Category Archives: Cooking

My latest in MindBodyGreen :)

hawaii

I’m thrilled to share my recent article published in MindBodyGreen.

This stems from our Easter trip to Honolulu when I was able to visit an organic farm that also provides college scholarships and training to Hawaiian youth. I was conducting research for my next novel (Not a book about the Hawaiian region, which the MBG editor incorrectly inserted into this article, lol! But another novel (fiction) that happens to have a huge chunk of the story occurring in the Western Hawaiian mountains and on a co-op farm.) The boys and I spent a day on the farm that is backed by Michele Obama and Jack Johnson for its efforts to help impoverished youth garner education and to boast the health and wellbeing of all Hawaiians.

Here’s a link to my article that is the beginning of MBG’s summer series about travel with a purpose. Click the link below. Mahalo. L xo

Transformative Travel: How A Trip To Hawaii Changed One Family’s Entire Food Philosophy

 

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Gorgeous, Delicious and Vegan (Really!)

Spinach Mushroom Burgers

Spinach Mushroom Burger on Mixed Greens with Avocado, Sunflower, Pumpkin Seeds and Green Beans

At the Living Yoga Retreat last week, I had the wonderful experience of eating delicious and healthy meals prepared by Megan Curry. Megan is a vegan chef, who owns and operates Curry Girls Kitchen with her mother, Peggy, in Southern California. (Peggy is also quite famous for creating Growing Great, a nonprofit that brings gardens and nutritional education into elementary schools. My son’s school benefited and has amazing gardens! Growing Great is also promoted yearly by none other than Jack Johnson, one of my favs!)

With that said, I was very excited to learn that Megan would be cooking our every meal (and yummy snacks!) during our five day retreat. Megan turned her own health crisis around through an organic, vegan diet and she’s learned how to make her meals, not just healthy, but also incredible! I was a bit skeptical at first, but am now a believer. I encourage you—especially if you have allergies, migraines, immune disorders or stomach issues—to visit her site for menu plans and recipes. Once the kitchen is stocked, which does take a little bit of effort, each dish can be prepared fairly easily. While Megan cooked many yummy meals for us, I’ve chosen to share her spinach, mushroom burgers, as they are a great way to incorporate immune boosting mushrooms and scallions with iron-packed spinach and high fiber. Enjoy!

Spinach Mushroom Patties: serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

1 bunch of spinach washed, chopped

1-2 garlic cloves minced

2 green onions finely chopped

1/2 C finely chopped shitake mushrooms

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 C leftover cooked brown, white basmati, wild rice, or quinoa

1/4 C sunflower & pumpkin seeds, toasted & ground

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper to taste

Coconut or Olive oil

Directions:

1. Saute mushrooms, minced garlic and scallions in 2 tsp. olive or coconut oil.NVmushsaute

2. Add spinach and cover until wilted.
NVspinach

3. Drain and press off excess liquid. Set aside to cool.

4. In medium bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and then add spinach mixture. Mix thoroughly.

NVvegangrainmix

wild rice and quinoa mix to add to spinach, mushroom, onions

5. In the same pan, heat 2 TBLS ghee until hot. Form spinach mixture into patties and saute until browned on both sides, approx. 5 minutes per side.
NVveganburgscooking

Once browned, they will appear like this:

NVveganburgers

Put on top of organic mixed greens with avocado, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and fresh green beans and even your children will dig in! I like to drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. YUM!!

For more incredible recipes and ideas, please visit Megan’s blog: http://currygirlskitchen-blog.tumblr.com/.

Quick, Easy Grilled Veggies and Sausages

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a dinner recipe. Summer got me off track and now I’m in warp speed with school activities and soccer practices. It’s hard to get motivated to cook a meal that requires sautéing or the use of multiple pots and dishes when your after-meal activities involve baths, homework and bedtime book reading—all within an hours time. After my boys go to bed, I’m desperate for 30 minutes to myself—not an hour of clean-up in the kitchen.

Last night I was faced with the reality of putting together a healthy meal in about 20 minutes. Two nights a week, my oldest has soccer practice and by the time we all return, my three-year-old will instantly start climbing the pantry, trying to grab any snacks he can reach. Yesterday I had planned to bake a chicken and accompany it with grilled veggies, but the evening got away from us and by the time we got back home, I didn’t have the time to bake a whole chicken—but why not the grilled veggies? And, since I had pre-cooked chicken sausages from Trader Joes in the fridge, I realized I could put together a complete meal in one pan, with little clean up. If you’re a fan of Jamie Oliver, (the naked chef), like I am—this meal is very similar to his side dishes for winter roasts. So who says you can’t make side dishes the main attraction? And, you know what? My boys ate it up! Even the brussel sprouts. There’s something about roasted garlic and onions with a touch of salt that makes everything yummy. I hope you enjoy this last-minute creation as much as we did!

Ingredients:

2 sweet (Maui or Vidalia) onions, cut into wedges

1 pack of 6 pre-cooked sun-dried tomato chicken sausages, cut into 1 inch slices

6 cloves of garlic, sliced.

1 pack of cut brussel sprouts

1 small bag of fingerling Russian potatoes or variety pack of gold and purple potatoes, cut in half

Marcona almonds with rosemary (This is optional, but add them, or other nuts, afterwards before serving for a bit of a crunch)

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Instructions:

– Preheat oven to 410 degrees Ferenheit

– In one grilling pan, add brussel sprouts, onions, garlic, potatoes and sliced sausages

– Coat with olive oil

– Add sea salt and pepper to taste

– With clean hands, toss and coat well

Cook for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are brown

– Cool for 5 minutes

– Add a handfull of marcona almonds for extra crunch

– Serve in bowls and enjoy!

A Vegetarian Meal Your Kid Will Love

Guest Post by: Megan Madeux, author of the blog Shop, Eat, Yoga

I reached out to Megan after a friend lamented to me that her daughter suddenly announced that she would never eat meat again. Well, I remember doing that to my parents when I was a little girl. I was the only one in my family of six who stopped eating meat and my mom refused to be a short-ordered cook … So I often ended up making meals by picking from side dishes such as potatoes or green beans. If your child has stopped eating meat—or if you’re just seeking a delicious way to introduce more vegetables to your kiddos—Megan came up with a great all-in-one meal. Here is a delicious and nutritious Lentil Curry recipe that your picky little ones just might eat!

Lentil Curry by Megan Madeux:

For this recipe feel free to use any version of the ingredients that you have on hand! It can be easily thrown together from your pantry. I have provided my suggested variations in the ingredient list below. It serves about 5 hungry vegetarians and meat eaters alike. There are usually some leftovers that can be gobbled up the next day, hot or cold! Kids love the flavor and they don’t even realize that it is packed with super healthy immune boosting ingredients.

Ingredients:

5-7 green onions

1 Tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon of garlic powder or 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic or 3 garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola Oil

1  8 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (I like Contadina. For chunkier curry you can use diced or whole peeled tomatoes)

1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes (If you use a 28 ounce can of diced or whole tomatoes, use a 14 ounce can of tomato sauce here)

1 package of prepared lentils from the refrigerated section in Trader Joe’s (You can start with the dry lentils as well, about 3 cups. Prepare them according to package directions. They usually need to soak for a few hours or overnight)

1 head of cauliflower or 1 prepared package from Trader Joe’s

Sea Salt

Black Pepper (Black pepper aids digestion!)

2 cups of Jasmine Rice (White, brown or your personal favorite)

For spicier curry:

Add 1 can of Diced Tomatoes for Fire Roasted Tomatoes from Trader Joe’s

Directions:

Heat the oil in a deep pan. Once hot, add the sliced green onions. I like to trim them over the pan using scissors for less clean up. Use the white, light green and dark green parts.

Let the onions simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add the curry powder, garlic and salt and pepper.

Stir and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes until the spices and the onions become integrated.

Add the can of crushed tomatoes, lentils, and the cauliflower. Let simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the rice that you have chosen according to package directions.

Add the can of diced tomatoes. Simmer for 15-20 minutes more until the cauliflower begins to soften and you can break it up into smaller pieces with your spoon.

Eating Fresh in Tuscany

Salad greens fresh from the garden with local wine from Montepulciano.

When you think of Italian food, your mind likely drifts to pizza, spaghetti, cold cuts such as Proscuitto and Parma ham or cheeses like Pecorino or Mozzarella. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But I’m finding that the abundant fresh fruit and vegetables are just as much a part of the Tuscan daily life. Eating vegetables just picked from a garden is a luxury for Americans—but the norm for Tuscans.

A neighbor’s summer garden.

Massive round zucchinis grow in many backyards.

In every yard of field, you’ll find gorgeous, plentiful gardens.

Apricots dangle temptingly down a local wall.

And many of the fruit and nut trees, bushes and plants I photographed during a recent morning walk through our Tuscan village were found along the roadside or in ditches or over walls. It’s remarkable the sheer amount of fresh fruit and nuts that I found on a one hour stroll!

Fig trees like this grow along the roadside with plentiful fruit almost ready to be picked.

It seems that walnuts, almonds, apricots, figs, plums and artichokes (carciofis, my favorite!) grow like weeds in this area of the world.

Yummy plums along a dirt road.

A walnut dropped on the road from a plentiful, old tree.

Artichokes!

Gorgeous pears.

Mysterious blue berries in a ditch near an abandoned field. They weren’t our blue berries, as we tasted them! Perhaps ripening black currants?

Pomegranates?

As we looped back around from town and through the surrounding fields, we then, of course, came across the staples of Tuscany: grapes from vineyards with champagne grapes, semolina wheat fields and olives.

Olives, almost ready for harvesting.

Semolina wheat field recently harvested.

Sinalunga champagne grapes

The local Tuscan olive oil company.

A Mom’s Legacy: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Photo by: Barb Hale

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

From the Kitchen of MaryAnn Roe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2  tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups cut rhubarb
  • 1 pie crust mix
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Courtesy of: PublicPhoto.org

Directions:

Combine sugar, tapioca, salt, nutmeg, orange juice and rhubarb. Place in 9 inch pie pan, lined with pastry. Top with strawberries/rhubarb mix and dot with butter. Cover with remaining pastry (pie crust).

Photo courtesy of Coconut Recipes

“I prefer rolling pastry, cutting stripes and making a lattice top.  If you cover fruit completely with pastry, make air vents,” wrote my mother on her recipe card. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

This is my absolute favorite summer dessert that my mom used to make. There’s something wonderful about the sour mixed with the sweetness. ENJOY!!!

A Mom’s Legacy: Squash Casserole

Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away. It’s a bittersweet time of year for me as my mother is riddled with Alzheimer’s Disease and living in a facility more than 2,500 miles away. I miss her terribly. And, I haven’t seen her in over a year. It requires buying a ticket, hiring a nanny for the boys and renting a car. Even if I do  manage all of that, I know that she won’t remember our visit and may not remember me as well. I know I’m being selfish, but I just want to talk with her about so many things. I don’t speak (or write) about my mother very much, so it’s always amazing when someone reaches out in a touching way. Out of the blue, a month ago, my former mother-in-law sent me my mother’s summer squash casserole recipe. She taped the original card, in my mom’s hand-writing, onto a page of paper with the note: “Remember this? Our trip to Ennis? This is SO Speical! SO good!”

It was beyond thoughtful of Barbara to think of me. I haven’t seen my mother’s handwriting in years. Holding the card I felt tears spring to my eyes. We had taken a trip to Montana together in 2002 with her husband, Bill, and all of his children. My mother, who began showing the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s during this trip, made this dish one evening, then gave the recipe to Barbara. My mom now can’t write, nor can she cook. Sending me this recipe reminded me of the wonderful vacation we had together. It reminded me of how precious our time was then, and how I couldn’t have imagined how precarious life would soon be for both my mother and my father-in-law, who died three years later. It was such a wonderful holiday in the wide open spaces of Montana. My mother laughed as we all sat around the table in our cabin and she talked about her grandparents and her father, who grew up in Montana. We took hikes together, drinking in the vistas of the mountains with September snow on the tops and the enormous Sandhill Cranes dotting the fields nearby. She helped me with my son, who was then one. I’ve placed this recipe in my homemade binder that will someday be a cookbook for my kids. It’s filled with hand-written recipes that represent lots of love and good times. In today’s digital world, I find it amazingly special to have a book filled with hand-written recipes and notes. I may be nostalgic, I admit. And, it’s highly likely that not both of my boys will appreciate it—but putting it together helps me think about the good times together, rather than the times we can no longer have. It’s also a way to leave a legacy or traditions behind. So this year, I’ll present one snapshot of a mom’s legacy each day until Mother’s Day.

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe. (But aren’t the best things in life usually simple?) It’s even better with home-grown, summer squash from the garden!

Summer Squash Casserole
From the Kitchen of Mary Ann Roe

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 10 young green zucchini and yellow squash
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 cup chopped chedar cheese
  • Bag of seasoned breadcrumbs

Directions:

Slice squash into 1/4 inch pieces. Dice the onion. Saute onion in a small amount of light cooking oil or olive oil until soft. Add yellow squash and saute until soft, then add zucchini and saute briefly. Turn heat off and add half the cheese and toss with the hot squash. Place in a baking dish or a 9 x 12″ pan and top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Bake in pre-heated oven of 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

Must-Haves For Your Pantry

Single parents always watch their budgets—so I know it’s a hard sell to convince us to stock up our pantry with expensive items. But believe me, it will make life SO much easier if you do. With certain go-to items always on your shelves, you can whip up a last-minute pasta, chicken or fish dish that is healthy and flavorful for your kiddos. And from an expense perspective, stocking up the pantry with these items each month will save you money in the long run. Ordering pizza or grabbing fast food two or three times a week isn’t as cheap as you think. If you haven’t read this New York Times article, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” I highly recommend it!

Even if you don’t go out to eat much during the week, serving your children processed foods like chicken nuggets and hotdogs or frozen or canned meals— loaded up with sodium—sets them on the path to obesity, or a limited palate at the very least. My time living in Europe inspired me to try to always serve one meal and eat with my children—helping them to develop healthier, broader tastes—and letting us enjoy more quality time together. Trust me, kids will eat what you do, eventually. I saw my son when he was three (now 10) eating chicken curry pie with beats and parsnips at his nursery school in London. It’s eye-opening, but for another blog post.

So, as I was saying, I know it’s exhausting after a long day at work to come home and cook and then have clean-up later. But I promise you if you can aim to do it five nights a week, it will improve your health, your waistline and your children’s health dramatically. Here are my monthly must-have pantry items. They have been lifesavers on many evenings as I’ve been able to throw together tasty pasta or add more flavor to veggies, sides or invent a quick pork or chicken dish. If you have a Trader Joe’s or a CostCo near you, you can really save money stocking up on these. And if you have any to add to my list, please chime in! I’d love to know your favorite staples.

Laura’s Must-Haves In the Pantry:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Capers
  • Whole Grain Mustard
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Olives (I’m in love with spanish green with whole garlic cloves in the center at the moment, but also have canned black, green and mixed on hand.)
  • Canned White Tuna Fish in Water. (Only eat once a week, at the most, due to methyl mercury. Read this article I wrote about the top pollutants for our children.)
  • Crushed Ginger Paste
  • Dried Oregano
  • Pitted Prunes
  • Dried Apricots
  • Lazy Chopped Garlic
  • Mango Chutney
  • Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • Jar of marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • Pine nuts
  • Marcona almonds
  • Can of large white beans
  • Chopped walnuts
  • All fruit spreads: raspberry, blueberry, apricot
  • Soy sauce
  • Figs
  • Good Large can of cream Tomato Vodka Sauce
  • Cans of Chopped Tomatoes.

Chicken Marbella: Elegant & Fast

Chicken Marbella is a wonderfully easy dish to prepare with very little clean-up. (And isn’t that what all us single parents need?)I love how elegant it is and it’s great to serve when you have friends coming over as adults love it and kids do too! If you have picky eaters, this dish will introduce them to Mediterranean flavors and we all know that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest for longevity. Read this article by the Mayo Clinic if you want further proof! While this dish does require some pricey ingredients, if you stock your pantry with them once a month, you’ll be able to cook a variety of dishes at the drop of a hat. I started cooking Marbella more than 10 years ago from a recipe that I found in the Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. I’ve tweaked it so much over the years that it’s my own version now. Cook a lot more than you need, as it’s actually better the next day with extra marinade time, is good cold at picnics and also freezes well. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do!

Servings: Serves 10 or more
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives with whole olives in the middle
  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic , peeled and finely puréed (or two tablespoons lazy chopped garlic.)
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 chicken breasts cut into small 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces.
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Red wine works fine too!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh cilantro , finely chopped
  • Optional item: small pearl onions.
  • Handfull of brown sugar (also optional. I’ve cooked without and it’s still delightful.)
Directions
Combine the olive oil, vinegars, prunes, apricots, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the wine around them. Bake, basting occasionally with the pan juices. Cook for 45 minutes, but check after 30.With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

Serve over couscous and with a mixed green salad.

Wild Salmon with Gyoza, in 15 Minutes

Trader Joe’s to the Rescue!

This week has been INSANE!! Trying to cook healthy meals for my little ones has been an incredible juggling act between all of my kid’s activities, my oldest son’s tests and homework projects and my just-turned 3-year-olds hunger and temper tantrums. Let me back up. I think many cook books, magazines, food shows, etc. forget to cater to the reality of today’s frazzled single mom—who on some nights, has literally only minutes to get a meal on the table. On nights with extra-curriculars, I have a finite amount of time to feed my kiddos, sometimes only 15 minutes. Any excess chopping needs, can throw me off due to the crazed demands of my toddler who behaves like a terrorist at dinner time. My three-year-old must eat by 6/6:30 or he will nosh his way through my cooking time and then not eat the healthy, nutritious meal I worked so hard to prepare. He literally climbs the shelves in my pantry (that won’t lock!), grabbing crackers, chips or breakfast bars, and has temper tantrums when I say no—delaying my meal prep even more. So when I’m rushing home from soccer practice at 6:15 this past Tuesday, I started to panic. The coach went over and I didn’t get home with my two little guys until 6:30. I was desperate to have them eat a healthy meal and not succumb to the ease of pizza delivery or a fast food drive through —especially after my youngest’s bday party on Monday! So with that in mind, I quickly put baby carrots and apple slices around some hummus for the boys to snack on, popped in a Fireman Sam DVD, and raced to put together a meal in 15 minutes. I have to say, it was an amazing success! Both boys ate all of it, and my oldest even said he’d like it again. I’m thrilled that I found another quick, yummy meal that gives my boys: Omegas, calcium and protein from the salmon as well as vitamins K, C, A & Bs from the snap peas. And the confetti rice, with ginger, baby corn and lemon grass, is scrumptious.

Ingredients from Trader Joe’s:

Gyoza sauce, wild salmon sockeye fillets I bought on Sunday for $8.99 a pound, frozen confetti rice, a bag of snap peas and ginger dressing.

Prep: 4 minutes Bake: 10 – 15 minutes

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F

2. Place 2 – 3 salmon fillets in a glass baking dish and pour TJ’s Gyozo sauce on top and place in oven. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets.

3. Steam TJ’s snap peas 5 – 7 minutes, then transfer to small bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of TJ’s ginger sauce if desired.

4. Place one bag of TJ’s frozen confetti rice in microwave. Take frozen rice out of bag and into microwave safe bowl. Follow microwave cooking directions. (I microwaved mine for 3 minutes, then fluffed it with a fork, and microwaved again for 2 more minutes. )

5. Serve and Enjoy!