• March 16, 2016

    Easter Eggs

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    Dying eggs is my most favorite Easter tradition and reminds me of quality time I had with my mom and a good friend of ours while I was growing up.  I don’t remember how my mom’s friend got involved, probably because her boys had outgrown the tradition, but she became an integral part of our celebration.  It has now been years since I last dyed an Easter Egg, but it’s such a beautiful tradition, so I decided to learn a little more about the history behind it all and try my had at naturally coloring some eggs!

    My research has shown me that, like Christmas, many Easter traditions were borrowed from pagan celebrations and repurposed into something new.  Eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth, so early Christians adopted them as a symbol for Christ’s resurrection.

    Understanding the coloring part of the tradition is a little less obvious as there are many different theories as to how it all got started.  Some believe eggs were decorated simply to beautify them in celebration of Lent coming to an end – eggs were not allowed during Lent.  Other’s believe Mary had eggs at the crucifixion and Jesus’ blood dripped on them – coloring them red – and so we color eggs red in remembrance of his sacrifice.  Other legends claim that Mary had the eggs with her and they miraculously turned red when she saw the risen Christ or, alternatively, when she told someone he had risen and he replied that Christ had no more risen than her eggs were red, so they turned red.

    Whatever the historical reason, I enjoy the tradition because it reminds me of home, of simple joys, and of familial closeness.

    Now, on the “show” part of this little show and tell!  *grin*  Because we try to eat cleanly and don’t buy dyes or foods containing dyes, we were determined to try and color some eggs naturally this year!  I didn’t have the time or desire to test lots of different recipes – frankly, I don’t even really like hard boiled eggs all that much – so we’re going to try good old Martha Stewarts recipes out and see what happens!  *grin*

    We decided to try to achieve pale yellow, light blue and chartreuse for our eggs.  There are a lot of other colors that require different ingredients and techniques listed on the website, so I would encourage you to check it out!

    Following the instructions given, we simplified them a bit and came up with the following:

    Pale Yellow: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 3 tablespoons turmeric to a boil.  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Turmeric

     

    Light Blue: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 4 cups chopped cabbage to a boil (add more water and vinegar in their correct proportions if needed to cover the cabbage).  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Cabbage

     

    Chartreuse: Use the dyes already used for pale yellow and light blue.  Soak eggs in the turmeric dye for 30 minutes and remove.  Then, place in the cabbage dye briefly – about 5 minutes.

    Coloring-Eggs

     

    Eggs

    Pro Tip: When removing the eggs from the color, pat them dry with a paper towel – don’t rub!  If you rub too much, the color will come off!

    Expect a bit of variation with your eggs.  I don’t know what makes the color stick or not stick, but some defiantly turned out better than others and they were all done the same.

    Cabbage, turmeric, eggs, and vinegar all stink, so try to plan your egg dying time for when you can have an open window!  Otherwise your house will stink and everyone will wonder what kind of mess you’re making for dinner!

    I hope ya’ll give this little project a try!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the colors and how easy it all actually was.  Way more interesting and fun (as an adult at least… though, you could totally turn this into a mini science lesson for your kids) than the little kits you can buy!

    Easter-Eggs

  • November 4, 2015

    Thai Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks

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    I was at the farmers market this weekend and came across some beautiful leeks that I just had to make something with!  This led me into some experimenting and we came up with a new favorite meal.  The best thing is that it is super easy too!  Now is a great time to find leeks since they are in season, so I hope you’ll give this little dish a try!

     

    Thai Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks Recipe

    By Erin Published: November 4, 2015

    • Yield: 4 Servings

    I was at the farmers market this weekend and came across some beautiful leeks that I just had to make something with!  This led me …

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. Gather Ingredients.
    2. Mix garlic, cilantro, tamari, and sesame oil together and let chicken marinate for 15 - 20 minutes. While the chicken marinates, prep your grill for use.
    3. Cook chicken on the grill, searing on both sides to help keep the juices in.
    4. While the chicken cooks, heat olive oil in a saucepan. When hot, sauté leeks and mushrooms together.
    5. To serve, top chicken with vegetable mixture and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Serve hot.

     

     

  • October 7, 2015

    Stuffed Bell Peppers

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    Happy October, ya’ll!  I’ve probably said this more times than anyone cares to hear, but I love fall!  I love the changing colors, the chilly mornings, the warm drinks, and the tall boots.  I also love the yummy treats and meals that are coming in season now!

    One of our favorite fall meals is stuffed bell peppers.  I use quinoa to add protein without necessitating cooking meat along with everything else that goes into this meal.  I also like to mix and match ingredients depending on what I have on hand.  This recipe is my favorite, though, and I hope you like it as much as we do!

    Stuffed Bell Peppers Recipe

    By Erin Published: October 7, 2015

    • Yield: 4 Stuffed Peppers (4 Servings)

    Happy October, ya'll!  I've probably said this more times than anyone cares to hear, but I love fall!  I love the changing colors, …

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. Set oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, cook quinoa: Rinse 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then put in pot with 2 cups water (or 2 cups broth if you prefer) and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove from heat at let stand 5 minutes.
    2. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place all pepper bottoms and tops on - let bake for 25 minutes.
    3. In a separate pan over high heat, add olive oil and sauté the thyme, garlic, leek, and kale.
    4. When quinoa is done, combine veggie mixture in pot. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
    5. When peppers are done, remove from oven and stuff with the quinoa/veggie mixture and top with the pepper's top. Serve warm and enjoy!

     

    Pro Tip: If you’d like to add meat to this meal, it’s super easy!  Just cook  up some ground sausage while the quinoa is cooking and mix it all in at the end!  You will probably want to halve the quinoa/veggie mixture, though – or bake a few more bell peppers – so the filling to pepper ratio works out better.

    You can also beef up the filling with black beans, corn, peas, nuts, cheese, dried cranberries, etc. depending on your own tastes and what’s in your cupboard!  You really can’t mess this one up.

  • June 11, 2014

    Clean Eating

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    Settle in, everyone, it’s story time!

    So, about this time last year, I went in to my doctor to be tested for food allergies.  At the same time, I decided to try cutting out dairy from my diet to see if there might be an intolerance that was causing stomach aches and other digestive issues.

    Turns out, there aren’t any allergies, though the Celiac Disease is legitimate.  And the lack of dairy in my diet helped some, but not enough that we felt it was a true intolerance at the time.   However, I recently watched this and now I think maybe I do have an intolerance to milk because cheese and yogurt is ok, but milk and ice cream are hit-or-miss… so… yeah.

    *sigh*

    While I was actively keeping the dairy out, we adhered to a strict Paleo diet.  And that was pretty difficult.  So, when we reintroduced dairy, we maintained Paleo leanings, but with cheese and occasional milk or cream.

    As time went on, we started seriously considering what we should be eating and what, specifically, was important to us.  What should we have more of?  Less?  And why?  The more we thought and processed and researched, the more we realized the importance of healthful, well rounded diets.  We also realized the importance of keeping additives and chemicals out of our bodies as much as possible.

    The term “clean eating” came up more than once, but was surprisingly difficult to research.  Everyone, it seems, has a different idea of what constitutes clean eating and what isn’t.  So, like all those before us, we decided to make things up as we go and see what works.  To my husband and me, it means the following:

    1. We eat as much fresh, straight-from-nature food as possible.  This means cutting out a lot of processed foods and looking at food labels when we do get something in a box or jar.  Our basic rule of thumb is to look for ingredients that, if we wanted to, we could find in the grocery store and make the product ourselves.
    2. We eat as much non-gmo and organic food as possible.  These foods can be expensive, though, so I usually follow the dirty dozen/clean fifteen rules.
    3. Two non-meat dinners a week.  And since we usually eat leftovers for lunches, that makes two non-meat lunches too! This is mostly a financial choice, but the opportunity for more fruit and vegetables in our diet is a big reason too.
    4. No artificial colors or flavors and we’re careful of chemical ingredients and preservatives.  That means no: high fructose corn syrup, other artificial sweeteners (including stevia and dextrose), maltodextrin, MSG, and any meat cured with nitrates/nitrites.
    5. When buying oils, I try to find options that say ‘expeller pressed’ on the label and avoid anything ‘hydrogenated’. Olive and coconut are our oils of choice and we stay away from canola and vegetable oils.

    IMG_6511

    Not only have these changes helped my husband and me feel better, it has also contributed to weight loss for my husband.  I’m already small, so maintaining weight where it’s at is more important to me than shedding pounds.  But, really, if you’re looking to lose weight, just eat real food!  It takes fewer calories from natural foods to feel full than calories from processed foods.  You see, processed foods tend to have zero water and fiber, but tons of sugar and salt, so the food is effectively tricking your brain into thinking that you need more food before you’ll feel full and you keep eating.  That’s how they sell so much… think about it.  Processed food isn’t nutrition, its marketing.

    Eating this way also promotes good mental health, increased energy, and reduces the risk of chronic disease.  It regulates blood sugar levels naturally, so you have less risk of spikes and dips like what is experienced when eating processed carbs and sweets.

    So many good reasons to eat clean, healthy, natural foods!

    If you are thinking of making a similar lifestyle change, a word of caution:  this can be really hard at first.  There is a lot of planning and research that goes in to each meal.  There is definitely a learning curve with new ways to cook and shop and… pretty much everything.  Be ready for this.  And be ready to slip up and make mistakes sometimes.  I promise you, it’s ok.  One step, one meal, at a time.  Even small, gradual changes can make a difference in how you feel every day!

    Good luck, friends!

  • June 4, 2014

    Cowboy Burgers

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    Howdy, ya’ll!  Its summer time and that means its grillin’ time!

    I love when its grillin’ time.

    The other day I went to the store to get these burgers a friend had made that were delicious.  They told me it was a pre-made burger in the fresh meat section, so I had to take a look.  After inquiring at the store about ingredients and seeing the price per burger, I figured I could make the same thing for a lot less and use better, more healthful ingredients without any chemicals.

    So I did.

    The store called it a cowboy burger and I can’t really think of a better name for it.  Better Then Store-bought Cowboy Burgers, maybe?  I don’t know… is the name really even an issue?  I mean, can you plagiarize a meat product?

    *ponders*

    Well, whatever you call it, it’s delicious!

    Cowboy Burgers

    By Erin Published: June 4, 2014

    • Yield: 4 or 5

    Howdy, ya’ll!  Its summer time and that means its grillin’ time! I love when its grillin’ time. The other day I went to …

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. IMG_6521Gather Ingredients
    2. IMG_6530Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Get your hands in there and make sure it's really well mixed.
    3. IMG_6533Measure out 1/4 cup (rounded) of the mixture at a time and shape into tightly packed burger patties.
    4. IMG_6551Grill the burger patties until no longer pink in the center.
    5. IMG_6568Serve hot and enjoy with your favorite burger fixin's.

    Pro Tips:

    1.   Chop up the bacon and mushrooms pretty small.  If they are too big, you may have trouble getting the burger patty to stay stuck together.

    2.  Let the burger patties chill in the fridge for an hour or so before cooking.  I suspect this will also help them stay stuck together.

    3.  Or mix an egg up with the other ingredients too.  I’ve heard that helps bind meat together for cooking as well.

    4.  Be sure to cook your burgers all of the way through… ground hamburger is pretty highly processed and isn’t safe to eat uncooked.  I know a lot of people prefer their meat a little (or a lot) pink… but it isn’t worth getting sick over!

    5.  Invest in a burger masher if you plan to make this (or other burgers) on a regular basis.  These little gadgets are not expensive and really help make burgers uniform and stay well packed.

    6.  Omit the cheese to make this recipe Paleo.  It will still be delicious!

     

    Happy Grilling!

  • November 20, 2013

    Thanksgiving for Two

    Next week is Thanksgiving, so I decided it was probably time to start thinking about a menu for the day.  My family never really did the whole traditional turkey-and-all-the-fixin’s meal, so over the past few years, I’ve been learning all about traditional Thanksgiving.

    This year it’s just hubby and me, so I’ll be doing small portions of everything while trying to keep it all healthy with paleo tendencies.  Of course, there will be some grains and dairy that work their way in, but we’ll use substitutes wherever possible and limit what can’t be substituted.

    So, without further ado – here is my Thanksgiving for Two menu for 2013:

    Breakfast:

    • Spinach, Mushroom, & Feta Crustless Quiche
    • Mimosas

    Breakfast

    Snacks:

    • Chex Mix
    • Deviled Eggs

    Eggs

    Dinner:

    • Turkey/Bacon kabobs
    • Mashed Potatoes in the Crock Pot
    • Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts
    • Quinoa Sage Stuffing
    • Wine

    Dinner

    Dessert:

    • Pumpkin pie
    • Brownies

    Pumpkin-Pie

    Since most of these recipes are new to me, I will share the recipe my parents taught me after Dad came home from a turkey hunting trip in Kansas.  This is by far the best way to make turkey for two!

    Turkey and Bacon Kabobs

    By Erin Published: November 20, 2013

      Next week is Thanksgiving, so I decided it was probably time to start thinking about a menu for the day.  My family never really did …

      Ingredients

      Instructions

      1. Heat up the grill to a medium heat.
      2. Cut-TurkeyCut your turkey breasts into long, thin-ish strips and halve your bacon strips. Ensure you have one piece of bacon for each strip of turkey.
      3. Skewered-TurkeyWrap the bacon and turkey strips together and skewer them on kabob sticks.
      4. Place each kabob on the grill and cook, being careful not to burn the bacon. Typically, when the bacon is crispy and looks done, the turkey should also be done.
      5. Cooked-TurkeyServe hot and enjoy!

       

      Pro-Tips:

      If you’re using wooden kabob skewers, be sure to soak them in water first so they won’t burn on the grill.

      These are more filling than you would think, so don’t let their small size trick you into putting 100 on your plate.

      In the event you have leftovers, put a little butter on them when reheating to help prevent them from getting too dry.

    • September 25, 2013

      Blackberry Ribs

      Blackberry Ribs

      I love food prepared on the grill.  It’s quick, delicious, and way less messy than cooking inside.  This recipe can be done on the grill or broiler on a high heat, but grilling is always the best.  There’s just something about cooking with an open flame that makes food so much better.

      Grilling also takes us back to the basics and can make a meal feel very primal…. Very cave[wo]man.

      My husband and I are working towards a Paleo diet.  We haven’t totally figured it out yet, but are making great strides to cut out processed foods, grains, and dairy.  You’ll notice this meal is served with rice as a side, but in my defense, it’s significantly less rice than I used to serve as a side and I… am still adjusting.

      Cutting so much out of our diet hasn’t been easy.  I was already good with doing the gluten free thing, but limiting these other things isn’t easy.  Just like when I had to cut wheat out, there is a big learning curve.  It can be really hard until you get a routine figured out and learn what is ok and what isn’t.

      So, we’ve reached a sort of Paleo compromise:  the only processed foods we eat have natural ingredients (no artificial colors or chemicals) and we’re ok with including things like dairy and grains once in a while.  Cavemen would have occasionally come across stuff like that once in a while too, right?

      Go with me on this one, ok?

      The truth is, it’s not easy to eat real food in America.  Between limited availability, poor/deceitful labeling on foods, and the typical busy American schedule, it is really difficult to eat only real food without spending a fortune and devoting your days to shopping for and preparing your meals.

      Enter Primal Blueprint: Quick & Easy Meals by Mark Sisson and Jenifer Meier.  This cookbook has a ton of great recipes and ideas to help you stay Paleo.  The recipes we’ve tried are all great and not nearly as time consuming as you’d think.  This recipe for Blackberry Ribs is adapted from one found in the book.  Enjoy!

       

      Ingredients:Ingredients

      • ¼ cup sesame oil
      • 1 cup blackberries, frozen (defrosted) or fresh
      • ¼ cup tamari or GF soy sauce
      • Dash of ground ginger
      • 1 garlic clove
      • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
      • 2 pounds flanken-style beef short ribs

       

      Directions:

      1. Blackberry MarinadeCombine sesame oil, blackberries, tamari, ginger, garlic, and rice wine vinegar in a blender and blend until smooth.
      2. MarinadeCoat ribs well in the mixture and while they marinate, heat up your grill or broiler.
      3. GrillCook ribs on each side until caramelized.
      4. PlatedServe with your choice of side and enjoy!

       

      Pro Tips:

      1. Be sure to get the flanken-style ribs!  The first time we made this, I just bought regular short ribs.  I suppose the marinade would be fine on those too, but they take so much longer to cook through… it was really frustrating.
      2. These ribs don’t need lots of marinade time because the mixture sticks pretty well.  Coat the ribs well and throw ‘em on!
      3. The ingredient photo shows ½ cup of sesame oil… don’t do that.  Do ¼ cup like I told you to.  The cookbook also gives directions for a side for the ribs which also calls for a ¼ cup of sesame oil and was combined in the ingredients list.  Read the directions, people.  Learn from my mistake (although, the extra sesame oil wasn’t bad… just more than it really needed).
    • August 14, 2013

      Cook it up!

      Sausage-and-Veggie-Pouch

       

      Another passion I have is making and eating delicious food.

      Delicious, gluten-free, food.

      I am not a band-wagon-weight-loss-fad-diet-gluten-free-by-choice kind of girl. I don’t eat gluten because if I do, it will kill me. Or, to be slightly less dramatic, it will do things that will kill me eventually. So when people tell me “how hard it must be” and how they “could never live without doughnuts and spaghetti” and how “it must be so nice to have such a petite frame and thin waist,” all I can do is shake my head. What a mess fad dieters have made for the rest of us.

      All of that aside, I have spent eight years teaching myself how to stick to a gluten free diet. I was lucky to be diagnosed with Celiac before leaving home to attend university, but a tiny dorm room with no kitchen is NOT a good way to be introduced to the gluten-free lifestyle. I have since invested in a nice, large kitchen and have become much more organized and willing to experiment until I get it right.

      From time to time, I will share some of the recipes that make me happy. I’m actually working on a little cookbook for friends and family who panic when they know I am coming to visit because they are so afraid of poisoning me. Their concern is sweet, but there are so many simple, inexpensive, gluten-free meals out there….

      It took me plenty of time to figure it out, but there are options and it is possible.

      Today’s recipe was inspired by this: http://www.hy-vee.com which I found via pinterest.com. I’ve adjusted it a little for this post… and every other time I make it. Honestly, you can’t really mess this one up, just get whatever veggies you like, get some sausage, put it all in foil, and cook it up! For all you type A’s out there, however, I’ve made a recipe:

      Sausage and Veggie Pouch

      By Erin Published: August 14, 2013

      • Prep: 15 mins
      • Cook: 20 mins
      • Ready In: 35 mins

        Another passion I have is making and eating delicious food. Delicious, gluten-free, food. I am not a …

      Ingredients

      Instructions

      1. IngredientsGather ingredients.
      2. Ingredients 2Wash your veggies and cut everything into bite size pieces.
      3. Open-PacketCombine the pieces in a length of foil along with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.
      4. Closed-PacketSeal the foil up as tightly as you can to ensure juices and food stay on the inside of your foil packet while cooking.
      5. GrillingToss it on the grill for about 20 minutes and flip the packet 10 minutes in.
      6. On-a-PlateServe hot.

      Pro-Tips:

      1. Usually we use two of each ingredient. This time we used veggies grown in a real live garden, not purchased from a grocery store… so they were much bigger than usual. We also added the eggplant for the first time to give it a try (delicious, by the way). What I’m saying is this: you don’t necessarily want to use my photos for your shopping list; unless you’re cooking for a small army. Seriously, I won’t have to cook anything else for at least 2 more days.
      2. This recipe can easily be adapted to be vegetarian or to incorporate things that are in season and so on.
      3. Don’t over-stuff the foil! It’s tempting when you have so many delicious veggies in front of you, but if you fill the packet too full, it will rip open and leak all over everything. Ask me how I know.
      4. When grilling this, it’s good to be very careful when flipping the packets. As mentioned above, the foil is fragile and the contents are a little heavy. You may be tempted to use oven mitts or fancy grill stuff to flip your packet. Instead, and this may sound a little weird but, I highly recommend using welding gloves! They make you feel like a grilling superhero.