Monday, December 31, 2012

You Say You Want a Resolution

Here we are, at the end of another year.  I've been enjoying the past month or so getting ready for holiday festivities, making a few gifts for people, watching the snow build up,
and hanging out with my crazy family.  Get a load of these guys!  Tonight we'll ring in the New Year with Nels and the kids and my dear friend Jill and her friend that came into town for the weekend. We'll have a nice dinner of steaks on the grill (once we shovel a path to it!) and a fabulous shrimp and pasta dish that I must share. 

But first lets discuss this whole resolution thing.  I wonder how many people actually follow through with their resolutions.  I personally don't think I know anyone who has.  Unless you count the fact that about 20 years ago a friend and I resolved to never make another resolution and that one I have continued to keep.  It seems like a good idea and all, but they never seem all that realistic.  I read a stat that said by January 7 a third of people will have broken their resolution, by Valentine's Day half will have lapsed and by 4th of July,  60% will have been forgotten (Norcross, Ratzin & Payne 1989).  So, why do we bother?  Obviously we have things about ourselves that we want to change, so how about doing so in a way that won't set us up to fail.  Let's not vow to exercise everyday when we haven't done it at all in three years.  Let's not start a crazy restrictive diet that we can't survive on for more than a week.  Let's not run out and join a gym and only go once or twice ever.  Instead let's plan to always take the stairs, to go for a walk a few times a week, to cook real food at home and involve our families in gradual change towards a healthy lifestyle.  I think we can all handle that. 

OK, now let's get to that shrimp recipe I think you need to have in your arsenal.  I was supposed to make this on Christmas day but we had too much food already.  Grilled Shrimp with Oregano and Lemon is from the Food & Wine website (which I LOVE).  I made this the other day but roasted the shrimp instead (again, there's alot of snow on the grill). 
Toss the shrimp with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Either grill on metal skewers or pop it in a 375 oven for 4 min on each side or until cooked through.
Toss with the easy to make sauce or as we will try tonight, cook a pound of linguine or spaghetti and place shrimp over the pasta and drizzle the sauce over it and gently toss.  My mouth is totally watering right now.

Grilled Shrimp with Oregano and Lemon

1/2 cup (1 jar) salted capers, drained, rinsed and soaked for 1 hour, then drained
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 (or 2!) garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3 TBS fresh squeezed lemon zest
Fresh ground pepper
2 1/2 lbs large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Finely chop the drained capers with the oregano leaves and garlic.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 TBS olive oil along with lemon zest and juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  (This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, let come to room temp before serving).

Toss the shrimp in remaining 2 TBS olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Thread on to skewers and grill over high heat turning once (about 3 min per side or until cooked through). Or, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast on 375 about 4 min per side until cooked through. Remove shrimp to a platter, spoon sauce over the top and serve.

When I made this the other day I only used about half of the sauce (my shrimp were on the small side).  I used the remaining sauce as a dressing on mixed baby greens for my dinner guests the next night, delicious!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Easiest Chicken You'll Ever Cook

I've got a few recipes on deck to share but between getting really busy with Thanksgiving and all that goes with it, and perhaps the nastiest sinus infection I've ever had, I haven't spent much time on the computer over the past couple of weeks.  Being that this is a busier than usual time of year for many people, I just had to pass on the the world's easiest chicken recipe (that tastes really good!).  I think Food Inc. posted the link on Facebook, sounded simple enough, so I gave it a whirl.  The recipe is from a blog called "100 Days of Real Food ".  You season a chicken and throw it in the crock pot.  The end.  Seriously. 
 OK, so I exaggerated.  You also have to cut up an onion and put it in the crock pot.
Make a little blend of seven spices.
Rub it on the bird and throw it in.  No liquid no nothing.  This was one big chicken, barely fit in there actually (6lbs).  I cooked it on high for 5-6 hours.  It smelled great, was totally juicy and really versatile.  The kids had theirs in a burrito with rice and veggies, avocado and tomato.  I had mine with sauteed veggies and a little rice.  I'm not sure what is going on with those funky grocery store rotisserie chickens, but man, lately even they seem somehow processed.  We used to love grabbing one for a quick dinner but they seem funny to us now.  And I don't mean funny ha ha.  Maybe it's the flavor injector, overly marinated, I don't know but I don't dig it.  This takes a small amount of planning but could not be easier.
After all of us had dinner, we still a bunch of leftovers for chicken sandwiches and what not.  Again, it was a big chicken. Here's the link again: Easy Crock Pot Chicken

Enjoy your dinner and all the time you saved not dealing with it!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Your Usual Microwave Corn

I'm not sure about you, but I have my moments when I just have to have some snacky/salty/crunchy type thing when I'm getting a little hungry.  My recent favorite is popcorn.  Fancy (but easy) popcorn.  I'm not a fan of microwave popcorn and all of it's fake buttery weirdness that makes the roof of my mouth feel glossy.  I like to make my own, which is nothing new (I had my 1983 air popper for years after microwaving was the way to go).  Last summer I found a recipe for Corn (on the cob) with Paprika Butter.  It really wasn't a standout on the corn but I rolled the leftovers into a little log and saved it for another day.  It is now my favorite popcorn topper and a little goes a long way.
So, I actually do pop my corn in the microwave but I use kernels and a paper bag.
Just toss a 1/4 cup of kernels in there and close it up.  Simple.
Then push the popcorn button on the microwave.  If you don't have one you may need to play around with it a bit.
I use 1 tablespoon of butter for this whole bowl of popcorn.  You can use any herb butter you have.
This was a cilantro butter with a little bit of chili powder.  Not my fave, but works in a pinch.
This here is my beloved paprika butter...I strongly recommend making a batch and just keeping it in the fridge (I'm all out, need to make more) for when that popcorn craving hits.

Paprika Butter

Mix 1/2 stick softened butter, 1 small clove grated garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/4 tsp finely chopped rosemary.  Season with little salt and pepper.  Put leftovers in a container or roll into a log in wax or parchment paper for future use.

This is a satisfying snack and since it's a whole grain it adds to your fiber tally for the day (don't get me started on the fiber thing).  Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tis the Season!

Well, I'm happy to report that my grand plan to get a group of friends to get out together for a fitness event was a success!  It took a couple of years (literally) to get everyone on board but we did it!  We all had fun and felt pretty darn good about it too.  The 5k we chose was the Jingle Bell Run/Walk.  It was pretty chilly but nice and sunny.  More importantly, it was flat.  Some of my girls still have a major aversion to hills, but we're (and by that I mean I'm) working on that (them). 
Here's Phoebe and I before the race.  She did the kids fun run with Ella.  She has a very shiny nose.  You could even say it glows.
Here we are toasting with our pre-race Gu.  We thought it might be fun, and make us faster.
This is what my face does when I try to swallow the Gu.  It doesn't taste that bad but the consistency is rather disgusting.
I believe that Ouije shares that sentiment.
So then we headed to the start.  I'm not sure what direction we were going in but I'm pretty certain that these guys were heading south.  Nelsy was going to attempt to get each of us at the finish but things were a little disorganized and he and our friend Josh thought they lost our kids so photos were minimal.
He did however get this young buck coming towards the finish.  I'm not sure if this is Brendan or Ryan but whoever it is looks pretty cool!
Here's a group photo after the race, minus our walkers.  I had to ditch out of there with my poor sick son who was freezing his buns off.
This is Heather after her first 5k! She rocked it.  Like I knew she would.
After the race we met up at our house for a nice brunch.  These two lovely ladies also kicked some 5k butt.
We got our sweet potato waffles made.  These are so good. 
I whipped up a celebratory round of pomegranate and Proseco drinks.  It's important that we get our anti-oxidants in, ya know?
It's all fun and reindeer games around here.
Check out the spread!  I missed a picture of the fritatta muffins that Ouije made (same ones you all went nuts over when I previously posted that recipe).
Kristin (who somehow did not make it into one single photo....I need to work on these things...) made these pumpkin muffins and Heather also made a variety of Weight Watchers muffins. 
This is Jen and her cute baby.  She's so adorable we could've eaten her for brunch (seriously, check out those cheeks!).
Jen made this fabulous roasted vegetable tort.  This was quite a hit.  I will be making one of these sometime!
I will also be making Melanie's Huevos Rancheros some time.  I'm pretty much a sucker for anything that involves black beans and avocados.

So there you have it.  A group of people who normally gather around excessive amounts of food of various degrees of bad for you, CAN gather around a fitness activity and food that is good for you!  We are already talking about next time!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Something Tasty This Way Comes

Holy cow.  I can't believe its the middle of November.  How on earth did that happen?  Just when you thought you were getting in a groove with back to school and sports....In come the holidays and all of the madness that comes with them.  If ever there was a time for an easy weeknight meal it's now! I like this Pasta with Sausage and Escarole because you can be flexible with it by using different greens or adding chick peas or some other bean to it if you choose.  You can switch up the pasta by using regular, whole wheat or super-pasta and if you have the calories to spare you can use heavy cream instead of half and half (it will add about 80 calories per serving).  So let's get started so you can feed the family, drop them off at sports and start your shopping!
Gather up your ingredients (so that when you're in the middle of cooking you won't realize something key is missing and drag the kids to the store while everything is in the works...not that I've ever done that or anything....this week.)
Chop up some garlic, rosemary and parsley and now the hard part is done.  Get a pot of salted water on the stove and another pot with some olive oil.
You start with the garlic and after a minute add the sausage until cooked through.  Next you'll pour in the wine to deglaze (scrape off anything that stuck to the bottom of) the pan.
Next you add in the cream, herbs, some red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.
At some point that pasta will be cooked and ready to drain, just set it aside until you're ready.
Meanwhile, bring everything to a simmer.
Now you can add in the escarole, I used spinach in the batch.  Either way, still good.
Once the greens are wilted, add in the pasta and cook for a few minutes until the cream thickens a touch.
Serve with fresh Parmesan shavings and enjoy!  Wasn't that easy?

Pasta with Sausage and Escarole (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Coarse salt
1 lb tubular pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb hot or mild Italian turkey sausage removed from casing,crumbled
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
fresh ground black pepper
1 large head escarole, cut into thirds and stemmed (or substitute fresh spinach)
Parmesan cheese for shaving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and pasta; cook 2-3 min less than package instructions.  Drain pasta, set aside.

Meanwhile in a dutch oven heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic; cook stirring until fragrant, about 1 min.  Add sausage; cook stirring until cooked through, about 6 min.  Pour in wine, stir to deglaze pan.  Add cream, parsley, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer.  Add greens; cook stirring occasionally until just wilted (8-10 min for escarole, about 2 min for spinach).

Stir pasta into the pot, cook until cream has started to thicken and pasta is al dente, about 3 min.  Garnish with cheese and serve.

This recipe serves 6 (easily) and and is about 510 calories per serving made with the above ingredients.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful for Turnips

I have so many things to be thankful for this holiday season.  My health, my healthy family, a warm safe place to call home, good friends, a job and good food to eat. Of course there are many more things to be thankful for, but this being a blog about cooking homemade meals, I'll stop at good food.  Recently our CSA box contained a nice supply of turnips, which happen to be a perfect addition to a Thanksgiving feast.  Admittedly, they have never had a place on my family's table but perhaps they will now.  If you're bringing a dish to someone's house, this is a great option.  Make it ahead and warm it in the oven before serving.  Here is how to make Turnip Gratin with Almonds~
These are hakurei turnips, which have a very thin skin and do not need to be peeled.  If you are using "regular" turnips you will need to peel them first.  This is about 2lbs.

They should be sliced thin (1/8 inch thick).  You can use a food processor, a mandolin or a good old fashioned knife.  I love this mandolin, just set it to the thickness you want and you can bang those puppies out in no time.
See how nice they come out?   Love that thing.  OK, moving on....
Next you need to whisk together in a large skillet, some cream (this is not of course something we're going to make everyday but a little cream never hurt anyone as long as you're not going nuts), a little flour, some garlic, lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, pepper
 and some fresh thyme. 
Add the turnips and simmer until softened.  Next you pop them into a 2 qt baking dish, cover and bake for 35-40 min.
While the turnips are baking in the oven, you make a topping which calls for fresh breadcrumbs, sliced almonds and a little more thyme and fresh parsley.  Bread lasts about 4 days in this house so I used panko breadcrumbs and thought they worked just fine.  You toast them up in a skillet and sprinkle of the top of the gratin when it comes out of the oven.
Now don't you have the perfect spot on your Thanksgiving table for these?  If not, make one!

Turnip Gratin with Almonds (Food Network Magazine)

2 lbs turnips (about 5 medium)
1 cup plus 2 Tbs heavy cream
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Large pinch of ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or panko)
3 Tbs sliced almonds, roughly chopped
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350.  Peel and slice turnips 1/8 inch thick.  Whisk cream, flour, 1 tsp thyme, garlic, lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the turnips and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cover and cook until softened, about 3 min.

Stir the turnip-cream mixture and spread evenly in a 2 quart baking dish.  Cover with foil until turnips are very tender, 35-40 min.  Uncover and continue baking until cream mixture is slightly thickened and top is golden, about 10 more min.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the breadcrumbs, almonds and remaining 1 tsp thyme and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are toasted about 4 min.  Stir in the parsley and a pinch of salt.  Remove gratin from the oven and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Take Out Shmake Out

Hey! Guess what?  Today is Food Day.  In my world pretty much every day is food day but this Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.  I wish these things were better publicized, so how about a recipe to celebrate food day?   Today we're talking Light Chicken Enchiladas, we're talking easy, yummy, whole foods made into something just as good (or way better and less salty/processed tasting) than your local Mexican take out joint.  These were delish and we did make a double batch because we do like having leftovers for another day.
 I've said it before and I'll say it again, it never hurts to do a little prep in advance.  So preheat your oven to 450 and chop up some jalapeno, garlic, onion and fresh thyme.
It also never hurts to have some fresh salsa on hand.  Just chop tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Sometimes a dash of garlic powder and a dash of chili powder are a great addition if you have them on hand.
And fresh lime juice.  If you're cooking anything remotely Mexican, add lime.  That's what I do anyway.  Anyway, back to the enchiladas.  So you heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and over medium high heat.  Add the jalapeno, garlic, thyme and half of the onion.
Once the veggies have softened, add the chicken, a little salt and 3/4 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and tender.  This will take 6-10 min depending on how thick your chicken is.
While the chicken is cooking, get about a pound and a half of tomatoes chopped and ready for the blender.
When the chicken is done, remove to a plate and add the cooking liquid and vegetables to the blender with the tomatoes and a little allspice.
Puree those suckers until nice and smooth. 
Wipe out the skillet (if you feel the need) and add a tablespoon of olive oil and place over medium high heat.  Add the tomato sauce and cook until slightly reduced.
While the sauce is reducing, shred your chicken, shred some cheese and warm up your corn tortillas in the oven.
Next you spoon some sauce into the bottom of the dish and fill your tortillas with cheese and chicken (and we all prefer ours with a little plop of refried beans in there too).  Roll them up and pack them in the pan.
Top with the remainder of the cheese and sauce and bake until the cheese melts (and it browns up a tad~yum).
 We like ours topped with cilantro and avocado and a little fresh salsa.  The recipe says to add the onion to your topping but if you're not a fan of raw onion, just leave it out.
Yup, tastes as good as it looks!

Light Chicken Enchiladas (Food TV Magazine)

2 Tbs olive oil
1to2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon teaspoon dried thyme or 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 medium white onion, minced
1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt
3 to 4 tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) cored and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground allspice
8 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded muenster cheese (about 6oz)
1 cup mixed fresh parsley and cilantro chopped

Preheat the oven to 450.  Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add jalapeno, garlic thyme and half the onion.  Cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 min.  Add the chicken, 1 tsp salt and 3/4 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and cook until chicken is tender, about 6 min.

Remove the chicken to a plate.  Transfer the cooking liquid and veggies to a blender; add the tomatoes and allspice and puree with the lid ajar.  Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil and place over medium-high heat.  Add the tomato mixture and cook until slightly reduced, 6 min.  Pour part of it into a baking dish.

Brush the tortillas with olive oil and put on a baking sheet; bake 5 min.  Shred chicken.  Top each tortilla with chicken and cheese (and beans if you choose!), roll up and arrange in baking dish, seam side down, spooning the sauce over the top.  Top with any remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts about 4-6 min.  Toss the herbs, remaining onion and salt to taste.  Sprinkle on top an enjoy!