{Vegan} Orange Ginger Asian Quinoa Salad

This is my favorite time of the year. Summer has arrived but it’s not quite in full swing yet so the air is warm, but not yet humid. The evenings and nights get nice and cool but you can still sleep with the windows open. If ever there was a perfect time to live in Wisconsin, it is now!

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This surge of warm weather and endless sunlight always gets me craving big bowls of fresh veggies for lunch. If you feel like you’re in a lunch rut or you’re sick of your usual salad routine, this quinoa salad is for you!

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You can make a big batch that will last all week, and like a fine wine it only get better with time. You could easily switch out the quinoa for pasta in this recipe too.

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Fresh squeezed orange juice sets this dressing apart from all others. Fresh ginger and garlic along with rice vinegar and soy sauce give it that classic Asian flavor that you’re looking for, but the orange zest is what really gives it a big burst of freshness.

{Vegan} Orange Ginger Asian Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked and cooled
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • optional: sesame seeds for garnish

For the dressing:

  • zest of half an orange
  • juice of one orange
  • 1/2 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a small saucepan combine quinoa, water and sesame oil. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer on low for 12-15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, fluff with a fork and place in fridge to cool.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl combine cooled quinoa, carrots, cabbage, edamame, red pepper and dressing. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired and serve!

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Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

This is my faaaaaavvvoorrrrittteee summer salad.  I actually eat it all year round, but especially love it in the early summer for some reason. There is nothing better than crispy pecans and warm, creamy goat cheese paired with a simple white balsamic vinaigrette and roasted beets.

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Normally I roast my own beets, but this time as I was ordering our groceries, these Love Beets popped up as an option when I searched. And I was very intrigued. Normally I don’t go for many precooked convenience foods but when I saw that the only ingredients listed were organic beets, I thought they might be worth a try.

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And now, I may never roast another beet again. They are delicious! Perfectly roasted and very flavorful.

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I think it was $3-$4 for 4 medium sized roasted and peeled beets. You are paying for the convenience, but sometimes after a long day I like things to be a little convenient. Especially when they are so healthy and good for you.

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Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 10.5 oz. log plain goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (a food processor works well)
  • 16 oz. spring greens or your fave lettuce combo
  • 4 medium beets, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • olive or grapeseed oil for frying
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

For the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Slice goat cheese into 8 equal pieces. I like to cut the log in half, then cut each half in half, and so on until I have 8 slices. Place goat cheese in the freezer for 5 minutes which will make it easier to work with.

Beat egg in a shallow bowl. Place pecans in a shallow bowl. Use hands to form slices of goat cheese into uniformly round pucks. Dip each puck into the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off and then dip it into the pecan mixture, covering the entire surface with pecans. Use your palms to smash the pecans into the goat cheese, forming it into a flat round patty about half an inch thick.

Heat a 1/4-1/2 an inch of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. You will know the oil is hot when you can dip the handle of a wooden spoon into it and the oil begins to bubble around the spoon handle. Working in batches depending on the size of your pan, fry goat cheese rounds for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. If you find the rounds are cooking faster than that, turn the heat down. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to soak up excess grease.

In a mason jar combine all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously until emulsified. Assemble each salad with a bed of lettuce, a handful of roasted beets, a sprinkle of diced onion. Then pour dressing over the salad and place the goat cheese round right in the center.

Directions

I made these as a meal prep recipe for the week and reheated the goat cheese rounds just before eating in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds and they were delish! Not quite as good as freshly fried, but the flavor and texture was still very tasty.

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef with Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

Did anyone else’s meal prep totally fall off once the warm weather hit? I’m not exactly sure what it was… The special dinner for my birthday, a couple extra days off work for the Memorial Day holiday, a few too many trips to Ramone’s for ice cream. I can’t pin point it exactly, but when Memorial Day rolled around we had no food in our fridge and no meals prepped to get us through the coming week. We improvised and made these delicious tarts which were thankfully very satisfying and helped use up a bunch of random leftovers.

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However, by Tuesday evening the leftovers had been exhausted and our situation was getting more dire. I was still feeling that lag you experience after having too many consecutive days off in a row and needed something super simple to bring to work for lunch this week. My brain was screaming SLOW COOKER.

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I wanted a recipe that was ridiculously easy to make but also made my mouth water. My first thought was Beer Braised Pork Carnitas, but since I’ve made that about 37 times so far this year I let my mind wander a bit more.

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And it wandered all the way over to these tasty barbacoa beef tacos. A simple spice rub followed by a quick sear on the roast and it’s off to the crock pot along with some onion, garlic, chiles in adobo, limes, cilantro and beef broth. 4-5 hours later, you have shredded barbacoa fit for a king. Or a queen!

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I know it’s saying A LOT, but this barbacoa beef rivals that of Chipotle! There I said it so I can’t take it back.

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Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef with Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients

For the tacos:

  • 2 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 32 oz. beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons diced chiles in adobo
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • juice of 3 limes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. In a small bowl combine chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne. Rub spice mixture all over the surface of the roast. Sear all sides of the roast, cooking each side for about 2-3 minutes or until the entire outside of the roast is seared nice and dark golden brown. Add roast to the slow cooker.

Without wiping out the pan, turn heat down to the medium and add onion to the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add onion and garlic to the slow cooker. Then add beef broth, chiles in adobo and cilantro to the slow cooker. Cut limes in half widthwise and squeeze juice into the slow cooker, then add the rinds of the limes in as well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or until beef is fall apart tender.

While the roast is working it’s magic, add the sauce ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until cilantro is well minced and ingredients are combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Remove beef from crock pot and shred using two forks. Serve with flour tortillas, Cilantro Lime Sour Cream, fresh pico de gallo, diced onion and fresh cilantro.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (14)

Fig Jam, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets

It’s that time of year again–picnic season! What’s your favorite picnic food? I’ve totally got a thing for tarts. Maybe it’s the flaky, buttery crust? Maybe it’s the way they puff up into little pillows? Maybe it’s the way they look super fancy and elegant but they’re actually the easiest thing ever? Most likely, it’s the latter.

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Frozen puff pastry makes these tarts easy enough for even a novice home cook, so don’t be intimidated if you haven’t worked with it before. I like to thaw mine in the fridge overnight before baking. In this recipe I use the natural seams of the dough to create the shapes of these tarts so there’s no complex dough rolling or measuring involved. Skill level required: none!

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You may remember these Leek & Potato Tartlets from last year or this Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart? These Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets are just as tasty as their blog brothers. They are picnic perfect and a sure fire brunch brightener. Am I writing a blog post or a poem here? Either way, they are a welcomed addition to whatever spread you’ve got.

IMG_5935-03And they pair well with a chilled white wine or rosé. So grab a bottle of your favorite vino and head for the park with a picnic basket full of these tasty tartlets.

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Fig Jam, Pear & Gorgonzola Tarts

  • Servings: 9 tarts
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Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)
  • heaping 1/2 cup fig jam
  • 1 slightly under ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • optional: a drizzle of honey on each tart

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold puff pastry and cut along the seams, creating three long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal size rectangles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange tarts about an inch apart. Score a crust about a half inch from the edge of each tart. Spread a tablespoon of fig jam across the center of each tart, keeping it within the scored lines. Place 4-5 slices of pear in the center of the tart, overlapping them. Divide Gorgonzola between the tarts, sprinkling it on top of the pear slices. Use pastry brush to paint the beaten egg across the crust of each tart. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until edges are a dark golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle with honey and serve!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (1)

Lemon & Dill Goat Cheese Bites

Seriously how much do you love nap time? I mean, don’t get me wrong I love spending time with my girl–belting out every song from Moana, drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles, her sitting on the counter watching me make dinner and tasting everything along the way. But, man do I love nap time! It’s quite possibly the fastest hour and a half of the day.

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If I’m lucky, nap time comes after I get home from work. Not always, but sometimes it does. And if I’m really lucky I’ve planned ahead and can whip something up in the kitchen, style it just right and snap some quick pictures of it too.

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Today, nap time did not come until after dinner. Luckily, this appetizer is SO easy that I was able to make it, style it and photograph it even with a toddler in tow.

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But now, as I write this post, nap time has arrived. Time to put my feet up, edit some photos and sip on a glass of wine. Cheers to a long holiday weekend. And nap time! Big cheers to nap time.

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

  • Servings: 14 bites
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Ingredients

  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped dill
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • crackers for serving

Directions

In a small bowl combine goat cheese and milk/cream. Use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop balls of goat cheese onto a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Place them in the freezer for 5 minutes. This will make them easier to handle.

Chop dill and lemon zest until they are minced and place in a shallow bowl. Roll scoops of goat cheese in the lemon and dill mixture and then use your palms to roll them into balls.

That’s it! Serve with your favorite crackers and enjoy.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (5)

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

I am way too guilty of trying to capture every moment (and meal) in the perfect photo. Rarely do we take a trip to the park or go out to eat that I don’t have my phone in my hand ready to snap the latest and greatest photo of our beautiful daughter or a “gram worthy” picture of whatever drinks and appetizers we’re enjoying.

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Obviously since I’m trying to launch my food blog, the best way to gain traction is to give my followers frequent, high quality content which means Instastories of all the food truck meals, wine glass cheers with friends and whatever local things we’re doing that day. And of course, and probably most importantly, new recipe posts as often as possible.

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But since summer has arrived (with a vengeance I might add, record highs in the 90s this weekend?! WTF??) I’ve started to really evaluate the amount of time that I’m spending on social media and perfecting this lovely blog.

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I decided it was time for Midwest Foodie to get an upgrade. Work smarter, not harder right? I purchased my first tripod and tripod arm and finally started editing my photos with actual photo editing software. Well, okay, maybe it’s just a free app on my phone… But still! I know, I know…it’s about time, right? So the good news is that I’m starting to find what works and what doesn’t.

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Which means I’m spending more time setting up my shots, but less time actually taking photos because instead of hating them and taking 700, I am loving them and only take 20. And then I’m able to make them even better with some very light editing. It’s quite an elating feeling to spend only 20-30 minutes shooting my dishes when I’m used to spending 2 hours or more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my photos are the best thing you’ll ever see, but they are leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year at this time. And I’m pretty dang proud of that! It’s about progress, not perfection!

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What does this all mean for you? Well it means that less stress for me will hopefully translate into more high quality photos and recipe posts for you guys to gobble up! So keep replying to my Instastories, hitting that like button and giving me feedback on recipes. Midwest Foodie is going to do big things and I want you to be a part of it!!

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

  • Servings: 30 dumplings
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced mushroom
  • 1/2 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced + more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 30 dumpling/potsticker wrappers
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • soy sauce for serving

Directions

Add pork, cabbage, carrot, mushroom, ginger, garlic, green onion, hoisin, sesame oil and a large pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl. Mix until well combined. It’s easiest to mix using your hands. Fill a small dish with water which you will use to seal the dumplings. Use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop a heaping teaspoon of filling into the center of one wrapper. Wet around the edge of half the dumpling wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to and press the edges together to seal the dumpling into a half moon shape. Repeat the above steps with remaining dumplings.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Working in batches of about 6-8 (depending on the size of your pan) add two teaspoons oil to the pan. Add dumplings and cook each side for about 2-3 minutes or until each side is dark golden brown. Pour 1/3 cup of water into the pan and cover immediately. Cook, covered for a few minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove lid and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until the both sides are crisp again. Repeat with remaining dumplings.

Serve with soy sauce and garnish with sliced green onion.

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Salted, Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I can hardly contain my excitement about these cookies!!!! I made them less than 24 hours ago and there are 4 left. Out of a batch of 30. And we are a family of three. And one of the three is a toddler.

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Although my toddler did manage to steal a few cookies off the edge of the counter while they were cooling. You’d think I would have moved them back even farther after she got the first two…I’m a slow learner. So, my husband and I ate a total of 23 cookies. Oh wait, my brother had one cookie. So we actually each only had about 11ish cookies cookies each in the last 24 hours. When did this turn into a math problem? Good thing calories don’t count when it’s homemade, right?

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All kidding aside, you can just throw away any of your other chocolate chip cookie recipes right now. These are that good.

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You won’t be able to go back to regular chocolate chip cookies without brown butter and salt and dark chocolate chunks. Once you find out what you’ve been missing you’ll wonder how you ever lived without these.

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Salted, Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • Servings: 30 cookies
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Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt + more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate chunks or chips

Directions

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and starts to spit and sputter, swirl the pan over the burner. If the butter sits too long at this temperature it will burn so the idea is to keep it moving. The browning process takes about 3-5 minutes so watch it closely during this time. You can remove the butter from heat once it’s turned a dark brown color and has a nutty aroma. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. This is a good time to chop your chocolate if you’re using a bar. I found that a chopped up Giant Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Bar (6.8 oz) was the perfect amount of chocolate chunks for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once the butter has cooled slightly, stir in both sugars until well combined. Then stir in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Next add flour, baking powder and salt and stir until just combined. Then add chocolate chunks and stir until evenly distributed.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop cookies and place about an inch apart on the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and garnish each cookie with a sprinkle of salt. Try not to eat them all in 24 hours. Maybe it’s best to make a double batch…

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Slow Cooker Asian Braised Beef

I love my crock pots. I literally have 9 of them (no joke). And I actually had more until our recent move forced me to reevaluate necessary kitchen equipment. They are all different sizes, shapes and colors. It might seem like overkill. Until I host a New Year’s party and I have one crock for the spinach and artichoke dip, one for the jalapeno poppers, one for the meatballs, one for the queso, one for sliders, one for pulled pork and one for corn dogs. Then I don’t look like such a crazy crock pot lady! Or maybe I look like more of a crazy crock pot lady…

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Who cares! I am one of those people who uses their crock pots year round. I use them in the winter for my Secret Family Recipe Chili and Peach Whiskey Meatballs, and in the summer for things like this braised beef. It’s perfect for those hot, sticky Wisconsin summer days when it’s SO humid the last thing you want to do is turn your oven on. And it’s an easy weeknight meal to throw in the crock pot before you leave for work so you have a hot dinner ready to go when you walk through the door after a long day of meetings or momming or school or whatever it is that you do all day.

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I like to serve my braised beef over rice and crisp, sauteed summer veggies. A few years ago my husband bought me a rice cooker for my birthday and I bet I’ve used it a hundred times since then. For all the delicious meals I whip up in the kitchen, rice has always been the bain of my culinary existence. I don’t know what it is, but I cannot cook rice to save my life. Now I mix it with some chicken broth in the rice maker and walk away.

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Sometimes you just have to accept your flaws–cooking rice well is definitely one of mine. We all have our faults and that’s what makes this world such a beautiful place. Well, that and delicious food.

Asian Braised Beef

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into large cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil a large saute pan over medium high heat. Season beef with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Working in two batches, sear all sides of each piece of beef until dark brown. A good rule of thumb is that the meat is done searing when it can easily be removed from the surface of the pan; if it’s sticking it’s not done yet. You are not trying to cook the meat through at this point, just adding a layer of flavor. Transfer seared beef to a large crock pot. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to the pan and sear remaining batch of beef, then transfer to crock pot.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil to the same pan and turn heat to medium. Add onion and ginger along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently for 4 minutes. Then add garlic and saute for another minute, stirring frequently. Transfer onion, ginger and garlic to the crock pot. Then add beef broth, tamari, rice vinegar, ground ginger, sesame oil and a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beef is fork tender and pulls apart easily. Serve with rice and sauteed veggies. Enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (17)

Slow Cooker Bourbon Braised Beef

Sometimes the meal prep juices are flowing and the recipes just come to me. I know exactly what I’m craving and roll with it when it comes time to grocery shop (or in my case when it comes time to order my groceries online) and other times I spend a couple hours pouring over recipes on Pinterest and can’t find inspiration from anything. This weekend it was the latter.

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But in the back of my head I was still thinking about the epic meal that I had mentioned in my latest post with that summery orange fennel salad and I just kept coming back to that tender lamb on a bed of creamy polenta.

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I couldn’t get it out of my head.

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And so it became my inspiration for this dish. Tender, rich, bourbon braised beef nestled into a pillow of garlicky, creamy, sweet potato mash. The prep time is minimal and the beef does all the work in 4-5 hours in the crock while you get on with your day!

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Bourbon Braised Beef

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into large cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil a large saute pan over medium high heat. Season beef with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Working in two batches, sear all sides of each piece of beef until dark brown. A good rule of thumb is that the meat is done searing when it can easily be removed from the surface of the pan; if it’s sticking it’s not done yet. You are not trying to cook the meat through at this point, just adding a layer of flavor. Transfer seared beef to a large crock pot. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to the pan and sear remaining batch of beef, then transfer to crock pot.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil to the same pan and turn heat to medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently for 4 minutes. Then add garlic and saute for another minute, stirring frequently. Transfer onion and garlic to the crock pot. Then add beef broth, bourbon, Worcestershire, Dijon, thyme and a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beef is fork tender and pulls apart easily. Serve with my favorite garlic mashed sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

30 Minute Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad

Grilling season has finally arrived! And this zingy potato salad is sure to make you the talk of the town; or at least the backyard barbecue. If you’re looking for something a little different to bring to the block party this summer, here you go. The subtle flavor of the horseradish is sure to tantalize everyone’s taste buds–even those horseradish haters!

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And chances are good if you’re a horseradish lover like myself, you might already have all the necessary ingredients to whip this bad boy up. Be sure to note that in this recipe I used a horseradish sauce which means the horseradish is cut with mayo or cream (I like Silver Springs brand best). So the flavor is much more mellow compared to that of a prepared horseradish, which is just straight horseradish.

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Instead of parsley you can also garnish with green onions, chives or better yet, crumbled bacon!!!

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30 Minute Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. potatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • splash of heavy cream
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and a large pinch of salt to the boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender but still have just the slightest bite to them. Strain potatoes and rinse with cold water. Place into a serving bowl and put them in the fridge to cool for about 20 minutes.

While the taters are cooling, in a small bowl combine mayo, sour cream, horseradish, vinegar, cream, hard boiled eggs, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Pour dressing over the potatoes and stir until potatoes are well coated. Garnish with parsley and serve!

If you are not planning to serve the potato salad the same day, you may need to add another splash of cream or milk to the potato salad just to loosen it up again.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (16)

Better Than Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I know it’s quite a statement to say that these are better than Reese’s. But they are. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ol’ commercially produced peanut butter cup as much as the next gal. But when you make your own, they just taste way better! I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. But I would take these over a mini Reese’s cup in a heartbeat.

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Personally, I am always reaching for a sweet treat after I finish lunch. And dinner. And then usually before bed too. It needs to have chocolate and it needs to be tasty. The cups fit the bill on both accounts. And the best part is they are healthy(ish)!

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Filled with peanut butter, old fashioned rolled oats, honey, a pinch of salt, chocolate and coconut oil you can feel good about serving these treats to your kiddos (and indulging in a couple yourself). They also couldn’t be easier to makes; no baking or fancy equipment required.

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Better Than Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

  • Servings: 24
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • pinch Kosher salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (dark, milk, whatever you want)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions

In a bowl combine peanut butter, oats, honey and salt. Place mixture in the fridge to harden.

Add chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments, stirring until it’s melted and smooth. Line mini cupcake pans with 24 mini cupcake liners. Scoop about half a teaspoon of chocolate into the bottom of each liner and use the back of the spoon to spread chocolate across the bottom and slightly up the sides a well.

Using a teaspoon cookie scoop, scoop balls of the peanut butter mixture then use your palm to flatten them into discs. Press the discs into the chocolate coated cupcake liners and top them about a teaspoon or so of chocolate. Use the back of the spoon to smooth out the chocolate on top and make sure it meets the chocolate from the bottom, sealing the peanut butter inside.

Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until set. Keep them in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I have tried this with regular Jif peanut butter and natural peanut butter. I find that the Jif works better as the natural seems to be a little too stiff and doesn’t give you that same creamy texture.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (3)

Charcuterie Board Making 101

If you don’t feel confident in the kitchen, the charcuterie board might become your best friend. No cooking skills required whatsoever and even the least creative person can put together an artful masterpiece of meat and cheese. You can make them large enough to feed an army or small enough for a date night with your other half.

Charcuterie boards are hands down the easiest and most elegant appetizer for any group. But they are often overlooked as many think they are too difficult or complicated to make, or that there are certain rules you have to follow. In my humble opinion, the only rule for making a charcturie board is that there are no rules. It’s typically comprised of a few kinds of cheeses, a few kinds of meats, a nice crusty sliced baguette and some crispy crackers along with a few other accompaniments–think pickles, potato salad, roasted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, jams, spreads, etc. Actually, I do always follow one rule when making my boards–variety and randomness are paramount. I like to cut all the cheeses in different shapes and arrange my meats in different shapes also. I put some in neat rows, others in piles, some are fanned around dishes and others are rolled into little cones. I never plan where I’m going to put anything; I just let it happen organically.

But if you’re into following rules you can use a simple blueprint of different cheese textures that takes the guesswork out of what to include. Try one creamy cheese (like Brie), one firm cheese (like manchego), one crumbly or blue cheese (like goat cheese or gorgonzola) and one aged cheese (like aged cheddar). Also try to include a variety of textures with the meats–soppressata or hard salami, proscuitto,  and sliced deli meats work well. But don’t get hung up following these blueprints exactly. I usually think about the tastes of my guests and try to include things that I know they will like, and also things that they maybe haven’t tried before.

The best part is it’s a great way to use up those odds and ends you have in your fridge or cupboard. You know, the ten green olives at the bottom of the jar, the last of the Dijon mustard, the handful of roasted pecans you didn’t end up using in your favorite cookie recipe. The wider the variety, the more beautiful the cheese plate.

 

 

Charcuterie Board Making 101

  • Servings: unlimited
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Ingredients

  • soft cheese
  • firm cheese
  • aged cheese
  • crumbly/blue cheese
  • salami
  • proscuitto
  • deli sliced ham
  • crackers
  • sliced French baguette
  • pickles
  • sliced apples
  • Dijon mustard
  • roasted pecans
  • pitted olives
  • literally whatever you want

Directions

Find a large cutting board or serving platter. Place your accompaniments (pickles, fruit, nuts) in small serving dishes. Start by arranging those on your platter. Slice cheese and meats into bite size pieces and arrange them randomly on your platter. Add sliced bread and crackers to the platter. Pour yourself and your guests a glass of wine and head for the patio to enjoy this delicious appetizer!

When selecting your meats and cheeses, plan on about 3-5 ounces of meat/cheese per person, depending on whether this is an appetizer or main course.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

 

 

 

Garlic and Ginger Foil Baked Salmon with Pickled Veggies

What a difference a year makes! This time last summer we were dealing with a newly walking nearly one year old. We pretty much went wherever and did whatever and she was along for the ride. She sat in a high chair when we went out to dinner and she was just starting to say things like “mama” and “dada”. We went to the playground and she could pretty much only swing in the baby swings. Everything else was out of reach. Towards the end of summer, music in the park became a game of toddler tag with my husband and I taking turns following her around as she waddled from one group to the next, saying “hi” to everyone she met and stopping to pet each and every dog.

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This year it’s a whole new ball game! Our nearly two year old is cray, for real. Summer has barely begun and I’m already anticipating having the endurance similar to that of a marathon runner by the time it’s over. She has three speeds; running full bore, sleeping and watching Moana. She is very boisterous and quick to let you know if she does not approve of something, usually with a loud shrill cry or scream. She talks constantly, mostly words we can understand, some that we can’t. She’s started to string phrases together which blows my mind every time. She repeats every single thing you say, especially when you swear quietly under your breath. Which let’s face it, is hilarious. She gives giant bear hugs and has gotten a little stingy with the smooches as of late.

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The other day I found my husband in the living room with tears streaming down his face; he was sitting next to her on the ottoman and he had bent down to tie his shoes when she laid her hand and head on his back and said “I love daddy”. If that doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.

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Nowadays, a trip to the playground could tire even the most seasoned and in shape parents. And we are neither seasoned, nor in shape so we often hope beyond hope that she wants to nap when we get home so we have a moment to recharge too. But I would not have it any other way. It’s so amazing to watch this tiny baby grow in a little person with thoughts and ideas and a personality. It’s crazy to think that 2 years ago we didn’t even know her. I feel so lucky everyday to be this girl’s momma. Even the days that are filled with grumpy, teething, crying and sassing. Because when I look back on these last two years all I think about is the good stuff. The groggy morning snuggles, the eskimo kisses, those big dimples every time she smiles, the way she grabs my hand when we are walking, when her eyes meet mine looking for approval when she knows she’s doing something good, her adorable little chubby legged run. For me, that’s what this life is about. Those moments that make you want to cry you’re so happy. And my beautiful baby girl gives me those moments every single day.

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So, how am I going to tie this delicious salmon recipe into my sappy blog post? Well, if you want to spend more time making those moments where you’re so happy you could cry, this super simple recipe is for you! With very little active prep/cook time, this recipe is a healthy meal you can feel proud to feed your family, but you won’t have to miss out on all the little moments to get it done!

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Garlic & Ginger Foil Baked Salmon with Pickled Veggies

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

For the salmon:

  • 1 pound salmon, cut into 4 fillets
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

For the pickled veggies:

  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 small cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • 5 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, very thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Directions

Gotta get those veggies pickled first! Add thinly sliced veggies to a 32 oz. mason jar. The veggies should nearly fill the entire jar and be packed in tightly (but not smashed). Add garlic and ginger on top of the veggies in the jar. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, then pour hot pickling liquid into the jar. Fill nearly to the top. Screw the lid on and let come to room temp on the counter. Then refrigerate for about 24 hours.

*If you are in hurry, you could just let the veggies pickle for at least 4 hours, but the longer they pickle the more flavorful they will be. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk tamari, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and agave. Place salmon (skin side down) onto a large piece of foil, big enough to make a sealed packet around the salmon. Pour sauce slowly over the salmon. Seal the foil packet. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. You could also cook this over medium high heat on a grill. Be sure to check the fish around the 10 minute mark though as all grills cook a little differently.

Serve salmon alongside a heaping pile of pickled veggies. Garnish with cilantro. Rice or noodles go well with this meal also.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

Bacon & Leek Pizza with Dill Pesto

Do you have a Woodman’s where you live? Have you tried ordering your groceries online? You literally pick out exactly what you want (including back ups in case they are out of something) and pick the date/time you want to pick them up. They text you a reminder when your groceries are ready and you text them back when you have arrived. They wheel the groceries right out to your car and even help you load it up. It literally could not be easier! It has saved us so much time it’s ridiculous! There is a $4.95 charge if your order is $50-$99.99 but get your order over $100 and it’s free! In the long run I’m convinced it’s also saved us money too, because there’s no impulse purchases as you’re navigating the aisles.

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The biggest plus for me is the not having to deal with the anxiety and annoyance of grocery shopping. I hate dealing with the aisle blockers, slow walkers, dilly dalliers, loud talkers, yelling parents, screaming children (mostly my own) and worst of all those shoppers who act like they are literally the only people in the entire store. You know the ones, blocking the entire dairy aisle with their perpendicular cart only to leave it in the middle of the aisle and wander down 10 feet to look at the sour cream. Meanwhile a line of 8 people is waiting to get around her. I may have lost my temper a bit and after politely saying, “Excuse me” also muttered under my breath, “Not like there’s a line of 10 people behind you.” This lady got super pissed and started yelling at me. Admittedly, I was being a bit snippy and I probably deserved the words she said to me. But damn lady, get outta the freakin’ way! We all have places to go and no one wants to stand here and watch you spend 20 minutes debating sour cream brands.

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So now it’s click, click, click, pick up my groceries and I’m done. No more starting shit at the grocery store for me!

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I do have one complaint though…I hate all the plastic bags! I have tried writing “paper bags only, no plastic bags please” in the notes section of every single order, and I still get everything in plastic bags. I could probably bring my own canvas grocery bags and switch them out, but you know they are just going to throw away those plastic bags and no reuse them, so what’s the point? At least when I get them home, I can recycle them. But, come on Eau Claire, let’s get on this “plastic bag ban” bandwagon please!

Rant over. This pizza is delicious and you need to make it now. It easy, it tastes great and your family will love you for putting this delicious creation on the dinner table.

Bacon and Leek Pizza with Dill Pesto

  • Servings: 2-3
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Ingredients

  • 1 (12-14 inch) pizza crust (1/4 of my no knead pizza dough recipe)
  • 1/2 recipe of my homemade dill pesto (or 1/2 cup of your fave pesto)
  • 1 medium leek, thinly sliced
  • 4 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Garnish: fresh chopped dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. If you’re using my no knead pizza dough recipe, line a pizza pan or baking sheet with foil and and sprinkle a thin layer of corn meal to prevent the crust from sticking. Turn the dough ball out onto a floured work surface. Gently shape it into a disc, then carefully working in a clockwise motion, gently press and stretch the dough into a 12 inch circle. Don’t overwork the dough; the less you touch it the better. If you’re using a pre-baked store bought crust you can skip these steps and just place your crust on a foil lined pan.

Spread pesto in an even layer across the pizza, leaving about a half inch of crust. Then add, leeks, bacon, mozzarella and Parmesan, spreading everything in an even layer across the crust. Bake for 15 minute or until the edges are dark golden brown and the cheese starts to brown as well. Garnish with fresh dill and serve!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

The Best Ever Crispy Baked Fries

Spoiler Alert: If you just want the recipe keep scrolling because Olivia’s about to get real. I can’t say for sure what it is, but there’s a certain quiet loneliness about the late winter months that I just can’t seem to shake. The warmth of the holidays has worn off, the sun is out for like 3 hours and I’m not much of a cold weather person so I don’t really get anytime quality time with mother nature. Did anyone else feel the seasonal anxiety and depression that comes along with winters in Wisconsin this year? I honestly have never realized it before. But looking back, the last few years I’ve been buried pretty deep in those mid-winter blues. As the sun starts shining, the temps warm up and I come out on the other side now, I noticed that I have quite a distinctive pattern around the same time every year. Usually it’s late January or early February, but sometimes it even rolls into March. I start to feel really out of it and melancholy and start contemplating life and how crazy it all is. Which prompts me to schedule a visit with a doctor, who of course tells me everything is fine and then spring comes and I forget all about it. One year it was a few trips to the ER, a few EKGs and finally an echo-cardiogram because I was having palpitations and chest pains (which I later realized were actually panic attacks). A couple years in a row it’s just triggered me to schedule my annual exam and have some labs drawn; I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve tested my thyroid levels. This year it was some delightful rectal bleeding and lower abdominal CT, followed by a colonoscopy. Oh, and there’s usually a drastic hair cut or color thrown in there somewhere. How have I never noticed this about myself before? But with this realization comes the ability to do something about it!

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Move to a warmer climate, right?! JUST KIDDING. I do love Wisconsin; mostly because it’s where my family lives, but I also appreciate the seasons. Even if I go a little crazy for half the year. Every season has it’s pros and cons, but I like living somewhere where you get to experience each season so distinctly. Plus I hate big spiders, snakes and scorpions. So climates where it’s warm all year are out of the question for me. I need that deep freeze to make sure the spiders only get pretty big and not gigantic.

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This past winter my anxiety actually got so bad and constant that I considered adding some sort of prescription pharmaceutical to my daily routine. Which if you know me at all, is quite a surprising thing to hear (see my latest post regarding a sedation free colonoscopy) because I am someone who hates to even take Excedrin when I have a raging migraine with aura. But, almost like clockwork, the seasons have begun to change and I am feeling good again. Certainly not anxiety free, but leaps and bounds better than I had been feeling even just a month ago.

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*Just to clarify: I am in no way putting down those who take prescriptions for anything. I realize it is very necessary for many and might even be for me some day. I just really hate to put any medication of any kind into my body so when I started to consider it, it was a sign that my anxiety was really starting to take a toll on me. It’s so important to listen to your body and take it’s queues.

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The Best Crispy Baked Fries

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each potato into 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into 1/2 inch wide sticks. So basically, cut the potatoes into french fries. Then add potatoes, oil, garlic powder, thyme and paprika to a large bowl. Add a couple generous pinches of salt and large pinch of pepper. Stir until seasoning is well distributed and fries are well coated.

Spread fries in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries so all sides get nice and crispy. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Then crank the heat to 500 and bake for 15 minutes. Flip fries and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until desired crispiness is reached. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I’m not going to pretend like mine isn’t Heinz ketchup, because it is.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (8)

{Vegan} Quinoa and Lentil Tacos

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty silent on the blog and my social media pages this past week. Well, that’s because I’ve been eating the blandest of bland food in preparation to be the lucky recipient of a colonoscopy! *insert shudder and disgusted face here* A colonoscopy at 30?? Yes, my friends. A couple months back I experienced some rectal bleeding that lasted about a week. To be honest, it scared the shit out of me. Pun intended… I can only attribute it too a few too many take out pizza nights accompanied by a couple too many glasses of wine. Other than that there was no change to my diet, exercise or sleep habits. I experienced no pain, no cramping, nothing out of the ordinary other than some very bright red blood in the toilet bowl and streaked through my stool. I know, too much information, but after doing some research, colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer related death is this country. So it’s time to start talking about your poop people!

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Even with the introduction of fiber supplements and ridiculous amounts of fruits and veggies, the bleeding continued every morning like clock work all week. By Friday morning I was feeling light headed and dizzy (most likely related to the unsettling feeling of now knowing what the hell is going on with my body). I could only get an appointment with the GI doctor if I had a referral from my primary care doctor or an urgent care doctor. I didn’t have a primary care doctor (although you can bet your bottom dollar that I do now and you should too!) and after a quick trip to urgent care I was told they don’t treat issues like mine and that I needed to go the ER. So, after an abdominal CT and some labs they said everything looked normal and I finally got that referral to the GI department!

Of course, the GI provider told me that while the CT didn’t show any masses or abnormalities, they really wouldn’t be able to rule everything out until they did a colonoscopy. Now I am one of those people who likes to really do my research and know exactly what I can expect before something happens. I told the provider I needed to think on it and mentally prepare for the colonoscopy before scheduling one. A little background info on the topic: My grandma is almost two years cancer free after her own battle with colon cancer, so this really hit close to home for me. She had a large mass removed from her colon along with chemotherapy treatments and to be honest, she handled it like a champ. Although they say your risk only increases if you have a first degree relative who had colon cancer, I have to imagine that my risk is still somewhat increased if I have a second degree relative who had it. In my mind, I knew that I had to have the colonoscopy but I needed some time to learn more about the process and what I could expect. The provider I had the consult with assured me that the risks were minimal and rarely occur, but there was the possibility of perforation of the colon (when removing a large polyp) and there’s always risks with sedating a patient (issues related to heart rate, blood pressure, etc.).

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Armed with my limited knowledge of the procedure, I started doing some research using the good old Google. I discovered that in most cases the patient is sedated for the procedure and has no memory of it at all. They wake up and hang out in the recovery area for about a half hour and then head home to sleep and relax for the rest of the day. Obviously sedation affects everyone differently, but many people feel foggy and out of it for the rest of the day. You aren’t permitted to sign legal documents and are considered legally impaired for the rest of the day. While having no memory of the procedure sounded great, being sedated and out of it for the rest of the day just did not sit well with me. The more research I did, the more articles I found about sedation free colonoscopies. I was surprised to find out that most health care providers, health care staff and those who are “highly educated” opt for sedation free colonoscopies because it’s just not necessary to be sedated. Now, I don’t have a college degree but I can tell you that I if I don’t have to put sedatives in my body, I don’t want to. I hate to put any anything in my body if I don’t have to (unless it’s wine or pizza…now you see how I got in this predicament). I don’t even like to take Excedrin when I have a throbbing migraine with aura so the thought of a sedation free colonoscopy appealed to me.

Contrary to popular belief, colonoscopies are not painful. Your colon actually does not have nerve endings that sense pain, temperature or touch. Most people who experience extreme pain or discomfort during the procedure are those with inflammation, digestive issues or obstructed bowels.

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Post Procedure Update:

WOW. Glad that’s over. But seriously, it was no where near as bad as I was expecting! Like I mentioned above, I started eating a low fiber, very bland diet about 4 days before the procedure and also reduced my overall intake of food. The day before the procedure I only drank clear liquids, ate gummy bears and lemon popsicles. While the lack of food for over 24 hours was not as hard as I thought it was going to be, I did have a lot of difficulty focusing at work and only lasted for about half the day before I had to go home and be foggy in the comfort of my own home.

I made sure to pump myself full of water in anticipation of the dehydrating prep that I had to drink the night before the procedure. In most articles I read, the prep portion was the hardest for patients to complete. It requires you to drink 16 (8 oz.) glasses of this nasty, salty liquid. You drink 12 glasses the night before and 4 glasses the morning of. I channeled my younger partying days and poured myself shots of the prep liquid which I threw back and then chased with white Gatorade. This made it a lot easier for me, but seriously drinking 72 oz. of liquid in 3 hours is quite a feat! The actual evacuation of my bowels really wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t eaten much over the last few days, so there wasn’t much left to come out! I heeded all the warnings and was sure to use baby wipes instead of toilet paper during the process which made things a lot less painful. Overall, while unpleasant, the prep was not awful. The worst part was just the sore bottom afterwards. Thank you Desitin!

Although by the time the first round of prep was completed things were coming out clear, I drank the second round of prep in the morning as instructed. I read many stories of people’s colons being too dirty to undergo procedure and having to reschedule and start the whole cycle over–no thank you! So I choked it down and then rested for a few hours before my appointment. My appointment was in the afternoon because they were able to squeeze me in on short notice with my doctor of choice, Dr. Jaime Zighelboim. He was a clear choice for me after reading this article about how he performed sedation free colonoscopies. I found my experience to be very similar to the lady in the article.

I do have to note that I was overwhelmingly impressed with the nursing staff and their ability to keep me feeling very calm, comfortable and relaxed during my entire visit. My admitting nurse had me laughing and was very encouraging when I relayed my plan to forgo sedation. He described the procedure in great detail so I knew exactly what to expect. He explained that the first part of the procedure they are just working on getting the scope all the way to the end of your colon, then the remainder of the procedure they are cleaning the colon with water and suction while they inspect every inch. Once you make it through the full insertion of the scope, the removal process is a piece of cake. He also explained that they would still place an IV in my arm in the event that I did choose to have sedation mid-procedure; they would be able to hook me up and get those going right away. It was comforting to know that if it was painful or uncomfortable, there was always the option of sedation.

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It seems like such a small thing but it also really helped to have the procedure nurse hold my hand during the entire procedure. She kept asking how I was doing and reminded me to breath during the times where I felt some pressure as the doctor guided the scope around the 90 degree angles of my colon. At first, I closed my eyes and didn’t want to watch the TV screen projecting the view of the scope. But as I relaxed, I opened my eyes and started watching as he steered the scope skillfully shooting water at little particles that were stuck to the walls of my colon. His movements were calculated and confident. I truly felt like I was in good hands.

For the most part, it really was an uneventful procedure. It lasted maybe 10-12 minutes. I felt some little wiggles from inside and I could feel the presence of the scope just at the opening of my rectum but it was well lubricated and was not painful during insertion or during the procedure. I did feel some poking and pressure once and it lasted for maybe 8 seconds. It was on my left side and it was just as the scope rounded a sharp corner. On a scale from 1-10 I’d give the pain maybe a 3-4. It was not a pain like when you cut your finger or even when you hit your shin on something. It was more just a poking pressure. I took a few deep breaths and closed my eyes again and it was pretty much over as quickly as it as it began. During this time the doctor explained that while the colon itself cannot feel pain, the pressure that I was experiencing  was the ligaments that hold the colon in place stretching and moving as scope navigated the corners. In the end, I was given a clean bill of health and sent on my way!

I realize this is like WAY TOO MUCH detail for some people. But honestly, it’s something we need to talk about. I wonder if my grandma would have had a colonoscopy earlier in her life if she’d known what to expect and known the consequences of not having regular exams after age 50 or before if you are having issues. It’s amazing that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in this country despite it being extremely preventable and treatable in many cases with early detection and regular screenings. So that’s why I chose to write about it. Because colonoscopies have a bad rap and they really don’t need to.

Personally, I would 100% do it again without sedation. Being awake and aware of what was happening to my body felt empowering. Being able to get up and walk out of the hospital after the procedure felt great. If you are contemplating a colonoscopy without sedation, I would strongly urge you to try it. You can also opt for the drugs if it’s not your cup of tea. It’s important to remember that you have options, and to find a health care provider you trust who is willing to discuss alternatives to traditional medicine.

{Vegan} Quinoa and Lentil Tacos

  • Servings: 8 tacos
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups cooked red lentils
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Start by heating oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with tamari and water. Then add lentils, quinoa, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika and a liberal pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until just heated through.

Serve with your favorite taco toppings! I chose my favorite Chipotle Lime Slaw, sauteed veggies and fresh made guacamole.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (9)

The Best Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

I can guarantee these will be the best breakfast potatoes you have ever eaten. They are golden brown and crispy on the outside, while perfectly tender and soft on the inside. They are seasoned but not too salty or too herbaceous. These are the perfect accompaniment to a sunny side up egg with a buttered piece of toast a few slices of ripe avocado.

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I have never before cooked breakfast potatoes with such ease and grace and I owe it all to Ree Drunmond over at a little blog called The Pioneer Woman. Ever heard of it? I thought you might have. My recipe was adapted from her’s and I think we can all agree that Ree takes the cake when it comes to any sort of comfort food.

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These potatoes do all of their work in the oven, leaving you free to prepare other food on your stove top or just kick back and relax with a cup of tea. I used to dice my potatoes, boil them, drain them, saute them in oil and spices and every single time I’d end up with soggy, overcooked potatoes and still somehow never managed to get golden brown on the outside.

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Then while laying in bed on Sunday morning, I scrolled across this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. And I thought, hell yeah! This is worth trying. The potatoes are roasted at 425 for about 25 minutes to get them nice and tender, then you crank the heat to 500 for another 20 minutes to give them that golden brown color and crispiness on the outside. It’s genius. And if you’ve ever used any of Ree’s recipes before, I’m sure you’re not surprised. Her recipes are always spot on and super tasty.

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The Best Breakfast Potatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs. baby red potatoes, large diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • large pinch Kosher salt
  • pinch fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Start by heating your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl and stir until potatoes are thoroughly coated. Spread potatoes in a single layer across the pan. Spread them out as much as possible to promote even cooking.

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring potatoes halfway through. Crank the heat up to 500 and bake for another 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve! Does it get any easier than that?

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (1)

 

No Knead Pizza Dough

This recipe is Midwest Foodie’s twist on the famous no knead pizza dough recipe by Jim Lahey. I have made his pizza dough several times and while it is out of this world delicious, I couldn’t help but tweak things just a bit. My only changes are increasing the amount of yeast and adding olive oil to the dough. These may be cardinal sins in some people eye’s but when I make food I’m not really focused on traditional methods or “rules”. I usually just make things the way I like them.

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We eat pizza about once a week. I think we’ve tried every take out pizza restaurant in town and honestly I am not in love with any of them. The only pizza that gets me truly excited is Tutto Bene and they’re portable wood fired pizza oven can only be found during the summer months. So what am I supposed to do for the other 9 months of the year?! Make my own, obviously. Next to Tutto Bene, this crust is the best. And the best part of this pizza dough is the complete lack of effort it takes to make it! Stir your ingredients until the dough comes together and then let it rise for 24 hours.

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Could it be any easier than that? I mean I guess you could buy the dough, that might be easier. But then you’d have to go to the store. So that would not be easier than hanging around in your jammies, sipping a glass of wine and stirring dough for one minute.

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Also, did I mention that I hate pizza crust?? Yeah, I hate it. I eat the part with cheese and sauce and toss the rest–except for this crust. This is the only crust that makes me want to eat the whole entire thing. So all you crust haters, this pizza is for you!

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This recipe makes enough dough for (4) 12 inch pizzas so you can make one now and freeze the rest for another day! Again, some people might say you can’t freeze this dough, but I will tell you that you can and I,  in fact,  have done it before! When you’re ready for another homemade pizza next week, let the frozen dough thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and then let it rest on your counter for about an hour before shaping and making.

No Knead Pizza Dough

  • Servings: 4 (12 inch) pies
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Ingredients

  • 500 grams all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for oiling the bowl
  • 350 grams lukewarm water

Directions

Add flour, yeast and salt to a large bowl. Stir with a fork to combine. Add oil and water. Stir just until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Gently drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the dough ball and roll it around in the oil to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and place in the warmest part of your kitchen to rise for 24 hours. True story, the warmest part of our kitchen is in one of our lower cupboards right by the heating vent. Some people let the dough rise in their oven, I lock it away in my cupboard.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Divide it into four balls. Working with the first ball, gently shape it into a disc, then carefully working  in a clockwise motion, gently press and stretch the dough into a 12 inch circle. Don’t overwork the dough; the less you touch it the better.

Continue the above steps with remaining 3 dough balls if you are baking them right away. If you are not baking them right away, place them into separate airtight containers (so they don’t stick together) and freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready for pizza, allow the frozen dough to thaw in your fridge for 24 hours. Then allow the dough to rest on your counter for about an hour before making.

Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal down on your pizza pan to prevent the pizza from sticking and place crust on pan. Partially bake your crust for 5 minutes. Then add desired toppings, just be sure not to go overboard or the pizza will get soggy.

Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the toppings are warmed through. For an extra crispy crust, bake it without a pizza pan underneath.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)