My great-grandparents were born in Italy so for as long as I can remember risotto has been a staple dish in our family. When my dad is the one cooking, which is the norm in my family, we have risotto at almost every gathering including holiday dinners. I even remember my dad making the Italian flag with his risotto one year by mixing tomato paste with a third of the batch and parsley with another third. I don’t remember who was at this particular dinner, how old I was, or what holiday we were even celebrating, but oh how I remember the Italian flag risotto. :) Clearly I was destined to somehow have food be a big part of my life. But enough nostalgia for now… What I am really here to say is that I was slightly devastated when I first thought whole-grain risotto was impossible. You see, when we made the switch to “real food” I looked everywhere for brown Arborio rice to no avail. I even went almost a year without eating risotto (yikes!) until one day I saw a post from Deliciously Organic explaining that you can actually make risotto with just regular brown rice…it doesn’t have to be Arborio or anything special! You know how something can suddenly seem so simple when the information is presented to you like that. Plus this is such a great recipe to have in your dinner rotation because (similar to stir-fry) you can mix in almost anything you have on hand from veggies to seafood to meat in order to make it into a complete meal. And if you have some homemade chicken stock available for this recipe, too…then yum!!
Archives for December 2011
This year I wanted to make fun and cute holiday cookies with my daughters without resorting to the dreaded artificial food dye. I admit that in January I went through the trouble of making my daughter’s 6th birthday cake from scratch with freshly ground whole wheat and local eggs from the farmers’ market, but then I topped it off with artificially colored icing. Even though we made a lot of drastic changes during our 100-day pledge I guess some things are still evolving around here. So this holiday season was my chance to figure out how to make icing that’s colored naturally without breaking the bank. I did a little research and found that “natural food dyes” do exist, but they are rather expensive at $17 a pack (which includes red, yellow & blue), and the finished product can be really pale.
Based on the popularity of my other crock pot “real food” recipes I think you guys will love this one, too. Slow cookers are great for entertaining because you can easily get all the work done in advance and have your house smelling amazing when guests arrive (we use this basic, inexpensive slow cooker). I just made these fajitas myself the other day and my daughters kept asking me “What smells so good??” They couldn’t wait to dig in and if you make the tortillas in advance it will just take some grated cheese, sour cream, and cilantro (plus any other fixings you like on your fajitas), and your feast will be ready in no time. I am getting hungry just talking about it. But don’t take my word for it…you must try it for yourself!
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…I am not much of a salad person. I think a lot of people envision “healthy diets” being full of big salads and bean sprouts and tofu, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with those things, that’s not at all how we eat. Our definition of real food of course includes a variety of fresh organic greens, but also a lot of other things like whole grains and dairy and fruit and even locally-raised grass-fed cheeseburgers. :) So when I recently caught myself craving a certain salad, which has never before happened in my 34 years, I of course felt compelled to share it with all our facebook fans. And I also asked them about their favorite salad combinations as well (below) because I’ve learned that not all salads are created equal. Over are the days of somewhat soggy iceberg lettuce pieces topped with stale looking carrots and a side of highly processed salad dressing. If you start with some fresh greens and top them with the perfect mix of “accessories” I am learning that salads can actually be kind of good. And if we really come up with a super tasty combination of accessories my kids might even have a little salad, too. So here are some ideas to keep us all from getting burnt out…and as always leave any additional suggestions you might have in the comments below! Mixed greens with apples, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, and olive oil (pictured above)…the salad that inspired this post! Variations of this salad: Add dried cranberries, hold the blue cheese, and use a balsamic vinegar with the olive oil Add strawberries, use roasted pecans instead of walnuts, top with salmon and balsamic vinegar Gorgonzola or feta cheese instead of blue cheese Pears instead […]
I actually don’t even like oatmeal, but it’s a very easy “real food” meal that both of my daughters happen to LOVE. They love it so much that my 1st grader takes oatmeal to school as her snack every single day and my preschooler sometimes takes it as part of her lunch (in a Thermos to keep it warm). Apparently a lot of people use water to make their oatmeal, but our secret is milk. I feel the same way about hot chocolate, too. Forget the water…use milk! At the start of our budget pledge last year I tried making oatmeal with water as a cost saving measure and my 6-year-old would have nothing to do with it. I didn’t even tell her anything was different I just served it like I normally do, and she knew immediately that something was wrong. And she wouldn’t eat it either. So after more than a year of playing around and tweaking our oatmeal recipe just the way my kids like it I thought I would share.
Move over regular popcorn, caramel popcorn, and even cracker jacks because I’ve got a recipe that’s going to steal the show. This glazed popcorn & cashew mix might just be one of the best snacks I’ve ever had…and I don’t say those things lightly. It all started when I was working on those fun little “non-cookie” holiday gift ideas last week. I thought glazed pecans or nuts would be a very tasty gift, but then I took the idea a step further and added popcorn to the mix. Bag up some of this stuff, tie on a bow, and you now have the perfect gift for neighbors, teachers, and even the mailman. Don’t forget to attach a recipe card so the recipient not only enjoys every last bite, but also knows it doesn’t contain a bunch of junk and additives (like those highly processed tubs of caramel popcorn). Just be sure you make some extra so you can enjoy it yourself…yum!
Since I’ve been an avid cook for more than a decade my kitchen is pretty well stocked so I thought I’d share the tools and appliances I use – and love – the most! Hopefully the timing of this gift guide will be good for all those holiday shoppers (and list makers) and also for those who are lucky enough to be registering for gifts for an upcoming wedding. If I left any of your favorite kitchen tools off the list please share them in the comments below. Food Processor This appliance is at the top of the list for a reason…I use it all of the time! I have the Cuisinart Food Processor, and this is definitely an appliance where “you get what you pay for.” We got ours as a wedding gift over 11 years ago and aside from replacing the bowl twice (one time was user error…apparently you aren’t supposed to grate mozzarella in it!) our machine is still going strong. I use our food processor for all sorts of things like making dough (for pizza, pasta, and tortillas), pesto, powerballs, and for shredding cheeses…other than mozzarella of course. Recommended: Cuisinart Food Processor Mini Chopper / Food Processor A miniature food processor is a very affordable appliance for shredding small items like fresh ginger, garlic, or a few carrots (to go in your meatballs) and also to make small batches of pesto. The last thing I want to do is clean my big food processor and all its parts if I just need to grind up one quick thing. This certainly won’t replace the need for a big one, but if you are on a budget it would certainly be a good place to start. Recommended: Black & Decker Mini Chopper High Quality Pots and Pans This […]
You are going to love this. The Fresh 20 is offering our readers annual meal plan gift certificates at half off the regular price! The task of planning out “real food” dinners for the week along with a coordinating shopping list can sometimes be overwhelming…so why not let someone else do it for you? Especially with such a small investment! Starting now through midnight EST on Monday, December 12 you can buy annual meal plan subscriptions from The Fresh 20 for just $24.50. That’s 50% off! Here’s the deal… New meal plans are sent to subscribers each week (for one year) and include 5 dinner recipes made from 20 fresh “real food” ingredients. Recipients can choose from classic, vegetarian or gluten-free meal plan options. If you already subscribe to “The Fresh 20” this deal will automatically extend your current subscription for a year. You can buy as many gift certificates as you’d like so feel free to get one for yourself and one for everyone else on your shopping list, too. Your friends, coworkers and teachers will thank you for a gift that keeps on giving!
This is the “pot luck event” time of year so let’s talk appetizers. Below you’ll find a recipe for a super easy and insanely popular “Pesto Cream Cheese Bake” as well as some general appetizer ideas that would be the perfect real food addition to any party (holiday or not!). If you have any suggestions that I left off the list please share them in the comments at the bottom. “Real Food” Appetizer Ideas: Sliced fruit like figs, apples, pears, grapes, melon, berries, small orange segments, or place a few together on fruit kabobs with a yogurt/honey dip Olives Cheese cubes A spread for crackers like hummus, plain or flavored goat cheese, or pesto Whole grain crackers like Ak-Mak, Multiseed Original, or Triscuits Miniature caprese salad on long toothpicks (cherry tomato, small piece of mozzarella, and basil leaf Homemade whole-grain “easy cheesy crackers“ Vegetable crudite (cut veggies with ranch dip or tzatziki sauce) Lightly salted nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, etc.) Glazed nuts Proscuitto wrapped mozzarella dipped in balsamic vinegar
Admit it. When you think of “making” or “baking” some type of holiday gift you think of cookies. Or maybe candy. No matter what it is I guarantee it’s full of sugar, and collectively there’s just too much of that going around this time of year (in my opinion)! I personally think there are many other little holiday gift ideas that are more exciting – and more original – than cookies, and since I like to play by my own rules here’s some of what I will be giving out this year… Homemade Vanilla Extract One of my favorite things about this gift (other than how cute the bottles are!) is that you can make them in advance. In fact – this is a gift that will actually get better with time, which is quite the opposite of a lot of other homemade goodies. Simply slit two vanilla beans down the middle, drop them into 375 ml of vodka (I used the red Smirnoff) and within a few weeks you will have infused pure vanilla extract that someone can use in all sorts of recipes like granola, pumpkin bread, French toast, and oatmeal. And save some money by ordering your vanilla beans online instead of buying them at the grocery store! Amazon is cheaper for large quantities, but reviews are mixed. We get ours from J. Crow’s Marketplace. Assorted Whole-Grain Muffins I adore all those cute treat boxes this time of year, and the ones pictured below from Michael’s Craft Store (that I purchased with a 40% off coupon) are no exception. But just because they are “treat” boxes doesn’t mean you have to fill them with cookies, sweets, and cupcakes…try thinking “out of the box” instead! Okay, kidding. There’s nothing like a cheesy joke to lighten the day. :) Anyway, pictured is […]
I was browsing through the $5 Dinner Mom’s website when I came across her ingenious idea to mix up a big batch of seasonings at one time for an easy homemade Ranch dressing. Once your spice mixture has been made it’s a very simple process to add your perishable ingredient whenever you’re in the mood for some homemade dressing. Talk about being efficient! Now we prefer a Ranch dip over a dressing at our house (especially since it magically makes my 6-year-old eat twice as many carrots as normal) so below is a modified version that turns Erin’s spice mixture into a Ranch dip instead of a Ranch dressing. Enjoy!