Friday Fun! March 23, 2012

The Bug at the parkSome weeks I can’t wait until Friday, but this week, it is already Friday.  I wish I had a few more days in this week to get more stuff done.  I feel like I was super-busy, and yet accomplished nothing.  Well, not exactly nothing.  I mean, I haven’t killed the herbs that The Bug and I planted last week.  That, in itself, warrants a merit badge for me.  But the weather has been so nice that The Bug and I have spent a lot of time going for walks and playing in the backyard, which has left less time for me to interact with my fans and foodie friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other blogs.  I’ve missed you all, so make sure you leave me some comment love here or on my Facebook page. I’d love to hear what is new with everyone.

Growums sprouts

My friend, Kara, owner and awesome photographer at Kiwi Photography, recommended a book for me to learn how to actually use my $800 camera in something other than Auto mode.  But for some reason, that is not enough of a kick in the butt to start to get me over this hurdle.  So I started an online photography course this week.  Hopefully my photos will start to improve, and maybe get a few more accepted by Foodgawker, and at least one by Tastespotting, although general consensus is that this is all random (thank you, Three Little Piglets, and all of the commenters).  I am taking it through Ed2Go.  I used Ed2Go for an online course to learn how to use WordPress in order to start my blog, and it was really good.  I hope I learn just as much from this one.  They have online courses in a ton of different subjects.  Check them out if you want to learn something new.

My Shamrock Green Smoothie was a hit at home and in cyberspace.  I might have had a couple more after the one I had Saturday morning, and the folks at Finding Vegan loved it too.  Between that and the Chocolate Almond Banana Oatmeal that was on Foodgawker, I had a lot of new visitors and some new fans.  So exciting!

No pictures of any pretty salad for lunch this week.  I am writing this as I wait for my dad at the doctor’s office where he is having some tests done.  So I had a chocolate banana smoothie on the ride over, and am now eating an apple.  While wishing I were having the same salad as I had yesterday – romaine, apples, blue cheese, walnuts, and The Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.  I had made some up for a side salad with the BBQ Apple, Bacon, and Cheese quesadillas I made for dinner earlier this week.  By the way, those were pretty good, so I’ll post that recipe soon.

Here are some things I was checking out out this week:

  • I had these on Sunday, made by The Half-Baked Housewife herself, and WHOA!!  Life-changing.  Or at lead Waistline-changing 🙂  And she made cake pops.  Funfetti ones.  Can you believe this is the first time I’ve had a cake pop?!
  • I am so excited that The Purple Carrot has put together and April Foodie Photo Challenge!!  It has been so much fun!
  • I totally want to combine this Peanut Butter Magic Shell from Chocolate-Covered Katie and this White Chocolate Gorp from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen, and maybe use Chex to make it gluten-free.
  • Speaking of gluten-free, I really miss regular consumption of bread.  I think I may have to consider trying this one from How Sweet it Is.
  • I don’t know if it was the recipes, the amazing photos, or the colorful overabundance of SPRINKLES, but I desperately want one of these Double Doozies from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen or Funfetti Cupcakes for Two from Chocolate & Carrots.
  • Of course, if I am going to have dessert, I should stick with something grain-free and refined-sugar free Pumpkin Bars from The Nourishing Gourmet.
  • The Bug LOVES hummus and avocado, so I thing Two Peas & Their Pod’s Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Sandwich may have to be on the lunch menu soon.
  • I really enjoy the slow, attentive process of making risotto.  When I don’t have a two-year-old hanging on my legs.  I will make it occasionally, but Tastefully Julie’s idea for Microwave Risotto is genius.  I have heard of brown arborio rice, too – has anyone seen it or tried it?

I’ll be spending this upcoming rainy weekend indoors with The Bug, because The Hubby will be away overnight.  We may go to an Easter Bunny breakfast on Saturday, and hopefully make and decorate some Easter cookies for the Royal Icing assignment for First on the First.

Oooh, and guess what – you are going to get double posts today.  A new recipe is coming up later.  We had it for dinner last night, and I’ve gotten some requests for details.  But I’ll tell you, it involves maybe one bowl and no pots or pans or baking dishes!

Remember, if you like what you see here, I’d love for you to subscribe to updates by email, “Like” me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  And tell your friends…

And here is the weekly question:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!

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Blogger Awards

In college, my friends and I were not big party people.  Sure, sometimes we went out and did the “typical” college stuff, but our idea of an awesome party was to make a big pot of spaghetti (usually with vodka sauce, because that was our preferred way to use vodka), and watch the Emmys, Grammy, or Oscars.  One of the most upsetting moments for us was when we missed the big Ricky Martin performance at the Grammys when he first became popular because someone pulled the fire alarm.  These days I tend to watch just the pre-show or the recap on Fashion Police because I really just want to see how amazing or awful the celebs all look.  I usually don’t have much of an interest in the actual awards because I am not a huge music person, I watch more Food Network than network comedies and dramas (other than Glee), and I am lucky if I have seen one of the Oscar-nominated movies.

But now I have received some awards from my fellow bloggers, and I am so honored.  So I want to highlight these amazing ladies, and share the love with some other folks so that I can introduce all of you to some new and not-so-new blogs that you may not have seen before, but that have some incredible food and fun to offer.  I would love to tell you more about each of these, but that will take me so long that the orchestra will start playing in order to get me off the stage.  So now, without any further adieu…

The Beautiful Soul Award was presented to me by The Fountain Avenue Kitchen and The Foodie Physician.  Thank you, Ann & Sonali!  Ann has a bright, beautiful site with lots of great recipes, including a salad that inspired my lunch on Friday.  Sonali went to both medical school and culinary school, so she has lots of great, healthy recipes, and nutrition and health information.

The Beautiful Soul Award

I am presenting this to The PaperCup Kitchen, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, Amee’s SavoryDish, Sugar and Spikes-Badassery in Baking, Lauren Kelly, Certified Nutritionist, and Zestuous.  (I know I received two, so should probably award it to 10 people, but I have a lot more awards to go).

Knead to Cook presented me with the Kreativ Blogger Award.  Robin has lots of tasty, healthy recipes, and some awesome-looking baked goods, usually featuring a great ingredient – Chobani Greek yogurt.

kreativbloggeraward

The Rules for the Kreativ Blogger Award

  1. List 10 random facts about yourself (see below)
  2. Give the award to 6 other bloggers

I already presented this award to  Sumptuous Spoonfuls, ChinDeep, Basilmomma: a busy mom that likes to cook, Pinch of Yum, Help! Mom’s on a Health Kick, And a glass of red wine.

Sumptuous Spoonfuls presented me with the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you, Ann!  Ann inspires me pretty much everyday with her photos and recipes, including an awesome salad and a breakfast idea, and many other recipes I want to try.

versatile-blogger-award

The RULES for the Versatile Blogger Award

  1. Add the award to your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who gave it to you.
  3. Mention 7 random things about yourself. (see below)
  4. List the rules.
  5. Award to 15 bloggers.
  6. Inform each of those 15 by leaving a comment on their blog.

I would like to present this award to Little Mommy, Big Appetite, The Purple Carrot, The Novice Chef Blog, Recipes for my Boys, Cooking From a SAHM, Chocolate, Chocolate, and More Chocolate, Mia’s Domain, FoodThoughtsOfAChefWannabe, Decorate With Sprinkles, LaBelle CuisineMy Crazy Kitchen, My Kitchen Adventures, A Well-Seasoned Life, Hun, What’s For Dinner, and  Made From Scratch Recipes.

The Liebster Award was presented to me by Sweet Morris. She has some great recipes, and interesting little tidbits at the end of each post.

liebster_award

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserves to be noticed.
  5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog.

I would like to present this to five new(-ish) bloggers who have some awesome recipes, nutrition advice and fitness inspiration to share:  And a glass of red wine, The Half-Baked Housewife, Countertop Confections, Tastefully Julie, and BananaOats.  Go check out their blogs and show some love.

So if you have hung in there this long, I would like to thank you, and the Academy.  And now, here are the 10 + 7 random facts about myself:

  1. I have a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, and worked for a major pharmaceutical company for almost 10 years.
  2. I am now a stay-at-home mom.
  3. I have a son named Tyler, who is almost 2, and keeps me on my toes.
  4. He was actually named after Tyler Florence.  I am kind of obsessed with chefs.
  5. I tweeted Michael Symon when he asked about food blogs he should check out, and he is now Following me on Twitter.  Score!!
  6. I actually hate Twitter, but know that it is a good way to connect with people, so I am trying to keep up.
  7. I have a wonderful husband, Bill, of almost 6 years, and he is so supportive of me, and an amazing daddy.
  8. I met my husband at work, and he was actually my boss for a short time on a rotational assignment, before we started dating.
  9. I have traveled to Italy multiple times for vacation and work, and I think it is my favorite place ever.  Mainly because of the food.  And the wine.  And the gelato.
  10. Ice cream is pretty much my favorite food in the world.  And peanut butter.
  11. I workout 3-4 days a week, plus chasing and going for walks with my toddler, all so that I can eat more ice cream and other yummy food.
  12. I hate raw onions, sauerkraut, and canned tuna.  Other than that, I’ll give most things a shot.
  13. I love the Yankees!
  14. I love the beach, and love that my mom lives just outside of Rehoboth Beach Delaware.
  15. I have lived between three adjacent towns in New Jersey for my entire life.
  16. My husband and I love to watch college football together, especially our alma maters, Rutgers and Penn State.
  17. Blogging about food and archiving the recipes has been an incredible creative outlet for me, and I have enjoyed interacting with lots of people as passionate about food as me.

Friday Fun! March 16, 2012

Happy Friday again everyone!  I’m back for another edition of Friday Fun.  I’ll tell you what’s not so fun is that I am starting to write this at 2:50am.  Why, you ask?  Well, for some reason I m having a bout of insomnia tonight, and just as I was starting to wind down, The Bug decided to have a bit of a crying fit.  Well, he settled down, sort of, but now I can’t wind myself back down.  I’m sure staring at the glow of the computer screen is going to do wonders for helping to get me off to dreamland, but c’est la vie.  Gotta use the time somehow, especially since I’ll probably crash when The Bug goes down for his nap tomorrow, umm, I mean later today.  I’m sure I won’t finish this before I try to go to sleep, but at least I’ll get a start.

Last weekend, The Hubby and I got a date night, which was wonderful.  I’m actually hoping to do a little post about it, because we had yet another fabulous meal at The Frog & The Peach, in New Brunswick, NJ.  Every one in a while, we like to go out to somewhere REALLY good.  A lot of the time we try new places, but when we want a good meal with good service and a good atmosphere, without the wildcard aspect of trying a new place, we go to The Frog.

This weekend I am so excited for a Girls’ Night on Saturday with two good friends, Amy and Bethie, and Amy’s future sister-in-law, Megan.  Of course this has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but we bought a Groupon for a Four-Course Chocolate Supper Club dinner at the Chocolate Lovers Club in Princeton, “celebrating cuisine from chocolate-producing countries,” and supposedly includes virgin choctails, three appetizers, four tasting-size entrees, dessert, a cooking demo, and a chocolate tasting.  We will be experiencing A Taste of Hawaii.  OMG!!!!  I also think I will be picking up a bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet to bring along, because it sounds like the perfect pairing to me.

And Sunday I’ll be heading to a birthday party for The Half-Baked Housewife‘s little guy.  She has a huge family and tons of friends, so parties at her house are always such happy chaos.

OK, I think I can go to sleep now.

Apple cheddar and almond salad with balsamic maple dijon vinaigretteSo I am back, and having a salad for lunch inspired The Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s Apple Pecan Spring Greens with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.  I only had romaine and cheddar, though I would much prefer spring greens and blue cheese.  Also, I used almonds instead of pecans, and left out the raw onion (yuck!).  Plus I fudged the dressing a little because I was only making a little for myself, and I used balsamic instead of apple cider vinegar, because I LOVE balsamic.  I also realized I forgot the dried cranberries.  Bummer!  But it was so tasty!

This week I also received several blogger awards from some of my new bloggie friends.  I am so honored, but it has been a busy week with attempting, unsuccessfully, to potty train The Bug, getting my Improv Cooking Challenge post completed, and pulling together my package for my Foodie Penpal, Jessica, that I haven’t had a chance to share the love.  So since the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys are always on Sundays, I am thinking I will be doing a Sunday Awards Show post, so that I can highlight the lovely ladies who nominated me, and tell you all about some other awesome bloggers.

The Bug Planting SeedsThe Bug and I planted herbs this week from Growums.  Let’s see if my Black Thumb of Death rears its ugly head again.  Oh, and my random adorable Bug tidbit of the week is that when you ask him where something is, he points, and says “Right right there.”  Oh, and on the way home from pre-school the other day, he fell asleep in the car.  Usually he asks to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar when we get home, but since he was out cold, I just carried him up to his bed.  As I was laying down, he goes, “Hungry Caterpilaaaaa..zzzzzzzzzz” as he fell back to sleep.  So cute!  And one more thing – apparently at pre-school he is counting EVERYTHING.  He has no interest in letters, but he is all over the numbers.  Clearly the offspring of two engineers.

At Shop Rite I picked up a 5 lb box of Whole Wheat Matzoh.  I’m not Jewish and I have a wheat allergy, so don’t eat too many things like that.  But I thought I might be able to come up with some creative recipes.  And it was free.  And bonus, the only ingredients are whole wheat flour and water, so it’ll make a great whole grain, sugar/salt/preservative-free snack for The Bug.  Any other ideas what I can do with it?

The Bug and his car

Some things I came across this week:

  • In the early stages of tonight’s insomnia, I found this article about food bloggers posting recipes using “real food” versus packaged items and junk food to create visually appealing, drool-inducing recipes that don’t do wonders for the health of the nation.  I am all about balance and moderation.  So while I do try to focus on wholesome, nutritious, “real” food, I do think there is room in life for a little fun, like these Lucky Charms Cupcakes.  That being said, though, so far I think the most popular recipe on my blog is my Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Sausage Tomato Cream Sauce.
  • The Lean Green Bean put together a list of 60 Blogs You Should Be Reading.  There are a lot on there that I already read, and some that I have to add to my list.
  • Every year for Christmas, I make my dad Snickerdoodles.  He even says I now make them better than my grandma used to.  And The Hubby loves molasses gingersnaps.  These Snickercrinkles are like a combo of the two – I have to try them!
  • Ann at Sumptuous Spoonfuls had me hooked with this Double Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread.  I mean, it has Nutella, and it is chock full of healthy things like flax, whole wheat flour, yogurt and applesauce.
  • Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Brown Sugar Frosting and Snickers Cake – ’nuff said!
  • OK, I am not all about dessert.  I am always looking for some new vegetarian ideas for Meatless Mondays and Lent Fridays.  This week I found BBQ Chickpea Burgers and Black Bean Spaghetti Stir Fry.  I am very interested to try black bean pasta after my first venture into gluten-free pasta with brown rice spaghetti last week.  And I thing this Springtime Jasmine Rice Salad sounds amazing, with two of my favorites – asparagus and mushrooms – but I think I may have to add shrimp or chicken for The Hubby to consider it a meal.
  • How cute are these?!?!

I could go on, but I have towels to fold.  Ugh!

Remember, f you like what you see here, I’d love for you to subscribe to updates by email, “Like” me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  And tell your friends…

And here is the weekly question:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!

Friday Fun! #1

Lunch at Computer

Happy Friday everyone!  I know I don’t work outside the home, but I still look forward to Friday.  I love knowing that The Hubby will be home with me and The Bug for a couple days.  I usually have at least one meal planned that is a little more special than our usual Monday to Friday fare.  And hopefully we have something fun planned.  This weekend it is a Date Night!  My dad, Grandpa Yee-Haw (since that is what The Bug says every time he sees him) is coming to babysit.  So The Hubby and I get to have a meal alone that isn’t interrupted by someone spitting out food and yelling to have his hands wiped.  Unless one of us drinks too much.  Kidding!  I love my kid, but I have practically every single meal with him, and it gets old.

So in honor of Friday, I decided to start a fun series of posts showing what I am loving this week, mainly from my reading of articles and blogs on the internet.

At this moment, I am loving lunch.  Well actually I just finished my last bite.  It was a wonderful salad inspired by this Pineapple Arugula Salad from Sumptuous Spoonfuls.  I had just cut up a bunch of pineapple the day I saw this recipe, and knew it HAD to be lunch one day this week.  I switched it up a bit using what I had in the house – feta instead of goat cheese, pine nuts instead of walnuts, pineapple juice and poppy seeds in the dressing instead of lime juice and mint, and I added a couple strawberries, just because.  Yum!

Pinapple Salad from Far Away

Speaking of pineapples and things I love, I love that The Bug calls them “Bye-Bye-Apples.”  I have no idea why, but it is so cute!

I am also excited about the chance to win a $50 Visa Gift Card and PEANUT BUTTER(!!!) from Averie Cooks, and to check out her blog.  I just found it, and it looks awesome!

Clearly, even after last weekend (or maybe because of last weekend), I still have chocolate on the brain!

Well, I hope you check out some of these links, and have a great weekend.  And I’ll leave you with what will probably become my weekly questions:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!

Pineapple Salad Closeup

My Kitchen Staples: Spaghetti Squash

Yeah, so I am one of those people with a food allergy.  My body has some sort of immune response to gluten.  Not celiac, but still annoying.  When I used to go out for Italian food, I always thought it was the garlic and onions that gave me indigestion and a stomachache.  I’ve traveled to Italy several times for vacation and work, and while there, I blamed any tummy troubles on the fact that I ate gelato, nutella, panini, prosciutto, cheese, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on all day, then ended the night with a lot of red wine and a huge meal (usually pasta) eaten at 9pm.  I guess it was the pasta.

While I don’t keep a complete gluten-free diet (I was told I didn’t need to do that), I do try to keep my wheat consumption down.  Except when I am craving pancakes.  Or a Boli from Stuff Yer Face.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, Adam Richman from Man v. Food will help you understand why I have to give in sometimes.

So enter the Spaghetti Squash.

Cut open spaghetti squash

While not an exact replacement for pasta, it does give a similar look and feel, and provides a great vehicle for all of the yummy sauces I like to make.  Those recipes will follow.  Right now, it’s just the basics.

My friend, The Half-Baked Housewife, likes to use the microwave method.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I am sure it works great.  I have always cooked it in the oven.  It takes longer, but you don’t have to pay attention to it for at least the first half hour, and I like the little bit of caramelization it gives.  A lot of times I will get the squash cooked while The Bug is napping, and throw it in the fridge.  Then at dinner time, I just reheat it in the sauce, if that is the type of recipe I am doing, or throw it in a ceramic baking dish, covered, and warm it in the oven or microwave.

1.  Preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Preheat your oven

2.  Wash your spaghetti squash.

Wash your spaghetti squash

3.  Hack it in half with a large knife.

Cut your spaghetti squash

4.  Scrape out the seeds and the fine, stringy gunk (I use a soup spoon).

Scrape seeds out of your spaghetti squash

5.  Place both halves facedown on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with olive oil or cooking spray.

Put your spaghetti squash on a baking sheet

6.  Put the baking pan into the preheated oven.

Bake your spaghetti squash

7.  Bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of your squash, maybe a bit longer if you have a really big one), or until the outside is slight browned, and the flesh is soft enough to be scraped out easily with a fork.  I usually start poke it with a fork around 30 minutes, and then keep an eye on it if it isn’t ready.

Check your spaghetti squash

8.  Scrape out the “noodles” with a fork (or two).

Scrape your spaghetti squash

9.  Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Spaghetti squash noodles

Full disclosure:  The squash I used for the “prep” photos is not the same as the one that provided the “noodles” for the last photo.  The first one I baked up more resembled a broken-strands-of-angel-hair squash.  Not what I was going for, though tasty sauteed up for lunch with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Even if you aren’t gluten-free, I hope you’ll give it a try.  It is very healthy, tasty, and a great way to work some more veggies into you or your picky kids’ diets.  And that is never a bad thing.