Savory Italian Pot Roast Pasta

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(Becky, the Mama.)

What do you get when you put two of mama’s best comfort foods — pot roast and marinara/ pasta — together?

Heaven in a bowl.

This has to be one of my all-time favorite creations using any left-over beef you have in the fridge from pot roast to steak. (I had some grilled flank steak left-over that I cut into pieces and used for this recipe. )  The addition of wine and beef broth (or Lipton onion soup, which is what I had on hand) and splash of heavy cream creates an extra layer of homey warmth to a traditional marinara.  The wide Pappardelle noodles create the perfect nest for this dish.

I am about to head to my daughter Rachel’s home in Texas this weekend awaiting the birth of her second child, a little girl (!) who will be named Corabelle.

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While Rachel is busy and recovering and nursing a newborn,  I plan to whip up some comfort food with the help of my sous chef, Corabelle’s big almost-4-year-old brother, Jackson.

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Rachel and Jared are still mostly vegans, so I will often make things like rice bowls or pasta dishes that are easy to tweak for vegans and carnivores alike. At Rachel’s house, I am going to try subbing Miso for the beef broth. (Miso is the closest thing I have found to bringing out a “meaty” flavor in vegetarian  cooking. In  fact, I love the butter, savory flavor that Miso imparts so much that I often add it to meat-based dishes to upgrade the richness. ) I will probably substitute my favorite vegan meat, Field Roast sausages, sliced and browned in olive oil, then sprinkled on top. (Other options: lentils; or chick peas, roasted in the oven first.)  For creaminess,  I will likely blend up some raw cashews with a little cashew or almond milk, or use use canned whole fat coconut milk.  Either makes a nice substitute for a splash of cream!

No matter how you tweak this dish to make it your own, I think you will love it and that it will soon become one of your go-to favorites!

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P.S.  If you happen to be looking for some funny, uplifting, soul-and-body nourishing books to tuck in your beach bag this summer,  you may enjoy one of our recent books!

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Savory Italian Pot Roast Pasta

1 large 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes with basil added)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 cups beef broth or 1/2 package Lipton onion soup mix with 1 cup hot water

1/2 cup red wine

2 t. brown sugar

2 t. oregano or Italian seasoning

A handful of chopped fresh basil if you have it on hand

1 cup diced beef, already cooked (such as leftover roast or steak, or even pulled pork or pork loin would work as well )

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cream

Pappardelle pasta to yield 4 servings, cooked

Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a big skillet, add the crushed tomatoes, broth (or Lipton soup mixture), garlic, red wine,  beef, and Italian seasonings and brown sugar. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until it is the thickness you like for pasta sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat and add cream.  Ladle over Pappardelle pasta in low flat bowls, then grate Parmesan cheese over all.  I am purposely messy with the Parm cheese as I think it makes the dish look rustic and beautiful.

Variations: Add bits of cooked carrots, peas and potatoes to make this a one-bowl meal, and add to the “Sunday pot roast with veggies” feel.

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Shrimp in Alfredo Sauce over Crispy Polenta with Greens

DSC_0030(Becky, the Mama.)

I love it when a plan comes together, when a dish in your imagination turns out as delicious as the actual experiment.  This is one such meal.

Last night I  put a little gourmet Italian twist on southern-style Shrimp n’ Grits, then added a serving of smoky-garlicky greens as a side. The results?  Not only was the presentation gorgeous, it tasted heavenly.  As in I would absolutely put a this recipe in the category of “the perfect bite” and serve it up in a spoon to Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain on the show “The Taste”.  Then step back and wait for them to swoon and hand me the prize without further debate.

In place of  the traditional grits, I pan-fried thin slices of ready-made polenta, often used in Italian recipes.  I used Trader Joe’s brand, which comes in package shelf (not refrigerated), usually near the Italian section of the store.  It looks like moist, cooked cornmeal made into a log and wrapped in plastic.  That is because, well, it is.   It is not the most appetizing looking food when you open it up for slicing. (Think yellow corn grits that may have been left too long in a pan.) However, once you’ve pan-fried them in olive oil and butter, with a little salt and pepper…. Look out, Louise.   They turn into crispy-edged, buttery disks of corny decadence.

tj polenta

 

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polenta skilletI made a quick n’ easy, creamy Alfredo sauce for the shrimp and paired it side dish of greens–  a mixture of kale and some wonderful fresh greens, a gift from our neighbor’s garden.

I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.

Bon appetito, Ya’ll!

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Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens

Serve’s 2

Ingredients

For Polenta:

½ log of pre-made polenta

1 T. butter

1T. olive oil

Dash salt and pepper

 

For Shrimp and Alfredo:

20 pieces of raw medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails removed

1 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup cream

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Dash salt

 

For Greens:

1 T. Olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced,

½ red onion, diced fine

2 slices pork or turkey bacon diced fine

4 cups loosely packed, rough chopped  kale and/or other greens,  thick stems mostly removed

½ cup water

1 t. smoked paprika

1 T. vinegar, your favorite

1 T. brown sugar

Salt and Pepper (or Grill Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning) to taste

Tabasco or Frank’s Red Sauce or Red Chili Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Start the greens first, so they can simmer on the back burner.  In your largest deepest skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, red onion and bacon, until bacon crisps. Pile the greens on top of this mixture in the skillet, cover with ½ cup of water, cover, and let the greens cook down about 5 minutes over medium heat. Take lid off and stir in paprika, vinegar and brown sugar, add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste.  Cover again and simmer while you make the shrimp and sauce.  (Adding water if needed to keep from scorching, but no more than necessary.)

In another skillet (I like my iron skillet) let oil and butter melt and get hot while you slice the polenta into ¼ inch or so rounds.  Place the rounds in the skillet and turn heat up to medium high so that the polenta starts to pan fry.  When it is golden brown in places, turn it over and brown the other side.  Sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then cover with another paper town to keep warm.

Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel, and then put in oil and garlic and shrimp.  Cook for just a minute or two until shrimp just turns pink on both sides.  (You can add a little water to the pan if the shrimp starts to stick.)  Add cream and parmesan cheese.  Stir and heat until cheese is melted and the shrimp and sauce is heated through.  Season lightly with salt to taste, if needed.

Put about 5 or 6  rounds of polenta on each plate.  Pile with shrimp and sauce.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika.  Serve with a side of the greens.


Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce (oil-free, vegan, plant-based)

Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce - Laugh, Cry, Cook

When I worked at the Olive Garden in college, the biggest temptation was the bread drawer, the place where the fresh-out-of-the-oven garlicky bread sticks keep warm until they are to be swaddled in cloth like little dough baby Jesuses and placed in a basket, then delivered to anxious guests alongside a family-sized salad with large clumsy tongs.

Here’s a little server secret: to maximize your salad and breadstick dining pleasure, don’t bother asking for extra dressing or scooping up the last bit swimming at the bottom of the salad bowl. The real indulgence comes in dipping them into a boat of alfredo sauce, it’s a combination you won’t long forget. And the only thing it will cost you is $2.50, 380 calories and 35 grams of fat! Yeah sorry….total buzz kill. But good news is ahead.

This morning, an idea for a simple garlic cream sauce recipe popped into my head. It sounded so easy that right there at 10am, I whipped it up in my Vitamix.  And when I opened the blender top ten minutes later, the steaming creamy sauce brought me right back to my shifts at the OG. The smell of garlic filling the air as you opened the bread drawer and winked to the cook for a little ramekin of alfredo. The combination so naughty, yet so irresistible. Hungry servers gathered around to share the quick indulgence, all the while looking out of the corner of our eyes to make sure a manager wasn’t swinging through the kitchen door or the skinny girl with self-control wasn’t looking down on us with judgement.

Somehow this sauce captures that naughty thrilling indulgence – the taste of garlic and cream dancing on your tastebud – but it’s oh so right in so many ways. No oil, no dairy, no cholestorol, just healthy fats from cashews. And with a rich creamy sauce like this, who really needs a refined white flour breadstick to dunk in it? Serve it over whole wheat pasta or vegetables or dip your favorite toasted whole grain baguette in it and you’ll be every bit as satisfied. It’s mind blowingly delicious and the easiest cream sauce I’ve made yet. I see many spin-offs of this in my future. Add a little cayenne for some heat, roast the garlic, garnish with some basil to brighten it up for spring, maybe even add some spinach and artichokes and cook it down to a thick appetizer dip. Oh the potential!

Note: I did not pre-saute the garlic, so it has a little bit of that raw garlic bite…that will stay the evening with you. I am a sucker for garlic, but if you like your garlic a little more milder and not as an overnight guest, then you may want to mince and saute it in a touch of water or olive oil before adding it in.

Vegan Garlic Cream Sauce - Laugh, Cry, Cook

Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce

Recipe from http://www.laughcrycook.com

Makes enough for 16 ounces of cooked pasta (about four large servings)

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (available at health markets)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large or 3-4 small garlic cloves
2 teaspoons cornstarch (flour will probably work too, but you’ll probably need 3-4 teaspoons)
2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
4 teaspoons lemon juice

Vitamix or High-Speed Blender Directions

1. Blend cashews, nutritional yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a powder. Scrape corners down.

2. Add garlic, cornstarch, 1/2 of milk. Blend until combined.

3. Add remaining milk and blend on high speed until hot and steamy (about five to seven minutes) and to the thickness desired.

4. Blend in lemon juice  and check for seasoning. Add more salt if desired.

5. Serve over pasta or vegetables or as a dipping sauce for bread. Sprinkle individual servings with a touch of pepper.

Vitamix is having a sale on their reconditioned models this month (January 2014). I bought the standard reconditioned model in November when they had the same sale and have officially fallen into the “How did I ever live without it?!” camp. You can use the code 06-009318 at Vitamix.com to get free shipping and to help support Laugh, Cry, Cook.

Food Processor/Stove Top Instructions

1. In a food processor blend cashews, nutritional yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a powder. Scrape down sides as needed.

2. Mince garlic finely or use microplaner to grate into food processor.

3. Stir cornstarch into 1cup of milk. Add to food processor and blend until well combined.

3. Add remaining milk. Blend again.

4. Transfer to stovetop sauce pan and heat on medium to medium high, stirring often until it is heated through and reached the desired consistency (like a thick alfredo sauce).

4. Stir in lemon juice and check for seasoning. Add more salt if desired.

5. Serve over pasta or vegetables or as a dipping sauce for bread. Sprinkle individual servings with a touch of pepper.


Cheesy Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic Drizzle

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Cheesy Hot Garlic Bread with Tomatoes, Drizzled with Olive OIl and Vinegar

(Becky, the Mama.)

What fun  Rachel and I are having hearing back from readers enjoying We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. Here’s one I got a kick out of today from Linda: “Becky I’m only on page 18 and I’m laughing out loud like a nutcase. You really have made a career out of telling on yourself! OMG, too funny and you’re not exaggerating, not even a little? Starting with misplacing your car keys in Nashville, your suitcase exploding at the airport, you can’t find your car once you arrive in Fort Worth, then when you do, the battery is dead? I’m dying over here.”

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People often ask my daughter (now co-author), my friends, my husband, “Come on, tell the truth. Is Becky making this stuff up?” All they can say, with a slow head shake is, “We only wish she were.”

As I read the fun note above, I was in the middle of posting this episode on Facebook:
Leaving hotel room today. Close door, get 4 big suitcases in hall.
Me: “Uh I took my glasses off again.”
Greg: “Did you leave them in the room?”
Me: “I might have.”
All four  of our keys are behind locked doors so Greg goes to get new ones. Upon his return, I say, “I also can’t seem to find my cell phone.” He enters the room and turns it upside down. I look on the carpet, I’ve been sitting on the phone in the hall. I find my glasses, in the case where I put them in my suitcase. I don’t remember doing that AT ALL. We close the door pick up our things and go on. Greg never gets mad, not even testy. No matter how many times we exit a hotel room this way.

Life has been so busy lately with the book’s release and travel and finding things I have lost,  that when I do cook I want it to be fast and easy and delicious. One of the things I enjoy the most at some of the great Italian restaurants we’ve visited on our trip to Oregon this week, is fresh homemade bread dipped in a little plate of olive oil, good aged balsamic vinegar and a little garlic. Heaven.

Recently I found a way to turn Heaven into a quick snacky meal or a wonderfully easy appetizer for a bunch. Cutting a nice fresh loaf of French bread lengthwise, I sprinkled it with cheese, then layered sliced fresh garden tomatoes, followed  tiny pinches of salt, pepper, basil or oregano (fresh or dried, whatever you have on hand), a little fresh grated garlic. Pop this in the oven until the cheese melts and tomatoes are sizzling. Then, here’s the fun part: drizzle it all with good olive oil and balsamic, cut in slices and serve with plenty of napkins.

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Cheesy, Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise

1 cup grated cheese (I used mozzarella, some white cheddar and feta. Use any combination you like.)

2-3 tomatoes (my baguette was small so Roma tomatoes were perfect size), sliced

Pinch fresh salt

Several turns of fresh pepper

1 t. dried oregano, or 2 t. minced fresh basil

1 clove fresh garlic, grated

¼ cup olive oil, approximate

2 T. good aged balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat Oven to  400 degrees

Put both baguette halves on a baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle about ½ cup grated cheese on each side.  Slice tomatoes and place atop both pieces of bread, overlapping slightly as shown.  Sprinkle each half with a little fresh salt, some turns of fresh pepper, the herbs and garlic.

Place in oven for about 5 minutes or until baguettes are hot, cheese is melted and tomatoes are sizzling.

Drizzle the baguettes with oil and vinegar, slice in 3 inch pieces and serve hot.  (With plenty of napkins.)

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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.

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

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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.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-10a

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


Solitude, Self-Care & Tortellini Soup (Welcome Author & Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman)

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(Becky) I’m thrilled to share our blog today with new author, compassionate therapist, and dear friend, Lucille Zimmerman. We’re celebrating the fresh release of her new book on self-care for women titled Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World.

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I was thrilled to endorse it and wrote: “This is a book that I want to give to every woman I know. It contains wisdom I wish I had at twenty, and reminders I still need at mid-life, to regularly refill my own well. Lucille shows that in order to have something to give to those we love, we have to replenish our physical, spiritual and emotional energy. With wonderful personal stories and a therapist’s keen insight, Renewed, is a like a cup of cold water to women who are parched for permission to take care of themselves.”

Seriously, you gotta get this book.  Even better, pamper yourself futher and  read it while you sip her comforting recipe for Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage.

Below are some personal words, a short excerpt on self-care and Lucille’s soup recipe. One of the reasons she loves it is because it allows her to chop veggies, a calming and centering activity for her. Enjoy!

Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman, Author of Renewed

Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman, Author of Renewed

(Lucille)

I’ve noticed I’m the most stressed when I can’t focus on one thing. Right now I’m trying to finish up the grades on the counseling course I taught, I have a series of blog posts that need written, a daughter who is planning a wedding but is prohibited from driving until medical tests prove she’s not having seizures, and I’m launching my first book. Needless to say, the multitasking is causing me stress. I am in need of solitude.

Here is a little excerpt from my book, Renewed, on the topic of solitude:
 

So what do people gain from spending time in solitude? One researcher said the mere presence of other people obliges us to coordinate our actions. Right now I am alone. Snow is falling silently outside and the only sound I hear comes from water trickling in my office fountain. Right now I can do whatever I want. I can slurp my split pea soup while taking intermittent bites of a chocolate bar. I can sit on my chair with one leg tucked under in unladylike fashion. I can take a break to let the dog out, and I can sing badly while doing all of the above. I’m still wearing my workout clothes from yoga, my bangs are hanging in my face, and I don’t have on a stitch of makeup. These little freedoms are not to be underestimated.

Humans may be social beings, but solitude has been shown to have great societal value. It is like the rests in a line of music, giving information, nuance, and structure to the melody. Without it, our lives are a cacophony, a never-ending noise that wears us down. Solitude is essential for our spiritual experience – it is where we hear the still, small voice. Jesus was our model, showing us how to balance being with people and being alone. ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed’ (Mark 1:35), and ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (Luke 5:16). In these verses we see Jesus becoming known as a great healer and teacher, but he still took time to rest and pray.

So in spite of my to-do list, I put everything aside and took a walk in the sunshine. Then I made a tortellini soup. If anything brings my calm and focus back its sunshine, exercise, solitude and chopping fresh, colorful and fragrant vegetables. 

(Excerpted & Adapted from Renewed, by Lucille Zimmerman, Abingdon Press. Lucille’s info and blog is at http://www.lucillezimmerman.com)

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Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage: shared by Lucille Zimmerman


1 lb sweet Italian or turkey sausage
1 cup onion
2 garlic cloves, diced
5 cups beef broth
1 cup water
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
½ T. basil leaves
½ t. dried thyme
1 (8 oz) cup tomato sauce
1 ½ cups zucchini, sliced
1 (8 ox) fresh tortellini pasta
3 T. fresh parsley (use less if dried)
Parmesan cheese

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In a 5-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1 T of drippings. Sauté onion and garlic in drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, tomatoes, carrots, celery, basil, oregano, thyme, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer 30 minus. Add tortellini last 10 mins. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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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)
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Uk
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Marinated Portobello Pizzas

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(Becky, the Mama.)

As long as I can remember I have wanted to be Italian. I look Italian. I FEEL the inner, fiery passions of an Italian. I love the way every little word in Italian sounds like music, or a romantic flirtation.

I met a beautiful grandmother from Sicily a few years ago, at a friend’s house in Denver, and after chatting a bit, she asked me if I was Italian. Be still il mio cuore (my heart).

I said, “No, but I really, really want to be.” What I didn’t say, but what I wanted to say was, “I want to live under the Tuscan sun by day, and I want the moon to hit my eye like a big pizza pie at night. I want to eat gelato and drink café in a piazza.” (And I want an excuse to use words “gelato,” “café” and “piazza” in a sentence every day.)

This lovely lady, immediately recognizing my Inner Sophia Loren said, with a wave of her hand, “No worries, I will make you Sicilian.”

“You will?”

“Yes,” she said, and then she ceremoniously took my face in her two cupped hands, looked in my eyes and said, “Now you are Sicilian.”

Poof!

So there ya go.

In honor of my bestowed-upon Sicilian-Italian-ness, I offer these beautiful little marinated Portobello pizzas for your eating and snacking pleasure today. You can fill them with anything you have on hand that you enjoy, the possibilities are endless: mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil; goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto; chopped veggies and lentils in a marinara sauce with vegan cheeses; humus and olives and red roasted peppers; chicken, asparagus and Alfredo sauce. I could go on and on, as we Italians are prone to do.

I filled these Portobellos with a rich home-made marina sauce I mixed with some leftover diced roasted veggies. Then I sprinkled them with mozzarella and Parmesan and topped with a few slices of turkey pepperoni.

Muah! Easy, pretty and delizioso! If you think ahead, try to pop the mushrooms into the marinade as soon as you bring them home from the grocer. The longer they marinate the better they taste! I ended up marinating these for almost 3 days. They were so juicy and flavorful.

This recipe has almost no carbs, is gluten free, and can easily be adjusted to be vegan or vegetarian. If you have lots of people over for a party who are all on special diets (and who isn’t these days? ) you can even make them to order. (Or let your guests make their own.)

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Marinated Portobello Pizzas

Makes 2 Portobello Pizzas

Ingredients: 

1/3 cup of your favorite Italian or balsamic salad dressing

2 large Portobello mushrooms

½ cup of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce (mixed with any chopped leftover veggies you like)

2 T. grated mozzarella cheese (or a slice of fresh buffalo mozzarella)

2 T. Parmesan cheese

6 to 8 slices of turkey pepperoni (it has 70% less fat that regular pepperoni and the same amount of flavor)

Directions:

Marinate the mushrooms in the dressing for at least four hours or up to several days in a tightly covered container. (Put in fridge if you are marinating more than 4 hours. Otherwise you can leave the mushrooms to marinate on the counter top.)

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Next, broil or grill the mushroom on both sides until the get grill marks or start to brown. Turn stem side up and carefully cut off the stem. (I chopped the stem and added it to marinara.) Place a generous spoonful of chunky marinara sauce on the mushrooms (about 1/4 cup each) then sprinkle each with a tablespoon of mozzarella and Parmesan. Finally top with pepperoni. Bake or Broil (about 6 inches from heat) until cheese is melted and pizzas are heated through. Now THAT’S amore!

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade (Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

The first time I created and served this recipe for a patio party, guests kept saying, “Oh my goodness, what IS this yummy stuff?” I struggled to describe what is was, because, as is so often the case, I just put whatever sounded good to me into a pan and crossed my fingers. This recipe began with a pan of diced roasted Greek veggies that becomes a colorful, intensely flavored Mediterranean topping for wedges of hot grilled Naan bread, alongside hummus and a lemon-zest ricotta. If I were to be asked to create a “perfect bite” on some sort of home cook’s competition, I’d serve this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade on top of, well, just about anything.

This hearty appetizer is perfect with a glass of good wine, either on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening. It is wonderful at just about any temperature but probably best served a room temp which makes it a great no-fuss appetizer for parties. (Also perfect for New Year Celebrations coming up.)

I must confess, I am a little sad when there is not a container of “Yummy Stuff” in the fridge somewhere. It’s become my favorite condiment on top of fresh grilled Naan or Pita,burgers or sandwiches, or as a topping to punch up flavor in everyday spaghetti. If you are vegan, it’s especially nice to keep on hand to add a quick burst of color and flavor to lentils, beans, brown rice or quinoa.

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade

(Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

* Recipe of Roasted Veggies below,cooked, cooled and diced to desired “chunkiness” for spreading
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 ½ t. sugar
Couple of shakes hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco) to taste
1 T. capers or 1 T. finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
5 large green stuffed olives, sliced (may use black olives if you prefer)
1/3 c. chopped dried tomatoes
1 to 2 T. water, if needed
Salt and pepper, if needed

Directions:

In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil. Add diced roasted Garlic Greek Veggies. Add tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, capers or pepperoncinis, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Stir and cook in skillet until sauce is thick, well-blended and hot and some of the “vinegary” smell and taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes.

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Add water if needed, but keep the tempenade thick. Serve warm, room temperature or even cold if you like. It is amazing on grilled Naan or pita bread atop hummus, fabulous as a thick relish-like topping for a Greek-style burger or any sandwich.

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Mediterranean Garlic Roasted Veggies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and rough chopped in big chunks
3 big cloves garlic (or 4 smaller ones)
1 red onion, peeled and rough chopped in large chunks

3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Fresh ground sea salt and pepper (light sprinkling over all)

Directions:

On a large baking sheet sprinkle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place chopped eggplant, red pepper and red onion on pan. Using clean hands mix the veggies with the oil and vinegar and then give the whole thing a light sprinkling of fresh sea salt and pepper. Put whole garlic cloves somewhere on pan either wrapped in foil or parchment with a little olive oil; or use a small clay garlic roaster.

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Roast veggies for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies just begin to get soft and brown-blackish in spots. Smash soft roasted garlic into a paste with flat edge of knife or fork, and toss with veggies.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade
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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole (Vegan)

Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole

(Rachel, the daughter)

This weekend we had our first family stomach virus, a true milestone in parenting. Jackson woke up on Saturday morning sick. Sunday night, I went to bed early, my queasy stomach telling me I too had been bitten by the bug.

I’ll spare you all the details, but at the pinnacle of our monumental family milestone, Jackson woke up crying around 3am. Jared tried to console him to no avail, so he brought him to me to nurse him in bed. Within seconds Jackson was calm. And seconds after that, I pulled away, tossed him back to Jared and ran to our bathroom.

Through the walls, I could hear our poor baby bawling. I felt terrible, but knew his daddy had him until I could get to him again. And then I heard sounds echoing my own from the other bathroom.

Oh no. Not Jared too.

As soon as I could, I rushed to Jackson’s room. Pitiful baby was sitting up in his crib with all the lights on in nothing but a sloppily placed diaper, sobbing. Apparently, daddy had been bitten by the bug mid diaper change.

I re-aligned his diaper, zipped him back into his footie pajamas and rocked and nursed him. I prayed “God, just 10 minutes. Please just give me 10 minutes to get him back to sleep in his crib.” He answered and gave me exactly enough time, no more, no less.

These are the moments I wondered about before having kids. The last stomach virus I had was in my first trimester when I was pregnant with Jackson. It was the first time I truly feared becoming a mom and questioned whether I had what it took for the life long commitment of motherhood. I wondered if I’d be able to handle sickness with a baby or child or the sleepless nights. And now I know, it may be really hard, but apparently I can do it. I’ve been to the edge (of the toilet seat) and back. I’ve conquered the throne. I’ve, well, you get the jist of it. I somehow feel accomplished now. Like I’ve come into my own as a mom.

So what if I laid on the floor and let Jackson eat peanut butter straight from the jar for lunch. So what if we watched two episodes of Sesame Street from the DVR. So what if I still have cheerio crumbs and peanut butter stuck in my carpet. So what. I did it. I made it through. Some days that’s the best you can do, just make it through. And I did.

Today I finally felt like my normal self again. After little but broth and pasta for the last couple of days, I was in the mood for a real meal. This Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole hit the spot. It’s warm and comforting and, though it takes a little while to simmer and cook, was very simple to make.

I love the different textures in this dish: crunchy on top, fluffy soft cloud-like in the middle, chewiness in the chickpeas. A texture party in my mouth.

Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole

Serves 6

Ingredients

½ pound chickpeas, soaked or 2 cans drained and rinsed
16 oz crushed tomatoes w/ basil
2 c. veggie broth or water
1 t. coconut or brown sugar
1 t. balsamic vinegar
2 T. dried minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups small tomatoes, whole (I used 8-9 campari tomatoes ) or 16 oz of canned whole tomatoes
8 pieces of bread, (I used Ezekiel Sprouted Whole Grain bread)
Olive Oil for brushing bread
Salt & Pepper

Optional Garnish of Caramelized Balsamic Onions

1 onion, sliced
1 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Earth Balance
1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 t. coconut or brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Few twists of cracked pepper

Directions

Drain soaked chickpeas and return to large pot. Add first eight ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Then simmer covered on low for 30-45 minutes (until chickpeas are cooked through—if using canned chickpeas you can cut time to 15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. On a baking sheet, line up bread slices and brush one side with a little olive oil. Place in oven (you can start while it’s still preheating) and bake until the bread is hard, but not burnt (I baked mine for 15 minutes, flipped it and baked for another 15).

In a high-sided casserole dish, lay out four of your pieces of toast. Breaking them up as needed to fit. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

No need for perfection, just fit it in there.

When your chickpeas are cooked through, pour half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Then repeat with the remaining bread and tomato mixture.

Simmering chickpeas with the tomatoes and seasoning.

Sprinkle the top with salt and fresh crack pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.

While this is baking, you can either kick back and relax, make a side salad or veggie and or caramelize some balsamic onions for the top of the casserole. It’s good either way, but who doesn’t love a little caramelized onion on just about anything?

Balsamic Caramelized Onions — you can actually cook down more than this if you have more patience than I do (or don’t have a whiny toddler at your feet testing every patient bone in your body :))

Directions for Optional Balsamic Caramelized Onion

Pour oil and butter into a cold skillet, heat to medium and add onions. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 more minutes or until the onions are soft, brown and completely cooked through.

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The Title: Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole (Vegan)
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