A friend of mine grows all different types of peppers & gave me some of my favorites the other day: Jalepenos. And I was craving something with cilantro. And of course, being a California girl, I’m always in the mood for avocados … and I have a plethora of fresh tomatoes from my garden so I thought I’d whip up some healthy, hearty salsa for lunch yesterday.
What I created was a delicious masterpiece & just as I snapped a shot of this salsa, in walks The Husband (as if on cue) and made off with the tray of chips and salsa! That’s fine – I love feeding him & he was busy working, so I was happy to fill his belly … and mine.
You can munch on this in your bikini – it’s light, refreshing & low-cal, so feel free to have a beer or a lemonade along with it!
Black Bean, Avocado & Sweet Corn Salsa
15 oz can of organic black beans (no-salt added)
1 cup of sweet corn (fresh if possible, or organic canned if corn is out of season)
1 to 2 large avocados (is there such a thing as too much avocado?)
2-3 medium tomatoes (you can get creative & use whichever kind you like)
1/2 of a red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 small (or 1/2 of a larger) jalepeno, minced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 of a lime, squeezed
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Mix everything together & serve with some delicious organic corn chips!
So light, so healthy & sooooooo delicious! I concocted this simple, yet elegant side salad after messing around with a few different ideas. It’s even VEGAN, and it goes with just about anything you can think of …
What’s In It? All my favorite things!
Arugula and/or Baby Spinach – My go-to choice is Arugula, but if I’m feeling frisky, I’ll pick up some Baby Spinach instead. OR, if you’re feeling totally rebellious, mix them together as you throw your head back and laugh manically!
Sunburst Tomatoes – For most of my life I turned my nose up at cherry tomatoes or anything that slightly resembled them. WHAT WAS I THINKING? Holy mother of Solanum Lycopersicum, these little golden treats pack a sweet & delectable punch! They add a unique compliment to the tangy, slightly bitter flavors of this salad.
Avocado – I mean, really, how can you go wrong with avocado? It’s the best and most, er, one of the most versatile fruits. (I sat here for a good 6 minutes and argued with myself about whether an avocado or a lemon is the most versatile fruit – I’m torn!) I could eat avocado on ANYTHING & it lends some creaminess to this salad. Growing up in Northern & Southern California, we had avocado trees & come to think of it – why don’t I have one now? Ok, I just decided I’m going to propagate the next pit of an avocado.
Lemon – I love lemons, too. And I do squeeze them on just about everything, so one day when I was sick of making dressing & just wanted something light & simple, I squeezed lemon all over the salad. Hello!? Why had I never thought of this before? Lightbulb!
Garlic – Yep, another one of my faves … pressed & as much (or as little) as you like! Me? Two big, fat cloves! (p.s. the garlic press is nice because it gets a little garlic juice in there, but if you don’t have one, just mince the garlic.)
Olive Oil – Just a little so that it all melds together nicely.
So like I was saying … You can eat this alone, or with your best buddy if you are nice enough to share. Kidding, I mean, you can eat this as a stand alone salad, or it accompanies pretty much anything from chicken, to turkey chili, to white bean vegan soup, to grilled salmon or even barbecue!
Oh that title is sooooo cheesy, but it’s late & you get what you get at this point. And by the by – this post has not been “proofed.” I still have to make a basket, hide eggs tonight, and gnaw out chunks of a carrot that The Boy left for the bunny.
On Thursday, The Boy & I made Chickadee Cupcakes!
I was inspired by this post. Mine are nowhere near as perfect & pretty as hers, but then again, I’m just a “fairly good mother,” so what do you expect?
Let me see if I can impress you with this little tidbit of info: I did all of this WHILE working from home, juggling calls, making deals & doing laundry, AFTER running errands in the morning. Impressed? *huffs on knuckles & brushes off the shoulder dust* Yeah, I’m a badass mama sometimes.
We took the easy route – got a box yellow cake instead of making from scratch, BUT I did make whipped cream frosting (my own concoction using heavy cream & powdered sugar & vanilla – don’t measure, just add to taste,) and then added yellow gel. I bought pre-made eyes & used some orange icing that was leftover from Halloween. It was Wilton’s – the kind in the air canister & it had a mind of it’s own, very difficult to deal with! I piped on some frosting to the sides for their wings. Note: You need to refrigerate these because of the cream frosting. Just let them stand at room temp for 15 minutes or so before you scarf one down.
The Boy had fun making some of the chickadees into “silly chickadees” with one eye or three, and since I didn’t want 2 dozen chickadees, so we used the rest of the batter to make a mama chick. We used chocolate chips for her eyes & The Boy, my little choc-o-holic, ate enough chips to make 5 more chicks!
We took some of the cupcakes to the neighbor kids & then went to karate.
On Friday, we tackled the eggs! And let’s be honest here, it was a less than perfect undertaking.
Take one rambunctious 4 year old, add 6 flimsy PAAS cups filled with colored water & of course your chances for a disaster are like 97% … Add to that the fact that I had dressed him in a new outfit that was partially white & the chances increased to 99.9999%.
No worries, I’m a chilled out mama regardless of my self-diagnosed mild OCD. I had prepared for this event: laid out paper towels & put an apron on him. But two seconds after this picture was taken …. the green egg disaster commenced.
The Boy accidentally tipped over the flimsy PAAS cup (we were using the whisk to hold the egg since that’s an easier way for kids to maneuver the eggs.)
The Boy immediately freaked out & hopped off his stool to retreat in the far end of the kitchen. Before I even went to clean it, I consoled him. My little sensitive guy was obviously pretty upset that he had spilled the green all over the counter, cabinets & himself.
“Guess what?” I told him … “Accidents happen & I’m not mad. I know I told you to be careful, but it’s no big deal – do I look mad? No. I’m not mad at all & it’s ok! Let’s take off your apron & get you a new one.” But he was still pretty shaken by the whole thing & ran off to his playroom. This was a great teaching moment (yes, those are actual real things for the fairly good mothers of the world.) I went to get him & we had a nice little talk about how important it is to forgive ourselves when we’re not perfect.
He came back to do a couple more eggs, but I could see that he was a little timid & still pretty mad at himself, and it broke my heart into about a thousand pieces when I asked him why he was still upset & he said “I’m mad at myself for making an accident & I don’t want to color eggs anymore because I’m afraid I’ll do it again.”
I choked back my tears. Give me a break, friends, I’m PMDD’d & I love this kid. I got right down next to him & told him “hey it’s totally ok if you do it again … I might even do it this time! I’m not perfect, no one is. If we make a mess, we’ll clean it up! No big deal. Right? And listen to me … You know when a friend does something that makes you sad & they apologize to you & you say ‘I forgive you?’ well, it’s important to forgive yourself when you do something that makes you sad or frustrated.” He got that. And we finished the eggs.
We used the PAAS Tie-Dye Easter Egg Kit, which I have used in past years, and had so-so results, but apparently my fairly good brain forgot that we tried this before & I bought the kit again. This time they had included this gloss to polish the eggs, which seemingly made some difference. And I guess I perfected my technique … or maybe it was just luck 🙂
I think I like this one the best:
Or maybe it was the super bright pink egg that I did just for The Boy since it’s his favorite color & I knew it would make him happy.
It was just the perfect size for stuffing … So I got some garlic, onion, red bell pepper, some chicken sausage (if you’re a veggie, you can leave this out or opt for rice instead – I will try that next time.) I grilled up the sausage and set that aside, halved the zucchini & scooped out the insides, then put a little oil in the pan and browned up some diced onion & garlic, added in the zucchini innards, then added in the bell pepper, added back in the sausage & cooked for a few more minutes.
Meanwhile, I dunked the halved zucchini hallows into a boiling pot of water to get them a little softer than just raw. I poured some marinara sauce in the bottom of a cooking dish, then placed the zucchini halves in there, and stuffed them with my mixture. Then, I topped mine with mozzarella cheese & parmesan cheese, (skipped that on The Husband’s zuke,) and baked them for about 30 minutes or so. Voila! Easy peasy din din.
Then, today I made little caprese bites – they were so good! Look how cute they are:
These little delicious cherry poppers are the only tomatoes the pests have not destroyed. I am in a battle & I will prevail! I could have eaten every last one of these, but I was nice and shared them with my Fairly Good Father In Law 🙂
I cannot believe it’s been over 30 days since my last blog entry! That’s simply unacceptable. It’s a good thing I’m not getting paid to do this 🙂
Seriously, June was a busy month, (and that’s a good thing!) I started working again … freelance & from home for the most part. I make my own hours and can still make certain that my family is the NUMBER ONE priority. So far, it’s been really great, very lucrative & exciting. The Husband is super supportive & that is really the secret to my success.
Why did I get a job? Because I have home improvement projects that I want to get done & I don’t want to put a burden on our household finances. Next up: A fence between us and the neighbors to the east. Fences make good neighbors. I hope they get on the ball with us & get this accomplished before the end of summer. I’ve already had 2 conversations with this guy & he strikes me as a “Guy’s Guy.” Translation: He doesn’t want to discuss fences with the Fairly Good Mother. He wants to talk fences with The MAN of the HOUSE. ~Insert EyeRoll Here~
So, I’m busy & making money for fences and gardens and drapes and entertainment centers … but at what cost? No cost to the family – they’re good, well fed with delicious organic treats from my garden, but you know something’s got to give. Well then, what suffers? Writing. Blogging. Cooking. I’m seeking to find that balance. It took me a minute to work back in the exercise, but that is a necessary thing! I can’t deal with myself if I’m feeling bloated and creaky. Pilates is my savior. I love it. And thankfully, it feels like July will be less hectic and so I’m glad that I have a chance to catch up.
Here’s what it looked like just 3 weeks ago when I fully intended to write a blog post updating you as to the condition of this garden:
Seriously – that was taken ONE MONTH after I planted the dang thing! I’ve reaped the LARGEST zucchini I have ever seen from this beautiful bountiful garden. I’ve eaten the sweetest strawberries, I’ve made pesto with my basil, I’ve made salad with my salad mix … and I just clipped off a brand spankin’ ruby red Habanero Chili and I cultivated a little baby artichoke, but I feel like it was the runt of the ‘choke family & so it did not get eaten.
Things that are not going so well in the garden (*PLEASE, Tips, Tricks & Suggestions are ENCOURAGED!)
I have a Very Hungry Caterpillar roaming around the garden … Or perhaps there are two. I’ve met two of them and moved them to another area of the yard. They have wreaked havoc though! I used something that was non-toxic, all organic & totally safe – it was literally like pepper and $h!t or something … I cannot remember the name. It was a powder and I used it all in two applications.
HOLY Zucchini & Squash Leaves, People! I know for sure that Adam & Eve must have used these leaves as primitive undergarments. These are the LARGEST Freaking Leaves I’ve ever seen! And they’re prickly as f^ck. Seriously, get your damn gloves on before you go trimming them up! They crowd all the other veggies in my garden. I trimmed about 20% of the leaves back with no clear repercussions. Still got a massive zuke off that thing.
Cilantro is gone. It took off when the temperatures soared here last month & I’m sad because I was planning on making a kick-ass salsa with my tomatillos, tomatoes, chili peppers & cilantro. It went to flower, I cut it back (probably stupidly.) and 1 out of 2 of my plants is straight up dead.
Arugula went to seed. Also a victim of the 100+ temps here & I read that I should stop watering it and let the seed pods dry out then cultivate them for next season. Sound right?
Basil is stunted & I don’t know why. I snap off the tops when it starts to flower. Again, I think that the heat + the Very Hungry Caterpillar has something to do with it.
The strawberries aren’t producing as much as I thought. Same with my cucumber plant.
I think I over-planted … Oops! Live and Learn.
So there you have it, my dear friends … That’s what’s happening right now. I will snap more pics. I’m waiting for my tomatoes. Patiently. And the only one I saw had a nice little caterpillar hole in the bottom which made me want to put on my magnifying glasses & go on a Caterpillar hunt!
Oh, one last thing … what was for dinner tonight? Well, I have to share because it was so good … Another awesome find from Oh She Glows! Veggie Spring Rolls (vegan-dish.) It was light, it was easy & it was so delicious! I licked the last of the peanut sauce off the blades of my food processor & no, I’m not joking. My dear friend had made this during her visit in April & I have been meaning to make it ever since then. So good. And perfect for not wanting to cook in 100 degree weather. And yes, I used my basil … but no, sadly, I had to purchase the cilantro.
Which I learned the hard way. With my mouth. (I know I’m setting you all up for a crummy “that’s what she said” joke.) But seriously, these squash tasted like dirty, gross feet. I didn’t know this about these crazy spaceship squash before tonight. Tonight was my first tangle with these things & you can gather, I’m not a fan.
Like an idiot, I figured they would cook up like my other awesome crookneck, green and summer squash. They did not. Or perhaps they did & just taste like @$$. Is this the norm for these crazy spaceship squash? I have never eaten one before & I will tell you, I will never eat one again. In fact, I have just decided that I will never eat anything that looks like a spaceship ever again. Except and unless it is made from pure chocolate & macadamia nuts, or red velvet & cream cheese.
I got these mugs in my “box.” <<insert “that’s what she said” joke here.>> I had previously cancelled said box 4 days ago & now I’m glad I did so. (Note: I cancelled “This Week’s Box” because my garden is banging.)
In any case, this is my first official “WARNING” Post! I warn you to not get involved with these crazy outer space squash! I really hope I didn’t accidentally plant these in the fairly good garden :-0
It was really good, HOWEVER, 2 things of note for this dish: The recipe calls for 1 pint of cream and that sounded like a lot, (and truth be told, I only had 1 cup of cream on hand,) so I used just 8 oz of cream and it was the perfect amount. Also, I wasn’t crazy about the mint part of the recipe & felt like it was unnecessary, so when I make this next time, I’ll either use just a dusting or none at all.
I love love LOVE artichokes. I have loved them since I first began scraping them with the nubs of my baby teeth. Artichokes are full of potassium, vitamin c, & fiber. And they are delicious. I have made them about 4,355 times in my adult life & this is how you do … or, rather, how I do:
1. Take your artichoke, trim off the thorny tips with your kitchen shears so no one gets poked.
2. Cut the stem bluntly at the base of the choke so that it can sit upright.
3. Rinse your artichokes out & if you have the time, let them sit in a luke warm water bath for an hour – if not, no worries, just rinse them well & tip them upside down to drain.
4. Fill a large stock pot 1/4 of the way with water & sit the artichokes upright in the pot, they should be immersed about 1/4 – 1/3 of the way.
5. Put the lid on top of the pot & turn your heat up high, bringing it to a boil.
6. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to a low roll ( med – low .) And simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.
7. You know your ‘choke is done when you can take a fork and stick it in and out of the base (stem) easily, (FYI, use a long ass tong fork to do this ‘cuz these chokes are HOT!)
8. Flip it over on a slotted spoon to drain & then transfer to a bowl.
During the last 5 minutes your chokes are steaming, go ahead and make your dipping butter. One stick of butter serves 2-4 people. Melt a stick of butter on your stove top, squeeze in a half of a lemon, add a pinch or so of garlic powder & a dash or so of salt. You can get fancy with the butter – press some fresh garlic in there if you’d like. Serve your chokes with a wedge of lemon for peeps to add to their butter.
NOW, after you’ve scraped off leaf after leaf of delicious artichoke meat with your choppers, you will get down to the thin leaves & instead of eating one at a time, you will scrape them in a bunch. YUM. Then, you will get to smaller and smaller leaves & eventually to the heart. You will need to scrape off the “chokers” (my mom calls them that, I don’t know what the scientific technical term is, but rumor has it, if you eat the chokers, you will die via choking. I kid. Sort of. 😉 I honestly don’t know because I’ve never eaten them, but the few that I’ve accidentally eaten didn’t feel good going down my throat.)
Here’s how you scrape the heart …
Take a spoon and scrape off the chokers, cut off the rest of the stem & dice the heart, then immerse in your butter concoction. More salt (that’s what I do, anyway,) and voila! YUM, YUM, and MORE YUM!!!
My brother & I would literally make deals with one another for extra bites of each other’s hearts … “I will do your math homework if you let me have 3 bites of your heart.” And The Husband asks me to scrape his heart & I tell him that there’s a scrapers-fee of two large heart bites. YES, people, it’s that good & there isn’t a lot of heart, so savor each bite!!!!
Now, a couple of things to mention … You can get a steamer basket for your pot, I suppose, and that sounds great, but you don’t have to be that fancy. I am going to write down steamer basket on my Christmas wish list.
Also, there’s an odd short cut method my brother came up with, (in case you need to get the artichokes on the table faster than an hour.) Prepare them like I told you to above, and wrap them loosely in a plastic grocery bag. Pop them in the microwave for about 5 minutes to “loosen them up.” And then transfer them to the boiling pot of water. Should cut your cooking time in half. It doesn’t sound safe to me to be cooking plastic bags, but I’ve done it a couple of times & I live to tell you about this, so apparently it’s not going to immediately kill you 🙂
In Southern California, we have two seasons: Spring & Summer. They are almost indecipherable & you will hear me start to really complain about the heat come September.
Well, it’s only April and already 80 degrees! When it gets hot, I don’t want to be slaving over the stove or messing around in the oven. I want something light, easy and (of course) delish to eat for dinner. And we’ve established (via the brussels sprouts post) that bacon makes everything awesome!
And since The Husband’s work days are getting later and later, it has to be something that I can whip together & not too heavy because we’re eating at 8pm or so.
This dish is in my rotation during the spring & summer months (aka March – November.) I short cut it by purchasing the refrigerated pasta, (you can use linguine, fettucini or paparedelle -which is tough to find around here, but it’s my favorite pasta for this dish.) And, depending on what tomatoes they have in the store, I use yellow tear drops, grape tomatoes or both!
Spring Pasta with Arugula, Tear Drop Tomatoes & Bacon
8 oz pasta (refrigerated or uncooked) Pappardelle, Linguini, Fettucini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup halved yellow tear-drop tomatoes (and/or)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups loosely packed chopped arugula
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (OPTIONAL, if you don’t eat meat)
Parmesan cheese (grated, shaved or shredded & OPTIONAL if you don’t eat cheese)
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and garlic to skillet; cook 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant. Add tomatoes; cook 1 minute, stirring gently. Remove the skillet from heat; stir in lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt & a few twists of fresh ground pepper. Combine the hot pasta, arugula, and warm tomato mixture in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Top with cheese and bacon
As you may recall, I receive a box of organic produce delivered to my doorstep twice a month. And it’s almost like being on a cooking challenge show because you never know what you’re going to get! (I suppose I forgot to check off brussels sprouts and Mitiake mushrooms from my list of things I don’t want. Womp womp.) Honestly, I’ve never heard of Mitiake mushrooms before meeting them on Wednesday morn when they appeared on my front porch.
And truth be told, I haven’t eaten a brussels sprout since I was a 3rd grader & spent the night at a friend’s house where, much to my dismay, I was served brussels sprouts. My eyes widened and I cringed, they smelled terrible & the polite little girl in me gracefully pushed them around on my plate after trying one bite and nearly gagging. My friend’s parents were not very understanding and made me eat 5 more bites! I thought I was going to throw up, and then considered calling my mom to come and rescue me from this veritable house of horrors.
So when the brussels sprouts showed up on my door this week, I was thinking oh man, I really have to go online and scrutinize my “preferences” list! Then I scoured my mind for friends who might want 9 oz of brussels sprouts. And then I remembered my declaration (here on this blog) that I wanted to conquer new culinary frontiers & THIS was a challenge!
So I searched for brussels sprouts recipes & voila: Bacon + Brussels Sprouts = right up my alley! I mean, how can you go wrong with bacon? Answer: you can’t. Hell, I could eat cardboard with bacon on top of it. So, kudos to Katerina & her kick-ass recipe.
So then on to the Mitiake mushrooms … I knew that a skirt steak would be a good start & it would be easy to make a nice mushroom sauce, so again, off to the web to find a recipe. Even though I love to riff off a recipe, I pretty much followed it to the tee, only because I was too tired to mess around with it. Next time I would add in garlic and instead of using chicken broth, use beef broth, and instead of butter, use cream.
I served it up with some wild rice & The Husband loved it all! And even though he told me “I’m not that hungry tonight,” homie cleaned his plate! The entire meal from prep to table only took me a little over an hour. Score!