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the haas machine: February 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday's "What We Ate Feb. 18-24, 2013"

This week of eating was a bit different for us. We were planning to go to a cabin for the weekend with friends, so that took up a majority of my need for planning, which was quite the treat. I really love meal planning, but sometimes it is definitely one of those things that isn't the most appealing thing to do. Sometimes I just would rather take a nap. 

Having lovely cookbooks for inspiration has definitely been helping me get into planning more, although it's not really reflected in this week's plan... maybe next week? The cookbooks that I've really been digesting lately are: Homemade Pantry (wonderfully simple recipes for staple items you usually purchase), Secrets of the Best Chefs (full of lots of great tricks, as well as scrumptious recipes) & Epicurious Cookbook (tons of inspiration for special date nights & fancy dinner parties), all of which are available at our public library.

If you're from La Crosse, please don't request these books any time soon! I'm too attached! I need at least 30 more weeks with them. What are your most inspiring cookbooks or cooking resources?
Part of Monday's dinner: chicken egg rolls with a dipping sauce (soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, & roasted sesame seeds). The homemade vegetable ramen was mostly a flop, so we need to find a new recipe next time

What We Ate Feb. 18-24, 2013
Monday: Homemade vegetable ramen soup with chicken eggrolls
Tuesday: Sweet potato hash with caramelized onions, sausage, & eggs
Wednesday: Crockpot mac 'n' cheese
Thursday: We went to a cabin with some friends in Wautoma, WI & ate at this little gem
Friday: Vegetarian mole chili topped with cilantro & sour cream, served with cornbread
Saturday: Homemade turkey egg rolls with vegetable fried rice & orange chicken
Sunday: Take 'n' bake pizza with raw carrots, celery, red & green peppers & a garlic cheese spread

I also made whole wheat coconut chocolate chip cookies & basic almond granola this week


Monday, February 25, 2013

Cabin Outing 2013

This past weekend, John, Ruby, & I were able to get away, deep into the heart of Wisconsin & cabin with a bunch of friends (yes, we consider "cabin" to be a verb). It was a sort-of central location for all of us coming from La Crosse, Chicago, Minneapolis, & Duluth & it was quite the little retreat.

Can I just say that we have the coolest, most talented friends ever? Not only are these people absolute joys for these introverts to be around, they know how to celebrate with food, art projects, games, music, & absolute fear. Ruby was thrilled to be around so many of her dubbed aunties & uncles & we will forever treasure this weekend in our hearts.

My quiche contribution for Friday's breakfast: sausage, onion, green pepper & cheddar quiche, roasted red pepper, spinach & feta quiche, & mushroom, onion, & swiss quiche.
Friday's dinner: mole chili garnished with sour cream & cilantro with a side of cornbread
Saturday's breakfast: cinnamon pancakes with sweet potato hash
I neglected to get a picture of Saturday's dinner because I was still suffering from a nap coma, but we ate homemade turkey egg rolls, vegetable fried rice, & orange chicken.
We were able to enjoy the snow a lot & even tried our new snowshoes
Collaboration at its best
Which turned into this! Meet Reggie, our snow gnome.
 Many moments were spent staring at this. After waking up very early on Sunday morning, the sunrise coming through these windows was enough to almost make me a morning person.
 Sunday brunch at another lodge sort of nearby. Ruby was still the entertainment.

Our ride home was mostly uneventful. Ruby & I napped almost the whole way & John witnessed a coffee shop called Shekhinah Glory Coffee, which is an event all on its own. Thank you, friends, for getting away with us & helping us rest with your company, oh so many laughs, & way too many mouthfuls of food.

(here is the recipe for the whole wheat coconut chocolate chips cookies I brought)
(here is the cabin that we rented, which we would absolutely recommend & will visit as often as we possibly can)


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Onions, Sausage & Eggs

Ooh, breakfast for dinner is my favorite. Every time I think about making it, I think about the movie Juno. You know, the part where Bleeker isn't hungry & his mom says, "but puppy, I made your favorite: it's breakfast for dinner!" Yes, that runs through my mind every.single.time. & it's not like it's my favorite movie or anything. Let's just say that breakfast for dinner is very near & dear to my heart.

Breakfast, brunch, whatever, it's amazing. And I'm convinced that breakfast has the best of all foods (french toast?! cinnamon rolls?! pancakes?! eggs benny?! omelets?! any kind of eggs?!) because let's face it, waking up & braving the day can be challenging sometimes. At least if you have a delicious meal to start you off right, the day can be a little sunnier.

Don't even get me started on my love for all things sweet potato. I just adore them.  They are loaded with all kinds of nutrients, they make a great substitute for most potato recipes (especially fries), & best of all, my kid loves them just as much as I do. I've even put them in muffins before & everyone in the house scarfed them down. Sweet potatoes are where it's at.

This recipe is especially tasty because the sweetness of these potatoes pairs well with the saltiness of the sausage & the fragrant evergreen-ness of the rosemary (which is been known to help improve the memory, by the way). Plus, there's a ton of garlic & it's topped with a few fried eggs. 

I suppose it could be made into a vegetarian-friendly meal. I'm not sure what I would sub for the sausage... maybe a veggie sausage or some lovely meaty mushrooms would do the trick. I would just add some more seasonings to get the right flavor.

Are you a breakfast junkie too? What are your favorite recipes?

Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Onions, Sausage, & Eggs
Serves 2-3

1 pound onions, about 1 large
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound fresh sausage or chorizo
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, about 2 medium potatoes
3 large garlic cloves
2 long stalks rosemary, about 1/4 cup of leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
Parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the oven to 450°F. Peel the onions & cut them in half lengthwise, then cut them into thin half-moons. Cut the half-moons in half. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it foams up add the onions & sprinkle lightly with salt. Lower the heat slightly & cook the onions for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, & lowering the heat if they seem to be burning. Cook them until they are light brown.

Meanwhile, put the sausage in another skillet & brown over medium-high heat, chopping it up into fine crumbles with a spatula. Cook the sausage for about 10 minutes, or until it is browned & beginning to crisp. Drain away any excess fat.

While the onions & sausage are cooking, chop the unpeeled sweet potatoes into cubes that are about 1/2-inch to a side. Finely mince the garlic & rosemary leaves, & toss them in a large bowl with the sweet potatoes. Toss with the olive oil, kosher salt, & a generous helping of black pepper.

When the onions are light brown & the sausage is crispy, stir these into the sweet potatoes. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper & spread out the sweet potatoes evenly. Roast the sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they are soft & browned.

Make small wells in the sweet potatoes & fry up an egg to your liking. Place the egg in the center of the hash & serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday's "What We Ate Feb 11-17, 2013"

Last week was kind of a blur. Let's just say that it was definitely a week where eating out every night or getting take out was definitely at the front of my mind. For some reason, our almost 19-month old decided that she was anti-napping for three days, so that left me scrambling. The house didn't get cleaned, my tasks were left undone, & on Friday, I finally gave in & we went out to eat. I think John saw the desperation in my eyes, so when I suggested a breakfast diner, he was all about it.

We had a nice valentines day meal, though, & we only ate out twice, so I consider the week (food-wise) to have been a success (if it were up to me, we would have eaten out 7 times. Yes, 7). I was able to cut up a bunch of veggies & steam some rice on Tuesday for some quick fried rice. And then we had a work party on Saturday, so that left me without having to plan a meal (although we did eat pizza twice last week...) We also had salmon burgers in the freezer from the last time we made them, so that was another easy meal after a busy weekend.

I'm lucky that my kid usually naps for at least 2 hours every day & I'm realizing how much I savor those times. It gives me time to breathe, enjoy cooking, be present, & do some of the things that are impossible to do with a toddler hanging on your legs. I'm also realizing how much I still love freezer-ready meals! They are a total life-saver when you have weeks like we had & it reminds me to start saving up for that massive additional freezer that I've been drooling over for some time.

What are your favorite easy or go-to meals when life gets crazy?
Tuesday's dinner: John's Korean version of vegetable fried rice (uses sesame oil & roasted sesame seeds in addition to soy sauce & olive oil when cooking)

What We Ate Feb. 11-17, 2013
Monday: Homemade coconut chicken nuggets with a side salad (red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, sesame seeds, & ranch)
Tuesday: Vegetable fried rice
Wednesday: Heart-shaped pepperoni pizzas
Thursday: Homemade four cheese ravioli (fontina, mozzarella, ricotta & parmesan) with alfredo cream sauce & prosciutto served with a side salad. We had devil's food chocolate bundt cake drizzled with chocolate espresso ganache for dessert (check out our valentine's day post).
Friday: We ate at a local breakfast diner
Saturday: We had John's Christmas work party, so we ate pizza while bowling
Sunday: Salmon burgers with raw red peppers, carrots & hummus


Monday, February 18, 2013

Crockpot Mac 'n' Cheese

I never really loved crockpot cooking until I got married. It's not that I didn't love the simplicity of it, it's just that I had a pretty strong distaste of all things kitchen applicaney, so I didn't own one. Since marriage, I have slowly come to the understanding that the right kitchen tools make all of the difference when it comes to cooking well. I now take great pleasure in finding a gadget that will make our creating more tasty & more efficient. You might laugh a little bit, but my current top kitchen appliances/gadgets are:
  1. Kitchenaid mixer
  2. Crockpot
  3. Food processor
  4. Cookie cutters (jungle animals, hearts, & alphabets)
  5. Electric kettle
All of these items, minus the kettle, have been acquired post-wedding. I'm still a little new to using them, so I get a little giddy, especially when making bread or cookies because I used to seriously mix the ingredients by hand... & they hardly ever turned out as a result.

My problem with most kitchen appliances is that they can only be used for one thing & I'm way too practical for that. Why on earth people have pizza warmers & quesadilla makers is beyond me (don't you have an oven?) We'll probably never own a waffle maker (I don't really like them anyways) or a bread maker (you can totally make killer bread without one!) But we will always hold dear those on my top 5 list, especially our crockpot.

Lately, I've been very into making our own yogurt in the crockpot & made some hearty baked potato soup in there, too. We've made a batch of applesauce in the crockpot & I hear you can even make things like oatmeal or lasagne in there... crazy! A crockpot is really quite the magnificent invention, especially when you're beyond busy. Pair that with my complete devotion to homemade mac 'n' cheese & you've got a real crowd pleaser. 

What are your favorite crockpot meals? And have you ever tried mac 'n' cheese pizza? For real...

Crockpot Mac 'n' Cheese
2 cups whole milk
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni

In a mixing bowl whisk together milk, evaporated milk, egg, salt & pepper. Pour milk mixture into the crock pot. Add cheese & uncooked macaroni. Stir gently to mix.

Turn slow cooker on low & cook 3 hours, or until the custard is set & the macaroni is tender. (Do not cook more than 4 hours, or the sides will begin to dry out). Serve at once.

*Note: this version of mac 'n' cheese is not like your averaged boxed kraft dinner. It's very thick & custardy & the noodles stick together more like a slice of pie than individual pieces. But don't let that scare you! If you like rich, cheesy things, you will love this recipe.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crockpot Baked Potato Soup

I grew up in northern Minnesota. Ahh, the land of meatloaf for dinner once a week, hot dishes (or casseroles for non-Minnesotans) at every shin dig, & the spiciest condiment in your house was usually ketchup, or at least it was in my house. We ate pretty simply growing up-- lots of taco, spaghetti & tuna helper dinners. But we also ate lots of potatoes.

It might be obvious to everyone else, I'm starting to realize that when you're the meal planner of the household, you get to decide what you eat. Sure, you can't completely decide (um, if we could afford to eat sushi more than twice a year, I would so be there) but you can cater meals to your liking. Growing up, we ate potatoes a lot because my mom is boarder-line obsessed with them. Every time we had a "fancy" dinner, the baked potatoes would come out for sure. And if things were especially exciting, the "top the tater" would also make an appearance (basically sour cream with chives). Oh those were the days.

When I made this baked potato soup, I couldn't help but think of my mom. I just know that she'll love it. It's rich & creamy & salty & cheesy. It's perfectly paired with crumbled bacon & grated sharp cheddar. And what's best is that you stick everything in the crockpot & then forget about it all day long. It's the perfect meal for those super busy days when you know cooking is just not gonna happen. No matter if you're from Minnesota or Montana, this soup is a tasty comfort.
Crockpot Baked Potato Soup

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, washed but NOT peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes
1/2 medium/large yellow onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock or broth
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
optional garnishes: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, green onions

Add potatoes, onion, garlic, salt, & chicken stock to slow cooker. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours. Add the softened cream cheese & puree soup with an immersion blender until the cheese is incorporated. Top with your choice of garnishes & enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Mama Loves Food

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Ruby's Play Kitchen

We are finally done with the play kitchen that we've been dreaming about, planning for, & working on & we are pretty satisfied with the results. We figured that since we're pretty into food, that we want to instill that into Ruby so she can become a little foodie, too. I mean she already picks out the sad, February strawberries out of her plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt so she can just enjoy it in peace. She already knows where it's at, but why stop there?

Right after we found out I was pregnant, we found ourselves wandering through the incredibleness that is Ikea. It was as if we were somehow teleported there the second I took the test because that's just what you do, right? Well actually, we were in Minneapolis because we just flew back from Missouri, but the whole time for me was this strange blur, so it could have been a teleport for all I know.

I had always thought it would be amazing to have a little play kitchen for our kids, but I really didn't want something bulky or easily knocked over/moved around the house/ugly. Once we actually started making plans, we took all of that into consideration. This thing was going to be in our living room, so I didn't want to shudder every time I looked at it.

We toyed around a bit with just buying one, but after about 3 seconds of online researching, we realized that attractive wooden kitchens are just way (way, way) out of our budget. So John got out his grid paper, I got to pinning play kitchens, & we got to work (& when I say, "we" in this post, I mostly mean John... he did all the hard work).

Although there were plenty of play kitchen designs that utilize existing furniture (like end tables, dressers, entertainment centers, desks, etc.) the space that we have available is very limited, so we decided to start from scratch.We bought the majority of the goods from Menards, but I will describe each piece a little more in detail.
Ruby, being very helpful at Menards
  • The main body of the kitchen is comprised of 1/4 inch plywood (for the back), 1 x 10 inch pine wood boards (for the frame), & a 1 x 12 inch cedar board (for the countertop).
  • There are 4 wheels that it sits on, & two of them can lock so that it won't get twirled about. 
  • John also secured the whole kitchen to the wall so that it won't topple over if someone gets upset that she burnt her cookies.
  • Everything was sanded several times & there are 2 coats of polyurethane on it to protect the wood. We considered painting it, but decided that we both liked the raw look of the wood.

  • The burners were found at Hobby Lobby- they are little wooded plaque-type pieces that John spray painted black.
  • The knobs for the oven are from this dresser that I gave a make-over.
  • The oven door is made out of a piece of plywood that John cut a square hole out of & screwed a piece of plexi glass into.
  • The handle for the oven door & drawer below the oven were purchased at Menards.
  • The oven rack was purchased at Menards as well. It was originally one of those space saving shelves that John cut to fit inside the oven to sit on wooden pegs (so Ruby can adjust the shelving, depending on what recipe she's baking).
  • The hinges are the special safety kind so that the door doesn't just flop open & hurt someone.
  • There is a small drawer below the oven for all of Ruby's utensils & a shelf above for her quaint little tea set (she absolutely adores having tea when company comes over!) There are also hooks below this shelf for her pots & pans.
  • There is still talk of installing a light inside of the oven...

  • The faucet was one of the harder things to find. We originally started perusing thrift shops & our local Restore, but grew impatient, so we purchased an $11 faucet that's actually designed to filter water (that's why it's so tiny). It was purchased at Menards.
  • The faucet knobs were found at Menards. Both the knobs even turn!
  • The sink is a small stainless steel bowl. John cut a hole in the counter & placed it in there with glue.
  • You might be wondering where that lovely piece of artwork is from? This was one of our favorite wedding gifts that was made by our super talented friend Lisa. It's called "Refuge". I figured Ruby might need a little refuge while she's busy at washing all those dishes.

Shelves & food
  • There are a few small shelves behind the curtain to hide all of her other dishes & food (John installed a thin bar at the top of these shelves so that I could sew a curtain out of an old pilliowcase). I also sewed a few small wash cloths out of old fabric scraps I had laying around.
  • The majority of the dishes are gems that we found at thrift stores, with the exception of her tea set & pots & pan set. She also has a fabric basket full of vegetables that she loves to play with (um, she knows what leak is). I still would like to get her these utilsiles & this bake set, but all in good time (why is everything so freaking cute when it's miniature?)
The entire project cost us just over $100. We definitely could have saved money by finding an old faucet & knobs, but really that's the only thing that we went over-budget on. It was worth it to get exactly what we wanted & what would fit into that small space.
While in construction-mode in the basement, Ruby couldn't resist the urge to play with it!
And my favorite view- Ruby & her little friend, working hard to get dinner ready
Mmm, dinner
Here are the original plans. If you'd like a copy of this or more clarification, please let us know!

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Day 2013

We might say that we're not very big "valentines day people," but really we would be lying. Any chance we get to make something special food-wise, even if it is a cheesy holiday, we're game. Here's a look at what we ate on Valentines day (& even the night before as we were getting ready for it).
Homemade pepperoni pizza in kind-of-heart-shapes (served the night before valentines day)
Valentines day morning homemade strawberry heart- shaped pop-tarts
 Homemade four cheese ravioli (fontina, mozzarella, ricotta & parmesan) with alfredo cream sauce & prosciutto (the rav was in heart shapes, but it's a bit hard to see)
 Valentines dinner: four cheese ravioli with a fresh garden salad (red leaf lettuce, grated carrots, salami, sesame seeds, soy nuts & balsamic vinigrette) & a glass of cab sav
 Dessert: devil's food chocolate bundt cake (my first bundt ever!) drizzled with chocolate espresso ganache
Dessert #2: Cream top dark chocolate mudslides. The "after baby was in bed" treat.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday's "What We Ate Feb. 4-10, 2013"

I absolutely love our library. It is probably one of the best-stocked libraries I've ever experienced & I attribute that to the interlibrary loan system. From what I understand, there are a whole bunch of libraries in this gang that all let each other's patrons use their stuff. I can go online, in the privacy of my own home, reserve some book from who-knows-where library & get it delivered to my main library in like a day. Now only if they would deliver...

Another reason I'm in love with our library is that it's so relevant. I'm currently on the waiting list for some books that haven't even been released yet. Oooh. Our library is so hip.

One of the books that I got this past week is called The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying And Start Making. I'm not sure how I found out about this book (I'm sure I read about it on some one's foodie blog, so if it was you, thank you for the recommendation!) I'm totally a sucker for making as much as possible from scratch, all within reason ("within reason" is greatly influenced by my daughter's napping habits, my level of adventurousness & whether or not I have the energy to clean the kitchen again).

We are busy people, just like everyone else. Between house tasks, raising a crazy toddler, work & ministry obligations/events, somewhat time-consuming creations, & investing in relationships, John & I are pretty swamped (although we do seem to fit in super important things like watching an entire season of Mad Men in a week), so just the thought of adding more work isn't very appealing. But there is something to be said about making something from scratch-- knowing all of the ingredients, being able to alter them as you choose, & of course, saving some money.

We already make all of our own bread, yogurt, muffins, granola bars, graham crackers, granola, & other treats (don't worry John, you'll get some treats this week), as well as prepare dried beans instead of canned ones, can our own spaghetti sauce & salsa, but I think there's more I could get into. I just tried making our own whole wheat tortillas last week & that wasn't as challenging as I anticipated. In the next couple of weeks I'm going to try to experiment with a pasta recipe & a few different cracker recipes in the book. Depending on how those go, I might even get super adventurous & make my own ricotta or mozzarella!
Saturday's dinner: stuffed portobello mushrooms (stuffed with roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, mozzarella cheese & balsamic carmelized onions) on grilled focaccia bread with sesame green beans

What We Ate Feb. 4-10, 2013
Monday: Avocado basil pasta
Tuesday: Easy eggs, rice, cheese, & spinach with whole wheat toast
Wednesday: Shredded chicken tacos with homemade whole wheat tortillas & cilantro-lime black beans
Thursday: Salmon & cheesy broccoli quinoa
Friday: Greek Gyros from Gracie's (we were celebrating filing our taxes!)
Saturday: Stuffed portobello mushrooms (stuffed with roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, mozzarella cheese & balsamic carmelized onions) on grilled focaccia bread with sesame green beans
Sunday: Crockpot baked potato soup with focaccia bread

I've also been trying to get back into making these smoothies for Ruby & I for breakfast. Last week, I made a big batch of them & portioned them so I would have one for each day & they kept well enough in the fridge that I'm thinking about doing this more often. I like to pre-portion them in mason jars & use these sweet lids to keep them fresh until consumption.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

We should have taken stock in tortillas because we eat them so often. Some of our favorite meals are huevos rancheros, shredded chicken tacos, breakfast burritos, pizza quesadillas, fish tacos, chicken enchiladas, veggie quesadillas... all involving tortillas. Plus, Ruby just decided that she really likes saying tortilla ("tor-tee-yah!") so there's even more of an incentive to eat them.

We often buy corn tortillas & I want to experiment more with making those, but for the meantime, I am so in-love with these whole wheat tortillas & I am not usually a big whole wheat tortilla fan. I find them to be gummy & flavorless, but these are surprisingly tasty & once you cook them, delightfully crispy.

I think I've avoided making them in the past because they just seem like another thing I could make, & probably something that wouldn't turn out as well as the store-bought ones (which is especially not motivating when you don't even really like the store-bought ones). Sometimes I just don't want another step when I'm struggling to get dinner ready. Although I'm sure these tortillas won't be at every meal where we need them, I will say that they were worth the extra 30 minutes or so (15 of those minutes were spent waiting for them to rest).

Have you ever checked out 100 Days of Real Food? It's one of my absolute favorite blogs for making simple, non-processed foods. She has an incredible index of recipes & that's where I snagged this one. If you're trying to eat more whole foods, you should definitely head on over there (after you make these tortillas).
Whole wheat tortillas used for shredded chicken tacos (shredded chicken, red peppers, onions, avocado, Greek yogurt, salsa, & cilantro-lime black beans)

Whole Wheat Tortillas
2½ cups whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur’s white whole-wheat flour)
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water


In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer set with a dough hook, pour in the flour, oil & salt. Beat with the paddle until crumbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the sides as needed. With the mixer running, gradually add the warm water & continue mixing until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Take out the dough & divide it into 12 equal sized pieces. I do this by making the dough into a big log shape that is about 8 – 10 inches long. Then I cut it in the middle. Then I cut each of those pieces in the middle & so on until you have 12 pieces.

Using the palms of your hand roll each piece into a round ball & flatten it out on a board. Cover with plastic wrap & let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet, griddle or 12-inch skillet over med-high heat. The pan should be fairly hot before you begin cooking the tortillas. On a lightly floured board or counter top, use a rolling pin to turn each ball into a 8 to 10 inch flat circle. Be careful not to use more than a teaspoon or two of flour when rolling out each ball into a tortilla because too much excess flour will burn in the pan.

Grease the pan with a touch of oil & then carefully transfer each tortilla, one at a time, to the pan & cook until puffy & slightly brown, about 30 to 45 seconds per side. Set aside on a plate to cool slightly. Eat within an hour, refrigerate or freeze.

Recipe taken from 100 Days of Real Food

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Homemade Deodorant

No body likes stinky armpits. It's just not an experience most people like to be stuck in. No one says, "Yes! I get to sit next to the smelly person on the airplane!" or "Yahoo! I haven't showered in a week, but my pits smell incredible!" Well, maybe someone says that, but they are probably in denial.

Although I don't like smelling like eau de body odor, I'm also not OK with putting straight up chemicals on my body for vanity's sake. Have you ever taken a look at the toxic ingredients in the deodorant you put on your body every single day (sometimes several times)? I'm not trying to scare you, I'm just trying to be real here. I think there's a lot we could do to prevent all kinds of illnesses & diseases if we just take a step back & look at what we're consuming & putting on our bodies every day.

The reality is, we go to great lengths to not smell & sweat (which is pretty American by the way), although sweating is a natural process that the body uses to regulate temperature (& I'm sure there's other reasons, right?) I'm not a big fan of antiperspirant for this reason & I've come to terms with getting a little sweaty every now & then (OK most of the time). How hippy-ish of me, right?

I've used various natural deodorants on the market, & although I have enjoyed many of them (Kiss My Face & Burt's Bees are among my favs), they aren't cheap. I wanted to find a simple, yet effective recipe that I could whip up, still smell pleasantly natural, & maybe even save a few bucks in the process. Plus, I didn't want to have to search the depths of the internet for all the ingredients I would need.

I found the majority of the ingredients below at our local food co-op in the bulk section. I had a more challenging time finding calendula, but thankfully I was able to buy a massive bag through the buying co-op that I'm a part of, so I should be set for about 10 years of deodorant-making.
Homemade Deodorant
3 Tbsp dried chamomile
2 Tbsp dried calendula
5 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp sunflower oil (or other oil, like avocado, sweet almond, or apricot kernel)
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp baking soda
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
20 drops of essential oils of your choosing (I like a stronger scent, so I went with 30-40 drops)

In a small, sterilized jar, add chamomile & calendula & the coconut & sunflower oils (make sure your coconut oil is liquefied first). Shake well to mix. Store in a dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking occasionally.

After 2-3 weeks of infusion, strain the oil from the flowers (again, heating up the oil slightly if it’s in a solid-ish state). I used a coffee filter to strain- you can even squeeze it once all the flowers are collected so that you have as much oil as possible.

In another sterilized jar, combine the infused oil with the dry ingredients (baking soda & arrowroot) & stir well. Add your essential oils drop-by-drop, stirring constantly. Store in your bathroom. This should keep for 3-4 months.

To use, gently scoop out a tiny bit (a little goes a long way!) & rub on your armpit. Enjoy this little moment you get to share together.

**UPDATE: It has now been 4 months since I made this recipe & I still love it. I am almost about to use up my first jar, so I would say that it lasts for 4-ish months. Now that it's summertime, I was a little curious to see if this deodorant was going to hold up in the stinky, sweaty humidity, but I have been pleasantly surprised! This isn't an anti-perserpant, so you will still sweat (which is good for you), but my pits stay smelling fresh & coconutty all day long! Be sure to take your time mixing it together when it liquifies so that you're not just using the oil on your pits & rub it in really well, because if you don't, you may end up with white deodorant-looking marks on dark clothing (it washes out easily though).

Recipe taken from Crunchy Betty

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Easy Eggs, Rice, Spinach, & Cheese

I really struggle with making the right portions when cooking. For some reason, I have this great fear of running out of food, especially while entertaining guests. Although it's never happened to me, in my mind, I cannot think of many worse things when people are over (talk about a first world problem, huh?) OK, I'm sure there are tons of way worse situations we could face, like what if our plumbing went out or what if a meteor hit our house before I got to serve dessert, but those things aren't what cause me to over-compensate.

It's easy to really go crazy especially when making rice, & especially when you make it the way John & I do. We usually make a half brown/half white rice mixture, but there is no measuring involved. We just dump a bunch of rice in a pan, pour some water in it & then "measure" the amount of water in it by sticking a finger in the dish. If the water hits a certain sweet spot on the finger, then you're good to go. If it's too low, add more water. If it's too high, add more rice.

We almost always make way too much rice.

This recipe for eggs, rice, spinach, & cheese solves many of our rice problems. It's a great way to use up some of those left-overs instead of throwing them away or suffering through old crunchy rice. And it's really quite delicious & even better, Ruby loves it! I get a lot of strange satisfaction out of watching her shovel down mouth-fulls of spinach (do you even realize how healthy this is for you?)

I suppose I could learn to use some measuring cups for making rice, but what fun would that be?
Easy Eggs, Rice, Spinach, & Cheese
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup left-over (or fresh) rice
6 eggs, whisked
A few handfuls of fresh spinach
1 cup grated cheese (any kind, although feta is quite delightful)

If using fresh rice, first get the rice cooking however you like to cook it. Warm up a skillet with the butter on medium heat & place the cooked rice on the warmed pan & even out so it covers the whole pan, kind of like a crust. Layer the spinach on top of the rice & then add the whisked eggs. Top with the grated cheese.

Continue to cook on medium, covered. Turn the temp down to low once you start seeing the eggs bubble (you want to keep it on low with the cover on so that the bottom doesn't burn & that the eggs cook thoroughly). Remove from the heat once the eggs are no longer jiggly. Wait 5 minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday's "What We Ate Jan. 28- Feb. 3, 2013"

Sometimes I wish that gravity didn't exist, especially during mealtime. My little one tends to love the game of throwing everything from her seat at the table lately, & frankly, it drives me bonkers. Never is there a day without a dried banana chunk stuck on the floor or a mound of crumbs that would literally feed a troop of ants. I know that there would be more of a mess if gravity was non-existant, but then at least the mess wouldn't be caked on to my floor like the mound of yogurt & cheerios now are. Oh to have a sparkly clean floor...

As parents, we sometimes suffer at the expense of our kids, don't we? Maybe we offer them foods we would rather never see or smell (is there anything that smells worse that cheerio breath?!) Maybe we have to fight to get those good-for-you calories in by hiding them (have you ever read this book?) Or maybe we just give in & serve them their own separate meals because it isn't worth fighting every night (hey, we've definitely been there). However you choose to feed your kids, I think that most people would agree that if they could, they would choose to feed their kids food that will help their little bodies grow well.

Lately, I've been trying to make incredibly wholesome recipes that lure my little one into devouring them instead of chucking them (is that possible?). This occasionally works, but I'm slowly realizing that sometimes she just loves throwing things more than she loves eating them because today she tossed her beloved toast with peanut butter (or "pa ta da" as she calls it) overboard. And then she asked for more.

One of my favorite toddler recipes is for the tuna zucchini cakes pictured below. They are packed with nutrients & are really quite simple & easy to make. We usually always have tuna on hand, too, so that's a bonus. I can't wait to use some of my home-grown veggies this summer & freeze massive quantities of them so we can always have them on hand.

I'll post this recipe in the next week or so because if you have a kid, they are bound to love these. Or at the very least, they are really fun to throw onto the ground.

What are your favorite meals to feed your kids?
Thursday's dinner: tuna zucchini cakes with sweet potato wedges (not shown)

What We Ate Jan. 28- Feb. 3, 2013
Tuesday: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes with onions, pineapple, & raspberries
Wednesday: Chicken enchilada pasta with blue corn tortilla chips
Thursday: Tuna zucchini cakes with sweet potato wedges
Friday: Coconut curry noodles with red peppers & carrots
Saturday: Traditional bbq wings & Thai peanut wings with rice 
Sunday:  Super bowl food: copycat Trader Joe's hummus with whole wheat pitas & carrots, & seven layer taco dip (our layers were refried beans, Greek yogurt, avocado, salsa verde, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, & cheese) with tortilla chips

I also made a batch of crockpot yogurt & more blueberry muffins this week


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa

We've been kind of busy lately. Not really the measurable or incredibly exciting kind of busy-- more like the "I have 2 batches of cookies ready to go in the oven & I'm trying to cook dinner" kind of busy. It's definitely a struggle to feed your family healthy home cooked meals & also eat healthy throughout the day, but that's what I really am loving about quinoa lately.

Sometimes I find it challenging to whip up something to go with the main meal. I don't want something that will steal all the glory, & at the same time, I don't just want to suffer through it. Quinoa's where it's at (although this recipe is pretty glorious, so it could definitely be eaten alone).

Have you tried quinoa? It's one of the trendiest foods out there & it's no surprise as to why. It's filling, it's deliciously roasty, & it's packed with good-for-you nutrients. We've been trying to eat more quinoa lately in place of rice, pasta or bread, because even though we eat mostly brown rice & whole wheat pasta/bread, quinoa is more nutritious. It's packed with fiber & it it's a pretty decent source of protein, as well as iron & potassium. It also takes a little less time to cook than rice, so that's a bonus on those nights that we need something really quick for dinner. It's naturally gluten-free & unlike a lot of other grains or seeds, it tastes great on it's own. 

But then I pack it with melty cheese & broccoli & then it tastes sensational.

If you haven't given quinoa a try, go for it! This recipe will win you over in no time. What are your favorite ways to eat quinoa?
Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups broccoli, chopped
1 cup cheddar, shredded
salt & pepper to taste


Bring the quinoa, broth & broccoli to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat & simmer covered until the broth has been absorbed & the quinoa is tender, about 13-17 minutes. Mix in the cheese, let it melt & season with salt & pepper. Devour.

Recipe taken from closetcooking.com

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Basic Almond Granola

Oh how I love granola. It's what actually attracted me to yogurt. I'm getting better at the proportions these days, but back before I fell in love with Greek yogurt, I would mix about a cup of granola with a tablespoon of yogurt & call it good. Now I just know better.

Granola is such an incredible thing but it can be quickly tarnished in my opinion. Neither John nor I enjoy dried fruits (especially raisins!) & a lot of granola recipes call for that. Ew. A lot of granola calls of mounds of sugar & we try to limit the amount of sugar we eat & eat the least processed kinds (like honey, maple syrup, & demerara). And almost all of the granola recipes I find are so massive in quantity that you're left with jars & jars of it, which might not be a bad thing if it's delicious, but if it's not so great, yikes (I know you could half the recipe, but that would mean I would have to do math).

This recipe, discovered by Lindsay over at The Live-In Kitchen, is delightfully nutty, crunchy, with just a hint of sweetness. It also made about 1.5 quarts, but now that I'm in love, I'll know to double the recipe next time. It's the most perfect quick little breakfast or snack, either eaten with milk, yogurt, or flying solo. Just don't give any to your unattended 18-month old or you'll be finding oatmeal bits stuck to your socks for weeks.

Basic Almond Granola
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
1/4 cup whole raw almonds
1/4 cup raw honey
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients. Spread in a thick layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake 30-40 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, gently flip/stir to evenly cook. If you like big clusters, try to keep it packed together. Continue to flip every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven when lightly browned.

This granola pairs wonderfully with Greek-style crockpot yogurt!

Recipe adapted from The Live-In Kitchen


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Crockpot Yogurt

 Decadently thick homemade yogurt with fresh strawberries & basic almond granola

Last night I almost killed our yogurt. And our pipes. And maybe even us. It was about -20 F & I shut off our heat (accidentally). I was fooling around with our programmable thermostat earlier in the day & in order to update the settings, you first need to shut the heat off, so I did. And then I got busy messing with the thermostat, which reminded me that I needed to throw our diapers in the dryer, which reminded me that I had a mound of other laundry to fold, which reminded me that I needed to re-organize some of Ruby's clothes... & the list went on & on, which meant that I forgot to turn the heat back on.

And then we borrowed Mad Men from our library & I honestly don't remember the rest of the night because I was in total & utter bliss. It's one of our most favorite shows & we've been waiting so patiently for it to come out on DVD so we could binge on all the goodness (how on earth people watch just one episode per week completely baffles me). Our TV is in the basement, so it's always pretty chilly down there, so I didn't notice the heat not being on.

But when I woke up this morning, my nose was cold, which was strange because our room is usually unpleasantly warm in the mornings (thank you radiator heat). At that point, I started wondering if our boiler was dead, which reminded me that I shut off the heat, which reminded me that I had yogurt brewing & that it might actually be dead (again).

The last few batches of yogurt-making haven't been so smooth. Well they've been smooth, just not thick. And I blame it mostly on the frozen tundra-like conditions both inside & outside of my house (we keep it pretty chilly at night, even when the heat is on). So when I ran downstairs & saw that our thermostat read 48 degrees, I worried about our little yogurt baby. Thankfully, my good ol' trusted yogurt-making friend had just suggested that I put the yogurt in the oven, wrapped in blankets & turn the oven light on, so that's what we did last night. And we got a little more into taking the temperature of the brewing yogurt, so now we've got it down.

I make this yogurt just about once a week & it makes a little more than a quart. We're saving all kinds of cash because the yogurt we really like is about $6 (Fage) & this calls for only 1/2 a gallon of milk. I even strain it so it's super thick & creamier than you could even imagine (if you don't strain it you will yield twice as much yogurt). I sub it for sour cream all the time & it's sensational.

Don't let making your own yogurt scare you. I had to get past that fear/weirdness of making yogurt, but once I did, now it's really a struggle for me to buy it. There's lots of different ways to make it, but I enjoy this method the most because it's super simple & for the most part, hands off. Because let's face it, we've all got a lot on our minds, so we don't need another thing to have to think about. Just leave the heat on in your house & it will turn out famously.

Crockpot Yogurt

8 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of plain yogurt with live active cultures (we like whole milk or 2% Fage)

Directions (for summer)
In a 4 quart crockpot, pour in 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of milk. Turn crockpot on low & heat for 2 hours & 45 minutes. After time has elapsed, turn off the crockpot & let the milk cool in the crock with the lid on for 3 hours. After the additional time has elapsed, remove lid & stir in 1/2 cup of yogurt with live active cultures & mix very well. Place the cover back on the crock & wrap the entire crockpot in a thick bath towel or two & let it sit overnight (8-12 hours). 

In the morning stir yogurt & transfer it to glass quart jars if you like it thinner (you'll also get more this way). If you're like us & are kind of snotty about yogurt & like it thick, strain it. 

I have found the easiest way to do this is to take 4 coffee filters & place them in a strainer so the entire strainer is covered & then put the strainer over a large bowl. Scoop about 2 cups of the yogurt (for an average size strainer) into the strainer & let strain for 20 minutes or so & then place the remaining yogurt from the strainer in a jar & continue straining until you've thickened the heck out of the yogurt. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before using.

Directions (for winter)
It's pretty similar, you just need to keep an eye on the yogurt more. Instead of letting it cool for 3 hours (after the initial cook time of 2 hours 45 minutes), take the yogurt's temp every so often. When it has cooled to 110 degrees (about 2 hours for us last night), then add your 1/2 cup of yogurt. Also, after you wrap your crockpot in blankets, place the it in the oven with the light on. This will help it to stay at the right temp overnight.

Recipe adapted from milkandhoneyliving.com

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Chicken enchiladas have always been a favorite meal of mine, but they have especially been memorable since July 25th, 2011, when they made my water break. You see on that day, I waddled my 38-week pregnant body up to Woodman's to do a massive grocery shopping extravaganza (Woodman's is always an extravaganza, but when you're that pregnant & it's summer, it's just massive). I was doubling up on a lot of our meals back then so that I could have one for dinner & freeze another for when the baby arrived. On that particular day, I was whipping up a batch of chicken enchiladas.

After I unloaded the car, I got started cooking. I wanted to try & get most of the cooking done before it was too miserably hot, so I was working as fast as I could. I sat down while I started cutting up the chicken & when I stood up, I was absolutely convinced that I had just wet my pants (when you're pregnant, surprisingly wetting your pants isn't really shocking after it's happened a dozen times).

I then proceeded to waddle upstairs to change my clothes. Something just didn't seem right though, so I called John & together, we researched if that could have been my water breaking. We found all kinds of "tests" I could do, but in the end, we wisely called our midwife, who asked me a few questions & then suggested that I come in to her office to do an "official" test. 12 hours later my contractions started & 8 more hours later, Ruby was in our arms! Badda bing, badda boom!

So every time I see a recipe for chicken enchiladas, I kind of get a little sentimental. And I thought I would experiment with this recipe, which calls for penne pasta instead of tortillas. To top off the sentiment of it all, we brought this meal to a family in our church who just recently had a baby. I found it fitting.

This recipe could easily be turned vegetarian by subbing the chicken for beans or more vegetables. Just make sure that you check the ingredients (if you're a hardcore veg) on you can of enchilada sauce because some contain chicken stock.
Chicken Enchilada Pasta
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (or a few breasts put in the crockpot & then shredded)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can diced green chiles (4 oz)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can green chili enchilada sauce (10 oz)
2 cups shredded cheese (any kind, but I like mozzarella or something else creamy & mild)
1 8 oz block of cream cheese
12 oz Penne pasta

Optional topping ideas
Green Onions
Black Olives
Sour Cream

Preheat your broiler to low. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Boil pasta according to package. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet & cook onions for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic & red pepper & cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Add cooked chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, & enchilada sauce. Let sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Add cream cheese & stir until they are melted & heated through.

Drain pasta & add to the skillet with the cheese sauce & mix well. Put everything in a baking dish & top with the shredded cheese. Stick it in the oven (low broiler) for a few minutes until cheese has melted & is beginning to get brown & bubbly. Serve & garnish with desired toppings.

Recipe adapted from Navy Wife Cook