I didn’t get it together in time to send out Christmas cards this year. The holidays are such a busy time in general and adding the stress (and cost!) of sending out Christmas cards is something I couldn’t do this year. I am trying to be better about keeping in touch and connecting with loved ones from afar in 2014.
You know what else I am trying to be better about in 2014? Not purchasing Groupons that I don’t use before they expire. Luckily, the value you paid for them is honored indefinitely, but I have a stack of expired ones that is too high to admit. As I was sifting through them, I came across one for Vistaprint. Vistaprint is pretty decent for inexpensive, quick projects and, since I had a Groupon for $30, I decided to design some Valentine’s Day cards and send those out in place of a Christmas card.
I ended up ordering 100 because I figured I could get double use out of them and hand them out to my students and co-workers on February 14. The total with my Groupon came to just over $10, a steal!
The design was inspired by my students. There is something whimsical and romantic about a paper airplane and I am making this design available for you! The wording on the inside simply reads, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and there is more than enough space for you to write you own personal message.
The outside reads, “Love is in the air” and each PDF will print on a standard 8.5 inch x 11 inch sheet of paper. When folded and cut in half, it will give you a card that is 5.5 inches long and 4.25 inches high.
Download PDF: Love is in the Air – Front
Download PDF: Love is in the Air – Inside
Soooo…. according to Fox Sports, the Superbowl could be played at any point between Friday, January 31 and Sunday, February 3. Really? I thought this was a hoax when I first read about it as I was not aware that you could move the Super Bowl, but apparently this is really a thing. Craziness! Winter can be done now, amiright? I mean, they are talking about MOVING THE FREAKING SUPER BOWL because it is too cold and snowy! Ugh. My brain cannot process that.
BUT! Do you know what my brain can process? Tasty chili. Chili is one of those dishes that lends itself perfectly for preparing on a Sunday and eating throughout the week. It also freezes really well so you can always make a huge batch, portion it out, and have it on hand for a quick mid-week meal. It’s no secret around here that I am a fan of preparing my meals for the week on Sunday afternoon. I get a lot of questions about what I prep and how I do it and I am in the process of writing up a Sunday Food Prep Tips and Tricks post so stay tuned for that. I am aiming to have that posted early next week so you can get a healthy start to the week after stuffing yourself silly with wings and chili at a Super Bowl party.
I usually make chili with ground beef, but all I had on hand was ground turkey so I decided to give that a try. Much to my delight, it turned out great! In fact, I noticed that ground turkey forms larger chunks when cooked than ground beef which lead to a chunkier chili. Since I did not use beans in this recipe, I appreciated the heartiness of the turkey and will probably continue to use it from here on out. Don’t you love happy accidents?
Turkey and Vegetable Chili
This chili recipe is highly adaptable! You can use any ground protein you'd like and can add more vegetables than the suggested amounts for a super chunky chili.
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 cans of water (I measure using the tomato can)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 ounce baker's chocolate (optional)
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 orange pepper, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 large white onion, chopped (reserve about 1/3 for topping!)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is soft.
- Add the ground turkey and stir frequently to cook the turkey all the way through.
- Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, water, spices and chocolate and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes to let the flavors combine.
- Add the chopped carrots and chopped peppers and simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until the carrots have softened.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/
When I made the switch to a Paleo diet, one of the things I missed the most was pho. Pho is a Vietnamese soup made with meat, vegetables, and rice noodles. Did you see the Man vs. Food Nation Super Pho Challenge episode? I am fairly certain I could crush that challenge with zero obstacles.
As I was typing this recipe up, it dawned on me that you could make the broth beforehand, freeze it, and make this soup during the week in smaller quantities and in about 20 minutes. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that sooner! The next time I make this, I will have to remember that.
This is a copycat recipe that was inspired by the beef noodle soup from Penny’s Noodles in Chicago. When I was in graduate school, I used to pick this soup up on my way home from class and it was always so hard not to tear into the bag and eat it immediately! I like to eat this soup alongside a crisp, cold, cucumber salad.
You’ll notice this recipe calls for star anise. Personally, I think that is a key flavor in this dish and should not be omitted. Star anise has a licorice flavor and adds a good layer of flavor to the broth. You can buy star anise online here if you cannot find it in your local grocery store.
My grocery store sells packaged chop suey meat. If your grocery does not sell chop suey beef, you can use stew beef. You’ll need to cut the stew beef into very small pieces before you cook it.
Paleo Beef Pho
- 1 star anise
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 lb. chop suey meat
- 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
- 1 small head of broccoli, chopped
- 4 stalks of kale, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili paste (2 tablespoons if you want an extra kick)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- Thinly sliced radish
- Green onion
- Bean sprouts (not strict Paleo)
- In a pan over medium heat, toast the cloves, star anise, and cinnamon until fragrant to open the flavors. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the spices from the pan so they do not burn and set aside. (See note).
- In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the shallot, garlic, and ginger in the coconut oil for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly so the garlic does not burn.
- Add vegetable broth and spices and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 hours.
- Fish the whole spices out of the broth. Add the beef and bring the soup to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and add the mushrooms, broccoli, and kale. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
- Add the chili paste. Stir, taste and adjust the seasoning. If the soup is tasting a bit flat, add a teaspoon of sea salt to bring out the flavors.
- Serve with any or all of the garnishes above!
- I use ground cardamom in this recipe because I did not have whole cardamom. Ground spices burn quickly; therefore, I do not toast the cardamom. I just add it right to the broth in step 3.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/
Brussels sprouts. People love ‘em or hate ‘em. I, myself, am a sprout lover. I eat brussels sprouts two to three times a week. Sometimes I have them alongside eggs for breakfast and other times I have them as a side dish with dinner.
If you are a sprout hater, I beg you to try one of the recipes at the bottom of this post and surely you’ll change your mind! One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is browned in ghee and bacon fat, seasoned with salt and pepper, and tossed with dried cranberries and toasted almonds. Simple, colorful, and delicious.
How to Shop for Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are usually sold individually; however, during the fall when they are in season, sometimes they are sold on the stalk. How cool do they look on the stalk? I have unsuccessfully tried to grow brussels sprouts in my garden for the past two years. Perhaps this is the year!
If your local grocery store or farmer’s market is selling the sprouts on the stalk, do not be intimidated! They are easy to remove and you do not need any fancy or special equipment to do so.
To choose a “good” sprouts, pick them up and give them a little squeeze. The leaves should feel tightly packed especially around the base. You will be trimming off the bottom and if the leaves are loose around the stem, you’ll lose some of the good leaves along with the dirty ones.
How to Trim Brussels Sprouts
If you buy brussels sprouts on the stalk, you can snap them off by hand before you begin to trim them. I never wash brussels sprouts before I cook them. Is that gross? I don’t feel much of a need to wash them first because you end up removing all of the dirty outer leaves as you prep them for cooking. After you have removed the outer leaves, if you’d like to wash them, you can give them a quick rinse under cold water.
Trim a small portion off the bottom of the sprout. Some of the leaves may fall off on their own, that is ok.
Pull the outer leaves off until you see lighter green, shiny leaves. You’ll also want to remove any yellow, bruised, or dirty leaves.
Now, you are ready to cook them. You can roast them, grill them, sauté them, steam them, or pickle them. They are such a versatile veggie and so tasty when prepared correctly! In the picture below, I halved them, because I was about to toss them in olive oil, season them with this spice blend and roast them for 25 minutes at 375˚.
Ready to tackle the sprout on your own? Check out these awesome brussels sprouts recipes:
Are you familiar with Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter? It’s the poem recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland and tells the story of walrus and a carpenter who happen upon a bed of oysters while walking along the beach. They invite the oysters to walk with them and, when they stop to rest, the walrus devours all of the oysters before the carpenter has a chance to eat any.
That’s basically what happens whenever anyone orders mussels with me in a restaurant. I love mussels. I don’t mean to be greedy! I intend to share every time, but they are so tasty that I find myself easily getting carried away. I am totally the walrus!
They’d been eaten. Every one.
The first time I had mussels was in college. I went to UC Berkeley and one of my favorite things to do on weekends was hop on BART and head to Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco. There, I’d grab a bowl of clam chowder and make my way to Aquatic Park (the park behind Ghriardelli Square) and study. One day, I grabbed cioppino instead of clam chowder and my love for mussels was born!
Side note: I’ve yet to make cioppino at home, but I am dying to try Tyler Florence’s version.
Clam chowder by the Bay!
For this recipe, I steam the mussels using light coconut milk that has been infused with garlic, ginger, and red curry paste. I use light coconut milk in this recipe because it has a milder taste than full fat coconut milk. I like that there is a hint of coconut in the broth that doesn’t overpower the taste of the mussels.
Mussels are alive when you buy them and should be eaten the same day you purchase them. When you bring them home, store them in a bowl, on top of ice, in your refrigerator. You could also store them in a large pot of cold salt water in your fridge as this article suggests.
When you are ready to cook your mussels, you will first need to go through them and pick out any mussels with open, cracked, or punctured shells. Discard any with cracked or punctured shells. Tap open mussels on the counter. If they close, they are still alive and ok to eat. If they do not close, they are dead and should be thrown away.
Next, you will need to debeard the mussels. The “beard” looks like little threads of seaweed sticking out from the side of the mussel. To remove this, grab it and pull towards the hinge end of the mussel. Most come out fairly easily, but there are some you will have to wrestle with.
The hinge is the side holding the mussel together. Pull the beard towards the hinge.
After you remove the beard, rinse the mussel under cold running water and scrub any dirt off the outside of the shell. Finally, soak them in a bowl of ice water for about 5 minutes to flush out any remaining dirt or grit that may be inside the shell.
Red Thai Curry Mussels
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 green onions, chopped -or- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1/3 can water, I use the coconut milk can
- 2 lbs. mussels
- 2 green onions, chopped
- Handful of cilantro, chopped
- In a heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat, sweat the onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute.
- Add the coconut milk and water and raise the heat medium-high. Bring just to a boil, stirring to blend all of the ingredients.
- Add the mussels and cover the pot. Cook until the mussels open, about 5-7 minutes.
- Divide the mussels evenly among two bowls. Discard any mussels that fail to open. Spoon the remaining cooking liquid over the mussels.
- Garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro, if desired.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/
I am crazy for one pot meals, especially during the colder winter months. I love starting a meal after lunch and letting it cook slowly over a low heat until dinnertime. This process is called braising or stewing depending on whether you use large or small cuts of beef. Both methods begin with tougher cuts of beef and the long cooking time helps break down the muscle fibers leaving you with meat that “falls off the bone.”
Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite winter recipes, pot roast stew. This is not one of those recipes that you can’t simply whip up after a long day at the office, but it is one that you can make a ton of on a Sunday and reheat throughout the week. You mustn’t rush the cooking time with this or you will end up with mushy veggies and tough beef. Nobody wants that.
Don’t be deterred by the cook time for this recipe. Three hours is a long time, but I promise it will be worth it in the end! As this is cooking you will start to pick up all of the different smells in this dish. The first time you walk by your kitchen, it will smell intensely of garlic. Then, you’ll get a whiff of rosemary and you’ll want to lift the lid and peek inside because you know something magical is happening in there. Be patient.
I use chuck roast for this recipe, which is the cut of beef that is used for pot roast. My grocery store happens to sell packages of cubed chuck roast labeled as stew beef, but you could always buy a full-sized pot roast and cube the meat yourself.
The white cubes that look like potatoes in the photo above are actually turnips and parsnips. I omitted traditional white potatoes to make this recipe Paleo-friendly and, to be honest, I probably won’t make this recipe using potatoes ever again. The parsnip and turnip add a deep layer of flavor to the broth, and when it comes to flavor, white potatoes miss the mark!
Pot Roast Stew
- 2 lbs. stew beef
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 parsnip, chopped
- 1 turnip, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 8 oz. box of mushrooms, chopped in half
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 beef bullion cubes
- 8 cups water
- Salt and pepper
- In a heavy-bottom pot, melt the ghee over medium heat and brown the beef. You will have to do this in shifts so as to not overcrowd the pot. Overcrowding will cause the beef to steam rather than brown. When the beef is browned on all sides, remove it and set aside.
- Lower the heat and wait about 10 minutes for the temperature of the pot drop (you do not want to burn your garlic in the next step!).
- Add the shallots and garlic to the pot and cook until the shallots caramelize, about 7 minutes. Stir often.
- Return the beef back to the pot and add 8 cups of water, paprika, bay leaf, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, and beef bullion cubes. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over low heat for 90 minutes.
- Add the parsnip, turnip, celery, carrots, and mushrooms, cover, and continue to simmer for at least 30 more minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve warm.
- You can substitute butter for ghee, but then this stew will not be Paleo. To keep it Paleo, you can substitute bacon fat or olive oil to brown the beef.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/
Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2014 already?! I remember Y2K like it was yesterday. Yikes. Let’s not talk about that!
Are you getting plummeled with snow? We are. Truth be told, I don’t mind snow and cold too much. The part about winter that I despise is the darkness. It is dark when I wake up, grey and gloomy all day, and dark before 5 p.m. nearly everyday for 5 months. Yuck! Who thought of that?!
Every year, I suffer from big time winter blues, but one thing that helps boost my mood is ginger. Ginger is an extremely aromatic root that adds a punch of flavor to both sweet and savory recipes. It pairs nicely with citrus and is used frequently in Asian cooking.
What Does Fresh Ginger Look Like?
Fresh ginger is a knobby root and is typically found next to other root veggies (example: beets, turnips, rutabagas, fennel, etc.) in the grocery store.
Fresh ginger root
Fresh ginger can be upwards of $4 a pound. In this photo, it was on sale for $1.99 a pound so I stocked up.
Shopping for Fresh Ginger
Let’s say you are making a dish that calls for a 1-inch piece of grated fresh ginger. As you can see in the photo above, none of those pieces of ginger are an inch long. You’ll want to look for a piece that looks like this for two reasons:
Look for smooth edges.
- You can easily break this larger piece into a smaller piece.
- The smooth edges are going to make it easier to peel.
I always look for pieces of ginger with smooth edges because I use a vegetable peeler to peel fresh ginger. If you have a piece that is super knobby with a lot of nooks and crannies, you can scrape the skin off with a spoon.
These smaller pieces were broken from larger pieces.
You want the ginger root to feel firm and be free of any noticeable imperfections. When you break the pieces off, the scent of ginger should be strong. Sometimes, I break the pieces to test the freshness even if I intend on buying the entire larger piece.
Storing Fresh Ginger
When you get home, peel the entire ginger root. Put it in a freezer safe bag, squeeze all of the air out, and pop it in your freezer. It will keep in your freezer for up to six months.
Using Frozen Ginger
When you are ready to use your ginger, remove it from the freezer and grate it using a microplane or cheese grater. You do not need to thaw the ginger first. In fact, frozen ginger is easier to grate than fresh ginger.
Now that you are a ginger expert, check out some of these recipes.
The following is a guest post from Samantha over at Sparkly and Slimming! We are both participating in a holiday fitness challenge called Elf for Health. Each day there are various challenges that help you exercise your body, mind, or soul. It’s a fun way to stay on track with your fitness goals through the holiday season and connect with some like-minded people. Today’s challenge is “Share Your Expertise.” Samantha is sharing her advice for ringing in a fantastic 2014. Enjoy!
I’m so honored to be guest blogging over here at Cucina Kristina (such a cute name). Kristina and I have been randomly paired up for this blog swap during our “Elf 4 Heath” challenge and I think I speak for both of us when I saw how enlightening the past 3 weeks have been! Today’s challenge is “Share Your Expertise” – which honestly makes you question how much you know, LOL! By day I am a project manager and account manager for an audio/video company. I love my day job – but I doubt anyone wants to hear my expertise in creating project plans or motivating virtual teams. My little piece of the internet is dedicated to slimming down while still remaining sparkly (Sparkly and Slimming) so I could share weight-loss tips but at my core I am someone who thrives on self-improvement and reflection. Today I’d like to share my top 5 things you can do to usher in the New Year in the best fashion possible. Why top 5? Oh because I consider “High Fidelity” one of the best movie ever! Sidenote: If you have not seen this, please Netflix it!
Without further ado….
*Samantha’s* Top 5 Ways to Make 2014 Absolutely Awesome!
5. Reflect on your year honestly. Too often people only remember what happens at the end of a movie, a song, a relationship – and not the whole body of work. Back in January I started jotting down little notes about things that made me happy or people who made me smile during the year. As things got tough or I had a setback I would reread them and remember I was having a bad day – not a bad life. Put your year in perspective. Did you get a raise? Start a new job? Expand your family? Meet someone new? Fall in love? Lose weight (and not find it again)? Did you maintain your status quo of happy? Celebrate that! Not all of life’s moments come in milestones – the day to day happiness needs to be celebrated too.
4. Write down a few things you learned. For me this includes “how to let go, gracefully” and “that damn single, single, double step in Zumba”. Humans are sponges and we don’t realize how much we really do grow and change year to year (as one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin says “The days are long but the years are short”)- make sure you’re constantly learning something new and not staying stagnant. You’re not a tree – if you don’t like you’re surroundings or you need something else to be nurtured you can pick up and move.
3. Fight the urge to hibernate! Maybe you live someplace where it’s 8 degrees right now, maybe you hate the holidays – whatever your reason for staying holed up in the house – don’t do it! Trust me when I say being social is not always the easiest thing, but it’s always rewarding. Some days I feel like I work at “The Office” – therefore a chance to get together for cocktails with coworkers will yield PLENTLY of laughs! Go out – have a drink – get your dance on and take some pictures.
2. Appreciate the people around you (someday they won’t be here). I’ve had a year of loss and it’s moments like these when I can stop and appreciate how lucky I was to have the relations I did and how grateful I am for the time I spent with the people I love. Tell someone you love them and appreciate them. Not only does it make them feel good but it makes you feel good too. Email your best friend and reminisce about “the good old days” when you were young and reckless.
1. Don’t resolve. That’s right – don’t make resolutions. You thought I was going to propose an epic resolution list didn’t you? Ha! I like to keep my readers on their toes. This year I am voting for the “unresolution”. Resolve to happier – then actually work to be happier. Resolve to be more forgiving – then forgive (even when it hurts, even when it’s not fair, even when you didn’t do anything wrong). Resolve to be more patient with yourself and others – then take a deep breath when you’re sitting in ridiculous traffic. You’ll feel better without a resolution list hanging over your head and you’ll allow yourself a fresh start to the year. Who doesn’t love a fresh start?!
I hope you all have a wonderful end of the year – and an even better 2014!
My refrigerator snowman has made a triumphant return!
You could also do this on a door!
I saw this guy circulating around Pinterest last year and loved it! I originally pinned it from Hands On As We Grow. It’s a festive and inexpensive decoration to add to your holiday home.
- Black construction paper
- Orange construction paper
- Holiday wrapping paper
- Double-sided tape
- Circular items for tracing
- Eyes – 2 large circles. I used the outside rim of a quart sized mason jar lid.
- Smile – 5 small circles. I used the inside rim of a pint sized mason jar lid.
- Buttons – 4 medium circles. I used the outside rim of a pint sized mason jar lid.
1. Trace your circles onto black construction paper and cut them out. If you do not have mason jars you can use any circular items. Last year, I used wine bottles and coke cans for tracing.
2. Cut a triangle from your orange construction paper.
3. Stick them onto your fridge using double-sided tape.
4. To make the scarf, cut a rectangle from your holiday wrapping paper. Tape it at a slight angle onto your fridge.
Check out my other Handmade Holiday posts:
Ho, Ho, Ho! The holidays are upon us! I just love Christmas, don’t you? I have the easiest holiday craft to share with you that will brighten up your mantel. It is also inexpensive, which is a double bonus.
I got the idea from Daisy Dreaming and followed her instructions exactly. All you do is find an image (we both used this one from ManMade), cut it out, trace it onto your canvas, apply glue and glitter, and let it dry. Easy peasy!
This is the second craft in the Handmade Holidays series that I will be running throughout the month of December. Please share your holiday crafts with me! I’d love to see what you are creating as well.
DIY Glitter Reindeer
From Daisy Dreaming
- Canvas – I used an 11 x 14 canvas
- Mod Podge or glue
- Pencil (for tracing)
- Any Holiday shape
- Print and cut out your shape.
- Trace your shape onto your canvas with pencil.
- Using a Qtip or paintbrush, fill in your shape with Mod Podge or glue.
- Cover your shape completely with glitter and let sit for a few minutes so the glitter can set.
- Shake of the excess. You are going to have A LOT of leftover glitter. You may want to shake it onto a piece of newspaper (you can also use foil, parchment paper, or wax paper) so you can easily funnel the excess back into the bottle.
- Let it dry completely for a few hours and gently shake off any loose glitter over a trashcan.
Check out my other Handmade Holiday posts: