Monday, September 30, 2013

October #Unprocessed, Week 1

October Unprocessed?  I'm in.

Duh, right?  Well, maybe not.

The first year I did it I was all over it.  Why?  Because it was something new.  And hard.  Very hard.  Making me want to win, because I have a little bit (or a lot bit) of Monica Geller blood running through my veins.  Or something like that.  And so I dove in head first, and learned A LOT.  What an incredible challenge it was for me!

The second year for me, last year, I again jumped in.  I thought I would be all over it, and in a sense, I was.  We didn't eat unprocessed food, we followed the "rules".  But then, then... it just wasn't that hard, you know?  I realized that I had incorporated a lot of the things I learned from the first year into our daily routines, and the ones I hadn't... well... I really didn't want to go through the hassle of changing them.  So I became lazy with hit.  Phrases like, "I guess it won't matter if..." or "I counts, right?" came out of my mouth more and more regularly.  Sure, MOST of what we ate was unprocessed, but those times when we could budge -- like going over to someone's house and conveniently eating all the candy corn because we were allowed to be gracious guests -- quickly became a habit.  A bad habit.

So, for this year, I was feeling pretty blah about it.  Hey, I reasoned with myself, 90% of what you eat is unprocessed.  Really, does that extra 10% matter?  Honestly, I don't think it does.  That is my completely honest answer.  But that is not why I decided to do it.  I decided to do it because of two things: (1) my husband wanted us to try again and (2) I learned some new tricks and skills the last two years, and I don't want to lose out on that opportunity again.  So tomorrow, it's on.  October Unprocessed year 3 (for us) is about to commence.

Let's do this!


** I make a pot of beans and another of rice at the beginning of the week.  These recipes are based off of that fact.  You will need at least beans for one of these recipes, but you can substitute homemade bread and salad or other base for the meals that call for beans and rice.

Day 1: Sweet Potato Tacos  
(Trader Joe's has handmade, freshly cooked tortillas that are totally unprocessed.  Score!  Also, this is the recipe you will need the beans for.  You can get them out of the can if you need to, or you can make them in the pressure cooker.)

Day 2: Leek and Bacon Baked Eggs, with beans and rice

Day 3: Vegetable Frittata, with beans and rice

Day 4: Pasta with Fresh Pesto, with a side of tomato salad and bread/butter
(Here are a few secrets that can help you out: You can find unprocessed pasta at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.  Just look for the fresh packages and read the ingredients.  Also, any bread with a Trader Joe's label is baked at your local bakeries, and if you check the ingredients, you will find they are [most of them, at least] unprocessed.  Local bakeries = GOOD!)

Day 5: Carrot and Sweet Potato Bisque, with a side salad and bread/butter
(This is one of my favorite soups... both because of the flavor and because I made it up myself!  Since you need stock to make soup, why not make your own?  It is really simple and you already have the ingredients on hand, I am sure.  The recipe for the soup includes the directions for making vegetable stock.)

Day 6: Slow Cooker Roast Chicken, with mashed potatoes and a side salad

Day 7 (and maybe 8): LEFTOVERS!  You didn't just cook a whole chicken for nothing ;)

Looks like too much cooking?  Then make a bunch of a couple and spread it out.  No need for us to kill ourselves over this, just take a moment to enjoy real food for a bit :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stolen Recipes: Pumpkin Bread & Crock Pot Chicken

I've been a bad blogger.  Not with my amount of posting, not with my quality of posting.  Actually, it has nothing to do with what I have going on here.

It has everything to do with what is going on out there.

Being a part of the blog community is something you can only understand if you are a blogger or a heavily-invested reader.  This little community (or rather, this large community, as it spans the globe) is like any other community: you make friends, you find people who annoy you, and you learn to balance that all with kindness and respect.  Or, at least most people do... but there are some people. Hmph.  Those people. 

Like I said, it is like any other community.

And like any other community, you are expected to give and receive.  Isn't that what relationships are all about?  Sometimes it is your turn, sometimes it is the other person's turn.  And we are expected to respect that, support that.

This is where I have been a bad blogger.  In the midst of running to and fro, from the West Coast to the East Coast and back, in the midst of having a house FULL this summer, in the midst of a new school year starting, and then trying to balance many different tasks at the same time, I have neglected my friends in this community.  I still wrote on my blog (albeit, rarely), but I just didn't get around to reading other blogs. It's not that I didn't want to, it's that I just didn't have the time to, and then I got out of the habit.

And that is where I went wrong.  I got out of the habit of supporting, listening, receiving.  This is something that may have been justified for awhile, but one can only make excuses for so long.  So I have made a point this past week to read, listen, and receive from others bloggers.  And I realized miss them -- I missed the posts, I missed the writers behind the posts.  And I missed the incredibly great ideas that you all have coming out of your kitchens!

Right now, as I am typing this, I have the amazing smells of a whole chicken, cooking in the crock pot (don't you love the crock pot and its simplicity, yet hate the fact that you are tormented by amazing smells for hours at a time?!), recipe compliments of Amy at Fearless Homemaker.  Oh my word.  I cannot wait for tonight so I can enjoy this... *wiping drool from my chin*

(expect to see more of this later...)

Along with those smells showing me what is to come, I have delicious pumpkin bread waiting for dessert, straight from Val over at Val SoCal.  I made half the muffiins her recipe called for and turned the rest of the batter into a loaf of pumpkin bread, simply by increasing the baking time to 30 minutes.  The muffins were killer... 12 of them were gone in 24 hours.  I am pretty sure the bread, with a simple swipe of butter on it, will be devoured just as quickly.

Though this, I have realized something.  By me not reading other blogs, it wasn't those bloggers that were missing out; it was I who lost something.  I am happy to be back.  I've missed you guys, and I can't wait to catch up on what's been going on, both in your kitchens and in your lives.


To get these fabulous recipes for yourself, click on the links below to be taken there.  


SLOW COOKER ROAST CHICKEN, by Fearless Homemaker

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Baby, We've Come a Long Way...

You know those times when you hear a song and instantly are taken to a specific moment in your life?  Or you smell something, just a whiff, and you feel the arms of a memory wrap around you?

That happens to me, a lot.  In the car I hear a song and I remember. Or I have Pandora on in the kitchen and I have to stop when they unexpectedly play something I haven't heard in awhile, because it all comes washing over me... people, experiences, emotions.  I have tried to make a point to think about and pray for the people the song reminds me of, which would be why my husband found me staring out the window last night as I was emphatically singing along to an old song, my eyes closed tight and my fists clenched.

I was praying for the students from my very first class ten years ago, merely because a song got shuffled in...

It wasn't just that song that got to me last night, however.  It was the smells.

Sauteing onion.
Simmering beef.

Instantly I was a newlywed again, back in my little kitchen in our little apartment, surrounded by food I had no idea what to do with it.  And, again, I was cooking ground beef because it was cheap (and that was our key operating term at that point in our lives... newlyweds, ya know?) and really, because it was all I knew how to make.

Honestly?  The only reason I knew how to cook it was because I had made a phone call to a friend at some point.  Help me, I pleaded, help me know what to do with this package of beef.

For the first time I didn't have Hamburger Helper to mix in with it and it stared back at me.  What on earth was I supposed to do?

But I figured it out.

I also quickly learned that if you heat up some olive oil in a pan and drop in some spinach with a dash of garlic salt you get a quick veggie side.  The beans we ate back then were dropped into the pot from a can, and the rice was really gooey and sticky -- not at all like the Brazilian rice I was trying to make.  But it was rice and we had beans, there were veggies on the side, and somehow I managed to figure out how to make that simple ground beef taste really good.

This was a basic staple for us during this time.  Maybe not the healthiest, but it was what we could do -- both according to our budget and ability.

This, this flashback to the beginning of our lives together, is what rolled over me last night.  And I couldn't help but notice how different things are.  Same pots, but a different kitchen.  Same food, but a different technique. No longer was this the only thing I could make, but the one I chose, after months and months (and possibly years) without it. Even the flavor was slightly different... the rice, a little more fluffy and a little less sticky; the beans, fresh from the pressure cooker; the beef, perfectly seasoned.

Yes, things have changed.  A lot.  But that smell, the one that voyaged through time, made me realize that despite all these changes, the most important thing has remained constant: that man who ate each one of those simple meals with me back then with a smile on his face is the same man who applauds me and encourages me today, both in the kitchen and out of it.  We may be in a different place now than we were then, both physically and in maturity, but we -- WE -- are the same.  Just two kids in love, doing our best to make a happy mark on the world.

(Both pictures of us were taken during our first year of marriage.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Soup's On!

  [sweet potato & carrot bisque]                           [carrot & pea soup with dumplings]

             [potato-leek soup]                                  [creamy asparagus soup with sausage]

I've got a thing for soup.  It's tasty, generally easy, and good to eat in this Fall weather that is coming down upon us.  To kick off the season I am sharing my favorite soups with you, all tried and tested in our house.  I am equally excited about eating these again as well as looking forward to the new ones I will learn how to make this year.  

Here's to cozy-ing up with a bowl up hot soup while the rain is coming down!  CHEERS!

[carrot & ginger with lemon]                                                                         
                                                                      [butternut squash & pear]
[summer squash]                                                                          

And my ultimate favorite:  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Memory Lane + Fish Tacos

One of my favorite memories:

Going to Ensenada with a bunch of friends for my 30th birthday on a cruise.  Getting off the boat, bypassing all the touristy attractions, finding a local person and asking him what he would do if he had one day in his city.

Eat fish tacos, he said, at the fish market.

So that's what we did.  No other foreigners around, just us, in an upstairs room filled with glass Coca-Cola and Fanta bottles, a rickety fan swirling overhead.  The only music was the Mariachi band wandering through the street below and the sounds of families chattering away in Spanish over their lunches in the many open-air restaurants that lined the street.

And those fish tacos, at $2 a person? Delicious, absolutely delicious.

It was a perfect moment.

I can't recreate that moment.  From the food to the company, I could put them all together in the same place, but that moment will probably never happen just like that again.  There is the feeling, you know, that can only happen once.  But I can replicate a part of that memory... they may not be the exact same, but I do make some great fish tacos.

I am pretty sure that whenever I have fish tacos, whether at home or out and about, I will always think back to that day, surrounded by friends and family in a place where simplicity and laughter went hand in hand.

Adapted from Everyday Food, January/February 2005


  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 small red cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound snapper, cut into about 12 strips
  • 8 flour tortillas, soft-taco size**
  • fresh cilantro leaves, to top

  1. In a large bowl, combine sour cream and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Transfer half the mixture to another container; set aside for serving. Toss cabbage and half the scallions with remaining sour-cream mixture. Season again with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil and remaining scallions half over medium-high heat; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. In two batches (starting with larger pieces), cook fish until golden brown on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, warm tortillas according to package instructions.
  4. To make tacos, fill tortillas with slaw, fish, and fresh cilantro leaves. Drizzle with reserved sour-cream mixture. Serve immediately.
 ** Did you know Trader Joe's has these AMAZING, hand-made tortillas, totally fresh and delicious, for a great price?  They really have quite the tortilla selection, all made at local bakeries.  Go check them out!

COST: $14.24      COST PER SERVING (4): $3.56

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Zucchini & Chicken Salad

I have had the worst luck with timing recently.  Well, maybe not the worst luck as I really don't believe in luck -- more like the worst list of scheduled appointments that I could do nothing about.  Between school starting again (and being a teacher that means a HUGE amount of work and life-style changes for a bit) and shooting the wedding of one of my friends (my first wedding gig EVER!), to finishing up other tasks that carried over from the summer, my time has worn thin quickly each day.  Meaning the end of my day has found me defrosting a lot of Trader Joe's boxes for dinner.

Until this week.  When life finally seemed to be back on track.  Wedding pictures were delivered, final projects from the summer were wrapped up, and my days at school didn't take an incredible amount of prepping for each day because, well, they get it.  (Ahh, sigh of relief.  I love when the routines and procedures click into place!)

Which meant I could finally schedule in time to share great recipes with you...

I took the pictures above NOT for the recipe I am sharing today.  No.  I took it for a recipe I had hoped to share last week.  A delicious fresh, summery garden salsa over grilled fish.  Perfect summer dish.  And it was going to help wrap up my summer meals that I have been holding onto so tightly (Don't steal one of my favorite seasons from me!!!).

But then the battery died.

And I couldn't find the charger.


So I have no summer garden salsa over grilled fish to share with you.  Bummer for you, but it was pretty fabulous.  (Maybe I will have to sneak in a summery-dish out of season, or we will have to wait until next summer. Something to look forward to, I guess...)

Thank you, Amazon, for having great prices and quick shipping so I could get a replacement.  I may not have the rest of that recipe, but I do have a summer zucchini and chicken salad to share with you!

I know the calendar says that Autumn is just around the corner -- only three days away -- and I promise that I will jump on that pumpkin-laden band wagon at that point.  But with the weather at a nice upper 80's and the farmers' market still packed with summery produce, I am all about enjoying the good stuff while I can. Which means there is this nice zucchini and chicken salad in my belly, and I am looking forward to some fish tacos for dinner.

Viva la summer!  And then bring on the fall!

(This recipe calls for store-cooked chicken, I am not going to lie.  You don't have to do that if you don't want to, but I did want to do that, and so I did.  Do whatever you want, no judgement here!)

Adapted from Everyday Food, July/August 2003


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 3 zucchini, ends cut off, thinly sliced (slicing tool on food processor helps)
  • 1 lb. cooked fresh chicken breasts from deli section of supermarket**
  • 1 cup arugula, loosely packed
  • ½ read onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyere cheese

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together ¼ cup oil and lime juice; season with salt and pepper.  Add zucchini; toss to coat, and marinade while you cut the chicken.
  2. Slice the chicken breast into pieces with medium thickness.  Warm up in the microwave for 30 seconds so it is not cold from the refrigerator anymore.  Toss chicken with zucchini mixture.  Add arugula, onion, almonds, and Gruyere.  Serve.

**You can also cook the chicken breast yourself.  This will only add about 15 minutes to the process.

COST: $11.21        COST PER SERVING (4): $2.81

Gluten Free    //    30 Min or Less    //   Unprocessed 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sausage & Rice Stuffed Peppers

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, September 2011

(I know not all of the peppers shown were bell peppers.  I used some bell and some Italian.  Both were great.  Also, you can substitute any sausage or meat.  Just grind it and cook it.  Delicious.)

For quick use, here is an image to save with all you need.  It is as easy as 1-2-3...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's Still Summer + Tomato and Beet Salad

School has started and Labor Day weekend came and went... sounds like summer is over.

Except, it is not.  Don't let those shiny, new backpacks and rules about not wearing white fool you.  Summer is alive and well, and I intend to celebrate it a little more.  

It only comes around once a year, after all, and really is the best season. (Ok, maybe it is tied with spring. I sure do enjoy spring as well...)

If you look at a calendar or at the daily weather forecast, you will see that it actually is still summer, at least until September 22.  So I plan on rounding up, to October.  I will start celebrating fall in October.  Which means unlike the other blogs you are seeing out there, you won't see pumpkin and apple recipes popping up yet.  They will come, trust me, but for now I will enjoy the bountiful harvest of tomatoes, bell peppers, and summer squash.  I hope you enjoy them with me.

Long live summer!

PS -- How did I live this long without knowing how DELICIOUS roasted beets are?  They taste nothing like their might-as-well-be-eating-dirt raw/slightly cooked selves.  Expect to see more of these popping up in my recipes!

From Everyday Food, July/August 2012


  • 1 pound scrubbed small beets
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, preferably heirloom
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Seal beets in a foil packet.  Roast on a rimmed baking sheet until tender, 75 minutes.  When cool, rub beets with a paper towel to remove skins; slice.
  2. Slice large tomatoes, and halve cherry tomatoes, then arrange with beets on a platter.  Top with feta, cilantro, and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

COST: $6.75      COST PER SERVING (4): $1.69
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