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I went on a field trip to our Georgia State Capitol building yesterday. With a busload of third graders. Five of whom were my responsibility. All of us ended up having lunch an hour-and-a-half after our normal lunchtime. I wish I could say that there was something so cool at the capitol that it overshadowed that little lunch detail, but… At least I can say that the kids really were well-behaved and that helped make the trip not suck.

The one thing I can pat myself on the back for is that I took along a salad that I’d like to think would have made a real chef proud: Shaved Vegan Parmesan, sliced cucumber rounds, red bell pepper strips, corn kernels cut from the cob, and soaked raw pecans on a bed of baby spinach, arugula and cilantro and drizzled with a homemade vinaigrette. Okay, I know it doesn’t look “drizzled” in the photo. Frankly, it looks drowned, but in my defense, I hadn’t yet mixed it up. It really wasn’t more than a couple tablespoons worth, I swear.

Simple & Scrumptious Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (I use Bragg’s)
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic (packed in olive oil)
2 Tbsp fresh dill
2 Tbsp Jack Daniel’s(tm) Old No. 7 Mustard (gluten-free)
1 Tbsp hempseed

Place all ingredients except hempseed together in a small blender or food processor (I use a NutriBullet). Blend well, about 30-45 seconds. Pour into airtight container and stir in hempseed. Allow overnight to let the flavors develop fully.

You’re welcome to use freshly pressed garlic if you like – I find I like the jarred version just as well in dressings and usually reserve fresh garlic for dishes I’m going to cook.

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Here’s a little quickie for a week where I’ll be relying on “quick and easy” but don’t want to sacrifice too awful much in terms of healthful eating. We had this weekend and they went over better than the pizza I made the following night!

When you open a can of crescent roll dough, you can choose to only separate it into rectangles instead of taking the additional step and going all the way to triangles. Actually, I suppose this would work as a triangle, too… But let’s look at the rectangle version since that’s what I did! Place your rectangles flat on a parchment-lined baking pan or a clean counter. Top with whatever you have on hand: ground beef, rotisserie chicken, deli ham, tomatoes, spinach, onions, bell peppers, pesto, spaghetti sauce, cashew paté – use your imagination AND clean out your fridge at the same time! Woot!

The best part here is that you can tailor each individual serving to the person who will be lucky enough to consume it! When you’ve put your chosen toppings on top, just roll the dough up around it like you were going to make the crescent rolls after all. These baked up slightly quicker than the time recommended on the can. Maybe check yours when there’s about two minutes left on the baking time, especially if you are NOT using an AirBake (insulated) pan.

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Mine is the one with spinach, rotisserie chicken and vegan cheese, the Noodle Dude’s had chicken and regular cheese and Mouse? Well, yeah, his just had cheese in it – I knew he’d eat plenty of fruit to offset the simplicity of the crescent roll-up!

I realize you could make your own dough and get tons more creative, but these fit our needs exactly without anyone having to spend much time in the kitchen at all. I made myself an extra one but ended up saving it for breakfast the following morning. They’re easy to carry along and should reheat well, assuming all of your toppings are microwave-friendly. It won’t win any blue ribbons but it hits the spot and it’s still better (and CHEAPER) than fast food!

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Sometimes it’s about last minute and luck and a wee bit of ingenuity… And maybe a glass of Trader Joe’s inexpensive white table wine. Meals can come about entirely unplanned and are often (in our house, at least) consumed standing up at the kitchen island.

Tonight dictated such a meal – we were scrambling to get dinner, homework, stinky-kid-shower, and bedtime all wrapped up in a ridiculously short amount of time. School started on Monday and we are NOT in anything resembling a routine just yet. I figure we’ll be doing well to wrangle ourselves together by the end of September. One can hope.

So it was that I extracted a peach-mango salsa I had made on Sunday from the fridge to pair with my youngest son’s leftover rice and beans from Moe’s then grabbed an avocado on the verge to mash up into a quick guacamole-esque. Oh yeah, let us not forget the aforementioned wine. It’s not the broccoli spaghetti I had planned on, but when it became apparent that I only had to feed myself, well, I really wasn’t going to expend any more energy than necessary. Ahem.

I’d like to tell you it’s an überfab meal… It’s not that level of awesome, but it is good. It’s vegetarian, made mostly of easily recognizable whole foods, there’s fruit, fiber, protein, healthy fats, and a bit of spicy. In a nutshell, it’ll do just fine.

Guacamole-esque

1 ripe avocado
1T olive oil
Splash lemon juice
Dash salt
Sprinkle garlic powder

Peel an avocado, mash it in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients, stir well and enjoy!

Peach-Mango Salsa

This recipe is great because you don’t have to worry much about the amount of ingredients – you can mostly just use what’s on hand. Watch the cayenne, though – It can get real hot really quick!

1 peach
1 mango
1/2 jalapeño
1/2 sweet onion
2T olive oil
Juice of half a lime
Generous sprinkle of garlic powder & sea salt
Little pinch of cayenne (add more only after a taste test)

Slice onion and jalapeño to similar size and combine in food processor with everything but the fruit. Chop to whatever size you like (I vary between boulder-size chunks and pretty much puréed). Dice fruit to a size you like (I usually do small bites, less than half an inch wide by a quarter inch thick). Mix everything well and allow to mingle. Or suck it down immediately. Whatever strikes your fancy.

Hope this reminds you that dinner – or any meal – doesn’t have to be complicated or require lengthy preparation. The best thing to do is just take that quick moment to survey the situation. Take a couple deep breaths and relax – it’s just food, not rocket science.

 

Sunflower Seed Avocado:: Persnickety Eater

Sunny, delicious, gorgeous!

Who has a thirty-minute lunch break? Oh yeah, I do! Who has a full-service cafeteria right in their lunchroom? That would be me, too. We’ll call it a “perk” of working at a large manufacturing facility – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, if you please. Heck, I could even drive up there in the middle of the night, were I so inclined. Trust me, I’ve eaten way more than my fair share of mediocre meals, mindless snacks, and unnecessary desserts from there. It’s a well-run organization – the people are nice and will make special orders with a smile.

However…

It’s not MY food. And that’s a big deal to me. I generally select different kinds of foods entirely than what they normally offer. In particular, I rarely eat anything canned or prepared and they often have several dishes of that nature.

So, what’s a busy mommy of two who works full time supposed to eat for lunch? Sandwiches? Most of the time my response to that would be, “Meh.”

However.

I stumbled up an idea not long ago. Granted, it was born out of a slight desperation. Still, it felt “inspired” and so, I share it here in the hopes a few of you might enjoy it as well.

    Sunflower Avocado

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Take about 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds and soak them in some warm or hot water for the 30-45 minutes prior to when you’re ready to eat. Drain and rinse at chow time. Grab an avocado and dig out half of it (leave the pit in the other half to help keep it fresh). Mash that green goodness up well then mix in the soaked sunflower seeds. Add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper, a dusting of garlic powder and just a smidgen of olive oil (I keep these four in my desk and use them almost daily). Spread the mixture on some toasted crusty bread and, if you happen to be so blessed, add some fresh, homegrown tomatoes. It’ll give you an open-faced sandwich and you’ll love every juicy bite!

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I might be in love. With two things, actually. The soup I threw together this evening and… Parsley. I’m not in love with having to write this post for the second time since I’m still coordinating the iPhone app with the online postings… Oh well. Some of my witty thoughts may be missing from this version. Can only hope I’ve learned my lesson: refresh the app before you edit and update the post!

Soup is a fickle friend to our family. I think I might be the only one who really likes it. My two little boys won’t eat it and my husband seems to view it as the last bastion of the ailing – he’ll usually only eat it if he’s sicker than a dog. Add to that my lack of proficiency in soup-making and, well, I don’t really hold it against him that this dish didn’t thrill him.

On the other hand, I was tickled pink with the results! This recipe was simple, filling, economical and protein-packed with an anti-inflammatory boost from the parsley. Parsley: it’s not just a throw-away garnish!

Edamame and Quinoa Corn Soup

1/3 c white quinoa (mine was pre-rinsed)
1 bag Cascadian Farms brand frozen, shelled edamame
1 1/2 c Imagine brand Organic Creamy Corn Soup
1/2 sweet onion, diced fairly large
1/8 c parsley, roughly chopped
Seasonings to taste (a dash of cayenne and a bit more salt are must haves)

Add the quinoa to 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low simmer and cover for about 10 minutes. Add the frozen edamame and corn soup; increase heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to keep quinoa from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add onion and seasonings of choice – I like Nature’s Seasonings blend and a Kroger Pizza Seasonings blend in addition to cayenne and salt. Oh, and garlic powder. Cook for about 5 more minutes and test/adjust seasonings as needed. After a couple more minutes, turn off heat and add parsley (please don’t just skip it, I’m begging you – you’ll love what it adds). Serve immediately with crusty wheat bread and olive oil for dipping the bread.

Sometimes, just sometimes, things are so tasty that I’m not really all that sorry that I’m the only one in the house who eats them!

What ingredients are your favorite to use when you’re low on time, cash or patience and you need some at least a half-homemade fare?

Wow... Now I want ANOTHER!

There’s a lot of stuff in this one besides chicken, so I’m tempted to come up with another name for it. Honestly, though? I’m doing well enough as it is to be sitting at the computer writing a blog post. Not that I haven’t been at the computer enough already today (read: “real” work from 6:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) (yes, those times are correct) (no, I don’t intend to repeat that again tomorrow as I have already logged similar hours the first three days this week), it’s just that I really liked my thrown-together version and wanted to share it. Immediately. As in, without waiting for the Creativity Genie to show up and give me a good name for this concoction.

For the record, I categorized this as “Convenient & Conscious”, but truth be told, it’s closer to the former and rather far from the latter in most respects. Still, I made it myself which meant I had control of the constituent elements. Always a good thing in my book!

I started with a lemon pepper rotisserie chicken from our friendly, neighborhood Publix. I’d had a thought that I might just pick up some pre-made chicken salad from their deli but what I found in the case was far too “wet” for my preference. Yuck-o to mayo! Okay, most mayo, most of the time, the way most people wield it.

The chicken contributed the better part of one breast. Yes, I could have picked the carcass clean, but I had been hungry when I left work, driven to Publix, navigated the after-work crowds, and finished my drive home. I diced it up pretty small because I’m opposed to getting a huge chunk in my mouth. Textural issues, mm-hm.

Then I diced two celery ribs into small cubes, about the same size as the chicken. Good for crunch! Next I added about half a bag of – don’t shoot me – SunMaid Fruit Bits. I liked the variety: apples, raisins, peaches, prunes, apricots. Who could resist?

I contemplated adding nuts and settled on pinenuts. I don’t think they’re real nuts (seeds, maybe?) but they’re the sort of crunchy I was hoping to get. A sprinkle of pepitas (a.k.a. hulled, roasted, salted pumkin seeds) followed, then a very obnoxious generous helping of hempseeds. At the end of it all, I mixed in some Smart Balance mayo – the smallest amount I felt like I could get by with and have it seem close enough to something I could reasonably call “chicken salad”. I don’t know why it needed to fit under that umbrella, it just did. Deal.

It stinks that my husband is probably going to finish off the rest of it that I didn’t have for dinner but I suppose he’s entitled to eat, too. Drat!

Oh! And the wrap was a brand I’d never tried before but really enjoyed: La Tortilla Factory’s Smart & Delicious Whole Grain White Soft Wraps made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Each tortilla wrap is only 100 calories and has 13 grams of FIBER – that’s 52% of the RDA. Wheeee! They’re just a little stretchy rather than the dry, brittle standard flour tortillas you get grocery-marketing. I’m not brave enough to try making my own tortillas – okay, well, I really just don’t want to get the whole counter all flour-y – so these will do just fine.

What do you put in YOUR chicken salad?

Scrumptious!

Wondering how to make your tuna salad better than the slop they serve at the diner on the corner? There are lots of simple ways to improve on the standard tuna-mayo-relish-bread that many of us grew up eating. I must confess, though; I never ate tuna salad before I met my husband. It’s true: Never. I don’t like mayonnaise, fish has never been a favorite, and eating COLD fish always just seemed so ew!

Nevertheless, the hubby convinced me [shocker] to try it out. On Ritz crackers, of course. And I really enjoyed his version! Pretty standard alternate combo: tuna-hard boiled egg-mayo-salt-pepper. I’d never eaten egg salad before either so it was a totally new thing altogether.

There are several small ways to turn this into a conscious, while still convenient, meal that’s delicious to boot. Encorporate them all together for the most impact or simply choose the ones that you are most comfortable using.

Tuna: go for a wild-caught tuna that has a low mercury content, like Oregon’s Choice.

Eggs: Locally-sourced, organic, pastured chicken eggs provide the highest quality but may not be readily available in your area. Check your local supermarket, farmers market or CSAs to find ethically produced eggs.

Mayonnaise: If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you can certainly make your own. Or there are plenty of organic, vegetarian and vegan options in the average grocery store. We usually have one made with canola or olive oil hanging around our refrigerator.

Celery: Since you’ll be eating all of the stalk (i.e. there’s no peel to remove), it’s best to go for organic to minimize your exposure to unwanted pesticide residue. If that’s not an option, wash well with a fruit & vegetable wash. I like to diced mine into small squares to maximize their CRUNCH potential!

Salt: A good quality celtic sea salt or other salt that hasn’t been stripped of its naturally occuring minerals, like Himalayan pink sea salt really enhances both the flavor and the nutrient profile. Conventional table salt that’s been treated with caustic chemicals is a wholly different, non-nutritional additive that can contribute to a host of maladies, including high blood pressure. Not. Good.

Pepper: Get out your grinders! Use any variety of whole peppercorn you prefer, grinding it fresh into your tuna salad as the final ingredient. Such a wonderful flavor that really contributes depth to the taste profile of the whole dish.

Finally, get creative with your presentation. Sure, you can always dig out some stale crackers, but why not give it a gorgeous green gown? I piled mine on crisp green leaf lettuce and baby spinach leaves then sprinkled hempseeds on top. Roll into a wrap and voila!

Patience Required to Photograph before Enjoying

I do so adore the color green.

Whenever the kitchen beckons to me all the way home from work, even forcing a $30 sidetrip to Kroger for specific ingredients, it’s a call I must heed. It’s also probably not the time to be nearby unless you don’t mind being a guinea pig trying out my sometimes-unusual creations. If your palette is limited (as mine was for the first three decades of my life), you’d better high-tail it before I harangue you – in a congenial way, of course – about being “a picky wuss”. Or something more colorful if I know you well enough.

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What's in this little dish?

 

A small post about a small meal for a very small, little person. Sometimes it’s easy to take forgranted that these little people in our lives (alternately known as children, kids, offspring, monsters munchkins or wee bebes) get good nutrition when they’re good eaters like my two-year-old is. He loves him some ‘nanas, grapes (a.k.a. “Ball, ball!”), pears, pineapple, melon, tomatoes, sweet potato, rice, beans and pepitas. He’s not so keen on meat, which doesn’t bother me in the least… most of the time.

Occasionally, though, I’ll be trying to cobble together a small meal for said small fellow and what do I have on hand? Some leftover grass-fed ground beef crumbles from Friday night’s dinner. The Dad, The Big Brother and The Mom all had some in their quesadillas (wheat tortillas, thank you) but that’s a meal the little one just doesn’t care for in the least. Enter steamed sushi rice. Okay, so now I have something to mix the meat into but that seems kind of… dull.

What else, what else? Ah! Extra virgin coconut oil (which, I find when I extract it from the pantry, is already liquified due to ridiculously warm Spring days in Georgia and therefore perfect for drizzling). Good, that’s good for its health and sensory benefits. Oh! And hempseed because what CAN’T you sprinkle hempseed on?!? One more thing, I think… Cashews! We are blessedly free of nut allergies (Yay!) so this adds a brilliant, softish crunch.

It only required a little time, a little thought, some little additions but the result is a mindful dish fit for my lil’ bit!

See the recipe for this dish on this blog.

Looks pretty simple, huh?

So, I was in the kitchen, looking through the pantry, trying to decide what to do with my pound of ground beef. There are some pretty standard options available for making use of ground beef. Burgers with canned corn and frozen fries. A childhood favorite: ground beef crumbles in instant mashed potatoes. Burritos. Quesadillas. Meatball sandwiches.

Hmm… Read the rest of this entry »

Mountain Rose Herbs

Mountain Rose Herbs