Today's posts are for my mom because she is tired of looking at the pictures of burned-looking falafel. This one is from Christmas.

Some sisterly love. Happy New Year everyone!


Here's a picture I promised of the Baked Falafel Balls. You may notice they don't look like balls at all. We flattened them to be patties so we could get even more messy after we had cleaned our hands. Smooshing things is so much fun. The look a little burnt in the picture but I assure you that they weren't.

And the too-thick Lemon Tahini Sauce.

I just don't have the energy to rotate this picture today. Turn head to the left for best viewing.

Since there was no school all this week I had tons of playdates set up for the big one. Here's the one we had with her "best friend" from preschool.

We tried Ryan in the exersaucer for the first time and he seems to have been amused. He was slightly overwhelmed with his big sister, who was running in circles around him while he was in this and stopping periodically to play with the little toys for him.

One of my favorite things to eat in the whole world is guacamole. It's Jessi's favorite too. Mike will even eat it (and he's picky - although he claims to be low-maintenance) The only problem with loving guacamole is that there are no leftovers.

I tried making black bean soup about 8 years ago to see if I liked black beans. I must have had a bum recipe because it was gross. I saw many good reviews on the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards about this recipe and thought I'd give it a try. It was a winner. And I feel so good about getting black beans into my diet (which was severely lacking any beans other than chickpeas).

Black Bean Soup

Recipe By :MusicMom CL BB
4 slices bacon -- chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion -- chopped
1 carrot -- chopped
4 garlic clove -- chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno peppers
2 cans black beans -- undrained (15-16 oz. each)
1 can petite diced tomatoes in juice (15 oz.)
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
chopped fresh cilantro
chopped green onions
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

Fry 4 slices of bacon in large pot. Remove bacon and add olive oil to drippings. Cook onion, carrot, and garlic; saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and jalapeno. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add bacon bits and puree soup with immersion blender or transfer 3 cups to stand blender. If using the stand blender, return puree to pot.

Add chipotle and simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Top as desired with condiments.

Source: "Modified from Bon Appetit, August 2004"

Black Bean soup's humble beginnings.

Another satisfied customer. Jessi ate her fair share of gauc and even ate a bunch of the black bean soup that I made ahead of time for Friday's dinner. Recipes to follow.

Thursday night's dinner was Enchilladas De Pollo. This is one of my favorites especially when served with Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa (the absolute BEST), chips, sour cream, and guac.

Enchiladas De Pollo
Recipe By :Jean Kressy
Serving Size : 4
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 black peppercorns
1 onion -- quartered
1 bay leaf
1 pound skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup Monterey jack cheese -- shredded (3 ounces), divided
3/4 cup reduced fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese -- shredded (3 ounces), divided
1/2 cup onion -- chopped
Sauce: 2/3 cup 2% low-fat milk
1/4 cup fresh cilantro -- chopped
1/4 cup egg substitute
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 11-ounce can tomatillos -- drained
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chiles -- undrained
Remaining Ingredients:
8 6-inch corn tortillas
2/3 cup fat-free sour cream

To prepare filling, place first 6 ingredients in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Remove chicken from cooking liquid; cool. Remove chicken from bones; shred with 2 forks. Discard bones. Reserve broth for another use.

Preheat oven to 375º.

Combine chicken, 1/2 cup each Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, and 1/2 cup onion in a bowl; set aside.

To prepare sauce, place milk and next 5 ingredients (milk through chiles) In a food processor; process until smooth.

To prepare tortillas, fill a medium skillet with 1 inch of water; bring to a simmer. Dip 1 tortilla in water using tongs. Spoon 1/2 cup filling in center of tortilla; roll tightly, and place in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Repeat procedure with remaining tortillas and filling.

Pour sauce over enchiladas. Cover and bake at 375º for 20 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with 1/4 cup each Monterey Jack and cheddar. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheeses melts. Top with sour cream.

Serving size: 2 enchiladas and about 2 1/2 tablespoons sour cream.
Calories 502 (30% from fat); Fat 16.61 (saturated 8.4g monounsaturated 3.71g, polyunsaturated 2g; Protein 47.69g; Carbohydrates 40g; Fiber 4.6g; Cholesterol 114mg; Iron 3mg; Sodium 725mg; Calcium 598mg
Description: "Chicken Enchiladas"
Source: "Cooking Light Magazine, August 2001, page 139"
Copyright: "(c) 2001 by Southern Living, Inc."

Recipe By :Ina Garten
4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
8 dashes hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 large garlic clove -- minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato -- seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocados in 1/2, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

Copyright: "Copyright 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook"Yield: "3 cups"


I had the falafel last night with dinner and I have to say they were better than the first time. I *did* have to water down the lemon tahini sauce but they were good. Next time - pan fry, definitely! Here's a happy picture of the 2 kids to keep Grandma happy! Falafel photos are still on the camera but will make their way to the computer just as soon as I'm able to get them up.


Jessi is all smiles in her pjs and ladybug hat.

Today we made the Baked Falafel Balls with Lemon Tahini Sauce. They were okay. But just okay. The search continues. I should have added more water to thin it out the sauce (and I already had added more than the recipe calls for to make it un-peanut-butter-like). Maybe next time I'll pan-fry it. Jessi didn't even eat these for snack or lunch but it could have been distracted by her playdate fun! A little disappointing.

* Exported from MasterCook *
Baked Falafel Balls

Recipe By :Steve Petusevksky
Serving Size : 8

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup bulgur
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion -- minced
2 cloves garlic -- minced (1 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs -- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
1/8 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/8 cup minced parsley
salt -- to taste
olive oil for spraying falafel
Lemon Tahini Sauce -- page 311

Bring the water to a boil and remove from the heat. Mix in the bulgur. Cover well with a lid or a plate. Allow the bulgur to sit until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Heat olive oil in a small saute pan. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is transluscent. Add the red chili flakes, cumin, and coriander, and saute for 1 minute. Combine the chickpeas and bulgur in the bowl of a food processor; add the lemon juice, bread crumbs, cilantro, parsley, and salt, and process until just mixed.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Allow the mixture to rest for 15 minutes before forming into 2-inch balls. Place the balls onto a lightly oiled sheet pan. Spray the balls with olive oil. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, until golden, turning the pan once during baking.
Serve the falafel with the Lemon Tahini Sauce.

Source: "The Whole Foods Market Cookbook"
Copyright: "2002, Whole Foods Market Services, Inc."

NOTES : Falafel are little Middle Eastern croquettes made from dried chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), spices, and parsley. Our falafel are continents away from the traditional deep-fried version, but with all the flavor and crunch intact. They are usually stuffed inside pita bread and served with a tahini sauce made from ground sesame seeds. Plan on making large quantities; they are so addictive. Don't worry, you can stop eating them anytime - really.
If you choose to serve without Lemon Tahini Sauce, these falafel balls are vegan.

* Exported from MasterCook *
Lemon Tahini Sauce
Recipe By :Steve Petusevksky
1 cup tahini
1/2 cup water or plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic -- minced (1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper -- to taste

Place tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice, parlsey, cumin, hot sauce, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender. Pulse for 1 minute, until the sauce is smooth and well blended. Add a bit more liquid if the sauce thickens.

Description: "A classic sauce drizzled over falafel, try it with our baked, not fried falafel (p 27). This tart sauce made with sesame seed paste and fresh lemon juice is prefectly suited for grilled or steamed vegetables or grilled poultry or seafood."
Source: "The Whole Foods Market Cookbook"
Copyright: "2002, Whole Foods Market Services, Inc."
Yield: "2 cups"


Hanukkah was very, very good to Jessi and the baby (Thank you Grandma, Grammy, & Grampy). Here's Jessi with her big-girl guitar. She's already a songwriter. Her first song was about how she and I are best buddies. I love being her mom at times like this!! She moved onto other songs about not wanting to go to sleep and instead staying up all night long. Perfect preschooler mentality. Rock on!

Painting in stages finally came to an end. After 4 weeks, our bedroom is a relaxing shade of sage. We did one wall a weekend so it wouldn't be so stressful. I love living in a painted room (for the first time since I left home for college).

Do brunettes have more fun?

I needed a change. So when I went to get my hair done this past Friday I cut 2 inches off (after getting 3 1/2 cut off at my last visit) and asked to be a brunette with some warmth. That translated to a brownish auburn color. I'm not used to it yet and keep going to the mirror to glimpse at the new hair color. I also asked the stylist to blow my hair out straight. I felt like I was in the witness protection program. New look; new attitude. And to top it all off I wore make-up Saturday night to a holiday party we attended. My husband probably thought he was going out on a date with another woman (with the same kids, though).

And this was Ryan most of the day yesterday.


Whole Foods Market Cookbook

So I went through my copy of The Whole Foods Market Cookbook and wrote down a bunch of recipes that I'd like to try if I pick this book for my Cookbook Challenge. Even though I'd like to try to eat healthier most of the recipes I picked weren't *that* healthy because they still had to sound appealing. And there's no way I could pass an Oat Burger by my meat-eating husband. I love oats myself and am skeptical about this one. Also seitian is most definitely a no-go. But the first recipe up that I'm planning for next week is Baked Falafel Balls (p 27) with Lemon Tahini Sauce (p311). I love Falafel and I'm planning on making this for a lunch for me and Jessi. We went to a restaurant recently that we thought would have hummus and falafel so I kept telling her that we were going to eat it and then when we got to the restaurant they said that they didn't have any and Jessi started crying. It took a while to calm her down and convince her to have a burger and fries. We haven't found a place that serves falafel and hummus like we had where we used to live.... so we'll try our hand at making our own.

Then there are the recipes in this book that I would only try when my husband is out of town like Triple Mushroom and Leek Srudel which sounds so yummy to me or Mushroom Goat Cheese Quesedillas. Basically anything with mushrooms unless pulverized beyond oblivion won't pass my husband's lips. I get such pleasure, though, when I am able to sneak some by like in my latest coup - Turkey and Wild Mushroom Meat Loaf Patties with Pan Gravy (from Rachael Ray, recipe follows). I'm still going to go through 1 or 2 more cookbooks to see which one I'll go with for the challenge.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey and Wild Mushroom Meat Loaf Patties with Pan Gravy
Recipe By :Rachael Ray
Serving Size : 4
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil -- 2 turns of the pan for the mushrooms, 1 turn for the patties
8 cremini mushrooms -- (baby portobellos), chopped
8 shiitake mushrooms -- chopped
1 shallot -- chopped
Salt and pepper
1 1/3 pounds ground turkey -- the average weight of 1 package
3 sprigs fresh sage -- leaves chopped, about 2 tablespoons (3 to 4)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce -- eyeball it
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg -- beaten
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add chopped mushrooms and shallots and season with salt and pepper. Saute mushrooms 5 or 6 minutes until dark and tender. Remove from heat.

Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and return pan to stove top to preheat to cook patties.

Add turkey to the mushroom mixture. Make a well in the center of the meat. Add sage, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs and beaten egg and season with salt and pepper. Mix turkey meat loaf and make a small 1-inch patty. Place meat in the hot pan and cook 1 minute on each side. Taste the mini patty to help you adjust seasonings. Divide meat loaf mixture into 4 equal parts by scoring the meat before you form patties. Form 4 equal oval patties 1 inch thick.
Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan, and arrange patties in the skillet. Cook 6 minutes on each side and transfer to a serving plate or individual dinner plates.

Return pan to heat and add butter. When butter melts, whisk in flour and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in stock and season gravy with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer gravy until it reaches desired thickness, and pour over patties, reserving a little to pass at the table.


Cookbook Challenge

I've decided to start a cookbook challenge for myself. One of my goals is to eat healthier (more whole grains, vegetables, that sort of thing) so in the upcoming year I'm going to pick one of the cookbooks that's been sitting on my shelf collecting dust and try to cook as many recipes as I can from it (probably The Whole Foods Cookbook or one of my Moosewoods). I already know that it won't likely be more than one a week since I have a veggie-averse husband.

Today our playdate fell through so we made Hot Buttery Pretzels from KAF Baker's Companion (and we danced, played dress-up, and watched some Blue's Clues). This is the third time we've made these and they taste sooo good. I added some dough relaxer to the dough and it helped when it came time to roll them out. They were soft and buttery with a hint of salt and sweetness (from the sugar water the pretzels get dipped in before going on the baking sheet). Next time I will add more dough relaxer and roll the dough into longer pieces before rolling them into the pretzel shape. I always seem to have plump, rotund pretzels.

Today is one of those days when everyone is needy. The baby didn't sleep last night. And today we're a house full of crankies. I just want to make it through today. And everyone needs to take a nap today!! Or else!


I worked out!!

The naptime planets were not aligning today (they don't on most days but they especially weren't today. Jessi was going down for a nap right as Ryan was waking up from a long one.) So I donned my exercise clothes and headed to the gym (well my basement). I did 30 minutes on the elliptical and, man, Level 1 got much harder than I remember. I haven't worked out regularly since Dec of LAST year. That's how I knew I was pregnant even before taking one of those home pregnancy tests... one day I was working out in the morning (just like all the other weekday mornings) and on that morning I couldn't do a thing. My legs felt like bricks and my lungs didn't want to work and I knew I wasn't getting sick. I thought, "oh, I'm definitely pregnant." I mentioned it to Mike, who was doing weights right next to me, and a few weeks later we had our home pregnancy test confirmation. So it's been a year and let me tell you, it's hard to get back started. It's discouraging starting at level 1 and it feeling like you're still going to die before the 30 minutes are up. But I'm going to try to do it regularly when the baby starts sleeping through the night. For now I'll just do it when I feel like it. If it ends up being regularly then fine, but if it doesn't I'm not going to get bent out of shape over it. I need to get my cardiovascular endurance back before I'm going to try to run on the treadmill because I fear I will fall flat on my face if I attempt it right now.

Way back in the mid to late 90s I was an exercise fiend. I collected exercise videos instead of yarn and cookbooks. I still have quite an enviable collection. My favorite instructor is Cathe Friedrich by far. I loved step aerobics and weights and she is the best for complex step routines and interesting strength training for advanced home exercisers (which I used to be, but am no longer).

Hanukkah dinner went well last night. No leftover latkes, though, I'm sad to say. I did, however, find my favorite latke recipe so far (from Fine Cooking, a great magazine). They were AWESOME!!

Potato Latkes
4 medium to large russet or Yukon gold potatoes (2 lb total), peeled
2 large yellow onions (3/4 lb total)
4 large eggs -- lightly beaten
1/3 cup matzo meal
2 tsp salt -- more to taste
10 grinds black pepper -- more to taste (10 to 15)
About 3/4 cup of peanut oil (I used vegetable oil)

Using the medium shredding blade of a food processor, grate the potatoes, laying them horizontally in the feed tube to maximize the strand length. Grate the onions (halve or quarter them first, if necessary)on top of the potatoes. The onions will turn to mush, and their juices will help keep the potatoes from turning brown. Pick out any ungrated pieces of potato or onion.
Lay a clean flour sack towel inside a large bowl and transfer the grated mixture into the towel. Roll the towel lengthwise and wring out as much liquid as possible (you can do this over the bow, discarding the liquid, or right over the sink). Depending on the size of the towel (and your muscles) you may have to do this in batches. *Note, if push comes to shove it CAN be done by hand when no towels are available, but this is by far the best way.*

Transfer the grated mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, matzo meal, salt, and pepper; mix well.

In a large cast iron or non stick skillet, pour about 1/8 inch of oil and heat on medium high. The oil is hot enough when a piece of potato sizzles when added. Form a trial latke with a tablespoon of the mixture. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Taste and if needed, add salt and pepper to the potato mixture.

To form the latkes, scoop up about 1/2 cup of the mixture with your hands and loosely pat it into a pancake about 1/2 inch thick, leaving a few straggly strands along the edge. (As you work, liquid will accumulate in the bowl, so lightly squeeze out the excess. The last couple of latkes may need a really firm squeeze.) After shaping each latke, slip it into the hot oil and flatten it gently with the back of a spatula. Fry until golden brown, at least 5 min. on each side to be sure center is fully cooked. If the edges darken too quickly, lower the heat. To prevent excess oil absorption, flip each latke only once. Add oil between batches as needed, making sure the oil heats up again before frying more latkes. Drain the latkes on a paper towel. (I usually put my wire rack over a cookie sheet in at 300 degree oven, cover it with paper towels and let them drain and stay warm there.) Serve immediately with applesauce and sour cream if desired.

Source: "Fine Cooking"

The only problem I encountered (my fault) was that I couldn't find the shredded blade for my food processor. I had them before we moved in the summer but have no idea where they are now. So I used a hand grater. Can I just say I hate hand graters. I have a big thumb nick from grating the potatoes. Ick. I may be in the market for a new food processor very soon.


How did Hanukkah sneak up on me?

I can't believe tomorrow night is Hanukkah. When I realized this I dropped anything I might have been doing this morning (nothing much - I was going to check out an educational store nearby) and Wednesday (ugh - I had to reschedule my hair appointment. I haven't gotten it highlighted since before I was pregnant - I look like I'm wearing a brownish hat; instead of looking sun-kissed) and headed straight for the grocery store to get ingredients for matzo ball soup. So I have the soup made now. Tomorrow I'll mix together the matzo ball stuff (no big deal) and cook the brisket.

I also rescheduled a playdate that I was looking forward to. But we'll se them on Thursday.

I've been doing tons of cooking and baking. My love for food has taken first place in the hobbies. I received my King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook and am loving going through it, placing tons of post-it notes to mark which recipes I want to make. You know how when you find a recipe that's so good for a given thing you just stop the search, knowing that you've found your go-to recipe? Well I found one for chocolate chip cookie bars which my husband likes better than chocolate chip cookies. I love it because it's even easier than chocolate chip cookies (and chocolate chip cookies are not hard to begin with). I add some stuff to the recipe (like cinnamon and cinnamon chips and omit nuts). Heavenly.

No knitting here lately. Having too much fun making things to eat. YUM!