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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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

Of Lent and Leftovers (Mango Avocado Salsa Recipe)

I was raised Byzantine Catholic. It is pretty much like being Roman Catholic, but not really.  I could explain further, but I really don’t intend to use my blog for theology lessons.  But for us, Lent starts on Monday, not Ash Wednesday.  We don’t even really acknowledge Ash Wednesday.  I remember the first time I saw someone with ashes on their head, I thought they had been cleaning their fireplace and then touched their forehead before they washed their hands.  Another difference is that on the first day of Lent and on Good Friday, we can’t have meat or dairy.  Growing up in a meat-and-carb-loving family who didn’t really like seafood or beans (or, in my case, fruits and vegetables), and knew absolutely nothing about vegan cooking, this was tough.  Basically we picked on Pop Tarts (yes, strangely most varieties of Pop Tarts are dairy-free), Campbell’s Tomato Soup, peanut butter, saltines, bananas, and lo mein all day.  Well, this was not very tasty, filling, or healthy.

Luckily in the past several years, I have learned to make and enjoy a wider variety of foods.  So now one of my go-to dishes for the first day of Lent and/or Good Friday is fish or shrimp tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa.  Actually this salsa makes a frequent appearance on our dinner table ever since I first saw the recipe I based it on two years ago.  I tweaked the ratios to how I like it, got rid of the raw onion, and replaced the jalapeno with chili powder and cumin, because I usually have these in my pantry, but don’t usually have a jalapeno lying around (and I am not a huge fan of chunks of raw jalapeno).  We LOVE it on fish, shrimp, black bean, or chicken tacos.

Tyler eating Mango Avocado Salsa

Clearly The Bug loves him some Mango Avocado Salsa

I used to make it with just half of a mango and half of an avocado, but The Bug absolutely devours it (well, he does pick around the tomatoes).  But when I use a whole avocado and mango, we do usually have some left over.  And I hate leftover food.  Well, actually, I hate throwing away week-old, uneaten leftover food.  So I have come up with a number of ways to “re-purpose” any salsa that is left.  Except for the salad, these are all some of The Bug’s favorites:

  • Scoop it up with Tostitos Scoops (I usually get the baked ones)
  • Put it in an omelet with cheese
  • Make a quesadilla with beans and/or cheese
  • Put it in a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Spoon some on top of a pile of  mashed black beans (my version of refried beans)
  • Scoop it on top of a salad with Cumin Lime Dressing, and maybe a little feta cheese (my cheaper, easier to find replacement for cotija cheese)
Fish Taco with Mango Avocado Salsa

Fish Taco

Mango Avocado Salsa on Black Beans

Black Beans

Mango Avocado Quesadilla

Quesadilla

I am giving up wine this year.  It was that or ice cream, and I don’t feel like I can part with ice cream right now.  Are you giving up anything for Lent?

This post was shared with:

Pennywise Platter Thursday 2/23 blog carnival, on The Nourishing Gourmet

Traditional Tuesdays 2/28/12, on Whole New Mom

Hodge Podge Friday 3/2/12, on It’s a Hodge Podge Life

Mango Avocado Salsa
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

1 mango, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)Bowl of Mango Avocado Salsa

1 avocado, chopped (about 1 cup)

3/4 cup chopped tomatoes (I like to use grape tomatoes)

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

A few grinds of pepper

Directions

1.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  I like to squeeze the lime over it right after I cut the avocado to keep it from turning brown.

2.  If you have time, let it sit in the fridge for a little while to let the flavors blend before eating.

3.  Scoop onto your taco of choice.

4.  Enjoy!

Mango Avocado Salsa