Thursday, December 20, 2012

holiday wishes to you

It seems I have taken a bit of a hiatus here recently.  Due partly to my family and I being sick and the sad events of last week.  Though we heal from the common cold or flu.  It's harder to heal from such tragedy.  The horrific events of Sandy Hook School have left me shaken to my core.  My babies are not much older than the lives lost that day.  I'm feeling a strong, deep desire to stay close, present and enjoy my family.  You never know what tomorrow or today, for that matter, will bring. So as we near Christmas,  I'm planning to step away from me blog for a bit.  I will be back soon to share with you all that we have enjoyed.

Until then, I wish you peace and love with your family and friends.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Heavy heart

Few things seem important here today.  In the wake of such sadness, fear, pain and anger, may we all find light. May we strive for more compassion, more love in the coming days.  May the families directly affected know that they are not alone.  May we come together as a nation, as friends, to find a solution; whichever that may be.
I wish love and warmth for you today.  Hug your children a little tighter....always.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winter Minestrone

Here I go again writing about another pot of soup.  I can't help it!  There's very little that says comfort in the dark night of winter than soup.  It's an entire meal in one pot. Full of delicious veggies, beans and/or pasta.  It's really quite perfect.

Yesterday was a cold, raw day here on the northeast.  This mama was out and about being a jolly ol' elf finishing up the present getting.  Rushing home to do some wrapping before the little ones came home from school.  As much as I like to not get caught up in all the rushing of the holiday season, sometimes it just seems to happen.

Dan works outside all day and the kids were cold when they got home.  I thought a hot pot of soup was the remedy!

Winter Minestrone is one of my go to soups.  Full of veggies like tomatoes, Swiss chard, potatoes, celery and onions.  It's also loaded with protein beans and pasta.  Truly a one pot meal.

The recipe calls for small tubular pasta; but I used cheese tortellini instead.  It's one of the kids favorite pasta, getting them to eat a bit more of the veggies in the soup too.  Another thing I love about cooking is how it helps kids with math.  Here's Roman measuring out 2 cups of pasta. 

This soup cooks up very quickly.  In about 30 minutes, dinner is one the table.  Doesn't get much better than that for busy families!

What is your favorite soup?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cookie Day

Every year, my cousin hosts a 'cookie day' with family.  We all get together and bake cookies; enough to share and enough for my aunt for dessert for Christmas dinner.  It's a great time full of baking, obviously, laughter, singing ( the Christmas songs must be played) a bit of sipping mimosas, and did I mention laughter?

Sophia looks forward to this family tradition every year.  She loves baking and my aunt always lets her decorate all the sugar cookies. 

                                    There was ALOT of cookies!  Sophia did a great job.

These are Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal cookies my cousin made.  Oh My Goodness!  So yummy!

Cappuccino Flats - a coffee spice cookie dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with candy canes.

 Peppermint Chocolate Truffles.  There's a Hershey Kiss inside each one!

 These are Pumpkin Snickerdoodles Sophia and I made.  Snickerdoodles were a cookie my grandmother use to make.  The Pumpkin gives it a new twist.  You can find the recipe here
Lots of baking and of course taste testing!
Sophia was a bit silly.  Maybe it was all the cookies?

I feel incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.  People who love me, my husband and kids.  There is no greater gift than family!  Love you lots! ox

Friday, December 7, 2012

In this moment

A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - Amanda Blake Soule

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I'm eternally grateful for the warmth that our woodstove has brought us so far this year.  Being independent from oil is another bonus! Right now my living room is a balmy 82 degrees!  Yikes.

I don't think Max can get any closer to the stove.  This is his favorite spot.
Wishing you all a warm Thursday!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Taking stock

Another blogger Townsend House got me thinking.  Thinking about stock.  No not the kind that seems to be falling every time I read my statement.  Homemade stock; chicken, vegetable and even turkey!

Homemade stocks are time consuming but can be a real labor of love.  There's nothing like homemade recipes from start to finish.  Knowing exactly what's in your food is priceless.

Because it is so labor intensive, I like to make enough stock that I can freeze and then defrost when needed.  Though I've never made turkey stock, I imagine it's a great way to use up some holiday turkey.

I have made vegetable stock.  Full of flavorful veggies and spices. I also use Kombu in this recipe.  Kombu is a sea vegetable of the kelp family.  It's nutrient rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B9 and iron.  It's very flavorful and is most commonly used in soups and stocks.
The recipe that I use you can find here.  This is one of my favorite cookbooks, you can see it on my sidebar.

As cold and flu season is upon us, a batch of homemade stock with Kombu may be just the thing your immune system needs!  Don't save stock just for soups and stews.  It gives great flavor to rice and pasta instead of water.

Hoping all of you remain healthy this season.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cookies...cookies and more cookies

There's just two weeks until my Holiday Baking Workshop.  This weekend I spent some time perusing my cookie recipes.  Trying to decide on just the perfect cookies to bake that afternoon is no easy task!  There's just so many delicious goodies to choose from.  Of course there's the standard sugar cookie. A different twist on the sugar cookie could be a Stained Glass cookie.  These little gems are gorgeous with a melted candy center to give the effect of stained glass.  Or how about Cinnamon Pinwheels?  At first sight, these red and white swirl cookies made me think peppermint but the cinnamon spice is a delightful surprise! Another thought, still, Pepparkakors.  A Swedish ginger snap cut out cookie.  I like using forest animal cookie cutters for this recipe. So much fun and whimsical too.

And what Holiday cookie platter would be complete without Peppermint Bark?!  Am I right?
I have such a fond memory of  Christmas shopping with my parents (as an adult but before kids) at William-Sonoma.  My mom and I stopped dead in our tracks when we spied their Peppermint Bark.  This stuff is to die for!  Comes in a festive tin. They were giving out samples that day; Oh My Goodness!  My dad bought my mom and I each a tin of this delectable goody. It was like Christmas morning when my dad handed us those tins.  I'm telling you, it's that good!
I think I will give it a go and make some myself.  I know nothing can compare to THE William-Sonoma bark; but I will try.  Taste testing each batch, oh if I must.  It's a hard job but someone has to do it!

Oh the possibilities are endless. So much fun is in store for the afternoon.  Reserve a spot for your little one.  Deadline for sign ups are December 13th.  I look forward to an afternoon of baking fun!

Monday, December 3, 2012

slow moving weekend

This weekend was a perfect one to slow down.  With a mama feeling a bit under the weather I welcomed the slower pace.

Saturday, it snowed for most of the day.  It didn't amount to much but it was beautiful.  We did a bit of decorating for Christmas,  wrapping up our 24 holiday/winter themed books for our countdown to the big day.  Each evening the kids take turns unwrapping a book and we sit down as a family and read.  I love this special time.

We also set up our nativity and Advent calender.  These two things bring such peace to a home, lots of wonder and curiosity.  This time of year always makes me think about our beliefs.  So many people have different ones.  But Peace is universal.

The kids also made their wish lists for Santa.  As much as I encourage them to understand the true meaning of Christmas, how can you not indulge, a bit, in the magic?  Oh Santa, you have quiet the list to read.

Of course, I slower paced weekend wouldn't be complete with a bit of baking. Vegan Banana Bread is what I made up Sunday morning for breakfast.

You see, these four bananas have been mocking me, for quite a while,  each time I open the refrigerator. "Eat me!"  "So what do you think you can make with us?"  No, I'm not starting to hear voices but when four black bananas are staring at you in the face, what else are you going to do...make bread!

Of course I made two loaves.  One with chocolate chips (Ghiradelli is dairy free :)) because what's banana bread without chocolate chips?  And one without, because Roman likes his without all the excitement!  What?!

This weekend was indeed a nice one.  How was your weekend?  Really, I'd like to know! ;)

Friday, November 30, 2012

In this moment

A Friday ritual.  A single photo- no words- capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Soup for Me!

After having a couple 'non vegan' soups lately I was ready for something for me.  Well, not just for me, but something that I could enjoy!  And of course I always hope the kids will at least have a 'no thank you' bite.  Last night was Lentil and Sausage soup; courtesy of Linda McCartney.

Linda McCartney was a pioneer of vegetarian cooking.  Many of her recipes are suitable for vegans as well.  Linda McCartney on Tour is a wonderful cookbook, one of my favorites for over 13 years. 

For the record, cooking with a glass of wine is a cook essential! ;)
I used a Chorizo Veggie sausage for the spice in the soup, instead of the chili pepper ingredient of the recipe.  I felt the spice would be more subtle for the kids.

Red lentil cook up much quicker than green or brown lentils.  The soup cooks up thick in about 20 minutes!

When the kids finish their bowl, you know it's good!

My biggest critic gave it a thumbs up!  Reluctantly, for he just knew he was going to "hate it".  But after his 'no thank you' bite, this was his verdict!  That works for me!

Spicy Lentil Soup with Sausages

Serves 4-6
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 dried red chili pepper (optional. I used Chorizo veggie sausage instead.)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup of red lentils
6 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cup tomato juice
8 vegetarian sausages, grilled
sea salt and pepper to taste.
freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Add the chopped onion, carrots and celery and optional pepper, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the garlic and spices.  Cook for a further minute or two, then stir in the lentils.  Gradually stir in the stock and tomato juice.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Cut the grilled sausages into thick slices.  Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the sausage slices.  Season with salt and pepper.
Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soup time!

As the days get colder there's nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of soup.  What's even better is making it in your crock pot!  Dinner is cooking away while you're at work, helping kids with home work or whatever is on your schedule for the day.

On the menu is Hearty Aphabet Soup.  This is a kid friendly soup loaded with veggies, a bit of meat (if desired) and alphabet pasta.  I love it when the kids search out the letters and shout out the recognition!  A little education at meal time is always a great thing.

Hearty Alphabet Soup
makes 5 to 6 servings
ideal slow cooker: 3 1/2 quart
1/2 lb beef stew meat or round steak, cubed.*
14 1/2 oz can stewed tomatoes
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup of water
1.25 oz envelope dry onion soup mix
10 oz package frozen vegetable, partially thawed
1/2 cup uncooked alphabet pasta
1. Combine meat, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and soup mix in clow cooker
2. Cover and cook on high 1 hour and then on low 4 to 6 hours.
3. Turn heat to high. Stir in vegetable and pasta.  Add more water if mixture is too dry or thick.
4.Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
*My family doesn't eat alot of meat.  When they do (I'm a vegan) I only serve organic or meat from animals raised without GMO's and are grass.  I strongly believe that in order to be healthy, we need to eat foods that are healthy.

I served this with fresh drop biscuits.  Perfect on a cold night!
Next crock pot concoction: Split Pea and Ham soup.  I must really love my husband!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Baking Workshop

What is one of the things that all parents wished they had during the holidays?  Time!  There is so much to do; shopping, decorating, cooking, baking.  It becomes overwhelming!

Kids love to bake; especially around the Holidays.  Treat yourself and your child to a day of baking for them and extra time for you to get those last minute things done. Or just an afternoon of quiet for that matter! ;)

Holiday Baking Workshop
 For children ages 5 and up

Saturday, December 15th

Noon - 3pm

A healthy holiday snack will be provided.
$40 per child.

Children will bake holiday cookies and treats while listening to holiday music to get us in the spirit of the season.  Recipes will be sent home along with cookies in a festive tin to share.

**Space is limited, this is a first come first serve basis.**
Reserve a spot for your little one today

Monday, November 26, 2012

Post Holiday

I'm late getting to the party here today, I apologize!

Last night I returned from a fun filled weekend in the mountains with some special ladies. Every year, we get together the weekend after Thanksgiving for a little shopping, little eating, drinking and lots of laughs!  We get a head start on our Holiday shopping( I think I'm pretty much finished! :D ), eat at some fabulous places such as Peaches (of course!) and tried a few new places such as Front side Grind. I really liked this place!   And the laughs...!  As when the search for the perfect place for that perfect martini got us a little lost.  All we wanted was a warm fire to sit by while sipping that martini!  Luckily we kept our humor and found this place.  And I'm so glad we did because now I want to go back with the hubby! ;)  The laughs and libations continue at our hotel room; all the while remembering "quiet hours"!   Even when a couple of the ladies felt under the weather, cold induced not alcohol, we still managed to have a great time!

Today, with my cheeks still a bit sore from laughing, my belly and heart very full, my wallet not so much, I return to my home.  A place I always love to be.  I missed my babies so.  But they had a great time with their daddy and for that I'm very grateful.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and long weekend!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


So much activity going on around this house.  Of course Thanksgiving.  We also have birthdays and family traveling and arriving from a distance.  Soon we will gather around the table and remember all we're thankful for.  I'm so very thankful for my family and friends.  The blessings that my children bring me each and everyday.  The opportunity to write and in turn have people read.  Thank you to YOU.  I'm thankful for the chance to help Healthy Appetites come to life.  So much thanks!

For now I will sign off to spend quality time with my family.  I will return on Monday with a recap of the days events. 

Happy Thankgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stone Soup

Yesterday I had the pleasure of cooking in my son's first grade class.  We made our version of Stone Soup.  Stone Soup is a wonderful story about :Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a town, torn by war.  The people of the village are wary of strangers and lock their doors and windows tight not wanting anything to do with them.  Until the strangers suggest making a soup from stones.  The villagers are intrigued by the idea.  They decide to bring whatever they have on hand to contribute to the soup.  The strangers and villagers make a soup fit for a king!

                              This was a fantastic activity to bring a wonderful story to life!

Our soup was full of veggies; carrots, red peppers, celery, onion, red potatoes in a chicken stock base.
The kids were so excited to make soup out of stones.  "Is there a real stone in there?"  "Where did you get the stone from?"  I love how curious the kids were; about the story and the soup! And what better time of year to teach children to come together, bringing a little something with them to create something new?!  Brilliant!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Eats.

This time of year brings much excitement in the kitchen.  The aromas, sounds, tastes...ooh so much to enjoy.  Much of this excitement is sparked by ideas.  For me,ideas start with the arrival of a few of my favorite magazines.   Their glossy pages just overflowing with delectable delights!  See...I'm getting excited just thinking about it.

I can sit for hours, if allowed to, and read page after page of these magazines.  Like reading a novel, cookbooks and magazines are just as entertaining.  Really, food tells a great story.  The beginning (planning), the journey (cooking), the ending (eating).  Truly a best seller!

The holiday I host is Christmas Eve. A small gathering of family.  appetizers, drinks, main dishes, deserts...the works.  I usually start the planning now.  Gathering ideas of exactly what I'd like to make 'this year'.  Many times, I find I cook up an Italian meal.  Maybe because of my heritage, I love to keep tradition alive.  My grandmother always had a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner.  With Bacala salad (salted cod and vinegar peppers), the traditional fish dishes (I remember wanting to burn my clothes when coming home the smell seeps into everything!),  spaghetti aioli.  Such special times for me and my family.

But I will continue to read through all these delicious magazines and cookbooks and get my creative juices boiling.  To pick the perfect meal to make this holiday.

What do you cook for the holiday?  What are your fondest holiday food memories?

Friday, November 16, 2012

In this moment

In this moment
A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A most special day

            Our sweet Roman turns 7 today!  As I type this sentence, I'm at a loss for words as to how this is possible.  These years have just flown by.  It was just yesterday that he joined us, wasn't it?
7 years ago. 

 Here he is the funny, loving, sweet, thoughtful,strong, talented boy he's become.
My heart just swells with so much love for this little boy. 

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy! xxoo 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fruit yogurt smoothie

With winter right around the corner, whether we like it or not, cold season is never too far behind.

This time of year,  it's so important to drink plenty of fluids, get lots of protein and vitamin C.  This smoothie packs a healthy punch!  We used Greek Frozen Yogurt for extra protein and nutritional value; and the OJ is a good choice for your Vitamin C.

Fruit Yogurt Smoothie-Makes 1 serving
Fill a cup half way with frozen yogurt
Pour yogurt into blender
Pour juice in blender just to cover yogurt
Blend. Enjoy!
Two simple, nutritious ingredients for one tasty smoothie!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stir fry

Some nights there just doesn't seem to be enough time.  With homework, activities, work and life the task of getting a healthy meal on the table can be daunting.  But I've found that a stir fry is great for those busy nights.

Packed with veggies, it's nutritious.  I like to add peppers of various colors, mushrooms, pea pods, onions and whatever else I may have on hand.  The more colorful it is, the more appealing it is to eat.
Sometimes I'll add some chicken for when Dan thinks he needs a little something extra. ;)

Roman loves to add bamboo shoots.
"Mama! Did you know that bamboo is a kind of grass?"
"No buddy, I didn't!"
I'm thinking he may have learned this here.
I also love this Chinese Brown Sauce recipe.  It's lower in salt than straight up Soy Sauce.  And for that I like to use Braggs.
Chinese Brown Sauce - via Forks Over Knives
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup date molasses or brown rice syrup
2 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp arrowroot powder
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Store refrigerated in air tight container for up to 1 week.
And really, what's more fun or a better excuse to use your chopsticks?
I found Sophia's chopsticks here.
What are some of your quick and healthy meal ideas?