Archive for March, 2009

Super Massive Head Cold

March 31, 2009

And it’s keeping me from cooking, eating and doing anything else other than sleep. Look for new updates next week.

No updates next week

March 21, 2009

I will be out of town and without access to the internet. Posts *should* resume on the 31st.

Smoothies. For dinner?

March 20, 2009

I defy anyone to justifiably deny that smoothies should not be consumed for dinner. Packed with calories, fruit and protein, they’re virtually a complete meal.

About to be Smoothied

We got the idea while perusing the Publix and stumbling on these gorgeous looking organic strawberries. They looked so juicy with their shades of deep red, we had to get them. The question that always arises is what to do with them. So, we settled on smoothies. For dinner.

Pretty standard smoothie stuff going on: vanilla soy ice cream, soy milk, strawberries, bananas and my homemade pecan butter.

Mr. Tibbs was not part of the mise en place. I promise.

Even though they were delicious, I wish I had gone a little lighter on the strawberries – they overpowered everything else.

Gnocchi, Kale, White Wheat Bread

March 20, 2009

Gnocchi

Gnocchi is one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve replaced it almost entirely for pasta (though some nice angel hair can be mighty tempting) as my starch for marinara sauce. I used to not even use marinara, instead sauteeing some garlic, deglazing with balsamic vinegar and adding a can of diced tomatoes. It was almost too easy (and fast!), but now that I’m trying to avoid BPA, I can’t use my beloved canned tomatoes.

So, marinara it is. Twist my arm, eh? The other substitution I made tonight was kale in place of spinach. Not sure why I wanted to change, but I bought two heads of kale the other night and wanted to use it up. The whole meal is super easy to make, starting with a little roasted garlic (and oil), wilting of the kale and adding marinara sauce.

Kale and Garlic

Once the gnocchi floats in the water, strain it, mix it all up and you’re ready to go. I told you it was easy, it’s just that you didn’t believe me.

I ran out of whole wheat pastry flour for my bread, so I had to use all “white wheat” for this batch and it was certainly a lot lighter, though every bit as delicious. I still haven’t done enough research into “white wheat” versus “whole wheat”, but that will have to be another day.

White Wheat Bread

Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Maple Pears, Roasted Potatoes

March 18, 2009

I’ve been craving pancakes for a few weeks, so I was glad to finally get time to make them.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Maple Pears

I use Cherrybrook Kitchen’s mix as they seem to be the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever tried. Our Kroger stopped carrying them a few months ago so we picked up the last three boxes on clearance ($2.19!). Once they’re out, I’ll either start making my own or return to Aunt Jemima’s Whole Wheat Pancake Mix.

My wife likes chocolate chips and chocolate soy milk for her pancakes, but I can’t do all that sweetness so I gave her the ultimatum. She (wisely) chose to go for the former, which gave me a chance to try Enjoy Life Foods’ Chocolate Chips. Normally, I use Tropical Source’s, but these were cheaper so I figured I’d give them a try. Certainly hard to complain about ’em one way or another and I’ll likely be picking them up again.

We had some pears lying around as well so I had the genius (in hindsight) idea of sauteeing them with a little Maple Syrup. Delicious (no, not that Delicious). Sadly, I think I’ve painted myself into a corner as I’ll likely be forced to make them every time I make pancakes in the future. They were just too good.

As if that weren’t enough, I decided to make some hash brown-style potatoes. Whenever I make Mashed Potatoes, I always buy a 3 or 5 pound bag, use 2 pounds and put the rest away to use later. Several weeks later I always end up throwing them away, but not this time! As the potatoes were boiling, I cut up the rest, seasoned them up and roasted them off. Once cool, I threw them into zip lock bags and into the freezer for a rainy day. Well, today was that rainy day. I pulled them out of the freezer and threw them into a sautee pan, stirring frequently. I think we’re going to stop buying french fries and just do this from now on! So much more flavor and a lot easier to do.

Roasted Potatoes

Whole Wheat English Muffin, Pecan Butter and Banana

March 18, 2009

I had a long day ahead of me on Saturday so I needed to actually eat breakfast – and I needed to to be filling. I recently made some Pecan Butter – and it was too easy.

Pecan Butter

Seriously, blend the pecans in a food processor, add a little bit of oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive), salt and sweetener if desired (Maple Syrup in my case). Puree until desired consistency. No more having to pay outrageous prices for the simplest of indulgences.

I needed something to spread this on and luckily I had some Whole Wheat English Muffins, so I toasted them up. Just as they were finishing up, I remembered I had a banana starting to go bad. Suddenly, I had a full on meal – starch, protein and fruit.

English Muffin

My Pecan Butter is a bit salty, but it was balanced out by the muffin and the sweetness of the banana. All in all, a terrific (and easy) breakfast.

Leftovers

March 16, 2009

I’d been accumulating too many leftovers, so it was time to use them all up.

Leftovers

Starting with the leftover pasta from the other night, I sauteed up some fresh kale, added a diced tomato, lima beans and the last of the pan-grilled vegetables. Simple, yet effective in that I had no more leftovers in the cooler.

I’m still loving my freshly-baked bread every night. I’ve lent my book to a few people at work, so I’m working off the same two recipes right now (traditional boule and the focaccia), but that’s just fine with me.

Whole Wheat Rolls

Pan-Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

March 14, 2009

Sandwich

Now, I’ve got a grill. But it’s outside. And it’s not worth the extra time to get the charcoal out, get it to a good temperature and squat over it while I hope to not have anything fall the cracks or off the side. So I improvise.
A really hot pan gives you the same caramelized flavor with a lot less effort.

I had baked some Whole Wheat Bread resembling a Ciabatta Loaf in anticipation of the sandwich. While it came out a little heavier than traditional Ciabatta (being whole wheat and all), it was really good.

The sandwich itself? I’m pretty famous in my immediate family for making Veggie Sandwiches that are fresh vegetable-based with vinaigrette-soaked bread. But, “this could replace Veggie Sandwiches” came out of my wife’s mouth only a few bites into her half. I was hesitant to buy into the hype even hours later. But a day later? I’ll make it without qualm. It was out of this world. Really.

So, how did I do it? Easy. Good food always boils down to quality ingredients and the right seasonings. Every time. I was recently asked if I had any good recipes for Venison. I don’t, but my response was: Olive Oil, Garlic, Salt and Black Pepper works for almost everything.

To get things started, I wrapped up my Ciabatta-esque bread in aluminum foil and put it in a 300 degree oven while everything else got ready.

I got everything else started by caramelizing a Yellow Onion. I started with some Roasted Garlic Oil in an already-hot pan (the key to having a stainless steel pan not stick is to have the pan already hot before adding anything else). Once the oil started to smoke I added my Onions and began stirring.

Balsamic Caramelized Onions

As those got nice and hot (and coated by Garlic Oil), I finished cutting the rest of my vegetables. In this case that meant: Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Portobello Mushroom (side note: I do not like Mushrooms as a rule, but I really want to like them, so I’m going to start sneaking them in now and again).

As my Onions were getting to that nice golden brown color, I added a few teaspoons of Balsamic Vinegar to the pan. This does a couple of thing:
If your onions or anything else is sticking to the pan, this gets it unstuck.
Once it cooks down, the Balsamic will get very sweet, adding to the flavor of the onions.

I cooked the onions until they started to stick again and put them aside. I splashed the pan with a little water to deglaze it again and got it very hot again. A little more Garlic Oil and it was time to start searing my vegetables. A single layer in the pan, sprinkle a little Salt and Black Pepper and heat until desired level of caramelization. Flip and repeat. After I finished searing all my vegetables it was time to assemble.

Pan-Grilled Vegetables

Pulling the soft bread from the oven, I worked quickly to ensure everything would stay warm, if not hot. The bread smelled heavenly as I sliced into it and could have been eaten on its own – but this loaf was meant for something more. Quickly, I slathered Sabra Roasted Pine Nut Hummus on each side. This is by far the creamiest Hummus I’ve ever had and it was perfect in this application. The base complete it was time to start layering. Zucchini, Squash, Mushroom, Zucchini, Squash, Caramelized Onions and topped the whole thing with the last of the Organic Baby Romaine Lettuce.

The Final Product

I wish words could describe just how good this was – just thinking about it now makes me want to go back downstairs and make another one. Or two.

Long days, quick meals

March 13, 2009

Everything that makes you feel tired

Sometimes, there’s just not time to make a flavorful, fulfilling and healthy meal. On those nights? There’s Fantastic Foods. Quick, easy to make and most of all delicious.

Tonight’s choice? The Taco Filling. I used to just prepare it according to package directions, but I’ve gotten a little more creative with it in the past few years and I’ve finally settled into one that my wife love and rarely deviate from.

1cup of Water (down from 1 3/4)
1package Fantastic Taco Filling
1container Garden Fresh Gourmet Salsa (Jack’s Special as our local grocery stores no longer carry Artichoke Garlic or the Sweet Onion)

Bring the water to a boil and add the prepared mix. Reduce to medium and let simmer until almost all of the water is absorbed. Add your salsa and bring back to a simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. We made it a little looser tonight (for no good reason) and it was just as good as ever.

Instead of making traditional Tacos or Nachos, we use it as a dip. A bowl of the filling with salsa topped with some combination of Tofutti Sour Cream, Avocado and Shredded Lettuce. It seems the recipe over at Tofutti has changed recently and I don’t really like it anymore so I skipped it (it sure didn’t stop my wife though).

Nachos

I normally like to get Garden of Eatin’s No Salt Blue Corn Chips, but didn’t want to make a special trip for them, instead opting for Publix Greenwise Organic Blue Corn Chips which we’ve used in the past and enjoyed. It’s so difficult to find both Organic and No Salt Added products. You can almost always find one or the other, but both is a bit more of a stretch.

Bowl of dip, crispy chips and that’s it. The whole thing takes less than 10 minutes to prepare (not long enough for our cats to eat, which is usually why it ends up being a little thicker than it was tonight (my working late meant the cats ate earlier than normal).

(Multigrain) Risotto is not very photogenic

March 12, 2009

Multigrain Risotto

See, I told you!

It also wasn’t too great. Certainly not bad, but not my finest hour.

You see, I had all of these miscellaneous grains in small quantities that I needed to use, including some Arborio Rice. The entire dish consisted of the following: Arborio Rice, Long Grain Brown Rice, Israeli Cous Cous, Split Chick Peas, Orzo, Bulghur Wheat and Red Quinoa.

They key to a creamy vegan Risotto? A sprinkling of Parma! and a spoonful of Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream. I know, it seems so simple in hindsight, right?

To finish it off, I used some Tarragon Pesto right at the end. A few months ago we were given a large bunch of fresh Tarragon from a home garden. Not entirely sure what I would do with all of it, I made some Tarragon Pesto. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve used it and I was kind of underwhelmed by the flavor. Even drizzling some more over the top of my Risotto didn’t evoke the kind of flavor I was hoping for.

Dinner also included Whole Wheat Bread from the night before (I’m trying to bake two night’s worth so I’m not waiting two hours for dinner each night) and a salad. The salad was certainly the highlight of the meal, featuring Organic Baby Romaine, D’Anjou Pear, Golden Raisins, Fried Onions, Sliced Almonds Vine-Ripened Tomato and Italian Dressing. We picked up a few more Bosc Pears to eat over the next few days, but I’m not sure if they’ll make it into another salad or not.

Salad