Winter Cole Slaw

cole slaw 2 OK.  Yes.  I have posted my recipe for cole slaw before.  I just had to do it again because delicious fresh cabbages  literally abound at local farmer’s markets right now!  The high vitamin C and sulphur content in cabbage gives it strong detoxification properties.  High in vitamins and fiber, low in cost and de-lish make it a winter winner at our house.  This recipes forgoes the all-too-common-and-very-unhealthy ingredient of mayonnaise.  Fear not! After you taste this cole slaw you’ll never reach for a jar of that white stuff again.

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage (green, red or a combination), chopped; 1-2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tbsp sugar; few dashes salt and 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 minutes, 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 you’re pretty much there, my friend.

Kinda important tip: This recipe tastes great after hanging out in the fridge over night.  This month’s photo includes a double batch of the recipe above.  Why?  Because it gets even better after a few more days… leftovers = YES!!

Not as important tip: I usually give a big batch a stir after several hours to make sure all the vinegar-oil mixture doesn’t rest on the bottom.  Pairs well with chicken, burgers, tastes great on tacos–have fun!
Final thought.  Still with me?  Doesn’t this salad look absolutely gorgeous!?  OK.  Now go get something else done.  Seriously.

Baked Apples!

baked apples

OK.  Yum.  Yummity-yum-yum YUM.

We like dessert after dinner at my house.  I shoot for fresh fruit most nights but lately Valentine candy (shoot me now) has been dessert.  When I can find a nice fairly healthy dessert I consider it a great accomplishment as it makes everyone smile, including me (and no shooting required.)

Bonus number two with this particular recipe: both of my daughters can make it single-handedly!  I kinda prefer when Josie makes it because she cleans up her work space without any evidence of food preparation lickity-splickity.  Rhea needs a reminder.  And then sometimes another reminder.  And then I go back and finish the clean up.  But that’s OK.  This is why kiddos have mamas, right?   We’ll get there.

Baked Apples

Ingredients: 4 apples, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, few shakes cinnamon.

Directions: slice up your apples and leave the skins on.  Pour on syrup and add the cinnamon.  Mix it all up so all the slices are coated evenly.  Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes if you like your apples cooked but a bit firm, longer if you like them softer.  Serve warm in a little bowl because then your dessert can be tasty and cute.

Unsolicited tips: There a tons of other ingredients you can use for baked apples.  Brown sugar, butter, vanilla… but I like this recipe because it’s simple and really tasty–plus way healthier without all that other stuff.  Most of the recipes I found online for baked apples directed me to peel the fruit.  This, however, is not only an added step, it also simultaneously removes one of the most nutritious parts of the food!  So, if you need to peel’m.  If not, don’t!  My guys love it with the skin on.

Final tip: most recipes called for more maple syrup, but I have found that a little bit is all you need to add some sweetness but not overpower the other flavors.

If you’re interested in health benefits of cinnamon and maple syrup consider yourself thus informed!

This is How We Do It

Check out my Tortilla Soup recipe featured today till next Tuesday on Hometown Pasadena!

chili in potMerry Christmas Eve!

OK.  So, at this point in the holiday season a sit-down turkey with all the standard side dishes is just really not what I’m in the mood for.  Between the homemade candy friends have delivered, the boxes of chocolates Mike’s students (he teaches middle school and has around 150) blessed us with and the general can’t-turn-around-without-someone-placing-a-delectable-delight-right-under-my-nose vibe that permeates my life… a little turn toward the lighter side of the table is in order.

One of the many aspects of living in the multicultural mecca of the universe (unofficial title) is that Christmas Eve dinner options abound.  So I’ve whipped up some simple black bean chili which we will ladle over our Mexican tamales (which I did not make–sorry) for dinner tonight.  Tamales are Mexico’s way of saying “Feliz Navidad” and this year it’s our way too.

For dessert…

oranges sweet Clementine oranges picked from my neighbor’s tree two days ago.

Please know that the following statement is not so much a “nah-nah-nah-boo-boo” type claim as much as a “I’m originally from Minnesota so I don’t take local things for granted…!”

It’s almost 80 degrees outside.  My windows and doors are open and I ain’t dreamin’ of no white Christmas…

Easy-Peasy 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.

Tamales… yeah so you may recall that I’m actually 1/2 Mexican.  It’s my dad’s side though.  My mom’s ancestors which hale from Lithuania and Germany never passed down any tamale making traditions.  Lucky for me Los Angeles has the second biggest populations of Mexicans (after Mexico City) in the world so it couldn’t be easier to find authentic, delicious tamales made by someone who’s mama showed’em how to do it right!  Gracias amigas!

 

Dirty–not really–Rice

dirty rice

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… let’s see: three classroom “holiday” parties, one orchestra concert, two choir performances, two holiday shows (thank you for putting third and fourth grade together!), Christmas caroling with the neighbors (we are too cute) and an extra Christmas celebration with the cousins as my brother’s family is out of town for the big day.  All of this in 7 days?  Sure!  What?  You say I need to bring food to every single event?  Got it.  Sure.  Why not.

I’m joking, by the way.  Much like a size 1 supermodel who casual mentions “It really doesn’t matter what I eat at all–I simply never gain weight!” I would hate for you to hate me.

Yes.  I like to cook.  Yes.  I’m pretty organized.  And yes, the holidays stress me out too.  (And no, I’m not a size 1–see photo, ahem–top right.)

Oh yes, and my family still wants to, like, eat three meals a day plus snacks… enter: Michelle’s Dirty–not really–Rice.  My kiddos don’t exactly swoon over Cajun spices, and I didn’t have all the correct ingredients anyway (and I sure as heck was not going to make yet another trip to the store!) So I modified, grabbed some left overs and whipped up a nutritious, all-in-one-bowl, tasty dish that we all gobbled up pronto.  What is merrier than that?

Easy-tasty-healthy, baby.  That and planning ahead (I have three meals prepared already for next week when I’ll be practically living at my kids’ elementary school) is the key to serenity.  Throw in a glass of wine and you’ve got yourself a real holiday winner.

Dirty–not really-Rice

Ingredients: 2-3 cups cooked rice, 3 Italian sausages, 1 chopped red pepper, 1/2 chopped onion, 1-2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp butter, 1-2 stalks chopped celery, 1 can red beans (drained and rinsed), salt and pepper.  (red pepper optional)

Directions: Saute your onion, garlic, peppers and celery in the olive oil.  Place the sausages amongst the these tasty delights.  After the sausages have cooked for a while, remove them and slice to finish cooking and sear each piece a bit.  Cook rice separately.  Drain and rinse your beans.

When meat and veggies are done, simply toss in the rice, beans and a little butter.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I added a few shakes of red (cayenne) pepper to Mike and my dishes to perk them up a little.  Super yum-ola baby!

Tips: You could make this dish with other meats too (chicken would be nice/or hey, go vegetarian!) and don’t be afraid of throwing in other vegetables like carrots or sliced squash.

The Midwesterner in me loves this type of meal (it’s the casserole concept but w/out the condensed soup nonsense), especially during busy weeks, because it’s a balanced meal in one bowl.  Not only is this easy to make, it takes minutes to clean up!  One pot, five bowls, five forks.  Done.

Elder Berry Saturday

elderberry Saturday

OK.  So I don’t know how you’re spending your Saturday… but ’round here we are jammin’ in the kitchen.  I’m finishing up my next batch of elder berry elixir (place your orders soon!) and the kids are working on their Christmas gifts for the grandparents.

The only thing needed to make this cold, wet, mid-December afternoon perfect are some melodic Christmas tunes to keep us literally hummin’ along.

Thought you might be interested in some of my current Pandora favorites (just type “holiday” after the artist when you select):

Blues Traveler, Bare Naked Ladies, Straight No Chaser and Brian Setzer Holiday are great for something when you want to tap your foot or even get ‘yer Christmas groove on.

When I’m in the mood for just some absolutely lovely carol singing, there’s nothing like Sarah Mclachan, Karen Carpenter or James Taylor.  I wish I could get one of them to come sing me to sleep some night… but I digress…

Sometimes we’re up for something a little different, but don’t exactly want to shake our red and green booties around.  Then I pull up Sister Hazel, Good Lovelies, Dave Matthews, Mercy Me or Six Pence None the Richer.  These bands do nice renditions of the classics that we love to sing along to. (worth noting: I never cared for Six Pence when they were a popular band, but I think the lead singer really rocks ’round the holidays.  Go figure.)

And by the way, I pretty much always have music in the background while I’m chopping or stirring.  If kickin’ it in the kitchen isn’t exactly your cup of tea, try some tunes.  Just like when you exercise, the rhythm is gonna getcha!

Tortilla Soup

tortilla soup As promised, welcome to my tortilla soup.

OK.  So, like most of ya’ll, we have some family traditions this time of year.  Besides the more-people-than-places-to-sit type celebration which is the only way I know how to give thanks in November, one of my favorite traditions is making tortilla soup with the turkey leftovers.

Now my dad is Mexican and nothing would please me more than to say that I will soon be revealing my Grandmother’s family recipe from the hills of Tabasco.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  Nope.  This is because like in most homes, it was my mother’s culture that influenced our meals.  I think my mom–Michigander of German descent–found her tortilla soup recipe in a magzine years ago.  I will say this: we have altered and, dare I say, perfected the recipe.  (Yes.  I dare.)

You can go to 20 Mexican restaurants and have tortilla soup served 20 different ways.  I actually don’t order it out any more because, well, I like my Michigander-German-descent-from-a-magazine-but-now-doctored-up-just-right concoction just fine.  Before reading on, don’t be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients.  There’s nothing too exotic in here, which is yet another reason to love it.

Michelle’s Tortilla Soup

Soup Ingredients: 1-2 lbs chopped chicken, turkey or beef, 3 tbsp. olive oil, small can diced chilis, 2 medium chopped onions, 2 diced red bell peppers, 2 cans drained black beans, 28 oz. can chopped tomato w/juice or a few diced fresh tomatoes, 6 cups chicken/turkey/or beef broth/or a combination of meat broths, 1 can tomato sauce, 1-3 tbsp. cumin, 1-2 tbsp. chili powder, 2 tbsp. worchestershire, 3 cloves garlic, salt and pepper to taste. 

Toppings: diced green onion, diced fresh cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, corn tortillas cut into squares, tortilla chips

Directions: If the meat is raw, cook it in the oil with the onion, bell peppers and garlic.  If meat is cooked, put it aside while cooking onions, peppers and garlic.  Then add all other soup ingredients (including the meat), bring to a boil and then let simmer on low for about 45 minutes.  If possible, make this a day ahead of time, refrigerate and then reheat.  Chilling the soup and then warming it back up helps all the yumola flavors really get to know one another.  That said, it can be really hard to wait to eat this soup!

Regarding the toppings, Mike loves his tortillas to get heated up with the soup so they get sort of melded into his steamy bowl.  I actually just like a few crunchy tortilla chips on top with the cilantro and onion.  You do what works for you. K?

Tips: I made this batch of soup with a bone broth I made for 36 hours in the crock pot after Thanksgiving.  It. Is. So. Good. Oh; this recipe is pretty mild so my kids and mother can eat it.  You can also add diced jalapenos to the soup and/or include some spicy salsa on your list of toppings.  Final tip = don’t worry about quantities in this here recipe too much.  If your soup is too thin, add more toppings.  Done. 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

carrot slaw Recipe and then a few thoughts for ya’ today.

OK.  So first a recipe (and yes, I’ve posted it before.  Get off my back!  This is a reminder for you, K?)  Rather than the dish of warm, cooked carrots that I have personally never been a fan of :(, consider this gorgeous, carrot slaw as an alternative!  Not only will it be gobble-gobbled up in a jiffy, it can be prepared one or two days in advance.  In fact, it tastes better when prepared in advance.  So, like, you might want to prepare it in advance.  I’m just sayin’.

Michelle’s Carrot Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound grated carrots, or 1-1/3 pounds carrots, peeled and grated (if you wash them well, don’t have to peel)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, from one orange (or a splash of orange juice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • a little bundle of green onion, white and green parts, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper

Directions:

Bake walnuts at 350 for about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.  Throw remaining ingredients into a bowl and toss it up a bit.  This salad will keep well in the fridge for a few days, but don’t add the walnuts until you’re ready to eat.

And now for those thoughts I mentioned.  I L-O-V-E Thanksgiving.  Since food, family and friends are my favorite things in the whole universe, this coming Thursday is tailor made for moi. No shopping for gifts, decorations can be minimal or maximal, depending on your mood, and then you just gather with a bunch of people you love (or have to tolerate for a few hours, whatever) and eat delicious food.  OK.  Yes.  And drink wine.  Ahhh….

My recipe for Thanksgiving sanity is as follows: Welcome to everyone who wants to join us + it’s potluck so what are you gonna bring? + eat around 2:00 so there’s time to really enjoy the meal, take a walk or relax before dessert later in the day + do something un-American and really savor the day.  Take some time to talk, at least for a moment, to everyone at the gathering.  Don’t worry about stuff at work that still needs to get done and for heaven’s sake don’t worry about Black Friday.  Shut the world out, if you can, for that one afternoon and make like Jim Morrison, man… reeee-laxxx…

A note on my pot-luck notion.  I take pot-lucks very seriously.  There will be 35 people at my house (Please don’t rain!  Please!  Please!  Please!) this year for Thanksgiving and there ain’t no way I’m making all the food.  And why should I?  My grandma always said, “If you want to make someone feel like family, they have to contribute something.”  I’m making the turkey and this carrot slaw.  My guests are bringing dressing, potatoes, multiple vegetables, sweet potatoes, wine, pies, everything we need, really, for this to work.  I don’t just assign ornamental after-thoughts like dinner rolls to my guests (now the guy who’s bringing dinner rolls is scratching his head… It’s OK.  He’s bringing other things too.)  On Thursday ALL my guests are family and I’m counting on them to not blow it.  I’m not worried.  They always rise to the occasion.  That’s what loving families do.

Final words: save your turkey carcass!  My family’s post-Thanksgiving tradition is turkey tortilla soup… which I will not be thinking about yet on Thursday.

Quinoa Love

Couscous w cumin Pronounced “Keen-wah” (I’ve heard a few variations…!)

I have been loving my quinoa situation recently.  Quinoa seeds are referred to as “grains” (even on the package!) which pretty ridiculous.  They are technically a seed.

With one child gluten free, a house full of hungry people who, like, wanna eat three meals a day plus snacks (what the?) and a mama who doesn’t like to reach for prepackaged junk on a regular basis, salads like this have become a necessary staple.  For example, when my 6 year old son eats snacks like many kids his age eat a full meal, I gotta be prepared.  I just don’t like to see him motoring through an entire sleeve of crackers. “Yes my love.  You can have a few crackers.  But first eat this bowl of something actually healthy if you don’t mind.  Thanks!” (and then, when you’re done and feel full you may forget about the crackers which is fine too…)

Quinoa is a very malleable ingredient, and likes to take on the flavors of whatever else you put with it.  It is high in protein, and tastes super yummy if you ask me.  I created this recipe after finding a few quinoa salad options online.

Michelle’s Cumin Quinoa Salad

Ingredients: 2 cups quinoa, 3 1/2 cups chicken or veg. broth, 1/2 chopped onion, 1 can drained black beans, 1 cup of corn, 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro, 1-3 tbsp. cumin, juice of 1-2 fresh limes, 4 or so tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Cook onion with a little olive oil until onions turn translucent (5 mins or so.)  Then toss in quinoa and stir with onions for a few minutes before adding broth.  Then follow package instructions but modify the liquid quantity (they always call for 2 parts water per 1 part quinoa but this will be mushy.)  After quinoa chills add the other ingredients.  Serve with tortilla chips if you like.  Oh!  We sometimes add fresh avocado too… delish!

Tips:  If you make a large amount, just add the avocado when served or it will turn brown and you will make a bad face when you see it later.  Some of the ingredient quantities are broad, above.  This is because it really can vary depending on how much juice you get from a lime or how much you like cumin.  I love the cumin/lime combo, so I go heavy on it.  But you do what you like and I won’t judge.

Final tip: My kids don’t all love this salad.  They like it OK, but it’s not really offered as an—ahem–option.  When they’re hungry (and eyeing the crackers they really want or whatever) they are motivated.  If you are still scratching your head as to how to get your kids to eat something like this, I can recommend a really great workshop…

Fruit on the go!

fruit snack So let’s close the week with a great tip for storing cut up apples.  K?  K!

If possible, put some fresh oranges on top of your apples.  The acid in the citrus will help keep the apples from turning so brown.  There.  Done.

Not quite.  Does anyone else find it disturbing that schools, nowadays, insists on “prepacked” food items rather than allowing fresh foods prepared at home?  I’ve seen kids at the after school program at my kids’ school who, rather than grab a fresh apple from the box, are handed their “sliced apples wrapped in cellophane which have been–I have no doubt–sprayed with a bleach solution or something similar to keep them from going off.”  Mmmm….!  Tasty chemicals with the added bonus of more trash for the landfill! 🙂

Why isn’t the bleach solution (or whatever they’ve used) listed on the packaging?  It’s because the lobbyists have found a loophole in the USDA regulations.  Since the treatment is part of the “process” and not an “ingredient” it does not have to be named.  Same applies to those weird like “bunny love” carrots that come in a bag.

Hate to be Debby-downer at the end of the week, but apparently I needed to get this off my chest.  There.  Done.  This time for the day.

Have a FRESH weekend everyone!

Texas Caviar

Texas caviar OK.  So seriously: how beautiful is this salad!?

I LOVE this photo.  Texas caviar, as it is called, has been around for a while.  I’ve had it before .  Actually my friend Shandy makes a mean one and she sent me the recipe but I couldn’t find the dang thing so I got on line and found multiple methods of creating this delicious, nutritious, gorgeous–and VEGAN– salad.

I’ll get Shandy’s recipe one of these days but it actually helped to look around in blog-recipe-land because it quickly became clear to me that there are so many variations of this delight, I am pretty much always assured to have something on hand that will work.  Whew!  What a relief as I really liked it and look forward to making it again.  Rhea, my 9 year old gobbled her bowl of Texas Caviar right up.  Josie and Gray were not as excited but with the right motivation rose to the occasion.  (I served this with some tortilla chips on the side and let them scoop some of the salad up–I tell ya: we have so much fun at our house!)

Michelle’s Texas Caviar

Ingredients: 1 cup of shelled and cooked edamame, 1 cup cooked corn, 1 can black beans drained, one can pinto beans drained and rinsed, 1 diced bell pepper, 1/4 cup diced red onion (I soaked mine in ice water for 5 minutes to take the “bite” out), juice of one fresh lime (ream that little guy and get every last drop out!), 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp. cumin, dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: mix it up and eat it!

Tips: The key to the flavor situation is the lime juice and cumin.  LOVE that combo.  Depending on how much juice you get from your lime–and then how much flavor that juice has–you may need more or less vinegar.

Other ingredients that I could have also added include, but are certainly not limited to: cucumber, jicama, tomatoes, diced carrots–heck the list goes on and one.  I will try to get some jicama in there next time as it seems like it’d soak up all those flavors real nice.

Acknowledgement: pretty much every recipe for Texas Caviar that I found that was actually made by what appeared to be a real Texan contained black eyed peas.  Being a Minnesota transplant currently residing in Pasadena, CA, I, uh, didn’t have those on hand… sorry!  Go Lone Star State!