Monday, February 9, 2015

Health(ier) Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Well, hellloooo there, long lost friends!

I think the last time I plopped down a food blog, was almost two years ago... I'm officially nestled into Seattle's rainy heartbeat, and absolutely love it. The weeks of "morning showers, afternoon drizzles, evening rains" we're in the middle of aren't my favorite, but they'll pass.

I could bloviate for a while about how since we moved here from Nairobi just over two years ago, it's been so much harder to cook healthy, wholesome meals for my family here in the good o'l US of A. About how I will only shop at Trader Joes because at least their label is GMO-free, and their store is small enough I don't cry from sheer overwhelmedness. I could discuss the odd food production in this country, and the crying shame of healthy food being almost unaffordably expensive. But I'll spare you the diatribe and instead commit from here forth to, more or less, just being another little corner of the vast inter-verse that hopefully helps you create food you LOVE. Love eating, love making, love feeding to your friends and family, and helps you love life a little bit more because of edible goodness.

A quick look through this blog will reveal I'm not a year of homemade meals made it through about 3 weeks...but what I lack in finishing, I make up in willingness to keep my failures out there and keep learning from them. Maybe I'll pick back up the year of homemade meals some day. For now, it sits as a reminder that...well, whatever you want it to. Just know my visible lack of completion doesn't bother me one bit :) I'm not at all a finished product, and neither is this blog...even as you cook, may you find this blog a place where you feel refreshed, capable, and enough just as you are. Cause you are.

To launch us off, Aunt Sue has requested I post my most recent twist on Spinach Artichoke Dip. Spinach Artichoke dip (the hot kind, mind ya) is one of my favorite appetizers (*cough, cough...meal??) but I was having a pretty hard time with the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, etc called for in every recipe. Read on for Health(ier) (though not recommended for every day) Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

1/2 c chopped red onion 
1/4 c unsalted butter 
1 medium size bag fresh baby spinach 
1 large log herbed goat cheese 
1 c non-fat, plain Greek yogurt 
1 jar artichoke hearts, quartered 
1/2-1c grated cheese (pepperjack will give you a spicier dip, pecorino-romano will produce a more sophisticated dip...pick your favorite cheese and put it on top!)
Crushed red pepper (optional to sprinkle on top) 

Pull the goat cheese out of the fridge so it can soften up a bit. Unless you want a singular huge bicep...then leave it in fridge until mixing time for a one-armed mixing work out.

Saute the onion and the butter until the onions are browned, headed to burnt. But don't let them burn. I recommend a low heat for a long time, but if you just can't wait, proceed with reckless abandon and searing heat. Just don't leave the room. There is no recovery for a charred onion...

Add the fresh spinach and cover with a lid. The spinach will wilt and cook down.

In a mixing bowl (preferably your favorite one, because you should always cook with your favorite things. And if you don't have a favorite mixing bowl, get one right now! Mine is an old crock styled, super heavy, deep cream-colored bowl from my grandmother. She has an identical one in her kitchen, and this one was found in their basement after a house fire that destroyed quite a bit. But this bowl lived on...and while it's full of hairline cracks, and heavy as sin on a Sunday, it's full of love, and memories, and the reminder that eating is a sacred, through-the-ages gift)

Ok, now in your favorite mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, greek yogurt, and artichokes. Add the onions, butter, and spinach mixture - mix until all is combined.

Pour into a shallow baking dish - I usually use an 8x10 or small casserole dish, but you can use whatever you like. Top with your favorite cheese, and if you want a little more kick, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper

Pop in the oven at 350F until it's warmed through and cheese is melted on top.

Serve with blue corn tortilla chips. Or on toasted sour dough bread. Or with a spoon.

Side note - you can play around with the ratios on this...just like you can with most recipes! Following a recipe to the letter is like color with numbers - it's gonna more or less turn out, but you may not love it. But cooking is art, so explore and create!

I'll drop some pics in this post next time I make this, and until then - dine away!!

Bon appetit, lovelies!


Abbreviated recipe: 
1/2 c chopped red onion 
1/4 c unsalted butter 
1 medium size bag fresh baby spinach 
1 large log herbed goat cheese 
1 c non-fat, plain Greek yogurt 
1 jar artichoke hearts, quartered 
1/2-1c grated cheese (your favorite)
Crushed red pepper (optional to sprinkle on top) 

Saute onion & butter until onions are dark brown. Add spinach and cook down until soft. In a separate bowl, mix goat cheese, greek yogurt, and artichoke hearts. Add onion, spinach, butter mixture to goat cheese mixture. Combine thoroughly. Pour in baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, heat at 350F until cheese is melted. Serve. Repeat.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thai Yellow Curry

I love yellow curry. It's my go to anytime I go out for Thai food. So I decided it was time to try making it. After several times, I've perfected it. Enjoy!

Thai Yellow Curry

1 13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk (I prefer light) 
1 Tbs chopped fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tsp curry powder 
1 onion, slivered (red onion if you like more 'oniony', yellow if you like more sweet)
4 large carrots, unpeeled & sliced
2 large potatoes, unpeeled & chopped 
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
Any other veggies you want - keep in mind dry veggies (potatoes, carrots, etc) will absorb liquid, while wet veggies (leafy greens especially) will release liquid. 

In a blender, blend the coconut milk, chicken stock, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and curry powder.

Pour into a large sauce pot. Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until vegetables are soft. Stir regularly. 

Serve over brown rice. 

Couple notes:
* If you want creamier Thai Yellow Curry, don't use light coconut milk. You could also reduce the amount of chicken stock, and increase the amount of carrots and potatoes as they will absorb the liquid. 
* You're going to have to season this to may want more curry powder, or less. If you don't like spicy things, you can leave out the crushed red pepper all together. If you like really spicy things, add another 1/2 tsp or more of the crushed red pepper.  You may also want to try 1/2 tsp of salt if you feel the recipe is too bland.
* If you want, feel free to add, well anything! Chicken, shrimp, pineapple, mushrooms, etc all make great additions. Just keep in mind how your various additions will affect your level of soupiness. 

What if it's not as thick as I like it?
Mix 2 tsps of cornstarch with 1/4 c liquid (water, coconut milk, chicken stock), then whisk the entire concoction into your curry - it should thicken up within a few moments. 

What if it's too thick? 
Add some more chicken stock or coconut milk. 

What if I'm a vegan?
Use veggie stock. But you already knew that, didn't you? 

I recommend serving this over brown rice, and with side dishes of chopped banana, raisins, and coconut (sweetened or unsweetened). 

One last thing - this will freeze beautifully, and if, when you pull it out of the freezer, it's not quite enough for serving the guests that spontaneously stopped by - just chop up some more veggies or potatoes, dice some garlic and ginger, pull out that jar of frozen chicken stock, and add it all the original curry. An extra teaspoon of curry powder will finish it off beautifully, and everyone will think you labored for hours!


ps - Trader Joes veggie spring rolls aren't half bad, and a quick combo of white wine vinegar, ketchup, and brown sugar boiled in a saucepan (along with a little cornstarch concoction like I listed above) will make a pretty legit tasting "cheap chinese restaurant" sweet n sour sauce. Makes a nice side or appetizer to the curry.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Homemade Pizza

On the menu for tonight is homemade pizza. It is one of my favorite meals, and is a great meal to do for guests.

Couple tips on homemade pizza:

* Find a crust recipe you like, I recommend this one (note - it can be frozen in a ziploc bag and used at a later date - though it's definitely more of a flat crust pizza). I would also recommend doubling or tripling it, at least so you have 2 pizzas. Pizza makes fantastic frozen leftovers.

* Play around with toppings - you can do anything you like, which is why homemade pizza is so perfect. Don't be afraid to be brave - goat cheese, roast garlic, sundried tomatoes, broccoli, corn, whatever you like - play around with flavors, you're bound to found an amazing combo.

* Use a great sauce - I usually just use some red sauce that's marketed as a tomato pasta sauce. I personally like Trader Joes Marinara sauce, but you can do anything you like. Again - feel free to play around and do a pesto sauce or white sauce.

* Prep ahead - the more chopping, grating, cooking you can do before hand the better. It only takes about 20-30 minutes for a pizza to bake - if you have all your prep done beforehand, it's possible to have a yummy homemade pizza in the oven in

I mean, there's really not a whole lot else to include in this post. So many people don't make homemade pizza because they just don't think about it - I'd hate to tell you exactly what kind of pizza to make because everyone has different pizza preferences (broccoli pizza lovers, I'll never understand the appeal...). This is probably the least specific recipe post that's even been done, but my point is this - the best part of homemade pizza is having homemade crust, and the toppings you prefer.

So - stick it on your menu for the week, make your favorite pizza, and let me know how it goes!

ps - if you're just not up to making the crust, you can ease into the whole homemade pizza thing by buying a crust. Again, Trader's Joes pizza dough isn't a bad place to start - though I would still encourage you to eventually venture into the world of making your own dough.  I'm sure you can do it!

Healthy Meatloaf

It's been a LONG time since I did this, um, *cough*, daily kitchen blog. Oh well...c'est la vie.

I made a meatloaf the other night, and was super happy with how it turned out. For those of you who would like recommendations on every course, and not just the main dish, I also served twice baked potatoes and green beans with the meatloaf. Delicious!

The thing I love about this meatloaf recipe is that it's really healthy - it has oatmeal, oat bran, wheat bran, flaxseed, and greek yogurt in it. As usual, I didn't have every ingredient from the original recipe on hand, but all that means is I can now list this recipe as 'adapted' from the original Rodale Wholefoods Cookbook and post it as my own.

So, without further ado, here it goes.

Oh, one last thing - if you like to bake at all, you should go ahead and buy some ground flax seed (not the whole seeds), some wheat germ, and some oat germ. I use them ALL the time, and often just toss them into recipes that don't call for them - I even put flaxseed in my scrambled eggs, and the kids gobble it right up.

If you're interested, here's a little article on flaxseed and all it's reported health benefits (including lowering risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke). Why wouldn't I put that in my meatloaf? Incidentally, 1 Tbs of flaxseed can be used in place of eggs when baking, which is what I did in this recipe. Now you're lowering your cholesterol and eating a power-house food. Didn't ya miss me?

Here's the recipe (and for all you mommies out there, my kids ate it up, though ketchup was admittedly involved).

Powerhouse Meatloaf

1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 c chopped onion
1 lb ground beef (lowest fat content you can afford/want to buy)
1/4 c oatmeal
3 Tbs wheat germ
1 large egg
1 Tbs flaxseed
1/4 c ketchip
4 Tbs Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil

In a saute pan, saute the chopped onions in the olive oil until browned. Set aside and let cool. In a medium sized bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add the onions to the other ingredients. Mix well. Put in a baking dish, shape as you like,  cover with foil, and put in the oven at 350F for approximately 1hour (could be more or less depending on how thick you formed it. The thicker you make it, the more moist it will be, but the longer it will take to bake).

The meatloaf is done when the meat is no longer pink, and it is hot all the way through.


Ps - I love it when people leave comments, questions, their own recipes! For those of you who already do - keep 'em coming :) and for those of you who don't, but do enjoy these recipes, I'd love to hear from you! It's motivation to continue posting recipes when I know they are being used and enjoyed!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Boozy Chocolate Chili

I just wanted you to read this post - that's why I called the recipe what I did. Booze and chocolate - what blog perusing person isn't going to be intrigued?

Ok - here's the deal. I've totally fallen behind in meal planning, and I'm having a hard time getting back on the horse. I think I'm close, but no guarantees.

The result - this chili (beauty out of chaos it turns out). I was walking through Trader Joes, picking up a couple essentials - milk, coffee, etc and passed their seasonal section featuring....corn bread! I grabbed and box, deciding instantly chili and cornbread would fit the dinner bill perfectly (in my defense, it was 10am...I had a little bit of time).

I glanced at a couple chili recipes and decided I've never really liked any of the ones I've made so I decided to make up my own. Success. Here it is.

Homemade Boozy Chocolate Chili

1 lb ground beef (96/4 - ie low grease)
1/2 large red onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 red pepper, diced
3 steak house tomatoes, cut into 1in chunks
1/4 c unpacked fresh basil, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped (I used baby carrots 
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 13 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground chili peppers (not chili powder - which is a blend of ground chilies and other stuff)
3/4tsp salt
1/3 cup red wine
two modest handfuls of chocolate chips (I know, right?!)

In a large stock pot, brown the beef, red onions, garlic, and peppers. When the meat is nearly cooked through, add the tomatoes and stir briefly. Add everything else - stirring frequently. Simmer for a while. The longer you can let it sit - either on simmer or just on the stove for a couple hours - the better it will be.

It's amazingly yummy!!! You could do more or less of the wine, I used classy Charles Shaw and it did exactly what I needed it to :) I figured there are beer chilis out there, but I knew my husband would be bummed if I used the last beer in the house, so I used the 2 buck chuck. If I had had gourmet chocolate on hand, I probably would have used just a few squares - but all I had were Nestle chocolate chips - they also did the trick perfectly.

Notes -

* This makes enough for 4-6 people. Trader Joes cornbread, though, should come in bigger packets - one box only makes an 8x8pan.
* If you are using chili powder instead of ground chilis, you'll want to omit the basil and cumin (and possibly garlic, read the ingredients on your chili powder) and probably increase the quantity.
* To make this vegan - just omit the meat (oohh...and the chocolate chips - try sweetened cocoa powder instead)
 * This will freeze beautifully, and probably taste better the second time you serve it.
* The end result of this chili is a tomatoey, sweet, bean-laden foretaste with a spicy finish. It's not super spicy, by any means, my kids ate it fine (and now will hopefully sleep fine, too). If you want knock your socks off spicy, I recommend adding more ground chili peppers, and perhaps adding some fresh chili in big enough pieces you can remove them before you serve them to your guests. If you want it spicier than that - you shouldn't use this recipe because you'll be wasting wine and chocolate :)

I'd love to know if you make this, how it turns out, and if you make any modifications. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Week #???? and a bit more

Well, there's only one explanation for why I haven't posted in over 2 weeks - we haven't eaten. I mean, that's obviously the only reason why I wouldn't post a recipe every day, and an extensive meal plan/shopping list each week.

Or, alternatively, unlike the other amazing mommy bloggers permeating the blogosphere, I'm just unable to keep up with the little curve balls life throws while simultaneously maintaining a daily, amazingly organized, witty, aesthetically pleasing, recipe-laden, 'my happy toddler' photo saturated blog. I justify my drastic failings (in comparison with some of those amazing blogs - you know the ones I'm talking about) by telling myself those other bloggers' kids are at boarding school, or have mommy issues, or the blogs are actually written by ghost writers. None of those things are probably true, but it's what I tell myself.

What I also tell myself is this - I blog for myself. I'm never gonna make it big like some of those other blogs, for one simple reason - I'm not willing to put the time into it. So, with that said - so sorry for being a couple weeks late, and while I'd love it if it didn't happen again, we should both go ahead and plan on it :) Consider it a, um, push out of the cooking nest - or whatever you want to call it - and go make a meal plan of your own, if you haven't already (which you probably which case, what did you make?! I'd love to know).

Here's what we've eaten over the past couple weeks (which were, by the way, filled with the husband traveling internationally, pink eye, strep throat, holiday weekend, and a semi-panic filled reassessing of my life):

* take out pizza
* bad day back up meals from the freezer (told you those would come in handy - perfect panic food)
* hotdogs (I mean, we put relish, onions & cheese on them & had them with sweet potato fries, but still...hotdogs)
* breakfast for dinner - pancakes, cereal, eggs
* went out to Ethiopian food for dinner (which, if you haven't done, you should consider doing. Unless you live in the midwest [anywhere other than Minnesota], then you should really consult yelp before doing so)

So, not a whole lot to document there :) Except this - our grocery bill was up. My lack of planning, and lack of time put into our meal prep may have meant I had time to tend to other very important things (and it was the right decision), but our grocery bill did increase. Moral of the story - planning ahead and sticking to a meal plan does save money.

So - here's the meal plan for this week, though it's only for 5 days since we are starting kinda late week and we have company this weekend:

Monday night: leftover lasagna (which I'll post a recipe for soon - this one was kind of a fail, but it was because I left out some key ingredients...even good cooks screw it up sometimes - my error was based in laziness and a refusal to go pick up those key ingredients from the store. I paid for it every time I ate that lasagna...even my kids wouldn't eat it. I finally smothered it in a jar of red sauce from Trader Joes and we called it an even)

Tuesday night: hubby made pancakes while I slept off strep throat. For the record, these pancakes were actually quite good. I added 1tsp lemon juice & the hubby used whole wheat flour instead of white, but otherwise I think it was the same as what's listed. I don't usually trust allrecipes, but they pull through on some of the classics.

Wednesday night: bad day back up - homemade enchilladas (I know, I can hear you "wait a minute! where's that recipe?! how can it be a bad day back up if it's not on this blog?! she's cheating on us". I admit it, I did. I made a delicious recipe and didn't get it up here yet. But it's coming - soon. I promise.)

Thursday: Chicken Divan (aha!!! here's the reason why I started this blog in the first place - we've finally got a repeat meal, and now, instead of having to do an entire post on every night's meal, I get a night where I can just drop in a link, recommend a bottle of wine, and then go consume a glass or two of it myself)

Friday: Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Homemade Sourdough Bread (which is currently bubbling ominously on my counter).

I'll try and get some of these recipes up - enchilladas and lasagna specifically, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this post illuminating my humanity and subsequently empowering yours. I hope that when reading these blogs, the thought that goes through your mind isn't "I don't know how she does it" (which is what I often think when looking at other blogs) but instead "oh yeah, I can do that too". Not because what I have to offer is so unequivocally great, but because I do know that good cooking, healthy eating, and affordable living are all incredibly compatible and achievable - by any of us.

So, enjoy! And please, if you feel so inclined, leave a comment every now and then to let me know you're reading/cooking, and if you have a blog - let me know what it is. I'd love to check it out.

Enjoy living like you don't have your act all together - that's how we do it here. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chicken Divan (aka Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole)

**note** I'll go back and put in links to recipes for homemade mayo and cream of chicken soup.  But for now, here's the basic recipe!**

This is a major comfort food, and in my hubby's top 5 favorite meals so it's a pretty frequent repeat in our house. The original recipe calls for canned condensed cream of chicken recipe, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Phew! Did your arteries just seize up? It's ok, I've modified this recipe so now your arteries will just wheeze a little.

Instead of store bought mayonnaise, we'll use homemade; instead of sour cream, we'll use homemade greek yogurt; instead of canned condensed cream of chicken soup, we'll use homemade cream of chicken soup.

The recipe:

Chicken Divan 

2 c  homemade mayonnaise
2 c sour cream/Greek yogurt
2 c cream of chicken soup
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 c cheese
2 c cubed chicken, cooked
2 c broccoli, barely steamed

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread the cooked chicken and steamed broccoli. I recommend slightly under-cooking the broccoli to retain nutrients and avoid overly mushy broccoli.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, cream of chicken soup, lemon juice, and 1 cup of cheese. Mix well and pour evenly over the broccoli and chicken in the 9x13 baking dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of cheese, and if desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Place in the oven until hot, approx 30 minutes.

Serve over brown rice. Yummy!