Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gift Idea: Autobio Playlist


Last year I quickly adopted my friend Becky's idea of creating an autobiographical mix as a gift idea. It's fun to make, instantly personalized, and entertaining when you get other friends involved.

What a great way to save a few pennies on Christmas gifts, too.

Here's my mix for 2011:

OMG by Usher - In tribute to my middle school dance team girls, they killed it!

Love's Not by Mars Ill - For a very memorable lesson I gave during my first few weeks of teaching.

Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson - I gave a lesson on this song at one point, too and really feel it sums up my first teaching position.

I Never Told You by Colbie Caillat - One of my 8th graders sang this as part of a presentation she gave last spring. It was the most beautiful performance I'd ever witnessed and brought me to tears.

Personal Jesus by Johnny Cash - Heard this version of the song in the car when on vacation in Oregon. Just stayed with me.

The Tracks of My Tears by Dolly Parton - I am a recently converted Dolly fan. Sorry.

Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band - Really love this song because of this line: "pair or jeans that fit just right..."

Wild World by Cat Stevens - Because it is.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters by Elton John - Something from my favorite movie is a must.

New York City by The Peter Malick Group - Keeping the dream alive. New York, you will be mine.

Want a copy? Email me your address at gwenedwards82(at) and I'll be happy to mail you a copy! What's your mix for 2011 going to include?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leftovember cont. Shepherd's Pie and Fruit Salad

I picked up a copy of The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones after reading a review by my friend Becky. As many of you know, Mrs. Jones discovered Julia Child and got Mastering the Art of French Cooking published during a time in America when canned food was king.

Mrs. Jones describes the time she spent in Paris eating fabulous food and living by the seat of her pants in order to absorb as much Parisian culture as possible. All of this I love.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that Mrs. Jones mentions an Elizabeth David who was offended when Jones suggested she list ingredients and precise amounts in her cookbook.

"Inconsistencies are inevitable in a cookery book and preferable, I think myself, to absurdities brought about by overzealousness in the matter of literal renderings...I don't think one does any harm in crediting one's readers with a little imagination and knowledge of their own," insisted David.

The more entrenched I've become in food blogging, the more loudly the message blares about perfecting recipes so that your readers can trust you. Ok, I totally get that but, for me, the fun of cooking comes in the creativity and in the ability to not follow the recipe and go with your gut.

I can't tell you how many times I've been elbow deep in a recipe and my taste buds start nudging me. "Hey," they start to shout, "that doesn't sound right!" I ignore them and press on, wanting to honor the process of the recipe. And of course they were right, my taste buds that is, if it don't feel right, it probably isn't.

That's not to say there aren't solid cooks and chefs out there who can consistently be trusted to produce fine recipes. The fact remains we all have different taste buds. So don't be afraid to play a little. Unless you're making something ultra-technical, for which there are many wonderful resources out there to come to our aide.

My hope is that when you come to this blog, you leave feeling empowered, inspired, or maybe just hungry. I'm not a chef (although I do hope to someday become one) but I'd like to share with you what tastes good to me and hope that you will use your imaginating powers to please your taste buds.

Mini Shepherd's Pies
No ingredient list cuz it depends where you are in Leftovember

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with wax paper, making sure some it hangs over. Press leftover biscuits bits in the bottom of eat tin, you will have to rip them up to do so. Leftover stuffing would work well for this if you don't have biscuits.

Add some turkey and whatever leftover veggies you have on top of the biscuits. I sauteed up some green beans, mushrooms, and garlic with a little broth. Whatever you have, make sure it has lots of moisture. Gravy would be awesome if you still have some.

Spoon mashed potatoes on top and press down with a fork to get the layers to stick together. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of each little pie. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown.

To serve, gently remove pies from the tins by lifting edges of the wax paper. So fancy and so cute. Enjoy!

Cranberry Fruit Salad

Cranberry sauce
Orange segments
Whipped cream

No amounts here either. Just cut up some oranges and toss them in a bowl with your leftover cranberry sauce and whipped cream. Retro and heavenly. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


There is a vacuum of time between Thanksgiving and the first of December in which all we eat are leftovers and the son of leftovers. Therefore the birth of Leftovember: the forgotten month of scrap eating.

This time can be boring, or this time can be glorious.

Let's begin by scooping dollops of whipped cream into our morning coffee. And drinking that coffee with some leftover pie, because that's breakfast in Leftovember.

Lunch, perhaps, is biscuits slathered in cream cheese, cranberry sauce, and topped with turkey.

The crowning glory of Leftovember is pot pie. Here's where I pretend to not have eaten any turkey (due to current vegetarian status) and fill my pie crusts with all the veggie leftovers.

But this is real life where I can't resist the turkey and certainly don't want any to go to waste. Pile that pie high with whatever you got: brussels sprouts, squash, mashed potatoes, green beans. We ran out of gravy so I poured the remaining garlic soup overall for moisture.

And for the final last gasp of Thanksgiving enjoyment, pop the turkey bones in the slow cooker with some salt and herbs, and fill with water. Lazy-woman's turkey stock. Freeze for later use.

What are your Leftovember specialties? 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cook, Eat, Love, Repeat

We cooked our hearts out yesterday! Wait, that sounds gross.

Deviled eggs topped with Hungarian paprika (Thanks Loree!) 

How about this: we cooked with love and shared a wonderful meal with family.

Aromatics for the turkey

My brother, his girlfriend, my nephews, my sister, her boyfriend and our BIMC ohana joined us for the meal.

Garlic soup

We are very blessed to have family to spend holidays with all the way out here in the middle of the  Pacific.

Sweet potato casserole

Brussels sprouts mushroom bake with crouton topping

Avocado pie

Nephew in grandma's apron

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dustin's Manola: Granola for Men

My husband is a real man.

And real men eat granola. Scratch that, manola.

Back in college I started eating yogurt and granola everyday for breakfast. If you are a regular granola eater like me you know that the good granolas (without lots of sugar) are pretty spendy. This naturally progressed into homemade granola.

After getting married it wasn't long before Dustin began taking up my habits; coffee drinking, granola eating and reality TV watching are just a few. We were just living our lives, eating tons of granola, but it seemed like I could never make enough to keep up with the demand. This made Dustin a little grumpy. So he took matters into his own hands.

He concocted his own granola recipe. Because that's what real men do.

So be a real man and make this, it's dang good, I finally had to admit.

Manola: Granola for Men
makes enough to fill a giant cereal container

4 cups oats
4 cups nuts (we use a mix of almonds and walnuts usually)
1/2 cup agave or honey
1/4 oil (usually olive oil, but coconut is super tasty if you have it)
1 TBL cinnamon
1 TBL dark cocoa powder
2 cups dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, blueberries, or raisins)

Preheat oven to 325. Toast oats in a 9x13 baking dish for 15 minutes.

While the oats toast, chop nuts using a food processor. They should be chopped in very small bits, the size of grains of rice.

In a large bowl, combine nuts, cinnamon, and cocoa. Then add toasted oats and mix to combine. Add oil and agave and mix well. Scoop the mixture into an oiled 9x13 baking dish (it won't all fit, you will either need to do two batches or use two baking dishes). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toasted and golden brown.

Allow to cool then add the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container, like a cereal keeper. Serve with yogurt or milk. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Bread is Bananas


My nephew is bananas, too. While hanging out with him today (he's two) he lifted up my shirt to expose my belly, then lifted his, and insisted on lying down belly to belly. This was totally bananas, but it felt comforting and great, until he told me I had a baby in my belly. What!?!

My cat is bananas. She tries everyday to climb into the entertainment center, but never does fit. Her favorite toy is an empty Coors Light box. Her name is Abba Zaba, and she is my only friend.

Black Friday is bananas. Especially after a day of merriment. Getting up early is so not on my agenda. Consider supporting a small business instead. We small business owners sure could use your support.

There are some ingredients in this bread that are a little bananas. Like millet and unsweetened chocolate. It's hippy food fo sho, so don't go sharing it with folks unless they are down with whole grains and infrequent showers.

Banana Bread Muffins with Millet and Chocolate
makes 12 extra large muffins or 1 loaf
recipe adapted from: Simply Recipes

3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened chocolate chips
1/2 cup millet

Preheat oven to 350. If making a loaf, butter the pan. If making muffins, line your muffin tins with baking cups.

In a large bowl mix the mashed bananas with the melted butter. I like to lightly mash the bananas so that there are some big chunks in the bread. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, soda, and salt making sure it's well combined. Mix in the flour until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and millet.

If making a loaf, bake for 1 hour. If making muffins, bake for 25 minutes, until golden. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole with Bleu Cheese

Just in case you didn't know already, Thanksgiving is next week. I feel that as a food blogger, I should contribute to the general theme of "Thanksgiving eats" that is the food blogosphere at the moment. You know, just trying to be helpful.

But, guess what? All this T-day overkill is burning me out. And I'm so not into getting burnt out over my favorite holiday.

So let's talk about something else. Let's get inspired to have the warmest, fuzziest holiday season of our lives with some random tidbits that I hope will make you smile.

1. The other day I asked my husband what his favorite cartoon was when he was small. Yep, he said "My Little Pony." I knew there was a reason I married him!

2. Committing random acts of kindness is apparently a major trend these days. That fact gives me hope for humanity.

3. Find more great blogs to read in this well-written post. Thanks Chrissy!

4. Do what you love. And if that means blogging, read this: Real-Talk Blog Tips. And if that means living, give yourself a high-five.

5. “This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don't wait.” -Natalie Goldberg. Read "Writing Down the Bones." Love it. Live it. 

6. Eat this.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Bleu Cheese
serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3+ TBL butter, divided
1 heaping cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup brown sugar

Boil a large pot of water and add sweet potatoes. Boil for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork. Drain in a colander. Return to pot (but turn off heat), add 1 TBL butter, and mash.

Heat oven to 325. Grease a 8x8 baking dish with some of the butter. In a small bowl combine 2 TBL melted butter, walnuts, cheese, sugar, and cranberries.

Spread mashed sweet potatoes in baking dish. Top with nut mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bleu Cheese, Pear & Lavender Pizza

I'm not sure if this pizza could get any more girly. I mean, it has flowers on it.

But if you're not a girl and you still want to eat this, then do that.

This pizza was born when my husband wanted to get the Safeway take-and-bake pizza AGAIN. I have a hard time eating the same things over and over so I got myself one of their raw pizza crusts. And no, Safeway is not paying me to post this. I freaking wish.

The main goal was to make a pizza Dustin wouldn't want to eat so that I could have the leftovers all to myself. Trust me, he ain't eatin' nothin' with lavender on it.

This pizza was super easy to throw together and the mix of delicate flavors and zippy cheese makes me feel like a natural woman.

Feel Like a Woman Pizza with Bleu Cheese, Pear & Lavender
serves 4

1 - 12" pizza crust (I used the Safeway take & bake version)
olive oil
1/2 Asian pear, sliced in 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup or so bleu cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 TBL fresh lavender or 1 tsp dried

Pre-heat oven according to directions on pizza crust. Drizzle olive oil on the crust after stretching it to desired thickness. Sprinkle on bleu cheese, crumbling it as you go along. Arrange pear slices in a pretty pattern. Grate parmesan over all. Sprinkle lavender on last. Bake according to crust directions, usually 15-20 minutes at 375.

Garnish with some lavender flowers to serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oatmeal Risotto

Your breakfast just put on some fancy pants.

I've been meaning to try oatmeal risotto ever since I discovered the blessings of savory oatmeal.

My husband and I are in an ongoing death battle over the definition of savory. He insists it means anything tasty, I'm trying to say it means anything with non-sweet flavors (i.e. gravy is savory, pancakes are not). Care to weigh in?

Ah, the things we fight about. It's seriously hilarious, except not in the moment. I got so mad at him last night for buying a turkey (more on that later) that these words actually left my lips, "well don't ever ask me to get you pizza EVER AGAIN!" As a teacher, I should know that you should never make empty threats. I mean, hello, I love pizza, too. As a matter of fact I have really girly pizza pie to share with you later this week.

In the mean time, make this risotto on a cozy Sunday morning with your little cup of coffee and your big dreams.

Oatmeal Risotto
serves 1 (easily doubled/quadrupled)

1 tsp butter
1 TBL olive oil
1/4 cup sliced yellow onion
1 cup oatmeal (uncooked)
2-3 cups warm water
salt & pepper
1 cup shredded Swiss chard, kale, or spinach leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme
small handful sliced green onion
parmesan cheese

Heat your butter and oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until clear and soft. Add the dry oatmeal and toast for 3-4 minutes. Add some salt and pepper and the greens.

Begin slowly adding the warm water (I used my tea kettle for this task) a little at a time, waiting to add more until the oatmeal has absorbed it. You need to be stirring constantly as this happens pretty fast. It shouldn't take more that 15 minutes total, depending on the type of oatmeal you use. You will know when it's done when it's soft. You will have to taste as you go to determine this, so add salt & pepper as needed.

Turn off the heat, add the thyme, green onion, and parmesan. Stir it up. To serve, add a little more parmesan on top. Enjoy your fancy pants breakfast!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Don't Be Scared: Brussels Sprouts with Bulgur

I'm all about facing fears. Got certified to SCUBA dive even though I'm afraid of drowning and of the ocean. Took a job at a middle school last year even though tweens terrify me.

One fear I'd avoided facing in my adult life had been the brussels sprout. I was tortured with this vegetable as a young child. Our household growing up had a strict code of non-refusal. It just wasn't allowed to refuse food you were given. So I gagged my way through a brussels sprout or two, all the while my dad's words of encouragement to force down foods we didn't like was, "eat it! It makes ya regular!" Thanks dad, but staying regular is not a high priority for an eight-year-old.

But alas, like other foods I disliked as a child, I suspected my opinion of brussels sprouts would morph over time. So, heart in throat, I roasted some up.

 Not only are they the cutest little vegetable on the block, they are pretty tasty, and surprisingly versatile. Can't wait to experiment more with them.

What foods did you hate as a kid but have grown to love as an adult?

Brussels Sprouts with Bulgur
serves 2

For the sprouts:
1 pound brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced in half
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

For the bulgur:
2 TBL olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup bulgar
salt & pepper
2 1/2 cup boiling water

parmesan cheese to serve

Heat oven to 375. In a bowl, toss the sprouts with the olive oil, vinegar, and some salt & pepper. I didn't specify amounts because you just need to eyeball this one as each sprout should be coated.

Place the sprouts cut side down in a baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Turn sprouts over and roast for another 10 minutes.

While the sprouts are in the oven, heat a small sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute the garlic and pepper flakes in olive oil. Once the garlic becomes aromatic, add the dry bulgur and toast for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the boiling water, cover, and allow to rest 20-30 minutes or until tender and water is absorbed. This may vary depending on the coarseness of your bulgur, coarser bulgur will need to sit longer, and you may need to drain off some of the liquid when ready.

To serve, place some bulgur on a plate, top with brussels sprouts, and grate some parmesan over all. Enjoy!


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