Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the Kitchen with my Sous Chef (Video Post)

Over the weekend, the toddler and I spent some time in the kitchen, using some of the products we received through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and Newman’s Own. We also used the Flip Camera we received to record a video.

We decided to make a healthy, colorful, and tasty brown rice pasta salad with lots of veggies, including broccoli coleslaw mix, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, peas, celery, and cucumber. We coated the pasta and the veggies with the juice of one lemon and then lightly dressed the salad with the Newman’s Own Lighten Up Caesar Dressing.

The salad turned out delicious!

If you want to see some of the fun my sous chef and I were having, check out the video we made:

Again, thanks Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, Newman’s Own, and Flip Camera!

And thanks everyone for your continued support and your thoughts and prayers for my dad. We truly appreciate your support!

Questions: Do you like pasta salad? What’s in your favorite pasta salad? 

Be well,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Comfort Food and a Video Project

Thank you very much for all your support regarding my dad via comments and e-mails. I really, really appreciate it! I spoke to my dad just a little while ago for the first time after his diagnosis, and he reminded me of what a thoughtful, caring, and special man he is. After lots of tests, the doctors decided that he can start radiation treatment a week from Monday, which is good news. We have a long and uncertain road ahead of us, but we are hoping for the best. Again, thanks for your support and prayers, and don’t forget to live life to the fullest every day! In the past few days, I have remembered one of my favorite quotes more than ever:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” – Mary Jean Iron

To provide us some comfort, I made one of my favorite comfort foods: a big pot of soup. To be more specific, barley soup with veggies and some chicken. It hit the spot!

Also, we received a nice distraction in the mail thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program: Newman Own’s pasta sauces, salad dressings, coupons for pizzas AND a flip video camera! My sous chef, aka the toddler, and I are now supposed to cook a meal in less than 30 minutes and make a video. That’s our weekend project. And while I really didn’t feel like it at first given everything that’s going on, it’s actually a very welcomed distraction.

Thanks Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, Newman’s Own, and Flip Video! We are looking forward to creating a meal and a video! 

Questions: Any exciting weekend plans? I hope to take a yoga class. As stated above, we’ll also try to make a video. And I’ll spend some time catching up on blogs… Smile What’s your favorite comfort food? For me, it’s definitely any type of soup… 

Be well,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Berry Banana Smoothie in a Bowl

A few weeks ago, I “discovered” strawberry banana soft serve. Up to that point, I had only had “regular” banana soft serve, and I loved the color and the taste that the strawberries added. I asked for suggestions as to what to add to banana soft serve in the comments, and several of you suggested Greek yogurt for some protein. Great idea! There were also other amazing suggestions, and I can’t wait to try them over the next weeks…

I had a giant bag of mixed organic berries from Costco in the freezer. I decided to use lots of berries and lots of yogurt, so the end result was less a soft serve but more a cold smoothie in a bowl. Hubby and the toddler loved it!

Berry Banana Smoothie in a Bowl

  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • Put the frozen berries in a food processor and puree.
  • Add the frozen banana and the yogurt and work until smooth.
  • Enjoy! Smile 
Servings: 2
Prep Time: 2 minutes

I loved the color of this smoothie! The mixed berries and the yogurt gave it the most amazing shade of pink! And I love pink! Smile

Instead of a question, I ask you to hug someone you love right now. As I was writing this post, I got a phone call from my sister. My sister is not one to call out of the blue, so I got a knot in my stomach right away. My dad was admitted to the hospital today. They found a tumor behind his eye yesterday, and the doctors believe it has likely spread. He’ll have to have surgery and start radiation next week. We don’t know much at this point, and he’ll undergo more testing in the next few days. Being on another continent makes this even harder… I love living here, but in times like these, I really hate being so far away from home… Not sure how much I’ll get around to your blogs or how often I’ll update my blog…

Be well,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How To Drink Less Coffee

I have been drinking coffee as long as I can remember. Well, maybe not quite that long, but for a long, long time. I love coffee and everything that comes with it: its smell, its taste, and the ritual of taking a “coffee break.” And I love the little kick it gives me to get through the afternoon, and I couldn’t live without it. Well, at least that’s what I thought for a long time.

Coffee has some potential health benefits, but too much coffee is certainly not good. Over the years, I have tried to “quit” a few times as I felt I had become too dependent on coffee, but it never worked. I always attempted to quit “cold turkey” and was left with horrible headaches. Plus I felt like I couldn’t get through the afternoons. So I tried to “cut back.” And I always would for a while. I’d have a cup in the morning and one in the early afternoon. But I would always slowly but surely increase my intake to two cups in the morning and to two in the afternoon and then some.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was tired of my “coffee cycle” of trying to drink a reasonable amount and ultimately always ending up drinking too much again. I remembered when I stopped drinking diet soda. Several years ago, I drank way too much diet soda but was able to stop completely by first banning it from my house and then elsewhere.  I never thought I could live without my diet soda, but I can and life is a lot better…

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop drinking coffee “cold turkey.” I had tried it before, and it didn’t work. Plus, I still wanted to drink one cup a day, and I was pretty sure that I could do it. And that’s what I did. I also knew that making a pot of coffee, which somehow always meant “extra coffee,” would be a problem, so I switched to single serve instant coffee (I really like Starbucks Via and buy it at Costco). While I prefer organic, fair trade whole bean coffee, I knew that having whole bean coffee and a coffee maker in the kitchen would just tempt me too much. I therefore used up the last of our coffee beans and didn’t buy anymore. I also “retired” our coffee maker. Hubby was shocked. I actually “made” him start drinking coffee a few years ago, and he now drinks one cup a day. He has also tried to tell me to drink less for a long time…

So how is it going? Great. Much, much better than expected. Honestly. I get up every morning and make one cup of instant coffee. When I finish it, I’m done with my coffee for the day. My brain gets it! Do I get any headaches? I had a very slight headache the first two days, but I’m not even sure it was from the “coffee withdrawals.” How about that afternoon slump? It didn’t really happen. In fact, hubby commented just yesterday that I seem to have a lot more energy now that I drink less coffee…

How about the coffee ritual? I replaced my many cups of coffee with other beverages, mostly green and herbal teas. And I love it. Green tea does contain some caffeine, but a lot less than coffee. Plus, green tea has a lot of health benefits. Dr. Weil just recently wrote about the benefits of green tea on his blog.

If you want to drink less coffee, here is how you may be able to break the coffee habit:
  • Only make one cup and not a whole pot
  • Plan for a substitute drink – I like green and herbal teas and “interesting” water with frozen citrus and berries
  • Treat yourself to a new mug and thereby start a “new ritual”
  • Consider retiring your coffee maker
Questions: What’s your favorite beverage? Do you drink coffee? If so, how much do you drink? Do you think you drink too much? Have you ever cut back or given up drinking coffee? If so, what was your experience?

Be well,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Toddler + No Nap + Slightly Stressed Parents = Seven Layer Dip for Dinner

The toddler is transitioning into not taking naps, and while we love the much earlier bed times, late afternoons can be ROUGH. The other day, after several nap-less days (and a much more unreasonable toddler than usual), I decided that we needed some comfort food and created my own version of a seven layer dip. Not only was this a super easy and fast dinner, but it also provided some much needed comfort food for hubby and me… Smile 

Seven Layer Dip (Starting with Layer 1)
  • Organic baby lettuce blend
  • Spiced, warm lentils
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole, just a very thin layer
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Cheese, just a little
  • Green Onions

While I tried to keep the dip healthy, we did scoop the dip up with plenty of tortilla chips. I know, veggies would have been healthier, but sometimes you  just got to do what you got to do…

Hubby thought that the seven layer dip ingredients would also make an excellent burrito filling. Great idea! Our “Stress-relief burrito” will be coming soon! Smile

Question: What’s your favorite comfort food? 

Be well,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Veggies, Rain, and a Museum

Yesterday we got our CSA box.

Here is what we got and what I plan to do with it:
  • Apples – lunches
  • Oranges – lunches
  • A lemon – green juice or a salad dressing
  • Potatoes – I roasted them for dinner tonight
  • An onion – I used it in the salmon cakes I made for dinner
  • Green leaf lettuce – dinner salad
  • Broccoli – I roasted it for dinner tonight
  • Fennel root – Not sure yet. Any suggestions?
  • Collard greens – Maybe I’ll juice them again…
  • Swiss Chard – Probably a stir fry
It’s been raining a lot the past few days, and it’s a lot colder than it was just last week. To entertain ourselves, and especially the toddler! Smile, we headed to a children’s museum.

And we had lots of fun.

Yesterday’s dinner was quick and simple: A potato/bean/tomato salad, precooked lentils, and Greek yogurt (yes, the lentils do not look very appetizing, but they tasted good):

I put the potatoes and green/white beans in a microwave-safe glass bowl and covered them with a moist paper towel. Then I microwaved them for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, I made a dressing:

Potato/bean/tomato salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 2 teaspoons Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce (from TJ’s)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
After the veggies were cooked, I poured the dressing over the warm veggies and let them marinate a bit. After they cooled down, I added the grape tomatoes.

Today I started the day with some yoga, which was very nice. We also went to a “beer and food truck event.” I was the designated driver, but hubby had a great time! Smile Here he is enjoying a “Korean taco” and a Hefeweizen. And the toddler is focused on the free nachos he got after saying “hello” in Korean to the person in the Korean taco truck… Smile

Questions: How has your weekend been so far? What’s been the best thing you’ve eaten? Any exciting plans for the rest of the weekend?

Be well,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Baby Greens with Orange Muscat Champagne Vinaigrette and Roasted Veggies

In an attempt to clean out the fridge, I roasted some sweet potatoes, beets, and a giant red onion, all of which came in a recent CSA box. I also dressed some baby greens with an orange muscat vinaigrette and topped everything with an over-easy egg. A simple, healthy, and delicious dinner!

Roasted Veggies
  • Wash, peel, and cut veggies
  • Toss them with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil
  • Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, turning them a few times

Orange Muscat Champagne Vinaigrette

  • 1 part olive oil
  • 2 parts orange muscat champagne vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

After I dressed the salad, I simply added the veggies and topped each plate with an over-easy egg.

Questions: Do you like roasted veggies? If so, what’s your favorite roasted veggie? I love roasted beets, which is funny because for the first thirty years or so of my life, I wouldn’t touch beets in  any shape or form. I remember my mom growing tons of beets in her garden and then pickling  most of them to preserve them for the winter, and I just didn’t understand how she could eat them… Any exciting weekend plans? I have no plans other than yoga, which I’m really looking forward to.

Be well,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Banana Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

I’m not a “pancake person,” meaning the toddler can probably count the times I made pancakes in my entire life (and he can only reliably count to about 12 or so…). I also never order them on the rare occasion that we go out for breakfast. However, for some reason I felt like banana pancakes on Sunday. I literally woke up and thought “banana pancakes.” Strange. Anyway. I decided to replace the oil in a traditional pancake recipe with two very, very ripe bananas, and it worked out great. I thought a strawberry sauce would go nicely with bananas and knew that I had some frozen strawberries left in the freezer.

Banana Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce


  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup all whole wheat flour (or your can use 1 cup all purpose flour instead of half and half)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 very ripe bananas, smashed (the ones I used were almost “beyond hope.” I put them in a plastic bag and smashed them up.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • In another bowl beat the egg, then add the milk, bananas and vanilla.
  • Mix the dry and wet ingredients together.
  • Heat a bit of oil or butter in a pan or oil/butter a griddle and pour small ladles of batter in the pan/on the griddle.
  • Let the pancakes cook on medium heat until bubbles form, then flip the pancakes over and cook on the other side until golden brown.
Servings: 12 – 15 small pancakes
Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes

Strawberry Sauce 

  • 12 Frozen Strawberries
  • About 1 tablespoon sugar (use more or less depending on how sweet you like your strawberry sauce)
  • Put the strawberries in a bowl and microwave for about 90 seconds, until there is some liquid.
  • Transfer the strawberries to a small pot and cook them over medium high heat on the stove for about 10 minutes, until some of the liquid reduces.
  • Add sugar to taste.
Servings: Enough for 12 – 15 small pancakes
Prep and Cook time: 12 minutes

These pancakes were awesome, and I may be a “pancake person” after all!!! Oh, and the whipped cream didn’t hurt either… Winking smile

Questions: Do you like pancakes? What are your favorite kind? What’s your favorite breakfast? My “everyday” breakfast is oatmeal, non-fat plain Greek yogurt, and walnuts. I love it. My “special occasion” breakfast used to always be something savory, like breakfast burritos. But after these pancakes, I’m not so sure anymore… Smile

Be well,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Surprise Dinner

On Valentine’s Day I surprised hubby and the toddler with a dinner they had been asking for for a while (I purposefully left it off our meal plan so it would be a surprise…):

Spaghetti with grass-fed beef sauce with lots of carrots and celery

spaghetti 01
and garlic cheese bread.

garlic cheese bread
There also was a salad that didn’t get photographed.

They both were very happy and surprised! Smile

Today’s dinner was as planned:

Veggie soup with carrots, celery, edamame, tofu, eggs, and half a leftover chicken breast (the chicken was not planned but was leftover from the chicken salad I made for lunch, so I decided to use it).

chicken tofu veggie soup
It’s funny how different food makes different people happy. I much preferred today’s dinner…

Questions: What was the last time someone surprised you with food? What was it? When did you last surprise someone with food?

Be well,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day Prep and Weekly Meals

The toddler and I spent some time over the weekend putting his Valentine gifts together. We kept it rather simple and taped one heart-shaped lollipop to each Valentine card.

The toddler was very excited to exchange Valentines today! Smile

I also spent some time planning our meals for the week:
  • Baked sweet potatoes with lentils, Greek yogurt, salsa, and guacamole
  • Grilled salmon on a bed of arugula
  • Chicken Quesadillas with salsa and Greek yogurt and a salad
  • Mixed grain salad with black beans, avocado, and tomatoes and vegetable soup with tofu
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches and a spinach salad with egg whites
And here are some of the items that will go in hubby’s and the toddler’s lunches:
  • Chicken salad wraps
  • Veggie sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese
  • Blueberries and strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Apple Sauce
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Cucumber slices and carrots sticks with hummus
  • Tortilla chips and guacamole
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • and more…
Questions: What are you planning to eat this week? What are you most looking forward to? I’m going to be experimenting with the “mixed grain salad.” I picked up a package of mixed grains several weeks ago and have been waiting to use them. Hope the salad turns out the way I’m imagining it…

Be well,