Roasted Fall Vegetables

During my last visit to the farmer’s market I loaded my tote bag with in-season vegetables.  While I’ve never been a huge fan of fall vegetables, I recently discovered that it’s not the vegetable variety I wasn’t fond of; it was the way it was being cooked! I got nearly 10 pounds of squash and zucchini for $9.  What was I going to do with all that, besides making some zucchini bread, of course.

I decided that I would simply roast my vegetables with minimal ingredients.  The outcome… what can I say? Delicious.

Ingredients:

  • Variety of fall zucchini and squash
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Wash and cut your vegetables.  The smaller you cut them the quicker they will cook, so try to cut them evenly.
  3. In a roasting dish add vegetables, salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary (to taste).
  4. Mix well to evenly coat vegetables with seasoning
  5. Cook about 20-25 or until done.

Serve & Enjoy!

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Up and Coming Cocktail: St. Germain

 

I am a mixologist of sorts. I really enjoy coming up with new and creative cocktails for dinner parties, or just to serve friends. Although I never partake myself (Not!), it’s fun  to come up with  tasty creations that people have never tried which will accentuate the food and atmosphere of the evening. By using some fresh and natural juices, you can really reduce the calorie impact of a cocktail without sacrificing the taste. And unfortunately, since the skinny jean doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon (tragic), saving calories is a good thing.

Enter St. Germaine. If you have never heard of it, you obviously haven’t been watching a lot of Bravo or Real Housewives. Not that I have, someone just told me about it. Or something like that…..Anyway, one day early in the summer I was perusing the aisles of my local Bev-Mo, when one of the gals came up to me and said, “Jessica, you have to try this stuff.” Is it weird that they know me by name there?  I am not sure, but so do the produce guys at Fry’s, and Jerry, the stocker, at Target. So whatever, it’s not like I am ONLY known in places that specialize in various types of alcohol.

The story behind St. Germain is pretty fascinating. It is handpicked in the old, artisanal way of the French. It is made from the Elderflower, which grows in the foothills of the Alps. There are 40 or 50 men in the world who pick the Elderflowers, put them in sacks, and ride them on bikes to the markets. In a matter of weeks, all the Elderflowers will be picked, thus all the St. Germain that will be available for the year, has been spoken for. The smell of it is intoxicating, almost as  you smell it, you can taste it. From the description on the bottle, St. Germain is “neither passion-fruit nor pear, nor grapefruit, nor lemon, but something of all of those.” And that’s a pretty good description if you ask me. The bottle isn’t the cheapest thing you will ever buy, but nothing really good ever is, right? And if you are using it as a mixer, it lasts quite a long time.

So here’s my latest creation. Let’s call it the Phoenix.

THE PHOENIX

one part St. Germaine

one part fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice (or all natural store bought, just not the Ruby Red stuff)

one part Pellegrino or other sparkling water

Splash of citron vodka or other lemon-lime based vodka

Fill a tumbler with ice and mix all ingredients well. Enjoy! You could even add some red food coloring and make this a fun Halloween drink.

Shrimp with Kiwi Lime Relish

It’s Fall and germs are lurking around us in abundance.  You’ve heard of vitamin C as an immunity booster, and many experts say the best way to get it is  directly from the source (our foods).  What better way to grab some extra C than with a kiwi? This recipe is not only super easy to make but also delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 2 jalapenos, finely chopped, seeds removed for less heat (1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 4 kiwi fruits, peeled and diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 20 large U.S.-farmed shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • Directions:

  1. Stir jalapeno and lime juice together. Add kiwi, 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and cilantro. Stir to combine.
  2. Season shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Heat oil in a large skillet over high until shimmering. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook without turning until underside is pink, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until opaque throughout, 2 minutes more. Remove from pan and serve immediately with kiwi-lime relish.

Photo Credit

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Avocado and Shrimp Salad

I never get tired of eating avocados.  Their creamy texture helps this salad blend together without the saturated fats from cheese or dairy-based dressings.  They are rich in vitamins, protein and omega 3s… what is there not to like?  If you buy an avocado before it’s ready to eat, put it in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process.  Never throw them in the fridge unless you want to “pause” its ripening.

It’s fall, and apples are in full display at every supermarket and farmers market.  To add a little extra crunch, toss one in!

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tarragon stems; 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1/2 lemon, quartered
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted, quartered, and thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups water, tarragon stems, lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and peppercorns to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat, add shrimp and poach until opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate (discard everything else) and refrigerate to cool.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, chives, tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add shrimp, apple, and cucumber, and toss to coat.
  4. Divide salad between four bowls. Add avocado to the mixing bowl and toss with remaining dressing. Top each salad with a quarter of the avocado. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

**Photo Credit

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Falling in Love with Fall & a Recipe for Pumpkin Donut Holes

It’s fall in most parts of the country right now. Here in Arizona, fall makes me want to get out my, well, t-shirt and shorts. Yes, we pretty much don’t get to start the fall wardrobe wearing till just about Thanksgiving. It is like the opposite of growing up in Ohio. There, when it reaches 50 degrees in the spring, people start getting out their jean shorts and bikini tops. Here, when it gets down to a breezy 65, we break out the long sleeves and jeans (and then suffer miserably through most of the day!). In the meantime, I am trying to get my “fall” on in a variety of other ways. I start to get out the Halloween decorations, I light the pumpkin spice candles, I merit the pros and cons of wasting half my daily calorie consumption on a new “fall” drink at Starbucks. (Seriously, who are these demons of torture? Salted caramel latte, anyone? You had me at hello!) During the rest of my downtime, I peruse the J.Crew catalog and wonder how many days I can actually wear the sweaters in there over the winter and using some homemade mathematic ratio that is completely fair and balanced, I decide yes! I should have that cable-knit in Angora, please. I also drool over these boots in all colors and combinations.

One of the more productive things I have done, though, is to start baking anything and everything that includes pumpkin. Productive for my productivity and for little mouths around me, not for my thighs, exactly. However, recently I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Donut Holes and they are actually pretty healthy. These donuts are not fried and include plenty of real pumpkin. The whole family loved them and they are one of my few non-guilty fall pleasures. Take them to the kids’ fall parties at school, take them to a Halloween get together, take them to book club or the Rotary! (Does anyone go to Rotary anymore? What is Rotary?) Let’s get started; here’s what you need:

Pumpkin Donut Holes

1 Cup all purpose flour

3/4 Cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tso sakt

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 Cup canned pumpkin

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 Cup skim milk (or almond, rice, or soy milk)

Topping:

3 Tblsp butter, melted

1/3 cup white sugar

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray each cup in a mini muffin tin with baking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. In a larger bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth. Add dry ingredients  and mix until just moist. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Transfer to wax paper. Topping: melt butter in one bowl and combine sugar and pumpkin pie spice in another. Brush each donut with butter and roll in sugar mixture to coat. Place back on waxed paper to set and then store in an airtight container. Of note, if you are not serving donuts until the next day, wait till then to do the topping. Enjoy!

A “Lighter” Blue Cheese Dressing

The facts: I love blue cheese dressing.  I don’t like preservatives or weird ingredients in my food.  I just realized how easy it is to make a lighter version of this heavenly dressing with the help of Greek yogurt! It was easy, delicious, and quick to make!

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • dash black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 c. Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 c. crumbled blue cheese

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix dry spices then add the Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Add the milk then let it sit for a few minutes, to dissolve the spices.
  3. Add the vinegar to the milk mixture. It will start to curdle; this is normal.
  4. Add the mayonnaise and Greek yogurt and whisk together well. When blended, fold-in the Blue cheese crumbles.

The longer you let this refrigerate, the better the flavor will be. A must have for hot wings and salads!

You’ll never buy bottled dressing again once you taste this!

Makes 3 cups.


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Women Are Supposed to Cook, Right?

I’ve been married 10 years, I have two kids, but I am not a good cook.  I should be though, right?  If you are a wife and a mom you should cook.  That’s what I’ve always thought growing up.  It probably doesn’t help that my husband is a great cook.  He cooks and I clean.  I must admit, I clean well.  I like to clean.  It’s sick I know.  My friends call me Monica from the TV show Friends.

Anyway, I do want to cook more and cook better.  I just don’t know where to start.  I see these other women writing weekly shopping lists and planning out menus.  The only thing I ever really cook besides Mac N Cheese is anything you can throw in a Crock-Pot.  I have a recipe book for my Crock-Pot, so I can find ingredients and throw them together and push start.  I can do that!  And it tastes great when it’s done.  That’s the extent of my cooking though.

What menus are these women planning?  How are they so organized that they have coupons for each item?  I can’t even bring myself to use the FREE Soy Milk coupon that keeps printing out at Stop-N-Shop.  I suck at using coupons.  I wish I could be more like these awesome homemakers, but I just don’t know where to start???  Help anyone???

Please give me some tips!  I also want us to start eating healthier!  I picked up some yummy veggies at a local farm yesterday, and my husband (of course) made an awesome vegetable stir-fry with brown rice, so that was good.  We don’t always eat that healthy, though.  I try and have a fruit, veggie, and main meal for my kids each night, but it’s hard.  They also usually fight me on the veggies and leave them on their plates!  Any tips for that?

I just got a book called “The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Your Child to Eat – and Eat Healthy” by, Elizabeth Pantley.  I will let you know how it helps me and all about the book once I am done!  It should be a start and helpful for me!

I think it probably just comes down to making cooking a priority.  I may not ever be as talented as my husband who can just see ingredients and create his own dish, but I know I can follow directions/recipes if I really want to.  I do love to bake!  I bake cakes, cookies, muffins, etc., so I know how to follow directions correctly.  I just don’t cook.  Cooking is different than baking.

I guess it’s just easier being lazy sometimes.  It’s easier throwing a frozen lasagna in the oven than making it from scratch.  I will put my mind to it and try harder.  I think I will make it a point to cook at least 3 meals this week from fresh ingredients.  Post some easy recipes for me if you have any!  Thanks!

* Do you feel pressure to be a good cook because you’re a woman?

Kristin Wheeler

Liven Up Your Halloween Bash With Spookamole!

My family adores avocados and we put them on everything.  They’re terrific in breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese & hot sauce, perfect in salads, and oh, so yummy in fish tacos! I’ve been known to make an enormous batch of guacamole and eat the whole thing myself. Avocados from Mexico can be found at your local grocery store year-round, but this is such a great time of year for them. Mexico is the only place in the world where avocado trees naturally bloom four times a year…and there are so many fun and creative ways to use them in recipes, like this spooky guacamole I made for a party.  It was a hit with both the kids and adults.

 

Here’s what you’ll need for the guacamole:

6 ripe avocados

1 tomato

Juice of one orange

Juice of one lime

Juice of one lemon

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

One small red onion

Directions: Mash avocados, chop onion, chop tomato, mix in orange, lemon & lime juice, add garlic & salt & pepper to taste.

Here’s what you’ll need for bat chips & creepy fingers & spider web :

Five long carrots

cream cheese

raisins

package of corn tortillas

sour cream

olive oil

fake spider

cauldron

bat cookie cutter

 

Directions & putting it all together: Make bat shaped chips with your cookie cutter.  Lightly cover with olive oil and salt and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Put the guacamole in the cauldron.  Put a little bit of sour cream in a plastic bag and cut the corner, so the sour cream squirts out and you can draw your web.  Once you’ve done that, place your spider wherever you think it looks best.  Peel all five carrots, then cut a little piece off the tip to put your black “nail”.  Use a little cream cheese as the adhesive and then stick the raisin in place.  Finally, assemble the creepy carrot fingers in your guacamole!

 

guacamole

Smookamole

Now, here’s your chance to put on your creative cap and make some Spookamole for your next Halloween bash.  Avocados from Mexico is running a recipe contest and you have your shot at $1000! Here’s the link to enter.

Disclosure:  I wrote this review while participating in a Spookamole blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Avocados from Mexico and received avocado items to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Fresh Lunch: Tuna Melt

If you think tuna melts are a calorie loaded sandwich… think again.  This re-vamped version is lighter on the mayo, has less bread but tastes a whole lot better!  Even when your fridge may be empty and you think you have nothing to make for lunch… a pantry staple to the rescue!  Bring out that high quality tuna and let’s freshen it up!  The sharp cheddar allows you to use considerably less cheese and the tomato slices give it the freshness it needs.

Open Tuna Melt

Serves 4. Prep 10min Total time about 15.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces canned chunk light tuna, drained (see Note)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler in your oven (or use small toaster oven).
  2. Combine tuna, shallot, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, salt, hot sauce and pepper in a medium bowl. Spread 1/4 cup of the tuna mixture on each slice of toast; top with tomato slices and 2 tablespoons cheese. Place sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Did you know… Chunk light tuna, which comes from the smaller skipjack or yellowfin, has less mercury than canned white albacore tuna. The FDA/EPA advises that women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children consume no more than 6 ounces of albacore a week; up to 12 ounces of canned light tuna is considered safe. -So yes, I’m only having one of these a week right now :)

 

Photo Credit: Eating Well

 

 

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Goat Cheese & Kalamata Olive Panini

When I was pregnant with my daughter 6 years ago, my husband and I took a week long trip to Rome.  This was food heaven for a pregnant woman!  The word “panino” in Italian means roll or biscuit.  However, they too grill the sandwiches and call them panini.  Originally, panini were filled with tomato, basil and mozzarella,  a mouth watering combination on its own.  That Christmas, my mother-in-law gifted me a panini press to have at home and my love for anything grilled only intensified.  Don’t believe it? Check out this recipe!

 

Goat Cheese & Kalamata Olive Panini

Serves 4. Prep time: 7 minutes Total time: 12 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 14 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 12-oz whole-grain Italian loaf bread, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 1/2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large tomato (6 oz), sliced into 8 rounds
  • Olive oil cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine olives, onion, garlic, basil, pepper flakes and vinegar. Place bread halves on a cutting board, cut-side-up, and spoon olive mixture onto bottom half of bread. Top with spinach, cheese and tomato. Top with other half of bread and press down lightly to adhere. Using a serrated knife, cut bread into 4 equal pieces.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat skillet with cooking spray, then add sandwiches. Add weight to sandwiches by covering them with a sheet of aluminum foil, then topping them with a dinner plate and a few bread plates. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until lightly golden on bottom. Remove plates and foil and flip sandwiches over. Again, place foil and plates on top of sandwiches and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 2 more minutes or until browned on bottom. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 2 minutes. (NOTE: This will allow sandwiches to continue heating throughout without drying out and over-browning.) Enjoy!

Nutrients per sandwich: Calories: 301, Total Fat: 6 g, Sat. Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs: 50 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 13 g, Protein: 9 g, Sodium: 537 mg, Cholesterol: 6.5 mg

**Original recipe from Clean Eating Magazine

 

 

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