Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant “Lasagne”

Lemony Pesto Ricotta

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I went on a wild cooking spree, working as I do,  at top speed,  to get several dishes prepared.  Then once the kitchen looked like it had been ransacked by a herd of  goats with ADD, I started in to clean it.  When I load the dishwasher, I know that my husband is pulled in two emotional directions.  On the one hand, he is glad that I’m the one loading it so he doesn’t have to.  On the other hand, he is nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, knowing that I will take a lot of creative license in my loading technique.  He is the one who first said, “Becky, you load a dishwasher just like a drunk monkey.”

In this case, a picture may be worth a paragraph of words:

Greg is my daughter’s stepdad, but in organization and cleanliness, you’d swear they were related by blood.  So, for fun, I sent the picture above to Rachel, and within minutes she sent me this side-by-side comparison:

People ask, “Do your dishes get clean when you load them this way?”  And I say, “Not all of them.  But, miraculously, about 90 percent of them DO!”  I can deal with the other 10 percent later, when I hurriedly run them through the dishwasher again.

Though the kitchen was a disaster for awhile, I did produce several mouth-watering dishes. (Some to be shared in later posts.)  The first dish I made was born from a love of the flavors in pesto, but discouragement with the pesto calories.  I wondered what it would taste like to fuse all the ingredients in classic pesto with ricotta cheese, cutting out the olive oil.  Part skim ricotta has a generous amount of protein while low in calories. I LOVED the results. Light, lemony and creamy with the crunch of walnuts, the zip of basil and garlic.  With the addition of a little Greek Yogurt it made a wonderful dip for veggies and topping for crostinis. (Small slices of French bread, toasted, usually with olive oil.)

Then I wondered how this “pesto ricotta” would taste with broiled  eggplant, in layers, with a marinara sauce?  I could have eaten the entire pan full of it, but my 22 year old nephew Jordan – who is living with us now, and had never had eggplant before in his life  – beat me to it!  He gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  It’s an easy, tender,  healthy  and vegetarian dish, loaded with flavor, that I will definitely be making again.  I bet the pesto ricotta would also be amazing on hot pasta with roasted veggies, maybe some sliced vegan or Italian sausage…..

Ricotta “Pesto”

16 oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese (Vegans can sub Tofutti or mashed drained, white beans.  If you use it to make the eggplant dish, mashed cooked white potatoes would also be great.)

Juice of one lemon, plus all of its zest

½ c. walnuts

Big handful of basil

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegans omit or sub with Vegan Parm cheese)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until walnuts are chopped fine and rest of ingredients are well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ricotta Pesto Topping for Veggies and Crostini

Use the recipe above, but add 2 T. plain Greek yogurt.  Stir and serve with crisp veggies and crostinis

Ricotta Pesto Eggplant “Lasagne”

Ingredients:

Recipe of Ricotta Pesto Above

2 Eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch rounds

Approximately ¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

3 cups marina, your favorite brand or homemade (I whirl 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in a blender with garlic, 1/4 onion, handfull of basil, dash red wine, 1 t. oregano, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 t. salt — simmer a few minutes and call it marinara.)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you like)

Directions

Heat oven to Broil.   Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil,  season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Broil about 4 inches from heat, keeping a close eye on the eggplant.  As soon as it begins to turn golden in places, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, carefully turn over the eggplant with a flat spatula, brush with more olive oil and salt and pepper.  Broil this side, too,  until slightly golden and eggplant is pliable and soft.  Take out of oven, let cool a bit.

Change oven temp to 350 degrees for baking.

Grease a square pan or round pan with a little olive oil.  Place one layer of eggplant in pan. (Using 1/3 of the eggplant slices.) Top with ½ the ricotta mixture.   Top with 1 cup marinara sauce.  Layer again with eggplant, ricotta,  and marinara in the same portions.  Top with layer of eggplant and final cup of marinara.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.   Bake for about 25 minutes until dish begins to bubble and Parm is golden brown.   Let sit for  10- 15 minutes before cutting in slices to serve.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant”Lasagne”
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Iv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Pumpkin Pie Dip with “Autumn Leaf” Apples (Vegan)

Pumpkin Pie Dip for “Autumn Leaf” Apples (with Extra Toppings for Double Dipping)

(Becky, the Mama)

Autumn. Nip in the air.  Pumpkin Lattes and Pies. Crisp sweet apples. Back-to-School…..

I was thinking today about the days when my children were young and how hard it was for me to organize my own purse, much less try to get four children enrolled in school.  I remember one day in late August, I took my youngest child Gabe with me to fill out the paperwork required to finish up enrolling his older three siblings in Lone Oak Elementary. I was at the school’s library, sitting in a pint-sized child’s chair, scooted up to a big a round table with a stack of intimidating forms in front of me. I had to concentrate so hard to remember all the kids’ birth dates and Who had What Vaccinations When — all while trying to keep one eye on three-year-old Gabe.  Thankfully, my little boy was keeping himself entertained, quietly roving around looking at the childrens’ books on the shelves.  He wasn’t even pulling them off the shelf, but seemed to be happy just gliding along touching the books.  What a good boy, I thought.

It was only after I finished the final form  and looked up that the truth came into clear focus.  Gabe had found a brand new book of postage stamps in my purse and had been busily licking and sticking all of them to the library shelves, as he quietly walked and browsed.  As an absentminded mom of four, this sort of thing happened with great regularity, which meant I never lacked material for my books,  but also meant I was always exhausted.

To exhausted hard-working mothers of young children everywhere, here’s a hug and a super simple recipe for a Back-to-School pumpkin spice treat that I think you will love as much as your kids will. I’ve seen a few recipes for something similar on Pinterest,  but these recipes call for Cool Whip and powdered pudding mix, and I really try to avoid food with ingredients with alien names I cannot pronounce.

This recipe is creamy and tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, but uses real food, and most of it is good for you! (Bonus: it is also vegan and dairy-free.) The fun thing about this recipe is that you get to “double-dip” your apple slices: once in the pumpkin pie fluff and again in any topping of your choice. (Or for “grown up parties” with less mess, guests can spoon desired toppings over their dipped apples on pretty plates.) I used ground almonds and mini-chocolate chips, but you could use coconut flakes, hemp seeds, crushed cereal, granola, or finely chopped (or ground) candied ginger. So many possibilities, probably sitting on your pantry shelves right now!

A word about this recipe: It uses canned coconut milk, and it needs to be the full fat kind, preferably organic – the type that separates into a solid lump cream and liquid in the can.   I’ve found that I can just shake the can when I’m at the grocery store (typically coconut milk is on the Asian aisle) next to my ear, and if it does not slosh, then it has already separated and is exactly what I want!  I always keep a couple of cans in the fridge so that they are ready for whipping and serving in a variety of recipes, such as this one. I actually prefer it to “cow cream,” even though I am not on a dairy-free or vegan diet. You can serve this fruit dip right away, but it will get creamier and fluffier in texture if you refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.

Pumpkin Pie Dip for “Autumn Leaf” Apples

Makes 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

1 can organic whole fat coconut milk, divided — separate “cream” from “milk” (Thai Kitchen, ORGANIC,  not “lite” brand always works for me and is readily available in most regular grocery stores in the Asian aisle.)

1/2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin – fresh or from a can

2 t. pumpkin pie spice (or 1 t. cinnamon plus ½ t. nutmeg and ½ t. ginger, 1/4 t. ground cloves)

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

3 T. brown sugar

2 t. maple syrup

Extra cinnamon for sprinkling on top (Saigon cinnamon is especially good)

Some of the ingredients that go into this wonderful pumpkin spice dip

Small cups of toppings of your choice for “double-dipping” apple slices: mini–chocolate chips, ground or finely chopped nuts,  seeds (hemp, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower), coconut, crushed graham crackers or cereal…use your imagination and what is in your pantry!

Sliced apples for dipping, about one apple per person. (An assortment of Green and Red and Yellow apple slices are so pretty on a plate — looks a little like autumn leaves.)

Directions:

Using a mixer, whip the solidified “cream” part of out of the can of cold, full fat coconut milk. Add the pumpkin and whip again until creamy. Slowly pour in the leftover liquid coconut “milk” from the can, continuing to mix until you have a consistency for the dip that you like. (If you are going to refrigerate this before serving, remember the dip will “set up” and become thicker as it gets colder, so you may want to use all the liquid in the can. If you are in a hurry and want to serve right away, you may not want to use much of the liquid.) Add the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the top of the dip with cinnamon and gently swirl with a knife.  Put in the fridge for an hour before serving, if you have the will power to resist eating it all right away, so the coconut milk will stiffen up a bit and yield a fluffier thicker dip.

For kids: Serve with a colorful array of sliced apples (you can call them “Autumn Leaves”) and small cups of toppings for “double dipping.”  It will be a little messy, but this is part of the fun for kids. Fun treat for after school snacking, Halloween and Fall Festivals, or Thanksgiving dessert.

For grown-ups: For a less messy, more sophisticated way to serve — put little spoons in each of the cups of toppings and encourage “sprinkling” the toppings over the dipped-in-pumpkin pie dip apples, on their individual party plates. You can let grown ups use forks to spear the apples for dipping as well, if you prefer.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Pumpkin Pie Dip for Apples
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-G1
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Broiled Fresh Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

Broiled Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

(Becky, the Mama)

So much to learn, so many creative foods and wines to try, so many wonderful chefs, photographers and food bloggers to meet at the Foodista sponsored conference (International Food Bloggers) in Portland last week. I have unpacked my suitcase stuffed with notes and free goodies, but it will take a month to unpack my brain and apply what I’ve learned. Andrew Scrivani, New York Times food photographer, gave us dozens of practical tips I cannot wait to try. (Be sure to click on Andrew’s name if you love food photography. If you aren’t hungry now, you will be soon.) In my photo above, you’ll notice the honey dripping slowly from the honey dipper. Who knew that drips and drops makes food look more tantalizing? Well, now I do. I also know that I probably need to upgrade from my $99.00 hot pink Samsung digital camera to a pricey grown up camera sometime in the near future. Sigh.

Another highlight for me, besides the chance to be with my darlin’ daughter Rachel, adorable grandbaby Jackson, and fabulous editor, Carolyn McCready, was to meet some bloggers and food authors I’ve admired. I had just listened to the audio tape of the book Kitchen Counter Cooking School (dubbed as Michael Pollan meets “What Not to Wear”), loved it and recommended it to many.  How fun to meet Kathleen Flinn, the book’s author, in person.  I’ve written dozens of books, but I still get starstruck when I meet an author-in-the-flesh whose work I admire. Kathleen was gracious, down-to-earth and charming. Be sure to click on her name to get more details about her life and books.

You may wonder if I was able to pull off this fairly new role as “professional food blogger” without being detected as the messy, clutzy amateur cook that I actually am. In two words: not really.

I’m not a fan of mingling, so I took a deep breath to suck in all the courage in the air, then entered the huge, elegant wine tasting party bustling with eager bloggers. Pausing near the door, I bravely introduce myself to a cheerful foodie. We exchanged business cards, just before someone informed me I was leaning on the light switches and had turned off all the lights in the room. I smiled weakly, and headed straight for a table of pinot noir, sipped a bit too eagerly, and began to choke so badly that I had to exit the room to the hallway to finish my coughing fit in private. When I looked up, there were two friendly and colorful conferees there, both offering to give me the Heimlich should I need it. Serendipitously, they turned out to be two of my favorite people at the conference. Some people, I hear, gracefully meet and greet their way around a room full of new people. I found that turning off all the lights, then choking and running out in the hallway also works as an attention-getting alternative.

The last evening of the conference was a Farm to Table dinner where beautiful local fresh food was served up on elegant platters, family style, around tables of eight. The food and the company were both amazing.

Pretty Vegan Appetizer of risotto, white asparagus, beets and pesto

Me, Rachel & Carolyn ready to dig in to the Farm to Table Meal at International Food Bloggers Conference

Here’s a peek at the menu.

My favorite was the grilled yellow watermelon and the buttery blackberry shortcake.

Inspired by the simple but flavorful use of fresh local fruits and cheeses and honeys, I came home and invented this easy, elegant sweet-savory recipe using tree-ripened peaches (broiled with just a touch of butter and sprinkle of brown sugar and sea salt), soft pungent Gorgonzola and silky sweet honey. It makes for a pretty appetizer or dessert, especially tasty on a summer eve with a glass of wine.

And you know that if this clutzy cook can make this dish – anyone can!

This is Jackson, exhausted after 5 days of food, fun and family in Portland. His mother and I felt the very same way!

The Littlest Foodie of the Family, Worn Out from All the Fun!

Broiled Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 fresh peaches, cut in half, pitted

1 oz. soft Gorgonzola or blue cheese

2 t. butter

Pinch sea salt

Pinch brown sugar

3 T. honey

Directions:

Put Oven on Broil.

Place peaches cut side up in a square Pyrex pan.  Put 1/2 t. butter in peach pit indention.  Sprinkle tops of peaches with tiny pinch of salt and sugar.  Broil the peaches about 4 inches from heat source until the tops turn golden brown in spots.  Serve each person two peaches, pour any juices in pan over them. Dot the tops of the peaches with soft crumbles of Gorgonzola or blue cheese.  Drizzle peaches evenly with honey.

Vegan Option: Substitute  Earth Balance for butter and  finely chopped cashews for cheese.

Other Options:  Try this method with other juicy fruits (apricots, pineapple, plums) and other soft or crumbly cheeses.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Broiled Fresh Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-EN

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad

My sister and my nieces, Whitney and Tori, age 9 and 11, are here this weekend and we are enjoying them so much!  The youngest one, Whitney,  is quite the  food connoisseur, and has made me feel like the best cook on the planet with her over-the-top compliments.  She describes the food on the end of her fork as one would describe a fine wine, “I can taste the layers of flavor! The hint of coconut, the tang of pineapple…”

As soon as she arrived from Texas she asked if we could make my sweet n’ spicy meatloaf again, together.  She remembered it from three years ago, when they last came to Colorado!  We did, and she said she loved squashing the meat and the seasonings together with her bare hands.   When she took a bite of the cooked finished meatloaf she raised her hands, rolled her eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “This is even better than I dreamed it would be!”

Yesterday, I let the girls paint pictures outside under our tree and beach umbrella,  and then made them each virgin cocktails. (Cranberry Sprite, OJ and slices of lemon, lime and orange on ice.)  Whitney took one sip and said, “This is delicious!  In fact, it is as good as meatloaf!”   I wonder how many bartenders have had compliments like that.  “This Long Island Tea is as tasty as meatloaf!”  Gotta love kids.

With such an appreciative food critic in the house, it really spurred me on to bring out my inner chef.  This is a very simple Asian salad that packs a powerful burst of flavor with very few ingredients, one the whole family loved!   The key is the salt.  Be sure to use sea salt, the best you can find. McCormicks now has a sea salt grinder, where you can grind fresh flakes of sea salt on to your food.  It is quite good!  You will be amazed how good fresh sea salt can be and the “layers of flavor” that come from using the finer, gourmet versions of it.   This dish combines the smooth, richness of avocado with the crisp crunch of cucumber, the warmth of sesame oil and sesame seeds, and that final touch of freshly flaked sea salt.   So easy, but so gourmet at the same time.   I guarantee you, it is even as good as meatloaf!

Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad

Serves two to three

Ingredients

1 ripe but still firm  avocado, cut in bite sized pieces (we like a lot of avocado, so I sometimes double the avocado in this recipe)

1/2 English cucumber (or regular cucumber with seeds removed , but peel left on) cut in bite sized pieces

1 t. fresh lime juice

pinch sugar

1 T. sesame oil

1 t. sesame seeds (toasted,  white or black seeds –black seeds are actually quite pretty, but I did not have them on hand)

fresh sea salt to taste

Directions:

Gently coat the sliced avocado and cucumber in a bowl with lime juice, pinch sugar, sesame oil and seeds. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Serve in a low-rimmed edge blow or plate.


Sweet n’ Savory Asian Meatballs

(Becky, the Mama.)

“Now, that’s a good meatball,” my husband said as he took a bite of these amazingly moist Asian meatballs.

Quick. Name the scene and the movie that came to my mind in that moment.

If you guessed the scene with Rosie and the meatballs from The Wedding Singer, well, you get this free recipe for meatballs in your inbox today!

And if you didn’t guess correctly, you not only get the recipe free, but here’s the dialogue from the movie that left me smiling.

Adam Sandler is teaching a darling little old lady singing lessons, so she can sing to her husband on their 50th wedding anniversary. As he turns to leave after the lessons Rosie says, “But your payment!” And Adam Sandler’s character Robbie says, “My payment. Can I get it to go?”

Rosie calls from the kitchen, emerging with a sauce pan. “You’re such a sweet boy…letting an old woman pay you with meatballs.”

Robbie dismisses her protest. “They taste so good, it’s like I’m ripping you off.”

“I don’t have any clean Tupperware.”

“All right, definitely next time.”

“Don’t be silly. Now hold out your hands.”

He obeys and she plops a giant messy meatball in each of his hands and encourages him to taste one on the spot. He sweetly obliges, in spite of the awkwardness and takes a bite, then looks up at her and smiles. “That’s a good meatball.”

Let me tell you, the recipe for these meatballs are so good you’ll have people begging to eat them out of their hands!

They are made from ground turkey, so it is a surprise how moist and savory they taste. The sauce is just to die for: thick and rich, sticky with hoison sauce balanced by the tang of lime and vinegar and chopped green onions. Serve over rice with assorted chopped veggies and you’ve got a one bowl wonder.

Unless, that is you prefer to skip the fork and bowls, and eat them with your hands, Wedding Singer style.

Sweet n’ Savory Asian Meatballs

Serves 4
Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Ingredients for Meatballs:

1 lb to 1.25 lb ground turkey

3 peeled cloves garlic

1/4 red onion

1/2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 T. sesame oil

1 T. olive oil

1 egg

1 1/2 pieces soft fresh bread, torn into small pieces

1 inch square, fresh peeled ginger

Directions for Meatballs:
Put all ingredients into food processor and process the above into a thick meatloaf like mixture. Add more oil or a little water if needed to keep the processor moving. Roll and pat this mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. Mixture will be a little sticky so you may want to grease your hands with a little olive oil, to help the process.  (They don’t have to be perfectly round either… ) Don’t worry, the meatballs firm up beautifully, but also stay moist, when cooked. )

Bake uncovered 400 degrees in an oblong Pyrex pan that has been sprinkled with olive oil, turning periodically, and baking until the meatballs are golden on the outside and cooked on the inside about 20 minutes. If they are cooked through but not browned, run them under the broiler to get the outsides nice and brown and crispy!

Ingredients for Sauce:

2/3 c. bottled hoison sauce

1/4 white or rice vinegar

1 grated garlic clove

1 t. grated fresh ginger

1 T. soy sauce

Juice from 1/2 fresh lime

1 T. sesame seeds

2 T. chopped green onion

Directions for Sauce and Putting it All Together:
Put first 5 ingredients into a big sauce pan, and simmer for about a minute, until good and hot.  Add juice from lime and then, gently put cooked meatballs in sauce and cover them all with sauce, heating until the meatballs are nice and hot.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onion. .Serve over rice (jasmine is our favorite) with any steamed or sautéed vegetables that you like.  (May also garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro and additional lime or hot sauce, if you like.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet n Savory Asian Meatballs
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-D3
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


“Carrot Cake” Chutney (Topping for Cream Cheese & Crackers)

Carrot Cake Chutney served on atop crackers and whipped cream cheese

(Becky, The Mama)

I named my wonderful daughter “Rachel,”  after my wonderful sister Rachel St. John-Gilbert. 

My sister Rachel, with my grandson Georgie, on our Girlfriend Getaway to Seattle

Little did I know when my baby girl was born,  that one day she and my sister and I would all write books. My sister’s newest book has just been released: The Well-Lived Laugh: Designing a Life that Keeps You Smiling.  I think it is her best book to date. You’ll laugh, you’ll be inspired, you’ll let go of unnecessary pressures. Just trust me. Buy it or download it (click on picture of book, below,  to go to Amazon), beg or borrow it.  Or enter to win a copy right here. (Details to follow.)

KINDLE EDITION JUST $2.99 TODAY ONLY

My sister describes herself as an “offbeat observer who uses her wit to weave together comic takes on the ordinary.” I can testify that she is a connoisseur of life’s small joys, squeezing every drop of happiness from any tiny, remotely fun or interesting experience.  Here is a picture that my grandson George took of my sister on a recent trip to Seattle. This was our first stop, a quiet Asian tea house down the street from Pike’s Market.  I swear, she’d only had one sip of a mild jasmine tea. But leave it to my sister to find it a euphoric experience.

My sister in joyous rapture after a sip of green tea. (Julie, my daughter-in-law laughs and looks on. My grandson George, age 5, snapped the picture!)

I love receiving presents from my sister Rachel, because she thinks of the most unusual, wonderful, slighty quirky gifts.  For my birthday this year she gave me a little battery-powered milk foamer and a tiny Vietnamese coffee maker. (Which she promises to show me how to operate someday.)  She may send adorable comical napkins for me to use at my next party,  or a unique and tasty gourmet treat. One year on my birthday, she mailed me pretty jar of something called Carrot Cake Jam. Or was it Carrot Cake Chutney? Anyway, whatever it was called, it was AMAZING. Rach told me to put some cream cheese on a cracker, top it with the carrot mixture, and wait for my mouth to get very happy. So I did as I was told and about twenty minutes later, there was nothing left in the jar. Years later, I would sometimes think about that “perfect bite” of sweet-piquant cinnamon and slighty crunchy carroty-raisin goodness, mixed with the smooth salty flavor of cream cheese and crackers….   and feel sad that I’d probably never come across a jar of that yummy Carrot Cake Watchamacallit ever again.

Then last night I decided to create, to the best of my ability, a similar version.  Eureka!  I did it!  This stuff is amazing on crackers, but also a fun carrot cake “mix-in” for yogurt or ice cream or atop almond buttered toast.  An easy and unique treat to serve at your next party or bring to a hostess. . 

Now, before I forget: For a chance to win my sister’s new book, simply leave a comment below letting us know that you re-tweeted or pinned or facebooked this post (or any other you like from our blog), or liked my sister’s fan page. We’ll put your name in “the bowl” and pick the lucky winner to be announced next week.

Carrot Cake Chutney

Carrot Cake Chutney

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients

5 medium sized carrots (preferably organic) peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1/3 cup well drained crushed pineapple

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 T. brown sugar

Pinch salt

½ t. vanilla

2 t. cinnamon

3 T. raisins

2 T. white vinegar

Directions:

Process carrots in a food processor or blender until they are about the size of oatmeal flakes, small and just a little bit chunky.

 

Processed carrots to a tiny dice

Mix the carrots with all the ingredients above and simmer in a skillet on medium low for about 5-8 minutes or until the carrots are tender-crisp and the syrup is thick and reduced by at least half, most of it absorbed into the carrots and raisins. (With only a tablespoon or two of syrup remaining in pan.) If you’d like your chutney to have a bit more kick to it, add another teaspoon of vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon, once you’ve removed the pan from the burner. Cool and put in a tightly covered container in the fridge to let the flavors mingle and intensify. Serve cold with a small spoon, along side a plate of crackers and a small bowl of whipped cream cheese. 

 

 

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: “Carrot Cake” Chutney
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-BY
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Warm Stuffed Dates: Two-Minutes, Two-Ingredients

Fact #1: The attention span of a one-year old is approximately two minutes.

Which leads to…

Fact #2: Mothers of one-year olds do not have more than two consecutive minutes to think during their child’s waking hours.

The biggest miracle to me about motherhood, aside from the miracle of growing a human being, is a mother’s ability to adapt…to lack of sleep, to a house once decorated with soothing muted tones now full of loud primary colored toys, to a trail of constant messes, to being spit, peed, and pooped on, and to doing most of life in two-minute intervals.

Before I had Jackson, I could barely function without eight to nine consecutive hours of sleep. I was most productive when I had large blocks of time, doing one project from start to finish, rather than a little here and there. In college, I didn’t write a single report or study for a test more than one day in advance. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA in 3.5 years while working 25 hours a week. I say this not to brag, but to make the point that my mind functioned well that way. While other people need repeat exposure to learn or memorize something, I just need a big block of time to quietly focus. I often skipped classes that taught straight from the textbook since I couldn’t focus very well in a large distracted environment. I did better reading and studying the text on my own in my quiet apartment.

My life doesn’t lend to these habits anymore. Now, I work in spurts, never knowing when my spurt of free time will be over, when Jackson will wake up, throw a tantrum, wander off, or climb in my lap and give me a big mouth-wide-open kiss. Nothing is too important for that last one. Nothing.

I haven’t figured out how to perfectly balance being a wife, homemaker, mother, blogger, writer, friend, and MOPS volunteer…but I’m amazed how well I’ve actually adapted to all of these new or changing roles in the last year. It turns out, I can get a lot done two minutes at a time.

Put on a pot of coffee while Jackson plays with the rice maker at my feet.

Change a dirty diaper

Pour cup of coffee while Jackson pulls each piece of the salad spinner out of the cabinet.

Find Jackson putting my wallet into the recycling bin. Recover wallet and other miscellaneous items Jackson thinks we should give to the city to “repurpose.”

Make a quick two-minute snack while Jackson sits in his high chair.

Sing along to a slow, batteries-are-about-to-die (thank you Jesus) version of “Have you ever seen a Tigger bounce this way and that way” from Jackson’s songbook for the 14th time today.

Drink two sips of coffee and check email, marking ones that need a response while Jackson makes a loop with his push toy around the living room, kitchen, and dining room.

“Look” for Jackson who has magically disappeared by covering his forehead and one eye. “Oh there he is!”

Edit pictures for a blog post while Jackson pulls all the books out of their canvas box.

Wash dishes with Jackson sitting in front of me splashing in the sink. Dry his tears because all the dishes are clean and play time in the sink is over. 

Microwave cold coffee and change a load of laundry with Jackson’s “help.”

I wouldn’t trade a single two-minute interval. I’d rather adapt, adjust, and embrace what life is right now.

Right now, I have two minutes to make a snack that will give me fuel to keep up with a busy toddler.

Rachel’s Warm Stuffed Dates

Ingredients

Medjool Dates

Roasted Almonds (I love the oil roasted, unsalted ones from Sunflower Market)

Directions

Turn oven to Broil.

Cut a slit down the side of the date and pop the pit out.

Generously stuff dates with roasted almonds and reseal the slit (dates are sticky, so it just sticks back together)

Broil for 1 minute, flip them and broil for 30-60 more seconds.

Let cool slightly and enjoy crunchy savory almonds wrapped in ooey gooey rich dates.

Perfect for a healthy dessert, an energizing snack, or an elegant party appetizer.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Warm Stuffed Dates: Two-Minutes, Two Ingredients
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-yG
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


5 Minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread

Becky’s 5 Minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread

If your life is like my life, t-i-m-e is at a premium.  And even when you carve out time for concentrated tasks, or cooking a great meal, there are life’s pesky interruptions.

Last night, while Greg was otherwise occupied, I stole away to the Corner Bakery in Highlands Ranch.  It has one of the most beautiful patios and views in Colorado!  Plus, it has WiFi and whoopie pies.  Need I say more?  My office away from home.  Vacation put me behind on writing and correspondence, so I was determined to fire up my lap top, away from the noise and demands of home, and get ‘er done!

Within minutes, four men in khakis with booming voices sat down inches from me, pulled out their legal pads and starting talking Geek: techy, nerdy, computery words flew at full volume, assaulting my quiet retreat.

I gave up, moved to another table, plugged in my computer at which point a family with a small child possessing a scream like a siren sat down behind me. The piercing screams were intermittent and so sharp, that patrons covered their ears and hurried to finish their meals. Still determined to get some work done, I moved for a second time, to a quiet corner protected on two sides by chest-high walls.  Ahhh….a little fortress.

Just then a waitress rounded the corner, hit her tray on the edge of my fortress wall sending a large glass cup of salsa flying, uncannily, perfectly in my direction.  My left side took the biggest hit, with salsa now dripping from my left cheek, arm, legs and sandaled feet. My computer screen looked like someone threw a tomato at my prose-in-progress.  I wiped myself and computer down, but the spots on my bare skin where I had been hit in the drive-by-salsa-ing, began to burn uncomfortably.  I called it a night, shut ‘er donw, and headed home. Later I regretted not asking for a free whoopee pie for my trouble, but alas, I was afraid the ceiling might cave in on me next.

Mama said there’d be days like this and on days like this, you need a fast, delicious, savory snack supper that you don’t have to spend hours cooking or preparing.   I offer you one of my favorite go-to snack or party foods: 5 minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread.  It’s a little like a soft cheese ball, with more interesting shape and toppings.  It has so many great tastes and textures: creamy, crunchy, sweet, hot.  Spread out on a plate, your guests also get a lot more of the sweet-spicy sauce and nuts with each bite than they do with a typical cheese ball.  Plus no refrigeration or clumsy rolling of the ball in nuts to deal with.  Add some fruit and veggies and wine, some hard Italian salami or roasted chick peas and its a great snack supper.

This recipe is fast,  impressive and beautiful on a table, and it will get you rave reviews and requests for recipe.  I never make it or bring it to a party that people don’t ask for the recipe.  In winter you can use the same toppings over warmed brie.

Variations:

Try this topping with warmed brie.  Vegans could make a “cheese spread” of Tofutti cream cheese mixed with white beans such as navy beans or butter beans in the food proceesor — add a little garlic salt and maybe some chives for extra flavor.
NOTE: I had some of this leftover and refrigerated it. Company was coming and so I put it in a small oven proof bowl and heated in the oven a few minutes, turning the broiler on for a minute at the end to caramelize the nuts and top of sauce. It was OVER THE TOP delicious.  Company devoured it in minutes.  So served cold or warm, this is a winner!

5 Minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread

Ingredients:

Cheese, cream cheese, almonds, sweet thai chili sauce and apricot preserves

1/2 cup cream cheese (I like the lower fat Neufchatel cheese)

1/3 cup cheese of your choice (I used a crumbly apricot white cheese with brandy this time)

1/4 cup apricot preserves

2 T. sweet Thai chili sauce

Finely chopped roasted salted almonds (pecans or walnuts are also delicious)

Assorted crackers

Directions:

In a food processor blend the cream cheese with the cheese until it forms a nice stiff creamy cheese spread.  (It should be thick.)

Process cream cheese with your choice other cheese

Spoon the mixture onto the center of a  pretty serving plate in a mound. Using the back of a large spoon pat the cheese into a round or oblong shape, about an inch thick.  This is going to be a rustic cheese spread so don’t worry about perfection.

Using back of spoon form into a rustic circle or oval

Mix the apricot preserves with the sweet Thai chili sauce and then spoon this on top of the cheese and spread it around, letting some of it drip prettily down the sides.

Finally, top with chopped nuts.  Serve with a pretty small cheese spreader knife and an assortment of your favorite crackers.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: 5 Minute Apricot Thai Chili Cheese Spread
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ym


150 Calorie Chocolate Marshmallow Snack

(The Mama)

I know, I know. I’m late with this post. But I have a great excuse.

My Hotel Room with a View

I’m in Oregon on vacation and this is the view from my hotel room. (Priceline, $50.00 a night!) And this is where I’ve been taking my meals, already prepared for me, along the river.

The sign above the plate of sweet potato fries and my bacon-avocado-tomato sandwich says, “Escape, Relax, Renew.” It is the Hotel Rules and I don’t want to break them, so I’m officially slacking today.

I did, however, create one dish in the hotel room last night to satisfy an intense craving for something sweet and chocolatey. I’m trying to keep my calories under 1450 a day, which is why I conveniently know that this snack weighs in at 150 calories! I love Pinwheels cookies, dark chocolate and marshmallow treats, that are only in the stores in the cool months of the year because the dark chocolate atop them melts too easily. This chocolate “hotel mix” reminds me of those cookies and satisfies my cravings for something indulgent without costing me much in calories.

Becky’s 150 Chocolate Marshmallow Snack

Serves One

Ingredients

1 T. Semi-sweet chocolate Chips (17 normal sized or 24 mini chips)
1 square chocolate graham cracker
1/3 c. mini marshmallows

Directions

Break the graham cracker into small bite-sized pieces, and toss with the rest of the ingredients. Serve with a cup of coffee or hot tea and satisfy your sweet-chocolate cravings for very few calories!

Friday Surprise

As Rachel and I enter a new phase of our lives, writing with a book deadline looming before us, we are going to surprise you on Fridays. We may have a guest post, an all pictures post, a flashback post where we re-post a favorite recipe with a new twist or comment, a give-away post (free books!), or whatever else strikes our fancy.  (And takes less time!) This will allow us another day in our week to get the book written, and hopefully be fun for you, too.

Must sign off, now. The pool is open and I must obey the rules around here and “escape, relax, renew.”


Olive Tappenade and Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil

An incredibly easy appetizer trio that will wow your guests.

Last week on vacation, Jared and I celebrated our anniversary at this adorable little wine bistro and had the most beautiful flavorful appetizer trio of hummus, marinated roasted red peppers, and olive tappenade. Though I love olives, I’ve somehow never eaten or made tappenade. I’ve been missing out. I immediately knew I wanted to recreate this rich briny dip when I got home. In fact, I wanted to recreate the whole trio, maybe even the whole evening.

Florida sunshine, live acoustic musicians, a handsome and charming date in flip flops, good wine (at happy hour prices), a flirty sun dress, and delicious simple food. This is my idea of a perfect evening out. I told Jared between sips of chardonnay, “I’m so glad we aren’t all dressed up in stiff uncomfortable clothes, surrounded by a bunch of “fancy,” wealthy people pretending to be something we are not.” His wallet, I mean he, agreed.

This trio of dips is the perfect entertaining appetizer. It presents beautifully and looks sophisticated, but it’s really all incredibly easy to make. You can make it up to a couple of days in advance, then set it out before your guests arrive and forget about it. I picked up a tub of hummus this time and just jazzed it up with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Of course, you can easily make your own hummus too.

Olive Tappenade

Olive Tappenade

Ingredients

1 cup of mixed kalamata and green olives, pitted* (I used a 5oz jar of unpitted olives and it equaled 1 cup pitted olives)
1/2 t. capers
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 T. roasted red peppers (use from the recipe below)
2 T. olive oil
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/4 t. black pepper
pinch of sugar

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor, scraping down the sides as needed. Blend until the olives are chopped very fine — a little chunky is fine. I used a magic bullet and it worked perfect for this size batch. A small food processor would probably result in a tappenade with a little more texture.

Serve with toasted bread or crackers. I used one ciabatta roll, one olive loaf roll, and Mediterranean matzo crackers. The bistro we went to served rosemary focaccia and pita bread with theirs.

*To quickly pit the olives, whack them with a meat mallet and pop the pit right out. I knew I hung onto my meat mallet for some reason!

Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil

Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil

Ingredients

2 red peppers
3 T. olive oil
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 t. salt

Directions

In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil and garlic on medium until the garlic is soft. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon or fork.

Place peppers directly on the flame of your gas stove top or under the broiler of your oven on a pan, turning until the skin is charred on all sides. Once charred on all sides, place immediately in a plastic freezer bag or in a bowl sealed tight with saran wrap. Leave for about 10 minutes (or longer). Discard the inner seeds and stem and gently remove the skins. A damp paper towel can help if they aren’t peeling off easily. Chop the peppers into large bite-size chunks.

Pour the garlic infused oil over the roasted peppers, toss with the salt. Refrigerate for later use or serve at room temperature with toasted bread.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Olive Tapenade and Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-vD
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved