Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

There comes a time in every gardener’s life when they ask themselves, “What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?” And until that day comes for me, I will pull up my dead plants with my black thumbs, quietly curse those gardeners under my breath, and smile graciously when they offer up some of their overwhelming bounty to me.

Sweet Roasted Pepper Pasta Sauce 1-2

I’ll display them on the counter for a day or so until I can’t take their mockery anymore.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce Sauce 2-2

And then I will cook my way out of despair.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

And remember the gifts I can offer my family, even if a plentiful vegetable garden is not one of them.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Instead, I will slow roast my way into their hearts with sweet peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic (store bought, but flavorful nonetheless), garden tomatoes (generously given to this less fortunate gardener), and a few sad looking twigs of rosemary and oregano (just barely surviving in my garden of doom).

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta SauceAnd I’ll bring those flavors together in one delightful pureed sauce. My husband will declare that he may never eat jarred sauce again. My toddler will slurp his pasta up with messy reckless abandon. And I will stand over the pot eating the sweet rich roasted sauce by the spoonful, my self esteem having made a complete (near manic) turn for the better.

For those of you who feel the need to do something good and right by your family, I give you this recipe. It will restore their faith in you, and your faith in yourself.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

~ 3 pounds of tomatoes (I don’t have a scale, but I used about 12-15 smallish tomatoes), cut in half
~15 mini sweet peppers (or 3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers), cut in half and seeded
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 red onion, quartered
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 twigs fresh rosemary, removed from stem (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon fresh oregeno, removed from stem (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
generous sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper

1/2 teapoon salt
1/2 teaspoon molasses (or brown sugar)
handful of fresh parsley, rough chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Other: 1 lb pasta, cooked (I used whole wheat thin spaghetti, use gluten-free if needed)

Directions

Heat oven to 400. Put chopped vegetables and herbs on a large deep-sided roasting pan or dish. Stuff the garlic cloves into the tomatoes so they don’t burn. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Carefully pour the veggies and their sauces into a  pot on the stove and use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables. (If you don’t have an imersion blender, let the veggies cool to room temperature, then transfer to a blender or food processor and puree. Then pour into a pot on the stove.) Add parsley, salt, and molasses. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. My sauce was thick already, so I simmered with the lid on, but if you have really juicy tomatoes, you may want to simmer with the lid off until you reach the desired consistency. Check for seasoning. Adding more salt or molasses (adds sweetness and cuts acidity) as needed.

Variations

Make it Salsa: This base recipe could easily be turned into a salsa by switching up the seasonings — add a few jalapenos and cilantro, omit rosemary, oregeno, and parsley. Pulse in the food processor for a chunkier version. Would be delicious served hot or cold with chips.

Make it Soup: Add a little broth or cream for a delicious roasted tomato and pepper soup.

Make it a Meal: While you’re simmering the sauce and the oven is still hot, roast up some chickpeas tossed in olive oil and Italian seasoning for a crunchy protein-filled topping. Wilt some spinach into the sauce in the last five minutes to sneak in some greens.

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The Title: Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce
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Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce -- Laugh, Cry, Cook


Banana Nut Soft Serve [Two Ingredients, Dairy-Free, Sugar Free]

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Jackson is 22 months old now and at that stage where he’s learning new words every day and starting to string together words to make phrases and sentences like these:

“Hoo Hoo” (Whoohoo whith his hands thrown in the air.)

“Cool man” (I don’t know where he picked up this phrase, but it’s super cute.)

“Yayyy, I did it!” (Even if he didn’t actually do whatever IT is, he celebrates every little effort with such enthusiasm. It’s contagious.)

“Leeeeeet’s GO!” (That combined with “Run momma” is turning him into a little personal trainer!)

“Yes.” (Finally, he is saying “yes,” instead of always “no,” in the most adorably assertive and confident way.)

Of course, with this precious phase, also comes the less than adorable phrases, like “Chur turn” (Your turn…which actually means my turn. And it’s always “chur turn”) and “Miiiine!”

My favorite phrase of late, though, is “Tank choo ma ma.” He emphasizes each syllable and I can tell he really has to work to say it. It’s a sweet labor of love and it’s reserved for his truly most satisfying moments of deep gratitude, like when I served him chocolate “ice cream” made of bananas and cocoa for a morning snack last week. “Choc! Tank choo ma ma!”

This idea for banana soft serve has been circulating for years. It’s not new, but I’ve turned a few people toward it this week with my Instagram picture of Jackson enjoying his morning ice cream treat and thought maybe some of our readers have yet to try it as well. The basic recipe is just frozen bananas processed in a blender. It’s magical! The bananas just whip right into a thick creamy soft serve that is delicious on it’s own. You can make all sorts of flavors: chocolate peanut butter, strawberry banana, cinnamon and sugar…wherever your taste buds take you. This version is one of my favorites. You can use peanut butter instead of peanuts, but I really love the texture and flavor from the whole peanuts.

Ready in under five minutes, it makes the perfect healthy summer snack, or even breakfast. You’ll earn some serious cool mom or dad points putting a bowl of this in front of your kids first thing in the morning!

Peanut Banana Soft Serve

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 frozen bananas, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons peanuts (I used organic unsalted)
sprinkle of sea salt (unless peanuts are salted)

Directions

Put ingredients in a food processor and blend, stopping and scraping the sides as needed until it turns to the texture of a thick soft serve ice cream. Then stop. You don’t want to over blend or it will have more of a melty soft serve texture (not bad, but not as good either).

Peanut Banana Ice Cream

For this portion size, I use the smallest bowl on my food processor so I don’t have to stop and scrape the sides as often.  (It will be very loud at first, that’s okay, just be prepared.)

Serve immediately with a few extra peanuts and another sprinkle of sea salt on top for some extra crunch. I’ve heard this does not refreeze well, though I’ve never had any left to try. :) You can buy yourself a little time keeping it chilled in the freezer, but it’s best to serve right away.

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The Title: Banana Nut Soft Serve
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Have you made Banana Soft Serve?

What are your favorite flavor combinations?

What are your favorite toddler phrases and phases?

 

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook ThumbnailA little book update:

Zondervan, our publisher, has been so supportive of our book (coming out August 6). We’re having such a great publishing experience! They just decided to do an audio version of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook and invited my mom and I to record it. One of us will be recording in the studio most of the week, each of us having two 5-7 hour days in studio. Prayers for good health appreciated. The following week I’m heading to Colorado (with Jackson in tow) to join mom for a photo shoot for a major Christian publication. We’re so grateful for all the encouragement and support we’ve received…and for our fabulous readers at the blog.

We also got all of the endorsements in for the book. Wow! We are floored by the generosity of our fellow authors. Click on the picture of the book above to read the endorsements and find lots of knew authors to friend and follow.


Simple Lentil Soup

Simple Lentil Soup

Last week Jackson and I flew to Colorado to stay at my mom’s for a few days. It was one of the best visits we’ve had there. Jackson adores his Nonny and Poppy and he’s finally big enough to really play with his big cousin George, whom he thinks hung the moon. Jackson asks for George every day. Every single day. So we watch a lot of videos to hold him over between visits. And George is so good and patient with his little cousin.

The day we flew in, May 1, it snowed and snowed and snowed all day. Not your typical spring visit, but we made the best of it. It’s not every year you see snow in May.

Cousins George and Jackson, buddies for life.

Cousins George and Jackson, buddies for life.

No time like snow time to learn to ride a bike.

No time like snow time to learn to ride a bike.

This Texas boy has never seen this much snow. He loved it.

This Texas boy has never seen this much snow. He loved it.

The next day, we had pictures scheduled for the book. The sun came out, the snow mostly melted and we were able to get some great shots thanks to our fabulous photographer Molly McMillan. This one will be used for the back cover.

Becky_and_Rachel

Because one of us is usually behind the camera, I don’t have many pictures of me and my mom. These pictures are one of the many blessings that have come from doing this blog and book together.

After the photo shoot, we were pretty wiped out…and hungry! We both declared we were retiring from our one-day modeling career. Way too much work and not enough food!

With my sister-in-law Julie heading back to the house with the boys and Greg (mom’s husband) on his way home, we quickly transitioned from top models to cooks in the kitchen. Mom was going to run to the grocery store to get fixins for Messy Greek Sandwiches and Reubens and I’d get started on some kind of soup to go along. I rummaged through her pantry and held up a bag of lentils, “How about lentil soup?” “Perfect! I’ve had those lentils for months and wasn’t sure what to do with them,” she admitted. “Oh it’s so easy,” I told her. “It takes no time to get started and will be finished simmering by the time you’re back from the store.”  Mom headed to the grocery store and I got started chopping onions and carrots. By the time Julie walked in with Jackson and George, I had the soup covered and simmering, happy to step out of my author/foodie hat and into mommy and auntie role again.

Mom came home from the store and said the house smelled just like her Nonny’s, my great grandmother’s, kitchen. I didn’t know her well, but I’ve heard story after story of her in the kitchen. She was quite the cook. One of my favorite pictures of her is one of her standing in her old 1950s kitchen with a yellow apron tied around her neck. Something about recreating the comforting tastes and smells from her kitchen makes me feel connected to her. I can imagine her cooking up a simple soup like this to feed her nine children on their very tight budget.

What foods and smells bring back childhood memories for you?

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Simple Lentil Soup

Makes 3.5 quarts

1/2 cup onion (~1 small or 1/4 big onion), diced
4 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
Olive oil (enough to coat pan)
1 lb lentils, sorted for rocks and rinsed
8 cups veggie broth (2 quarts)
1 32 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 teaspoons steak seasoning
Salt to taste (may not need if broth has salt)

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In a large pot, sauté onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil (or 1/2 cup of broth for a no fat version) with a pinch of salt until softened. Add lentils and tomatoes and broth. Cover and bring to boil. Uncover and lower to a simmer. Cover and simmer on med low for 20-30 min until lentils are cooked through. Season with steak seasoning and salt if needed.

I served this with crackers, roasted brussel sprouts, and smoky garlicky collard greens. It was husband and toddler approved.

Notes: I’ve found the type of pan and burner I use causes cook times to vary a lot. My heavy duty pans cook much quicker on my flat top stove than my old cheapies that don’t have that nice heavy flat bottoms…so cooking times may vary. It took closer to 45 minutes to cook on my mom’s gas stove top, but I think I may have left the pot uncovered there. If your pots tend to heat up slowly, give yourself some extra time.

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Trail Mix Parfaits

Trail Mix Parfaits

I have to admit, I’ve not been doing a lot of recipe creating lately. With the book editing and recipe testing process, I think I’ve caught a case of creativity burnout. When this happens, I know it’s time to break out my cookbooks and open up my pinterest boards and go back to where my passion for cooking began: following recipes. Following a good recipe is like doing a puzzle. Corners go here,  edges go there, this piece goes here, this piece goes there … and before you know it you’ve methodically created something new and complete … and lovely … and hopefully delicious, in the case of recipes.

When I haven’t been following other people’s recipes lately, I’ve been throwing together salads and smoothies from the greens in my garden.  This is my first year to have a garden. I’ve already killed all the tomatoes and peppers and most of the herbs, but my greens are growing like weeds. I’ve not made anything terribly innovate with them yet, but oh my goodness, the simple pleasure of walking out my back door, picking some fresh spinach or swiss chard and enjoying a meal with it minutes later. I have been missing out!

I plan on doing a garden post and a recipe round up post soon with some of the hits during my recipe creating hiatus and my adventures as a newbie gardener.

Though my creativity neurons took a leave of absence, I think they may be slowly returning. I’ve made a few very simple recipes the last few days that have knocked my socks off. Like canteloupe dressed with honey, lime, and cayenne pepper or Tajin seasoning. So simple, yet so delicious. Or like yesterdays breakfast, a Trail Mix Parfait: layered ingredients you’d typically find in trail mix, like nuts and seeds and dried fruit and chocolate, slightly warmed and topped with diced bananas. Can I just say, yum!! I just had it again and thought, maybe I finally have a recipe worth blogging after my long dry spell. It’s kind of a recipe that’s almost not a recipe, but it’s so good, it’s worth putting out there anyway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Other noteworthy updates:

  • I’m guest pinning this week at The Christian Mama’s Guide facebook page on Cooking with Kids. Come join us there for fun ideas to get your kids excited about food. Just in time for summer when the kids will be home “helping” you in the kitchen, whether you like it or not!
  • My lovely co-blogger and mother had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I totally missed a chance to do a birthday post. Mom, I love you! Happy Birthday. I cannot believe we get to share so much of our life together, from work to play, even when we are far away.
  • Jackson and I are heading to Colorado this week to spend a few days at my mom’s. We’re taking publicity pictures for the book, having a meeting with our editor about the next book, and hopefully spending some quality time cooking together in the kitchen … with Jackson and my nephew George sitting on the counter helping us. :)

And now for that recipe I promised….

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Trail Mix Parfaits

Serves 1

1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, mixed nuts–I like unsalted walnuts or pecans best)
2 tablespoons dried fruit (like raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, or bananas)
1 tablespoon seeds (like hemp, sunflower, chias, or sesame)
2 tablespoons chocolate chips (I like the dairy-free, soy-free ones by Enjoy Life)
2 tablespoons diced bananas or yogurt (like So Delicious Coconut Yogurt)

Directions

In a glass bowl or glass, layer nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and chocolate chips. Warm in microwave for 30 seconds or until chocolate just starts to melt. Don’t let chocolate burn. Top with bananas and/or yogurt. Enjoy.

If you gently stir it as you eat, the chocolate will coat the rest of the trail mix. Oooey, gooey gooodness.

If you gently stir it as you eat, the chocolate will coat the rest of the trail mix. Oooey, gooey gooodness.

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The Title: Trail Mix Parfaits
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Miss Vickie’s Sugar Cookies (Egg-free and optionally dairy-free)

Keeping family traditions alive, with these egg-free and optionally dairy-free sugar cookies.

Jackson and his Mimi starting a tradition with these egg-free and optionally dairy-free sugar cookies.

Have you ever met a woman who was beautiful, had an equally beautiful family with grown children who are best friends with each other, whose home is fit for the cover of Southern Living magazine, who loves Jesus, who crafts and entertains and cooks, and well, who you just might hate for being so together if it weren’t for how kind and caring and generous she was; and instead of envying her, you kind of just hope she’ll adopt you? I have. Her name is Miss Vickie.

Miss Vickie is Jared’s best friend Nick’s mom. Vickie and her husband Roger own three Chick-fil-A’s in our area and have raised entrepreneur-minded, self-motivated, creative kids. I wrote most of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook, at Nick’s co-working space in Dallas, Common Desk, the first of its kind in the metroplex. Natalie, Miss Vickie’s daughter, is one of the most creative people I know. Her blog is so inspiring for crafty (or wannabe crafty) mamas!

Apparently, the creative genes run deep. Miss Vickie is kind of famous in these parts for her sugar cookies. If you’ve been to her house, you’ve probably seen a jar full of these soft, buttery cookies in an array of pastel colors and cute shapes, and may have even been sent home with a mason jar full of them. The recipe was created and passed down by her Italian family, the Spinelli’s, years ago.

How much do you love this handwritten recipe?

Miss_Vickies_Sugar_Cookie_Recipe

Surprisingly, it doesn’t call for any eggs and since it calls for margarine, swapping Earth Balance is a no-brainer to make them dairy-free too.  She says she’s never come across a recipe quite like it and neither have I. They are so light and almost melt in your mouth.

My mother-in-law Rhonda and Vickie have been friends for as long as Jared and Nick have been buds. Through vacations and ball games and girlfriend getaways, they’ve shared a few of these cookies over the years. And now they are sharing them, as Nonna and Mimi, with their grandkids. Nostalgia.

We went to one of our favorite getaways out in East Texas over Easter weekend with Jared’s parents. Early Saturday, it was rainy and cold, so Mimi and Jackson baked the morning away, while I snapped photos. We declared it an official Easter tradition.

Mix the ingredients.

A perfect recipe for kids to help with. Simple ingredients. Simple steps. Edible dough.

This is a perfect recipe for kids to help with. Simple ingredients. Simple steps. Edible dough.

Taste for quality control.

Quality control.

Yep, it’s yummy.

“Flour” your board with powdered sugar.

Making Cookies with Mimi

I could just eat him up. ;)

Press or roll the dough.

Mimi and Jackson making sweet memories.

Mimi and Jackson making sweet memories.

Cut out your shapes with cookie cutters.

Cooking with kids is neither neat or orderly. Luckily this dough is soft, pliable, and forgiving. Just roll it back up and press it down again to start over.

Cooking with kids is neither neat or orderly. Luckily this dough is soft, pliable, and forgiving. Just roll it back up and press it down again to start over.

Bake, cool, and ice.

Pick your color, any color.

Pick your color, any color.

Decorate.

Decorated with love (not skill).

Eat.

And enjoy.

Debating on whether or not he should eat his sugar cookie masterpiece.

Clean Up.

Clean Up!

This boy loves a vacuum like nobody’s business.

Thank you Miss Vickie, for sharing this family recipe with us and allowing me to share it with our readers!

Miss Vickie’s Sugar Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup margarine (or Earth Balance)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus some to powder table)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix margarine, powdered sugar, and vanilla with a mixer. Stir in flour, a little at a time, and salt. Powder the table with powdered sugar. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. (The dough is very soft, so we just used our hands for this step.) Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies. Lay them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 7 minutes. Allow to cool. Decorate with icing.

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The Title: Miss Vickie’s Sugar Cookies
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For Pinterest:

Miss_Vickies_Sugar_Cookies_Collage


Potatoes Rancheros (Vegan Huevos Rancheros)

Potatoes Rancheros

About a month before I switched to a plant-based diet, I perfected the fried egg. I wasn’t much of a cook back then, so this was a big accomplishment and it quickly became my go-to breakfast. When we gave up eggs,  I must admit, I was a little bummed that I only had a month to enjoy my perfected egg-frying skills. I’m over it now and I’ve learned some great ways to substitute eggs in my cooking: tofu scramble breakfast tacos and flax eggs and chia eggs for baking, but the fried egg seemed impossible to duplicate, until I got this idea to use a fried potato as the fluffy egg white and avocado as the creamy yolk. A “green egg” if you will.

For those transitioning to a vegan diet and facing those early egg cravings or for those just looking for something different than the traditional egg breakfast, this potato and avocado “fried egg” is delicious. It’s really hard to go wrong with fried anything, right?  I could see using this green egg for a vegan eggs Benedict too, stacked on an English muffin with a creamy vegan hollandaise.

Potatoes

Try them! Try them! You will see. These green eggs are so easy. You can eat them in a box. You can eat them with a fox. You can make them for a friend, maybe during a relaxing weekend. You will like green eggs. You’ll see. Especially with tortillas, beans and ranchero sauce. Spicy!

Potatoes Rancheros, a vegan twist on juevos rancheros. The creamy avocado and soft french fry-like potato rounds give the texture of a fried egg.

The creamy avocado “yolk” and soft fluffy potato round “whites” give the texture of a fried egg.

Potatoes Rancheros

(A Vegan Version of Huevos Rancheros)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

Ranchero Sauce
1/2 medium-sized onion,diced
1 garlic clove, diced or minced
3 small sweet peppers, red, yellow, or orange (or 1/2 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper), diced
~ 1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green chili peppers (or 4-ounce can)
~1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
~1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, to taste (can also blend in 1/4 of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce)

1 russet potato sliced thin (about a 1/4 inch thick–you want about 12 rounds or 3 per serving)
Oil to coat pan
Salt & pepper
4 Tortillas (smaller taco sized ones, not the big burrito ones)

1 Avocado, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
Refried pinto beans (I actually used leftover cajun red beans, cooked down and smashed)
Cilantro or chopped green onions (optional garnish)

Directions
In a deep-sided skillet or medium sauce pan, saute onion, peppers, and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on medium heat until soft. Add the tomatoes and green chilis and simmer for about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender (or use immersion blender) and blend until combined into a thick sauce, blend in salt and chipotle powder to taste. Transfer back to skillet and keep warm.

Before blending the ranchero sauce. Look at all that flavor and color!

Before blending the ranchero sauce. Look at all that flavor and color!

In a separate skillet (iron skillet works well for this), heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium heat (about a 1/8 inch thick).* Add a single layer of potato rounds and pan fry for 2-3 minutes per side until golden on the outside and soft in the middle (think texture of a french fry.) Transfer potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Repeat, adding oil to pan as needed, until all the rounds are fried.

Golden on the outside, soft on the inside.

Golden on the outside, soft on the inside.

In the same pan used to fry potatoes, drain off excess oil and warm tortillas.

Working quickly to keep food from getting cold, put each tortilla on a plate, smear tortillas with refried beans, down the middle stagger stacks of a potato round topped with an avocado round. Top with warm ranchero sauce and optional garnish of cilantro and/or green onions. Serve immediately. Eat with a fork or pick up and eat it like a taco.

*For a lighter version, toss potatoes in a light coating of olive oil and salt & pepper, line them on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and cook under the broiler for about five minutes on each side or until cooked through (like these Blistery Balsamic Potato Chips).

* Make it kid-friendly: (leave off the sauce or make a milder version without the chili peppers or chipotle powder)

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The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Potatoes Rancheros (Vegan Huevos Rancheros)
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Crispy Eggplant Marsala (Vegan)

Crispy Eggplant Marsala

Crispy Eggplant Marsala

Rachel (the daughter)

Once upon a time, there was a girl who didn’t like mushrooms. She took much care to avoid them until one day, her restaurant manager made her taste Chicken Marsala. She tasted the chicken with the sauce and pushed the mushrooms to the side. The sauce was heavenly. On her lunch break, she craved that yummy rich sweet sauce, so she ordered the Chicken Marsala without the mushrooms. She was sad. The sauce was not the same. Maybe, she thought, I do like the taste of mushrooms but not mushrooms themselves. The next day, she ordered it again and ate around the mushrooms. The sauce was delightful once again. It seems mushrooms added a depth of flavor she loved. She often rewarded herself at the end of a long waitressing shift with her new favorite dish. As time went on, she got brave and occasionally tried a little bite of mushroom with the chicken. Maybe, she thought, I do like mushrooms … but only in this dish.

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Years later, the girl gave up meat and found that mushrooms were actually delicious in many dishes if you know how to cook them. Now that she loved mushrooms, she was sad that she missed out on the best part of chicken marsala for so long. So she decided to make a vegan ‘chicken’ marsala using crispy eggplant. It was everything she hoped it would be and more. And she was very happy.

A vegan twist on the dish that first made me swoon for mushrooms.

A vegan twist on the dish that first made me swoon for mushrooms.

Eggplant Marsala

Serves 4

Ingredients

16 oz whole wheat spaghetti or choice of pasta, cooked

Crispy Eggplant

1 small Eggplant (peeled and sliced into 12 quarter inch thick slices)
1 cup flour
1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
2 cups Panko bread crumbs seasoned with 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoing, 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley, and a little salt & pepper)

Marsala Sauce

1/2 medium sized yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced or diced
16 oz mushrooms (any variety), sliced thin
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan margarine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups Marsala Wine
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
salt & pepper to taste
parsley for garnish

Most of the ingredients. I modified a few things as I went though, like leaving out the milk and adding flour.

Most of the ingredients. I modified a few things as I went though, like leaving out the milk.

Directions

Place eggplant in colander or between paper towels and sprinkle it with salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to remove moisture. Pat dry with clean paper towels when done.

Salt the eggplant and let rest between paper towels or in a colander to remove excess moisture before frying. Makes it crispier!

Salt the eggplant and let rest between paper towels or in a colander to remove excess moisture before frying. Makes it crispier!

Heat a large skillet (preferably heavy stainless steel or iron) on medium high heat. Add Earth Balance and olive oil and let it heat up. Add mushrooms and cook until they’ve browned and shrunk quite a bit in size. Stir in onions and garlic, reduce heat if needed so garlic doesn’t burn, saute for 2-3 minutes until soft. Pour in 1/2 cup of wine and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in one tablespoon of flour and slowly add the rest of the wine and veggie broth. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, remove lid and simmer until liquid is reduced to about half. If it’s not thick enough, stir in a little more flour and keep cooking down. Season to taste with salt & fresh cracked pepper. Stir in pasta noodles and cover to keep warm.

The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the noodles.

The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the noodles.

In another skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil (or your choice of oil) on medium heat. Set up an assembly line with shallow bowls of flour, milk, and seasoned panko bread crumbs.  Dip eggplant slices in milk, then flour, then milk again, then bread crumbs. Put in single layer in the oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until crispy and golden brown. Remove slices to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat in batches until all eggplant is cooked.

Dredging station.

Dredging station.

Serve the marsala pasta topped with crispy eggplant and sprinkled with parsley. Or serve the eggplant to the side of the pasta if you want to keep it crispy longer.

Toddler Approved.

Toddler Approved

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Crispy Eggplant Marsala (Vegan)
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“You’re My Main Squeeze” Squeeze Pouch Valentines

Cute, simple, and healthy valentines that kids will love!

Cute, simple, and healthy valentines that kids will love!

Jackson, now 18-months, has discovered chocolate. This morning, Jared brought him from his crib to our bed where I was still sleeping. Jackson pushed my arm off my face and pulled and pulled until I finally rolled out of the bed. He led me by hand straight to the pantry, pointed up to a Costco-sized bag of chocolate chips and proclaimed “Choc!”

I should probably be worried that his first waking thought is chocolate, but truthfully, I’m a little excited that I have another chocolate lover in the house. Jared doesn’t eat it, so I rarely make decadent chocolate desserts. There is just something depressing about eating chocolate alone. Soon, though, I’ll have a buddy to split a piece of chocolate cake with or to make brownies for!

In the meantime, as fun as it will one day be, I’m not encouraging my toddler’s chocolate eating habits just yet. Valentine’s Day is Thursday and I’m sure he’ll have encouragement enough from everyone else between now and then!

Besides his new word “choc,” he also learned the word “pouch” this week, as in fruit and veggie squeeze pouches. He loves them just as much as chocolate. It’s so funny, the words he picks up on. I put together these cute valentines bags for his Mother’s Day Out class tonight. For the girls, a bright red Ella’s Kitchen Organic Strawberry Apple squeeze pouch with a “You’re My Main SQUEEZE” tag. And for the boys, a Peach & Banana one with a “You’re My Main Squeeze, Man” tag. That’s tough right? :)

If you’re looking for healthy Valentine’s Day gifts for babies and preschoolers, this is so easy! It may be a little pricy for a big class, but at this age class sizes are usually quite small. We just had five classmates to buy for, so the whole project was $12 including the bags and tags.

I know some of the mama’s of the kids in Jackson’s class and I know they’ll be glad to see at least one treat they can gladly let their kiddo have from their Valentine’s Day goodie bag, no guilt, no arguing, no “you can have one piece after dinner” negotiations.


Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Sliders

What to do with those leftover black-eyed peas from New Years? Make these delicious veggie burger sliders of course.

What to do with those leftover black-eyed peas from New Years? Make these delicious veggie burger sliders, of course.

Since my last post a little over a week ago, I celebrated Christmas six times across four days, I turned 29, I had a girlfriend and her two little ones spend the night, and I saw in a New Year. Tomorrow, we leave for our first overnight trip without Jackson (eeek!) for a little romantic getaway, and then my husband will turn the Big 3-0 before he returns to work on Monday.

Between Christmas, the New Year, and both of our birthdays in a two week span, the last thing I wanted to do for New Year’s Eve was to get gussied up and go out on the town with a bunch of crazy drivers on the streets. Instead, we opted to stay home and relax. We went for a walk, I played with a DSLR camera I’m borrowing, and I cooked and photographed leisurely in the kitchen without a little one at my feet too much while he played with his daddy.

Well, there were a few interruptions.

It was wonderful.

I stayed in my pjs most of the day, cooked up a big batch of Black-Eyed Peas and black rice and made veggie burgers and maple glazed sweet potato crisps for dinner. Today, I tried a recipe in a cookbook my mom gave me for my birthday, Spicy Vegetable Gumbo and added black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck, as the tradition goes. Jared confirmed that he was pretty sure it was working, because he was feeling pretty lucky having had two home cooked meals in a row.

I was feeling pretty lucky myself, finding six rocks in my dried beans. Surely that means something, right? At minimum, we lucked out of breaking six teeth. Now THAT’S luck.

DSC_0537

Lucky rocks in the dried beans.

After dinner, I put littlebit to bed and made a proposal Jared couldn’t turn down.

“We have the house all to ourselves and just a few hours left in the year. How ’bout you and me pour ourselves a drink, slip into something comfortable, and organize the pantry?”

Because he’d been nagging me about it for days and there were cocktails involved, he obliged. I’m a lucky girl. We had so much fun, we tackled the fridge today. We’re going out of our 20s with a bang, I tell ya!

Believe it or not, we did actually stay up until midnight to toast in the new year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

If you are wondering what the heck to do with that big pot of leftover black-eyed peas, try this recipe for Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Veggie Burgers. They were so good, I chased that glass of champagne with a reheated patty for a midnight snack.

Serve on small rolls or buns with your desired toppings.

Burgers and chips, .

Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Sliders

Makes 8 sliders (4 servings)

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. cooked black-eyed peas*, or one can drained and rinsed (divided in half)
1 1/2 c. cooked rice (black rice, wild rice or brown rice) (divided in half)
1 T. mayonaise (I used veganaise)
1 c. spinach
1 green onion sprig, chopped
1 c. bread crumbs
Seasoning if needed (Salt, cajun seasoning, tabasco — my beans were plenty flavorful so I didn’t need any)
Small buns or rolls
Desired toppings: mayo, tabasco, lettuce, kale

Directions

Put half of the beans and rice and the mayo in a food processor. Process until it becomes a thick paste. Add a little water (cooking water from beans if you have it) if it needs help to get things moving. Stop and add the spinach, green onion, and the rest of the beans and rice. Pulse once or twice. You want it chunky. Transfer to a bowl and mix in bread crumbs. Taste for seasoning.

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to form patties.

(Optional Step: Pan fry patties in oil on medium heat until golden brown on both sides, adding more oil as needed, then bake. It gives it a nice color and crunch, but does add time, calories, and a mess for what turned out to be a minimal difference in the end product.)

Transfer patties to a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

Serve on small buns or rolls with desired toppings. I topped it with kale and a jalapeno mayo (6 T. of mayo, a seeded jalapeno, a splash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar blended until smooth). A tabasco flavored mayo would be good too.

*Easy Black-Eyed Peas: I just did the quick soak method, following the bag instructions. Rinsed and covered them with water (about an inch above the beans). Tossed in 3 cloves of chopped garlic, half an onion (not chopped), a couple sprigs of green onions and leeks left whole, and heavily seasoned with salt and Cajun seasoning. Brought to boil, lowered heat to simmer, tilted lid, simmered until tender. Only took about 30 minutes. They were pretty tender from the quick soak. Finished with a sprinkle of smoked salt.

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The Title: Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Sliders
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Let’s take a closer look.

Black Rice has a rich nutty flavor and a little more chew than brown rice. You could sub wild rice or brown rice.

Black Rice has a rich nutty flavor and a little more chew than brown rice. You could sub wild rice or brown rice.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

The food processor is super quick, but you could also chop the spinach and use a fork or your hands to squish everything up if you don't have a food processor.

The food processor is super quick, but you could also chop the spinach and green onions and use a fork or your hands to squish everything up if you don’t have a food processor.

You want a nice thick mixture just sticky enough to hold everything together. Add more bread crumbs if needed.

You want a nice thick mixture just sticky enough to hold everything together. Add more bread crumbs if needed.

You can pan fry them before baking to give them a little extra crunch on the outside. But for a lighter burger, skip this step.

You can pan fry them before baking to give them a little extra crunch on the outside. But for a lighter burger, skip this step.

For a lower fat, less mess, quicker option skip frying and just form the patties on the baking sheet.

For a lower fat, less mess, quicker option skip frying and just form the patties on the baking sheet like this one.

I do like the nice deep color that frying gives them, but I didn't notice a big difference in the final product's taste.

I do like the nice deep color that frying gives them, but I didn’t notice a big difference in the final product’s taste.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they stay together when you pick them up.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they stay together when you pick them up.


Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad

A childhood favorite, Mexican Salad, gets a face lift.

A childhood favorite, Mexican Salad, gets a facelift.

When I was a kid, a staple quick dinner in our house was Mexican Salad. You know, chopped ice berg or romaine lettuce, Ranch Style Beans, tomatoes, shredded cheese, catalina dressing, all topped off with a bag of fritos. Adding fritos to lettuce is a sure fire way to get kids to eat their greens.

This week I got invited to a Craft Night at a friend’s house. Let me just pause to say, wow. This working mom of two young kids hosts craft nights at her house every few months for 20-30 women. She gathers all the supplies, plans games and doorprizes, and even cooks dinner for everyone. People who handle this type of entertaining with ease simply amaze me. When I grow up, I want to be more like my friend Autumn.

Festive decorations, silly games (I drew that picture on my head), and adorable crafty ornaments.

Festive decorations, silly games (I drew that picture on my head), and adorable crafty ornaments.

The menu was a taco bar with requests for guests to bring a side or dessert. When I’m not sure there will be much for a vegan to eat, I like to bring a hearty side that will work as a main dish for me, but compliment the host’s meal and be a yummy side for others. That childhood Mexican Salad popped into mind as a perfect compliment to a taco bar. I decided to give it a facelift though. The thought of bottled dressing, packaged fritos, and flavorless iceberg lettuce made me cringe a little. Instead, I made a homemade sweet and spicy catalina dresssing using honey and a chipotle pepper. Because I needed the dish to travel easily, I decided to use kale instead of romaine or ice berg. Kale can be dressed ahead of time without wilting, making it the perfect green for make-ahead salads. Plus it’s a beautiful deep green, adding color to the table and it packs a ton of nutrition, not my first priority for party food, but certainly a bonus. Instead of fritos, I fried tortilla strips and sprinkled them with chipotle powder, salt, and lime juice. Covered in crispy fried chips, kale never looked so good!

I loved loved this. A few guests found it to be a little on the spicy side, so if you don’t like spice, you can seed the chipotle and use paprika instead of chipotle powder on the chips. You’ll still get all the flavor without the heat.

Delicious, filling, entree or side salad.

Delicious, filling, entree or side salad.

Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad

Serves 2-3 entree servings, 6-8 side servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

1 chipotle in adobo sauce (freeze remaining chipotles for future recipes) (remove seeds for mild version)
1/3 c. sweet onion chopped
1/3 c. organic ketchup
1/3 c. vinegar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. honey (or agave)

Salad:

1 large bunch of kale or 2 small bunches, washed and torn off spine
2 cans vegetarian chili beans (I used Bush’s brand), drained and lightly rinsed
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced

Tortilla Strips:

8 corn tortillas, cut into small strips
canola oil
salt
chipotle chili pepper powder (if you can’t find this, paprika or smoked paprika will work too)
1/2 a lime

Directions

In a blender, combine all the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Sweet, tangy, spicy. You'll never want a bottle of boring Catalina dressing again!

Sweet, tangy, spicy. You’ll never want a bottle of boring Catalina dressing again!

Put the kale in a large bowl and make sure the pieces are bite size. Pour in the dressing and use your hands to massage it into the kale. Get in there and really rub it in. You want to break the fibers of the kale down so it’s easier to chew.

The secret to good kale salads is to massage the greens.

The secret to good kale salads is to massage the greens.

Gently stir in beans, tomatoes and avocados. (If you aren’t serving soon, hold off on chopping and adding avocados until you are about to serve.)

In a heavy duty skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil on medium heat. When oil is ready it will sizzle when you drop a tortilla strip in. Drop in a handful of tortilla strips at a time, fry for 1-2 minutes until they are crispy. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with just a little chipotle powder, salt, and lime juice. Repeat until all are cooked.

Just before serving, add the fried tortilla strips.

Easy to transport. Just bring the tortilla strips on the side and add them when you arrive at your destination.

Easy to transport. Just bring the tortilla strips on the side and add them when you arrive at your destination.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-QK
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


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