!  This is easy and would be great for holiday parties.  I wasn't sure exactly how to get the brie to fit inside or how to make those notches on the side, so I watched this video - it's probably clearer than my description below!

Blooming Brie in a Bread Bowl
from Delish

One boule
Brie wheel
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning
Olive Oil
Fresh parsley (to serve)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top off of the boule and save.  Place the brie wheel on the cut part of the bread and use a knife to trace around it and cut a whole big enough for the wheel to fit into.  Pull out the bread to make space for the brie wheel.  Slice the top of the rind off of the brie wheel.  Around the edges of the boule, cut slices about two inches deep and about an inch - two inches apart.  This is what you can use to tear pieces of cheesy bread once it's done baking.

Drizzle the bottom of the hole you made in the boule with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.  Set the brie wheel on top.  Over the top of the brie (where you cut the rind off), sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella.

Place the top of the boule back on top and place the whole thing on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the bread is browned and the brie is melty.  Remove the bread on top and slice it up to serve alongside the boule and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve warm.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Halloween 2017

I've posted family Halloween photos on here every year and it's a fun place to come back and look at what the girls were into in years past.  I keep suggesting family themed costumes for the 3 of them but they each want to be what they want to be.  I think the years of my choosing are far gone.

This year, we had Moana (a popular costume since I think the movie came out post-Halloween last year), a Corgi puppy (thank you etsy!) and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy.  Between some Halloween parties (even a Moana themed one at Kids Court), school, and our trick or treating with friends, we got a lot of mileage out of our costumes! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

More Pumpkin treats

Here's a little glimpse into our fall so far:
Lots of driving around in the car . . . usually listening to audio books
Lots of soccer . . . 3 night a week plus Saturdays
Lots of laughter . . . especially prompted by this silly girl!
Showing the kids the fidget spinner of my youth
And - baking!
So I wanted to use up some of my extra canned pumpkin and was looking for some healthier options than cookies.  I remembered the baked oatmeal singles I made last year (in the recipe index - blueberry ones and cranberry ones) and tried this version with pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and chocolate chips.  They did not disappoint!  My problem was that one is a healthy snack or treat but eating 3 or 4 is maybe not the best idea . . . so I took the remaining ones to my tennis friends the next day!
Individual Baked Pumpkin Oats (makes 1 dozen)
from Emily Bites Blog

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg white
1 egg
3/4 c. almond milk (can use regular milk)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the cups of your muffin tin with cooking spray (or butter).

Combine oats, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in large bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg white, egg, pumpkin, milk and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Evenly divide the mixture into the 12 muffin cups and bake for 18-22 minutes or until lightly browned and a tester comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  (4 sp/muffin)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Everything

Ahhh . . . fall.  Leaves falling, cooler temperatures - nope.  Here in Southern California we are having 90+ degree weather almost every day and the kids are swimming on the weekends and blistering hot during their midday soccer games.  Despite this, I've been craving fall foods and flavors and made some new pumpkin cookies when my girl friends came over a week or so ago.  I had lots of help from Little who has been enjoying the one-on-one (aka not taking turns with the mixing or having to share the kitchen stool) time we get together this fall.

These cookies are sort of like a fall version of the molasses spice cookies I make at Christmas or similar to pumpkin snickerdoodles.  They were delicious!

In other pumpkin spice news, I've been loving the "pumpkin spice almond beverage" from Trader Joe's and have been putting it in my coffee or making overnight oats with it.  My PSA for the day is to stock up on the pumpkin stuff you love from there . . . it won't last all the way through the holidays!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
from Just So Tasty blog

2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup canned pumpkin

To roll the cookies in:
1/4 cup granulated sugar combined with
1.5 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  In a separate bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy and then add the brown and granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and beat in egg yolk, vanilla, and pumpkin.  Gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated but do not overmix.  The dough will be very sticky.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Form into balls (about 2 T apiece) and roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with silpat mats or parchment paper and bake for 7-9 minutes or until the cookies look barely set.  Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lemon Chicken with Olives

Chicken . . . it's a healthy protein, relatively easy and readily available but controversial in my house.  It's not my husband's first choice and because I make it often, my kids sometimes groan.  But, I've landed on a couple of dishes lately that are winners.

The first isn't a new idea, I think I've posted it before, but I put boneless skinless chicken thighs in the crockpot and smear them with pesto (lately Kirkland pesto from Costco), pour a little chicken broth over, and cook it for 3-4 hours until it's falling apart.

The second is this chicken pictured here.  My kids like olives but even if you don't, you could leave them out or chop them large enough to pick out.  I used a chopped Greek Olive tapenade from Trader Joe's so the red flecks are pimentos or roasted peppers.

In addition to the family liking it, the bonus was that it's super fast to the table - perfect for busy weeknights!

Lemon Chicken with Olives (serves 4)
from Skinny Taste blog

1/2 T olive oil
4 chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp flour (all purpose or gluten free)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 cup olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 T chopped fresh parsley
4 thin lemon slices (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and sprinkle with flour.  Heat oil in a oven proof pan and sear the chicken about 3 minutes each side.   Add garlic, wine, lemon juice, zest, thyme, and olives to the pan.  Top chicken breasts with lemon slices.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Serve hot, topped with the chopped parsley.
7 sp

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Rolls

Wow- it's been awhile!  If you're still here, thanks.  I'm hoping to get back to cooking and blogging.  Fall just began and soccer and school are in full swing.  We've had some relaxing weekends and some super busy ones.  This past weekend we went to Catalina Island so Big and Dad could scuba dive (Big is close to becoming PADI certified) and it felt like summer there.

But, with fall on the calendar and some cooler evenings, I've been looking for comfort food.  I made a pot of chili last week and my husband's favorite cassoulet and then tried this new recipe from the Emily Bites blog.  My kids don't love white sauces in general (weird, right?) so I used a jarred marinara for theirs but this turned out gooey, cheesy, and yummy without being too unhealthy.  

Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Rolls (serves 8)
from Emily Bites

8 uncooked lasagna noodles
8 oz brick cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 T grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp black pepper
10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup drained canned artichoke hearts packed in brine or water, chopped
15 oz jar light Alfredo sauce (I like the Classico)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook the lasagna noodles to al dente.  Drain, rinse with cold water to cool, and lay them out to dry.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, parmesan, garlic, pepper, spinach, and artichoke hearts and stir until well mixed.  When the noodles are dry, place a heaping 1/3 cup of the spinach artichoke mixture on to the noodle and spread evenly.  Starting with one end, roll the noodle up over the filling until it becomes a complete roll.  Repeat until all noodles are filled and rolled.

Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Spoon 1/3 of the Alfredo sauce into the bottom of the pan and spread evenly.  Place the lasagna rolls seam side down in the dish and spoon or pour the rest of the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Let it cool 5-10 minutes before serving.   9SP per roll

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What we've been reading

Summer Reading!  We haven't done the library program this summer but we've been reading on our own and together . . . for the together part, mostly audio books.  We have listened to the first two Harry Potter books and this little gem:
In this book, the main character loves food, cooking, and has lost her kitchen privileges due to an unfortunate creme brûlée incident with a blow torch.  My girls loved this book and are looking forward to reading or listening to the sequel soon.  It has inspired them to cook and be in the kitchen more so more cooking adventure posts to come!

One of the things I love about not working in the summer and about vacation, is reading a bunch. These four really stood out to me.  I won't bother summarize or review but I'll put a quote from each book under the image.  Any suggestions for what I should read next??

"It is not an act of bravery to try to save your own village.  It is an instinct to protect what you possess.  Bravery is when you step in to help when you have nothing to lose."

"We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.  We are not quite novels.  We are not quite short stories.  In the end, we are collected works."

"Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful?  People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it."

"Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part . . . And it might be you never know the part you played, what it meant to someone to watch you make your way each day.  Maybe someone or something is watching us all make our way.  I don't think we get to know why."

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kids in the kitchen

One of my goals as a mom is to say "yes" to my kids when they want to do something and it might seem inconvenient to me but it would ultimately be good for them.  Lately, there have been a lot of requests to cook, bake, and help in the kitchen so I'm trying to take advantage of that.  I think this has been inspired by a book we've been reading but more on that in my next post!

The other night, I wanted to make fried rice with leftover rice and some grilled mahi-mahi that we needed to use up.  When I told Big she could make that, Middle wanted in on the action, so I said she could be in charge of the kids' food that night.  She made grilled cheese with a side dish of ice cream sandwiches. Little was very happy with the side dish choice and her chore for the evening was setting the table.

Big did a pretty good job following the recipe . . . I had to help her scramble the egg, do some chopping, and judge when the rice was fried enough.

You can find the original recipe for fried rice here.  We added the grilled mahi-mahi at the end until it was heated through.  If you haven't seen my technique for grilled cheese - it's a complete lifesaver and now that Middle can do it, she can help me out at lunch time or supper time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blood Orange Sorbet

 It's almost summer vacation! We started out with a chain this long (27 links) a few weeks ago and now we're down to 8 links.
We had Open House at the girls' school and Mother's Day & Father's Day events in both preschool and kindergarten.  I went with Middle to her last field trip of the year and took Big to visit family and friends in the Midwest.  It seems like now the To Do lists are in full effect . . . everything I need to do to finish up my quarter at work, to get ready for 2 months away, and to get through the last two weeks of the school year with the girls.  It's exciting!

One of the almost summer things we've been doing is using our ice cream maker.  I found David Lebovitz's method for sorbet (link below in the recipe) and I'm sold.  I usually make a simple syrup adding water to the sugar but with his technique, the flavor and texture was outstanding.  I think it's the lack of water and/or the addition of a couple tablespoons of champagne.  Serving sorbet with champagne is always a good idea but adding it to the mixture is something I haven't tried before.  These ratios and the method will work for other fruits / citrus as well.  Two additional notes:  Lebovitz doesn't strain his juice and I recommend tasting the sweetness of your juice and adjusting the sugar amount slightly.  My juice was really sweet so I used less sugar than what it says below.

Blood Orange Sorbet
from David Lebovitz


Blood oranges
Champagne or sparkling wine (optional)

1.  Juice your oranges and measure the juice
2.  For every 1 cup of juice, add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3.  Put the sugar in a small saucepan and add enough juice to saturate the sugar.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.
4.  Add the liquid with the dissolved sugar to the rest of the juice and place in the refrigerator until chilled.  Optional:  When completely chilled, add 2 tablespoons of champagne or sparkling wine per cup of juice mixture.
5.  Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chicken & Mushrooms

This was a great weeknight meal that reminded me a lot of the  Peppered Beef Stroganoff - you could use this method of making the mushroom sauce without heavy cream to lighten up that recipe or make a dairy free version.  If dairy is an issue, also use all olive oil and no butter when you saute the chicken initially.  I put a note also about gluten - just skip the flour part or use a gf flour if you need to.  Finally, if you don't have or don't want to use the white wine, just substitute more chicken broth for that ingredient.
I served this with some roasted veggies and everyone in the family liked it!

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce (serves 4)
Skinny Taste Blog
8 chicken tenderloins, 16 oz total 
2 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour (use a gf flour or skip this step to make it gluten free)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup fat free chicken broth
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 200°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour. 
Heat a large skillet on medium heat; when hot add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Add chicken to the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside in a warm oven.

Add additional oil and butter to the skillet, then garlic and cook a few seconds; add mushrooms, salt and pepper stirring occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, chicken broth, parsley; stir the pan with a wooden spoon breaking up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook a few more minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. Top the chicken with the mushroom sauce and serve.

    Thursday, May 4, 2017

    Hash Waffles

    I know I'm late to the waffle party - I haven't made much other than actual waffles in my waffle iron although I've been wanting to try the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls since Hannah told me they work great.

    We're not big potato or hash brown people in general but this recipe has been popular around our house.  Well, after the first time when my husband though it was an actual waffle and poured syrup all over it.  I'll typically make one and split it between the two of us as a side with eggs or omelets.  There's a picture of this with the fritatta in the last post.

    Recipe notes . . . I buy the frozen hash browns that don't have extra ingredients - that are basically just the potatoes.  I imagine you could shred your own and it would be the same but I usually take the short cut and keep a bag in my freezer.  Where the recipe says "Other seasonings," I've tried this with diced green chiles and cumin and usually put hot sauce on it after it's cooked.  You could do chopped spinach, other diced veggies, cooked diced bacon etc.

    Hash Waffle (makes 1 large waffle)

    3/4 cup frozen shredded hash browns (thawed)
    1 egg
    3 T egg whites (about 2 large)
    salt and pepper to taste
    any other seasonings

    Preheat waffle iron.  Beat eggs and seasonings in a bowl.  Stir in thawed hash browns and mix well.  Spray waffle iron with non-stick spray.  Pour mixture into iron and spread evenly.  Cook until browned and cooked through - or when your waffle iron light comes on (or goes off?)


    Tuesday, May 2, 2017

    Butternut Squash Fritatta

    After a busy April, I'm back on the blog for May!  In case you forgot what we all look like (or want to see how quickly my kids have been changing and growing), here are a few recent photos.

    Crazy right?  Some days I look at her and wonder where my little Big went . . . sigh . . .

    I've been on a "breakfast-for-dinner" kick since Valentine's Day.  I think it started with my new waffle iron and my discovery of the hash waffle - hash browns in the waffle iron.  These are two of my favorite recent recipes and I think you'll love them for breakfast or for dinner.

    Look at this yummy base for the fritatta!

    Butternut Squash Frittata (6 slices)
    from Emily Bites Blog

    1.5 tsp canola oil
    2 cups butternut squash (cut into bite sized cubes)
    1.5 oz proscuitto or center cut bacon
    1 cup fresh spinach
    8 eggs
    1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
    1/2 tsp. dried sage
    1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 oz parmesan cheese (grated or finely shredded)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat an oven safe skillet on the stove top to medium high.  Add the oil and butternut squash and stir to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the proscuitto or bacon and cook, stirring, for another two minutes.  Add the spinach and cook for two more minutes or until the spinach is wilted and everything is nicely browned (like in the photo above).

    While the squash is cooking, crack the eggs into a large bowl, then add the yogurt, sage, thyme, and parmesan cheese.  Whisk to combine into a smooth custard.  Season with salt and pepper.

    When the squash, proscuitto, and spinach are cooked, spray the pan (get the edges and any part that doesn't have some oil from the proscuitto) with olive oil spray.  Then, pour the egg mixture over, stirring slightly to evenly combine with the squash mixture.  Cook on the stovetop at medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the very outside edge looks cooked.  Carefully transfer to the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the center of the fritatta is set.

    Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then slice and serve!

     5sp per slice

    Thursday, March 9, 2017

    Balsamic Roasted Chicken and Veggies

    Okay, super easy and healthy weeknight dinner coming up!  My kids ate this (they picked out the veggies they didn't like and ate the ones they did) and I chopped the vegetables earlier in the day so I could throw it all in the oven after we were done at tennis practice that afternoon.

    You can substitute dried herbs for fresh if you want (reduce to 1tsp each) or breasts for thighs but I think both the fresh herbs and thighs make this melt in your mouth!  You can also add different vegetables.  Just make sure that the chicken and vegetables don't touch (don't crowd the pan - use two if you need to) so it roasts instead of steams and that you cut your vegetables into similar sizes so they cook at about the same rate.

    Balsamic Roasted Chicken & Veggies (serves 4)
    from Skinny Taste blog

    1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs
    10 medium asparagus, trimmed and cut in half
    2 red bell peppers, sliced
    1 red onion, cut into chunks
    5 oz sliced mushrooms
    2 zucchini, cut into long wedges
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    6 T balsamic vinegar
    2 T olive oil
    1 T chopped fresh rosemary
    1 T chopped fresh sage
    1 T chopped fresh thyme or oregano
    cooking spray
    salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and spray rimmed baking sheets with olive oil or cooking spray.

    In a large bowl, combine everything (chicken, veggies, vinegar, olive oil, herbs) and massage with your hands.  Add more salt and pepper if you'd like.  Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

    No more 3 year olds!

    One of my favorite ages (so far) has been 1.5 - 3 years old . . . I love hearing their ideas and discoveries and their general enthusiasm for life at this age.  So, this week the baby turned 4 and I will never have a 3 year old again!  While that did make me sad for a little while, we had a weekend away with the girls and I can honestly say they are a lot of fun (even after 3 years old!) and my favorite people to be around!

    Here are some photos of Little and a couple of recent stories.  The other day she asked me, "I know that babies come from the belly, but where do grown ups come from?"  I thought I explained it pretty well (that babies grow into kids who grow into big kids who become grown ups) but then at my mom's  house, she still wasn't sure where they come from.  My mom used some of my old photos as a baby and kid to help out.

    For the last week or so, she's asked  us to call her "the birthday girl" instead of her name and on her actual birthday, wanted me to tell everyone we met that it was her birthday that day.  We hung out with one of her uncles who she doesn't see often and later said that "seeing her uncle" was the best part of her birthday.  She loves being fancy, taking care of her dolls, and the movie Frozen.  She is an amazing eater and often cleans her plate before her sisters do.  When she grows up, she wants to be "a mermaid, a fairy, a police officer or a hair saloner."  She knows how to spell her name and is often on the lookout (on signs when we drive in the car or in books we read) for the letters in her name.

    We love you 4-year-old Mini!

    She did not make this snowman but wanted her picture taken with it "like Olaf!"

    Look!  It's love!

    Future occupation - fairy