After four hours of a naked toddler “potty party” as raved about on the internet, which included an obscene amount of salty toddler snacks and apple juice last Friday, we finally managed to get Asher to pee in his potty! It took three accidents on the carpet and an episode of “Curious George” while he sat naked on the potty for 26 minutes, but hey it’s a step in the right direction. He still talks about our little “potty party” which was enjoyed by exactly no one, and when we ask if he wants to have another party he simply says “NAH, maybe after tomorrow.”
So today’s recipe I share NOT because it is impressive or even original, I share it because it is easy to prepare when you are having a day of insurmountable exhausting tasks like my whole weekend felt. You’ll be grateful because it lasts in the fridge for a few days, and it’s a healthier dinner option that tastes like deep dish pizza that your whole family can enjoy.
2 medium eggplants
32 oz tub of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded skim mozzarella
1 bunch of chopped basil
1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 jar of marinara sauce
Olive oil spray
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the two ends off the eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on two baking sheets, then spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt to remove moisture and bitterness from the eggplant. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl add ricotta, mozzarella, basil, spinach and garlic and about 1/3 jar of marinara. You can use a hand blender to smooth the texture of the cheese stuffing or leave as is. Place 1 tablespoon of cheese stuffing onto one end of an eggplant slice and roll in your hand. This might be messy! Line them up immediatly after rolling in 13 x 9 casserole dish, then top with remaining marinara and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Asher gets a star on his chalkboard every time he has good behavior, and yesterday’s star featured the phrase “No, thanks!” underneath. We are in the process of teaching him manners, and at the end of the day when he reaches grumpy toddler zombie-exhaustion hour and pulls everything out of his art bin just to get a rise out of me, we quietly review his hard-earned stars for the day and he proudly recalls each story while pointing at the chalkboard. He gets big hugs. It works wonders.
I would like a star for today’s recipe. I can’t remember what wonderful website I found it on, but if you need to kick-up the spice level on your traditional summer veggie burger, this one’s for you! The spicy and smoky chipotle peppers work in harmony with the earthy lentils, and their smooth texture works well with any burger topping.
CHIPOTLE LENTIL BURGERS
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into medium dice
1/2 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (stems and leaves)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chipotles, seeds removed, with adobe sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons red vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Preheat a large, heave-bottomed nonstick pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-hugh heat. Saute the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, cilantro, and a pinch of salt, and saute for 7 to 10 minutes, until the zucchini is soft. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a food processor. Add all the other ingredients except for 1/2 cup bread crumbs and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Preheat the pan (the same one you already used to saute in is fine) over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs to the burger mixture and use a fork to thoroughly combine. Divide the burger mixture into six equal pieces. An easy way to do this is divide it in half, then divide each half into three basically equal portions. You can do that right in the mixing bowl if it’s large enough. Spray the pan with non stick cooking spray. Form the burger portions into patties and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the burgers often, until they are nicely browned on both sides. Use cooking spray as necessary.
This weekend I took Asher to Pickles Playroom to enjoy the madness of too many unsupervised children barreling over each other as disinterested parents and disgruntled nannies looked on from the nearby cafe. Pickles recently reorganized their space, and apparently they believe that removing the parent seating from inside the play area was actually a stroke of genius. I, along with maybe two other mothers, actually ran after our kids and played Let’s Cook Dinner in the Fake Kitchen or Time to Answer the Phone at the Office while the other children yanked trains from each others arms in tears while rubbing their drooling noses. When it was lunch time, I ate an over-priced and poorly prepared Greek salad from their cafe and Asher chomped on a grilled cheese sandwich with plastic – I mean Kraft. And that’s when it happened. Asher reached over, picked up a piece of lettuce, gave me a sly smile, declared he was going to eat my salad and then did it. He ate my salad. I was speechless. I was proud. And I thought, well that’s motivation to keep cooking.
And so today I share a recipe for a really delicious and intriguing dish – Green Olive, Cauliflower, Chickpea Couscous. It’s salty olives mixed with the sweet roasted cauliflower and bitter chopped parsley make it a delightful dish either on it’s own or as a side.
GREEN OLIVE, CAULIFLOWER, CHICKPEA COUSCOUS
1 cup Isreali couscous, uncooked
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
20 green pimento olives, sliced into thirds
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 head cauliflower
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut cauliflower head into quarters and then separate the florets into smaller pieces with a large knife. Toss cauliflower florets with salt and olive oil and bake on baking sheet for 20 minutes. Boil 1 1/3 cup water in small pot. Add Israeli couscous and turn down to simmer with lid on for 8-10 minutes. Fluff with fork and remove from heat to cool. Add sliced green olives, parsley, garbanzo beans, and lemon juice to the couscous. When cauliflower has browned remove from oven and mix into the couscous mixture. A vegan feast!
Trader Joe’s has the most amazing selection of vegetarian “meat” products. Their meatless beef crumbles are a steal at $2.99, the Soyrizo is heavenly, and I also favor their Italian Vegetarian Sausages over any other brand. This week I was craving some sweet and salty roasted brussel sprouts and have heard of a meat-lovers Italian dish with which I decided to make vegetarian. It LITERALLY couldn’t have been easier. This was a big hit as a summer lunch that cost around $10 to make, but I will definitely be making it as a Thanksgiving side dish this year too!
BRUSSEL SPROUTS, WHITE BEANS AND SAUSAGE
2 lbs brussel sprouts
1 can cannellini beans
1 package of Trader Joe’s vegetarian Italian Sausage (4 large links)
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut each sprout cut in half and toss on ungreased baking pan. Cut Italian sausages on an angle into 1/4” slices and add to the baking pan. Pour olives oil over the mixture then toss with your hands. Season with some salt and pepper, then bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Drain can of cannellini beans and add to the brussel sprout mixture in a large bowl. Add some freshly shaved Parmesan before serving.
Today’s recipe I took straight from one of my favorite blogs – Kalyn’s Kitchen. The only difference is that I recommend making the lentil salad topping in one large batch so you can easily take it to work for the week and assemble it with some refreshing cold, crispy Romaine lettuce. It’s rich chili spices mixed with the sourness of the lime juice makes it perfect for summer!
MEXICAN LENTIL SALAD
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 can (6 oz. drained weight) black olives, cut in half
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1-2 avocados, diced
1 cup pickled banana peppers or pepperoncinis
Juice from 2 fresh-squeezed limes
6 cups chopped Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 package of taco seasoning
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped red onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Then add the taco seasoning and saute about 2 minutes more. Add the lentils and vegetable stock and simmer until the liquid has all evaporated. Turn off the heat and let the lentils cool. When cooled, add sliced olives, tomatoes, green onions, avocado and toss with extra lime juice. Served fresh over chopped lettuce, or bring lettuce to work separately and enjoy this tasty dish all week long!
On Friday, Asher woke up with a high fever and a cold sore on his mouth so naturally we built a camping tent in our living room. That’s him in the background playing on his toy laptop and moaning, while Everett wonders what’s going on. Today, he finally ate his comfort food of crappy Kraft mac and cheese, which inspired me to share my most favorite sick day soup – Vegan Pho!
I am very proud to say this is actually my husband’s recipe and is one of my all-time favorite foods. The broth is full of sweet and spicy exotic spices, and the udon noodles mixed with the crunch of fresh herbs make this a soul satisfying dish. And because this recipe requires whomever in your household is least likely to burn themselves to roast the ginger over a fire, your house will have the added perk of smelling like sweet delicious roasted ginger!
1/2 bag of udon noodles
6 quarts of vegetable broth OR 6 quarts of water with 2-3 bullion cubes
1 bunch scallions
8 cloves of garlic
3” ginger root in skin
6 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole bay leaves
1 container extra firm tofu
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 head of purple cabbage, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped peanuts
1 container of bean sprouts
1 bunch of Thai basil, whole leaves
1 bunch of cilantro, whole leaves
1/2 jalapeno sliced into circles, seeds removed
1 lime sliced into quarters
Bring a medium pot filled with water to a boil. Add udon noodles and cook for 15 minutes. Drain noodles and run under cold water for 2 minutes, then toss with sesame oil to prevent sticking. Cook tofu according to my previous post Roasted Tofu Special Treat. Using stainless steel tongs, roast the whole ginger over your stove’s open flame about 5-7 minutes then set aside. In a large pot, bring vegetable broth to a boil then add whole ginger, scallions, garlic, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise, and soy sauce. Boil on medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove all solids from the broth so it is a clear, light brown color. In serving bowls, combine two parts broth to one part noodles. Arrange toppings side by side on a large serving plate and allow guests to add desired amounts fresh to their pho. Heaven! Serves 4 -6.
One of my biggest challenges in the kitchen is preparing easy, healthy lunches on the weekend that can be kept in the fridge for a few days without tasting like Saturday’s leftovers. This week, I found myself hooked on Israeli couscous. Mostly because it was on sale for $3.99, but also because of it’s hearty texture and ability to soak up any flavor while marinating in the fridge. I combined it with a Greek taverna salad and three days later it still tasted delicious! And as a nice little perk, I used some of these purchased ingredients to make healthy toddler snacks without having to blow my grocery budget! Asher particularly loves black olives and grape tomatoes. Love when my grown-up meals can double as toddler food!
GREEK ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD
1 cup Israeli couscous, uncooked
1 persian cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
3 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly into moonshapes
1 pint of grape tomates,sliced in half
1/2 cup of feta cheese with mediterranean herbs
1 can of sliced black olives
1 cup whole pepperoncinis
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons vinegar from pepperoncini jar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
Boil 1 1/3 cup water in small pot. Add Israeli couscous and turn down to simmer with lid on for 8-10 minutes. Fluff with fork and remove from heat to cool. Chop and prep your vegetables. Add cooled couscous and salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Let marinate in refrigerator at least one hour. Should be served room temperature or cold. This dish can easily be made vegan without the feta cheese.