Monthly Archives: March 2012

Even little chefs need a break sometimes

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Hola amigos! Long time no see. Did you miss me? Sorry I went MIA for so long, but I was taking a much needed rest. The past couple months have been totally loco around here and I was beginning to feel the effects of too much action and not enough down time. Therefore I took the opportunity this past week to unplug from the both the computer and the kitchen and just chill. Mis padres went on vacation to Disney World (without me!!! how dare they!!!) and I got to stay with mis abuelos for the week (the other most magical place on Earth). Boy did those two spoil me rotten. So many cuddles and so much lap-time. And unlike mi mama and papa who are total dunces when it comes to cooking, both mi abuelo and abuela are fantastic cooks and don’t require my culinary genius-ness in the kitchen. Thus allowing me to just relax on my favorite blanket with a rawhide and a Greenie and wait for them to finish what they’re doing so I can make the rounds licking cleaning up their kitchen floor. Now pair that with the half dozen or so baby carrots I was able to lure from mi abuela on a daily basis, and I was definitely living the life. Not that I don’t totally deserve it. I don’t know of too many other 8 year-old Chihuahuas who do so much for so many other people. I’m such a giver. There really should be a museum named after me. Or at least a dog park.

So now that mis padres are back in town and I’m back in my own house and my own kitchen, I’ve been cooking like crazy and doing what I can to get back into the groove. The break was nice, but I definitely love being back to my culinary ways. I can rest when I’m dead (which will be many many many years from now I promise, Mama).

One of the first meals I made once I got home was this quick and easy one-pot dish that is a healthier spin on Hamburger Helper’s Chili Mac. This version contains ground turkey breast and an abundance of vegetables and spices. So yummy, so delicious and on the table in less than 30 minutes.

So there you have it compadres. Teeny’s back and better than ever. And a year older than when last I posted. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention I celebrated my 8th birthday this past Sunday? Feliz Cumpleanos to me! And check out the great presents I received.

Doesn’t get better than this 🙂

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Better call in Kevorkian

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Well it finally happened. As much as I had hoped and prayed we could go through the whole winter without it happening, it did. It first took hold of mi papa over the weekend and unfortunately, it’s now grabbed mi mama by its grasps and all hell has broken loose. What is it, you may be asking? Well, mi amigos, it seems mi mama has come down with a nasty cold. And by nasty, I mean, when she gets sick, things turn nasty.

We tried to keep this from happening, we really did. When mi papa first began displaying signs and symptoms of his sickness, we tried to quarantine him to the bedroom and attempted to keep him as far away from mi mama as possible. The haz-mat suits were donned and the house was sanitized on an hourly basis. I made chicken soup and slipped Nyquil and Vitamin C tablets under the door to his room. And yet despite all these efforts, she still awoke this morning with the dreaded illness no one (especially me) wanted her to come down with. It’s not that I really mind sick people. Heck, they make the best laps to sit on due to their maintaining the same position for hours and sometimes days at a time. I don’t even mind the coughing and hocking of mucous so much either. What I do mind, though, is the constant whining and complaining and the complete lack of usefulness that generally seems to occur when some people are sick. And by some people, I specifically mean mi mama. Talk about drama.

You would think she’s on her death bed the way she moans and groans and refuses to do anything other than lie on the couch watching reruns of Project Runway and Jersey Shore. All household chores cease to get done, there are used tissues and snot rags laying all around the house and dirty soup dishes in the sink. She wears the same crusty sweats and slippers for days at a time, and I’m pretty certain neither bathing of the body nor washing of the hair takes place during this week of fun either. Basically our home completely shuts down for the week and mi papa and I spend as much time as possible out “running errands” and “taking care of important business,” until things return back to normal and she starts to resemble a human being again.

We’re currently in Day 1, so wish us some luck. And please do yourself and everyone you know a favor and stay as far away from our home as possible. Unless of course, you like watching crappy reality television with a stinky she-devil. Then by all means, come on over and take her off our hands for awhile… but be careful, she bites.

So anyway, not to change the subject (because I’m sure you really want to keep hearing about snot and phlegm), I would like to share with you a recipe I made last week, back before all this chaos began. I promise it has nothing to do with bodily fluids or sicknesses and everything to do with delicious sauces and cheeses and butternut squashes all brought together in a decadent and totally delicoso vegetarian lasagna. Seriously, this might be my best main dish recipe to date. Just ask mi abuela 🙂

Alright mis compadres, that’s all I’ve got for now. I just heard mi mama making some noise from beneath her blanket on the couch, and I’m going to try to find a place to hide before she grabs ahold of me to cuddle with her.

Maybe if I stay really still and keep my eyes closed, she’ll think I’m a plant.

Rainy days and Sundays always get me down

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Well, unfortunately I think I may have spoken too soon. After pressing the publish button on Friday to post my last blog installment, the skies opened up and it’s been pouring down rain ever since. The blue skies have turned back to gray and the warm temperatures have cooled way down and I’m back wearing my knitted sweaters and furry slippers (oh yes, I have furry slippers). I guess that silly groundhog was right, and it really is going to be closer to April for it to be officially Spring-time. Some days I think I should just pack it up and move down to the Virgin Islands to be with my Tio Tony. From what I hear, days down in the islands are spent sunbathing on the beach, staring out at the clear turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean, all the while sipping fruity concoctions with little umbrellas in hollowed out pineapples… sounds muy bueno to me. Not at all like my typical day up here in Oregon which mostly consists of shivering profusely under a pile of blankets, staring out the living room window at the howling winds and rain, all the while praying for mi papa to come home soon so I have a warmer lap to sit on and a bowl of plain old tap water to drink… with no little umbrellas, of course. Not exactly living the dream. So if you’re reading this, Tony, I’ve checked my schedule and I’m pretty much free and available to come visit you anytime in the near future… seriously, anytime. I don’t shed much and I eat very little. My poops are fairly small and I sleep a good portion of the day. I’m sort of like a furry, mute newborn, except I can cook meatloaves and bake cupcakes and lick my own eyeball with very little effort. Now if that hasn’t sold you on the idea of my coming down for a visit, well then I don’t know what else will.

Actually I may have one more thing up my sleeve in order to persuade you. I promise if you let me come visit you, I will make you this incredibly delicious breakfast bread every day of my visit. Or at least until you get so sick of it that blueberries and bananas are beginning to seep out through your pores and you beg for some homemade strawberry doughnuts instead. Or a cranberry-pecan coffee cake, perhaps. Or maybe even some apple-cinnamon muffins. Seriously, Tio Tony, whatever you want hombre. Just send me an invite and we can make this happen. In the meantime, drool a little over this lovely baked beauty.

Alright, that’s all the begging asking politely I can handle for right now. My paws are getting cold from typing and I think mi papa is home to warm me up before bedtime.

Hey, I’m down here Big Guy.

Well hello Sun, nice to see you again!

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I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but it’s sure beginning to feel like Spring around here. I awoke this morning from my slumber to be greeted by something I hadn’t seen in quite a long time– sunshine! Oh glorious sunshine, how I’ve missed you. I was beginning to think we might never meet again, but alas, there you were. Peeking in through my curtains and shining your rays so intensely and bright. Growing up in the South, I pretty much took sunny days for granted because there were so many of them throughout the year and so few cold and rainy ones. Winter would come and go in the blink of an eye with my barely feeling the need to don one of my cute little sweaters. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, though, cold and rainy is used almost on a daily basis when describing the weather forecast. Definitely not ideal for a little guy from Mexico with very thin skin and a genetic-predisposition for shaking. News flash, it’s not because I’m scared. It’s because I’m f-f-f-f-f-reezing. My wardrobe has gone from being only for show and to increase my cute-factor, to being a total necessity and a matter of life or death. So sorry Papa, but I actually need to wear those clothes, so please stop trying to convince mi mama otherwise.

So back to the beautiful day that I found myself being able to enjoy this morning. I had originally planned to make some sort of soup or warm casserole for mis padres this afternoon for lunch, but given the blue skies and increase in outdoor temperature, I decided to switch it up a bit and save that idea for another rainy day (probably tomorrow, but oh well). Instead, I made a cold pasta salad which I kind of just threw together at the last minute using a bunch of ingredients I already had on hand, and it actually ended up being quite delicioso. Give it a try and you’ll probably agree.

Cold Vegetable Tortellini Salad

1 package Three Cheese Tortellini

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped

2 cups baby tomatoes, chopped in half

2 large red bell peppers, stems removed, seeded and cut into quarters*

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Cook tortellini according to package directions. Add broccoli to water during the last minute of cooking. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside in a large bowl. Add cherry tomatoes to bowl.

2) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers on baking sheet and coat with olive oil cooking spray. Roast in oven until peppers are blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

*You could probably use pre-made roasted bell peppers from a jar too and save yourself some time. I just happened to have fresh bell peppers in my fridge calling out to me to be used for this dressing (yes, my food talks to me sometimes).

3) Place peppers, olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, cheese, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth.

4) Pour dressing over pasta and veggies. Toss to mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Top with more Parmesan just before serving.

So there you have it. Simple, tasty and perfect for a warm, Spring day when you don’t want to crank up the oven or spend hours over a hot stove. Plus it gives you more time to enjoy some of the outdoor activities you love but miss out on when it’s raining.

Like trying to balance yourself on only your front legs….

Grrr, almost there.

Superfood and Super News

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First off, I have to tell you some exciting news that occurred over the weekend. Mi mama’s younger brother, Tio Tony, and his lady love became engaged and plan to get married sometime soon– Woohoo! Which means I’m going to have a brand new tia who can spoil me and love on me and scratch my belly and sneak me carrots and Greenies, as well as a totally new lap to sit on. Oh happy day! I still haven’t met her yet as she and Tio Tony have been out of the country for the past month and a half but I plan to mark my territory welcome her with open paws in May when they get back into town. Felicitaciones to the happy couple!

In other exciting news, mi mama came home with a huge carton of fresh blackberries from Costco on Saturday! Okay so maybe it’s not as exciting as an engagement but it sure did make me happy. I love fresh berries and blackberries are one of my favorites to use in healthy recipes for mi familia. Considered a superfood by nutritionists and dietitians, blackberries are among the top ten antioxidant-containing foods. They are high in fiber as well as Vitamins A, C, E and K, all of which help prevent cancers and heart disease. All this wrapped up into a plump little purple berry that looks adorable and tastes muy delicioso. Oh and did I mention blackberries grow as wild and crazy here in the great state of Oregon during the summer months as the back hair grows on mi papa’s best friend’s Italian great-uncle Vincenzo. Pretty fantastico, if you ask me.

I began thinking of all the wonderful ways in which I could use these little nutrient-packed powerhouses, and after throwing around ideas such as, in smoothies or cobblers, I finally settled on coffee cake. But not just any kind of coffee cake. A blackberry-almond coffee cake. Yowza! Talk about tasty. And with the addition of almonds (also a superfood) this ended up being one healthy and antioxidant-rich little breakfast treat.

Blackberry-Almond Coffee Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tbsp butter or Earth Balance, softened to room temperature

2 tbsp canola or safflower oil

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup plain low or nonfat yogurt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon ( I recommend Vietnamese)

2/3 cup chopped almonds

1 cup fresh blackberries

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8″ square cake pan with cooking spray.

2) Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl.

3) In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter and oil until well combined. Beat in the eggs and then the vanilla and yogurt until fully combined.

4) Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

5) In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cinnamon and almonds.

6) Spread half the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the almond mixture on top of the batter and top with the blackberries. Spoon the rest of the batter over the berries, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture over the cake.

7) Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Let cool slightly and then unmold to allow to cool completely on a cooling rack (or just leave it in the pan, if you wish).

So there you have it. Two exciting items I just shared with you today. An engagement and a coffee cake. Talk about a great start to the week, if I do say so myself… and I do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a meeting with a couple of the local ducks down the street about the upcoming neighborhood picnic. They’re requesting I bring loaves of bread… shocking.