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!