Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tortellini Soup with Pesto

Spring is just flying by.  I can't believe the countdown until kindergarten is over for Big is 3 days and 2 half days.  Her open house, Little Ladies Graduation, Kindergarten promotion, last chapel, and assorted other events are happening between now and then as well - add to that the 120 essays that I collect tomorrow and it's going to make for a very busy weekend!

Here's a little glimpse into our life these days . . . the girls are growing and changing so much.  I've felt really overwhelmed with the thought lately of how blessed I am to be their mom - the person who gets to hear their jokes, fears, and fights, the person who feeds them, tucks them in at night, and comforts them when they cry, the person who gets a front row seat to this amazing part of life where they change constantly as their little personalities are developing.  It's pretty crazy.

An autopia ride (Jacarandas blooming in the background!)
A new, funny scrunchy nose grin
Tennis buddies - playing with the ball machine in the desert
Lounging (posing?) poolside
They love each other . . . despite the frequent arguments and hurt feelings
Getting coffee before music class - an activity the little girls and I have been immensely enjoying.

I realize that soup weather is just about behind us for awhile, but we've had some cooler days in between our 90 degree days and you know how I love making soup!  I've made different variations on tortellini soup but this was probably my favorite.  It reminded me a little of chicken noodle with a twist and since I got sick about a week ago, it was good comfort food.

Tortellini Soup with Sausage (4 servings)

1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 T prepared pesto
4 c. chicken broth
2 cups water
9 oz package fresh cheese-filled tortellini
3-4 links precooked Spicy Italian sausage (sliced)
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Cook garlic, celery, carrot and onion about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the pesto and sauté for a minute or two.  Stir in broth and water, heat to boiling.  Reduce heat, stir in tortellini and sausage, simmer about 10 minutes.  Top each serving with parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Churro Cookies

My girls love "the sweet" from Rubio's - the half churro that comes with the kid's meal.  For years, I kept this from them and snuck it for myself but now that they know it exists, it's part of the appeal of Rubio's. I pinned this recipe a few weeks back intending to make these for Cinco de Mayo but when that didn't happen, we made it for a Mother's Day supper with my mother in law.  Both big girls wanted to help with the meal so Big made her "famous fruit salad with the secret ingredient" and Middle made these cookies with me.  She's a little obsessed with the pastry brush and was thrilled to use it to apply the melted butter.

The verdict:  regular old fried churros are best but these are pretty delicious.  I probably would pick snickerdoodles over these but my husband and girls were big fans - especially of the cream cheese filling.

I got 2 dozen using the smallest biscuit cutter that I had.  I had quite a bit of dough left over from in between the rounds and later, I thought that I should have twisted the dough (like actual churros) and tried to bake the rest as well.

Churro Cookies (makes 2 dozen)
Recipe from Oh, Bite It!

4 oz cream cheese (softened)
3/4 sugar (divided)
Pillsbury pie crust (2 ct)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T cinnamon
2 T melted butter

Mix together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla extract.  Spread one of the pie crusts on your work surface and spread it with the cream cheese mixture.

Put the other pie crust on top.  Cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter.

Use a fork to crimp the edges.  Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Mix 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon. Brush cooled cookies with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Repeat on the other side of the cookies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DIY Indian Food

I have to admit, I was skeptical of this recipe but I decided to make it anyway.  I didn't think that Indian food that I made at home could taste at all authentic and sometimes my husband isn't a big fan of my crockpot chicken recipes.  BUT . . . this was awesome!  Chicken Tikka Masala is probably my favorite dish to order at an Indian restaurant and I absolutely loved how this turned out.  One of the differences from how it's served in a restaurant is that I shredded the chicken in the sauce but it was super tender and flavorful with a little kick of spice. If you don't want to shred it, cut the chicken breasts into chunks first, reduce the cooking time and skip the shredding step.  We ate it over basmati rice with garlic naan (thank you TJs).  The big girls ate it, the baby loved it and the leftovers were still delicious.  That's a success in my book!

Chicken Tikka Masala (serves 4)

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
14 oz can of tomato sauce
3/4 c. plain yogurt
1 T olive oil
1 T garam masala
1/2 T cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-3 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
bay leaf
1/2 c. half and half
1.5 T cornstarch

 Place the first 12 ingredients (garlic through cayenne) in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Add the chicken breasts and stir to coat.  Pour it all in to the crockpot and add the bay leaf.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Before serving, pull the chicken out and shred it.  Then, whisk together the half and half and cornstarch and gently stir.  Let it cook an additional 15-20 minutes to thicken.  Serve over a bed of basmati rice.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blackberry Crisp

Fruit crisps seem like a fall dessert to me . . . apples, cinnamon, baking . . . but I was looking for an allergy friendly dessert to serve at Easter and landed on this lighter version.  It's great because it's vegan and gluten free with no nuts.  I really liked the topping - it seemed sort of like granola but a little softer and overall, the dish was much lighter without using butter.  Any fruit mixture for the bottom layer will probably work.  There were loads of blackberries when I was shopping and I ended up with extra, hence that blackberry jam I posted last.  If nuts aren't an issue for your group, you could also mix in some chopped up nuts with the crisp topping.

Blackberry Crisp (serves 10-12)

1 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 cups blackberries
4 Asian pears, peeled and diced

Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.  Toss the fruit together and spread evenly in the pan.  Combine the oats, coconut, brown sugar, brown rice flour, and spices together.  Add the coconut oil and stir until worked in and crumbly.  Sprinkle topping over fruit.  Bake 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam

I haven't made much jam in my life but the recipes I've seen floating around using chia seeds as a thickener have really interested me.  After buying double the amount of blackberries I actually needed for dessert and fruit salad on Easter, I decided to try a batch.  It was good - I didn't make mine particularly sweet and you can adjust that easily according to your taste.  This jam is a great addition to plain greek yogurt - swirl it together and add a little granola!  We also ate it on toast and in PB&J sandwiches.

You could make this with frozen blackberries as well, but if you do you might not need the water.  After the fact, I also thought that  if you're using fresh, you could macerate the berries with a little sugar first (or just add the water and blackberries like the recipe below).

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam
makes about 1.5 cups of jam

12 oz blackberries
2 T water
2-3 T agave nectar (or maple syrup or sugar)
2 T chia seeds
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the blackberries and water to a low boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until the berries soften, about 5 minutes.  Lightly mash the blackberries with a potato masher or fork (I like to leave some berries in chunks for texture).

Stir in your sweetener (agave, maple syrup or sugar - quantity will depend on how sweet you like it and how sweet your berries are).  Stir in the chia seeds and cook the jam on low until it thickens, about 5-7 minutes.  Make sure you stir it during this part so it doesn't stick to the pot.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Let it cool to room temperature and put in a glass jar or other air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.