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Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday Soup - Roasted Vegetable and Kale

I like to make a batch of soup on Sunday afternoon to eat for lunches throughout the week.  This one is full of hearty vegetables, and roasting really brings out the flavors.  It is a good source of fiber, and the beans provide protein.  


Roasted Vegetable and Kale Soup
slightly adapted from SimplyRecipes
Ingredients:
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into large slices
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
Olive oil
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 15 oz. can white beans (I used navy)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put cut carrots, onion, squash and garlic on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  
Roast until vegetables are browned and tender, about 45 minutes.  This is what they will look like.  Transfer them to a big soup pot.  

Pour a couple cups of vegetable broth in and use your immersion blender to mix the vegetables.  I wanted to keep some vegetable chunks, so I didn't puree the whole thing.  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can blend in batches in the food processor or regular blender.  Season with thyme and crushed red pepper flakes.  Then add in the can of chopped tomatoes -don't drain these- and beans -drained and rinsed-.

Add in the kale and the rest of the broth and try to stir, it will be very full and you will think you have used too much kale.  You have not.  

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.  
 
Enjoy with bread or crackers for dipping and soaking up the extra broth.




Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pizza Night

Aside from a few choice places: The Upper Crust, Pino's, and anywhere we ate in Italy, I would rather have pizza we made at home than some greasy takeout. 
After a lengthy search, I have found a great wheat pizza crust recipe.  One of the things I especially like about this recipe is that the dough can be made in one day.  I can't always remember to start pizza dough a day in advance, and then you end up eating in the middle of the night and that's just no good.



Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

You can make this dough by hand without much difficulty, but it's easier with a stand mixer.  In a large bowl, start by dissolving the sugar in the warm water.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water and leave it alone until it gets foamy, about 10 minutes.  It will look something like this when it's ready.

Next, add in the olive oil, salt, 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour.  King Arthur Flour is my favorite.  It never fails, and I wish I could hang out at their headquarters in Vermont and take cooking classes all the time.  

Turn the mixer onto low until everything is combined.  You can add a little more flour and knead the bread in the mixer.  I prefer to knead by hand, so I turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough feels tight and smooth.  

Put the dough ball in a large bowl coated with oil, and turn to cover the dough.  Top the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel, and set it in a warm place for at least an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.  

I left it for about 4 hours, because I wasn't home, but that's ok.  This is what it looked like, all puffy and risen.  

The next step is fun.  You literally punch the dough down to remove some of the air.  Here is an action shot with my creepy disembodied hand.


Then, split the dough in half, or in four, and form into balls.  Cover and let rise for another 20-30 minutes.  


Roll the dough out on a piece of parchment paper coated with a little cornmeal, and you're ready to add your toppings.  

Instead of purchasing pizza sauce, which often contains sugar, I use tomato puree or sauce, and add seasonings on my own.  
I'd also like to sing the praises of the pizza stone.  It makes all the difference when making pizza at home, and is highly worth the small investment.  

We decided to go with one veggie pizza topped with peppers, onion, and broccoli, and the other buffalo chicken topped with cooked, sliced chicken breast, hot sauce, blue cheese crumbles, and scallions. Here they are before going into the oven:

And after cooking:


There were a few mishaps last night.  First, we forgot to construct the first pizza on the parchment paper, so we had to transfer it afterwards, before cooking, which required four hands, three spatulas, and a mess.  Second, the pizza wheel broke midway through slicing.  This wouldn't have been so bad on it's own, but we couldn't figure out if there had been a little screw holding it together. No one chipped any teeth, so we're assuming no...


Everything was delicious, we have tons of leftovers, and I'm fairly certain no one ate any screws.  


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Leftovers - Two Ways

I am a huge proponent of leftovers for several reasons.  First, I hate wasting food.  Good food is expensive, so I don't like to throw it away.  Second, they're easy, and most people don't want to cook something elaborate for every meal. You might think because I have a cooking blog that I do, but I don't.  I time things so you don't have to see that I eat egg sandwiches all the time.

These leftovers use the remnants from last weekend's chili recipe: extra black beans and diced red onion.


Barbecue Black Bean Quesadilla

You can put almost anything in a tortilla with a little cheese and call it a quesadilla.

Ingredients:
Whole wheat tortilla
Barbecue sauce
Black beans
Red Onion, diced
Shredded cheddar cheese

Quantities will vary depending on the size of your tortilla.  Mine was about 8 inches, and I used about a T. of sauce, 3 T. of black beans, 1 T. of onions, and 3 T. of cheese.


I folded the tortilla in half and popped it in the toaster oven at 450 for about 5-7 minutes until it was lightly browned and the cheese melted.  It was admittedly a little messy to eat because some of the beans fell out, so I might mash them a bit next time.  



Black Bean Bowl

The other night I walked in the house ready to gnaw off my arm if I didn't get something to eat right away.  Mind you, this was at 5:15, so I had my very own little early bird special.  In any case, this bowl came together in less than 10 minutes.

Ingredients:
olive oil
red onion
bell pepper
spices - cumin, chili powder
black beans
avocado, mango, jalapeno slices (optional for topping)

Start by heating the olive oil in a pan and cooking the onion and pepper for a couple minutes.  These were the rest of the chopped onions I had done for topping the chili, so they were already prepped.  I wasn't concerned about cooking the vegetables, just taking the bite out of them a bit. 
After a couple minutes, I added the black beans, cumin, and chili powder.  On a side note, I go through cumin at an alarming rate.  I think this brand is from the random ethnic section at the market.  Penzeys Spices are some of the best I've had.  I received an assortment as part of a wedding gift, and the ones I haven't finished are still good.  

There's no rule as to what you add into the mixture.  You could include other vegetables like tomatoes or garlic, and spices such as coriander or cayenne.  

If you're feeling ambitious, this would be great over some brown rice, but there was no way I was waiting 25 minutes for rice to cook.  

Topped with avocado, mango, and a few picked jalapeno slices.  



Friday, February 25, 2011

Around the Blog World

Instead of posting a new recipe today, I thought I'd share some links to my favorite recent posts from other bloggers.

I love citrus flavors.  Any dessert with lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit makes me happy.  Also, I want to try piping whipped cream like this - adorable!
How Sweet It Is - Lemon Lime Cake with Fresh Lime Whipped Cream

This one will probably be on hold until we get closer to spring, because I really want to try it with grilled eggplant and right now we have so much snow I don't think I can walk down the porch steps to the grill.  I love goat cheese with vegetables, and I'm trying to decide what soup to pair this with.
My Recipes - Eggplant and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

I'm also in need of some arugula.  Partly because I watched Giada make smoked salmon BLTs the other day, and partly because these Lasagna Stacks are adorable!
The Creative Mama - Lasagna Stacks

I will soon share my Mulligatawny Soup recipe with you.  It might be my favorite soup of all time.  And it is only improved by dunking fresh naan in it.
Tasty Kitchen - Homemade Naan

I have never had an Eat Live Run recipe I didn't like, and I clearly need some goat cheese in my life now.
Eat Live Run - Shrimp and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Don't be surprised if you see some of these coming up soon!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Green Smoothie of the Day - Strawberry Banana

I won't post all my smoothie recipes, but just in case you were feeling hesitant about drinking green goo, this combination is delicious!

Strawberry Banana Green Smoothie

1 banana
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
a few frozen (or fresh) strawberries - I used 6
a handful of baby spinach
3/4-1 cup milk
a few ice cubes

Put all ingredients except ice in the blender.  Blend for a few minutes.  Add ice cubes and blend until they are crushed and the mixture looks smooth and frothy.

The sweetness of the banana, strawberry and vanilla yogurt counteracts any spinach flavor- really!

Kale Chips

Chips may be my favorite way to eat kale.  They are crispy, salty, and super easy to make.

Aside from being delicious, I'm writing about kale chips today in response to a request from a reader.  I can't tell you how happy and excited I am that anyone is actually reading and cooking from my blog.  It's been a wonderful month and a half thinking of recipes and sharing them with you, many more to come!  Also, if there's anything in particular you'd like to see, let me know!

Kale Chips 

Ingredients
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves torn into pieces.  I found a huge bag of kale at BJs last week that was pre-torn, so I just filled up my salad spinner.
2 teaspoons olive oil
kosher or sea salt
parmesan or asiago cheese

Wash the leaves well and spin until dry.  If you have time, do this step in advance so they can dry well.  If they still have water on them, they'll steam and wilt before they can crisp up.
Spread leaves on a baking sheet.  The closer you can get to one layer, the crispier they will be.  I like to line my baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.
Drizzle olive oil over the leaves and mix well to coat.  Using your hands for this step is the most effective.
Sprinkle with salt and a little grated cheese.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes until they are crispy.

Before going into the oven:


 After:



Eat them promptly, because they tend to get soggy over time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Asparagus and Ham Casserole

I always find great recipes in Cooking Light.  They are creative, flavorful and varied.  I also really like to use their recipe website, My Recipes.  This one is from an article they did about under 300 calorie casseroles.  I make a lot of casseroles, because, despite how it might appear, I don't cook big dishes every day.  Casseroles can be made in advance, freeze well, are good gifts for people who are sick or have new babies, and reheat well when taken to work.  


This recipe reminds me of mac and cheese, but it doesn't have any cheese in it besides the parmesan sprinkled on top.  







Asparagus and Ham Casserole
very slightly adapted from Cooking Light  



Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 3/4  cups  uncooked egg noodles
  • 2 1/2  cups  (1 1/2-inch) sliced asparagus
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  teaspoon  dried thyme
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1  cup milk (I used skim)
  • 1  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 3/4  cup  finely chopped onion
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed ham (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or a few teaspoons dried
  • 2  tablespoons  grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.
Cook pasta in boiling water 5 minutes. Add asparagus; cook 1 minute. Drain.


Place flour, thyme, salt, and pepper in medium bowl; gradually add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk until well-blended. 

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion; saute 4 minutes. Add milk mixture slowly; cook until thick (about 4 minutes), stirring constantly. 

Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice. Add in the ham, noodles and asparagus.


Spoon into a 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, cheese, and parsley.

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.

Makes about 6 - 1 cup servings.  Enjoy!



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Green Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Green smoothies (or Green Monsters) are very trendy.  It's just adding spinach or kale to traditional smoothies to make a vitamin packed, super healthy drink.  In my experience, baby spinach is the best green to work with because it has a mild flavor and blends well.  You don't actually want to feel like you're drinking spinach.  I used peanut butter and banana in this recipe because they are both strong flavors, and that's really all you taste when you drink it.  Also, you get the nutrients from the banana and healthy, filling protein and fat from the peanut butter.

Ingredients are simple enough, just banana, peanut butter, milk, spinach, and ice cubes.

To start, I put a very ripe banana and a couple tablespoons of peanut butter in the blender along with a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves.


Then I added about a cup of milk and blended well until completely combined and bright green!  Finally, I added in a handful of ice cubes and ran the blender until they are crushed, it makes the smoothie extra frothy.  


I promise it really does taste like peanut butter and banana, not spinach at all!  

I also promise that tomorrow's post will not include anything green and pureed.  



Broccoli Potato Soup

I am declaring this recipe a work in progress, and might repost when I've made it again.  This came together as a result of things left in the fridge for more than a week.  Not glamorous, but practical.

Broccoli Potato Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cups broccoli
1 pound potatoes
2 Tablespoons flour
salt
pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup skim milk
1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheese

Start by heating the olive oil in your soup pot on medium heat and sauteing the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Next chop your potatoes to about 1/2-1 inch pieces.  I used red potatoes because that's what I had around, and opted to leave the skins on.  Any kind of potato would work, though.


On to the broccoli.  Anytime I use broccoli florets, I trim the bottoms off the stems and toss them in a bag  in the freezer.  They are a perfect addition to soups.  I would have also added some fresh florets, but I accidentally used them up making the stir fry last week, so this is what we have.  


Add the potatoes and the broccoli into the pot.  You can leave the broccoli frozen.  Mix together the flour and spices and add this in, stirring to coat.  Add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes and vegetables are very tender.  At this point I added in the milk and simmered for a few more minutes. 

Finally, using either a blender or an immersion blender, puree the soup until mostly smooth.  My immersion blender is one of my top ten favorite kitchen appliances. I bought it a couple years ago after a very unfortunate tomato soup blender explosion that involved me cleaning the ceiling and the walls in the kitchen.  I use it several times a week for soups, sauces, salad dressing, smoothies, or milkshakes.  

Next time I might just leave the milk out all together.  It did add some creaminess, but the thickened broth and starchy potatoes did too.  I would also include some chopped celery in with the onion to add another dimension to the flavor.  This is a good start, though.

Served up and topped with a little hot sauce.  A panini-press grilled turkey bacon wrap on the side.  


Monday, February 21, 2011

Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili

I love my crock pot.  It does all the things it claims to, and never fails in making a perfect dish.  From pulled pork or chicken, to beef stew, to mulled apple cider with rum.  It's all good. 


This chili recipe takes about 15 minutes of prep time, and then you can ignore it for the rest of the day.  You can even do the prep the night before, put the whole thing in the fridge overnight, and cook it the next day.  As with many of my recipes, you can alter this any way you want by switching up the vegetables or beans to suit your tastes. 

Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Teaspoon oregano
1/2 Teaspoon salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can small red beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups water
Optional toppings: diced red onion, pickled jalapeno, sour cream or plain greek yogurt, shredded cheese

Start by heating the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and peppers and cook a few minutes more. 



Now, I like my food spicy, so I used a decent sized jalapeno and left the seeds in.  If you want a milder heat factor, remove the seeds.  I would also recommend wearing latex gloves or keeping your hand inside a plastic bag when handling the cut jalapeno.  I didn't today, and my skin is still burning!  Also, I'm not sure how I'm going to take my contacts out tonight. 



Add in spice mixture and stir well.



Put vegetable mixture into crock pot, add drained beans, crushed tomatoes and water.  Turn to low and leave it for 8 hours.  So easy! 


I like to serve it with chips or cornbread for dipping and top with sour cream, cheese and diced red onion.


This is a perfect midwinter meal to enjoy in front of a roaring fire while watching old episodes of Friday Night Lights on instant Netflix.  Or maybe that's just me.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Hollandaise That Almost Wasn't

I am highly suggestible.  Pretty much anytime I see something on TV or in a movie I want it.  Like the Snuggie, or the Sham-Wow, or, in this case, Eggs Benedict.

I think there are a couple tricky parts to making Eggs Benedict.  The first is getting your Hollandaise to the right consistency, thick and creamy, but not custard.  The second is timing everything right so your english muffins, ham or canadian bacon, eggs, and Hollandaise are all ready at the same time.  This morning was a fail on both.

There are two schools of thought on making Hollandaise.  One is to whisk your egg yolk and lemon juice in a double boiler and then emulsifying with the hot melted butter.  The other is to use a blender, which is what I did today.

Since I was just cooking for the two of us, I decided to use the immersion blender so I wouldn't lose half my Hollandaise to the blender blades.  I found a recipe online and scaled it down to one egg yolk and 3 Tablespoons of butter.


In this picture you can see what the first problem is.  There was such a low volume of sauce that it didn't really reach the blender blades, as a result it didn't get whipped enough to thicken.  I tried warming it in a small saucepan of water, but that didn't do the trick either.  I ultimately ended up adding another egg yolk and a couple Tablespoons of butter, which made more than we needed, but worked perfectly.

While I was dealing with the Hollandaise, the rest of the meal was ready and waiting and getting kind of cold.  I didn't master the timing this time around, but everything was delicious in the end.  


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vegetable and Tofu Stir Fry

When I make Asian-themed stir fries, I rarely use any measurements at all, I just dump things in until I decide it's done.  So, feel free to use this as a rough guideline and throw whatever you want in your pan.  


Also, I know some people aren't fans of tofu, either because they aren't comfortable with processed soy, or they just don't like the taste or texture.  I support most things in moderation, and it's a good source of protein.  We eat tofu maybe once every six months, so I'm not overly concerned.  If you are, feel free to swap out thinly sliced chicken or beef, or go straight veggies.




Vegetable and Tofu Stir Fry


Ingredients:
1 T. oil (canola, vegetable, or peanut)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, drained
1/2-1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
3 oz. peapods


Sauce Ingredients:
3-4 Tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon hot chili paste
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced
A few drops of fire chili oil


In a large frying pan, saute pan, or wok, heat the oil over medium heat.  I have just one non-stick pan, and I use it for stir fry because tofu doesn't stick and fall apart.  Add the tofu and cook for several minutes on each side until it's lightly browned.  Add the vegetables and cook a few minutes more, stirring frequently.  I steam the broccoli for just a few seconds before adding it just to take the bite out, but leaving it crunchy.  



I would usually add some chopped garlic and grated ginger at this point, but I completely forgot until just now. You would add that after the veggies have been cooking for a few minutes.  

Soften or melt the peanut butter, either in the microwave (be careful not to burn) or on the stove.  Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and mix together.  


Pour the sauce mixture over the vegetables, add in the peapods and turn the heat off.  Add 1/4 cup of water if necessary to get the sauce to the desired consistency.  Stir well.

Serve over rice or noodles.  This has some kick thanks to the chili paste and hot oil, but of course you can tone that down.  If you want your mouth to be on fire, add a little sriracha when serving.  Eat it with chopsticks, because that's just fun.  










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