easy skillet sausage and white bean stew

easy skillet sausage and white bean strew

DSC_0034-3Let’s face it, we’re all busy, and coming home at the end of a hectic weekday and cooking up an elaborate meal is not really anyones’ idea of fun. We’re not living in June Cleaver reality here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun cooking up a nice meal when there’s time, (like the weekend) but on most weeknights I prefer to keep things simple, tasty and quick.  This stew fits that bill. This is an easy one-skillet, one-bowl weeknight meal. It can be made in approximately 30 minutes (give or take a few) and you only dirty up one pan, yes you heard me right, one pan, oh, and a cutting board (but that doesn’t really count).

When I made up this stew for the first time, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous that my kids were not going to like it.  I mean it’s basically a stew comprised of beans, onions, spinach and some sausage. Well, I’m happy to say that they loved this stew.  They were definitely part of the clean plate club, as every last ounce of stew was gone (slurped up by their bread). John loved this stew as well, and had leftovers the next night and said they were even better.  I loved it because it tasted great, but even more so because it was a one-bowl meal, and I only had one pan to clean up afterwards.  Easy, healthy and simple dinners like this make me one happy mama.

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for February 24th

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DSC_weekly menu 2-16Ok, I’m so in love with Pandora radio right now. Are you all familiar with it?  It’s basically internet radio that you can play on your iPhone, iPad or computer. I’m listening to it all the time, and right now my favorite station is, The Fray radio. Basically, you put in your favorite song or artist and it will play similar songs or artists. Anyway, I just love listening to music when I’m cooking away in the kitchen, as it makes cooking dinner so much more fun. BTW, for those of you that are eyeing that above soup, it’s a carrot ginger soup and it’s amazing!

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chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt

chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt

chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt I saw this recipe in the most recent issue of bon appetit and knew I had to make it. When I opened up the magazine and saw these cookies and the words salty and chocolate in the title, they had me. I’m one of those gals that loves salty and sweet combinations. Chocolate covered pretzels are my weakness.  I will admit that I was a bit hesitant to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I have my absolute FAVORITE chocolate chip cookie recipe already on this blog.  If you haven’t tried those chocolate chip cookies, you must!

OK, so lets move onto these cookies. I quickly made up a batch of these cookies one Sunday afternoon and posted a photo of them on Facebook and Instagram.  My readers saw the photo and asked me to post this recipe ASAP.  I didn’t take any pictures the first time around (besides that one quick shot) because I was just making them up for the family.  I made them up a second time so that I could take photographs and get the recipe down for you all. I followed the directions given in the magazine perfectly, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t like the cookies very much. They were almost meringue-like in texture and very crispy. I was stressed because I had promised these cookies to you all and I wasn’t feeling to great about them. I wondered what had happened between the first time I had made then up and the second time to make them taste so differently. I decided to make them up the way I did the first time, (by not following the directions too much) and they turned out perfectly  The original recipe called for whipping the batter for 4-5 minutes and by doing this, the texture of the cookies changed and became something entirely different.  I’m sure that people like their cookies that way, but we like ours to be a bit chewy and not so crisp and dry tasting. So after baking 3 batches of these cookies, I’m literally cookied out.

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for February 17th

weekly dinner menu 2-17

weekly dinner menu 2-17Cookies, cookies, cookies!  I love cookies!  Yes, there will be cookies on the blog this week and yes, they are the ones pictured in the above photo. Yippee! I gave you some healthy but cheesy quinoa cakes last week, so this week it’s all about the dessert baby. If you like bittersweet chocolate, sea salt and cookies, then you will love these. I was actually going to post this easy, one-skillet, weeknight dinner of sausage and white bean stew but…

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quinoa cakes

quinoa cakes (1 of 1)

quinoa cakes (1 of 1)Ok, so remember when I was obsessed with kale and everything kale?  Well, I’m still pretty obsessed with kale, but now I’m obsessed with quinoa as well.  I have figured out my favorite way to eat quinoa, and that is warm, liked warmed up in patties or a cereal rather than cold like in a salad.  I’ve made more quinoa dishes in the last few months than I have in the past year that I’ve been blogging.  First, there were these quinoa patties.  Super yummy, easy to make and healthy.

quinoa patties

Then I tried quinoa for breakfast with steel-cut oats and goji berries. Say what, quinoa for breakfast?  Oh yes, try it!  It’s my new favorite way to start the day.  It’s a power house of a breakfast.

hot quinoa and oat cereal with goji berries

Now, I ventured into a crispier and cheesier quinoa cake.  Hey, I was thinking of my kids here, because they were not the biggest fans of the other quinoa patties. Kid verdict?  Zoe liked them better than the other ones, (that’s a step in the right direction, still working on her) and Eli LOVED them, so I would say that this recipe was a success. Dry toasting the quinoa before simmering it in the broth adds such a depth of flavor, and the quinoa gets all browned in color and forms into these tiny little balls. The mozzarella cheese gets all melty and crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. These cakes remind me in a weird but healthier way, of mozzarella cheese sticks. I know that’s a strange way to describe them, but they are crispy, cheesy and chewy cakes. I mean who said that healthy foods have to taste healthy, right?  Just give them a try and if you like quinoa and cheese, then you will love these.

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for February 10th

eli

eli

Ok, I just had to throw that photo up there. I know it’s a strange photo for a weekly menu post, but come on, it’s funny. For those of you that know Eli, you gotta love this photo. This is how Eli entertains us on a Friday night (I know, we have such exciting Friday nights here at the Grandy house). He puts on some black glasses, hikes his shorts way high so that they’re at the middle of his waist, tucks in his shirt and plays nerd. He tells us the funniest jokes and has this hilarious laugh that he does after each of his jokes. He is a funny guy!  Right now he is thrilled that I posted this photo on my weekly menu, but when he’s a teenager, I’m not so sure he will be as thrilled.

Speaking of funny things, here’s a funny story that happened to me recently. I was making up a batch of vodka pasta so I clicked on my recipe and got started. I noticed that it wasn’t a very detailed recipe.  It was one of the first recipes that I had posted on the blog and I honestly had trouble following it. I wasn’t too detailed in my posts when I first started the blog so I had forgotten how long to simmer the sauce for.  I had to call my friend Amanda (as she makes this recipe all the time and initially got it from my blog) to get the specifics. She was cracking up because I couldn’t even follow my own instructions, LAME, I know!  I realize that I like the extra details and the step-by-step info for myself.  It really helps me. So I updated the recipe and photos for you all so you won’t have any problems when you make it, because you should, as t’s really good. Nice description there, really good, but that’s all I could come up with as my brain is fogging out as I write this.

Ok, enough said, let’s move onto this weeks menu.

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chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (1 of 1)I sincerely apologize for all of those crazy emails you received yesterday. I did an update on word press (still getting use to word press) and at the same time I was working on the draft to this post. For some strange reason the post then got published and thus the emails instantly went out to you all. I’m glad that my email notification is so efficient, but at the same time, it’s a bit too efficient.  The post was obviously not fit to be published, as it was in total draft form, but now at last it’s all ready, so here it is.

So, lets move away from the hassles of computers and technology and onto these cupcakes or should I say happy cakes.  Zoe used to call cupcakes happy cakes when she was little, and I really think it’s a fitting name, don’t you? Cupcakes make people happy, at least everyone I know. I can still her cute little raspy voice and see her big grin every time we went to a birthday party and she saw cupcakes.  She would jump and down saying, “happy cakes, happy cakes.”

These are the ideal party or celebration cupcakes. They’re moist and chock-full of rich chocolate flavor.  The cream cheese frosting is the perfect accompaniment to the cupcakes, making them not too sweet.  I took my family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe and transformed it into cupcakes.

chocolate cake with cream cheese frostingI initially made the cupcakes using the whole cake recipe and ended up with 24 cupcakes. Ummm, 24 cupcakes are perfect for a party or event, but a bit too much to pawn off on the family, so I decided to cut the recipe in half, and now it’s perfect. I was worried that the cupcakes would be a bit dry or loose some of their moistness (I know, I hate that word) being reduced down to cupcake size, but they didn’t loose either of those qualities. They honestly taste like mini versions of my cake.

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hot quinoa and oat cereal with goji berries

hot quinoa and oat cereal with goji berries

hot quinoa and oat cereal with goji berriesMove over grape nuts, there’s a new cereal in town. Seriously, this is by far my newest cereal obsession.  I mean I’m literally OBSESSED!  I’m now substituting my regimented daily bowl of grape nuts for this warm and comforting cereal. This is a big deal folks because I have been eating grape nuts since I was 17.  Yes, it’s the honest to goodness truth, I kid you not. I explain more about my cereal habit/obsession in this old, what I ate last week post.  I’m really just a creature of habit, especially when it comes to my breakfast routine.  I’m a carb junkie and always have been.  I need carbs to get me going in the morning, and eggs or pancakes just don’t cut it.

This is seriously the easiest hot cereal (besides instant) to prepare. What’s even better is that it can be made the night before.  Whoo hoo! All you do is bring the quinoa, oats and goji berries to a boil, then shut off the heat, cover the pot, and let it sit till morning. Overnight the grains absorb the water and cook through perfectly.  All you have to do in the morning is get up (of course) and re-heat the cereal.  I love it because on a cold winter morning, it’s the perfect comfort fuel to start the day.  I love steel-cut oats and to mix them with the protein power and nutrition of quinoa and the antioxidants of goji berries, well you have yourself a breakfast fit for champions.  You could ski for hours or run a half marathon after eating this breakfast concoction.

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for February 2nd

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IMG_2990-2

Ok, it’s 5:00 on Saturday and I’m up writing this post.  Yes, you heard me right, I’m up at 5:00 on a Saturday. Who am I?  What the heck am I doing up at 5:00 on a Saturday morning?  I set a new goal yesterday in my mind and I may have mentioned it to a few friends that I’m going to start getting up at 5:00 because I want to try to get out more posts, and mornings are my “on” time.  It’s the time of day when my noggin is the most creative.  Well, my noggin remembered that promise and held me to it. I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at exactly 5:00, I kid you not. It wasn’t 5:01 or 4:59 when I glanced over at my clock, it was 5:00 on the dot.  The brain is a marvelous thing I must say. So, it’s not 5:00 anymore, it’s actually 5:40. I had to get my coffee and cereal heated up and now I’m sitting here typing away with gusto!  The caffeine is kicking in and the house is silent, and all you can here are my little fingers typing away on the keyboard. I’m also getting my post out a day early because I want to get two recipes out to you this week. Fingers crossed that I get it done.

So lets talk food.  I mean that’s what we’re all here for right?  Food glorious food!  I’m happy to say that I had some great culinary success’ last week.  In last week’s menu, I posted that I was going to try out two new dinner recipes.  Well, I have to say that they were both winners!  We tried the chicken paillard on Sunday night and served it up with my lacinato kale salad and some kale mashed potatoes.  It was the perfect Sunday night dinner, and Zoe loves these potatoes so much that she went in for thirds.  You go girl!  BTW, I’m not going to post the chicken paillard recipe because it’s just to hard to take photos of and I’m not entirely sure that I made the clarified butter right, and I may have browned the chicken too much, but it was so good so who cares right? So here’s the link, for those of you that are interested, Bon appetit pan-roasted chicken paillard.

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