Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

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(Becky, the Mama.)

In my home state of Texas zucchini grows in backyard gardens with such profusion that almost everyone I knew had a steady pile of it sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed, diced, sliced, grated, grilled baked, steamed, frozen — or ignored until it grew mildew and could finally be thrown away without guilt. My mother remembers having to remove a bunch of zucchini from my kitchen sink in order to make room to give one of my newborn babies their first bath. During Texas summers it is almost impossible to walk to or from your car without at least one neighbor strong-arming you into accepting a bag or bucket of ever present green squash. Everywhere you turn, zucchini lurks.

To get my children to eat their share of it, I invented Skillet Italian Squash Casserole. By cooking the squash until just crisp tender, then topping it with an Italian style tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and buttery crackers, I had a winner! It was a family favorite for many years.

Soon after we married, nine years ago,  my husband Greg let me know, “I’m not really a squash kind of guy.” So I avoided serving him squash in any form. But the other day, I threw caution to the wind and made this casserole anyway, since I liked it so much. He graciously agreed to try it. To my surprise, he loved it, too.  Ate every bite. I made it again tonight, and there was not a speck of squash left on his plate,

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke …” Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

5 smallish to medium squash, yellow or zucchini or a mixture of both
Salt & Pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large clove grated garlic
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (preferably the kind with basil)
½ t. oregano
2 t. brown sugar
1 c. grated cheese (I like mozzarella but really, any cheese you like & have on hand will be yummy)
3 T. butter
20 buttery crackers, such Ritz or Townhouse (I used Ritz wheat crackers)
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 10-12 inch iron skillet on high flame until very hot. Put squash and garlic into pan and saute until many of the pieces are golden on the outside and cooked until just crisp-tender.

Remove from stove top and pour crushed tomatoes evenly over the top of the squash. Sprinkle the tomatoes with oregano and brown sugar. Top with grated cheese. Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Crumble crackers into the melted butter, add Parmesan and mix. Pour this crumb mixture on top of the cheese, then place the skillet in hot oven. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender, cheese melted, and cracker crumb topping is golden.

Veganize This: Substitute vegan ‘Mozzarella” and “Parmesan” cheese and dairy-free butter and you are good to go on this one.  Simple to do!

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Crunchy Amaretto French Toast

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I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point Sunday nights became our traditional Breakfast-for-Dinner Night.  In addition, when someone is feeling poorly, breakfast may be summoned at anytime of day.  There’s something comforting about a bowl of soft scrambled eggs and buttered toast when you aren’t feeling quite up to par

Yesterday, my six-year-old grandson Georgie battled a headache off and on all day. By evening, when  I got him in our tub — usually a special treat because it is so big — he looked a sad figure, sitting there in the water, holding his forehead in his hand. “Nonny,” he said pitifully,”will you please go to my Mom’s bathroom and get the Ocean Breeze soap that she usually uses? I just can’t deal with other people’s soap right now.”

I am pretty sure this will be our family’s new phrase in response to generic overwhelm: “I just can’t deal with other people’s soap right now.”  Whether your family enjoys  a traditional “Breakfast for Dinner Night,” or someone’s needing a little comfort food or “you just can’t deal with other’s people’s soap anymore,” here’s a dish sure to comfort and please, anytime of day or night.

I love French Toast, but when the bread has not only been dipped in egg (flavored with Amaretto) but also coated with a thin layer of  sliced almonds before being grilled in butter… well, as my husband Greg said, “That’s the best French toast I’ve ever had in my life.”  Top these crunchy, almondy French toast with butter, fresh sliced strawberries, real maple syrup and serve with a side of sizzling bacon or sausage and your day (whether it’s morning or evening) will take a sharp and instant turn for the cheerier.  And vegans, do not worry! There’s a terrific vegan alternative for this recipe at the end of the post.

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Crunchy Amoretto French Toast

Serves Two (Makes 4 pieces of toast)

4 slices bread (I’m partial to potato bread for French toast)

2 large eggs, beaten

2 T. almond milk (or dairy milk)

1 t. almond flavoring or amaretto liqueur

Small pinch salt

¼ c. sliced almonds

2 t. butter plus 1 t. olive oil for pan

Sliced fresh strawberries (or any kind of berries you like) – about ¼ cup per person

Softened butter and genuine maple syrup

Heat skillet to medium high, melting the butter with the olive oil and mixing in the pan with the edge of a pancake turner.  In a low wide bowl mix beaten eggs, milk, almond flavoring or liqueur and pinch salt. Dip bread, both sides, into the egg mixture, shaking off excess.  Lay each piece carefully in the hot skillet, and then sprinkle the tops, evenly, with about a tablespoon of the sliced almonds. Using the back of the spatula pat the nuts into the bread with gentle pressure (this will help them stick when you turn the bread).  When the bottom of the toast is getting golden brown, gently turn the bread with a wide pancake turner,  and cook until the almond-side of the toast is  golden, fragrant, toasty and crunchy.  Top with berries, soft butter and a nice drizzle of real maple syrup.

Vegan Version. Use 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk plus 1 T. flour, 1 T. nutritional yeast (gives it an “eggy flavor”) and 1 T. maple syrup and 1 t. almond flavoring or amaretto for the “egg  mixture.”  Substitute vegan butter for the dairy butter.   This will actually coat six pieces of French toast rather than four.

More Variations:  Try adding cinnamon or nutmeg to the egg batter; or use orange juice instead of almond milk and a bit of orange zest. Thawed, heated sweetened previously frozen dark sweet cherries would also be wonderful with this. Substitute vanilla or rum flavoring for the amaretto or almond.

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Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

There comes a time in every gardener’s life when they ask themselves, “What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?” And until that day comes for me, I will pull up my dead plants with my black thumbs, quietly curse those gardeners under my breath, and smile graciously when they offer up some of their overwhelming bounty to me.

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

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And then I will cook my way out of despair.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

And remember the gifts I can offer my family, even if a plentiful vegetable garden is not one of them.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Instead, I will slow roast my way into their hearts with sweet peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic (store bought, but flavorful nonetheless), garden tomatoes (generously given to this less fortunate gardener), and a few sad looking twigs of rosemary and oregano (just barely surviving in my garden of doom).

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta SauceAnd I’ll bring those flavors together in one delightful pureed sauce. My husband will declare that he may never eat jarred sauce again. My toddler will slurp his pasta up with messy reckless abandon. And I will stand over the pot eating the sweet rich roasted sauce by the spoonful, my self esteem having made a complete (near manic) turn for the better.

For those of you who feel the need to do something good and right by your family, I give you this recipe. It will restore their faith in you, and your faith in yourself.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Pepper Pasta Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

~ 3 pounds of tomatoes (I don’t have a scale, but I used about 12-15 smallish tomatoes), cut in half
~15 mini sweet peppers (or 3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers), cut in half and seeded
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 red onion, quartered
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 twigs fresh rosemary, removed from stem (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon fresh oregeno, removed from stem (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
generous sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper

1/2 teapoon salt
1/2 teaspoon molasses (or brown sugar)
handful of fresh parsley, rough chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Other: 1 lb pasta, cooked (I used whole wheat thin spaghetti, use gluten-free if needed)

Directions

Heat oven to 400. Put chopped vegetables and herbs on a large deep-sided roasting pan or dish. Stuff the garlic cloves into the tomatoes so they don’t burn. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Carefully pour the veggies and their sauces into a  pot on the stove and use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables. (If you don’t have an imersion blender, let the veggies cool to room temperature, then transfer to a blender or food processor and puree. Then pour into a pot on the stove.) Add parsley, salt, and molasses. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. My sauce was thick already, so I simmered with the lid on, but if you have really juicy tomatoes, you may want to simmer with the lid off until you reach the desired consistency. Check for seasoning. Adding more salt or molasses (adds sweetness and cuts acidity) as needed.

Variations

Make it Salsa: This base recipe could easily be turned into a salsa by switching up the seasonings — add a few jalapenos and cilantro, omit rosemary, oregeno, and parsley. Pulse in the food processor for a chunkier version. Would be delicious served hot or cold with chips.

Make it Soup: Add a little broth or cream for a delicious roasted tomato and pepper soup.

Make it a Meal: While you’re simmering the sauce and the oven is still hot, roast up some chickpeas tossed in olive oil and Italian seasoning for a crunchy protein-filled topping. Wilt some spinach into the sauce in the last five minutes to sneak in some greens.

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


Banana Nut Soft Serve [Two Ingredients, Dairy-Free, Sugar Free]

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Jackson is 22 months old now and at that stage where he’s learning new words every day and starting to string together words to make phrases and sentences like these:

“Hoo Hoo” (Whoohoo whith his hands thrown in the air.)

“Cool man” (I don’t know where he picked up this phrase, but it’s super cute.)

“Yayyy, I did it!” (Even if he didn’t actually do whatever IT is, he celebrates every little effort with such enthusiasm. It’s contagious.)

“Leeeeeet’s GO!” (That combined with “Run momma” is turning him into a little personal trainer!)

“Yes.” (Finally, he is saying “yes,” instead of always “no,” in the most adorably assertive and confident way.)

Of course, with this precious phase, also comes the less than adorable phrases, like “Chur turn” (Your turn…which actually means my turn. And it’s always “chur turn”) and “Miiiine!”

My favorite phrase of late, though, is “Tank choo ma ma.” He emphasizes each syllable and I can tell he really has to work to say it. It’s a sweet labor of love and it’s reserved for his truly most satisfying moments of deep gratitude, like when I served him chocolate “ice cream” made of bananas and cocoa for a morning snack last week. “Choc! Tank choo ma ma!”

This idea for banana soft serve has been circulating for years. It’s not new, but I’ve turned a few people toward it this week with my Instagram picture of Jackson enjoying his morning ice cream treat and thought maybe some of our readers have yet to try it as well. The basic recipe is just frozen bananas processed in a blender. It’s magical! The bananas just whip right into a thick creamy soft serve that is delicious on it’s own. You can make all sorts of flavors: chocolate peanut butter, strawberry banana, cinnamon and sugar…wherever your taste buds take you. This version is one of my favorites. You can use peanut butter instead of peanuts, but I really love the texture and flavor from the whole peanuts.

Ready in under five minutes, it makes the perfect healthy summer snack, or even breakfast. You’ll earn some serious cool mom or dad points putting a bowl of this in front of your kids first thing in the morning!

Peanut Banana Soft Serve

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 frozen bananas, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons peanuts (I used organic unsalted)
sprinkle of sea salt (unless peanuts are salted)

Directions

Put ingredients in a food processor and blend, stopping and scraping the sides as needed until it turns to the texture of a thick soft serve ice cream. Then stop. You don’t want to over blend or it will have more of a melty soft serve texture (not bad, but not as good either).

Peanut Banana Ice Cream

For this portion size, I use the smallest bowl on my food processor so I don’t have to stop and scrape the sides as often.  (It will be very loud at first, that’s okay, just be prepared.)

Serve immediately with a few extra peanuts and another sprinkle of sea salt on top for some extra crunch. I’ve heard this does not refreeze well, though I’ve never had any left to try. 🙂 You can buy yourself a little time keeping it chilled in the freezer, but it’s best to serve right away.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Banana Nut Soft Serve
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ZP

 

Have you made Banana Soft Serve?

What are your favorite flavor combinations?

What are your favorite toddler phrases and phases?

 

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook ThumbnailA little book update:

Zondervan, our publisher, has been so supportive of our book (coming out August 6). We’re having such a great publishing experience! They just decided to do an audio version of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook and invited my mom and I to record it. One of us will be recording in the studio most of the week, each of us having two 5-7 hour days in studio. Prayers for good health appreciated. The following week I’m heading to Colorado (with Jackson in tow) to join mom for a photo shoot for a major Christian publication. We’re so grateful for all the encouragement and support we’ve received…and for our fabulous readers at the blog.

We also got all of the endorsements in for the book. Wow! We are floored by the generosity of our fellow authors. Click on the picture of the book above to read the endorsements and find lots of knew authors to friend and follow.


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.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
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.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Trail Mix Parfaits
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Xv


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?

Miss_Vickies_Sugar_Cookie_Recipe

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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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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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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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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