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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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

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The Title: Crispy Eggplant Marsala (Vegan)
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Green Chili Huevos Rancheros (with Perfect Poached Eggs)

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

(Becky, the Mama.)

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

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

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

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Green Chili Huevos Rancheros 

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

Ingredients:

2 large eggs

2 t. vinegar

Sea salt & pepper

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

2 corn tortillas

½ cup refried beans, warmed

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

Optional: garnish with slice of fresh jalepano

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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


Double Chocolate Veggie Nut Bread (Zucchini, Carrots & Applesauce)

  • huevos rancheros, choc veggie bread 033(Becky, the Mama.)

Yes, you can have your moist, dark, chocolate cake-bread, and enjoy your health, too!

This recipe began stewing in my mind when my sister-in-law Gail came to visit.  Every morning, without fail, she has the same breakfast: a chocolate chip chocolate muffin and a Starbuck’s frappucinno.  I am not a big fan of breakfast foods, in general, but those double chocolate muffins …. oh man, they looked and smelled and tasted soooo good!

Since Gail’s muffin’ lovin’ visit,  I’ve been in search of a moist, super chocolately bread or muffin that I can feel good about eating, even for breakfast.  I came across a Cooking Light recipe for chocolate zucchini bread that used squash and applesauce to substitute for most of the oil. It was quite moist and… pretty okay, but a “fer piece” (as they say in Texas) from that perfect dark, rich, chocolately bite I was looking for.

So I started tweaking and baking like one of those OCD chefs from America’s Test Kitchens.  By the time I was done, I’d changed every ingredient and added more, and made the recipe entirely my own. I don’t like the taste of baking soda so I switched to baking powder. It wasn’t chocolately enough so I used dark Hershey’s cocoa, added ¼ cup Hershey’s syrup and doubled the chocolate chips. I added a cup of chopped walnuts.  I substituted ½ the zucchini for grated carrots because that’s what I had in the fridge.  (Actually I just put all the veggies in the food processor and whirled them.I’ve no patience for hand-grating veggies and I value my knuckles.)

When the finished loaf came out of the oven, fragrant with rich chocolate aromas, I took one bite and said, “Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”  Chocoholics rejoice! You have seriously got to try this recipe to believe how good it is.  No one will suspect it has 1 ½ cups of veggies and 1 cup of applesauce & only 3 T. of oil and ¾ cup sugar – in two loaves.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and this would make a fun breakfast or snack or dessert for yourself or your kids or your Honey Pie.  Just garnish it with a few heart shaped strawberry slices and serve it with all the love in your heart. 

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Double Chocolate Veggie-Nut Bread

Creaming Ingredients

¾ c. organic sugar

3 T. olive or canola oil

2 large eggs

¼ c. Hershey’s chocolate syrup

1 t. vanilla

 

Sifted Dry Ingredients

2 cups unbleached or whole wheat white flour

2 T. Hershey’s dark cocoa powder (you can use regular cocoa as well, just won’t be quite as dark a loaf)

3 T. plus 1 t. baking powder

½ t. cinnamon (more if you like a stronger cinnamon punch)

½ t. salt

 

The Goodies!

¾ cup grated or ground squash, any kind (zucchini, yellow, butternut, pumpkin….)

1 c. applesauce

¾ cup grated or ground carrots

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 T. flour

Directions:

Using a mixer cream all the “creaming ingredients” together until eggs are very well beaten and mixture is smooth.   Sift together all the ingredients from the “Sifted Dry Ingredients” list.  Use food processor to grind/process carrots and squash, or grate them by hand.   Alternate adding squash-carrot mixture and sifted dry ingredients to mixing bowl.   Mix until well incorporated.  Put chocolate chips and chopped walnuts in a small bowl and toss with 2 T. flour (this helps them not fall to the bottom of your bread, keeps them floating evenly throughout the loaf).  Stir these final goodies into the batter, by hand.

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(In the picture at top above, I had frozen grated yellow squash and zuchinni from the night before, and just tossed it back in food processor with a couple of large carrots. Next pic is batter awaiting the bowl of floured walnuts and chocolate chips.  Finally my super-long bread pan, found at an estate sale.)

Pour batter into two well greased and floured loaf pans.  (Note: I baked my bread in one super-long baker’s loaf pan, a find at an estate sale.  But I’ve never seen another bread pan like it, so just use two regular bread pans instead.)

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Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Let cool to warm and carefully run sharp knife around edge to loosen and remove from pan.  Let cool some more and then slice with a sharp serrated knife to serve. After first day, store in fridge (otherwise the moist veggies and fruit could start fermenting)  and either nuke for a second or heat slices in skillet with a little butter.

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“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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Marinated Portobello Pizzas

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(Becky, the Mama.)

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

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

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

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

“You will?”

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

Poof!

So there ya go.

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

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

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

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

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Marinated Portobello Pizzas

Makes 2 Portobello Pizzas

Ingredients: 

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

2 large Portobello mushrooms

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

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

2 T. Parmesan cheese

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

Directions:

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

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

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Double Chocolate Berry Nut Muffins

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Food memoirist Alyssa Shelasky described her mother as being a strict health-nut (who’d never eat anything that would “tick off Michael Pollan”), before being green and organic was cool. Alyssa’s school lunches were healthy leftovers like chicken salad and fruit, with notes of hand-written inspiration tucked into the brown bag. Nary a Dorito or Slim Jim in site.  And yet, even this Whole Foods Mama had a daily vice.  Every morning alongside with her cup of milky white tea, she ate a chocolate packaged snack cake filled with goopy marshmallow cream. Yes, she ate a Devil Dog.

In her defense she ate one and only one.  Every single day.  For  sixty years.  Without guilt.

Later in the day, Alyssa’s mom would  walk to the Farmer’s Market, loaded down with fresh veggies, enjoying every antioxidant-filled bite.

Now that Hostess has gone out of business, a box of Devil Dogs can be found on the internet for about $35.00 a box.  “Freshness guaranteed.”   (Presumably because they are so rich in chemicals, they are guaranteed to last forever.)

Though I draw the line at Twinkies and Devil Dogs for breakfast (even if I could afford such luxuries), I’m all in favor of making Chocolate a breakfast food.

To that end, I offer you this recipe for  Double Chocolate Berry Nut Muffins.  If I’d had blueberries or dark cherries on hand, I would have used those in this muffin. What I did have on hand was strawberries and kiwis, so improviser that I am… into the bowl they went. I’ve never let lack of correct ingredients stop me from whipping up a recipe.  I once made a carrot cake without any carrots, subbing zucchini and crushed pineapple.  It was delicious.

The result of my experiment was a just-right sweet muffin made moist from the coconut oil, Greek yogurt and fruit, chocolaty from cocoa and chocolate chips, with a nice crunch from chopped pecans.  I used white whole wheat flour  (which has the same nutritional value as whole wheat flour, but is made from white instead of red wheat);  and organic unprocessed sugar to ease my conscience even more.

So, okay, I’m not ready to declare these chocolate muffins a “health food.”  But hey, they are no Devil Dogs.

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Double Chocolate Berry Muffins

Makes 2 dozen regular muffins, and one pan of miniature muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients

2 ¼ c whole wheat white flour ( I used King Arthur brand)

1 ¼ c.  organic sugar

½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder (if you like extra dark chocolate use dark chocolate cocoa)

2 t. baking power

1 t. baking soda

¾ t. salt

1 cup Greek Yogurt, plain

½ cup milk or almond milk

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted if it is solidified

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla or almond extract

1 cup berries (blueberries don’t need chopped, but strawberries, cherries, raspberries or blackberries will need to be diced into about ¼ inch pieces.)

1 cup chocolate chips

½ c. to 1 c. chopped nuts

Directions

Sift and stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate large bowl, and make a well in the center; set aside.

Whisk together the yogurt, milk, coconut oil, eggs, and almond or vanilla extract in a bowl until evenly blended. Pour the yogurt mixture into the well, then stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the berries, nuts, and chocolate chips. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling half full. (I used cupcake liners.)

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Bake until a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Try with a little smear of Nutella;  or a slice of banana and peanut butter, or a spoon of cherry or strawberry preserves.  Heaven….

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The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title:Double Chocolate Berry Muffins
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-RT
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Sliders

What to do with those leftover black-eyed peas from New Years? Make these delicious veggie burger sliders of course.

What to do with those leftover black-eyed peas from New Years? Make these delicious veggie burger sliders, of course.

Since my last post a little over a week ago, I celebrated Christmas six times across four days, I turned 29, I had a girlfriend and her two little ones spend the night, and I saw in a New Year. Tomorrow, we leave for our first overnight trip without Jackson (eeek!) for a little romantic getaway, and then my husband will turn the Big 3-0 before he returns to work on Monday.

Between Christmas, the New Year, and both of our birthdays in a two week span, the last thing I wanted to do for New Year’s Eve was to get gussied up and go out on the town with a bunch of crazy drivers on the streets. Instead, we opted to stay home and relax. We went for a walk, I played with a DSLR camera I’m borrowing, and I cooked and photographed leisurely in the kitchen without a little one at my feet too much while he played with his daddy.

Well, there were a few interruptions.

It was wonderful.

I stayed in my pjs most of the day, cooked up a big batch of Black-Eyed Peas and black rice and made veggie burgers and maple glazed sweet potato crisps for dinner. Today, I tried a recipe in a cookbook my mom gave me for my birthday, Spicy Vegetable Gumbo and added black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck, as the tradition goes. Jared confirmed that he was pretty sure it was working, because he was feeling pretty lucky having had two home cooked meals in a row.

I was feeling pretty lucky myself, finding six rocks in my dried beans. Surely that means something, right? At minimum, we lucked out of breaking six teeth. Now THAT’S luck.

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Lucky rocks in the dried beans.

After dinner, I put littlebit to bed and made a proposal Jared couldn’t turn down.

“We have the house all to ourselves and just a few hours left in the year. How ’bout you and me pour ourselves a drink, slip into something comfortable, and organize the pantry?”

Because he’d been nagging me about it for days and there were cocktails involved, he obliged. I’m a lucky girl. We had so much fun, we tackled the fridge today. We’re going out of our 20s with a bang, I tell ya!

Believe it or not, we did actually stay up until midnight to toast in the new year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

If you are wondering what the heck to do with that big pot of leftover black-eyed peas, try this recipe for Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Veggie Burgers. They were so good, I chased that glass of champagne with a reheated patty for a midnight snack.

Serve on small rolls or buns with your desired toppings.

Burgers and chips, .

Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Sliders

Makes 8 sliders (4 servings)

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. cooked black-eyed peas*, or one can drained and rinsed (divided in half)
1 1/2 c. cooked rice (black rice, wild rice or brown rice) (divided in half)
1 T. mayonaise (I used veganaise)
1 c. spinach
1 green onion sprig, chopped
1 c. bread crumbs
Seasoning if needed (Salt, cajun seasoning, tabasco — my beans were plenty flavorful so I didn’t need any)
Small buns or rolls
Desired toppings: mayo, tabasco, lettuce, kale

Directions

Put half of the beans and rice and the mayo in a food processor. Process until it becomes a thick paste. Add a little water (cooking water from beans if you have it) if it needs help to get things moving. Stop and add the spinach, green onion, and the rest of the beans and rice. Pulse once or twice. You want it chunky. Transfer to a bowl and mix in bread crumbs. Taste for seasoning.

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to form patties.

(Optional Step: Pan fry patties in oil on medium heat until golden brown on both sides, adding more oil as needed, then bake. It gives it a nice color and crunch, but does add time, calories, and a mess for what turned out to be a minimal difference in the end product.)

Transfer patties to a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

Serve on small buns or rolls with desired toppings. I topped it with kale and a jalapeno mayo (6 T. of mayo, a seeded jalapeno, a splash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar blended until smooth). A tabasco flavored mayo would be good too.

*Easy Black-Eyed Peas: I just did the quick soak method, following the bag instructions. Rinsed and covered them with water (about an inch above the beans). Tossed in 3 cloves of chopped garlic, half an onion (not chopped), a couple sprigs of green onions and leeks left whole, and heavily seasoned with salt and Cajun seasoning. Brought to boil, lowered heat to simmer, tilted lid, simmered until tender. Only took about 30 minutes. They were pretty tender from the quick soak. Finished with a sprinkle of smoked salt.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
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The Title: Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Sliders
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Let’s take a closer look.

Black Rice has a rich nutty flavor and a little more chew than brown rice. You could sub wild rice or brown rice.

Black Rice has a rich nutty flavor and a little more chew than brown rice. You could sub wild rice or brown rice.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

The food processor is super quick, but you could also chop the spinach and use a fork or your hands to squish everything up if you don't have a food processor.

The food processor is super quick, but you could also chop the spinach and green onions and use a fork or your hands to squish everything up if you don’t have a food processor.

You want a nice thick mixture just sticky enough to hold everything together. Add more bread crumbs if needed.

You want a nice thick mixture just sticky enough to hold everything together. Add more bread crumbs if needed.

You can pan fry them before baking to give them a little extra crunch on the outside. But for a lighter burger, skip this step.

You can pan fry them before baking to give them a little extra crunch on the outside. But for a lighter burger, skip this step.

For a lower fat, less mess, quicker option skip frying and just form the patties on the baking sheet.

For a lower fat, less mess, quicker option skip frying and just form the patties on the baking sheet like this one.

I do like the nice deep color that frying gives them, but I didn't notice a big difference in the final product's taste.

I do like the nice deep color that frying gives them, but I didn’t notice a big difference in the final product’s taste.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they stay together when you pick them up.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they stay together when you pick them up.