Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.

Ingredients:

Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix

Capers

Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Not-Fried Rice with Roasted Veggies

Roasted Vegetables

I used to make fried rice with stir-fried vegetables on a fairly regular basis. Everyone liked to eat it, but no one liked to help clean up. Also, by the time I was done cooking, I was exhausted. After one too many complaints about the mess it made (from someone who will remain nameless) I vowed never to make stir fry again! Take that!

I stuck to my promise for several months, but I missed the flavors. So I tried to find a way to simplify the process.

Step one: I found a great recipe for baked fried rice. Yes, it involves less oil, and that’s nice and all, but even better, I don’t have to tend to it, and I still get that yummy chewy texture. So much less work! I don’t add the Sriracha that the recipe calls for at this stage since the kids wouldn’t touch it if I did. And I’d love to try the pineapple and cashews she uses—they look so yummy—but so far I’ve just stuck to whatever “usual suspect” veggies I have on hand. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, that kind of thing.

Step two: I pared down my list of vegetables to cut out some of the chopping. I usually feel like I have to put in a little of everything, but really, I don’t.

Step three: I roast veggies instead of stir-frying. Nope, it’s not just the same, but the veggies are still delicious. I cooked everything at about the same temp as the rice until the rice was done, and then I think I turned up the heat a bit.

I let the kids choose the veggies they want before we mix them all together for us. If I have time, I like to make this peanut sauce and of course, the grown ups always get  Sriracha.

Now I’d be lying if I said this version isn’t messy or time-consuming. It still requires a fair amount of prep and cleanup. But somehow being able to cook it unattended, all at the same time (rather than in batches) makes it less of a pain to make. Works for me, anyway.

Finished My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. Sigh. I miss it now. Are you reading anything good? I need something to curl up with. The weather here has been horrible this week, and I’m sorry, friends in northern climes, because your weather must be ten times worse. It’s starting to feel like that Ray Bradbury story where the people live on a planet where the sun comes out only once every seven years (“All Summer in a Day”). We can make it to spring, right?

The school’s book character parade was this morning and as usual was pretty much the cutest thing all year. Hope I can show you a pic of our little Marco Polo soon. The costume is pretty sweet. Marie Antoinette also looked great, though her costume was just a fancy dress we found at the thrift store.

Have a great weekend! And now, back to novel writing….

Summer Rolls

Summer Rolls

The kids made these one day, and I had so much fun watching them. We used baby spinach, shaved carrot, brown rice, and sliced grilled chicken. We also used a sprinkling of mint leaves (our plant hasn’t been that prolific this year).

You can make summer rolls with all kinds of things: rice noodles, shrimp, cooked tofu, sliced beef, lettuce of any kind, sprouts, peppers, scallions, herbs. You’re really just making a wrap out of stuff that will taste good together, and in our case we love to dip them in peanut sauce. My friend tells me that the Vietnamese word for summer rolls translates literally as “rolled salad.”

For detailed summer roll instructions, click here. Just don’t get intimidated by all the detail. Simplify to suit your needs—it’s just a wrap, and after a couple of tries, you’ll get the hang of using the rice wrappers. Our favorite peanut sauce recipe, from The Moosewood Cookbook, is here. For more of my food posts, click here.

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.

Spring Recipe Roundup

Sesame Noodle Salad

Has it been a little cool where you are? It kind of went from salad weather to soup weather, then back again, and it’s thrown my cooking mojo off. At least, the weather is what I’m blaming it on. It’s time for me to get inspired again.

Do you change up your menu according to the season? I really prefer (mostly) to eat colder-type items in the warm months and vice versa. I thought I’d do a little recipe roundup, mostly salads, though I realized after thinking about it that most of my spring recipes come from one source: The Foster’s Market Cookbook. I get hungry just thinking about that book. The binding in mine is literally falling apart.

Below are links to some of my favorites from Foster’s and a few others. I’d love to hear what your favorite spring salads are, too. I need inspiration!

Jeweled Rice Salad, from the great Mollie Katzen. I’ve been making this for 10+ years. It features the strange-sounding combo of grapes and chickpeas with rice, marinated in a lemon dressing and tossed with parsley, scallions and (optional) pecans. Somehow more than the sum of its parts, and *bonus* won’t be dangerous after sitting in the sun a little while. So I take it to picnics.

From Foster’s Market:

Lentil Salad with Spinach and Feta As with many a Foster’s Market gem, the fabulous dressing is the key. Here is my version with some minor changes.

Sesame Noodle Salad (pictured above) Again, fabulous dressing, this time with a nutty, citrus vibe. My take (gluten-free!) is here. Btw, does anyone know if such a thing as gluten-free soba noodles exist? I would so love some.

White Bean Salad–I do love a good marinated bean salad, and this one has sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. I haven’t made it with olives yet, but I might be ready to try. I’m only a recent olives convert.

Black Bean and Yellow Rice Salad. Think Tex-Mex beans and rice but fresher, lighter. I made this one here.

Really, just go and check out the whole salad section on Foster’s Market website or better yet buy the book. Chicken salad faves: with Tarragon, Granny Smith Apples and Red Grapeswith Tomatoes, Spinach and Dijon Vinaigrette; with Provencal vinaigrette.

This last one I recently made with half chicken, half roasted cauliflower (it has a bunch of other veggies, too), and it was most excellent. Hmmm….I wonder about subbing in roasted cauliflower in full for a vegetarian version of these. All of these chicken salads are on the lighter side, with little or no mayo, plenty of veggies and flavor.

Chicken Curry Kebabs are always a hit. We often make it for guests because everyone loves it.

Falafel (from the box—it’s all I have time for) and Tabbouleh with Tahini Sauce and sometimes also Yogurt Sauce. The two sauces and tabbouleh come from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I’m practically addicted to the Tahini Sauce, which is basically tahini thinned with water and lemon juice, plus salt + pepper and cumin.

What are some of your warm weather favorites? I’m hungry!

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.

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?

Sesame Noodle Salad with Cucumber

Just discovered another Foster’s Market recipe that’s been there all along but I’d never tried. I was looking for the answer to a tofu noodle salad mystery I’d been trying to solve for, seriously, 10 years.

The original salad was from a caterer tasting in Boston (Calla Lily, I think?). I’d never been a tofu person, but that salad was so unbelieveably good. This recipe, while not a perfect match, totally hits the spot for my noodle salad craving.

The recipe actually doesn’t call for tofu at all, but it made a great addition. It’s really a noodle salad with veggies and a great citrusy-peanutty dressing—you can change up the additions as much as you like.

The best part is the sesame oil doesn’t smack you in the face. You know, like in the asian salad from a certain national chain restaurant. It starts out delicious, but then about halfway through you feel like you’re going to die from sesame oil overdose. And then you feel like you never want to see another sesame as long as you live.

Changes I made to the salad: the first time I made it, I used glass noodles, which worked fine as a substitute for the soba (though maybe I prefer the soba, not sure). I also added stir-fried tofu since I was trying to recreate that long-ago salad.

A version of the original recipe is here. This version calls for bok choy but I made it with little baby salad greens. If you make the dressing in advance, the rest of it comes together pretty quickly. Mmmm….getting hungry again!

Okay, have a great weekend. I’m off to finish a few more tasks.

Brussel Sprouts by Request (?!)

I sent hubs to the store the other Saturday and asked him to buy some vegetables for dinner the next day. He came home with brussel sprouts. Really? Yes, really. Does your husband ever come home with brussel sprouts? Didn’t think so.

I had never, ever cooked brussel sprouts. I always thought of them as something kids on tv were forced to eat. I had never even knowingly seen them in real life until eating them a few years ago at a fantastic restaurant in Charlotte, NC (Rooster’s). I dreamed about those brussel sprouts for months (no, seriously, I did! Scout’s honor!) but never tried to recreate them. They were cooked in bacon fat, I’m pretty sure. Sigh. Oh bacon fat, I love you, but sadly, you are not an everyday food.

We didn’t have any bacon in the house anyway, and the stores were closed for the weekend by then, so I pulled out my trusty How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and sure enough, there were three brussel sprouts recipes.

This is the one I had the ingredients for: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Garlic

Yum! Winner! The kids wouldn’t touch them, but they were pretty curious about them.

One note on the recipe. Though the sprouts are supposed to be browned in the end, I would check them several times during cooking to see when they get tender. They can get too brown, and it’s hard to judge from the recipe instructions. The ones you see here are actually a little bit too brown, and this is when they start to get a little bitter. I actually made the recipe twice last week, and the second time I cooked them for a bit less time on a bit lower temp, and they were even better. Our convection oven makes things a bit tricky to calculate, as it cooks faster and the temps usually need to be adjusted.

Like I said, they should be brown, but take them out when they’re all the way tender. The balsamic vinegar really makes it here. I think they could use even a little more garlic, since you’re really just using it to flavor and not eating it (at least we don’t eat whole cloves—-maybe you do—no judgment. I love garlic).

I’d like to try the other sprouts recipes, too. And I’m thinking this nut topping would be awesome with the sprouts since it has a wonderful bacon-y like crunch and flavor. Mmmm…here I am dreaming of brussel sprouts again. Good thing they’re in season right now. Thanks, hubs, for the inspiration.

 Here they are in the pan in step 1 of the recipe. Aren’t they cute?

Simple Bean Salad

I’ve been busy busy with guests and travels. So much I’d like to share, but for now, a recipe.

I had something kind of like this at a Greek restaurant here and was craving more. I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere, and it was really so simple, so I just put together a few things and was really happy with the results. It’s really just beans marinated in a vinaigrette, plus some garnishes.

The amounts in the vinaigrette are approximate—-I rarely measure when making salad dressings. If you want to make sure it’s just right, find a vinaigrette recipe you like and use it.

Here you go:

 2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (you could use another kind of bean instead)

a half-cup to 3/4 cup or so of vinaigrette dressing, enough to give the beans a good bath

My vinaigrette consisted of maybe a 1/2 cup or so of olive oil, a few tablespoons red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of honey, and some onion powder

1 small onion, diced

handful of parsley, chopped fine

Mix and let marinate in the fridge, covered. Add salt and pepper to taste (remembering that the beans are usually already salted).