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Friday, June 27, 2008

Ode to Birthday Cake

Oh Birthday cake, Oh Birthday cake.........

I had a fabulous Birthday! Thanks for all the Birthday wishes that were sent my way, whether through the mail, email, or by flower delivery :). I felt very loved. Rob took me out to eat at a yummy Italian restaurant and gave me a gorgeous necklace from the Fair Trade company that I like.

The family presented me with Birthday Cake for BREAKFAST! They sang happy birthday and we enjoyed this yummy Chantilly cake that had three layers of fruit, and the frosting had mascarpone cheese in it. He also gave me gift card for gas, because I LOVE road trips, and said "Pick a place, and we'll go tomorrow" ! So I have always wanted to go to Manitou Springs, and we went down there and had a great day. We went to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, had a picnic in the park, and walked through the downtown. Having exhausted our budget for eating out, we ate at home. I was still on Cloud nine over the Italian food we had the night before and I decided to make Italian again.

Yes, I know that might sound lame that I made my own Birthday dinner, but you know, I loved it. The music was loud, the kids were running around happy, and I had a full glass of wine.
I made the following appetizer, and then the soup with a simple spaghetti on the side. It finished well with the cake. I wasn't that crazy about the soup, and would make it again without the chicken apple sausage personally. BUT, I'm just not that into meat. The rest of the family loved it!





Guten Appetit!

Goat Cheese Toasts with Spicy Olives

Makes 4 servings
Ingredients
1/4 cup green olives, in their brine
1/4 cup black olives
1 tablespoons harissa or few shakes of hot sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
4 slices ciabatta or french bread (we used sprouted grain bread cut into triangles)
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces fresh goat cheese (chevre) such as Haystack Mountain, room temperature

Directions
Preheat broiler or toaster oven.
Pit and chop olives. (My note: I just found out my cherry pitter can be used to pit olives! hurrah!) Mix olives with 1/4 cup olive brine, garlic and harissa or hot sauce. Set aside.

Toast bread until golden brown. Cool slightly, and lightly butter the toast. Spread goat cheese over the toast, and top with spicy olive mix.
Serve immediately.
Note: Harissa, is a spicy chili paste, that is available at Whole Foods.




cabbage and white bean soup with sausage



Bon Appétit March 2008
Tina Miller




Savoy cabbage would work well here, too.
Servings: Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces fully cooked chicken-apple sausages (about 4), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
3 leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (about 3 cups)
2 cups baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise, then halved crosswise
2 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
8 cups low-salt chicken broth1
15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained


Preparation
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage slices and sauté until brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage; sauté 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to same pot and heat over medium heat. Add leeks and carrots and sauté until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, parsley, and rosemary and stir 1 minute. Add broth, sausage-cabbage mixture, and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beat the salad blues.....and Isaac's 1st recipe creation




Whenever I start eating more raw, I go through a "salad blues". I start to eat so much of it as a default that I begin to not even be able to look at a salad leaf anymore. So when that happens, I start forgetting the lettuce part of the salad all together, and make some more interesting things. Usually chopped up veggies with some sort of dressing is enough. Something I make off and on that I made up one day was just to toss cherry tomatoes halved, large chunks of yellow/orange pepper and cucumber with some feta goat cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's so good, I pack it all the time for picnics.


Though I seem to be able to harldy ever eat protein and don't really miss it, the three boys in my house definitely do not feel the same way. And I do have to say, I can never give up seafood, it's just too yummy. So I found an interesting, and I mean interesting salad recipe that is guarenteed to make your family say "huh?" when you tell them what's in it. Despite that, I encourage you to give it a try. It was really easy, light, summery, and could never be called ordinary.


Also while we were eating this along with some local summer squash I had Rob throw on the grill as long as it was hot, Isaac made his own little creation. He was so cute about it, and it actually tasted really good! He grabbed a piece of grilled squash, and put one of the tomatoes with some cheese and basil on it on top. See the pic! It could be on the cover of Gourmet magazine next month - "Gourmet Appetizer invented by a 4 year old!" :p And yes, this recipe is kid friendly, they devoured the whole platter!


Shrimp, Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad


"While this recipe may sound a little odd, once you try it, you'll love the combination of three of summer's favorite foods. Brush soe good hearthbread with olive oil and grill it briefly to serve alongside."


1 16 oz package frozen 31-40 Tail-on Raw Shrimp

Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

2 small ripe tomatoes, quartered (mine were a bit bigger, I cut them in 8 pieces)

2-3 cups ripe watermelon in large, bite-sized chunks, seeds removed

2-3 oz Organic Fresh Goat Cheese, crumbled

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh basil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


If using wood or bamboo skewers, put in water to soak. Preheat oiled grill to medium high. Brush shrimp with dressing, skewer and grill 2-3 minutes, basting and turning a few times. Remove cooked shrimp and set aside while you compose salad. On a large platter or individual plates, arrange tomatoes, watermelon, and goat cheese. Top with grilled shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped basil. Serve with additionalvinaigrette.


My Note: I read a recent article where someone strongly felt like basil should never be cut with a knife, only ever torn by hand. They said it alters the flavor. I thought this was an easy enough thing to try, so I tried it in this recipe. I tore the Basil leaves, and my whole kitchen was filled with this wonderful smell of Basil that doesn't happen when I chop it. It was like some beautiful perfume! (Okay admittedly I am a dork, I love herbs) It felt really fun, and earthy to rip it up and put it over the salad. I just may keep doing it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green and Black


"Once you go Green and Black, you can never go back!" I once heard someone say, and I have to say I think it's true! I fell in love with Green & Black Chocolate about two years ago, and it made me an unintentional chocolate snob. Since then it's hard to find something simple off the shelf that measures up. How do you know you are a chocolate snob? I heard an interview with a chocolate expert on NPR one day, and the interviewer simply asked her "So, what is YOUR favorite chocolate?" To which she replied, "To eat, or to cook with?" I've noticed I've starting creeping in that direction and have clear favorites now.


To eat? As I said Green & Black is a must. Also Dagoba makes several excellent bars (I prefer the Dark versions in both.) The reason I'm posting about this though, is that I have learned that they make Green & Black right here in CO. They don't do tours *sniff* but I am on their mailing list, and they just posted the results of their recent Chocolate Recipe contest. The challenge was to come up with a recipe that uses only 5 ingredients, and uses Green & Black chocolate. Click here to see the yummy results (scroll down the page to view all 5)!
Here is a quick bio of the company from candyaddict.com "It turns out that Green & Black’s originated in the UK in 1991, and features a broad range of organic chocolate bars, baking chocolate, hot chocolate drinks and gift boxes. Green & Black’s is a high quality brand of chocolate dedicated to the principles of organic, fair trade and sustainability of the environment. It’s organic and it’s produced from cocoa beans that were purchased directly from the Maya Indian farmers in Belize at a fair price. "
It's chocolate you can feel good about eating!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More for the grill

I've been doing really good lately - eating raw until dinner. I think the warm weather has helped, and just being outside more. It makes me want to eat even lighter.

Whole Foods came out with a new Meals for 4 for Under $15 brochure, and they have some interesting meals in there. Last night we had the Grilled Tuna Kabobs with Peach Mango Salsa and they were really good. If it sounds really different, don't let that prevent you from trying it. It was a really easy meal, and was SO yummy. The kids loved it too!
Grilled Tuna Kabobs with Peach Mango Salsa

"Our peach Mango Salsa is a blend of sweet and hot, kind of like the Southern region that's famous for peaches. Made with just enough jalapenos to keep you on your toes. "

1 12 ounce package frozen Yellowfin Tuna Steaks, thawed and cut into chunks
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lemons
1 cup Peach Mango Salsa, divided
1 large yellow onioon, cut into chunks
2 bell peppers, red or green, cut into chunks
sae salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (1/2 box) Organic Couscous, whole wheat (or plain)

If using wood or bamboo skewers, put in water to soak. Preheat oiled grill to medium high. Cut one lemon in half and slice into thick half moons. Squeeze the other lemon and combine with olive oil and 2 tablespoons salsa in a small bowl. Alternate fish, vegetables, and lemon slices on soaked skewers. Brush with salsa/lemon mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skewers on hot grill and cook 3-5 minutes, basting often with mixture, turning once. Serve kabobs over couscous, with salsa for dipping.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Parenthood


Have you ever seen the movie Parenthood? It's the one with Steve Martin in it, and it can make you weak in the knees if you don't have kids yet. It spotlights 3 different sets of parents, and all the ups and downs - some hilarious, some cringe worthy, some deeply sad - that go with it. I remember seeing that movie before I had kids, and thinking that, you know, maybe I didn't want to have kids so much.


It seemed to me that because I knew I wasn't perfect, and I was destined to do some things wrong if I became a parent.....why do it then? Why go into something KNOWING you are going to screw it up in some major way?


Well that was my Type A, logical brain thinking. Then I got pregnant, and warmed up to the idea of being a mom, and lost the baby. I was devastated, and realized I really did want to try. I wanted to not just try, but to do my very best at it, and give it everything I had. I threw myself into mothering the way I threw myself into dance - with both feet. :)


Well needless to say, I can name a million things I have done wrong, and a million things I've done right. There is no "perfect" in parenting, despite what anyone wants you to think. Part of that is because of course I am not perfect. The parts I do get right is because I firmly believe I can only be as good of a mom as Rob encourages me to be. What I mean by that is that without his words of encouragement, prayer, support, the time he spends with them, the time he spends with me, and the time he gives me to myself, I could not be the mom that I am. I have an amazing husband and as Father's Day approaches tomorrow, I am just reminded of the blessing that I have in him. He truly is a gift that I never want to take for granted.


The other day on the radio, a little parenting minute was on there (from Focus on the Family I believe) and they just said simply "God knew you were imperfect when he gave you these children, and yet He chose to give them to you anyway." I was in awe of that. I felt so humbled that God would trust me with these three precious little ones, though He knows my every fault. I also felt encouraged that despite these weaknesses, He still thinks I am the best person to raise them. I hope to remember that in the coming years.


I hope you also as a parent can find encouragement from your spouse, or friends, church, or the bible in the many ways that I have. A scripture I came across that helped to still the worry I have felt in my heart over being inadequate is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8. "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound to every good work"


If you are a father, Happy Fathers Day! May God bless you and fill you with every good thing you need to be a parent to the precious children he has trusted you with.