Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cookies and Chard

Yesterday's bread is ah-may-zing.  So, if a little bit of bread flour and shortening is wrong, then I don't want to be right.  I still plan on trying to replace the shortening with coconut oil, but I've gotta say....I am over my shortening shame.  Yesterday's bread is yum-o, delish.

Do your minis love granola bars?  I'm hearing from a lot of people that granola bars are a staple in their minis' lives.  Well, the mini McGhees are missing their granola bars, and I have this recipe from marathon mom that I have been dying to try.  Marathon mom is the homeschooling mom to 7 boys and pregnant with an 8th baby.  From now on, I will refer to myself as 5k mom.  Maybe even kids fun run mom.  Here's her recipe.

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup local honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup oats (not quick oats)
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (Mini work best, but it doesn’t really matter.)

  • What to do:
    1. Melt the butter, peanut butter and honey in a pot over medium to low heat, stirring constantly. Turn off the burner when melted.
    2. Pour in the cup of oats and the wheat germ. Stir til combined.
    3. Wait til it cools and stir in the coconut and chocolate chips. Or, if you’re impatient with things like this, like I am, go ahead and dump it all right in. The result will be a more uniform chocolate taste.
    4. Pour into foil-lined 8 X 8 pan and stick in the fridge.
    5. Once cooled, flip out (the bars….not you) onto cutting board and cut to the size you like.

    OK, so I'm the type of girl that calls a spade a spade.  And this, folks, is a cookie, not a granola bar.  It's a damn good tasting cookie that the McGhee family snarfed down as if we hadn't seen food in real food in weeks (there's a joke in there somewhere, I know it).  However, I struggle to say that this is a healthy, nutritional snack to give your minis.  BUT, because this recipe is delicious and the minis loved it, I am going to tweak it, maybe add a few things to see if I can increase the nutritional value of it.  And, I will say....it is a HUGE improvement over the HFCS-filled store-bought granola bars.  Give it a try....the McGhee family gave this a huge, sticky, chocoately double thumbs up.

    Tonight's dinner was a spinoff on chicken pot pie.  I made the "stuffing" of the pie, following this this recipe from allrecipes. 

    • 1/3 cup butter
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 2/3 cup milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 cup frozen green peas
    • 1 cup frozen diced carrots
    • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken meat
    1. In a large saucepan, saute chopped onion in the butter.
    2. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.
    3. Remove from heat and slowly add chicken broth and milk. Stir well. 
    4. Return to heat.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes.
    5. Season with salt and pepper. Add frozen peas and carrots and cooked chicken.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.

    Instead of using a pie crust, I made biscuits using a previously posted recipe.  This time I made some tweaks.  I used a very small amount of all-purpose flour.  And, no, I am not proud of it...but just the tiniest amount of all-purpose flour gives whole wheat baked goods a much more desireable texture. 

    • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter
    • 1 cup milk
    1. Preheat oven to 450.
    2. In a medium sized bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
    3. Mix well with whisk or fork.
    4. Cut the ½ stick butter into little pea sized pieces and then mix the pieces into the flour mixture. Using a fork, try to mash the butter pieces as you mix it together with the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. It is okay if the outcome just looks like the same pea sized pieces of butter covered with flour.
    5. Then pour in the milk and mix it all together.
    6. Knead the dough with your hands 8 to 10 times and then turn out onto a counter or cutting board.
    7. Pat it out flat with your hands until the dough is a somewhat even ¾-inch thickness (sprinkle with a little flour if necessary). Turn a drinking glass upside down and cut out biscuit rounds.
    8. Then put them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

    I served the chicken biscuits with swiss chard.  Never heard of swiss chard?  I hadn't until our CSA started giving it to us every.single.week.  This is what it you want to look for in the grocery store.

    Remove the stalks and chop the leaves.

    Sauteed Swiss Chard
    • olive oil
    • chopped/minced garlic
    • swiss chard
    • balsamic vinegar
    • salt and pepper
    • parmesan cheese
    1.  Saute the garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes.
    2.  Add swiss chard and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.  While cooking drizzle balsamic vinegar over swiss chard.
    3.  Season with salt and pepper.  Grate fresh parmesan over the swiss chard.

    OK, so I know you're looking at this picture and thinking, "Heids McGhee, there is no way that my minis are eating that."  Well, I say, do what I do.  Set the plate in front of them and when they start to protest, shoot them your best mama-means-business stank eye.  Don't have a mama-means-business stank eye?  You've got bigger problems than swiss chard!

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    A dinner for the minis

    Mr. McGhee will not be around this week, as he is busy working.  And, while he's working, I am stuck at home with the 3 mini McGhees....and to be honest, there is no place I would rather be!  I don't know about you guys, but I am a homebody and I've got 3 minis that still argue over who gets to sit on my lap.  I have got to make sure I enjoy these years, right?!?  So, this week, while the minis are in school, I will be working hard in the kitchen to make "kid choice" snacks, dinners, and treats. 

    Here's the thing, cooking for kids is a balance between giving them healthy options, but also giving them options that they will actually eat.  I was blessed with minis that eat fruits and veggies first.  Our struggle with the minis is getting them to eat meals.  This week, I am hoping to rework some meals to make them appealing to the minis, but still nutritious enough to satisfy me. 

    First up is bread.  I have heard that my readers' minis are resisting the original honey wheat bread recipe that I posted.  I have to admit, I kind of get where your minis are coming from.  Because I am determined to make my own bread, I decided to try a new honey wheat bread recipe that I found on allrecipes.com. 

    • 1 1/8 cups water
    • 3 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 1 tablespoon dry milk powder
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons shortening
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1. Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select Whole Wheat setting, and then press Start.               

    OK, now don't anybody go and have a stroke, but I didn't use 3 cups of whole wheat flour.  I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour and one cup of bread flour.  Bread flour on the left, milk powder on the right.

    And, the shortening.....yes, I used shortening even though I am morally opposed to anything with the word hydrogenated on it.  I think shortening is gross and has absolutely zero nutritional quality to it.  However, if it can do something to the texture and flavor of the bread to make it more palatable for the minis, I will give it a try.  I do plan on reworking this recipe and trying to substitute coconut oil for the shortening, but for this round....I did use shortening.

    You should have seen me in the store buying shortening.  I did one of those look both ways, make sure nobody was looking, sprint down the aisle, grab the shortening, shove it in the cart behind the swiss card, beets, and organic apples and pray to God that nobody sees it moves.  Honestly, I was waiting for an announcement to be made over the PA system at the grocery store, "Heids McGhee is a fake, she has just been spotted with shortening". 

    I can't bear to look at the label to see how many ingredients are in the shortening, but I promise you it's processed.  Hydrogenation is a process in which the food industry adds hydrogen to unsaturated fats to make saturated fats.  You want to avoid hydrogenated food as much as possible. 

    So, the verdict is....the bread is yummy!  Even though, nutritionally, I am not thrilled with the trade-offs I had to make, the minis love it.  In fact, the oldest mini said, "Mom, this tastes just like Great Harvest bread.  Mom!  Mom!  Mom?  Why are you crying.....?"  Yeah, I totally had a moment.

    I also wanted to have a delish snack ready for the minis when they came home from school today, so I made a couple batches of muffins.  I followed this recipe

    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
    • 2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 4 eggs
    • 1.5-2 cups pumpkin puree
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/3 cup applesauce
    • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted slightly)
    • 1 cup honey
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. In a bowl mix flours, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce, coconut oil, and honey.
    4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into well. Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. DO NOT OVERMIX.
    5. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
    I didn't add the pumpkin in step 2.  After step 4, I divided the batter into 2 bowls.  Into one bowl, I added pumpkin, into the other bowl, I added mashed bananas.  I also added chocolate chips.  See?  I totally know how to kick back and let loose. 

    And, for dinner tonight we had taquitos.  In our house, taquitos are definitely a "kid choice" dinner.  I had an unfortunate experience with taquitos when I was pregnant with my oldest mini, so I really do not enjoy eating him....yet, he loves them?  That doesn't make sense to me?!?!?  I followed a recipe from our best bites. 

    Creamy chicken taquitos

    1/3 C (3 oz) cream cheese
    1/4 C green salsa
    1T fresh lime juice
    1/2 t cumin
    1 t chili powder
    1/2 t onion powder
    1/4 t granulated garlic, or garlic powder
    3 T chopped cilantro
    2 T sliced green onions
    2 C shredded cooked chicken (for extra yumminess, use grilled taco chicken!)
    1 C grated pepperjack cheese

    small corn tortillas (and actually, flour ones are really good as well)
    kosher salt
    cooking spray

    1.  Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

    2.  Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it’s soft and easy to stir. Add green salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and granulated garlic. Stir to combine and then add cilantro and green onions. Add chicken and cheese and combine well.
    You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.

    3.  Work with a few tortillas at a time and heat in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It helps to place them between damp paper towels. Usually 20-30 seconds will do it. If you find yours are cracking when you roll them or are coming unrolled right away, just try heating them longer and try the paper towel thing.

    4.  Place 2-3 T of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges.

    5.  Then roll it up as tight as you can.

    6.  Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or an oil mister and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

    7.  Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

    A word of advice....DO NOT forget to sprinkle the kosher salt on top.  I have forgotten before, and there really is a difference in the flavor. 

    I served it with a side of black beans.

  • 1/2 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1, 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper for a little heat

    1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add your onion and saute for 3 minutes, until beginning to soften and turn translucent.
    2. Add garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
    3. Stir in your black beans along with the water.
    4. Add your cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Stir, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans for at least 15 minutes, but up to 30 minutes

    Looking forward to this week!  I've got some neat things planned that I am hoping the minis love!  And, for those of you worried about Mr. McGhee, I will make sure I find a way to get him my delish home-cooked food, no drive-through for him!

    Saturday, January 28, 2012

    Shells & Cheese

    The lunch lady strikes again!  What American kid doesn't love a hot bowl of shells and cheese on a chilly day?

    If you can't resist the creamy goodness of Velveeta shells and cheese, reconsider giving them up because of the recent recall.  I have a recipe for smoked gouda mac and cheese that I have been dying to try, and today the mini McGhees were asking for mac and cheese.  Don't ya love it when the stars and the moon align? 

    • 1 (1-ounce) slice whole wheat bread
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups fat-free milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
    • 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
    • 5 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
    • 4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
    • Cooking spray
    1. Preheat oven to 350°.
    2. Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup.
    3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 2 minutes). Add cheeses; stir until melted.
    4. Add spinach and macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until bubbly.
    OK...here's what I did....I skipped step 1 & 2.  I followed step 3, using a yellow onion.  I didn't shred the cheeses, I cut those puppies into chunks and they melted just fine.  After I made the cheese sauce, I poured it over the cooked noodles that I had mixed the spinach with.  That's it, I didn't bake it.

    **sidenote** I had about a cup of leftover cheese sauce.  I stuck it in the fridge.  There is some broccoli in my fridge screaming for smoked gouda cheese sauce.

    I served the mac and cheese with kale chips and apple slices.  Delish, thumbs up from everyone.  And here you go, mac and cheese with chips....the unprocessed way!

    And, yes, that is an awkward picture.  For some reason, blogspot keeps rotating it.  And, for some reason, swearing at the computer does not fix the problem.

    Tonight the McGhee family is going all crazy and eating out.  The boys are heading to a hockey game, where I can promise there will be nachos, popcorn, pizza, and cotton candy consumed.  I get to take my little ballerina to her first ballet.

    I am using the term "my little ballerina" loosely, as thus far, all she's managed to do is cry hysterically during ballet class while I get to sit and listen to the other moms lament about how they are so proud they are raising confident and strong girls that are brave enough to try new things and would never cry during ballet class.  And, I'm all like, keep telling yourself that mama, kharma is a b****, ya know?!?

    But, anyway, tonight my little ballerina and I will be heading to see the Hansel and Gretel ballet and going out for a fabulous girlie dinner of small salads with the dressing on the side and a big ole' DQ Blizzard for dessert!

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Lunch Lady!

    So, yesterday's post has gotten rave reviews.  I have gotten several messages from readers that are excited to have their own Tuesday tomato soup and grilled cheese dinner at home.  And, I had many readers that loved walking down memory lane with me to revisit school lunches....so in honor of all of you, here's one of my favorite Adam Sandler videos.  And from now on, I am Heids McGhee, aspiring lunch lady.  Are you thinking, "Heids McGhee, unprocessed kitchen, blogger, biker, and lunch lady....how do you do it all?"  Well, the answer is, I am an overachiever by nature.

    **sidenote**  You may not want to watch this video with your children.  My kids think it is hilarious, but I have questionable parenting at times.

    So, today is Friday.  To me, Fridays scream cocktails Mexican food.  Tonight's dinner is going to be a breeze because the bulk of dinner is frozen in my freezer.  Remember the crockpot bean recipe from last week?  I froze half of that batch.  As I was pulling the beans out of the freezer, I saw a bag of frozen taco meat from a party we had in December and a bag of frozen corn. 

    So, I thawed and reheated the frozen taco meat. It was even better this time.  I got the recipe from allrecipes.com.

    Taco meat
    • 1 (4 pound) frozen rump roast
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 2 (7.75 ounce) cans Mexican style hot tomato sauce
    • 3 tablespoons crushed garlic
    • salt and ground black pepper to taste
    • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
    • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro        
    **sidenote**  I never found hot tomato sauce.  I used regular tomato sauce and added some diced jalapenos and onion. 
    1. Place the frozen roast in the slow cooker. Pour the wine and Mexican style hot tomato sauce over the top. Season with garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
    2. Cover, and cook on Low for 9 hours. When done, the roast should shred easily with a fork. Shred the roast into the juices, and mix in the chopped green onions and cilantro.               

    Serve on tortillas with cheese, lettuce, tomato, peppers, etc. 

    And, even though I am stretching myself a little too thin with the new lunch lady/biker/blogger roles I am taking on, I thought I really should make something homemade for this meal.  So, I decided to finally tackle homemade tortillas.  I got this recipe from my friend, Deb.  Deb has a 7 year old and 5 year old triplets and makes her own tortillas.  We're putting her up there with Astrid, in the "women who have more hours in their day than the rest of us" club.

    Flour tortillas

    • 4 cups flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp veg shortening or lard
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    1.  Mix.
    2.  Knead.
    3.  Roll. 
    4.  Cook on hot skillet.

    Seriously, how can you not love the directions in Deb's recipe?  I'm thinking Deb has triplets, she could assign steps #1-3 to them, step #4 to the 7 year old and pour herself a cocktail fresh squeezed juice and supervise. 

    I know if I was going to be all healthy, I would have used whole wheat flour.  But, today is Friday Funday, so we got all crazy in the McGhee house and used all purpose.  And, don't you love the looks of these....screaming homemade!!!!

    When I was scrounging in the freezer for beans and meat, I noticed a bag of frozen corn.  Now, this isn't frozen corn you buy in the grocery store...this is corn that I froze.  There's a difference.  Where I live, in the Middle, we have really amazing sweet corn in the summer.  Anytime there is leftovers I cut it off the cob and freeze it.  Brilliant, I know!  So, I got to thinking about what could I do with this corn, and then I remembered this recipe from canyoustayfordinner.com that I have been wanting to try. 

    Spicy Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

    • 2 small peppers- any kind you’d like
    • 1/2 medium sized onion, diced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 TBSP olive oil
    • 1, 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • pinch cayenne pepper for a little heat
    • 1/2 cup sweet corn
    • 1/2 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese, or any cheese you like
    • fresh cilantro, salsa, and sour cream for serving
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut a slit through the entire length of each of your peppers. Place them on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, until the skins are softened and beginning to blister.
    2. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add your onion and saute for 3 minutes, until beginning to soften and turn translucent.
    3. Add garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
    4. Stir in your black beans along with the water.
    5. Add your cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Stir, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans for at least 15 minutes, but up to 30 minutes.
    6. Stir in corn. Divide the bean mixture evenly among the two peppers and sprinkle with cheese.
    7. Broil for 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Garnish with fresh cilantro, salsa, and sour cream if you’d like.
    **sidenote** I brushed peppers with olive oil and broiled after step 1 for a couple of minutes.  I like my peppers a little charred. 

    Oh.  My.  Goodness.  These peppers were so good. 


    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    School lunch-inspired dinner

    Am I the only one with fond school memories of Tuesday tomato soup with grilled cheese lunches?  You know, when the cooks opened 10 lb cans of this....

    And slapped a few slices of this....

    on this.....


    Delish, right?  Fill your belly with and you were all set for a mean game of red rover at recess time. 

    Tonight's dinner was inspired by all those warm fuzzy tomato soup Tuesday memories.  We had tomato soup and grilled cheese.  This soup is my favorite, I got the recipe from Our Best Bites.  This recipe makes a small batch, I would recommend doubling it. 

    A quick **sidenote** before we start.  I am not a fan of canned tomatoes because of the controversy surrounding them.  If you can find diced tomatoes in a jar, I highly recommend it.  If you can buy fresh tomatoes and boil them and peel them, good for you!  I live in the middle, and would have to drive about 8 hours to find a decent tomato right now, so I used jarred tomatoes.  Also, cream cheese.....I would consider cream cheese a processed food, however my unprocessed food girl crush says it's okay.  So, we're moving forward with cream cheese!

    Creamy Tomato Soup
    • 1 T reserved oil from sun-dried tomatoes, or olive oil
    • 1 C chopped onion
    • ¾ C shredded carrot
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1 Tbs dried basil
    • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
    • 2/3 C sliced sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
    • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 14 oz chicken broth
    • 3 oz reduced fat cream cheese
    • optional: 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

    Optional: Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish (not optional in my opinion...but this is the way recipe was written). 
    1. Place oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring often.
    2. Add sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, oregano and basil. (If you’re adding red pepper flakes, add them now)

    3. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cover pan and simmer for 30 minutes.

    4. Remove from heat. Place soup in a blender (do this in 2 batches if necessary). Add cream cheese. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape, but place a paper towel over opening in blender lid to avoid spills. Process for a few minutes until smooth. You could also add cream cheese directly to the pot and use an immersion blender to combine.
    5. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and then divide soup among bowls. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese and a fresh basil leaf if desired.

    Here's my soup simmering away.  I am always tempted to not blend it, and just try it like this but I know the mini McGhees will resist eating it that way with all those big chunks of vegetables floating around in there.  Therefore, I blend it in order to fool please the minis.

    And here's how you blend it using a blender.  Make sure you take the top off of the lid and cover with a papertowel.  If you don't, the pressure will build up from the steam from the hot soup and pop the lid off while you are blending.  It happens, trust me.....Cara, are you still cleaning tomato soup off your white kitchen cabinets?

    And here it is all delicously blended.  Delish.

    We had apple slices and grilled cheese on bread from Great Harvest since I ran out of time to make a homemade loaf (and because I really wanted to go visit the ladies at Great Harvest).  We put fresh basil and guyere, gouda, and sharp cheddar on our sandwiches.  I sliced them into small wedges, so we all could enjoy the different flavored cheeses.  We're cheese nerds raising mini cheese nerds. 

    And, I did all of this without a hairnet and disposable plastic apron.  I sort of wish I would have had them to wear though, just to really capture those Tuesday tomato soup day memories.

    And, for dessert........HOMEMADE YOGURT!  BOO-YAH!!!!  I finally figured it out, I needed to use a smaller crockpot and keep it really wrapped tight overnight.  I woke up this morning to this....

    We drizzled some honey and mashed some brown bananas in it.  Delish.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Kid Friendly dinner

    I took my first spinning class this morning, so, in my mind, that makes me a biker.  And, clearly, now that I am a biker, I have a need for a high-quality protein bar to sustain me through my biking.  I remembered having found this recipe a few days ago, so as soon as I got feeling back in my legs....I hit the kitchen. 

  • 3/4 cup dry quinoa, or about 2 cups cooked
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup protein powder
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup stir-ins like dry fruit, nuts, shredded coconut, or chocolate chips.

  • 1.  Rinse the dry quinoa in cold water, then let sit in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. In the meantime, bring 1 cup of water to boil. Drain the quinoa and add to the boiling water. Cover, and reduce heat to simmer for about 12 minutes. Let cool enough to handle.
    2.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cooked quinoa, dates, agave nectar, vegetable oil, flaxseed, almond extract, and salt. Process until relatively smooth (the quinoa is so small it stays slightly lumpy).
    3.  In a small bowl, stir together the protein powder, flour, and stir-ins. Fold this dry mixture into wet mixture with a spatula. The dough is very thick, like cookie dough, so use the spatula to press into prepared pan evenly.
    4.  Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until firm. Let cool, then slice into a dozen bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

    I just want to point out that these are called chocolate quinoa bars, yet there is only a minuscule amount of optional chocolate in the recipe.  Here's my chocolate quinoa bars.  Um, yeah.  Something went wrong.  Very wrong.  These puppies have no flavor...like zip, zilch, nada.  Now, I am digging the ingredients....flaxseed, quinoa, agave nectar.  So, I am reworking this recipe and tweaking it for next time.  The bars I made aren't inedible.  They are just missing flavor.  Which makes me think the mini McGhees will love them.

    WAIT!!!  It just dawned on me.  Do you think that 1/2 cup of stir-ins means 1/2 a cup of each?  I think it does.  oops, I only put in 1/2 cup total of the stir-ins.  That could explain the missing flavor. 

    So, stay tuned.  Not giving up on a homemade protein bar.

    Last week's pasta sauce was so delish, I had to make another batch.  Here's a recap of the recipe.
    • one onion, diced
    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup red wine
    • 3 cans plum tomatoes
    • basil
    • salt and pepper
    • sugar, 1 tsp
    1. Remove tomatoes from cans (keep the juice) and cut into chunks.
    2. In a pan, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
    3. Add red wine, and let cook for a few minutes. Some of the liquid will evaporate. This is okay, just don't let it all.
    4. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Stir.
    5. Simmer 30 minutes.
    6. If you don't like your sauce chunky, remove the large chunks of tomatoes and puree in a food processor.
    7. Simmer on very low heat until ready to serve.

    This time I got all crazy and added in a handful of chopped spinach.  Tonight we had the pasta sauce with this meatball recipe

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup carrot bits (you can grind them in a food processor, grate then dice them, or mince them)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste

    1. Mix together ground beef and all other ingredients. You can use your hands, or if you have someone that owes you a favor...you can use their hands.
    2. Generously grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
    3. Roll the beef mixture into meatballs the size of golf balls. Place them in rows onto the greased baking sheet.
    4. Bake for 9 – 11 minutes or until brown all the way through.

    **sidenote**  I had some leftover bread from an breadmachine failure extra loaf in the pantry.  I let the bread dry out and then if I had a food processor, I would have used it to make breadcrumbs.  However, since I do not have a food processor, I put the bread in a bag and beat the hell out of it with a spoon. 

    Since Mr. McGhee wasn't home for dinner tonight and I, as the biker in the house, am exhausted from the waist down, I kept dinner real simple.  Meatballs with sauce, apple slices, edamame, and strawberries.  It was a perfectly pleasant, kid-friendly dinner, complete with listening to the kids argue over who loves edamame the most. 

    And dessert was sliced mango with dark chocolate, by request.  Love my little food nerds.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Drink up

    Someone emailed me about sports drinks and what would I suggest to replace Gatorade/Powerade during exercise.  When I got this email, I totally got the warm fuzzies all over.  I just wrote a paper last semester about sports drinks and if they enhance performance in endurance athletes (in comparison to water).  And the answer is, yes, they do!  So, if you're currently training for a marathon, you need to hydrate with something beyond water.  If you aren't, stick with good ole' water (and please, use a reusable bottle).

    I am not a fan of sports drinks at all, for these reasons....
    1.  They are high in calories.
    2.  They are high in sugar.
    3.  They are very processed.
    4.  They are full of food coloring.
    5.  They taste like kool-aid drool.  Remember drinking kool-aid as a kid?  And you'd get that weird after-taste and your spit would be slightly kool-aid flavored for the rest of the day.  That's what sports drinks remind me of.
    6.  They make my stomach ache.

    When I feel like I need something beyond water I use electrolyte tablets.  I ususally pop 1-2 of them with some water every hour when doing long runs. 

    If you are really set on having a sports drink, Mother Nature has a solution for you. 

    Coconut water is a natural source of hydration and electrolytes that in studies is superior to sports drinks in performance enhancing.  WOOT WOOT Mother Nature!  Want to hear something else really cool about coconut water?  In some parts of the world, it is used as an IV solution.  They just bag the coconut and infuse directly.  Pretty sure they don't do that with watermelon-flavored Powerade. 

    McGhee likes to take coconut water with him to the gym.  I stick with plain water because I have a sensitive stomach when I exercise and I had an unfortunate encounter with coconut "juice" in my younger days. 

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    A full day of cookin'

    Today was a busy day in the kitchen.  I started out making a batch of yogurt, I will know tomorrow if it was a success.  I also made a loaf of honey wheat bread in my breadmaker.  I got the recipe from 100daysofrealfood.com, and she claims it tastes just like the bread from Great Harvest Bread Company.  Not sure if I believe that, but I will let you know tomorrow when we eat it!  I also made two batches of granola today, bars and crumbled. 

    So, you're probably thinking, "Heids McGhee, you are a rockstar.  Sit down, take a load off, buy a new handbag online."  Listen readers, I am just getting started

    For dinner tonight I had stuffed bell peppers planned.  I was planning on following a recipe from a new cookbook I got and then it dawned on me, Heids McGhee, you are a blogger with readers and followers.  You don't need a recipe, you need to make your own recipes.  So, I did just that.  And not to toot my own horn, but if there are single ladies out there hoping for a proposal....I promise this meal will get you one.  And if it doesn't, you need to move on.

    Heids McGhee lamb, spinach, and goat cheese stuffed roasted bell peppers (I know!  I rock!)
    • bell peppers, I used a yellow, red, and orange
    • olive oil
    • ground lamb meat, 1 lb
    • 2-3 cloves garlic
    • spinach, 2 handfuls
    • salt and pepper
    • goat cheese
    1.  Roast your bell peppers.  I started doing this years ago following directions from allrecipes.com.  Here's what you do.

    Coat bell peppers generously with olive oil.  Put them on a baking sheet and broil them under flame until they begin to turn black.  Turn peppers until each side has been blackened.  Remove from baking sheet and place in a bowl.  Cover bowl with saran wrap. 

    Let the peppers sit for a while, at least 30 minutes.  Take peppers out of jar and pull stem off.  Dig inside of pepper and remove the seeds.   

    Carefully peel the outer skin off of the pepper.

    After peppers are all peeled, set aside.  Resist all temptation to eat them.  They're worth the wait.

    2.  In a pan, heat a small amount of olive oil.  Add garlic and spinach.  Cook in oil until spinach is wilted.  Take spinach/garlic out of pan and set aside.  If you're lazy like me, wipe pan with a paper towel.  If you're ambitious, wash pan with soap and water.

    3.  Cook ground lamb in pan.  Once lamb is cooked and crumbled, add spinach/garlic mixture.  Add in goat cheese (depending on your taste, add as much or little as you want) and some salt and pepper.  Add in any other spices you would like.  Get creative.  I think next time I will add some thyme. 

    4.  Stuff the meat mixture into the peppers.  Tell yourself you are amazing, because, really, you are.

    Delish.  I never said these puppies were pretty.  Delish, yes.  Pretty, notsomuch.

    We had ours with zucchini, squash and onion.

    1.  First slice veggies.  You'll want to slice the onion too, I just hadn't gotten there yet. 

    2.  Heat up some vegetable oil (cringe, I know!) in a pan.  Add veggies and saute to your personal prefered tenderness.  Then drizzle soy sauce over veggies.


    And for dessert, we had homemade graham crackers.  I told ya, I hit it out of the ballpark today!  I got the recipe from the kitchn.com. 
    • 1/2 cup white flour
    • 2 cups cup graham flour
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon molasses
    • 1/4 cup water
    1.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until the texture is dry and crumbly. (Also, you can do this in a food processor; just blend the butter in short bursts.)
    2.  In a small bowl, mix the honey, molasses, and water. Toss this with the dry ingredients until well blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl with your fingers and form the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
    3.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the dough out on a counter or on wax paper, sprinkled with whole wheat flour. Use a pastry scraper or an index card as a guide to cut the dough into small rectangles. Poke each cracker with a fork, then place them on an ungreased baking sheet.
    **sidenote** My dough was really crumbly so I drizzled a couple more tablespoons of water in it.  And my pastry scraper was a pizza cutter, worked perfectly. 
    4.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy. If stored in an airtight container these will keep for a couple weeks.
    **sidenote**  This graham cracker dough is perfect for little ones who love to help.

    That's it for today!  Happy cooking!

    Comfort Food

    I just finished my meal planning and cooking/baking schedule for the week.  This is something I highly recommend everyone do.  I make mine on Sunday, and I plan out 5 dinners for the week along with a schedule for cooking crackers, bread, yogurt, granola, etc.  This week I have all new dinners planned for the McGhees and some fun recipes I can't wait to share with you all. 

    The beautiful thing about planning out my menu is that it makes grocery shopping a breeze.  I go through each recipe, and make note of what I need.  This usually ends up with me cleaning/organizing my fridge and freezer as well.  Oh, and I ALWAYS reuse whatever leftovers I have.  For instance, I still have italian beef left over from last week so I am going to use that in tomorrow night's dinner.  I also have unmashed beans leftover from last week's taco night, so I will be reusing those as well.  I froze both of the beans and italian beef, so I need to make sure I defrost them. 

    I recommend writing your meals into your calendar/planner.  And, I really recommend having a cute and functional planner.  Your life will be more organized for the simple fact that you will want to relish in it's cuteness by visiting it often and writing everything down. 

    Oh, and the BEST part about giving up processed foods and doing menu planning.....my grocery list is short and we are saving some serious money!  Yeah, more money to spend on a new spring wardrobe put in the mini McGhees' college funds. 

    Yesterday was Sunday and we headed to my parent's house for dinner.  My mom made some good ole' homestyle turkey and noodles and I brought artichoke bread pudding from Circle B kitchen.  I will say this recipe turned out okay.  There was something missing.  I will definitely make it again, and make some changes...probably more spices, less bread.

    Artichoke bread pudding
    • 12 to 16 thick slices of dry bread
    • 2 1/2 to 3 cups milk
    • 2 1/2 cups of canned or frozen artichoke hearts, sliced
    • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced (if using artichokes)
    • 5 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • Freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley and tarragon; or sage, thyme and marjoram)
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
    • 4 ounces fontina cheese, large grates
    • 4 ounces asiago cheese, large grates
    • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small bits
    INSTRUCTIONS: Place the bread in a single layer in a shallow dish. Pour 2 1/2 cups milk over the top. Let soak until the bread has absorbed the milk and becomes soft, about 30 minutes. Press the bread slices to extract the milk. Measure the milk; you should have 1/2 cup. If not, add milk to make 1/2 cup. Set aside.
    Heat a small amount of olive oil or butter in a small skillet and saute the sliced garlic until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Do not let it brown. Set aside.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 3-quart mold - a souffle dish works well. Beat together the eggs, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup milk until well blended.
    Set aside a few of the artichoke slices to use for the top. Layer one-third of the bread in the prepared dish. Top the bread layer with half of the remaining artichoke slices, sprinkle with the sliced garlic and then half of the mixed herbs, and sprinkle one-third of each of the cheeses over that. Repeat the layers, using half of the remaining bread, all of the remaining artichokes and herbs, and half of the remaining cheese. Arrange the remaining bread on top, strew the remaining cheese over it, and garnish with the reserved artichoke slices. Pour the milk-egg mixture over all, then dot with the butter.
    Bake until the top is crusty brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

    My sister brought roasted garlic lemon brocolli from allrecipes.com.  It was delish and I will definitely be putting it into our rotation.  I wish there had been leftovers because I would love to know how it tasted cold the next day.
    • 2 heads broccoli, separated into florets
    • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
    2. In a large bowl, toss broccoli florets with the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic. Spread the broccoli out in an even layer on a baking sheet.
    3. Bake in the preheated oven until florets are tender enough to pierce the stems with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and transfer to a serving platter. Squeeze lemon juice liberally over the broccoli before serving for a refreshing, tangy finish.               

    Off to the kitchen....tonight's dinner, yogurt, bread, and maybe crackers!

    Saturday, January 21, 2012


    Bam.  No, wait....let me rephrase that, BAM.  I am on the verge of freeing myself from any need for store-bought food.  Now, don't get too concerned....the McGhees aren't going to escape all civilization and go live in a self-sustaining cabin in the mountains, having no regard for society and the laws of the government.  We would never do that, we live in Illinois, where our citizens have the upmost respect for our law.  Just ask these guys....

    The first recipe I want to share for you will rock your world if you have goldfish/cheezit/wheat-thin loving husbands minis.  I got the recipe for homemade cheesecrackers from Heavenly Homemakers. 

    Crispy Cheese Crackers
    • ¼ cup butter, softened
    • ¼ t. sea salt
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, room temperature
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • ¼ t. baking powder
    • 1 T. cold water
    Use beaters or food processor to mix butter and salt until creamy. Add cheese. Mix well. Gradually add flour, baking powder and water, mixing until dough begins to form a ball. Form dough into a ball with hands.

    Roll the dough into 1/8 inch thickness onto a cookie sheet. (I find that placing the dough between two pieces of parchment paper helps me to roll them out more easily.) Cut the rolled out dough into 1 ½ inch squares. Bake 15 minutes at 350° or until lightly browned. Turn off the oven and leave the crackers inside to crisp up. Store tightly covered.

    **sidenote** My dough was very crumbly so when I was forming it into a ball, I added more water 1/2 TBSP at a time.  I would say maybe 2-3 more tablespoons.

    This next recipe is going to save my oldest mini from finding part-time work to support our families yogurt-eating habits.  I got the recipe from Astrid, who is waaaaay ahead of me in most things in life, but loves me anyway.

    EDITING TO SAY:  I have since found a cheez-it recipe that we like much better, here's the recipe.

    Crockpot Yogurt
    • 8 cups skim milk
    • 1/2 cup dry milk powder
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
    1.  Put milk and milk powder in crockpt and turn on low for 2.5 hours.
    2.  Unplug crockpot.  Leave the lid on and let it sit for 3 hours.  (Seriously, you do nothing in this step, except unplug your crockpot.  Nobody needs to know this though so if someone asks you to do something, you can say, "I am busy making yogurt" and then sneak away to read a book.  Need book recommendations?  I've got those too!)
    3.  When 3 hours has passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warm milk and wisk in 1/2 cup plain yogurt.  I used 6 oz of Fage yogurt. 
    4.  Add the milk/yogurt mixture back into the warmed milk.  Put lid on and wrap the crockpot in warm towels to keep it warm overnight.  IMPORTANT:  I use 3 large bath towels.  Wrap your crockpot tight so it stays warm all night.  If it isn't warm, the bacteria won't grow, and you won't have yogurt....you will have a crockpot of thick milk!
    5.  The next morning, you will have yogurt!  You can strain it with a yogurt strainer if you prefer thicker, greek style yogurt.
    6.  Mix in whatever you'd like to flavor your yogurt....we prefer fruit or honey. 

    Complete and total success!!!  Here's where things get interesting...the first time I made both the crackers and the yogurt, they turned out okay.  I made mistakes on both recipes...on the crackers, I rolled them too thin, so when they baked they got a little burnt.  For the yogurt, I didn't have any dry milk powder, so my yogurt turned out really runny, and despite putting it in my fridge for a few hours, it still didn't thinken up.

    So, how can I consider these successes?  Because I know what I want to change and do differently next time....and I am really excited about next time.  Honestly, how often do you fail, easily figure out what your mistake was, and then feel excited to go back and correct your failure?  Probably not too often in life, but in the kitchen.....all the time!!!!

    I have a great friend who recently gave me some reading materials and today's reading was something I want to share. 

    In the short-term, you may be able to hide who you are or pretend to be something you're not.  Inevitably, your authentic self will be revealed.  So stop hiding.  Show everybody the real you.  You'll be surprised how anxious people ar to see who you really are.

    The interesting thing about this New Years resolution is that my life has been completely simplified.  I take care of my family, I run, I cook, I blog, and I read.  And I have realized, I am not content with that, I am filled with joy over that.  So, it's really made me think....what started out being all about food, has ended up being a path to far more.  It's shocking, right?  Because we think it's just food.  I challenge you to rethink your attitudes towards the food you buy, cook, and eat.  Because, for me, I am convinced that what we eat is so powerful because what feeds the belly also feeds the spirit.