Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hallelujah

Try as I might, there are just no words to add to this beautiful message.  Just enjoy, and let it touch your heart on this Easter Sunday.




Thursday, March 24, 2016

Salsa


This recipe first posted on July 28, 2011.

Since we are getting ready to launch our new blog, I thought it would be fun to share the very first recipe I ever posted.  Haha.  The photo quality isn't all that, and I did have a date stamp on the photo.  Didn't know about PicMonkey back then or I would have cropped that out and done a little more editing!  But still, this is one of my favorite recipes.  Hope you enjoy it again!


(Sorry about the date stamp! I'm a newbie.)

When I left El Paso, TX  9 years ago, one thing I brought back to North Carolina was a good salsa recipe.  I learned how to make it in a Relief Society Homemaking  mini-class (the Relief Society is the women's auxiliary of our church).  I loved our Hispanic members and learned so much from them, including how to make homemade tortillas.  This recipe started there, but I have tweaked it along the way.


Ingredients:
6-8 roma tomatoes
1-2 fresh jalapenos
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh cilantro (I use a handful)
Lime juice, to taste
Salt, to taste

1.  Roast the tomatoes and jalapenos in the oven until skins are nice and crispy.  I put mine in a toaster oven.  Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle them.

2.  Peel the tomatoes and "gut" and de-stem the jalapenos.  If you leave the seeds in the peppers you will have a spicier salsa--muy picosa!

3.  Place tomatoes and jalapenos in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients and process to desired consistency.  I prefer slightly chunky. You can add water to thin it.

4.  Serve with tortilla chips.

A few tips--a squeeze or two of lime juice is all you need.  Salt to taste, but take into consideration the saltiness of your chips.  I buy a dozen or so jalapenos at a time and roast them and then keep them in the freezer so I can have them on hand when I need a salsa fix or when my sister Amy comes to visit.

"Cool" Tip--I used to waste so much fresh cilantro until I saw a neat thing on an Emeril Legasse show.  Loosely chop the cilantro bunch and distribute into the sections of an ice cube tray.  Lightly fill with water and freeze.  Once frozen, pop cilantro cubes out of tray and store in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.  Easy to pop into soups, pasta sauce, chili, etc. I thaw several cubes out when I am thawing the jalapenos and then they are both ready for the salsa.

Salud!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Chocolate Bombs

It's the afternoon.  You're dragging.  And you're hungry.  "Is there still ice cream in the freezer?" you think to yourself.  "Wait, no, there's a bag of chips in the pantry!"  Or maybe you're at the office and there's leftover birthday cake in the break room.  Or donuts.  Or both!

Let me introduce you to my secret weapon against those junk food temptations.  I wage war on those moments with this recipe in my arsenal.  I call them....(pause for dramatic effect).....Chocolate Bombs!

Ever since I found this recipe from The Gabriel Method E-Cookbook, it's been my go-to for fighting hunger and snack attacks with a healthy and filling alternative.  One of my most vulnerable times for hunger is Sundays.  I try to eat something right before I leave, but by the time I get home after church (which is three hours long) I am ready to eat the front door!  Armed with a few of these tucked away in my purse or waiting for me in the car, I soothe the hunger beast during the twenty minute drive home.

You could make a breakfast of these if you like; or just snack on them when you need a pick me up or have an afternoon snack attack.  I always have a big glass of water (or water bottle) on hand with these as they are quite the mouthful!

It's the afternoon.  You're dragging.  And you're hungry.  "Chocolate bombs to the rescue!" you shout triumphantly.


Ingredients:
1/3 cup almonds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
unsweetened coconut (to taste)
1 tsp. sesame seeds
4 tsp raw cacao
3 Tbsp almond butter
2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
1 Tbsp raw cashew butter
5-10 drops liquid stevia
1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the almonds are in very small pieces.
2.  Check the consistency by taking a small amount of the mixture and forming it into a ball.  If it's too crumbly, add more almond or cashew butter in small amounts and process again.  Once it will form a ball, you've gotten it right!
3.  Using your hand or a small cookie scoop, take out tablespoonfuls of the mixture, squeeze if necessary, and roll into a ball in your hands.  
4.  Eat immediately or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Makes about 10-12 bombs, depending on how big you make them

A few notes:
  • The original recipe calls for Tahini in place of cashew butter.  Not a Tahini fan, so I subbed.  The original also called for a teaspoon of stevia but I only had liquid.  For the cacao I increased the amount from 3 teaspoons in the original, to 4.
  • How much coconut you say?  I'm a coconut lover, so I would guess I add 1/4 cup.  This will affect how much extra nut butter you need to add at the end (if any).
  • I love these.  So when I make them, I triple the batch.  Tripling just fits the mixture in my Ninja food processor.
Source:  slightly adapted from the Choc Seed Treat recipe in The Gabriel Method E-Cookbook 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tending Your Life's Garden

Beautiful roses at Bodnant Garden, Wales
I was a Master Gardener.

Taking the Master Gardener course was exciting.  I just kept thinking, "I'm gonna be a Master Gardener!"  A Master Gardener's garden would surely look amazing--lush, beautiful, and serene.  A Master Gardener's yard would look well-kept and be a beautiful green.  A Master Gardener's veggie garden would be overflowing with perfect produce and fragrant flowers.  If a Master Gardener had acres of land (like I do), her property would look like something on the cover of Country Gardens magazine.

I guess I thought I would come out the other end of the class with magical gardening powers or something.

But I didn't.  

I came out the other end with a lot more book knowledge about gardening, but with no more experience than I had before.  And since that class many years ago, I have yet to achieve any of those gardening dreams.  A combination of life stresses, crazy calendars, and a revulsion for hot and humid Southern summers have been challenging.  And because of all that, I also did not put in the yearly volunteer hours necessary to retain my Master Gardener title.

But couldn't I have steadily improved, even in small increments, even with my crazy schedule and the oppressive summer heat?

Of course I could have.  I just chose not to.  I chose instead to daydream about what my Someday Garden would look like: 
  • once this month is over.
  • once this event is done.
  • once we get back from this trip.
  • once, once, once....
Georgeous water lilies at Bodnant Garden, Wales
This past weekend I attended Time Out for Women in Raleigh NC.  One of my favorite speakers, Jon Bytheway, was one of the first to address us.  He spoke a lot about having roots, about seeds and soil, and then he talked just a little about gardens.

He said that some of the most important events to have ever taken place have been in a garden.  The Garden of Eden.  The Garden of Gethsemane.  The Garden Tomb.  That last one is timely considering the holy day we are about to celebrate next week.  

And I began to think about my spiritual life--my whole life really--as a garden.  If I translated my life, in its current state, into a garden, what would it look like?  As I imagined this garden, I began to feel uncomfortable.  I imagined weeds much too large and much too numerous.  I imagined some plants overgrown and needing dividing while others struggled in their little patch of earth, neglected and withering away.  I saw some points of beauty there too.  

Me in a London park in 2006
But I imagined the gardener as distracted, inconsistent, and a little lazy.  Yes, the gardener is busy; but busy with what?  Is the gardener so preoccuppied with creating a garden art project to hang on the garden wall that she ignores watering the garden?  Is she so consumed with daydreams of what the garden ought to look like that she forgets the work it would take to someday get there?

I realized that both in my actual garden and in my life garden, I have been neglectful.  I have the "book learning" for both.  I know how to garden; I know how to live the gospel.  But am I doing either in an effective way?  

Am I looking for weeds?  
When I find them, am I pulling them out early, before their roots get too deep?
Am I providing nourishment regularly so that no part of the garden begins to suffer?
Am I fertilizing it with rich material that will encourage strong growth?
Am I taking time to appreciate and enjoy the garden?
Do I feel comfortable sharing the garden with others and helping them along their own gardening path?

Today is the first day of spring where I live.  Spring is a time of renewal, growth, and hope.  And it feels like the perfect time for me to get out my gardening gloves and go to work.  

It's time I became a Master Gardener of my life.
Bodnant Garden, Wales

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spaghetti Pie





You get home from work at 5:15 pm.  Guests are coming for dinner at 6:00 and you are trying yet another new recipe, hoping it's a hit and your guests will come back.  Score!  Back in the 80's my good friend Jill used to make spaghetti pie and I used to have the recipe.  Well, do you think I could find it these many years later?  Google is my best friend and this entry isn't exactly like Jill's, but it is a yummy second.  


Ingredients:

6 oz. spaghetti, cooked (I used thin)
2 T. olive oil
2 eggs, well-beaten
3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1 c. whole milk Ricotta cheese (yes you can use skim, but why?)
1 c. pasta sauce
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

  1. Drain spaghetti well, then put in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.  Stir in eggs and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  2. Pour mixture into greased 10-inch pie plate; form into a "crust" by pushing spaghetti up the sides of the plate and forming an indentation in the center.
  3. Spoon Ricotta cheese over the crust.  Top with pasta sauce.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 25 minutes.
  4. Top with Mozzarella and remaining Parmesan and bake another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Cool 10 minutes before cutting.

NOTE:  You can also add veggies to this dish.  I used shredded zucchini that I sauteed with a little onion and put it on top of the Ricotta cheese layer.  Spinach would also be good.


SOURCE:  Sargento

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Italian Elvis Sandwiches

A recipe so weird, I just had to try it.

There I sat, thumbing through who-knows-what outdated magazine at the salon, color setting in my hair.  And I almost didn't read it.  I almost passed right by it.  But when I read the ingredients I couldn't help myself.  I snapped a pic of it with my cell phone and made a mental note to try it soon.

The family was up for it.  (They are adventurous with anything that involves Nutella.)  And when we bravely tried it for the first time, they were not disappointed.  It as a big hit!  And though this dish is a rich, not-every-day kind of food, it gets requested more often than I can tell you (especially from one kid in particular).

So tonight, when we had the missionaries over for dinner and served these for dessert (at the request of that one kid in particular), I remembered...."Oh yeah, I never put this on the blog, did I?"

It only took me a year and a half to remember to share it.  Once you try it, you may not forgive me for waiting so long!  My apologies.....but honestly, you'll be so transported by the unique flavor, you'll forget all about being mad at me.  :)

p.s.....comment below if you get why it's called an Italian Elvis.


Ingredients:

8 slices sturdy white bread*
6 strips of crispy bacon, in bit sized pieces
Nutella
1 ripe banana
8 ounce tub of mascarpone cheese
softened butter
lots of napkins

1.  Heat a griddle or skillet to medium-low heat (like you are making a grilled cheese sandwich, cuz well, you are!).
2.  Place the banana on a dinner plate and mash it well with a fork.  Empty the tub of cheese on top of the mashed banana and use the fork to incorporate the two together.  Set aside.
3.  Butter one side of a slice of bread.  Place this butter-side down on another slice of bread.  Then carefully spread Nutella on top of the slice that's face down with butter.  About 1/8" thick is fine--it's up to you how much you want.  Now place the bacon pieces on top of the Nutella.  (Each sandwich has about 1 1/2 strips of bacon.)
4.  Carefully lift just the Nutella slice of bread and place it butter side down on your griddle or skillet.  Immediately drop some scoops of your banana/cheese mixture on top of the Nutella/bacon and carefully spread it out (it will be about twice as thick as the Nutella).  
5.  Place the other slice of bread on top (you know, the one you used earlier).  Using your flipper/turner/spatula device, gently press down on that top piece.  Then carefully spread some butter on it.
6.  When the bottom slice is golden brown, VERY carefully lift and turn it over to cook on the other side.  All that gooey goodness might make this step a little challenging, but stick with me....it's worth it.
7.  Once the other side is done, lift it out carefully and place it on a flat surface to cool for a minute or two before slicing and eating.

Makes 4 sandwiches

A few notes:
  • Regarding the bread*--super soft white bread will not hold up well to the spreading of Nutella and tends to flatten too much during cooking.  I recommend something like Pepperidge Farm breads, which are delicious and stand up well to this recipe.
  • How many sandwiches this recipe makes will depend a lot on how thick you spread the ingredients on the bread slices.  The amounts listed above reflect my family's preferences and you may need to adjust the recipe based on your own preferences.
  • Where to find mascarpone cheese?  In my grocery store, it's found in the deli department, but if you can't find it, just ask someone at the store.
  • Yes, you do need to have the bacon in pieces.  If you just lay 3 half-strips on bacon down, those suckers will slide right out of the sandwich when you take a bite.  Also, my family prefers it crispy; yours may like it chewier (in which case it's even more important that the bacon be in pieces).
  • Why lots of napkins? You obviously haven't tried to eat one yet.  Go make one, eat it, and then we'll talk.
source:  pretty sure it was out of a Food Network magazine