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Category Archives: dinner

Comfort Food with a Healthy Twist

Since Phil the groundhog saw his shadow this year on Groundhog Day, I am pulling out a favorite dish to celebrate this extra-long winter. Found on Pinch of Yum is a recipe with a twist on the traditional broccoli and chicken casserole, with extra protein from bacon and quinoa!

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CREAMY CHICKEN QUINOA AND BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Author: Pinch of Yum

Serves: 6

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups reduced sodium organic chicken broth
  • 1 cup organic milk
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • ¼ cup cooked, crumbled bacon
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning (like Emeril’s Essence)
  • ¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work)
  • 3 cups fresh organic broccoli florets

INSTRUCTIONS

1.Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and generously grease a 9×13 baking dish (seriously, be generous because it really really sticks to the sides). Bring the chicken broth and ½ cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other ½ cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.

2.Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, quinoa, and bacon and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips and lay the chicken breast strips over the top of the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

3.Broccoli: While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green and then run under cold water. Set aside.

4.Bake: Remove the casserole from the oven, check the mixture by stirring it around in the pan, and if needed, cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked, add the broccoli and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir it up easily in the pan. Top with the cheese and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese.

NOTES

You will know the quinoa is done when it is soft and looks as if it has popped open, with the germ of the kernel visible as a little spiral. If you want the chicken to get that browned exterior, leave the foil off for part of the cooking time, but be aware that the quinoa does take a lot longer to cook without the foil.

For the full recipe and many other delicious recipes check out Pinch of Yums website here.

Time to Get Pickin’

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All the fruits and veggies that I love are out and ready for hand picking or picking up from the local farmers market. My most loved, however, are blackberries. It just so happens that my grandparents and my best friend have a few acres of roaming wild organic blackberries that pop up every summer, this year the season came a bit earlier than usual and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

Yesterday afternoon my husband, a few of our closest friends and I headed out in our sturdiest clothes and picked some of the most juicy, beautiful berries I have seen. I am excited for homemade jam, blackberry ice cream, blackberry syrup, and most importantly, blackberry cobbler.

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Make your own cobbler with this delicious recipe from www.bunsinmyoven.com.

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For the dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose organic flour

1/2 cup raw organic sugar

1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

9 tablespoons cold organic butter

1/3 cup boiling water

 dough

For the filling:

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/4 cup cold water

1 tablespoon organic fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 cups fresh organic blackberries

1/2 cup sugar

 berries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the dough, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Pour in the boiling water and stir together well so that all of the dough is wet. Set aside.

For the berries, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice, berries, and sugar. Mix together well. Transfer berries to a 10 inch cast iron pan.

Heat mixture over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Drop spoonfuls of dough over the berry mixture and place the cast iron pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the berries are thick and bubbly.

(If you don’t have a cast iron pan, bring to a boil in a sauce pan and bake in a 9×9 baking dish.)

ENJOY!

Take Your Summer Vacation from Forgettable to Memorable

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DSCN0407 Summer weather is finally here, and with the days staying lighter  longer it gives us more time for fun activities.  Planning those activities can feel daunting at times, however here are some ideas that will help you create great summer memories while being eco-friendly.

  1. Take a Hike

    Bidwell Park - Chico, CA

    Bidwell Park – Chico, CA

Connect with nature by taking a walk in local park or nature trail.  Take time to check out the trees, wildflowers and birds.  Allow the kids to get exercise while enjoying the beauty of nature.

  1. Go for a Bike Ride

    family-riding-bikes1

Biking is a great exercise, and can be really enjoyable, especially in the evening after dinner.  Work off that meal you ate while peddling along with your family and friends.

  1. Visit a Local Farmer’s Market or Street Fair

    MarketJuly11

Search for hidden treasures at street fairs, or find great locally grown produce to incorporate into your menus for the week.

  1. Plant a Garden

Work on making a small garden for some fresh homegrown treats.  Gardens come in all sizes from window box gardens to large producing gardens.  Find an area for your garden and plant some of your favorite produce.

  1. Host a Potluck Dinner

potluck

Invite friends over for an evening of fun. Potlucks allow guests to bring a dish, so this cuts back on energy used for cooking.  Pick a theme for the dinner, such as Italian, finger foods, etc.  The themes will keep your dinner options varied and allow for some creative cooking.

  1. Cool Off

kidsjumpinglake

Escape the summer heat by visiting a local lake or community pool.

  1. Volunteer

Find a local organization such as a local food banks or animal shelter, and offer some help.  These organizations are always in need of a few extra hands.

  1. Plan A Mini Vacation

    Fisherman camping at a wilderness lake

Just because you can’t get a whole week off this summer does not mean you can’t take a mini vacation.  Plan a weekend trip to an area within driving distance and enjoy being away from home.  You don’t have to stay at an expensive hotel, but you can camp in a campground by a lake or river.  Just give yourself time to relax and “unplug.”

Whatever you decide to do this summer, remember to have fun, make some great memories, and as always, think about what you can do to keep your summer eco-friendly.

Natural Mosquito Repellants

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mosquitoes

Summer is (almost) here, along with all of those pesky critters that seem to have been hibernating over the winter– including my least favorite, the mosquito.

This year, I went on a hunt for a natural remedy that is less toxic and harsh than store-bought bug spray that usually includes DEET (http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/1006.asp). There are so many great remedies out there (some that I already knew about), and others that I am definitely going to try see which ones work for me.

Here are the top 9 ways I’ve found to keep from getting eaten this summer:

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1.  Know where they are.  You may notice that there are a lot more mosquitoes around water.  Lakes, pools, ponds, and any place there is standing water will attract the pests.  If you know you are going to be around water, be sure to plan ahead and carry your natural repellant with you.

2.  Don’t smell too good. Mosquitoes are attracted to floral and sweet smells, like perfume and body lotion. Reducing these as much as you can may help lessen your attractiveness to them.

 vanilla

3. Spritz yourself with vanilla.  Simply dilute pure vanilla extract in water and spray it on.

4. Wear light clothing.  Mosquitoes are drawn to darker clothing and colors.  Wearing light colored clothing can be your first line of defense against these insects.

 garlic

5. Make a garlic paste. This is not something I can see people doing everyday, but it is definitely great for repelling those little critters. Make a paste with garlic powder and water and apply to pulse points, behind the knees, on shoes and ankles, and a bit on your cheeks or somewhere on your face and neck. (Keep it out of your eyes, it will sting!) You can also spray garlic powder and water around your yard and bushes for an extra preventative measure.  (Rumor has it it will also keep away unwanted vampires.)

 Vinegar_Bottle

6. Dab on a little Eau de Vinegar: If you don’t mind the smell of vinegar (and neither do those around you),  dabbing on a little vinegar is a great way to repel mosquitoes. Put a little bit on exposed areas, or dilute with water and use as a spray.  Many people swear by this one!

 Citronella oil_lit

7.    Use essential oils. Citronella, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, tansy, basil, thyme, cedar, tea tree, peppermint, and lemongrass will all help keep the mosquitoes at bay. Mix with rubbing alcohol, witch hazel or water, (just one or any combination), shake well, and spritz on your body. You can also add a few drops to baby oil or olive oil and rub onto your skin, avoiding the mouth and eye areas.

8.    Eat up! Certain foods we eat are rumored to repel the bugs. B1 vitamins, brewers yeast, lemon and, of course, garlic have all been thought to  deter mosquitoes because of the smell that comes out of your pores after eating them.

 wedding-reception-decoration-ideas-potted-lavender-plant

9. Exercise your green thumb. Potted plants, such as lemon thyme, citronella, lavender, basil, catnip, pennyroyal, tansy, and marigolds, will help keep mosquitoes out of your yard.  Place them around your porch or patio, and when you need a little more protection, break off a leaf and rub it on your clothes and skin.  You can also infuse the leaves in water and use as a spray.

Everyone has a different body chemistry that may make different methods work better than others. Try them out and let us know which of these natural remedies worked for you!

What to do with Easter Leftovers

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When I think of Easter, I think of a big delicious Easter ham. This year, however, we are having a much smaller family gathering, and we will have so many leftovers! What do we do with them?

OMI tip: Try a farm-to-table approach and buy your ham from a local farmer. Or see if your local grocery store carries (or can order) no-nitrate ham.

Perusing the internet, I have found a meal for every part of the day, from a ham cup with scrambled eggs to a delicious ham, broccoli, and cheese pocket to a light, savory ham and lentil soup. (Veggies, eggs and cheese can be found at local farmers markets and artisan shops, as well.)

Try out these tasty recipes for the week after Easter and let us know what you think.

Ham cups

(Photo Credit: http://www.recipebyphoto.com/breakfast-ham-cups/)

Ham and Cheese Egg Cups

Ingredients:

6 free-range brown eggs

2 cups grated cheddar cheese (or any kind of cheese you prefer)

2 young organic green onions

12 ham slices, cut a little thick

salt and pepper

Don’t feel limited by these ingredients! You can add just about anything, from mushrooms to tomatoes to spinach to onions, etc. and even top them off with avocado!

Cooking Directions:

Grease pan with non-stick cooking spray; line with ham slices.

Sprinkle cheese inside ham slices.

Pour in the egg mixture (ggs, salt and pepper) beat well with a fork.

Chop small green onion tops and divide among cups.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes

Broccoli Ham And Cheese Pockets 2

Ham, Broccoli And Cheese Pockets

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough (enough to make 2 large pizzas)

6 tablespoons grainy mustard (optional)

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups organic broccoli florets, cut small

1/2 pound ham, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons italian seasoning

Cooking Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly dust a cookie sheet with fine cornmeal or line with Silpat or parchment paper.

Combine mozzarella and cheddar cheese and set aside.

Divide pizza dough into 6 equal-size balls.

Roll each ball into a thin circle. Make sure to keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel while working.

If using mustard, spread 1 tablespoon all over circle. Place 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese mixture on half the dough. Top cheese with 1/3 cup broccoli and 1/6th of the ham. Top with another 1/4 cup of cheese.

Fold dough over the top to form a pocket and press all the air out. Seal the edges using a fork.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Brush olive oil on the top of each pocket and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light brown.

(A great option to freeze and eat later, or all week for lunches!)

(Original recipe courtesy of Serenabakes)

ham and lentil soup

 

Delicious Ham and Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

3 cups organic chicken broth

3 cups water

1 medium organic onion, cut into thin wedges

1 ½ cups chopped organic celery

1 ½ cups thinly sliced organic carrot

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained

6 ounces cooked ham, diced

1 ½ teaspoons dried organic thyme, crushed

3 cups shredded fresh organic spinach

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved

Cooking Directions:

In a 4-quart slow cooker, combine broth, water, onion, celery, carrot, lentils, ham, and thyme.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Stir in spinach. Ladle into bowls. Top each serving with Parmesan cheese.

(Original recipe courtesy of bhg.com)

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