Saturday, November 20, 2010

Super Food

Spinach. When London was a baby and starting to eat solids I used this book called Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. This book was so informative not only in what to feed the babies and when but what nutrients are in the foods and how to form a complete vitamin/mineral/protein meal using just vegetables. In her book she described certain vegetables as super foods. These were vegetables that have so many vitamins packed into it that they, according to Yaron, make up a super food, a food we should try to eat as much as possible. To mention just a few important nutrients in spinach: Vitamins A,C,E, and K, some B vitamins, folate, folic acid, calcium and iron. Now remember these are just a few of the nutrients in spinach, there are more. So imagine eating one little spinach leaf and getting that many nutrients per leaf! I can see why she calls spinach a super food.

I mentioned before that I love pesto. Well sometimes you don't feel like spending the money, during the winter, on basil. It is expensive to buy enough to make a lot of pesto. My solution is Spinach pesto. This is a great alternative and very good for you. Instead of using all basil in your pesto you use spinach leaves and only three or four basil leaves. Here is the recipe:

2 cups packed fresh spinach
3-4 leaves basil
lemon zest, half a lemon
juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine the spinach through the parmesan into a food processor and pulse until chopped. Slowly add the olive oil while processing until smooth and creamy. Taste and then add salt and pepper to taste. Done!

Now this will still have a slight basil taste and so if you wanted to fool your family into thinking it was just a regular pesto you could. Because of the lemon it will be lemony and you won't have to add much salt if any. They won't even know that they are eating spinach unless you tell them. You can serve this as a pasta sauce, over fish, chicken or with veggies. Use it as you would pesto, except remember that it does have more lemon flavor than regular so pair it wisely. This is an excellent way of getting in a lot of spinach and all the super nutrients it has. We had this last night with pasta. I added to the pasta some garlic, asparagus, chicken and tomato. In my other blog about pesto my friend Shanda commented that she froze the excess pesto in ice cube trays to use later. This is a great idea and exactly how I made my baby food. You could do this as well with your spinach pesto. Enjoy!!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Travel is a passion of mine probably because my parents always took us with them on their adventures. We spent summers in Europe and all over the United States. We would usually spend a good amount of time traveling because my mom had summers off. In Europe we spent most of the time in France or Spain. When I was probably around 10 we spent the summer in the Loire Valley exploring the country side. One of my favorite memories was all the cave tours that we did. Not just hieroglyphic tours, which we did in Spain, but wine, cheese and mushroom caves. The wine caves were fun, even at 10 I was allowed to try the wines and I even tried to convince my slightly drunk Mom to buy a bottle for me. (It didn't work because my Dad intervened reminding my mom that I was only 10. Shucks!) The cheese caves were my least favorite because usually it was blue cheese caves that we visited and that has never been my favorite type of cheese. Those caves usually smelled really strong. To my parents it was like heaven. To me, well let's just say I breathed through my mouth and probably exaggerated a bit about how much I disliked the smell. My most favorite types of caves on that trip were the mushroom caves. These caves were amazing. You entered the deep darkness and with the flashlights the guides had they illuminated crate after crate of exotic mushroom. Yellow, orange, brown and white. Funny shaped and button shaped. The caves did not smell, other than the normal damp cave smell but they were pretty amazing. Want to know what I loved best about those tours? Once you left the cave and went to the store they also had a restaurant where you could order the mushrooms in a dish. YUMMY! I know I say that I love a lot of things on this blog, and I guess I really do, but I love mushrooms. When Patrick and I got married he quickly learned that mushrooms and broccoli were my two favorite vegetables. (Well mushrooms are a fungus to be exact.) They are a staple in my refrigerator and I try to always include them in dishes.

Mushrooms, despite popular belief, do have nutritive value. They have potassium, fiber and B vitamins. They are quite versatile and I find them delicious. I love them prepared pretty much anyway, from raw to grilled. Last night I made them as a side dish. This side dish is so easy to make you will find yourself making them all the time.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, I like to use crimini, or baby bellas
splash of balsamic vinegar

Heat your pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and then the mushrooms, quickly saute them to spread the oil around. Season with some pepper.

This dish takes a while because you want the mushrooms to sweat out their moisture and then become a little crispy by the time they are done. So take it slow and if they start to burn or stick to the pan lower the heat a touch. When they are about half way reduced in size add a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. This will make the mushrooms wetter again. Check on the mushrooms every few minutes so that they evenly brown. When they start to brown and some are a little crispy they are ready to enjoy as a side.

You need a lot of mushrooms because they do reduce in size when they are cooked. A pound is usually good for the three of us. We like the balsamic vinegar so I usually put a couple splashes but you be the judge and play around with it until you get the flavor you desire. You don't need to add salt because the vinegar flavor does that for you.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I love seafood. One of my favorite shellfish to eat is Shrimp. I love shrimp and always have. I used to gobble up shrimp cocktail at any event that had them. When we first introduced London to shrimp she did not like them. I was shocked to think that MY daughter wouldn't like shrimp! So I brushed it off and decided that I would make them again anyways and give it to her and see what happened. She ate them and now she loves shrimp. Just goes to show you that you can never stop trying a food with kids. Their taste might change, the sauce might be different etc. I read this little quote in a baby book that I am reading that said, "Never let the kid pick the menu unless they are buying the food." I thought a lot about this and with my child I disagree. London is a great eater and so therefore when I ask what we should make for dinner her responses range from macaroni and cheese, homemade, to eggplant parmesan, to salmon. Her menu is wide and always tasty. For the average child however this quote would be advice I would give the parent. Don't let them decide or you will be eating chicken nuggets and fries every night of the week. (Don't get me wrong, chicken nuggets and fries are great, once in a great while.) So that is my kid food tip of the week. You pick the foods and once they are old enough they learn to eat or go hungry. I feel that this needs to be carried out at all meals, not just dinner. They will eat if they are hungry, so don't worry if they don't eat because most likely like my kid and most of my friends kids, yours most likely have never known the word hungry like the kids of Haiti know hungry.

Enough babble, on to the shrimp. Tonight's menu is Lemon Pepper Shrimp over Orzo. Shrimp is really high in cholesterol so if you are watching your cholesterol I would suggest avoiding this recipe. And the way I made it isn't the lowest in fat content. So this one is for a special occasion.

First step is I peeled, cleaned and deveined the 1/2 pound of shrimp. Then I placed in a bowl/bag with lemon juice from one lemon, 2 garlic cloves smashed, about a 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil and some fresh ground pepper. I mixed it up and placed in the fridge for a few hours. The lemon juice has a lot of acid in it so it will start to cook the shrimp. When you take the shrimp out of the fridge it will be pinkish due to that cooking. (This is how Ceviche is made in case you were wondering, lemon and/or lime juice.)

With this marinade you can do a number of things. You can put the chicken on skewers and grill them either on a grill pan or outside. You can saute them and serve over pasta or rice. I made a scampi and served over orzo. Here is how I made my scampi:

1 cup uncooked orzo
2-3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 cloves or minced garlic
lemon juice

Cook your orzo according to package directions but don't add the salt or fat.
Heat your pan on med heat and melt the 1 tbsp butter. Add the shrimp and sauce until almost done and then transfer to a plate. Add the olive oil and 1 more tbsp of butter to the pan. Add minced garlic and let cook for a little but don't burn your garlic. Add the shrimp , lemon juice and pepper. (Don't add the marinade, just the shrimp.) Let simmer until shrimp are done, only about 2 more minutes.

Once your shrimp are done and the orzo has been drained, which should have been done before, add the shrimp and butter/oil to the orzo. Add a little bit of thyme and Voila! Eat and enjoy! I also served with some roasted asparagus.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Full of Beans!

I am proud of being Mexican-American. It is something that has always been something to feel proud of. Despite a lot of hatred right now in the United States towards Mexicans, I never falter to tell people of my heritage. One of the most fun things that happens when one of your parents is from another country is the cooking. Passing of of family recipes that are traditional or a little different. It is something that makes my husband very happy. His favorite type of food is Mexican. (How lucky for him right?) So I make him happy sometimes and make dishes that my mom taught me how to make. She is an excellent cook so when she comes to visit we always have her make some food for us. Last time when she was here, in July, she made a big batch of Chicken Mole. (One of the family favorites.) We froze the leftovers and have slowly been eating away. Now all that is left is the sauce, and as my Dad strictly instructed me, "Do not throw that sauce away! You can use it for putting over rice or just for soaking bread, but NEVER throw it away!" Then he smiled.

One of Patrick, and now London's, favorite foods is black beans. Patrick spent some time in Guatemala and when he came back could not find black beans like they made them there. Then he met me and ate my black beans, and that's where he fell in love, among other things I hope. :) His love of black beans has been passed on to London who would and could eat nothing but black beans forever. I figure this is dangerous to pass this recipe along but I thought what they heck! Why not?! So here it goes:

1/4 chopped medium onion
olive oil, or canola
1 can of black beans
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano, if you can't find it just use regular dried italian oregano

Heat your oil on medium high heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add your can of beans. (Liquid and all.) Add salt to taste and oregano. Let simmer on low heat.

When you are just about ready to eat mash your beans with a potato masher. Serve and enjoy!

When we ate these we ate them on Tostadas but you can serve as a side, with tacos or however you want. I like to use the less sodium beans because I add my own salt to taste. You can also use dried black beans. Just soak your beans overnight and then when ready to cook drain and rinse. Add some liquid to the pan when you add your beans. Just enough to get the bottom of the pan wet and a little more. Too much will make your beans runny, so add slowly and then when you mash if you need to add a little more then do it as you mash until you reach your desired consistency.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken

Today has been a fun day. I got to go and see my midwife and listen to the baby's heartbeat. London came with me and she got to hear it. We both smiled, sat quietly and listened. It was special beyond belief that London has been able to go to all my appointments with me an share in this amazing life event. I felt like cuddling all day under a blanket. What made it even cozier was because it rained almost all day. When dinner time came around I decided to make some chicken. Mediterranean chicken to be exact. It hit the spot, so here it is.

Chicken breasts
salt and pepper
olive oil
kalamata olives
chicken broth
8 oz diced tomatoes
minced garlic, about 2 cloves

First before I did anything I pitted the olives. Then in a large pan I heated some olive oil over medium high heat. Season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Cook on each side for about 4 minutes. Take off and place to the side. Pour about 1 -2 cups broth into pan. Add olives through oregano. Scrape the pan. (I added a bit of the olive juice that came with the olives.) Lower heat and add the chicken. Cover and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Serve over rice.

This hit the spot tonight. Simple yet delicious and full of flavor. London loved it and we loved it. A special dish for a special day. Next month, we find out what the sex is of the baby. Fun times!


Impromptu Appetizer

I love the cookbook The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It provided a lot of inspiration and knowledge. I am a huge supporter of the library and I love to check books out weekly. (This love is being passed down to London who now looks forward to taking her books back and getting new ones.) I find it really nice to be able to check out cookbooks. You never know if you are going to like recipes in cookbooks until you actually get to look and try some of the recipes. Checking them out gives you a chance to make and experiment with the ones you like. If you end up not being able to live without it then you can go and buy the book. In this specific cookbook I found many recipes that I loved and have now added to my menus. The one that stands out is a Panini with roasted veggies and pesto sauce. (Yummmm, I know.) The other night we were going over to my sister-in-laws house and I didn't have enough bread to make Panini for everyone so I decided to try it differently. I made them into a sort of crostini appetizer. I usually like to make my own bread when I make the Panini but this time I just used store bought French bread.

sliced bread, an Italian loaf or French bread works great, but if making smaller crostini then a Baguette would work great.
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow zucchini squash
Olive oil
salt and pepper
a bit of red onion sliced thin
1 sliced avocado
1 sliced tomato
a few tbsp balsamic vinegar
pesto, preferably homemade
sliced Muenster cheese
Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 400. Slice your red pepper and zucchini squash and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until tender and a little browned. I like to shake the pan and flip the squash after about 10 minutes.

Take out and start to assemble your crostini. Spray a baking sheet with some Pam. Place slices of bread on the pan. Take a brush and lightly brush the bread with the balsamic. Then spread some pesto. Then layer tomato, red bell pepper, squash, avocado, onion and then top with both cheeses. (You can also now grind some more fresh pepper on top.) Place back in the oven until the cheese starts to melt. Then, I turned on the broiler and watched as the cheese started to bubble and turn a little golden. You really need to just watch so you don't burn the cheese or bread. Take out and serve. I also think next time I will bake these on the pizza pan so that the bottom of the bread is crunchier. You decide and experiment at home! Enjoy!

This would be great as an appetizer, or to turn it back into a Panini just place a slice of bread on top, brush both sides of sandwich with some olive oil and place in a Panini press. London loves these and the taste of the pesto in combination with the balsamic and veggies with a little bit of cheese is just heaven to me.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pizza Pizza

I love pizza. Especially homemade pizza. I worked a pizza place for a while during high school and loved the taste of the homemade pizza. I loved being able to design my own and put which ever toppings I like. I grew up eating pizza from this place in Christiansted that would put tomato, broccoli and mushrooms on their veggie pizza. This was my favorite combination and still is. There was a period where I would buy a frozen cheese pizza and add my toppings before baking. Patrick, London and I loved this. Then I decided that I wanted to start making anything that I could from scratch. This included the pizza dough and sauce. I found a recipe online, by Giada DeLaurentiis from Food Network, that was simple, easy to make and tasty. I then would make a simple sauce add cheese and then my toppings. It has been fun to learn what I like and what goes with what. It's also a great way to get the kids involved in dinner. London loves being able to pick what goes on the pizza. When planning dinner I ask her what she wants and she usually tells me. She picks olives a lot. (I love black olives on my pizza.) Another thing to do with the kids is to let them place the toppings onto the pizza. If you don't mind you can make it a smiley face or another pattern. They love this and most likely will definitely eat it once it is baked. Here is the dough and sauce recipe.

3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees )
1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups flour (plus some to dust the surface)
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

In your mixer place the yeast and the sugar. Add the 3/4 cup warm water. Stir a little bit and then let stand for about 5 minutes and make sure the yeast rises.

Preheat oven to 375.

Spray or brush some olive oil into a large bowl. Turn the mixer on and add the flour and salt. Slowly drizzle the olive oil until combined. Flour your surface and kneed the dough until smooth. Place dough into the bowl and cover with wrap. Place in a warm draft-free area and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Take the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a circle. (You can always try with your hands just spinning it out but this takes practice.) Place on your greased and/or floured pizza pan or stone. (You can buy a pizza pan from Target pretty cheap. It's a round pan with a bunch of holes in it.)

olive oil
8 oz can of tomato sauce, no salt added
salt and pepper

Heat some olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add the crushed garlic. ( I like to use crushed garlic to that once I put the sauce on the pizza I can take out the garlic so no one gets a huge chunk. But if you love garlic leave it in.) Add oregano and basil and let saute for a bit. Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer in order to let the flavors blend.

Pizza Assembly:
After your sauce is finished spread the sauce evenly on your pizza dough, that is now rolled out on the pizza pan/stone. If you are going to make a tomato basil I like to put the basil leaves on before I put the cheese.

Then add 8 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese. (You can use fresh mozzarella if you desire., then just spread out the slices around the pizza.) Then add your toppings.

Place in the oven. About half way through I slide the pizza directly onto the rack in order for the whole crust to get crunchy and to give it that pizzeria taste. I usually bake mine for about 15 minutes but I always check to make sure it's not burning. It's done when the cheese is golden. Slide back onto the pan to take out of the oven.

Take out and enjoy!!

I really like a pesto pizza. If you want to do this, instead of putting red sauce on the dough you spread homemade, or store bought, pesto all over and then cover with cheese. Sometimes after the cheese I add sliced tomatoes and then bake. So delicious. There are so many options in creating your own pizza, go crazy.

Make sure to involve your kids if you have them. You can even make this dough and cut it up once it rises to make small individual size pizzas that they can create all by themselves. (Birthday party idea! London's best friend Chloe did this for her birthday party and the kids loved it!)


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Do you ever tire of the same old red pasta sauce? I do. I love pasta, in fact when we go out I almost always order a pasta dish. I always have, ask my mom. I do tend to lean towards alfredos or wine sauces and every once in a while a red sauce. I make my own pasta sauce here at home, which is a money saver and better for you. Last year I was wanting a healthier pasta sauce. Alfredos are full of fat and calories and wine sauces usually have a lot of butter, which means fat so I went in search. I had just returned from a trip home, to St. Croix, where I ate at one of my favorite restaurants, Tutto Bene. I ordered their goat cheese and butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter sauce. It was amazing. Alex and I loved it so much. (Alex being my sister and we both ordered the same thing, I know silly since we should have ordered different things and then split them, but we didn't think obviously.) The point was I got back to Boise and though I need a new pasta sauce. It was winter and I really wanted something different. I made all of London's food when she was a baby so I used to puree a lot of squash. I wondered if there was a recipe out there for a squash pasta sauce. I googled and came across this great blog that had a good recipe for butternut squash pasta sauce. If you are interested you can go there. I of course changed it up a bit, because that is what I do. So if you want to see the original inspiration visit that site, look around and check out her other recipes. They are great and healthy. Here is my version:

1 Butternut squash, I choose a smaller one usually but sometimes I can the leftover sauce to put in the pantry for another nights use.
brown sugar
olive oil
chicken broth
white wine, I also think a splash of rum would taste good
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375

Slice your butternut squash into half and scoop out the seeds. (I like to roast my squash for I feel it adds more depth to the flavor. It takes more time though.)
Add a bit of butter to the hollow part and place in a baking sheet. I place a little water on the sheet to help with the steam during roasting.

When almost done I sprinkle some brown sugar on the squash.
Let bake for about anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. Check on it and test with a fork until done.

Once the squash is all done heat some olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add onion and garlic. Saute until tender. Then scoop out the squash, make sure to get the butter and sugar, and add to the sauce pan. Add basil, sage and some broth and the white wine/rum if desired. Let simmer for a bit, only to let the flavors infuse. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Your options now are to smash with a potato masher for a chunkier sauce or run through a food processor. I puree mine.

Serve over pasta, I like a to use a ziti or pene pasta but bow tie or any other smaller pasta would work great.

If your child is picky you could always put some of the roasted squash to the side and make a macaroni and cheese. Then puree the squash by itself and hide it in the mac n cheese. The color will match and it will make it creamier and thicker.

Of course I suggest that you let your child try the butternut squash pasta sauce how it's meant to be and see if they like it. I am not for hiding things in dishes but if you child is an established picky eater and you are worried about them getting their nutrients then hide it.

Hope you enjoy this. If you like butternut squash it is good.


Roasted Broccoli

I love broccoli! (Love might be an understatement.) It has always been my favorite vegetable, and is now London's as well. There is one exception to broccoli, frozen broccoli. It always tastes mushy and I can always tell when people and or restaurants use frozen broccoli, or any frozen vegetable for that matter. It is one of those vegetable staples that I buy every week at the store. I tried growing it here a couple years ago and got a beautiful bush but no broccoli. I asked around and found out Boise doesn't get a long enough spring and you need to baby it if you do try. (Which might explain why they don't sell it at the Farmer's Market.) I like broccoli pretty much any way it's made. I usually steam it, but only until just cooked because I like it a bit firm. Recently I have been roasting it. I love it. It is super easy and it makes the broccoli crisp and delicious.

Preheat the oven to 350-400 depending on your oven.

A head of broccoli
salt and pepper
olive oil

Wash your broccoli and cut it up. :) (Very technical term, can't you tell?)

Place in a bowl and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and drizzle olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.

Spray a pan with pam, and evenly space out your broccoli.
Place in oven and keep an eye on it. It takes anywhere from 15-25 minutes to roast. Depending on how much and how roasted you want it. I like it when the edges are turning brown.
Take out and enjoy!

Hope you love it!