Giada’s Green (and GOOD) Carbonara and Some Olive Oil Adventures

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First, I’m going to torture you with stories of my day.  Then I’ll point you towards super delicious food.  It looks like this: But before I get to the food… It was a nice day today.  I had a short … Continue reading

Toasted Quinoa and Peach Baby Food? Heck Yes!!

Okay, this is going to be quick between finishing a batch of delicious baby food and doing the next step of homemade yogurt (and doing all of the katrillion dishes that I created last night and this morning… sigh).

I had a problem.  Babies eat baby food, right?  Baby food in the store is all fruits and veggies, unless you buy the super ridiculously expensive stuff that includes oats or quinoa or rice and some protein (mung beans and chicken???).  My baby doesn’t need food that fancy.

But he does need protein and grains.  Our kid will eat everything, which is awesome.  The only thing he has turned down is baby rice cereal, and I can’t really blame him.  It’s pretty darn bland.  That means he just eats fruit and veggies by the pound these days.  I wanted to help him meet the awesome world of other food so maybe he won’t get so hungry between meals.

I tried pureed chicken and pureed salmon with peas.  Both sound gross to me, but he’s game.  But I hadn’t really found a way to sneak in grains.  Enter a baby food cookbook and today’s super successful experiment.

Generally, I feel awesome about this.  I like the way it tastes, and little man has a healthy grain option that won’t eat into his college savings (sale quinoa).

(I promise this blog won’t henceforth be a baby food cookbook.  Just this once.  Or maybe a few times.  I also made Korean barbecue burritos and a super delicious corn and poblano taco filling recently.  Don’t worry.)

Toasted Quinoa and Peach Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 peach, peeled and cut into large chunks

How To

  1.  Rinse the quinoa under cold water, then drain well.  Transfer to a medium pan and toast over high heat 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until any excess water evaporates and the quinoa is slightly brown and begins to pop.  Slowly add 2 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until tender.  If using a blender with a plastic container, let the quinoa cool before blending.*
  2. When the quinoa is cool (or hot, if your blender has a non-plastic container), put about half of it in the blender container.  Add peach and blend until smooth.  Add water until the mixture is your desired consistency (thicker if I was planning to feed it to little guy with a spoon, slightly thinner to go into a resealable food pouch).
  3. Put the delicious food into a serving/storage container and let your little person enjoy.
  4. Store the extra cooked quinoa for at-home dining (maybe with another veggie or a pureed meat option for baby).  I basically didn’t want to make a small serving, since this is a bit of a time commitment.  It’s like making awesome leftovers.  Why wouldn’t you?

*This step of the recipe is word for word (until the very last sentence) from page 47 of Healthy Eating for your Baby & Toddler by Renee Elliott.  Thank you, public library.  Thank you, Renee Elliott.  It seems like a good baby cookbook, although the ingredients are a bit exotic.  It’s a good starting point for figuring out how to create a balanced diet for a new person.  I’m planning to make the recipes a bit more low-key.  This recipe was originally mung beans with toasted quinoa.  I don’t have mung beans in my pantry.

 

Chalkboard Countertops

We recently had our master bathroom professionally remodeled, which was amazing.  Really amazing.  When someone says the demo in your bathroom was the worst they’ve seen in 15+ years of construction, you say, “Thanks for being here!” and count your lucky stars you weren’t doing the demo yourself.  Someday soon, when I master the use of a camera in tight spaces, I’ll share the pretty new bathroom with you.

The side-effect of that remodel is that I needed to repaint our main guest bathroom (lost a closet to make the master shower bigger, gained some new wallboard to replace the old closet door).  In the end, the need to repaint lit a fire under me.  I really wanted to do a few small, inexpensive things to finish the main guest bathroom.

If we live here for 20 more years, there’s a chance we’ll replace the green sink, toilet, and shower/bathtub.  But for the intervening years, we’ll be sticking with the existing fixtures (and matching tile around the sink area).  Lucky for me, I feel like I can work with avocado green.  It’s kind of nice once you take away the rust brown/purple/orange/green paisley that used to be all over the bathroom.

So a quick, almost free facelift for the bathroom was my goal.  In the end, I spent $27 and very little time.  Success!  I did a few small things you probably don’t care about (painted a few things, switched out the brass towel bar for four small silver hooks).  But the big switcheroo was the countertop.

The countertop used to look like this:

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Honestly, I didn’t hate it.  I just thought that we could do better (for free).  I was looking for something that would look a little bit less 70’s next to the green tile/sink.  My dream project was thin layers of concrete on top of the linoleum.  It looks like a really cool project, and I’d like to try it sometime.  But I couldn’t do that without uninstalling and reinstalling the trim and sink.  I was pretty sure that would cause significant damage to something (since I’m not a pro by any means).  Which would cost money.  So that was out.

Enter the leftover primer from our other bathroom.  And some painter’s tape.  And sandpaper.  And last but not least, some spare chalkboard paint.  Maybe it’s bad that we had all of those things around the house.  I think it’s great though.  We can do projects any old time.  No money was actually spent on this project.

First the sanding happened.

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It was such a small space that it only took 20-ish minutes.

Then there was taping.

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It looks less “sanded” there because I washed it off.  It’s just slightly less shiny than the original surface.

The taping around the sink wasn’t perfect, because I’m not really a meticulous prepper.  Oops.  I had a plan for the aftermath of that.

So sanded, check.  Taped, check.  Then came priming.

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And finally, the fun part–actual painting with chalkboard paint.  I picked a nice, normal paintbrush instead of a roller.  Mostly, I picked the paintbrush because I was cheap.  I knew I would have to paint the layers over a few days, I’m terrible at washing out rollers, and I didn’t want to pay for more than one roller for such a small project.  Paintbrush to the rescue.

It was so quick to paint each layer despite not using the fastest tool.  Maybe 15 minutes per coat.  I tried to stick to brushstrokes in one direction at a time (all horizontal one time, all vertical the next), and it ended up creating this nice linen-ish texture in the end.  On top of the already quite thick texture of the countertops.  Plenty of texture on this counter, believe me.

What I didn’t factor in was the final untaping.  It ripped up some of the paint, and I had to do touch-ups with the world’s tiniest paintbrush.  You can see that fun part here:

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After the painting (three layers) and the touch-up, there was A) a happy sigh, and B) a chance to admire the smooth black finish of the counter.  There was also a chance to use a razor blade to scrape paint off of the metal trim where the taping wasn’t perfect.  It worked pretty well.  Around the edges, the trim was curved and such, so I used sandpaper to get rid of the paint.  The sandpaper/razor combo did the trick really well.  It turns out there are nice things about metal trim around your sink and tile.  You can scrape and sand and still have good trim in the end.

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Yay!  Better.

Which just left treating it like a chalkboard–rubbing a layer of chalk all over the countertop, washing it off, and going on with my merry life.

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Sometimes I leave it blank, and it looks at least 5% like soapstone.

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Sometimes I use it like an actual chalkboard.

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It might be unusual, and it might not be the exact color scheme I would pick on my own.  But I like it.  And it was free.  And I think I could happily live with it for 20 years.  Maybe 25 years.  What more could you ask?

P.S.  I’ve read on other blogs that people have done this same thing in bathrooms and on kitchen countertops.  It is reported to hold up well, so I wasn’t too worried about trying it out.  This particular countertop doesn’t see a lot of hard use, so how bad could it be?  So far so good (a few weeks in).

 

 

Really Good Burritos + Too Many Options

Most days, I have a very clear plan between baby naps and errands and stuff that has to be done by the end of that day no matter what.  Today is not like that.

Today, I have a million projects that I could do, but there isn’t a single project that I really have to get done.  And thus, Peanut and I are feeling kind of the same.  Like this:

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Like maybe the best thing to do is lie down in the middle of the floor and hope no one steps too close while you’re napping.  I get that this is an awesome problem, by the way.  I’m trying to fully enjoy the dilemma and the fact that it gives me time to blog today.

Before I join Peanut, I’m going to share a great recipe that I tried out last week.  It’s from The Kitchn, and it is officially called Baked Black Bean and Avocado Burritos.  Why is this recipe awesome?  Well, it tastes really good.  That’s the most important thing.  The second most important thing is that the prep is easy, and it can be mostly made ahead of time.

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Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink

That means I made dinner during noon baby nap, then it was magically ready at 7 the second Tuck’s head hit his crib mattress for bedtime.  Seriously, it was like magic.  Not everything is delicious when you put it together 7 hours early.

One more note.  I added meat.  I do that a lot–pick good vegetarian recipes and throw in some meat.  It means there’s a focus on non-meat elements of the meal, but my meat-hungry family is happy.  It’s a winning strategy lots of times.  With no further ado, enjoy!

Baked Black Bean and Avocado Burritos

Makes 8-10 burritos

  • 1 lb. ground chicken, turkey, or beef (I used beef, but I think I’ll branch out next time)
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely minced (more if you want heat, not just flavor… I used 4 and it had some decent bite)
  • 1 cup light or regular sour cream
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 medium avocados, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 8-10 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack
  • Optional: cumin, salt, and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Brown the meat in a pan until cooked through, crumbling with a wooden spoon along the way.  I threw in some cumin, salt, and pepper at this point.  I would guess it was about 1 teaspoon of cumin.  Do what feels right.  I like cumin a lot, so I might have used more than that.

Combine chipotle and sour cream in a bowl. Add the beans and corn to the sour cream mixture and stir until well combined.  Stir in the browned meat, then gently stir in the avocado.

Working one at a time, spoon the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Roll the tortillas closed and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish. You might find that your baking dish is too small (I did).  If that’s true, grab an 8×8″ pan, spray it with cooking spray, and finish the folding in that dish.  Spoon the salsa over the tortillas and top with the shredded cheese. Cover and bake 20 minutes until cheese is melted and burritos are warmed through.

If you’re making these ahead of time, just stop before you get to the salsa and add salsa and cheese later.  Presto.  We loved the leftovers from these, too.

And now, I will consider reorganizing our desperately messy cabinets or maybe the also desperately messy pantry.  Or I could actually join Peanut.

Chicken Andouille Stir-Fry with Orange Jalapeno Glaze

This dish is for reals.  Last night, I dove into one of my newest cookbooks–Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen.  Scott and I have eaten some of the most delicious pancakes of my life at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.  As it turns out, they also know how to make delicious non-brunch food.  This stir fry is chock full of flavor–sweet orange juice with a jalapeño punch (a mild punch).  Double meat.  Lots of bell peppers.  It’s really good.

If you haven’t been to Asheville, NC, I’ll try to set the scene for you.  When you make this food, pretend you’re in a ridiculously artsy and mountain town.  The mountains are friendly and green, and it’s sunny with a cool breeze (because it’s my scene, and it can be whatever weather I want).

photo from amplified-media.com


Now you can cook.

Chicken Andouille Stir-Fry with Orange Jalapeno Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 bell peppers, color of your choice (we always go green because it’s cheaper, but yellow and red would be pretty mixed in), seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ribs chopped celery
  • 2 chopped Vidalia onions (or other sweet onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons green jalapeno sauce (we used a red hot sauce because it’s what we had… I suggest you use what you already have, too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

How To

Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan or skillet.

*My note: this is where the recipe went slightly sideways for us.  We suspect that “large saute pan or skillet” means a giant restaurant wok or something like that.  We used our largest pan, and it wasn’t even close to adequate.  We ended up using our largest pan AND our cast-iron skillet.  Then we finally got some brown on the chicken and some of that much-needed browned flavor.  So maybe you should try your own professional-sized wok or two skillets.  Or just start with two skillets.  Or cook it in two batches in the same skillet.  Other than this snafu, the recipe was delightful.  Now you know.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and add to the oil.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken begins to brown.  Add the sausage, bell peppers, celery, and onion and cook for 12-14 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.  In a bowl, combine the orange juice, cornstarch, hot sauce, and black pepper until the cornstarch is dissolved (a whisk did the trick for me).  Add the orange juice mixture to the skillet(s) and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.

Eat up!

Why should you try this?  Well, the steps are pretty darn simple, so it’s a good weeknight option.  But it also feels fancy enough to feed friends, if you so desire.  And if you want to prep at one point in the day (chop chicken and sausage, veggies, and set aside for later), that would work really well.

Why should you really try this?  Because of the taste.

 

 

Frozen Yogurt: Where Have You Been All My Life?

Okay, I’m not talking about frozen yogurt from a frozen yogurt store.  I’m talking about actual Greek Yogurt that I put into the freezer with delicious stuff mixed in/on top.  And it’s good.  Roomie said it’s better than ice cream.  I’m not willing to go quite that far, but I do like it as a legit dessert.  And it’s healthy.

My favorite thing is when I can eat healthy food that tastes completely satisfying.  This is one of those times.

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The original recipe can be found here: Strawberry and Pistachio Frozen Yogurt from The Kitchn.

My recipe is a little bit easier, because I cheated.  So if you want one less thing to measure, you can do it this way:

Frozen Yogurt with Fruit ‘n Nuts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups honey Greek yogurt (or one large container)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup diced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

How To

Combine the yogurt, vanilla and salt in a bowl.  Spread the yogurt mixture into your freezing container of choice.  I went with a 9×13 glass baking dish, because it’s what I had.  Roomie tried it with a muffin tin, and it worked beautifully, too.  I might go that route next time.  It would be easier to portion out.

After your mixture is in its freezing dish, add strawberries and pistachios on top.  Put it in the freezer for 4 hours (uncovered).  Then you can break/cut/take out of muffin tin and store it frozen in a sealable plastic bag.  I will say it was hard to cut in the glass dish.  So cut it when you’re hungry and desperately want a snack.  It’ll give you Hulk power.  Worked for me, anyway.

This stuff is tasty.  I think we’ll be enjoying it lots of times this summer, and probably with a wide variety of fruits and nuts on top.

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P.S.  I made this while I was prepping for a big art sale last weekend.  Only put your snack near your watercolor art if your art is covered in plastic wrappers and your snack is very firmly on the plate.  I had a few close calls with yogurt on paper.  Whew.  All for the sake of a good picture.  Next time, I’m eating my snack straight out of the freezer like a normal person.