14 July 2009

Vanilla Bean Sale

If you're in the market for vanilla beans, look no further than Amazon.com's grocery section. I never would have thought to look for them on Amazon, but the prices are great and I've heard from several people who have ordered them and been extremely pleased with the quality of the product. I'm really looking forward to attempting Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and other delicious vanilla-y treats once I receive my order!

**The photo above came from the Amazon link in this post**

13 July 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

I love to try new things, and when Kristi and I wandered through the Natural Foods section of Stop & Shop yesterday, I saw something that I just had to experiment with - chocolate hemp milk.

Hemp milk is made using the seeds of the hemp plant. It's a delicious alternative for vegans, since they do not consume dairy products. The Global Healing Center explains the benefits of choosing hemp milk, including lots of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, protein, potassium, and tons of vitamins and minerals. They also have directions for making your own organic hemp milk, which is definitely a step farther than I'm interested in going at this time.
I made an amazing smoothie with the chocolate hemp milk - you could definitely use regular milk, chocolate milk, chocolate soy milk, etc. to get a very similar effect.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 banana, cut into chunks and frozen
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 c. chocolate hemp milk

Blend all ingredients until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add more chocolate milk. If mixture is too thin, add banana or ice cubes.

This smoothie is so decadent - it would be great for dessert or as a meal replacement. The chocolate hemp milk and peanut butter make it rich and creamy, and the fresh banana flavor prevents it from being too sweet. If you aren't feeling adventurous enough to try chocolate hemp milk, definitely make the smoothie with your own favorite kind of chocolate milk.

06 July 2009

Hummingbird Nectar

We love our hummingbird feeder. We have two hummingbirds that come to the feeder, which hangs right outside our kitchen window. In this photo, you can see the green door that leads into our laundry room, so we have two vantage points from inside the house. There is also a chair in the corner of the front porch, almost under the feeder, and our hummingbirds have been known to come eat while Andrew and Finn are sitting right under it! We are still working on getting a great shot of them feeding - they come and go so quickly!

We make your own hummingbird nectar and replace what's left in the feeder every week or so. Just rinse the feeder with hot water. If it gets sticky, moldy, or dirty, you can wash it with white vinegar (don't use soap, as any residue may be harmful to the birds).

Hummingbird Nectar

4 parts water
1 part sugar

Whisk water and sugar together in a saucepan (I usually use 4 cups water, 1 cup sugar) and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool. Store any extra nectar in the refrigerator.

You can buy a feeder for $10-$15, make the food yourself, and in no time, you'll have hummingbirds flocking to your yard too!

Garbage Bag Caesar Salad

My step-mother-in-law, Ann, has several signature dishes. One that Andrew and I both adore is her garbage bag Caesar salad. It's a simple recipe that always comes out yummy, and the um, unconventional method is a great conversation starter!

Ann's Garbage Bag Caesar Salad

1 large head romaine lettuce (or 2 hearts of romaine)
5-8 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
Caesar salad dressing (Ann likes Wishbone!)
1 clean garbage bag

Wash lettuce and lay leaves on paper towels, pat dry. Tear or cut leaves into bite-size pieces. Place lettuce and cheese in garbage bag, add dressing to taste. Knot garbage bag, shake salad to mix, and store in fridge about 30 minutes. When you're ready to serve, empty bag into serving bowl and toss with croutons.

Andrew and I were trying to save money, so we made ours in a Giant Eagle grocery store bag, but hey, it worked! We did double up the bag for the tossing of the salad, just in case. I definitely recommend using shredded cheese rather than grated - the larger pieces of cheese stand up to the dressing better.

A co-worker of ours once attempted the salad but couldn't figure out why it smelled and tasted sort of...off. Ann quizzed her on the brands of cheese and salad dressing, whether she washed the lettuce, etc. Somehow, Ann was able to figure out that our friend had made quite the mistake - she had tossed the salad in a scented garbage bag! No wonder her salad had an interesting aftertaste of lavender and chemicals!

Save for the rare error in garbage bag selection, this salad is easy to put together, a guaranteed hit, and just as fitting for weeknight meals as it is for fancier weekend dinners.

05 July 2009

Garlicky Crescent Rolls

I must admit, I occasionally rely on dough that comes in tubes. I like to dress them up so they're not quite so plain.

This time, I took crescent rolls, spread them with butter, and sprinkled with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and parsley. Then I just rolled them up and baked according to the package directions.

These garlicky crescent rolls are a little nicer than just slapping the dough out of the tube, without taking any more time or effort. I like to have bread with my meals and this is an easy way to make that happen!