Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Favorite Part of Halloween: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I assume we're not the only family carving pumpkins today! With that in mind, wanted to pass along my favorite recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds. These seeds are my favorite part of Halloween.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds, goo removed and rinsed
olive oil*
kosher salt
garlic powder
curry powder
chili powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. After the seeds have been removed from the pumpkin, cleaned and rinsed, place them on a cookie sheet. Try to get them in as much of a single layer as you can, doesn't have to be perfect. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with a bit of salt, garlic powder and curry powder. Shake the sheet a bit so the olive oil, salt and spices are mixed in with the seeds. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until seeds are lightly browned and crisp. You'll want to stir the seeds with a spatula and shake the baking sheet 2-3 times during the cook time, so none of the seeds get too brown.

After the seeds have cooled down, they will keep in an airtight container for a few days (if they last that long).

* You can use any olive oil, but our seeds were especially delicious this year when I used Olave's lemon infused olive oil. (By us, I know Walter Stewart's carries it.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sneak Peek at the Protein Pancake Video!

I'm so excited! I have another video to share with you. I'll get the actual video posted later so it's available for you to watch right here on the blog, but if you want a sneak peek at it, feel free to click this link! I'm off to feed, bathe, and do homework with my children, then head to a Tiny Miracles board meeting, but wanted to quickly share this with all of you who wanted another cooking video pronto. If you liked the enchilada one, you'll love this simple, delicious recipe too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homemade Fall Veggie Soup, also known as....

My little one cannot knock his cold. Housebound the past four days, we'd eaten through the fabulous lasagna, meatballs and lentil soup I had stored in the freezer. But today there were slim pickings so we went to the market. I popped various veggies into the cart, deciding that I'd make a colorful soup. Maybe this comforting soup will make him healthy. You can make soup with any of your favorite veggies, so add or omit to make a soup you and your family will enjoy...

Fall Veggie Soup
(will make a giant pot, enough to share with a friend or freeze)

1 butternut squash (as you see above, I bought this already chopped)
2-3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
4-5 carrots, washed and chopped
1-2 onions, chopped
6 or so pieces of celery, chopped
2 zucchinis, chopped
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 celery root (the gnarly thing up there in the right corner), peeled and chopped
olive oil
kosher salt
2 32 oz containers veggie stock (I used Kitchen Basics brand today)
alphabet shaped pasta (optional)

To get a nice, deep flavor, I put chopped veggies on cookie sheets, drizzled a bit of olive oil over them, sprinkled on a bit of kosher salt and roasted them in a 375 degree oven until just about tender (20 minutes or so). Then I tossed all of the roasted veggies in a big stock pot with both cartons of vegetable stock and let the soup simmer over medium-low heat until the vegetables were tender. 8 minutes before serving, I tossed the alphabet pasta in (my three-year-old's request...making the vegetable soup "exciting").

Here is the recipe in photos...

One baking sheet of "orange" veggies had a single layer of carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash. The other baking sheet of "green veggies" had the onions, celery, zucchini and celery root. (While one sheet turned out green and the other orange, it wasn't about color as much as it was combining veggies that would have about the same cook time.) Drizzled them with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt...

The "orange" sheet of veggies went into the oven first, along with my new favorite frozen pizza (in case my kids didn't last until the soup was ready). Once the pizza came out, the green sheet of veggies went in. (Both sheets of veggies spent a total time of about 20 minutes roasting...)

When both sheets of veggies were just about tender,

all of the vegetables were tossed into a big stock pot.

Two cartons of vegetable stock were added, and I let the soup simmer over medium-low heat while I helped my seven-year-old with his reading homework, went through the mail and checked my email.

Just before serving the soup, I let my little one toss in a half box or so of alphabet pasta, thus upping the excitement level of tonight's dinner.

And there it is, so easy. Rich with the taste of all of those vegetables. I let them name the soup (OK, fine, it was a distraction tactic: they get to toss a name idea out after each bite. And yes, it made the soup go down the little hatches in no time.) The winning name: Orange Pumpkin Alphabet Soup Even Though There's No Pumpkin In It.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two New Crushes: Frozen Pizza and Laughing Pizza!

It will make my friends who heckled me after seeing my (extremely) organized fridge in the first cooking video feel much better knowing that I not only burned 2 dozen pumpkin muffins this morning (trying to be Supermom and provide a homemade 2nd grade snack, while giving my little one his nebulizer, making breakfast and helping to locate library books), but I also turned the coffee maker on...without a cup. Not once, but twice.

I think I should just stay home today. Relaxing--in theory--but this means I am going to have to rely on what we've got on hand for today's meals. Thankfully, our freezer is stocked with one of my new food crushes: AC Larocco's frozen pizzas. (I know you guys love when I share things that pass muster here that you don't have to actually cook!) I picked two pizzas up on a whim during a recent grocery marketing trip to Shoprite in Norwalk. They were over in the natural foods section of Shoprite (which has other fabulous finds like frozen plantains-- gosh I love that market's ethnic stock.) According to the company's website, Shoprite is the only local place carrying the pizzas right now, but I am going to ask Alex over at Walter Stewart's if they've got space for them too. These pizzas have a very thin crust (don't be deterred by the sprouted grain thing, they are delicious!) and flavorful toppings. My kids loved them. And today, they will save the day!

My second crush of the day is the band Laughing Pizza. Well, the crush isn't exactly mine. It's my 7-year-old son that seems to have a little crush on Emily, the band's energetic (and totally adorable) 14-year-old singer. He would die if I told you that, so let's just keep that between us. In anticipation of the band coming to CT to do a benefit concert for The Tiny Miracles Foundation on November 7, I have let my children takeover my laptop and watch the music videos (over and over and over). This crush is understandable when you watch her rocking out with mom and dad:

It's no wonder that Laughing Pizza is a Parent's Choice award winner. Those of you in NYC can catch the band on Oct 19, 23 or 30th. And friends in CT should definitely come to the show on November 7. For more information on upcoming concerts you can click here.

Hope to see you at the show!

Monday, October 18, 2010

From freezer to oven: Homemade Lasagna

Last week, I tempted many of you with a photo from a past dinner I'd made. I do promise to share that recipe, but that's not what I ended up making and photographing step-by-step on Thursday. Instead, I whipped up two of my homemade lasagnas, which are equally delicious (even if not quite as decadent). I am a huge fan of cooking once and enjoying the fruits of my labor many nights. This answers the burning question many of you had after watching the enchilada video, of whether I cook meals like that every night?

Really, who has time to cook each and every night? I certainly don't, but I do want to give my family wholesome, amazing meals each night so I cook like this. When I had my personal chef business, cooking once and freezing was the model on which this wildly successful business was based. I'd go into a family's kitchen, cook 5 entrees and stock their freezer with these homemade meals that they would then enjoy on the busiest of days. This know-how has particularly come in handy on Mondays, which is always my busiest day of the week.

Homemade (Turkey, Beef, Vegetarian, You-Name-It) Lasagna
The recipe I am sharing today is a turkey lasagna I made with what I happened to have on hand last Thursday, but once you get the consistency/layering order down, you can alter the recipe with whatever your favorite fillings may be...
Makes two 6-serving (or more smaller) lasagnas which freeze perfectly

1 or 2 onions, chopped
1 lb ground turkey
pinch of Herbs de Provence (always on hand)
1 lb cherry tomatoes
2 lbs fresh spinach
3 or 4 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 lb tub cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
2 jars tomato sauce of your choice
1 tube sun-dried tomato paste (which I always have in my pantry)
mozzarella, sliced
Parmesan, shredded
oven-ready lasagna sheets

Saute the onion, ground turkey, herbs and tomatoes. Add spinach and cover so the spinach wilts. Once meat is cooked through, set this mixture aside. Now it's simply assembly with the other ingredients. (I always make my lasagnas in a freezer and oven-proof baking dish so I have the option to freeze it.) First, pour a bit of sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Alternate layers of pasta, meat, veggies and cheese ending with a layer of sauce and cheese on top. At this point, you can either bake the lasagna at 350 for 1 hour, or pop an airtight lid on the dish and freeze it uncooked. When ready to bake the frozen lasagna, simply place the uncooked lasagna in the oven while preheating it to 350, then bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until warmed through.

Here are the step-by-step photos of the lasagna I made last week:

I sauteed the onions, turkey, herbs and tomatoes (top photo), then when the turkey was cooked through, I added the spinach and covered the pan so it wilted. (I had to do this in 3 batches since fresh spinach is so bulky.)

While I can't always be so organized, with something like lasagna, having your ingredients ready to go will make assembly quick and easy: lasagna sheets, zucchini is sliced, mozzarella is sliced, sauce, cottage cheese (since we prefer that to ricotta), tomato sauce and tomato paste are all ready to go...layering is a great way for kids to help make this meal.

Sauce goes down first, so nothing sticks. Then the first layer of pasta. Don't worry if the pasta doesn't reach the edges of the pan. With the next pasta layer just stagger it so the corners that didn't have pasta last time, so this next time...

Then I put a layer of cottage cheese over the pasta sheets, and let my son squirt sun-dried tomato paste on top of that...

...followed by a layer of zucchini...

...a few spoonfuls of sauce...

and another layer of pasta. In terms of what goes on what layer, you just want to make sure the dry pasta is buffered by a sauce or liquid. This is how it cooks.

Then, a nice hearty layer of the turkey, herb, tomato, onion, spinach mixture...

and one last layer of pasta.

Then more sauce, some shredded mozzarella (clearly put on my my 3-year-old) and

a few handfuls of shredded Parmesan. Done! How easy was that? Now you can enjoy one tonight, and pop the other into the freezer. The one you're cooking tonight will bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. The one you're freezing (uncooked) will need to bake for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 350. I do not thaw the lasagna before baking, simply pop the frozen dish in when I am preheating the oven and then set the timer once the oven temp gets up to 350. So easy, and so delicious. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A run on enchilada sauce in Fairfield County...

"The enchiladas were amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We were literally licking the dish! Thanks! Will definitely make it again! Awesome!"

"I made this tonight for dinner. It's absolutely fabulous! Thank you!"

"...I just watched... we are a GF [gluten free] family so the corn tortillas make this a dish I will make all winter for our weekends. We drive every weekend to Killington and constantly have dinner parties. Keep the links coming. This is fantastic!"

"Wow, congratulations!!!! You look great and make it all seem so easy!"

Rumor has it that there's been a run on enchilada sauce in Fairfield County this week. Is it true that our local market is out of sauce?!!! If you haven't had a chance to see my chicken enchilada video, click here and see what all the excitement is about. Yes, you too, can whip this crowd-pleasing meal up so easily!

Now that you are back in the kitchen, a few of you have asked for a second dish, similar in prep. I don't have another fabulous video for the meal I plan to make after the kids get home from school (pictured above) but I will take step-by-step photos and share them with you this evening...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Take Two: Let's try that again...

Little snafu posting the earlier video. Some of you told me you couldn't access it. Sorry about that! Clearly, I am much better at cooking than this technological stuff. For those who had trouble viewing it, simply click here for a direct link to my first cooking video. And, once I catch another little bit of downtime this week, I will try to get the video to fit a little better within the square screen below too. (It must just be destined for a very big, wide screen-- ha.)

Can't wait to hear what you think!

I'm a movie star...well, sort of. Here's to my first cooking video!

I know most of you moms out there are probably spinning at this point in your children's day off of school. So, feel free to pour yourself a glass of something delicious and settle in for a few minutes of entertainment! While I don't love seeing myself on film, I have to admit that this little project I am working on with Chad over at DBG has me excited. Here's the first video we shot. I'd love to hear what you think...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eating Together - The New York Times Food Issue

The New York Times' magazine is themed Eating Together this week. To say I am excited would be an understatement. If it's not waiting in your driveway this brisk morning, run out and buy a copy so we can read it together. Here is a peek at the first article.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another one of my go-to recipes: Jam Filled Scones

My dear friend, Leslie, tried to teach me this mantra about saying "no". Clearly it went in one ear and out the other, because when my son's art teacher asked if any parent would like to bring snack for today's special after school class I jumped at the chance. And that is why I found myself baking scones this morning, while making breakfast, packing a lunch, cleaning up for the cleaning ladies and cursing the broken washing machine. But then the kitchen was filled with this amazing aroma, and my kids were recollecting how much they love these scones, and it was definitely all worth it. So, about these scones... I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe. This is another one of my go-to recipes. Originally learned from Giada, this is my version that is plenty for a classroom, with a few extra for fellow teachers:

Homemade Jam-Filled Scones with Lemon Glaze
(Makes 28 scones)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
12 Tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks, cut into 1/2" pieces)
2 cups heavy cream
lemon zest (optional)
Jam (I tend to use strawberry or raspberry)
For the glaze:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
vanilla (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375. In a Cuisinart, pulse the flour, sugar and baking powder until combined. Add the chilled butter and pulse until it's the consistency of coarse meal. Add the cream and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to counter, divide in half and roll the first half of the dough to 1/4" thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into desired shape and place scones on parchment lined baking sheet. Make a small indentation in the center of each scone with your thumb or a spoon, and fill with a dollop of jam. Roll the remaining dough, cut into same shape and place a second scone on top of each one. Gently press down the top scone down on the bottom one. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes, then top with glaze.

To make the glaze: simply whisk the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. You want it thin enough to drizzle with a spoon, but not too watery. Add more powdered sugar, if necessary. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes.

Here is the recipe in photos...

I've already combined the dry ingredients (in the photo up top), now I should have pulsed it to make a coarse meal with the butter...

but I hadn't had my coffee yet, and so I let my little one pour the cream in next and I grated some fresh lemon zest in there, and then I tried to pulse. The Cuisinart wasn't happy, grinding with all its' might to make the dough.

I didn't want to make the machine smoke, so I turned the dough out onto the counter

and rolled it to 1/4" thick. My three-year-old pointed out that there were big polka-dots of butter in the dough. Can't worry about that at this point!

Here are the bottom layers of the scones.

Add a dollop of jam (this morning we went with raspberry).

A second 1/2" scone was placed on top of each one, and I gently pressed down so the jam would stay inside. Then into the oven for 20 minutes. Now they're cooling while I put my older son on the bus and try not to freak out that the clean playroom is covered in Legos again.

Next a quick glaze. Simply: lemon juice, powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla whisked together.

Not too thick, not too thin. A large spoon works well for drizzling.

Drizzling the glaze on while the scones are still on the rimmed baking sheet, and on parchment makes clean-up simple.

Then transfer the scones to a wire rack so they can cool completely and the glaze can harden before transporting them to school.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Whipping up Pea Dip while waiting for the repairman...

The washing machine repairman was supposed to come between 8am and noon. I'll let you guess when he came. One upside of feeling like a caged animal on the first non-rainy day in what seems like too many, is that I crossed a few things off my to-do list, including making an appetizer for book club tonight. (Holy run on sentence!!)

Most of my mom friend reading this are thinking (with a smile), "ah right 'book club'". Oh, how I love my book clubs (yes, plural)-- a child-free night, a glass or two of something delicious, some smart conversation, and always some lovely nibbles that we pass off as dinner since no one cares if there's a meat and two veggies when we're at book club.

Anyway, the point of this post is not what I whipped up, but in general having a few go-to recipes up your sleeve. If you have some go to's then making an appetizer, or dinner, on the fly is totally doable.

Based upon what I had on hand this morning, I made my (super easy and always crowd-pleasing) pea dip with frozen peas, parmesan, pine nuts and some fresh mint. Pair the bright green dip with pita chips and I'm ready to go. My other go-to appetizer? Those of you who have been reading a while know that it's filling little phyllo shells with something special be it pestos or Feta and figs, to name just two of the many options. I love trying new recipes out, but it's comforting to have a handful of tried and true ones that I can make with my eyes closed.

p.s. As an added bonus for getting the dip made early in the day, my kids enjoyed a fabulous after school snack.