Everyday Inspirations



After Saturday training runs, Dan and I like to grab lunch on the way home. We often find ourselves at Salt Lake City's Whole Foods market because they have a variety of quick, healthy options that don't make us feel like we've undone all our hard work.

When we walked in yesterday, I saw a special on artichokes. "Dan!" I called. "We have to make artichokes tonight." I excitedly picked out two of the biggest, most beautiful green artichokes.

I don't know about you, but I didn't grow up eating entire artichokes like this -- leaves and all. I had to learn how to make them later in life (I remember I used to look forward to picking up an artichoke for dinner during my senior year of college). Dan had never prepared one himself, and said what I think most people say when encountering this strange looking vegetable: "I wouldn't even know where to start."

{Easy Artichokes}
Serves 2

- 2 large artichokes
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Melted butter for dipping

To begin, put a large pot of water on the stove. Toss in the kosher salt, two smashed cloves of garlic, and two bay leaves (these ingredients will season the artichokes as they cook). Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse the artichokes in cold water and cut the stems with a knife so they're only about an inch long. You're also technically supposed to trim the points off the leaves at this time, but since I didn't have kitchen scissors, I ignored that step.
'Trim me!'
When the water is boiling, drop in your artichokes and cover the pot with a lid. Let the artichokes cook for 25-35 minutes, or until you can easily insert your knife into the bottom of the stem (mine only took 25 minutes). Remove from water and let cool. Serve with a side of melted butter.

Wait, wait, wait. How the heck do I eat this thing?

If you've never had artichokes before (or, at least, have never had them like this), you may look at it and think, "You have got to be kidding me." (The veggie is even more intimidating with a certain cook has ignored the trimming step and left the artichoke looking all fierce and pointy.)

Pull off one leaf at a time, starting with the lower outside leaves. The artichoke meat is at the end of the leaf --simply dip in butter and let your teeth scrape off the flesh (discard the rest). Repeat until you get to the core, the heart of the artichoke. The heart will be covered with soft, hairlike thistles. Peel back or scrape off the hair to enjoy the rest of your artichoke.

What do you like to dip your artichoke in? I'm a pretty simple gal... I love a dish of melted butter. I also know mayo is a favorite, but I'm not a big fan of it. Let us know if you have a to-die-for dip for your 'chokes.
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For several months now a few friends and co-workers have been telling me I need to join a local food co-op, Bountiful Baskets. In case you don't already know, a food co-op is a volunteer-powered food buying cooperative that benefits and strengthens communities. They generally are focused on providing natural, healthy foods that are more affordable to co-op members. The produce found is often locally grown, which both supports local farmers and decreases your footprint on Mother Earth. With Bountiful Baskets, $15 gets you a huge box full of 50% fruits and 50% veggies--may I add in much larger quantities than you could ever buy in most grocery stores. 

When I first heard about it, it sounded totally up my alley. I tried to order a few times and failed miserably because I had the wrong time of day and was going on way too late (luckily my good friend informed me or I may have given up)! Little did I know it was sort of like "stealing" for produce and you have to be on right at 10am when they go live if you live in a popular area like I do. Suddenly I found myself nervous, frantic, and desperate to get my deal, much like the moms of BabySteals I see everyday with my job. I made a quick decision and ordered three baskets--the basic fruit and veggies basket, a tropical basket, and a case of strawberries.
I couldn't be happier with all the fun produce I got. It was so much for the price and now my house is loaded with delicious, healthy food. I am especially excited for the tropical basket (pictured above). It may be snowing outside, but it's a tropical party at my house. Yes, those are vanilla beans in there too. So excited to try some new recipes with them.

Which gets me to the next great part of all of this--you don't know what you're going to get when you purchase. This may not be ideal for certain things, but on an everyday basis the challenge of cooking with a new ingredient you haven't used too much before is so fun! It's sort of like mystery ingredients on Iron Chef. This week: vanilla bean and this mystery...squash? Not entirely sure what it is yet (feel free to enlighten me if you know), but I have several to experiment with now. If nothing else, it looks like Daisy is pretty intrigued. She jumped in the picture and was crying for me to share with her so it must be something good. Should be fun!  

To find a food co-op in your area, click here

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent Steal Network’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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molten chocolate cake recipe
There are really no words to describe the happiness that are these individual molten chocolate cakes. Just be sure you have some milk nearby, because these sure are rich. Perfect to serve with berries, ice cream or whipped cream, but also delightful just on their own. You need to make these because...wow...just wow. 

{Molten Chocolate Cake}

Chocolate center:
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 eggs yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup flour

To make chocolate centers, melt 2 ounces chocolate chips and whisk in cream until blended. Put in the refrigerator for about t2 wo hours. Roll into 6 balls and refridgerate until firm.

To make cake, preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray 6 ramekins with non-stick spray. Melt four ounces chocolate and chocolate and whisk until smooth. In a mixer, blend eggs, yolks, sugar and vanilla until thick and light (about 4-5 minutes). Add flour and chocolate mixture and stir in gently with a spoon. 

Place chocolate centers at the bottom of ramekins and pour in cake mixture until covered. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. 

Makes six servings. 

Molten lava cake
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There are a few simple ingredients I love so much that I swear I could write love songs about them. But I wouldn't subject you guys to that.

Case in point: corn tortillas. Oh, corn tortillas, I love you so much. You're so simple and beautiful and perfect. In fact, the only thing better than a corn tortilla is the amazing ingredients that get piled up in it... things like guacamole, chicken, cilantro, and onion.

On Sunday, Dan and I made us some homemade street tacos--which technically wouldn't be street tacos, as they were made and served in our kitchen. But I like the term "street tacos," so it stuck. Recipes like this make me so darn happy because not only are they delicious, but they are also chock-full of good-for-you ingredients. I love leaving the grocery store with a cart full of fresh produce. I also love that you can make these tacos your own. We made chicken tacos on Sunday, but it's also super easy to substitute pork, beef, or shrimp, or to go completely vegetarian.

Dan 'n' Smash's "Street" Tacos
For the Chicken
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips or chunks
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
Ancho chili pepper
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Season your chicken with the cumin, ancho chili pepper, and salt and pepper (to your taste). In a pan, warm up the olive oil and add the onions, cooking until translucent. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds (no burning!). Add your chicken and cook through.

For the Salsa
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, drained
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the ingredients, and please, customize as you like! Let the salsa sit while you cook--it can only get better.

For the Guacamole
Two avocados
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 tomato, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mash avocados together with the garlic. Gently stir in the tomatoes. This is my idea of heaven.

When everything is ready, assemble your ingredients in the corn tortillas. Add a squeeze of lime. Smile.
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Guiltless chocolate chip cookies
We all try to eat healthy, but let's face it, we all get cravings for our favorite treats. One of my most common cravings is a grand, old classic: the chocolate chip cookie. I love to bake, but I know as soon as I make cookies I'll want to eat them all--not so good for my waistline. So I decided to rework a few recipes to make this healthy substitution. With no added sugar, butter or oil, they provide the taste you crave with the guilt-free contents you need. 

{Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies}

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg
2 tablespoons honey

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded  
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine the bananas, vanilla, almond extract, applesauce, egg and honey. In a separate bowl stir together oats, flour, coconut, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans. Drop spoonfuls of the dough about an inch apart onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes. 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


healthy chicken pot pie
Even Daisy protested the snow.
Yesterday I looked to the sky and cursed the heavens. Why must there be more snow? I am ready for spring sunshine and rainstorms--not six inches of white stuff in the backyard. I was seriously moody about the whole thing and so not inspired. As I drove to the grocery store, I just wanted some nice, warm comfort food. Enter my puff pastry chicken pot pies. But because I'm always trying to make my meals a little healthier, I made sure to keep this as low-cal as possible. This recipe packs a lot of flavor with all the comfort I wanted in the balanced meal I needed.  

{Puff Pastry Chicken Pot Pies}

1 package puff pastries (6 shells)
olive oil
6 green onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon parsley
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 cups mixed vegetables, frozen
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven and bake puff pastry as directed. Saute onion, garlic and spices in a medium pan. Add chicken and stir until cooked. Add vegetables and broth and bring to a simmer for about five minutes. Pour in milk and sprinkle with flour, stirring until thick. Remove the tops from the puff pastry and spoon in filling. Bake for five more minutes and serve. 
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immune system food
Okay, I don't know about you, but it seems like everyone and their dog is sick (except perhaps me and my dog). My husband, half the people at my work, my friends, the list goes on--it seems that everyone is coming down with something right now. Beware! 

Because of this, I have been feeling like my immune system needs a bit of a boost to keep unwanted illness away. Being the good wife I am, before my hubby went off to work today, I made a little shake (little did he know it was as much for me as for him...did I mention I don't want to get sick?)

So what helps the immune system? Antioxidants. The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E which can be found in some of the more colorful fruits and veggies. You get the best benefit from antioxidants when they are raw--enter my cantaloupe, spinach and orange shake. Sound weird? We'll it's actually quite delicious and contains all three types of antioxidants: cantaloupe has beta-carotene, spinach has vitamin E and oranges have vitamin C. I added in the vanilla protein powder just because I like the flavor and creamy texture it provides, but you can certainly use another smoothie powder or yogurt. When you mix it all up, I'll be honest, it looks a tiny bit scary (try to remember back to art class mixing orange and green paint), but I promise, your immune system will thank you. 

{Cantaloupe, Spinach and Orange Shake}

1/2 cup cantaloupe, frozen
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 an orange
1/2 a scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup water

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth. Quarantine yourself away from sick people or if you're already sick, feel better. 
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Valentine-themed cupcakes are obviously a few weeks late, but they were SO GOOD I just had to share.

We got together with my family the Sunday before Valentine's Day and it was my job to make dessert. A few weeks earlier I had watched Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) make a drool-worthy coconut cake. I figured cupcakes may be a little easier (and cuter), so I went online to find the recipe. But that clever Ina -- she already had a cupcake recipe ready to go, so all I had to do was shop, bake, and enjoy.

These cupcakes are... incredible. There is no other word. I sampled a dangerous amount of batter but I could not stop. I also told Dan about a hundred times that we should have this very cake at our wedding.

The cupcakes are chock-full of coconut and have a hint of almond extract. That little surprise is brilliant and completely takes the cupcakes to a new level. My only feedback on the whole recipe is to divide the frosting recipe in half. It makes a TON, and even after coating the cupcakes with it, I had leftover frosting. You know I don't like wasting anything.

I can't wait to make this cake again on a warm summer afternoon.
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~ food ~

spinach and cheese stuffed chicken
Packed with flavor, this chicken not only pleases your palate, but is also quite healthy. To save even more calories, replace the ricotta with low-fat cottage cheese. Even better, it looks impressive but is incredibly easy to whip up for guests or for the family.

{Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken}

2 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 handful fresh spinach
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Heat olive oil in a saute pan at medium heat. Add garlic and spinach and saute quickly, until slightly wilted. Scoop into a bowl and set aside leaving oil in pan. Mix the ricotta cheese with the spinach. Salt and pepper the chicken as desired. Scoop 1/4 of the the spinach and cheese mixture into the center of the chicken breast and roll up, securing with a toothpick. Lightly brown the chicken in the saute pan for about 3 minutes on each side. Then transfer to an oven-safe dish and cook Cook about 10 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked.

Now let's not forget the winners of our anniversary week contest.

The winner of the handmade earrings is...
Jennifer B.

The winner of the custom handmade apron is...
Teri [a foodie stays fit]

Congratulations ladies! We will be contacting you shortly for your winning information.

Winners were chosen using random.org. All comments, tweets, and new followers were eligible. People with more than one entry were counted multiple times.
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~ food ~

Romantic dinner for two? No problem. If you are planning Valentine's Day in or just a romantic night with your sweetheart, this is a perfect meal to impress. These recipes are simple to prepare, but so full of flavor your love will be convinced you're a gourmet chef. A hint, get everything you can prepared or chopped in advance so you can focus on your time together. You've already got the table set to go, now let's get cooking! 

{Gorgonzola Walnut Chicken}

2-3 chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups chicken stock, low sodium
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons fresh basil, diced

Season chicken with salt and pepper. If breasts are thick, slice in half horizontally. In a large skillet melt butter with olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken 4 minutes, turn over and cook 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Remove to a warm platter covered in foil. Add chicken stock to skillet and boil on high for 1 minute. Stir in cream and cheese. Cook until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.

{Vinaigrette Marinated Tomatoes}

2-3 tomatoes
1/2 cup Balsamic vinaigrette

Slice tomatoes and put in a shallow dish. Cover with vinaigrette and marinate for at least 20 minutes. Can be prepared in advance. 

{Ice Cream Rolled in Toasted Coconut}

Ice cream (vanilla bean, pineapple, strawberry, or other)
Sweetened coconut
Optional for hearts: chocolate chips

Heat up the oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on a cookie sheet and let toast in oven until lightly browned. Remove and let cool. Scoop ice cream balls using a scoop. Drop into coconut and roll around with fingers. Place in freezer to let set up. To make heart melt chocolate and using a spoon, draw hearts on a sheet of wax paper. Set in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.  

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