Friday, February 26, 2010

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes

Tonight my friend Tori came over and we cooked dinner together, chatted, and enjoyed some girl time.  It was a nice, low key Friday evening.  We made this dish that I've been meaning to try for months, but just have never gotten around to.  And now that I finally made it I have no idea what took me so long, it was delicious!

I can't take credit for this recipe though, I got it from Ree's blog, you can see the original recipe here.  I did reduce the oil and butter a tad, used whole wheat thin spaghetti instead of regular white flour pasta, added a touch of red pepper flakes, and used fat-free half and half instead of heavy cream.  This was easy, healthful, delicious, and made entirely of ingredients that I always have on hand.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

5 weeks

According to here is what is going on with our little one this week;

Deep in your uterus your embryo is growing at a furious pace. At this point, he's about the size of a sesame seed, and he looks more like a tiny tadpole than a human. He's now made up of three layers — the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm — which will later form all of his organs and tissues. The neural tube — from which your baby's brain, spinal cord, nerves, and backbone will sprout — is starting to develop in the top layer, called the ectoderm. This layer will also give rise to his skin, hair, nails, mammary and sweat glands, and tooth enamel. His heart and circulatory system begin to form in the middle layer, or mesoderm. (This week, in fact, his tiny heart begins to divide into chambers and beat and pump blood.) The mesoderm will also form your baby's muscles, cartilage, bone, and subcutaneous (under skin) tissue. The third layer, or endoderm, will house his lungs, intestines, and rudimentary urinary system, as well as his thyroid, liver, and pancreas. In the meantime, the primitive placenta and umbilical cord, which deliver nourishment and oxygen to your baby, are already on the job.

As for me, nausea has finally set in!  I spent Monday night heaving in front of the toilet, thinking I was going to get sick every where.  I'm nauseous all day, every day.  Foods that I used to eat daily now disgust me... particularly peanuts and bananas.  I'm living off of saltines, gingerale, ginger tea, chamomile tea, grilled cheese and chicken soup (being a vegetarian went out the window when I realized that real food wasn't acceptable).  Hopefully I'll start feeling better soon, so I can get the poor baby of ours some nutrition.  At least I'm taking pre-natal vitamins.  Due to not being able to eat, I lost 2.5 of the 4 pounds that I had already gained.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Jeremy is still sick, so today was mostly another lazy day in bed of movie watching.  We did manage to make it to church, and I stayed after for a ladies lunch that was super fun.


This is one of our favorite dinners, it's strange that I hadn't made them in over a year. I do the chicken for Jeremy, and then just load up the veggies and toppings onto my torillas.  To serve these vegetarian with more bulk, omit the chicken, and substitute portobello mushrooms for the button mushrooms. Serve with guacamole, salsa, taco sauce, shredded cheese, pickled jalepenos, torillas and sour cream for a build your own fajita bar.

-1 pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced
-1 red onion, cut into thin slices
-3 bell peppers, cut into thin slices (I like a combination of colors like green, red, orange or yellow)
-1 (16 oz) package mushrooms, washed and sliced


-1/2 of a bunch of fresh cilantro, minced
-4-6 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like it)
-1/4 cup olive oil
-juice of 2 limes
-1 teaspoon of salt
-1 tablespoon of sugar
-fresh ground black pepper
-a few dashes of hot pepper sauce, or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 tbsp chili powder

Combine ingredients for the marinade and let meat rest in the marinade for 30- 60 minutes before cooking. Do not exceed two hours because the lime juice will start to cook the meat. (I usually let this happen while I am prepping , chopping, and cooking my veggies.)

Spray a large skillet, wok or stir fry pan with cooking spray or coat with oil and heat over medium high heat. Cook the onions, peepers and mushrooms until desired doneness and set aside on plate. Then cook the meat until cooked through in the same skillet. Once the meat is cooked, returned the veggies to the pan and give them a minute or two to heat up and soak up some of the marinade. Remove from heat and serve immediately with tortillas and your choice of garnishments.

*I have also taken all of these ingredients (marinated meat, veggies etc) and thrown them into a slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours on low. It comes out good, and the meat is very tender, but the flavor just isn’t quite as good when you don’t get to brown the veggies or meat in a pan. However it is a lot easier to come home to at the end of a long work day.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spinach and Tortellini Soup

Today was supposed to be day 3 of my birthday celebration, a day for Jeremy and I to celebrate just the two of us.  Unfortunately my poor hubby ended up sick with a fever over 101 all day.  Our zoo trip and dinner date are now post-poned until next Saturday and today became a restful lazy day in bed with movies and some soul soothing soup.

Spinach and Tortellini Soup

This soup is super simple and hearty.  I didn't measure anything, and just threw everything together based on the amounts that I had.  You could also add a can or two of drained and rinsed white beans to this for extra protein.

-vegetable or chicken broth, I filled my soup pot half full with homemade broth that I defrosted from the freezer, I'm thinking it was roughly 6 cups or so
-about 20 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed
-2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
-dash red pepper flakes
-1 Tbsp sugar
-2 tsp salt
-fresh ground pepper
-2 tsp Italian seasoning
-2 bags frozen cheese tortellini

Heat broth, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in large pot, over medium high heat.  Stir in spinach and tortellini, continue to cook according to tortellini package instructions (5-7 minutes for what I used).  Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese and with crusty bread for dipping.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

4 weeks

Here's what's going on with our baby this week, according to;

This week marks the beginning of the embryonic period. From now until 10 weeks, all of your baby's organs will begin to develop and some will even begin to function. As a result, this is the time when she'll be most vulnerable to anything that might interfere with her development. Right now your baby is an embryo the size of a poppy seed, consisting of two layers: the epiblast and the hypoblast, from which all of her organs and body parts will develop. The primitive placenta is also made up of two layers at this point. Its cells are tunneling into the lining of your uterus, creating spaces for your blood to flow so that the developed placenta will be able to provide nutrients and oxygen to your growing baby when it starts to function at the end of this week. Also present now are the amniotic sac, which will house your baby; the amniotic fluid, which will cushion her as she grows; and the yolk sac, which produces your baby's red blood cells and helps deliver nutrients to her until the placenta has developed and is ready to take over this duty.

As for me, I'm feeling great, maybe a little tired, but completely fine.  I'm more hungry then I've ever been in my life!  I want NEED to eat every hour. on. the. hour.  I've gained 4 pounds within the last 2 weeks, probably a result of me immediately ceasing all exercise (until after I go to the doctor), and the fact that I've been eating for 2. 3. 20.  Any food and every food goes.  I've particularly been eating and wanting dill pickles.  I've been eating 2-3 of them per day.  Jeremy thinks that it's just that I think it's pregnancy food though and am falling for the hype... regardless, pickles are definitely good eats right now!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Peanut Salad Dressing

Peanut Salad Dressing

This is our favorite of all the salad dressings that I've ever made.  It's similar to the kind that you'd find in a Japanese steakhouse.  Pictured, I put it on top of mixed greens topped with a sliced seared tuna steak for a simple dinner.  The recipe that I mixed up below made a TON, but I had a huge box of salad from Sam's Club and the amounts of dressing and salad seemed to be perfect for each other.  The dressing will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.

-2 cups orange juice
-1 inch chunk ginger, peeled, and cut in half
-3 cloves garlic
-dash red pepper flakes
-1 cup smooth peanut butter
-3 Tbsp soy sauce
-3 Tbsp sugar
-3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
-3 Tbsp sesame oil

Place ginger and garlic in food processor, process until well minced.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Meat free ground meat substitute

I used to use Boca Crumbles as an easy way to make standard ground meat dishes vegetarian.  Boca Crumbles are healthy, they easily pass for meat, and they're often cheaper than meat to purchase.  Recently I found an option that is even healthier (less processed) and cheaper than using Boca Crumbles.  I've started substituting cooked lentils for ground meat in all of the traditional dishes and the results always come out awesome.  Lentils work as a great meat substitute for dishes like Asian Lettuce wraps, BBQ, Sloppy Joe's, tacos, spaghetti and more. 


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Edamame Succotash

Edamame Succotash

-1 bag frozen corn, cooked according to package instructions
-1 bag frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
-11 Tbsp olive oil
-1 red pepper, chopped
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tsp dried basil
-1 tsp salt
-fresh ground black pepper
-2 Tbsp rice vinegar
-2 Tbsp white wine or broth

Heat skillet over medium heat, coat with olive oil.  Saute onion and red pepper until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add edamame, corn, basil, salt, black pepper, rice vinegar and broth or wine.  Stir to combine.  Heat through.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Bean Dip

Bean Dip

This is my friend Kim's bean dip recipe.  She makes it all the time, and it's always a hit.  I finally got around to making it myself.  It's quick, easy, healthful, and yummy.  I used the salsa that I made yesterday for this dip, but any jarred variety would work well.  I also mixed the cheese in with the ingredients, rather than spreading it on top.

-1 (15 oz can) refried beans... Kim normally uses refried black beans (can be found in the ethnic section of the supermarket with the Mexican food)
-1 cup salsa
-1 cup fat free sour cream
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Mix together beans, salsa, salt and sour cream.  Spread into baking dish.  Bake at 350 until warm, about 20 minutes.  Top with cheese, and continue to bake until melted.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Restaurant Style Salsa

Restaurant Style Salsa

I adapted this recipe, to make an easy salsa from ingredients that I already had on hand.  My salsa was quite spicy, so I'd suggest mild rotel for anyone who is not a spicy food fan.  The salsa was a little thinner than I like, next time I would drain either the plain tomatoes, the rotel, or both before adding them to the food processor.  We first enjoyed this salsa for breakfast in Huevos Rancheros (which was delicious by the way), then later I ate it with chips, and tomorrow it will be showing up in a recipe for black bean dip.

-1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
-1 can (10 Ounce) Rotel
-1/4 red onion, chopped into chunks
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-dash ground cumin
-handful of fresh cilantro
-juice of 1/2 lime

Pulse garlic and onion in food processor until finely chopped.  Add diced tomatoes (I would drain them first), Rotel, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro.  Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I just turned it on, walked away, and came back in a minute and it was perfect.  Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dinner theme ideas

I love entertaining and having couples or groups over for dinner.  It's a great way to serve others and fellowship as we break bread.  For all of our dinners (with company or not) I try to stick to a general theme/ region to maintain consistent flavors throughout all of the dishes.  Over the years I have developed a list of my favorite theme ideas for entertaining and favorite dishes within each one.  Most of these dishes can be assembled ahead of time, as I like to do all of my cooking before my company arrives so that I can spend my time socializing.  Most of these dishes are among our favorites, that I can pull together easily, and consistently do well.  Most of these themes (especially the bars) lend themself well to pot-lucks for a large group also, in which it's easy to ask multiple guests to bring additional dishes or ingredients.

Mexican Fiesta: tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, taco salad, bean burritos, chile relleno casserole, build your own burritos (or burrito bowls), nachos, tortilla soup, Mexican lasagna, Mexican pizza, black bean and corn salad, Spanish rice, chips & 7 layer dip, salsa, guacamole, black bean dip, queso

Taste of the Orient: egg drop soup, edamame, hot & sour soup, Thai coconut corn soup, moo shu, lettuce wraps, pad thai, sesame chicken, peanut noodles, Asian cole slaw, Asian cuculmber salad, chicken satay, summer rolls, sushi, crab rangoon, Chinese green beans, sesame noodles, sesame carrot salad, fortune cookies

Football/ Game nights: finger sandwiches, baked jalapeno poppers, sausage balls, chili, 7 layer dip, black bean dip, guacamole, salsa, potato skins, brownies, cookies

Chips and Dip: hummus, 7 layer dip, bean dip, hot spinach artichoke dip, cold spinach dip, queso, fresh salsa, hot artichoke dip, olive dip, Carolina caviar, black eyed pea salsa, veggie tray with dip, fruit tray with dip, caramel or chocolate sauce with fruit, pretzels & pound cake

Pizza Bar: pizza dough and assorted topping for guests to spread on before their personal pizzas are baked.  BBQ sauce, marinara sauce, pesto sauce, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, sliced mushrooms, jalapenos, red onion, minced garlic, spinach leaves, shredded cooked chicken, pepperoni etc.  dessert pizza made of cookie dough, topped with cream cheese and fruit.  salad.

Salad Bar: an assortment of salad topping including; spinach, mixed greens, hard boiled eggs, broccoli, mushrooms, shredded carrots, sliced red onion, olives, bacon bits, croutons, feta cheese, tomatoes, dried cranberries, toasted or candied walnuts or pecans, mandarin oranges, avacado, alfafa sprouts.  served with bread and assorted dressings.

Pasta Bar: assorted cooked pastas (spaghetti, farfalle, rotini).  with assorted sauces (red sauce, pesto sauce, alfredo sauce), assorted meatas (Italian sausage, chicken strips, meatballs).  salad.  garlic bread.

Little Italy: cheese, bread, olive, nut, and fruit platter.  lasagna, manicotti, baked ziti, stuffed shells or lasagna rolls. garlic bread, salad, brushetta, tomato mozzarella salad, cheese cake

Meditereanean: kebobs, mousakka, pastichio, gyros, hummus, rice, tabouleh, greek salad, pita bread

Indian: biryani, curry, palak paneer, dal, nan, rice pudding, mango lassi, basmatti rice

Creole/ Cajun: jambalaya, jambalya pasta, red beans and rice, po-boys, boiled crawfish, BBQ shrimp, gumbo, shrimp (or crawfish) creole or etouffe, maque choux, creole okra & tomatos, bananas foster, bread pudding, oysters Rockefeller, stuffed mushrooms

Upscale/ date night/ special occasion: steak, shrimp scampi, stuffed mushrooms, tomato mozzarella salad, chocolate fondue, regular fondue, cheese fondue, baked brie

Comfort foods: meatloaf, pot roast, turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dressing, sweet potato casserole, apple pie, pumpkin pie, baked mac and cheese

Movie night: popcorn, chex mix, spiced nuts, brownies, cookies

Harvest/ fall: pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, apple cider, apple crisp, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, corn soup, pumpkin pasta, candy corn, pumpkin spice lattes, squash casserole, caramel apples... anything squash, corn, or pumpkin

Brunch: french toast casserole, breakfast casserole, baked oatmeal, breakfast burritos, fruit salad

Sundae buffet: cherries, root beer, assorted ice cream, nuts, crushed candy bars, whipped cream, sliced bananas, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, fresh fruit

Southern foods: (oven) fried chicken, shrimp and grits, shrimp cocktail, finger sandwiches, baked mac and cheese, collard greens, hoppin' john

BBQ: BBQ pulled pork, hamburgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, pasta salad, potato salad, fruit salad, cookies, brownies, veggie tray

What are your favorite dinner themes?


Monday, February 1, 2010

Spanish Rice

Tonight was our friend Arthur's second birthday celebration.  We had a pot-luck fiesta at his house with a bunch of friends.  My contributions were black bean & corn salad and this rice dish.  I had to make the rice a day in advance and refridgerate it, because I didn't have enough time to make it before our dinner.  Then I just completed the rest of the dish today.  Chopped jalapeno or canned chiles would be great in here as well, or you could use a can or rotel and leave out the fresh tomatoes.  This dish adapts easily to whatever you have on hand.

Spanish Rice

-2 Tbsp olive oil
-2 cups dry brown rice, cooked according to package directions.
-1/2 green pepper, diced
-1 yellow onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
-2 tsp salt
-fresh ground black pepper
-2 Tbsp sugar
-6 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
-1 tsp oregano

Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat.  Add green pepper and onion to the pan, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, pepper, oregano and cayenne.  Cook until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5 minutes.  Stir in rice until well incorporated.