Friday, December 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Ten minutes ago, if you would have stumbled upon me in my kitchen, you would have caught me in the middle of a victory dance.

It's official, I'll probably never make pumpkin anything ever again--unless I end up marrying someone or having children who are allergic to sweet potatoes. Hopefully that doesn't happen. But, since I'm nowhere near marriage--and even farther away from having children--I'm allowed to jump head first into this love affair I've got going with sweet potatoes!

As I type, my sweet potato cheesecake is baking. Why the victory dance before I've even had the chance to try the finished product? Because! It took a great deal of will power to stop myself from licking my blender clean of the cheesecake goodness that now bakes. Plus, I can imagine how delicious the finished product will be--with cinnamon and sugar coated walnuts sprinkled on top! I can hardly wait.

But, I will...until tomorrow night, when I ring in the new year with my fellow scratch kitchen chef--Megan.

However, just because I have to wait to eat the cheesecake does not mean I can't gush about it here, now.

Of course, I made the whole thing from scratch--right down to the graham crackers that were crumbled into the graham cracker crust. I'm not too sure I'm in love with the graham crackers on their own, so I'm going to keep searching for various recipes until I find one I'm satisfied with. Nevertheless, I thought they turned out well enough for the purpose intended.

Making the actual cheesecake was a breeze! Using the pureed sweet potatoes I had left over from last night's sweet potato cookies helped, as far as time goes; then, of course, things go pretty quickly when you just throw everything in the blender. I'm hoping it tastes as good as the raw version led me to believe.

Anyway--enough talk. Here's the recipe!

Sweet Potato Cheesecake (With a secret ingredient!)

1 12-14 oz package of silken tofu (don't tell them it's there and they'll never know!)
1 8 oz package of reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup pureed sweet potatoes (if you have extra, feel free to use it!)
1 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of salt
Graham cracker pie crust 

Preheat oven to 350 F.
(If you are making your graham cracker crust from scratch, put it together here and pre-bake it according to the directions.)
Combine all the ingredients for the cheesecake in a blender and blend until it is smooth and creamy.
Pour the mixture over the graham cracker crust and bake for 45-50 minutes.
Allow the cheesecake to cool, slightly, before putting it into the refrigerator. 
When it's completely set and cold, it's ready to serve!

I'm going to add nuts to mine; so, if you'd like, you could sprinkle some sweetened (or maybe not sweetened, depending on your taste) nuts over the top. I'm using walnuts, because they were cheaper than pecans--but I'm sure you could use whatever nut you wanted!

I'll be back to let you know how it tastes.

Update: It was a winner!

Happy New Years!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Cookies

Tonight, I am King of the Lab--or, rather, Queen of the Kitchen.

Today, while I was at work, I was struck with this sudden, undeniable urge to bake. It happens to me every once and a while and the feeling will linger until I've satisfied my craving. When the mood struck, my mind immediately began going through my contact list of mouths I've got stored away for occasions such as these; because, you see, I dare not bake for myself alone. I'd rather put my hands to work, allow my taste buds the satisfaction of a sample, and give the rest away. Once I decided who would be gifted with the fruits--or, rather, sweet treats of my labor, I had to decide what to make.

What I really wanted to try was a batch of cinnamon rolls. I've never made them from scratch before and I've got this recipe that I've been anxious to try for weeks! But--I couldn't think of enough mouths to dole them out to, and such decadent sweets aren't allowed in my diet, just yet. So, plan B.

The winter months and holiday seasons have left me with a variety of pumpkin recipes to choose from. While the former me would have jumped at the chance to make something sweet with that versatile plant we call a pumpkin, the new me has been feeling hesitant about it. Why? Because the easiest way to add pumpkin to a recipe is to buy it in a can--something I've been trying to avoid when at all possible. And, yes, I could buy a pumpkin and go through all the steps to make my own version of what comes in a can--but then I think back to my Halloween days as a kid and all the work it took to hollow out a pumpkin, and my desire to eat it withers away.

But, lately, I've been thinking...

Every year, my grandma makes sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wondered--if you could essentially substitute sweet potatoes for pumpkins in a pie, why couldn't you do that in everything else? From pancakes to cookies--the possibilities seemed endless. I needed to give it a try. So tonight, I set out to make sweet potato cookies.

Ladies and gentlemen--Queen of the Kitchen. This is the best experimental recipe I've made thus far and I encourage you to try it! Switch things up a bit, I dare you.

Sweet Potato Cookies

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup softened butter (I used vegan butter) 
1 cup  pureed sweet potato (If your sweet potato yields a little more than a cup, that's okay! Use the extra.)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sweet Potatoes: boil your sweet potato(es) until they are soft enough to stick a fork through and then drain; while they are still hot, beat them until they are mashed or toss them into your food processor. Set the mashed potatoes aside.
Preheat oven to 350
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in sweet potatoes, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop round tablespoons onto parchment paper covered baking sheets.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I really do hope you'll give this recipe a try--they're plump, soft, and delicious!
Happy baking,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Give and Bake

It's been quiet around here. I know.

I have to admit, I haven't been spending as much time as I usually do in the kitchen, lately. I'm happy to report that it's not because I've been too busy preparing for Christmas; I've been mostly ready for the holiday for weeks--it's easy to prepare when you aren't planning on buying any gifts. This year, I decided to use the money I'd spend on presents--measly as the gift fund may be--and donate it, in an attempt to truly grasp hold of the season of giving. Check this out!
I'm really excited about gifting something so important. And what I'm genuinely looking forward to this coming weekend is the time that I get to spend with my family. We're all over the place--like most families--and it's hard to find time to see each other, so this weekend should be a real treat.

The reason I haven't found myself cooking much is because I have a freezer full of leftovers I'm trying to take advantage of. One of the many perks of being single is that I follow these recipes and end up with enough food to feed a family of four; that leaves me with dinner for two or three (sometimes four our five!) nights plus that same amount stored away in the freezer for later. My last trip to the grocery store yielded a total bill about half the size as it normally is because I didn't have to purchase any ingredients to make dinner for two weeks--I had that covered. And, somehow, I'm going to be able to manage to do that, again, over the coming two weeks. My pocketbook and my tummy are both happy.

Not to mention, because I'm young and single and have a family full of amazing women (my grandmother in particular) who take pleasure in serving the Christmas meal--I haven't had to worry about putting that together, either! Although, I am thrilled to report that I'm making Christmas Eve dinner--the homemade enchiladas I put together a few weeks ago. But other than that, aside from some homemade crackers here, some fresh baked cookies there, an attempt at focaccia bread here (I promise to blog about that soon!), things have been pretty quiet.

But tonight--I'm baking!

I'm baking bread...

I think I've decided that bread is one of my favorite things to make. I can't really tell you why, other than I love bread and knowing that I can make it and that it's not always as difficult as the taste may lead you to believe; or, maybe it's because I'm so picky about the sort of homemade bread I'll eat and I like exploring different avenues of bread I've yet to experience made from scratch. Whatever it is, I'm going to cling to it--and tonight, the result of my fascination is going to be Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread.

This is the second time that I've made this beautiful and delicious bread; I found the recipe here! It's definitely worth a try, in my opinion, and good enough to give as a gift--which is what I intend to do.

I hope you all have a wonderfully merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

It snowed last weekend.

For some reason, this year I have a new appreciation for the snow. While I hate to drive in it in my little car, I've found that I enjoy the beauty of it. There is nothing better than being wrapped up in a blanket and cuddled up with a book as I watch the snow fall--at least, not during winter.

Unfortunately, I had to work last Saturday. Having to get up and get dressed in order to be presentable makes it a little harder to enjoy the snow. But, going to work actually turned out to be pretty great. Why? Because while I was there, someone put the idea in my head that a snowy Saturday afternoon would be the perfect time to bake cookies! Once the idea was in my head, I immediately began searching the internet for whole wheat cookie recipes. I found this one (check it out!) and decided it was a chocolate chip kind of day.

I tweaked the recipe, just a little, but they turned out deliciously! They also didn't spread, like the recipe picture shows, and I couldn't figure out if that was because I'm cooking at a high altitude or because I didn't use white whole wheat flour or what--but the cookie bites they ended up being got rave reviews. (I had 2 cookies and then promptly gave the rest away; cookies are great snowy-day gifts and I like sharing them way more than I like eating them all!) Every bite ended up being filled with chocolate--which I think is definitely a plus. I'll be making these again, for sure.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
6 tablespoons vegan butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 (12oz) bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 cup ground almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet, or line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugars, honey, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Beat in the vinegar, egg, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in the flour, then the chocolate chips and almonds, mixing JUST till combined. Drop the dough, by tablespoonfuls, onto the prepared baking sheets. (I'm not generally a dough dropper; I always roll my cookies into little balls so they come out nice and round. While this was a bit tricky, with all those chocolate chips!, it also enabled me to make sure there weren't a ton of chocolate chips left in the bowl.)

Bake the cookies for 10 to 11 minutes, until they’re starting to brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Make this a cookie baking weekend!

Happy baking!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pumpkin-Apple Chips

At this point in the season, pumpkin spice has completely replaced cinnamon in my diet (sorry cinnamon).

I saw this (click!) on pinterest (follow me!), and had a small burst of excitement that went something like this:

"Ohhh I LOVE apple chips..."
"And two hours to kill"
"OMG These would be amazing with pumpkin spice instead of cinnamon!"

So... I spent the last two hours enjoying the smell of simmering apple slices. They taste even better than they smell.

They are crispy on the outside with little bursting pockets of juice that happened to survive the hour in the oven.

They are perfect, and... almost gone.

Hope your Monday was delicious, 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Ciabatta Bread

Turns out, I can cook--and I'm pretty excited about it.

Here's the story--

While on my hunt for any vegetarian recipe that I can get my hands on, I've come across a number of panini recipes. I'm all for a good panini, however, a panini maker is a bit out of my price range; instead of rushing to the store to get the necessary appliance to make the delicious sandwiches I keep finding, I made a mental note to get a George Forman, one of these days. My rational behind that alternative was that a George Forman could make paninis and a plethora of other things.
But--this was all a plan for one day.
In the future.
When I had a handful of cash I could donate to the panini cause.

Well, I mentioned this plan, off hand, to my mom and stepdad when I talked to them on Thanksgiving. I didn't think anything of it--I've been filling my mom in on pretty much all of my food endeavors, and this was just one more.

Turns out, they were paying very close attention to what I was saying.

This past Friday I'm at work, going about my day as usual, when I get a text from my roommate. She has informed me, with lots of exclamation points, that I have received a George Forman in the mail. My reply? "Shut up!!" When she assures me that she is not kidding, I rush away from my workstation and immediately dial my mother.

"Did you get me a George Forman?" I ask.
"Yes," she answers. "Well, technically V bought you one."
--insert lots of squealing and thank-you's here--
"Merry Christmas," she says.
"Wait, I thought we weren't doing gifts?"
"That's what I said! But when we were on the phone with you, he bought it. That's why he asked for your address. And when he hit submit, I told him I thought we weren't doing gifts. He said, 'It's not a Christmas gift. She said she needed it."
"Oh, I'm so excited!"
"You need to thank him; he's at home so you should be able to get a hold of him there."
"Okay, I will."

And I did--there was more squealing and thank you's, of course--and the rest of my day I was floating on a cloud. When I got home, there was jumping and squealing because by george, my George is beautiful.

The problem? You can't make a panini if you don't have any bread. And--you know me--I'm not just going to go to the store and buy bread, I needed to make it. So, before I went to bed, I found myself searching the internet for a ciabatta bread recipe. Ciabatta bread has been rumored to be the best bread for a panini. Well, I found one--and this is where I got creative.

I'm a whole wheat kind of girl, now. The recipe I found called for only all-purpose flour, so I took it upon myself to alter the recipe. Before I tucked myself in, I made the starter. The next afternoon, I began the process of making the bread. Things didn't go exactly how they should have gone, which made me nervous about how it would turn out, but it actually turned out pretty delicious. My roommate and I had paninis for dinner--and I'm thinking that'll happen more than a few times in our future. I put cream cheese, sauteed squash and red bell pepper with avocado on mine--one word: yum.

Anyway, here is my adapted recipe for Ciabatta bread! It's great for sandwiches and would probably be delicious sliced and dipped in some sort of dip or sauce--the possibilities are endless.

Whole Wheat Ciabatta Bread:

Overnight starter:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

all of the starter (from above)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the starter:
1. Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Cover the starter and let it rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours. It will become slightly bubbly and puffy.

For the bread:
1. Place all of the dough ingredients, including the starter, into a large mixing bowl; stir until all the ingredients form a hunk of dough (about 5-7 minutes. It’s a great workout and well worth the effort.) After mixing, the dough will be smooth and soft.
2. Using greased or lightly oiled hands, transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 2 hours.
3. Lightly grease your work surface/counter, and a half-sheet baking pan or similar large baking sheet or line it with parchment. Grease your hands, as well.
4. Very gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface; you don’t want to deflate it. It’ll lose a bit of volume, but don’t actively punch it down. Using a bowl scraper, bench knife, or your fingers, divide the dough in half. You should have two fat logs, each about 10″ long x 4″ wide.
5. Handling the dough gently, transfer each piece to the baking sheet, laying them down crosswise on the sheet. Lightly cover the dough with heavily oiled plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for 60 to 90 minutes.
6. Midway through, gently but firmly dimple the dough with your fingers, making fairly deep pockets. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
7. Spritz the risen loaves with lukewarm water. You’ll see that the dimples have filled in somewhat, but haven’t entirely disappeared. Bake the loaves until they are golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

That's all for me tonight--Rosalyn

Pumpkin-Oatmeal-Chocolate chip-Cookies

Every so often a recipe will really jump out at me. Sometimes, I read a recipe and have to immediately go to the grocery store for the ingredients that I am missing and get right to cooking. Tonight, this exact scenario happened, only I had all of the necessary items to start baking right away...which is how I came to have way too many (freaking amazing and delicious) cookies. 

Tonight I made cookies from a recipe on a friend's blog. Kailin is the blogger at Just Nourishment and she is amazing at what she does. She has a degree in nutrition and dietetics and cares a lot about helping people eat healthy. Check out her blog and please, make this recipe! I mean, who puts pumpkin in oatmeal cookies?! It so genius! You will not regret reading her blog or using her recipes.

Love and cookies, 

PS: I dunked mine in ice cold vanilla soy milk....OMG. 

Quick & Easy Veggie Soup

We are to that point in the month where we are waiting on payday to go buy groceries and we are trying to eat up what we have left over from the past few days meals. What I had lying around was: a few celery stalks, half a bag of baby carrots, half a cucumber, half a package of udon noodles (I know, not from scratch!) and some vegetable stock.

I have started a pretty rigorous work out regiment and after a hard workout all I can think about are veggies!

So... I threw what I had together and made a crunchy, slurpy, hearty, spicy soup that filled me up and made me feel great too.

This is by far the easiest recipe I have ever made. 

1. Chop the veggies you have on hand. Like I mentioned before, I had carrots, celery and cucumber. I roughly sliced and chopped my celery and cucumber and tossed the carrots into my food processor for a few pulses.

2. Boil your pasta. When its nice and tender, drain it and place heaping spoonfuls into serving bowls.

3. While your pasta is boiling heat your vegetable stock. Set it aside.

4. Add your chopped veggies to your bowls of noodles and then pour the steaming hot broth over it. Fill it to your preference. I personally prefer less broth.

5. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and a little red pepper (if you need some spice... I do!)

6. Eat it and enjoy how healthy you are! Yay!

Happy Sunday!

Homemade Enchiladas

What's better than making your own whole wheat flour tortillas?

Making your own whole wheat flour tortillas while listening to Christmas music and dancing like no one is watching.

The other night, I had a friend over for dinner. This was the first time since I started this cooking-from-scratch adventure that I was brave enough to share a meal with someone just as it was coming out of the oven. (Someone who isn't Megan; someone who may or may not have put on a brave face and eaten what I made, even if it wasn't good.)  I have been enjoying my food--but while I've been taking pleasure in the experience of eating something that I've made entirely on my own, it's not always enough. I like to make things for other people--so, I was excited to have a friend over to cook for.

My guest--R--is a very picky eater. We joke all the time about how different we are; honestly, I've never had a friend who has come so close to being my complete opposite--a truth that extends to our eating habits. He's not a big fan of vegetables; needless to say, trying to decide on something that I could make that we'd both enjoy was a bit of a challenge. But--I'm always up for a challenge. Furthermore, I believe in compromises. So--enchiladas was the dish we decided upon. I found a recipe for vegetarian enchiladas that I had been wanting to try and I had everything I needed to put them together. Also, my grandma had given me a recipe for enchilada sauce a couple weeks ago--so it was perfect; I was going to get to try two different recipes in one meal. And, I was looking forward to making tortillas again--I made them a few weeks ago and, while they turned out decent, I wanted to play with the recipe in order to make them less dense.

So, on Wednesday night, I found myself dancing around the kitchen to Christmas music while I made my whole wheat flour tortillas and cooked up some enchilada sauce. (I figured it'd be good to have the tortillas already made for Friday and I was hoping that making the enchilada sauce a couple days before would allow the spices to co-mingle and deliver a nice rich taste when I was ready to use it.) Before I knew it, it was Friday night. R came over, chicken and sour cream in hand, and I got to work.

What I love about this recipe is that I can keep it in my back pocket whenever I'm entertaining people who aren't vegetarians. Alongside vegetables, R doesn't like beans either--the meat of my vegetarian enchilada. As a compromise, I assured him I'd make him his own batch as long as he provided his meat of choice. It was super easy to substitute his shredded chicken in place of my black beans and not at all inconvenient to bake the two separate. (The recipe yielded 12 enchiladas! I needed 2 baking dishes, anyway.)

Let me tell you, this enchilada recipe is now one of my favorites. It was easy to put everything together and they tasted so good. Even R agreed, going back for seconds and taking home leftovers. While the prep work was divided over two nights, that won't stop me from making these again. The way I see it, that's probably going to be a reoccurring situation--since I'm bound and determined to make as much as possible from scratch. I would recommend these enchiladas anytime; while the recipe is simple, the taste is great--thanks to the enchilada sauce, the recipe for which I will post below. As for the vegetarian enchiladas, I found the recipe here. And, while it comes with its own enchilada sauce recipe, I didn't use it. Also, I shredded the zucchini--in my attempt to hide the green vegetable from R--and I think I liked the texture more than I would if it was diced. But, I'm sure either way would still yield a delicious result!

Enchilada Sauce

2 tbsp whole-wheat flour
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups vegetable broth
5 tomatoes (skined & pureed)
salt, to taste (optional)

1. Whisk flour, cocoa, and spices together in a saucepan--with the burner still off.
2. Add 1/4 cup broth and stir into a paste.
3. Slowly whisk in the remaining broth.
4. Bring to a boil over medium heat and whisk in pureed tomatoes.
5. Allow to cook a few minutes and thicken slightly to the consistency of tomato soup.
6. Remove from heat and add salt if necessary.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

Thursday, December 1, 2011


So, I've found that since I've changed my diet, I've learned a lot about my body--what it wants, what it needs, what it doesn't like...

A couple of months ago, I would have openly admitted that carbohydrates were my biggest dietary weakness. Bread, pasta, bread, french fries, bread, white rice, bread--really, potatoes of any kind, bread. Yeah--in case you haven't caught on, I love bread. With butter. Dipped in oil. To scoop up spaghetti sauce. To clean my plate of any left over gravy. With jelly for breakfast. In roll form for dinner. With cinnamon and sugar for dessert. French, sourdough, focaccia, baguette, rye, sweet and baked with bananas or pumpkin or zucchini--I could go on. But, I won't.

Now that I'm making as much as I can from scratch, I've come to realize that I don't crave any of the things that I used to eat every chance I got. That's partly true because I've become particular about what ingredients--and how much of said ingredients--I'm willing to consume. But, also, I realize that I like more variety to my diet. I don't want to make the same things over and over--a habit I used to keep. I'm having such a good time trying new recipes that it's been weeks since I've made the same dinner-dish twice. Furthermore, because I have to work for my carbs--i.e. bread--I find that I don't need it, or even want it, to round out my meal.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I'm too lazy to make what I want; it's more that because  I'm listening to my body, I know I don't need what I used to call my staples for every meal. Instead of french fries with my veggie burger (which, by the way, I'm still hunting for the perfect meatless-burger recipe!) I'm content to have a side of vegetables. One of these days, french fries will be a real treat--not simply because I will allow myself to indulge in the starchy goodness that is my favorite variation of a cooked potato, but also because I will have made it myself--the healthy way. And while making pasta is time consuming, that's not what's keeping me from making Italian dishes every night; I simply crave a more well-rounded menu. Variety is key to an exciting diet. At least, that's true for me.

Anyway--now to the point! Since I've been trying to eat less carbs and starch and more vegetables, I've neglected the potatoes that have been chilling in my fridge for weeks--maybe even months. (I'm thankful that keeping them cold has enabled them to last so long without sprouting. I don't care what anyone says, that just grosses me out!) After taking inventory of what I had remaining from my previous grocery trip--my potatoes ranking at the top of my priority list--I realized that I had enough ingredients to throw together my first frittata!

 I remember that fried rice used to be what my mom made when she was getting rid of left over vegetables--but I think frittata is going to be my new go-to recipe. I found the idea for my frittata here--but, just like Katie promised in her blog, it was perfectly adaptable to what I had laying around. It turned out to be the best scrapes meal I've ever made! This one is definitely a keeper.

My What's Left Frittata:

3 small potatoes
1 yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1/2 onion
3 spring onions (I really like onions! But, this adaptation would be just as good with only one kind of onion)
1 garlic clove
7 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash and dry the potatoes. Slice them as thin as you desire. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a heated skillet and add the potatoes; allow them to cook until they are soft. 
Combine the eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Beat until well mixed. Stir in the parsley. Set aside while you chop and slice the squash, onions, bell pepper, and garlic.
Remove the potatoes from the pan and set aside. Saute the squash, onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Combine the contents of the skillet, plus the potatoes with the egg mixture. Stir until evenly distributed.
Pour half of the mixture into a baking pan (I used a 9x9 square baking dish) and sprinkle with half of the cheese; pour the rest of the mixture into the dish, sprinkling the rest of the cheese over the top.
Stick it in the oven and bake at 375 degrees F until the top is set. (About 30 minutes, give or take. I was impatient and took it out before it was completely set; I stuck it in the microwave for a minute to speed up the process. Shameful, I know--but I had someplace to be!) Once it's out of the oven, serve it with a vegetable of your choice and you've got yourself a tasty dinner.

That's all for now--Rosalyn


Morning is my favorite part of the day. I get a fresh start, time with my husband, time to pray, cook, eat, write, plan, and contemplate the day ahead. 

I have not always been this way. Pre-marriage I planned my days off around sleeping in. Now, because my hubby and I have differing schedules, mornings are our time. Breakfast is the only meal we eat together every single day.

He was pretty thrilled about this breakfast today, and we both love the dreary weather. 

Hope everyone had an amazing Thursday,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal

This is the best oatmeal I have ever eaten. The recipe is from the Happy Herbivore meal plan which I highly suggest you download and donate to! I eat oatmeal almost every day with my husband. He is a traditional rolled oats with raisins and brown sugar, while I go for the Raw brand cinnamon and plum spice or chai oatmeal. (I like mine sweet!) As I sit and enjoy this delicious breakfast all I can think is that this meal plan was so worth the $5. Thank you Happy Herbivore for being a genius and adding pumpkin to oatmeal. You are awesome!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Ravioli

I was the very lucky recipient of a giant butternut squash from a friends garden last week. I mulled over what to do with the monster squash because lately, we have been eating a lot of squash. In a moment of sheer genius, I came up with this recipe:

Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butter Sauce

The pasta is 3 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup water. When making pasta dough, I start out with less water and add more as I think its needed. When the dough is the consistency of, well, dough, I cut it into long one inch strips and roll it out paper thin with my handy rolling pin. I then use something small and round (a cookie cutter would be nice but I don't have one) to cut circles out of the flat dough (about an inch in diameter is good). Set the circles aside and move onto the squash puree. 

The puree is made up of a cooked butternut squash (cut it in half, place it face down on a cookie sheet, add a little water and put that baby in the oven for about 45 minutes), about a 1/4 cup plain soy milk, a 1/2 tsp of salt, and a pinch (or a little more) of sage. I put it all in a food processor until the chunks are smoothed out but its not quite liquified. 

Then the exciting part: Take a spoon and place a small dollop of the puree on a ravioli round (For mine, I rolled my pasta circles with the rolling pin again to make them super flat). Dip your finger in a small glass of water and dab it around the edges of the ravioli. Put another ravioli round on top of the one you just wet and press down all of the sides. Set aside and continue this process until you have used all of the dough. 

Have a big pot of boiling water ready for your raviolis. I usually only cook a few at a time so I can monitor the cooking time more closely. When they float, and are light in color, they are done! Strain them from the water and plate them. 

For the sauce I used a few spoonfuls of smart balance margarin, about 1/8 a cup plain soy milk, and about a tsp of vanilla. Heat it in the microwave for about a minute, stir, and spoon it slowly over the ravioli. I used very little of this mixture on mine so that I could really focus on the butternut squash flavor. The vanilla adds just the perfect amount of sweetness! 


PS: The sauce in the pictures is just butter and brown sugar, it was boring so I changed it up! Happy eating!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lesson learned

For all of you who don't know, let me set the record straight: you don't have to do all of your grocery shopping at expensive health-food stores in order to maintain a healthy-food diet. For all of you who didn't know, I feel that it is my responsibility to fill you in on that little known (or maybe not so known) secret. Why? Because I don't want you to experience what I experienced today.

Whole Foods is probably the most beautiful grocery store I have ever been in. That being said, it's also the most expensive grocery store I've ever been in. Now, granted, I sort of knew that walking in. Sort of. Knowing that the prices were a bit steep, yet wanting the experience of shopping there, I did half of my shopping (mainly produce) where I usually do--the Sunflower Market. I figured, the few other things I wanted to pick up, I could grab at Whole Foods; I also figured, because I didn't need crazy-out-of-the-ordinary things, that my bill wouldn't amount to much. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG! Even with my half-sized shopping cart that was only half full, I spent over double what I did at the Sunflower Market and about fifty dollars over what I had budgeted.

Now, I could have freaked out, but I didn't. Instead, I took a deep breath, reminded myself that what I paid for I would be able to take home and use, and slid my trusty plastic debit card. As I was walking out of the store, I bid Whole Foods the kindest farewell; while it was nice getting to shop at such a beautiful establishment, I realized that it's just not worth it. Why? Because everything I bought, I could have grabbed at King Soopers for cheaper. For one afternoon, however, I wanted that ambiance. Well, I got it and I don't think I'll be hunting it down again any time soon.

Here's the truth of the matter: I can eat healthy and shop frugally as well. The whole reason I go to the Sunflower Market for my produce is because they always have fruits and veggies on sale. Everything I can't get there, I can usually find at a regular super market--and you probably can, too. Don't get me wrong--you may have to be more label-conscious when you aren't in a health-food store because the shelves at regular grocery stores are filled with falsely advertised nutritious goods, but your wallet will appreciate the extra effort you put in. Trust me!

Anyway, I plan on enjoying my Whole Food purchases as much as I can! In fact, I've already started to do just that. My grandparents got me a beautiful blender set just because (Just because they are awesome! When they found out I didn't have a blender, they promised me one when I came down for Thanksgiving. I was sure they were going to give me one of their old ones, at least, that's what they made it seem like--but then I walked out with this wonderful-brand-new-exceeding-my-expectations blender. They love me! And, oh, how I love them!) and I was super anxious to break it open and use it today.

I made a delicious, nutritious smoothie with the almond milk and frozen fruit I got from Whole Foods this afternoon. My Ninja worked just as effortlessly as it promised and I can definitely see myself making many more fruity (or maybe even veggie--since my grandma assures me they are pretty good and a great way to get in another serving of vegetables) frosty beverages in the future.
I also used my Ninja to make marinara sauce--more on that when I write about the lasagna I plan on making tomorrow.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

My first fruit smoothie recipe (in case you were wondering):

1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen peaches (about 4-5 slices)
1/3 banana
1/4 vanilla almond milk

Throw everything in the blender and vuala--you've got yourself the perfect little snack. Add a tasty English muffin or double the recipe and you've got breakfast!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Food & Tradition

I grew up in every sense of the term "nuclear family." Mom, Dad, Little Sister, me. Where other kids had grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and even neighbors around that were considered family, I just had my tiny, four person unit. I have grandparents (we occasionally visited), and aunts and uncles and cousins (I love those who have stuck around dearly), but my family is separated by the pains of divorce and distance. Our lack of extended family to cook for over the years has resulted in very little consistency and tradition..

I remember my mom saying almost every holiday something like, "We have to start our own traditions," and try as we did, nothing ever stuck. I do not have any vivid food memories from my childhood that involve traditions or holidays. No special cookies, like the ones my mother in law makes every year, no memories of my own mother cooking dinner or baking. The one most vivid food memory I have from my childhood is eating at a free school lunch program one summer when my parents were struggling to make ends meet (I remember being embarrassed and grossed out by the smelly cafeteria).

I grew up eating meat and never really questioned why. It was just food. I never thought of meat as anything other than that. In March of 2007 my husband (then boyfriend) and I were attending a small church that had decided to participate in Lent. At the last minute we decided that we would give up meat for the 40 day fasting period. We were unprepared, excited, and motivated. We had come across some statistics about world hunger and vegetarianism that we were eager to share with our friends and family.

Little did we know at the time that we would stay on the path to permanent vegetarianism.

Our unpreparedness at first led us to eat a lot of unhealthy things such as fast food burritos, cheese pizzas, veggie burgers (with fries of course!). Our new culinary path was not one necessarily of health, but simply of no meat.  We were trying to eat all of the things we loved when we were meat eaters. Although our diet evolved and we had the resources and know-how to make much healthier choices with our diet, we found our selves stuck in a rut of lazy vegetarianism.

Fast forward to today. Thanksgiving 2011. My family cooked prime rib, fresh green beans (sans casserole), sweet potatoes, and a choice of cheesecake or pumpkin pie for dessert. I contributed a beautiful vegetarian lasagna packed with thinly sliced zucchini and tons of cheese (with my sauce that I made from scratch!) We still have no set traditions. My family does not care much for turkey, and so we had no use for stuffing, or cranberry sauce. The Thanksgiving staples are almost foreign to our family table.

To be honest, I never really noticed that we didn't have real traditions until I got married. Seeing my husbands big family gather year after year and enjoy each others company and favorite foods has made me long for a sense of tradition and home. As I start thinking about raising a family of my own I dream about handing down recipes to my children who I hope will hand them down to their children and their children after them.

So I have started a journey. I am cooking from scratch and making my own versions of recipes that I love. I am searching for a food culture and a set of traditions that I can call my own. I hope that through this experience, I will change the way my husband and I, and my family, approach food. I hope to create memories and gain lots of new cooking skills.

I sincerely hope that you will join me on my new journey as a scratch kitchen chef, as I cook, learn, and create memories and traditions from my kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Those without

My heart for food has changed substantially over the past few weeks. I've been taught for years that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, but I always associated that fact with my Christian walk--I thought it was more about what I wore, what I said, how I carried myself, and so on and so forth. Lately, I've realized that I should also take into consideration what I am eating. My body is a gift and I need to take care of it.

But, God has also shown me something more. My eyes have been opened to the reality that I'm not the only person who should be worried about what is going into my body; I am not the only person whose body is a gift. We are all made in his image.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I can't help but think about food. With this being my first vegetarian holiday, I'm approaching the day with a bit of caution. My body is still adjusting to the change and I don't want to freak it out with a bunch of rich foods I've done without for so long.

But--what about those who are simply going without? What about those who aren't worried about explaining, for the tenth time, why they aren't eating turkey because their answer is--they are without a turkey. What about those people who don't have a place to call home, who don't have a family to invite them in, who don't get to sit around a table full of food that smells of Thanksgiving and welcomes everyone into the holiday season? What about those people?

I think it's amazing that we have a holiday that people associate with eating. Ask the average American their plans for the holiday and they will tell you where they are going and what they will be eating when they get there. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of doing just that. And, while I don't plan on overeating--like so many enjoy doing on Turkey Day--I will be indulging in time with family and a home cooked meal. I'm really looking forward to the tradition that I have come to expect from my family, but I can't help but wonder--what about the homeless? What are they doing tomorrow? Who is feeding them?

These are questions I wouldn't have asked last year, or the year before. But now? Now, not only am I more aware of my calling to do right and seek justice, I'm also more aware of the importance of food. I can't imagine going without it, ever--but, more specifically, on a day where everyone I know plans on eating until they can't eat anymore.  So, I looked for the answer to my question: who is feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving?

I was, actually, really disappointed with the information I found. Trying to see where people are volunteering to serve, on Thanksgiving, in my town, was like trying to find a scholarly source that is reliable enough to reference in a research paper using Google as your primary search engine. (Google is good for a lot of things, but not research papers...or holiday volunteer opportunities in Colorado, either, apparently.) I'm not sure if it's because most of the local non-profit organizations weren't advertising via the internet or if there really are very few ways to reach out to the homeless tomorrow--but I found one in the city that I reside, and a couple others in our state's capital.

Common sense and faith in humanity tells me that there are more people supporting the hungry on Thanksgiving, but I wish there were even more!

From what I know about people in need all over the world--which isn't anything to boast about--I'm willing to bet that my town could do so much more, even just in our town. Maybe next year, with a little more effort on my part, I won't just find one or two organizations who are only publicizing that they don't need any more volunteers; maybe next year, with a little more effort on my part, I'll find a dozen more opportunities to serve in my community; and maybe--just maybe--I'll be one of those people asking for volunteers.

In any case, allow me to give a shout out to the people who are making a difference in the lives of many tomorrow. Every little bit helps, and I'm so glad that there are people who have the heart and the means to honor those less fortunate.

The Open Door Mission is hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner in town for anyone who wants to attend. They are hoping that it will be a time for people in various situations to come together and break bread--what I believe this holiday should be all about.
The Denver Rescue Mission is delivering boxed dinners and serving a banquet dinner. I read that they had thousands of turkeys donated to the cause, which is awesome.
My favorite event that is going on is being hosted by Rock Bottom Brewery. They are inviting over a thousand people (homeless and displaced children and their families) to a dinner at the restaurant. They will be treated as guests and they will be served on tables decked out with silverware and china and tablecloths. I imagine that it will be great for everyone involved.

I hope this Thanksgiving finds you well and that you get the chance to enjoy the day with friends and family, and maybe even a few strangers who need a warm meal served with love.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

Life as I know it

A couple of months ago, my grandparents decided they were going to drastically change their diet and become vegans. When I heard the news, I couldn't believe it--if you knew my grandpa, you'd understand my disbelief. My whole life, he's been the guy who likes to eat just about everything. I remember my grandma used to joke around, telling us that the only thing she could buy that he wouldn't eat were salt and vinegar potato chips; but if there was nothing else for him to munch on, he might have eaten those too. Furthermore, the best meals I can remember my grandma cooking all had meat, cheese, or butter--sometimes all three. My grandpa is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

That is, he used to be.

I remember talking to them about it, initially, and my grandpa said one thing that stood out to me the most--it's not a change someone can make unless they have a reason that drives them. I respected their decision and was, actually, really excited for them. It is their health that has inspired them--and because, of course, I'm not nearly ready to live a life without them, I was proud of them for taking drastic measures to improve their health.

I, on the other hand, insisted that I could never handle a vegan diet. Why? Because I like hamburgers too much. My favorite restaurant is Old Chicago, and one of my favorite things to do is to go there and enjoy a beer with a classic cheeseburger, or a Chicago style pizza. There was no way I could give up meat--and definitely not dairy! Besides the cheese I can't go without on my hamburger, I love ice cream.

Ice cream. Let me tell you a little bit about how ice cream changed my life.

This summer, ice cream became a part of my nightly routine. A couple scoops a night was my night cap--I wouldn't go to bed without the delicious, milky, nectar. For a while, I'd come home from the grocery store with different variations of vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered peanut butter cups, rabbits, swirls--didn't matter, as long as there was peanut butter. After a while, and an impromptu trip to Cold Stone Creamery one evening, I decided to go for something lighter. Cake batter flavored ice cream became my new craving. And then I discovered it--the most delicious summer ice cream pick my mouth had ever known--I do, I do, Wedding Cake--butter-creme flavored ice cream with chunks of white cake and raspberry swirls! Oh my gosh, it was so good. So good that  I could hardly stop myself from going back for another bowl after I'd finished my first; occasionally, I didn't even try and stop myself. I loved it.

My waist, on the other hand, did not.

Now, I'm a woman--feeling fat is something that happens on a regular basis. Bloating happens. We get over it. But, that was the thing, I had hit a point where I wasn't getting over it. A week went by and I was wondering why I still felt uncomfortable in my body. Then another week slipped by, and another, and I couldn't shake the feeling. It was frustrating when everything I put on made me feel like I had to add another layer to cover myself up just a little more. Something had to be done--so I made the decision to go on a diet.

I'm the kind of person that, when I make up my mind to do something, I do it. And I had made up my mind. So, after my summer vacation with family (where I knew going on a diet wasn't going to happen), I changed how I was eating. I decided that I wanted to lose 20 pounds. I gave up sweets and beer, I cut way back on carbs and upped my protein intake, I started eating more vegetables and, within the first two weeks, I lost nine pounds.

It was awesome.

That's when I decided that I was going to start making my own vegetable soup. I was getting sick of salads for lunch everyday, and with autumn on the horizon, soup seemed like the next best thing. It was a great idea, in theory, but not so great the first few practice rounds. Turned out the soup I was eating didn't have nearly as many calories as I needed and by the end of my work day, I hadn't eaten enough food to provide me with the energy I needed. My body was going into starvation mode.

My solution? More protein. But, I didn't want that to mean more meat. I couldn't afford more meat! So, I started hunting for ideas. I added beans to my soup and my body was very pleased; and, happy to have found a few recipes for nutritious lunch time meals, I kept looking. It was then that I discovered the plethora of recipes out there for vegetarians. It wasn't long before the lulls at work were filled with me scouring the internet for more vegetarian soup recipes. Soup recipes turned into dinner recipes and snack ideas and then I realized something....

If I stopped buying meat, my grocery bill would probably go down in price. Plus, with all the recipes I was finding, I was sure that I could still maintain a well rounded menu that tasted just as good without meat. And, I was suddenly very intrigued by the idea of knowing exactly what I was eating--so, switching to a vegetarian diet just seemed to make sense.

It dawned on me that what I was eating went beyond just feeding myself. The knowledge that my body is not my own took on a whole new meaning; I understood that my body is a gift from God and it is a temple that houses Christ's promise in the form of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to take care of myself better.

Surprisingly enough, I don't miss ice cream. While I am still trying to stay away from sweets and excessive carbs for now, I'm not sure that my diet will really have room for those things in the future. I've found that I actually enjoy eating healthy and it's not as hard as I imagined it would be. My recipe hunt has grown into a habit. I seek out blogs with recipes and articles about food and nutrition. When I think of something I like to eat (outside of fruits, vegetables, dairy and nuts), I look into what it would take to make it. And, I've discovered, most of the things that I now eat, I can make them myself.

So, here I am, a vegetarian who has vowed to make as much as I can from scratch. I tell people that I have this rule that I live by--If I want it, I have to make it. And you know what? I love it. Not only does my body appreciate my efforts (I've lost four more pounds--yippee! Only seven more to go), but I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend in the kitchen. And there is something so rewarding about eating something that you've made from scratch.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you; I'm anxious to grow spiritually, as a person, as a woman, and as a cook as I journey my way through life as a vegetarian--life as a health conscious consumer--and life as a Scratch Kitchen chef.

That's all for now--Rosalyn

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