Wednesday, January 28, 2015

what's up in my kitchen this week: recipe testing, storm prep and lots of hot chocolate

I am very excited to announce that recipe testing is well underway for the Second Edition of Stock Your Freezer in a Snap!!

I've been putting new recipes through the ringer here in my home kitchen,

and have 25 equally busy parents test-running the new recipes to make sure that ingredients are easily found in their local supermarkets, my instructions are super clear, and that the new meals are enjoyed by their families.

This next e-cookbook is a little different than the first one, which was really a compilation of family-friendly favorites. In the first edition, I gave parents options to make meals vegetarian, whenever possible… but this round, I am switching it up. After hearing many readers say that they wanted more plant-based family meal ideas, I'm starting with mostly vegetarian family dinners and giving parents the option to add meat! Kind of cool, right?!!

For example, I'll be giving you the recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Shredded Sweet Potatoes {pictured above as a gluten-free pasta test run}, and giving you the option of adding pancetta or ham.

Speaking of vegetables, in other news, there was all of this prep and hoopla about this SUPERSTORM Juno that was going to hit us this week. I came back from skiing and headed straight to the market Sunday night to stock up and-- doh-- this was the salad section of our local Whole Foods...

and this was where I was planning to grab some bananas. Clearly, I was late to the party.

Plus, I had a home fridge and freezer full of the aforementioned test recipes, which I really didn't want to lose. So, I raided my pantry stash of packaging, filled a kazillion tubs with water and filled my fridge and freezer,

in an attempt to keep the temps level, in case we lost power.

But we woke up the morning the storm was supposed to have wreaked absolute havoc to some pretty snow falling, and full power. Jackpot.

Snow days are pretty awesome when the fire and candles are lit purely for ambiance, not warmth or sight. We lucked out.

Since we not only had power, but a full day to hang out-- and I just happened to have some rotisserie chicken bones in my freezer-- I decided to give Nourished Kitchen's Perpetual Broth a whirl. As you all know, I do love my bone broth. I usually just make it once/month or so in my LeCrueset or in a stock pot. But since I recently bought a crockpot, and her article intrigued me, I went her perpetual route with visions of a freezer door lined with quarts of frozen goodness dancing in my head. So far, so good. The only glitch is that my crockpot is now tied up as I head into Day 2 of simmering batch 2… high class problem...

OK, but back to storms, snow and basic survival. As luck would have it, I developed a new food crush this week: Cacao Prieto 72% Dark Hot Chocolate. While our local Whole Foods may have been out storm necessities like bananas and bread, I needed to buy something to sustain us, right? So, I made sure we had an ample supply of hot cocoa. Little did I know just how ahhhmazing this brand would be.

This is what the {pretty} container looks like if you're looking for it in your local market.

And, when cabin fever strikes-- or you're feeling guilty about that third cup of awesomeness you just enjoyed-- you can always strap on your fitbit and some yaktrax, and make up for it, like I did.

Alrighty, back to all of this recipe testing. Can't wait to share it with you soon!! Until then, join the conversation, or take a peek at what I'm cooking, over on Facebook, Pinterest, or-- brand spanking new-- Instagram (@mealsinasnap).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cheesy Family Night: A simple fondue recipe that can be made ahead

My kids love fondue. They'd only had it once, over Christmas break when we were skiing out West, but they chattered about the meal for weeks to come. I don't know if it was the dipping action or the cozy cheesiness after a brisk day spent outside, but the meal quickly became a favorite.

In fact, when I handed my {vegetarian} 11-year-old a multi-page list of vegetarian make-ahead meals I was contemplating, and asked for his feedback on which ones sounded best, he scanned the list then honed in on fondue. "I'd like it if you would just make fondue every night." Right. Nice try little man. But as a special occasion meal that is (a) simple to make and (b) can be made-ahead, this recipe is definitely worth sharing.

I recently made a huge-- I've adapted the recipe below, since I made WAY too much-- batch of fondue on a Friday afternoon, and toted it up to VT for a ski weekend. The verdict? Total hit. And so, without further adieu, let me show you how I whipped it up, and then share the super simple recipe:

There are just 5 ingredients in my fondue recipe: cheese, flour, garlic, wine and mustard. When I was doing the grocery marketing, I set out to buy Gruyere and Swiss… and was thrilled to find out that Trader Joe's sells the two already shredded. Bonus!

The first step is to coat the cheese with flour or cornstarch. I opted for flour. To keep my prep even easier, I simply sprinkled the flour right into the bag of shredded cheese, closed the bag and gave it a shake. Shredding the cheese and coating w/ flour, done!

Then to make the cheese fondue, I warmed the wine and minced garlic over medium heat. Once the wine was was simmering, I whisked the cheese and mustard into the wine/garlic mixture, and gently stirred until the cheese was melted and gooey. Mmmm.

Because I was making the fondue a few days ahead of time, and then toting it up to a rented ski condo, I chopped all of our dippers {blanched broccoli, mushrooms and cauliflower, boiled new potatoes, sliced peppers, carrots, cubed bread, and sautéed chicken-apple sausage slices} while the cheese mixture cooled down.

If you were making the recipe around the time you were going to be enjoying it, you would simply transfer the warm cheese mixture to a fondue pot to keep it warm. This is the kind I have, which we received as a wedding gift 15 years ago.

OK, but back to the make-ahead batch. Not the most flattering photo, I know. Remember, it's just a few ingredients: cheese, wine, garlic and mustard. So, when it cooled it hardened up, as cheese is want to do. I just scooped the amount we wanted that night into our fondue pot's ceramic bowl, and microwaved it. I know some of you aren't fans of the microwave, in which case, you'd just warm the cheese mixture in a saucepan until melted again… but our rented ski condo isn't very well-stocked, so I didn't have a saucepan. The microwave worked just fine in this case.

As you can see, apparently I was anticipating feeding fondue to a small army. I've adjusted the recipe below down to a normal 4 servings!!

The beauty of this recipe is that, like all of my make-ahead recipes, you can prep it when you have time. In the case of this weekend. I most definitely was not back at the condo cooking. Nope, that's my younger son competing in his first-ever ski race. Way more fun to be out there cheering him on, than slaving over the stove!

And still, after a long ski day, we were able to come inside, get toasty, and have such a fun family dinner. Love those kinds of days and nights.

Simple Cheese Fondue
makes 4-6 servings

14 oz bag Trader Joe's Shredded Gruyere/Swiss cheese blend*
1 T flour
1 cup white wine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced {or 2-3 Dorot frozen garlic cubes}
2 T Dijon Mustard {or more/less to taste)
Assorted dippers in bite-size pieces {I prepped: bread, blanched broccoli, mushrooms and cauliflower, boiled new potatoes, sliced peppers, carrots and sautéed chicken-apple sausage slices}

Add the flour to the bag of shredded cheese and shake to coat.** Set aside. In a medium saucepan, warm the wine and minced garlic to a gentle simmer. Add the shredded cheese and Dijon into the wine/garlic liquid, and whisk until the cheese is melted.

If you are serving the fondue now, simply transfer it to a fondue pot to keep it warm. Otherwise, transfer the cheese mixture to a glass storage container and cool it before placing the lid on and storing it in the fridge for 2-3 days. When ready to serve, reheat the cheese fondue in the microwave, or in a saucepan then transfer the cheese mixture to a fondue pot.

*Or you can shred about 2 cups of cheese on your own if you're not near a TJ's. 
** Or, combine shredded cheese and flour in a ziploc bag.

End the family dinner with a raucous game of Settlers of Catan or Ticket To Ride, and I guarantee this will be a winter weekend to remember.

Please note that this post has affiliate links. The Amazon price is the same to you, but I receive a small commission for recommending some of my favorite products. If you plan to purchase any of the items, thank you for supporting The Full Plate Blog by considering doing so via these links.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Full Plate Blog named to Working Mother Magazines 25 Best Websites of 2015

Pinch me! I am beyond flattered to make Working Mother Magazine's 2015 "Best of The Net", alongside 24 other {awesome, if I might say so myself} websites.

And here I was wondering if my make-ahead recipes were worth continuing to write about… I had no idea how many people my site was helping feed their family well, even on the busiest of days. Thank you to Working Mother Magazine for this award, and to all of my loyal {and super busy mom} readers for inspiring me to set aside time to write The Full Plate Blog.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 10 Posts of 2014 on The Full Plate Blog

When you read this, I will be up here, distracted by the views.

I may be cringing-- or laughing-- as my kids' paternal role model most definitely is not acting his age...

and then there will be this rude awakening, when I realize I must follow my kids down the mountain.

So there's a bit of relief each day when I make it home, all limbs in tact, and can nail what I'm good at-- feeding my crew, quickly, easily, and deliciously. Thank goodness I am still good at that because this whole family skiing gig is humbling, to say the least. But when it comes to mealtimes? I'm still golden. And I'm psyched that so many of you have found mealtime inspiration here on the Full Plate Blog this past year. Holy cow a lot of you pop in here.    

As we wrap 2014 up, let's take a peek at what was most popular with you guys:

#10 - An oldie but goodie - Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas For Busy School Mornings

#9 - The Hideous Photo Post

#8 - What Does A Fennel Bulb Look Like {Hmm, you all all tackling a lot of Mediterranean cuisine?}

#7 - From Freezer to Oven - Homemade Lasagna

#6 - Ah, the "valley" that was Day 2 of the 10 Day Detox

#5 - Super Easy Kale Pesto {Yep, one of my favorites too.}

#4 - Easy App - Jicama Spears with Chili and Lime {Surprising that it's so popular, but hey, they're easy, healthy and tasty!}

#3 -  Everyone loves a happy ending… The Scale Winked at Me After Days 8, 9 and 10

#2 - Oh, I see where this is going…. I Survived Day 1 of the 10 Day Detox

And… drum roll…. The most popular post of 2014:

#1 - Make Ahead Meals = EASY Family Dinners

That's great, because as I find the free time to keep this blog going in 2015, my hope is to focus posts around two things: more make-ahead meals, and continuing that journey to feeling healthy and vibrant {another way of saying skinny, hot and happy} as a busy stay-at-home mom to two young children. So, stick around and let's make this a fabulous New Year, where we take even better care of ourselves and get amazingly healthy, delicious family meals made in a snap!

Cheers to all of us who have a full plate, and need one. May this be our best year yet.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

homemade gift: simple grapefruit-orange-clementine marmalade

I know you're probably in a gift-wrapping frenzy when this post arrives in your inbox, but trust me, I must send this recipe along. It deserves to be immortalized here, so that the next time I need an amazing hostess gift, homemade teacher gift, or easy weekend cooking project with the kids, I know where to find it.

Marmalade. You either love it or hate it. I happen to love it. I didn't always love it though; it took a really good jar of marmalade to convert me. And I think that as many of us are bundling up, trying to stay cozy these next few months, marmalade just might be the ticket to happiness on those cold, dark, nippy mornings. Tart and sweet, brightly colored, and just a few ingredients. This one's a keeper.

Simple Grapefruit-Orange-Clementine Marmalade
(makes about 3 cups)

2 grapefruits
8 oranges
6 clementines
1 1/2 cups sugar, or more to taste 
pinch of salt

Zest the grapefruit into a medium saucepan, then cut away the peel and pith (white part) of the grapefruit, oranges and clementines. Rough chop all of the citrus (removing any seeds), and add it to the saucepan. Pour the sugar over the citrus, add a pinch of salt, and give everything a stir. Simmer the citrus-sugar mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes-1 hour, or until juices are thickened. Cool and store in glass jars in the fridge for up to three weeks. 

P.S. It is exceptional served over coconut-rice pudding, after a day of sledding… and it would be equally decadent over the eggnog bread pudding we're having Christmas morning. Mmmm.

Monday, December 8, 2014

first ski weekend reminds me of why I make meals ahead

The ski season is here! The native Southern Californian in me hasn't quite embraced the cold, yet this year. But I'm getting there, and recalling that this means an even bigger need for make-ahead meals.

First up-- protein-packed breakfasts at the ready {because the truth is, getting everyone out the door is always kind of nutty...}.

This first ski weekend I made a double batch of my go-to veggie frittata recipe with broccoli rabe, kale and a blend of Parmesan, mozzarella and Gouda. I also roasted colorful new potatoes ahead of time and made sure we had some Applegate chicken sausages on hand. I did this on Friday, and packed everything in my favorite freezer-friendly packaging, which also happens to be microwave safe {b/c it's aluminum}. Breakfast took about 10 minutes to get from fridge to the table, including reheating everything, so that made for a delicious, protein-packed start to the ski day… with minimal effort from yours truly. Somehow my coffee still managed to get cold. Ski weekends are a work in progress...

Other make-ahead, protein-rich breakfast recipes I recall being hits last year…. these hash brown/sausage/egg cups -- but I'll have to modify it for our now vegetarian tween. 

By request from our local supermarket, I created a gluten-free baked French Toast recipe last year, which I'll probably add back into to our winter repertoire. 

And there was the Herb-Walnut Frittata which I loved. 

Chilaquiles are always a hit-- and are conveniently vegetarian. Handy, since I always have to keep that in mind these days. This would be easy to whip up on a Friday and reheat it weekend mornings.

And then, of course, there's our favorite Protein Pancakes which will likely be on an every other week rotation b/c my kids love them so, and they reheat beautifully. 

For a grab-and-go option, I plan to keep these Nothin' But granola cookies on hand. 

As the ski season ramps up, my goal for the next month or so, is to test a few new recipes and get all of my favorite make-ahead breakfasts in one place, along with shopping lists, packaging recs, etc-- just like my make-ahead entree ebook-- so I have an easy go-to tool to keep my winter ski weekends organized and enjoyable (aka, sane). I'll let you know when that's available for download.

OK, so on the back end, we typically roll in from a day on the mountain pretty beat, pretty cold, and really just wanting to just relax by the fire.

Which is why it's imperative that I have a stash of made-ahead meals at the ready, so I can relax and put my feet up too. If you haven't already downloaded my ebook that walks you through a dozen freezer-friendly family meals, do it now and thank me later. It's what keeps me sane in the meal dept.

Last night, we gave a new broccoli mac and cheese recipe of mine a test-run.

Recipe testing is difficult, but someone has to do it {ha!}… that's the broccoli mac and cheese you see there made with rice noodles, with some VT farm stand maple-oat bread lathered in Kerrygold butter, and an arugula salad with maple-dijon vinaigrette that we test drove last night. And, according to our 7-year-old, those are "very special" napkin designs, created for each of us. {Um, ok? Too tired to question table setting skills...} 

So, here's to being organized and not being the family who needs to shell out $73.13 for meat lasagna at the base of the mountain!! Seriously. Want your own copy of my make-ahead meal program? Click here for the instant download.  {Yes, if you're doing the math, that makes the ebook w/ all of my secrets for successfully stocking your freezer w/ a month's worth of family meals less than 1/7 the price of one family-size meat lasagna. Crazy!} Want the scoop on what the instantly downloadable ebook includes, click here for the Q and A

Alrighty, I'm heading back into our kitchen these next couple of weeks to recipe test a round two of ahhmazing recipes. Here's to hoping I can get a Second Edition of freezer-friendly recipes together soon. Stay tuned! 

P.S. If there's a type of recipe you'd really like to see in the Second Edition of Stock Your Freezer in a Snap, leave a comment below. I'm right in the midst of laying out my recipe testing schedule, so if there's something you'd really like included, let's see if I can help you out.