Friday, December 28, 2012

Homemade Crab Soup

I love all recipes I have ever tried with blue crab meat (and Old Bay!)...crab dip, crab cakes, crab name it, I probably like it. One soup that always worried me was crab soup (not cream of crab, but the veggie-based one). I've never been a huge fan of vegetable soup and don't really make it so when I decided to make it for my family Christmas get together, I was a little concerned it would turn out alright. Thankfully with a little help from my mom, I came up with this recipe and loved every bit!

Maryland Crab Soup with Old Bay
(all organic ingredients)

7 c chicken broth/stock (homemade if possible)
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
2-3 small potatoes, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 can green beans
1/2 c frozen peas
1 1/2 lb crab meat (best to use your own picked from crabs but I used Philip's claw meat this time when it was on sale and MUCH cheaper than the "special" crab meat, which it my opinion is not better and often has more shells. You could easily use less crab meat, but why??)
1-2 T Old Bay seasoning to taste (I tend to add less since you can always add it individually to taste when eating)

Place first 5 ingredients in large soup pot and bring to gently boil until potatoes start to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until all veggies are cooked.

Eat right away or freeze. In my opinion it is better the next day :)
We enjoyed the soup with homemade soft pretzels (I ate some gf ones leftover from a previous night. I will share the recipe soon, but not quite right yet).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Victory Garden Handbook

One thing you might not know about me is I LOVE books. I especially have an affinity for old books and my collection of books 100+ years old is growing quite nicely. Sometimes they are sentimental (Shakespeare, anyone?), sometimes informational and sometimes I like them just because they are old :)

Well, go here to download a pdf of the Victory Garden Leader's Handbook for some good ole' fashioned gardening tips- for free! I guess I love e-versions of old books, too!

Anyone else collect old books? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First WIAW

Well, here's my first WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday courtesy of Peas and Crayons) post. I make no promises that I will be able to post every week, but wanted a chance to show you some more "normal" or everyday kind of foods. This time we'll start with a normal day's meals. It is very easy to stick to this breakfast/lunch routine during the work week but much harder on weekends and days off. I have to admit though that I don't get bored with it and greatly miss it and ready to return to it once the weekend is over. I'm trying better to stick to this routine over the Christmas break and so far feel better because of it.

Breakfast- Green Monster (or smoothie) This recipe is slightly different than my original.

1 banana
1/2 c blueberries
3 ice cubes
1-2 T each flax, chia and hemp seeds
spinach (as much as I can cram into my magic bullet!)
1/2-1 c cold water or coconut water with aloe

Blend until smooth and enjoy! I recently bought a Glass Dharma straw and will never go back to plastic again (this picture was taken before I bought the straw)! And to clean, just use a skewer, no need to buy a fancy brush :)

Lunch- This is my typical lunch. I loathe packing my lunch nightly, mostly because I often forget to :(  My method of solving that problem is to pack most of it at once and take to school Monday. The only item I bring daily is my salad and so far I've done well with remembering it since it is right next to my water bottle in the fridge (which by the way is also glass, and I enjoy the taste much better than any plastic or stainless steel water bottle). I have to give credit to Lauren of Say What You Need to Say. Ever since starting to read her blog over a year ago and seeing all of her salads she eats daily, I knew I should be getting more green ruffage in my diet. Thanks, Lauren! I'll never go back!

 I'll take 5 hard-boiled eggs, 5 coconut muffins, and 5 apples on Monday in my lunch bag. I have found the easiest way to make and peel the eggs (especially since mine are farm fresh) is to bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat for 15 minutes. Then cool completely by draining hot water and adding ice cubes and cold water. Then break first on the large end and peel. I have tried many other methods and this one is best! And if you don't have time to peel right away, store in fridge to peel at your leisure and they will be easier than peeling while still warm.

 I keep a bottle of my favorite dressing in the fridge at school so I don't have to worry about packing that either. Trust me, this is the best dressing ever, and SUPER healthy!

I typically have the salad, fork and knife in this glass container from Pampered Chef. (Are you seeing a theme with the glass? Trying to slowly switch over to more glass, since even BPA-free plastic has bad chemicals in it!) We recently bought some super cute dishware I was hoping to showcase as well, but my salad got a little big. That's the great thing about eating veggies, once you start you usually want more!

The salad is simple, but I love it:
organic baby romaine
organic carrot chips
organic red onion
1 hard-boiled egg

The only negative I have found to eating a salad for lunch is that it takes longer to eat and is harder to work and eat at the same time (both a blessing and a curse).

I'll leave supper for another WIAW :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Freebie from My Favorite Blog

I love the Heavenly Homemakers blog. The author, Laura, is an inspiration in so many ways as wife, mother, cook, etc. What a wonderful surprise when I read she is giving away $5 gift certificates to all her readers! These are good on any of her e-books that you may download and save and/or print (for yourself only). I just downloaded Do the Funky Kitchen (to see if I can get organized!). Some of the books are less than $5 so you get it for free, or you can use towards a higher priced book or set. While you are there, check out her numerous recipes on her blog.

I can say that finding her blog at the beginning of my food transformation over 2 1/2 years ago definitely helped to confirm the changes I was making and to convince me that I could be a blogger too :)  And while I do not have the time to devote to my blog as I would like, it is still something I enjoy immensely and if I can help even one person make a better choice it is worth it.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas Day, filled with family and the joy of the Savior!

We were blessed to enjoy a white Christmas in PA, just enough for a beautiful coating and it all melted away today, just in time for a run to try out my new Garmin watch :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Angel Food Cake (Gluten Free!)

For my mom's birthday, I told her I would make her an angel food cake (one of her favorites). Now granted, her birthday was over 2 months ago. Of course I thought, if I'm going to go through making one from scratch (I'll admit, I used to be an avid boxed angel food cake mix person) I might as well gluten free so I can try it, too :)  Besides that, I knew my friend Erika (who has to eat gluten free) loves angel food cake and if I could try out a recipe to pass onto her, the better! Here is the original recipe, I did make a few alterations due to the ingredients I had on-hand and also noted are the changes I would make the next time.

1 1/2 c egg whites (It took 9 eggs for me this time. Save your yolks and freeze them in an ice cube tray, then pop into freezer bag. I'm saving mine to make creme brulee.)
3/4 c plus 1/2 c organic cane sugar, divided (I would definitely use less next time, it was a bit sweet)
1/4 c arrowroot powder
1/4 c white rice flour
1/4 c quinoa flour
1/4 c potato starch
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (I will use a bit more next time)
1/2 tsp almond extract (This was not in the original recipe, but I recently tried some almond cookies made by my friend Jen and they had a distinct angel food cake flavor so I think by adding a smidge of almond extract it will complete the flavor of the cake!)

Separate eggs and let white come to room temperature. Sift 3/4 c sugar, arrowroot, flours and starch together twice.
Preheat oven to 350 and get out ungreased tube pan.
Add cream of tartar, salt, vanilla and almond to egg whites and beat on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar (decrease amount next time) beating on high until stiff peaks form. 
Gently fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 c at a time. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets.
Bake on lowest rack (I did not do this but will next time) for 45-50 minutes or until lightly browned and top appears dry.
Invert pan above plate and allow to cool about 1 hour (I could not wait this long!)
Run a knife between cake and pan to loosen and place on plate.Cut and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite dishes that I don't eat nearly enough. Ever since learning about most restaurant salmon (It is more than likely farmed under conditions that are horrific- water filled with overcrowding, anti-biotics and fed GMO corn. The worst are when chickens are actually kept on wire cages above the water and the fish eat their...yeah, I think you know what I mean. And if you are what you eat, and the salmon eat that, and you eat the 

So needless to say I stopped eating salmon from all chain restaurants (and when I asked if the salmon was farmed or wild caught, the server always said "farmed" like it was a good thing!). I do buy wild caught salmon from Rt 30 Seafood (they are also a great place to get shrimp- another food I will not eat at chain restaurants). My daughter Leah and I typically split a 1/2 lb fillet that is usually grilled with some olive oil and spices. 

Tonight I felt like something a little different and have had the pleasure of having some wonderful pecan crusted salmon at The Warehouse Gourmet which inspired me to go on a search and I found this recipe with some of my own alterations for the one fillet and some other flavors. It turned out amazing, Leah and I both loved it and can't wait to have it again! Even if you don't typically like salmon, give it a try!

1 salmon fillet (around 1/2 lb)
2 T mayonnaise (on my list to make my own but haven't done that yet so try to get an organic variety made with cage-free eggs)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (I prefer Organic Valley)
dash garlic and onion powder
pinch dried chives
dash dried parsley
fresh ground black pepper and pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375. Place salmon on foil greased with olive oil (I use the spray bottle from Pampered Chef- use less oil without the horrific chemicals and additives from commercial oil sprays). Mix together all ingredients (minus the salmon, of course!) and place on top of salmon. Bake until topping is lightly browned (it was about 20 minutes but the oven was only at 350 at first because I was also baking something else at the same time :)

I had some leftover frozen sweet potato casserole from Thanksgiving (it freezes awesome- just freeze before baking) and it was the perfect complement!

Monday, December 10, 2012

My First Blogger Meet Up

I have been following Lauren at Say What you Need to Say for over a year now. A few months ago she organized a local blogger meet up at an Asian fusion restaurant but I was unable to attend. When she announced the next one for the beginning of December, I knew I had to get there!

We met at The Tomato Pie Cafe, a new restaurant off the Paxton St. exit on I-83 in Harrisburg.

Photo courtesy of Lauren

I am always excited to try local restaurants with unique menus. I was concerned about having gluten free options and at this point they have not added any but it sounds like they are planning on offering them in the future. Thankfully I can eat some gluten if I need to :)

They had quite the ample menu of specialty coffees and it was very hard to decide, but a peppermint mocha won out.

The specialty baked oatmeal was pumpkin with cranberries and walnuts. You might remember my former love affair with baked oatmeal but since going gluten free I haven't made it (not even with gf oats). Although I have to admit it is mostly due to the fact that I love my green smoothies in the morning instead!

This dish was phenomenal! I'm hoping I can find a similar recipe to make at home. I didn't want it to end!

It was a blast getting to know fellow bloggers and to talk about tips and tricks of the trade. I wish we would have had a whole day with our laptops to be able to work on our blogs jointly!

Here's our group! Danielle, Steph, Ellie, Erica, Lauren, Melissa (from PennAg), myself, Lindsay, and Nikki.

Lauren gave us each a sample of granola from Nuts About Granola and Erica brought some cupcakes from a local from-scratch bakery (which I promptly shared with my daughter!). I passed out the cinnamon roasted almonds and walnuts. Yes, yes I am making a funny face when I talk, oy. But for some reason I look exceptionally tan???!!!  Not too sure how that happened!

Photo courtesy of Lauren
Melissa from PennAg gave out some information on the organization and invited us to their exhibit at the Farm Show in January.

 The best part was definitely getting to talk personally with these ladies. Here I am with Lindsay (and again, how in the world do I look so tan!?)...

...and Lauren!

Looking forward to our next meet up, and I hope to try the Tomato Pie Cafe again!

If you are a blogger, what is the best tip you could give a fellow blogger? If you are a reader of blogs, what do you look for in a blog you read regularly?

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