Monday, October 25, 2010

Pizza Night


One of Ts favorite foods is pizza.  I think most guys love pizza! 
For my family, pizza was an occasional treat.  My mom would make us homemade pizza on Thursday nights.  I'm like my mon in that I don enjoy making dough.  She purchased bread dough from the local bakery and turn it into pizza dough.  The toppings were limited, onions, mushroom, cheese and ground beef, but it was still a special treat.
My college roommates and I ate a lot pizza.  Gumby's pizza was cheap and near campus.  If we ordered two pizzas we ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was all gone.  Needless to say, for me pizza and ramen noodles are in the same category.  When I make pizza at home, I try to make a light version, with tons of veggies, and real mozzarella cheese.  Here is quick pizza recipe using store bought dough:


Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) piece of purchased or homemade pizza dough, the canned kind is fine
  • 1/3 cup (lightly packed) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) shredded Fontina cheese
  • 2 ounces sun dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1/2 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 springs thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Position 1 oven rack in the center and preheat to 450 degrees F. 

Roll out pizza dough into a rectangle baking sheet.  Spread olive oil and dot with Thyme.


Sprinkle the mozzarella and Fontina cheeses over the pizza. Sprinkle the tomatoes, onions and pancetta over the cheese.



Bake the pizza until the crust is crisp and brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted on top, about 15 minutes. Cut the pizzas crosswise into rectangular slices, sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta


 
The question I hear the most often is what do you prepare at home after a long day of cooking for others.  The answer is...whatever is quick and easy!  I've said it before, but I find it quiet convenient to keep my pantry/staples stocked so that I don't have to run to the grocery store every time I want to prepare a meal.  

One of my favorite staples is jarred roasted red peppers.  This bright colored pepper does not just add an interesting variety to your dishes, but come packed with several essential nutrients like vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, betacarotene and folic acid.   Roasted Red Peppers are great for making sauces, dressings or even to perk up a traditional Hummus recipe.

A few nights ago, I made this quick dish and even T seemed to like it.

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

1   jar  roasted red pepper -- drained
½   block light cream cheese -- softened
1/2 cup chicken broth
2   cloves garlic
1/2  teaspoon  ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1  pounds chicken tenders, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 (10 oz) package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb. fettuccine
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup of basil, shredded (optional)
1/4 toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Season Chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder.  In large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Mean while, process red peppers and next 4 ingredients in a blender. Pour pepper mixture over chicken and cook for 3 minutes.  Stir in spinach and cooked pasta – heat through for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle toasted almonds and basil before serving.



Did you know that eating red peppers actually helps in losing weight? Red peppers contain substances that are believed to increase body’s heat production and oxygen consumption after eating that assists in burning calories and losing weight.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pot Stickers



Traditional pot stickers are basically a (round or square) wonton-type wrapper filled with a bit of stuffing and  folded into a half-moon shape, then steam-fried.  They are served as appetizers in most Asian restaurants and a few chains.  I love them so much that I have introduced all my clients to them.  They are now one of my most requested items.  In fact, one customer who claims not to like Asian food or spicy meals devoured an entire plateful and used the spicy peanut sauce as a dressing for his salad.

I find that most restaurant pot stickers are too heavy and greasy.  Making your own healthy version at home is quiet easy. The best part is that they freeze well so you can have healthy pot stickers whenever the craving strikes.

Earlier this week I made a batch for dinner and the rest are waiting for us in the freezer. I made these dumplings from leftover veggies I had in my crisper.  I had pre-shredded cabbage (from a cole-slaw recipe that I tested a while back), a couple of unhealthy looking scallions, a knob of ginger, wonton wrappers left over from "Nutella Wontons" that T loves.  I realized that it's not exactly a romantic way to bring a recipe together, but I'm a firm believer that the best meals are made from ingredients you already have. 

Ginger Chicken Wontons

Ingredients

3/4 cup green cabbage, shredded - you can use bagged angel hair cabbage or coleslaw mix
3-4 scallions, chopped
2  tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1  tablespoon  low-sodium soy sauce
3  teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
2  teaspoons sesame oil
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2  pound ground chicken (or pork)
Dash of chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
24  wonton wrappers
2  tablespoons  cornstarch
1  tablespoon canola or grape seed oil, divided
1  cup  water, divided

Method

In a medium bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients.


 Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to prevent drying), spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the mixture into center of each wrapper.



 Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite corners to center, pinching points to seal.


Bring remaining 2 corners to center, pinching points to seal.



Pinch 4 edges together to seal. Place pot stickers on a large baking sheet or cutting board sprinkled with cornstarch.



Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 pot stickers to pan; cook 2 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Slowly add 1/2 cup water to pan; cover and cook 4 minutes. Uncover and cook 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  If you are cooking the entire batch, then you will need to repeat this step to cook the remaining pot stickers.


There are two basic dipping sauces that I use for these stickers.  I prefer the spicy one, but the other is great if you are serving a large crowd with varied tastes.

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/4  cup water
1/4  cup peanut butter
2  tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (creamy or crunchy)
1/2  tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2  tablespoons chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
1/2  teaspoon  sugar

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, place all you ingredients and shake vigorously.  Pour into a small bowl.  Garnish with chopped green onions, if desired.

 Sesame Soy Dipping Sauce
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions (white and tender green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, oil, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and scallions, whisk to blend. This sauce can be made ahead of time.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.  Stir in the sesame seeds before serving.

**Cooking Tip: To freeze pot stickers- place them on a large baking sheet or cutting board sprinkled with cornstarch.  Place the entire sheet into the freezer so the pot stickers freeze individually.  After an hour or so you can place them in a large zip top bag and freeze up to three months.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Red Quinoa Salad

Quinoa (keen-wa) has more hunger-taming protein and fiber and less carbs than most other whole grains. Swap it for white rice and other refined grains. Whether you're trying quinoa for the first time or just trying a new recipe this mixture of quinoa, apples, onion and sausage will make this dish a new favorite.  I'm on always searching for a salad recipe that keeps well in the fridge for a day or two.  It's easier to eat right when you stock your fridge with good for you snacks.


Here is my recipe for Sweet Apple Quinoa:

12 oz Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage (Alfresco or your favorite chicken sausage)
2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 cup Inca Red Quinoa, dry (you can use any quinoa)
3 small beets, cooked & quartered (or canned)
1 tsp orange peel, grated
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup orange or red pepper, chopped
1 large granny smith apple, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped (reserve leaves for garnish)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup tangerine pomegranate juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp local honey
4 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper, ground
2 navel oranges, segmented or you can use 1 can of mandarin oranges

Method:

Using a medium skillet coated with pan spray, brown the chicken sausages over medium high heat.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan, add the Inca Red Quinoa and cook slightly according to package instructions. Strain and chill with cold water, drain well. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and toss in the beets, apples, orange peel, red onion, pepper and fresh mint.
 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, pomegranate juice, olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad mixture and mix well.
 
Slice the browned sweet apple chicken sausage ¼” on the diagonal, and toss with the quinoa salad. Chill or serve immediately
 
Arrange with the orange slices and garnish with fresh mint.

*When using canned beets, be sure to drain well. When using fresh beets cook until tender, drain, chill with cold water and peel. Both are good options, but fresh beets will have less sodium than the canned version.

** Beats can be easily cooked in the microwave.  Wash the beets and trim the ends off before cooking. Place trimmed beets in a microwave safe pan and add a little water for steam. Cook the beets with a little water for 8 to 15 minutes.





 


Friday, October 8, 2010

The chickpea is neither a chick nor a pea. Discuss.

One of my favorite Mike Myers skits on SNL - Coffee Talk with Linda Richman.  Hmmm...possibly showing my age here.

Chickpeas are one of my favorite pantry staples.  I keep both canned and dried chickpeas on hand for quick go to meals.  Chickpeas are very close to a perfect food item. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are a low fat, high fiber, high protein snack. They are also low in sodium if you make them yourself (the canned chick peas may have some added salt, but I've seen some low sodium varieties lately). They are also a good source of calcium.

Last night I was testing a dried fava bean recipe that um...turned out less than perfect.  After a few choice words and calming down by T, I moved on to making "something" else.  I highly dislike wasting food and good ingredients at that, but that's another blog.    Lately, I've been  good about using what I have in my pantry before going to the store to stock up -- I looked around knowing ingredients were scarce.  After a few glances at my pantry I found a can of organic chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and half pound of Orzo pasta.  In my veggie bin I had garlic, onions, cilantro, ginger.  I decided on making quick and easy Indian Chickpea dishes.  On second though, its not actually a recipe; its more aptly be described as a guideline, as there is a lot of room for personal experimentation. I really like to experiment with food, be my guest to do the same.

Here is an excellent traditional recipe created by my sister's favorite YouTube Channel/ Cook Manjula:



Huge Thank you to Manjula for allowing me to link to her great video.

As you can see from the video the original recipe is easy to make and follow.  There are many versions of this recipe if you search online.  Here was last night's version:

Chana Masala - Spicy Chickpea
Total Time: 15 minutes
EASY

Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas
1 can chopped tomatoes or sauce if you prefer
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small piece of gingers (1 inch) - grated, chopped, jarred (whatever is easiest for you)
2 cloves garlic - roughly chopped
1 large onion chopped
1 tablespoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes - I used a tablespoon worth - adjust to your taste
1 teaspoon Turmeric 
1 lime cut into wedges
bunch of cilantro (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized skillet - on medium high.  Add chili flakes, garlic, onions, ginger and spices.  Saute until onions are soft. Drain and rinse chickpeas.  Add chickpeas, tomatoes, and cook for 5-10 minutes.

While the Chana Masala is cooking, bring two quarts of water and 1 large pinch of salt to a boil.  Dump in 1/4 package of Orzo and cook for 6-8 minutes.  Drain and toss with lime juice and cilantro.

Serve the Chana Masala with the Cilantro lime orzo.  Traditionally, this is served with steamed white basmati rice or bread.

Please excuse the photo as it was taken with my Blackberry Camera!

 Here is a quick and easy recipe for Garam Masala:


Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander 
2 tablespoons ground cardamom
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon saffron (optional)

Instructions:
Transfer the mixture to an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Garam Masala keeps for 3 months.

Yield: Makes about 1/2 cup

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pantry Leftovers

I was joking with T yesterday about how you could really tell we were from Florida.  After two weeks of cool weather (hmm...60s) we've already pulled out jackets and long pants while most of our neighbors are still in shorts and T-shirts.  I find myself fighting the cat for the sunny spots in the house - I think he is winning.


Soup and stews will soon become our winter time staples.  I like my soups on the thicker side because I find them hardy and more filling.  I do this by adding veggies (the greener the better), and whole grains.  Bulking up on high fiber keeps you fuller longer.

I read an interesting article on AP News by Jim Romanoff recently that echoed the same sentiment:
"Low-fat soups, especially varieties that are loaded with nutrient-rich vegetables, are an excellent way to go if you’re looking to lose fat. They are both filling and low in calories.  Vegetables, besides being loaded with vitamins and minerals, primarily consist of water and fiber, which help to curb hunger.
And if you add grains, such as rice or whole-wheat pasta, you get lots of soluble dietary fiber, which have been shown to be appetite-satisfying, while also helping the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Low-fat proteins, such as white-meat chicken and turkey, tofu, low-fat cheese and yogurt, also help to fill you up. Beans and other legumes, such as lentils, are an excellent source of both rib-sticking protein and fiber. "

I have been working on cleaning out my pantry and cooking what I have on hand.  If you know me, you know that I don't like to waste food at all.  If I have a small amount of grain or dried beans - I save it to incorporate into something.  I'm not sure if it was mom who trained me not to waste or if it was living in a war torn country that naturally trained you to hang on to everything.   I found that I had 1/4 cup of whole wheat egg noodles, 3 tablespoons of pearl/Israeli couscous lurking in my cupboards.  In my fridge, I had a quarter of a bell pepper, a cup of arugula, a few sprigs thyme, two carrots, one rib of celery, onions, garlic and one chicken breast.  Since I cleaned out my fridge for this soup I called it "Leftover Soup" for lack of creativity.  Do you have any suggestions on what this soup should be called?  email me and let me know.

Left Over Soup

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 cups greens such as (spinach, arugula, or swiss chard)
1 small bell pepper (any color)
1 rib celery chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 small chicken breast (uncooked), chopped - feel free to use pork, beef or whatever you have on hand
1/4 cup whole wheat noodles (again use what you have on hand)
3 tablespoons pearl couscous
2 sprigs Thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 carton or 32 oz. stock - veggie, chicken, turkey
1 can beans (your choice - I used navy beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of chili flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Romano Cheese and basil - for garnish (optional)

Method:

Heat a medium sized stock pot on medium heat.  Add olive oil - allow to heat for 30 seconds.  Toss in garlic, onions and chili flakes if using- cook for a minute to allow the garlic to flavor the oil.  Add the remaining veggies and thyme.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the veggies have softened.  Add the stock and simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Toss in chicken pieces, couscous, noodles, beans (rinsed and drained please).  Cook on low for 15-20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, top with cheese and basil.  Enjoy!



*Cooks TIP* this soup yields 4 healthy portions.  To jazz up your soup the next day - add a dollop of pesto or sun dried tomatoes and garlic paste.

*Eliminate the chicken and substitute with small dices of tofu or portobello mushrooms.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Time for Some Chai

October is my favorite time of the year, the weather is finally cooling off, College Football, Halloween is around the corner and of course, my birthday!
It’s time to break out the recipe for my favorite Chai tea.  Chai, pronounced with a long "i" as in the word tie, is the actual word for tea in many countries.  Chai tea is a rich and complex beverage that has been savored for centuries in many parts of the world, especially India. The spices vary from recipe to recipe, but usually consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and ginger. Chai tea is traditionally consumed hot and sweet. The sweetness is needed to bring out the full flavors of the spices.   Here is a simple recipe to make chai yourself at home. This is what you will need:
1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/2 inch stick of cinnamon
8 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1/4 inch fresh ginger root (sliced thin)
2/3 cup of milk
6 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons of Darjeeling Tea leaves
Place water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger in a pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and lower heat to low setting and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add milk and sugar and again bring to simmer.  Next, add the tea leaves, remove from heat and cover.  Let steep for 3 minutes and strain. Enjoy!