At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Favorite Online Recipe Finds

I am online nearly every day looking for recipe ideas.  My latest obsession with Pinterest has been a great resource for awesome recipes.  What happens on Pinterest is people post links to their favorite things (in this case, recipes), so basically, this is the best of what's online. 

Instead of stealing from other people's blogs and websites, I decided to compile a list of links to some of my favorite recipes from the last month or so.  My intention is to do a "favorites" post about once a month, so this is hopefully only the first of many. 

The following are links to recipes I have tried, with my ideas and reviews included:

1.  Cook a Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot!  I bought a couple of chickens on sale this week and was looking for a quick and easy way to cook them so we could have dinner plus leftovers for later in the week. I found this recipe and actually "pinned" it myself.  It's super easy.  Put a chicken (or two, my crock pot is big) in the crockpot.  Season as you like, I used seasoned salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.  Done. 

2.  Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Herbs  We got several spaghetti squashes from our CSA last fall and I have been slowly using them up.  Just used the last three small ones a few weeks ago on this recipe.  I roast the squashes whole for about an hour at 400.  Then I cut them in half and when they are cool enough, I scoop out the spaghetti flesh.  From there, I usually put the squash in the fridge to use later in the week.  That makes this recipe a super quick healthy weeknight meal. 

3.  Vanilla Coffee Creamer  Creamer is expensive and full of chemicals, but I won't drink coffee without it.  I stumbled on this recipe for homemade coffee creamer, which uses milk, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  That's it, doesn't take many ingredients to be delicious.  I used vanilla soy milk this time and it worked out great!

4.  Hamburger Minestrone  I browned two pounds of hamburger with onions, garlic and green pepper for my stuffed peppers recipe and set aside half for this minestrone recipe the next night.  It made throwing together this soup super easy and it was really good! 

5.  Apple Nachos  Cut the apples into thin slices (I used pears, too, because I had a few), top them with caramel or peanut butter (both would work, too!) then sprinkle with chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, whatever you have.  The kids love it (and so do I)!  Another great way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit. 

6.  Chicken Pesto Parmesan Shells   What could be bad about chicken, pesto and parmesan cheese?  As I discussed in an earlier post, I like to make my own pesto and still have a fairly large stock of it in the freezer.   I made a big batch of this recipe a few weeks ago, which made 24 shells, enough for two meals at our house.  I baked half right away and froze the rest in a pan I can put in the oven for a quick meal another night.  These were amazing, but they are definitely not low fat, so they are a sometimes food.  Looking forward to when that sometimes arrives and we can eat the second batch from the freezer...

7.  Cilantro Lime Chicken  This recipe is a variation of my chicken taco meat recipe I posted awhile back.  Once again, the crock pot saves the day and turns a few ingredients into supper. 

8.  Homemade Nutella  We go through a lot of Nutella at our house and I was hoping this would turn out to be a quick, cheaper way to give my family their chocolate fix.  Unfortunately, it was a lot a work.  I had to boil, then peel the skins off the hazelnuts, melt the chocolate, then blend everything together.  The hazelnuts were supposed to turn into halzelnut butter, but it was more like hazelnut powder.  It all came together pretty nicely in the end, though the texture was a little grainier that the Nutella from the store. 

I hope you enjoy some of my favorites!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Last night I gave my kids a choice: I would make stuffed green peppers or hamburger minestrone.  To my surprise, they picked the peppers.  After years of feeding them "weird", healthy food, they are pretty much game for anything.  I used to make these with extra filling baked in a pan so the kids didn't have to eat the pepper, but this time Olivia said "Make sure I get a pepper, Mom."  

I did have a hard time actually buying the peppers at the grocery store instead of using fresh from Red Goose Gardens or raiding my freezer for our summer leftovers.  I noticed a huge difference in the taste, too.  These were definitely not as fresh as we get straight from the farm, but I guess beggars can't be choosers when you're buying produce in January in Minnesota.

Stuffed Green Peppers (Makes 5 pepper halves)
1 lb. hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
6 green  peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded.  Chop 1 pepper half.
1 T. minced garlic
1 packet taco seasoning
2 c. cooked rice, orzo or quinoa (this time I used quinoa but have used brown rice and orzo as well)
1/2 c. shredded cheese (I used a cheddar/pepper jack mixture)

Brown hamburger with onion, garlic and 1/2 chopped pepper. Meanwhile, boil a 2 quart pot of water.  Blanch peppers for about 2 minutes in boiling water.  (Put the peppers in the water and cook for a few minutes.  This ensures that they aren't still raw when you eat them.)  Remove from water and set aside.  When hamburger is cooked, stir in taco seasoning, a little water and cooked rice or quinoa. Stir until seasoning is mixed in and water is absorbed.  Fill pepper shells with meat mixture, being careful not to burn your fingers!  Top with shredded cheese and bake in a 400 oven for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is brown and bubbly. 

These are a great way to get more veggies in your diet without feeling like you are eating only a salad for every meal.  I have also used large tomatoes as the shells in a pinch (when I have a lot in the summer).  They tend to get a little mushy but the family loves them.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Laundry Detergent

I'll start this post with this disclaimer:  Don't eat this recipe! 

I decided to break from the normal food-based recipe and write about this home made laundry detergent recipe, which comes from  Being Creative to Keep My Sanity.  When I saw this, I was already headed to the store to buy some much needed laundry detergent and knew that I would have to spend at least $10 on a jug that would last about six weeks.  I figured it was worth a try to spend a few extra dollars for something that would last a lot longer. 

Picture taken from Being Creative to Keep My Sanity
 To make, you need a cheese grater, a big bucket and the following ingredients: 

1 4lb. 12 oz. box borax
1 4 lb. box baking soda
1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 bars Fels-Nalpha Soap (pink Zote soap works, too)
3.5 lb Oxy Clean (I used store brand)

All of these ingredients were on the same shelf in the laundry aisle at the local Wal-Mart. 

Shred soap with cheese grater.  Mix well in bucket with all other ingredients.  Put in containers or just use from the big bucket.  Use the scoop in the Oxy Clean, 1 scoop per load (about 1 Tablespoon).  This cost me $16.11 and made 2 ice cream buckets full.  Should last awhile. 

This seems to work well.  The laundry room smells clean and soapy when I'm using it, but the dry clothes have no smell to them, which is good for us. The true test was when I washed our sheets and they came out clean with no odor or itch, which would both drive Phil crazy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Zuppa Toscana

Every time I go to Olive Garden, I order the Zuppa Toscana.  I have experimented with several versions of this recipe and have finallly found the right combination.  I no longer have to drive over an hour to get my to master their salad dressing recipe. 

Zuppa Toscana (Serves 8)
1 lb. ground italian sausage (sometimes I use spicy, sometimes I use turkey)
1-2 tsp. crushed red peppers
2 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 T. minced garlic
8 c. water (or chicken broth)
5 chicken boullion cubes (omit if you use chicken broth)
6 large potatoes, sliced (do not peel)
1/2 bunch kale, chopped
1 c. cream or half and half

Brown sausage with red pepper over medium heat in soup pot.  Drain fat and remove to a bowl and set aside.  In same pot, cook bacon until almost crispy, then add onions and garlic, cooking until onions soften.  Add water and boulllion or broth, bring to a boil, then add potatoes.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Remove from heat, add sausage, and stir in kale and half and half.  Serve hot!

This soup reheats well, so don't be afraid of leftovers.  I also add a lot of potatoes because we like soup with lots of stuff in it, not so much broth.  Feel free to mess with the amounts to potatoes and water to get the consistency you like. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cheesy Potatoes and Ham

Using up that leftover ham sometimes takes some creativity.  I came home from a family New Years gathering with a big baggie full of ham, dreaming of potatoes with ham and cheese.  I didn't want to go to the grocery store to make my recipe so I consulted a few cookbooks before coming up with my own version.  We actually had a small box of Velveeta in the cupboard from when it was on sale with a coupon last fall and still have a stock of potatoes from Red Goose Gardens

I know potatoes have a bad rap and they aren't considered the best vegetable for you, but they do count as a veggie in my book (sometimes).  These "veggies", doused with cheese and ham, are definitely not diet food, so don't eat them very often!

Cheesy Potatoes and Ham (This made 10 servings at our house)
10 potatoes, washed and sliced (peeled, if desired)
1 small onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. velveeta (small box)
2 c. diced ham (more or less as desired)
2 c. milk

Combine all but milk in large roasting pan (spray pan first if you don't want a big mess to scrub).  Pour milk over mixture.  Bake at 400 for an hour or more, stirring once or twice in the begining to mix in the cheese.  It is done when the potatoes are soft and the milk and cheese cook down to a thick sauce.  This would probably work in the crock pot as well, 3-4 hrs. on high would do it. 

These are great with a green salad or just some raw veggies with ranch, to balance the soft texture of the potatoes.  It also reheats well, though I wouldn't recommend freezing it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Make Your Own Sushi

Last week we took a quick trip up to Winnipeg to show the kids what another country is like.  Their observations?  The roads were bad, and there were a lot of sushi restaurants.  Living in rural Minnesota, sushi restaurants are few and far between, so in order to get my fix, I have to make it.  Last fall, my mom and I got a lesson from a friend (thanks Brandi!).  That day we made Spicy Tuna Rolls and California Rolls.  While I thought both were delicious and will definitely make Spicy Tuna Rolls again, the California Rolls are much more palatable for people who are iffy about eating raw fish. 

For New Years Eve with the family, I made some California Rolls, which were enjoyed by adults and children alike at our little gathering.  Phil finished off the leftovers tonight and promptly asked when I'm making it again.  Honestly, it's going to be awhile.  To make it worthwhile, you need to make a lot and while it's not difficult to make, it takes a lot of time.

Usually if you look up directions for how to make sushi it will tell you you need some sort of mat and a few other ingredients.  Don't worry about those, you don't really need them, just pick up the groceries and use your hands for the rest. 

Ingredients needed:
Nori (I buy the roasted seaweed flavor)
sushi rice (2-4 c. per pack of nori)
soy sauce

For the Spicy Tuna Rolls:
1 lb. sushi grade tuna
a cucumber or shredded carrots for crunch
a few Tbsp. Mayonnaise
Sriracha sauce, to taste

For the California Rolls:
10 Fake crab sticks
2 avocados
1 cucumber
shredded carrots

To get many of the ingredients, you probably need to go to an Asian grocery store.  I went to the big one on Main St. in Fargo.  I have to admit, it was a little intimidating, I'm not used to being in the minority.  The store was busy and I was the only Minnesota native in the building.  I enjoyed browsing the unfamiliar ingredients and stocking up on some new items to try.  I hear there is a good Asian grocery in Grand Forks as well.

California Rolls ingredients.  Nori (seaweed wrappers), sushi rice, avocado, cucumber, fake crab sticks, rice vinegar, wasabi and soy sauce (not pictured).

For the Spicy Tuna Rolls, you will need the above Nori, rice and rice vinegar, plus raw sushi grade tuna, mayo (not Miracle Whip) and Sriracha sauce (not pictured).

To start with, you need to cook the rice.  A rice cooker would come in handy, but I don't have one, so I used the stove.  For 10 nori wrappers, you need 2 c. of raw rice to put the rice on one side of the wrapper and 4 c. of raw rice to put the rice on both sides of the wrapper.  To cook the rice on the stove, for each cup of rice, you need 2 c. water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until water is evaporated.  Immediately spread rice on cookie sheet to cool.  When cool, sprinkle with a few Tablespoons of rice vinegar and mix well. 

Rice on cookie sheet.  Cool then sprinkle with rice vinegar. 
Prepare the other ingredients while the rice is cooking.  For the vegetables, aim for long and skinny.  I use cucumbers, avocados and sometimes shredded carrots.  For the crab meat, I usually just cut the sticks in half lengthwise.  With the tuna, you need to cut it into a very fine dice, as shown below.  As you cut it, remove the thin membranes as we can't chew them very well.  Mix the tuna with a little bit of mayo and as much Sriracha sauce as you want.  Be careful, it's spicy!

While the rice is still warm, but not hot, start making your rolls.  Lay a nori sheet shiny side down on the counter (make sure the counter is clean!).  Using a wooden spoon or a plastic spatula, spread rice on one or both sides of the nori.  I have never tried to do both sides, so that part could be tricky.  You would do both sides to get a true inside out roll like in the restaurants.  Leave a little strip of green at one end, as shown below on the bottom left. 

Spread/place the ingredients just below the bare strip.  The one below (top right) has only tuna, but you would do the same with other ingredients.  For the California Rolls, lay down 1 1/2 crab sticks, a few strips of cucumber and avocado.  

Roll the nori around the ingredients, tucking in the bare strip under the ingredients.  Roll all the way into a tube.   

The 10 across is what one package of nori would make.
 Cut each roll into bite sized pieces (about 8) and serve with soy sauce and wasabi, if desired.

This plate has the spicy tuna and the California rolls.  The California rolls have cucumber, avocado and shredded carrots. 
Obviously, if you don't eat these right away, they need to be stored in the refrigerator.  They do keep for a few days, so if they don't all get eaten, they are good leftover. 

On a side note, you could put pretty much anything in a roll, so go with the flow.  Think chicken with some veggies sounds good?  Do it.  How about just some veggies?  Do it.  Make sure you cook everything you are unsure of though, I don't want you to get sick because you read it on my blog!