Friday, December 12, 2008

Cabbage Rolls

As promised, another easy weeknight meal. After eating this dish throughout my childhood, I decided to look up a little history on it. I found out that cabbage rolls are a common peasant food originating in Europe and Western Asia. They were meant as a means for using up leftover food, so additions and changes are encouraged. The sauce varies widely by Finland and Sweden, the sauce is typically a bittersweet ligonberry jam. This tomato-based sauce would most likely be from Eastern Europe.

You could make it even healthier by using ground turkey and brown rice. Enjoy!

Grandma D's Cabbage Rolls

Mix together:
1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
3 Tbsp raw rice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 can diced tomatoes

Rest of recipe calls for:
8-10 cabbage leaves
remainder from can of diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Boil whole cabbage leaves until pliable, about 3-5 minutes. Drain. Trim rib from back of leaves. Roll meat in leaves like a burrito. Place in skillet, cover with remainder of can of diced tomatoes with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano sprinkled over the cabbage rolls. Cover and simmer until done (about 45 minutes). Add a little stock or water if it gets too thick.

Monday, December 8, 2008

All You Need is Love

I'm always on the lookout for any signs from above, lessons in karma and other cosmic activity. So far, I have not found any images of the Virgin Mary on my grilled cheese sandwiches and have not seen a UFO. So imagine slicing off the side of a bell pepper for a salad and having this little extra goodie falling out onto your cutting board. A perfect heart!! I put it on my husband's plate and I got all mushy inside and thought it was a reminder of how much my family is shrouded in love...and how lucky we are to have each other.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Apricot Dijon Chicken

I was looking over my blog and realized that there are a lot of desserts and condiments and just not enough main dishes. Therefore, I will try to give you a few of my easy weeknight dinners in the next couple of posts. After a day of shopping, taxi-driving, baking, breaking up fights and picking up toys, it's really incredibly easy to order pizza. Believe me, I've been there....recently last night.

This simple one is from a recent Family Circle magazine and the whole family really seemed to enjoy it. The kids preferred theirs without the nuts and parsley (eww...something GREEN?)

I know everyone has a similar recipe in their files, but if you don't, give it a try. Pair it with brown rice and a salad for a healthy dinner.

Apricot-Dijon Chicken

1/3 cup apricot preserves
2 T ketchup
1 T dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (I used walnuts)
1 box wild rice (I used brown rice)
1 T. olive oil (I omitted)

Make rice according to directions. Heat oven to 400. Spray baking dish with nonstick spray.

Whisk together apricot preserves, ketchup, mustard, ginger and garlic. Reserve 1/4 cup of mixture. Place chicken in dish and spread remaining apricot mixture over the tops. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done.

To serve, lay one chicken breast on top of 1/2 cup rice, drizzle with a little extra sauce if desired. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and parsely, if you have any on hand.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Olive Tapenade

I love olives, don't you? What could possibly be better than putting black olives on your fingers and pretending you have long fingernails? Well, I'm not 8 anymore, so I had to find something better to do with them, so here goes.

I learned this dip from my sister in law (she's from Boston) several years ago at our extremely traditional family Thanksgiving. We are talking the same menu every year - turkey, mash, candied yams, green bean casserole, apple salad and cranberry sauce from a can. I think that was the same year she brought Oysters Rockafeller, which went over like a ton of bricks. But this one was a hit, and I've been making it every year since. Thanks, Lori!
It calls for ripe black olives, but if you have an adventurous bunch, use half kalamata.

Olive Tapenade
1 can black olives drained
2 t. capers
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. Tabasco

Pulse all in Cuisinart until blended. Let sit overnight in fridge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mini Cheesecakes

A friend of mine turns 40 this week (Happy Birthday, Leslie!) and I got a request for mini cheesecakes to bring to pool league tonight. I thought they turned out kind of cute! Of course, I had to try one for quality control, ahem. Yeah, they pass.

This recipe is super easy, especially if you forget the graham cracker crumbs and use a Nilla Wafer in the bottom of each cup instead. I opted for the higher degree of difficulty (only because going to the store with the munchkins would have been a wash in level of difficulty)

Mini Cheesecakes

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
dash of cinnamon
Mix all together and push down 1 T. crumb mixture into each muffin cup with the back of a spoon.

2 blocks cream cheese (ROOM TEMP - important!)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest

Set oven to 350. Mix the cream cheese in a Kitchen Aid or with a hand beater until creamy and fluffy. Add rest of ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour a heaping spoonful into each cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve chilled.

For the chocolate decoration, I melted chocolate chips and used a ziplock with the tip cut off to squeeze out and make the design.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Vegetarian Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Ever since tasting the yummy style salad rolls with the spicy lime dipping sauce at a Vietnamese restaurant, I have wanted to try making them myself. I picked up the dried rice wrappers at the Asian market with the intention of giving it a whirl.

It was pretty funny because when I looked at the rice wrappers, there was not a single word in pictures either! However, with the internet, nothing is a mystery for long....I found a cool web page all about it here. I made the water a little too hot because the first one turned into a gummy mess, but once the water cooled down a little, they came out fine.

I know these are fabulous with mint and shrimp inside, but I just went with what I had on hand.
This is a very light and delicate starter, perfect for an asian themed party or meal. I actually made quite a few and they stood up in the fridge for 4-5 hours.

Onto the recipe:

Vegetarian Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Salad rolls:
1 package round rice papers
2 carrots, shredded
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 package extra firm tofu, baked or fried
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups spinach or lettuce

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce):
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cloves minced garlic
2-3 chopped Thai bird chiles

Mix up all the sauce ingredients and let sit while you prepare rolls.
Sprinkle tofu with garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Bake at 400 for 2o minutes. (or fry it up)
Get all the ingredients for the rolls prepared.
Heat a pan of water to almost boiling.
Soften 1 paper in the hot water.
Layer the ingredients in the wrapper and roll up tight like a burrito.
Repeat until the ingredients are gone.

For me and tall guy, it seemed like a gourmet treat to eat with our coconut chicken and sticky rice. Nummers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Candied Tangerine Peels

I recently bought a bag of Fairchild tangerines, not realizing that the skins were really tight and not easily peeled. They were also loaded with seeds. They lingered in my fridge for several days until I decided to somehow salvage them. Not only did I turn out these little gems, I got a good two cups of tangerine juice. Yummy!

I happen to love the bitter-sweet combination of candied citrus last batch was grapefruit. It's easy but a little time consuming because you have to blanch them several times to get out most of the bitterness in the peel. Here's how it's done:

Candied Citrus Peels

About 15 small or 6 large fruit
2 cup sugar
2 cup water

Wash and peel your citrus with a vegetable peeler, being careful not to get too much of the white pith. Try to make long strips so that when you cut them lengthwise, you get a nice ribbon effect. Put the strips in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Dump the water, and do it again 3 times.
Now you are ready for the sugar. Put the peels, 2 c. sugar and 2 c. water in the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until they are transluscent and sweet. Remove from heat and let cool before handling. Fish them out of the syrup and into a bowl of sugar. Make sure they are all coated with sugar, and then lay them out on wax paper to dry. My bag of tangerines made about 2 cups of candied peels. Chop and sprinkle on dessert or just eat them plain with a nice cup of tea. I also thought of coating in chocolate, but didn't do it this time.

On another note, we made a family of radishes yesterday and the kids had a great time pretending with them....just goes to show, you don't always need plastic toys.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sweet Chile-Lime Glazed Veggies over Quinoa

A cool new Asian grocery store opened up in Antioch recently called County Square Market. It's right behind the Sizzler on Hillcrest. I went in there and was thrilled to see the variety of choices in condiments, produce, meat and ready-made Asian food. I didn't have a lot of time to browse, but I certainly found some of my favorite Thai cooking ingredients, including Mae-Ploy curry paste, Dragonfly oyster sauce, Golden Boy fish sauce, Chaokoh coconut milk, holy basil, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, and hot thai bird chiles. I even dug out my old recipes and hope to start doing some more Asian dishes for you (and me!).

I saw this recipe over at Vegan Yum Yum, which was my inspiration. I changed some minor things and added more veggies. This was also my first time cooking with quinoa...and I LOVED it! I was imagining a fibrous bland grain, but it wasn't that way at all! I toasted it first which gave it a sweet nutty flavor. My skepticism prevented me from buying more than one cup from the bulk bin, so I will have to pick up more later. It's a nice alternative to rice or pasta - and it has way more protein and fiber!

Sweet Chile-Lime Glazed Veggies over Quinoa

1 T. olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups veggie broth

Heat oil in a pan and add the quinoa. Cook, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is golden and fragrant. You might hear a little popping sound. Add the broth, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, work on the rest of the dish.

3 T. sugar
2 T. lime juice
1 tsp. lime zest
2 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 T. Dragonfly oyster sauce*
1 T. water
1 clove minced garlic
2 red thai chiles, chopped fine
1 T. chopped mint

Mix everything in a bowl and set aside.
* Here is a picture of the thai chiles and they oyster sauce that I prefer.

1 T. olive oil
1 block firm tofu
2 japanese eggplants
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. water
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions cut into 1/2 inch pieces

I'm not sure the correct way to cook tofu - I just know how good it tastes when the outside is crunchy and the inside is smooth. I cut my tofu kind of thin, pressed on it with some paper towels and then put it in 1 T. of really hot oil. Use your non-stickiest non-stick pan. Trust me on that. Let it brown on all sides. Put in a separate bowl. Slice the eggplants once lengthwise and then into half inch pieces. Since I used the oil for the tofu, I decided not to on the other veggies. Get your nonstick pan hot and add the eggplant. When its starting to brown too much, add the soy-water mixture. After a few minutes, toss in the chopped bell pepper. The liquid should evaporate about the same time that the veggies are soft. Add back in the tofu and green onions. Pour glaze sauce over the veggies. It should bubble up and get a little thick. That's it.

Honestly, I would have been extremely happy with this dish if I ordered it at a restaurant. And while I was taking pictures, I turned around to see the kids devouring the quinoa. Shhh...I'm not telling them its *gasp* healthy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Baked Chicken Nuggets

A book called The Omnivore's Dilemma states that there are 38 ingredients in a Chicken McNugget. Can you believe 56% of those ingredients are derived from corn? I thought the chicken percentage would have been a wee bit higher. Read more about it here.

Knowing that nugget of information (forgive the pun), I decided to make my own healthy version. It worked...the kids gobbled them up with the voracity of ants on a lollipop. For children who shun meat in most forms, this was like winning a key battle. And why didn't I think of it sooner??? Duh!

Baked Chicken Nuggets

3 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vinegar
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. oregano
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400. Put a rack inside of a cookie sheet or baking pan. This will allow more even crisping on the underside.

In a bowl, mix the milk with vinegar and throw in the chicken pieces (This would be a tenderizer kind of like buttermilk). Make the breading by mixing up the rest of the ingredients in another bowl. Roll the chicken pieces in breading until coated and put on the rack.

Cook for 15 minutes, then turn them over and turn the oven up to broil. Cook for 5 more minutes. Serve with dipping sauce of choice (we used marinara).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Oh man, it's been way too long since I've been on my blog. Sorry about that! For your patience I'm giving you a yummy little recipe to get you into the Halloween spirit. And if you are a local friend, come knock on my door and I'll give you some! Seriously.

I had this recipe from bookmarked for so long and finally got around to it. And wow, they did not disappoint! These were so moist - just sweet enough and spicy enough to please every palate. I changed the original recipe by cutting the oil in half and adding some applesauce.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

1 ¾ cups pure pumpkin puree (1 small can)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 large eggs
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole- wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¾ cup mini- chocolate chips

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 Tbs butter, softened
2 tsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup mini- chocolate chips (for topping)

Prepare batter: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray or line with paper cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, applesauce, eggs and sugars until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves. Toss in mini chocolate chips and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until moistened.

Pour batter into muffin pan coated with nonstick spray or paper cups. Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center- about 20 minutes. Remove and place on wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Baked Egg Puffs (with butternut squash)

Okay, so here's the deal. When I first heard about it, I wasn't sure how I felt about Jessica Seinfeld's book "Deceptively Delicious." I think it's important to serve your kids vegetables in their whole form, rather than trying to "hide" them within a dish. I can see arguments for both sides.....and I decided that it's okay to hide the veggies as long as you offer more veggies visibly obvious on the plate as well. Let's face it, every night after scraping green beans, zucchini or broccoli off your kid's plate into the sink, it's hard not to wonder if your child is actually getting all the nutrients they need. Seriously, my kids are professional gaggers when being coerced to "just taste" their veggies. (I have to hold in my laugh at this tactic)

The book was also riddled with controversy because Mrs. Seinfeld was accused of plagiarism and defamation of character from a woman who a few months prior to Seinfeld's release, wrote a very similar book called "Sneaky Chef." It seems that the concepts and recipes were practically identical, but it was Seinfeld's book that raked in the dollars. That is the reason I checked the book out from the library instead of buying it. The Seinfeld Empire does not need any of my cash!

The main concept of the book is cooking and pureeing veggies and freezing them in 1/2 cup portions, so that when you make a recipe like this, you just pull the veg out of the freezer and throw it into the recipe. I can't imagine cooking the squash just for this, but if it was already prepped, then it's is a snap. I may try another butternut recipe since I have several baggies in the freezer now. I could see how you need to build up your stock of purees in order to try more of these sneaky recipes. Try finding time to do that!

I am going to post the recipe exactly as written and I hope nobody accuses me of plagiarism. The book shows theirs all puffed up over the edges, whereas mine fell flat once I turned the camera on. They were still very tasty - fluffy yet substantial and sweet enough for toddler palates. They were so easy, I could even make them on a weekday morning.

Baked Egg Puffs (with butternut squash)

2 eggs

4 egg whites

1/2 cup butternut squash

2 T. grated cheese

2 T. flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Coat 4 (1/2 cup) ramekins with cooking spray and set on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, squash puree, cheese, flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and bake until the tops are puffed up and the eggs are no longer runny in the center when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ratatouille with Cornmeal Thyme Crust

This is kind of similar to my last post flavor-wise. If you feel cheated, too bad! I was just bent on making one big tart with all those tomatoes. Throw in some zucchini and voila - RATATOUILLE! I embellished my version with a crunchy cornmeal thyme crust, carmelized onions and goat cheese. Besides being visually appealing, this was incredibly delicious. A blend of contrasting textures and flavors made for a perfect little lunchtime treat. It's also been fun having my husband around during the day to try out my concoctions. He approved of this one!

You may not know it, but my kitchen is pretty tiny and I finally decided to let my food processor live on the much-coveted counter space.....for the time being. Even though it is an eyesore, when I see it sitting there, it reminds me of how easy it is to whip up a little dough for crust. It makes me happy.

On to the recipe:

Ratatouille with Cornmeal Thyme Crust

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 T. fresh thyme
4-5 T. cold water
Put all ingredients except water in food processor. Pulse until crumbly mixture forms. Add the water and pulse until the dough forms. Put it in your tart pan and push it around until its evenly spread up the sides. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. You can weigh it down with rice or beans, over foil. I didn't do that because I felt like the cornmeal wouldn't puff up much. I was right. This is a dense crunchy crust, so don't expect your grandma's flakey version!
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. goat cheese
1-2 thinly sliced zucchini
3-4 thinly sliced tomatoes
2 basil cubes (from Trader Joe's frozen section*)
1 T. olive oil
Saute onion until it becomes carmelized (at least 10 minutes). Add the garlic during the last 2 minutes. Put onion mixture on top of the crust. Crumble goat cheese evenly on top of onions. Starting in the middle, layer the tomatoes and zucchini in a concentric pattern. Put the basil cubes into the olive oil and mix together. Brush this mixture on top of the veggies and then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 for about 30-35 minutes.
* Small packs of frozen herbs that come in packages of 20 cubes. Each cube = 1 tsp. fresh herbs. The package has a red lid, if you are looking for it in their freezer section. They are so handy - I always have basil, garlic and parsley in my freezer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tomato Tartlets

I had a bunch of tomatoes and really wanted to make one big tart with a sheet of dough because I think it looks so striking, but could only find the little puff pastry shells at the store. Despite the few ingredients and simplicity of this dish, these were so elegant and incredibly addicting!

Tomato Tartlets
1 package puff pastry shells
5 oz. goat cheese
1 garlic clove, minced and crushed into a paste
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt/pepper to taste
4-5 medium sized ripened tomatoes, sliced and quartered

Preheat oven to 400. Take the almost thawed shells and separate them. With a rolling pin, roll them out a little bit flatter and bigger. Place on cookie sheet. This way they don't puff up so high. Mix the goat cheese, garlic, thyme and salt/pepper together. Spread about 1/2 tsp. cheese mixture on each tart shell and top with tomatos slices. Sprinkle with pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes, until desired golden color.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

When I think of fall several types of food come to mind......baked winter squash, hearty soups and poached pears. Because its still in the 80's here (temperature, not decade - hah!), we haven't quite gotten the autumn feel, but I still oven-roasted a head of cauliflower yesterday, with plans of a simple creamy and healthy soup.

I made a cheesy cauliflower soup recently, but I prefer this one, hands down. I was going for a more subtle flavor this time, with the cauliflower center stage - no onions, garlic, cheese or other herbs (besides the garnish). I think roasting the cauliflower first gave it a sweet nutty flavor which worked really well. I balanced that roasted flavor with a dash of sugar, which gave it even more depth. It's also really important to blend it vigorously so that it has a rich creamy consistency.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
1 head cauliflower
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup FF half and half
1/2 cup milk
1 small can veggie broth
generous amount of salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar

Heat oven to 450. Cut up and spread cauliflower on baking sheet. Drizzle oil over and mix gently so it's evenly coated. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring a couple times until soft on the inside and browned on the outside. Chill until cooled.

Put cauliflower and rest of ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Heat on the stove until hot. Gobble up with a nice grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Asparagus & Mushroom Quiche

Ahhh....quiche. This is most definitely my new favorite lunch...well, and breakfast...actually, it's nice for dinner too. It's just so perfectly versatile and can be whipped up with whatever you have on hand. Eating it cold is better than warm and it's also better the second day (if it lasts that long). This is my second posting for quiche in the past couple of months so you can tell I am a fan. I usually get inspired when eggs are on sale and veggies are plentiful. And the artist in me likes to make pretty patterns.

2 cups flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
1 T. light olive oil
6 T. cold water
egg wash

Pulse the flour, butter, oil and salt in a processor until crumbly. Add the water and pulse a few times until it comes together. Carefully dump it out onto a board and push it together gently! Roll into the shape of your pan. My tart pan has a removable bottom for easy serving. Brush egg wash on the edges and bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Let cool off a bit while you make the filling.

4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 T. olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 10 oz package sliced mushrooms
1 clove chopped garlic
1 T. chopped basil
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 bunch very thin asparagus

Mix eggs, milk and parmesan together in a bowl and set aside. In a pan, saute the onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Add the basil or any other herbs and remove from heat.

Put mushroom mixture onto crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese. Pour egg mixture over that. Arrange asparagus in a starburst pattern. You may have to trim the asparagus down into 2-3 inch pieces. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Baked Flautas de Carnitas

Who doesn't love fried flautas smothered with salsa, guacamole and sour cream?? I sure do, even though I've never made them myself. These are just as good, in my humble opinion and much better for you. You can surely use chicken to save even more calories.

Flautas are a nice alternative to enchiladas and are a snap to assemble after you've let the pork cook in the crockpot all day. It took me all of 5 minutes to get the meat going. I definitely prefer the "butt" roast (no snickering, kids). For some reason, the last few times I tried using a pork shoulder, it came out kind of gamey.

Put into crockpot:
1/2 cup water
3-4 lb. pork butt roast with dry rub*
sprinkle 3 sliced jalepenos on top of meat

Cook on high for 5-6 hours. Remove from crock and shred meat, picking out obvious fatty spots.

* My favorite dry rub seasoning is something called "Santa Maria Style Seasoning" which is salt, garlic, black pepper and parsley. I used about 2 tablespoons of this along with 1 tsp. of cumin.

10-12 flour tortillas
shredded carnitas (above)
2 cups shredded cheese
1 can black beans
1 cup salsa
1/2 onion, minced
Olive oil for brushing over tops

Preheat oven to 375. Warm tortillas in foil for 10 minutes in oven. Spread a little of each ingredient in a line down the middle of the tortilla and roll up as tight as possible. Place on greased cookie sheet, seam side down. Once, you've made them all, brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve with salsa and guacamole.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fruit Pizza

Okay, I've been out of order for awhile, as a couple of you have pointed out. Thank you so much for caring, I feel so special...sniff sniff. I was actually on a family vacation for a couple weeks and unable to check my e-mail for over 9 days. In a row! After the first couple days of going through the shakes and feeling disconnected from my virtual life, I really got the hang of it and enjoyed just playing with my family. I even read two whole real books, the kind with no pictures! Besides doing all things San Diego, we got to visit some relatives that we had not seen for many years, including my aunts and uncles from Oklahoma who were visiting California.

That's it for the update. Hopefully I will be back to blogging, but I'm working on another project which has been keeping me occupied. So this morning at about 9:30 my kids were asking for pizza because they were soooooooo hungry. I decided to let them make their own fruit pizza, and they were thrilled with that prospect.

Owen keeps telling me that he wants to be a chef (and I get a pang of pride each time I hear that), but then again, he also wants to be a Super Spy, an astronaut, a doctor, and a pilot. So I'm not holding my breath.

Notice below, Wesley licking his hand. Awesome! Clearly no rules around here for fun-time cooking. I try to bite my tongue and just let them make a grand old mess. They were so proud of themselves, and that was my goal here. It didn't matter that the sugar melted and ran off the pizza stone into the bottom of my oven. It didn't matter that the crust was hard as a rock. Nor did it matter that I had to sweep up a pound of flour from the floor. They ate it and beamed. Mission accomplished.

Not sure if you knew this, but getting a loaded pizza onto a pre-heated pizza stone is not easy. Especially when your topping is sugar and round berries. Next time I will use a plain ol' rimmed cookie sheet.

And I might "help" with the cinnamon-sugar portion control so it doesn't melt off the pizza and do this:
When they are all grown and married with their own kids, I can only hope that they remember mornings like this and smile. And their wives can sit back with a cup of coffee and the newspaper while dad whips up some gourmet breakfast!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Grilled Peaches with Cinnamon-Spiked Ricotta & Honey

Just taking advantage of what's hanging around the house here - a little extra ricotta and some fresh peaches. Again, if you don't like ricotta cheese, this will not impress you. I just think it gave the peaches a little extra pizazz (is that a real word? It looks wrong). Anyways, if this is a jumping point for embellishing your own fruit then, whoopie! But I toally get it if you prefer your fruit nude. And sometimes ricotta just won't satisfy your ice cream craving. I understand. Really, I do.

Cooking spray
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Splenda

Spray your grill or grill pan with cooking spray. Once hot, lay those peaches down. Meanwhile, mix ricotta, cinnamon and Splenda (or sugar) together. Once the peaches are heated through and have the grill marks, take them off the heat. Put 1 T. mixture into each peach and then drizzle with honey. Yum!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Few of my Favorite Things

Chocolate filled raspberries. I just melted chocolate chips and put in a ziplock bag. Snip the corner and pipe the chocolate into fresh raspberries. Best served at room temperature so the chocolate melts in your mouth along with the berry. So delicate and beautiful, these would make a perfect adornment to a cupcake, tart or just pop them in your mouth for no apparent reason (my favorite way).

Dreyer's Yogurt Blends - Caramel Praline Crunch. If you are an ice cream fan and just have to have a serving every night, here is an interesting solution. I LOVE this particular flavor, but there are several to choose from. Only 120 calories per serving and 3.5 grams of fat, plus all those live culture things that yogurt has, which is apparently good for digestion and what not. I think it just tastes so incredibly good.

Do you remember the ice cream trucks coming around your neighborhood when you were a kid? This one I remember well because of the gumball eyeballs. There was also Tweety Bird and the foot-shaped one with a gumball for the big toe. I'm scared of the ice cream truck that comes around my hood. That beat-up 70's van must cruise through here at a brisk pace because when I hear that creepy wailing tune, by the time I run out the front door, he is long gone. I often wonder if maybe they sell more than just ice cream, if you know what I mean.

Sopapillas - Fried flour tortillas topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar. Now you picky foodie people, I realize that mine are not traditional sopapillas, which are some sort puffy bread made from scratch and then's just my gringo version. My parents used to make these every once in awhile. I think it was a frugal dessert which made us totally happy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Go FIGure

Mmmm... I think we are at the height of fig season because they are everywhere right now. I even found a new park this week that had HUGE fig trees with sticky fig residue everywhere. Too bad the branches were so high that I couldn't reach them. I also couldn't resist buying a couple baskets at the Farmer's Market this week. Here are a few ways I decided to use them:

Fresh Figs - With walnuts and Cambazola (creamy blue cheese). Simplicity at it's finest.

Oven-Dried Figs - This was kind of a mistake, but it turned out pretty good! I was going to pre-bake some figs to put on a pizza or tart. So I put them in the toaster oven at about 300 degrees......and TOTALLY forgot about them. Over 2 hours later, I got these dry sweet chewy morsels. A blessing in disguise!
I know, I know, that's a fire hazard waiting to happen. It's just that they didn't really emit an odor and I was completely engrossed in catching up with some housework and a little Olympics on the TIVO. If you are planning a hike in the hills, these would be a great natural sweet snack to bring along. It makes me think of trying to find a food dehydrater.

Fig & Ginger Chutney - Aside from a little chopping, chutneys are easy to make and they are so versatile. Serve it on grilled meat. Pour it over a wedge of brie with crackers. Make a crostini appetizer with some goat cheese and chutney. I love the sweet-sour-spicy combination!

1 pint figs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 T. grated ginger

3 T. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup minced onion

4 oz tomato sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1/8 tsp. cinnamon


Mix everything together in a non-reactive bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Transfer to sauce pan and simmer for about and hour, or until all the flavors have mellowed. Best to eat the next day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

I can only take credit for recreating this dish because I hoisted it directly from Tami at Running with Tweezers. It just looked so refreshing and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. (I wish I could find those green zebra tomatoes she had) This is a visually stunning salad and the sweet tomatoes and watermelon meld together quite nicely. It reminded me that salt tastes great with watermelon.

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Goat Cheese
Basil Leaves
Olive Oil

Put everything together on a plate. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
I am categorizing this in both salad and dessert because it could really be the handsome beginning or end of any summer meal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Caramelized Onion Quiche with Fresh Mozarella and Zucchini Flowers

Eggs, onion, cheese and some leftover zucchini flowers make for a cute little quiche. I was inpired by all the beautiful quiches I found online that were topped with concentric patterns of food - asparagus, ramps or red bell strips, making neat patterns.

First things first. The crust. Do what you wish here....I made mine from scratch. Nothing wrong with frozen pre-made crust. In fact, if I had some handy it would have been just fine and cut my prep by at least 15 minutes.

Pie/Quiche Pastry Crust
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4-5T. ice cold water

Cut the butter into the flour and salt. Add the water, until a formable ball of dough forms. Roll it out and put in a pie pan. Cover the crust with parchment paper and top with dry beans or rice to weigh it down so it won't puff up. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 oven.

Second, saute the onion slices in a little olive oil until caramelized. This takes a good 15 minutes. I usually cheat and add a teaspoon of sugar to help the browning along. Then get all your other ingredients ready to go.....slice your mozarella, grate the parmesan, cut up some basil and brush off those zucchini flowers.

1 onion, sliced and caramelized
4 oz fresh mozarella
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 T. chopped basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
6 zucchini flowers, halved vertically

In a separate bowl, mix 4 eggs with 1 cup milk. Add parmesan, basil, salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Spread the onions on the crust, then the mozarella. (mushrooms would also be delish) Pour egg mixture over the top, reserving a couple tablespoons. Lay flowers in a pattern on top and push them down a little so they get wet with the egg. Cover with the last couple tablespoons of egg. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until done.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Yucatan Chicken Tacos with BBQ Chile-Peanut Sauce and Red Slaw

I wonder if everyone is impulsive like me when it comes to food. I do sometimes overindulge, but what I'm talking about is when you see something on a cooking show or in a magazine and immediately say, "I am making that tonight". You drop what you had planned for dinner. You ignore the tornado frenzy that are your children racing around your feet. You must recreate that recipe!

That's what happened here. The show was Throw Down with Bobby Flay and it was a challenge for "Puffy Tacos." It looked so easy on TV (doesn't it always?), but once I saw Bobby's recipe, I decided to simplify it just a ditching the puffy aspect. I used regular corn tortillas. And I didn't make the base BBQ sauce from scratch. And no peanut-cilantro relish. It was still OUTSTANDING. I loved the creamy peanut BBQ sauce with the tangy slaw. It wasn't your typical taco, but the flavors were so unique and addicting. If you have some extra time on a weekend or something, I say give this a whirl.

Step 1 - Marinate the chicken.

Step 2 - Make the BBQ sauce.

Step 3 - Make the red cabbage slaw and finish the sauce.

Step 4 - Cook the taco shells and assemble.

So here is my version:

Yucatan Tacos with BBQ Chile-Peanut Sauce with Red Slaw

Chicken Marinade:
2 lbs. chicken cut into small chunks
2 T. honey
2 T. lime juice
2 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. olive oil
2 t. minced garlic
1 minced chipotle pepper

Mix everything together and let marinade while making the rest of this dish.

BBQ Sauce:
1 T. olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce

Saute onion until soft, add ginger & garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add BBQ sauce and chipolte and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool for a bit and then blend together in a blender until smooth.

Put sauce back in pan and add:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Increase heat to HIGH and cook until reduced by half.

2 T. soy sauce
3 T. creamy peanut butter

Cook another 5 minutes.

Red Slaw:
1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Place cabbage and onion in a large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, orange juice, oil and honey and pour over the cabbage. Add the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with mint. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

The last step...this is it, really.

Fry corn tortillas into taco shells - or let your partner do that while you stir fry the chicken. Grate some cheese. Assemble tacos - chicken, sauce, cheese and slaw.

Eat. Enjoy. Sneak one more taco than you anticipated. Come on, you worked for it!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta

Pssst. Don't tell anyone, but I've been having a summer fling. His name is Ricotta. He is so great to be around - he gets along with everyone and never talks back or steals the remote. If you want, I can give him your number.

Anyways, it's farmer's market Thursday again, usually one day I'm feeling a little adventurous in the kitchen. I can honestly say that I've been wanting to make these for 6 years!! How do I know the exact moment, you ask?

That was the first time I tasted ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers in a was shortly after we got married and I remember making the reservations to A'Cote in Berkeley with my new last name. I was giddy - and even more giddy after finding these on the menu. To me, it was so fru-fru and fancy, but now with the explosion of foodie bloggers comparing notes, nothing seems out-of-the-ordinary anymore.

I've tried to reproduce them making my basic ricotta stuffing that I use to make stuffed pasta shells. I found the tempura batter online, a really easy flour/egg/water mixture.

Pick some zucchini flowers from your own garden, steal them from your neighbor's garden, or just seek them out from your local farmer's market. Brush off any visible bugs and cut out the pistil or stamen, whichever reproductive organ you see lurking down inside. Ack!

Cut up some veggies really tiny and saute until soft. Add some herbs like basil or thyme.
Add the veggies to some fresh ricotta and stir together.
Stuff each blossom with the ricotta mixture and coat with the tempura. Fry those puppies up. Get your splatter screen out. Trust me. Do it.
You can serve them up on a plate and let people pick them up like perfect little hand-held appetizers or......
.......make an appetizer plate for each person. I found some beautiful heirloom tomatoes to use as a base. They were so incredibly sweet and juicy - a perfect way to balance out the creamy fried goodness.
Nibble nibble. Munch munch.
Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta

12 zucchini blossoms

oil for frying

1 cup finely chopped veggies (zuc, carrot, onion, broccoli, peppers etc.)

1 clove minced garlic

2 T. chopped herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, etc.)


1 small container of fresh ricotta

tempura mixture:

1 egg

1 cup ice water

1 cup flour

Directions: Saute the veggies in 1 T. water until starting to turn soft. Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Remove from heat and cool. In a bowl, mix ricotta, veggies and fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff each blossom with 1 - 2 T. of ricotta mixture. I think you could put these in the fridge at this point (not sure on that).

Heat up enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. For the tempura batter, mix the egg and super cold ice water together, then add sifted flour, stirring briskly to avoid lumps. (This reminded me of the paper mache "glue" we made as kids). Dip the blossom into the batter, twisting the top of the flower to seal it up. Fry until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt after removing from pan. Enjoy!