Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer… 

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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…

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

Easiest Chana Masala

chana masalaIn the Western World, turmeric root is often used as an agent to color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But in the Eastern World, turmeric root is widely used as a medicinal ingredient used to treat inflammatory and irritated skin conditions, and to encourage healthy digestion and liver function. Surprisingly, just 1 tablespoon of turmeric contains 15% of your daily iron needs and even contains a moderate amount of vitamin B6 so it’s health benefits are verifiable. Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric has been considered highly auspicious and holy in Hindu and Tamil spiritualism for millennia so I find it especially intriguing as a spice.

My Easiest Chana Masala recipe is so soul satisfying even my toddler eats it (well, he picks out the cauliflower parts and then devours the chickpeas). The warm, bitter flavor of the turmeric and the rich, earthy curry powder are the two shining ingredients in this embarrassingly simple dish that piques everyone’s interest when I heat it up in the office microwave. By now you should know that I like to get my bang for the buck, and this dish does not disappoint coming in at around $10.

EASIEST CHANA MASALA
32 oz can of diced tomatoes
32 oz can of chickpeas, drained
1 head of cauliflower, stems removed and florets set aside
2 medium onions, diced
1 Tablespoon turmeric powder
2 Tablespoons curry powder
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
Olive oil

Add a generous amount of olive oil to a large saute pan. Saute the garlic and onions on medium heat until they are browning. Then add the cauliflower florets and cook for another 4-5 minutes, constantly turning. Add turmeric and curry powder and mix until well combined with the cauliflower mixture. Add the diced tomatoes and chickpeas, cover the saute and let simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is just soft enough to stab with a fork but still has as bit of a crunch. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately. The great thing about this dish is you can easily improvise and add your favorite vegetables to change up the recipe.

Ev
Chard Soup

Italian Stuffed Pesto Tomatoes

tomato There is nothing quite like a fresh tomato: whether it be the crunchy, sweet cherry tomatoes of early summer or the hearty colorful heirlooms of fall – they are a staple year-round in our household. While tomatoes are botanically a fruit, they are used as vegetables in the culinary world which means they cross over into a variety of dishes! This week the grocery store had some enticingly large beefsteak tomatoes and I couldn’t resist trying this new recipe for Italian stuffed tomatoes. The recipe yielded 8 very large stuffed tomates, and the total cost was around $11. Asher loves beans and pesto, so the stuffing also doubles as a great vegetarian toddler meal! I usually use green peppers for “stuffed” dishes, but these were SERIOUSLY good. You could also make this as a cold salad dish for lunch by keeping the kale leaves fresh and not baking the tomates.

ITALIAN STUFFED PESTO TOMATOES – VEGAN!

8 large beefsteak tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans
1 can artichoke hearts in water
1 bunch kale
1/2 cup pesto (either fresh or store-bought)

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Drain the cannellini beans and arthichoke hearts and toss in a mixing bowl along with the pesto. Slice the tops off your beefsteak tomates about 1/4” down. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides of the tomatoes then add to your bean mixture. Remove ribs from the kale and roughly chop the leaves, then cook in a large saute pan on medium heat for 5 minutes. When the leaves are wilted, add the pesto bean mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. Use a tablespoon spoon to stuff the tomatoes until they are overflowing, then bake in a casserole dish for 15 minutes. You want the tomates to stay firm enough for serving, but the cook time allows the flavors to marinate nicely.

Mexican Lentil Salad

mexican lentil salad 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!