Oh honey…

October 20, 2009

I will admit that before I moved to Idaho (for the most part) I was not very open-minded regarding any type of “homeopathic” treatments or remedies.  I don’t really know what my rational behind my disregard for natural remedies was but since I’ve been here in Spudsville I’ve changed.  Not drastically (see my green is good post – I still use toilet paper, etc.) but if there is some common sense, good reasoning behind it I’m kind of feeling these days that the more simple and natural, the better.  Getting closer to eating and using foods/products that more closely resemble the way nature intended them to be seems to be a worthy and attainable goal to aspire to. 

half marathonA great non-food example of this happened recently during my training for my 1st half-marathon.  Everything was going swimmingly (can you say that with regards to running?) when the wheels started falling off my 39-year old never been a serious runner before now, bod.  I ended up with a hip injury and some very painful jacked up runners toes.  If you don’t know what runners toes are, lucky you.  I had some black toenails and 4 nails that were almost completely lifted up and off of my toes.  Very painful and very gross.  Let’s just say they ooze.  It’s nasty and I guess somewhat unavoidable if you run for 10 plus miles. 

My homeopathic lovin’ friend Heidi (yep, brussel sprouts Heidi – what would I do without her?) recommended I soak my feet nightly in epsom salts and then follow by rubbing tea tree oil into the injured toenails.   I simultaneously made an appointment with a podiatrist and began to take Homeopathic Heidi’s advice.  I was desperate!  And wouldn’t you know it, I wasted $120 visiting the Dr.  After he looked at my toes, he told me to “soak your feet in epsom salts, apply tea-tree oil and get new running shoes.”  He also clipped the injured toenails which I couldn’t bring myself to do but at $120 for 15 minutes I probably could have convinced the nice ladies at Rosy Nails in Eagle to do it for a hell of a lot cheaper.  My point being, while sometimes the natural route may be the path less travelled it might actually be the path worth taking.

Honey_combFrom a food perspective, there are all kinds of foods out there that have homeopathic healing as well as nourishing properties.  One of the most versatile and multi-purpose ingredients you can (and should) keep on hand, is pure and natural honey.  I just read in Better Homes & Gardens that warm water mixed with a tablespoon of honey and vinegar can help relieve a sore throat.  The vinegar discourages bacteria growth and honey is anti-inflammatory.  And it sure tastes a lot better than just straight vinegar!  Good to know during this cold and flu season. 

In the same article, a remedy for nasal congestion recommends mixing the juice of one clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp of honey and some aloe vera. Soak two cotton balls in the mixture and insert them loosely in your nostrils for about 5 minutes.  You might not look very attractive but you’ll probably be able to breathe a little easier after the garlic clears your sinuses, the honey works as an astringent  and antibacterial and the aloe moisturizes your sore nasal tissue. 

There’s also was also a recent study done that found using honey as a cough suppressant for children over the age of 12 months was as effective (and probably easier to get down) than over-the-counter medications.  You can read this article and find lots of great information and recipes using honey on http://www.honey.com 

I have my own home remedy using honey.  Instead of buying those expensive sugar scrubs which I love because they make your skin smell so good and feel so soft, I make my own.  I take a plastic lotion jar (I go through tubs of cetaphil – it’s pretty dry here) and add brown sugar, coarse sea salt and lots of honey.  Mix together until it’s the consistency you like and use to scrub-a-dub-dub in the shower.       

My little aspiring chef, middle daughter “L” wanted me to include one of her favorite recipes using honey from her own kids cookbook.

Sunny Honey Granola (From Gooseberry Patch Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook)lila apples
 
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds (toasted)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
non-stick vegetable spray
 
Mix oats, almonds, seeds and coconut in mixing bowl.  Stir honey and oil together in separate bowl and then combine with oat mixture. 
 
Spread out on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 20–30 minutes or until golden brown.
 
Let cool slightly, pour into a clean bowl and stir in raisins.  Store in a airtight container

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The Happy Menu Planner

October 19, 2009

daph with drinkYou know how you always read in all the home and cooking magazines about how dinner time will be so much easier if you just take a little time over the weekend to get organized and do some planning in advance?  Sure, it sounds simple enough when they write it but really, who has any extra time on the weekends and do you really want to use it menu planning if you do?   

But with three kiddos also comes having to prepare lunches every night, religion classes, soccer practices, football practices, showchoir practices, spelling tests, homework and the host of other unexpected activities that always seems to crop up.  Dinner was taking a way back seat and becoming a very stressful event in our household.  So, I decided to give the old menu planning advice a whirl.  I am happy to report, it has been an overwhelming success and the magazine writers were right.  I have been at it now for three weeks.  We’re eating great meals, at a decent hour and I’m enjoying the process.  When mommy’s happy, everybody’s happy.  Try it.  Like me, you might even find yourself with extra time for cocktails!

Whenever I can grab a half-hour at some point over the weekend, I pull together my dog-eared recipe magazines, cookbooks, recipe binder and my handy-dandy momagenda grocery/menu list notepad (this item is not a crucial part of the equation but it’s sure cute) and the planning commences.   If you can do your shopping over the weekend or Monday morning, you’ll even be that much more ahead of the game.  I got so overzealous one week I was making the next night’s meal the day before.  Only the more truly advanced menu planners should attempt this daring feat!

www.momagenda.com

I’m going to give you my past two weeks menus and a recipe from this week just to inspire you.  Happy planning!

October 5 -11th

Monday:  Lemony Chicken, Orzo and Maple-Glazed Brussel Sprouts

Tuesday: Turkey & White Bean Chili, Tossed Green Salad and Skillet Cornbread

Wednesday: Broccoli & Ham Quiche and Salad  — Brown Sugar Cookies (OMG – these cookies are so good, will post recipe soon)

Thursday: Crazy Bean Soup and Grilled 3-Cheese Paninis

Friday:  Pizza Night – Kitchen Closed!

Saturday: Chicken Marbella, Mashed Idaho Taters and Salad

Sunday:  Split Pea and Smoked Ham Soup, Garlic Bread — Tarte Tatin   

October 12 -18th

Monday:  Pork Bolognese* Penne, Green Salad

Tuesday: Beef Soft Tacos and Cheesy Black Beans

Wednesday: Whole Wheat Flatbreads with Lamb and Yogurt*, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Thursday: Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms*, Green Beans & Hazelnuts

Friday:  Dinner out – Kitchen Closed!

Saturday: Seared Cod with Pesto, Crispy Potatoes, Roasted Tomatoes and Green Salad

Sunday:  Greek Chicken Lemon Soup, French Bread and Roasted Broccoli  — Tarte Tatin

*Recipes from Everyday Food – September 2009 issue  

So what’s on the menu for this week you ask?  Well, the kiddos have requested chili and cornbread again so that’s up for tomorrow night.  I tend to like to make most things from scratch as I like to know what’s in the food I eat and serve my family.  That being said, I’m also not a complete purist (or a complete masochist) and I will go for convenience if it’s healthy and cost-effective. 

chili mixFor me, Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Brand Chili Kit fits that bill.  Almost every major grocery store (including Wal-Mart) carry it.  My mom used it when I was growing up and I always liked her chili.  I use it now and my kids like my chili.  Nuff said.  It’s inexpensive and it has only very simple, real ingredients in it.  Plus you can easily doctor it up to make it your own.  I like that.  It used to come in the cutest little paper bag but for some reason (probably cost) they changed to a box.  It’s only the spices in the kit so you still need to add your preference of meat, tomato sauce/tomatoes, beans and whatever else says chili for you.  You can make it mild or hot using the spices provided.  http://carrollshelbyschili.com

With chili, must come cornbread.  At least in our house.  I like to make cornbread in my cast-iron skillet and serve it with butter and honey drizzled over the top.  Here is my recipe:

 

 Cast-Iron Skillet Corn Breadcast-iron-skillet

 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup canned whole kernel corn (drained) 
butter
honey
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pour the vegetable oil into a cast-iron skillet and put the skillet into the oven while it preheats.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and a pepper. 
 
In a bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and water until blended.  Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing together just until moist; a few lumps is a good thing.  Do not overmix.  Stir in the corn. 
 
Carefully pour the batter into the preheated oil in the pan.  Bake the corn bread until the top is golden brown and the sides have pulled away from the pan, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately with butter and plenty of honey. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Green is good

October 18, 2009

No, I’m not getting political,environmental or granola on you.  Unlike that “No Impact Man” Colin Beavan in New York, I do not have any immediate plans to give up using toilet paper or stop shaving my armpits.  No toilet paper for a whole year?!  Really?  I can absolutely promise I will never, ever go there by choice.  Me likes me my quilted Northern way too much to do that.  I can’t even do the Kirkland brand.  Ooops, maybe that’s tmi… 

The green I’m talking about are the green veggies in my three favorite vegetable recipes.  At least one of these is on the menu every week in our household.  They are each a great way to get those veggies in and actually enjoy them in the process.  When my kids ask “What’s for dinner mom?”  and one of these recipes is part of my response they actually have been heard to cheer “yes! I love brussel sprouts!”  Crazy, I know…but I promise, completely true.broccoli

Roasty Toasty Broccoli

2 large crowns of broccoli (or as much as you think you need to feed your family or yourself)
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt               

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and trim broccoli removing all stalks. My kids like to have some really tiny pieces mixed in with the larger ones because they get very crispy and crunchy, in otherwords, even more yummy!  Pat dry trimmed broccoli and put in a large heap on a baking sheet.  Pour the olive oil over the broccoli and toss with tongs or a fork and spoon to evenly coat all pieces.  (You could also do this is a bowl but why dirty another dish that you’re going to have to wash?)  Spread broccoli pieces out over baking sheet and salt.

Put on top rack of oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.  For a variation, you can also offer fresh grated parmesan at the table.                                                                                                                Serves 4-5 people.

I have to give credit to my good friend Heidi for this next recipe.  She invited us over for dinner one night sometime back and I asked what I could bring.  She said, “Well, I’m making brussel sprouts, we’ll have some grilled steak and blah, blah, blah…”  Basically she lost me at brussel sprouts because they were the one vegetable that both hubby and I detested.  I brought a BIG salad to that dinner since I knew we would not be eating those sprouts.  Heidi proved us wrong and turned our whole family into huge brussel sprout lovers.  It’s all in the preparation.  I think I had only previously tasted them boiled — ugghhh.  No wonder I didn’t like them.  Thanks Heidi! 

240px-Brussels_sprout_closeupMaple-Glazed Brussel Sprouts

1/2 – 1 lb. small to medium-sized brussel sprouts
Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt
Maple syrup (real – imitation will not do)
Trim and halve sprouts (as many as you need for your family – we use at least a 1/2 lb). Put in a large skillet (I do it in my cast-iron) and toss generously with olive oil. Add 1-2 cloves minced garlic and a generous pinch of sea salt.

Saute over med heat, stirring frequently until the sprouts start to get brown and a little crispy on the edges. Just before serving, drizzle maple syrup (only real will do) over entire pan and stir. Serve immediately.

*Allow at least 15-20 minutes for them to cook thoroughly.                   Serves 4-5 people.

I just discovered this recipe in early September and it was an instant hit.  We’ve already had it twice in the past month.  It’s from my absolute favorite little food magazine, Everyday Food, from Martha Stewart.  If you’re not familiar with it, I highly recommend snatching one up next time you’re in the grocery checkout line.  It’s tiny – the size of a Reader’s Digest but they pack a ton of great stuff in there.  Their recipes are simple, healthy (for the most part) yet with enough of a flair to be a little different and unusual.  The best part…they always work!  You will see me post many recipes either straight from their pages or adapted…I am huge fan and dedicated subscriber.  And, no, I am not being paid to write this (Hubby only wishes I was). 

greenbeansGreen Beans With Hazelnuts (adapted from Everyday Food – Sept 2009)

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1Tbsp. unsalted butter
coarse salt and ground pepper
2-4 Tbsp. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (your preference – we like more)
fresh parsley (totally optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
 
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add green beans.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, 5-8 minutes.  Stir in hazelnuts, parsley and lemon juice.  Serve immediately.                                                                                                                 Serves 4-5 people.
 
 
*I like this feature on their website that helps you meal plan and grocery shop.  Check it out!  www.marthastewart.com/grocery-bag
 
 

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beta-fishWe started off today on a sad note.  Super Dorothy the super-long living beta fish passed on to the great ocean in the sky this week.  Super Dorothy was my 7 -year old middle daughter’s pet who managed to live a very long (2 years) life despite being for the most part completely ignored and rarely fed.  I highly recommend beta fish as a family pet.  They must  have the market cornered on low-maintenance.  You might not be able to cuddle with them but you also don’t have to spend $50 a bag on premium dog food, make overnight doggie “spa” arrangements when you go out of town or end up with chewed up shoes, toys and underwear all over your house.  Don’t even get me started on the amount of poop a dog adds to your life.  Too much.  I promise (kind of) that I’m not bitter about our dog Rocky.  He is however very high maintenance!

So I scooped Super “D” up in a cup (she was getting pretty rank after two days a’floating in her bowl) and we sadly trudged to the canal near the bus stop so we could quickly eulogize our beloved fish.  L said some sweet words.  “Dorothy you were a great fish.  I hope you are happy swimming in heaven.  Good-bye.  Amen.”  We added the obligatory “Father, Son, Holy Spirit (we are catholic after all)” and tossed her in.  The current carried her away to a bigger and better fish bowl somewhere up there we hope.  Within a minute, the kids had forgotten all about Dead Dorothy and were running for the bus.  Amazing resilence those kids!

 

crotch splitter

Ok, on to what you are all (all three of you at this point) dying to hear about (come on, admit it!), the crotch splitters.  Any guesses?  I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.  I went to meet with my trainer, the slave driver Crystal, who you will be hearing a lot about.  Actually she is awesome and even though she pushes me very hard — I love her.  And I guess I am paying her to push me hard so that’s a good thing.  She seems to be under the assumption that I am some kind of studdette who can endure a constant barrage of high intensity push-ups, pull-ups, dips and yes, crazy exercises called crotch splitters.  I just couldn’t even do those without laughing although really they hurt too badly to laugh. 

 Try to visualize.  You stand on this really tall step (I am somewhat vertically challenged so anything that comes up past my belly button seems really tall to me) with a big exercise ball to the side of the step.  You put your right leg extended out onto the top of the ball and you squat down as you push the ball out with your extended leg, thus putting you in a position akin to (yes, I’m going to say it)  “splitting your crotch.”  Are you doing it right now?  Ok, now you know my pain.  And then she made me curl a medicine ball to boot.  Yikes!  All this for a tight tushy?  Hmmm…

blue-mooseFor those of you local to da’ho (Idaho, that is), The Blue Moose in Eagle, just happens to be one of my favorite places to eat.  Hubby asked me to meet him for a late lunch date (sweet) after the torturous workout.  I was nervous that I might not be able to lift my fork to my mouth but accepted his kind offer anyway.  We’ve been together so long (almost 20 years) I figured he’d still love me even if I had to lick my salad off my plate. 

Marcy, proprietor and chef extraordinaire at The Moose, has added a charming, rustic wine bar complete with bar stools to the main entry area of the cafe.  Last night kicked off the Cafe’s first official “wine” night.  Wine was flowing as was conversation with a cozy lit fireplace warming up the room.  This is going to be a regular happening going on both Thursday and Friday nights at Blue Moose, so line up your  sitter for the kids (if you have them) and high-tail it over there.  She’s going to have some great comfort food specials going on as well.  Think Yankee pot roast, beef stew in a bread bowl, chicken pot-pie and the like.  And then of course all her regular to-die-for salads (big, big fan of the Maytag and the Orange Grove) and ginormous sandwiches.  Finish it off with one of her famous frosted brownies and someone can  just roll you out the door back to your car.  Later you can find Crystal and do some crotch splitters.

Happy Weekend!!

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A Taste of Fall

October 16, 2009

Sure the dropping temperatures, shorter days and falling leaves are all tell-tale signs that autumn is upon us and winter isn’t far behind.  But for me, nothing says fall better than the air in my home redolent with the comforting fragrance of pumpkin bread, maple-glazed brussel sprouts or my new (old) favorite, Tarte Tatin. 

Sweet, gooey carmelized apples with a rich buttery crust.  Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or pure whipped cream.  Simply divine.  This recipe allows the pure, sweet flavor of the apples to be the star of the show.  Or the “Elstar” rather.

The kids and hubby went apple picking in Spokane a few weeks back and brought home the most wonderfully perfect apples for my Tarte Tatin or any other apple dessert for that matter.   Since they bought a whole box home I have been on a mission to showcase these gems appropriately.  Our favorite of the harvest is called the Elstar apple.  And it’s delicious! 

 I did a little research and found out that Elstar’s are decendants of the Golden Delicious.  I can vouch for the fact that they have a honeyed sweet taste and while crunchy, they aren’t necessarily crisp or hard.  Their skin (as you can see) is mostly blush-red and they have a lemony-white flesh.  Yum!elstar apple

Here is my recipe for Tarte Tatin.  I hope you enjoy eating it as much as we have.  Now I’ve got to run (literally) to burn off the big ice cream topped slice I hoovered down last night!  Enjoy.

Tarte Tatin (recipe adapted from Judith Ets.Hokins Homechef Basic Cooking class)
 
4 oz. sugar (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp. water
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 lb. short pastry*
 
Preheat the oven to 375.  Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy skillet and cook over high heat until the sugar turns to a golden caramel.  Very carefully (the caramel will be very hot) pour the caramel into the bottom of an 8″ cake pan, tilting the pan so that the caramel coats the bottom.
 
Lay the apple slices over the caramel and dot with butter. 
 
Roll out the pastry about 1/4″ thick and about 2 inches larger than the pan.  Lay the pastry on top of the apples tucking it in around the edges. 
 
Bake the tart about 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Allow the tart to cool about 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a serving platter, so that the crust becomes the base, with the caramelized apples on top.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Top with vanilla ice cream if desired. 
 
Basic Short Pastry (makes 1 lb. of dough)
 
8 oz. unbleached white flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
5 oz. unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces and chilled or frozen
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
4-6 Tbsp. cold water
 
This works really well in a food processor.  Combine the flour and salt.  Work the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly.  Add the lemon juice and then the water gradually, until the dough gathers together. 
 
If done in the machine you can use right away.  If not, flatten the dough, sprinkle with a little flour and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
 

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