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Tag Archives: spring

Spicy Corn and Bacon Quinoa

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It is scientifically proven that there is a direct relationship between the mirky color of bathwater and the level of fun which was had playing in yard. Ok…I’m making up that ‘research’. But you can always tell that the kids had a fun day when they need a shower immediately following their bath to rinse the dirty bathwater from their bodies. We consider that a successful day around here.

After spending the long winter cooped up inside the house, it is so nice to have the sun shining, the birds chirping, and the green returning to our trees and gardens. Spring time settles me. And the boys have been in their glory releasing all of their little man energy in the backyard…especially since we just finished building their new cedar play set; a joint gift from several family members. I am certain they will get years and years of enjoyment from it, which makes it worth the time it took the build. I have a feeling that my busy little men and I are going to be living outside this summer.

Busy little man #2

Busy little men needs lots of good, healthy food to fuel their active play. Which means I’m always on the lookout for nutrient-rich foods to add to their plates. Quinoa (pronounced ‘KEEN-wah’) is a protein-packed pseudo-grain which is chock full of healthy nutrition. On your dinner plate, it could easily take the place of a rice or pasta side dish with added health benefits. Best yet, quinoa is a low glycemic index and gluten-free food, which makes it desirable for people on specialized diets. Quinoa is truly a superhero of foods!

This quinoa gets a punch of spiciness from fresh jalapeño pepper. Sweet corn kernels and savory bits of bacon add a satisfying texture and flavor to this delicious side dish. If your family is sensitive to spiciness, you can easily reduce (or even eliminate) the jalapeño pepper and still be left with a very delicious and equally nutritious side dish.

Spicy Corn and  Bacon Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine the quinoa, broth, corn, jalapeño, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir, then reduce heat and cover. Cook over a very low heat (just like you would cook rice) for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for five additional minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the bacon and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired.

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

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In college, that first spring-like day always meant one thing…skipping classes in order to sit outside and drink too many beers with friends. They may as well have just canceled classes the first time the temps went into the 50’s, because I’m pretty sure that everyone played hooky that day. (Youngens, don’t be like me. Be good and go to all of your classes like you ought to.)  Even still, those first unseasonably warm days, on the cusp between winter and spring, always trigger my craving for beer.

Now, it’s very rare that I drink anything besides water or coffee before the kids go to bed. The occasional exception is when we take the family for dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse, where I will order myself a nice glass of chilled Lambrusco, to go along with my warm sourdough bread and eggplant parm. So, the kids rarely see me drink and when they do, it’s usually a glass of wine.

But, this past Sunday afternoon, when the temps were dancing around 60, I decided to grab myself a rare daytime beer. The boys rode their bikes in the driveway while the baby and I sat on the lawn playing with bubbles. He watched as I blew wand after wand full of bubbles, mesmerized as they floated off into the sunny blue sky and puzzled by his inability to grab the bubbles which nestled in the grass around us, still slightly damp from the recently melted snow. And as we enjoyed the beautiful day, I sipped my springy day beer. It was a blissfully peaceful moment.

And then my four-year-old wandered over and the following conversation took place:

What?!? You drink beer, Mommy??

Yes, sometimes.

I didn’t know that girls drank beer. I thought only men drank beer.

Nope…ladies can drink beer too.

I thought girls only drank wine.

Nope, buddy…girls can drink beer too, if they want. And men can drink wine as well.

He wandered off, clearly perplexed by this new information he’d acquired…as if his understanding of the world were temporarily shattered and he was left to put the pieces back together in a new order. As parents, I think we sometimes spend so much time questioning how we communicate (or purposefully don’t communicate) gender roles to our children…all the while they’re busy forming their own creative ideas about such things. You just can’t win. It’s a wild world we live in…boys can wear pink, girls can play with trucks, and ladies drink beer! At the very least, this lady does!

The weather has been unseasonably perfect this week; warm enough to open the windows for a bit of fresh air and sunny enough to spend the afternoons playing outside. We had such a mild winter this year, all things considered, and now it seems we’re poised to slip right into spring. Ahh… We’re spending as much time outside as possible, just in case this beautiful weather doesn’t last. Which means easy no-fuss dinners, preferably the sort which leaves leftovers for the next day, like this Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Salad. It’s yet another twist on chicken salad, accented with delicious chunks of bacon and a homemade ranch-style dressing. Simple, fresh, and perfect for springy days.

I dare say, it would go quite nicely with a cold beer.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad
Ingredients
  • 3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped
  • Shredded cheddar cheese and additional chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, ground mustard, and lemon juice, until smooth. Mix in the chicken, bacon, and onion. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve over mixed greens or on your favorite bread. If desired, garnish with a bit of shredded cheddar and chopped chives.

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad in Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

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Well, hello again! It’s been almost three weeks now since the birth of our third son and we’ve all been enjoying our babymoon period with the new little guy. Though it’s only been a few short weeks, it feels as if he’s always been a part of our family. Life is good. And aside from the growing deficit of sleep, we’ve all adjusted nicely to our new routines as a family of five.
My meal plan for the first few weeks was simple. I had no intention of cooking anything. We’d keep things simple and easy while we focused on adjusting to life with our newborn son. I’d prepared a couple tins of baked ziti and macaroni and cheese in advance and stocked the freezer with frozen pizza and a few packages of our favorite frozen chicken tikka masala (with plenty of garlic naan, of course). Takeout from our local Panera and Five Guys would round out our no-fuss dining options for the first few weeks.
***
Well, it took my husband all of a week before he went stir-crazy with the frozen foods and takeout. I knew he’d reached his breaking point when he came downstairs with a cookbook in his hands and started asking questions about the flavor of cumin and how to poach chicken. Apparently, one week is the frozen food and takeout limit for someone who is accustomed to home-cooked meals.
Now, my husband has many talents, but ever since he tried to cook the cardboard packaging along with a frozen pizza, I have a hard time handing him the reins in the kitchen. So, one week after the birth of our son, it was back to the kitchen for me. And somehow, with a few little tweaks to our routine, I’ve managed to put food on the table each night (and my husband has put down the cookbook).
Slightly-frazzled, busy moms (such as myself) will appreciate the simplicity of this make-ahead, one-dish meal. Broiled salmon is combined with crisp cucumber slices and orzo pasta in a flavorful lemon-dijon vinaigrette for a refreshing dish, which would make a perfect addition to any summer potluck! The entire dish can be prepared ahead of time and is served cold, leaving more time and flexibility to enjoy the warm days with family and friends.
***
Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad in Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
***
Ingredients
  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, for salmon
  • 2 cups orzo pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cucumber, cut into fourths lengthwise and sliced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for vinaigrette
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons djion mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat broiler. Place salmon fillets on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon several inches below the broiler and cook for about 10 minutes, until cooked through. Cool completely, then break or chop the salmon into small pieces.

Cook the orzo according to package directions. Rinse with cool water.

To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Add the salmon, cucumbers, and parsley to the pasta. Toss with the vinaigrette, adding a little at a time, until the salad is well-dressed. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cold.

Tropical Chicken Salad

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Thankfully, the temperatures have finally started to rise around here, allowing us some much-awaited walks and outdoor playtime. After living in two urban areas, where most of our needs could be met within a few minutes walk, I can’t even begin to express the value I place on our proximity to a well-stocked, walking-distance grocery store in our current suburban neighborhood. Had I never become accustomed to walkable grocery access, it might not matter so much. But to me, our ability to walk to our grocery store is worth more than any other feature of our home.

Once walk-friendly weather arrives, daily trips to the grocery store become part of our routine. I plan our meals in the morning. Then, the kids and I walk down to the store to gather the ingredients. It’s practically like living in Provence, making daily trips to the outdoor market for freshly picked produce, meats, and fine cheese! Well…maybe not quite like Provence, but we’ll take what we can get!

So, on a recent bright, sunny, morning, the boys and I set out for our grocery walk. My four-year -old had suggested chicken salad for dinner. The addition of tropical fruit flavors was my contribution to the dish. Not only do the sweet fruits add a delicious accent to our salad, but tropical fruits, such as the pineapple, mango, and kiwi I selected, contain an enzyme which has been shown to help prepare a woman’s body for labor. And at this point, barely a week from my due date, I’ll gladly give nature a helping hand.

I hadn’t initially planned for this meal to become a family cooking activity. The boys were happily playing in the living room when I began cooking. But, as soon as my little men caught the sight and smell of the fruits, they were at my side like glue, begging bits of mango and pineapple. Moments later, they were asking to help with “the steps”. So, after a quick trip to the sink to wash their hands, my little chefs joined me in the kitchen.

This recipe is ideal for young chefs of any age. Older chefs can prepare the entire dish independently, from start to finish, especially if you start with precooked chicken. Younger chefs will need more support, but with child-safe cutting tools, there are plenty of ways for them to get involved. Chopping fruits, measuring ingredients, and mixing are ideal activities for little chefs. It’s also a great opportunity to taste new fruit flavors, which may be less familiar than the more common apples, bananas, and berries many kids are accustomed to.

Tropical Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  •  2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded*
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup salted cashews, coarse chopped
  • 1 kiwi, diced
  • 1/2 cup mango, diced (Click here for my photo guide on How to Dice a Mango)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple, diced (Click here for my photo guide on How to Chop a Pineapple)
  • Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
*You can use pre-cooked chicken, packaged or pulled from a rotisserie chicken. Alternately, you can cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts by placing them in a pot of water, bringing to a boil, and simmering for approximately 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.

Directions

Combine the chicken, green onions, mayonnaise, mustard, and cashews in a large container. Stir until well blended. Gently fold in the fruit. Season with salt and cayenne pepper, as desired. Refrigerate until serving.

Serve on doughy bread with avocado, if desired.

Cadbury Creme Crepes

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Easter candy has taken over the store shelves and my brain. I find myself popping a near constant stream of jelly beans into my mouth, in between chomping on chocolate rabbit ears and peanut butter eggs. My Peeps chicks have been purchased and are currently sitting unwrapped in my pantry, as I await their perfectly stale state. Chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies are dancing through my dreams.

In the midst of this Easter candy madness, my sister requested that I create a recipe for a Cadbury omelette…as in an omelette made using Cadbury Creme Eggs as a substitute for regular eggs. Eager to please my sister, I agreed to this wild request. I spent a few weeks tossing around this Cadbury omelette idea, contemplating whether I could somehow extract the gooey filling from the Cadbury eggs and whip it into a sort of custard which could be folded around the remaining bits of chocolate.

And then I had a better idea. Taking inspiration from the stuffed omelette idea, I decided to make rich chocolate crepes, filled with melty bits of Cadbury Creme Eggs, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and topped with a gooey Cadbury Egg. Yes, that should definitely fit the bill!

Crepes are surprisingly simple to make. You do not need a special “crepe pan” to make crepes. Any flat-bottomed, preferably non-stick, pan should do the job. The trick is to make sure the batter is appropriately loose enough to easily coat the bottom of the pan. Crepes cook quickly, so removing the pan from the heat while pouring the batter will ensure that you can swirl the batter to every edge before it cooks. A rubber spatula and your fingers make the best tools for flipping the crepe. A few seconds later, you’ll have a perfectly cooked crepe!

These sweet and chocolatey crepes are oozing with gooey Cadbury goodness. I can’t think of any better way to enjoy the Easter candy season!

Cadbury Creme Crepes

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 Cadbury Creme Eggs, chopped (plus extra halved eggs for garnish)
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions

Lightly beat the eggs with the salt, milk, and oil. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and sugar. Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients, until well blended. Add additional milk, if necessary. The batter should move very easily, but not be overly liquidy. Spray a flat-bottomed, non-stick skillet with cooking spray, then heat the skillet over medium heat. Hold the pan off the heat and use a measuring cup to pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan. Quickly, turn the pan to spread the batter across the entire bottom. Place the pan over the heat and cook for less than a minute. Use the edge of a rubber spatula to loosen one of the edges. Then, use your fingers to carefully lift and flip the crepe. Cook for a few seconds more on the other side.

Scatter chopped pieces of Cadbury Creme Eggs onto a quarter of each hot crepe. Fold the crepe into quarters over the chocolate. Sprinkle the finished crepes with powdered sugar and garnish with half of a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Make 8 crepes (4 servings)


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