For Sofia B.

photo(2)

There are four Sophias in my third grade daughter’s class.  FOUR out of less than 60 students.  When Josie started kindergarten with Sofia B., Sophia D., Sophia P. and Sophia T., I think even the four Sophias’ mothers wondered how in the world we’d ever keep them all straight!  Of course it didn’t take long for each of their endearing personalities to emerge–each one unique and precious in her own way–and suddenly nothing could be more clear than which Sophia is which.

“Michelle” was the “Sophia” of my class.  If you are a girl and you were born near the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, you had a very good chance of being named Michelle (or Lisa or Jennifer–just ask my good friends Lisa and Jen.)  Or, if you weren’t named Michelle, you likely know a Michelle or did back then.  In fact, I dare you to find someone who doesn’t know a Michelle… but I digress… (but seriously, we are everywhere.)

I used to wish for a more unique name when I was a child, but looking back now I guess I just did what today’s Sophias do: I made my way and soon nobody confused me for Michelle S. or Shelly B.

Any-hoo… Sofia B. (the only one who spells her name with an “f”) was over for dinner recently and she really liked my Yellow Rice.  I adore all four Sophias and am so grateful for each of their contributions my lovely little corner of the world, but this recipe is dedicated to one Sofia in particular: Ms. Sofia B.  🙂

Tumeric Rice with Vegetables (with Chicken if you like)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. butter (optional)
1 cup basmati or jasmin white rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 diced onion
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1-2 cups chopped mixed vegetables (for this recipe I used chopped carrots, bell pepper and kale.  Other options include celery, zucchini, cauliflower…)
1/2 cup diced cooked chicken (optional)
1-2 tsp. tumeric
Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
In a pan, medium heat, brown the onions in olive oil (approximately 5-10 minutes.)  Add garlic and rice.  Stir together for a 3-5 minutes until rice has a chance to get to know the first flavors.  Then add vegetables, chicken and butter and stir for another 3-5 minutes for another quick layer of introduction.  Then add broth, tumeric and a dash of salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Unsolicited Tips: I make my own chicken broth, which accounts for some of the color and, I must say, some extra yummy flavor.  Boxed/canned broth can obviously also be used.  Brown rice can also be used, but it won’t absorb as much color or flavor.

If you haven’t used tumeric before, you may want to start with 1 teaspoon.  We love the flavor but it is new to some.  Besides being yum-ola and beautiful, tumeric is known to be anti-inflamatory, an antioxidant and tons of other current healthy buzz-words.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Google it and see!

Finally, in case you’re new to my blog or my life: the day I make a one-cup-of-rice recipe is the day I serve Poptarts for breakfast.  Girlfriend, I doubled this ‘thang of course!

p.s. Once Mike–in a show of defiance over my over-zealous approach to nutrition–bought some Poptarts.  Everyone hated them, even him!

 

Real Time Teriyaki Turkey Sandwiches

teriyaki sandwich done

So I still have leftover turkey (can I get an “Amen, sista!”) and by “real time” I mean that I am, in fact, making these sandwiches right now.  it is 10:30 in the morning and if you think this is a strange time to be making dinner, you obviously haven’t attended my Meal Planning 101 Workshop. 🙂

Teriyaki Sandwiches (could also be made with chicken, pork or beef but I got turkey so there)

Ingredients: 1 tbsp. olive oil, 2 diced stalks of celery, 1/2 diced med. onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 diced bell pepper, diced left over turkey, 2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 2-3 tbsp. soy sauce, 1/4 cup or so brown sugar.

Directions: Place oil and onion on stove top and cook at med/high heat till onions turn a bit translucent (about 5 mins.)  Add celery, garlic, bell pepper.  Mix and let simmer until the other veggies begin to soften (another 5 or so mins.)  Then add 2 tbsp. vinegar and soy sauce and most of the brown sugar.  Mix, cover and set heat on low so the veggies can really cook down and soak up all that yummy sauce.

When veggies are cooked, add your diced meat, stir and heat for a few minutes.  Taste and add soy sauce, vinegar or brown sugar as needed.

I was feeling very snappy whilst simmering away this morning, so if you are a visual learner, here are some photos for you:

teriyaki sandwich 1 Here are the veggies getting started.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

teriyaki sandwich 3 And here are our veggie friends after they’ve been reduced a bit and tossed together with the meat.  I wish you could smell this photo…

teriyaki sauce Finally, these are my good friends, teriyaki sauce ingredients (aka: brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.)  For a simple teriyaki sauce situation I use the the 2-3 tbsp. soy/vinegar plus a 1/4 cup loose packed brown sugar, then adjust to taste.  If I need more liquid–like if I’m making stir fry over udon noodles or something like that–I sometimes toss in a splash of orange juice or a little meat broth.

I plan to serve these guys on whole wheat buns for dinner, but it would be also be delicious on rice or a baked potato!

Mediterranean Layer Dip

Mediteranean layer dip

I was recently introduced to my new friend, Mediterranean Layer Dip.  Nice to meet you.

I discovered this new delight at our back to school BBQ a few weeks ago.  Let me just say, it was love at first sight when I caught a glimpse of this yum-ola situation.  I literally ran around shouting “Who made that dip!?” until I found the smart lady who had whipped it up.  She didn’t have a name for it so I went with today’s title.

I knew right away what this dip was made of, even though I had never seen it before.  You can just tell that it’s hummus (I used Trader Joe’s Mediterranean blend as recommended), crumbled feta cheese, chopped cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes and kalamata olives.  Genius or what!?  Serve with pita chips or more veggies for dipping and you’ve got yourself a beautiful (I mean seriously–isn’t it just lovely?) delicious, hearty appetizer.

Technically the preparation of this food item is more along the lines of “assembly” than “cooking”–which is super okey-dokey right now as it’s so hot in Pasadena I have a hard time choking down my cup of caffeine each morning lately.

I brought this dip (shown here with the gorgeous hand of my girlfriend, Eva, poised with chip) to the Labor Day BBQ that my beans got me invited to.  It wasn’t a big hit with the kids.  My three, for whatever reason, are not hummus fans.  Go figure and it didn’t matter anyway because all the adults huddled around it and snarfed it down so fast we didn’t really feel like sharing with our little offspring anyway.

There are times when generosity is not a priority.

Will I make this dip again?  Invite me over and find out!

Baked Beans for Labor Day!

baked bean casserole

Shocked as usual, I cannot believe that the unofficial end of summer–also known as Labor Day–is one week from today.  Wow.

My family loves baked beans.  LOVES them.  For a potluck party we attended a few weeks ago I decided to bring a baked bean hotdish (Yes, I’m from Minnesota and we do that.  And we make it in Corning Wear which is featured above.  So there.)

Baked beans are so cool because, although they’re a bit heavy on the “sugary side” of life, they are still a great source of fiber, complement a million different entrees (burgers, brats, BBQ chicken, pasta–no, not pasta!  Just checkin’ to see who’s awake this Monday morn. :)), and are super cheap-ola to make.  That’s a win-win-win in my book.

So, to create this giant pot of yum I Googled Baked Beans and basically pulled bits from a handful of recipes that looked pretty dang tasty.  I grabbed what I already had in the cupboard and fridge and through it all together.  It was the right approach.  The beans ROCKED!

Michelle’s Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Baked Beans

Ingredients:

Step one:  1 large onion (I used a Maui which is sweet) diced, 1 diced bell pepper, 1 diced tart apple, 3-5 crushed cloves of garlic, few handfuls of leftover diced ham (recipes called for bacon but I didn’t have that), black pepper, two tbsp. olive oil

Step two: 5 15 oz. cans of baked beans (I used Bush’s, plain), 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup mustard, 1/4 cup brown sugar, many dashes of chili powder, chipotle powder, black pepper, few glugs of Worchestershire, soy sauce, dash of balsamic vinegar, splash of beer (kinda fell in…)

Directions: take your step one ingredients and saute in a pan until the onions and pepper soften (approximately 10 mins) like this:

pre-beans

Then toss it all together with the step two ingredients in a giant pot.  Mix it up and pop’er in the oven at 350 for 60 or so minutes.  I broiled the top so it would get that nice darker crust situation goin’ on.

(Side note for my measuring friends: this is a great example of a time when it’s really best to just wing it.  I mean with a list of ingredients like the one above, how can you go wrong?)

The party guests made quick work of this dish, and I was glad I had made so much.  The leftovers for dinner the next night were even better!

And, if I get invited to a Labor Day celebration, I do plan to make these beans.  Just puttin’ it out there…

P.s.  Quick shout-out to my South Pasadena Mom’s Club peeps who attended “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox” last night!  It was so much fun!!!

Easy-Peasy Chili

easy chili

OK.  So my girlfriend, Jen, requested I deliver on my promise to post my chili scene before the weather turns.  As she is one of my favorite people on the planet (she helped schlep my kids and even brought me a gorgeous plant when I was on my imagined death bed last month,) this is a request I am happy to accommodate.

Michelle’s Easy-Peasy Black Bean Chili

Ingredients: 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 med onion (diced), 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 med bell peppers (diced–approximately 1 1/2 cups), Two 15 oz. cans black beans (with liquid–don’t drain’em!), One 15 oz. can diced, stewed or crushed tomatoes, One 6 oz. can tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Simmer onion (any kind will do,) garlic and olive oil for a few minutes.  Add bell pepper and cook until peppers start to soften.  Add everything else, stir and bring to a boil/simmer until peppers are fully cooked.  You.  Are.  Done.

(OK.  Yes you can top off your creation with shredded cheese, diced onions, sour cream, what have you… Then.  You.  Are.  Done.)

Tips: You can use fresh tomatoes if you have them, but this is the “easy-peasy”  recipe so we’re going with that theme.  Any color bell pepper and any type of onion will do.  This is a mild version so my kids will enjoy it as well.  Often I serve my three little Gringo-mouths first and then add cayenne and chipotle powder or hot sauce to Mike and mine.

You can use other beans besides black (kidney, red, white, pinto) if you like, but I only include the liquid of black beans when I cook.  Any other kind tends to have that viscous water-ish situation that I prefer to drain.   It grosses me out.  What can I say?  So, if you use red or another type of bean, you’ll need to add water.

Meat (chopped leftover cooked chicken or cooked sausage, ground beef) can also be added to this recipe, but even my meat-and-potatoes husband found this version satisfying from the get-go.

Besides the obvious ease with which this meal is created (it literally takes me 10 minutes start to finish), I love how healthy and tasty this chili is.  Legumes baby!!!!

My final fave thing about this recipe is the variety of simple ways I can use it to make different meals.  There are soooo many ways, in fact, that I’m going to don this week “Chili Week!”  Tune in all week to see all the easy-peasy-tasty-healthy ways you can make this meal for your family too!

I usually double or even triple/quadruple this recipe, freeze or share with someone I love.

For today, we’ll go with two chili thingies:

Michelle’s fave: Chili with crushed tortilla chips on top (Hey–how did that beer get in the photo!?)

chili with chips

And we also like our chili with cornbread.

chili with cornbread

I usually use Trader Joe’s cornbread mix, and substitute buttermilk for regular milk.   Super yum.

What else can a mama do with chili?  Baby, just you wait…

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!