Friday, December 16, 2011

A Gift for the Naughty: Oreo "Coal"

While I was a little hesitant at first, I have become a full-fledged Pinterest convert.  It allows you to organize the internet into neat little folders, and is impressively addictive.  If you aren't familiar with it, check it out for yourself.  I won't waste time describing it because it's one of those things that you just have to play around with to really understand.

I've spent most of my time perusing other peoples boards for recipes, naturally, and came across this sinful, simple oreo bar that conveniently looks like coal.  Dessert that looks like coal?  Christmas time?  I think you see where I'm going with this.

For my work folks, I made homemade granola and these bars and put them in little bags and went around asking folks, "Naughty or Nice?"  Nice folks ended up with granola, and naughty got the coal (Hehe).  The only weird part was when students got wind of it and came to my office to say, "Hey.  I've been naughty."  I may have to rethink this process...

No Bake Oreo bars (adapted from Sweet Peas Kitchen)
2 16 ounce packages Oreo cookies
10 cups small marshmallows
8 tbsp Bummel and Brown yogurt butter

Line a 9 x 14 baking dish with parchment paper.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade, pulse Oreos until ground. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and marshmallows for about 2 minutes until puffed. Pour marshmallow/butter mixture into the Oreo crumbs and stir until fully incorporated. Pour into the prepared baking dish and let set up for 10 minutes.  Cut bars to desired size and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cheese stuffed mushrooms, two ways

Let me start by saying I loooove mushrooms.  Love.  Them.  Let me also say that this photograph is not doing the deliciousness in that pan justice.  Someday, perhaps I'll upgrade from my iPhone camera, but for now, you'll just have to take my word for it.

I made these mushrooms for a potluck with my rockin' book club, and I think they turned out pretty tasty.  What I love about them for a potluck dish is that they can be stuffed a day ahead and baked in the oven right before serving, or can be stuffed in a hurry when you get back late from shopping, in about 10 minutes so that you still make it on time.

I have made the cheddar/bacon bit variety for years, just like I learned from my mom, but decided to make a second variation out of what I had on hand.  It was nice to have a vegetarian mushroom option, and both were tasty.

Stuffed Mushrooms

16 ounces mushrooms
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tbsp bacon bits
2 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
2 sprigs fresh mint, finely chopped
1/4 cup spinach, finely chopped
4 tbsp plain breadcrumbs

Wipe mushrooms with damp paper towel to clean.  Remove stems and chop finely in small chopper or processor.  Saute chopped stems in oil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Split sauteed stems into two bowls.  Add 2 tbsp breadcrumbs to each bowl, stirring to incorporate.  Add cheddar and bacon bits to one bowl and all other ingredients to the other.  Mix to incorporate all ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. Use less salt than usual because both the feta and bacon bits tend to be a little salty.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce

Salmon is one of my favorite fish to eat, probably because it's one of the first fish I ever cooked.  I remember the dish clearly: salmon covered in dill and yogurt, wrapped in foil, and baked in the oven.  The recipe was given to me by my college mentor, who is now my supervisor: oh life, you crazy weaving ride.

So, back to the salmon.  If you aren't a fish person, salmon is one to try.  It is flavorful without being too fishy, and filled with the good fat (omega 3 fatty acids) so that is a win-win-win situation, a fish triple threat, if you will.

I have been making this recipe since I was in graduate school and had decided to make a commitment to having a healthy balanced diet.  This was pretty necessary, as a response to my questionable food choices in college.  Bad day?  Console yourself with Taco Bell.  Good day?  Celebrate with Taco Bell!  I am proud to say I have been  taco bell free for at least three years!  As for Cane's...well, I have to draw the line somewhere!

And now, for the delightfully pictured salmon. (I swear, there is a recipe here somewhere.) This is a Ellie Krieger recipe.  She used to have a show on Food Network and has a great cookbook of yummy, healthy foods.  This is a meal that can come together in 20 minutes and never fails to wow.  I have always made it with basil but tonight switched it up (due to my mutant mint bush) and it was great.  It is imperative to serve it over spinach because it soaks up the sauce and is wilted by the salmon and really makes the dish.  My version of the recipe sticks closely to hers, but I actually make the amount of sauce for two that she makes for four.  A little extra grapefruit never hurt anybody!

Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit Sauce
Serves 2
2 skinless salmon fillets, 5-6 ounces each
pinch of salt, plus more for seasoning fish
2 ruby red grapefruits
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp minched shallot
1 tsp ginger powder
2 1/2 tsp honey
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsps lemon juice
1 tbsp basil or mint
baby spinach

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Season the salmon liberally with salt and pepper.  Place on a baking pan and roast until cooked through, about 16 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, prepare the sauce!  Cut one grapefruit into sections and set the segment pieces aside.  Juice the other grapefruit and set the juice aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2 minutes  Add the ginger, grapefruit juice, honey, and cayenne pepper and bring to simmer.  Cook until sauce reduces a bit, about 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and season with salt, to taste.  Right before serving, toss the grapefruit pieces and basil or min into the sauce.  Put a serving of spinach on each dish and a portion of salmon on the spinach.  Spoon sauce over salmon and serve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Turkey Beef Chipotle Chili

My fella and I happened upon a chili cook-off Friday which succeeded in whetting our chili taste buds.  I suggested that we make some this weekend, and being a good sport, he went along with it.  It has been rainy and bleh all day long, so this is perfect chili weather, other than the fact that  my dear had to go shopping for the ingredients, but the sacrifice was worth it for this collaborative deliciousness.

The photograph does not do this chili justice: it is yum!  In contrast to my previous recipe, this one is decidedly man-friendly, what with it being a big bowl of meat. We like our chili on the spicy side: I would say this has good flavor, but isn't overwhelmingly spicy.  I randomly forgot both salt and pepper, which are flavor standards, but I honestly don't think the chili suffered because of it.  I think seasoning the meat and chili separately helped to build layers of flavor.  This meal received a 100% approval rating in my house and has left plenty of leftovers for the week.

Turkey Beef Chipotle Chili (recipe inspiration from Betty Crocker cookbook)

1 1/4 pound ground turkey
1 1/4 pound ground beef (80/20)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp and 2 tsp smoked paprika
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes and peppers (original rotel), undrained
1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 small can diced chiles
1/2 frozen corn
1/2 cup vegetable stock
Shredded cheddar (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Corn chips (optional)

Heat skillet to medium and add meat, garlic powder, onion powder, and 2 teaspoons  of smoked paprika. Cook meat over medium heat 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until brown and drain.

In slow cooker, add all ingredients except for optional toppings.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

Serve with additional toppings.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup

Healthy Delicious is a blog I came upon many many moons ago and I have been starring recipes in my google reader since then.  I recently came upon this recipe for Creamy Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup and couldn't wait to try it.

This was definitely a selfish receipe: my fella isn't a big fan of sweet/savory combos so I had a feeling that he wouldn't be a big fan, but I had to give it a whirl.  I was right it wasn't his cup of tea...er...soup, but it is definitely one of my new favorites for winter.  He is a trooper and doesn't mind fending for himself when I'm feeling a little experimental, even though he did the peeling/chopping.  What a guy!

I am a sucker for anything chipotle but this soup is definitely something special. It was smooth, flavorful, and delicious.  Next time I made it I might only puree half just to give some tooth to the soup, but the flavor was spot on and comforting.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup (taken from Healthy Delicious)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger (I used dried)
2 gala apples, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
1 cinnamon stick

Heat the oil in a 3 quart soup pot set over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.  Add the apples, celery, and sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the stock, water, and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer until vegetables are soft - about 30 minutes.  Discard the cinnamon stick and stir in the chipotle.

Puree soup with stick blender until smooth and serve.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Swai? Swai not! (and greens)

I came across a friend of mine on facebook that cooked swai recently, which was a fish I had never heard of, so my curiosity was peaked.  I found some at "Gucci Brookshire's" on Line Avenue and bought some.  I was feeling pretty adventurous, since I didn't have a plan for cooking it, or know anything about it.  Turns out, swai is just catfish from Vietnam, so not really all that fancy, or intimidating. Color me humbled.

Typically I like to oven fry or blacken catfish, but I was hungry and in a hurry, so I used lemon pepper seasoning and baked in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.  It was flaky, mild, and yum and at $4.24 for two large fillets, it was quite a bargain.

For sides I went with my standard collard greens recipe, via Food Network's Sunny Anderson (I leave out the tomato and find that chicken stock tastes best), roasted mushrooms, and yes, that is kraft macaroni and cheese.  Sometimes, you just need to go old school.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Thanksgiving Traditions: Peas with Roux & Spinach Madeline

My concept of Thanksgiving has changed a lot over the years.  My earliest and most frequent Thanksgiving memories involve a gathering of my immediate family, and my dad's side of the family in Gretna.  Thanksgiving worked like clockwork: we'd eat in the early afternoon, my brother would hog all the rolls, I would stuff myself with my grandmother's mirliton casserole, we'd watch football, wait an hour, and have dessert.  You could set your clock by it and it was a delicious and comforting time, and a cherished memory.

Thanksgiving is about spending time with family, but due to my crazy life, I've spent many Thanksgivings away from my family: college in Shreveport, abroad in Germany, working at Cracker Barrel in Texarkana, grad school in Michigan, with boyfriends and friends.  Because of this, I don't really have a consistent family tradition but I've found a way to bring my family with me wherever I go by making dishes that remind me of home.

The first (not pictured) is peas with roux.  This is a dish my grandmother has been making as long as I can remember and it reminds me of home.  It takes about 5 minutes to cook, and has been known to convert a pea hater into a pea lover, so if peas aren't your thing, give it a whirl: you may be surprised.

Peas with Roux
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp dehydrated onions
1 can le sueur very young small sweet peas

Heat oil over medium for 5 minutes until almost smoking.  Add flour and stir constantly until the color of peanut butter.  Rehydrate onions and add, stir for about 30 seconds.  Add can of peas, and liquid and reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes until peas have thickened.

The next recipe is spinach madeline which my mother made every year to bring to my grandmother's house.  It is cheesy, delicious, and a taste of home.  Add it to your Thanksgiving rotation and you won't be sorry.  Also, it actually tastes better if you make it the day ahead, which is a bonus for your Thanksgiving planning.

Spinach Madeline
2 packs frozen chopped spinach
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup reserved spinach liquid
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp salt (optional)
1 (6 ounce) box of velveeta cheese
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

Cook spinach according to package directions - drain and reserve liquid.  Melt butter in sauce pan over low heat.  Add flour stirring until blended and smooth but not browned.  Add onion and cook until soft but not browned.  Add liquid slowly stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Cook until smooth and thick.  Add seasonings and cheese and stir until melted.

Remove from heat.  Add spinach and mix well.

May be served immediately or put into a casserole dish and refrigerated over night.  Flavor improves if kept over night: may be frozen.

Buffalo Chicken Dip: A little wrong never tasted so right

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but I have some tried and true recipes to share that I made over the holiday.  I spent a few days with family in Tennessee and had a great, cheese-filled holiday.  I strive for healthy eating in my day-to-day life but I refuse to spend the holidays munching on the vegetable tray.  That's what January is for: work out commercials and remorse, amiright?

This year I made buffalo chicken dip, courtesy of a friend of mine from Murfreesboro, Heather Arrington, as it was a HUGE hit last Christmas.  It would be great for a holiday party, or a tailgate, because it is sinfully delicious.  This dip has ingredients I'm almost embarrassed to share (canned chicken.  gulp), but it's so delicious I just don't care.  The only thing you have to worry about is burning the roof of your mouth because you won't be able to wait to dive in.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 12.5 ounce cans of white meat chicken, drained
1 cup Frank's buffalo sauce
2 8 ounce packages of reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup ranch dressing
1 8 ounce bag sharp cheddar cheese

Drain chicken and put in pan to warm with buffalo sauce.  Add softened cream cheese, ranch, and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  Stir thoroughly, pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish, and cover with the remainder of the cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.




Monday, November 21, 2011

Stuffed patty pan squash. Thank you, farmer's market!

Shreveport has a great Farmer's Market that sadly had its last market of the season this past saturday: womp womp.  Luckily, I was able to grab a few things, including some patty pan squash and I was very jazzed with the results.

I'd only cooked patty pan squash once before and didn't have a recipe on hand, but based on a brief google search I knew I wanted to stuff it.  This recipe came together by investigating what I had on hand to get rid of before going out of town for Thanksgiving. As they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention," which certainly rings true when throwing together a meal.  It makes me a little anxious to do something completely new, but it's damn satisfying when it turns out well, and let's be real, it turns out well most of the time because of my MAD skillz.

I picked up yellow bell peppers and onion and the farmer's market and decided to use mint, to once again try to hack away at the towering mint plant I have in my yard.  In an effort to do a little pre-vegetarian detox, I tried to go light and vegetarian so I added corn, cheese, and rice, and called it a day.  It was a little time consuming to cook the squash, then scoop it out, but now that I've done it once,  it'll be easy peasy next time because there WILL be a next time, oh yes.  This dish, despite the lack of meat, is also fella approved, when served with a salad.

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash (Serves 3)
3 large patty pan squash
2 servings rice (Cooked w/ chicken stock.  Cook w/ veggie or water if desired)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar.
1 clove garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne
4 ounces manchego cheese, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Heat 1 inch of water in a large sauce pan or stock pot.  Bring to boil, then add squash and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the skin.  Put to the side and let rest and chill for a few minutes.  Carefully slice the top (stem side) off and remove seeds and discard and reserve all of the squash. Add cooked rice, lemon juice, and cayenne, and taste.  Adjust seasons as necessary and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in same pan that cooked the squash.  Add garlic and cook one minute.  Add onions and bell pepper and cook until transluscent.  Add corn, balsamic, and oregano and saute for 2-3 minutes until warmed and add salt and pepper to taste.  Combine this mixture to rice/patty pan mixture and stir thoroughly.  Stir in manchego and mint and taste once more for seasonings.  Stuff squash, overflowing with mixture and cover loosely with foil.  Cook in oven for 10 minutes, until just warmed.

Realize that you actually only needed two of the squash and eat the other one for lunch tomorrow.  SCORE!


 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti. Your body will thank you.

Spaghetti squash spaghetti is one of my FAVORITE things to cook: healthy, easy, and sneaky.  It makes me feel clever as well, which is a lot to get out of a vegetable.

I had the chance to stop by the Shreveport Farmer's Market this past Saturday and found some lovely spaghetti squash.  For those of you local, the last market of the season is this saturday, so check it out if you have time, 8-12.  There are great produce items, meats, jams/jellies, and you could see yours truly selling some Zombee Candles for my bestie over at Hesson Haus. Hope to see you there!

Anyhoo, back to the squash.  In the past I've always baked it in the oven, but I came across a great post on Steamy Kitchen about microwaving so I decided to give it a whirl.  I'm happy to report that this method was easier and quicker and I will never go back!

Spaghetti Squash is great for satisfying the craving for italian while also bypassing the carby goodness.  Sometimes you feel like a carb, sometimes you don't.  I basically use the same ingredients I would for spaghetti, and bammo, you've got a delicious meal.

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti
1 spaghetti squash
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
dried oregano
dried thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used Ragu this time, whichever one had lowest sodium)
1/4 cup red wine
parmesan cheese
pepperocini peppers

Stab spaghetti squash repeatedly.  Use this as a good time to take out any aggressions.  Be careful, as your squash will have the tendency to roll.  Microwave on high for 12-15 minutes, until tender and easy to insert a knife.  Let cool for 10ish minutes.

Begin sauce.  Heat olive oil to low and add garlic.  Saute for a few minutes and add onion.  Cook until translucent then add bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until veggies are tender.  Salt and pepper at this stage: light on the salt because of the lovely parmesan you'll add at the end.  Add the tomato sauce and stir to warm.  Season at will with thyme and oregano.  Add red wine and let simmer.

Carefully slice open spaghetti squash and remove seeds. Use a fork or spoon to remove all the spaghetti squash.  Add squash to sauce dish and stir to cover.  Sprinkle parmesan on top and serve with pepperocinis on the side for added spice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kitchen sink tacos: chicken, grilled veggies, pickled onion, etc...

Show me a day of the week and I'll show you a day that myself and my fella are in the mood for Mexican.  As I sit here and try to rack my brain for all the ingredients I used in these tacos, my mouth is literally starting to water.  If I was Guy Fieri, I'd say that I was looking forward to a "one way ticket to flavor town" but I'm not him, so I'll just say this meal was DAMN good. (Sorry mom).

The chicken was grilled on Sunday, and waiting in the wings.  (Hehe.)  I cannot stress enough the importance of grilling and how it can simplify your life by allowing you to cook multiple dishes and not make your kitchen a mess.  Hear my words.  Embrace them.

Most of this dish came together as a hodge podge of fridge leftovers.  Pickled onions and coleslaw were leftover sides from the salmon dish and the grilled veggies (mushroom, onion, and squash) were leftover from sunday's grilling spectacu-lar.  I added fresh onion and bell pepper for some crunch and garnished with cilantro, sour cream, and lime juice.  I'll be having a variation of this for lunch tomorrow and we're going out for Mexican on Friday.  I have a craving that CANNOT be satiated.  Mexican food 4 life.

Chipotle Marinated Chicken (adapted to serving size from Cooking Light community)
2 garlic cloves
2 chipotle chile
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/8 tsp ground cumin
black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place all ingredients in small chopper/process.  Pour over chicken; cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Grill chicken over medium-high heat, about 8 minutes on each side, or until no longer pink in center.

Firecracker Rice (adapted from my pal Jennifer Laurent)


Rice (4 servings)
1 can chicken stock
1 poblano, (roasted, skin peeled, diced)
4 ounces manchego cheese, chopped
2 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 tbsp smoked paprika

Cook rice according to package directions using chicken stock and a bit of water in a rice cooker.  If you don't have a rice cooker, go to the store and buy one.  Trust me: it's worth it.  Once rice is cooked, let cool for a few ingredients, then stir in all other ingredients and serve.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup: My Way

Yesterday I had the misfortune to wake-up with a pretty significant headache: not my preferred way to start the day.  There were a few things I had to get done at work, so I went in for about an hour and then came back home to wait it out.

I started to feel better around lunch time but the headache was still lingering.  (Don't worry.  In the battle of Ashlie vs Headache, eventually, Ashlie reigns supreme.)  I wanted something to eat that I couldn't normally have at work, and something that would make me feel better on an otherwise ick day.  Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich was just the thing.  This meal is probably my #1 thing to eat in the world.  IN THE WORLD. (Ok.  It may be tied with homemade nachos.  I can't pick just one #1 that would be crazy!)  There is something about the simplicity of tomato soup and grilled cheese that hits the spot.  This is "my way," for today only, because I change it up based on what I have around.  This time, I had manchego, cheddar, and arugula.  So. Good.  I had never had manchego cheese before but for some reason it caught my eye in the grocery store.  It's a sheep's milk cheese, creamy and a bit tart, sort of like a tamer goat cheese.

Before I give you the recipe, I need to alert you to something.  Are you sitting down?  Prepare yourself, because I'm about to drop a bomb.  My tomato soup starts with...Campbell's.  That's right, peeps, Campbell's condensed, full of sodium, tomato soup. Could I make it from scratch? Probably.  Even so, there is something about this can that just makes my heart happy.  I used to make tomato soup back in my college days and there is just something classic about it, that I can't abandon.

Tomato Soup
1 can campbell's condensed tomato soup
1 can organic low fat milk
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
7 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Black pepper
Sriachi to taste

Make soup according to can instructions: pour can contents into small pot.  Add one soup can full of milk, and put over low heat.  Add ingredients and let simmer for 5 minutes until ingredients blend. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir to taste.  (Note: normally I say always add salt to your dish, but this canned soup is naturally pretty salty, so you should do fine to omit extra.)

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 pieces whole wheat bread
Brummel and brown yogurt butter
2 ounces manchego
Small handful of arugula
2 ounces cheddar

Butter both slices of bread and heat non-stick skillet to medium. Assemble sandwich on bread, butter side down, with manchego, arugula, and cheddar. Put other piece of bread on top, butter side up and cook 4-5 minutes until cheese is melted.  Flip sandwich and let cook for 2 more minutes.  Serve and bask in its deliciousness.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spoil yourself: lamb burger!

Once again, the lovely weather combined with a desire for keeping the kitchen clean lead to grilling on a warm Sunday evening.

Weather sidebar: if mother nature could quit being so manic, I would really appreciate it.  It's disconcerting to be bombarded by Christmas commercials while your AC is cutting on and off.  I mean, I know I live in Louisiana and hot weather in November is to be expected, but this doesn't mean I have to like it, damn it.  The bright side is that we can grill every weekend, and for that, I'm happy.

Lamb for me is a every-now-and-then protein.  It tastes great, but it's high in fat and pretty pricy; however, it is one of my fella's favorite meats, so I can't help but fix it every now and then.  Spoiled bugger.

One of the tricks I keep in mind when fixing a component that is unhealthy is to keep the rest of the meal light so I don't get caught in a food shame spiral.  Of course, if you're a dude, this doesn't seem to matter as you can just eat things and not give it a second thought.  What's that like?  I bet it's cool.

I kept the burger very simple, just yogurt sauce, lettuce, and pickled onions from my dish earlier in the week.  On the side I had a few Zapp's potato chips and grilled onion, squash, and mushroom with fresh tomatoes.  Overall, I'd say this dish was a big success because it was simple to throw together and delicious, which is exactly what I'm looking for on a Sunday.

Lamb Burger
1 lb lamb
2 tbsp feta cheese crumbles
1 sprig fresh mint (about 2 tsp chopped)
salt and pepper

Mix in feta and mint with lamb: be careful not to overmix the meat.  Season both sides with salt and pepper and grill, about 3-4 minutes per side.


Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
1 8 ounce container plain greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Peel cucumber and slice in half, lengthwise.  Save one half for a delicious snack at a later date.  Scoop seeds out of the half you're using, then chop very fine.  Mix all ingredients together and chill.  Make ahead if possible: the longer it sits, the better the flavors will marry.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crispy Skin Salmon with Fiery Asian Slaw

Salmon is one of my favorite fish to cook, although (fun fact) it's one of my least favorites in sushi form.  This recipe in particular is a big hit in my household and one that I picked up from the September 2009 issue of Cooking Light magazine.  It has secured a spot in my permanent dinner rotation: quick, delicious, and healthy.  What are you waiting for?

I make the recipe pretty much as is and serve with rice as a side.  For tonight's version my fella made the basmati rice and slaw while I dealt with the salmon.  I also threw together some pickled onions and used a wheat tortilla to put all the ingredients together to make one slammin' fish taco.  The first five times I made this dinner I would say, without fail, "This would taste great as a taco," at which point I was reminded that I said the exact thing the last time I made this dish. Eventually, my taco dream came to fruition and it was fabulous.

Taste the slaw as you go and adjust quantities of ingredients to taste.  I wouldn't even bother measuring: life is to short to clean tiny spoons.  This slaw would be great with other proteins, or taste delicious the next day for a work lunch, accompanied by a salad.  In fact, I try to think up other things to make to go with this slaw, much like I go to Deli Tini (a lovely sandwich shop on Youree Drive) for the avocado potato salad and then try to find a sandwich to go with it.  And yes: I said Avocado.  Potato.  Salad.  Swoon!  But I digress.

Crispy Skin Salmon with Fiery Asian Slaw (4 servings)
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets
Salt and Pepper
Cooking spray
1/4 cup of orange juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 (16 ounce) package cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle salmon fillets evenly with salt and pepper.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add salmon to pan, skin side down; cook 4 minutes.  Turn salmon over; cook 3 minutes.  Add orange juice to pan; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

While fish cooks, combine rice vinegar and next 5 ingredients (through honey) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add a pinch of salt, cilantro, and coleslaw; toss well to coat.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Polenta w/ Veggies and Tomato Sauce and a side of growth

Mmm...polenta.  Tasty, warm, and perfect for a chilly day.  It's a great alternative when you are burned out on pasta, but in the mood for a great tomato sauce, and a simple way to have dinner at home for your 2 year 6 month, monthiversary (say it with me, "Aww.")

If you haven't eaten polenta before, it has the consistency of firm grits, and is super easy to cook, just stock and polenta, and you are good to go.  While I like to be a making-it-from-scratch kind of gal, today, I went with prepared polenta because that's what I had on hand.

My fella and I switch out grocery shopping every week and this weekend was his turn.  He bought the prepared polenta, although I would've preferred to make it from scratch. I'm the first to admit I can be particular and down right anal about items from the grocery store, but I've learned a thing or two in 2 years and 6 months.  If I make a fuss about the type of polenta he bought, then he will feel bad, and eventually, I'll feel bad when I realize how incredibly stupid I'm being.  In addition, if I try to project my particular craziness onto him, that's not going to work and he'll eventually refuse to go to the store, because I'm being crazypants. Sometimes, you need to just tone down the diva.  I'd like to say it's a lesson I always remember, but hey, at least I remembered it this time!

The benefit of prepared polenta for this dish is that it makes life simpler.  If you make the polenta from scratch, you'd need to cook it, which take about 15 minutes, then refrigerate it, THEN slice it and sear in a pan. As my fellow blogger and HILARIOUS woman, Eimear commented in her post for pot pies about using prepared puff pastry vs from scratch, "Now tell me who in God's name has a) the time, or b) the inclination to do that?  Just buy it.  You're keeping someone in a job.  Good for you." So what I'm basically saying in a very round about way, is that my fella actually did me a solid by buying the prepared polenta, but I won't give him the satisfaction of saying so.

Polenta with Veggies and Tomato Sauce
Prepared polenta, one tube (Look for it in the refrigerator aisle)
1/2 tbsp and 1 tsp Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 yellow squash, chopped
1/2 cup of mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 cup tomato Sauce
1/4 cup red wine
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Peperoncini Peppers (optional)

Slice polenta 1/2 inch thick. Begin searing, 2-3 minutes per side in a hot non-stick pan with 1 tsp oil.  Keep warm in oven as you prepare the sauce. While polenta is cooking, heat rest of oil in a skillet.  Saute garlic for about 1 minute, then add onion.  Cook until translucent, 2-3 minutes, then add squash and mushrooms.  Cook until mushroom and squash begin to break down, and add oregano and salt and pepper to taste.  Add tomato sauce and red wine and simmer for 5 minutes to develop flavor, longer if you have the time.  To serve, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and have peppers on the side for added flavor.





Monday, November 7, 2011

Homemade Granola!


I love making things like granola.  There is something about making something from scratch that is readily available in the store that makes me feel fancy.  Especially with ingredients like "flax seed" and "agave syrup."  I know, right?  Who am I, Ina Garten?

Greek yogurt and granola make a great snack or a great breakfast and making a big batch of granola ensures time for breakfast when you are lazy to get out of bed, which for me, is most of the time.  It's not MY fault the bed is so comfy...stupid bed.

Making granola healthy can be tricky since syrups and sugars can abound, and this one is no different, but as long as you don't eat the whole batch at once, the healthy factor outweighs the sugar content. Overall, I think the granola was a little sweet for my taste, so next time I made it I'll make some adjustments.

Since it was the first time I made it, I stuck pretty close to the recipe but made some substitutions/omissions for things I didn't have on hand.  I found the recipe in my January/February 2011 issue of Food Network magazine and it can be found online.

I left out pumpkin seeds, because I didn't have any, and used dried cranberry instead of mango.  Overall, it was tasty and crunchy.  The recipe says it makes 4 servings, but I think I'll get 8-10 servings because I'm not a giant, so I won't be eating massive fistfuls of granola.


Shrimp with Chimichurri sauce

Shrimp are one of the easiest things to cook: quick to defrost, quick to cook, and can hold up to big flavors.  Grilling is one of my favorite ways to prepare food because it's healthy and more importantly, my boyfriend is the grillmaster so all I have to do is prep the food and relax with a beer.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

We fixed this last weekend but with all the craziness of work, I haven't had time to post it.  Stick with me, faithful readers, and I'll be more on point in the future.  Homecoming is now over so my life will resume a more normal pace, at least as normal as it can when you are a student life professional.

The whole reason I wanted to cook shimp was actually for the chimichurri.  I needed something to do with the mint that is taking over my flower bed, and possibly the greater Bossier area.  Chimichurri is an Argentian sauce, typically just herbs and oil, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand.  This bright condiment can also be used on other proteins.  For the shrimp, I made a seasoning blend with some of my favorite flavors.

Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce
Shrimp                          1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 tbsp Garlic Powder    Chili Powder
Canola Oil                    Salt and Pepper to Taste
Wooden Skewers

Mix all ingredients in bowl.  Pat shrimp dry then stir into the seasoning.  Soak wooden skewers for 1-2 minutes to prevent a possible fire issue while grilling.  Put shrimp on skewers and grill for 2-3 minutes, per side, until firm.

Chimichurri Sauce
1/2 cup mint                   1/2 cup cilantro
1 tbsp Lemon Juice        One clove garlic
Olive Oil

Put first four ingredients in a chopper or food processor until smooth.  Add oil (start with 1/4 a cup) until a sauce forms.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Treat Yourself to French Toast

Well, hello there, internet.  How goes things? It's been a while.  Things got crazy with travel for work and planing homecoming, and then my iPhone camera decided to go kaput.

Fun fact: if your iPhone camera gets out of wack like mine did, the only apple recommended solution is to restore the phone to factory settings, thereby serving as a significant inconvenience and forcing you to email yourself 500 photos to yourself, 5 photos at a time.  Fun like a fox!

All complaints aside, I made this french toast forever ago and am happy to share it with you now.  French toast is beyond simple, and a useful recipe since it tastes best if you use old bread.  I had some delicious whole wheat sour dough from Whole Foods that fit the bill.  Also, since I'm not a sweet fanatic I like the balance of sourness that sour dough adds.




French Toast
Bread (white, wheat, whatever)      1/2 Cup of Milk      
Vanilla                                            1 Egg                      
Cinnamon                                       Butter

The basic ratio to remember is 1/2 cup of milk to 1 egg, per serving.  Add in a touch of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon and put all ingredients in a dish big enough to soak the bread. Soak the bread for a few minutes, too long and the bread could be soggy.  Heat a skillet with a little butter and cook the bread 3-4 minutes per side.  Serve with fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

A breakfast like this could be over indulgent, but if you use low fat milk and don't go overboard with toppings or syrup, it can satiate a craving for sweets without cause a complete guilt spiral.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making a Pasta Dinner: Demystified

Oh pasta, you are yummy.  People say we shouldn't be together too much because of your carbs, but I say, well, their probably right.  Even so, as long as you don't eat it all day every day, you should probably be fine.  I tend to go with whole wheat pasta which has a bit more nutritional value, and it also has a nutty flavor which I like, and my boyfriend tolerates. :)

What I really love about cooking pasta for dinner is that recipes aren't necessary.  I'm a recipe lovin' gal, but sometimes you just don't feel like walking back and forth, measuring things and reading a recipe.  Sometimes, you just want to wing it.  Also, it very simple.  Most pastas cook in about 6-8 minutes so if you start cooking your pasta while prepping the other ingredients, you can have dinner on the table in about 10-15 minutes.

Incorporate whatever you have a hankering for: meat, veggies, herbs, cheese.  I'll give you my basic pasta dinner formula, then the ingredients I used to make the deliciousness seen above and to the left.

1. Start with a pan on medium with about a tbsp olive oil.  Add onions and garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes.

2. If cooking meat, add this now.  Cook most of the way through and drain for sausage/ground meats.  Cook all the way through for chicken, or use cooked chicken.

3. Start cooking pasta in pot according to package directions.  Salt the pasta, but oil isn't necessary in the pasta water.

4. Add veggies to sauce based on how long it takes to cook then, and how much you would like them cooked.  Cut vegetables the same size for routine cooking times.  Salt and pepper and add dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

5. Add some wine for flavor (optional step).  Red wine goes great with pasta, I typically use something dryer because that's what I like to drink.  When the pan is starting to dry out from cooking the veggies, add the wine and let simmer for a little while.

6. Add sauce at the end, tomato-based, cream, pesto, whatever suits your fancy.  Use something store bought, or make your own by simply adding in canned tomatoes, or cream/milk, or both! Some folks use cream, but due to the health factor, I just can't.  I typically add in a bit of milk at the end, depending on if I think more liquid is needed. Salt and pepper again, to taste.

7. Finish with some fresh herbs: italian parsley or basil are both great.  If you've got wee tomatoes, I suggest throwing a few in right at the end, just enough to warm them.  They add another texture to the dish and burst with flavor.

It's really that simple.  Also, remember the pasta cooking NEVER and ALWAYS.  NEVER rinse your pasta.  This makes it difficult for sauce to stick to the pasta.  In fact, if you add a little pasta water in to the sauce, it'll help it to coat the pasta, which brings me to the always.  ALWAYS toss your pasta in the sauce before serving and coat thoroughly to ensure pasta sticks to sauce.  An alternative, we'll call this ALWAYS PLAN B is to at least put a little olive oil on the pasta to keep it from sticking and serve pasta on the side.

And now, the ingredients of my deliciousness, in order of entry into the dish:
Buitoni Whole Wheat Tortellini, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onions, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Mushrooms, Oregano, Thyme, Red Wine (about a cup), Sun-dried Tomato Pesto (store bought, from Whole Foods), parsley, fresh tomatoes.

Use my idea, or come up with your own.  (And by the way, making pesto couldn't be simpler.  Typical pesto is pinenuts, basil, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, but substitute any nut and herb and make your own combo.  Freeze leftovers in an icecube tray, then pop out the cubes and put them in a plastic bag.)

Happy Pasta-ing!






Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easy Peasy: Stuffed chicken, mashed cauliflower, and rosemary peas.

If you are looking for something healthy and flavorful to impress your guests, look no further than this dish.  Pretend the camera angle is different and you can see that the chicken breast is stuffed with feta and mint!  This is the kind of dish that looks like you worked a lot harder than you did, but I won't tell if you won't.

Stuffed Chicken Breast


1. Cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half and slice a pocket in the side.  Depending on the size of the chicken, you may want to pound it out a little to have a more even cooking time. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.

2. Mix together whatever cheese and herbs you have on hand.  My favorite combinations are feta and mint or basil and goat cheese, but feel free to experiment.  You can also do this step ahead and put the mixture in the freezer, wrapped in saran wrap and rolled into a tube.  This will make for much easier stuffing.

3. Stuff chicken breasts with cheese/herb mixture.  Be careful not to overstuff or cheese will spill out during cooking process.

4. Heat 2 tsps of olive oil in an oven-safe skillet to medium high on the stove.  Sear chicken on both sides because as Anne Burell says, "brown food tastes good!"

5. Place chicken in a 350 degree oven until cooked through and enjoy!

And what's better than mashed potatoes?  Oh, I know, MASHED CAULIFLOWER!  Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.  If you're hesitant, substitute in a little bit of potato: baby steps.

Mashed Cauliflower


Ingredients
1 head cauliflower                          4 cloves garlic, crushed/peeled
1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk*             2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp butter                                     1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese    Pepper to taste

1. Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12-15 minutes.

2. Place cooked cauliflower/garlic in a food processor.  Add all other ingredients and process until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy!

*Note: No buttermilk?  Make "sour milk" by mixing 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup of milk

Rosemary Peas


1. Cook frozen peas according to package directions and add rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Easy peasy!  (Get it...peasy?  Clever girl.)

And now you have a complete meal, from start to finish.  It can come together pretty quickly, but for more make-ahead ease, cook the cauliflower the day before and save the processing until day two.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Simplify Your Life: Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup!


Today, girls and boys, we are going to talk about simplification.  One of the reasons that people buy lunch during their work day or grab food on their way home is because they think they are taking the "easy" way out.  Cooking may seem daunting and time consuming but I am here to tell you that's just not so.  So listen up, and learn how to simplify...your...life!  (Thunderous clapping from a studio audience.)

First of all: the dreaded work lunch. Dreaded because the last thing you want to do after a long day at work is come home and plan for the next one.  Eww.  A salad is your simple solution, especially if the thought of cooking makes you uneasy.  Salads are stirring, no cooking necessary!

For the base of this salad, I used spinach and arugula.  Anything leafy and green could work: spring mix, lettuce, etc.  I also added wee tomatoes (grape, cherry, whatev) and shredded rotisserie chicken.  Note: this salad isn't earth-shattering: I'm a bit of a salad purist.  For most of my life, I was a basic lettuce, tomato, dressing sort of gal, but I'm now livening things up with CRAZINESS like chicken...and arugula!  (My salad growth is a slow process.)  

The key to making your super easy take-to-work lunch healthy is the dressing.  If you have a fatty, mayonnaise laden dressing, you might as well be having a burger.  Most store-bought creamy dressings (ranch, bleu cheese, thousand island) are delicious, but unhealthy, so my solution to my homemade version is to swipe out the mayo and swipe in fat free greek yogurt.  You get the same creamy texture and tang without the fat/cholesterol.  For my homemade honey mustard dressing, use equal parts honey and mustard and enough yogurt to pull it all together.  Taste and adjust as necessary.

And now...dinner.  Crock-pots are the best because the cooking is done in your absence.  Thanks, technology!  This slow cooker chicken taco soup from allrecipes.com is one of my favorites, both for simplicity and crowd-pleasing, lip-smacking deliciousness.  The only additional step is that midway through cooking,  you take the chicken out, shred it, and return it to the pot.

When I serve, I add cilantro, throw in some corn chips, and use low fat yogurt in place of sour cream.  (I'm a bit fond of yogurt, if you hadn't guessed).  For other toppings you could use cheese, avocado, or fresh onion.  This recipe makes 8 servings, so you'll be set for a few days, or can freeze and eat later.  For a vegetarian option, just leave out the chicken.

The most important thing is to use good seasoning mix to pull it all together.  Here's mine: 1 tbsp chili powder, 1/3 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/3 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

    Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped                            1 (16 ounce) can chili beans
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans          1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce          1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer or water
  • 2 (10 ounce) cans rotel, undrained  3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Seasoning Mix

Directions
  1. Place the onion, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, beer, and diced tomatoes in a slow cooker. Add seasoning mix, and stir to blend. Lay chicken breasts on top of the mixture, pressing down slightly until just covered by the other ingredients. Set slow cooker for low heat, cover, and cook for 5 hours.
  2. Remove chicken breasts from the soup, and allow to cool long enough to be handled. Stir the shredded chicken back into the soup, and continue cooking for 2 hours. Serve with toppings as desired.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quinoa: Embrace it, love it.

Tonight I whipped up a simple, healthy, delicious dinner of quinoa.  If your response to "quinoa"(pronounced keen-wa) is "quin-huh?" allow me to explain and ROCK YOUR WORLD.

Quinoa is (per my box of quinoa) an important grain that dates back over five thousand years to the vast and mighty Inca civilization of South America.

I know: whoa.  The takeaway from this is if it has been around for 5000 years and popular with Incans it has to be easy to cook, since they didn't have hand blenders, kitchenaid mixers, pizza stoners, or, ya know, electricity.

The reason you want to eat this superfood is because it is a grain that has more high quality protein than any other grain, so it is pretty darn healthy.  The reason you want to cook it is because it is sooo simple.  So simple that you can do it IN THE MICROWAVE.  Take that, Incans.

This recipe is actually an Ashlie original so my measurements aren't exact: I played this recipe fast and loose, and titled it "Quinoa and Mushroom with Arugula Salad."  Remember a few posts ago when I commented on chefs that use fussy names for simple things?  "Arugula salad" is a fancy way of saying, "I piled some arugula on top of this quinoa."  Yeah.  Fan-cy.

Quinoa and Mushroom with Arugula Salad (Makes 2 servings)
1 cup quinoa                                        2 cups water or stock
1/4 diced white onion                          2 cloves diced garlic
1/2 cup diced red/green bell pepper     8-ish button mushrooms, sliced
Oregano, Red Pepper Flakes               Sherry or Wine
Sprig of Fresh Mint, chopped              1 tomato, chopped
Bunch of Arugula

1. Mix 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups stock or water in a microwave safe bowl.  Cover loosely and microwave on high for 8 minutes.  (Note: In my opinion stock adds a LOT of flavor, so use if available. I used chicken, but veggie would be fine.)

2. While this is happening, relax for a few minutes, maybe watching some Star Trek on Netflix.

3. After microwaving is complete, stir and let quinoa sit, covered, for 8-15 minutes.  (That seems like an odd period of time.  Basically, you just want the liquid to have evaporated, and the quinoa to be fluffy).

4. While the quinoa is fluffy-izing, heat about a 1/2 tbsp of oil (extra virgin, canola, whatever your preference) and add in the onion and garlic.  Stir and cook for about a minute: not too long or else the garlic can burn.  Add bell pepper and cook for another minute.

5. Add mushrooms and dry seasonings to taste.  Let mushrooms cook down for 2-3 minutes until liquid is evaporated from pan. 

6. Pour in enough sherry to cover mushrooms, about 1/4 a cup.  Realize there isn't much left in the bottle of sherry, and add a little bit more.  Sherry is goooood.

7. By this time, the quinoa should go back in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Fluff it once again, and now it's done!

8. Add the mushroom mixture and the chopped tomato to the quinoa and stir to mix.  

9. Go outside and grab some fresh mint from your front yard, chop, and add to the mixture. (If you don't have fresh mint in your front yard, plant some mint, STAT.  Mint needs a lot of sunlight and very little water.  Left alone it might just take over your home and neighborhood.  If you pay for mint at the store, you are getting robbed I tell you.  ROBBED.)  The mint is non-essential to the recipe, I just wanted a bit of fresh greenery.  Feel free to use parsley if you have it on hand, or omit all together.

10. Plate 1/2 of this deliciousness and add a big handful of fresh arugula.  Voila!  Tasty and delicious, and since it serves two, you have either lunch or dinner for tomorrow.  This recipe could also be used as a side dish to a protein, I'd suggest pork loin.

And there we have it, quinoa, demystified and deeeeeelicious. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Under the weather? Chinese chicken soup time!

So I'm feeling a little meh today: scratchy throat, sneezy, that sort of fun.  I decided to make some chicken soup to combat whatever is trying to get me down.

I have a confession: I've never really been a chicken soup fan because it either seems too bland or is filled with too much celery.  (Note: I like celery two ways: cooked beyond recognition in southern dishes or 1st grade snack/ant on a log style).  Well, this soup has made a believer out of me.  The asian flavors make this not your average chicken soup, and it only takes about 25 minutes to throw together!

I used a recipe from the September 2011 Food Network magazine and since it was the first time I've made it, didn't steer to far from it to see how it would turn out.  Verdict: Love the flavors and ingredients but the soup was a little bland.  I added sriracha at the end for some spice and next time I'd probably throw in some ginger and lime juice to kick it up.  Some simple modifications could make this a vegetarian dish: swap veggie stock for the chicken stock and tofu for chicken.  Tah-dah!

This is really what cooking for me is all about: taking a basic concept and tweaking it to make it your own.  Don't be afraid to try something new, just make sure you at least have PB&J on hand if you go down in flames (figuratively.  I hope.)

Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup (Serves 4)
Food Network recipe: modifications by Ashlie noted with "A says"
4 large eggs                                                   2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil (A says: extra virgin)
2 large tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced     4 cups low-sodcium chicken broth
1 bunch scallions, sliced                                1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce (A says: use low sodium)     1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken, skin removed
4 cups baby spinach                                      1 1/2 cups cooked rice (white, brown or wild)

1. Whisk the eggs with a pinch each of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a wok or pot over high heat.  Add the eggs and cook, undisturbed, until bubbles form on the surface and the bottom is set, about 1 minute.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring gently to break up the eggs, until the tomatoes begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, 3 cups water, the scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  Partially cover and simmer 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the chicken, spinach, and rice and warm through.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.

Health facts per serving: Calories 417; Fat 22 g; Cholesterol 297 mg; Sodium 1,282 mg*; Carbs 27 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 29 g (*Note: original recipe used regular soy sauce, so my version would have loads less sodium)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tacos. Glooooooooorious shrimp tacos.

Shrimp tacos with slaw and pickled onions.

If there is one type of food that I am ALWAYS in the mood for, it is Mexican.  I could eat chips and salsa all day, and bonus: salsa is CRAZY HEALTHY, since it's really just diced up veggies.  Most other Mexican food is more on the non-healthy side, what with the prevalence for oil/butter/cheese.  I've found ways to satisfy my cravings for Mexican in ways that are healthy but still delicious.

Here are my tips to cut out some of the fat, and bring in some healthy bits:

  1. Choose wheat or corn tortillas when possible.
  2. Use coleslaw in your tacos to incorporate veggies and creaminess and eliminate the need for a big glop of fatty sour cream.
  3. Change up the cheese!  Feta is a close match to cotija cheese which is used in a lot of traditional mexican cooking.  It has high salt content, so watch the salt in the rest of your components, but it's a bit healthier
And now, the moment you've been waiting for: I'm going to tell you how to make these tacos!  Not going to lie, I ate them for dinner tonight, and last night, and would probably eat them again tomorrow.  That is how much I loooooooove them.  These are not your average tacos, but if you give them a try, you won't be sorry!

Coleslaw
16 ounce bagged coleslaw mix      1/4 cup reduced fat greek yogurt
2 tbsp orange juice                         1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Spices: cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper

Mix liquids and spices to taste, then add coleslaw.  Stir well and chill.  The longer it has to sit, the better it will taste!

Pickled Red Onions (Recipe a la Bobby Flay and Food Network Magazine)
1/2 red onion, sliced thin                          3/8 cup lime juice
1/8 cup each red wine vinegar & sugar    1/2 tbsp salt

Bring liquids/salt/sugar to a boil in a saucepan.  Remove from heat and let cool, 5 minutes.  Toss with the red onion (easy way: put in mason jar); cover and chill at least 4 hours, shake jar periodically.

Ashlie Style Shrimp
Spices: garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne
Olive Oil
Shrimp

Mix together garlic powder, smoked paprika, and chili powder in equal qualities, depending on the number of shrimp you are cooking.  Add cayenne to taste.  Mix olive oil into the spices and mix in the shrimp.  Cook shrimp in a hot pan for a few minutes per side.

To make the tacos, grab your wheat tortilla and put a heaping spoonful of coleslaw on the bottom, followed by shrimp, feta, and pickled onions.  Enjoy!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lettuce Cups with Pork


I try to eat healthy as often as I can for a few reasons.  First of all, I like it: it makes me feel good, both mentally and physically.  Equally important is the fact that it allows me to eat things that are unhealthy, with reduced food-guilt.

Lettuce cups are great for those reasons: delicious, and allows you to store good points toward mental food math.  :)

The most important thing for lettuce cups is to use the right kind of lettuce.  Iceburg won't work because it'll break.  I use "living lettuce" from Kroger, but that or butter lettuce would suffice.

For my lettuce cups I used the grilled pork from earlier in the week and added corn, fresh onions, and a bit of bbq sauce to pull it all together.  Simple, tasty, and delicious.

Breakfast Bowl a la my Dadd


Breakfast Bowl

And now for one of my weekend guilty pleasures, something I like to call the Louisiana breakfast bowl.  My dad would cook grits with a fried egg in it just for me, so this is inspired by a childhood favorite.  I have modified it by adding bacon crumbles, and of COURSE cooking the eggs in the bacon grease, because that's the best idea ever.

To serve put shredded mozzarella cheese and Tony's season salt in the bottom of a bowl.  Put the grits on tops, two barely cooked eggs over easy, then the bacon crumbles on top.   

If you are unfamiliar with Tony's, know that there is NO substitue for its deliciousness.  It is a season salt that tastes good on everything except for babies and pudding.
  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kale chips. Yeah. I said kale chips


Jamaican pork, roasted sweet potatoes, wilted spinach.
Dinner tonight was awesome: I finally dug into the pork that we grilled on Sunday and served that with roasted sweet potatoes (coated in oil, honey, and lemon juice) and wilted spinach.

Wilting spinach is a painstaking process.

  1. Put spinach on plate with pork that needs to be warmed.
  2. Microwave said plate.
  3. BAZINGA: wilted spinach: add a bit of lemon juice for some zing.
Yeah.  So I call it wilted spinach so I can seem fancy, much like when chef's on Chopped say things like chutney (stuff I diced and mixed together) or napoleon (dessert items I didn't know what to do with so I stacked them and put whipped cream on top).


Kale Chips!

Today I made kale chips for the first time because I was looking for a healthy snack alternative.  (Don't worry: they taste a LOT better than they photograph)

I used Ellie Krieger's recipe for the most part, although I'm pretty sure her "bunch of kale" was much bigger than mine.  I didn't really measure the salt, oil, or smoked paprika and simply used the amount that seemed rational for the kale that I had.  

Super simple to fix, although it would have been simpler had I done it at the same time I was fixing my roasted sweet potatoes for dinner earlier in the evening, but c'est la vie.

This was also my first time using smoked paprika and it is AWESOME.  I never bothered to buy it before because I figured it couldn't be much different then regular paprika, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how wrong I was. It has the flavor of chipotle, with none of the heat.  I look forward to trying it on other things, probably with some sort of Mexican food on Friday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rice and Beans OR Rice and Beans?

Amy's Indian: Mattar Paneer

Today, bonus treat: pictures of what I ate for lunch AND dinner.  In the esteemed words of Samuel L. Jackson, "Hold on to your butts."

For lunch I went with Amy's Indian: Mattar Paneer, light on calories, high on flavor.  Simply put, garbanzo beans in chana masala with peas and basmati rice.

Frozen Meal tidbit:
Frozen meals are a quick lunch option, but usually pretty bad for you.  Don't be fooled by "Healthy Choice" or "Lean Cuisine" either.  What they don't have in calories they more than make up for in extreeeeme amounts of sodium: my meal had a whopping 780 mg.  Considering the fact that the CDC suggests less than 1500 mg a day, that is a lot.

Also, since calories are so low, it could be easy to turn to candy/other badness in the afternoon when hunger pangs return.

My solutions are to keep healthy snacks on hand and eat frozen meals sparingly.  I will not not (English degree: double negatives are allowed) eat Amy's Indian because I gotsta have it, but I certainly don't eat it more than once a week, if that.

Homemade red beans and rice

And for dinner, more rice, this time the plain old long grain variety.  If you like rice and you don't have a rice cooker, you are hurting yourself.  It makes cooking rice super simple, and super easy to clean-up, especially if you are impatient with cooking rice and sometimes turn the heat up too high so it sticks to the bottom of the pan (cough. me. cough).

On top of that rice are good ol' red beans, a la my slow cooker. As a person that has a deep-rooted need to always be productive, using a slow cooker is a-mazing because I am cooking WHILE NOT EVEN HOME.  It's magic, really.

Red beans couldn't be simpler.  Easy to cook, easy to make a large batch to serve to a crowd, great frozen and enjoyed later. The trick to skipping soaking the beans over night and slow cooking them is to make sure to bring everything to a boil on the stove before putting in the slow cooker, or else your consistency will be no bueno.

I follow my friend Aimee's recipe (see below) and add Louisiana Hot Sauce and diced raw onions on top.  Yes, please.

Red Beans Recipe, a la my pal, Aimee McGlone

  • "It freezes beautifully and I want to make something from the freezes beautifully section of my cookbook."  (Name that film!)
  • This will make enough for dinner two, twice, plus possibly more depending on your portions and desire to stuff yourself full of beans.
  • Ingredients
    • Light smoked sausauge (1 package: Andouille is typical, but it will make it greasy and requires that you skim it every hour.  No thanks) 
    • 1 Pound Red Beans (Camelia are the best)
    • Veggies: 1 Large Onion, 2 Stalks Celery, 1 Medium Bell Pepper
    • Seasonings: 2-3 Bay Leaves, Crushed Red Pepper, Tony's
  • The Cooking
    • Start by dicing veggies.  No need to be too precise: it'll all get cooked down.
    • Dice the meat
    • Brown the meat in a couple teaspoons of vegetable oil and set aside.
    • In the same pan saute the onion, celery and bell peper until tender, but not browned. 
    • Add the meat back and saute it a bit get it all mixed up
    • Take the beans, which you need to give a good rinse and add them to the mix.
    • Add about 7 cups of water, 2-3 bay leaves, tony's, a little salt/pepper and a little crush red pepper to make it a little extra spicy and bring to a boil. 
    • Transfer the whole thing to the slow cooker and let it go for 4 to 5 hours on high or 7 to 8 on low.
    • Smash a couple spoonfuls of beans with the back of the spoon against the side of the pot and stir them back it to the pot towards the end to make them really creamy and yummy, taste and adjust the seasoning at the end too.