Roasted Cabbage & Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Cabbage, Sausage and Honey Balsamic Glaze

(Becky, the Mama.)

Cooking or contemplating new recipes has always, for me, been the perfect Angst-Free Zone. I started copying and collecting recipes from my mother and grandmother when I was ten or eleven years old, painstakingly printing them by hand and tucking them into my $1.00 dime store metal recipe box. This activity was pure pleasure for me, an escape from summer boredom and a refuge from bad days at school.

With the election and crazy world events of late, there seems to be debates or conflict or pressure to “believe what I believe!” at every turn. The phone rings in the evenings with political calls; TV ads blare about Whose Fault Everything Is; and even Facebook, normally an Angst Free Zone for me, now feels like one of those awkward family conflicts that you happen to walk in on, and can’t wait to escape from.

So it was with a huge grin that I spied this little e-card on a friend’s Facebook page:

That’s me!  I’m just over here in my Angst-Free Kitchen Corner saying, “Hey! I made cabbage!”   Although,  I must say it was really, really great cabbage.  Sliced in thick steak-like slices and slathered with butter and seasoning.  Then served with grilled chicken-apple sausages and drizzled with a honey-balsamic reduction.

Every good hostess knows that the best way to break up an awkward family debate is to divert attention by cooking something that smells amazing, and looks so delicious that all conversation stops, as wordless lip-licking and tummy-rubbing take over.   This is one of those simple, delicious, comforting meals that could possibly bring about World Peace.   At least at your dining table.

Roasted Cabbage & Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients:

1 head of cabbage

2 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

4 chicken-apple sausage links (I used Johnsonville. Of course you can use any kind of sausage links you like in this recipe. Or for vegans, try Rachel’s favorite vegan sausage: Smoked Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages)

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T. honey

Grill Seasoning or Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice cabbage in 3/4 inch pieces as shown below.

Put olive oil and butter on a large baking sheet, and place  in the oven for a minute until butter melts.  Using a pastry brush, mix the oil and butter together and spread evenly on pan.  Lay the cabbage pieces on the buttered-oiled pan, leaving space between each piece. Dip pastry brush into excess oil-butter surrounding the cabbage slices,  and brush the tops of the cabbage.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper or grill seasoning, lightly.  Put in oven to roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom turns dark brown in places.  With a wide spatula, turn over, and sprinkle this side with salt and pepper or grill seasoning as well. Return to oven for another 10 to 15 minutes or until as soft as you like it.

In a small saucepan, mix the vinegar,  honey and garlic together and stir over a low flame.  Cut sausages in half, lengthwise and brush the cut sides with some of the balsamic mixture.

Put on oiled grill pan, cut side down and grill until nice dark grill marks appear and sausage is sizzling hot. Turn over and heat the other side.

In the meantime allow the balsamic mixture to continue to simmer (at medium to medium high heat) until it is reduced by half, and syrupy.

Arrange the cabbage slices with two sausage halves on plate as shown in picture. Drizzle both cabbage and sausage,  prettily,  with about a tablespoon of balsamic reduction. Serve.  (I added a little side of chunky hash browns as well in photo below.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Cabbage, Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Hg
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


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

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

(Becky, the Mama)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Pie Dip for “Autumn Leaf” Apples

Makes 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

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

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

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

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

3 T. brown sugar

2 t. maple syrup

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

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

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

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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


Broiled Fresh Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

Broiled Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

(Becky, the Mama)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a peek at the menu.

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

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

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

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

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

Broiled Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 fresh peaches, cut in half, pitted

1 oz. soft Gorgonzola or blue cheese

2 t. butter

Pinch sea salt

Pinch brown sugar

3 T. honey

Directions:

Put Oven on Broil.

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

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

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

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

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Broiled Fresh Peaches with Gorgonzola and Honey

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

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Balsamic Blistery Potato Chips

I do believe that if my husband Greg were to choose foods that make up his “dream meal,” it would no doubt have Kettle potato chips on the plate.  I’m just not sure if they would be a side dish, or the main attraction.   I dare not leave him alone in the house with a bag of thick cut potato chips because he cannot stop until he’s eaten them all, and by this I mean turned the bag upside down, shaking any remains of potato and salt into his mouth. He loves them too much to have them readily available,  except for very special occasions.               

“When did you start loving potato chips so much?” I asked him.

He grinned and said, “When I was a kid, I’d ride my bike home from school and of course I’d be starving. Then I’d plop in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips and eat the whole bag while I watched three episodes of Star Trek in a row.”  He sighed,then added. “It was heaven.  My favorite ones were Bar-B-Q and I’d lick all the goody off the sides before eating them.  It was before my parents divorced, and I just remember it as a simple, happy time.”

My husband just gave a perfect example of “taste memory” – when something you eat triggers warm happy memories.   I was inspired to create some potato chips that Greg could savor and enjoy, that would give him those warm fuzzy “taste memories,” but would do his body more good than harm.  Last week I tried an experiment that turned out amazingly well.  Rather than baking sliced potato rounds, I broiled them on both sides until “blistery.” In a word:  fabulous.  They are a great cross between an oven fry and a chip.  Greg loves them!

The following recipe is just one version of my Blistery Potato Chips, made with a balsamic-pomegranate vinegar, but you can create 50 Shades of (Homemade) Lays (Potato Chips) with a little imagination, a couple of sliced potatoes, some olive oil and great variety of herbs or spices.  Let your imagination go wild.

Try them as a healthy snack for you or the kids, or a quick, easy, delicious side dish with any meal. We especially love them with Chili Lime Catfish and coleslaw. 

What are some foods that bring warm happy memories to your mind?

Blistery Balsamic Potato Chips

Heat Oven to Broil.

Serves 2-4 people (depending on size of potatoes and appetites)

Ingredients:

2 Idaho potatoes, washed but not peeled, sliced thin (about ¼ inch)

¼ cup olive oil

2 T. balsamic vinegar (I used pomegranate balsamic)

Sea Salt (fresh ground if you have it on hand)

1 T. chopped green onions or chives (optional)

¼ c. catsup, BBQ sauce,  or Ranch dressing for dipping (optional)

Directions:

Place sliced potatoes in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with vinegar. Using clean hands, toss them around until they begin to soak up some of the vinegar.  Add in the oil and do the same. 

Lay “chips” on a big cookie sheet, spread apart and not touching each other.  

Lightly sprinkle them with sea salt.  Broil about 4 inches from broiler on one side for 3 minutes or so,  or until golden brown in spots.  Remove try from oven and turn over all the chips, sprinkle this side with more salt and put back under the broiler until the tops are golden brown.  Remove from oven.  The bottom side of the potatoes will have by now “blistered” and turned an even prettier shade of brown.   Taste one as soon as they are cool to see if more salt may be needed.  Garnish with chopped green onions or chives if you like.  Serve with a side of Ranch Dressing, BBQ sauce or catsup if desired. 

 

 

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

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Balsamic Blistery Broiled Potato Chips

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

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

   


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

Carrot Cake Chutney served on atop crackers and whipped cream cheese

(Becky, The Mama)

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

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

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

KINDLE EDITION JUST $2.99 TODAY ONLY

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

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

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

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

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

Carrot Cake Chutney

Carrot Cake Chutney

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients

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

1/3 cup well drained crushed pineapple

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 T. brown sugar

Pinch salt

½ t. vanilla

2 t. cinnamon

3 T. raisins

2 T. white vinegar

Directions:

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

 

Processed carrots to a tiny dice

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

 

 

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


Fiesta Tortilla “Flower” Pie

Becky’s Fiesta Flower Pie

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I heard a loud thump followed by a yell outside my kitchen window. I rushed out to see my husband Greg lying on the patio, telling me he twisted his ankle. “Don’t move!” I said, “I’m coming down there to help you.”

I really did mean to scoot down and cradle his head in my lap. I really did not mean to kick him hard in the temple with my knee in the process. Thankfully, Greg wasn’t so wounded that he lost his sense of humor: he pretended I knocked him unconscious. He was able to walk on the ankle in just a few minutes, but I still wonder if it was just a heroic attempt to save himself from my further attempts to help him.

My record for doing good, and no harm, in a medical emergency is a little bit uneven.  When my son Zeke was about thirteen, he cut his leg badly while we were in a shopping center parking lot.  I started throwing everything I could find in the car on his leg to stop the bleeding and then drove him to the emergency room.  As the nurse took off layer after layer: a towel, napkins from fast food restaurants, a clean diaper, and some grass clippings… she looked up at me quizzically and asked, “Becky, were you trying to smother the wound?”

On the other hand, I once expertly performed the Heimlich maneuver on a woman who was choking in the women’s restroom. Just as calm as you please, I walked into her stall where she had been coughing and banging on the door, and was now turning blue.I told her not to worry, that I was going to do the Heimlich (that I’d heretofore only seen done on TV). Somehow I did, and out popped a piece of pineapple from her mouth. As soon as she could breathe normally again,she announced to everyone around that I had saved her life.

Maybe I’m better in life-threatening situations than I am in more minor emergencies. A nurturing person at heart, I wonder sometimes if I could have made a good nurse. My husband says, “You would have been a wonderful nurse, Becky.  Your patients would have loved you and you would have kept them laughing and smiling…. right before you accidentally killed them.”  It is true. I can’t keep up with my own cell phone or purse on a daily basis, so keeping track of med dosing schedules for patients would have certainly been a crap shoot.

I’ve probably made better and safer use of my nurturing nature by caring for ailing folks through gifts of home cooking.  I woke up from a nap the other day with the idea for this dish dancing in my head.  It was even better than I imagined it would be.  It uses simple ingredients that most of us have on hand, but arranges them in a way that looks like big, colorful Mexican flower in a pie pan. It would be a wonderful dish to take to a friend who has twisted their ankle, cut their leg or been kneed in the head by a clumsy do-gooder.

Fiesta Tortilla Flower Pie

Fiesta Tortilla Flower Pie

Serves 6

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

Shell:
1 t. olive oil
4 medium sized flour tortillas, cut 3 of them in half, leaving one whole

Beef-Bean Filling:

1 lb lean ground beef or buffalo meat
3 cloves garlic, minced

16 oz. can pinto beans drained (I had leftover home-cooked one) but not rinsed
½ cup thick salsa (I used “On the Border” brand)
¼ cup thick bbq sauce (I used “Sweet Baby Ray’s”)
1 t. grill or steak seasoning (or ½ t. salt and ½ t pepper)
½ t.Cajun seasoning (I like Tony’s brand.  Or use red pepper flakes or chili powder instead.)
3 quick dashes Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 t. brown sugar

Additional Layers (Before Cooking)
¾ c. Greek yogurt (I prefer 2%)  or sour cream (light is fine)
¾ c. bottled salsa
¾ c. grated cheese, any kind you like
½ c crushed corn chips (we like Fritos) or tortilla chips
Jalapeno slices – as many as you like for garnish

Fresh Salsa Topping for After Cooking
1/2 c. chopped tomato
½   c. diced avocado
½   c. drained corn or corn cut off a cob
Squeeze of fresh lime, dash salt, dash sugar

Directions:

Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and brown a whole one round tortilla and five halved tortillas in batches, until they are light golden brown in spots on both sides.   Line a deep dish pie pan with as shown in the photo below, slightly overlapping the “petals” of the tortilla flower.

In a large skillet brown the beef with the garlic.  Then  add the next seven ingredients, stir and heat through until simmered and thickened.Pour meat and bean mixture into “tortilla flower.”

Gently spread the sour cream or Greek Yogurt over the beef mixture.  Next spread on the salsa.

Then sprinkle the grated cheese over all, followed by an even sprinkling of crushed corn chips.  Finally decorate with a few jalapeno slices.Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes while you make a quick fresh salsa topping.  In a bowl, combine tomato, avocado and corn. Give this mixture a quick squeeze of fresh lime, a dash of salt and a pinch of sugar.  Toss.   Pile in the middle of the tortilla pie.

Use a very sharp serrated knife to cut pie shaped wedges.  It may be a little messy if the pie is still hot, so feel free to serve in a bowls if you prefer.

Vegetarian Version: Replace beef with 1 cup lentils or other beans (in addition to the ones in the recipe), 1/2 cup grain such as quinoa or rice, 1/4 cup chopped nuts such as walnuts, and 1 cup chopped mushrooms.

Vegan Version:
Follow Vegetarian Version above for meat replacement. Skip sour cream and cheese layers and cover the pie with fresh guacamole once comes out of the oven and has cooled for 5 minutes. Use just the tomatoes and corn for salsa topping.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Fiesta Tortilla Pie
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Bv
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

One of my friends, Shirley, who knows me well, posted this picture on her facebook page and said it reminded her of one special person, and wondered if that person might recognize herself. I saw it and immediately claimed it.

If you saw our first post on this blog, you know that I’m famous for burning food. I am a good cook, but I just get distracted easily. So the smoke alarm, for many years, was often our dinner bell. One day my eldest son Zach walked into the kitchen as it was billowing with smoke pouring out of the oven. “Mmm mmmm mmm,” he said, “Smells like mom’s home cooking!”

When my second born, Zeke, was about five-years old, I made him a perfectly browned piece of toast. He took it, walked to the trash can and started automatically scraping it with a knife. “Zeke, Honey,” I said, “You don’t have to scrape it today. I didn’t burn it this time!” He looked at me, his eyes wide, and said, “Oh, I thought we always have to whittle our toast.”

Once when my youngest son Gabe was about twelve, he was home from school, feeling sick. I decided to make him some breakfast and put a pan of bacon on the burner to cook. Then I promptly forgot about it and went to take a nice long bubble bath. If it were not for Gabe’s quick action with baking soda and a pan lid, my kitchen could have easily gone up in flames.

Having heard these stories, and seen enough of my absent-mindedness up close, my husband Greg now hovers near when I cook, constantly asking if I remembered to turn off the stove and oven, ready to spring into action at the slightest smell of smoke. My children would agree that I needed, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Especially in the kitchen. With Greg on the job, they all rest easier.

Today’s recipe is one that I created last week, and I am pleased to report that no kitchen cabinets were burned and no innocent food was scorched in the creation of this dish.

This easy vodka pasta sauce turned out creamy and delicious with lots of flavor layers going on, from the thin salty pieces of Italian salami to the nice bite of the tomatoes and artichokes, to the smoothness of the melted cheese. I learned to make a simple pasta sauce from a New York-Italian friend of mine: it was just lots of fresh grated garlic, a few chopped fresh tomatoes, and about ½ cup of creamy cheese, like a brie or soft Buffalo mozzarella or even cream or goat cheese (or a combination).  You simply melt it all together over low heat, and pour over pasta. This sauce springs from that basic idea, but I’ve fancied it up a bit.

Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

¼ c. thin Italian style salami diced (any hard salami can be substituted)

1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (mine were canned in water)

¼ c chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 c. soft white cheese (brie, fresh mozzerela, cream cheese or goat cheese — or a combination)

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – 1/2  c. vodka (according to your taste)

1 c. crushed tomatoes or 1 c. fresh tomatoes whirled in blender until as chunky as you’d like in your sauce

1 t. dried oregano or Italian seasoning

1 cup chopped or shredded cooked or roasted chicken

Fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese  for garnish

Pasta of your choice, cooked al dente  (save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce) to serve four people

 Directions:

While the pasta is cooking (according to package directions), chop the salami and render out the fat in a skillet until it has crisped a little.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the chicken,  basil and Parmesan) and stir over medium heat until the cheese melts.

Sauce ingredients tossed in pan ready to be stirred and heated

Add pasta water until it is the sauce is at desired thickness. Finally, add chicken and stir until heated through. Serve over pasta, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and ribbons of fresh basil.

Vegetarian Option: Substitute roasted chick peas for meat and add 1 t. smoked paprika

Vegan Option: Sub roasted chick peas for meat, add 1 t. smoked paprika and sub vegan cream cheese like Tofutti for cheeses

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Spinach, Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Breakfast Wrap

(Becky, the Mama)

It’s FUN Friday and I thought we’d celebrate with a story-in-pictures today.

When my grandson Georgie met Greg’s sister’s granddaughter Jena last week at our family beach vacation in Oregon, it was like at first sight. They hit it off like peas and carrots, or, to go with today’s recipe theme: like spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

Jena and George reading the story of Brave, from Nonny’s Nook

It was fun for me, a grandmother of five little boys under age six, to be around a little girl.  Her Aunt Stephanie told me that Jena came up to her and said, excitedly, “I get to go to the beach with Grandma Gail!”  Then she paused, worried and added, “But I don’t know what to wear!”  This is something I’ve never heard my grandsons say.

She told me her favorite part of the beach is getting to wash all the shells. “I love washing things!” she said.  Again, not something that any of my grandsons has ever said to me.

We went for a walk to the beach one night and I captured this picture of the two of them, in little boy blue and little girl pink, cresting the hill just before going down to the beach. George never goes anywhere without a stick and made sure that Jenna had one, too.

“Don’t grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.”– Michelle Held 

Once we got to the beach, the kids wrote their names in the sand,  and then they decided to draw their own hopscotch games.

This is a little 5 year old boy’s drawing of hopscotch:

This is a little 6 year old girl’s drawing of it.

On the way home Jena walked by my side,  nicely and daintily,  as she observed George in front of us: skipping, hopping, running,  and fighting invisible enemies with his stick sword, Ninja-like.  Impressed with his boundless energy, Jena called out,  “George, are you hopped up on vegetables or Mountain Dew?”

Me (Nonny to the kids), having a blast with my beach buckaroos. We’re all hopped up on something better than Mountain Dew: veggies, the beach, and fun with family!

As it turned out, George was “hopped up on” vegetables that particular night, as he loves them, especially salads.  But I am sure he was also “hopped up” on being at the beach with his beloved family and a darlin’ fun little girl on a perfect summer’s eve.

Speaking of veggies, one of my favorite new tasty and healthy breakfast treats is Starbuck’s low fat, high nutrition vegetarian feta and spinach wrap with sundried tomatoes. It’s made with an egg white omelet (did you know there are only 25 calories in ¼ cup of egg white?), feta, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and “sealed” in a Panini maker.

I made my own version today, and it tasted exactly like the Starbuck’s version.  I not only enjoy them for breakfast but they make great high energy snacks, that will hop you up almost as well as Mountain Dew, and make you much healthier! (And only 150 calories!)

Spinach, Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Breakfast Wrap

fresh spinach, whole wheat tortillas, chopped sundried tomatoes, organic egg whites (these are in a carton) and feta or goat cheese

Makes One

Ingredients:

Whole wheat tortilla

1/4 to 1/2 cup egg whites, depending on how thick you like your omelet

1 T. crumbled feta or goat cheese

3 or 4 spinach leaves

4 t. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I prefer them packed in oil.  I had a sun-dried tomato tamponade on hand so I used that)

About a teaspoon of olive oil to coat pan

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Lightly moisten the flour tortilla (I just wet my hand and pass it over both side of tortilla) and then cook in small skillet (lightly coated with just a smear of olive oil) on both sides until pliable and warm.  Set aside and keep warm under a plate or paper towel.

In the same small skillet, add the egg whites and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Place feta cheese down the middle of it.

When the egg is set, roll it up and put in the tortilla.  Warm the spinach leaves in the pan for just a few seconds and then place them alongside egg white.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes.

Roll up and then carefully place seam down in the skillet.  Hold it down for a few minutes with a spatula until it is crispy and sealed.  Turn it over and let the over side get brown.   Serve immediately.

Variations: Vegans can use scrambled tofu and skip the cheese or use a vegan cheese. Try other veggies such as artichokes, sautéed onions or potatoes. Use whole eggs.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Spinach, Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Breakfast Wrap
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-yW
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Chicken Tortilla Soup

Becky’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

(The Mama)

Greg and I are in Neskowin, Oregon this week — a tiny little beach town with impossibly cute houses surrounded by brilliantly colored flowers, some blossoms as big as dinner plates.  I hit the beach cooking, barely having time to gather in a car load of groceries before cooking dinner for a dozen on Saturday night (sour cream chicken enchiladas).  Yesterday, I cooked lunch for 22 of Greg’s extended family members dropping by to hug, share stories and sit a spell between strolls to the beach.  Greg lost both of his parents when they were just in their 50’s (our age!) so connections to them now — people and places — are doubly meaningful.  Since Greg and his siblings were young, Neskowin was the family vacation spot and is where all of them return to, as Greg says, “fill our souls.” So while they are filling their souls, I am filling their tummies.

For the lunch crowd, I served sandwiches and tortilla soup, with blueberry-raspberry bars for dessert. It was perfect for a cool, foggy day at the beach, huddled up with people we love.  Plus it makes a bunch!!

Becky’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Becky’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

1 seeded red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 t. poultry seasoning
2 t. cumin
1 T. brown sugar
1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (medium to hot heat level), available in small cans in Mexican and Spanish food section of market.*

1 28-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes, divided in half
4 cups chicken or veggie broth (divided 1 and 3)

3 to 4 cups roasted chicken, pulled off bone and diced or shredded ( roasted chickens are available in most grocery delis)
1 cup frozen corn
1 zucchini, dice

 

steak or grill seasoning (or salt and pepper), to taste

1/4 cup bar-b-que sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Topping Options:
crushed tortilla chips
grated cheese
chopped green onions
diced avocados
sour cream or Greek Yogurt
wedges of fresh lime
cilantro

Directions

In a blender or food processor put the first seven ingredients (bell pepper through chipotles), half of the crushed tomatoes, and one cup of broth. Blend well.

Pour this mixture into big soup pot and add the rest of the crushed tomatoes and broth.

To this add frozen corn, chicken, and zucchini.

Simmer over medium heat until zucchini is tender and soup is heated through. Season with Steak or Grill Seasoning (or salt and pepper) to taste. To make a creamier soup, you can add 1/2 cup of cream.

To serve, put a handful of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of each soup blow. Carefully ladle on soup, then top with your choice of toppings.

Vegetarian Version: Use veggie broth, pinto, ranch or black beans in place of chicken. Vegans omit cheese and cream

*I keep the leftover Chipotles in Adobo Sauce in a small Ziploc bag in the freezer and break off what I need to add depth of flavor and heat to other Mexican dishes.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Chicken Tortilla Soup
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-wA
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Peaches & Pretzels Caramel Sundae

(Becky, the Butter Lovin’ Mama)

I love a great variety of foods for lunch and dinner, but for some reason I get stuck on one breakfast and can’t let go.  Maybe I’m such a one-note breakfast wonder because, as a general rule,  I can’t put two coherent thoughts together before 10:00 A.M.  Last year’s breakfast was coffee with a side of a few raw almonds and dried cherries.   Then I’d have an additional snack of PBJ toast as soon as my pre-frontal cortex came online enough to trust myself with a toaster and a knife.

Lately, I have been on a salted caramel banana nut smoothie  kick for breakfast,  a recipe I invented and posted about a month ago,  and have made every day since.  Sometimes I shake things up by subbing ½ cup of coffee for ½ of the almond milk.  So I was lying in bed the other night thinking of my new love for things salty caramely, fruity and sweet when I literally sat up, struck with a food idea. I grabbed a pen, turned on the bedside lamp and wrote down “pretzels,” “peaches,” “caramel” and “ice cream.”  I could taste the combination in my imagination: the salty, the sweet, the warm caramel, the cold ice cream.  I went to sleep dreaming of the perfect peach sundae.

Sure enough, my imagination proved accurate.  I love this sundae, perhaps a bit too much.

It is taking a lot of will power not to make it my new daily breakfast.

Peaches & Pretzels Caramel Sundae

Peaches & Pretzels Caramel Sundae

Makes Two Servings

Ingredients

1 T. butter (Earth Balance for Vegans)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup half n half or cream (Vegans use coconut milk. You can also use evaporated skim milk or even plain dairy or almond milk, though the sauce won’t be quite as rich, it will definitely save some calories. )

2 fresh ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (I used sweet white peaches)

2 scoops vanilla ice cream (I used vanilla frozen yogurt; vegans will want a non-dairy vanilla – there are many wonderful varieties. Or try Rachel’s vegan soft serve recipe — it would be awesome with this.)

½ cup chopped pretzels (Just start with a nice big handful of pretzels… it will yield approximately 1/2 cup of chopped pretzels.)

¼ cup chopped salted nuts (I used salted roasted cashews, starting with 1/3 cup whole nuts)

Directions

To make quick caramel sauce, melt butter in small saucepan, then add brown sugar and cream or half-n-half.  Stir and simmer until sugar has melted and smooth syrupy sauce forms.  It doesn’t take long, just a minute or two. Take off heat and let cool.

Caramel sauce bubbling away in the skillet

In a blender or food processor, chop pretzels and nuts together, until they are the size you want for sprinkling on top of the sundaes.

Chopped pretzels and nuts for topping

Into each of two pretty dessert bowls put 1 sliced, peel, chopped peach. Place a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of this (or two small scoops as pictured).

Ladle one tablespoon of warm caramel on top of each sundae.  Sprinkle each dessert with a tablespoon or two (your preference) of the pretzel nut mixture.  Top this with one more spoon full of caramel.  (This assures that the nuts and pretzels are sufficiently surrounded and coated with caramel.)

Serve, dig in, smile.

Variations: Try bananas, pineapple or strawberries or other fruit. Try other flavors of ice cream or Rachel’s vegan soft serve recipe. I think a combo of strawberries and cheesecake or white chocolate ice cream would be heavenly.  You can also skip making your own caramel sauce and use a bottled variety of your choice.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Peaches & Pretzels Caramel Sundae
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-vj
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved