Baby Baby Baby!!

Officially in the third trimester…. Aaahhhh!  🙂

This would all be easier if we were closer to our families.  We could use a little family wisdom (wisecracks) and support.  We are taking birthing classes from a Doula, started our registries and decided to go cloth!  It’s really difficult to know all of what we NEED and stuff we can do without.  Check out our lists so far on Amazon and Target, we’d love to hear your stories and suggestions!

Joren and I are in the full swing of all things baby.  Baby names are being narrowed down to a short list.  The plan is to wait until we meet him to make the final decision.  Hopefully we don’t leave the hospital with a Mr. Baby Ries but you never know…. I am quite the procrastinator 😉

Stuffed Pumpkin

Joren and I signed up for the winter community sharing agriculture group which is organized by Community CROPS in Lincoln.  It is our first season participating and I am really enjoying our experience. Not only do we get locally grown seasonal produce but we also get cheese, eggs and this week… honey!  All items are from people/farms living Lincoln or neighboring communities that I have visited with over the years at our seasonal farmers markets.  Every Thursday I pick up a variety of seasonal produce from the Community CROPS office.  Some items we have enjoyed this season are turnips, radishes, basil, chard, greens, salad greens, sweet potatoes, sage, carrots, beets, and many types of squashes.  I don’t know if we will buy a share during the summer months because I looove going to the markets and there just wouldn’t be a need with the amount of produce we get each week.  I haven’t had the gumption to do anything with the larger, more unique squashes so I have a little fall collection. 

This week I was finally inspired!  Community CROPS sends me an email early each Thursday telling me what I will be picking up and they also helpfully include links to recipes featuring the items I will be receiving.  This one caught my eye because it is so unique and reminded me of the flair that a big turkey has during a holiday dinner.  Here is the big voilá for the vegetarian in my life!

Serves 12

The stuffing for this entrée can be made two days ahead.

  • 1 lb. wild rice blend
  • 2 lb. fresh spinach, stemmed
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 6 cups sliced button mushrooms (1 ½ lb.)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced, divided (3 Tbs.)
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, divided
  • 4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans, or 1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 6- to 8-lb. cooking pumpkin

1. Prepare wild rice blend according to package directions. Transfer to bowl.

2. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in bottom of skillet. Add spinach, and cook 4 minutes, or until wilted. Drain, and cool, then squeeze dry, chop, and add to rice in bowl.

3. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, 4 tsp. garlic, 1 Tbs. sage, and 2 tsp. thyme; sauté 10 minutes, or until all liquid has evaporated. Stir in corn and kidney beans, and sauté 3 minutes. Stir mushroom mixture into rice mixture. Fold in pecans, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut top from pumpkin, and scoop out seeds and pulp.

5. Combine remaining 1/4 cup oil, remaining 5 tsp. garlic, 2 Tbs. sage, and 2 tsp. thyme in bowl. Brush oil mixture over inside of pumpkin. Fill pumpkin with rice mixture, cover with top, and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until pumpkin is tender when side is pierced with knife tip. Uncover, and bake 10 to 20 minutes more.

So here is the pumpkin.  It is an heirloom pumpkin, notice the pale outside color.  It is also a shorter shape which was perfect for baking whole, any taller and it may not fit.  Make sure to test the size of your pumpkin so you can place the rack in the right place before pre-heating the oven.  It isn’t included in the recipe but I rinsed the outside of the pumpkin to get all of the earth off.  If you buy yours in a store and it doesn’t have dirt on it you should rinse it to reduce the amount of possible chemicals or detergents.  Do this rinsing prior to cutting into it.  If you wait there is the risk of rinsing contaminants into the pumpkin!

The inside was much like spaghetti squash.  As I scooped out the seeds and continued to hollow out the pumpkin it began coming off in strings.  This is how it falls apart as you cut your pumpkin wedge on the plate, in strings almost like noodles.

Like the recipe suggests, I pre-made the stuffing but kept the toasted pecans separate and waited to add them right before I stuffed the pumpkin.  I love crunch so I didn’t want them to get too mushy.  I also combined all of the ingredients for the rub a few days ahead so the oil was very well infused with the garlic, thyme and sage.  It was soooo fragrant and delicious!  The bigger chunks of herbs wouldn’t stick to the sides of the pumpkin so make sure that they are evenly distributed along the bottom.  This is another good reason to pre-make your rub, so the oil will carry the flavor to all parts of the pumpkin.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stuffing was a perfect fit!  On goes the lid and into the oven.  The pumpkin made sure I didn’t forget about it by making little popping and hissing noises.  Do not be alarmed, this turned out to be okay, our pumpkin browned a little but did not explode.

The pumpkin was in the oven for two hours so Joren made sure I didn’t go hungry.  Here he is making guacamole which we ate along-side some tasty roasted red salsa made by our friend Johnny.  Thinking that I would probably need some meat to sustain me through the cooking time I tried my hand at homemade paté.  I combined a Martha Stewart recipe with one from  After the paté was in few small dishes, covered in wax paper and in the fridge Joren and I plopped on the couch with our chips, dips and wine to watch a movie (53 more minutes on the pumpkin!)

Finally the two hours passed.  Be careful now.  The pumpkin is hot and heavy.  The recipe didn’t give guidance on how to cut and serve so I decided to cut like a pie or pizza, in wedges.  I just plopped it onto the plate with the skin.  The pumpkin turned out so tender I think it would be dangerous to try and peel it before serving.  I loved the way it looked, smelled and tasted. Great colors with the wild rice, beans, spinach, pecans and of course the pumpkin and it smelled just like the holidays.  The herbs used in this dish are the same as a traditional stuffing.  It was so good and hearty that we forgot about the paté in the fridge.  Oh well, I didn’t have a yummy French baguette to toast anyway.  Mañana mañana.

You can only eat ONE!

Who would have thought a beet sandwich would be good?!  Well me I guess 🙂  This is what I made for dinner last night.  I must say, Joren was skeptical but it was delicious.  Try it out, it is a healthful version of your typical grilled cheese.  I even think kids will love it. The roasted beet becomes sweet.  The warning is referring to a possible side effect the next day….   You can message me if you want details 🙂


Well Hello!

Phase two is complete!  I graduated from the UNL dietetic internship on Friday, woohoo!  Phase threee:  I will be taking the R.D. exam in one month and hopefully be  a registered dietitian before this year is over.  I have learned so much these last eight months.  I feel like I’ve been given so many great experiences and I’m excited to see where I end up.  When I went into the internship I was set on a career in clinical dietetics.  I was 100% sure I would work in an acute-care hospital.  Now, my eyes have been opened to the many areas that a dietitian can make a difference.  I will be looking for opportunities in all fields to find my calling.

I have experience in eating disorders, long term elderly care, community based programs like WIC and health department wellness campaigns, laboratory nutrition research, acute hospital care, food service management in large facilities, after-school nutrition programming…  Wow!

I won’t be looking for jobs just yet, there is a phase four.  I have two more semesters of graduate school to receive my masters in Community Nutrition and Health Promotion with a graduate minor in BioChemistry.  I was awarded a research assistantship where I will be working under a brilliant professor, Dr. Tim Carr, with a project to be determined (Tuesday)!!

Before all that begins I get to spend a week with family and friends in California.  I need some relaxation!  I hope to jog in the Cali sun each day and hang at a coffee shop for an hour of studying.  If you want to join me for some exercise or studious-ness over some caffeine please call/txt me!  562-506-6396  I want to catch up with as many of you as I can while I am in town, I wish it weren’t so difficult.  To make it a little easier, we are having a gathering at my childhood home 🙂  Saturday, August 17th starting at 1pm.  Please, please, please stop by!!

One last thing…. Erin, Cameron and I would love to have Joren celebrating with us that weekend.  Times are tough without an income so we can’t afford another plane ticket.  I hate to ask one person to carry the financial burden so I had an idea.  I created an online fundraiser page so everyone could come together and bring Joren to California with his family and friends.  If we’ll see you that weekend and you can spare $5 or $10 I know you will get your money’s worth in great company, food and drink.  I can’t wait to surprise my wonderful husband with this gift from everyone, I know he’ll be so touched.

Look at those guys

Love, Vanessa

Red Lentil Thai Chili

We all have issues with left-overs. Boring! It is natural to crave variety. This recipe, which is perfect for the coming season, never gets old. Chili is also a great opportunity to plan ahead. Put one serving each into some tupperware, slap a date on them and throw them in the freezer for a quick lunch for the next three months.  For those of you that can’t stand the heat don’t worry, this is NOT spicy, just full of flavor. If you do like spicy, as I do, add some Sriracha hot sauce. It goes really well with the Thai flavors.  Enjoy!

Red Lentil Thai Chili  

Serves 12

Olive oil (1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons, however much you feel like using)
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced medium
3 cloves garlic, minced ( I like more )
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 3/4 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3) peeled and cut into ¾ inch chunks
1 1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 15-oz can lite coconut milk
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
½ cup fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Limes for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Saute onions and pepper in oil with a pinch of salt, for 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add garlic and saute a minute more.

3. Add chili powder, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

4. When lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are tender, add the remaining ingredients and heat through.

Tasty Husker Saturday Update

Before the work begins, it’s about to get warm in this kitchen!

A success! Dishes were tried by all and enjoyed by most.

Coming in 1st place… Gluten-free Salmon Patties with Creamy Dill Sauce!!!

              16 mini-cakes  Active Time: 30 minutes  Total Time: 45 minutes



  •   6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •   1 large onion, finely chopped
  •   2 stalk celery, finely diced
  •   4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  •   2 15-ounces canned salmon, drained
  •   4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  •   1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  •   3/4 cups instant potato flakes
  •   1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

    Thanks for your help Anna!



  1.   Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2.   Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion   and celery; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley; remove from the heat.
  3.   Place salmon in a medium bowl. Flake apart with a fork; remove any bones and skin. Add egg and mustard; mix well. Add the onion mixture, potato flakes and pepper; mix well. Shape the mixture into 16 patties.
  4. Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add 4 patties and cook until the undersides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a wide spatula, turn them over onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining patties.
  5. Bake the salmon cakes until golden on top and heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Creamy Dill Sauce. Serve salmon cakes with sauce.  Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 3. Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Browning some salmon patties

Creamy Dill Sauce

  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Coming in close second… Crock-Pot Mexican Chicken!!!!!

Sam, Micah and Luke agree… “It tastes like Chipotle!”  A fine compliment to the chef!

Is this round 2? I think Joel likes it!

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

Cook Time: 5 hrs 10 mins

2 cups chicken broth
10 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup taco seasoning (one store-bought packet)
45oz can diced tomatoes
6oz can diced green chilies
15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained


1.  Mix all ingredients together and submerge frozen chicken breasts into mixture. Place Crock Pot on High and cook for 5 hours.

2.  Take chicken out and shred. Place back into Crock Pot and turn the Crock Pot off. The flavors will adhere to the chicken and make this moist and tender.

3.  Adjust the moistness of the chicken by draining some liquid if you are serving tacos.

Red Lentil Thai Chili

A great meat-free, heart healthy twist on your traditional chili.  This steamy dish really hits the spot on a crisp fall day.

We all know we should eat more fiber. Fiber helps maintain regular digestion… ya know… being regular? It’s good 🙂 Fiber also lowers cholesterol, controls blood sugar levels, aids in weight loss, lowers your risk of hemorrhoids and other diseases of the colon.  Red Lentil Thai Chili has 15 grams of fiber!!! That is 62% of what the ladies need and 47% for men.

If you don’t like it I will use this spatula as a weapon!! (The birthday girl aside Mrs.Pelton)


An important antioxidant Vitamin A is found in orange veggies and in this chili at 200%. It may be vegetarian but it sticks to your ribs with 14 grams of protein from beans and lentils and really satisfies with savory coconut milk. Red Thai curry paste gives it enough spice to make you feel adventurous without scorching your taste buds. Cilantro adds fresh color and a fresh bite.

Quorn Bread


Quorn bread (made from quinoa vs. corn) was served as well as some Kale Carrot Apple Juice to finish off the meal!

It was fun to create this special menu and thanks

to Anna for making this great opportunity possible for me.

The Pelton’s are gracious hosts!

Tasty Husker Saturday

I have the challenge and pleasure today of catering a Happy Birthday Husker Lunch. This meal is gluten-free, corn-free, rich in calcium and antioxidants, low in fat and cholesterol and delicious!  Stay tuned for pictures and an update on how the event goes.