Monday, November 22, 2010

Homemade Granola, Because I'm Like That


It's true, I do actually make my own crunchy granola. I guess some stereotypes are real; like people who have home births make their own granola and such.

Anyway, I think homemade granola is SO much better than the store bought variety. Plus, I like to know exactly what is in my food. Call me crazy, but many cereals out there even the "natural" kinds have a very long list of ingredients that I cannot pronounce. So I make granola.

I adapted this recipe from the recipe in one of my most favorite cookbooks, Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. Do you have this book? I know I've shown it to you before. There are so many great, healthy recipes in this book. If you don't have it, I'd recommend getting it for sure. Unfortunately I lost the first edition of this book and now only have the newer edition, which is still great, but a few recipes from the first recipe were left out that I miss.

But I digress.

Back to granola. This recipe is my standby recipe. I'm experimenting with others and I'll let you know if I come up with anything good. But if you want an easy, reliably good recipe this is a good one:

Honey Coconut Granola

4 cups oats
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c coconut oil (can substitute another oil if you need)
1/2 c honey
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat pven to 325 degerees.

In a large mixing bowl, combing oats, seeds, cinnamon and salt. Mix together.

In a small pan melt coconut oil, honey and peanut butter together. Stir to blend. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour oil mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. (I usually use my hands to do this)

Spread on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan and bake until granola is dry and golden. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Remove when golden brown and let cool before storing in an airtight container.

You can eat with whole milk yogurt and berries for a nutritious breakfast or snack. Alternatively, you can use as a topping for ice cream or whatever you can dream up! If you want to add dried fruits you can do that too, just wait until granola has cooled and then mix in fruit.

It's always good to have something new up your sleeve for breakfast. Hope you and Drew like it!


Monday, November 1, 2010

This is What Happens When You Have Children


My brain is mush. After having two children my logical mind seems to have left me. I used to have a nearly photographic memory. I never needed to write anything down. I kept my schedule in my head. I always remembered people names.

And I keep thinking I've still got it.

But the reality is that I don't. All this to say that when I interrupted our Butternut Squash series with the chicken chili recipe, I completely forgot how I made that third butternut squash recipe. You know, the Mexican-inspired one. So, we'll have to get to that another time when I experiment with those ingredients again. Darn! That was a good one too. But I just can't remember exactly how I did it.

So instead, I thought I'd share another easy soup recipe that I know by heart. I figure when it's fall going on winter you can't have enough soup recipes. This one is super easy too, it can be made really quickly with just a few ingredients. I love simple food like that--recipes that leave you to taste the food in its natural state. No need to doctor it all up with a bunch of spices and flavors. Anyhow, I'll quit rambling and get to the recipe...

Potato Leek Soup

3-4 leeks, washed and chopped
1.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
4 tbsp butter or good olive oil (butter will taste richer)
1 box of vegetable broth
approximately 3 cups of water
salt & pepper

Saute leeks in butter for 1-2 minutes, add potatoes and let simmer for 1-2 minutes more with the lid on. Add veggie broth, water and 1 tsp of salt. Bring to boil then turn heat down to simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are falling apart. Take pot off heat and use a potato masher or a large spoon to roughly mash the potatoes. Alternatively, you can blend the soup. Serve the soup with a splash of cream if you like.

Now that's a recipe I can remember! Hope you like it too.

Miss you,

Butternut Squash, Interrupted


I interrupt our Butternut Squash series to bring you that yummy Chicken Chili recipe you've been begging asking me for. This recipe was inspired by the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for chicken chili, but I changed it to fit what I had on hand (and to add beans, which I think all chili should have). What I love about this recipe is that you actually roast the chicken before adding it to the chili itself. Boy, does this ever give it a rich taste! You won't be sorry you took the extra time and effort to roast the chicken. Seriously. It was so good.

I think this will be a good fall and winter recipe to have on hand. You mentioned it was getting colder in Illinois so this should warm you right up! I served this with some gluten-free cornbread and salad for a nice hearty dinner.

Roasted Chicken & Black Bean Chili

2 yellow onions, chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more for chicken
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt, or to taste + more for chicken
2 28oz cans of whole fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained (Muir Glen brand)
1 large can of black beans
2 whole organic chicken leg/thighs, bone in, skin on*
Freshly ground black pepper
Corn chips, cheddar cheese and/or sour cream as topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub chicken with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast chicken for 35-40 minutes, until just cooked. While the chicken is roasting, cook the onions over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomoatoes by hand or in the food processor and add to pot. Add black beans. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the chicken has cooled, separate meat from bone and skin and cut into 3/4 inch chunks. Add to the chili ans simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat before serving.

*In the last two recipes I've specified purchasing organic chicken. Personally, I think meat is something we should not skimp on when it comes to buying organic. And with pasture animals like beef, lamb, buffalo, etc--we should opt for the organic, grass fed option. Anymore, if I can't get the best meat (organic and grassfed) I just make a vegetarian dish instead. Not only is this the healthiest option for our bodies, it really is the best option for the environment, the animals and our economy. But that's a whole other post. In the meantime, you should really see Food, Inc. Make Drew watch it too!

Stepping off soapbox now.

Hope you love the chili as much as I did. Wish we could share a bowl together! Soon enough, I'm sure.

Love you,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Butternut Squash Part 2

Butternut squash
Originally uploaded by adactio
Hi Marie,

We're still on the topic of Butternut Squash! A few weeks ago I bought a medium sized squash and used half of it for a Thai Cococut Curry Stir Fry and the other half for a Mexican-inspired dish. They both turned out pretty well. Here is the Thai recipe. Look out for the other recipe in the next couple of days.

Thai Coconut Curry w/ Butternut Squash

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 organic chicken thighs, chopped into bite sized chunks
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1-2 heads of bok choy, chopped
1-2 tbsp of green curry paste
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce

Start by peeling and chopping squash. Then saute onions and garlic on medium heat until onions are translucent being careful not to burn the garlic. Add chicken and cook through. Add squash, cauliflower and the white part of the bok choy. Saute about a minute or so. Push ingredients off to one side and add curry paste. Pour a bit of the coconut milk over the curry paste to dissolve. Add the rest of the coconut and the fish sauce. Let the liquid come to a boil on high heat and then turn heat down and simmer until squash is tender. Stir in Bok Choy greens.

Serve this over white jasmine rice or long grain brown rice (for the healthier option).


Love you,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Butternut Squash Part 1


It's fall and that means we get to start eating yummy winter squash! Butternut squash is my favorite and can be added to just about anything, I think. I'm going to share with you my three favorite recipes in the next three posts. Here's the first one:

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium to large butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 box of veggie broth
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp yellow curry powder
salt to taste

Cut squash in half and place face down in a glass baking dish with about 1 inch of water. Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes on 400 (or until skin browns and bubbles). In the meantime, chop your onion and saute in olive oil in the bottom of your large soup pot (about 5 minutes). Set aside. When squash is cooked, peel off skin and discard. Chop squash into large chunks and add to pot. Add enough broth to cover squash (may need to add more later). Mix together. Add this mixture in batches to blender and blend until smooth. Place blended soup back into pot and add coconut milk, curry powder and salt. Add more broth or water if needed. Let simmer 20 minutes to meld flavors. Enjoy!

I'll be back soon with two more squash recipes plus a yummy Indian dish I made the other night!

Love you,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Lentil Stew


Here is a really easy soup/stew recipe that is pretty quick to cook up. Of all of the lentils, red lentils cook the fastest and don't require any soaking beforehand. So we end up eating them a lot around here. I make many variations of this soup, but this version is one of the best, I think.


3 cups red lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red potatoes, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp salt

Add oil to large soup pot on medium high heat. Saute onion, garlic, carrots and potatoes until onions are translucent. Add lentils, broth, water and spices. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to simmer until lentils are fully cooked. Soup will be yellow and have a thick, creamy texture. You can add more water if it gets too thick. Garnish with plain whole milk yogurt and parsley if you like. Serve with rice and a green salad.



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Simple Roasted Potatoes

Hi Marie,

This side dish is easy and fast. Plus, it's a healthier alternative to fried potatoes when you're having a "I need french fries" moment. When you're scouting out the perfect potato to roast, look for thinner-skinned potatoes. In this batch, I used a combination of blue potatoes, red potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes. All three of these potatoes are more nutrient dense than your average "baking" potato (which will also likely have been genetically modified, but more on that later). Anyhow, your best bet is to find organic, heirloom varieties of potatoes. And if heirloom varieties are not available--just go for the red-skinned spuds.

When you get your potatoes home and are ready to cook them up, give them a good scrub under cold water, but don't peel them. Most of the nutrients live in the skin. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then chop your potatoes into bite-sized chucks (see above) and spread them on a baking sheet. I prefer to roast my potatoes on a metal baking sheet because I'm able to spread them out into a single layer and the potatoes will get nice and brown with crispy edges. If you like a moister, softer potato then you can use a glass baking dish for this. Drizzle your potatoes with Extra Virgin (preferably cold-pressed) Olive Oil (more on that later too) then sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Toss potatoes to coat with oil. Bake for 25-25 minutes or until potatoes are browned.

Most of the time, I serve this side dish with turkey, lamb or buffalo burgers and a salad. I also really like to use sweet potatoes too. They are more nutritious and taste really good roasted.

I hope this is something that will be easy and fast--especially now that school is starting up for your soon. Let me know how they turn out!

Love and miss you,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy 30th + Yummy Enchiladas

This is the beginning of my 30th birthday present to my sister. I wanted to give her something special and something more substantial than your average sisterly birthday gift. Thirty is after all a big rite of passage and milestone into the true throes of adulthood in our culture. I thought and thought about what to get her, but nothing felt right. July 11th came and went, and I still had nothing. She was to be at my house on July 14th for a two week visit and I needed to have the perfect gift when she arrived. But the combination of being 8 months pregnant, having a two-year-old to wrangle and well, just not feeling all that creative left me empty handed.

So I made pie.

A cherry pie to be exact. That's what I do when all else fails--I make food. The sad part is, the pie was horrible. But it's the thought that counts, right?

To make myself and my sister feel better after eating such horrible pie, my husband and I took my sister out for birthday dinner and gave her one of those cheesy homemade coupons that said "good for a birthday shopping trip with your sister." Not exactly the heartfelt gift I wanted to give.

A few days passed, and I reminded her that we still needed to nip this birthday thing in the bud. So I just asked her point blank, "What do you want for your birthday? And don't say something lame. What do you really want?"

She thought for a few minutes and said, "I want you to write down your best recipes and give them to me. Also, I want to know how to eat healthy. I want to know what you do to make that happen for your family."

Now that's a gift I can give. A meaningful gift. A big, straight-from-the-heart gift. So happy 30th birthday, Marie! Here is the start of your year of good, healthy recipes with a bit of advice on food from yours truly. I love you and thank you for being honest enough to ask for something you really want for your birthday. I hope this collection of recipes helps you acquire a love for good, healthy wholesome food.

Now on to the first recipe:

Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas (Chicken optional)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms, chopped
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Muir Glen diced fire roasted tomatoes (to add a bit of spice get the kind with green chile's added)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika and/or chili powder
2-3 big handfuls of prewashed baby spinach
enough canola oil to coat a skillet
10-12 corn tortillas
red enchilada sauce
1-2 cups shredded cheese

Heat 2 tbsp of canola oil on medium high heat in a large saute pan. Once the oil is heated, add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent. Add spices and stir. Add black beans and tomatoes and let this mixture heat through then add the mushrooms and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add spinach and turn off heat. Make sure to stir in the spinach thoroughly.

Coat the bottom of a small cast iron skillet with a bit of canola oil and set the heat to medium low. Once the pan is hot, heat a tortilla on each side so that it is pliable enough to roll without breaking. Set the tortilla in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish and spoon about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of enchilada filling into the tortilla. Roll and place in dish. See pictures below:

Once all 10-12 enchiladas are in the pan, pour enchilada sauce over top and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until sauce is bubbling on the sides and tortillas are slightly browned.

You can add leftover store bought rotisserie chicken too! But it's good as a vegetarian dish as well. Also, the first picture of the enchiladas above is shown with goat cheese before baking. We made it this way last night for Aidan and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you love goat cheese or if you are trying to avoid cow's milk. Let me know how yours turns out!