Monday, June 28, 2010

chocolate covered strawberries

I absolutely LOVE summer.  The warm weather, the fresh fruits and veggies, it is just my time of year.  We are in the middle of a remodeling project which of course I thought we would be done with by now.  So, between that and picking fresh fruit, making jam, and playing at the pool, summer is kind of busy.  Yes, I know... playing at the pool?  I believe in balance, what can I say?  I'm blessed to have one, and blessed to be able to stay home with my kids.  It's my JOB to hang out by the pool... so awesome!  Anyway, I picked strawberries, made jam, and bought cherries to freeze all in the same week.  My son and I mad the jam together, he's 5.  It was so much fun and he just loved being apart of it.  Hopefully I'll have enough for the whole year.  I always forget to write down how many strawberries I start with.  Last year was perfect, I actually have 1 more jar from last year, plus some raspberry.  When I wa out of pectin, and I was craving some chocolate, I whipped up some of these...

So, if you haven't made them before, it is so easy.  Just melt some chocolate of your choice in a double broiler or a regular pan on very low heat.  I like bittersweet.  When I'm buying chocolate, I don't mess around, I buy the good kind!  I think this one was Ghiradelli.  Anway, poor the chips in the pan and add about 1-2 tsp of veg. oil.  This will help the chocolate go on easier.  Once it's all melted, just dip the strawberry in, and set it on wax paper on a baking tray.  Definitely use wax paper.  Even if you put them on a plate.  That way they won't stick.  Then let them cool.  you can put them in the fridge to speed up that process.

Black Beans and rice

I really haven't intentionally been eating no meat dishes, but lately I have been more drawn to them.  I recently watched "Food Inc".  Have you seen this?  Basically it traces your food to where it actually came from.  Now, I've always been an advocate for real food, not processed.  And I always thought that when I bought all natural chicken, I was buying something good.  you know, just your basic chicken breasts, fresh or frozen, Tyson was a good name brand.  Well, the movie is a real eye opening experience.  You may not want to know, so I won't tell.  But it really was very interesting.  It's a documentary.  If you have netflix you can watch it instantly. For many years now I've bought my beef from a local connection.  So I know that it is good and has been grass fed, which is what cows were designed to eat.  Anyway... I have not become a vegetarian by any means, but I do feel alot safer eating food when I know where it came from.  So, on with the recipe.  This is quite filling for a meatless dish.  But again, you can always add meat.  :-)  I use dried beans mostly because I have a friend whose dad is a bean farmer.  I get all my beans from them.  Kidney beans, cranberry beans, navy beans, pinto beans, black beans... etc. 

2 cups dried black beans (or 4 standard size canned black beans) 
1/2 yellow onion
6 garlic cloves
1 bunch cilantro
1 palmful cumin (about 1 tbs, or to taste)
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 c. whole grain brown rice
2 avacados
1 tomato
1 jar salsa
Sour cream
tortillla chips
flour tortillas

If you're using dried beans, you'll need to prepare them according to the pkg. instructions.  Since my dried beans are so fresh, I bring them to a boil and let them simmer for about 2 hours and they are ready.  The older the beans are the longer they take to soften.  So, if you get them from the grocery store, while they stay good forever, you just don't know how long they've been on the shelf.  Still, I think better than canned, just because the canned adds preservatives.  But either will taste great. 
Preheat the oven to 325
Heat black beans in a pot over medium-high heat, keeping a good amount of liquid.  Chop onion and cilantro, mince garlic and place all in a saucepan and saute'.  After the beans have heated for about 20 minutes, stir the sauteed ingredients into the black beans. Add cumin. In a separate pot, begin preparing brown rice.  I use a rice cooker, so just do whatever works best for you.
Pour black bean mixture into a 9x13 inch pan and add shredded cheese on top covering well.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Serve blac bean entree over teh brown rice, having a nice spread of chips, salsa, sour cream, extra cheese, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro and tortillas for toppings/sides.

Rice noodles with edamame

After making the pad thai, I had these wonderful noodles left over, since the package I bought contained more than enough.  So, I whipped up a side dish to complement pretty much anything.  If you've never tried edamame (ed-uh-mah-mee) they are wonderful.  I buy them at costco in the frozen section.  you just boil them in their pods, then drain and pinch the beans out.  These soy beans are packed with nutrition and protein.  My kids love them too.  Half the fun for them is getting the beans out.

1 pkg edamame
1 bell pepper (I used red and yellow, so 1/2 each) sliced
1 carrot sliced or julienned
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tbs sesame oil
2-3 tbs soy sauce

Prepare the edamame according to package instructions.
Saute' the peppers, carrots and onion in olive oil.
Prepare the noodles according to package instructions.
After the noodles are done, drain them and put them in a large bowl.  Add the sesame oil and soy sauce, vegetables and edamame.  Toss gently and enjoy!

Pad Thai

One of my favorite things to get at the local Thai restaurant is the famous pad thai.  I was so happy to find a recipe.  I never really thought about how to make it, but I really liked this recipe.  Maybe even better than the one I get at the restaurant.  But then again, food always tastes better when you didn't cook it yourself!  haha!
I made this with chicken, but to make it a vegetarian meal, just leave out the chicken and add veggies of your choice.  And of course, you could substitute another meat if you like too.  I tend to not make things real hot-spicy, but this is a great dish with heat (add the cayenne) if you like to kick it up.

2-3 bonless skinless chicken breasts very thinly sliced.
8 ounces dried, wide and flat rice noodles.  (you may find these in the Asian foods section at the grocery, I had to go to the Asian market to find mine)
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tbs soy sauce
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 scallions, white and green parts seperated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs (optional), lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

1.  Soak noodles according to package instructions.  Drain.  In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce

2.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Cook chicken until done, set aside.  Add to the skillet, scallion whites and garlic and cook stirring constantly until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add eggs (if using) and cook, scraping skillet with a rubber spatula, until eggs are almost set, about 30 seconds.  Transfer egg mixture to a plate.  Ad noodles and soy-sauce mixture to skillet; cook, tossing contantly, until noodles are soft and coated with sauce, about 1 minute.  Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently.  Add chicken.  Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

No bake summer lasagna

Again, from Everyday food mag.  Yep, I've mentioned it before, I get so many recipes from it, definitely my favorite, and so seasonal. 

1/2 cup ricotta
3tbs grated parmesan cheese (a word about cheese here... you have GOT to use the REAL thing.  The package of Parmesean that you actually grate yourself.  It truly makes a difference in taste, trust me.  I will go without cheese rather than use that powdery stuff in the can.  Okay, off my soapbox...
coarse salt and ground pepper
8 lasagna noodles broken in half crosswise
1 small garlic clove minced
2 pints of grape tomatoes halved
2 zucchini (about 1 lb) halved if large and thinly sliced
1 tbs torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving  (today I didn't have any fresh basil, so I used dried)

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan and 2 tsp oil; season with salt and pepper.  IN a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions, drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbs oil over medium-high.  Add garlic and tomatoes; season w/salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes.  Transfer tomatoes to a bowl.  Add 1 tbs oil and zucchini to skillet; season w/salt and pepper, cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil.

Place some tomates on four plates; top with a noodle and small spoonfuls ricotta, zucchini, and more tomatoes.  Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes.  Garnish wiht basil. 

Great with garlic bread.

French twist

Here's a twist on french toast and stuffed french toast.  That may not make sense, but here's the recipe.  I just felt inspired one morning.  It's really quite simple, but it was just different enough.  Not too sweet either

Vegetable Oil
4 slices whole wheat or whole grain bread
3 eggs
2 tbs milk
dash of cinnamon
sliced strawberries
cream cheese

Preheat large skillet to med-high with a good amounts of vegetable oil.  It should more than just coat the pan, I don't usually measure, but I'd guess with about 1/4 cup.  Hey, I didn't say this was a non fat recipe... but did you notice the whole grain bread?  Whisk together the eggs, milk and cinnamon.  Once the skillet is ready, dip your bread in the egg mixture, coat it well and place in the skillet.  It should sizzle!  This makes a nice golden crunchy outside.  As far as I'm concerned, this is the secret to great french toast!  Once it is browned, flip it and brown the other side.  Then keep it in a warm oven until toast is done.  Spread cream cheese on and top with strawberries.  My daughter wanted a sandwhich, so she had a strawberry sandwhich and thougth that was pretty groovy.

Buttermilk Chicken

This is adapted from Everyday food mag. 

2 cups buttermilk
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 lbs) cut up, skin removed
Panko Bread crumbs (found by the regular breadcrumbs, these are japenese and are nice and crunchy)

In a bowl, mix buttermilk, 2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Ad 10 pieces from whole chicken; stir to coat.  Marinate 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 450.  Set a wire rack in a baking sheet.  Remove chicken from maridad, shaking off as  much liquid as possible and coat with breadcrumbs.  Place on rack and bake until chicken is cooked through and golden brown, 45-50 minutes.  Rotate sheet half way through, and tent with foil if chicken is overbrowning. 
Serve with cucumber-celery salad and scallion cornbread muffins

Scallion Cornbread Muffins

These were very good.  I wasn't sure I would like the scallions in them.  I have another corn bread recipe that I like pretty well and it actually has corn in it.  It's just the right blend of sweet and not sweet.  I was pleasantly surprised with these!

Vegetable oil
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbs sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs buttermilk
2 tbs oil (substitute unsweetened applesauce if you want to cut down on fat)
1 large egg whisked
1/4 cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 450.  Lightly grease 6 cups of a standard size muffin pan wiht vegetable oil.
combine dry ingredients and make a well.  combine wet ingredients and scallions and pour into well.  Stir until just blended.  Fill muffin cups 2/3rds full and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 10-13 minutes.

I actually got 6 muffins plus 6 mini muffins.  When I had more batter, I knew the kids would like small heart shaped muffins. Excellent with cucumber-celery salad and buttermilk chicken.  Sorry no picture of this one, everyone gobbled them up!

cucumber-celery salad

Another one from Everyday Food.  And a salad my 3 yr old can eat, yet still very satisfying for the grown ups!  I usually throw celery leaves out, I never thought of eating them before... I'm not sure why, they are quite tasty, and I've always liked celery seed (for soups) and celery salt. 

2 tbs Olive Oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced plus 1/4 cup celery leaves
1 english cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1 shallot (optional, this is good if you like some kick, but my little ones don't like raw onion flaver)

Combine the celery, leaves, and cucumber.  In a seperate bowl mix together the vinegar, oil, salt & pepper and mix well.  Then toss with the salad.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

pork chops with pinapple

4 pork chops
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small can of chopped green chilis, drained 
1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Salt and pepper porch chops to taste.  Preheat grill and oil grates.  Grill pork chops until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, heat a tsp of olive oil in a skillet to medium.  Add pineapple and green chilis.  Cook, stirring, until pineapple is tender, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce. 

Top Pork with pineapple mixture.  Serve on a bed of rice.