Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sweet Potatoes With Pecans & Parmesan

3 Tbs olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 oz)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of cayenne pepper

1) Heat oven to 375F. Oil a shallow 2 1/2 - 3 quart baking dish.
2) In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the Parmesan, 2 Tbs of the oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper; transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, 45 to 50 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, thyme, cayenne, the remaining Tbs of oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper.
4) Remove the foil from the baking dish, sprinkle the pecan mixture over the potatoes and continue to bake, uncovered, until the pecans are toasted, 10 to 12 minutes.

Review: This was tasty. This had a great, savory, gratin-like flavor. The sweetness of the potatoes was a great balance to the cheese. Unfortunately, I learned that the granulated brown sugar I've recently fallen in love with doesn't melt well as a topping. It was easy to pour and measure, but the top of this dish looked beady and I didn't like that presentation!

Adapted from:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creamy Avocado Pasta

1 pkg spaghetti
3 avocados, shelled and pitted
2 Tbs lemon juice
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1) Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Rinse, drain and set aside.
2) Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the avocado, basil. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Process until smooth and creamy.
3) Place pasta in large bowl, then pour on sauce and toss until fully combined.
4) Serve immediately. Please note this will not reheat well due to the avocado.

Review: This was an incredibly easy dish! Unfortunately, I forgot to add the lemon juice to the mix. The sauce tasted like it was lacking something and it was likely due to the missing lemon juice. I thought lemon juice would only prevent the avocado from turning brown. However, as I was discussing my disappointment with this sauce at work, a wonderful coworker informed me lemon juice will also enhance the flavor of the avocado. Oops. It sounds like it's an easy fix to make this dish tasty next time. I do plan to make this again, as we love avocados in this house and the recipe is easy and fast to make!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vegetable Medley With Basmati Rice

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, halved
4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 butternut squash, seeded and cubed
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup packed, chopped kale
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tamari

1) In medium saucepan, combine rice and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
2) In large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, squash and carrot, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans and kale, and cook, stirring often, until kale is bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
3) In small mixing bowl, blend the nutritional yeast and tamari. Pour over vegetables in skillet and cover. Remove skillet from heat, and let stand 1 to 2 minutes.
4) Serve over basmati rice.

Review: This was an amazing dish! I used quick-cooking brown basmati rice from Trader Joe's. It cooks wonderfully quick and is very flavorful. I wasn't sure how the sauce would turn out, as it seemed like an odd flavor combination. However, it was incredibly tasty!! It's very easy and full of nutrients. This recipe was a winner. We were especially happy to have leftovers, as I doubled the amount of butternut squash, shiitake mushrooms and garbanzo beans.

Adapted from:


I've wanted to make my own lotion for a long time. I have had allergic reactions to sooooo many lotions. And, I have allergic reactions to sunscreen, which seems to be included in 90% of facial lotions. Then, I have to factor in a list of ingredients that can't be used in combination with my prescription acne/retinol gel. Ug - there's no commercial products left to try once I weed out all of those contenders!

So, I raided my cabinets to see what I could make on my own. I had shea butter, aloe vera gel, glycerin and honey. The honey is important, as it's naturally antibacterial so it should inhibit germ growth and it's wonderful for healing skin imperfections. The healing portion will be helpful on my hands, as they crack so much due to frequent hand washing as a hospital employee!

I combined 1/8 cup of aloe vera gel, 1/8 cup honey and 1 Tbs glycerin in the mixing container that came with my stick blender. I melted 1/2 cup of shea butter and poured it in. Using the stick blender, everything began to blend, but quickly hardened due to the nature of the shea butter. I added about 1/4 cup of distilled water to the mixture to give it a creamy texture. It all came together quite nicely. I poured out some of the concoction into a repurposed Yankee Candle jar and labeled it for face use (it's unscented). I then added several drops of jasmine and sandalwood essential oils and blended again. This scented lotion will be for body use, though I'm lazy about moisturizing anything other than my hands. I filled another Yankee Candle jar (the smallest they make) and still had enough for another container. I put that into a food container and put it in the fridge, so it'd keep well.

I've already used quite a bit on my hands, just wiping bits off of the containers. It's amazing and my skin feels wonderful! Now, my stick blender on the other hand . . . it'll take several washings to get fully clean!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wreath Redo

My mother-in-law bought us a wreath as a housewarming gift back in August. It hung on our door until the holidays, when it was replaced by an evergreen wreath (so very New-England). When the holiday wreath finally died two weeks ago, we brought out the housewarming wreath. I lamented to find some of the decorations had lost all color and some were cracking:

So, I wondered what could be done. I couldn't possibly throw it out and buying a new one was too expensive. Then, I got the idea to redo it. I went to Michael's to get ideas. I bought a 5ft spring themed garland, which had floral pieces that unraveled from a long curly wire - that was perfect for the purpose of having bits of decoration to add to a wreath! It wasn't quite enough, so I also bought a candle ring with the same decoration, which added just a little bit more material to work with. All of this cost less than $10.

So, today I pulled off all of the broken pieces. As you can see, it still left plenty of green background to work with. It's also apparent that I had a little "help" from two curious kitties.

So, I got to work and shoved pieces in everywhere and arranged things nicely. I didn't need to use hot glue or the floral wire that I purchased! The pieces all had wire attached and either wedged in nicely, or was easily secured to some other piece. About 15 minutes later, I had a "brand new" wreath on my front door!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Roasted Vegetable & Quinoa Salad With Pistachios

1 lb carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 lb shiitake or cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed
2 Tbs olive oil, plus more for drizzling.
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
1 cup quinoa
5 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped salted, roasted pistachios

1) Heat oven to 425F. On 2 rimmed baking sheets, toss the carrots and mushrooms with the oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Roast, tossing once, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Combine the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the thyme.
2) Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Divide the spinach among plates and top with the warm quinoa and vegetables. Sprinkle with the pistachios and drizzle with the oil.

Review: I typically don't like roasted carrots (or carrots cooked in any manner), but this actually was tasty with the shiitake mushrooms. It was a great balance of flavor. The dish was hearty and filling, but still tasted a bit light with the addition of the spinach. My favorite part was the pistachios, as my husband bought a whole bag of them, which I snacked on while everything cooked. Yum!

Adapted from: