Saturday, March 31, 2012

carrot cake•oatmeal

I'm in a bit of a rut.  Blog-wise (I'm just not feeling the inspiration lately, but I'm still hoping to get something new out once a week) and in other ways in which I don't feel like sharing with the general internet public...
Actually-- why not? 
I'm sure many of you reading this are parents, or have felt this way at some point for some other reason...  
And that is, simply, I'm getting burnt out.  I feel lately like I'm running in circles, getting nowhere but in a place with more laundry, more dirty house, more groceries to shop for, more dirty diapers to change, and more petty arguments with my incredibly strong-willed four-year old.
I know I should be better than this-- just generally feeling sorry for myself.  But I'm not-- not lately anyway.
And I know I'll get out of this rut eventually, but in the mean time, some comfort food might help.

And why not have this for dinner?  It's quick, nutritious, and cuts down on a bit of meal time bickering with Owen (breakfast for dinner is always seen as a treat at our house).

Hmm--  I think I'm starting to feel less sorry for myself already...

the veggies:
  • 2 cups oats
  • 6 cups water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, plus more for drizzling on top (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 TBS flax meal
  • cream cheese, for garnish
  • about 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

the love:

  1. Combine the oats, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  
  2. Stir in the spices, syrup, carrots, and raisins and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until oats are a good consistency.
  3. Stir in the flax meal, then dish out the oatmeal into bowls.
  4. Top each serving with a dollop of cream cheese, a sprinkling of walnuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup, if you'd like.  And stop feeling sorry for yourself, already...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This is another one of my cheater meals. We had  it last night.

It's so good. 
Too good not to tell you about it again. 
And I might remind you about it again after this...
Owen doesn't like the smell of it.  And probably not the taste either (it's slightly spicy).  This is fine with me and Brock, because if he wanted any we'd have to share it with him.  And we are fully capable of polishing off the whole batch between just the two of us.  So, we foster his dislike for it and call it "stinky tofu".  
Is this dishonest?
In any case, the kids were perfectly happy with their Annie's mac & cheese with peas.  And those of us mature enough to handle it get this deliciousness...

the veggies:

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 14 to 16 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 bell pepper (red, yellow or orange), chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • about 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 packet of Frontera roasted tomato + mild red chile skillet sauce (or about 8 oz of some other slightly spicy Mexican- or New Mexican-style sauce)
  • 4 to 6 Tortilla Land uncooked tortillas, or your favorite brand of tortilla (the fewer ingredients the better)
  • shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco-- whatever you want to put on top

the love:

  1. Put a large heavy skillet over medium to medium high heat.  Add the oil.  
  2. Gently smash the tofu between two plates to drain out some excess water.  Pat dry, slice into cubes, then pat those dry again.
  3. Throw the tofu in the hot skillet and spread the tofu out so one side of the tofu can fry in the oil.  Let it get crisp on one side before carefully turning.  Continue until almost every side is done.  Be careful not to stir too much or you'll end up with a scramble.
  4. In the mean time, heat up another heavy skillet and cook your tortillas, about 30 seconds per side, until flecked with golden spots.  Less is more with these-- they get crunchy when overcooked.
  5. When your tofu is almost done, add the onions (if using) and carefully turn a few times until the onions start to become translucent.  Then add the peppers and carefully turn a couple times until the onions are done and the peppers start to become tender.  
  6. Add the corn and dump on the sauce.  Turn carefully to distribute and let it simmer for a few minutes while you finish up the tortillas and prep some toppings.
  7. Put a generous scoop of tofu on a freshly cooked tortilla, finish with some cheese and lettuce (or whatever else sounds good), and enjoy.  
  8. Mmmm...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

bread•cheese & fruit

I had a parenting class to get to last night, and about an hour from the time Brock got home from work to when I had to leave to make dinner and eat with everyone.  Perfect night for bread, cheese and fruit-- an old fave.  This one was featured in one of my first posts, cheater•meals, but it had been a while since we'd had it.   
I'd forgotten how easy, yummy and kid-pleasing it is.  Take 10 minutes to dig through the fridge and pantry for whatever looks good then slice a few things, arrange them on a platter, and you're done.

Last night, I found some smoked gouda, grape tomatoes, pistachios, pears, strawberries, sharp white cheddar, blackberries, hummus, some crackers, and white and whole grain french breads.  
So easy, and everyone's happy.  

Just as long as we can stand Owen asking for more blackberries every two minutes.

And I had plenty of time to have a nice relaxed dinner (between dishing out additional servings of blackberries) before heading out the door...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

cherry•almond biscotti

Until she moved to Alaska last winter, my friend Mandy and I would get together regularly for afternoon tea time.  
That was back when my kids both napped regularly, so we'd sit and have a nice relaxing chat, sip our tea and nosh some treats while my boys snoozed away.
But Mandy left me and Owen rarely naps now, so my quiet afternoon tea has turned into a less quiet and relaxing but slightly more caffeinated afternoon coffee break.  
One thing that made today's coffee break a little more like the good old days was these cherry-almond biscotti.  I also had a little reminder of my friend Mandy with me: the lovely hand screen-printed napkins she made for me.  

If you love the napkins as much as I do, you can buy them at her Etsy store, (and it looks like she'll ship them for free right now).  If you need some good fresh-roasted coffee to go with your biscotti, she's got that, too.  
She's also good company for a quiet afternoon chat, but I'm not sure you can get that through her store...

the veggies (or other stuff):
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use almond milk)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 TBS oil
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder*
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cherries
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

the love:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° and line a large baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flax meal and milk in a large mixing bowl until it thickens slightly.
  3. Mix in the brown sugar, oil, lemon juice, and extracts.
  4. Stir in the oats.
  5. Add the flours, salt, baking powder and soda, and stir until just combined.**  The dough will be very thick and sticky.
  6. Fold in the cherries and almonds.
  7. Using floured hands, divide the dough in two and shape each chunk into a long log.
  8. Place the logs lengthwise on the pan and flatten until each one is roughly twelve inches long and three inches wide.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside.
  10. Let the "loaves" cool on a rack (but hold on to your pan and parchment) and reduce the oven temperature to 250°.
  11. Slice the biscotti in 1/3 to 1/2 inch sections and spread out on your pan.
  12. Toast for about 40 minutes, or until mostly crisp in the middle.
  13. Let cool and serve with afternoon coffee (or milk).  Makes about three dozen.

*Double the baking powder and soda at lower elevations.
**My standard mixing disclaimer: 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...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

spinach, red bean and dumpling•soup

We've had a lot of snowy and blowy weather here lately.  I could do without the wind, and the drifts that build up in the wind that I get my car stuck in.  But, I'm happy to finally be getting some good snow-- it's great for playing in, and also for looking out upon while you cook soup...

Owen loves dumplings and beans, so my spinach, red bean and dumpling soup is a hit with him.  
It's a hit with me because he can't help but ingest some spinach with his beans and dumplings.
I also like it because it's delicious. 
I've made this a Crockpot recipe because this is my favorite way to make beans these days.  If you don't want to spend all day making this, you could use a can of beans instead (BPA-free ones, of course), liquid and all.  Add a little extra water, heat up on the stove, then continue from there with the recipe, but on the stovetop.

the veggies:
-for the beans:
  • 1 cup dry small red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 9 cups water*
-for the soup:
  • 1 TBS dried rosemary, rubbed between your palms to break up a bit
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp veggie base concentrate**
  • 1 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (one or two sprigs)
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • grated parmesan, for garnish
-for the dumplings:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 eggshell (both sides) full of cold water
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 to 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

the love:
-for the beans:
  1. Combine beans and water in your slow cooker, turn on high, cover and let cook for 4 to 5 hours, or until beans are tender but not mushy.  Keep an eye on the liquid level to make sure beans are covered with water at all times, and turn down the heat or add more water if needed.***
  2. If the beans are finished before you're ready to start on the soup, you can turn off the slow cooker and let the beans sit, covered, at room temperature for up to a couple of hours.  Just be sure to get your slow-cooker heating up well before you plan on cooking the dumplings.  I try to give it a good 45 minutes.
-for the soup:
  1. Make sure your beans and liquid are good and hot (keep your crockpot on high for the rest of the soup-making process), and that you've got a couple inches of liquid for adding veggies and cooking dumplings.
  2. Add the rosemary and veggie base to the beans.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onions.  Saute until they become translucent, then add the garlic and saute a couple minutes more.
  4. Meanwhile, add the salt, lemon juice, spinach, and basil to the soup.
  5. Add the cooked onion and garlic to the soup, along with some salt and pepper, to taste.
-for the dumplings:
  1. In a small mixing bowl or measuring pitcher, beat the egg with the water and salt.
  2. Add the baking powder and a few tablespoons of flour at a time, mixing between additions, until the mixture is something between a wet dough and a thick batter.  
  3. Drop the dumpling mixture in the hot soup, about a teaspoon at a time, helping it off the spoon with with your finger, as shown. 
  4. Cover the Crockpot and let the dumplings cook for about 10 minutes, or until they're no longer doughy in the middle.
  5. Serve topped with shredded parmesan.

* The amount of water you'll need may vary.  You might need less at lower altitudes, or more if your slow-cooker runs hot.  Don't worry about this too much-- you can always add or remove liquid later on.
**I use "Better Than Bouillon" brand.  You could also use whatever amount of bouillon cubes you'd use for about 3 cups of water, or remove some bean liquid and add a couple cups of full-strength broth.
***Like the amount of water, your bean cooking time will also vary depending on your altitude and how hot your slow-cooker runs.