Friday, July 31, 2009

Week ending August 7th

Sat - Grilled Cornish game hens with grilled zucchini & roasted sweet potato.
Sun - Pizza!
Mon - Penne with ricotta, spinach & pine nuts. I'll also be throwing in the leftover game hen meat.
Tues - Portobello, broccoli & red pepper melts with butter bean salad.
Wed - Homemade breaded chicken tenders with roasted cauliflower & petite peas
Thur - Salmon cakes with brown rice salad.
Fri - Leftovers / Pantry and freezer hunt

I'll have to thank mom and dad for the game hens. They will be over for dinner and my dad's a pro at grilling these babies. I felt I needed to make sure and fit in another evening for the melts again for Chris since he loved them so much and I'll try again to make the salmon cakes I meant to make last Saturday. Gotta use as much of what I have before buying something else.

Holy Gazpacho!

I was finally introduced to the wonderful world of Gazpacho and it was refreshing, clean, crisp and flavorful. It took me just minutes to make and both Chris and I felt completely guilt free after eating it. You simply get your food processor out. You process 4 large tomatoes for a bit. Then you add 1 cucumber (peeled), 1 red bell pepper, 4 small cloves of garlic, 1 tsp sherry vinegar, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 4 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper and then blend away. Place in frig and chill at least for 30 minutes. I topped with some shredded smoked provolone cheese.
Since dinner was so easy, I had plenty of time to bake a little loaf of bread so that we could sip and dip.

I wish all of my meals could be the fast and still be healthy. I'm getting better at it slowly. Just picking out or planning recipes that have just a few ingredients and aren't too complicated.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Don't judge a recipe by its lack of ingredients

I found that out last night! I made the Portobello, broccoli and red-pepper melts last night. With a few changes though. I used button mushrooms instead of portobellos, orange bell peppers (because they were cheaper but same general taste) and goat cheese instead of the Gouda. I baked a loaf of bread, sliced it up and put on the sauce. Topped them with the roasted vegetables and cheese and then roasted them some more. Man, those buggers were good! I can't count how many times Chris told me how much he loved them. I couldn't believe his reaction. I told him I had made some adjustments to the recipe but he told me not to change a thing for next time. He ate more than his share and I loved that he was enjoying them.
I chuckled a little because there are times I spend all day laboring over a special meal and I'm told it's good, but this meal took me less than 20 minutes and had only a handful of ingredients and I got major reviews! Gordon Ramsay is completely right when he emphasises that less is more when it comes to food. Just a few good ingredients allows you to enjoy the complete taste and also taste them individually. I like that and may plan on focusing on more dishes like that.

By the way, roasted broccoli rocks! I have a head of cauliflower that I plan on roasting tonight. I hear it's the best way to enjoy it.

Here's a picture Bella made for me yesterday. There's a cute little island with a palm tree with coconuts, some fish, a couple of star fish, sea weed, a cute crab and a very colorful squid. Oh, and we can't forget the fire breathing sea monster! Now this one is a definite keeper for her bin.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pizza Sunday and Kristjan's art debut

Kristjan is starting to create his own art pieces. I have a long flat bin under my bed with all of Bella's art through the years. When I say all, I mean it too. I have kept every single thing she has made and the bin is packed. I think I need to share more with the grandparents and learn that I can't possibly keep them all and just save the extra special ones. Now I need another bin for Kristjan's goodies.
Sunday is pizza night at our house. At least we try our best to plan it that way. Here's the turkey breast, onion, green olive and mushroom pizza.

I made this one especially for Chris. He loves his cheese pizza. Just about the only time he will actually eat more than just feta cheese. It had ricotta, feta and mozzarella with roasted garlic. He liked it so much he didn't even bother trying the other pizza.

Saturday; which is usually my main cooking day, I hit a wall in the afternoon. I had planned to make salmon cakes with roasted vegetables but ended up having Chinese takeout. What happened? Well, my day started out fine. I went to my morning appointment, went to the produce stand, then visited my friend Kimberly's to barter home brew for some of her farm fresh eggs, and after that took the kids to the grocery store. I came home and swam for a bit with the kids and then watered the garden. When I came back inside I suddenly felt nauseous, weak and dizzy. The thought of making dinner was completely daunting and I didn't even want to eat at the time. I rested for a time and then managed to get up to feed the kids because it was getting late. I then thought I better make something when Chris suggested we just get some wonton soup and vegetables.

I now have what seems to be a head cold that I am trying to keep at bay. I got a letter this morning that there was a child at the children's daycare/camp that was diagnosed with Influenza A of which HINI is included. Not sure what that exactly means, but they are on high alert doing extra to sanitize and reemphasising to the children to wash-wash-wash their hands! Needless to say I'm very concerned.

Last night I had two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and even had chicken soup for lunch today. Let me tell you about that apple cider dose. It sucks! Apparently, I have a friend that takes two tablespoons of it every morning and hasn't had a cold in 5 years. Chris suggested I take a dose. It supposedly fixes the PH in your body. Which is interesting because Saturday morning I was told by a skin care professional that putting a cap full of apple cider vinegar in with the kid's bath water will add acid to counter the alkaline from the chlorine in the city water. It's the chlorine from the bath water and pool that bothers the kid's skin as well as the chemical laden sunscreen and kiddie soaps. My kids only use fragrance free mild soaps and "natural" sunscreen now. She told me a layer of baby oil or Vaseline over the sunscreen will keep the pool water from absorbing into their skin. I haven't tried it yet, but I assume they will become quite slippery. :o)
No, it's not the Napa Valley, it's Florida! Saturday when I went to see my friend to barter home brew for eggs she also gave me a tour of their brand new house. It was like a dream. They had been planning this house for years and it seems every element in it was heavily thought out and tailored just for their needs. It had beautiful hickory floors and her kitchen was gorgeous. They put some European elements into the house such as bamboo blinds, balconies, travertine tile and even a bidet in the master bath which puzzled the "local" construction workers. The best part of the house is that it sits on top on one of the highest hills in Florida and from their front porch you can see for miles. For flat old Florida, it's a rare benefit.

They built a new chicken coop to match their horse and cattle barn. Those chickens are living it up! They really seemed to love their new home and seem to thank them by laying plenty of eggs. The eggs I brought home were fresh from that morning. I made one scrambled egg with Bella's dinner and she loved it so much, there wasn't a crumb left on her plate. It's amazing how much more flavorful and bright orange they are compared to store bought eggs.

I was also informed why store bought eggs have a much higher salmonella and bacteria risk. Fresh eggs have a protective membrane on the shell to keep bacteria from penetrating and getting into the egg. You should only truly wash your egg (if you do) right before you intend to cook them. The store bought eggs are bleached and cleaned before (good old FDA) they reach the store and the protective membrane is removed which allows bacteria such as salmonella to penetrate the shell. I wish I could have my own chickens. Not sure if the home owners association would dig that idea. I'll just have to keep going over to Kimberly's!

Another book lover! If Kris isn't asking to go outside or look at the fishies, he's pulling books out of the bookshelf. He absolutely loves animals and will flip through and carry around little animal books all day long. He's either got his duck, Nemo dvd case or a book in his hand at all times.
Here's a morning ritual that I used to do. Get up out of bed to only find a blanket and pillow in the living room to lay down yet again. Bella is like me in the mornings...slow. We wake her up a little early on purpose so that she can get her "wake up and stretch time" before she gets dressed for school. If you wake her and make her get ready right away you end up with an emotionally charged morning. Not a good thing. It's a slow process, but it works.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Week ending July 31st

It's been since May that I posted any menu. Not a very consistent idea is it? Typical of my behavior and my self diagnosed ADHD problem. Here's an example of my brain at home:

I'm in the kitchen in the middle of scrubbing the sink when I decide right in the midst of it that I must get the clothes out of the dryer. I get the clothes and place the basket on the floor to fold. I manage to fold most of the clothes when I see that Bella left her DS on the living room floor, so I go get it and put it in her room where it belongs. Once in her room I am reminded that I need to get her sheets off the bed for washing. I gather the sheets and her laundry basket and head to the garage. I notice my unfinished folding job and remind myself that I need to finish it. Back to the laundry basket. All of the clothes are folded. Now time to put them away. I go to my room to hang shirts when I notice there are toys in there that Kristjan stashed. So halfway into that project I pick up the toys and put them away. On my way back from that I remember the darn kitchen sink and finally finish that up. Later in the day, I will find a pile of clothes still on my bed waiting to be hung.

Now where was I? Oh, the menu for the week. See what I mean?!

Sat - Salmon cakes w/ chive yogurt dressing & roasted vegetables
Sun - Home made pizza
Mon - Portobello, broccoli & red pepper melts with butter bean salad
Tues - Warm quinoa, spinach, and shiitake salad
Wed - Greek chicken cutlets with rosemary potatoes
Thurs - Gazpacho
Fri - leftovers / pantry & freezer hunt

I'm having a Martha Stewart recipe week it looks like. They have a show I listen to on Sirius during the day where they feature easy and healthy dishes. Some of them sounded so good and shouldn't be too bad on the budget. Next week I want to try some Disney recipes.

I'm trying very hard to use as much of what I have in the pantry along with produce from our farmer's market. The salmon we've had in the freezer for some time now. I'll chop and combine all of those little fillets that seem too small to grill or broil alone. I can clip some chives from my dad's herb garden for the dressing and make the bread for the melts. I have plenty of quinoa in the pantry and if the shiitakes are too expensive, I can just use different mushrooms.

What I am looking forward to most is the chilled gazpacho. I have a feeling I am going to love that one and it's the easiest dish on the list.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Growing up so fast

I was reorganizing some of my photo files on my laptop and just can't believe how fast time is passing. Just makes it more real to me that I must slow it down and soak in every moment I have with my two little gifts of life.

Little Bellabean



Pregnant with Kris

Little Kris





Yesterday

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fast, simple and full of flavor

I've had a jar of Arborio rice in my pantry for a very long time and kept telling myself that I needed to make some risotto. Finally, I did and it was outstanding! Off of one cup of rice and just a handful of ingredients, we were able to eat off of this dish several times. I still have plenty of rice left. The recipe called for water but I used some vegetable broth I had made and ended up to using more liquid than what the recipe called for. I used hot Italian sausage because I love the flavor of heat and bold spices. I do believe I will be rockin the risotto train again soon and there are thousands of variations out there. Awesome!

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 Cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

recipe from marthastewart.com
A flower plant I have that I think looks very pretty. I just put it in a new larger pot and I hope it stays happy and vibrant. :o)

Monday, July 20, 2009

This article struck a cord in me (wholeliving.com) and I thought I would share some of it. I printed it out so that I can read it over and over for myself. The tips and comments are from a lady named Kathleen Hall who was a very successful business woman that one day had a severe panic attack. After that episode, she quit her job, travelled the world getting information from various religious leaders and thinkers and ended up changing her life for the better. A stress free and happier life.

She adopted a powerful but surprisingly simple mantra -- SELF, an acronym for serenity, exercise, love, and food -- and started teaching it to others to great effect. These "four roots of real happiness" may seem almost too easy, but she insists they have a centering effect in even the worst of circumstances. "It's these basic, ordinary actions that ground you," she explains. "By attending to your roots each day, you learn to stay focused and intentional -- and stay true to your design." Making time for serenity, for instance, creates space in our lives for meditation and stress reduction; exercise benefits the spirit and mind as well as the body; love and friendship bring physiological and emotional rewards; and nourishing food, consciously consumed, feeds the senses in a deeply satisfying way. It's these simple things, she says -- a moment to connect with your breath, a walk in the park, a hug from a friend, a thoughtfully prepared meal -- that keep us balanced.

10 Secrets to a Stress-Free Life:

Start small. Don't overwhelm yourself with big changes. Alter one small thing -- a morning habit, a food choice. Over time, these will add up to the intentional life you crave.

Connect. Put love and friendship first in your life, scheduling dates with others as you would doctors' appointments. Connection may help improve heart health, prompt the release of the stress-relieving hormone oxytocin, and allow you to sidestep the health risks of isolation. While you're at it, get a pet -- you might further reduce stress and ease depression.

Focus on now. Rather than disperse your energy with multitasking, take one job, one person at a time.The more mindful you are, the quicker you can stop stress and turn yourself around.

Write it out. Release stress by getting negative feelings out of your body. Pick up a pen and write down your thoughts.

Practice gratitude. It's hard to feel gratitude and stress at the same time. Devote five minutes a day to giving thanks for all the gifts in your life -- starting with your breath, the source of everything.

Walk softly. When we're stressed, we tend to hit the floor hard with every step. Imagine you're walking on a lotus flower -- tenderly, gently. Unplug through your feet, and you'll calm down to a more tranquil mental place.

Try a mini-meditation. Memorize a three-to-five-word phrase, a mantra, that will bring you back to center when things get rough, such as "I am strong" or "Spirit will guide me." Also, keep a peaceful image mentally on hand (a beach scene, a quiet forest) to call up in stressful moments.

Take stock. Make a list of things that bring you joy -- and another list of things that drain your energy. Do this 10 minutes daily for a week, and then review your lists and see how your own life matches up.

Love your commute. See your travel time as a chance to cultivate patience and compassion. If you can use calming breaths to stay relaxed and unruffled in traffic, you can handle anything.

Own the news. Change the way you approach the bleak information you get from the media. Don't shy away from knowing the facts -- apathy can prove as damaging to your spirit as stress or depression. But use what you learn to become part of the solution. Send light, positive energy and prayers to those suffering, while finding tangible ways to get involved. You're in a position of power and control. Embrace the media -- look at it and use it as your classroom.

There is a lot here that if I try my best will help me with my stress and gaining a more positive outlook on life. It's all about the SELF.

Back to the routine

Sorry everyone! I was off last week on "staycation" and I didn't really spend any time on the computer. I also made a point to avoid the news which was refreshing. Don't get me wrong, knowing what's going on in the world is important but I think there is just too much media doom and gloom pumped 24 hours a day. I also seemed to forget to take any pictures too. Sorry. Really though, a picture of me cleaning out my car or scrubbing the stove really isn't that interesting. :o)

Chris went to NY for a few days to visit his best friend that turned 40 this year. He ate way too much. His friend is a sales rep for a food company and is an excellent cook. He always feeds us very well when we visit!

While Chris was away Bella and I visited with my friend Kristin and her daughter Quinny over in Orlando. We stayed in their hotel room and then she treated us to Blizzard Beach the next day. Bella and I had a blast! Kristjan got to spend the night with Nanna and Nannu for the first time. The rest of the week Chris and I stayed home and cleaned, swam, gardened and relaxed. There were days of intense cleaning, a day of intense baking (which was my favorite) and a couple of days of just hanging around.

My day of baking was fun. I made some small rolls, big loaves, olive and rosemary focaccia bread and I made some whole wheat and regular pasta too. I could have baked and made food all day. I could do it everyday all day.

We did leave the house one day to walk around B&N and then window shop at the mall. I signed up for some complimentary cooking technique classes at Williams-Sonoma. We then went to lunch at a great German pub and restaurant. They still make the best Reubens ever!

We still took the kids to school all week so that we could get the projects done at home. We wanted to get some things done that we can't seem to get to on the time crunched weekends. We did pull them out on Friday and took them to the beach for the morning. All we had to pay for was gas and ice. We packed our lunches and headed out. Bella loves the beach and hated to leave. Kristjan was busy chasing the seagulls. We did take pictures with a regular camera with film because I didn't want to bring the nice camera to the beach. As soon as I can get it developed, I'll get them on here.
As if the caterpillars and stink bugs weren't bad enough, the squirrels eat their fair share of my poor tomatoes too! I think some cayenne spray will do the trick. As long as I can just get a day without rain long enough to keep them at bay. They pick the tomato, stash it in a safe place to soften (top of the pool screen) and then come back later to feast.
Saturday I had my pals Janet and Alex with their two daughters over for some swimming and grilling. We had some fun in the pool until the storms came, then Kristjan lied down for a little Nemo time before his nap. Alex lied down next to him to watch the movie. Kristjan did fall asleep, but Alex fell asleep first! They both took a nice 2 hour nap! Heck, it may have been longer than that! Obviously, they both needed the sleep. Very cute.

The sky!!! Alex is very tall and when he picks up Kristjan he looks like a little doll. Kris was to excited to be able to touch the sky.

Now to get back to the routine of it all. I miss being home and in the kitchen.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Office helper

Here's Bella at work with me today. Before we left the house this morning Bella was complaining of having a "frog in her throat" that she could not clear and it was upsetting her. When we got to daycare, she really became upset. I dropped Kristjan off and then proceeded to bring her to work. She does have a bit of a runny nose but is in great spirits as you can see. I guess it's good she's here to color, watch movies and play with her DS verses running around if she does in fact have a little bug. I need her well for this Saturday! We will be meeting my best friend Kristin who lives in New York in Orlando where we will be going to a large water park there.

Perhaps I've been had, but it is nice to have her with me today.

She did make me a hamburger for lunch though. It's not a hat, it's a double decker hamburger. See the sesame seeds on top? I find this interesting because she's never eaten a hamburger and I never eat double deckers! Perhaps she's been paying attention when mommy has Foodtv on.

Ok, now back to work.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A picture can tell a thousand words

This picture is an example of that. What is he trying to say here?
  1. Get this uncomfortable diaper off of me and get me some fruit-of-the-looms!
  2. Please get me a potty seat.
  3. I want to streak through the house but this diaper is stuck!
  4. My butt itches!
  5. Whazz up? Just trying to dress like the teens down the street. Droopy drawers are cool right?
  6. Just checking out my assets mommy.
  7. Hey mom! Aren't these diapers filling up all the landfills?
  8. What are you looking at? I was just airing things out a little bit.
"Tickle tickle!!" Bella is happy that Kristjan is old enough and willing enough to play with. They tear through the house like crazy monkeys. I have to put the gates up, not just to keep Kristjan out of trouble, but to slow them down!

Here's my little tribute to Micheal Jackson. I saw some of the memorial, listened to his friends speak of his life and sobbed when his daughter cried out her love for him. I was wrong about him. He seemed odd to us only because he was constantly picked on and judged. He was a gentle soul and only wanted happiness for others. Most of his songs were about finding inner peace and equality in all. He's a part of my childhood and luckily his music will live on. I don't believe that he molested any children, there are people out for money, not matter the cost to others. I believe he loved children because they are still real within their hearts. R.I.P.

One of my jobs as a mom is to teach my children to not judge others, stay true to their hearts and be happy in life and also remember to live through those teachings as well.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A mermaid is born

Look who shed her swimmies (water wings) and also found the courage to jump right in!



She's been swimming at daycare's summer camp program and as they said "she will be swimming without her wings before the end of summer." They were correct! She's now a fish and wants in the pool all the time. She loves going under the water with her goggles on and as you can see, is not afraid to jump anymore.

Here she is with her brother giving cheers, swimming in the deep end over to the other step. We are so very proud of her and happy she's more comfortable in the pool now.
Here's our budding little fish. He hangs out on the deck, the first step or in our arms in the pool. Even though he loves the water, he's happy just to be outdoors. We also roll his high chair out on the lanai so he can eat outside. He just sits there looking at birds, squirrels and watches us play. We try and eat out there as often as we can. Sometimes though, it's just to darn hot out.

We try to venture out to the backyard later in the day. Kristjan loves some high action swing time and also digs the slide too.

After all that recreation it's time to crash. We put Elmo on for him and then moments later he got up on the couch with Donald and took a little nap.

Where are all the throw pillows? Oh, in the fort again.

Daddy decided to check out the fort too. Looks a little cramped in there. I remember grabbing all of my mom's extra sheets and making huge forts in my room. I had a bunk bed and I would seal the whole thing off with sheets.

I have some buds on my cantaloupe plants. They are growing like weeds in the back yard. Cool thing is, I didn't even plant them there! I've been using the back corner as my make shift compost pile (until I can make one or buy one) and it seems the cantaloupe pieces I threw up there decided to sprout and grow. I also have potatoes and pumpkin growing back there. I wonder if they will produce.

Need any oregano? Ever since I planted mine in our sandy ground, it has really taken off. I use it in many dishes and it still looks vibrant. Too bad my basil doesn't reproduce as quickly. I do use that herb the most. I need a back yard filled with it to fill my culinary wants!

The childhood buddy. I have a teddy bear that I've had since I was a baby that I have in safe keeping (somewhere in this house). Chris has his baby pillow that he keeps near the bed - not in the bed (lol!). Bella has a little stuffed dog named "Lucy" that she sleeps with every night. She must always know where Lucy is. Lucy has been washed many times and isn't fluffy any more, but she's still a very loved little dog. Kristjan also has a buddy. It's this little Donald Duck. He just took to it and snuggles with it when he's tired or in need of pacifying. At bedtime, if he doesn't see Donald in bed he says "duck?". It's imperative to find it.

Luckily Donald hasn't made it to the trash. I had to run out and get him another pair of sandals this weekend after finding out that he threw away a sandal from his previous pair. We found this out after a frenzy search through the house and after the garbage man had come. I'm sure some toy cars and other things have made it to the dump too. We are constantly keeping him from "putting things away" in the garbage can. At least he's a neat freak right? Just need to find another lidded container for him to put things in other than the trash can. :o)

Today with all the technology I have at my finger tips like the laptop, computer at work, magazines, printed out recipes, recipe books, recipe binders and emailed recipes I finally found something that makes the best sense for me to use. A good old fashioned recipe box. I made a place for it on the counter top where I do my prep work. It's neat and easy to access. No more losing printed recipes and having all this paperwork all over the counter space. I've been jotting down the recipes I do most often. I still love my magazines and books, but for those recipes from my head or sent via email or printed out from online, this works best for me. I think I'll paint it one of these days. It needs some vine leaves and grapes painted on it I think.

Sunday has become pizza night at our house lately. Here's a batch rising for the occasion.

Bella's cheese pizza. She tops it herself. I find that this pizza almost tastes better than the fully loaded version. Sometimes it's nice just to taste some cheese and red sauce. This pizza will feed her another dinner and then she'll take some slices to school in her lunch box. That is, if mom and dad haven't attacked it too badly.

Every Sunday I seem to make a different variety. This pizza had capers, ham, green olives, mushrooms, spinach, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, onions, feta and boiled eggs. Last Sunday I made a pesto pizza which turned out fantastic. My basil supply is very low and I need to plant more before I can make another.

This pizza was extra fun because I let Bella put all the toppings on. She even sliced up the eggs and sprinkled them on. She's getting more involved in the kitchen and that totally warms me up inside.

This three day weekend was a very nice treat. I love being home and with the family. Next week Chris and I are taking a staycation. Some time off where we just stay home. We will be relaxing, cleaning, organizing, hopefully painting, gardening and relaxing some more. We have some projects in the works that we just can't get to on the weekends. My car is in great need of a detailing and washing and I'm looking forward to be able to finally brew a batch of beer with Chris. We'll take one day to do that one.

I can't wait to have a week off and be at home. I'll make sure to treasure every moment and hope that time passes so very slowly.