Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pressure Cooker Italian beef

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Join the cult of the electric pressure cooker! Some trends are worth following, we assure you. Electric Pressure Cookers, most people have InstaPot, but we bucked that trend and went with a Fagor, make quick easy work of tough cuts of meat. How can you go wrong? Here's a quick Pressure Cooker Italian Beef recipe we whipped up. It's easy to remember too, as each ingredient is measured in one's. 




Ingredients 

1 onion rough chopped
1 lb stew meat
Olive oil
1 c red wine
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 c carrots, chopped
1 T flour
1 t fennel
1 t Italian seasoning
1 t beef bouillon
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions

Sear and sauté onion and beef in your pressure cooker in some olive oil. Once it has some color, sprinkle in flour and brown a bit.  Add 1 t. fennel and brown. Deglaze bottom with red wine. Add remaining ingredients. Set to high pressure and cook for 13 minutes.

Serve over polenta, pasta, or potatoes. We're big fans of Lidia's Polenta recipe - it always turns out great. 



You can take the leftover polenta and the pressure cooker beef and make this Pan-Fried Polenta with Kale and Chickpeas, too (though we sauteed everything instead of baking the kale in the oven). 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bacon and Beer Braised Brussel Sprout Recipe

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Brussel sprouts... as a kid those words struck terror into my heart. Little cabbage-like veggies, steamed or boiled until they were a flavorless, mushy facsimile of their former selves. Most people, when offered brussel sprouts feel a similar cold chill course through them. In my opinion, there are no bad vegetables, only bad preparation. So let me tell you, there is hope! These brussel sprouts are deliciously sauteed and caramelized and with the hint of smokiness from the bacon and the flavor of malt and hop coming from the beer- pan braising them leaves them perfectly cooked without becoming mushy. As you explore cooking, I encourage you to think in flavors- if you want to bring up more of the smokiness, used smoked salt, or a dash or two of liquid smoke. Love garlic? Add more. It's your dish, go make it!

Bacon and Beer Braised Brussel Sprouts (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh Brussel Sprouts, rinsed and any bruised outer leaves removed
1 12 oz. lager or ale- no porters or stouts... I usually use a lager
salt & pepper to taste

Preparation: 

Trim stem end of brussel sprouts and cut in half lengthwise from stem to top. In a large skillet or saute pan, fry the bacon until crisp, remove from pan and add the onion and garlic. Saute for a minute and then add the brussel sprouts. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to sear and caramelize the sprouts. Add a large pinch of salt and pepper and the beer. Simmer uncovered over medium heat to reduce the beer until it has nearly fully evaporated and has become a glaze, about 15 minutes. Check seasoning and adjust. Crumble bacon, stir into pan just before serving. Bon Apetit!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Pantry granola bars

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January is ticking right along. How are you doing on your resolutions and intentions for the New Year? One of my goals for the month, based on my budget and the idea of simplifying, is using up ingredients in my pantry and freezer. Food waste is something I can't stand, so when a friend of mine shared the 2018 Pantry Challenge from a vlogger she likes we jumped on board. 




Our Pantry Granola Bar "recipe" made 22 crunchy, lightly sweet granola bars. If you think about the cost of many granola bars at the store, this saves quite a bit of money, and you are cleaning out your pantry and preventing food waste. Things to consider including, flax, chia, any nuts you have, dried berries or fruit, quinoa, oats or other grains you can eat dry; for the liquid a variety of syrups, nut butters, coconut oil, etc, will work. I still have chia seeds and cacao nibs left, so I will share our next creation in another post. 


Pantry ingredients:

Pumpkin seeds (two mostly used bags)
Poppy seeds
Pecans
Chia seeds
Cacao nibs
Sesame seeds
Oats
Honey sunflower butter
Honey
Cinnamon
Maple syrup

Basic ratios:
6 cups of dry ingredients; 1 cup liquid/fat


Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another 
  3. Add wet to dry.
  4. Grease a jelly roll pan or put parchment paper down
  5. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes
  6. Slice into granola bar size and put into containers, so you can grab and go. 


You can google granola bar recipes, many of them are no bake (who knew), if you need more definitive ratios and instructions, but I say, get creative and trust your gut. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Living Hygge- Make it part of your life and thank me later.

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     Hygge (pronounced Hu-guh) is suddenly all the rage and unlike most things that lose their relevancy in a short time (I'm looking at you, barn doors, gray walls and ship lap), this Danish import I hope is here to stay.  Hygge, is about comfort and coziness. Sitting on the couch, the fire in the fireplace, candles lit on the mantle and relaxing music playing in the background. No television, no computer, just Mrs. Awesome, our dorkie dog Ngila (she's Dachshund and Yorkshire Terrier), me, books, a puzzle or coloring books. Making the time to just unplug and mindfully practice hygge has been remarkable in just how relaxing and calming it is after a busy day. 
     
     The beauty of hygge is its simplicity. You likely have everything you need already. Check out more about it here. We've been incorporating Hygge into our every day lives since before Christmastime, cooking together, enjoying a cup of tea on our kitchen bench, doing yoga or just watching the sunset or the snow fall. We also devote a few nights each week to hygge, making dinner together and eating with a candle burning on the table, then spending time in the living room together as we relax and embrace the mindset of comfort and coziness.

     In the few months since we began practicing hygge, I've come to realize a few things. 

     Firstly, I love the time I get to spend with Mrs. Awesome, just relaxing and hanging out. Sharing a cup of tea or mulled wine, or reading and talking is so much more enjoyable then any show or movie. Ever. We share the experience and that's special. 


     Secondly, without the television demanding my attention, I can truly relax and enjoy being present and mindful of my surroundings and live consciously. Mrs. Awesome here beside me, the fireplace crackling, soft music in the background, my hand knit wool socks, the book in my hand, petting our dog as she snuggles in the gap between us.

     I've also learned that the more we practice hygge, embracing comfort and coziness, the more I look for opportunities to practice it. Last Monday we hiked a section of the mountains near our home. It was snowy on the trail and it took a couple of hours to get in about 4 miles, but it was incredibly beautiful. Ngila hiked with us for the first time and we saw a cow moose and her yearling calf. As we headed home from the cold hike I looked forward to the sausages and sauerkraut we'd put in the slow cooker earlier in the day, homemade bread and we'd invited a friend to join us for dinner. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the meal and afterwards sat around the table and put together a couple puzzles. What a great day, and I know there are many more to come.


     Here's something else I've come to understand. Life is busy- but being busy isn't what this one wild and precious life was meant for. The time we take to take care of ourselves, deepen our relationships with loved ones and friends, and sharing quality time together making memories- that, in my opinion is perhaps the best way to spend our limited free time and make a loved lived life. I encourage you to try to incorporate some hygge into your life and see if it doesn't make a difference!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Tangerine Mindfulness

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Mr. Awesome and I recently started listening to The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. As if to illustrate how far away I am from a robust mindfulness practice, I initially downloaded the book so I could listen to it while I was working on some rather tedious work. One of the first chapters of the book is about washing the dishes. Do you wash the dishes to have clean dishes, thinking of more pleasurable activities that await once you finish the task, or do you wash the dishes to wash the dishes? Whoops.

Later, he relays an experience eating tangerines under a tree with someone he knows. His companion is eating his tangerine, talking of plans and the future. He puts a piece of tangerine in his mouth and immediately tears off another piece of tangerine to have at the ready. Thich Nhat Hanh tells him that he ought to eat the piece of tangerine that he has already taken. Basically, enjoy what you have, be present with it, savor it, don't fast forward through it in preparation of the next thing. 

So here is a reminder to me and all of us: 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Boozy Peach Caramel Pouring Sauce

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Boozy Peach Caramel Pouring Sauce
served over roasted marshmallows (browned under a broiler)
with graham crackers for dipping.
We were lucky to be the recipients of lovely organic peaches from Misfit Gardening last summer. One of the things we did with them was make our own peach liqueur by leaving the peaches in vodka to infuse. Impatient to give it a try, we drained and strained over the weekend. Alas, the liqueur still needs some tweaking, but it left us with a whole pile of boozy peaches. It seemed wrong to toss them and thus Boozy Peach Caramel Pouring Sauce was created.




Ingredients

1 stick butter
1 box + 2 cups brown sugar 
8 c boozy peaches (or regular ripe peaches)
1 t. Kosher salt
1/2 c half and half


Directions


  1. Rough chop peaches
  2. Melt butter over medium heat
  3. Add peaches and brown sugar and bring to simmer
  4. Add 1 t salt
  5. Add half and half
  6. Cook until lovely brown 
  7. Put in glass jars, allow to cool to room temperature, and store in refrigerator. (If it cools too quickly, the butter will separate. If this happens, just microwave before serving.)
Notes: This isn't a traditional caramel, so I didn't worry about temperatures. It is thinner than traditional caramel sauce. 

Delicious serving ideas:



Boozy Peach Caramel Pouring Sauce
served over waffles and ice cream with whip cream.

Boozy Peach Caramel Pouring Sauce
with cheesecake. Amazing!

Boozy Peach Caramel Pouring Sauce
served over ice cream

Thursday, January 11, 2018

30 Day Yoga Journey

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One of the ways I am embracing the new year is through Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Yoga Journey. This is the fourth year running that Yoga with Adriene has kicked off the new year with a 30 day commitment to yoga. It's such a wonderful way to start the new year and last year was the first time I successfully completed the yoga event. 



Well, as it happens, I committed to participating again this year and then, well, life. There were some long travel days (for fun adventures, but it's hard to do yoga in a moving car) and prepping for heading out of town that kept me up until 2 am. So, in the end, I did Day 1 and next thing I knew it was January 7 and I hadn't done yoga since January 2. But, you know what, this is my (or your) 30 Day Yoga Journey. It doesn't have to follow anyone else's timeline. So, come January 8, I did Day 2 and now I'm back on track for my 30-days of yoga commitment.

In the past I might have given up, but a little self-compassion goes a long way and the important thing is to try. 

A few words of endorsement for Yoga with Adriene: Many times people get scared off by yoga thinking they can't do it, but there's no need to worry with Yoga with Adriene. She makes yoga accessible no matter what your fitness or flexibility level. Plus, she's a hoot. So watching her, you're sure to get a chuckle. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Embrace the Year

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What does Embrace 2018 look like? Embracing your year means starting with yes! It means, accepting what comes to you, good and bad. Looking for that silver lining in the challenges, how can they help you learn and grow? Being grateful for the good things, instead of disappointed in the parts that aren't perfect. 

Have you ever fixated on the negative? Let's say you sit down at a meal with your family and the chicken is perfectly cooked, but the brussels sprouts are mushy. You sit there and stew on the brussels sprouts. Why are they mushy? Who serves brussels sprouts anyway? You hate brussels sprouts! Embracing means focusing on the fact that you are sharing a meal with your family. You are taking time out of your busy life to nourish your body and soul. And that chicken is awesome! And you bet you can find a better recipe for brussels sprout, a perfect chance to check out Pinterest (after the meal, of course). 

Embrace means welcoming what comes to you with open arms. You don't need to worry or protect yourself. You trust yourself! You've got this! 

You look for the beauty. 

You recognize when things aren't going your way, big or small, that doesn't mean everything is terrible. You mine the nuggets of gold in the muck. After all, as the saying goes, without the rain there wouldn't be rainbows. Right? 

Embrace also means, embrace yourself. Practice self compassion. The new year is a time when we set many resolutions, often about weight loss, and many times we fail. Embrace means that if you fall short of your goal, you avoid berating yourself and thinking that you're a loser. Instead, look at what went wrong and what went right and plot a new course. Tomorrow is a new day!

I got the chance to embrace our new mantra yesterday. I was leaving a meeting and heading home. I chose between taking surface streets or getting on the freeway. Normally, I am a surface-streets-all-the-way kind of gal, but for some reason, I decided on the freeway. Even though it was 5:00 on a Monday. As I neared the turn lane to enter the freeway it was backed up quite a long way. It took two light cycles to make the left turn onto the road. And once on there the traffic crawled along. Like most people, I hate traffic. And I hate when I make a bad decision that inconveniences me. But yesterday, I embraced the traffic as an opportunity to practice patience and made a mental note that there's a reason I take the surface streets. Embrace!

How will you embrace 2018? Do you have a mantra for the year? We would love to hear from you in the comments.