Savory Turkey Burgers with Quick Mango Red Pepper Chutney

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(Becky, the Mama.)

A family story pops up almost every Thanksgiving.   Decades ago, my adorable cousin Kenny, about age five, tiny and wearing enormous glasses took a bite of the day’s celebrated roast bird, smiled, and then with a slow southern munchkin voice, asked my mom, “What kind of chicken is this Aunt (pronounced “Ain’t”) Ruthie?  Tur-key?”

I must confess, I’m not a big fan of turkey (even cousin Kenny’s “chicken kind of turkey”) — as it too often tends toward dry and flavorless.  I’ve found three exceptions, however.  One is a  recipe for marinated grilled turkey tenderloin. Moist, delicious,  a family favorite.  Another is a savory-sweet recipe for Asian turkey meatballs.  Finally there is this creation for savory turkey burgers loaded with flavor and topped with a sweet and spicy quick mango red pepper chutney.  It’s beautiful on a serving plate, plus budget and waistline friendly dish. Yummy paired with a side of jasmine rice and my simple sesame avocado  cucumber salad.  For vegans or vegetarians,  trying grilling Field Roast Apple Sage Sausages, and then simmer them in the sauce a few minutes before serving.

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Savory Turkey Burgers with Quick Mango Red Pepper Chutney

Makes 6 to 8 patties depending on size you prefer

Burgers

1 lb ground turkey (you can also use ground beef if you prefer)

1 lb  sweet Italian turkey sausage, out of casing and crumbled

2 t. seasoned salt or grill seasoning

1 egg

1/3 c. soft bread crumbs

Sauce

½ cup chicken or veggie broth

1 /4 c. brown sugar

1 T. Dijon mustard

1/3 c. red wine or balsamic vinegar

Pinch salt and pepper

1 fresh mango diced (Or 3/4 c. fresh pineapple, chopped, is also delicious if you prefer)

1 roasted red pepper, diced

2 green onions, chopped

Directions:

Mix the ingredients for turkey burgers together and form into patties, any size you like.   Grill or sauté with a little olive oil until brown and caramelized on the outside, cooked through on the inside.  (You can cover the pan once the burgers are brown on the outside and let simmer a bit more if they need to cook through more on the inside.) Remove from pan to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm and let juices redistribute.   To the same skillet, add veggie broth, brown sugar, mustard and vinegar to skillet. Turn heat on high to bring to boil and then back heat down to a simmer,  until sauce begins to get thicken.. Add mango, red pepper and onions, pinch salt and pepper continue to cook until the chutney is hot again.  Serve a spoonful of warm sauce over turkey patties.

Vegan or Vegetarian Alternative: Use Field Roast Apple Sage Sausages, split down the middle length-wise. Brown in a little olive oil, then continue recipe above.

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The Title: Savory Turkey Burgers with Quick Mango Red Pepper Chutney
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Quick Skillet BBQ Chicken Thighs (or “Calm Down” Chicken)

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(Becky, the Mama)

We have been cleaning, decluttering and staging our house to sell. That sentence sounds so simple, but this has been the hardest physical work I’ve done in my life. I actually lost weight, even though –during the dawn to dark labor — I went on a two week drive-through-burger diet. And this, after two months of being mostly a healthy vegetarian and loving it. What can I say? Even for an avid foodie, there are times that McDonalds Happens.

Now we are “showing our house” — and this means that three adults and one six-year-old grandson have to keep our home mostly perfect, at all times, prepared for the random call from a realtor who wants to bring a client by to see it. We’ve been averaging about two showings a day, which has really cut into my napping and cooking time. Not to mention the toll it has taken on what’s left of my sanity.

Finally, this week, I had a few precious “spare” minutes and –determined not to eat another meal in a box, sack, or bucket –I decided to cook my simple recipe for quick bar-b-que chicken thighs in a skillet. My grandson George’s diet that day consisted of way too much sugar and carbs. He’d been hyper and cranky when I finally settled him down to eat a plate of this succulent, sweet and savory chicken dish. He ate as if in a happy trance, and then asked, “Nonny, can I please have some more of that Calm Down Chicken?”

If your life is a busy as mine right now, you don’t have time for lots of ingredients or a great big mess or something that’s going to take more than 10 minutes to throw together for supper. I bequeath to you this recipe for “Calm Me Down” BBQ Chicken Thighs.

P.S. An additional recipe comment from George: “Nonny, tell the people that this chicken also gives you en-gerny and makes yous muscles strong.” So there ya go.

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Nonny and Georgie, happy together. This day he was a musician at Kindergarten Circus. But more often he is my sous chef.

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Quick n’ Easy Skillet BBQ Chicken Thighs (or “Calm Down” Chicken)
Serves 2-3 people

Ingredients

6 boneless chicken thighs
Grill or Steak seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)
1/3 to ½ c. BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
Dash hot sauce if you like your Bar-b-que Spicy
1 – 2 T. olive oil

Directions

Put oil in a skillet (preferably an iron skillet), so that it covers the bottom of your pain in a thin layer. Turn the stove up to high heat. Rinse chicken thighs with water and then pat with paper towel until fairly dry. Flatten out the thighs a bit with your hands, and then sprinkle both sides with grill or steak seasoning or seasoned salt. Place in super hot skillet, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until one side is golden brown and then flip and cook the other side until it is the same. Pour BBQ Sauce over the top of the thighs (adding a few shakes of hot sauce if you prefer spice), cover the skillet and then turn down the heat to medium and cook about another minute (to make they are thoroughly cooked). Finally remove the lid, crank heat up to medium high and cook the thighs until the sauce that has dripped to the bottom of the pan begans to thicken and caramelize. Turn chicken again, coating all sides with thickened sauce. Serve. (It is delicious and pretty to serve this on one big plate, with slices of fresh pineapple tucked around and if you like them, a sprinkle of green onions or chives.)

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The Title: Quick Skillet BBQ Chicken Thighs
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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.

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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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Quinoa Mango Black Bean Burrito

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Okay.  I have an honest confession.  If there were a support group for it, I should have joined.  Here it is:  I’m afraid of quinoa.  Not of eating it, mind you.  I actually love it and I know it is a vegetarian’s friends, full of all good things.  One cup of the nutty, fluffy tasty grain provides over 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, along with goodies like magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and all for around 220 calories

My first encounter with quinoa was all positive: my daughter-in-law Julie took me to an adorable coffee shop called The Red Cup in Mukilteo, Washington, overlooking the water.  The kind of cafe with bright funky colors alongside soothing bohemian baristas in Birkenstocks and granny skirts.

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They serve an organic warm, tasty burrito stuffed with quinoa and cheese that comes with tangy fresh mango salsa.   I’ve often thought how much I’d like to try recreating one of those burritos, but I found my mind braking at this thought: “Oh, no, I’ll have to learn how to make quinoa.”

Finally, I told my daughter-the-vegan that I have a quinoa-making phobia.  Her response? “Mom, you are going to laugh at yourself when you find out how ridiculously easy it is.  Just use your $10.00 cheap-o rice maker and pretend it is rice.”

So today I faced down my fears. I marched to my rice maker, poured a cup of quinoa and 1 ¼ cups of water into the bowl, turned it on, then walked away slowly.  When I returned, hesitantly, 15 minutes later… a miracle had occurred.  The tiny little beads had burst and turned nutty and fluffy and … awesome.

The rest was easy and familiar: I grilled a tortilla, sprinkled a little cheese around, then layered quinoa, black beans, salsa, mango,cilantro and chopped green onions.  Rolled that baby up, cut it in half at a diagonal. and dipped it in a bit more salsa mixed with diced mango.

I was immediately transported to that café in Seattle.

Just give me some Birkenstocks and a granny skirt and call me the “Quinoa Queen.”

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Quinoa Mango Black Bean Burrito

Serves 1

1 medium to large Tortilla (white or wheat, I prefer Tortilla Land brand)

1/4 -1/3 cup grated cheese, depending on preference
1/3 cup cooked quinoa, warmed (click for Rachel’s simple directions)
2 T. black beans, warmed
1/4 c. diced mango, divided
Sprig cilantro, rough chopped (optional)
1 green onion chopped 
1/4 cup salsa

Grill tortilla on both sides until brown in spots, hot and pliable. (Use a bit of olive oil if needed to keep from sticking.)
Layer cheese, quinoa, black beans, 2 T. magno, cilantro and onion.

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Tuck in two sides and then roll up into a burrito. Cut on the diagonal, in half. Mix salsa with remaining mango and serve alongside the burrito.

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The Title:Quinoa Mango Black Bean Burrito
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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.

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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)
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Vz
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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple-Mustard-Balsamic Glaze

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(Becky, the Mama.)

So what do you call someone who makes vegetables the “Star of the Show,”  and doesn’t eat meat — but also doesn’t get nervous if a ham hock touches her pinto beans,or shrink back when a spoonful of beef gravy is ladled over her mashed potatoes, and sometimes considers “bacon” to be in a food group all its own?

I thought I might be alone in the sea of food-preference categories until, that is, I stumbled on the term “flexitarian.”

If this is a new term to you, as it was to me,  here’s the basic  scoop:  A flexitarian diet is one that is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat products.[In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year’s most useful word and defined it as “a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat” in 2012, the term was listed for the first time in the mainstream Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

I still enjoy cooking for the meat-eaters in my family, so I will continue to post recipes now and again that include beef, chicken or seafood and fish.  However, my Daughter The Beautiful Healthy Vegan, has apparently influenced my food preferences over the year we’ve been writing this blog and our book together.   It all began when I noticed that after experimenting with eating “Rachel’s way” when I visited her or she came to our home,  my stomach would feel so nice and flat, even after eating a good-sized plate full of delicious food.

I made the decision to  go  95% vegetarian for a month, after having been served two really horrible, dry, meat-based meals while on vacation.  The thought of meat, at that time, began to nauseate me and it was freeing to just do away with it altogether.  Turns out this was the easiest dietary change I’ve ever made.   I found I was actually relieved to have an excuse to double up on the veggies and by-pass meat (or have just a bite or two if it really looks and sounds good).

One benefit of being a vegetarian is that you start to look at veggies in a whole new way.  Since they will make up the bulk of your meal, you really want them to taste incredible, to come out of their former dull side-kick status and tap-dance into their own spotlight.

This dish, made of roasted Brussels Sprouts, sweet potatoes and almonds, then drizzled with a butter, maple, mustard and balsamic glaze,  will steal the show away from just about any hunk of cow or chicken..   You could serve it as is, or over some pasta, gnocchi, brown rice or quinoa.   The almonds can be left whole for extra crunch or chopped or slivered.. your preference.  Toasted walnuts are be delicious. It is also yummy and a bit more filling  with some  sliced and browned Field Roast apple sage sausage (my favorite vegan meat substitute).  To easily  extend it to the meat eaters in your home,  add a little crumbled brown Italian turkey sausage.

Most people are convinced by the growing research about cancer and heart-disease prevention, that they should eat more plant-based foods.   What Rachel and I will try to do is make this “good-for-your-health edict”  sound less like a punishment and more like a privilege by continuing to  offer easy, mouth-watering recipes that you will be excited about making, serving, and eating!  Just look at these veggies showing off as they take center stage:

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple Mustard Balsamic Glaze

1 – 2 T. olive oil

1 lb fresh Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cute in bite-size cubes

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/2 t. sea salt  and 1/2 t. pepper

5 T. maple syrup

1 T. brown or Dijon mustard

1 T. butter

2 t. balsamic or red wine vinegar

1/3 cup almonds, toasted  (May use whole almonds, chopped or sliced.  May also substitute walnuts.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Squiggle olive oil over large baking pan or cookie sheet.  Lay Brussels sprouts and sweet potato on the pain, along with garlic cloves. Toss all of this gently in the oil with your two clean hands, coating all sides of veggies.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Let roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once during the middle of cooking, until the veggies are starting to turn brown in places, and caramelize.

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Mash the roasted garlic with a fork and then gently toss it with the roasted veggies in a heat-proof serving bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat syrup, mustard and butter together and let boil and simmer until thickened a bit, like a glaze.  Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Pour over veggies and gently stir.  Add more salt and pepper if needed, to taste.  Garnish with toasted almonds.

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The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple Mustard Balsamic Glaze
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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


Green Chili Huevos Rancheros (with Perfect Poached Eggs)

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“I thought eggs were going to be greasy and slimy, but it tastes like cheese sauce. Yum.” Julie Powell, “Julie and Julia”

(Becky, the Mama.)

The short list of foods my husband Greg can cook are: hamburger patties,  grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes.  So it may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that Greg is the one who taught me to poach a perfect egg.   His mother taught him as boy, and he taught me as a newlywed,  and I have to say that when I cooked one correctly: whites firm, yolk thick but still with plenty of liquid gold, it was something of a revelation.

I’ve never been a fan of eggs.  And I have no clue why poaching an egg in boiling  water,  rather than scrambling, boiling or frying  (without benefit of bacon fat or butter!) transforms the lowly egg into something exquisite, but it does.  To Julie Powell it tasted like cheese sauce; to me, with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt, a poached egg tastes like melted butter.

Last week I had a little left-over homemade green pork chili, along with some left-over homemade refried beans, and decided to make Huevos Rancheros.  It was so good, hitting all the right flavor notes,  I proceeded to have it every day for breakfast and lunch for the next three days. There was just something comforting and delicious about the combination of the flavors of warm corn, earthy beans and tangy green chilis topped with one perfect, buttery poached egg.  Where had this dish been all my life?  And why had I not made it before?

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Green Chili Huevos Rancheros 

Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are!

Ingredients:

2 large eggs

2 t. vinegar

Sea salt & pepper

Water – to fill about 2 inches depth in a small skillet

2 corn tortillas

½ cup refried beans, warmed

½ cup  *pork green chili, warmed. Or if you prefer, any kind of salsa you like

Optional: garnish with slice of fresh jalepano

Directions:

Fill a small skillet 2/3 full with hot water.  Add 2 t. white vinegar.   Bring to boil.  Carefully crack at egg into a small heat-proof bowl.  Slip it carefully into the boiling water.  Repeat with other egg.

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Some of the white will float away, like foamy clouds. That’s okay.  You can capture them later with a slotted spoon and eat them or ignore then and toss them away with the “bath water.” Cook about a minute, but this is not an exact time.  (I like to cover the pan with a lid for a few seconds to insure a film forms over the yolks.)

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When you see the whites are firm and yolk is still soft and gooey,  remove carefully with a slotted spoon and let drain on a couple of folded paper towels. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and pepper while still hot.

Wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave about 15 seconds until they are hot and soft.  Immediately put them on a plate and put ¼ cup warm refried beans on each tortilla and spread just to edges. Next, carefully set a poached egg on top. Finally ladle all with ½ cup of warm green pork chili or salsa. Garnish with slice of fresh jalepano if desired.

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*You can find green chili of all varieties in the Hispanic food aisle of most grocery stores.  I made my own quick green pork chili by blending 1 cup  chicken broth with ¼ cup mild canned green chilis and 1 clove garlic in a blender.  Then I mixed 1 1/2 T. flour with 1 T. olive oil and 2 t. butter until it made a smooth paste in a hot skillet.  Then I slowly added the contents of the blender plus another cup chicken broth and ¼ cup more green chilis – whisking all the while until it was a desired thickness. (You can add more broth if needed. It should be the consistency of a good stew broth.)  Finally I added about 2/3 cup of cubed leftover pork loin, a pinch of sugar (to balance tang of green chilis), then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.  You can use veggie or miso broth and omit the pork and make this a filling and delicious vegetarian meal.


Golden Parmesan Chickpeas & Garlic Slices

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(Becky, the Mama.)

So, this is the story of how I ended up eating an ENTIRE CAN of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in one sitting yesterday.

My daughter’s slow and steady vegan influence upon me seems to have caught fire of late.  Either that or I had some really awful meat-based meals last week.   We went away to a hotel for fives days so that I could finish up my part of some detailed edits on our upcoming memoir, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.   

laughcrycook

During my self-imposed confinement I ordered an “Asian Salad” from the hotel café –which turned out to be tasteless squares of chicken tossed in wilty Iceberg lettuce with a thick flavorless mayo-based dressing. Later, hope still afloat, I ordered a gyro, which was made from salt-less pre-cooked dry roast beef chips smothered a sauce that tasted of thickened water. I arrived home a few days later with a sudden and strange aversion to anything cut from cow or fowl.  I almost kissed my fridge and pantry, so happy was I not to be at the mercy of  restaurant cooks who are lacking in taste buds.  

Searching for a quick meatless meal, I remembered that Rachel roasts chick peas in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning.  They are yummy and easy. “I’ll make some roasted chickpeas!” I said to myself.  “I’ll get loads of protein and fiber and I won’t have to eat meat today.” (There are 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber in ½ cup of garbanzos, and a scant 125 calories.)

Well, one idea led to another and by the time I finished, I created a snack that I could not stop eating until every single bean (or pea) was gone.  It began when I  decided to try sautéing the garbanzos in olive oil in my trusty iron skillet. Then I threw in some sliced fresh garlic near the end of the cooking time so they could turn a golden brown (but not burn) and add extra flavor and crunch. After draining them on a paper towel, I squiggled a touch of  agave nectar over them to give the beans and garlic a light sweet, sticky surface then sprinkled them with sea salt and Parmesan cheese. 

These little snacks have it all going on: some crunch, some chewiness, some garlic, some salty and savory, and just a hint of sweet.  They can be eaten out of hand or tossed on a salad or atop a pasta for a quick vegan or vegetarian treat.

They would go fantastic with an ice cold beer at a Super Bowl party this weekend for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.  (Although vegans will need to use Vegan Parmesan Cheese, found at most health food stores.  I keep this on hand for Rachel and Jared and it’s quite tasty.)

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Golden  Parmesan Chickpeas & Garlic Slices

Ingredients

 1 16 oz can chick peas (or garbanzo beans), drained (I do this on a paper towel to get them as dry as possible)

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¼ cup olive oil

3 to 5 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you like your food) peeled and sliced thin

2 t. agave nectar

Sea Salt to taste

Parmesan Cheese to taste (start with 1 Tablespoon and add more if you like)

Directions

Pour oil into a skillet and heat until very hot.  Put chickpeas in skillet and let them get brown on most sides.  Just before the chickpeas are ready to take out of the skillet, add the garlic slices and sauté until brown.  (If the pain is dry, you can add more oil at any time.) 

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Drain the chick peas and garlic on a paper towel.  Put into a bowl and gently toss with agave nectar.  Add sea salt and Parmesan cheese to taste.    Serve warm or at room temperature.   Excellent source of protein and fiber atop salads, sandwiches or pasta.

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

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title:Golden Parmesan Chick Peas & Garlic Slices

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

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