Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Random finds....

I've been on an organization/purging kick lately and found the following resources while surfing in the wee hours when I should be sleeping.

Clean Mama Blog- excellent blog posts on green cleaning, spring cleaning and housekeeping along with project ideas and organizing. My favorite? Her step by step clean ALL your bedding blogpost (I'm not a fan of flat sheets, either!)

Simplify 101
- professional organizers that provide online workshops and offer a good selection of free tips and articles on organization. I liked the fact that not only did the tips cover decluttering, organizing and cleaning on both home and office, but it covered productivity and life goals/changes as well.

Crazy Domestic Blog- good articles overall on cleaning and organizing but the one that got me really excited was this guest tutorial on etched glass storage jars. So cute! (I am totally doing this for the holidays).

My new discovery: Podcasts on Organizing (I'm still in the process of finding which ones I like, but it never occurred to me to check itunes for podcasts on cleaning/organizing)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Favorites

I don't know about in your house but in our house dinner time can sometimes be a super busy time of day. Even though it is a busy time of day in our house I still like to get good tasting food on the table in the evenings. With that in mind this week's Friay Favorites are all about the quick and easy meal.

Mccormick 30 minute meals This is one of my go to sites when I need quick meal ideas. It's not fancy food by any means, but it is tastey and quick, as well as nutricious.

Rachel Ray
We are also big Rachel Ray fans in our house. Her recipes are easy to follow, affordable food, things my whole family will eat even the picky eaters, and quick to prepare.

365 No Repeats Cookbook This is one of my go to cookbooks for dinner ideas when I need a quick and easy meal. I like that it gives me so many options without repeating itself. It inspires me not to cook the same 10 dishes over and over again.

Dinner planner This is a great site to utilize if you, like many of us, find yourself in a rut with cooking the same few things often. It's a grea tool in helping to prepare dinner planning ahead of time so that you have a game plan and can excute that plan. That is also a time saver in the kitchen.

30 meals in one day I haven't tried this product out, but I keep coming back to the site because it is a concept that I have seriously given much thought to. I like the idea of being able to prepare many meals all at once. Using say a Sunday to cook up a week or two (or according to this site 30 days worth) of meals all at one time, then storing them in the freezer for future use. In our house we do prepare some meals ahead of time so that on nights that are super rushed we can just grab the already prepared frozen meal, defrost and heat, add a healthy salad or fresh veggie side dish, and we are good to go. This site may be worth checking out for some of you who want to do a lot of food preparation ahead of time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Favorites

Although summer is still upon us, with Labor Day approaching in a few weeks my mind starts drifting to fall. A wonderful season to enjoy but also one with a lot of yard and house clean up and maintenance. Here are some helpful links for just such an occassion.

Real Simple Home Orgainzing
Fall cleaning Checklist. I always find it helpful to make a checklist when I do spring and fall cleaning. Real Simple has gone and made one up already that you may find helpful if you haven't already made your own list.

Closet Tips
5 tips to organizing your closet. I found this to be helpful although a bit basic. I am always looking for better ways to organize a closet and this was a good place to start.

Fall Backyard Cleanup Tips
Fall cleanup for backyards. This site had a lot of helpful information regarding backyard cleanup for the fall season. They provided ten time saving tips on yard maintenance and care.

Gutter Cleaning
A How to Guide to Gutter cleaning. I put this one in here now because although the leaves are still on the trees, in the northeast they will fall soon enough and if you have to do any maintenance to your gutters it is best to accomplish this before the leaves start to fall so that your gutters are functional when fall does come.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Favorites

This week, I'm celebrating the flavors of summer before it winds down.

Raspberry Limeade Slushies
I've been going through a lime juice phase. So I definitely perked when I saw these luscious slushies with two of my favorite fruit.

French Martini Sorbet
A yummy cocktail inspired dessert from Cooking Light, combining the flavors of raspberry, lemon and pineapple.

Insalata Caprese
Usually by this time of year, we are overrun with tomatoey goodness. My favorite way to use them is Insalata Caprese (the leftovers- if there are any- are great in a sandwich the next day). Best of all, it's a no-cook recipe that's ready in ten minutes. While the traditional recipe only calls for olive oil, occasionally I will cheat and drizzle a few drops of a rich balsamic vinegar on top.

Argula Salad with Peaches and Goat Cheese
This is a new-to-me blog but I love some of the recipes showcased. Make sure you read the helpful Kitchen Notes at the bottom of the recipe. I love using fresh fruits in salads- blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches. So the combination of argula and peaches picqued my interest immediately. Especially with creamy goat cheese and a garlicky dressing. Yum!

And... from the same blog: summertime equals sizzling steaks from the grill for me. But I like to add a fresh, herbal summery kick with chimichurri sauce during these hotter than hot months (plus I can drizzle the sauce on grilled veggies, salads, bread, etc). Blue Kitchen has a recipe that went immediately on my "must try now!" list: Pan Seared Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cauliflower, Sweet Onion and Leek Quiche Recipe - Every Day with Rachael Ray

I had cauliflower and onions that I needed to use up this week and just in time was this recipe from Rachel Ray. I have to say that this turned out really well. I think next time I will make my own crust for the quiche, but over all this was pretty yummy. I think it would also taste good if you added other vegetables to the quiche. Really whatever you had on hand would work.

Cauliflower, Sweet Onion and Leek Quiche Recipe - Every Day with Rachael Ray

Book Review: More Easy Everyday Cooking

More Easy Everyday Cooking by Better Homes and Gardens

This book offers a wide variety of fairly easy recipes that could be made everyday of the week. It is broken into sections: Appetizers & Snacks, Salads, Soups & Stews, Beef & Pork, Fish & Seafood, Poultry, Meatless Dishes, Cookies & Cakes and Desserts. It has over 200 recipes and 144 photographs.

I don't think this book is one I feel I need to own but if I was a working Mom that had trouble coming up with ideas on what to cook - this book might be worth owning. A lot of the recipes are 30 minutes or under (except some of the desserts). I am glad I checked it out from the library and have several recipes flagged to make.

I only have had time to make one recipe. And it was easy and tasted good. I made Baked Vegetable Dippers. It was more healthy also then the fried version of vegetable dippers. The only problem I had it didn't cover as many pieces of veggie as the recipes has in it.

Here is the recipe the Baked Vegetable Dippers:

* Nonstick Cooking Spray
* 1 cup cornflake crumbs
* 2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
* 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/8 teaspoon red pepper
* 2 egg whites
* 2 tablespoon water
* 2 small zucchini or yellow summer squash - cut into 1/4 inch slices
* 1 cup cauliflower florets
* 1 cup halved mushrooms or broccoli florets
* 1 8-ounce can pizza sauce or marinara sauce

Coat baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

In a small bowl combine cornflakes, cheese, garlic powder and red pepper. In a small bowl beat egg whites and water.

Dip vegetables into egg white mixture and then into crumb mixture to coat. Place vegetables in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Heat pizza sauce for dipping warm vegetables.

* I used store brand cornflakes
* Recipe in book calls for 3/4 cup cornflakes - it wasn't going to cover all the veggies I prepared to added more that additional 1/4 cup - I would prepare veggies as you go to make sure you have enough to cover them
* I used homemade marinara sauce

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

This past May I joined a CSA. Up until two weeks before I joined I didn't know much about them. I learned about them through a local friend of mine who has been joining CSA's in our state for several years. A CSA is community supported agriculture.

Some CSA's are simply fee based. You join, pay your fee for the season, and pick up your freshly harvested groceries weekly. Other CSA's are work & fee based. Those are the ones where you go and work a section of the farm and then pay your fees and pick up your produce weekly.

I joined a fee based CSA. (there aren't any in my area that I know of that are work & fee based or I would try it out). I can't say enough good things about CSA's. Our CSA runs for 27 weeks. It started in June and ends at the very end of November. The produce has been simply amazing. I have gotten to try things out that I would not have otherwise ever purchased or tried. Everything that we receive each week is freshly harvested, in the peak of it's growing season, and tastes fantastic.

One of the things I truly love about it is it's locally grown. The farm where I belong is 350 acres and grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and flowers. In the case of where I belong while it is not an organic farm, they do try and minimize the amount of pesticides that they use in the growing process. I love knowing that I support local industry as well.

Currently we are in the peak of summer growing season and have been enjoying a variety of eggplants, peppers (sweet & hot in about 9 varieties), all kinds of summer squash, tomatoes, kohlrabi, peaches, early season apples, sweet corn (3 varieties),a variety of onions, elderberries, black raspberries, a variety of melons, and all sorts of great herbs.

In June and July we also got to enjoy a variety of leaf lettuces, collard greens, mustard greens, some greens whose names I had never heard of (and not sure I care if I hear of them again) asparagus, blueberries, currants, and more garlic & basil and other herbs than one household could ever use, freeze, or give away.

I am excited to see what fall will bring. I am sure we will continue to have many varieties of the above, as well as potatoes, pumpkins, and assorted other root vegetables.

It has caused me to learn to be creative with my cooking as well and to use what we have on hand.

We only did a 1/2 share this time around (which is about 1/2 bushel of fuits & vegs) each week. I have found that at times that wasn't enough depending on the type of offerings. I am thinking of doing a full share next year for my family.

the cost to us worked out to be about $17 dollars per week for the 27 weeks. If I did a full share that cost would have been $25 per week for 27 weeks.

The downside is the CSA I belong to you have to pay up front. The upside is that by paying up front it's like a fun new present received each week :) [some of you may not see it that way but i really do since I already paid for it but now get to continue to receive the box of yummy items each week]

It's also been a great experience for my 2 year old daughter as she goes with me each week to the farm to pick up our order. We feed the animals at the farm and pet the ones that we are allowed to. she even gets to ride horses from time to time. It also is teaching her about so many different types of vegetables. She is also my "helper" in unpacking our order and cleaning and caring for our items. It's been so much fun so far.

We have found vegetables that we love that we never thought we would, and ones that we will know for next time that we simply do not like and will try and trade with other people or give away to family members who might enjoy those that we don't.

I can't say enough great things about joining the CSA and would urge all of you to look in your areas to see if you have one.

Here is a link to the one I belong to (in case any of you are local to my area):

Alstede Farms

Additionally here are some links that may help you learn more about CSA's.

local harvest

wikipedia definition of CSA

Alternative Farming Solutions

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Favorites

With the abundance of wonderful summer vegetables and fruits available to many of us I thought I would dedicate this weeks Friday Favorites to some great recipes as well as some canning and jaring tips so that we can preserve and enjoy these fruits and vegetables long after the season has ended.

Salsa Favorites
This site some fantastic recipes for summer grilling and salsa recipes using all sorts of vegetables as well as proteins. This is one of my go to sites for all sorts of great recipes.

Summer Vegetables
This site has an abundance of great recipes for all kinds of summer vegetables. You might even pick out a recipe for a vegetable you haven'tever cooked and try something new.

Ratatouille Recipes
Sometimes our gardens overflow with a few types of vegetables. As a result making a ratatouille is a great way to use those veggies up and still put a delicious meal on the table.

Canning How To
This site has fantastic instructions on how to jar & can. A must use especially if you haven't ever done this before. It is easy to understand and simple to follow.

Another great Canning Site
Another great site on information for jaring and canning in order to preserve the best of the fruits and vegetables of any particular season

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Portabello stuffed Mushrooms

Last night for dinner I tried out a new recipe that I had gotten from a friend for Crab & Shrimp stuffed Portabello Mushrooms. All of us enjoyed it, even my two year old. This is a definite keeper in our house, so I thought I would share the recipe with you all.

2 cups Cornbread, Crumbled
1 cup Fresh Bread Crumbs
1 Egg
1 cup Chopped Onion
1/2 cup Chopped Celery
1 Bell Pepper Chopped
1 cup Flaked Crab Meat
1 cup Large Shrimp, Chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tarragon Leaves
Salt and Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic Crushed
6 Portabella Mushrooms, Stems Removed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons Melted Butter
1 cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

In a Large pan combine celery, onions, peppers, garlic and butter, cook until vegetables are just soft, combine with breadcrumbs and cornbread, dice stems of mushrooms and add to mixture, add salt and pepper to taste and the tarragon leaves, add Parmesan cheese and egg, add seafood, mix well, mixture should be easily pressed into "Stuffing consistency" if too dry add melted butter. set aside In a large skillet combine olive oil and vinegar until hot and braise your mushroom caps, until just heated through and beginning to change color. pat dry, Divide stuffing mixture into 6 equal portions and stuff caps of mushrooms, sprinkle tops with grated mozzarella, and bake at 375 degrees F until cheese is bubbly and stuffing is "Set"

I served this with a plate of assorted grilled vegetables from our recent CSA pickup of the week, as well as a tossed salad and some crusty bread.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

I have always used enchilada sauce from a can. But Master requested enchiladas one night and I realized I didn't have a can in the pantry. I then remembered I had saved a recipe that looked pretty easy. It ended up being very easy and good. It is a keeper as the saying goes.

Easy Enchilada Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons chili powder (original recipe calls for 1/4 cup)
2 cups chicken stock
10 ounces tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
(1/2 teaspoon salt --- left this out as tomato paste often has so much salt)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and smooth out. Adjust the seasonings - such as adding more chili powder if you want it more spicy. Serve on top your favorite enchiladas recipe.



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