Sunday, May 30, 2010

Melon Sign-off

     Well, it's the end of another week, and what a week it has been! We started the whole "potty training" thing for my youngest, and after a day or so of chaos, it was mostly successful. I would be tempted to even say he was one of my easiest...but shhh! I don't want to jinx myself. We also had some hot hot Texas days, and I must say nothing goes better with "small town" post grad pre-summer season, then our first baseball game with the boys, and a finally open apartment complex pool to take away dreary crowded 700sq ft apartment madness. Love it. To top it all off? Memorial weekend, no work or school, and appliance sales for our new home! *sigh* Money really can be fun to spend. If only there were more of it...

     Now onto the main point of today's post. I have a nice little article from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) with some great tips on choosing a fantastic melon (check the Mad About Melons link below), and then a great additional suggestion/reminder for your empty melon after working it for this next fabulous dish...so here goes!

Mad About Melons






This was a great article on http://www.care2.com about watermelon, and then of course a great way to eat it, in a salsa for dipping! Once again, try serving in a 'carved out' watermelon bowl.



Tropical Watermelon Salsa Recipe

posted by Annie B. Bond Feb 17, 2004 8:12 am

Adapted from a recipe by Chef Harry Schwartz.
The big news is that cool, refreshing watermelon contains significant amounts of lycopene, a potent cancer-fighter. The juicy pink melon is also rich in vitamins, but with no fat or cholesterol. Chef Harry, star of a popular PBS cooking show, says that he lost 100 pounds eating organic foods, including lots of sweet, juicy watermelon–and now he wants to spread the word about the benefits of that classic summer treat. The best news of all is that his watermelon-based recipes are simply delicious.
This light, refreshing tropical-inspired salsa–with pineapple, mango, and zippy lime along with watermelon–is a natural with chips but it also makes a great partner with grilled foods of all kinds. Quick to make, loaded with zesty tropical taste, and good for you, too!
INGREDIENTS
2 cups chopped seedless watermelon
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup chopped fresh mango
Juice from 4 fresh limes
1 cup trimmed chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste just before serving.
Makes about 4 cups, enough to serve 8 to 12 people.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Playin'

Just a quick note, I am going to be playing around with the background and style of my blog a little the next few days. Please forgive the "repairs"! If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free!

Utter Bliss, and Pure Joy

     Or was it pure bliss and utter joy? Either way, I was sitting here during "quiet time" relishing in the sound of nothing...but the low hum of the air conditioner (and the perfect crunch of some delicious dark chocolate m&m's I was scarfing) when it occurred to me that I have not yet added a follow up recipe to conclude my cool watermelon salad. I have been quite caught up in the logistics of our house...our appraisal came in and Whoot Whoot! It was over our asking price by 8 G's! Hey, I'll take whatever I can get to sleep better at night. Anyway. I don't want to keep you waiting. It is practically summer after all and with that glorious time of year, comes the heat. Plus, it will soon be Memorial Weekend. And what better way to offset some of those triple digit days soon to come then a refreshing drink? That's right, a cool, crisp watermelon punch. Normally I am not an advocate of the 'ol bottle, but my super great friend who handed over this recipe, used the same punch to make some sweet watermelon margerita's at her sons birthday party (for the adults of course) and I figured I should at least provide you with a suggestion if needed for any of you party animals out there!


     Watermelon Punch


About 6 c watermelon cut and pureed, then strained (about 1/2 of 1 large watermelon)
1 can of frozen pink lemonade concentrate (like minute maid 12 oz kind)
1 pack of Watermelon Cherry drink mix (kool-aid variety types) about the .15oz size


Mix together and chill till ready to serve. Then add 1 2 liter of lemon-lime soda of choice right before serving. Yum! (You can add ice too for that extra chill factor)


For margerita's; take 3/4 c of punch and add 1/4-1/2c tequila in an individual glass. You may coat rim with sugar for fun, and garnish with a lemon, lime, strawberry, basically whatever you have handy or so desire. 


Extra Tip; to be super creative, try slicing just the top of the watermelon off to get all the fruit inside, then use the bottom shell (make sure it's stable) as the punch bowl! I have one word for you; Cuteness. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Be Frightened...

     Now I know that you all have been hanging on to the edge of your seats for today's super fresh ingredient. Prepare to be amazed. And yes, as the title states, do NOT be afraid of the following recipe. Even my husband who initially criticized the idea, went for 2 massive servings at dinner tonight! This weeks fresh ingredient is... (I feel like the announcer on Iron Chef America!)
  
     Watermelon!

     I'm gonna start you off with a Watermelon Salad that I had been dying to try. This one was my chosen version off of allrecipes.com, there are a zillion out there, but I'm tellin' ya, this is what Guy Fieri would call "Money". Try it tonight!
 Tip; This makes for a great evening side dish since you can halve the recipe for the adults, and just slice some watermelon up for the kids without taking too much extra time to prepare anything "extra"

Watermelon Summer Salad




Friday, May 21, 2010

Yummy Kale Shake

     Kale Shake you say? Yummy? How can that be? Thanks to my sweet sister in law, this little green goddess is not only delicious, but good for you! Try it for a nice late sunday morning pick me up. Don't be shy, give it a go this weekend! You'll be glad you did. And you won't even need to drink a V8 to get those good veggie results...trust in the power of the green super foods!




     Super Green Kale Shake Yumminess


2 stalks Kale
2 - 3 large handfuls spinach
1/2 - 3/4 c fresh pineapple (canned with juice works here too)
a little juice of whatever kind you have on hand for liquid (or water)
Yogurt if you like it more creamy
4 + ice cubes


Add all ingredients to your blender (make sure vegg is washed!) Smooth-ify to desired consistency. Give a little taste and add more pineapple or juice if not quite the sweet you would like. Add more greens if you are even more brave! Either way, enjoy the pick me up...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quick Kale Saute

     Got this idea from several sites suggesting to cook Kale like you might most southern greens. I improvised and used leeks and fresh bagged spinach to make it go farther and add interest. Turned out super yum. Check the salmon (can you tell this is my favorite fish?!) recipe we served with the Kale. Also very quick to prepare, and quite tasty, the kids LOVED the crust! Now I am wondering why I ever gave Kale such a bad rap!



     Quick Kale Saute


1/2 to whole head of kale (depends on number serving!) washed and very thinly sliced
1 large leek thinly sliced till you reach the top tougher green parts
2 large handfuls fresh washed (bagged is easier too!) spinach torn or thinly sliced
Olive Oil
minced garlic
salt and pepper for flavor


Heat a good 2 Tbsp to 1/4 c olive oil in a pan till very hot
Add 2 tsp of minced garlic (I love the jar kind for convenience, add more if you like it even more garlicky!)
once starting to brown (30 sec to 1 min) add the kale and leeks. Let saute for 2 min or so on each side, add the spinach and saute another 1-2 min. At this point you may need to add a little water to replenish the fluid and steam the vegg a little. Cover for 1 min or so, then turn off and move the pan to sit till ready to eat. A-MAZING!




     Easy Pecan Crusted Salmon


1 lb fresh salmon filet
salt, pepper, garlic seasoning mix, olive oil
Enough Pecans to make about 1/2 c crushed
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp butter


We buy the salmon that has the skin still, no big deal, but make sure you rinse the fish under fresh water and pat dry. Place on a lightly sprayed piece of foil large enough to wrap the fish inside a baking dish to ease in transfer. Preheat oven to 350^. Rub with a little olive oil to allow seasoning to permeate fish better. Sprinkle with garlic seasoning mix if you have it; or use the salt, pepper, and just garlic if you don't, adding a little rosemary and thyme for added flavor if you prefer. Use a fabulous blender or chopping apparatus (like Gary!;o) to grind those nuts down finely. Add the brown sugar and butter with a fork and cut the butter in till well incorporated. Top salmon, close foil, and bake for about 15 min, then open the foil and turn on the broil till well browned and carmelized, about 3-4 more minutes.
Serve with some of those garlicky greens up top, some brown rice pilaf or new potatoes for extra tasty goodness!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kale Krazy?

Kale Krazy: Roasty Toasty Roughage

Yup you better believe it.
Kale is the hot delicious and actually I should restate it as "so fresh and so clean clean" ingredient of the week. Check out this guys take on roasting kale. Now I'm a believer too. My fav healthy foodie Dr. G seriously recommends this way of toasting up the often overlooked vegg, but I was unwilling to negotiate my love (or should I say lack of love) for this bitter green. Except in a good turkey meatball soup. Yum-e. Otherwise...forget it. This week however, I am determined to make you all lovers, not fighters of the kale movement. All starting today. It is a good day after-all.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Beanie Brownies

     Hey all! I have a confession. Too often my food choices (or lack there of) parallel my life. Thus the break for too many extra days. What can you do though?! I had much on the plate with the kiddos, and an almost complete fall out of our offer on the house. Long story really. Plus I am not one of those that have really been able to configure regular let alone daily entries into the racket of my life. Perhaps I will be able to work it when I have a back yard to throw kids in. Then again, I will have just had #4 for, so maybe not. Either way, this is one of my ultimate favorite uses of beans. This is basically like one of the recipes that Weight Watchers recommends. So easy, and  GREAT way to cut calories, increase fiber etc.


  
     Beanie Brownies
     
     1 box Brownie Mix (for the 9 x13 inch pans)
     1 14 - 15 oz can Black Beans


Open the can of beans, drain them (and rinse if you can) Return beans to can, cover to top with water and then place in a blender (like Gary!) and puree all the heck out of 'em. Mix puree with brownie mix and place in a lightly sprayed baking dish. The baking time and temp are pretty much the same. 
Viole! Brownies with only about 2.5 grams of fat, 130 calories, and even 1 gram of fiber!





Tip 8 billion 27 thousand 3 hundred and 2;
Replace just 3 meals a week with beans or other high protein no meat dishes and save about $25 a week! (according to MSN's 20 Basic Ways to Save on a Shoestring) 


P.S. That's $1200 a year!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sick Kids

     Sick Kids. Inspection and disclosure agreement issues on our house; it almost has fallen through. New 'calling' in church for special service to the 18mos - 3 yr old kids, including entire organizational - reorganization. Crazy trip to San Antonio that we are still recovering from (you should see the laundry). Apartment fever due to 90^ temps.
     At this point, we are lucky to get buttered noodles and veggies on the table. Maybe even a side of meat (that was pre-cooked, per-prepared, and practically pre-eaten for your too!) if your lucky.
     Yup, tomorrow will be better. Come back for another simple, beautiful, and oh so yummy beanie brownie recipe.
     Love it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Black Beans, The Musical Fruit

     Need I say more? We already know how amazingly low fat, high fiber, and high protein beans are. Black beans just happen to be my favorite. I find them incredibly versatile and am fully prepared to amaze you with my black bean recipes. Ok so they may not all be mine personally, but I did pre-eat them for you, just to make sure they were good and tasty and perfect for this weeks listings. (I know, thoughtful right?!) SO, without further adieu, my first favorite, black bean burgers with mango chutney goodness. Even the kids went for this one! The flavors are distributed perfectly, with most of the spice being mixed in with the burger patty itself. The salsa contains the light mango and avocado mixture and tops these burgers off deliciously. Try pairing them with those fabulous new thin sandwich/burger buns.
And, I must mention that I got it from one of my favorite cooking magazines, and one of my new favorite websites, CookingLight.com

     Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa



Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 burger)

Ingredients

  • 2  (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4  cup  finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4  cup  panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1/2  teaspoon  sea salt
  • 1/2  medium jalapeƱo pepper, finely chopped
  • 2  large egg whites
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/4  cups  chopped peeled mango (about 1 medium)
  • 3  tablespoons  chopped shallots
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
  • 1  avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 6  (2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  • 6  green leaf lettuce leaves

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Place black beans in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and the next 7 ingredients (through egg whites). Shape bean mixture into 6 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Arrange patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes, carefully turning once.
3. Combine remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, mango, and the next 4 ingredients (through minced garlic) in a medium bowl. Place a patty on bottom half of each hamburger bun; top each with 1 lettuce leaf, 1/3 cup salsa, and top half of bun.

Nutritional Information

Calories:
320
Fat:
11.9g (sat 3.9g,mono 5g,poly 1.7g)
Protein:
13.4g
Carbohydrate:
46.2g
Fiber:
10.1g
Cholesterol:
13mg
Iron:
3.3mg
Sodium:
777mg
Calcium:
201mg
Marina Delio, Santa Barbara, Calif., Cooking Light, APRIL 2010

In Light of Last Monday's Sweet "Agave" Article

     So I didn't get enough new info on agave posted for you, here are a couple really quick tid-bits (before todays fabulous fresh ingredient!)    First off, here is a quick link for substituting agave in recipes  Agave Substitution, great info for any of you who want to experiment on adding agave to your baking recipes instead of any other sweetener. And here is a GREAT reason or two that you might want to substitute Agave a little more in your cooking, a little phrase called "Glycemic Index". Basically Glycemic Index has to do with how your body is affected by the food we eat in terms of blood sugar. Anything with a high glycemic index is basically a food with carbohydrates that your body can quickly convert to sugar, meaning blood sugar spike. 100 is the median for glycemic index, anything above would be high and anything below or more close to zero would be a low glycemic index. The long and beautiful short of this, is Agave Nectar has a low glycemic index, meaning it is safer for diets like the Atkins and the South Beach Diet (which are both base on the glycemic index) and is great for those with diabetes or other blood sugar problems. Again, http://www.allaboutagave.com/ then clicking on the "Agave Nectar and the Glycemic Index" tab is a great place to start with some basic information on agave for all of you interested in the science behind it all.







     NOW for the more interesting part of agave, a few more recipe selections, courtesy of moi. I included the following because first off, buttermilk pancakes are HUGE in my family and this recipe is pretty close, but with agave instead. The cookies, well I obsess over a good chocolate chip cookie and I am determined to try these. And lastly, the brownie recipe is because it is a great prelude to my fresh ingredient of the week...black beans!



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kitchen Obsessed

     I think I have officially joined the crowds of 'country' or 'farm' decor enthusiasts. At least when it comes to my kitchen. Now that I have a house to dream about, I not only dream of my future kitchen plans, but obsess over them. Most of my waking computer moments have been spent in researching the perfect farm kitchen. Here are a few that come close...*sigh* someday I will get one too!
Perfect for ease and creativity when it comes to meals ideas and preparation. If only I could talk the hubs into realizing what a fine investment that 20k would be!



or how about this snazzy little number?!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Apparently, Polenta is NOT a Favorite Around Here.

     It's nights like tonight that make me wonder if my kids (yes, and even my husband) have any taste at all. I mean really. Who wouldn't go for some deliciously sauteed and ever so nicely spiced turkey cutlets complete with homemade chile cheese polenta (and salad on the side)?! Oh right, my kids and hubs. 

     Between 15 min potty breaks and the constant reminder that "salad is to eat, not to throw" (directed primarily to my 2 yr old) we finished dinner a grueling 45 min later with a side show to boot. Both the 5 yr old and 3 yr old could hardly stomach, let alone swallow such a repulsive dish and this led to several gagging bouts at the table. And not just your average gag and quick swallow with a wash down of water... oh no! We had eyes tearing up, swallowing a little vomit perhaps, and even a run to the toilet when the 5yr old couldn't take it any longer. And that was all for 2 measly bites. By the end of the meal unfortunately we were trying so hard not to laugh at their discomfort, that we could no longer enforce the said 3 bite minimum penalty. 2 would have to suffice. Poor things. If my self esteem was weaker, I may have even cried a little over such a disastrous turn out, but hey! As the hubs said, 
"Just don't make it again". 
Hmmmm, good idea. At least not until they are old enough to appreciate such refined tastes like mine. Now what to do about the hubs lack of creativity, I am at a loss for. Oh well, to try again tomorrow! At least the mediterranean salad was a hit (for us anyway), and I will graciously include the dressing recipe for you, since that was our biggest/only dinner success tonight!



     Citrus and Mild Red Chile Dressing
                 (courtesy of The Healthy Kitchen, by Andrew Weil & Rosie Daley)

8 sun dried tomatoes (packed in water not oil) 
3/4 c hot water (soak the tomatoes in the water for about 20 min)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil (or 1/4 c apple juice)
1 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp orange juice concentrate
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 tsp natural soy sauce (like tamari) or a low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground fresh pepper

Blend tomatoes after soaking. Then add additional ingredients and blend till creamy. Toss with spinach, feta cheese, kalamata olives, and sunflower seeds. Garnish with additional fresh ground pepper if desired.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fresh Ingredient Monday

     Just to keep things interesting, as if my life were not already so...(hey I gotta get it where I can) I have decided to present a new ingredient for cooking each Monday, whether I use it that day in cooking, or used it during the week. (Most often I am sure on the weekend!) Yup, that will keep 'em coming back for more (and me striving to have an actual goal to progress toward each week!) Let's get a fresh start then!
     Today's Ingredient; AGAVE NECTAR (from http://www.allaboutagave.com/)


While agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made, it has also been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in food. The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or "honey water."

The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavor foods and drinks. Now, due to increasing awareness of agave nectar's many beneficial properties, it is becoming the preferred sweetener of health conscious consumers, doctors, and natural foods cooks alike.

Where Does Agave Nectar Come From?

Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup) is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.
In many regards agave nectar bridges the gap between real and artificial sweeteners. While it has all the useful properties of real sugars, its lower glycemic index helps protect against health risks associated with higher glycemic sweeteners.
Agave nectar can be used in many more applications than artificial sweeteners, while also producing more palatable results. Since it is composed of real sugars (fructose and glucose), agave nectar performs admirably in the kitchen and bakery. It matches refined sugars in all the qualities mentioned above, serving as a browning agent, a humectant, a softener, and a preservative. 




SO, what glorious recipe did I create with this hot little commodity? Try these good morning muffins on for size!


P.S,: A word about Mueslix; for any of you who don't know, Mueslix is a cereal containing (usually) various grain flakes, chopped raisins and dates, oats, sliced almonds and maybe a light sweetner. I grew up on the stuff, we were introduced to it in Germany and used to make it ourselves for years afterwards. I chose this cereal because all the ingredients are great in carrot cake and they would be perfectly  proportioned for these muffins, especially since I personally only like a little texture while I am enjoying a great carrot cake. If you can't find it, sub in the above ingredients in your own preferred amounts.




     Glorious Carrot Cake Deliciousness Morning Muffin Madness (or Morning Carrot Cake for short!)


3/4 - 1 c Mueslix breakfast cereal
1/2 c quick cooking oats
1/2 - 1 c fat reduced buttermilk (or half buttermilk half unsweetened applesauce)
2 c unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 c agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 c canola/vegetable oil
1 c finely shredded carrots
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash ginger, salt,  and ground cloves
1/2 c white chocolate chips


Crush cereal more fine, mix with oats and buttermilk (I used half buttermilk half applesauce because that was all I had, but I really liked the flavor too!) Let set while mixing other ingredients (for a total of 5+ minutes at least) Mix eggs, vanilla, and oil. Add sugar and agave. Sift flour, baking soda, and spices/salt together, then add to wet ingredients. Preheat oven to 350^ and spray muffin tins while waiting for wet ingredients to set longer. Add carrots and cereal mixture to wet ingredients. Mix in white chocolate chips. Spoon into muffing cups till 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 min or till toothpick comes out clean. Should make 18, enjoy!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pizza and Yo Yo Ma

     So here's the deal...we put an offer on a house on this last saturday (we were sort of forced to earlier than planned, the house we loved most was on the market already for 100+ days and it was also the last property I saw in Utah. Right before leaving, I had found out that someone had put an offer in that day so we scrambled to put one together) Then the owner came back and asked for our 'best offer' by noon on Tuesday, so we presented them with an "offer they couldn't refuse" (said in an inner city chicago italian accent) and low and behold they took our offer by that evening. AND I am so excited that I dream about the house every night and where I am going to put everything. 
Kind of obsessive, 
but can you blame me after no home to really call my own these last 3 yrs?! 
So here is the lil' (or not so little) beauty; 3100 sq ft, 5 bed 3 bath 1/4 acre lot complete with fruit trees and a starter garden. Could you ask for anything more?!

The rest of my week of course was spent in additional craziness, since we are out of state I had to hurry and send out the earnest money, order the home inspection, and get the rest of the loan process going... SO, on thursday I ended up on the phone with our new mortgage broker working on a new app, worth it since they could lock in our VA loan already for 4.85% YAHOO! Anyway, the kids were climbing the walls with, I don't know, boredom? As I had been on the phone and computer gathering information for several hours that afternoon. We ran to the park for a couple hours to blow steam, but ended up getting scorched in the 92^ weather that day, and additionally ran late for dinner. That's when order out pizza comes in handy. And hey, it was time to celebrate anyway! So the hubs grabbed Domino's on the way home from work, we all met up to grub, and just to keep things classy...I had some Yo Yo Ma for the background. Some days that is all you need. And if it takes a borrowed library item to accomplish a little peace and sanity after a long day... then so be it! Don't worry, I won't let you down tomorrow though... Since this is a food blog I will be sure to have more for you than rushed meals and pizza on the go. 

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