Saturday, October 20, 2012

Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden Copycat)

One of my favorite soups and fall dishes is this sausage, kale, and potato soup which mimics Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.  I make this soup a couple times a year, during fall and winter.  And all summer I wait for that first cold weekend that I can make a big pot of this soup with some garlic breadsticks for dipping!  ENJOY!!

1 lb Ground Sweet Italian Sausage
1½ tsp Crushed Red Peppers
1 Large Sweet Onion, Diced
1/4 c. Chopped Bacon
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
5 c. Water
5 c. Chicken Broth
1 c. Heavy Cream
1 lb Sliced Potatoes
¼ Bunch Kale, Chopped

Sauté sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat, set aside.  In the same pot, sauté bacon, onions and garlic until the onions are soft.

Add the water and broth; cook until boiling.  Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.

Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in the sausage.

Add kale just before serving.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Foil Baked Masala Fish

    A couple of years ago, I had an amazing fish dish at a local Asian fusion restaurant.  Thai Red Snapper.  The fish was covered in a spicy Thai paste and wrapped in banana leaves, served with amazing brown rice, and steamed vegetables.  Healthy, but much more importantly, so YUMMY!  Since then I have been wanting to make an Indian version of the same dish.  First problem…I don't think I can get big banana leaves near me.  No problem; I have foil.  Second problem…snapper is hard to find too!  Problem solved; tilapia is a good substitute.  And now for the hard part…getting the spices right.  It took quite a few tries, but I finally got it right!  When I was visiting my parents over the summer, I decided to do another fish experiment.  And with lots of hesitation and a bit of faith, I decided to just start throwing together a bunch of spices!  Thankfully I had the foresight to measure and right it down as I went!  Amazingly enough, it was exactly what I wanted!

    This dish is not only light, healthy and very flavorful; it is SUPER FAST and EASY!  I usually use tilapia, but you could go with any white fish you enjoy.  I hear snapper is a good option.  :)  I served it on a bed of brown rice and one of my favorite vegetable dishes, carrots and scallions.  I will share that recipe with you soon. I promise!  But for now, enjoy the fish!

    1/4 tsp. Turmeric
    1/4 tsp. Red Chile Powder
    2 tsp. Coriander Powder
    1 Tb Madras Curry Powder
    1/4 tsp. Salt
    2 tsp. Cumin Powder
    1-2 tsp. Jalapeno Paste (optional)
    4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
    1 Tb Ginger Paste
    3-4 Tb Olive Oil
    3-4 Tilapia Filets
    8-10 sprigs Cilantro

    Preheat oven to 375 F.

    Mix all spices and herbs together with oil to make a paste.

    Place individual filets on large pieces of foil (the foil needs to be large enough to fold over and wrap into a pouch for the fish).  Generously coat both sides of each filet with the masala paste.  Top with a couple sprigs of cilantro.  Wrap into a pouch with foil.

    Place the pouches in a large baking dish/sheet to help catch any messy spills and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.  Serve on rice with your favorite veggies!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gluten-Free Veggie Falafels

    Falafels are a childhood favorite of mine.  I remember my mom would by a dry falafel mix in the bulk section of our local supermarket to make falafels…and they were darn good!  Now, many years later, and many miles away, I can not find a good falafel mix.  They are usually dry and cardboard like.  Plus they usually have some kind of additives listed on the box that make for a fun game of "How do YOU pronounce that?"  So I was on a mission to make my own falafels.  I have tested a couple recipes over the years, whenever I go to visit my mom and this is the latest and greatest!  Even Foodie Dad (the hubby), who is quite particular about his falafels, said that these are great! 

    This is now such a popular dish with my boys, that I just can't seem to make enough of them.  They like to eat this a few times a week!  And it has gotten my little man to eat more than just pizza, nuggets, or mac and cheese! 

    I will warn you, this does take some time to make, so make them on a weekend when you have nothing else going on.  But the best part is that you end up with lots of leftovers and can freeze them for super quick (15 minutes) meals for quite some time!  It is so worth it take some time out one day to make these!

    I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does!

    1 1/2 c. Dry Garbanzo Beans
    1/2 c. Dry Navy Beans
    1 /2 c. Dry Black Eye Peas
    1 1/4 c. Dry Green Peas
    1 bunch Celery, roughly chopped
    4 Carrots
    2 bunch Scallions
    1 bunch Parsley, roughly chopped
    20 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
    4 tsp. Salt
    3 tsp. Red Chile Powder
    4 Tb Coriander Powder
    3 Tb Cumin Powder
    1/2 c. Besan Flour, as needed
    Oil, for deep frying
    Chopped Lettuce, for serving
    Diced Onions, for serving
    Diced Cucumbers, for serving
    Diced Tomatoes, for serving
    Tzatziki Sauce, for serving
    Sriracha (or other garlic chili paste), for serving
    Pocket Pitas

    Separately soak all beans overnight.

    Drain, wash, then process beans, separately in a food processor, into a thick paste, adding fresh water as needed.  Set all the bean paste aside in a large bowl.

    Process the celery, carrots, scallions, parsley, and garlic until finely minced.  Add the bean paste and spices and process until well mixed.  Stir in besan flour as needed to thicken the falafel mixture just to the point that you can form small balls without them falling apart.

    Heat oil in a large fryer.  Form small balls with the falafel mixture and deep fry them in the oil.  When falafels are crispy and dark brown on the outside and cooked through, remove from fryer onto a platter lined with paper towels.

    To freeze, line the falafels on a baking sheet and freeze. Then transfer them into a large zip bag.  To reheat, bake frozen falafels for 15 minutes at 350 F.

    To serve, toast the pocket pitas, then carefully open and stuff them with the falafels.  Then top with lettuce, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, tzatziki, and sriracha.  ENJOY!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Super Quick Eggless Meatballs

So I've been on somewhat of a hiatus from the blog this summer.  Between mini-vacations, swim lessons, and other summer-time hi-jinks, I haven't had much time or energy to sit and record new recipes to share.  Not to fret, I've been taking lots of great pictures and will have a cornucopia of recipes to share come fall when both boys will be in school.  (What will I do with that extra 8 hours a week of alone time!?!?)  But I just had to share this one recipe with you now!

After a morning at the water park and an afternoon playing out in the yard, I really didn't know what to make for dinner. I knew it had to be quick and easy.  Not to mention I haven't been to the grocery store in over a week, so the pickings were slim. Digging through the freezer, I found some ground beef and thought there must be something quick and easy I can make.  Then I was reminded of a recipe I had discovered on Pinterest that touted the World's Fastest Meatballs at Food Wishes.  (Man, I LOVE Pinterest!!)  I took a look and it seemed pretty easy, but of course it had egg in it.  So with a bit of creative thinking, I was able to put together an eggless recipe.  I wasn't sure how they'd turn out, but I had to start somewhere.  They ended up being perfect the first time around!! 

Now, you're going to want to sit down for what I'm going to say next.  Are you sitting?  OK…here goes…

I made these meatballs in about the same time it would have taken me to boil water and cook pasta.  Yes, go ahead and read that over again.  That's right.  It took about 20 minutes.  And that was including time to dig around my pantry for the breadcrumbs.  And the best part of the whole night?  Both my boys LOVED it!  Even my picky 2 year old who won't eat much of anything had 4 of them!  This is definitely going to be on the regular menu cycle. 

1/3 c. Bread Crumbs
1/4 c. plus 1Tb Milk
1 tsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder (or more)
1/4 tsp. Dried Parsley
1/4 tsp. Dried Basil
1/8 tsp. Dried Oregano
1/8 tsp. Dried Thyme
1 lb Ground Beef
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp. White Pepper
1/4 c. Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat Broiler.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease.

Stir together breadcrumbs, milk, oil, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, mix together beef, salt, black pepper, white pepper, and parmesan.  Then mix in the breadcrumb mixture.  Don't worry about over-mixing it, just mix until it is all evenly mixed.

Using a small ice cream scooper, scoop the meat into balls onto the baking sheet.  They won't be smooth, like you were hand rolling them, and that's a good thing!  Place the baking sheet under the broiler and cook until the meatballs are browned and crispy on top and cooked through in the center.  I placed mine on the top shelf under the broiler for 4 1/2 minutes to brown, then lowered to the middle shelf for another 3 minutes to cook through.  Do what works best for your oven.

Serve as you like...I did it the traditional way with spaghetti and tomato sauce.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lamb Saag

To me Lamb Saag (Lamb Spinach) is a perfect dish.  I get to have my protein and my vegetable in one dish.  Granted, this is still a two-pot dish, so it's almost the same as making 2 separate dishes, but I just like the idea of having my lamb swimming in a beautiful green spinach sauce.  I mean, just think about the iron boost you'll get from eating this!

I have just a few notes about the recipe which I adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's cookbook, How to Cook Indian.  First, I used boneless lamb in my recipe, because that's what I had in the freezer.  You can do this with bone-in lamb, but if you do, simmer all the lamb in the stock for the full hour and only simmer it for a total of 15, plus 10 minutes at the end…it should be good and tender then.  Second, I went light on the curry powder and chile powder because my boys were going to eat this.  If it were just for hubby and me, I would have added the 4 tsp. of curry powder and 1 tsp. of chile powder.  Do what suits you and your family the best. If you're not sure, add the lowest amount and adjust to your taste.  (This is pretty much standard operating procedure for me.)  I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does!

2 lbs Lamb Stew Meat
1 inch Cinnamon Stick
6 Green Cardamom
2 Black Cardamom
4 Whole Cloves
1/2 tsp. Ground Turmeric, divided
1 1/4 tsp. Salt, divided
10 oz Frozen Spinach
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1 tsp. Cumin Seeds
1 Tb Grated Ginger
5-6 cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
2 med Sweet Onions, sliced
2-4 tsp. Madras Curry Powder, to taste
1/4-1 tsp. Red Chile Powder, to taste
Pour 3 cups water into a medium stockpot.  Add the cinnamon, green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, and 1 tsp. salt and bring to boil.  Add 1/4 lb of lamb; lower the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.  Drain, reserving the lamb and the stock.

Meanwhile, thaw spinach in the microwave, in a microwave safe bowl or plate, for about 3 minutes on high heat.  Let cool, then transfer to a food processor without draining.  Process to a smooth puree and set aside.

Place a large wok over medium heat and add the oil.  When small bubbles appear at the bottom, lower the heat to low, add the cumin seeds, ginger paste, and garlic paste.  Sauté for a minute, then add the onions and sauté until golden browned.

Season the lamb that was not added to the stock with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  Add this lamb to the center of the wok, pushing the onions to the side.  Brown on both sides.  Then add the lamb that was simmered in the stock and half the reserved stock.  Stir well, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. 

Add the remaining stock and cook, covered, for another 20 minutes.

Stir in the spinach puree, curry powder, red chile powder, and remaining 1/4 tsp. turmeric. Cover, and let simmer on low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, until the lamb is tender and the spinach curry is to your desired consistency.  It may be necessary to add more water if it get too thick or begins to scorch before the lamb is tender.  Adjust salt as needed.

Serve over basmati rice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pav Bhaji (Mashed Vegetables with Toasted Rolls)

Unless you've been to Mumbai or have a close relationship with someone from the Mumbai area you have probably never even heard of Pav Bhaji.  It is one of Mumbai's famous street foods.  There are carts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants throughout the city with sizzling batches of this beautiful blend of vegetables and spice for you to eat any time of day.  This dish is truly the Slumdog Millionaire of the food world.  It originated in the slums of Mumbai as the slum-dwellers would spice up the "remnants" from the vegetable markets to feed their hungry families. It then spread to the working men of the railways who needed cheap eats during their late-night shifts.  It then became popular with privileged students from the colleges in the vicinity of the major rail station in Mumbai, as it was a great option after a late-night of drunken debauchery.  And from there it spread throughout the city like wildfire.

Now skeptics may say that mine is a watered-down version of the true street vendor's Pav Bhaji, but I can say it comes close and is significantly healthier, as theirs is drowning in butter.  And I also make mine much less spicy so my little ones can enjoy it.  When I make it for the little ones, I use only 1 1/2 tsp. of Pav Bhaji Masala (found at your local Indian grocer), but if I were to make it as spicy as I can handle it, I would use 1 Tb of it.  When I make it for the whole family, I make the batch on the mild side, then add some Pav Bhaji Masala to any individual plates that I want to make spicier.  You can play with it a little and adjust the masala to your taste. 

I should warn you that this makes a very big batch.  Feel free to halve the recipe or freeze your extras for future use.  I like this ratio, because I like to use up the entire cauliflower rather then let the remains go bad in the back of my fridge.  I just freeze the extras so I can have quick and easy lunches ready to go whenever I need them!

I hope you enjoy this!

1 head Cauliflower, cut into florets
6-8 Potatoes, large diced
1 lb Carrots, cut into 1" rounds
1 Tb Butter (optional)
1-2 Tb Olive or Vegetable Oil
2 Onions, finely diced
2 inch Ginger, grated
10-12 cloves (1 head) Garlic, minced
6 Tomatoes, finely diced
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp. Garam Masala
2 tsp. Coriander Powder
2 tsp. Cumin Powder
1 1/2 - 3 tsp. Pav Bhaji Masala, to taste
1/2 tsp. Aamchur (Mango Powder), optional
1 Tb Salt, to taste
1 1/2 c. Frozen Peas, thawed
12 Rolls, split and buttered
1/4 c. Chopped Cilantro
Lime Wedges

Boil or pressure cook cauliflower, potatoes and carrots until completely soft.  Drain, reserving liquid, and let cool.

Reserve 1/2 cup of onions for garnish.

Heat oil in a large kadai or wok.  Add onions and cook until tender.  Add ginger and garlic and cook until garlic is lightly golden.  Stir in tomatoes and let carmelize. 

Meanwhile, once the vegetables have cooled, mash with a potato masher.  It should be like home-style mashed potatoes, smooth with small lumps here and there.

Stir in turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, pav bhaji masala, aamchur, and salt into the onion mixture and cook for a couple minutes, making sure not to let it scorch.  Then stir in the mashed vegetables and peas.  Add a cup or two of the reserved vegetable liquid to thin out.  Let simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or to desired consistency.

Toast split rolls until golden brown.  Scoop some bhaji (vegetables) into individual dishes (or bowls) and garnish with cilantro, onions, and lime wedges.  Serve warm with the toasted rolls.  (My kids like to eat it like hamburgers.  I like to eat it like an open-faced sandwich.  But traditionally you dip the bread into the bhaji.  But it tastes amazing any way you have it!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eggless Avocado Chicken Salad

One day last week as lunchtime was urgently approaching, I looked in my fridge to find a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  It was time to get creative!  I found a rotisserie chicken that really needed to be used, an avocado, and a lime…now those sounded like they would go together nicely.  I chopped the avocado and chicken, then headed to the pantry for an onion. Now we were getting somewhere!  I added a couple other complementary flavors and the next thing I knew, I had an amazing, guilt-free chicken salad!  You can certainly serve this on bread as a sandwich, but I mixed it up with some leftover brown jasmine rice.  It was SO good!  AND it is allergy-friendly!! No silly mayo to keep my Big Boy from eating it!  I admit, I did a little dance of foodie joy! 

So happy was I of my wonderful creation, I forgot to take a picture before I devoured it.  Perhaps I'll be able to take a picture the next time I make…I'm pretty sure I'll be having this at least once a week.  Until then, here's one of some of the yummy ingredients.

1 Avocado, diced
1/3 c. Diced Onion
3 Tb Minced Cilantro
1 tsp. Olive Oil
1 Lime, juiced (may need less if your lime is extra juicy)
1/4 tsp. Red Chile Powder (or to taste)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 c. Diced Rotisserie Chicken

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl, mashing the avocado.  Stir in chicken and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve on bread for a sandwich or with brown rice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Homemade Pizza

I LOVE homemade pizza!! When it's done right, it is so much better than what I can get at my local pizzeria.  Now yes, it does take some planning ahead.  You can't just decide you want pizza 30 minutes before dinnertime.  BUT it is so worth the forethought!  And I like that I don't have to worry about the quality of the ingredients or if it's been contaminated by allergens that would cause my Big Boy big problems. 

When I first made this dough, I used all bread flour.  It was great, but I wanted to make the dough a little healthier.  So this time around I used half bread flour and half whole wheat flour.  The texture was just as good, if not better; and I liked the flavor better with the whole wheat flour.  Next time I will try to make a dough with all whole wheat flour or, ideally, try to find a whole wheat bread flour.

I also like to simmer chopped spinach into my pizza sauce.  My Big Boy likes spinach on his pizza but my Little Boy isn't too keen on eating big strands of spinach, so this is a nice happy middle ground.

1 3/4 c. Water
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1 1/4 tsp. Instant (Bread Machine or Fast Rising) Yeast
2 1/2 c. Bread Flour, as needed
2 c. Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 lb Mozzarella, shredded
2 c. Marinara Sauce

Combine water, oil, and yeast in the work bowl of a stand mixer.  Attach the bowl to the mixer and affix the paddle attachment.  With the machine on low speed, add 1 cup of the flour and salt.  Gradually add enough of the flour to make a stiff, sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on medium-low speed, adding more flour if necessary until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and form each into a ball.  Coat each ball with oil and place each into its own plastic freezer bag.  The dough can be frozen, each ball in its own plastic freezer bag, for up to 3 months.  At this time, divide the cheese and marinara sauce into 4 individual bags and place in the freezer with the dough.  Then you know you will have the basic ingredients for pizza whenever you need a quick and easy meal.

(If you want to bake the pizza the same day, let the covered dough stand at room temperature until the balls double in size, about 1 1/2 hours, and skip the next step.)

At least 5 hours before baking, remove the dough, cheese and sauce from the freezer.  Pour a few tablespoons of oil in a baking dish.  One at a time, coat each ball in fresh oil and place in the baking dish, smooth side up.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size.  (I like to put mine in the oven with the oven light on.  It creates just the right environment to defrost the dough and help the yeast rise.)  Meanwhile, let the cheese and sauce defrost at room temperature.

At least 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the pizza, place a pizza stone on the lowest rack of your oven, and heat the oven to 475 F.

About 20 minutes before baking, drop each ball onto a lightly floured work surface, and press on the dough to deflate it.  Shape into a ball again, return to the dish cover, and let stand at room temperature to relax for 20 minutes.

You are now ready to make pizza!!

On a lightly floured surface, flatten the ball of dough into a disk and roll it as thin as you like.  Transfer the dough to a cornmeal-dusted paddle.  If it loses it's shape, just reshape it on the paddle. 

With a  fork, poke holes in the crust to help prevent large bubbles.  Top as desired then slide onto the pizza stone in the oven.  Bake 8-10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and slightly blistered. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Frosting Cake

Lately I've been in a bit of an inspirational slump.  I just haven't been enthused to cook anything new or special.  I hope that I will find my cooking muse soon so that I can share more fun recipes with you.  In the meantime, I can share my most recent confectionery concoction.
A couple of weeks ago we had another wonderful occasion to make a cake-my little guy's 2nd birthday!  We had a few friends over for a Toy Story themed party and I made this terrific cake with fresh strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting.  The cake, of course, was eggless and absolutely amazing!

The eggless cake recipe I used was the same one I used for my Cars Cake that I posted earlier.  I discovered this recipe at Madhuram's Eggless Cooking.

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 c powdered sugar
3/4 c chilled heavy whipping cream
2 9x13 Eggless Vanilla Cakes, baked according to recipe at Madhuram's Eggless Cooking
1 1/2 lb Strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 sm Jar Strawberry Jam (preferably seedless)

While the cakes are baking, For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until smooth. You'll probably want to use an electric mixer for this so you don't end up with lumps. Stop every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in sugar, then jam. Beat cream in a separate, chilled, bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into frosting. Cover; chill for a couple of hours until it's firm enough to spread.

Once the cakes are cool level them with a cake cutter or large serrated knife.  Then spread the strawberry jam over the base layer of the cake and place the strawberries side by side in a single layer.  Then spread 1 c. of the frosting over the strawberries and cover with the second layer.  

Frost the cake with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired.  I covered a tin box with fondant to make the bed and figurines/blocks to turn the cake into Andy's Bedroom.  I used fondant and fondant cutters for the letters (because I'm no good trying to write with icing).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bison Burger with Grilled Onions and Mushrooms

Over the past few months I have been attempting to provide my family with more wholesome and healthier meals.  It's a work in progress and I seem to learn something new every day, but we are definitely making baby steps in the right direction.  Comparing ground meats, I recently discovered how much better bison meat is compared to beef and in some ways better than chicken and turkey.  It is lower in calories and saturated fat than beef and pork.  It provides more protein than pork, turkey or chicken.  And is lower in fat and cholesterol than all of them.  You can take a look at this Ground Meat Comparison Chart for all the details based on the USDA National Nutritional Database.

My first venture into using bison meat was a "clean" hamburger.  Everyone in the family truly enjoyed it, including myself.  And I tend to not like homemade hamburgers-I always find them to be too meaty.  I know, I'm crazy.  For hubby and me, I served it over brown rice, topped with grilled onions and mushrooms.  For the boys, I made mini burgers and served them on whole wheat dinner rolls with cheddar and the onions and mushrooms on the side.

1 lb Ground Bison
1/3 tsp. Tamarind Paste
1/3 tsp. Soy Sauce
1/3 tsp. Cider or White Vinegar
Dash Hot Pepper Sauce
Scant pinch Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp. Sea Salt
1/8 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 Tb Olive Oil
1 Onion, sliced thick
8 oz Creminis, sliced

Mix first 9 ingredients together and form 4 burgers patties, pressing an indentation in the center to help keep the burgers from thickening too much in the center.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onions and mushrooms.  Cook until tender and brown.

Grill until desired doneness. Serve with lettuce, onions and mushrooms.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pumpkin Spinach Pasta

This is an adaptation of a recipe I got from a friend many years ago.  Back before I had kids and I had to actually commute for work and I took lunch breaks, a good friend shared this dish with me for lunch one day.  It was so good I thought for sure this was some butter-ladened dish that I was going to regret eating the next morning when I stepped on the scale.  So I reluctantly asked what was in the sauce and to my surprise, I learned that it was pumpkin puree!  Only pumpkin puree…no butter, no cream.  It was my friend's sister-in-law that had made the pasta, so of course, as soon as I got home from work that day, I immediately had to bug her to get the recipe. 

The original recipe did not include spinach, nor did it have as much garlic as my version.  Perhaps my taste buds are desensitized from a lifetime of eating LOTS of garlic, but I always like to amp-up the garlic in my recipes.  And why not; its good for you!  The recipe states to use Campanelle Pasta, but you could easily use whatever pasta you have on hand.  In the picture below, I used Whole-Grain Shells.  (I also forgot the basil this time around, but it was just as yummy nonetheless.)  I love that my entire family loves this dish and I can get them to eat so many vegetables in one sitting!  (It makes me feel better about the fact that the boys had chicken fingers and french fries for lunch today!)

1 lb Campanelle Pasta
3 Tb Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 pkg Baby Bella Mushrooms, halved and sliced thick
1 lb Chicken Sausage, halved and sliced
10 oz Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained
1 can Pumpkin Puree
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
1-2 c. Chicken Stock
Parmesan, to taste
1/4 c. Chopped Basil

Boil pasta, leaving it a bit undercooked as the chicken stock will soften it.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet and sauté the onions and garlic until they lightly brown.  Add mushrooms and sausage and brown.  Add the spinach and cook until the liquid has evaporated.

Once pasta is cooked combine with sausage mixture.  Stir in the pumpkin and pepper flakes.  Then stir in chicken stock to desired consistency.

Garnish with parmesan and basil.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mung Beans

Last Friday I had to have my wisdom teeth removed.  Ugh! Such a pain, but it inspired me to make something I haven't had in a long while, my mom's mung beans.  I make it so that it's a thick soup-like consistency and serve with rice.  It's such a great comfort food for me, without being bland.  The garlic, onions, curry leaves, and asofoetida blend together in such a yummy, comforting way for me.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

1 c. Dry Mung Beans
3 Tb Oil
1/4 tsp. Asofoetida
1/2 tsp. Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp. Mustard Seeds
6-8 Curry Leaves
1/2 Onion, diced
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. Turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp. Red Chile Powder
Salt, to taste

Cook mung beans in water until very soft.  About 20-25 minutes in a pressure cooker.

In a separate pot, heat oil and add asofoetida, cumin seeds, and mustards seeds.  When seeds are toasted, add curry leaves and onions and cook until onions are translucent.  Stir in garlic, turmeric, and red chile powder.  Add the cooked mung beans with some of the cooking liquid.  Season with salt, to taste.  Let simmer for 10-20 minutes to desired thickness, adding more liquid if desired.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quickie Mac n Cheese

Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Artificial Flavor, Yellow #5, Yellow #6.  Mmm mmm…all the yummy goodness in the mac n cheese that comes in that little blue box!  NOT!

There is just no excuse to get that stuff.  You say it's so quick and easy to make…well, here's a mac n cheese recipe that cooks up just as fast…and with stuff you probably always have in your fridge & pantry.  The best part is that everyone in the family will like this. 

There are a few variations to the recipe if you want to change it up a bit.  Sometimes I like to add a little bit of garlic powder and onion powder.  Of course you can mix up the type of cheese you use as well.  For a grown up mac n cheese, I would opt for a nice aged gruyere cheese.  And if you have a little extra time, its nice to pour the mac n cheese into a casserole dish, sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs and parmesan, and bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. 

But when you're looking to make a comfort food that is quick and easy, this basic recipe is the way to go!

1 lb Pasta
3 Tb Butter
3 Tb Flour
4 c. Milk
8 oz Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 c. Grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)

Prepare pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, Melt butter on low heat and whisk in flour.  Cook, whisking often, until the raw flour smell is gone.  Slowly whisk in milk.  Bring it to a slow simmer, whisking often.  When sauce thickens slightly, stir in cheeses.

When the pasta is ready, drain and stir into cheese sauce. 

Serve warm, cold, reheated the next day.  Like a good wine, it just gets better with time!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lamb Curry

This is an adaptation of my mother-in-law's lamb curry recipe. Although hers is amazing, I like the rich tanginess of the fire-roasted tomatoes and the smoky flavor of the black cardamom of my version.

1/2 c. Oil
6 Cloves
6 Peppercorns
1 Stick Cinnamon
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
2 Bay Leaves
1 Black Cardamom
2 med Onions, blended
1 Tb Garlic Paste
1 inch Ginger, grated
1 14-oz can Crushed Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 Tb Curry Powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Red Chile Powder
1 Tb Ground Cumin
Salt, to taste
2 lb Lamb, Shoulder & Neck, bone-in

Heat oil in a large pressure cooker and add cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and bay leaves.  Stir for a few seconds then add onions, garlic, and ginger.  Cook, stirring often, until onion mixture is cooked and it smells sweet.  Stir in tomatoes, curry powder, turmeric, chile powder, cumin, and salt.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. 

Add lamb with about 1-2 cups water. Then close pressure cooker and cook on low-medium heat until meat is tender, about 20 minutes.

Adjust thickness of curry by adding more water or simmering uncovered to desired consistency.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Birthday Cakes!!!

Last weekend we celebrated another birthday in the family.  And because of the birthday boy's allergies, I was once again praying to the pastry gods asking to make a decent cake.  Over the last 4 years I have had to sharpen-up  my nonexistent cake-making skills.  I've come a long way from barely being able to make a box-made cake, to getting creative with a Rice Crispy Treat cake, to piling icing on allergy friendly cupcakes, to the best made-from-scratch eggless cake designed as a racetrack.  Don't get me wrong; I still have lots to learn, but it sure felt great to hear people ask where I bought the cake.

This was my first birthday cake: box mix with canned frosting.  Blah.

This was the oh-so-popular rice krispie treat cake. I made this in desperate attempt to have something allergy-friendly for the birthday boy.

A chocolate football cake made from an allergy-friendly cake mix with green coconut as grass for our football-themed party. 

Vanilla allergy-friendly cupcakes to match the mod-monkey cake from the bakery (shown below).

And the latest and greatest for our little man's Disney Cars themed party: an eggless from-scratch cake with homemade bavarian cream filling and homemade buttercream frosting.

Below is a link to the recipe I used for the eggless cake. It was SO good! You would never know it was eggless. In the notes, the recipe mentions using cake flour; I highly recommend that . It makes the cake lighter and fluffier. I also sifted the dry ingredients together to making the batter less lumpy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pad Thai

I can't say that this Pad Thai recipe is completely authentic, but it hits all right flavor points for me and meets my family's dietary needs.  In this photo, I served it with Coconut Lime Chicken, but my recipe below calls for stirring in shredded rotisserie chicken into the Pad Thai.  I like it both ways, but stirring in some store-bought rotisserie chicken is a much easier option for a quick weeknight meal.

1 lb Brown Rice Noodles
1/4 c. Fish Sauce
3 Tb Tamarind Juice
1/4 c. Brown Rice Syrup
3 Tb Olive Oil
2 Shallots, sliced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Chile, sliced
8 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 c. Sliced Napa Cabbage
1/2 Rotisserie Chicken, deboned and shredded
1/4 c. Cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 Lime, wedged

Cook noodles as directed on the box.

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, tamarind juice, and brown rice syrup; stir well to combine. Taste and adjust flavors to the desired combination of salty, sour, and sweet. 

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high until it is smoking hot and toss in the shallots, garlic, and chile; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cabbage and stir-fry until tender.  Add the chicken and drained noodles to the wok, stirring and tossing quickly with 2 spatulas to separate the strands. Pour in the fish sauce mixture, tossing well to coat the noodles and keep them from sticking (if the noodles are still too firm, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to help them cook.)

Garnish with cilantro and serve with the lime wedges to squeeze over before eating.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

What a terrifically successful dish this was earlier this week!  My 4 year old helped make the dish and then said he loooooooved it!  He had a great time helping me wash all the veggies and then rub all the herbs and spices onto them.  It was also a great opportunity for me to talk to him about healthy eating.  I hope you and your family enjoy this as much as we do!

2 Zucchini, cut into half-moons
1 Red Pepper, 1-inch diced
2 Carrot, chopped
1 lg Onion, 1-inch diced
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 stem Fresh Oregano, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. Fresh Parsley, coarsely chopped
Olive Oil, to coat
Sea Salt, to taste
1 c. Quinoa
2 c. Water
Lemon Wedges, to serve

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine vegetables, oregano, parsley, olive oil, and salt.  Spread chopped vegetables on a baking sheet and put in the oven.  Roast  until tender, about 40 minutes, and set aside.

Rinse quinoa in  a strainer.  Then simmer in the water, at low heat and covered, until fluffy and water is absorbed.

Toss vegetables and quinoa together and serve warm with the lemon wedges. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pan Seared Salmon with Kimchee Vegetables and Black Bean Noodles

It's the beginning of the third week of our detox and I must say, I feel amazing! I have so much more energy; not to mention the weight I've lost!  Here's another dish from our "clean" diet.

I adjusted an old recipe of mine to make it "clean", so I will include the original recipe and mark the ingredients that I did not use this time around as "optional". I will also mark ingredients that my son is allergic to as "optional" also.  Obviously, the more of the "optional" ingredients you include, the more flavorful it will be.

While on this "clean" diet, I discovered a new food…black bean noodles! They are amazing!!  They are thin, black, and a little more stretchy than the typical semolina pasta, but it contains more protein than carbs!!  I think it works amazingly well with this dish! (Ok, this paragraph has a lot of exclamation points…can you tell I'm really excited about the black bean noodles?)

Pan Seared Salmon with Black Bean Noodles

1/2 c. Low Sodium Soy Sauce (or Tamari)
1/2 c. Mirin (optional)
1/2 c. Sake (optional)
1/4 c. Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 c. Water
1 in Ginger, sliced
4 cloves Garlic, smashed
2 Tb Sriracha Chili Paste (optional)
1 Tb Sesame Oil (optional)
1 Tb Sesame Seeds (optional)
3 Scallions, sliced thin
1 lb Salmon Filet
1/2 lb Black Bean Noodles
Lemon Wedges, for serving

Mix all ingredients except the salmon and noodles in a casserole dish.  Place the salmon in the dish with the skin side up.  Let marinate while you prepare the vegetables and noodles.

Cook noodles to package directions.

When vegetables and noodles are prepared, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat and place the salmon with the skin side up.  After about 6 minutes, flip it over, turn down the heat to medium-low and fry until cooked through, being careful that it does not burn.  Add some of the marinating sauce if it begins to burn, but it not cooked through the center.

Serve with noodles, Kimchee Mixed Vegetables, and lemon wedges. 

Kimchee Mixed Vegetables

2 Tb Olive Oil
1 inch Ginger, grated
2 tsp. Pickled Chopped Hot Peppers (optional)
1 bunch Scallions, chopped with whites and greens separated
1/2 lb Carrots, sliced thin
1/4 lb Green Beans, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 Baby Bok Choy, chopped with whites and greens separated
6-8 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tb Low Sodium Soy Sauce (or Tamari)
1 Tb Rice Wine Vinegar
Sesame Seeds, to garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a wok and stir in ginger, hot peppers, and scallion whites.  Fry, stirring often, for about a minute, then add carrots, green beans, bok choy whites, garlic, and salt.  When vegetables are tender, add the scallion greens and bok choy greens.  Once the greens are wilted, add the soy and vinegar.  Let simmer for a couple more minutes.