Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Cream" of Mushroom Soup with Rosemary and Thyme

In the past two weeks, I've made this soup twice!  Along with a bunch of other soups- I think we're going through 3 batches weekly.  It's soup season, and I'm making the most of it.  Soup is such a great way to warm and fill yourself up with nutritious foods, without too many calories.  Unless you add a bunch of oil or cream, but we're not doing that here!

No cream/milk and just a little oil or butter to get things started.  The rest is just pure nutritious goodness and flavor.

I used my own wild picked mushrooms that we dried during the summer, but you can use whatever is handy at the grocery store.  There is usually porcini or a mixed bag of wild dried mushrooms, found right next to the regular mushrooms.  If you don't have quite the 3/4 of a cup, that's fine- just use more regular mushrooms to help make up for it.

If you're not a fan of thyme or rosemary, leave them out.  When I made the first batch of this soup a couple weeks ago, I didn't use them and it still tasted great.  No need to substitute anything else unless you want to.

What you Need:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 large onion, sliced
~half bulb of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
1-2 large sprigs EACH thyme and rosemary
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup dried wild mushrooms
1/4 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth
salt and pepper
cooked and crumbled bacon (optional, for garnish)


Start by soaking the dried mushrooms.  I just go ahead and put them in the broth for this.  That way, you get to use the flavor that goes into the broth while soaking.  Put the mushrooms in a bowl or a 2 cup measuring cup, and fill with broth.  Let soak for at least 20 minutes.

While the dried mushrooms are soaking, heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat in a large pot.  Add the sliced onion, garlic, and herbs (still on their stems).  Saute for about 15 minutes, or until they begin to lightly brown.  Add the sliced mushrooms and continue sauteing for another 10 minutes.  Keep the heat on medium and stay patient- cooking them a little lower and slower will develop nice flavor. Deglaze the pan with the red wine by pouring it in, and using a spatula to stir up anything that started to stick to the bottom.

Add the now not-dry mushrooms, broth they were soaking in, and the rest of the broth. Turn up heat to bring to a boil, and then turn back to medium to reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Take off heat.  Pick out the herbs (or whatever is left on the stems) with a spoon.  If you want to have some chunks left in your soup, spoon out a couple large ladles of onion and mushrooms and reserve.  Otherwise, puree the whole batch using an immersion blender or regular blender.  If you use a regular blender, I recommend waiting about 10 minutes to let it cool a bit before transferring to the blender.  After pureeing, add the reserved mushrooms/onions back in (if you reserved).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with bacon, if desired.  Enjoy!

Simply Delicious Butternut Squash Soup

This isn't a particularly fancy recipe.  It's quite basic, but can be spiced up to suite your menu or mood. The wonderful thing about butternut squash soup is that you don't really need to do much to make it taste good.  Microwave the squash, add liquid and a little salty flavor, and puree.  With just that, it'll taste decent.  Now, if you want to take it up a notch, adding a few extra vegetables and roasting the squash will lend more depth of flavor.  And that's what this recipe has you do, while still coming together pretty quickly and without any fancy ingredients.

If this recipe seems like more work than you feel like on a particular night, microwave the whole squash (make sure to poke holes!!) and omit all extra veggies and the apple except the onion.  I've made it this way and it's still quite tasty.

This will make a good sized pot of soup... I think I got about 8 servings.  It's perfect reheated for lunch the next few days, and it also freezes well.

If you want to make it a little richer, you can add Greek yogurt, milk, or coconut milk at the end.  Coconut milk goes particularly well if you are using the curry powder for seasoning.

What you need:

1 medium/large butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
Olive oil, salt, and pepper

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 apple, cored and sliced/chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Seasoning options:

1) 2-3 teaspoons curry powder (or possibly more if you have a mild curry powder)

2) 1-2 chipolte peppers in adobe sauce, added after apple and before broth.
2 teaspoons cumin

Start by roasting the squash.  This can be done ahead of time if you want.  Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on the cut sides of the squash.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place cut sides down on a baking sheet.  Roast for about an hour, or until tender.  Remove from oven to let cool enough to handle.  After it has sufficiently cooled, remove skin and cut into large chunks.

Heat a large pot over medium-high.  Add olive oil.  Add the onion, celery, and carrots.  Saute for 5-6 minutes, or until they begin to get a little color.  Add apple.  Saute for a couple more minutes.  Add cooked butternut squash and stir.  Add broth and your choice of the above seasonings.  Once it has come to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 10-30 minutes.  30 will allow more flavor-melding, but 10 is sufficient, so do what you have time for.

Turn off the heat.  If you an immersion blender- awesome!  Just puree up that soup until smooth.  If not, use a blender.  Let the soup cool a little first (maybe wait 10 minutes), and then transfer in batches to your blender.  Blend each batch until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

And that's it!  If it's a little too thick for you taste, thin with water, broth, or milk.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Arugula Salad with Roasted Harvest Vegetables, Goat Cheese, and Pepitas

As soon as the cooler weather hit, I was all over the winter squash selection.  Butternut squash soup and spaghetti squash with meat and veggie sauce came first, which put roasted winter squash on my to do next list.  And since I was contributing it to a dinner party, I figured I'd jazz things up a bit.  So I roasted the squash along with beets and rutabaga, and then used these as topping for a salad.  Definitely had better presentation than a simple pan of roasted squash, and the flavor was more festive too!

You can use a different mix of vegetables if you like.  Butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, or sweet potato would all work.  I liked the mix I used because it gave a fairly varied flavor profile and texture.  

This makes about 8 hearty side dishes or about 4 main course servings.

What you need:

Roasted Veggies:
1 large acorn squash, cut into ~1 1/2 inch chunks- I did NOT peel (or use butternut or your favorite winter squash)
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into ~1 1/4 inch chunks
1 bunch of beets, or three medium beets, cut into ~1 1/4 inch chunks
3 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
salt and pepper

Salad Stuff:
1 (5 ounce) container arugula
4-5 ounce goat cheese (the one I used happened to be herbed)
1/4-1/3 cup pepitas

1/2 apple cider or apple juice
1/4 apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 teaspoons mustard (I used a sweet and spicy Dijon-like variety, but really whatever mustard you like will do)
salt and pepper to taste

Roast the Veggies:

You can make this ahead of time and then reheat if you want.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spread all three cut veggies on a jelly roll sheet or 13 x 9 baking dish.  Drizzle with oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to evenly mix. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, tossing once about halfway through.  Veggies should be very lightly browned and tender.

Create the Salad:

Optional step: Toast the pepitas by placing in a small saucepan on medium heat.  Stir frequently for 4-5 minutes, or until they start to very lightly brown and you can smell a nutty aroma.  Take off heat and set side.

Make the dressing by whisking or blending all ingredients listed under dressing.

Place arugula in a large bowl.  Crumble goat cheese on top and then sprinkle with the pepitas.  Spoon the roasted vegetables into a pile in the middle.  Drizzle dressing on top.  Once you've let any guests/family members admire your presentation, toss it all together to evenly distribute the dressing.  
Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Grilled Pizza with Peaches, Blackberries, Ricotta, and Balsamic Glaze

I probably should have written this post back when I made this pizza a few weeks ago, as it would have been more seasonally appropriate.  Today it's in the 60's and cloudy, which is delightful after all of the heat, but it doesn't seem like grilled fruity pizza weather.  Oh well, better late than never.  And come a few more weeks, when the weather really starts to cool down, making this can be a summery reminder of those dog days past.

I was inspired to make this pizza when I stumbled upon The Food Charlatan's recipe for Blackberry Ricotta Pizza late at night laying in bed.  I showed my husband, and he was all "please make that!".
It took me a few days, since blackberries were a little less accessible than I had hoped (got them at Target, of all places.  Thanks for nothing Trader Joe's and Safeway).  If you've read many of my posts, you'll also know that I am incapable of following someone else's recipe- it squashes my creative spirit.  So I added peaches, a balsamic glaze, and grilled it- the oven was NOT allowed to go on for a couple weeks there because of the heat.  

While it's fruity, it's not really that sweet, and there are savory components.  So it can be a main dish, side dish, or be served as dessert.  Or breakfast.  Whatever you're feeling, pretty much.  

You also do not, of course, have to grill it.  I did because I didn't want to turn the oven on, but as we approach these cooler months, I'd just make it in the oven.  If you are doing it in the oven, check out these instructions at Mel's Kitchen.  The secret to awesome homemade pizza is a HOT oven, and she has great instructions, both using a pizza stone and without.

As for dough, I just bought mine at Trader Joe's.  I did jazz it up a little with the addition of flax seeds.  I prefer to buy multigrain, which is usually a white flour dough with different seeds and grains added, but they don't always have this at whatever grocery store I'm going to.  So I buy white.  You can also buy whole-wheat, but I don't like the texture as much, and pizza is a treat, so I make it the way that it tastes best.  Or you could, of course, make your own.  I've used some different recipes over the years, but this one from Men's Health is super easy (no kneading!).  I add flax seeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds in as well to keep things interesting.

What you need:

1 pound pizza dough, leavened (store bought or make your own)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
~1 cup ricotta (I used full-fat)
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella (I used part-skim, but either is fine)
1 pint blackberries
1 large or 2 small peaches, sliced (I left the skin on, but you can peel if you want)
small handful fresh basil, sliced
black pepper


Preheat grill on medium-high heat.
Next, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to LOW and let it keep boiling until it becomes slightly thick.  And be careful not to take a big whiff while it boils, that stuff is pungent!  You can have this going on while you start the rest of the pizza.
Stretch the dough out on a lightly greased surface (preferably something that you can pick up and transport outside). I usually just use my hands, but you can use a rolling pin, beer bottle, whatever.  Try to get it under 1/2 thick.  If you are having trouble getting it to stretch out, work it a bit, let it rest for a couple minutes, and then go at it again.  Don't worry about making it a perfect shape.  An irregular shape has a nice rustic quality.
Bring pizza dough out to the grill.  If you have a buddy, he/she will come in handy here.  Place pizza dough on the grill, trying to keep it as stretched out as possible.  I use somewhat of a slinging motion, and then (carefully) adjust the edges to stretch it back out a bit more.  With two pairs of hands it will be easier to simply pick it up and place it stretched out onto the grill.  Close the grill.  Let cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill.  Use tongs to gently lift a corner to make sure it isn't burning.
As those 2-4 minutes go by, bring the ricotta, mozzarella, blackberries, peaches, and a fork out to the grill.
Flip the crust using tongs.  If there were any huge bubbles, burst those with the fork before flipping.  Turn the grill temperature down to low.  Now, add the toppings:  First the ricotta, then mozzarella, then blackberries and peaches.  Smoosh the blackberries a little with the fork.  Shut the grill and let cook for 5-7 minutes, checking to make sure it isn't burning (sometimes there is one hot spot, so rotating might help).  Take the pizza off the grill.  

Drizzle with the balsamic reduction.  Sprinkle with the sliced basil and black pepper.  Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Escarole Loaded Tomato Sauce with Fresh Basil

Our home of the moment on this nomadic adventure is Utica, New York.  We've only been here a few weeks (and only here for about one more), but in that little time, it's become obvious that Utica has about three claims to fame: beer, the Boilermaker, and Utica Greens.  Since we didn't sign up in time for the Boilermaker, and I'm not a big fan of beer, I've been focusing on the latter.  I'm from Central New York, so I've experienced Utica Greens before- in fact, I've made my own "healthified" version before.  I had no idea though that Utica Greens are on the menu of just about every restaurant in the Utica/New Hartfod area. Each restaurant has its own proportion of ingredients, which largely stay the same no matter the maker.  Those key ingredients are escarole, hot cherry peppers, Parmesan/Romano, prosciutto, and bread crumbs.  Since we've been here, we've sampled a few variations on the weekends, but they are a little too indulgent for my normal weekdays.

 Still, I've got escarole and cherry peppers on my mind, even if I don't want to douse them in cheese and breadcrumbs.  I had some calamari in the freezer, which made me think marinara sauce, and combined that thought with my obsession with escarole.  I made the sauce completely separate from the calamari, and had enough for the next night's dinner as well, where it was combined with rotisserie chicken (on sale for $2.20!! can't beat that).  I just took some meat off of the chicken and threw it into the sauce as it was reheating.  It would also be great with meatballs, as a dip for bread, rolled up in roasted eggplant pieces, or on spaghetti squash (or pasta if you're into that ;-)).  And though I avoided adding cheese on this particular occasion, some Parmesan would make an excellent addition.


1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
1/4 cup sliced hot cherry peppers, fresh or pickled *
2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 LARGE or 2 small heads escarole, WASHED and torn into large chunks**
salt and black pepper to taste
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomato
5 anchovies, or a scant tablespoon anchovy paste
10-15 kalamata olives, sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add onions and garlic.  Saute for a couple minutes, then add cherry peppers and saute for another couple minutes.  Add tomatoes and stir.  Add escarole, stirring as you add.  It won't all fit in the pot all at once, but as it wilts, you'll be able to add more.  Once all of the escarole is added, add the can of crushed tomato, the anchovy paste, and the kalamata olives.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and let it continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes, uncovered unless it starts to get too thick.  Stir every now and then as it simmers.  Add the fresh basil, reserving a little for garnish if desired.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*this will make it HOT, so use less or omit if you don't want spicy
**if your escarole looks like it is lost in the tomato sauce because you didn't have a big enough head, you can add in some romaine lettuce leaves to up the green proportion.  I did this and couldn't even tell what was romaine and what was escarole when I was eating. :-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mushroomy Meat Sauce atop Roasted Eggplant with Spicy Cottage Cheese Puree

Mission empty the fridge/freezer/pantry continues, and it's got my creative juices flowing.

I also may be slightly obsessed with pureeing cottage cheese.  But, hey, there are worse obsessions.  

As are the rules of the emptying the kitchen game, last night's creation was constructed only of ingredients I already had.  If I were to make this same sort of thing some other time, I would likely modify a few things: add garlic cloves, use crushed tomatoes instead of jarred sauce (and then add more of my own seasonings), make the cottage cheese puree with roasted garlic, maybe add some fresh basil...  I'm going to write down the ingredients for what I actually did, which turned out great, but you might want to keep these modification ideas in mind. 

This'll make about four servings.

What you need:

Mushroomy Meat Sauce:
1 pound lean ground beef (I used 96/4... if you can't find that, just make sure to drain out the grease after browning)
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cup pasta sauce, no sugar added if possible (I used arrabiata)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or your own mixture of dried oregano, basil, thyme)
salt and black pepper

Spicy Cottage Cheese Puree:
1 1/2 cups low fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons pickled hot crushed peppers*
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

*If you don't have hot pickled crushed peppers, you could sub a bit (definitely not 2 tablespoons) red pepper flakes and a splash of vinegar.  Or use chili-garlic sauce.  

Roasted eggplant:
Olive or coconut oil spray
2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch thick rounds
salt and pepper

Start by making the sauce:  Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat.  Drain if necessary.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Saute for a 3-4 minutes.  Add the red wine and scrape up anything that was sticking to the bottom.  Add the pasta sauce, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.  Stir, bring to a boil, and then reduce to low heat.  Cover.  Let simmer for AT LEAST 30 minutes, and up to an hour or so.  If sauce is too watery, remove cover to let it reduce.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the cottage cheese puree:  Add all ingredients to a small blender or a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down and stirring as necessary.  You may need to add a small splash of water to get things going, depending on the power of your blender.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Roast the eggplant:  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with olive or coconut oil spray.  Arrange eggplant rounds on the sheet so that they are not overlapping (touching is fine).  Lightly spray the tops with oil.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until eggplant is lightly browned and soft.  

To serve:  Arrange a few slices of eggplant on plate, top with meat sauce, and drizzle the cottage cheese puree over the top.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blueberry Salsa with Cilantro and Jalapeno

We've got just a few days left here in Florida, and I'm still trying to empty out my fridge/freezer and resist buying anything new from the store.  And there was a bag of frozen blueberries that I bought for smoothies, but I'm a creature of habit and always go for the frozen banana instead.  I already knew I was making fish for dinner, and figured a blueberry salsa would go nicely.  Whipped this up real quick with a few other pantry staples.

As mentioned, I used frozen blueberries, and I think these would be preferable to fresh because they get all juicy when they thaw.  However, fresh would still work, you just might want to do a little extra muddling and maybe cut in half if you have larger berries.  You could also try cooking fresh berries for 10 minutes or so on the stove to break them down a little more.

I also really wanted to use lime or lemon juice in this, but didn't have any.  So I made do with a little rice vinegar, and I think it turned out great. If you have lime or lemon juice, though, you might want to give that a try!

I served this on top of broiled flounder fillets seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Thought about adding cumin to the salsa as well, but went with it just on the fish.  If I were serving this with something like plain chips, I'd probably add the cumin to the salsa to boost the flavor.

What you need:

1 1/2-2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed (I recommend Trader Joe's wild Boreal blueberries... they are so much better than any other frozen blueberries I've ever bought!)

1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro, thickest stem end removed

2 jalapenos, diced, seeds and pith removed

2-3 tablespoons diced onion

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

salt and pepper to taste (I probably added somewhere around 1/2 teaspoon of each)

Simply mix all ingredients together, mashing lightly to help the blueberries break down a little.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for a couple hours, before serving to allow flavors to meld.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Spinach, Tomato, and Jalapeno Curry with Broiled Salmon and Dill-Cottage Cheese Puree

We've got a week left in Florida, so I'm starting to rummage through the groceries I've bought and get things used up.  It's a fun little game of piecing together different ingredients so I can avoid buying anything new.  I get to play pretty often due to our nomadic lifestyle.  This is last night's outcome.  It's great for anyone else who doesn't feel like going to the store, too, as it primarily uses pantry staples.  

If you're looking at the title and thinking "cottage cheese puree... umm, ewww...", just trust me on this one.  Cottage cheese actually makes awesomely creamy and super healthy sauces.  You can also make dips for veggies out of it.  It's the same idea as substituting Greek yogurt to make creamy dressing or sauce, but minus the tangy flavor.  Sometimes I use Greek yogurt for such things, sometimes I use cottage cheese.  Actually, more specifically, I use Greek yogurt for such things when I'm lazy and cottage cheese when I want my husband to like it better.  Or when I'm trying not to go to the store and we only have cottage cheese and no Greek yogurt.  I made the sauce for the salmon, but ended up using a little on the veggies too, just because.  

This whole dinner takes less than an hour from start to finish, and part of that time in just the curry simmering on the stove sans (much) supervision.   This makes enough for 3-4 servings, depending on your appetite and whether or not you choose to make some sort of grain to round things out.

What you need:

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
~10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (or less if you're not a garlic fiend)
2 jalapenos, seeds and pith removed, sliced
10 ounces frozen spinach
1 14 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 cup water or broth of choice
1 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

16 ounce fillet salmon (I used Coho, Sockeye would also be delicious)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Salt and pepper

Dill-Cottage Cheese Puree:

1 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
~1/2 cup packed fresh dill OR 2 tablespoons dried dill (or basically to taste, but that is roughly what I used)


Start by heating the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno.  Saute for a few minutes, or until they are lightly browned.  Add the spinach, tomatoes, bay leaves, coriander, and black pepper.  Stir around for another minute or two, until the spinach is thawed.  Add 1/2 cup water or broth reduce heat to medium.  Cover partially and let simmer for 30 minutes (or if you don't have a cover, just add a little more water if things start sticking).  Season with salt to taste.


After the curry has been simmering for about 15 minutes, preheat oven to a high broil. Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil.  Place salmon on the baking sheet.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Broil for 10-15 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.  Time will vary depending on how thick your salmon is and how hot your broiler gets, but you can test it by seeing if it flakes easily in the thickest part of the fish.  If you have a large piece of salmon, you may want to cut in half before cooking so that the thinner edges do not overcook.

Dill-Cottage Cheese Puree:

While the salmon is in the oven, make the puree.  Simply add all puree ingredients to a food processor or blend and blend until smooth.  If your blender is struggling, add a little water and a pinch of salt to get things going (the salt is so that the water doesn't make it too watery tasting).

And enjoy!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sauteed Calamari with Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Lime

When people hear "calamari", they think battered and fried diet saboteurs.  But it has a bad rep!  Calamari can be delicious AND super healthy when grilled or sauteed with minimal added oil.

And, don't get me wrong- I LOVE some me deep-fried calamari, especially if it's done properly.  And I've even made it myself (done properly, of course ;-)).  But for a weeknight, it doesn't make the cut in the health department.

This time around I sauteed a bag of pre-cut rings.  You can also buy the bag with mixed rings and tentacles, or the whole pieces and cut them yourself.  Make sure to clean and remove any hard pieces of cartilage or whatever it is that is sometimes still in the whole pieces.

I had a cast-iron skillet to use this time, and it really did make a difference for the better.  Can't wait until we're not moving all over the place so that my kitchen can be fully stocked with all of the goodies I want.  You can use a different kind of skillet still- it'll just be very difficult to get the nice crisp browning without overcooking.  But they don't need to be brown.

You can also grill these.  I've done them in a grill basket before with great results.  In that case, add the lime juice and cilantro after you've put the grilled calamari into a non-holey dish. ;-)

What you need:

2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 pound calamari, cut into rings
1 jalapeno, sliced and seeds removed unless you like it hot
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste

Start by squeezing the excess moisture out of your calamari.  Literally squeezing with (multiple) paper towel.  This is very important!  Too much liquid will make it hard to get a sear on them.

Next, heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Add the coconut oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the calamari rings.  Saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the jalapeno.  Continue to saute for another 1-2 minutes, or until complelely opaque.  You may not get any color on your rings depending on how hot your stove gets and what kind of pan you use.  Do not overcook.  Remove from heat and add cilantro and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired- I added salt to mine once it was on my plate, husband waved it away.

I served mine over a bed of greens and chopped tomato with a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce on the side (see below for that recipe).

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

1 roasted red pepper, seeds and stem removed (I left the skin on)
1 cup Greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 lime
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
pinch of salt

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  That's it!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer Squash with Onions, Garlic, Jalapeno, and Bacon

My first experience cooking summer squash was when I was 14 years old and obsessed with calories.  My mom told me how my grandmother used to make it-cooked way down with onions and a lot of butter- and that it was one of the simplest yet most delicious vegetable dishes.  I wasn't a fan of using butter, but used a little cooking spray and topped it afterwards with "buttery spray", which is as artificial as it sounds.  Delicious as promised, even made my low-cal way.

Fast forward 10+ years, and a variation on this is still my favorite way to cook summer squash.  I still want to keep it on the light side, but now know that leaving a tad bit of bacon grease in my pan will add a ton of flavor without compromising the healthiness of my dish (and no more buttery spray involved!).  And you can definitely skip the bacon and use a little bit of some other fat (olive oil, butter, or coconut oil).  Sometimes I add a tiny drizzle of truffle oil at the end.

The key to this dish is letting it cook for a bit.  The method is sort of a combination of sauteing and stewing.  There is plenty of moisture as the squash breaks down, but the heat is higher than a traditional stewing process and there is more browning.  The heat is low enough, though, that some moisture does build up and you don't have to stir as often as during traditional sautes.

The end result should have some nice golden color and also reduce down to almost create a mush (I was actually a little impatient this time around... my squash wasn't quite mush enough! :-/). This is what really lets the natural sweetness shine and eliminates the need for additional seasoning.  The bacon adds a little salt, so you won't need to add extra unless you don't use bacon.

4-5 strips bacon
1 medium onion (I used a sweet onion), sliced or diced
3 small summer squash, sliced thinly
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves cut into slices
1 jalapeno
4 green onions

Start by frying the bacon in a large frying pan over medium/medium-high heat.  Once the bacon is fully cooked (the crispier you make it, the more you render the fat out), remove the strips from the pan and drain over paper towel.  Discard all but 1-2 teaspoons of the bacon grease.  There should be a very thin coating on the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion, squash, garlic, and jalapeno to the pan.  Saute/stew, stirring only every couple minutes, until the squash breaks down and all vegetables have a lovely golden color.  If things are sticking too much, reduce heat a little.  This should take at least 20-25 minutes and you can keep cooking it beyond that to deepen the flavor.  You can baby it if you want and stir more often, but I find that stirring less often works perfectly well and that way you can wash some dishes or prep other parts of dinner at the same time.  Once you've achieved a suitably mushy state, add the green onions and crumble in the reserved bacon strips.

And enjoy!  This would be a perfect accompaniment to some salmon or barbecued chicken.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spicy Salmon Soup with Escarole and Mushrooms

I finally made it to the Public Market in Rochester last weekend and came away with a wonderful find: salmon pieces for $2 a pound!  They were the scraps that were too small to be sold as nice looking pieces of fish, but they looked very fresh and came from a reputable fish vendor, so I couldn't pass up the deal (and it ended up being the best salmon I've bought in a long time!).

And what does one do with scraps of salmon?  Make soup!  ...Or just broil and serve small pieces- it's not like we're particularly fancy around here.  But the soup idea came to me and I ran with it.  I spied some escarole at a neighboring vendor and knew it'd pair perfectly with the salmon.  Add some mushrooms, onion, and garlic form my supply at home, and I was set!

I give a wide range on the soy sauce amount- start by adding a little and add more to taste.  I kept our batch pretty low on it, but added more to my individual servings.  If you have fish sauce and/or sesame oil, feel free to add a little of both to add a little more oomph to the flavor.   Also, bok choy could definitely be subbed in for the escarole, or spinach would work too!

This makes four large servings, and you can make them heartier by adding a fried egg on top.  Serve with extra chili-garlic and green onions as a garnish.

What you need:

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 small-medium onion, thinly sliced
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch escarole, washed and torn into pieces
1 pound salmon, cut into chunks or strips
2-5 tablespoons soy sauce
~6 cups water
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce, plus more for garnish if desired
green onions for garnish

Start by heating a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the coconut oil.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the escarole and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the water, soy sauce, and chili-garlic sauce.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Add the salmon. pieces, making sure all pieces are fully submerged.  Bring back to a boil, and then reduce heat to a low simmer.  Let cook for 3-4 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.  When it is fully cooked, it will be opaque and flake apart.

Add additional soy sauce and chili-garlic sauce to taste.  Serve with a fried egg and chopped green onion on top if you're feeling it. :-)  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Roasted Beet Stacks with Garlicky Cottage Cheese "Cream" and Pumpkin Seed Parsley Pesto

We're on day 2 of the 21 Day Fix, but that doesn't mean we can't have delicious food!  I was reading Fitness magazine earlier today and saw an amazing looking recipe for "Beet Napoleans".  I might have to try their actual recipe sometime (mine is very roughly inspired by it), but right now it doesn't fit with my meal plan (way too much oil, goal cheese, cream cheese, honey, too many nuts...).

I made these for my husband and I.  The amount of beets I used was not nearly enough to accompany the "Cream", so I will probably up those next time.  I wanted us to eat all of the "Cream" because it is full of protein and that helps give this meal its fill factor. I purposely made extra pesto so that I could use it again, so only 1/8 of the recipe is one serving.  As I made them this time, they count as 11/8 green, 1 red, 1/2 orange, and 1/2 teaspoon per person.  The amounts below for the beets and the "Cream" make two servings, but the pesto makes a lot extra.

You can make the pesto ahead of time (even a day or two before!) and the cottage cheese mixture can be made a few hours ahead.  Or maybe even earlier, but I haven't tried that.  I made the beets so that they finished cooking right before we ate, but they could be reheated or eaten cold, and they'd still be tasty.

Also, feel free to mix up the pesto!  You could use basil or maybe cilantro instead of the parsley, or a blend of herbs.  The beet greens could be substituted with spinach, baby kale, or arugula.  The pumpkin seeds could be replaced with walnuts or pine nuts.  I just did it this way because 1) I already had pumpkin seeds 2) my beets came with greens that actually looked good 3) parsley is cheaper than basil and I had already been adding cilantro to too many things lately.

The Components:

Pumpkin Seed Parsley Pesto (makes eight servings, 3 Tablespoons each, counts as 1/2 orange, about 1/8 green, and 1/2 teaspoon per serving)

1 packed cup of beet greens-or any other greens you want to use (1 packed green)
1/2 packed cup of Italian parsley (1/2 packed green)
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (4 orange containers)
4 teaspoons oil olive
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar, or a white wine vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Water to mix

If you are using beet greens, make sure to wash THOROUGHLY.  They tend to be very dirty.  Cut or tear the greens and parsley into blendable pieces.  Throw these and all other ingredients, excluding the water, into your blender or food processor.  Pulse while slowly adding water until the mixture blends into a pesto.  Be careful not to add too much water- it may take a little time to get things going (depending on your blender), but be patient and keep pulsing.  Let sit for at least 2 hours.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Garlicky Cottage Cheese Cream (makes 2 GENEROUS servings, 3/4 cup and 1 red each)
1% or 2% Cottage Cheese
1 head of garlic
Splash of lemon juice

Roast the garlic head first: Simply place the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes, or until soft.  If you aren't 21 Day Fixin' you could cut the very top off before roasting and add some olive oil, but I skipped that this time.

Next, peel your garlic.  Add all of the cloves plus the cottage cheese and lemon juice to your blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Done!  Store in the fridge until you're ready to use.

*Note: This would make an AWESOME super healthy dip too... maybe add some roasted onions and black pepper.  Serve with crudites or some healthy chips!

Roasted Beet Slices (2 servings, 1 green each- you might want to double... the beets shrink A LOT)

4 medium beets, scrubbed, ends cut off, and cut into 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices.
Cooking spray
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.  Arrange beet slices across pan, being careful not to overlap.  You will need more than one pan if you are doubling the amount.  Spray the tops of the slices VERY lightly.   Season with black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.  If you used two pans, make sure to switch top and bottom halfway through.

The Assembly:

Now that you've got your parts made, it's time to serve this stuff up!  I wanted to be all fancy since this was my first time displaying my creation- hence the tidy little stacks.  You can be fancy too, or you can just plop the correct amount of each component onto each plate and create the mixture as you eat.  They make cute (though messy) little tacos with the beets as the shell.

If you are doing the Fix and want to keep to a serving of 1 red, 1 1/8 green, 1/2 orange, and 1/2 teaspoon, then you get half of the Cottage Cheese Cream, half of the Roasted Beets, and 1/8 of the Pesto,  If you're not doing the Fix, then you can have however much and whatever proportions you want. :-)

So, if you want to make the stacks, start by divvying up your portions. Then, place a larger beet slice on your plate. Top with a little of the "cream" and then a little of the pesto.  Top with a medium beet slice, repeat with the "cream" and pesto.  And top with a smaller beet slice, repeat with the "cream" and pesto.  That's one stack!  You'll probably be making 3-5 per serving, depending on the size of your beets were.  Serve with the extra "cream" and any extra pesto left in your serving.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Roasted Eggplant Strips with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce and Cilantro-Olive Gremolata

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and roasting or grilling strips of it is one of the tastiest way to make it.  And definitely the quickest.  

Some people say they don't like eggplant.  My guess is that a lot of them just haven't had it cooked right.  The first time I had eggplant was as a child in a casserole, and it was not cooked enough.  And eggplant when it's not cooked enough is not very tasty, no matter what it's got going on for seasoning. 

Cutting the eggplant into fairly thin strips keeps the cooking time low, and takes away some of that "eggplanty" texture that eggplant haters don't like.  

I most often roast the eggplant in the oven, because I often don't have access to a grill, or if I do, the weather is not grill weather.  If you do have a grill and the weather isn't frightening, cut the strips the same way and grill over medium-high until tender.  If you are really short on time (or patience) you can broil the strips in the oven in under ten minutes- just keep a close eye, or you'll end up with charcoal.

Once roasted or grilled, the eggplant makes a great topper for pizza or salad, and is also great just by itself.  Or, you can fancy it up with a couple of delicious sauces like I did here.  I use cilantro in both of my sauces because I happened to have half of a bunch leftover.  I think it worked really well, but if you're not a cilantro fan, or you have half of a bunch of parsley instead, that would be a great substitute.

What you need for the eggplant:

4 small eggplant, or two medium/large
Olive oil spray or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Slice the eggplant into ~1/4 inch thick strips or rounds. Lightly spray two baking sheets with olive oil.  Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheets so that they are not overlapping.  Touching is perfectly fine.  Spray or brush with olive oil.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, switching the pans halfway through.  Cooking time will vary based on how thin your strips are.  The eggplant is ready when it is soft and lightly browned.

Serve with the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce and/or the Cilantro-Olive Gremolata.  I placed a small spoonful of the sauce on each strip of eggplant and then rolled them up to eat.  You could spread the sauce across and use a knife if you want to keep your hands clean. 


What you need for the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup Greek yogurt (2-4% is best, but you can use fat free if you wish)
~1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix together all ingredients.  Let sit for at least 20 minutes to let flavors meld.

What you need for the Cilantro-Olive Gremolata:

~2/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped green olives (I used the ones with pimientos)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Black pepper and sea salt to taste

Mix together all ingredients.  Let sit for at least 20 minutes to let flavors meld.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sneaky Mushroom Taco Meat

This is my new favorite way to make taco meat, and it is super healthy.  By adding in finely chopped mushrooms with the ground beef, you stretch the meat further and end up eating less meat and more vegetable.  I also use a blend of spices rather than the packets of taco seasoning, which have way more ingredients than they need.

If you are vegetarian, just omit the beef and add an extra pound of mushrooms!  I've made it this way a few times and it makes a delicious meatless taco.

I scoop this on romaine leaves for me, but you can certainly use tortillas or multigrain chips to dip. Top it with some tomatillo salsa and maybe a little queso fresco, and you're set!

What you need:

1 pound 90% lean ground beef
1 small/medium onion, diced
10 ounces crimini or baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 chipolte pepper, chopped
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
2-3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste

Start by browning the ground beef in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  When the meat is cooked through, drain if necessary (I find that some "90% lean" is more lean than others, sometimes I drain, sometimes I don't).  Add the onion, mushrooms, tomato, and chipolte pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes, then add the broth and spices.   Reduce heat to medium and let it keep cooking for another 15 minutes.  Add extra broth if it dries out too much before it is done cooking.

Serve with romaine leaves if you want a low-carb taco, or use it to fill your favorite tortilla.  It would also make a mean dip layered with some guac, salsa, lettuce, and a little cheese.