pots de creme

potsdecream
TGIM (thank goodness it’s Monday), I know people are use to TGIF, but I wanted to change things up here a bit.  I’m so happy that it’s Monday and also so very happy that my kids are back in school.  Yippee!  I really enjoyed having them at home last week, but honestly I didn’t accomplish a single thing.  I didn’t cook anything new or get any work done on my blog.  It was a nice and much needed vacation for all of us, but I am ready to get back to work and ready to cook again!  Routine works best for me as I’m a creature of habit.
 
I honestly missed cooking for my family and I missed my “mommy” healthy lunches.  We were on-the-go so much last week that I either crammed a PB& J in my mouth for lunch or we ate out.  I can only eat out so many times before it gets old and I really like eating at home.  Home cooked meals are usually healthier and the portions are smaller.  I find that we eat way more when we go out to dinner as opposed to eating in.  The portions that these restaurants serve these days are enormous.  What’s up with that?  
 
Anyway, here I am talking about portions and healthy eating as I am showcasing this utterly decadent and chocolaty dessert.  Doesn’t make much sense does it? 

This is definitely the easiest dessert in my recipe book. Now, it does need to chill for 2 to 3 hours before serving, so it does require a tiny bit of planning, but the preparation couldn’t be easier, so easy in fact that your child could make this entire dessert!  You might have to supervise on the coffee pouring part, but otherwise it’s easy-peasey-lemon-squeezey (that is another one of my favorite sayings)!  

 
Serve this dessert up at your next dinner party and your guests will be impressed.  They will think you spent all day slaving over this dessert, when all you actually did was throw 5 ingredients into a blender and blend away (shhhh… they never have to know how easy it was). This dessert is very rich so you will definitely want to add some fresh whipped cream to the top.


pots de creme:

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman 
Makes 7 to 8 desserts

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup (8oz) very hot and strong coffee - You can always use a good strong decaf  if your worried about the caffeine, especially if you have kids
Place the chocolate chips in the blender.  Crack in the 4 eggs and then add the pinch of salt and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  
 Blend all the ingredients together till combined.  
Grab some very hot freshly brewed coffee—as in, hot-hot—and slowly drizzle it through the hole in the blender lid while the blender’s on. The mixture will slowly expand and rise in the blender, but do not fret, just keep the blender on a low speed while adding the coffee.  Once the coffee is added, put the top back on the lid and blend away until the mixture is pureed and smooth.  
Note: The coffee will heat the eggs so you will not be eating a raw egg dessert.  
Pour the mixture into some glasses, small mason jars or ramekins.  You can use whatever you desire.  I actually used some 9oz glasses and some recycled jam jars.  I actually loved the way they looked in the recycled jam jars.  
Place the glasses and jars in the refrigerator and refrigerate them for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.  
 
Now you just need to add some whipped cream to top these off.  This whipped cream is the perfect topping for any dessert from chocolate mousse to pumpkin pie.  I even use it to top ice-cream sundaes!  
 

sweetened whipped cream: 

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Note:  Whipped cream is best served fresh, so if you’re just serving dessert for your family then you may want to cut the above recipe in half. 
Beat the cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until it becomes frothy.  
Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks.
Do not overbeat.
When you’re ready to serve up the pots de creme just place a fresh dollop of whipped cream on each one!  You could also be fancy and add some chocolate shavings on top.
These are rich little desserts so don’t make your portions too big.  I actually had to cover and refrigerate mine for the next day as I was stuffed halfway through eating it.
 My kids devoured theirs though!  Eli was even licking his glass.  
Here’s to a fancy no fuss dessert!

spinach, blueberry & pomegranate smoothie

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Its ski week here in California and instead of skiing we are hanging by the pool enjoying this blissful 80 degree weather.  
Whoo hooo!!!
This is a short but sweet post as I am taking a break from cooking and the computer this week to spend some quality time outdoors with the kids.  I am showcasing a smoothie rather than warm comfort foods as it feels like summer over here and honestly because I have been feeding my kids to much of this.

We made an afternoon pit stop at Ghirardelli the other day.

I figured a healthier mid-afternoon snack was in the works for the kids.  I saw this smoothie recipe the other day at Yummy Mummy and knew it would be something sweet to take care of my kid’s sweet tooth but also healthy at the same time.   

It got the kid approval so here you go…
Spinach & Blueberry smoothie:
Recipe from Yummy Mummy
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries- if using fresh then you will want to add some ice
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice – I used 3/4 cup as I used 2 cups of spinach in the smoothie rather than 1 cup 
  • 1 cup spinach - I used 2 cups of spinach here
  • 1 banana 
Here’s to a taste of summer wherever you are!
Don’t blink!
I had to close with this photo.  
If you’re a fan of Doctor Who you will get this.
Are there any Doctor Who fans out there?

miso-garlic-roasted tofu caesar salad

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Here is another fabulous meatless “mommy” meal for you guys!  This post is actually 3 separate recipes.  You can combine them all to make this savory salad or make each one individually for another dish.  It’s all about flexibility here and we love flexibility when cooking.

If you’re a fan of tofu (or not) you will love the way it’s prepared here.  I’m not a fan of raw tofu, but I loved eating it this way as the tofu got all crisp from roasting it in the oven.  This tofu recipe can be used in so many ways.  It would be perfect in a bowl of quinoa, over a bowl of noodles or brown rice or even thrown into your favorite stir-fry recipe.  I even found myself pulling out a few pieces as a snack throughout the day:)

Not a fan of tofu, keep reading because this dressing is one of my favorite caesar salad dressings.  I have never been a big fan of using anchovies or raw eggs in a dressing, and this dressing does not use either one of those ingredients.  Yaay!  It’s one of the simplest caesar dressing you can make as it calls for just 4 simple ingredients.  I have been making this caesar salad a ton since finding this recipe.  

Don’t have leftover bread for croutons or plain and simple, just don’t want to make you own, no worries, you can pick up so many delicious varieties at your local grocery store.  Just throw them on at the end and enjoy!

This is also a great make ahead meal.  Prepare the tofu earlier in the day (or the day before) then cover and refrigerate.  The breadcrumbs can be made earlier that day or the day before and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.  Note:  The only part of this recipe that needs to be made fresh is the dressing.  I made it earlier in the day and then stored it in the refrigerator and it did not keep well.   

miso-garlic-roasted tofu:

Recipe from Eating Well, Fast & Flavorful Meatless Meals
serves 4 as a side or 2 as a meal

  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons, miso - see picture and note below
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
This is miso.  You can find it in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.  Miso is a fermented soybean paste that adds flavor to dishes such as soups, sauces and salad dressings.  It is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals.  It’s available in different colors, white, yellow, red & brown.  If you want a milder flavor then go with yellow or white, if you want a stronger flavor then go with a red or brown miso.  The lighter the color, the milder the flavor.  I chose this yellow chickpea miso as this was my first time trying it and the chickpea version is soy-free. 
Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.  Note: Only do this step if you’re making the tofu and breadcrumbs at the same time.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  
Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Pat tofu dry and cut into 3/4 inch cubes.
 Combine lemon juice, miso and garlic in a large bowl.  Add the tofu and gently toss to coat.
 Spread the tofu in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake on the upper oven rack, turning two or three times during baking, until browned, about 18-20 minutes. 
The tofu can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

homemade croutons:

  • 2 slices country-style bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes – I used some leftover ciabatta bread that I had used for panini’s on Monday
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil – or more if you need it
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.  Slice up your bread and then cut it into 1/2 inch cubes.
 
In a large bowl, toss your bread with the olive oil, pepper and salt.
Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for approximately 12 to 14 minutes (on the lower oven rack, only if your making the tofu at the same time) making sure to turn the bread two to three times during baking, until the croutons are browned and crisp.
The croutons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.  

miso dressing & salad:

Recipe from Eating Well, Fast & Flavorful Meatless Meals

serves 4-6 or 2 for dinner

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons miso
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 cups torn, bite-size roman lettuce- I also used 4 pieces of dinosaur kale
  • 2 cups torn, bite size radicchio
  • grated parmesan cheese – optional topping for the salad

Whisk oil, lemon juice, miso and garlic in glass measuring cup or small bowl.  
Wash and dry up your lettuce, add the dressing and toss to coat.  
Serve the salad topped with the roasted tofu, croutons and some fresh grated parmesan cheese.  
You can also just serve up this salad, sans the tofu, as the perfect side salad to any meal.

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauceWant an easy-peasy weeknight meal your whole family will enjoy?  I bet you’re saying yes, yes, yes!  Well, read on, because my whole family loves this pasta and I love it because it’s tasty of course, but so quick (under 45 minutes) and easy to make. This is definitely a family and kid friendly meal.  It’s cheesy, hence the title, cheesy baked tortellini. This pasta is rated a 10+ in my house and has quickly become a family favorite.

Life is getting busy around our house, and during this busy time I have to prepare my weekly dinner menu in advance. Zoe now has lacrosse, dance and cotillion 4 nights during the week so goodbye (for now) to sit-down family dinners, and hello make ahead and easy meals.

On Sundays, I put together a list of potential weeknight dinners and I also try to cook a two-nighter meal as well.  When life is busy, I don’t want to compromise on eating nutritionally, nor do I want us eating takeout every night. I want to offer my kids their veggies and a fairly balanced and nutritious meal.  To accomplish this, I try and find recipes that I can either make ahead, that will provide dinner for 2 nights or ones that can be put together in a flash.  This tortellini pasta matches all three of that criteria. You can throw it together in less than 45 minutes. You can also make it earlier in the day, cover it with foil, refrigerate it and then re-heat later that evening.  Oh yeah!!!  I’ll be honest with you all and let you know that we end up using a jared sauce the majority of the time.  I don’t always make the homemade marinara sauce, and that’s ok!  My favorite jarred sauce to use for this pasta is Rao’s homemade Marinara.

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce

cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce:

Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis Everyday Pasta
Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 cups marinara sauce – store bought or homemade – I made a homemade version from Giada the day before- recipe to follow below.  I have also made this recipe a number of times with different store bought sauces and my basic tomato sauce.
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pound cheese tortellini
  • shredded mozzarella or smoked mozzarella cheese, - The recipe called for 2 ounces, but really, who measures out their cheese?  Just top your dish with the amount of cheese you want.  
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese - I also did not measure this.  I just topped each casserole with some parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the tortellini.  Lightly oil an 8x8x2-inch baking dish or 4 individual gratin dishes.Below is what mascarpone cheese looks like.  It resembles a soft cream cheese.In a large bowl, whisk together the marinara sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme.Stir all the ingredients together. Its best to mix everything with a spatula because you’re going to have to press the mascarpone cheese against the sides of the bowl to get it to soften up. Once you mix all the ingredients together, it goes from this beautiful red color above, to this not so pleasant orange color.  I’m not even going to go there and tell you what it reminds me of.Cook the tortellini until just tender or al dente, about 2 minutes.  I used frozen tortellini and the 2 minute cooking time was perfect.  Drain.  Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat.

Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish or dishes.  Not a great photo, but you get the step involved.
  Top with the grated parmesan cheese and smoked mozzarella or regular mozzarella cheese.
Cover the dish or dishes with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses melt on top, about 10 minutes longer.
Note: The cheese will be melted, but will be white in color.  If you want your cheese to be browned and crispy like these photos, then turn on your broiler and place the pasta under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese browns up.
cheesy baked tortellini & homemade marinara sauce
 That is it folks!  How easy was that dish to prepare?
I paired this up with a salad for John and I, and some broccoli for the kids.
This dish was a two-night meal for my kids and I (not the hungry hubby).  I just covered their leftovers in their gratin dishes, and re-heated them in the oven the next day.
I’m actually re-heating up their leftovers as I write this post.
Here they are eating their leftovers!  Happy as clams!
If you want to make your own marinara sauce then you can follow along with me below!
This sauce is great because it can be made day ahead of time, and it’s fairly easy to whip up.  The only thing that really takes time is chopping up all the veggies.  This is a wonderful marina sauce that you can use as a base for just about any Italian meal.

Basic Marinara Sauce:

Makes about 2 quarts
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped – I used yellow onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
Prep your ingredients.  Chop up your onions, garlic, carrots and celery.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.Remove and discard the bay leaves.  Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Let the sauce cool, and then refrigerate or freeze it.  This sauce freezes very well so I saved 2 cups for the above recipe, and froze the remaining amount for a later date.
The sauce may be stored frozen for up to 3 months.

If you don’t want to make your own sauce, use your favorite store bought brand.  I’ve done that on many occasions and the tortellini tastes just as amazing.

carrot ginger soup with homemade croutons

carrot ginger soup with homemade croutons

carrot ginger soup with homemade croutonsI was sitting down for breakfast Friday morning and received an email from my friend Carolyn raving about this carrot ginger soup that she had made for her family the night before. She said I had to try it. Carolyn is an amazing cook, actually so amazing, that she could have her own cooking show.  So, when she recommends a recipe to me, I trust that it’s going to be wonderful. I was already planning on making this miso-garlic and tofu salad for lunch and knew this soup would be the perfect compliment.

I know what your thinking, carrot soup?  How boring!!  Well, actually, this soup is not boring at all!  It’s rich and creamy (without the cream) with a hint of sweetness. My kids loved it and said I need to definitely make it again.  They also said to be sure to make the croutons as well.

This is another pantry soup like my creamless tomato soup.  If you have a well-stocked pantry then you should have most of the ingredients on hand.  The only thing that I had to run out and pick up was the sweet onion.  Another thing I love about this soup, is that it’s cream-less and vegetarian. Bonus!

carrot ginger soup with homemade croutons

carrot ginger soup:

Recipe from Food 52

  • 6 to 8 large carrots (about 1 3/4 pounds) - I used 8 carrots and actually weighed them at the grocery store to make sure I had 1 3/4 pound
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups good quality vegetable stock – I did not have any homemade veggie stock on hand, but I used the boxed variety and it tasted great.
  • 1 inch long piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 of a large sweet onion, chopped - these onions are light yellow in color and will be labeled sweet onion at your grocery store. They can also be called vidalia onions.
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper                                                                         
Prep all of your ingredients.  Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a measuring cup.  Peel your piece of ginger (to peel your ginger, just take the tip of a spoon and scrape the skin off), chop up your garlic, chop up your onion half and peel and cut up your carrots into 1/2-inch rounds.  
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On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil (take this from your 1/4 cup) and sprinkle generously with salt.
Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches (I set mine 6 inches from the top) from the heat source and turn on the broiler.  
Broil the carrots until they brown and soften, turning them over with a pair of tongs or a spatula every 5 minutes or so.  This should take about 15-20 minutes.  Once your carrots have cooked, set them aside to cool.  Meanwhile (while your carrots are cooking), pour your 6 cups of vegetable stock into a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once the stock has come to a boil, add your piece of ginger and thyme and simmer gently for 15 minutes. 
When the stock has 12 minutes left to simmer, take the remaining olive oil and heat it up in a dutch oven (or whatever soup pan you normally use) over medium heat.  Add the onion and brown it over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 12-15 minutes. Tip: I always start cooking the onions when the stock has 12 minutes left to simmer, that way my onions aren’t done before my stock has finished simmering.  
DSC_0001See the workstation I set up!  So pretty.

DSC_0006Don’t be afraid to brown the onion up.  It smells and tastes amazing in the soup.

DSC_0011 Once your onions have browned, add the garlic and let it cook for about a 30 seconds, and then add the carrots.
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Remove the ginger and thyme from the stock and add the stock to the pot with the onions and carrots. Bring to boil and then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the carrots are soft enough to puree. 
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Puree the soup until smooth using either a hand held immersion blender or a standard blender.  I usually wipe down the soup pot while the soup is pureeing.  Return the pureed soup to the pot.  

I actually used my vitamix blender here because I wanted a really smooth soup.  I was able to pour all the soup into my blender in one batch.

If the soup seems too thick (mine was perfect just the way it was), add more stock or water and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.   

Now onto the croutons!          

      
Homemade Croutons:
  • 2 slices country-style bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes - I used some leftover ciabatta bread that I had used for panini’s on Monday
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil – or more if you need it
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt – I usually just throw a pinch of salt in
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper – I actually don’t measure out my pepper, I just twist the pepper grinder a few times.
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.  Slice up your bread and then cut it into 1/2 inch cubes.
 

In a medium bowl, add the oil, salt and pepper and mix to combine. Toss in the bread cubes and mix to combine.
Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  
Bake for approximately 12 to 14 minutes making sure to turn the bread two to three times during baking, until the croutons are browned and crisp.
The croutons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.  
Ladle up the soup into individual bowls and top with homemade croutons.  The crunchy croutons absorb the flavors of the soup and taste amazing!
carrot ginger soup with homemade croutons

Lifefactory Bottle Giveaway!!!!

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 UPDATE:  HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!  The winner of the Lifefactory bottles is, drum roll please, Amy Alvarado.  Congratulations Amy! 

Hi everyone!  Instead of a recipe I am going to do a giveaway. 
Yaay!  
I am giving away these brand new flip cap Lifefactory glass water bottles.  These flip caps are brand spanking new and I am giving you a chance to be one of the first people to own not just one bottle but two bottles.  How awesome is that? I love these bottles and have about 20 of them in my cupboard.  They are the best bottles to drink from.  I mean do you drink from plastic or metal at home?  Probably not, then why would you want to drink from plastic or metal on the go when you can drink from glass?  I drink everything in these from water to smoothies.  I have even brought one to the pool filled with a little bit of wine, shhhh….
 

The entire bottle and cap can be cleaned in the dishwasher.  Easy peasy, right?  All parts are made in the United States and Europe.  Your water or beverage will taste the way it’s supposed to taste and not have a plastic or metal aftertaste .  

I’m giving away a 22ozand a 16ozbottle. The 22ozis the one I keep in my car for on-the-go drinking.  The 16ozis what I use for the gym and quick little trips.  Both bottles fit easily into my cup holder.  

 
All right, enough with the sales pitch.  All you have to do to win these amazing bottles is:
  • Please leave a comment below & become a follower of Marin Mama Cooks
  • OR sign up to follow me via email or twitter
  • OR subscribe to Marin Mama cooks posts

 I will be announcing the winner on Valentine’s Day, so please check back then to see if you won!  

BTW, for those of you that live in Marin, Paradise Foods in both Corte Madera and Novato have these new bottles in stock.  Go and pick one up today as they are selling fast!
Do any of you have a Lifefactory water bottle already?
If so, what is your favorite beverage to drink from in it?
Do you prefer drinking out of glass?

 
Note:  All thoughts & opinions expressed here are entirely my own.  I just believe in and love these bottles and I hope you will as well!

creamless tomato soup

creamless tomato soup
creamless tomato soup
Folks, I posted this recipe in the first couple of weeks of my blog, but I wanted to reintroduce it to you all because it’s literally my favorite go-to soup.  I call it my 30 minute soup as it really only takes 30 minutes to make.  As Barefoot would say, “how easy is that?”  This is not a barefoot recipe though, this recipe is from Cooks Illustrated.

I love this soup because it’s easy to make and you can get a few meals out of it.  I usually whip up a batch on the weekend when I know I am going to have a busy week and need that quick go-to meal.  It’s also a great pantry soup that you can whip up at the last minute because it only takes 30 minutes to cook and the ingredients are usually something you will already have on hand at home!This soup fills 2 large storage containers so I always put one in the freezer for those last minute meals or for a nice weekend lunch.

I have found it to be convenient to have my freezer and refrigerator stocked with healthy pre-cooked meals that I can take out when I am to lazy to cook or when we have a busy night and there is no time to cook.  Soups are also great for those nights when people are eating at different times because you can just have a big pot simmering on the stove and people can help themselves when they are ready to eat.

Another reason I love this soup is because it uses bread instead of cream to thicken it.  I know white bread isn’t the healthiest option either, but it tastes so good in this soup, and it is only 3 pieces.  You could also throw in some sourdough bread if you want to make it a bit healthier.  My kids love this soup and they are not soup kids, so I am sure your pickiest eaters will love this as well.

creamless tomato soup

Creamless Tomato Soup:

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes packed in juice
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 3 large slices of good quality sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth – if you want this to be a vegetarian soup, you can use vegetable broth

I love this brand of tomatoes below.

Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a measuring cup.  Take 2 tablespoons of oil from this and heat it up in a Dutch oven (or whatever soup pan you normally use) over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion, garlic and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice.  Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain.

 This is what it should look like after the tomatoes are mashed.Stir in the brown sugar and bread; bring soup to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes.  The bread will look like this.VERY IMPORTANT STEP HERE, Remove and discard bay leaf.  Please remember to take your bay leaf out before you puree your soup.  I forgot to once and I had to go through the soup and find all the tiny pieces and take them out.  It was a hassle and took some time, so I am very anal about remembering this step now!

Puree the soup using either a handheld immersion blender or a blender.  If using a blender, transfer half of soup to a blender.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to large bowl and repeat with the remaining soup and oil.  I always wipe down my pan when I’m pureeing the soup so that I don’t have leftover bits of onion or such in the pan.

If you’re using an immersion blender, then add all the remaining olive oil to the soup and blend away until your soup is creamy and smooth.

Once your soup has been pureed, stir in your chicken broth.  Return soup to a boil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

It’s that easy folks!

creamless tomato soupServe up the soup in individual bowls and add a crusty bread on the side or a yummy grilled cheese panini sandwich, that’s what we do in our house.

It’s a perfect winter or fall soup that the whole family can and will enjoy.
Do you have a favorite go-to soup?

lentil “meatballs” with lemon pesto

lentils

Here is another wonderful “mommy” meal that I made this past week. It’s also a great “meatless Monday” meal.  I saw this recipe a few weeks back on Sprouted Kitchen and I have been dying to make it for some time.  I loved my chickpeas burgers so much that I wanted to try another meatless dish that is usually made with meat.  When you hear the word meatball you think of meat, right?  Well, these are lentil meatballs so there is no meat in them.  Maybe lentil balls would be a more fitting name for these.  It just sounds weird, so I think I will keep the name meatballs.

I loved these lentil meatballs and I wasn’t even missing the meat. They were flavorful and dense like meatballs and they really satisfied my craving for a meatless meatball.  Combine them with the lemon pesto and you have yourself a wonderful & healthy vegetarian lunch or dinner.  I promise you, you will not miss the meatballs here.

This dish was not to popular with my kids, but I wasn’t expecting it to be either.  I was really just creating this recipe for myself.  My kids liked the pesto, but did not care to much for the meatballs.  I ate the meatballs and fed them some quinoa pasta with the pesto sauce.  I believe in cooking one meal for the family so I accomplished my goal here.    

lentil “meatballs”:

Recipe from the Sprouted Kitchen
makes about 13 medium sized meatballs
printer friendly recipe

  • 2 cups cooked black lentils – 1 cup dry lentils equals 2 cup cooked 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup freslhy grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed – I used my coffee grinder here
  • 2 tablespoons, finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Heafty pinch of dried or fresh thyme – I used fresh thyme here
  • 1 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably) – I used whole wheat panko breadcrumbs from Ians
Here are the ingredients you will need to make the meatballs.
You will need 1 cup of dry lentils to equal 2 cooked cups of lentils here.
Once you measure out your lentils give them a rinse.
Cook up your lentils according the directions on the package.  When your lentils are finished cooking, drain them and set them aside to cool a bit.

Once your lentils have cooled down for a bit, measure out 2 cups and put them in a food processor.Pulverize the lentils into mush and then put them in a large mixing bowl.  Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well.Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.While the lentil mix is resting, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and proceed to make up your lemon pesto (see recipe below).

After 20 minutes or so, check the lentil mix by rolling a round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well.  If it seems pretty wet and it’s falling apart, stir in another tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs until the ball stays together.
My mix was perfect the way it was.  I think using the Panko breadcrumbs made a difference as they are hearty breadcrumbs.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into “meatballs sized” balls and line them up on a baking sheet.
Note: they don’t need lots of space between them as they won’t spread. If you want them to be crusty, then brush the meatballs with olive oil.  I wanted them to be brown and crusty so I brushed the entire meatball with olive oil. Here is a photo of the meatballs after they have been brushed in olive oil.  See how nice and shiny they are!
Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Make sure you turn the meatballs halfway through the baking time.  Remove and cool slightly.
These lentil meatballs are wonderful on their own with the below lemon pesto or you can pair them up with your favorite pasta, like quinoa to make a healthy and vegeterian spaghetti and meatballs.
 I served these up the next day for lunch on some leftover quinoa spaghetti.

lemon pesto sauce:

Recipe from the Sprouted Kitchen
printer friendly recipe
Note: Lentil meatballs can be a bit on the dryer side so you will want to moisten them up with this pesto. 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  •  2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons water to thin sauce
Prep all of your ingredients.  Wash and dry your basil leaves, zest and juice your lemon, peel your garlic, measure out your pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
Put the garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth.
 Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency.
 Add 2 tablespoons of water to thin as desired. I used 2 tablespoons, as I like my pesto be a bit thinner.  This is optional of course. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.
Note:  Sometimes my pesto comes out green as shown in the picture above, and sometimes it comes out a bit more yellow-green.  It really depends on how big the meyer lemons are.  Don’t fret on the color, as it tastes amazing no matter what the color is.  If you feel you want more green, then just add some more basil to taste and then process again.
My favorite way to enjoy these is topped with lots of the pesto and thrown on some quinoa spaghetti.
Have you ever tried a meatless meatball?
If so, did you like it

Chicken with Shallots

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Here’s another wonderful kid approved chicken recipe from you guessed it, Ina Garten. I tend to make a lot of her recipes because they’re easy and they always turn out amazing. This particular recipe was from her cookbook, How Easy is ThatI usually make a chicken dish once a week for my family as it’s economical, easy to prepare and my kids just love it.  This dish was a bit messy and a bit grease splattering, but the smiles and thumbs up from my kids and hubby made it all worth it.

I just found out an interesting fact about chicken skin here at my friend Em’s blog that you might want to check out.  It’s made me re-think having an occasional bite of crispy skin.  My kids were psyched that they got to eat their skin last night, as that is really the best part, right?

This dish is paired with a shallot and lemon sauce that is amazing!  I even rolled my popover in it after my chicken disappeared.  The sauce really makes this chicken stand out, so make it!

Chicken with Shallots:

Recipe from Barefoot Contessa
serves 4

  • 3 to 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each)  - The chicken breasts from my grocery store are huge, so we typically get 2-3 breasts
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine – Pinot Grigio works great
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots 
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Lets get our ingredients prepared.  Mince your shallot, squeeze up your lemons to get your lemon juice, pour your 1/2-cup wine, slice up your room temp butter. Rinse and pat the chicken dry with the paper towels and sprinkle them generously on both sides with salt and pepper.  Make sure that the chicken is dry, as that helps it to brown up in the skillet. 

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet or oven safe skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, until it begins to smoke. Place the chicken breasts, skin side down in the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes without moving, until golden brown. 
 Raw chicken photos, gotta love them!  
The below photos show 2 chicken breasts, as I was making a smaller batch to photograph for you all. 
Using tongs, turn the chicken breasts skin side up and place the skillet in the preheated oven.  Roast the chicken for 12 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (when they reach an internal temp of 165 degrees).
Please remember that this is an estimate on cooking time since chicken breasts vary in size.  Keep an eye on the chicken and cook accordingly. 
Meanwhile (while the chicken is cooking), in a medium sauté pan, combine the white wine, lemon juice, and shallots and cook over medium-high heat until only 2 tablespoons of liquid remain in the pan, about 5 minutes. If the sauce reduces too much, add an extra splash of white wine or water.   
Honestly, just keep an eye on the sauce and you shouldn’t need to add any additional wine or water.  
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Add the cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a full boil.  
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Remove the sauce from the heat, add the diced butter, and swirl the pan until the butter is incorporated.  Don’t reheat or the sauce will break! 
The sauce will be a creamy yellow and pinkish color.  
Pour your sauce into a small bowl and set aside until the chicken is finished. The sauce may not look pretty, but it tastes amazing!
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Serve up the chicken breasts and have each person spoon the desired amount of sauce over their breast, or you can pour the sauce over all of the breasts. We served these up with popovers and roasted cauliflower.
DSC_0143Everyone in my family was part of the clean plate club.  I even found members of my family lapping up the remaining sauce with their popovers.  

Ratings:
Zoe rated this dish a 10+++.
Eli rated this a 10+++ as well.
John and I loved it as well.