Monday, March 12, 2012

The Joy of Life... in the people who surround you. We had a very sociable weekend considering that sicky McGee was just getting over the death plague. A good friend of ours celebrated his 30th birthday this weekend. We went out to the local renaissance festival with his family and many other friends. It was really great to see everyone, including some of our friends who got to meet little man for the first time:

Photo Credit: Rene Sanchez

Our friend Josh meeting little man. Vince soon realized that Josh is soft, loving and great for naps.
Photo Credit: Rene Sanchez

Vince relaxing in his seat.

Sunday Vince and I went out to visit my family and some friends while Marc stayed home and rested. We had a great time catching up and chatting. 

Other news - I'm down another pound, that bring it to a total of 4 pounds with 11 more to go. We're about 11 and a half weeks out, so if I can maintain a pound a week, I can reach this goal. It should be very doable. I'm excited.

AND I managed to flip through the new Food Network Magazine - LOTS of new recipes in there that pique my interest. We need to go grocery shopping this coming weekend, but since we haven't been in almost two weeks, I'm ok with this.

How did you weekend go? Did you get out and do anything exciting?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gardening Update

Casa de Montecalvo is still under the weather. So we haven't been experimenting with new dishes. We have been trying to keep up with healthy dinners.

We did a lemon herb chicken with corn and herb fried potatoes on Monday.

We had meatloaf on Tuesday with carrots in a garlic butter sauce. It wasn't very neat looking, and I forgot to take a picture therefore there's no picture here. The meatloaf, however, was a great freezer meal.

Tonight we had an Asian flavored chicken with rice and broccoli. I used a slim down version of the Asian marinade we talked about here. 

Even though we've been sick, our plants are doing pretty well. We have some peppers growing and some parsley:

Anyone know what type of peppers those are? They are pretty darn hot. They take a lot of abuse, but they are growing so well. The basil, however, we learned is not as drought proof as its cohorts:

I love the idea of using fresh from my garden ingredients. I've been bugging Marc for months to build a box for me to grow some veggies in. I guess we'll have to make sure that we attempt to harvest some drought proof foods. :)

Do you garden? Any tips?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Attack of the Plague

This was a rough weekend. Marc and I are both fighting the plague. I'm not a good sick person, and thankfully Marc is much better than I am about it.

Friday was pretty nice. Remember that vegan friend I mentioned? Her fiance and she came up for a visit and I was able to try out a chickpea snack recipe I had found. She also brought up this ridiculously tasty snack mix (raisins, dried cranberries, almonds and pistachios), along with cut up broccoli, carrots, red and yellow peppers and tomatoes. We had a really great visit and learned some great gardening tips. Hopefully Marc and I will be able to build our mini garden soon.

Saturday and Sunday were very chill days. We spent one of our evenings playing Monopoly by candlelight while riding out a power outage. Our days were spent practicing our crafts. Marc has a new lighting kit for his photography and I've been working on sewing a blanket for Vince to play on. We managed to spread out all over the living room and dining room doing it:

Our Monopoly game still on the floor with candles around it and Marc's photo equipment in the back

My sewing station on the dining room table

Here's the recipe for our chickpea snacks. They were actually really good and I was surprised how tasty they were. Marc and our friends were impressed too!


1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp red chili pepper flakes


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Drain and rinse chickpeas, pat dry
3. Combine spices and oil in a small bowl
4. Stir in beans until evenly coated
5. Bake 30-40 minutes


The spices 

After rubbing the chickpeas through the spices 


I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Sorry! This week is going to be full of off the cuff ideas and just throwing stuff together. We tried to meal plan yesterday but it wasn't very successful and this is shaping up to be a busy week.

How did your weekend go? Make anything new?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Slow Cooker Meal of the Week: Chicken and Biscuits

Are you pinterest? Do you know what pinterest is? If not, it's a "new" social networking-ish idea that allows you to pin images from the internet to digital inspiration boards. It's how Marc found our recipe for tonight. Since we wanted to eat something yummy and not tap anymore freezer meals (we tapped one yesterday since we both felt under the weather). It, much like many slow cooker recipes, is very easy to make.


3/4 pound of carrots, cut into 1 inch lengths
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
6 biscuits (homemade or store bought)
1 cup peas
1/2 cup heavy cream


1. Put carrots, onion and flour into slow cooker.
2. Lay chicken over the top and season with salt and pepper
3. Add wine and broth
4. Cover and cook until tender (5-6 on low, 2.5-5 on high)
5. 30 minutes before serving, prep biscuits
6. 10 minutes before serving add peas, cream and 1/2 tsp salt and stir
7. Cook until heated (5-10 minutes)
8. Half biscuits and cover with chicken mixture to serve.

Veggies and flour awaiting the chicken

Somewhat cleaned up chicken thighs

After adding the spices


We used biscuits from the store since we weren't really big on cooking tonight anyway. Homemade biscuits will have to be another attempt. We decided that it's important to utilize a dry white wine. The one we used was somewhat sweet and it threw things off. We also used a full can of peas instead of just one cup. It made it very pea-y. This is definitely a try-again-with-modifications type dish. 

Any weekend plans? I think we're gonna take it easy and try to recover from our respective sicknesses. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tomato Walnut Spinach Pasta

My mentor from childhood went vegan. I'm such an awful pupil that I didn't realize that she was vegetarian till a few months ago and last week she broke it to me that she went vegan. I didn't know what to say; more importantly I didn't know what to feed her. She assures me that she comes equipped with her own food, but in an Italian household that's unacceptable. You must feed everyone.

So I set off to troll the internet and figure out what I could make. I found this neat little dish and decided to use Marc as a guinea pig. I don't think he minded.


1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
Olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
2 large handfuls of spinach, chopped roughly
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped roughly


1. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low-medium heat
2. Sweat garlic and onions in pan (appox 5 min)
3. Add oregano, salt, and pepper
4. Stir well
5. Add tomatoes and basil, then stir
6. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer on low for 5 minutes
7. Start cooking pasta per directions on the box
8. Stir in walnuts and spinach
9. Cook 10 minutes 
10. Drain pasta
11. Combine and serve.


Sweating onions

Spices grouped together in the order they'll go in the pan.

After adding the oregano, salt, and pepper

Tomatos plopped in

After it all came together

Ta-Da! This is Marc's dish. It has cheese on top (Not very vegan)

And then we had some of this for dessert:

Overall it was really good. I think the spinach is really just there for nutritional value as it didn't contribute much to the flavor. Walnuts I'm pretty sure were for texture too as they also didn't add a whole lot flavor wise. I like experimenting with tomato sauce though. I'll need to tap my mom and get her recipe for the sauce she used to make.

*A note on the pasta and veganism: the pasta I'm familiar with is made with egg. I checked the box and the only listed ingredient was whole wheat flour with a note that it was made in a factory that uses soy and eggs, so I'm not sure if they used egg in it or not. Unless I've made it fresh without egg, I will assume it has egg in it.

Do you have vegetarian dishes you love? Have you ever tried to prepare foods for a vegan?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Soup and Almond Milk Ice Cream

Tonight was full of new stuff. We had a chicken, broccoli and cheddar soup for dinner, and for dessert, almond milk ice cream. Both were gambles since I hadn't made either before, but they turned out pretty good considering. The soup was really creamy and chock full of broccoli, which in short means it was delicious.


1 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 package of broccoli, chopped
2.5 cups milk (we used 2%)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese, sliced
2 chicken breasts, chopped to bite size pieces


1. Sweat onions and garlic in a non stick sauce pan over medium high heat
2. Add broth and broccoli
3. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium heat
4. Cook for 10 minutes
5. Fry chicken breasts in a separate pan 
6. In a separate bowl mix milk and cornstarch till well blended
7. Add to saucepan
8. Cook approximately 5 minutes or until it slightly thickens
9. Add pepper
10. Remove from heat and add cheese
11. Stir till it melts
12. Blend 1/3 of soup and return to pan.
13. Add chicken to soup.
14. Stir smooth and serve


Onions and garlic in pan

Adding broccoli and broth

Marc slicing up the cheese from a block

After adding the milk and cornstarch mixture

We used an immersion blender to blend some of it. Much easier than moving it back and forth between pan and blender.

For dessert I experimented with Almond Milk. It's super yummy by itself, so I wanted to see how it would work as a substitute for whole milk in ice cream. If you're unfamiliar with almond milk you can read more about it and how it compares to cow's milk here. Ice cream is really easy to make, so long as you have something with which to churn it. Lucky for us, my mother gifted us one for Christmas a few years back. Here's the recipe I used for this:


1.25 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/8 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups almond milk


1. Combine almond milk and sugar in a large bowl
2. Mix until sugar dissolves
3. Add in heavy cream and vanilla
4 Stir to combine
5. Add to ice cream maker and churn for 20-25 minutes until thickened
6. Freeze 


In the ice cream maker

After getting out of the ice cream maker, but before heading to the freezer

I tried to take a picture of it dished up for me this evening. Alas, after three attempts and none of them coming out good I gave up and ate my ice cream. It's really important to enjoy these things - especially when the wee one is in bed! The ice cream was awesome. It was creamy and tasty without feeling oily or greasy. Marc commented that things he would have changed included: putting more into his bowl and adding nuts as a mix-in to the ice cream. I'll take those as some good criticisms!

Have you ever used almond milk? Would you try it?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend Update

We took it pretty easy this weekend. My father in law is visiting from Rhode Island, so we spent some time with them on Saturday. They had plenty of opportunity to oooh and ahhh over the baby while Marc and I sipped some coffee without interruption. It was a good visit and I'm glad they were able to come over.

I took an epic, and desperately needed nap on Saturday too.

Sunday we cleaned up the house and did some chores. Marc was able to work on his photography and I was able to work. My deadline at work was coming up, so some quiet, baby-free time to concentrate was a bonus.

Today I did get out to take a walk with Vince.

Clearly, someone found it to be a lot of work. I was able to keep up a faster pace than I have been the past few weeks, so I'm happy about that.

It's getting warm already, which is a huge downer. I'm hoping it doesn't mean that the weather in Florida will be super hot this year. Exercising outside stinks when it's hot and sticky out.

This week should be fun. Now that my deadline at work as come and gone for the month, I should be able to focus on some new recipes. I'm looking at a slow cooker chicken and dumplings, an almost-vegan friendly pasta dish, and some neat, but healthy snack foods.

Did you do anything exciting this weekend? Any plans coming up this week?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pepper Experiment

Remember those peppers I had no idea what to do with? Well, I experimented with them the other night. They were so ripe and colorful I couldn't be bothered to troll the internet looking for a recipe.

I diced them up and let them sweat down a bit first.

Then I mixed them with some jarred tomato sauce I had and let them percolate a bit together.

Then I put it all into a pot and hit it with a stick blender until it was fairly well blended.

and THEN it went onto some pizza dough. One I sprinkled some bacon on, the other I put just some cheese on. Truth be told I could skip the cheese all together and just have bread and sauce.

Marc fried up some chicken, artichoke hearts and bacon to put on his.

And we had some cute little pizzas for dinner. 

Since I've sworn off frozen pizza and ordering pizza, this seemed like a much healthier way to satiate by desire for it. The peppers added a nice sweat taste to the sauce without seeming overpowering. Plus,a gain, super easy to do a vegetarian style of this - vegan probably harder since I'm not sure what you would swap the egg in the dough out with. Anyone know?

I have one more set of the three peppers to do something with. I'm thinking salsa. 

It's been a rough week at work, but I did manage to finish early one day and go for a walk with Vince. I put him in an ergo-styled carrier and wore him for our walk. I figure the extra 15 pounds would do my legs good and he would be able to cuddle up next to me.

Any great experiments in your kitchen? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weekend Perk: Freezer Meals

Ok, so maybe the weekend wasn't a total loss. We did prep some freezer meals to use throughout the upcoming weeks. I realized how amazing freezer meals were when we were in the first few weeks of Vince's life. It was so nice to be able to have something healthy to eat without needing to cut, mix and simmer first. This time around I made two meatloaves, some chicken corn chili, and black bean soup.

We had purchased a few cans of black beans while I pondered what to do with them. We also had some left over spiral cut ham from the holidays, the first time we made it. Ham and black bean soup seemed like a good idea. I consulted the power of Google and did a modified version of a recipe I found there.

It was really good, so we bought another spiral cut ham and made a bulk group of it.


1 cup of chopped onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 15oz cans undrained cans of black beans
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound diced ham
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1. Sweat down the onion and garlic over medium heat
2. Add the beans, broth, and spices (salt, pepper and cumin)
3. Simmer for 20 minutes
4. Using a potato masher, mush some of the beans (can be left whole if desired)
5. Add ham
6. Simmer for another 10 minutes


Ham diced up 

The finished product

I was taking care of Vincenzo and helping prep the chili while Marc made the black bean soup, so that's why there aren't very many pictures. I highly recommend using spiral cut ham vs pre-done diced ham from the market. It tastes much better. I also add some lime juice and a tad bit of cheddar cheese to the soup. Crusty bread also goes really well with this.

Another perk to the black bean soup recipe? It can be made vegetarian and vegan friendly. Remove the ham and cheese completely, and utilize water instead of chicken broth and voila! 

Do you freeze meals? If so, what do you make? If not, why not?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nutritional Wasteland

This past weekend was a total waste in terms of exercise and nutrition.

Let me some up our Saturday:

Drop Vince off at his grandmothers
Stop by Starbucks for coffee and a snack
Go to local brewery and have a beer and tour the brewing operation
Go to local tavern for lunch
Pick Vince up from Grandma's
Not eat the rest of the day

Sunday was equally as awesome:

Breakfast: Soup from the local Buddhist temple
Lunch: Coffee flavored ice cream cake
Dinner: Sesame Chicken and Snow Peas

Monday I had off, but Marc still had to work. He had a meeting run late and didn't get home till after 8:00pm. Our dinner last night? Hamburger Helper.

I think dinner on Sunday was the healthiest portion of the whole weekend. So, why did we fall off the wagon?It was Marc's birthday! Yay! Happy Birthday Marc!

Now it's time to climb back on the horse. Vince and I went for a small walk today to break up my time spent in the trenches of work. Our monthly deadline is approaching making things more chaotic than normal.

I'm hoping to cook up something neat. I have strawberries I need to use, along with some fresh red, orange and yellow peppers. I'm out of onion somehow. This should all make the week interesting.

How are you guys doing? Did you jump off the horse for the long weekend too? Any idea on what to use my ingredients on?