Latest and Greatest

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Happy Thursday, my dears!

Quick note…if you are interested in following an awesome new blog that I am THRILLED to be a part of now is your chance.  Twin Cities Moms Blog.  The name is a bit deceiving…there is definitely a ton to offer for those of you who are not moms and do not live in the Twin Cities.  It is a bit of a variety blog…there are 13 contributors, including myself, and two amazing co-founders who saw the need for such a site here in the Minneapolis area.  Each contributor is so talented in their own way and shares such great ideas with regard to DIY projects, fashion, parenting tips and perspectives, health and beauty, recipes, restaurants to visit, date night ideas, happenings in the area, the list could go on and on and on..and you’re seriously going to dig it.  Such a fun new adventure for me…I’d love for you to come along for the ride!

Here is a link to my article about coconut oil that was published on the site today…thought it would be fitting to share it with you, my fellow food and health enthusiasts.  Hope you’re staying warm and cozy…and if you are in a location that requires cooling off please do not tell me that or it may make me turn on you 😉

xo

PS Follow us on Facebook, too!

Taco Seasoning

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Those little packets you buy at the grocery store are quick and convenient and they don’t taste half bad, if I do say so myself.  But have you ever considered the benefits of keeping your own homemade seasoning mix on hand?  I’m being completely honest when I tell you it takes about 1 minute and 42 seconds to make and the taste is REAL and delicious.  Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists of the store bought packets?  Here is one example for you to view.  I encourage you to compare that ingredient list with the one below…and then get your cute butt in the kitchen and test out the below one; you’ll never go back to the old, store-bought alternative.  Healthy lifestyles don’t come in a quick-fix fancy detox, pill, drink or powder; they come by making tiny, simple, achievable changes like this, one at a time, for the benefit of ourselves and our children.

Taco Seasoning

2 Tablespoons Chili Powder

3 Teaspoons Cumin

2 Teaspoons Salt

2 Teaspoons Black Pepper

1 Teaspoon Paprika (smoked paprika is wonderful in this)

3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

3/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano

1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

Directions

Mix all ingredients together and store in an air tight container for up to 6 months.  Makes about 1/3 cup seasoning.

Note: Basic Tacos: For 1 pound of ground beef or turkey I mix in 3 tablespoons taco seasoning and 1/3 cup water.

Unbeatable Key Lime Pie (takeout)

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Our kitchen has been out of commission because we have been having sink issues so I’ve been on vacation away from cooking the last few days.  Although it has been a nice change of pace eating out for the majority of the weekend I miss cooking and eating in my own kitchen!  So as I wait for the plumber to arrive I thought I would share with all of you Twin Cities folk a little gem we recently discovered.  Also known as the Key Lime Pie from this joint.

We had some friends over for dinner not long ago and they offered to bring dessert.  For those of you who know me well you know I would MUCH prefer to be cooking rather than baking…that baking stuff is just too much rule following for me 😉  So when they offered I couldn’t turn them down (not to mention they have amazing taste in food so I knew whatever they brought would be insanely delicious).  So they show up at our doorstep with the most precious baby boy on the planet and this key lime pie that was not only the most beautifully looking thing but the taste…oh my.  gosh.  You absolutely, positively better believe this will be my new go-to when I am asked to bring dessert to someones house or when I am having company of my own.  I truly couldn’t even try to beat this in my own kitchen.  So, if you get the chance…pick one up. Just make sure you have plenty of bellies to share it with or you might devour the entire thing on your own.

Peppers and Onions

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If bell peppers are on sale at the market this is definitely one of the ways I put them to use.  Making this ridiculously simple sauté at the beginning of the week and storing it in the refrigerator is something I’ve gotten quite used to as it ends up being a huge time saver throughout the week.  You can use this mixture for so many meals:  top burgers, brats, salads, grilled sandwiches or use them for tacos, quesadillas, omlettes, pastas, the list could go on and on.

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One of my favorite things to do with it is make tuna quesadillas for an unbelievably quick meal:  grease a saute pan with olive oil.  stack shredded cheese, peppers and onions, drained canned tuna and another layer of cheese between two whole grain tortillas.  cook for 3 minutes on each side over medium high heat or until a crispy crust forms and inside is melted.  Pure gooey deliciousness.

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Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Bell Peppers (red, yellow or orange), halved and sliced

1 Medium Onion, halved and sliced

1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add peppers and onions and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in vinegar, turn heat down to medium and cook for an additional three minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to your desired tenderness.  Season with salt and pepper.

Perfect Oven Bacon

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This method produces perfectly crisp bacon without the frying or the cleanup.  I’ve tried baking it multiple times directly on a baking sheet and it just comes out too greasy for my liking; even greasier than pan frying.  So I tried baking it on a cooling rack set inside of a baking sheet and the results were just what I wanted:  no-mess, crispy, chewy bacon toned down on the grease meter.  And one of the best things about it…not having to scrub down my stove after frying it.  25 thumbs up in my book.

Perfect Oven Bacon

Inspired by this method

Ingredients

12 Ounces Nitrate and Nitrite Free Bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Set cooling rack inside of the baking sheet and lay bacon strips side by side on top of the rack.  Place in the oven and cook for 12-18 minutes or until desired doneness.  Drain on paper towels and serve.

Nourished Kitchen Staples

Happy long-weekend-Friday!  Several of you have inquired about where I do my shopping and find the best products and prices…and while there is not one concrete answer I would love to share a couple of ideas with you.  I typically make my “meal plan” for the week on Sundays according to what we have in our freezer and pantry.    Then, on that same day, I head to our local market for things like produce, most dairy and typical last minute grocery needs to fulfill my meal plan.

Aside from that, on a weekly, sometimes every-other-week basis I make a Costco run.  Included in this run are most meats and fish (to keep the freezer stocked), eggs and a a few produce items that are unbeatable in price such as berries, greens and other things I am unable to get local during a particular time of year.  I find that Costco’s prices for organic produce and most meats tend to be much cheaper per pound than the non-organic varieties at most grocery stores so I often go that route.  And while quantities are large, we go through an awful lot of food in this household, eating breakfasts, lunches and dinners from our own kitchen at least six days a week…and I typically portion and freeze quite a bit of it too.

And then there is the Trader Joe’s run that happens when the staples get low; typically once a month or so.  While I prefer the produce at my local market there are just certain things from Trader Joes that I can’t live without.  Today I have created a list of those items to share with you.  I think you will be astounded when you compare the below items prices to the ones you currently buy; and what’s even more amazing is how much of a nutritional advantage most of these items have over your typical “name brand” varieties.  Take a peek…and let me know what you think!

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Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta

16 Ounce Package $1.99

First off, this price is absolutely unbeatable.  If any of you have purchased this at your local grocery store you know it is nearly impossible to find it under $3.75 per pound.  Second, the taste and texture are awesome and you would never know you are eating a much healthier version of pasta.  Third, check the ingredients.  Brown rice and water.  That’s it.  Need I say more?  A pantry staple in this house.

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Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Organic Applesauce

24 Ounce Jar $2.49

It’s made of organic apples with not one other thing added.  My main use is for yogurt.  Instead of buying the sweetened yogurts that are loaded with sugar and additives I buy plain whole greek yogurt, put a spoonful of this applesauce in and you have a naturally sweetened, delicious snack.  Trust me, it tastes much better than the flavored yogurt you may be buying already and is a much much better choice nutritionally.

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Trader Joe’s Just Almond Meal

16 Ounce Package $3.95

I use this for recipes that call for almond meal or almond flour.  It is just ground almonds and the reason it is called a “meal” is because it is just not ground quite as fine as your typical “almond flour”.  This price is absolutely unbeatable.

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Trader Joe’s Tahini Sauce

8 Ounce Container $2.99

People, this may be the best thing since sliced bread.  Holy smokes.  It must be in my fridge at all times or I will go insane.  It is simply tahini paste (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice and salt.  It makes an extremely easy hummus by just pureeing it with garbanzo beans but we use it for dip with crackers or pita or as a topping for grilled meats, veggies, sandwiches, ANYTHING.  My addiction that will probably never go away…and I’m totally fine with that.

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Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon

12 Ounce Package $3.99

You won’t find a better tasting bacon, I assure you.  It’s sweet, smokey and thick cut and without preservatives, nitrates or nitrites.  I don’t know about you but this is literally half the price of it’s competitors at my grocery store…its a no brainer.  I always keep a backup or two in our freezer for quick meals.

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Trader Giotto’s Tomato Basil Marinara

26 Ounce Jar $1.79

A pantry staple for quick, need a break meals.  The taste is as good as homemade and the price is absolutely awesome.

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Trader Joe’s Dijon Mustard

13 Ounce Jar $1.69

Unlike most other brands this does not have sugar or fruit pectin added.  Ingredients:  Water, mustard, vinegar, wine, salt and citric acid.  It tastes perfect and the price is great, too.

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Trader Joe’s Real Mayonnaise

32 Ounce Jar $3.99

This also does not have sugar added and I would highly encourage you to take a peek at the ingredients on the current brand in your fridge.  This tastes much better and much more real without the additives.

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Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup

24 Ounce Bottle $1.99

This stuff has made my husband a ketchup snob.  There is not a better tasting ketchup on the planet, I promise.  There is no high fructose corn syrup added and it is made from real tomato puree, not “tomato concentrate”.

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Trader Joe’s Almonds In-the-shell

16 Ounce Package $2.99

I just cant make it to the checkout lane without throwing a bag of these in the cart.  They are roasted and salted and pure wonderfulness.  If you haven’t had an almond directly from the shell my goodness you need to.  Amazing.

Have I put you to sleep yet?  That was quite a list.  It’s a perfect long weekend to head to your local Trader Joe’s and stock up your kitchen…what-da-ya-say?  I promise you’ll be so happy you did…and I will take full credit 😉

Asian Noodle Salad

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I think my husband was Italian in his past life.  Pasta pasta pasta…with meatballs and red sauce which is all fine and dandy with me.  My favorite cuisine is Asian in any way, shape or form.  I’m partial to the flavors and the heat of most Asian dishes, specifically Thai.  My husband; here nor there about it.  This type of conversation is very common between him and I (yes, our lives are THIS boring)

Me: Is there anything you’re hungry for this week?

Nick:  Not really.

Me:  I mean, could you throw me a bone here…stir fry sound good?

Nick:  Eh, not really.  (as you can see, he is a man of many words)

Me:  WELL THEN TELL ME WHAT SOUNDS GOOD!!!!!!!!

Nick:  How bout pasta?

Me:  I’m really hungry for Asian.

Nick: Then why did you ask me in the first place?

The end.  This is how it works around here…I ask the poor man questions in hopes of getting the answers I want to hear.  When, unfortunately, my husband, the wonderful guy that he is, is most definitely not a mind reader.  I mean VERY far from it 😉

So, when Nick is hungry for pasta and I want Asian this dish is our happy place.  He loves the heartiness of the noodles and the crunch of the peanuts.  In turn, I get all of the crisp veggies and the sweet, salty and spicy flavors that I adore.  This dish is definitely entertaining-worthy and would be perfect for a bbq or potluck as it can be served both chilled or at room temperature.  It is also great to make over the weekend and have on hand all week for quick lunches…its awesome leftover, just ask my friend Meagan, she stopped over for a quick hug and lunch today 🙂   It’s a simple, nutrient rich, gluten-free recipe; chopping the beautiful veggies is the most time consuming part, which is hardly time-consuming at all

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Before I tell you the recipe I’d like to touch on fresh ginger root.  It adds unbeatable flavor to many dishes, including this one, and has amazing anti-inflammatory properties along with providing antioxidants and promoting digestive health.  I know many people that are turned off by fresh ginger root because they only use a small amount and the rest goes to waste or because they do not know how to handle it.  It truly is so simple to make this a part of your regular diet and always have it on hand.  When I get it home from the store I immediately wash it under cold water and peel the skin of it with a vegetable peeler.  I then place it in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer…It will keep for months.  When you need it for a recipe just pull it out of the freezer and grate it over a microplane while it is still frozen, just like this

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After you are done, stick it back in the freezer until next time you need it.  So simple.

Asian Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

For The Salad:

14 Ounces Brown Rice Fettucini

1 Red Pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

4 Green Onions, thinly sliced

1 Cup Snap Peas, roughly chopped

1/2 Cup Grated Carrots

1/2 Cup Cilantro Leaves, chopped

1/2 Cup Roasted Peanuts

4 Chicken Breasts, grilled (optional)

Dressing:

1/3 Cup Peanut Butter, warmed in the microwave for 10 seconds

1/4 Cup Tamari (soy sauce can be substituted)

1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil

1 Tablespoon Ground Chili Paste *in Asian section of supermarket

2 Cloves Garlic, grated or pressed

1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar

2 Teaspoons Fresh Grated Ginger Root

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Juice From One Orange

Directions:

Cook the pasta:  Cook according to package directions.  Drain in a colander and rinse well with cold water.  Rinse the pot you cooked the pasta in well with cold water, add the pasta back into the pot and fill with cold water.  Pasta can sit in the cold water until you are ready to mix the salad.

Make the dressing:  Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

Assemble the salad:  Pour pasta into a colander to drain and pour it back into the pot.  Add red pepper, green onion, snap peas, grated carrots and cilantro.  Pour in dressing and mix thoroughly with your hands.  Place a serving of the pasta on a plate and top with peanuts and  chicken breasts.  Can be served chilled or at room temperature.