healthy-living

Oh hey there…

There is a pattern emerging here… I know. I am committing the two mortal sins of blogging: 1. crappy pictures, and 2. I am inconsistent. I am trying to do better. I keep getting distracted. I’m sorry!

This brings me to a few things I would like to discuss… first and foremost, I am still cooking, experimenting and learning. I am not writing about it, but I am posting about it. Please take the time to follow alifelessbordinary on Facebook and Instagram. I post there often.

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Secondly, I freaking made maple syrup! I tapped a tree, boiled the sap, and as my 4 year old would say, “bing bang boom” I had maple syrup. I plan to get more in depth about this at another time. I will say for now that it’s not scary, it’s not hard, and it’s also not all that rewarding unless you have A LOT of sap. It is rewarding in the sense of feeling accomplished. I highly recommend trying it.

Third, I have a secret… one of the reasons why I haven’t posted in a while is because I have been working on something else. I will hopefully be able to announce what my secret is later this week.

Stay tuned by following me on social media! I am super excited!

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Slap Your Mama Sweet Potato Salad! Just kidding…don’t slap her. Just feed her this…

Well here we are folks! It’s finally Memorial Day weekend, and the official kickoff to summer. People everywhere are opening their pools, buying beach badges, and dusting off the ole grill for the first cook out of the season. I am attending a BBQ this Sunday and was asked to bring the potato salad. I typically make a German Potato salad based on my best friend’s recipe. This stuff is amazing. She is famous for it. She even makes it for her dad yearly for Father’s day. You know how there is usually tons of potato salad leftover after a party? Not so with her recipe.

However, that is not the recipe I am going to share with you today. While it’s amazing, it’s been done before. Instead, I am going to share a recipe I created last week, that made my husband, an outspoken sweet potato hater, into a lover, a believer, and an eater. He had three helpings. THREE!

I researched tons of recipes online and basically took what I liked from each. My recipe calls for chickpeas. The reason for this is that unlike a white or red potato, the sweet potato tends to get really mushy when cooked. The chickpea adds some substance so that the salad isn’t one big pile of mush. You can omit the chickpeas, and use 4 small white or red taters in their place.

On another note, while I know everyone is excited to throw back a few beers, and grill some burgers this weekend. Please take a moment to remember what Memorial Day is all about, and remember those who have fallen.

 

Sweet Potato Salad

3 Large Sweet potatoes

15 ounce can of chickpeas (also known as Garbanzo beans)

¼ cup dried currants

1 bunch (¾ cup) chopped scallions

¼ cup honey mustard

¼ cup mayonnaise

6 slices of bacon (chopped and cooked to a crisp)

1 Tbl cumin

1 Tbl chili powder

2 Tbl coconut oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes. Boil until tender. Drain, and set aside to cool.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl add the chickpeas, cumin and coconut oil and stir until the chickpeas are covered.
  4. Pour the seasoned chickpeas onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. You don’t want them to be totally crispy, but slightly roasted and still tender.
  5. In another mixing bowl, add honey mustard, currants, and scallions mix until well incorporated. (reserve some bacon and scallions to top the salad with before serving).
  6. When chickpeas are done, add them to the dressing along with the sweet potatoes and bacon. Mix with a spoon until blended, making sure not to mash the sweet potatoes too much. Refrigerate until you serve.

Enjoy!!

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Look at the pretty pretty chickpeas…

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Mistakes, I’ve made a few…

So, this blog is supposed to be about my cooking journey right? I’ve noticed that I haven’t really given you any insight into my cooking errors (yet another error on my part). Anyway, yesterday was stock day. I took a tip from Bon Appetit online, and roasted my bones first. I was so dang excited for this batch. I let is slow simmer overnight, and my kitchen smelled glorious the next morning. The broth looked rich and dark and as I lifted my spoon for a taste,  it hit me. BITTER. My flippin stock was bitter! Why you ask? I added a full lemon to the stock and it bittered the shit up. I thought about this as I added the lemon, but I tossed it in anyway. I do that a lot. I foresee the cooking error before I do it, and I do it anyway. Why? WHY DO I DO THIS? It’s actually been the culprit to many a kitchen mishap. Do any of you do this too?

Anyway, in the spirit of embracing my authentic self and trying to be better, here is a list of lessons I’ve learned from kitchen mishaps:

  1. Don’t add a whole lemon to your stock and let it cook overnight. Maybe add just the juice at the end, or the whole lemon the last half hour, but don’t keep it in there 18+ hours.
  2. To get a good sear on meat, really take the time to make sure your pan is the right temp (not too hot not too cool) and really just leave it there for a few. I often get impatient and prematurely flip the meat, or put it on before the pan is got enough.
  3. For the love of all that is delicious don’t add food to a pan that you know is too hot. YOU.WILL.RUIN.YOUR.FOOD. I did this the other night with risotto.
  4. Keep your knife cuts consistent. Otherwise you will end up with overcooked and undercooked pieces in the same batch of whatever you are cooking.
  5. Don’t have too much going on at once. YOU WILL BURN SOMETHING. Read your recipe and plan ahead. If you are making a particularly intensive dish, take care of all of your prepping before you turn on the oven or stove. This is what the French call Mise en Place.
  6. Know what your ingredients taste like before you cook with them.
  7. When you know something is ruined, start over. I once accidentally added sweetened canned pumpkin to a batch of my pumpkin soup AND THEN SERVED IT TO GUESTS! It was terrible. I just felt bad wasting the food. In hindsight, I should have just ordered pizza instead.
  8. Forgive yourself. We all have our off nights/days. My cooking mishaps have made for some great laughs between my husband and I throughout the years. Ask him about my ‘Beef Stroganoff’.

I am going to certainly add to this list as time goes on. Trust me.

Want a laugh? Here are the pictures of what we call the ‘doomed Valentine’s day breakfast of 2014’. This was a clear example of having too much going on at once.

I’ve got something brewing besides my broth. I’ve been testing meal kits from various sources, and I will report my results in the next week or so. Until then happy cooking.

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Dark chocolate wishes and dairy free dreams…

There is this ice cream place in our town that sells artisanal ice cream. The shop boasts flavors such as lavender mascarpone, blood orange sorbet, and DARK chocolate ice cream. Their ice cream is one of my guilty pleasures. I say guilty pleasure because, 1. it’s so dang expensive (but worth every penny) and 2. it’s so very rich. I usually order the dark chocolate ice cream, but my friend turned me on to their dark chocolate sorbet. I gotta tell you, I wasn’t sure at first, but one taste made me a believer! Would you believe that sorbet could be creamy? It IS!

I have been craving the stuff big time, but time, weather, money, and the fact that it’s freaking February have all prevented me from stopping in to get some
. The craving got so bad that I decided to dust off the ole ice cream maker, and take her for a spin!

The following recipe isn’t quite sorbet. It’s actually ice cream.. kinda.. I had some coconut creamer that I wanted to use up so I substituted water with coconut milk.

This recipe was adapted from David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Sorbet on Food52.com.

2 1/4 cups Coconut milk

¼ cup  dark agave

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey Special Dark)

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips (make sure package says dairy free)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1.In a saucepan on medium, heat half of the coconut milk, coco powder and agave whisking constantly.

  1. Once the mixture reaches a slow boil, remove from heat and add the vanilla bean paste, chocolate chips, and stir until chocolate has melted.
  2. Incorporate the remaining coconut milk and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  3. Once the mixture is completely chilled, use an immersion blender to make sure all lumps are smoothed out. Then make the ice cream according to your machine’s instructions.

I keep meaning to take a picture of the finished product, but I keep eating it. ***edit: I was finally able to control myself enough to nab a picture this morning! ***
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Here is the mixture in the sauce pan.
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And here is the mixture once it’s done chilling:
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Until next week!

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Don’t Cry Over Burnt Toast

So last week was one of my worst cooking weeks ever. I was all off. I have no idea what the heck was wrong with me. I burned the toast every morning, I managed to serve dry chicken that was boiled in a pressure cooker, and I gave my family bad breath for days when I added to much garlic to a béchamel sauce I served over tortellini. So because of this, I don’t have an awesome recipe to share this week. I do however, have a few tips to help you get through weeks like this.

  1. Rotisserie chicken is your friend. I either buy a ready-made rotisserie chicken, or when whole roasting chickens are $.99 a pound I buy one of them. You serve them the night you roast them alongside of mashed potatoes, and roasted broccoli, the next day as a chicken salad sandwich, and then reheated the next night in chicken fajitas or pot pie. When you’re done with the meat, you can boil the bones to make your own stock.
  2. Make double and freeze. Sauces, soups and stews oh my! Whenever you make one of these treasures be sure to make a double batch and freeze the other half. On a week when your cooking game is off, you can grab it out of the freezer and thank your past self for a delicious dinner.
  3. Speaking of freezing, I was reading today that you can make roux ahead and freeze it for up to 6 months! Make a big batch ahead of time, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays. Toss one or two cubes in the aforementioned stew or pot pie to thicken the sauce. Another great item to freeze is fresh herbs. I always chop and freeze (again in an ice cube tray) whatever I have leftover from a recipe. Fresh herbs are a great way to amp up any recipe. You can even use the stems to flavor stock!

Next week, I’ll hopefully have something amazing to share. I bet my family would love that too. In the meantime, I’m going to dine on frozen sweet potato soup and burnt toast while staring at these two beautiful faces.

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This One’s a Keeper!

I bet you figured out by now that I love to cook. I love learning about cooking, and trying out new recipes. However, I think that I love trying out new recipes a little too much. It is because of this, that after ten years of making a home and cooking for my family, I don’t have any tried and true recipe staples, or ‘Keepers’. I didn’t even realize this until after three new recipes this week, my husband says, “these recipes are great, but let’s start a list of good ones to go back to.” We have been talking about it for days now, and we both wracked our brains and really can’t think of a SINGLE recipe that I have made consistently. THIS.ENDS.NOW. I have really fond memories of eating (and now making) things that my grandmother, aunt, and mother used to make. Every time I miss my grandmother, I make Breaded Cauliflower, Eggplant Parm, or Pasta Fagioli and I am instantly a kid again sitting in her kitchen dipping the cauliflower in egg wash and breadcrumbs while an episode of the Golden Girls played on her 10 inch television on the counter. I want that for my boys. I want them to come home from college craving “mom’s” (insert dish here). So as part of my new year’s resolutions, I vow to make a list of recipes that will become family staples! I will keep you posted on my progress.

Here is what I made this week:

Orange Chicken Meatballs
Verdict: It’s going on the list! The only thing I changed about this recipe is that I mixed ground chicken and pork. I served it alongside basmati rice and roasted broccoli.

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Orange Chicken Meatballs

Spanish Chicken and Potatoes

Verdict: This also made the list. I roasted the tomatoes, garlic and eggplant instead of cooking them in a pan.

Buckwheat Risotto with Mushroom and Goat Curd

Verdict: Didn’t make the cut. I actually really liked it, but the family didn’t. My guys have simple tastes. Also, not sure if buckwheat is the best for making a risotto. I am going to try farro next time. My husband loved the mushrooms sautéed in butter though. Might use that for another recipe.

Baked Farro and Butternut Squash

Verdict: It’s a keeper! I made the bacon in my dutch oven, removed it and then sautéed the onion and toasted the farro in the bacon grease. I mixed the squash with salt, pepper, parmesan and garlic powder before topping the farro with it. My 3 year old ate the crap out of it.

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Another resolution : Take better pictures.

Ahhh!!!!

THIS IS NOT A PUMPKIN RECIPE

Fall is officially upon us, and with that comes a slew of pumpkin products, pumpkin drinks, pumpkin picking and a crap ton of pumpkin recipes. THIS IS NOT A PUMPKIN RECIPE. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin as much as the next girl, but I came across a video by ‘Tastey Food’ on YouTube featuring pull apart monkey bread and I could not stop thinking about it. So while my 2.5 year old and 6 week old decided to nap at the same time, I sacrificed this brief brief window of precious shower/eating/napping/quiet time to make this recipe. I got out all of my ingredients, preheated the oven, and then I heard it… first it was grunting, then it was whining, then it came out in full force WHAAAAAAAA!!!!! The.baby.woke.up. I did not let this deter me. I went in and rocked him until he fell back to a semi sleep and ran back into the kitchen. I knew that my time was limited, but I REALLY wanted some dang monkey bread. I went to get to work, and then womp womp… I bought pizza crust instead of rolls! Again undeterred, I decided to just wing it.

I am going to cut right to the chase with the ‘recipe’ then you can see my process in pictures below.

Cream Cheese & Chocolate Log

  • 1 8oz Bar of Cream Cheese
  • 8 oz (half bag) Semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TBL Butter
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Blame it on #mommybrain

Blame it on #mommybrain

Melt two tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan.

Preheat oven to 375. Then, melt two tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan.

Cut and lay out the cream cheese on the pizza crust.

Cut and lay out the cream cheese on the pizza crust.

ADD chocolate. Spread it evenly, not crappily like I did.

ADD chocolate. Spread it evenly, not crappily like I did.

***NOT PICTURED (OOPS SORRY!) Create a log by rolling the dough lengthwise.***

Brush the log with the butter & brown sugar mixture. Bake for a half hour or until the outside of the log looks like this:

ooooohhh!

ooooohhh!

Ahhh!!!!

Ahhh!!!!

Until next time! (whenever that may be)

Happy Cooking!

xoxo Niki