Monday, April 14, 2014

Shaved Greek Salad with Spiced Chickpeas

It's funny all the subconscious things a new season, namely Spring, does to you. We were so productive this weekend - raking, building, sawing, nailing, cleaning out, and putting away. The momentum leading up to this was evident. We are ready for a new fresh start. Oh and Nick and I went out on our first date in seven months - hallelujah (thanks mom!). It was almost comical how tired we were eating our fancy entrees at 9 pm but man it was fun.

Other spring wonders - salads and sheep. This simple salad is made out of piles of thinly shaven vegetables. I use an inexpensive mandoline and highly recommend purchasing one. Delicate vegetables, fresh feta cheese, olives, and my favorite pan roasted spiced chickpeas make a perfectly balanced salad.

And the sheep - our family attended Sheepapalooza at The Farm Institute and had a ball. Those farmers can throw a party. I wish I had my camera but I snapped a few pictures on my phone.

Shaved Greek Salad with Spiced Chickpeas
serves 2 (but simply double everything for a larger crowd)

1/2 a red onion
1/2 a red bell pepper
large handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 radishes
1/3 of a cucumber
large handful feta cheese
large handful kalamata olives  
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1. First, shave all the vegetables using a mandoline. Arrange in piles on a large platter. Add feta cheese and olives to platter.

2. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt across salad for a simple dressing.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add spices and a 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toast the spices for 2 minutes.

 4. Add chickpeas to the spices, toss to coat, and let sit to get crisp - about 3 minutes. Toss again and allow to sit and crisp up further - another 3 minutes.

5. Add spiced chickpeas to the salad and enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Artichoke Pesto

Last fall my mom and Dylan planted a few patches of daffodil bulbs throughout our yard. They very thoughtfully walked around our house, peered out the windows, and buried the bulbs to bloom within view of our kitchen and bedroom windows.  When the stems started to poke through the dirt Dylan made a pebble fence around them so nobody would step there. Lately, we've been checking the blooms daily waiting for them to finally open.

Let me tell you, it all feels good. Things looking like spring, smelling like spring, and most of all tasting like spring. I can't wait to get my hands on fresh strawberries and asparagus. This pesto is bright with artichoke and lemon. We ate it slathered on toasted baguette and with eggs.

Artichoke Pesto
1 cup cooked artichoke hearts
1/4 cup raw pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
pinch salt
a few grinds black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Measure everything besides olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Turn it on and slowly stream in the olive oil.

I served ours topped with a dollop of basil pesto I had in the fridge and a sprinkling of extra toasted pine nuts. Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Getting Dinner on the Table

Cast-Iron Seared Roast Chicken
I am no expert on getting a show stopping dinner on the table seven nights a week. With two kids and a busy family schedule I often find myself frying eggs at 6:15 pm or reheating a pot of soup. But having a home cooked family dinner for all of us to enjoy is important to me so I make it a priority. 

Over this winter, when energy was at an all time low, my friends and I swapped simple ideas of how to keep our pre-school aged kids engaged while cooking. I often wear Gray in a carrier but Dylan likes to play, play, play close by. Here are my top 5 activities that help me get a decent chunk of uninterrupted kitchen time and a meal on the table.

1. Toy Ice Cubes: Freeze small toys in an ice cube tray for kids to play with in the sink or a tub of water on the floor.

2. Face Paint: Ha! This is not for the faint of heart. Set up a mirror and a tray of face paints. Let them go to town (luckily bath time is around the corner). 

3. Light Cave: Drape a large blanket over the dining room table and play with flash lights. 

4. Play Kitchen: We have a play kitchen in the corner of ours so Dylan can participate in the fun.

5. Give Friends a Bath: Set up a large pot of soapy water (over a large towel) on the floor for kids to wash their favorite friends. Dinosaurs are big at our house now but we used to do this with trucks and airplanes.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cauliflower, Potato & Pea Curry

Twice today I hung up my phone with a huge smile on my face. For some lucky reason I was able to fit in not one but two quick calls with my girl friends. Nothing we talked about was life changing - just simple everyday stuff but it made me realize how grateful I am for my friends and how I wish I could invite them all over tonight to enjoy a big pot of cauliflower, potato, and pea curry. 

Between weekend phone chats we played storm chasers - looking up into the big spring sky and driving away from the dark rain clouds. We ended up at the little Chappy Ferry and took a spontaneous ride across. Everyone ended the adventure happy and dry. 

Cauliflower, Potato & Pea Curry
serves 4-6

The only hot spice (verses flavorful spice) in this curry comes from the red pepper flakes so if you are serving this to kids with heat sensitivities just cut down on it. 

1/4 cup canola oil 
1 tablespoon coriander  
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric  
1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes 
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces 
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree  
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 cup chopped cilantro 
1/2 cup water  
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 cup frozen petite peas 

First, in a large deep frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and red-pepper flakes and stir. Add the cauliflower and potatoes and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.  

Next, add the tomatoes, coconut milk, 1/4 cup of the cilantro, the water, and the salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. 
Stir in the peas and the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and cook, covered, until the peas are tender, about 2 minutes longer. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Quinoa Falafel

There are tiny yellow crocuses sprouting up in our front garden dirt patch, the boys and I took a hike and visited the beach this week, and at 6 pm our kitchen is full of real sunlight. This my friends is a far cry from last week. There is still a dark cloud over our house, in the form of a very sick dog, but I can only imagine how great it'll be when there is no snow in the 10-day forecast and 50 degrees is the norm. I feel like The Little Engine That Could chugging up the mountain...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

I seem to make a version of falafel every couple of weeks. We like to either eat it in pita pockets stuffed with hummus, tomato, red onion, cucumber, and sprouts or on top of greens tossed with tahini dressing. Either way, a spritz of fresh lemon on top is the key.

Quinoa Falafel

1/2 a yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
big handful of fresh parsley (or baby spinach)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less if serving to children)
4 tablespoons cooked quinoa

1 lemon 
olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Rub a baking sheet with olive oil. 

2. In a food processor, first pulse the onion and garlic until finely chopped then add in everything else, including half of the lemon juiced. Pulse again until a slightly chunky paste forms. 

3. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop patties of the mixture out and arrange them on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with more olive oil.

4. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, flip then bake another 20 minutes or until crisp and brown. Serve with fresh lemon wedges, yogurt, or hummus for dipping.

Happy weekend and happy spring!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Healing Pink & Green Juice

I just hung up with a friend and told her that today is the first day of the rest of my life!! A tad dramatic but it seriously feels that way. Last week was rough and I finally feel like we are on the other side of it. Our whole house was sick with croup (or the grown-up version of croup) which made for long nights, a trip to the ER, and many tears. I forgot what normal life feels like. I'm so ready to kiss The Never-ending Winter of 2014 goodbye.

But, as always, food helps. Especially healing juice like this grapefruit, cucumber, carrot, and ginger mix. Dylan loves using our juicer because he gets to (safely!) push the fruit and vegetables through the loud blade and watch the colors come squirting out. This kid has a soft spot for operating small appliances. This juice is sweet enough for kids to enjoy while packing a nutritional punch. Of course the pretty color doesn't hurt.

Healing Pink & Green Juice

3 pink grapefruits
6 small to medium carrots
1/2 a cucumber
1 inch peeled fresh ginger

Simple, just juice everything according to your machine's guidelines and slurp your sniffles away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Roast a Squash

A few weeks ago I walked through a blizzard to our local book store to hear Susie Middleton read from her new book, Fresh From the Farm. She fed us delicious roasted tomato tart, told stories about creating her farm, and cooked in front of the crowd. Although I've watched a million cooking shows and read hundreds of cookbooks I was really changed by Susie's suggestion on how to cook squash. It's one of those vegetables I dread preparing - the peeling, chopping, and wrestling. Here is her very simple but smart way around that...

This works great for any type of winter squash from acorn to butternut, even sugar pumpkins. You can use the soft squash meat in a variety of recipes. Try swapping the sweet potato for squash in Cornmeal Muffins, add it to soup, mix into hummus, spread on quesadillas, or use this method to make soft vegetables for your baby.  

How to Roast a Squash

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 and rub a baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Slice squash (acorn, butternut, sugar pumpkin) in half and, using an ice cream scoop, remove the seeds.
3. Sprinkle flesh with salt and pepper. Place skin side up and roast for 1 hour.

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