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How to Cook Whole Grains

Grain Cooking ChartThere are few things that I find easier or more satisfying than a simple supper of a protein, whole grain, and vegetable. The combinations feel endless and can be seasoned and gussied up to fit a particular cuisine that you might be in the mood for.

In recent years it seems the number of grains that are available (and fashionable) has grown and grown. I never ate quinoa when I was a child and I had certainly never heard of millet or farro.

Now I love experimenting with these different grains to make healthy salads, with lots of vegetables, olive oil, vinegar, and crumbled feta cheese.

In these efforts to expand our taste buds and eat a greater variety of grains, I became a tad frustrated with myself for having to look up the cooking times and grain to water ratio every night.

Wouldn’t it be easier if I wrote all that down onto one piece of paper and put it on the refrigerator?

I have been meaning to do this for well over a year, and finally just had to do it. I think I was more motivated because I knew I could share it with you! So, if you click on that image right up there, it will take you to a lovely printable-PDF of the new, official Skill It Grain Cooking Chart. It is pretty enough to pin up to your refrigerator so that all the information you need is right at hand.

I hope this makes putting dinner on the table just a little bit easier. And if you are cooking with little ones, might I suggest that you put this at their height and encourage them to be your official grain & water measuring experts. Oh, and they can set the timer for you when the grains are ready to be simmered!

Here are some photos of delicious dinners we’ve made with grains to whet your appetite. And if you like the looks of these, I hope you’ll consider joining the upcoming session of Season’s Eatings that starts this Friday. There will be lots of delicious dinner recipes and more ideas for bringing out the simple joys of cooking and eating together!

Cooking with GrainsFrom Left to Right: Chicken with Chard & Couscous, How to store Quinoa, Cod sauteed in tomatoes and lemon over Quinoa

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Sweet Pepper and Spinach Quesadillas

Sweet Pepper and Spinach QuesadillaDoes looking at this photo make you hungry for dinner? If your answer is yes, I am happy to report that you’ll learn how to make it by the end of this post!

You may or may not know by now that I adore corn tortillas and anything related to the cuisine of Mexico. I was pretty much raised on this stuff in California and I adore the satisfying and rich flavors of beans, corn, cumin, rice, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, and pepper.

As a matter of fact, if  you keep that list of ingredients on hand, you will always be able to put together a quick and delicious supper for you and your family!

My version of a this dish has evolved over the years and my new favorite thing is to assemble mini quesadillas on a baking sheet and cook them in the oven. (I used to heat up one quesadilla at a time on a small, stove-top griddle…not very efficient!)

I make quesadillas a million different ways because they’re an excellent way to use up any small bits or leftovers that you think could be unified with the addition of some cumin and cheese and perhaps some sauteed onion.

Doesn’t it feel delicious and satisfying when you avoid wasting food? It is a lovely thing to model a respect of food for our children so that they, too, will grow up to be mindful of its value.

I have had such a bad habit at times of throwing out food because I didn’t use it in time. That’s not very Skill It of me and I have made a huge effort to improve this in my own life.

If you have helpful young hands with you in the kitchen you could ask them to help you wash the spinach, grate the cheese, or even cut up some peppers…it just depends on their age and their interest.

And I hope you will take this beginning of a recipe and modify it endlessly, like I do, so that it brings you and your family much pleasure at the dinner table!

Pepper and Spinach SauteeRed Pepper Quesadillas

1-2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
1 large bunch fresh spinach (about 8-12oz)
1 large onion
6-8 oz cheddar or jack cheese
8-12 corn tortillas
salt & pepper

Cut onion into a large dice or thin half-round slices. Wash bell pepper and slice into matchstick size pieces. Heat vegetable oil in a wide skillet and add onion, stirring until translucent. Then add pepper and continue to cook over medium-high heat until peppers begin to soften, too. Add cumin to taste, about 1-2 teaspoons.

When peppers & onions are tender, add spinach, turn heat down to medium low, cover, and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Check and stir to make sure spinach is cooking down evenly.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees and arrange 4-6 tortillas on a baking sheet. Arrange half your grated cheese divided evenly onto each tortilla, then top with cooked veggie mixture. Add remaining cheese on top of veggies and place a second tortilla onto this. Press down gently and then pop into the oven.

Cook for about 10-20 minutes or until cheese is fully melted and tortillas are beginning to brown. A light coating of vegetable oil on top of each tortilla will help it to get quite crisp if that sounds good to you.

Serve with any number of favorite condiments such as: avocado, cilantro, green onions, salsa, sour cream, or yogurt and enjoy!

How to make sweet pepper quesadillas

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The Six Banana Banana Bread Recipe

I am something of a Banana Bread aficionado by now. If you have been with us here at Skill It for a while, you know that we try to keep things pretty healthy, at least most of the time. Dinner always has something vibrantly green and we cook with olive oil. We eat a wide range of whole grains and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Six Banana Banana Bread RecipeAnd sometimes, we just have to bake.

Even better, baking is probably the number one thing that kids enjoy in the kitchen! I love baking for the same reason kids do:

– it is really, really fun to get a little bit of flour on your face
– scooping and measuring ingredients is uniquely satisfying
– the transformation of dough or batter into something edible is pure magic

This Six Banana Banana Bread recipe has the added kid-friendly step of mashing bananas with a fork. I suggest doing this in a wide, shallow bowl with a plain fork or potato masher and letting the little ones pretty much go to town. Yes, it would be best if most of the banana stayed in the bowl, but I promise you, this is the very best part of the recipe.

And oh, yes, you do not need to be or have kids to make and love this bread. I would highly recommend making this if you’re having friends over for dinner since it’s an impressive and delicious dessert on its own or when topped with whipped cream, ice cream, or creme fraiche. Or serve it at a brunch, or for afternoon tea, or just because.

I want to also let you know that you can personalize and customize this recipe with the add-ins. You could make this with toasted walnuts or pecans instead of (or in addition to) chocolate chips. I have also been really wanting to try adding chopped dates to a loaf of banana bread because I think that would just be delicious.

If you make this and like it, please do tell us all about it in the comments below. Or you can post a picture on the Skill It Facebook page so we can all say “ooooh!” and “ahhhh!” at your culinary handiwork. Bonus points for photos of your adorable kids mashing the bananas!

Six Banana Banana BreadSix Banana Banana Bread Recipe


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups mashed medium very ripe bananas (about 6)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x5x3 loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside: flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. You can just use a dinner fork for this or a whisk since they’re quite fun.

In a large bowl, mash all six of your bananas until no very large pieces remain. Have fun with this! And then set aside.

Get out your favorite electric mixer and beat together your sugar and butter until it’s light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well each time. Add vanilla and beat again. With mixer on a low setting, add flour mixture in three additions and alternate with the banana mixture. (Flour-banana-flour-banana-

flour.) Mix just until combined being careful not to over-mix.

Stir in your add-ons like chocolate chips or nuts by hand.

Pour your batter into your pan. Bake until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out with only a few moist crumbs. This should take anywhere from 60-75 minutes. If the loaf looks quite brown on top before the toothpick comes out clean, loosely tent the top with a piece of aluminum foil and continue cooking.

Once done, remove from oven with your favorite oven mitts and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before cooling completely on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy!


FulFILL Your Year Giveaway!

Today I am delighted to be offering a giveaway on the Skill It blog!

If you joined Skill It for Season’s Eatings in the Fall, you were introduced to Kelly Weed Dahl of Perched to Fly.

Jan_7_Kelly_DahlKelly is a mama, wife, and life coach who considers creativity, intuition, and love as her daily guides.

Now the holidays are behind us and a beautiful New Year lies ahead, it’s a beautiful time to be thinking about what we will create in 2013. To help us with this, Kelly has created on online course, “FulFILL Your Year,” starting on January 14th.

Guided by Kelly, participants in the course will spend four weeks to mindfully create a clear vision for a fulfilling year.

The course offers journal prompts, videos and creative exercises designed to help you uncover what you want out of the new year and shows you how to make it happen. It is all delivered straight to your email inbox with a whole lot of love.

In the same way that we love creating community here at Skill It, one of the benefits of this experience will be sharing it with a group of women all working to make 2013 their best year yet. The course has a private Facebook group where you can make these connections.

Jan_7_FulFill_SquareKelly has gifted us with a spot in the course to giveaway to a Skill It reader! To enter the contest, please leave a comment below with one word or one thing you’d like to create in 2013.

You can enter through Thursday, January 10th at midnight and we’ll announce the winner on Friday, January 11th!


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