In Praised of Roasted Broccoli

roasted broccoli
roasted broccoli

My kids were never that into broccoli—that is, until I made roasted broccoli. I wouldn’t say they beg me to make it on a regular basis, but they will actually eat a delicious serving of tender, roasted broccoli. I try to buy broccoli at our local farmer’s market, because it really does taste better than your average bunch of grocery store broccoli. After reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, I started getting into the habit of roasting a big bunch of broccoli during the weekend. Roasting broccoli is the easiest thing ever: chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces (kids can help with this), line a sheet pan with parchment paper, toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper (and any other seasonings of your choice), and roast in a 425˚F oven for about 25 minutes. Broccoli can go from perfectly roasted to burnt in a matter of minutes, so I tend to keep an eye on it: opening the oven and stirring the broccoli ever few minutes. Once the broccoli has cooled, it will keep in the fridge for about a week. It’s super convenient to quickly heat it up as a side dish or toss it into salads or soups. The best thing about buying broccoli and immediately roasting it is that you tend to eat it before it languishes in the back of crisper drawer and becomes sad, forgotten, stinky, half rotten broccoli (we’ve all been there).

Lily chopping broccoli
Lily chopping broccoli

A Kale Salad that Kids Will Eat

I actually love kale salads. They are crunchy and filling and will last for several days in the fridge. I’ve even cracked the code and found a way to get kids to eat kale salad: make it just a little sweet with either the dressing or toppings to counteract kale’s slight bitterness.

Here’s a super delicious kale salad I made last week.

kale salad
kale salad

Versatile Kale Salad with Grains

Salad

1 cup dry grains (such as quinoa, couscous, farro, barley, wild rice etc.)
about 8 oz. of Lacinato (also called Dinosaur or Tuscan) kale
1/2 cup nuts, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup dried fruit, chopped
optional additional veggies (cooked or raw), such as: green beans, sugar snap peas, cucumber, radishes, sweet peppers etc.
fresh herbs if you have them, minced

Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook grains and drain off any extra water.

Wash your kale and dry it well. Pull the thick stalks off of the leaves (I find this is easiest to do with my hands). Set the stalks aside. Stack the leaves and cut across them to make kale ribbons. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the grains (it’s okay if the grains are still warm).

Chop the kale stalks into small pieces. Sauté them in olive oil until they are tender. If you want to add cooked veggies to your salad, you can cook them along with the kale stalks. Salt the cooked veggies to taste and toss them in with your salad. Add the dressing and remaining ingredients and toss to mix.

Variety and Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots

I just love our new Monday morning routine in which the kids pack their own lunches. This week, I asked Lily to pack me a snack and she made me a beautifully organized container or cherries and carrots, complete with an encouraging “You’re Awesome” Post-it note. I love that kid.

Lily making her lunch and a snack for mom
Lily making her lunch and a snack for mom

Lunches for the rest of the week were full of variety. For Tuesday’s lunch I made little salami pizza’s on honey whole wheat English muffins.

lunch on 16 May 2017: English muffin pizza with salami, carrots, grape tomatoes and kiwi
lunch on 16 May 2017: English muffin pizza with salami, carrots, grape tomatoes and kiwi

Wednesday’s lunch contained lots of fruit along with cheese, pretzels and leftover pork tenderloin. I love how fast pork tenderloin cooks. I marinated two pork tenderloins in teriyaki sauce (Soy Vay®) and roasted them in a 500˚F oven for 20 minutes (be sure to line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you’ll be left with a sticky, burnt mess when cooking at this high temperature). They were perfectly tender and juicy. With rice and some quick sautéed mushrooms and sugar snaps, it was a perfect dinner with plenty leftover for both grownup and kid lunches.

lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots
lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots

On Thursday, the kids requested a “sandwich tasting” for lunch. These little King’s Hawaiian rolls have 1) Nutella, 2) butter and strawberry jam, and 3) crunchy peanut butter and marshmallow Fluff.

lunch on 18 May 2017: mini sweet sandwiches, pistachios, carrots, cherries and mango
lunch on 18 May 2017: mini sweet sandwiches, pistachios, carrots, cherries and mango

The last lunch of the week has some oranges that I picked last night in the dark (ripe, luckily), kiwi, carrots and a mini sandwich with mortadella, pork and cheddar. What a yummy end to the week.

lunch on 19 May 2017: pork and cheese mini sandwich, oranges, kiwi and carrots
lunch on 19 May 2017: pork and cheese mini sandwich, oranges, kiwi and carrots

A Week of Mini Muffins

chocolate beet apple banana oat mini muffins
chocolate beet apple banana oat mini muffins
chocolate beet apple banana oat mini muffins

The theme of school lunches this week was: mini muffins. I made mini beet muffins on our Monday holiday and once the kids gobbled them up, I had to make another batch of mini muffins. They were quite dubious when they saw me grating a beet to add to the muffins, but they ended up loving these loaded with goodness…

Chocolate Beet Apple Banana Oat Mini Muffins
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. ground flax mixed with 4 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup grated apple (about 1 small apple)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cupunsweetened almond milk
  • 1 heaping cup (packed) grated beet
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚ degrees F. Spray mini muffin pans with cooking oil or use cute little cupcake liners.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the flax and water and let it thicken while you mash the banana and grate the apple and beet. Add the grated/mashed fruit and veg to the flax egg and whisk in the maple syrup, olive oil, and almond milk.

Add the dry ingredients (brown sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, oats, almond meal, cocoa powder, and flour) to the bowl and stir until everything is combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

When filling the muffin pans with batter, fill them all the way up to the top. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Muffins can be stored at room temperature for a few days (if they last that long).

Yield: about 40 mini muffins

Muffins, Muffins and More Muffins

And here is a round up of those muffin-filled lunches:

Mind Blowing Kale Salad

mind blowing kale salad

Do you ever feel like you’re in a salad rut? You want to eat more salad, but you can’t motivate yourself to do all that washing and chopping. Today, I decided it was time to make some sort of new and exciting salad to go with dinner. I was super excited when I saw this gorgeous salad on Smitten Kitchen’s Instagram. I used Deb’s recipe as an inspiration for this completely different kale salad, because I had no green beans on hand and I don’t like onions.

mind blowing kale salad
mind blowing kale salad

Here’s how I made it:

Mind Blowing Kale Salad

a big bunch of kale
handful of chopped cabbage
handful of shredded carrots
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup raisins
bulb of fennel
1 or 2 stalks of celery
handful of sugar snap peas
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. sugar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Make the Pickles

Thinly slice the celery and fennel (this goes quickly if you have a mandolin). Wash and trim the sugar snap peas. In a glass jar, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Add the sliced celery, fennel and sugar snap peas to the brine. Let it sit in the fridge for a least an hour—or better, yet, all day.

quick pickled celery, fennel and sugar snaps
quick pickled celery, fennel and sugar snaps
The Salad

Begin by roasting the almonds on the stove top. I used a dry cast iron pan and it only took a few minutes to cook the almonds until lightly brown and fragrant. Let these guys cool.

Remove any thick stems from the kale and slice it into thin strips. In a large bowl, toss the kale with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Roughly chop the cabbage. I used white cabbage, but purple would be really pretty. Add the cabbage, shredded carrots, and raisins to the kale. Roughly chop the almonds and throw these in the salad.

Now, get some of those pickled veggies out of the jar with a fork and add them to the mix (you might not use them all; it depends how much you like that tart pickle taste). Spoon out some of that pickling juice and add it a little at a time to the salad. Mix everything up, season generously with salt and pepper, and taste it before adding more of the brine.

Dig into this crunchy sweet sour bowl of deliciousness.

Sweet Bread for Day of the Dead

pan de muerto with a sweet orange glaze

As requested by the kids, our Halloween/All Saints’/All Souls’ Day celebration continues with this lunch of pan de muerto marmalade ghost sandwiches.

lunch on 2 Nov 2016: pan de muerto with orange marmalade, Babybel Gouda, sweet pepper, baby carrots, and kiwi
lunch on 2 Nov 2016: pan de muerto with orange marmalade, Babybel Gouda, sweet pepper, baby carrots, and kiwi

Yesterday, I made a made two gorgeous loaves of pan de muerto for Dia de los Muertos. The kids go crazy for this soft, golden bread. It’s basically brioche with a sweet orange glaze. I’ve tried various recipes, but I really like this one from King Arthur flour. I used the pizza setting on my bread machine to mix the dough and it worked like a charm: no kneading, no fuss, no mess. I also didn’t bother with the King Arthur egg wash and topping. Instead, I made a quick glaze with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice (let it boil for only two minutes or you might end up with hard candy) which I spread on the warm bread and sprinkled with sugar. Crazy yummy and a beautiful offering for the dear departed—especially the bread loving dear departed.

pan de muerto with a sweet orange glaze
pan de muerto with a sweet orange glaze

A Muted Palette of Fruit and a Bright Black Bean Salad

lunch on 27 Sept 2016: raspberries, grapes, baby carrots, peanut butter and Nutella roll-ups, and veggie sticks
lunch on 27 Sept 2016: raspberries, grapes, baby carrots, peanut butter and Nutella roll-ups, and veggie sticks
lunch on 27 Sept 2016: raspberries, grapes, baby carrots, peanut butter and Nutella roll-ups, and veggie sticks

Aren’t the colors in this lunch so soft and pretty? I especially love the pale raspberries and the fancy little Riesling grapes that I got at the farmers market. Just like yesterday, the kiddos are suffering through a hot day at school: 107˚ the last I checked!! My plan for dinner on this wretched hot day is a nice black bean salad:

black bean salad
black bean salad

I piled all sorts of goodies into this big salad bowl: black beans that I cooked in the Crock-Pot yesterday, corn, peas, sweet red lipstick peppers, scallions, rice, and cilantro. The salad is dressed in a little olive oil and fresh lime juice with lots of lime zest. For spices, I used cumin, smoked paprika, chile powder, and a healthy sprinkling of salt + pepper. Yummers!

A Friday Snacky Lunch

lunch on 9 Sept 2016: crackers, hard-boiled egg, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, strawberries, and a little chocolate
lunch on 9 Sept 2016: crackers, hard-boiled egg, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, strawberries, and a little chocolate
lunch on 9 Sept 2016: crackers, hard-boiled egg, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, strawberries, and a little chocolate

Today the kids get their favorite kind of lunch: snacky finger food. There are lots of yummy little bites in this lunch: a hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper (technically a hard-steamed egg since America’s Test Kitchen has taught me that steaming is preferable to boiling eggs), crackers, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, and strawberries.

How to Make the Perfect “Boiled” Egg

Choose a pot based on the number of eggs you want to cook: the eggs should fit comfortably in one layer on the bottom of the pan or in a steamer basket. Put about an inch of water in the pan and heat it until it’s nicely bubbling. Carefully lower your eggs into the hot water (if you have lots of eggs to cook, it’s easier to put them in a steamer basket and lower them all at once). Put a lid on the pot and lower the heat so that it continues to simmer. Cook for 6-1/2 minutes for the perfect soft-boiled egg. And when I say perfect, I mean perfect: the whites will be set and the yolk will be gloriously runny in the center. Cook for 13–14 minutes for the perfect hard-boiled egg. Experiment with the time until you find your version of the perfect hard-boiled egg. I like mine with the yellows just a little soft and darker in the very center. Run the eggs under cold water for about 30 seconds, peel and enjoy your perfectly “boiled” egg.

Thanks to those geniuses at ATK for doing all the work to discover the perfect way to boil eggs.

What’s in My Crock-Pot?

Crock-Pot loaded with marinara sauce goodness
Crock-Pot loaded with marinara sauce goodness

Today I’ve got a big batch of marinara sauce simmering away in the Crock-Pot. I love making large quantities of marinara sauce—it’s a great way to use up random cans of tomatoes, wilting herbs and veggies that have been lost for a while in the crisper. Here’s the non-recipe recipe:

Crock-Pot Marinara Sauce

  • canned tomatoes of any sort: diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, whatever you’ve got
  • veggies: chopped carrots, celery, and onions
  • herbs and spices: lots of garlic, parsley, basil, bay leaves, oregano, red pepper flakes, fresh ground pepper an salt to taste

If you want to make to make a lot of sauce, fill your slow cooker almost to the top with tomatoes. Then toss in your chopped veggies, herbs and spices. Pour in a nice glug of olive oil, because a little fat always makes things taste good. Cook on low all day. Before serving, I pureé everything with an immersion blender because I like a smooth sauce. But make your sauce any way you like it. Add whatever spices and veggies you have on hand (mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, a little spinach, etc.). Chunky, spicy, peppery: marinara made from scratch is all good.

Overnight Oats with Peanut Butter, Chia Seeds and Strawberries

lunch on 30 Aug 2016: peanut butter oats with strawberries, colorful carrots, figs, and mango applesauce
lunch on 30 Aug 2016: peanut butter oats with strawberries, colorful carrots, figs, and mango applesauce
lunch on 30 Aug 2016: peanut butter oats with strawberries, colorful carrots, figs, and mango applesauce

Last night, I whipped up a yummy batch of overnight oats for the kiddos’ lunches today. I just love overnight nights: so fast, easy, and delicious.

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1-1/2 cups almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Put all the above ingredients in a jar and stir it up. Let set in the fridge overnight. Give it another good stir before serving with fresh fruit or jam on top. Yum!

Mom’s Power Brunch

power brunch: spinach, refried beans, fried egg, salsa, cottage cheese and chips
power brunch: spinach, refried beans, fried egg, salsa, cottage cheese and chips
power brunch: spinach, refried beans, fried egg, salsa, cottage cheese and chips

Behold: my favorite power bunch. I realize that it looks a complete mess, but I assure you it’s delicious. I start by cooking some spinach in a little oil and when it starts to melt, I add a few big spoonfuls of refried beans. I mix everything up, make a well in the middle, crack an egg into it, cover the pan and let it cook until the egg white is set but the yolk is nice and runny. Everything gets dumped onto a plate and I pour some black bean and corn salsa over it and shake on some hot sauce. A scoop of cottage cheese and a sprinkle of the chip pieces at the bottom of a Tostitos Scoops bag finishes off this delicious power brunch. I’m good to go for the next seven hours or so.

Orange Julius-inspired Smoothie

Orange Julius-inspired smoothie
Orange Julius-inspired smoothie
Orange Julius-inspired smoothie

How much did I love Orange Julius when I was a kid? It was that special treat you’d get when you went to the mall: frosty, sweet, orangeylicious! Does Orange Julius still even exist? I feel like I haven’t seen one since 1989. Maybe it’s all the Prince music I’ve been listening to since the tragic news broke yesterday, but, for some reason, I got a crazy Orange Julius craving today. So, I went outside, picked some oranges and whipped up this:

Orange Julius-inspired Smoothie
  • 4 oranges, peeled
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into slices
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk, or any milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Put everything in your trusty Vitamix and blend it up. Put on your Purple Rain soundtrack and try not to get too depressed, because at least it’s Friday.