Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nuts For Pasta Salad

Tis the season to add plenty of cold fare to the weekly line up.  The great thing about pasta, farro and quinoa salads is that you can whip them up when ever you have a few extra minutes and have them in the fridge ready to go when you need them.  Here we have a Toasted Almond Pasta Salad from the Food Network website, which I did not alter in any way (well that's not totally true but if I had enough thyme I wouldn't have) and because I don't feel like typing it all out just click that link for the recipe.  It's nice and simple, easy to throw together ahead of time.  Here's how it goes...
 Cook up some pasta, drain and set aside.
While you're boiling water, toast up some slivered almonds.  If you have a toaster oven, use it.  I think it seems silly to heat the entire oven for a few nuts.
 As you can see from my herb pile, I didn't have much thyme to spare so I added oregano and chives.  This recipe only calls for thyme but I think just about any of your favorite herbs could work so use what ever you have/like.  This combo was quite nice.
The dressing starts with a little olive oil and some fresh lemon juice.
Add shallots, herbs, fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes and give it a good whisk.  If you're not familiar with shallots, give them a try.  I love them.  They are like onions but more mild and are just really good.  Raw onion in this dressing might be a little too strong.
Toss it all together and add some grated parm, salt and pepper to taste and you have one nice pasta salad on your hands.
I like to toss in a little leftover grilled chicken and call it lunch! If it seems a little dry the next day, try adding a splash of red wine vinegar, that seems to do the trick. I'll leave you with the link again.  Enjoy and don't be afraid to change things up a smidge!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Single Pot, I Kid You Not

With such a busy evening schedule lately, I'm always looking for quick meals with few steps and not a lot of dishes to wash.  Sometimes I think something will be quick and we end up scrambling around to finish the meal with enough time to eat it before we have to dart out the door in a variety of directions.  I was super excited when I came across this traditional Italian one pot pasta in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living.  It never occurred to me that you could cook the sauce and the pasta in the same pot AT THE SAME TIME!  What, are you kidding me?  It's genius.  I roughly made it they way they advised in the magazine but with a couple of my own additions of course.  I can't wait to try it again with other variations on the sauce.
Nelsy and the kids got me this pot for Mother's day.  I've had my eye out for a nice large, deep skillet for a while.  I'd been struggling with the whole non-stick situation.  I have a large (not so deep) skillet that is full stick and can be rather annoying at times.  With all the info out there about the creepy materials used to make the pan non stick I wasn't sure what to do.  They found this ceramic pot which nothing sticks to, even wipes out with a paper towel if needed between stages. 
This is a simple pasta but you can get creative with it (and I intend to very soon!).  I chopped three tomatoes,  about a cup (loosely packed) of fresh basil, about a quarter of a red onion (that's the only onion I had), and four or five cloves of garlic.
Put about 12 or so ounces of linguine in the pot with the herbs and veg.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and 4 1/2 cups of water to the pot.
Bring to a boil and toss occasionally with tongs to keep pasta from sticking together.  Cook according to directions on the pasta box, until al dente.
Most of the water will be absorbed by the end of the cooking time.  Remove from heat.  I added some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a little lemon zest to the pot stirring until slightly creamy but off the heat.  Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve Immediately.
Serve it up as a main dish or as a side with chicken, fish or what ever else you have on hand.  When you're ready to clean up, there's only one pot to wash! I love that.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Caprese For Farro

“I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”—Jamie Oliver

Well put Jamie.  I like it.  I'm trying to do my part by sharing easy recipes for people who don't think they can cook, don't think they have time to cook or don't know how to cook.  Processed foods are making us fat and unhealthy.  We can stop.  We may not be able to cure cancer from our own home, but we can cure obesity.  So, lets make something real and tasty!  I haven't made farro in a while and thought it would be the perfect accompaniment to a nice grilled steak.  I posted a recipe last summer for a farro salad with herbs.  This one has some similarities but I made this one up based on my kids' love for Caprese (pronounced  cah-PREHY-zay) Salad.  If you are unfamiliar with this, think nice slice of tomato topped with a slice of fresh mozzarella, topped with fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  My mouth just watered.  So here we go....
Take one cup of farro and cook it in salted water for about 30 min.  Drain well and set aside to cool.
Get one cup of fresh basil leaves and chop them up.
Chop 1/2 teaspoon of fresh oregano.  I'm sure this would be just fine if you left it out.  I have oregano in a flower box that grows year round.  It's lovely to have around and takes no effort what so ever.
I'm really into chives right now too.  Chop 1 tablespoon of chives.
Put the chopped herbs in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Add 1/2 tsp of garlic powder and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Throw in some fresh cracked pepper for good measure.
Chop about a pound of tomatoes, this was three mediumish sized tomatoes.
Toss them in the bowl with the cooled farro.
Chop an 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella (all 8oz does not make it into my salad, can't help myself.  It's one of my favorites).
Add it to the bowl with the dressing and you're done!  This is best served room temp but if its been refrigerated and you can wait that long.  No worries, tastes good cold too!

Caprese for Farro

1 cup farro
1 cup fresh basil chopped
1/2 tsp fresh oregano chopped
1 Tbs chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound tomatoes chopped
1 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella chopped

Put 1cup farro in a medium pot with 2 1/2 cups of salted water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer (med-low), cover and let cook until tender, about 30 min.  Drain well and place in a bowl to cool.

In a small bowl add herbs, olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix well.

Add tomatoes and cheese to the cooled farro.  Add the dressing and mix well.  Serve right away or refrigerate and bring to room temp before serving.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Snick Snack Paddy Whack

Hi guys! I was ranting the other day about how busy the weeks are lately and thought I might share my favorite snack recipe for you to have on hand.  It's so easy to grab things that are processed and full of fat or sugar when you need a little something to keep you moving or to hold you over until the next meal.  Ina Garten's  Hummus recipe takes about 15 min (she says 10 but I think that may be a little exaggerated) to make, its healthy and really yummy.
Drain two cans of chick peas (or garbanzo beans which ever name you prefer) saving about 2 Tablespoons of the liquid from the can.  You only need two cups of chick peas so throw the rest in the fridge to eat on your salads.
Grab some lemons...
squeeze their guts out...I swear these were the two seediest lemons I have ever seen.  Made me take a little more than 15 min to make this because I had to pick all those seeds out!
Get yourself a jar of tahini, which is basically sesame seed paste.  You can get quite a few batches of hummus from one jar.
You only need 1/3 of a cup.  Looks kind of like peanut butter eh?
Toss it all in the food processor (I'm thinking a blender will work just fine if you don't have a processor) with some garlic, salt, liquid from the can and a few dashes of hot sauce.
These are my faves.  I'm into the RedHot a little more at the moment but use what you like.
Pulse until smooth.  You can always add a little more of the liquid from the can if you wish to thin it out a bit more.  It's all a matter of preference.
I packed two containers with it.  The round one is a little bigger and goes in the fridge for immediate use.
The square one goes in the freezer for when we run out.
I love me some Wasa and Hummus.  Mmmm, fiber.  Its also great with some carrot sticks or cucumber slices.  4 tablespoons comes in at about 95 calories (say 100 in case my math was off).  I love the stuff, it's lemony, salty with a spicy after thought (I use a little more hot sauce than the recipe advises).  When you pair it with the Wasa or Wasa light, it totally satisfies that need for something crunchy and snacky (as is usually my type of craving).  Check out the recipe on the Food Network website and enjoy!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Spring Fever

Wow.  In a matter of a week our lives went from pretty chill to running around like chickens with a million things to do and places to be.  Things will probably remain this way through June so I have no choice but to plan like crazy for each week to fit in feeding the family real food and squeezing in some exercise amongst all the games, practices, homework, open houses, concerts and God knows what else. Last weekend we had a sleepover, baseball game, two soccer games a 5k and 10 mile race between us.  I'm sure things won't be quite that obnoxious anytime real soon.  I know many of you are always running in 5 directions or have 3 or 4 or 5 kids doing different things at different times (not sure how that works but...).  My best two suggestions for getting through it all without eating a ton of crap and skipping out on physical activity is to sit down on Saturday or Sunday and plan your meals and figure out how to use your time wisely.  I've mentioned this in the past but what better time to squeeze in a run or a walk than when you're sitting at a soccer or lacrosse (or whatever) practice.  I load up the iPod with some interesting pod casts and walk around the fields for an hour or run for 30 min.  I watch the games but do I really need to watch practice too?  Um no. So there you go, he practices soccer and I get ready for whatever next event I have coming up (signing up for races keeps me motivated).

 Two weekends ago I went with Phoebe on her Girl Scout outing to Orenda Springs which was a ton of fun and ended up being a great workout to boot.  Here I got strapped into a harness...
While Phoebe climbed this big o'll tree (also harnessed) all the way up to the platform....
Then they had me run and jump until I was swinging through the air and they hoisted me up to where Phoebe was.
I only have video of the real exciting part but Phoebe jumped off the platform and we grabbed hands while hanging and swinging way the heck up there.  This was taken as they were lowering us down.  The real workout came when we did the zip line.  It's a one way street and everyone has to get a piece of the rope and run like mad up the hill to get the zip liners back on the ground.  I was very sore the next day after running up the hill about 5 times.
 This past weekend my sister Ouije and I did the Color Me Rad 5k.  This was family friendly, non competitive and a lot of fun.  I mean, I've never seen Ouije get so enthusiastic about running.  See how nice and clean we started out?  This, like most 5k's, was a fundraiser and you can walk or run.  I really recommend trying these things out, even if you're not a runner.  The vibe is great, everyone is doing something healthy for a cause, and I love the sense of community you get at these things.
And sometimes you get to get down right messy.  Thank goodness for those sunglasses!
The race was not timed, we ran it together and just had fun.  Gather your friends and get out there.  These types of events are going on every single weekend if you search for them.
On Sunday it was Nelsy's turn.  Phoebes whipped up some signage and we headed out to watch him run the Mountain Goat.  10 hilly miles through the City of Syracuse.  No thank you.  I do love to watch though!  I always feel so proud of the runners, crazy as they may seem (I saw one wearing a banana costume).  They seem to be of all ages and abilities.  So impressive.
Here's Nels looking fresh right around mile 4.  Coming in for a high five.  At mile four I would be on my last leg. 
And there he is going down the home stretch.  Way to go Nels!  So the take away here is get active when you can and do what it takes to stay motivated.  I'll tell you there's nothing like a looming 10 miler to get you to the gym every night (sadly, many nights it's after 8pm before Nels makes it to the gym).  I'm staying on track by signing up for a Memorial Day 5k that I'm running with Phoebe and her Running Club, and another on June 8th with a whole bunch of friends and their kids. 

So, lets talk about food for a minute.  When you're making your list, go with things that are quick or can be made ahead.  This is what our week looks like:

M- Turkey Burgers (make them in the am or the night before, pull them from the fridge and toss on the grill when its time to eat.

Tu- A quick pasta dish (there is no shortage of these!), I'll share this one soon...

W- Pizza and salad (Nels is going to cook a chicken tonight while H and I are at soccer that we can use for a couple of dinners, including the pizza.  The kids really dig chicken on the pizza).

Th- We'll use the grilled chicken and have nice big salads with chicken and plenty of veggies.

F- No activities or plans! Yay! We'll figure that one out when we get there.  We have meat from our CSA in the freezer and plenty of produce to some up with something.

All quick meals, nothing from a box or drive through.  It can be done, it just takes a little planning and a little practice.  Good Luck (we all need it!)!