Tag Archives: cook

What’s in the freezer?

So my plans for tonight were cancelled, believe me, I’m not complaining.  I don’t even know what happened to the month of October.  As you can see from my last post at the beginning of October, I was obviously abducted by aliens and didn’t have Wi-Fi in order to blog.

This evening, I arrived home to a growling stomach, courtesy of too much PM snacking with only caloric and fat benefits and two dogs that needed my immediate attention (i.e. let’s go for a walk) which calls off all audibles to the store to wander and create.  Took care of the dogs, fielded a few calls from frantic students with assignments due, then opened up the freezer…squash puree, black beans, soups of all kinds, blueberries (gosh, those are STILL in there?) and the usual culprits, cheese, veg burgers, etc…boooorrriiingg.  Then, the lightbulb flickers…squash burritos?  Yes…squash burritos.

Squash Burritos with Black Beans

  • 2 C black beans, cooked
  • 2 C butternut squash, pureed
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 T chipotle en adobo (if you aren’t a fan of spicy, use 3/4 to 1 T for the smokey kick minus the tongue burn)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 T pineapple juice (plus more for the avocado)
  • 2 T crushed pineapple
  • grape tomatoes (a couple of handfuls)
  • 1 avocado
  • 6 reduced-fat, flour tortillas
  • 1 C finely shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend (or goat cheese, yum)
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • Chopped red onion
  • Light sour cream or my newest sour cream replacement, plain Greek fat free yogurt

Directions:  Combine beans through pineapple in list above in a medium pot, cook until warmed through.  Assemble burritos on flour tortillas with all ingredients except for sour cream.  Roll into burrito shape.  Place into 9×9 pan, put in oven covered until warmed through and moist.  Serve with sour cream and leftover avocado.  I also use plenty of Frank’s Red Hot on top with a sprinkle of extra cheese.

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Second Chances

Here’s to second chances.

Recently I had the opportunity to accompany my friend Missy to Chicago with a group of gal pals for her Bachelorette Party, second chance style.  I’ll get to the food part in a minute, because it was GRAND; but first, the bride.  As a group my core contingency of friends has endured many complexities in the past two – three years.  Everything from a parent death, to domestic violence, to a handful of divorces, from first born babies to depression and back again, we faced these challenges as a group and hoped for the day where we could FINALLY celebrate a second chance.   This trip to Chicago was the first of many second chances.  Cheers to Missy and her pursuit of her happy ever after.

Back to your regularly scheduled blog post.  Speaking of cheers.  What goes best with cocktails?  Fabu food of course.  On this second chance tour, we used a pink goblet (32 oz) to procure free beverages, and a bridal veil to elicit many unique looks from passers by.  We even had a flash back to 22 when some of us made our first BIG mistake, and decided that we are glad to be in the range of 30 years old finally.  The food however, the FOOD WOW!  We did a bang up job in the dine out category.  Our visit to Opera Chicago was a really, really good choice by Fancy Nancy.  At Opera, from the veg side of the menu, we enjoyed mushroom won-tons with a green salad and miso dressing,  veggie egg rolls with a teriyake reduction, Kung Pao tofu, Malaysian vegan flat bread, and Hainanese Kaipong (cooked in a Lotus leaf which Missy tried to eat for additional fiber!!).  All beautifully plated and wonderfully light and tasty.  Asian fusion Chicago style is not to be missed at this place.  Do NOT forget to sample the pickles and spicy nut mixture they put on your table.  That was the best pre-dinner bite I’ve had in a long time.  Beware the Thai chili pepper if you are not in to spicy with the sweet.  Please visit.

For breakfast the following morning, we got up at the crack of 8:30, and made our way down to perennial fave, The Bongo Room.  The wait on a typical weekend is well into the 2 hour arena, but if you get there early, when they open at 9am, your wait is nill as I guess Chicagoans don’t like to eat before then and consequently you get a table lickity split.  We agonized over the menu and finally ordered the sweet potato black bean burrito, special eggs benedict (veggie), the breakfast burrito, chorizo omelette, and of course two very special pancakes:  red velvet and walnut with vanilla creme’ anglaise, and white chocolate, caramel and PRETZEL.  I’d honestly like to see a cracker jack, popcorn pancake soon…oh, they have a dish that our new found friends at the table next to us ordered, banana, oreo, chocolate pancakes that looked like a must try for next time.  Eat here, but drink your coffee while you wait from Starbucks across Randolph.  Caution:  The Bongo Room has lackluster coffee.  I’d opt for the fennel bloody Mary instead.  Cheers.

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Tender Zucchini Fritters

This recipe looks scary, but it’s well worth it.  I know it’s intimidating reading the laundry list of ingredients and taking the time to put it together but, it’s a small price to pay for summer in your mouth.  Yet another great way to use the Summer Zucchini in your crisper you are going to toss in another week anyway.

Dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Fritters:

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini (5 to 6), trimmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 1 4-ounce package soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled, chilled (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup (or more) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups (lightly packed) mâche (lamb’s lettuce; 2 to 3 ounces)

For dressing:
Blend all ingredients in processor until smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Transfer to small bowl. Cover; chill. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

For fritters:
Using large holes on box grater, coarsely grate zucchini into large colander. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon coarse salt over and toss to coat evenly. Place colander over large bowl. Let zucchini stand 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Press on zucchini to release as much liquid as possible. Empty zucchini into kitchen towel. Roll up to enclose and squeeze dry.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in medium bowl to blend. Mix in beer. Scrape zucchini from towel into bowl; stir to coat evenly (batter will be thick). Mix in cheese.

Heat 1/3 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Working in batches, drop batter into skillet by 1/4 cupfuls, flattening to 3-inch rounds. Sauté until brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 375°F oven 5 to 6 minutes.

Place mâche in large bowl. Toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons dressing. Place 2 fritters on each of 6 plates. Top with mound of mâche salad. Serve fritters, passing remaining dressing alongside.

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Beans and Cornbread

The theme song to Dinner and A Movie with Paul and Annabell on USA Network was THIS.  It would be stuck in my mind for DAYS!!!  I regressed and began singing it while making chili and promptly wanted to leap off a cliff.  Hope you suffer as much as I did.  🙂  For your misery, a cornbread recipe.  BEANS AND CORNBREAD!

Mexican Cornbread

  • 1 C yellow cornmeal
  • 1 C sifted all-purp flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C skim milk
  • 1/3 C reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/4 C veg oil
  • 2 T chopped jalapenos

Preheat oven to 425, place cast iron skillet inside while warming up, buttered.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  To this mixture, add egg, milk, sour cream, oil and jalapenos, mix until smooth.  Pour into prepared hot pan.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Recipe is a combo of many from Ina Garten, Paula Deen and Gourmet Magazine.

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Last of Summer Squash, Summer Tacos

Today, it reached 86 degrees in west Michigan.  Did I mention it’s SEPTEMBER!  So what better way to celebrate summer’s last hurrah?  Summer Squash Tacos.  This is a colorful way to get your family/friends to eat their veggies AND use up that plethora of summer squash you have sitting in the crisper waiting for a slow veg death.  Throw in some homemade corn tortillas (thanks for the idea Chef Mike and Andrea) and you have a substantial tasting low-fat and low-cal dish.  Easy on the add on’s and you can keep it healthy and light.  Make the tortillas, the taste of fresh corn tortillas will change your life.  I swear.

Corn Tortillas

  • 2 C Masa Harina
  • 1 1/2 C Hot water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Yeah, that’s it.  Three ingredients.  Combine the Masa Harina and salt with the hot water until it takes form, cover, toss in fridge for an hour.  After you let it set, form 2 inch balls with the corn dough, press with tortilla press or old school like I do, between 2 sheets of wax paper with a rolling pin, then toss on a dry fry pan 1 min first side, a few seconds on the second side and keep in a warm oven covered until you are done frying all of the tortillas.

Summer Tacos

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 C frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 1 C chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 C red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 C poblano pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 small summer zucchini, diced
  • 1 C black beans (I used fresh made, frozen from a previous post)
  • 1 tsp epazote or oregano
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • salsa, light sour cream, reduced fat cheese, hot sauce, lime, pickled jalapenos

Heat the oil in a wok or large fry pan.  Toast corn if fresh, if using frozen corn, in pan with oil combine, onion, peppers, garlic and fry until tender crisp, add zucchini, beans, pepper, epazote, tomatoes and frozen corn cook until warm. To serve, top corn tortillas with veg mix and salsa, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce and jalapenos.

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The Afterlife

I’ve decided that IF there is an afterlife, for me, it will contain rows and rows of apple trees just like at the “other” Crane’s Orchard-Gary Crane.  All the ripe, beautiful Honeycrisp apples will only be where people that are 5’8″ and taller can reach them (this is to make up for all those short pants I had to wear before they made Tall for women, sorry “average” height girls I have to get something beside good low post position out of this frame), the trees will embrace you as you enter a row which is well organized and LABELED (so as not to get lost, this is a great idea Gary), you will hear the bees buzzing but you will not see them, nor will they sting you (bastards), there will be golf carts to shuttle you around and for when you pick more apples than you can actually carry in one trip (for me that turns out to be about 70 pounds-I almost made it to the cashier), it will be sunny and 60 degrees out all the time (so you can wear jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt all the time without pitting out), there will be Butternut squash picked, clean and available to take home for 40 cents a pound (they will however, weigh 8 pounds or more a piece), every day the stay-at-home mommies will be busy with book group or something (so I don’t have to work around your slow ass), and you will be able to eat apples until you nearly barf (this is encouraged) as you pick ’em.  Yep, that’s what my afterlife will be like.  Oh, and I will have Walt the Wonderdog and Mr. Wonderful with me there too; because then I can carry more apples.

My Friends Cook Too! Anne P., Guest Post

I get really excited when my friends make veg friendly food.  Fall is a great time for soup, and what is cheaper right now than winter squash?  Not much, so stock up and keep it in a cool dry place, it will last through the winter.  Or, as Anne mentions below, cut it open, place face down on a cookie sheet, pop into the oven at about 350 degrees until soft, scoop out the flesh (sans seeds-save those to plant in the summer next year), drop it into a freezer bag and you have most of the work done and in your freezer for pies, soups, muffins, breads etc all winter.  Great idea Anne.

Squash Soup a la Anne

Anne Porter-I got the original recipe off the Food Network website. It’s an Alton Brown recipe, but I have altered it quite a bit.

It called for butternut squash, but I used a blend of acorn and carnival squash in the batch, I have used butternut in the past.

  • 6 cups of prepared squash
  • 2 cans of fat free vegetarian vegetable broth
  • 2 T. Splenda brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 can lite coconut milk (used Thai Kitchen brand)

Directions:  In a large stock pot combine squash, broth, brown sugar and ginger. Simmer and then puree with immersion blender (or in your blender, food processor, food mill). Stir in coconut milk and return to a low simmer. Season to taste w/salt, pepper and/or nutmeg.

Approximately 8 – 1 cup servings at 115 calories per serving.

My squash was in the freezer from what I had frozen last fall, so it took me less than 20 minutes to make this, so it’s super easy and so tasty!

*I just made this soup tonight-with butternut from my garden!!!  To her base recipe I added:

  • 1/2 frozen banana (out with the brown sugar)
  • 1 medium onion, saute’ with garlic
  • 4 cloves of garlic, saute’ with onion
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp hot curry
  • 1 tsp sweet curry
  • 1 T Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1/2 C fat free half and half

Instead of blending the whole thing, I blended 1/2 and left the other half chunky. I like texture in my soup.  It was delish served with Nantucket Baking Company Sourdough Bread.

Simple AND Delicious

After the “less is more post” I promised a Pineapple Brie Pizza post.  So here we have a common sense delicious pizza. Made at home in like 5 minutes plus about 5 more to melt the Brie.  I tried and didn’t HATE the low fat Brie on this pizza made by President.  Now, it didn’t melt into the delicious puddle that I had hoped, but it didn’t look like a melted styrofoam plate either and it was still pretty tasty.  For naked eating enjoyment, and I mean on crackers plain obviously…the full fat Brie would be better to create that delicious melty mess to put on top, but for this pizza, the low fat version was totally acceptable.

Pineapple Brie Pizza

Adapted from Clean Eating

Makes 2 small Boboli Crust pizzas

  • 1/2 cored, and slivered ripe pineapple
  • 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small wheel Brie thinly sliced, with skin still on
  • 2 cubes Pesto (about 2 Tbs) from my Pesto blog post (or any Pesto really)
  • 2 small whole wheat Boboli crusts

Directions:  Couldn’t be easier.  Preheat oven to 425, prebake crusts for about 5 minutes so as to keep them from getting soggy from the pineapple juice.  Remove, cool, add to pizza crusts, fine layer of pesto, red onion slices, pineapple slivers, then sliced Brie.  Pop back into oven until Brie melts, remove, salt and pepper for taste and enjoy.

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Cook with a book, but make it your own recipe

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I’m embarrassed every time someone asks: can I have the recipe?  I reply, sure you can, but it um, won’t taste exactly like this…  Which leads the consumer of said tasty goods to ask a perplexed “why not?”  They then proceed to give me that, “you stopped at D&W’s deli counter on the way over here didn’t you bitch!!?”  To which I must defend with a totally lame-o explanation:  No!  I didn’t buy it!  I um, don’t follow directions, really, well, exactly.  Which is true.  I don’t.  It’s ironic actually, because I am a fantastic rule-follower, order-taker and baker (which requires precise, level it off with the back of a knife measurements-my worst nightmare).  It makes my friend LEP really frustrated as every time she encounters a new recipe, she follows it to the letter so as to produce the EXACT item and then the next time she will re-make it according to what she likes, wants, etc.  I myself don’t mess around with that first step…I feel like the integrity of the dish is what I make of it, the original recipe is sorta like the skeleton, I provide the flesh for it.  This way, I can LOVE or sometimes, loathe what I have created, claim the recipe as my own and then fix it or nix it as inspired by another recipe.  The trick is…writing it down.  As a result of this behavior, ALL of my cookbooks and recipe print outs have “x’s” through some things and a ton of margin notes.  It’s an illness.

Here is a great example.  Most mornings, breakfast is two whole grain pieces of toast slathered with EVOO butter, OJ and #Freshpots.  Today, no bread to make toast…damn.  I did however have whole wheat tortillas, lots of eggs, red peppers (on sale!!!), onion, a jalapeno fresh from my garden, a handful of cilantro from a pot on my deck, a sweet potato, some really limp sad spinach in clam shell box ready to go to old food heaven, queso fresco, and a beautiful shiny poblano pepper in the crisper.  So I dug through a file folder for a recipe I know I fished off the Internet about 100 years ago, and whew…I still had it!  This is the recipe I used as the base, with the ingredients up above as subs, adds, etc.  Since I’m planning on using tofu in my dinner dish tonight, I opted to omit the soy protein.  It freaks me out to eat so much soy in a day-I try to follow these guidelines, but also my brain that says, too much of anything, while tasting wonderful, will probably turn out to be bad for me (this is true for more than just food it may seem).

The end result?  Here is my breakfast burrito recipe as adapted from the Cooking Light Tofu Breakfast Burrito recipe from the May ’09 issue-and yes, I did write it down.

Ingredients:

  • 1  teaspoon  EVOO
  • 1  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4 of each, diced finely, sweet onion, red pepper, poblano pepper, jalapeno pepper
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) queso fresco crumbled
  • 2  tablespoons  minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 4  (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1  cup  baby spinach leaves, close to compost (good save!)
  • 1/2 sweet potato, peeled and grated (yep like cheese–cooks faster)
  • 4 large eggs
  • Frank’s Red Hot

In a saute pan, heat EVOO gently over medium heat, add all veggies at same time, cook until just tender.  While veggies are cooking, scramble eggs and seasonings in a bowl.  Add eggs to veggies after they reach your desired level of “doneness”  scramble until you don’t gag anymore when you see wetness of the eggs.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with queso fresco, liberally cover in Frank’s Red Hot, then add some more because you can never have too much Frank’s Red Hot.  Fill each tortilla with about 1/4 of the mixture, roll and eat from your hand, preferably over the kitchen sink as you wouldn’t want to appear to be too dignified (you don’t need a plate!!) and certainly you do not want to pick up all those diced veggies that will fall out of the back of your burrito onto the floor.