Food

Grilled Herb and Tomato Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4

Posted on Jul 31, 2014 in Food

stuffed mushrooms portabella
I think a lot of people approach grilling as a meat-only area of cooking. I get it. I love a good hunk of grilled meat as much as the next carnivore, but the flavor of grilling can be applied to so many meatless dishes, that it’s a shame more folks don’t try it.

stuffed mushrooms portabella grill
Of course, grilling veggies takes some practice. Veggies go from firm and delicious to mushy and unpleasant in a hot second, and all their natural sugars mean they burn really quickly (skip the highest setting on your grill if you’re just doing veggies).

Portabella mushrooms are an awesome place to start with meatless grilling. The mushrooms hold their shape well, and they take on the smoky, meaty flavor and texture that is so pleasant in grilled food. A lot of people use grilled portabellas as a delicious vegan substitute for a burger, even. Yum!

stuffed mushrooms portabella
Here, I took to stuffing the mushrooms with a fresh herb, tomato and mozzarella stuffing that definitely feels a little pizza-y. These mushroom boats are so incredibly satisfying, that they could easily work as a main dish (I’d serve up two of them as a main, with a nice side salad and a big hunk of hearty bread). These also work as a side dish—their strong flavors would make a great partner to any grilled meat or fish.

Enjoy!

Grilled Herb and Tomato Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Grilled Herb and Tomato Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Stuffed with a cheesy, herbed tomato filling, these flavorful grilled mushrooms work as a side dish to a great vegetarian main dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 large portabella mushroom caps
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 Roma tomatos, diced
  • 1/4 cup each minced fresh basil, parsley, and oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill over medium heat. Carefully remove the stems from the mushrooms, dice finely, and place in a bowl. Using a spoon, carefully scrape out the brown gills of the mushrooms, dice finely and add to the bowl with the stems.
  2. Brush one tablespoon of the olive oil onto both sides of each of the mushroom caps. Place caps, stem side down on the preheated grill. Grill for about 5 minutes, or until just beginning to soften.
  3. Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients (including the remaining olive oil) in the bowl with the diced mushroom stems and gills
  4. Flip the mushroom caps over on the grill, and fill each cap up with 1/4 of the filling, making sure to really pack it in. Close the grill lid, lower the grill to low heat, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are very soft and the cheese is melted.
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What’s your favorite veggie to grill up?

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake with Blue Diamond Almonds

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Posted on Jul 28, 2014 in Food

There is an orchard on our homestead. And when I say “orchard” I mean “area of grass that will someday hopefully hold fruit trees,” because, the truth is, our orchard produces pretty much nothing but crabgrass and dandelions now.

That didn’t used to be the case. When I was a little girl growing up here, I remember rows and rows of fruit trees. And right smack in the middle was an old, knotty, twisted cherry tree. My family never had much luck growing tree fruits (hence the empty orchard now), but we could always count on that cherry tree to produce gallons and gallons of vibrantly red cherries. There was no need to have more than one tree—that sucker kept us in cherry pie and cherry preserves all year ’round.

cherries

I think my love for all things cherry comes that workhorse of a tree. I have so many fond memories of picking the low-hanging fruit as a little girl and some not-so-fond memories of “pick cherries” being on my chore list as a teenager. Even though I wasn’t happy about going out and picking the fruit as a 13-year-old (with my head wrapped in a white t-shirt, so my dark hair wouldn’t get too hot in the summer sun), I sucked it up because I knew there were many, many delicious things to come from all that effort.

And, honestly, I always liked picking cherries a heck of a lot more than I liked pitting cherries. That’s an annoying country kid chore that’s right up there with filling mole holes, carrying firewood and snapping pole beans. Although, if you use the ole pastry tip trick (use a pastry tip to poke the pit out—works every time), it makes pitting cherries much easier! In fact, it makes it a little bit fun, even.

pitting cherries

Even though we always had enough cherries stashed in the freezer to make the world’s largest cherry pie when I was a kid, we actually didn’t have dessert much growing up in my house. Dessert was definitely a treat reserved for birthdays, holidays and visitors, and you knew something special was happening (or someone special was coming over) when Mama fired up the oven and started working on a dessert for after supper. In my world, when company is coming over, you vacuum the rugs, put on some music, and bake them something delicious for dessert. And in summer, that meant cobblers, pies, and maybe even a fruity cake!

cherry almond cake

My friends over at Blue Diamond Almonds asked me to use some of their all natural almonds in a dish that would be perfect for summer entertaining, and my mind immediately thought of dessert. Because, still, to this day, you know we’ve got company coming over when I make a dessert!

To me, desserts in the summer have to be fruit-based. I’m as big of a chocoholic as the next girl, but save your triple fudge brownie chocolate cheesecake buttercream surprise for the middle of winter. In July, I want something fresh and fruity. Maybe that’s because I had so many delicious, delicious fruit-based desserts during the summers of my childhood (and many of them thanks to that old cherry tree). There is something about a dessert made with fresh fruit, preferably picked the same day, that just feels like quintessential summer.  And when combined with the natural, nutty flavor of almonds, this cake is a perfect option for serving to guests on a hot summer day (especially if you have some freshly-churned vanilla ice cream to plop along side).

blue diamond almonds

Unfortunately, that cherry tree from my childhood succumbed to old age a few years ago. Even though it wasn’t alive anymore, we still kept its twisted trunk and branches in the middle of the orchard out of respect for how many years and years of delicious fruit it produced for us. And then, last year, I was mowing in the orchard, and happened to bump one of the branches of the tree and the whole thing came crashing down—it was completely hollow from rot. Maybe one day, we’ll plant another cherry tree in that same spot and our daughter will have as many good cherry-flavored memories from it as I do from that old tree.

Enjoy!

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

The cherries turn into a gooey, syrupy topping for the dense almond cake, making it a perfect partner to a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a warm mug of coffee.

Ingredients

    For the Topping:
  • 4 cups cherries, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • For the Cake:
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds (about 4 ounces of whole almonds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a non-stick cake pan or springform pan liberally with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together all the topping ingredients until cherries are well-coated. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and spread into one even layer, set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl, set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, butter, and coconut oil until smooth. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and then the almond extra and yogurt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, making sure it is well mixed between each addition.
  6. Pour the batter over top of the cherry mixture. Spread evenly using a spatula.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate.
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What’s your favorite dessert to serve to company?

Coffee-Banana Smoothie Packs

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Posted on Jul 23, 2014 in Food

smoothie packs

Smoothies are a new parent’s best friend. Seriously. Being able to pack tons of nutrients and goodies into something that can be “eaten” with one hand is pretty much life-saving when you’re busy taking care of a little one. I think all parents should register for a high-quality blender on their baby registry.

Thankfully, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might enjoy some one-handed eats and managed to whip up a big batch of smoothie packs before I went into labor. If you’ve never made a smoothie pack before, basically, it’s all the ingredients for a smoothie portioned out for an individual serving all ready for a trip in the blender. I’m the first to admit that there is nothing complicated about making a smoothie the regular way, but being able to shave a few minutes off with smoothie packs has been a total lifesaver during these itty bitty teeny tiny newborn baby days. All I do is open up one of these packs, dump it into the individual serving cup of my blender with some milk, and—bam!—smoothie.

smoothie

It probably comes as no surprise to you, but my favorite of the smoothie packs I made is this banana-yogurt smoothie that’s spiked with some fully-leaded coffee. I’ve always enjoyed coffee, but I’ve never been one of those folks that needed a daily jolt of java. But now, I’m quite liking the little bit of pick-me-up that I get from coffee, and being that it’s the middle of summer and hot as heck here in the Midwest, I really enjoy getting my burst of energy in cool, creamy, frosty smoothie form.

My smoothie packs have three ingredients—frozen vanilla yogurt cubes, frozen concentrated coffee cubes, and frozen banana pieces.

smoothie packs

To make them, I first just portioned out the yogurt into an ice cube tray. I went with vanilla yogurt because I like the added flavor and the little bit of sweetness, but you could obviously use plain yogurt or whatever else sounds good to you.

yogurt smoothie pack

And then, in another ice cube tray, I froze some highly concentrated coffee. I made this coffee about twice as strong as it would be if I was just drinking the coffee, because I only put two coffee cubes per smoothie. I really wanted that coffee flavor (and well, the caffeine) to come through in the final smoothie. You could also make espresso and freeze it if you have an espresso machine.

coffee smoothie pack

And then I also froze banana pieces into large chunks. For each smoothie pack, I put in two yogurt cubes, two coffee cubes, and about half a frozen banana into pint-sized freezer bags.

smoothie packs

And then, when it’s time to make the smoothie, I just dump the pack into the blender with about a cup of milk and blend it all up until smooth. This gets me about a 12 ounce smoothie, which is a perfect hold-me-over option until I can procure a real meal. I then rinse out the freezer bag and hang it up to dry for the next time I want to make smoothie packs.

This method of smoothie pack making works for all kinds of flavors. I have other packs in the freezer with yogurt cubes, frozen strawberries, frozen bananas and these booster packs—which is nice for when I need to get in some real nutrition. I’m also thinking I might make some with chocolate milk (yum!), banana and peanut butter.

What’s your favorite kind of smoothie?

Daily Eats: Breastfeeding Edition

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Posted on Jul 21, 2014 in Food

me juniper

Breastfeeding is crazy, y’all. Not only do I find it totally insane (and amazing) that my body can produce all the nutrition that a tiny human needs to survive and grow less tiny, but I’m also fascinated by the way nursing affects my body. I had heard that exclusive breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories a day, but I don’t quite think I grasped what that meant in terms of eating and energy levels for me postpartum. That’s like taking a Zumba class everyday or running on the treadmill for an hour! Of course I’m hungrier! And I imagine during baby growth spurts (like we went through last week) you burn even more than 500 calories.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to document a normal day of eating for me while breastfeeding. I think society puts a lot of pressure on new mothers to get their bodies “back” quickly after birth, and that includes being restrictive with food. I definitely think it’s important for moms to take care of themselves and try to get back to a weight and fitness level they are happy with eventually, but I’d also like to do my part to normalize the idea that it’s okay to just coast along and listen to what your body needs while nursing (especially in those first few months).

juniper

Worth noting, even though I’m eating lots, I am still consistently dropping weight–about a pound a week (in total, I’m down about 30 pounds from the day I went into labor). I am also not doing any workouts, just a daily easy walk around our property (usually with June Bug strapped to me). I really think the body was made for this process, and while it may take a bit longer to lose my pregnancy weight than if I restricted calories and worked out intensely, I’m fine with that pace (I totally understand that other new moms might want quicker results). Plus, getting to eat lots of rich, healthy food is kinda a blast. Onto my eats…

10:00am: Whole wheat bagel, cream cheese, eggs and bacon. Plus a side of Greek yogurt with chia seeds, granola and strawberries. Plus a strawberry smoothie and an unpictured big ole Mason jar full of ice water.

breakfast

This has been my breakfast since I got home from the hospital. So yummy! By the time morning comes around, and I’ve done 3+ nursing sessions overnight, I am absolutely starving.

12:00pm: Chocolate protein smoothie.

smoothie

I usually prefer to make my own smoothies, but these suckers were on mega clearance at the grocery store. Plus, I’m a big fan of easy right now, and you don’t get much easier than premade smoothies.

12:30pm: Snack plate with cherries, a Babybel, tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg and apple, peanut butter and raisin sandwiches. Plus a glass of iced oat straw tea.

snack

Back when I was dealing with anxiety and panic attacks immediately postpartum, Craig did some research about natural anxiety remedies and found some folks had success with oat straw tea. It seems to be working for me. Although, It’s entirely possible that it was just coincidence and my hormones began to regulate the soon after I started drinking it, but it doesn’t hurt to have a glass everyday just in case.

3:30pm: Leftover spinach ravioli topped with olive oil and Parm. Plus a side salad and another Mason jar of water.

dinner

I skipped lunch in favor of taking a nap, and both June Bug and I woke up starving. I’m getting impressively good at eating while she nurses.

5:30pm: Fried zucchini.

fried zucchini

There are lots of benefits to living 1/4 mile from your Mama. One of them is that she’ll randomly bring you delicious food (which I suspect is really just an excuse to see the baby). That’s okay, fried zucchini is awesome.

7:30pm-10:30pm: Another snack plate: cherries, a Babybel, a hard boiled egg, tomatoes, cantaloupe and a granola bar. More water.

snack

Baby Girl is a big fan of evening cluster feeding, which means for about three hours every night, I’m camped out at the end of the futon in her nursery feeding her pretty much nonstop. Thank heavens for my iPad, handheld snacks, and an attentive husband. And the fact that babies eventually grow out of cluster feeding. These KIND granola bars have been a staple since June Bug was born. I ordered them in bulk and literally have a dozen boxes stashed in the nursery closet.

1:00am: Granola bar, applesauce and water

snack

Squeezy applesauce is an awesome middle-of-the-night nursing snack. Just enough sugar to give me a bit of energy to stay awake, but not so much that I feel wired.

3:30am: Granola bar, banana with PB, and water

snack

The 3am nursing session is my favorite because it’s such a sweet, quiet time with my baby girl, but man, I am always SO hungry by this point (but entirely too sleep deprived to head to the kitchen for “real” food). I’ve been trying to make up snack plates in the evening so they’re easy to grab-and-go when she wakes up in the middle of the night.

6:00am: Trail mix and water.

Trail Mix

This is the part of the morning where I have to decide to get up for the day or go back to bed. Usually I stay up, and spend some quiet time with the little lady before breakfast, and that requires fuel. I keep a bowl of trail mix by my nursing station for quick and easy snacking.

And then the whole cycle starts over again!

What’s your favorite one-handed snack (I need new ideas!)?

Whole Wheat Freezer Pizza Dough

12

Posted on Jul 16, 2014 in Food

pizza

Every Friday in our house is pizza night. Back before we changed our diet, it usually meant ordering delivery from the local pizza joint (and occasionally, it still does—yum), but more often than not, now we do homemade pizza. We usually load it full of whatever veggies we have kicking around the fridge or coming off in the garden and blanket it with cheese. Sometimes we’ll throw on some bacon or sausage, but usually our homemade pizzas are veggie-heavy.

Pizza

One of the ways I like to make doing homemade pizza crazy easy on Friday (because, really, who wants to do a lot of work for dinner on Fridays?) is to have a constant stash of homemade pizza dough in the freezer. Freezing pizza dough makes it so easy to whip up a homemade pie. I usually just make a big batch of this at the beginning of the month, and it gives us enough crusts to make it through the month. When Friday comes ‘round, I just pull one of the bags out of the freezer in the morning and let it defrost and rise on the counter during the day. Usually by pizza time, it’s nice and puffy and ready for baking.

dough ball

I’ve been perfecting my pizza dough recipe for years, and we absolutely love this one. It’s chewy, doughy, crispy and crunchy in all the right spots. The key to baking it up right is all in your baking method. I know a lot of folks swear by a pizza stone, but I’ve never been able to get good results with one, so I use a pizza pan with holes in it (like this one). The holes are key! They help the crust get nice and crisp on the bottom. I also tend to pre-bake the crust for just a few minutes before putting toppings on, but your cooking method may vary based on your oven, pan and doughy/crispy pizza crust preference.

pizza dough

I’ve made this dough recipe with all kinds of flours, and I really love the taste and texture that comes from using white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour is amazing for baked goods. It’s a 100% whole grain, but since it is ground from the lighter-flavored white wheat berry, it doesn’t have as much of a gritty, nutty whole grain taste or texture. You basically get the taste of white flour and the nutrition of whole wheat. Win! White whole wheat flour definitely deserves a spot in your pantry. I love King Arthur’s organic white whole wheat.

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Freezer Pizza Dough

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 medium pizza crusts

Whole Wheat Freezer Pizza Dough

Who says homemade pizza has to be hard? This make-ahead dough means that making a healthy pizza on a Friday night is easy peasy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6-6 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (or two packets)

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the order listed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (start with the lower amount of flour).
  2. Turn the mixer on low and let mix until smooth, but still sticky, about five minutes. The dough shouldn’t stick to the edges of the bowl, if it does, add in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. 
  3. Turn the mixer up a notch, and let it kneed the dough until it is very supple and smooth, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Divide the dough into four even balls, and freeze in zip-top freezer bags.
  5. To defrost, let dough defrost at room temperature for 4-6 hours, or until puffy and warm. Or, for a quick defrost, place sealed zip-top bag into a sink full of hot water for 30-45 minutes, or until dough is puffy and warm. 
  6. To use, preheat oven to 475°, and spread dough onto a medium-sized (about 14”) pizza pan. Pre-bake in oven for about 5 minutes, then remove from oven, add toppings, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the cheese is brown and bubbly. Let rest five minutes before slicing. 
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What are your favorite pizza toppings (I like bacon, pineapple and feta!)?

Spaghetti Pie

8

Posted on Jul 9, 2014 in Food

spaghetti pie

I was flipping through a cookbook the other day specifically packed with recipes that were good nutritional options for breastfeeding mothers (who knew there were such things?!). One of the foods the book kept talking about was lasagna. Apparently it’s a great balance of protein, carbs and fat that help keep Mom’s body firing on all cylinders. And, as a bonus, it’s an easy covered dish for folks to bring over when they want to visit, and it’s delicious for days and days as leftovers.

Makes sense to me. But I want to offer an alternative to the postpartum lasagna—spaghetti pie.

spaghetti pie

Now, I’ve made my fair share of lasagnas in my life, and many of them have even been very delicious, but I’ve never, ever been able to make a lasagna that takes less than two hours to put together. There is something about the structure and method to making lasagna that seems to make it the longest dish on the planet to make. It seems easy. Just a few layers of this and that, but by the time I actually pull the lasagna out of the oven (and let it set up for 15 minutes, so it isn’t a sloppy mess when I cut into it), it always seems like it’s 9pm, totally dark outside, and all I want to do is go to bed because I’m exhausted from lasagna-making. That’s where spaghetti pie comes in.

spaghetti pie

Spaghetti pie is like all the awesomeness of lasagna, without devoting an entire evening to the journey. Spaghetti pie is lasagna for a weeknight. And while it might not be as fancy pants as a perfectly-executed lasagna, it is just as delicious. Just as filling. And, I’d think, just as good of an option for new parents as a lasagna would be. And I say that as a new parent. Feel free to bring me spaghetti pie—I will not be disappointed in the least—in fact, I would feel better knowing you didn’t spend your entire evening working on a lasagna for me. Take the shortcut!

spaghetti pie

This recipe is tried-and-true—it’s one from my Mama’s recipe box and was my absolute favorite dinner growing up, and makes for some crazy awesome leftovers. Trust me, you want to make this.

Spaghetti Pie

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Spaghetti Pie

Get all the flavor of lasagna without all the work in this pie-shaped Italian casserole. It’s a fun change of pace from the standard Italian fare!

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 large green pepper, diced
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce (about one jar—use your favorite)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10” pie plate (a smaller one will work, but you might have some filling overflow—proceed with caution), set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the spaghetti, butter, Parmesan cheese and eggs until well-combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate and form into a crust—the mixture will be a little gloppy, but do your best. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized skillet, brown the ground beef or turkey with the onion and green pepper until cooked through. Remove from heat, and drain on paper towels. Mix with the spaghetti sauce.
  4. Spread the ricotta or cottage cheese over top of the spaghetti “crust” and then top with the beef mixture. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly. Then sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese and bake an additional five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool and set up for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Cut into six pie-shaped slices and serve.
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What’s your favorite dish to take to new parents?