Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Tomato Tortellini Soup

New weeknight staple alert! This is a 20-minute meal that tastes like scratch (and mostly is), and provides delicious, warm little lunches. That is, assuming you even have leftovers. It really is that scrumptious.

We had parents night at Georgia’s school recently, and we got home that day with less than an hour to spare before we had to turn around and head back out the door. Patting myself on the back for buying fresh tortellini a few days earlier, I quickly realized I had the makings of a fast, filling dinner that would also serve the dual purpose of helping us move through our tomato stash. Which, if you’ve been following my Instagram since late August, is significant.

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Even with the cooler temperatures slowing down the ripening in our garden, I’ve put up 68 ounces (!!!) of tomato sauce, and made countless batches of creamy tomato soup for freezing and eating since September. I probably gave out 100 tomatoes to co-workers, too, and am now moving on to bringing in the green ones for folks who have good recipes for things like relish, fritters and stew. And all that came from just two plants!

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I did tons of caprese salad and homemade pizza during the weeks of late summer and early Autumn, but eventually that gets repetitive, and in the fall soup just starts to feel right. Georgia has never been a big fan of the texture of soup or stews, but I figured if anything could change her mind, it would be something chunky, creamy, and filled with cheesy pasta. And I was right.

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Inspiration for this recipe came from The Kitchn, but I made my own modifications and tweaks because I like more tomato chunks and a little less heft than heavy cream.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 TBSP butter + a swirl of olive oil for the pot
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
  • salt and pepper to taste (don’t be shy)
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans (4 cups/32 ounces) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 package (about 14 ounces) cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
  • grated parmesan cheese, to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil together over medium until warm, then add the onion. Cook until soft, then add the garlic, making sure it doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the vinegar, then add the crushed tomatoes (with the liquid in the can) and the broth, cream and bay leaves to the pot. Add in some chunks of fresh tomato. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tortellini and cook for about 3 minutes (5 minutes if using frozen). Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves, and stir in the basil. Serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan. Enjoy warm!

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Notes

You can use either fresh or frozen tortellini; just adjust the cooking time up a bit for frozen to give them time to thaw by cooking in the sauce.

Subbing vegetable stock is fine; I like the taste of chicken stock better. You can also use another type of shredded cheese on top, such as pecorino.

Feel free to put that heavy cream back in there if you want it extra rich!

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For me, this kept in the fridge just fine for 5 days. I also froze two small containers of it for later. To reheat, either warm over low/medium on the stovetop or microwave for about one minute, covered.

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I hope you are having a wonderful fall getting ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving and (gulp) Christmas. I am actually already starting to shop for the holidays! Starting early is the only way I can stay on budget. We just took our annual family photos with our favorite photographer — here’s a sneak peek of one image so far 🙂 I can’t wait to get the full package so I can start designing my photo album gifts and Christmas cards.

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Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes · Uncategorized

2 Summer Salads For Using Up Tomatoes

It’s August in New England, which means tomatoes are busting out all over. Every year we scale back the number of plants we put in, but we are blessed with a very sunny raised bed alongside our house that simply churns out tomatoes, basil, lettuce, eggplant, peppers and zucchini, so we are once again in abundance! Last year we added rhubarb, and it grew like crazy. I’ve already made one strawberry-rhubarb crisp this  year, and am going to have to harvest and freeze a bunch more before the first frost. I’ve learned a lot about the proper ways to harvest and grow rhubarb so it comes back healthy every year, and I’ll post more about that soon!Today I’m sharing two easy salads that only require you to pick up a couple ingredients in addition to tomatoes — primarily the mozzarella and feta cheese — assuming you are growing your own basil, lettuce or cucumbers. Both salads are crowd-pleasers that keep well at cookouts and on buffet tables, and taste refreshing, not heavy or overly filling. Dig in and get your summer greens!

To make the Greek Salad:

Wash, dry and chop your lettuce, or just buy a box of fresh organic mixed greens, which is what I usually do. Place in a large bowl then top with sliced fresh tomatoes of any variety, diced red onion, Kalamata olives, sliced and halved cucumbers and crumbled Feta cheese. 

Drizzle with the dressing of your choice, or make your own Greek salad dressing by shaking together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, a squeeze of half a lemon plus 2 TBSP red wine vinegar. You can add more zip by swirling in some Dijon or other mustard, and you can make it creamier by stirring in a spoon full of Greek yogurt. Yum! Just add to a jar and shake to emulsify.

To make the Caprese Salad: 

On a serving plate, drizzle some good olive oil in a zig-zag pattern. Lay down half-moon tomato slices, top with a basil leaf, then finally place a slice of fresh mozzarella on the stack. Season with a little bit of pepper (fresh cracked is best tasting, but any kind is fine) and then drizzle with good balsamic vinegar over top. Serve!

Both salads will keep in the fridge for a few days, too, which is great for lunch. The caprese salad in particular travels well if you pack the slices tightly in a shallow container, and it’s that rare healthy item that my entire family will eat, so it’s going to be on rotation in our house for as long as our tomato plants are producing! I love anything that extends the feeling of summer, even when vacations and beach days are winding down and school is starting up.

Are you in Boston between now and Labor Day? Check out the 2017 Fermentation Festival happening this weekend at the Public Market! Join Boston Ferments from 10 am to 4 pm at the market, above the Haymarket MBTA station (orange and green lines) or on foot/by bike at the corner of Congress and Hanover streets. There will be demos, book signings, make-your-own-sauerkraut, food tastings, a libation garden and more!

FermentationFestival2017

Boston Ferments is an all-volunteer group of fermentation and pickling enthusiasts based in the Boston area, and willing to share starters for fermented foods, like yogurt, sourdough and kombucha. Why fermentation? Fermented foods — those made by converting sugars to acids, gases or alcohol — have preserved nutrients and are easier for the body to digest. Many cultures have traditionally fermented foods, from kimchi, pickles and miso to sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh. Eating fermented foods can introduce beneficial bacteria (“probiotics”) to your system, easing digestion and immunity. A proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps us to absorb nutrients in food more readily, and can contribute to better overall health. Fermented foods also last longer than canned food, making them very budget friendly, too.

Find out more at bostonferments.com, and have a great weekend!

Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Spring Fettuccine

Hmm. Where did we go for 21 days? It sure whizzed by rather mysteriously for me, until I woke up and realized I hadn’t written a new recipe all month. But I can tell you one thing — we did very, very, VERY little cooking these last three weeks, so that right there is probably the secret to why this blog went silent.

We had my mom’s 70th birthday party, the end of school for Georgia, the start of summer camp, the tail end of audition season for Mark, and annual reviews at my office, plus graduation from the political candidate training program I underwent all winter, Emerge.

I guess we were busy, huh?


You’ll notice this post has the word “Spring” in the title. That’s because that is when I started writing it! It’s probably even more exciting as a meal option now, though, because it’s just that easy — and easy is what you want in the heat (which we finally have here in Boston). And, bonus: you can use any greens that are ready to harvest from your garden now, if you’re in the Northeast.

The title of this should really be “Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken, Asparagus, Kale and Rosemary” but that is just WAY too long, so I’m leaving the flavors a bit to your imagination with a festive-sounding word like “Spring” instead. Because when I think of this season, and eating outdoors or on the porch, with something light and easy to pull together on a weeknight, those foods are for sure on my list…right next to a crisp glass of white wine or rosĂŠ.

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I originally made this as part of my Blue Apron subscription but have since redone it and adapted it for our family, and you could do the same. Chicken and Rosemary are natural buddies, but you can leave out any part that doesn’t appeal, including the chicken if you want to make this vegetarian, or the red pepper flakes if you don’t like so much heat. The greens are also interchangeable, so a spring mix or spinach would be fine here, too. Other ideas: you could add in some garlic to the saute step, or even some mushrooms — especially for a heartier vegetarian option if you omit the chicken tenders. I might even add some fresh peas if I saw them at the farmer’s market.

rosemary

Spring Fettuccine

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 chicken tenders
  • 6 OZ fettuccine
  • 1 bunch kale
  • ½ bunch ssparagus
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 2 TBSP crème fraĂŽche or Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 TBSP grated Parmesan
  • ⅛ TBSP crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the fresh produce and eat a medium pot of salted water to boiling. Snap off and discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus, then cut into 1-inch pieces on an angle. Remove and discard the kale stems and finely chop the leaves. Pick the rosemary leaves off the stems, or run through an herb stripper; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and chop into bite-sized pieces, then transfer to a bowl. Season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

In a large pot, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes or until it is lightly browned and cooked through.While the chicken cooks, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Reserving ž cup of the pasta cooking water, drain thoroughly.

While the pasta cooks, add the asparagus, kale, rosemary, 2 TBSP water and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be, to the pan of chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and the kale wilts.

Add the cooked pasta, crème fraÎche and half the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan of chicken and veggies. Cook, stirring vigorously to coat the pasta, until thoroughly combined, just a couple of minutes. If the sauce seems dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water to reach a better consistency. Top with cheese and enjoy!

This makes about two servings, so it’s perfect for date night. Or, it doubles easily.

Buon Appetito!

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Technically summer started last week, but I think you can still safely make this “spring” pasta and be on-season with your ingredients. I know my garden is still overflowing with greens like lettuce, cabbage and kale! In fact things are growing so fast and furious after our heavy spring rains that allergies have hit in full force for me lately, and I hope you aren’t suffering too! Have a great rest of the week, and an awesome start to your Fourth of July vacation if you’re taking off soon. We are staying in town but hoping to savor the warm sun and maybe get to some boating and beach or pool time! 🍉🇺🇸☀️


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Gymboree Sale On Now!

Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Summer Squash Enchiladas

With gardens getting ready and fresh, homegrown produce just over the horizon, I’m teeing up some warm-weather recipes perfect for using up the bounty of squash, eggplant, greens, peppers and basil we’ll all have handy soon. This one originally came to me via Blue Apron (read more about my thoughts on the service right here) and I’ve enjoyed making it many times over since.

We no longer subscribe to the service, but for a while there it REALLY helped us get out of our takeout rut after having a newborn. Cooking was the one thing I couldn’t handle amid scarce sleep, pumping, packing daycare bags, washing bottles and (of course) playing with my new baby, and I could always count on Blue Apron to drop fixings for three meals off on my porch every week. It was one less thing to worry about, but eventually we got our groove back and started meal planning and grocery shopping (sans meltdown) again.

I did end up with some real keepers from the Blue Apron recipe archive. A few of my favorites: this Tomato Zucchini Quiche, this Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie, this Sirloin Steak with Smashed Purple Potatoes & Green Beans, these healthy Salmon Burgers with Potato Salad & Tossed Arugula, and (mmmmmm) this Chicken Piccata for Two, perfect for date night at home.

The key to this recipe’s unique flavor comes from the Tomatillos, or “Mexican husk tomatoes,” which are the sweet-tart ingredient that gives salsa verde its flavor. Cultivated since pre-Columbian times, they are elemental to modern Mexican cuisine and also played an important role in Mayan and Aztec culture.

They’ll stay fresh in your refrigerator with husks on for a couple of weeks, or you can remove the husks and seal them in plastic bags to keep even longer. They’re easy to find in any grocery store.

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Summer Squash Enchiladas

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Corn Tortillas
  • ½ Cup Jasmine Rice
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 Poblano Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Summer Squash
  • ½ Pound Tomatillos
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro
  • ½ Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Cotija Cheese+
  • 1 Tablespoon Mexican Spice Blend*

+Cotija is a dry, Mexican grating cheese, similar to Parmesan. A good substitute is Feta.

*Mexican Spice Blend is equal parts garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin and dried oregano. You can also buy pre-mixed Mexican Seasoning from a supermarket brand such as McCormick. Carne Asada Seasoning is also a good substitute, and you can find a version by McCormick or Wildtree for a certified organic, unprocessed option.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 475°F. In a small pot, combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 cup of water and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the cooked rice with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.

While the rice cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce. Remove and discard any tomatillo husks and dice small, then peel and mince the garlic. Using a zester, zest the lime peel then cut the lime into quarters. Dice the squash. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stems. Stack the tortillas on a plate; cover with a damp paper towel (or heat up in the microwave, then cover with a paper towel). Remove and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the poblano, then small dice, immediately washing your hands and work surface.

In a pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the tomatillos and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes or until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons of water; cook, occasionally smashing the tomatillos with a spoon, for about 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat then stir in half the sour cream and the juice of 2 lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the salsa verde cooks, in a medium pan, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the squash, poblano and spice blend and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until browned and softened. Transfer to the bowl of cooked rice.

Add the lime zest, half the cilantro, half the cheese and remaining sour cream into the bowl of cooked rice and vegetables and stir to combine. Place the tortillas on a clean, dry work surface. Spread about ⅓ cup of the filling into the bottom of a baking dish. Divide the remaining filling between the tortillas; tightly roll up each tortilla around the filling. Carefully transfer the rolled tortillas to the baking dish in a single layer, seam sides down. (**A good tip here: mist the tortillas with water to keep them soft and pliant and prevent them from cracking in the pan. As you can see, this happened to me on the day I photographed these, but the trick has worked for me every time since**).

Evenly top the assembled enchiladas with the salsa verde and remaining cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 2 minutes. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!

If you’re ever looking for a recipe like this on a menu, they’d be called “enchiladas suizas,” which technically means “Swiss enchiladas” — so named, supposedly, for the Swiss immigrants to Mexico who brought their love of dairy to the new country’s cuisine, resulting in a range of recipes with European influence. Blue Apron filled this version of enchiladas suizas with squash, poblano pepper, and jasmine rice, topping them with a “salsa verde,” or tomatillo sauce with a dash of sour cream.

This dish pairs very nicely with a fruity, crisp rosĂŠ … perfect for summer!

Want to make this dish even more hefty? Add in some beans for a vegetarian option, or some poached shredded chicken.

If, like us, you’ve just planted your garden and can’t wait to start cooking with the fruits of your labors, pin this recipe to save for later! I have a long list of dinners I’m dying to try, and Pinterest is the only thing that keeps me organized 🙂 You can see my own recipes, plus the ones I’ve saved from other bloggers and am dying to try, on my profile.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and Mother’s Day for all the moms out there. It was crappy weather in New England, but I had an amazing relaxing weekend with my babies. We took a drive up to Plum Island and grabbed dinner at a diner on route 1, and had a nice low-key lunch with my mom on Sunday, after which Gramma helped us pick out a big girl bed for G! We think we’ve decided on the one we want, and she is so excited to move out of her toddler bed as soon as we can order the new twin. (We are also excited for her to hopefully stop waking us up at midnight to fix her too-small blankets). On Thursday, Georgia’s school had all the parents in for an adorable Mother’s Day pageant with songs and poems, followed by treats in each child’s classroom. They all looked soooo proud of all the gifts they had made, including a miniature cake baked and decorated by each child to share with their mum that morning. It was just lovely and I never, ever want her to grow up from this sweet age.


Are you local? Don’t forget the Boston Public Market @ Dewey Square Plaza opens for the season tomorrow, right on the Greenway across from South Station! Check out a list of vendors here. They’ll have a farmer’s market plus prepared foods for lunch and dinner every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 to 6:30, now through November 21.

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Have a wonderful week everyone!

Drinks & Smoothies · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Mojito Mocktail

First off: here’s a real Mojito recipe if that’s what you’re about! My friend Terri brought this to Mark’s birthday BBQ this year and they were outstanding. If you just want the refreshing, minty, limey, sugary taste without the booze, though, here’s how I do: 

In a large glass, like this mason jar, muddle (crush) 10 fresh mint leaves,  1 tsp sweetener (regular sugar, or stevia, etc.), and half a lime, cut into wedges. Add a large handful of ice cubes and pour ginger ale, seltzer water (plain or flavored) or club soda into the glass, topping with more lime wedges and sweetener to taste. You can also cut the fizz by using half plain water, half sparkling water. Stir to combine — don’t strain! — and enjoy without the hangover 🙂

Reasons I Love Mint

It grows easily. Ask anyone who’s put it in their garden outside a container!!

It’s a great digestive aid. Caffeine-free peppermint tea is fabulous for soothing an upset stomach, especially around the holidays when heavy food may be dragging you down.

It may relieve nausea. I did not find it helpful while pregnant (and some doctors caution that mint can cause contractions or discomfort, especially during your third trimester)… but at other times, it does seem to do the trick.

Mint can help inflamed, aggravated skin to calm down — especially if you tend to get hormonal breakouts. A few sprigs of mint in your water can soothe you inside and out! And some people swear by masks made of crushed mint. You can DIY, or try Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful Clay Mask with Mint and Lemon.

Have a great week everyone!

Drinks & Smoothies · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Carrot Cake Smoothie

After a month of staring down my new Vitamix in intimidation and fear, I finally asked Georgia to help me figure out how to use the darn thing this weekend. We were trapped at the house while Mark jetted down to New York for new headshots, and we had some pretty random things in the fridge to use up. I remembered seeing a recipe for a smoothie using carrots this winter, and going on memory, I tried to make something refreshing for all seasons. I swear, I’ve never had a smoothie come out this, well, SMOOTH before — I’m about to go get married to this Vitamix so I can keep it forever. It’s that good. Best combo birthday/Mother’s Day gift EVER.

Since it’s summer, you could definitely tone down the warming spices in the recipe to keep it tasting lighter and fruity.

Carrot Cake Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup almond milk (soy also works well)
  • 1 plain low/no-fat yogurt (about 5 oz.)
  • 2 TBSP rolled oats
  • 1 TBSP dry chai tea mix, such as Trader Joe’s*
  • 1 frozen chopped banana (or 1 fresh, plus two ice cubes)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (or at least 1 cup shredded/packaged)

* To approximate chai tea seasoning, use a dash of cinnamon, vanilla and 1 or 2 cloves. You can also omit the cloves, or use 1 TBSP pumpkin pie mix instead.

DIRECTIONS

Add the ingredients in order of liquidity: first the almond milk, then the yogurt, then the grains and spices, and finally the fruits and vegetables. If using a high-powered machine like a Vitamix, blend for less than one minute on low and increasing up to high. Makes enough for two days, or to share with a friend (like my G!) Enjoy 🙂

Baby & Toddler · DIY · Grow Your Own Way

My baby isn’t a baby anymore…

…She’s a gardener!! And a pretty tall one at that. Daddy and G spent their day off together yesterday planting “Georgia’s patch,” the raised-bed garden Mark has been cultivating along the sunny side of our house for the past five years. This year, for the first time, Georgia picked out all the plants, including strawberries, hula berries, tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce and zucchini, and helped daddy replace the soil, dig holes, label the chalkboard stakes and mulch it all over. I can’t wait to taste everything they grow together!!

One thing we don’t usually grow but which I love to buy and bake with this time of year is Rhubarb. It should be hitting the farmer’s markets soon!! Every year, I make a tangy/sweet Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, and this year I am dying to try Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Breakfast Bars, which sound delectable.

And speaking of breakfast and yummy baked goods: there’s a new bakery at the Boston Public Market that I can’t wait to check out. Started by a 22-year-old (!) entrepreneur whose commercial kitchen is based in my ‘hood, Malden, Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakery started as a short-term pop-up vendor whose bites were so popular she became the first vendor to convert to a permanent, full-time stall. She sells gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free and dairy-free breads, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and donuts, and locally sources ingredients such as jam, maple syrup, apple cider syrup, fruit, and veggies from farms like Carr’s Ciderhouse in Hadley, Silverbrook Farm in Dartmouth, Brooksby Farm in Peabody, and Russell’s Orchards in Ipswich. Check her out!

photo credit: courtesy // #BostonPublicMarket

 Have a great week everyone 🙂