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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The Title: Simple Lentil Soups
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Trail Mix Parfaits

Trail Mix Parfaits

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

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

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

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

Other noteworthy updates:

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

And now for that recipe I promised….

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Trail Mix Parfaits

Serves 1

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much do you love this handwritten recipe?

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

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

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

Mix the ingredients.

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

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

Taste for quality control.

Quality control.

Yep, it’s yummy.

“Flour” your board with powdered sugar.

Making Cookies with Mimi

I could just eat him up. 😉

Press or roll the dough.

Mimi and Jackson making sweet memories.

Mimi and Jackson making sweet memories.

Cut out your shapes with cookie cutters.

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

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

Bake, cool, and ice.

Pick your color, any color.

Pick your color, any color.

Decorate.

Decorated with love (not skill).

Eat.

And enjoy.

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

Clean Up.

Clean Up!

This boy loves a vacuum like nobody’s business.

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

Miss Vickie’s Sugar Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients

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

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

Directions

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

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Miss Vickie’s Sugar Cookies
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-WH

For Pinterest:

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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)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Potatoes Rancheros (Vegan Huevos Rancheros)
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Vz
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Kale “Popcorn” (or Leprechaun Food)

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(Becky the Mama)

As Kermit the Frog would say, “It’s not easy being green.” Only around here, the saying goes, “It is not easy to get my family to eat green things.” If, God forbid, a stray piece of “green stuff” – from chopped basil to green onions or kale – should land on my husband’s plate, he looks at me as though I’ve betrayed him…. with malice and forethought.

Thankfully children are more easily tricked… er… uh… persuaded. I told my grandson George that, together, we were going to make Green Popcorn. He was all in, as he loves to participate in any kind of “cooking with Nonny.” I had him tear the leaves off a bunch of kale into bite-sized pieces, then we rinsed them lightly and I let him spin the salad spinner, which one of his favorite kitchen tools. We then tossed the leaves in a bowl of olive oil and melted butter (butter helps give it the popcorn-taste) spread them on cookie sheets, sprinklee them with just a tiny bit of sea salt and baked until they were light as a feather. In fact, kale will almost fly off the cookie sheet after baking.

For extra fun I put them in popcorn bags, and sure enough, George LOVED them and asked for more. He ate almost a whole bunch of kale in one sitting. With this success behind me, I went after my husband in Sam-I-Am style. “You know that a lie I cannot tell, you will SO love green popcorn kale… “ He was willing to sample them and before he knew it he’d eaten the whole bowl.

“What do you think?”

“It really does taste like popcorn. I could eat this as a snack now and again quite happily.”

Eureka! Dr. Furhman, author of many books and PBS health guru, lists kale as the #1 food to help boost immunity and fight cancer.  It’s got more iron than beef, lots of Vitamin C and K, is high in fiber and full of antioxidants.  I’m posting this blog on St. Patty’s day, so you could tell you children that you are going to make some Leprechaun treats! Hey, whatever it takes to get your family to eat their greens and come back to report that they were “magically delicious”.
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P.S.  As long as we are nourishing our body with green things,  here’s another lovely green thing you can acquire to nourish your heart, mind and soul! 

 

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Kale “Popcorn” (or “Leprechaun Food”)

1 bunch fresh kale, leaves torn off of stem into chip-sized pieces
1 T. olive oil
1 t. butter, melted
Sea Salt

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees
Rinse the torn up kale leaves then dry them very well in a salad spinner or blotting them on with clean tea towel. Toss them with clean hands in a bowl with the olive oil and butter. Spread the leaves out on a big flat cookie sheet, so they are just barely touching. Use two cookie sheets if needed.

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Sprinkle VERY LIGHTLY with sea salt. (Just a pinch for the whole pan. Because the kale shrinks up it is easy to over-salt them.) Bake about 8 -10 minutes. Stay near the oven and check them often. When they are light as a feather and starting to brown and get crispy, remove them and let them cool to the touch. We like them still warm and fragrant, served in popcorn bowls or bags as a snack. They also make nice crispy toppings for soups or pasta dishes.

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The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Kale “Popcorn”
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-VL


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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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple Mustard Balsamic Glaze
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Vl


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


“You’re My Main Squeeze” Squeeze Pouch Valentines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Black Forest Greek Yogurt Parfaits

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“……even if you don’t know anybody, and you don’t know what’s gonna happen next, you should have your box of chocolates with you. You should eat your bowl of cherries. And that is what life is.”
―    C. JoyBell C.

(Becky, the Mama.)

By the amount of Greek yogurt occupying grocer’s refrigerator shelves these days, I’m not the only one in love with its rich, creamy, tart texture and taste. I don’t even buy sour cream anymore and honestly can’t tell the difference.  The 2% Fage brand is my favorite; so smooth with just the right amount of fat so that no one misses the cream.

Two of my favorite foods are sweet dark cherries and chocolate. (I agree with Dave Barry who says, “Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.”) So it is no surprise that Black Forest Cake is one of my favorite treats, but alas, it doesn’t have many redeeming nutritional assets. So I come up with this quick, easy, decadent Black Forest Parfait, using my favorite Greek yogurt in place  of a pudding.  It was love at first bite.  In fact, I  just made a batch of them  for everyone in our family as snack, to a happy chorus of “mmm.. mmms…yum,  that’s good!”

It’s a dessert you can feel good about enjoying and sharing because the chocolate adds antioxidants, the yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein, and cherries are in the top 20 foods with the highest amount of antioxidants. Also, cherries are one of the few foods that have melatonin in them, for a restful night’s sleep. Finally, by starting with unsweetened yogurt, you can control the sweetness to your own taste.

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Black Forest Greek Yogurt Parfaits

Makes 2 parfaits

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups plain unsweetened Greek yogurt (Vegans can substitute So Delicious Coconut Milk “Greek Yogurt”)

1/4 c. Hershey chocolate syrup, plus a little some for decorating parfait tops (Vegans need to use a milk-free chocolate syrup)

Agave nectar to taste

2 T. mini chocolate chips (vegans use vegan chocolate chip)

1/2 c. dark sweet cherries (frozen, pitted; if they are large, cut them in half)

2 T. cherry preserves I love Bonne Maman French preserves, now available in most grocery stores. They do not have any corn syrup and are full of fruit!

Directions:

In one bowl mix yogurt with chocolate syrup.  Add agave nectar if you like until it is as sweet as you prefer.  In another small bowl mix the cherries and preserves.

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In a tall clear mug or parfait glass, put about 1/3 cup of chocolate yogurt mixture, then put a layer of the cherry mixture on next, about 1/4 cup. (Reserve about a Tablespoon to decorate top).   Follow this with another layer of chocolate yogurt (about 1/3 cup) and  a nice squiggle of chocolate syrup. Top with 1 T. mini chocolate chips and a dollop of cherry mixture for decoration on top.  Repeat in another mug or parfait glass.

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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.   

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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

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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