My Fab Fam

My Fab Fam
Photo by Thousand Hills Photography. Click on photo to visit their site.

Monday, October 20, 2014

On the Menu

Reality check.

So, I realize that my blog has become all about food lately, and let's just state the obvious: food is a priority in my life. We have to eat to live and I want to eat as healthy as I can, and I want my family to eat as healthy as we can. But I've come to realize from several convos I've had with friends and family lately that there is a perception out there that I am cooking wholesome, healthy meals, like every night. In this case, perception is NOT reality.

Let me try to paint a real picture: I am a walking contradiction, sometimes freaking out over my food and sometimes throwing my hands up in defeat as I pull in a drive-thru and sometimes just saying, "I don't even care," as I buy chocolate donuts. I want to eat food the way God created it, unaltered and without additives but...life is busy and sometimes whole foods just take too long...whole foods are expensive unless you grow and make them all yourself and then that's time consuming...I've tasted some of the empty calories and they taste so, so good, i.e. Entenmann's chocolate donuts. I do the best I can, but I am far from eating clean 100% of the time.

I don't freak out over real sugar or real fat (butter, clean oils), because they are natural products, but I do have to watch them because the Mr's cholesterol is on the verge of being high. However, I do try to avoid MSG, preservatives, saturated fats, GMO's, artificial colors and flavors, and any other weird ingredients. Does that mean we never eat them? No. A very big, loud no. But I try to cook clean for supper and weekend meals. Breakfast and lunch is just whatever I can do with a semi-clear conscience. We do eat out some. And we can pretty much be relied upon for having pizza once every week or two.

Honestly, on weekdays we do well to get breakfast in bellies before getting to school, and most of it is eaten in the car on the way. It's usually a Kashi bar or Nature's Path version of a Pop-tart. I try to make my own granola, granola bars, and bread to use for toast, but that only happens maybe half the time. Lunch is usually a mix of any of the following: fruit (fresh or dried), some type of veggie (cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, etc.), nuts, cheese, hummus, Sunbutter, and crackers (I prefer rice crackers, but will use others that don't have weird ingredients).

I know from all the convos I have with you all out there that I am super blessed to have a family that will eat left-overs. The Mr doesn't love them more than once, but even he can be persuaded to eat the same meal up to three times if I can find a way to vary it just a little each time. So, when I tell you all on here about the fun foods I might be making, don't think it happens every day. N to the O. I am notorious for fixing a meal that can be eaten for at least two or three days. Sometimes, if it's a recipe the Mr doesn't love, the girls and I will eat it for lunch. But the point is, momma ain't cooking every night. Noooo. Here's a quick glance at some weekly menus.

Last week's menu...

Monday:
cooked pot of black beans to use in Monday's supper:  Spicy Spaghetti Squash (recipe here)

Tuesday:
left-over Spicy Spaghetti Squash

Wednesday:
More of Monday's black beans with cheese and sour cream and roasted sweet potato fries

Thursday:
A friend gave us some ribs and salad; I re-heated Wednesday's sweet potato fries to go with, and I made black bean brownies with the last of the beans. My man does not eat those.

Friday:
We ordered pizza.

Saturday:
Spaghetti (a box and a jar) and re-heated frozen rolls


On the menu for this week...

Sunday:
We were all sick and stayed home from church so I got to fix breakfast, which almost never happens. We had homemade pancakes (recipe below) and scrambled eggs for breakfast,
Sonic BLT's for lunch, and
Jamaican pork tenderloin for sup (recipe found here)

Monday:
The girls are home sick from school, so we are eating the left-over pork for lunch, and for sup:  French Onion Soup (recipe found here)

Here's the plan for the rest of the week...

Tuesday:
left-over French Onion Soup

Wednesday:
Veggie Omelettes (just eggs, milk, veggies, cheddar) and toast

Thursday:
Chicken enchiladas (I was going to make Sunday, but didn't have everything I needed; so, I'm making them later this week. Recipe found here.)

Friday:
left-over Chicken enchiladas or something fast (...because it's Friday and who cooks on Friday? Maybe I'll have a date night with the Mr.)

Saturday:
Veggie soup (just throwing things in a pot)

Sunday:
Left-over veggie soup

See? It really isn't that exciting in my kitchen. I do love to cook. I do try to cook healthy. But I'm not cooking every night of the week. And we do love our pizza. Oh! And Entenmann's chocolate donuts. I know, I know, loaded with nasty stuff. Let's not talk about it; I'm not willing to give those things up. Yet.

I thank God for the garden goodies frozen in my garage freezer, for organic farmers who make up for my incompetence as a gardener, for conscientious food suppliers like Kashi, Cascadian Farms, and Nature's Path, for the times I get to make clean meals, and for the way whole foods taste and fill us up. But I also thank Him for the empty-calorie-tastiness of Entenmann's chocolate donuts. In heaven, they will be good for us.

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Attitude of Gratitude, because it's been a year since I actually listed things at the end of a post. Wow. A year.

#291. Fall weather
292. windows open
293. bread rising
294. time with a friend
295. time at home
296. my girls home with me today
297. an amazingly patient man
298. items checked off my to-do list
299. scones I didn't have to make, and
300. Just this, our chalkboard door getting filled up with verses baby girl is learning in preK, one for every letter of the alphabet. And that is a door at the bottom of the door, drawn by baby girl herself.




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Homemade pancakes:

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 c. milk (or add until you get the consistency you desire)
1 egg
3 T. butter, melted

Mix all. Let rest a minute while skillet heats. Cook in a buttered iron skillet over med-low heat. Serve with real maple syrup.




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas (Sauce, Salsa, and Tortillas)

So, I'm about to make chicken enchiladas with some left-over roasted chicken and I got on here, my blog, to look up the recipe I always use to make the sauce and lo! The recipe is not on my blog! I'm happy to report I had bookmarked it in my browser. Whew! So, I'm copying it below so I don't have to sweat it again next time I need it. =)

Easy Enchilada Sauce

2 T. veg oil
2 T. flour
2 T. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 c. water
1 (8 oz) can tomato paste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat the oil, flour, and chili powder together in a small pot. Allow to cook for about a minute. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a slow simmer. Stir well to combine and dissolve tomato paste in water. Allow to cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I double the batch and freeze into the portion size needed to make my enchiladas. One time making sauce for about four batches of enchiladas. Boom!

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As for the enchiladas...

Make Jami Nato's whole wheat flour tortillas (found below).
Make salsa (my recipe is below) or use a jar of your fave.
Pour a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
Fill tortillas with chicken, salsa, and cheese.
Lay filled and rolled tortillas side by side in the pan.
Cover with enchilada sauce and more cheese.
Bake 15-20 mins at 375 degrees.
Devour.

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Jami Nato's Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas:

Ingredients
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil (such as grape seed oil, canola oil)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water

Directions

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands, work the oil into the flour mixture until evenly distributed. Pour in hot water and continue to mix with your hands until mixture comes together, ¼ cup at a time, adding additional hot water as needed. Knead the mixture in the bowl or on the countertop by hand until smooth. The dough should be damp, soft and relaxed. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. 

2. Divide the dough into 10 golf ball size pieces, about 1 ¼-inch. Roll each piece into a lightly floured surface into a 6-inch round using a rolling pin.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook a rolled tortilla in hot skillet until the bubbles begin to appear on the surface, then flip tortilla to opposite side and cook until golden brown spots start to appear on bottom. Immediately transfer cooked tortilla to tortilla server or a baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve hot.

These can be stored in the frig for about a week or the freezer for much longer. Again, I usually double the batch and freeze some.

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And here are some salsa ideas...

My sister-in-law came up with this one. Everyone in my family makes it a little differently. Play with the ratios til you come up with just the right taste for you.

1 can of stewed tomatoes
drop of garlic juice
about a teaspoon of sugar
splash of vinegar
a couple of tablespoons pickled jalapenos
salt and pepper to taste
Blend in blender to preferred consistency.

If I have fresh ingredients, I prefer them. This is my fave quick salsa:

1 can stewed tomatoes
2-3 garlic cloves
about 1/4 of a small onion
a LOT of cilantro =)
cayenne, or any pepper of your choice
sugar
salt
pepper

Blend...then practice self-restraint:  try not to eat the whole batch by yourself.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Black Beans...WHAT??

I made brownies. Black bean brownies. Again. Only this time I can not taste the black beans - at all! For reals. I know some of you skeptics won't believe me, but really. My eldest claimed she could taste them but I think it's because she knew they were in there. A friend that tried them said she couldn't taste them at all. The only problem with these brownies is I didn't grind my coffee long enough; so, the texture isn't smooth but has a little grit to it. I know; not so awesome, but the flavor is! And I'm getting fiber and Omega-3's while satisfying my never-ending chocolate craving. Win-win!

So, here's what I used:

approx 1 1/2 c. black beans (I used some of the cooked beans I had left-over from the spicy spaghetti squash.)
2 T. flax seed
3 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. cocoa
1 c. raw sugar
1 T. coffee (Be sure it's finely ground!)
1 T. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
approx 1/2 c. mini choc chips
approx 1/2 c. white choc. chips

I mixed all the dry ingredients in the Ninja. Then poured all the wet ingredients in and mixed until smooth. Poured in muffin tin and baked about 25 mins (or less) at 350 degrees.

Uh, one more thing: I WILL use muffin liners next time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pumpkin Muffins, Spaghetti Squash, and Shabbat

Did I say we wrapped up fall break on Saturday? Well, perhaps I had visions of a Sunday Shabbat spent on the couch in PJ's, reading and drinking hot tea, but the Mr had a better idea. We went to a nearby state park for the afternoon. We packed a picnic lunch, pulled on jeans and jackets, went to Bible study, then drove straight to the park. We hiked several small trails, got a great work-out on the paddle boats, and talked trash on the putt-putt golf course. Turns out the only one that had the right to talk a big game was my man, who outscored the second-place player - yes, that would be me - by about 15 points. I hang my head in shame. Or not.

On our way home, we detoured to a nearby pizza place and got our grub on. We pulled in the driveway at the girls' bedtime, gave them a quick bath, and put them to bed.

We had more fun than we've had in a while. We hope to go back in a couple of weeks when all the leaves have turned fall colors. And I see a longer trail with an overnight camp-out in our near future.



And, now I must tell you about my latest adventures in the kitchen, not because I think any of you really care, but because I want to save these recipes and this blog has become my online cookbook.

Saturday night I made pumpkin muffins. I found the recipe on Foodnetwork.com. It's from Ellie Krieger, of whom I know absolutely nothing about, by the way, except that I like her muffins. Here is the link.  And following is my variation of the recipe. (I really wonder...could I follow a recipe if my very life depended on it?)

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger (I omitted)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (funny story to follow)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
5 T. maple syrup
3 oz. canola oil (1/4 + 1/8 c. oil)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk (I used about 1/4 c. regular milk because my fresh pumpkin was so watery.)

Whisk the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Whisk the sugar, maple syrup, and oil. Add eggs one at a time. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and milk. Add flour mixture gradually. Mix just until combined. (I used the Kitchen Aid mixer for every step.)

Pour into muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Let cool on wire rack.

YUM!!

Okay, now here is the truth: I was slightly, only very slightly, disappointed with the results. It is no fault of the recipe. The muffins are truly delish! The prob is I thought I was making CUPCAKES. I mean, when I Googled "pumpkin muffins," and was imagining "cupcakes," Google should have known what I was thinking! Duh. So, when I bit into a rather heavy, not-as-sweet muffin when I was expecting light, sweet cupcakes...well, you can see why I was disappointed. No bother. I will slather them in cream cheese icing and they will be sweet if not light. 

Perhaps next time I will search for pumpkin cake, then bake as cupcakes. 

Oh me.

Oh, and if you're wondering why all the measurements seem a little weird, that's because I portioned my pumpkin for a CUPCAKE recipe (my old one called for 1 1/2 c pumpkin). So, I had to adjust all the other ingredients in this MUFFIN recipe to fit the amount of pumpkin I already had pre-portioned for cupcakes. Now, the math is already done for you. Welcome.

As for the funny story, which of course won't be all that funny since I'm not all that funny, here's the deal with the cloves...

...recipe calls for ground cloves. I only have whole cloves. I pull out the Ninja and throw what is prob a tablespoon of cloves in my smallest cup and push down the button. When I let off the button and the cloves stop spinning, I see the cloves are still mostly intact, but my poor blender has taken a beating; the sides are scratched all to pieces. Hmmm. Not good. I pull out the coffee grinder. First, I have to wash the coffee grinder to remove years' and years' accumulation of coffee grit and oil. (No, I have never washed my grinder. Who does that?) This is not a quick procedure. I then throw about a tablespoon of cloves in THERE. Voila! Ground cloves! Only problem - besides the fact that I could have gone to the store and bought ground cloves quicker than I was able to grind them at home - my coffee maker now smells very strongly of cloves! I guess I will be having my very own version of pumpkin spice lattes at home for a while. Happy fall to me!

And Monday, I made this recipe, which just happens to be the best recipe I have tried in a long time: Spicy Spaghetti Squash!  It is found at wholefoodsmarket.com. This is a picture of mine, but it looked way better in person, truly! Especially with sour cream, salsa, and cheese!



  • 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange squash in a large baking dish, cut-sides down. Pour 1/2 cup water into the dish and bake until just tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Rake with a fork to remove flesh in strands, leaving the shell intact for stuffing.

For the filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño and bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes or until soft. Add beans, corn and chili powder; cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute longer. Add cooked squash, cilantro, lime juice and salt, cook 1 minute until heated through.

Fill squash halves with filling, mounding mixture in the center.

Believe it or not, I hardly messed with this recipe. I simply doubled the black beans and corn, and was possibly a little more liberal with the cilantro and lime. The Mr said, "You should have added a little cilantro." Dripping sarcasm. Of course I added tons of cilantro! I served with salsa, sour cream, and a good aged white cheddar that was gifted to us. I did have to pick out the jalepenos since the ones I used were from my freezer and had the seeds intact. Whew! I am such a wimp when it comes to heat these days.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

As We Wrap Up Fall Break

And thus concludes our fall break. Ahhhh. It has been so, so good.

Today we hung out at home again. My man had homework (he's going back to school for those that may not know); so, he was in our bedroom all day. Well, he did take time to play monster with the girls a few times. I balanced the checkbook, placed my Honest order, and cleaned the kitchen with roars, screams, and laughter as my background music.

The girls wanted to paint the pumpkins they got at the pumpkin patch this week, which evolved into using paint markers and permanent markers. Which suited me just fine. Less mess.




A girl and her horse!

Meanwhile, I roasted my pumpkin and toasted the seeds. We finally found a recipe we all love; this one's a keeper:

Toss pumpkin seeds with butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Roast in a single layer at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes. Crispy and flava-ful! (I did not rinse the seeds because I didn't want to waste the time letting them dry, but I did remove as much goop as possible. The girls helped me dig out all the seeds before I roasted the pumpkin; we called our operation "scoop the goop.")

For supper, I needed to use up a small jar of stewed tomatoes that I made the other night, some bell peppers I got out of my garden this week, and a little bit of left-over white wine. I love Google; I just typed in "pasta white wine veggies" and a whole list of recipes popped up. Isn't that a beautiful thing? This was the one I chose, and as the Mr said, it's a keeper:

Garlic-Butter-White Wine Pasta
(We of course added our own touch. We sauteed green bells and onions in butter, then tossed in the drained stewed tomatoes at the last minute to heat them up, then poured the pasta and sauce in with the veggies. OH! And I used the super-awesomeness of basil-infused olive oil for step 1. I didn't have parsley, but I chopped the basil from the oil and added it back in at the very end. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, see this post.)


1 lb pasta
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
5 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
1/2 cup grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese

preparation

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until golden, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add salt, pepper, white wine, butter.
4. Stir 2 minutes, remove from heat.
5. Toss pasta with sauce, parsley, and cheese.


You will love it.

And you may be happy to know - but nearly as happy as I am - that I have almost finished washing the mildewy winter coats. I have soaked every single one in diluted bleach water without any negative effects. YIPEEEEE!!! How can I prevent this from happening again???

Okay, time to get some pumpkin muffins baking and in my tummy. Then date night on the couch with my man. Tomorrow I shabbat. Church, left-overs, books, movies, hot drinks, blankets, snuggles...

Love to all...