green power smoothie 2

Green Power Smoothie – St. Patrick’s Day approved

Kales in smoothies?  I cannot abide.  I tried one once and could not gag it down.  For me, spinach is a tolerable way to get some veggies in your breakfast smoothie.  My one fussy caveat is that I actually like it to be bright green.  The purplish brown color you get when you add red, purple or blue fruit turns me off.  I am a pain in the neck, right?

Ready to blend - green power smoothie

Luckily, this (bright green) smoothie is delicious, simple and healthy to boot!  Perfect for your little leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day.

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potato leek soup in bowl - potato leek soup with roasted garlic gruyere toasts

Potato leek soup with roasted garlic Gruyere toasts

I intended to give this soup an Irish/St. Patrick’s Day twist, but it ended up with a decidedly French influence.  C’est la vie.

When my husband saw it bubbling on the stove, he grumbled.  He didn’t feel like soup, especially potato soup.  (The look I gave him could kill.)  But then he ate two big bowls and apologized and said it was delicious.  My picky two year old slurped down a bowl as well (the other pickier kid opted for PB&J, but I guess you can’t win ’em all).

Notice soup that ended up on his shirt - oh well!
Notice soup that ended up on his shirt – oh well!

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no-knead bread - finished loaf

Amazing no-knead bread for baking beginners

GUYS… I baked a successful, delicious loaf of bread!  I cannot hardly believe it myself.   I’m beaming and ran to the computer to type this post so I can share my pride and joy.

I’ve been a long-time fan of Michael Pollan who advocates cooking and eating real food (not processed junk), buying local and organic when possible, and increasing fresh fruit and vegetable intake.  All noble, reasonable eating rules that I try to follow (maybe stick to 60% of the time) but I strive to do better.  I follow him on Facebook and recently he linked to a post from the NY Times Cooking page for no-knead bread.  He explained it as a gateway bread baking recipe that was no-fail and dead easy.   I was intrigued.

I googled “no-knead bread” and found that many food bloggers have tried and adapted the recipe as well, but I was skittish since I have failed many times before in baking.  After reading several interpretations, I decided to experiment for the sake of this blog and see how it goes.  The most I had to lose was some flour and salt, a tiny bit of yeast and my tiny remaining sliver of pride when it comes to baking.

no-knead bread - Sticky dough after first rise
Sticky, wet dough after first rise

The recipe does take some planning ahead – you need about 18-24 hours to actually get your bread to your mouth.   But it’s very lazy, non-active time except for 5 minutes here and there.  And, one thing that I forced myself to do, and one of the main reasons I am not a good baker – is read the entire recipe a few times before I started.  And, be patient and follow directions.  Another one of my failings is always wanting to shortcut.  You can do this in making something on the stove for dinner, but not bread baking.

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Baked sweet potato chips (close up plated)

Everything spice baked sweet potato chips

Addictive healthy baked sweet potato chips – 5 minutes of easy prep to homemade snacky goodness

Hello, hello!  Yes, I am still here.

I actually made this recipe about 3 weeks ago, but then we went on vacation.  We got back (wahh), and reintegrated into work and crazy busy life, and here I am almost a month later finally sharing this easy little snack with you.

Baked sweet potato chips in oven
One pan of plain, salted chips and one pan of everything spice. Everything spice wins for me!

Onward and upward!  Who knew making your own chips could be so easy?

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whole wheat cheddar biscuit 2

Whole wheat cheddar biscuits

Hello, hello!  I think I promised cheddar biscuits, oh about a week ago, and never came through.  My apologies as it is soup season, and I am on fire with soups right now.  And, nothing goes better with soup than a good biscuit, right?  I shared the chicken noodle soup last week, and I have a sausage, kale and potato soup coming up.  (think Olive Garden zuppa toscano, my fave!)

As I have mentioned many times,  I am not a great baker.  But superfast, flaky and foolproof biscuits I can do.  I never realized until recently that biscuits are so easy and quick and literally five or six staple ingredients.

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Chicken noodle soup close up

Soul-satisfying chicken noodle soup

I was totally going to pull out leftovers for dinner last night.  Then I looked out at the snow falling and shivered at the cold temps while I shoveling said snow.  And my kids are total chicken noodle soup fiends.  When their normal dinner consists of: 1) peanut butter and jelly, 2) pasta or 3) crackers and energy magically harnessed from my waning patience for dealing with toddlers and preschoolers.  When you come upon a homecooked meal that your picky kids clamor for when they normally beg for the blue box, you tend to revisit that sure win over and over.  Chicken noodle soup it was!

My kids came to love chicken noodle soup from Eat N Park, especially the skinny noodles they use that never stay on your spoon, but are ideal for slurping.  Growing up, we always used the dried ribbony egg noodles in chicken noodle soup.  I discovered the skinny, thicker kind (does that even make sense? They are skinny in width, but thicker than the dried egg noodles) in the frozen section of the grocery store.  This soup is extra-noodly so if you want to cut back there, feel free.

Then the broth. I use a combo of chicken stock in a cardboard box and some water mixed with chicken base.  I found a bouillon brand that is thick like a paste and made with all-natural ingredients, which made me feel slightly better about using it than the cubes.

Of course, it has to have the classic veggies – carrots, celery and onions.  I kept the spices simple for my kids’ palates and to let the chicken flavor really shine through.  I just used some dried thyme, a bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Thyme is perfect for chicken – they just go together so well.

And finally, the chicken.  I have used rotisserie chicken from grocery store in the past with good success, but this time, I simply poached a couple chicken breasts and shredded them.

chicken noodle soup

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Baked crab cake with spicy roasted red pepper cream

Baked crab cakes with spicy roasted red pepper cream

A healthier crab cake, baked in the oven until crisp on the outside and served with a homemade roasted red pepper cream sauce with a little kick!

Oh January.  So frigid, so barren.  The warm embrace of Christmas lights and magic and cookies replaced with the stark, stocking-less fireplaces and the cold realization of too-tight pants.  I’m with all of you that looked back on the last month of holiday parties and too much wine and ugh, so good but all so bad for the waistline.  We are headed to a sunny beach vacation later this month so we are buckling down here for a month of austerity and workouts to at least not make the bathing suit situation completely embarrassing.

I served the crab cakes with some roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. Very low carb (except for for the little bit of bread crumbs)
I served the crab cakes with some roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. Very low carb (except for for the little bit of bread crumbs)

This baked crab cake is the perfect balance of decadence and healthiness to help with the rough post-holiday re-entry.  The “cream sauce” is made with Greek yogurt and has a great spicy kick from Sriracha sauce.  The crab cake itself is pared down to the basics: crab, small amount of binding ingredients, seasoning.  This lets the crab flavor really shine through. I used panko for extra crispiness on the outside, but the inside is tender and moist (sorry to the haters of that word).

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Slice - sweet and salty citrus pie

Sweet and salty citrus pie

This is my kind of dessert.  I love salt and sweet together, and I also love lemon desserts.  I will take a pie over cake any day of the week.  Basically this is my dream dessert.  Ok, maybe I will have a small piece of dark chocolate on the side and THEN I that’s my dream dessert.  I cannot leave out the chocolate.

crust - sweet and salty citrus pie

This is kinda a summer dessert, but I could not resist making it to counteract all of the heavy holiday baking and decadent chocolate goodies.  Yes, it’s still rich but it’s such a refreshing change of pace and brings a little summer to the January doldrums.  Also, I wish I would have used grapefruit or even blood orange juice which are perfect for January.

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