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Category Archives: Vegetable

Carrot-Raisin Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

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My brain is in a major fog today. I have a bit of a cold, which is making my stuffy head feel like it’s going to explode. The baby has the same cold. I’m guessing his head also feels like it’s going to explode, since he’s been sleeping even more miserably than usual. And when he sleeps miserably, we all sleep miserably. It’s unfortunate, because I could really use a good sleep right about now. If only the dog could watch the kids for a bit while I took a nap…

Instead, I’m manning my post as captain of chaos central. The baby is howling in his crib, because he doesn’t want to take the nap he so desperately needs. The other two boys are healthy (thankfully) and buzzing with their normal dose of energy. And the dog, my only hope for a babysitter, just can’t decide which side of the door he wants to be on. Oh well…guess it’s just one of those days.

In other news, I’ve been back on track with my fitness goals for four days now. My little dietary hiatus resulted in gaining back about four of the pounds I’d lost earlier in the year, but I’m refocused and ready to get myself in shape, just in time for shorts-weather. I’ve put myself back onto phase 1 of South Beach diet, which always helps to reset my dietary habits. I’ve been enjoying cheesy morning omelets, protein-packed lunchtime salads, and veggie loaded dinners, with snacks of fresh veggies, roasted garbanzo beans, part-skim cheese and pistachios in between. I feel healthier already.

But, before I jumped back on my diet plan, we brought in Easter morning with these decadent pancakes. It’s taking every bit of my self control not to whip up another batch right now…well, that and the absence of a few crucial ingredients. These pancakes combine the flavors of a classic carrot cake with the feel of traditional pancakes for a really tasty breakfast treat. You could go heavier on the sugar and carrots for a sweeter, cakier result, but for me, these are just perfect. They’ve got the right balance of flavors and sweetness to remind you of carrot cake, while still maintaining the overall feel of a breakfast pancake. A simple cream cheese icing provides the perfect finishing touch.

And they’ve got carrots in them…so they must be good for you, right??

Carrot-Raisin Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Butter, for pan

Directions

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir with a fork until the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Add the milk, eggs, and vegetable oil (or melted butter). Whisk until combined. Stir in the grated carrots and raisins. Melt a little butter in a pan over medium heat. Add about 1/3 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute or two on the other side, until cooked through.

Drizzle with cream cheese glaze before serving.

To make the glaze: Combine 4 ounces of softened cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Then, add a bit of milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.

Ham and Corn Chowder

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Life is made up of a series of memories; some big, some small, some clearly life-changing, and some seemingly inconsequential. My wedding day, the births of my children, the loss of loved ones…all clearly consequential. But the little memories…like singing the soundtrack to Grease with my sisters while we played on our childhood swingset or selling candy bars outside the grocery store or riding our bikes in the park…turns out that those are just as consequential. We just don’t always realize it in the moment.

So, I’m lying on the couch last night, glass of wine in hand, playing around on my computer and distractedly watching American Idol, when two of the contestants come on stage and begin singing Islands in the Stream, a duet originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In an instant I was transported back to my childhood, in my parents’ room, where my sisters and I used to stand at the foot of their bed, with our toes jammed between the mattress and boxspring, so that when we’d lean forward, the edge of the mattress would catch our calves and we’d suspend there, bobbing forward with our arms outstretched. We’d sway back and forth, mock-gliding over the mattress singing Islands in the Stream at the top of our lungs…with all the wrong lyrics, I am sure.

Such a simple little memory and yet it’s etched in my mind. Because it’s more than the ordinary event of singing a song with my sisters. It was a matter of being together, of laughing, of loving, and of feeling at home. Those are consequential, life-altering sorts of things wrapped in a silly little memory and tied together with a country song.

Every morning, our boys come bursting into our bedroom. The baby is usually already there by that point, drowsily enjoying a morning feeding. But the older boys don’t wake drowsily. They wake with a lightening bolt and go 0 to 60 in the moment they open their eyes. They fly into our room in a flurry. They do not stick their toes between our mattress and sing a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet. They mostly just make animal noises and shout things like underpants. They climb into my armoire. They climb under the bed. They jump on top of the bed. (Just imagine if you released a couple of monkeys into an enclosed space…it’s exactly like that.) Every so often we can convince them to climb under the covers for a snuggle. And sometimes we’re inclined to just send them back to their room because the activity level far exceeds what we’re prepared to handle that early in the morning. But those morning memories, of waking to a family that loves them…those memories matter.

This weekend we’ll be making more memories, the kind that add a bit of mystery and magic to childhood. Though I’ve expressed my half-hearted support for the Easter bunny, he will be visiting our home, hiding eggs, and leaving a basket filled with soft, stuffed-bunny toys, bubble wands, chocolate-dipped marshmallow Peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and animal crackers hidden under the cellophane grass. We’ll color eggs and make a coconut-covered bunny cake with shoe-string licorice whiskers and a jelly bean nose. It’s tradition. And tradition matters too.

For dinner, we will most likely enjoy slow-roasted lamb with a fresh mint sauce, along with roasted red potatoes, roasted asparagus, and slices of warm French baguette. Our family prefers lamb over ham, but for many families, ham is the star of their traditional Easter feast. With that in mind, I came up with this ham and corn chowder, which would make perfect use of leftover Easter ham. This satisfying soup is worth making, even if you don’t have leftover ham on hand! It’s hard to go wrong with sweet kernels of corn in a warm, creamy broth. Use fresh corn, cut from the cob, if corn is in season or use frozen when it is not. I used frozen corn kernels and it was perfect.

P.S. I just purchased Islands in the Stream from iTunes and have been listening to it on repeat as I write this post. I’m considering teaching it to the boys and showing them how to stick their toes under the edge of my mattress.

Ham and Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 15-ounce cans vegetable broth (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups ham, diced (approximately)
  • 2 1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 6-8 green onions, sliced
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Additional sliced green onions, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly golden and tender. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for another minute or so. Whisk in the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. (The broth should begin to thicken slightly.) Add the ham, corn, green onions, potato, and half and half to the pan. Bring the soup to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Ideally they should just be beginning to break down (to add extra thickness to the soup) but not so mushy that they’re falling apart. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm, garnished with additional sliced green onions.

Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

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Anyone else bursting out of their skin with excitement for The Hunger Games movie??? Only a few days away now and I can hardly wait! Honestly, I never would have even picked up the book, had my sister not bought it for me for my birthday. All I knew was that it was a “young adult” novel. And the last time I tried one of those (ahem, Twilight) I couldn’t bring myself to read past the first chapter. But, The Hunger Games arrived in the mail, so as I sat on the couch feeding the baby, I cracked it open and read the first few pages. And then I sorely neglected my children for the rest of the afternoon, as I was incapable of putting the book down. Shhh…Mommy’s trying to read. You’re 4 years old now…what do you mean you don’t know how to cook yourself dinner?? Go change your own diaper…Mommy’s busy.

Not my proudest parenting moment, to say the least. But The Hunger Games is a page-turner, with a plot so barbaric that it’s hard for me to believe it’s written for ‘young adults’. But then, so many of the books I read as a young adult had themes which took me years to grasp at more than a surface level. I think that’s sort of the thing with The Hunger Games. The story has the perfect blend of ingredients; sacrifice, survival, heroism, romance, and moral conflict; to make it instantly relatable and intriguing to all age groups, but there are also deeper themes about human nature, power, and human rights at work…the kinds of themes which take a bit more time and experience to fully digest. If you haven’t read it yet, go buy it right now or load it to your Kindle or whatever it is that you do when you read. Stop reading this blog post, and go read The Hunger Games.

Wait…Don’t go just yet! I have a recipe for you. And you’re going to want it because this book is going to make you hungry. Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that when the main character, Katniss, is brought to the Capitol, she is introduced to the most decadent array of mouth-watering foods, unimaginably extravagant in comparison with her impoverished family’s meager portion of grains or the illegally hunted game she risks her life to acquire. This is drool-worthy stuff…sweet melons, decadent chocolate cakes, thick carrot soups (like this one), and her first taste of hot chocolate. But of all of the foods, her most favorite dish was a lamb stew with dried plums.

With The Hunger Games poised to premiere in just a few days, a celebratory lamb stew seemed in order. But, to be quite honest, I wasn’t so sure how I felt about adding dried plums (prunes essentially) to my lamb stew. Am I the only one who’s afraid of prunes?? Trepidations aside, I decided to go for it. I figure that if Katniss can volunteer as tribute to save her sister’s life, I can certainly put a few prunes in my stew. For good measure, I also threw in some golden raisins, dried apricots and sweet potatoes. Moroccan-inspired spices of cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and fresh mint complete the flavor profile in this decadent, slow-cooked lamb stew. Somehow I suspect that Katniss’ favorite lamb stew would have been equally exotic.

And as for the dried plums…I was so wrong. They are spectacular in combination with the tender chunks of slow-cooked lamb and Moroccan-inspired spices. I can’t think of a better pre-Hunger Games meal. As Katniss would say, I could eat this by the bucketful!

If you’re in need of a little Hunger Games fix before Friday’s big premiere, check out the preview on Cinema Blend, where you can see all of the latest images, trailers, movie clips, and behind-the-scenes features!

Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

Ingredients

  • 2-2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, well-trimmed of exterior fat and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup dried plums (prunes), diced
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 6 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade *
*Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to chiffonade.

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Toss the lamb in the flour. In a large dutch oven pan (or oven-safe stock pot with a tight fitting lid), heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat. Add the lamb to the pan in a single layer and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. (Cook in batches, if necessary. Do not overcrowd the pan.) Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Add the carrots and onions to the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender and golden. Sprinkle the cinnamon, cumin, ginger, salt and pepper over the carrots and onions. Stir to coat. Cook for one more minute. Then, return the lamb to the pan. Add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover and place the pan on the middle oven rack. Cook for 1.5 hours, then add the sweet potatoes and dried fruits. Cook for 20-25 minutes more, until sweet potatoes are tender, but not mushy. Finally, stir in the fresh mint. (If the sauce is thicker than desired, use additional chicken stock or water to thin it out.) Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve over hot buttered noodles or with crusty bread.

St. Patty’s Day Round-up

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Parenthood has a way of constantly making you feel brand new. I mean, I’ve got three kids. We’ve been doing this whole parenting thing for almost five years now and in some ways, we feel like old hands at it. We know our kids and have a good enough understanding of child development to know what to anticipate as our children work through the daily challenges and joys of childhood. Our hearts pound with pride as they take those first steps, say that first sweet word, and cut that first little tooth. And we hold our breaths with anxiety when one of our little ones is not well. But, for the most part, we know what to expect and we know how to react.

And then something completely unexpected happens. Rationally, I know that parenthood is full of unexpected surprises, but sometimes they just sneak up on you. Like when I glanced over at my almost five-year-old and noticed that one of his bottom teeth was loose. And I panicked. Panicked as if blood were pouring from his ears. It’s just a loose tooth; a normal part of being a kid. But I never saw it coming. Not yet, at least.

So, I did what any mildly irrational parent would do and called the dentist to make an emergency appointment. Somebody do something! My kid has a slightly wiggly tooth! Of course, the trip to the dentist confirmed that it is totally normally for my little guy to have wiggly teeth. His adult teeth are just working their way up. Adult teeth??? But, he’s my baby! Guess it’s almost time for me to put on some tooth fairy wings.

And now we’re just waiting for that first tooth to come out. I stopped by the bank today and picked up a handful of gold dollar coins to leave under his pillow when the time comes. The tooth fairy always left me silver dollars, which I collected like treasure. But since the gold dollar coins are the best I can find, they’ll do the trick. In fact, I suspect the gold coins may be even more intriguing to my little men for their likeness to pirate treasure and a leprechaun’s pot of gold.

Speaking of leprechauns, we’re all very excited for St. Patty’s Day around here. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting for the weekend and we’ll be spending the day with friends. To celebrate our bursting Irish spirit, I made a batch of my World’s Simplest Fudgey BrowniesThen, I spread a thick layer of dark chocolate frosting on top and decorated with a handful of Lucky Charms marshmallows. They definitely brought some smiles to my rowdy bunch of leprechauns, though I suspect they’ll be disappointed to discover the marshmallow shortage in their snack cereal.

If you’re looking for some other ideas for St. Patty’s Day fare, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage

Grasshopper Pie

Irish Soda Bread

Reuben Quesadillas

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

Classic Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

Guinness-Braised Beef

Low-Carb Cottage Pie

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Low Carb Cottage Pie

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Earlier in the week, my husband bemoaned the fact that daylight savings time was approaching and we would be losing an hour of sleep. I’m not sure what world he’s living in, but the time on the clock has little relevance for our children. Lose an hour, gain an hour…doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not in control of how long I sleep anyway. If anything, I look forward to this evening when I can put the kids to bed an hour ‘early’.

Springing forward brings other benefits as well, specifically a bit of daylight past the kids’ bedtime…which translates into not running in the dark. That, combined with the warming temperatures of spring approaching, bodes well for resuming my evening runs. I have to admit, I’ve been sorely off-track with my fitness goals during these past two weeks and the number on the scale has been creeping upwards. Wintery weather and the early sunset has made it hard to get myself out the door for my evening runs. And finally being able to fit into some of my clothes again has made me complacent about my diet. But I’m not done yet (far from it) and it’s time to get back on track, before I undo the results I’ve achieved so far.

So, starting tomorrow (today I’m going to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner), I’m hopping back on the horse and refocusing on my fitness goals. With the warmer temps and later sunset, I’ve got no excuses for not heading out for my evening runs. And I’m going to refocus on reducing my refined carb intake (a la South Beach diet), since I know it helps me to feel more satisfied, make better food choices, and eat less overall.

With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, comforting meat-and-potato type meals are on my mind. But potatoes fall firmly into that refined carb category which I’m aiming to avoid. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some comforting Irish cookin’ with just a few substitutions. You may remember a few weeks ago, when I shared a recipe for mashed cauliflower, which makes a wonderful substitution for mashed potatoes…a substitution which would also make the perfect topping for a low-carb, South Beach friendly cottage pie. Using lean ground beef and part-skim cheese helps lighten the meal even more, without sacrificing any flavor. Furthermore, making low-glycemic index choices for the veggie layer keeps this dish nicely in line with my diet plan.

If you’re looking to celebrate St. Patty’s Day without sacrificing your diet goals, this just might be the dish for you! Though, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I fully intend to make (and eat) more corned beef and cabbage egg rolls on St. Patty’s Day, with a few dark beers to wash them down. (All food and beer are zero calories on St. Patty’s Day…if you’re Irish, that is. I swear it…a little red-headed leprechaun told me so.)

Looking for a traditional lamb and potatoes Shepherd’s Pie recipe? Click HERE.

Low Carb Cottage Pie

Ingredients

For the beef layer:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
For the veggie layer:
  • 2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
For the mashed cauliflower:
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped and steamed until tender
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup part-skim cheddar, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the beef layer: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir, allowing it to cook for about a minute. Then, add the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens into a gravy around the meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into a baking dish.

For the veggies: Wipe out the pan used for the beef. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until golden and tender. Scatter the mushrooms and the steamed green beans in an even layer over the meat.

For the mashed cauliflower: Using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, combine the cauliflower, butter, milk, and garlic powder until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. Spread the mashed cauliflower in an even layer over the veggies.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned. (Allow for longer cooking time if preparing ahead of time and refrigerating before baking.)

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

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Parenthood has strengthened my heart (both literally and figuratively) but it has seriously weakened my brain. Seriously, it’s like mashed potatoes in there. Between lack of sleep and the daily routine of chasing around three very young children, my brain is melting. I used to be smart. Honestly, I was. I used to do smart people stuff like earn a 4.0 GPA while completing my Master’s degree at Johns Hopkins and lead presentations at statewide teaching conferences about things like disaggregating and analyzing student assessment data to inform differentiated instruction and improve student learning. See? Smart people stuff.

Nowadays, a good deal of my time is spent trying to figure out what to do with the 500 tiny Legos, which the boys have amassed over the past few months, and retrieving bits of chewed paper from the baby’s mouth. (I’m certain he’s part hamster.) I fruitlessly clean messes while the boys are busy making even bigger messes. I watch shows like Diego and Bubble Guppies and count some children’s shows amongst my favorite television programs. I repeatedly chase the boys from floor to floor of the house, with the baby dangling off of one hip and a laundry basket balanced on the other. Good for the heart. Bad for the brain.

So, some things have started to slip my attention. It’s become more of a challenge just to keep on top of life’s little responsibilities. Take my car, for example. I’ve been staring at the little sticker in the windshield which had an expiration date of 2/25 on it. So, I told my husband we needed to get the car inspected. He made the appointment and spent last Saturday morning at the auto service shop. Job completed. Or at least we’d thought. Until I noticed that the expired sticker was still in our window the next day. That’s when I’d realized that I hadn’t been looking at the inspection sticker at all. I’d been looking at our (expired) car registration. I panicked. How in the world did I mess this up? We’ve got systems in place to stay on top of this stuff! The registration renewal comes in the mail. It gets filed with the bills. I pay it. They send a new sticker. It’s a system which has never failed us, no matter how distracted my brain has become. I tore through the house trying to find the misplaced registration renewal notice, yet it was nowhere to be found.

So, I hopped online to determine my next steps. That’s where I read that you can not operate an unregistered vehicle. I had been unknowingly operating an unregistered vehicle all week. My heart started pounding. I am not a rule-breaker… I cross in the cross walk and I wait for the little blinking man to tell me when it’s time to go. I always come to a complete stop at stop signs, even when no one is around. I return my library books on time. I follow the rules. It’s just part of who I am. So, this discovery that I had been a rule-breaker all week long was distressing. I immediately tried to renew the registration online. When that failed, I gathered all of the necessary paperwork and cautiously drove my unregistered vehicle to our local Department of Motor Vehicles, heart-pounding over my reckless rule-breaking.

I arrived before the office opened and barely sat for a second before they called my number. At that point, I was feeling pretty impressed at how efficient the DMV was…not at all like the dreadful stories you hear. I approached the window, children swarming around me like flies on a horse, and shamefully admitted that I’d been driving an unregistered vehicle for the past week. I mumbled a few excuses about mushy brains and unnecessary inspections, then handed over my paperwork. She made the necessary photocopies, then sat down to process my registration. Things were going smoothly and I wasn’t even scolded for breaking the rules. Relief.

Then she turns to me and says “Who is Jose Sanchez?” At that point I’m wondering if this is some sort of trick question. Like years ago when my husband and I went to open some bank accounts and the bank associate suddenly asks, “Do you like the Bills or the Ravens?” right after gathering our names, address, and all of the other normal info required to set up a bank account. Umm…What??? Neither? Being a grown-up can be confusing.

So, I explain to the DMV lady that I do not know a Jose Sanchez, but was curious as to what he had to do with my car registration. Well, your car is registered to a Jose Sanchez. Well, this was a twist I never expected. And again, my heart started to pound as my brain struggled to process the situation at hand. A moment later she determined that Jose’s plate number was off by one digit from ours and that someone had made a clerical error…an error which explains why I never received a registration renewal notice. My car was in fact already registered, just not to me. Nice work, DMV. Thankfully, after a lengthy phone call, she returned and was able to process my registration. I left with my newly renewed sticker for my windshield and the reassurance that my brain isn’t total mush, at least not yet.

Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner…hands-down my favorite holiday for eating corned beef, wearing green, and celebrating my Irish heritage. Having already shared some delicious recipes for traditional corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and shepherd’s pie with you, I wracked my (semi-functional) brain for some interesting twist on a corned beef and cabbage meal. And I’ve got just the thing…corned beef and cabbage egg rolls! My Irish ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves. But this is quite possibly fusion cooking at its best. A simple filling of leftover corned beef, sauteed with very thinly sliced cabbage and carrot, gets rolled up in egg roll wraps and fried until crispy! Dip them in Thousand Island dressing or your favorite mustard for a fantastic day-after St. Patty’s Day treat!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup leftover corned beef, chopped
  • 2 cups cabbage and carrots, very thinly sliced (prepackaged cole slaw mix works well)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4-8 egg roll wraps (My grocery store sells them in the refrigerated produce section.)
  • Thousand Island dressing or mustard, for dipping

Directions

To prepare the filling: Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the corned beef, cabbage, and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To assemble the egg rolls: Arrange an egg roll wrap with one of the points facing you. (If desired, you can layer two egg roll wraps, for a chewier egg roll.) Place a mound of the corned beef filling in the center of the wrap. Grab the point closest to you and wrap it up and around the filling. Then, grab each of the side points and fold them in towards the center. Brush the points with a bit of water to help them stick. Brush the top point with a little water, then continue rolling up towards the top point.

To cook: Heat about 1/2″-3/4″ vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Give it a few minutes to get good and hot. Carefully place a few of the egg rolls into the hot oil. They should sizzle when placed in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on all sides, until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel before serving.

Makes 4 Egg Rolls

Spinach, Bacon, and Mushroom Salad in a Warm Bacon Shallot Vinaigrette

I haven’t talked a lot about my diet recently, but rest assured, I am still on the path of success. As of this morning, I have lost 16 pounds, give or take a pound depending on the day. I am continuing to follow the guidelines of the South Beach diet, but not without some leeway for splurging. In fact, I spent most of Valentine’s week living on a diet of chocolate, wine, and cheddar goldfish, which in an odd twist of fate, resulted in a quick 2-pound weight loss. I think sometimes we just need to mix things up and splurge a little to remind our bodies that there is indeed no famine and there is no reason to hold onto that excess weight. Somehow it’s never really as simple as calories in vs. calories out, is it?

Clearly I’m not following any hard and fast ‘rules’ as get myself in shape, but what I like about the overall South Beach diet approach is that by mostly avoiding refined carbs, I rarely feel the perpetual, intense hunger and cravings that I often feel when I’m not limiting refined carbs. I can eat a two-egg omelet in the morning and feel satisfied for hours or I can eat a bowl of rice flake cereal, be starving 30 minutes later and then spend the rest of the morning playing the hunger games (not those hunger games, silly). I chose the omelet. It just makes the weight loss process so much easier and a lot less painful. In fact, once you get the hang of it, the South Beach ‘diet’ doesn’t really feel like a diet at all. It just feels like healthy eating.

I don’t believe that refined carbs are evil, nor do I blame their excess as the root of weight gain or applaud their absence as the grand solution to weight loss. But what I do know is that refined carbs cause a rapid blood sugar spike and subsequent crash, which gives you that starving feeling soon after eating, which then causes you to eat more, which causes you to gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle of cravings. And even if you can manage to resist those cravings, you’re still left with that uncomfortable hunger which makes trying to lose weight so darn frustrating. So, for me, reducing my refined carb intake just makes the whole weight loss thing a lot easier.

And there’s still plenty of room for indulgences within the framework of a reduced carb diet plan, like this spinach salad which is topped with a slightly runny egg and drizzled in a bacon vinaigrette. I first ran across the idea for this salad on the Christian Science Monitor website, which regularly features my blog in their food section, Stir It Up. I’ve always been a fan of spinach and bacon salads, but the egg on this one really sealed the deal for me. I just love finding eggs in surprising places, like atop a pile of fries, a burger, or a salad! Not to let any of delicious bacon-y flavor escape this dish, I incorporated the bacon drippings into my vinaigrette. I couldn’t decide whether that was a genius or revolting idea as I was doing it. I firmly settled on utterly genius with my first bite.

This salad isn’t totally ‘legal’ on South Beach, since bacon doesn’t technically count as a ‘lean’ protein. And certainly mixing the bacon drippings into the dressing is not a recommended South Beach strategy. But it’s close enough (and definitely worth the splurge). This salad packs a ton of protein and lots of good healthy nutrition which will keep you feeling nicely satisfied for hours. Just go easy on the dressing and you can feel pretty good about this meal.

Spinach, Bacon, and Mushroom Salad in a Warm Bacon Shallot Vinaigrette

(Inspired by Beyond the Peel’s Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and a Poached Egg)

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup warm bacon drippings (reserved from cooking bacon)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 8 slices bacon (use applewood smoked bacon, if available)
  • 2 cups baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 4 eggs

Directions

Cook the bacon according to package directions. Reserve the bacon drippings for the vinaigrette. Once cool, crumble or chop the bacon into small pieces.

To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together the warm bacon drippings with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper until blended. The vinaigrette will get firm when cooled (from the bacon drippings). Microwave for a few seconds to warm and loosen the dressing.

To prepare the mushrooms: Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender and slightly golden. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

To assemble the salads: Place about 2 cups of baby spinach on each plate. Scatter the bacon and mushrooms over the spinach. Just before serving, fry an egg to your preferred doneness (I prefer over-medium…well-cooked white, runny yolk.) Place the fried egg over the salad. Drizzle with a bit of the vinaigrette.

Makes 4 Salads

Diet Update: 16 pounds down and staying the course…only 6 pounds away from my first major goal!

Fishy Friday – Lenten Round-Up

The kids have been home from school this week for their mid-winter break, which I’m now convinced is some sort of cruel joke on parents. I mean, seriously…whose idea was it to schedule a week off from school in the middle of winter, leaving me stuck inside with three very loud, very active, and very needy children?? I’ve been jumping through hoops all week trying to keep everyone sufficiently content, which has left little time for things like thinking or writing…hence the lack of blog posts this week. Even now, as I attempt to type, the baby is grabbing at my fingers, while the other boys are playing a game which seems to center around making an unusually loud and abrasive growling sound.

This morning I took the boys to meet up with some friends at  a local bounce house, followed by lunch (which turned into second breakfast, since we vacated the bounce house sooner than planned) and ice cream at Friendly’s. It was a feeble attempt to encourage the kids to burn off some of their excess energy so that I had a small chance of a calm afternoon. Though I think the ice cream may be working against my plans. Ugh…this parenting thing is hard!

New recipes coming up next week, but for now here’s a round-up of fishy recipes, which may come in handy for any of you who are observing meat-free Fridays during lent.

Pan-seared Scallops with Pina Colada Salsa and Coconut Rice

Pan-seared Cod over Bean and Basil Puree

Creole Fish Tacos

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

Asian-style Fish Tacos

Lobster Pot Pie

Lobster BLT Sandwiches (skip the bacon)

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad

Codfish Cakes

Shrimp Scampi Flatbread Pizza (and last year’s Lenten recipe round-up!)

Aged White Cheddar and Broccoli Soup with Chorizo

I am one of those parents who flood their facebook page with pictures of my children. Yes, I’m that person. Everyone knows at least one these people. For my friends, it’s me. My facebook wall reads like most parents’ baby books…full of photos, videos, firsts, favorites, and funny anecdotes. (They’re funny to me, at least.) And my profile pictures are mostly pictures of my kids, rather than of myself.

I have heard comments such as You are not your kids, in regards to this issue. And it’s true. I am my own  person. I am not my kids…at least not completely. But the truth is, my children are a huge part of me. They are the very best representation of me. They are my finest creation and my life’s grandest purpose. If I do nothing else of importance during the rest of my life, I can rest easy in knowing that I grew, loved, and nurtured these precious little people.

Why wouldn’t I associate part of my identity with that of my children? Aren’t we all little bits of every person and every event we’ve experienced. And don’t we all continue to change as our lives change courses? Why wouldn’t my children shape me in the same way that I shape them? Why wouldn’t my children be irreversibly intertwined with my identity?

At this point in my life, perhaps for always and forever, my children are the center of my world. They are my passion and my motivation. They are at least as much a part of me as my love of cooking, my fear of failure, or my passion for bacon.

And in my children’s eyes, I see the me I strive to be. In their eyes, I am love. I am security. I am healing. I am their mom. I have never felt more beautiful than the way I look in my children’s eyes. I am in those profile pictures I post of my children. I’m right there, in their eyes.

This soup is beautiful in my eyes. I may make it my facebook profile pic. It’s broccoli cheddar soup for grown-ups. Spicy chorizo gives the soup a smokey bit of heat, while the aged white cheddar (get the good stuff) adds intense cheesy flavor. There’s nothing like eating a big bowl of cheesy soup on a chilly winter day. Ultra-comforting.

Enjoy, friends.

Aged White Cheddar and Broccoli Soup with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo, halved and sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk (skim milk works well)
  • 8 ounces aged white cheddar, shredded
  • 3 cups broccoli, steamed until tender and well chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt (approx.)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes, until the chorizo begins to release its oil. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and continue cooking for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add the milk and whisk until well combined. Bring the milk to a simmer as you continue whisking. Simmer for about 3 minutes, until the milk begins to thicken. Turn down the heat and stir in the cheese. Continue stirring until melted. Stir in the broccoli. Season with salt, to taste.

Serves 4

Carnitas with Chile and Sweet Potatoes

If I told you that our Super Bowl party was literally a bloody awesome time, you may assume that I’m one of those people who wrongly uses the word ‘literally’ to express exaggeration rather than expressing actual events. But no…there was literally blood everywhere at my super bowl party. In fact, there is still blood everywhere.

It all began earlier in the afternoon. The boys were playing Xbox Kinect with my husband while I was preparing party food in the kitchen. Everything was coming along wonderfully. The spinach dip was made, the chicken wing dip prepped, and the creole deviled eggs ready to go. Then came the urgent call from the living room. It had appeared that our three year old had somehow cut his toe, as it was covered in fresh blood. Weirder yet, the entire living room appeared to be sprayed in the same blood. My husband started the clean up while I brought our little guy upstairs to clean and bandage the wound. I could find no wound to bandage, but everyone seemed ok, so we carried on with our party prep, puzzled by the mysterious blood.

A little while later, while my husband was giving the boys a pre-party bath, I spotted fresh blood on the sliding glass doors in the living room. At that point, I realized the blood had been coming from our dog, not our son’s toe. A bit of blood on his nose led me to believe it was caused by a nose bleed, but since the bleeding appeared to be under control, we carried on our merry ways.

Everything was going swimmingly at that point. All of the food had been prepped, the house was clean, the kids were dressed. And then our first guests arrived and everything fell into utter chaos. It all happened so fast. As our friends approached the door, along with their three young children, our dog began his typical guest-greeting frenzy, wildly wagging his tail in eager anticipation of our first guests. It was in that moment that we very quickly discovered the true source of the blood. As his tail wagged, smacking our entranceway baskets and walls, blood flew everywhere. And I mean everywhere. In a matter of seconds, the walls, baskets, floors, curtains, and clothing of anyone standing with 10 feet of the dog were instantly speckled with streams of bright red blood.

In walked our first guests, followed in rapid succession by our other guests. We quickly ushered young children through the blood soaked entrance as we frantically tried to make it appear less like the scene of a violent crime and more like the site of a festive occasion. We put the dog outside where I unsuccessfully tried to wrap his wagging tail in gauze. The children played and helped themselves to an unsupervised buffet of red, white, and blue jelly beans, while some of our friends grabbed wipes and cleaned dog blood off our floors. (I throw a great party, right??)

Ultimately, we came to the realization that our pup needed medical care. So, my husband packed our bloody dog into the car and headed off to the emergency vet, leaving me in our blood-speckled home with our houseful of guests and a gaggle of kids in the midst of a major sugar rush…one of which was now doubled over in bellyache pain.

Our friends are lovely though, and everyone took turns passing the baby around as I served drinks and heated the food, while breathing through the panic attack that lay just beneath the surface of my calm demeanor.  Our friends were even so gracious as to claim that it was a great party as they left later that night. (I think they were just being polite.) My husband arrived home by half-time with our dog (who had been shaved, sedated, and stitched) along with a hefty vet bill. The evening will forever be remembered as the Deline Family Super Bowl Massacre, as it would appear to anyone approaching our front door, which is still streaked in red.

I will spend the rest of the week cleaning up from the worst party I’ve ever hosted.

I’d hoped to be sharing a recipe for the Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread I made last night, which was insanely fantastic, but in the chaos of last night’s events, I didn’t take a single picture. So, that recipe will need to wait until I have a chance to make it again…Don’t worry, I’ll find some excuse soon!

In the mean time, here are a couple recipes for a really tasty meal…tender, slow-cooked pork carnitas in a sauce of sweet potatoes and spicy chiles. On the side, a simple variation on my favorite roasted brussels sprouts, cooked with spicy chorizo to coat the sprouts in utter deliciousness. The pork has a long cook time, but reheats beautifully. So, either prepare the pork a day ahead of time or plan it for a day you’ll be around to babysit the oven.

Enjoy, friends! Hope your super bowl celebrations were a bit less bloody than ours!

Carnitas with Chile and Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 6-7 pound pork shoulder, trimmed of most excess exterior fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato (yam), cooked until tender, skin removed, lightly mashed*
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt
  • Ground cayenne pepper
*To prepare the sweet potato: Prick the exterior several times with a fork, then bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 60-75 minutes, until quite tender. Cut the potato in half and scoop out the tender interior. Use a fork to lightly mash the potato.

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously season the pork with salt. Heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a large dutch oven pan or oven-safe pot. Place the pork shoulder in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Remove the roast from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sweet potato, chicken broth, and honey. Return the pork shoulder to the pan, the cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook on the middle oven rack for about 3.5 – 4 hours.

After 3.5 – 4 hours, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, remove it from the pan and use a fork or your fingers to pull apart the meat, which should be incredibly tender. (I prefer the use my fingers, since it’s easier to remove and discard any bits of fat.)

Allow the sauce to rest while you’re pulling the meat. As it rests, the excess fat should rise to the surface. Use a spoon to skim and discard the excess fat. Then, using a blender, food processor, or immersion blend, puree the sauce until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes over medium heat, until about 1 1/2-2 cups of nicely thickened sauce remains.Stir frequently to prevent burning. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper, if desired.

Toss the meat with the sauce.

To reheat the meat and develop some nice caramelized bits, heat the sauced meat under a hot broiler for a few minutes until the top begins to turn a golden brown.

Serve in warm tortillas.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • 4 cups brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
  • 4 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo, quartered and sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Cook for 40-45 minutes, tossing every 10-15 minutes to coat the brussels sprouts with the delicious oil, which will render from the chorizo. Season with salt, to taste.

Diet Day: 37  Weight Loss: 13  Motivation: Stable…enjoyed myself at last night’s party, back on track today!

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