Monday, June 29, 2009

What's in a name?

I've got a favorite but I'd love to hear what you think of the final choices for a new business and blog name. Please click here to pick your favorite. Votes being tallied until midnight, June 30.

The winning namer and a randomly chosen voter will both be given an in-home cooking lesson!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Drum Roll Please...The Finalists!

Thank you to all of my friends (and friends of friends, and friends of those friends, and those friends' friends...) who suggested names for this blog and my accompanying cooking lesson business. I am excited to share the finalists with you, and have you pick your favorite. You may click here to see the list of possible blog/business names and cast your vote.

Votes will be tallied until midnight, June 30th (that's Tuesday). On Wednesday (or Thursday if Wednesday ends up being completely nutty) I will announce the new name for the blog and the two winners: the generous and creative person who came up with the winning name, and the the winning voter (chosen by random drawing).

The fine print for the contest is the same as the original post.

Stuffed Zucchini/Squash (aka "Zucchini Rockets")

Simple veggie side for summer dinners. I made the mistake of cutting it up before serving it to my kids last night and roasted, chopped zucchini isn’t nearly as appealing to little ones as a “zucchini rocket”. Today I’ll put a room temp “rocket” on their plate and let them eat it with their hands.

"Zucchini Rockets" (aka Stuffed Zucchini/Squash)

Zucchini and/or squash, washed and cut into 2-4” hunks
Melon baller or metal measuring spoon (to hollow out the squash/zucchini hunk)
1 jar Trader Joe’s Tomato Bruschetta
Shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the zucchini or squash into 2 to 4 inch hunks. (They can be different heights.) Then, using a melon baller or metal measuring spoon (the idea is to have a sharp, small diameter) scoop out most of the inside of the squash/zucchini, leaving a base of about 1” in the bottom. Place them in a baking dish, hollow hole up. You’ll stuff the hole in a minute.

Roughly chop the squash or zucchini you just scooped out into smaller pieces, and toss in a mixing bowl with a handful of shredded parmesan and 1 jar of TJ’s prepared bruschetta. (At our TJ’s the bruschetta is found in the pasta aisle next to the olives.) Now you simply re-stuff the zucchini/squash chunks with this mixture (you’ll have extra filling which you can bake in a separate dish and use in omelets, frittatas, etc.).

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the zucchini/squash is tender, but not mushy. Serve warm or room temp.

Anticipating Farm Camp

I am not sure who is more excited for Farm Camp? Me, my lucky child who gets to go, or my little one who is going to be exploring the phenomenal acreage with me each day that his brother is mucking around with the pigs, learning about composting, building a fence for the sheep, and harvesting garlic?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quinoa Salad(s)

I’ve been averaging one Quinoa Salad a week this summer. Usually it’s first made for dinner, alongside grilled fish or chicken. And usually I make made way too much, so I have plenty for lunch in the days that follow, or I can leave my dinner host with an ample supply to enjoy later on. Each time I make it the ingredients are a little different, depending upon what I have in my fridge and pantry, but every time the results are equally delish. It doesn’t photograph well with my little rinky dink camera, so you’ll have to just take my word for it.

One Quinoa Salad That Was a Hit
1 package of quinoa (prepared according to the pkg, though I use vegetable broth instead of water)
Baby Heirloom Tomatoes (pretty colors), quartered
Artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Toasted Pine Nuts
Vinaigrette (see below)
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add enough vinaigrette to your desired taste. For this one, I emphasized the lemon in the vinaigrette so I also dressed it with some lemon zest curly q’s.

Another Quinoa Salad That Was a Hit
1 package of quinoa (prepared according to the pkg, though I use vegetable broth instead of water)
Bell peppers, roasted and chopped
Zucchini, roasted and chopped
Squash, roasted and chopped
Cherry tomatoes, chopped
Fresh basil, chiffonade (chop without bruising the leaves)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Vinaigrette (see below)
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add enough vinaigrette to your desired taste. For this one, I had tons of basil and pistachios, so I saved some of each to sprinkle over the top before serving.

Basic Vinaigrette
fresh basil
olive oil
lemon juice
splash of red wine vinegar
kosher salt
Toss all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more olive oil or acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to suit your taste and texture. If you want to thin it even more but are happy with the level of zing you’ve got going, you can add a bit of vegetable broth instead of citrus or vinegar.

This is a great make-ahead dish for the Waveny Concerts or other outings when you want a sophisticated side that will travel well. It’s hearty enough to please a vegetarian guest, and is a wonderful accompaniment to grilled veggies, fish or meats. (Hint: skewers travel well, and can easily be eaten in your lap.) You can play with the ingredients to create your own signature Quinoa Salad.

Our garden

Today we planted our garden. Not the garden I imagined…but it’ll do. In fact, it’s probably just right for us this year. Some fresh herbs—basil, mint, rosemary...a tomato plant (we’ll see how that goes?)... and some lettuce and chard.

I had these grand plans of clearing out some of the randomly planted beds on the patio, starting seeds in the basement, and harvesting our bounty. But, I don’t have a green thumb, nor did I deal this spring. So instead I signed up for a CSA April-October and then last weekend I purchased some small organic plants at the New Canaan Farmer’s Market and today my sister-and-I transplanted them into pots I had stored in the garage.

Maybe next summer I’ll tackle a real garden. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

Pesto Pasta (aka "Green Pasta")

Wow, once I downloaded all of the photos from the past couple of weeks, I realize I have a bounty of great, simple meals ideas to share with you. As I mentioned in the June 6, 2009 entry on homemade pesto, it freezes well. I had divvied into tubs and frozen it for nights when we’ve had a busy day of activity but I still want to put a healthy dinner on the table. The one pictured above was made with:

Homemade Pesto (thawed)
Whole Wheat pasta (cooked according to package)
Roasted Asparagus and Zucchini (which I will roast and then store to be used in omelets, frittatas, or things like this pasta dish throughout the week)
Fresh Parmesan

Presto! A healthy dinner on the table in mere minutes. And, it was equally as good the next couple of days served room temp for lunch.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Still working on my summer groove...

Apologies to my friends who have checked in for a quick, easy, family-friendly meal idea and have found updates on this blog few and far between the past couple weeks. With school getting out, family coming into town for visits...and camp not ramping up until next week, I've found my free time in short supply. (Nevermind that I seem to emit some sort of subliminal message that says "come to mommy! insist on jumping in my lap! pound on my keyboard! in fact, just run off with my 'j' key for fun why don't you?" whenever I retreat to my office...)
I trust that none of you has been starving, and hope to be back in the groove of regular meal idea updates next week. Oh, and announcing the winner of the re-naming contest too! In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend celebrating the dads in your life!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homemade Pesto

My CSA bag I picked up at our local farmer’s market had a big, bright bunch of fresh basil within that was beckoning to either become a Caprese Salad or pesto. The tomatoes we got this week aren’t quite ripe enough to eat, so I opted for the latter. (That, and the fact that on Day 3 of this Blueprint Cleanse I cannot eat...only drink, and I'm not talking wine my friends.) So anyway, I made pesto. The benefit: pesto can be easily made, then frozen. When you’re looking for a simple supper, you can then thaw it and either toss the pesto with pasta, or drizzle it over grilled chicken, fish or veggies.

I used a blender because my Cuisinart has been broken for I don’t know how long. I prefer using a Cuisinart b/c you have more control over the consistency, using the pulse button. But a blender is what I have these days, so here goes:

Homemade Almond Pistachio Pesto

Almonds (I used dry roasted, unsalted slivers from TJ’s because that's what I had in my pantry)
Pistachios (I ran out of almonds, so moved on to pistachios…shelled, dry roasted, unsalted)
Olive Oil
Lemon Zest or Lemon Juice (for a little zing)
Kosher Salt
Vegetable Broth (if necessary, to thin the pesto)

Pop your fresh basil leaves into a Cuisinart or blender, along with ¼ cup of olive oil, a dash of kosher salt, a couple peeled cloves of garlic, the nuts and a squeeze of lemon or some lemon zest if desired. Pulse until all ingredients are chopped and blended.

Pesto is not a precise science…you can continue to add ingredients (more olive oil, another clove of garlic, a bit more salt, a little more lemon zest...) as need be until you reach the desired consistency and taste.

As I mentioned, I ran out of almonds so I tossed in pistachios too. Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, but I didn’t have any on hand. The beauty of a pesto is that you can play with the ingredients, flavors and consistency. Pesto can go from creamy consistency (as mine is because of the blender) to chunkier. The longer you blend it, the creamer it will be.

Pesto will last a couple of days in the fridge, but several weeks in the freezer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Banana Boats

Today was my big one’s last full day of K…Monday will be filled with celebration and good-byes. It’s a soggy, gray day here and he keeps announcing that he'd like to stay in K forever, so I brightened the afternoon with a quick homemade treat.

Banana Boats

Chocolate Chips
Optional: ice cream + sprinkles

Place peeled bananas on a cookie sheet, and cut a thin divvet down the length of the banana (“it looks like a canoe!”). Fill the gap with chocolate chips, replace the banana top as best you can (to prevent the chocolate chipes from burning under the doesn't need to look pretty) and broil on low heat until the chocolate chips are melted and the banana is slightly warmed. Serve with ice cream if you’d like!

Hi, My Name Is______________

Interestingly, the majority of you do not like change. Either that, or you just really really like the name Mom-a-licious for this blog. For those of you waiting until 11:59pm June 9 to submit your re-naming ideas, I thought you might be inspired by the names submitted so far. Remember, the survey will be open until June 10, and the prize is a 2-hour in-home cooking lesson (see May 28 posting for the "fine print"):

Animal, Vegetable, Mommytable
Barefoot Mommy
Busy Mom, Healthy Parent, Happy Household
Culinary Instruction by Eila
Daily Feast
Eating with Eila
Eats, Peas, Shoots
Everyday Eila
Family Foodie
Food for Thought
Green Apple
Healthy body, Happy outlook, Great Mom by Eila
I'll be at Eila's
Mom and Chef
Mom Is The Cook!
Mom-a-licious by Eila
Mom-entous Fun
Mommy Gourmet
Second Helpings
Spoony Spicy Relish
Tasty Tales of Inspiration
Terribly Tasty Two's
The "Take-out" Takeover Guide
The Tasty Palate
The Upside of a Busy Kitchen
Tickled Taste Buds
What's for dinner, kids?
Yummy Mummy

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cleansing Mommy

Having felt sluggish and rather irritable for a while now, I decided it was time to cut back on the coffee and treats I consume throughout the day. I don’t have the will power to just cut it out of my life, so I decided to do one of those juice cleanses. My hope was that it was cleanse my sugar cravings, turn coffee back into a coffee house treat like it used to be for me, and that it would clear my head a bit. Here I am ½ a day into a 3-day cleanse and I am dying.

As a wife and mom, I prepared everyone else for my 3-day check-out of eating solid foods. I made suppers and lunches for my husband that he can easily heat up, and made sure I had plenty of yummy, healthy foods on hand for the kids. I knew I wouldn’t really be in the mood to grocery shop. But past that, I thought how hard could this really be?

Well, I like to eat. And most of the time I am a relatively healthy eater. But today as I was conscious of my eating for the first time, I found myself just heading to the fridge for a slice of cheese, or absent mindedly picking up a stray glob of peanut butter leftover from the ants on a log I’d made the kids for lunch. Ouch. No licking fingers? No popping their crusts into my mouth? This is much much harder than I thought….
If I have the willpower later on today, I will post the recipe for Chicken Marbella and the sides I made with it for my Wednesday Supper Exchange I do with my friends. It was pretty simple, and really good—and I am not just saying that since it was my last solid meal!