Archive for October, 2011

October 28, 2011

Lunch in Portugal – Part 2

Smoked salmon. It is everywhere in Portugal. They have it for breakfast and they have it for lunch. And by smoked I mean, think lox and bagels not cedar plank.

At breakfast, you’ll find it with some bread; at lunch, it’s typically served with cream cheese on a sandwich, with some greens and maybe a tomato. The best part is, S and C love smoked salmon. On the downside, it’s expensive stuff in the U.S.

But I’m glad we can add something new (and full of omega-3’s) to our lunch repertoire. Yesterday, the kids tried a smoked salmon pasta salad with an herb cream sauce, capers, cut-up grapes, croutons and chives. It was surprisingly decent, considering the strange cornucopia of ingredients. But if I were to try to re-create something similar in my kitchen, I’d either make the dish warm or whip together a vinaigrette for the salad. And croutons on top of a pasta salad is too carb-y for me, so I’d eliminate one of the two. Plus, I’d add some kind of vegetable. Cherry tomatoes are the first to come to mind.

Let me know if you come up with your own concoction.


October 23, 2011

Lunch in Portugal – Part 1

I’m in Portugal this week, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to find out what the Portugese eat for lunch. Like the rest of Europe, the bakery/cafe plays a big part in day-to-day life. There’s at least one on every street corner. In fact, it appears to be the meeting place for lunch. From sweet egg custard tarts to savory croissants and mini quiches, the choices are endless. The locals aren’t afraid to eat a quiche for lunch, followed by an almond tart for dessert. And if you’re an adult, it’s all washed down with an espresso.

We’ve tried quiches filled with spinach and tomato, ham and cheese, and spinach and cheese. All have been obscenely delicious. I’m inspired to make my own when I get home. But I’ll probably make a lighter version with phyllo dough instead of the traditional pie crust. Admittedly, the crust here has been perfectly flaky and buttery.


October 19, 2011

Oatmeal Snack Bars

S has been complaining that the grain-free bars I make are too sweet. Really? This is coming from the child who would love nothing more than to eat a bowl of icing. But, okay, I like bars, so I’m game for finding a new recipe. I prefer to stay away from wheat, when we can, so these super-easy oat bars from sounded interesting. There’s no sugar or flour, just oats, dried fruit and a bunch of nuts and seeds. If you’re sensitive to gluten, use gluten-free oats. (I’m a fan of the ones from Bob’s Red Mill.)

The verdict? It’s a keeper. But I will be playing with it some, trying different nuts, fruits and coconut. S thought they weren’t sweet enough (The other bar is too sweet and this one not sweet enough. Ack!), but C liked them. And I had two with my cup of coffee this morning. For the next go-around, I’ll add 1/4 cup of honey or brown sugar.

Note: These have the texture of a dense muffin, rather than a crunchy cookie. Recipe follows the photo.

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars (from


1 1/2 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. chopped nuts (any variety is fine – walnuts, almonds, etc.)

1/2 c. dried fruit (again, any you like is fine – raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, figs)

1/4 c. seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax or sesame)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt (I think you could eliminate this or cut it to 1/2 tsp., esp. if you don’t add a sweetener)

1 1/4 c. skim milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients.

Pour wet into dry. Stir to combine.

Pour into a 9X9 baking dish either coated in cooking spray or lined with parchment.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Cut into squares.

October 18, 2011


Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like meatballs? Especially homemade meatballs?! I admit: it’s time consuming to make a batch, but if you cook 100  (especially if you’re baking them) and freeze them it’s worth your while. Then, when you need some, whether for lunch or dinner, they’re ready to go.

 I’ve experimented with meatballs many times, but I’ve never made them          with elk—until now. In fact, I’ve never cooked elk. But I found some ground  elk at Sprouts a couple weeks ago frozen for $7.99/lb. and bought a  package. Game meat is much leaner than beef, and free of hormones and  other artificial growth stimulants, so I thought it was worth a try. But  because I thought it might be too gamey for the kids, I mixed it with grass-  fed ground beef. Half and half.

Then, I stumbled upon a recipe for mozzarella-stuffed elk meatballs. My    first response? Ewww. It reminded me too much of Pizza Hut’s ads for    cheese-stuffed pizza crusts. You could feel a heart attack coming on just watching the commercial. But then, I conceded that I don’t know much about cooking wild game, unlike the folks at the site dedicated to wild-game recipes. Besides, those little mozzarella pearls are so tasty on their own. I decided to make half the batch plain and the other half with mozzarella.

You know what? They were really, really scrumptious. The cheese was nice and soft in the center, and the meat just fell apart in your mouth.The funny thing is, my husband and I liked the mozzarella ones and the kids didn’t. And S and C weren’t put off by the slight gaminess. In fact, S told me she preferred them over my usual meatballs. You know what? I did, too. I see elk in our future.

As for the recipe, I combined a few different ones I’ve tried in the past. In a nutshell, it includes the ground meat (you can combine beef, pork, turkey, veal, elk, bison, etc.), sautéed onions and garlic with rosemary, thyme and oregano; eggs; breadcrumbs soaked in milk; finely chopped parsley; grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese; and, of course, salt and pepper. If you want to try the mozzarella-stuffed version, simply mold the meat around the pearl.

You know what else is great about meatballs? They are so versatile. The possibilities are endless. For today, S got some meatballs with marinara sauce and a piece of olive bread.

October 17, 2011

Black Bean Quesadillas

Yes, there’s cooking involved. But it’s all done in under 10 minutes. Here are the easy-peasy steps:

Black bean quesadillas

1.  Put a tortilla in a pan on medium heat. (Note: Use whole wheat so you don’t have Mommy guilt like me.)

2.  Flip once to warm on both sides. (This makes the cheese melt faster.)

3. Sprinkle some grated Monterey Jack cheese on half the tortilla.

4. Put a couple of tablespoons of rinsed, canned black beans on top of the cheese.

5. Fold quesadilla in half and cook until golden on both sides, about 2 to 4 minutes.

6. Cut into triangles.

All done! I smashed up half an avocado and added a twist of lime and a dash of salt to make a small side of guacamole. You could also add some salsa to the inside of the quesadilla. Unfortunately, we were all out.

To round out the lunch, I threw in a couple clementines and a plum.



October 13, 2011

Salmon Salad with Crackers

Think tuna salad—but with salmon instead. You get more omega-3 fatty acids than you would with tuna, and with a fraction of the mercury. Add to that a smashed-up avocado and a squeeze of lemon and you have one big serving of brain food.

I get my ready-to-eat pouched wild salmon from It’s less fishy than canned salmon and doesn’t have the BPA you get with canned foods. This morning, I packed the salmon salad with some some nut-and-rice crackers and cut-up cucumbers. That gives S two kinds of scoopers to play with. I’ve been really impressed with the gluten-free Hazelnut Nut-Thins crackers from Blue Diamond. They have just the right amount of salt and a touch of nuttiness. And I’m a sucker for Trader Joe’s organic Persian cucumbers. They’re petite and sweet, and don’t have the bitterness of regular cucumbers because they’re seedless.

Of course, you could also put it on bread and make it a salmon salad sandwich.

October 12, 2011

TJ’s Fusilli with Vegetables & Basil Pesto

I got in late from a run this morning and couldn’t bear to think about packing a lunch. Thank goodness the last time I was at Trader Joe’s I had the sense to pick up a single-serving box of frozen Fusilli with Vegetables and Basil Pesto. They’re perfect when you’re feeling lazy about packing lunch. But I only allow myself to get one box at a time; otherwise, I’d be sending S to school with this three times a week.

The ingredients are straightforward, and S digs the pesto pasta so much that she even manages to choke down the accompanying zucchini. She does, however, pick out the red peppers. All you do is nuke the box for five minutes. After it was cooked, I threw in some of the leftover flank steak from earlier in the week to make sure S gets her protein.

P.S. — The fusilli passes my taste test with flying colors, especially for a frozen pasta entree from France. It’s like getting a Thai curry from the Germans. But somehow, it works.

October 11, 2011

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Yes, I’m on a leftover streak. But it seems silly not to kill two birds with one stone. Last night for dinner I made a kale and chickpea soup with chorizo. In my attempt to give the soup a little more depth, I almost made it too spicy for the kids. I had added more paprika, some cumin and a fat pinch of cayenne. S drank a lot of water with her soup, but I like to tell myself that all those fluids are good for her. In the end, both kids were sopping up the last of their soup with some seedy multigrain bread. This morning, I sent S to school with the soup, some cut-up fruit and a wedge of bread.

Here’s the recipe from Epicurious:

Kale and chickpea soup

Note: I chopped up a few carrots instead of using the potato. And since I couldn’t find cured chorizo sausage, I used pork chorizo instead. Lastly, I used all broth, no water.

October 10, 2011

Flank Steak and Corn & Tomato Salad

S loves flank steak. As in, she eats three servings of it when I make it. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I craved beef like a lioness when I was pregnant with her. Before my pregnancy, I had gone nearly eight years without eating red meat. But all of a sudden, I had dreams about spaghetti and meatballs, In-N-Out burgers and filet mignons. I gave in to all my urges, which only got worse when I was breastfeeding, and never looked back.

When I opened the fridge this morning, I saw that we had some flank steak left over from last night—but no sides. I needed a side of vegetables, and I needed it quick. There’s a corn and tomato salad that Siena likes as much as flank steak, but I didn’t have any fresh corn. I did, however, have some frozen organic corn. So, I tore into the bag, cut up some cherry tomatoes and strips of basil, and mixed it all together. Note: I used the corn completely frozen. I figured it would thaw and be nice and chilly for lunch. Lastly, I dressed it with a balsamic vinaigrette—one part vinegar to three parts olive oil. S’s eyes lit up when she saw her lunch. That’s my girl.

By the way, Epicurious has the easiest and tastiest recipe for grilled flank steak with rosemary. You can’t mess it up. I usually marinade the flank in the morning and grill it at dinnertime. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, just use tamari instead of soy sauce. Your kids and dinner guests will rave. I promise.

October 7, 2011

TJ’s Chicken Taquitos

Last week when I was at Trader Joe’s, the store had its chicken taquitos on demo. And since I had C and S in tow, the kids insisted that we try them. At first I cringed, but after looking at the ingredients I realized they’re pretty benign. Both kids loved them, so I gave in to S’s pleading and dropped them in my cart.

This morning I was glad to have them in the freezer, because I was out of the usual staples and didn’t have any leftovers. So, I dropped two in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, I smashed up half an avocado and mixed in a little salt and lime juice. The lime gives the simple guacamole some nice acidity, and prevents it from turning brown. Then, I cut up an apple and washed some green and red grapes. Lunch? Check.

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