S’more Cookies

Here is the recipe for the S’more cookies I made that everyone wanted. I am not the biggest cookie fan and I thought these were incredible! I did not bake them on graham crackers (that seemed weird to me). I was scared that omitting the graham crackers would un-s’more them, but the cinnamon in the cookies was enough to keep the s’more taste. I also left off the chocolate on top; it kind of seemed like TOO much.

Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Graham Cracker S’mores Cookies with a graham cracker base, topped with a chocolate chip marshmallow cookie and chopped Hershey’s bars on top. If you are a fan of  s’mores, watch out! These are incredible! 🙂 I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for summer. I only have 12 school days left until summer break! I remember when I was a kid I would always wonder what the teachers at our school were going to do the whole summer without us. Now I know that the teachers are just as excited if not more than the students to be out for the summer. This summer is going to a particularly busy and fun one for my husband and I. June marks my husband and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary, so we are headed back down to the place we had our destination wedding-Grand Cayman. I am super…

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Warm Spinach Salad with Grilled Sausage

I got this recipe a few years ago from Real Simple magazine. It has become one of my absolute favorite summer grilling recipes. It is so delicious and perfect for eating outside in the summer. And, even better, it really couldn’t get much simpler. It is perfect for those summer nights or even afternoons for lunch when you are enjoying the nice weather and have little interest in putting a lot of effort into cooking. With this, you can have a fabulous outdoor meal with little effort, a dream come true!

To start, you need some sausages. Any kind you like. I use sweet Italian turkey sausage. You also need about 8 roma tomatoes and a large vidalia onion. Simply peel and slice the onion and cut the tomatoes in half (I cut off the ends first). You don’t want the onion slices too thin or they will be harder to flip on the grill. Or you can slice them thin and cook them in  a grill basket if you prefer. Brush both sides of the veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

That’s it. Then put your sausage, onion and tomatoes on the grill.

While everything is on the grill, make the really simple dressing. You just have to put some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, grainy mustard (not yellow, yuck!), salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk them together. Dressing done!

Fill a large bowl with fresh baby spinach. As you take your veggies off the grill, put them right on top of the spinach. Then cover the bowl until ready to serve so the spinach warms up a little.

Looks Beautiful!

Then just slice the sausage, serve on top of the veggies, and drizzle some dressing on top. Perfect!

Here is the recipe as it appeared in Real Simple:

Ingredients
  • 4 Italian sausages (about 1 pound)
  • 8 plum tomatoes, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 3 bunches spinach, thick stems removed (about 8 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
Directions
  • 1Heat grill to medium-high. With a fork, prick the sausages in several places. Grill, turning occasionally, until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • 2Meanwhile, brush the tomatoes and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill until tender, 5 to 6 minutes per side for the onion and 2 to 3 minutes per side for the tomatoes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl as they are done, add the spinach, and toss.
  • 3In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, the remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Slice the sausages and serve with the vegetables and dressing.

Lemon Tarragon Tilapia

So simple, but so delicious. Served with roasted broccoli and mashed cauliflower. Also both really simple.

Just sprinkle the tilapia with salt, pepper, and tarragon. Then cook over medium high heat in a pan with some olive oil and butter. Once the tilapia is done, remove it from the pan. Then add lemon juice to the pan and scrape up anything stuck to the pan. Add a little more butter and tarragon to the lemon juice and stir until the butter is melted into the lemon juice. Pour some sauce over each tilapia filet to serve.

For the cauliflower, toss the cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper and some crushed garlic. The garlic should be to your taste, I like a lot. Roast at 375 for 45 minutes, turning two or three times during roasting. The cauliflower could really be done here. It is delicious like this. But sometimes I prefer the consistency of mashed with a meal. Here, I thought the mashed would be great with the lemon butter sauce from the fish. So then I put the roasted cauliflower in a food processor. Add some thyme and olive oil (about a tbsp of each per head of cauliflower), and process. Don’t think you can just steam the cauliflower if you are going to mash it. I’ve tried that and it is not nearly as good as when you roast it first.

The broccoli is just tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 375 for 30 minutes. Roasted broccoli is the best. So much more flavor than steamed! And it stays nice and crisp instead of getting soggy.

Sorry I’m lacking measurements, but I don’t actually do a lot of measuring when I am cooking. Especially for an easy meal like this.

This meal has so much more flavor than you would ever expect for how simple it is. So good with a glass of white wine.


Beautiful Veggies on the Grill

This is pretty much how I cook all summer…just change up the protein to go with it.


My Tomato Savior

I’ve been seeing stuff for a while now about how bad it is to eat canned tomatoes with the BPA lining and the acidity of the tomatoes causing all that BPA to get into them. Honestly, I’ve been ignoring it. I use canned tomatoes in my cooking a LOT. I even eat them for breakfast with my eggs. I just couldn’t even think about not using them. But then I read more about it…and more. Finally, I thought it was time to give up my canned tomatoes. I tried Pomi in the carton, but I didn’t like them. Their “diced” tomatoes seemed more crushed than diced to me. I like my diced tomatoes chunky, Pomi wasn’t cutting it. But now what? I figured it would be jarred tomatoes. Guess what? They don’t exist. I searched health food stores, I searched online, I couldn’t find jarred tomatoes. I figured I would just have to use fresh tomatoes. Now, the extra effort of peeling and dicing fresh tomatoes isn’t my problem with this. It’s the taste. They are fine for some things, but they very much do not have the same flavor as canned tomatoes. And, here is where I draw the line. I am not canning or jarring my own tomatoes. I’m sorry, it’s just not happening. I already spend enough time in the kitchen. So…the different flavor of diced fresh tomatoes or accept the BPA-soaked canned tomatoes? Then I found them….Muir Glen Organic canned tomatoes. My tomato savior. Starting this year, Muir Glen is using a BPA-free liner in all of their canned tomatoes. And it turns out they are readily available in my local grocery store. Thank you, Muir Glen!

 

 


Feeding the Kids

My kids are good eaters. Even the little one who we call “picky” is really just a lot more picky than her sister, but she is still a lot less picky than most other kids we know. I mean, she loves kale! And even she is getting better every day when it comes to eating. It could be that we just got lucky or it could be our philosophy on feeding them, or a little of both. But this is how feeding the kids works in our house.

They eat what we eat. A lot of the parents I know, maybe most, make separate meals for their kids. Each night for dinner, they make a “grownup meal” for themselves and they also make a “kid meal.” The kid meal usually consists of typical “kid food” – chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese – the stuff you see on restaurant kid menus – and maybe a simple veggie or fruit on the side.

We don’t do this. Never have. From the time they started eating table food, they ate what I made for us.

Enjoying some grilled chicken and squash.

They have to try everything. Not just once. Every time I make it. Tastes change. They aren’t allowed to say, “I don’t like this.” Okay, so they’re allowed to say it, but it’s not considered a permanent state. The next time I make that particular food, they have to try it again. One bite. If they still say they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat any more of it at that meal. But they will have to try it again the next time I make it. The rule is that they have to try at least one bite of every thing on their plate. And, yes, there are definitely foods they have claimed to not like at one time that they now eat. Just the other night, we made my 4-year-old try one bite of the grilled onion on her plate after she once again said she doesn’t like onions.  She ended up eating every bit of it on her plate, all on her own.

No being sneaky. I absolutely do not believe in that whole “sneaky chef” thing – sneaking healthy foods into other stuff you know your kids will eat. I firmly believe it is important to educate our kids about food and healthy eating so they can learn to make good choices both now and as they get older.

Now, I do put vegetables into things as I often as I can, but they are not hidden. For example, my kids love macaroni and cheese with vegetables in it – spinach and broccoli are their favorites. My older daughter is actually disappointed if there are not vegetables in her macaroni and cheese.

Don’t deny them treats. After eating spinach omelets for breakfast, grilled chicken and veggies for lunch, carrots and celery for snacks, and kale at dinner, my kids are absolutely allowed to have a piece of chocolate or some ice cream as a treat.  I like to have “treats,” especially when I spend most of my time making sure I eat healthy. So should they.  They’re kids. Teach them good habits, but also let them be kids and enjoy. It’s also part of learning about food and learning to make good decisions. They are learning that as long as you are eating healthy most of the time, it is also okay to sometimes have the things you enjoy that aren’t as good for you. They are learning about moderation.

The week before Easter, my 8-year-old told me that she decided she didn’t want to have any “treats” at all that week because she knew she was going to get a lot of a treats that weekend. Completely her idea. And she did it. That’s my 8-year-old making a responsible decision about her own eating because she has learned about food and healthy eating. That’s also why I don’t buy the whole “sneaky chef” thing. Education is too important.

It’s important to let them be kids, too!

Home vs. Away. These are our general habits for feeding the kids in our every day life. When we are not at home, the rules change a bit. If we are at someone else’s house where all the kids are eating chicken fingers and french fries, my kids have chicken fingers and french fries if they want. Although, I think my older daughter often prefers the grownup food. At home, we only drink water. If we are with other kids, they can drink what everyone else is drinking if they want. We don’t deny them these things when they see other kids eating them. When we are with other kids, these are their decisions to make. Although, I am happy to say, I see my older daughter more and more choosing to stick with the healthier option.

I once worked with someone who ate a LOT of pop tarts. She said it was because her parents wouldn’t allow her to have them when she was a kid and she always saw her friends eating them. Now that it was up to her, she ate them all the time. I don’t want that. So I don’t deny them anything in moderation and educate them to make healthier decisions on their own.

Again, maybe we just got really lucky, but of course, I like to think that our parenting strategies had at least a little to do with our kids’ good eating habits.


Bathing Suit Bellies

It’s that time of year when we start to think about pulling out the summer clothes and eventually, the bathing suits. Should we actually be thinking about this year-round? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we do always think about it while we have sweaters covering up our bellies all winter. But unless you plan on hanging out on the beach in a sweater, you’re probably thinking about it now. Here are a few really simple things I have learned to think about when trying to keep the belly in bathing suit shape.

  1. Eat Fiber. Fiber helps burn belly fat. But that doesn’t mean you should go scarf down a few pieces of bread. There are better ways to get fiber. Apples, beans, and broccoli are examples.
  2. Cut back on salt. It’s true that salt will make you retain fluid, which leads to extra water weight and a bloated appearance. Be aware of all the places you may be taking in a lot of extra salt besides the stuff you use when you cook. For example, go with unsalted pretzels and nuts for snacks to reduce salt intake.
  3. Stand up straight. Good posture not only immediately makes you look thinner, it also strengthens muscles that will help you actually be thinner over time. You want to engage your core muscles in everything you do as much as possible. Whenever you’re sitting around your house, try to sit on an exercise ball if possible. It will make you sit up straight and engage your core to keep your balance.
  4. Drink lots of water. It helps flush out all the bad stuff.
  5. Eat your MUFAs. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) help fight belly fat by stopping the blood sugar spikes that cause your body to store fat around your belly. Some easy ways to get your MUFAs –avocados, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, almonds & walnuts, peanut butter, olives & olive oil, and … dark chocolate! But, remember, everything in moderation.