A Millie Favorite

A Millie Favorite

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Meyer Lemon

I have been struck by my new love affair of the Meyer lemon! It is so beautiful and sweet and will brighten you up on a cold January day. This little lemon is such a mood elevator that I just had to share it with everyone! 

After the holiday excitement and we settle into the cold winter months, looking forward to Spring, kids can become a bit moody. Their ability to play at the park, ride their bikes and do most out door activities become just a bit squalled. We as parents have to look for activities to keep them occupied, but do we ever stop and think about what foods may actually brighten their mood? 

Citrus has been known to give off a wonderful smell that can actually brighten one's mood. The vitamin-c is great to keep a cold at bay and the oils from the rind can clean one's kitchen better than any nasty bleach could. Yup, citrus is pretty amazing. 

However, the Meyer lemon is truly something to behold. It's color is a bit brighter than a regular lemon, the fruit is a bit sweeter and the smell is more subtle. Take just one look at this little guy and you are instantly transformed. You can't help but smile when you hold the Meyer lemon. 

I had to do my weekly grocery shopping last night and had no plans on buying lemons. As soon as I walked into the store, there was a big display of Meyers. My eye was instantly drawn. They looked so beautiful and compared to the regular lemons sitting next to them, they were even more striking. 

As soon as I got home, I just had to cook with them. So what to cook? Here is the recipe I came up with last night.

Cheers !

Meyer Lemon and Artichoke Pesto with Sauteed Asparagus: 
  • Two Meyer lemons
  • One bunch of asparagus
  • One can of artichoke hearts
  • Two tablespoons of butter 
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and cut the ends off your asparagus, then place in saute pan with butter. Cook till tender. Then chop your artichoke hearts into small pieces and place in processor. Add your pine nuts and squeeze lemons into the artichoke blend. Start to process, while drizzling your olive oil into the processor. This will emulsify your pesto and make it nice and creamy, adding your salt and pepper at the end. 

Place your asparagus on a beautiful serving tray and then drizzle the Meyer lemon pesto onto your dish. Serves six as a side dish or four as a main dish. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paula Deen!

Okay okay okay... did anyone who has ever watched Paula Deen, think to themselves "ooooohhh a hamburger topped with melted cheese, bacon and fried egg sandwiched between two sugar glazed donuts will be great for my health?" Probably not.

Mrs. Deen just announced that she has type 2 diabetes and everyone is all up in arms. "Of course she has diabetes" and "did she really think eating all that food would do her any good" and so on and so on. Well before we strike this sweet Southern woman down with a stoning of butter bricks, let's stop and reflect on ourselves.

This woman was broke, divorced and struggling to raise her children. She is from a small town in Georgia, where the food is delicious, albeit not so great on the waistline. She did what she had to do to make a life for her family and that was selling her delicious treats door-to-door.

We are all sitting here today judging this woman and laughing at her circumstances. However, isn't really OUR fault that this has happened. It was our craving for her foods that kept her popular and in business. We were the ones replicating her foods for our families. But none of us will admit that we are the true villains in this situation.

It took me a very long time to realize that certain foods can create a negative impact on my weight and overall health. I thought that I was doing really well, when in reality I was not. I had to change my entire outlook on food to see what it is like to be a healthy and thriving human being.

So in honor of Mrs. Deen and her delicious and amazing recipes, I will turn two of my favorites into healthier (and just as tasty) alternatives for your family to enjoy!


Original: Garlic Mashed Potatoes 
One of my all-time favorites by her, because she uses delicious cream and butter. Creating a decadent side dish great for holidays and special occasions.

Liz's take: Smashed Purple Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Garlic

  • 2 whole purple sweet potatoes (loaded with nutrients)
  • 3 table spoons of grapeseed or olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and and cut in half
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring medium-sized pot of water to a hard simmer. Peep and cut your potatoes into even-sized cube and add to the water, with a pinch of salt. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, drain and add back to the warm pot. Let the potatoes dry out for about 60 seconds. Add your oil and garlic and then smash. It is a very colorful and very tasty alternative the original. 

Original: Italian Pasta Salad
I love pasta salad, but have given this tasty treat up. Since then, I have been searching for a healthier, yet satisfying alternative and I believe I have found it! 

Liz's take: Italian Veggie Salad
Italian vegetables are some of the most colorful and flavorful. Full of good things like lictopine and fiber. 
  • 1 eggplant peeled and cubed
  • 1 zucchini cubed 
  • 1 summer yellow squash cubed
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 can of black olives, drained and halved
  • 1 can of green olives, drained halved 
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar 
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • dash of oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
Grill or saute your eggplant, zucchini and squash till tender, but not falling apart. In a large bowl, toss in the rest of your ingredients. Make sure to incorporate all your ingredients well so it is all coated with oil and vinegar. Serve as a lunchtime meal or as a side dish! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

National Soup Month

The holidays are over, the lights have come down and now we are settling into the long cold month of January. I happen to be a January baby myself, so I do have a weird affection for the month.

Recently I saw that it is "national soup month" and that got me thinking about all the wonderful soups that I like to create for myself, my family and for my daughter's warm dinners. They can range from simple all the way to complicated and time-consuming. There are several types of soup. Bisque which has a shrimp, lobster or crab shell base, cream soup that have vegetables as the thickener and chowders. There are tones of garnishes, from noodles to white beans and you can come up with any color in the rainbow for your base. When you think about it, soup really is the ultimate in comfort foods.

Most people have a go to soup that they make that their family just adores. It cheers them up when they are sick, comforts them when it is cold and brings us together at the table after a long day out in the snow. However, I am going to challenge conventional soup theory here and share with you one of my favorite recipes. One that your children may just find fun and interesting.

Stay warm, cheers!

Apple and Parsnip Soup

  • 7 parsnips, peeled and washed
  • 3 apples, peeled and washed
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Heavy whipping cream for garnish
Bring the water and stock to a hard simmer, add a pinch of salt to the water. Dice your parsnips and apples into large dice (make sure all pieces are equal for even cooking time). Add to the simmering water and cover for about 25 minutes. Bring heat down and then slowly add to a processor. When you add hot things to your food processor it can explode, so slowly add. When the entire contents have been properly blended to smooth add back to the pot and bring up the heat then garnish with a splash of heavy cream and salt and pepper. Serve with a good salad and enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gift Ideas for Teachers

When I was little, I remember this time of year very fondly. It was the end of the school semester and the last week was filled with treats, crafts and excitement. I would go with my mother to pick out neat little gifts as a thank you to my teachers. What I used to love giving was nicer teas and a cool mug. However, in the early 1980's giving locally made gifts was not very common. So, I am sure that the tea was from the grocery store and the mug from the mall.

This year, I want to take my daughter to local stores and have her help me pick out neat gifts for all the wonderful teachers at her school. Giving the gift of locally made products stimulates our economy and gives the teacher a unique and interesting treat to take home on their much deserved vacation.

Make the holiday season this year exciting for your kids, by checking out local artists, vendor and markets. It creates amazing memories of family time, not anxiety at a mall or big box.

Happy Holidays!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Simple Holiday

Simplicity... it has become a very big trend in this terrible economy. DIY (do it yourself), handmade soaps, farmer's markets over supermarkets and of course dinners in not out. Instead of wine at your favorite hot spot on a nightly basis, we are now cutting back to once a week or even in some cases, just having our friends over for game night instead. Things have changed and while there may be a willingness to simplify these days, the holiday season which will officially start next week is a hard time to stay put in our simple ways.

Thanksgiving can be stressful and overdone. Trying to make the "perfect" holiday feast for our family and friends can be a bit overwhelming. We have people come into our homes, the football game is playing loudly, children are running around and now your mother-in-law is judging you on how you have decided to make your centerpiece. Oy!

This Thanksgiving we should continue with our traditional foods and having our families gather around us. However, maybe we scale it back a little and spend more of that incredibly meaningful day actually talking to our loved ones. Give your children a dish or two to be responsible for, have them participate in the cooking process. Think carefully about your menu and see what you can get locally. After all that was the original idea behind the feast, enjoying a bountiful harvest.

It can all be so simple and yet one of the best Thanksgivings we will remember. Avoid the stress, include the family and eat locally.

Here is a simple recipe that was made from my farmer's market finds and will work well for your sweet potato side dish. I have my two-year-old wash off the sweet potatoes and leaks, which she just loves. If you have older kids, maybe they can do some simple cuts or plate presentation.


Caramelized Onion/Leak Sweet Potato Saute: 

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, medium dice
  • 3 leaks, washed and cut into rondelles (circles)
  • 1 red onion sliced very thinly
  • 1 half stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Parboil your diced sweet potatoes so they become tender. In your large saute pan melt your butter and start to caramelize your onions and leaks. After about 10 minutes of the leaks and onions caramelizing, then add your sweet potato and finish cooking. Plate and serve! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Halloween has come and gone and we are starting in on the Thanksgiving season. And there is nothing to me that is more Thanksgiving then the beautiful pumpkin. Sure, we use pumpkins to carve our jack-o-lanterns and decorate around the house during the autumn months, but there are so many wonderful uses for this gourd.

As a child, I always loved going to the local pumpkin patch to pick out that perfect pumpkin, a tradition that I have carried on with my own daughter. However, these pumpkins are so much more than decoration or pie filling. They can be used in so many dishes, both savory and sweet which not every vegetable or fruit can do. It has such a lovely orange color that compliments many different dishes and can even be used in drink concoctions as well. And let's face it... is there anything that is more traditional for the autumn?

In my on-going efforts to increase a child's life-long love of whole foods and eating where they live, I say the pumpkin is a perfect food to accomplish that exact goal.

The pumpkin is so personal. You go up and down the pumpkin patch looking for just the right one. We never just show up and take the first one we see, especially when we are children.

Here are some of my favorite ways to work with pumpkins and most winter squash.


Simple pumpkin puree: 
  • One pumpkin
  • Large stock pot
  • A machine or kitchen tool to puree
Start by taking a heavy-duty vegetable peeler and taking the skin off the pumpkin. Then with a good chef's knife cut the top of the pumpkin off and then down the middle. Take the seeds out and place them to the side for another use. Cut into medium-sized cubes and put into your stockpot of simmering water. DO NOT add any salt or seasonings. Let simmer for about 30 minutes and then drain. Bring down to room temperature or slightly above it then puree. 

Now you are able to use your puree in several recipes. It can freeze really well in 4oz containers and be used at a later date. Also this simple puree is the perfect first food for baby. Any winter squash is easy on digestion and very few people have a pumpkin allergy. This puree has so many uses and will keep all winter if stored properly. 

Toddler pumpkin sauce squares: 

Toddlers have the ability to eat more complicated foods, but still lack the dexterity for crunchier treats that are served during the Halloween and Thanksgiving season. This is a great seasonal treat for toddlers, heck all of us! 
  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup simple pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup of currants, raisins or dried cranberries. 
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove mixture (pumpkin spice)
  • Three spoonfuls of apple butter (or sauce)
  • 1/8 cup of oats 
  • kosher salt to taste
In a large mixing bowl first add your dry ingredients, then slowly add your wet ingredients until blended perfectly. In a small and greased cake pan pour in your batter. Cook at 350F for around 45 minutes or until golden brown. 

These bars are very moist and melt in your mouth like apple sauce, hence the name. They are delicious for all ages, but really great for toddlers who are still learning how to eat more adult foods. I made up this recipe for my daughter's harvest party at school. They were a great hit! 

Pumpkin Soup: 
  • 5 cups of pumpkin puree or 3 cans of pumpkin
  • Half a box of vegetable or chicken stock. Vegetable stock is a little more earthy and of course has no animal products. 
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • splash of brandy or apple brandy
  • One onion
  • Half a stick of butter
  • Pumpkin spice to taste
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pear
  • Bacon (optional for vegetarians) 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
In a large stock pot caramelize your onions and bacon with the half stick of butter. When they start to really brown and pieces start sticking to the bottom deglaze to get the fond off the bottom and let cool for just a minute. 

Add your stock, water and apple cider to the caramelized onion mixture and let simmer for a few minutes. Start to add your pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin. While that simmers start to slice your apple and pear without their skin, then add to the simmering soup. 

Let simmer for about 10 minute and then add your salt, pepper and pumpkin spice and let simmer for another 30 minutes or until all the flavors can fully infuse. Use a kitchen masher to break up the apple and pear into a semi-pureed state. Then at the very end add your wine, brandy and heavy cream. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds. 

Serve with a beautiful harvest salad and crusty bread and enjoy your family dinner! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn Leaf Windows

I write a lot about a parents perspective on cooking and children. How as parents we effect our children's lives and hopefully influence them to grow up with a love and respect of food. However, today I had the privilege of being the child.

I was free from work and school today, yet my daughter still had to attend her school. This gave me a rare day off. My mother called me and asked if I would like to go on a long walk through the wooded park across the street from my house and then have some lunch. This is truly a rare occasion that we can do this on a weekday... heck any day! Yet on this perfect October day, we made it happen.

Whether my mother will admit it or not, she had an enormous influence on me when it comes to cuisine. It was nice to spend the day with her and gather fall leaves in the park like we did when I was little. A tradition that I have carried on with my own daughter. Autumn leaves are some of the most amazing colors we see all year long. The fiery reds, burning oranges and bright yellows give a nice balance to a grey fall sky. 

I have always loved to gather fall leaves, but why not take it a little further with your children? I love making fall leaf "windows" to preserve that year's memories. It is so simple, in-expensive and most of all fun for your family. 

Before you sit down to dinner, gather the family up and take a walk through your neighborhood or local park. Your family can even make it a scavenger hunt. Look up what trees are in your neighborhood in advance and sit down with your kids and do a little research on different types of leaves. Your family could make a chart or list of what to look for when leaf hunting. You are not only learning something new and in nature, you are bonding over a new interest and creating memories. I cherish this so much in my own family and hope the same for yours. 

Supply list for "Autumn leaf windows" 

  • Fall leaves all colors and textures
  • Wax paper
  • Iron 
  • Construction paper (Fall colors)
  • Glue stick 
  • Scissors (grown ups only)
Cut out wax paper to the size and scale you want for your window. Then on one sheet place your leaves in a pattern that you like and lay the other sheet of wax paper on top. Take your iron and press the two sheets of wax paper together. The heat and steam from the iron makes the paper stick together and gives it a really nice stain glass window look. When you have pressed the paper together with your leaf pattern securely inside, then cut out your frames from construction paper. Of course if you want to do shadow boxes or larger scale frames go right ahead. After all this is your project and you should make it as unique to your family as you wish. 

Leaf Window 

The leaves I gathered with my mother