Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fruit Pizza

adapted from The Lowfat Good Food Cookbook

summer 2010 108

Just about everyone I know makes a “1st birthday cake,” but for the second time, we just had a “1st birthday fruit pizza” for Miriam’s birthday (I made it for Isaac’s 1st birthday too). 

Some people just think this is the worst thing- maybe because I will never have that adorable photo with cake all over her face, or maybe its because it is an enormous milestone to turn 1, and they should have the privelege of diving into deliciousness.

I try to hold off on giving my kids refined sugar until they are 2 (although as I have more kids, 18 months is just about as far as I can get, because they see their siblings having desserts), so fruit IS their “dessert” at mealtimes.   All my kids ADORE fruit, so this is really the best thing I can make them for their birthday (and we adults LOVE this recipe!)- they just get SOO excited to see all that fruit!! 

Miriam actually ONLY wanted the fruit, and then crushed up the cookie crust in her hands and played with it.

And contrary to popular belief, I’m not missing out on the messy face photos- we have PLENTY of those from other occasions!   

The Crust:

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup soft margarine or butter
3 TBS skim milk

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 3/4 cup flour (if you have a wheat grinder, you can probably use mostly soft white berries, but I’ve never tried this with ONLY wheat flour.  If you don’t have a wheat grinder, this is definitely better with white flour).

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp baking soda

The topping:

1 block reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 Tbs sugar or honey

fresh fruit of your choice

1.  For the crust, cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy.  Add the milk and extracts.

2.  In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.  (There have been times I forgot to plan ahead and didn’t have 4-6 hours.  1 hour in the freezer usually does the trick- especially if you freeze 2 separate balls of dough).

3.  Press the dough into a 12-14 inch pizza pan*, or use a similar-sized square pan if necessary.  Press the edges of the dough slightly upward to resemble a pizza crust.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by creaming together the cream cheese, extracts, sugar or honey.

6.  Let the crust cool, and spread the topping over it.

7.  slice your favorite fruits into bite-sized pieces, and decorate the pizza with fruit in any pattern you like. 

* The last few times I’ve made this, I’ve been able to stretch the dough and make 2 pies- about 9 inches each.  I use my finger and thumb to make the edges pretty.

This is definitely the best fruit tart I’ve had because it isn’t overly sweet.  (Oftentimes the fruit is coated in an overly sweet glaze. ) Its also really great served with whipped cream.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cheerio Treats


So I grew up with my mom making Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats.  I suppose she made them because they seemed a little more nutritious with some protein in them, rather than just loaded down with butter and marshmallows.  Or maybe she just made them because they tasted better, because they really do!

Because I grew up with these, I have never really liked regular rice crispy treats.   They taste soo different! 

One time I went to make them and only had Cheerios, so I decided to make “Cheerio Treats”, and add a few chocolate chips, and boy were they yummy!  (I really have to resist the urge to eat the entire plateful.)


3 Tbs butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

5 cups cheerios

5 cups marshmallows

1.  Melt peanut butter and butter together in a large bowl for about 30 seconds.  Stir until combined.

2.  Add marshmallows and stir until they are coated with the butters and microwave for about 2 minutes (or until marshmallows are melted), and stir about halfway through.

3.  Add Cheerios and stir until well combined

4.  Press evenly into a 13x9 pan (no need to grease it because of the peanut butter)

5.  Add a few chocolate chips throughout, but not too many because they may overtake the delicious flavor of the bars (but then again I’m not a huge chocolate fan).



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pasta Caprese

America’s Test Kitchen



We often eat this as a main course with a side salad, but this is also a great side dish to take somewhere in the summer.  You could add chicken if you want, but that might take away from the simple, but delicious flavors of the dressing.  This is especially yummy when you use homegrown summer tomatoes.  Don’t even try to make it with canned tomatoes, as it will become a COMPLETELY different dish!

America’s Test Kitchen recommends cubing the cheese and freezing it for about 10 minutes, so that the cheese remains in cubes rather than melting onto the hot pasta, but in the picture above, I simply shredded the cheese in my food processor and added it as the pasta had cooled a little bit, and it still turned out great.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2-4 tsp juice from 1 lemon (I usually add a little more than this)

1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp if you really like garlic)

1 small shallot, minced fine (I usually substitute red onion since I rarely have shallots)

1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (I don’t core or seed it)

12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I just use an 8 oz. block of part skim mozz.)

1 lb short tubular or curly pasta, such as penne, fusilli, or campanelle

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tsp sugar (this is mainly needed if the tomatoes are not super sweet homegrown.)

salt and pepper

1.  Whisk the oil, 2 tsp of lemon juice, garlic, shallt, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper together in a large bowl.  Add the tomatoes and gently toss to combine;  set aside.  Do not marinate the tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

2.  While the tomatoes are marinating, place the mozzarella on a plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.  Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a stockpot.  Add 1 Tbs salt and the pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente.  Drain well.

3.  Add the pasta and mozzarella to the tomato mixture and gently toss to combine.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in the basil; season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

If it tastes a little bland, it probably just needs some extra salt!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cilantro worked this year!



Every year my cilantro kind of grows straight, tall and straggly, but this year it finally worked and looks beautiful!  Maybe its because I planted it in with the rest of my garden with all the nutrients, or maybe its because I just dumped half a packet of seeds in and DIDN’T “thin” as they tell you to do.  Regardless, I’m very excited about this!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Winter Citrus Salad

adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe
This is definitely the most loved salad in our family.  In fact, this was a huge factor in getting my son over his salad hatred
1 grapefruit and 1 orange, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 small onion or 1 shallot, chopped
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
lime or lemon juice to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried (optional, in fact I’ve never added the tarragon)
mixed greens or spinach
1. whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice and tarragon until well combined; taste, adjust seasonings and add fruits.
2.  Spoon this mixture over each salad and mix thoroughly.  Add some toasted almond slivers or walnuts if desired.
This should serve at least 4-5 adults.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

West African Peanut Soup

Adapted from Mark Bittman
My version is basically the same ingredients as Mark Bittman’s but I added cilantro at the end, and chopped everything smaller so that the kids have an easier time eating it.  Mark Bittman says to core and halve tomatoes and to slice sweet potatoes into thick slices, but I shredded them with the food processor.
This recipe is surprisingly delicious and packed with vitamins and protein!  (I even like this but don’t usually like sweet potatoes)
1 Tbsp neutral oil (grapeseed, “extra-light olive oil”, peanut oil)
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbs minced garlic
1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts chopped
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken stock
2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into thick slices
8 plum tomatoes (coarsely chopped in food processor), or canned diced tomatoes, drained of liquid
1/2 lb collard greens or kale, chopped
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1.  Chop peanuts, or crush them with the side of a knife, orpulse them in a food processor to chop roughly.
2.  Put oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat; a minute later, add onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes.  Add chicken and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, until just coloring.  Add 1/2 cup peanuts and the cayenne and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3.  Stir in the stock and the sweet potatoes, bring to a boil, and turn heat down to medium-low so the soup bubbles gently.  Stir in tomatoes and collards, then cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
4.  Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter.  Taste, adjust seasoning (you may want to add more peanut butter at this point) and serve, garnished with remaining peanuts and cilantro if desired.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

America’s Test Kitchen Fresh Tomato Salsa

This really is the best fresh salsa I’ve ever had!  (It actually tastes kind of similar to Baja Fresh salsa, which is very addicting). Of course it is best with homegrown summer tomatoes, but in the winter I still make it occasionally, using Roma tomatoes. 
I like to cut a Roma tomato from the pointiest part down to the bottom (but not all the way through, then make 3 more cuts down, making a criss cross pattern.  Then turn sideways and chop.
1 1/2 lbs firm, ripe tomatoes, cut into 3/8 inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 jalapeno chile, minced.  (Remove seeds and ribs and set aside (to be added later for extra spiciness)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt
pinch ground black pepper
2-6 tsp juice from 1-2 limes
sugar to taste (up to 1 tsp)
1.  Set a large colander in a large bowl.  Place the tomatoes in the colander and let them drain for 30 minutes.  As the tomatoes drain, layer the jalapeno, onion, garlic, and cilantro on top.  Shake the colander to drain off the excess tomato juice.  Discard the juice.  Add the salt, pepper, and 2 tsp of the lime juice; toss to combine.  Taste and add the minced jalapeno ribs and seeds, sugar, and additional lime juice to taste.
2.  Transfer the contents of the colander to the now-empty bowl.  Add the salt, pepper, and 2 tsp of the lime juice; toss to combine.  Taste and add the minced jalapeno ribs and seeds a little bit at a time, sugar, and additional lime juice to taste.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Greek chicken and rice pie

I’ve been trying to clear out my freezer and came across some phyllo dough.  I began to conjure up something yummy to make for dinner.

In the fridge I had some leftover chicken (2 pieces already cooked), spinach, feta cheese, tomatoes, lemon, and kalamata olives.  I have a yummy lemon rice recipe, so I thought if I made that earlier in the day, all I would have to do is throw the rest of this together later that night. 

Here is what I came up with (although I kind of just did it and didn’t measure, so who knows if I’ll ever be able to do it exactly the same again):

This misto spray bottle is awesome!  I fill it with "extra light" olive oil and spray each layer of phyllo dough instead of brushing with oil or butter.  With the spray, you end up with less fat, but it still tastes great!  (what I like about phyllo dough is the crispy layers, and you really can achieve this texture by just a light spray of oil.) 
1/4 roll of phyllo dough*
2 chicken breasts, fully cooked and chopped
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1 1/2 cups chopped spinach
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 red onion, chopped
handful of oregano leaves, chopped
4 cups lemon rice (or somewhere around there- I didn’t measure the rice)
*I cut about 1/4 of a long roll of phyllo dough all the way through and then freeze the rest for later use.  This way, I’m not defrosting the whole thing and freezing over and over again, because I never use the whole roll in one sitting.
1.  layer phyllo dough, about 5 sheets thick, spraying or brushing each layer with oil or butter.
2.  Mix chicken, onions, spinach and oregano together with lemon rice.  Pour this mixture onto the first layers of phyllo dough.
3.  Top with some toasted almonds, feta cheese and pour some scrambled eggs evenly over top  (about 3) to hold the whole mixture together.
4.  layer the rest of the phyllo sheets, spraying each with oil.
bake at 385 for about 30 minutes (I really don’t remember exactly how long, so just watch it)

this was very delicious with the Greek dressing leftover from my salad.  In fact, you could actually pour a little dressing on the plate for each serving.  Everyone loved this!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lemon brown rice


Lemon brown rice:

2 small onions finely chopped

1 tbs olive oil

2 1/2 cups brown rice

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 cups water

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

3/4 tsp salt

grated parmesan to taste

1/4 cup fresh parsley

1/4 cup fresh basil

1.  cook onion and salt for about 5 minutes

2.  add broth, water and lemon juice

bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for about 35 minutes.  add cheese and seasonings and mix well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

I have been making this classic recipe for a long time, but last night was the first night that I actually ate the entire thing.  I was always turned off by the idea of having such large pieces of pepper in each bite because I have always been a "perfect bite" kinda girl - I like just the right ratio of one food to another so that one doesn't overpower the other.

I’ve always liked peppers chopped up in things, but I’ve never been one to eat peppers by themselves, so usually I would just eat the stuffing without the peppers when I’ve made this in the past.
I really didn’t think my kids would like these either with the peppers, but believe it or not everyone loved them!  I think because the peppers were perfectly cooked, and the flavors blended so well together. 

In the picture above, I have cut the peppers in half and filled them, but traditionally, you should leave the peppers whole and just cut out the stem and seeds from the top. 

Stuffed Pepper Cups
1.  Cut off tops of 6 medium green peppers;  remove seeds and membrane.  Precook green pepper cups in boiling salted water about 5 minutes; drain. (For crisp peppers, omit precooking.)  Sprinkle inside of cups generously with salt.
2.  Cook 1 lb ground beef and 1/3 cup chopped onion till meat is lightly browned.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and dash pepper.  Add one 1 lb can tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice, and 1 tsp worcestershire sauce.  Cover and simmer till rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir in 4 oz sharp process American cheese, shredded (1 cup).  Stuff peppers;  Stand upright in 10x6x1 1/2 in baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Serves 6.

**In the past, I have doubled all the ingredients except the meat to stretch this meal further. 
I also used about 1 TBS worcestershire sauce instead of 1 tsp
I used 2 slices of American cheese, and about 1 oz of cheddar and mixed it all together
If you do it like me with the peppers cut in half, then only bake for about 15-20 minutes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Greek Salad Dressing

America’s Test Kitchen – (Although I must say that my homemade vinaigrette recipe is very similar to this one!)
The following is their recipe x 4, because I knew we would go through it very quickly!
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbs juice from 1 lemon
3 Tbs minced fresh oregano leaves
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups olive oil
wisk ingredients in a large bowl until combined.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken

Of course this was delicious because it came from America’s Test Kitchen!
It actually reminded me a little bit of my Pad Thai recipe
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 piece (1-inch) fresh ginger, grated or minced (about 1 Tbs)
5 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs rice vinegar (I didn’t have any so I used apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp hot sauce
2 Tbs lightly packed light brown sugar
Hot water
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 lbs) trimmed of excess fat
1 Tbs salt
1 lb chinese egg noodles or 12 ounces dried spaghetti
2 Tbs Asian sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater (about 2/3 cup) – I used my food processor’s shredding disc

1.  Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Reserve 1 Tbs sesame seeds in a small bowl.  In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining 3 Tbs sesame seeds, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds.  With the machine running, add hot water 1 Tbs at a time until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 Tbs; set the mixture aside (it can be left in the blender jar or food processor workbowl).

2.  Bring 6 qts water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler element; heat the broiler.  Spray the broiler pan top with vegetable cooking spray; place the chicken breasts ion top and broil the chicken until lightly browned, 4 to 8 minutes.  Using tongs, flip the chicken over and continue to broil until the thickest part is no longer pink when cut into and registers about 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.  Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.*

Add the salt and noodles to the boiling water; boil the noodles until tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 10 minutes for dried.  Drain, then rinse with cold running tap water until cool to the touch; drain again.  In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the sesame oil until evenly coated.  Add the shredded chicken, scallions, carrot, and sauce; toss to combine.  Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each bowl with a portion of reserved sesame seeds, and serve.

*I simply shredded the chicken with the food processor- so much easier than with a fork!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chickpea salad

winter 2009-2010 295

from cooking pleasures magazine

This is a great summery side dish to take to parties.  We’ve even had it as a dinner (along with some filling whole grain bread and fruit)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs lemon juice

1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

2 small garlic cloves, pressed

2 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves, minced

3 cups baby spinach leaves

4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small red pepper, diced

1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves

sea salt, white pepper, and paprika to taste


1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, and rosemary.  Let stand for 15 minutes to blend flavors.

2.  Meanwhile, stack spinach leaves on top of one another, and cut crosswise with a sharp knife into very thin, confetti-like strips (or chop it nice and fine if you want kids to eat it).

3.  In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a full boil.  Add chickpeas and red pepper, and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain, and remove from heat.

4.  Add spinach confetti and basil to the chickpeas and red pepper, and toss until spinach is wilted.

5.  Add olive oil mixture, toss, and season with white pepper and sea salt.  Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with paprika.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lunch quesadillas


  When you have kids, it is easy to get stuck in a rut with lunches- always making pbj or macaroni and cheese, or grilled cheese.

I’m not opposed to this by any means, because dinner is usually our meal where I get them to try new things.  I’m ok with doing something more “kid-friendly” for lunch, but at the same time, it sometimes gets a little boring.

When I don’t know what to have for lunch, a quesadilla is usually my standby because you can pretty much throw anything in it and it tastes great!

Today’s was extra delicious because the cherry tomatoes I had from Aldi were perfectly ripe (at least for this time of year).

I put cheddar cheese on 1 half and American on the other half, along with chopped spinach and tomatoes.  Red onions or chicken would have been a great addition to this as well.

 I cook these over medium heat, until nice and crispy, and then fold it in half.
Where I used to work, they would brush a little olive oil on top and sprinkle a little salt, pepper and garlic on the quesadilla.  This makes it extra yummy!  The following picture is one I made for dinner once with chicken, red peppers, onions, spinach and tomatoes.  There is also a little parmesan sprinkled on top.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Roasted yellow peppers

It is pretty hard for me to pass up a good deal, so when the produce guy at the flea market offered me all of these for $5.00 (about 15 yellow peppers), I couldn’t resist.

Actually, after I accepted the offer, I was upset with myself for not offering him $3.00 because it was towards the end of the morning, and he was ready to finish up, so I’m pretty sure he would have taken that offer. 

I really had no idea what I was gonna do with all of these, but this is how I shop- I only buy things that are a great price, and then I figure out what to do with it later.

I took about 4 of the peppers and chopped them up and froze in 2 separate bags to use next time I make Thai Chicken Soup.

With the rest, I figured I would try roasting them.

When I worked at an Italian restaurant, I realized how simple it was to roast peppers, but I had only ever roasted red peppers, so the question remained, can I roast YELLOW peppers? 

I figured the flavor should be similar to that of red peppers, but that remains to be seen.
First I washed all the peppers in a bowl of soap and water, then put them on the grill (technically I believe you are supposed to slowly roast them in the oven for the best flavor, but I love to grill them when it’s too hot out to use an oven, and they also cook much faster this way).
I usually put the grill cover down, but be sure the heat is turned down to a medium low, and set the timer for about 5 minutes because those hot spots on the grill with char them to a crisp!
You want the skin of the peppers to get nice and black, but you don’t want the whole pepper charred.
Turn them about every 5 minutes, and they should end up looking like this

I then put them in a 13X9 casserole dish and cover with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes while they cool.
Once they are cool, peel the skin off (if they are roasted properly, the skin should slide right off) and remove seeds. 

Now they should look like this.
I froze these to use in one of my favorite recipes- chicken-penne salad with green beans.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chicken-penne Salad with Green Beans

From Cooking Light 

To quickly prepare the beans in this recipe, trim just the stem ends, leaving the tapered blossom ends intact.  Line up 5 or 6 beans at a time and cut them roughly the same length as the pasta.  You can have an entire meal ready in about 35 minutes.

This is one of my favorite quick and easy dinners!

2 cups uncooked penne
2 cups (1 inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 lb)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 (7 oz) bottle roasted red bell peppers drained and chopped*
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs red wine vinegar**
1 Tbs cold water
1/2 tsp salt**
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1.  Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes.  Add green beans; cook 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.
2.  Combine pasta mixture, chicken, onion, basil, parsley, and bell pepper in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine.
3.  Combine oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat.
* or roasted yellow peppers
**I usually add extra, to taste

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

squash patties

                                What to do with all those summer squash? . . . Squash patties!!
                                       Here is my French Grandmother's recipe.
                           You are supposed to score the squash and dice it very fine, like this
but that takes lots of time when you're making a huge batch., so today I tried something different.
I cut the squash into quarters lengthwise, and then put it into the shredding disc of my food processor, and it turned out like this.  My mom would not approve of doing it this way, and I'll admit, hers are always better than mine, but this is SOO much faster when feeding a family of 7!

Then you drain the water from it by adding 1.5 tsp salt and stirring the squash while in a colander set over a bowl.

This is how much water I got out of my 4 1/2 zucchinis.

next, add flour (about 5 TBS)

Then add the basil and 2 scrambled eggs and some pepper
Fry them in oil on a griddle on high heat, about 3 minutes on each side (or until nice and brown).

combine 4-5 medium zucchinis and 1 1/2 tsp salt and let it sit in a colander for about 30 minutes to drain excess water.
add 5 TBS flour
add 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil and pepper
add 2 eggs

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lentil Tacos


These are quick, easy and delicious!
1 cup lentils
8 oz extra sharp cheese (“seriously sharp” cabot is my favorite)
flour tortillas
tamari or soy sauce
salsa verde *
1.  Bring lentils to a boil (in about 4 cups of water).  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
2.  Drain the water out, then add about 2 tbs tamari to the lentils and let sit for a few minutes.
3.  Lightly butter 1 side of the tortillas and put buttered side on a griddle. 
4.  Sprinkle 1/2 the tortilla with cheese.  Add two scoops of lentils on top of the cheese and spread evenly over 1/2 of  the tortilla.  Sprinkle the lentils with a little more cheese, then fold the other half of the tortilla over and grill until crispy.
5.  Serve with salsa Verde *

*Green salsa, made with tomatillos instead of tomatoes, is essential to this meal!  Ortega’s is the best, but its very difficult to find.   I just tried it with Goya salsa verde and the flavor was great, but a little too spicy for me.
Tomato soup goes great with this!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sausage and Lentil soup

07-bring to boil and simmer

My husband LOVES Carraba's Sausage and Lentil soup, and I was trying to duplicate it.  I came across this Rachael Ray’s recipe for “Hungarian Stoup”, and it looked like it could be a winner- and it was!


2 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 lbs hot Italian sausage (I ‘ve used turkey sausage the last couple times I’ve made it and it turns out great!
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 portabella mushrooms (I’ve made it with or without this)
1 cup carrots chopped or shredded
1 cup lentils
1 large potato chopped (I’ve made it without this, and my hubby liked it even better)
salt, pepper, bay leaf
2 tsp smoked paprika *
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dry)
1 14 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes (hunts makes these)
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups kale, chopped
*make this yourself by combining 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 3/4 tsp paprika and pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Heat oil, brown and crumble sausage (removing casing first if using real sausage)
2. add garlic, onion, mushrooms and cook for a few minutes
3. add everything else, EXCEPT the kale, cover and boil for 15 minutes.
4. Add kale and let stand 5 more minutes.  Take rosemary stems out.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Creamless Creamy Potato Soup

The trick to making this soup creamy is to mash most of the potatoes before adding to the rest of the soup.  Sometimes I will mix a little cornstarch with water and add to the soup at the end if it doesn't seem thick enough.

Every time I make this soup, people ask for the recipe.

A guilt-free creamy potato soup is hard to find!

3 Tbs butter
1 medium carrot, diced or chopped
1/4 cup onion
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbs flour
1 qt 1% or 2% milk*
1/2 chicken boullion cube (depending on what kind you use)
6 medium potatoes, peeled diced and cooked in salted water
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste

1. Peel potatoes (although if I'm using red potatoes I like to leave some of the skin on for extra nutrients and texture) and cut into quarters.  Boil in salted water for about 10 minutes, or until fork-tender.

2.  Meanwhile, melt butter in a large dutch oven or soup pot.  Add carrot and onion and cook on low heat until tender (about 10 minutes) add garlic and cook for another minute.

3. Stir in flour

4.  Gradually stir in milk and boullion cube.  Cook over low heat while you get the potatoes drained and ready to go.

5.  Drain the potatoes and mash MOST of them, but leave 1 to dice, so you can have some chunkier potatoes in your soup too.

6.  Whisk the mashed potatoes into the soup, then add the diced.

7. stir in the cheese, parsley and seasonings.

8. At medium-low heat, gradually bring the soup CLOSE to a boil, but don't boil, or else the texture of the soup will change.  It is okay to eat it like this if you accidentally boil it, (as I have done many times), but the texture is much creamier and more delicious when you cook it on a lower heat.

*if you use 1% milk, you will probably want to add a cornstarch/water mixture to thicken it up a bit.  However, after refrigerating it, this soup will be much thicker the next day even without cornstarch

**for extra yummy soup, top with cheddar cheese and chives or scallions

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dhal Curry


Note: I've labeled this dinner "quick and easy", but you do have to plan ahead a little to include simmering time.  It's not nearly as quick as it is easy.
My kids have grown accustomed to lentils.  Some of them love lentils, while one of them used to hate them, but doesn’t mind them so much any more.  I make sausage and lentil soup, sweet and sour lentils, lentil tacos, lentils with onions, so they have gotten used to eating this kind of stuff. 
My husband loves Indian food, and this is one of his favorite lentil dishes, from Extending the Table.  It is very easy to make, but you have to plan ahead, because it simmers for about 35 minutes, then you remove the lid to let it thicken for over an hour, stirring occasionally until it is the consistency of refried beans (though sometimes we don’t have enough time to let it get to this consistency but it still tastes fine.)
I usually serve this with a salad and/or creamless cream of tomato soup.
Fry in 2 T. oil until golden brown:
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 tsp ginger root, finely grated (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1 cup dried lentils or split peas
2 1/2 cups hot water
1 tsp salt or to taste
Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
Remove cover and simmer over very low heat, stirring frequently, about 1 hour, until lentils are mushy and thick, about the consistency of refried beans.  Garnish with onions, thinly sliced and browned, or a squeeze of lemon.  Serve with rice.

Delicious Indian dinner with mango Lassi for dessert!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mango Lassi

from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking
1 1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup chopped, ripe mango
3 Tbs sugar or to taste (I used 1 1/2 and it was great!)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
8 ice cubes

I just bought a whole box of mangoes last week, so I figured I ought to finally learn how to properly cut a mango.  Here is the best instructional video I found if you are wondering how to cut a mango!

All Natural Fruit and Veggie Smoothie


 This is one of our new favorite times of the day ever since we got our Ninja blender.

This is an all-natural sugar-free smoothie, and you would never know there are veggies in it.

I wait for bananas to get nice and ripe, peel them and cut them in half and then freeze them.

$5.00 for ALL of these this week!!
I have been getting strawberries at the local flea market for $5.00-$15.00/flat (8-12 boxes of strawberries), depending on the week!!! I used to think Aldi had a good price, but now I’ve been spoiled by the flea market. 
I wash them and remove the stems, leaving them on a cooling rack to dry.  Then I freeze them for smoothies!

Here is my general smoothie recipe (I never actually measure the ingredients, so this is a rough estimate):

4-5 heaping scoops of yogurt (I use a soup spoon)
2 scoops frozen juice concentrate (lately we have been using Welch’s grape juice, but any juice is fine)
handful of kale

about 1/2 cup of water
1/2 frozen banana
1 peeled carrot
handful frozen fruit* (mixed berries, strawberries, grapes, or whatever you have on hand)

*I use frozen fruit so that it makes the smoothie nice and icy without watering it down with ice.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Healthy apple-berry crisp (almost NO sugar added!)

Apple crisp has always been one of my favorite desserts, especially my mom’s recipe.  However the first time I made it and saw how much butter and sugar was in it was also one of the last times I’ve made it! 

Baked apples, in my opinion, are so much tastier than fresh and simply cooking them without ANY other ingredients makes them taste like a dessert because they are as sweet as can be.  It is hard for me to justify adding so much butter and sugar to apples when they are naturally delicious (although I will admit that butter and sugar makes it irresistible). 

I (and the rest of my family) LOVE this creation, but it is definitely not going to taste like your traditional apple crisp.  Once you get used to eating things with less sugar and fat, things like this become a delectable treat!

The berries added to the apples make this more moist and syrupy, without the extra sugar and butter.

3-4 apples, peeled and sliced
2 cups frozen mixed berries
2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup mixture of flour and oats (last time I just used fresh ground oats)
1.  sprinkle fruit with 1 tsp cinnamon (and a little sugar if you want a little extra sugar) and pour into pie dish
2.  add walnuts
3.  chop butter into small pieces and mash with flour, oats and brown sugar and sprinkle on top of fruit
4. bake at 375 for about 35 minutes (or until fruit is soft)
5.  Top with whipped cream (this is very important since there is hardly any sugar in this dessert, the whipped cream or cool whip really makes it yummy!)