Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Friends Friday Party and Giveaway!

Welcome friends to another fabulous Friday party!  This week we are luck to be giving away 2 Crock Pot Carry Bags from Cotton Commotion!  Just in time for the holidays, 2 lucky U.S. residents will be randomly selected will be able to carry their family dinner contributions in an adorable carrying bag!



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hamburger Macaroni Casserole


I don't have many casseroles in my repertoire because it seems that so many of them are very unhealthy.  This one isn't exactly a health food, but sometimes you just need a casserole, right?  It screams fall to me.  Cold weather outside and a hot dinner in a 9x13 baking dish sizzling away in the oven.  Ahhh, comfort food!  :)   


There are a lot of different seasonings I use in this casserole to give it a real kick of flavor.  Really, this combination of spices is always a winner for me in a number of applications.  I have toned it down over the years so my daughter can handle it, but if you really like spice add more chili powder and cayenne.     We don't make this a lot because it's not the healthiest meal, but we always enjoy it when we treat ourselves to it.  :)  


Ingredients

2 C macaroni
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 heaping cup of corn
12 oz ground beef-style crumbles
16 oz low sodium tomato soup
1/3 C vegetable broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili powder
dash of red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic salt
french fried onions



Directions

  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onion and green pepper and cook until tender.
  4. Add the macaroni to the skillet.  Also add the burger crumbles, corn, soup, broth, and seasonings.  Stir to combine.
  5. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and top with crumbled french fried onions.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the fried onions are golden brown.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Candy Trade In Ideas


This year has been a big year of transition for me.  Up to this point, I have had total control over what my daughter ate.  But now, with the introduction of preschool 2 days a week and a classroom-wide snack, birthday parties seemingly every weekend, and another holiday season already upon us, I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.  I appreciate that I am on the fringe.  Most parents don't feel the way I do about food.  But it has become such a part of my life that it still surprises me to realize that I am so different.  I don't want my daughter to feel like an outcast.  I know kids can be cruel, and she doesn't need me to give other kids a reason to single her out.  So I find myself allowing a much wider range of foods into her weekly diet.


She is so excited about Halloween and trick-or-treating.  If it were up to me, I would be just fine having her skip it all together.  Aside from the influx of candy, isn't there something weird about having your kids walk up to random adults and ask for candy?  It has always seemed like a really strange tradition to me.  Anyway...back to the point at hand.  :)  We have a small neighborhood in which my daughter goes trick-or-treating, but she still manages to come home with a lot more candy than she needs to eat.  This begs the question: what should we do with all the candy?

There are a handful of ideas I have come across and I think I will probably end up using a combination of them, after letting my daughter pick a few of her favorites of course:

1. The Candy Fairy - Before they go to bed, have them leave a bag of candy on the back porch.  By morning, the Candy Fairy has taken the candy and left a new toy, book, or game to enjoy!

2. Use extra candy to decorate your holiday gingerbread house - Get creative and have a lot more variety to decorate your houses!  Lollipop lamps, Smarties roof tiles, the options are endless!

3. Send a care package to our troops overseas - Give the troops a taste of home.  Sure, I would love it if nobody ate this garbage, but it isn't my place to tell people what to eat.  These brave men and women are fighting for us, and if we can give them a little comfort from home, why not?

4. Candy Experiments - Have some serious fun with your candy!  Check out candyexperiments.com for some amazing activities to do with your kids!

5. Have a hearty dinner before trick or treating to minimize gorging once they get home - If you feed your kids a full and healthy meal before going trick-or-treating, they will be less likely to over-indulge before they go to bed.

6. Dentist buy-backs - Some dentists will actually buy back your kids' candy!

7. You could always just trash it - I hate wasting anything.  But if you cannot find another use for it, better for it to go in the trash than trashing your kid's body.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Farm Fresh Marinara


You should know right off the bat that this sauce has ruined me for pre-made marinara.  Nothing tastes quite as good as homemade, does it?  This recipe is full of fresh local tomatoes, carrots, and onions.  The most time intensive part of the process is peeling the tomatoes.  I have to admit, it took me a while to really get the hang of it, but now it is no big deal.  


I make this sauce several times during tomato season and freeze it for easy or last-minute meals.  I only use this recipe for stuffed pastas like ravioli, cannelloni, or stuffed shells because it is a pretty thin sauce.  It isn't really hearty enough to carry just noodles but it cannot be beat when paired with a delicious spinach and cheese stuffed pasta.  :)


I usually don't make this on the night I plan on using it.  I just allocate some time on an easy cooking day or a day I have off from cooking entirely to throw this together.  It keeps in the freezer for 3 months, so it can be enjoyed well after tomato season has ended.  Just heat and serve!


Once the tomato prep is complete, the sauce comes together very easily.  The rest of the veggies get minced in a food processor before cooking, so there isn't even a ton of chopping, YAY!  Active time over the pot is about 15 minutes and there is 40-45 minutes of simmering to allow the flavors to really develop.   I have tried this with both fresh and dried herbs, and I have to say, I strongly prefer using dried herbs.  They just add so much flavor without turning the sauce green from the sheer volume of fresh basil, oregano, and thyme I would need for the same flavor impact.


Ingredients (Makes about 5 cups)

5 pounds of tomatoes
5 cloves garlic
2 small carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C red wine
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
dash of red pepper flakes
sugar as needed



Directions

  1. To peel the tomatoes, bring a large bot of water to a boil.  Have a large bowl with ice water nearby and a large empty bowl as well.  Working in batches, submerge the tomatoes and let cook until their skin begins to split, usually about 2-4 minutes.  Once the skin has split, remove the tomato and submerge in the ice bath to cool.  Once cooled, move to the empty bowl.  Continue until all the tomatoes are done.  
  2. Once cool, cut around the top and remove the base of the stem.  The skin will easily peel off the entire tomato.  Place all peeled tomatoes in a largo bowl.  Using your hands, crush the tomatoes to the desired consistency for your sauce.  I like to keep my tomato pieces pretty small so they are easy for my young daughter to eat. 
  3. Place the garlic, carrot, and onion in a food processor and pulse until minced scraping the side of the bowl as needed.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion mixture and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the wine and continue to cook until reduced slightly, about 3 minutes. 
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juices, basil, oregano, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  6. Add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Taste for acidity.  If needed, add 1-2 Tbsp of sugar.
  7. If not using immediately, allow to cool before storing or freezing.  



Adapted from Myra Goodman's Food To Live By

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekly Menu


I love fall weather!  Its cool and I am happy...finally!  You can tell I got a little excited at the farm this week and picked up a bunch of delicious food.  We brought home some rainbow chard, yellow and red watermelon, red leaf lettuce, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, green onion, green beans, romaine lettuce, and green bell peppers.  There may not be a lot of color diversity this week, but everything looked so wonderful!  With this food we will be enjoying the following meals this week:



  • Hamburger Macaroni Casserole with Apple and Pear Autumn Salad
    • using the green peppers, a sweet Maui onion from last week, red leaf lettuce, and romaine lettuce 

  • Black Bean and Spinach Enchilada
    • using the cilantro and green onion


  • Green beans will be cooked for the baby and we will enjoy the watermelons for dessert.