Happy Trail Mix Day!

Today is my lucky day. It is the day to celebrate one of my most favorite foods. It is national trail mix day AKA Mixture. Woo Hoo!
I am celebrating with a big bowl of this

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 and we are enjoying a fun family tradition. 

The greatest part about mixture (trail mix) is how easy it is to prepare.  You really don’t need to measure and it does not matter if you never make it the same.  Whatever you have on hand can work, whether it be nuts, cereal, sesame sticks, raisins, dried apricots, banana chips, and chocolate chips.  It is quick, easy, portable, and can satisfy the sweet or salty tooth as well as providing a healthy dose of protein and fiber.  You can even boost your magnesium and vitamin C intake by including certain nuts and dried fruits.  

A great time saver and easy way to encourage healthier snacking is to make a big container and keep it on hand for those little hands whenever they get hungry.

What a great day it is, a holiday weekend, and we are taking advantage of it and heading to the mountains today. When Little Miss Mixture was two I got in my head I wanted to go apple picking. As a kid this was something we were able to do without trekking to far away from home. Mr. Mixture had never been apple picking so I was determined to find an orchard and begin a tradition.

I had no idea that my twenty minutes of research and finding what was one of the closer orchards though just over two hours away would be so awesome. We not only enjoyed ourselves but it took very little convincing to make this a new annual thing. Our dates keep changing as we have found varieties of apples were prefer, so now it is a matter of ensuring our schedule allows us the time to get to Skytop Orchard each year when those apples are ready to be picked. Sure you could drive to the orchard which sits beautifully atop a mountain in North Carolina and by some varieties from the store, but we really enjoy picking them ourselves. As Little Miss Mixture has gotten older she has taken to learning to climb the trees just as I did as a kid and still do to find the best apples.

So while we are picking apples and enjoying our picnic lunch ( Happy National Eat Outside Day!).  Why don’t you make some mixture and celebrate today as well.  You could also opt for celebrating with bacon today, as it is also National Bacon Day!  Uh Oh I better start figuring out how to incorporate that into our day as bacon is a true love of Little Miss Mixture.  I have seen her eat many unexpected things just because they included bacon.

Have a great day and you can be certain there will be some great ways to enjoy apples coming soon.

Treasure Chest Thursday Recipe: Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

IMG_3708How have I not written about this meal yet?  This meal is regularly requested and I try to keep the ingredients on hand as it is a great way to use up a green that has been sitting around a little too long.  I tend to make this recipe most often with spinach, but I have been known to toss in some chard, kale, arugula, or even collard greens.

This recipe is definitely worthy of being a Treasure Chest Thursday post.  This is one of those simple meals that has just the right amount of flavor.  It is quick and easy to prepare making it a great weeknight (aka school night) meal.

As I am writing this post I really hope my search feature is working, as I could have sworn I have already posted this recipe but each time I have searched it comes up empty for gnocchi.  I guess I have written it in my head more than once because as I am typing the thoughts sound too familiar.  I have always been a fan of gnocchi since I first had it in a pesto dish years ago.  It has also been one of those items I swear I will try and make one day, but last winter I tried what I thought would be the easier version of gnocchi to make – gnudi.  Well turns out either I totally bombed the recipe or I really did not like gnudi.

I have never seen gnudi on a menu but I keep telling myself I have to try it again and try it somewhere out to see if it was me, the recipe or if I am just not a fan of gnudi.   Gnudi is really just gnocchi made with ricotta rather than potato. The mere switch to ricotta, an ingredient I love makes me worried it was me rather than the gnudi.  I have never brought myself to make gnocchi as I am not a big fan of complex recipes with a lot of steps.  Really to make gnocchi you then have to also prepare a meal using it.  Not my favorite type of cooking.  Besides after the gnudi incident a part of me thought maybe store bought is just what I prefer when it comes to pasta.  Now don’t get me wrong I have had fresh made gnocchi as well as the vacuum packed that is great for keeping on hand and I like them both.  It is just another excuse I keep giving myself on why I do not want to try to make gnocchi from scratch.

Enough of my gnocchi and gnudi tangent.  Okay one last thing what fun words.  I wonder if anyone has ever named their animals gnocchi and gnudi – filing that idea away for when I finally have to give in to a fish or something that comes in pairs.  I can just picture two cute little dogs with those names, but we have one cute little dog now and that is ample, especially since she is not high on my list this morning.  Really now enough on to the recipe that is a treasure chest recipe in our house.IMG_3701

Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

1 pkg gnocchi (16oz.)*

6 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp Toasted Pine Nuts**

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 1/2 – 2 bags Fresh Baby Spinach

1/4 tsp Black Pepper, optional

Parmesan Cheese, as desired

 Directions

Cook Gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions, about 5 minutes.  Omit any salt or oil.  Drain.

In a skillet over medium heat melt butter  and cook approximately 3-5 minutes stirring constantly.  The butter needs to start to turn golden brown.  Add garlic and pine nuts to pan and continuing stirring for 1 minute.  Add gnocchi and spinach and cook stirring occasionally until spinach wilts.  Season with pepper if desired.  I like to decrease my stirring once spinach is almost wilted and try to get the gnocchi to brown slightly.  Serve with parmesan cheese on top as desired.IMG_3706

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* I prefer whole wheat gnocchi, but any type works

** I use pre toasted pine nuts from Trader Joe’s, but if yours are not toasted add the pine nuts with the butter so they toast while the butter is browning.

Adapted from a recipe that appeared in Cooking Light MagazineIMG_3708

 

 

Homemade Pizza in Take Out Time

IMG_3822I love pizza. I am not sure where my love for this food comes from. As a teenager, I remember Friday night was generally pizza night but this was because we were a busy rushed family heading to football games. We were a family of two girls, but when you are on the dance team your Friday nights are just as busy. And what father would complain when the game he sat through to see his girls perform at halftime just happened to have the Barber twins playing for the same team.

Pizza night in high school was take out and it was around the time the “lovers line” became popular. Well in my mind pizza has come a long way since then.  I grew up in the south, so I know a lot of naysayers will claim I know nothing about pizza, but in my mind I do.

What you like when it comes to food is personal and when it comes to pizza, I like flavor. So whether it is traditional New York Style pizza, Deep Dish Chicago style, brick oven, or a flatbread if the flavor is there I enjoy it.

Today’s post is not a unique pizza but the type of pizza I make if we want a traditional flavor pizza.  So often you think homemade pizza takes forever, and yes it can.  If you make your own dough, you have to plan ahead.  If you make your own sauce, you have to plan and make it ahead, but this is your quick and easy homemade as in put the toppings on, make it what you want, and cook it at home.

This pizza takes a little bit of preparation as you cannot walk in from an afternoon of activities and have it on the table in 30 minutes, unless you plan ahead.  When I say plan ahead you need to have your dough room temperature for best results.  The Trader Joe dough recommends sitting out for 30 minutes.  I also find having a hot oven and pizza stone help ensure the crust cooks evenly.

Jamey’s Better than Take Out Traditional Pizza 

1 recipe pizza dough (I like Trader Joe’s pizza dough – you roll your own)

1 cup Marinara Sauce**

8 oz Mushrooms, washed, sliced

1/2 Red Pepper, chopped

1/2  Green Pepper, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cups Spinach

1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups cheese, mozzarella (Occasionally I use a combination of any of the following: Mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and cheddar)

20 slices pepperoni (optional)*

3 Tbsp. Olive OilIMG_3818

Preparing the Pizza Dough

Allow dough to sit out for at least 30 minutes to become room temperature.  This will make rolling the dough out easier.  I did not say it would roll into a perfect circle as that takes skill which I don’t focus on, I just roll and go.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees and allow to heat for 30 minutes with pizza stone.  Remove hot pizza stone from oven and pour 1 Tbsp olive oil over the stone.  Spread it around if you want or the quick and easy way just toss the dough on top.  I always try and roll a little more once the dough is on the stone to thin it out and reach the edges of my stone.

Place pizza stone with dough in oven for about 8-10 minutes to pre bake.

Preparing the Toppings

In a skillet over medium high heat, pour 2 Tbsp olive oil and minced garlic and heat for 2 minutes.  Add peppers, mushrooms, onions, and spinach and cook until lightly sautéed.IMG_3808IMG_3817

Assembling the Pizza

Remove the pre baked pizza dough from the oven and spread the marinara sauce over top.  Spread your sautéed vegetables, pineapple, and pepperoni evenly over the marinara.  Top with cheese.  Return to the 425 degree oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to bubble and brown.  Slice and enjoy.

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* perfect Meatless Monday recipe if the pepperoni is omitted

** I tend to use marinara sauce for my pizza base as I think it is lighter and more flavorful than pizza sauce.  This is just a preference as any sauce will work.IMG_3824

Monday’s Mixture

Image 1We are one week into our new school and it seems as if rather than having more time on my hands, I am in a complete whirlwind.  I am sure it will settle down, but it may take a few weeks as there is so much going on with parent meetings at school, new after school activity schedules to get accustom to, etc.  Big sigh of relief.  The first week went well and I am sure by February I will find extra time on my hands since I am sure to get accustom to the new routine and then realize I am on a time crunch for getting organized for family birthdays and holidays.  Thankfully I had a big container of mixture to help get us through the busy week.

 

1.  What We Are Eating ( August 17 – August 23)

Sunday – Tuna Salad Cold Plate, Vegetables a & dip, Fruit

Monday – Lemon Chicken, Sautéed Squash & Fennel, Cottage Cheese & Tomato Salad

Tuesday – Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

Wednesday – Bacon Cheddar Burger Patties, Grilled Okra, Watermelon, & Pickles

Thursday – Ladies Night for me, Mr. Mixture & LIttle Miss Mixture had Tuna Melts on Naan Bread, Vegetables & Dip

Friday – Tomato Mozzarella Salad, Shrimp Scampi over Whole Wheat Angel Hair

Saturday – Cheese & Red Pepper Nachos

2.  Pickles – A couple of weeks ago I saw this post on Smitten Kitchen.  I grew up eating cucumbers marinated in a vinegar type solution, but I never thought of them as pickled.  Little Miss Mixture loves pickles but I am not a fan of most of the store bought ones anymore.  I gave this recipe a try, cutting it in half and using less salt.  The revised post on smitten kitchen now indicates less salt.  These are so easy and so good.

3. Back to School Party – Since Little Miss Mixture entered Kindergarten I have had a back to school party for her class.  It is a simple get together just before school starts.  This year I swapped out the juice boxes and muffins for smoothies to accompany the doughnuts and fruit.  The plastic BPA free bottles I found at shopsweetlulu.com  worked perfectly .   I had three smoothies Peachy Watermelon, Tinkerbell (my version with coconut milk and fresh pineapple), and a Berry Blast.

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4. Hummus – I have a couple tried and true hummus recipes that I have for years.  However a lot of times I just create them as I go based on herbs I have in the refrigerator or my garden barrels.  Little Miss Mixture asked for hummus and carrots for snack at school this week.  Yes I am smiling as I love some of the healthy items she has asked for and you better believe I will get some made before tomorrow.  This is a great chart for ideas and ratios to make different hummus flavors.

5. Projects – I am enjoying this whole blog thing, but like other things it is a hobby and a project to me.  As the new school year is beginning and the rush of the holiday season starts, I just realized I am really behind on my other projects.  How can it be almost a year since our big birthday trip for Little Miss Mixture?  Worse yet how is it I have not made the picture book yet.  Anyway as I will continue to blog and make my readers aware of What we are eating and recipes worth trying, but I am going to have to get back on track with other projects before another busy season passes me by.  I would love to hear from my readers as to what really interest you.  Breakfast food, Snacks, School Lunch ideas, Weeknight Dinners, Desserts.Image

Corn, Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

IMG_3768It has been a busy week, and I was wrong about having more time to write.  With the start of school and my wanting to catch up on some errands and get ready for a busy weekend of parties, I feel as if the days have gotten away from me.  Of course we have been eating and I have been in the kitchen, but I have not found the time to sit down and write about our meals.  I know as we settle in to our new school schedule this will change.  In the meantime, I thought I would share a recipe off our must try list that I finally got around to making, per the instructions.  Well almost.

Several weeks ago I wrote about a chard naan pizza that I made.  The flatbread came about as I did not have all the necessary ingredients for this recipe for a corn, squash, and green onion flatbread that Little Miss Mixture had placed on our must try list.  This past weekend, I decided to try the recipe that helped to create those chard pizzas.  The reviews online at cookinglight.com were slightly mixed, but I read the recipe and a couple reviews and decided to give it a go.

I love pizza and these individual type flatbread, naan bread pizzas are great for an easy meal during the week.  I find this especially true during the school year when on occasion we eat in shifts.  As I stated I followed the recipe sort of.  I felt the need to make a few changes that would enhance the flavor.  The recipe is very basic in that it calls for yellow squash.  I love most vegetables and prefer many of them raw, but I just could not imagine raw squash with cheese melted on it.  The recipe does not indicate cooking the squash, but I chose to sauté it with some garlic as I knew the green onions would add some crunch.  I also chose to leave out the black pepper, salt, and thyme the original recipe called for.  I rarely add salt to anything as I find it is not necessary with most recipes and having sautéed the squash I wanted that sweetness of that to shine rather than thyme or black pepper.

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Corn, Sautéed Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

1 Frozen Naan Bread per serving

1-2 pieces yellow squash, cut into chunks

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ear of corn

2 green onions, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 cup Fontina cheese

3 Tbsp. Butter

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Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with pizza stone in it.

In a medium skillet heat 1-2 Tbsp butter over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and squash and sauté until browned and soft.  Meanwhile cut the corn from the cob.  I chose to use grilled corn as I had some extra for meals such as this, but you can boil it if you prefer.  Remove the squash from the skillet and add another 1 Tbsp butter.  Heat each of the naan breads to lightly coat each side with some butter.

On your heated pizza stone place the naan bread.  Top with corn, squash, and the green onions.  Lightly cover with cheese and heat in the 400 degree oven until the cheese melts.  Cut into small pieces and enjoy.

Okay so as I am writing my version of Corn, Squash, and Green onion Flatbread, I am realizing that once again I really did not follow the recipe.  However the idea was based on this cooking light recipe and the meal turned out well.  I consider that a win and another type of pizza has been added to our list of dinner ideas.

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