Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spring is Really Here!!

Hello, friends. I'm back. Please forgive my complete and total lack of posting these days. I've been very busy with lots of things. :)

First, now that it's finally nice Spring weather, I've been using almost all my free time to get my gardens going. We added this garden area to our yard last year, and it was almost completely empty at the start of Spring:
Thanks to all the local gardeners selling their perennials at garage sales, and friends for sharing plants, it's actually looking like a garden!

My little vegetable garden is in, too...I don't have much, but it's a start.
I plan to go a bit bigger each year. This year between my raised box and the garden area, we have lettuce, grape tomatoes, dill (mmm, makes my mouth water!), sweet marjoram, rosemary, basil, kale, leeks, and rhubarb. I'm really loving working in the dirt...there is something so satisfying about seeing your own veggies grow.

And, of course, the other primary things keeping me busy....

Which brings me to the food part of this post...I hate cooking lately. I really, really don't want to cook dinner each day. I want to play outside and soak up every minute of these sweet girls because they are getting so big so fast. I got a book from the library of quick dinners in hopes of finding some super easy meals to cook, without much luck yet. Here is my best recipe that meets the easy, fast, healthy criteria that I want these days. It's one of Alaina's favorites, and it makes a big enough batch that we had it almost every night last week.

Please share---what are your get-dinner-on-the-table-quick meals???

Slow Cooked Bean Medley
Mix in the crockpot...
1 1/2 c. ketchup
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c. packed brown sugar/honey
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. italian dressing
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper

Drain and rinse...
1 can kidney beans
1 can black eyed peas
1 can great northern beans
1 can corn/equal amount frozen
1 can chick peas
1 can black beans
**you can use any beans you like, or multiple cans of one type, as long as the quantities add up to the same

Add beans to sauce in crockpot and stir to coat.
Cook on low 5-7 hours, or high 3-4 hours, until onions are tender.
Discard bay leaves.
Serve over rice/noodles/couscous/quinoa

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meal Planning, Anyone?

Meal planning was the topic of discussion with a group of friends this week. It seems like some level of planning is necessary if you are going to eat healthy food, otherwise dinner out is way to frequently the fall-back. I feel like people that
do meal plan have it down to a science. I just started a very loose meal planning each week, and so far it's making life alot easier. I didn't realize how much of my day was spent randomly thinking about what the heck I was going to make for dinner.

My meal planning routine has been to pick one cookbook to work from each week, with some regular stand-bys thrown in. I plan on Sunday night, shop on Monday, and (theoretically) we're all set. This is week three, and I really like
feeling a little more organized! (btw, not a word people would typically use to describe me :) )

My other idea was to stick with general meal types...for example, one night is Mexican night, one is stir fry night, one is pasta night, etc. I think this will be really easy once our CSA starts in a few weeks (more on the awesome-ness of CSA's soon!) and I can just throw in whatever veggies we get to create each meal.

So, to any readers who meal plan--tips? Ideas? What's your system?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's for Dinner Wednesday, FIFTY SOUTH!

EDITED TO ADD... : Duh, my sleep deprived brain didn't even give any details so that YOU can go to our favorite place. :) Fifty South is located on Rt. 50 in Ballston's their website:
The Wednesday afternoon, outdoor farmer's market started up this month in Saratoga. I love taking the girls over and getting some serious shopping done (it's so much more manageable than the super-crowded Saturday market), but it leaves me with little time to cook dinner. So tonight after the market, we headed to our favorite restaurant, Fifty South, for an early dinner. There are very, very few restaurants that we have found locally where we can eat the way we like to. I have been meaning to blog about Fifty South for a while now. This is our usual breakfast spot (local, humanely raised eggs!!), and nothing beats their omelettes. As if the food isn't great enough, the owner, Kim, and the manager, Brenda, are thoughtful and beyond friendly, and have really worked to create and foster community in their restaurant.

Tonight's dinner was perfect. I had a veggie burger (called the Lainey Burger there, after my sweet girl!) that is the best one I've had ever. Mmm... Mike had a tempeh reuben sandwich with sweet potato fries, and Alaina had buckwheat blueberry pancakes. All so delicious. If you live locally, you should visit them. You may even run into us! :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chia Tollhouse Cookies

Remember my chia seeds post? As promised, I experimented with the incredible ch-ch-ch-chia seeds. My research said that I could use chia gel to replace HALF the butter in my baked goods, so I went all out and made a modified batch of Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies.

First step was to make some chia gel...mix 1 tbsp. of chia seeds (they look almost like poppy seeds) with 8 tbsp. of water. Let it sit for just a minute, and you have GEL. I took a photo but it really didn't look like the real-life stuff in my bowl. In real-life, it looked like caviar. Every tiny seed surrounded with a transparent jelly coating. Definitely not something that I felt I wanted to eat. But I pressed on.

Next step, I followed the Toll House recipe, exactly, except for the butter. This is a good cut-down-the-butter recipe, as the original recipe calls for TWO STICKS of butter. Yup.
Hello clogged arteries. One stick of butter equals 8 tablespoons, so into my mixing bowl went ONE stick of butter and 8 tbsp. of my slimy chia gel. Once it was all mixed up, my batter looked pretty normal...the seeds were visibly scattered throughout, and it seemed a little moister than usual, but it looked like cookie dough.

They came out of the oven and looked pretty darn good:

I was still a little wary, though. It was hard to imagine how the slippery, slimy chia gel could cook up into a delicious cookie...

My final verdict after the taste test...WOAH! These cookies were so good. They didn't taste like an original Toll House cookie. They just tasted like a really good chocolate chip cookie. They were lacking the usual crispy edges that the butter provides, but they were incredibly moist and chewy. Turns out that slimy texture turns into chewy perfection once it's baked (couldn't even taste any seeds)!

They cut the fat in HALF, and added healthy omega 3's...these seeds will be stocked in my cupboard from now on. Try 'em!! :)