Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Southwest Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Southwest Loaded Sweet Potato

She's just a girl but she's on fire...Looks like a girl but she's a flame. So bright she can burn your eyes, better look the other way. You can try but you'll never forget her name. She's on top of the world. Hottest of the hottest girls. We've got our feet on the ground and we're burning it down. Got our head in the clouds, and we're not coming down. This girl is on fire!

Guess what? The other day when Isabella came home from school with girl problems, I actually had the emotional and physical energy, time, and calm to listen to her. I actually sat and listened. I was careful to hear her. I was careful to discern whether she just needed to talk or was asking for my advice. I sat with her for 30 minutes and I actually had valuable wisdom to share with her and I empowered her with the idea that she could do something about it. She could fix it. And I would be rooting for her.

I know, this what good mothers are "supposed to do". But you guys, I couldn't have done this before; not consistently anyway. I probably would have listened a bit and cut the conversation short with a "Oh, it'll be okay, sweetie. I'm sure you'll figure it out". When I am busy, hurrying about, and have lots of plans, even if it's "fun" stuff, it wears me out. I don't have the capacity for listening to my own daughter when I'm worn out, and I can get really annoyed with 10-year old girl drama. 

She's living in a world and it's on fire. Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away...

Alicia Keys sings Girl on Fire and exactly how I feel in recent days. She also sings Brand New Me. Heard it? It's my current anthem.

Southwest Loaded Sweet Potato

I haven't changed. Quite the contrary. I read a book over a year ago that pretty much changed my perspective on a lot of things. It wasn't a self help book, but rather, incredibly startling in the truth it conveyed. Perhaps you've heard of Ann Voskamp?  The tagline of the book is:

"A dare to live fully, right where you are"

It sounds nice. I got it intellectually right off the bat. But, it's the kind of concept you don't really grasp until you just do. I have found the freedom to let myself be the person I already am but was not really living. The person who loves people and parties, but needs plenty of unscheduled quiet time. Someone who feels most alive while creating something alone, whether it be writing, reading, cooking, or folding laundry with intention. Quiet allows me that peace. Then, and only then and I more capable of being more fully alive when I am with other people. I need space. I need to not feel pressured to make plan after plan. This is me. And I finally love it. And I am proud to say it, because it's been a long time in accepting and adapting my lifestyle around it. Setting boundaries can do wonders for the soul. Spring has sprung.

She's got both feet on the ground and she's burning it down. She's got her head in the clouds and she's not backing down...

It may seem like cooking and recipes are not much related to this topic, but it seems everything that is woven through my life relates to this topic. This perspective shift has changed my cooking. I find more relish in cooking the simple things. This recipe for southwest loaded sweet potatoes might not have been something I blogged about before. Not because it's not really, really yummy, but because it's a no brainer food. It would normally be something I whipped up quickly, rushing through, opening a couple cans of salsa, browning some turkey or veggie crumbles, roasting a sweet potato. We're not creating anything particularly beautiful with this kind of food. Ah, but beauty and joy are found everywhere if you can see it. I didn't rush through. I noticed how perfectly orange the insides of the sweet potato were. I took time to breathe in the seasonings in the meat as I added each new spice. I didn't even have to try. It was a natural by-product of not hurrying and of not being overwhelmed of mind. This was the most intentionally crafted, made with love, loaded sweet potato that you will ever find. And, it was seriously delicious. More so than it should have been. I feel like this will be a staple in our household. I don't love stuffed sweet potatoes any other way I've made them. But that sweet flesh teemed with the subtle sweet-spiceness of the chipotle salsa, and salty green salsa, mixed with taco spiced meat (or veggie crumbles in our case) and finished with a cool dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream? Home run baby. In the simplest and most fulfilling of ways. It was a happy night.

This girl is on fire!

Southwest Loaded Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Biggest Loser (no, seriously)
serves 4

4 roasted sweet potatoes (one per person)
1 lb ground turkey (or 1 package Boca brand veggie crumbles)
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
1 container chipotle flavored red salsa
1 container salsa verde (green salsa)
Greek yogurt or sour cream

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add turkey and brown, or cook veggie crumbles according to package directions. Add Worcestershire sauce, dijon, chile powder, cumin, garlic salt, onion powder and a pinch or two of Kosher salt to the meat and stir to combine. 

When sweet potatoes are roasted, split each in half and fill with a layer of the red salsa, followed by a heaping spoonful of meat or veggie crumbles, top with green salsa and Greek yogurt.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crockpot Beans- How to cook, store, and freeze beans for later

Crockpot Beans photo IMG_2385.jpg

Secret? I do this without the crockpot most of the time on my good ole fashioned stove top. Either way works very well. We cook with a lot of beans in this house. Just this week alone we are having white chili (white beans), Minestrone soup (kidney beans), and balsamic lime stew with beans and veggies (kidney, black and white beans). I actually have to watch the amount of bean dishes I make in a single week and purposely try and not go overboard. And, while I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter, canned beans freak me out a little in their tin cans. You hear about BPA and metal and the word toxic gets thrown around. I still use canned products but I try and use dried beans whenever possible. Since learning how to cook up a big batch then freezing the cooked beans for later use, it's become a lot easier. Dried beans that you cook yourself are creamier. They are also slightly starchier I've noticed, which I love because it helps to thicken up my chili dishes ever so slightly. If you use them in a dish without broth, you'd never notice this so don't worry.

Crockpot Method for Cooking Dried Beans:

Step 1: IF you live at high altitude, you must soak your beans in a bowl of water overnight. If you don't live at high altitude, you can skip this step. Just cover your beans with about two inches of water and leave it on the counter.

Crockpot Beans photo IMG_2341.jpg

Step 2: Place your beans (straight from the bag and dried if you live at lower elevations) in a crockpot

Step 3: Fill your crockpot with water about two inches above the beans

Crockpot Beans photo IMG_2357.jpg

Step 4: Set crockpot to high and cook beans for 4 hours for lower altitudes and 6.5 hours for high altitude. Check to make sure your beans are tender. If not, set your timer for another 30 minutes and walk away.

(To make on a stove top, pour your soaked beans in a large stock pot and cover with 2-3 inches of fresh water. Simmer with a lid partially covering the pot for 6 hours, checking every now and again to make sure there is enough water in the pot and adding more if needed. At lower latitude you could probably get away with cooking for only 4 hours.)

Freezing and Storing Cooked Beans for Future use:

Step 1: Drain cooked beans

Crockpot Beans photo IMG_2384.jpg

Step 2: Place beans in a Freezer safe ziplock bag and store in the freezer. (I measure out 1.5 cups for each bag since it equals what would be in 1 can of canned beans. See "additional tips" for more info) The beans don't need any additional liquid in order to freeze properly.

Crockpot Beans photo IMG_2385.jpg

Step 3: When you need your beans, you can take them straight out of the freezer and add them to your dishes. They will thaw and break up easily.

Additional Tips:

1 15-ounce can of beans equals:
- 1/2 cup dry beans, before cooking
-1 1/2 cups beans, after cooking

1 pound dry beans equals:
-2 cups dry beans, before cooking
-6 cups beans, after cooking
-4 15-ounce cans of beans

I buy two pound bags of beans from my health food store for a couple bucks and make what would be equal to 8 cans of beans! It's simple, easy and affordable.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Handicapped Children Make Us More Fully Human


A beautiful article was written and posted today by my friend, Jonalyn, who writes the blog Ruby Slippers, and is the co-founder, along with her husband Dale, of Soulation where she publishes her writtings.

She asked us a while back if she could interview Jeremy and I about Olivia and how she has changed our perspective on life, God, the handicapped, and how she makes us more Fully Human. I'd like to share with you in case you'd like a peek behind the curtain of "real" in our lives.

Fully Disabled: Fully Human -click here for the article-

The Velveteen Rabbit. A beautiful reminder of what it means to be Real:

"Real isn't a bout how you are made", said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"it doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. that's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Getting her EEG to test for seizures. That was fun -not-


In real life I talk about more than just food and myself. ;)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cloud Frosting and Baby Announcement!

 photo Genderannouncement.jpg

When we shared this photo on Facebook, my husband's comment was "bring on the hormones!" No kidding. Wow- another girl. Here we go. We should have expected it. My family has girls. The fact that I have a boy at all is somewhat shocking.

Our doctor had to be a bit discrete while telling us since the kids were in the room and we all had said we think and hope it's a boy. Oops. Of course, every ultrasound I've ever been in (4) I had been wishing for exactly the opposite of what they tell me it is. With Isabella I had wanted a boy. I wanted to name him Ryan Shawn. With Jeremiah, Jeremy and I were hoping for a girl. We were going to name her Scarlett. With Olivia we were rooting for a boy. No name picked out. I guess we knew better. And with this one, it happened all over again. Who knows what we would have named this baby had it been a boy (we currently were liking Maddox a lot) but now we need to start shifting our minds to more feminine names. Sigh. I'm extremely happy for a healthy baby, obviously, but I was really hoping that once, just once, we could all just hoot and holler upon hearing the gender right away instead of having to adjust to the news.  Do you know how annoying that is? I kind of want to have another one after this and try again for that. I'm just kidding. Kind of...

Cloud Frosting

I am super excited about naming another girl though! I love girl names. My top two favorites up till now have been Emily and Kate - but Jeremy is not thrilled with either - so it's not going to happen. Plus, I'd really like to name this baby something other than what's in the top five most popular girl names, (Emily always is, and I can imagine Kate will be working it's way up because of the Dutchess) especially since my other two girls are already in that category. Something a bit different, sweet, and very girly. That seems to be my aim. But we'll see. I also like cool names like Brooklynn. And the meaning of names means a lot to us, so that will definitely play a major factor in deciding.

Cloud Frosting

I love being pregnant. I'm on cloud 9, which is why I choose cloud frosting for this post and gender reveal picture. It was too perfect. This frosting is like a cross between marshmallow and whipped cream. It's light and airy and pipes up beautifully. I can be used for cupcakes or cakes. I prefer to eat this frosting within an hour of making it because I like it really soft and wet almost. It's heavenly - hence the cloud name. But many people prefer it as it stiffens up and becomes more like spongy marshmallow texture. I tinted a portion of my frosting blue and pink for the picture, but the other were white. I prefer the clean softness of it. This frosting goes with any flavor cake - chocolate, pumpkin, vanilla, strawberry, you name it.

Cloud Frosting

You don't even need a piping tip to create this look. Just snip off the end of a piping bag or ziplock bag and press down in the center of your cupcake and squeeze in one continuous motion. You'll get a beautiful mound. Continue squeezing very lightly as you pull up to create the peak.

Cloud Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart
frosts 24 cupcakes or 1 cake

    • 2 1/2 cups sugar
    • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    • Make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, egg whites, water, and cream of tartar. Whisk until foamy. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12 to 16 minutes (mine only took about 6 minutes). Add vanilla and beat until combined.
    Frost cake or pipe onto cupcakes immediately and serve asap for fluffy, soft frosting. Serve 2-3 hours later for more marshmallow like frosting (sticky and spongy).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

French Toast Bread Pudding and A Valentine's To Remember


I can't remember the last time my heart felt so full. Today I woke at 5:30am, put on my red pants with a lacy white top and ventured downstairs to make this outrageous breakfast for Valentines Day.

That's French Toast Bread Pudding, people. And I actually made it last night. After I got done beating the custard, I poured it all over the fat slices of Brioche I had layered in my baking pan. I covered it with foil and stuck it in the fridge to soak overnight. I did this purposely after the kids went to bed so it would be a surprise in the morning. We don't eat like this for breakfast often.

French Toast Bread Pudding

I baked it, and while the house was filling with the aroma of buttered custard bread, the kids came trickling downstairs to find what Valentines treats awaited them. Daddy didn't disappoint with chocolates and stuffed animals and hot wheels for Jeremiah. I got them things to wear (typical). Valentine shirts/scarfs, etc.

They opened their gifts and ate


Then we all felt a little sick. Not because the food was bad. Oh, no, this stuff is glorious. Probably just because we've been on a cleanse and we're weenies and hyper aware of how food makes us feel.

My three little Valentines

French Toast Bread Pudding

Then we headed to drop Olivia off at pre-school and take Isabella and Jeremiah with us to our ultrasound appointment. Did we find out the gender of baby number four? Yes! But you are going to have to wait until another post for the reveal...

I'm so mean.

Then we dropped the kids off at school and Jeremy and I went to Winona's to have breakfast together. We ate healthy things that wouldn't make us sick.

Olivia got this sweet Valentine from Emmett (remember from yesterday's post?) His mom was quick to explain that he was in no way proposing to Olivia. Isn't it the sweetest? 4 year olds...

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

Then, my gifts came. Jeremiah, my 6-year old boy, brought me these by his own prompting.

French Toast Bread Pudding

Then, this happened.

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

Jeremy usually gets me red roses on Valentines Day (if he goes the flower route---always a safe choice, men) but he said this year it didn't feel right. It felt more light, more spring-like, more celebratory and joyful. It's where we are in our lives and I couldn't have picked a more appropriate bouquet. Plus, knowing he actually walked through the flower shop pointing at colors and flowers he'd like included makes it extra-special in my book. He made sure to include my very favorite flowers in the whole wide world, ranunculus. It's the first time I've received a bouquet with them in it because their growing season is so short. They are the spindly little flowers that resemble a cabbage rose, almost. They have character. I can't wait for them to fully bloom.

*an after published note: my friend Kel says this picture looks nothing like me* 

My gift to Jeremy this year was a love letter. He's not a huge material gift guy.

French Toast Bread Pudding

Now? I'm settling in to read one of the best books ever while Olivia naps. Tonight brings a hot date with my husband at our restaurant. We received this picture from our chef showing us what awaits. :)


Gah- You guys, I'm so happy and it's only 1:40pm...

"Expect nothing, and appreciate everything"


French Toast Bread Pudding
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 8

1 challah loaf, sliced 3/4 inch thick
8 extra-large eggs
5 cups half-and-half or milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Confectioners' sugar and pure maple syrup, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange the bread in two layers in a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish, cutting the bread to fit the dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, honey, orange zest, vanilla, and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and press the bread down. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.

Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and add enough very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come an inch up the side of the baking dish. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting it so the foil doesn't touch the pudding. Make two slashes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the aluminum foil, and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

With a small sieve, dust lightly with confectioners' sugar and serve hot in squares with maple syrup on the side.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Homemade Sign-Language Valentines


No recipe here today. Just some sweet pictures of my oldest girl helping my youngest girl make some homemade valentines for her class tomorrow.

Olivia has special needs (Angelmans Syndrome - see my friends and family page) and goes to a school that integrates typical children with special needs children. These valentines were perfect for her class, don't you think? Olivia can't talk, so she uses signs and although she can't actually sign "I love you", she would if she could -especially to Emmit, her "boyfriend" who has Down's Syndrome and is the cutest little boy you've ever seen. She really does have an affinity for Emmit, and I do too, and Emmit's mom once told me that he had eyes for Olivia, so yeah, it's unofficially officially her "boyfriend." You know how these preschool romances work.

Emmit and Olivia
Livy and Emmit

Big sister helping little sister make the Valentines


We slipped cute pink lollipops through a slit in sturdy paper and Isabella traced a hand and proceeded to cut it out 12 times and color them all. Melted my heart.


Tomorrow is Valentines Day and as if it couldn't get any better already, it's also the day we go in for our 20 week baby appointment for our ultrasound! We're taking the kids and finding out together. Be looking for a gender reveal post next week! I'm not excited at all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Easy Lemon, Garlic and Kale Pasta

Easy Lemon, Garlic and Kale Pasta photo IMG_3187.jpg

Kale. It's what's for dinner. Okay, so I fess up, I saw this recipe on Pinterest and swooned over it for a couple months until I decided it was time to make it. Although the original recipe sounded lovely, I knew I needed to add significantly more garlic, lemon, and salt, plus a little crushed red pepper flake in order for it to pass my taste test. I was right on the money. The amounts can be tweaked to fit your preferences but I found this recipe to be perfectly garlicky, without being overpowering (it takes more than you think it will), and very lemony. We like lemon in our house. I thought this was perfect for us because the brightness along with the silky olive oil and background garlic balanced the earthiness of the kale. If you are not overly thrilled by lemons, cut down on the juice by a 1/2 lemon, and don't add the lemon slices to infuse your oil. That should do it.

Easy Lemon, Garlic and Kale Pasta photo IMG_3166.jpg

This girl gobbled her pasta down with great enthusiasm, although we did catch her picking out a few ribbons of kale and tossing them to the side. I think they made their way onto the floor where the dog ate them. He lives for moments like that.

Olivia photo IMG_3189.jpg

Right now, that very same girl is squealing at the TV in the background where the Price Is Right is on. What is it with that show? Kids love it. The bright colors, the commotion. Have you ever noticed that? I swear, next time the kids are driving you crazy, play an episode of Price Is Right and walk away. You don't even need to draw attention to it. The kids will just naturally flock to the TV and become entranced. It's so strange. When Jeremiah is home sick and it comes on he'll yell at me if I try and turn the channel. I had no idea the showcase showdown could be so entertaining.

Easy Lemon, Garlic and Kale Pasta photo IMG_3185.jpg

Easy Lemon, Garlic and Kale Pasta
adapted from The Cilantropist
serves 4-6

1 head dinosaur or black kale, thick stem removed and chopped into thin ribbons
1 lb. shell pasta (we used brown rice pasta - Tinkyada brand, which is gluten free)
2 lemons
7 fat garlic cloves, chopped and divided
1/2 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Heat a large pot filled with water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

Zest and juice one of the lemons in a bowl and set aside for later. Slice the remaining lemon in half and squeeze the juice out of one of the halves into the bowl of juice and zest. Slice the remaining half a lemon into thin slices and reserve.

In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 of the chopped garlic cloves and saute for 1 minute. Add kale and saute until it wilts nicely, about 5 minutes and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Transfer wilted kale to another bowl (or sheet of foil, like I do) and set aside.

In the same pan used to cook the kale, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium to medium-low heat, once warm, add the remaining 5 cloves of garlic, pinch of red pepper flakes, and lemons slices, and saute until garlic is cooked and oil is infused, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the lemon juice and zest and remaining teaspoon of Kosher salt. Continue to simmer everything together for 1 minute. Add the kale and pasta to the sauce and toss until combined. Top with toasted pine nuts and serve hot. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dulce De Leche Brownies

Dulce De Leche Brownies photo IMG_3184.jpg

This is supposed to be my Valentines post. I had planned on photographing these beauties with some sort of red or pink background, or ribbon to drive that point home but I realized I don't have food props. I'm that lame blogger that likes to keep things authentic. If I'm not actually wrapping these brownies up in red tissue paper and giving them to somebody, I sure as heck won't make it look like I am (unless I have lots of extra time and vision). Still, I feel certain pressures as a food blogger such as getting recipes out before holidays since the whole point is to inspire ideas for these sorts of things. The truth is I usually suck at this. Call me crazy but I like to make valentines treats ON Valentines Day. This means I can't possibly get pictures and a post out  in time for you to make it as well unless I save it for the next year. I do that sometimes. I have both a Christmas and Thanksgiving recipe that I made this year, which I won't share with you until next year when the time is right. This blog stuff can get complicated. However, it happens to be my step-dad's 50th birthday this week, and since my mom is coming over I thought he might like it if she brought him home some of these brownies. Because, dude, who wouldn't want some of these brownies? I knew I had to make this recipe asap because the hefty pockets of soft milk caramel folded throughout were calling to me and made it so I could not, could not, stop thinking about it. It was like it had some kind of hold over me.

Dulce De Leche Brownies photo IMG_3164.jpg

Dulce De Leche Brownies photo IMG_3165.jpg

Can you blame me? These are gorgeous in their simplicity, are they not? Normally, I like my brownies topped with vanilla ice cream in sundae form or I'm not much interested. Dulce de leche brownies are apparently a game changer. You want these straight up. It would be a travesty to mask that caramel and chocolate with anything else. The thing that works so magically here are the differing textures. There's a deep chewiness to the brownies which clings to the warm caramel in a nice little hug. When you bite, some of the dulce de leche oozes out gently without getting too messy and ignites your taste buds. This is a hefty brownie. Fudgy, but with a good crumb. I can't see myself making a different brownie recipe ever again, with or without the dulce de leche because these are spot on. Next time, I'll load them with nuts. The fact that these are essentially saucepan brownies and can be made in one pot, without the use of a mixer makes them even better. What are you waiting for? Like, seriously.

Dulce De Leche Brownies photo IMG_3179.jpg

What are your Valentine plans? My sweet Grandma and Grandpa are going to babysit the kids so that we can go out to dinner. Usually, I opt for reservations at my favorite restaurant, Cafe Diva, but this year I think we'll go to our own restaurant, Mambo Italiano. Our Sicilian chef has created the most beautiful menu with proscuitto and honey ricotta and handmade mushroom pasta and cream puffs with berries and oh, It's going to be fantastic.

Dulce De Leche Brownies
adapted from David Lebovitz

makes 9 squares

8 tablespoons (115g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) flour
optional: 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup Dulce De Leche (or Cajeta)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).
Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn’t reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.
Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.
Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly (if you like big, melty pockets of caramel, don't swirl the bottom layer. Leave it in globs). Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. You want the brownies to be underdone just a bit. It pays off after they cool. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Storage: These brownies actually become better the second day, and will keep well for up to 3 days.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

Quinoa Porridge

OMG! Can I just tell you it's 1:15am right now and I can't sleep. I had a helping of my chocolate chia seed pudding mousse (made with stevia only for my cleanse) at 7:30pm, and I completely forgot about the "gentle" stimulating effects raw cacao powder can have; especially when your body is sensitive from being absolutely clean of caffeine and coffee. Holy wide eyes Batman! I feel like I've been given speed, except I've never been given speed so really I don't even know what I'm talking about. Except I don't have that weird jittery/sick feeling you get when you drink caffeine because like I said, it's "gentle". I feel more like I've been sleeping for two months and and am now rendereed absolutely and completely incapable of it. I could leap buildings with a single bound. While laying in bed trying to coax the sleep out, I planned the same tapas menu 64 times in a row because my mind was stuck on it like I kept hitting replay. Finally I was like enough you evil mind, so I came downstairs. Now I am sitting on the couch watching A Baby Story because that's what 4 1/2 month pregnant women do, and now I'm unloading on  you. Thanks for staying up with me. Turns out you are stellar company.

As long as were discussing my current "condition", can I just say that after being pregnant four times I can absolutely say that each and every pregnancy is completely different. You think you know what to expect and then BAM!, you don't have sciatic nerve pain but instead get reoccuring muscle cramps or aching across your abdomininon which makes you walk like the pregnant ladies in movies but not how pregnant ladies walk in real life. You know, that sort of waddle like it pains you to be carrying this load around for so long? I used to watch people do that and wonder what in the heck was going on. I have never, never even felt the slightest stomach/muscle discomfort with any of my other babies. I could have picked anything up and hauled it around, even when I was past due. Now? I go to lift the mattress up to put fresh sheets on the bed and it's like I almost literally can't do it. Jeremy is the sweetest man ever, but he sometimes sees stuff like this and looks at me very puzzled, like he can't figure out if I'm kidding or not. I know honey, I am wondering the same thing. Like, what. the. hell?

Also, the flu has been running rampant over here. At one point Jeremiah was feeling so bad that he asked his dad to feed him a grapefruit "like a baby". It was really cute. I did, however,  have to take three pictures before I finally got one with Jeremy's mouth closed.

Jeremiah, quinoa porridge

It is now 1:45am, I thought you should know.

Do you remember Beavis and Butthead? There was one summer where my Mom and I would watch that (which is freaking hilarious if you knew us - totally unexpected- and for the record, I would never watch that now. But I was 16 and didn't know better. MTV was all the rage. I have no idea why my mom watched it.) Anyhow, we'd watch Beavis and Butthead while eating sliced cucumbers with lemon and a Mexican chili salt and then we'd watch Singled Out with Jenny McCarthy because we were super classy back then.

quinoa porridge, beavis and butthead

Well, that was a fun memory. This cacao is making me ramble all sorts of randomness and you have to understand that I am trying really, really hard to try and tie Quinoa Breakfast Porridge in here somehow, someway, but I'm not finding it. I don't think I have the will to find it at this point. I have no idea what I'll type when I sit down to write this blog. Seriously, never do I have a game plan. Honesty is always the best policy.

So, here's the long and short of it. Quinoa porridge is dang good. It requires two steps but each are no big deal. First you'll make a flavored spiced milk with yummy spices like cardamom and cinnamon. This way, when you cook your quinoa in it, the grains will puff up and absorb all that deliciousness. In the end, you'll have a bowl full of gently flavored soul-warming tender quinoa, very slightly sweetened and ready to be dressed however you like. I ate mine with delicious little blueberries and sliced almonds, but I think Jeremy liked his with just a little brown sugar which made it all the cozier. We make a lot of steel cut oatmeal in the winter, but this is a welcome and nutritious addition to shake things up. Watch out though, this is a very filling breakfast. You won't be able to eat as big a bowl as you'd think.

Quinoa Porridge

Two AM and I'm still awake writing this post, if I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to. And...breathe. Just breathe. Hey, true story, Jeremy's friend from high school married the girl who sings that song. If you don't think you know that song, I firmly disagree. Everyone knows that song.

Is it bedtime yet? Ugh. I wish I had this porridge to wake up to.

Quinoa Porridge
adapted from Good To The Grain, by Kim Boyce
serves 6

Spiced Milk:
1 cup heavy cream (I used coconut milk)
1 cup whole milk (you can make this vegan by using vanilla almond milk)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
8 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup quinoa
1/3 cup currants (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Blueberries or strawberries
Sliced almonds
Brown sugar

To make the spiced milk, smash the cardamom pods with the back of a pan or side of a knife. In a small saucepan, combine cream, milk, spices, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to boil, immediately turn the heat off, and leave the milk to steep, about 20 minutes.

Using a fine mesh strainer or sieve, rinse quinoa under cold water to remove any bitter residue. Place 2 cups of water, the quinoa, currants, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the quinoa is tender and tails spiral out of grains, 12-15 minutes. move the pan to a cooler spot on the stove and cover with a lid.

Strain the spiced milk into the quinoa without pressing the mixture in the strainer, so as to avoid any sediment passing through. Bring the porridge to a boil over medium flame and simmer until the pudding  has thickened slightly, about 4 minutes.

Divide the porridge evenly among 6 bowls and, if desired, top each bowlful with toppings.