Peppadew Beef Sliders {potlucks & picnics}

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Picnics and potlucks and parties, oh my! Got to love the start of the social season. I’m so looking forward to concerts in the park, school social potlucks, pool parties, backyard parties…

For someone who cooks as much as I do, you’d think I’d have a “go-to” dish to contribute to these events, but I always struggle with what to bring. Especially since I really want to make something special but I don’t want to spend a fortune, have no time, and usually forget until the night before.

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Enter my Spanish-inspired shredded beef. Put it in the crock overnight or all day and bring to a picnic or potluck with slider or kaiser rolls. You don’t really have to keep it hot for a picnic; room temp is fine. Or, if you’re having a party at home, consider serving over saffron rice with peas.

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This uses jarred peppadew peppers and smoked paprika, both of which you can easily find at Whole Foods or online. But if you can’t easily find them, skip the smoked paprika, or sub oregano, and use a jar of peperoncini peppers instead of peppadew.

I don’t know if this will end up being my go-to dish but it’s darn good and I will be making it a few times this summer! What’s your go-to potluck or picnic dish?

Peppadew Beef Sliders

Total Time: 10 hours

Yield: 10 servings

Peppadew Beef Sliders

Perfect for potlucks and picnics, this 4-ingredient Spanish-inspired shredded beef is great for feeding a crowd!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pound round roast
  • 1 14 ounce jar peppadew peppers--do not drain, you'll use the peppers and the juice for this
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • sauteed peppers and onions (optional)
  • chopped green olives (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the whole round roast, the jar of peppers--including the juice, salt and paprika in a crock pot. Cook on lowest setting for 8 hours.
  2. Remove the roast, shred using 2 forks. Leave the liquid in the crock pot.
  3. Return beef to crock pot and cook on lowest setting another 2 hours, or whatever time you have. It's really not necessary but it does let the sauce get fully absorbed by the beef.
  4. Serve on slider rolls or over rice, topping with sautéed peppers and onions and/or olives if desired.
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Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops {spring fever}

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Yippeee! yahooo! It’s SPRING!

Why am I so excited, you may ask? Well, you probably don’t ask–who doesn’t like spring?

I am so excited because…WE GET TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. Cold, wet, grey weather does NOT mix well with young, active children. I can categorically declare that I can build just about anything with Legos and that I know every word in Frozen. It’s time to move on to outside activities.

  • Outside activity #1: Farmers Markets. They’re back! Local produce, local artisans, and scooters–our preferred mode of best-way-to-wear-the-kids-out transportation.
  • Outside activity #2: Gardening. I love having the kids help me plant plants, watch them grow, pick the flowers/veggies. We just have a small city patio and garden space but it’s still plenty to give them some exposure to what it’s like to grow your own produce and plants.
  • Outside activity #3: Playground Happy Hour. Oh come on, you’ve never taken the kids to the playground after school, met up with other parent friends, and brought a little special bevvie?

In addition to outside enjoyment, springtime fare is just the best. Some of the most delicious, and most elusive or short-lived, ingredients come to pass during spring so you’ve got to take advantage of them. Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, morels, and of course asparagus!

A friend gave me asparagus fresh-picked from his garden with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner–a perfect pairing with asparagus. So I wanted to create an easy, delicious dish that highlighted the asparagus but didn’t overpower the wine. And I wanted to use some fresh herbs from my garden. And I had a farmers market leek in the fridge.

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Herby Asparagus and Leek Gnocchi with Scallops was born. A little strategically, a little kitchen sinky, a lot deliciously.

It looks and sounds all fancy so is great for a special weekend meal, but honestly I made it on a Wednesday in 20 minutes with mostly ingredients I had on hand. So it can double as a mid-week pick-me-up. And the kids love the gnocchi, so it’s an easy sell.

I actually created this dish specifically to pair with a Lagler Gruner Vetliner that was given to me. It’s crisp enough to compliment the asparagus, but has enough body to hold up to the gnocchi and scallops.

Cheers!

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Ingredients

  • 1 pound packaged gnocchi?
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • ?1 Tablespoon olive oil?
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced?
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus?
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs (I used a mix of chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano, basil)?
  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops?
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the gnocchi according to package directions. While you’re bringing the water to a boil, prepare the sauce. 
  2. Trim the asparagus where the tough, woody stem naturally breaks off. Then cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook just until tender but not brown--5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the asparagus and cook just until crisp-tender, only about a minute or two. Toss in herbs and drained gnocchi. Cover and set aside. 
  5. In a clean large skillet (I just wipe clean the skillet I just used for gnocchi), melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high to high heat (you want to get it really hot, but not smoking or the butter will burn). Pat the scallops very dry and season with salt and pepper. When the butter begins to sizzle, place the scallops into the pan with at least an inch of space between them.
  6. After 2 minutes, flip. Outside of the single flip DO NOT TOUCH the scallops. After another 2 minutes, remove.
  7. Place the gnocchi on a plate and garnish with scallops. Serve with a seasonal green salad.
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***this was updated from an original post in May, 2013, with new photography. Like it?

Shrimp and Grits {food obsessions}

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You know that movie “Conspiracy Theory” with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts where every time Mel sees a copy of Jack Kerouc’s “On the Road” he is compelled to buy it?

Yeah, so, that’s me and Shrimp and Grits. Every time I see it on the menu I pretend that I’m considering other options but every single time I order Shrimp and Grits. Creamy grits, topped with a spice sausage gravy, and sweet shrimp, who could resist? So obviously I had to figure out how to make it using what I like best from the many, many, many versions I’ve tried.

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Now that I’ve perfected my own recipe, I make it for a weeknight dinner sometimes and everyone loves it. But it’s happiest at brunch–my favorite meal of the week. If you want to feed a crowd–which is how brunch should ALWAYS be served–you can put the grits in one crock, the gravy in another, and let the shrimp basically be the garnish. Fun!

So, enough about my food obsession, here’s my recipe. What’s your food obsession?

Shrimp and Grits

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Shrimp and Grits

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 pound U25 shrimp, shells removed and reserved
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound andouille* sausage, diced into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely diced. About 1/2 cup
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 Tablespoon blackening season
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup coarse ground grits (also called polenta)

Instructions

    Make the sauce:
  1. Heat 2 cups water in a small saucepan until simmering. Add shrimp shells and cook 10 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage to a plate, leaving the grease in the skillet.
  3. Saute onion for 2 minutes with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then add peppers and celery, sauté for another 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook just until fragrant.
  4. Add flour and stir until it's made a light roux (until all of the flour has been incorporated into the grease).
  5. Whisk in shrimp stock until smooth.
  6. Add back in sausage and simmer until cooked down and sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.
  7. Make the grits:
  8. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  9. Whisk in grits and turn down heat to medium. Add milk.
  10. Cook grits for 20 minutes, whisking nearly constantly, until thick and creamy.
  11. Make the shrimp:
  12. Toss the shrimp with the blackening season.
  13. Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Saute the shrimp until just cooked through: 3-5 minutes.
  14. To serve:
  15. Spoon 3/4 cup of grits in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with 3/4 cup of sauce. and 5-6 shrimp.

Notes

*if you can't find smoked andouille sausage, use another good smoked spiced sausage like kielbasa.

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Cardamom Roasted Whole Carrots {happiness}

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There is something about spring that just makes me happy. Going outside, seeing friends you haven’t seen in awhile, watching the daffodils and tulips come up. It makes me think about the things that make me happy:

Spending time with family and friends, old and new.
Watching my kids grow up, become little people, and see them make good choices.
Finding beauty in the mundane or in unexpected places.

And these carrots. No, actually, these carrots, and easy wholesome recipes like them, that can help make those moments of happiness easy.

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These carrots are easy to make, everyone loves them, are great served at room temp, and are easy to make a ton to feed a crowd. It’s a wonderful dish to serve at a potluck, for Easter or Thanksgiving, or an elegant dinner party. Recipes like this make it that much easier for me to enjoy the moment I’m in, rather than worrying about whether I’m forgetting something or burning something (and I usually am).

Watching my kids choose eating carrots over eating meat, asking for more and more, it makes me realize that by serving them good wholesome options they are learning how to make good choices for themselves. And with a big world out there trying to influence them, it’s a little reminder about the impact we as parents can have on their lives and their choices.

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And, I mean really, you dig something up from the ground and with little effort it turns out like this?!?! There are so many things that are hard, and ugly, and bad but to know that you have the power to turn something so simple into something so beautiful is an empowering thought.

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Ok, so I went a little deep with the carrots there. Sorry, having a moment. But try the recipe. Maybe it will change your life. Or maybe it will just taste good. Either way: happiness.

Cardamom Roasted Whole Carrots

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Cardamom Roasted Whole Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole carrots (baby if you can find them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash and trim the carrots if they still have their leafy tops. If you have baby carrots, scrub them well but leave the skins on. If you have big carrots, go ahead and peel them but leave them whole.
  3. Toss the carrots with spices, garlic, olive oil and salt, and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 15-20 minutes for baby carrots, 30-35 minutes for whole carrots. Just until a fork can pierce easily but with a little resistance.
  5. Serve.
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Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

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Congratulations! We made it through another week! Doesn’t it often feel like you’ve finished a marathon by Friday night? Like you walk through the door and there should be confetti and a medal and champagne?

Well, I suppose there is confetti for me. In the shape of tiny legos scattered all over the house.

And it does look like I’m wearing a medal since I didn’t notice the giant circular peanut butter smear the little one planted on me this morning.

And champagne, well I can do something about that.

In our house, making it to Friday night deserves a celebration. But not too big of a celebration since we only have 30 minutes to dinnertime. So, pasta is a go-to Friday night meal. A little decadent and a lot easy.

Since I’m embracing spring, even if it won’t embrace me back, I springed up a classic decadent pasta dish–Carbonara–by adding asparagus and shiitakes to the classic eggs, cheese and pancetta.

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I only recently discovered Carbonara and I can’t believe I’ve spent this much of my life in the dark. It’s basically tossing spaghetti with the easiest hollandaise sauce and then adding cheese. And bacon. And anything else that makes you happy. Right now asparagus and mushrooms make me happy. And wine. Like a Soave. Or even champagne would do well here. Yeah, there’s my happy place.

Hey look, confetti. Nope, that’s just a lego that landed in my eye. Oh well, it’s the weekend. Cheers to Friday!

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound thick pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4 inch by 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound shiitakes, stems discarded and caps sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough woody ends snapped off and stalks cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I like a mix of Parmesan and Romano)
  • parsley

Instructions

  1. Start the pasta water for boiling.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and bacon and cook until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove to a plate.
  3. Skim off some of the fat until there is 2 Tablespoons remaining. Saute the mushrooms in the fat until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to plate and turn off skillet.
  4. When the pasta water is boiling, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute, just until blanched. Skim off and put in an ice bath.
  5. Add the salt to the pasta water and cook pasta until al dente--9 to 10 minutes.
  6. While the pasta cooks, rub the cut garlic all over the inside of a large bowl.
  7. Whisk the eggs in the bowl until frothy. Whisk in wine and cheese.
  8. When the pasta is almost finished, grab 1/2 cup of the pasta water and whisk into the egg mixture.
  9. Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce with the pancetta, asparagus, and shiitakes. Toss the pasta into the sauce constantly until it's thick and coats each piece of pasta equally.
  10. Serve, topped with parsley.
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Someone was surprised that my kids would eat carbonara and I’m not sure if that’s because they’re surprised that a kids would eat it, or if they were surprised that I would serve it to my kids since the eggs start raw in the sauce. Why anyone would be surprised about kids eating a creamy, cheesy, bacon-y spaghetti is beyond me, so it must be because of the raw eggs. So let say something about that: when you’re making the sauce you add boiling pasta water to the eggs and cheese and then add steaming hot pasta and stir constantly until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick and creamy. The eggs are not raw. But if they’re not fully cooked, I do buy farm fresh eggs from the farmers market so I don’t worry too much about fully cooking eggs for them. We love over-easy eggs with a dippy center so this really isn’t any different.

If you’re still a little ooged out by the undercooked eggs, just pop the pasta back in a hot pan and heat. Or microwave individual portions. It ruins the consistency in my opinion, but you can guarantee cooked eggs.

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Kale and Radish Tabbouleh

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Um, yeah, so it’s snowing again. It’s late March and it’s snowing. But I can’t stop believing that someday, one day, soon, we will have an actual spring. With picnics, and potlucks, and get togethers.  And outside. Playgrounds. Running, jumping outside of my house….that’s not a dream is it? We will be able to leave the house, won’t we?

Of course, I always think of spring food as asparagus and peas and strawberries, but we’re still a few months away from that. Early spring means rich dark greens, radishes, and spring onions. 

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So I’m making the most of it before we get into the asparagus and peas and strawberries. Tabbouleh is traditionally a mid-summer dish with fresh, ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, and I love to bring it to picnics and potlucks then. But I thought I’d spring it up a bit and replace the tomatoes with radishes and some of the herbs with kale.

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It’s a fairly easy dish that you can make ahead and bring to your next spring outing.

I use a mixture of traditional ingredients like parsley and mint that are pretty easy to find this year. But I add in kale, chopped as finely as the parsley and then wilted in the microwave to lose some of the bitterness. And radishes chopped small so they add flavor and texture without overwhelming.

Kale and Radish Tabbouleh

Prep Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 12-16 servings

Serving Size: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bulgur
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2-3 cups chopped kale
  • 1-2 cup chopped parsley (1 bunch is about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 bunch radishes, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good kind)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the bulgur. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, steam the kale. I do this in the microwave: dampen 2 paper towels and lay them on a microwave safe plate. Top with chopped kale. Lay another 2 dampened paper towels on top of the kale. Microwave for 2 minutes. Check the kale. If it's not completely wilted, microwave for another minute. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a very large bowl. Toss in the bulgur and kale. Mix until combined.
  4. Allow to stand for an hour or so to let the flavors combine. This keeps great in the fridge for 3-4 days.
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Apple Cherry Oatmeal Muffins (sugar free, fat free)

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For your Sunday morning, I give you some fresh baked fruit-filled muffins. For your Monday morning I give you an awful commute, and some delicious and healthy fruit-filled muffins.

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Commuting is the pits. I doubt I’ll get any argument about that. Dan and I both commute–me about 45 minutes, him over an hour, each way. What a complete waste of time.

But at least we can productively (and safely) eat a healthy breakfast along the way.

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Here are some more muffins that substitute fat and sugar with applesauce. But since the fruit in these muffins isn’t terribly sweet I’ve added a recommendation on how to sweeten it up with honey.

Apple Cherry Oatmeal Muffins (sugar free, fat free)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup honey (optional)*
  • 2 apples, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Beat or whisk eggs until mixed.
  3. Add milk, applesauce, honey if using, and apples and mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, and flours. Whisk until mixed.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3 batches, mixing briefly after each one, until just combined.
  6. Stir in dried cherries.
  7. Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
  8. Scoop batter into muffin cups. They will be very full.
  9. Bake the muffins for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. Remove to a cooling rack and cool. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes

* these muffins are not terribly sweet with just the applesauce and the apples. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to add some honey to sweeten this recipe up a bit.

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Linguine with Pecan-Arugula Pesto and a giveaway!

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Happy Spring everyone! I’m so excited to have that awful winter behind us and officially set the calendar to “spring”. I absolutely love spring; the weather is pleasant, the flowers are blooming, and everyone just seems so darn happy (including me!). Some of my favorite things about spring are:

1. Cherry Blossoms. I’ve lived in the DC area for nearly 15 years and I don’t think I’ve missed seeing the cherry blossoms once. Walking around on a gorgeous spring day with flower petals wafting through the air…it’s just magical.

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2. Farmers markets! Our farmers markets close for the winter, but they open again in April and May. And I just dive into that spring produce: asparagus, greens, ramps, squash blossoms, strawberries, peas. I can’t get enough.

3. Gardening. I’m an awful gardener. I have a patio where I like to fill planters with herbs, vegetables, and flowers. My plants always end up dead or overgrown by the end of summer, and my vegetables never really produce any actual vegetables. But every spring I get to start with a clean slate and try again. Maybe this will be the year that my plants will stay gorgeous all summer long and I will actually grow some vegetables!

0314 a year in a vegetarian kitchenTo celebrate the first day of spring, I’m offering a giveaway! One of my favorite cookbooks is A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop of Cooks Illustrated. The cookbook is organized by seasons and is completely vegetable-centric so is an amazing way take advantage of the best seasonal produce. While we’re not vegetarian, I try to make most meals that start with vegetables and go from there, so I use this cookbook often!

One of my favorite recipes is to make pesto out of just about anything. This Pecan-Arugula pesto from the cookbook is an awesome combination of rich, nutty pecans and sharp, peppery young arugula.

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Linguine with Pecan-Arugula Pesto

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups packed stemmed arugula leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 1 pound linguine

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
  2. Place the nuts in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the nuts, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Cool the nuts.
  3. Process the cooled nuts, arugula, and garlic in a food processor, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the ingredients are finely ground. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until thick and fairly smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl large enough to hold the cooked pasta. (The pesto will be very thick.) Stir in the cheese, the nutmeg, and salt to taste. (Salt the pesto generously; it has to season a pound of pasta.)
  4. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and daring the pasta. Stir 1/2 cup of the cooking water into the bowl with the pesto to achieve a saucier consistency. Add the pasta to the bowl and toss, adding more cooking water as necessary to moisten the pasta and help spread the pesto. Serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.

Notes

from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop

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5 chances to win! Make sure to leave a comment about each of ways you entered to be counted. Winner will be selected by random.org. U.S. residents only. Giveaway starts on Thursday, March 20 and ends at 9pm EST on Tuesday, March 25.

To enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me what is your favorite thing about spring.

2. Follow @gourmetmommy on twitter and tweet the following: Happy Spring! I’ve just entered to #win a #vegetarian seasonal cookbook from @gourmetmommy. http://wp.me/p4gDMM-CW #giveaway

3. Like Gourmet Mommy on Facebook and share this Facebook post

4. Follow GourmetMommy2 on Pinterest

5. Subscribe to Gourmet Mommy updates by email or RSS (link in sidebar)

Please remember to leave a comment for each of the ways you enter. Otherwise only one entry will be counted. If you already like me on facebook or follow me on twitter or pinterest, that counts! Just share a post about this giveaway and let me know by leaving a separate comment.

I wasn’t compensated for this giveaway, I just wanted to share one of my favorites.

Official Rules:

To enter leave a comment.

U.S. residents only.

One winner with a valid entry will be selected at random, using random.org. I will email the winner and they will have up to 3 days to claim their prize or another winner will be selected. 

Mustardy Sweet Potato Wedges {kids cooking}

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Sweet potatoes and I, we didn’t understand each other for a long time. They didn’t make sense to me. I dunno, I guess I feel like if you want potatoes have potatoes and if you want something sweet have fruit. Or chocolate.

When we collectively discovered that sweet potatoes are better for you than regular potatoes they started showing up everywhere. Sweet potato fries, sweet potato tots. Meh. Once you stick something in a deep fryer, do the 2 extra vitamins you get with sweet potatoes really make that much of a difference?

Then I started roasting them in the oven in thick wedges. That’s when I realized: if you treat a sweet potato like a sweet potato (instead of a substitute for something else), there is magic to be had!

The sugar in the potato caramelizes beautifully, giving the wedges a burnt sugar crusty thing. And the inside is totally light and fluffy. The only thing that makes them better is slathering on some mustard to give it some tang  and balance out the sweetness a bit. I used Dijon but whole grain would be cool too.

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The kids absolutely love them and it goes great with meat loaf, fish sticks, or even as a light main dish. Plus, the they can make them for you. After you cut the potatoes into wedges, have the kids measure out the other ingredients and toss them around. They’ll love it and be more apt to eat anything they’ve help to prepare anyway.

Mustardy Sweet Potato Wedges

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 400.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into large wedges. Small/medium potatoes into fourths, large maybe eighths. These aren't fries, they're thick, meaty wedges so you can get a nice, thick caramelized crust on the outside and a light, creamy inside.
  3. Toss potatoes with all other ingredients and spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  4. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until they are soft in the middle.
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0314 sweet potato fries 2

Individual Meat Loaves

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Let’s all admit it…the best part of meatloaf is the crust. Sweetened by ketchup, the caramelized, crusty outside is reason alone to make meatloaf.

That’s one reason that I made these meatloaves individual-sized–to maximize the crust-factor. The other is that they freeze better and who doesn’t want their very own meatloaf for dinner any night of the week? Plus, the kids love that they get their own meatloaf. Territorial much?

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I sit squarely in the oatmeal camp for classic meatloaf. I think breadcrumbs give it a meatball–like texture. Not that that’s a bad thing, just not what I’m going for here. I want moist, hearty-but-not-heavy, meatloaf inside that crazy crust. The oatmeal does cause it to fall apart a little more easily–the price you pay for moisture!–but the individual size helps with that as well. If you let it sit out a good 10 or more minutes out of the oven you should have no trouble cutting without it falling apart.

This is a great recipe to have the kids help with. They can dump the ingredients into the bowl, help to mix the meatloaf and form the loaves. They can even make crazy shapes if they want!

Individual Meatloaf with Red Wine Ketchup

Yield: 12 individual meat loaves

Ingredients

    For the meatloaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, skins removed
  • 4 small onions or 1 very large, cut into large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 carrots, cut into large chunks (I don't even bother peeling them)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons worcestershire
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 pounds ground beef or turkey or a beef/pork/veal mix (my favorite)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence or a mix of rosemary, thyme, maybe a little sage
  • For the Red Wine Ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershire
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (or 2 cups crushed tomatoes)

Instructions

    Make the ketchup:
  1. Saute garlic in olive oil for a minute until soft.
  2. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring regularly, until it starts to turn a copper color.
  3. Add the worcestershire, white pepper, salt, and brown sugar. Then add the red wine and cook, bubbling vigorously, until most of it has cooked off and you only have a couple of tablespoons of syrupy goodness. About 10-15 minutes.
  4. Then add the tomatoes. If you're using sauce, you're done at this point. Turn is off and let cool. If you're using crushed tomatoes you'll now need to let it cook down again by half. Then turn it off and let cool.
  5. Make the meatloaf:
  6. Heat oven to 400.
  7. Put the garlic, onions, celery and carrots in a food processor, and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides a few times. Add the salt, pepper, and worcestershire and pulse just to mix it up.
  8. Kids Cooking Steps:
  9. Put the vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the eggs, meat, oats, and herbs. Mix gently with your hands until everything is equally distributed. Be as gentle as you can though; you don't want to knead it or massage it or it will get tough.
  10. Shape into 12 individual loaves and place at least 2 inches apart on a couple of sheet pans. Don't use a pan with high walls, like a cake pan or roasting pan--you won't the the maximum crust.
  11. Brush the ketchup over the loaves, reserving half of ketchup for serving.
  12. End Kids Cooking Steps.
  13. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer--meatloaf is done when it reaches 165 degrees.
  14. When it's done, remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes. This is important for it to keep from falling apart as soon as you serve it.
  15. Serve with remaining ketchup.
  16. To freeze: put leftover loaves on a clean sheet pan and put in the freezer. Once frozen, place individually or in pairs into food saver bags, vacuum seal, and return to freezer. They'll stay fresh for a good 6 months.
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0314 meatloaf meal