organicglory

simple, natural abundance

Happy Easter Week!

I had Georgia in the cutest outfit for Palm Sunday — she was even waving a palm frond in church along to the music! — but, tragically, I didn’t get a picture of it. How could I be so lame?? I know. I’ll make sure to share a cute picture of her on Easter Sunday, for which I have the cutest outfit and bonnet planned. I think she’ll probably outgrow it the next week, because she’s packing on the pounds so fast these days.

Our friends Scott and Jena were passing through town the other weekend, and they snapped a couple cute portraits of Georgia. Scott is a very talented photographer based out of New York. He even caught the whole family together!

I think we are keeping it low-key this year with the holiday itself because of the baby. In past years, I’ve made simple food and dessert to celebrate Easter. Things like:

Strawberry Yogurt Cake

Strawberry Shortcake

On a totally random, other note, I heard about a cool website that just launched this week which I wanted to share with y’all. A co-worker told me about it. It’s called Urbanful, and they call themselves “part magazine, part marketplace.” They promote city living and all that makes the urban life so interesting, and you can find a lot of cool products on there — plus interesting stories about entrepreneurs and inventors, like these guys who created mushroom kits for the urban gardener:

Urbanful_Screenshot

‘Back to the Roots’ mushroom kit.

They say they don’t make commission on the sale of any goods on the site, so they’re just trying to connect people to relevant profile pieces and products. We’ll see how they evolve! Could be a cool resource for info about local food, urban food production and DIY stuff. I’m going to keep following them on Pinterest and Facebook. I hope you have a wonderful Passover and/or Easter, and let’s hope this spring weather is finally here to stay! XOXO

What if your garden is so tight on space…

….that you can only fit a couple of plants? What would you pick? For me, that’s easy: tomato, basil, and peppers. If you can fit one more, make it a green; if you can fit two more, make one of them fruit, ideally strawberries. What does Houzz have to say about it?

How about you — is your must-have crop eggplant, or zucchini? onions? How about cilantro? Here’s what we’ve done in the past, with our limited space. This year, we are definitely scaling back, because we have less time to tend our garden. Once I have pictures, I’ll share them! This week is the first time it’s been above 50 degrees all winter, so we are way behind on planting as compared to other years.

If you liked the Houzz story above, then you should check them out! I’ve been a member (it’s free) since we bought our house two years ago and needed decorating/storage ideas. They have a weekly newsletter that’s always brimming with creative solutions to common household dilemmas, beautiful decor tips and plenty of pinnable inspiration. You can also get recommendations for contractors in your area. Here’s another great article from them that I just read to help me shape up my house for spring:

Poor Mark, I’ve been after him to wash the siding for weeks. (I’m willing to do the next few items on the list — bag up items to give away, and clean the windows — in exchange for a freshly-scrubbed exterior). Unfortunately, we also have to repair the cement on our front walk, replace our storm door, fix the front steps AND buy new porch furniture this year, so it’s not going to be a light upkeep year at the ol’ Linehan abode :/

Breakfast Egg Muffins

These are my new “thing.” I make them on Sundays and have a whole batch for the week. Two muffins + Dunks coffee + my desk = Amanda’s weekday morning breakfast. 

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I have a resolution to eat more breakfast and lunch (and, heck, dinner) that I’ve made at home, because we are “modeling” good food habits for G, but also because daycare is really freakin’ expensive. These fit the bill and are pretty tasty.

Breakfast Egg Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • veggies of choice, chopped/diced (I use bell peppers)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • cheese of choice (I use sharp cheddar or feta)
  • milk of choice (I use almond)
  • Pam spray or oil of choice, to coat muffin tin

DIRECTIONS

Before you start: Decide whether you will be making 6 or 12 muffins. I usually eat 2 of these per day for breakfast, plus some fruit (and coffee!), so a dozen will get you through the week and then some. But you can make half a dozen just as easily, if you think you won’t eat them all within the week. They only keep about 5-7 days in the fridge. You can also make this with a greater ratio of egg whites to yolks, and if you’re using a deeper muffin tin (such as silicone) then you may want to use a couple more eggs. 1 egg fills roughly 1 compartment and therefore makes 1 muffin.

  • Spray the pan with cooking spray or coat with a healthy oil by hand using a balled-up paper towel. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  • Prep your veggies: dice the bell pepper(s) and 1 small onion into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Prep your eggs: using either all or half a dozen, crack them into a bowl and whisk. Add salt and or pepper if desired.
  • Add a few veggies, onions and cheese to each compartment, filling about halfway to 3/4 full.
  • Pour the egg mixture over each compartment, stopping at most a quarter of the way before it’s full. They taste worse if they are overfull and “blossom” too high above the pan!
  • Bake about 25 minutes or until they are just browning and the eggs are set.

These reheat great in the microwave, as long as you don’t overdo them (I’d say 30 seconds to 1 minute is best). If you plan to store them for later, in the fridge OR freezer, just make sure you let them cool first. They do well in a plastic bag or a glass container. You can customize this with any ingredients you prefer, including real or fake ham or bacon, and you can use muffin tin liners as well. And of course, feel free to add any additional seasonings you might enjoy. I hope you like them!

What else do you make for breakfast when you have to eat on the go, or are looking to save money? I’ve gone through phases of making smoothies — especially in summer — and also baking this vegetarian Egg McMuffin casserole every weekend to get me through the workday mornings. I’m also considering trying bake-ahead oatmeal in the slow cooker with nuts and berries. Have you done that?? If so, share!

Breaking out of a rut

We have been in a definite food rut this winter. Well, if I’m being honest…since the baby was born.

georgia with bow

The more creative we get with her cuisine, the less energy we have left over to feed ourselves!

Why? Well, when you’re 10 months pregnant, the last thing you want to do is think about shopping and cooking. Because you’re tired, everything gives you heartburn, and by the time it’s ready to eat, you can only manage a few bites of food before baby blocks off the rest of your stomach and you’re full. Then, when baby comes home, all your friends and family will drop off casseroles, breads, chili, frozen meatballs, you name it. You’re set for weeks! But then, when the meal drop-offs taper, you realize you still can’t cook, because you have a newborn that needs to nurse every 90 minutes and getting in and out of a store is a major theatrical production. So one of you heads out for takeout, or you call for delivery…again.

she's cute, but she's a budget-buster!

she’s cute, but she’s a budget-buster!

Cut to us, 6 months later, 10 pounds heavier (including Georgia!) and we are in desperate need of a reboot to eat healthfully and on budget. We have daycare expenses looming!

So recently I found this great article about breaking out of a food rut. It’s tailored to vegetarians, but I think the tips are cross-cutting. A few ideas:

  • Break open a new cookbook. One I’m liking these days is Chloe’s Kitchen, because you’d never know her stuff is vegan. And rarely do the recipes require more than a few, non-exotic ingredients. (Other trusty favorites? The Silver Spoon and the Moosewood Cookbook, plus Food Network Magazine and Weight Watchers online).
  • Have breakfast for dinner. We have started doing this at least once a week, because it is endlessly customizable: keep vegetarian and regular sausage/bacon in the freezer, plus waffle and pancake mix in the pantry, and a dozen organic eggs, and you’ve got lots to choose from. Keep a couple onions and bell peppers on hand with some shredded cheese, and you can do omelettes; put a bowl of fruit out, like clementines and apples (which both keep forever), and you can serve that alongside.
  • Watch a cooking show. Mark loves Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and I love Giada, the Barefoot Contessa, the Pioneer Woman and The Chew. It’s thanks to Giada that we make this dish, and to the Pioneer Woman for this salsa and this seafood pasta!
  • Start a blog. It sure worked for me!

My own best tip for getting out of a rut? PINTEREST. I swear that’s not a plug for my boards…I truly don’t know where I’d be without Martha Stewart Living, MoneySavingMom, Joanna Goddard and more. (And if you do want to follow me, check out my profile here!)

I’m also a big fan of food writing as inspiration. I can’t tell you how many clutch recipes I’ve grabbed from Amanda Hesser, Ruth Reichl and Tamar AdlerFor Georgia, I’ve really been loving this book lately:

babyfood

  How about you? How do YOU get out of a rut? We are trying to cut back on eating out so many nights a week by planning better for our shopping trips, now that Georgia can cope with errands, and by keeping staple ingredients like rice, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, beans, pasta, sweet potatoes and frozen fish/veggie burgers/beef patties on hand. Next step will be working more fresh salads and stir-fries into the mix, which I hope gets easier when we plant our garden. Here’s to spring coming soon!

Spinach n’ Artichoke Pizza

As you may have noticed, I love the combination of spinach & artichokes. Preferably with cheese. So, it was just a matter of time before I threw it on a pizza…with cheese.

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Spinach ‘n Artichoke Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pizza round, or 1 fresh ball of dough*
  • 1 package fresh mozzarella
  • 1 can artichokes, cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 bag fresh spinach
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into chunks
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • parmesan, grated (to taste)
  • tomato sauce (optional)

*You can get fresh dough at Trader Joe’s or from your local pizza parlor.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven per the package instructions for the pizza dough (or roughly 375 if using fresh dough).

Meanwhile, chop your mozzarella, grate your parmesan, cut up the tomato and onion, and push the garlic through a press and set all aside.

In a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat, warm a little bit of olive oil. Toss in the onion, drained & chopped artichokes and spinach until the spinach wilts, adding garlic halfway through cooking so it doesn’t burn. Season with a dash of salt and pepper if desired. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assemble the pizza on a stone, paddle or non-stick pan like this. Starting with the sauce on bottom, followed by the spinach mixture and then the tomato chunks, assemble the pizza so ingredients are evenly distributed, ending with the mozzarella and grated parmesan on top.

Bake according to the pizza pie instructions, or about 20 minutes/until bubbling and crispy but not browned or burned.

Remove from oven, let cool, and slice (I always use kitchen shears). Serve hot!

Note: I always make two pies back-to-back, since I’m already chopping all the vegetables and cheese, and since the pizza rounds come in a double pack. I like the low-fat ultra-thin crust from Archer Farms at Target. It comes in square or round, which is nice depending on what kind of pan you have! I just assemble mine on the counter while the first pizza is in the oven, and then pop the second one in as soon as the pan has cooled off. If you buy one mozzarella ball, a large tomato and a bigger container of spinach, then you should have enough to make double.

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Do you Shop at Aldi?

I follow the fabulous health & fitness blogger Sarah Fit, who just posted a review of the grocery store Aldi. They opened a couple years ago near me, but I’ve been skeptical of the quality because it’s in a plaza with low-end stores. Sarah’s vlog review just might make me change my mind and check it out this weekend, though. Cheap organic produce? Worth investigating.

What about you — do you shop there? What’s your opinion? Most of the time, we split our groceries between Target and Trader Joe’s, with occasional forays into Whole Foods and the farmer’s market, in season. With Georgia eating more and more “real” food every day, I’m feeling the stress of cooking well for a growing family, on a budget, with limited time and what feels like a repetitive recipe repertoire! I need help!

Five Foodie Fads I’m Loving

Well, seven. I couldn’t narrow it down. Plus new pics of Miss G, who is now sitting up, eating three meals a day (bananas are her favorite), and man-handling our iPhones and iPads like a baby boss!

Now on to the food news that’s caught my eye…

Chefs baking pies for the critically ill

Getting better organized with Evernote Food

Personalized restaurant recommendations

Regional food specialties shipped to your door

A fun food lifestyle site

Gifting like a foodie insider

Grocery delivery that goes beyond PeaPod

It’s almost spring, everyone. Hang in there!

Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

pasta_roast_carrots

This is just a simple variation on my go-to marinara. As I’ve mentioned, I am a firm believer in keeping it simple when it comes to tomato sauce. Unless you’re making it for lasagna and you need it to be a specific consistency, I like to use butter, onions and tomatoes — that’s it — to make my favorite sauce for serving over pasta with salad or veggies on the side. In this version, I substituted one can of tomato sauce plus one can of fire-roasted tomatoes for the large can of diced tomatoes that I usually use. It gave it a more complex flavor! I also chopped the onions smaller so it turned into one overall chunky, tasty sauce. You could even add red pepper flakes for a more intense kick. It came out so well that I had to share it. Enjoy:

Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 regular-sized can of fire-roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen
  • 1 can of regular tomato sauce
  • 1/2 stick butter, preferably unsalted / organic
  • 1 onion, chopped into chunky pieces
  • 1 package (1 lb) pasta of your choice
  • optional: red pepper flakes for additional heat

DIRECTIONS

Coarsely chop onion and saute in a pot over medium-low heat with the butter, stirring so it doesn’t bubble.

Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce and cook over medium, stirring, for about 5-7 minutes.

Lower the heat and cover, adding red pepper flakes if using. Cook over low for 40 minutes to an hour; in the meantime, cook and drain pasta.

Serve over pasta with your choice of vegetables or salad!

I cook this on Sundays and let it simmer for an hour or more, so the flavors really blend and you get a great cohesive sauce. I’ve doubled it before to feed more people, with great success.

Photo Oct 08, 12 09 04 PM

I’ve never tried it, but I know you can roast your own tomatoes. Mama Natural has a pretty cool demo in her vlog this week. If you try that, let me know how it turns out!

Georgia in Florida

Daddy is working two overlapping projects right now, so Georgia and I decided to get out of that snowy, icy old New England and head south to visit the family in Florida. It’s been at least 80 degrees in Sarasota all week, and we are doing some seriously good eating (both out and at home!) For instance:

This was “Fish Taco Friday” at The Lucky Dog Diner in Venice. AMAZING. I won’t mention the teeny bathroom situation which left me changing a diaper blowout on the hot asphalt (what can I say, Georgia got just as excited about fish tacos as mom). We also hit the 2014 “Parade of Homes” this weekend, and on our way back stopped for fish n’ chips with slaw, cheesy grits & lemonade at Snook Haven on the Myakka River.

This place calls itself a “back woods smokehouse” and it’s about as Old Florida as I’ve seen. There was a country music cover band, line dancing, picnic tables, counter service and absolutely no one telling you to leave if you finished your meal (or never ordered anything but beer in the first place!) Georgia sat outside on my lap, had a bottle in the shade and even danced with the band leader.  We stayed for almost two hours! Let’s just say she went to bed early that night :)

As you can see, she’s been enjoying herself, sitting out by the pool every day and sporting lots of cute summer outfits. She’s such a good traveler — great on the plane, sleeps through the night (and naps!) in a strange house, lets me schlep her all over the place shopping and eating out, and goes along for the ride with lots of smiles. Plus, she took her first swim and has already picked up on the fun of splashing her hands in the water. Daddy, I know, is jealous and missing his girls.

We aren’t looking forward to returning to the cold, but I am anxious to try out some healthy food after a week of restaurant food, gelato, wine with dinner every night and weekend-style breakfasts every day. I’ll get back to sharing recipes when we are back in Boston and cooking away again!

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