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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Frozen Food Foundation. All opinions are 100% mine.
Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
I have a confession to make. Sometimes I waste fruits and vegetables. I buy them with the best of intentions. Beautiful little potato orbs just begging to be made into some warm German potato salad wind up looking like a science experiment. Spindly hairs shoot from what were recently bold orange carrots clamoring to be roasted and pureed into some creamy hummus. Crunchy celery stalks once destined to become the log to some peanut butter and raisins now lie soft an limp and neglected at the bottom of my crisper. Cartons of berries that formerly held the promise of summer sunshine, only to wind up cloaked in a fuzzy blanket. Name-calling and insults fly; head-smacking ensues. It's not pretty.

If only nature had a pause button. Oh wait - it does! Freezing fruits and vegetables is a simple way to reduce spoilage and waste. It also saves money, because while I love a rich compost pile, I wouldn't intentionally buy a fresh load of fruits and veggies from the market or farm stand and deposit them directly into it. I wouldn't shred my dollar bills and throw them in. Yet, I sometimes feel like that's exactly what I'm doing.

So, while I'm guilty of these infractions sometimes, I'm not all the time. Because I actually do keep several bags of frozen fruit and veggies in my freezer at all times. Not only are they a convenient option, they're a healthy one since our bodies need the essential nutrients fruits and veggies add to our diet. Did you know that eating a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is more important than ever (eat the rainbow) given the increase in chronic disease rates among age groups!? Sadly, that's because nearly 80 percent of American fail to actually consume the daily recommended amounts of fruit, that percentage rises to 90 when we're talking vegetables. Crazy!
Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coney Dogs inspired by The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

Coney Dogs with Homemade Coney Sauce
In the modern world reality tv, overt voyeurism, and little left to the imagination...where everything is on's easy to long for the past. A time when things were simpler, people were friendlier, and humanity was more evident. But was it really?

I tend to lean towards the answer yes—but only slightly. Human slavery, evil dictators, shady businessmen, human traffickers, and plain-old bad people have always existed. With the population explosion and the invention of the internet, it's just more prominently displayed now. I could argue back and forth (with myself, mind you) on both sides of this coin—and often do.

What's my point? Reading a well-researched, well-documented account of American history, such as The Lost Tribe of Coney Island tends to sway me towards the side that says the darkside was always present. A lying, cheating, heartless swindler coerces an unsuspecting tribe of Igorrote from their home in the Phillipines with empty promises. He them displays them alongside "other freaks and curiosities" in a display that somewhat bends the confines of reality. And people pay to see it happen. I admit to being equally fascinated and revolted by this tale.

There's so much more to it, a recollection that spans several years, starting in February of 1905. This is a great book for a history buff or non-fiction reader, that is even written in a manner that will hold the attention of someone who prefers to read fiction (like myself). As Prentice says... "Ultimately, this is a story of a hero turned villain that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage."
Monday, October 27, 2014

Whole Wheat Peanut Crackers inspired by The Terminal

Whole Wheat Peanut Crackers inspired by The Terminal for Food 'n Flix
I first (and last) watched The Terminal all the way back in 2004, when it was just released. I remembered liking it, but I hadn't really thought much about it since. Then Evelyne came along as this month's Food 'n Flix host, and challenged (invited) us to watch it, draw inspiration, and head into the kitchen. But as things always seem to go, when I went to check it out from the library, they didn't have it. Like—at all; system-wide! It wasn't on Netflix, either. Of course this only happens to me when I proscrastinate. And procrastinator just so happens to be in my unwritten job description. So, I ordered it from Amazon.

It's the story of Viktor Navorski (played by Tom Hanks), a man without a country—temporarily, at least. As his plane lands at JFK, he is pulled aside by security and informed that a war has broken out in his homeland (invented for this movie), Krakozhia. The United States no longer recognizes it as a country, therefore, they cannot accept his passport (and subsequently confiscate it). And without a passport, they can't allow him onto US soil. So, they give him some food vouchers and a phone card, and encourage him to wait it out in the International terminal.

Well, there's a language barrier, and Viktor is a bit dazed and confused by the turn of events. Let's just say that he winds up staying in the airport terminal for longer than anybody expected. He makes it his temporary home. He works. He makes friends. He goes on a date. He enters the heart of people living normal lives around him. People root for him; well, all but one...Frank Dixon (played by the amazing Stanley Tucci, who I believe has been in about 7 of our food 'n flix movie picks!). But you'll have to watch to find out why!
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Steak Bomb Sandwich

Steak Bomb Sandwich + an Adventures in Comfort Food cookbook tour and giveaway
I'm happy to be today's blog tour stop for the newly released Adventures in Comfort Food cookbook by Kerry Altiero, the Chef/Owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, Maine and Katharine Gaudet. Cafe Miranda opened 20 years ago in this small town of 7,000 residents, and is centered around its wood-fire oven. This was a feat in itself, as all of the other restaurants in the area were known for their deep-frying prowess.

Food "opened up the world" for Altiero at a young age, so he opened Cafe Miranda with that in mind-he wanted everybody, regardless of background and station in life, to be able to experience the same thing. Like the food he serves at the restaurant, the food in this cookbook is "gutsy, but it isn't strange for the sake of being strange".

"I admit to having some punkish tendencies. I like to do things my own way; I like speed; I like gears and metal. I'm addicted to the pace of restaurant cooking. But there are other, better reasons for seeking out adventures in food. Food can make the world bigger. It can change lives." ~Kerry Altiero

My outlook on food and life falls into much the same category, and with each page that I turned in this book, I got hungrier and hungrier. It was hard to narrow down the choices and decide which recipe that I wanted to share with you today. But in the end, this sandwich won out.
Friday, October 17, 2014

Fruit and Family on the Ridge: Youngquist Farms | #MichiganApples

Fruit and Family on the Ridge: Youngquist Farms #MichiganApples
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a Michigan Apple Blogger tour, hosted by the Michigan Apple Committee. It took place in Grand Rapids and the surrounding area, on what could not have been a more perfect representation of an autumn day in Michigan.

Let me back it up a few steps to tell you why I was (still am) extra excited about this opportunity. First and foremost, though I live in Indiana now (but literally just a stone's throw—or should I say apple's throw—over the border), I will always be a Michigan-girl at heart. I grew up in Michigan (coincidentally in the same area that the tour took place). I attended (the best) college in Michigan. And yes, I still hold up my hand to reference where I live, even though I have to point to the top of my wrist nowadays.

Plus, my family probably eats double our weight in apples every year—so yeah, there's that. Since we aim to eat local produce as much as possible (unless we're craving tropical or citrus), my youngest son is forever asking me if it's apple season. Fortunately, with the development of Controlled Atmosphere Storage, that makes apple season (sort of) last eleven months of the year. But that's something we'll talk about in my next installment of the #MichiganApples series. Today, it's all about where the apples begin...the orchard! So yes, Michigan apples are available basically year-round, but there's something special about that roughly 7-week harvest window.
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Havarti Ham Apple Braid

Havarti Ham Apple Braid #bread |
I'm am such a sucker for a soft, pillowy pile of risen dough. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Ninety-nine percent of of the time (maybe more), it produces the type of bread that disappears in the blink of an eye in my house, as well. A soft white bread with a tender, sometimes chewy (depends on how it is formed and baked) interior, enclosed neatly inside a golden crust. That is exactly the category that this loaf falls into.

This braided loaf is my interpretation of this month's Bread Baking Babes challenge, as chosen by our hosting BBBabe kitchen of the month, Katie at Thyme for Cooking. Now, Katie's choice was actually a braid stuffed with caramelized onions, herbs, and cheese. I basically ignored that filling idea, instead going in an entirely different direction. It's not that I don't love caramelized onions (I totally do), my brain just wouldn't latch on to the concept this month. Apparently, I wanted meat.

So, the day before I made this loaf, I'd stopped at the deli and ordered a pound of shaved tavern ham (my favorite type of ham). While the slicer was doing its thang, the lady behind the counter got busy, and I got lost in thought. That resulted in what we'll call an enthusiastic pile of shaved hame. Apparently they don't want to stick any shaved ham in the deli case alongside the thicker slices (or she was just in a good mood), because after weighing out the pound and giving me that price, she threw the extra ham into the bag. Score!
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Smoked Salmon Chowder inspired by Pike Place Chowder in Seattle

Smoked Salmon Chowder inspired by Pike Place Chowder in Seattle
Smoked Salmon Chowder inspired by Pike Place Chowder in Seattle
So, people often refer to two types of trip-takers: the "planner" and the "explorative" traveler. I can firmly say that I fit directly in the center of the two types—I'm equal parts obsessive and spontaneous.

I have to go in with a plan. Nothing rigid, but definitely an outline. I do a little research on the area. I grab a map, because I am totally obsessed with maps—always have been. I make a list of attractions, areas, and destinations for my trip that I must visit (especially if it'll be my first time there). I don't make a timeline, or even a certain day that each thing has to be done, but I do try to map things out and get an idea of what would make sense. That's what I consider my "planner" side.

Once I arrive, I take it all in. I ask locals for recommendations. I walk around and look for interesting places. I try to get a feel of the area. I go back and look at my outline, and plug-in the new additions. THEN, I map out a loose plan, give myself plenty of time, and just go. That's what I consider my spontaneous side.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Bread inspired by How to Bake a Man

Vegan Pumpkin Bread #vegan #quickbread #pumpkin
Let me start off by saying that this book is pure fun. I took along with me to read on my flight to Seattle a few weeks ago, and finished it shortly into my return flight. I was disappointed after I turned the final page, not because of the book, but because I didn't want to stop reading.

How to Bake a Man is a fast, light-hearted jaunt into the world of 27-year old Becca who hasn't quite figured out yet what she wants to do with her life—other than bake (because that's what she's truly good at). Just as she's about to go back to school for her MBA, she decides that she'd rather push a food cart filled with baked goods through an office building. She's a feeder, and anybody who loves to cook or bake knows that her choice is inevitable (oh she who speaks from experience...).

With a cast of characters that includes (but is in no way limited to) a long-distance best friend, a handsome and confident snakeskin boot-wearin' neighbor, an evil doppelganger,  the perfect man, and a menu full of tempting food—I found it hard not to lose myself in the world of Becca's Best.
Monday, October 13, 2014

Veggie Lovers Lasagna

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dreamfields. All opinions are 100% my own.
Veggie Lovers Lasagna #IHeartDreamfields #meatless
Today I'm partnerting with Dreamfields Pasta to celebrate National Pasta Month. I can think of no better way to celebrate than with a pan stacked with wavy lasagna noodles that are layered with tons of veggies, and accented by a light cream sauce that has been flavored with sundried tomatoes. I'm pretty sure that even the carnivores in your life will be sated after eating a slice of this meatless lasagna.

So, I know lasagna sort of seems like a weekend dish. A dish that you need some time to prepare. But really, once you have all of your components ready (noodles cooked, sauce stirred, veggies chopped)—it's just a matter of layering things into the pan. Hands-on time is only about 20 minutes. Once that part is complete, the oven does all of the work while you finish up some homework, throw in a load of laundry, or set the table and wrangle everybody to the table. I'd say it's very possible to make lasagna a weekday meal.

Since this week of National Pasta Month with Dreamfields is all about vegetarian meals, I left out the meat sauce and loaded up on the veggies. I wanted to use a white sauce, but drenching it in Alfredo didn't seem quite right, so I chose a light Alfredo (if you're making it at home, use skim milk) and then fortified it by swirling in a little sundried tomato pesto; basically a creamy flavor-bomb.
Friday, October 10, 2014

Mission Organize Pantry: a #POPtober Challenge

OXO POP Containers - commence Mission Organize Pantry for POPtober
I organize. I am an organizer. I feel better when things are organized. Order feels better than chaos. My inner hippie-chick is frowning. She wants to be carefree, to go where the wind carries her. Fortunately (I guess), outer responsible-adult usually quashes those notions of yesteryear.

However, just because being organized makes the world seem a saner place, it doesn't mean that I actually am organized. There are not enough hours in my day, nor room in my "cozy" house to make it so. I do my best, know how life usually has its own ideas. So, when OXO and The Container Store issued me a challenge to (re-)organize an area in my kitchen, I took it as a sign. Challenge accepted.

Oh crap. That meant facing something very scary, something insanely out of control, something overrun by a few too many months of neglect {duh duh duhhhhh!!!!!} — my pantry. I'm embarrassed to show you this, and you may want to brace yourself. Are you ready for it? Okay, here goes....
Thursday, October 9, 2014

Steel Cut Oat Sausage Crumbles, plus an OATrageous Oatmeals blog tour

Steel-Cut Oat Sausage Crumbles #vegan #glutenfree #oats
I'm not a vegetarian or a vegan. I don't claim the title gluten-free, or paleo, or dairy-free. But, that doesn't mean that I don't work those ways of eating into my family's everyday life. Many of our meals do fall into these categories, but we are also bacon assassins and slayers of juicy steaks. Ask my youngest child what his favorite meal is, and he'll say chicken. Just chicken. You know I couldn't do without my fresh fish and seafood. But, since we're fortunate enough not to be "forced" into a category, I prefer the term varietarian.

Until, of course, I looked up my brilliant new term and realized that somebody had already claimed the term - and they didn't include pork or beef in the definition. How you can exclude things purposefully and still claim to be a varietarian is beyond me. I'm still claiming varietarian as a diet based on variety.

But, I digress—as usual. My whole point in talking about special diets was to highlight the fact that today I'm sharing a recipe that is vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free as part of the OATrageous Oatmeals blog tour! This is the newest cookbook by the very talented (and all around awesome lady) Kathy Hester.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Triple Apple Bread

Triple Apple Bread #apples #bread #twelveloaves
We've officially broken out the boots and the sweaters. Piles of blankets that were stashed in closets are now draped over sofas, chairs, and beds...and if I'm being honest, strewn across floors. I'm no longer sad that my air conditioner is broken. I just so happen to love it when there's a chill in the air, leaves changing colors, and apples and winter squash all-the-things!

So, it's only fitting that our #twelveloaves theme for this month fits the bill perfectly—it's APPLES! I toyed with making some cinnamon rolls stuffed with bits of tender, spiced apples. Then I thought maybe I'd heat up the cauldron and fry up some apple fritters. Or perhaps I'd go with some apple-filled pretzel bites drizzled in caramel sauce. Apparently my mood took a 180.

Instead of something sweet, I wound up making an unassuming, rustic loaf perfumed ever-so-faintly with the essence of an apple itself. Apple cider, fresh apples picked from a nearby tree, and the rest of the dried apple slices that I brought home with me from my recent trip to Seattle, mingle inside a thick, chewy crust.
Sunday, October 5, 2014

Homemade Ginger Beer inspired by Rachel's Ginger Beer in Seattle

Rachel's Ginger Beer, Seattle
Name that beverage: spicy, nasal-clearing, and able to cleanse your palate in a single sip. Yes, that would be Ginger Beer. On my recent trip to Seattle to attend IFBC, I was making a note of Pike Place Market locations that I wanted to visit. I asked my friend Alyssa from Everyday Maven, who I finally got to meet in real life (and is local to the area), told me a few of her favorite places. One of those places being Rachel's Ginger Beer.

Now, before visiting Pike Place Market, I didn't realize that it was not simply a market, but an actual historic district covering nine acres just east of the Seattle waterfront. From 1st Avenue to Western Avenue, and from Pike Street to Virginia Street, it offers not only a varied shopping and eating experience, but also views of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound! I'm not going to lie—I found myself daydreaming of living in the area...taking lazy day walks with the family that would find us home hours later, bags and trolleys bursting with freshly caught seafood, handmade pasta in all sorts of intriguing flavors, locally picked produce, some artisan-crafted soaps and lotions, and a bright bouquet of flowers.

We would have stopped for bowls of sustaining chowder, browsed the jewelery beaded painstakingly by hand, and picked up a few Milagros for our Day of the Dead altar. Surely we'd have carried around plastic cups, each filled with a different flavor of that ginger beer that Alyssa told me about. Because I'd be happy drinking a cup of Rachel's Ginger Beer every day.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels

Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels
It's hard to believe that today is already the first day of October! The mornings and the evenings are now chilly, bordering on cold. Pumpkins and gourds have taken up residence on porches. The leaves are lighting the streets on fire with their brilliant colors, a few even finding their way underfoot as we walk to the bus stop wrapped in a cloak of darkness. Lamp posts that haven't been transformed into scarecrow poles are shrouded in brittle corn stalks. Pretzels of all shapes, sizes, and orientations are held in the highest of regard.

Wait, what? Pretzels? You better believe it. October is National Pretzel Month, and flanked by my small army of pretzel-lovers, we'll be celebrating it in style all month long in our house—starting now.

You know my affinity for celebrating food holidays, right? If it's your first time here, it's true. I grab hold and celebrate one whenever possible. It's just fun stuff. Well, it should come as no surprise that I'm joining a group of like-minded bloggers today, and we're inviting you to a party featuring all pretzels, all day long.