Friday, January 15, 2016

Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Salad Dressing



Well, here I am.  Two weeks into school and my life is busy and exciting.  I have not felt so alive in a long time.  I struggled for quite some time to justify my decision of returning to school and pursuing my education. I was taught that my job was in the home.  I have supported my family and husband and watched with elation as they have met their goals, dreamed their dreams, and obtained their educational degrees as well.  I played the part of supporting actress, high spirited cheerleader and motivational speaker for some time.  I have been a stay at home mom for 21 years.  This role has brought me great joy, and yet recently, I have felt empty.

Something inside of me was not right.  I struggled to place my finger on exactly what was causing me to drop into depression, suffer from anxiety, doubt myself, and, I was aware that I was slowing drifting away from my life.  The island, that is my family, was slowly drifting further from the raft that I was floating in.  I felt the embrace of being pulled under or away.


It wasn't until things came to a head this summer after moving into our home that I realized I needed a direction.  I needed to do something for me.  My unhappiness with myself was affecting my family, my relationship with my husband, and with my life.  I needed a life line.

Facing the strange fear of possibly losing it all--I made a decision.  Cory has never ever once told me to not go to school.  It's the opposite.  He never wanted me to quit and has pushed me onto this course for some time.  I finally took the bait and did what I thought was impossible, I enrolled in school.  Knee shaking, heart pulsing--I was accepted.  I told my family and they have supported me 100%.
  

This one decision will affect our family.  Cory is still working from home but he still needs to work so I have been able to adjust my schedule so that he can work and then take care of Finnley while I am away a few hours each day.  Isabella is back in school for this school year.  Rye is working and her schedule allows her to help while I am at class too.  This whole process is teaching us to work as a team.  I am learning that I can let go of the steering wheel for a while and someone else in my family can drive the "home" ship just fine without me.  I needed to learn this lesson.

 
Cory and Rye are so cute because the other day they reassured me that I did not need to do all of the cooking.  They were capable of making a variety of dishes and they had my blog to fall back on.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me feel.  I still cook a lot but the responsibilities are being shared.

As for me, I feel good.  My spirits are high.  I am like a kid in a toy shop.  I never knew how addicting learning could be.  I am like a sponge.  I don't want school to end.  My goals are hefty and I am looking at 6 years of college but I can do this.

Our meals have become easier and more fresh.  This kale salad is delightful.  The kale and swiss chard work well together to create the base for this winter salad.  I have added a few crunch elements that my family likes but you can always exchange those for things you like more.  


Our favorite part about this salad is the Maple Syrup Dijon Salad Dressing. Twang meets sweet.  Together the flavor is "moorish" in the fact that I want more and more and more.

I hope you can appreciate Finnley as my photo assistant.  I have come a long ways since the first few years of taking pictures.  I had this idea that they needed to look perfect.  Those days are long gone.  The pictures you see are my life.  A busy Mom trying to blog, cook, photograph, write, go to school, clean house, help with homework, do homework, be a partner for my husband and still find time to pursue the things I like to do.  Finnley is my life right now and for now on you may see her foot, finger, hand, head, or shoulder in a picture or two.  I wouldn't have it any other way either. I love those little glimpses of her still small frame.

Too soon, I will have an empty home and my life will slow down.  I am trying so hard to find the balance and help my whole family achieve their goals, dreams, and personal educational needs.

It's challenging but so worth it.

Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Salad Dressing

Salad:

4 large winter kale leaves, center vein removed
4 large swiss kale leaves, center vein removed
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried pomegranates
1/2 cup sesame seed covered cashews
1 lemon, juice only

Dressing:

1/4 cup sunflower oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
REAL maple syrup, to taste
salt if needed
pepper to taste
dash of garlic powder

1. Cut the kale and swiss chards into bite size pieces or narrow strips. I like the strips personally.  Add the remaining ingredients; toss to combine.  Squeeze the whole lemon over the salad and massage into the kale and swiss chard.  This should be done before adding the salad dressing.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

2.  In a small bowl, combine salad dressing ingredients.  Taste you product.  Add more mustard or syrup depending on how you think it taste.  Add salt if you think it needs it. Pour all of the dressing over the salad.

3.  Store left over salad in air tight container and refrigerate.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Greek Yogurt with Oranges, Mint and Pistachios


I have officially completed my first week of college.  I have felt many emotions this week: fear, excitement, and joy.  My favorite class is choir.  Yes, I am taking choir because I never took it in high school.  I love to sing and want a chance to work with a teacher to better my skills when it comes to belting out my favorite songs at random times in my life.  I like to say that my life is a musical.  

This little bowl of deliciousness is my favorite flavor combination when enjoying yogurt in the morning.  I can't explain why this combination of flavors works so well together--but it does.  I am not usually a person who eats loudly.  I am a quiet consumer when it comes to my table manners until I eat this.  Then, it's noisy and embarrassing.

I can't help myself.  You have the creamy texture of the yogurt combined with two crunchy elements-the pistachios and chocolate chips.  The tang of the oranges is never the same experience because they all taste different and finally the mint.  The mint is fresh and unexpected.  It is the glue that holds the dish together.  One without the other does not give the same experience.  Believe me I have tried and it doesn't punch the same POW that the original 5 ingredients do.  

I use dark chocolate chips and I unshell my own pistachios. You can use the kind that are already shelled.  I use all types of oranges and have even cheated with a can of canned mandarins.  I have tried this with greek yogurt, honey flavored yogurt and soy yogurt.  

We eat a lot of greek yogurt in our house.  So much that I just bought the system to make our own yogurt.  I plan on using coconut milk for ours. I bought a vegan starter from Amazon that was highly suggested by several blogs I follow.  

Yay me!  I hope it works.



This is our second favorite way to enjoy yogurt.  I have never lived anywhere that we could buy huge bags of cherries.  Well, we can in Oregon and it is amazing!  The come frozen and combine two types.  We heat them in the microwave until warm.  The juice just pours out of them when heated.  The fun part is that your yogurt turns pink.  We add my homemade granola to the mix and ta-da--it's a bowl of desire and comfort. 

To make homemade granola you can try these recipes below.  I make all of these throughout the year.  My newest one is Pecan Pie Granola.  I am still testing it and it should be added soon.





Greek Yogurt with Oranges, Mint and Pistachios
Makes one serving

1/2 cup of your favorite yogurt--plain, honey or vanilla work best
1 orange, peeled and diced into segments
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
handful of pistachios-shelled
as many chocolate chips as you want

1.  Grab a bowl and start adding ingredients.  Mine looks pretty just for the picture.





Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jalapeno Fried Rice




My family has decided if I put jalapeno in any dish I make, it instantly becomes a hit.  This rice dish did not disappoint the family on a day when it was cold, rainy and gray.   

Very, very gray is how I would describe this time of year at the beach.  We get very few brights sunny days and having a bit of color in our food and on our walls helps with the blues.  When we were looking at homes the one thing that seemed to be common in each of the homes we liked were the painted walls.  Not white, cream or beige but bright orange, vibrant blue, canary yellow, and cherry red.  Bright and cheery and a bit of an eye sore when you see these rooms in person.  

I get it now though.  I see why the homes here have a lot of personality on the inside.  Those of us that live on the Oregon Coast spend a great deal of time inside the walls of our brick and mortar dwellings.  What has saved us from being down on these extended gray days are the windows in our own home.  Our living room has 10 huge windows and each and every day we get to watch the gray roll in and the gray roll out.  There is beauty in a monochromatic scene that I did not appreciate until we found ourselves immersed deep inside the gray-dom of living along a stretch of the West Coast that is simply breathtaking.  


I have never lived in a place that is constantly changing.  One day the beach has sand dunes and the next day it is flat.  The logs the size of telephone poles come to the shore with such ease that you forget that they are 25 feet tall.  They stack themselves like toothpicks near the sand dunes and in any nook they can find. Walking on the same beach you will have sun and then rain and probably more sun.

The weather is always changing and the weather is always changing the landscape.    Change, in my opinion, is good.

I guess this why I need to change up our fried rice a bit.  I won't lie and say I don't miss the bacon, egg and fried onion of my old fried rice recipe.  Bacon just adds a level of saltiness and smokiness that is hard to find in other products.  I don't like the Vegan Bacon and so I am learning to live without bacon.  My mind misses it but my body does not.  This body of mine does not process meat very well and we have been eating a plant based diet for some time.  

For this recipe I went with the spicy route.  We love all things hot.  Jalapeno's are a great way to infuse flavor and color into any rice dish.  This dish is flavored with a combination of Tamari (wheat free soy sauce) and Braggs Amino Acids.  I kept the veggies simple: garlic, onion and bell pepper with jalapeños and green onions thrown in at the very end.  

The ingredients on the list are the basics--designed for individuals who don't want raging hot fried rice, BUT, if your dinner crowd likes it extra HOT HOT HOT, well then, you might want to up the Sriracha Sauce and the jalapeños. Just go for it!


Jalapeno Fried Rice 

2-3 cups of day old prepared rice
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
1/4 cup bell pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce or Tamari sauce
2 tablespoons Braggs Amino Acids
1/2-1 whole fresh jalapeno pepper, I remove the seeds
salt to taste
chopped sliced green onions for garnish
Sriracha Mayonnaise 

1.  Heat oil in large saute pan.  Add onion and bell pepper.  Let cook until tender.  Add garlic.  Cook for 1 minute.

2.  Sprinkle day old rice over cooked vegetables.  Add the soy sauce/tamari/ Braggs and stir.  At this point--add more of these liquids--as needed.  If it looks dry, then add more.  Stir to combine.

3.  Slice jalapeno's thinly and add to cooked rice and vegetables.  Remove from heat and let jalapeños warm and wilt a bit.  

4.  Prepare Sriracha Mayonnaise by combining equal parts--if your brave--and mixing well. OR add more mayonnaise and a dab of the red stuff.   Dish up rice, criss cross the sauce across the top with a piping bag or a spoon and sprinkle with green onions.

OH, and be prepared to share the recipe--people want this one!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Gooey Hasselback Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes in January?  Yep!  We are starting our year off right, in my opinion.

We eat these all year round plus I needed a reason to make marshmallows.  I think everyone needs a reason to make marshmallows.  They are beyond amazing.  I personally don't like the texture of store bought marshmallows and was leary of making them for the kids.

Little did I know that I would be hiding said "crack" from the kids because if they touched my marshmallows--someone was going down.  They are ridiculously easy to make and WAY better than the store bought version.

Now don't go crazy--you can use the store bought marshmallows for this recipe. I still buy them on occasion BUT just in case you want to try and make them yourself--GO HERE!  I love this recipe and mine turn out great each time.



Back to the sweet potatoes.  I was curious about this thing that people are always posting titled " hasselback" this and "hasselback" that.  I dug deeper and found that it has to do with the way you cut your potatoes and there is a recipe that was originated in Sweden. If you would like to see that one--go here!  I'm not sure they would approve of using a sweet potato so don't tell them.  It's our secret.

It's fancy and different.  I wasn't too impressed with it because of the stress I put on myself of cutting the damn thing in half--then what?  I like mine just fine baked the old fashion way but for variety I would suggest trying it for company. A gourmet presentation with a simple technique.

I gussied mine up with homemade marshmallows and a pecan crumble.  After that I didn't care how they were cut.


Gooey Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

4 sweet potatoes
1/4-1/3 batch fresh marshmallows or 4 large store bought marshmallows
pecan crumble--recipe below

Pecan Crumble (Make ahead--see below)
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans 

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Wash and slice sweet potatoes into thin rows.  Do not cut through the entire potato.  To make this easy, I laid a set of chopsticks out and put the potato in the middle.  Then I held all three together while I sliced away.  The chopsticks prevented me from cutting the potato all the way through. 

2.  I baked the potatoes until soft, about 45-60 minutes in my oven.  I laid the marshmallows across the top and returned to oven until melted.  I added the premade crumble before I served them.

To make the Pecan Crumble: Mix ingredients together and spread in the bottom of a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Check and add time if needed.  Once cooled, use a metal or plastic spatula and break apart.  I would recommend parchment paper--this helps because you can lift the parchment and break it apart.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Frosting (dairy-free,egg free)

I'm off for the summer!  Yahoo. This past semester has been long. The good news is that I got an "A" in my ...