Monday, December 12, 2011

Risotto: A Watched Pot DOES Boil!




I've adjusted my cooking "practices" quite a bit this past year: Implementing more fruits & vegetables, limiting the number of times I go to the grocery store within a week, and reducing how much I use canned/boxed/processed foods.

E had a soccer game to coach tonight and I didn't feel like going to the store, so I thought I'd attempt making risotto from scratch for the first time. It was easier than I thought and much tastier than the box version of risotto (and healthier too). What's great about risotto is that it can be modified to your diet/tastes/ingredients on-hand. The most important thing is that you have to watch the pot and stir regularly until it's finished. Risotto takes about 25 minutes to make, so it's a fairly quick and healthy dinner.

Ingredients you'll need:
2 T. total of butter and/or extra virgin olive oil
veg from the onion family (onion, shallot, green onion, leek), chopped
1-1/2 c. arborio rice (the type of rice makes the difference!)
5 -6 c.Some type of stock/liquid (chicken stock, veg stock)
1/2 c. white wine (if you don't use alcohol in your cooking, you can use more stock!)
Salt and Pepper

Suggested Ingredients to add:
Carrots (my fav), celery
Butternut Squash
Mushrooms
Asparagus
Peas
Fresh herbs
Saffron
Lemon Zest/Juice
Parmesan cheese
Mascarpone cheese

Here's the method:
-Saute your onion and other root vegetables in the butter/EVOO mixture over medium heat, approx 5-7 min. I chose my beloved onion, celery, carrot combo.
-Add the rice and stir for about one minute.
-Deglaze the pan with 1/2 c. white wine (or stock)
-After the wine/stock has been absorbed by the rice, start adding your stock about 1 c. at a time. Keep rice to a low simmer. The rice will absorb the liquid and that's when it's time to add some more liquid.
-Continue to stir the risotto. When you're about 10-15 minutes into the cooking process, you can add your fresh herbs or gentler vegetables, like asparagus or peas. I added lemon zest, thyme and rosemary.
-After about 20 minutes into cooking the risotto, taste the risotto to see if it's done. You'll want it to be slightly more cooked than al dente (or according to your liking).

Divide the risotto into bowls and top with cheese/chives/lemon juice. This makes great leftovers to take to work for lunch the next day!

I'm Back!




Hello, Friends! My apologies for not blogging in such a long time. The last several months have been busier than normal for me. I got engaged, married, and work has been picking up: all very good things!

The Little Blog That Could was on the backburner, but my cooking was not! I have made several healthy meals and have taken several pictures. My new goal is to post on a weekly basis. Mark my words, it will happen. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Add-Pay Eye-Tay

I'm making an honest attempt at incorporating more dairy-free "vegan" (I'm using the term "vegan" loosely as I'm not scrutinizing over the processes and ingredients of non-dairy/vegetarian products) meals into our diet. I'm still intimidated by tofu, but I want to use it more than two times a year. I bought some this week at the grocery store after I found yet another tasty recipe from the Martha Stewart Everyday Foods Recipes app. It's totally worth downloading. It's awesome and the recipes are fairly simple, not as many steps, and don't use too many ingredients. This recipe was called "Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce". Ummm, because "pad thai" has a copyright, or because this recipe isn't an authentic Pad Thai? It tasted like pad thai to me, and I made a few modifications.

Pad Thai, the adapted Martha Stewart Everyday Recipes recipe by a white girl who has eaten pad thai a total of 10 times.

8 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti (I had linguine and prefer it to spaghetti in a recipe w a rich sauce such as this)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 container (14 oz.) firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
4 oz snow peas, tough strings removed
(I didn't have snow peas, but I had asparagus, 1/2 yellow bell pepper - julienne, and half a bunch of scallions sliced)

For the sauce:
3 T. smooth peanut butter
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. light-brown sugar

Fresh lime wedges

Directions:
1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, approximately 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 c. pasta water. Dump in the tofu and vegetables into the pot of boiling pasta. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables will be bright in color. Drain the pasta, tofu and vegetables all into a colander and set aside.

2. In that same (now empty) pot, stir togetherh peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Add reserved pasta/tofu/veg mixture to the sauce; toss gently, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time as you gently stir, to create a thin sauce that coats the pasta (you may not need all the water). Season as desired with salt, pepper and a lime wedge. Serve. Makes approximately four servings.

Like I said, I don't know if this can legitimately be called Pad Thai, but it's reminiscent of the dish. The few times I've had pad thai, it had bean sprouts, minced thai chili, cilantro and peanuts. I didn't have any of these ingredients on-hand.

This dish is great served cold and is very filling!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Asparagus-Leek Quiche


I can count the times I've eaten quiche on one hand, and one time it was awesome and that was in an amazing bakery in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal. With a track record like that, quiche seemed intimidating for me to attempt to make at home. My beautiful friend, Steph, makes quiche all the time and she claimed it was easy. If Steph says a dish is easy to make, I believe her. But her quiche is Carne-Quiche-Insanity and since we are attempting to eat vegetarian 90% of the time, I chose a Asparagus Leek Quiche recipe I got from the Martha Steward Everyday Food app on my phone. I will throw a disclaimer out there: regardless of ease, quiches do take a bit of time to prepare and bake. If you made miniature quiches and bought individual-sized prepared crusts, it will definitely cut down the baking time as there is less surface area to bake in each mini quiche.

Asparagus Leek Quiche from the Everyday Food Recipes App

Ingredients:
1 T. butter
1 Leek (white and light green parts only ), halved and thinly sliced, then well washed - leeks are grown in a soil that contains a lot of sand, partly because it is easy to harvest from the earth. There will always be sand in leeks. After halving and slicing the leek, put the bits in a bowl of cold water and agitate the water w your hand. The sand will sink to the bottom of the bowl. OR, put sliced leeks into a colander and rinse well.
Coarse Salt-and-Pepa
1 bunch (1 lb) asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced on diagonal
4 large eggs
1-1/4 c. half-and-half (using a dairy product with less fat than half-and-half will create the quiche to be watery.)
Ground nutmeg
Pie crust, fitted into a 9-inch DEEP DISH pie plate, well chilled
1 c. shredded Gruyere cheese (4 oz.)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack on lowest position. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium. Add leek and asparagus; season w Salt-and-Pepa (nerd alert). Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, approximately 6-8 minutes; let cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 t. salt, t. of pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Place pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle w cheese; top with asparagus mixture. Pour egg mixture on top.

3. Bake until center of quiche is just set, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through the baking time. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. I served the quiche with homemade stewed tomatoes and lemon wedges, which is a personal preference. The great thing about quiche is you can eat quiche for any meal. It is great served warm, room temperature and cold (IMO). Although this quiche does take time to bake, it's a great dish to serve for brunch, as you don't have to serve it piping hot.

NOTE: I added a little bit of feta cheese to the quiche because I had some feta cheese on-hand. It was very tasty, and would be great without the feta cheese as well. I also used a premade Pilsbury pie crust. Stay tuned! I'll show you what I did the the remaining pie crust.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seven Layer Salad

From the indulgent scones in the previous post, I'm switching to the healthier side of things. It's all about balance. :) Eating a lighter meal at night is good for your gut. You get a more restful sleep, you don't suffer as much from heartburn and/or acid reflux, and you're not packing on those calories at day's end. All around, eating light at night is good schtuff. This Seven Layer salad is kind of a twist on the seven layer bean dip with some healthier switches. I omitted the dairy altogether and took out the olives because E doesn't like olives. This Seven Layer salad is so flavorful, you really don't need the fats from the cheese and sour cream. Omitting these ingredients also give the dish a cleaner taste and lightens things up.

Ingredients:

1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2, 3, 4 tomatoes, whatever you have on hand, halved. I used heirloom tomatoes of all sizes.
Juice from 1 lime
3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob
1 can of beans (Pinto, black, kidney), rinsed
1 avocado, cubed
Salsa to your preference
pinch of salt

I sauteed the onion, zucchini and bell pepper in olive oil and set aside. Sprinkle your halved tomatoes with the juice of half of the lime. Add a tiny pinch of salt to the tomatoes.Cut the kernels from the ears of corn. Roast the corn kernels in a dry skillet for about 8-10 minutes. Use your spatula to stir the corn every couple of minutes, so the sides brown up a bit. After the kernels are browned but not burned, remove from heat, sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt. On a platter, layer the following:

Roasted Corn
Pinto Beans
Bell pepper/onion/zucchini mixture
Salsa, however much/little you prefer
Tomatoes
Avocado
Lime juice (I know, far fetched to include lime juice as a layer but it is a significant part of the flavor profile so it counts as a "layer".) If you want to add more zing, sprinkle some Mexican spices like cumin and chili flakes.

You can squeeze more lime juice on the entire thing or serve w lime wedges for individual tastes. For me, I can never have too much fresh lime juice. Serve with warmed soft taco sized tortillas or tortilla chips. I didn't realize this until after dinner last night, but this meal is vegan, considering you eat it with vegan tortillas. You can also opt for a gluten-free dinner and eat this salad on romaine.

Buen provecho!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Scones

DISCLAIMER: My intention for this blog is to share healthy recipes and my experiences at mealtime, however, I also like to indulge every once in awhile. I don't bake often but when I do, I use whole foods and organic foods whenever I can. All is good in moderation. :)


I've had this fantasy of curling up with a book, or sewing or blogging with flamenco music playing softly in the background. Regardless of activity, there is always a pot of tea and a scone or two in my fantasy. (I know. Some wild fantasy, right? I'm a 70-year-old trapped in a 30-year-old's body). Anyways, I made some scones last week.

Blueberry Lemon Scones

This recipe was adapted from the Barefoot Contessa at Home Cranberry Oranges Scones recipe, by Ina Garten. I bought a ton of fresh organic blueberries, on sale at Whole Foods. This recipe uses the blueberries I froze and lemon zest and juice in substitution for the craisins and the oranges.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using your mixer, Cream together on the lowest setting:
4 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. baking powder
2 t. salt
2 T. lemon zest
3 sticks (3/4 lb) unsalted COLD butter. Yes. Three sticks. Cream together until the little butter bits are the shape of peas.

Combine 1 c. heavy cream w 4 eggs. Add that creamy eggy combo into the floury-butter mix. Keep it on the low setting.

Add 1 cup of blueberries. CAUTION: If I had to make this recipe over again, I would use dried blueberries. The fresh blueberries had too much moisture, and created very soggy dough.

Incorporate the blueberries on the LOW setting until they are mixed throughout the dough.
(Pictures courtesy of Eric. He helps me where/when he can.)

Dump the dough onto a clean and floured surface. If the dough feels a little soggy, add a handful of flour to the dough. Knead the dough until you can form the dough into a ball, or something close to it. Use a floured rolling pin to roll the scone dough to be approximately 1" thick. Take a greased and floured 3" biscuit cutter to cut out the scones. I don't have a biscuit cutter, so I just used a juice glass. It did the trick. The recipe says to use and egg wash of one egg beaten with 2 T. of water, but I didn't have five eggs total for this recipe, so I used milk as a "wash" for my scones. Brush the wash on top of the raw scones before popping into the oven.

Bake for 20+ minutes at 400 degrees until golden brown. Cool on cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Whisk together 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar and 4 t. of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Once scones are cooled, use a spoon to lightly drizzle the glaze over the baked scones.Enjoy as you read, sew or drive to work in the morning. ;)

Pesto Spaghetti


My poor basil plant. Looks so sad. It went from thriving in the store when I bought it, to turning black from too much water (read: Love), to wilting in the 115-degree heat. I moved the plant to partial sunlight and it receives shade most of the day. It's still hanging on, but so droopy. Maybe I should transfer the basil into a bigger pot too?? Enter Kelly, my insurance agent, who is also a farmer. She surprised me yesterday with a bag of her fresh basil after hearing my black thumb woes. Thank you! Thank you, Kelly!

What do you do with two cups of fresh basil? There probably isn't a wrong answer to this question, but I make pesto with all of this basil. Two cups yields just enough for a dinner and some leftovers between two people, or dinner for four people. I used my handy Whole Foods Recipes app on my phone (free app!) for the recipe:

Easy Pesto

2 c. fresh basil
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. nuts - I used the last of my pine nuts and walnuts
1/2 c. shredded cheese - I had parmesan
1 T. water
1 large clove of fresh garlic
freshly ground black pepper

Pulse in your food processor until it's all ground up.










Pesto Spaghetti


The spaghetti dinner is what I came up with on my own. Using what I already had in my pantry, I sauteed artichoke hearts and grape tomatoes in a little olive oil.









I added 1/2 c. of the pasta water I reserved from cooking the pasta (whole grain spaghetti). Then I dumped the cooked spaghetti into the pan of the sauteed artichoke hearts and tomatoes, along with the pesto. The pasta water is necessary as it adds a little flavor, and the starchy water thins out the pesto, turning it into a saucy consistency. I also tossed the pasta w some walnuts and lemon zest.

Even though the fruits of my labor weren't derived from MY basil plant, it all tasted amazing, just the same.

Food Memories


One of my most memorable food experiences was eating frito-lay cheese dip out of an ashtray. Maybe it was memorable because it was my 27th birthday and I was homesick and missed my Boo, or because I was in Spain where "salsa" is not the same as SALSA and my best friend surprised me with a mini "Mexican" feast of chips, jarred salsa and processed nacho cheese dip for my birthday, or maybe it was because the only "dish" we had in our hotel room was an ashtray. There is a time and place for crappy food, and this was one of them, which made for an awesome food memory, among many food memories in my life.

Contradictory to my cheese-in-an-ashtray story, I am obsessed with fresh ingredients and learning new and healthful recipes. This blog is to share my food experiences, one meal at a time.