A visual feast

A visual feast

Several evenings over the last few weeks, I have sat out on my patio basking in the early evening sunshine, my high-heel worn feet resting naked over the sides of my chair, staring at, drooling over, reading The Forest Feast Cookbook.

The Forest Feast is one of my favorite blogs so when I noticed that author, cook, artist, crazy-amazing person, Erin Gleeson, had created a cookbook, I made a beeline for inklings bookshop.  I like to call this the Mother’s Day gift I bought for myself.  It is perfect and so beautiful I want to rip the pages out and tack them up around my house.

Not only is the book achingly lovely, it is also practical (Robin Wright + Erma Bombeck).  Gleeson makes a point of explaining why her recipes are simple:  she doesn’t have a lot of time, she likes to entertain, she’s not a trained chef . . . Hmm, this is right up my ally :).  But here is the part I am not even close to mastering:  Gleeson creates visual feasts from food.  You don’t know whether you want to eat the dish or coat it with decoupage glue and place it on your mantel.  Vibrant color, beautiful shapes, a variety of textures – immaculate in a perfectly imperfect kind of way.

Did I mention that all the recipes are vegetarian?  And since I happen to live in the verdant Yakima Valley, there are no end of fruits and vegetables to buy fresh.  Speaking of which, the Farmer’s Market is moving into its fifth week and the brand new market, Local Yokel, has made its debut next to Northtown on Front Street.  It’s time to stock up and start getting creative.  I already have my “must make” recipes marked with little yellow post-its.  Now for the fun part.

And a fun side note:  Gleeson includes equally tantalizing cocktail recipes to keep you company while you make amazing creations out of vegetables.  A few on my list:  Cucumber spritzer, lemon-basil mojito & rosemary gin fizz.

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Happy almost summer!

 

Note:  photo courtesy of The Forest Feast Cookbook

 

 

Day Hike with Kids: Cowiche Canyon

Day Hike with Kids: Cowiche Canyon

We are so fortunate to have easy access to day hiking spots in Yakima. We hit the trail the other day with the kids in tow. Believe it or not, it was our first official hike as a family. I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that since we have so many great options within just a short drive.

On a warm Saturday we headed to the Cowiche Canyon Uplands Trail with friends. When we reached the parking lot we were treated to a panoramic view of our beautiful city.
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The trailhead is a short drive from just about anywhere in Yakima. To get there follow the directions below.

  • Heading West on Summitview Avenue turn right onto N 66th Ave Go 0.5 miles
  • Turn left onto Englewood Ave Go 0.9 miles
  • Turn right onto N 80th Ave Go 0.2 miles
  • Turn left onto Scenic Dr Go 0.5 miles
  • The trailhead is on your right

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Hiking with kids is a fun way to get the heart rate up and build muscle strength. Just remember to wear plenty of sunscreen and pack enough water to stay hydrated.
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Be ready to take in the beautiful flora along the way.
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Be prepared for a little wildlife too. It was a good thing some adults were walking in front of the kids. They were able to signal them to stop and let this bull snake continue on his merry way.
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On a clear day you will be treated to uninterrupted views of Mt. Adams in all her glory.

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The terrain on The Cowiche Canyon trail is varied. It is flat and easy in places and more rugged and challenging in others. Wear supportive shoes. If you need extra support, take along a walking stick.
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Halfway along the trail you will see the sign below.
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Enjoy the views along the way. If you are like me and have a bit of a fear of heights, there are just a couple of spots that might make you hesitate for a moment. But, the trail is scenic and lovely.
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The kids, of course, were fearless. What else would you expect?
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Take your time to hydrate and enjoy the sights. Be careful about kids saying they will carry their own backpacks. Chances are you will end up carrying yours and theirs. Can we say “I told you so” now?
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Waiting for you at the end of the trail is the quaint and homey The Tasting Room with excellent wines from Wilridge Winery, Harlequin Wine Cellars and Naches Heights Vineyard.

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After lounging at the winery for a bit we hit the trail again taking a moment here and there to enjoy the treasures along the way.
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We hiked a little under 4 miles in total–to the winery and back. At the end of the hike I felt great! I always wondered how hikes were considered “exercise”. Now I know. My calves were so sore the next day. What a fun way to get a workout.

Do you have a favorite family hiking spot? I would love to hear about it.

Body Spring Cleaning

Body Spring Cleaning

We eat pretty healthy around here. My brother nicknamed me Organica. My teenage nephew laments the contents of my pantry when he visits–”All you have is healthy stuff!” My friend recently brought some kid’s drinks for an event and jokingly said “I checked the ingredients and I think they’re pretty good. There’s just a tiny bit of MSG in there.” Everyone got a good laugh.

If what I buy isn’t a whole food (fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy) I check the label.  And I don’t just look for calories and fat content. In fact, I rarely look at those. What I do look for is sodium and sugar content and the list of ingredients. If there are too many ingredients and I don’t know exactly what they are, it’s not going in the cart. Contrary to what my brother believes, I don’t buy all organic. I buy organic when I can–when it’s affordable and when it makes the biggest difference. Check out the info graphic below for more details on when it makes sense to buy organic:

image via Environmental Working Group

image via Environmental Working Group

 

Consider the popcorn labels below. It’s easy to grab a box from the aisle. But it takes just a moment to compare the two labels to notice that the product on the left has artificial and chemical ingredients. You probably know all or most of the ingredients in the product on the right. It’s the better choice even if the sources weren’t organic. Try doing this with corn chips. It’s pretty easy to find chips that contain simply corn, oil and salt.

Popcorn Labels

In spite of the tricks mentioned above, we still have some cleaning up to do in terms of food and fitness. I have a lot of cleaning up to do in terms of fitness but that’s another post for another day. We, like so many families, are really busy during the week. If we don’t plan ahead for meals we find ourselves eating out too often which is the number one way to consume too many calories, too much sodium and other junk. And, it’s really tough on our monthly budget. If we don’t grab something on the go we might snack during the day without eating a filling lunch and then come home and eat everything in the house. That’s just about as unhealthy as eating out. Really clean nutrition is the key to meeting fitness goals. You can work out all you want but if your diet is poor or sub-par, your results will be limited.

I’ve recently been inspired by Megan of Honey We’re Healthy and a colleague who is in amazing shape! I mean Ah-mazing! Both women have prioritized working out and very clean eating. Their results speak for themselves. They inspired me to clean it up around here.

I made the two-week rotating menu below and we follow it pretty well. We might make Tuesday’s dinner on a Monday depending on what ingredients we have on hand. But overall, it’s been helpful for our family to map out our meals in advance. We have all noticed a difference in the way we feel and Dylan has seen improved results from his workouts. Me, on the other hand. I need to get with the (fitness) program. More to come on that.

What kind of spring cleaning have you done lately? Do you have a workout program you just love? Let me know. I need all the inspiration and motivation I can get.

SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

6:00 Hash browns & Eggs 

9:00 Fresh Fruit

12:00 Tuna Salad

3:00 Cheese cubes & Fruit

6:00 Grilled Shrimp Tacos

6:00 Protein Pancake 

9:00 Almonds & Raisins

12:00 Thai Chicken Salad

3:00 Celery with Nut Butter (pb, almond)

6:00 Light Fettuccine Alfredo

6:00 Protein Smoothie 

9:00 Hummus & Carrots

12:00 Chick Pea Salad

3:00 Homemade Granola Bar

6:00 Tortilla Soup

6:00 Veggie Omelet 

9:00 Apples & Almond Butter

12:00 Quinoa Caprese Salad

3:00 Rice cakes, Tzatziki, peppers

6:00 Chicken Marsala, Brown Rice

6:00 Hash browns & Eggs 

9:00 Fresh Fruit

12:00 Tuna Salad

3:00 Cheese cubes & fruit

6:00 Taco Turkey Casserole

6:00 Protein Pancake 

9:00 Almonds & Raisins

12:00 Greek Pasta Salad with Chicken

3:00 Celery with Nut Butter (pb, almond)

6:00 Soup, Salad & Roll

6:00 Protein Smoothie 

9:00 Hummus & Carrots

12:00 Spinach Salad

3:00 Homemade Granola Bar

6:00 Tomato & Wine Braised Chicken, Rice

6:00 Veggie Omelet 

9:00 Apples & Almond Butter

12:00 Bagel w/Cream Cheese & Smoked Salmon

3:00 Rice cakes, Tzatziki, peppers

6:00 Cobb Salad w/Choice of Protein

 

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

6:00 Breakfast Egg Sandwich

9:00 Greek Yogurt with Granola

12:00 Tex Mex

3:00 Homemade Trail Mix

6:00 Chop Salad w/Choice of Protein

6:00 Oatmeal

9:00 String cheese & Fresh Fruit

12:00 Tex Mex

3:00 Almonds & Dried Cranberries

6:00 Build-your-own-pizza

6:00 Apple Puff Pancake

9:00 Free choice

12:00 Free choice

3:00 Free choice

6:00 Garden Burger

6:00 Breakfast Egg Sandwich

9:00 Greek Yogurt with Granola

12:00 Pear & Gorgonzola Salad

3:00 Homemade Trail Mix

6:00 Turkey Chili

6:00 Oatmeal

9:00 String cheese & Fresh Fruit

12:00 Turkey Chili

3:00 Almonds & Dried Fruit

6:00 Build-your-own-pizza

6:00 Apple Puff Pancake

9:00 Free choice

12:00 Free choice

3:00 Free choice

6:00 Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

Healthy, Homemade Granola Bars

Healthy, Homemade Granola Bars

I got the recipe below from a friend of a friend and it has sat in my binder for the past three years. I decided it was time to give it a try and I’m glad I did. They are so tasty!These are the perfect, protein-packed snack for your little athlete. They’re also great for lunches or that mid-day snack when you start to crave sugar.

The recipe can be customized any way you like to adjust for preferences or food allergies. The options are endless. As long as you follow the simple steps of preparing your chosen dry ingredients, wet ingredients (a.k.a. the glue that holds it all together), and dried fruit, you’re sure to have a winning combination. If you come up with something great, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

I didn’t have crushed peanuts so I added 1/2 cup of peanut butter to the wet ingredients. Because of that my bars turned out a little softer. But they were still delicious!

Homemade high protein granola bars

Homemade Granola Bars

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ¾ cup non-salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup crushed peanuts

Wet Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

 

  •  8 ounces dried fruit of your choice and/or coconut

Instructions

Mix and toast dry ingredients in the oven at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes stirring at 4 minutes. At the same time, mix the wet ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes.

In a large bowl mix dry ingredients, wet ingredients and dried fruit. Place mixture in a wax paper lined 13×9 inch pan. Top mixture with wax paper and push down flat until you have an even mixture. Let sit over night to set. Cut into 16 bars in the morning.

There’s a New Cookie in Town

There’s a New Cookie in Town

If you were around last year you may remember my affinity for Scandinavian Almond Bars. These delectable treats have reigned as my favorite cookie for nearly twenty years. But hold on, there’s a new cookie in town that’s giving the almond bars a good run for their money.

When I saw this headline “TODAY producer’s cookie makes Orlando Bloom swoon” I just had to check it out. If Orlando Bloom loves them, surely my family would too. Four ingredients—that’s it! If you have butter, brown sugar, graham crackers and pecans you can make this easy cookie that is sure to change your life. Okay, maybe not change your life but it will certainly take center stage at your next office event or cookie exchange party.

Ingredients:

  • Graham crackers (laid out whole)
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then place graham crackers so they cover the entire cookie sheet.
  • Melt butter over medium high heat. Add the brown sugar.
  • Stir brown sugar into butter until melted. Bring to slight rolling boil.
  • Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the chopped pecans.
  • Pour mixture over graham crackers.
  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Cut while still warm.

These are delicious as-is. But, I have decided to, as Emeril Legasse likes to say, “kick it up a notch”. I will be making them again this weekend and will add a drizzle of dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt. It doesn’t get any more divine than that!

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4-Ingredient Graham Cracker Bars TODAY Show

Enjoy.

Original recipe found here.

Easy, Vegetarian Crock Pot Refried Beans

Easy, Vegetarian Crock Pot Refried Beans

I love this vegetarian beans recipes. It’s so simple–just 7 ingredients plus water. I make a big batch in the crock pot, blend it up to use as a dip with corn chips or to serve on their own with Spanish rice and tortillas. I use the leftover beans for a family favorite recipe–Mexican Dish. The best thing about these–they are healthy, low in sodium, fat-free and gluten-free. These are so much healthier than refried beans.

image via 100daysofrealfood.com

image via 100daysofrealfood.com

Easy Crock Pot Beans (original recipe found here.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups dry pinto beans
  • 8 1/2 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot or slow cooker. Cover and cook on medium-high for 8 hours.

Drain out most of the water. Mash the beans with a potato masher or puree them in a food processor, adding back in some of the liquid to the desired consistency.

I’m off to start the crock pot. Happy Sunday.

For more healthy recipe ideas, check out 100 Days of Real Food.

 

Happy November

Happy November

September was one of those months where I told people “Just wake me when it’s over”. It was crazy busy. October ended up being just as busy; I traveled for work three weeks in a row. Needless to say, I’m pretty darn happy to have survived and I’m looking forward to a much quieter November. This is a bit of a random post since I’ve been out of the blogging groove for so long.

On My Nightstand

I just finished reading a fantastic book; Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Trevino Hart. It’s a heart-warming book (no pun intended) about the resiliency of a little girl who grew up in a migrant family. Elva is the youngest of her siblings. Several years separates her from the second youngest in the family. She grew up watching her sisters and brothers do back-breaking work in the fields along with her parents while she spent hours at the edge entertaining herself. At times I would feel sorry for the family, Elva or one of her siblings. But, just when I would start to get sad, the writer brought me back to the joy and humor that they also shared.  I found myself wanting to check in with little Elva at the end of each day and I was never disappointed. Each chapter was a treat–written in the voice of a matter-of-fact little girl.  I was also moved by the adult Elva’s experience straddling multiple cultures; in her case the culture of poverty and field work to the culture of white-collar work and a middle-class lifestyle. Elva reflects on the differences between her childhood and that of her siblings. By many accounts, her upbringing was more privileged as she had access to resources her siblings didn’t.

The Yakima Valley is rich with migrant children and adults who grew up in migrant families. Barefoot Heart gave me a glimpse into the daily lives of those who want better for their children and work harder than you or I could ever imagine to put basic food on the table and to provide educational opportunities for the next generation. If you are looking for a new book for your nightstand, check it out and let me know what you think. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

On The Menu

The weather in the valley is just now turning. Halloween was 65 degrees which was a rare treat. We’ve had snow on Halloween but I don’t ever remember a warm October 31. There are reports that snow may be on its way. In spite of the warmer temperatures, I’ve been making Cheesy Potato Soup and Apple Puff Pancake. But I also love a good Cheese Strata for breakfast on a cold fall morning. This is a dish you make the night before and refrigerate. It’s great for Christmas since you just pop it in the oven in the morning. You can stick with basic egg and cheese or kick it up by adding bacon, ham, veggies. The options are endless.

image via marthastewart.com

image via marthastewart.com

Egg & Cheese Strata
6 slices day old bread
3 tbsp. butter, softened
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Butter bread; cut in small cubes. Arrange bread cubes in buttered 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle cheese on top. Blend eggs, milk and seasonings, pour over bread and cheese mixture. Cover. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 70 minutes or until golden brown.

 

 

 

Autumn on Instagram

My mom is a huge Instagram fan and user. It’s fun to see what she posts–usually photos of the grandkids. But she also loves capturing fall photos because it’s her favorite time of year. These are some of my recent favorites:

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Happy November friends. It’s good to be back.

Fall Cooking

Fall Cooking

The weather has just started to turn and already my head is full of soups, crockpots and baked goods.  A recent visit to Trader Joe’s revealed multiple pumpkin-inspired foods–bring on the pie!  And the bread and the lattes and . . .

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On a recent, sunny morning I sat at the table with a cup of tea—my Cooking Light magazine on one side and my phone, featuring Pinterest recipes, on the other.  I plotted food for the week.

Later in the day, Doug & I picked a million tomatoes and brought them inside.  I chopped some garlic and onions and tossed them into some olive oil.  As they sizzled, I cleaned and cut the tomatoes, adding them in the pot as I went.  An eclectic mixture of music playing in the background, I was happy in my warm kitchen dressed in yoga pants and flashy apron.  Once the tomatoes were all in the pot, I added a little red wine (while I drank a little red wine) and a variety of spices:  bay leave, fresh marjoram & basil from our garden, thyme and cinnamon.  I can’t exactly give a recipe because I just add a little, taste, and add a little more of whatever I feel like.  My favorite ingredient is the cinnamon—it’s a lovely counterpart to the tart tomatoes.

This sauce simmered for several hours as we went about our day.  I chopped enough onions and garlic for the next recipe in line (White Bean Chicken Chili) and put together my grocery list.

White Bean Chicken Chili  from Cooking Classy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, cut into 12 slices
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 2 (15 oz) cans Cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, for serving
  • Tortilla chips, for serving (optional)

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a 6 quart enamled dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add chicken and diced onion and saute until chicken is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Add chicken broth, green chilies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  • Add cream cheese and stir until nearly melted (it will break down in little bits and will appear to look like separated cheese but it will eventually melt). Stir in corn, and 1 can of Cannellini beans, then process 3/4 of the remaining beans along with 1/4 cup broth from the soup in a food processor until pureed, add bean mixture to soup along with remaining 1/4 can of beans (you can skip the pureeing step and just add the beans directly to soup, the soup just won’t be quite as creamy). Simmer about 15 minutes longer. Mix in fresh lime juice and serve with Monterrey Jack cheese, chopped cilantro and tortilla chips for dipping if desired.

Next recipe on my docket:  Crispy Fish with Lemon-Dill Sauce from Cooking Light

 What delicious comfort foods are you whipping up these days?

 

Yakima Inspired Fall Appetizers & Drinks

Yakima Inspired Fall Appetizers & Drinks

Here is a quick overview of the recipes we’ll be making today at the fair!  Photos added below:

Fall Crostini

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Baguette–pick up something yummy from your local bakery or grocery store
  • Goat cheese–we love the cheese from Tieton Farms Creamery
  • Pears & plums–the plums came from Doug & Mandi’s tree and the Asian pears from Johnson Orchards
  • Honey–also from Central Washington
  • Cinnamon

Turn your oven on broil.  Slice baguette & brush with melted butter.  Place in oven for a few minutes–you’ll want to keep your eye on the progress and pull out once the tops are lightly browned.

Top with goat cheese & thin slices of pear & plum.

Drizzle with honey & sprinkle a light amount of cinnamon.

Mini Pumpkin Pancakes (recipe from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Warm Cinnamon Apples (recipe from myrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, peeled and sliced (about 2 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Toss together first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag, tossing to coat apples.

Cook apple mixture, 2 Tbsp. water, and 1 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until apples are tender.

Salted Caramel Ginger Bourbon Cider (recipe adapted from There Will Be Bourbon)

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 3 oz. apple cider–look for local, freshly-pressed cider
  • 1.5 oz. ginger beer
  • Salted caramel sauce (buy a delicious one, like our favorite Copper Pot Caramel Sauce, or make your own)

Place a small amount of caramel sauce on a plate.  Microwave for 10 seconds if the caramel has a harder consistency.  Once the caramel is liquid, dip the rim of your glass (champagne classes work well) in the caramel.

Mix Bourbon and cold apple cider in a cup (or use a cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice). Pour into the glass.

Top with cold ginger beer.  Taste and adjust.  I like a little extra ginger beer–it adds fizz and cuts the sweetness of the Bourbon & cider.

Note:  remove the Bourbon and this makes an excellent non-alcoholic beverage!

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Chef’s Corner at the Fair

Chef’s Corner at the Fair

Mandi and I have been invited back to be part of Chef’s Corner at the Central Washington State Fair. We will be there on Saturday, September 21 at 4:00 p.m. in the Ag Building demonstrating some of our favorite Yakima Valley inspired appetizers. If you’re at the fair on Saturday and want to take a load off your feet, stop by to say hi and “Taste the Fun”.

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We hope to see you there.

Your Hometown Girls,
Mandi & Stacie

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2013 Central Washington State Fair Schedule