Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Chickpea SaladThis is really more of a suggestion than a recipe. As I may have mentioned, I’m not doing wheat these days (long story), and in general I’m trying to eat more veggies and fewer grains. I miss my tabbouleh, though (usually made with bulghur wheat).

So, I changed up Mark Bittman’s tabbouleh recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Instead of bulghur wheat, I used a can of rinsed chickpeas, then added chopped cucumber and tomato as well. If you do dairy, you could add feta. Mmmmm…

As usual, the full-of-fresh-herbs dressing is the key ingredient, and it tied everything together nicely. Even got a thumbs up from the hubs. I planted a whole hedge of parsley this year and have been so, so happy to have it for salads like this. It’s really easy to grow from seed (basil, too).

For more of my recipes and cooking posts, click here. You’ll notice I seem to have a thing for chickpeas.

What about you? Made any interesting salads lately? My new herb garden is keeping me inspired.

Summer Journal: Homemade Orange Creamsicles

Homemade Orange Creamsicle

The kids and I have made a list of fun things to do this summer, and one of them is to make popsicles.

This was our first batch, made with this recipe, from the blog Oven Love, found through Pinterest. I love that they’re non-dairy, made with coconut milk and real orange juice. They were a hit. Next I think we’ll freeze our favorite peanut-butter-chocolate-banana smoothies. With maybe a little coconut milk. Do you have any favorite popsicle combos?

Meg of suggested that readers share short posts about fun summer activities . If you’d like to play along, leave a comment on Meg’s blog and use the words “Summer Journal” in your blog title or as a hashtag if you’re instagramming or whatnot. While you’re at it, let me know in my comments, too!

For more posts on food, including recipes, click here. I like to cook with less meat and dairy, more veggies, and I do a lot of gluten-free stuff, too.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Herby Green Dressing

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

I was craving a rice salad, but without the rice. Something that’s all about soaking up a good sauce. Roasted cauliflower has been my recent go-to sauce-soaker-upper, and I was really happy with what I came up with. Here’s the skinny:

Olive Oil

1 head Cauliflower, finely chopped

2 or 3 handfuls Grape or Cherry Tomatoes


2 cloves Garlic

Olive Oil

Red Wine Vinegar

1 T Dijon Mustard

tiny drip of Honey (or something else if you’re vegan)

Lemon Juice

a few tablespoons or more Minced Chives

a few tablespoons or more fresh Oregano, chopped (basil or parsley would be good, too)

1 T Capers

Salt and Pepper to taste

Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Oil a baking sheet and throw the cauliflower on it with a couple of garlic cloves. Roast at 375F, for about 20 minutes. Halve the tomatoes and roast them for about 20-30 minutes as well. This brings out their flavor like crazy.

I’m not really a measuring kind of person when it comes to dressing (or, let’s be honest, for a lot of things). If you really want measurements, you could use a basic vinaigrette and add the extras. I think I’d add even more herbs next time. I really wanted something that was so green it would color the cauliflower, but my herb garden wasn’t quite in full swing when I made this.

Chop up the roasted garlic and whisk it together with the other dressing ingredients.

Toss the cauliflower with the dressing and tomatoes. Add walnuts. Yum. I realized later that the dressing flavors were inspired by the broccoli gribiche recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.

What are you cooking this summer? I’m always on the lookout for interesting salads. Hope you had a great weekend and a happy Father’s Day.

Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Capers, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Roasted Cauliflower

I’m on a cauliflower kick, what can I say? I seem to be eating a lot of it, roasted, with various toppings. I think it’s because my friend Laurel mentioned it, then it was in the paper (something about a cauliflower trend—yes I still read a paper paper) and then I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

Besides cutting out wheat, I’m avoiding large servings of grains in general, so the idea of something mild  and non-grain that takes flavors very well —–a sauce depository, if you will—-is very appealing. I was never a huge fan of cauliflower in the past, but I think, as with many veggies, I just had to find my favorite cooking method. Roasting wins.

Roasted Cauliflower

First, preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the cauliflower into pieces about 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick, brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes (just like the broccoli here). If you’re going to make the vinaigrette below, throw in a clove or two of garlic and roast them while you’re at it.

When the cauliflower is tender but still firm, with browning on the edges, it’s done. At least, that’s the done-ness I like.

At this point you could serve it with any number of sauces or toppings: peanut sauce? bread crumb/ nut topping? curry?

I made this vinaigrette in homage to a bread dipping sauce from a favorite restaurant, Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill. Charlotte area friends, seriously, you MUST go there. It’s this funky little farm-to-fork place in the middle of nowhere. Besides great food, it has loads of character.

But I digress.

The vinaigrette is a loose combination of:

Olive Oil

Roasted Garlic, minced

Chopped Olives (I used green ones but kalamata would be excellent)

a spoonful of Capers

a judicious amount of red pepper flakes (I’m addicted)

Red Wine Vinegar

1/2 tsp or more Ground Mustard (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

I usually do a little more olive oil than vinegar and just add however much I like of the rest of the stuff, to taste.

Charlotte friends, I feel compelled to mention a couple of places we’ve eaten recently that, in addition to Passion8 Bistro, were just outstanding.

  • The King’s Kitchen (which is owned by the same guy that owns Roosters, which I also love) is fantastic—-sort of re-imagined upscale meat and three, and btw it’s non-profit, which is totally fascinating and you should read about it on their website. I had the hangar steak. Yum!
  • Doan’s Vietnamese Restaurant: try the hotpots!! It’s like a Vietnamese broth fondue. So excellent and fun. Best tomyum broth I’ve ever had.
  • And one more: Zeitouni’s Mediterranean Grill at Toringdon in Ballantyne. Seriously, how did I not get a clue about this place earlier? The falafel is TO DIE FOR!

Okay, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but really, it’s been good dining lately. What about you? What’s got you inspired in the kitchen/ out to eat lately?

Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

I threw this together the other night when I needed something pretty quick and had to use what I had on hand. It was a perfect easy supper.

It’s inspired by Rachael Ray’s Calabacitas Casserole, which is yummy but more involved, with no beans. I once had it at my sister-in-law’s house, and was immediately sold.

My casserole is based on three main ingredients: black beans, salsa, and pre-cooked polenta. Anything else is icing on the cake.

Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Measurements are approximated. What you want is enough salsa to give the beans plenty of flavor.

2-3 cups canned or pre-cooked black beans, drained (I used up leftovers I had cooked the day before)

1/2 to 1 jar chunky salsa (I used Herdez salsa, which was great, but would’ve been better semi-drained. I think semi-drained Ro-tel would also be excellent, and maybe even Mexican-style stewed tomatoes)

1 tube prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds (you could also cook your own, then chill and slice)

Olive oil

Optional add-ins: diced scallions, cilantro, chopped veggies, spinach, cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. I made a smaller version of this (since it was just for me) and cooked it in the toaster oven.

Place the beans in an oiled casserole dish (maybe 8 x 8), and add enough salsa to suit your taste. You want a little less salsa than beans, but enough salsa to add lots of flavor. Lay the polenta rounds on top and brush them with a little olive oil.

Bake for 35 minutes or so at 375 F, then add, if you feel like it, a handful of spinach and chopped scallions, and turn up the heat to 400 F. When the spinach is wilted, the polenta is getting crispy, and the beans are bubbling, it’s done.

The polenta adds structure and has such a great creamy/ crispy texture that I really didn’t miss having cheese. This one will definitely go on my repeat list. I think I’ll add more spinach next time and maybe cilantro. Hmmm…what about sweet potato?

For more of my recipes and recipe trials, click here.

You have less than a day left to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. Details here. All you have to do is comment about which print is your favorite—-you won’t be added to a mailing list. Just enjoy!

Broccoli Battle Winner: Roasted with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Broccoli

The ongoing broccoli battle in our house is, I believe, finally won. No, it wasn’t over whether or not certain people will eat it. The kids don’t love it, but they’ll eat it without much of a fuss. The battle is over the best way to cook it.

Hubs prefers stir-frying with soy sauce, but I find that time-consuming and too hands-on to do all the time. For a long time my favorite method was steaming, then rolling in olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. Hubs ate this broccoli dutifully but missed the stir-fry texture.

Enter Mollie Katzen’s vegetable roasting guide from Vegetable Heaven. I’ve used the roasting guide so much that the book naturally opens to that page. It’s great for many a veggie, but at our house, it’s helped us find the broccoli method that results in the perfect texture + flavor+ easy-ness.

Add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, and you have us battling again, over seconds.

So, here’s my adaptation of the original Mollie Katzen recipe. It’s less of a recipe, more of an idea for you:

Roasted Broccoli

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice your broccoli florets in half. I find this helps things cook a little faster and more evenly.

Brush a cookie tray with olive oil, and arrange the florets on it.

I usually cook about 20 minutes, but check at 15 minutes to see how it’s going. Personally, I like the broccoli still firm but tender, with some brown edges.

Serve with your favorite vinaigrette. Here’s what we use:

Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a jar or bottle, combine:

about an inch Balsamic Vinegar

about an inch and a half, maybe more, Olive Oil

a big squirt/ soup spoonful Dijon Mustard (you can use powdered mustard here as a substitute)

small squirt of Honey, to taste

freshly ground Pepper

dusting to half a handful freshly grated Parmesan (*optional)

I always taste the dressing and adjust seasonings to suit.

Enjoy! For more of my cooking posts, click here or on the “Food” category.

Do NOT forget to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. There’s no downside here, people. You won’t be added to a mailing list. Just check out her gorgeous work and decide which is your fave, then comment on it. You do not have to live in the U.S. to enter.

Mushroom and Spinach Tacos

Mushroom-Spinach Tacos

I know, I’ve been doing a lot of tacos. I can’t help myself. Here’s yet another simple twist.

I’ve had plenty of spinach and mushroom enchiladas before at restaurants but somehow never thought to recreate something similar until the recipe here, in Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson (she of 101cookbooks fame).

Her version is minus the spinach and uses fancier mushrooms (chanterelles, or Pfefferlinge, if you’re German—btw wouldn’t it be great to see this on a seasonal Pfefferlinge menu?). I just used plain brown mushrooms. Along with the mushrooms, there’s garlic, onions, and a serrano pepper involved. Yum.

I used frozen chopped spinach from Trader Joe’s. I definitely recommend spinning or squeezing it dry if you’re going that route. Fresh spinach would also totally work, of course. Either way just saute it a little in the pan, but separately from the mushrooms so each veggie cooks at the right temp and length.

I find the mushrooms really satisfying and a welcome change from my normal array of vegetables. And it was a quick lunch.

Do you get stuck in veggie ruts? I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the local-ish asparagus to come in. I’m guessing it’s still Rotkohl (red cabbage) season in Deutschland? That’s one of those dishes I’ve only appreciated in restaurants and haven’t yet ventured into cooking myself. (If you’re wondering why I’m talking about German vegetables, it’s because last year this time, we were living in Hannover, Germany).

In other news, our local chapter of the WNBA (no, not basketball—the Women’s National Book Association) had a great joint meeting the other night with the Charlotte Writer’s Club. It was a panel about the process of getting published, with lots of great food for thought from industry folk.

Meanwhile I’m still plugging away at my character interviews led by these questions. Writers, have you ever done this? It’s such a Magic-8-ball/ subconscious-channeling kind of exercise. Feels weird at times, but I’m coming up with lots of good character stuff that relates to the plot.

Oh, and one last aside. I did a Skype call to talk about Slowpoke with a class of first graders last week. So fun. Best question, which still has me laughing: “Are you ever afraid you’ll never finish another book?”

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

These fries are so good no one notices they’re eating vegetables. The spice/ salt mixture is the perfect counterpoint to the potatoes’ natural sweetness. I like to double the recipe so we have leftovers, and I use chili powder rather than cayenne to keep the hotness down for the kiddos. Recipe here.

I’ve been serving them with tacos, which makes no sense, really, but no one is complaining. I wonder if they’d be good inside the tacos. Hmmm….what do you think?

Pumpkin Soup with Lime and Chipotle

Happy Halloween! It’s officially soup and pumpkin season—so, pumpkin soup.

I don’t know about you, but on the whole, I’m way more into savory pumpkin dishes than sweet. The natural sweetness of the pumpkin is just begging for a little sour/ hot/ salty complement.

Here’s a little riff on a Williams-Sonoma recipe (theirs is Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Puree from the Soup book):

Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle

1 Hokkaido pumpkin (also called Red Kuri or Baby Red Hubbard squash)—you could probably use any similar winter squash, but I’m partial to these

5 or 6 garlic cloves

a few tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup water

2 onions, chopped

5 cups broth (chicken or veggie)

Salt and pepper

Chipotle with adobo sauce (canned, located with Mexican grocery items)


First, preheat your oven to 350. Peel the pumpkin and cut into quarters or sixths. Scoop out the squishy middle and the seeds.

On a cookie sheet or roasting pan, brush the pumpkin and garlic cloves with oil, then pour in the water. Roast until soft and golden, 35 plus minutes or so.

Meanwhile, saute onions until softened. If you have a stick blender (a soupmaker’s very best friend), combine the onions, pumpkin, and garlic all in your soup pot with the broth. Blend. If you don’t have a stick blender, get one. You’ll love it. In the meantime, use part of the broth to blend up the veggies in your blender, a batch at a time. Then combine with all the broth in the soup pot.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. In individual bowls, garnish with a little teaspoon or so chipotle/ adobo sauce, according to your taste. I never use a full can at once, so I usually freeze the rest of the can to have on hand in the freezer. Love me some chipotle. Squeeze a little lime on top. Yum.

If you have non-spice-loving eaters at your table, just leave the chipotle out. Not that you needed me to tell you that.

Last year at our school’s pumpkin fest, someone made some fantabulous curry pumpkin soup (sounds weird, tastes great) but I never figured out who made it or what recipe they used. ISHR friends, anyone know the whereabouts of said chef or recipe? Or do you have a curried pumpkin recipe? I’d love to try it.

What are you dressing up as? I had hoped to be Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games but realized I just didn’t have the time to devote to making a costume. After all, my little witch and my little green ninja have to come first in the Halloween department. Maybe I’ll have a moment to paint my face, though.

Here’s hoping you have power and water. My prayers go out to those of you who don’t, and I hope all will soon be restored.

Also, in other news, if you live in the Charlotte area, our local chapter of the WNBA (no, it’s not basketball, it’s Women’s National Book Association) is a great place to meet people who love books. We’ve got writers, booksellers, editors, agents, and booklovers of all kinds. Our next meeting is a cookbook event called “A Toast to Cookbooks” at Total Wine on Monday November 12. Details about the event and our organization here. Our last event, a multi-author dinner called Bibliofeast, was way, way fun.

Good night, and enjoy your treats, everyone!

Black Bean and Rice Salad

This one is another Foster’s Market goodie, really delicious. Though I have to admit it was more work than it seemed it should’ve been. And I didn’t even make the from-scratch salsa or the cornbread croutons!

Thinking it over, I’m wondering if there are any other shortcuts I could’ve taken without sacrificing flavor. I guess chopping is chopping, and I’m just not very fast or neat about it. It’s a hazard of cooking with a bunch of fresh vegetables.

The interesting twist with this dish is really the rice- and-beans-as-room-temp-salad concept instead of as a kind of warm stew. I’m fond of both, but the salad option definitely preserves a kind of freshness that’s hard to resist. I think you could mimic a version of this using plain rice and canned beans, scaling back the chopping work and just relying on a good salsa, avocado, and cilantro to do the work.

That’s only if you’re short on time, though. Otherwise I say do the whole shebang.

Another Foster’s Market goodie I’ve enjoyed lately was this Coconut-with-Lemon-Curd cake, which the Hubs made for my birthday. Oh joy! I am less and less a dessert person these days, but this cake makes me weak. It’s a lot of work, too, so thank you Hubs 🙂

It’s finally getting cooler here, so I’m moving on from salads back into my soup menus.

Meanwhile, had a great time at the SCBWI Carolinas conference (SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and got some good revision shots in the arm. I’m back to revising, revising, revising, and trying to resist temptations to craft during writing time. It’s hard.

Currently reading On the Shores of Plum Creek (Laura Ingalls Wilder). What about you? What are you reading? Found any great fall soup recipes?