Have Chocolate, Will Bake

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Chocolate has some pretty amazing qualities. It is rich and satisfying, while containing anti-oxidants and flavonoids, and is said to even help reduce stress. As we pass the bakery, the whiff of baked chocolate tickles our noses and sends us to a happy place where we imagine ourselves sitting in a quiet place indulging in our heavenly bites. Suddenly everything in our dreamland is perfect and everyone is behaved. Then the voice of numerical value wakes us up as we recall the high calorie cost of even sniffing. Quickly we bat away the image and like a dream it came and went, like so many other good thoughts.

The healthful benefits have been well touted over the past several years. Though we know the healthful benefits, we tend to associate chocolate with high calories. Most calorie-counters avoid the temptation of taste indulgence. Understanding most chocolate desserts have lots of butter and sugar, we know that if it has “Double Chocolate” in the title we must run the other way. Before you throw those running shoes on and dash away, maybe there is something we can do about this…

It has been a long day and you are running around the grocery store feeling rushed and maybe overwhelmed as you consider the day and recalling everything you needed. Then you approach the store’s Bakery. Deep down you know that your grandmother’s recipe is much better than the store’s, but the store has it all ready for you to take home now. Whispering inside of you is a small voice giving a list of reasons why you NEED or DESERVE this treat. The attractive decorations and trays seem almost irresistible. One of two things tend to happen. One you choose to heed the confectionery calling. Two you run away, pretending to not have even noticed its existence. After all, the numbers just don’t add up for you. The results tend to be a feeling of guilt or deprivation. Neither leaves you with a positive relationship with food or self image. Sure you can feel good about resisting temptation, but it lasts for a moment and becomes a negative reinforcement with the goods of culinary life.

Food should not be the emotional crutch we rely on to get us through life. However, to deny its ability to influence our mood, success, or relationships is a mistake. Our relationship with food can be powerful. It can be a means to cope reliably, it can be our mortal enemy (for various reasons), it can be a means to communicate love, or even a venue to enjoy a bit of good in this world. Healthy relationships with food come from moderation and balance. This relationship can be key to overall wellness. I am sure you know, especially in the tone written, which are healthy ways to relate to food and which are not. You even know from personal experience. Guilt can lower your worth and feeling deprived can make you distant. Finding balance can be difficult, but I have a few ways to help you find that balance for yourself.

Ten years ago I was the worst baker ever….EVER! Nothing that was supposed to rise rose. Everything that was supposed to be crisp was fluffy. My pie crust was dry and hard. It was a nightmare. I began to accept that I may be a cook, but definitely not a baker. It upset me because Grandma was known as the best pie maker around. I lived in her kitchen and found that place to be one of my favorites. Here I am messing up everything I tried. She passed away a few years after I got married. Sad and missing her, I asked for her zucchini bread recipe, hoping to have the kitchen smell familiar. My mother gave me the recipe. Nervously I tended to each step. Because of my metabolic condition, I had to substitute a few ingredients and that made me even more nervous. If I could not bake from a book, what business do I have substituting?! In the oven it went and as it baked, the smells of Grandma’s kitchen found me. After the 45 minutes were up, and much to my surprise, the loaf was beautiful. I cut a slice out quickly and tasted it…Mmmmm! Grandma would have been so proud.

The point of that side story is to illustrate that it takes time, but you could learn to bake. It could be your relaxing time. Baking takes planning (though can be done spontaneously), consciousness, and time. Similarly to exercise, at least for me, baking becomes a time-out from the chaos from day-to-day living. The family perks up, because they know Mommy has made something special for them. When you bake you can control the ingredients to make them healthy or one-up the local bakery. Some tips for substituting: Reducing sugar? Use 1/2 sugar and 1/2 Splenda. Need more fiber or want to avoid the “sugar crash?” Use 1/2 Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and 1/2 White Flour. Some recipes can use all whole wheat and some only can handle a smaller fraction. You can play with it. These are just a few ideas.

If you really do not like to bake or honestly are at a stage of life that seems overwhelming for your schedule, do not fret. I have other tips to share. One tip would be to keep seasonal fruit around. Sometimes simply melting some dark chocolate and dipping strawberries into them can be very satisfying. You could also toss some vanilla bean frozen yogurt and peaches together and top with sweetened and roasted nuts. You can also look for reduced-sugar sweets in your frozen sweets isle. Frozen organic fruit can make for a fantastic creamy smoothie on a hot summer day. There have been times where I have used chocolate rice cakes as base for an ice cream sandwich alternative in a pinch. These may seem limited, but that is why I firmly believe in taking the leap to baking at home.

If you want more variety and success, you have to be willing to take the time and risk. I know, I know. Time is valuable and in short supply. Maybe your self esteem is limited as well. Understand you don’t have to be the next Ina. This is your kitchen, where you work alone. No one has to know if you try something and screw it up. You can get better with practice. Next thing you know, you may even invent your own creation. It is worth the time, because quite frankly this is living. The small challenges you accept everyday to work at becoming healthier so you can give to those you love. That is the measure of success; efforts made toward health one decision at a time.

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Mama Mia…It’s a Pizza!

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Pizza Dough- (1,12-inch pizza)
-3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour -3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour -Flour for dusting surface -1 ¼ tsp or ½ packet Active Dry Yeast – 1 tsp Salt -1 tbs Corn Meal or Grits *Optional -1/2 cup Warm Water -1/2 tbs Olive Oil or Cooking Spray (to grease bowl)

Beginning with the Pizza Dough, pour the Warm Water in the bowl and then sprinkle in the Yeast. I like to give it a swirl or two, ever-so-gently, as to get the two mixed without disturbing the process. When in doubt, leave it still. After 5 Minutes is up, slowly add the Flours and the Salt, using a wooden spoon to incorporate everything well. Once the dough has formed a ball- like form, sprinkle your surface with reserved dusting Flour, and put Dough on surface. Work the dough as a mass, pulling a bit and pushing with the heels of your hands, getting the dough nice and elastic. Fold over and continue to work the dough for 2-5 minutes. Coat the bowl with the Oil or Cooking Spray. Return dough to the bowl and cover with a clean towel. Place in a warm place for 30 minutes or dough doubles.

Mushroom and Greens with a Shallot and White Wine Sauce.
Pizza Topping:
– 3 ounces Baby Bella Mushrooms – 1 shallot -1/2 tbs Olive Oil/Canola Oil -2 tbs White Wine – ¼ cup Baby Spinach, Chard, Kale, and Mizuma mix (Just baby spinach could work here too). -1/4 cup Parmesan, grated -4 ounces Fresh Mozz -1 tbs Fresh Rosemary -Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

While the Dough is rising in a warm cozy spot, we can work on prepping the toppings. In a small bowl (sometimes I just use a toddler snack bowl if it is handy) mix the Oil and White Wine. Set aside. Using a wet paper towel, wipe the Baby Bella Shrooms and then slice them thinly. Set aside in a medium bowl. Take your washed Greens (Spinach and Kale mix) and wind then in a bunch tightly. (Occasionally I Use a leaf of one of the greens to hold the bunch in place.) Take a sharp knife through the bunch perpendicularly, slicing it thinly. If you have toddlers, you may want to also want to cut down the center of the bunch. Add the greens to the bowl with the Shrooms. Still waiting on the dough to rise, peel your Shallot and put the shallot on the cutting board on its flattest side. Run you knife perpendicularly from tip to hairy end, discarding that hairy end. Put your shallots in the bowl with the veggie mixture as well. Lastly in prep, you can chop your Rosemary and sprinkle it in the bowl of veg. Mix the bowl so that each veg is incorporated.

Once the dough has risen, uncover and place dough on a floured counter or on lightly greased (if necessary) baking surface. Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Dust the rolling pin with a touch of flour. Roll out the dough to desired form. Flip over the crust to the side you want to be the bottom. Sprinkle the Cornmeal or Grits over the surface evenly, if you opted to use this. Turn it back over and onto the baking surface. First sprinkle an even layer of Parmesan cheese. Next toss your Veg Mix over the Dough and then drizzle the top of that with you Oil and Wine mixture. Tear apart the Fresh Mozz and scatter evenly. Finish it off with Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for 9-13 minutes. Cheese should be melty and golden to your liking when done.

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Pepperoni and Fresh Mozz Pizza with a Bite:
Pizza Toppings-
– 1/4cup Parmesan, grated -1/2 Red Bell Pepper or 1 -2 whole Peperoncino peppers (for more heat), – 4 ounces Fresh Mozz -2 tbs Fresh Basil, chopped – ¼ cup diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (Add pinch of sugar if you use regular diced tomatoes or tomato sauce) -Pinch of Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste -1/2 tbs Olive oil/Canola Oil -18 slices of Turkey Pepperoni

Now that the Dough is rising, let’s do some prep work for the toppings. First we will work on the Red Pepper. Cut the top and bottom tips of the Red Pepper off. Slice the Pepper in half and place it on the cutting board insides up. Use the knife to carefully remove the white bits on the inside and the seeds. Discard. Thinly slice the Red Pepper working your way from one side to the other. Set aside on a plate or small bowl. Next chop your Fresh Basil into thin strips or tear into pieces. Set aside.

When the dough has doubled, roll it out onto the floured surface. Transfer to baking surface. Preheat your oven to the highest setting. Flip to the rear side to sprinkle Cornmeal or Grits if you opted to do this step. Flip back over. Layer the pizza evenly in this order: Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, Fresh Basil, Red Peppers, and Turkey Pepperoni. Tear Fresh Mozz over the pizza and drizzle the Oil to finish. Sprinkle on the Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste. Bake for 9-13 minutes depending on what your oven is like and preference on doneness.

Let’s Get Real!

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As we all know, the Fourth of July is a time of food and freedom. Many magazines and blogs have the “Do’s and Don”ts” of celebrating. The lists include replacing menu items with conversations. Many Americans can do both at the same time, as our busy schedules have demanded crazy multi-tasking skills. When you exclude favorites in favor of conversation to save calories you feel deprived. The entire time you are talking you can only think of the things you “can’t” have. Everyone is at a different stage of change and since there is no way to know, general guidelines can be helpful. Recommendations for truly tasty replacements can be nice as well. Instead of eliminating something, let’s look at how to make it healthier. Holidays are meant to celebrate. You do not have to gorge yourself in order to do so. Make the bites you have worth while and lighten it up so that you feel well enough to mingle and sit pool-side. Here are a few of my suggestions.

Tasteful hamburgers. You can select a few options here. If you already enjoy lighter protein fare, stick with that. If you have not gotten there yet or simply prefer beef, here are a few options:
1. Go light on the sauce. Use half of what you normally use on the bun.
2. Use a leaner meat or combine beef with ground turkey. If you go this route be sure to use extra beefy seasonings like marjoram and black pepper.
3. Load up on the veggies to help you feel satisfied. It gives crisp crunch to your beefwich with nutrients to satisfy your body’s needs.
4. Use whole wheat buns/bread or at least a regular wheat version. The fiber content will be higher and you’ll be less likely to crash a half hour later.
5. If all you need is a taste, try going for slider options using various seasonings in your meat. Let the flavor of the patty be the star. Load up on lighter sides so your plate doesn’t look lonely and sad.

Simply amazing sides. When the quality goes up you can savor the bite and limit your portion. Your body says “I have had something amazing and I feel just right.” What sides can bring such satisfaction at a cookout? Here are some ideas:
1. Southwestern Corn (Recipe Below)
2. Garlic Mac n’ Cheese (Recipe Below)
3. Roasted Veggies go nicely with lemon garlic seasoning and can be done quickly.
4. Fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/tomato-onion-and-cucumber-salad-recipe.html )
5. Watermelon-feta skewers ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aarti-sequeira/watermelon-feta-and-mint-skewers-with-sumac-recipe.html )
6. A small portion of your favorite baked fiber-ful beans.

Must-Have-Dessert. Indulge smartly. If you splurged on other parts of the meal, now might be the time to go light. Angel Food cake with berries and whipped cream tend to be a smarter option. If you were smart (bias opinion here) and saved some indulging for dessert, you may now enjoy that slice of heaven you have been eyeing. Here are a few tips to enjoying that slice:

1. Refuse to eat it until the kids are not hanging on you. You cannot enjoy the bites if you are distracted. You then will feel the need for a slice or two more. When eating enjoy it.
2. Take a bite as you listen to someone else. If you are talking with the creator of the dessert, he/she may enjoy watching you approve of his/her creation. You may even get a recipe for it.If they do all the talking, you can do all of the eating.
3. If you find a moment does not come for you to sit and savor, simply have a little bit now to be polite and take the rest home to savor in your jammies.
4. Use Low-fat Frozen yogurt instead of ice cream if you want a lighter option. Frozen yogurt has come a long way.

Other general tips?
1. Drink water in between baked beans and mac n cheese (or whatever dish you are enjoying). It will help you better gauge fullness.
2. Eat smaller portions so that you can get a taste of everything you wanted to try. You eat what you like and don’t feel like you lost out.
3. Get people talking during eating time so that you can balance bites with conversation.
4. Don’t over think it. Mostly be smart and make your choices. Armed with these tips and your common-sense you should do just fine. 🙂

Here are the recipes:

Southwestern Corn:
Ingredients:
3-4 ears of Sweet Corn -1 Red Bell Pepper (diced) -1 Green Bell Pepper (diced) – 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika -1/4Tsp Red Pepper Flakes -Pinch of Cayenne (or Chipotle) -1 Tsp Butter (for flavor) -1 1/2 Tbs Olive/Canola Oil -1/4 cup Yellow Onion (diced) -1/4 cup Red Onion (diced) -3 Tbs Reduced-Fat Sour Cream (optional) -1-2 Cloves Garlic (minced) -Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1. Clean and shuck the Sweet Corn if not done already for you. Place the Sweet Corn on its side and cut along the cob getting as much of the kernel as possible.
2. Heat the Oil and Butter in the pan over medium heat. Add Yellow Onions and Garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the Bell Peppers and Red Onion and cook for about 2 minutes. The time depends on how soft you want your peppers. I like mine crisp so less time is good for me. They will continue to cook after this so just under desired tenderness. Season them with Salt and Black Pepper to taste and stir occasionally.
3. Add in the Sweet Corn and toss everything until all the veggies are evenly distributed. Once even, toss in Paprika, Cayenne, and Red Pepper flakes. Stir until evenly coated.
4. TASTE a small bite. If it tastes too bland to you, add more Cayenne or Red Pepper flakes. If too hot, add Reduced-Fat Sour Cream. If you think it is perfect, but want to add Sour Cream, add a pinch more Cayenne or Red Pepper flakes, so it does not get lost in the creaminess.
5. Serve!

Options:
– Add reduced-fat shredded Monterrey-Jack Cheese.
–Grill Corn on Cob and Bell Peppers first.
–Add a squeeze of 1 Lime as Garnish.

Garlic Macaroni and Cheese:
– ½ package Sargento Shredded 4-State Cheddar Cheese plus ¼ cup for topping -3 Cloves of Garlic (minced) -splash of Reduced-Fat Milk -1 tbs Butter/substitute (cold and diced) -1 tbs Olive oil – 1 box Penne or Rigationi Pasta (Dreamfields is a nice option for Low-Carb/Diabetic option) / 1 lb. freshly made pasta -Pinch of Paprika -Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1. Preheat Oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Cook Pasta according to directions at 3/4 of indicated cook time. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat Olive Oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add Pasta and stir in Cheese, Milk, Paprika, Salt and Pepper to taste, Stir until cheese starts to get a little melty. Then add the Garlic and stir again until everything is evenly distributed.
3. Turn off heat. Sprinkle reserved ¼ cup Cheese on top. Evenly distribute Butter over the top of the Pasta mixture and cover with foil. Bake for 30 Minutes.
4. Turn oven to broil and bake until crisp topping (about 2-4 minutes).
5. Let cool 5 minutes and serve.

Options:
-Make this Spicy with ½ Pepper Jack Cheese or Add ¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes during Step 2.
– Use this as a means to Highlight (hide?) veggies. Great add-ins could include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Asparagus, Squash, etc. You can steam the cleaned veggies over pasta water, while cooking pasta. Leave them a little crisp, so they don’t become soggy in the oven.

Unwrap the Gift Only You Can Give

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     Hello again! Finals are over and now a different chaos is settling in. Christmas. With so many events to attend, from cookie exchanges to several dinners, it can be easy to run short on time. The kids are home for break and you have even less time for your to-do list(s)! How can you make this time of year less stressful and enjoy the ones you love? Being pulled in so many directions it is easy for many of us to feel out of control. Put yourself back in control and save your sanity! Here are some tips:

  1. Breathe– Oxygen helps remind your body that it is not in emergency mode. Even if you feel like it, your hair is not on fire.
  2. Make a List. Check it twice. Prioritize people, events, recipes, etc. Check with those you will be dragging along, to see what events they find important. Then you can come up with a combined priority list.
  3. Make a New Year’s Resolution to show the people in your life how much you care through out the year, instead of trying to fit it into one season. Out of guilt we often try to see everyone this once a year. Then we vow to meet up more after the holidays. How about actually planning time in the year to get together? Set a reminder on your phone to get a hold of one person each month. This lessens the obligation to see EVERYONE during the holidays. 
  4. Find one outfit that works for you and change up the way you wear it. It can be stressful to pick out the perfect outfits for parties. If you pick one piece, and change up the accessories, add a jacket, loose a jacket, pair with leggings, or wear your hair differently, you can have different looks and keep it simple. You can get ideas from online magazines like http://www.modcitymag.com for tips. 
  5.  Make some of the to-do’s something the kids can join in on. Carve out extra time to complete them. Kids take a little patience and lots of paper towels. The trade off is worth the effort, because kids also make memories special.
  6. Communicate with those who more or less fall lower on the priority vs. time list. Show appreciation for the invitations, and try to reschedule a time after the holidays to get together. This way you can do your part in avoiding drama and letting them know you care about his/her feelings.
  7. Rethink gifting. The commercials will tell you to buy expensive gifts and convince you that it is not fabulous to live within your means. You are not a bad parent, spouse, or friend for not going into debt for Christmas. One of my favorite gifts of all time was a great coffee mug. My friend knew how much I loved coffee and I use it almost every morning. Think about the person and do something to show you care. Maybe you and your spouse could do a coupon book for each other? How nice would it be to redeem a coupon for a back rub or breakfast in bed, or babysitting duty while one enjoys a night out with friends?
  8. Recall your favorite memories. Take time to remember the good moments either of the year or of Christmas’ past. It does the heart good to reflect on positive thoughts. Maybe you have had some tough Christmas’ but you have people who care about you. Thinking about the good things in your life can enhance everything about your life.  
  9. Be a kid. Enjoy the events along with your kids. If you don’t have kids, take the time to be a kid. Soak in all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Don’t just get through Christmas, enjoy it.
  10.  Lower expectations. Mainly this probably applies to you. You are one person. You are amazing, and can probably technically physically manage to do most if not all on your list. Think about this though, how are those you care about seeing you? What message are you sending when you are rushing everyone out to be somewhere, pushing your children out of the kitchen so you can make the perfect dish, or freak out about messes? What really matters? If we stop expecting perfection out of ourselves, maybe we can stop expecting perfection out of others. This trickle effect may promote a society change. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” (Sy Miller and Jill Jackson) 
  11. Make meals easy. If you are doing a lot of cooking and baking, meal time can be stressful. Lower the stress by making a breakfast strata for well… breakfast. You could do chili and have it as soup for one night, spaghetti for another(over pasta with reduced-fat cheese), and then a walking taco for yet another (add Frito chips and low-fat sour cream, shredded lettuce, and reduced-sodium taco seasoning). You could also do a shepherd’s pie or other tasty one dish wonders. If you need something light, roast a chicken in a crock-pot and use it to top a salad, shred it and add bbq for a sandwich, or use it for chicken tacos. This way you can feel good about what you are feeding your family without the hassle of preparing big meals every night. You simply make one item work for several days. 

I hope these tips help you and your family better enjoy this season. Feel free to share your ideas below or comments about my tips. Do you feel they are practical? 

Moment of Greatness

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   School has started at Miami University in Oxford. I have to say how excited I am at the prospect of graduating in the Spring! Someone once told me that the world of people who need help is just waiting on me to graduate. Though I doubt my influence will be so great, my care for people is pretty huge. Sometimes I feel like a Leslie Knope of health and fitness at heart. Though I may not be able to reach the whole world, I think it could still feel like a moment of greatness for me.

 Think of some favorite moments in your life. Think of what you see, how you felt, the smells, and who you were with. To me, great moments in my life involved great food, great company, and sharing a special moment. We can create more positive moments in our life by changing perspective and by setting the stage. It may not always work, but the effort in the end pays off.

What is the last great meal you ate? I mean a meal that made you utter unintelligible words. It may have been a while, or you may not have had that chance. When you use that standard and compare it to what you have been eating, you see there have been a lot of wasted bites. If budget or time tends to of concern, plan it out and work on your confidence in the kitchen. Practice using proper utensils and following basic recipes. Otherwise, keep an ear out for some great places and try new things, maybe once a week or so. Make food an adventure. 

How does the discovery of being down a size in a store’s fitting room make you feel? Embarrassingly, I dance and jump about. Maybe you experienced being able to move around better than you used to. How does it make you feel to do more with less effort? These things come with moderation in eating and exercise. We know this, but the discipline to keep at a lifestyle of it can seem daunting. Even if your goal is to maintain, keep a goal to keep motivated. 

Putting in the effort can help you create great moments like this. Moments you can reflect on later as moments of greatness. You don’t have to invent something or lead a group of people to achieve greatness. You just simply have to do the most you can with what you have.  I am sure when I graduate it will feel like a moment of greatness, simply because I will have worked so hard to get there. Your moments of greatness did not end and neither will have mine, unless we choose to not change or press forward. Allowing moments to be great and being great in a moment might seem unrelated, but they both involve effort and standard you set for yourself. So get out there and have a great day!

 

Cheese Clafoutis Recipe Review

So as I mentioned we recently returned from Disney World. I was on a culinary quest to broaden my taste buds and rekindle my passion for food. I had not lost it, but being a stay at home mom on a budget can sometimes cause the fire to dwindle a bit. Then I walked into Epcot’s World Showcase section of the park and my heart soared feeling immersed in the cultures and smells coming from kitchens preparing for the dinner rush to come.  I waltzed into a small shop in “France” and found an adorable cookbook for just $9 and it had some wonderful staples I wanted to try. I love trying new recipes, if for nothing else but to try a new cooking technique that broadens my creativity in the kitchen.

Last night, a dear friend was in town and we had an impromptu French-themed night. We watched Ratatouille and made cheese clafoutis. This was chosen for the short list of ingredients and relatively easy on the budget. We were able to cut the recipe in half since it was just the two of us eating it. My husband was really enjoying some time to himself, and the kids had already been put down for the night. Of course the smell from the kitchen woke my son up (or maybe the fact that I grabbed the movie from his room) and we shared a few moments with him. He ooed and awed at the sight of Paris first on the screen, as my friend and I did the same over this delicious dish!  It really felt like a special moment of living in good taste for little cost. 

The Recipe:

Cheese Clafoutis from “The French Kitchen Cookbook: Everday cuisine from the French country kitchen”

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Serves 4-6   Prep Time:15 minutes    Cook time: 50-55 minutes (35-40 if halved) 

Ingredients:

-Olive oil for greasing    -3 cups Cherry Tomatoes      -3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled     -2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves    -1/2 cup all-purpose flour  – 4 extra-large eggs    -1 1/4 cup whole milk    -pinch of salt    -pinch of sugar

Directions:

One: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Arrange the Tomatoes in a single layer in the dish, then scatter the Cheese and Thyme over them and set aside.

Two: Sift the Flour, Sugar, and Salt into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Break Eggs into the well and use a whisk or fork to blend them together. Add half of the Milk and stir, gradually incorporating the Flour from the side of the bowl until blended. Stir in the remaining Milk until a smooth batter forms. 

Three: Gently pour the batter over the Tomatoes, shaking the dish slightly to distribute the Cheese and Thyme. Place in preheated oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the batter is puffed, golden, and set and the Tomatoes are tender.

Four: Remove Clafoutis from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

 

This was absolutely delicious!

A few tips to tweak it for healthier eating:

-Use 2% milk instead of whole

-Use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose

-Limit your serving size. 

Food Snob rating: 9/10

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

My husband and I went on our first vacation this past week, which is why it has been quiet around here. We took our children for a magical time to Disney World in Florida. In an attempt to save money on the trip, we stayed at a villa with full amenities. This way I could cook most meals. I was craving some seafood since we were surrounded by a tropical backdrop. Additionally i began to understand that a day at Disney made for one tired Momma. What could I cook that would satisfy, be quick to make, taste great, and hit the spot. This is what I came up with.

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

Ingredients:
-1 lemon -1 lb Wild-Caught Salmon fillet (If it smells fishy, do not buy) -Salt and Pepper
-1 cup chopped strawberries (or sliced if you prefer) -1/4 cup slivered almonds – 1/4 cup Mango Poppy Seed Dressing (or to taste) -1 Package Baby Spring Lettuce (Rinsed and Dried)

Directions:
One: Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F. While the oven is heating up, Slice up your Strawberries. Cut Lemon in half.

Two: Place the Salmon in a baking dish, and season it with Salt and Pepper. Drizzle the Salmon with lemon juice, by squeezing one half of the Lemon at a time, over the fillet evenly with one hand. Use your opposite hand as a sieve to catch seeds. Slice the juiced Lemon and place the slices of Lemon directly onto the Salmon.

Three: Place the Salmon in the pre-heated oven and enjoy the aroma for about 15-20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your fillet. You are looking for firm and flaky texture. While that is getting yummy, place your Slivered Almonds evenly on a cookie sheet with salt and pepper if desired. Half way through the Salmon baking time, place the Almonds in the oven.
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Four: Toss the Baby Spring lettuce into a bowl. Once everything in the oven has come out, place the toasted Almond Slivers and chopped Strawberries evenly over the bed of lettuce. Use a fork to pull chunks of Salmon out and lay across the bed of green and red goodness. You may or may not want to keep the skin. It is whatever your preference is. I usually allow my family to dress the salad to their liking, so I don’t have to receive complaints and it does not get soggy with pre-dressing. Serve.

salmon salad

This salad as a meal serves 4 and as a side to soup may serve up to 6. Good crusty bread and a bit of dipping olive oil with fresh-cracked black pepper would make a great add to this dish. One soup that may pair well is corn chowder with a hint of lime.