Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Brock and I went to Santa Fe for a long weekend for our first anniversary.  This was back in our BC (before children) era, when we could do (and afford) such things as take off for a romantic mini-vacation to an artsy (and expensive) town.  This trip has probably been romanticized in my memory a bit, but my memory says it was magical.
We'd have pastries and lattes at the bakery below the hotel every morning, and spend our days wandering through museums and galleries, eating amazing spicy New Mexican food, drinking strong margaritas, perusing jewelry sold by street vendors on the plaza, etc, into bliss.  We spent one morning meandering through the arts district and found ourselves at a cute, funky little tea house at lunch time (our first departure from New Mexican food, not counting pastries).  I had a tasty oolong and an incredible (and memorable) baked ricotta sandwich.  Brock had some weird bright-green foamy tea (matcha?), and a lunch that wasn't quite as memorable.

But the ricotta...  This was the first (and still only) time I'd had baked ricotta at a restaurant, and I never was able to find a decent recipe for it, so I created this one.  
Best dang sandwich this side of Santa Fe, if I do say so myself.

the veggies (etc):

-for the ricotta:

  • Olive oil, for prepping the baking dish
  • 32 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste

-for the sandwiches:
  • Your favorite bread, sliced
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Roasted red peppers, cut into strips (4-6 strips per sandwich)
  • Baby spinach, large stems removed (about 6 leaves per sandwich)
  • Fresh basil, chiffonaded (did I conjugate this correctly?-- Or, in other words, shredded; a tablespoon or two per sandwich)

the love:

-for the ricotta:

  1. Oil a 9x9" (or slightly larger)* glass baking dish and preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta and eggs until well-incorporated.
  3. Add the garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper, and mix well.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly into your prepared dish.
  5. Bake for about an hour, or until the ricotta is firm in the center.
  6. Cool slightly or completely before cutting.**

-for the sandwiches:***
  1. Slice the ricotta into rectangles,trapezoids, or whatever shape and size best fits your bread.  Munch on any small odd-shaped pieces while you assemble sandwiches (good stuff, huh?).
  2. Top a slice of bread with a piece of ricotta, then drizzle with balsamic.
  3. Top that with a few strips of roasted peppers and several spinach leaves, then sprinkle with some basil shreds.  
  4. Top with the other piece of bread and savor while contemplating the art of Georgia O'Keeffe.

*I make mine in a 9x9" dish, and the ricotta comes out pretty thick.  It's good this way, but sometimes a little messy.  In a slightly larger dish you'd get thinner slices but more of them, which could be a good thing...
**I often make this ahead of time and refrigerate until I'm ready to use it.  It tastes good at any temperature, but is nice and firm (thus less messy to eat) when cold.
**This is just what Brock and I like on these-- but there are probably a million ways you could dress up this ricotta and still have it taste fantastic.  For my boys, I just serve it plain on regular whole-wheat sandwich bread.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

grandma gen's•spiced glazed nuts

The sanity level in my household is already questionable-- I don't need the craziness of Christmas pushing anyone over the edge.  This is one reason why I try to keep the holidays simple for my family (without taking away too much of the fun).  But there are some things you just can't skip-- the things it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without.  For example, Grandma Gen's Spiced Glazed Nuts.

Every year, my Grandma Gen would show up for our Christmas celebration with a big holiday-themed cookie tin full of these nuts.  We would dig into them while we opened gifts, and they'd be gone a lot sooner than something containing so much salt, sugar and fats (albeit good fats) should be.  
My mom says the recipe actually came from a next-door neighbor of ours when I was young, but at some point Grandma got a hold of the recipe and made it hers.  
She just turned 90 and I wouldn't be surprised if she's still making these nuts this year (they're that good, and she's still rockin' it well enough to whip out a few pounds of Christmas nuts).
Since I haven't been back to Minnesota for Christmas in years, I've started making them myself.  And now I can't help but to double the recipe, pack some into holiday-themed bags with ribbons and hand some out with our Christmas cards.  It's a nice little gesture that people really seem to appreciate.
And these people don't have to know how ridiculously easy they are to make...

the veggies (or nuts, etc):*
  • 1 lb roasted, salted mixed nuts, plus a little extra**
  • 1 egg white***
  • 1 TBS cold water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

the love:
  1. Preheat your oven to 225° and line a large sided cookie sheet with parchment.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites and water until bubbly.
  3. Add one pound of the nuts and mix until evenly moist.  If there's egg mixture pooling at the bottom of the bowl after mixing, add some extra nuts then stir some more.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  6. Spread the nuts out evenly onto the cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for an hour to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the nuts are no longer gooey (they will still be a little sticky until they're completely cool).
  8. Cool completely and store in airtight containers, such as Christmas tins or bags, and  don't forget to share.


*I often double this recipe, which seems to work fine-- just make sure you use two pans to give the nuts enough room.
**I usually get a big thing of mixed nuts and a smaller can of cashews.
***If you or someone you're gifting to can't have eggs or are vegan, you might try this recipe for Eggnog Spiced Nuts recently posted on Peas and Thank You.  These nuts looks equally (if not slightly more) tasty, but a little less simple.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This one's for my dad.  It was his birthday this past week, and this dish always makes me think of him.  Also, the reverse-- thinking of him usually makes me hungry for Taco Pieces.  
I grew up on this dish.  Family legend has it that my dad invented it, but I do realize there are a million versions of Mexican-style casserole (or as they say in Minnesota, "hot dish") out there.  But this one is special-- to me, and apparently also my dad.
This is always the first thing he suggests for dinner when we're visiting.  I'm not entirely sure if it's because he really likes it that much or just because it's an old standby that's easy to make vegetarian (throw in some soy crumbles instead of the traditional ground beef, and you're golden).  I suspect it's a little of both.  Whatever his reason, I can tell my mom really wishes he'd let go of his hang-up with Taco Pieces.  She rolls her eyes anytime anyone says those two words together.  This is probably because, having lived with my dad for over forty years, she's eaten quite a lot of it.  
I have too.  The only difference is, I don't get sick of it.  Quite the opposite. 
My version has deviated from Dad's in that I've ditched the meat and soy crumbles and opted for lentils instead.  The end result is still true to the spirit of the original "hot dish", and it still makes me think of my dad...  
I hope you had a happy birthday!

the veggies (etc):

  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • One red or green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (from about 1 cup dry)
  • 2 cups cooked red kidney beans (from about 1 cup dry)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 to 10 medium to large tortillas
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Your favorite taco fixings (salsa, plain yogurt/sour cream, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, etc)

the love:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° and heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions to the skillet and saute for a couple minutes before adding the bell pepper.  Continue cooking until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the corn and cook until it's defrosted, then throw in the beans, spices, salt, and 1/4 cup water.  Stir and cook for a few minutes, until well-incorporated and heated through, then turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. In a 9x13" glass baking dish, put down a layer of tortillas (using about a third of them, or 2 to 3 tortillas), tearing the tortillas and piecing them together for even coverage.
  5. Layer 1/2 of the filling mixture on top of the tortillas, then sprinkle that evenly with about a third of the cheese.
  6. Repeat the last two steps to make another layer of tortillas, filling, then cheese.  
  7. Top all that with one more layer of tortillas, then the last of the cheese.
  8. Bake in the oven for about a half hour, or until it's all heated through and the cheese on the top is golden.
  9. Slice and serve topped with whatever you like on your tacos-- salsa, lettuce, etc.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

carrot-nut-raisin•breakfast-snack-dessert cookies

I don't get much alone time with Owen these days.  So it was perfect timing today when he woke up early from nap (while Oliver was still sleeping).  I happened to be making cookies, and once they were done we brewed some blueberry tea and had our own personal tea party.  Owen was thrilled.  I'm not sure if it was because he was getting special alone time with his mama, because I was letting him pour his own tea using his own tea set, or because I was letting him eat cookies in the middle of the afternoon.

While eating his treat he said to me "I wish we had a cookie tree in our yard so I could go out and eat cookies whenever I want".  I didn't tell him that even if someone miraculously bred a tree that grew cookies on it there's still no way it would grow in our hardiness zone (but maybe at Nana and Papa's in Florida?).  
In any case, it was a sweet few moments.  Owen got to eat a cookie for snack, and I got some time with my big boy.  I didn't tell him that these cookies are so full of healthy goodness (and vegan, to boot, if you care about that sort of thing) that I would consider letting him eat one whenever he wanted if he asked nicely enough.  Instead, we'll have them again as dessert after dinner.  And if there are any left, I'll probably have one for breakfast with my coffee...

The veggies (etc):
  • 3/4 cup margarine, softened (I like Earth Balance)
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 TBS ground flaxseeds
  • 3 TBS water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder*
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated carrots (about one large carrot)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

The love:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°, and prep a couple cookie sheets (I line mine with parchment).
  2. In a big bowl, beat together margarine and syrup until well incorporated (the mixture will look pretty strange at this point-- almost curdy).
  3. Beat in the flaxseeds, water and vanilla.
  4. On top of that, add the oats, then flours, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon.  Mix the dry ingredients together as best you can before stirring into the wet.**
  5. Fold in the carrots, raisins and nuts.
  6. Drop the dough onto your cookie sheets (I do about 1/3 cup-size scoops for about 16 really big cookies) a couple inches apart.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are just a little firm to the touch in the middle, and a little golden on the edges.
  8. Cool the cookies on the pan for a couple minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  Eat them in the afternoon with blueberry tea on a tiny plastic tea set or whenever, really.

*This recipe is adapted to the ridiculously high altitude at which we live.  If you live at a more reasonable height above sea level, you might want to double the baking powder and soda.
**I'll give the same disclaimer I gave with my pancake recipe: Most recipes will tell you to mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, then stir them together-- this is to prevent clumping and ensure even mixing.  I'm lazy and don't like getting out and washing an extra bowl, so I do it all in one bowl.  To make up for it I try to mix the dry ingredients together on top of the wet before I really stir it into the the wet stuff.  If this is offensive to you, by all means, get out another bowl.

Where credit is due:
Beyond the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, has been on my shelf for many, many years.  I especially love her baked goods, which are heartier and healthier than most and often contain whole wheat and honey.  My cookie recipe is a veganized and further-fortified version of one of hers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

pickle ball and olive•pasta

Owen loves pickles and I will use this fact to my advantage to make dinner time go just a little more smoothly.  Actually, calling capers pickle balls is not far off from the truth.  The little spheres that are commonly called capers are actually flower buds from the caper bush that are-- you guessed it-- pickled.
He loves olives, too, and insisted I add them to the title of the recipe.  So, with some direction from my preschooler, I bring you "Pickle Ball and Olive Pasta".
We had this for dinner last night, and Owen said, "This is the best dinner I've ever had!"  I'm pretty sure he has learned by now that it's to his advantage to flatter his mama, and I'm pretty sure this statement was a slight exaggeration.  But, I was not about to argue with him.  The four-year-old has spoken.  Brock and I thought it was maybe not the best dinner ever, but really good.  I was excited that dinner was so easy to make-- and of course, that Owen is finally starting to learn to flatter his mother.  Oliver was just excited about his bread.
This pasta has actually been a favorite of ours for years-- as evidenced by the condition of my recipe card (with notes scribbled all over and the original blue ballpoint ink faded nearly to oblivion in places).  It's about time I type it out, lest it be lost to me.

The veggies (etc):
  • A 14.5 to 16 oz package of pasta*
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ripe tomatoes (about 3 large tomatoes), chopped (about 2 to 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted, coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup capers (AKA pickle balls), rinsed
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste (I just add a pinch so it's not too spicy for the kids)
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 1/2 TBS dried parsley**
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

The love:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling salted water until al dente and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a wide skillet and add the garlic, tomatoes, olives, pickle balls, pepper flakes or cayenne, marjoram and parsley.
  3. Simmer briskly for 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened a bit and tomatoes start to break down a little.
  4. Season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately, topped with a little fresh grated parmesan.


* I use Barilla Plus pasta, which for some reason comes in 14.5 oz packages.  Maybe it's because this kind expands more than your average noodle when cooking-- it seems to be about right when substituted for a one-pound box of regular pasta.
**If you feel like getting fancy with the herbs, you live somewhere you can grow such things as marjoram and parsley, or you generally use a lot of fresh herbs when cooking, go for it and substitute fresh for the dried (use about 1TBS chopped marjoram and 1/2 cup chopped parsley).  Your pasta will probably taste that much better because of your valiant efforts.  But, if you're like me and are looking for a fast meal with a minimal about of washing and chopping, you cannot grow herbs more finicky than mint and chives in your garden, or you end up using a small amount of store-bought herbs and letting the rest of them go slimy in your vegetable drawer, stick with the dry herbs-- it'll still be pretty darn good.

Where credit is due:

In the very corner of my recipe card, in very small and faded print, I believe it says Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  A quick Amazon search and a glance at the cover photo have reminded me that this cookbook is by Deborah Madison.  My memory now tells me that although I haven't picked up the actual book in years, it's been a helpful one in the past-- and has obviously provided me with a recipe or two that I've tried, re-made and re-named over the years...

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Beans are the quintessential vegetarian food.  They have a lot going for them-- perhaps most notably their protein and fiber content.  Plus, it's easy to throw them into a meal to round out it's nutritional content.  Or, it would be if you use canned beans.
But, I am not okay with cans.  A recent harvard study showed over a 1,000 percent increase in BPA levels in the urine of people who ate one serving of canned soup a day for five days (for more, check out this article:  BPA is nasty stuff.  It mimics your body's hormones and has been linked to heart disease and cancer, among a bunch of other disagreeable conditions.  There's been a lot of focus lately on removing BPA from plastics, but many people don't know (or care?) that most food cans are lined with the stuff.  
One exception (that I'm aware of) is Eden Foods brand's cans, which say right on the label, "BPA-Free Lining".  Eden's stuff is not the most accessible (I can't seem to find it anymore at my local grocery store since they've rearranged the bean aisle) or affordable (I've seen prices ranging around $2 to $3 per can of beans).  So, a lot of bean-lovers are left with only one real option: cooking dry beans.  Especially at altitude, dry beans take forever to cook, making them impractical for your average weeknight meal.  Even with a pressure cooker, making beans from scratch will add at least a half hour to the cook-time of a meal.

But there is a way around this: that small appliance tucked away in a rarely-used cupboard called a slow-cooker, or Crockpot.  Let's re-name it the Beanpot.  That's really all I use mine for these days.  But it does certainly get used.  In fact, I've considered finding it a new home in a more-often-frequented cupboard.  But, really, who am I kidding?  I hardly have time to cook beans, so why would I have time to rearrange my cupboards?
While the beans in this recipe take eight hours to cook, the actual hands-on time is more like five minutes.  And, if you play it right you can prep the beans without even getting out a cutting board.  I try to throw everything together sometime before 10 am, and have a big pot of beans ready by dinner time.  Another plus: these taste far better than canned beans.  And did I mention they're crazy-cheap?  They're flexible, too: leave them whole and saucy or mash them into refried-style beans.  Then, throw them on a frito salad, serve them over brown rice with your favorite extras, stick them in a tortilla-- do whatever you might do with canned pinto or refried beans, except, of course, expose your family to crazy amounts of BPA.

The veggies (etc):*
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 9 cups water
  • One onion, peeled and halved
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (I use a generous pinch, which keeps it very mild), or half of a fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder or 2 TBS minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 TBS salt
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste

The love:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in your slow cooker and turn the heat on high.  Let it cook for eight hours, checking and stirring every couple hours or so.  Add more water and/or turn down the heat if the water is evaporating too fast.  
  2. At the end of the eight hours, the beans should be tender and saucy but not watery, with the sauce level just even with or just below the top of the beans.  Cook a little longer if it's not quite there--  cooking the liquid down to the right level is what gives the beans so much flavor.  Serve as-is or mash with a potato masher to your desired consistency.**

*This recipe makes a lot of beans.  I have one of those really big Crockpots and this recipe makes good use of its capacity.  I usually make these beans for dinner one night, then we eat beans for a couple lunches and sometimes another dinner over the next week.  Or, we freeze some of the leftovers.  If, unlike us, you think you might get sick of eating beans after four days in a row, you might consider halving the recipe.
**If your liquid level still isn't quite right you may need to remove some liquid before mashing or add some water during mashing to get the right texture.  Experiment with it--  it's largely a matter of preference.

Where credit is due:

For me, it's a beautiful thing to watch a meat-eater transform into a vegetarian.  It gives me a sense of joy and accomplishment (even though I may have had nothing to do with it).  I not only like to see the person make a choice that's healthier for them and the planet, but, selfishly, it's nice having another person to share recipes and have dinner parties with.  
Mandy was one of these people.  And she's the one who gave me the original form of this recipe.  As with everything I cook, I couldn't help but mess with it a little bit.  For one thing, cumin is probably my favorite spice, and the original recipe made it optional.  Not only is cumin mandatory in my version, I've increased the amount...  
Since giving me the bean recipe, Mandy and her husband have moved off to Alaska.  Alaska is an enchanting place and I really shouldn't blame her for moving.  Except, who are we supposed to have dinner parties with now?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

sweet potato•pancakes

Many people are very particular about their pancakes.  I discovered this when I recently did a google search to find out if you can make pancake batter ahead of time and refrigerate it (and it turns out you can, if you use double-acting baking powder).  I also learned that pancake-making is a serious matter.  One guy became almost belligerent when someone else suggested they like to "whip air" into their batter.  Along with a detailed scientific description of how whipping your pancake batter destroys the pancake cells (or something to that effect), he said (complete with extra punctuation and caps), "Barely mix the batter!!!  BARELY!...  Stop killing your pancakes!"  Hmm.  I suppose it's time someone stood up against senseless pancake murder.  I had no idea this was such a problem.
Since people are so particular about their pancakes, I thought I should give full disclosure as to which type of pancakes these are.  These are not quite as light and fluffy as your average restaurant fare, not terribly dense and hearty (which is actually how I prefer my cakes), but somewhere in between.  I'm not sure where they fall on the scale of crepe to blini to blintz to galette (and I'm not even sure what all those terms mean or if I've terribly offended anyone by putting them in that order), but someone out there on the internet could probably explain it to you-- quite emphatically.

The last time we had these sweet potato pancakes we topped them with Nana's home-made apple butter.  In the event that your Nana didn't give you any home-made apple butter, syrup is good, too.  But, for the love of God, make sure it's PURE MAPLE SYRUP!!!  This is one thing I am adamant about.

The veggies (etc):*
  • 1 cup peeled and grated raw sweet potatoes or yams (about one small potato)**
  • A squeeze of lemon juice (about 1/2 tsp) or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS brown sugar

The love:
  1. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, lemon juice or peel, egg, milk, and oil.
  2. Add the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar, and mix until just incorporated (remember to "Barely mix the batter!!!  BARELY!").***
  3. Oil or butter and preheat the biggest, flattest skillet you have (I use a cast-iron griddle) over low to medium heat.**** 
  4. Scoop in about 1/4 cup portions onto your skillet and cook on each side until golden on the outside and no longer wet in the middle.


*This recipe does not make a ton.  The four of us usually eat it for dinner with a little fruit and a small side like some veggie sausage or green eggs and we never have leftovers.  If we're extra hungry or want leftover batter or pancakes for later, I double the recipe.
**Another google search has taught me that although sometimes you'll see something called yams at the grocery store, they're almost always really sweet potatoes.  Real yams are usually not sold in the US and are not even related to sweet potatoes.
***Most recipes will tell you to mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, then stir them together-- this is to prevent clumping and ensure even mixing.  I'm lazy and don't like getting out and washing an extra bowl, so I do it all in one bowl.  To make up for it I try to mix the dry ingredients together on top of the wet before I really stir it into the the wet stuff.  If this is offensive to you, by all means, get out another bowl.
****These have a tendency to cook fast on the outside and slowly in the middle, so I like to cook them low and slow to ensure thorough cooking.

Where credit is due:

We once had a scrap of paper in our recipe box, in Brock's writing, that said "Cinnamon Rolls: flour, yeast, sugar, butter, cinnamon", and that's it.  This is how Brock transcribes recipes.  Needless to say, I never tried the cinnamon roll recipe and it's since been thrown in the trash.  My original sweet potato pancake recipe is also in Brock's writing, but was-- luckily-- much more thoroughly transcribed.  The only thing that's missing (as far as I can tell) is the actual source of the recipe.  I think it came from a Moosewood book, but exactly which one is a mystery.  In any case, I've made this recipe my own by simplifying it a little and adding whole wheat flour (as I can't bring myself to make something containing flour and not sneak in some whole grains).  And who knows what Brock left out of it...

Monday, November 28, 2011

we do not like•green eggs and ham

My family only partially agrees with Sam I Am.  Our contention: ham is gross.  Green eggs, however, can be pretty good.  We generally like them in our house.  And we usually like them with sweet potato pancakes-- for dinner.  And some of you, like Owen, will like them with some ketchup on the side.  We haven't tried them in the dark or in a tree, but that could be fun, too...

The veggies (etc):

  • 1 TBS oil, margarine, butter, or whatever else you like to cook your eggs in*
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves, larger stems removed**
  • 4 eggs
  • A generous splash of water (about 1/4 cup)***
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (we like cheddar or a combination of mozzarella and parmesan)

The love:
  1. Measure your spinach in a large glass measuring pitcher (if you're using an immersion blender) or the pitcher of your blender.  Add the eggs and water and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Blend just until the mixture is smooth (it will be a bit foamy).
  3. Heat your oil (or margarine, or whatever) in a skillet over medium heat, then add the egg mixture.
  4. Cook eggs, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until almost set, then stir in the cheese.
  5. Cook and stir for a few more minutes until eggs are set.
  6. Serve to your freaked out family (these eggs are surprisingly green).


*Don't skimp on the cooking fat-- these eggs like to stick.
**You could also use defrosted frozen chopped spinach-- but cut back the amount (to about 1/2 cup) and eliminate or reduce the amount of water you use. 
***I like to use water because it seems to produce a lighter, fluffier scramble.  But, if heavier and creamier is what you prefer, use milk instead.

Monday, November 21, 2011


When Brock got home tonight, Owen summed up our afternoon for him this way: "Ollie started it, I made it worse, then Mom was just being mean".   I really couldn't have described the situation more accurately myself.  
It's times like these that I just have to leave Brock with the savages and sneak off to do my own thing for a while, like run off some steam on the treadmill.  Or, tonight I simply retreated to the quiet of my laundry room and folded some clothes.  In any case, when I re-emerge to the real world that is my kitchen, I realize I should have started on dinner a half hour ago.  I roll up my sleeves and start searching freezer, fridge and pantry for something super-quick.  I'm not talking "30-minute-meals" quick (is it just me or do those recipes always take longer than 30 minutes to make anyway?), but 20 or less-- really.  The following is a list of things we eat on nights like tonight-- when I just need to get some food on the table so we can get those boys fed and in bed.  Here's to a fresh start in the morning-- and hopefully a slightly more thought-out dinner tomorrow night...

    • Bread, cheese and fruit:  This is pretty much just what it sounds like-- a big platter of whatever you have on hand.  I usually put out a couple kinds of cheese for me and Brock (e.g. goat cheese or smoked gouda) and a simple cheese for the kids (usually good old white cheddar), slice up a chunk of whole grain french bread and/or get out an assortment of crackers, cut up some fruit, and check the fridge and pantry for bonus items, like olives, pickles or nuts.  Voila-- crowd pleaser.
    • Veggie Burgers and sweet potato fries:  I usually do the store-brand version of original Gardenburgers on a 100% whole wheat bun, with cheese, lettuce, mustard and ketchup.  But there are a million variations on this, so experiment and choose whatever floats your boat.  For the fries, I peel sweet potatoes, slice them, then cut again into half-moons, toss with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and bake at 400°-ish until crispy-yet tender.  Or, on nights like tonight I throw some frozen Alexia sweet potato fries in the oven.
    • Quesadillas:  Start with whatever tortilla you can find at the store that has the smallest ingredients list-- believe me, these always taste the best.  At my local grocer these are Tortilla Land raw tortillas, found by the cheese.  Cook one side of the tortilla (if necessary), then top that side with a sprinkling of your favorite cheese (queso fresco is yummy), then add a little of whatever veggies your kids will tolerate (we are, after all, looking for a quick and painless dinnertime), such as frozen corn, chopped spinach, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, etc.  Top with more cheese and another half-cooked tortilla, and heat both sides in your tortilla skillet until everything's warm and gooey.  Top your portion with your favorite salsa (mine is Roberto's medium chipotle variety), and put your kids' portions in the freezer 'till they're hardly even warm and therefore a comfortable temperature for them to eat (does anyone else do this, and also feel a little annoyed and silly every time?).
    • Pizza:  We either like to just add some toppings and a little extra mozzarella to a cheese take-and-bake pizza from the deli section of the grocery store, or, with a little extra effort, make pita-pizzas.  Try spreading whole wheat pitas with a little finely chopped spinach or spinach puree before you slather on the sauce-- kids usually don't notice, and adults will probably agree that it has a lot more flavor than plain sauce.  Top it with whatever you like, then sprinkle with mozz (or vice versa if that's your inclination).  Owen's all-time favorite is pineapple-- for which I sometimes hack into a whole fruit.  But, I usually just pick up one of those single-serve fruit cups you can get in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle.  My personal favorite quick-pizza topping combo is finely snipped kale, fresh or roasted red peppers (from the jar if I'm trying to make it fast), and sliced mushrooms (sometimes the pre-sliced ones are even cheaper than whole, per ounce-- one more reason to take a shortcut).  Seriously, kale on pizza is incredible.  So is eggplant, but that takes well beyond 20 minutes to do it right...
    • Broccoli Alfredo: Cook up some of your favorite-shape pasta (Barilla Plus is my favorite brand-- check out the nutrition panel!), adding broccoli florets the last three-or-so minutes of cooking.  Drain and toss with an all-natural, store-bought sauce.  Enough said...  Although a hunk of seedy french bread never hurts this meal.
    • Frito salad:  If the word "Frito" sounds scary to you, you obviously have not looked at the ingredients list.  Here it is, in it's entirety: whole corn, corn oil, and salt.  While I wouldn't recommend eating a whole bag, they can't be that bad for you, right?  This salad is basically just a big salad with whatever toppings sound good, with Fritos to add to the texture and kid-appeal.  My kids actually skip the greens and just have a big plateful of the toppers, like avos, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, thawed frozen corn, diced cheese and/or black beans (if you do canned, choose Eden Organic ones-- theirs are the only cans not lined with BPA).  Don't forget a generous sprinkling of Fritos, and, for those who like it, a good chipotle ranch.  Mmmm-- chipotle ranch...
    • Grilled cheese and soup:  Skip the can and go for one of those pureed soups in an aseptic container, like Imagine or Pacific brand.  Owen likes the butternut squash variety, sipped through a straw once it's cool.  Oliver goes more for the grilled cheese, which I usually do with monterrey jack or white cheddar on slices of 100% whole wheat, brushed in olive oil.  
    • Veggie chicken nuggets with mac-and-cheese-and-peas:  Our favorite nuggets are the Quorn brand ones, by far (partly because they're soy-free, and also for the texture and flavor), and I usually reach for Annie's when I'm making mac-and-cheese from a box.  I like to throw some sort of veggie right in with the pasta for the last few minutes of boiling (such as frozen peas, chopped spinach, an organic mixture of corn, carrots and peas, or shredded carrots), or stir in a little puree with the milk and cheese mixture (carrot, squash or sweet potato blend in well-- just don't go too nuts or it'll be too goopy).
    • Breakfast-for-dinner:  We like Kashi frozen blueberry waffles with Field Roast apple-sage sausage and whatever fruit we have on hand.  Another favorite dinner-breakfast (or breakfast-dinner?) of ours is sweet potato pancakes and green eggs.  These require a full-on recipe and a little more time, though-- they'll be starring in their own post soon. 
    • Indian food:  Kitchens of India and Tasty Bite make tolerable approximations of our favorite Indian restaurant meals, sold in boil-in-the-pouch packages.  They taste especially good when you're out camping or just feeling really lazy.  I put them over either whole-wheat couscous or brown Minute rice, perhaps with a few frozen peas thrown in while cooking.
    • Spicy tofu: This is my favorite lately-- although due to the spice factor, I usually end up making something else for the kids ("Who wants PB&J tonight?!").  Take a chunk of extra-firm tofu, gently squeeze out the excess water (I like to do this between two small plates so I'm squishing evenly), then pat dry with paper towels or a clean tea towel.  Cube the tofu and toss it in a hot skillet with some oil and let it fry (the key with tofu--if you're not going for a scramble--is to not stir it too often).  Meanwhile, chop up some onion and red bell pepper and throw it in the pan, carefully turning every few minutes.  Once the onions start to get tender, throw in some frozen corn and dump in some sauce, like a packet of Frontera New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce with roasted tomato + mild red chile (look for it by the enchilada sauce at the grocery store).  Give that a few minutes to simmer and gently turn everything over to coat it.  Put that in a tortilla with a little crumbled queso fresco and some shredded lettuce or cabbage, and you have something beautiful.  But, don't get too entranced by it and forget the PB&J for the kids...

    give (split) peas a chance•autumn soup

    This time of year I find myself wanting to move to a warmer climate.  Or, alternately, bake things and make soup.  Since I can't drag my husband out of the mountains, this is a recipe I've pulled out every autumn for a few years now.  And, it's one that most of my family really likes.
    This is probably not what you think of as split pea soup.  It's not green, but a gorgeous deep golden color (not entirely accurately represented by my cheesy point-and-shoot photo below).  It's not super-salty, and it contains no pig.  I was even considering leaving the split peas out of the title so as not to turn anyone off.  But I'm going to take a risk here.  Take a stand for the split peas.
    I like to serve it with grilled cheese made with aged white cheddar on whole wheat bread, but it would also make a nice starter to a fancier meal.  Or, you can sip it through a straw like Owen likes to do.  Do whatever you like-- we try to be a non-judgmental family.  But whatever you do, try the soup.  You may become a little less judgmental of split peas.

    The veggies (etc):
    • 1 cup dried yellow split peas (the green variety also work), plus soaking water
    • Two large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
    • 1 TBS canola oil
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 TBS minced fresh ginger root
    • 7 cups water
    • One large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
    • One large apple, peeled, cored and cubed (about 1 cup)
    • A three-or-four inch cinnamon stick
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • One medium tomato, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
    • 2 TBS lime juice (about half a lime if you're using fresh)
    • 1 TBS soy sauce
    • Plain yogurt and/or chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

    The love:
    1. A little while before you really plan on getting down to business and starting the soup, quick-soak the split peas: Rinse them well, then put them in a saucepan and cover with a couple inches of water.  Bring to a boil, simmer for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit for a half hour to a couple hours.  Drain them just before you add them to the soup.*
    2. Heat the oil in your soup pot and saute the onions until they're golden.
    3. Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander and ginger and stir for about a minute.
    4. Add the drained split peas, 7 cups water, sweet potatoes, apples, and cinnamon. 
    5. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the peas are tender, 30 minutes to an hour.
    6.  In a small bowl, combine chili powder, tomatoes, lime juice and soy sauce.  Add to the pot once the peas are done. 
    7. Remove the cinnamon stick**, then puree the soup right in the pot with an immersion blender (you really should invest in one if you don't have one-- they are really quite fun and handy), or blend everything in batches in a food processor or blender.  Add water, if needed, to reach a good consistency.
    8. Gently reheat if you need to, and serve garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a pinch of cilantro leaves if you'd like.


    *These instructions are specially adapted to cooking at 8,300 feet.  If you live at a more reasonable elevation, you may be able to skip the quick soak and add the rinsed but un-soaked peas right in at step number four.  You'll also notice a big window in the cooking time in step number five-- this time will depend on whether you pre-soaked and for how long, as well as, of course, your elevation.  Make this once or twice and you'll have a better feel for how much time to allow.  Worry not-- if the soup's done early it will not hurt it to sit for a while and be gently reheated.  This soup even freezes well.
    **I once forgot this step, and started whirring away with the immersion blender, only to find it working kind of jerkily.  Then I discovered chunks of bark stuck in the blades.  Oops.  I managed to salvage the soup, though-- I picked out the big chunks and pureed the bejesus out of what was left.  It tasted just like it usually does-- perhaps with a little bonus fiber!

    Where credit is due:

    This recipe originated from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.  I've made a few minor adjustments-- mostly for altitude, and also to remove any (blasphemous!) low-fat references.  But the end result is probably pretty true to the original recipe's intentions (and I still firmly believe the intention was to change people's minds about split peas...).
    By the way, I have not picked up any Moosewood cookbook and found fewer than a half-dozen recipes I really wanted to try, and most of them that I've tried I've made repeatedly.  Good stuff.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011


    This is probably my family's favorite meal, not counting takeout pizza.  This actually has a lot in common with pizza, but is, I'm thinking, quite a bit healthier than the greasy takeout option.  This is also pretty quick to put together-- in about the time it takes to order pizza and run and pick it up.  If, unlike us, you have pizza delivery in your area, you may need to do your own cost-benefit analysis...

    The veggies:

    • 4 oz Barilla Plus spaghetti or whole-grain spaghetti*
    • 1 cup bottled (or, by all means, home-made!) tomato sauce
    • 1 cup cottage cheese
    • 1 1/4 cups carrot puree**
    • salt, to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
    • fresh ground pepper, to taste
    • 2 to 4 large veggie sausages, browned and sliced, or about 9 ounces meatless meatballs***
    • mozzarella cheese, shredded (about a cup, depending on how cheesy you like it)

    The love:
    1. Preheat the oven to 350° and oil a baking dish (I've used both a pie plate and an 9x9 square ceramic casserole for this).
    2. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente and drain.
    3. In a mixing bowl, combine the tomato sauce, cottage cheese, carrots, salt and pepper.  Add the cooked spaghetti and toss until well-incorporated.
    4. Spread about 3/4 of the pasta mixture in the baking dish, top with veggie meat balls or sausage slices, then layer on the remaining pasta and sauce.
    5. Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake uncovered until the cheese is golden, about a half hour.
    6. Cool slightly, slice and serve.


    *We love Barilla Plus pasta for its outstanding protein content and smooth texture.  But, whole grain pasta is a great option, too.  And, kids and husbands seem to notice the grainy texture less in baked dishes like this.
    **Truthfully, my preferred method for making carrot puree was in my BabyCook baby food maker.  But, now that I've graduated from that, I just coarsely chop the carrots (3 or 4 large ones for this recipe, but you could always make extra for next time...), steam on the stovetop until just tender, then puree with a little steaming water until smooth but not runny.  Freeze any leftovers in pre-measured amounts for next time.
    ***My family's favorite "fake meat" addition to baked spaghetti is the apple sage variety of Field Roast sausage.  It has a great texture, is not too spicy for the kids (as opposed to the chipotle and Italian varieties), and is soy-free.  Unfortunately, the nearest store to us that carries Field Roast stuff is 65 miles and an 11,000-foot mountain pass away.  So, in a pinch I use something from my local grocery store, like Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs (I'm not crazy about all that processed soy, though...).

    Where credit is due:

    This recipe is an veggie-fied adaptation of a recipe from Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld (as in Jerry's wife).  The book is not entirely vegetarian, but a lot of her recipes are either meat-free or easily adapted.  If you have a kid-- like my little Oliver-- in a phase where he won't knowingly consume vegetables, she has lots of good tips for sneaking them in.