Roasted Veggie Quesadillas with Pesto and Goat Cheese + a Twist to My Favorite Barley Risotto

As I have been prepping for my first day back to work tomorrow I have tried to get myself back in the mindset of thinking through all our meals on Sundays. I forget how this can be a lot of work up front but how much easier it is as the week goes on and you have things prepped and ready for the meal ahead of time. I wanted to share two meals I made this week that were delicious. If you are able to roast the vegetables ahead of time then the actual prep of these delicious meals is simple. First up was a variation of my favorite barley risotto. Instead of mushrooms and sausage this time I did butternut squash, kale and turkey sausage (this would be just as good without the meat as well). I love anything with roasted vegetables and have always loved roasted vegetable sandwiches so decided to try it in quesadilla format.  I added pesto and goat cheese to make it complete.

As I said I highly recommend roasting the vegetables for both of these recipes at the same time.  Then when it comes time to make the meals it’s fast. Plus, after the vegetables are roasted the risotto only uses one pot (MY FAVORITE) and all I had to do to make the quesadillas the next night was assemble and bake. After roasting store the squash separate from the other vegetables (the mushrooms, zucchini, onions and red peppers can go in the same container). Below is one of the two pans of veggies I did (the other had the onion, red pepper and second zucchini).

IMG_3235

Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas with Pesto and Goat Cheese

Serves 4IMG_3264

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 zucchini sliced the long way
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced into 1 inch long chunks
  • 3 portabella mushrooms, julienned
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces of goat cheese
  • 1 cup pesto
  • 8 flour tortillas

Directions

  1. This step can be done in advance. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray then lay vegetables on top and drizzle olive oil over them. Roast at 400 for 40 minutes or until tender. If making the quesadillas later in the week store the vegetables in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.
  2. When it’s time to eat. Set oven to 350
  3. Assemble quesadillas by laying four tortillas down and spreading the vegetables evenly over them. Next, break off small chunks of goat cheese and spread on top of the vegetables. On the other 4 tortillas spread 1/4 cup of pesto evenly to the edges. Flip this quesadilla on top of the other tortilla.
  4. Lay all four assembled quesadillas on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes (until tortilla is slightly browned), flip and bake 5-10 min on the other side.
  5. Serve warm

Butternut Squash, Kale, Turkey Sausage Barley Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound of bulk turkey sausage (or two sausages with the casein removed)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of hull-less or pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and ripped to small pieces (I used a 5 ounce bag of kale)
  • 1 Butternut squash peeled and diced (I bought a 20 ounce container which is ~3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. This step can be done a day ahead if desired. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray then place the diced squash on the pan and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Roast the butternut squash at 400 for 40 minutes.
  2. Heat dutch oven (or a large pot) to medium high and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Saute the onion and  sausage until sausage is cooked through.
  3. Add chicken broth and barley to the pot, bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for ~40 minutes until barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed
  4. When 10 minutes remain (after barley has been on for 30 minutes) add the kale and roasted butternut squash.
  5. Remove from heat. Add the Parmesan cheese.
  6. Add salt and pepper as desired and serve

Homemade Ramen

When we were kids my brother and I used to love packaged Ramen noodles. It was often our after school snack when my mom was still at work. I still find myself craving these delicious things and was so happy when we had a Ramen restaurant nearby. Last year the restaurant moved and I was determined to create this dish at home. Since then we’ve remade it multiple times and even the kids love it. This is a vegetarian version of a ramen recipe that is super simple, quick and flavorful. A great way to get the classic ramen taste with the addition of fiber and nutrient rich vegetables. This recipe can be made with any vegetable your heart desires. I listed below how I usually prep mine as I think chives and mushrooms should be in every ramen dish and I always have broccoli on hand. Carrots and green onions are also good additions.  The beauty is once you have the broth base and noodles you can vary it up. I usually make it vegetarian but also have added meat if I have leftovers or a soft cooked egg for additional protein. The picture shows a time I made it this summer and sliced up leftover brats to add to the top (pork shoulder would be great too). All this Ramen talk and now I am going to the store to get Chinese noodles so we can have this for dinner tonight! Buon Appetito

Click here to see how long to boil eggs for different consistencies of yolk if you want to add an egg to the top. If doing that start the eggs when you begin the recipe.

Serves: 4-6

 Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil, or olive oil
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 1.5-2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 oz Chinese Noodles (some say Ramen noodles on the package, some say udon or soba) or Rice Noodles (gluten free option). I’ve used both with good results
  • 4 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
  • Optional toppings
    • sliced green onion
    • chopped basil
    • soy sauce
    • Hot spices: red pepper flakes, hot sauce, etc
    • soft cooked eggs sliced in half
    • cooked meat (leftover pulled pork or sausage)

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, add oil and heat up. Then add minced onion, garlic, ginger and vegetables (carrots, mushrooms and broccoli or any variation of vegetables you want added).
  2. Continually toss and cook for 3-5 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Next add in broth and water.
  4. Add Chinese noodles and celery seed. Boil for amount of time listed on Chinese noodle direction for noodles to be done.
  5. Remove from heat and top with chives and any additional optional toppings you want.

 

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Pancakes

I find it ironic that within this big world wide web I searched how to make Sweet Potato Oatmeal pancakes on pinterest and got linked to a blog that was inspired by the same restaurant as I was. The restaurant that impressed me (and them) with these delicious pancakes was Short Stack Eatery in Madison. After eating my sweet potato oatmeal pancakes I couldn’t wait to make them for the kids (and who am I kidding for myself). Just as anticipated all the kids loved them. My four year old ate 3, the two year old 2 and the baby 1 and they have now been added into our breakfast for dinner rotation. We served them with fresh cut up fruit on the side and milk.

Since sweet potatoes are a fall food staple it’s the perfect time to try these out. You will need 1-2 sweet potatoes from your potato sack + some staple fall spices (nutmeg and cinnamon). I recommend cooking the sweet potatoes ahead of time so they are cooled and easier to peel and mash when you are ready to make the batter. Also, they freeze well so consider doubling it and freezing them to microwave later. I do this for as one of my quick healthy options for our 8 month old. My last editors note. The restaurant served them with mascarpone cream, which I listed the ingredients and directions for below but haven’t done so myself as I wasn’t eating dairy. Although, now that I can have dairy again I can’t wait to try it.

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Sweet Potato Oatmeal Pancakes

Serves: 4-6

Recipe adapted from whatimadetoday blog

Ingredients for pancakes:

  • 3/4 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and mashed (1-2 sweet potatoes)
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-4 Tbsp sugar (some people don’t use any sugar but some like a little. I recommend 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole work)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted + butter for spreading on pancakes after
  • 2 eggs (1 whole egg, 1 egg white only)
  • Syrup for serving

Optional: Serve with mascarpone cream (the restaurant did this as well as the blogger who posted the recipe) and fresh fruit (raspberries, strawberries, peaches or blueberries).

Ingredients for mascarpone cream topping:

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

Directions for pancakes:

  1. Cook Sweet Potatoes. I usually do mine in the microwave. Prick the potatoes a few times with a fork, place on a plate and microwave on high 8-10 minutes or until tender when fork is inserted. Take out and let cool (if making the pancakes later then put in a covered container in the fridge.
  2. When ready to make the pancakes peel the cooled off sweet potatoes and mash.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients from flour through sugar.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, melted butter, egg and egg white.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in mashed sweet potatoes and mix until there are no clumps.
  6. Heat a griddle or fry pan over medium heat and spray with PAM or add butter to pan. Pour ~1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook for 1.5-2 minutes, flip and repeat.

Directions for mascarpone cream:

  1. If making the mascarpone cream sauce, whisk the whipping cream in blender until it firm peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  2. Scrape down sides and add mascarpone cheese and mix on low until combined. Serve on top of pancakes

Squash “Lasagna” Bake

My dinner tonight was a last minute meal inspired by our morning trip to the Shorewood Farmers Market. I ran into my friend Rachel who told me about this delicious squash lasagna she made earlier in the week. After my mouth was watering my husband set out to find some squash at the market and I made my grocery list of other things we’d need. My friend, like me, often gets inspiration from a recipe then whips it up in her own way based on what she has and how she likes. I got some inspiration from pinterest variations of this but ended up doing my own simpler thing so I thought I’d write it down so I could make it again. I also had to share this as I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow. Another friend of mine prepped a similar bake tonight for a dinner early this week which made me realize it’s a great dish to pre-prepare and pop in after work on a crisp fall day.

This recipe is gluten free and could also be made vegetarian by replacing the sausage with diced eggplant (if using eggplant make sure to let it simmer with the onions and sauce the whole time the squash cooks to ensure it’s tenderness)

Squash “Lasagna” Bake

serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • Butternut or Summer Squash (one large or two small)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound sausage, Italian or turkey (I buy in bulk if not bulk remove casein) –> 1 1/2 cups eggplant if making vegetarian
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil, separated
  • 1/2 jar of classic marinara
  • 8 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded and separated
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp fresh
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil onto squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven to roast for 50-60 minutes
  2. In the meantime heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and let cook 3-5 minutes then add the sausage, breaking up pieces and cook until the meat is brown and cooked through. Turn heat to low and add 1/2 container of marinara sauce, let simmer until squash is done.
  3. Mix together the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and parsley and set aside.
  4. Once the squash is done let it cool 10 minutes. Keep the oven on. Then using a fork scoop out the inside of the squash into a greased 8×8 casserole dish. It will come out looking like spaghetti noodles. I personally mashed mine a little with a fork in the dish. Once the squash is set layer it with the meat sauce and then spread the ricotto cheese mixture on top.
  5. Place the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the sides bubble a little. If you are making the dish ahead then skip this part until you are ready to eat and place in the refrigerator. I would suggest cooking the day after it’s prepped.

Soft Baked Pretzels

My daughter asked me this weekend if we could have soft pretzels like we had on the  ferry from Wisconsin to Michigan last summer. I love that, like me, the things she remembers about trips include the food she ate! Ironically, I looked at my kids food ideas  board on pinterest and saw that I had already pinned a soft pretzel recipe. Milwaukee has a plethora of German brew pubs, which means tons of homemade soft pretzels, and a new family favorite appetizer.

Monday was my first afternoon alone with all three kiddos. Miles was napping in the swing and the girls were playing great together downstairs so I figured I’d bake. Why not?

While the pretzels were baking I made a honey mustard dip and I put some Tostados queso dip in a second bowl as our two dipping sauces (Yes…dietitians have processed food in their houses too. Remember -MODERATION).

I felt so accomplished afterwards. A fun, delicious homemade dinner on the table that everyone loved. Ryan and I had ours with an Italian sausage and salad on the side to round out the meal and the kids had deli meat and fruit with theirs.

One quick disclaimer. This is a very easy recipe but beware that it is a little time consuming as you have to make the dough, knead the dough (I did this in my Kitchen Aid mixer), let the dough rise for 15 minutes, form pretzels, let the pretzels sit in baking soda bath for 2 minute and then bake them for 8 minutes. I did 2-3 pretzels in the baking soda bath at a time to speed things up. I’d assume ~45 minutes total before they are ready to eat but I promise it is worth it.

Soft Baked PretzelsFullSizeRender (5)

Source: Sprinkle Some Sugar Blog

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 standard packet)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (3/4 cup more if needed)
  • Baking soda Bath = 2 cups of water and 4 Tbsp baking soda
  • 6 Tbsp melted butter and 1 Tbsp coarse salt for sprinkling on top post baking (I used 4 Tbsp butter and pinched salt on but did not measure)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 and line baking sheet with parchment paper or a non stick silicone baking sheet mat

  1. Combine yeast and warm water and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a hook or in a bowl if you aren’t using a mixer. Let sit until your yeast is “frosty” or looks like it’s bubbling.
  2. Add salt and melted butter to yeast mixture
  3. Add flour one cup at a time until dough forms and is no longer sticky. You may need more or less based on temperatures where you live. I found that I actually had to add 3 tsp of water (one at a time) to this to make it sticky.
  4. Once dough Knead dough in mixer or by hand for 5 minutes until its smooth.
  5. Form dough into and let sit in a bowl for 15 minutes (I covered my bowl with a towel as i do that with other dough I make)
  6. While dough rises prepare baking soda bath. Boil 2 cups of water with 4 Tbsp baking soda. Stir and heat until dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a 8×8 or 9×9 pan and let cool to be lukewarm temperatures.
  7. Take the dough out of the bowl and flatten slightly to cut into 8 sections like a pizza. Roll each section out to be ~15-20 inches long. Form the rope into a pretzel
  8. Once 2-3 are made place them in the baking soda bath and leave for 2 minutes (make the rest of the pretzels while they soak). If they are not fully covered spoon liquid mixture on to the top.
  9. Remove from baking soda bath and place on baking sheet. Reform if needed and sprinkle with salt
  10. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden brown
  11. Brush with melted butter after taking out of the oven and serve HOT with your favorite dipping sauce

Honey Mustard Dipping SauceFullSizeRender

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Mix together and refrigerate

Individualized Egg Tarts

My mother in law made a delicious herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart from Smitten Kitchen when she was in town this fall so we had extra puff pastry sheets in our freezer. I spotted them on the perfect day when the kids were happily playing together by themselves in the tent where I could see them. This meant I had time to think about a way to use them that we would all enjoy for lunch. Our littlest, Luisa, loves eggs so the breakfast puff pastry concept was launched. The nice thing about these little egg tarts is you can make them anyway you want. We had breakfast sausage and spinach around to add but you could do any cooked or roasted vegetable with or without a meat (see the bottom of this post for my combination ideas). I also was able to take mine out earlier so my egg was over medium while Elena and Luisa’s yolks were cracked and fully cooked. Individualized shared meal ideas are some of my favorite go-to meals mostly when they are quick like this was. They got a big stamp of approval from Luisa who ate hers in record time.  I doctored mine up with Trader Joe’s Sambal Matah Indonesian salsa for added flavor and spice. Another salsa that would be good to top them with is Frotera’s Chipotle Salsa made with roasted tomatillo and garlic for a smoky fresh spice flavor (my new favorite obsession). These were so good and fun for the kids that I’ll be making different variations for Luisa’s first birthday dinner and serving them with a side of fresh fruit, salad and cake.

Individualized Egg Tarts

Must Have Ingredients

  • Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets (I used Peppridge Farms puff pastry sheets) –I cut one sheet into 4 egg tarts so the full box should make 8
  • 8 eggs

Optional Toppings

  • ~1 cup spinach, chopped
  • Cooked veggies (peppers, onions, musrhooms zucchini or broccoli all come to mind as variations to try)
  • Breakfast meat (Canadian bacon, ham, prosciutto, cooked breakfast sausage or bacon), chopped
  • Trader Joe’s Sambal Matah Indonesian salsa or Frotera’s Chipotle Salsa or other salsa or hot sauce to top
  • Cheese (feta, goat or manchego would be my choices)

Directions

  1. Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature until its easy to handle (20-40 minutes)IMG_1971
  2. Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface and cut them into four pieces.
  3. Bend the sides of the puff pastry pieces up to make a shell so the egg doesn’t spill out
  4. Scramble an egg and put it in the pastry shell or crack it into the shell if you want it sunny side up
  5. Top with any meat, vegetables or cheese you desire
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-20 minutes until the pastry sheet is lightly golden and the egg FullSizeRenderis cooked to your desired consistency
  7. Plate and top with salsa or serve plain

Egg Tart Combination Ideas: 

  • ham, broccoli and cheddar cheese
  • prosicutto, arugula and manchego cheese
  • bell pepper, spinach and goat cheeseFullSizeRender (1)
  • mushroom, parmesan and sausage
  • tomato, basil and bacon

Dairy Free Mac

I’m always trying to find creative dairy free recipes so our oldest daughter can enjoy some of our favorite dishes (she is very intolerant to dairy and I’m hoping she out grows it). Recently I made an awesome one that I will definitely make again (I can’t say that for many) and had to share. I first saw it when my friend Ashley posted it on Facebook from Bold Vegan’s blog. The title was  “extra Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese (not some hippy dippy “cheesy”Mac and cheese).” This catchy title caught my attention as a I love cheese and am not a vegan. Plus, I’ve been wanting to try using nutritional yeast as people say its a great cheese alternative.

What is nutritional yeast?

nutr yeastNutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast sold in flakes or powder form for cooking. It’s a great source of B vitamins, folic acid, selenium , zinc and is a complete protein. If you are a vegan or vegetarian I recommend looking for one that is fortified with vitamin B12. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contain about 45 calorie and 8 grams of protein. The recipe below uses 1/2 cup which would be ~24 grams of protein from the yeast.

It produces a cheesy, nutty flavor that was great in our recipe. You can use a few tablespoons to add creaminess to sauces, soups or mashed potatoes (I plan to start doing this) or you can add in more for a cheesy texture.  I’ve also heard you can sprinkle it on popcorn for added flavor.  I found mine at whole foods in the bulk  section and would imagine most co-ops also sell it. For a little over 1/2 a cup it cost me $2.09 ($18.99/lb).

Without further explanation I will let you get to the recipe. Know that my husband, brother, mom  and I all liked it. It was creamy with a nice slight nutty flavor and an added bonus that there were vegetables blended in! We served ours with sesame green beans. I’ll include how I make those below as they are a family staple.

Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese using Nutritional Yeast

Ingredients

  • 1russet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup carrot, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup butter  (for vegan version use Earth Balance spread)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (40g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canned coconut milk (full fat is recommended but I used Trader Joe’s Light Coconut milk)
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 box (8 oz) of macaroni noodles or elbows  (I probably used about 12 ounces of noodles from a 16 0z box–I didnt measure just poured)
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Place potato, carrot and onion in a pan, cover with 2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on.
  2. While the potato mixture is cooking start your water for the noodles and cook noodles according to the package.
  3. After 20 minutes, turn off heat in potato pan and add butter (or Earth Balance spread f making vegan), nutritional yeast, turmeric and salt. Stir to combine until melted (DO NOT discard the water, keep it in the pan)
  4. Pour mixture into a blender and blend for ~1 minute until creamy and smooth (NOTE: I used an immersion blender and did the blending in the pan it cooked in which was super easy). You may need to scrape the sides down from the blender a couple of times for everything to get incorporated.
  5. Add coconut milk to the blender and continue to blend until mixture is creamy throughout.
  6. Pour cheese sauce over cooked noodles.
  7. Garnish with parsley and serve.

veg mac             veg mac 2

Sesame Seed Green Beans

If you are crunched for time like me you can buy a  bag of green beans to steam in the microwave or if you have more time or fresh green beans sautee them in a pan with a small amount of olive oil. I like my green beans with a lot of crunch so I usually do the least amount of time recommended on the steam bag. Once they are cooked drizzle with sesame seed oil, salt, pepper and sesame seeds and serve.

My sous chefs

Asian Noodles- A New Teskey Favorite

Do you ever get stressed about magazines piling up month after month? Not real stresssed more just “anxious to read them and not see the next months edition show up before you have even lifted the cover of the previous months” stressed. Personally, I feel like this a lot lately as life is busy and those lay back read a magazine days have become far and few. I finally had a quiet sleeping baby and a chance to catch up on my celebrity gossip from US Weekly, learn from  my Parenting magazine, get recipe ideas from  Cooking Light and Todays Dietitian.  While skimming Todays Dietitian I came across this great and easy vegetarian dish in their Meatless Mondays article. So three weeks ago I cooked it up for my  in-laws (aka MN mom and dad) and meat loving husband and it got passing reviews from all three. To my surprise the second time I made it our almost 2 year old tolerated the mildly spiced sauce and loved it.  This has already become a dish in our frequent rotation and will be a great go to last minute week night meal for our house.

Here are a few reasons why I loved this dish:

1. It’s vegetarian! I love having meatless meals mixed between nights we have meat and try to do this at least once a week if not more times. It is a great way to add variety in protein choices and helps keep a good balance between macronutrients and as research has shown a diet that is majority plant based can help prevent diseases (now I love meat don’t get me wrong but I don’t think it should be the only protein people think about when planning meals)

2. The veggies and noodles cook in the same pot so you only end up with three dirty dishes (a bowl for the sauce, one pot and a strainer)…yes THREE dishes TOTAL! Amazing.

3. It was EXTREMELY easy and the sauce used things that I normally have in my pantry (if you don’t have almond butter you could definitely sub peanut butter).

4. My toddler liked it. Now not sure this is a great one to have as she likes most things (or per the norm for most toddlers – will like something one day then not eat much next time you make it then devour it at a future meal)

We ate it three weeks ago and I have made it by request two more times since then which rarely happens. Once for my dad and the next time for a group of 8 (we doubled the recipe that time). There is a little kick so if you are sensitive to spice you may want to add the chili-garlic sauce after but it truly was a mild kick and our daughter was fine with it.

Here is the recipe with my adjustments/comments italicized. I do mention below that I normally double the sauce (when I doubled the recipe I just did 1.5 times the sauce) so if you plan to do that you will need double the amount of soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and chili-garlic sauce then what is listed below.

Asian Noodle Bowl with Spicy Almond Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 lb whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 head broccoli (about 3/4 lb), tops cut into flowerets, stems peeled and sliced thinly –I did more than 1/2 a head
2 cups (about 4 oz) snow peas, trimmed – I did a little more based on what I had
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 T fresh lime juice
2 T brown sugar
1 T chili-garlic sauce, such as Sriracha
1 scallion, green part only (about 3 T)

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on medium heat, stirring frequently until they’re golden, about 3 minutes – IF YOU ARE IN A RUSH YOU COULD SKIP THIS STEP

3. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Three minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli to the pasta pot. One minute before it’s ready, add the snow peas and red peppers to the pot.

4. I DOUBLED THE QUANTITIES ABOVE WHEN I MADE THE SAUCE — While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Place the almond butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, and 3 T of boiling water from the pasta pot into a large bowl, and whisk until smooth.

5. Drain the noodles and vegetables, return them to the pasta pot, add the sauce and toss to coat. Serve garnished with the toasted almonds and scallion greens (if the sauce turns out thick, as mine sometimes does, just add a little more water to the finished pot and mix in).

Nutrient Analysis per serving assuming no extra veggies and one batch of sauce
Calories: 410; Total fat: 16 g; Sat fat: 1.5 g; Cholesterol: 85 mg; Sodium: 460 mg; Total carbohydrates: 60 g; Dietary fiber: 17 g; Protein: 15 g

— Recipe Adapted from Ellie Krieger, RD, for the Almond Board of California.

Recipe found in Todays Dietitian Magazine 

Curry-Rubbed Salmon

We were honored to have my Aunt Nancy visit last week and help out with our daughter. As if that wasn’t enough she decided to cook dinner for us as well. Wetook out a handful of my cookbooks the night before and browsed for a new tasty recipe. After browsing many books nothing beat out the recipes we found in one of my favorite books: Power Foods from the editors of whole living magazine.

After reviewing all our options we landed on curry-rubbed salmon with napa slaw, brown basmati rice and sauteed zucchini and red peppers.

It was delicious!! Using the broiler for the salmon kept it very moist which to me is the first key to a good piece of fish. I expected a stronger curry flavor  but it was faint (in a good way) and the slaw was the perfect pairing. The mint and lime flavors were refreshing on a cold February night and perfect with fish. I’ve been eating the leftovers all week. I’ll definitely make it again. The one change I’d make is to add an extra juiced lime to the slaw as it felt a little dry.

Basil Pepper Pesto

My husband and I love sauces, spreads and things with a kick. Now that it’s basil season that means lots of pesto. Pesto chicken paninis, pasta, sandwiches, salad dressings…you get my drift. We love pesto!! When we were up north over the fourth of July I saw a recipe for a spicy pesto that caught my eye. We made it last week and I can’t wait to make it again this week. It was AMAZING. I know I say that a lot but this truly was to die for. We ate it everyday until it was gone. Day one was grilled chicken with the pesto on top, day two paninis with pesto, day three grilled chicken club sandwiches with pesto. I even found myself sneaking in the kitchen to dip pretzels in it during the day. If you like a little spice you will love this recipe (I think I may even try a little jalapeno in it next time too to kick it up another notch). They said you can store it in your refrigerator for up to three weeks but believe me it will be long gone before you have to worry about the expiration date. I can’t wait to try it on pasta and grilled fish!!

Basil Pepper Pesto

Adapted from David Rocco’s Pesto Sauce in People Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 cup hot peppers (the original recipe calls for Serrano, I used salsa hot peppers from my garden but a mix would work as well. Now if you don’t like a big kick go with a pepper with less heat like a banana)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions

  1. Place the first four ingredients in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until well combined (but not pureed). If you don’t have a food processor you could also chop these ingredients on a cutting board and lace in a bowl
  2. Place mixture in a jar or storable container and pour in olive oil and stir.

Ode to Quinoa

It’s time I pay respect to one of my favorite grains. You may be asking why we need to pay respect to a food…well, here’s why. One it’s a whole grain. Two, it’s a complete protein. Three, it’s gluten free so can accomodate many diets and four, it’s quick and easy to make. Who doesn’t love that. A half cup serving contains ~110 calories, 2.5 grams fiber and 4 grams of protein. I frequently cook quinoa and add any combination of herbs and vegetables to it which is how the stuffed portabella mushroom recipe was created. I’ll put how I made it below but feel free to vary it. The recipe is a great way to make two meals from one dish. I made the quinoa as a side to our dinner Monday and then two days later used it up by stuffing these mushrooms. The second recipe I have been eyeing up ever since I saw the picture of it on pinterest. The fact that it has quinoa, lemon, avocado and cilantro made me know it would taste just as amazing as I had imagined. I will definitely make this one again and I also plan to keep mushrooms around for stuffing when I’m back at work!

Quinoa stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup quinoa
  • A large handful of fresh cilantro
  • 5 green onions
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 portabella mushrooms
  • 2-4 ounces of goat cheese

Directions

  1. Heat 3 cups of water with 1 ½ cups of quinoa until boiling (if you are stuffing the peppers the same day you should also preheat the oven to 375 degrees)
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes)
  3. Chop a large handful of cilantro and 4 to 5 green onions and add to the quinoa
  4. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of crushed red pepper
  5. Wash the portabella mushrooms and pull the stems out of each of them and set them in a baking dish
  6. Scoop quinoa mixture into portabella mushrooms and top with goat cheese
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. 

Lemony Quinoa and Avocado Salad

I followed a recipe from pinterest: Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing with a few changes. I listed how I cooked it below. This can be made in advance with the avocado added right before serving. If served as a side like we did it would serve 5-6.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions or chives, diced
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced (~1/4 cup)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 1 cup of water with ½ cups of quinoa until boiling
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes)
  3. While the quinoa cooks prep your ad ins and dressing: chop your bell pepper, cilantro and green onions and place in a medium bowl
  4. To make dressing whisk together the tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice
  5. Once quinoa is cooked add it to the bowl with the chopped red bell pepper, cilantro and green onions. Pour dressing on top and toss (THIS CAN ALL BE DONE A DAY IN ADVANCE)
  6. Chop and add the avocado to the quinoa prior to serving and top with a dash of salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cold

A thanks to the creator…

How do you say thanks to a dear friend who graciously created your website for you. Well, for me the answer was easy, have her over for dinner. While she’s the website and design expert, I can be the dinner chef. Kristen has been an amazing friend to me over the years. We grew up in Racine together and became closer as we got older and am so blessed that she lives in the Twin Cities with me. She’s an amazing freelance web designer and developer among many other thing (card player, friend, listener, happy hour mate, pedal pub participant, etc…). The past two months in her small window of free time she has taken on the task of upgrading me from my blog into a website, which would have taken me over a year with many flip out tantrums. I highly recommend checking out her website to see some of her work and get more information. I also encourage all my readers to browse the new site to see all the new and improved upgrades!

Ever since Ryan and I had a date night at Mill Valley Kitchen I’ve been craving their wild mushroom farro risotto. Since, Kristen’s a vegetarian and a fellow mushroom lover it seemed like the perfect time to try this out on my own and low and behold my favorite source, Cooking Light, had a recipe.

Farro Risotto with Mushrooms

I ventured to Whole Foods as I knew they would have some of the more obscure ingredients like mushroom broth. I also found they have an array of dried mushrooms to choose from. After much debate I went with shiitake, partially because I wasn’t familiar with some of the varieties and partially because I love shiitake mushrooms. I must forewarn all readers who plan to make this that soaking them in boiling water as the recipe states, did give a rather unpleasant smell, but know that it’s subtle and worth it as they gave a delicious flavor in the dish.

Another tip to readers. Farro, like most grains should be soaked before using. This is important to help rinse the grain and also, to politely say this, make it “more comfortable” to digest. Mine only soaked for 2 hours since I was making the dish the same night I bought the farro. If you know you are going to make it in advance I recommend soaking the farro overnight.

To finish our meal I paired our risotto with a salad of mixed greens, dried cherries, avocado, feta and poppyseed dressing then we finished our meal with a mini cheesecake and cannoli from Whole Foods. This was the perfect meal to make while Kristen was hard at work since it called for 30-40 minutes of stirring. It gave her time to do her web designing while I stayed out of the way. Our overall consensus was a double thumbs up on to the dish. I would definitely make it again for any risotto or mushroom lover or vegetarian foodie and Kristen anytime you’re craving it again you knows who to call.

Once again, a huge thank you to my dear friend Kristen Angel for all her amazing work on the site. I hope you enjoy the new look and upgraded features. Let us know what you think!

Food of the Month

Cheese, Cheese, Cheese!

If you’re saying to yourself, why cheese? Well, for one, the packers are on a nice winning streak and I’m a proud cheese head and two, because the holidays make me think of delicious cheese dishes and plates.

I started my food of the month off a few days behind but with a great entrance.

Barefoot Contessa’s Mac & Cheese

This was a great dish for a Sunday afternoon. I made mine with Trader Joe’s organic vegetable radiatore noodles and I split my milk (1/2 skim milk and 1/2 2% lactaid milk). I also used a gruyere/swiss mix instead of straight gruyere cheese and it was delicious. Also, I only had whole wheat bread so I used this to make the bread crumbs. Lastly, and this was my mistake, I added 3/4 Tbsp instead of 1/2 tsp of nutmeg but we all liked it. I think I would do a 1/2 Tbsp if I made it again.

From a nutrition standpoint for macaroni and cheese I would classify this one in the middle. It’s not a low fat recipe but it also isn’t an insane recipe with cream and extra pounds of cheese. You could always cut back on how much cheese you add if you want to lighten it up even more.  I found it to be a nice balance that can be paired with some veggies or a side salad to round out the meal.

Another one of my favorite recipes for the holiday season to bring as an appetizer is the

Pesto Cheese Blossom from The Food Network

To make this healthier I always use fat free cream cheese.  You mix the cream cheese with garlic so it will still have a good flavor. I opt out of adding the pistachios since I’m not a big fan of them but I know others who have made this with them. I’ve brought this to a work party, friends party and made it for family and everyone loves it. Plus you can make it the day ahead and it’s Christmas colors.

It’s hard to talk about cheese and not talk about serving sizes. Cheese, in the right portion size is a great source of calcium but it is often over ate. Since it is made from milk it is higher in fat so it’s important to note how much you are eating. I would stick to 1- 1.5 ounces per serving. This looks like 6 dice and while that seems like a lot of plain cheese it adds up quickly when cheese is added to things like pizza, nachos, macaroni and cheese, etc…

Another thing to note is some cheese are a little lower in fat than others. For example, feta, provolone, mozzarella and swiss cheese have less natural fat than cheddar and havarti cheese. Another great cheese is Laughing Cow, who make a great portioned swiss cheese with 50 calories per wedge plus a light version that comes in multiple flavors for only 35 calories per wedge. It is a great substitution for cream cheese or to spread on sandwiches. Another way to cut back on the fat in cheese is to choose ones made with 2% milk. They will have less fat without sacrificing taste and texture like some fat free cheeses do.

Food of the Month

I picked my first tomato from my garden last week and was so overtly excited that it’s officially tomato season. While farmers markets and other gardens have had tomatoes fresh for most of July mine are just coming into bloom. Since starting the food of the month I have anticipated using tomatoes and now the time has come! I am so obsessed with tomatoes I don’t even know how to start and can’t even imagine typing all the recipes I have using fresh tomatoes. For one most of the dishes don’t have recipes. Fresh salsa, marinara sauce and tomato soup are things I just whip up and taste as I go. I’m so excited that I have 12 tomato plants this year. I know I’ll have no issue using them and I may even get fancy and try canning some of my salsa and sauce or make homemade tomato juice!

First thing first I want to try to answer a common question that arises.

Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

This is an ongoing debate and depends on who you ask. Botanists would say they are a fruit because botanically they grow like fruits but the United States Department of Agriculture, horticulturists and most dietitians classify it as a vegetable. I’m not sure how accurate this is but I read this statement online today (also showing the debate has been going on for centuries): “On May 10, 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the tomato is a vegetable and, as such, is subject to import taxes under the United States Tariff Act of 1883.

What’s in a tomato?

One medium sized tomato (3” diameter) has ~ 30-35 calories and is a rich source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain an antioxidant called lycopene which has been studied for it’s cancer fighting properties. Lycopene protects our cells from oxygen damage which can help white blood cells and may also help prevent heart disease.

Now how to use them. Well if you’re like me then you’ll pick ’em, slice ’em and top them with a dash of salt and pepper or olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I can eat a few tomatoes at a time when they’re in season).
And last but not least…a few great tomato recipes worth listing…

Summer Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup:

Cooking Light-August 2011
I made these sandwiches for my mom and I when she was in town. While I’ve made MANY caprese panini’s with basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella this one was by far the best. The determining factor was balsamic reduction.
Rating: Sina: 5, Becca (my mom): 5
          

Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients

Writer’s Note: I don’t use a recipe when I make bruschetta but here is the gist, measurements may vary a little

  • French or Italian Bread
  • 2-4 tomatoes diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar  (reduced balsamic vinegar also works)
  • 12-20 basil leaves diced (I like a lot)
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Slice bread and toast in the oven on broil
Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and basil and layer on top of bread slices. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Grate Parmesan on top and serve immediately. You can always prepare the topping ahead of time and assemble them on bread later if you are bringing it to a party.
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Caprese Salad

Slice tomato and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and layer every other. Sprinkle with cut up basil and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and serve
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Crop Share Box #3

Even though Box number 3 came three weeks ago I didn’t post yet because I had one more dish to make with its contents. This box was filled with greens and very easy to use although during my excited state from getting more vegetables I ate the asparagus and used the rhubarb before I took the picture. Whoopsie. Once again a lot of random salads were made with this weeks share and aren’t listed below. So far my favorite thing about this farm is that they send a lot of lettuce, spring mix and spinach with each box, which means I always have salad ingredients.

What this box contained

Romaine Lettuce, Saute Mix, Salad Mix, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Baby White Turnips (gave to our neighbors), Pea Vine, Potato Onion, Green Garlic and Bok Choi

Pictured Items from Left to Right
Pea Vine, Bok Choi, Green Garlic, Romaine Lettuce
In bag in back: 1/2 Saute Mix, 1/2 Salad Mix
Things I forgot to picture: Asparagus and Rhubarb

New Recipes I made from this box

Soba noodles, tofu and vegetable stir fry

(Source: Power Foods Cookbook)
This dish was a 2 in 1 since it used my bok choi from this box and the broccoli from the box I picked up this week. A few downfalls came with this dish but were more related to my poor job buying the ingredients. First, I realized that I ate both the red peppers that I bought for this dish in salads this week. Then I remembered that I wasn’t able to find buckwheat soba noodles or any soba noodles for that matter. Ours really turned out to be a “rice noodle, tofu and vegetable stir fry.”
Ratings: Sina: 3, Ryan: 3 (we both agreed it needed more vegetables–ahem…the red peppers it called for– but we liked the asian flavors)

Sauteed Greens with Potato Onions

I decided to saute the greens with diced potato onions and minced garlic in olive oil. I then sprinkled on salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Ratings: Sina: 3, Ryan: 2.5

Crop Share Box #1

This is the second year my husband and I have joined a crop share with our neighbors. We have a full share every other week package and our first box came last week. As a new addition to the blog I plan to share my journey cooking through all the unique vegetables that the boxes contain. I’ll share what was in the box, new recipes I try with the vegetables and other information about the vegetables. To give you guys a better understanding of how the recipes tasted my husband I will also rank the taste of recipes. That way you can distinguish which may be worth trying. Our rating scale will be out of 5 stars.
  • 5 stars: Mouthwatering, when can I have it again? Will definitely make again.
  • 4 stars: Very good, a definite recipe to repeat.
  • 3 stars: Tasted good but nothing special, would make a variation of it again.
  • 2 stars: Something was missing but has potential to be fixed.
  • 1 star: Not good, would never make it again.
After the cold and wet spring I wasn’t sure what I would find in my first box. With much anticipation my neighbor Greta and I went together to find our pick up location and vegetables. After splitting things with Greta here is what our share looked like.

Crop Share Box #1

What this box contained

Sunchokes, Parsnips, Ramps, Overwintered Spinach, Black Radishes, Sorrels, Chives, Watercress and Nettles

Pictured Items from left to right
Ramp, Spinach & Watercress (in bag), Sorrels, Chives
Sunchokes and Black Parsnip in front of bag

New recipes I made from items in this box

Fried Sunchoke chips with Rosemary Salt

Source: Epicurious (from Greta)

Rating: 4.5 stars from Sina, 4 from Ryan

      

Potato salad with Chives Recipe edited from recipes my mom made as a kid and online recipes

-Baby Red Potatoes, boiled then cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used ~5 pounds)
-Chives, diced (~1/2 cup or to taste)
-Light Sour Cream (~1 cup)
-Salt and Pepper to taste (don’t be bashful)
Rating: Sina: 3 stars,  Ryan  2 stars
I love potato salads with a sour cream base but I think I would add garlic and more pepper next time.

Pasta with Ramps and Sorrel

Combine the following ingredients
  • Pasta noodles, cooked
  • Sorrel and Ramps -washed, chopped and sauteed
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
Sina: 3 stars, Ryan: 3

Interested in joining a crop share. Check out Local Harvest for farms close to you.