Category Archives: Food

Pasta Makes Me Tired {and other sad food truths}

Sad, but true.

Pasta makes me very very tired.

I discovered this sad food truth after an unintended break from pasta. One evening, short on ideas for dinner, I had a big plate of spaghetti. Within a half hour I was in a pasta coma on the couch. The revelation hit me hard: wow! pasta makes me very very tired. I began to wonder – what other foods are killing my game?

Why do I always feel like I need a nap at 1? Why am I sluggish all afternoon?

The culprit? Processed foods made with white flour. It’s foods that burn quickly, have close to zero nutritional value, and contain sugar – anything that comes in a package, tube, box, or shiny wrapper.

Darn.

In high school, pasta was the superfood. We ate it daily, carbo-loaded on it before cross-country meets, soccer games, and track meets. Turns out, maybe I could have run faster on vegetables.

Through much trial and error, I know what superfoods work for ME (and I think it varies much for every individual.) I still drink lots of milk, eat yogurt, cheese, beans and lentils, and I’m definitely a carnivore. My body has no problem processing gluten, although guess what else makes me tired? Lots of bread.

Out our the bagels, waffles, pancakes, most cereals, and doughnuts for breakfast. Why? Because I need at nap by 9am! I become so, so tired. Do you ever have that brain foggy feeling after eating these types of food? It’s the sugar and cheap white flour (yes! it’s in all of the above!)

So I have a few food guidelines I try to live by:

  1. Avoid sugar. (It’s in¬†everything packaged and processed.)
  2. Avoid processed food. (Because sugar.)
  3. Eat real food that comes from the ground.
  4. Loads of vegetables at every meal.
  5. That’s it.

Man, when I live by the above rules I feel like a superstar.

Really, I think it’s that simple.

It’s that simple and it’s that hard. I break this rule almost daily. Because…sugar! I love chocolate cake, and well, desserts in general. I love bread, pasta, pancakes, waffles, and doughnuts. But I know I don’t feel well when I eat them.

So, I try to limit treat consumption to one a day, sometime after dinner. Just a little. Not too much.

Moderation, I believe, is overrated. Many, many times, an all or nothing approach works much better for people.

Daughter Cope has proven this very well. She’s been a huge example to the rest of us: No Added Sugar. Period.

When she goes to Five Guys, she has a burger wrapped in lettuce because guess what that delicious bun has in it? SUGAR, of course. When eating at the school cafeteria I can hear her asking politely, “excuse me, does that Asian slaw have sugar in it?” I think she drove them quite mad ūüôā

When we have grilled burgers, this is what hers looks like:

¬†No bun! She doesn’t make exceptions. She doesn’t budge. No Added Sugar. Period.

She’s learned to scrutinize all food labels. She’ll eat bread or english muffins, but only if there are zero sugar grams. This usually means the bread is expensive or homemade. The above is her birthday breakfast: egg mcmuffin and loads and loads of fruit.

Doesn’t fruit have sugar? Yes, but it’s naturally occurring. And, because it’s in its whole form, the fiber makes for slower digestion instead of acting like juice, which hits your bloodstreams the same way a bag of skittles would. So, juice is out. Whole fruits are in.

Some exceptions: pure honey and pure maple syrup. Because those occur naturally!

Cope went hardcore no sugar when she got the part of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

After a few days without the white stuff she said, “Mom, I feel SO SO GOOD!”

She made the connection for herself. I’M A BELIEVER!

Cope had energy to do her one million school activities, keep up with her school work, and sing her heart out every day at rehearsal. Her skin was clear, her hair shiny. Best of all, she was so ¬†pleasant ūüôā (she’s usually pleasant, but she was EVEN BETTER!) She practically bounced out of bed.

Her eyes sparkled. For real.

She didn’t have time this spring to get much exercise, but guess what happened just from avoiding sugar? She started to lose weight.

Her costume director was ticked as Cope was shedding inches off her waist after her measurements had already been taken. They kept having to take her yellow dress in! “Amy, make the girl drink whole milk! FEED HER FAT! SHE CANNOT LOSE MORE WEIGHT!”

Did you know? I’d take healthy fat over sugar any day of the week. Fat good! Sugar bad.

She looked fabulous:

Graduation. Off sugar: she totally glowed.

So. What to eat or drink for breakfast? Eggs and smoothies (mostly greens!). We feel totally wicked and have loads of morning energy!

What we’re eating for dinner all summer? Tons and tons of grilled vegetables (and usually a protein on the side like chicken, fish, or beef.)

Did you know vegetables are carbohydrates? They are our first energy source.

Don’t think you like brussel sprouts? Try THIS RECIPE NOW!

But Amy, don’t you need summer treats like ice-cream? Need? No. Want? Oh yes, believe me, we sure do. I still partake. But after being off sugar for three months, Cope had this cone and felt “so sick. I wish I hadn’t done that.” After a few weeks of withdrawal, she didn’t crave it or want it.

She eats all-natural peanut butter, tons of lettuce wraps, hummus, rice, and beans. When she needs a treat she makes this fabulous banana cocoa concoction – I’ll post!

What to pack for lunches? I still get caught in the trap of Goldfish and crackers because of convenience, but with a little planning, we can send the darlings off into the world armed with nutrition that will actually help their brains and muscles instead of putting them at a disadvantage.

One of my students used to drink a caffeinated Monster drink every morning for breakfast. He said he felt pretty good until 10 o’clock a.m. Then what? Then he went and bought another Monster or 5-Hour Energy Drink to get him to lunch time. He was just sugaring it out until collapsing from fatigue, which happened on a¬†daily basis. Believe me, conversations were had!

The whole family has taken note from sister Cope. Every few weeks Paige goes sugar-free. And she gets fiesty about it. When repeatedly pressured to eat cookies and cupcakes on a field trip one day, she finally yelled, “You’re all going to get diabetes and DIE!”

Oh my.

But you know…cancer, obesity, diabetes, ADD, autoimmune diseases are all on the rise. Scientists are convinced that our food is largely to blame. For the first time in history, the life expectancy has dropped. In America, the land of PLENTY.

Food can be our medicine or our poison.

Let’s also get to the WHY. We don’t have scales in our home. It’s not all about weight. The reason to eat better is because of the WAY WE FEEL. Good, wholesome food makes us FEEL better. We get sick less. We have more energy to go to school, play, work, run fast, think, kick soccer balls, BE A REVOLUTION!

And yeah, it also makes us look better (which means more to teens than “you’re going to die a slow death in fifty years….”)

Skin literally glows, acne clears up (the biggest motivator for my teens). We are less moody, grumpy, and snappish. Our brains and hearts and muscles and bones are shouting THANK YOU DEAR PERSON FOR TAKING SUCH GOOD CARE OF ME!

I’m not always the best ¬†or perfect example. I still eat too many treats, but I’m more conscious about what I buy and what I put in my mouth because I’ve recognized the connection between food and feeling. When our kids start making that connection, too, it’s pretty cool. You can inspire them, and they can motivate you.

As Habits guru, Gretchen Rubin tells us: we need accountability buddies and we need the strategy of convenience.

Simple Food Rules:

  1. Avoid sugar
  2. Avoid processed food
  3. Eat real food that comes from the ground.
  4. Loads of vegetables at every meal.
  5. That’s all.

We’ve got ONE body in this lifetime. It’s a miraculous gift. What are we going to put in it?

Chime in! Thoughts? What food truths have you discovered? What are you eating?

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler {delish!}

Only recently have I discovered the¬†heavenly¬†combination of¬†strawberries and rhubarb. Oh my! Now I’m making up for lost time, using this family favorite¬†peach cobbler recipe.Rhubarb’s tart and texture married with¬†the sweet juicy strawberry…you’ve got to try this!

Last summer my friend, Tamar, gave me a tiny, and very special rhubarb plant. I stuck it in the ground and watched it grow into an enormous plant. And even better – I keep cutting stalks and they keep growing back! (Just for fun, have your kids take a bite out of the stalk…hehehe…but not the leaves!)Not to worry if you missed June’s strawberry season; this cobbluh’ was made with frozen picks from last month. It’s just as¬†good as freshly picked!¬†With only six simple¬†ingredients, you can whip this up in a snap.¬†¬†Bake for about an hour ¬†¬†¬†¬†Mmmm…¬†Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream. Or eat it right out of the baking dish. YUM.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) of Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Raw Rhubarb (chopped)
  • 1 Cup Strawberries

Directions:

Melt butter in microwave. 

In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, and milk together. Whisk in cooled butter. Pour batter in greased pie dish. Drop cut rhubarb and strawberries into batter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until golden brown.

Happy summer!

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Auntie Jill’s Sweet Potato Pie {yum!}

It was voted Thanksgiving’s #1 dish, and that’s saying something in this house where we are surrounded by¬†viable Chopped contestants.

It’s also saying something as I have struggled to like sweet potato since I was a wee lass growing up on the plains of Nebraska. The sweet potato has so many virtues and has long been touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Why couldn’t I adore it? But this. Love at first bite. The butter, sugar, and pecans might have something to do with it, but you have to start somewhere, right?

This Sweet Potato Pie¬†comes from Auntie Jill, passed down from her mama Nancy in¬†Iowa. The first two Makechnie boys married girls from the midwest. Aren’t we quaint?

Mama Nancy’s recipe sure was delish, but Jill saw the need to healthify it by cutting the sugars in half, using dates instead of white sugar, and fresh sweet potato instead of canned in syrup. Still, we agree it’s more of a dessert to be eaten after a 5k Turkey Trot (or sleeping in, whatevs,) and goes ever so wonderfully with any meat and potatoes meal, like Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m posting this in January. Makes perfect sense, right?¬†unnamed-1You’ll peel, cut, and boil 4-6 sweet potatoes. Mash them with butter.¬†Add sugar, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla.unnamed-2¬†Now for the topping! Chop 1 cup pecans.unnamed-3¬†Add¬†brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon to the pecans.unnamed-4¬†Spread sweet potato in a pretty pie baking dish. Add the nut and sugar topping.unnamed¬†Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve and swoon.unnamed-6

Sweet Potato Pie Casserole

Ingredients
4 and 6 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (*or puree 1/2 cup pitted dates with 1/2 ‚Äď 1 cup hot water until thick paste forms)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (2% or more is best)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Topping Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped (or pecan/walnut combo)
Directions
  • Boil¬†sweet¬†potatoes¬†until soft and mashable. Mash with butter. Add sugar or pureed dates, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix well.
  • Pour into ungreased 9″ glass baking dish or a deep dish pie plate.
  • For topping: in a separate bowl mix brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon with fingers or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Stir in nuts.
  • Sprinkle the topping on the¬†sweet¬†potato¬†mixture and bake @ 350 for 40 minutes.
  • Can be made ahead.
Enjoy!
Thanks Auntie Jill and Mama Nancy – we sure do ENJOY!
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How to Make Homemade Gatorade

Why make Gatorade when you can buy it?

Because, my friends, this is a “clean” drink that is far better for your brain, heart, muscles, GI tract, and bloodstream. And I bet you have the ingredients in your pantry right now…and if not, they are easy to procure!

No more this…gatorade7Instead, let’s start measuring some apple cider vinegar. Say what? Yes, it’s true. This original recipe comes from No Meat Athlete, with two tablespoons apple cider vinegar. But after a children’s taste testing, I trimmed it down to one.gatorade6¬†Next, some maple syrup. Ah…now I’ve got you, right?gatorade5¬†And some salt. When you lick your arm after a run, do you taste the sweat? (you do lick your arm, right? ūüôā ) Your body needs to replace that salt (electrolytes!)gatorade4¬†Next: water and juice and that’s it!gatorade3¬†A little posing for the camera…gatorade1¬†Now put in fridge and watch the kids fill up their water bottles and play like champs!¬†gatorade2

Homemade Grape Gatorade

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups 100% grape juice

Directions: stir it all together and gulp!

Do we really need Gatorade? No, not unless we’ve been exercising about two hours and sweating like fiends. Water is best before and during a sporting event, but after a hard workout, it’s nice to refuel quickly with something a little more flavorful. I’m not actually a huge grape juice fan, but with this recipe, I like it. I liked it better than the first time I made it with cranberry-pomegranate. Use whatever juice you like, but make sure it’s 100%; we don’t need to be adding any more sugary drinks to our diet.

Other tips…

  • Refrigerate overnight and the flavors will meld and mellow a bit.
  • Put in ice cube tray and pop them into water bottles the next day for some next-day fuel.
  • Switch up the flavors to see what you like best.

Enjoy!

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Tasty Cauliflower Rice {and so healthy!}

Looking for a¬†rice substitute? As an ardent rice lover, I don’t look for substitutes. Until I tried this. It’s fantastic!

Cauliflower, you say? Yes, it’s true.

It’s so tasty I predict you’ll be seeing a lot more of it. Why not be a trendsetter and start serving it now? My sister-in-law, Kim, introduced us to this recipe this summer and we are now converts – THANK YOU! All of the darlings¬†loved it – it even looks like white rice.

It’s fine to chop or food process a head of cauliflower yourself, but finding it bagged is even more convenient; you’ll have a side in 15 minutes. I’ve seen chopped cauliflower in the freezer section and at Trader Joe’s. Snatch it and hold on tight! Otherwise, start here:dsc_0023¬†Cut it up into florets:¬†dsc_0033¬†Pause and admire the pure whiteness:dsc_0032¬†Now start choppin’! I was a little lazy and just wanted to eat; chop as fine as you can – like rice!¬†dsc_0042¬†Now chop some onion and put it in a pan with olive oil until onion is soft.dsc_0053¬†Add the cauliflower, some garlic powder, salt, and pepper (and anything else you fancy!) When cooked, added some chopped cilantro.dsc_0002¬†I would have gotten a better photo but we ate it so fast it was almost gone!

I especially love this “faux” rice paired with this¬†Mexican dish: dsc_0008I’ll post that recipe next if you like!

Ready to eat? YES.

Tasty Cauliflower Rice:

INGREDIENTS:

  • Cauliflower florets, chopped fine (pre chopped if possible for time saver!)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 1¬†tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon¬†salt and pepper (to your preferred taste)

Directions:

  • Heat olive oil on medium heat, add chopped onions, and cook until soft. Add chopped cauliflower, onion, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Cook about 15-20 minutes until soft. Finish for one minute with chopped cilantro.
  • Variations include cauliflower fried rice – add an egg, soy sauce, and green onion. Add to soups instead of rice or potato. Add a little bacon and you’re golden ūüôā

Enjoy and Happy Weekend!

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The Great New Hampshire, Vermont Food Tour

The idea of eating our way across New Hampshire was all Glenn’s fault, who knows the way to The Professors heart: food. More specifically, after reading an article about the best doughnuts in every single state, he decided we needed to do our duty and find out.

You know, some people visit every state to run marathons. Apparently, doughnut tasting is more up our ally. I’ll have you know, I’m still running! In fact, doughnut-tasting family reunions¬†is why I HAVE to run!

While Glenn, Kim, and darling children were visiting from Saudi Arabia (yes, it’s true. they really live there) we decided to make a day of it: find the best doughnuts in New Hampshire AND taste test across state lines.

Of course we didn’t hit all the hot spots, but we did taste test at EIGHT establishments. For heavens sakes, is this what your family vacations look like?

Are you ready to visit New England yet? Here goes: the great New Hampshire, Vermont Food Tour of Summer 2016. Courtesy of us. The piggies.

  1. Muriel’s Donuts in Lebanon, NH. This was the establishment that started it all. Rated as “#1 donut of New Hampshire,” the donuts were¬†only 40 minutes up the road.¬†Muriel is a cute, elderly woman working out of a tiny, but tidy, hovel, serving up warm, buttery, fluffy, melt-in-your mouth donuts (how the heck do you really spell “donut”?) Recommendation: Cinnamon sugar donut. Were they good? They were pretty darn good.

    o

    Before the cinnamon sugar…

2. King Arthur Flour Company. After the donuts we were ready for lunch! Oh man, for the love of all things baking – this store and cafe is a DREAM.¬†Due to the large amount of flour I already had, I limited myself to one purchase: Amy’s Recommendation:¬†a bag of Crystalized Ginger Bits¬†($15) for scones. Can’t wait!

The Professor's Lunch: Brie and Apple Sandwich on Homemade King Arthur Flour Bread for $7-8.

The Professor’s Lunch: Brie and Apple Sandwich on Homemade King Arthur Flour Bread for $7-8.

3.¬†Ben and Jerry’s!¬†This is a serious operation that includes a tour of the facility, complete with holstein cows in the pasture and an earth conscious message. It’s like a tiny amusement park that hosts hundreds and hundreds of people a day. This is because, well, the ice-cream is fantastic and the tour is fun! And the gift center is full of earthy tie-die hats and shirts.¬†Amy’s Recommendation: Chocolate Therapy! ahhhhh, prepare to get wrecked.

4. Chocolate made us want more chocolate. It was off to Lake Champlain Chocolates in Waterbury, VT.¬†¬†Featuring a “full selection of chocolates, a hot chocolate caf√©, award-winning house made ice cream, hand-whipped fudge, Vermont souvenirs, and plenty of factory seconds.”¬†Amy’s Recommendation: Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate, 54% Cacao, topped with Whipped Cream.

5. Next door? The Cabot Cheese Company in Waterbury, VT. Here we sampled no less than thirty cheeses. Amy’s Cheese Recommendation: Lamberton. I have no idea what that is exactly, but it was gooooood. Satisfyingly stuffed, we drove up the road to…

6. Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury-Stowe, VT. Oh my goodness, what a charming country store and mill, complete with free cider samples, gallon jugs to purchase, 50 cent apple cider donuts, and more Vermont cheese. Here is where my heart truly melted. I have to say, these were the best donuts of the day!¬†Amy’s Recommendation:¬†Fresh Pressed Cider and Apple Cider Donuts.

unnamed-2

Cope: “This is like, low-key, the best cheese I’ve ever had”

unnamed-4

Arthur-approved cider so you know it’s good!

unnamed-3

7. Simon Pearce Glassblowing and Restaurant, in Queechee VT. Needing a reprieve from food, we stopped to see the glassblowing and drool over the handmade pieces we’ll never be able to afford ūüôā Also cool, is the water mill that provides the power for the entire Simon Pearce operation. The restaurant is upscale and pricey, but well worth a visit for special occasions.

8. Dinner? The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, NH. The Skinny Pancake specializes in a plethora of savory and sweet crepes priced between $9-$12. Atmosphere is intimate and family friendly. Amy’s Recommendation: for sweet, The Lovemaker, featuring strawberries, nutella, and whipped cream (do you like the name? :). Can’t go wrong. For savory, The Pizza Crepe. Huge kid hit. And guess what? Any crepe can be made with their gluten-free batter!

9. It was a good thing Morano’s Gelato in Hanover, NH was closed, but I’ve got to include it here because it’s hands-down the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, including my samples in Europe – it’s THAT GOOD. Amy’s Recommendation:¬†Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk or Hazelnut. The combination is unbelievably swoon-worthy.

Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk Gelato for $3.89

Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk Gelato for $3.89

We rolled ourselves home and collapsed into bed after a full day of gluttony. If you need Boston recommendations, I could do that too ūüôā But this is a bit¬†more off the beaten path and a way to experience authentic¬†New England in New Hampshire and Vermont.

We’ve been swimming and running ever since – I swear! But I’m considering a change of profession to food critic.

Enjoy! Questions? I’ll attempt to answer. Hope your summer is as tasty as ours!

xoxo

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Green Shamrock Smoothie (the gut healer)

A repost. For St. Patty’s Day.
Drink this (not the¬†beguiling¬†Shamrock Shake from the McD drive-thru that will wreck your gut…)

greensmoothie2This one’s for you: The Green Shamrock Smoothie. Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a gut¬†healer, not a gut destroyer. It will make you feel¬†good instead of…not. It provides¬†energy instead of migraines.

Click here: Gut health is important

Do you suffer from bloating, constipation, gut aches and pains? The following ingredients are well-known for their gut healing magic.greensmoothie1

 Green Shamrock Smoothie (the gut healer)

1-2 Cups Water

1/2 Squeezed Lemon

1/2 inch Ginger (skin on, scrubbed)

1 Cup Spinach (fresh or frozen)

1 Cup Kale (fresh or frozen)

1/2 Avocado (peeled)

1 Green Apple (cut, skin on)

1 Frozen Banana

Directions: Put ingredients in the Vitamix (or other powerful blender and give it a whirl.)

If you’ve never had a really green smoothie before, this may take some acclimating. You may feel the need to grimace. But after awhile¬†an interesting thing happens: taste buds change.¬†¬†After a day or two without my precious¬†green smoothie, I start to crave greens. I need it. I want it. I must have it.¬†my precious.

McDonald’s Shamrock Shake nutrition information:¬†Calories (535) and fat (15 grams) aside, the¬†Shamrock Shake has 73 grams of sugar.

4 grams = 1 teaspoon.

That’s 18.25 TEASPOONS of Sugar in a 12 oz. drink.¬†Woah, Bessy! Drink real greens and this shamrock shake will taste disgustingly fake. For reals.

Click on this link and be further appalled: Is sugar bad for your gut?

Are you convinced? Drink good greens not dyed chemicals.

 

May the luck of the Irish be in your gut today!

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Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan Cheese Shavings {omgoodness}

We’ve got a little brussel obsession going on in our house. What? You don’t like brussels? Do you have traumatizing¬†soggy-vegetable memories from childhood? Well friends, your life is about to change with this dish.

My children actually like this green vegetable. Actually they LOVE it.

It all began one evening in San Diego when brother Seth said, “let’s go out and eat the brussels.” ¬†Say what? Who goes out to dinner for brussel sprouts? Now we know why. We were served the most amazing appetizer that The Professor and I RAN HOME to recreate right here in cow-land.

DSC_0109 (1)¬†So good. So easy. Bonus: brussels are GOOD for you! (and so is bacon…right?)

IMG_3987¬†It’s easy-peasy and easily made right on the stove top.DSC_0113 (1)¬†Balsamic glaze is different than balsamic vinegar, which would make this dish a bit too watery. Find the glaze next to the vinegar and you’ll be a happy brussel eater.

DSC_0098 (1)-1Hold ’em high, Nellie Mak! Hold ’em proud. We went outside for the good light. “Mom, you’re so weird. Can I go inside now?” (And yes, it’s too much to ask to look at the camera)

IMG_4009¬†Let’s get a closer iPhone look.

With a little help from the local piggy (recently procured and man is homegrown pork incredible!), parmesan cheese, and balsamic glaze, brussel sprouts have risen to the top of my list. I crave them. I want them.¬†must have them.DSC_0115 (1)So here you go. And may the love of brussels be ever in your favor…

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan Shavings

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-2 pounds brussel sprouts, washed and halved
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shavings (good quality!)
  • Balsamic glaze to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. On the stovetop, heat iron-cast or dutch oven pan/pot over medium heat. Add chopped bacon. Cook until halfway done.
  2. Add washed and halved brussel sprouts, stirring frequently until brussels are dark green and you see some nice dark searing marks (about 10-15 minutes). Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Remove from heat and slide brussels and bacon onto serving dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese shavings on top of brussels.
  4. Add balsamic glaze lightly, atop brussels and around dish for decoration.

The ingredient numbers are estimated. If you want to go with a full pound of bacon be my guest! If you like more parmesan, generously sprinkle.

But do me one favor: Try it. You”ll like it!

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Aunt Margie’s German Chocolate Cake {a love story}

unnamedThis cake is brought to you just in time for Valentine’s. It’s special for three reasons:

  1. It’s my Aunt Margie’s recipe, who is now gone, but I have her cake and think of her whenever I make it.
  2. It has a very special ingredient that makes me laugh.
  3. It represents so many things I love about my husband.

Sometimes we don’t want to share our favorite recipes because then they won’t be special, but boy am I¬†glad¬†Aunt Margie didn’t keep¬†this one all to herself¬†– life is so much better with this cake in it.

If you want only the recipe, skip to the end. If you’d like the love story, keep reading…

Aunt Margie and Uncle Warren raised my father after both his parents passed away when he was young. He grew up on a dairy farm in my most favorite place ever: Bear Lake, Idaho. When we visited in the summer Aunt Margie cooked, and boy was she a good cook!

Aunt Margie was a farmer’s wife and made¬†everything¬†from scratch which is why this cake’s very special ingredient makes me laugh. Are you ready for it…the very special ingredient is…a…cake mix! When I showed surprise she whispered, “you can make the cake by scratch if you want, but it’s just as good with the mix.” I had a new admiration¬†for a busy¬†woman who knew a good thing when she saw it. I have the original cake recipe, but Aunt Margie was right – the cake mix is just as good and so much easier!

As for my husband? Well, way back when I was going through a sad time in my romantic life. I wanted to make a very special cake for a boy who had kind of broken up with me. But he kept coming around. To show him what a catch I was, I figured all he needed was a bite of this very special cake that I had made from scratch (hey, I was young.)

I biked to the grocery store on my green Trek bike and discovered¬†that¬†I hadn’t brought the recipe with me. Did the frosting call for evaporated milk or condensed? Oh well! What’s the difference¬†(said the clueless bakerella)? I bought the condensed milk.

I baked the cake mix (even I could do that) and began the frosting. Stirring it on the stove, I could not get it to thicken. Doubt began to fester. I stirred and stirred until I figured it was good enough Рand dumped the frosting onto the cake. It vaguely occurred to me that maybe there was a difference between condensed and evaporated milk.

It was¬†a soupy mess. But I optimistically hoped¬†it would miraculously thicken and be as delicious as Aunt Margie’s cake.

Then I went and did my hair.

The boy was¬†late, not showing up until 10 o’clock. I had grumpily gone to bed (party animal way back then, too). My roommates followed me as¬†I ever-so-glamourously carried out my very special cake and presented it to the boy. (um, this is beginning to sound like an embarrassing 50’s story but I assure you I was a feminist in other ways ūüôā

The boy took a look at my cake, put his hand on his stomach and said, “Oh, I’m so stuffed. I really couldn’t.”

Before I threw my cake AT the boy¬†my roommates ushered me into the kitchen where they assured me it wasn’t¬†me or my semi-disturbing-looking cake, it was¬†him.

This moment, I sadly realized, was THE END of that boy.

The next day I was quite ill. I had a cold and a broken heart was miserably missing Anatomy class to go lay down thinking I was going to fail out of school for missing class, a baking failure and no one would ever marry me (not dramatic at all, not me.)

As I passed a condo out popped The Professor who I had just met.¬†Rather than walk toward campus he surprised me by walking me home.¬†There are many funny details to this story, but I’ll cut to the most important part: he walked into my apartment and saw my cake on the table.

The Professor you see, has always been a man who appreciates good food. “Mmmm,” he said, eyeing my cake.

“You can have some,” I said, feeling very sorry for myself. “No one else wants any” (boo hoo…)

“Thanks.” And then he did an audacious thing: he didn’t politely wait for me to open the utensil¬†drawer and hand him a fork. He opened every drawer in the kitchen until he found a fork and then rather than wait for a plate, he stuck his fork in the middle of the cake and took a huge bite. Oh my.¬†This professorial¬†boy who used very big words, was excessively polite, and infuriatingly sparse with his compliments was eating my cake.

It was rather horrifying.

And then he said the only words I needed to hear: “Mmmm, tasty!” And proceeded to take another large bite.

Oh, I could have cried. Which I did. After he left.

And maybe it was then that I knew I had finally found the right boy.

It’s¬†the small things, isn’t it?

And so, on the eve of this Valentine’s, I’d like to give you my very special, most favorite cake recipe. Passed down from my dear Aunt Margie¬†who knew when to substitute, and has been made with love every since, all these years later.

unnamed-2I had to take the picture with my iPhone due to computer problems. My photography, as with my baking skills, is always a work in progress.

German Chocolate Cake by Aunt Margie

For the cake:

1 German Chocolate Cake Mix (devils food works fine, too).

Bake and cool

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 egg yolk, whisked
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix and cook butter, eggs yolks, evaporated milk, and sugar on low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and coconut and walnuts. Spread on warm cake between layers or on top.

May you bake it with love, eat it with love, and enjoy it through the years, just as we have.

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Orange Ginger Splashed Smoothie

Want more energy? Want to feel good? Want to make your skin glow with goodness? Inspired by Laura at abeautifulplate.com, I jumped at the chance to blend me some orange ginger-splashed magic just in time for love day.DSC_0008 Start with juicy orangesDSC_0227 A beautiful yellow beet (much sweeter and more mild than red)
DSC_0089-11 carrot plucked fresh from the garden…or the grocery store will do

IMG_58681 Braeburn apple – yum!

unnamed-1A hunk of ginger, 2 inches thick

unnamed

Orange Ginger Splashed Smoothie:

  • ¬†2 navel oranges
  • 1¬†medium golden¬†beet,¬†peeled
  • 1 carrot, scrubbed
  • 1 Braeburn apple, cut
  • 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water + handful of ice

Blend it all together and have a gulp of goodness (you know I fancy the vitamin for its superior blending capacity.) Who needs caffeine when you could have a smoothie to get going?

This recipe was inspired by¬†pressed juice, meaning all the juice was squeezed out of the fruit and vegetables. But I prefer smoothies for several reasons: smoothies keep you full longer, they contain more nutrients especially fiber, there’s less waste, and they¬†are much less time consuming to make than juicing. In addition, because of the fiber (the bulk), smoothies don’t hit your bloodstream so hard and fast like juices do, which means you have longer-lasting and more steady energy.

Convinced? Give it a try!

On Facebook, a friend asked, “isn’t that a lot of ginger?” Yes, it is! There is definitely a “zing” to this, which I like, but I’ve also acquired it. Ginger is terrific for gut health which is why I eat/drink so much of it. If you’re not a ginger fan, try less of it.

Looking for more valentine treats? You might like:

Oreo Truffles with Strawberriesfruit-heart-300x300homemade dark chocolate

cream puffspuffpancakes-300x300old-fashioned sugar cookies

Happy weekend!

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