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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how to cook spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash with tomato sauce

spaghetti squash with tomato sauceToday’s post is sort of a recipe, but really more of a “how to” post. I’m going to show you all how to cook spaghetti squash.  I figured if I didn’t have a clue the first time I cooked one up, then there are those of you that are in the same boat. Spaghetti squash is a delicious and nutritious alternative to pasta.  It’s loaded with fiber, nutrients, vitamins and is high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, plus its fun to eat. When cooked, the inside of the squash shreds into long, thin noodle-like strands resembling spaghetti pasta.  I didn’t believe it until I actually made it and saw the transformation.

The squash is pretty mild in flavor and really tastes like pasta.  I have to admit that my kids and hubby were not entirely satisfied with the squash as they would be with a traditional spaghetti pasta.  To make it more of a satisfying meal, I either have to top the squash with some meatballs or if I’m keeping it vegetarian, then I need to add a side of garlic bread for my carb loving kids.

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kale salad with delicata squash, almonds and aged cheddar

kale salad with delicata squash, almonds and aged cheddar
kale salad with delicata squash, almonds and aged cheddarOk, I must admit, I’m not a holiday recipe kind of food blogger. I don’t feature holiday recipes months before the holidays, unless it’s a recipe that can be used for any occasion, like this salad. I’m honestly not an expert when it comes to cooking turkey or stuffing. I make the same stuffing every year (sausage and chestnut stuffing) and John cooks the turkey, as cooking large birds sort of scare me. I also figure that most of you have family favorite Thanksgiving recipes that have been passed down through the generations. We actually have a family favorite cranberry sauce that John’s mom passed down to us, which John makes every year for Thanksgiving.  

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roasted beets

beets

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

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

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

roasted beets:

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

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

roasted asparagus

asperagas
Sadly asparagus season is almost over, so I wanted to make sure to post my family’s favorite way to enjoy it, and that is roasting it.  Roasted asparagus is so tasty and it’s a perfect healthy side to any spring meal.  We have been eating so much asparagus these past few months that if  you look closely at the photos below you will see that its everywhere in our household.  I kinda think my kids are glad that the season is coming to a close.

Have you ever roasted asparagus before?  If you haven’t, you have to try it.  It has converted me and many of my friends from asparagus haters to asparagus lovers!  It’s so easy to prepare.  All you do is rinse it, throw on some olive oil and salt, and bake for 7 minutes.  I mean, how easy is that?

Here’s a great tip for keeping asparagus fresh.  Fill a tall glass container with about 2 inches of cold water. Take each asparagus stalk and cut off at least half an inch from the bottom. Put the stalks into the glass container and set it in your refrigerator.  Make sure to replace the water if you are keeping the spears for more than a few days as it will get cloudy.

roasted asparagus:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea or kosher salt 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse the asparagus and break off and discard the tough ends. 
Lay the asparagus spears out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the spears as well as a pinch of sea or kosher salt.  Toss the asparagus with the salt and olive oil until they are all are evenly distributed.
Place baking sheet in the oven on the middle or second rack from the bottom and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes, depending on how thick your asparagus spears are.  Roast until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork.  
Make sure to toss them a bit halfway through.
I usually pull them out at exactly 7 minutes and they are perfect every time!
Asparagus is a delicious vegetable that pairs with just about anything.
Here are some meals we have been pairing it with below.
salmon with almond-lime yogurt sauceroasted red pepper and arugula whole-wheat pizza
Anyway, I hope you have a chance to roast up some asparagus before the season is over.

Brussels sprouts salad

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Brussels Sprouts SaladI know Brussels sprouts are not really “in season” right now.  We are actually at the end of their season, but I was craving a Brussels salad for lunch after devouring one the other night at a local restaurant. Brussels sprouts do taste best in the fall when they are small and green, but you can find still find them in most grocery stores this time of year, at least in the Bay area.  If you’re not a fan of Brussles sprouts or have not tried them, then you might want to wait and try this recipe in the fall when they are at their peak season.  I like veggies so this is a salad for someone who likes veggies, especially Brussels Sprouts.  Now, if you want a nutritious salad, I mean super nutritious salad, that doesn’t taste like veggies, then try my lacinato kale salad.  This salad has converted a few of my friends from kale haters to kale lovers.

So lets move onto the reason that I was craving this salad.  My in-laws were in town last weekend and we went out to dinner at a local pizzeria.  My father-in-law ordered this Brussels salad that was to-die-for.  We all took our forks and dug in as it looked delish.  I loved the salad, and it was fun to try Brussels a new way rather than the roasted version I always make.  I told Mookie, (that’s what we call John’s dad, as Zoe named him that when she was 2 and it just sort of stuck) that I was going to make a Brussels salad this week as a tribute to him since he loves Brussels sprouts.

My salad is a bit different than the restaurant’s version.  Their salad contained eggs, bacon and some other yummy and delectable ingredients.  My salad is a bit healthier (sans the bacon) and is RAW.  Yes, you heard me correctly, this is a RAW salad and you are going to be eating RAW Brussels folks (should you choose to make this).  Honestly, I was a bit intimated to try them raw, but the mustard dressing, walnuts and the cheese took away any bitter taste.  I actually ate the whole bowl in one sitting and thus was stuffed, as Brussels have so much fiber in them that they are really a meal in its self.

Note:  I cut this recipe in half as I was just eating this for lunch and I also changed a few things from the original recipe. If you want the full recipe then you can see it here.
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Brussels sprouts salad:

  • 9-12 Brussels sprouts, washed and dried, woody ends cut off, and sliced into thin slices- I used about 8 or 9
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped up into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey – optional 

Toast up your walnuts.  My favorite way to toast nuts is by using a frying pan.  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.

DSC_0001Let the walnuts cool and then chop them up into small pieces.

Now onto the Brussels sprouts.  Cut the ends off of your Brussels and then pull off any yucky leaves.  Rinse the Brussels in a bowl of water.  Slice the Brussels into thin slices with a knife (see instructions below for how I did it) or you can use the slicing disc of a food processor or a mandoline.  I did not have the later two, so I just used a knife.

Cut the sprout in half, vertically, cutting right through the core. Place the half face down on the cutting board and cut it crosswise in thin strips.  This is what you’re left with.  Feel free to throw away any of the yellow core.  Put the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, mustard, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper into a small jar, put on the lid and SHAKE IT UP until the vinaigrette has come together.  If you don’t have a little cute jar, then just whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

DSC_0017Now, it’s time to put together the salad.  Put your shredded Brussels into a mixing bowl.

DSC_0015Add the dressing.

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Add in the freshly shredded cheese.

DSC_0030Add in the chopped walnuts.

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DSC_0038Mix everything together well and dig in!

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DSC_0067You could also add 1 teaspoon maple syrup to the dressing as a twist.

I have never eaten Brussels sprouts raw before and I really enjoyed this salad.
I think I will enjoy it even more in the fall when the Brussels are at their peak.

Brussels sprouts salad

Serving Size: serves 1-2

Brussels sprouts salad

Ingredients

  • 9-12 Brussels sprouts, washed and dried, woody ends cut off, and sliced into thin slices- I used about 8 or 9
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped up into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey - optional

Instructions

Toast up your walnuts. My favorite way to toast nuts is by using a frying pan. 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 and then chop them up into small pieces.

Now onto the Brussels sprouts. Cut the ends off of your Brussels and then pull off any yucky leaves. Rinse the Brussels in a bowl of water. Cut the sprout in half, vertically, cutting right through the core. Place the half face down on the cutting board and cut it crosswise in thin strips. Feel free to throw away any of the yellow core.

Put the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, mustard, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper into a small jar, put on the lid and SHAKE IT UP until the vinaigrette has come together. If you don't have a little cute jar, then just whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Now, it's time to put together the salad.

Put your shredded Brussels into a mixing bowl.

Add the dressing.

Add in the freshly shredded cheese.

Add in the chopped walnuts.

Mix everything together well and dig in!

You could also add 1 teaspoon maple syrup to the dressing as a twist.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/brussels-sprouts-salad/

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!

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!

Roasted Brussles Sprouts

roasted Brussels sprouts

roasted Brussels sprouts

How are you feeling about Brussels spouts?  Do they bring up childhood memories of being stuck at the dinner table for hours until you finished every last one?  Do you have memories of gagging each time you ate one?  I do!  I use to hate Brussels sprouts, especially ones that were boiled.  They were sodden and vaguely buttered and hard to chew.  Then I tried them roasted, and I was converted.  Roasting them takes away that bitter taste and brings out their nutty flavor.  I’m hoping to convert those of you that are Brussels sprouts haters to Brussels sprouts lovers.

OK, lets get started!  You don’t need much to make these;  just some olive oil, salt & pepper.  First wash up your Brussels sprouts and then pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.

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Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves.  Then cut them in half from stem to top.DSC_0020

On a rimmed baking sheet, gently toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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 Roast, tossing occasionally, until sprouts are browned and tender when pierced with fork, about 15 minutes.

roasted Brussels sprouts

Serve them up alongside your favorite dish.