Sunday, September 29, 2013

two new food crushes... garlic and almonds this go round. mmm.

Every so often, I get a food crush. It's rarely planned... some gorgeous packaging or seemingly genius idea catches my eye as I am winding my way through the supermarket aisle. Sometimes they're fleeting. I like whatever it is, but wouldn't buy it again. But these two, oh, they make me swoon. The first is this coconut-infused almond milk. The curvaceous bottle caught my eye as I was buying our normal carton of organic whole milk, and into the cart it went. Yum. I've added it to coffee, and enjoyed it solo both cold and warm. Delicious. My new favorite beverage. Behind wine. Kidding. Sort of.     

Different shopping trip, but same eye-catching tact.... I was in the produce aisle picking up, oh now I forget what, and the wax seal of Tessemae's roasted garlic caught my eye. I'm a sucker for good packaging. And for ingredients that can quickly transform a loaf of bread into something amazing.

That first night, I paired it with some shredded Parm and a baguette, wrapped it in foil, popped it in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, and it quickly became the best garlic bread. Ever.

Since then, I've dolloped it into lasagna, spread it on a piece of grilled chicken, made the kids quick open-faced broiled cheese toasts with it for an after-school snack (so they go to tennis and tae kwon do with dragon breath) and stirred it into a hearty veggie soup soup. And then I got curious about the company, checked them out, and liked the product even more.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall 2013 Kitchen Coaching: 4-Weeks To A Freezer Stocked with Deliciousness

As you know, if you've been following posts over on the full plate blog's Facebook page, I've been busy testing and re-testing make-ahead meals for my upcoming Kitchen Coaching Program. It's a very tough job.... but someone must whip up simple recipes, stock the freezer, then roll in after a busy afternoon of chauffeuring, open the freezer, pop the frozen goodness into a skillet, pot or the oven, and let the magic happen.

To say I am onto something would be an understatement. I've got 20 busy parents testing the program out right now, and giving me feedback on each and every aspect. As soon as I know it's as helpful, easy-- and downright awesome-- as it can possibly be, I'll let you guys sign up.

If you'd like to mark your calendars, the "Stocking Your Freezer in a Snap" Kitchen Coaching program will be available, Monday, October 14, 2013.

I can tell you, firsthand, that after a crazy afternoon of driving too and fro, there is nothing better than knowing I am coming home to a freezer full of homemade meals. I used to stock the freezer like this for my personal chef clients, but never thought to get totally organized and do it for myself. It took years and years of friends asking me to help them figure out this whole "cooking ahead thing" for me to take my own advice and come up with an easily doable plan. I cannot wait to share the plan with all of you soon!! Mark your calendars and check back here on the full plate blog for sign-ups. I cannot wait to share it with you all!  - Eila 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

new fav after school snack: baked (portable) bean and cheese tostadas

We have a new favorite snack around here.  It's quick, protein-packed and portable. 

My kids now get home at 2 different times, both famished. 

I want to come up with a stash of snack ideas that I can make once (in a minimal amount of time... like 10 minutes max) and serve twice.

And feel good about serving. 

 That's a biggie. I'm not going to give them crappy snacks.

And if it's something I might like to munch on too? Even better. 

Baked Portable Tostadas
(makes 4 tostadas / 2 after school snacks)

4 small organic corn tortillas
about 1/2 cup shredded cheese
about 1/2 cup black beans
optional: 1/2 cup sliced veggies, pickled jalapenos and/or salsa

Preheat oven to 375. Place tortillas on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese, then black beans. Bake on lowest rack for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and tortilla is crisp (so you can easily pick it up). Serve warm or room temp.

Friday, September 13, 2013

grilled cheese sandwiches with savory roasted apples + roasted sweet potato wedges

Last night, I made a dinner so good that even the babysitter asked for the recipe.

It started with (leftover) savory roasted apples. Each month, I am hired to create a recipe for our local market, Walter Stewart's. In addition to running into a handful of friends every time I shop there (making grocery marketing a-- dare I say it, fun-- social outing as well as a necessity!), I agree to do this because I know the family-owned market takes pride in stocking and showcasing seasonal-- and often local-- ingredients.

This month, I whipped up a batch of savory roasted apples to highlight local apples. It was a variation on a recipe I concocted back in 2011, when we had a glut of apples from a weekend apple-picking adventure, and I was trying to use them up in every possible form. This super easy side dish has now become one of our go-to's in the Fall because it's so easy, and my children LOVE it. (Another favorite apple side is Cider-Braised Cabbage and Apples.)

OK, so back to the sandwiches! As you all know if you read my blog, I've kind of been a cooking maniac this week, squeezing all of the recipes that will be spread over my 3-week Kitchen Coaching Program into a few days of testing them all-- and then some that didn't make the cut-- one more time before a test group of busy parents gives them a whirl. (They get 3 weeks to leisurely stock their freezers... I gave myself 2 days.) So, you'd think that I would have just hauled one of those meals out of the freezer for the sitter and kids to enjoy while I was at Middle School Parent's Night, but no....when I opened my fridge and saw a big bowl of leftover savory roasted apples, I knew I should use them up. And so, it was the incarnation of a gooey, sweet and savory sandwich...

And they were a hit.

I assembled them before running to pick up at after school activities, then baked them in 10 minutes so they were ready when the sitter got there.

Grilled Cheese with Savory Roasted Apples
(makes 4 sandwiches)

8 slices of your favorite bread
16 slices of your favorite cheese (I made 1/2 with brie and 1/2 with a smoked cheddar)
1 cup savory roasted apples
non-stick baking sheet

Preheat oven to 400. Place 1 slice of cheese on each slice of bread. Top with about 1/4 cup of savory roasted apples. Then, place another slice of cheese and second slice of bread on top of that. Bake for 5-7 minute, then flip, and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until bread is toasty and cheese is melted. Serve warm or room temp.

I also had a sweet potato in the pantry, so as a side dish, I quickly made:

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
(serve 4)

1 large sweet potato
canola oil spray
chili powder
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Cut sweet potato (skin on or off, your choice) into 1" wedges. Spray rimmed baking sheet with a bit of canola oil, place a single layer of sweet potatoes on baking sheet, sprinkle with spices, salt and pepper. Give the baking sheet a shake to distribute everything a bit more evenly. Roast for 10 minutes, turn the wedges over, and roast another 10 minutes. Sweet potatoes should be fork tender, meaning a fork pierces the sweet potatoes easily. Serve warm. 

Like I said, the meal was a total hit. So much so that the sitter asked for the recipe before she went home! Hope your family enjoys this casual Fall dinner as much as mine did.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

kitchen coaching: getting ready to test run the make-ahead meal program!

Oh my gosh folks, I am getting so excited. Now that my kids are back in school, I've been spending my time cooking, writing down recipes, freezing, reheating, and of course sampling, a variety of ahhmazing-- if I might say so myself-- make-ahead meals to share with all of you!

A group of lucky-- and super busy-- parents is giving the 3-week {with their feedback, it was upped to} 4-week Kitchen Coaching program a whirl starting this weekend.

I can't wait to work with them and get their feedback. I want to make sure it's as awesome a program as it can possibly be. As soon as it is, I look forward to sharing it with all of you.

Until then, you can delve into a stash of some freezer-friendly recipes here. Enjoy! And stay tuned for details on the Kitchen Coaching program soon.... get excited! Details will be posted here on the blog, so be sure to subscribe posts, or check back soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

make-your-own pizza

The night before school started, I offered to let my kids choose their favorite dinner. What did they choose? "Pizza!" {Visions of take-out menus dance in my head...} "Make our own pizza!" {Insert the sound of squealing brakes.} Actually, that simplifies the conversation. Here's what really transpired between the front seat and backseat, which I relayed (in frustration) on Facebook:

driving to the supermarket this afternoon:
me: "ok, you two, you can choose what we're having for dinner tonight, breakfast tomorrow, and dinner tomorrow night"
them: "do we have to?"
me: "what do you mean?"
them: "i mean, do we HAVE to eat? {insert moan and dramatic pause between each word} why do we"

Lest any of you think it's all broccoli rabe and rainbows around here, let me assure you that meals take a lot of effort to get down little hatches here too.

Still, I believe in good food. So, I keep making it a priority to give my kids nourishing meals even if no one seems to care what I make for dinner-- or if we even have dinner-- these days!!

So, back to the pizza. Usually I make one meal, and that's what we have for dinner. But on occasion, I'll go through the extra effort and lay out some sort of "make-your-own" meal. Whatever the meal may be (pizza, baked potatoes, tacos...), I'll put out a bunch of topping choices, but then I truly let the kids make their own. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue... and remind myself that it's "make-your-own", not "let-your-mama-micromanage-your-meal" night.

I told them the kids they could pick whatever they wanted out of the produce aisle, then if anything else caught their eye as I did the rest of the marketing, they had carte blanche to add it to the cart. We ended up with:

  • multi-grain pizza dough (in the refrigerated section)
  • tomato sauce
  • two kinds of shredded cheese (whole milk mozzarella and a Romano-Parmesan blend)
  • multi-colored cherry tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • organic peppers (red & yellow)
  • pineapple
  • onion
  • olives
  • peperoni
  • ham
  • and a package of cupcakes. "You said if anything else catches our eye...."

A crust for each kid: avoids "that's not what I want on my pizza!!" and ensures leftovers for another meal.

And-- voila-- two pizzas... as different as they are.

annual apple crisp making

It's that time of year...

Given that no one wants to hold my hand at cross walks anymore, I am relishing the fact that the Johnson boys are still keen to spread some start-of-the-school-year cheer. May they never been too cool for this happy tradition.

Monday, September 2, 2013

August up in smoke

{This post has been in my draft folder for a few weeks. I've started it, forgotten about it, re-read it, added to it, debated deleting it... but now that August is over, I'm hitting send... and looking forward to getting back on track in September.}  

August was going to be awesome. The kids and I were going to be in Idaho for almost a month. A whole month. After a school year and summer where I felt like I was a little mouse on one of those whirling circle things (better visual than frazzled mom in Volvo SUV, no?), I couldn't wait to just relax. In Idaho, I slow down. We all slow down. Our primary mode of transportation is by bike. We eat almost every meal outside. My parents dote on my kids. 

 In Idaho, my kids build stick forts. 

They could spend a whole day just building a stick fort. 

Heck, in Idaho, I might even unplug and help build a stick fort. 

At home, in Fairfield County, CT, I carefully "curate" (fancy word for plan out, week by week, often times as early as April, since everything here books up) a summer I think of as so balanced. Some inside camps, some outside camps, some creative camps, some sporty camps...and this means that I basically spend my entire summer driving to the morning day camps (usually in different towns, with the same start times, just to make sure I'm on my A-game) and then collapse briefly during the 1 hour they overlap in afternoon tennis clinics and golf lessons, dreading the fact that I still have to make dinner.

Summer is action-packed and F-U-N (all caps) for them. 
Totally crappy for me.

I will fully admit: I am not a very fun mom in June/July. I am a chauffeur on auto-pilot, who is often hot, sweaty, and tired.

Which is why, I really couldn't wait to get to Idaho.  Maybe because we don't live there-- we just excitedly visit for more and more weeks each summer-- I don't feel the need to have every day so scheduled. Maybe it's because despite the pressures I feel in Fairfield County to have my kids "doing something" and "good at something", I know deep down that they'd be just as happy building stick forts... so I go hide out in Idaho and let them do that. Of course I ogled various day camp offerings in Idaho, and I did sign the kids up for a week of woodworking / wilderness survival camp. (Old habits are hard to break...) But the rest of our weeks were to be unplanned. The mountains, trails, river, lakes and bike paths would be ours... whenever we decided to get dressed and start our days.

My kids spent post-camp afternoons whittling on my parents' patio. 

They made up elaborate board games well before the rest of us were awake.

They held art sales... to raise enough money to ride their bikes to the candy store. 

We spent afternoons reading outside. And at the end of a relaxing day, I didn't mind making dinners. In fact, I looked forward to it. 

Then, on one of our afternoon bike rides, we noticed the smoke from a forest fire off in the distance. 

And each day, the skies started to get smokier and smokier. 

I was out one evening, helping my little one master hand brakes (ok, truth be told, I was chasing him down the road, beer in hand, willing him to slow down before I had to actually catch up to him) and I looked up. There is this beautiful sight when smoke meets sunset. Beautiful in an awful way. "Please don't let these forest fires be close", I thought.

But they were close, and they were bad. We spent most of that second week inside, windows closed, everyone willing the fires to slow down. Board games offered limited distraction. Hundreds of "hot shot" firefighters were brought in. Events important to the town's economy and spirit were cancelled. People started leaving town because the air was so bad. Then they started evacuating whole neighborhoods.  

Neighborhood streets we biked down just days before were like chimneys. Everyone was sad and worried. We begrudgingly packed our suitcases up.   

We left in the wee hours, driving past flames you could clearly see. A scary and sad end to what was supposed to be an awesome month.

This was what our fridge looked like the night we flew home... I joked with my husband that really, he can't be serious that that's what it's stocked with... but two weeks later, I will fully admit that I've barely cooked/restocked it with our normal bevvy of fruits, veggies and ready-to-sit-down-to-a-family-dinner-meals. I feel porky from eating out so much. Scratch that, I am porky from eating out so much. I am totally off-track when it comes to healthful eating / dealing / being ready for a new school year. The blog's been quiet because, well, I've been in a total funk that what was supposed to be this relaxing, awesome August went up in flames, both literally and figuratively. And while I fully appreciate that this is a very "high class problem" to have,

still, I miss the August that was going to be so awesome. 

But, thankfully, Fall-- my favorite season-- is around the corner, and I am determined to get back on track as a busy mom, wife and friend. You all can come along for the ride, if you'd like. I'd love the company.