Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Now I know some of you will turn up your nose at a muffin that has the words "whole wheat" and "quinoa", but seriously, these are SO good. Even more impressive (to me anyway) is that I actually created this recipe because it was what I wanted to make and I couldn't find anything on the internet that had banana, pumpkin, and quinoa in it. Part of the reason I am so thrilled that this worked out is because in my VERY last post (about chocolate molten cakes) I mentioned that I don't bake from my own head because I'm afraid of messing it up. Well folks, here's to a new beginning!

Anyway, these muffins are moist (thank you pumpkin puree, mashed bananas, and yogurt), full of protein (thank you yogurt and quinoa), and I'm sure they must have a decent amount of fiber in them. Most of all, they are delicious! Toddler approved and the hubs said they are the best muffins I have ever made (and he is one who usually turns up his nose at all things 'whole wheat').

Whole Wheat Banana Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
2 ripe bananas, mashed (the riper, the better)
1 cup pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
1 cup cooked quinoa (=1/2 cup dry, rinsed quinoa)
4 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
 1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose) 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 24 muffin cups by spraying with nonstick cooking spray or lining with muffin cups.

Rinse 1/2 cup dry quinoa and put in a saucepan with ~1 cup water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, allowing it to simmer for 15-20 minutes. The quinoa should be soft, but not mushy, and most of the water should be gone. Drain any excess water.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine bananas, pumpkin, eggs, butter, yogurt, sugar, molasses, and vanilla. Mix to combine well. Add 1 cup cooked quinoa and turn on to a low speed to combine. Add dry ingredients and mix well, scraping the sides as needed to ensure that the ingredients incorporated fully.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake at 400 degrees for 22-24 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Molten Cakes

Hubs has a favorite dessert. He isn't much of a dessert guy in the traditional sense - he doesn't really care much for cakes, ice cream, pies, etc. He has a sweet tooth, but it comes more in the form of gummy candy, sweet crepes, and these babies.

Chocolate molten cakes.

This recipe is directly from a blog I frequent - Delicious Shots. She has been blogging for about a year and not only does she have an incredible ability to take gorgeous photos of the food she creates, but her recipes are truly inspiring. With most things, I take a recipe and end up changing it around so much that it's only a slight resemblance of the original, but with baking, I don't take nearly as many chances. In the case of something as daunting as making a chocolate molten cake for the 25th birthday of the most wonderful guy I know, I was definitely looking for something easy and fool proof. This recipe fits the bill.

Chocolate Molten Cakes
From Delicious Shots
Makes 4 cakes

8oz Bittersweet chocolate (I used a semisweet baking bar)
8 tablespoon butter (1 stick)
Nonstick cooking spray for ramekins (or butter)
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter four 6 ounce ramekins.

Place the prepared molds on a baking sheet and set aside. Melt the chocolates and butter in a double boiler. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until pale, about two minutes, beat in the vanilla. Stir in the egg mixture into the chocolate and then add the flour, mix well. Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The edges should be firm and set but the center will still look a little wet. Serve immediately. You can serve them in the ramekins or run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.
(If I wasn't in a chocolate induced coma, perhaps I would have remembered to take a photo of the molten inside. Trust me though, it was warm, melty, and absolutely heavenly.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No Fail Whole Wheat Pancakes

I love pancakes. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. It doesn't matter. Give me a pancake and I will love you forever. When I learned that I could make delicious pancakes without Bisquick, my whole world changed. While I'm sure you will see several variations of pancakes pop up as time goes on, this is my go to recipe.

The extra baking powder helps keep these whole wheat pancakes from being too dense, which is a huge bonus. I love whole wheat pancakes, but don't like when they sit in your stomach like a brick because of their density. This recipe does not do that. It creates delicious, fluffy pancakes that are a blank canvas for any kind of toppings and extras you like. My little one loves them with fruit of any sort (the other night she had one that had blueberries, bananas, and pomegranate seeds). Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Optional add ins (the options are endless)
Pomegranate seeds

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Spray a griddle with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle. Make sure your griddle is hot when you pour the batter on to keep your pancakes from spreading too thin.*

Flip pancakes when you see bubbles on the uncooked side. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked through.

*Note: If you are adding fruit, I suggest putting it in the batter once you have the pancake on the griddle to ensure even distribution and to ensure that it doesn't break up in the batter. If you put it in the bowl of batter, gently fold it in after you whisk the rest of the ingredients together.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mexican Pizzas

We eat a lot of Mexican food - a lot. Generally in the form of tacos and burritos, but every once in a while, we like to mix it up and throw in something new. This is one of the new creations, inspired by Hubs' love for Taco Bell and a recipe I saw on pinterest. The nice thing about this is that it became a quick way to clean out the fridge: leftover chicken from this dish, black beans that were already in our fridge from toddler dinners, cheese, etc. The hardest part of this dish was making the guac.Quick. Easy. Delicious. Customizable. I could green mine up with spinach and Brandon could add extra cheese. Probably not super healthy, but hey, we can't be healthy all the time, right?
Mexican Pizzas
Makes 4 

2 10" flour tortillas
8 tostada shells
1/2 can black beans, drained
1 can  refried beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (pepperjack would be a nice addition)
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed

Additional toppings:
Sour cream
Hot sauce

Turn oven on to broil. Warm up beans and meat. Spread a thin layer of warm refried beans on one side of each tostada shell. Top with a little bit of cheese. Cut each flour totrilla into quarters. Put one quarter of the tortilla on top of the tostada and beans. Add more beans and cheese, then another tostada shell. Add another layer of beans, cheese, and top with another quarter of tortilla. Do the same thing for each of the remaining tostada shells.

Once assembled, top with chicken, black beans, and the rest of the cheese. Spread mixture evenly. Carefully place them on a cookie sheet and put them in the preheated oven. Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

Serve immediately with your choice of additional toppings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vegetable Stock

In my kitchen, there are four things that make me want make more things myself. Even if only two or three of these conditions are met, I will lean toward making it myself whenever possible.

1) It is healthier.
2) It is cheaper.
3) It tastes a million times better.
4) It means less waste and/or getting more use from the things I already have.

Let me tell you something - vegetable stock fits the bill all the way around. Here's why.

I use vegetable (and chicken) stock all the time - for making soup, for cooking quinoa, for cooking rice, for adding extra flavor to vegetables that are going in pasta dishes, for cooking lentils, for fondue, for ... for ... for ... I think you get the point.

While it's not a huge expense at the store ($5 for 64oz usually), it's an unnecessary expense. Why? Because you make vegetable stock out of the same vegetables you're already eating. Peel your carrots? Great, throw them in the stock! Onion ends? Mushroom stems? Celery ends (or celery that is about to go bad)? Pepper tops? I use virtually every vegetable scrap I have, with the exception of potato skins because I don't want the stock to get starchy. All I have to do is add water. This means my stock is free. Sure, I paid for the vegetables, but I would have done that anyway. But now, I'm using the scraps before throwing them out, which means I am getting more bang for my buck. (If I were a good gardener, I would compost them, but I can only take on one thing at a time.) Plus, it means no added sodium, no added preservatives, no added anything. I have complete control over what goes into it and it doesn't get much easier than that.

Now, if I haven't convinced you that this will be an easy and worthwhile task, perhaps the fact that this post is much longer than the actual recipe will.


Vegetable Stock

1 gallon size bag of vegetable scraps
2 bay leaves (optional)
I don't add salt, but if you want to, you can. You can also add herbs like oregano, basil, parsley, etc. 

Put vegetable scraps in a large saucepan. Cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium/medium low and simmer for 2-3+ hours. Remove from heat. Strain through cheesecloth and allow to cool completely before storing.

*If you leave the lid on or cracked, you shouldn't have to worry about boiling out all your water. 
*I store mine in quart size mason jars. If you are going to put them in the freezer, make sure to leave at least 1/2" of space to allow for expansion.
*This can also be done in a slow cooker while you're at work for extra convenience.
*Store scraps in a gallon size bag in the freezer to keep them fresh until ready for use.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

Muffins. Who doesn't love them? Quick, easy, delicious, and (when made correctly) pretty healthy. These muffins are sugar free, egg free, and dairy free. I'm skeptical any time I see a recipe that uses those three terms, but believe me, this one turned out delightfully!

Note: In order for this to remain sugar free, you'll want to use sugar free applesauce. I used homemade cinnamon applesauce and I don't add sugar to it. Also, after making and eating these throughout the week, I would suggest being fairly liberal with the cinnamon in order to give them a little more flavor.

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins
Makes 26 muffins
Adapted from Homemade Baby Food
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 heaping tsp baking soda
3 tbsp cinnamon
6 medium bananas, peeled (the riper, the better in my opinion)
1 cup sugar free applesauce
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with muffin holders or grease them thoroughly.

Break up bananas into thirds and place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add applesauce and almond milk. Mix on low speed until bananas are pretty well broken up, about 2-3 minutes. Add flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Continue to mix until combined. If the batter is too thick, add additional almond milk slowly. (I ended up needing 1-2 additional tbsp.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the muffin.

Remove from muffin pan and cool on wire rack. Eat up!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pint sized fruit and yogurt parfait

This gem makes a perfect breakfast, snack, dessert, etc. My kiddo loved it. She loves most things I make, but this one is a favorite. It's a nice "treat" for after her dinner (and it's nice that my two year old thinks this is a treat). As usual, there are several homemade elements in this dish that can be purchased at the store.

Fruit and yogurt parfait
Note: substitute your favorite seasonal fruit or your favorite yogurt (including Greek) for a new twist.

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1 tsp homemade blackberry jam
1/4 pear, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 c homemade granola

Mix yogurt, fruit, and jam together in a bowl. Top with granola. Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

One of my greatest loves in life is hummus. Seriously, I love everything about it. While the hubs is not a huge fan, I have turned my 2 year old into a hummus lover (which I am quite proud of. How many 2 year olds eat hummus by the spoonful?) Anyway, I love hummus. I love making hummus - it's cheap, it's easy, it's delicious. Allow me to introduce you to my latest hummus creation -- spinach artichoke hummus. Hubs says it tastes just like spinach artichoke dip. My coworkers devoured it in 45 minutes. It's good. Trust me.

Spinach Artichoke Hummus
Makes approx 1.5 pints

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 6.5oz jar artichoke hearts
1 cup spinach, washed
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
4tbsp tahini paste
2+ cloves garlic (I put 2 in this batch, but am known to add up to 6 or 7 cloves, depending on how I'm feeling)
Olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil in a food processor and turn it on. Slowly add oil until you reach the desired consistency. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Seriously, that's it.

So easy. I will never buy hummus from the store again.

Tips: As it sits in the fridge, it will thicken up. If it gets too thick, just add a little more olive oil and stir it up. Also, if it separates at all while in the fridge, just stir to combine.  

Truthfully, hummus doesn't last long in our house, but I imagine this will probably stay good for up to a month if stored properly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lemon Pepper Chicken Salad with Feta and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Quick weeknight meals are a must. Especially in my household. I get home from work between 6 and 6:30, depending on what time I left the office. When I get home, it's time to feed the ravenous toddler, chase said toddler around the house, bathe her, read to her, love on her, and get her to sleep. Hopefully before 8:15pm. The hubs and I often eat after she goes to bed, which means I don't even start dinner until 8:00(ish) a lot of times.

This meal fits the bill. It even got a thumbs up from the hubs, who isn't a huge spinach/salad type of guy. Tonight, however, he liked it so much that he went back for seconds. That means it's a win.

Lemon Pepper Chicken Salad with Feta and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Note: the ingredients in this are, of course, completely customizable to what you like and have on hand. 

Chicken -
2 chicken breasts (we have plenty of leftovers - we could have gotten away with one)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Lemon pepper to taste

Salad -
Spinach, washed and dried
1 roma tomato, sliced
2 slices red onion, halved
2 carrots, thinly chopped
1/4 cucumber, skinned and chopped
4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Feta cheese

Balsamic Vinaigrette -
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of kosher salt
1tsp fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Cut chicken into bite size pieces and put in hot skillet. Season with salt and lemon pepper. (I am pretty generous with the lemon pepper seasoning.) Cook until done.

Meanwhile, wash vegetables and prepare salad. Set aside until ready to eat.

Combine all ingredients for vinaigrette in a container. Shake vigorously to combine before serving.

To keep greens from wilting, put the warm chicken on the plate first, then pile salad over the top. Dress and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Roasted sausage and veggies

An important thing to know about me - I am a sucker for veggies that have been cooked in the oven for any length of time, especially when they come out perfectly tender and flavorful. My favorite thing about this dish is that it is completely customizable! Use whatever vegetables you have and whatever kind of meat you like. Sure it takes a while to chop up the veggies, but the end result is worth it - trust me! (Also, I know the ingredient list looks torturous, but seriously ... use the veggies you like and have! This is what I had on hand.)

Roasted Sausage and Veggies

1 parsnip, sliced
1 purple carrot, sliced
2 yellow sun carrots, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 purple potatoes, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
10 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
8oz mushrooms, stems taken out

Sausage (any kind of your liking. We went with chicken)
1 pint chicken stock
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp Italian seasonings
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut up all the vegetables and put them in a roasting tray.

Combine chicken stock, cilantro, Italian seasonings, and oil. Pour over vegetables and toss to evenly coat. Cover pan with foil and put in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until veggies are tender.

In the meantime, brown the sausage. Remove from pan, cut in half, and set aside. When vegetables are done, place sausages in the pan. Drizzle apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar over everything. Put uncovered pan back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until sausages are cooked through.

Serve and enjoy.

Kid proof oatmeal

My life is infinitely easier when I don't have to buy "kid friendly" food. It's also better for my grocery budget. Oatmeal is one of the most versatile ingredients we have in our house - Brandon can sweeten it up and I can add as much fruit as I want. This morning's masterpiece made an otherwise bland bowl of oatmeal into something chalked full of vitamins, antioxidants, and deliciousness. While I made it for my toddler, I would absolutely eat this bowl of oatmeal any day! You can follow this recipe or change up the ingredients to make it your own. (Our oatmeal concoctions change daily.)

Kid Proof Oatmeal

Instant oats (we also use steel cut sometimes)
Banana, sliced
Pomegranate seeds
Cinnamon applesauce

Put oats and milk in a bowl (the ratio of oats:milk depends on how wet you like your oatmeal. Aspen likes hers pretty dry, so we do 2:1 oats:milk). Microwave for ~1 minute. If it's not cooked or if it's still too wet, continue to microwave in 30 second increments.

Add a large scoop of cinnamon applesauce (I canned a lot of applesauce in October, so I use homemade), pomegranate seeds, and banana slices. Mix together. Serve immediately.

Seriously, it doesn't get any easier than that.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Portland Farmer's (Winter) Market

One of my favorite things about living in Portland is the abundance of fresh, good, local food at all times of year. I was tipped off about the Portland Farmer's Market's winter market a few weeks ago and decided to give it a go this weekend and see what we could find! I have a couple produce stands and I frequent in the late spring, summer, and early fall, plus we had our own garden last year. Wintertime farmer's markets are new to me! 

Anyway, we headed downtown today and enjoyed a delicious lunch (tamale for the hubs, market egg sandwich - loaded with delicious mushrooms and greens - for me) and people watching. Aspen snacked between the two of us and then we bought her an apple (that she shared with me) as well. Yum!
We also bought some produce - nothing fancy, but absolutely delicious looking and, of course, 100% local. Apples from Hood River, spinach from Albany, purple potatoes from Salem, carrots (three different varieties) and parsnips from Tillamook, and some pretty amazing dry cured salami from Portland. (We splurged a bit on the salami, but it is absolutely worth it!) I don't have a menu planned for the week, but from the looks of it, we'll be eating a lot of root veggies!

Part of what I hope to do use this blog for is to really develop and learn to articulate my food philosophy. As a family, we have been eating a lot more whole foods than we ever have before, and I am excited to have a place to explore that more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Avocado sauce pasta

I often find recipes and then sit on them for a while. They either get pinned on my recipe board on Pinterest, stashed away in my cupboard, or filed away in my recipe box. This recipe was different. The moment it was discovered, it went on the dinner menu for the following week.

Avocado. Basil. Olive oil. Lemon. Garlic. YUM.

I made a few additions and could not have been happier with the results. I'm salivating just thinking about how scrumptious this meal was. Whatever you do - go make this. Right now.

Avocado sauce pasta
Inspired by Oh She Glows

1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1/2 lemon, juiced (Hubs says there was too much lemon. I disagree. Adjust to taste.)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
4oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Feta cheese
Pasta (We used whole wheat thin spaghetti)

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box.

Heat ~2 tbsp olive oil in a nonstick frying pan. Add sliced mushrooms and season with pepper to taste. Saute until they are slightly tender. 

While pasta is cooking, put everything but the olive oil in your food processor and whirl away, adding olive oil until you get a smooth consistency. If you want to thin it out and make it more sauce like, add a couple teaspoons of the pasta water (I used 5 tsp).

Combine warm pasta with sauce. Top with mushrooms and feta. Serve immediately.

Note: This sauce made enough for three small servings or two large servings. Adjust accordingly for the number of people you are serving. Avocados don't reheat well, so you'll want to devour this one right away.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chicken and shrimp gumbo

I have to admit something - I'm not very good at measuring spices. I also love garlic. A lot. Generally I just eyeball it and dump in what seems to be an appropriate amount. Then I taste whatever I'm cooking and adjust accordingly. I also like my food to be well seasoned. That said, I'll do my best to give an accurate(ish) measurement of the spices in my dishes, but you would be wise to adjust according to your taste buds. 

This was our dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious. After a long day at work, it was also great to have something quick, easy, and warm to settle down with. This dish is chalked full of veggies and to make it an easy weeknight meal, I used leftover rotisserie chicken from last night's dinner, premade chicken stock (you could used store bought), and frozen okra. This is super versatile, so add whatever veggies you have on hand!

You'll have to excuse the lame photography. I'll become more dedicated to my Nikon one day.

Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo
(Note: this recipe made enough for the two of us + 2 quarts of extra. You may want to cut it in half unless you like leftovers and/or you like to keep soup in the freezer for later like I do!)

1lb jumbo prawns, cooked, peeled, and halved
1/2 rotisserie chicken (I used the breasts)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
4oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 (small) bag frozen, chopped okra
1 small onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (we like a bit of a kick, so adjust to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook shrimp according to directions on bag. When done, chop in half and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Saute onions and garlic under onions are translucent. Add chicken stock, veggies, chicken, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until ready to serve. Add shrimp ~5 minutes before serving to heat through.

Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or enjoy as is.


At the urging of my sweet husband, I have decided to create this blog - my own little corner of the internet completely devoted to my love for yummy food, happy bellies, and my ever growing passion for living sustainably.

I've always had a love for food, but my love for good food started when I gave birth to our lovely (and lively!) daughter in December 2009. Nourishing her little body has become one of my greatest joys. I have always loved to cook for my husband and the more I learn about food, the tastier our meals become.

With that - here we go!
Step one - come up with name for blog. Complete.
Step two - make a post. Complete.
Step three - stop taking pictures of our meals with my phone and start using that fancy schmancy camera of mine. Maybe next time.