Friday, August 29, 2008

Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words...

While I was visiting my parents in Denver back in July, my Mom and I, along with Calvin, made a special trip to visit the SAME Cafe. I first read about this unique restaurant in Cooking Light a few months earlier and I was immediately intrigued. (Read my original blog post about it here.) Here's a quick recap of what makes the SAME Cafe so unique:
  • SAME stands for "So All May Eat"
  • There are no set prices
  • Patrons pay what they can afford for their meal or they get their food in exchange for 1 hour of work at the restaurant
  • Nearly all the food is made from fresh, local ingredients
  • The cafe is run by a husband/wife team, Brad and Libby, who both have full-time jobs outside of the restaurant!

When we first arrived at the Cafe, I was surprised by just how small it was. There were maybe 8 or 9 tables, along with a tiny, open-air kitchen, all crammed into one space. Thankfully, a table opened up just after we arrived. Then it took us a few minutes to figure out the "system." We were greeted by this lovely menu just inside the front door:

From there, we told one of the kitchen workers what we wanted and, here's the clincher, we also told him the exact portions we wanted. What an absurdly simple way to cut down on costs and eliminate excess waste! (They encourage patrons to only take what they think they can eat, then return for seconds if they'd like more.) My Mom and I had little servings of each of the pizzas and salads:

I must admit, though, that while the food was good, it wasn't quite as spectacular as I had hoped. Upon reading in Cooking Light that one of the owners was a chef, I kind of had prepared myself to be wowed by the food, so I was a little disappointed. But here's the thing--though I wasn't as "wowed" by the food as I had originally hoped, I was encouraged and blessed in exceeding amounts by this unassuming restaurant in many other ways. The SAME Cafe has succeeded in establishing community and fellowship in a way that is surely a rare sight in our modern culture. Mom and I observed people from all different economic backgrounds, races, and walks of life bustling in and out of the SAME Cafe's tiny space, talking with one another, eating with one another, and becoming involved in one another's lives. I also witnessed just how engaged the owners are with their patrons. They go above and beyond simply "welcoming" their customers. During our entire lunch, I don't think I saw Brad (one of the owners) in one place for more than a few minutes--he not only personally talked with each and every patron, but he spent a great deal of time engaging with a group of counter-culture guys by the bike rack on the sidewalk.

I don't know Brad and Libby personally, but as a Christian, I see very clearly that the SAME Cafe is a ministry. They have created a safe-haven where all are welcome. They are providing food for those who can't afford to eat, and yet they uphold people's dignity while doing so. They are passionately facilitating community, which is something our hearts desperately long for in a culture that is often so disengaged. And also, they are concerned with being good stewards of not only their resources, but also the environment, too. Thank you Brad and Libby.

What more could I possibly say, except that if you're ever in the Denver area, go check it out for yourself! Oh, and also, check out this little dude enjoying his pizza:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life Is Just A Big Fat Bowl Of These Beauties...

Signs My 4 Year Old Is Turning Against Me

So about a month ago, Calvin and I were driving all over the St. Louis metro area, going to appointments and running miscellaneous errands. After dropping off our recycling in Kirkwood, I realized just how quickly our afternoon was passing us by. It was nearly 2:00, we hadn't even had lunch yet, and we were still a good 20 minutes from home. I made the executive decision to purchase some snacks from a local grocery store to tide us over on the trip home.

Totting our treats and a couple cans of "Blue Sky" pop, we returned to the car. I got Calvin all set up with his snack in the backseat and was about to hand him his pop, when all of the sudden I began to see the possible turn of events in my head: 4 year old + backseat of the car + open can of pop...well, you can do the math! So I reassured him that I would keep his pop safely in the front seat and that he could have it as soon as we got home. A few minutes later, this is the conversation that began to develop:

C: Why do you call it "pop?"
Me: Well, because I'm from Nebraska and that's what I've always called it.
C: But it's called soda.
Me: In St. Louis, people call it soda. But I call it pop.
C: But it's not called pop, it's called soda.
Me: (getting a bit agitated) Well pop and soda are the exact same thing, but some people call it pop and some people call it soda.
C: Well I call it soda.

This went back and forth like this for several minutes. Remember my pop/soda debate a while back? To further fuel my annoyance, now I'm being being told by a 4 year old what to call my carbonated beverages!! I think I'll be lessening Calvin's inheritance into the family fortune.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Please don't egg my house

I'm having growing concerns that one day I'll wake up to find my 4-year old's bed empty, and in place of his sleeping body will be a ransom note that says:

"Give us more Foodie and the boy will be returned to you, unharmed."

I've been asked about a handful of times when I was going to start blogging again. I figured I better git off my lazy arse before people start resorting to drastic measures. I'll spare you all the blah details of my life and throw out a couple seasonal recipes that yielded fresh, flavorful, summery results. Ya better hurry, though, if you want to prepare these dishes cause autumn will be rearing its lovely head soon.

Sweet Corn and Summer Squash Soup
I love it when I see that a recipe only has a minimal amount of ingredients. And this soup is a perfect example of the fact that good quality recipes need not contain insane amounts of ingredients you can't pronounce. Sometimes simplicity produces the best results. I maintained the simplicity of the dish by serving it with rustic french rolls (from Trader Joe's, no less!) and tossed green salad. (Found in Cooking Light.)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 7 ears)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion to pan; cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add corn and next 4 ingredients (through pepper); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Place half of corn mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Strain corn mixture through a sieve into a large bowl; discard solids. (I chose not to strain the soup...too much work, plus the soup tasted great without being strained.)Repeat procedure with remaining corn mixture. Serve immediately.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Something magical happens to vegetables when they're grilled. It's as if their best flavor molecules are suddenly released and kick up good veggies to stellar veggies. I'm a total sucker for grilled veggies and in addition to eating them as a side dish with dinner, here are 2 other ways I love to utilize leftovers. First--all those magical properties of grilled veggies are the secret ingredient for an intensely flavorful omelet. Just chop up the leftovers and throw into your omelet while cooking it. Second, I love to add leftover grilled veggies to my typical lunch salad. Mmmm, I'm getting a little giddy just thinking about it. I have to admit that this recipe did involve quite a bit of prep work, but it was totally worth it in the end. This picture is shown before I added the goat cheese. (Also found in Cooking Light.)


  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • 8 ounces asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 (4-inch) portobello mushroom caps (I used 6 oz. of sliced baby portobello mushrooms)
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved and seeded
  • Cooking spray (I chose to use brush all the veggies with olive oil, in place of the cooking spray)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco (I substituted crumbled goat cheese)

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. To prepare vinaigrette, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.

To prepare salad, coat asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, onion, and bell pepper with cooking spray (or brush with olive oil). Place vegetables on grill rack; grill 4 minutes on each side or until slightly blackened. Remove vegetables from grill; cool slightly. Cut vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Add vegetables, basil, chives, and parsley to vinaigrette; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grilled Chicken Salad with Sweet 'n' Spicy Dressing

This is a fanastic dish to make on a steamy, summery day. It's light, refreshing, flavorful...and you don't even have to turn your oven on! I added black beans and shredded co-jack cheese for even more pizazz, and I'm thinkin that fresh sweet corn, straight off the cob, would be another great addition to this salad. (Recipe found in Cooking Light.)

Grilled Chicken Salad with Sweet 'n' Spicy Dressing


  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Cooking spray


  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin


  • 8 cups mixed salad greens (I used romaine)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced peeled cucumber
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered

To prepare chicken, combine the first 5 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add the chicken to the bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning the bag occasionally.

Prepare grill. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Let chicken stand 10 minutes; cut across grain into 1-inch-thick slices.

To prepare dressing, combine cilantro and next 7 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon cumin) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. To prepare salad, arrange 2 cups greens, 1/4 cup cucumber, 1 tablespoon onion, and 2 tomato wedges on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 chicken breast half. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing over each serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Victory For Missouri Midwives!

Up until a few weeks ago, any Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) that assisted in a homebirth in Missouri faced the risk of being charged with committing a felony. But on June 24th, after nearly 25 years of waiting, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out a suit brought by a group of physicians, making it legal for Missouri midwives to practice openly and without fear of prosecution. I rejoice in this victory, which is not only a victory for midwives, but also a victory for families and the entire childbirth community as well! Read the entire press release of the Supreme's Court's ruling at the Friends of MO Midwives homepage.

My joy in this victory is not because I'm anti-hospital or anti-obstetrician. Rather, this is about offering families freedom to make truly informed, educated decisions about their births. Expecting Mamas deserve the right to choose the birthing location where they feel most comfortable, and for some women, that location will be in the safety and privacy of their own homes. In fact, when a laboring mom feels fear and anxiety, it can and often does inhibit her progress. This court ruling opens so many doors for families in Missouri!

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Latest Food Adventure

A couple months ago, my friend Emily called me to ask if I'd be interested in heading up the meal for the VBS Volunteer Luncheon (to serve 50-70 people). Now I haven't known Emily for very long, but obviously long for her to figure out what a crazy foodie I am. I was so very flattered and honored that she would put her confidence in me and it didn't take long for me to tell her a resounding "yes." I was giddy with excitement; this was exactly the kind of foodie challenge that I was up for: planning and preparing a meal from beginning to end with no constraints on my creativity. My giddiness even kept me up that night, as my I poured through my mental recipe file, searching for the perfect combination of dishes.

A couple of weeks later, as I strolled through Sam's Club with Emily, I started feeling a little overwhelmed. My behemoth-sized grocery cart was filled to the max with food and I couldn't help but think,"Holy Crap! Can I really do this?" Thankfully, I was reassured knowing that I had a handful of wonderful women who graciously teamed up with me to get the job done. I am especially grateful to Jillian, who worked for 6 hours in the church kitchen with me the day before the luncheon, sweating with me and keeping me sane! She's quite a foodie herself, plus she has way more catering-type experience than I do, so her input and hard work was invaluable. Without all of these gals, I absolutely could NOT have pulled this off! Here are the 5 of us finishing up on Sunday morning (from left- Anna, Liz, Jillian, Sabrina and me):

Everything went off (mostly) without a hitch and it was a joy to help serve all the VBS workers in this way. So without further adieu, here are the recipes:

VBS Volunteer Luncheon Menu

Slow-Cooked Mediterranean Chicken

Emerial LaGasse's Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Tossed Salad

Fresh Fruit Saladp>

No-Bake Peanut Bars


Slow-Cooked Mediterranean Chicken

Originally found in Cooking Light, this slow-cooker recipe quickly became one of my favorites. I adore Greek food, so I figured, what's not to love about it?! The original recipe calls for turkey breast, but I have easily substituted chicken many times. For the luncheon, I opted to cut down on the cooking time, since I wouldn't be able to use a slow-cooker. Instead, I basically marinated the chicken breast in all the other ingredients for 24 hours, then roasted them in the oven at about 300 degrees for 2 hours. It worked really well in lieu of the slow-cooker, however, to get the full effect of this dish, I would always opt for the slow-cooker over the oven.

  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup julienne-cut drained oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning mix (such as McCormick's)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4-pound) boneless turkey breast, trimmed (or 6-8 large, boneless chicken breasts)
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Combine first 9 ingredients in an electric slow cooker. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add broth mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes. Cut turkey into slices.

Yield: About 8 servings


Emeril LaGasse's Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad

Oh. My. Gosh. Holy cow, this is the most phenomenal pasta salad known to man. You've never tasted pasta salad till you've tried this one. Even for people who normally don't care for pasta salad, this will bring new light that ho-hum, mayo-based pasta salad so popular at potlucks. One of the facets that makes this recipe so fantastic is the roasted garlic vinaigrette. Don't be scared of using an entire bulb of garlic; when garlic is roasted, its flavor becomes very mellow. Plus, the smell of garlic roasting in the oven will make your home smell so inviting. Then, when you're ready to take your first bite, make sure you're sitting down cause this bad boy just might knock you off your feet! Thanks to Emeril and the Food Network for this recipe..."Bam!"

  • 1/2 pound fresh angel hair pasta (I substituted rotini)
  • 10 roasted cloves of garlic (about one whole bulb, see note below on how to roast garlic)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 roma or plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh sweet peas, blanched (I always omit peas cause I don't care for them)
  • 1/2 cup Greek black olives, pitted and halved
  • 4 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled (herb-seasoned feta is wonderful in this dish)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and place the pasta in a bowl of ice water. Stir the pasta a couple of times to separate the pasta. Drain very well; Season with salt and pepper. In a mixing bowl, add the garlic. Using the back of a fork, mash the cloves until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and mustard. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil slowly. Whisk until the mixture is slightly thick. Season with salt and black pepper. In a large mixing bowl, add the onions, tomatoes, and peas. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta, olives and cheese. Toss the salad with the dressing. Serve either cold or at room temperature.

**How to roast garlic: This is pretty darn simple, but you'll want to do this ahead of time so that the garlic is roasted and cooled before you prepare the pasta salad. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Loosely wrap the garlic bulb in foil and place in preheated oven. Roast for about 1 hour, checking periodically to make sure it doesn't burn. You'll know it's done when the bulb is very soft and the cloves are a lovely golden brown. Multiple bulbs of garlic can be roasted at one time, too.

**How to get the roasted garlic out!! Okay, so you've roasted your what? Allow the garlic to cool so that you can easily handle it. Then, insert the tip of a paring knife at the edge of the stem on the bottom of the bulb. You should be able to easily pry up the stem and pull it off. Now, holding it over a small bowl, squeeze several times at the top of the bulb and all the roasted goodness will squirt out the bottom. I should warn you, though, that it can be a little messy at times and roasted garlic is quite sticky on hands. But don't dismay, it's totally worth it! Now you're ready to use the your roasted garlic.


No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Okay, so I have to admit, these bars are the one part of my meal that was a total, last-minute decision. I just had no clue what to make for dessert, but I knew it had to be simple. So I asked my husband, an expert dessert-taster, what I should make for dessert: cake? cookies? bars? etc. His response was, "Hmmm...bars really say 'VBS Luncheon' to me." So bars it was! I found this recipe on an ad for Nestle Toll House and as I've mentioned before, the chocolate/pb combo can never be beat in my book. The results were quite astounding and indeed, the recipe was super-simple to prepare. Although the Nestle employee who wrote the recipe must've been smokin' crack because it said that it yielded 60 bars!! Unless I cut those bars into 1 inch squares, there's no way to get 60 bars from one pan. Besides, when it comes to dessert, more is always better. :)

  • 2 cups peanut butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

GREASE 13 x 9-inch baking pan. BEAT 1 1/4 cups peanut butter and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup powdered sugar. With hands or wooden spoon, work in remaining powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup morsels. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Smooth top with spatula. MELT remaining peanut butter and remaining morsels in medium, heavy-duty saucepan over lowest possible heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Spread over graham cracker crust in pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chocolate is firm; cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.