Spaghetti with Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

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My worst nightmare? The kids going to bed happy and early. Why? Because it’s too good to be true. Zonking out dazed and speaking tongues inevitably means that someone will be jarred awake with night terrors in two hours. And that they’ll be up at 4:00am ready to start the day. Let’s go! But I guess I’m willing to take that risk tonight because my husband and I would like one hour together. Without children. One wondrous hour watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine so we can mock the overacting and the spectacularly absurd plot twists. Like Major Kira having O’Brien’s baby because it got zapped from Keiko’s body in some interstellar battle. Whatever.

Tonight we enjoyed this cold zesty zippy pasta dish with whole wheat spaghetti, spicy fresh chopped garlic and a fresh lemon, parsley olive oil marinade. It comes from Vegetarian Times and could easily be made vegan without the Parmesan cheese. This dish paired with a side salad will last us the work week and only cost about $10 – not bad for a healthy dish that even my 4 year old enjoyed!

SPAGHETTI WITH LEMON AND TOASTED WALNUTS
1 cup walnut halves
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp. grated organic lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
1 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast walnuts on baking sheet 10 minutes. Cool, and coarsely chop. Whisk together cheese, oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and pepper in large bowl. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add drained pasta to cheese mixture, and toss to combine. Stir in parsley and walnuts, and season with salt and more pepper.

Cowboy Caviar

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A few weeks ago I found out about Cowboy Caviar after I had made a simple bean salad that was reminiscent to someone of this recipe which they shared with me. Not only do I love the name, but I also love it’s simplicity and subtle different flavors that really make this recipe shine. The spicy base of black-eyed peas, avocado, corn and tomatoes combined with the red wine vinegar hot sauce is simply dynamite on a bed of romaine lettuce with crumbled tortilla chips on top – and it didn’t even need additional dressing.

The good news is that black-eyed peas are cheap, high in protein, and low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat. They also have a good amount of potassium and iron. If you are concerned about iron intake on a vegetarian diet, beans and dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots) will more than compensate what you don’t get from red meat. Additionally, eating foods high in vitamin C will actually increase iron absorption in the body. So enjoy this salad with a handful of dried fruit for a healthy, nutritious meal!

COWBOY CAVIAR
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 firm-ripe avocado (about 10 oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt

In a large bowl, mix vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Cut avocado into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to vinegar mixture and mix gently to coat.
Drain and rinse peas and corn. Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado; mix gently to coat. Add salt to taste.

Putta-A-Fork-In-It Puttanesca

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It’s been two months of major changes in our household: two new jobs, new school, potty training, no more baby bottles, toddler bed to queen size, new nanny, first airplane ride with the kids. Change is hard. So this weekend was the beginning of a recommitment to my mind and body, and therefore my family. On Friday I finally joined the gym and reactivated my Weight Watchers app, and today I spent a majority of the day solo parenting to give my husband – who is my soldier in the trenches of the night – a much deserved break. These things may seem so simple and even carefree to most people, but the truth is these tasks seem insurmountable when you’re in a lousy state of mind.

When the membership director asked me what my fitness goal was I joked “To get here.” But what IS my goal here? I have a few. To not loudly sigh in annoyance at 4:30am when the baby screams through the monitor, to not slam the fridge door a bit too hard just to make a point, to go to bed tired in a good way and wake up refreshed (that’s one’s crazy!) and most importantly to find a meaningful getaway that gets me out of the house in a bad moment and do something good for my body. I will tell you jumping into a pool for water aerobics while listening to Lord of the Dance made me smile! So I guess you could say my ultimate goal here is to improve my attitude.

The nice thing about Weight Watchers is that nothing is “off limits”, just unashamedly tracked. So I don’t mind sharing today’s recipe for a vegan Puttanesca that is out of this world.

PUTTA-FORK-IN-IT PUTTANESCA

1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil
1 red onion, slivered into thin moon shapes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
6 garlic cloves, diced
Olive oil

Boil pasta “al dente” according to package instructions, typically 10 minutes. While cooking, add a dollop of olive oil and cook onions and garlic on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add capers and cook additional 2-3 minutes. Finally, throw in tomatoes, olives and basil and cook 5 more minutes. Add about 1/8 cup olive oil to pasta then mix in puttanesca topping. Salt and pepper to taste.

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A good night…

Tostada Mexican Pizza

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There’s nothing like the jarring sound of a screaming toddler at 4:55am. For the past few months, our 18-month old son Everett has been waking up like clockwork, no matter what time we put him down the night before. We’ve tried 8:00pm, 7:00pm, and 6:30pm. And what makes it worse is that he doesn’t want to nap longer than 40 minutes during the day. We used to do two naps, now he’s down to one shimmering moment of time after lunch. I hate parenting books. And now Asher has started napping at preschool. Long, refreshing naps that keep him running around until 9:30pm.

What I’m trying to say is that we’ve implemented family dinner at 6:00pm and we needed something quick and easy. These Tostada Mexican Pizzas are deliciously satisfying, and the components stemming from the standard “7-layer dip” cross over as toddler finger foods! Obviously you need a beer pairing to get through the kids post-dinner bath time, we opted for Revolution Anti-Hero.

TOSTADA MEXICAN PIZZA
Whole wheat enchilada wraps
Sliced black olives
Grape tomatoes
15-oz can refried pinto beans
1 avocado, mashed
Green onions, chopped
Salsa

Turn on broiler and place wraps on baking sheet on top shelf in oven for 2-3 minutes per side. You want them crunchy and a bit charred, but watch they don’t smoke and burn! Smear layer of refried pinto beans, followed by smashed avocado. Top with veggie toppings and salsa. Better than nachos!

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Bahamas Time, and Enchilada Casserole

BeansI haven’t been on a vacation since before my kids were born. Sure we’ve had a weeknight away here and there for sanity breaks, but my passport has sat untouched since 2008. Ever since eagerly planning for the family reunion in the Bahamas a few months ago, the word “vacation” has become a verb, noun and adjective in our household. A Holy Grail even. We’re going “On Vacation.” We put our pants on and acting like a good boy “To Vacation.” We are going to have a great “Vacation Day.” So naturally the trip had to start off with tears at the airport because mommy didn’t properly arrange for passports for the boys and after all that packing and planning and Asher screaming “I WANNA GO ON THE AIRPLANE WAAAAAH” in his Panama hat we ended up going home instead. Then mommy flew out for vacation with her overseas family while daddy stayed with the boys and applied for passports in Chicago for three days and never slept. But as most things that seem too perfect in the beginning go, the kinks and stress paid off in the end because it helped me value even more what we had gained at the end of the journey.

There is nothing like not knowing what time it is and, more poignantly, not caring what time it is. The Bahamas is a magical place frozen in time full of warm sea water, white squishy sand, coconut trees growing wild, and a general sense of peace and pleasure. Nestled into the quiet nook of Lyford Cay on the island of Nassau is a private little bay and a gorgeous villa where you can literally walk out your bedroom door and follow the manta rays that stalk the shore at dawn. Where tiny little hermit crabs are the same shade of white as the sand, and where night herons screech and dance amongst the palms. A place where the 1940’s polo-themed living room with no walls opens to a plantation style porch on one side and a peach travertine pillared courtyard that welcomes the Caribbean rain water on the other. Where the turquoise water is so shallow and calm that a baby can sit there for hours. Where toddlers develop a general sense adventure, jumping into swimming pools, wading through the Caribbean Sea, sleeping in a Queen size bed. Even one day in this island haven makes the effort with two young children worthwhile. Sigh.

Enchilada Casserole I was in the mood to continue to the fiesta when I returned home – hence today’s recipe for Enchilada Casserole. The bean salad from the recipes makes the perfect side dish for a BBQ or can be the stuffing for peppers or enchiladas, but I opted for the Enchilada Casserole because it is makes a hearty dish that you can serve with fresh avocado and cilantro. And margaritas.

ENCHILADA CASSEROLE
12 corn tortillas
3 zucchini, diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small can sliced black olives
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
30 oz can red enchilada sauce
1 bunch of cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pan, add olive oil and fry the zucchini for 7 to 8 minutes on medium heat, until translucent. Stir in the chili powder and cumin, then mix in the corn, beans and olives. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Arrange 6 corn tortillas on the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with half the bean mixture then pour half the enchilada sauce over the mixture. Add another layer of 6 corn tortillas, then top with the remaining bean mixture. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the top layer. Top with cheese or soy cheese, then bake for 40 minutes.
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General Tso Cauliflower

Today’s recipe is not going to win any beauty contest. But then again, neither will I — unless it’s a leg contest. I think I could win that. But like me, this General Tso Tofu dish is authentic and unexpectedly flavorful, even with a bleak “resting face”.

This dish comes from Bakeaholic Mama and has that wonderful thick and creamy Chinese sauce with gingery garlicy flavors. A few things to note on where I went wrong – make it in small batches rather than all at once to ensure the cauliflower florets cooks thoroughly and still get that crispy outside. Mine was more “steamed” than “fried”. Also, use a wide and deep pan, not a wok. I did add a package of diced Chinese smoked tofu which added a kick of protein. cauliflower

GENERAL TSO CAULIFLOWER
1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 tbs soy sauce
Peanut oil for frying

For the sauce:
2 1/2 tsp minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs peanut oil
Brown rice for serving
Green onions for garnish

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg until a you form a batter. Toss cauliflower in batter until evenly coated, then set aside for about 15 minutes. In a heavy bottomed fry pan, add 2 tbs of peanut oil and heat until the pan is hot. Toss in cauliflower florets and fry over medium heat until evenly browned on all sides. Once cauliflower is prepared, start your sauce. In a separate sauce pan, add sesame oil and peanut oil with your garlic and ginger and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. Mix in remaining sauce ingredients and whisk constantly over medium high heat, until it comes to a low boil. Once sauce has thickened, add to the fry pan you cooked your cauliflower in and toss with fried cauliflower. Over medium low heat, toss the cauliflower until it is evenly coated in the sauce. Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.

Edamame Succotash

succotashOne of the worst questions a coworker can ask you is “What size t-shirt do you wear?” It’s an awful question because it is so immensely personal, but also because it means that at some point soon you will be wearing a staff t-shirt. My husband loves free t-shirts. I do not.

The best response I got after I sheepishly admitted Large is “Really? You’re not a medium?!” Thank you Amy K. for making my day. This comment was made while I was eating today’s recipe for Edamame Succatosh, which is why I share it with you now! It comes from Vegetarian Times and makes for a nice twist on the traditional lima bean succotash. My version is a flavorful no-cook vegan dish that features fresh herbs and sweet yellow peppers which provide a bright crunch to the nutty edamame. It tastes great with a cup of pasta for a cold pasta salad.

EDAMAME SUCCOTASH

2 tsp. olive oil
2 chopped yellow peppers
1/2 chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 can whole corn kernels, drained
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Child Safari and Bruschetta Pasta

bruschetta pastaBrunch for four turned into a child safari this past weekend as we hosted our first “adult” brunch in over a month – meaning, we made something with garlic and put out cloth napkins. As per our usual start to Sunday mornings, we began with a pot of strong coffee and Deadmau5. After herding our two boys to the table, we actually managed to eat food on plates, remain in our chairs and share complete stories for about seven blissful minutes. And then abruptly, there was more food was on the floor than on anybody’s plates as Asher announced he was DONE and Everett stubbornly stood up in his high chair after unbuckling his safety belt and my husband and I scrambled around alternatively picking up each child, wiping oily fingers, and placing them at enticing toy stations in hopes that they would entertain themselves for just a minute without choking on a Lego or making stabbing motions with their plastic Chefs knives from the toy kitchen. How dare we adults enjoy ourselves and sit on our butts when there is so much wreckage to be done?

And so, with an apologetic smile and a good-natured laugh, we respectfully invited our brunch guests to join us upstairs to play in Asher’s room. And thus began the two-hour process of slowly upturning and investigating every room of the house which included; playing in Asher’s circus tent while Everett took a nose dive into the empty bath down the hall, settling in small uncomfortable nooks in the hallway as the kids practiced walking backwards, watching in horror as Asher threw all our dirty laundry out of the hamper, playing catch with a bouncy ball in the master bedroom, changing several diapers in the middle of the floor, and nestling in the den to watch three episodes of “Batman”. And throughout the madness of it all, our very dear and very patient friends Adam and Alexia never politely excused themselves with an undertone of “… NEVER AGAIN…”

And so today I am grateful. Grateful for friends. Grateful for flexibility. Grateful for my husband who is willing to listen to our toddler scream all day long that he ONLY wants mommy, and grateful for pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company which makes it all worth while. So come join us for our next Child Safari brunch, or host your own with today’s simple recipe for Bruschetta Pasta!

BRUSCHETTA PASTA
1 pound of linguine pasta (my photo depicts angel hair)
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes soaked in water for 15 minutes
4 large Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 cup medium green olives, pitted
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until blended but still chunky. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook 8 minutes. Drain well then combine with tomato mixture and toss until the pasts is coated. tomatoes

Hoboken Black Bean Burgers

BURGERThis weekend I had the immense pleasure of escaping to NYC for my friend Stephanie’s baby shower for two glorious nights and three full days. From sunning on their rooftop deck in Hoboken overlooking the musky Manhattan skyline, to prancing around Times Square searching for overpriced NYPD-themed stuffed animals for my boys back home, to spending $11 on the smallest glass of wine in the world during intermission at the powerful performance of “All The Way” at the Niel Simon Theatre, I loved every minute of the energy, power, and thrill of the big city. But more importantly, I loved being present to welcome my friends into the wonderful world of parenthood … and to wish them luck with her 5-floor walk-up.

On Saturday evening we had a little BBQ and I experimented with a new recipe for black bean burgers from Skinny Taste which featured a kind of pureed salsa in the base. I have always struggled with keeping black bean burgers from falling apart, and after a little research I learned that freezing the patties for 2 hours prior to cooking actually keeps them intact. So I had to impart this little nugget of knowledge on my blog! Not sure Frank Sinatra would approve of these Hoboken Black Bean Burgers, but I sure do.

HOBOKEN BLACK BEAN BURGERS
16 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jumbo egg
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 to 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 cup quick oats

In a medium bowl, mash beans with a fork until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, cilantro, onion, and garlic. Mix in add oats, eggs and spices. Then stir into mashed beans. Divide mixture into four patties and place them onto a flat surface covered with wax paper. I did add a few tablespoons additional oats to help keep the mixture firm. Freeze at least 2 hours before cooking or keep frozen until ready to cook. Bake at 375 degrees or pan fry 7 minutes per side. I served with a nice dollop of guacamole.

Vegan Pad Thai

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Some of my favorite meals are those that consist of 10 ingredients or less. Today’s recipe is a simple fresh pad thai dish that features wide rice noodles in a light, creamy peanut sauce. In all this dish takes about 30 minutes to prepare and is best served family style.

VEGAN PAD THAI
15 oz can light coconut milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1 package wide rice noodles
1 head napa cabbage, diced
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 bunch green onions, diced
1 cup shredded or julienned carrots

Add coconut milk, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce and ketchup in a medium bowl and mix well for creamy peanut sauce. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, typically boiled around 10 minutes then rinse under cold water to prevent noodles from overcooking. Mix noodles with peanut sauce in a large serving bowl, then top with heaping pile of diced napa cabbage, cilantro, green onions and chopped peanuts. I also added a package of baked tofu for some added protein. It really is that simple! Add spicy thai sauce if desired. Thanks to our special guest Frank Villella for this week’s cooking party!

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