Monday, December 31, 2012

Green Beans and Celery with Parmesan, Walnuts and Homemade Croutons

Happy New Year!

Please forgive me as I forgive myself for failing to keep on top of this blog.  As soon as September hit, I found myself spending any free time I had on preschool selections for my twins in San Francisco.   My applications have been sent and fingers are crossed we get some good news come March.

Tonight is New Year's Eve and while many of you may be heading out to celebrate, we have decided to stay in, light a fire and enjoy some good food along with some celebratory wine.  This recipe was crafted after finding some beautiful looking green beans and celery at the farmers market.  Besides fennel and pomegranates this was all that looked good this time of year.    I tried one of Heidi Swanson's dressings tweaked a bit from her famous website.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup Chalone or Moscato / sweet white wine

1 lb green beans chopped into 1/4 inch pieces parboiled in a pot of salted water for 1 minute.  Drain and immerse immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
3 stalks of celery sliced razor thin (use a mandolin if you have one)

3/4 cup toasted walnut halves
4 slices rustic bread torn into bite sized pieces tossed with 2 tablespoons olive oil and baked in a 350 degree oven for 10 - 15 minutes tossing 1/2 way through.

Parmesan cheese shavings


yolk of one hard-boiled egg
3 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream (I ended up using goat kefir as it was all I had on hand)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Place the raisins in a bowl with the wine and soak for at least 2 hours or overnight.  If you don't have any sweet wine on hand you can omit and soak the raisins in hot water at least 45min prior to plump them up.

For the dressing, mash the egg yolk with the cream fraiche and slowly add the olive oil beating continuously.  It should be glossy and smooth.  Whisk in the vinegar then the salt. Taste and adjust if needed.

Just before serving, drain the raisins and toss with the celery and green beans.  Pour on 1/2 of the dressing and toss with half of the toasted walnuts.  Taste and add more dressing if you want.   Add most of the croutons and a few shavings of parmesan cheese and toss again.  Top with the remaining walnuts, croutons and a few more shavings of parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 - 6

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

5 Minute Tomato Sauce

All right, perhaps it's 10, but who's counting when it can be that quick.  It all started with me not planning adequate time for dinner since the current heat wave has us staying out past 5pm every night.  Not to mention I am touring preschools with a vengeance right now.  Who knew the process would be so time consuming and competitive considering I need to find two spots together at the same school.

I knew I had some leftovers on hand, but also one too many overripe tomatoes sitting on the counter begging to be used.  This sauce did well over some fresh tortellini tonight, but could be used in so many other ways.

This recipe comes from my good friend Julie who recreated it from memory from one of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco.  You can check her website here for other delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes.

Here's what you will need:

1 - 2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (don't be shy here)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2lbs fresh tomatoes (give or take a few ounces won't matter much) cut into quarters
Zest from one small lemon

Peel and smash garlic with the back of your knife.  Saute garlic with olive oil, salt and crushed red peppers for 1 - 2 minutes on medium high heat.  Don't burn the garlic, I tend to tip the pan on it's side allowing the garlic to immerse and flavor the oil.  Add chopped tomatoes and simmer 5-7minutes over medium heat until broken down and oil and tomatoes have emulsified.  I use my wooden spoon to brake the tomatoes down quickly.  Add lemon zest to finish, then pass through a food mill to produce a smooth consistency only a toddler would request.  The last task is optional, otherwise remove garlic prior to serving.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beet Pancakes

When my little ones started eating solid foods, they were fairly easy going on trying anything once.  Austin has continued with this, while Olivia only eats certain things.  No pasta, cheese, meat or anything resembling a mixture of foods.  She likes things plain and separated on her plate.  Peas, carrots, rice, all must be in their separate bowls or she won't touch it.  Thankfully she hasn't lost her appetite for carotenes.  Sweet potatoes, carrots and beets are always an easy sell so I have found many different ways to serve them.  When I came upon this recipe from I knew I had a winning breakfast meal.

Beets belong to the same family as chard and spinach.  Full of folic acid, fiber, manganese and potassium, they cleanse the liver and have been found to be a protective role against colon cancer (Murray, p. 165).  If you haven't ever been a fan of beets, try this recipe as you may be surprised at how good they can taste.

Here is what you will need:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 medium beets, roasted & pureed (about 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus a little for the pan)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift the first 5 ingredients into a medium size bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients into a small bowl until well combined.  Pour wet into dry and stir until incorporated.  Don't over mix or your pancakes will turn out flat (a few lumps are good).   Drop by the spoonful (2 tablespoons) into prepared pan and cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side until browned.   Enjoy with maple syrup, fruit or applebutter as a low sugar choice.  

Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York. Atria. 2005.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pagan Lentils with Beets, Avocado and Quinoa

Many children have started school this week.  Mine are still at home which has been such a treat.  We are in the process of moving them into toddler beds telling me they are no longer babies.   Where does the time go?  Each day I take pause to appreciate them for who they are in this exact moment as I will never get it back.  I already find myself fondly viewing baby photos wondering where did the time go?  The days may be long, but the years are flying quick.  Most days we head to a park, museum or our local zoo to discover the world around us.  I think the train room at the Discovery Museum is Austin's favorite as he is a big train and car aficionado just like his dad and grandpa.   Olivia prefers the big parks like Mission Dolores where she can climb, explore and slide down the huge slide.

Today's recipe is inspired by the annual pagan festival taking place out in the desert right now.  Every year I reminisce with a hopeful thought I may make it back one day.  For now, I'm happy to be clean and cooking a meal I would have brought out there to share.

Here is what you will need:
4 small beets
1 avocado
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups cooked black lentils
Parsley for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.  Scrub and dry beets.  Drizzle with olive oil in a bowl and wrap into two separate aluminum foil packages.  Roast until tender, about 45min to an hour (I use a fork to test when juices run easily they are done).  Let cool just enough to handle, allowing the skins to peel off easily with your fingers.  Cut them into 1/4 inch wedges and place into large salad bowl.

Rinse quinoa under cold water.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil and add quinoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Reduce heat and let simmer until quinoa is fluffy but still has a bit of bite.  Drain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking.  Drain and add to beets.

Add the lentils and avocado to the bowl and toss gently.

Make the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle over salad right before serving, and serve at room temperature within 2 hours.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Tomato Soup

Not too long ago, before I had four mouths to feed, I would spend hours scouring websites, reading cookbooks and shopping farmers markets for the best and most elaborate menus.  I do hope those days are in my near future again, but for now the food is simple with local seasonal ingredients and kid approved.

Today is a typical San Francisco summer day, cold, foggy with a slight breeze in the air.  I had a ton of tomatoes on hand, some from my own plants and others from my favorite farm, Tomatero near Watsonville, California.

Austin has yet to try and like a raw tomato, but loves any tomato based sauce.  By combining a few ingredients I knew I had a balanced meal filled with vitamins and minerals.  I used some of my homemade chicken bone broth from the freezer.  I make big batches of it about once every 4 - 5 months.  Mineral rich bone broths are used to cure almost everything.  Low in calories, but high in protein, each 1/2 cup serving contains 23 calories, 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat.

Here is what you will need:

1 small onion sliced
1 large carrot sliced into coins
3 lbs tomatoes chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch baking soda
1 1/2 cups milk (optional)
Salt and freshly milled pepper

Heat the butter or oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onion, carrot, and cook, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking and burning.  Once the onions are opaque stir in the flour and let cook for 1 - 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, baking soda, broth and fresh basil.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot, add milk, reheat, and season with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

I know, you must be thinking how is eggplant Parmesan healthy?  Well this isn't your usual fried and breaded eggplant smothered in cheese.   It's main ingredient is dry farm tomatoes with a sprinkling of Parmesan and Gruyere with a touch of extra virgin olive oil.  We all need fat in our diet to survive.  Extra virgin olive oil is one of our best sources for Omega 9, an essential fatty acid.  It promotes healthy, youthful skin and hair; supports proper thyroid and boosters immunity.  Now this isn't the kind of food I eat and cook up every night for my family, but after 3 days of potty training we all needed a little comforting.  Here's what you will need:

4 oblong Asian or Italian eggplants (about 6 ounces each)
2-3lbs tomatoes chopped
extra virgin olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and freshly milled pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Slice eggplants into 1/2inch coins.  Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet.  Add several slices of eggplant and cook over medium-high heat until golden on each side (about 2-3min per side).  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Add more oil, heat it, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.  Wipe out the pan.

Heat 3 tablespoons of fresh oil in the skillet, add the tomatoes, and cook over medium-high heat until they have broken down into a chunky sauce, 10-15min.

In each of the four individual gratin dishes, or one shallow dish, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan and spoon 1/4 - 1/2 cup of the sauce.  Next, sprinkle with Gruyere and any leftover parmesan and oregano.

Place the gratins on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10minutes; lower the heat to 375F and bake for another 20 or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.  Serve Warm

I made a side dish of Sauteed Chard which went nicely with this.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Potty Training

A few weeks ago I decided to set a date for Olivia's potty training.  She is 2 1/4 and based on her communications skills, knowing right from wrong and her ability to use the potty on her own, I determined we were ready to go.  I got most of my advice from a friend in New York who also has twins and just went through the process.   Prior to our start I ensured we had lots of new underwear, potty time books and ipad videos.  I also made sure to have some animal crackers on hand to use as a reward as she doesn't know what an M&M is yet.  I also bought her her first tea set and lego's creative cakes set, but those were more for me.  Fortunately the weather was absolutely dreary making it a natural choice to stay home all weekend.  I was rather hoping the sun would come out giving us some naked time, but it didn't happen until the afternoon on day 3.

Go time started on a friday morning allowing my husband to help me over the weekend with day 2 and 3.  We made a huge deal about saying goodbye to our diapers and a big hello to our new underwear (Disney's Princesses).  Right off the bat she used the potty with no coaching.  I knew this would be easy right?  Wrong... Instead of placing her on the potty every 5-10min as my friend suggested, I just asked her every 10 minutes if she had to go.  She said no, until she had an accident.  Moving forward I took her to the potty and sat her down every 10minutes.  I offered her watered down juice which she never gets so it was fairly easy for her to produce something every time we tried.   After 4 hours of trying to go potty every 10minutes she was pretty fed up with me.  After nap and many praises of what a great job she is doing, I decided to spread out our trips to the potty every 30minutes.  By the end of the day with a bath and early bedtime we hadn't had any more accidents.

Day 2 didn't start off as well as day 1.  I assumed she was feeling confident and with Mike around, I laxed a bit rather than giving her my undivided attention.  I still set my iphone timer to go off every 30minutes, but she had an accident.  I realized to make this work I had to focus all my energy on her so I could gage her urges.   Or another option was to leave her on the potty while she watched an Elmo video and ate a snack (see above).  By Day 3 Mike and I were ready to throw in the towel and put her back in diapers due to pure exhaustion with all the attention on her.  Luckily, the day cruised by and the sun came out allowing us all a little time in the garden and a chance for me to cook us up some homemade eggplant parmesan.   Recipe to follow.

As exhausting as this has been and I'm sure we still have some more accidents in our future, I'm thrilled to not be putting a diaper on her anymore.   Austin, your up next, but let's wait a few weeks shall we?