Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lunch in a Box: Hatch Chile Quinoa Cakes

It's Hatch Chile season, and I was inspired to make something with these hot peppers. Hank recently ate some Hatch Chile cakes and loved them, so I figured I could throw a few ingredients together to make something healthy and delicious. Mission accomplished!

**Fun facts about Hatch Chiles:
1 chile contains the same amount of vitamin C as 6 oranges
They trigger a thermodynamic burn, which speeds up metabolism
The chemical that makes chiles hot is also used in patches for sore muscles

This isn't the quickest dish to make, given that you have to cook some quinoa AND roast chiles ahead of time- but overall it's not too bad. Roasting the chiles should only take you about 25 minutes. Just place them under the broiler on high for about 6-7 minutes per side, then flip. Make sure you get the skins nice and blistered. Immediately put them in a ziploc or paper bag and let them steam for about 10 more minutes- this will make it easy to pull the skins right off. After you pull the skins off, seed them and chop them up. Done.

The Holland House: Roasted Hatch Chiles
Roasted Hatch Chile Peppers

The Holland House: Hatch Chile Quinoa Cakes
Just a few simple ingredients.

Hatch Chile Quinoa Cakes
(makes 12 small cakes)

4 roasted Hatch chiles (seeded and diced)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup diced onion (red or yellow works best)
1/2 cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400º.

1. Put the first four ingredients in a large bowl and stir together. Add the beaten egg and mix well. This will be a fairly wet mix.
2. Drop a good spoonful onto a sprayed baking sheet. You want the cakes to be about 2-3" in diameter.  Shape into a circle using the spoon.
3. Bake for 12 minutes on each side, until crispy and slightly browned.

The Holland House: Hatch Chile Quinoa Cakes

I served the cakes over a kale salad with an orange vinaigrette, some lowfat cottage cheese and a mandarin. Easy, healthy and filling!

Monday, August 26, 2013

In The Kitchen With Georgia

Yesterday I got some much needed quality time with my sister, niece and nephew. It's rare that I get them to myself, and I was so thankful to Hank for excusing me from bathroom remodel work so that I could spend the afternoon with them.

Georgia went down for a nap when I got there, so I was able to get my baby fix with Blair- giving him a bottle and changing his diaper. My sister and I then headed to the outlet mall (with Blair in tow) to search for mirrors and lighting for the bathroom. (See...I really was doing something to contribute to the project.) The outlet mall was a train wreck, but it was still good to get out, and Blair slept through the entire trip. He really is the best baby ever!

The Holland House: Baby Blair
Just call him "Bruiser". Those cheeks!

After an unsuccessful shopping trip, we headed back to the house so that I could help Georgia make her "back to school" lunch, and also a few things that Holly could use in her lunches for the rest of the week. I had pinned a few recipes that I hoped Georgia would eat since she seems to have taken a turn towards being a picky eater these days.

First up were some Zucchini Tots from the always fabulous Skinnytaste page. My hope is that the addition of a little cheddar cheese, and the form of a mini muffin, would make these appealing to G. We'll see. She was a great helper and at least had fun making them with me!

We also cut up some fresh fruit, made some healthy chicken nuggets, and then her favorite- a Hello Kitty sandwich for her back to school lunch. She was bummed that she had to wait to eat it, but it was so cute watching her help make the face. I might not get a ton of time with her, but I felt like yesterday was a good quality day that hopefully she'll remember!

The Holland House: Georgia the helper
Apron on, ready to help!

The Holland House: Georgia the helper
Stirring the ingredients. Those curls just kill me.

The Holland House: Hello Kitty Sandwich
Excited about Hello Kitty!

The Holland House: Back to School Hello Kitty Lunch
Back to School Lunch

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bathroom Remodel: Shades of Gray

I've mentioned a bathroom remodel once or twice, and I'm hoping that by the end of this month Hank will be able to debut the before and after. We've tackled the hard job of painting, and are now stuck at choosing new light fixtures, and finding the time to actually complete the project. I keep telling myself we'll get there eventually.

I think the hardest task is behind us, and that involved choosing 2 shades of gray from literally hundreds of choices. That's like asking me to walk into H&M and put together a flattering and age appropriate outfit. It's a terrifying task, and one that I wasn't sure I was up to. But Hank was getting anxious to start the project, so I put on my big girl pants and got down to business.

Have you ever really considered just how many different shades of gray there? Like any other color, there are far too many. Trying to find one that says "calm and cool" was harder than I thought. But I think I did it! We had originally thought about using Revere Pewter as the neutral color for the house. But in my effort to remove all the brown, I decided it was too close to what we already had. I wanted a cool, inviting tone that we could use in most of our rooms. And that is how we ended up with Benjamin Moore's Gray Owl.
The Holland House: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

On our test patch in the master bath it looked much whiter, with a hint of a blue undertone (unlike the beige that I see in the color spot above). And since we were going for a spa-like, modern coastal look in our bathroom, we felt it was best to stay monochromatic. Enter the second color being used on our vanity, Whale Gray.

The Holland House: Benjamin Moore Whale Gray

Aren't they lovely? After choosing that color (we actually picked it out at the paint store) we went home to search it and find a little inspiration for bringing together the rest of our ideas. We both found this picture and loved the overall look.

The Holland House: Inspiration Cabinet

The hunt is now on for some acrylic door knobs/pulls, and a rug that will bring some color to the room. I'm so excited to see it all come together (and get my mirror back so that I can stop shuffling back and forth between our closet and the guest bath).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Life Lately

It's been a busy couple of weeks at The Holland House. From welcoming our new nephew, to starting a bathroom remodel, to making a quick trip to Oklahoma to visit Hank's family...there just hasn't been much free time for anything else. To top off all of that, our "baby" pup Brees graduated from her Puppy Training Class last night. We made it back just in time to pick her up from Mud Puppies (where she played for 4 days straight) and make it to the last class.

Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures to document our trip to Oklahoma, but I will share some recent pics from life lately.

The Holland House: Oklahoma Czech Building
Oklahoma Czech Hall in Yukon, OK

The Holland House: Blair and Georgia
Cutest baby ever, with the cutest big sis ever (and her crazy bed head)

The Holland House: Brees and Libby
Brees and new BFF Libby playing at Mud Puppies

The Holland House: Brees the Puppy Graduate
Our little girl is growing up so fast!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crispy Oven Okra

It's a slow week in the kitchen at The Holland House. Between a new nephew, a bathroom remodel, a husband out of town and an upcoming trip to Oklahoma, I just didn't have it in me to spend a few hours in the kitchen to prepare food for the week. The very least I can do is throw together a fairly simple and healthy dinner for one of the few nights we're home this week.

So let's talk about okra. Growing up, my experience with okra involved deep frying and ranch dip. Delicious, but not so healthy. It wasn't until about 4 years ago on a trip to the farmer's market that I realized how good okra could really be. A lady selling some told me to simply roast it in the oven with a little olive oil and salt. Easy enough, right? Plus, okra is high in fiber, vitamin C, folate and antioxidants, and is also a good source of calcium and potassium. So you know you're doing your body good by trying some that isn't deep fried.

When Hank and I were making a quick run through HEB Sunday night, I saw a beautiful container of okra and knew I could not leave the store without it. It fit the bill for an easy Monday night dinner. There isn't a ton of prep work to do, but it does take some time to get the okra nice and crispy. You have two options- low and really slow (if you want something closer to an okra chip), or high temp and not quite as slow. I went with option 2. The result is a fresh tasting, healthy, and slightly crispy okra that even makes a good snack all on its own.

The Holland House: Crispy Oven Okra
Four easy ingredients

The Holland House: Crispy Oven Okra
Chop oregano and mix with salt

The Holland House: Crispy Oven Okra
Drizzle okra with a little olive oil, and sprinkle on the seasonings

Crispy Oven Okra

1 bunch okra
handful fresh oregano
kosher salt
olive oil

1. Heat oven to 450º.
2. Wash and dry the okra.
3. Place okra on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1-2 tsp olive oil (don't overdo it or it will get soggy).
4. Chop fresh oregano (1-2 Tb will do)
5. Mix oregano and 1 tsp kosher salt, and then sprinkle over the okra.
6. Toss okra to get it well covered with oil and seasonings.
7. Roast in oven for 30 min, stirring on occasion to get all sides crispy.

The Holland House: Crispy Oven Okra
Final meal was pan seared tofu with brown rice and crispy okra. Little prep work, and a healthy dinner in just under an hour.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Aunt Mamy and Uncle Hank

After what felt like a year and a half of waiting, my sister had her second baby yesterday morning just after 8. We now have the most handsome little nephew, and we could not be more excited. It was a scheduled c-section (after a complicated delivery with Georgia), and the 3 hours that we had to wait before we could see him were so painful, but it was worth every second. He is precious, perfect, and just beyond adorable. Meet Blair William!

The Holland House: Blair William
The Holland House: Blair William

Georgia isn't quite sure what to think just yet. One moment she was shy, then the next she was all excited. I think it helps that "Blair" brought her a big sister present, complete with a Hello Kitty bag. Anyone who brings her presents is a friend in her eyes. I hope that she grows to love, protect, and help her little brother. There's nothing quite like being a big sister!

The Holland House: Georgia meets Blair

I'm looking forward to getting a little bit more snuggle time with him over the weekend, but then leaving my sister to rest and recover. I just can't wait to see him grow into the amazing little man he is destined to be.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lunch in a Box: {Healthier} Egg Salad Sandwich

There are few things I love more than a good egg salad sandwich. It's a guilty pleasure that I confess to eating more than I should. Since we're trying to eat "healthier" lunches, I knew I would have to find a way to lighten up egg salad if I wanted to continue eating it. I'll be the first to admit that this really doesn't taste nearly as decadent as the real thing. I mean- there is just no substitute for mayonnaise, and I refuse to buy the light version of it. So I pulled out my trusty tub of Greek Yogurt and set about finding a reasonable substitute for the full-fat kind.

The nice thing about making egg salad is that the flavors mesh a little more with each passing day. You can make this on Sunday and eat from it for about 3 days. I love being able to make things ahead! Another great thing about this recipe is that it's pretty open ended. I created the base, and you can add whatever flavors you want. Don't like dill? Add a little mint or chives instead. Like it spicy? Add some red pepper flakes. Mango chutney would also be a fun condiment, along with a dash of curry powder to give it a more exotic flare. The possibilities really are endless- just use your imagination, or whatever you happen to have in the pantry.

My fool-proof method for boiling eggs is this:

1- Place eggs in large pot and just barely cover them with water.
2- Bring water to a boil.
3- Turn off the heat and cover the pot for exactly 13 minutes. No more, no less.
4- Pour out the hot water and add ice/cold water to cool the eggs off.

Super special tip- It's also easier to peel eggs that are at least a few days old.

The Holland House: {Healthier} Egg Salad

The Holland House: {Healthier} Egg Salad
The Holland House: {Healthier} Egg Salad
{Healthier} Egg Salad
makes 4 servings

8 hardboiled eggs, with 3 yolks removed and set aside
2 T mustard (yellow or dijon are fine)
1 cup Greek Yogurt (I used 0% fat)
1 T chopped dill (or any fresh herb)
2 T finely diced red onion (white or yellow onion would work fine too)
salt and pepper to taste

1- Place hard boiled eggs in large bowl, and place 3 of the egg yolks in a separate smaller bowl.
2- Chop the egg yolks and add mustard, yogurt, dill and onion, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3- Use any appliance to chop the hard boiled eggs. I used a pastry blender which works great, but forks, a knife, or even a food processor would do.
4- Add wet mix to the chopped egg, and stir to combine- adjusting seasonings as needed.

Best guess for nutritional information (per the LoseIt app):

215 Calories
14g Fat (**to cut down on fat, you can easily remove egg yolks, and just use the egg whites)
180mg Sodium
3.1g Carb
0.1g Fiber
2.9g Sugar
17.3g Protein

The Holland House: {Healthier} Egg Salad

For lunch, I placed my sandwich components separately so that nothing would get soggy. I used spinach and tomato slices, along with 100 calorie multi-grain sandwich thins. I also added some leftover broccoli slaw from the weekend, and some fresh cut pineapple. Not a shabby lunch if you ask me! It was a little higher in fat than I would like (an easy fix can take care of that problem), but the calorie count was ok, and it was also high in protein. I'm definitely looking forward to playing around with the recipe and finding ways to make it taste even better.

Anyone else have any success stories in lightening up favorite recipes?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cookbook Club: Smitten Kitchen

When I went to visit my friend Allison recently (also one of the original members of our Cookbook Club), we lamented about how sad it is that we never took the time to document our adventures. It would have made such a great blog all on its own! From the characters and drama in relationships, to fantastic food and kitchen mishaps- there was never any shortage of entertainment. But we can't go back in time, so all I can do is change it going forward.

The Cookbook Club originally started in 2006 (I think) and consisted of around 7 or 8 girls (with 6 of us sharing 3 names- Erin, Audrey and Amy.) We have evolved over the years, but 2 of us still participate to this very day. We have studied a variety of cookbooks and blogs over the years, and are always trying to find something new and different to do.

Over the course of the past 6 weeks we have been cooking from Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We used her blog last year, and loved it so much that we had to try her book when it came out. One of my favorite things about Deb is that she is a self-taught and totally accessible cook. She does everything in a really tiny kitchen, and creates dishes that don't require expensive ingredients or trips to specialty stores. In fact, I have found that my (well stocked) pantry can accommodate most of her recipes without breaking the bank. She also has plenty of vegetarian offerings for those who don't eat meat. She's brilliant, really.

I made more recipes from her book that I have any other cookbook recently, and few really disappointed. There are many more that will be better fall dishes (meatloaf and mashed potatoes anyone?) that I can't wait to try when the weather is no longer too freaking hot to turn on my oven. A few of my favorites were the Mustared Milanese with an Arugula Fennel Salad, and the Broccoli Slaw that I made for our Cookbook Club get together.

The way our "club" works is that we choose a book, cook from it over a set period of time, and then get together for a Sunday meal to share what we learned, liked, and maybe wouldn't ever do again. The person who hosts cooks the main dish, and we sign up for what we'll bring when we RSVP to the evite. To my knowledge we have never had a meal that just didn't work- it always comes together so nicely. Plus, we get to spend a few hours with girlfriends (usually with a drink in hand) and you can never beat that.

Today's meal consisted of the following: Blue Cheese and Black Pepper Gougéres for starters, Corn-Risotto Stuffed Poblanos, Leek Fritters and Broccoli Slaw for the main course, and Rhubarb Hamantaschen for dessert. Erin also made the Spritzy Ginger Lemonade to serve with our food. Everything was amazing!

The Holland House: Cookbook Club

There were a few dishes (like the Spiced Turkey Meatballs) that all of us made, and also a few dishes where we had mixed results. It's always helpful to hear any tips or tweaks that others have used to make a successful dish.

Our next cooking project is not a book, but instead one of the top-ranked Austin cooking blogs, Love and Lemons. The couple focuses on healthy and seasonal food, and their blog is absolutely gorgeous. Looking forward to trying out many of their delicious looking recipes.

We're always on the hunt for new cookbooks and blogs, and I'd love to hear from readers if you have any recent favorites. It's never to early to start thinking about the next one.
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