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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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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avocado-tahini dip

avocado-tahini dip

avocado-tahini dipThis is the tale of the salad dressing that transformed into a dip.  It sounds like the start of a fairy tale don’t you think?   Except turning from a salad dressing into a dip doesn’t sound like a great transformation, (kind of like a prince turning into a frog) but it is, so it’s a story with a happy ending.

It all began one afternoon when I was looking for a new salad dressing to massage into my kale.  I wanted to see if I could find another pantry staple dressing that I loved as much as my lacinato kale salad and my ricotta salata dressings.  I made up this dressing and tried it with the kale, but it was just too thick for my liking and I didn’t like the consistency of it as a salad dressing.  I did however like the taste of the dressing on its own.  I was deciding what to do with it when in came John from the den with a tortilla chip in hand, he took his chip and dipped it in the dressing and exclaimed, “Wow, this dip rocks.”  Seriously folks, it really happened this way.  I then tried the dip and loved it as well.  I wanted another opinion though, so I called in Zoe and had her try it and she loved it.  It reminded us all of one of our favorite humus dips from Cafe del Sol.  I think it was the combination of the tahini and the cumin that gave it that kick.  This is now one of our favorite go-to dips and I love that it stays green and fresh for days.  This is a great make ahead dip for a party as it tastes just as great day one as it does day 2, and it doesn’t brown in color like most dips made with avocado, that to me is reason enough to try this dip.

I’ve also taken this dip, mixed it with some quinoa and created this quinoa wrap!  Let me just tell you that it’s AMAZING!

quinoa wrap with black beans, feta and avocadoThis dip has become our favorite pre-dinner appetizer, we just pour the dip into a bowl, set out some tortilla chips or pita chips and snack away. It’s truly the new guacamole in our house!

avocado-tahini dip… 

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Nepenthe’s ambrosia sauce for burgers and fries

Nepenthe's ambrosia sauce

Nepenthe's ambrosia sauceRemember that tofu burger that I raved about having at Nepenthe in Big Sur?  I swear it was the best tofu burger that I’ve ever eaten.

IMG_4230Unfortunately, I  didn’t find the actual tofu burger recipe yet, but I’m still on the hunt. I did find the recipe for their amazing ambrosia sauce that they slather all of their burgers with, as well as serve up with their shoestring fries. We all devoured and raved about this secret sauce. The kids loved it, the in-laws loved it, and John and I loved it. It gave each of our burgers a pop of flavor, and was also a great and addicting dipping sauce for our fries. I replicated the sauce at home and honestly couldn’t believe how simple it was. We served this sauce up on a thin, lean burger patty and used the extra sauce to dip our onion rings into. My kids said that this sauce made their burgers, and the sauce turned their boring old baked onion rings into a gourmet experience. Seriously, it’s a simple 3 ingredient sauce that will give some real flavor to your next beef or buffalo burger. Burgers and ketchup equal boring, but burgers with ambrosia sauce equal flavor.


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basic tomato sauce



Here’s an easy, family friendly, homemade and vegeterian tomato sauce that will feed a crowd, or at least feed your family for a number of meals. This sauce is really simple, but tastes hearty like a tomato sauce should.  It’s the perfect sauce to top a pizza, use in a lasagna, pair with meatballs, (turkey meatball recipe coming soon) top over gnocchi, spaghetti squash or your favorite pasta. I mean it’s so simple that you can really use it as a base for just about anything. This sauce is basically a pantry sauce, you may have to run out and grab a carrot or onion, but if you have a well stocked pantry, then you should have everything you need. Another great thing about this sauce is that it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  I used it to top this spaghetti squash below.

spaghetti squash with tomato sauce


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easy tomato sauce

These past few weeks have not felt like summer at all.  I know the rest of the country is going through a heat wave, but here in Northern CA we are having some fall-like weather.  It’s foggy, cool and windy.  When the weather turns cool, I start looking for warm comforting meals.  I asked the kids what they wanted for dinner the other night, as they were huddled under the blanket, (we’re wimps here in Cali) and they both said pasta.  Pasta is our comfort food and we eat a lot of it in the fall and winter.

I decided to check out my friend, Denise’s site for a recipe.  Denise is the one who taught my photography workshop.  Her site is of course, GORGEOUS, and I’m trying hard not to compare my photos to her photo of this dish.  She is of course, a professional, and I must keep that in mind.  She is also an amazing cook, and I can’t wait to try more of her recipes.

This pasta sauce was a hit with the kids, (kid rated 10) and such an easy and simple recipe to make that it’s now going to be bookmarked as a family favorite.  It’s also a two-nighter meal, and what mom doesn’t love that.  I see this recipe being made a lot come fall when were back to crazy schedules (I’m so not ready for summer to end in that sense).  This sauce is also a great make-ahead sauce.  You can make it up one day or on the weekend and refrigerate or freeze it, and then just re-heat it with some fresh pasta.
I would recommend using a different type of pasta rather than the one I used.  You will want to use a pasta with some texture or ridges to it.  We used Ziti, and it was a bit glossy so the sauce fell off of it.  

easy tomato sauce:

recipe from Chez us
serves 4-6

printer friendly version

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4oz package (1/ 4 pound) pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into small chunks 
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 28oz can peeled tomatoes, very good quality, do not drain
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed red chili (red pepper) flakes, or more or less depending on how spicy you like it – I used 1 teaspoon plus a small pinch
  • kosher salt to taste
  • box of your favorite pasta

First things first, chop up the pancetta, and peel and chop up the vegetables.

  Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat.  
Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.   

While the pancetta is cooking, get out your food processor. Throw in the chopped onion, garlic and carrot and mince away.  
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, then you will want to mince the garlic and cut the onion and carrot up into very small pieces.

Once the pancetta is cooked, add the minced carrot, onion and garlic mixture along with 1 teaspoon or more of the red chili flakes.  Cook over low heat, until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  

Add in the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, to break up the tomato pieces.  

Cook over low heat until thick, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add your pasta and cook according to package directions.  Drain your pasta and put it back in the pan that you cooked it in.  Add the tomato sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.  

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

How easy was that recipe?
Like I said before, this pasta was a hit with the whole family and was a two-nighter meal.  

It’s definitely a recipe that I will be making come fall because of its ease, simplicity and taste.    We served this up with a side salad and some crunchy garlic bread.

buffalo burgers with chipotle mayonnaise

buffalo burger with chipotle mayonnaise
Tomorrow is my kids’ last day of school!  Yippee!  Summer is officially here!  I have never been more excited for summer than this year.  It is time to kick back, sleep in, read trashy novels, hang by the pool for hours on end and get together with friends that we never seem to connect with during the busy school year.  Tomorrow I’m picking up the kids (swimsuit on) and heading to the pool for some much needed play time, and that much needed glass of wine, or two.  

Summer in our house is all about burgers, salads and grilled foods.  It’s hot, so I don’t like to spend too much time in the kitchen with the oven or stove on. When it comes to burgers, I prefer sauces rather than ketchup or mustard.  My favorite sauce thus far is my cilantro lime mayonnaise.  I wanted to try a different and spicier sauce for the buffalo burgers, so I found this chipotle mayonnaise recipe from Bobby Flay.  This sauce is spicy, and John and I loved it paired with our burgers.  The kids thought it was a bit too spicy, so next time I may cut back a bit on the chipotle pepper for them.  If you’re making this for adults, then keep the sauce as is.

I’m not going to show you how to cook buffalo burgers.  I just wanted to throw out another meat to consider using the next time you make a burger.  We love using buffalo meat in lieu of ground beef for most dishes, as buffalo has 70 to 90% less fat compared to beef, and 50% less cholesterol. It is also leaner than both pork and chicken, and has less 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.   We get a pound of buffalo and its plenty for 4 burgers.  Buffalo meat is very filling so you don’t want your burgers to big.  My favorite way to make up these patties is to put 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese into the patties.  It makes the burgers so juicy!

chipotle mayonnaise:

recipe from Bobby Flay
serves 4-6
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce – You can also use a 1 tablespoon of chipotle paste and omit both the chipotle as well as the 1/2 tablespoon adobo sauce as shown below. 
  • 1/2 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • juice from 1/2 lime (approximately 1 tablespoon)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
Note:  If you want to cut the spiciness down, you can use 1/2 chipotle and use 1 1/2 teaspoons of adobo sauce.  Try it like that and then if you want it spicier, add a bit more of each.  
I also make this sauce using a chipotle paste as shown in the below picture. To me, it’s so much easier than opening up a can and dealing with the mess and hassle of mincing up tiny chiles. All you have to do is insert your measuring spoon and voila, you’re done. I also love that I can store the leftovers in the fridge and re-use it again and again. When I use the paste, all I have to do is stir the mayonnaise, chipotle paste and lime juice together in a small bowl, it saves cutting up an adobe chili as well as getting out the mini prep.
Add the mayonnaise, chipotle and adobo sauce to a food processor and puree.  
Squeeze on some fresh lime juice to taste, and then add some salt and pepper to taste.  I added a pinch of salt, but didn’t use any pepper. 
Time saver tip:  You can make this sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it till needed.

Place the burger on a mini brioche bun (that is what we like to use) and top with chipotle mayonnaise, and any other desired toppings.
I’m looking for some good summer reads to sink my teeth into while I chill out by the pool.  
My genre is science fiction and historical fiction.
Here are some of my favorite past reads so you can get a clue as to what I like.
The Twilight series, (sorry, I read this series years ago and liked it).
Harry Potter, Hunger Games, the True Blood series, 11-22-63, by Steven King, the Game of Thrones series & Gone with the Wind.
As you can see, I like young adult science fiction as well as historical fiction.  I have also read tons of Henry VIII books, so I have finished that genre.
Any recommendations?  

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slaw

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slaw

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slawYou’re all in for a treat as you’re getting three recipes in one post here.  You heard me right, three recipes in one post!  I treat you well, don’t I?  Also, I want to let you know that all three of these recipes can be made ahead of time.  Now, that’s really treating you well.

Lets start the talk with turkey burgers.  To be honest with you, I have never been a big turkey burger fan because most of the ones I’ve tried have either been dry or lacking in the flavor department.  What’s the point of eating a meat burger if it tastes like cardboard? When we do eat a meat burger, we use buffalo meat because it has 70% to 90% less fat compared to beef and 50% less cholesterol.  It’s also higher in protein, iron and all the omega and amino acids, so you actually feel a bit better about eating meat.  Anyway, I decided to give turkey burgers a shot after this recipe from Real Simple magazine jumped out at me.  This turkey burger is not dry at all and it’s full of flavor.  Now, I must admit that the cilantro-lime mayo and the kale slaw help to knock this burger out of the ballpark.  I have sort of become a cilantro-lime mayo addict lately, which is probably not a good thing.  I have been substituting Greek yogurt in place of the mayo on occasion just to make myself feel a bit better.

Eli is typically not a burger fan at all.  When its burger night at the Grandy house he tends to cringe and sulk, but not when it’s turkey burger night.  He actually loves these burgers and I really think it’s the cilantro-lime mayo that has made the difference.

We like to use these mini brioche buns below for our burgers. They are smaller than a regular burger bun so you don’t have all that extra bun hanging off the side, and they tend to fancy up the burger experience.  I toast them up a bit under the broiler or on the grill.

turkey burgers with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and kale slaw:

recipe from Real Simple
serves 4
  • 1 pound dark-meat turkey (93 percent lean or less)
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced - I used 3 scallions, one time I even used 4, rebel, I know!
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, leaves pulled off stem and chopped
  • salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, gently combine (with a fork, spatula or gently with your hands) the turkey, scallions, mustard and thyme.
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.Form the mixture into four patties and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Look there is a daddy burger and next to it is the little bitty Eli burger.
You can make this a make-ahead meal simply by assembling the patties in the morning, and covering and refrigerating them till dinner. 
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 6 to 8 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, 6 to 8 minutes per side.
 Tip: Don’t press down on the patties when you grill them, or you will squeeze out and loose the flavorful juices. 

cilantro-lime mayonnaise:

makes enough for 4 burgers

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise – regular mayo not miracle whip
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
This mayo has a bit of a kick to it and I have been using it on tons of sandwich recipes.
Anyway, I really think this mayo has helped Eli to become a turkey burger fan.
cilantro-lime mayonnaise ingredientsIn a small bowl or ramekin, whisk together the mayonnaise, minced cilantro, lime juice and garlic until combined.
mixing together the cilantro-lime mayonnaiseYep, that is all there is to it.  Refrigerate mayo until needed.  This mayo can even be made a day ahead of time.
cilantro-lime mayonnaise

creamy kale slaw:

recipe adapted from Real Simple
makes enough for 4 burgers
  • 3-4 lacinato kale leaves (depends on size), washed, de-stemmed & thinly sliced – the original recipe called for 2 romaine lettuce leaves, but I only had kale on hand so I used that instead and loved it.
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise – regular not miracle whip
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the sliced kale and grated carrot and toss to coat.
Refrigerate slaw until needed.Get out your toasted buns, dab some cilantro-lime mayo on the bottom, put your burger on next and then top it with the kale slaw.

We tend to pair our burgers with just a side vegetable or kale chips as the burgers are filling enough.
Like turkey burgers?  Then you need to try our favorite turkey burger.  It’s the bomb!
If you’re not a fan of meat burgers, then try my chickpea burgers.
They are just as satisfying as any meat burger in my opinion!

chipotle shrimp tacos


My friend Em wrote an amazing post on intuition and health and it got me thinking that we do tend to take our health for granted till it’s not there.  I know that when I’m feeling sick I crave feeling good again, I miss it, and when I do feel good again I feel so grateful and strong.  Health, love, peace and safety are my top priorities in life.  I feel blessed knowing my family is in great health, that I have lots of love and friends in my life and that I have a beautiful home that keeps my family and I warm and safe.  We can all get caught up wishing and looking for the next and greatest thing or focusing to much on the future instead of the here and now.  If we focused more on being present and on what is in front of us, we would realize that we really do have a wonderful and blessed life!

Speaking of feeling blessed, I felt extremely blessed on Saturday when the sun finally came out and the temperatures climbed up to the low 70’s.  It was a day where we had no obligations other than just being together, how cool is that?  We cleared off the back deck, the kids played in the yard till dark and John and I cooked this amazing meal together.  All in all it was an A+ day.

There are 3 recipes listed here.  You can just make the chipotle shrimp or add these delicious sides that we created.  It’s all up to you!  

chipotle shrimp tacos:

Recipe from Food Network
Serves 4

  • 1 pound medium shrimp (about 20) peeled and deveined & tails removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle or blended chili powder – You may want to add a bit less of this if you’re serving these to your kids and they are not fans of spicy things.   My kids were fine with these, but they can handle spicy dishes.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 corn tortillas

Mix the olive oil, chipotle or chili powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat.

Sorry about the raw shrimp photo, not to appetizing is it?Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to medium-high.

Pour on the shrimp and arrange them so they are not touching one another. Grill the shrimp until translucent, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side.This is a much prettier photo than the raw shrimp!Throw the tortillas on the grill and grill them until slightly charred and pliable, about 20 seconds per side.

Now, lets move onto the toppings.

 red cabbage slaw:

  • 1/4 red cabbage
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

We make the slaw about 1/2 hour to an hour before dinner so it can marinate.  You don’t want to make it too much further in advance because it may get soggy.

Coarsely chop the cabbage, squeeze both lime halves over the cabbage, add the kosher salt and mix it all together.  Let the slaw sit and marinate.

cilantro-lime yogurt sauce:

Makes enough for 8 tacos with some leftover

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Combine the greek yogurt, cilantro, lime juice and minced garlic into a small bowl and mix together until blended.  Refrigerate sauce until needed.  This sauce can be made earlier that day or a day in advance.Spoon a bit of the cilantro yogurt on each tortilla and then top it with the red cabbage slaw and about 2 to 3 shrimp.  We served this up with some homemade avocado and tomatillo salsa (recipe to follow) and some tortilla chips, yummy.  

We gave ourselves a night off from veggies :)

This was the perfect “welcome to spring” meal!

salmon with almond-lime yogurt sauce


Last week was a much-needed rest from the chaos of life.  It was a week full of sleeping in, cooking up new recipes, play dates for the kids (and me) and just all around relaxing.  It gave me a glimpse of what summer will be like, and I liked it! The only downer was that it was spring break and it felt like winter break.  Remember these pics from our February ski week?Well, there was none of that going on over this past week.  We were in our winter garb and raincoats until Saturday.  When I took this picture of the salmon above, the wind was gusting, it was 50 degrees and the parsley leaves were blowing everywhere (I took this photo outside on my deck).  This is the best shot I could get as I wanted a somewhat warm dinner.

Saturday gave us a taste of summer though as the sun came out and the temps climbed up to the low 70’s.   We opened up the grill in celebration and grilled up some amazing chipotle shrimp tacos (recipe to follow Thursday).  The kids played outside till it was dark and we even contemplated going to Sausalito for ice cream cones, but unfortunately we were to stuffed from dinner to make that trek.  I know, to stuffed for dessert, who are we?

This recipe is your basic salmon topped with an amazing sauce.  I use to eat all my seafood and meats plain with just a touch of salt and pepper but I have recently discovered sauces, and I like them.  Sauces make all the difference and can transform a simple dish into a gourmet dish.  Get ready as I have some amazing homemade sauces coming up in the next couple of weeks.  salmon with almond-lime yogurt sauce:

recipe from whole living magazine
yogurt sauce is enough for 4 salmon fillets

  • salmon fillets – the amount you will get will depend on how many people you’re feeding 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 small shallot, very thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs to top such as parsley, dill, mint or chervil - I used parsley as that is what I had in the house.  My girlfriend made this and used dill and loved it.

I actually made the sauce in the afternoon and refrigerated it, so it’s a great make-ahead sauce.  In a small saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add the almonds, stirring until they become fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer almonds and oil to a small bowl to cool, then stir in the tablespoon lime juice and season with salt.  
 Mix in yogurt until fully combined.  Chill the sauce (covered) until ready to use.
Cook your salmon your favorite way.  We like to either grill our salmon or broil it.  I broiled it for this recipe as it was raining outside.  
To serve, dollop each fillet with the yogurt sauce and sprinkle with the diced shallots and herbs.
This is the perfect dish to serve up at dinner or brunch as the salmon tastes great hot or cold topped with this sauce.  You can make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it till needed.    Salmon is such a quick, healthy and easy weeknight meal to serve up.  
Do you broil, bake or grill your salmon?

lemon pesto, walnut pesto & basil pesto

 Lemon Pesto
 Walnut Pesto
 Traditional Basil Pesto

Pesto, pesto, pesto, 3 cheers for pesto!  Pesto rocks!  Not only is pesto healthy, but it also has endless uses.  Top it over hot or cold pasta, throw it over some pizza dough and make yourself a green pesto pizza, spread it on some cold or grilled bread for a different take on garlic bread, top your favorite meat or fish with it.  You get where I’m going here, right?  Pesto is such a versatile sauce in the way it’s used and the way it’s made.  There is arugula pesto, parsley pesto, broccoli pesto (I have made this before and topped it on quinoa, that recipe later).

Have you ever made your own pesto before?  It’s super easy and so worth it.  If you do make it on your own, the great news is that pesto freezes exceptionally well, so you can make a big batch and store it for future use.  I usually make up 2 batches and then use one that week and freeze the other batch in a small glass container.

Below are 3 of my favorite go-to pesto recipes.  
If you’re looking for a dairy free one, try the walnut pesto.  
BTW, I don’t have a big food processor and have made all of these pestos in my mini-prep.

lemon pesto:

recipe from the Sprouted Kitchen
makes about 1 cup
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled   
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts 
  • zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons  
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 2 cups packed basil leaves 
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese 
  • 2-4 tablespoons water to thin sauce 
This pesto is wonderful paired with this lentil meatball recipe.

Add the following ingredients into the bowl of a food processor:
2 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
1 teaspoon sea salt
Blend ingredients until smooth
Add in the 2 cups basil leaves and 1/2 cup olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency.
 Add 2-4 tablespoons of water to thin as desired. I used 4 tablespoons, as I like my pesto be a bit thinner.  This is optional of course. 
Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.

walnut pesto:

recipe adapted from Oprah
makes about 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
This pesto is wonderful paired with pasta with sausage and broccolini.

My favorite way to toast nuts is by using a dry skillet.  Some people like to toast them in the oven, but the frying pan seems to work better for me.  Heat a medium sized frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add walnuts to the hot,dry pan and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts start to brown and smell toasted, about 5 minutes.  Let the walnuts cool.
Combine the following in the bowl of a food processor:
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 cups basil
garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt 

Process and, while motor is running, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil to form pesto; set aside.  Note:  If you don’t have a large food processor, like me, and only have a mini prep, then you can put all of the ingredients plus the 1/2 cup olive oil into the mini prep and whiz away.

traditional basil pesto:

recipe from How to Cook Everything
makes about 1 cup – enough for a pound of pasta

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (not toasted)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more if desired
  • 1/4 fresh grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese – I used parmesan here and I add this to the pesto an hour before I am going to use it.

Combine the following in the bowl of a food processor or blender:
2 cups basil 
pinch of salt
 1/2 peeled garlic clove
 2 tablespoons pine nuts
half of the olive oil

Pulse away till you get a nice consistency making sure to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, then add the rest of the oil gradually.  If you want a thinner mixture you can add more olive oil.  I thought that the 1/2 cup was plenty and the pesto had a perfect consistency.

Pour your pesto into a container and store in the fridge till needed.  Add the freshly grated parmesan an hour or so before you use it.  This pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or two or in the freezer for several months. 
We are pesto lovers in my house.  We love it over cold or warm pasta and if were feeling carbed out we throw it on top of some quinoa pasta.  Pesto is what got my kids to try and love quinoa pasta as it masks the flavor of the quinoa noodles.  We always make sure to throw a veggie or two in the pesto pasta to make it a one-bowl meal.  Roasted cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli or broccolini tastes wonderful paired with pesto.  

chickpea veggie burgers & tzatziki yogurt sauce

chickpea veggie burgers

chickpea veggie burgers

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

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

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

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

chickpea veggie burgers

chickpea veggie burgers:

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

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

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

tzatziki yogurt sauce:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cranberry orange sauce

cranberry orange sauce
cranberry orange sauce
Thanksgiving is almost here and everyone needs a cranberry sauce to compliment their Turkey dinner, right?  This cranberry sauce is so simple to make and tastes 100 times better than the canned stuff.  I remember devouring the canned stuff as a kid each Thanksgiving.  I would peel open the can and dump out that big glop of gelled cranberry sauce onto the serving dish and call it a day.  Easy peasy right?  Well, yes, it was easy, but not so tasty, so move over canned sauce and say hello to the fresh stuff.  

This recipe has been passed down from John’s mom, aka, mama mama.  She got the nickname from Zoe when she was 2 years old, and it has stuck ever since.  We all refer to her now as mama mama and she loves it!  This sauce also makes a great hostess gift. We like to put the cranberry sauce into little glass jars, tie them with a cute bow and give them away throughout the holiday season.
cranberry orange sauce

cranberry orange sauce:

recipe handed down from mama mama

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed cloves - if you can’t find crushed cloves, just crush them with the back of a spoon or in a coffee grinder
  • 1 orange cut into small chunks
  • zest of one orange
Rinse your cranberries, zest and cut up your orange and measure out your ingredients. 
Combine all the ingredients into small sauce pan.  
Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until most of the cranberry skins pop.
I wish it was more complicated, but it’s not.  Serve this up to your guests at Thanksgiving and they will be very thankful.
cranberry orange sauce
Remember, this sauce makes great hostess gifts.  Just put the cranberry sauce into little glass jars, tie them with a cute bow, and give them away throughout the holiday season.