Thursday, June 06, 2013

Hawaiian Haystacks

Most people I know love haystacks.  But everyone has their own opinion on what makes a good stack.  I grew up having completely different toppings from the hub, and if you do a search on the interwebs, you'll quickly see that everyone makes them their own special way.  Which is one of the reasons I love them!  Totally customizable, and very kid friendly.  And this, my friends, is how we stack.

  • 4 T. butter/spread
  • 4 T. flour (2 T. brown rice flour + 2 T. tapioca/potato flour)
  • 2 c. chicken/vegetable broth
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. ginger
  • 2 cans chicken, drained
  • prepared rice
  • celery, finely chopped
  • green onions, thinkly sliced
  • red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • chow mein noodles
  • pineapple chunks
  • sliced almonds
  • coconut
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  As butter begins to brown, add flour and stir.  Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
  2. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, 1 c. at a time.  Allow to thicken before adding more broth and whisk well.  Simmer until desired consistency.
  3. Add in chicken and heat through.  Remove from heat.
  4. Serve gravy over prepared rice.  Top with desired toppings and dig in!
As a little side note, this makes for a great food storage meal.  But if you'd rather use cooked chicken (or none at all), feel free.  I know a lot of people use canned chicken soup as their gravy base, and truth be told, so did I.  That's how my mom made it, and then we would add the soy sauce individually.  I stopped buying canned soup a while ago, so while making my own gravy from scratch I decided to add the soy sauce to it directly rather than as its own topping.  Between that and the added garlic and ginger, this gravy really has a great flavor that blends perfectly with the listed toppings.  Reminds me of the islands ;)

But if you grew up eating haystacks with olives, or tomatoes, then you might want to omit the soy sauce and ginger.  Feel free to experiment and make it your own...  Because that's what makes haystacks so great!  *B

Monday, June 03, 2013

Meal Plan: 6/3 - 6/9

Sorry for the unintended sabbatical!  We're in the process of planting a garden and moving a home, and so things like blogging have relocated to the back burner ;)  I'll try to post when I can...

Mexican Monday: walking tacos
Oriental Tuesday: honey ginger shrimp stir fry
Twisted Wednesday: 13 bean soup w/ corn muffins
Authentic Thursday: avocado pasta
TGIFriday: BLT's w/ sweet potato fries
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: herb-glazed chicken w/ roasted potatoes

Upcoming recipe: Hawaiin Haystacks!  Sorry for the delay.  *B

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meal Plan: 5/13 - 5/19

Mexican Monday: taco salad
Oriental Tuesday: piña colada shrimp
Twisted Wednesday: chili w/ baked potatoes
Authentic Thursday: tuna marinara
TGIFriday: chicken melts w/ tomato soup
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: creamy turkey & rice soup

Upcoming recipe: Hawaiian haystacks.  My version.  *B

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa

I found this recipe a while ago, and now I can't find it anywhere...  I made some modifications to the original version, and now it's one of our family's favorites!  It always hits the spot.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup chicken/vegetable broth
  • 1 cup carrot juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 small yellow squash, chopped
  • 4-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 handfuls spinach, chopped (opt)
  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped (opt)
  • 1 cup chickpeas/canellini beans, drained and rinsed (opt)

  1. Combine quinoa with broth, carrot juice and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is translucent. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
  2. While quinoa simmers, preheat oven to 425. Toss prepared veggies with olive oil, and salt/pepper to taste. Roast in oven for 12-15 minutes.
  3. Add roasted vegetables, spinach, almonds and white beans to cooked quinoa. Toss to coat or until well combined. Enjoy!
You can use whatever vegetables you want, and as many or as few as you wish.  Green beans work well, as does broccoli.  This makes for a wonderful side dish, and the addition of almonds and beans makes it a great vegan meal.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!  *B

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Meal Plan: 4/29 - 5/5

Mexican Monday: barbacoa beef
Oriental Tuesday: Hawaiian haystacks
Twisted Wednesday: kielbasa stew
Authentic Thursday: bruschetta pasta
TGIFriday: tuna melts
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: food storage meal, TBD

Upcoming recipe: roasted veggie quinoa.  So good!  *B

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tuna Marinara

Ever since we wrapped up our 72 hour kits, I've had food storage on the brain.  I've put together 7 weeks' worth of meals, and I'm now in the process of converting some family favorites into food-storage-friendly recipes.  This recipe was the first one I experimented with, and it is was a HUGE success!  I got the basic recipe from my friend, and I've tweaked it to our tastes/preferences...


  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 (7 oz) cans of tuna, drained
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1 T. basil
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • salt, to taste
  • 5 (14.5 oz) cans of stewed tomatoes, Italian style
  • 1 can black olives, drained & chopped
  • 1 T. beef bouillon
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1 generous handful flat-leaf parsley, minced
  1. In a large pot, bring olive oil to a simmer.  Add seasonings, tuna, and garlic and return to a simmer.  Cook until garlic is tender, stirring occasionally (careful not to burn garlic).
  2. Add stewed tomatoes, olives, bouillon and brown sugar; stir well.  Remove from heat and transfer to crockpot.
  3. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Add flat-leaf parsley to pot and stir well.  Serve over prepared pasta.
Ok, here's the deal.  I realize how scary tuna marinara might sound.  Let me just say that we are not a tuna family, and everyone loved this!  Seriously, me and the hub were eating the sauce straight from the pot with a spoon.  That's how you know it's good.  *B

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

frozen yogurt

We keep our yogurt frozen because our fridge is usually too full and there's no room left...  We also limit our daily dairy intake, so I like to freeze our yogurt as a type of longer term food storage.  But practical reasons aside, my kids love it frozen as a special treat.

I know a lot of people who indulge in a bowl of ice-cream before bed.  If that works for you, great!  But if you're watching what you eat and are looking for healthier alternatives, try frozen yogurt.  I'm not talking about a carton of frozen yogurt, found in the frozen foods isle next to the ice-cream.  I'm talking about single serving yogurt cartons, popped in the freezer.  It'll  help curb your cravings, and your waistline ;)  Especially if you're the type that struggles with "just one more bite"...  *B

Monday, April 22, 2013

Meal Plan: 4/22 - 4/28

Mexican Monday: southwest chicken w/ rice
Oriental Tuesday: cherry-pom habanero salmon w/ roasted veggie quinoa
Twisted Wednesday: Normandy baked potatoes w/ "cheese" sauce
Authentic Thursday: minestrone soup
TGIFriday: BBQ chicken pizza
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: Coq Sans Vin w/ rosemary potatoes & green beans

Upcoming recipe: tuna marinara.  Don't worry, it tastes better than it sounds!  I promise.  *B

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Crockpot Teriyaki

Not much to say here, except that this recipe is easy peasy (as my son would say) and tasty, too!  Complete with no complaints from the kids, only compliments ;)

  • 2 T. coconut oil
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1/2  c. + 2 T. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 6 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 t. ground ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • handful of baby carrots, quartered
  • handful of fresh snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 1 can of sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 handful of cabbage/lettuce, chopped
  • 4 1/2 t. cornstarch
  • 4 1/2 t. cold water
  1. Preheat crockpot on high.  Add coconut oil to crockpot and let it melt.
  2. Combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic and pepper until well combined.
  3. Place chicken in crockpot.  Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken.  Place vegetables on top.  Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or until simmering.
  4. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1-2 hours longer.
  5. Remove chicken and veggies from crockpot and set aside.  Combine cornstarch and water in small bowl and set aside.
  6. Pour sauce contents from crockpot into a saucepan and bring to boil.  Add cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.
  7. Serve with brown rice.  Enjoy!
Feel free to omit the veggies from the crock and cook up your own assortment as a side dish.  Leftover chicken would make for a great Asian salad, or even lettuce wraps!  *B

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

72 hr kit (food)

We have always lived in small spaces (apartments/condos), so I've never been able to build up what I believe to be a proper food storage.  But, this past weekend we finally assembled our 72 hr. kits!  It feels nice to be somewhat prepared...  And I'm quite pleased with how balanced these kits turned out. 

Each item is individually sealed in a wrapper.  We bought most of our food in multi-packs, to add variety.  Even though you're eating oatmeal every day, at least you can choose from three different flavors...  Also included in each container (but not shown) is a GI P-38 Can Opener and some honey sticks.  The kids have fruit tea in their kits, and I've considered buying some formula packets for the baby's kit.

[day 1]
[day 2]
[day 3]


Assembly Date: _____________
Rotation Date: ______________
Day 1
     B: oatmeal, peanut butter & hot cocoa
     L: beef jerky, granola bar, trail mix & Emergen-C
     D: soup, crackers, fruit leather & tea
     S: sucker, chocolate
     Nutrition Facts: 1677 calories, 204g carbs, 55g protein, 75g fat, 13g fiber
Day 2
     B: oatmeal, peanut butter & hot cocoa
     L: soup, crackers, fruit leather & Emergen-C
     D: chili, applesauce & tea
     S: sucker, chocolate
     Nutrition Facts: 1677 calories, 216g carbs, 66g protein, 61g fat, 21g fiber
Day 3
     B: oatmeal, peanut butter & hot cocoa
     L: beef jerky, granola bar, trail mix & Emergen-C
     D: chicken, crackers, fruit leather & tea
     S: sucker, chocolate
     Nutrition Facts: 1672 calories, 176g carbs, 93g protein, 72g fat, 13g fiber

While I realize the baby only needs 1,000 calories a day, I am also aware of the fact that my husband might want more than 1,600 calories.  And I really wish I could cram some more fiber in there; I guess I'll just have to keep tweaking!  Each kit requires about 18 cups of water for food prep.  According to FEMA, each person needs 2 liters of water per day.  I'd like to buy a water bottle filter for every family member, too.  Maybe some water purification tablets...  But for now, I think these kits are a good starting point and will serve us well :)

I remember watching other people make their own kits, but they were full of food no one ever eats (Vienna sausages, anyone)!  Or they were full of processed junk, devoid of anything but empty calories.  I've also seen a lot of commercially prepared kits, but I prefer to make my own and personalize it according to our dietary needs/preferences.  I tried my best to make them as nutrient dense as possible; all while fitting inside a single, portable container.  And these kits are full of foods that we typically eat; foods that we'll certainly eat in emergency situations, and foods that we'll gladly eat in six months when it's time to rotate.  *B

Monday, April 08, 2013

Meal Plan: 4/8 - 4/14

Mexican Monday: tortilla soup
Oriental Tuesday: crockpot teriyaki chicken
Twisted Wednesday: ginger-citrus braised chicken w/ roasted vegetable quinoa
Authentic Thursday: angel hair pasta w/ balsamic glazed chicken sausage & toasted walnuts
TGIFriday: tomato soup w/ tuna melts
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: TBD

Upcoming recipe: crockpot teriyaki chicken.  Also, I'd like to share my 72 hr food kit with all y'all...  So stay tuned!  *B

Friday, April 05, 2013

Steve's Doughnuts

I'm not a huge fan of sweets (I can honestly do without), but sometimes an itch needs to be scratched ;)  I recently discovered a local doughnut shop, and have feasted on some of the best doughnuts I've ever had!  So for those of you who happen to live nearby, check out Steve's Doughnuts.  For everyone else, feel free to visit me and I'll treat you and your tastebuds to some serious deliciousness!  And if it makes you feel better, I'll make you a green drink, too.  *B

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Steak a la Awesome

Many of you might already know that I'm not a huge fan of meat...  And typically, I would choose a grilled portobello mushroom over a filet mignon on most days.  But, I might reconsider if this steak is on the menu!

Adapted from Whit's Amuse Bouche

  • 1/2 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 t. no salt herb seasoning
  • two 8oz filet mignons (1.5" thickness)
  • 2 strips of microwave bacon (opt)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. coconut oil
  • 1 t. salt, divided (see below)
  • 1 t. black pepper, divided (see below)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 capful balsamic vinegar
  1. Prepare herbed butter: mix together 1/2 stick of softened butter and 1/2 t. no salt seasoning until well combined.  Spoon butter into silicone molds, or use plastic wrap to create a tube of herbed butter.  Place in freezer.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a well-seasoned cast iron grill pan over high heat on the stove top (my dial is usually turned to an 8).
  3. While pan heats up, wrap the filets' periphery with bacon; secure with toothpicks.  Add 1/4 t. salt and a 1/4 t. pepper per side (top/bottom) and rub in.
  4. Add coconut oil and butter to hot pan.  Just before the pan starts to smoke, sear filets on one side for 2 minutes.  Carefully flip and sear for another two minutes on the other side.
  5. While searing your steaks, prepare balsamic mushrooms: Heat another pan over medium heat.  Add 1/2 stick of butter.  Just as butter starts to brown, add sliced mushrooms.  Cook for 10 minutes before adding balsamic vinegar.  Cook another minute or two, then remove from heat.
  6. Remove grill pan from heat and flip steaks once more before placing inside oven.  Cook for 8-10 minutes in 400 degree oven.
  7. Remove grill pan from oven.  Remove steaks and set aside; allow to rest for a few minutes.
  8. Remove herbed butter from feezer.  Slice into pats (about 1 cm thick).
  9. Serve steak with a pat of butter and a side of mushrooms.  Enjoy!
Depending on how thick your steaks are, and how well you like your meat cooked, the time really can vary.  I used to like my steaks well done, until I realized how amazing a medium rare steak tastes!  So for me, 8 or 9 minutes is perfect.  I realize there's a lot of butter in this dish, and I've ultimately come to grips with it.  We certainly don't eat this every day, or even once a week.  This meal is definitely rich, so we save it for special occasions.  Pair it with something green: grilled asparagus, broccoli, green beans, collard greens, or a fresh side salad.  And if you really want to feel fancy, pour yourself a nice glass of sparkling blood orange.  Go ahead, live a little!  *B

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

flour blend (wheat)

I know I've talked about flour blends before, but I figured it deserved its own post...  Before we went gluten free, I frequently used this flour blend to get the most out of my baked goods.  This blend keeps your muffins and breads from being too heavy, while keeping them nutrient dense.
  • 1 part whole wheat flour
  • 1 part unbleached white flour
  • 1 part wheat germ
I never got around to experimenting with pastry flour, or bread flour, but these three ingredients are easy to find at your typical grocery store.  I mix it all together in a container and keep it in the fridge, to keep the flours fresh and free from bugs and to keep the wheat germ from going rancid.

This blend really helps with transitioning from simple to complex carbs, leading to an overall improvement in your diet!  *B

Monday, April 01, 2013

Meal Plan: 4/1 - 4/7

Mexican Monday: fish tacos
Oriental Tuesday: wanton soup
Twisted Wednesday: skillet hash
Authentic Thursday: avocado pesto w/ grilled veggies
TGIFriday: chili toast
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: baked chicken w/ garlic roasted asparagus

Upcoming recipe: the perfect filet mignon, with a side of balsamic mushrooms.  Apparently I'm really into balsamic vinegar right now...  But seriously, the steak is amazing!  *B

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Balsamic Chicken w/ Quinoa

I love balsamic vinegar!  I don't know if it's due to my Italian heritage or not, but I could practically drink the stuff.  My husband is the complete opposite.  He doesn't care for tomatoes, or anything too acidic.  Makes me wonder about my pH levels...  Anyway, we both love this dish.  It does a great job of uniting all taste-buds ;)

Adapted from Dishing with Leslie

  • 2 T. oil (olive/coconut)
  • 6-8 chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced OR 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 handfuls of spinach, chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t. chicken bouillon
  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  1. Add oil to crock pot and place chicken on top.  Combine spices and sprinkle over chicken.
  2. Top chicken with minced garlic, sliced onion, chopped spinach and can of tomatoes.
  3. Combine chicken bouillon w/ balsamic vinegar, and pour on top.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 3.5 hours.  Reduce heat to low and cook for another 30 minutes.
  5. While chicken cooks, prepare quinoa:  Bring chicken broth and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.
  6. Serve chicken over prepared quinoa.  Enjoy!
This makes a lot of sauce, and the quinoa does a great job of soaking it up.  I like to save any remaining sauce and freeze it to use as a thin pasta sauce later.  I'm sure it would be an awesome addition to soup, too (think minestrone).   Or if you're like me, you could always just drink it.  *B

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

to cut, or not to cut

I know we've talked about coupons before...  And I know a lot of people who love couponing and have simple to elaborate systems that really work for them.  My suggestion is to only use coupons on food(s) you’ll actually eat, otherwise you’re wasting your money/time.  A better option is to use coupons that save you money after you spend a certain amount.  It motivates you to shop less throughout the week for single items, while saving those coupons for a real shopping trip.  *B

Monday, March 25, 2013

Meal Plan: 3/25 - 3/31

Mexican Monday: tortilla soup
Oriental Tuesday: Hawaiin haystacks
Twisted Wednesday: chili baked potatoes
Authentic Thursday: baked "cheesey" noodle medley
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: TBD

Upcoming recipe: balsamic chicken.  A super easy, super delicious crockpot meal.  One of my current faves!  *B

Friday, March 22, 2013

eco ike

The first time I heard about eco ike was five years ago.  They wanted me to design a cute logo for their eco friendly children's clothing...  Ever since then, I've kept tabs on them to see how they're doing and where they're going.  I never saw my design come to fruition, but I have seen them grow and expand.  They have a great blog where they share tips and tricks on how to go green, along with some great recipes.  They even have a cookbook, where 91% of the recipes are vegetarian friendly...  So check out their site for some fun ideas for the whole family!  *B

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sweet & Savory Green Beans

We eat these all the time!  They're a great side dish for coq sans vin, pot roast, and/or Cornish game hens.  I've been making these for years, but it wasn't until recently that I buckled down and wrote out a recipe...  That's just how I roll ;)

  • 4 c. frozen green beans
  • 7 strips of bacon
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. pepper
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. mustard

  1. Preheat medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Cut bacon into strips/bits.
  2. Add bacon to pan and cook until crispy.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add green beans to pan and stir.  Add water and salt and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. When the water starts to look low, add remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.
  5. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently so as to keep the honey from burning.
  6. Remove from heat.  Add bacon, stir and serve.
Just a little note: I use microwave bacon, because it's easier to handle (aka. less gross), and also because I like the way it crisps up and how little grease it produces.  If you choose to use real bacon, you might want to drain some of the grease out of the pan before adding the green beans.  I also make these with ham, and they taste just as good!  Just add a little butter in place of bacon grease.  Or, you could simply boil the green beans in some water as a low-fat alternative.  I like the subtle smokiness of the bacon, but it's really the honey-mustard combo that makes this dish so tasty...  So feel free to make them according to your taste, and enjoy!  *B

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

master shopper

Make an inventory of your freezer, pantry and food storage before sitting down to draft your shopping list.  Then review your recipes and meal plan to create a list based off of what you have and what you need.  After a while, you’ll be able to create a master shopping list that you can refer to before every shopping trip.  Feel free to use my list (above) as a guide to help you create your own (below).  Just right-click, open in new tab/window, zoom, save, and print :)
Never go to the grocery store hungry, or without a list!  *B

Monday, March 18, 2013

Meal Plan: 3/18 - 3/24

Mexican Monday: Spicy Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup w/ corn muffins
Oriental Tuesday: Piña Colada shrimp w/ brown rice & steamed veggies
Twisted Wednesday: leftover pot roast w/ sweet & savory green beans
Authentic Thursday: balsamic chicken w/ quinoa & roasted broccoli
TGIFriday: BBQ meatballs w/ stuffed potatoes
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: chicken/eggplant parmigiana w/ my marinara

Upcoming recipe: sweet & savory green beans.  So good!  So be excited.  Be very excited.  *B

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Organic Pasta

Nowadays there's a plethora of gluten free products available at your typical grocery store.  Except Target.  I don't know what their problem is...  Anyway, I've tried quite a few different pastas out there and the Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Organic Pasta is by far our favorite.  I recommend it to anyone and everyone, whether or not you're gluten intolerant.  It's that good!  *B

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Freedom Pasta (cheese-free macaroni)

I have to admit that I'm quite proud of this recipe: it's tasty and versatile.  We've found that butter doesn't seem to bother us as much as cheese or milk... but if you're sensitive to dairy of any sort, simply substitute your favorite vegan spread and you're dairy free!  And while you're at it, swap out the chicken broth and replace it with vegetable broth and you've got yourself a vegan meal!  Serve over gluten free pasta and you've got yourself a peace treaty ;)

  • 1 stick of butter, cubed (1/2 c.)
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c. hummus
  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. rice milk
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • couple dashes of nutmeg
  • 4 c. unprepared macaroni (or any noodle pasta)
  1. Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add butter to pan and melt.
  2. When butter starts to bubble, add the pumpkin puree and stir until well combined.  For added depth/flavor, (if you want) you could wait until the butter starts to brown before adding the puree.  Just be careful not to let it burn!
  3. Simmer the pumpkin for a couple of minutes before adding the hummus.  Stir well and simmer for another minute.
  4. Carefully whisk in chicken broth and bring sauce to a simmer.
  5. Add rice milk and seasonings and whisk well.  Allow sauce to simmer until desired thickness/consistency.  Remove from heat and cover.
  6. While sauce simmers, fill a large stockpot full of water.  Add enough salt until water tastes salty.  Bring pot to a rolling boil.  Add pasta and a couple tablespoons of olive oil and stir.  Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook pasta until done, but still firm.  Stir and taste noodles every few minutes for doneness.
  7. Remove from heat.  Drain cooked pasta and return to pot.  Add sauce and stir until well combined.  Serve warm.
If you're using gluten free pasta, be careful not to overcook or you'll end up with super mushy noodles that fall apart easily and end up resembling polenta.  But also be careful not to undercook the pasta, or else you'll have a crunchy bowl of noodles to munch.  Growing up in an Italian household, I've never prepared pasta according to the package.  I prefer to taste-test my noodles for doneness, and I always end up with perfect noodles, regardless its gluten content.  If your noodles are done before your sauce is, you can add them back to the pot and add a little more oil so they don't clump together.  Once your sauce starts to cool, you'll notice it thickens up real fast.  This is why it's best served warm; not because it tastes better or worse, it's simply a matter of thickness preference.

I've made this a few times now, and both free and captive (?) eaters love it!  We typically pan-fry some chicken sausage to throw in with the pasta, too...  And just FYI, my mother-in-law raved about this dish when she had it, even going so far as to say it's one of the best mac & cheese dish she's ever had.  And there's not even cheese in it!  It really is a satisfying dish full of flavor that everyone can enjoy!  *B

PS- This makes a HUGE batch of pasta, enough for four adults and two children (and maybe seconds for some).  So feel free to halve the recipe.  Or instead of tossing the sauce and pasta together you can spoon the sauce over individual servings of pasta.  Or make the sauce as is and freeze any sauce that you don't use and save it for next time!  Like I said, it's versatile ;)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

snack time, fun time

Make snacks fun: Create a snack wheel and when you’re ready for a snack, spin the dial and see what the dial lands on!  Make a simple spinner with a paper clip for a dial.  Feel free to use my snack wheel (above) as a guide to help you create/color your own (below).  Just right-click, open in new tab/window, zoom, save, and print :)

Another idea: make a list of snacks and then roll dice to figure out what to eat!  I like to keep a list of snacks on my weekly calendar to refer to.  And keep in mind that while snacks should be filling enough to curb hunger, a snack is not a meal.  It's easy to fill up on empty calories, so use snack time as a way to fill in any gaps of what might be missing in your meals.  It's also the perfect time to introduce your kids to new foods, too.

My personal favorite snack is a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter, and maybe some chocolate chips.  What are some of your favorites?  *B

Monday, March 11, 2013

Meal Plan: 3/11 - 3/17

Mexican Monday: Rainforest Cafe (bday dinner)
Oriental Tuesday: crockpot Terriyaki w/ brown rice
Twisted Wednesday: split pea soup w/ GF cornbread
Authentic Thursday: "cheesey" pasta w/ German sausage
TGIFriday: BLT's w/ spiced fries
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: pot roast w/ mashed potatoes

Upcoming recipe: "cheesey" pasta.  As in pasta without cheese.  Dairy free pasta, that also happens to be gluten free.  Maybe I should just call it free pasta...  *B

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Coq Sans Vin

When I was newly married I would happily go through my Betty Crocker cookbook (a wedding gift), select a recipe and experiment on my new husband.  This dish was one of the first I tried in our itty bitty kitchen, and I've been cooking it ever since.  Whenever we had people over for dinner, we served this.  Whenever I wanted to impress the in-laws, I'd make this.  I've tweaked it a bit each time, getting closer and closer to perfection...  And I am happy to report that it is has indeed been perfected :)

Adapted from Betty Crocker

  • 6-8 chicken thighs, rinsed and dried
  • 1 c. flour (make it GF by using equal parts sorghum, tapioca and brown rice flour)
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 1/2 onion, chopped/sliced
  • 6 carrots, scrubbed & cut into fourths (baby carrots work great, too)
  • 4 - 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 slices of bacon OR 2 chicken sausage links, diced
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • 1/2 t. dried parsley (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (opt)
  1. Combine flour, 2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper into a large ziplock bag.  Add chicken and coat evenly in flour mixture.  Remove chicken and set aside.  And throw that nasty bag away!
  2. Heat a large cast iron pot over medium heat.  Cook bacon/sausage until done.  Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Allow pot to get nice and hot and add the dredged chicken in single layers.  Cook for two minutes per side, or until brown.  Remove chicken from pot and set aside.
  4. Add onions, carrots and mushrooms to pot.  Cook for one minute, add garlic and cook for a minute longer.
  5. Add chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, 1/2 t. salt and thyme.  Stir well.
  6. Place chicken on top and sprinkle with bacon.  Remove from heat.  Cover pot and place in a 275 degree oven.
  7. For every pound of chicken, cook for 1 - 1.5 hours.  So if you have 3 pounds of chicken, cook for 3 - 4.5 hours.
  8. Remove from oven and serve with mashed potatoes.  You can use the liquid straight from the pot, or you can make a killer gravy with it.
  9. Another option is to let it sit overnight in the fridge and serve it the next day.  This allows the fat to raise to the service and solidify, making it easier to remove before reheating.  That is, if you want to...

The original recipe is called "Coq Au Vin" which is French for "chicken with wine".  As you may have noticed, my recipe does not use wine.  That's where the extra cup of chicken broth, plus the apple cider vinegar, comes from.  That's my secret wine substitute.  And I will have you know that both of my parents speak French, one lived in Quebec while the other lived in France, and both think this dish is awesome!  So there.  *B

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

how to meal plan

I love planning meals!  But then again, I'm a list-maker (not to be confused with a list-follower).  I've been consistently planning meals for our family for years, and I forget how daunting it can seem for others.  I've planned meals for more people than I can count, and I've even considered starting a meal planning business...  But who knows if/when that will ever happen!  So in the meantime, I thought I'd put together a list (!) of how I go about planning, in hopes of helping anyone out there who might be interested:

1.  List as many of your family favorite meals off the top of your head.

2.  Go through cookbooks and websites to help jog your memory and/or come up with meals you’d like to try.

3.  Organize your meals into seven categories.  For example: Mexican, Italian, Vegetarian, Soups, Salads, etc.

4.  Decide on your food-related goals: Eat fish once a week, have a leftovers night, incorporate more meatless meals, take-out, etc.

5.  Create theme nights based off of steps 3 and 4.  Assign each day of the week with a type of meal to plan around.  Use silly names to make it fun and exciting: Mexican Monday, Oriental Tuesday, Twisted Wednesday (recycled leftovers), Authentic Thursday, TGIFriday, Super Simple Saturday, Special Sunday.

6.  Refer back to your list of meals from steps 1 and 2.  Start plugging meal ideas into your theme nights, while keeping your nutritional goals in mind: Fish once a week = fish tacos for Mexican Monday one week, and shrimp scampi for Authentic Thursday the following week.

7.  Make sure to schedule date nights and intersperse difficult/experimental meals with fast/easy meals.  Save the fancy stuff for the weekends, when you have more time.  Make new meals out of old ones (leftovers), so you're left with minimal prep work while diversifying your meals: Leftover pot roast from Sunday will make for a great beef stew on Wednesday.

8.  Start with scheduling 1-2 weeks at a time.  Gradually build up to a month’s worth of meals, then four months.  Repeat your rotation of meals every three months and before you know it you’ll have a year’s worth of meals planned!

9.  Print out your year’s worth of meals and file away in a binder.  Include a calendar for each month, with its corresponding recipes and shopping lists for future use.  Keep pages in clear sheet protectors to protect them from spills and such.  OR if you’d rather have your meal plan in a digital format, look into ZipList or RecipeBox.  There are a lot of websites and apps available that help keep your meals organized, which makes it readily accessible if you keep a smart phone or tablet with you.

10.  Print out a weekly calendar and display it on the fridge to ward off the dreaded “What’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner?” question(s).  This way kids know what they’re eating and when they’re eating it.

11.  Make it easy: Keep breakfasts, lunches and snacks simple so you’re not burned out come dinner time.

12.  The other way to plan meals is to plan around your grocery store’s current deals, or after you visit your local farmer’s market, or CSA pick-up.  This makes planning a year’s worth of meals more difficult, but you should be able to think ahead and plan around the seasons’ harvest.  Or better yet, use your meal plan to help rotate through your food storage!

And that's that!  Do you like planning meals?  I would love to hear what works for you!  Feel free to use my weekly calendar (above) as a guide to help you create your own (below).  Just right-click, open in new tab/window, zoom, save, and print :)

Happy planning!  *B

Monday, March 04, 2013

Meal Plan: 3/4 - 3/10

Gasp!  A meal plan?  Yes, yes it is.  This is me attempting to get back in the swing of things...

Mexican Monday: awesome meatless chili w/ cornbread
Oriental Tuesday: maple-glazed salmon w/ brown rice & roasted veggies
Twisted Wednesday: skillet hash OR quiche
Authentic Thursday: baked chicken w/ butternut squash sauce & grilled veggie quinoa
TGIFriday: swedish meatballs w/ mashed potatoes
Super Saturday: DATE NIGHT
Special Sunday: potato soup w/ mighty muffins

Upcoming recipe: The much anticipated and long-time coming Coq Sans Vin.  That's French for "chicken without wine".  And let me tell you, it's amazing!  *B

Friday, March 01, 2013

free eating

Our decision to go gluten free started a year ago.  To be honest, it really started years ago, before me and the hub were even married.  Brad has always been sensitive to wheat, so we've never really been wheat fiends.  And we still eat wheat on occasion.  No, we do not have celiac disease.  But we are all gluten intolerant.  It not only bothers our tummies when eaten in large amounts, but it also effects our moods and behavior.

Will was really struggling in school.  Not academically, but socially and emotionally.  He was starting to have some serious breakdowns that were beginning to affect his work.  And then one day, he got this crazy rash around his eyes.  We hadn't switched laundry soap and it wasn't seasonal allergies.  So my thoughts turned to food, as usual ;)

I'd like to think we eat pretty healthy.  We're wary of food dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG.  And now I've added wheat and dairy to our watch list.  The rash cleared up and has never returned.  We made a few other changes at home (like limiting screen time), and Will's behavior has improved.  He stopped acting out and shutting down.  He's always been an intense child, has a hard time focusing, and gets distracted easily.  But he's a boy, and instead of labeling him as something he's not (ADHD), we've worked on improving our diet and I've seen a noticeable change.

We still limit our wheat and dairy intake, and anytime I get lax on it Will reacts almost immediately.  It's usually after a difficult week at home/school that I'll start to look back on what we've been eating.  That slice of birthday cake, the cookie at church, and the crackers at school start to add up and it shows.  I've also noticed that the kids are more tired, ornery and have dark circles under their eyes whenever we eat too much wheat/dairy.

Actually, we're all sick and tired after a wheat/dairy binge.  So it's best to just save it for special occasions.  Besides, I think most people can afford to eat less wheat.  I love the challenge going gluten free has presented me with.  Did you know that there are 19 whole grains?  NINETEEN!!!  If anything, eat less wheat so you can eat more (other) grains.  Think of all the nutrients and flavors you might be missing out on!

I understand how intimidating it might be to change your eating habits.  But it is entirely possible and not nearly as impossible as you might think!  I know that going gluten free is viewed as the latest food fad, but feel free to use that to your advantage.  There are so many more foods readily available.  It's never been easier to experiment with more grains than it is today.  Just remember that the less processed you eat, the better.

Also, going gluten free is not necessarily a weight-loss miracle cure. Some people can, and do, lose weight by going gluten free because they start eating a more whole-food diet.  It's great that you can find so many gluten free snacks and treats nowadays, but again, save those for special occasions.  Instead, eat more fruits and vegetables.  And please, eat more grains.  Experiment, and have fun.  And enjoy food again.

Because it's not about what you can't eat, it's about what you can eat!  *B

Thursday, February 14, 2013

eat your heart out

And happy Valentine's Day to you, too!  *B

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Single Serving Coffee Cake (gluten free)

I don't typically encourage the frequent use of the microwave - too many nutrients lost.  But sometimes, you just have to have your cake and eat it, too!  I was hungry this morning, and wanted something to go with my yogurt.  Coffee cake happens to be one of my favorite pairings with yogurt, but I was hungry now and didn't want to make the mess or take the time required for the real deal.  So, I came up with this happy substitute:

  • 1 T. butter OR coconut oil
  • 2-3 t. brown sugar OR honey
  • 1 t. unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3 drops of vanilla
  • 2 T. tapioca flour
  • 1 T. sorghum flour
  • 1 T. ground flax
  • 1 T. oats
  • 1 T. chopped walnuts
  • pinch of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter (or coconut oil) in the microwave in a ramekin.  Stir in the sugar (or honey), apple sauce, and vanilla.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the ramekin and stir until well combined.
  4. Smooth down batter and microwave for 45-60 seconds, or until cooked through.  Length of cooking depends on your microwave settings, so peek on your cake every 15 seconds.  Take care not to let it burn, or explode!
Add a dollop, or two, of your favorite yogurt and you're off to a good morning start!  If you don't mind gluten, and don't have any GF flours on hand, then you can make up your own flour blend with whole wheat flour, unbleached white flour, and wheat germ.  Or just use 4 T. of all purpose flour in place of the tapioca, sorghum and flax.  This would be super delish with some chopped apples or raisins thrown in too.  Customize it to your taste and dietary needs and enjoy!  *B

PS- Sorry for the terrible pictures from here on out.  I have no decent camera, only an old iPhone.  And we've recently moved from sunny AZ to cloudy WA, so any picture will always be suffering from poor lighting...

PPS- Yes, I'm back!  I have a slew of recipes to share, and most of them (if not all) are gluten free.  I've learned a lot in our journey to be less gluten dependent, and I'd like to help anyone out there wanting to do the same.  It seems scary and near impossible at first, but it really isn't as bad or as hard as you'd think.  You can do it!  I promise :)