Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Favorite Salad Dressing

I'm not a huge fan of store-bought salad dressings.  That is, until I tried Salad Girl.  One of the great things about my buying club is that you can see what other people order.  So, a few weeks ago, a bunch of people were ordering this Salad Girl Curry Fig dressing and I decided to join in.  Oh my gosh, I'm SO glad I did!  I loooooooooooooove it.  I typically put it on wraps but I do use it on basic salads, too.

Today, I made a wrap with goat cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula and the Curry Fig dressing wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.  It was so tasty.  This is one of my new found luxuries - making whatever I want for lunch while the kids are at school.  It's kind of amazing, I have to say.

What did you have for lunch?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kickin' Mac N Cheese Up a Notch

Wow, it's been a doozy of a week. From a hit and run accident to a sick kid with strep throat. But, the cooking, eating, and cleaning goes on... Do you guys like kale? I do. My kids do, if it's broiled to a crisp with lots of salt on top. I've been ordering it nearly every week from our Food Buying Club and experimenting a little bit.

Last week, I made this Kale Mac N Cheese and I really loved it. The kids ate around the kale and the grownups put a little spice on top (hello, Cholula). The kale was nicely crisp on the top and the combination of the cheeses hit the spot.

If you're making this for the kids, call it Mac N Cheese, and if you're making it for a dinner party call it by it's original name, Pasta Gratin with Kale. Fancy, right?

Kale Mac N Cheese
aka Sheet Pan Pasta Gratin with Kale from Alexandra Cooks

3/4 pound pasta, penne or campanelle or anything you like
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (2% or whole)
2 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch or about 8 oz kale or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 cup fontina or fresh mozzarella, diced into small cubes (I used fontina)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Boil pasta for 2 minutes less than the box's suggested al dente time. (For example, my campanelle box said 'al dente perfection' in 10 to 11 minutes. I boiled mine for 8.) Drain. Do not rinse. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add flour, whisking constantly for about a minute. Add milk and water, whisking to remove any of the flour-butter mixture from bottom of pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Note: the mixture will not get super thick, but it will coat the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger through the coating, the trail should stay. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, chop the kale or chard into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta with bechamel and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Fold in chopped kale.

Line a jelly roll pan (I used my 9x12 Le Creuset baker) with a sheet of parchment paper. Spread macaroni mixture over top. Distribute mozzarella or fontina cubes over top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 10 minutes or so. (Note: If it looks too brown after 10-15 minutes, reduce oven to 400ºF for the remainder of the cooking time.) The gratin should be bubbling and golden at the edges. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chocolate Dinner Club

What would the world be without chocolate?  A sad, sad place.  I love chocolate!  You know those people that say they hate chocolate?  Insane.  I'm even eating a Cadbury egg while I type this.  Don't you dare say you hate Cadbury eggs because then we can't be friends. 

Our March Dinner Club's theme was ... chocolate!  A whole meal dedicated to chocolate?  Yes, please!  Laura & Peter, the hosts, are obviously genius.  

Chocolate Covered Grapes and Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream Vodka
Recipe: What's Cooking America

 Chocolate, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Crostini
Recipe: Saucy Pants 


Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate & Rosemary
Recipe: Bon Appetit


Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Pistascio Tuiles 
Recipes: Tart-Gourmet, Ice Cream-Gourmet, Tuiles- Adapted from Martha Stewart

Somehow, in two years, we've never really had a true dud of a meal.  Either we're all exceptional cooks or we serve good alcohol.  

Have any good ideas for a dinner club theme?  We're hosting in April!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lightning Fast Tacos

I love tacos.  I love mexican food.  I love tex-mex.  I could probably eat it everyday.  One of my favorite tacos is this super easy black bean, avocado, and goat cheese taco.  This can be thrown together in 15 minutes and everyone in my family eats it (well, their variation of the ingredients). 

Black Bean, Avocado, Goat Cheese Tacos
Adapted from Naturally Ella
Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

1 tablespoon cumin
1 pinch dried pepper flakes
1-2 cans black beans, with some liquids (if you use 2 cans, you might want to add more cumin)
2 avocados
8 oz goat cheese
8 corn tortillas
Suggested additional toppings: sour cream, salsa, radish, Cholula
  1. Heat beans over medium-low heat.  Add cumin and red pepper flakes.  Taste and season with salt as needed (if you use canned beans, go easy on the salt or skip it - canned beans are higher in sodium).
  2. Slice avocado and prepare toppings.
  3. If you have a gas stove, turn one burner on medium-low heat, place the corn tortilla on the burner grate and cook for about a minute on each side until warmed (some black spots are good, but watch them carefully!).  If you don't have a gas stove, you could warm them in a skillet over medium heat (cast iron works great).  You can skip this step and warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave but I warn you the tacos won't be as tasty!
  4. To assemble tacos, place a small scoop of black beans in the center of the tortilla, layer avocado and goat cheese on top.  Add additional toppings to taste.
  5. Serve with a side of fruit.  Enjoy!
What's your favorite fast and easy weeknight dinner?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Good Night for Chili

This winter.  It's killing me.  I ended up driving the two and a half blocks to preschool this morning when I saw that the windchill was -25F.  I really try to walk but I draw the line at about -20 (we walked yesterday morning in -15).  We also ended up driving to the bus stop because I had somewhere to go right afterwards.  Tomorrow's predicted wind chill is -35.  Ugh.

My plan for chili tonight was right on.  I was in need of something hearty and warm.  My daughter and I had a lovely coffee-shop play date this afternoon and I was glad to go home and have an easy meal lined up.  But, when I walked in the house, I could smell that my husband had already started the chili.  What a guy!  We put all our meals on a shared Google calendar, with links or notes on where to find the recipes.  So without even chatting, he knew what to get started for dinner.  

I've been looking for a simple chili to add to our rotation and I found it!  Super easy and super tasty.

I really need to say that I think ingredients matter.  Especially in simple recipes like these.  I ended up using canned chili beans (kidney, black and pinto beans), fresh chili powder from the bulk section at the co-op (fresh spices are so much better), and ground turkey from Ferndale Market (local).

We topped with black olives, green onions, shredded pepper jack, sour cream and a few splashes of hot sauce.  My 6 year old ate 3 bowls, my 3 year old ate the toppings.  Good enough!

Easy Chili 
From The Kichn
Serves 8

1 pound ground turkey
1 large white onion, diced
1/4 cup water
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 15-ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained

In a Dutch oven or large pot, cook the ground turkey and onion over medium heat until the meat is browned, about 7-8 minutes. Stir every now and then to help crumble up the meat.

Drain the meat mixture and return to pan. Add the chili powder and stir well.

Add the beans, water and diced tomatoes to the pot and bring to a slow boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low; simmer for 20 minutes. Then uncover and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle chili into bowls and serve hot. Top with sour cream, cheddar cheese, cilantro or chopped green onion - or anything else that makes you happy. Chili will keep refrigerated for a good 5-6 days. After that, freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.


And, here's how my son styled his plate.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Favorite Muffin Recipes

My picky daughter will eat nearly anything in muffin form.  So, I've tried a lot of muffin recipes.  I like my muffins fairly healthy but not healthy tasting, you know what I mean?  When I find a recipe I like, I make a bunch at a time, freeze them, and pull them out when needed.  They are an easy breakfast, lunch or snack option. 

Here's a round-up of my favorite muffin recipes.  

I used 2% milk because that's what we buy and they turn out just great.  

Sweet Potato
I replace the vegetable oil with coconut oil and cook my sweet potato in the microwave - piercing it with a fork and cooking on high for 8 minutes.   

Morning Glory
I use 3/4 cup sugar, unsweetened apple sauce instead of apple butter, and skip the nut and wheat germ topping.  Sometimes I add the wheat germ into the batter.

Coffee Cake 
Not exactly healthy but oh so good.  I found this in my Baking Illustrated Cookbook (love this book!).

Do you have a favorite muffin recipe?  If so, please share!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Have You Tried Chia?

I'm not a cereal-for-breakfast kind of girl.  It keeps me full for about 5 minutes.  No, really.  Yet, I don't like to cook hot breakfast every day so I'm always looking for new make-ahead breakfast recipes.

Last night, I put together Giada's Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding.  I've been wanting to try Chia - I've had it in Kombucha but that's all.  It's available in bulk at the co-op where I shop so it's easy to buy just a little to try.

This is super easy to put together and I really enjoyed it!  I served mine with blueberries since it's what I had on hand.  I drizzled some maple syrup on the top rather than mixing it in before serving.  I offered it to both kids and the picky one not only declared she wanted to try it but after she ate her serving, she asked for more!  Score!

Chia Seed Pudding
Adapted slightly from Food Network Magazine 
Serves 4

1 cup vanilla coconut milk (almond would work, too)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (preferably grade B), plus 4 teaspoons for serving
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 pint fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the coconut milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, the vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon salt until blended. Whisk in the chia seeds and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. After 30 minutes, stir to distribute the seeds if they have settled. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, spoon cold pudding into 4 bowls or cups.  Top with fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup and serve.  Enjoy!

Have you tried chia?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Meal Planning: February 17-28

I'm in a rut.  I want to make tasty and delicious sounding things like this white bean soup or this hot pot or even these chickpea crepes.  But, I know my kids will whine and complain (or burst into tears when dinner is's happened).  It's such a struggle to cook interesting things and be respectful of what the kids might actually eat. 

I'm sick of noodles and typical American food.  I want curry, chickpea crepes, white bean and kale soup, and hot pot!  As my son would yell, "IT'S NOT FAIR!!"  I think I need to start a new night...Mama-gets-to-experiment-night. 

But, until that night is established, I'm cooking some boring stuff that I hope my kids will eat. 

Here's the plan!

Spaghetti & Meatballs
I use the modifications from and serve on whole wheat spaghetti.
Grilled Cheese and Thai Butternut Squash Soup (from freezer)
I used American Multi Grain sliced bread from New French Bakery - my new favorite bread.  These were some tasty sandwiches. 

Quesadillas and Fruit
I made tortillas with my MOMS Club this week and will stuff them with a mix of pepper jack and cheddar.  Maybe some sauteed mushrooms, too.  We'll be eating kiwi because I somehow ordered 4 lbs of it.  We like kiwi, but 4 lbs is a lot!

Lentils and Sausages (floater meal from last week)
We have these fancy lentils from Paris to use.

Homemade Pizza and Buffalo Cauliflower
Have you tried Buffalo Cauliflower?  So, so, so good!

Fried Rice and Easy Eggrolls
The eggroll recipe is from one of my favorite books, Simple Suppers from Moosewood Restaurant.

Bean & Rice (think Chipotle Burrito Bowl)
This is our standard "cheap eat".  We top with whatever we have on hand.

Pulled Pork on Homemade Buns, Corn & Potatoes
I made some homemade burger buns a few weeks ago and have some leftovers in the fridge.  I also scored a "manager's special" pork roast.

I'm on the hunt for a go-to Chili recipe.  This one is super simple but will it be tasty enough?

Taco Salad
Or this might become Nachos.  Same ingredients, different focus.  Will it be a lettuce or tortilla chip kind of day?

Homemade Pizza
With who knows what on top.  That's how I roll.

Dessert Nights: Ice cream, Lemon Bars (did you see how many lemons I have?!)

What are YOU cooking this week?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Homemade Cleaner

Let's talk about cleaning.  

I enjoy cleaning more since my kids have been in school each weekday morning.  I can clean without a tornado following me!  Amazing.  I've used a ton of different techniques to help me get on a cleaning schedule but nothing ever works for me - I always rebel.  Years ago, when I was in college, I tried the FlyLady and she nearly gave me a panic attack.  But, after feeling like I am always tidying and not really cleaning-cleaning, I decided to give her another try.

The FlyLady breaks it down for you - by week and by day.  She also says that imperfect housework is still housework.  Fist Pump!  The downside is that you get a TON of emails from the FlyLady.  I admit, I delete most of them.  I pay attention to the schedule ones and then if I'm off my game, I read some of the inspirational ones.

The FlyLady has this saying, "soap is soap".  You know, I'm really starting to agree.  I've been slowly moving from the mainstream cleaners to more natural options.  After years of using a vinegar-based mixture for my floors, I have been wanting to make my own all-purpose household cleaner.  But, I kept getting stuck.  Almost all the recipes include Borax and it seems like the jury is out on if Borax is "safe" or not.  I finally decided that it's probably safer than other cleaners I've been using so I'm giving it a try. 

There's a TON of recipes out there for making your own cleaner - hello Pinterest.  I went with a recipe from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, because, they should sort of know what they're talking about, right?

All-purpose cleaner:

1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp. borax
3 1/2 cups hot water
1/4 cup liquid dish soap
20 drops lemon or lavendar essential oil (I didn't have any on hand and skipped it)

In a 32 oz spray bottle, mix vinegar, borax, and water thoroughly.  Add essential oil if desired.  Add dish soap last. 

I found the mixture to be too soapy and will reduce the soap next time.  I only use a drizzle of soap in my floor cleaning mixture.  The great thing about this mix is that I can use it everywhere - in the bathroom (shower, toilet, sink, etc.) and in the kitchen.   I don't use this on my floors.

What do you use for cleaning?  Do you make your own cleaner?  How do you feel about Borax?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Not Your Average Cracker

I have a love-hate relationship with crackers.  I like them, because obviously, they taste good.  They're also an easy snack and what better to serve along with some cheese?  However, my daughter is carb-obsessed.  If I have crackers in the house, it's what she wants for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all snacks.  I get sick of the begging for crackers so I often just don't buy them.  

If I do buy crackers, it's some basic wheat ones to go with cheese for school lunches.  I rarely buy graham crackers because most are loaded with nasty ingredients.  I have a few super impressive friends that make their own crackers but I never could find the energy to try them myself.  But then, I had some coffee (on my one coffee day of the week which is also the day I get everything done because suddenly I have super powers) and I cranked out these graham crackers. 

There are a ton of recipes on the internet (hello Pinterest) for homemade graham crackers.  I went with Weelicious because I've had good luck with her recipes. 

Homemade Graham Crackers
From Weelicious

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, chilled & cubed
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a food processor or mixer combine the first 6 ingredients.
3. Add cubed and chilled butter to the mix and pulse/mix until it resembles coarse meal.
4. Add honey and water and continue to mix until it all combines.
5. Remove and shape the dough into a flat disk and place between two pieces of parchment paper.
6. Roll dough out until 1/4 inch thick. Cut into crackers or shapes.
7. Place cookies on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Don't overcook or the bottoms will be dark!

The verdict?  Way better than those boxed kind!  At first, my daughter declared that she didn't like them.  Seriously?  But then she tried the batch that didn't get dark on the bottom (really, don't overcook these) and she decided they were good.  I couldn't help imagining them with some frosting slathered on top.  I haven't gone there...yet.  Instead, I served them as a snack with applesauce. 
I ended up with two cookie sheets worth of cut outs.  We ate half and I froze the other half (in an airtight container, stacked).

Try them and tell me what you think!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Meal Planning: Feb 3rd -16th

My Fridge - Feb 10th

I'm trying something new.  Well, I've been doing it (unsuccessfully) for a few rounds.  I'm trying to grocery shop for two weeks at a time.  The last few rounds have not gone so well - I keep having to run to the store because I forgot something or I didn't account for dessert night, etc. 

Well, this time I want to do it right!  Our new buying club operates on an every other week buying cycle so it seems like this could work.  Last week, I sat down and planned all our dinners, dessert nights, extras (bake sale, birthday dinner, valentine's day, baked goods for breakfast, etc.).  It hurt my head a bit. 

Here's THE PLAN:

M: Nachos (chips, refried beans from a can, black olives, cheese, sour cream, salsa)
T: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese for the little girl and Dad while my son and I were at the Mall of America for LEGO night (he and I ate at Noodles...his favorite).
W: Broccoli Carrot Cheddar Soup & Rice Crispy Treats (dessert night)
Th: Egg Sandwiches with arugula, bacon - raw veggies and fruit on the side.  I also made s'mores bars for a school bake sale.
F: Pizza Night with homemade crust, pepperoni, mushrooms, cheese
Sa: Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser at my son's school

Su: My birthday celebration dinner at my in-law's.
M: Oriental Salad
T: Beans & Rice (we typically eat this once a week and throw whatever we have on top)
W: Tilapia Tacos (from How to Feed a Family) and Ice Cream (dessert night)
Th: My birthday dinner: Steak, Kale and Roasted Potatoes plus Tiramisu from Buca (my fave)
F: Heart-Shaped Pancakes for breakfast, Pizza Night: goat cheese, arugula, oil cured olives
Sa: Niece's Birthday Party
Su: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Floater: Lentils & Sausage (using some fancy lentils we brought home from Paris)

Breakfast usually consists of: steel-cut oatmeal, eggs and toast, cereal, muffins, pancakes, waffles (frozen from the weekend), granola and/or yogurt.

I also pack a lunch each day for both kids.  My daughter's school requires her to have a grain, protein, fruit, and vegetable (or two fruits, two veggies).  Lunch usually consists of some combination of: pb & jelly, cheese & crackers, hummus, guacamole, fresh veggies, fresh fruit, frozen mango, yogurt with honey or jelly on top, yogurt with granola, homemade muffin.  My husband takes leftovers for lunch and I make whatever I can find in the fridge for me.

I bought stuff to make homemade tortillas, english muffins, blueberry muffins, sweet potato muffins and smoothies, too.

And one last note... check out this cake my mother-in-law picked out for my birthday.  It's an ice cream cake from Sebastian Joe's.  The flavor is Nicollet Avenue Pot Hole: Chocolate ice cream w/ fudge, truffles, heath bar & sea salt.  Amazing!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Brocoli Cheddar Deliciousness

I have officially entered the winter doldrums.  All I want to do is eat, nap, and read.  And what I want to eat is something substantial and hot.  So, what do I do?  Make some thick, creamy, cheesy soup.  Oh yes I did.

This soup is the bomb.   The original recipe says it tastes similar to Panera's broccoli cheddar soup but I can't say I have ever tried their soup.  Instead of making the original recipe's quantity (for two large bowls), I made a double batch because I had a feeling that I wanted to have leftovers.  Good thing!

I used a lot of carrots in my soup because we like carrots and we have a ton.  If you don't like carrots, use less or even omit them.  Make up the difference by increasing the amount of broccoli.  

Broccoli Carrot Cheddar Soup
Serves 6
Adapted from Peas and Crayons

1 large bunch of fresh broccoli
1+ cup of shredded carrots (I used a lot of carrots, probably 2.5 cups)
1 medium to large white onion
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
4+ cups vegetable or chicken stock (add enough stock so that all veggies are submerged)
1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
2 cups of smoked gouda cheese (or use regular gouda but the smoked gives it a nice bacony flavor)
2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
6 TBSP all purpose flour
6 TBSP butter
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (less or more depending on the strength of your cayenne, or omit if you want to break my heart)
1/4 tsp salt (more or less, depending on taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Prepare the veggies.  Dice the onion, mince the garlic, shred the carrots (I did this with a food processor - super fast), chop broccoli (just cut off stem so the little florets remain).
2. Heat stock in medium pot over medium-high heat.  Add your broccoli, carrots, onion, garlic and bay leaves.  Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, until veggies are tender.
3.  Start the roux.  In a large pot, melt butter on medium heat.  Add flour to butter, whisking constantly.  Cook for approximately a minute.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in broth from your veggie mixture (it's okay if some veggies fall in).  Once most of the broth is mixed in to the roux, pour the veggies in, add the half and half and stir slowly to incorporate. 

4.  Return to burner over low heat.  Remove bay leaves and season with reaming spices except salt and pepper.

5.  Add the cheese, stirring until creamy and melty.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Remove from heat and serve immediately with some crusty bread for dipping!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Naan Mistake

Apparently the cold weather is affecting my brain.  Or, maybe it's that school has been closed for two days.  Either way, I totally screwed up my dinner plan tonight.  The original plan was to make falafel and pita.  But, when it came time to start the pita, I started naan instead.  I didn't realize my mistake until we started on the falafel and I was like, wait a minute, why am I making naan to go with falafel?  Durrrr. 

But guess what?  When it comes down to it, pita isn't that different than naan except, you know, for that handy little pocket to put your falafel and fixings in.  File this under the we-all-make-mistakes folder.  And the who-really-care-if-it's-naan-or-pita folder.

Most importantly, it was a delicious mistake.

Falafel and Naan
(Sources:,, and here's the pita recipe I meant to use)

Making Naan

I've used a few different recipes but I prefer this one because it uses only four  ingredients!  4! And, I almost always have them on hand. 

First, you mix up the dough: flour, salt, baking powder and plain yogurt.

After letting it rest for an hour or more (it was more like 2 hours for me), cut it in 8 pieces (or 10, or however big you want your naan) and roll them out in an oblong shape, 1/4" at the most.   

Next, put it on a preheated cast iron skillet (or a regular skillet if you don't have a cast iron) for about 4 minutes, until it begins to bubble and is brown/black on the bottom.

Once you have bubbles and brown spots, transfer it to a seriously hot oven (500 degrees or broil).  You can place the Naan directly on the rack or on a pizza stone (I prefer the pizza stone).  Watch it poof up!  And, if it doesn't poof, try rolling your dough thinner.  I pop mine under the broiler for a few seconds after they poof to get some color on the top.

Repeat until all your naan is cooked, eat immediately (slathered with some butter and some minced garlic, if you'd like) or cool and reheat later.

(adapted from

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups plain yogurt
In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

Stir in the yogurt till the dough is too stiff for a spoon, then knead it in the bowl till it holds together well, adding more flour if necessary.

Turn it out on a floured surface and continue kneading for about 5 minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl, covered with a towel, to rest for an hour or longer.

Take the dough out and cut it into 8-12 equal pieces.

Heat a large seasoned cast iron skilled over medium heat (or other non-stick skillet).

Heat your oven to about 500 and have the broiler on.  I heat my oven to 500 and then switch it to broil (depends on how your oven functions).

Take 1 piece of dough at a time and roll it out on a floured surface until it measures approximately 5 inches by 10 inches (it does not have to be exact, worry more about the thickness) and less than 1/4 inch thick.

Lay it in the hot skillet and cook it over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until it begins to bubble/puff and is brown/black spots on the bottom (check bottom periodically to see how it's going)

Using a spatula, transfer the naan to the oven, directly onto the rack or on a pizza stone.  Cook for a minute or two or until it puffs up.  Once it puffs, you can transfer it closer to the broiler to get some color on top, if desired.

Remove naan from the oven and brush it lightly with melted butter if you like.

Continue this way with all the dough. Serve the bread fresh from the oven, or let them cool and wrap them up.

You can reheat piles of bread wrapped in foil or by placing them directly on the oven rack for about 5 minutes at 350/400 degrees.  Enjoy!

PS - If you read through all of this, leave me a comment and let me know who's reading! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Food Sources

I'm trying something new!  I joined a buying club that my friend Jennifer kept telling me about.  I finally got in gear and signed up.  Before I get to what the buying club is all about, let's talk about my other food source experiments.

The Regular Stores

For many years, I shopped at the regular grocery stores (Rainbow, Cub, Target, Lund's) but never loved the experience or the selection.  On occasion, I have shopped at Whole Foods but I don't love it.  For one, it's expensive (Whole Paycheck!) and I used to work there and always felt disappointed they don't offer many local options.

Grocery Delivery

After having kids, I tried grocery delivery.  I loved (LOVED!) the convenience.  But, the quality was hit or miss and some things were crazy expensive.  I haven't ordered from grocery delivery in over a year.  But, if you hate dragging your kid(s) to the store in the winter, order your groceries online and thank me later. 

Community Supported Agriculture 
(check out Adventures with a Crop Share for my CSA recipes)

We bought a crop share for four years.  The first year was through a small farm.  We loved it but we also had issues with smashed/sub-prime produce.   We then switched to a larger farm (farther away, unfortunately) and it was fantastic.  We had plenty of fresh, delicious produce delivered weekly.  Getting through our "veggie box" each week was challenging but fun, too.

Then, our kids started to really influence our meals and would whine we made things such as carrot top soup or anything with a pile of wilted greens involved.  I mean, come on kids!  The husband and I were trying our best to eat it all up with little help from the kids.  So, we switched to an every other week delivery plan for the next season.  It was a little easier but I decided I needed a break from the challenge of a veggie box.  We dropped the CSA in favor of the co-op.

The Co-op

I kept meaning to check out the co-ops around town but never really took it seriously.  Finally, one day I got myself to our closest co-op (Seward Co-Op) and holy cow was it amazing!  Small, fresh, local, delicious!  I could even get produce from our favorite CSA farm.  It wasn't all good, though, because it's hard for me to shop at the co-op on a small budget.  I know it can be done, but it's hard!

The Buying Club

I heard about a local buying club through my friend Jennifer and finally got around to getting the details.  We liked what we saw and joined last week!  What is a buying club, you ask?  When a group of people pool together to order, they can get produce (and other products) at wholesale prices through a distributor.  The club I joined is the South Minneapolis Natural Food Buying Club.  Not only can we order organic produce, we can also order from Frontier (wholesale prices) and Azure Standard.

Today, I picked up my first order and am super excited!  There were a few things that I would have loved to get but because other people weren't ordering them, they weren't an option.  That's the one downside of the buying club - what is ordered is based on club demand and not just individual demand.  I think I can work with that.  I'll still shop at the co-op and Target (the prices on their staples are hard to beat!).

Where do you get your food?  Please share - I'd love to hear!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Hello and welcome!

Let me introduce myself.  I'm Vanessa, a stay-at-home mom to two kids, ages 3 and 6.  I love to cook and spend almost all of my free time cooking, eating, or thinking about food.  I try to cook healthy and use quality ingredients yet stay on a budget of about $100 a week.

We have some food traditions around here and one of them is Friday pizza (and movie) night.  Nine times out of 10, we make our own pizza and usually top it with whatever we have on hand.  When we order take-out pizza, we usually get a deep dish pizza from Di Noko's.  They used to be located just down the street from us but sadly they moved closer to downtown.  If you live in the Minneapolis area, you MUST try their pizza.  We usually get sausage and mushrooms as toppings.  The sauce is a tad on the spicy side and so is their sausage.  It's definitely the best chicago-style pizza I've had outside of the windy city.

We were craving some deep-dish but didn't want to make the trek to the new Di Noko's location (seriously, it's only 5 miles but going downtown isn't always the easiest thing).  Lucky for us, Mike was home Friday and whipped up two of these deep-dish pizzas.  They were SO amazing.  I could have eaten a whole one by myself.  The recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and takes some time, but I would argue that it's definitely worth it!

Another food tradition we have around here is our dinner club.  Let me pause for a moment and tell you about how we arrived at dinner club.  A group of girls and I met through a mom's group years ago and hit it off.  We started knitting together, or shall I say "knitting", on a regular basis.  We also take an annual getaway weekend together, too.  A couple of years ago, we decided to introduce our husbands and start a dinner club.  It's been great!

Last night, we got together for Midwest Comfort Food (we have a different theme every month).  The menu was fantastic:
  • Appetizers: sweet bacon wrapped tater tots, pickle wraps (you know the ones with the roast beef and cream cheese), Ritz with Easy Cheese, and cheese curds.  
  • Soup: chicken wild rice soup
  • Salads: raspberry Jell-o (made with applesauce and fresh raspberries) & broccoli sunshine salad
  • Main Course: meatloaf (Martha Stewart style) & mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Dessert: bread pudding with dried blueberries and vanilla ice cream
I ate until I could eat no more and then some.