Sunday, September 16, 2018

Pineapple Cole Slaw

This summer my husband made lots of delicious ribs and it was a great way to feed a crowd when we had friends over.  I usually just make a big salad and have some fruit to go with it but one day I was inspired to make a new coleslaw as a side dish.  I like non-mayonaise based coleslaws and this one has a little creaminess from the greek yogurt but fits my criteria of "no mayo!"  The sugar is optional - if your pineapple is super sweet, you probably won't need it or miss it.  If you like a little kick, add the diced jalapeño.

Pineapple Coleslaw (makes 6 cups)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (nonfat is ok)
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T rice wine vinegar
3 T pineapple juice (from canned pineapple or fresh)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups pineapple bits (diced fresh or from a can, drained)
5 cups shredded green cabbage
salt and pepper to taste
jalapeno, diced (optional)
1 T raw sugar (optional)

Whisk together yogurt, vinegars, pineapple juice, lime juice, salt and pepper, jalapeño and sugar (if using) until well-blended.  Toss with the onions, pineapple, and cabbage.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Mix in the cilantro before serving.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cooking Class: Part II

When the girls wanted to make lasagna as part of the cooking class, I decided we would learn two things:  how to make a marinara sauce (instead of using a jar) and how to layer a lasagna.  That way, they could use those two skills to make different kinds of pasta and to make variations on a traditional lasagna.  We made two pans at once so there was lots of hands on layering for everybody.  Here's a link to the lasagna on this blog which we used as a base recipe, just with a homemade sauce:  Lasagna

The second lesson in "sauce" was the homemade salsa.  I'll do a pico de gallo or black bean salsa sometimes, but a smooth basic salsa is something I basically never do.  Living in an urban area with Trader Joe's and Sprouts within a mile of me, I have lots of great salsa on hand all the time.  It was good to make a batch and realize how easy and satisfying it is to make your own.  We sliced corn tortillas with a pizza slicer and baked them to make our own chips too!  My husband split the batch of salsa in half and since we didn't have a jalapeño, he sautéed some red pepper flakes in olive oil until crispy and added that mixture to his half to make a spicy salsa.  Yum!

Both of these recipes were chosen for being "kid-friendly" in terms of the cooking method and the taste.  When you're building sauces around canned tomatoes, I think the quality of the canned tomatoes matters.  I spent a little more and bought a little higher quality than I might for other types of recipes.  Let me know what your kids are cooking!

Basic Marinara Sauce (makes about 3 cups)

1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can tomatoes (I used whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
1 T dried Italian seasoning (can substitute fresh herbs)

In a large pot, saute the onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and saute about one minute more.  Add the tomatoes and crush them with your hands or against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon as you add them.  Add the seasonings and stir.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf.

Easy Blender Salsa (makes about 4 cups)

1 (15oz) can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles (with liquid)
1 (15oz) can petite diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1.5 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

Add all ingredients to a blender (works best if you do it in the order they're listed).  If you have a food processor, that would work as well.

Pulse to combine then blend on medium speed, gradually increasing until high speed until texture is nearly smooth.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Cooking Class

I've attended many cooking classes but I've never taught one myself.  This was very informal and more of a way to entertain 5 girls in a condo for an entire day with one of their favorite activities.  I asked my girls and their two friends to give me a list of things they wanted to make or learn to make and then we had to pare it way down.  The menu they handed me looked like this:

Appetizers:  Salsa and Chips
Main Course:  Lasagna
Side Dishes:  Salad, Chicken kebobs
Dessert:  Coconut Cookies and Vanilla cake with marshmallow mousse, butter cream frosting, and candy

I had some equipment issues (mainly that I have no mixer and one oven) so we adjusted the dessert to coconut bars and chocolate marshmallow fudge,  but I left the rest of the menu the same.

Our 4 main concepts were mis en place (the French phrase for having everything in its place and ready to use before you begin cooking), reading recipes, cleaning as you go, and timing.  I told them the main challenge of cooking a meal as opposed to one dish is timing everything so that it's done at the right time and you don't need to have multiple things in the oven at one time.  Originally, I planned to do the chicken kebobs in the oven since I don't really grill, but they wanted to grill so J took over that part and gave them a little grilling lesson while the lasagna was in the oven.

A couple of my take aways from the day . . .
* Kids really will eat things that they themselves help to make.  It might only be a bite, but they will try new stuff
* Some of the basic ideas that we have known for a long time (which "tool" will work best for the job, how to measure dry vs wet ingredients) are new and need to be explained very simply
* I should trust my kids to do more cooking at home on a regular basis

We made 6 recipes in 8 hours and honestly, all of it turned out delicious.  It was a lot of cleaning all day (the floor, the counters, washing pots), but totally worth it.  They all had a blast and felt really proud of their efforts at the end of it.

Here's one recipe I'd like to share . . . it was a new one to me and turned out so good.  My husband said he's prefer this to brownies.  They are like a coconut blondie and the texture and flavor was just perfect.

I'll post more of our recipes from that day in a future post.

Chewy Coconut Bars (makes a 9x9 pan)
from Cookies and Cups blog

1/2 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1.5 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x9 pan with foil and coat with nonstick baking spray.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat.  Once it's melted, continue cooking until it comes to a boil and starts to brown, stirring constantly so the butter doesn't burn.  Reduce heat slightly and cook until the butter is an amber color.  Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar until completely combined (it won't dissolve).  Using a rubber spatula, stir in the eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Then, stir in the baking powder and flour and stir until fully incorporated.  Last, stir in the coconut.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden.  The edges should pull away from the pan and look crispy and the center will be barely set.  The original recipe said 20 minutes but this took me closer to 35.  After 20 -25 minutes, check it every 5 minutes or so.  Cool completely before slicing into bars.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In addition to jumping off things and exploring marine life in its natural habitat, we've also been eating lots of fresh fish sashimi and poke this summer.  I joke that Little is going to turn into Ahi tuna or get mercury poisoning but the other two don't love the raw fish so much.  When we had friends over, I tried these lettuce wraps.  They reminded me a little of the ones at PF Changs.  They were super easy, healthy, and quick to the table so I have a feeling they'll go into regular rotation around here.  You could sneak some extra veggies into the mix (shredded zucchini?) or add some extra spice (sriracha) because it's a good base recipe.  I used butter lettuce leaves but iceberg or romaine would work or you could make the filling and put it over rice.  If you're GF, check your hoisin and use a GF soy sauce.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (serves 4)
from Every Day with Rachel Ray 2014

1 lb ground chicken
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head lettuce, leaves separated
4 scallions, whites and greens chopped
1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
1 T soy sauce (low sodium)
2 T vegetable oil

In a small bowl, combine hoisin, soy sauce, and 1/3 cup water.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 T of vegetable oil and the chicken and cook until chicken is browned (about 5 minutes).

Reduce heat to medium and add the carrot and remaining 1 T of vegetable oil.  Cook for 2 minutes then add the garlic and the scallion whites and cook an additional minute.  Stir in the hoisin mixture and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, another 1-2 minutes.

To serve, place some of the mixture in a lettuce leaf and top with some of the scallion greens.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Best ever!

I started this post a few months ago and when I logged back in to edit it, I was tempted to delete the photos and move to something more recent but these are too cute . . . I just couldn't!  Mini is off to kindergarten this fall and I'm feeling pretty sad about the baby / toddler / preschool part of family life being over.  These photos were from our last Mommy & Daddy day at preschool before her graduation, a sweet art project her teacher made, and her ballet lessons.  She's ready to move on and very excited to start kindergarten in September, and I know she'll be fine, but I'll miss having a little buddy at home with me a few mornings a week!

Now on to the food . . . trust me when I tell you that this meal was one of the best ever.  I savored each bite and have been thinking about it ever since.  This summer, we've been eating a lot of fish and veggies, and very little Italian food so I've been craving these flavors.  One of the great hacks I have found with the Instant Pot is how fast things like spaghetti squash (and baked potatoes, artichokes, etc) can cook.  This recipe was such a winner that I will be making variations on it.  Forever.  

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bowls (serves 4)

2 medium to large spaghetti squash
extra virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
6 packed cups baby spinach
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
chopped fresh basil (optional)
other pizza toppings (sausage, pepperoni, veggies) - also optional

With a sharp knife, cut off the tip and end of the spaghetti squash.  Stand it on end and slice it through from top to bottom and divide it in half.  Repeat with the other squash.  Scoop out the seeds with a large spoon and discard them. Drizzle the inside of each squash with about a teaspoon olive oil and rub it all over the inside.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until the cut sides are turning golden and the interiors are easily pierced through with a fork.  Take the squash out and leave the oven on.

While the squash is cooking, cook the spinach.  In a large skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the garlic and saute for about a minute.  Add the spinach and stir until it's wilted.  Set aside.

Take the baked squash and fluff up the interior to make the insides spaghetti like.  Divide the spinach and the parmesan cheese among the 4 squash halves and stir them together with the spaghetti-like strands until combined.  Season to taste with salt.  Spread marinara sauce over each half.  At this point, you can top with mozzarella or you can add other "pizza" toppings - cooked sausage, pepperoni, other veggies.  Then, top with mozzarella.

Return squash to 400 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and brown.  Sprinkle with fresh basil, more parmesan, (red pepper flakes) and serve!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

When I bake . . .

Baking is my first cooking love, and it's something I rarely do anymore.  When I bake, I eat what I baked.  And, I don't just try or sample, I keep eating and eating and eating.  So, usually I bake for a special occasion when I'm taking it to someone else's house or entertaining.  A few weeks ago we had a rare weekend with no real plans and I was in a baking mood.  I took a recipe from the Emily Bites blog and made a few changes to use some Meyer lemons we had that were ripe and some blueberries in the refrigerator.  They were delicious!  And, with the exception of 3 of them, I think I ate them all.

They look like muffins but you have to think about them like baked oatmeal because that's really the consistency.  If you use GF oats, they are gluten free.   If you do Weight Watchers, they are 2 points apiece under the new plan.

Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal Singles (makes 12)
adapted from Emily Bites

2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
3/4 c. plain fat free Greek yogurt
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
zest of one large lemon
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven 350.  Lightly spray a muffin tin with cookie spray.

Whisk together the egg white, egg, almond milk, yogurt, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until blended together.  Stir in the blueberries.  Spoon the mixture evenly between 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the oatmeal is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


We are taking advantage of the warm weather by jumping in the pool, climbing trees, riding bikes, and spending as much time outside as possible!

I made this in the crock pot the other night and it went over pretty well with the family.  The kids could pick out what they didn't like and mostly ate the chicken and sausage pieces and white rice separately.  The flavors were good and it was easy to toss in the slow cooker and come home to cooked dinner a couple of hours later.  I suggest serving it over white or brown rice and serving it with some hot sauce on the side.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Creole (6 servings)
from Skinny Taste

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces
9 oz chicken Andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 cup chopped onions
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tsp creole seasoning
dash of cayenne pepper

Place everything in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

3sp/1 cup