fig and arugula pizza on naan bread

fig & arugula pizza

fig & arugula pizzaWhat we have learned from my what I ate last week posts is that I love using whole-wheat naan bread as a base for mini lunchtime pizzas, and that I love my fig jam. Fig jam is incredibly thick, rich, and sweet, and pairs really well with nuts, cheese, crackers, and fruit. I love pairing it with almond or walnut butter for a scrumptious PB&J.  Below is a picture of the fig jam I love so much. 

DSC_0003-2Naan bread is awesome because you can do so much with it.  You can heat it up with just a splash of olive oil and pair it with your favorite salad, or use it as a base for a mini pizza like I did above. 

I love to play around, and throw different toppings on the naan bread to see what I can create. It’s a bit like painting and very therapeutic.  I threw this one together on a whim one day as I was craving some fig jam, and noticed that I didn’t have any bread in the house (which was very odd).  I thought, “Why not throw it on the naan bread and heat it up?” Needless to say, I loved the end result of this creation, and if you like fig jam, you will as well.

fig & arugula pizza

fig and arugula pizza on naan bread:

  • 1 slice of whole-wheat naan bread
  • fig jam or fresh fig
  • mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or shredded
  • arugula
  • extra-virgin olive oil
 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put a slice of naan bread on a rimmed baking sheet.  Brush the bread with a bit of olive oil, and then spread some fig jam on top. 
Next, add some thinly sliced mozzarella cheese. Fig jam and mozzarella go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Pop it in the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is crispy and brown.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss together a handful of arugula with a splash of olive oil.
When the pizza is out of the oven, throw the arugula on top.
Slice the pizza into 2 to 3 pieces and enjoy.
fig & arugula pizza
This is a super easy pizza to throw together for lunch or light dinner. Come to think of it, I could even see this being a great appetizer.  All you need to do is cut the naan bread into smaller pieces.  
See, there is so much you can do with a little fig jam and some naan bread.
Did I mention that figs are good for you?

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/

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?

wheat berries with charred onions and kale

wheat berries with charred onions and kale

wheat berries with charred onions and kaleAm I turning into a health nut or what?  I have eaten more kale in the past 6 months than I have in my whole lifetime, seriously. This blog is working wonders for my health and waistline (as well as my hubby’s).  It was actually John that picked out this recipe, can you believe it?  We received the recent issue of bon appetit on Friday.  John opened it up, pointed at two recipes, looked at me and said, “honey, we’re making this for dinner on Sunday.”  I  then took a look at the two recipes and happily agreed.  Did I mention that John is an amazing cook, even better than me?  I’m such a lucky girl.

Wheat berries?  You’re probably wondering what the heck they are.  Wheat berries are simply individual kernels of wheat.  They’re a true whole grain.  A cup of cooked wheat berries has about 300 calories and is packed with fiber, protein and iron.  Wheat berries have a chewy bite and a subtle nutty and earthy flavor.  You can find them in the natural foods section of your local grocery store. I found these at Whole Foods in the bulk bins.
DSC_0224-2

wheat berries with charred onions and kale: 
recipe from bon appetit
serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat berries 
  • 2 medium yellow onions – see instructions below
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil - The recipe called for 8 tablespoons but we did not feel we needed all the oil, so we just added what we felt was necessary.
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces (about 8 packed cups) – I used curly kale for this recipe
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Combine wheat berries, 1 onion half, 5 thyme sprigs, and 1 tablespoon salt in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 2 inches.  
The below photo was taken before I put in the water, of course, but I thought it was pretty so I snapped up a picture.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium or medium low (our stove has an intense flame so we went to medium low) and simmer until wheat berries are just tender but still firm to the bite, about 35 minutes. 
Drain in a colander and discard the onion and thyme sprigs. Place wheat berries in a large bowl and let cool.  
Meanwhile, rinse, de-stem, dry and tear up your kale into 2-inch pieces; set aside.  
Cut remaining 3 onion halves crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are charred in spots, about 5 minutes. 
Transfer onions to the bowl with wheat berries
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to same skillet (we actually added about 1 teaspoon as there was oil leftover). Working in 3 batches, add kale and cook, tossing occasionally, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and adding oil as needed between batches, until charred in spots, about 1 minute per batch.  
This is another tasty and kid approved way to get your kale in.  My kids loved the kale sautéed this way as it reminded them of kale chips but without the crunch. 
Add the kale to the bowl.  Drizzle with the 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and any remaining oil left in the pan; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
We served this up as a side salad for dinner, but I would definitely eat a bowl of this for lunch without the steak!
 Here were my leftovers the next day.  I topped the salad with some leftover steak and the herb salsa.  I then microwaved it for about 1 minute. 
 It was a two-nighter meal and tasted just as good or even better the next night.

What have you made with kale lately?
Are you becoming kale obsessed like me?
Bon appétit

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.

lentil “meatballs” with lemon pesto

lentils

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

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

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

lentil “meatballs”:

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

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

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

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

lemon pesto sauce:

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

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?

warm butternut squash and chickpea salad

butternutsquash

Here is an amazing comfort food that is actually good for you. It’s a great vegetarian dish that you can serve up as a side dish or as a main entree, as its very satisfying and filling.  I love butternut squash and I am always searching for new recipes that call for it.  I found this particular recipe last spring at the Smitten Kitchen.  I made it up one night when I was sick of food and wanted a vegetarian option for dinner.  My kids are not big fans of butternut squash or this salad, so it’s really just something that I make for John and I.  I love making it for lunch on a cool weekend because it’s so warm and satisfying, almost like a good soup.

Ok, here are the ingredients you will need in addition to the squash.

Warm butternut squash and chickpea salad:


for salad:

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds) 
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • one 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped 

for tahini dressing:

 

  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

 

 

Preheat the oven to 425°F.


Next, I’m going to demonstrate how to cut and peel a squash.  
If you already know how, then you can skip down past these photos.   
Cut off both ends of your squash.
Peel your squash from the top down until you see the bright orange color.
Once your squash is peeled, cut the squash in half.
 Cut the squash again into these large chunks.
Scoop out the all the seeds and that middle gooey stuff.  I use my melon ball scooper for this as it is quick and easy.
I always save and rinse my seeds so that I can roast them later.  Roasted squash seeds make a great snack.
Now you just need to cut up your squash into even sized chunks.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, olive oil and a few pinches of salt.  Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated.  Roast them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 20-25 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from the oven and let cool.
While your squash is cooking, chop up your onion and cilantro and rinse & drain your can of chickpeas.
While the squash is cooling, you can make up the tahini dressing.  In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice.  
Note: You will want to use fresh lemons here for your lemon juice.  It typically takes 2 lemons to get a 1/4 cup of juice.
Add the tahini, and whisk to blend.  Add the water and olive oil and whisk well.  If you want a thinner sauce, you can add a bit more water.
To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully.  
Note: If I am serving this up for guests, then I will add the sauce (add it slowly to taste, don’t use the whole bowl of sauce) to the whole bowl.  If I’m just serving myself a small bowl for  lunch or dinner, then I will just add a spoonful to my dish, and reserve the rest of the sauce in the refrigerator.

This is my third day of eating this for lunch and I am one happy camper :)  Today was cool and misty so I paired it with some warm tea.  Perfect fall dish!

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/