Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe: Mixed Greens with Clementines and Apple Cider Vinaigrette

So let me start off by saying how sorry I am for such a long gap between posts, my exams got in the way.  That being said, I have lots of great recipes to share with you all over the coming days, and I'm going to start with this one.  Over Thanksgiving, my family had a variation of this salad at my aunt's house.  She used blueberries where I used clementines, though any berry (strawberry and blackberry also come to mind) would be great in this.  If you don't have a few clementines on hand, I think a can of well drained mandarin oranges would also work.

On a different note, if you wanted to leave out the greens, the clementines could be tossed with the dressing, almonds, and feta to make a lovely citrus salad/salsa.  I would love to hear back if any of your try these variations.
*Note to vegans, the dressing contains Worcestershire, so it is not vegan in this form, but I believe there are substitutes for it out on the market.
This recipe makes 4 side salad portions or two dinner portions, but can easily be doubled.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Caesar Roasted Tempeh Pizza

It has been a while since I cooked tempeh and I was struggling with coming up with a new way to do it.  Now you may be asking, why not do it a way you know? Well, I asked myself that too and it mostly came from already being in sweat pants and not wanting to go to the store.  I also needed a new blog recipe.

Anyway, long story short, the Caesar tempeh is really nice.  It would be great in its namesake salad, on a sandwich, or served plain.  I was looking to stretch it into a few meals so I took the pizza route with it, and the tempeh was a nice substitute for meat when used like this.  Also of note, the tomato/garlic/mushroom/parsley mixture would be wonderful as a bruschetta topping or added to a soup.  It is sharp and garlic-y and can be made year round.

That brings me to a dirty secret this week...I like canned mushrooms.  Not all the time, but on pizzas there is something about the texture that just works for me.  You can use fresh or sauteed if you so choose.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Recipe: White Chicken Chili

I've been on a chili/soup kick lately, most likely a result of it getting colder here in Iowa and the need to stock my freezer before finals arrive.  This is a great, and pretty easy, chili to throw together.  All the ingredients work nicely together and lime is a revelation when combined with the slow burn heat of the poblanos.  I used 3 different types of beans because the store had them, but using 3 cans of Great Northern beans would work just as well.  One step in this recipe is mashing half of the beans used, and this would be a great way to involve kids in the kitchen if you have them.  I used chicken breasts for this recipe, but shredding a rotisserie chicken is an easy swap to simplify this even more.  If you are one of those who cannot stand cilantro substitute it for fresh flat leaf parsley.

You will need:
3 chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked and shredded
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
32oz Stock (I used a no-sodium chicken stock)
1 lime, zested and 1/2 juiced
1 can navy beans, drained
1 can white kidney beans, drained
1 can great northern beans, drained
4oz can chopped green chilies
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1.5 Teaspoons Coriander
1 Teaspoon Ancho Chili Powder (or chili powder)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Olive Oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Start by prepping all of the vegetables.  Chop the poblanos (and then wash your hands with warm soapy water), the onion, and garlic.  Open and drain the beans and mash half of them either with a potato masher or by hand.  You will have time while the chili is simmering to cook the chicken, but I found it easier to cook the chicken first so it could cool before I shredded it to add.

In a large pot add a glug of oil and heat over medium high heat.  Add the onion and the poblanos and cook for 5-6 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic and green chilies and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Add salt (if using regular chicken broth, add just a sprinkle until you taste later), pepper, cumin, coriander, and chili powder.  Cook for another minute so that the spice flavors can bloom, and then add the chicken stock.

When the stock has come to a simmer add the lime zest, juice, and the mashed and whole beans.  Stir to combine and cook at a simmer for 20-25 minutes.  About half way through give the broth a taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. If the heat needs to be adjusted, use the red pepper flakes.  Add the shredded chicken and cook just until it is warm.  Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

Garnishes could include: Cheese, sour cream, red pepper flakes, sliced avocado, diced tomato, tortilla strips.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe: Cheap and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

This weekend I just needed some soup. Using some leftovers and things I had lying around, I threw together this simple and delicious take on chicken noodle soup.  If you have low/no sodium chicken broth, it is great here, especially if you are combining it with bouillon, which I had to do.  I also used some leftover rotisserie chicken, though you could use any leftover cuts of chicken.  What really makes this soup special is the red pepper flake, which adds a subtle heat to the soup.  For the pasta, I took the very easy way out and just boiled it in the stock.  The bouillon is probably less salt than I would use in a normal pasta pot but it worked out fine.  Feel free to cook the pasta separately if you choose. This pot would serve 3-4 depending on how hungry people are.

You will need:
4-5 cups of liquid (Stock or water with bouillon)
1/2 box of whole wheat spaghetti
~1.5 cups shredded chicken
~1/2 cup grated carrot
Garlic Powder
Red Pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 Tbsp. for garnish

Bring the liquid to a boil.  When it is boiling take bunches of the pasta and break into about two inch pieces.  Cook for 7-8 minutes, until the pasta is very close to done.  Add the shredded chicken, grated carrot, a shake of garlic powder, and a large dash of the pepper and red pepper flakes.
With a soup like this, it is easy to add a bit at a time and taste it until it is too your likely.  In the last minute, add 2 tablespoons of the parsley.  Use the remaining parsley to garnish.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Love Thy Leftovers: Black Bean Chili Stuffed Peppers

I love stuffed peppers.  Not only are bell peppers a tasty and healthy alternative to a bread bowl, but they can also be used to hold so many different things.  I used some of the leftover black bean chili, but you could also use any leftover regular chili, taco meat, thick beef stew, a layer of mashed potatoes topped with a stew, etc etc etc.  If the bell peppers are large or won't stand up on their own, slice them length wise.  If they are small, slice off the top of the pepper and then fill them up.

You will need:
2-4 green bell peppers (either one small one per person, or 1/2 large one)
A few cups of leftover black bean chili (recipe here) or other filling
A few handfuls of your choice of cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley to taste

Start the leftover chili warming on the stove, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  As it warms, wash the peppers and then cut them either 1) length wise, leaving the stem on the pepper so the filling won't fall out, or 2) cut off the top of the pepper as close to the stem as you can.  Clear out the ribs and seeds from the peppers and put a pinch of salt and pepper into the bell peppers.  Once the chili is warm, taste it and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Add a small handful (about 1/4 cup) into the chili and stir until it melts.  Cover a cookie sheet in foil, and place the peppers on top.  Fill each pepper to the top with the chili mixture.  Cook for 25 minutes.  After the 25 minutes, cover the tops of the peppers with a small handful of cheese and cook 3-5 more minutes until the cheese has melted.  Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving.  Top with chopped parsley if desired.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe: Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Swiss Chard Chili

Who doesn't love a good pot of chili? It is great on a cold night, and wonderful to keep reserves of in the freezer.  Like many of you, I grew up with the fairly standard ground beef and kidney bean version and it always brings back good memories when I make it.  However, I also love to try new versions out, and adding veggies to something never hurts.  The base recipe was inspired from this, which used butternut squash instead.  I also had about a cup of cooked orzo on hand that I added in, though this is completely optional.  A few other tweaks here and there and a whole new beast is made.  Meat could very easily be added to this as well if you want it in there.

You will need:

One and a half cooking onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large sweet potato, cubed
Three 15oz cans of black beans, washed and drained
One 14.5 can diced tomato, UNdrained
1 Bunch swish chard, washed, dried, torn from the stems and chopped
2.5-3.5 cups stock (I used chicken)
One handful fresh parsley, finely chopped with some reserved for garnish
1 cup cooked orzo, optional
2 Tablespoons Adobo Chili Powder
2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Feta for garnish

Start by prepping the sweet potato.  Mine was pretty ugly on the outside so I peeled it.  Either way, cut it in half length wise and then cut into half-moons.  Stack about 3 half moons on each other and cut them in half length wise.  Then cut these sticks into about 3 cubes each (you can cut them still stacked up to make this faster).
Heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add a dash of salt and pepper and then the garlic.  Stir and cook for 4-5 more minutes until the garlic just starts to brown.  Add the cubed sweet potato and cook for 4-5 more minutes until it starts to get tender.  Add the chili powder, cumin, another good dash of salt.  Stir to combine.
Add in the beans, tomatoes, dijon, and stock.  Stir and bring to a bubble.

Reduce to a simmer and let cook ~15 minutes or until the chili has thickened and the sweet potato is tender.  Halfway through give the broth a taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. When the potato is cooked add the chard.  Stir the chard into the chili and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the chard has wilted. Add in the cooked orzo if you wish, and then the handful of chopped parsley.  Stir to combine.  Garnish with feta and parsley if desired.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Love Thy Leftovers: Hummus Pizza

This was a supermarket epiphany, I didn't wan't to buy/make a pizza sauce that might not get used in something else, and I wasn't looking at spending a lot of extra money that night.  I already had a container of hummus in my fridge, and leftover stir-fry from a night or two before.  The rest came together pretty quickly.  I used the thin-crust Pillsbury roll out crust but feel free to use whatever type you want if you have a favorite, just note a difference in cooking times and you might have to rearrange some of the steps.

You will need:
1 can Pillsbury Thin Crust roll out pizza dough
Hummus (I used about half a container)
Toppings (I used the aforementioned stir-fry mix of slightly curried bell pepper, kohlrabi, and steak. See link)
One handful cheese of choice (I actually used a non-seasoned mexican cheese mix)
Red pepper flakes
Garlic Powder
Parsley, chopped, for garnish is desired
Cooking spray

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.  While it is heating, cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spraying it with cooking spray (or a bit of olive oil).  Roll out the crust on the cookie sheet and sprinkle it with a little pepper and garlic powder.  Bake the crust for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and spread the crust with the hummus, scatter on the toppings, add the red pepper flakes, and finally the handful of cheese.  Continue baking for 6-10 minutes or until the crust is browning and everything is heated through.  Remove and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Recipe: Kohlrabi, Bell Pepper, and Steak Stir-fry

That is a kohlrabi, and before going to the farmer's market a few weeks ago I'd never seen or heard of it. This past week I decided to give it a go.  The outer layer is peeled off with a paring knife and the light greenish white flesh can be eaten raw, stir fried, steamed, slaw-ed, or in pretty much any other way.  Flavor wise it is mildly sweet with hints of cabbage, and very crisp.  For this recipe, I used the meat that I had on hand (steaks my grandmother had sent from Omaha Steak) but any typical stir fry meat/meat substitute could be used.  I kept the seasonings very simple to let the sweetness of the kohlrabi play off the slight bitterness of the peppers and the bite of the garlic.

You will need:
4 four oz. top sirloin steaks, sliced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 bell peppers
1/2 large kohlrabi bulb, peeled
Soy Sauce
Olive oil
Curry Powder
Cayenne or red pepper flakes

Prep work:
For the bell peppers, I started by cutting the four sides off of the core.  I then cut each section into strips length-wise and then cut those strips in half.
The kohlrabi, presents a bit of a challenge especially if it is a large bulb.  The best advice is to use a large, sharp knife and carefully slice through.  Then peel (if you haven't already) and laying the flat side on the cutting board cut into strips and then sections approximating the size of the bell peppers.

I found that two pans worked easiest for this, and started the second pan right after I added the meat to the first.  Start by tossing the meat strips in some salt and pepper, and then add to a pan heated over medium high heat.  Add a tsp of soy sauce and cook until the pink has just disappeared (if beef), or until completely cooked (if pork or chicken).

Heat the second pan (a large pot) over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil.  When it is hot, add the chopped garlic and cook ~30 seconds or until golden.  Immediately add the kohlrabi and bell peppers and stir.  Add a dash of salt, pepper, curry powder, soy sauce, and either cayenne or red pepper flakes and stir to combine.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the kohlrabi begins to just brown.  Add the meat and give it a stir and a taste.

I served it over some barely, but rice would work just as well, as would the mix on its own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Love Thy Leftovers: Swiss Chard Mashed Potatoes

Using leftovers in a creative and delicious way is the key to preventing boredom and waste in the kitchen.  I had a serving of swiss chard (with apple) left over and did not want to eat it plain.  Enter the mashed potatoes.  The swiss chard added some much needed texture, flavor, and nutrition to the mashed potatoes and the potatoes changed it up just enough to make it interesting.  If you want to make your own, that would be great too- I simply didn't have the time or potatoes to do that.  I had about a cup of wilted chard, but you can mix in however much you like, within reason (or amount of potatoes).  If your chard is still in large, wilted, chunks you might take a knife to it before adding it in so it mixes evenly.

You will need:
One cup swiss chard with apples (recipe below)
1 Garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 pouch instant mashed potatoes (I used herb and butter)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pat butter

For the swiss chard:
2 bunches swiss chard, removed from stalks and torn into bite sized pieces
2 buches swiss chard stems, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 honey crisp apple, chopped
Olive Oil

In a large pot heat a bit of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the chard stems and cook 2-3 minutes, then add the onions and cook for 3-4 more minutes.  Create a empty space in the pan and add the garlic, cooking it until it just begins to brown, 30 seconds to a minute.  Stir the garlic into the onions and stems and then add the chard, salt, and pepper. Cook until the chard is completely wilted down.  Add the chopped apple and cook for 1-2 more minutes.

For the Swiss Chard Mashed Potatoes:
Put a pat of butter in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the chopped garlic clove and saute until golden.  Add the 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  While the liquid is coming to a boil heat the serving of swiss chard in the microwave or in a separate saute pan.  When the stock boils, take off the heat, and add the potato mix and stir with a fork until it all comes together.  Then take the heated chard and stir into the potato mixture and serve.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Recipe: Autumn Caesar Salad

Salads really are wonderful things, they are easy to put together, can use plenty of leftovers, and are nutritious and filling.  Caesar salads tend to take a bit of a hit in the nutrition department, so a mustard or tangy vinaigrette would be a suitable substitute. This salad keeps the toppings pretty simple.  Some roasted sweet potato cubes, Romano cheese, and some sweet and slightly tart Honey Crisp apple for crunch.  This recipe made one large dinner salad or 2-3 side salads.  You can play with the quantities of this as you need, imagine a half sweet potato and apple for every 2 people.  I used a bit more in this so they wouldn't spoil and, it worked nicely.

You will need:
Amount of salad mix desired, I used a field green mix
1/2 sweet potato
1 Honey Crisp apple
Sprinkle of Romano cheese
Casear dressing to just coat

Start by setting the oven to 425, and cubing the sweet potato.  Toss the cubes with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 20-25 minutes on an oiled, foil-lined cookie sheet, turning halfway through. When finished, remove from the oven and let cool slightly outside the oven while you prepare the rest of the salad.  Wash and gently dry the salad, slice the apple in to thin slices (or bite sized cubes), and put both in a large bowl.  Add the sweet potato and the cheese and a drizzle of the Caesar.  Toss gently and taste, adding more dressing until it reaches the desired amount.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recipe: Swiss Chard with Mushrooms

I can't believe I've gone this long without trying (or at least knowingly trying) Swiss Chard.  It is such a great leafy green that doesn't err too far on the bitter side.  Like any leafy green it wilts down to almost nothing, my two farmer's market bunches would have made 2-3 servings.  I buffed it up with some button mushrooms.  Did you know the stems of the swiss chard are edible as well? Those got chopped up and thrown in as well. This dish would be nice as a bed for a fatty fish such as salmon, or served alongside chicken or steak.  In the winter it would also be a nice dish on its own, served in a bowl, perhaps with a shredding of parmesan cheese.  

You will need: 
2 bunches swiss chard
Reserved swiss chard stems
1 pound mushrooms 
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, fine chopped (1 medium clove=1/8 teaspoon good garlic powder)
Cayenne or red pepper flakes
Olive Oil

For this recipe I think it works best by starting with the prep work, it will significantly reduce the stress during cooking time.  Take the swiss chard by the base of the stem and pull upward on the leaf to strip it off, then tear each half leaf into 3-4 pieces.  Gently wash all the leaves and dry them in the colander/salad spinner/on paper towels.  Also give the stems a quick rinse in the sink and then chop them into bite sized pieces.  Dampen a paper towel and wipe off the tops of each mushroom and remove the stems.  Quarter each mushroom cap.  (If using them, garlic cloves should be finely chopped, and the half onion should be chopped).

Heat a large, deep pan with a turn of olive oil over medium high heat.  When hot, add the swiss chard STEMS and cook for 2-3 minutes (adding salt, and pepper).  Add the onion and cook for 3-4 more minutes.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms.  Cook for 3 minutes and then add salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne or red pepper flakes (the last two to taste).  Cook until the mushrooms are just soft and brown.  Add in the chard leaves, in batches if necessary, and cover the pot.  Stir occasionally until the leaves are wilted.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recipe: Grilled Cheese with Arugula and Plum Preserves

Alternate title: Grown up Grilled Cheese #1.  The grilled cheese is such a wonderful thing, even its basic form of plastic wrapped American Cheese on white bread is simple toasted perfection.  Luckily, we live in a world where some perfection can be built upon for something even better (and no more difficult).

This version combines several wonderful flavors.  The saltiness of the cheese is played off the sweetness of the little bit of preserves (feel free to use your favorite, I used plum but cannot wait to try it with fig), which in turn plays off the slight bitterness of the arugula. If you have it, a thin slice of prosciutto would probably be lovely as well.  This came together with what I had on hand, but feel free to switch up the bread and cheese to your liking.

You will need:

One good slice of munster cheese (2 slices if pre-sliced)
2 pieces of bread (I used a multigrain sandwich bread)
Small handful of arugula leaves, gently washed and dried
Plum preserves
Small pat of butter

Bloggers Note: I'm assuming you know how to make a grilled cheese/know what to do from here...but for the sake of the post, I am going to explain anyway.  Thank you for your indulgence.

Start off by assembling the sandwich: On one slice of bread smear a thin layer of the preserves, top that with one layer of arugula leaves, top that with the slice of cheese, and finish it off with the top piece of bread.

Melt the pat of butter in a saute pan over medium low to medium heat.  When it has melted place the bread preserve side down and cook until the side is golden brown.  Flip and repeat.  The sandwich is done when both sides are golden.  Enjoy immediately.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles, Chicken, and Peanut Sauce

I love trying out new ingredients when I can (especially if I've never heard of it before).  One of my favorite places to shop or find these are at asian or middle eastern markets.  In this recipe the "noodles" I used were sweet potato thread.  As best as Google can tell me it is a Korean noodle made from sweet potato starch.  The cooking process is easy, and the texture is very different from the standard noodle.  They are slightly sweet, quite chewy, and mostly translucent. They threads are also textured with raised bumps like beads which hold the sauce and give a wonderful mouth-feel.  It was a wholly interesting food experience.  Even after using them I got the feeling I wasn't using them quite "right," but I was happy with the results.

If you can't find/don't want to use/are scared of the threads feel free to use any type of cellophane noodle or other stir fry noodle that you want.  To go with them I sauteed up some vegetables, threw in a bit of chicken, and did an in pan peanut sauce. Feel free to use any veggies that you like, snap peas, broccoli, etc. would work great.

The dish and noodles scream for some heat so I was fairly liberal with my cayenne, but go with what works for you.  P.S. The noodles don't photo particularly well...which is why they are mostly covered in the picture.

You will need:
1 pack Sweet Potato Thread
1 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
Half an onion, sliced into half moons
1 anaheim pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced
3/4lbs white button mushrooms, sliced thick or quartered
2 chicken breasts
1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water (take right before you drain the pasta)
Garlic Powder

You will either need two large pots or a large pot (for the pasta) and a large saute pan (for the chicken/veggies).  To start, season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and a dash of cayenne.  You can cook them as breasts and then cube them, or cube them and then cook them.  Once they are cooked (and chopped) set them aside on a paper towel.  At this point start getting the water in the large pot ready to boil for the sweet potato thread.

Wipe out some of the grease from the bottom of the pan, add a bit new olive oil and start cooking the vegetables.  I put in the zucchini first (about 2 minutes), then the bell pepper (2 more minutes), then the onions (3-4 minutes). I then added a good pinch of all the spices, stirred, and followed it with the mushrooms. Stir until everything is just cooked through and turn off the heat.

As soon as the water has reached a boil, salt heavily, and add the sweet potato thread, cook for 4-6 minutes until the noodles are done.  They will remain chewy but will be soft.  Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain.

Add the pasta, chicken, and veggies into one of the big pots.  Add in the peanut butter and the pasta water and stir until the sauce is formed.  Taste for seasoning.  I needed to add more cayenne, garlic powder, and paprika to get it to the spice level I wanted. Stir again and serve immediately.

I have also found that when I make pasta I really like to make the vegetables the star (which, let's be honest, also makes the dish a lot healthier).  If you can find your veggies fresh or at a farmer's market vendor you like it can really change the quality of the dish.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recipe: Pesto Roasted Tempeh

Pesto is such a great ingredient: fresh, bright, occasionally with a bite, it gives a wonderful flavor to most anything.  This is an interesting way to use it in a new way (and perhaps with a new protein).  As you can see in the picture it turns into a very nice sandwich.  

You will need: 
1 block tempeh
3-4 Tablespoons pesto 

Start the oven preheating to 350. Line a cookie sheet with foil and lightly spray it with cooking spray to avoid any sticking.  Place the tempeh on the cookie sheet and dollop and spread out one Tablespoon of pesto, add the salt and pepper.  Add another tablespoon if it appears you need a bit more to cover.  Turn the tempeh over and repeat.  Cook on one side for 12-15 minutes, turn (add a bit more pesto),and cook another 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and the pesto appears baked on.  

How I served it: 

Half a roll and hollow out some of the bread.  Shred or slice some smoked mozzarella or other cheese and bake or broil until melted.  Top with tempeh and some sauteed zucchini, onion, or other vegetable if desired.  Arugula/spinach/etc would also be very nice.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Sticks

Have I mentioned that I love sweet potatoes? If not, I'll do it now: I love sweet potatoes.  All the benefits of a regular potato with Beta Keratin through the roof.  Plus, they just taste good.  This recipe is something like a steak fry.  It is a bit thicker than a traditional one but thinner than a wedge.

 I used two different types of sweet potatoes to try this out.  The first was a white sweet potato (color of regular potato, taste and texture of the sweet) and a regular one.  The white sweet potato cooked a bit faster, so thats something to keep in mind.

 The prep process is very easy, they can be seasoned however you like, and one potato should serve at least two (this is a good bit cheaper than buying them frozen, in my opinion, and they take about the same amount of time to cook).  As for seasoning, you can use anything in your pantry: Dried herbs, spices (from curry powder to cayenne and beyond), a bit of maple syrup, dijon mustard, etc.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

You will need:
1 sweet potato (for every 2 people)
Olive oil
Garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 450.

To start the prep, wash the sweet potato with hot soapy water scrubbing to remove any dirt. Dry it, and then cut it in half length-wise.  Placing one half flesh side down, begin cutting the sweet potato into 1/4th inch or so strips.  Lay each strip flat and then cut it into 2-3 sticks.

Put all the strips into a large bowl and toss with a teaspoon of olive oil (if it appears to need a bit more to coat the sticks, go ahead and add it).  In a little bowl add a quarter to half palmful of salt, and then pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne to taste.  I used approximately equal parts garlic powder and paprika to the salt, half that amount of the pepper, and just a kick of the cayenne. Mix all of these together and then sprinkle over the potatoes in the bowl and mix them with your hand to coat evenly.

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and use either cooking spray or a bit of olive oil to grease it and prevent it from sticking.  Cook in the 450 degree oven for 20 minutes on side one and 5-10 minutes on side two, or until golden brown.  Keep an eye on the sticks, and turn the oven down to 425 if they appear to be browning too fast.

Serve shortly after removing from oven.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable Polenta

I grew up in the South, so I have eaten plenty of grits.  They are a very comforting food, but one that is a bit finicky to cook and, done right, they take quite a bit of time and care.  Polenta is just as comforting but takes a fraction of the time and has a unique flavor.  For the uninitiated, polenta is basically corn meal.  Like grits, there are numerous different cuts and styles of it ranging in expense.  I stick with a box of corn muffin mix.  The texture is nice and smooth, and it comes together very quickly.  For this version,  I added plenty of vegetables and some mild chilies to give it a subtle kick.  You can add whatever you want as well, I even topped it a few nights with a portion of a zucchini boat (zucchini chunked and sauteed would be great in this as well).

You will need:

One 8.5oz box corn muffin mix
4 cups stock (or water, but it will have less flavor)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, washed and chopped
One 4oz can green chiles, drained
One 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained well
Pat of butter
Handful of parmesan or italian cheese mix (optional and to taste)
Thyme for garnish
Garlic Powder

You will need two pots for this recipe, one large sauté pan and one medium sauce pot.  Put the saute pan over medium to medium high heat and saute the onions and green peppers until they just begin to get soft, around 5-8 minutes. While those cook, begin bringing the stock to a boil.  To the vegetables, add salt, pepper, and heavy hit of the garlic powder.  Add the drained chilies and the drained tomatoes.  Stir together and heat. When the stock begins to boil slowly add in the corn muffin mix while stirring to prevent any clumps. Cook together for 3-5 minutes, adding the pat of butter and the handful of cheese, until hot throughout and smooth.   Using a slotted spoon, add in the sauteed vegetables and mix together.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Garnish with some thyme leaves and a small sprinkle of cheese.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe: Zucchini Boats

I mentioned the large zucchini previously and this recipe got rid of the final two in one fell swoop.  The leftovers were fantastic, and depending on what you are serving with it (a salad or soup perhaps?) you could really get as many as 8 servings from it (half of each boat); and served alone you'd get 4 servings.  The filling for this could be cooked ahead and spooned into the boats before cooking.

You will need:
2 large zucchini, washed throughly
1 pound 93/7 ground beef (or chicken/turkey/etc)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
Handful of frozen corn
1/2 cup to full cup spagetti sauce
Shredded pepper-jack cheese, to taste
Garlic Powder

For the filling:
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika the ground beef and cook until all the pink is just gone (do not overcook).  Remove the meat to a paper towel covered plate to drain and wipe out grease from pan.  Sautee the onion, bell pepper, and frozen corn until the corn thaws (~5 minutes). Add some salt and pepper to the veggies.  Add the ground beef into the vegetables and top with the spaghetti sauce and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

To make the boats:
Cut off the ends of the zucchini and carefully cut each in half.  With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and middle flesh of the zucchinis until you have a nice trench.  Try and leave a bit of an edge at the end of the zucchini to hold the filling.  Add some salt and pepper to the boats.  Spoon in the filling into the trenches.

To cook:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the boats on an aluminum lined cookie sheet for 30 minutes.  Add the shredded pepper jack to the top of the boats and cook for 5-7 more minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Recipe: Zucchini Lasagna

I bought three giant zucchinis at the farmer's market and I have since come to the realization that I am in need of using them.  This was a good way to use a while large zucchini in one go (for about 4 servings).  I also threw in some thinly sliced sweet potato, onion, and topped with green peppers.  In the picture at the bottom you will notice there was quite a bit of liquid (presumably from the zucchini) in the pan.  I found that the layers themselves held together quite well.  If this amount of liquid bothers you then simply salt the zucchini slices before cooking and set them in the refrigerator in a colander over a larger bowl with something weighing them down.  This will drain them.  I would also recommend pre-roasting (or microwaving) the sweet potato before slicing it in.  Mine did not completely cook, and while not bad, was a bit crunchier than I would have liked.

You will need:
8x8 Pyrex dish
One extra large zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
One sweet potato, par cooked and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin half moons
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
Spagetti sauce (around half a jar needed, I used a mushroom and green pepper one)
1/2 block of mozzarella, shredded
1/2 block of pepper jack, shredded
Garlic Powder

Start by pre-roasting or pre-microwaving your sweet potato.  If you have mandolin you could try that and set it to the thinnest cut setting.  After, set your oven (or preheat to) 350 degrees. When that is all done and you have your bevy of sliced veggies in front of you it is time to start compiling.  Put a few tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread them around.  Begin with a layer of zucchini, overlapping them so that you have 4-6 rounds per column and 4-6 columns.  Add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  You will repeat that step after every zucchini or potato layer so don't overdo it.
 Layers should be a repetition of:

The top layer should have onion and green pepper with any remaining cheese then sprinkled over it.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife slides through the layers without resistance.

Perhaps not the prettiest picture, but it is a recipe I will make again.  And I wanted to let you know what you will see so you will not freak out.  Don't worry, the piece I pulled out was delicious!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Potato Latkes

At the farmers market this past Wednesday, I picked up some white sweet potatoes.  Generally, my first reaction when I come across an ingredient that I'm not familiar with, or one in a different variety I like to buy it and cook with it.  In this case I roasted the potato last night (it was big and wound up taking like 2 hours at 350)  I then mashed it with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a tad bit of butter.

You will need:
One large sweet potato, cooked and mashed
Dab of butter
Cheese, I used smoked mozzarella
Thyme, for garnish
1/2 English Muffin, toasted

Take a large tablespoon of the mashed sweet potato mixture and form it into a patty.  Heat a notch of butter over medium heat in a pan until hot.  Add the potato patty and cook until just browned on each side (3-5 minutes depending on how high the heat is).  Top the patty with a little cheese and cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil roof so the cheese can melt.  Place it on top of the english muffin and garnish with a few thyme leaves, if desired.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Bean Dip with Corn

This is very similar to the refried beans I made the other day, consider this a variation more than a new recipe.  It adds corn for sweetness, texture, and color and more cayenne for a kick. This is great for a cookout or to serve with chips/pita chips and a few icy beers.

You will need:

1 can black beans, washed and drained
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
8oz frozen corn, thawed and drained
1/2 cup medium heat salsa
Garlic powder

In a large saute pan saute the onion and green pepper over medium heat until just soft.  Add a dash of salt and pepper.  Add the beans and salsa and stir to combine.  Add in the garlic powder and a good pinch of cayenne (between 1/16th and 1/8th teaspoon)  Stir.  When the beans are hot begin smashing them with a fork until the desired texture is reached.  Taste for heat and add salsa/cayenne until it reaches the heat level desired.  When ALL smashing is finished add the corn and stir through.  Taste again for salt and adjust as needed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Recipe: Tikka Masala Chicken Breast

So this marks my third use of Tikka Masala simmer sauce as an ingredient and I think this is more flavorful than a simple simmer, and probably more accessible than using the game hen.  Basically, you start by ignoring all the directions on the side of the jar.  While that makes a decent tikka masala, it will most likely be a bit watery and less like what you'd find in an Indian restaurant.  This recipe concentrates the flavor and allows it to shine while also giving you a juicy piece of chicken.

You will need:

One jar Tikka Masala simmer sauce
Chicken Breasts (one for each person served)

Liberally salt and pepper each of the chicken breasts and place in a glass casserole dish (or some other vessel for marinating).  Spoon a dollop of the simmer sauce on each of the chicken breasts and using your other hand rub it in.  Flip the breasts and repeat on the other side.  Allow to marinate for at least an hour, or it could go all day.  Pull from the fridge a few minutes before you are going to cook it to get the chill off.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook the chicken for 7-9 minutes a side, depending on the thickness.  After you flip the chicken the first time, add another dollop of the sauce over the top of each of the chicken breasts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable "Curry"

Ok, so first off a message to Tom Colicchio: if you somehow read this I know this is not a traditional curry and if I was on Top Chef the misnaming might get me sent home.  However, after getting soaked with a cold rain on the way home from classes I needed something comforting and warm.  What is great about this recipe is that you probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients, and it takes around 20 minutes to throw together.  The "curry" is warming, filling, and will make enough for 4ish people.  I didn't feel like cooking any meat with it last night but it could easily be added if you wish.  The same goes with rice or brown rice.

You will need:
26oz Tomato sauce with basil and garlic
16oz frozen broccoli and cauliflower mix
8oz vegetable medley (corn, green beans, carrots)
1/2 onion sliced into half moons
1/4 cup water
2.5 Tbs. Curry Powder
1/8 tsp. Cayenne (season to taste, start with a sprinkle and work up to where you like the heat)
Garlic powder
Olive Oil

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pot.  When hot, add the onions and saute over medium-low to medium heat for a few minutes.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and a good pinch of paprika.  Continue sautéing until the onions are just soft.  Add the tomato sauce, water, curry powder and your first bit of cayenne.  Turn heat up to medium/medium-high.  When the sauce begins to bubble taste and adjust the heat level.  Add the frozen vegetables directly to the pot and stir to coat.  Cook for around 7 minutes or until the vegetables are just thawed and warm.  You will likely need to add a hefty pinch of salt and adjust the cayenne.  When it is to your liking, serve in a bowl plain or over rice.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recipe: Lentil and Barley Patties

Today's recipe is more of a technique to use up leftovers that you have around the fridge. After making a pound of lentils several days ago I realized that it was far to much for one person to think they could get through....especially when I still had a cup or so of barley left in the fridge.  At this point I had three options: 1) Continue to eat them plain and then get sick of them, 2) Throw them away (ok this wasn't really an option), or 3) turn them into something else.  I chose the latter of the options and set out to try and make them into a patty akin to some type of burger.  The reason this is more of a technique is the quantity of your leftovers will vary, as will your lentils and binding agent, but I will highlight how I prepared mine:

I used:

2.5 cups lentils
1.5 cups barley
1/2 cup liquid eggs (2 regular eggs, beaten)
1/2 cup salsa
1 box corn muffin mix
Olive oil

Pour your lentils into a large bowl, and if they are all mostly whole use a fork to mash some of them up. Add the barley and salsa; mix to cover.  Salt and pepper the mixture and give it a taste, adjust seasonings as necessary.  Add the eggs, mix again.  Finally add the muffin mix a little at a time until it comes together into a workable form.

To cook, portion the mixture out into patties and chill them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Then cook over medium heat in a nonstick skillet for 7-10 minutes per side in a dash of olive oil until each side is golden brown.

These can be served plain with a dollop of salsa, broken up to top a salad, or like a burger.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recipe: Lentils with Shrimp

I really love lentils. They add great flavor and texture to soups, they are great for you, and they are cheap.  I realized the other day that while I'd added them to soups and stews before I'd never used them as a star in their own right.  This recipe pairs them with shrimp and it is a very nice combo (chicken would also work nicely).  I like the color contrast between the pink shrimp and the dark lentils, plus the pop of the shrimp in the mouth is also complemented with the toothsome legume.  There are two ways you could cook the lentils.  One is "risotto" style where you keep adding water/stock/wine until they are finished, and the other is to boil them in lots of water and then drain.  For this recipe I used the first method, but use whichever you like.  P.S. I also did a while bag (1 pound) of lentils for leftovers, if you don't need a gigantic bowl full, cut the recipe down.)

You will need:
1 lbs. bag lentils
1 onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely diced
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
4-6+ cups water (to add in as liquid is absorbed)
1 lbs. medium shrimp tailed, shelled, deveined

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  When hot add in the onion and saute until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, and pepper.  Continue sauteing for around 4 more minutes or until garlic is fragrant and golden.  Add the cup of white wine, 3 cups chicken stock, and cup of water.  Bring to a boil and add the lentils.  Add a heavy pinch of salt, pepper, and paprika plus a moderate pinch of cayenne (remember this is A LOT of lentils, they need flavor).  Stir occasionally and cook for 25-35 minutes, covered.  As they cook they will begin to absorb the liquid.  You will need to add more a cup or so at a time as it dries out (this will be every 8 or so minutes).  The lentils are done when some are beginning to fall apart but most still have a bite to them.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.

For the shrimp, season with salt, pepper, and paprika and saute on the stove until just pink all the way through.  Top each bowl of lentils with the shrimp and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recipe: Balsamic Cucumber Salad

This is a really easy recipe that you can throw together in a pinch, and has some simple ways you could dress it up if you wanted to make it fancier.  I like this idea because everything is kept pretty much whole, there is no cooking involved, and it lets the flavors of the ingredients shine.  I paired this with the Tikka Masala Game Hen and it  provided a nice flavor and texture contrast.  What's great is that it holds up well even if you have to make it ahead because essentially the cucumbers just keep marinating.  This will give you 3-4 servings.

You will need:
1 cucumber cut into thin rounds
A quarter of a red or yellow onion thinly sliced (depending on if you want a sharper or sweeter taste)
6 Tablespoons Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
Heavy dash of salt
Optional ingredients: crumbled or cubed feta, diced tomato, pitted olives, and torn basil

Combine the cucumbers and onions (plus any of the optional ingredients) into a large bowl and add the salt.  Gently mix and then add the Vinaigrette.  Stir to combine.  Allow to sit at least ten minutes before serving though in a pinch can be served immediately.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Recipe: Tikka Masala Game Hen

I recently saw one of our super markets selling Cornish Rock Game Hens for about $2.50 a piece (for comparison you could buy 2-3 for the same price as a rotisserie chicken)  It easily serves 2 people and would be a fantastic date night show stopper or "impress the boss meal".  Marinades are as varied as they are for chicken and I may explore more of them in the future.  Last night, however, I was very much wanting Indian food and I had a bottle of Tikka Masala simmer sauce in the pantry.  Outside of marinating the prep could not be easier.

You will need:
1 cornish game hen
1 bottle Tikka Masala simmer sauce (you will use about half for the prep)
Half an onion, sliced
1 carrot, cut into large bites
1 lemon, quartered
2 cloves garlic mashed

Remove the hen from any packaging and remove the neck and giblet packet (if it is included) from the cavity of the bird.  Holding the bird cavity down, let any liquid drain out.  Coat the hen liberally with salt and pepper on both sides and inside.  Dollop out the masala and rub into the hen making sure to get a good coating on all surfaces.  Spoon a teaspoon or two inside the hen and rub in the cavity.  Allow to marinate for at least an hour but as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shortly before cooking stuff the bird with the onion slices, carrot, garlic, and one lemon wedge.  Line the bottom of a roasting pan with aluminum foil to aid with clean up and place the bird on the slotted top portion (or on a cookie sheet lined with foil if you don't have a roasting pan).  Place the other lemon wedges over the wings.  Cook for 60-75 minutes, remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  You can carve the hen or simply split it in half by guiding a knife to one side of the breast bone.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recipe: Cheese Toast with Fig Preserves

So this is a really simple recipe and is great as a breakfast, however, it could also easily be made into an appetizer.  The picture at the bottom is how I made it for breakfast, and in the future I would try and cut the cheese just a bit thinner but it worked out fine.  I will provide both how I made that and how I think the appetizer would be made.  Cheese wise I would stick to a white cheese, and perhaps on the milder end.  I would also warn recommend cutting from a block of cheese as sandwich cheese tends to have a bit less flavor. Munster is what I used but a provolone, baby swiss, or mild white cheddar, among others, could all work.  If you are the type that would like the cheese melted, simply stick it under the broiler after it is assembled for a minute or two and the cheese and preserves will be hot and bubbly.

For the breakfast version you will need:
1 piece of bread
Fig preserves
1 slice of Munster from a block of cheese

Toast the piece of bread in the toaster between settings on the setting that will make it just crisp and brown (about 3.5 for mine).  When finished spread a layer of fig preserves on the bread and top with the slice of cheese.  The sweetness of the fig and crunchiness of the bread pairs very well with the cheese.

For the appetizer version you will need:
1 french baguette, cut into rounds
Fig preserves
Slices of Munster from a block of cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 and toast the rounds of the baguette for 6-8 minutes or until browned.  Top each with a smear of fig preserves and a slice of Munster.  Broil in the oven if you wish to melt the cheese.

In the picture the piece of toast closer to you was broiled in the oven after assembly for a few minutes, the farther piece is as described above.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recipe: Tomato Sauce Roasted Vegetables with Tempeh and Barley

Talk about a filling meal for cheap.  The vegetables for this dish cost me around $3.00, the barley was $1.99 a pound, and the tempeh was just over $3.  It makes 2-3 good servings but could be stretched to 4, though the cup of barley will make quite a bit so you could use that for other meals as well.  If time is an issue, use the quick cook barley which is done in 10 minutes.  If you don't like barley, any long pasta could be used as well, just toss it in the bowl with the veggies and tempeh when you do the final coating of sauce, simply put enough sauce to coat all of it.  If you aren't a fan of tempeh you could use tofu to keep it vegan or easily throw in some grilled chicken or steak that has been sliced.  If you wanted all veggies you could use some portobello mushrooms or greed/red bell peppers.  For more heat throw in some red pepper flakes.

You will need:
2 cups chicken stock/water/bouillon
1 cup barley
1 full pint box of japanese eggplant (~10-12), quartered
1/2 large zucchini or several small ones, cut in large cubes
Optional:  cherry tomatoes, halved (I had a few left over so I threw them in)
2/3 cup tomato sauce (I used a basil and garlic kind for more flavor)
1 pack tempeh, cut into 1/4 inch strips and then halved down the middle
Olive oil
Garlic Powder
Fresh Basil, chopped or torn

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and on the stove top bring the two cups of liquid to a boil.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika to the boiling liquid and then add the barley.  Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally.  Cook for 35-40 minutes and then let sit.

In a large bowl combine the eggplant, zucchini, and tomato.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to coat and then add a heavy dash of salt and a sprinkle of pepper and garlic powder, and then stir.  Then add 1/3 cup of sauce to the bowl and stir to coat.  Place a layer of aluminum foil on a large cookie sheet and add the vegetables making sure to keep them in a single layer.  If you don't they will not brown but only steam.  Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are just soft.

Heat a skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the tempeh and heat until golden brown.

I timed it so the barley finished first and the vegetables and tempeh finished about the same time.
When everything is done add the vegetables and tempeh back into a large bowl.  Add a handful of chopped basil and top with 1/3 cup more sauce, stirring to coat.  The heat from the vegetables and tempeh will be more than enough to keep it hot.  To serve top a fourth cup of barley with a healthy serving of the veggies and tempeh.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blog Spotlight: 101 Cookbooks

I don't often have time to pour through other blogs, but I'd like to give a shout-out whenever I see one that is really worthy of your attention.  The one I am posting about today, 101 Cookbooks, is pretty incredible.
Here is the welcome from the blogs author:

I'm Heidi Swanson and 101 Cookbooks is where I write about the recipes that intersect my life, travels and interests. I focus on natural, whole foods and ingredients - vegetarian recipes that are good for you, with the occasional sweet treat. Welcome!

Heidi has been featured in the Washington Post, vegetarian Times, NPR, LIFE, USA Today and many many others.

Not only does it have good enough to eat pictures of the ingredients and the dishes, but there are well written and thought out intros and recipes.

Many of the recipes are very easy and highlight seasonal ingredients, honest preparation, and rustic appeal.  Recipes that caught my interest were the tempeh curry, the golden tomato sauce, and Heather's Quinoa

Especially if you are vegetarian or vegan I hope you check out this blog and enjoy reading through it as much as I have.

A link to the blog can be found HERE

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recipe: Garden Veggie Tempeh Sandwich

Finally!  I have been wanting to do a recipe with tempeh for a while but I haven't had the chance to until now.  For those who don't know (and don't worry, you are not alone) tempeh is a relative of tofu.  However, unlike tofu, the soybeans are not processed- they are smashed together whole.  This leads to a nuttier taste than tofu and one that I find much easier to use and eat without a marinade.  The toppings and type of tempeh are all up to you, I just used what I had on hand.  To make it the recipe vegan, leave off the cheese or use a vegan substitute.  Its great to go meatless a couple nights a week if you can, and with this sandwich I promise that you won't miss it at all.

You will need:

1/3 block garden veggie tempeh (or approximately enough to match the size of bread)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash of Salt
Dash of Pepper
Refried Beans 
1 slice Muenster cheese
Crusty Roll

Heat a frying pan with the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the tempeh and cook on both sides until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes per side)  Add the dash off salt and pepper to side one when you flip it.

Split and lightly toast the roll in a toaster or under the broiler.  Add a thin layer of the beans and guacamole to the bottom of the roll and top with the golden tempeh.  Add the slice of cheese, the top of the roll, and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recipe: Refried Beans

I am still working through my farmer's market ingredients and I had been wanting to try my hand at these for a while so I used the candee onion and green pepper for this recipe.  This would be awesome with any grilled meats or on the next taco night.  I will warn you that the photo isn't the best, refried beans are not the most photogenic food, but I can say they look (and taste) way better than the greyish brown beans you'll find at your favorite mexican restaurant.  Plus, I think that everyone would have the ingredients for this already in your kitchen and pantry.  I used black beans, but kidney beans would work as well if you have those.  For the onion and bell pepper, you will want to chop them into small bits but I chose to leave them big enough so that they could add some texture and visual interest.

You will need:

1 regular can black beans, washed
1 small yellow onion chopped 
1 bell pepper (your choice of color) chopped 
Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Paprika, a strong dash 
2-3 Tablespoons Salsa (optional)

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion until just soft, about 3-5 minutes.  During this time add the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.  Next, add the bell pepper and continue cooking 3-5 more minutes.  Add the black beans and another round of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Stir.  When it has heated through take a fork (or masher) and begin to mash the beans in the pan.  This is where you would add the salsa if you wish; I used a medium salsa for a little heat and tang. You can leave them as chunky or smooth as you like.  For extra smooth you could even use a food processor or blender.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recipe: Tomato Salad

This is another farmer's market creation.  It has two main ingredients, is no cook, and if you don't have a farmer's market can be easily replicated for a great summer side dish.  A few optional ingredients can make it even more substantial if you have them lying around the kitchen.  Feta or mozzarella would each add a nice element to the salad, though with its zing my vote would go to the feta.  A pint of cherry tomatoes will give you 2-3 servings.  Larger tomatoes can be used as well, you can choose to cut them into wedges or rounds.  For rounds you might simply turn this into a caprese salad with mozzarella and basil.

You will need:

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 handful basil, chopped or roughly torn

Thoroughly wash the tomatoes in a colander, especially if they were a market purchase, to remove any dirt from the skin.  Cut the tomatoes in half, removing any that are damaged, and place in a bowl.  Add a decent pinch of salt and pepper (taste and adjust as you go, remember you can always add more).  Add the basil and stir gently to combine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recipe: Skillet Zucchini

l had the pleasure of heading to the local Farmer's Market this past Saturday and I had a blast.  I found a massive zucchini that I couldn't resist purchasing and after debating on how to cook it I decided on a very simple method that would highlight the flavor of the vegetable without smothering it in cheese, butter, or sauce (though...that would be delicious too).  Any size zucchini can be used but a larger one will be easier to work with as the rounds will be larger.  If you are using small zucchini you will need to buy more; plan one zucchini per person in that case.

You will need:

1 large zucchini, washed and cut into ~1/8 inch rounds (see picture)
Olive oil
Garlic Powder

Brush (or dip) each side of the zucchini rounds into olive oil and then sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder on both sides.  Allow to sit while you heat a large flat bottomed nonstick skillet (if possible) on the stove over medium-high heat.  When hot reduce to medium and add the zucchini in a single layer, you may have to do a few batches depending on the size of the rounds and the size of your pan.  Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the zucchini beings to brown and soften.  Flip the rounds and cook for another 1:30 to 2 minutes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Recipe: Mustard Roasted Red Potatoes

Sorry for taking so long for another update; I was moving and sans internet for a while.  I have been waiting to post this recipe as it is a wonderfully flavorful side dish.  Its bold, easy, and full of flavor.

You will need:

Around 20 small/medium red potatoes, washed and cut in half
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
One dash soy sauce to emulsify the sauce
Salt, heavy pinch
Small handful parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Begin preheating an oven to 375 degrees.  In measuring cup or small bowl combine the olive oil, mustard, soy sauce, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.  If sauce does not become a thick golden color add a tad more soy sauce until it does.  Put the potatoes in a large bowl and pour the sauce over them.  Stir to coat.  Cover a cookie sheet in aluminum foil and place potatoes on the sheet in a single layer, skin side down (cut side up).  Put into the heated oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recipe: Barley "Tabouli"

As I've mentioned previously, I have fallen in love with barley.  Recently, I decided that I wanted to elevate it above just a side dish in its own right and add some other flavors into the mix.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever looks fresh or that you have leftover.  The green onion could be switched for thinly sliced red onion.  Tomatoes could be cored and added, as could bell peppers.  In the fall you could use roasted eggplant.  The possibilities are endless.  Food Lion did not have any regular pearl barley, instead they had the Quaker Quick Cooking Barley.  I am happy to report it worked just as well and cooked in a fraction of the time so check it out if the 35 minute cooking time of the regular stuff intimidates you or just plain doesn't fit your schedule.

You will need:
1 cup quick cooking barley
2 cups low/no sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 cucumber, halved, seeded if necessary, and chopped
Chopped pecans, dry toasted, to taste (I used around a fourth to a third cup)
A handful of dried cranberries
3 green onions, chopped
A medium handful of parsley chopped fine
Garlic Powder

In a saucepan bring two cups of chicken stock to a boil.  Add salt (a dash for low sodium, a fourth teaspoon or so for no sodium stock), pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to the stock.  Add the cup of barley and stir.  Follow the directions on the packaging for cooking details but it will be 10-15 minutes at a simmer until the barley is tender.  For traditional barley follow the same instructions but cook 35 minutes.

As the barley cooks prepare the parsley, nuts and vegetables.  When the barley is finished cooking let it sit for about 3 minutes with the lid on and then add your prepped ingredients.  Stir to combine.

Serves around 6 and works well with any grilled meat and plays nice with other veggies/salads as sides.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ideas: The Open Faced Sandwich

When you are really trying to make an impression an open faced sandwich can be a great way to go.  In turn it can be elegant, rustic, or visually interesting as the ingredients are highlighted more than the bread choice as far as presentation.

When making one for myself, however, I love a wonderfully earthy, rustic bread that is sturdy and flavorful.  Ciabatta, foccachia, and other dense breads are a great choice.  It is especially nice to do when you have a bread that may be calorie heavy but tasty.  You still get the great punch of flavor but with less of the impact.

Toppings can be whatever you have on hand.  Onions, peppers, slaw, mushrooms, lunch meat, sliced chicken, pork roast, shredded beef, any type of lettuce or leafy green.

The open face can also be thrown under the broiler to meld the flavors (and melt any cheese you might add) or served room temperature.  Or you can toast the bread to melt the cheese and then add the toppings to have the best of both worlds.

This open faced sandwich is on a dense sourdough, which I put in the toaster and then topped with a sharp provolone and shredded chicken.  On that I then added a muffaletta olive mix.  This added a vinegar punch to the chicken and brightened an otherwise ordinary sandwich.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recipe: Wine Soaked Figs

I apologize for the long absence, the weeks surrounding the 4th of July had me having a blast but sadly away for a blog-able internet connection.  On the upside, I have some wonderful recipes, tips, and shout outs coming in the next few days.  Today I am going to show you an extremely easy and delicious appetizer or cheese plate/dessert accompanier.  Figs are a wonderful sweet chewy fruit who's true flavor is a far cry (for the better) from their Newton forms.  They can be a bit expensive so if you want to try this out try and find the dried figs on sale.  As for the wine, don't break the bank.  I used the Whole Foods brand Cabernet Sauvignon but any nice, inexpensive red wine (Barefoot or Yellowtail would also work) can be substituted.

You will need:

1 package dried mission figs (about 24)
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon

First cut the top bit of stem, if any is present, off of each fig then half them.  In a saucepan heat the two cups of wine over medium heat.  Add the figs and bring to a simmer.  Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until figs appear to stop absorbing liquid, stirring occasionally.  Remove figs from pan with a slotted spoon.  You can either pour some of the wine over them immediately or you can reduce the wine further to thicken it and intensify the flavor.

Can be served warm, room temperature, or cold depending on the purpose.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recipe: Golden Barley

It has recently come to my attention how much I enjoy barley. It is inexpensive, a low/no processed grain, and it tastes great.  Cooked, it has a starchy quality like risotto but the grains themselves literally burst with flavor when you bite down on them.  By adding a few ingredients as the barley is cooking you can flavor it any way you like to make a great side dish with minimal effort.

You will need:
1 cup barley
2 1/4 cups low/no sodium chicken or vegetable stock
Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon butter

Optional Garnish: A sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley might be nice

In a saucepan bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Add in 3/4 of a tablespoon salt, two teaspoons of garlic powder, two teaspoons of paprika, a few shakes of pepper, and the teaspoon of butter.  Add the cup of barley.  Stir to combine.  Cook for thirty minutes over low heat where the liquid is still simmering, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and allow to sit for ten minutes.

Serves 4-6

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Ground Lamb with Veggies and Brown Rice Medley

A while back I did a spiced ground beef dish over potatoes, but as I was making it I was thinking, "You know what? This would be good with lamb."  Today I was at Wegman's and saw their ground lamb on sale for around $3.50 for a pound.  Of course I snapped a pack up, came home, and went to cooking.  The rice mix I used was the Brown Rice Medley (with black barley and Daikon Radish seeds) from Trader Joes.  The directions say to use 2.5 cups liquid for one cup of Medley but you should only use 2 cups.  If you use more it won't be absorbed.

You will need:
1 lbs Ground Lamb
One 16oz bag frozen mixed vegetables
One pack baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
Garlic Powder
Chile Powder
Flour (optional)

1 cup Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley
2 Cups Chicken Stock or Water

For the meat and veggies:

Season the lamb with salt, pepper, plenty of garlic powder, paprika, chile powder, and a pinch of cayenne.  Place the ground lamb in a hot skillet and cook until almost all the pink is gone.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking.  As soon as all the pink is gone Add the frozen vegetables.  Cook together until the vegetables have thawed and cooked.  Re-season with all spices, salt, and pepper to your taste.  Use the cayenne with care.  If desired stir in a few teaspoons of flour to help thicken the juices and create a gravy.

For the Brown Rice Medley:
Bring two cups of chicken stock or water to a rolling boil.  Add the brown rice mix and a touch of butter as well as a pinch of salt.  Cook, covered, for 35 minutes.  Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.  When finished remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for ten minutes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recipe: Mango-Avocado Salsa

Apparently I like mangos now.  I was in the store and saw one for 79cents so I decided to pick it up.  Then I started thinking about what would go well with it and I decided to keep things simple with avocado and tomato.  The silkiness of the avocado goes perfectly with the bright mango and the tomato adds some nice color and texture.  This dish can keep but is probably best served soon after making.  You can also serve it in different ways; it can be a side on its own, a topping for grilled meats/burgers/regular sandwiches, or even a fun and colorful appetizer with chips for your guests.
Note: If you want the salsa to have more of a kick you could finely dice a fourth to a half of a seeded jalepeno pepper and add it in.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tips: Use Smaller Plates

This blog has also become somewhat of healthy eating blog.  As my lifestyle has changed I hope to also bring my thoughts on eating healthy to also eating cheap and cooking easy.  This post, however, is about a choice you make before the food is served: The Plate.  Many of us grew up eating on a 12 inch plate, but what would happen if you switched to an 8 inch plate?

Actually it will do two things for you.  First, obviously it will put less food on your plate as you have four less inches to fit it.  BUT, when looking at your plate your brain will think you are actually eating more.

There is also a trick I've found when fixing your plate, and it seems the government has adopted my strategy with their reinvention of the food pyramid.  Start your plate with your fruits and vegetables, which should fill about half your plate.  Next plate your protein.  Finally plate your carbs (hopefully the whole grain/whole wheat ones).  This strategy helps you eat the recommended amounts of food for each meal.

I hope these thoughts help you in your quest to eat healthy, delicious, and easy.