Meet My Meat Sauce

meat sauce

What the heck kind of “meat” is that, right?

Oh… you are all too clever for me.  You got me!  These are vegetables, of course.  But this is actually how I start my meat spaghetti sauce–with a slew of whatever seasonal veggies I have around that I can chop, saute and toss in.  Apparently celery, carrots and bell pepper are some current farmers market pics.

This is, in my humble opinion, the easiest way to get more vegetables into my family’s diet: I just put’m there!

Whenever I cook, I add more of whatever vegetables the recipe calls for, I add additional vegetables that I have around, and I add vegetables–period–whenever I can find a place for them.

When cooking a meat sauce, the vegetables take longer to cook than the meat, so if you’re winging it (like me!) you’ll want to start these colorful friends with a few tablespoons of olive oil, onion and garlic first.  After they begin to soften, grab your meat, herbs and spices and have at it.

Winging it is not without risks.  Once, years ago, when I was getting to know my crock pot during a particularly wet an chilly winter, I had the great idea to add fresh beets to my beef and vegetable stew.  I came home hours later to find a house that smelled like heaven, but a pot that looked like warm and steamy Pepto-bismal.  With chunks. 😦

I’m not a huge presentation girl, but the appearance of my simmering fuchsia pot  was so off-putting that Mike and I couldn’t even choke it down.  I’m grimacing as I write about it even now.

So, whatever.  Lesson learned.  Beets go on the side.

If you’re nervous to add uncalled for ingredients for fear you’re going to mess up dinner, try adding a little bit at first or  make a second pot on the side the first time.  It’s worth it when you see how many vegetables you can get into your family by just slippin’em in here and there.

Have a great Easter weekend–and by the way, I think my Cole slaw would go great with a baked ham!

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Pre-Summer Quinoa Salad!!

Lisa's salad

There are three things you should know about this salad.  First of all, I’ve never actually made it myself.  It’s not my fault though!  Lisa keeps making and making it and bringing it over…  When or why would I go to the trouble?

The second thing you should know is that this recipe comes from another blogger, Once Upon a Chef that Lisa says “is a lot like me.” (Sounds like a cool lady, huh?)

The third thing you should know is that not only do I love this salad soooo much, I love tons of salads like this.  This, friends, is my kinda bowl of yum to have in the fridge.  It’s a pretty complete meal, it’s de-lish, you can prep large quantities at a time and then grab a spoon for days… I’m smiling already.

So I’m telling you all this to tantalize your taste buds.  There will be more salady-posts coming your way as summer (SUMMER!!!) approaches.  Aren’t you excited now?  Boy-oh-boy-oh-boy!

Quinoa Corn/Tomato/Lime Salad (you can read the recipe here, on my recipe page or you can check out the blog from whence it came–nothin’ like options!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 1 cup pre-washed quinoa (if not washed, follow package instructions for rinsing)
  • 1-2/3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, from 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh cut cooked corn, from 2 cobs
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from 1 large lime
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add quinoa to onions and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil. Cover pan tightly with lid, turn heat down to low and simmer for 17-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Transfer cooked quinoa to mixing bowl and chill in refrigerator.
  3. When quinoa is cool, add remaining tablespoon olive oil, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno, cilantro, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Right before serving, scatter avocado chunks over top.

Tip: So far, every time Lisa has made this we get so distracted with the kids (gossip, whatever) she has forgotten to put the avocado in–but it still tasted heavenly.

Tip #2 (unrelated to quinoa salad, but still good to know…): If you’d like to check me out all week on Hometown Pasadena, well, go right ahead.  My featured March recipe is fajitas !!!

This Freaks Me Out

freak

I don’t like it when fruit looks manufactured.

My mom picked up this bag of oranges for me from a supermarket and I swear every single one of those suckers looks exactly the same.

We’re eating them–I’m not enough of a nut job to toss’em or anything like that.  They taste pretty good too (which is why we’re eating them) but they still freak me out.

These oranges have no seeds.  They are quintuplets of the weirdest kind, created to grow rapidly and equally enough to fit the exact same number in each bag.   Their skins are just a little too smooth, a little too shiny and a little too similar to one another.

These oranges may or many not have been grown with GMO’s.  I can’t know for certain though as my government feels this information isn’t relevant enough to share…

Personally, I prefer Mother Nature’s approach to fruit production which includes differences and imperfections.  Craggy skins, alternative sizes, shapes, shades–this stuff speaks to me.

We’ll eat these oranges this time, yes.  But THEY FREAK ME OUT.

SLAW

slaw

I’ve a confession to make.  Lately I’ve been a little OCD about cole slaw.  I know, right?  Of all things…

Since my “mouthy no worky” due to illness early this month, I’ve been slowly regaining my sense of taste.  For a few weeks now, even though my tongue is regaining a purpose in life, I’ve been desperate for foods that tasted like the good ‘ol days.

Enter: vinegar.  So I got a hankerin’ for some slaw one day and this idea turned in a two week long mission to find the perfect cole slaw recipe.  I decided that when I developed the recipe I liked, I’d post about it.

My friends, that day has come.

Michelle’s (and Mike, my girlfriend Lisa and daughter Josie’s) Fave Cole Slaw

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage, chopped; 2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tsp sugar; few dashes salt; dash pepper

Directions: While you are prepping the veggies, bring the vinegar, olive oil and seasonings to a boil on the stove top.  With the sugar in there this will happen in about 2 mins, maybe less.  Mix your now kinda-syrupy and warm vinaigrette and pour it over the top of your naked veggies.  Toss all this yummy stuff together and let it sit for a few hours before serving.  That’s it!

Tips: I like unfiltered cider vinegar (but then I’ve been working on jump starting  my taste buds so it could just be me.)  I played around with several cole slaw recipes before I deduced this one.  I don’t mind the mayonnaise type slaws, but they are so darn unhealthy that I figured I’d put my energy into the vinegar based kind.

The real secret with this recipe lies in the heating of the dressing before putting it on the veggies.  It doesn’t blanch the cabbage, per se, but the heat does do a little voo-doo which is nice.  Plus, heating dissolves the sugar and makes for a nice light syrup.

This recipe is pretty mild, actually, but makes for a great side dish for BBQ chicken, tacos, ribs, sandwiches.   I like this slaw because it’s easy-tasty-healthy (my three fave food adjectives!)

There are fancier concoctions that yield some nicely complex slaw situations, but for the effort, cost and taste, this  simple slaw recipe gets my vote.

Finally (seriously, how much can a person say about cabbage!?) I never knew how darn healthy cabbage is for ya!  It’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, E, calcium, serves as a blood detoxifier… plus it’s cheap as heck and literally lasts for weeks in the fridge.  No wonder it’s such a big staple for so many cultures world wide.

OK.  I’m done.

And There You Go

dirty floor

Well, that certainly looks appetizing, doesn’t it?  Yes.  Here at Kickin’ it in the Kitchen we strive to display the most appealing, most elegant kitchen images we can find.

Today is the Spring Equinox and it’s gotten me thinking about spring cleaning.  Oi vey.

The other day I spent the better part of my morning cleaning my house.  After what I believed to be an adequate investment in floor sweeping, vacuuming and even a quick once-over-mopping, I turned around to find this under one of my kitchen chairs.  Argh!!!!

“Cleaning the house when you have children is like shoveling the driveway while it’s still snowing.”  I read that once, and, by the way, it also applies to pets.

News flash: Housework is dull.  What really aggravates me though is that even when I tackle it (then go back and pick up the little corners of schmutz that I missed the first time) it mostly goes unnoticed by the other people who live here.  The kids don’t really see that the picture frames are no longer covered in dust and it’s pretty rare that Mike comes home and gives me a “Nice looking toilets, honey!”

Actually, what more than likely happens is that I clean a bunch of areas, but then receive a comment about the one task I didn’t get to “Can’t we get some of this paperwork off the kitchen counter?”

This weekend I plan to clean–really clean–my windows.  In case nobody related to me notices, you can feel free to compliment my work!

Quest Pancakes, 2013

pina colada cakes

My continuous search for even more easy-tasty-healthy breakfast continues–and does this look like the next cover of Sunset Magazine or what?

So, our Saturday pancake adventure began because of a new friend  who is looking for a more protein packed pancake.  I remembered a recipe my girlfriend, Shandy (don’t you just love that name?), had given me and decided to give it a whirl.

Carlson’s/La Leche League Cottage Pancakes (not pictured above–but I’ll get to that in a moment)

Ingredients: 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. baking powder

Directions: Beat eggs and cottage cheese with an electric mixer until almost smooth.  Add every else, mix, pour onto hot griddle and I hope you can take it from here.

Verdict: All five of us loved these pancakes!  They have an “eggier” taste than my regular cakes, kind of along the lines of a crepe.  I didn’t take a photo because they didn’t really look any different from any other pancakes.

What I did take a photo of, though, is the other pancake tangent we took Saturday morning.  I had three bowls of pancake mix going at one point and one of them turned into the fab photo you see today: Pina-colada Pancakes!

Basically I took my regular buttermilk recipe and, after pouring onto the griddle, added a few pieces of drained pineapple and a few pinches of sweetened coconut.  I had to cook the pancakes on a very low heat as the pineapple’s moisture would make them doughy.  I may try just mixing some crushed pineapple into the mix next time but in terms of presentation, I love the way the griddle seared the pineapple and coconut when the cakes were flipped.

Seriously.  Don’t they look amazing?  (Scroll back up.  Really.)

My oldest daughter proclaimed the pina-colada cakes “the best pancakes ever.”  Although only nine, she has likely tried more homemade pancakes than many adults alive today, so, you know, it’s a decent referral.

Classic Buttermilk Griddle Cakes (also posted on the breakfast recipe page)

Ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. sugar, 1 egg, 1 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup veg. oil

Directions: Mix, make!

Notes/tips: This mix should be thick, but still pour.  Sometimes I add a dash of milk to thin it.  Cook pancakes on a med. heat to cook through middle too.

Salad Recon and Loose Ends…

Mom's salad

OK.  So I popped over to my parents’ house (they’re my neighbors) the other day to borrow something.  Nobody was home but we have the same key (cute, I know.)  While rummaging through the fridge I came across the bucket of salad fixings you see here.

(Sorry Mom!  I may have even neglected to tell you I borrowed something–which I can’t even recall what it was at the moment–much less that I snapped photos of your private produce stash…!)

I, too, prep salad fixings en masse, but holy cow: not like this.  Can you even believe this situation!?  And I thought I was a little overboard with my veggies… seems it may not actually be my fault.  I mean, with genes like this, what real choice do I have?

In this bucket is about the healthiest mixture of  delicious salad fun a person can have on a weekly basis.  Purchased from our local farmers market, in this trough you will find: Swiss chard, cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper, celery… I think that’s it.  Things like onion or tomato should wait till eatin’ time as they don’t keep quite as well.

In case it’s not clear, my parents are pretty darn healthy folks.  This salad chest is but one example of the smart food choices they make every day– choices that are easier to make when whipping up a nutritious salad is as simple as opening the fridge.

Thanks for the positive role modeling, Mom!

Oh–and regarding the loose ends.  Here is Teri’s Baked French Toast recipe from Monday.  I’ll also put it on the recipe page.  Happy Friday everyone!

Teri’s Baked French Toast
Ingredients:
5 cups of whatever bread you have, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar (divided)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter (cut into little bits)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8×8 inch baking pan or pie plate.
Line bottom of pan with bread cubes.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, 2 tbsp. sugar, salt & vanilla. Pour egg mixture over bread (try to cover each piece). Dot with butter bits.  Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake in preheated oven about 45 to 50 minutes, until top is golden.
Serve as is or with a little maple syrup on top!

Recipe for “Getting out the Door!”

baked toast

First day of daylight savings (OK, second, but first day that actually counts) and I still have a lingering virus situation.  No matter.  Thanks to the help of some friends and my inner-Grandma-Millie, the kids made it to school on time–and the bell rings at 7:45 am…

My girlfriend/angel Teri gave my family this gorgeous baked French toast on Saturday.  I literally had it in the oven yesterday morning when it dawned on me, No!  This is our motivation for Monday!  I quick grabbed it and put it back till today.  (This is what I referred to as my “inner-Grandma-Millie.”  Not everyone has this, but you can use mine for now.)

As soon as Teri reads this I’m sure it will occur to her to shoot me the recipe for this de-lish dish.  I’ll post it pronto.

My second strategy was T.V.  Yup.  “Wanna get up an hour early when it’s dark outside and still chilly in the house?”  Hmmm… “Wanna get up and watch cartoons for 15 minutes?”  Now which one would you choose?

I packed everyone’s favorite lunch (organic mac-n-cheese) and with some gentle encouragement and a few uh, gentle kicks in the behind, we made it across the street so my girlfriend/angel Lisa could deliver everyone safely to school.

Whew!  I feel like I’ve done quite a bit considering it only feels like 7:15 am right now.

Happy Day-Light Savings Everyone!  This is, despite the efforts it took this morning, my favorite time of year.

Don’t Adjust That Dial

rainbow flower

Here we have a little something I termed “rainbow-flower” (as opposed to cauliflower) and broccoli.  My 5 year-old son accompanied me to the farmers market recently, and chose the purple and yellow cauliflower featured with our good friend, Mr. Green Broccoli.

I have seen purple cauliflower in grocery stores before, but not yellow.  It’s raw in this photo, but all these veggies retained their technicolor appeal after roasting as well.  I did my usual with a couple ‘a cloves of garlic, drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt.  Roast at a high heat (400-425) for about 25 mins.

My second grader, and resident politician, suggested we keep track of who preferred which one.  This endeavor evolved into a voting process and tally sheet which she diligently managed throughout the course of the meal.

I used to use this type of “see which one you prefer” type game to encourage sampling when my kids were little.  We don’t need a gimmick anymore, but it was still fun.

My girls acknowledged that with eyes closed, you couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow and purple cauliflower, but my stubborn little guy insisted (picture older sisters rolling their eyes, knowingly) that he could taste the different colors.  Let’s just say that it’s really not worth arguing with him (about this or much else these days…)

But anyway, what do I care?  The kid motored through his vegetables and enjoyed every bite!

Mouthy No Worky

sick

So.  I’m feeling much better today, which is, you know, good.  Great.  It’s great.

Now if I could only taste things… yeah… that’d be kinda cool.

It’s a tad difficult to find inspiration for a blog called “Kickin’ it in the Kitchen” when everything I put in my mouth tastes like the photo above.  I have thumbed through my photo archives and find that the brilliant colors and pretty shapes annoy me right now.  (I do promise that even if I feel this way by Friday, I’ll pretend and post something tasty anyway.)

And so for today’s post I will leave you with this quote, which, although not too deep, I find particularly perfect as all five of the Calva-Despards stumble in and out of this dang virus which visited our home five days ago and still refuses to leave:

“You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy.  Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.” –Paul Walker

Ain’t that the truth!