What’s On the Menu

Blarney! Broccoli Rabe is Back!

Ahh, March. The month that tells us, despite a lingering chill in the air, that Spring is right around the corner. The month where we focus on all things green for St. Paddy’s Day. And the month when broccoli rabe shows up! I found some just this morning at my local natural foods grocery store … and it was on sale! You know I love a good bargain. 😉

I totally stocked up!

Green is clearly the color of the March, so I’m going to center this month’s recipes around a few of my favorite green veggies. There are so many great ones to choose from, but since broccoli rabe is only around for a small window of time, I wanted to do a repost of my absolute favorite broccoli rabe dish. I will seriously eat this at least 4 times in the next 2 months with absolutely no regrets. It’s just that good.

—-> Linguini with Broccoli Rabe & Sausage <—-


Fun Fact: Broccoli rabe is an absolute power house of a green. It’s super high in vitamins A, C, and K; contains fiber for digestion, lutein to aid eyesight, and sulfur to help out your liver; and it has some great anti-inflammatory nutrients, like folate.

Aside from the recipe in the link above, you can also do a simple sauté with a little olive oil, S&P, onion & garlic powders, plus a splash of chicken stock – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Serve as a simple green side, or get creative!

One idea: Try adding it to a sweet potato hash with some red peppers for a beautiful contrast of sweet and bitter.

Another idea: Make a “risotto” using quinoa instead of arborio rice, folding in finely chopped broccoli rabe, diced tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese. Let the heat from the quinoa and sauce mix wilt the rabe and sweat it down. The result is a flavor similar to horseradish from the rabe, combined with the creaminess of the Parmesan cheese and acid of the tomatoes. This pairs amazingly well with steak or lamb!

Keep trying new things or sticking with the old … until the rabe runs out!

The Kindness of Strangers

Back in November, I shared on my Saucy Facebook page that I had some pretty amazingly feel-good news.  At that point in time, The Saucy Tomato page was coming up for renewal, but after a crazy and expensive year, I was dubious that I would ever get back to blogging.  I had ended up having hernia surgery in February.  Shortly afterwards, my husband developed a blood clot in his leg in April.  It wasn’t life-threatening, but he grew increasingly uncomfortable and was unable to work.  After weeks of testing, they scheduled him for bypass surgery in July.  The very same week of his surgery, my daughter had a freak accident that resulted in emergency room stitches and our dog ate a rag that unravelled in his intestines, resulting in emergency surgery.  Somehow, I managed to remain unscathed, so long as you didn’t count my mental state.

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I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and very in debt.  I honestly didn’t know if it would be worth the time or money to invest in a renewal.  The day before Saucy was due to expire, I was talking to a complete stranger about my blog.  I told them how much I enjoyed doing it, but how I’d fallen behind on posting and still had too much on my plate (no pun intended) to keep making it work.  I commented that I couldn’t justify spending the money to renew the blog.  I would miss it, but I felt this was the right move.

The person – who is a blog aficionado themselves – went online and checked out my page.  The first thing they said was how much they loved the name.  (I know, riiiight?? 😄)  After taking a further look, they said my site was “really fantastic” (a pretty big compliment from someone like them!) and asked if I could picture myself going back to it.  I said I would love to at some point.  So this person – a complete stranger to me – gifted me with a year’s extension on my blog.  I could now take my time getting life in order again without the pressure of a renewal deadline looming ahead.  They said: “I just could not let the Tomato go.”

I was speechless.  I could not thank them enough.  There are still some pretty amazing people in this world, and I was absolutely blessed by one of them that day.

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While this is such a small thing in the scheme of life, it was a huge gesture to and for me, and it reignited the Saucy flame within.  It has taken a bit to catch my breath, but I am elated to announce that I am kicking off a refreshed Saucy this month.  I thank all of you who are still with me, and I can’t wait for our next food adventure together. Here’s to you, here’s to me, and here’s to Saucy! 🥂 Cheers!

Happy May 1st!

What an amazingly busy – and fattening – month April was!  LOL!  The weather in NC has finally gotten warmer, my daughter’s Spring Break wrapped up, and I celebrated both my 40th birthday and my 13th wedding anniversary.  I also gave my very first cooking presentation to my church’s women’s group at our annual beach retreat.  So much fun and excitement!  My blog has taken a bit of a backseat to all the goings-on, but the good food sure hasn’t!  I’ve been steadily cooking up a storm, taking notes, and mentally preparing some amazing blog entries…just as soon as things settle down a bit and I can get it all from my head to the screen.  In the meantime, enjoy a few pics from our festivities and stay tuned for some scrumptiousness, coming your way soon!

40th Birthday Cake
Amazing Birthday Cake for my big 40th!

 

40th Birthday Skydive 1
Hubby surprised me with a sunset skydive over the beach where we got engaged. ❤

40th Birthday Skydive 2
What a rush, and an amazing view!

Food Presentation
My first cooking presentation for my women’s beach retreat! I helped present my homemade pita chips, sweet potato hummus, and strawberry vinaigrette.

13th Anniversary
Our 13th Wedding Anniversary Dinner. We went to a local Italian restaurant and indulged in some super fun celebrating with our daughter.

Portobello Pizzas

Many moons ago, I was talking easy weeknight meals with my aunt.  She loves good food but loves not cooking.  Her motto was always that if it had more than five ingredients, she wasn’t making it.  So together, we dreamed up a pizza made in mushroom caps (no making of dough required!) with a few favorite toppings.  Easy peasy, right?  And so Portobello Pizzas were born.  I make them with a few more than my aunt’s five ingredient limit, but they can be as easy or as complicated as you want them to be.  Want to make your own sauce?  Go for it!  Prefer fresh herbs?  Perfect!  Want even more – or different – toppings?  Have fun creating!  Or take a few shortcuts and whip these up in no time using a few jarred and dried items.  The world is your pizza!  Make it any way you want!


Portobello Pizzas

  • 3-4 Portobello mushroom caps
  • 8 oz jar marinara (or fresh sauce)
  • 6-8 bacon strips
  • 1 medium green peppers
  • bag of mini pepperoni slices
  • 1 can black olives
  • Parmesan & Mozzarella cheese
  • Oregano & Basil (fresh or dried)

To get started, preheat oven to 350º and begin to fry up your bacon until crispy, then set aside.  While the bacon is cooking, clean and remove the stems and gills from your mushroom caps and spread a generous dollop of sauce inside.  Add a layer of the Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses.  Dice your green peppers and chop your olives (try that handy dandy egg slicer tip from my Facebook Page!) and add to caps.  Add the pepperoni.  Once bacon is cool, crumble or chop, then add to caps.

Pizza Process

Add a final layer of cheeses and top with a little oregano and basil.  On a foil-lined baking sheet*, bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness and size of caps.

EAT

*Make sure the baking sheet has a lip because the mushrooms and toppings will produce lots of yummy juices and you don’t want a mess in your oven!

Portobello Pizzas

Roasted Sunchokes

So, I have a new favorite thing.  I don’t know much about them yet, but I’m gonna’ learn because boy did they wow me.  Jerusalem Artichokes, otherwise known as Sunchokes.  Admittedly, I asked the farm stand how much they charged for their ginger.  It looked just like ginger root to me!  That’s when they schooled me, telling me these were actually sunchokes, which made for a great diabetic potato replacement because of the low sugar content.  I’m not diabetic, but I love healthy alternatives, so I was intrigued.

Jerusalem Artichoke

According to Wikipedia, “despite one of its names, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relationship to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke.”  Sunchokes are reported to contain about 2% protein, no oil, and very little starch (hence the diabetic reference).

So, I whipped some up.  I did a simple roasted version with some basic seasonings.  It was a smash hit, with a flavor that reminded me of a potato with a touch of artichoke essence, and a texture akin to that of a turnip.  We just kept eating them, saying over and over, “These are so good!”  And hey, they’re good for you, too.  I feel great about that.  Give ’em a try!


Roasted Sunchokes

  • 15-20 sunchokes, scrubbed thoroughly and diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½-¾ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, to taste
  • ½ Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • parchment paper, if possible

Preheat oven to 400º.  After scrubbing the sunchokes thoroughly, dice them into small pieces.  You may consider rinsing them once more, to be sure to get rid of any leftover grit.  Combine everything but the Parmesan into a bowl and toss the sunchokes in the mixture, coating thoroughly.  Spread sunchokes onto parchment paper (preferred for less sticking) or tin foil.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Roasted Sunchokes 1

Bake for 35-45 minutes, turning once or twice for even cooking.  Once they get to be a nice golden brown and are soft on the inside, pull from the oven.  Serve immediately and be amazed.

Roasted Sunchokes 2

Many thanks to CrossIn Back Vineyard & Farm for the amazing selection of sunchokes!

Revisit the Rabe

#TBT!  Broccoli Rabe is back in season, but alas … it’s only around for a very short time.  Embrace it!  Do a simple sauté with a little olive oil, S&P, onion & garlic powders, plus a splash of chicken stock – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Serve with a sweet potato hash for a beautiful contrast of sweet and bitter.  Or revisit this classic favorite of mine.  I’ve already made it once, and I’ll be making it again and again … until the rabe runs out!

Linguini w Broccoli Rabe n Sausage

Vampire Slayer’s Soup

A week ago Friday, I had hernia surgery. Fun! After struggling with this issue for over a year, I’m happy to finally be on the road to full recovery. I am not, however, happy to stand in the kitchen and cook. So prior to the surgery, I made some soups to have for dinners during the harder days. I found this Vampire Slayer’s Soup recipe via my good friend from Judy’s Wellness Cafe and I made it for last weekend. It was so, so good. (Bonus: no vampires that night, haha!) So,I’m sharing the love. You will notice that within this recipe is a link to yet another recipe: Magic Mineral Broth. I also made this. I put the allotted amount into the VSS, then saved the rest for other things. And by other things, I mean that I literally drank it by the mugful every day. It was just that darn delicious. Our cold nights aren’t over just yet! I highly recommend trying both!

Vampire Slayer’s Soup

Magic Mineral Broth

Oysters Rockerfeller

It’s Valentine’s week.  People are feeling all twitterpated and googly-eyed, and love is in the air.  Or is that oysters and bacon??  Yes and yes!  Surprise your baby with these babies.  It’s sure to appeal to your appetite and your agenda … ‘cuz you know what they say about oysters …


Oysters Rockerfeller

  • 2 dozen oysters, cleaned and shucked, shells saved
  • 4-5 slices of bacon
  • ½ medium onion
  • 2-3 cups spinach
  • ½ cup Panko
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼-½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • salt, pepper, onion & garlic powders, red pepper flakes
  • rock salt, optional

Preheat oven to 400°.  Meanwhile, clean and shuck oysters.  It’s helpful to scrub the outside the shell first, then open.  CAREFULLY.  Rinse thoroughly, detach oysters from bottom, and place back inside a cleaned, grit-free shell.  Coat bottom of baking dish with rock salt.  This will help stabilize the oysters while they’re cooking.  Place the oysters into the baking dish with the half-shell side up.  Set aside.

Shucked Oysters

Cook bacon until crispy, then set aside, saving the grease. Sauté onions in bacon grease, then add spinach to wilt.  Add cheese, butter, and milk.  Stir until creamy, being careful not to let boil.  Chop bacon into small pieces and add to mixture.  Add salt, pepper, onion & garlic powders, and red pepper flakes to taste.  Stir in Panko.  Top oysters with mixture.

Mixture

Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on your preference of oyster doneness.  Yes, doneness is a word.  😉  Serve with a side of your choice.  (We charred some fresh corn from the cob; it added a nice sweet note.)

Oysters Rockerfeller

There are a bazillion recipes on the internet for Oysters Rockerfeller.  This is just ours.  What does that tell you?  The world truly is your oyster.  Now add some breadcrumbs and eat it.  Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Black Bean Brownie Batter Breakfast Drink

So, Saucy has been around for over a year now.  You’ve seen and tasted the yumminess.  But do you trust me?  Do you really trust me??  Okay, good.  Then check this out…

I’m always looking for new ideas.  Something “outside the box,” if you will.  When I read about a Brownie Batter Hummus, I was intrigued.  Having already stripped the sharp and distinctive tahini flavor from my own Sweet Potato Hummus, I knew it could easily have an enjoyably sweet flavor.  So I tried the recipe.  And I liked it!  For me though, it seemed a bit, I don’t know, in need of tweaking.  The more I tweaked it, making it my own, the looser it came out.  And so was born my newest breakfast drink.


Black Bean Brownie Batter Breakfast Drink

  • 2 cups almond or coconut milk
  • 1 15.5 oz can black beans
  • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons Stevia
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut or almond butter (opt)
  • 1 cup fresh spinach (opt)
  • 1-2 teaspoons instant coffee (opt)
  • cinnamon for garnish (opt)

Drain and thoroughly rinse your black beans in a colander.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour half of the drink, garnish, and enjoy!  Save the other half of the drink for tomorrow morning, or for a post workout treat.

**I did find that the 2nd serving had thickened up a bit overnight.  If desired, you can add a splash of almond milk to help thin it back out.**

BBBBD


I don’t normally do an official calorie count.  But ya know.  In the name of the New Year, I am trying to pay more attention to what I eat.  And because I’m calling this a breakfast drink (or lunch or post workout), I decided to tally the score.  For this calculation, I used regular almond milk and creamy peanut butter.  The only thing I did not take into account was the spinach, cinnamon, or coffee, which would be minimal at best.

Counts are based per serving; 2 servings per recipe.

  • Calories: 280
  • Carbs: 47.25g
  • Sugars: 7.75g
  • Protein: 15.5g

Breakfast Bowls

In our house, the New Year doesn’t seem to really start until today. You see, I have three stepsons and a daughter who all have birthdays  right after Christmas and within about 2 weeks of each other. By the time we finish up gifts and celebrations for one thing, it’s time for the next. And the next. And the next. Then one more day off from school for MLK Jr. Day. Now, finally, a bit of normalcy and routine for a new year.

Enter resolutions!  If they haven’t already fallen to the wayside, that is. I strive to not be so rigid with my successes or failures in this department, but rather just keep trying to improve and build upon previous ideas. That’s how I came up with Breakfast Bowls.

Last year, while searching out healthier foods, I discovered a genuine love for quinoa. Contrary to popular belief, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is not a pasta. Essentially, it’s a vegetable, a plant from the beet and spinach family that produces tiny seeds. Quinoa is actually that seed. I love it because it not only cooks up like a grain (think rice/pasta substitution), but it’s a genuine super food. It’s high in magnesium, iron, potassium, copper, zinc, and minerals. It packs a great protein punch with a whopping 8 grams in one cup. It’s one of the good complex carbs the fitness peeps are always telling you about, and it’s high in essential fatty acids. SCORE!!!

I said all of that to say this: I love quinoa and quinoa loves me back. So I started thinking of other ways I could eat it. I crave salty more than sweet, and on these cold mornings I enjoy something warm. This “recipe” is just the thing. I can add whatever I want to this, from veggies to eggs, meats to cheese. Maybe the best part is that I can make a bunch of it in advance, put all the components in the fridge, and then just nuke it the next morning for a quick, satisfying, and HEALTHY breakfast. #winning


Breakfast Bowls

Prepare your quinoa (1 part quinoa to 2 parts water or broth) in whatever portion size you want. For today, I made a total of 2 cups cooked quinoa so I could have some leftover for tomorrow.

In a separate pan, sauté your veggies of choice. I cooked up red peppers, onion, garlic, and mushrooms. You could use any veggie, though, from asparagus to zucchini. If you want eggs, add them in once all the veggies are cooked and scramble them up into small crumbles.

If adding a meat, it may be easier to cook first or separately, depending on your choice. Bacon would be better cooked first then removed and set aside. You can then use the drippings to cook up the veggies. Sausage can be crumbled up and cooked along with the veggies that take longer, like peppers and onions.

Serve up your quinoa, add veggies / meat, and garnish with a little cheese, salsa, or sour cream / plain Greek yogurt.

Eat a fantastic breakfast that gives you the energy you need to get your day started on a great note.  (Oh, and don’t forget the coffeeeeee. 😉)

Breakfast Bowls

Here’s to a yummy year!

Isabella’s Story

Seven years ago, I made a promise to God that I would always share Isabella’s story, share God’s mercies and miracles with any and all who would listen. Many of you know her story, but I have some new Saucy friends who do not. And so…

When I was 17 weeks pregnant, Mike and I went to the doctor together to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. When the ultrasound tech told us it was a baby girl, we were super excited. Then she scrunched her brow and asked me if I was sure about my due date. The measurements weren’t adding up and our baby was about 2 weeks too small. We didn’t give this a great deal of thought, but when we saw the doctor, he added that our baby also had an echogenic heart and echogenic bowels, meaning there was blood showing up where there shouldn’t be. This was a little more alarming, but we were told not to worry ourselves too much.

The very next day, the doctor called me back to tell me that my protein levels had come back very high, indicating an extremely high risk for the baby to have spina bifida. He told me “not to panic,” but that he was going to send me over to Duke’s Perinatal Clinic so I could be seen by a genetics counselor. I called my pastor’s wife immediately and we prayed. “Not to panic.” As if. It took us over a year to get pregnant. I was terrified.

But that was just the beginning. My regular doctor wouldn’t touch me with a 10-foot pole, so I was permanently transferred to the Perinatal Clinic. Over the next 3 months, our baby’s prognosis went from bad to worse. Every visit brought a new result — She was experiencing placental bleeding, poor blood flow in her umbilical cord, decreasing amniotic fluid, and possible oxygen restriction to her brain. She was now high risk for not only spina bifida, but for Down’s Syndrome, the Trisomy’s, and a multitude of physical deformations, and mental disabilities. She had fluid around her heart and her heart walls were thicker than they should’ve been. She went from being 2 weeks’ too small to lagging behind by more than 45 days. We were reminded constantly that she was an extreme high-risk for stillbirth and that she was “barely sustaining.” Abortion was presented to us on more than one occasion, given her possible difficulties in life. Some people just weren’t prepared to handle it, they all told me.

They wanted me to come in for multiple monitoring sessions each week. They wanted me to do an amniocentesis. I asked them: “Will this help you to know what exactly is wrong? Will you then be able to fix the problem?” The answer was always no. And so my answer to them was also always no. I would not subject myself or my baby to so much stress. The doctor assigned to my case finally told me point blank, “I know you want this to be a normal pregnancy, but this is not a normal fetus.” Though I was completely shaken that day, she could never know the fire she ignited in me with that one cold statement. Later, when I was stronger, I remember telling her that I didn’t know what her faith was, but my God was going to protect this child. My child was going to be fine, I told her. And despite my terror, I believed that.

Throughout, we did the only thing we could: we turned it over to God. We looked up scriptures and spoke life and healing over our child. I printed out a list of uplifting verses and read them continuously, bringing them to every appointment I had. I spoke to my child and told her that she was God’s child first, and that she was a warrior. She had the power, through Christ, to fight any attack of the enemy. I remember someone telling me one day that it was okay to cry, but I wouldn’t. I refused to show any sign of weakness to the circumstances. It felt like defeat. It felt like admitting that we were as “doomed” as the doctors reported. Each doctor visit was harder and harder, but my faith got stronger and stronger. And God settled into us a peace that we just couldn’t explain to the doctors.

At 32 weeks, my doctor said to me: “We now have something worth fighting for.” God love her, as Granny would say. Despite the hardness of her nature, I’d actually grown to like and respect this doctor through the hardships of my ordeal, and I knew what she meant. We’d made it out of the danger zone. Isabella was still alive and stable enough to finally be considered what they had continuously told me she wasn’t: a viable pregnancy. It would now be “safe” to deliver her if we had to. I finally conceded to more frequent monitoring.

Two weeks later, five weeks before my due date, the doctor smiled at me during what had become a routine weekly ultrasound and said, “Yeah, no. You’re’ not going home today. It’s time.” Bella’s amniotic fluid levels had dropped below the absolute bare minimum. The nonstress test that followed showed her heartbeat had become sluggish. I had heard it so many times by now, I knew its rhythm. This was not it. I was sent over to ER immediately and at 3:02 pm Isabella Nicole was born kicking and screaming. She only weighed 2 pounds, 11.6 ounces, but the doctors were amazed that she needed no oxygen, no transfusions, barely any assistance at all. She was moved from the NICU to a transitional nursery in just 3 days because she was so healthy, and exactly 4 weeks after she was born, they released her from the hospital.

The week of her first birthday, I took Bella back to see that same doctor. The smiles and laughter and sheer joy we shared in that moment were priceless. The doctor showed us around to everyone. People remembered us, congratulated us, beamed at us. Simply put, Bella was our Miracle Baby.

Isabella defied all the doctors’ expectations, steadily gained ground, and closed her premature gap. When we think back to all the fear, anxiety, and stress that surrounded her entrance into this world, we are amazed by God’s grace and how faithfully He held our baby in His hands. I was never so strong as I was then. To celebrate her 7th birthday today reminds me again of blessed and privileged we are to have her, and how amazing my God truly is.

postcard-4.25inx5.5in-h-round-front

Thinking Outside the Gift Box

Shopping is done.

Presents are wrapped.

House is clean.

YEAH RIGHT!!!  As if.  I have upwrapped gifts scattered all over my house, I can’t find my bag of bows, I’m out of tissue paper, and I haven’t bought cards yet.  Cooking a fancy dish for the big family get together on Christmas Day??  Fuhgetaboutit.

Fortunately, there is still time to whip up a great side with little fuss and muss.  And it’s different enough to wow the family.  Check out my Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes and take a deep breath.  The holidays are saved!  Now if you could just keep the cat from attacking the tree…

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes

bleu-cheese-mashed-potatoes

Merry Christmas!