Sunday, August 29, 2010

Try It, You’ll Like It (Big Flavors for Little Palates)


Yes, I like to say “Fun-Doo” instead of “Fondue” just because it’s fun. Fondue is fun; saying Fun-Doo is fun too. It’s a little cheesy, I admit. (Ha! I did it again! I am so witty.)

Ok, seriously…fondue is a great way to get kids to eat lots of great veggies. I started to make it when I was pregnant and not interested in eating healthy veggies. Why do kids like fondue? Most kids love CHEESE and love to DIP things. Dipping things in cheese? Priceless!

(Note: I have no problem letting my toddler eat traditional fondue made with wine; I cook the wine first to allow the alcohol to cook off and still retain the great flavor. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol or just don’t have it in the house, try substituting chicken broth, apple juice, or white grape juice. Be sure to select unsweetened juice.)

Swiss Fondue Recipe

1 garlic clove
2 cups dry white wine (Hint: But the mini bottles of chardonnay to keep in the kitchen for cooking. If you don’t want to open a regular bottle for a little bit in a recipe, this a great solution!)
1 pound Swiss cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Toss the cornstarch with the shredded cheese until it is incorporated.

Rub a medium saucepan with the garlic clove. Pour in wine and place over medium heat. Allow it to come to a boil and then simmer for 2 minutes.

Slowly begin to add the shredded cheese, stirring in a “figure 8” motion with a wooden spoon.  Stir constantly until all cheese is melted.

Continue to cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, then season with nutmeg.

Serves 6
Great dippers for your fondue:
  • Bread (whole grains are best!)
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Tortellini
  • Mushrooms
  • Grilled chicken strips

Tip: Blanch some of the vegetables to remove the “raw” flavor. This is especially helpful for broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus.

How to Blanch Vegetables:
  1. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set it next to the stove.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  3. Drop your veggies into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the veggies and plunge them into the ice water. This will shock them and stop the cooking process.
  5. Your veggies should still be crisp and cool; the green veggies will even have a brighter, fresher color!

I hope your family has fun with this recipe!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Chicken In Every Pot - Part II

We cooked our fresh chicken on Wednesday night and found it to be delicious, full of flavor, and a (mostly) welcome departure from the grocery store variety.  Here is a recap of the big event:

I chose to brine the chicken.  If I did it again with this type of chicken, I would have allowed it to brine overnight and then "dry out" during the day. 

I used Ina Garten's Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken as my template, with a few adjustments.  (Do you ever watch Barefoot Contessa?  If so, then you know Jeffrey loves his chicken!  It makes us laugh whenever Ina makes chicken for Jeffrey, so I had to pay homage.  Plus, I trust her recipes.  Trust is very important to me when I use other people's recipes.  Well, trust is just important all the time, isn't it?)  Wow...that was a HUGE digression.

Back to the chicken...
The chicken had flavor.  It reminded us a little bit of turkey.  When you buy your typical boneless skinless chicken breast at the store, it is really a blank canvas for your recipe.  This bird had its own tremendous flavor that was simply enhanced with some butter, salt, and pepper.  The inside was stuffed with garlic, lemon, and thyme, but those flavors didn't really stand out to me.

I was most intrigued by the differences in anatomy between my bird and the typical one at the grocery store.  Simply stated, there was very little (if any) fat; the leg meat was very dark; and the breast meat was much smaller.

There was a fair bit of, shall we say, "wrestling" involved in the preparation of our bird.  This is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for people who wish to forget their dinner ever had a life.  I prefer not to work with whole birds just because it doesn't come naturally to me; I need to remind myself every time how to tie it, how to break it down, etc.  This was especially difficult with two little munchkins circling my feet the enitre time.

My favorite moment of the entire experience was when I was breaking down the chicken for us to eat.  As I twisted a leg to pop the joint, Andrew walked in and said, "Mommy, you made us a frog?"  I love it!  I wish you could see the scene; we are still laughing, days later.  I also love that he took it in stride and didn't think it was weird.  (I also love that he asked for me to add nutmeg to his cereal that same morning!)

Would I do it again?  Definitely!  The flavor was great, I learned a lot, and I will be able to improve my techniques next time.  Most importantly, I took comfort in knowing how the chicken was raised.  There was no question that I was feeding my family something wholesome. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life On The Go

They Smile and Nod Politely…

….but people don’t really understand what I do. Once I explain, they generally think it’s cool. So here it is in a nutshell: I go into people’s homes and cook them food.

Interested? Read on my friend, read on…

Usually I make about 20 meals, stocking them in the freezer. Imagine having a lot of convenience meals ready to heat & eat, except they aren’t full of preservatives and sodium; they are made with real food by a real person, and were cooked in your own kitchen instead of a factory. Sounds pretty nice, right?

Imagine if someone cooked food just for you – a menu developed for you based on the food you like to eat, your dietary preferences, your allergies, and even your little food quirks that you won’t admit to anyone except me. Does that make you feel like a celebrity? Cool – it should! Are my clients rich people who live extravagant lifestyles? Nope, not at all (although I would be happy to cook for them as well!). Most of my clients are regular people like you who don’t have the time or interest to cook. They are large families and single people; they are workaholics and stay at home moms.

I hire someone to clean my home. I am perfectly capable of cleaning my own home; I’ve even been known to clean it myself from time to time. However, I don’t want to clean it. Although I desire a clean home, I prefer to spend my time doing something else (cooking, crafts, playing with my kiddos, etc). This is pretty much the same concept for a personal chef: you could cook, you might even want to; but if someone else can do it for you, then why not? Go for it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Gathered In My Garden

A Chicken In Every Pot - Part I

What do you really know about the food you eat?  Not much.  Sometimes I feel it's better that I don't know what happened to the cow or chicken or tomato before it graced my plate.  Some really terrible stuff is going on with the food we eat and ignorance really isn't bliss in this case.  I recommend you spend some time reading Michael Pollan.  Skinny Bitch was a gateway for me; it's so fun and informative that I return to it often.  Bottom line: I know that I can't ignore the food I feed my family.

Tonight will be different.  Tonight when I roast a chicken and lay it down in front of the people I love the most, I will know where that sweet bird came from.  The chicken lived a few miles from us.  It ran in a field (do chickens run?  I'm sure this one did.  And smiled too.), moved freely, and had a healthy life.  Until Tuesday. But I digress.

By now you know that I am loving this process of exploring the foods produced at our local TerraVita Farms.  So when they offered to deliver a fresh, never frozen, free-range chicken from their farm, I couldn't resist.  My only experience with chicken involved grocery stores, factory, pumped up breasts (not in a good way), and uncertain living conditions.  I had a lot of questions, and you might too.  For example:

Q. Will it be whole or in parts?  (Please say parts, please say parts, please say parts....)
A. It is whole.  That's ok; I've been working being brave anyway.

Q. Will there be bits and pieces? (I'm thinking about gizzards and other unmentionables.)
A. No.  *Sigh of relief*

A question I should have asked, but didn't: How long will the neck be?
Hmmm...wasn't ready to see that one.  At least the turkey people have the decency to detach it and shove it in the cavity.  Luckily, my husband knows me and loves me.  After I went to bed, he removed the chicken from the brine, "took care" of the neck, and returned the chicken to the refrigerator.  That's why I married that man.

Ok, so the chicken is resting comfortably in my refrigerator and I am getting ready to make a great dinner for my that can make us all feel good.

Stay tuned for more about our feathered friend...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finding Okra

I like to find a new ingredient that is intriguing to me, learn more about it, and develop a great recipe.  That is exactly what happened on Saturday at the Farmer's Market when some Jing Orange Okra grabbed my attention at the Terra Vita Farms stand. 

Up to this point, my only experience with okra was in soup (maybe even a gumbo), and probably only a couple times.  I didn't have anything against okra, but it just didn't register on my radar.  The color of this particular fruit (yes, it's a fruit; I checked) caught my attention.

After some quick research about okra, I learned just enough to be dangerous in the kitchen.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon a DELICIOUS side dish!  This is basically how it went:

Okra and Sun Dried Tomatoes with Rice

Olive oil
Sun dried tomatoes, julienned
Mild peppers, sliced thin (they were from my parents' garden so I am not sure the variety I used; they looked like banana peppers but didn't have any heat)
Garlic, minced
Okra, sliced thin into wheels
Brown rice (cooked)
Kosher salt

Saute the sun dried tomatoes in the olive oil until fragrant.  Add the peppers and garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the okra and salt; saute for about 1-2 minutes.  If the okra cooks too long, it will get gooey and sticky; you really want it to stay firm.  Stir in some rice.  Eat and enjoy!

Are you interested in learning more about okra?  I was.  Here is a little bit of what I learned this week:

Okra originates in Africa and is a member of the same family as the hibiscus.  Because it has seeds, it is a fruit.  Okra is commonly found in Middle Easter, Cajun, and Creole dishes.  It is a common thickener used in soups and stews, such as gumbo.
To Buy:
  • Choose colorful fruits that are long and thin.  When the pods grow longer, they get woodier, drier, and tougher. 
  • Fresh is best when it comes to okra; it does not store well (even in the refrigerator) and is best when eaten a few days after harvest.
 To Cook:
  • Flavors that pair well with okra include: tomatoes, onion, pepper, curry, coriander, oregano, lemon, and vinegar.
  • Stir-fry tender pods whole; add at the end of cooking and quickly heat through.
  • Steam pods and dip them into seasoned oil or butter.
  • Cut the pods into cross-section "wheels," bread, and fry.
  • Pickle it.
  • To avoide releasing the mucilage and turning it into a goopy mess, keep the pod intact and do not cut off the base or tip.
  • Feeling adventurous?  The mature seeds can be toasted and used as a coffee substitute.
 To Eat:
  • Okra is high in fiber and low in calories.  it contains significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, calcium and iron.  (Delicious and good for you...what could be better?)
I hope this inspsires you to try a little okra the next time you find it at the store or the farmer's market.  Let me know how it goes!

Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Try It, You’ll Like It (Big Flavors for Little Palates)

Anna’s Food at 7 Months

Anna is busy exploring some chunkier textures in her food and even trying to get those pesky little Cheerios into her mouth. So cute!

Here is what a typical day looks like for Anna this summer:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal! We eat a lot of oatmeal in this house, we really do. I usually serve about 1/3 cup of oatmeal with a sprinkle of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg. Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of applesauce (all natural, no added sugar) or minced banana for variety. I haven’t been cooking the oatmeal, but rather just letting the milk soak into the oats.

In this picture, Anna is feeding herself some Cream of Wheat. I make a batch of the cereal (or use some leftovers), pour it into a shallow container, and refrigerate. When it is time to serve, I simply cut it into ¼” cubes, warm it slightly, and serve.
Lunch: I can’t resist sharing fresh, local summer fruit with Anna. Branstool Peaches are at the peak of freshness, so there isn’t a good reason not to eat many each day! We have the amazing opportunity of eating peaches at lunchtime that were harvested that morning. I usually cut and peel the peach, then dice it into tiny pieces. Most days I also mix in one plum that has been prepared in the same way. She loves it!

Dinner: Vegetables are usually the focus of our dinners. Anna can eat most vegetables now, but we tend to eat a lot of sweet potatoes, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash, butternut squash (oh yes, we love our squash too!), carrots, broccoli, and potatoes. I try to incorporate veggies from our main dinner into Anna’s meal as much as possible. Brown rice often makes an appearance with the veggies; although she likes the flavor, I think she gets frustrated when the grains get stuck in her gums so I try to make it creamy by giving it a quick puree in my Magic Bullet.

Drinking: The sippy cup still feels a little forced, but she likes to sip water from a small, open cup. I am grateful that she is still nursing well and plan to continue until she is one year old.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

All Moved In!

Today I made the leap onto a new blogging platform.  I wasn't happy with the old one I was using and it might have been prohibiting me from posting more.  This one feels a little more comfortable, a little more like home. 

This move today explains why there are so many posts on this one date; I moved all of my old content over from the other site one by one.  Fun.

So this will be my new home for awhile.  I'll be settling in over the next few weeks months.  I hope you will join me.

It All Started With A Purple Bean...

I had the luxury of starting my Saturday morning at the Granville Farmer’s Market. Anna and I strolled through the vendors to find a real treasure! We met Anton from Terra Vita Farms and he introduced us to the Red Swan…a gorgeous red-purple hued bean that instantly caught my eye and drew me in. I love the contrast it provides against the green and yellow beans; and I was really excited to see that gorgeous green center when I cut it open.

Anton explained that the red exterior would turn green when cooked, so I knew that a raw bean salad would be my plan.

Inspired by the handful of colorful beans from Terra Vita Farms and some small yellow tomatoes from another vendor, I started to work on a vinaigrette to dress the salad. I worked with several ideas while creating this recipe and ultimately decided on tarragon for the herb. I think that basil or parsley would be nice alternatives.

Terra Vita Bean Salad

2 cups green beans, chopped in 1” pieces
1 cup small yellow tomatoes, halved
3 T red onions, julienned in 1” pieces
4 T olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t dried tarragon
Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

Mix the vegetables in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, tarragon, salt and pepper. Taste the dressing an adjust seasoning. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss lightly to distribute. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day prior to serving.

Serves 4

The bean salad was crisp, earthy, and fresh. I enjoyed it even more because I had a chance to talk to the person who grew those vegetables for my family. Eating locally tastes better every time!

Here is a sweet picture of Anna, checking out our loot from the farmer’s market.

Originally published August 14, 2010

Bumper Crop Cooking

My mom was my inspiration to dig up new new-to-me recipes for zucchini. One day she told me that she froze SEVENTEEN loaves of zucchini bread! This was all in an attempt to use the zucchini from her garden and anything she inherited from friends. These 17 loaves were in addition to the loaves they ate fresh from the oven and the other recipes that used up zucchini in some fashion.

I started to think…there has to be another way. And so began my search for new recipes that breathe life back into those summer staples. You know how the story goes: you grow zucchini and have to use it up, then a friend leaves a bag of it on your porch, a co-worker brings some in to share, and on and on. I hope these recipes will give you a little inspiration the next time you find your countertops piled high with fresh summer zucchini, corn, tomatoes, or cantaloupe.

The recipes included below are:
  • Roasted Tomato Zucchini Boats
  • Grilled Zucchini with Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Baked Zucchini Sticks
  • Carrot Zucchini Muffins
  • Tomatoes Stuffed with Prosciutto and Mozzarella
  • Tomato and Corn Risotto
  • Honey Lime Cantaloupe
  • 20 Ideas for Corn and Cantaloupe
 Roasted Tomato Zucchini Boats


 2 zucchini

 3 cloves garlic, minced

 ¼ c olive oil, plus more for drizzling

 2 t kosher salt

 1 t fresh cracked black pepper

 2 large tomatoes or 4 Roma tomatoes

 ¼ c bread crumbs

 ½ c Mozzarella, shredded or cubed

 ¼ c Parmesan cheese



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Trim a thin piece off each bottom to help the zucchini sit in the baking dish. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds in the center of the zucchini. Place zucchini in a 9x13 baking dish. Brush the surface with the mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices. Place the tomatoes along the center of each zucchini. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the tomatoes and zucchini.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and sprinkle with mozzarella. Return the dish to the oven and place under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and drizzle with a little olive oil and add a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Grilled Zucchini with Lemon Vinaigrette


 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise

 1 t olive oil

 Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

 1 T pine nuts, toasted

 1 T feta cheese, crumbled

 1 T basil, chopped

Lemon Vinaigrette:

 1 T olive oil

 ½ T Dijon mustard

 ½ lemon, zest and juice

 Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste


 Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust the seasonings to taste and set aside.

Toss the zucchini with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini until grill marks appear, approximately 2 minutes. Flip the wedges and grill and additional 2 minutes.

Cut each spear in half to create shorter pieces for serving. Transfer to a serving dish.

Toss gently with the vinaigrette, pine nuts, feta, and basil.


Baked Zucchini Sticks


 2 large zucchini

 2 eggs

 1/2 cup bread crumbs

 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese

 ¼ t garlic powder

 1 t dried basil

 1 t dried parsley

 ½ t dried oregano

 Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

 Non-stick cooking spray



 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Trim the ends of the zucchini and then cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half into quarters for a total of 8 spears; cut the spears in half to make them shorter.

In a large shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and seasonings; mix thoroughly. In another large shallow bowl, beat the eggs. Dip the spears into egg then bread crumb mixture, making sure to coat evenly.

Place on baking sheet and spray the top of each spear with cooking spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes then turn the oven to broil and cook, watching carefully, until they become golden brown (approximately 1 minute). Serve with marinara sauce or Ranch dressing.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins


 Cooking spray (optional)

 ½ cup all-purpose flour

 ½ cup whole-wheat flour

 2 tablespoons wheat germ

 ½ cup old-fashioned oats

 ¼ cup ground flax seeds

 1 teaspoon baking soda

 1 teaspoon baking powder

 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 ¼ t salt

 1 large egg

 ¼ cup packed light brown sugar

 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 2/3 cup milk or buttermilk

 ½ cup grated carrots

 ½ cup grated zucchini

 3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries


 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cup mini muffin pan with paper liners or mist with cooking spray.

Whisk the flours, wheat germ, oatmeal, flax seeds, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Beat the egg and brown sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the olive oil, vanilla, milk, vegetables and fruit and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir just until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup about three-quarters of the way. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Prosciutto and Mozzarella


12 Roma tomatoes; halved, seeded, and cored

¼ c olive oil

½ c bread crumbs

 1 garlic clove, minced

 3 oz prosciutto, sliced medium

 ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded or small dice

 Salt and pepper, to taste


 Preheat oven to 350. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the bread crumbs and sauté until golden and crisp. The mixture should resemble wet sand; adjust the oil and bread crumbs accordingly to achieve this texture.

Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl and add the garlic, prosciutto, mozzarella, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Place 1 T of filling in each tomato half. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Serve as an appetizer or side dish.

Tomato and Corn Risotto


4 T olive oil, divided

1 T butter

1 ½ c Arborio rice (risotto)

1large shallot, sliced thin

 4 c vegetable broth

 2 ears of corn on the cob, husked & kernels removed

 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

 1 t dried basil

 Salt and pepper

 ¼ c parmesan cheese, grated

 Fresh basil or parsley to garnish



 Heat a large skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and 2 T olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the shallot and cook until tender but not brown. Mix in the rice and stir for 30 seconds. Add one cup of broth and stir.

Over the next 20 minutes, continue to add ½ to 1 cup of broth and stir; allow the rice to absorb the liquid each time before adding more. Reduce heat if the rice begins to stick.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the tomatoes, 2 T olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Reserve the tomato mixture.

When there is about 10 minutes and 1 cup of liquid remaining, add the corn kernels to the pan and stir. When the final liquid is almost completely absorbed, turn off the heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese and tomato mixture. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if desired.

Serves 4-6


Honey Lime Cantaloupe


 1 cantaloupe seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces

 ¼ c honey

 1 lime, zested and juiced

 Fresh mint to garnish



 In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, lime juice, and lime zest. Pour over the melon and toss gently. Serve immediately or allow to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour to all the flavors to blend.

20 Ideas for Corn and Cantaloupe:


 1. Grill it with the husk off

 2. Add some to your salsa

 3. Sprinkle over your salad

 4. Mix into cornbread batter

 5. Sauté with sliced zucchini, olive oil, salt & pepper

 6. Make homemade creamed corn

 7. Toss with cherry tomatoes, basil, orzo, and red wine vinaigrette for a cool salad

 8. Slather with garlic butter and parmesan cheese

 9. Make a salad with black beans, sweet peppers, and avocados

 10. Freeze ears or kernels…enjoy in the middle of winter!



 1. Scoop balls, drizzle with honey, lime juice & zest

 2. Cut into chunks and wrap with prosciutto

 3. Make a salsa for fish: dice melon, red onion, cilantro; mix with lime juice and salt

 4. Grill it, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and serve with pork

 5. Serve with blueberries, granola, and yogurt for breakfast

 6. Puree with honey, lemon, ginger, and milk or yogurt for a cold summer soup

 7. Puree with gingerroot to make a salad dressing

 8. Serve with blueberries, vanilla ice cream, and balsamic glaze for dessert

 9. Freeze chunks and add them to a strawberry smoothie

 10. Make a granita by blending with brown sugar, freezing, and crushing

Originally published July 29, 2010

A Big Bowl Of Vegetables

One of our favorite things to eat at home is vegetarian enchiladas. Since it takes awhile to dice all of the veggies, I needed a bigger motivation to do the work. And so… “A Big Bowl of Vegetables” was born!  

By chopping a lot of vegetables at once, I save time in the evenings because most of my prep work for dinner is already completed. The bowl of veggies can hang out in the refrigerator for one week in an airtight container. (You might also choose to divide some out into freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.)

This a great method to use when you want to take advantage of the bounty from your garden or a local farmer’s market. Are you cooking for a household divided between carnivore and herbivore? This is for you too! We especially love to use this method during our frequent flirtations with a vegetarian diet; however, you will find there are plenty of places to add some meat if you so choose.

Some of my favorite uses for our Big Bowl of Vegetables include:

• Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas (see recipe below) – ground turkey is a great addition for a lean protein
• Vegetarian Lasagna (see recipe below) – add some ground beef or sausage if you want meat in your dish
• Asian Lettuce Wraps (see recipe below)
• Confetti Pasta Toss – sauté the veggies with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss with small shells or penne, and parmesan cheese
• Baked Potato Topper – sauté with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper; spoon onto the top of a baked potato for a satisfying lunch (also great with a little salsa or Ranch dressing!)

How to Make a Big Bowl of Vegetables:

2 Yellow squash
2 Zucchini
4 Carrots
2 Broccoli crowns
½ Head Cauliflower
1 each red, yellow, & orange bell peppers

* Yields approximately 15 cups of chopped vegetables

Chop all vegetables into ¼” pieces and mix together in a big bowl. Cover the bowl with a lid or tightly sealing plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Freeze in a zip-top bag for up to 3 months.

Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas

5 cups of vegetable mixture
8 whole wheat tortillas
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, Colby, mozzarella, etc)
10 oz can green enchilada sauce or 1 jar salsa
3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 recipe of the spice mix (see below)

Spice Mix:
2 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Tablespoon Coriander
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Heat 3 Tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add black beans and 5 cups of the vegetable mixture to the pan. Cook vegetables for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spice mixture and stir to combine; be sure to distribute evenly throughout the bean and vegetable mixture. If the mixture seems dry, gradually add ¼ to ½ cup of water and stir to combine. Cook vegetables to desired level of doneness. Remove pan from heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375o. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, scoop ½ cup of the filling into each tortilla. Take 1 cup of the cheese and divide evenly among the enchiladas. Roll each enchilada and place in the baking dish. Cover the enchiladas with the sauce or salsa; sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Vegetarian Lasagna

3Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups of vegetable mixture
2 Tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
16 oz can diced tomatoes
30oz ricotta
4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
4 Tablespoons dried parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

To make the sauce: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, vegetables, and herbs; be careful not to burn the garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the crushed and diced tomatoes; stir to combine well. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, parsley, salt and pepper.

Using a ladle, add enough sauce to the baking dish to thinly coat the bottom. Lay down a layer of noodles, breaking them into smaller pieces, as needed, to fill in the gaps. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then cover with a layer of sauce and vegetables. Continue to layer noodles, cheese, sauce. Top with the remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese.

Bake in a 375o oven for approximately 35 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before cutting.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

1 head of iceberg lettuce or 16 Bibb lettuce leaves
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons minced ginger root
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 carrots, shredded
1 small onion, chopped small
1 broccoli crown, chopped very small
3 green onions, thinly sliced (white & green parts)
2 teaspoons sesame oil

* Vegetable alternative: 1 cup from “Big Bowl of Vegetables”

Rinse lettuce leaves, keeping them whole. Set aside to drain.

Cook chicken in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often to break up the meat. Add onion, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and salt & pepper. Cook until the meat is crumbled and brown. Add green onions and cook until onions begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Stir in sesame oil. Arrange lettuce leaves on the outer edge of a platter. Spoon meat mixture in center. Allow diners to spoon meat mixture into lettuce leaves and eat like a taco.

Originally published July 27, 2010

Life On The Go

How I Do It

My job is interesting and so much fun. That's just my humble opinion, but it's kind of true. In an attempt to demystify this little-known profession, I am starting a series called Life On The Go. I hope you will follow along with me to learn more about what I do, how I do it, and why I love it so much. Thanks for being part of my journey!

How do I do it? First of all, I bring it all with me. When I go to my clients' homes to cook, I pack everything I need from trash bags and dish soap to groceries and wooden spoons. This is a peek into the back of my car (before I get the groceries).

From left to right, here is some of what you are seeing:
  • caddy with Pam, olive oil, canola oil & thermometers to keep next to the stove
  • crate with pans, skillets, and lids
  • bucket of cleaning supplies, trash bags, & paper towels
  • bag full of really big mixing bowls, smaller prep bowls, and large liquid measuring cups
  • 3-tier box that comes apart
    • top: cooking utensils, lots of knives, and small tools
    • middle: dry pantry items such as spices, grains, vinegar, etc.
    • bottom: containers, bags, and boxes to package the food; dish towels, apron
  • clip-board with my plans for the day
  • binder with my recipes for the week
  • sweet little Vera Bradley bag (a gift from a friend!) that holds my cell phone, business cards, pens, and other little items I might need
Hidden from view:
  • bag with 2 cutting boards for vegetables, 2 boards for meat, and several sheet trays
  • small cooler to transport perishable items
  • lots of reusable grocery bags
  • really big boxes of plastic wrap and foil


 When I arrive at my client's house, I set up several stations for cutting vegetables/meat, washing dishes, packaging food, and even a pantry. The pantry is a combination of the spices, grains and other things I brought with me plus the items I bought at the store that don't need to be refrigerated immediately. Here is a view of my pantry one day:


 I try to maximize every bit of space in the kitchen. In the picture below, you will find:

  • pantry to the left of the stove
  • several dishes cooking at the same time on the stove (and probably something in the oven too!)
  • oils, thermometers, and utensils to the right of the stove


What's cooking today? There is a Mild Beef Curry simmering on the back burner and the start of a Bell Pepper Pasta Sauce on the front burner. Yummy!

Once all of the food is cooked, cooled, packaged, and labeled, it goes into the freezer. Check out all of the foil-wrapped packages - that is the food I am leaving behind for my client. Each box is labeled with the name of the dish, date it is frozen, and heating instructions.


It's also nice to leave something fresh in the refrigerator. This family will enjoy a spinach salad with strawberries, yellow bell pepper, and homemade poppy seed dressing. It's a great accompaniment to their dinners on a warm summer evening.

 I hope you enjoyed a little look at my day! Please come back to see more about how Dinner On The Go works!
Originally published June 19, 2010


Try It, You’ll Like It (Big Flavors for Little Palates)

Anna's First Foods

* Disclaimer: This is just a little bit about our journey and simply my opinions. Please consult your doctor about how and when to introduce solid foods to your baby.

My baby girl is getting ready for the wide world of solid foods. I can’t believe she is growing so fast! This means that my kitchen is about to get messier (is that even possible?!) and my food processor will once again take center stage on my counter.

I choose to make our own baby food for several reasons:
• I have complete control over what goes into each bite.
• The food retains more nutrients.
• The flavor is truer to the original food than what you find in most jars.
• I cook from scratch for the rest of my family, so it is only natural that I want to do it for my littlest eater as well.

This weekend I made several starter foods for her that are simple flavors I can enhance.
• Sweet Potatoes – It’s a great first food! Once she is established with it, then I will add a little bit of ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg as well.
• Peas – I pureed half of the peas with some fresh mint for a bright flavor and a little variety.
• Carrots – Ground ginger is nice to pair with the carrots.
• Peaches – Fresh summer peaches can’t be beat!

These recipes will keep Anna busy over the next couple of weeks while I plot my next round of pureeing for her.

Here is my basic process for pureeing fruits and vegetables for baby food:
• Wash the fruit/vegetable
• Peel if necessary (I peel carrots prior to cooking but wait to remove most other skins until after the food is cooked. The skins will be easier to remove and will help the food to retain flavor and nutrients.)
• Cut into similar-sized pieces so they cook at the same rate
• Steam until soft. I prefer to use a steam basket on the stove and never use the microwave.
• Allow the food to cool until it is comfortable to touch; remove outer skins if necessary.
• Puree in a food processor to desired consistency. I make it silky smooth in the beginning and then a little thicker as they grow and develop.
• I prefer to use the snack-size bags and freeze them flat to allow for easy storage. You might also choose to freeze in those handy baby food freezer trays, plastic freezer jars, or larger zip-top freezer bags.
• Label the bag with the contents and date it is being frozen. You might also add the amount in the bag (1 cup, 4 ounces, etc.) if that is important to you.
• Use within 3 months for best results.
• To use, place the bag in the refrigerator and allow to thaw overnight.

Babies are armed with lots of taste buds that are ready to try new flavors! Introduce them slowly to allow baby time to adjust and to observe for allergic reactions, but don’t be afraid to introduce herbs and spices along with your fruits and vegetables.

Originally published June 7, 2010

Don't Make Me Bake!

“When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.”
Laiko Bahrs

Did you know that baking and cooking are tremendously different? I didn’t realize this until a few years ago and, even then, had to learn it the hard way. Now I know: I am a cook, not a baker.

Although I consider myself a pretty good cook, I merely aspire to be a baker. This is not to say that I don’t like dessert because I do like it oh-so-much. My hubby has a huge sweet tooth so this past Christmas I gave him “Dessert of the Month” coupons. Each month, he selects the dessert he wants me to make and then I attempt it. He really isn’t choosing difficult things, but it’s amazing how I can really mess up the simple stuff!

Who knew that you could royally mess up Nestle Toll House cookies? I followed the recipe on the package and they fell flat. No, wait. Let me be very clear: they were so flat, spread out, and soft that we used spatulas to scoop them up and eat them. (But you better believe that we still ate every last bite!) I finally traced my mistake back to using 2 tablespoons of soymilk when the recipe called for 2 tablespoons of milk. I guess those Nestle folks meant cow’s milk, and meant it in no uncertain terms. I should have realized this after the “Pudding Incident” when I made two boxes of vanilla pudding with nice cold soymilk…only to find that pudding made with soymilk will never set. Lesson learned. Finally. *sigh*

This past weekend was a success! For his dessert this month, my husband chose Rice Krispie Treats. Simple and classic, they were delicious! They were so good that I made FOUR BATCHES! I froze 2 batches so we can spontaneously enjoy them another day.

How to freeze Rice Krispie Treats:
1. Allow the treats to cool completely.
2. Cut into squares and wrap them individually in plastic wrap OR leave in a large block and wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap. Be sure to get it as airtight as possible!
3. Slip the wrapped treats into a zip-top freezer bag. Zip it 
4. Label the bag with the name of your treats and the date it goes in the freezer.
5. To defrost, simply let them sit at room temperature for a few hours.

Mike’s “Dessert of the Month” for the first half of the year:
• January: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
• February: Ice Cream Cake
• March: Boston Cream Pie
• April: Oreo Truffles
• May: Lime Bars
• June: Rice Krispie Treats

Stay tuned – I’m going to share a few never-fail desserts that I have mastered and hope that you will soon!

Originally published 6/7/10

The Starting Line

Welcome! I decided it was time to jump on the food blog bandwagon; I hope you enjoy the ride! This will be a way to share some tips, recipes, and stories from my life in the kitchen as a mom and personal chef. I’m not an expert and will never claim to be one, but I love to share the bits I do know.

In the coming months, you will see the beginning of several series including:

• A Big Bowl of…
• Like A Big Pizza Pie
• Life on the Go
• Ingredient Spotlight
• Don’t Make Me Bake!
• Try It, You’ll Like It (Big Flavors for Little Palates)

If you find that you like to read my ideas more than you like to implement them, no worries…you can always hire me to cook for you!

Thanks for visiting – please come back soon!

Originally published 5/17/10