I recall the first time making bruschetta. There were five of us bridesmaids at my friend’s apartment getting getting ready for her wedding.
A clove of garlic in hand, I rubbed the still warm faces of the toast. It was fascinating watching the garlic clove disappear and the bread surfaces taking on an aromatic, glittery sheen.
Since then, I think fondly of the satisfying sensory experience of making bruschetta. Little rivals the perfect combination of tomato, basil and mozzarella. However, my other half does not care for tomatoes and it hardly seems worth the effort to make a batch of bruschetta for one.
That is where this recipe comes to the rescue – no tomatoes. Yet, this combination maintains the tastiness of fresh toasty bread, olive oil, aromatic garlic, fresh herbs and the tenderness of…sweet peppers.
Cutest lil helper “painting” the breads with olive oil
Toasty bread getting all dressed up for the party
Serves 2-3 slices
Sweet Pepper Bruschetta
Yields about 10 slices
10 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
1 loaf French baguette, sliced into ¼-½ inch slices
⅓ cup olive oil
2-3 Tb, heaping, finely chopped parsley
4 large sweet peppers (mine were 4-5 inches, or 10 small/medium sweet peppers), finely chopped
Extra oil for roasting
¼ tsp salt
2 Tb finely chopped basil
1 Tb lemon juice
¼ tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix the ⅓ cup of olive oil and chopped parsley.
Place sliced bread in a baking sheet and brush each side generously with oil/parsley mix. Set aside.
Place finely chopped sweet pepper on another baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat the peppers. Place the baking sheet of bread and peppers in the oven until bread is toasted and peppers are softened - approximately 10-15 minutes. Turn the toast over half way through the toasting process.
While items are in the oven, mix the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl (lemon juice, basil and black pepper). Once the sweet peppers come out of the oven softened, add them to the bowl of basil mix.
Carefully heap the pepper basil mix on each slice of toasted bread and serve immediately.
While growing up, I remember enjoying fresh produce from the garden. We often exchanged excess produce with the neighbors, who also kept a garden. Outside the garden, in the western part of the yard, there was a patch of hearty rhubarb that popped up every year. I love rhubarb, but for the life of me, I cannot recall any recipes we used it in. Though, I do remember a plethora of uses for the garden zucchini, sweet and savory.
Last summer I started entertaining the thought that rhubarb could be savory. Around the same time, I was trying out lower lactose “alfredo” sauce recipes. This recipe really came together as a result of those interests.
The rhubarb is sautéed with fresh green onions giving it a zippy it’s-summer-and-the-produce-is-rockin’ vibe. The alfredo sauce, basil and mozzarella cheese create a level of comfort. Finally, a bit of tang with crumbled goat cheese to top it all off.
In the time since I posted my last pizza recipe, I have changed my favorite crust recipe. This crust is a bit more tender while still being flavorful, even when adding in some wheat.
Hope you get a chance to give this recipe a try. Be sure to tag MamaSparrow on social media with pictures of your recipe results. Have a great holiday weekend!
Serves 2 slices or 1/4 of a pizza round
Rhubarb Basil White Sauce Pizza
Yields Makes 2 Pizza 12-14 inches round
Sauteed rhubarb and fresh green onions over alfredo sauce and basil. Tangy goat cheese and mozzarella cheese top off this cozy, spring pizza.
42 minPrep Time
18 minCook Time
1 hrTotal Time
New Crust Recipe
1 cup water
1 pack active dry yeast (also ok to use instant, let sit 15-20 mins instead of the 30 - 1 hr)
1 cup flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour, divided, I like a mix of wheat and all-purpose
Olive oil or melted butter (optional)
Garlic salt (optional)
Cornmeal dusted on baking pans
1 Tb olive oil
2 cup rhubarb, chopped
6 green onions, finely sliced
16 oz of alfredo sauce*
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
4 ounces goat cheese, sliced or crumbled
3 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast, 1 cup flour and sugar. Let sit covered 30 minutes to 1 hour if using active dry yeast. For instant yeast, let sit 15 - 20 minutes.
Uncover the bowl and mix in the salt. Add 1 ½ cup cups of flour measuring in 2 Tbs. at a time. Mix. Sprinkle the last ½ cup of flour onto a lightly floured surface and shape the dough into 2 pizza rounds. Bunch the dough around the edges to form crust. Spread dough rounds with olive oil or melted butter and sprinkle with garlic salt, if desired.
Dust baking pans with cornmeal before placing dough on them.
Preheat the oven to 425 degree F.
While the oven warms, start cooking the toppings. Warm the olive oil in a saucepan over medium low heat. Toss in the green onions and warm a couple of minutes. Add the chopped rhubarb to the pan with the onions and warm for another couple of minutes. Pull the pan off the heat and set aside.
Top the crust with the sauce. Evenly spread the onion rhubarb mix over the sauce. Spread the chopped basil for the next layer. Finish the pizzas topping with cheese and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
If eating immediately, bake at 425 degrees F for 10 - 15 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is golden.
Freezing for Later
If freezing for later, set pizza on a cooling rack to allow crust to cool completely. Prepare the pizza for freezing by wrapping in plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. Mark the wrapped pizza before placing it in the freezer.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place frozen pizza on baking sheet or foil. Bake 15-25 minutes, until crust browns and cheese is bubbly.
*I used a homemade cauliflower alfredo sauce. http://leelalicious.com/healthier-cauliflower-alfredo-sauce/
It is healthier and has less lactose. The recipe easily converts to a dairy free/vegan sauce.
We had our first snowfall of the season earlier this week. A brief glance out the back window of the apartment and I caught an old longing. It was that penchant for winter night photographs. The soft light from surrounding houses and general urban aura accentuate the starring features of winter photography – contrast and texture. It is moments like these, passions remembered and fascinations reacquainted, that illuminate with reasoned existence.
This recipe harkens memories of my mother’s famous meat spaghetti. She never made less than a crowd’s worth when cooking her spaghetti. The sauce simmered and noodles boiled. Meanwhile, loaves of crusty, french bread were buttered, seasoned and broiled open-face, till toasty and fragrant. The real secret to this vegetarian version is the spices and the texture achieved from the pan cooked cauliflower.
This pasta dish is about as cozy as they come and a sure crowd pleaser. We fully recommend an accompaniment of crusty bread. We hope you try this recipe soon. Be sure to take a picture and tag Mama Sparrow on social media so we can see the results.
Yields 3-4 servings
A traditionally meaty sauce converted to a vegetarian delight. Grab a loaf of crusty bread. This is your next cozy pasta meal.
2 Tb olive oil; separated
1 small head of cauliflower
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp fennel seed, ground
1 tsp sage, ground
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp marjarom, ground
Pinch of white pepper
12 oz of tomato pasta sauce
10-12 oz spaghetti noodles
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together spices and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the cauliflower and toss till the cauliflower is covered in the oil and spice mix. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the seasoned cauliflower and reduce heat to low. Cook the cauliflower until tender on the outside with a slight crunch on the inside. May take 10-15 minutes. Splash in water to speed up the cooking and keep the cauliflower from drying.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, add in the pasta sauce until warmed through. Serve over spaghetti noodles.
We had the first light snow flurries yesterday morning. Immediately our preschooler began scheming up all the activities he was going to do in the snow. Much to his chagrin there was not enough snowfall for his plans, yet.
The holidays bring out the child in me. In much the same way, I get giddy for the cookie baking, putting up the Christmas tree and decorating. I would be the person putting up a tree around Halloween if I didn’t have family with strict after Thanksgiving practices for such decorating.
The great news…this is Thanksgiving week so almost Christmas decorating time! That also means most of us are in the midst of harvest celebration meals. Today’s dish makes a nice light entree or great side for your harvest table.
The recipe for this asparagus tart has my wheat olive oil crust. Its a fairly simple crust recipe that is rustic and hardy. You could always use your own favorite pie crust or puff pastry recipe. Also, no shame in saving time with a store bought crust either.
The savory of Italian spices and the subtle sweet of lemon zest create a seasoned ricotta bed for the asparagus spears. I tried topping the tart with fresh shredded Parmesan and it was the right thing to do. Hope you get to try this tart soon. We’d love to see pictures so be sure to tag Mama Sparrow on your social media posting.
Serves about 1/4 of the tart
Lemon Asparagus Ricotta Galette
Yields 4-5 servings
10 minPrep Time
30 minCook Time
40 minTotal Time
1 olive oil pie crust* (recipe in notes)
14-18 stalks of asparagus
1 ½ Tb olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, extra for topping
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper, to taste
If making dough from scratch, make this first. It will need to chill 30 minutes before rolling out.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare the asparagus by breaking off the tough ends. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and garlic. Set aside.
In a medium size bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Stir in the lemon zest, seasonings and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil garlic mix.
Roll or press out the dough to a rectangle of 11 x 5 inches. Pinch the side up to form crust sides.
Evenly spread the ricotta mix into the rolled out crust. Top the ricotta mix with the asparagus stalks. Optional: sprinkle a bit of shredded parmesan cheese over top the tart.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Allow tart to cool 3-5 minutes before cutting and serving.
*Olive Oil Crust
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup wheat flour
½ tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup milk
Mix together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Put the olive oil and milk in a measuring pitcher; do not mix. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid contents from the pitcher into your mixing bowl of dry ingredients. Mix together until a ball of dough forms. The dough should be stick together well. If too dry, slowly add in more milk - 1 Tb at a time. If dough is shaggy, knead in more flour - 1 tsp at a time.
Today is the first day of preschool for my oldest. I just dropped him off. The flood of emotion hit me strongest as I walked away from the school pushing my littlest bub in a stroller. I’m excited for him to enjoy this milestone. I’m also anxious for him to be comfortable and confident in his new environment. Fear is another part of this complex of emotion. Having a child with a food allergy makes trusting him in someone else’s care unnerving. The last feeling has only been heightened by the rawness of an serious reaction he had at a family potluck a couple of weeks ago.
While sending him off to school, several questions are bouncing around my mind. Will he inadvertently be offered food he shouldn’t have? Will classroom staff recognize a serious allergic reaction? Will he always be with someone who knows how to use his EpiPen? I have worried of being perceived as neurotic and rude. Naturally, it feels like a hassle to insist on reading the label oneself, inquire about the ingredients, ask if someone has washed their hands, used a different knife, if toys have been cleaned etc.
I can only speak from the experience I have had and understand that my experience may not be the same as yours. Perhaps this all does sound crazy to you or perhaps you may be able to relate. I am fine with either reaction. Today I am sympathetic of all parents sending their children off to school. Extra hugs go out to parents of children with allergies.
All this talk of emotion needs a little comfort food, I think. I am sharing a tomato basil sauce that is versatile and capitalizes on the peak season of tomatoes. The sauce is nice and light if made by the recipe. For a “meatier” version, toss in a bit of fennel seed. This sauce can been made in bulk and stored in the freezer for later use in the coming months.
If you have the chance to this sauce, please photos and tag mama_sparrow on social media. I would love to see how you use the sauce in your home. Enjoy!
Tomato Basil Sauce
Yields 2 - 2 1/2 cups or 8 servings
Fresh stove top roasted tomato sauce with fragrant basil, oregano and marjoram. Enjoy on your favorite noodles, vegetables or pizza. Preserve in the summer to freeze and enjoy through the winter.
5 minPrep Time
20 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
1 Tb olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced small
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper, ground
¼ tsp fennel seed, optional for richer, darker sauce - best for “meat” or spaghetti use
¼ cup tomato paste
5 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 Tb fresh oregano, finely chopped
Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add onion, garlic, marjoram, salt, pepper and optional fennel seed if using. Saute for 3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Stir in the tomato, turn heat to high until it simmers. Reduce the temperature to medium and simmer uncovered for 10 - 15 minutes.
Remove pan of sauce from heat. Pour into food processor and blend till desired consistency. Add in the herbs and pulse a couple of times until they are incorporated.
Serve sauce immediate or store. May be kept in refrigerator for 4 days, 3 months in a standard freezer or 6 months in a deep freezer.
This school term is keeping me very busy. I haven’t stopped creating recipes and taking pictures, but the actual process of synthesizing posts has been on pause. Finally, several weeks in, I have been finding a more regular cadence for handling studies.
The pleasant spring weather is getting me outside more with my boys. I did not realize it was possible to go through so many bottles of bubbles. Also, we had a chance to go the zoo this weekend. The preschooler is still talking about how much he liked the trip and informing me that bats fly. Learning is such an exhilarating thing.
On the recipe front, I have been diving deep into the science of vegan baking. The Earth Balance vegan cupcake challenge was a strong motivating factor in this latest obsession. We ate vanilla avocado cupcakes for almost two weeks while I tweaked the recipe to taste.
Mattie over at veganbaking.net is my baking hero. I learned a lot from the vegan baking tips and tricks blog posts. It was helpful to first understand the chemistry and process of traditional cake ingredients coalesce proper substitution and recreation of plant based recipes. If you are working on honing your baking know how or love the science of things, check it out.
On to the real meat beans of the post. I wanted to share with you my favorite flauta recipe – black bean spinach. First of all, I love making these because they are easy to make and the whole family loves them. It is a bonus to have a few leftovers from dinner because they reheat well and are easy to bring for pack meals.
Fresh out of the oven I love to smother mine in salsa. They are also good with avocado, rice, or a salad. Enjoy and please share a picture or comment of how you choose to serve your flautas.
Black Bean Spinach Flautas
Smashed black beans and wilted spinach are seasoned with warm spices and topped with melty mexican cheese. All the good ness is delivered in a crisped flour tortilla begging to be smothered in your favorite salsa.
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
⅓-½ cup of vegetable stock
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
3 cups spinach
1 package taco sized flour tortillas
6 oz shredded melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla or queso fresco)
salsa, to taste for serving
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Place black beans in a large saucepan with a few splashes of vegetable stock. Season the beans with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt. Use a potato masher to mash the beans as they cook. Continue to add stock through mashing process to achieve a textured paste like refried beans.
Once beans are mashed, toss the spinach into the pot with the beans. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Stir often during the wilting process. Remove the pan from the heat when spinach has wilted. Stir the bean and spinach mixture so they are well mixed.
Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of the bean/spinach mix onto the left side of the tortilla in a vertical line. Sprinkle cheese over the bean mix. Roll the tortilla up starting at the left side, tucking the beans and cheese into the middle of the roll. Place the tortilla roll seam side down on lightly oiled baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas and mix. Rub the tops of the prepared flautas with a bit of oil before placing in oven to bake.
Bake for 5 minutes, rotate the flautas to seam side up and bake another 5 minutes until the outsides are crispy.
Growing up, pot pie night was usually a favorite meal among the siblings. My mother would prepare individual freezer pot pies for the family. The best part was the extra crust from the spare pie servings.
This crust is just as much a treat to eat. This tasty vegetarian take on a classic comfort eat is great in an olive oil pie crust recipe. Feel free to use your own favorite crust recipe or a pre made crust from a refrigerator section at the grocery.
Happy Pi Day!
12/11/16 UPDATE: Added a few newer photos that are better then the original post. Also wanted to add a quick note that I recently made this pot pie completely vegan. Use the original recipe’s called for mushrooms to make a mushroom sauce in place of the cream of mushroom.
2 Tbs. olive oil
8 ozs. mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup non dairy milk (We prefer Good Karma flax milk, they are nut and soy free)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet with high sides. Toss in the mushrooms and saute for about 4 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and stir over heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the ingredients and cook for 1 minute.
Slowly whisk in the broth and then milk. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Let cook on low till thickened. Stir in the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper just until incorporated. Remove the sauce from the heat and prepare the rest of the recipe replacing the cream of mushroom with this mushroom sauce.
Vegetable Pot Pie & Olive Oil Pie Crust
Creamy mushroom based vegetable pot pie nestled in a savory olive oil pie crust. This wholesome pot pie is sure to satisfy comfort food cravings.
2 Tb butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 can 14.5 oz vegetable broth
¼ cup milk
2 Tb butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 potato diced (about 2 cups)
1 Lb mushrooms, sliced or chopped
2 cups peas, frozen
salt, pepper, fennel seed, thyme
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 9in pie crusts (my favorite is an olive oil version, refrigerated crust saves time)
Olive Oil Pie Crust
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ cup olive oil
½ cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 F. Sprinkle flour in a 2.5 quart round baking dish and set aside.
Begin by making a roux. Melt the butter in a large skillet or saute pan. Whisk the flour into the butter to form a paste. Slowly add in the broth, whisking constantly to keep lumps from forming. After all broth has been added to pan, cook while continuously stirring for about 3 minutes. The goal is for the roux to lose the flour taste, but don’t cook it too long as it will lose its power as a thickening agent. Then whisk in the milk. Remove the roux from the heat and set aside in a bowl.
Put skillet back on stove and melt 2 Tb butter in pan. Add onions, carrots and potato to pan cooking about 2 minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in the mushrooms and peas. Add the seasonings to taste. Cook until the mushrooms have let off water and the vegetables tender, about 6 minutes.
Take out roux that was set aside earlier and pour into the skillet. Stir in the can of cream of mushroom soup. Stir to thoroughly combine the ingredients in the skillet, over the heat. Keep the mixture simmering over the heat until the desired thickness and textures are achieved. (I keep mine on while preparing the pan with the bottom crust, stirring often.)
Place one 9in pie crust in the center of the prepared baking dish. Press the crust into place and pour the contents of the skillet into the bottom crust. Cover with the second pie crust, tucking the crust under the bottom crust and pressing to ensure a good seam forms. Use a knife or kitchen scissors to cut slits in top of pie dough. Create an egg wash in a small bowl, by whisking the egg until well blended. whisk in about 2 Tb water. Brush the egg wash over the top pie crust. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove when crust is browning and pie contents are bubbling. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
To Make Olive Oil Pie Crust:Mix together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Put the olive oil and milk in a measuring pitcher; do not mix. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid contents from the pitcher into your mixing bowl of dry ingredients. Mix together until a ball of dough forms. The dough should be stick together well. If too dry, slowly add in more milk - 1 Tb at a time. If dough is shaggy, knead in more flour - 1 tsp at a time.
For a single crust pie, coat 2.5 quart round baking dish with cooking oil. Bake the same as double crust pie.
Can substitute vegetable oil in place of olive oil. See the vegan version note below. I prefer to use the milk as the rolls out better. The milk tends to keep the crust from crumbling when rolling out.
Vegan: To make the crust vegan use water instead of milk and ¾ tsp more salt.
Pizza is an essential standby meal in our home. One of the nice things about homemade pizza, is that it can be a canvas for whatever toppings are preferred. It is a versatile dish. Another great thing about pizza is that it can be assembled with the help of little ones. My boys love helping in the kitchen. The oldest, in particular, is very proud of his cooking efforts. Though, it has not proved an effective solution for the toddler finicky eating habits.
This recipe makes two pies at a time. I usually prepare both and then freeze one for later. A homemade freezer pizza is such a treat on busy nights.
From Scratch Pizza
4 cups flour (I use half whole wheat, half white)
1 Tb granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 packet of instant dry yeast
1 ⅓ cup water, warm
¼ cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
4 Tb unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp garlic salt
16 oz of sauce
4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 ½ cup choice toppings, vegetables and/or meat
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Stir in the oil and water. Once it forms a soft ball of dough, knead the dough in the bowl. It should become smooth and formed after about 2 minutes of kneading. Let the dough rest for a half hour.
After the resting period, divide the dough into two balls. Each ball of dough will fit a 9-12 inch round pie pan. Roll the dough out into rounds and bunch the outer edges into crust edges.
Melt the butter in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic salt. Brush the crusts with the melted butter mixture. Before the adding the toppings, prebake the crusts. Preheat the oven to 425F. Bake the crusts for about 8 minutes, just until dry on the surface.
Top with your toppings of choice. I usually saute my vegetables in a skillet with olive oil until they are just about tender.
Eating Now: If eating immediately, bake at 425F for 10 - 15 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is golden.
Freezing for Later: If freezing for later, set pizza on a cooling rack to allow crust to cool completely. Prepare the pizza for freezing by wrapping in plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. Mark the wrapped pizza before placing it in the freezer.
To prepare frozen pizza: Preheat oven to 450F. Place frozen pizza on baking sheet or reuse the aluminum foil it is wrapped in. Bake the pie for 15 - 25 minutes, until the crust browns and the cheese is bubbly.
Black bean and cheese burritos are a quick option for a weeknight dinner. It is as easy as opening a can of beans and cooking up a cup of rice. Brown rice would be the healthiest option. In our home we do half brown, half white. No judging here. You still get points for putting a home prepared dinner on the table.
Easy Bean and Rice Burritos
Yields 4 Servings
A crowd pleasing entree. This makes for an easy weeknight dinner.
1/2 can of black beans (15oz)
1 cup of uncooked rice, brown or white
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
4 large flour tortillas, burrito size
Prepare the rice according to the package.
Open up the can of black beans. Drain and rinse the beans.
Heat up the beans in a small dish in the microwave for 1 minute or over the stovetop for a couple of minutes, till heated through. Set aside.
Slice the avocado into wedges. Set aside
Place a tortilla on a skillet over the range top over medium heat to warm. Remove once just warm enough to be flexible, but before it crisps. Repeat till all tortillas have been warmed.
Evenly divide the ingredients over the 4 tortillas.
Lift the right and left sides of one of the tortillas, Wiggle the tortilla some between your hands to work the ingredients into a vertical line between the two sides you are gripping. Fold the gripped sides in towards the center - folding 1-1 1/2 inches in. Grip one of the unfolded side and pull across the burrito over the ingredients and began tuck under the ingredients that completes out into rolling the rest of the burrito up. Plate with the fold beneath the burrito.