Thursday, May 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

The Lean Green Bean
In April Jessica at Dairy Free Betty posted about her Foodie Pen Pal.  I thought the whole thing  looked like so much fun that I just had to join in too! The best part of blogging is connecting with my readers or with other bloggers, and this is a perfect way to do it!  Plus, once a month you get a fun surprise in the mail- and who doesn't love getting packages??
This month was my first experience and it's been amazing!  Both bloggers that I have been paired up with are awesome and I have really enjoyed being in touch with them and following their blogs.

My Foodie Pen Pal was  Beth at Its Good to be the Cook and she is awesome! She emailed me at the beginning and asked what my food intolerances were, and made sure everything in the box was 100% dairy free. My package came during a week that had been more than a little rough, so when it arrived on my doorstep really brightened my entire week.

Of course the minute it arrived I just had to tear into it to see what goodies I would find. I had help too- my daughters were just as excited to see what was in the box as I was!

She sent me a box was full of treats from my very favorite store-Trader Joes!  Surprisingly though I hadn't yet tried some of the goodies Beth included in the box.  The first thing I did was read through the little booklet she put together for me.  She included a very sweet note, a detailed list of what was in the box, and some of her favorite recipes.  I absolutely love it and the booklet now resides on the rack in my kitchen with all my special cookbooks.

In the box I found:
Balsamic vinegar: I haven't opened this yet, but I know it will get a lot of use since we love cooking with vinegar.

TJ's Garlic Infused Organic Olive Oil:  This olive oil is my new favorite and will be a staple in my kitchen from now on.  I've used it in Aglio Olio, on roasted green beans, and over plain pasta.  It's so good! 

Lemon Pepper Pappardelle: One of my favorite pastas.  It makes a great aglio olio, or is good all on it's own.

 Sweet Chili Sauce: We hadn't tried this before and I am honestly not sure how I missed it!  I have dipped some chicken in it- so good! I can't wait to cook with it. 

 Beth suggested using it in a marinade and that is something I cannot wait to try.  It's a little tangy, a little sweet, and just a touch spicy- the perfect flavor combination in my opinion.  

Crimson Blossom Green Tea: I am a huge tea lover and am always on the hunt for new teas to try, so of course this was one of my very favorite surprises in the box. It's a sweet, fruity light tea . 
To me there is nothing better than a good cup of tea in my favorite mug, and a good book.  Even though summer isn't really hot tea season, this one has that summery taste to it.  Of course, it would make a delicious iced tea too!

Sugar, Chocolate, and Coffee Grinder: There are no words for this!  It makes an average cup of coffee taste like it's from a coffee shop.  Or you can grind it over top of toast.

Gummy Tummies: These are DANGEROUS ( and gone!)
 I am a huge fan of gummy candy- it's really the only kind I like.  I did manage to eat this bag slowly over the past couple of weeks, but I certainly didn't share with anyone;-)

Peanut Butter Pretzels: Already a family favorite-I've had to chase my husband away from them several times already!

Thank you so much Beth for my wonderful box of foodie goodies!  It was wonderful and we are still enjoying all the goodies you sent.

If you would like to see what I sent my Foodie Pen Pal head on over to Edible Obsessions.

Are you interested in being a Foodie Pen Pal?  It's open to all bloggers and readers.  All you have to do is visit  Lindsay's site, The Lean Green Bean,  for sign up details. I hope you'll join us next month!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Welcome Back Summer!

Memorial Day Weekend is considered the official kickoff to the summer season and this one went by in a whirlwind of activities.  We spent the weekend with family and friends and enjoyed tons of good food and gorgeous weather. 

We started our weekend Thursday with our middle daughter's graduation from Preschool.  She's getting so big now!  

Friday night we re-instated our  "Family Fun Nights". Now that summer is here and our Friday nights are finally free again it's time to relax and get back to spending some quality time as a family.    We usually have some sort of homemade pizza- Stromboli, pizza, or bagel pizzas. This week we tried something new: Pizza bake. My oldest daughter wanted to help make dinner so Daddy helped her cut the veggies (onion and green pepper) and I had her put all the toppings on.  This came out like a deep dish pizza and  I will share the recipe soon.  

Saturday morning dawned beautiful, sunny, and warm so we headed out to our Farmers Market on the River.  This was our first  weekend being able to go to this market and we were excited to see what goodies we could find. 

All of our favorite vendors were there again this year, including the flower vendor I love. She grows the most beautiful flowers, and you can either buy a premade bouquet, or put together your own.  Cat and I decided to put together a bouquet for our dining room.  She has a really good eye for color!

When we got home we checked out our own garden and harvested some of our own homegrown broccoli, which we included in our dinner.  I have never seen two little girls so excited about broccoli before!

The kids played on the patio with the Little One's new water table while my husband and I sat near them and relaxed.  Oh, and we tried out a new beer, which was quite good.  It may be my new summer favorite.  

I was playing with my instagram too.  
 My husband had gone down to our local fish market in the morning and picked up some fresh salmon to grill.  When I say local, I mean the building is practically IN the water! It's a small, hole-in-the-wall place but they have the best fish we've ever had.  We tried a new method of grilling it: we put the fish on thin slices of lemon right on the grill.  It worked like a charm and was amazing!   To go along with the fish we grilled some squash I had marinated in some Merlot Vinegar and Olive Oil, and made up some rice pilaf.

Sunday the plan was to take the boat out for a while.  We got a sitter, and my husband and I were going to go float around on the river.  However, instead of this being our afternoon view:
View from the boat when we went out a couple weekends ago with friends

 This was our view instead:
The joys of boat ownership- sometimes they break.  So instead of spending the day on the water, we spent the day at the Marina working on the engine ( my husband is teaching me about boat repair and I am actually finding it interesting), and cleaning the boat inside and out.  We weren't too disappointed about the change in plans- at least we got to spend the day together, working side by side in the sun.   We ended the evening having an unplanned cookout with my best friend and her family (Since she had been the one to watch our girls for us all afternoon).  I made buffalo wings, burgers, pepperoni rolls, potato-less potato salad, baked beans, and oatmeal raisin cookies. The best part about dinner was I had made most of it that morning so when we got home all we had to do was fire up the grill.  Everything else was ready to go.  I'm pretty sure that's how dinner is going to be made all summer- in the morning!

What better way to  officially welcome summer than by spending it on the beach?  Memorial Day Monday we packed up the kiddos, picked up my best friend's daughters, and went down to our local beach for an afternoon in the sun and sand.
Enjoying a Capri Sun Water in the shade.  

She's not too sure of the water yet, we're still in the debating stages of getting in or not.  

We ended the weekend with a cookout with my parents, and roasting marshmallows.  

Now that summer is officially here ( and I have the sunburn to prove it!) we are going to be spending a lot more time outside and on the beach. 

 How was your Memorial Day Weekend?  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Product Review: Beanfield Snacks Chips

A while back The good people at Beanfields snacks contacted me and asked me if I would like to try out their new allergen free  chips.  Of course I said yes!  Dairy free nacho cheese chips- just what I have been hoping for!  I was so excited when a huge box arrived on my doorstep.

I was amazed at how many bags they sent me to try- and my girls were THRILLED to get a huge box full of  bags of chips!  They sent the Nacho cheese flavor, Pico de Gallo flavor, and Sea Salt.  

 My girls couldn't wait to break into a bag, but I did make them wait until after dinner.  We decided to start with the Nacho flavor, since it's the most popular.  Bruin was very hopeful he would get a chip too!  
We were all very impressed with these!  They have the same consistency as a regular corn chip- you cannot tell they are corn free.  The flavor is amazing!  Not over done, but definitely cheesy. They were a hit with all 3 kids and my husband.

Finally!  After 5 years of being dairy free I have found Nacho flavored chips that I can enjoy and share with others.  The other two flavors were just as good. but I've been craving nacho flavored chips for so long. 

The best thing about these ( other than the fact that they are dairy free, gluten free, corn free, and vegan) is that Beanfields uses all Non-GMO ingredients so I feel good giving these to my girls too. As a Mom it's important to me to give my girls foods that are safe and good for them.  These chips definitely meet my "Mom Standards" I am so glad to have a found a dairy free nacho cheese flavored chip.  We will definitely be eating a lot more of these! 

For more information please visit

Thank you to BeanFields Snacks for giving me the opportunity to try these and to share them with my readers.  

If you try them please let me know!  I would love to know what you all think!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Easy Weeknight Casserole- Just Like Mom Used to Make

Casseroles are definitely a Mom's best friend- they are easy to make, most can be made ahead of time, and kids seem to love them. The challenge is finding dairy free casserole recipes.  I used to make several- but they all contained some form of cheese, creamed soup or sauce, or milk.  Then one night my Mom had us over for dinner and made this dish that she used to make at least once a week when I was a kid.  Of course back then she used cheese, but for me she has omitted the cheese.  It has since become my 3 daughters' favorite meal, both at Mom's house and at mine.  We call it American Chop Suey and I have absolutely no idea why (Maybe you can answer that one for me, Mom?)
My oldest daughter has been asking me to share this recipe on the blog for about a year now, but I haven't had the chance.   Usually I make it on nights when we are running around and I don't have time to take pictures while I cook.  The other night I started it early enough and remembered to take pictures as I went along.  So here you go, my girls' absolute favorite meal:

American Chop Suey
1lb lean ground beef
1 pepper (of any color) chopped
1 medium white onion chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cans tomato sauce
dried oregano (you can use fresh if you have some)
1-2 teaspoons dried basil
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
noodles of choice- Penne or Rotini work best

1. Chop all your veggies and mince your garlic and set aside

2. Preheat a large skillet, drizzle in about a tablespoon of olive oil, and add your ground beef.

3. Once your meat is mostly browned, add your onion, peppers, and garlic.  If you use a high fat content beef, drain the fat off first.  We use extra lean, organic beef so I don't have to drain mine.

4. Once the beef is cooked through and the veggies have softened a bit, add your canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and your spices.   Let simmer for as long as you want on low ( I will let this go for an hour or more on very low heat). Or if you want it sooner, simmer on medium heat until the sauce thickens slightly.  

5. While your sauce is simmering, cook up your noodles according to the package.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

6. Drain your pasta and combine with the sauce in a large casserole dish. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes.

If you want to make it ahead of time you can put the casserole in the fridge and cook it later. 

This is such an easy and kid friendly dinner. This time around we paired it with a green salad and my homemade Strawberry Merlot Vinaigrette .  And it makes so much we always have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood that you still make as an adult?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Strawberry Merlot Vinaigrette

I shared our recent Strawberry Picking trip yesterday.  We brought home about a gallon of fresh berries and lots of ideas of what to do with them all.  Since I had just gotten a new Merlot Vinegar at the Farmer's Market on Thursday, I thought that the vinegar mixed with the berries would make a great summer salad dressing.

6-8 Strawberries hulled
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Merlot Red Wine Vinegar (Or a red wine vinegar of your choice)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dried basil
pinch of sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Put the strawberries, honey, vinegar, oil, basil, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender.  Pulse until it is liquefied.  It's really that easy.  Add more honey if you want it sweeter.  You could use fresh basil too, I just didn't have any on hand. 

Pour over your favorite salad and enjoy!  

Those are carrots, not cheese;-)

Even my kids loved this dressing, and usually the only kind they will eat is ranch. This is definitely one that we will be making a lot this summer!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weekend Recap

I don't normally do weekend recap posts but we had such a fun weekend that I couldn't resist!  We started the weekend with our first harvest from our early spring garden.  We were very pleasantly surprised with what we got.  The red cabbage and broccoli obviously isn't ready yet, but I got quite a lot of leaf lettuce and kale. I know it looks a bit crowded but we are doing the square foot gardening method and it's working beautifully.

We didn't get a large amount of kale this time, but just enough to make some spicy kale chips to go with dinner the other night.  Those will definitely be shared soon!

The lettuce we used on burgers one night, and then used the rest in a salad.  I don't know why but lettuce out of my own garden just tastes so much better than lettuce bought at the store!  

Saturday we got up bright and early, ok maybe not bright, but definitely early, and headed out to the Lacrosse field for a game.  I love that my daughter has found a sport she enjoys so much! I just wish this spring had been a tad warmer!  It's been so cold and windy at most of her games this year. The rest of the day was spent surrounded by kids, watching movies, and dodging rain drops.

Sunday we made up a big family- Belgian waffles, bacon, and fresh fruit- and then we packed up our  kids and headed out to go strawberry picking. We did this last year for Mother's Day and the girls loved it so much we couldn't wait to do it again this year!

   Half the fun of where we go to pick is getting there.  We have to take a ferry across the river. It was a bit chilly this year, but the girls all had a great time anyway.

We let the girls do most of it on their own this year since the were old pros from last year.  My Middle Daughter got her own basket and quickly got to work finding the prettiest berries she could. She was so very proud of herself!

 The Little One enjoyed picking berries too, but along the way she got distracted by a new little friend- a Ladybug.

 We were a bit nervous that the rain the previous day, the lack of sunshine, and the cooler temperatures would mean there wouldn't be a lot of berries ready to be picked.  That was not at all the case!  There were tons of gorgeous berries- so many it was hard to convince the girls to stop picking!  The cooler temperatures also kept the bees away, which is very helpful!

I think the Littlest One's favorite part was the ferry ride!  Both going over and coming back she was all smiles and giggles.  Of course as soon as we got back in the car for the drive home she was out!

We have already used a lot of these berries- we topped pancakes with them this morning, I made a vinaigrette out of them yesterday (recipe coming tomorrow!) and today we plan to freeze some and make some into ice cream.

This is definitely one of my favorite activities of the year, and we already can't wait to go back!

Have you entered the GoodBelly Giveaway yet?  

GoodBelly Review and Giveaway!

In March I took the 12 day Goodbelly Challenge.  For those of you who are not familiar with this amazing product, GoodBelly* is probiotic drink that is organic, non-dairy, soy-free, vegan, and Kosher.  We all know that probiotics are important for overall health, but those of us with food sensitivities can have a hard time finding probiotic supplements that fit our dietary needs.  When I first heard of GoodBelly and that it was dairy free I was so excited to try it.  I signed up for the challenge, bought my 12 days supply and was ready to get started.  After just a couple of days I started to notice a change in the way my stomach felt.  Now I start every day with GoodBelly, and if I have to go out of town, my GoodBelly goes with me!

My favorite is the GoodBelly Plus because it includes vitamins. I no longer have to take my daughters' gummy vitamins to get my daily dose ( most vitamins contain some form of dairy.) So far my favorite flavors are the Blueberry Acai and the Mango.  It's just like drinking fruit juice- not too sweet, and very refreshing first thing in the morning.  Most days I grab one of these before I get my first cup of coffee.  

 This probiotic drink is not just for adults.   About halfway through the challenge my 5 year old was put on Omnicef for a Strep infection.  All moms know that is a nasty antibiotic.  It had some rather unpleasant effects on my daughter's tummy so  I bought one of the quarts of GoodBelly for her and gave her a glass every morning with her breakfast.  I've also given it to my toddler and my 8 year old - they both love it! Their favorite flavor is the Mango too.

I am so excited about this product and I would love for you to try it too!  I am offering a Giveaway, sponsored by the awesome people at GoodBelly.  The prize- taking the 12 day challenge for FREE!  The winner will get 3 VIP vouchers-each voucher is good for a free GoodBelly product.

1. Mandatory: You must leave a comment on this blog about why you would want to take the 12 Day Challenge

There you go- FIVE possibly entries! If you like or follow on Facebook and Twitter please mention that in your comment below in order for it to be counted.

You have until Friday,May 11th at Midnight to enter.  The winner will be announced Monday, May 14th.

**Some studies suggest GoodBelly's probiotics may help balance bacteria in your gut when consumed daily as part of a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle. GoodBelly is a food product and not a treatment or cure for any medical disorder or disease. If you have any concerns about your digestive system, you should consult a healthcare professional.