Tag Archives: Food

How to Cook Good Food Inspired by Your Favorite Restaurants!

This afternoon, we went to our “Dinner for 6” dinner club group, and our friend said she was making Pasta e Fagioli inspired by the soup at Olive Garden that she likes.  In an effort to go along, I thought I’d shoot for an Olive Garden-inspired salad, only making it better by replacing romaine for the iceberg and leaving out the only food I can’t love: olives.

In the process, I found out about www.copykat.com, this lovely website that provides copy cat recipes of restaurant dishes.  How lovely!

So here’s the link to Olive Garden Salad.  I recommend replacing the iceberg with a romaine or green leaf lettuce.  Also, I substituted Newman’s Own Light Italian with a bit of salt and pepper added in lieu of the “real” Olive Garden dressing, which is probably much higher in sodium.

My friend used the recipe for Pasta e Fagioli from America’s Test Kitchen subsituting the bacon with italian sausage.  With a bit of parmesan sprinkled on top, it was a soup with incredible flavor.

The combination of the soup with the salad was a.maze.ing! So, next time you’re in the mood for Italian, I totally recommend this soup/salad combo…and next time you want to make a better version of your favorite restaurant dishes, try CopyKat!

Fall Creative Cooking

Lately, since husband and I have actually been home more often, and because we’ve tightened the belt on our food budget a bit, it’s been an opportunity for some creative recipes in the kitchen.   I’ve been working to figure out interesting ways to work through our weekly box of veggies from Garden Treasures before everything goes bad, using only the things in our cabinets and buying as little new stuff as possible.

Here are some of the creative options that popped up this week:

1)  Chocolate Cake…with beets! No, really!  I got the recipe from Simply in Season, and it gives the cake a nice rich fruity flavor…we paired it with a white chocolate raspberry buttercream frosting, and amazing things resulted!  I even fed them to a bunch of people who had no idea they were made with beets (except now they know…if they’re reading this.)  Way to go beets!  I don’t always love you beets, but you definitely transformed yourself into a rad cake this week.

2)  Mashed Potato Stuffed Chili Peppers! I collected about 75 peppers from my final end-of-summer harvest from the backyard bucket garden, and husband requested stuffed peppers.  Turns out you can roast peppers, whip up some mashed potatoes (avec cream cheese), pipe them into the roasted peppers, sprinkle them with cheese, and amazing things result!  (via Simply Organic.)  Way to go peppers!  (These are so amazing, I keep sneaking back to the kitchen for more!)

I also made some not-so-creative spaghetti sauce with the last of my tomatoes…it resulted in about 6 cups of sauce.  What a crummy year for tomatoes…not the harvest I was hoping for.

Can’t wait to see what’s in the box this Thursday!  I’m hoping for pumpkins!

Ingredients for Intentional Relationships

Lately, I’ve been making little lists to help me remember what’s most important.  It came out of a conversation with a friend, where she was challenged to make a list of her treasures…to help her to reprioritize her life around the things that matter most.  I was like, “Wow, what a smart idea.”

It’s kind of ridiculous that life works in a way that we have to make lists to remind us of what’s important, but I respond well to lists.  Based on my observation of families in my work with teenagers, parents end up with lots of regrets about the time they didn’t spend with their kids when they were little.  I’ve also observed retired people voicing regret that they spent so much time worrying about work and forgot to take more vacations.  I’m not a big fan of regret.  I don’t want to look back on my life 20 years from now to realize that I have every episode of Friends memorized or read every link on my Facebook NewsFeed, but I missed the change to invest in something that matters.

Right now, I’m trying not to see the days’ tasks as, “Buy Groceries, File Taxes, Vacuum, Pay Rent, Collapse in front of TV from exhaustion” but instead see, “Spend time in prayer, help Husband feel loved today, Tell someone I love them and I believe in them.”  Already on today, Good Friday, I’ve completed two of three of the things on my list, and life feels rich.

One of the top things on my list of treasures is my Sunday Night Girls’ ReaLife Group.  It’s a simple, small thing you can do too really: find another adult, invite some people to share life with you.  Here’s a snapshot of the ingredients to sharing life with them…to creating deep relationships from scratch…

1) Invite someone to meet with you.  Intentional relationships don’t happen from mass appeals or waiting for the other person to say they want to spend time with you.  Life-changing relationships happen because you are vulnerable enough to ask a person you care about to spend time with you.  So pick up the phone and pick a date/time and get started.   Call them.  Do it!

2) Share dessert.

This one is courtesy of our TeenBakingProdigy, a peanut butter pie from Paula Deen.  TeenBakingProdigy approaches me many a Sunday morning after worship to say, “Tonight, we will have _______.”  Several hours later, she shows up with her baked creation, much to our delight.  Last week, when TeenBakingProdigy was late to group, we called her to see where she was, because we were craving the peanut butter pie she’d promised.  She responded, “I’m almost there.  I’m walking to church really slowly…in the rain.  I can only go so fast because the pie hasn’t set yet.”  You cannot buy this kind of commitment to good dessert, but it is certainly a blessing…so was the pie.

3) Drink a hot beverage.

Because nothing breaks the ice for good conversation like a steamy cup of warm beverage.

4) Do something silly together.

In this particular case, TeenBakingProdigy read aloud to us about Arizona’s, “The Thing.”  Nothing insights laughter and bonding like THE THING.  Definitely seek to laugh as much as possible.

5) Read God’s word together and try to learn something new.  Be honest in the process.
Even if all you learn is something small, and even if it doesn’t make sense.

This morning, one of my gals and I went to breakfast together.  We followed the basic steps: something sweet to eat, some warm beverages, and simple conversations about life and God.

Intentionality sure feels good on the other side…Jesus himself chose a few people to share life with, and they changed the world…it’s Good Friday…I strongly recommend pursuing some intentional relationship time today.

Kids Don’t Know Their Vegetables?

I’ve caught the trailers for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and it sounds like he’s a man after the heart of Michelle Obama, who just launched the “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity.

Why am I excited about both of these?  Check out this clip.  For Real?

Thanks to @jesusgirls for sending me this link via Grist.

A Reflection on Fasting

I tried to fast a couple of Fridays ago.

It didn’t go so well.  I was irritable most of the time, but the worst part, was that I hated every minute of it.

I shared this with a good friend a week or so later, and she said, “If you hate it, then you shouldn’t do it.” She wasn’t necessarily saying that out of an American worldview that one should do whatever makes one happy. She was responding out of belief that self-loathing and irritability is not what fasting is for.

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Step One: Organize the Ingredients

When I was little, my favorite book was The Berenstein Bears and the Messy Room. (This is quite unironic given that the carpet in my bedroom was usually covered wall-to-wall with grub, but ironic in the sense that the book actually ended with the bears cleaning their room, which I tended not to do.)

Anyways, I loved the book for the same reason I love Real Simple magazine…because I don’t know that many things are more beautiful to me than colorful labeled containers alphabetized in a pretty row.

Last night, husband took me on a trip to the Skagit Valley Co-op, which is a happy place because it’s filled with colorful labeled containers.  I admit I was slightly sad thinking about taking the plastic bags home and just piling them in the cabinet and rifling through them in ugly disorganized fashion.  But — a miracle of miracles occurred when I witnessed a fellow patron of the Co-op fill a mason jar with freshly ground peanut butter.  I was struck upside the head by the idea to use my empty canning jars for winter storage for my grains, beans and lentils.  No need to spend hundreds of dollars at The Container Store, because for $10, I was able to bring the Co-op home.  I have the same giddy feeling I did everytime I finished The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room.  For $10, you can have this kind of happiness too.

More With Less

I know I must have been engrossed in what he was saying, because I had already forgotten that my pants zipper had broken in the ladies restroom only moments before.  I had already tuned out the energy I was expending pulling the hem of my camisole over the broken zipper while simultaneously pretending nothing had happened.  The brain cells that were focused on projecting the breeziness the evening required were apparently now fully integrated into my autosomatic nervous system.  My full attention was focused on him, on this first meeting, and the conversation at hand.

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