Blissfully Delicious

blackbean chiliHello everyone, today is my first day back to work after 12 days off! Booo (sad face here).  I had a really nice time off: some relaxation, lots of family time, and I even managed to get some big “chores” done (because when I know that they’re done, I naturally feel less stressed). As a working parent, I don’t know how I would even balance my life without those vacation days. Seriously! Vacation days are meant for relaxation, but for me – sometimes they’re also a life saver in getting things done as well. Now, you’re probably thinking, why the heck did she post about chili in the middle of the summer? I mean, people don’t normally think about chili in the middle of the summer, right? Chili is actually one of the dishes that shows up throughout the year at our house. I feel like every day, I have lesser free time on my hands, so if I wanted my family to still eat home cooked meals, my cooking needs to be simpler. blackbean chili 2 This recipe is so wonderful because I can get both my protein and veggies in one pot so I don’t have to  make additional sides (like vegetable or potatoes or other form of carbs). I also add some leftover chopped zucchini and a generous amount of corn to give this chili a summer flavor, and have a pretty healthy meal without needing anything extra. You can omit those if you wish, but if you do, you’d have to adjust down some of the spices. I also love that this recipe uses black bean as a variation to the traditional red beans used in most chili. This dish is also wonderful as a leftover and stays pretty good in the refrigerator for a few days. With school season starting up around the corner, you can always make an extra batch for the freezer, for a quick healthy dinner in the future. Finally, you can really fancy up this dish into an elegant summer dinner with friends and family with a variety of toppings such as crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheeses, avocado, homemade salsa, etc. Since I’m still working on downloading my vacation pictures, I thought that I’d share one with you of the two kids together playing by the lake.

If I could eat one vegetable for the rest of my life, it would be broccoli. Hands down. But get this, I don’t really love them raw. I would definitely eat them raw on a vegetable platter, but I’m just not a big fan. I prefer them gently steamed, so it’s just perfect to my liking – not too hard and raw, but also not too mushy. Just enough texture to the touch, with a teeny bit of crunch. I would then sprinkle them with some spices, and that’s it. With my son actually really liking broccoli right now, we have been eating a lot of broccolis at our house. If I have a little bit extra time, I also love roasting them with garlic.  While I don’t like fresh garlic on my steamed broccoli, I really love them roasting them. All of the garlic bits and pieces will then blend nicely with the olive oil and broccoli, you just need to make sure that they don’t burn, so you have to watch them closely in the oven. If you don’t want to deal with keeping an eye on the garlic burning, you can skip them altogether. This method is pretty much applicable to any other vegetables as well. I love roasting several variety of fall vegetables. You can fancy them up with fresh herbs, and garlic, or leave them with just olive oil, and the good old fashioned pairing of salt and pepper.

avocado toast Wahoo! I’m finally done with work for the next 12 days, yeah, that’s right, you heard me. We’re going on a short vacation trip to Minneapolis next week, but my hubby isn’t going to be off until next week, which means that I’d have a few days to myself. Being the nice person that I am,  I thought that I’d work on my glamourous “to-do” list for the family that just doesn’t seem to ever end: oil changes for example, I mean fun right? And catching up on things that I don’t normally get to do like the kids’ photo books, this blog (ehm!), and mailing out pictures (do post offices still exist by the way?). Doing laundry also doesn’t seem to be too bad when I’m not rushing through the loads.
avocado toast 2 This recipe that I wanted to share with you today is a really simple. It is so simple that it’s probably shouldn’t be called a recipe. This open-faced sandwich can be enjoyed anytime; and it is a winner at my house, because each member of the family can eat a portion of this sandwich. My kiddos love the eggs and prosciutto, with toasts and jam or Nutella separately. But I love mine stacked like that.  I have always loved avocados, and love eating them on everything. But buying them is pretty tricky. If you buy them too ripe, you’ll have to eat them immediately – and still run the risk of them being too ripe (and nasty!). But if you buy them too early, you’d have to watch it closely and wait until you “think” that it’s ready to be enjoyed, or if you open them too early, then you have the tough flesh that isn’t as creamy. When you do find the ripe ones though, I love eating mine with a toasted crusty bread, eggs, and prosciutto. It really just doesn’t get better than this. I put generous sprinkle of coarse salt, and even add Sriracha sometimes. Perfection on a plate!

baked blueberry pancakeHappy Monday everyone! I’m really excited to have two working days this week, and then a week and a half weeks off, that’s right! I have been gorging on (ehm, I mean, enjoying) all kind of fruits this summer … and I mean, literally! I have been eating them in yogurt, snacking them by handful as I walk by my kitchen (which is probably every 10 seconds during the weekend), and eating them at work. Those juicy nectarines get a little tricky sometime though with its juice running down my fingers, and the sweet cherries with its gorgeous dark red stain. Eating them literally requires me so much extra work (like stuffing extra paper towel in my purse, and to remember that I don’t wear any light colored blouses so the stain doesn’t look too be obvious!), that the best place to eat them in literally in my kitchen, hovering over my sink, with a kitchen towel nearby. Summer fruits remind me how much I truly love fruits.
baked blueberry pancake 2 While my daughter isn’t necessarily in love with them right now, I try to convince myself that it is just a stage, and I keep on buying fruits and eating them in front of her, with a hope that one of these days, she’ll join me in enjoying the purest treat of the summer. My son, on the other hand, is a little fruit eating machine right now. He’ll steadily munch on blueberries and strawberries to my heart’s delight. I finally had enough strain to save some and turn them into this super-easy peasy blueberry pancake.  What’s special about this pancake though? It is oven baked, so I just prepare the batter, throw them into the oven, and that’s it! No more standing over the kitchen for me while my kids are whining to get their breakfast first, and my hubby trying to calm them down with a handful of cereals or yogurt. I first made them a couple of months ago, and we gobbled it up so quickly that I didn’t take a picture to share with you until probably the fourth time I made it. Nowadays, I had to force myself to stop enough blueberries that I can have this for breakfast. Give this one a try and let me know.

summer minestrone
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a nice long holiday weekend with your loved one celebrating our nation’s holiday. I spent my entire weekend hanging out with my babies; and probably ate way too much like I normally do on holiday weekends. To make up for all of the food that I ate, I figured that I’d present you with this “I can’t believe this yummy soup is actually pretty darn healthy” recipe! Every single time I visit our local farmer market, I have this huge urge to fill up my basket with as many veggies and fruits as possible. It makes me want to snack on a piece of freshly harvested carrot instead of a perfectly fried Vietnamese egg-roll with the flakiest skin dipped in a chili sauce (just kidding! Well, maybe semi-kidding!). Sometimes, I have to quickly think on my feet on what I could use the ingredients for. If I can’t think of an idea or two of what I could use them for in the short future, I have to pass. It is such a torture to have to walk away from a beautiful basket of mushrooms for example, or a small pint of perfect blackberries, because I can’t think of what to use them for. I cook most of our meals on the weekends, which means that I have to make sure that I plan on using up the vegetables within the next few days, or I’d probably end up tossing them.

summer minestrone 2
Now that our youngest son is eating table food; (and when I said “eating”, I mean that pretty loosely), I have to think of whether there are some part of the dish that he can eat. He has successfully eaten peas, sweet corn, broccoli (he’s my son after all!), potatoes, and beans. But others? Hmm… not much. Instead of trying to cook for three different palettes, I try to make something that everyone may eat (see that I use the word “may”?). This soup, however, I thought, may solve my problems! I can now grab one of each of the perfect summer produce: a yellow squash, a shiny zucchini, a couple of perfect orange carrots even with speckles of dirts, a few stalks of celery leaves, an earthy red onion, and eggplant, maybe even tomatoes. All of the beautiful veggies in the market can now go into my basket. This soup, filled full with every bit of summer vegetables, is both light and hearty; and still very much comforting, like soups should, thanks to loads of pasta and a heaping of grated parmesan cheese. Second bonus? Each one of my kids may eat parts of this soup. After all that, all you need is a handsome loaf of country bread, slightly warm inside, with crusty skin, with salted butter – the best one you can find. And you just have your perfect summer dinner.