Archive for September, 2011

September 12, 2011

Chocolate chip zucchini goodness

On Sunday afternoon I sought out to make some more muffins for this week. They are becoming a staple in our household–an easy snack for me and a quick breakfast for my husband who has to be at work at the crack of dawn and won’t really eat breakfast otherwise.  I love just about anything chocolate chip, and I had more zucchinis from this weekend’s farmer’s market, so I thought it might be fun to try to make some sort of muffins combining the two. As I searched through zucchini chocolate chip bread/muffin recipes online, I stumbled upon this one for low fat chocolate chip zucchini bread and knew immediately that I wanted to give it a go. I liked that it didn’t call for a lot of butter (we had hardly any in the fridge) and that the recipe incorporated applesauce.  I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour instead of white whole wheat flour, and I added cinnamon which always adds a nice pop of flavor!  The recipe made 12 muffins, and they were glorious! They are good enough to make and share with others, and they are good for you. I caught a glimpse of my husband leaving for work this morning with not one, but two muffins. That spoke volumes to me.  What a way to start the day, chocolate and some greens in one. This is a great breakfast option for someone who needs a quick bite to eat on the go or someone like me who cannot make it to lunch time without a snack. Taking a few moments to eat my oven warmed muffin with a cup of coffee around mid morning was an absolute treat.

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September 11, 2011

animal, vegetable, miracle

About two and a half years ago a friend of mine gave me a copy of her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, to borrow. In this book Barbara Kingsolver chronicles the journey of her family’s commitment to eat only local foods for a year. I was blown away by the creativity and dedication they demonstrated in their approach to cooking for their family. What I mean by this is that they ate foods that were in season. While this seems to be common sense, it’s really pretty radical as we are so accustomed to buying what we want when we want it. Think about how amazing a tomato tastes in July; it’s red and vibrant and delicious. That’s just not quite the case at other times in the year.

Through reading this book, I began to think differently about food. My reading happened to coincide with local farmers’ markets opening up that Spring. My husband and I enjoyed visiting various markets on lazy Saturday mornings and taking in the produce and enthusiasm of the farmers and gardeners.  Since this time we have moved to a new home and literally live right down the hill from our local Saturday’s farmer’s market. Simply by walking through the market regularly, I have grown in understanding of what’s in season. This is news for a woman who grew up in a major city and has barely gardened her entire life!

I was so inspired by this book that I tried out a few recipes including one for zucchini chocolate chip cookies. Our dear friends joined us for dinner that evening, and the husband about spit out the cookies when he learned what was in them. However, I think even he would agree that they really are good and a creative way to eat some green! I recommend them wholeheartedly, and if you have not read the book, it’s fascinating and informative about something so basic.

September 10, 2011

beta carotene power stew

Tonight’s dinner was truly an adventure. There was no recipe, and I got creative. It began with boneless, skinless chicken breasts that were baked at lunch time very plainly with the goal of freezing them and using them in a future meal. Well, we got distracted. It’s hard to imagine how that could happen on a GAME day and with a little pumpkin in tow, but those chicken breasts cooked and cooked. Once we realized what had happened I chopped them coarsely and threw them in some chicken broth in the fridge with the hope of redeeming them by giving them a chance to rehydrate themselves. A few hours later we decided to make dinner at home, and I got to work. The cooking process tonight reminded me of when I was a little girl as I remember on a few occasions putting all of my favorite things in a bowl and stirring them together, just knowing that it would be the best creation ever! Of course, that was not always the case, but it was fun to see what would unfold.

So tonight, I peeled and chopped two carrots, one sweet potato, and an onion (remember my goal of eating better and more colorfully?!) and put them on a roasting pan to roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Before popping them in the oven, I topped them with olive oil, sea salt, herbs de provence, cinnamon, and cumin. Random combination, I know, but it sounded enticing to me! While those veggies roasted, I got brown rice cooking on the stovetop. Once the veggies were ready, I transferred them to a pot and began to add some chicken broth (Trader Joe’s organic). I ultimately used a little less than half a carton. I then added the pitiful chicken, which at this point had been restored pretty well, to the pot. The star ingredient was extremely spontaneous and truly made the dish so flavorful–orange juice!  Once the veggies, chicken, chicken broth, and splash of orange juice heated up together, I simply stirred in the cooked brown rice. The rice portion for this meal was 1/2 cup uncooked. The result was this simple, hearty, flavorful ORANGE colored one pot meal packed with beta carotene and vitamin A. And, once again, we have a whole dinner leftover and in our freezer for another evening on a much busier day!

September 9, 2011

muffinfest

Ever since we had our son back in April, I have been especially hungry. This hunger has gripped me at the most inopportune times, like 4:00 or 5:00 am, when I would wake up ravenous and needing a snack, yet desperate to go back to sleep as quickly as possible. My favorite snack has become muffins as once baked, they are so readily available. In addition, they typically freeze well and defrost quickly.  I’m not talking about any old muffin. I’m talking about a new breed of  muffins (muffins 2.0) made out of whole wheat flour and ingredients like honey and applesauce…It’s a whole different kind of baking, and I am finding myself having to search online for recipes as my cookbooks are filled with more traditional recipes. While there is no doubt that muffins made of white sugar and normal flour are tasty, this new kind of cooking leads to a new kind of yum–one that makes you smile with the knowledge that this bread is good for you! This week’s recipe involved zucchini once again, since they are in season, reasonably priced, and scrumptious. These healthy carrot zucchini muffins appealed to me as I had every ingredient on hand except for nutmeg which had just run out. I added additional cinnamon, and that worked pretty well for my first attempt. The recipe also appealed to me since it included not only zucchini, but carrots and applesauce as well. It made 12 muffins, and they have continued to remain moist and taste good for a few days especially when warmed up in the oven. Just this morning a precious one year old little guy gave the muffin his enthusiastic approval when he ate it readily.  That really made an impression on me as little kiddos can be so picky about anything green! At this very moment my husband is warming one up for me for dessert; (five minutes later) he just served it to me with a glaze on top that he wipped up–sour cream, almond extract, and brown sugar mixed together! What a creative chef! Here’s a thought for all of you party planners out there; these really could be served as cupcakes at a birthday party if you add some kind of icing. Yum! All of those kiddos celebrating wouldn’t be on a crazy sugar high from useless calories, but would be getting vitamins and nutrients that they actually need. It seems like an opportunity to take advantage of. Our son better watch out when it becomes party planning time!

September 9, 2011

A different kind of pancake

Our family loves a good pancake night. Most often we enjoy blueberry pancakes. They are sweet and delicious and full of antioxidants. It’s simple, budget friendly, and a great way to eat some more fruit before the day is over. Over the last few weeks a different kind of pancake began calling my name.  Zucchini parmesan pancakes, anyone? Just this week I led our family into this new territory. I was exploring the site http://weelicious.com to learn about how to make baby food for our little guy when I stumbled upon this recipe for zucchini parmesan cakes. I almost always make dinner decisions based on what we have on hand to avoid last minute trips to the grocery store which always get us into trouble, and by divine design I had two gorgeous zucchinis on my counter from Saturday’s farmer’s market, eggs, bread crumbs, and even parmesan cheese on hand. My husband balked as he can be pretty skeptical about some of my ideas when it comes to cooking…how could zucchini and pancakes be used together to term an object to eat?  He was won over once we sat down to our dinner–salmon and zucchini pancakes topped with parmesan cheese and a dollop of sour cream. The best part was that we essentially ate them all (except for two which I enjoyed for breakfast!), which meant that we pretty much each had a whole zucchini for dinner that night. So many nutrients! Once again, I was encouraged to continue this goal of eating better and more colorfully. This particular night we had a whole lot of green. Toodles!

September 8, 2011

Reflections on eating

I have known for some time that we need to eat healthier. It really hit me the other day when I asked my husband what vegetables he had eaten that day, to which he replied “none!” I reflected back on my day and on my recent days, and while we seem to do pretty well with our fruits due mostly to making smoothies most afternoons, our vegetables are lacking (mine included!). We don’t even have a real excuse as we like them! We just tend to buy food and cook conservatively–not wanting to waste anything and striving to save money, yet often forsaking our health in the process. Now that I have realized this, my desire is for us simply to eat our vegetables.

I have always heard that we need to “eat the rainbow.” Yesterday I sought to do that by making a tuscan white bean stew (with a few slight changes–added rosemary, used a bag of dried white beans, and did not include pasta). What a sense of satisfaction I had during dinner when I presented the stew to my husband. White beans, onions, and garlic, orange carrots, green celery, red tomatoes, and green spinach smiled up at me. This bowl packed with nutrients even tasted good–savory and delicious! My husband, who is sometimes picky, enjoyed the meal heartily and even took the leftovers to work today. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that we had taken a step closer towards taking better care of the bodies that God has given us.  The best part is that I have a whole dinner ready in my freezer for another day. Let the quest continue!