Chia Seed Cups

Have you seen the Chia Pod from The Chia Company? They come in a few different flavors and with only a few ingredients. I found them at Whole Foods and thought I'd give them a go. We love chia seeds because of the health benefits- Omega 3, Fiber, balances blood sugar, keeps you full so you snack less, just to name a few. 


The first flavor I tried was mango. Mango is probably my favorite fruit and food in general so I will eat anything that has mango in it! Although the Chia Pod taste is amazing, the price is not! I can easily see paying three dollars if I'm trying to eat healthy while on the go playing tourist here in D.C. but I'm craving these things all day, every day! That adds up so, I decided to make my own.


 Behold the Chia Seed Cup! A few ingredients I already had on hand makes this recipe super easy. If you're not a fan of coconut water, feel free to use regular drinking water or even fruit juice. If you don't like mango, use any fruit of your choice. Banana would be lovely. Pineapple-Coconut would be delicious...maybe some persimmon? Use what you love!


This recipe will make about six servings or so. I portioned them out into individual cups for quick lunch packing but do what's easiest for you. I love having them for breakfast or an after-workout snack. These differ slightly from the Chia Pods in way of texture. I thinned them out slightly as I didn't like the thickness of the Chia Pod version. I'll continue to play with the thickness but it's easily adjustable to your liking. Simply add more fruit, less coconut milk, etc. 


Chia Seed Cups

Ingredients:
1 small container coconut water
6 scoops chia seeds
1 c coconut milk
1 1/2 c mango, fresh or frozen (thaw frozen before blending)

Directions:
In a tall glass, combine chia seeds and coconut water. Allow to sit 10-15 minutes so chia seeds form gelee. Meanwhile, blend coconut milk and mango until desired consistency. Mix chia mixture and mango milk and ensure to blend well. Portion out into individual servings, cover with lids or plastic wrap, and chill well before serving. Chia Seed Cups will keep for about a week in refrigerator.

Share with me which flavors you come up with on Instagram or leave a comment below


Moving Monday

Moving is never easy. We're a military family and move every 2-3 years so you would think by now that I would be more than novice at this...but I'm not. Usually our moves are short notice and we don't have enough time to fully purge our home. I vowed that I would be prepared this move and started several months ago with planning, purging, and looking for new ways to organize things long term so another move won't sneak up on me! We'll see how this goes. Moving Monday will be a series to help those of you who are moving or just looking for easy ways to maximize your space. 

This week, I started with our dvd collection. We had 50 dvds left after I purged any older ones we no longer wanted or outgrew. For some reason I had 3 copies of A Good Year with Russell Crowe. Obviously, I liked that one! 


The dvds started nicely in pretty stacks as I began pulling them from their cases. I used the Atlantic Movie Sleeves you see below. I ordered them from Amazon but they're also available from Target. Amazon is a bit cheaper and if you have Prime, you also get free 2 day shipping. I love Amazon!  

There are several options for these type of sleeves from smaller paper ones to hardened plastic cases. I chose these for a couple reasons. I like the clear view where I can keep and display the dvd cover for easy selection and these have pockets for 2 dvds in each sleeve. This is especially nice as most movies come with special feature disks or if you wanted to forgo those, you could pair titles like Spiderman 1 & 2 in the same sheet to save even more space!   


Here you can see the finished sleeve with the movie. Ginger Rodgers in State Fair- one of my favorites!  And here you have the back side with both dvds from this title. 


Once I finished pulling the dvds and their covers, I was left with this huge pile of cases that took up a quarter of a closet upstairs. Bonus points for you if you can find a way to re-purpose these. I recycled them and got points I use towards gift cards and magazine subscriptions from Recycle Bank.


Just to give you an idea of how much space you'll be saving, each dvd equals 7 of these filled sleeves. Crazy, right! I can't believe I didn't do this sooner. Now you're thinking where to put all these sleeves, right?


I found a couple boxes that I liked from a few different stores. Target, TJMaxx, Walmart, the BX- they all have great options. Find whatever matches your decor or makes you happy. I think I paid $7 for this one at TJMaxx but all the ones I found were less than $10. 


I then made dividers from card stock and my handy label maker. There are tons of options for making these so I won't go into that here but I did semi alphabetize the titles to find them easily. This part may change later as we add more dvds but for now, it works great. 


This little gem will now take up only a small spot on a shelf rather than an entire shelf or two! You can also throw the whole box in your car for the big move or just take a few sleeves on vacation for the kiddos. This would even be great for videogames or a classroom.


Happy organizing! If you have any tips or tricks to help with a big move, leave a comment below! 



Sundried Tomato & Spinach Quinoa Bites

Quinoa is relatively new to my repertoire. I wasn't sure I liked it at first but given how healthy it is for me, I've tried several recipes looking for something I'd enjoy with the benefits. These quinoa bites are feel-good food!

 With they're perfect two-bite size, it's easy to serve them as an appetizer at a party. Especially to help balance other heavy dishes in the upcoming holiday season. The bright green and red from the spinach and sundried tomatoes make then even more festive. 


With only a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand, these are a breeze to whip up for a power breakfast. I make my quinoa the night before and then warm what I need for the recipe in the morning- just 30 seconds in the microwave and we're ready to go! These bites are made in a mini muffin tin but you could easily make them regular muffin size and serve with a salad for brunch.  


I used sundried tomato and spinach since I had a lot on hand but feel free to play with other flavors. Maybe a little ham & cheese or caramelized onion. Try a sweet version of raisins and cinnamon for a healthier "rice pudding" option.  



Sundried Tomato & Spinach Quinoa

Ingredients:
1 c cooked quinoa, warm
1/3 c spinach, chopped
1/4 c sundried tomatoes, chopped 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1/2 c mozzarella (or whatever you have on hand)
2 egg whites
dash of salt & pepper

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. In a mini muffin tin, spray nonstick cooking spray and fill 12 of the slots completely full as these quinoa bites will not spread much. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven, allowing to cool for another 10 minutes.  Serve warm. 


Garlicky Shrimp Scampi

I love a large, comforting bowl of shrimp scampi! I crave the sweetness of the shrimp enveloped with butter and tangy lemon juice atop a mound of hearty pasta. That pretty much sums up this easy, delicious dish.


I start with fresh or frozen shrimp but I already had this in the freezer for today. I also like to use the jumbo (25-30 count) but you can use whatever size you like. You'll also need butter, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon. 


Begin by giving your shrimp a good rinse. These are still frozen but they'll finish thawing while you make the butter and then in the oven. How easy is that?!


Then mix up your compound butter. This butter is incredible with fish or vegetables or even a baked potato. On a side note, I think I'll invest in one of those small food processors rather than my giant machine of a thing! It's a pain to clean!


I love the bright green! The parsley retains most of its color since shrimp cooks quickly and looks fantastic against the pink shrimp. 


Spread the shrimp on a baking sheet in a single layer. Excuse the ugly pan. It's well loved. 


Bake at 375 degrees until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through. Serve with pasta or rice. Don't forget to squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp and pasta before serving but more importantly, pour in the leftover melted parsley butter from the pan too. You can add lemon juice to the butter but I like adding it to the end with a tablespoon or so of good olive oil. 



Garlicky Shrimp Scampi
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 lb shrimp, fresh or frozen
1 bunch parsley
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 stick butter
1 lemon
1-2 TB olive oil (optional)
cooked pasta for serving

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse shrimp and allow to drain. In a food processor, combine parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, butter, and lemon. Pulse 8-10 times until the compound butter is formed. Spread the shrimp on a baking sheet and top with the compound butter. Bake shrimp until opaque and cooked through, around 15-20 minutes depending if thawed or frozen to start. Top cooked pasta or rice with shrimp and an extra squeeze of lemon and a glug of olive oil. 

Note: The next time I make this, I'll add more garlic or even saute a mound of garlic to top the finished dish. 

Bon Appètit! 



Gran's Famous Tuna Salad

Hubby is on a work trip this week so it's my opportunity to eat all the things he doesn't share enthusiasm for! Most of the time, he tolerates my experiments in the kitchen but as soon as I say the words mushrooms or tuna...forget about it! I secretly hide mushrooms in recipes though he doesn't recognize them because I make a beautiful duxelle. Anyway, all week I've eaten mushroom laden dinners so to mix it up, I made a large batch of tuna salad.

This is a simple "recipe" that I tweaked from my Gran's. She made the best cold salads and I always think of her when trying to replicate her famous tuna or macaroni salad. Lot's of celery, of course!



Gran's Famous Tuna Salad
(click the title for printable recipe)

1 6oz can tuna, I use Bumble Bee Albacore White Tuna in water
1 celery stalk, minced fine (Gran would double that, at least)
1 carrot, minced fine
1/4 red onion, minced fine
1 T parsley, minced
2 T mayo, I use Hellman's made with Olive Oil
1 tsp celery salt
Salt & pepper, to taste
Sliced tomatoes and toasted bread for serving

Drain tuna thoroughly and place in a medium sized bowl. Using a fork, separate the large chunks of tuna until desired consistency. Add celery, carrots, onions, parsley, mayo, s&p, and celery salt. Mix well and refrigerate at least 1 hour for flavors to meld. To serve, layer tomatoes and tuna salad on toasted bread. Feel free to add pickles, boiled eggs, or anything else your heart desires. 

I also served this with spicy pickled okra on the side. I'm Southern like that!



"Over the Rainbow" Slaw

If you know anything about me, you know that I LOVE all things Hawaii. Everything about the place...the smell, the strumming of ukuleles, the beaches and water, the everlasting color of the flowers and daily farmer's markets. Hawaii is a place for permanent vacations and I know this all too well! Who's ready to escape winter with me?!
 
This recipe is inspired by a couple different things. I wanted a light, healthy, fiber-packed dish full of color and flavor and it had to be quick and easy to prep. Eating healthier lately has pushed me more towards Asian flavors so this dish is the perfect platform for that.
 
 
I served this dish along Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders for the ultimate Hawaiian "splurge" without the guilt. You can see the recipe I used for that at Glam Hungry Mom's blog.
 
"Over the Rainbow" Slaw
 
Ingredients:
 
Dressing:
1/4 C agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 C macadamia nut oil
1/4 C rice vinegar, unseasoned
1 TB soy sauce, low sodium
1 tsp sesame seed oil
1 TB peanut butter
1 tsp Siracha hot sauce
1 TB ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
 
Slaw:
1 bag broccoli slaw
2 C carrots, shredded
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 C edamame, shelled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 C roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 C cilantro, chopped
 
Directions:
 
Add all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Mix with a whisk until peanut butter is well combined and set aside. In a medium bowl, add all slaw ingredients. While tossing, slowly drizzle dressing until desired consistency. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes for slaw to soak up dressing. Adjust seasonings as desired and serve with cilantro and peanuts to garnish.

Cuban Black Bean Stew

We're 17 days into 2013 and so far, I'm feeling pretty good about the food choices we're making as a family. We didn't bother with empty resolutions but we did talk about making healthier choices throughout the year to include making a conscious decision to eat better. A decision that will get made at every meal. Eat this, not that! 

While I love the feeling I get when I eat healthier, it can be hard to balance delicious food with food that won't make you gain weight or feel bad about yourself. I think this is why we fail at so many diets. Smaller portions of food packed with tons of flavor is what my family strives for in this healthier version of us and this recipe is at the top of our favorites list. Fiber packed black beans with smoky Cumin- good tasting and good for you! 


This dish takes less than 30 minutes to make so it's the perfect weeknight meal. I started this dish with just a few simple ingredients that you may already have in your pantry. Dice up a red bell pepper, onion, and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add cumin, salt & pepper and stir it into the vegetables. 


Next, add in your black beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes or until beans are heated through. Using your wooden spoon, gently mash some of the beans to thicken the sauce. 


Add cilantro, saving some for garnish. I love cilantro...I could nosh on it alone! I know some of you don't like it and if that's you...try adding a few dashes of ground coriander. You'll get a similar effect and still tons of flavor. 



Voila! Serve with your choice of white or brown rice, diced tomatoes, and leftover rotisserie chicken or steak. I used jasmine rice here because we love it but brown rice would be a healthier option. To make this vegetarian, use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and leave out the meat altogether. It's that easy! 


Cuban Black Bean Stew

Ingredients: 
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (I use Goya brand)
1 can stock, vegetable or chicken
2 t cumin powder
1 t ground coriander, optional
1/4 c fresh cilantro, rough chop (save some for garnish)

For serving:
diced tomatoes
cilantro
chicken or steak
white or brown rice

Directions:
Sauté bell pepper, onion, and garlic until onion is translucent. Add cumin, salt & pepper and stir. Add black beans and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add cilantro. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve alongside rice, tomatoes, and choice of protein. Garnish with more cilantro. 

Note: Next time I make this dish, I'll definitely double it. My boys have been asking for more all week! 

Making Pasta

I belong to a spouse's club composed of other lovely military ladies here in Colorado Springs called PSC. Each month, PSC hosts many socials and sub-club events for us to come together and bond, make new friends, and even to enjoy learning new things. Besides BUNCO (woo-hoo!) I love to attend Italian Cooking hosted monthly by our very own Italian, Sylvia. Sylvia (from Verona) cooks the best Italian food I've tasted since my visit to Ascoli Piceno and it's the one day of the month I look forward to getting away from my wife & mother duties! January's class was Pasta Making! 

We start off each evening with just a little something to keep our energy up. A light snack and drinks. Nothing fussy as we spend most of our time preparing the food. Here you have zucchini wrapped in prosciutto. You can dry saute this or not. I preferred it without cooking. 

Here are a few of the ladies in attendance. Usually our classes run small but we nearly doubled with 14 that night. Working in groups of four at a time, we began the pasta process. This is definitely a hands-on class but I'm not sure how anyone learns just by watching. Get your hands dirty! 

Like I said, making pasta can get messy but this is a great thing to plan with a small group of friends, family, and with the kids. Don't fret if you think you'll need to purchase a ton of items to make pasta. Actually, don't buy all the gadgets. With this group, we had tons of items to choose from but if you're thinking of buying anything, just purchase one of the hand crank pasta makers. I think I paid $20 at TJ MAXX and it was perfect! Also forget the special ravioli presses- they're not as good as they look. Leave it rustic with using just a pizza cutter or pick up an inexpensive pasta cutter. If you want perfect...then you probably shouldn't be making pasta by hand to begin with. Sorry!

Using just a basic pasta recipe which I'll leave you with below, it will need to rest. Once that's done, start cranking! Be ready for a long get-together too. Making tons of pasta for everyone to be able to take some home will take you at least 3-4 hours. Just to plan ahead...and have lots of snacks for munching. 

We were so lucky that Sylvia had prepped the fillings ahead of time. It was nice to have four different varieties but you could also choose just one. We had these:

~ Ricotta & Spinach
~ Salmon, Tilapia, & Arugula
~Ham & Mushroom
~ Ascoli Three Meat (My favorite)

I call this the Ascoli one because it is the same traditional filling used to fill stuffed olives from Ascoli Piceno. I made a lot of these and ate these A LOT in Italy! Divine!

Here is a good view of the rolling and stuffing. We worked in pairs to crank the pasta, fill it, press & crimp and then laid it to dry for a bit. We saved all of our cardboard boxes from the holidays to leave the pasta on for drying. You can also purchase sheet cake containers from your local bakery to aid in this. Don't use newspaper though...you don't want to eat ink.  

Seeing that we were taking so long, we also made some fettuccine to get the class moving a little faster. I ate mine with some pesto sauce and diced tomatoes topped with Parmesan for lunch the next day. I may or may not have shared this with my family! I'm not sorry.  

This was my Ascoli pasta I made. Pretty, huh? Considering I've only made handmade pasta in culinary school a few times....that's it. So easy to make.  Another tip, think about any leftovers you may have from weekly dinners and freeze them for your pasta making night. Time saver!

So, our classes are held at the chapel on base and our kitchen is limited to the amount of space it has compared to the amount of pasta that we were making so we used chairs for the fettuccine.  
Pasta Math: P(14) x C= too much pasta, no more countertops! 
The picture below is not even half of what we made. I wish we would have thought to do a tally. 

All in all, making pasta was so much fun. It was great learning and bonding together and it's a great memory I'll hold on to as a military spouse. 

Basic Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:
1 C AP flour
1 egg
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t olive oil
2 T water

Directions: 
On a work surface, mix flour and slat. Make a well in the center. Add egg and olive oil. Begin to combine. Add a little water as needed to incorporate the flour. Knead dough for 3-4 minutes then allow to rest in a ziploc bag for about 15-20 minutes. This helps with the elasticity. Once it's ready, begin on the largest setting of your machine (cranker) and work your way down until you have a thin sheet of pasta. You may need to fold the pasta sheets in the larger settings to make them fit. It will look like a sheet of paper. Then you're ready to cut, fill, etc. 

I apologize for the random "recipe" above. Sylvia doesn't give measurements and we learn by doing so this is all from my notes. Leave me a comment if you have any questions and I'll try to clarify. 

"Everything but the Chicken" Soup

The Christmas festivities are over and I'm busy cleaning up the cardboard-wrapping paper-bows and more mess that has taken over my house! It was a quiet holiday of just the three of us. We made special memories this week and remembered those that can't be with us this year. I think of my grandpa (Papaw) and all the special holidays we shared. I am comforted that he had a good life and we all loved and were loved. This makes me smile.
 
Speaking of comfort, we are on day 3 of leftovers and that's about all my boys can take! I want something warm and light and of course, won't take me away from the board games and movie time we're having here these few days. No more heavy cooking this week!
 
 
I decided on soup so I scoured my fridge and pantry to see what was on hand. Considering the stuffing I made this earlier, I had all this loot! Carrots, celery, onion, parsnips, and a sweet potato. Score!

 
Then I pulled out one container of chicken stock (low sodium). If you're a vegetarian, use veg stock here. But you'll have to call it something else....you decide!

 
I also had remnants of thyme, bay leaf, and lemongrass. The lemongrass is from another recipe I'm testing for when we get sick (cross fingers we don't). More to come on that!

 
Remember this being super simple? Well, saute your veg, add stock, water, and herbs. 30 minutes or so later, throw in some orzo or other small pasta. Voila! Soup is served!

 
Perfect soup served in my pretty dishes I received as a Christmas gift. Hope you had a happy one!
 
"Everything but the Chicken" Soup
 
Ingredients:
2 carrots, small dice
2 parsnips, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
1/2 sweet potato, small dice
1 32 oz container chicken stock
2 c water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 stalk lemon grass, broken into large pieces
S&P, to taste
1 TB EVOO
1/2 c orzo pasta
Parmesan, to garnish
 
Directions:
Add EVOO to stock pot and saute vegetables until onion is translucent, 2 minutes or so. Add stock, water, and herbs. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes until veggies are fork tender. Add orzo or other small pasta and allow to cook for 7 minutes or so or until pasta is cooked al dente. Serve with a little grated Parmesan.

Loss

This has been a rough few weeks. Err...a rough year, let's say. Today we lost my precious grandfather, Jesse. Eight months ago, my grandmother also passed away on Easter sunday. I want to ball up, scream and cry, and feel sorry for myself. But...I know God is good and he knows things that I don't or can't quite understand. So I will be thankful and gracious for the time I could spend with my "papaw" in the 30-some years I was gifted and the memories I can keep forever.
 
 
He was the kindest, sweetest man I have ever known. Maybe, ever lived. He gave the best hugs. He was proud of his family and loved us greater than you could fathom. He was also deaf. And even though his speech wasn't always clear, he had the warmest voice that spoke words of love. I will miss his voice.
 
I know where he is today. He is with my grandmother and the others that have gone on before us. He isn't in pain or suffering. He has no fear of what's to come....and he can hear! I can only imagine what joy is going on in Heaven at this moment! I will take comfort in knowing that he is in a better place.
 
I will miss and love you always, Papaw.