roasted beet and arugula salad

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It’s almost Labor Day and everyone is either going out of town, or fitting in that last summer barbecue.  We’re actually staying local and plan on hitting the pool, grilling out, and making our annual end of summer bike trek through Sebastopol to pick some fresh blackberries.  It’s a family and friend tradition, and one of our final hurrah’s each summer.  The blackberries are so ripe and fresh that they honestly taste like dark chocolate, I’m not lying.  They beat any blackberry you will buy at the supermarket.  We take our time biking through the wine country and stop for lunch at our favorite cafe in Graton, as well as check out our favorite gallery.  The food is local and fresh, and the gallery always has something whimsical that I want to purchase.


I roasted up
some beets last week and paired them with this salad.  It was the perfect meal after a week of heavy eating in Minnesota. This salad is simple, light and a refreshing combination. The sweetness of the grapefruit helps take away the earthy taste of the beets. This salad is the perfect lunchtime salad, or a great salad to serve alongside a fall soup, like my cauliflower soup.

roasted beet and arugula salad:

Recipe from Gluten-free Vegan Comfort Food
serves 4

  • 1 pink grapefruit, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 roasted beet – see my post on roasting beets for roasting instructions
  • 1-2 bunches of arugula leaves (about 3 cups or so) 
  • pinch of sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste

Peel your grapefruit, and pull it apart into segments. Set aside two of the segments, and chop up the rest into small bite-size pieces. Then toss them into a large bowl.  Chop up your roasted beet into small chunks or slices, and add them to the bowl with the grapefruit.  Add in the arugula leaves.  Take the two reserved grapefruit segments and squeeze them over a small bowl to capture their juice.   Now its time to make the dressing.  In another small bowl, or glass measuring cup, combine the olive oil, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and the mustard.  Whisk the ingredients well.  Add one teaspoon of grapefruit juice at a time, to get the dressing to the desired sweetness.  

I used 3 teaspoons of grapefruit juice.  
If you need more juice, just take one of the pieces of grapefruit and squeeze it over the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss to coat evenly.  Season with salt and freshly ground cracked pepper to taste.  You can also top the salad with some feta cheese, if desired.  I also wanted to say Happy Anniversary to my amazing husband & best friend, John!  

15 years today and we’re going strong.  
I love you John!

Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for August 28th

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Ok, here is a new series that I’m going to start.  I’m hoping this series will help you, as well as help me.  I have tried for years to plan out a weekly menu in advance, but for some reason or another, I just never got around to it.  I would plan out a day or two in advance, but that was it.  I am determined this year to finally get a system into place and make it happen.  I’m going to post my weekly menu for you all to see on Sunday, (hopefully in the morning) that way if you want to follow it, or get ideas for the week, you can.  I’m only going to plan meals Sunday through Thursday and possibly Friday, as Saturday nights we either go out to dinner or John cooks for us. You’re going to see many make-ahead and two-nighter meals listed here.  My kids have lots of late afternoon into early evening activities during the school year, and I need easy meals to accommodate those nights.  Ok, I won’t delay any further; here is my first weekly menu. 
Monday: Ina’s summer garden pasta and garlic bread 

Tuesday: favorite turkey burgers & corn on the cob
Wednesday: leftovers of Ina’s summer garden pasta & garlic bread

Thursday: curried chicken salad sandwiches & kale salad
I’m placing this menu on the refrigerator each Sunday so that my family knows what to expect for the week ahead.  It’s been great so far, because whenever someone wonders what’s for dinner, I send them over to the fridge to take a look. There has been no complaining yet, (yaay) and so far it has made my life easier.  I know I’m only on day 3, but when I went to the grocery store today, it was super easy knowing exactly what I needed.  I took my iPhone with me, checked out the recipe on my blog, and shopped away.  Knowing the menu in advance has also saved me from running to the grocery store every day and fretting last minute what to cook for dinner that night. John is really loving this so far, as he’s not getting the 3:00 frantic call from me asking what to make for dinner. Marin mama is taking charge, and I like it! 
Thought or tips on what you would like to see?  Do you like me showing the picture of the recipe or would it just be as good to have the titles of the dishes?

Tips on how to pack a waste-free school lunch and snack

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Most of you moms are getting ready for your kids to go back to school.  You’re going through your checklist of school supplies, trying to figure out what to you need to buy and what can be re-used.  My kids started school this week, so I got off to an early start.  Luckily, I didn’t have to buy a new lunch box or lunch containers, as I had an ample supply from previous years.  Both of my kids’ schools encourage kids to pack a waste-free lunch as well as snack.  It’s California, go figure.  I’ve had a few years to perfect the art of packing a waste-free lunch, so I thought I would share with you some of my favorite items and as well as some tips.

Above is a typical lunch I pack for the kids, it has a fruit, entree and beverage.  I like to pack the kids’ lunch in glass containers, because they are the best and safest containers to eat from.  No BPA worries with glass, plus with glass you taste the actual food.  Glass doesn’t leach a metallic or plastic taste, as with plastic and metal containers.  The best thing about glass is that it’s dishwasher safe, and can be re-used again and again. For those of you that are worried about using glass, I get it, but I wanted to let you know that Eli who is almost 8, has been using these containers in his lunch since pre-school, and has yet to break one.  He is all boy, so that’s saying a lot.  You don’t have to go out and buy new containers.  Take a look in your cabinets, and see what you have on hand already, and get creative.  If you need to purchase some new containers, hit the Container Store or Bed Bath and Beyond, as they both have a great selection.

I absolutely love these lunch bags from Built .  I have one for both Zoe and Eli, (John has one as well) and have had them for 5 years.  They totally last!  The best part about them is that they are machine washable.  Yes, you heard me right; they can be washed every week!  How great is that?  I love the cleanliness of these lunch bags, and the fact that they are made from neoprene, so they keep the glass safe.  You can get them in all shapes, sizes and colors.  Check them out!
The other product that I absolutely love and couldn’t live without, are these glass water bottles from Lifefactory. I honestly have about 20 of them in my cupboard ranging from the 9oz and 16oz (shown below) to the 22oz.  These 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?  Makes sense, right?  The entire bottle and cap can be cleaned in the dishwasher.  Your water or beverage will taste the way it’s supposed to taste, and not have a plastic or metal aftertaste.  I use the 9oz bottles for the kids’ lunch as they fit perfectly into any lunch box, and the 16oz is what my kids take to school to drink throughout the day.  Eli likes to use the flip cap top at his desk for easy access, and Zoe prefers the twist cap to keep in her locker. We also use these bottles at all sporting events, well, basically everywhere. 
When I’m packing the kids’ a hot entree, (usually leftover pastas, soups and various entrees) I use theseThermos stainless steel containers.  I just heat up some water in the tea kettle, pour it into the thermos, twist on the cap, and let it sit anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes to warm up the container.  When I have heated up the entree, I empty out the hot water, dry the container, and then put in the leftovers.  The leftovers always stay warm till lunch-time.  Now that’s what you call a “hot lunch.”You don’t need to go out and buy and fancy napkins or special silverware, just use what you already have.  I have tons of cloth napkins that I have picked up over the years, so I just throw in whatever I pull out of the drawer.  I also use our everyday silverware for both the kids’ lunches and snacks. 
When it comes to snacks, I try and use re-usable containers as well.  I love both of these snack bags from Snack Taxi and Resnackit.  They’re both machine washable, so if you pack a messy snack inside like banana bread, it will clean right up.  If I pack a snack that needs to be kept cool, like a cheese stick or yogurt, then I will throw an ice-pack in there.  I also love these BPA free plastic containers from Klip-It.  They work for those fragile snacks such as popcorn, crackers etc.  
All of these ideas may set your wallet back a few dollars, but they will pay for themselves in time, as these products last and can be used year after year.  When you add it all up over time, you will actually be saving money while saving the earth at the same time.  You may also have to throw a few more items in the laundry as well as the dishwasher, but you’ll get use to it and you’ll feel really good about the positive impact your making.  You’re teaching your kids the value of recycling and re-using items in your home, as well as creating less waste. It’s virtually a win win for your family and the earth.  
Do you have any ideas, tips or suggestions that you would like to share?  Questions?  If so, comment below, I would love to hear from you!  

roasted beets

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Finally a new post!  Can you believe it?  I took a mini blogging vacation as we were visiting John’s family in Minnesota. John’s parents, brother, sister and all their kids live there (6 cousins for my kids to play with). We always plan our Minnesota trip the week before the kids start school, as It’s a great way to close out the summer and the kids come back on Minnesota time, so getting them up for the first day of school is a breeze. Unfortunately, we were lame on taking photos. I think I have more photos of food than I do my family, so sad and so lame. I’m definitely going to change that though.

John and I treating ourselves to an ice-cream after our 3 hour bike ride at one of our favorite old haunts, Sebastian Joes.  Zoe took the photo with ice cream in hand.

So as you can see from the above photo, I ate tons of ice cream and basically ate tons in general.  That’s what you do on vacation, right?  When I got home I was craving salads, kale (no surprise there) and meatless meals.  I was also craving beets, so I decided to roast some up and take some photos along the way.

roasted beets:

  • fresh beets – I typically roast up 2 beets at a time
  • extra virgin olive oil - I use 1 tablespoon for 2 beets
  • salt and pepper to taste – I just use a pinch of salt and omit the pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  
Wash and peel the beets and then trim off the stems and root ends. 
Don’t worry about the reddish/purple stain on your fingers, it will come up when you wash up.
Slice the beets into 1/2 -to-1-inch thick wedges (make sure that they are even in size).  
Throw the beet wedges onto a sheet of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with some olive oil and season with a pinch or two of salt.  
You can also use pepper here, but I chose not to.
Create a roasting pouch for the beets by placing them in the center of the foil, and tightly sealing the foil around them. 
Roast for 40-60 minutes, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork.  
The cooking time will depend on the size of your beets and also on your oven.  Sometimes it take 40 minutes for my beets to roast while other times it has taken 50 minutes.  
Check them at 40 minutes and then gage the cooking time from there.  
Let the beets cool a bit and then refrigerate them in a sealed container till needed.  Cooked beets taste best when consumed within 2 days.  You can use roasted beets in a variety of dishes from pastas and risottos to salads.  I actually have 2 great salad recipes that incorporate beets, that I will share with you soon.  

homemade dark chocolate magic shell – cooking with kids

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I‘m starting a new series on my blog called, cooking with kids.  I have a lot of families that read my blog, therefore a lot of kids. Some of my readers are actually kids, believe it or not.  Moms come up to me and tell me their children look at my blog, and then come up to them with dinner and dessert requests.  I love that!  Zoe and I decided that it would be fun to have a kid’s series of posts for this blog, recipes that Zoe loves to make with her friends and by herself.  We want to inspire kids to get in the kitchen and cook more.  All the recipes are things that any child over a certain age (with adult supervision) can handle.  We hope you enjoy this new series.  

Here’s a super simple, 2 ingredient (yes only 2 ingredients are required) classic summer dessert idea. Remember the chocolate magic shell that you would buy and squeeze over your ice cream, and it would instantly harden? Remember how fascinating that was? Well, I have figured out how to make a homemade version that is a bit healthier than the squeeze bottle variety. All you need is dark chocolate, coconut oil, oh, and some ice cream to slather it over.

dark chocolate magic shell:

recipe from NY Times 
serves 6-8 scoops
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 7oz bittersweet chocolate chips
  • your favorite ice cream
  • optional – toppings and cones 

Below are some of the ingredients that you will need to make a killer ice cream treat.  You’ve got your ice cream of course, some cones, sprinkles and the two main ingredients for this recipe; virgin coconut oil and bittersweet chocolate chips. 
Now that you have all the ingredients, go grab your kids and lets get started. 
Meet Zoe and her buddy Madelaine.  They are today’s chefs.
Measure out 7oz of chocolate chips.
Pour the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Note: You can also throw the chocolate chips and coconut oil into a microwavable heatproof bowl and microwave them for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until they are melted.
Melt your chocolate chips, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula to prevent burning.
When the chocolate chips are almost melted, add the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
Stir in the coconut oil until its dissolved.
Turn off the heat.
Pour your sprinkles into a small bowl.  
Now its time for the magic to begin.
Get out your ice cream and your favorite ice cream scooper, and scoop the ice cream into a bowl or onto a cone.  It’s your choice!
Zoe will demonstrate how to put the magic shell onto an ice cream cone.  
Take the ice cream cone and tip it to its side over the pan.  Take a large spoon or small ladle and dip it in the chocolate.  Pour the chocolate over the ice cream and keep turning the ice cream cone until you have covered the whole scoop of ice cream.
 The chocolate will harden into a shell within a few seconds when spooned over ice cream.
That is the magical part!
Dip the cone into the sprinkles before the chocolate fully hardens.
Madelaine is demonstrating how to pour the magic shell onto a bowl of ice cream.  
Take your spoon and pour the chocolate sauce over the ice cream.  
Top it with some sprinkles before it hardens. 
Be sure to make one for the rest of your family, and then go out and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than ice cream.  This was such a fun way to spend a hot summer afternoon, and the kids were so proud of themselves that they whipped up this treat.  The kids were amazed at how instantly the chocolate sauce hardened.  It was a math and science experiment all in one.  
If you have extra sauce, (and you will if your just serving up the family) just put the leftover sauce into a microwaveable small container with a lid, and refrigerate till needed.  All you have to do is microwave it briefly till it melts, (stirring between intervals) and then you can recreate the magic again!
My kids start school on the 22nd, so I’m going to take a small blogging vacation, so I can be present with the family and enjoy our last week of summer.
 I’ll see you all soon.

cilantro lime chicken tacos with mango avocado salsa

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cilantro lime chicken tacosThese cilantro lime chicken tacos are the BOMB!  This is the recipe that I raved about in Friday’s mango avocado salsa post.  If you like chicken and tacos, then you will love this recipe.  These tacos were rated a 10+ in my house.  Everyone had 2 tacos and some people, (I’m not mentioning names) wanted a third.  The chicken is so moist and flavorful from the cilantro lime marinade, and top it with the mango avocado salsa, well, you have yourself a winner.   

I got this recipe from a blog that I have been following for some time called, For the Love of Cooking.  Pam has been blogging for years, and she has so many recipes that you could literally make a new recipe every day for a year and then some.  Every recipe that I have made from her blog is a winner.  I love that Pam gives her kid’s honest opinion on each dish, as it helps me to know if the dish is going to be something my kids will eat.   

This recipe is super easy to make, and pretty much a make-ahead meal, perfect for entertaining. You can marinate the chicken in the morning and then just grill it up that evening (don’t marinate it for more than 6 hours though). The mango avocado salsa literally takes 5 minutes to whip up.  

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cilantro lime chicken tacos with mango avocado salsa:

recipe slightly adapted from for the love of cooking
serves 4 to 6 
printer friendly version
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any fat
  • juice and zest of 3 limes 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 of a large red onion, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • package of whole grain corn tortillas
  • cotija cheese or queso fresco
Click here for the mango avocado salsa recipe.
Prep all of your ingredients.  
Chop up your cilantro, zest and juice up your limes, mince your garlic and chop your red onion into small chunks.
You can either mince your red onion by throwing it into a food processor or mince it by hand.  I find it easier to just throw it in the processor, and let it do the work.
In a medium bowl, mix together the lime zest and juice, olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, minced red onion, red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro and a pinch of salt and pepper.  
Put the chicken breasts into a ziploc bag and pour in the mixture.  Zip up the bag, and give it a couple of shakes to make sure that all of the chicken breasts are evenly coated.  
Put the bagged chicken in the refrigerator and let it marinate for 2-4 hours or up to 6 hours. 
Note:  I wouldn’t recommend marinating the chicken breasts for more than 6 hours, as they will get a bit rubbery.  If you want to make this a true make ahead meal and marinate it for more than 6 hours, then you can pick up some boneless chicken thighs.  They will take in the marinade beautifully and can handle marinating overnight or for more than 6 hours.     
Once the chicken has marinated, call upon your grill master (that would be my husband) to get the grill nice and hot.  Grill the chicken breasts about 7 minutes per side or until thoroughly cooked (when they reach an internal temp of 165 degrees).  Chicken breasts vary is size so it usually takes longer than 7 minutes per side, that is why I always test my chicken with a meat thermometer.  
DSC_0002Let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes, and then slice the  chicken breasts into thin slices.  
While the chicken is resting, throw the tortillas on the grill, and grill them until slightly charred and pliable, about 20 seconds per side.

cilantro lime chicken tacosThese tacos are not complete without the mango avocado salsa, seriously, it adds so much flavor.  

Top each tortilla with the sliced chicken, mango avocado salsa, cotija cheese or queso fresco and some fresh cilantro.  My kids and hubby honestly loved this dish.  The chicken was super flavorful, and topped with the mango salsa, it was a real treat. 

mango avocado salsa and how to dice a mango

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This salsa is a preview to another recipe that I am showcasing on Monday, cilantro lime chicken tacos. This salsa and those tacos are rated a 10+ in my house and they pair so perfectly together. This salsa is a great stand along recipe, so I wanted to showcase it as a separate recipe, rather than combine it with another where it might get lost. 

This salsa is super easy to throw together and all of the ingredients are in season right now and as fresh as can be.  I love this salsa because it’s not your standard red or green salsa. It’s a unique combination of flavors and textures.  We love serving this salsa alongside some tortilla chips. Bring this to your next summer potluck and I guarantee it will be gone, you might even want to make a double batch.mango avocado salsa:

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 3 cups
Printer friendly version

  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced medium
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced medium
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 of large red onion, diced small – I can’t seem to find small red onions around my neck of the woods so I always use 1/2 of a larger onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice  (1 lime)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Note:  Martha’s recipe included 1/2 to 1 habanero chile, (stem and seeds removed and minced) but I chose not to include that in this salsa because it would then be to spicy for my kids.  Feel free to add this to your salsa, if you want it to be spicier.
Prep all your ingredients.  Squeeze the 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, dice up your red onion, chop up your cilantro, dice up your avocado and mango.  
Note: If you are not familiar with how to dice up a mango, I will show you the step-by-step instructions below.  
Get out a large bowl and combine all the above ingredients, add the tablespoon of olive oil and the 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Gently combine all the ingredients together.  
That’s all there is to it!  
This salsa goes great with grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef or just to serve on the side with some crunchy tortilla chips.  
I wanted to show you a photo of a champagne mango.  You may notice these mangos in the grocery store and don’t be afraid to give them a try as they taste great. Be sure to get ones that are soft and wrinkly, as shown in the below photo or else they won’t be sweet.  You will cut and dice these mangos the same way as a regular mango.
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Next, I’m going to show you how to dice up a mango.  My friend Cathie stopped by to pick up her daughter as I was making this salsa, so I asked her to demonstrate it for you, as she is an expert at mango slicing and dicing.  Thanks Cathie!  
First off, wash your mango.
Mangos have a flat, oblong pit in the center of them, so you don’t want to slice down the center of a mango.  You will want to cut the mango on both sides of the pit, as shown below.  Hold the mango with one hand, stand it on its end, stem side down, and cut from the top of the mango, down one side of the pit.  Repeat on the other side.  
Note:  If you hit the pit, try to cut a curving arc around it.  Also, the flatter sides of the mango are the better sides to cut off.  
Take a mango half and cut/score vertical lines into the cheek using a small paring knife. Make sure the knife tip goes all the way down to the skin, but not through it as you score the lines. The further apart you score the lines, the thicker your slices will be.
Turn the mango and make another set of vertical lines to make a checkerboard pattern.
Note: You can make these slices thinner or fatter depending on how big you want your mango chunks.
Turn the scored mango cheek inside out by pushing the skin up from underneath.
 Gently scrape the mango chunks off with a paring knife.  
 To get the most of your mango, use a paring knife to peel off the outer skin on the remaining piece of mango surrounding the pit.
Slice off any remaining mango meat on the pit and then cut those pieces into small chunks.
 There you have it, some diced mango!  Feel free to slice up your mango into smaller pieces if you want.
Thank you Cathie for being my hand model today. 
My blogger buddy Sharon from Likikoi Joy, made up this salsa for a party. I just loved her Instagram photo, so I asked her to send it to me! I think it’s helpful to see other people’s photos of dishes besides mine!  Don’t you just love the bowl she used?   
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BTW, I wanted to give a shout out to my brother today.
Happy Birthday Aaron.  I love you so much!