Monday, March 31, 2014

Time To Spice Things Up!

How many times a week do you and your family have fish for dinner?  We would like to have it twice a week but with the prices for good wild caught fish around here being so high, we're lucky to have it once a week.  I know many people who don't normally work fish into their week are more apt to during Lent. There's a fish fry special on every corner this time of year and the price is right because a fish fry dinner for one could easily feed two.  Keep in mind that one of these dinners with tartar sauce and french fries and coleslaw can easily run over 1200 calories and serve up a whole lot of saturated fat.  I thought I'd share a good fish recipe with you in case you want to switch things up this week and have a tasty and healthy Lenten meal. This Thai Fish Curry recipe from Food Network is full of flavor but is easy and does not require a bunch of random ingredients that you might not want to deal with (i.e. lemongrass stalks, tamarind paste, etc.).  Aside from a jar of green curry paste there is nothing crazy going into this one.
I like to start by getting the rice going.  You really don't need a rice cooker but it sure does make it easier. The rice never boils over on the stove, is always done perfectly and automatically switches to warm when it's done cooking.  For this dinner I'd choose a long grain basmati or jasmine rice (my fave).  What ever you like or have on hand will work just fine.
Once the rice is set, you can get to work zesting a lime.  I use this micro plane which works great but the fine side of a cheese grater works too.
I'm so glad I chose the lime green bowl to show you the lime zest.  That was brilliant.
This is what the curry paste looks like.  I'm sure you can find it in pretty much any grocery store in the Asian foods section.  This has a little kick to it but not over the top.  The red curry paste on the other hand...
Cut the mahi mahi into chunks and rub with the curry paste and lime zest.  (If you can't get mahi mahi or it's too expensive I'd go with swordfish)  Cover and pop it in the fridge while you chop the veggies.
Chop some butternut squash along with some red bell pepper and onion.  The recipe also calls for jalapeno but I left it out so it wouldn't be too spicy for the kids.
As long as we're chopping, might as well run the o'll knife through a handful of cilantro.  You'll need it before you know it.
OK, to start cooking, heat up some oil and cook the veggies over medium high heat until crisp-tender.  Then add a little curry paste to them stirring until starting to brown.
Next add the squash and some coconut milk and water and bring to a boil.  This will need to simmer for about 12 minutes, until the squash is tender.  Feel free to add some broccoli or snow peas to this (yum).
When the squash is fork tender, add the fish and cook until opaque, about 8 minutes.
Then stir in the cilantro.  You're kitchen is going to smell fantastic at this point!
The only thing left to do is spoon over some rice and enjoy.  I think you'll be glad you didn't opt for another greasy fried fish dinner (or your body will anyway).  Click here for the full recipe.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pie For Dinner?

As misleading as that title might be, I did make a Spaghetti Squash Pie for dinner the other night that got rave reviews.  It's more like a shepherds pie but with spaghetti squash instead of mashed potatoes.  I found a recipe a while back on Things My Belly Likes for a Spaghetti Pie that looked pretty good so I gave it a try.  It was good but there was not much to it.  I decided to remake it and amp up the veggies (including the amount of squash), I took out the mushrooms because I don't like them and added more fresh herbs.  See what you think of my Spaghetti Squash Pie (I already have requests to make it again soon!).
First things first, get your oven pre-heated to 400 degrees.  Cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Lightly brush with oil and a dash of salt and pepper.  Place the squash cut side down and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until fork tender on the back side.
While that's in the oven, chop an onion
and mince a few cloves of garlic.
Chop about 2 cups of cauliflower.
Shred one carrot.
Dice up a couple of tomatoes.
Round up some fresh herbs.  I like basil and parsley but if you're going to use just one, go with basil.
Once you're all prepped, it's time to get cooking.
Start by heating a little olive oil in a large skillet and cook the onions and garlic until they start to soften.
Next toss in the cauliflower and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cauliflower starts to soften. If you have a lid for your skillet, pop it on there to speed up the process a little by letting it steam for a couple of minutes.
Now add your ground beef.  I've got this great antibiotic free beef from our meat CSA that is remarkably better tasting than what we buy at the grocery store.
Once the meat starts to brown, add the tomatoes and herbs and cook until the tomatoes start to break down.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the squash is done, scrape the inside with a fork and remove the strands to a bowl (or not, which ever works for you).
While that's under way, rinse the spinach and tear the leaves if you're not using baby spinach.
Once the meat is fully cooked and tomatoes are broken down, remove from heat and stir in the spinach until wilted.
Pour your meat and veggies into a 9x9 casserole,
Top with the spaghetti squash,
and a thin layer or cheddar cheese.  Lower the oven to 375 and bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned.  If you're in a hurry, you can just pop it under the broiler to melt the cheese since everything is already cooked.
Every time I see this picture I'm thinking scrambled eggs...but it's not.  Doesn't that look good though?
And there you go, a nice veggie packed flavorful dinner with a nice side salad and you are good to go!

Spaghetti Squash Pie

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 Tbs olive oil
16 oz ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups cauliflower cut into small florets
1 carrot shredded
3 cloves garlic minced
2 med tomatoes chopped
a handful of fresh basil chopped
a handful of fresh parsley chopped
3 handfuls fresh spinach roughly chopped
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400°. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Brush cut side with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake cut side down on a baking sheet for 25-30 min or until fork tender. When done, scrape the inside of the squash with a fork and scoop out the squash. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook stirring until softened, about 3 minuets. Stir in the cauliflower and carrots and cook about 5 minutes more, until cauliflower begins to soften. Add ground beef (or turkey) breaking it up with a spoon and cook until beef has browned. Add chopped tomatoes and herbs and cook until tomatoes have begun to break down and meat is cooked all the way through. Remove from heat and stir in spinach leaves until wilted.

Pour mixture into a casserole dish (9x9 works) and top with a layer of spaghetti squash. Top with a layer of cheddar cheese and bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or until cheese starts to brown. Serve hot with a nice side salad.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mi Queso es su Queso!

OK my friends, I feel like I've been holding out on you.  I have a confession.  It's been almost a year since I found a really great homemade, real food queso recipe and the only reason I haven't shared it yet is because every time I made it I got lost in my love for queso and forgot to either take pictures at all or finish taking them.  I got myself together and now you too can make killer queso at home.  Here's the thing with me and queso, it's probably one of the more disgusting processed foods I've ever loved.  Nasty, I know, but there was a time (not so super long ago) when I declared my love for orange cheese dust as well.  Lucky for me, the more you stay away from these things (because nothing good can come from them), the more your tastes will change.  Seriously, the last two times I had a Dorito (and they were always my favorite) I was a little put off.  I thought they were way to salty and frankly just not that great.  It surprised me, but rather than keep eating them anyways I stopped and thought "Yay! I won't crave these again or feel bad that I pigged out on them!".  It was a good feeling.  The same hold true for the queso. I've always liked it. It was like a comfort food indulgent snack.  Since I found this recipe though, two things have happened. 1) I can appreciate how gross a jar of store bought queso really is and 2) I don't have it very often (not that I ate it often before but..) because I'm not just opening a jar and turning on the microwave.  I'm chopping and stirring and cooking. Next time you want to put out snacks for the game consider some homemade goodies like salsa, guacamole and this Chile Con Queso from Eating Well.  Did I mention this cuts out a ton of calories and fat from store or restaurant queso's?   That's another bonus.
Like practically every recipe I make it seems, we start with a finely chopped onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic.  I like to get everything prepped first so I'm not scrambling around half way through trying to find some ingredient that's buried in my spice cupboard (Melanie, we'll talk) or what not.  So you heat a couple of teaspoons of oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft and beginning to brown.
Then you add a half a cup of pale ale or other light colored beer and cook until it reduces slightly.
I love this because the smell reminds me of the Brew Pub my brother worked at in Jackson Hole, WY.  Ahhh.
Next you add 1 cup of milk. The recipe calls for low-fat, I usually use whole.  Yes that ups the calories but I usually only have skim milk for drinking and whole on hand for recipes.  I suppose a combo would work. Next time.
While that comes to a simmer, whisk 1/2 cup of milk with 3 Tbs of cornstarch.  Preferably non-GMO.  It sounds like a lot but it really does not have that overly cornstarched taste at all.  Add it to the pan and stir until thickened and bubbling.  The recipe says 1-2 minutes but I always find it to thicken almost instantly.
Next come the cheese.  Oh how I love me some cheese.  With a nice healthy diet and regular exercise, beer and cheese once in a while will not be the end of you.  Living a sedentary lifestyle and eating lots of processed foods and unhealthy restaurant foods?...well, it might be.  OK, so lower the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
Now comes the Ro-Tel.  I am such a fan of this stuff but if sodium is an issue for you,  you can add some diced tomatoes and canned green chilies instead.
Add in some lime juice, a little salt, some chili powder and cayenne if you like it spicy (I add it when the kids...or my Mom won't be having any).
Serve it up with chopped scallions and cilantro if you like.  It adds a little freshness to an already fabulous dip.
I'm not sure there are any perfect chips out there but these seem relatively harmless (all in moderation of course) and they are quite good!
Especially with a little queso.  YUM.  Find the full recipe at Eating Well and feel a little better about having that snack during the game (or whatever.  I've got March Madness on the brain!!).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pizza With Pizazz

I'm not sure about you, but we are much more likely to eat pizza on the weekends than during the week.  I'm not sure why exactly, because it certainly is a quick enough dinner for those busy evenings with lots of activities and what not going on, but that's just how it is.  I like to make pizza's for pot lucks and for appetizer nights too.  There are so many yummy things to put on a pizza that you just can't miss.  Here are some of our faves.
I prefer to start with homemade dough.  Nelsy bought a bunch of organic bread flour so it's super easy to whip some up in the bread machine.
One of our favorites is the Margarita Pizza.  Fresh tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil (notice a theme here?) are always a safe bet.
I add a tiny bit of sauce to it first, maybe a couple of tablespoons or so.  Some fresh cracked pepper and maybe a little shake of garlic powder and you are good to go!
And of course, the cheese!
Ahhh yes.  Not every pizza needs meat!
But if you should choose to go that route....I love the hot Italian ground pork sausage we get from our CSA. This is about a half pound.   I proposed on the Facebook page that I was thinking about making a pizza with Brussels sprouts (some of you were horrified!) and this is it!
I used about 5 or 6 large sprouts and sliced them really thin.  I cooked the sausage up in a pan and when it was close to done I added in some minced garlic and the Brussels sprouts and cooked them until they were softened and the sausage was cooked through.
I used pizza sauce, the sausage and sprouts and added a few mushrooms then topped with part-skim mozzarella and some fresh cracked pepper.
You'll notice that my pizza isn't done if it isn't brown.  How good does this look?
I know you're rethinking this Brussels sprouts thing...admit it!
A couple of slices with a nice salad.  Seriously, this is a fabulous dinner!
I've got one more for you, and this one is always a hit.  I started this one with a whole wheat crust (I like to pre-bake the crust in case you're wondering).
Next I rounded up some fresh herbs, oregano and thyme in this case.
Chop them up.  In a small dish add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a couple of cloves of minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon, the herbs and a dash of salt and pepper.
And that's where the clams come in.  Stay with me here people, clam pizza is no joke!
Chop up the clams a little, spread the oil, herb garlic mixture over the crust and then spread the clams around. Add another little squeeze of lemon if you like.  I do.
I like to top this one with a combination of part-skim mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  It doesn't need a ton of cheese.
Bake until beautiful.
Top with spring mix and a light drizzle of olive oil.  This is by far one of my faves!
I guess if you're not a fan of pizazz, there's always pepperoni.  By far not one of my faves but sometimes the kids like to keep it old school.