Welcome to my kitchen! Sit right down and join me for something yummy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Cannings of the Summer

I love to can food for our family! I love the process, I love the results!  I love to store the food in my china cabinet and just look at it!  :)  BUT we have had a very dry summer and the garden hasn't done as well as usual!  

We planted beets for the first time this year and they did really good.  I was able to can some pickled beets and I also made some pickled eggs/beets.  They turned out really good!  Next came the cucumbers.  A couple of years ago I found a recipe I liked for pickles, and I was able to do that again this year.  They turned out nice!

 Above is a close up of my pickles.  I made some regular dill and I made some spicy dill.  Can you see the pickles with the red at the bottom of the jar?  That's the spicy pickles.  I used jalapenos and some red pepper flakes!

You can see the pickles and the beets in this shot.  I'm hoping to make salsa later this week or next week!  Mmmm....can't wait!

Layered Mediterranean Tortellini Salad


Okay, these pictures do not do this justice!  Beth found this salad on Pinterest (where else?) and it is a keeper!  We all loved it and there were no leftovers!  :(

I love the red of the tomatoes, the green of the basil, the purple of the onion, and the black olives!  So pretty!

So, here's the recipe so you can try the wonderfulness!

  • 1 package (18 oz) Cheese Tortellini (or use two different kinds)
  • 6 tablespoons bottled light Greek or Italian dressing,divided
  • 2 cups whole cherry or pear tomatoes, cut in half (I diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced cucumber
  • 1 can (13.75 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 can (6 ounces) pitted whole ripe olives, drained (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) Parmesan Cheese
Prepare pasta according to package directions; rinse in cold water then drain well. Place half of the tortellini in one bowl and the remainder in another bowl. Add 2 tablespoons salad dressing to each bowl; toss gently to coat.
PLACE tomatoes in large glass serving bowl; drizzle with 1 tablespoon salad dressing. Top with half of the tortellini, all the feta cheese, all red onion and all the basil; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon salad dressing. Top with remaining tortellini, cucumbers, artichokes and olives. Cover; refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Season with pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Easy Jambalaya

I mentioned Easy Jambalaya earlier in the week on my Two Week Meal Plan post.  Well, we tried it tonight and it was a big hit!  I did change some of the things in the original recipe, of course, so I thought I'd better write it down so I don't forget.  I'll probably play around with it again in the future...trying different meats, etc.  So, here's the original recipe with my changes:

Easy Jambalaya

  • 2 tablespoons butter  (I used 1 Tbsp)
  • ½ pound of sausage (preferably andoullie) or bacon  (I used pre-prepared hamburger that was in the freezer)
  • 1 large bell pepper, any color, in large dice
  • 1 large onion, in large dice
  • 3 ribs celery, in large dice
  • 1 small head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (sold premixed or make some) (I used THIS recipe and *gasp* I used about 3 TABLESPOONS of the mix. We like lots of spice!)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (no need for extra salt and pepper)
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped (or equivalent quantity of cherry tomatoes)
  • 3/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves (I didn't have any, so I omitted. It would be good though.)
  • 1.5 cups quick cooking brown rice (I don't have quick cooking rice, so I cooked my brown basmati rice in the rice cooker and added it.)
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth (if you don’t have any stock you could use water instead) (since I didn't cook my rice in the mix, I didn't need as much liquid. I just used enough chicken broth to get to the consistency I wanted...probably about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup water (I omitted)
  • 1/2 pint shucked oysters, with their liquor (optional)  (NOPE!)
  • Hot sauce, to taste (optional) (Neal and Beth used this, Ben and I didn't.)
  • Green onions for garnish  (Oh Yes!)  And we also threw on a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
  1. Combine the butter and sausage (or bacon) in a large soup pot over high heat. Cook for about 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, garlic, Creole seasoning, salt and black pepper to taste. Saute over high heat for about 8 minutes, or until the veggies have browned and carmelized.
  3. Add the tomatoes, shrimp, and bay leaves, and stir for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the rice, stir gently, then add the broth and water. Gently stir the rice again to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes (or until the rice is tender).
  6. Turn off the heat and fold in the oysters (if using), cover, and let sit for about 8 minutes. If not using oysters you can skip this step altogether.
  7. Garnish with green onions and serve.

This one will go on our meal rotation!  Yay!

Raw "Larabars"

Since I decided we are going to add more "real foods" to our diet, I thought it would be good to have some desserts and/or snacks.  I've never eaten store bought Larabars before, but when I looked at the recipe they sounded really good.  Actually there are many different recipes out there (some without nuts), but I finally narrowed it down (with some changes) and made the following recipe:

Raw "Larabars"
(energy bars)

4 cups pitted dates (mine were somewhat moist)
2 cups raw cashews (or whatever nut you like or have on hand)
1 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (this is what I had on hand)
2 tbsp peanut butter (I used PB2)
2 tsp vanilla

Optional additions:
unsweetened coconut
coffee granules

Line a 9" x 13" pan with a piece of parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the long sides. Set aside.

Add the cashews to a food processor and pulse until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the chocolate chips and pulse again until the chocolate chips are also finely chopped.  

Transfer nut/chocolate crumb mixture into a bowl and set aside. 

Add half of the dates to the food processor and process until a paste forms and clumps together in the bowl. Add in 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and half of the chocolate/nut mixture (if you are going to add anything else like coconut or coffee grounds do it now). Replace the lid and process until evenly combined. Scrape into the prepared pan.  

Repeat with the remaining dates, chocolate/nut mixture, vanilla and peanut butter. 

When all of the ingredients have been processed, wet your hands and use them to press the mixture as evenly over the bottom of the pan as possible. Fold the excess parchment over the bars to cover them and use something flat and heavy to press down firmly on the mixture until it is smooth. 

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and then slice.

Here is the link to the recipe I adapted mine from: Homemade Larabars

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Two Week Meal Plan

What has always worked best for me is meal planning.  I used to plan up to a month at a time and then shop for everything that was non-perishable, and then shop weekly for the perishable items for that week.  It worked well, but I got away from it due to the amount of time it took. A couple of nights ago, my daughter, Beth, and I sat down and chose meals that we want to eat over the next two weeks.  I don't have recipes for all of them right now, but for those that I do have, I will link.

We won't eat these in any particular order...I still like a bit of spontaneity to our suppers...but I can just look at the list each day and choose a meal.

Salad -- we all like salads, so I think we'll probably eat a salad each week.  We always have spinach on hand and right now we also have romaine lettuce.  We have cucumbers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and I usually cook some chicken to throw on top.

Salmon, Ribbon Salad (just some thinly sliced veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, and carrots in a marinade), brown basmati rice.

Chicken Fajitas (just chicken breast cut into strips, sliced onions, sliced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms sauteed in a little olive oil with spices added - chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt) and refried beans.

Easy Jambalaya

Curried Cabbage with Chicken

Portabello Mushrooms Burgers (I marinate the mushrooms in Italian dressing and then grill and I use my whole wheat buns), steamed green beans (fresh from the garden!) and Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Fresh Basil 

Grilled Chicken (marinated in Italian dressing), brown basmati rice, green beans

Cauliflower Pizza -- Beth found this on Pinterest and wanted to try it.

Layered Mediterranean Tortellini Salad - This one wouldn't be considered "real food" but it does look good and relatively healthy (and Beth wants to try it!  :)

Omelettes (we have chickens, so the eggs are really good!), turkey bacon and fruit

Baked Chicken Tenders, sweet potato fries (fresh sweet potatoes sliced and baked in the oven), vegetable (not sure which one yet)

Well, that's not quite two weeks worth, but I'm sure we'll have leftovers a time or two, and we also have frozen tilapia in the freezer.

I'll post later about a couple of snacks I've tried this week.

Real Food

I've been reading a lot of "real food" food blogs lately and I'm intrigued.  I'm in my mid-40's, overweight, and tired of trying diets.  My body is crying out for healthier food, and I don't mean diet food.  My first step to eating healthier was when I started grinding my own wheat and baking all our bread about four years ago.  This was a great move!  My family loves the bread and actually craves it when we have to eat store bought bread. About the same time we started eating brown rice (specifically brown basmati) and whole rolled oats.  We just recently switched from skim milk to organic 2% or whole milk.

So, I thought I'd start working on this blog again, but this time I want to focus on healthier meals.  I know all the foods we eat are not considered "real foods" but that's the direction I'm moving in.  I hope you enjoy this journey with me!