I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, since I’ve been crafting like a madwoman.  But I made these quesadillas the other night, and they were good, so I thought I’d share.

Back before we had kids, I used to make this recipe all the time called Snappy Spinach Packets.  It’s from an old Vegetarian Times magazine; I clipped the recipe probably fifteen years ago and its in my little collection.  It was a staple for a long time, and then it kind of fell out of the rotation.  I tried making it a few times a year or so ago, but the kids balked.

I wanted to try again, so this time I adapted it by turning it into a quesadilla.  The original recipe calls for wrapping the filling up in a tortilla and sautéing it, so it really wasn’t a stretch to simply use two tortillas with the filling in between.  And the kids LOVED them.  I didn’t tell them they had turned their noses up at basically the exact same thing.

The great part about this meal, too, is that it gives you lots of veggies, black beans, and a whole grain all in one.

main ingredients: cheese, black beans, tomatoes, spinach

Snappy Spinach Quesadillas

adapted from Vegetarian Times

  • 1 lb. baby spinach, well rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 8 whole wheat tortillas
  • vegetable oil

In a large pot, place the spinach and 1/2″ of water. Cover and steam over high heat, stirring until wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander, rinse under cold water and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop the spinach.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, beans, cheese, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. On one tortilla, place approximately 1/4 of the spinach mixture, or enough to evenly spread a layer over the tortilla. Top with another tortilla.  Add a small amount of oil to the pan, swirling to coat, and carefully lay the quesadilla in the pan. Cook, turning once, until each side is golden brown, about 5 minutes total. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Cut into triangles and serve warm.


Now I Need a Potato Ricer

Sunday was supposed to be Family Movie Night, but the kids collectively decided they’d rather play one more level of Batman Lego Wii than watch the movie.  Looking back, we probably shouldn’t have provided that option.

But I had already planned a nice dinner for the evening, so I went ahead and made it.  I jettisoned the dessert, though, and will probably make it later this week.

One of my favorite chefs is Jamie Oliver.  He’s brilliantly British, with his easy peasies and bits and bobs and whahz it ups.  I loved his show Jamie At Home, which featured him picking fresh ingredients from his garden and cooking them up into amazing dishes.  Probably my favorite episode was Mushrooms, where he went into the forest to forage for mushrooms with Gennaro Contaldo, who is apparently the expert on wild mushrooms in the U.K.  They found gorgeous mushrooms and cooked them up right there in the middle of the forest and made a Mushroom Bruschetta that looked orgasmic.

What does this all have to do with Family Movie Night?  Nothing, really, I’m just rambling.  Well, kind of.  I was at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning, and there’s a new vendor there: LAFunghi.  They aren’t a new vendor in the general sense, but they are new to my market, so I was intrigued.  They have the most exotic mushrooms.  Check it:

How can you pass up Hedge Hogs, Blue Foot, Persimmon Noki, or Bunashineji?

So I bought a basket– one of those $15 jobs in the front that has a nice mix of mushrooms.  And I decided to make Jamie’s Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Sage from his Cook With Jamie book.

This required, of course, making my own gnocchi.  Gnocchi is my favorite pasta ever, and if you’ve never had it, you are MISSING OUT.

What I discovered, though, is in the title of this post: I really need a potato ricer.  Or at least, I needed one for five minutes on Sunday afternoon.  I used a plain hand-held masher to smash my potatoes up, and it really didn’t cut the mustard.  Or the potatoes.  So I ended up with chunky gnocchi which, as far as I know, is not a thing.


lumpy gnocchi dough



log of gnocchi dough-- you can see the little potato chunks



once you've rolled the log, you cut the gnocchi into little pillows



gnocchi ready for boiling


Once I had made the gnocchi, I started in on the mushroom sauce / topping.  It basically consists of frying up some mushrooms and adding garlic.  I didn’t add the sage because I wasn’t sure the kids would go for it, but I did add spinach to round out the dish.

Look at those beauts.  And when they were sautéd, they were golden perfection.

All cooked up and mixed together, we got this:

It was kind of delish.  I adapted Jamie’s recipe a bit to make the gnocchi whole wheat and to change up the mushroom thing a bit.

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Spinach

for the gnocchi

  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 to 1 cup white whole wheat flour

Wash and peel your potatoes.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add your potatoes and boil until they are fork tender (the boiling time will depend on the size of your potatoes; mine took about 15 minutes).  Drain and mash the potatoes while they are still hot.  Add the butter and mix as it melts.  (If you have a potato ricer, you can run them through the ricer instead of mashing them.)  Allow your potatoes to cool slightly.

To the mashed potatoes add salt and pepper to taste and the egg yolk.  Once the egg is well-combined with the potatoes, add the flour a little at a time.  Start with 1/4 cup, and keep adding until you have a dough that is dry but not crumbly (it shouldn’t stick to your hands).

Divide the dough into 3 sections and roll each one out into a long tube about 1″ in diameter.  Cut each tube into 1/2 – 1″ pieces.  Sprinkle them with flour to prevent sticking.  Place them on a flour-covered cookie sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

When you are ready to cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1 tbsp of salt.  Add the gnocchi and cook until it floats to the top, about 4 minutes.  Strain and mix with mushroom sauce.

for the wild mushrooms and spinach

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 oz (or more) wild mushrooms, mixed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach (or more)
  • Parmesan cheese

Clean the mushrooms by brushing them off, and cut them into large, 1″ chunks.  Heat a sauté pan on medium high.  When it’s hot, add the olive oil and then mushrooms.  Toss them gently for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the garlic, butter, and salt and pepper to taste.  When the garlic is slightly golden, add 1/2 cup of water and cook on medium for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the water has reduced.  Add your spinach and toss until just wilted.  Remove from heat and mix with gnocchi.  Grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top to taste.



Ultimate Banana Cookies

The family and I recently made a pact.  It came soon after I finished my most recent cleanse, which means I was probably giddy with clean living and health.  We decided that, while we didn’t want to give up dessert after dinner, we wanted to reduce our exposure to processed foods.  So, if we were going to have dessert, it always had to be homemade.

I know.  What was I thinking?

Well, besides the crazy cleanse brain, I think I figured that if I made a batch of healthy (ier?) cookies every few days, we’d be set.  It occurred to me at the time that this plan was totally workable.  Now, it seems a little more ambitious.

So I’ve been trying to put together some healthy cookie recipes.  I have my standard go-to healthy chocolate chip cookies, but sometimes I’m sick of that.  Or I’m out of date paste or brown rice syrup.

This week, I had extra over-ripe bananas.  Even after making a loaf of banana bread.  So I went searching for a banana cookie recipe.  I made one once with oats that came from Bethenny Frankel, but I am kind of morally opposed to anyone who’s been on any Housewives show giving any sort of information to the world.

I did find a recipe in this cookbook I have, called The Ultimate Cookie Cookbook.  It’s one of those off-label looking books that I’m sure I got on sale at a bookstore sometime while perusing the discount racks.  In it, there was a recipe for “Ultimate Banana Cookies.”  Surprisingly, not every recipe in this book starts with “Ultimate,” but this one did, so, go figure.

I adapted it because, well, frankly, it was kind of a terrible recipe.  And written really poorly, too.  It seems like someone took a recipe template and just cut and pasted the details in, without proofreading.  So you get things like, “Add the eggs, making sure each is incorporated before the next addition,” but the recipe only calls for ONE EGG.  Don’t worry, y’all, I fixed it.

They turned out pretty nicely.  Kind of like eating banana bread in a cookie form.  So if that sounds good to you, make these.

ready for the oven

Ultimate Banana Cookies

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar (I’m pretty sure you could use regular sugar here)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • chocolate chunks
  • sanding sugar or table sugar, for coating

In a large bowl, cream butter until it is light and fluffy, then add both kinds of sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy again.  Add in the egg, mixing until completely incorporated.  Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla; set aside.

In a small bowl mix together flour, flaxseed, baking powder and baking soda.  Add these dry ingredients to the butter mixture.  Stir in chocolate chunks.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Form tablespoon-sized balls of dough and roll in sanding or table sugar.  Place on a baking sheet about 2″ apart.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are just becoming golden.

Now, I do have to admit that I had some extra help in adapting the recipe, so I can’t take all the credit.

Special thanks to Remarkably Domestic Zalia.


Last night, I ventured out into new territory and made a chicken dish for dinner.  Having been a vegetarian for many years, I have only cooked chicken a handful of times.

I should probably say a word here on why my vegetarianism has slowly faded over the past few years.  Really, it boils down to two things: my family’s health and my waistline.  I have two little boys, and after doing some reading on soy, I started getting nervous about feeding them too much of it.  Also, I was using a lot of veggie burger-type foods, which are pretty far from the natural form of soy, and I wanted to try to eliminate the really processed stuff in our lives.  So I started feeding them some organic poultry.  For a while, it was just this locally-grown deli turkey that I would give them in sandwiches for lunch.  I’ve been a vegetarian for essentially all of my adult life, so I’ve never learned how to cook meat.  Recently, though, I’ve started to try to branch out, so I’ve been teaching myself via the internet, my mom, and some friends how to cook chicken.

Moreover, my waistline has started to expand as I get older and all that pasta and bread gets metabolized differently.  It’s as if my body has decided that I’ve had a lifetime’s worth of pasta already, so it’s just going to store all those carbs on my hips.  So I’ve been trying to eat a little more protein and a few less carbs.

All that build up for a simple chicken dish!  I found a recipe in Everyday Food for breaded chicken cutlets, and I had an idea for a nice salsa to spoon over the top.  Initially, I thought of it as a vegetable and fruit salsa, but my seven-year-old pointed out that there really aren’t any vegetables in it, since tomatoes and avocado are actually fruits.  Thanks, smarty pants.

Breaded Chicken Cutlets

(adapted from Everyday Food, March 2009)

makes 4 cutlets

  • 4 organic chicken cutlets
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil

To make the bread crumbs: Pulse two or three pieces of whole wheat bread in a food processor until finely ground.

Mix together bread crumbs, flaxseed meal, and Parmesan cheese in a wide bowl.  Set aside.  In another wide bowl, scramble the two eggs.  Set aside.  Pour the whole wheat flour into a third wide bowl.  Line the three bowls up on the counter: flour, eggs, and then bread crumb mixture.

Dredge a cutlet in the flour, coating both sides well.  Then dip the cutlet in the egg, coating well, and then the bread crumbs.  Pat the crumbs onto the cutlets to make certain they are covered relatively thickly.  Repeat with each cutlet.

Heat canola oil over medium high heat.  Place cutlets in the pan without crowding them—you may need to fry them in separate batches.  Fry until the bottom is crispy and brown, about 5 minutes.  Turn the cutlets over and fry the second side until brown, about another 5 minutes.  When the inside of the chicken reaches 165° or the insides are completely white and opaque, remove them from the pan.

You can make the salsa while the cutlets are frying.

Fruit Salsa

(enough for 4 cutlets)

  • ½ ripe mango, diced
  • 1 kiwi fruit, diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • pinch salt

Mix all the diced fruit together.  Squeeze the juice from the lemon over everything, and add a pinch of salt to taste.  Mix together, and spoon over chicken cutlets.