Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Toe-mate-o Toe-mah-toe

As you may know, I read a lot of recipes in magazines, online and in cookbooks.  I watch some cooking shows on occasion and especially love reality shows that revolve around food (Chopped, Top Chef, The Great Food Truck Race- which my kids also love).  I can't, don't and won't make every fantastic looking thing I see but sometimes something sticks in my head and it just has to be done.  I cannot tell you the number of years (mainly because I'm not sure but also because it's been a while) that I've had Gazpacho on the brain.  I saw on some show ages ago and it has totally appealed to me yet somehow I never even had it until this year.  Earlier this summer I had a lovely, chunky Gazpacho that my friend Marty made.  It was super delicious (need that recipe Marty!) and a great way to start a meal.  Then I came across this Smooth Tomato Gazpacho recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine, which was the type I've had on the brain all these years.  If you have a blender, you can make Gazpacho.  No skills required for this recipe. 
We were so lucky to have a ton of tomatoes come out of the garden this year.  Did you know that tomatoes can actually reduce your risk of getting cancer as well as heart disease?  They are low in calories but have a high water content so they can make you feel full longer.  A win, win, win.
All you have to do is puree some tomatoes, a little cucumber, onion, garlic, water vinegar, almonds and olive oil until smooth.  Some recipes add a little bread as well.  I had a crusty loaf that was getting a little stale and put a small slice in there to thicken it up a little, although not necessary.
Once pureed it turns a nice creamy, orangey red color.
Drizzle with a little olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper to serve.  YUM.  I just learned (from the link I added above) that you get the maximum nutritional benefits from tomatoes when eaten with a little fat, so this works out perfectly!  Give it a try, its a healthy, tasty way to start a meal when you're getting tired of salad!

Smooth Tomato Gazpacho (Martha Stewart Living)

2 lbs tomatoes (about 4), cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 small garlic clove
2 oz blanched almonds (scant 1/2 cup), toasted
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt and fresh ground pepper

Puree all ingredients and 2 tsp salt in a blender until smooth, season with pepper.  Refrigerate for at least 45 min.  Drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper just before serving.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taco Pizza on the Fly

Having trouble getting back into the swing of things?  Summer is over, kids back at school, a million activities going on during the week, finding time for home cooked dinners can be a challenge.  I strongly recommend taking advantage of those times when you can get a little cooking done ahead of time so you have something to work with when you and the people in your family are needing dinner.  Tortilla Soup is one of my most favorite things to eat.  When I make the Pioneer Woman's recipe, I cook the four chicken breasts but I only use two for the soup.  Now I have two pieces of flavorful cooked chicken to use for taco's, sandwiches, soup or in this case pizza.  I've never made a taco pizza nor have I ever eaten it, but I made one the other night.  And it was good! And quick to boot.
So it all begins with a little spice mix, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp salt (or something to that effect).
Rub the spice on both sides of the chicken breasts and drizzle with a touch of olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 30 min (until cooked through).
When it's done you can shred it up and use it in any number of ways.  Half of this went into my tortilla soup and one piece went on the pizza (I think Nesly made himself a nice burrito with the fourth piece).
Now we can discuss re purposing pica de gallo.  I made this when my parents came over to watch the SU game.  It's just chopped tomatoes, red onion and cilantro, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime.  All made to taste.
I just hit the leftover pica with my immersion blender and Wah-Lah! I have sauce for my taco pizza.  I love recycling.
Get yourself a bag of pizza dough from the store or local pizza shop and spread it out on the pan.  I like to pre-cook the crust a little bit, for about 8 min or so.  I'm a freak about browning my pizza but it seems every time I make the pizza on raw dough the cheese is brown before the crust is done.  Not cool.

Once the crust was ready to go I spread a thin layer of refried beans on it.  It's really too bad that they look the way they do, but they really are so good.
Next, a layer of my "pizza sauce".  (I'm getting hungry, big shocker there.) Feel free to use whatever salsa you have on hand.
Next, I covered it up with shredded chicken and cheese.  I used some part-skim mozzarella and a little cheddar for that taco effect.
Once you get it all cheesed up, pop it in the oven at 400 until lightly browned.
Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about!
Next, I chopped up some iceberg lettuce and sliced some tomatoes.  You may want black olives too, if you're into that sort of thing.
I covered the pizza in lettuce and tomatoes and a little taco sauce (well I made my own but the kids just love that Ortega taco sauce so that's what they used).

We had plenty of avocado slices (the kids get all freaky and fight over them so I make sure there enough) and mango never hurts either.  Actually I take that back.  Mango can hurt if you're not careful.
There you have it.  A taco pizza in no time at all. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Breakfast To Go!

Every morning when I am at work in a large office, I see more than a few people show up with their breakfast in a McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts or Tim Horton's bag. I know these places have come up with a few decent options that won't kill ya but generally speaking I cringe a little. I'm not saying that sometimes on a road trip we don't grab a breakfast sandwich at one of these places to get the show on the road. We do. Maybe...two, three times a year? It's the everyday or multiple times a week that makes the cringe happen. My friend Jenny bought me a new cookbook for my birthday this year called Simple, Fresh & Healthy, which was written by Linda Hafner, a woman who's family owns a huge farmer's market here in Syracuse.
I've made a few things out of the book so far, one happened to be the perfect solution to a quick and healthy and not boring breakfast.  Cauliflower Frittata Muffins take a little bit of time to bake so you will probably want to make them on the weekend or in the evening and reheat them for breakfast.
You will need 5 cups of chopped cauliflower.  That worked out to be about a half of a head (it was pretty big though).  If your not a fan of cauliflower, I say give this a try anyway.  By the time you cook it with all the other ingredients, it's not all that noticeable and it is a very nutrient rich veggie believe it or not.
This gets sauteed with a cup of red bell pepper and some garlic and a lot of onions.
While that's working, mince some fresh basil.  Man that stuff smells good.
Once your veggies are soft you'll remove them from the heat and add some unseasoned breadcrumbs.
Add the basil too and mix it up really well and set aside.  Amazing how the breadcrumbs smell like buttery toast.
Whisk up 10 large eggs until smooth.
You'll need a cup of crumbled feta or goat cheese.  I used feta because I just cannot get on board with goat cheese no matter how hard I try.
You will also need some fresh parsley.  Curly or flat, take your pick.
 Add the cheese and parsley to the eggs.
Add the veggie breadcrumb mixture to the eggs and stir it all up.
Divide evenly among 12 muffin tins...
Bake until firm in a 350 oven....
and enjoy!  Each one has 145 calories, not a bad replacement for my everyday bowl of oatmeal, just to mix things up a little.

Cauliflower Frittata Muffins (Linda Hafner)

2 TBS olive oil
2 cups minced sweet onion
1 TBS minced garlic
5 cups cauliflower chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped bell pepper, red, yellow or orange
1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
3 TBS minced fresh basil
10 large eggs
3 TBS minced fresh parsley
1 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Use cooking spray to grease bottom and sides of 12 muffin tins.  Heat oil over medium heat, add onion and saute until soft, about 4 min.  Add the garlic, cauliflower, and peppers.  Cover and cook until tender, about 6 min.  Remove from heat.  Add the breadcrumbs and basil and stir to combine.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until smooth.  Stir in parsley and cheese and add to the cauliflower mixture.  Divide evenly among 12 tins and bake until firm about 30 min.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's in the box?

As I've mentioned a few times since June, we've been getting our produce from our CSA, Early Morning Farm.  We get this box filled with all sorts of fantastic veg, but once in a while we get something that totally throws us for a loop.  I'm going to be honest, I don't think dandelion greens will ever make my shopping list. But collard greens, on the other hand, are not so bad.  Nelsy and I had never had them before and found ourselves with a big o'll stack of the over sized greens.
If you are unfamiliar with collards you'd likely be impressed by their size.  I should have placed a pocket knife in the corner of this photo for reference.  Anyway, I did what any other clueless person with a a stack of giant leaves would do, got my iPod out.  That's right, if you have never used the All Recipes app I recommend it. (The "Dinner Spinner is a particularly nice feature.)  It was there I found Kickin' Collard Greens by Ken Adams.
It was pretty simple, just cook up a couple slices of bacon and some onions, add some garlic and the greens.  Pour in some chicken broth and season with salt pepper and red pepper flakes and simmer for about 45 min.  These suckers are pretty tough so they do take a while to get tender.
When all is said and done, they are quite tasty and a little spicy (of course you can make them as spicy or mild as you like).  According to the app they're just 119 calories per serving (makes 6 servings) and about 9 grams of fiber.  With a goal of 28 grams per day, this is pretty good!

Kickin' Collard Greens (Ken Adams)

1 TBS olive oil
3 slices bacon
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 lb fresh collard greens cut into 2 inch pieces

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add bacon and cook until crisp.  Remove bacon from the pan, crumble and return to pan.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 min.  Add garlic and cook 1 min more.  Add collard greens and fry until they start to wilt.  Pour in chicken broth and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 min or until greens are tender.

Ya'll enjoy now, ya hear?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week Night Delight

In our neck of the woods both school and soccer are starting up this week.  That means busier days and less time to spend on cooking dinner.  I've got a tasty little number for you to add to your weeknight rotation.  It's seasonal (tomatoes are so good right now), super quick (could be done in 20 min or less) and pretty good for you too (tomatoes are something you just can't get enough of and there's the shrimp which is an excellent source or protein and Omega-3 fatty acid).  I adapted the recipe from something Jamie Oliver recently posted but lightened it up a little.
This is what you need, a few tomatoes (mine are from the garden-yay!), a lemon, some olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, cognac (totally optional) and a little bit of half and half.
You will also need about 10 0z of peeled and deveined shrimp.
And some pasta.  You can use regular tagliatelle, or like this one, a spinach flavored egg pasta.  If that's too crazy for you, try some linguine or fettuccine.
Since everything cooks up pretty quickly, I suggest chopping your tomatoes, garlic and herb after you get the pasta water going but before you start cooking anything.
 While the salted water is working, melt one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium to medium high heat.
Then toss in the tomatoes, shrimp, garlic and lemon zest and saute for a few minutes.  Add the cognac next if you choose to use it and then the half and half.  Add half of the fresh herbs and allow to simmer for a few more minutes.  Next you'll remove from the heat, season with salt, pepper and the juice of a lemon.  Toss with the pasta and the rest of the herbs and you're done!
I'm going to apologize for the poor photos again.  My excuse this time is that my 4 year old nephew was over for dinner and I was trying to rush.  He loved it by the way!  I figured out the calories and I'd say even with a little sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top we're looking at no more than 400 calories (I'm calling this 6 servings) per serving.  Have a little salad on the side and you've got one nice looking dinner on the table on a crazy weeknight.

Tagliatelle with Shrimp and Tomatoes

1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
4 med tomatoes diced
2 cloves garlic minced
10 oz large shrimp
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 shots cognac (optional)
1/3 cup half and half
large handful of fresh herbs-parsley, basil or both
16 oz tagliatelle pasta cooked according to directions

Heat butter and oil over med to med-high heat.  Add tomatoes, shrimp, lemon zest and garlic.  Cook for about 4 min. Add cognac and allow to burn off for a few seconds, then add the half and half and half (yikes) of the herbs.  Simmer for about 4 min more. 

Meanwhile cook pasta in salted water according to the directions.

Remove the pan from heat and season with salt and fresh ground pepper and the juice of the lemon.  Drain pasta and add to the pan with the rest of the herbs and toss until coated.  Serve with grated parm if desired (I always desire a little cheese on top!).