Sunday, April 29, 2012

Today's Harvest

Here is a quick photo of today's mini harvest. My tomatoes are starting to ripen and I have been eating the delicious little guys on all my salads. Tomorrow these are going into a mint, cucumber, and tomato salad.

Tonight we are going over to our friends house and I made a strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert. It was really quite simple. I hope to post the recipe tomorrow when I have a but more time. Oh, and my promise of a new way to make a picture frame with puff pain has not been forgot, just need to find the time to write a longer post not on my phone. Until then have a happy Sunday evening!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Picture Frame Painting

This morning Madeline and I headed to the local farmers market with my dad and Kingston. I guess I picked a good day to go, because they had some fun activities for kids. Home depot was there with free kids crafts like making a wood car, bird feeder, window planting box, and wood helicopter. The kits were easy to assemble on site with the hammers and wood glue they provided. They also had paint for the kids to paint their own terra cotta pots and then dirt and flowers for them to plant in their pots. After that and some playing on the adventure building playground they had set up, we ate some local breakfast tacos and some watermelon agave Popsicles.

When we got home, Madeline wanted to paint some more, do I pulled out some cheap picture frames and some little bottles of puff paint and we both painted our frames. They are still drying, but we had fun painting our frames, now we just need to get some pictures in them. Who knew tshirt puff paint had other uses? Tomorrow I will show you how to take the picture frame painting one step further.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Best Healthy Granola Bars


I love granola bars, because they are such an easy snack when I am hungry, but most of the granola bars that you find in the grocery store are full of sugar, or have dairy added (which Madeline can't have), or peanuts (again which Madeline can't have). Since Madeline can have tree nuts, there are a few "energy" bars that she can have such as Lara Bars. And they are great, but sometimes I want more than just fruit and nuts. Sometimes I want the oats and bran and seeds and other fruits. This recipe that I came up with is a take on a granola bar that the Four Seasons Hotel here in Austin makes (my sister used to work for them in the Pastry Kitchen). Their recipe uses a lot of sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter which I wanted to cut from the recipe, and after a few trials, I think I came up with the perfect chewy granola bar. My recipe has almonds and almond butter, but you could easily sub in seeds for the almonds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, etc) and use sunbutter for the almond butter (sunbutter is nut free and made with sunflower seeds) to make them completely dairy and nut free.


Each recipe makes appx. 14 bars that measure 1" by 4.5", and while some of the ingredients are expensive, I am sure these bars are cheaper to make in the end compared the price of the some of those healthy granola bars you can find. Give them a try and let me know if they are not just the best healthy chewy granola bar.

Chewy Granola Bars:

1 cup bran flakes
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup finely shredded dried coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
4 TBSP Ground Flax seed
2 TBSP unsalted raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried fruit of your choice chopped up into small pieces (I used apricots, figs, and cranberries)

For the binder you will need:

1 cup dried apricots
14 dried dates seeds removed
1 1/8 cup almond butter
1/2 cup agave nectar
Zest of one orange

First you will want to toast the dry ingredients (coconut, bran, oats, almonds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds) in the oven at 350 F for about 5-10 minutes turning the ingredients every several minutes until the coconut is toasted and golden brown (that will be the first one you can see toasting and you don't want to over toast it). Next combine the toasted ingredients with the chopped dried fruit and stir to combine.

Now you will need a food processor to process the dates, apricots, and agave until the fruit is as pulverized as your processor will let you get it. My food processor started to stick when the mixture was well blended and I figured that was the best I could get it, and it turned out just perfect.  Next turn out the fruit mixture into a pan and add the almond butter and orange zest and cook until the mixture
softens a little and is easier to stir. About 4-5 minutes on medium low heat. Pour the fruit and almond butter mixture out into the bowl of dried ingredients and using a spoon stir to coat. I ended up having to use my hands to get it all incorporated. Then press the mixture out on a sheet pan lined with a silpat or parchment paper and form into a big rectangle about 1" thick. Make sure to really compress the mixture so that it all sticks together. Let them cool and then cut into bars or squares and wrap individually until you are ready to eat them.

Like I said before, this recipe can easily be altered to incorporate your favorite fruit or nuts, and can also be made nut free with use of sunbutter and a seed mixture instead of the almond butter and almonds. Do you have a favorite granola bar recipe that I should try?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Love Eggs!

Seriously, I love eggs so much! Give me eggs over easy and a piece of toasted, buttered French bread and I am a happy girl. For breakfast today I made a spinach, onion, potato, and bacon frittata. Now I am not actually sure if it was a true frittata, but I think that is what it was, so I am going with that. I basically cooked chopped up potatoes, frozen spinach, onion, parsley, and chives with a little vegan butter (but you can use regular or olive oil if you like) until the potatoes were tender and then I added crumbled cooked microwave bacon. Next I added some scrambled eggs that I seasoned with salt and pepper and gently pushed the mixture around the pan to cook the eggs a bit. After the bottom part of the frittata was set, I put the pan under the broiler until the eggs were cooked through.

I served the frittata with the only fresh fruit I had left in the fridge (today was a shopping day and food was running low over here) and a piece of toasted ciabatta bread.

It was mighty tasty and satisfied my egg craving for the day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas with Tomatillo Avocado Sauce

For dinner last night I made some yummy Black Bean and Chicken Quesadillas with a tomatillo and avocado sauce. I used the following recipe for the sauce (except I added a touch of cream for creaminess and I used jalapenos instead of Serrano chilies), then I added shredded chicken, colby jack cheese, and a few canned black beans. Yummy!

I served the quesadillas with some of my corn, avocado, and black bean salsa. For the salsa I add (in whatever amounts I want or have on hand) frozen corn, diced avocado, rinsed and drained black beans (I used the remaining beans from the quesadillas), chopped bell peppers, fresh chopped cilantro, and chopped tomatoes. Then I seasoned it with fresh lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste. It was a great accompaniment to the quesadillas.

Top it all off with a fresh margarita on the rocks with a salt rim and a movie with my husband and all in all it was a great night. And yes, good food is key to all great nights :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Garden: Tomatoes, Squash, and Pineapple

I finally got around to purchasing some soaker hoses yesterday. I still haven't gotten a chance to put them down, but I know once I do I will free up much of my watering time. Right now it takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes to water my garden, and it isn't even that hot out yet. The soaker hoses will be nice because I won't have to physically water my whole garden, only the middle sections. Yay for more time for other things!

Today while I was watering, I found a few little gems to show you. I have two tomato beds in my garden with about 6 plants each. One of the beds is going crazy with growth. Just the cherry tomato plant is already taller than me and has well over 100 tomatoes. The other plants is that bed are all super tall as well. Here are a few photos of my tomato plants.
Green Zebra Tomato

Cherry Tomatoes

Black Tomato

My squash is also doing quite well. I have two spaghetti squash and several little zucchinis already growing.

Baby Zucchini

Spaghetti Squash
My blackberries are starting to ripen. They are a beautiful pink right now, but are not ready to pick, maybe in another few weeks?
Pinkish Red Blackberry Bush

Last my pineapple plant looks to have taken root and is starting to grow out the center. Maybe in two years I will get a baby pineapple!

Pineapple Plant

How is your garden growing?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rose Wall Decor

Well, I finished my race! I think I ran about half and walked the other half, which is good considering I hadn't trained at all.

After the race we stopped for some food, and then we all came home and took a two hour nap. It was much needed for all three of us. The sun really zaps your energy.

Now to the point of my post, I wanted to share with you some photos of a silk rose flower wall. I haven't done this project myself, but have it on my list of things to do some day. I can just imagine how awesome this would look on one wall of my guest room with lavender, plum, cream, and gray silk roses. It looks pretty easy too! I took these photos in one of my favorite taco restaurants here in Austin. It looks like they just mounted some small wire mesh/screen to the whole wall and then hot glued the tops of roses to the mesh/screen. The only complication that I can foresee is finding that many roses and not having it break the bank. I definitely think finding a wholesaler is the way to go, but that is going to be the difficult part.

I think this project would also be great in a smaller scale. You could cover large canvas frames with the mesh and then glue on the flowers. Think 3 or so large (36" x 48") panels on one wall in the colors of your rooms decor. Yes please!

What do you guys think? Any leads for cheap silk roses?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dinner and A Run

For dinner tonight I made sweet potato and whole wheat gnocchi with amatriciana sauce. Okay, I just cooked the gnocchi, they were pre-made ones that I bought at the store. But I did make my amatriciana sauce from a spiced up jar of tomato sauce. Served with a salad of romaine and my first tomatoes from my garden with a lemon vinaigrette. Yum, Yum!

To make the sauce I used 8 strips of microwaveable pre-cooked bacon chopped, half an onion diced fine, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, some fresh basil from my garden (appx. 2-3 tbsp), and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. I sautéed the first three ingredients until the bacon was crisp and the onion translucent, then add the remaining ingredients along with the jar of tomato sauce. I let all of that simmer for 10-15 minutes then tossed it with the cooked gnocchi. I like this sauce because it is super easy and is a great way to add a little punch to regular store bought sauce.

Oh, and about the run, I am participating in my first race. It is just three miles, and I am sure that I will walk for parts of it, but there are fun obstacle course parts every 1/2 mile! My sister-in-law is running with me, so I am sure it will be a blast. Wish me luck at being able to make it to the finish line!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quick Salad Bar Pizza

Sometimes I have the time to make pizza from scratch, but today was not that day. Pizza is also an item that we rarely eat from a restaurant since we had Madeline because of her dairy allergy. Luckily she can eat goat and sheep cheese, so I tend to make pizza at home do that I can make her special pizza with manchego or goat mozzarella.

As I said, today was not one of those days when I had time to actually make the whole pizza from scratch. So instead I made a quick stop in my local gourmet grocery store (i.e.Whole Foods) and bought some pre-made dough. While there I took a quick trip by the salad bar area and made a container with kalamata olives, spinach artichoke dip, red onions, red peppers, mushrooms, shredded rotisserie chicken, feta cheese, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.

When I got home I assembled the ingredients along with some jarred tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella and provolone and came up with two yummy pizzas (Madeline of course got her own manchego cheese mini pizza).

For the first pizza I used the pre-made spinach artichoke dip as the base and then topped it with mozzarella, rotisserie chicken, and sliced cherry tomatoes. For the second pizza I used the tomato sauce and provolone cheese for the base and then topped it with the red peppers, red onions, zucchini, kalamata olives, rotisserie chicken, mushrooms, and feta cheese for a Mediterranean inspired pizza.

They were both amazing! And now I have some yummy leftovers for tomorrows lunch. Just remember not to underestimate the power of the salad bar when creating a quick meal. All three pizzas were ready to eat in under 20 minutes. Faster, cheaper, and more delicious than delivery.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yummy Italian Pull Apart Bread

I have one more recipe to share with you all while I am here in Vegas. Today my friend and I went and ate at a little Italian food restaurant at the New York, New York Hotel and Casino. I have to say that that hotel may just be my favorite because I am in love with NY and it is just so cute with all the little faux buildings inside. Next on the list is a little bit of gambling with some of our other friends that are in town and later we are headed down the strip to The Mirage for dinner and a show (LOVE - The Beatles Cirque-du-soleil show). I can't wait to see that show too, I think it will be amazing!

Any who, for a special treat a week or so ago, I made the easy pull apart loaf with mozzarella, herbs, Parmesan, peperoni, and provolone cheese. This was best hot out of the oven when the cheese was all gooey and melty. I used whole wheat canned biscuits for the bread, but I think next time I will make my own baking soda biscuits instead, because while the canned dough is okay, I would prefer a dough that is not as sweet as the canned biscuit dough seems to be. And making my self will be healthier and I can always do a whole wheat with extras like flax to make it even better.

Anyway, all I did was cut the biscuit dough into small 1" cubes and then toss them in an finely cut fresh herb and Parmesan cheese mixture (I used chives, parsley, and basil from my garden). Then I placed them in a greased cake pan with some fresh mozzarella, cut up provolone, and cut up peperoni slices (I used the turkey peperoni - much less fat and tastes the same to me). I baked it at 350° F for about 20-30 minutes until the top of the bread was golden brown. I then tipped it over onto a serving dish and took a few pictures for you all and then proceeded to scarf it down. It was delicious and could even be improved upon by adding other veggies like artichoke hearts, olives, roasted red peppers, etc...

Well, now it is off to the casino for me, so I will catch you guys later!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Almost Sugar Free Vegan Chocolate Mousse

A few days before I left for vacation, I had a play date with a friend and was in charge of bringing a dessert. I wanted to keep it healthy, so I decides to bring my vegan chocolate coconut mousse. I actually came up with this recipe ( if you can actually call it that since there are only two ingredients) two years ago when I found out Madeline was allergic to dairy. I was still breastfeeding at the time, and all the dairy I ate was passing on to her causing severe eczema. It took a while to switch my way of cooking to a dairy free way, and during the transition, I discovered this gem to make not only dairy free mousse, but mousse that was vegan and almost completely sugar free.

To make the mousse you need:

One box of sugar free instant jello pudding mix - I used chocolate, but you can use vanilla or lemon too (just make sure the kind you get is vegan if that is something you want, because some flavors have milk)

One can of coconut cream chilled in the fridge for several hours

Once the can of coconut cream is thoroughly chilled, use your stand mixer or hand mixer to beat the cream in a clean mixing bowl as if you are making whipped cream. For a stand mixer use your whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until the cream starts to thicken and look like whipped cream. At this point slowly add in the powdered jello pudding mix and continue to whip until the mixture looks like a mousse like whipped cream. You are now done! Spoon into cups or a large dish and serve with fresh berries. You can eat it right away, but I recommend chilling it for another hour or two so that it can set up nicely.

Enjoy this delicious treat!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vegas - Day 1

Well, we are here! We walked all over the strip today and went in 7 or so casinos. We gambled very little but took several pictures and ate the buffet at the Bellagio. We are in the room right now relaxing our feet, but tonight we plan on heading back down to the casino for some drinks and then to the burger bar for yummy burgers.

Here are a few pics from the day...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Bags Are Packed...

Well, I am ready to take off in the morning for Vegas. Brandon and I are having a quick trip to Vegas for a couple of days sans Madeline. I have spent a couple (2) days away from her once before, but boy did I miss her. This time I will be gone for 5 days and I am not sure I am going to make it. Actually, I know I will, but I will miss her dearly. She is staying with my sister for two days, then with my mom, then Brandon will be back while I stay an extra couple days for a friends wedding out there.

Although I will miss her, I am also excited for Brandon and I to spend some much needed alone time together. Sometimes Mommies and Daddies need a break.

That being said my next few posts will be from the road with a few photos from my days in Vegas.

In other news I found my first tomato already ripening on the vine. This is a Juliet breed tomato plant. I was so shocked to see that orange little guy peeking out this morning while I was watering. I also managed to snap a few photos of my potato plants under the layer of pine mulch I applied yesterday in case anyone is interested.

Now it is time for bed, because I have to be up in 6 hours to get to the airport for my flight.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Garden update 4/10/12

I figured that it was once again time for an update on my garden. The temps here are getting warmer and everything is growing great, but the caterpillars are out in full force. They have been chomping on everything from my broccoli to my summer mesclun to my potato plants. So today I purchased some organic caterpillar bait that my friend told me about. The active ingredient is bacillus thuringiensis and it helps kill the bad caterpillars that keep eating my veggies. So yea for that!

In other news my potato plants are growing good and I just covered all the new plant growth with some pine straw so the potatoes have space to grow. I may not get big potatoes before the heat sets in, but small potatoes are fine by me. Next year I will be sure to plant them earlier so I can get a larger harvest.

My tomatoes and blackberry bush are doing well and it looks like I may get a large harvest of both. Just one of my cherry tomato (sweet 100) plants already has over 100 little tomatoes on it. Not sure why that one is g so crazy, but I did plant some borage and horehound next to it, so maybe that is it.

My sweet potato slips are in the ground and thriving. I think I ended up with around 25 slips from two sweet potatoes. I planted 17 and gave the rest away.

I can't think of much else to report on the garden front. I am done with my planting, I now just have to water, fertilize, and keep those bugs in check and I will hopefully be reporting some more on new discoveries as I continue. In the meantime, here are a few photos of my garden and some from the garden at the Natural Gardener.

Large Lettuce Leaves at the Natural Gardener

Natural Gardener's Herb Garden

Blurry iPhone photo of my cherry tomatoes

Rainbow Chard at the Natural Gardener

One of my Broccoli Plants

Pretty little Purslane - Moss Rose - I bought some today for my garden

My Container Strawberries

My wild growing tomatoes

Large Kale from my Garden

Artichokes at the Natural Gardener

My Blackberry Bush (Brazos Variety)

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