Meatless Monday: Spring Lettuce Salad with Roasted Asparagus

Spring=Asparagus.

200804-r-spring-lettuce-salad

Photo from Food and Wine.com

I love asparagus.  I love it in so many ways and cooked so many ways.  A perfect way to eat it is roasted.  In this salad, the dressing is simple to show off the oven roasted goodness of the delicate spears of asparagus.  As usual, this recipe is taken from Food and Wine.  It serves 6 according to the recipe .  Don’t sweat finding the “spring lettuces”.  I use a mix of what I have on hand, which usually contains a mix of Trader Joe’s “power greens”, spinach, and romaine.  I get fresh arugula and friseé from the C0-Op if I can get over there.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound medium asparagus
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 10 ounces mixed spring lettuces
  • One 1 1/2-ounce piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for about 8 minutes, until just tender and the tips begin to turn brown.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the mustard and the remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the lettuces with all but 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Arrange the salad on plates and top with the roasted asparagus and cheese curls. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the asparagus and serve.

SUGGESTED PAIRING

Few wines pair well with asparagus, but Sauvignon Blanc is an exception—the variety’s grassy, herbal notes complement asparagus’s strong flavor (asparagus tends to make reds taste very bitter) and make a great partner for this springtime salad.

Checking Items off the List

Ryan and Quin on a hike in Tucson

Ryan and Quin on a hike in Tucson

We visited Tucson over the weekend in search of a house.  While we were there, we not only found a potential house to rent (we’re waiting to hear back from the property management group) but we got a taste of what life will be like there for us.

The trip was a much needed getaway for Ryan and me.  Prior to accepting the offer for the job in Tucson, Ryan and I were going to do a ski weekend away.  Once the decision to move was final, the ski weekend turned into a “Let’s find a place to live” weekend.  We decided to drive.  I now understand why the U.S. Government decided to do nuclear testing in SW New Mexico.  There is nothing there.  LITERALLY NOTHING.  Driving down I-25 is no real treat to begin with but once you get through Hatch, NM (green chile Mecca) there is not much to see.  With minimal stopping we made it there in exactly 8 hours.

We arrived just in time to drop off a progress report and pick up paperwork at Chase’s new school.  We then headed up to Oro Valley, where we stayed for the weekend.  We met our friends Jeff and Amber out for a very festive dinner (essentially, we each drank a pitcher of Margaritas) at El Charro Cafe, an old Local chain in elc_headerTucson, which claims to be the inventor of the Chimichanga.  It was a fun night and a great way to start the weekend.

The next morning after coffee and splitting the best croissant I had placed into my mouth in a long time, Ryan and I hiked a trail right by our hotel.  We had the usual discussions for people about to embark on a move: finding a rental, a new gym, Ryan’s fear of scorpions riding rattlesnakes.  Yes, it was a therapy session for Ryan’s irrational fear.  Granted, I understand the fear of the individual elements: scorpions and rattlesnakes.  But the combination of a scorpion riding a rattlesnake was, well, preposterous.  Of course I proceeded to ask logical questions like: do the scorpions ride in saddles and use bridles and reins? Yes, they do most of the time but not always.  Sometimes the scorpions ride bareback.  So we added pest control to our to do list and figured that we would not see any scorpion riding rattlesnakes on our hike because we had seen several other people on the hike and with the vibration of our footsteps, they would most likely stay away from the trail.

After our hike, we enjoyed massages and then started our house search with our dear friend Martha’s mother who is a real estate agent.  She is efficient, smart, and great to work with.  She will definitely get our business when we look for a house to buy.  Of course as luck would have it, we ended up picking the first house we saw. But the journey in total was a good one and I’m glad we saw what was out there.

We went straight from looking at houses to our friends James and Martha’s house where a really fun birthday party was about to begin for their 4 year old son, Benjamin, who is only two months younger than our darling little maniac: Chase.  They also have another little boy who is two weeks younger than Andrew.  We are hoping they will be fast friends.  The birthday party was a great opportunity to meet some of their family members, friends and one of Ryan’s new co-workers and his wife.  Plus, the cake was phenomenal.

Later that night, we went to a new Bourbon bar called Nox.  I drank most of the Bourbon there and it was quite lovely.  The next morning we tried the very delicious brunch at Marriott’s La Paloma.  I realize now that we should have stayed there for the weekend but it was a good lesson to learn.FNL-NOX-01

We got on the road around 1pm and drove north through AZ through the mountains.  It was a longer drive but it was way more beautiful.  We stopped for dinner at a little hotel and restaurant named: El Rancho in Gallup.  Its claim to fame is that a number of classic movie stars stayed there while filming mainly Westerns.  We started seeing very grand billboards for El Rancho as soon as we got on I-40.  I saw Ronald Reagan’s face and smiled.  Then I saw John Wayne’s face and then there were faces that I didn’t recognize but the signs kept getting more and more involved, with neon lights and sparkle that was taking me in.  I think fatigue had officially set in by that time.  At 8pm, we stopped for dinner…it was basically the only thing open.  It was a land forgotten by time and modern decorating.  There was enough kitsch in that place to kill a family of tourists parched by the New Mexico desert.  The food was mediocre at best and would have been tossed out by the scary guy who does Restaurant Impossible.

We got back on the road and started the last leg of the trip.  I decided to drive and listen to Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, an album that would definitely keep me awake because I listened to it on a loop my junior year of high school.  As we headed North on I-25 fatigue was definitely setting in and when were a mile from our exit, Ryan said:” ah, 599 is just a mile ahead.” I snapped back at him: “I know. I have taken the exit before.”  And of course the exit came and went and I stayed on I-25. “Quin, were you planning on taking that exit?”  Dammit!  I missed the exit.  In my defense, I was exhausted.  I had been driving for almost 6 hours.  I can’t believe I used to drive from Indianapolis to Albuquerque non-stop.  Of course, that was close to 20 years ago.  So, I got off at the next exit and headed for our temporary living space.

When we arrived, we quietly brought in our things and fell asleep to the dry snore of our 4 year old.  It was a good weekend.

Siggy-Q

Just Neem! A Great Company and Amazing Mask!

Neem Clay Mask

Neem Clay Mask

A friend of ours from high school is involved with the company Just Neem!  Have you heard of Neem?  Well, I hadn’t either before checking out their products.  Neem is a tree in Mauritania.  It is called the Village Pharmacy. The oil from this tree is used in body products that are amazing.

I currently use their body lotion and love it.  It is the only lotion that gives my skin enough moisture in the dry New Mexico climate.

We love showcasing the companies and products of friends and family members.  Just Neem is no exception.  I contacted our friend Nate Clendenin and he connected us with the fabulous staff of Just Neem and they agreed to send us their mask.  I used it twice a week for 3 weeks and here are my results:

Upon opening the container, the aroma hit me right away.  Immediate relaxation started to melt away any anxiety I was having (baby weight, kids, the move).  The scent is a mixture of peppermint, rosemary, lavender and …I applied it to my clean tired skin and waited 15 minutes.  Below are pictures from our experiments.

Sarah and I both tried the mask and loved it.  Here are her thoughts:

As an aesthetician I like to try and stay up on the latest and greatest products and ingredients.  For me, the more natural the ingredients in a product the better…I’m to the point I make most of my skin care in my own kitchen.  Until our friend Nathan sent out a Facebook request for friends to like his JustNeem page, I had never heard of neem oil before.  Wow, something new?  This is the kind of thing I get excited about! After doing a little research, I found that neem has a plethora of uses… including skin care!  The keywords that stuck out for me personally are acne and inflammation. I have struggled with both for many years and have found some things that help but am always on the look out for new ideas. When Quin & I were given the opportunity to try the JustNEEM Clay Mask I jumped at the chance!  Absolutely!
My first thought when applying the mask was that it smells amazing.  Fresh and clean.  It was delightfully tingly, but not overwhelming.  The instructions say to leave it on for 10-15 minutes, so during my wait I walked out into my family room.  My little Adam was terrified of the big green monster I had become!  So funny!  Eli thought I looked like a super hero… I’ll take that!
When I rinsed the mask my skin felt amazing.  Soft, clean, and fresh.  I had that dewy glow I’m always searching for.  My skin was noticeably calm and the redness had diminished.   I used the mask twice a week for a few weeks and loved the results!  My redness and inflammation were visibly reduced.  I’m in love with this great product!

 

Pre Mask (Sarah)

Pre Mask (Sarah)

 

Skin Before (Quin)

Skin Before (Quin)

As I have gotten older, the elasticity of my skin has deteriorated.  Using this mask has made my pores smaller and improved the texture of my skin considerably.  Just Neem was nice enough to send a sample for us to try.  I will be buying a container of my own.  It is just too good to pass up!

During the Mask (Sarah)

During the Mask (Sarah)

 

During Mask (Quin)

During Mask (Quin)

Would you like to treat yourself to the Just Neem Clay Mask?

You can look like us too!

After the Mask (Sarah)

After the Mask (Sarah)

After the Mask (Quin)

After the Mask (Quin)

 

 

 

Our next giveaway will be a full size container of the Just Neem Clay Mask.  All YOU have to do is:

Follow this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBDr-pBqwDY and share it on your Facebook page!

A winner will be picked at random on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Siggy-S&Q

 

 

Meatless Monday: Apple-Filled Acorn Squash Rings with Curry Butter

My FIL loves Acorn Squash, and yes I’m trying to stay in his good graces.  While we are living with them until

Photo by Mark Thomas - From Epicurious.com

Photo by Mark Thomas – From Epicurious.com

we move to Tucson I am usually in charge of just one dish each night, which, I must say is nice.  One night, my FIL provided Filet Mignon, my MIL made her famous Caesar salad and I had the veggie side dish.  They usually make a traditional brown sugar and walnut mixture, which I love, but FIL asked for a new recipe.  I found this one on Epicurious.com.  It is spectacular!

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter (or coconut oil)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, diced (about 2 1/3 cups)
2/3 cup apple juice
1/2 cup dried currants
8 1-inch-thick unpeeled acorn squash rings (from 2 medium), seeded

Preparation:

Melt 1 tablespoon butter (or oil)  in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 12 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add apples, apple juice, and currants. Sauté until liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt 5 tablespoons butter (or oil)  in small skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer curry butter (or oil) to bowl. Brush 2 large rimmed baking sheets with some curry butter (oil).

Arrange squash in single layer on sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scoop filling into center of rings. Drizzle remaining curry butter over squash and filling (mostly on squash). Cover with foil. Bake squash rings until squash is tender when pierced with skewer, about 40 minutes. Using spatula, transfer squash rings with filling to plates.

Siggy-Q

Do You Read Your Food Labels?

I just read an article from Santa Fe based “Outside Magazine” regarding the opening of a new Trader Joe’s grocery store in Boulder, CO.  The article is titled: “Trader Woes”  and I must say my first reaction was: oh, I should start reading my food labels more often.  I buy organic and local when I can but not always.  I go to Trader Joe’s a lot.  Yes, I buy crackers, cheese (sometimes organic), uncured black forest ham, cultured coconut milk yogurt, and corn dogs from Trader Joe’s.  The boys love them.  Ryan just picked up a box of 250 taquitos at Sam’s Club.  Those don’t have any preservatives do they?

My second reaction was: get out of your crazy mountain bubble!  I realize that Boulder is a very health conscious city and that is why people live there.  But to demonize a store for selling items with preservatives like sodium lauryl sulfate (which apparently controls acidity) is going too far especially for people who live in food deserts like the one I lived in on Capitol Hill.  There was a dismal Safeway on East Maryland Street that my roommates and I went to when we didn’t have the 45 minutes it took to get to the Harris-Teeter or Whole Foods in Virginia and Georgetown.  Plus, it just seems so arrogant to start railing on a well liked company that has good intentions.

I wish we could all eat healthy, nutritious foods.  But what about the kids who go home on the weekends and don’t even have breakfast?  Do you think they give a s*#t that the Pop-Tarts they received in the backpack full of food from the local food pantry have preservatives in them?  NO.  I’m sure if they had parents who were aware and time to cook them a kale-acai-gluten free-vegan breakfast bar they would be much better off.

I have that time and still look for short cuts and easy ways to feed two boys who eat CONSTANTLY!  I enjoy cooking but I would like to do something other than brew Kombucha on my countertop.  By the way, I do plan on brewing my own Kombucha when I ‘m not living with my in laws.

I get what the article is trying to convey: Trader Joe’s is not perfect when it comes to the products it sells.  BUT, it does make an effort, the employees seem happy and holy monkey balls it is better than shopping at some other stores which are one step up from nursing home depressive.  We all do what we can to ensure a safe and healthy food supply for ourselves and the communities in which we live.  What else can we do?  No, really…what more should we do?

What are your thoughts on this?  There is a link to the article above.  Am I OVERREACTING?  I very well could be.

Siggy-Q

Here We Go Again…

We sold our house!  That’s the fabulous news.  And, to a family.  We have friends who know the mom and her kiddos, two boys.  If I have to leave my house here in Santa Fe, at least it will be to a family who will enjoy the house as much as we have.

We close on March 24th.  So, that means we will live with our in-laws for about 2.5 months.    Any of you who know my in-laws know that we get along and that this is a good thing.  The packers come on Thursday and then all of our things will be moved out and put in storage until the end of May when we move into a rental that we do not yet have.  AGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

So that means on Wednesday, Ryan and I will pull items from each room of our house that will be moved over to my in-laws’ house.  Do I really have to pack for 2.5 months?  Activities over the next two months include: house hunting trip in trip to Tucson, Girls’ Weekend, 20 Year Reunion in Indiana, working out, and the changing seasons here in Santa Fe.  Honey, we’re going to need to buy a few more suitcases.

I know, 1st world problems.  At least Ryan has a job, we have sold our house (and getting our initial investment back), we are healthy, and we have generous family members to take in 4 people for 2.5 months.  I realize how lucky we are.

Over the last couple of weeks, in between thoughtful meatless monday meals, I have been creating some interesting pantry/freezer meals.  I have made a dent in the supplies in our pantry but there is still a lot to move.  And, I’ve done a great job consuming the booze that we have.  Who wants Champs at the next play date?

And, I’ve been purging stuff like it is my job.  Do I really need 4 white t-shirts with pit stains?  What if I need to paint a room?  I have 3 rain jackets.  Do I need a red one, black one and a khaki one?  I have shoes that I haven’t worn in several years but they are nice shoes and what if I need them for a costume?  This is my internal struggle.  I think I should just get rid of them.  Thoughts?

My girls here in Santa Fe have asked what I would like to do for my going away party.  (Roller Skating? Bar Crawl? Caffeine free tea and gluten free scones?) This warms my heart and also makes me realize that to a certain extent, we are starting over again in Tucson.  Thank goodness for our friends from residency: James and Martha and Ryan’s freshman year undergrad roommate: Jeff and his girlfriend Amber.  These are friends who have a long history with us and know us well.  We can call on them (and vice-versa) when we need them but they aren’t high maintenance.

I am excited, stressed, and ready for what’s ahead.  I still have projects to finish and loose ends to tie up here in Santa Fe.  It will be a busy couple of months, but we’ll handle it.  We have done this before.  So, for now, my posts will be sporadic.  I will definitely be plugged in but our lives will be a little different until we get settled in Tucson.

Siggy-Q

Meatless Monday: Red Cabbage, Fennel, Orange and Pepita Salad

This salad has it all: flavor, crunch and substance!  I like any excuse to eat fennel so this is a home run for me.  It may seem over laborious to section the oranges in the manner

From Food and Wine.com

From Food and Wine.com

described, but trust me, it’s worth it.  Just get a sharp knife, get to work and hope that your children aren’t requesting orange sections as you cut them.  I had to use 5 oranges for that very reason.  I paired this recipe with a giant piece of salmon that I grilled in a foil packet.  You can always make this a meatless me though.  The recipe comes from Food and Wine.com Try it with the Roasted Cauliflower recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 oranges
  • One 1 1/2-pound head of red cabbage—halved, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 2 small fennel bulbs—halved, cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
  • 1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves picked and stems discarded (about 1/4 cup packed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes, until golden brown. Drizzle with the tamari and toss well. Bake the pumpkin seeds for about 3 minutes longer, tossing once or twice, until they are crisp. Let cool.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the 1/4 cup of olive oil with the lemon zest and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, sliced fennel, hemp seeds and cilantro with two-thirds of the roasted pumpkin seeds. Add the dressing and toss well. Transfer the salad to a platter and arrange the orange sections and fennel fronds on top. Sprinkle with the remaining roasted pumpkin seeds and serve.

Siggy-Q

“Marry Smart” – Does Susan Patton Have a Point?

I got married at 31.  We started our family when I was 34.

I met my husband at 19.  Susan Patton, Princeton Alumnae and author of “Marry Smart” is feeling the heat from her view that we women should spend our college years looking for a husband.  She explains that finding personal happiness should be the goal in college.

I’m lucky, I found my husband during my sophomore year in college.  I just didn’t know it.  We hooked up, we dated long distance, we were platonic friends, and then we came back together in 2005.  We’ve been together ever since.  I knew I wanted to get married and have a family but I also wanted a career.  I have done all of those things.  Now I am on my way back into the professional world.  We can have it all, just not all at once.  Ryan and I agreed that my career would take a back seat to his while he went through residency and while we had children.  I realize that I am not done parenting.  But the intense time of breastfeeding, diapering and going from crawling to walking is ending in the near future.  With both kiddos in school, I’ll have time to go back to school.

I plan to read “Marry Smart.”  Though I’m already married, this is an important topic that needs to be discussed in our society.  I am happy that Mika Brzezinski brought it up on Morning Joe.  More on this topic after I read the book.

Siggy-Q

Meatless Monday: All Kale Caesar!

I don’t often get cravings now that I’m not pregnant, but I had a strong craving for Caesar salad.  Not just any caesar salad though.  There is a restaurant here in Santa Fe called Vinaigrette and they make an outstanding all kale caesar.  This is my attempt to recreate it.  They key is using great olive oil and for that I usually look to California Olive Ranch.  They have beautiful fruity oils that are great for dressings, hummus, and dipping sauces.  I like to use the more flavor forward oils for things I don’t cook.  While these oils can cost a little more than your standard EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), you’re getting amazing flavor and beautiful color.  Now, in this recipe you can either infuse EVOO with garlic by heating it, OR use the already infused garlic oil by California Olive Ranch.  You can make this meal vegetarian or grill some steak, chicken, or seafood.

Note: If you don’t want croutons, use chopped up Marcona almonds instead.

All Kale Caesar!

Recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell, author of Own Your Kitchen(Clarkson Potter, 2013), Reprinted with permission from the publisher

Ingredients

  • ¼ – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 2 slices of day-old Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbl Dijon mustard
  • 2 – 3 anchovy fillets
  • 2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed, cut into ribbons

Directions

  1. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil. Toss in half the garlic and the crushed red pepper and bring pan to medium heat. Cook garlic until it becomes golden and very aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove garlic and discard. Toss in bread cubes and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, crisp, and they have absorbed all the oil. Remove from heat and reserve.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine Parmigiano, lemon zest and juice, remaining garlic, Dijon mustard, anchovies, and Worcestershire. Puree until mixture is smooth, 15 to 20 seconds. With  machine running, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil through the feed tube. Let processor continue to run for another 10 to 15 seconds. Taste and season with salt if needed.
  3. In a large bowl, toss kale with the croutons and two-thirds of the dressing. Let kale sit for 3 to 4 minutes to soften. Taste, add the remaining dressing, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4

Siggy-Q

EAT THIS NOW! Sweet Potato, Balsalmic Onion and Soppressata Pizza

Oh, it is that good.  Chase loved it, well except for the onions, which he wouldn’t try because he said

Gluten Free Crust

Gluten Free Crust

they looked like poop.  He’s four.  I’ll give him a break.  I even tried a gluten free pizza crust.  I was pleasantly surprised and dare I say I really liked it.  The recipe is easy.  I paired it with a big salad and enjoyed every bite of the delicious flavors.  You can find the recipe at Food and Wine.com.

I would share what Ryan had to say about it but it really isn’t appropriate for this audience.  Contact me personally if you’re in need of knowing.

 

 

Sweet Potato, Balsalmic Onion and Soppressata Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 oregano sprig, plus 1 tablespoon leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup prepared mashed sweet potatoes
  • One 12-inch prebaked pizza crust
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (7 ounces)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced soppressata, cut into thin ribbons

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Set a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven (alternatively, the pizza can be baked directly on the oven rack). In a large skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and oregano sprig, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until the onion is caramelized, about 10 minutes; add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet if necessary. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Discard the oregano sprig and season the onion with salt and pepper.
  2. Spread the sweet potatoes over the pizza crust. Top with the mozzarella, onion and soppressata. Scatter the oregano leaves on top. Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake for about 10 minutes, until bubbling and golden in spots. Cut into wedges and serve.

SUGGESTED PAIRING

Juicy, medium-bodied Pinot Noir.

Siggy-Q

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