I Heart Food

Valentine's Day Meal (from Food and Wine)

Valentine’s Day Meal (from Food and Wine)

No matter your Valentine’s Day plans– with family, friends, a significant other, or yourself, there is plenty of love for delicious food to go around.  There are plenty of rich main courses (duck!) or decadent (self-made!) desserts.  Chocolate. Is. Essential.  (Calorie-counting is not allowed.)  Enjoy a February 14th full of flavor!!

All About the Wings…

Buffalo Wings (from Tasting Table)

Buffalo Wings (from Tasting Table)

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest venues for the home preparation (or takeout, I suppose) of chicken wings.  Learn the tips to make the best wings (and you can even make them healthier, if that’s your inclination).  There’s no limit to what you can do with recipes and sauces.  While there is conjecture about the best approach, sometimes nothing beats a classic.  Enjoy!!!

The Great Pumpkin!

Happy Thanksgiving! There is never a bad time to be thankful and enjoy food (even if you aren’t in the U.S. for this specific holiday)!  If you have not yet had your fill of Turkey Day delicacies, perhaps some pumpkin will tantalize… and not that stuff in the can, either:

(via http://www.marthastewart.com/1089860/diy-pumpkin-pur%C3%A9e#1089860)

Hmm… a pseudo-pumpkin is filling our store shelves?

I grew the sugar pumpkin variety this year to a fair level of success.  I may have to expand to the additional variety he mentions, as well!  I have used pumpkin as a base for a risotto- it can be so much more than dessert… the recipes abound (for slow cookers and more.)  And who can forget the not-quite-so-unexpected bonus of toasted pumpkin seeds- sweet or savory? (After saving some to plant for next year, of course.)  I enjoyed ours fresh from the oven with a little salt.  (Parchment paper was a good tip to keep them from sticking/burning and to cut the fat.)

Enjoy!

 

Flight of the Bumblebee?

flowers in field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We just purchased a house with some additional outdoor space, and we are reaping lots of color in our first growing season here!  I plan to add plenty to this blog about some of our gardening projects around the new place as we dream them up.

As I have been maintaining our greatly increased lawn space, I have been fortunate to notice more than a few bumblebees in the area.  As a gardener, this is definitely a major positiveHoneybees and bumblebees have been facing some tough times.  Colony collapse disorder is very real, but not fully understood yet (though there are some possibilities).  I don’t know that we currently plan to have a hive nearby or take a beekeeping class yet, but at the least, some of our field will stay as it is.  A few more native wildflowers may make an appearance, as well.

(The honey is a bonus!)

Chia… It’s Not Just for Pets Anymore!

I had heard about some of the benefits of chia seeds, but was excited to find out more- such as a recipe for chia pudding!

(Another recipe mentions you can use regular milk.)

 

Or a recipe for simple chia jam:

 

While some claims (such as weight loss) have not been researched much, chia seeds do have some known benefits.  My wife was most excited that they are a source of omega-3s that do not involve fish and (convenience-wise) are available in bulk at our local food cooperative.

Meal Planning… (or the Sustainable Not-A-Diet)

planning

 

 

 

 

 

 

UW Health had recently posted an article on meal planning which got me thinking about the benefits behind our own meal planning.  My wife and I had made the decision to focus more on meal planning (which subsequently led to us eating increasingly healthier) sometime less than a year ago.  How noticeable has the change been?

We’ve noticed several benefits- not the least of which is some weight loss (my usually accumulated semi-substantial winter pounds have vanished this long winter).  Granted, we had been eating somewhat healthier/with more vegetables for a long while before this.   Occasionally, our pre-meal-planning conversations would go something like this around dinnertime, though…

Me: “What are you hungry for?”

Her: “I don’t know.  You?”

Me: “I could go for anything.”

(Cue trip to selected nearby fast food restaurant.)   And… scene.

Now repeat this on a somewhat-weekly basis, and we’ve added weekly fast food runs to our meal planning.  The aforementioned UW Health article refers unspecifically to a survey about increased fast food consumption.  While we weren’t at the 5 meals threshold they reference, the fast food adds up (but that’s not to imply that I have completely sworn off fast food, though…)

We have found that we don’t need to plan beyond the upcoming week, but planning, cooking a meal, and eating associated leftovers has helped our budget also.  We are not paying extra (with calories or $) for convenience and are still saving time.  Freezable foods are simple to store in our chest freezer for later, as well.  Give it a try- what do you have to lose?

 

A pantry staples reference/recommendation to get you started: http://www.uwhealth.org/files/uwhealth/docs/pdf4/GRFW_Prepare_Pantry_flier.pdf

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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(But be careful with the name!)  Celebrate with the history and some green, as well as favorite dishes (even though they may not be historically Irish).  Of course, there is nothing like a glass of Guinness.  Visit a local Irish pub, and don’t forget dessert!  I’m not Irish (but I’m adopted Irish through my wife).

We didn’t go with the typical dishes this year; instead, I made a sweet pea and asparagus risotto to celebrate with green.  I’ve made a basic (somewhat healthy) risotto recipe for a while now and have found ways to adjust it to tasty effect.  I have a couple of cooking adjustments so it is not so heavy (1% milk instead of cream, butter added just before the end, olive oil to start).  Enjoy!

Sweet Pea and Asparagus Risotto

olive oil

1 large white onion

2 cloves garlic

2 c white wine

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon marjoram

1 tablespoon coriander

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups risotto rice (Arborio or another kind)

1 cup milk

6 cups water (added one at a time)

chicken-flavored stock granules (or veggie, if desired)

1 small bag frozen peas

1 bunch fresh asparagus, chopped into pieces (tough part of stem removed and discarded)

2 tablespoons butter

8 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

I cooked this using a wok, but a medium-large non-stick saucepan should work.  Add olive oil to pan and set heat to low-medium.  Chop onion and add to pan.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add garlic using a garlic press (or mince).  Cook for about a minute (don’t let garlic burn), and add white wine.  I added the herbs at this point.  (I tend to like a lot of seasoning, so my herb and spice measurements were more along the lines of 2 tablespoons each.)  Add the rice, and cook so the wine bubbles and starts to reduce.  Add peas and asparagus.  Add milk, and then add the water 1 cup at a time (as the water cooks away and evaporates).  (Add chicken, chicken-flavored, or veggie stock granules according to the package directions.)  Keep heat at about medium so the mixture is bubbling, and keep stirring frequently to prevent burning/sticking and to build the creaminess with the rice.  Taste the rice as you cook so it does not get completely soft (you may need to add additional cups of water if the rice is not yet done, though).  Add the butter just before you are done.  Allow it to melt and stir it into the mixture.  Remove the risotto from the heat and add the shredded Parmesan (while stirring).

A note- fresh peas may be better, but we did not have any available.  The frozen peas we had seemed starchy, but we did enjoy the flavor of the peas, so frozen baby peas may be the way to go (more sweetness, less starch).   Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Inevitable Post about Kale…

Kale (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

Kale       (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

It was only a matter of time until I had a detailed post about kale.  And at what better time than to ring in the spring (with an impending St. Patrick’s Day!)  Seems like mostly everyone is talking about the health benefits of kale.  The ubiquitous term ‘superfood’ is thrown around quite a bit, along with smoothie after smoothie after smoothie.  And why not?

I happen to enjoy the richness in the flavor of kale.  Kale is the star in an article in Chef Fabio’s magazine.  While my wife feels that kale should be relegated back to its historical place as buffet decoration, I can say there will be some in our garden this year (for some kale chips!)  Kale chips are really easy to make and can be embellished with any number of spices.  I also like that kale holds up well in soups, as other greens don’t, and is simple to use as a base for a salad.   And that’s not all…  If you haven’t tried this veggie yet, now’s the time; make some space in the garden!

Game Day! (Chicken Wing Dip Recipe)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Football_signed_by_Gerald_R._Ford.jpg

Football

If you are a football fan (or a commercials fan), you might be watching a certain game today.  If you are having/going to a party, it’s not too late to make a tasty snack!  While this one likely won’t win any health awards, we’ve made it several times.  (We received the recipe from a friend.)  It’s quick too: Chicken Wing Dip!  While no actual chicken wings were used in the recipe, it has the flavor.

Chicken Wing Dip

1 cup ranch dressing (or blue cheese dressing)

1 cup Red Buffalo Wing sauce (any wing sauce of your choice will do)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 bricks softened cream cheese

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (chicken breasts work well)

Bag of sturdy chips/crackers for dip (we use pita chips)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Set a pot of water to a roiling boil and boil chicken breasts for 20 minutes.  Break apart so chicken is shredded.

Mix all ingredients and put in a 13×9 pan.  Sprinkle extra cheddar cheese on top.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until bubbly.  Use chips/crackers for dipping.  Enjoy!