Thursday, September 11, 2014

Grilled Chicken With Basil Dressing

After a very slow start to the season, my little planter of basil went insane and gave me massive quantities of basil. It's still out there on the deck going strong. I have pesto for days.

In my quest this summer to try to find creative ways to use up all the abundance of veggies and herbs I was blessed with, I stumbled across this little gem from Giada De Laurentiis. I made some modifications. The original calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken, but we prefer grilling boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they are so simple and cook up evenly. Also, I've reduced the salt by quite a bit as the original recipe called for entirely too much. Feel free to adjust to your tastes.

Grilled Chicken With Basil Dressing
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

2/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/2 tsp, fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Whisk 1/3 cup of oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a resalable plastic bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, lemon peel, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until smooth. Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the chicken until just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to serving plates, drizzle with the basil sauce and serve.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Roasted Tomato Flat Breads

All summer long I've been trying to find creative ways to use up my tomatoes. I literally eat them by the handfuls just to keep the huge fruit bowl of them looking manageable. In September, the tomatoes are still going like gangbusters, so the madness marches on.

Grilled flat breads were my summer obsession this year. I'll share a few more variations in the weeks ahead just to get your creative juices flowing. They are one of the easiest and tastiest ways we've found to use up our garden veggies this year, and because we grill them, they're super flavorful and fun.

If you've got a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, like me, this recipe is a great way to use up at least a pint of them.

Tip: We stock up on the Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough to make these super simple. TJ's offers white, whole wheat and herb. At just a little more than a $1, it's super affordable. Just grab several and freeze until you're ready to use.

Roasted Tomato Flat Breads

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 package Trader Joe's pizza dough
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/4 pesto sauce
Fresh basil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut tomatoes into halves. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil, maple syrup and a few pinches of salt. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up, and roast for 45 minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, roll out your pizza dough into four small rounds or rectangles. Brush each round on both sides with remaining olive oil. Grill over medium heat for a few minutes per side until puffed up and browned.

Spread pesto sauce on dough. Top with mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes and fresh basil and grill for another 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm back!

Did you miss me? Ok, you probably forgot all about me. I don't blame you. Life is busy.

Way back at the beginning of the year I talked about how I wanted to spend the year investing in things that brought me the most joy: working in the garden, learning to bake bread and put up food for the winter, and simplifying life. Well, my very demanding job got in the way of a lot of that, but when it didn't, that's what I was spending my free time doing. And blogging simply could not be squeezed on to that list.

Now after seven months of going completely silent, I'm finally ready to dive back in. Life is still busy and I'm still focusing my energy on the above items, which have brought me immense joy and a new found sense of purpose and passion. But I'm ready to share again.

This time around, you may only see one blog post per week. It's not that I don't love you. It's just that I love actually doing the things and preparing the meals I blog about.

I hope you'll dive in again with me. Thanks for following!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wallet-watcher meals: Veggie Enchilada Casserole

Continuing with my promise of quick, easy and affordable meals, this newbie to my recipe circulation is great for its versatility.

One of the best things about veggie-based meals is that you can choose the vegetables of your family’s liking with little to no impact on the overall outcome of the dish. For example, this recipe originally called for zucchini and spinach. I swapped them out for a red pepper and black beans instead, and got rave reviews from my husband. You could easily add other options based on your tastes or the season such as a variety of peppers, winter greens, tomatoes, squash and more.

It’s hard to mess up something that’s doused in delicious enchilada sauce and cheese, so get creative with whatever is on sale to create your family’s favorite version. Enjoy!

Veggie Enchilada Casserole
Adapted from

2 tbsp. oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
4 oz. green chili peppers, diced
6 oz. black olives, sliced
2 ½ cups enchilada sauce *recommend Trader Joe’s brand
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
8 oz. Monterey jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream (optional)
Salsa (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil 9x13 inch baking dish. Add oil to skillet and brown onion, garlic and jalapeno. Add red pepper and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add beans and corn. Cook and stir 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and add diced green chili peppers.

Dip 6 tortillas in the enchilada sauce, and place them in the prepared baking dish, overlapping as needed to cover bottom of dish. Place ½ the vegetable mixture on top of the tortillas. Top with half the cheese. Layer with another 6 tortillas dipped in enchilada sauce and the rest of the vegetable mixture. Drizzle with remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and olives. Over with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream and salsa.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wallet watcher meals: Zesty Bean Posole

I don’t know about you, but my wallet is looking a little thin these days. Although January is always the time of year when we focus on lightening up our bodies, it’s also the time when we’re trying to fatten up our cash reserves a bit after taking a hit during the holidays.

With that in mind, I’m using the month of January to share some recipes that are not only easy and healthy, they’re also great for those of us who are trying to save a few bucks.

As I’ve shared many times, one of the tricks I use to trim my food budget is to drop the meat. So, you’ll find many meatless recipes from me this month. The added benefit is that while you’re shaping up your wallet, you’re also reducing your impact on the environment. Score!

This recipe is a brand new one I tested last week, and will be making several more appearances before the winter is over. It takes a whopping 5 minutes of effort for delicious dinner results.

Zesty Bean Posole
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, December 2013

2 cans (15 – 16 oz.) golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 – 16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 – 16 oz.) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 2/3 cups medium salsa *recommend refrigerated over jar versions
2 tsp. dried oregano
½ cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Slivered green onions
Shredded cheddar cheese

In a 4-quart slow cooker combine hominy, beans, broth, salsa and oregano. Cover; cook on low-heat setting 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting 3 ½ to 4 hours.

With 30 minutes of cook time remaining, increase to high-heat setting. In a small bowl stir together cream and flour until smooth; stir into mixture in cooker. Cover; cook for 30 minutes more or until mixture is slightly thickened.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with green onions and shredded cheese.  

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nature's Gate for color-treated hair

In about six weeks I turn 30. I'm actually excited about it now, but a year ago I was pretty depressed about the whole idea of not being in my 20s anymore. So, in an effort to fight my depression and impending dread about looking older, I ended a five-year break from coloring my hair and started getting highlights over the summer.

Hair-dying chemicals are hardly good for the environment or animals, but I somehow managed to justify it with my on-going use of animal- and environmentally-friendly hair care products. My newly colored hair, however, was not so thrilled. Nor was my hairstylist, who chided me for over-washing my hair AND using products that stripped the color.

I was convinced there weren't any products that would work for me and my animal-friendly beauty regimen, until a random stop at Whole Foods Body got me acquainted with the Nature's Gate hair care line, which includes several solutions for color-treated hair. Not only were the products reasonably priced (I paid about $6.99 for an 18 ounce bottle), they were all-natural, animal-friendly, earth-friendly, vegan and completely non-synthetic.

Still skeptical, I tried out just the conditioner first and was so hooked that I snagged the shampoo the following week. My hair was softer, fuller and the color remained vibrant. And, as an added bonus, their products help my hair stay fresher longer so I can now stick to washing just four days per week instead of my previous daily wash. My hairstylist is thrilled!

I haven't tried out any of the other Nature's Gate products yet, but they offer a full line of beauty products including bath care, skin care, deodorant, oral care, face care, sun care and more. If they're other products are anything like their hair care, I'm sold!

For more information, check out their website:

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Making up for lost time in 2014

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on 2013. As I thought through the year and all of the incredible opportunities along the way, the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I got to have, and the immense amount of time and energy I put into professional success, I also started to think about the many things I gave up to do all that.

Learning how to bake bread and preserves fell to the wayside. Taking up barre and yoga came in fits and starts. Planting the garden ended up eight weeks late due to busy schedules. And simply being in my home – my favorite place in the world – and just sitting and enjoying a cup of tea and a book, often fell victim to endless errands, busy work or mindless tv watching.

I have no regrets about 2013. In fact, it ranks as one of the most fun and exciting years of my life. But as I look ahead to 2014, I’m determined to make it a year filled with doing the things that matter and that I’m most passionate about, and saying no to the things that take me away from doing what I love most.

Even as I write this, I feel a sense of guilt about the wonderful and very worthy things that I will say no to this year like some of my volunteering and work activities. But I also feel a sense of joy in what I will be able to accomplish by saying no to things I like to do so I can say yes to things I truly love to do.

So what are the things in 2014 I plan to focus my energy on? Here’s just a sampling:
  1. Learning the basics of food making. I want to learn how to bake bread and bake it well. I want to make preserves, learn how to make my own pies, and put up food for the winter. And, thanks to my husband’s awesome Christmas gift of an ice cream maker, I want to learn to make the best dang ice cream ever.
  2. My garden. I’m upgrading from small plots to an 8-foot by 16-foot space and am bursting with anticipation. Can spring get here any sooner, please?
  3. Building our local community. We’ve lived in our house for three years and barely know our next door neighbors, let alone anyone else in our suburb. I plan to use goals 1 and 2 to help me with this.
  4. Yoga. I absolutely adored my barre classes in 2013, but am ready to try something new. My wonderful husband is getting me started with some yoga DVDs he got me for Christmas.
  5. Living simply. Cooking more simply, cleaning more simply, shopping less, buying less, eliminating clutter, and taking as much complication out of life as possible.
What are your goals and dreams for the new year? Where will you invest your time and energy?

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