grilled cheese with roasted broccoli

grilled cheese with roasted broccoli

grilled cheese with roasted broccoliThis is the BEST grilled cheese sandwich EVER, at least that’s what Zoe and I said as we devoured this sandwich. Adding roasted broccoli to a grilled cheese sandwich is genius, as it adds an extra punch of flavor and texture, and honestly makes you feel less guilty about eating a grilled cheese.  As one of my readers Samantha says, “can’t go wrong with grilled cheese, but when you add a green- it takes it to a whole new level.”  Samantha, I totally agree with you girl!  Tossing some brocoli into a grilled cheese is also a great way to sneak some veggies into your little ones, so for those of you that have some picky veggie eaters, you may want to give this sandwich a try.  It’s kid approved in my house!

Grilled cheese sandwiches are a staple in this house.  We eat them for lunch all the time, as well as dinner.  Gilled cheese is just the perfect accompanyment to a creamy soup, and in the fall and winter we eat a LOT soup.  I’m lucky because I have one of the best grilled cheese makers, Zoe!  Zoe is a pro when it comes to making a killer grilled cheese, and I will show you her simple trick later in this post.  All you will need is a cast iron skillet and the lid of a pan.  Come on, let’s make up a grilled cheese sandwich!

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roasted broccoli

roasted broccoli

roasted broccoliI thought instead of showing you all some fancy staged photo of a bowl of roasted broccoli, that I would show you my kids actually eating and liking it!  I know that if I hear about someone’s kids digging a veggie then I’m more inclined to make it up for my kids.  So, hopefully by seeing my kids enjoying this super healthy veggie, some of you may be more inclined to make this up for your troops!  I’m also letting you all know that this is not going to be a fancy post with jaw dropping photos, but instead it’s going to be a quick and simple post showing you all a quick and simple family approved recipe.  That’s how Marin mama rolls these days.  I’m a full-time working mama, working on some easy family approved recipes for you all!

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ham and gruyere stuffed french toast

ham and gruyere stuffed french toast

ham and gruyere stuffed french toastEaster is just around the corner and this ham and gruyere stuffed french toast is the perfect entrée for Easter brunch or dinner.  Actually in my opinion, this stuffed toast is good anytime of year and anytime of day. I baked this up the other night for dinner and it was amazing, and needless to say it got the double thumbs up from both of the kids. Eli was literally licking his plate, of course he slathered his piece with maple syrup, but he was still licking his plate, and that makes any mom happy. Sometimes breakfast for dinner is the best!  This french toast is perfect for those that like a sweet and savory combination. To get the sweet, you just add some maple syrup.  I love the sweet and savory combination for breakfast or brunch, but for dinner I tend to omit the maple syrup and go for more of the savory route.  Eli on the other hand likes the maple syrup on all occasions.

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rosemary skillet chicken

rosemary skillet chicken

rosemary skillet chickenOk, here’s a recipe for all of my chicken loving readers out there, and I know there are quite a few of you.  You guys have been so patient with my quinoa craziness lately, so I found this recipe just for you, and I guess selfishly for me, because my family and I do love chicken.  This is the perfect weeknight chicken recipe folks.  The marinade comes together in a flash and can be made ahead in the morning, so when you get home from work or just from a long busy day, all you have to do is roast up the chicken.  The chicken takes under 30 minutes to roast up to perfection, but tastes like a chicken that has been cooking for hours.  The chicken is moist and full of flavor from the rosemary and garlic marinade. Oh, and let’s not forget about the amazing sauce, or should I say gravy, because it tastes like gravy everyone. It’s the perfect sauce for dipping a popover in.  The sauce is made up of chicken broth, fresh thyme, shallots and garlic, and just adds that extra yummy factor to the chicken. I’ve made this recipe twice in the past week, and I have to tell you that I’ve had some pretty happy campers in the house.   

I paired this with some traditional popovers one night and my rosemary and sea salt popovers another night, as well as some broccoli rabe that I sautéed in shallots and a bit of olive oil.  This chicken dish is definitely ranking up there as one of our favorite weeknight meals. The kids love it because it tastes great, and I love it because it’s easy.

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simple weeknight chicken soup

simple weeknight chicken soup

simple weeknight chicken soupSo, I’m back, well sort of. I’ve realized during this brief hiatus that I really missed my blog and I really missed all of you.  This blog is a part of me and a part of me that I don’t want to quit or give up on just yet.  I’m a person who loves to share with people, sharing just makes me happy, so I’m going to keep sharing with you all my recipes as well as my journey. There are a lot of changes going on in my life right now, some changes that are amazing and others that are difficult, so I don’t know the frequency of how often I will post, it may just be two times a month or it could be more, I’m just going to play it day by day.

I also wanted to also say a huge THANK YOU to you all.  I was amazed by all of your supportive comments, emails and for those of you that came up to me in person and shared what you loved about the blog. I didn’t realize how many wonderful and loyal readers I had, and I want to thank you all for reaching out these past few weeks. Each one of your comments and emails really touched my heart, and made me realize that I truly have a real audience of readers who were going through the same life struggles as me.  We’re all on this journey of life together, and we’re here to support and love one another and I truly feel supported and loved by you all, so THANK YOU!   I will slowly share my journey with you all over time, but for now, I’m just wanted to share with you all this simple and easy weeknight chicken soup that has quickly become a family favorite.

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Barefoot’s weeknight bolognese

Barefoot's weeknight bolognese

Barefoot's weeknight bologneseOk, so maybe this isn’t the best recipe to post the week after Thanksgiving since we’re all pretty much fooded out, but I’m posting it now because I know there are a lot of you who love and need easy family approved weeknight dinners. December is all about indulgence to me, so let’s go ahead and indulge, celebrate and eat to our hearts content!  Doesn’t that sound fun?  This is the perfect bolognese for those busy weeknights, as it only takes 45 minutes to pull together, and the sauce tastes like a sauce that’s been cooking on your stove top all day, not for just 30 minutes.  The orecchiette pasta is perfect because it really holds the sauce in those little pockets.  I’ve tried this sauce with regular spaghetti and it was good, but we prefer it the orecchiette pasta.

This is a great pasta to serve up if you’re entertaining friends because it feeds a crowd, especially if you pair the pasta with some crispy garlic bread and a caesar salad.  When I make this pasta up for just the 4 of us, we have pasta for 2 nights, which is great because you all know how I love two-nighter meals.  I just re-heat the leftover pasta in my cast iron skillet, and it tastes amazing!  It’s actually a bit better the next night as all the flavors really have a chance to gel.  You do want to make sure to use a robust wine for this recipe, as the wine really brings out the flavors in the sauce. Also, make sure you add that last 1/4 cup of wine at the end because it truly makes the sauce.

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pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts

pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts

pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnutsToday I’m giving you all a tasty, healthy, easy, family approved and under 30 minute weeknight pasta two ways (whew, that was a lot in one sentence).  I mean who doesn’t love that?  It’s actually the same recipe, but I’m using two different types of pastas as well as cheeses.  The family approved and kid friendly version uses regular spaghetti and grated parmesan.  The “mommy” and teenage (I say teenage because Zoe loves this version as well) version uses whole-wheat spaghetti and Pecorino Romano cheese.  Both ways are tasty, it’s just an individual preference.  I love both versions, but prefer the whole-wheat version because the pasta has a great nutty flavor and is a bit chewy, but chewy in a good way, and the Pecorino Romano cheese adds a bit of salty flavor to the whole-wheat pasta.

whole-wheat pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts… 

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popovers with rosemary and sea salt

popovers with rosemary and sea salt

popovers with rosemary and sea saltWe’re a total popover loving family. We love the traditional popovers, sugar-crusted popovers and now these rosemary and sea salt popovers. Popovers are my carb of choice because they’re SO easy to make up and require a few simple pantry ingredients.  They may look all fancy and formal with their big puffy tops and seem difficult to make, but let me tell you, they’re one of the easiest recipes to make. They even have an exact cooking time which makes them even easier to make up.

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pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting

pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting

pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frostingThanks to everyone for voting this week on which recipe you wanted to see posted next.  As you can see from the comments, this pumpkin cake won hands down.  I’m totally not surprised because it’s fall and everyone has pumpkin and cake on their minds. It really wasn’t a fair competition, was it?  I mean salad vs cake?  I knew who the winner was before I finished the post, but I just wanted to double-check and make sure that’s what you all wanted.  So thanks :)

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vegetarian banh mi sandwich with sriracha mayonnaise

vegetarian banh mi sandwich with sriracha mayonnaise

vegetarian banh mi sandwich with sriracha mayonnaiseI’m sure there are those of you that have never heard of a banh mi sandwich before, am I right?  You’re probably thinking what the heck is a banh mi sandwich.  Well, I didn’t know what one was either until this past spring when my friend Carolyn showed some photos on Instagram of her fixings for a banh mi sandwich.  Since then, I’ve seen these sandwiches popping up everywhere, it’s like my eyes were opened.  Banh mi is the perfect combination of french bread combined with Vietnamese ingredients like cilantro, pickled vegetables, and chilies.  Banh mi’s can be made with chicken, pork, beef, tofu, eggs and salmon and the sauces or spreads vary with each sandwich.  I chose to make a vegetarian version with roasted tofu from my miso kale salad recipe, and a sriracha mayonnaise sauce that our family loves.  This sriracha mayonnaise is also a great dip for fries, onion rings and as a topping for burgers.

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parmesan-crusted pork chops

parmesan-crusted pork chops

parmesan-crusted pork chopsIt’s back to school time everyone and fall is just around the corner and nothing says fall cooking like skillet pork chops. These pork chops are crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, just like you want a pork chop to be.  So basically, if you like pork chops, then you’re going to love these.  I made these up a couple of weeks ago because I realized I didn’t have any pork recipes on my blog, gasp.  We tend to lean more towards chicken and buffalo and I completely forgot about the other white meat, pork, so I decided to whip up one of our favorite pork chop recipes.

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citrus-marinated chicken

citrus-marinated chicken

citrus-marinated chickenOk, I have to say that this is one of my favorite chicken recipes ever, and Zoe and Eli both agree with me. We tried this the other night, gave each other the thumbs up and said that this chicken was totally blog worthy and need to be posted sooner than later. The chicken is just so moist and full of flavor from the citrus marinade and I love how crispy the skin gets from cooking under the broiler. This is going to be one of my new go-to recipes for chicken, and the best part is that it can be made year round because it’s cooked under the broiler. You could also grill it up or even sear it in your cast iron skillet and then bake it off in the oven.  I can see paring this chicken with roasted cauliflower or brussels sprouts in the fall and kale mashed potatoes in the winter. This chicken is total comfort cooking anytime of year…. 

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chocolate Oreo ice cream

chocolate Oreo ice cream

chocolate Oreo ice creamThis chocolate Oreo ice cream tastes like my favorite ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis. It’s pure, creamy, full of big chunks of Oreo cookie, and it’s oh so chocolaty.  It’s not too rich tasting nor too bland, it’s just perfect.  I know some of you are intimated by the thought of making homemade ice cream, but please don’t be, it’s seriously one of the easiest desserts to make. You just stir a few simple ingredients together over the stove top, let it come to a boil and then whisk in the rest, throw it in a blender for 30 seconds, let it chill for a bit and then let your ice cream maker churn it into ice cream.  You can’t go wrong.  The hardest and longest part is waiting for the ice cream to freeze up, so this is not one of those make it and eat it right away desserts. This is one of those make it in the morning and then eat it after dinner desserts.

chocolate Oreo ice cream

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pesto-yogurt roasted chicken drumsticks

pesto-yogurt roasted chicken drumsticks

pesto-yogurt roasted chicken drumsticksI love chicken recipes like this where all you have to do is throw together a few simple ingredients and then let the chicken sit and marinate all day. This is the perfect weeknight meal because it can be assembled ahead of time and only take 30 minutes to cook up. You have flexibility here, you can either throw together the marinade the night before, early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and then when you get home from work or running the kids around, you just throw it in the oven to roast for 30 minutes. While the chicken is roasting, you can assemble the rest of the meal. Now, how easy is that?

We love chicken drumsticks anytime of year, but for some reason we eat them more in the summer. I think it’s because they make the perfect picnic and backyard fare. You can enjoy them hot out of the oven, warm or better yet cold. I love throwing the cold leftover drumsticks into my kid’s school lunches. They’re a no fuss lunch that my kids happily devour.

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pineapple, mint and banana smoothie

pineapple, mint and banana smoothie

pineapple, mint and banana smoothieThis pineapple, mint and banana smoothie is my family’s new favorite breakfast and afternoon smoothie. It’s tangy and minty and honestly tastes like a creamsicle. I bet even your pickiest kids will love this smoothie. I made this smoothie up for Zoe the week she attended her intense dance camp. She’s not a huge fan of bananas, but I wanted her to get some potassium in her diet, so I knew the smoothie route was the way to go. I also read that pineapple contains a substance called bromelain, which is a group of digestive enzymes that can be instrumental in reducing inflammation and healing wounds. This smoothie sounded like the perfect breakfast smoothie for a girl that was going to be on her feet dancing for 6 hours a day.

This smoothie is a great way to get rid of those browned bananas and all those leftover mint leaves you have sitting around from making those minty limeades. You don’t need to fuss with cutting up a fresh pineapple to make this either. I always use frozen pineapple, (from Trader Joes) and I love it because you don’t need to add any additional ice. It’s the perfect smoothie to cool off with on a hot summer day.

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minty limeade

minty limeade (1 of 1)-4

minty limeade (1 of 1)-4Move over Bootleg, Mint Julep and Mojito, here come’s Marin Mama’s minty limeade, a perfect drink for the whole family on a hot summer day. Lately the kids and I have been enjoying limeades. Whenever we go to Sol Food, we all have to split their enormous limeade. We call it their virgin Mojito, it’s just so tasty and has a bit of a kick to it. When my hubby tried it, it reminded him of a drink he grew up in Minnesota, called a Bootleg.

We tried to recreate the taste of these refreshing summertime drinks for our backyard barbeques. We threw together some limes, frozen lemonade and fresh mint leaves and created a mix that brought together the flavors we were looking for. All we needed now was a catchy name. Zoe took a sip and said it should be called, minty limeade.  We all agreed that it was the perfect name, simple and sweet. Go Zoe!

This mix is super easy to throw together and can literally be made in 5 minutes. It’s the perfect addition for any barbecue or summer dinner. You can even add some alcohol and make it into more of an adult drink if you like. This mix is best day one and tastes great day two, but may not look as vibrant in color because you’re using fresh mint to make this, and it can discolor a bit. The leftover mix can be stored in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a lid, just be sure to give it a good shake before you use it. To tell you the truth, our mix never lasts past day 2.

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grilled bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes

grilled bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes

grilled bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes (1 of 1) I’m sure you’ve all seen the cover for the July/August edition of Martha Stewart Living in either a book store or your grocery store. If you’ve seen it, then you know why I just had to run out and make up this bread. I opened up my mailbox last week and saw the cover showcasing this beautiful assortment of heirloom tomatoes on top of this toasted bread. I immediately went to the grocery store, bought me some heirlooms and made this up for lunch. I have to say that I was in food heaven. This bread is crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside from the juicy heirlooms and olive oil. The crunchy sea salt and fresh basil just give it another punch of flavor and texture. John and I split half a loaf up for lunch one day and paired it with my lacinato kale salad and drumsticks another night for dinner. I also brought this to a friend’s house and served it up as an appetizer. Let’s just say it was a hit with everyone. It’s truly the perfect summer bruschetta!

I cut Martha’s original recipe in half and only used the bottom half of the ciabatta bread instead of the whole loaf, (don’t fret, we used the other half for toast and jam the next morning) so feel free to double the quantities in the recipe if you’re serving a larger crowd.

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buffalo apple burgers with sage-jalapeño pesto

buffalo apple burgers with sage-jalapeno pesto (1 of 1)-2

buffalo apple burgers with sage-jalapeno pesto (1 of 1)-24th of July is around the corner and it’s time to fire up the grill. Here’s a great burger recipe that celebrates the American West.  This is a lean mean tasty burger. I say lean because buffalo has 70 to 90% less fat compared to beef, and 50% less cholesterol. Buffalo is also leaner than both pork and chicken, and has fewer calories to boot. On top of that, buffalo is higher in protein, iron and all the omega and amino acids. We’ve been fans of buffalo meat for years, going back to the mid 90’s when we were introduced to our first buffalo burger at Joe’s Garage in Minneapolis. You can pick up buffalo pretty much at any grocery store or Whole Foods. Because buffalo is high in protein, it’s also very filling, so 1-pound is perfect for a family of 4.  We serve these burgers up on mini brioche buns and they’re the perfect size.

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frozen s’mores

frozen s'mores (1 of 1)

frozen s'mores (1 of 1)I was going to post these bad boys next week, but I received so many emails and comments from friends wanting the recipe for these, that I decided to post the recipe a bit early. See, I really do listen to you all!  Here’s the perfect summer s’more for those hot summer nights. These s’mores are a twist from the traditional s’mores because the chocolate is on the outside and they’re frozen. Yes, they’re frozen, am I tempting you yet? The best part is that they can be made year round, as they are cooked under a broiler instead of roasted over a campfire. So for those of you that don’t have a backyard fire pit, you’re in luck. These s’mores can be made up in your kitchen and ready in under 30 minutes (they take 5 minutes to assemble, the freezing time is the longest part).  How awesome is that? It’s the perfect after dinner no fuss summer (or anytime of year) dessert.  You can eat them as is, (which is John’s, Zoe’s and my favorite way) or break them into smaller bite-sized pieces and top them on your favorite ice-cream (which is Eli’s favorite way).  Your friends will be impressed when you pull out these bad boys for dessert, because they’re a pretty unique twist on the old fashioned s’more. I will warn you that these are super addicting and you can’t just stop at one piece, you will find yourself breaking off another piece and then another, until you just have to walk away and commit to being done.  Life is about moderation folks, so it’s ok to have a sweet here and there.

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peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy barsI know, don’t these look amazing? I’ve never been a huge rice crispy bar fan, as I’m more of a cake or cupcake sort of gal, but this particular recipe caught my eye. I just love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate and to throw it together in a crispy and crunchy treat, yum! These bars were a total hit in my house, and I was sort of surprised because as I said before, rice crispy bars are not our go-to choice for dessert. John and I kept sneaking back in the kitchen for seconds and even attempted to share a third. I even think we liked these more than the kids, which is funny because I usually associate rice crispy bars as more of a kid kind of dessert rather than an adult one.

These bars are so simple to make and something that your kids might even be able to do on their own.  I thought of having Zoe whip up these bars for a cooking with kids post, but honestly, that girl has been too busy to do a post for the blog. I’m hoping to get her back on here this summer though!

These bars, like any rice crispy bar, taste best day one or two, so eat them up.  I’m warning you that these are not an instant gratification treat because you have to wait a few hours for the chocolate to harden a bit. It doesn’t have to be rock solid, but just firm enough that you can cut into the bars. The bars actually taste amazing when the chocolate is still a bit soft on top.

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars:

recipe adapted from Everyday Food magazine

  • 1 package (12 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips – I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips
  • 6 cups puffed-rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • non-stick baking/cooking spray for the spatula

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chicken enchiladas with tomatillo salsa

chicken enchiladas with tomatillo salsa

chicken enchiladas with tomatillo salsaI’m so excited to share these enchiladas with you. I made these up last week and my family LOVED them.  I mean John kept exclaiming to me how good they were. These are truly the perfect spring or summer enchilada, because they’re filled with chicken and fresh vegetables and topped with a light tomatillo salsa. The tomatillo salsa is a light and refreshing change from the normal heavy enchilada sauce that you think of when you hear the word enchiladas. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good enchilada sauce, especially the pumpkin sauce I use on our pumpkin enchiladas, but this is a nice change and flavor for spring.  These enchiladias are so light and refreshing that we each ate two!  Yes, we were piggies, but we didn’t feel bad at all. Sometimes you just have to savor the moment and savor the food.

I chose to roast up chicken breasts instead of using a rotisserie chicken because we’re not fans of dark meat, but feel free to use a rotisserie chicken. To make these enchiladas an easy weeknight meal, all you have to do is pre-cook and shred the chicken (or just use a rotisserie chicken) and make the salsa ahead of time. Then come dinner time, all you have to do is sauté a few veggies, assemble the enchiladas, and throw them in the oven for 10 minutes. At that point you truly have a 30 minute meal. Easy peasy, right? You could even substitute the tomatillo salsa with a store bought mild green salsa if you wanted, though I really think this salsa is the bomb!  I actually roast and shred the chicken the night before or earlier that day and then make the salsa while the chicken is roasting.  That way I take care of two components of the meal. Hey, I’m always looking to cut time at dinner as well. Please don’t be intimidated by all the ingredients or instructions below, these are truly a simple enchilada to throw together.

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Thai style chicken burgers

Thai style chicken burgers

Thai style chicken burgersBurgers are a staple in our house come spring and summer. To me, burgers say spring is here, and summer is around the corner. They make such an easy weeknight meal because all you have to do is pair them up with a side salad or vegetable, and voila, dinner is served. We love all types of burgers from turkey, chicken, to buffalo and veggie. I’m always on the hunt for a new burger recipe to add to our recipe box. I’m currently in the process of testing some new veggie burgers, so for you vegetarians, stay tuned.

I saw this chicken burger in Gwyneth’s new cookbook and decided to give it a try. I thought if Gwyneth likes this burger, then I’m sure I will as well. I became a fan of turkey burgers last year and figured why not try a chicken burger. I mean there really isn’t that much difference between the two meats, right? Turkey and chicken burgers get a bad rap for being dry, but I find that when you mix the turkey or chicken with some spices, onions or cheeses, then you get a nice flavorful and juicy burger. This chicken burger is a lighter and leaner burger for those nights where you don’t want a heavy cheesy burger. This burger is chock full of flavor from the garlic, red chili and shallots. We of course love it paired with our favorite burger condiment, cilantro lime mayonnaise. This mayonnaise really brings out the flavor of the cilantro in the burger.

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buttermilk roasted chicken

buttermilk roasted chicken

buttermilk roasted chickenIt’s so nice to have an arsenal of quick and easy weeknight meals that don’t taste like they were quick and easy to make. I want to serve my family healthy, real food during the week, but I don’t always have the time to make something elaborate. I have a boatload of easy week-night meals in my repertoire, and this chicken dish is one of those. This is one of those chicken dishes that you will make at least once a month, if not more. It’s one of my favorite chicken recipes because you can throw the marinade together in less than 10 minutes and then let it sit anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. It’s a great make-ahead dish, perfect for a weeknight dinner or fancy enough for a dinner party…. 

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salted caramel brownies

salted caramel brownies

DSC_0036What do you get when you take your absolute favorite brownie recipe and add caramel and sea salt to it?

IMG_3287You get a masterpiece, I’m saying a brownie lovers dream. These brownies are not your typical cake-like brownies, they’re more fudge-like in consistency, but fudge-like in a good way, like mouthwatering lick your fingers and plate sort of way.  I absolutely love these brownies, hence the name, Robert’s absolute best brownies.  Zoe and I have been talking about making caramel and sea salt brownies for sometime, so I decided to surprise her one day after school. I didn’t research another brownie recipe because these are our family’s favorite recipe, so why re-invent the wheel, right? I’m so glad that I added the caramel and sea salt, because not only do we have one favorite brownie recipe, but we now have two. I must warn you that these brownies are not low in calories and they’re not for the faint of heart.  These brownies are decedent, rich, and oh so fudgey, but so worth the indulgence. You will be licking your fingers, plate and fork after eating not one, but possibly two of these brownies.

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kale and ricotta salata salad

kale and ricotta salata salad

kale and ricotta salata salad (1 of 1)Anyone who knows me knows that I love lacinato kale. I mean it just tastes so good, yes, you heard me right, it really tastes good. It’s not just me who feels that way, my kids prefer a kale salad over an arugula or spinach one any-day, and John, well he likes all types of salads, he’s not a picky guy. Kale is uber healthy, and if stored properly the leaves can last for about 2 weeks in the fridge. Kale is also a great make-ahead salad.  It’s one of those salads that you can make ahead, like the morning of an event, and have it taste great at dinner. Kale salads make great leftovers. I love that I can make up a salad on Monday and then eat leftovers on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it tastes great all three days. I will have to say that lacinato kale is the kale to try first if you are new to kale.  Lacinato kale really tastes more like a lettuce, especially when you massage the dressing into it.  Curly kale on the other hand, tastes bitter and can leave a chalky aftertaste in your mouth. I think most people who have tried kale have tried curly kale, and that’s why kale has gotten the bad reputation. Please, just try a salad with lacinato kale (sometimes called tuscan or dinosaur kale) and you might be converted.

Anyway, I’m always on the hunt for new kale recipes. I already have 5 kale salads that I love, and my top two salads are my lacinato kale salad and miso kale salad.  My lacinato salad has turned kale haters into kale lovers, so that is saying a lot. This ricotta salata salad may also be one that turns people around, not only because it tastes great, but it’s so easy to prepare, and much like my lacinato salad uses pantry ingredients. This is Eli’s favorite kale salad thus far. Many of you may not be too familiar with ricotta salata. Ricotta salata is an aged ricotta that has been pressed, so it looses moisture and becomes crumbly and easy to grate. It’s a fairly mild tasting cheese, (I think that’s why Eli loves it so much) but has an amazing salty flavor to it.  The other great thing about ricotta salata, is its price tag.  You can usually get a chunk of cheese for under $4.00. So, this is a great salad for those of you on a budget.  Don’t look for ricotta salata cheese near the traditional ricotta cheeses, (the ones in the plastic containers) this cheese will be located in the cheese section of your grocery store, where the fancier cheeses are.

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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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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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spaghetti squash tacos

spaghetti squash tacos

spaghetti squash tacosI know there are many of you who have been patiently waiting for this recipe ever since I showcased it in my weekly menu post last week. Thanks for being so patient and I hope that these tacos make your wait worthwhile. I love it when I find a new family approved and easy weeknight meatless dinner (that was a mouthful). It’s so nice because I try and strive to have at least 2-3 meatless dinners a week, if possible. I want to make meatless nights fun and tasty and full of variety for the family, not boring and something that no one looks forward to. I truly have found the best recipes since I started my meatless search, and these tacos along with my Paul McCartney refried bean tacos are keepers!

Paul McCartney's refried bean tacosI was originally hesitant to try these tacos because even though I like spaghetti squash, I don’t LOVE it as a substitute for good old pasta, (I’m truly a carb girl) and neither does my family. We eat as a substitute once in a while because its healthy.  So, I finally picked up my reserved copy (after months of waiting) of Smitten Kitchen’s new cookbook from the library. I opened it up and this particular recipe grabbed my eye. Deb’s photo was amazing and really made me want to eat these tacos. I also loved that Deb was not a huge fan of spaghetti squash being a substitute for pasta either. She did feel differently about spaghetti squash when she made these tacos though. The squash really captures all the flavors from the chili spices and lime and it pairs wonderfully with all the toppings, plus it looks so pretty. I felt that if Deb and I were both in agreement that spaghetti squash is not a great substitute for pasta, then I might agree with her about these tacos, so I was game to give these a try.

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turkey meatballs

DSC_0081

DSC_0081Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs! I know, not the most exciting or creative recipe out there, but it’s a classic! These are not your typical heavy, sit in your stomach meatballs. They’re a lighter and simpler meatball, as they are just made with ground turkey.  Yep, no pork sausage is needed for these puppies. Turkey is rich in vitamin B and zinc, and is a full flavored and lower-fat alternative to ground beef. My brother Brandt, who doesn’t like meatballs, LOVED these. I served these up for dinner and he was actually just going to eat the spaghetti, but he wanted to be nice so he said I could throw a couple of meatballs in his dish. He politely tried one and then asked for 3 more. He LOVED these and was quite surprised that he did.  He wanted me to be sure to tell all of you that he loved these, because he is not typically a fan of meatballs. Of course, my kids loved these, I mean they’re meatballs right?

I paired them with my new favorite basic tomato sauce and linguine, and it was a winner dinner. These meatballs do not fall into the quick and easy weeknight category, unless of course you make them up over the weekend and just re-heat them during the week.  I like to make these on a day where I know I have some time (which is usually a Sunday).  I typically make the sauce up ahead of time (remember my basic tomato sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks) just to save time when it comes to making the meatballs, but I have made both on the same day. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to throw together.  The only step that takes a bit of time is browning the meatballs, but other than that, it’s pretty simple and pretty calming rolling out meatball after meatball.  I usually throw on some tunes and get into a rhythm.

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easy skillet chicken parmesan

easy skillet chicken parmesan

easy skillet chicken parmesanHere’s an easy weeknight chicken parmesan recipe that can be made and on your table in under 30 minutes, and the added bonus is that it can all be done in your cast iron skillet, making clean up a cinch! It’s also flour-less and egg-less and gluten-free to boot!  My foodie friend Amanda kept telling me that I needed to try this recipe.  I already had my favorite chicken parmesan recipe that was passed down from my mom, so I was a bit hesitant to try a new one.  I then remembered that I have a recipe blog, and my readers may want some variety, so I gave it a try. I’m so glad that I did because it was fantastic and John and the kids gave it a double thumbs up. I gave it a thumbs up due to taste as well as ease.  I still love my classic chicken parmesan because I love the crunchy bread coating, but I love this one just as much, so bonus!

This is basically another pantry meal. Most of the herbs I either had in my backyard or in the fridge, I had some leftover tomato sauce, and I always have cheese on hand, so all I needed to pick up was the chicken breasts.  I really love easy meals that I can throw together at the last-minute.  It’s just helpful to have an arsenal of those easy pantry recipes on the nights when you’re pulling out your hair wondering what to make.

So, I know you all were anticipating the turkey meatballs recipe today, but ever since I posted this photo on my weekly dinner menu, I’ve had numerous emails asking me to please post this recipe soon. I then decided to be nice and post it today instead of making you wait one more week. I figure the meatballs will be perfect for next week’s Super Bowl as they make a great meatball sub.

easy skillet chicken parmesan

easy skillet chicken parmesan

recipe from Giada De Laurentis
serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh italian parsley – I used flat leaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise and lightly pounded
  • 1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato or marina sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese – We like our cheese, so we used 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces – The recipe called for 2 tablespoons but I used about 1 1/2

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Let’s prep the ingredients.  Prep your chicken, measure out your cheeses, measure out your sauce, cut up your butter and rinse and chop up the rosemary, thyme and italian parsley.  In a small bowl add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and then mix in the chopped herbs along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

DSC_0013-2Get out your chicken and brush each side with the olive oil and herb mixture.

DSC_0119Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet (I used my 12-inch cast iron) over high heat.  Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  This step may take longer if your breasts are a bit thicker.

DSC_0137Remove the skillet from the heat.  Spoon the tomato sauce over and around the chicken.

DSC_0025Top each breast with a bit of mozzarella.  Then sprinkle each breast with some shredded or grated parmesan cheese. It’s really an individual preference here with how much cheese you want to add.  We like cheese as you know, so we tend to go a bit on the heavier side.

DSC_0027Sprinkle the butter pieces over the chicken breasts.

DSC_0153Pop the skillet into the oven and bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  The timing will vary on this as well depending on how thick your chicken is.  You really just want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through.  I always use a meat thermometer to test my chicken, as I will not eat undercooked chicken.

easy skillet chicken parmesanIf you want your cheese a bit browned on top, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two until you see the cheese brown up.

DSC_0024Serve this up with some crispy garlic bread and a nice big salad.  We love it served alongside my lacinato kale salad.  Feel free to play with this recipe to suit your dietary needs, add less cheese and butter if you want a healthier or lighter version.

Three cheers for another easy weeknight meal!

easy skillet chicken parmesan

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 4 people

easy skillet chicken parmesan

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh italian parsley - I used flat leaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise and lightly pounded
  • 1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato or marina sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese - We like our cheese, so we used 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces - The recipe called for 2 tablespoons but I used about 1 1/2

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Let's prep the ingredients. Prep your chicken, measure out your cheeses, measure out your sauce, cut up your butter and rinse and chop up the rosemary, thyme and italian parsley. In a small bowl add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and then mix in the chopped herbs along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Get out your chicken and brush each side with the olive oil and herb mixture.

Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet (I used my 12-inch cast iron) over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. This step may take longer if your breasts are a bit thicker.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Spoon the tomato sauce over and around the chicken.

Top each breast with a bit of mozzarella. Then sprinkle each breast with some shredded or grated parmesan cheese. It's really an individual preference here with how much cheese you want to add. We like cheese as you know, so we tend to go a bit on the heavier side.

Sprinkle the butter pieces over the chicken breasts.

Pop the skillet into the oven and bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. The timing will vary on this as well depending on how thick your chicken is. You really just want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through. I always use a meat thermometer to test my chicken, as I will not eat undercooked chicken.

If you want your cheese a bit browned on top, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two until you see the cheese brown up.

Serve this up with some crispy garlic bread and a nice big salad. We love it served alongside my lacinato kale salad.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2013/01/easy-skillet-chicken-parmesan/

twice baked potatoes

twice baked potatoes

twice baked potatoesOk, so these potatoes are not one of the healthiest recipes I have on the blog, but they sure are tasty.  I believe that life, as well as food, is all about moderation and balance.  If you have balance, then you are living in the natural harmony of life.  To eat too healthy is actually not healthy.  Too much of one thing is not good for anyone.  Look at nature, when there is too much sun the plants don’t thrive because they need the rain as well. The key to life is balance.

These potatoes bring back happy memories every time I make and eat them.  My dad use to whip up a similar version of these potatoes every Easter and Christmas.  I use to help him out by scooping out the insides of the potatoes after they were baked, and then putting everything back in the skins after all the goodies were added to the potatoes.  It was pure comfort family cooking, but a happy memory in my heart, and one I still cherish.

What’s great about these potatoes or really any potato recipe, is that you can play with the recipe and add what you like to it.  You can add more or less cheese, more or less milk, some other greens, basically you are the creator here, so feel free to create. Another reason I love these potatoes is that they can be made and assembled ahead of time and then baked up later. They’re the perfect potato to bring to a dinner party or potluck.

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chocolate coconut pie

chocolatepie

chocolate coconut pieOk, if you like coconut and dark chocolate, then this is the pie for you.  It’s seriously like eating a chocolate covered macaroon.  This is my new Thanksgiving pie. I’ve been making it each year for Thanksgiving, and honestly it’s the first pie to get devoured, so move over pumpkin and apple pie, because there’s a new pie in town and it’s rich and oh so chocolatey! This is a great Holiday or party pie because it serves a crowd and looks fancy with the shiny gnache filling and the crispy coconut crust.  People will be impressed thinking you spent hours slaving over this pie, when in reality you didn’t. It’s an easy pie to throw together and requires only 4 simple ingredients, plus its gluten-free to boot.

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Italian wedding soup

Italian wedding soup

Italian wedding soupI love this Italian wedding soup and I love Barefoot for supplying me with this recipe. I’ve seriously never had a bad recipe with Barefoot, honestly, every recipe that I’ve tried from her turns out great. Maybe we’re kindred spirits or something, but I get her cooking, and I like it.  I have her new book, Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust, on my Christmas wish list, and I’m hoping that Santa delivers me a copy.  

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pasta bake with pancetta, tomato sauce and mozzarella

pasta bake with pancetta, tomato sauce and mozzarella

Come on, take a good look at that pasta, the cheese is all melted and browned on top, the sauce is clinging to each pasta shell.  I just want to take a bite right now, though I don’t think it would taste to good at 6:00 in the morning.  I’m sure there are many of you that aren’t cheese fans or think a dish like this might not be too good for the old waistline, I get it, but I also believe life is about moderation and if you have balance, then you can eat just about anything (real food that is).  For the rest of you that are licking your choppers, this dish is pure comfort bliss, especially on a cool fall or winter night.

Yes, there’s a lot of cheese in this recipe, but I love cheese, so that made me happy.  If you’re not a cheese fan than this might not be the pasta for you. I balance this rich meal by serving up a large vegetable portion on the side, so I don’t fill up on just pasta. I either serve it with a nice big kale salad or kid friendly caesar salad, or some sort of dark green vegetable, like broccolini. You could also whip up some garlic bread to serve on the side.  This is definitely a two-nighter meal or the perfect meal to serve a crowd.  I baked it in these cute individual caserrole dishes, but it’s truly the perfect pasta to be baked in a large casserole dish.

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kid friendly caesar salad

photo[3]

Moms, do I have caesar salad recipe for you.  This is one of Eli’s favorite salads now and he literally requests it daily.  He eats a whole plate full, even when I sneak some lacinato kale in the salad.  I told him the other night as he scarfed down a plate full of salad that he just polished off about 1/4 a head of kale. His jaw just about slammed down on the table.  He said he didn’t even know there was kale in the salad, he thought the dark green leaves were darker romaine lettuce pieces. The dressing is what makes this a kid friendly salad (no anchovies or raw egg) or should I say adult friendly as well. You can make it more of an adult salad by adding some kale as well as multigrain croutons. To keep it truly kid friendly, I would just serve the dressing over some romaine leaves and make up some sourdough or french bread croutons.  BTW, I don’t always add croutons to the salad, so don’t feel the pressure.  We usually just have this salad as a side to our meal sans the croutons.  I just don’t always have time to whip up a batch of croutons during the week.

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deep-dish pepperoni pizza

deep-dish pepperoni pizza
deep-dish pepperoni pizza

Have you purchased a cast iron pan yet?  Yvonne, I’m speaking directly to you!  My friend Yvonne said she would get a cast iron pan once I did a post on how to maintain one.  I still haven’t put a post together hoping that she will just go with it and let me explain it to her over the phone. Is anyone else interested in a post on how to maintain a cast-iron pan?  If so, I will write one. It won’t be the most exciting post, but if you’re all wanting it, I will do it, so let me know. See, I’m nice that way. If you don’t have a cast iron, you have to get one. They are really inexpensive, ($22 for a 10-inch and $28 for a 12-inch) and you can use them for just about anything. I even made a chocolate chip cookie in mine.

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orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beansDon’t judge this pasta by the above photo.  This pasta tastes much better than it looks. Trust me!  I have made it 3 times so far, and it’s been a hit each time.  Eli’s words the other night, “mmmmm, this is just so good.”  That’s all I needed to hear.

This pasta is one of those super easy, weeknight throw together pastas. I prepared it and had it on the table in under 30 minutes. It’s also a one-bowl meal, which makes it even better. Another thing I love about this pasta is that the green beans cook with the pasta.  You just throw them in for the last 3 minutes with the pasta and drain them both together.  LOVE IT!  If green beans aren’t in season, I use broccolini or broccoli rabe in place of the green beans.  I just cook the broccoli rabe for the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time!  I also love using rigatoni pasta!

pesto pasta with broccoli rabeI went easy on myself and bought the pesto. Yes, even Marin mama cuts corners on dinner.  Paradise Foods has the best pesto, and sometimes (a lot of the time) I don’t feel like making my own, so I just buy theirs.  I do have some great pesto recipes that would work well with this pasta. If you’re up for making your own, you could try my basil pesto and even my walnut pesto. Both of them would be great additions, but I’m assuming that most of you will go the store bought route for your pesto, so go for it!  We can’t be Martha all the time, right?  Sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons.  Do I want to make some brownies or pesto, hmmm, difficult choice there, mmmm, not really.

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans:

recipe adapted from Real Simple
  • 1 box of orecchiette or rigatoni pasta
  • large bunch of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces –  I never measure out my vegetables.  I go vegetable heavy, as we could all use more veggies in our diet. Just grab yourself a big handful or two, and call it a day.  I use baby broccoli or broccoli rabe if green beans are not in season.
  • 4 Italian, turkey or chicken sausage links or 3/4 pound of ground sausage – I used classic Italian style sausages 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto - I used 1/2 cup as we love pesto.
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • splash of olive oil
Wash and trim your green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  While the pasta water is cooking, cook up your sausages.  You can either grill them or sauté them in a pan. The grill master was not home, so I cooked mine in the skillet.  Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, (if your pan seems dry, add more oil) add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, 8-10 minutes.  Let the sausages cool a bit and then slice them into thin slices.Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking time.  If you’re using broccolini or broccoli rabe then add them in for the last minute of cooking time.  

I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time!  How efficient!  Reserve a cup of the pasta water.

I put this part in, but I tend not to use to much pasta water as it makes my sauce to watery.  I also don’t shake my pasta out when I drain it.  I drain it and then immediately return it to the pot, so there is always some extra water there anyway.

Drain the pasta and green beans together and return them to the pot.  Add the sausage, pesto, parmesan and some of the reserved cooking water to the pasta, and toss to combine.  Add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry.Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top them with some fresh parmesan.

I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of green beans. This is a pantry pasta, so you could really just throw in just about any vegetable.  Frozen green peas, broccolini, broccoli, asparagus and spinach are some good choices.

pesto pasta with broccoli rabe

 

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

Rating: 51

Serving Size: 4-6

orecchiette pasta with pesto, sausage and green beans

Ingredients

  • 1 box of orecchiette or rigatoni pasta
  • large bunch of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces - I never measure out my vegetables. I go vegetable heavy, as we could all use more veggies in our diet. Just grab yourself a big handful or two, and call it a day. I use baby broccoli or broccoli rabe if green beans are not in season.
  • 4 Italian, turkey or chicken sausage links or 3/4 pound of ground sausage - I used classic Italian style sausages.
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto - I used 1/2 cup as we love pesto.
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • splash of olive oil

Instructions

Wash and trim your green beans into 1-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

While the pasta water is cooking, cook up your sausages. You can either grill them or sauté them in a pan. The grill master was not home, so I cooked mine in the skillet.

Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, (if your pan seems dry, add more oil) add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, 8-10 minutes.

Let the sausages cool a bit and then slice them into thin slices.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. If you're using broccolini or broccoli rabe then add them in for the last minute of cooking time.

I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time! How efficient!

Reserve a cup of the pasta water. I put this part in, but I tend not to use to much pasta water as it makes my sauce to watery. I also don't shake my pasta out when I drain it. I drain it and then immediately return it to the pot, so there is always some extra water there anyway.

Drain the pasta and green beans together and return them to the pot. Add the sausage, pesto, parmesan and some of the reserved cooking water to the pasta, and toss to combine. Add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry.

Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top them with some fresh parmesan.

I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of green beans. This is a pantry pasta, so you could really just throw in just about any vegetable. Frozen green peas, broccolini, broccoli, asparagus and spinach are some good choices.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/09/orecchiette-pasta-with-pesto-sausage-and-green-beans/

crispy & easy garlic bread

crispy and easy garlic bread
crispy and easy garlic bread

I honestly love where I live.  I just dropped off some of our favorite chocolate chip cookies to Zoe’s locker at school, as she has a reunion party with one of her favorite 6th grade teachers today.  As I was driving home, I just felt a sense of gratefulness, pride and love for where I live. There’s such a sense of community here, and everywhere I go, I always run into a familiar or friendly face.  It’s small town living, and I love it!

Anyway, I just thought I would share that with you all!  So, I’m in the process of planning out my weekly menu for next week, (which I posted for you on Sunday) and I put garlic bread on the menu.  I realized that I haven’t shared with you our favorite garlic bread recipe, lame, I know. This garlic bread is easy, crispy and tastes so darn good.  Garlic bread is the perfect accompaniment to any pasta, especially a saucy one. If you want to stretch a pasta meal into two nights, garlic bread helps you do that.  You can double the recipe to feed a crowd or add more garlic or less depending on how garlicky you like your bread.

In my old garlic bread making days I used butter and garlic salt.  One time I put too much garlic salt on the bread and it was so bitter that I swore it off from then on.  I’m happy I made the switch to the real stuff, as you can taste fresh garlic in every bite, but in a good way.  So move over garlic salt and say hello to the fresh stuff.

crispy garlic bread:

recipe from Everyday Food
serves 8
printer friendly recipe

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened – at room temp 
  • coarse salt
  • 1 loaf of italian bread (or your favorite crusty bread), halved lengthwise  

Note:  When I’m feeding my family, I only use 1/2 a loaf of bread.  I save the other half for the next night as well as half the garlic butter.  I just refrigerate the butter till the next day and take it out about an hour before I bake the bread to make it easier to spread.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel the garlic cloves.  Fill a small pan with water and bring it to a boil.  Add the garlic cloves to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves with a slotted spoon, and finely chop.In a small bowl, mix the chopped garlic with the butter and season to taste with coarse salt. Spread the butter mixture on cut sides of bread.Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sandwich both halves together and bake until the bread is crusty and the butter has melted, about 10 minutes.Slice it up and serve it up alongside your favorite pasta.  Throw on some fresh parsley for some color if you wish.Tip: I place a cutting board on the bottom of my sink and slice the bread there so I don’t get crumbs everywhere.  I know I’m a bit anal, but it’s nice not to be stepping on crumbs for the next week.    

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basilHere’s an easy weeknight meal that the whole family will enjoy, and the best part is that you can have it on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Yes, you heard me right, dinner in under 30 minutes. What mom or dad doesn’t like that?  Another great thing about this pasta is that it’s made with fresh and whole ingredients, so you can feel good about feeding your family a quick and easy dinner.

The heirloom tomatoes topped with parmesan and mozzarella taste like mini pizzas, but without the crust.  My kids even begged for thirds on the tomatoes.  I used heirloom tomatoes, but you can also use beefsteak, roma or vine-ripe tomatoes, whatever tomato strikes your fancy.

These tomatoes would also make a great side dish or appetizer.  I think they would even taste great topped on a pizza crust with some pesto or olive oil as the base sauce.  OK, I think I just created a new recipe for pizza Friday.  I love when that happens!

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil

spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil:

recipe adapted from real simple
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2-3 large heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - If your kids are not fans of spicy things, than I would go with the 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or julienned, plus more for serving
Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
While your pasta is cooking, turn on your broiler and slice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the tomato slices in a single layer. Sprinkle each tomato slice with the following ingredients in the following order:
  • salt 
  • pepper -you don’t have to add this to the kid’s tomato slices
  • grated parmesan 
  • mozzarella cheese

I would top each one with an even amount of both cheeses.  
Why not get the kids involved and have them top their tomatoes with the cheese, its like topping a pizza.  Its fun and gets them excited to eat tomatoes.

Broil the tomatoes until the cheese is bubbly and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t these tomatoes look insanely good?

In a small saucepan or sauté pan, heat the 3 tablespoons oil with the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.Add the garlic oil, 1/4 cup torn or julienned basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper to the cooked pasta and toss to combine.  Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top each bowl of pasta with the cheesy tomatoes, some fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.

The tomatoes are filling, so 2 tomato slices per bowl is plenty, but you may want a third, and that’s ok.That’s it folks.  How easy was that to throw together?  If you’re making this into a two-nighter meal, then you will want to make up some fresh cheesy tomatoes the next night.  I served this pasta up two nights in a row. It was super simple, as I just had to throw the tomatoes together while the pasta was re-heating. 

If your kids love pizza and pasta, then they will love this recipe.  

heirloom tomato soup

heirloom tomato soup (1 of 1)-3

heirloom tomato soup (1 of 1)-3Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had one of those dishes that stands out so much that you remember it and crave it years later?  Well, this soup is one of those dishes.  My girlfriends and I went to Calistoga for a girls weekend a few years back, and we stayed at the Solage resort in Calistoga.  It was such a luxurious and fun filled weekend.  The resort’s restaurant, Solbar, is amazing.  Everything on its menu is seasonal, local, organic and scrumptious.  We all had a cup of this soup and our taste buds were in heaven. We all kept commenting that we couldn’t believe there wasn’t any cream in the soup, because it tasted so creamy.

I have been searching for this recipe and thanks to Pinterest, I found it.  How strange and lucky is that? Someone had actually pinned a copy of this recipe.  Anyway, I found it and re-created it. Some of the instructions were a bit confusing, so I asked my brother-in-law (he’s a chef) to sort it out for me, and I simplified it for you all.

This soup is vegan, pure and made with such simple and fresh ingredients. It’s creamy without the cream, and it honestly doesn’t taste like your typical tomato soup, as its sweeter and not acidic.  The only downside with this soup is that it’s a seasonal soup. Heirloom tomatoes are typically in season from August through the end of October, so I recommend making this soup now!

heirloom tomato soup (1 of 1)

heirloom tomato soup:

recipe slightly adapted from Solbar at Solage Resort
makes 6 portions
printer friendly version

  • 1 yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided - you will use 1/4 cup twice in the recipe
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 springs of fresh marjoram or fresh oregano - I couldn’t find fresh marjoram so I used oregano, as it’s a similar tasting herb
  • 2 garlic cloves, microplaned – see how to microplane garlic below in post
  • 5 overripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and large chunked
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Prep all your ingredients.  Wash your herbs, chop up your onion, peel your garlic and core your tomatoes.

Not sure how to core a tomato? Check out the step-by-step photos below. Pretty simple, right?  Below are how your tomatoes should look when they are all cored.Chop up your tomatoes into large chunks.Take your bunch of basil, your 4 sprigs of thyme and 4 sprigs of oregano or marjoram, and tie them up together with some kitchen twine.  

I would actually loop the twine around a few more times than I did, and tie it in a tighter knot.The recipe asks for the garlic to be microplaned.  To microplane garlic, all you need to do is get a cheese grater and rub the peeled garlic against it to grate it.Heat 1/4 cup olive oil, the diced onion and herb bunch in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat, until the onion is soft, tender and translucent, but not browned.

You’re basically sweating the onion here.
Here’s a photo of the softened onions and herbs.
You can see that I should have tied my herbs together better.Stir in the garlic and quickly add the tomatoes and 1/2 tablespoon of salt.Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the tomatoes are broken down.  Make sure you occasionally stir the tomatoes.

Remove the herbs.  Stir in the 1-teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and the 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Turn off the heat.
Puree the soup either using a hand held immersion blender or a regular blender.If you’re using a blender, return the soup to the pot after your puree it.

Keep warm until ready to serve.  Below is the finished product, doesn’t it look yummy?The kids rated this soup a 10+ and Zoe begged me to serve it to her for lunch the next day.  I packed some for her along with a popover and some fruit.This tomato soup is a bit sweeter than my creamless tomato soup, and tastes so fresh, because honestly all the ingredients are fresh.  You will also have to convince yourself and your guests that there is no cream in this soup, because it tastes so creamy.

My kids were never big soup fans till I started cooking them more. I think it takes a while for kids to get use to soups.  Soups are one of those dishes that look intimidating, but honestly, they are one of the easiest dishes to make.  I paired this soup for lunch the next day with half of a bagel topped with cream cheese and an heirloom tomato.  It was delish!I served it another day with a beet and kale salad.

This soup pairs well with just about anything.

cilantro lime chicken tacos with mango avocado salsa

cilantro lime chicken tacos
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. 

Ina’s summer garden pasta with video tutorial

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Ina's summer garden pasta with video tutorial (1 of 1)-3
Ok, here is my first attempt at a “homemade” cooking video.  When I say first attempt, I mean first attempt.  Zoe and I pulled this together yesterday afternoon, and there weren’t any re-takes, we shot and edited with what we had.  I’m proud to say that this video was filmed and edited by my 12 year old daughter, Zoe. Yay Zoe!  Zoe is always shooting videos with her friends, and editing up a storm, so I asked her if she might want to earn a few bucks by filming some videos for the blog this summer. I think she did a wonderful job, and all in all, for our first video, I think it turned out pretty good.  Making your first video is like putting together your first blog post or posting your first photograph.  It can be a bit intimidating, but you have to start somewhere, so here you go.  The video has a cute ending, so stick with it.

I hope you enjoyed the video portion of this recipe (geez, I sound like a stewardess on an airline). For those of you that want the classic recipe post, I have added that as well below.

I seriously love Ina Garten, and have quite a few of her recipes on this blog. Her recipes are easy to follow and perfect for the “everyday” cook. This pasta one of my favorite summer pastas, as the ingredients are simple and fresh and the flavors are amazing. This pasta is the perfect make-ahead meal. The tomato marinade take literally 5 minutes to assemble and it can sit out anywhere from 4-10 hours at room temperature. The longer it sits the better. It’s also the perfect meal to serve up at a dinner party, because it’s virtually a one-bowl meal (less dishes to clean up) and so easy to prepare because all you have to do is throw in the capellini right before serving (the capellini only takes 3  minutes to cook). Instead of slaving over the stove, you can spend quality time relaxing with your friends. Now, that sounds great to me!

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Ina’s summer garden pasta:

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves 6

NOTE: I cut the tomato portion of the original recipe in half, as 4 pints of tomatoes were a bit too much for us, and my kids really don’t want a bowl full of tomatoes. 
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 large or 6 medium cloves) 
  • 10-12 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving 
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta or capellini
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Below are the ingredients that you will need for the tomato marinade.
Wash up the cherry tomatoes and basil.  Cut the tomatoes in half.  
Slice up the basil into thin strips.
 Combine the cherry tomatoes,1/2-cup olive oil, minced garlic, chopped basil,1/2-teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1-teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine.  
Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for a minimum of 4 hours.  
Just before you’re ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the capellini and cook according to the directions on the package (be careful, as it only takes 2 to 3 minutes to cook capellini pasta).  

Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes.  Give the pasta a toss and then add in the 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese and mix together.  
Serve up the pasta in large bowls and top with some Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Ina's summer garden pasta with video tutorial (1 of 1)-3
Another thing I love about this pasta is that you can usually get two nights out of it (at least in my family).  Serve this up with some crispy garlic bread and you have the perfect simple summer meal.  

 I chose not to speak in the video because honestly, I’m not ready to do that yet.  Every time I hear myself on video I cringe.  I say the words “you know” and “like” too much, so I have to work up the confidence to do a talking cooking video! 

Ina’s summer garden pasta with video tutorial

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 6

Ina’s summer garden pasta with video tutorial

NOTE: I cut the tomato portion of the original recipe in half, as 4 pints of tomatoes were a bit too much for us, and my kids really don't want a bowl full of tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 large or 6 medium cloves)
  • 10-12 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta or capellini
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Instructions

Wash up the cherry tomatoes and basil.

Cut the tomatoes in half.

Slice up the basil into thin strips.

Combine the cherry tomatoes,1/2-cup olive oil, minced garlic, chopped basil,1/2-teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1-teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for a minimum of 4 hours.

Just before you're ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the capellini and cook according to the directions on the package (be careful, as it only takes 2 to 3 minutes to cook capellini pasta).

Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Give the pasta a toss and then add in the 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese and mix together.

Serve up the pasta in large bowls and top with some Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/07/inas-summer-garden-pasta-with-video-tutorial/

curried chicken salad

currychickensalad

Want an easy, tasty, family friendly summer meal that can be made ahead of time?  Look no further because this recipe has it all. This is one of our favorite summer meals (well any time of year meal).  Its chock full of flavor and can be served up in so many ways that you’ll never get bored.  Top it on some mixed greens or basmati rice, throw it in a whole grain tortilla or serve it between your favorite sandwich bread.  The possibilities are endless.

This salad is also great to bring to a potluck picnic.  My friend Yvonne brought it to our 4th of July pool party and we served it up on some whole-grain tortillas and paired with my lacinato kale salad.  It was such an easy and healthy potluck dinner, as everything was made ahead of time.

curried chicken salad:

recipe from epicurious

serves 6

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt, I use plain Greek yogurt
  • 5 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion (1 cup), diced
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes, halved - You can also substitute 1 cup of chopped mango for a cup of grapes.  I always do this when mangos are in season.
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped – I just buy cashews that are already salted and roasted
 
Below are the ingredients you will need (you just need 1 more cup of grapes, as I forgot to add that below).
Prep all of your ingredients while your chicken is simmering, and then you will be ready to go.
In a 2-to-3-quart saucepan, bring 4 cups of water along with the 1 3/4 cups chicken broth to a simmer at medium-high heat.  
Note: When simmering, bubbles will break the surface slowly, mostly around the edges of the pot.  
Once the water is simmering, add the chicken and simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes 
I kept my heat at medium-high here because once you add the chicken the water cools down a bit.  
Remove pan from heat and cover, then let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes, or more.  You may get 2 large breasts that are 1 1/2 pounds or 3 small ones, so the cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken breasts.
Make sure your chicken is cooked through; sometimes it takes less than 15 minutes for my chicken to cook or sometimes it takes more.  I just pull the chicken out and test it with a meat thermometer. You want the chicken to be at 165 degrees, as there is nothing worse than undercooked chicken, YUCK!
 
Transfer cooked chicken to a plate and let it cool for 10 minutes or so.  
Once the chicken is cool, chop it into 1/2 inch pieces.
While chicken is cooling, whisk together in a large bowl, the following ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 5 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

Add the chicken, red onion, grapes and cashews and stir gently to combine.  

Cover and refrigerate the chicken salad till needed. Serve this up as a sandwich on your favorite bread or on a grilled whole-grain tortilla. 

We love this served up over some basmati rice in the winter.  Feel free to substitute apples when grapes are out of season.  You can also use walnuts or almonds in lieu of cashews or omit the nuts and add some celery.  Seriously, you can add and mix in whatever you like.
Curry is known to be good for you, so do something good for yourself and make this salad!

homemade Arnold Palmer

homemade Arnold Palmer

homemade Arnold PalmerI’m making a toast to my dad, aka, Papa Bear today. Cheers Dad, this post and recipe is dedicated to you. This iced tea recipe came from my dad, and it was one of my favorite growing up summertime drinks. You knew it was summer when my dad made up a pitcher of this sun tea.  I think my dad created the Arnold Palmer before everyone knew what it was.

So, you’re probably wondering what’s up with the name Papa Bear? My brother and I gave my dad the nickname “Papa Bear” because he’s always had this year round beard, and he’s the most lovable and huggable person. He truly reminds us of a big lovable bear. My friends chimed in and soon my dad was known by all as “Papa Bear.” The name has stuck with him through the years, and my kids only know him as Papa Bear. My dad loves the name, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

I had forgotten all about this sun tea until my recent visit to NY. My dad served up this tea alongside some amazing homemade strawberry shortcake that my stepmom, Rita, had made. The fist sip took me back in time. All those happy childhood memories came flooding back. Camping each summer at Lake George and Schroon Lake, whitewater rafting, tubing, canoeing and just sitting outside on a hot summer night sipping this iced tea with my dad on our back yard picnic table. We would sit out there for hours just reminiscing and enjoying those long summer nights.

This is a great drink to bring to any 4th of July party or picnic. It’s refreshing and super easy to make, and isn’t that what you want in a summer beverage? I let a batch of this brew on the deck in the morning so that it’s nice and cool come dinner time.

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homemade Arnold Palmer:

  • 7 cups filtered water 
  • 7 normal sized tea bags such as Lipton or your favorite tea – If you’re using the family sized tea bags then you will want to use around 4 bags
  • 1/2 container (6oz) frozen lemonade concentrate

Get a large glass container and fill it up with the 7 cups of filtered water. If your container can’t hold 7 cups, then just fill it up and add 1 tea bag per cup. If your container can hold 8 cups (2 quarts), then just add one more tea bag to the mix. Tear the tags off of the tea bags and then tie the bags together in a knot.Add the teabags to the water and cover with a lid. I did not have a lid for my glass container so I used some plastic wrap and put a rubber band around it so it wouldn’t blow off.

Sit the tea in the direct sun for about 2 hours or until the tea looks dark.

Add 1/2 container of frozen lemonade concentrate and stir to blend.  If you like it sweeter, then add more lemonade.

Refrigerate the tea till cooled. Pour some chilled iced tea in your favorite glass and add a lemon wedge if desired.

Tip: Want to put ice in your iced-tea but don’t want to water it down?  Make a second batch of tea and pour it into some ice-cube trays and throw those in your tea.

You can totally change up the recipe by adding a flavored tea as well as flavored lemonade.  
homemade Arnold Palmer I hope my kids have the same happy memories when they make this iced tea for their kids someday.  Cheers to you Papa Bear!  I love you!

favorite turkey burgers

favorite turkey burgers

favorite turkey burgersSummer has officially started in our house.  We’ve hit the pool, Six Flags, played board game after board game and spent some time chilling out with friends this week.  We’re doing what we do best in the summer, and that is relaxing and taking a break from all the running around we do during the school year. It’s so nice to be able to wake up and go with the flow rather than having your day all planned out for you.   

My friend Andrea sent me her family’s favorite turkey burger recipe a while back after I posted my turkey burgers.  She said it was a family favorite and that I should give it a try.  Well, we tried these last weekend and they were a HUGE success.  These turkey burgers rock and they’re one of the kids’ favorite dishes now (ranked in the top 5).  My kids loved them so much that they asked for them again last night.  I happily obliged, as I loved these burgers as well.  They are packed with so much flavor from the Gruyere cheese, mustard, scallions and garlic.  I also love that the cheese is in the burger!  These burgers are now a family favorite in my house as well as Andrea’s, so I am positive that they will be one in yours.  

favorite turkey burgers

favorite turkey burgers:

recipe adapted from Andrea per Martha Stewart
serves 4
Note:  These burgers taste AMAZING topped with some cilantro-lime mayo

  • 1 pound ground turkey (dark meat) 
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese 
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced 
  • 3 hefty tablespoons dried breadcrumbsI used Ian’s panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
You can make this a make-ahead meal simply by assembling the patties in the morning, and covering and refrigerating them till dinner. 
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In a medium bowl, gently combine (with a fork, spatula or gently with your hands) the turkey, scallions, mustard, grated Gruyere cheese, breadcrumbs and minced garlic; season generously with salt and pepper.  
Note:  When you mix your seasonings into the meat, it’s important to remember that the more you handle the meat, and the more you squish it around, the more dense your burger will be. You might also squeeze out some of the juices and end up with a drier burger.Gently form the mixture into four patties. 
Note:  If you find that your patties are not holding together, then add a bit more breadcrumbs till they do.

Tip:  use your thumb to create a dimple or well in the center of the patty, as this will ensure the burgers cook evenly without plumping up.  Start cooking the burgers indentation side up.

You can either grill up the burgers 5 to 7 minutes per side or cook them up in a skillet.  If you’re going to cook them up in a skillet, then heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the patties until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.    

Tip: Don’t press down on the patties or you will squeeze out and loose the flavorful juices. 
Andrea’s favorite bun to use is a toasted english muffin, and it’s now our favorite as well.  The english muffin retains all the warmth of the burger.  I broiled the english muffins with a  bit of butter to keep them moist.  We topped these with my cilantro lime mayonnaise and some spinach the first night, and paired them with some roasted cauliflower and these amazing beet chips from Whole Foods.  Have any of you tried them?  They are so good and so addicting.
Another night we topped the burgers with an heirloom tomato, some cilantro lime mayo (of course) and since I was eating some lacinato kale salad, I threw some of that on top as well.  
The burger was amazing both ways. I mean you could literally top these burgers with just about anything.  John topped his with some homemade guacamole as well as an heirloom tomato.  
It’s funny how I always seem to have a vegetarian recipe on Monday and then either a burger or meat inspired recipe on Friday.  I guess you can really see that we eat both equally.

Paul McCartney’s refried bean tacos

Paul McCartney's refried bean tacos

Paul McCartney's refried bean tacos One of my challenges is to find some new meatless dinner recipes that the whole family will enjoy, besides your typical pasta.  Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta, but I want to offer other meatless alternatives for the family.  I’ve been trying to cut back on our meat intake to just a couple of days a week, and it’s been easy to find recipes that John and I like, but it’s been a bit harder to find recipes that the kids will enjoy as well.  

I recently picked a new favorite cookbook called, Meat Free Monday, and came across this refried bean taco recipe from Paul McCartney.  It was said to be one of his favorite recipes, so I decided to give it a try.  

So how did these tacos go over with the family?  The kids & hubby rated them a thumbs up!  I rated them a thumbs up as well due to the taste factor, but also because I had dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.  These tacos are the perfect weeknight meal because everything can be made and assembled in less than 20 minutes, and chances are you have most of the ingredients on hand in your pantry. Double thumbs up to Paul! 

Paul McCartney's refried bean tacos

Paul McCartney’s refried bean tacos:

recipe from Meat Free Monday
serves 4-6

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 ounce can of refried beans or a 17 ounce box - the Fig beans come in a 17oz box and I used the whole box – I also like and most often use Amy’s Organic Refried Beans.
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped – I used Italian plum tomatoes
  • pinch or two of sea or kosher salt 
  • 1 package of whole grain corn tortillas or taco shells – Paul used hard taco shells in his recipe, so feel free to use hard taco shells
  • Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 lime
  • *Optional – 1-2 teaspoons hot chili sauce – I did not add this because the kid’s do not like things to spicy

Below are most of the ingredients you will need to make the tacos.  
I really love beans from Fig Food Company as they are organic, and come in BPA free packaging.  I have a stocked pantry full of their cannellini, garbanzo, and black beans.   
You can find these beans at most Whole Foods.  
Update:  I’m finding that these beans are becoming hard to find, so I often use Amy’s Organic Refried Beans.
Below are the three ingredients you will need for the actual filling, so easy!
First, chop up your onion, and then de-seed and chop up your tomatoes.
 Not sure how to de-seed and chop an Italian plum tomato?  I will show you how.  
Cut your tomato in half lengthwise. 
Then quarter it.
Take a small knife and scoop out the seedpod.
 Lay the tomato skin side down and cut into thin strips lengthwise. 
It’s much easier to cut tomatoes on the inside than the outside.
Cut the strips crosswise into small pieces.
Heat up the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  
Add the onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently until the onion is soft but not colored. 
Stir in the refried beans.  Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook until heated through.  Season to taste with some salt.  
If you like your tacos spicy, add the 1 to 2 teaspoons of chill sauce to the refried bean mixture.
John wanted a bit more spice so he diced up a jalapeno pepper and topped his taco with it instead of making the mixture spicy for the whole family. 
Below is a picture of the refried bean mixture.  
I know it’s not the prettiest picture, but I wanted to show you what it looks like.
Its time to heat up your tortillas.
You can heat up the tortillas 2 ways.  
Throw the tortillas on the grill, and grill them until slightly charred and pliable, about 20
seconds per side.
Don’t feel like turning on the grill?  Then turn on your stove.  Set your burner to low and put the tortilla on top of the grate and cook for about 20 seconds per side.
You don’t have to heat up the soft tortillas, but they taste so much better when you do.
Now comes the fun part, assembling the tacos!
Top each tortilla with the bean mixture and then add your favorite fixings.
Make sure to squeeze some fresh lime juice on each taco.
Paul McCartney's refried bean tacos
Here’s what we topped our tacos with.
I topped mine with Monterey jack, sliced avocado and cilantro. 
The kids topped theirs with Monterey jack, sour cream and cilantro.
John topped his with Monterey jack, some diced jalapeno, sliced avocado, sour cream and cilantro.
We paired the tacos with some roasted asparagus (surprise, surprise).
Paul McCartney's refried bean tacos
These were so good that I had some leftovers for lunch the next day. I paired the tacos with some strawberries and blueberries fresh from the farmers market, so good!
Paul McCartney's refried bean tacos
Do you try and have a meatless day during the week?  If so, what are some of your favorite recipes?

Paul McCartney’s refried bean tacos

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 4-6

Paul McCartney’s refried bean tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 ounce can of refried beans or a 17 ounce box
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped - I used Italian plum tomatoes
  • pinch or two of sea or kosher salt
  • 1 package of whole grain corn tortillas or taco shells - Paul used hard taco shells in his recipe, so feel free to use hard taco shells
  • Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 lime
  • *Optional - 1-2 teaspoons hot chili sauce - I did not add this because the kid's do not like things to spicy

Instructions

First, chop up your onion, and then de-seed and chop up your tomatoes.

Not sure how to de-seed and chop an Italian plum tomato? I show you pictures in the post, but also explain how to below.

Cut your tomato in half lengthwise.

Then quarter it.

Take a small knife and scoop out the seedpod.

Lay the tomato skin side down and cut into thin strips lengthwise.

It's much easier to cut tomatoes on the inside than the outside.

Cut the strips crosswise into small pieces.

Heat up the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently until the onion is soft but not colored.

Stir in the refried beans. Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook until heated through. Season to taste with some salt.

If you like your tacos spicy, add the 1 to 2 teaspoons of chill sauce to the refried bean mixture.

Its time to heat up your tortillas.

You can heat up the tortillas 2 ways.

Throw the tortillas on the grill, and grill them until slightly charred and pliable, about 20

seconds per side.

Don't feel like turning on the grill? Then turn on your stove. Set your burner to low and put the tortilla on top of the grate and cook for about 20 seconds per side.

You don't have to heat up the soft tortillas, but they taste so much better when you do.

Now comes the fun part, assembling the tacos!

Top each tortilla with the bean mixture and then add your favorite fixings.

Make sure to squeeze some fresh lime juice on each taco.

Here's what we topped our tacos with.

I topped mine with Monterey jack, sliced avocado and cilantro.

The kids topped theirs with Monterey jack, sour cream and cilantro.

John topped his with Monterey jack, some diced jalapeno, sliced avocado, sour cream and cilantro.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/06/paul-mccartneys-refried-bean-tacos/

couscous cakes

couscous cakes

couscous cakesDid you ever have one of those Mondays where you get so much done and have tons of energy?  I had that day yesterday and it was an amazing way to start up the week.  I accomplished more in 2 hours then I had the whole weekend.  Whoo hoo!  I even had some extra time to write up this post, so you’re getting 2 posts already this week and it’s only Tuesday.  Bonus!  Who am I?  I don’t know, but I like this new me (don’t get too excited as this is not normal for me).

So I cooked up some salmon last week and whenever I cook up salmon my kids ask for couscous as their side dish.  Basically my kids equate salmon with couscous.  Anyway, I was getting bored of the traditional couscous fare.  Couscous reminds me of white rice, just plain and unassuming, so I was excited when I saw this recipe for couscous cakes in Fine Cooking magazine. These cakes sort of reminded me of my chickpea veggie burgers.  

These patties are so easy to make and require a few simple pantry ingredients, AWESOME!  I even made the patties earlier in the day and then sautéed them up right before dinner, the perfect make-ahead recipe.

couscous cakes:

recipe from Fine Cooking

makes 8-9 patties

  • 3/4 cup couscous – I pack a hefty 3/4 cup of couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf or italian parsley leaves 
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten – I found using large eggs not extra large works best here.  
  • finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – you will use this later to cook the cakes

Put the couscous and 1 teaspoon salt in a small pan.  Add 1 cup boiling water to the couscous, cover with the pan lid and let sit for 4 to 5 minutes.  

Coarsely chop the garlic in a food processor.  Add the parsley and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the chickpeas and 1 teaspoon salt and pulse until coarsely chopped.Here is what your mixture will look like after it’s been chopped.Uncover the couscous and fluff with a fork.  In a large bowl, add the couscous, the chickpea mixture, eggs, and lemon zest and mix until well combined. Press the couscous mixture into a 1/4 measuring cup, smooth the top, and invert the measuring cup to release the cake onto a plate.  Repeat with the remaining couscous mixture to make 8-9 cakes. 

I always throw my mixture in the fridge for a bit before I make the couscous cakes, so the mixture can gel together.   Note:  To make these a make-ahead meal, you can refrigerate the patties ahead of time and sauté them up right before dinner.  You can also refrigerate the mixture as is, and make the patties right before you sauté them.  Either way works.Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  

Add 5 of the couscous cakes to the skillet and then use a spatula to lightly flatten the cakes so they’re about 3/4 inch thick.   Just take a spatula and gently press down on the cakes once they’re in the skillet to flatten them. Cook, flipping once, until the patties are crisp and golden brown on both sides. The recipe said 2 to 3 minutes per side, but mine took a bit longer, like 5 minutes per side.  Just make sure to cook them till they are golden brown on each side.  Transfer the cooked patties to a paper-towel lined plate.  Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and cook the remaining cakes the same way. You can serve these up with just about anything. I gave the kids a couscous cake and some broccoli along with their salmon.  John and I paired one with a spinach salad and some salmon.  I also love serving these alongside a soup, such as my cauliflower soup.  These would even be great topped with my tzatziki yogurt sauce as a lunch-time entree.  Feel free to jazz these up anyway you choose. I could see adding some red or green onions to them as well as possibly substituting cilantro for the parsley leaves.  This is a great and basic couscous cake recipe.  

Family verdict?    These were rated a 10 in my house and I will definitely be making them again!  Got leftovers?  Just throw them in a 250 degree oven to warm them up.

couscous cakes

couscous cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup couscous - I pack a hefty 3/4 cup of couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf or italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten - I found using large eggs not extra large works best here.
  • finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil - you will use this later to cook the cakes

Instructions

Put the couscous and 1 teaspoon salt in a small pan. Add 1 cup boiling water to the couscous, cover with the pan lid and let sit for 4 to 5 minutes.

Coarsely chop the garlic in a food processor. Add the parsley and pulse until finely chopped. Add the chickpeas and 1 teaspoon salt and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Uncover the couscous and fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl, add the couscous, the chickpea mixture, eggs, and lemon zest and mix until well combined. Press the couscous mixture into a 1/4 measuring cup, smooth the top, and invert the measuring cup to release the cake onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining couscous mixture to make 8-9 cakes.

I always throw my mixture in the fridge for a bit before I make the couscous cakes, so the mixture can gel together.

Note: To make these a make-ahead meal, you can refrigerate the patties ahead of time and sauté them up right before dinner. You can also refrigerate the mixture as is, and make the patties right before you sauté them. Either way works.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add 5 of the couscous cakes to the skillet and then use a spatula to lightly flatten the cakes so they're about 3/4 inch thick.Just take a spatula and gently press down on the cakes once they're in the skillet to flatten them.

Cook, flipping once, until the patties are crisp and golden brown on both sides. The recipe said 2 to 3 minutes per side, but mine took a bit longer, like 5 minutes per side. Just make sure to cook them till they are golden brown on each side. Transfer the cooked patties to a paper-towel lined plate. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and cook the remaining cakes the same way.

Got leftovers? Just throw them in a 250 degree oven to warm them up.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/05/couscous-cakes/

strawberry, mango & banana smoothie

afterschool smoothie

I swear May should be re-named May madness.  It’s almost worst than December.  This month has been non-stop and it’s only the middle of the month.  I seriously can’t wait for summer and this is the first year that I can truly say that.  I can’t wait to sleep in, kick back with the kids and just chill at the pool.  I may even chill out with one of these smoothies.

Anyway, amongst all this madness of racing to and from everything, I want to give my kids a healthy snack where I can. The weather has been warm and summer-like lately so smoothies are back in my kid’s radar. They love this spinach smoothie as well as this spinach one, but sometimes they want a good old-fashioned creamy smoothie. Who can blame them? This is an easy smoothie to throw together and is perfect this time of year as strawberries are at their peak!

strawberry, mango & banana smoothie:

serves two 9oz glasses (or 2 kids)

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen mango – you can use fresh as well, but make sure you throw in some ice cubes.  
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, (about 4-5) rinsed and stems removed
  • 1 large, ripe banana

Get out your blender and throw in the orange juice, Greek yogurt, mangos, strawberries and banana.

Give it a whirl until blended.

Pour the smoothie into two 9oz glasses, add a fun straw, and call in the kids!Eli gave this smoothie a thumbs up!

Summer here we come!  We love pairing this smoothie with our favorite popcorn.

roasted red pepper and arugula whole-wheat pizza

roasted red pepper pizza
roasted red pepper pizza

So remember on Friday when I mentioned that because I can be a perfectionist with this blog that I sometimes make a recipe 2 to 3 times before I post it?  Well, this recipe was one of those recipes.  I actually only made this 2 times, but still, it was 2 times within the course of a week.  I figured it was OK since it’s a pretty healthy meal and my kids always are happy to eat pizza, even if it’s on a whole-wheat crust.

This pizza is super easy to make, even easier than my sausage skillet pizza.  I know a lot of you wanted to try that pizza but either did not have a skillet or were a bit intimated by the thought of cooking a pizza in a skillet.  So, here is a pizza that everyone can make.It’s your basic run of the mill cheese pizza except that you are replacing the tomato sauce with a roasted red pepper puree and topping it all on a thin and crispy whole-wheat pizza crust.  Isn’t that genius?  Red peppers are so good for you and this is an easy and delicious way to get them into your diet.  I even think that if you had picky kids they would love this pizza (maybe just add a bit more cheese to disguise the red pepper sauce a bit more).

My kids loved this pizza, seriously, I’m not lying.  They thought the red pepper sauce tasted as good as any tomato sauce and they didn’t complain about it being on a whole-wheat crust.  I honestly don’t think they even noticed that it was on a whole-wheat crust till I mentioned it.  They even liked the arugula on top!  My kids are becoming way more experimental with food since I started this blog.  They will try and eat just about anything I make.  They are now even starting to like my “mommy” dishes.  Zoe has been begging me to make my chickpea burgers again, so I am whipping up a batch of those tomorrow.

roasted red pepper and arugula whole-wheat pizza:

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4-6

Note:  The roasted red pepper sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated till needed. 

  • 3 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled – see my instructions below on how to roast a red pepper
  • 1 pound whole-wheat pizza dough – you can use regular pizza dough here as well if you don’t like whole-wheat crusts.  I used Trader Joe’s whole wheat crust.  
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced – you can also buy the shredded mozzarella and make it easy on yourself.
  •  extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • cornmeal for baking sheets
  • arugula to top the pizza

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Wash the red peppers and then cut them in half lengthwise.

red peppers cut in halfCut off the stem with a paring knife and scoop out all the seeds and membranes.  I used a melon baller to scoop out the seeds and membranes.

scooping out red pepper seedsPlace the peppers cut side down on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil.

roasting red peppersRoast the peppers in the pre-heated 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes; until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, rotating the sheet if necessary for them to cook evenly.  Below is what mine looked like after roasting for 25 minutes.

roasted red peppersLet the peppers cool for a minute or two, and then remove them from the baking sheet and place them in a bowl, cover the bowl with foil or a plate, and let cool for about 30 minutes.

roasted red peppers in bowlWhen the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and discard them, dropping the peppers back into the bowl.

roasted red peppers skinnedPut the peeled peppers into a blender.

 In a blender, puree peppers until smooth. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into a bowl if you’re not using it right away, and refrigerate until needed.  If you’re using the puree right away, then just keep it in the blender for easy pouring.Now, lets move onto the pizza.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Slice up your cheese, toss some arugula with a splash of olive oil and set aside.On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle shape.  You can also roll the dough out into 2 circles, one large circle or 4 small circles.  It’s really up to you.

We chose to make one large rectangular pizza.
Easy peasy!Sprinkle a rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal and shape to fit the pizza dough onto the pan.The corn meal helps to keep the pizza dough from sticking to the pan and also helps to make the pizza crust a bit more crunchy and taste like its from an actual pizzeria.Brush the edges of the dough with some olive oil.  This helps to crisp up the crust.Top the dough with the red pepper puree (as you would a tomato sauce) making sure to leave a 1-inch border on the sides. Top the pizza with the mozzarella cheese and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Top the pizza with the arugula.  Slice it up and serve with your favorite salad or vegetable.  We paired the pizza with some roasted asparagus, but I also love to pair it up with my lacinato kale salad.Since we were eating so healthy, I treated us to this for dessert.Cacao nib and cocoa shortbread ice-cream sandwiches.

What are some of your favorite pizza recipes?

Marin Mama’s popcorn

popcorn

My kids are on spring break this week and that means my popcorn popper is going to be working overtime. Vacation at the Grandy house means lots of movie nights, and movie nights are not complete without Marin mama’s famous popcorn, (at least that’s what my kids and their friends call my popocorn). In all seriousness, Zoe and Eli love and devour this popcorn, and they tell me that it’s the best popcorn they’ve ever tasted. I’ve actually been told by a number of people that I need to bag this popcorn and sell it. I decided that making and bagging this popcorn would take to much time and effort, so I’m just going to share my secret recipe with you.

I love my Whirly-Pop popcorn popper as shown below. It pops the best popcorn and my kids love cranking the handle. This popper gets used on a daily basis!

Marin Mama’s Popcorn:

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil  – see my notes below on the different types of coconut oils
  • fine sea salt

Our favorite oils to use for popcorn are listed in order of preference below:

  • refined organic coconut oilThis oil gives the popcorn a nice crisp, light and fresh flavor.  Refined coconut oil does not have that coconut smell.
  • extra virgin coconut oilThis oil is unrefined and smells like an actual coconut.  If you want and like that buttery movie style popcorn then use this. It really does give the popcorn that buttery flavor.  We’re not big fans of buttered flavored popcorn, so we prefer using the refined oil.  

Ok, lets make some popcorn!

Put the 1/2 cup kernels and 2 tablespoons oil (coconut oil is solid, but will melt immediately once heated) into your kettle popper or whatever pan/utensil you use to make fresh popcorn.  
 
Turn up the heat to medium and slowly turn the handle till the popcorn is popped.  
Toss the popcorn into a large bowl & sprinkle with fine sea salt to taste. We like to sprinkle on some salt, then shake the bowl a bit and then sprinkle on some more salt.  You get the drill!

That’s all there is to it folks!We love to throw treats in our popcorn such as m&m’s, candy corn, (Eli’s favorite around Halloween) and twizzlers. The sweet mixed with the salty is a winning combination.

This popcorn is not just for movie nights, it’s also the perfect popcorn to pack for your child’s snack at school or to serve up as an afternoon snack.  I pack Zoe a container of this popcorn every day for her school snack, and believe me she only gets a handful, as it’s instantly consumed by the masses. Once you pop your own popcorn, you’ll never go back to the microwave stuff again. I guarantee it!

Marin Mama’s popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil - see my notes below on the different types of coconut oils
  • fine sea salt

Instructions

Our favorite oils to use for popcorn are listed in order of preference below:

refined organic coconut oil - This oil gives the popcorn a nice crisp, light and fresh flavor. Refined coconut oil does not have that coconut smell.

extra virgin coconut oil - This oil is unrefined and smells like an actual coconut. If you want and like that buttery movie style popcorn then use this. It really does give the popcorn that buttery flavor. We're not big fans of buttered flavored popcorn, so we prefer using the refined oil.

Ok, lets make some popcorn!

Put the 1/2 cup kernels and 2 tablespoons oil (coconut oil is solid but will melt immediately once heated) into your kettle popper or whatever pan/utensil you use to make fresh popcorn.

Turn up the heat to medium and slowly turn the handle till the popcorn is popped.

Toss the popcorn into a large bowl & sprinkle with sea salt to taste. We like to sprinkle on some salt, then shake the bowl a bit and then sprinkle on some more salt. You get the drill!

That's all there is to it folks!

We love to throw treats in our popcorn such as m&m's, candy corn, (Eli's favorite around Halloween) and twizzlers. The sweet mixed with the salty is a winning combination.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/04/marin-mamas-popcorn/

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
This is a celebration cake so lets celebrate! I baked this cake to celebrate my blog being in the Marin IJ today. 
OMG, I just saw that I’m on the front page!  
You can click here to see the article if your interested in viewing it, come on, check it out!

This chocolate cake was actually one of the first recipes I posted on my blog, (way back in October) and I wanted to post it again with some updates because it’s just that good folks!  Seriously, this is the best chocolate cake and it’s pretty famous among my group of friends.  I am always getting requests to bake this cake for dinner parties, birthday celebrations or just for plain old enjoyment.  I’m a cake gal.  Give me the choice of cake or ice cream and cake will always win hands down.  I have since made this cake into cupcakes and honestly they taste just as good as the cake and don’t dry out like typical cupcakes.  
chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
This cake is so chocolaty and moist and the cream cheese frosting adds a perfect balance to the cake making it not too sweet!  Zoe brought a piece to school the other day to share at lunchtime and there was a long line for a bite!  Zoe has actually made this cake by herself by going through the steps-by-steps below on my blog.  She wanted to practice making it with me overseeing her, so she could make me this cake for my birthday (since I always get the store bought version).  Isn’t that sweet?  

There is a secret ingredient to this cake and that is…

You guessed it coffee!  I actually brew a strong batch of Peet’s coffee (love that stuff).  When my kids first saw me add coffee to the batter, they were like, “Mom what are you doing adding coffee to the batter, the cake is going to be sooo gross.”  I smiled and told them to “trust me” and they did, and loved it.  So now when they see me adding a bit of wine or vodka to a dish, they do not question me, they may make a yucky face, but they just go with it.  
 Anyway, I am getting off track here, below is the recipe for the actual cake. 
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting:

for the cake:
  • butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed good quality hot coffee-  Don’t be turned off by the coffee in the recipe, you honestly don’t taste it at all. The coffee enhances the flavor of the cocoa powder, resulting in a more chocolaty cake, not a coffee-flavored one. 

cream cheese frosting:

  • approximately 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar – this is to taste – You will then sift the confectioners sugar so there are no lumps in the frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2  8-ounce packages of cream cheese (1 pound), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Let’s start out by making the chocolate cake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (I have 2 oven’s so I preheat both).  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  
Tip:  I trace the pans on the parchment paper to get the correct size, and then cut out the circles and place them on the bottom of the buttered pans.
Butter and flour the pans. 
 Tip: I use cocoa powder instead of flour when making this cake.  It totally works and you’re not left with any white flour on your cake.
Here are 2 more quick tips before I go on!
 Tip: In order not to waste that precious and expensive cocoa powder, measure over a bowl and parchment paper so the excess can be put back in the container after.  
Tip: To make sure you always have fresh baking soda, fill out the “change by” section on the box when you open it.  I have started doing that, and found it really makes a difference.  I mean who honestly remembers when they bought their baking soda.  It really helps to have fresh baking soda when baking. 

In a large bowl whisk the following ingredients together until combined:

 1 3/4 cups flour
 2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In small bowl combine the following:
1 cup buttermilk – make sure the buttermilk is well shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 room temp eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla 
 Looks appetizing right?  
With either a hand held mixer or an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  
This is what your batter will look like once the wet and dry ingredients are combined and before you add the coffee.  It will be pretty thick.
Now it’s time to add that freshly brewed coffee.  
I always use a good strong coffee like Peets.  I don’t know if that’s what makes the cake taste so rich, but I’m sure it has some part to play in it.
With the mixer still on low, add the 1 cup coffee and mix until combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  
Sidetrack here, doesn’t that coffee look good?  I always make sure I make enough for an extra cup to drink!
Below is what your mixture will look like before you pour it into the pans. See how much thinner it is once you add the coffee?   
Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Make sure you make them even.
Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.  I have 2 ovens so my cakes are done at exactly 35 minutes. 
Baking tip:  It’s hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time.  A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test. Press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it’s done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.  
After those cakes are completely cooled, it’s time to make the frosting.  The frosting recipe was passed down from my dad.  He’s actually a wonderful cook, as well as my mom. 

Pour 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar into a sifter and sift the sugar into a large bowl and set aside.  Sifting the sugar helps to ensure you don’t have lumpy frosting. Put your softened butter and cream cheese into a bowl and get your handy dandy mixer out.  Beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until well blended. Add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then slowly add the confectioner’s sugar to taste.  Pour in at least a cup or two and then taste it.   

If you add to much confectioner’s sugar it will be really sweet and you won’t really get that cream cheese flavor.  Just keep adding and tasting it till it reaches a flavor you like.  You want it to be sweet, but not too sweet.  I usually taste it and have my kids taste it as well.  They are pretty accurate when it comes to the finished product!  

Below is what your finished product will look like! Yum!  Scrape off the mixers and then save them for the kids to lick!Put one cake layer on a flat plate or cake pedestal.  With a frosting knife or spatula, spread the top with frosting.Then the side.DSC_0058-3Once you spread the frosting on the top of the first (bottom) layer, its time to place the 2nd layer on top. 

 I like to the place the top part of the 2nd layer (rounded part) upside down so that the flat side (bottom side) is up. It makes the cake look taller and prettier because you have the natural flat top.   

Now, frost away, making sure to spread the frosting around evenly on all sides and to get a nice fluffy layer on top.  
Tip: Warm your frosting knife/spatula under hot water then dry. This will help get sides of your cake smooth.  
This is what your cake will look like when you’re finished frosting it.  Now, comes the fun part, the decorating!
I didn’t decorate this particular cake because I was photographing it for the blog.  
Slice off a piece, (or two) and dollop it with some fresh vanilla ice cream or enjoy with a tall glass of milk.  
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
This cake is so easy and so good.  
As Barefoot would say, how easy is that?
I have also made a cupcake version of this cake and I have to say that the cupcakes taste just as moist as the cake.  Give them a try!
chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (1 of 1)
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

Ingredients

    for the cake:
  • butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed good quality hot coffee - Don't be turned off by the coffee in the recipe, you honestly don't taste it at all. The coffee enhances the flavor of the cocoa powder, resulting in a more chocolaty cake, not a coffee-flavored one.
  • cream cheese frosting:
  • approximately 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar - this is to taste - You will then sift the confectioners sugar so there are no lumps in the frosting.
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (1 pound), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Let's start out by making the chocolate cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (I have 2 oven's so I preheat both).

Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

Tip: I trace the pans on the parchment paper to get the correct size, and then cut out the circles and place them on the bottom of the buttered pans.

Butter and flour the pans. Tip: I use cocoa powder instead of flour when making this cake. It totally works and you're not left with any white flour on your cake.

In a large bowl whisk the following ingredients together until combined:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl combine the following:

1 cup buttermilk - make sure the buttermilk is well shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 room temp eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

With either a hand held mixer or an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

Your batter will be pretty thick at this point.

Now it's time to add that freshly brewed coffee.

I always use a good strong coffee like Peets. I don't know if that's what makes the cake taste so rich, but I'm sure it has some part to play in it.

With the mixer still on low, add the 1 cup coffee and mix until combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter will be much thinner with the coffee added to it.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Make sure you make them even.

Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. I have 2 ovens so my cakes are done at exactly 35 minutes.

Baking tip: It's hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time. A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test. Press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it's done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

After those cakes are completely cooled, it's time to make the frosting.

Pour 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar into a sifter and sift the sugar into a large bowl and set aside. Sifting the sugar helps to ensure you don't have lumpy frosting.

Put your softened butter and cream cheese into a bowl and get your handy dandy mixer out. Beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until well blended.

Add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then slowly add the confectioner's sugar to taste. Pour in at least a cup or two and then taste it.

If you add to much confectioner's sugar it will be really sweet and you won't really get that cream cheese flavor. Just keep adding and tasting it till it reaches a flavor you like. You want it to be sweet, but not too sweet. I usually taste it and have my kids taste it as well. They are pretty accurate when it comes to the finished product!

Put one cake layer on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a frosting knife or spatula, spread the top with frosting.

Then spread some frosting on the side.

Once you spread the frosting on the top of the first (bottom) layer, its time to place the 2nd layer on top.

I like to the place the top part of the 2nd layer (rounded part) upside down so that the flat side (bottom side) is up. It makes the cake look taller and prettier because you have the natural flat top.

Now, frost away, making sure to spread the frosting around evenly on all sides and to get a nice fluffy layer on top.

Tip: Warm your frosting knife/spatula under hot water then dry. This will help get sides of your cake smooth.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/chocolate-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting/

lacinato kale salad

lacinato kale salad

lacinato kale saladI know this photo is not quote on quote “food porn” quality or pinterest worthy, but I guarantee it’s tastebud worthy.  It’s so tastebud worthy that I was literally licking the bowl after this salad.  I never thought I would be licking the bowl of a kale salad, but I was licking this one, seriously!  Who am I these days?  When did I start getting excited over kale of all things?  You won’t even realize that you’re eating kale as the garlic and lemon take away the bitterness of the kale.  You might surprise yourself and find that you just ate a whole head or two of kale with this salad.  I have friends who have tried this salad and gone from kale haters to kale lovers.  Seriously, it’s that good!

The Marin IJ recently interviewed me and the first question that the interviewer asked me was, “what’s your obsession with kale?”  I laughed because I honestly didn’t think I was obsessed with kale.  I mean I have a few kale recipes posted, but nothing to over the top.  Do six recipes equate a kale obsession?  Maybe they do, but I don’t care.  I would rather be obsessed with kale than obsessed with chocolate, (well, I am a bit obsessed with that as well, but that’s another post).

lacinato kale saladSo, I did the phone interview the other day, and today the photographer is coming over to take the pictures for the paper. He is going to photograph me while I make this salad and my sausage skillet pizza (see photo below). I’m a bit nervous about being photographed cooking as I am not a pretty gal when I am cooking. I get all flustered and crazy messy as I am constantly using my apron and clothes as a towel. This time I have to look pretty and relaxed while cooking. I’m not sure I can pull that off.

DSC_0005-4So let’s get back to this salad.  I made this for lunch on Monday because I had too much birthday cake over the weekend as we celebrated Zoe turning 12.  I wanted to do a mini Monday cleanse, so I made this salad for lunch and then paired it with some of my cauliflower soup for dinner.  I couldn’t have been happier and my body was thanking me for this mini cleanse.

lacinato kale saladThis salad pairs with just about anything because the dressing is so simple. It’s also a great make-ahead salad.  I often make it in the morning and then have some for lunch or dinner that night and the gobble the rest up the next day.  It’s the perfect bring to work salad because it gets better as it sits.  Do you hear this Yvonne?  Here’s a salad you can bring to work!   

Lacinato kale salad:

Recipe adapted from Dr. Weil
Serves 4
  • 1 bunch lacinato/dinosaur kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced 
  • juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons) - use a hand juicer to get the most juice from your lemon .  If your lemon seems extremely juicy, then I would just add 3 tablespoons of juice.  I’ve noticed that in the winter my lemons have been extra juicy and the dressing can be a bit tart with too much lemon.
  • 3  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced –  I always use 3 large cloves
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste 
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese – you can use more or less here or omit it all together, it’s up to you.  I just throw in a handful and call it a day!

A note about purchasing lacinato kale:  Don’t purchase lacinato kale that feels tough and paper-like.  It will not breakdown and thus will not absorb the dressing even when you massage it.  Kale is best when its soft and pliable, (feels like regular lettuce) as it absorbs the dressing and is tender when eaten.
Ok, I thought I would treat you all to some step-by-step photos for de-stemming kale as well as cutting it into thin strips.  Thank you to Cathie for photographing me.
Grab a stalk of freshly washed and dried kale, holding it by the stem with one hand while placing the pointer or middle finger and thumb of your other hand around the stem just above the leaves.  Pull your fingers along the stem, tearing the leaves off.
 See how easily the leaf pulls away from the stem?
Here is how to cut your kale into thin strips.  You can also use this technique for any sort of lettuce and herbs.  Take the kale leaves and lay them on top of one another and then roll them up tightly.  If you’re using curly kale, it’s easier to just tear it apart into small pieces after you de-stem it, as it’s a bit unruly to roll up and cut into thin slices.  
 Take your knife and slice the kale into thin strips until you get to the end.
Aren’t the kale slices so pretty?
Throw your kale slices into a large bowl.
This recipe calls for the juice of one lemon.  Now, if I was to hand squeeze the juice out of a lemon, I would not get ton’s of juice, but when I use my hand juicer below, I get an ample amount of juice. I would highly recommend picking one of these up hand juicers.  You can literally find them anywhere from your local kitchen supple store to your grocery store.
DSC_0968Now lets move onto the dressing.

Whisk together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup the following:

  • juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic - I always use 3 cloves
  • pinch of  fine sea salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch (or more to taste) of red pepper flakes

Make sure to whisk the ingredients together well.

DSC_0050Pour the dressing over the kale and make sure to massage it well so that all the kale absorbs the dressing.  When I say, “massage” your kale, I literally mean, get your hands in there and massage it.

After your kale is well tossed, add the 2/3 cups of  parmesan cheese and toss again.

Let the kale rest for at least 5 minutes to an hour.  This salad can be made hours ahead of time or even the day before.I think my body and taste buds are both thanking me today, as this salad is uber healthy and uber delish! This is such a simple salad but sometimes it’s the simplest things that turn out the best.
If you’re a fan of kale or just want to try more recipes that include kale, then check out my other kale salad recipes.  I also have a post on how to make a mean green” juice without a juicer.  Here’s a post I wrote on how to keep kale and other greens fresh. Check them out!
lacinato kale salad

Rating: 51

Serving Size: 4

lacinato kale salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced - To see step-by-step instructions on how to de-stem and thinly sliced kale click here.
  • juice of 1 lemon (approximately 3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced - I always use 3 large cloves
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese - you can use more or less here or omit it all together, it's up to you. I just throw in a handful and call it a day

Instructions

A note about purchasing lacinato kale: Don't purchase lacinato kale that feels tough and paper-like. It will not breakdown and thus will not absorb the dressing even when you massage it. Kale is best when it’s soft and pliable, (feels like regular lettuce) as it absorbs the dressing and is tender when eaten.

Wash, de-stem and thinly slice your kale. To see step-by-step instructions on how to de-stem and thinly sliced kale click here.

Throw your kale slices into a large bowl.

Whisk together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup the following: juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons), 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2-3 cloves minced garlic, pinch of fine sea salt, pinch of freshly ground black pepper, pinch of red pepper flakes.

Make sure to whisk the ingredients together well.

Pour the dressing over the kale and make sure to massage it well so that all the kale absorbs the dressing. When I say, "massage" your kale, I literally mean, get your hands in there and massage it.

After your kale is massaged, add the 2/3 cups of parmesan cheese and toss again.

Let the kale rest for at least 5 minutes to an hour. This salad can be made hours ahead of time or even the day before.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/lacinato-kale-salad/
Here’s my video tutorial on how to make this salad.  It’s really helpful as it shows you how to de-stem, wash, massage and thinly slice kale.

beer-braised chicken verde tacos

tacos

Let’s talk Mexican!  Who doesn’t love Mexican food? I personally don’t know anyone that isn’t fan of Mexican fare.  Living in the bay area we have access to some amazing Mexican restaurants, and we frequent them quite a bit. I love cooking Mexican at home as well, and have really branched out from just making tacos and burritos. I remember when we first moved to California, 15 years ago, the only Mexican food I ate was a bean, rice and cheese burrito.  I’m so glad I got out of that rut and tried some new and exciting flavors.

My husband introduced me to this recipe.  I saw the title, beer-braised chicken, and thought beer, really John?  Is this something the kids and I are going to eat?  It sounded to me like a “manly meal” not a “family friendly” meal.  I took a bite just to please him and was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed it.  The kids loved it so much that Zoe ate 3 tacos and Eli ate 2 (that’s a big deal for him as he usually eats about 1). You don’t taste the beer in these, in-case there are those of you that are worried about that. The chicken is super moist and really mild in flavor.  Don’t be scared off by all the ingredients. Most of them are just spices that you most likely have lying around the house.

Another great thing about this dish, besides the fact that it tastes great, is that it is a two-nighter meal and it can be made ahead of time.  Who doesn’t love that?  Oh, and it’s a great weeknight meal because it takes about 30 minutes or so to throw together.  

beer-braised chicken verde tacos:

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Mexican issue
serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil - I used olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion – I used a yellow onion
  • 5 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12-ounce bottle Mexican Beer – I used Pacifico 
  • 1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 4oz can diced green chilies – you can always use the fresh stuff
  • 1 4oz can diced jalapeños – you can always use the fresh stuff
  • package of corn tortillas

Make ahead or leftovers?  You can make this chicken verde ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator till needed.  All you have to do to re-heat it is to put the chicken mixture in a saucepan over low heat, and stir occasionally.  The liquid will come out from the chicken and make a sort of sauce for the chicken to simmer in.   

 Let’s prep our ingredients, shall we?
Cut up your onion, combine all your spices and salt into a small bowl (as you will be adding them at the same time), mince up your garlic, wash and prep your chicken (cut off any fatty parts) and open up your canned goods and the beer.
In a 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook and stir for 3 minutes. 
 Add butter, and your spices of cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano & salt.  
Cook and stir until butter melts.
Add beer, fire roasted tomatoes, green chilies and jalapeños.  Bring to a boil.  
Add chicken. Return to a boil and then reduce heat.  
Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, stirring a few times.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken from the cooking liquid to a cutting board.  
Gently boil the cooking liquid, uncovered, for about 10 minutes more or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  
Meanwhile, using two forks, shred up your chicken.  Put shredded chicken into a medium sized bowl.
 Add 1 cup of the reduced cooking juices to the shredded chicken and stir to combine.  
You can use this mixture as a filling for either quesadillas or hard or soft-shelled tacos.  
We chose small soft shelled corn tortillas. 
To warm them up, we wrapped the tortillas in tin foil and cooked them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Insert your favorite taco fixings.  

We love topping ours with shredded red cabbage, queso fresco and lots of cilantro.These tacos are family approved and rated a 10+ in our house.  Whenever I make these, all I hear from the troops is, “thanks for making these mom, they’re so good.”  

sausage & arugula skillet pizza

sausage and arugula skillet pizza

sausage and arugula skillet pizzaTGIF!  It’s almost Friday and that means pizza night around the Grandy house!  Get out your cast iron skillet and let’s cook us up some PIZZA!  Let’s just backtrack here, you’re asking me if I said cast iron skillet, right?  Why yes I did, you are going to cook this pizza in a cast iron skillet.

This is me telling you to go out and purchase yourself a cast iron skillet.  You don’t need to get a fancy name brand one like Le Creuset (those cost $150 and up).  Pick up a Lodge Logic.  The 12-inch skillet is only $29 and the 10-inch is only $20.  Here is a link to Sur La Table where you can check out the pricing and features.  Lodge Logic is the traditional cast iron pan that your grandmother had.  These pans rock and I am cooking everything in my cast iron skillet lately from breads & pizzas to meats.

Lets get back to this pizza.  This pizza is family and kid approved, I mean like totally!  The bottom of the pizza and the crust gets all brown and crispy from cooking in the cast iron pan, the sausage adds a bit of spiciness to the pizza and the homemade sauce is amazing and so fresh tasting.  I am actually going to use this pizza sauce recipe going forward because it’s so easy and so DELISH!  We honestly felt like we were eating at a fancy pizzeria.

The best part of baking the pizza in the cast iron skillet was that I did not have to roll out any dough!  I always hated that part.

sausage and arugula skillet pizza

sausage & arugula skillet pizza:

Makes one 12-inch pizza
There is a printer friendly recipe at the bottom of the post
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages or 6 ounces sweet Italian sausage - see photo below for what I used
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound store bought or homemade pizza dough – I used Trader Joe’s pizza dough  
  • 3 whole peeled canned tomatoes, crushed - I used San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • fresh mozzarella cheese – thinly sliced
  • arugula

Note:  Most store bought pizza dough’s are 1 pound.  You can use the whole pound of pizza dough; I did the first time I made this pizza.  It will be a thicker pizza in general, but it will still taste great.  I used 3/4 pound the next time I made the pizza and it was a bit thinner and less doughy in spots, which I preferred.
I used these classic Italian sausages.  You can honestly use any type of Italian sausages.  These were great as they are nitrate free, raised without antibiotics and with no added hormones.  They were also fully cooked so all I had to do was heat up the meat after I took the meat out of it’s casing.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.   
Remove sausages from their casings.  All you have to do to remove the sausage from it’s casing is to cut a slit down the length of the sausage and then peel it open and remove the sausage.  You are going to literally push and tear it out of it’s casing.  You might have some casing left on the sausage, but it doesn’t matter.
Sauté the sausage over high heat until just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes, breaking it up into bite-size pieces.
DSC_0052
Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to absorb the grease.
Slice up your mozzarella, mince up your garlic & toss up your arugula with a splash of olive oil and set aside.
Put the 3 peeled tomatoes into a small bowl.
 Crush the tomatoes with a fork and your fingers if needed.  Don’t be afraid to get your hands messy.
 Add the 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1-tablespoon olive oil, 1/4-teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the crushed tomatoes, mix them all together.
Brush a 12-inch cast iron skillet with 1-teaspoon olive oil.  Press dough flat in the skillet, spreading to the edge.
John thought it was cool to take an overhead shot of me pressing the dough.  He was aiming the camera in all sorts of directions.  I think this shot below came out sort of cool!
Spread the tomato mixture over the dough.
DSC_0056 DSC_0057
Cook over medium-high heat until the bottom of dough is golden brown.  The recipe called for 3-4 minutes but mine took more like 5 minutes.  We like ours a bit more browned.  To check the dough, just take a spatula and lift up the side of the dough to see the bottom.
Once the pizza crust is browned on the bottom, transfer the pizza to the preheated oven and bake for 3 minutes.
After 3 minutes, remove the pizza from the oven and scatter the mozzarella and sausage on top.  REMEMBER TO WEAR AN OVEN MITT WHEN TOUCHING THE CAST IRON PAN AS ITS HOT!  Pop the pizza back in the oven.
Cook the pizza for about 8-10 more minutes until the edge of the crust is golden brown.
Slide the pizza out of the cast iron skillet onto a cutting board.  Folks, I have had this cast iron pan for 2 months now and it’s virtually non-stick.  My pizza slid right out of the pan when I tipped it to the side, so don’t fret about your crust sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Garnish pizza with the fresh arugula.
Cut into individual slices and serve up with a fresh tossed salad or vegetable of your choice.
sausage and arugula skillet pizza
We liked this pizza so much that my kid’s requested I make it again the next day for lunch!
Needless to say, it was devoured!
If you like skillet pizzas then try my deep-dish pepperoni skillet pizza.
sausage & arugula skillet pizza

sausage & arugula skillet pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet Italian sausages or 6 ounces sweet Italian sausage - see photo below for what I used
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound store bought or homemade pizza dough -I used Trader Joe's pizza dough
  • 3 whole peeled canned tomatoes, crushed - I used San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • fresh mozzarella cheese - thinly sliced
  • arugula

Instructions

Note: Most store bought pizza dough's are 1 pound. You can use the whole pound of pizza dough; I did the first time I made this pizza. It will be a thicker pizza in general, but it will still taste great. I used 3/4 pound the next time I made the pizza and it was a bit thinner and less doughy in spots, which I preferred.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Remove sausages from their casings. All you have to do to remove the sausage from it's casing is to cut a slit down the length of the sausage and then peel it open and remove the sausage. You are going to literally push and tear it out of it's casing. You might have some casing left on the sausage, but it doesn't matter.

Sauté the sausage over high heat until just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes, breaking it up into bite-size pieces.

Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to absorb the grease.

Slice up your mozzarella, mince up your garlic & toss up your arugula with a splash of olive oil and set aside.

Put the 3 peeled tomatoes into a small bowl.

Crush the tomatoes with a fork and your fingers if needed. Don't be afraid to get your hands messy.

Add the 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1-tablespoon olive oil, 1/4-teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the crushed tomatoes, mix them all together.

Brush a 12-inch cast iron skillet with 1-teaspoon olive oil. Press dough flat in the skillet, spreading to the edge.

Spread the tomato mixture over the dough.

Cook over medium-high heat until the bottom of dough is golden brown. The recipe called for 3-4 minutes but mine took more like 5 minutes. We like ours a bit more browned. To check the dough, just take a spatula and lift up the side of the dough to see the bottom.

Once the pizza crust is browned on the bottom, transfer the pizza to the preheated oven and bake for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, remove the pizza from the oven and scatter the mozzarella and sausage on top. REMEMBER TO WEAR AN OVEN MITT WHEN TOUCHING THE CAST IRON PAN AS ITS HOT! Pop the pizza back in the oven.

Cook the pizza for about 8-10 more minutes until the edge of the crust is golden brown.

Slide the pizza out of the cast iron skillet onto a cutting board. Folks, I have had this cast iron pan for 2 months now and it's virtually non-stick. My pizza slid right out of the pan when I tipped it to the side, so don't fret about your crust sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Garnish pizza with the fresh arugula.

Cut into individual slices and serve up with a fresh tossed salad or vegetable of your choice.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/sausage-arugula-skillet-pizza/

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

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.

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!

chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce

chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce
chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauceJohn and I have become huge fans of Mexican cooking since moving out to California 15 years ago.  The Bay area has so many amazing and authentic restaurants to choose from that we rarely cook Mexican at home.  Now that I am blogging about food, I realize that I need to get out of my comfort zone and try some new dishes.  I recently asked a friend what type of dish she would like to see on my blog next, and she said anything Mexican.  So I listened to her request and perused through my stack of cookbooks for some Mexican inspiration.  I stumbled upon this pumpkin enchilada recipe in my Everyday Food cookbook, and since it was fall, I decided to try it.  I love anything with pumpkin and this sauce looked so savory and rich.  I have always had pretty good success with recipes from Every Day Food, so I knew it would turn out decent (fingers crossed).


This dish had since become one of our family’s favorite dinners.  Every time I make it, I get a thumbs up from the family.  The corn tortillas add so much flavor and texture to the dish.  It’s the perfect blend of spices and flavor.  We love serving these alongside a nice big salad, like my kid friendly caesar salad.  

This is also another great make ahead meal.  This dish can be assembled up to 8 hours ahead of time; refrigerate, covered with tin foil or plastic wrap, until ready to bake (add a few minutes to the cooking time).  You can also make the sauce ahead of time and cover and refrigerate it. Cook and shred the chicken and add the scallions and salt to it and refrigerate and cover till you’re ready to assemble the enchiladas.  When its time to then make the enchiladas, all you have to do is warm up the tortillas and assemble the enchiladas.

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chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce:

Recipe from Everyday Food
makes 8 enchiladas

  • 2 decent sized chicken breasts, bone in, skin on or 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 jalapeno chile, quartered, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 3 tablespoons grape seed oil – or another high smoke-point oil such as peanut or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
UPDATE:  I wanted to let you all know that I was at the grocery store today and noticed that the organic pumpkin (shown below ) now comes in BPA free cans!  Yippee!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet.  Rub them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast the breasts for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  I always use my meat thermometer here and take the chicken out when it reaches an internal temperature of 165º.       Want to know a super cool trick for shredding chicken? I learned this step from my good friend Carolyn.  While the chicken breasts are still pretty warm, (you really want them warm to hot for this next step to work) remove the skin from chicken and then using a knife, slice the chicken breast off of the bone.

Get out your kitchen aid mixer, throw the chicken breasts into the bowl and put your paddle attachment on.

DSC_0005Turn the mixer on to speed 4 and in approximately 20 seconds you will have shredded chicken. Super cool right? I didn’t believe it either till I saw it with my own eyes.  See, now you can believe it as well because there’s proof in the below photo.

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Note: The original recipe called for 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken so you can also use that if you wish.  We’re not fans of dark meat in this house, so I always just roast up some breasts when a recipes calls for shredded or cubed chicken.  I learned this trick from the Barefoot.

Note:  For time efficiency, the chicken can be roasted and shredded up ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed.  

Once your chicken has been shredded, it’s time to start assembling the enchiladas. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees for the enchiladas.

As you know, I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time, so lets get prepping!  Slice up your scallions, peel your garlic, chop up your jalapeño chile and grate your fresh cheddar cheese (you can just buy the cheese grated as well).In a blender, add 2 1/2 cups water, the pumpkin puree, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and puree until smooth (hold top firmly as blender will be quite full).

Pour 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a rectangular baking dish.  In a medium bowl, combine the shredded chicken and scallions and season generously with salt and pepper.Now its time to heat up your corn tortillas so they do not break apart while rolling them.  I learned this amazing trick from simply recipes and it works every time.
In a medium sized skillet at medium-high heat add 2-3 tablespoons of grape seed oil.
Add a tortilla to the pan.  Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath.
Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift again, both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath.
Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding a little more oil if needed. This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat. You do this process to develop the flavor of the tortillas. As the tortillas brown a little, remove from the pan one by one to rest on a paper towel, which absorbs any excess fat.
Lay the tortillas on work surface; mound chicken mixture on half of each tortilla, dividing evenly.  Its best to put the chicken to one side of your tortilla and roll it up from there.
Roll it up as you would a sleeping bag.
Roll up each tortilla into a tight log; place seam side down over the sauce in the baking dish.
 Pour the remaining sauce on top.
I didn’t use all of my sauce here as I thought there was too much.
I poured what I thought was enough sauce and then threw away the rest, so just use your judgement here.Finish by topping the enchiladas with the sharp cheddar cheese.Bake the enchiladas uncovered in a 425 degree oven until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.   
DSC_0099 Top your enchilada with a dollop of sour cream and serve with a vegetable of choice or a nice green salad.  I must admit it wasn’t the prettiest dish I’ve ever made, but it sure got rave reviews on the taste, and we ate it happily two nights in a row.Kids and hubby also requested that I make it again, very soon.
Adios Amigos!
chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce

Serving Size: makes 8 enchiladas

chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 decent sized chicken breasts, bone in, skin on or 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 jalapeno chile, quartered, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 3 tablespoons grape seed oil - or another high smoke-point oil such as peanut or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the breasts for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. I always use my meat thermometer here and take the chicken out when it reaches an internal temperature of 165º.

Want to know a super cool trick for shredding chicken? While the chicken breasts are still pretty warm, (you really want them warm to hot for this next step to work) remove the skin from chicken and then using a knife, slice the chicken breast off of the bone.

Get out your kitchen aid mixer, throw the chicken breasts into the bowl and put your paddle attachment on.

Turn the mixer on to speed 4 and in approximately 20 seconds you will have shredded chicken.

Note: The original recipe called for 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken so you can also use that if you wish. We're not fans of dark meat in this house, so I always just roast up some breasts when a recipes calls for shredded or cubed chicken. I learned this trick from the Barefoot.

Note: For time efficiency, the chicken can be roasted and shredded up ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

Once your chicken has been shredded, it's time to start assembling the enchiladas. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees for the enchiladas.

As you know, I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time, so lets get prepping! Slice up your scallions, peel your garlic, chop up your jalapeño chile and grate your fresh cheddar cheese (you can just buy the cheese grated as well).

In a blender, add 2 1/2 cups water, the pumpkin puree, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and puree until smooth (hold top firmly as blender will be quite full).

Pour 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a rectangular baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the shredded chicken and scallions and season generously with salt and pepper.

Now its time to heat up your corn tortillas so they do not break apart while rolling them.

In a medium sized skillet at medium-high heat add 2-3 tablespoons of grape seed oil.

Add a tortilla to the pan. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift again, both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath.

Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding a little more oil if needed. This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat. You do this process to develop the flavor of the tortillas. As the tortillas brown a little, remove from the pan one by one to rest on a paper towel, which absorbs any excess fat.

Lay the tortillas on work surface; mound chicken mixture on half of each tortilla, dividing evenly. Its best to put the chicken to one side of your tortilla and roll it up from there.

Roll it up as you would a sleeping bag. Roll up each tortilla into a tight log; place seam side down over the sauce in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce on top.

I didn't use all of my sauce here as I thought there was too much.I poured what I thought was enough sauce and then threw away the rest, so just use your judgement here.

Finish by topping the enchiladas with the sharp cheddar cheese.

Bake the enchiladas uncovered in a 425 degree oven until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Top your enchilada with a dollop of sour cream and serve with a vegetable of choice or a nice green salad.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/12/chicken-enchiladas-with-pumpkin-sauce/

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

Robert's Absolute Best Brownies (1 of 1)-3
Robert's Absolute Best Brownies
I have searched high and low for a homemade brownie recipe that I like as much as the boxed Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix.  I have tried all sorts of homemade recipes for years and they have never lived up to those boxed brownies.  That is until today!  I found the BEST from scratch recipe thanks to David Lebovitz!  These brownies are dark, oh so dark, rich, moist, and chocolaty.  They are literally a chocolate lovers dream. Be forewarned, they are not your standard cake-like brownie, these are more fudge-like in consistency, but fudge-like in a good way, like a mouthwatering lick your fingers and plate sort of way.

Robert’s absolute best brownies:

Recipe from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

Printer friendly recipe at bottom of post

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped – I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet cacao   
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large (or extra large eggs), at room temperature – FYI, I always use extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose-flour
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips – I used my favorite 60% bittersweet chocolate chips from Ghirardelli 
  • You can also add in chopped walnuts or any nut of your choice – we tend not to add nuts to our sweets as my kiddos are not fans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the inside of an 8-inch (I used my 8-inch glass baking dish) or 9-inch square baking pan with 2 lengths of foil or parchment paper, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan.  Then lightly butter the foil or parchment paper.  I always butter the bottom piece so that the top piece sticks to it.  
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Chop up and measure out your dark chocolate.  I love using these Ghirardelli bars because they are each 4oz (8oz total) so I do not have to measure anything.
These bars are also thin enough to break apart with my hand so I don’t have to actually chop them up with a knife. I break them apart in little pieces (I’m strong like bull) right over the heatproof bowl that I’m going to melt the butter and chocolate in (I do this before I set the bowl over the simmering water). It saves me a cutting board and knife to clean up. If you don’t have thin chocolate bars like these, then chop up your chocolate using a serrated knife. 
Tip: I always place some parchment paper on top of my cutting board when chopping up chocolate as it helps make clean up easier and you can always just lift and pour those small pieces of chocolate into your pan.  It’s easiest to chop chocolate with a serrated knife.
 Placed the chopped chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, (make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until melted and smooth.
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DSC_0010Immediately remove the chocolate from the heat and pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl (unless the bowl you’re using to melt the chocolate in is large).  Make sure you use a spatula here so you can get all the chocolate goodness into the bowl.
Add the 3/4 cup sugar and the 1 teaspoon vanilla to the melted chocolate and mix until combined.
 Using a whisk, add in the eggs 1 at a time until combined.
Add the flour and stir the batter energetically for 1 minute until the batter loses it graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the bowl. The batter will also lighten up a bit in color.
Note: This is a very important step!!  Make sure that your stir vigorously for 1 full minute or a bit more.  I suggest timing yourself as I did (see photo below).  By doing this step you will end up with a batter that’s rich, thick, satiny smooth, and glossy as can be and brownies that are rich and fudge-like.  
See, I really timed myself.  I’m going to warn you that you are going to have one tired arm after stirring vigorously for a minute, believe me!
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Using a spatula, gently fold in your chocolate chips.
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Scrape the batter into the prepared pan using a spatula to make it even.
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Bake until the center feels almost set and the edges are a bit firm, about 30-35 minutes.  Do not over bake.  In my oven, my brownies are done around 32-33 minutes. Note:  Ovens vary in temperature and baking times, so get to know your oven and know how long it takes to bake things.  If your oven tends to cook things faster, then check it before 30 minutes etc. 
 The first time I baked these, I honestly thought they were underdone, but that is the way they are supposed to be. They’re truly more of a fudge-like brownie than cake-like one.  They will also firm up as they sit and cool.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan (about an hour or so) before lifting the foil or parchment paper and the block of brownies out of the pan. Peel the parchment paper and cut the brownies into squares and store them in a sealed container.See how rich and gooey they are?  Serve these up with a tall glass of milk and make sure you have a napkin handy.These brownies are finger and plate licking good!

I’ve made these brownies better by adding carmel and sea salt.  You have to try these salted caramel brownies.

salted caramel brownies

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped - I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet cacao
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large (or extra large eggs), at room temperature - FYI, I always use extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose-flour
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips - I used my favorite 60% bittersweet chocolate chips from Ghirardelli
  • You can also add in chopped walnuts or any nut of your choice - we tend not to add nuts to our sweets as my kiddos are not fans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the inside of an 8-inch (I used my 8-inch glass baking dish) or 9-inch square baking pan with 2 lengths of foil or parchment paper, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan. Then lightly butter the foil or parchment paper. I always butter the bottom piece so that the top piece sticks to it.

Chop up and measure out your dark chocolate. I love using these Ghirardelli bars because they are each 4oz (8oz total) so I do not have to measure anything.

These bars are also thin enough to break apart with my hand so I don’t have to actually chop them up with a knife. I break them apart in little pieces right over the heatproof bowl that I’m going to melt the butter and chocolate in (I do this before I set the bowl over the simmering water). It saves me a cutting board and knife to clean up. If you don’t have thin chocolate bars like these, then chop up your chocolate using a serrated knife.

Tip: I always place some parchment paper on top of my cutting board when chopping up chocolate as it helps make clean up easier and you can always just lift and pour those small pieces of chocolate into your pan. It's easiest to chop chocolate with a serrated knife.

Placed the chopped chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, (make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until melted and smooth.

Immediately remove the chocolate from the heat and pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl (unless the bowl you're using to melt the chocolate in is large enough). Make sure you use a spatula here so you can get all the chocolate goodness into the bowl.

Add the 3/4 cup sugar and the 1 teaspoon vanilla to the melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Using a whisk, add in the eggs 1 at a time until combined.

Add the flour and stir the batter energetically for 1 minute until the batter loses it graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the bowl. The batter will also lighten up a bit in color.

Note: This is a very important step!! Make sure that your stir vigorously for 1 full minute or a bit more. I suggest timing yourself. By doing this step you will end up with a batter that's rich, thick, satiny smooth, and glossy as can be and brownies that are rich and fudge-like. I'm going to warn you that you are going to have one tired arm after stirring vigorously for a minute, believe me!

Using a spatula, gently fold in your chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan using a spatula to make it even.Bake until the center feels almost set and the edges are a bit firm, about 30-35 minutes. In my oven, my brownies are done around 32-33 minutes. Do not over bake.

Note: Ovens vary in temperature and baking times, so get to know your oven and know how long it takes to bake things. If your oven tends to cook things faster, then check it before 30 minutes etc.

The first time I baked these, I honestly thought they were underdone, but that is the way they are supposed to be. They're truly more of a fudge-like brownie than cake-like one. They will also firm up as they sit and cool.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan (about an hour or so) before lifting the foil or parchment paper and the block of brownies out of the pan.

Peel down the parchment paper and cut the brownies into squares and store them in a sealed container.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/12/roberts-absolute-best-brownies/

Chicken Parmesan

chicken parmesan

chicken parmesanMoms, here’s a wonderful and classic meal that is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.  I tend to make this meal when I know were going to have a crazy filled week.  It’s one of those make ahead meals that re-heats extremely well.  I always whip this up when the kids are at school and I can blast my iPod and sing while cooking away.

I have been making this dish for a long time.  Quite frankly, this was the dish that I made for all of my college and post college boyfriends when I wanted to impress them.  Everyone that eats this, literally loves it.  It’s pure comfort food.

chicken parmesan

Chicken Parmesan:

  • Italian style breadcrumbs 
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (halved horizontally) and pounded – Tip:  If you shop at a grocery store with a butcher, have them cut and pound the chicken for you, as it will save you time and a big mess.
  • 2 large eggs – lightly beaten
  • 1-2 jars of your favorite tomato sauce or  2-3 cups of homemade sauce - It really depends on how many chicken breasts you use and how much sauce you like. 
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices or you can use shredded mozzarella cheese
  • flour

I usually get 3 chicken breasts that are halved and pounded (giving me 6 large cutlets) because I want dinner for 2 nights.  If you just want this for just one night, then get 2 chicken breasts.

It takes 1.5 jars of sauce to coat the bottom of the two pans below.  

I used a 9×13 pan and a 8×8 pan. Spread the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 or large lasagna style baking dish (if you’re making a double batch like me, then coat another small pan with some sauce as well).    

Get out 3 shallow bowls.  Put some flour in the first bowl, beat 2 eggs in the second bowl and mix together your breadcrumbs and some freshly grated parmesan cheese in the third bowl (that third bowl has a cutlet in it, so that’s why it looks a bit strange).  

Note:  I like mixing italian style breadcrumbs with some panko breadcrumbs to get a bit more crunch.    Dip the chicken in the flour, then dip it in the eggs and then dredge it in breadcrumb parmesan mixture, turning to coat both sides.   Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet (non-stick preferably if you have one) over medium heat.  

Note: You’re going to use a lot of olive oil here if you have a regular skillet.  A non-stick skillet or a cast-iron pan is recommend when making chicken cutlets because you use less oil and the breadcrumbs will not stick to the pan.
While your olive oil is heating up, grab a plate and put some paper towels on it.  You will use this to pat your chicken with after it has been sautéed.
Tip:  Whenever I fry something on the stove I take off all of the burners (besides the one that is being used). This helps with clean up, as I just have to wipe down the stove and not the burners.Place 1 to 2 chicken cutlets in your skillet; cook until golden brown on each side.  

I’m not giving any time estimates here because the cooking time will depend on the thickness of you chicken cutlet.  I usually pull them out when I see that the chicken is no longer pink on the inside.

Tip: I also use a meat thermometer to test the doneness of the chicken.  I take the chicken off when the internal temp is at or close to 165 degrees.  Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken to the plate with the paper towels and pat the cutlet to get rid of the excess oil.  You’ll want to use fresh paper towels with each cutlet.  Transfer the chicken cutlet to your baking dish, placing it on top of the sauce. Repeat this process with your remaining cutlets.

Turn on your broiler. Thinly slice up your mozzarella cheese and top each chicken cutlet with a slice or two (or three)!  We like our mozzarella so I put plenty on.Broil uncovered, about 6-8 inches from heat source until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melted and lightly browned in spots, 5 to 8 minutes.  Serve immediately, or if you’re making this meal ahead of time, let it cool a bit on the stove and then cover tightly with tin foil and place in the refrigerator till later.  

To re-heat it; cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the chicken is warmed through.

chicken parmesanPair this with a vegetable of choice or a fresh salad and some crispy garlic bread.  

To make this a two-nighter meal, you can top the chicken on a bed of spaghetti or get some french bread, broil it and make some chicken parmesan subs.  
Delish!

Chicken Parmesan

Rating: 51

Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients

  • Italian style breadcrumbs
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (halved horizontally) and pounded - Tip: If you shop at a grocery store with a butcher, have them cut and pound the chicken for you, as it will save you time and a big mess.
  • 2 large eggs - lightly beaten
  • 1-2 jars of your favorite tomato sauce or 2-3 cups of homemade sauce - It really depends on how many chicken breasts you use and how much sauce you like.
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • flour

Instructions

I usually get 3 chicken breasts that are halved and pounded (giving me 6 large cutlets) because I want dinner for 2 nights. If you just want this for just one night, then get 2 chicken breasts.

When I'm making this for 2 nights, I typically use a 9x13 pan and a 8x8 pan and it takes 1.5 jars of sauce to cover the bottom of the two pans. Spread the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 or large lasagna style baking dish (if you're making a double batch like me, then coat another small pan with some sauce as well).

Get out 3 shallow bowls. Put some flour in the first bowl.

Beat 2 eggs in the second bowl.

Mix together your breadcrumbs and some freshly grated parmesan cheese in the third bowl.

Note: I like mixing italian style breadcrumbs with some panko breadcrumbs to get a bit more crunch.

Dip the chicken in the flour, then dip it in the eggs and then dredge it in breadcrumb parmesan mixture, turning to coat both sides.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet (non-stick preferably if you have one) over medium heat.

Note: You're going to use a lot of olive oil here if you have a regular skillet. A non-stick skillet or a cast-iron pan is recommend when making chicken cutlets because you use less oil and the breadcrumbs will not stick to the pan.

While your olive oil is heating up, grab a plate and put some paper towels on it. You will use this to pat your chicken with after it has been sautéed.

Tip: Whenever I fry something on the stove I take off all of the burners (besides the one that is being used). This helps with clean up, as I just have to wipe down the stove and not the burners.

Place 1 to 2 chicken cutlets in your skillet; cook until golden brown on each side.

I'm not giving any time estimates here because the cooking time will depend on the thickness of you chicken cutlet. I usually pull them out when I see that the chicken is no longer pink on the inside.

Tip: I also use a meat thermometer to test the doneness of the chicken. I take the chicken off when the internal temp is at or close to 165 degrees.

Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken to the plate with the paper towels and pat the cutlet to get rid of the excess oil. You'll want to use fresh paper towels with each cutlet.

Transfer the chicken cutlet to your baking dish, placing it on top of the sauce. Repeat this process with your remaining cutlets.

Turn on your broiler. Thinly slice up your mozzarella cheese and top each chicken cutlet with a slice or two (or three)! We like our mozzarella so I put plenty on.

Broil uncovered, about 6-8 inches from heat source until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melted and lightly browned in spots, 5 to 8 minutes.

Serve immediately, or if you're making this meal ahead of time, let it cool a bit on the stove and then cover tightly with tin foil and place in the refrigerator till later.

To re-heat it; cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the chicken is warmed through.

Pair this with a vegetable of choice or a fresh salad and some crispy garlic bread.

To make this a two-nighter meal, you can top the chicken on a bed of spaghetti or get some french bread, broil it and make some chicken parmesan subs.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/12/chicken-parmesan/

sugar-crusted popovers

sugar-crusted popovers
Set your weary eyes on these puppies.  Amazing!  They taste as good as they look, or should I say better than they look, as they look kind of weird.  These popovers are crusty on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside.  This popover is more like a breakfast treat or it can even be qualified as a dessert.  It’s a cross between cinnamon toast, a sugar and cinnamon donut and a popover.  
 

I came across this recipe at the hair salon, of all places, while my highlights were processing.  I had 20 minutes to kill, so I started pursuing my iPad for some fun popover recipes I could try, when I stumbled across this page:

Wow, are you salivating like I was just looking at this photo?  I was pretty hungry at this point or maybe it was the fumes from the highlight that were making me crave sugar, but whatever it was, I knew these popovers were going to play a part in my afternoon plans.
 
I wanted to make them fresh for the kid’s after school snack!  Snack time is an important time in the Grandy house as my kids come home from school with hefty appetites.  I had a feeling that this popover recipe would satisfy them plenty.  I mean who wouldn’t like a sugary and doughy snack on a Friday afternoon?  We loved these so much that I am making them again on Sunday morning before we go and pick up our Christmas tree.  I hope you will be making these as well!

Note:  These popovers, as all popovers, are best when served fresh and warm.  If you have leftovers, store them in a container overnight and then re-heat them in the morning in a 250 degree oven till they warm up.  I re-heated the kid’s popovers this morning and they still loved them, but they are so much better the day of.  I topped them with some fresh cinnamon/sugar mixture after they came out of the oven to freshen them up a bit.sugar-crusted popovers

sugar-crusted popovers:

Recipe from David Lebovitz
Makes 6 regular popovers and 9 muffin tin popovers
for the popovers:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature – I always use extra large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup flour

for the sugar coating:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and liberally butter a popover pan.  If you don’t have a popover pan, no worries, you can use a standard muffin tin with 1/2 cup indentations.  
Note: You will want to heavily butter your pan, even if it’s a non-stick popover pan, otherwise the popovers will stick and be hard to get out.

Get your blender out and put in the following, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 
and blend for a few seconds.  
DON’T ADD THE FLOUR YET!
Add the 1 cup flour and blend for about 10 seconds, just until smooth.  
 

Pour the batter into the popover cups filling them 1/2 to 2/3rds full.  If you’re using a muffin tin then divide the batter among the 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3rds full.  

I love this grand popover pan from Nordic Ware.  It may cost more than the normal popover pan, but it makes the perfect popover and they don’t stick to the pan. The pan is made of cast  iron, so it cooks up the popovers evenly.  I’ve had mine for 3 years now and I use it at least once a week, if not more, and it’s still looks brand new.   If you find yourself making popovers quite often, then I would invest in a good quality popover pan.  For  those of you that are local, Sur La Table carries this brand.Put your popovers into the oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the popovers are deep brown.  You can turn on your oven’s light to see the transformation, but do not open the oven door during baking, as this will cause the popovers to deflate. I baked mine exactly 35 minutes and they were perfection.  

While the popovers are baking you can prepare your sugar & cinnamon mixture.  Just combine the 2/3 cup of sugar with the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a large shallow bowl and whisk the two together.  Cut the butter into small pieces, so it melts faster, and set it in a ramekin or small bowl.  Set these both aside until the popovers come out of the oven.
Remove the popovers from the oven, wait a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle, then remove them from the pans and set them on a cooling rack.  
This is what the popovers looked like when I pulled them out of the oven.  They’re all twisty and funky looking.   Looks can be deceiving though as they were crunchy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside.
Now is the time to melt your butter.  Just stick the bowl in the microwave and melt away.  Once the butter is melted, you can start the buttering process.  Just grab a popover and brush it all over with the butter.  Make sure to get in all those nooks and crannies.
Next, dredge your buttered popover into the sugar and cinnamon mixture, making sure to get in all those nooks and crannies.  
Once all of your popovers are covered in sugar, let them cool on a wire rack.  If your kids are home or you’re serving these for breakfast, then by all means put them immediately on a plate and dig in.  

 As you can see, they were devoured in a matter of seconds.  I did not even get a word in from them until they were finished.  I actually think Eli ate his in one bite. 
Check out that happy kid!
Here are the four remaining popovers cooling on the rack.  John ate his before dinner and I had mine for dessert. We saved the other two for the kid’s breakfast this morning.sugar-crusted popovers
Now that I am looking at these, they kind of look like fried dough but without all the grease that comes with frying!  BONUS!
Come on and give these a shot at your next weekend breakfast.  Move away from the familiar pancakes and waffles and take a walk on the wild side!  
sugar-crusted popovers

Rating: 51

sugar-crusted popovers

Ingredients

    for the popovers:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature - I always use extra large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • for the sugar coating:
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and liberally butter a popover pan. If you don't have a popover pan, no worries, you can use a standard muffin tin with 1/2 cup indentations.

Note: You will want to heavily butter your pan, even if it's a non-stick popover pan, otherwise the popovers will stick and be hard to get out.

Get your blender out and put in the following, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and blend for a few seconds.

DON'T ADD THE FLOUR YET!

Add the 1 cup flour and blend for about 10 seconds, just until smooth.

Pour the batter into the popover cups filling them 1/2 to 2/3rds full.

If you're using a muffin tin then divide the batter among the 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3rds full.

Put your popovers into the oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the popovers are deep brown. You can turn on your oven’s light to see the transformation, but do not open the oven door during baking, as this will cause the popovers to deflate. I baked mine exactly 35 minutes and they were perfection.

While the popovers are baking you can prepare your sugar & cinnamon mixture. Just combine the 2/3 cup of sugar with the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a large shallow bowl and whisk the two together. Cut the butter into small pieces, so it melts faster, and set it in a ramekin or small bowl.

Set these both aside until the popovers come out of the oven.

Remove the popovers from the oven, wait a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle, then remove them from the pans and set them on a cooling rack.

Now is the time to melt your butter. Just stick the bowl in the microwave and melt away. Once the butter is melted, you can start the buttering process.

Just grab a popover and brush it all over with the butter. Make sure to get in all those nooks and crannies.

Next, dredge your buttered popover into the sugar and cinnamon mixture, making sure to get in all those nooks and crannies.

Once all of your popovers are covered in sugar, let them cool on a wire rack. If your kids are home or you're serving these for breakfast, then by all means put them immediately on a plate and dig in.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/12/sugar-crusted-popovers/

orecchiette pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe

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DSC_0003-3First off, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you that are viewing my blog and making some of my recipes.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when a close friend, stranger or mom at school comes up to me and tells me that they are making one of the recipes from my blog that night. I love hearing their comments on how much their family enjoyed the recipe or how easy it was to make.  

The biggest request I keep getting from people is to keep posting more yummy & easy weeknight dinners.  Dinner is the one meal that people struggle with. I get it, we’re all busy running around all day and to have that nagging “what to make for dinner” question hanging over our heads is not fun!  

Well, I’ve got you covered for dinner tonight. I have whipped up an easy, family approved one-bowl pasta dish.  This pasta is one of those pantry pastas that I cook quite often because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand expect for the fresh broccoli rabe. 

Below are the 6 ingredients you will need in addition to some fresh olive oil.

DSC_0003

orecchiette pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe:

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 1 to 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems trimmed – You can also use baby broccoli or broccolini 
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 italian sausage links, casings removed or 3/4 pound of ground sausage – I used classic italian style sausages
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes – I used a bit more than a pinch of red pepper and it was spicy in a good way, but not too spicy for the kids
  • freshly shedded Parmesan cheese

Let’s prep the ingredients.  Wash and trim up the broccoli rabe, remove the sausage from it’s casings and mince up your garlic cloves.  

DSC_0009Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the broccoli rabe during the last minute of cooking time.  I loved this step because it was all done in one pot at the same time!  How efficient!  Drain both the pasta and broccoli rabe together.

DSC_0016Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and then add the sausage.  DSC_0001-2Cook the sausage breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned and juices form.

DSC_0006-2Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

DSC_0008-2Add the drained pasta and broccoli rabe to the pan with the sausage mixture and toss to coat with the juices. 

DSC_0034Serve up the pasta into individual bowls.  Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.  Top each bowl with a nice heaping of fresh Parmesan and some fresh ground pepper for the adults! 

My kids and hubby loved this dish. They all rated it a 10!  I hope that your family enjoys this easy weeknight pantry pasta!

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

green bean and shallot ravioli

green bean and shallot ravioliI saw this recipe in the November issue of Whole Living Magazine and I knew I had to make it.  I mean I was literally salivating over this recipe and 5 others.  These recipes were shown as Thanksgiving side dishes for vegans and vegetarians.  I thought to myself as I was staring longingly at the photos, when did I start getting excited over vegetable dishes?  Who is this girl?  I use to get excited over a juicy burger, fries or any sort of sweet, (well, I still get excited over sweets) but vegetables?  This is all recent and very strange for me.  I’m honestly considering becoming a vegetarian.  I would prefer a beautiful homemade (not those frozen things) veggie burger to a beef or turkey burger any day. I’m more excited to eat the veggies that I am going to prepare for Thanksgiving than the actual turkey.  My taste buds are definitely changing, maybe its California and that fact that the produce here is so unbelievably fresh and delicious.One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s another easy pantry pasta.  All I had to purchase was the green beans, as I had some shallots, almonds and ravioli at home and I grabbed a fresh lemon from our lemon tree.  I’m finding that if you keep a well stocked pantry, all you need to do is run out for the fresh vegetables. Onions, shallots, nuts, squashes and pastas keep for some time, so stock your pantry with them and you will always have them on hand when your inspired to create a yummy last minute recipe. If green beans aren’t in season, no worries, you can substitute broccoli rabe instead.DSC_0018Eli and Zoe rated this dish a 10+++.  John and I literally devoured it, so it ranked high with us as well. This is definitely a recipe that is going to be made again and again in our house. Moms, this is an easy throw together pasta for those busy weeknights.green bean and shallot ravioli

 green bean and shallot ravioli:

  • 1 large bunch of green beans, trimmed - We like our veggies, so I grab a hefty bunch. If green beans aren’t in season, feel free to substitute broccoli rabe/baby broccoli
  • 1 bag (22oz) of frozen ravioli - I get the Whole Foods ravioli as it’s just $2.99 a bag, what a steal!
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted – I just throw in a big old handful and call it a day.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
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 almondsNext wash up and trim those green beans. Aren’t they just beautiful?  They’re so vibrant and green.  I tell you, mother nature makes the most beautiful food.Peel and slice your shallots into thin slices, set aside.  Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.Throw the beans into the salted and boiling water, (you’re basically blanching them) and cook the beans until just tender 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your green beans). I always cook my beans for exactly 3 minutes and they are perfect!   If you’re using broccoli rabe, then you will only want to cook it for 1 minute.  

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 the beans with either a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking of the beans.Drain the beans, dry them off, and then set them aside.  

  Add the ravioli to the cooking water, (the same water that you used for the green beans) and cook according to package directions.  Drain and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the green beans, ravioli and almonds to your pan and toss to coat. I like to turn the heat down to low and cook the ravioli for a minute or two so that it browns up a bit. Turn off the heat, take your lemon half, and squeeze the juice over the pasta.  Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and add some fresh shredded parmesan.  Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.  

green bean and shallot ravioliThis is a wonderful one-bowl meal your whole family will enjoy! 

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

Rating: 51

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of green beans, trimmed - We like our veggies, so I grab a hefty bunch. If green beans aren't in season, feel free to substitute broccoli rabe.
  • 1 bag (22oz) of frozen ravioli - I get the Whole Foods ravioli as it's just $2.99 a bag.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted - I just throw in a big old handful and call it a day.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions

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.

Next wash up and trim those green beans.

Peel and slice your shallots into thin slices, set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.Throw the beans into the salted and boiling water, (you're basically blanching them) and cook the beans until just tender 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your green beans). I always cook my beans for exactly 3 minutes and they are perfect! If you're using broccoli rabe, then you will only want to cook it for 1 minute.

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable. There's only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.

Transfer the beans with either a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking of the beans. Drain the beans, dry them off, and then set them aside.

Add the ravioli to the cooking water, (the same water that you used for the green beans) and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the green beans, ravioli and almonds to your pan and toss to coat. I like to turn the heat down to low and cook the ravioli for a minute or two so that it browns up a bit.

Turn off the heat,take your lemon half, and squeeze the juice over the pasta.

Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and add some fresh shredded parmesan. Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/green-bean-and-shallot-ravioli/

Penne a la Vodka

penne a la vodka
penne a la vodka

OK, we turned back the clocks yesterday and we had our first California rain on Saturday.  In my book that means it’s officially fall and time to start breaking out our favorite comfort foods. Here’s a pasta staple at our house, Penne a la Vodka!  This dish is a classic in my book and it’s SO delicious. The best part about this recipe is that I usually have everything on hand to make it, which makes it an easy dinner fill in.  Make sure you serve this up with some warm crusty bread to soak up all that yummy sauce.  This pasta tastes even better the next day as the penne soaks up all the sauce overnight.  

Penne a la Vodka:

serves 4-6
recipe from from Rachel Ray

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 16-ounces (1 box) pasta, such as penne rigate or any curly type of pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh basil, shredded or torn 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients, measure out your vodka, chicken stock and heavy cream. Mince the garlic cloves and the shallot.

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 Add the oil, butter, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat. 

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Gently sauté the garlic and shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes, (or until they start feeling soft) to develop the shallot’s sweetness.

DSC_0012-2Add your 3/4 cup vodka to the pan.

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Reduce the vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes or longer.  Note: The first time I made this sauce I went by the time estimate and did not really check to make sure the vodka was reduced.  Well, you can guess, my sauce tasted like vodka and I had to throw it away.  So please make sure you reduce it by half.  

TIP:  To make sure the vodka is reduced by half other than looking at it, just smell it and if you smell vodka, then it needs to be reduced a bit more. You want to smell the shallots, garlic and butter, not the vodka.

DSC_0029-2Once the vodka is reduced, add in the 1 cup chicken stock and the can of tomatoes.  Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to thicken it up a bit.

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While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in the salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it).  Drain pasta and then return pasta to pot.  

 After the sauce simmers and the pasta is finished cooking, stir the 1/2 cup cream. 

DSC_0041-2Let the sauce return to a boil and then immediately remove it from heat.  It’s not the prettiest looking sauce, but it tastes great!

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Add your sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. 

DSC_0049-2Serve up a heaping amount of pasta into each bowl.  Add your fresh basil and Parmesan and enjoy! 

DSC_0060-2-2I hope this pasta becomes a staple in your house!

Penne a la Vodka

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 4-6

Penne a la Vodka

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 16-ounces (1 box) pasta, such as penne rigate or any curly type of pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh basil, shredded or torn

Instructions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients, measure out your vodka, chicken stock and heavy cream. Mince the garlic cloves and the shallot.

Add the oil, butter, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat.

Gently sauté the garlic and shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes, (or until they start feeling soft) to develop the shallot's sweetness.

Add your 3/4 cup vodka to the pan.

Reduce the vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes or longer. Note: The first time I made this sauce I went by the time estimate and did not really check to make sure the vodka was reduced. Well, you can guess, my sauce tasted like vodka and I had to throw it away. So please make sure you reduce it by half.

TIP: To make sure the vodka is reduced by half other than looking at it, just smell it and if you smell vodka, then it needs to be reduced a bit more. You want to smell the shallots, garlic and butter, not the vodka.

Once the vodka is reduced, add in the 1 cup chicken stock and the can of tomatoes.

Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to thicken it up a bit.

While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in the salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). Drain pasta and then return pasta to pot.

After the sauce simmers and the pasta is finished cooking, stir the 1/2 cup cream.

Let the sauce return to a boil and then immediately remove it from heat.

Add your sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.

Serve up a heaping amount of pasta into each bowl.

Add your fresh basil and Parmesan and enjoy!

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/penne-a-la-vodka/

the best chocolate chip cookies

The best chocolate chip cookies
The best chocolate chip cookies
These are the best chocolate chip cookies folks, seriously, you do not need to look any further. This recipe came from Cooks Illustrated so you know it has been tried, tested and approved. These cookies have also been tried, tested and approved in my house as well as many of my friend’s houses, and they are always declared by all as the “best chocolate chip cookie.” I bake these up all the time for bake sales, classroom birthday parties, but I mostly bake them for pure pleasure because they are just so darn good.  These cookies have crunchy edges, chewy centers and there are chips in every bite. They’re the perfect afternoon craving throw together at the last minute cookie because you don’t have to plan ahead and bring any of the ingredients to room temperature first. Just grab everything out of the pantry and fridge, mix it together, drop some cookies on a baking sheet and bake away. There’s no need to write more, you just have to trust me and make some up.
the best chocolate chip cookies

the best chocolate chip cookies:

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 21-24 cookies using a 1 3/4″ ice cream scooper

  • 1  3/4 cups all purpose flour – I use King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar adds more flavor) – Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry.  I like and use the brand, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Dark Brown Sugar, as well as the Whole Food’s organic brown sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg – The recipe doesn’t call for the eggs to be at room temp, but if I know I’m making them up ahead of time, I will take them out a bit beforehand.
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 bag (10-ounces) of chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% cacao) – I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.

 I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so when I have to add them they are ready to go.

Adjust rack (or racks if you have 2 ovens) to middle position and preheat oven/ovens to 375 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crack your egg over a small bowl using an egg separator or your hand to separate the egg yolk.  Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.  Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, the 3/4 cup brown sugar and the teaspoon salt together in small bowl and set aside.  Divide up the butter, put 10 tablespoons into a 10-inch skillet.

 Note:  Avoid using a non-stick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gage when the butter is browned. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into a large heatproof bowl.

I recommend cutting up the butter once its divided, so it melts easier.
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 Heat the 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to the heatproof bowl that holds the 4 tablespoons of butter.  Stir the butter together until completely melted.
DSC_0022Add the sugar and salt mixture plus the 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.
DSC_0025Add in the egg and the yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.
*Chocolate lovers addition! I wanted to share with you all an adaption that my little 8-year old friend Tatum did!  Tatum is a chocolate lover, so she decided to add 1/4 cup of melted chocolate chips to the batter at this point.  She just melted 1/4 semi-sweet chips (or you can use bittersweet chips) and added it to the batter, making an even more chocolately cookie!   I sampled a few of her cookies, and they were super yummy!  Thanks Tate, you’re truly a chef in the making!  
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Repeat process of resting and whisking 2-3 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  NOTE: This whisking and waiting time is an important step and really makes a difference with the texture of the cookies.
The brown sugar mixture will thicken and lighten up as you whisk it and let it rest.
Note:  Your batter may not look as thick as my batter in the below photo, but it should still thicken up.
DSC_0029Using rubber spatula or whisk, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips, (you can even be sneaky and add in a couple handfuls of M&M’s as my little friend Mattie likes to) giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.  At this point, I  put my batter into the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, as it can sometimes be too soft to handle.  A note about chocolate chips, my family prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so we use these Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.  They are amazing, and they do say that dark chocolate is good for you, so that may help take some of the guilt away.  Try them in your next recipe that calls for chocolate chips. Divide dough into 8 portions per cookie sheet.  I use my handy dandy ice-cream scooper here.

The ice cream scooper I used is 1 3/4″.  If I use my 2″ scooper than I get 16 cookies per batch.  Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You will have 8 dough balls per sheet. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time (or both trays if you have a double oven) until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes.  You will want to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking (after 5 minutes).

In my oven the total cooking time is about 10 minutes.

Note:  They may look under baked in the center but don’t fret, they will brown and firm up once they are out of the oven.Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. We always have a cookie when they are still warm and the chocolate chips are gooey!  Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert or snack!

The best chocolate chip cookiesI just recently took this recipe and threw it all into a 12-inch cast iron skillet to make the best chocolate chip skillet cookie.  So, if you’re looking to make up a “big” cookie then give this skillet cookie a try.

the best chocolate chip skillet cookie

the best chocolate chip cookies

Rating: 51

Yield: makes 21-24 cookies

the best chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour - I use King Arthur's unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar adds more flavor) - Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. I like and use the brand, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Dark Brown Sugar, as well as the Whole Food's organic brown sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg - The recipe doesn't call for the eggs to be at room temp, but if I know I'm making them up ahead of time, I will take them out a bit beforehand.
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 bag (10-ounces) of chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% cacao) - I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Instructions

I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so when I have to add them they are ready to go.

Adjust rack (or racks if you have 2 ovens) to middle position and preheat oven/ovens to 375 degrees.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crack your egg over a small bowl using an egg separator or your hand to separate the egg yolk. Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.

Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, the 3/4 cup brown sugar and the teaspoon salt together in small bowl and set aside.

Divide up the butter, put 10 tablespoons into a 10-inch skillet.

Note: Avoid using a non-stick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gage when the butter is browned.

Put the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into a large heatproof bowl. I recommend cutting up the butter once its divided, so it melts easier.

Heat the 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to the heatproof bowl that holds the 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir the butter together until completely melted.

Add the sugar and salt mixture plus the 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.

Add in the egg and the yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.

Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2-3 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. NOTE: This whisking and waiting time is an important step and really makes a difference with the texture of the cookies.

Note: The brown sugar mixture will lighten up and thicken as you whisk it and let it rest.

Using rubber spatula or whisk, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips, giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain. At this point, I put my batter into the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, as it can sometimes be too soft to handle.

Divide dough into 8 portions per cookie sheet. I use my handy dandy ice-cream scooper here.

The ice cream scooper I used is 1 3/4". If I use my 2" scooper than I get 16 cookies per batch. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You will have 8 dough balls per sheet.

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time (or both trays if you have a double oven) until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes. You will want to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking (after 5 minutes).

In my oven the total cooking time is about 10 minutes.

Note: They may look under baked in the center but don't fret, they will brown and firm up once they are out of the oven.

Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. We always have a cookie when they are still warm and the chocolate chips are gooey! Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert or snack!

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/the-best-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt bread

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt breadI don’t know about you, but when my kids come home from school, they are HUNGRY! The first words out of their mouths are, “Hi mom, what’s for snack?”  I get it, they’re growing and had lunch a couple of hours ago, and so they need some fuel!  When Zoe gets home and smells something baking in the oven, she does her leap of joy and yells a big “Yippee!”  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Here’s a great fall afternoon snack, or anytime of the year snack.  It almost qualifies as a dessert, it’s that yummy.  I serve this up for the kids with a tall glass of milk, and after its devoured, I get that sigh of contentment and the rubbing of the belly!  I made a few variations to the original recipe to make it healthier.  The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. I’ve replaced it with 1/4 virgin coconut oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.  I’ve also tried it using 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened applause. I’ve also added in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt at times to give it a bit more moisture.  All 3 variations have been wonderful,  so play with this bread and make it your own, and let me know your favorite way to enjoy it!  chocolate chip pumpkin bundt bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread:

If you want to add a bit more moisture to this bread, then you can add in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt to the wet ingredients.
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree – my favorite brand is Farmers Organic Pumpkin and I love that the cans are BPA free.  
  • 1/4 cup fresh-pressed virgin coconut oil, (the coconut oil that actually smells like a coconut) in liquid form (I show you how to melt the coconut oil below) or 1/4 cup vegetable oil – Note: the old recipe called for 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and if you like and want that version, then just use the 1/2 cup vegetable oil and omit the unsweetened applesauce below as well as the 1/4 cup coconut oil.  
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips – I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease up a Bundt pan.  I always use a paper towel and some room temp butter to grease up my Bundt pan.  Make sure that you grease the pan up along edges and middle.

ingredients for chocolate chip pumpkin Bundt breadMeasure out 1/4 cup coconut oil using a dry measuring cup.  Add the solid coconut oil to a small pan and turn the heat to simmer.  Simmer the oil, using a spatula to stir it occasionally, until it melts.  Set it aside to cool a bit.  It won’t have to cool too much as it won’t be that hot.

melting coconut oilWhisk together the 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup applesauce, 2 large eggs, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and the 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice until well combined.Whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda until combined and then add in the 1 cup of chocolate chips and give it another stir. A note about chocolate chips, my family prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so we use these Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.  They are amazing, and they do say that dark chocolate is good for you, so that may help take some of the guilt away.  Try them in your next recipe that calls for chocolate chips. Using a spatula or wooden spoon mix the dry into the wet until JUST combined. Spoon into the Bundt pan and even out slightly using a spatula.  Give the bundt pan a slam on the counter to release any trapped air and to help the batter get a bit more even. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 42-46 minutes.  Different ovens have different baking times, so the baking time is just an estimate here.

Baking tip: It’s hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time. A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test as well as the standard toothpick test. To do the finger test, press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it’s done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.Cool briefly and turn out onto a plate or rack.Enjoy this as a snack with a tall glass of milk, some tea or coffee, or add some vanilla ice cream and have it for dessert.

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread

Rating: 51

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread

If you want to add a bit more moisture to this bread, then you can add in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt to the wet ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree - My favorite brand is Farmers Organic Pumpkin and I love that the cans are BPA free.
  • 1/4 cup fresh-pressed virgin coconut oil (the coconut oil that actually smells like a coconut), in liquid form (I show you how to melt the coconut oil below) or 1/4 cup vegetable oil - Note: the old recipe called for 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and if like and want that version, then just use the 1/2 cup vegetable oil and omit the unsweetened applesauce below as well as the 1/4 cup coconut oil.
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips - I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease up a Bundt pan. I always use a paper towel and some room temp butter to grease up my Bundt pan. Make sure that you grease the pan up along edges and middle.

Measure out 1/4 cup coconut oil using a dry measuring cup.

Add the solid coconut oil to a small pan and turn the heat to simmer. Simmer the oil, using a spatula to stir it occasionally, until it melts. Set it aside to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup applesauce, 2 large eggs, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and the 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice until well combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda until combined and then add in the 1 cup of chocolate chips and give it another stir.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the dry into the wet until JUST combined.

Spoon into the Bundt pan and even out slightly using a spatula. Give the bundt pan a slam on the counter to release any trapped air and to help the batter get a bit more even.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 42-50 minutes. Different ovens have different baking times, so the baking time is just an estimate here.

Baking tip: It’s hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time. A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test as well as the standard toothpick test. To do the finger test, press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it’s done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.

Cool briefly and turn out onto a plate or rack.

Enjoy this as a snack with a tall glass of milk, some tea or coffee, or add some vanilla ice cream and have it for dessert.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/10/chocolate-chip-pumpkin-bundt-bread/

leaner spaghetti bolognese

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leaner spaghetti bologneseSpaghetti bolognese is such a classic dish and the perfect comfort food.  I have changed up the classic and made it a bit healthier by substituting buffalo meat for the 1/2 pd each of ground beef and pork.  My family uses buffalo meat in place of ground beef in everything from burgers to tacos, you name it.

Buffalo has 70% to 90% less fat compared to beef and 50% less cholesterol; it’s also leaner than both pork and chicken and has fewer calories than all three.  On top of that, buffalo is higher in protein, iron and all the omega and amino acids. There are also no growth hormones, steroids, or sub-therapeutic antibiotics used.  You can research more on the health benefits of buffalo if you want.  I think for all of its nutritional benefits, buffalo meat is worth a try, wouldn’t you say?  You can pick up buffalo pretty much at any grocery store or Whole Foods.  If I know that I’m going to use the buffalo that night for dinner, then I will pick up some fresh ground meat.  Most of the time though, I pick up the pre-packaged variety because it does not have to be used right away, and I can have it handy in the fridge till I need it.

Note:  If you want to even make this dish healthier and carb free, you can substitute regular spaghetti pasta for quinoa pasta.  We tend to do that when we are all carbed out.  My kids love it and so do I because I feel like I am eating an extremely healthy meal.  

DSC_0006-3

leaner spaghetti bolognese:

serves 4 to 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped - see my tip below
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground buffalo meat –  if you want a traditional bolognese, you can use 1/2 pd ground beef and 1/2 pd ground pork
  • 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine - Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes in puree- I can never find a 14oz can so I get a 28 ounce and use 1/2 the can
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk (1% or 2% milk)
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

I usually prep all of my ingredients ahead of time, as it makes it easier when cooking the sauce to have it all ingredients handy and ready to go.  First chop up your onion and mince your garlic.  I find it really tedious to chop up carrots, so I peel and cut them into large chunks and throw them in my mini prep or food processor.
Easy peasy! In a dutch oven or large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat.  Once the oil is heated, add in the carrots, onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the buffalo, cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Isn’t the buffalo so pretty?  You will not find any fat coming off of this meat.Once the buffalo meat is browned, stir in the tomato paste; cook 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add in the wine and the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.

Bring sauce to a simmer; cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Add in the 1/2 cup milk; simmer until completely absorbed, about 15 minutes more.

When the sauce is almost done, (I usually put the pasta in after I add the milk to the sauce) cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package directions; drain.  Put pasta back in the pot; add the meat sauce and combine.Now its time to serve up your pasta!  Top the pasta with some shredded parmesan and pair it with a salad, garlic bread or a vegetable of choice!

leaner spaghetti bolognese

cauliflower soup

cauliflower soup
cauliflower soup
Its fall people and that means its time for to bring out those yummy comfort soups!  I made this soup yesterday, as I had a head of cauliflower that had to be used up.  This soup was super easy to whip up and required only 5 ingredients.  How easy is that?

I love this soup because it’s a creamy soup without the cream!  The cauliflower makes its taste creamy, so its warm and comforting without all that fat!  My family rates this soup a 10+.  My kids ask for this soup as when the weather starts turning cool.  I often serve this up with some couscous cakes or chickpea veggie burgers
cauliflower soup

Cauliflower Soup:

recipe from Smitten Kitchen
  • 1 medium sized head cauliflower - If you get to large of a head, then you may want to add a bit more chicken stock.
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped – I used a yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart (4 cups) low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock - I used chicken stock – Note:  if you use vegetable stock your soup will look browner than my photo, but it will taste the same
  • 1/2 cup finely grated or shredded Parmesan
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower and then rinse it.  I love rinsing my veggies in this strainer, especially when there is a lot to rinse at once.  
Coarsely chop the cauliflower and set it aside (coarsely chop means to just cut up the vegetable in random sizes).  The below photo is not that exciting, but you can see how the cauliflower is all different shapes and sizes.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat.  Once the oil is heated, add the onion and garlic.  Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5-8 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. 
Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15-20 minutes.

Below is how it should look.Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender and return it to the pot. 

Tip:  If you’re using a blender, wipe out or use a spatula to get all the leftover pieces out of the pot, so you have a nice clean pot for the soup puree.  
Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth.  Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.  Keep warm until ready to serve.  Below is the finished product, doesn’t it look yummy?Top each bowl with a bit of parmesan and some freshly ground pepper.  I sometimes top the soup with some chopped fresh chives, and it tastes amazing, so give it a try sometime.

cauliflower soupI love making my soups on the weekends or during the day while the kids are at school, and then storing them till dinnertime or later that week.  It just makes dinner that much easier when all you have to do is re-heat some soup and add some warm crusty bread or a pre-made chickpea burger or couscous cake!   

Spinach Smoothie! Kid rated 10!

kidssmoothie
Want you kids to get more greens in their diet? Here is a smoothie recipe that is rated a 10 in this household, yes a 10.  I make this for the kids to have with their lunch on the weekend or just as a healthy after school snack.  This is similar my kale and spinach smoothie, but it doesn’t have the kale or the flax seed in it.  I did try to sneak in the flax seed one day, but the kids noticed and didn’t like it.  Oh well, I should be thankful that they love this smoothie though!  BTW, this just isn’t a smoothie for kids, John and I drink this all the time after the gym.  We just throw in 2 tablespoons of flaxseed in ours.

 Spinach Smoothie:

  • 1/2 cup cold filtered water
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup organic grapes
  • 2 fully packed cups of spinach - I really pack the spinach in, so I’m sure it’s more than 2 cups
  • 1/2 banana
  • optional for adults – 2 tablespoons flax seed

See, they are really drinking it and loving it.  I did not instruct them to pose for this picture!

A smoothie mustache is the sign of a good smoothie, wouldn’t you agree?

Popovers :) Kid rated 10

popovers

popoversI just love fall.  When the air starts to get crisp and the nights get shorter, I crave afternoon chai tea, comfort food, a fire in the fireplace and my big soft blanket to nestle in.  One of my family’s favorite comfort foods is popovers.  When you come by my house and start smelling these in the oven, then you know fall is here. Popovers are a bit funny!  I mean look at them, they each have their own unique appearance.  Its like they’re having a competition to see who can rise the highest or popover the most.  Get it, popover?  Ha Ha, see I crack myself up sometimes.  

Popovers seem like they would be difficut to make, but let me tell you, they’re one of the easiest things to whip up, and you most likely have all the ingredients on hand at home. I’ve been making these for years, and they’re still a crowd pleaser.  I got this recipe from an old William and Sonoma catalog.  Remember when they use to send out their catalogs with some of their favorite recipes inside?  Well, that’s where I got this recipe from, and I have tried other popover recipes, but this is still my favorite and it’s the simplest. 

You just need 5 ingredients!  Yes, just 5, can you believe it?
Flour, butter, salt, whole milk & eggs.

Popovers:

Recipe from William Sonoma
Note:  Popovers are best when served warm.
makes 6 popovers or 12 mini popovers in a muffin tin
  • 2 extra large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup whole milk 
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted – You’re going to use this to grease the pan
Note:  You’re going to pre-heat the oven once the popover mix has been combined.
In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk, blend together the 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and one tablespoon melted butter until completely combined.
DSC_0046-2
Add the 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and blend until frothy and bubbly.
Now it’s time to pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Let the popover mixture rest while the oven is heating up. Note: Letting the mixture rest, gives the flour time to absorb the liquid and gives the popovers a better texture.

Put the empty popover pan in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes to warm up. I usually put my pan in when the oven temp reaches 400 degrees and then take it out when it reaches 450 degrees.

While the pan is heating up, melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter.

Take the popover pan out of the oven and divide the 2 tablespoons of melted butter between the cups. Just pour the butter into the tins and let it rest at the bottom. The butter will sizzle and brown, but that’s fine.

Whisk the batter one more time to froth it up again. Give it a good whisk!

Fill popover cups halfway with batter. Make sure that you pour an even amount in all cups.

I love this grand popover pan from Nordic Ware.  It may cost more than the normal popover pan, but it makes the perfect popover and they don’t stick to the pan. The pan is made of cast  iron, so it cooks up the popovers evenly.  I’ve had mine for 3 years now and I use it at least once a week, if not more, and it’s still looks brand new.   If you find yourself making popovers quite often, then I would invest in a good quality popover pan.  For  those of you that are local, Sur La Table carries this brand.Put the pan in the oven and bake the popovers at 450 degrees for 15-17 minutes until they begin to brown and rise. I usually set my timer for 16 minutes and that seems to be the prefect time in my oven.
Do not open the oven door during baking, as this will cause the popovers to deflate.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake the popover for another 15 minutes or until the popovers are brown and crisp.
Note: Finished popovers will be golden-brown, feel dry to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped.  Turn the popovers out onto a drying rack or plate to cool for a few minutes.

Note: Don’t leave the popovers in the tins, as the bottoms will get all wet from the butter.

Popovers rise up and come out differently each time, so don’t be weirded out if you see some strange looking ones.Popovers are the best when they’re fresh from the oven, but if you need to make them ahead, just warm them on a tray in a 250 degree oven until warm and crispy again, about 5 minutes.

Here’s a photo of what popovers look like when baked in a muffin tin.  They still come out beautiful.popovers made in a muffin tinMy kids don’t mind them cool as leftovers.  If I’m serving them up as leftovers for breakfast, I will either throw them in the oven to warm up, (if I have time) or I will throw one in the microwave for 10-12 seconds to warm up.  Eli absolutely loves these for breakfast warmed up with some jelly inside.  My kids are also addicted to a warm popover with Nutella inside, as it tastes like a chocolate croissant.  You can serve these up with just about any dish.  We love to pair them with soup, steak and chicken dishes. Serve a fresh batch of these to your kids as an afternoon snack or top them with some jam for breakfast. I wish computers had a smell button so you could smell how amazing these are.  Now, if you want a sweeter version of this popover, try some sugar-crusted popovers. They’re a cross between cinnamon toast, a sugar and cinnamon donut and a popover.  

Make these for breakfast, your family will thank you!Try these rosemary and sea salt popovers. These are my kid’s new favorite!

popovers with rosemary and sea saltI also love these lemon thyme popovers.

lemon thyme popovers

Popovers :) Kid rated 10

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Serving Size: makes 6 popovers or 12 mini popovers in a muffin t

Popovers :) Kid rated 10

Popovers are best when served warm.

Ingredients

  • 2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted - You're going to use this to grease the pan

Instructions

Note: You're going to pre-heat the oven once the popover mix has been combined.

In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk, blend together the 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and one tablespoon melted butter until completely combined.

Add the 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and blend until frothy and bubbly.

Now it's time to pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Let the popover mixture rest while the oven is heating up. Note: Letting the mixture rest, gives the flour time to absorb the liquid and gives the popovers a better texture.

Put the empty popover pan in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes to warm up. I usually put my pan in when the oven temp reaches 400 degrees and then take it out when it reaches 450 degrees.

While the pan is heating up, melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter.

Take the popover pan out of the oven and divide the 2 tablespoons of melted butter between the cups. Just pour the butter into the tins and let it rest at the bottom. The butter will sizzle and brown, but that's fine.

Whisk the batter one more time to froth it up again. Give it a good whisk!

Fill popover cups halfway with batter. Make sure that you pour an even amount in all cups.

Put the pan in the oven and bake the popovers at 450 degrees for 15-17 minutes until they begin to brown and rise. I usually set my timer for 16 minutes and that seems to be the prefect time in my oven.

Do not open the oven door during baking, as this will cause the popovers to deflate.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees* and bake the popover for another 15 minutes or until the popovers are brown and crisp.

Note: Finished popovers will be golden-brown, feel dry to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped.

Turn the popovers out onto a drying rack or plate to cool for a few minutes.

Note: Don't leave the popovers in the tins, as the bottoms will get all wet from the butter.

Popovers rise up and come out differently each time, so don't be weirded out if you see some strange looking ones.

Popovers are the best when they're fresh from the oven, but if you need to make them ahead, just warm them on a tray in a 250 degree oven until warm and crispy again, about 5 minutes.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/10/popovers-kid-rated-10/

Broccoli Lemon Pasta – Kid rated a 10

Broccoli Lemon Pasta - Kid rated a 10

Broccoli Lemon Pasta - Kid rated a 10Looking for an easy, family friendly, one-bowl pasta dish?  Look no further because this pasta fits the bill.  This is my weekly go-to pasta because it’s super easy to make (I could literally make this blindfolded) and it’s a one-bowl meal. It’s one of those pastas that my kids request often and I happily make.  It’s our family’s favorite comfort food.

Zoe often brings the leftovers to school for lunch and I now have to pack a huge container as all her friends all want a forkful.  This pasta is the dinner of choice at all sleepovers.  You have to believe this is good if a bunch of 12 year olds are preferring a bowl of broccoli pasta to pizza!

Broccoli Lemon Pasta:

recipe from Barefoot Contessa
serves 6

  • 4 broccoli heads or 3 bunches of baby broccoli – use as much broccoli as you want here, the more the merrier
  • 1 box of your favorite twisty pasta – we like to use cellentani
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper (for the grown ups)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts or toasted walnuts

 

I love to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so they are ready to go when needed.  Wash and chop up the broccoli into small florets, zest the lemon, mince the garlic and squeeze your 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside in small bowls.  I put the lemon zest and minced garlic into the same bowl because they both get used together later.  Get out a small glass measuring cup and add the 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta. Below are two ways to cook the broccoli.  Pick the one that works best for you.

Put your broccoli in a steamer over about and inch of water (or however you steam your broccoli). Put the lid on and steam away.  I like to steam my broccoli while the pasta water is cooking so I get it out of the way.  We like our broccoli to be a bit underdone so it has a bit of a crunch.  You want to make sure not to overcook or undercook it.  Once my broccoli is cooked, I pour it in a bowl and put it aside.

Here’s my new favorite way to cook up the broccoli or baby broccoli. I throw the broccoli in for the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time. So, if the pasta cooks for 8 minutes, I throw the broccoli in at 7 minutes and then drain the pasta and broccoli together.  NOTE:  If one minute seems too short then throw it in for the last two minutes.  One minute definitely works for baby broccoli and broccolini.  Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat.   Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for about 1 minute.  Pour this mixture into the glass measuring cup (the one the salt is in) and then add in the tablespoon of lemon juice, mix the ingredients together.Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl that the broccoli is in.  Add the lemon mixture (see above) and mix everything up together really well so all the pasta and broccoli is coated with the lemon mixture.  Serve the pasta up into individual bowls.  I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of broccoli and then I add the pasta.  I top the kids pasta off with some freshly shredded parmesan and I add freshly ground pepper and toasted pine nuts to John’s & my bowl.  The pepper just adds a bit of flavor and the pine nuts add a nice nutty almost meaty sort of crunch.

Broccoli Lemon Pasta - Kid rated a 10The kids rate this dish a 10!  The broccoli tastes amazing as the lemon gives it such a nice flavor and takes away the bitterness.  I can honestly say that I’m not the biggest broccoli fan when it’s just steamed, but I can eat a whole bowl of broccoli when its made this way.  You might even want to make this lemon sauce and just add it to a mess of broccoli one night.

I hope this pasta becomes a family favorite in your house.

Broccoli Lemon Pasta – Kid rated a 10

Broccoli Lemon Pasta – Kid rated a 10

Ingredients

  • 4 broccoli heads or 3 bunches of baby broccoli - use as much broccoli as you want here, the more the merrier
  • 1 box of your favorite twisty pasta - we like to use cellentani
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper (for the grown ups)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts or walnuts

Instructions

Prep all of your ingredients. Wash and chop up the broccoli into small florets, zest the lemon, mince the garlic and squeeze your 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside in small bowls. I put the lemon zest and minced garlic into the same bowl because they both get used together later.

Get out a small glass measuring cup and add the 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside.

Below are two ways to cook the broccoli. Pick the one that works best for you.

Put your broccoli in a steamer over about and inch of water (or however you steam your broccoli). Put the lid on and steam away. I like to steam my broccoli while the pasta water is cooking so I get it out of the way. We like our broccoli to be a bit underdone so it has a bit of a crunch. You want to make sure not to overcook or undercook it. Once my broccoli is cooked, I pour it in a bowl and put it aside.

Here's my new favorite way to cook up the broccoli or baby broccoli. I throw the broccoli in for the last minute of the pasta's cooking time. So, if the pasta cooks for 8 minutes, I throw the broccoli in at 7 minutes and then drain the pasta and broccoli together. NOTE: If one minute seems too short then throw it in for the last two minutes. One minute definitely works for baby broccoli and broccolini.

Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for about 1 minute. Pour this mixture into the glass measuring cup (the one the salt is in) and then add in the tablespoon of lemon juice, mix the ingredients together.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl that the broccoli is in. Add the lemon mixture (see above) and mix everything up together really well so all the pasta and broccoli is coated with the lemon mixture.

Serve the pasta up into individual bowls. I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of broccoli and then I add the pasta. I top the kids pasta off with some freshly shredded parmesan and I add freshly ground pepper and toasted pine nuts to John's & my bowl. The pepper just adds a bit of flavor and the pine nuts add a nice nutty sort of meaty crunch.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/10/broccoli-lemon-pasta-kid-rated-10/