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Spring is in the Air…

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Spring is finally here! After an unusually bizarre winter with the “polar vortex” swirling around the east and the dry skies in the west, we’re all ready to enjoy the pleasures of springtime. The sun is shining, maybe a little rain is still falling, but warm weather is here, hopefully to stay!

 

Here is a list of 10 things to do, get outside… enjoy the weather and your family and friends.

1. Read outside on a blanket in the sun

2. Go fishing with your buddies

images-13. Do some spring cleaning to fun music

4. Make these beautiful spring centerpieces, using simple glass jars and lemons for a touch of color!

20893414909de221e35e3b2d0ff7b1fa-15. Fly a kite on the beach

6. Plan a “staycation” with these cool ideas

7. Take pictures of wildflowers

5847087633_598af01050_z-18. Make this delicious “dirt cake”:

6309663259aac1a07cbdb3f4d3e9cf879. Walk barefoot on cool grass

10. Make a fairy garden like this one!

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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.

Delicious Pumpkin Roll

I love the holiday season, because it brings out the holiday flavors! Pumpkin being a personal favorite. I was determined to make a pumpkin roll this year! I brought it into the office and it was gobbled up in one day. Check out my “adventure” in pictures, and make on yourself with my personal recipe, it turned out to be such an incredibly yummy dessert!

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 Organic Pumpkin Roll

3 organic free-range eggs

1 cup raw turbinado sugar

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin

2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp organic cinnamon

1 tsp organic nutmeg

1 tsp organic ginger

½ tsp salt

Cream Cheese filling:

8 oz organic cream cheese

4 tbsp organic butter, softened

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ cup raw turbinado sugar

1 tsp organic vanilla extract

In large bowl, combine eggs and sugar, beating with an electric mixer until thick and light yellow in color. Add pumpkin, mixing until blended.

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Add to egg mixture, mixing well. Spread batter into greased and waxed-paper-lined baking sheet, enough to cover the sides.

Bake at 350 ° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool for 15 minutes. Place cake upside down on another sheet of waxed paper, sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. Peel off waxed paper from bottom of cake. Set aside.

While cake is cooling, prepare filling. Beat together cream cheese and butter; stir in powdered sugar, turbinado sugar and vanilla and blend until smooth. Evenly spread filling over cake. Roll up cake, making sure not to wrap waxed paper with it. Wrap in plastic wrap. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Slice before serving. Keep leftover slices refrigerated. This pumpkin roll freezes well, and makes about 9 servings.

A Salty Halloween Snack

Halloween is fast approaching and I am getting my house ready for trick-or-treaters. My simple Sea Salt Seeds are the perfect treat to enjoy while carving Jack-o-lanterns. Make them yourself using the seeds from carving pumpkins.

 Carved Pumpkins

Sea Salt Seeds

1. Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the insides. Clean all the pumpkin goop off the seeds and rinse them well in warm water.

2. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and place seeds in boiling water for 10 minutes. This will help soften the seeds and make them easier to digest. Also, the steam inside the seeds will cook them more thoroughly.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. After boiling the seeds in water, place them in a colander, then gently pat dry with a paper towel (they don’t have to be completely dry, but shouldn’t contain too much excess water).

4. Place the seeds on a baking dish with olive oil and sea salt to taste. (Use 1 tbsp per cup of pumpkin seeds).

5. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Stir seeds on baking dish and cook for another 8 minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and enjoy!

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For some great variations, during step 4, replace the olive oil and salt with: 1. Cinnamon, sugar and butter

2. Fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

3. Ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (for pumpkin-pie-spiced pumpkin seeds, mix with a little bit of butter)

4. Seasoning salt and olive oil

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!

Water, only better

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Staying cool in the summer months is hard to do sometimes, especially when trying to stay hydrated. Rather than reaching for those sugary drinks or just plain old water, here are a few recipes to spice up your drinking options in a healthy way!

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Nectarine and Thyme Sun-Brewed Iced Tea

What you will need:

Large beverage dispenser or pitcher

Organic loose leaf tea or 6 black tea bags, more or less depending on how strong you like your tea

1 gallon water

Sun

4 organic nectarines, sliced

5 medium sprigs fresh organic thyme

Ice

Put the water, tea bags, and thyme in the beverage dispenser and place in direct sunlight for 3 hours. Add nectarines and ice for a cold, refreshing drink.

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Fruit and Herbal-Infused Water

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One of the best things about infused water is that you can take just about any form of fruit, and herbs from your garden or local farmers market and give your water a boost in flavor.

Feeling simple? Drop a few raspberries and a sprig of rosemary in a glass of iced water.

Feeling adventurous? Toss mint, strawberries, lemons, limes, cucumbers, and raspberries in a pitcher of iced water for your next outdoor BBQ.

My personal favorite is orange water! Just slice up an orange and place it in a mason jar full iced water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the flavors of the orange with your water, and ta-da! A delicious cold, not-so-boring beverage!

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Another great way to add a bit of color and flavor to iced beverages is to take an ice-cube tray, fill it with water (I have even seen them filled with tea!!!), and add some organic blueberries, lemons, or mint sprigs!

What’s great about these recipes is that they are not just “two cups of this or that.” You can experiment with different fruits and flavors to get your own unique delicious drink!

Natural Mosquito Repellants

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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.)

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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.

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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!

Raw Food Cleanse

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When the springtime hits, I like to take on a challenge by doing a raw foods cleanse. With social gatherings and weddings surrounding me these days, I have shortened my usual 6 week cleanse to 3 weeks. I like to think of it as spring cleaning for my body. I thought it would be fun to share a delicious and easy raw food recipe.

If you aren’t into doing a full-on raw cleanse, this hearty, delicious green smoothie is a great way to supercharge your body with a bountiful amount of delicious nutrients. This wonderful recipe for one of my favorite green smoothies is from one of my favorite raw-food blogs: rawmazing.com

Good Morning Green Drink

Serves 2

2 cups organic spinach

1 1/2 cups organic grapes

2 organic carrots

1/2 organic cucumber

1/2″ piece of ginger

1 stalk organic celery

2 dates

handful ice

1/2 to 1 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix. Start with 1/2 cup water and add more to desired thickness. Blend until smooth.

I also like to add some raw protein powder and instead of water, add some coconut water for added flavor.  The best part about these smoothies is that you can easily change the ingredients to best suit what you prefer!

ENJOY!

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)

7 Natural Remedies to Fight the Flu and Seasonal Colds

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This year I have seen my share of germs and viruses attack our house, the majority of which are courtesy of my 5-year-old and her adventures at school.  So with all these colds and flu viruses flying around all over the place, I have gathered quite a list of great home remedies that help pull my family through the sick patches. Here are some of the best that I have found, and I want to share them with you!

Homemade Cough Syrup

Take a red onion; cut into quarter inch slices and restack with a dollop of raw local honey  in between each layer.  (The local honey will also help prevent allergies in springtime.) Allow to sit overnight.  In the morning you will have a syrup that not only helps get rid of the tickle in your throat but also helps you rest easy about not adding chemicals and medications into your system that you don’t need.

Garlic Tea

Cloves of garlic have been used for YEARS to help alleviate cold and flu systems. Garlic is naturally antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial. Simply cut 2-3 cloves of garlic, place into boiling water, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. For added taste use lemon juice, raw honey or ginger.  Ginger is also a great way to naturally help soothe tummy aches and digestive issues.

Onion Juice Earache Relief

One of the most effective remedies I have found for an earache is onions.  Take an onion and bake for about 15 minutes at 425° F (be sure to leave the skin on the onion, as it helps keep the juices inside while cooking.)  Let the onion sit until cool enough to touch then crush it in a bowl to extract the juice.  Using an eyedropper, place the warm juice in the ear.  This will usually help relieve the pain within a few minutes.

Warm Salt Water

Add a generous amount of salt to lukewarm water and mix well.  Gargle with the lukewarm salt-water mixture to help soothe your sore throat and promote healing.

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Hot Washcloths/Ice Packs

If you have sinus congestion, a great solution is to apply either hot or cold around the congested sinuses.  Take a damp washcloth and heat it for about 50 seconds in the microwave (be sure to test it first too make sure it is not to hot).  For a cold pack, you can use frozen vegetables/fruits or place a damp washcloth in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.  Chose hot or cold, whichever feels more comfortable.

Water, Water, Water

Drink it, steam it, and soak in it! Keeping the fluids in is the best way to flush out toxins when you are sick. A comfortable way to help clean out your head is to run a hot shower, since the steam will help moisten the air around you, especially good for dry coughs. Lastly, when you are feeling body aches or muscle pain from the flu, try a nice hot bath to soothe aches and pains. Try throwing in some oils like tea tree or eucalyptus, to help speed up the healing process.

SLEEP!

Sometimes the thing that best helps beat the flu is time and rest. Allow your body time to rejuvenate and bring itself back to its usual healthy, energetic state.

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Stay healthy this germy season!

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, just a mom, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider before using any of these remedies.

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