Monday, October 25, 2010

Ants on a Log

The title says it all. This is a classic snack that my mom used to make me and I'm sure other mom's used to make for their kids. It's a simple snack one that I was never intending to put up onto my blog but London has been asking or this snack everyday for a week. I thought if she loves it so much, maybe others need to be reminded of this great snack for kids. :)

Peanut butter

Wash and cut celery to size

Fill with peanut butter

Top with raisins

Oh so easy but oh so tasty and good for you too. Peanut butter is one of those foods that is amazing for you. It has healthy fats and has protein in it as well. Raisins and celery are great for you and filled with fiber and natural sugars.

Advice on peanut butter. I grew up on Jiff and my husband grew up of Skippy. I have London growing up with Adams Natural.
In this day where so many foods are already prepared and packaged with extra sugar why choose a peanut butter that has extra sugar added. I advise switching to a natural peanut butter that has no added salt and no added sugar. Kids don't need their taste buds sweetened. Natural peanut butter takes a few extra steps, like stirring it because it naturally separates over time. If you use peanut butter on a regular basis you will only need to stir once though. If your child is already used to sweetened p.b. then it might take some getting used to a natural one. I totally believe that the more natural you get the better their eating habits will be and obviously the healthier they will be. (We don't need sugar in everything we eat despite what the corn industry is trying to do.)

Hope your child will enjoy!!


Canning Tomatoes

Yesterday, it was raining.... all day. Sometimes that can be fun, if you have a good book to curl up with for example. I did not. :( So I thought of something to do. I had about 4 tomatoes sitting on the counter, almost too ripe. I have already frozen about 2 dozen tomatoes and right now don't really want more frozen ones. I decided to put on my rain coat and go pick the last red ones off the vine and can some diced tomatoes. This process, especially the first time, seems daunting and you might even think you can't because you don't have the supplies. (I don't have the supplies.) It is actually super easy and you don't need to own "canning" supplies, other than the jars and lids. Here is my step by step process.
You will need:
1. A large soup or pasta pot, a really deep one would be ideal, mine isn't as deep as I would like but I make do.
2. A smaller sauce pot to boil at least 3 cups of water
3. Mixing bowl filled with ice water
4. Pairing knife and knife to dice
5. Tongs
6. Tomatoes
7. Lemon
8. Hot pads, towels
9. Jars with lids

First you need to wash your jars and lids in the dishwasher to make sure they are clean.

Boil water in your large pot, fill it pretty full of water, enough to cover the jars.

Place the jars and lids, not the sealing flat part, into the boiling water until ready to fill.

Boil your 3 cups of water and set your bowl of ice water to the side of the stove.

Wash your tomatoes.

Place one tomato at a time into the boiling water for about 30-45 seconds. Take out and place into ice water. Using your fingernail or a knife just scrape the skin and the rest will just peel right off. (Super easy.) Set the peeled tomato aside, in another bowl if you don't want to loose the juices. Repeat until all are done.

Empty that boiling water and replace with clean water and bring to a boil.

With your pairing knife cut out the stem and any other blemishes.

I love my plastic cutting boards that are flexible for this job just any one will do. Now you can dice your tomatoes.

Take our a jar using your tongs and place on the stovetop or on a towel. Fill the jar with the diced tomatoes. (This is a non cook version so you get more of a diced tomato instead of a crushed tomato like other recipes out there on the internet.)

Once it is pretty full squeeze about a teaspoon of lemon juice into the jar. Fill up the jar to cover tomatoes with the fresh boiling water.

Using a paper towel clean the jar so there is no liquid where the sealer and lid are going to be. Place sealer and lid and tighten. (You might want to remember that the jar is hot so use hot pads or towels to do this.) Repeat until your jars are full.

Once they are full place the sealed jars into the large boiling water pot. Ideally they should be standing and covered, my pot is not deep enough so I lay them on their sides. I rotate half way through the boiling process to make sure they are evenly boiled, not sure if that really does anything but I have had success every time I have canned. Let them process for about 30 minutes, depends on how many jars. (You can google times if you are doing a large batch, I only did two jars.)

Take out and place on towels and leave sitting on the counter, undisturbed, for at least 24 hours. You will hear a pop sound usually within a couple hours coming from the jars. This is the sound of the lid being sucked in sealing the jars completely. If you can still push the lid in after 24 hours the process did not take. This has never happened to me so I think if it were, you would just do it again but google that to make sure. :) (There will be some separation between the water/juice and the tomatoes. This is natural and nothing to worry about.)

Then put in your pantry and enjoy!!

I don't add extra salt like some recipes call for because I will be cooking with them and will add salt to my dish. (We don't need extra sodium.) The lemon acts as a preservative and helps them to retain their color.

Questions? Just ask.

Well, it's supposed to get close to freezing here in Boise so for all my local friends out there I suggest you either cover your vines at night or pick everything. Today I will brave the cooler weather and go pick all the tomatoes, even green ones, and bring inside. Sit them on your counter and the green ones will turn red with time. Then it will be time to can again! (Or freeze.) This could make good christmas gifts for your friends. Who doesn't love a homemade gift?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This one is for Ashley :)

My great friend Ashley, with whom I grew up with, requested a soup. Since I love her and she has said she and her fiance make my dishes, how could I refuse. This is for them! (And anyone else who wants to try it.)

One of our favorite soups as a family is Black Bean Soup. It is super easy to make, filling and fun for kids to add the extras in. It is a good soup to make on a cold day and it also works in summer because it's not too heavy. Here it is! (*Note: I have a cold and forgot to take pictures until the very end so pardon me in this area.)

olive oil
diced onion
a couple minced garlic cloves
1 carrot diced
1 celery stalk diced
at least 2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
dash of cumin

Heat a soup pot on medium high, add olive oil. Add onion and garlic saute. Then add carrot and celery and saute some more. Add the black beans. (We use 2 cans for 3 people and Patrick and I usually have 2 helpings, so make to make more soup add more of everything.) Add oregano and salt to taste. You can also add a dash of cumin. (I think cumin has a tendency to over power so I only add a little.) Add broth, enough to cover. The more broth you add the soupier it will be, we like it thick so I add just enough to cover. I also tend to use veggie broth but a beef broth would make it rich as well. Bring to a simmer and let simmer until carrots and celery are tender. I tend to make an hour in advance and just let it simmer until it's time to blend. When it's time for dinner, if you had a hand held immersion blender like the one I am coveting use it to blend everything together. If you don't have one, then use your food processor and in small batches blend the soup.

You want it to be creamy. (A few pieces of carrot here and there are fine.) Serve!

This is fun and you can get creative. Here are some suggestions:
Avocado: I almost always have avocado on hand so I dice it up and put in a bowl at the table. (Of course last night I did not.)
Shredded cheese
Light sour cream, or the mexican Crema
Tortilla chips: I like to crunch them on top

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. London really eats this up and it's super fun to let the kids decide what to add in. (Although she usually gets carried away with the sour cream.) She likes to have that option. You can also use the tortilla chips to dip with. (And if you wanted to make it even thicker add less broth and you have a yummy black bean dip!)


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quinoa Salad


Quinoa is one of those really yummy and nutritious grains, although it's not really a grain but a seed, that we have available but simply don't use very often. It hails from Peru high up in the mountains. People up there found that it grew really well in the high altitude climate and not only provided fiber but a complete protein. What a cool seed. I like quinoa for it's texture and ease of cooking. It is easily available thanks to some guys from Colorado that brought it back from Sud America with them and attempted to grow it in the high altitude of Denver, I believe. Now I buy it in the bulk section at WinCo, a local grocery store but I am sure it is available at other stores as well here in the valley and around the nation. I made a yummy salad, served either hot or cold. I forgot to take a picture of the final product because I was soooo hungry by the time it was done I just ate most of it. I did manage to snap a photo of the leftovers in the leftover container... not too great. Sorry. But you will get the idea. I took the idea for this recipe from a Cooking Light recipe for a corn salad. I just added quinoa to make it more of a complete meal. It is a very light meal though, so you can always use it as a side dish.

1 cup Quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
diced tomato
diced new potatoes, about 4, boiled and cooled
green onion

Bring water to a boil and add quinoa. Cover, lower heat and let simmer until water is absorbed. If you want the salad cool then cool it down.

Add the tomato through the onion to the quinoa.

1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp red wine or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
3tbsp olive oil
lemon juice

combine the mustard, vinegar and s&p. Slowly add the olive oil as you whisk. Then whisk in the lemon juice to taste.

Pour this vinaigrette over the quinoa salad for a yummy flavor.

Sometimes I make the quinoa and add in cucumber, tomato, feta and green onion and then add a similar vinaigrette. That one is super yummy as well.

Hope you enjoy this salad!

Today I went out to my garden, which I haven't done for a bit because the tomatoes just didn't look quite red enough from the window and it's been raining, not as much as in St. Croix though. I went out and turned around and came back in for my biggest mixing bowl. Went out and harvested red tomatoes galore. I will definetly have some to freeze for winter use. :)