chickpea veggie burgers & tzatziki yogurt sauce

chickpea veggie burgers

chickpea veggie burgers

I know this blog is about family friendly meals but I am also going to introduce you to “mommy” meals.  Mommy meals are meals that I typically eat for lunch while the kids are in school or on the weekends.  Mommy meals are nutritious, whole grain, chock full of vegetable meals.  I know most of these meals would not appeal to my kids yet so I eat them for lunch or dinner on those nights where there is an acceptable leftover for them.  

Anyway, I have had Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Cooking for about a year.  I love this cookbook as well as her blog, 101 cookbooks.  She is a local gal, just 15 minutes from me (somewhere in SF), so I feel a sort of local kinship with her.  This cookbook has so many beautiful recipes and photos that I often just browse through like I would a picture book.  My hubby was commenting to me the other day as I was paging through the book, how I still have not made a recipe from it.  I told him I have not made anything from it because most of the meals would not appeal to our kids.  He told me, in a loving way, to stop with the excuses and just make something from it. He also promised that he would happily eat anything I made from the book. I decided he was right, so I opened up to page 155 and got ready to make Heidi’s chickpea patties that I have been wanting to try for so long.

These are not your typical burgers that you put inside a bun.  These burgers are the bun!  You insert the goodies inside of the burger.  Genius!  I made these burgers the first time for lunch and they were so tasty that I decided I was going to make them for some friends that were coming over for dinner the next night.  We served them up with some Tzatziki sauce (recipe below), fresh avocado, sprouts, chopped tomato and my kale salad.  It was a fabulous vegetarian meal! I felt so refreshed and light after eating this dinner, that is until I had a huge piece of chocolate cake, ugh! This is a great do-ahead meal because you can make the burgers, tzatziki yogurt sauce earlier that day or the day before.  All you have to do when your guests arrive is heat up the patties and chop up the fresh ingredients to put inside.

I wanted to simplify this recipe so I did not get sprouted garbanzo beans nor did I make my own bread crumbs.  Sometimes we just have to cut corners and make things easier on ourselves. I kept Heidi’s recipe the way she wrote it below and noted my changes in green.

chickpea veggie burgers

chickpea veggie burgers:

Recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking
makes 8 hamburger-sized patties
printer friendly version
This is a great do-ahead meal; you can store shaped, ready-to-cook patties in the refrigerator for a week’s worth of lunches or dinner.  Just cook them up when you are ready to eat them.

  • 2 1/2 cups sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed – I used the boxed variety and 2 boxes gave me 2 1/2 cups plus some leftovers.  I’m assuming it would take 2 cans as well.
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 onion, chopped - I used a yellow onion on the first batch and a red onion on the second batch.  I loved both, but really preferred the red onion as it had a bit more flavor.
  • grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (either broccoli, onion, clover or alfalfa sprouts) - I used clover sprouts
  • 1 cup toasted whole-grain breadcrumbs - I was to lazy to make bread crumbs so I just used Ian’s whole wheat panko bread crumbs and they worked perfectly
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter  for sauteing the burgers- I used 2 tablespoons here, one for each batch that I sauteed
I found these chickpeas at the market and grabbed them as they were in these BPA free and recyclable boxes.  I also use Eden Organic chickpeas which are in BPA free cans as well.  If you don’t have the time to soak beans its nice to know that there are great alternatives out there that are BPA free.  
Isn’t the packaging cute?
If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until tender, about 10 minutes.  If you are using canned or boxed beans (which I did), jump right in.  Combine the chickpeas, eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor. 
Note:  I used my mini-prep so I added 1/2 of the chickpeas and 2 eggs plus the 1/2 teaspoon salt and pureed it, and then added the rest of the chickpeas and the other two eggs and pureed it again.Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus.
Pour into a mixing bowl and add in the cilantro, onion, lemon zest, and sprouts. 
Mix all the ingredients together.
Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for about 5 minutes so the crumbs can absorb the moisture.  This is where I clean up the kitchen a bit.
 After about 5 minutes or so, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into patties.  
I formed mine into 8 hamburger-sized patties.  
These patties are moist but will hold their form quite well.  You can always add more breadcrumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if needed.  
 Heat the tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  I happily got out my cast iron pan for this culinary adventure.  Add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown.  Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes.
Note:  If you are just making one burger for lunch or dinner then just pour enough olive oil in the pan to coat the bottom and cook up your burger.  The cooking time might be less per side as there is only one burger.       
Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from skillet and cool patties on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties.  I added another tablespoon of olive oil before I put in the rest of the patties, as I did not want them to be dry.  
Carefully cut the patty in half, insert your favorite filling and enjoy! 

 I filled mine with some of the tzatziki sauce, avocado and some clover sprouts. 

tzatziki yogurt sauce:

Note:  It’s recommended that this sauce chill in the refrigerator for a few hours in order for the flavors to blend together.  You can even make this sauce the day before.  This recipe makes a lot of yogurt sauce, so please feel free to cut it in half.  

  • 1 pound (1 pint) plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar – we used champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill – I added a bit more to flavor it up
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper


This yogurt sauce is also great to use as a dip for veggies for a healthy after school snack or with pita chips.  Peel and grate the cucumber.  Wrap the grated cucumber in a paper towel and squeeze it to get out the excess water.  You may have to re-wrap and squeeze it a few times to get out all of the water.

Scoop out the yogurt into a bowl.  Add the grated cucumber, 3 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil,  1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons minced dill, and a pinch of pepper. 

 Mix the ingredients together.Cover and put the tzatziki in the refrigerator for a few hours so that the flavors can blend together.  

That’s it, easy peasy!Hubby Verdict?  He loved these and was actually the one who suggested that we serve these up for dinner for our friends.  This is coming from a Midwestern meat and potato guy.

He has had one for lunch the past two days as well. 
Kids Verdict?  Eli wouldn’t even try one, Zoe tried it and liked it, but could only handle a few bites!Have you ever made a veggie burger before?  

Do you prefer a beef/buffalo, turkey, salmon or veggie burger?

Got leftover spaghetti? Check this out…

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This post is quick and there are no fancy or staged photographs, but I just had to post it as my friends are always asking what I do with all the leftovers I have.  Well, here is one great idea that I just felt compelled to share with you all NOW!  
 
I had tons of leftover spaghetti & meatballs sitting in my fridge that I was planning on pawning it off on the kids for lunch today.  I was just going to heat it up in the microwave or the via the stovetop, BORING!   I then saw this post on Yummy Mummy this morning and got inspired.  This is such a quick and fun way to serve up boring leftovers.
 
Here are the easy-peasey steps below!
 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  
Take your leftover spaghetti and put it into a ramekin of choice.  Zoe chose the larger and Eli chose the smaller one.  Top each with some mozzarella cheese.  
Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or so.  
You end up with pasta resembling this below.  
The spaghetti gets all crispy on top and the mozzarella cheese melts into the pasta.
YUM!
The verdict?  
My kids loved the spaghetti this way and were begging me to make it again tomorrow.  
SUCCESS in the Grandy house!  
Gotta love that!
Happy weekend everyone!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Fennel and broccolini

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Fennel and broccolini

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, Fennel and broccoliniSo I must admit, we are a pasta loving family.  Pasta is a wonderful base because you add so much to it.  It’s almost like a blank canvas.  Throw in some veggies, a little meat and a yummy sauce and you have the perfect one-bowl meal.

Since we eat a lot of pasta, I have been looking for some alternative and healthier versions rather than the typical white pasta.  We eat quinoa spaghetti quite often and the kids like it especially if it’s topped with pesto or my bolognaise sauce.  I have always wanted to try whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta but was worried how the kids would react.  I aim to make one meal (no short order cook here) for dinner and I want us all to enjoy it so I have to always think about what the kids will really eat.  Luckily my kids are not super picky eaters. They eat a variety of foods because we serve them a variety.  You have to set an example as a parent and if you’re not eating veggies or trying new things then your kids will not do it.  


I found this recipe at Cooks Illustrated and was excited to try it as it incorporated 2 things that I have never used before, whole-wheat pasta and fennel.  I have eaten fennel before, but have never cooked with it.  
We have a veggie every day so I wanted to add some blanched broccolini to our pasta.  You don’t have to add broccolini to this dish, but it really is the perfect vegetable to serve with this type of pasta and makes it a one-bowl meal, and who doesn’t love that.  

This pasta is a wonderful combination of flavors.  The sausage adds a certain spiciness (not to spicy though) to the dish and the pine nuts add a nice crunch and buttery flavor. The whole-wheat pasta has a great nutty and salty flavor and it’s chewy, but in a good way.  It doesn’t taste grainy at all.  I have had this for leftovers the past week and it gets even better with age as all the flavors have a chance to mesh together. 
This is a photo of the leftovers that I had for lunch.

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Fennel and broccolini:

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Serves 4-6
printer friendly version

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, mince and pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 8-12 ounces sweet italian sausage, removed from casing -  I actually just buy up a 12oz package of my favorite sausage links. 
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored, and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped – I always toast these up ahead of time.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (see note below)
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti – Cooks Illustrated recommended Bionaturae Organic 100 percent whole-wheat spaghetti because of it’s nutty flavor and chewy texture.  We really loved this pasta.
  • 1 to 2 bunches of broccolini
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese to top your pasta
 
It always makes cooking easier when you get all of your ingredients out and prepared ahead of time. You will need to have everything prepped for this pasta as things move fast.  
Slice up your fennel (see how-to instructions below), toast and coarsely chop your pine-nuts, (I do this earlier in the day or even the day before) juice your lemon, mince your garlic, remove the sausages from their casings (I usually do this the day before or earlier in the day) and rinse up your broccolini.  
Note: Wash and dry your basil but do not chop it yet.  Chop the basil at the last possible moment to prevent it from discoloring.
Bring a medium pot of well-salted water (you want it to taste like salt water) to a boil for the pasta and the broccolini.
Wash up your fennel, cut a little slice off of the bottom of the bulb and then cut off the fronds right next to the bulb.  If the bulb has some dark marks on it then take a vegetable peeler and peel off those marks.
Cut your fennel bulb in half.
 Cut out the inner core.
Lie the fennel bulb down on its flat side and just slice the fennel crossways.  
Don’t know how to toast pine nuts?  To toast them, just put some raw pine nuts in a dry skillet and swirl them around in the pan (over medium heat) for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color.  
 Remove them from the pan and set aside.  Coarsely chop them when they have cooled a bit. 
Combine oil, minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1/2-teaspoon salt in a small bowl: set aside.
Once the water has come to a rapid boil, throw in your broccolini and cook until just tender, 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your broccolini.

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable.  There is only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.Transfer broccolini to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon or mesh one like I have.  Drain and dry the broccolini; set aside.  Bring the water back to a rapid boil and cook the pasta until al dente.  Reserve 3/4-cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

Heat sausage in a 12-inch skillet or large skillet of your choice over medium-high heat; cook stirring to break up sausage into 1/2-inch pieces, until browned and crisp, 5-7 minutes.   Cooks Illustrated recommended a non-stick skillet.  I used my cast iron skillet which is virtually non-stick and I have also used a regular skillet before and it worked great.
Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to towel-lined plate, leaving rendered fat in the skillet.
Return skillet to medium-high heat; add fennel and 1/4-teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until fennel is tender, about 5 minutes.Push fennel to sides of skillet so you have a 3-inch clearing in the middle of the pan.
 Add the oil-garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir to combine garlic mixture with fennel and cook for 1 minute longer.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in sausage, pine nuts, basil and lemon juice.
Add in the broccolini.
Add the fennel sausage mixture and the reserved cooking water to pasta, toss to coat.
Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and top with some fresh pecorino romano cheese.  The pecorino cheese was recommend over parmesan as it adds a bit of a salty tang to the pasta. It really is the perfect compliment.
 I am hooked on this combination and look forward to trying other sauces with whole-wheat spaghetti or other whole-wheat pastas.
BTW, you probably want to know the kids rating on this dish right?  Zoe rated it a 9 and Eli rated it a 10.  John and I rated it a 10 plus.
Have you ever tried whole-wheat pasta?  If so, what was your take on it?

gingersnap cookies

gingersnap cookies
gingersnap cookiesIt’s Monday and most likely cold, snowy or rainy where you are so I thought I would treat you all to a sweet today rather than an entree.  Sometimes we need a little sweet to kick start our week. I’ve always loved gingersnaps and molasses cookies and this cookie is a combination of the two.  This is not a true gingersnap cookie, which tend to be thin and crispy.  This cookie is more of a molasses cookie with a spicy ginger flavor.  It’s chewy, spicy and dark.  I know gingersnaps may not be the most exciting cookie to people, but they are to me, and they have always been one of my favorite cookies.   
 
I was perusing through my borrowed copy of Marin Organic, where I found my butternut squash soup recipe, and saw this gingersnap recipe from Table Cafe.  Table Cafe is another one of my favorite local lunch spots.  The owner is always there and greets you with a smile.  Her food is all local and organically grown and her signature item is a dosa.  A dosa is a delicious gluten free wrap (which resembles a crepe, but it’s not sweet like a crepe) filled with delicious ingredients such as, marinated & grilled chicken breast with wilted spinach & goat cheese or smoked wild salmon with grilled frisee and onions, and aioli.  There are many different options as well as some amazing vegetarian ones.  The cafe also has wonderful salads, soups and of course, sweets.

gingersnap cookies:

Recipe from Organic Marin
makes about 36 cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses – I used blackstrap here
  • Sugar in the raw – optional - I used this to top my cookies
 I have heard wonderful things about blackstrap molasses so I picked up a bottle.  These molasses give gingersnap and molasses cookies their dark rich color. 
I poured the molasses into a dry measuring cup, as the molasses are thick and gooey and would be difficult to measure out in a glass measuring cup.  Also, they have the consistency of honey and I always pour honey into a dry measuring cup as well.
Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt and white pepper in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to blend.
Cream the sugars and butter together in a large bowl using either a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand held mixer, do this for about 4 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. 
Beat in the egg and then the molasses.  
Don’t the molasses look like fudge?
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until well combined.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I actually refrigerated my batter for 2 hours.
 
I wanted to top my gingersnaps with some sugar to make them sparkly and pretty so I pulled out some Turbinado (sugar in the raw) for that.  It is light brown in color and coarse grained, with a slight molasses flavor.  Pour some into a shallow bowl and set aside.
Once your dough is chilled, preheat your oven/ovens to 350 degrees.  
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  
 
Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and gently dip the top of each ball into the raw sugar. Be careful not to get too much on there.  I drenched one batch of cookies in the sugar and they were way to sugary for our taste.  Less is more if you know what I am saying.   
You don’t have to top them with sugar, as they taste great without it.  John actually prefers his cookie sans the sugar.
Place them on the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  
 With the bottom of a small glass, flatten the cookies slightly.  
 
Bake the cookies for about 12 -14 minutes or until they feel dry and firm on top.  Maybe check them at 11 minutes to see where they are at.  Everyone’s oven has different cooking times so your cookies might take longer or less time.
Note:  The original recipe called for 8-10 minutes of cooking time, but when I first did that, my cookies war raw, yuck!  I cooked the next batch for 12-14 minutes and they were perfect.  So as you can see, my cookies took a bit longer than the original recipe called for.
 
Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. 
Transfer the cookies to a wire track to cool completely.  
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
gingersnap cookies
 I know it sounds strange, but these cookies actually taste better the next day.  Isn’t that weird?  They get a bit chewier and spicier.  
These cookies are my kids favorite after school snack. 
Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and your in heaven!

Rustic Bakery’s roasted butternut squash soup

Rustic Bakery's butternut squash soup

Rustic Bakery's butternut squash soupI have a few favorite local lunch spots that my girlfriends and I frequent often when we want to have a ladies lunch, Marin style.  Marin style means it’s all about being casual when going to lunch to meet your friends.  It’s really about the conversation and food, not the stuffiness of having to get all dressed up or look a certain way, who wants to do that?  Marin is a laid-back, easygoing community, and that is why I love it so.

One of our favorite lunchtime spots is Rustic Bakery in Larkspur.  This is not just a bakery but also an amazing breakfast and lunch cafe. They have some of the most magnificent salads, sandwiches and baked goods.  Everything at the cafe is made with local and organic ingredients.

I was a happy girl when I picked up a copy of Organic Marin from my local library and saw one of my favorite soup recipes from Rustic Bakery inside.  I was excited to go home and re-create this soup for my family and I to have for lunch over the weekend.  

Rustic Bakery’s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup:

Recipe from Organic Marin

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds), halved and seeded
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to rub on squash halves
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to rub on squash halves
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
 Chop up your onion and shallots and set aside in a bowl.  Cut your squash in half.
 Scoop out the seeds and strings from the cavity.  I use my melon ball scooper to do this, as it’s quick and easy.  Rub the olive oil over the cut sides of the squash and season each with salt and pepper.
 Put 2 sprigs of thyme and 3 garlic cloves in each in each cavity.  Doesn’t the squash look so pretty?
Then carefully place the squash halves cut side down on the baking sheet.
Roast the squash for 50 to 60 minutes, until soft and caramelized.
Remove the squash from the oven and let cool.
Reserve the garlic cloves and discard the thyme.
 Scoop the butternut squash flesh from the skin, coarsely chop (just chop it with a spoon in the bowl as it will be soft), and set aside.
Melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat.
Sauté the onion and shallots for 7 to 10 minutes, until they begin to brown.
Add the roasted butternut squash, the reserved garlic cloves, 1/2-teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper (or just add a pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder, that is what I do) and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the squash begins to caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pan.
Note: Break up the squash with your spoon and stir it frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Pour in the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Puree the soup until smooth using either a hand held immersion blender, or puree in small batches using a blender then return the soup to the pot.
Stir in the 1/4-cup cream.

DSC_0082Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if needed.

 This soup was very flavorful, rich and delicious.  It actually tasted better day two, as the flavors had a chance to mesh together.Rustic Bakery's butternut squash soupI paired it up with my kale salad and these crispy olive oil and sea salt crackers from Rustic Bakery.  You don’t always have to go out to lunch to have a gourmet lunch experience.  It’s nice to sometimes treat yourself to a gourmet lunch at home either by yourself or with a few close friends.

Marin Mama’s tip for keeping herbs fresh…

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Are you tired of picking or buying fresh herbs only to have them wilt and go limp after a day or so?  Well, I was tired of it.  I would go out and buy this beautiful cilantro or parsley only to have it wilt and become useless the next day.  A friend taught me a wonderful and easy trick to keeping my herbs fresh that I would like to share with you today. It’s a super easy trick, which really works, and keeps fresh herbs fresh and useable for about two weeks.

Tips for keeping herbs fresh:

  • Snip off the bottom of the stems.
  • Don’t pre-rinse your herbs as you want the leaves to be dry – rinse them as needed
  • Fill up some glasses or small storage containers with a bit of water and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water.
  • Loosely cover the herbs with a plastic bag.  I know, a plastic bag?  It really does the trick though!
  • Store the herbs covered with the plastic bag in your refrigerator.

 

Tip:  Be sure to change the water after a few days if it discolors.
As Barefoot would say, “how easy is that?”

kale, cranberry, apple and toasted almond salad with lemon dressing

kale, cranberry, apple and toasted almond salad with lemon dressing

kale, cranberry, apple and toasted almond salad with lemon dressingOne of my Christmas gifts from John was a vegan cooking class at Cavallo Point in Sausalito.  At first I was like, “Honey, a vegan cooking class?”  I mean I’m no vegan nor plan on being one anytime soon, but I was intrigued as I wanted to learn more about vegan cooking.  The instructor, Miyoko Schinner, is an amazingly vibrant woman.  She only cooks with whole and local ingredients (no processed ingredients here).  She has such great energy and enthusiasm for what she does, that she got the whole class excited to cook vegan.  Check out her website and videos and you will see what I mean.  

One of the recipes that we whipped up was this kale salad.  I knew from the start that I would like it, as I love kale in smoothies and sautéed in dishes, but I had never tried a raw kale salad before.  Let me tell you that I’m converted, and raw kale salads are the way to go! They taste like a normal salad, but they’re better, and so easy to make.

This was by far my favorite recipe of the evening.  The kale absorbed all the flavors of the lemon dressing and it was sweet but not too sweet.  I literally could have eaten a huge plate full.  I had the kids try this the other night and they ate a few bites and liked it. John loved it and has been requesting it for dinner ever since.  If you’re scared of kale or don’t think kale salad is your thing, please just give this a try.  It’s the perfect introduction to kale salads, as the dressing and the massaging of the kale breaks down the bitter taste.  This is a great salad to take to a potluck as it can be made and assembled that morning or hours before an event.  

kale, cranberry, apple and toasted almond salad with lemon dressing

kale, cranberry, apple and toasted almond salad with lemon dressing:

Serves 4-6

  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed, and thinly sliced – I used a mixture of  lacinato kale and curly kale  – Click here to see step-by-step instructions on how to de-stem and thinly slice kale
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 apple sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1.5  juicy lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup, agave or honey – You can use any one of these.  I used maple syrup
  • 1.5 ounces extra firm tofu – approximately 1/4 cup

Below are the ingredients you will need for the dressing.  

ingredients for kale, apple and cranberry salad First toast up the sliced almonds. To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.

toasting almondsZest and squeeze up your lemons. Wash, de-stem and thinly slice your kale.  If you’re not sure how to de-stem and slice kale then you can check out my post on how to de-stem and thinly slice kale, or you can watch the beginning part of my lacinato kale salad video for instructions as well.  This video has really helped my readers easily understand how to de-stem kale quickly over the sink.

Measure out your 1.5 ounces of tofu. I would highly recommend getting one of these portion scales or a scale in general.  I use this all the time when a recipes calls for ounces or grams.  If you don’t have this tool, then 1.5 ounces is roughly about 1/4 cup.
 Put your lemon juice, zest, olive oil, maple syrup and tofu in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.  
blending the tofu, maple syrup, lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil
Put your sliced kale into a bowl. 
kale before it's massaged
Pour in 1/2 of the dressing. This next step is a bit strange but very necessary.  Massage the dressing into the kale. Yes, you heard me right, “massage” the dressing into the kale.  You literally want to massage the kale with 2 hands making sure to squeeze the kale as you go along, do this step for about 1-2 minutes.  The volume of the kale should reduce by about 1/3 and the kale will wilt and have a cooked texture.  Keep adding the dressing to taste as you massage it.  
See how much the kale reduced down after it was massaged?
Taste the salad and if you want to add more dressing, then add a bit more.  This part is to taste.  The dressing makes enough for a double batch of this salad, so if you have extra dressing, then you can store it in a sealed container for up to a week.  Just make sure to stir or shake it before you use it next.
massaged kale
Add in your cranberries and let the salad sit for at least an hour to soften.  This salad can be made hours ahead of time (even in the morning).  The longer the kale sits, the softer the kale will become.  Note: If you are going to let this sit for more than an hour, then you will want to put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.  
When you are ready to serve your salad mix in your toasted nuts and diced apple.
kale, cranberry, apple and toasted almond salad with lemon dressing
This salad is filled with raw green goodness and packed with flavor.  I hope this becomes a popular go-to salad in your house and turns those kale haters into kale lovers.

Do you like Kale?  
What is your favorite Kale recipe?

whole-grain skillet corn bread

whole-grain skillet corn bread

whole-grain skillet corn breadRemember when I went crazy over the November issue of Whole Living Magazine?  I made about 4 recipes from that one issue and they were all fantastic.  This corn bread recipe was in it as well, and I couldn’t wait to make it, but I wanted to wait till Santa brought me the cast iron pan I had asked for.  Well, Santa came through and my pan was under the tree Christmas morning wrapped in a big red bow tie.  Thanks Santa. I use my cast iron pan all the time now and recommend picking one up.  They’re a workhorse of a pan and so inexpensive.  This 10″ pan cost $22 and the 12″ costs $28.  I think that is going to be my next purchase with the gift card to Sur La Table that I received from my wonderful brother-in-law, Brandt.  Thanks Brandt!  

The cast iron pan is the key to a perfect crust.  The crust gets all brown and crispy when it cooks in the pre-heated pan.  Add some fresh honey to the top of this bread when it comes out of the oven and you have yourself a healthy grainy bread with a touch of sweetness. 

whole-grain skillet corn bread

Whole-Grain Skillet Corn Bread:

Recipe from Whole Living Magazine

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • honey

DSC_0012Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Preheat (about 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven) an 8-inch or 10-inch cast-iron pan, or pie dish if you don’t have a cast iron pan.  I used my 10 inch cast iron pan, and the bread turned out great.

 In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
DSC_0015In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk and 1/4 cup of olive oil.
DSC_0014Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.
Note:  The batter will be thick and a bit lumpy.
DSC_0022
Take out your preheated pan or pie dish and add the remaining tablespoon of oil, swirling to coat the bottom.  Pour in the batter and smooth the top with a spatula.  I know it looks a bit rough on the top, but the dough is thick and sticky.DSC_0026Bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean from the center, 20-25 minutes depending on the size of your pan.  Note: My bread took 20 minutes because it was in a 10 inch skillet and was spread out more than it would be in an 8 skillet or pie dish.

DSC_0043Brush with honey, then let cool a bit.DSC_0052

DSC_0075Cut into wedges & add a drizzle of fresh honey or butter to each slice and serve up with your favorite soup or chili.  Take the remaining bread out of the skillet and store in a covered container.  Don’t store the bread in the skillet. whole-grain skillet corn breadThis bread is also tasty in the morning as a breakfast treat.  Eli has been having a slice with his eggs every morning!

homemade s’mores

smores
 
Who says you can’t have s’mores in the winter?  Marin mama is saying you can!  These s’mores are are a bit more fancier than their campfire cousins but just as rich and delicious.  The only thing missing from here is the campfire and the mosquitos.  
 
The kids and I recently visited Modern Cookie Company, a local cookie shop in Larkspur, where we ordered these decadent s’mores on homemade graham crackers and we just about flipped out of our seats they were zoo good.  The s’mores were so amazing that I wanted to turn this experience into something I could replicate at home, so I challenged myself to creating a version of my own.
 
I already made and posted the recipe for homemade graham crackers.  If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making your own graham crackers, then check out my no campfire s’mores. 
It’s really an easy recipe and worth making.  These graham crackers are more buttery and cookie-like than the store-bought variety.  They are sweet but not to sweet.  Once you try this homemade cracker you may never go back to the store bought variety again.
 
Now it’s time to assemble the s’mores.   There is a secret ingredient to these that makes them so special and rich and that ingredient is, (drum roll please)
Ghiradelli dark chocolate caramel squares.
 
The combination of the homemade graham cracker cookie, topped with the dark chocolate carmel and homemade marshmallow (homemade by Whole Foods that is) is what makes this s’more like nothing you have ever tasted.  
I used these marshmallows below from Whole Foods.
Are you ready to get started?  Well, lets go….  
First off, get a baking sheet out and build your s’more like the photo below.
The marshmallows were huge so I cut them up in thirds.
 Maybe you should make up 2 s’mores while your at it.
Turn on your broiler and place the s’mores underneath until the marshmallows brown and the chocolate melts.
 
 Let it cool for just 1 minute and then I give your permission to devour!  
One bite, two bites, gone!  
These are just to good for words and something that I will be making over and over!  You can use other types of chocolate as well like milk chocolate caramels or regular milk or dark chocolate.
 
Want a bit of summer, then try these s’mores :)

lemon chicken breasts

lemon chicken breasts

Oh Barefoot, how I love your recipes.  Your recipes are always simplistic, delicious and comforting.  Truly, I do love the Barefoot.  Her recipes always come out fantastic and they are not complicated.  I’m not a fan of complicated recipes.  I want something that tastes amazing, is fresh but easy to replicate.  I have 5 of the Barefoot’s cookbooks and go back to them quite often for new and old recipes.  

Two of my favorite recipes from her are her chocolate cake and broccoli lemon pasta.  The chocolate cake is my go-to cake and whenever I make this cake for people they beg me for the recipe. It’s rich and moist and oh so chocolaty.  I will never try another chocolate cake recipe because this one is the bomb. The broccoli pasta is a weekly staple in my house.  It’s one of those dishes that I could make in my sleep.  My kids beg for this dish after we get back from a trip because it just reminds them of home.

I recently received a new cookbook of hers called, How Easy Is That, and I decided to make one of her famous recipes, lemon chicken breasts.  I have seen this recipe on various blogs and it always looked so scrumptious to me. 

I paired this chicken with the roasted fingerling potatoes that I posted the other day and some roasted cauliflower.  This was a very traditional meat and potatoes meal but healthy at the same time.  The perfect winter comfort food dinner.

Lemon Chicken Breasts:

Recipe from Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That
Serves 4 with leftovers (2 adults, 11 year old and 7 year old)

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 8-9 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more to rub on chicken
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each) - I used 3 chicken breasts here as the breasts I bought were huge –  Note: we are not fans of the skin but I cooked the chicken breasts with the skin on to keep them moist.  We took off the skin after these photos were taken.
  • 3 lemons total (2 for zesting and for lemon juice and 1 for cooking with the chicken)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and mince your garlic & zest and squeeze your lemons.

Warm the 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet pan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Get a 9 x 12 inch baking dish out and add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt.


Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts and place them skin side up over the sauce.  Brush or rub the chicken breasts with the olive oil and garlic mixture (use all of the garlic here) and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper.  Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it in among the pieces of chicken.   

Sorry for the raw chicken picture below.  It’s not the prettiest picture.
 Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, unit the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned.  If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  
 Garnish with fresh thyme if your presenting it to guests as it makes the chicken look so pretty!
 Make sure to pour some of the pan juices over each chicken breast when you are serving it up as it adds a bit more juice and flavor to the chicken.  I actually poured all the pan juices into a serving bowl and the we each spooned up some and added it to our breasts throughout the meal.
 My family rated this meal a 10.  I hope yours will enjoy this as well.
Now, how easy was that?
 
Do you have any Barefoot Contessa cookbooks?  

If so, what is your favorite recipe of hers?

roasted fingerling potatoes with salt, rosemary and thyme

roasted fingerling potatoes with salt, rosemary and thyme

roasted fingerling potatoes with salt, rosemary and thymeI received a cast-iron skillet for Christmas and couldn’t wait to break it in.  I was cooking up some lemon chicken breasts and roasted cauliflower for dinner and decided that some roasted potatoes would be the perfect accompaniment.  Comfort food at its best, but healthy comfort food.  I took a look in my pantry and noticed I had about 16 fingerling potatoes just sitting there waiting to be used, so I pulled out one cast iron skillet and got to work.

BTW, my kids love these potatoes (they rate them a 10).  They really taste like thick cut french fries, as they get super crispy on the bottom when you roast them in the skillet

roasted fingerling potatoes with salt, rosemary and thyme:

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

serves 4

  • 15-16 or 1 pound fingerling potatoes, well scrubbed
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Note:  There are really no precise estimates for oil, salt, pepper and herbs.  Just use the amounts you want and like when seasoning your veggies as some people like more seasoning and some people like less.  It’s really an individual preference.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large ovenproof gratin dish or skillet in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  I used my 12-inch cast-iron skillet.

DSC_0002Wash and scrub your potatoes and then cut them in half lengthwise.

DSC_0007Combine the salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl.

DSC_0016Toss the potatoes in a medium bowl with the tablespoon of olive oil.

DSC_0020Add in your seasoned-salt mixture and mix well to combine.

DSC_0021-2Arrange the potatoes cut side down in a single layer in the preheated pan.

The potatoes will be tight here, but try and just wedge them in as best you can.  I filled mine with 16 potatoes and it was a tight squeeze.

DSC_0039Roast until they are golden on the outside and tender when pierced with fork, 20-25  minutes.roasted fingerling potatoes with salt, rosemary and thymeEnjoy!