Springing into Action

It’s officially spring; although you would hardly know it. Let’s not even mention the snow that’s coming our way again tonight. Nope…we won’t mention that. Instead we’ll focus on the one thing spring surely brings – spring break! I’m going to keep tonight’s post short and sweet. We’re planning a short little escape soon – just us and the kids. So while we’re busy getting prepared and shuttling Mr. N to and fro, I’m going to quickly share our last Polish recipe for this little adventure. lasagna noodles
Like last week, we’re focusing on another “lazy” take on the pierogi, the homemade dumplings filled with a variety of ingredients. One of the more traditional pierogi recipes features a dumpling stuffed with potatoes, onions and farmer’s cheese, and that’s what we’ve recreated here only in the form of a casserole. Or as I like to call it, a lazy-agna. cheese filling
Yes, I realize lasagna in and of itself isn’t exactly lazy, but I consider it easier than hand-making dumplings. Not to mention, it provides ample leftovers which is key for our schedule during Mr. N’s show. (Perhaps many of you have noticed that I’m absolutely drooling over your dishes these past few weeks as home cooked meals are few and far between right now.)mixing cheese
We found this recipe at About.com and one of my favorite tips was soaking the no-bake noodles for 30 minutes in warm water. I’ve used no-bake lasagna noodles before and I would say about 50% of the time they work fabulously. The other half of the time, some of the noodles don’t cook and I end up with a layer of crunchy pasta. Pre-soaking the noodles, however, did the trick. The pasta cooked to perfection. potatoes
Just like the prep for a traditional lasagna, the filling is prepared first. Ours included mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. Miss A also mixed the cottage cheese with egg and a bit of onion powder, while I shredded some cheddar cheese. caramelizing onions
Mr. N was our potato masher. He found it quite tiring. (Or perhaps it’s his late night rehearsals!) mashing potatoes
Once the cheddar cheese was mixed in with the hot mashed potatoes, we ended up with three mixtures for filling – the mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese; the cottage cheese; and the caramelized onions. cheesy potatoes
The rest is all about the layering. onions
We began with the noodles, added the cottage cheese, followed with the potatoes and then the onions. layering lasagna
And of course that’s followed with another layer of noodles, cottage cheese, potatoes and onions. lasagna steps
Once we reached our top layer, we tossed the remaining onions with a few breadcrumbs before adding them over top, and finished it off with a handful of cheddar cheese. breadcrumbs
We baked the casserole, covered, at 350F for 30 minutes. baking pierogi casserole
After the 30 minutes was up, we uncovered it and baked a final 10 minutes (or until bubbly). pierogi lasagna
We cut and served our lazy-agna immediately, reserving the leftovers in the fridge for the next week. This could also have been frozen and reheated as well. pierogi casserole
The pierogi casserole hit the spot. It was warm, it was filling and it was definitely comfort food. Miss A was in heaven – cottage cheese and mashed potatoes in one dish! It was a 3 spoon dish for her. In fact, this was a 3 spoon dish all around – a solid meal. Mr. N liked it so much, he had seconds and actually enjoyed his leftovers later in the week. pierogi lasagna
Mike and I loved the sharpness of the cheddar cheese and sweetness of the onions. And needless to say, I liked the fact that we could reheat individual servings for our crazy weeknights. pierogi lasagna
Print this recipe: Lazy-agna

polish lasagna

Given our success with both lazy pierogi options, one of these days, I’ll make the real thing. Until then, either the lazy pierogi or the lazy-agna will due perfectly.pierogi casserole dishWe’ll be back in a few weeks to share our latest adventures, and perhaps even a recipe or two. Until then, I’m going to check out for a bit and fully enjoy this year’s spring break with my growing kiddos. Hopefully by the time we return, winter will have officially gone on its break! Have a great start to April everyone!

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The Polls Are Open – Chopped Challenge 2014

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet (and sprinkle it with recent shots of Mr. N and Miss A). I’m busier than I can comprehend right now, but the Chopped Challenge must go on! Below you’ll find four basket options for each of three rounds – Appetizer Round, Main Course Round and the Dessert Round. I think the baskets are particularly creative this year and are sure to provide a good challenge.  So, without further adieu, please select one basket below (hit “vote” on each poll – three total) for the multiple rounds. The winning basket for each category will be our ingredients for each round of the challenge.

We’ll announce the winners in our live cook-off event on Saturday, February 1st as Mike and I go head-to-head to see what we can cook-up. Mr. N and Miss A will again serve as our sous chefs, but this year we’re switching up the teams. Last year we pitted boys against girls, but this year we’re mixing it up. Mr. N will join my team and Miss A will join Mike’s. Who will reign supreme this year?

Voting will remain open until Thursday, January 30th, so make sure to vote early (and as often as you are so inclined).  We’ll be back on the first of February with our live blogging event. Thank you again to everyone participating. We can’t wait to see what you drop in our baskets this year!

Mr. N Christmas Morning

Mr. N Christmas Morning


Basket 1 – Sally from the Bewitching Kitchen
Basket 2 – Eva from Kitchen Inspirations
Basket 3 – Munchy from Eesa Tales
Basket 4 – Mr. N and Miss A from our very own, Eat, Play Love

Miss A had a good Christmas too!

Miss A had a good Christmas too!


Basket 1 – Chicago John from the Bartolini Kitchens
Basket 2 – Vanyadhanya from Skinny Chef de Cuisine
Basket 3 – Shankari from Strawberry Lentils
Basket 4 – Joanna from The Noisy Chomper

Where are my legs?

Where are my legs?


Basket 1 – Raymund from Ang Sarap
Basket 2 – Charles from Five Euro Food
Basket 3 – Kelly from Inspired Edibles
Basket 4 – Crunchy Mama from the Fortress of Crunchitude

We even snuck in a trip to see Nana and Papa in Florida!

We even snuck in a trip to see Nana and Papa in Florida!

Happy voting everyone! Thanks again for playing along and thank you to all of you that provided our delectable baskets. We’re excited!! We’ll see you all in a few days. Let the fun begin.

Then we came home to wind chills of -40F. Burr!

Then we came home to wind chills of -40F. Burr!

Holiday Round-up

Happy holidays! While we’ve prepared for the holidays for weeks now, I’m still not quite ready. Fortunately the shopping is done. Now we just have cooking/baking, cleaning up and wrapping to do. No worries though, it will all get done. It always does. For as long as the to do lists get this time of year, it never seems to stress me. I love the holidays. I love the traditions, the memory making, the family celebrations, the laughter and the love. And we’re already off to a good start. old school xmas tree

Last night was the first of our four celebrations, our traditional Christmas at my mom and dad’s. Would you be surprised that there was enough food to feed the whole neighborhood? It makes it hard to believe I have to cook more food! I’m having a hard time even thinking about it, I’m still so full. Here’s a few of the gems that adorned yesterday’s holiday table:
Cranberry Bruschetta
Cranberry Bruschetta

Spicy Maple Walnuts
Spicy Maple Walnuts

An Uzbek treat that seems to have become a regular at the holidays now, Sugar-Coated Almonds.
sugar-coated almonds

And of course Christmas isn’t complete without mom’s Oatmeal Cookies.
Mom's Oatmeal Cookies

As for tomorrow night, it’s our special Christmas Eve dinner. Mike, Mr. N, Miss A and I will all sit down for an intimate dinner, we’ll open some presents (the kids usually exchange with each other on Christmas Eve), we’ll put on our new Christmas jammies, grab some cookies and milk and pile into the car for a Christmas lights drive before tucking the kids into their warm beds to await Santa’s arrival. It’s my favorite night of the season. xmas eve

On tomorrow evening’s menu is a special family recipe, but not one of our own. We’re making the Bartolini Lasagna. You can’t go wrong with a dish from Chicago John and his clan. In fact last year, Chicago John’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara was the star of Christmas Eve dinner. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Bartolini recipes are becoming a Christmas tradition of their own.

Then it’s Christmas Day and the children will be up bright and early (At least not as early as my sister and I used to arise – sorry mom and dad!). We’ll spend the morning opening the goodies from Santa, lounging about in our jammies and listening to Christmas music. We’ve got hot cocoa and mimosas lined up to go and we’ll be serving them along with a batch of one of our most popular recipes from the past several years, the Maple Bacon Biscuits
maple bacon biscuits from Vermont

The family will pop in after 1 p.m. and we’ll serve hot breakfast dishes all day long. The kids will likely still be in their jammies, unless we head out to sled, and we’ll have a slow, lazy day with our loved ones. sledding

But wait, there’s one more! This treat from Egypt has also become a staple at our holiday meals and we’ll be making this for the big day as well. Next to the oatmeal cookies, it’s one of Mike’s favorite desserts, the Egyptian Baklawa. I can smell the orange blossom water already. Mmmm!
Baklawa

Needless to say, we’ll be good and full come Wednesday night.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday, a Merry Christmas and an amazing New Year. Thank you all for following us here at Eat, Play, Love. We’ll be sharing a warming, healthy soup for the New Year and then launch back into cooking around the world. Until then, may you all enjoy peace, love, happiness and health throughout the season and the New Year. Happy holidays! Mike, Kristy, Mr. N and Miss A

Some Like It Hot

Can you believe that Thanksgiving here in the U.S. is only a week away! How did that happen? I swear we were just setting the kids off to school after summer break only yesterday. Well, even though I am nowhere near ready for the holidays, I am ready to welcome them. I’ve been feeling very holiday-ish for weeks now. Perhaps its the unseasonably cool temperatures we’ve been having? Burr!

But before I can turn my attention to holiday cooking, I figured I had better post some of our Indian recipes I’ve been mentioning. India was my choice for our cooking around the world adventure. I’ve been participating in lifestyle and teacher training program at my yoga studio since August, and one of our recent adventures was to spend an afternoon with the wife of one of our instructors learning how to cook home-style Indian cuisine. It was the perfect fit for our blog!
Cauliflower

We learned how to make dosas, curried cauliflower and a delicious chickpea stew. The instruction was hands-on and our teacher was very informative and helpful. She brought her most used equipment from home, her pressure cooker and spice tin. She said that the traditional gift for a new Indian bride is a pressure cooker – she couldn’t get by without hers. And her spice tin was a circular container (it reminded me of a Christmas cookie tin my grandmother used to have) with individual compartments for her most used spices. It was such a clever container and a far site more organized than my crazy spice drawer (which is now over-flowing with spices and herbs from around the world).

My favorite recipe from the day was the curried cauliflower, which I’m sharing with you today. It’s simple. It’s healthy. It brings the heat! But I think the best part about it was learning how to prepare my own curry. I had no idea that curry powder is a spice blend. I always figured it was its own spice, when in fact it is a blend of spices that was said to have been created by an Indian cook for a British soldier who was returning to England and wanted to take the flavors of India home with him. Our instructor prepared her curry with cumin, cayenne, coriander and turmeric which is the version I plan to share today.
cutting cauliflower

Mr. N joined me in the kitchen to make the cauliflower. He had a sample from my class and was eager to learn how to make it. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s fast and easy, so perfect for Mr. N to learn how to make for himself (with oven supervision of course). We started by cleaning the cauliflower and then slicing it into quarters. The trick to slicing it is to make a deep cross-cut into the stem of the head and then pull the quarters apart. This makes it easy to break the cauliflower into bite size florets.
cauliflower florets

After rinsing the cauliflower clean, we added it to a Ziplock bag. Mr. N then measured out and added a bit of olive oil and our spices to the bag.
curry spice mix

After giving the bag a good shake to coat the cauliflower, we then placed it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and roasted the cauliflower at 450F for 15 to 20 minutes.
shake and bake

While the cauliflower was baking, Mike and Miss A called us out to the yard where they had been raking up leaves. They just had to share their amazing find…a rather large praying mantis!
praying mantis

The kids were just enthralled (as was I). She was a real beauty. She sat perfectly still, well all but her eyes were still. Her eyes tracked our every movement. You can see how the praying mantis makes such a great hunter! Had she been on a plant, we likely never would have noticed her. praying mantis close-up

Back in the kitchen the cauliflower had finished roasting, so Mr. N and I returned to the kitchen to get a first taste of our healthy snack. We had toned down the cayenne and increased the cumin from my instructor’s version and were hopeful that it would be as good. We still wanted it hot – just not need-a-fire-extinguisher-hot. oven roasted cauliflower

The verdict – we have a winner! This dish might hold a special place in my heart – it’s a vegetable, which I have never really been partial to, in fact, I typically can’t stand cauliflower – and I love this recipe! I could hardly stop snacking on these little gems. Mr. N too, he kept coming back for more, and then a few more. And how fun that it’s a snack we don’t have to worry about overeating! curry cauliflower

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it earned 4 spoons from both Mr. N and I – a vegetable nonetheless! Mike also enjoyed the cauliflower. This ranked at a 3 spoon vote for him. Surprisingly, the heat was a bit too much for him (the man that literally douses things in srichacha). oven roasted curried cauliflower

And I’m guessing that you can imagine Miss A’s reaction. Yes, this was a 1 spoon dish for her. She did take a few bites offered by her brother, but after several moments she went charging to the sink to pour water into her mouth. A bit of an over-reaction? Perhaps. Drama does tend to run in the family. ;)
our budding actor

Print this recipe: Oven Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Long story short, if you like it hot, give this one a try. It’s a fast, healthy recipe that makes a great side dish or snack. Just ask Mr. N, he’s requested this as part of his weekly school lunches. cauliflower curried

All-in-all, I’d say our first Indian cooking adventure was a success. We’ll have one more Indian dish to share after Thanksgiving as well. Until then, I hope you all enjoy the holiday. As we count our blessings for the Thanksgiving holiday, all of our wonderful readers, commenters, friends and family will make the list. Like this recipe, you all hold a special place in our hearts. Cheers!

Getting to Know You

Mandy at The Complete Cook Book recently posted a “Get to Know You Series,” and it was a lot of fun to read. So since we’re away from our kitchen (sneak peak of where we are below), we figured this was a good time to share in the fun. Feel free to join along in the comments or on your blogs as well. Have fun and enjoy the rest of the week. good clean farm living

1. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Mike – Coffee; Kristy – San Pellegrino Limonata; Mr. N – Strawberry Lemonade; Miss A – Sparkling Grape Juice

2. What is your favorite alcoholic drink?

Mike – Red Wine; Kristy – Red Wine or Champagne

3. What is your favorite food?

Mike – Pizza; Kristy – Sushi; Mr. N – Pizza; Miss A – Quesadillas

4. What is your least favorite food?

Mike – Brie; Kristy – Beets; Mr. N – Beets; Miss A – Beets (no beet love here!)

5. What do you eat that others think is really weird?

Mike – Salt on Pizza; Kristy – Applesauce on Bread; Mr. N – Pesto (kids at school don’t quite get it); Miss A – Goldfish Crackers in Yogurt

6. What is your favourite thing to cook/bake?

Mike – Anything on the Smoker; Kristy – Pies and Sauces; Mr. N – Banana Bread; Miss A – Lemon Tarts

7. If you could only chose one, would it be sweet or savory?

Mike – Sweet; Kristy – Savory; Mr. N – Sweet; Miss A – Savory

8. What time do you usually eat your dinner during the week?

Mike and Kristy – either with the kids around 5:30 or after they go to bed around 9:00; Mr. N and Miss A – between 5:30 and 6:00

9. What kitchen item/s have you never owned?

Ice Cream Maker

10. What tip would you give to a newbie cooker / baker?

Mike – Be Patient; Kristy – Don’t be afraid to experiment; Mr. N – Have fun making it; Miss A – Put things in it you think will be good

11. What is the best vegetarian dish you have eaten?

M – Lentil burgers; Kristy – Vegetable lasagna, risotto or pasta; Mr. N – Salad; Miss A – Pasta

I should note here that we may have to revisit who won this year’s chopped challenge. While Miss A and I were declared winners, Mike’s lentil burgers are the only dish ever to have been repeated from a chopped challenge. They are really good and relatively easy to make.

12. What is the easiest meal you can cook?

Mike – Quesadillas; Kristy – Pasta; Mr. N – Peanut Butter & Jellies; Miss A – Pizza

13. If you could only grow 3 herbs in your garden, what would you grow?

Mike – Basil, sage and cilantro; Kristy – Basil, sage and rosemary; Mr. N – Basil, sage and parsley; Miss A – Basil, thyme and sage

14. What would you use as a substitute for salt?

Mike – Chili powder; Kristy – Cumin; Mr. N – Pepper; Miss A – Sugar

15. What 5 items would you pack for a quick and easy picnic or day out?

Mike – Havarti, Triscutts, grapes, salami and red wine; Kristy – white wine, brie, grapes, crackers and fig jelly; Mr. N – Bananas, pistachios, celery, peanut butter and water; Miss A – Mozzarella, grapes, ham, juice and more cheese

Thanks for the fun Mandy! Have a great week everyone. Now, back to vacation. :)

Short But Sweet

I’m late in posting this week. It’s been a whirlwind. We’re heading out on a little vacation this week before school starts and there’s always so much to do before leaving the house. This is especially the case when we come back to a school year in full swing. So this trip required a little more organization, so that once we get home we’re ready for the end of summer. So, much like summer, this recipe is short, but sweet. vegan cafe

I had another volunteer day recently. This time it was at the Thanks Jordan Foundation’s Raw Vegan Cafe. The restaurant, as the name suggests, serves all raw vegan cuisine. It’s also run by volunteers. Well, not entirely, there’s an owner, a chef, a teacher, and a few servers, but the rest of the kitchen help is all volunteer-based. The cafe is a non-profit with proceeds going toward cancer research. While I don’t think we’ll be going vegan or raw anytime soon, it was an absolute pleasure to work in the restaurant and I have to admit the food was amazing. I brought several items home and Mike and the kids agreed. They do a fabulous job – particularly with dessert. soaking almonds

And talk about an incredible volunteer opportunity – I got to work in a restaurant! How fun is that?! Not only did I get to help the community, I got to live out a little dream of mine. Even doing dishes was fun – too bad that doesn’t carry over to home. ;) While at the cafe, I had the opportunity to make the raw vegan taco “meat.” I did my best to replicate the recipe at home because after one bite, I was sold. Not only is it healthy and full of protein, but it has an incredible smoky flavor. It starts with almonds which are soaked for a bit. The almonds are then processed until they are crumb-like. chopped almonds

Next up are the carrots – peeled and chopped. carrots

They are then processed until crumb-like as well. chopped carrots

And then the carrots and almonds are mixed together – this creates the texture of the “meat.” carrots and almonds

Next it’s onto the sauce that will give the “meat” its smoky flavor. Again we turn to the food processor (gotta love a one pot meal) where we blend the remaining ingredients – garlic, agave, Tamari (gluten free soy sauce), cumin, fresh oregano, cayenne, chili powder and sun dried tomatoes. sun dried tomatoes and tamari

While processing the sauce, a bit of water is added and blended until smooth, or at least until there are no big chunks hiding in the sauce. taco sauce

The sauce is mixed together with the almond-carrot mixture and voila – you have your taco “meat.” vegan taco meat

We decided to serve some fresh sweet corn with our tacos. Mike took the kids outside for a lesson in shucking (Good thing they learned to shuck before heading to Miss C’s farm to feed the animals!). shucking corn

We seasoned our sweet corn with a mixture of olive oil, shallots and sage before tossing it on the grill. sweet corn

The sage and sweet corn combo is absolutely delicious. I never would have guessed it, but it’s really a good marriage of sweet and savory. shucking the sweet corn

But enough about that, back to the vegan tacos. So you might be wondering how these went over with my carnivorous husband and children. We served the taco meat on organic (albeit not raw) tortillas and topped them with fresh chopped avocado. vegan tacos

Believe it or not, the vegan tacos were a big hit. I’ve already admitted to being a fan of the smoky flavor, so these were 3-1/2 spoons for me. Much to my surprise, they were also 3-1/2 spoons for Mike. So you can be sure these don’t taste like what most meat lovers think of as vegan or raw. This stuff is tasty enough to have Mike ring in a near top mark! raw vegan tacos

The key to this meal (and the others I sampled) is the generous use of various herbs and seasonings. There’s nothing bland about this meal. Even Mr. N was impressed. He came in with 3-1/2 spoons as well. He couldn’t believe that it wasn’t meat. gluten free tacos

Unfortunately Miss A was not as impressed. This meal was a bit too spicy for her. She would have much preferred the raw vegan brownie (which both kids swore tasted just like a homemade brownie). She did enjoy her corn though as well as the fried sage, courtesy of Greg and Katherine over at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. vegan taco night

Overall, this meal was a success and made for some great lunches the rest of the week. I think we’ll be making it again (with something on the side for Miss A). I never would have expected this much flavor out of raw food, but I guess when it’s done right, just like anything, it can be flavorful and satisfying.

Print this recipe: Vegan Raw Tacos

So for the next week, we’re going to head for some peace and quiet. So if we aren’t frequenting your blogs, you’ll know why. We’re heading somewhere we can cook, read, play and just be – the four of us – before the busy new school year kicks into high gear. You see, this year is going to be especially new for us…Miss A will start her first full day of school and her first full week of school. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage watching my baby get on a bus, but I know she’s ready. Mom’s just not ready. Childhood – another thing that is far too short, but sweet. Fortunately, I have a few more years of childhood with my babies…so here’s to the short and the sweet whether it’s summer, a good meal, childhood, vacations or any of those other things that we love so much. Cheers!