feel good food

Small Wisdoms from Raising my Kids

When I went to work today, I told a family that I would be 50 in September and that I was writing a blog to get me through the mere shock of the event (and to get my body, mind and soul into the right place).  They thought it was an amazing idea, and we sat and talked about my life for quite some time.  The baby I was photographing was their first child, and they picked my brain forever on child rearing ideas.  Of course, I am loaded with them seeing that my kids are grown and I have had so many fun experiences with them.  We have lived in five states, both with and without expended family around.  Therefore, I must tell you my kids are best friends. I would love to take credit in that but I can’t.  It was all on them.  They played hard and fought hard.  When we moved they only had each other to lean on.  They are amazing and I love everything about them.

When they began to date, and began bringing their dates around the house, I had to think of clever ways to make the situation bearable for us all.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the kids that came around the house.  We were definitely the “kool-aid” house.  Everyone wanted to be there. But when it was a date, it was sometimes awkward the first couple times.  Of course, Ed and I had to make it even more awkward just because that is who we are. Our brothers did it to us so we do it to them.   We were in charge, and making the kids squirm was always the fun part.    So, I bought these conversation cards.  Every time they had a new date come to dinner I would reach behind me in the china cabinet and pull them out.  Then it would begin.  The questions were easy, they were fun, but most of all they helped us get to know the friends our kids hung out with.  That one person they thought was special enough to meet us.  Yes, they would grumble at the thought of the cards coming out, but secretly I know they loved knowing their parents cared enough to want to know their friends.

They are not in high school any more, and the dates they bring to the house are more serious than that time, but, believe me, I still whip out the cards.  Last summer my son’s girlfriend came for a week to visit while my son was away.  We got her alone for a whole week!  I can’t believe he allowed that knowing the kind of things we might put her through.  The first night, with a glass of wine, we pulled out the cards.  It’s been and year and she is coming back next month.  I guess we didn’t scare her off.

Tonight, my daughter Katie is bringing her boyfriend to dinner.  I have met him a few times, but this will be our first sit down.  I have planned our Buffalo favorite Chaivetta’s Chicken and Giada’s Pita and Grilled Vegetable Panzanella from Feel Good Food  page 112.  I know Katie will love sharing one of her favorite chicken dishes with Mike and I will love sharing my conversation cards!

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Making Salmon on a Light-Eating Day

It’s dinnertime, and time to pull out Giada’s Feel Good Food. I have chosen to make grilled salmon and pineapple with avocado dressing (pg. 169) and quinoa pilaf (pg. 116). I didn’t want to go with a rice, potato, or starch because, for me, today is all about clean eating. So, quinoa it is!

I had to hit the grocer for the salmon. Pre-cut, skinless filets the same price as the family-sized, skin-on whole fish. So, I decided to take it home and cut it myself. I had to skin the fish, but I was able to make nine filets, which saved me a total of $27. I rinsed the remaining filets in cold water, dried them with paper towels, and put them in the freezer for another night of delicious Giada salmon. Now, I think it’s really important, albeit a bit more expensive, to purchase fish from the US. I myself buy my salmon from the Atlantic coast or from Alaska; I’m not a fan of farm-raised fish. I firmly believe in buying anything and everything American made (when at all possible), and I especially love to have my meat as fresh and local as I can find.

I paired the salmon and quinoa with a tomato, basil, and balsamic salad because I wanted something raw on the plate. I would have added onions, but my daughter, Katie, is adverse to the taste of raw onions. Had she not been here tonight, there would have been onions all over that delicious salad! Nonetheless, it’s going to be a lovely addition to a wonderful meal!

My vegetarian daughter, Karlie, isn’t going to be having the salmon, so we’re grilling her up a veggy burger instead. I have found that it is nearly impossible to find gluten free veggy burgers, so I always make them myself from scratch. However, to our surprise, we finally had success in our quest for pre-made burgers for nights like this. Trader Joe’s, we learned, carries the best frozen veggy burgers in town, Dr. Praeger’s. They, in our opinion, taste so much like falafel, which we love! Definitely worth a try. I’m sure they’ll go very well with the rest of the meal. I can’t wait until it’s time to eat!

Great Dessert from Giada’s Feel Good Food

Here at home, I have my very own recipe for eggplant lasagna that my family simply drools over. It’s a great dish because it caters to the needs of both my daughter’s vegetarian diet and my gluten intolerance. Everyone here at home is looking forward to the dinner tonight! Since I’m making my own dinner, I had to find the perfect dessert to pair with it! Flipping through Giada’s Feel Good Foods, I found chocolate blueberry brownies on page 246, a recipe inspired after Giada had a visit at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. It was actually my daughter who pointed them out and requested that I bake them for tonight! She is quite the blueberry fiend.

As any baker knows, baking can be quite labor intensive. Giada always says that perfect baking comes from perfect measuring. So, be sure to follow the recipe (exactly)! Perhaps that’s why Rachel Ray doesn’t enjoy baking; I know she’s quite like me and just adds a pinch of this and a dash of that, which isn’t a good baking strategy at all! 

For years, I have been making my own vanilla for my baked goods. It’s as easy as filling up a mason jar! I purchase my dried split vanilla beans at either World Market or The Spice and Tea Exchange (which is my go-to shop for any herbs and spices that I can’t grow here at home). I then let them soak in vodka or bourbon for about six to eight weeks. The vanilla is fresh, preservative free, and just as good as anything that comes from the store! I love it! 

The brownies are in the oven right now, and already beginning to smell delish! My daughter, Katie, and just tasted the batter…quite a treat! It’s definitely as brownie as you can get, and the blueberries and agave add just the right amount of sweetness. I am eager to try one of them out…but first I’m gonna have my favorite lasagna.

A Few Thoughts on Cool Summer Nights and Warm BBQ Chicken

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Tonight I changed a few things from Giada’s cookbook.  Sorry Giada and sorry Giada’s editors.  The recipe that I had chosen to create for this evening was sliced grilled tenderloin and citrus slaw from page 192 in Feel Good Food.  However, I decided to BBQ some chicken instead of the pork tender.  It’s not that I don’t love the juicy succulence of a pork tender; as a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite things! But, I was checking Facebook today and stumbled across Ree Drummond’s BBQ chicken.

Well, it got my mouth watering and my mind wondering.  Ree is from Oklahoma; I am from Oklahoma.  Ree is the wife of a rancher in Oklahoma who happens to be a relative of a good friend of mine.  Isn’t that how it always works?  We all know someone who knows someone.  I call these connections your red threads.  Anyway, Ree got me thinking of my daddy.  He was a farm boy during the depression in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.  He grew up threw the war and went to college, then to med school at The University of Oklahoma.  He became one of Oklahoma City’s finest doctors.  Well, I like to brag and say he is one our countries best doctors, but he would tell me, “Now Molly Sue, you’ve gone too far.”

Not only was he a great doctor, but my daddy makes the best BBQ chicken this side of anywhere. As a matter of fact, the last time he went to visit my sister, she made him make it right there in Spring, Texas! Ree should have a taste of that deliciousness.  She would probably have him on her show! So, with my daddy in mind, I decided that I just had to make that for dinner. Still, I did stick in Giada’s slaw, and it was amazing.  As we took a bite of the chicken we scooped the slaw on the fork and the combination of flavors was a symphony in my mouth.  Giada hit this slaw out of the park. It will now become my go to summer slaw, especially when I hit the grill to BBQ the way my daddy taught me.

 

 

Potluck Ideas for Your Summer Party

Though I had to spend this beautiful Saturday morning at work, I took full advantage of the rest of my weekend by visiting the Lake Anna with a group of my husband’s coworkers. The lake party is a potluck, so I chose to make two dishes, one from Giada’s Feel Good Food and one from my own noggin. It was a hot day, so I had to plan accordingly, avoiding any dairy or eggs in the dishes that would spoil quickly. I considered making my mom’s famous slaw, which is oil based, but chose to go my own way instead. I’ll have to make the slaw another day; she is such a fabulous cook!

After pouring through the pages of Giada’s book, I landed on a potato salad pg. 89 which looked like a delicious dish. The marinade used to roast the potatoes was absolutely delicious, and I just loved how the walnuts gave it an extra crunch. Only Giada would have thought of that! It was a simple salad because I already had all the ingredients. I’m sure it’s safe to bet you’ll have most of them as well.

What really shone in the day, though, was my watermelon caprese salad! I’ve included the recipe at the bottom of this post. When we tried it for ourselves at home, we wanted more and more! I knew that I had to save it, though, so we were limited to a taste. It’s an easy, festive, colorful dish which might make the perfect addition to your July 4th barbecue. I definitely suggest trying it out for yourself.

When you make the salad, you will want to cut the rind off of the watermelon without wasting any of the meat. Below, I have a few photos describing how I do this at home! You want to begin by cutting the watermelon on both ends so that it may stand while you carefully cut the rind off in strips, as shown below.

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Once the rind is off, cut it in half length-wise, then again so that you have four quarters.

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You’ll then want to cut the quarters into thin slices, each about a half inch wide. Now, you’ll have perfect, delicious watermelon slices, sans that pesky rind. Don’t forget to check below for the recipe now that your watermelon is all cut up.

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Watermelon Caprese Salad

1 whole seedless watermelon

1 four ounce box of feta cheese

fresh basil

fresh mint

1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Begin by cutting your watermelon into slices, as shown above. Arrange them on a tray so that they only slightly overlap. Roll all of your herbs together (like you’re rolling a cigar) and chop. Sprinkle the herbs and the feta cheese over the watermelon. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the entire salad, and you’re done! Easy, right? Check out the beautiful end result!

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Vegeterian Chili Verde for Cool Summer Days

The storm blew through Alexandria last night, and cooled our entire area by a couple of degrees. I spent the night inside of the basement with my sickie daughter, Katie, and it gave us quite the chills. So, we decided that it was the perfect night for Giada’s vegetarian chili verde (page 185 of Feel Good Food) to warm us up while we watched Netflix’s best drama, Orange is the New Black. (We’re addicted, by the way!) I know I was just ranting about what a great idea it is to avoid the stove, but on cool days like this, I am willing to make exceptions.

This was by far the best thing that I have cooked from the book. Well, at least that’s what I think. My husband was not here to weigh in, and I have yet to ask my daughters. Perhaps because of my southwest roots, I love the spice! Anything with cumin can win my heart. It was certainly not lacking on the heat, but we did note that the sugary sweet potatoes were a great addition to cut back on some of that bold flavor.

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I start all my chilis in my favorite heavy stockpot. After chopping all my veggies, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the beautiful summer bounty that goes into this pot. Notice that I keep my chopping board close to the stove for easy transfer. It’s a big time saver, and far more convenient than moving the chopped ingredients across the counter.

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Since I live in a small townhouse, I don’t have a very big kitchen, so making room for everything isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Yet, as an everyday cook, I have lots of yummy ingredients for my meals, so I have to get clever with my organization. I keep my spices all together right next to the stove on my own magnetic spice rack (i.e. the side of my fridge). You can get your own at World Market for $9.95 for five or Ikea for $7.99 for three. It makes it easy for me to just grab that cumin while I’m mixing the pot!

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Now, don’t forget that any town-home dwellers can also keep live herbs around their home, too. I keep all of my herbs in pots outside, making sure they get just the right amount of sun and shade right on my porch behind the house. They make my little back nook look so much prettier (live plants always do), and they smell great when we’re sitting back there on summer days. Tonight, I had to head back there for the oregano for the chili.

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All together, it made for a beautiful, colorful pot, and a delicious chili that I will sure to make again when it’s not too hot outside!

Giada’s Salmon with Basil and Chive Tzatziki

Last night, I had such a lovely evening with my family that blogging about our delicious dinner, courtesy of Giada’s Feel Good Food, completely slipped my mind. We enjoyed our supper outside on that beautiful back porch, where we love spending most of our nights. The evening ended viewing photos of the day that I spent at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna with my lovely daughter, Karlie (there she is, below). If you haven’t visited the gardens, it’s something you need, absolutely need, to do…and soon!

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We grilled the salmon outside tonight because it’s about that time of year when I just avoid using my oven. It’s so humid here in DC that when it gets hot, it really gets hot. I always do my best to conserve energy in my home; one great way to keep your air conditioner from working so hard this summer is by keeping that oven off as much as possible. So, though the recipe called for a stove-baked salmon, mine made it onto the grill for a delicious smoky taste.

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It was the tzatziki, however, that really shined in this dish! We simply couldn’t get enough! I try my best to avoid dairy since I have so many food sensitivities, but I needed to have some of that sauce. It was just tart enough to keep us wanting more, and the flavors blended so well together. You can tell from this one that Giada really knows what she’s doing! I’m growing more and more excited about this new lifestyle with every dish that I create. I can’t wait to see what today brings.