Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Greek Spaghetti Squash Boats


Spaghetti squash boats are so easy! I buy my spaghetti squash at Walmart, but am set on growing them in my garden this spring. They are so versatile, and in the past I have stuffed them with a traditional bolognese sauce or Cincinnati chili. One of my favorite easy sides is spaghetti squash with a little olive oil, salt, and parmesan cheese. 

This week, I wanted to mix it up and found this recipe with my favorite Greek toppings - artichoke hearts, feta, pine nuts, spinach, and kalamata olives.  We absolutely loved this recipe, as the flavor is so bright and fresh. 
In my favorite parenting book, Bringing Up Bebe, there are chapters devoted to introducing children to the joy of food. There is no culture that takes cuisine as seriously as they do in France. It's normal to step into the neighborhood creche (French daycare) and find 3 year olds eating manchego with slices of ripe pears. They assume children are young adults with the ability to appreciate amazing food. Parents strive to make their children's plates colorful and flavorful. It is my goal to bring Charlie up as a baby foodie, and one day I hope he will love my colorful spaghetti squash boats! 

Greek Spaghetti Squash Boats
serves 2

Spaghetti squash
2 chicken breasts, grilled and diced (I seasoned with Cavender's greek seasoning) 
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups spinach
3 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup artichoke heart, roughly chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, diced

Roast spaghetti squash (cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, then scrape out inside). Save shells for serving. 

In a dutch oven or skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Once hot, add garlic and onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add spinach and cook until wilted. Add artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Add spaghetti squash and chicken, and stir well. 

Scoop spaghetti squash mixture back into shells, and top with pine nuts and feta cheese. Serve while hot. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

GaryTalk #9: No Excuses

If you're new to the blog, or haven't been introduced to my "Gary Talks", each talk focuses on a principle that was drilled into my head during the eighteen years that I lived under my parents roof. Mind you, not a year more, as it was also drilled into my head that when I graduated high school I was getting the boot. I was allowed back over summers, with the expectation that I worked and saved money. No free lunch, maybe in the White House but not in my parents house.  

     GaryTalk #1: Work Hard Play Hard

     GaryTalk #2: Be Self-Sufficient

     GaryTalk #3: Live a Simple and Frugal Life

     GaryTalk #4: Be Your Own Person

     GaryTalk #5: Less Talking, More Doing

     GaryTalk #6: Embrace Change

     GaryTalk #7: The Gary McLean Pep Talk

     GaryTalk #8: Choose Your Crowd


I was thinking about my mom and dad on the treadmill this morning, I think because I am missing them and they are traveling. Well that got to to thinking about about a new Gary Talk. 

I went back to work a few weeks ago, and what I quickly realized after spending months at home with Charlie that #1 I was thrilled to be around adult conversation again, #2 I love my job and work with awesome people, and #3 that most folks make a lot of excuses. One particular patient gave me at least 5 reasons on why they had stopped taking their blood pressure medication - too expensive, plain forgetful, feel great without it, on and on. One by one, I could have broken down every excuse. Did you call your doctor and let them know you could not afford a name brand medication? Do you use a pill organizer? Do you understand why hypertension is called the "silent killer"?

Instead, I just laughed inside my own head. Was it funny? Not particularly. But, I realized in that moment, that each and every one of us is guilty of doing the same thing. Often, we blame work for keeping us too busy, too tired, or too stressed. We blame our circumstances, the lack of money or time. Sorry, just had "too much going on" and "feeling under the weather" are ones that I hear often, sometimes out of my own mouth. But if something is really important, we make time for it and do it instead of making up an excuse. 

When I was little, we got called on it. Why didn't you take out the trash? Why did you get a B on that test? Why did you miss your curfew? As adults, we have to call ourselves on it. No one wants to hear your excuse. Be honest.  If you make a mistake, didn't reach a goal, said you were going to do something and then didn't, just look in the mirror, own it, and do better next time.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bangin Good Shrimp


You will not be surprised to learn that having a romantic date night at home with a 3 month old baby is a challenge. Just when the candles are lit and the table is set, baby Charlie decides to wake up in the swing and start crying. It's happened twice so far, and both times I've been so frustrated because a squealing baby is not the least romantic! 
Never one to give up easily, last night I found the perfect solution. Rather than one big meal, I made three appetizers and staged them while we were watching The Godfather. Since Josh and I prefer small plates anyways, this was just perfect. A big meal puts a damper on the evening since we stuff ourselves silly and get sleepy, and usually fall asleep half way through the movie.  We started with these shrimp, and then had stuffed mushrooms followed by eggplant pizzas. 
We put the fussy Charlie in his baby bjorn bouncy chair (lifesaver!), Josh bounced him with his foot, and we watched our movie and started the evening with these amazing shrimp. I tried to explain just how delicious the Bang Bang shrimp appetizer is at Bonefish Grill, and this is a lightened up version from Skinnytaste that is fantastic and easy! 

Bangin Good Shrimp
from Skinnytaste

For the Sauce:

5 Tbsp light mayonnaise
3 Tbsp thai sweet chili sauce
1 tsp Sriracha (to taste)

For the Shrimp:

1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined (weight after peeled)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp canola oil
3 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
4 Tbsp scallions, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, thai sweet chili sauce, and Sriracha. Set aside. Combine lettuce and cabbage and place on a large serving dish (or divide onto plates).

Coat shrimp with cornstarch, mixing well with your hands. Heat a large skillet on high heat, when hot add oil. When oil is hot add the shrimp to the hot pan and cook tossing a few times until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and combine with the sauce coating well. Place shrimp on lettuce and top with scallions. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Curried Short Ribs



In care you hadn't noticed, I took a mini sabbatical from the blog after following my own advice and focusing on what really mattered. It's been a whirlwind of mostly joy and a few melt downs, though nothing that couldn't be fixed with a hug, a dose of mommy's medicine (a dirty vodka martini, one olive) and a good pep talk. Charlie is thriving, I am back to work and we are ready to find our state of calm. 

I promised to make a comeback this week, and this recipe is going to be hard to top. OMG. Talk about setting the bar high. The crock pot does all the work and your house will smell amazing all day. 

If there is one thing I have learned during the last few months of sleep deprivation, it is that food can SLOW you down. Eat simple carbs or sugar and feel tired and sluggish all day.  If you are late to the cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash, or zoodle revolution, it's not too late. These "mock" cauliflower mashed potatoes  are my new favorite side with a steak, and they were perfect with these short ribs.  If you don't get up close, they even look like potatoes! 


Curried Short Ribs
from Against All Grain

2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 lbs bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can coconut milk
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup red curry paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled
  1. Place the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the short ribs with salt and pepper. Place in the pot and sear on all sides, about 6 minutes.
  2. Place the coconut milk, tomato paste, curry paste, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice and ginger in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the sauce and onions to a crock pot. Place the short ribs on top, spooning some sauce over the meat.
  3. Cook for 8 hours on low, basting the ribs once.
  4. Skim off and discard all of the fat that has accumulated at the top of the pot. 
  5. Add the carrots and continue cooking for 1 hour more. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I'm BACK!

This is my comeback week! Coming back to the blog, back to adventures in the kitchen, and back to striving for balance. Leaving you with this quote from the yoga guru but expect a new recipe post in a few days!


Balance is the key. In everything you do. Dance all night long and practice yoga the next day. Drink wine but don't forget your green juice. Eat chocolate when your heart wants it and kale salad when your body needs it. Wear high heels on Saturday and walk barefoot on Sunday. Live high and low. Move and stay still. Embrace all sides of who you are. Be brave, bold, spontaneous and loud and let that complement your abilities to find silence, patience, modesty and peace. Aim for balance. Make your own rules and follow your own path and don't let anybody tell you how to live according to theirs.

- Rachel Brethen (instagram @yoga_girl)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

virtual book club + thanksgiving menu

In honor of my brother's upcoming visit, I've decided to (finally) read his favorite book. He's always been a voracious reader and it's time to get out of my comfort zone.
My parents will be pulling in the driveway around noon tomorrow, and for the first time ever I am hosting my very first Thanksgiving. I am breaking out my fancy serving platters, wedding silver, white napkins, and using our dining buffet for the first time as a serving station. As my friend Taryn loves to say, Wahooooo!  


I am ecstatic and have been pacing around the house all day in anticipation. This year the meal is a group effort. Our great friends are smoking the turkey and bringing the appetizers, and we are making the sides and dessert. I've been contemplating the menu for weeks and here is the final version!

BEVVIES:
Honeycrisp apple sangria (I've made this recipe three times and it's a WINNER)
Rubus Shiraz Barossa (a steal at 13 dollars a bottle)
...followed by Black Box Cab Sav (the 2nd round of wine...only rich folks get to drink top notch wine all night and we are po' folks!) - but BB is smashing good wine at a value!

SIDES:

Cornbread Stuffing (Paula Dean)

DESSERT:
Pecan Pie (Ree Drummond)

And of course a big smoked TURKEY! As you can see, we decided to keep it simple this year with a few really great sides, and I love that we are scaling down and choosing quality over quantity. My "bigger and more is better" mentality with all things is taking the sideline this year, and I am choosing to scale back and focus on spending time with the people we love. 
HAPPY THANKSGIVING...

from my sweet little 6 week old turkey! 


Monday, November 10, 2014

four weeks old + newborn essentials


Our baby boy is already four weeks old, and he is the sweetest little bundle of joy. I'm so lucky to be at home with him to see all the small subtle changes that are happening. He can suddenly put a death grip on my fingers and has the most adorable grumpy face I've ever seen. 
It's taken a month to feel like I have a handle on the Charlie show, but now that we are settling in to a routine with naps, bath time, bed time, and one middle of the night feed I'm ready to get out in the world a bit and actually cook a little! My mom has stocked our freezer with delicious meals so I have been enjoying my favorites for the last month. I literally skip into the garage every morning to make a selection from our freezer. I get to choose from her chicken gumbo, black bean soup, chicken lasagna, and beef bourguignon, and yes I know that I am spoiled rotten. This winter I am going to do a special feature on freezer meals with my mom's top 5 recipes. Truly, the best gift you can bring to someone that needs a boost is a homemade freezer meal. It's love in ziplock. 
This week I'm trying a weekly meal prep in an effort to eat more real foods without having to fuss with fixing anything at lunch time. I'm getting pretty tired of my flat out wrap turkey sandwichs, so yesterday I roasted sweet potatoes, made taco meat, grilled chicken, and quinoa. I have a vegetable drawer full of spinach, romaine, and bell peppers. I already feel great starting the week out with lots of healthy lunch options in the fridge. 

For the expecting or new moms out there, here are my top ten lifesavers from month one (all purchased on Amazon except the Milkin' Cookies and Moms on Call)

If you are wanting to surprise a new mom with a treat - the Milkin' Cookies are phenomenal. I love both flavors, and was introduced to them as a gift from a work friend. Freezer meals and wine also do wonders for the soul! 
  1. Halo microfleece sleep sack - I use the SwaddleMe during the day and Halo at night
  2. Fisher Price Rock n Play
  3. Chico stroller caddy to match our Keyfit 30 car seat - I can fit 100 dollars worth the groceries in the bottom basket 
  4. Mylicon gas drops and Gripe Water
  5. Moms on Call book (this would be the ONE book I'd buy looking back), along with Bringing up Bebe 
  6. Graco white noise machine - the swaddle and noise are key to daytime naps
  7. Mam pacifiers
  8. Earth Mama Angel nipple butter - essential for breastfeeding moms!
  9. Milkin' Cookies - I have one every afternoon with a small cup of coffee
  10. White newborn onesies and Aden + Anais swaddle blankets - Charlie lives in these every single day