Monday, September 30, 2013

{FFWD} Tuna and Caramel Apples?

My last post was all about the Doristas and how lovely they all are (don't for get to go leave a comment on that post to sign up for my giveaway). It is a good thing they are all understanding because here I am late again! The first recipe I am including is Piquillo Pepper Wrapped Tuna. Now, I was convinced that I purchased Piquillo pepper but I got roasted red peppers instead. I am pretty sure I looked straight at the ones I wanted and then picked up the ones that looked similar and were $2 cheaper, hence the roasted peppers. This came together very quickly even with a run next door to borrow some paper towels to pat the peppers dry. I tasted a bit of the filling and thought it was tasty. To say thanks for the paper towels I took one of these peppers to my neighbor and then took the rest of them to my neighborhood coffee shop so they could partake in the lemony goodness of these peppers! :) Everyone that tried them said they were delicious!

The second recipe for this post is Caramel Apple Rice Pudding. I will start out by saying that I do not like cottage cheese or tapioca. And I am not really a fan of the texture of rice pudding either. However, caramel apples are one of my fall favorites so I knew I needed to make this. It took a little time to get the milk to boil down but once it did I was able to add some Lagrima Vanilla (smelled heavenly). I put together one lovely cup and gave it to my son after school. He loved the apples on top but said "it kind of got grosser as I got to the middle". He still liked it though and ate more of it later. I gave another small batch to my daughter later who ate the entire cupful! She loved it even though it was cooked apples. I think she likes cooked fruit more than she thinks she does. :) I knew Bobby would not eat this so I gave the rest to the same neighbor from earlier. She has 3 kiddos including a sweet girl who just turned one. She told me that her grandmother's rice pudding was the gold standard of rice pudding so this had a lot to live up to. :) She texted me later and said even her baby girl liked it. I am not sure my prep lived up to her grandma's but at least they got a fun dessert. :) If you have not had a chance you can still pick up a copy of Around My French Table  and join us in year four of cooking through this awesome book! Check out Leave Your Link to see how other cooks enjoyed this recipe this week!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1300, IFBC, Doristas, and a Giveaway

Way back in June of 2005 I posted my very first blog post. I didn't know what I was doing only that I was at home with two small, sweet babies and thinking of things to do. My son had just turned 1 and a month into blogging we got the diagnosis for Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. In June of 2008, after many posts about kids and life in general I discovered Stumbleupon and posted one of my first food posts. In August of that year I stumbled upon Tuesdays with Dorie and made my first ever recipe (a chocolate banded ice cream torte) by Dorie Greenspan. The rest is history and this is my 1300th post! I have baked and cooked along in Baking: From My Home to Yours and Around My French Table (on and off as life happens) since that fateful August in 2008.

Several months ago one of the faithful French Fridays Doristas (as we like to call ourselves) posted a link and told everyone that Dorie was going to be the Keynote speaker at the International Food Bloggers Conference hosted by Foodista! Well, they had a deal that if you agreed to write 3 posts you only had to pay $95 for the conference. If you were not an active blogger it would be $395. Bobby and I started talking about it and thinking about logistics and if we could work it out financially. I was able to find a reasonable plane ticket, found roommates (I will tell you all about them in another post!), talked 2 of my sweet friends into coming and hanging out with me (I will tell you all about them too), and started saving money from teaching flute lessons so I could go and meet the lovely Dorie and her amazing husband, Michael (the original Dorista), in person!

Alice arranged a cocktail hour for all of the Doristas on Thursday evening before the conference at the Trace so we could meet Dorie and spend a little time with her before all the crazy began the next day. To meet all of these sweet people in person after so many years of seeing them on their blogs was priceless! Trevor designed a canvas bag for us and a pin that said "Beware the Dorista's". Susan also designed a pin for each of us to wear. Mary organized a newsletter with all kinds of information in it and the organizers also got two tables reserved for us right in the front for Dorie's keynote speech!

Adriana, Alice and I ended up in an improv class together. Liz was good friends with one of my roommates. Patty and I discovered I had lived in the same town as her. Cher, Kathy, Michelle, Betsy, Tricia and Nana, and Guyla were so sweet and fascinating to talk to actually in person!
The cocktail hour was really special to spend time talking to Dorie about baking but also about life and kids and family. She is incredibly easy to talk to and as sweet as you would think she is. My friend Sarah came with me and was included as a Dorista! Dorie brought each of us a container of Beurre & Sel cookies and Michael insisted that Sarah take some cookies too! :)

The next morning as we gathered for the opening session I was able to sneak in a few pics with my fellow Doristas and then pop to the front for the opening session. As luck would have it I got to sit next to Dorie at one of the front tables. She gave a sweet talk about social media but more about community. She had very sweet things to say about Laurie also, who started the Tuesdays with Dorie group all of those years ago.

Saturday morning several of us got up at 4:30 in the morning to visit Pike Place Market to see the shops opening and to capture some shots before the market was completely jam packed. I loved being down there with several of the Doristas and Barry, who organized our little excursion. He told us that the original Starbucks is not really the original Starbucks. The original actually burned down..or was destroyed. There wasn't a ton going on when we were there but I was able to capture some detail shots that I wouldn't be able to get with a million people milling about and being annoyed that I stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures. Some of the group went to Lola for breakfast and I walked all the way there with them but decided to go back to the hotel for the breakfast provided by Pastry Smart. I was glad I did because it was delicious but I would have enjoyed breakfast with them as well.
Sunday morning we decided on one last Dorista get together. We went to Macrina Bakery which was named one of the top 10 bakeries in North America by Bon Appetit. My throat was feeling a little scratchy so I ordered a lovely pot of jasmine tea with lemon and the pastry of the day which happened  to be an apple ricotta tart. So delicious!! Of course I had been out to a nine course dinner the night before so there was no way I could finish it. But I was glad I ordered it anyway.
I am so thrilled to be part of this group of bakers and cooks and that I got to meet all of these lovely people face to face! It helps put a face with each blog that I am reading each week!

Now on to the giveaway! I will ship anywhere in the continental US.  When you win I will ship to you 1 - 1 oz bottle of Lagrima vanilla, 1 - bar of Scharffen Berger chocolate, 1 - 1 TBSP packet of California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, and I will order a copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours since that is where my baking adventure began! I am not sponsored by any of these companies but love the products.

To enter all you need to do is leave a comment below about what you like to bake. If you would like to enter more than once I have a couple of options for you. 1. Tweet about the giveaway. 2. Share on Facebook. 3. Click that Plus 1 box for Google Plus. Make sure to leave a comment letting me know that you shared the post in those ways. I will accept entries until 3PM Central Time on Sunday October 6th.  4 ways to enter! 4 shots to win! May the odds be eva in your favor! :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Let Them Be Eaten By Bears

Recently I read a book called Let Them Be Eaten By Bears by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. The general idea is that kids do not get outside enough. They are addicted to technology and are losing their way. Most people cannot navigate by the sun or the stars (I know I can't), and have a general distaste for being outside. The author runs an outdoor program at a school in Oregon where he takes kids into the wilderness. He gives plenty of tips for getting your kids outside and back into nature.

When I was in college I spent the summer after my freshman year living and working in Yosemite. I worked Tuesday through Saturday at the Wawona Hotel at the south end of the park and I was part of a ministry called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP). On Saturday I went campground calling, Sunday my ministry partner, Jason, and I would lead a worship service, and then Sunday afternoon and Monday we would hike. The hotel work was hard and I was tired, the ministry was fulfilling, and the hiking renewed my spirit. Being outside, in nature, was an amazing thing. 

My senior year I was a Resident Adviser. All student leaders went on Walkabout. This is an 11 day backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Each team packed in all food and gear, we spent all nights sleeping outside under the stars, each person had a 2 night solo time, and came back changed. During my solo I stood and sang in my little prayer circle and a hummingbird came and hovered right in front of me. I would stop singing and the bird would fly away. I would sing and he would come back. This went on for a good hour and is an experience I will never forget!

Have you ever been at the park and heard a parent tell their kid not to run? They are afraid they might get hurt. I have heard this countless times and it just makes me sad. Children cannot climb, they cannot run, they cannot shout. I was at girl scout camp with my daughter a few years ago and we were outside on a hayride. The girls were rambunctious and yelling. A mom said "Stop yelling! We are outside!" Where else are our kids supposed to yell? It might have been a bit annoying on the hayride but when are they supposed to yell and be kids? They were telling scary stories and reacting to that. 

My kids have technology in their lives. Far more than I did as a kid. We had Colecovision and I will admit I was pretty darn good at jumping over gates in the Smurf game and I was a master at Donkey Kong! But, I played outside a lot. I rode my bike and played with friends outside. As an adult however, I am not outside nearly as much as I should be and my kids are inside far more than they should be. 

All of that to say, after I read the book I started to get that outdoor itch. Bobby has not had fantastic camping experiences so he was not terribly thrilled but since it was my birthday weekend he couldn't say no. Well, he could but he didn't. :) I put out a call to my neighborhood asking if anyone had tents we could borrow and immediately found two, a 3 person and a 6 person. We started looking for someplace inexpensive to go and asked the Facebook universe what they would recommend. We received many great suggestions but my sweet friend Beth said to come to her house. They recently moved to an amazing property on the lake. It was ideal for a first camping trip. We didn't have to pack in all of our food, we had a beautiful view, got to set up tents for the very first time, and if it stormed we would be able to head into the house.
This was the last night of our Whole 30 challenge so I brought marinated chicken. We technically finished Whole 30 at 5 pm so I did indulge in a S'more but still did ok that night on program...unless you count the baked beans and hummus....ok so maybe I didn't do so well that night. :)

Whole 30 Chicken Marinade
I was making a lot of chicken so  I made quite  bit of marinade
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1//2 cup Olive Oil
3 minced cloves of garlic
Half a handful of fresh basil, chopped
Mix together in a Gallon size Ziploc bag
Marinate for several hours, turning occasionally
Grill until no longer pink. Be aware though that olive oil tends to blacken quickly so watch your chicken carefully.

Grant was our grillmaster and cooked everything to perfection. After setting up tents, homerun derby, eating dinner, and making s'mores it was time for a guitar lesson. Bobby gave some tips that were taken and used right away!

Bedtime was a little crazy. We didn't sleep for quite awhile and as we were getting into the tents we were watching lightning across the lake. One point the author makes is that there is no bad weather only bad clothing. If you are not prepared for the weather you could be rather uncomfortable. Thankfully, the rain held off where we were all night long.

Bobby woke early the next morning and went down to the dock to fish. Little Man joined him not too long after. Munchkin slept longer but joined him too. When we woke up I noticed an entire flock of geese down by the dock. They just sat there and I thought that as pretty neat since Bobby fishing right next to them didn't seem to bother them. The kids went down to the dock and still didn't scare them off.  Later when a hawk swooped down and didn't scare them off it still didn't dawn on me that they were decoys! Beth and I were watching the guys and the kids fishing while we whipped up pancakes and turkey bacon for breakfast. When we went down to get them for breakfast they said one of the geese had been looking at the sky for several hours. Just a few minutes later a boat pulled out from the island right near the decoys. The fishermen we decently camouflaged because none of us knew they were there. Goose and dove season had just opened so I guess we kind of ruined it for those guys in the weeds but fishing was eventful, fun, and the kids will remember fishing with their daddy and the geese that didn't move!

After breakfast the dads and kids played homerun derby again, Munchkin jumped in a kayak, and one of our sweet friends hung out and went swimming/hanging on the kayak.
This was a pretty amazing first family camping trip with our friends! Thank you Gus Crew for having us out to Camp Gus! :) Baby steps people! Next time maybe we will tackle a campground in a national park! If you are interested in the book Let Them Be Eaten By Bears you can click the link down here. I have recently become an Amazon Associate so when you click the link I may get a small proceed from your sale. Get your kids outside! Mine loved camping and I hope yours will too!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Whole 30 Lasagna

Last month when Bobby and I were doing Whole 30 I found some great recipes that I will definitely use again. In our 15 years of marriage I have only made lasagna once or twice. Part of the reason for this is that my hubs does not like ricotta cheese and will not touch it with a 10 foot pole. Since this lasagna is dairy and pasta free I thought it would be a win! I used this recipe from CupcakesOMG! and changed it just a bit to suit my family. Instead of Italian sausage I used turkey sausage and I used a white onion instead of red. I did use a small 8 x 8 pan and used 2 zucchinis. I started out trying to slice the zucchini with a knife but was quite unsuccessful and I was a little afraid of chopping off a finger so I busted out the Pampered Chef Mandolin. I lost the guard long ago so there was still the possibility of chopping off a finger but I was aware and managed to come out unscathed.

After browning the ground beef and turkey sausage I mixed all of the other ingredients in and layered them with the zucchini and black olives. If you have read my blog for long you know black olives are not on top of my must eat list but the rest of my family loves them.

All I can say is "win, win , win"! Not only did this make a fantastic, filling dinner, it heated up quite well for lunch the next day! If you are looking for something dairy or gluten free check this out! You cannot go wrong!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

{FFWD} Pork Chops with Rosemary Butter and Two Catch Up Recipes

Whew! It has been a couple of weeks since I have been on the blogging band wagon with French Fridays with Dorie. I have made some of the recipes but while we were doing Whole30 items like Floating Islands were out. However, we are done now and I have added food items back in that we were not eating.

The pork chops up at the top of the pictures was supposed to be veal. I did look for veal but did not see anything that fit the bill at the grocery store. Others said they were using pork chops and that is something I usually have in the freezer. I took 4 tablespoons of butter and mixed in rosemary, thyme, and garlic salt. This went back in the fridge while I made the pork chops. The chops cooked in my big skillet with a little olive oil, minced garlic, and more rosemary. Once they were cooked through I added white wine and chicken broth, cooked it down and sprinkled it over the cooked chops. I sliced a dollop of rosemary and put it on top of the chop and served it with lemon steamed spinach. Have you been to a fancy restaurant where they have a flavor infused butter on their steaks? This, this is what you want! I will definitely be making this butter again to add to chops and steaks! So delicious. Unfortunately, I did not have time to savor my dinner that night as I was running out the door to work.

The next set of pictures is for duck chicken breasts with fresh peaches. The chicken turned out pretty good but the peaches did not. I think if I had used duck instead of chicken there may have been a big difference in the taste. When I said that was what I was going to get at the store though Munchkin made the puke face and my hubster may have copied her. My family has no problem eating chicken but ducks seem to be another story. I think if I had just sliced the peaches and placed them on the plates instead of trying to roast them they would have tasted better. The peaches also may not have been quite as ripe as they needed to be.

The last set of pictures is for Swordfish with Frilly Herb Salad. You can see I am missing frilly herb salad. Sometimes I have fresh herbs but more often I have dried. I did have lovely yellow squash to use though and it steamed up nicely. I have to admit, I have never been much of a fish fan. Before this day, I had never had swordfish. I didn't even really know where to look for it. However, the day I went looking for it at Publix I found it on sale! It was meant to be. :) I was a little afraid but this was delicious! Both kids and my husband loved it as well. I am sure part of it was the marinade that included capers that made it so tasty. What ever it was I will likely make this again.

I am still missing several recipes from the last month or so but I am hoping to catch up soon. Make sure to check out French Fridays with Dorie to see how other cooks around the world enjoyed these recipes. You can also pick up Around My French Table at Amazon. I just became an affiliate so if you click the link I may get a small percentage of sales.

Next week:Tuna Packed Piquillo Peppers

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

{TWD: Baking with Julia} Blueberry Muffins

Welcome back to Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia! I haven't post much on Tuesdays for the last little while. This blueberry muffin recipe was an easy one to pop back in on. I have a blueberry muffin recipe that I use on a regular basis but this one went over pretty well with my family this morning. It included sour cream but no struesal topping like my other recipe. The kids liked these, my hubster liked these, and I liked them. I was not thrilled that the berries sank even after dusting them with flour but they were tasty anyway!

To see how other bakers around the world did with these make sure to check out the Leave Your Link

Monday, September 02, 2013

Our Whole30 Experience

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am going to IFBC, the best food blogger conference in the country, in a couple of weeks.  To get in shape...or at least try to jumpstart some healthier eating...or at least have looser clothing before I go to the conference,  my hubs and I decided to tackle Whole30. This is an elimination diet, or a short term "nutritional reset". You eliminate grains, dairy, soy, and anything manufactured. You basically include the best quality meat you can, preferably grain fed, organic. You can have vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils. You can go all out and get all high end stuff but I still had to actually feed my family on our budget. While I do 93/7 ground beef, and tried to get nitrate free bacon we did the best we would with the rest of our meat.

We ate A LOT of eggs and bacon for breakfast. For a family that eats cereal, oatmeal, toast, pancakes and bananas for breakfast this was a big change. How many ways can one eat eggs? Scrambled with a tiny bit of ghee, scrambled with green onions, scrambled with spinach (not anyone's favorite), scrambled with ghee, green onions and rosemary, fried in ghee, fried in same pan bacon was cooked in, scrambled with sausage mixed in, scrambled with breakfast steak mixed in, and hard boiled.

Lunches for my hubs included a lot of salads with grilled chicken. He did get a hot dog with chili minus the bun one day and we went to lunch at Qdoba once as well. That was kind of a cheat day. I had a naked burrito with brown rice, chicken, grilled veggies, and guacamole. He also had rice that day as well. Lunches for me tended to be grilled chicken with veggies and fruit I had around the house. I tried to be prepared the days that I was teaching by bringing a salad, again with grilled chicken and fruit on it.

I have to say, for dinners I spent more time in the kitchen over the last 30 days cooking than I have in quite some time. I had to be creative because I couldn't just order a pizza, or make tacos with the sleeve of taco seasoning or make a pan of mac and cheese. I cooked with olive oil and coconut oil. I coated chicken in shredded coconut. I made marinades from scratch, and found plenty of ways to cook veggies we don't normally eat.

About day 16 I got this timeline from a friend asking if that was really they way it went. There was some truth to it however, I have not been drinking soda since December of last year so I didn't have a caffeine detox to go through. Bobby did but managed to get through it with a few headaches. The "Kill All the Things" came on day 14. I was irrational and completely crazy. And I felt bad for taking it out on everyone. But it was one day and then I was ok again. About week 3 I was getting a little bored with eggs and not feeling as inspired to put together meals in the kitchen. I like cooking but was tired of washing all of the pans But we kept going. Bobby was extremely encouraging and stuck to the program so much better than I did. I bake for my classes on weeks 1 and 5. This particular class asked for peanut butter fudge for week 5. I will admit I ate 1 piece and discovered I could have eaten the entire pan if left to my own devices. Thank goodness my students liked it and took the rest of it home with them.

I hate to admit this but I felt really good eating this way. I had heartburn 1 day after eating almond butter by itself but other than that my stomach has felt really good. I had a couple of days when my stomach was growling a bit but then we would eat a good dinner and not be hungry at all after that. After the first few days sugar cravings went away. It was not difficult for me to give up bread, pasta, pizza, or Mexican food. I don't have a a sweet tooth I have sweet teeth so giving up sugar was more difficult. Bobby loves his bread, pizza, and Mexican food so that part was more difficult for him. He did say that he was not feeling sluggish in the afternoon and didn't feel like he needed a Diet Mt. Dew for a pick me up.

As an added bonus, I lost 14 pounds and I lost an inch in one area and 2.5 inches in other areas. Bobby lost 20 pounds and 2-4 inches in different areas.

Overall, we did a pretty good job sticking to the program for 30 days. This is my birthday week so we have a few things planned that are not the healthiest options but we are planning on sticking pretty close to what we have been doing for the next few weeks. Perhaps I can lose a few more pounds and inches before my conference. I will post some recipes from our Whole30 in the coming week or so. Good luck to you if you choose to join in!