Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pizza, Bumpers and Ree-Ree

Last weekend we were invited over my cousin Sandra's house for drinks and dinner.

Her mother and father (Dorothy and Roger) had been in town visiting from Ohio and this was our last chance to see them before they returned to the good '
'ole Buckeye State

Let me set the stage for you:

We pull into the driveway 

Side note: I'm writing with italics so you pay attention because it becomes relavent later

We enter Sandra and Bryan's lovely home and the first thing I see as I enter her GORGEOUS kitchen is this adorable

 chef pig statue

Something like this:


His chubby hoofs are holding a chalkboard sign with the glorious words of the dinner theme for the evening.

"Pizza Party!" as he smiles

Along side him is large tub chilling down the vino for the night 

Pizza! Wine! Family! 

and....drumroll...........Grant and Gwen were immediately drawn to Sandra's daughters who proceeded to play with them all night.

Pizza! Wine! Family! Kid-free conversation!

Bring it!!

Sandra's brother, who's affectionately known as "Little Roger" even though he's probably at least 7 feet tall arrives a bit later. 

The pizza's Sandra made were FANTASTIC.

In fact, I'm totally copying her idea for an upcoming dinner party and I promise I will provide the recipes in an upcoming's just not the point of this post.

The first pizza was a Roasted Rosemary Potato and Apple Pizza with Brie Cheese.
HOLY MOLY  this was good.

Next: a wild mushroom pizza followed by a cheese pizza, and then a deep dish meat pizza.

and of course we are all laughing, drinking wine, and telling stories.

And then....

Morgan is leaving for party and we are parked behind her in the driveway.
Brent runs out to move our car.

   Side note: I WAS noticing that it took him a while to return...

He enters the room with this kind of look on his face:

Somewhere between:


and proceeds to ask Little Roger, "Is that your car with the Arizona plates?"

Inner Monologue: Oh shit...., NO..... PLEASE!!!!!!!

and then he proceeds to explain how he didn't see Little Roger's car and hit the bumper.

I pour wine and then go outside with Brent to assess the damage, which, I was THINKING-HOPING-PRAYING was .....

...a little scratch...a little dent...a little SOMETHING.

But No.

The thing looked like a wing on a bird. 

How this did NO DAMAGE to our car, is amazing. Only "good" thing about having a gas-sucking SUV monster of a car.

Little Roger didn't even go out to look at his car. I believe he just poured more wine too.  Everyone was so kind and explained how they've "all done that before" but Brent and I both were beyond embarrassed for the rest of the night.

It gets better.

Gwen, decides to go and put on her own pull up because she has to poop.
She hides for a while and then says, "I'm all done" and continues to insist, "Come change me, mom"

Truthfully, I was for once GRATEFUL to Gwen for still shitting her diapers so I could get out of the embarrassment of the situation for a few minutes.

I lay her down in Sandra's bathroom...on this pretty deep maroon throw rug....and rip down the side of her pull-up..

Inner Monologue: Dear God, NO WAY! Can't I get a freakin break????

She had, what we like to refer to as "Ree-Ree"....and a BAD CASE OF IT.

And, since I had ripped her pull up haste-fully, Ree-Ree had made it's way down to the deep maroon throw rug.

Not only had we proceeded to splay out Little Roger's bumper, but now, I had to tell Sandra that Gwen had shit on her rug.

I carefully rolled up the rug and mentioned to Sandra that I thought she'd better throw the rug in her NEW washer (FIGURES it was new, right?).

Pour wine.

It gets even better.

The next day, I send Sandra a message thanking her for the evening, apologizing for the events of the night and asking if everyone made it home alright and inquired how the bumper did driving to Arizona.

Her response?

"Everyone made it home fine and the bumper wasn't a problem on the drive back because it fell off"

I couldn't help it, I laughed so hard there were tears running down my face.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Insomnia Inspiration

Times have changed a bit.

In graduate school, I was often up all hours of the night with insomnia.

I usually baked.

Breads, cakes, muffins, scones...

Once, Brent woke up to the warm smell of freshly made bagels--in 6 different varieties.

No joke. Ask him.

These days, when I'm stressed, I cook.

Lucky for you.

What am I so stressed about? 
Come over for a glass of wine and we'll talk.

Now, Let's get right to the recipes.

First, I made a FANTASTIC-out-of-the world-marinated Flat Iron Steak

Super easy.

But wait!! What's the difference between Flank , Skirt, and Flat Iron you ask?

Flank and Skirt Steak = can usually be interchanged in recipes.
    Both have a very obvious grain, are very flavorful, but somewhat tough and definitely require a cutting across the grain.  They come from muscles that get a lot of work. They are often braised but frequently marinated and grilled.

Now, Flat Iron, on the other hand is the 2nd most tender steak, only behind the filet. It comes from the top blade roast, which sits inside of the seven bone in the chuck. 

??Too much info??

Bottom Line:

If I'm making steak tacos, I'll go ahead and use flank or skirt, but when I want to showcase the meat in a recipe...


Here's an EASY recipe that was delish.
It's a nice one to prepare the night before...
makes it for an easy-come-home-from-work-to-craziness-with kids-kind of recipe

Lemon-Shallot Flat Iron Steak
2-3 pound flat iron steak
1 1/2 cup Meyer Lemon Juice  

    -side note: Meyer lemons are sweet...if not available, you can use 1 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup fresh orange juice to sweeten it up,..or 1 TBS agave to the lemon juice.

1/2 cup soy sauce
6 medium shallots, coarsely chopped
2 TBS toasted sesame oil 

1) Pierce steak all over with fork. Place the meat in a 1 gallon resealable bag.
2) Pour lemon juice in bowl and whisk in soy sauce. 
3) Add the shallots and whisk in the sesame oil
4) Pour about 2/3 of the marinade over the steak and save the remaining in a safe container and refrigerate it until its time to use it as a sauce.
5) Refrigerate overnight.

Do you have a cast iron skillet?
Get one.
Do it.
Love it.

Heat a cast iron skillet with 2-3 TBS of olive oil until hot.
Cook Flat iron steak about 10-12 minutes on each side or until however you like it.

Now, this is the 2nd recipe I've shared for Flat Iron Steak. Have you tried the first one yet??

I served this with a side of Mediterranean Quinoa:

Hmm?? What's That?
I can't hear you?
Oh, you LOVED the first Quinoa recipe! 
Do you want this recipe too??

Mediterranean Quinoa

2 cups Quinoa
4 cups chicken broth

Cook Quinoa until all liquid absorbs
Place in large bowl and add:

1/2 can sun dried tomatoes, in oil
fresh basil--a lot!!
feta cheese
cooked fresh broccoli (NOT MUSH PEOPLE!--Nice and crisp!)
1 caramelized onion (this means cut 1 yellow onion thin, cook in about 2TBS butter until nice and yummy)

Salt and pepper to taste
Mix and serve!

Pour wine in hopes of getting a better nights sleep.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What would you call it?

Although the leftover chili verde sounded fantastic...I was in the mood for pasta

One of my favorite things to do is to whip together a pasta dish with items already in the house

Brent calls each and every dish like this "Crazy Mama Pasta"

Inner monologue: What the heck? Do you think he's referring to the dish or the person cooking the dish??

But he says they're his favorite thing I make, so after a compliment like that, I think he can call them whatever he wants.

I prefer to call them "Pasta-whip-Togethers"

They utilize whatever I have on hand at the moment

Since there will most likely be a few of these pasta-whip-togethers, we'll call this one:

"Pasta-Whip-Together I"
"aka Crazy Mama Pasta I"
1/2 box whole wheat penne pasta
3 garlic cloves, chopped
olive oil
yellow onion, sliced thin
2 portabello mushroom caps, chopped
1/2 can sundried tomatoes (the ones in the olive oil!)!!
2 cups fresh baby spinach
crumbled goat cheese
toasted pine nuts--i used about 1/4 cup

Cook pasta according to directions

Saute the yellow onion in enough olive oil until they are somewhere between translucent add in the mushrooms and continue cooking until the onions are caramelized...lasty, add in the fresh garlic and continue cooking for a couple minutes, until the garlic is sof

WARNING! Overcooked garlic= bitter

In another pan, add an inch of water and cook down the spinach JUST until it's wilted then drain the water from the pan

Yes folks, the spinach needs to have a bright green color.
Overcooked spinach = Dark green/Brown spinach = YUCK. 

If this happens, Dispose of immediately. Give to your dog. Start over.

Once you've properly wilted your spinach--add it to the the mushroom/onions/garlic.

Add 1/2 can of sundried tomatoes with the olive oil

Add the mixture to the pasta in a large bowl 
Toss to coat
Add crumbled goat cheese
Add toasted pine nuts
Salt/Pepper to taste.

Pour wine.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chile Verde....MY way.

Disclaimer:  I forgot to take a when I"m eating leftovers tonight, I'll snap one...Secondly, The last two posts were super healthy and introduced a couple of new superfoods: Quinoa and Chia Seeds.....and my next blog, I promise I'll give you a new, healthy recipe...however, this post...well, say hello to:

Go ahead...scroll down...

the suspense...


Ok, sorry, I couldn't help it. I'll leave my political views out of it.

As I was typing the recipe, I started feeling guilty for my I cheated...and I even CONSIDERED telling you that I roasted my own Serrano chiles and jalapenos...

But damn it. That's just not who I am. I'm not going to lie about a recipe in hopes that I'll have more followers

    Side note: Did you know that some blogs gain 160,000 new followers per month?  Geez, I thought I was doing good with my 13 committed readers and a few readers who don't like to sign up for things!!! lol

This is a FANTASTIC recipe and it's super easy and I wouldn't change a thing.

And it feeds a crowd!

   Side note: It would be a great alternative to all of those standard chili recipes that are made for superbowl parties.

Easy Crock-pot Chili Verde
feeds a crowd!

1 2 pound pork shoulder
1 16 oz can of green enchilada sauce (I used Las Palmas)
1 tiny can of jalapenos 
2 tiny cans of green chilles
1 large salsa verde (I used Vons brand)
1 large yellow onion; chopped
1 can organic free range chicken broth 

Into the crockpot: Everything from above
Cook on low at least 10 hours.

Now before I continue on, let me explain how I like to eat chile verde and how Brent likes to eat it.

Me = in a bowl. rice on the bottom, chile verde on top, then all of the yummy toppings and I use a tortilla as more of a dipping "bread". 

Brent =  He likes to use the chile verde meat INSIDE a a tortilla and makes a taco out of it.


IT'S MUCH BETTER as a true chile---so don't be tempted to make tacos out of this recipe!! 

In the morning, the meat is SO tender after all of that time cooking, it litterally falls of the bone--the shoulder blade bone, to be specific.

So, you need to remove the bone and all of the fat and then shred the meat.

I know, slightly annoying and slightly gross...but it is what it is and you have to do it.

Once you have done that, you can keep the chile on warm until your guests arrive.

Really good make ahead meal.

Now for the condiments:

Mexican Rice:
Don't judge: I used Rice a Roni

Come on! 
Rice an Roni IS THE "San Francisco Treat"---and the 49ers WERE attempting to make it to the superbowl that afternoon....

..Yeah, THAT's why I made it....

Oh it comes...that catholic guilt again
Ok, the truth:
We like it.
Feel free to make the healthier choice and use brown rice.

But remember, you are eating pork chili verde...this is hardly the Omega-3 packed superfood recipe here...

small corn tortillas
fresh tomatoes; chopped
fresh cilantro; chopped
red onion; chopped
favorite shredded cheese (I used colby but peperjack would be really good too)
lime wedges

And if you are me:
Into a bowl:
2)Chile Verde
3)Tomatoes, Red Onions, LOTS of cilantro, cheese, lime wedge

Serve with warm corn tortillas and a big spoon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ch-Ch-Ch Chia!

Don't deny it.

If you didn't own one, you hoped desperately that it would be your secret santa gift at the company work party.

But you never thought of eating the seeds....or....were you one of THOSE kids?

(Glue sniffer)

I'm not suggesting breaking open the unopened planter box from 1980 and eating the seeds..

.....unless of course you are in the Europe where they are basically illegal...

...and no, Chia seeds  (Salvia hispanica ) are NOT a hallucinogen, folks...(That would be Salvia divinorum---read about that here) 

so don't start thinking you are going to "elevate your meal" to any other level except a healthier one.

The reason they are illegal in Europe is because they are considered "novel foods" and under European regulations novel foods can only be consumed in baked goods up to more about THAT here.  

....but, out here in the good old USA you can purchase them from Whole Foods (they ARE FDA approved for all of you rule abiding citizens) and use them in just about any recipe.

Side note: Trader Joes didn't have them when I checked

You are asking: "Why in the hell would I want Chia seeds in my meal...or my muffin??? or even in a mango smoothie for that matter?

As I eluded to earlier, the health benefits of Chia seeds are recently being recognized.

Highlights from my research (I am a scientist after all and I can't help but dive into the literature about my new found super foods)

1) Contain the highest plant source of Omega-3 
2) Proven to reduce "bad" (LDL) cholesterol
3) Contain more antioxidants that blueberries
4) Excellent source of calcium, magnesium, and iron

Now that you have them on your grocery are wondering:

how to eat them??


1) raw as whole seeds!! in anything!  add to puddings, juice drinks, teas, smoothies...and in breads, cookies..etc. They are so tiny, you really don't taste them baked into breads/cookies..

2) They can be ground for use as a flour in baking 

3) And yes, they can be sprouted as the green hair on your chia pet and added to salads and sandwiches--similar to alfalfa

4) Note that they turn gelatinous when then come into contact with water, so they can be used as a thickening agent.

Getting to the recipe, I promise...

I've talked before about the blog Yummy Mummy---and if you are not reading it and enjoying her outstanding photography and beautiful should be.  She was voted one of the top 50 blogs to read this year.

I decided I wanted to make her Chia Seed Chocolate Chip Cookies.  But alas, I NEEDED to go to yoga for a little "rejuvination" last night.

After a HARD, 90 minute Bikram Yoga Class at 105 degrees with 50% humidity...I walk into the house and I smell the delicious aroma of chocolate chip cookies.


I was upset..ok...I was ticked..

I MAY have been over-reacting..a bit...

Inner monologue: "Noooooooo!!! Brent made chocolate chip cookies while I was gone--the normal ones--darn it!"

Me (trying not to be mad) says to Brent: "You BAKED cookies while I was gone!"

Brent, (looking a bit disgusted at me) says: "Yeah, I  DO know how to bake, you know"

Me (slightly ticked with his sarcasm) says: "But I was going to make SPECIAL, HEALTHY, chocolate chip cookies"

Brent (with a smile) "I did"

Flabbergasted that he thinks the normal chocolate chip cookies are anything but healthy, I say "WITH CHIA SEEDS!"

He calmly replies "I did"

Inner monologue: What? Huh? I'm confused. Must be the yoga-heat getting to my brain. Did you say you made the CHIA SEED cookies???

He continues: "I knew when I saw the ingredients you wanted to make special cookies and Jackie told me that it was probably a Yummy Mummy recipe...
So I found the recipe and made them."

Here's the photo I snapped of the Chia Seed Cookies:

I quickly gobbled one up and let me tell you, they did NOT disappoint.
They are VERY VERY good..and I think I will be giving the kids these as their after school snack instead of granola bars.

Feeling the need to apologize but slightly disappointed that I didn't get to bake them I said,   "Thanks..they're yummy"

Continuing..."But next time use parchment paper when you bake--it keeps the edges from getting too browned"

Brent rolls eyes.
Ok, maybe deserved, I know.

So, here's the recipe if you didn't get it from the link.

Only thing Brent changed was he threw a couple of butterscotch chips in there because he HATES that I have 2 half opened bags of them in the pantry.

Yummy Mummy's Peanut Butter Chia Seed Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 12 

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup all purpose or gluten-free flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chunks or chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together oats, baking powder, flour, and chia seeds. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar until creamy. Add peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly stir in oat mixture to combine. Stir in chocolate chips. 
Place heaping tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet. Press dough into balls with hands, as dough will be crumbly. Bake 12 minutes. Cool.

Let's all sing it together now: "Ch-Ch-Chi Chia!!"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keen--what? Quinoa!

Last night, we had a visit from our good friends from Santa Barbara who have moved on down to good ole' almost always sunny San Diego 

(morning temp today =35 WITH FROST on the ground) WTF!

Anyway, I had made this yummy dish for dinner and I offered them some.

"It's Quinoa" I explained.

SB Hubby to me: "Keen-what?"

Me fumbling over my words to SB Hubby: "Quinoa---ummm,'s a grain...I think...and it's really high in's super healthy for you"

Note to self: Next time, when trying to convince someone to try something new to eat, be a little more sure of what your talking about.

So, I did a little reading up on Quinoa in hopes to strengthen what I did know about this little guy (pronounced:KEEN-wa)

Here are some highlights:

1) Quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and somewhat nutty flavor when cooked.

2) Often considered a grain, it's actually a relative of Swiss chard and spinach--

-Wow, i definitely didn't know that.

3) It is an ancient grain, once considered "the gold of the Incas" who recognized it's value after increasing the stamina of its warriors.

-awesome, combined with my double espresso regimen , I WILL BE super-mom tomorrow.

4) Not only is it high in protein, it is a COMPLETE protein source, providing all 9 essential amino acids.

--so all you vegetarians out there, this is really important for you!

5)Quinoa is a very good source of magnesium, the mineral that relaxes blood vessels.
Thus, if you get migraines, 
increasing your intake of magnesium has been shown to reduce the frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers.

6)Also, low levels of magnesium are associated with increased rates of hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and heart arrhythmias--so the high magnesium in Quinoa also provides yet another way to help with cardiovascular issues

Now, considering that Brent gets migraines on average 2-3 times a month, and as we all know, had open heart surgery this past June...

I'm all about Quinoa.
Quinoa is our friend.
Don't be scared.
Trader Joes has it...or Sprouts...or Whole Foods...or even your normal grocery store SHOULD have it.

Here's the iPHone photo
(that's my disclaimer for not having fancy, high quality photos like other blogs)
 from last night, which you've already seen if you've been on my FB page...

We had the Quinoa as our main dish...and I served it with a side of Thai-Vegetable Gyozas....from Trader Joes....These (on the bottom left)


Butternut Squash With Quinoa, Spinach and Toasted Pine Nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
1 cup quinoa
1/3 cup golden raisins (I only had the "normal" black ones, so I went with that)
2 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts---or, more!! I added about 1/4 cup--glad I did
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, squash, quinoa and raisins and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the squash and quinoa are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Gently stir in the spinach and cook until it just begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with the pine nuts.

The toasted pine nuts and the raisins added a lot to this dish---so don't skip them. 
And remember to buy organic raisins...i don't buy everything organic (I wish I could, but I also need a roof over my head) but there are few things that I feel strongly about...raisins are one of those things.
Brent loved it so much, he wanted to take the leftovers for lunch today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Lonely Leftover Squash--What to do??

So, what did YOU do on your day off?

I sat in the dentist chair for 2 hours, attempting to meditate about what to make with my one lonely leftover butternut squash..

.... as she poked, prodded and cracked open my tooth, explaining to me that the reason why my filling cracked was MY fault because I grind my teeth.

Whatever. Fix it right the first time, I say!

Fun Morning.

Pinterest had a nice recipe for Butternut Squash Rice Pilaf which I still want to make....but I decided to make yummy and healthy Butternut Squash Rolls.

This is a bit of a "Sneaky Chef" recipe, using pureed vegetables, though the recipe I used was from

These rolls are delicious--not too sweet--..and a fun way to use a lonely leftover butternut squash---or all of you moms out there..if you've made got leftover butternut squash homemade puree in your freezer, pull out a cup for the recipe!

Here's how they looked after cooking:

 Here's my "helper" sampling some left over puree:

Now, before I get to the recipe, truth be told:
I LOVE butternut squash, and I could have used more of a butternut squash taste in the rolls..
 They are DELICIOUS, don't get me wrong, but I wanted more of a BANG! There's the squash! When I tasted them. 

It was more of a "Wow, these are nice" when I tasted them.
However, I still wanted to pass along the recipe, because if you have any picky eater kids...or may want to give these a try.

Super yummy warmed with some butter...and dare I say it?
A little cinnamon sugar on the butter...just a dusting...

Don't judge!

Butternut Squash Yeast Rolls
1 TBS active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees to 115)
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup warm fat free milk 
(I used 2% because that's what I had)--105-115 degrees (um, I microwaved my milk for 30 seconds and called it good)
1 cup mashed, cooked butternut squash (1 decent sized squash, cubed, and boiled till soft, then I pureed it in my Cusinart yields a little over a cup)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour

1) In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, let stand for 5 minutes

2)Stir in milk, squash, butter, brown sugar and salt

3)Add whole wheat flour, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

4)Stir in enough all purpose flour to form a soft dough.

5)Turn onto floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (um, yeah, so I just used my hook attachment on my Kitchen-aid for ten minutes on medium speed).

6)Place in a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray, turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour
(what I do is I turn on my oven to 200 degrees..then I turn it off and then let the dough rise in the warm (NOT ON) oven)

7)Punch dough down and turn onto a floured surface; divide into 20 pieces.
8) Shape each piece into a ball

9) Place 2 in apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper
10)Cover and let rise again for 45 min (same thing--warm oven trick)
11) Bake at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.
12) Remove from pans to a wire rack.

Enjoy with a nice dinner or as a Grant just ate 2 of them while I am typing this.