caesar dressing … it’s not just for Romaine

The not-so-littles in our house LOVE Caesar Salad.

Love.

It.

And not just because of the crunchy herby croutons that are super satisfying coated in garlicky, citrus-y, creamy Caesar Dressing. (Although I would be ignoring the facts if I didn’t admit it was the crispy bits that got our oldest, most bread-loving and significantly salad averse to try it.)

I wish I could tell you that she made the discovery of her love of this salad at home … eating lettuce grown in our garden … with croutons that I loving made with staling homemade bread …

No.

It was at our local favorite pizza joint Gil’s Goods, in Livingston, MT. Firstly, I am a huge fan of Gil’s, who, as far as I’m concerned, offers the best S.O.L.E. food around… (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical). If we’re going out to eat pizza (or pretty much anything on their homey menu), Gil’s is definitely my place of choice.

And secondly, I’m not suggesting this would work for you, but in my experience the littles are sometimes more willing to try new flavors at a restaurant than if I just plop it on their plates and tell them to dig in. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been making this simple and delicious Caesar Dressing for nearly 20 years … Until they tried it at Gil’s, there was no getting them to even take a bite at home. (I don’t fight them over food … they either eat what’s on their plates or they don’t eat … sometimes they don’t eat.)

Now, though, we’re past that hurdle and we’re all enjoying more salads at home … which is lucky since the lettuce is starting to grow and it’s my favorite food of Spring and Summer.

And I’m here to tell you that this Caesar Dressing is NOT just for Romaine lettuce.

Seriously.

We’ve had it on mixed greens and power greens and spinach and kale …

Actually, my favorite way to have a Caesar these days IS with kale.

Remember two (maybe it was three) years ago when Kale was the new super food?

There was all sorts of excitement about how antioxidant and awesome it is? How it’s a great source of calcium and manganese and phosphorus? It’s high in iron, has Omega fatty acids and a healthy dose of fiber? Sounds too good to be true, right? But then there were all those concerns about how uncooked kale is challenging to digest and not good for folks with Thyroid issues?

Yeah … well … I like kale. And I don’t want to cut it out of our diet because the good things are just too good to ignore!

And happily(!), there’s science that shows doing a fine chop on kale and either cooking or adding citrus like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar breaks down the bad and makes all the good available to us!**

Whew!

Which makes me even more happy to share this SUPER SIMPLE  (only 5 ingredients!) family favorite recipe with you all.

CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large Cloves Garlic (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Avocado Oil (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil is nice, too)
  • 2 TBLS Mayonnaise
  • Juice from one lemon (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 cups loosely packed Ribbon Chopped Kale or Romaine Lettuce (or any other lettuce you like)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan & Asiago Cheese
  • 1/2 cup herbed pita chips

DIRECTIONS:

For the dressing: Combine the garlic, olive oil, mayo, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce in a jar and shake until well-combined.

For a KALE Caesar:  If you’re using baby kale, just make sure it’s cleaned and dried before chopping. If you’re using “adult” kale, de-vein after cleaning and chop into fine ribbons.

If you’re using adult kale, cut into ribbons and then coat with about 1/4 cup of the dressing and massage it well. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 hours in the fridge). Just before serving, toss with the rest of the dressing (or dressing to taste), cheese and croutons.

Extra dressing lasts in the fridge for about a week.

(PS – the Kale version is a GREAT salad to bring to a pot-luck because the longer it won’t get soggy and limp while sitting on the food line.)

For ROMAINE or any other lettuce, just toss and go …

Eat it up, YUM!

-J.

PS – here’s another (oft-requested) dressing I make at home because I haven’t bought salad dressing in more than 2 decades!

Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Mason Jar Ranch Dressing

 

 

balsamic brussels sprouts – an easy and delicious side

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I heard a story on NPR a few weeks ago about impoverished Chinese women who live in remote regions of China. The story was about the struggles these women endure to raise their families and work the land as their husbands, forced by their economic situation, are emigrating to cities for months at a time to work low-wage factory jobs to send little sums of money home.

For about three and a half seconds I thought … yep … that’s my life.

You see, my husband works in the movie business and has been in Vancouver, Canada, since January working on a film. He won’t be home until mid-August. And we miss him something fierce.

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It’s so easy to feel frustrated because I’m alone with the littles all day every day. That running to the store is never just a quick stop. It involves car seats and carts and hand holding and kids asking for things we don’t need or I don’t want them to have. It means being the good guy and the bad guy (sometimes at the same moment). It means saying “no” often … and refereeing a lot of sibling squabbles. It means being strategic about finding time to take a shower. It means taking out all the garbage. Mowing the lawn (or shoveling the snow … depending on the day). Washing all the dishes. Cleaning up all the messes. It means trying to make sure the littles remember how much their dad loves and misses them.

It means not having strong arms around me when things get overwhelming.

And then I came to my senses and got over my pity party because to compare our struggles with that of a Chinese peasant who might not have a roof over her head and works in the fields every day not because she happens to like gardening, but because if she didn’t work the fields her children wouldn’t eat … yeah … I got over my pity party fast.

And then I decided I needed to step it up with regard to how I approach these months our Cowboy is away.

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You see, it’s easy to get depressed and want to just sit in the house and watch movies all day. And in the midst of our snow-heavy winter, with short days and cold dark nights, it seemed like a totally okay option.

But the littles don’t deserve to be short-changed on experiences because it might make my day a little more complicated.

And that’s not just about making sure they got to the ski hill, or get to ride horses, learn to swim and go to the park. It’s about little things, too. Like making sure we sit down to a civilized meal at least once a day. It’s about giving them opportunity to try new activities and new foods.

Because even though I’m a real food blogger and spend way more time than I should caring about the food that goes into my body and that of our littles, I am still human, and it’s easy to slip into the pattern of making something easy for dinner, which is not always the “good” choice. It might be organic pasta with butter, but it’s still pasta with butter. Or sourdough pancakes. Or egg tacos. Carb-overloaded ease. I still have a responsibility to expose the kids to a varied diet of good greens and grassfed-pasture-raised proteins even if it takes me a few minutes to prepare.

To be honest, they don’t love it all. Some nights I’m sure they would prefer pancakes. But once in a while there’s a moment when even I’m surprised by what they like.

For example:

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups of Brussels Sprouts (quartered)
  • 1-2 TBLS Avocado Oil
  • Sea Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Shallot (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 TBLS really good Balsamic Vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and quarter Brussels sprouts and toss in one to two tablespoons of avocado oil and then put them in a roasting pan in a single layer.

Turn the oven to 400 degrees and place the roasting pan in the preheating oven.

When the oven reaches temperature (it takes ours about 10 minutes to hit 400), stir the Brussels sprouts and let them roast for another 15 minutes.

A few minutes before the sprouts are done, sauté the chopped shallots in just a dash of oil until they are translucent. Remove the shallots from the heat, add the Balsamic Vinegar. Then take the sprouts from the oven and toss with the balsamic and shallots. Serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Surprisingly easy to make tasty Brussels sprouts that go great with steak or fish or chicken or on a big leafy salad. They look elegant and taste delicious. I would serve these at a dinner party, for sure, if my life was about dinner parties these days. Since it’s not, I’ll just keep sharing them with the kiddos and be grateful for whatever challenges this life has to offer.

xo,

Jeanne

SHARED on Kelly the Kitchen Kop

everyone’s talking about essential oils

It’s Jeanne.

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” – Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything)

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And that sort of goes triple for me.

I mean, I am not a fan of sales people.

I once didn’t buy a Honda because the salesperson spent the entire time I was looking at the vehicle bad-mouthing the competition (Volkswagon).

I go to Rodan & Fields parties and feel pressured to buy sunscreen even though I’m freaked out by the long list of ingredients (including cancer-causing parabans and sulfates) in the formulas.

And as much as I love Pampered Chef (and I do … I LOVE Pampered Chef … I want everything in their catalog) I just can’t bring myself to “join sales team.”

In fact, it’s taken me more than five years of continuous use of essential oils to get the courage to actually write this post. (Yes, I’m that weird about multi-level marketing deals even though I know they are effective and useful ways to earn money for one’s family).

But I’m here now.

And there’s no turning back.

Because this blog is about good food, health, wellness, simplicity, sustainability and caring for our littles.

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And we’ve been relying on essential oils for years.

Specifically, we’ve been relying on Young Living essential oils for years.

When I was pregnant with our first, I was on a business trip to Russia. It was the ONLY time I had morning sickness during either pregnancy. And if it wasn’t for Thieves Oil Spray, I wouldn’t have made it through the trip. Seriously. I sprayed it on my bed and pillows when I arrived at the hotel because all I could smell was sweat and body oils in the room, even after housekeeping changed the sheets for me. (I was pregnant. I could smell EVERYTHING.)

A few hours later, when it was time to sleep, I had my first moments of relief the entire trip.

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When someone in the house has a fever, my first line of defense is peppermint oil on the soles of little feet because it has consistently brought temperatures down that critical one or two degrees that lets tiny bodies keep fighting disease, without any extras like preservatives and sugars. (This is NOT to say that I won’t turn to acetaminophen if we need it. I’m not anti-medicine. But I’m personally not into over-medicating, so if I can use a safe alternative wholistic approach, I’d much rather start there.)

When I nearly set fire to our kitchen, what did I turn to? Purification and Lemon Essential Oils made all the difference.

And most recently, I was starting out on an 18 hour road trip with the kiddos and the little one ended up with a bummer case of motion sickness.

Ew.

And I had just vacuumed the car and washed the carseats.

(I mostly felt bad for the little guy, but I’d be lying if I didn’t have my own little personal pity party right then and there …)

After a wipe down and a change of clothes, a little EO on his belly and we were good to go. No, I didn’t take a picture mid-crisis. It would have been gross and totally inappropriate! But here’s the “after” photo:

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Hooray for YL Lavender Essential Oil!!!

Anyway … you won’t get pressure from me to buy Young Living (or any other equally reputable) essential oil. But I’m passionate about living holistically and simply and sustainably and want to share with you some of the solutions I feel good about that we’ve found along the way, which includes our experiences with YL Essential Oils. Here’s an affiliate link or two to my “store.”

… And I’m here if you want to talk essential oils (selling or buying).

And I want to hear how YOU use essential oils?

 

Reminder (disclaimer): I’m not a doctor and any advice I suggest is simply based on my personal experience or that of my family. It’s not intended to replace the guidance you receive from your medical professional team. Talk to your doctor before changing your regime.

 

mother’s day, 2014

Jeanne here.

I wrote this a few years ago now. But I was looking through old files, cleaning up the mess that is my computer, and stumbled upon it. And since it’s Mother’s Day, it just seems appropriate to share it because …

Well …

Because like most people, I love my mom. And I don’t mind bragging about her 🙂

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If you’ve met my mom, you are probably already aware that she’s one of the most loyal, passionate, compassionate, fearless, resourceful, bend-over-backwards-to-help-anyone-women you know. And that’s if you’ve spent five minutes with her.

If you are in her circle of friends or family she will stand by you, support you, defend you, love you and honor you until her own heart breaks.

And on top of that, she’s actually funny … laughs from the depths of her soul and knows how to enjoy the moment she’s in. She may hold onto hurt, but she lets go of pain (which is not a contradiction if you think about it for just one moment). And for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an example of what’s good in the world.

So you can probably also imagine that, having this woman as a mother, it’s a bit challenging to come up with just one special memory … and the list of things she’s done to make a difference in my life is pretty much endless.

I could tell you about the road trips she and my grandmother made to visit me in Washington, DC … hours upon hours on the road, only to be relegated to eating over-cooked penne with store-bought sauce, drinking red wine with my girlfriends on the floor of a basement studio apartment … three of us later sleeping on a full-size futon … and then being willing to trek around the corner in her pajamas to my favorite local coffee shop. I didn’t have a coffee maker and for some reason would NOT let them get dressed before we had coffee and they were both game to make the walk … I wish I had a picture of this … kick myself daily for not capturing our slumber parties on film.)

Or I could tell you about the Christmas we spent at a condo in Hilton Head. No Christmas tree in sight, so my mom whips out a 3-inch butter knife adorned with a mini evergreen and we spend the next three days taking pictures holding the “tree.” (Somehow I don’t have any of the photos, but I promise, this happened and if you were there you might have laughed)

I could also tell you about how, raising seven kids on the income of a nurse and a mailman, she was miraculously able to create a world in which we had no idea how hard they had to struggle to make ends meet. We had a beautiful home that was meticulously clean and equally welcoming. Good food in our bellies. Magical Christmas mornings and very few cares in the world.

That’s one good mom, in my estimation.

But the moment that just blew me away was five minutes after my daughter was born.

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I thought MY life was flipped upside down by her birth. I was pretty scared. My job was on the line. My future was up in the air. And to be honest, my whole perspective just took a 180 degree shift.

And my mom was a rock.

She was amazing.

Actually, she completely blew my mind.

She changed everything.

She somehow convinced her boss to switch around her work schedule and got in the car at the crack of dawn (or earlier) every Monday morning and drove two plus hours in horrible traffic from Indio to Los Angeles so she and and my retired-step dad could spend four days a week living in a small guest room caring for our little girl.  She fed, bathed, played with and loved my daughter like no one else. I never had to worry about what it would be like to leave her with a stranger.

She gave me the courage to face each day with a smile. She laughed at me when I got too “new mom crazy.” And she gave me the confidence to take a step back and make changes in my own life for the sake of my daughter … the way she made changes for me.

It was her example that gave me  “permission” to change my life for my daughter’s.

It was her passion and compassion that inspired me to quit the 14-hr-a-day job so I could spend time with my daughter, even though it meant giving up some of my precious independence to do it.

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My Mom has always lived by example. She puts the people she love higher on the priority list than “stuff” and her heart is where my heart resides.

I have a phenomenal mother.

And I am thankful.

 
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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!  I love you!!

what I learned about simplicity in an apartment with one spatula

Jeanne here.

We spent most of February in a small furnished apartment in Vancouver, Canada, visiting our dear Cowboy while he works on a movie for Paramount Pictures.

And what became more evident than ever during our time there is: we have too much stuff.

Not in Vancouver. But at home.

We spent three weeks and each little had one small box of toys (both boxes fit between their carseats for the road trip and they packed the boxes themselves), five books, a shopping bag of craft supplies (markers, paper, scissors, tape, paper bags), one notebook each with a special pen included, and enough clothes to last 5 days. And while they missed a few of their favorite toys (like the dollhouse and barn), neither ever asked for more or whined about not having enough. There were very few fights. We stayed busy and entertained, and the only TV they watched was the local PBS station while I made dinner.

It was awesome.

So of course I came home and removed SEVEN FULL BOXES OF TOYS from their school/play room.

simple toys

(I haven’t yet brought the boxes to our local Good Will, but if we can make it a month without them asking for these toys, they’ll make their way to a new home.)

But the lesson goes beyond reducing the clutter for the kids.

Because I made breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner nearly every day we were there … in a small kitchen equipped with one spatula, a whisk, one frying pan, a sauce pan, a medium sized pot, one baking dish, a set of three nesting mixing bowls, one really good knife (which the Cowboy brought with him) and a Vitamix.

Baked chicken. Meatballs. Soups. Salads. Smoothies. Pasta. Poached eggs. Pancakes. Bacon. Fried eggs. Burgers. Soaked oatmeal. Steak. Sautéed veggies. Rice.

The meals were simple (we had a very limited supply of spices and herbs to choose from), but there wasn’t one that didn’t satisfy. And I did it all with one spatula!

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Not only was cooking everything that we needed possible, but clean-up was a BREEZE. I cleaned while I cooked. I used fewer prep dishes. Fewer prep dishes means fewer dishes to wash. Fewer dishes to clean means a happier mama as doing dishes is one of my LEAST favorite chores. And fewer dishes also translated into cleaner kitchen.

Lesson learned.

My first step was to realize that we don’t need FIVE whisks. Seriously. That’s how many whisks we’ve got in our utensil canister. And FOUR spatulas. And too many wooden spoons to count. See?

not simple utensils

So I’ve removed more than half of the utensils. And two thirds of our pots and pans.

simple utensils

Like the toys, I put them in boxes and set them aside. They are there if I need ’em.

But if I make it a few months without reaching for the boxes, we might be having a garage sale. Anyone want some wooden kitchen toys?

#simplifylife

super veggie-packed oven baked meatballs

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Dinnertime view from our Vancouver rental on the 33rd floor. A new perspective for the littles and a new appreciation for me for families raising kiddos in a super-city environment.

Sometimes the kiddos will ask for veggie stir fry for dinner.

Sometimes our little girl will beg for a red pepper for a snack.

Sometimes the little guy will demand a salad.

Sometimes.

But they are kids.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes getting them to eat veggies is a challenge. Or at least it was a challenge. Until I figured out that they will eat almost any vegetable if it’s inside a meatball.

Broccoli. Carrots. Peppers. Cilantro. Parsley. Kale. Spinach. Bok choy.

If it’s in there, they will eat it.

So when we’ve had “one of those days,” I take whatever veggies I have on hand, chop them fine (use a food processor if you want it super tiny) and toss them in a big glass mixing bowl with a pound of beef, an egg, some bread crumbs (or cooked quinoa), onion and garlic and we’re good to go. Actually, it’s enough meatballs to feed us for two or three meals. So after dinner I freeze the leftovers for crockpot usage at a later date.

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See the strange “orange” tint to this photo? It’s not a filter. No. It’s the light in our rental kitchen. SEVENTEEN pictures of one plate later (kids were done eating by the time I took this one), I thought there might be a revolt.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of ground beef (preferably grassfed organic)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs (a paleo option is 1/2 cup cooked quinoa or 1/4 cup of almond flour)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese (could substitute with Parmesan)
  • 1/2 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup broccoli* (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro* (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt & pepper

*Broccoli and Cilantro can be replaced with carrots, bok choy, red or green peppers, spinach, kale, parsley, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, etc. Whatever veggies you have handy.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With about a teaspoon of sesame oil (or your favorite cooking oil), lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine egg and bread crumbs. Add the meat, cheese, onion, garlic, veggies, salt & pepper. With clean hands, mix it all together until it’s evenly blended. Form into 2-inch meatballs. Twelve meatballs fit in the pan, so I bake them in two batches. I usually salt the meatballs with a pinch more after they are in the pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. (If you make smaller meatballs, they won’t need 20 minutes.)

Makes 24 2-inch meatballs.

Serve with pasta or over quinoa or on their own. Slather them in sauce or gravy or leave ’em plain. And feel happy that the fam is eating their leafy greens!

with love from Vancouver,
J

garlicky garlic baked chicken

Jeanne here.

The Cowboy (aka my husband) has been working in Canada for a few weeks, and the littles and I were finally able to make the drive to meet up with him just a few days ago at his sublet apartment in Vancouver, BC.

A word about Vancouver: holy COW is it expensive! But that’s not news. It was reported last week to be the most expensive North American city for living. And I believe it. $11 to park in public parking lots. $7 for one package of wipes because I accidentally left our wipes at the apartment and really needed them but didn’t have an extra 30 minutes to drive home to get them. $40 for lunch for one adult and two toddlers at a pizza joint near the Cowboy’s office. Crazy.

And we’re deep in the heart of downtown. Skyscrapers. Asphalt Jungle. Coffee shops on every corner. Hot dog carts and soft pretzels on every other. Rear Window living as no one closes their shades on the 33rd floor of a high-rise. Aquariums. Art galleries. Science World. Museums. And it never gets dark. The lights from all the buildings keep the rooms lit almost to dusk even at 2 am.

I’m amazed at how amazed I am.

I mean, I lived in Los Angeles for 16 years. And before that, I lived in Washington, DC. I’ve worked on movies in San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit and Albuquerque, and spent a lot of time in New York and London, so it’s not like I’ve never experienced city living. I’ve only been in Montana for 4 years. Well. Almost 4 years. It’ll be 4 years in June. But I’ve come to really like seeing stars at night. And not hearing the constant hum of cars. And sirens. I guess I’ve really done it. I’ve gone Montana.

I could wax-nostalgic for hours but what I really wanted to say is that we are here for two weeks and I don’t want to eat out for every meal. I also don’t want to stock a second kitchen like ours at home so I’ve been making simple foods and it turns out that the kids and the Cowboy are pretty happy about it.

A few nights ago, for example, I made this:

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Looks a little boring, right? Baked chicken and a salad.

But I’ll tell you something: It’s five ingredients. 20 minutes. And it’s flavorful and made for four happy eaters. So happy, in fact, that I made it again a few nights later.

Garlicky Garlic Baked Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbls sesame oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic (rough chopped)
  • 3 Tbls grade B maple syrup
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts. Patting the chicken dry seems to help ensure moist chicken. One day I’ll figure out the science of it. But in the meantime, I highly recommend patting it dry. Set in a non-reactive roasting pan and season the chicken with salt and pepper. (We use glass or ceramic. I’m happy to say that the owner of this apartment left one glass baking dish.)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until translucent. Remove from the heat and add the maple syrup. Pour the mixture evenly over the chicken. I lift each chicken breast to let the mixture get under the meat as well.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the maple syrup gets all frothy and the liquid from the chicken runs clear.

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Remove from the oven. Let stand for 2-3 minutes while you plate your side dish (we had a mixed green salad with pink lady apples and a balsamic honey mustard dressing). Slice and serve.

What do you feed your family when you’re on an extended trip that’s not really a vacation?

stone soup – a perfect winter supper

Do you remember that children’s tale of The Stone Soup?

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A tired and hungry old man arrives in town and removes a special stone from his satchel and then starts reminiscing about stone soup with onions … and salt beef … and cabbage … and mushrooms … and the list goes on and on. By the end, he “magically” (with the help of the entire town) creates a most delicious and nourishing soup.

It’s a beautiful story. And a great lesson about the benefits of working together and a wonderful example about how everyone has something to contribute.

Last week, we were prepping to leave for a two to three week road trip to visit my husband while he’s working in Canada. We had more than a few veggies left in the fridge I knew would go bad if we just left them there. So, with two helpful sets of little hands, we set out to make our own Stone Soup.

It was so good we ate it for dinner, and then dinner the next night, and then (at their request) the kids ate it for breakfast before we left for skiing on Thursday!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tbls sesame or sunflower oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
  • 3 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/4 c. leftover tomato sauce
  • 7 c. broth (bone or vegetable or water)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 small-medium carrots (chopped)
  • 1 medium sweet potato (chopped)
  • 1 – 2 stalks of bok choy (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 c. cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 c. green beans (cut in thirds)
  • 2 c. leftover cooked brown rice or quinoa
  • Sea salt & pepper (to taste)
  • no stone required

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a dutch oven and sauté chopped onion until translucent. Ad celery and garlic. Then add tomato sauce, rosemary and thyme and broth or water. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to simmer and add carrots, sweet potato, bok choy, tomatoes, green beans. Add salt and a dash of pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  About 10 minutes before serving, add leftover rice.

This is sure to warm you on these cold winter nights (or mornings).

NOTE: A traditional stone soup might also have a salted beef or leftover meat of your choice. 

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the only pasta sauce our 4 year old will eat

We grew up eating Bolognese pasta sauce that my mom would throw together in what seemed like five minutes and everyone at the table (seven kids and two parents) was happy to eat seconds and thirds and however much was in the pot.  (NOTE: We just called it “meat sauce” because we’re not Italian, and as a 5’11” blonde, I couldn’t pretend to be.)

We had it with spaghetti or rigatoni or elbow macaroni.  We had it on Sundays.  We had it on Tuesdays.  We had it on holidays.  With salad.  Or without.  It was just a go-to dinner.  And if I’m being honest, I still expect my mom to make it the first and/or last night we are there visiting and she has never let me down.

So the fact that our 4 year-old daughter won’t even consider eating another spaghetti sauce shouldn’t surprise me.  And yet … even if I make this incredibly delicious homemade sauce (which I do … often … because everyone else in the house loves it … and we grow a lot of tomatoes and basil) … she snubs her little nose at me and would rather just have butter and cheese.

Which means I needed to ask my mom how she makes her sauce.

But the night I needed it (because I had promised to make Grammy’s sauce), I couldn’t reach her on the phone.

So I winged it.

Whew!

Lucky for me, I’ve been eating this sauce 40+ years and have pretty good taste buds.  Because two plates later the littles were asking for more and I was the most popular mom in the house.

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a blurry pic is all I could get (I didn’t want to totally disrupt her dining experience with a photo session for the blog … but can’t you see the relief on her face? “Finally, Mom!”

And now, like my mom, I find myself throwing together this easy bolognese (meat) sauce once a week or every other and we’ve got kids clamoring for dinner.  Yay!!

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Easy Bolognese Pasta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage (no casing)
  • 6 cups tomato sauce of your choice (we either use tomato basil sauce from our garden, or two jars of an organic tomato sauce with no added sugar, like Full Circle Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups Asiago cheese
  • 3 cups (dry) pasta (looking for a gluten free pasta? Ancient Grains makes our go-to favorite right now)-affiliate link

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a large saucepan.  Add the oil and chopped garlic and sauté until the garlic is translucent.  Add the sausage (which, without the casing, looks a lot like ground meat) and let it brown.

If you use a beef or bison sausage, you may want to pour off some of the liquid (fat) that separates from the meat.  We use a lean turkey sausage because that’s just what’s available at our local grocer.

Add the tomato sauce and lower the heat and let the sauce simmer.

Meanwhile, make your pasta (follow the directions on the packaging).  When the pasta is a few minutes from ready, turn the heat back up on your sauce, add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and combined with the sauce (changes the sauce from a saucy red to a cozy deep orangy-red).

Drain your pasta and serve.

Makes about 6-8 servings of pasta sauce.