Category:About Food’

Spring vegetable quinoa pilaf

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Spring-veggie-quinoa-pilaf

The other day we hit our local farmers market to load up on all the amazing goodness that’s been growing. Spring has sprung and we’re seeing our first green veggies of the season. From asparagus to green beans, I had a hard time holding back while loading my bags. This recipe makes a great light lunch or a dinner side with grilled chicken or pork chops. And using quinoa instead of rice creates a really hearty and healthy pilaf that’s seriously delicious.

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

1/3 cup raw slivered almonds

1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 cups rough-chopped spring vegetables

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

1 clove garlic, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Directions

Select your favorite spring veggies for creating the pilaf. I had farm fresh asparagus, green beans, and zucchini, which pair perfectly together for this pilaf. If you’ve never cooked with quinoa before, have no fear — it’s easier than you think.

spring veg

Place the water in a small sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. Liberally salt the water and then add the quinoa. Let it simmer uncovered while you prep the rest of the pilaf.
making quinoa

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and place the almonds on a sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give the nuts a bit of a stir to evenly coat and then pop in the oven. They’ll be nice and toasty in no time, so set the timer for 5-minutes, which ensures you won’t forget about them.

toasting almonds

Make the dressing for the pilaf by adding the chopped garlic to a sauté pan along with the butter. Once the garlic is sizzling, and slightly browned, turn off the heat and whisk in the mustard and lemon juice.

sauce

 

Take out the almonds, they’re done!

toasted almonds

Now rough chop your spring veggies and steam until cooked al dente.

chopped veg

By this time the quinoa is ready, so give a quick fluff and turn off the heat.

cooked quinoa

Toss everything together and gently stir to incorporate the dressing. Season to taste and the dig in!

quinoa-pilaf

Not a fan of asparagus, green beans, or zucchini? What about fresh spring fava beans, artichokes, or baby spinach? For an extra kick of flavor, top with chopped scallion and a sprinkling of torn basil leaves. I couldn’t resist drizzling our finished pilaf with a bit more lemon and freshly cracked black pepper.

Yum.

Cooking with kids: Super easy homemade tuna cakes

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Tuna-cakes

My daughter really loves cooking. She’s been mixing things together since she was itty-bitty, and now that she’s older, it’s time to get her in the kitchen for some real cooking. Well, actually, our craft table has recently been taken over with lots of cooking activities, with some pretty awesome results. I’m always trying to find ways to introduce brain-boosting foods to my tot, making tuna an ingredient high on my list of yummy stuff. But sometimes my daughter isn’t so excited about fish. This recipe for tuna cakes is so easy and the results are delicious. And even if your little one isn’t a big fan, you just might be surprised to see her noshing on these after having a hand at making them.

Ingredients

1 can of tuna, drained

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 egg

Salt and pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

When cooking with kids, prep by getting all the ingredients ready before starting. For younger ones, pre-mesure the ingredients, chop and shred, and have in small containers along with mixing spoons and bowls at the ready. Older kids can help prep and even assist chop and shred with some adult supervision. After washing our hands, and getting all the ingredients ready, I asked my tot about what she saw in front of her.

tuna cakes01

It as simple as dumping everything into a bowl and mixing together. For some kids this can take three seconds, or for others, like my daughter, this can turn into a 30 minute cooking segment. We used our favorite brand of tuna for these cakes and whole wheat breadcrumbs. When cooking together we have a rule that there’s no taste-testing when an egg is involved.

tuna cakes1

We added a few dashes of salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and the garlic. Then it was time to stir, stir, stir. The tuna cake batter will still be a bit moist, but, have no fear, these cakes are wonderfully delicious without being full of fillers.

tuna cakes2

Preheat your oven to 400˚ F and lightly coat a sheet pan with vegetable oil. Now your child can scoop spoonfuls of the mixture and press together to create round patties, and then carefully place on the pan. You’ll have enough to make around six tuna cakes.

tuna cakes3
tuna cakes4

Once your oven is nice and hot, toss those cakes in and bake for seven minutes and then gently flip. After baking for an additional three to five minutes those tuna cakes are ready to eat. I served our cakes with a side of special dipping sauce (equal parts plain Greek-style yogurt and ketchup) and a slice of lemon, which my daughter really enjoyed sucking on after each bite (as you can see from the picture below).

homemade tuna cakes

And you can add other ingredients to these tasty cakes, such as finely chopped green onion, swap pepper jack for the cheddar, or add a handful of corn — whatever your child likes.

Enjoy! We sure did!

Summer Sandwiches: Healthy Italian Melty

 - by Sarah Lipoff

healthy grilled cheese

I saw this silly video the other day of a cute dog and his owner doing yoga together —  and he’s speaking in Italian.

Yes. It is adorable.

It totally motivated me to do some yoga, and maybe learn Italian, too. I decided to make a healthy lunch date that hits the spot, doesn’t add on the pounds, and is a bit Italian. Filled with fiber-rich spinach, ripe tomato, roasted red pepper, peppery pesto, and fresh mozzarella, this sandwich tricks you into thinking you are eating something seriously indulgent when you’re actually noshing really good and healthy eats. And it only takes a few minutes to toast up.

Ingredients

Half a whole-wheat pita (65 calories)

1 teaspoon pesto (27 calories)

1/2 cup fresh spinach (3 calories)

2 slices tomato (6 calories)

1/4 a roasted red pepper (4 calories)

1/4 cup fresh mozzarella (140 calories)

Drizzle vegetable oil (10 calories)

(255 calories! I’m not a dietitian, just estimating calorie count based on these numbers)

Directions

Carefully cut around the outside edge of the halved pita and then coat both sides with the pesto. You can leave a bit of the pita connected, which makes flipping easier while toasting, or cut the fuss and remove the top.

Now layer on the ingredients, starting with the spinach, topping with the cheese, and then the tomato and red pepper. Keeping the cheese close to the edges helps melt the sandwich together. Make it even more Italian with the addition of a few fresh basil leaves or a sliced marinated artichoke. Fold the pita together and gently press.

healthypitasandwich

Drizzle a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of your pan and then add the stuffed pita. Heat over medium heat for three to four minutes per side and then serve the delicious and healthy Italian melty.

healthy sandwich

You’ll probably need a fork.

healthygrilledcheese

Yum.

Crock pot lasagna

 - by Sarah Lipoff

While hanging out on Pinterest the other day, I got a bit of inspiration. Everyone seems to be using their crock pots to make these amazing things – even lasagna.

Yeah, lasagna.

So I had to try it. I love lasagna and make it often. I like to mix up the ingredients to keep it fun, like using cubed and roasted chicken with a cream sauce or ground turkey with thin strips of butternut squash. I figured for my crock pot lasagna experiment I’d keep things pretty basic – you know, the good stuff. Italian sausage, a big jar of sauce, and lots and lots of cheese.

This is really easy, and you can’t mess it up.

Really.

All you need is a box of no-need-to-boil lasagna noodles, a large jar of your favorite pasta sauce, about 1/2 lbs of italian sausage browned, and 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Go ahead and gather whatever else you like in your lasagna. I always toss in some fresh spinach – and I happened to have some of my fresh homemade ricotta in the fridge.

Now get your crock pot cranking on high heat and coat the bottom with a good layer of sauce. I added about 1/4 cup of water to the crock pot, too. This way the bottom of your lasagna won’t get burnt. Cover that sauce with a few of your lasagna noodles. You can break them up to fit in the crock pot.

Sprinkle on a bit of the sausage, and any other ingredients you like, such as chopped mushrooms, olives, spinach, along with a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella. Pour on a bit more sauce and then repeat. Yup, that’s right. Repeat and then repeat, and repeat again. Leave about 1/2 cup of that shredded mozzarella for later.

It’s that simple.

I kept layering until my sauce and sausage were gone and then called it quits. I gave the top a final coating of sauce, along with 1/2 cup of water, and then put the lid on the crock pot and left it to do its thing for about 4 hours.

About a half hour before eating, I dotted the top of the lasagna with 1/2 cup of my fresh ricotta and that leftover 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. I put the lid on tight and within minutes, my crock pot lasagna was ready to serve.

And it was good.

 

 

 

Easy grilled pizza

 - by Sarah Lipoff

grilled pizza

Summer entertaining shouldn’t be about spending hours in the kitchen tossing together elaborate meals when guests come over to play. Nope. Dinner should be effortless, preferably served on paper plates, and cooked on the grill creating hardly any cleanup. When kids are involved, finding a dish that keeps both adults and tots happy can be challenging, but not with this seriously easy dish.

Grilled pizza.

Sure, you can cornmeal your crust and slide your tasty pie directly on the grill, but I erased the worry that yours won’t with my cheap pizza-grilling secret – pizza pie tins from the grocery store, making this my no-fail way to make summer entertaining fun and easy. And you know how much I love pizza (herehere, and here…).

Make things even easier by using a store purchased pizza crust and you are good to go. This is so fun for the kiddies as well as the adults. Each child can create their own pie, and the adults can create gourmet pizzas to kick things up a notch.

So crank the grill and get cooking!

Directions

Heat your grill to medium high heat. You want things to be hot, but not too hot. I’ve got a gas grill, but you can also make your pizza over coals.

Lightly grease one of the aluminum pie pans. I picked up a set of three for about $2 at the grocery store and can usually gets two uses from each before it starts falling apart.

Press the pizza dough into a round on the greased pan into an even crust. You can make your own pizza dough or use store bought, either works just fine. You want the dough nice and thin, otherwise it won’t grill evenly.

Top your pie with whatever you like and then pop directly on the grill – aluminum pan and all!

Cover and let sizzle for 10 to 15-minutes, or until you see the edges just starting to brown and the top to bubble.

Serve with a big salad and you’ve got dinner!

Dying to toss that dough directly onto the grill? Try this suggestion from my friend.

Happy grilling!

Garlic anchovy pasta with kale and cherry tomatoes

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Some nights we feed the tot and then I make second dinner for us. We cozy up after she’s snoozing for a light dinner and maybe a glass of wine (or two) and chat about our days. And who doesn’t love a bowl of noodles? It’s wonderfully comforting and seriously quick and easy.

Garlic anchovy pasta.

Don’t be afraid, the anchovy adds a really rich and salty flavor, and isn’t fishy at all. Browning the garlic in butter creates a beautiful flavor that pairs well with the kale and cherry tomatoes. Or add some browned Italian sausage, slivers of fresh prosciutto, fresh spinach, black olives…. You get the idea. And this pasta dish for two is ready to eat in less than 15-minutes.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

3 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste

1 teaspoon flour

1/4 cup hot pasta water

1/2 cup chopped kale

1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes

8 ounces cooked spaghetti

Dash of pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Let simmer away while making the quick sauce

Place the butter in a small sauté pan and warm over medium heat. Chop the garlic and add to the butter. Keep an eye on that garlic while you devein the kale and give it a chop.

Once the garlic starts to brown, add the anchovy paste and flour, giving the ingredients a stir. Once the flour has incorporated, add the hot pasta water and the kale. Let the sauce simmer until the kale has cooked through, which takes just a few minutes. Add more pasta water as needed

Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with pepper, and dinner is served.

 

Healthy baked chicken tenders

 - by Sarah Lipoff

There’s nothing like a go-to chicken dinner recipe and this is totally my favorite.  Along with being delicious, this chicken recipe takes hardly any time to make — and is also healthy.

Cut the fuss and muss, along with an oil-spattered kitchen, by baking these chicken tenders in a hot oven. Easily tossed together in less than 30-minutes of cooking time, these tenders are perfect for a family friendly weeknight dinner. I serve with a crisp, green salad for the adults, along with some tasty yogurt Alfredo noodles for the tot (and, yeah, for us adults too). And just a quick tip — using a really good plain yogurt (Mountain High)  ensures you get seriously tender crispy chicken along with great tangy flavor. Go with a Greek-style or thick plain yogurt for best results.

Ingredients

1 lb chicken tenders

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon mustard

Dash salt and pepper

1/2 cup corn starch

1 cup Panko crumbs (or plain bread crumbs)

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or vegetable or coconut…)

What you do

Toss the chicken tenders in a plastic bag along with the yogurt and mustard. Give things a dash of salt and pepper and toss in the fridge for at least 20-minutes or up to an hour. If you like things spicy, add a few drops of your favorite hot sauce.

Mix together the corn starch and panko crumbs in another big zip-top baggie. Sprinkle in the Italian seasoning and you are ready to shake. Corn starch has less calories than white flower and crisps up wonderfully. You could also use whole-wheat  or almond flour instead.

Preheat your oven to 425˚F and drizzle the oil around a sheet pan. Take the happily marinated chicken from the fridge, toss a few at a time in the corn starch/flour and panko mixture, and then place on the sheet pan. Keep going until all are coated and ready to go.

Once coated, place on the sheet pan. Try not to cluster, which causes the tenders to steam and kind of turn out like mush. For extra crispiness, place the oil-coated sheet pan in the oven for a couple of minutes before adding the tenders. They’ll hit the pan with a sizzle, which is awesome.

Pop the chicken tenders in the oven and toast for 7 to 10-minutes and then flip. If your pan seems a bit dry, drizzle a bit more oil to help your chicken crisp. Cook for another 7 to 10-minutes, or until the other side is nicely browned.

This recipe makes enough to serve a happy family of four. 

*And I just made them again (1/20/14) and these tenders are still so good. A couple tips — use a non-stick baking pan, go ahead and crank the oven to 450˚F for a really crispy crust, and trust your oven! Don’t fuss and muss. Let them bake for seven to 10-minutes before flipping to ensure the crust doesn’t fall off and the coating is super crispy.

*Oh, and I wasn’t compensated by Mountain High in any way. I just absolutely love their product.

 

 

 

Salted chocolate peanut toffee

 - by Sarah Lipoff

toffee
Years and years ago I decided I would make something tasty as holiday gifts for the teachers I worked with. I knew everyone loved chocolate and wanted to experiment with something different. When I came across a recipe for chocolate peanut toffee in Gourmet, I was smitten. The combination of salty nuts, crunchy toffee, and melted chocolate sounded divine. And the recipe boasted making a big batch, meaning I’d have enough for treating my fellow teachers and still have some leftover to send with the husband for holiday giving at his work.

And the ingredients needed for making this delicious toffee cost around $5 — especially if you hit up the dollar store.

Over time I’ve adjusted the recipe and found the perfect combination that makes one of the best crunchy chocolaty and nutty toffee around. I look forward to making it every year (and know people look forward to receiving it too). This is a recipe that will make your friends and family thankful for this toffee treat. I definitely splurge for organic ingredients, which does add a few dollars to the final deliciousness, but it’s totally worth it.

(Adapted from Gourmet)

Ingredients

3 cups butter (salted or not – but I actually like using salted for this yummy treat)

2 cups sugar

4 cups low salt (or no salt) peanuts plus 1 cup chopped

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Dash cinnamon

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Sea salt

Directions

Place the butter and sugar in a large stockpot over medium heat and wait for the butter to melt.  You want the butter and sugar to turn a rich honey brown and register around 300 ˚F on the candy thermometer (which you need!) before the next step, which can take around 15 minutes of babysitting. Candy making takes patience — and just the right temperature. Even though I’ve been busting this toffee out for the last five years, last year I attempted one batch without a thermometer, and it was a sad disaster.

While you’re waiting for the butter and sugar to boil, line a 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Once it starts simmering, whisk the mixture to incorporate the butter and sugar.

Chop one cup of nuts for topping your toffee and measure the chocolate chips so everything is ready when the toffee is. I’ve found using a low-salt peanut creates a seriously sweet and savory toffee, instead of one that’s bombarded with over-salted nuts. I pick mine up at Trader Joe’s.

Once your toffee hits 300 F, turn off the heat, remove the candy thermometer and add the three cups of nuts. Give the mixture a stir and then add the vanilla and dash of cinnamon.

Spread the peanut toffee in the parchment covered sheet pan creating a nice and even layer of goodness. Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for a few minutes until the chocolate melts.

Use a knife to spread the chocolate over the toffee and then sprinkle with the chopped nuts and a light dusting of sea salt.

Pop in the fridge for an hour and then use a large serrated knife to cut the brick of toffee into pieces. Place in decorative bags and you’re ready for holiday gift giving.

 

Happy holidays!

Celebrate Thanksgivikkah with a gingerbread menorah

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop Gingerbread Menorah

Well, if you haven’t heard, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have melded together into Thanksgivikkah. And there’s no better way to celebrate than with a gingerbread menorah. I discovered this wonderful melding of deliciousness through Sweet Thrills Bakeshop, a collaboration of two Bay Area moms who believe the kitchen is the heart of the home and that sweet treats make everyone smile.

These smart ladies are packaging chocolate gingerbread menorah kits that are perfect for families to build and decorate together. The unique idea sparked from spinning the dreidel with a traditional gingerbread house in the background. The result? A sweet twist on celebrating Hanukkah — and a great way to create special memories with your kids.

I was so excited to get my hands on a box and make one with my tot. Yes, probably even more than she was. Included in the kit was everything needed to assemble the menorah, including a wonderfully detailed set of directions, helpful tips, and educational information about Hannukkah, making this kit fitting for any family.

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop

My daughter jumped right in and loved assembling the menorah. In fact, she was pretty much able to follow the drawn directions on her own (while I snuck a few candies that were included in the kit). What’s great about the kit is that along with being creative, your child is learning about construction and design.

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop gingerbread

As it states in the directions, it’s important to let the the frosting set between steps, but we found ways to entertain ourselves while waiting. We enjoyed reading the included information about Hanukkah, counted the candy candles, and, of course, had to sample the frosting.

My daughter really took her time working on her special menorah and we have it proudly displayed on our mantel. She loves telling us how she made it all by herself.

sweet thrills bakeshop menorah

Which she really did.

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop has two different sized unassembled menorahs as well as a mini pre-assembled menorah available this season. Order now to ensure your kit arrives on time. We’re looking forward to enjoying our menorah during our Thanksgivikkah celebration!

And, did I mention? They’re delicious.

*Just so you know, I am actually friends with one of the co-owners of Sweet Thrills Bakeshop and volunteered to do this review simply because I think this chocolate gingerbread menorah kit is seriously awesome. And delicious. And a fantastic idea.

Homemade Yogurt

 - by Sarah Lipoff

easyhomemadeyogurt

I love yogurt. My daughter loves yogurt. I put yogurt in just about everything (see here, here, and here), so when we were at the bottom of the container the other day, and I was not feeling motivated to head to the store, I figured it was time to try making my own. I’ve seen the simple crock pot yogurt idea all over Pinterest, but also didn’t feel motivated to dig out the beastly thing from under the cabinet.

Making your own yogurt is so easy. In fact after you do it the first time you’re going to wonder why you haven’t been making it years. And you only need two ingredients.

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup yogurt

Directions

Here’s the deal. Making yogurt is basically heating up and cooling down milk and cultures to create the tangy goodness. You want things to be just right, otherwise you’ll have unhappy bacteria — which isn’t tasty for anyone. Start by heating the milk slowly in a large pot until it’s 180˚ F. We’re not talking a rolling boil, so give the milk a whisk every few minutes while it’s heating. Once your thermometer registers temp, turn off the heat.

homemadeyogurt

No let the milk cool down to 110˚ F and then stir in the yogurt. Any kind of plain yogurt works wonderfully, and you can continue using your homemade yogurt for making many, many fresh batches.

making yogurt

Once the yogurt is incorporated carefully pour into a large container with a sealable lid. A big glass jar works wonderfully, just make sure to get it nice and sanitary before pouring the yogurt mix by filling with boiling water and then carefully pouring it out (it’s hot!). Cover the yogurt with a dish towel and let hang out in a warm spot for eight to nine hours.

homemade yogurt

Seriously, waiting is the hardest part.

I found a warm corner in my kitchen and had a difficult time being patient. I couldn’t believe the yogurt would come together just sitting there in a warm jar, but it did. And, wow. Was it good. I gave it a taste before popping in the fridge for several hours to really set up.

The next morning the tot and I just about gobbled the entire container of homemade yogurt. Thick, creamy, and just a bit tangy, mix in a spoonful of jam, drizzle over some honey, or eat plain.

plainhomemadeyogurt

Yum.