Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cheesy Couscous and Broccoli Casserole

This was our sunset tonight-GORGEOUS! 

This is going to be quick because I am right in the middle of a huge homework assignment.  I made this in my typical rushed Chopped fashion.  I took out what we had from the refrigerator and gave myself a time limit and created this creamy and cheesy casserole for the family. My husband and kids were my Alex, Chris, and Aaron.  I'm pretty sure I would have gone home with the $10,000 dollars.

Of course, I didn't write the recipe down as I went because , well, you just never know if it will turn out or not. 


It turned out and we gobbled it up. I snatched up my phone and grabbed some quick images and immediately sat down and whipped this short post up.   I believe its that good to share right now, plus, I may or may not have needed a break from crunching numbers for my math assignment.

Now back to my homework and studies.


Recipe: Cheesy Couscous and Broccoli Casserole

2.5-3 cups of cooked couscous
1 large can (22.6 oz) of  Cream of Chicken soup or 2 regular cans
2 cups of sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (save 1/2 for the topping)
1 small onion, diced small
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of Ghee or oil
1 cup of milk, used to thin soup
salt/pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Curry powder
4 small heads of broccoli, steamed and in pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare 9X13 pan or Le Creuset pan with a light spray of favorite cooking spray.

2.  Steam broccoli pieces.  Prepare Couscous according to package directions. I used my left over couscous from the night before (this dish is great to use up leftovers).

3.  Saute onion and garlic in ghee until clear and tender. This takes about 4 minutes.

4.  In a large bowl add soup, curry, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, 1/2 of the shredded cheese, and couscous.  Stir until well blended. The sauce is thick.  Add milk.  Start with 1 cup and add more if still super thick.  It should be like thick pancake batter.  Gently fold in steamed broccoli.

5.  Add mixture to your prepared pan and top with remaining cheese.  If you need or want more cheese-add it!  Bake for 30 minutes.

6.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cascade Head Hike #Oregon


I want to start sharing a few areas in my neck of the woods that are pretty awesome.  We have lived in Oregon for one year.  Our time here has been spent hiking, kayaking, walking, exploring, and looking for the next exciting adventure.  I recently learned that over 1,000,000 people visit Newport Oregon each year.  That's a lot of people!  I think that maybe they might need a few things to do outside of shopping and eating.  Our town is small but is packed with adventure.

Adventure always awaits!

I'm not sure if we will ever get around to everything we want to do while living in Oregon but we are definitely giving it our all.  Every weekend we make it a point to go out exploring and discovering this beautiful state.

Living at the beach has been an amazing experience.  I never knew how much my heart would fall in love with the sound of the waves and the feel of sand in my toes.  It has impacted our family in the best way.  The coast is visually stimulating to our minds.  The beautiful beaches never let us down.

This particular hike is not located in Newport.  It actually is up by Lincoln City which is a 22 mile drive north on Hwy 101.  It is in my county though.  I feel that this hike is close enough to our home to spotlight it for those who visit Newport.

 We happened to pick a very warm and clear day for our hike.  You can see for miles from the top.  Just look at the photo below.  Eye candy for miles and miles.



The Cascade Head hike is a tourist dream for seeing the Oregon Coast from an advantage point. High above the seas with miles and miles of the prettiest blues and greens in sight.  You start out with a wooded trail through private lands and this slowly leads you out from under the canopy of huge Cyprus Trees.  At first you think you may never see the sky again and then with a burst of brightness, it's right there--sky and ocean as far as the eye can see.  The coastline, the river, and the peaks of small islands floating in the sea.  The trail appears to lead you into the ocean only to wrap around and have you climbing from 500 feet to 1300 feet in about a mile. Huffing and puffing we made it to the top.

This is a great link to find out about the trail system: Cascade Head Trail Hike
Oregon Hikers Map link is HERE.
Parking is at Knights Park.  There are no fees or special permission associated with this hike.


That last mile is a killer!  I won't lie.  My butt was on fire (in a good way, of course).  We had to bribe Isabella with a free school day in order to convince her to go the last leg.  She made it.  We all made it. We were all dripping with sweat but wore our smiles proudly.


The feeling of accomplishing something tough is empowering.  I wanted Isabella to understand that she is capable of doing hard things.  She did it and loved it.  In fact, as we came down the mountain, she mentioned several times to hikers going up that the trip was worth the hike.


We originally thought the whole hike was 3.5 miles. HA! That was one way.  We completely understood when we returned to our car and read the sign why we all felt like we had been to hell and back--it was hot, dusty, and at times, a challenge.  Honestly, if we had known that it was that long we would not have attempted the hike with a 2 and 9 year old.  With that being said, we did do it and I will do it again.


I carried Finnley 5 of those 7 miles on my back.  She walked the stairs up and the steepest part of the last mile.  The kid slept all the way down.  Can you blame her?  The girls were so dirty.  Cory and I were dirty too.  You might want to bring bug spray, sun screen, and wear good shoes.




Overall the hike is a must if your are physically fit enough to climb steep terrain, climb about 200 stairs (I'm guessing but there are a lot of stairs), carry a back pack, and have great balance.  There are no bathrooms on the trail.  At the staging park there is one--go before you go on the hike.  Take plenty of water.  They have a strict NO DOG policy too.   The trail is wide in the beginning but narrows as you climb the last mile.


The view is worth the hike.  GO!  Get out there and test your limits.  Push yourself.  These two little girls did!



There is a back way that allows you to park closer to the top and hike about 1/2 a mile.  We met several families doing this route at the top.  Next time we might drive around to this site to check it out.  FYI: this option is closed from January to July.

I can't wait to hike this trail system again!  You can see from the smiles that life is good.  Isabella got a blister but she wants to go back and hike the trail again.


















Friday, July 15, 2016

I Told my Daughter to Fail





Be prepared to think that I am the absolute worst mom in the world. It's coming--coming--yep, I did it.  I told my oldest daughter to fail. I gave her permission to try life on, and if she fails, its okay.

Let me back up a bit.  It all started with car problems.  We bought a lemon and we paid the price--over $5000 in repairs to keep this POS a float.  Can you tell I don't have fond feelings for this draining machine?  Well, my daughter did though. She loved this car.

Mac was her first car.  Her first big investment into something that was her own. She worked hard for her money and was proud of the little beast of a car.  This past week it started sounding like trolls lived under the hood.  Big trolls whacking the shit out of the engine.  Not a good sound and not one we were wanting to repair.  The bill came in at a whopping $1200.

Keep in mind we spent $2500 on this car.  We thought about donating the car but that was nixed because they wanted running vehicles in descent shape.  Mac was headed to the grave.  We sold him for $50 to a guy who worked on cars and can hopefully breath a few more miles out of him.

Here is our issue--4 drivers and back down to 2 cars.  In Annapolis we did this same scenario with the drivers but with only one car.  It wasn't easy but we did it.

MONEY!  The existence of something necessary, but oh so fleeting, when you need it. We have money.  She has money.  How do we spend it appropriately?  Who buys the car?  Do we co-sign on the car?  Do we buy used or new? Do we even need a car at this time?  Is it 5 O'clock yet?

So many questions and the answers are not easy.  Rye has worked very hard to save her money so she can move out on her own with a roommate.  This whole car thing is jeopardizing her future plans.

I had to use the word "adulting" this week.  I might be going strait to grammar hell for that too.  She is distraught over facing a car payment, having to spend money, and make payments.  Paying your parents back isn't always the position you want to be in. It's something we are willing to do.  Loan our kids money with the idea of paying it back.

Welcome to being a grown-up. Some days life gives you a big old middle finger and you're left feeling deflated and out of options.  I know the feeling and today so does she.  This breaks my heart.

As her parents, we went through a list of possible solutions.  Some she liked and some she did not. Some required working more hours, moving to a new location for public transportation, and some included walking.  What is not an option is us co-signing.  We are opting out of this option for a variety of reasons.

This morning I could tell she was still frustrated and upset.  I get it!  Shit, I've lived it.  You have money but not enough established credit.  You don't want an old car but your budget is too small.  More money going out and less going to savings.  Who hasn't had to play this game of "Do I or Don't I".  It sucks sometimes.

Adulting sucks sometimes.



In our discussion this morning we talked.  We listened to each other.  We vented our frustration with each other and to this whole situation.  I sat on the floor, listening to her talk and  thinking to myself, how am I going to handle this situation. I didn't want to fight.  I didn't want her to feel upset and angry.  I could see that she was sad, angry, and frustrated.

I was being given an opportunity to allow our daughter to feel frustrated and angry in a safe environment.  I was letting her express her anger.  I wanted her to know its okay to feel at a loss for solutions. Sometimes we need to feel the burn of defeat and frustration before we can see that there are options. I told her it's okay to not know all of the answers.

In our exchange of words, she told me that it was unrealistic for her to move to a new location.  It would simply take all of her money and she would fail in eight months.  I stood up and crossed the room.  I grabbed her by her shoulders and gave her the biggest hug and told her I loved her.  I told her that she was of value, that she was smart, and if she failed that we would be here.

I backed away and with big waving hands, I also said, "PLEASE FREAKING FAIL! Please. I would rather see you fail than not try.  What if in that eight months you have the best time of your life? What if you don't fail?  What if you learn that life is about moving forward whether you are failing or succeeding?  Who determines what a fail is anyway?"

I hugged her again. I didn't want to let her go this time. Her life passed before my eyes. The first time she walked, the first time she went to school, graduating from college--I saw it all.  I have been teary eyed all day.  I want her to succeed but sometimes they need a push out of the nest so they can start to fly.  I don't think she is going to move anytime soon.  That is not the point.

The point is I gave her permission to live, to try, and possibly to fail.  Failure is not the end of the world. It's the beginning of a new adventure. It's a reason to try again. Failure does not come easy but it also doesn't need to define you. I want her to try fearlessly and confidently. I want her to try no matter what and if she fails, it's okay too, we get up again and try all over.

As her parent I need her to try.  For herself?  She needs to try too.  It's how we grow as adults. It's how we learn.  It's not easy. I don't think everything should be easy.  I have grown from some of the hardest situations in my life.  Some people have said I failed too.  I'm okay with that.  I know that it only drove me to try again and again. I wish my mom had encouraged me to fail once in a while too. Releasing me from the hell of perfection that I had enlisted my soul to live in through out my teens, twenties and thirties; always afraid to fall, to trip, to make a mistake.

I don't know if anything I said this morning will sink in and resinate with her but I want her to fly like an eagle.  Not to mention she is driving around on a beautiful sunny day at the beach in the cutest red convertible VW Bug.

So yeah, I told my daughter to fail.  It's because I love her that much that I did. I believe she will surprise herself because I see her through my eyes.  That of a mother that would do anything for her children, even if it means, she might have to figure a few things out for herself, fall a few times, and get right back up.




Black Bean Nachos


Easy meal preparation is where I am at with summer school in full swing and running in a variety of directions with kids and their never ending list of activities.

Nacho's are quickly becoming a staple on my menu of easy recipes.  The key for me is finding new and creative ways to reinvent an oldie but goodie.  I know I sound like a broken record but we have slowly been cutting back on our meat consumption and replacing our decision with more beans, rice and vegetables. Insert Charlie Brown and his wha wha wha blah blah blah voice.



I had a helper for this shoot. Can you guess who?  Finnley loves being my assistant.  Especially when I put the food on the floor and she can easily sample the dishes.  I can say that most of my recipes are kid tested and approved.  She has a healthy appetite and her palate is quite extensive for only being two.  She tries everything and I appreciate that.  Unlike my nine year old who only likes three things. Ramen, candy, and cereal.  I will save that battle story for another post.  Just know it keeps me up at night trying to figure out new and creative ways of sneaking healthy food into her diet.


Cabbage on nacho's might sound crazy, and well, maybe it is.  I think it's refreshing and adds so much color to an already bright dish.

Try it--you may just like it!



Black Bean Nachos

1/2 bag of your favorite tortilla chips
1 fresh tomato, diced small
1 ripe avocado, diced small
2-4 tiny bell peppers, orange and red, sliced in rings
2-3 cups of shredded purple cabbage
2 cups of shredded white cheddar (use Vegan cheese if this is your eating style)
Salsa Verde--RECIPE HERE
Black Beans--RECIPE HERE (Use can if that is all you have)

1.  Spread chips all over a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle cheese.  Broil until melted.

2.  Add the remaining ingredients. NOTE:  You can warm the black beans up in the microwave so they are not cold from the can or fridge.



Recipe by Sherron Watson

Friday, July 8, 2016

Buffalo Cauliflower Wraps with a Surprise Sauce #dairyfree


Are you here for the Buffalo Cauliflower Wrap or the Surprise Sauce?

If it were me, I've got the inside scoop, say you're here for the sauce.  So what is it?  The sauce is a Vegan Blue Cheese and it will fool anyone into believing it's the real deal.  It fooled my family.  I secretly have a mad sauce crush going.  I really wanted to include the word Vegan in the title but I didn't want to scare anyone away.  The sauce is super delicious and dairy free.  

Why go without when you don't really have to and these wraps are good BUT with the sauce, they're better.   There I said it.  It's true though.

I wouldn't eat a chicken wrap without blue cheese dressing, so for me, I won't eat the spicy cauliflower florets without the sauce.  

They're married!  Like Lucy and Ricardo. Eric and Arial. I am running out of redheads...LOL  


My poor daughter Rye is my taste tester for almost everything.  It's not uncommon for me to yell for her to come and try something upstairs.  She never balks or says no--hey, there is food after all--and I sure appreciate that.  I value her opinion when it comes to honesty and I want an honest response to, "does it taste okay?"   My family's favorite response is, "it has an oaky, nutty, buttery flavor."  They heard this on a cooking show and use it ALLLLLL the time.

My kids eat a lot of new things, sometimes the same thing over and over until we get it just right, and I have learned that kids give great feedback when it comes to food.  Mine have no problem telling me "yay" or "nay" on something.  I appreciate that they feel comfortable in our home to be honest, even when they are critiquing their Mom's food.  That must be some damn good parenting right there--said with a bit of sarcasm and truth.

This dish was an unanimous YAY.  I have to really work my mouth to say that last sentence.  I shall never use that combination of words again--an unanimous.  Say that ten times fast.


Buffalo Cauliflower Wraps with a Vegan Bleu Cheese
One head makes enough for 5-6 wraps, depends on how full your wraps are.

This recipe is two fold: baked cauliflower florets and the blue cheese sauce

For the Buffalo Cauliflower you will need this:

1 head of cauliflower diced in to large pieces
Your favorite hot sauce, I use Franks
1 tablespoon Ghee or oil
Shredded lettuce
Wheat tortillas

Vegan Blue Cheese:

3/4 cup vegannaise (like mayonnaise but without egg)
1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, fresh and minced
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 caps of apple cider vinegar
1 good squeeze of lemon
*optional: this is not vegan, but if that is not a concern for you and you just want dairy free, then add a bit of Worcestershire sauce.
1/4 cup crumbled firm tofu (strain or squeeze out excess water)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add cauliflower to pan and drizzle with oil or ghee.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and cover in Franks.  Return to oven and bake until tender or to your liking.  Some people like a firmer piece to add texture to each bite.

2.  While cauliflower is baking make your sauce.  Add all of the ingredients and stir.

3.  Fill each wrap with lettuce and spicey cauliflower.  Add the Vegan Blue Cheese and serve.

4.  Store all left overs in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.  Sauce may last longer.



Friday, July 1, 2016

Oven Poached Halibut with Spinach, Parsley, and Capers

 

Living at the beach we have some fabulous opportunities to get our little hands on fresh fish.  I mean really fresh.  Like walk across the street, drop a line, and fish.  The other option is driving 2 minutes to the boat docks and buying from our local fishermen and women.  If that does not work, then we can walk across the dock and buy from our local seafood vender.  Yeah, we have a lot of ways to buy and fish for, well, FISH.

It won't come as a surprise then that you may find a fishy tale or two here once in a while or a few recipes that include fish.  This recipe was me messing around with a bunch of spinach I had sitting and giving me the stink eye.  I buy spinach and sometimes it gets shoved to the back of the fridge and I forget about it.  Not today buddy!  Get your spinach and halibut and lets start cooking.

Halibut can be expensive.  If you need to use another fish that's okay but keep in mind that halibut also is a mild flavored fish.  Using a fishier type fish might alter the flavor of the dish slightly.  Little things to keep in the back of your mind when you start changing recipes.

I usually buy 1.5 pounds of fish to feed the 3-4 adult people in my family.  This leaves enough for a small portion as left overs for the next day.  I don't eat the fish but I don't mind making it for my family.

I served the fish with a curry sauce I made. I will include the recipe.  I had leftover coconut milk and hated to waste it.  I believe the fish and sauce worked well together.



The above picture is before I baked it and the below picture is afterwards.  I poached the fish in coconut milk. This process makes the fish creamy.  I don't like when my fish is overcooked and dried out.


There's a close up of the curry sauce. The green spinach topping is filled with flavor and goodness.


Oven Poached Halibut with Spinach, Parsley, and Capers 

1 can of coconut full fat milk (use 1/2 here and 1/2 for sauce recipe below)
1-2 lbs. of fresh halibut
1 1/2 cup diced fresh spinach
zest of 1 lemon (save a bit for curry sauce)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and left whole
2 teaspoons melted Ghee or your favorite cooking oil
1/4 green onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley


This curry sauce might frustrate some because it's not EXACTLY measured.  Sauces are touchy and they need to be made with finesse.  For me, it's a lot of add and taste.

Curry Sauce:

1/2 can coconut milk
pinch of fresh parsley
pinch of salt
1-2 teaspoons yellow curry
extra zest of lemon from above (1/2 teaspoon)
lemon juice to taste
cayenne to taste--this goes a long way, start with a dash
about 20 raw capers, minced well

1.  Using an oven proof baking dish (mine is a vintage Le Creuset), pour in 1/2 can of coconut milk. Add fish.  I usually remove the skin.  I also will cut the fish up in to the portions before hand. This is optional.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Position this over the fish.

3.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  The fish will release juice and thin the sauce.  This is the poaching juice that will keep your fish from drying out.

4.  While fish is cooking, prepare sauce.  Over a stove top in a small pan, combine sauce ingredients.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer.  Serve with fish.

NOTE:  I pooled the curry sauce on the bottom of a small plate and then gently laid the fish with spinach topping in the middle.  If you are not careful with plating you could end up with quite a messy dish.  Just go slow and your presentation with be excellent.


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