Meatless Monday: Falafel and Pitas

What did the one sick garbanzo bean say to the other sick garbanzo bean? I falafel!

Finished falafel with pita and a summer vegetable gratin

Finished falafel with pita and a summer vegetable gratin

Don’t worry you won’t feel awful after eating this falafel!  Sorry.  I had to.  So on Friday night, I wanted lamb in a bad way.  I have quite a bit of frozen ground lamb so I just had to defrost some and pick up some feta, pitas, and a couple of other things at the store.  I was so disappointed by the state of the pitas that I ended up making my own.  I know it sounds crazy but it really isn’t terribly difficult.  Plus, you can multi-task during nap time, housework (which I avoided that day) and picking up any older kiddos from school.  And, if you happen to have extras, you can have two wonderful mediterranean meals in a matter of days.

I have tried LOTS of falafel and falafel recipes.  I just like my recipe best.  You can use this recipe as a guide and tweak it to your liking and your family’s tastebuds.  For the pitas…it is just a no brainer.  If I’m going to eat bread, it had better be worth it.  A couple of tips: get

fresh yeast and if you live in a dry climate like I do, make sure you have plenty of flour. A pizza stone helps but it is NOT necessary.  A jellyroll pan (turned over in your oven) will work beautifully.



1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1/2 red large onion, roughly chopped

2-3 Tbsp chopped parsley

2 Tbsp either mint or cilantro

4 cloves of garlic minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp baking powder

4-6 Tbsp flour

oil for frying (Safflower, avocado, coconut or grape seed are all good for high heat)

chopped tomato, onion, bell pepper, olives for garnish (you may use some or all of them)

Side one.  Don't let your oil get too hot.

Side one. Don’t let your oil get too hot.


tzatziki sauce

Harissa sauce (North African/Mediterranean hot sauce)

pita bread (recipe follows)


1. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until combined but not pureed.  Then sprinkle the baking powder and several tablespoons of flour and pulse until combined.  Place in a bowl and chill for a couple of hours.

2. Form the mixture into balls about the size of walnuts still in their shells then flatten them slightly to  form little patties about the size of sliders.  Unless you have a deep fryer, it is not worth it to try and do true falafel balls.

3. When you’re ready to cook.  Heat  approximately an inch oil of your choice in a pan.  You can do a test

Crispy and warm as they drain on paper towels

Crispy and warm as they drain on paper towels

patty to determine if you need more flour.  If the test patty falls apart you can add the remaining flour a half tablespoon at a time.  You can cook up to 6-8  patties at a time without crowding or lowering the temperature of the oil too much.   Fry until golden brown, flipping once.  Then drain on paper towels and continue in batches until mixture is gone.

4. Stuff the falafel into pitas and add your chosen accoutrements and enjoy!


(Note: my pita recipe is from the Joy of Cooking)


2 cups bread flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar or honey

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 tsp active dry yeast

2-3 Tbsp melted butter, EVOO, or coconut oil

1 1/4 cups room temperature H2O


1. Place all dry ingredients in to bowl (of a stand mixer or otherwise).  Mix by hand or on low in a stand

So, they aren't really round but they taste amazing.

So, they aren’t really round but they taste amazing.

mixer for about 1 minute to blend all ingredients, then add the wet team.  Knead with a dough hook on low or by hand for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth, soft and elastic.  Add flour or water as needed.  The dough should be tacky but not sticky.  Transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl and turn it once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until double in volume, about 1-1 1/2 hours.  (It all depends on your definition of room temperature.  If your oven has a “proofing” setting, use it.  They are usually pretty reliable. Or put it in your laundry room while you’ve got the drying going.

2.  Punch the dough down, divide equally into 8 pieces and roll the pieces into balls.  Cover and let them rest for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  If you do not have a pizza or baking stone, place a baking sheet upside on an oven rack to serve as a hearth.

3. On a very lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough into a thin round, about 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.  Spay the stone or pan with water and wait 30 seconds.  Then place as many dough rounds as will fit without touching, directly onto the hearth.  Bake until the dough puffs into a balloon, about 3 minutes, wait 30 seconds, then remove each bread to a rack to cool.  Or, if you’re my husband, shove one directly into your mouth and complain that it’s burning your mouth.



I’m Inspired by The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Now, before you judge, read on.rhnj-s6-header-cast-v2

Let me first say that I am completely addicted to all things BRAVO!  I am what Andy Cohen calls a Super Fan.  I just read his book and found myself thinking: “We could totally be friends.”  I am still catching up on my backlog of shows but I am currently caught up on the ladies of New Jersey.  With Dina Manzo back on the show, I am once again reenergized and ready for the spunky Jersey girls.  From her tag line: “I’m back to bring the Zen.  Namaste Bitches!” to her new cat: Botox, I love her and am so glad to peek in on her life.

In the most recent episode, Theresa Guidice goes over to Dina’s house and Dina attempts to cheer up Theresa by suggesting she make a “vision board” a la Oprah to help affect the outcome of the trial that she and her husband Joe are going through.  Dina mentioned that when she was going through her first divorce, she created a board as a way to make a new start.  She had recently found it and when looking at it realized that she had almost everything on the board.  WHAT A GREAT IDEA!

So, thank you RHONJ!  I’m going to make a vision board for myself and state what my wishes are for the foreseeable future.  Stay tuned, I’ll post a picture of the vision board once it is finished.


We’re Making Progress

After a successful trial run in Idaho, Andrew is now in  a Montessori program here in Tucson.  Chase started at 3 years old but we decided that we weren’t going to hire a nanny so 3 half days of socialization for Andrew is a great start.  I feel guilty, of course, but he really seems to enjoy himself.  And the end of his official first day, I walked into his classroom and he looked at me, waived, and said: “Bye bye Mommy!”  That made me feel much better.

It will definitely be nice to have the morning to myself and to get things done in the office, which I was not able to do with Andrew here.  Our office is currently in our guest bedroom so Andrew always wants to jump on the bed and roll around or climb into my lap and make it impossible for me to accomplish anything.  I realize that I could stay up late each night and/or get up early to get things done, but I’m exhausted.  I like to sleep.  It seems like my sleep deficit isn’t getting any smaller.  I reluctantly nap sometimes during Andrew’s nap time but I’m still sluggish and worn down.

In addition, Andrew is coming to me telling me he wants to pee or poop in the potty.  I’m FLABBERGASTED!  With Chase, I didn’t even mention it until he was 28 months!  We’re 4 months ahead!  I secretly have wanted to be free of diapers by the end of 2014, but I never thought that it might actually happen!  I’ll keep you posted on that one.

So, this may sound crazy but the weather is really becoming nice here.  The high temperatures are starting to be a little more reasonable: mid 90′s.  After enduring temperatures of 108 on a regular basis this weather is delightful.  In addition, the monsoons here have made a huge difference in the landscape.  The mountains have a beautiful green hue.

We’ll be back to our regular schedule of posting several times week.  With travel and still settling in the house, I was off my game for awhile.



Meatless Monday: Beet, Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa Bowl with Tahini-Lemon Sauce

You know those dishes that make you feel healthy?  Well, usually, they don’t leave me feeling satisfied.  Here is one that does.  It is so delicious.  It feels like a comfort dish.  And, the dressing is magnificent.  I have adapted it from Andrea Bemis’ Dish Up the Dirt.  You can serve it warm, room temperature or cold.  I’ll add pictures later, I’m making it today.

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be making this dish, I would have said: it sounds good if you leave out the beets.  I’m a convert now and quite enjoy the beets.  So, upon buying them, I wondered what I should do with the chard like leaves attached to them.  Well, cook them, add them to this recipe.

Beet, Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa Bowl with Tahini-Lemon Sauce




Beet, Spinach, and Chickpea Quinoa Bowl

1 Tbsp EVOO

4 large beets, scrubbed clean and cut into ½ inch pieces

1 small onion

1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, drained

4 cups spinach, or use the beet greens after rinsing and chopping them.

1 cup quinoa


Tahini-Lemon Sauce

½ cup EVOO

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp low sodium organic tamari (gluten free)

1 ½ Tbsp tahini (gluten free)

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp water

2 tsp grainy Dijon-style mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced

Freshly ground pepper, to taste




Tahini-Lemon Sauce

1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth and set aside.


Beet, Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa Bowl

  1. Fill a sauce pan with enough water to fully cover the beets. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook beets until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Once water is gone remove from heat, fluff, cover and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add EVOO. Once oil is heated, add the onion sauté andfor about 8 minutes, stirring often. If you use the beet greens, sauté them until wilted. Reduce heat to low and add chickpeas.
  4. Add the cooked beets, quinoa and spinach, if using. Stir until spinach is wilted. Turn off heat and drizzle everything with Tahini-Lemon Sauce. Serve and enjoy!

Meatless Monday: Green Bean and Chickpea Salad with Sesame Dressing

This one is a triple yum in my book.  You get flavor, crunch and balanced vegan dish that can be a main dish or side dish.  It is really good as soon as it’s done, or you can eat it cold the next day, right out of the container.  Not that I’ve done that.  I pulled this from a wonderful vegan cook book.  As soon as I can get the full information on it I will update the post.  I had a copy but I lent it to someone and never got it back, but, I don’t remember to whom I lent it so if this recipe sounds familiar (and you’re not the author of the book) and you have my copy, please send it to me!  We spent almost a month in Idaho with my MIL and she has a copy of the cook book too.  The next several posts will be recipes from that book so get ready for some top notch recipe.  Enjoy!

Green Bean and Chickpea Salad with Sesame Dressing


1 lb green beans

2 Tsp sake or dry sherry

3 tsp sugar

5 tsp soy sauce

1 cup vegetable stock

3 Tbsp sesame seeds

1 14 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add the beans and cook for 5 minutes until bright green and tender but still firm to the bite.  Drain and rinse in cold water then plunge them into ice water to set the color.

2. Bring sake to boil in a small sauce pan then transfer to a bowl and combine with the sugar and soy sauce.

3. Put the stock in a saucepan with 1 Tbsp of the sake mixture. Bring to a boil.  Drain the beans and add to the stock.  Return to a boil, then remove from the heat, drain and let cool.

4. Heat a skillet/fry pan until hot, add the sesame seeds and toast, tossing them in the pan constantly, until they are golden.  Transfer the toasted seeds to a mortar and pestle, mini food processor or spice grinder and grind them to a paste.

5. In a bowl, combine the ground sesame seeds, with the chickpeas, sesame oil, and the remaining sake mixture.  Then toss in the drained green beans.  Serve immediately.


Meat-full Monday: Grilled Potato and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon

OK, so it isn’t meatless monday.  I stumbled upon this recipe on Food and and nearly collapsed from excitement.  I have an obsession with bacon and bleu cheese is something that makes me smile just thinking about it.

Grilled Potato and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon.  Photo by Fredrika Stjärne

Grilled Potato and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon. Photo by Fredrika Stjärne

I wish my husband liked bleu cheese because I would probably serve it every day.  However, because Ryan doesn’t like it, I served it on the side.  This salad is amazing.  I served as a warm main dish and it was delightful.

Grilled Potato and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon


  • 1 pound sliced meaty bacon
  • 3 red onions, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 pounds small new potatoes (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter), scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 pound blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Maytag Blue, crumbled


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the bacon slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until they are brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer the bacon slices to paper towel—lined plates to drain. Crumble into 1/2-inch pieces. (I did not cook the bacon in this way.  It would have started a fire.  I cooked it in two batches in a pan and saved the bacon grease for popcorn.  I told you I love bacon).
  2. Light a grill. In a large bowl, toss the red onion slices with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the onions over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly charred and tender, about 5 minutes. Cut the grilled onions into 1/2-inch pieces.
  3. In a large pot of salted cold water, bring the potatoes to a boil. Simmer until they are beginning to get tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes and cut them in half. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the potatoes over moderately high heat, turning once, until they are tender and browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the blue cheese. Add the bacon, onions and potatoes and toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a clean bowl and serve.  Unless it is dark outside and no one will ever know that you didn’t  put it in a new bowl.



Meatless Monday: Green Bean Slaw

I love green beans and I love slaw.  For me, this recipe was an automatic winner.  My hubby and his brother are not fans of creamy cheesy dressings so I wanted to find a crowd pleaser.  In addition, my MIL and I are making an effort to not turn on the oven while cooking dinner.  I found the recipe while perusing

Green Bean Slaw. Photo by Fredrika Stjärne

Green Bean Slaw. Photo by Fredrika Stjärne

Food and and paired it with Grilled Red Curry Chicken.  It is tangy, crunchy and you can serve it warm right after you make it or like I did at room temperature.  It would be a perfect potluck recipe.

Green Bean Slaw


  • 1 1/4 pounds haricots verts (thin green beans)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 medium parsnip, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into fine julienne
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, chopped, for garnish (optional)


1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the vinegar, water, mustard, honey and celery seeds. Add the carrot, parsnip, red pepper and onion and toss until warmed through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans and toss well. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Garnish the slaw with the chopped egg and serve warm or at room temperature.
MAKE AHEAD The cooked beans and dressed mixed vegetables can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.


I Promised You a Recap of the Greatest Tennis Match Since The “Battle of the Sexes”

And that’s what you’ll get! Well, not really. I am still a novice at tennis but I really enjoy it and it helps fulfill my preppy WASP fantasy.
Ryan who will be known as Captain and I, who will be known as Poopsie, love playing tennis. Captain is a really good tennis player and I am lacking in skill, technique and control. We played every day on our honeymoon once two years ago when we were here in Sun Valley. Now that Chase and Andrew are old enough that we can safely leave them for a couple of hours with a sitter and Ryan’s schedule is a little more reasonable, I am determined to play more tennis. 20140719-105237-39157974.jpg
When I was a kid, I rode my bike to Brown Pool in Pendleton, IN and played tennis alone with a can of balls and my mom’s Wilson racket that was made of wood. It was there that I learned a lot of bad habits that I am proud to say I still have.


Captain taught tennis all through high school and college so he is a drill sergeant when it comes to teaching forehands and backhands. And, he indulges me to an absurd degree. In all of the times that we have played tennis, he has not yet taught me a proper serve. “Poopsie isn’t ready,” he says. It’s true. I am in no way ready to rival the speed and force of Serena Williams.


I flick my wrist. I don’t follow through with my swing and sometimes I don’t set up my swing properly. But, I’m learning! And, I really enjoy the challenge. Captain is an amazing teacher. He is patient and descriptive in his coaching and puts up with my shenanigans.
It will be great when we play regularly. Then I can get monogrammed outfits and drink a Bloody Mary afterwards.


Meatless Monday: Greek Spinach and Feta Pie

Ok, it is actually spanikopita but according to Cook’s Illustrated,

Really? How am I supposed to cook like this?

Really? How am I supposed to cook like this?

it is a Greek Spinach and Feta Pie.  I love it.  I could eat it for breakfast (with eggs), lunch (cold and on the go), and dinner (with lamb).  The kiddos love it and though it is a little time consuming, totally worth it.  Cook’s Illustrated was one of the first cooking magazines I read.  I love it because they take recipes and test them to find where a lot of people make mistakes, fix the mistakes and you come out looking like a freaking master chef.  I still reference the back issues I have saved though I haven’t

received it in several years.  However, I have renewed my subscription and now have the app on my phone.  The app is great by the way.  It is easy to search and the recipes are broken down in a way that makes the process of following a recipe off of your phone, pretty easy.

We are in Idaho through the end of the month and Ryan’s

brother and his two girls are here.  The oldest, Indira, is 8 and quite the little mother’s helper.  She also requested the dish a couple of nights ago.  I enlisted her help and we got busy.  We ended up serving the dish with lamb and tzaziki sauce and a huge salad.


2 (10-ounce) bags curly leaf spinach, rinsed

The finished product.  We served it at room temperature.

The finished product. We served it at room temperature.

1/4 cup water
12 ounces feta cheese, rinsed, patted dry, and crumbled into fine pieces (about 3 cups)
3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt (see note)
4 medium scallions, sliced thin (about 1/2 cup)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill leaves
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon grated zest plus 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Phyllo Layers:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound (14 by 9-inch) phyllo, thawed (see note)
1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano, grated fine (about 3/4 cup)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (optional)

1. FOR THE FILLING: Place spinach and water in large microwave-safe bowl. Cover bowl with large dinner plate.

The "big kids" Chase and his cousin Zyra enjoying Spanakopita outside.

The “big kids” Chase and his cousin Zyra enjoying Spanakopita outside.

Microwave on high power until spinach is wilted and decreased in volume by half, about 5 minutes. Using potholders, remove bowl from microwave and keep covered, 1 minute. Carefully remove plate and transfer spinach to colander set in sink. Using back of rubber spatula, gently press spinach against colander to release excess liquid. Transfer spinach to cutting board and roughly chop. Transfer spinach to clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove excess water. Place drained spinach in large bowl. Add remaining filling ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. (Filling can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator.)

2. FOR THE PHYLLO LAYERS: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using pastry brush, lightly brush 14 by 9-inch rectangle in center of parchment with melted butter to cover area same size as phyllo. Lay 1 phyllo sheet on buttered parchment, and brush thoroughly with melted butter. Repeat with 9 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter (you should have total of 10 layers of phyllo).

3. Spread spinach mixture evenly over phyllo, leaving ¼-inch border on all sides. Cover spinach with 6 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter and sprinkling each with about 2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese. Lay 2 more phyllo sheets on top, brushing each with butter (these layers should not be sprinkled with Pecorino).

4. Working from center outward, use palms of your hands to compress layers and press out any air pockets. Using sharp knife, score pie through the top 3 layers of phyllo into 24 equal pieces. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Bake until phyllo is golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. Slide spanakopita, still on parchment, to cutting board. Cut into squares or triangles and serve.



I really do like mountain biking

But I have a love hate relationship with it. Ryan and I went on our first ride yesterday on a trail called Adam’s Gulch. It includes Eve’s gulch and Forbidden fruit. But you get to start the trail by trudging up “Puke Hill.” Thanks honey.
I didn’t puke, but I thought my legs were going to fall off when I made it to the top. I’m getting better at riding and realizing that it is ok to get off your bike and walk when you’re not comfortable with a technical aspect of a trail.
We got a late start yesterday so it was on the warm side, but I was happy to be in the shade most of the time. It is a holiday weekend so there were a fair amount of people on the trail, which was nice because it forced me to smile and say hi even though I wanted to quit at that point. We made it through some tricky climbs and steep rocks and on to Eve’s Gulch which is a LONG slow climb and you work for it. You can either continue up Eve (which I am sure is a continuation of a delightful encounter with the most evil woman of all) or you can go on “Forbidden Fruit,” which Ryan called “your reward” for making it up Eve’s Gulch. Eve’s gulch consists of really fun hills, some challenging switch-backs up, switch backs down, more fun hills and then a really fun downhill where you can gain some serious speed. Ok, I agree, that is a great reward. Ryan went ahead of me and did the Forbidden Fruit section at his speed and I did it at mine, which was fine because there were 4 bowl like switch back turns on the way down that were above my skill level. I only got through one of them. The others I just slid down and around praying that I didn’t lose my balance. I know my limits.

I hadn’t been mountain biking since April. It was fun to go on a ride again. Today, my legs are wrecked. Ryan is very nice to give me guidance and be patient with me. He told me yesterday that I was the perfect balance of pretty and adventurous. That made me feel pretty good. My love languages are words of confirmation and gifts. The only thing that would have made that day better was if he had given me a piece of jewelry at the end of the ride.


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