How do I describe my life right now...crazy busy! Use to think it was busy when kids were babies. Ha! Looking back, that was a cake walk. Then their lives were simple. Sure, we did the play groups, library, park, zoo, etc. but I set the schedule and we were always home by nap time! With two teens and one tween everyone has their own schedule and my main roles are cook, laundress, and chauffeur. I can navigate the streets like a career taxi driver and thankfully I graduated from a red minivan to a silver AWD crossover. I have long given up on the notion that I will ever get caught up on laundry and thankfully have a large pool table in my basement onto which I can dump clean clothes. What stumps me most is dinner. 

I like to cook and cherish those evenings when I can enjoy a glass of wine while trying something new! What I find most challenging are those nights (which are most nights these days) when everyone needs to be somewhere at nearly the same time and I need to get dinner made. Though I'm not big on frozen meals or convenience food, I will use pre-made components if they save time and have a simple ingredient list. 

While at Costco a couple months ago I noticed a huge bag of flat bread for under $5. Surprisingly the ingredients weren't terrible so I threw them in my cart. That night I decided to try then as pizza crust and was amazed at how well they worked. The manufacturer is missing a HUGE marketing opportunity by not noting this on its packaging. Looked in my frig for leftovers and made a delicious Greek pizza with leftover cooked chicken breast, chopped red pepper, fresh spinach, kalamata olives, feta cheese and shredded mozzarella. Brushed the flat bread with extra virgin olive oil, then layered the toppings. In the 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes until cheese was melted. The end result, a fast & healthy dinner, happy kids, easy clean up, and out the door again in no time. For a hearty breakfast on the go, I top the flat bread with scrambled eggs and fold over. Makes a convenient little edible pouch.

My kids go crazy for pickled vegetables. When they're grocery shopping with me, a jar always "mysteriously" appears in our cart.  I usually give in and buy them though the ingredient list is usually less than desirable (full of preservatives and lots of sodium). Needless to say I was excited to see a recipe for refrigerator pickled vegetables in our local Oregonian Newspaper this summer with a recipe that looked super easy with simple ingredients. During a recent week at the beach, my 10 year old and I gave the recipe a try. The end result was fantastic. If you can boil water then you'll have no problem making these. The recipe says they'll last 3 months in your frig, but chances are your family will gobble them up the first week or two. 

During our summer vacation to Peru we experienced everything quinoa. Quinoa pancakes, bread, snack bars, breakfast cereal, salads, and the list goes on and on! Needless-to-say we left with a new appreciation for this tiny, ancient grain. It's health benefits are many! After researching this further, I've learned that quinoa is a complete protein, is high in iron and calcium and is a good source of fiber. It's gluten free and vegetarian too. It's easier to make than rice, taking only about 10 minutes to cook. Next time you make a stir fry, try it in place of rice. That's what we did tonight and the kids gobbled it up! I "heart" quinoa!

To learn more about quinoa:

 If you're asking yourself what to do with all the zucchini and tomatoes in your garden, I've got a delicious answer. Using a nifty little Julienne cutter (there are many styles and types out there) cut your raw zucchini into little noodle-like strips. I also used one carrot for color. Gently toss in olive oil and saute in a skillet just until warmed - about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a serving platter.  Add a splash more olive oil to the pan and saute fresh garden tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes - halved). Heat until skins start to wrinkle and flesh becomes soft and begins to caramelize. Add to zucchini. Top with fresh pesto and toss until coated. Serve alone as a vegetarian dish or as a side with grilled fish (we used wild caught salmon) or chicken.

(One type of Julienne cutter. You use it in the way you would a potato peeler-in a scraping motion)

Pesto: I just went out to the garden a plucked a handful of basil and placed the leaves in the food processor with about 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, one garlic clove and 1/4 cup olive olive. Pulse just until ingredients start to blend but are still chunky. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Even my picky 13 year old son who does not like vegetables, gave this dish a big thumbs up.