Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lunch Box Idea #1: White Bean and Broccoli Salad

I don't know about you, but I think coming up with healthy lunches each day can be challenging. I don't eat fast food, and frozen meals tend to be high in sodium and fat, but when I do stock up on them, I stick with Amy's brand. Everything is vegetarian and delicious. My favorites are the broccoli pot pie and anything Mexican! 

I am so lucky to live just a half mile from work, which means I go home for lunch each day. I'm able to visit with the dogs and let them out before grabbing something to eat. When there are leftovers, lunch is quick and easy. But when there aren't, I have to be creative. For a while I was on a fried egg sandwich kick, then a pimiento cheese sandwich kick, and last summer I was really good and made a lot of salads with the occasional almond butter and jam sandwich thrown in.

I was flipping through an old issue of Everyday Food recently and saw this recipe for white bean and broccoli salad -- minus the celery, which I didn't have on hand. It was a Sunday and I had some time to whip up this very healthy salad, which is quick, easy to make (no cooking required), nutritious and tasty. Plus, it made plenty for both my husband and me. The dressing is nonfat plain yogurt, red wine vinegar, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. We have a rosemary plant in the yard that has overwintered very nicely, so I just clipped a small sprig for this salad; if you don't like the taste of rosemary (it's quite noticeable in this recipe), you can use another fresh herb such as parsley or thyme. The cannellini beans add protein and the orange gives it a nice sweetness. You can find the recipe here. We had it with whole wheat flatbread, but crackers or a crusty French roll would also go well with it. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Displaying Vintage Costume Jewelry

Years ago, my husband inherited several pieces of vintage costume jewelry from his grandmother. He was very close to his grandmother, and because her jewelry has such sentimental value (and it's pretty to look at) he chose to display it in an old, wooden case. There are several brooches, a pair of earrings and a cocktail ring. 

 




Our bungalow has its original picture molding, and we use it to hang artwork and mirrors using picture rail hooks and braided wire (fishing leader material). I love the old-fashioned look of hanging pictures this way. It also means we don't have to put holes in our plaster walls!



Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Vegetable Soup



Isn't this soup pretty? I love the color green. It looks really healthy too, right? Well it is, but it's also really delicious! I made a few adjustments to the Everyday Food recipe to make it vegetarian (vegan, actually). I was pleasantly surprised at just how fantastic this soup is! It will definitely be one of my "go to" recipes from now on. I can even see making it in the summer and letting it cool to room temperature. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Vegetarian Spring Vegetable Soup


Directions:
1) In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only) that have been halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices (be sure to rinse leeks thoroughly to remove all dirt; drain well), and 6 thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts only). Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks and scallions are soft, about 6 minutes. Season with salt (I used about 1-1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt) and freshly ground pepper.

2) Add 5 cups of vegetable broth and 1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes); bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are barely tender, about 9 minutes. Taste, and add more salt or pepper, as needed.

3) Add 1/2 pound of fresh green beans (trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces) and cook until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the leaves from one bunch of fresh parsley with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and process until finely chopped. Remove soup from heat and stir in parsley puree.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Joys of Dog Ownership

"Be warned: Having a dog could take a toll on your home."

I have to chuckle at this quote from the article entitled "So You're Thinking About Getting a Dog," written by Houzz contributor Alison Hodgson. It's true, dogs can be messy. But I wouldn't trade having dogs in the house for anything. Despite the ever-accumulating dog hair and dust, the scratch marks on the wood floors, nose prints on the glass and occasional throw up on the rugs (why can't they get sick on the tile floor?), our dogs are a constant source of laughter and joy. Sure, I wish they could help with the daily housekeeping routine rather than adding to it. But ultimately our dogs are worth the extra work. They're always happy to see us, they stay by our side when we're sick, and they do funny things that make us smile when we've had a bad day. What could be better?

Adding Ella (above) to our pack has ultimately been a very good thing. However, her first week with us was difficult. To be honest, I was beginning to think it wasn't going to work. I even called Ella's foster mom in tears. There were times Ella tried to be the dominant dog over Phoebe and Henry, which worried me. But after a couple of reprimands (from me, not from the dogs), she got the picture and has behaved herself ever since. Ella also had separation anxiety the first two weeks, which resulted in things getting knocked over, scratches on wooden blinds and furniture, and hours of endless barking. It was her pitiful barking that was most upsetting to me. But looking back on it, adding a third dog could have been so much more challenging than it was. 


I'm pleased to say that Ella has settled in nicely. The three dogs get along great. Instead of barking and panicking when we leave, Ella now sleeps during the day, sometimes curled up on the guest bed with Henry (it can be difficult to train an older dog who is used to sleeping on beds and sofas out of the habit, so we conceded. A towel on the bed helps keep hair off the quilt).



Last Thursday, as required by our county shelter, Ella was spayed -- at 10 years of age, poor girl! Additionally she needed to have two mammary gland tumors and a few other growths surgically removed. We also had her teeth cleaned. They were in bad shape; I doubt her previous owner took any interest in preventive care. The vet had to extract 11 teeth, which I thought was a lot. But did you know a dog has 42 teeth and will manage just fine even when many of them have to be removed? The morning after Ella's surgery, she gobbled down her breakfast with no difficulty.

Pet ownership is a big responsibility. It requires a time commitment (our dogs enjoy long walks and hikes nearly every day, thanks to their dedicated dog daddy) and a financial commitment (Ella's day at the vet set us back more than $500), but the payback is great. Read Alison Hodgson's article on Houzz.com for four questions to ask yourself before getting a dog. 

Lastly, I'd like to encourage you to adopt from your local shelter rather than buying from a breeder or pet store. The larger shelters have literally hundreds of animals coming through their doors each month, and there is bound to be one that will make a great addition to your family. And because many people these days are having to surrender their pets due to financial problems or change of residence, there are more purebred dogs (like Ella) showing up at shelters.

Do you have a pet adoption story to share? If so, please leave a comment! 

Thanks for reading this (long) post. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some vacuuming to do.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Stuffed Shells




I've been subscribing to Whole Living magazine for a number of years. Every now and then I'll try one of their recipes, like this one for Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells.

There are a lot of steps, but it's not a difficult recipe by any means. I did take a shortcut and used a 28 oz. can of tomato puree instead of processing a can of whole tomatoes -- why drag out the food processor and then have to clean it when I already had tomato puree in the cupboard, right?

In a nutshell, here's what you do: saute chopped onion and garlic in olive oil, add the tomato puree and let it simmer. Meanwhile, prepare some bulgur (pour boiling water over it and let it soak 30 minutes), boil the pasta shells, and steam a large bag of fresh spinach (you could use frozen, but the fresh spinach gives it a nicer flavor). Mix up the ricotta with an egg, the cooked bulgur, steamed spinach, some salt and pepper (I added dried basil). Put a cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, stuff the shells (I used 23 instead of the 25 called for) with the ricotta mixture and set them in the dish. Add the remaining sauce, cover the dish with foil and bake at 350. After 30 minutes I removed the dish from the oven, added a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and baked another 10 minutes. Delicious! Here's a link to the recipe. Enjoy!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Table & Menu

Despite waking up in the wee hours of Easter morning with an awful sore throat, I had one of the nicest Easters I can remember. 

I haven't been sick in about a year, even though I've been surrounded by sick people at work and at home (my husband is just getting over his third cold). So I've been pleased at how well my immune system has been warding off illness ... until now. After a hot shower early Sunday morning, I began feeling well enough to attend the first Mass of the day at 7:30. After church, my husband's mother came over for brunch and I felt pretty good until noon, when I crashed and slept for three hours straight. Ugh.

Our brunch was delicious, if I do say so. I served a broccoli-cheddar quiche using this recipe from Everyday Food, a simple salad with blue cheese dressing, mimosas, and, for dessert, a very tasty lemon-ginger Bundt cake, another Everyday Food recipe. As you can tell from the photo below, I did not make my own crust. Rather, I used a pre-made spelt flour crust from Wholly Wholesome, purchased at Whole Foods. I think this crust is my new favorite. It was perfect for a quiche and doesn't contain any preservatives or hydrogenated oils. It stayed crisp and was delicious.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Easter day, whatever your beliefs may be. Wishing you peace,
Claudia



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