Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gingerbread House

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. In terms of food, there's definitely been some yummy stuff this month, but it's mostly been quick things I've already posted about before. And today's post isn't a recipe, but gingerbread houses are such a fun food-related holiday tradition, I thought this was the place for a little visual essay of our gingerbread housemaking this afternoon. This was from a kit...maybe next year we'll bake our own gingerbread and make our own icing.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Better than takeout, part I

Tonight my husband made a wonderful, quick dinner: farfalle with mushrooms, served with old-school frozen peas on the side, with a little butter, salt, and pepper. I'm guessing that even with the olive oil, parmesan, and bit of butter on the peas, we consumed fewer calories than if we had ordered pizza, and I know we spent less cash. We happened to have some fresh mushrooms on hand. Everything else is a kitchen staple at our place - veg bouillon paste for making stock, parmesan, pasta, olive oil, garlic. The whole meal was on the table in 20 minutes, and so delicious I'm taking the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oatmeal raisin cookies

I guess with the cool weather I am baking more. I love turning on the oven and letting the smell of something wonderful permeate the house. I made these a couple of weeks ago and will definitely make a new batch this weekend, because they were well-liked by everyone in the house, including The Picky Toddler. These are delicious, but if you are in need of a very decadent dessert, keep looking. But if you would like a little treat that isn't too bad for you, these are perfect.

A few baking notes: I halved the recipe and substituted applesauce for half of the canola oil, and the fat content felt just right - I actually think more oil would have made them too heavy or greasy. The cookies stayed fresh for several days just sitting on the counter, covered. As you are mixing the batter, it may seem too goopy. That's okay - you will likely be pleasantly surprised, as I was.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Cranberry Oat Muffins

Wake up to these muffins. You will be really glad you did. They're fairly healthy for a muffin - the main ingredients are fresh cranberries, plain yogurt, and rolled oats. They do include 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and next time I make them, I'm going to do 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup applesauce. I just did that with some oatmeal raisin cookies I made (which will be posted soon) and they turned out perfectly. I never would have guessed you could make 24 scrumptious cookies with only 1/4 cup of oil! So now I'm hooked on the applesauce-for-1/2 of the oil substitution and plan to do that in more of my baking.

Edited 1/1/09 to add: I've now made these twice with the 1/4 cup applesauce for 1/4 cup of the oil, and they are just as good - I really can't tell the difference. Also, I now add a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Yum! Finally, these are now officially toddler-approved. The picky toddler ate two today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Super fast veggie chili

This doesn't quite qualify as food without quotes, because morningstar farms vegetarian burger crumbles, a key ingredient in this adaptation of a recipe by Nava Atlas, are a bit frankenfoodish. But this chili is a low fat, high protein, super fast meal that has saved us from more fattening and expensive takeout on numerous occasions. You can get it on the table in about 20 mins (most of that time is unattended simmering) and most of the ingredients are cupboard staples.

Start by sauteeing a chopped onion, and, if you have it, one half of a large bell pepper, in a small amout of olive oil (1 tsp) until soft in a large saucepan. Then add 1 bag morningstar farm burger crumbles, 2 drained and rinsed cans of black or pinto beans, 1 cup frozen corn kernels, 1 jar tomato-based salsa of your choosing, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp chili powder. Stir, cover, and simmer on medium-low for about 15 mins, stirring occasionally, adding a little water if needed to prevent sticking. Serve with soft tortillas, chips, and/or a little grated cheese.
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Lentil soup, green beans, and roasted rosemary potatoes

A simple and satisfying dinner for a rainy weeknight. The lentil soup is the recipe I blogged about before, from Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's. The green beans were simply microwaved until crisp-tender (about 4-5 minutes in a microwave-safe bag) and tossed with a little balsamic vinegar. The purple, yellow, and red potatoes were washed, quartered, and tossed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary from the garden and then roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 45-60 minutes. They're done when a fork goes in easily and the skins start to brown and stick to the roasting pan. The time will vary based on the size of your potato pieces. Stir a couple of times during roasting.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn Millet Bake

Just about everyone's blogged about Mark Bittman's pretty, healthy, and delicious autumn millet bake, but just in case you haven't seen it before, here's the lovely version that came out of our oven. I think next time I'll use quinoa, like this chef. Millet is okay, but it just has that birdseedy texture I can't quite get used to.
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Peanut Peas and Os

This is not really a recipe...just this peanut sauce from the Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's book on o-shaped pasta and frozen peas. But it's a toddler (and husband) hit! It seems that almost all peanut-flavored things go down pretty easily. Plus, the o-shaped pasta clings to the fork tines so it's easier for Quinn to feed himself.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yummy noodles!

Here's how our slurp-tastic noodles from 101 cookbooks turned out. They are wonderful. Can't wait to eat them again on a cold autumn night. All credit goes to my husband, who did the cooking tonight.
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Acorn squash, greens, and red quinoa

I blogged about this in a previous post, but this is one of our favorite fall dinners. Very healthy and easy. Here's the recipe, as prepared with a toddler underfoot:
- While the toddler is trapped in his high chair happily eating his dinner (which, all too often, consists of milk and Mighty Bites because all other foods are deemed unacceptable), pre-heat the oven to 350.
- Rinse 1 cup quinoa and put it in the black and decker handy steamer with 2 cups water and set timer for 50 mins. Then, slice the acorn squash in half and put it face down on an old jellyroll style cookie sheet with a little water to steam the squash. Set oven timer for 30 min.
- Hang out while toddler finishes, or refuses to finish, dinner. Then play in other room.
- When oven timer beeps, if no other adult is available to watch toddler, trap toddler in high chair again so you can open the oven and finish the meal. Offer crayons, play dough, books, songs, dancing, peekaboo, more Mighty Bites, or other distractions as necessary.
- Take out squash, turn over, and glaze with a little butter and maple syrup. Put back in oven for another 10-15 mins.
- Meanwhile, put 1 tsp olive oil in large skillet on medium heat. When oil is hot, add 2 cloves minced garlic. Stir 30 secs. Then add about 1/2 bag Trader Joe's southern greens blend (washed collards and other yummy greens). Add a little water to steam veggies. Put lid on skillet, even if it doesn't quite fit at first because greens are not yet wilted. Cook greens 5-10 mins to taste, stirring occasionally. I like them bright green, with the stalk-like middles tender. I also like greens a little spicy and often add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, sea salt, and black pepper while cooking.
- Squash should be ready now (fork should go in easily).
- Quinoa should be ready now. Stir in 1-2 handfuls pinenuts and a drizzle of high-quality balsamic vinegar.
- Move all hot pots and pans and knives out of reach of toddler. Lock drawers and install baby gates as necessary.
- Serve food and eat while toddler throws tupperware around the kitchen.
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Cooking Habit

Since one reason I started this blog was to force myself into a healthy food cooking habit, I thought I'd say a few words about how that's going. In short, it has worked very well! I realized that tonight when, after dinner, I thought to myself (as I often do on a Sunday), "What might I like to have around the house this week to make life easier and to make healthy stuff readily available?"

And so before sitting down at the computer, watching Battlestar Galactica, or reading the Sunday New York Times, I simultaneously: 1) Put eggs in my steamer and set the timer for 30 mins; 2) Made low-fat granola; and 3) Put on a pot of mixed grains. It took about an hour altogether and our family will reap the benefits all week. Sometimes on Sunday nights I set the breadmaker, bake power muffins to keep in the freezer, and/or put some grains in my steamer to use or freeze for later use. In general, I'm using the freezer a lot more now, and as a habit I put about 1/2 of whatever soup or grain or baked good I am making into the freezer automatically.

I'm not writing this to congratulate myself, though I am pretty proud to have come such a long way from eating frozen pizza far too often. What's surprised me is how much of a habit this has become - like tooth brushing or checking email, it's just what I do now. If only I could develop an exercise habit, too...

Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's

I ordered this book from Amazon a week or so ago, and I've tried two recipes from it, both surprisingly good. The first recipe I tried was the "Le French Lentil Soup", which uses the Trader Joe's refrigerated pre-steamed french lentils to make a delicious lentil soup in about 20-25 min, instead of the usual 45. You can see the recipe in the Google Books preview on page 65 (that's the preview page # - the actual book page # is 72). The second one was the "Vegetable Tikka Masala" which is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion as to how to use the Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce - basically they have you simmer cauliflower, garbanzo beans, zuccini, and carrots in the sauce for 15 mins and then add 1/2 cup plain yogurt. We served our tikka masala with another Trader Joe's product, the pre-cooked basmati rice with red quinoa and flax seed, which made for a great meal. I feel a bit sheepish about these almost fast food recipes, but this is just the kind of thing I need for a busy weeknight - healthy & quick. And these certainly meet the criteria for being food not "food"...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Winter squash

We've been loving the winter squash the past couple of weeks. Last week we had acorn squash and this week, butternut. I prepared both the same way - sliced in half, put into a 350 degree oven on an old jellyroll cookie sheet with about 1" water for 40-50 min (about 30 min face down, then 10-20 face up, and that's when you add any toppings) until a fork goes in easily, brushed with a little butter and maple syrup. Good good good.

I've served the squash with curried christmas limas, israeli couscous, and/or simple green salad. A lovely fall meal, and though time-consuming, not much work as long as you can wrangle the toddler into a high chair long enough to open the hot oven! For the lima bean curry, I roughly followed this recipe, but needed only 1 tsp olive oil and used extra vegetable broth instead of oil where it says to add more oil if necessary to prevent the garlic and onions from burning.

As an aside, I haven't seen the need to use more than 1 tsp of olive oil for any of my sauteeing - and usually I don't even need that - just a quick spray in the non-stick pan seems more than adequate to add flavor and prevent sticking.

Bruschetta on polenta

While in Sonoma County, I also picked up some heirloom purple tomatoes at a farm stand. I had a tube of polenta in the fridge and some basil from my garden and voila, dinner is served. (This was a light dinner because we stopped at Foster's Freeze in Sebastopol on the way home from apple picking.) Here's the "recipe":

- Cut polenta into 1/2" thick slices
- Prep non-stick skillet with a light spray of olive oil
- Cook polenta patties 10 min per side, until they have a toasted exterior and soft, warm center
- Meanwhile, lazily chop tomatoes (I had about 4 large ones) and put in a bowl with about 1/2 cup torn basil leaves, 1 clove minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Set out the tomato bowl and platter of polenta toasts and have people serve themselves.

Serves two.
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Apple picking

Inspired by my cousin Jessica, who was going apple picking on the East Coast, we decided to do some apple picking of our own. We had a great time at Gabriel Farms in lovely Sebastopol, where those seeking an organic pastoral experience normally need an appointment to do u-pick, but we got lucky and on the day we decided to go because they were participating in the Sonoma County Farm Trails event. Before picking apples, we had lunch at one of my favorite casual vegetarian restaurants, Slice of Life.

So far we're just munching on our apple harvest, but in a couple of days, I might make applesauce with whatever's left, which is what I did with the suddenly un-sexy store-bought apples sitting in the fruit bowl when we returned from apple picking. My applesauce turned out delicious even though I didn't have any lemon juice on hand - I just peeled and lazily chopped the apples, simmered them for 40 mins in a small amount of water, mashed it up with a potato masher, and added cinnamon to taste. Yum!
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Party Favors

Tomorrow's my little guy's 2nd Birthday. We celebrated today. Here are the party favors, prepared Friday night - mini pumpkins with each child's name on them and a few homemade 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies - the perfect recipe for tired after-work parents to make for the next morning. We also served mini pumpkin muffins at the party - a slightly more decadent recipe than the toddler power kind I've posted about before.

The birthday party was a lot of fun. We've had a very intense several months, and it was terrific to see my little guy having a blast at the Habitot water play area and to chat with some dear friends and their tots. Happy Birthday, my sweet little angel.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Portobello burgers

This is just barely a recipe, but my husband made portobello burgers the other day for lunch, and they were just great. I hadn't had one in awhile, and had forgotten how good they are. (And low in calories, too - woohoo!) We made ours in the oven, using a recipe from Nava Atlas's Vegetarian Five-Ingredient Gourmet - brush with a little wine, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Broil 5 min per side in the oven. Sprinkle with oregano and serve.
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Harvest Time!

Here's how my garden grew! We are using these home-grown veggies to make our own pesto, raw as a garnish/side dish with portobello burgers, and in slow-cooker ratatouille (if you follow this link, go to page 171). This was an experiment - I'd never grown herbs or vegetables before. Now I'm hooked. I love going out to the "garden" (okay, three pots on the deck) to cut something for dinner.

Cilantro Noodle Bowl from 101 Cookbooks

"Yum!" is all I can say about this recipe. Mine is a little different, with broccoli instead of romanesco and fresh udon, not dried soba. I substituted what I found at Andronico's the day I shopped. I could imagine this being lovely with a variety of different vegetables or noodles - the highlight is the cilantro sauce.

Soup, Salad, and Bread II

This is that pumpkin soup I've blogged about before, along with the 80-minute oat bread from the last soup, salad, and bread post.

The salad is an apple-walnut salad. Super easy, and somehow always like a special treat. Toss together some salad greens, a chopped apple (with a little lemon on it to prevent browning), and some walnuts with a hint of olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Cherry Pie Oatmeal

Okay, it doesn't really taste like cherry pie, but it was possibly the best oatmeal I've ever had, super easy, and actually in keeping with the vegetarian meal plan I'm trying at Sparkpeople. I was inspired by this recipe at Locavore on Core, but I am pressed for time and lazy in the mornings and I don't have a pressure cooker anyway. So here's the lazy girl microwave adaptation:

- Dump 1 cup regular rolled oats in a medium glass bowl
- Add 13/4 to 2 cups water and a dash of salt
- Stir
- Microwave on high 3 mins
- Add about 1/2 small bag frozen cherries, 2 tsp brown sugar, and cinnamon to taste
- Stir
- Microwave on high 1 min
- Stir, serve, and eat

Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler (The Picky Toddler ate several bites of this and he never eats oatmeal!) I had mine with a glass of soy milk and wasn't hungry until lunchtime. This dish will definitely be making regular appearances at our breakfast table and frozen cherries will now be a grocery store staple for us.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Soup, salad, and bread

I'll have to post the recipe later. I'm beat and it doesn't appear to be online. But this is Mollie Katzen's Golden Chickpea soup, a lovely, if labor-intensive soup that has been a favorite of ours for a long time. It tastes luxurious, but is low fat and great for you. Briefly: sautee 2 cups of minced onions, a couple tablespoons of garlic, a couple teaspoons of mustard and cumin, and a few threads of saffron for about 10 minutes in about 1 tbs olive oil. Then add 4 cans rinsed and drained chick peas. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Next, add 1/4 cup lemon juice, a couple more cloves of minced garlic, and salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Finally, puree. Top with any combination of sesame oil, chopped tomatoes, or cilantro (this is the garnish pictured above).

Per Mollie Katzen's suggestion, I served the soup with an arugula and butter lettuce salad with homemade orange vinaigrette. It's basically this recipe, but I didn't add orange sections - that would have made it even better.

80-Minute Oatmeal Bread from the bread machine, made by my husband, author of Internal Monologue (it turned out beautifully!) It's a recipe that came with the machine, and the one we turn to most often. It's just delicious and quick. You can find it here in the product manual on page 53. We modify the recipe slightly. I do not add dates (just because I like a more versatile bread for sweet or savory purposes) and I use regular rolled oats rather than instant.

Soup, salad, and bread is a favorite meal here, so I'll periodically add more favorite combinations.

Mixed grain recipe from 101 cookbooks - Good even though I screwed it up!

I just made this recipe on 101 Cookbooks, and even though I screwed it up, it's still delicious. I used pearl barley instead of whole barley, and steel cut oats instead of whole oat groats. The result is that this is quite a bit mushier than it otherwise would have been. In the pot after cooking, it did not look at all like the gorgeous picture on the 101 Cookbooks site. It looked like a pot of mush. I was disappointed and thought of throwing it out. But then I took a bit out, added some milk and maple syrup, and now I'm hooked. I'm thinking of having some again for lunch and dinner! And as noted on 101 Cookbooks, I imagine it will be excellent as well with an egg and some steamed greens, perhaps with a little soy sauce, or mixed with some cheese and broccoli or peas (that might even get toddler approval). This made a lot as noted in the original recipe - enough to stock some in the refrigerator and the freezer!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pumpkin in the Summertime

Well, I guess this is my slacker blogger month. But at least here's a delicious recipe for pumpkin oatmeal. No picture, because frankly it looks weird and orange-y. But it is good, and good for you. And once you've got the can of pumpkin open, you might as well use it up and have nearly instant pumpkin soup or some pumpkin power muffins.

Bonus - canned pumpkin is a food you "should" be eating but are probably not. Ditto for cinnamon, in the oatmeal and muffins.

Updated 8/24 - And don't forget pumpkin pancakes - yum!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Quick Update

It's been awhile since I've posted, but we're still cooking and eating! Highlights include not-too-sweet Carrot-Oat cookies for the Picky Toddler (he loves them!), pumpkin oatmeal, and TWO more recipes from Princess Sianessa - Butternut Squash Soup (vegetarian version) and Potato Zuccini Latkes. Over the weekend I also made more granola and my husband, the Internal Monologuist, made yogurt and lemonade, so we are well stocked.

(Full disclosure - it's fun to make Princess Sianessa's recipes because they are good and easy - but also because I've known her since high school!)

More details on all of the above later.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sneaky Tomato Sauce

Here is the Picky Toddler eating all his veggies without knowing it! Hehehehe. The veggie-packed pasta sauce is from this recipe by Princess Sianessa. A huge hit - he had seconds! And my husband and I loved it, too. The only change I made was to use fresh basil and oregano at the end of the cooking, rather than dried oregano at the beginning. And yes, the Picky Toddler is learning to use his fork quite well - we spear the food for him, and he has about a 90% success rate now of getting it into his mouth. That is, if he wants to eat it.
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Saturday Morning Tofu Scramble

Well with Picky (or Not-So-Picky) Toddler around, we've been doing lots of pancakes for breakfast. Wheat pancakes, oat pancakes, banana pancakes, etc. And I like pancakes, but was definitely ready for a change of pace. So yesterday I made a nice tofu scramble, based on this recipe. Lucky for me it's online so no need to retype, but I found it in my old Vegetarian Times cookbook (circa 1995). I made one change - mixing the tortillas in with the tofu sounded gross, so I served warm tortillas on the side, and we made breakfast burritos. My husband and I liked this a lot, not so much the Picky Toddler, who had Cheerios instead. If you're making this for vegan friends, you can skip the cheese. Also, this makes a lot. We'll have breakfast burritos again tomorrow.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Crostini 3 ways

What is it with me and threes lately? Anyway, I had a lot of leftover crostini from the previous night's dinner, so tonight we had crostini three ways and pretended we were at a fancy small plates restaurant.

#1) With goat cheese (more of last night's leftovers) and avocado slices
#2) With bruschetta (about 3 chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped basil, 1 clove of garlic pressed, a splash of olive oil)
#3) With Princess Sianessa's walnut hummus (And it came out beautifully, even though I couldn't follow the recipe exactly. I had no time to roast garlic, so I just added 1 clove raw. And I didn't have limes, so I did use lemon juice, despite the warning not to!) The Picky Toddler (who much to my relief is turning out to be not so picky after all now that he is mastering the art of chewing) ate some of it on a cracker.

We threw some olives, broccoli, and cauliflower on the table to round out the meal.

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3 Meals on Sunday

I don't know what got into me on Sunday, but I cooked 3 meals (I usually manage 1 or 2 and go out or eat leftovers or quick stuff for 1 meal.) Anyway, all 3 meals were well-received by the peanut gallery here, the Internal Monologuist and the Picky Toddler.

#1) For breakfast (no pic, unfortunately), we had a lovely veggie hash. I sauteed some chopped onion (about 1/2 large) until beginning to soften, then added 3 medium cubed red potatos and sauteed about 2 mins. Then I added about 1/4 cup water, put the lid on, and let the potato and onions "steam" for about 7 mins to soften. Then I removed the lid, and continued sauteeing until the potatoes just started to brown. Next, I tossed in some chopped red pepper (about 1/2 large) and about 6 sliced mini zuccinis. Finally, I added about 4 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar and cooked through. It was scrumptious, and an easy way to get some veggies and protein at breakfast.

#2) For lunch, we had black bean burritos, with more zuccini (I wanted to use them up!), tomato, cheese, and salsa. The black beans were based on Nava Atlas's recipe for green chili beans - basically you sautee some garlic and onion, add beans and a little water, then some canned green chilis. You finish the dish by mashing some of the beans to give them a creamy texture.

#3) For dinner, we had apricot-lentil soup, which sounds strange, but it is divine. It's Mollie Katzen's recipe. We served it with crostini, goat cheese (a wonderful part of our anniversary gift from Red and Cathie - thanks!), and salad (those new wooden salad bowls are also from Red and Cathie!). Incidentally, the soup is vegan and fat-free, so it's nice if you have vegan or dieting company. For company (whether vegan or omnivorous), I recommend using red or green lentils. The brown ones (as shown below) just aren't that pretty.

Note for parents - for the Picky Toddler, these meals were adapted as follows:
Breakfast - same, but chopped his portion into smaller chunks and helped him with the fork
Lunch - made him a quesadilla with cheese and some black beans and served as tiny cubes
Dinner - he shocked me by eating the lentil soup straight up! It has a lot of spices in it, but he liked it. He can't use a spoon that well yet, so we just fed it to him.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Toddler Mini Power Muffins

I like these pumpkin power muffins by Rachel Rappaport at Coconut and Lime, but they will really be put to the test tomorrow morning when my toddler eats breakfast. These are packed with nutrition - pumpkin, egg, yogurt (I substituted yogurt for buttermilk), ground flax seed, oats, and whole wheat flour. I baked them mini-sized and plan to put most of them in the freezer for fast healthy morning meals and snacks. If they are really a hit, they might become part of the regular cooking repertoire, along with iced tea, yogurt, and granola - stuff we just like to keep around.

UPDATE: He likes them!
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Rotini with Roasted Tomatoes

Too tired to post the recipe tonight - I don't think it's online. But the basics: roast cherry tomatoes, olive oil, capers, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and pepper for 40 minutes. Toss with cooked pasta, pine nuts, and fresh oregano. I used mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes from Trader Joe's and fresh oregano (from my garden!), and it was colorful and superb.

I was slightly intimidated by the long cooking time, with the toddler underfoot and all. But it was surprisingly easy to toss the tomato mixture together and stick into the oven - while it roasted, we read The Hungry Little Caterpillar again and again while the scent of dinner wafted through the house. Good times.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A tiny tomato!

Check it out! I'm so excited!
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