Monday, June 25, 2012

Meatless Mondays - Giada's Roasted Vegetable Penne


Before I begin, today is my Emma's 19th birthday, and I want to give a little shout out to her in Thailand!  Happy Birthday to the sweetest girl on earth, with LOTS of love from your momma.  Can't wait to see you Thursday and hug you!  

Well, I must say, this week's Meatless Monday is absolutely delicious!  It's Giada de Laurentiis' Roasted Vegetable Penne and it's a WINNER.  Even though it's a cinch to make, I do want to warn you that it dirties practically every pot in the kitchen... but trust me it's so worth it!  You can make it early in the day and pop it in the oven when you're ready to eat.  I love dishes like that - there aren't many out there that don't contain cream of mushroom soup.  :-)  I think this dish would be great for easy summer entertaining and would please practically anyone.

I followed the recipe to a T, but there is a lot of flexibility here.   It would be a great way to use up odds and ends veggies, and I'm sure you could substitute out the cheese for another melty type. 

Gorgeous veggies about to go in the oven

Giada's Roasted Vegetable Penne

2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch     cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved (I used 10)
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbes de  Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (I prefer Rao's)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

post signature

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Anniversary Gift I gave Rich

Awhile ago, I alluded to a special gift I got for Rich for our anniversary.  Well, this gift was a beautiful watercolor painting of our home.  I have a dear, sweet friend, Laurie Price, who happens to be a wonderful watercolor artist.  One day, it just hit me that I should have her paint our home.  This picture does not do the painting justice… it is simply beautiful.   She did it in 11 x 14 size (her largest) and I framed it in a dark frame with a double mat.

Below are some real photos of the house so you can see how beautifully she captured it. I am so thankful Laurie could do this for us.  It is already a treasure!



I want to share a little bit about Laurie.  I have been friends with her for many years...  I think we met when we took a parenting class in their home over 20 years ago.   I have always admired and looked up to her.  

Laurie is the kind of friend that you can really talk to about matters of the heart.   She is a kind and thoughtful, and when I think of her, I think of the radiant joy of the Lord that is always on display on her face.  She is not a joyful person because she has had an easy life.  No, rather she has had many trials, and her joyful response to those trials has inspired me in a profound way.  

Currently she is taking care of her husband, Gary, who has Alzheimer’s.  He is not an old man, this came on early, and I'm she never imagined this would be her lot at this phase of life.  But, she sees her life through God's sovereign will for her and she is content.  I have learned that it is no easy task caring for someone with Alzheimer's.  She has had to assume leadership in the home, managing everything and overseeing her husband's care.  What is so beautiful is that she still loves Gary with all her heart and does not consider it a burden.  She lovingly talks with him even when he cannot respond or process what she is saying.  I know when she reads this she will shake her head and want to tell me how she fails - so Laurie, please know that you are a very special lady and just smile. :-)  I truly am so thankful for her example to me, and the friendship we share.  If you have a minute, please check out her wonderful blog (she’s also on my blogroll, under “I Have Been Young.”)  I promise you will be so enriched if you do.

Please also take a moment to look at her Etsy shop.   She sells gorgeous, art quality notecards (I have bought some of her precious bird ones for gifts). Also, what is really special is that she does beautiful custom children’s name artwork.  Each one tells a story and she creatively weaves in details about the child.   You have to see them – they are so unique!  You can also see the painting she did for me under "commissioned home portrait."  I know she'd appreciate you stopping by!

post signature

Monday, June 18, 2012

Meatless Mondays - main dish salads with grains


Now that it's summer, I like to serve main dish salads for dinner on the patio.  When we were in Hawaii, I ordered a salad at a restaurant and it had quinoa tossed in with the greens.  It sparked an idea!  Instead of meat as the protein, why not throw in protein-rich grains, seeds, or legumes like quinoa or lentils?  

I also recently had a yummy southwestern lentil salad from the Whole Foods salad bar and I wanted to experiment with lentils.   I don't know about you, but I wasn't accustomed to cooking with them much.  I have come to learn that they are quite nutritious - they contain about 30% protein, and have fiber, folate, and B vitamins (if you sprout them they are even MORE nutritious).    And, if you add in some brown rice, you will have a complete protein.  I have been enjoying the convenience of the cooked lentils from Trader Joe's (in a box, in the fridge section by the salad greens), and I just purchased some dry red lentils to work with.  

Pictured above is a super easy salad made with brown lentils.  The ingredients are:

-chopped baby kale (love this; found it at Whole Foods - in a large plastic box by the other salad greens)
-pre-cooked brown lentils (TJ's)
-orange segments
-avocado chunks
-diced red bell pepper
-chopped fresh cilantro

And I think brown rice, chopped red onion or scallions, and some sunflower seeds would be an improvement.   This was an afterthought  :-)

The dressing was simply lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little cumin & chili powder.

Basically, if you have "greens and a grain" you can pretty much add anything, and it's hard to go wrong!  Last week we had some ripe nectarines, so I made basically the same salad adding those, some nuts, and dried fruit.  I like to make a fruity balsamic vinaigrette for salads with fruit.

If you have small children, you're probably wondering how this could be eaten by them for dinner!  Instead of tossing the ingredients into a salad, I would suggest deconstructing it and putting little piles of each of the ingredients onto a plate - and let little fingers serve themselves.   It's good for kids to actually taste each food by itself anyways.  Or a small bowl with lentils, brown rice, and some very finely chopped greens tossed in (something that can be eaten with a spoon) would work as well.  If it's still not enough, just add some cheese chunks or an apple/banana with a nut butter!   

Enjoy being creative with your summer salads! 

post signature

Friday, June 15, 2012

Update on Emma in Thailand

I just realized that I haven't said a word about Emma being in Thailand!   Life has been quite busy, and the time she has been gone has truly flown by (thankfully!).  But my girl is always on my mind and I miss her so much!  Above is a picture taken as Emma and fellow teammate Sarah were all packed and ready to head off.  Since then we have occasionally been able to Skype.  She is very busy and the time difference makes it hard to connect sometimes.  But, each time we have seen her, she is excited and glowing about all that their team is doing.  She is having an amazing experience. God has protected her and blessed her with great health, as well, for which we are most thankful.

She just posted a brief post on her blog.  Click here to read.  Please continue to pray for Team Thailand!

post signature

Monday, June 11, 2012

Snapshots of Hawaii

Well, the last hurrah of our 25th anniversary in May was a week-long trip to Maui. We returned to our beloved honeymoon spot - the Hyatt on Ka'anapali beach. It's our little slice of heaven on earth. 


The view of paradise from our room.  We loved the ocean sound and warm breeze while sleeping.


Favorite poolside lunch:  jerk-seared ahi salad with candied ginger dressing - so amazing!


Fun instagram-enhanced beach shot on Ka'anapali.  One of our many long and leisurely beach walks.


Unique afternoon snack:  whole coconut and coconut water to drink- yum!


Our special anniversary dinner at Mama's Fish House in Paia.


Celebrating 25 years with my best friend. :-)
Kuau Cove, Mama's Fish House


Best appetizer EVER: lobster guacamole with sweet potato and taro chips. Simply over the top!


The gorgeous, serene view from our breakfast table each morning.  You just sit there and sigh...


Always our first plate at the breakfast buffet each morning.  Could not get enough papaya!


Organic garden fresh salad from the amazing I'O restaurant in Lahaina.


Rich enjoying shave ice with green tea, almond, and coconut syrups. 


We stopped at the cutest bakery on the way to the airport to fly home. Don't these look amazing?  No worries... we picked up a mini pie to share on the plane home.  :-)


We love Maui, and are particularly fond of west Maui.  It's just a very special place.  We have gone the last couple times on great Costco travel package deals - they come with or without airfare.  Do check them out if you every plan to go.  In addition, here are some of our favorite Maui things to help you enjoy your stay as much as we did.

Favorite resort:

Hyatt Regency Maui on Ka’anapali Beach:  Very luxurious and Hawaiian, situated at the south end of Ka’anapali beach.  When we arrived there the first day of our honeymoon, we were like two kids in a candy shop.  :-)   It's simply eye candy everywhere you look and the Hyatt doesn't disappoint.  We make sure we book a deal to include the beautiful buffet breakfast every day at Swan Court restaurant. :-)  

We have walked through all the resorts on Ka'anapali beach and think the Hyatt tops them all.  If you are going with kids and want to do a condo, we like the Ali'i, a few doors down from the Hyatt.  We stayed there with our kids a few years ago, and it was great for us.  Ka'anapali is perhaps the most picturesque, pristine beach on Maui -clean as a whistle, fine sand, crystal clear blue water with a temp around 75-80 degrees, and nice gentle waves to body surf in.  You couldn't ask for anything more in a beach.

We highly recommend going off-season to Maui.  We like May since it's our anniversary, but October is nice, too.  If you go in the summer you will be dealing with a LOT of crowds.  The weather is usually perfect in those months, too, about 80 degrees and not too much rain.

Favorite restaurants:

*Tip:  Make reservations BEFORE you leave.  These restaurants all fill up quickly. 
We favor the below restaurants for their fresh, local fish, but they have non-seafood items as well.  

Mama’s Fish House in Paia:   Hands down, our favorite restaurant -worth the 45 min. drive from Ka'anapali.   Amazing ambiance (set on private Kuau cove), super Hawaiian, top notch service and food - a don’t miss place.  Yes, it’s expensive, but we think it’s worth it.   Menu favorites: lobster-stuffed mahi with a mac-nut crust and pineapple glaze; lobster guacamole; coconut soup with shrimp; and the chocolate Kuau pie is a must!  They also serve 100% Kona coffee in a press pot.  Tip:  get there right in time to watch the sunset before you go in.  Be sure to let them know if it’s a special occasion, they’ll treat you right!

Mala in Lahaina:  Unique and quaint, right on the water on Front St.  Innovative menu items.   Their fish is always prepared in a delicious way with fresh local ingredients and wonderful sauces.   Tip:  get there in time to watch the sunset from any table in the restaurant or on their outside patio (do request a patio table).

I’O in Lahaina:   Elegant waterfront restaurant, at the end of Front Street. Again, get there at sunset and sit outside. They have their own organic farm and 95% of the produce on their menu comes from it.  The most beautiful vegetable dishes and salads ever seen on a menu. 

Sansei Sushi & Seafood in Kapalua:   The best sushi, and they also have a great menu.  Let your server be your guide, but be sure to get their Panko Crusted Ahi Tuna Roll!!

Hali’imaile General Store in Hali'imaile (near Kahului airport):   Our traditional stop for our first meal after landing in Maui.  Great location in the upcountry – and a great menu.  Their specialty is the Sashimi Napleon appetizer– so amazing.   The blackened ahi wrap is also excellent.   Reservations not usually needed for weekday lunch.

Other misc. favorites:

Ulilani’s Shave Ice in Lahaina or Kihei:  Simply the best Shave Ice.  Be sure to get a scoop of Mac Nut ice cream on the bottom.   We love their coconut syrup – it’s great in combination with guava and lilikoi.  Also their green tea and almond syrups are delicious.  They make many of their own natural flavors.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop in Lahaina:  Darling shop and a great place to pick up a sandwich.  Their mini pies are really good, too and are perfect for two  :-)

Warren and Annabelle's Magic Show in Lahaina:  It sounds crazy but we HIGHLY recommend this show!   Advance reservations are a MUST (before you leave).   They sell out two shows nightly (we prefer the earlier show).  Try to pick a night when Warren himself is doing the show.

Snorkeling:  We like Honalua Bay and Black Rock.  It's also fun to take a snorkel/lunch cruise.

Secret spot to visitThe Olivine pools.  Spectacular views.


post signature

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Foods I love: Sprouted Bread


I'm glad many of you liked my posts on healthy eating.  In part 3, I listed in general many of the foods we like to eat, and I thought I'd begin to highlight some of my personal favorite foods and products.  Today I want to highlight sprouted bread. 

First of all, I don't make much homemade bread.   The reason being, we don't really eat a lot (we eat toast and my boys eat sandwiches some weekdays; I only use up a loaf about every other week).  I never serve bread with dinner unless we have guests - when I do, I use this method). 

Secondly, I don't have a grain mill.  Most pre-ground flours you buy (even whole wheat and other grains) lose much of their vitality soon after milling (and go rancid rather quickly due to the oils in them). By the time you buy them, they are not even close to being as nutritional as home milled grain.    If you do grind your own grains for bread, you should be mindful of soaking or sprouting them first.  For more information, read here and here.   I just noticed the sprouted grains bins at Whole Foods the other day. With the offering of some healthier options now, and the fact that we don't go through as much, I find it convenient to buy my bread.  

Bread made with sprouted grains is exceptionally nutritional, as the process not only increases the vitamin content, but it neutralizes phytic acid (a substance present in grains that inhibits the absorption of nutrients).  More on this.

Here's one of my favorites, Food for Life Sprouted Grain Bread.  You may be familiar with this company's Ezekiel bread at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or Sprouts.  I like this particular one that they make, as it is free of soybeans.  Here are the ingredients for this bread:

Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Malted Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Rye, Organic Sprouted Whole Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Oats, Organic Sprouted Whole Millet, Organic Sprouted Whole Kernel Corn, Organic Sprouted Whole Brown Rice, Fresh Yeast, Sea Salt.

Love those ingredients! 

This bread is best toasted.  I like it with almond butter and raw honey for breakfast, or with avocado and tomatoes (open face) or other veggies piled on for lunch.   I keep the bread in the freezer for freshness, and just put frozen slices directly into the toaster.

post signature

Monday, June 4, 2012

Meatless Mondays - Grilled Veggie Sandwich and Quinoa Salad


I adore veggie sandwiches. From the classic avocado, tomato & sprouts on grainy bread, to a hot one filled with grilled veggies, I could eat them every day. 

And I absolutely adore quinoa! Quinoa is a recently discovered ancient grain. It is a complete protein, supplying all 9 essential amino acids, plus is a good source of magnesium, folate, and phosphorus. I like to cook a bunch at a time, because I'll eat it for breakfast (drizzled with some raw honey and almonds - yum), lunch, or dinner. I find it the perfect thing to toss anything and everything into. I just use whatever is around... from diced fruit to diced veggies, nuts, seeds, you name it.  I tend to prefer something sweet, a fresh fruit such as a diced mango or some blueberries, some dried fruit, some kind of fresh herb and some nuts for crunch.  Add a light dressing and you have a fast, delicious side or even a meal. 

So, all that said, this is one of my favorite pairings. For this sandwich, I grilled some meaty whole portabello mushrooms, thick Vidalia onion slices, and some sliced zucchini. I just brush the veggies with a little olive oil, season with some lemon pepper and grill them up. You could also use red bell peppers, yellow squash, and eggplant is especially delicious grilled. 

For this sandwich I really love a grainy sourdough bread, like Trader Joe's cracked wheat sourdough. I spread both inside slices with some goat cheese (hummus would be great, too), layer on the veggies, and toast it on a stovetop skillet until golden brown.  

For the salad, really there is no recipe. Tonight I searched the pantry and fridge and came up with the following: a finely diced apple, chopped dates, chopped pecans, fresh cilantro, and green onion. I tossed it lightly with a splash of peach balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and seasoned with a bit of pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper. SO good!

post signature