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Here’s a little quickie for a week where I’ll be relying on “quick and easy” but don’t want to sacrifice too awful much in terms of healthful eating. We had this weekend and they went over better than the pizza I made the following night!

When you open a can of crescent roll dough, you can choose to only separate it into rectangles instead of taking the additional step and going all the way to triangles. Actually, I suppose this would work as a triangle, too… But let’s look at the rectangle version since that’s what I did! Place your rectangles flat on a parchment-lined baking pan or a clean counter. Top with whatever you have on hand: ground beef, rotisserie chicken, deli ham, tomatoes, spinach, onions, bell peppers, pesto, spaghetti sauce, cashew paté – use your imagination AND clean out your fridge at the same time! Woot!

The best part here is that you can tailor each individual serving to the person who will be lucky enough to consume it! When you’ve put your chosen toppings on top, just roll the dough up around it like you were going to make the crescent rolls after all. These baked up slightly quicker than the time recommended on the can. Maybe check yours when there’s about two minutes left on the baking time, especially if you are NOT using an AirBake (insulated) pan.

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Mine is the one with spinach, rotisserie chicken and vegan cheese, the Noodle Dude’s had chicken and regular cheese and Mouse? Well, yeah, his just had cheese in it – I knew he’d eat plenty of fruit to offset the simplicity of the crescent roll-up!

I realize you could make your own dough and get tons more creative, but these fit our needs exactly without anyone having to spend much time in the kitchen at all. I made myself an extra one but ended up saving it for breakfast the following morning. They’re easy to carry along and should reheat well, assuming all of your toppings are microwave-friendly. It won’t win any blue ribbons but it hits the spot and it’s still better (and CHEAPER) than fast food!

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Caulifrittata

So tasty I almost forgot to get a photo before it was gone!

Economy of ingredients has been an important focus for me lately. When you’re eating in restaurants a lot, as I have a tendency to do when my life gets stupid busy, you lose a gauge for how much an appropriate portion size for you is as well as how many of which ingredients comprise the larger portions you’re consuming. It’s easy, then, when you (ostensibly) return to your own kitchen, to go way overboard with ingredients. This can happen even if you’re working from a recipe. For home cooks like me who tend to just start pitching stuff in pots, well, sometimes you end up with a ridiculous amount of food. That can lead quickly to moldy leftovers because, really, who cares to eat ten servings of Quinoa Minestrone or Mama Hummus over the course of five days. I love the stuff, but I’ll be the first to state categorically “NOT ME!” (And, believe me, I can put away some Mama Hummus!) None of us wants to know we’ve wasted not only food, but the money and time required to prepare it, too.

Stand-by recipes, then, become vital go-tos as we near the end of our own unique buying cycles – these are recipes I call upon that are versatile enough to allow for unending variety in the amount of each required element along with the capacity to utilize most any remainder ingredients.

Enter the Almighty Frittata! When it’s almost time to go to the grocery store, but you absolutely need to use up what you have on hand before then, frittatas are a nearly perfect vehicle. I only add the caveat “nearly” because they’ll obviously not be an option if you don’t eat eggs; however, if you do, these meals-in-a-pan are wonderful!

Back to the portion control, frittatas are useful in two ways. First off, the size of your pan largely dictates how much total frittata you can make. I usually use a deep-sided frying pan that has a well-fitting lid. Secondly, you can use just about any leftover ingredient, raw or pre-cooked, in the making of these beauties. I usually find mine filled with onion (there’s ALWAYS an onion around), some variety of peppers, and often enough yellow or zucchini squash. Once upon a day, there was a good portion of cooked hamburger crumbles, though not so much for me anymore. A little cooked, leftover quinoa would be an excellent protein replacement for meat.

Here’s the key: it doesn’t have to be much of anything! An eighth of a cup of diced bell peppers, a quarter of a diced onion, half a cup of meat – really any veggie you can slice, dice, chop or grate!

Perusing my crisper drawer yesterday, I actually found a couple ingredients I’d never used in a frittata before. Et voila! The Caulifrittata was born!

Caulifrittata

1 cup of cauliflower crowns, chopped fairly small
1/8 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup bell peppers, diced (whatever color you happen to have is fine)
1/8 cup onions, diced (again, whatever type you have on hand)
2-3 organic eggs, lightly beaten
Splash of milk mixed into eggs (optional)
Handful of shredded cheese (optional)
Seasoning blend of your choice

Sauté the veggies in an oil of your choice (I prefer extra virgin coconut oil most of the time) until the cauliflower starting losing their opacity. Using a spatula, move the veggies toward the middle of the pan in an even layer, leaving about an inch around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle on a seasoning blend and add some cheese if you are so inclined (I used Veggie Shreds). Allow the cheese to melt only a little then pour the egg mixture in the center. Turn the pan so the egg gets evenly distributed then push some of the veggies back toward the edges. Turn the heat very low and cover.

Check after about 15-20 minutes – when the edges look set but the center is still “wet”, drain off any excess liquid (mostly water from the cauliflower) using a large spatula to hold the frittata in the pan then continue to cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. When the top looks pretty firm and the edges nice and brown, turn off the heat and allow the frittata to rest on the stove for a few minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Servings: 2-4, depending on your appetite!

This recipe is great as a make-ahead, too, because it travels well and heats very quickly in a microwave. Also, it’s easy to enjoy for ANY meal of the day.

What ingredients do you always find you have on hand prior to a grocery store trip? Would they be good in a frittata? Dare to get funky and give them a try!

Persnickety Eater :: Sweet Potato Pancakes

Mmm… Thanksgiving in a Pancake!

Hmm… What’s a mommy to do when her offspring eschew vegetable matter in almost every form? HIDE IT!

So, I’m not proud of this, per se, but it has become a bit of a necessary evil. Hopefully it will be a temporrary measure. Besides, these really were delicious, I have to admit, and economical to boot.

While I’ve been avoiding dairy for the past couple months (and truly enjoying the results of this decision), I have found that a limited amount of milk or butter that is cooked or baked into something doesn’t seem to upset my stomach. I won’t drink a glass of milk or spread butter on a piece of bread – I’ll use soy, almond or coconut milk and soy-free, buttery spread from Earth Balance instead. Cheese and yogurt will turn me into a crampy mess if I eat even the tiniest bit, and I haven’t had the nerve to try ice cream.

In order to have the leeway to make a single meal that all of us can enjoy AND that I have the opportunity to add veggies to, I know I can almost alway count on pancakes, even though they usually contain milk and butter. I have to acknowledge that if I try to get “too weird” with the pancakes, altering them to be wholly vegan, I’ll be the only one eating them. So this recipe is a very traditional pancake recipe with the addition of a sweet potato and an adjustment of the milk.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 2 cups organic milk
  • 1 organic egg
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter, melted
  • 1 sweet potato, baked and mashed with a fork
  • A handful of praline pecans, powdered sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar (optional toppings)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg, butter and sweet potato. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; mix until smooth. Add more milk if needed to thin the batter.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Flip when edges are dry and bubbles begin to form on top. Brown on both sides and serve hot with toppings of your choice.

I think I’d like this just as well with pumpkin in place of sweet potato. Or for a fun treat, use purple sweet potatoes! 

What vegetable would you try adding?

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I am not a huge fan of pasta salads – usually too much mayo (settle down, turning tummy) and the noodles are often overcooked. Plus, for some unfathomable reason, black olives seem to be everyone else’s favorite addition. Even the smallest amount of these sneaky blighters is too much for me – it messes up the flavors of everything else. If you like ’em, be my guest, but none on mine, please and thank you. Oh yeah, and most people go heavy on the pasta, light on the veggies. Wrong ratio, in my humble opinion.

That said, I will get a hankering for pasta salad occasionally, especially when I am reminded how economical and easy they can be to make. In addition, they keep well for a couple days, so you can enjoy a quick, light bite on the run. I like to make it with small pasta, like mini spirals or mini bow ties. Half a box is usually plenty, making it about $0.75 worth of pasta for several servings of salad. Yay!

Salad

½ box mini spirals (I got the Barilla with added fiber)
1T Extra virgin coconut oil
Salt & garlic powder, to taste
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
A couple stalks of celery, sliced or diced
1 large carrot, shredded
¼ red onion, diced
2-3T mayo (barely enough to lightly coat noodles)

Dressing

¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1T apple cider vinegar
1T Jack Daniels “dirty” mustard
Juice of half a lemon
Italian / Pizza Seasoning (I found this in a grinder)

Cook the noodles al dente, drain, return to pot and add coconut oil. Mix thoroughly then add salt and garlic powder to taste. (At this point, try not to munch all the pasta immediately – it’s SO GOOD just plain like this.) Mix in diced veggies then add mayo and stir well. In a separate bowl, mix all dressing ingredients together and stir to blend well. Don’t bother too much with tasting this – it’s very sour from the lemon juice; just trust that it’s really stinkin’ good, especially once chilled. Pour over noodles and veggies and stir well. Serve immediately if you like it warm-ish or refrigerate overnight – Delicious either way!

P.S. Along with black olives, as a general rule, I am no fan of mustard. This “whiskey mustard” (as I’ve nicknamed it) is a rule breaker and makes a really nice addition to this dish. Up soon, a recipe for baked beans with this same mustard!

P.P.S. What? There are garbanzo beans in the picture, you say? Oh yeah… Well, I added them for protein / fiber but I didn’t really care for them after all. Add them if you’d like – about 1/2 a cup should do.

What’s a dish you normally don’t like but have found a way to personalize so that you can enjoy it on occasion?

Right out of the gate I will warn you: I’m a chia novice, but playing with this stuff makes for some serious, “test kitchen” fun.

I do wish I had some pictures for this post. However, hydrated chia looks more than a bit sketchy (mucilaginous is how some other sites describe it – Ew!), so until I have this recipe perfected, I’ll hold off on the photo shoot. It’s just that I can’t wait that long to at least share the basics.

To start off, I added 1/3 cup of chia seed to 2 cups of water. This is just a proportion I stole from a random website; I’m pretty sure you could use just about any proportions you need to get a “gel” consistency that you like. It seems like a 1:3 ratio of seed to water is about the minimum, but, hey, have fun trying out different things!

I stirred the chia in the water pretty continuously for several minutes, playing with it, watching the gel begin to form. What my [15-minute, Google-based] research told me was that I could use this gel after about 10 minutes or put any remaining gel in the fridge in a sealed container for a long time. Suffice it to say, they suggested times far longer than I would be willing to attempt at this stage of the game.

My original idea was to do a “pudding” of some sort and as I began hunting around the kitchen for likely victims ingredients, I found my bottle of Barlean’s Total Omega Vegan Swirl. It’s fruity (blueberry and pomegranate) and a vegan source of Omega 3-6-9… And it cost a small fortune so it behooves me to use it up prior to its “Best By” date.

Mind you, this was just a test run, so I mixed 1T of Barlean’s with 4T of the chia gel because it seemed about right. The mixture is very runny and I suspect (after more reading) that I probably could have just put the chia seed straight into the Barlean’s. But that’s not how I roll. Er… Actually, I just didn’t think of it until after I’d started hydrating the seed in water.

Since it wasn’t yet a consistency I could convince my 2-year-old to try, I scanned around the kitchen again and my gaze fell on… Bananas! They mush up nicely, right? Yup, that’ll do.

So I mashed a banana, mixed in the chia-Barlean’s mixture and gave some to the munchkin. He “mmmmm’d” through the first couple bites then decided “not so much” and just played with it instead. I suspect texture was a culprit here because I wasn’t so keen on it (though I did try a bite, too). What to do, what to do?

A-ha – FREEZE IT!

This step, I approached with some trepidation. I don’t actually have a proper source saying, absolutely yes, you may freeze this without unintended side effects.* So I gave it a shot. I know, it doesn’t sound like me – too risky, right?

Well, after about 20 minutes or so, the edges had frozen into a nice, almost fro-yo texture. The chill on the gel made it less slimy, which was also nice. I put it back in the freezer for a while longer, more of it began to freeze over and I liked it even better.

Some observations:

—  It thaws rather quickly when it’s not fully frozen
—  As it thaws, it get slimy
—  Slimy is not a texture I prefer
—  The next batch will be frozen MUCH longer
—  I think I may skip the water in a future batch and just hydrate with the Barlean’s to increase the thickness
—  Whatever the hydrating medium, I will soak the seeds longer before freezing to get most of the “crunchy” of the seeds out
—  I will also try adding soaked, ground almonds in a future batch, just because that sounds good to me

There you have it. I’ll revisit the infamous chia forthwith once, betwixt the twain of us, we have had many more adventures!

*In the several hours that it’s taken me to write this post amidst bedtime for my boys and TV show clips my husband had DVR’d that he just HAD to show me so he can get them “cleaned off”, I had the lovely raw chef Victoria Moon, proprietor of Permission to Heal, verify for me that, yes, “chia is sturdy” and can be frozen. Yay!! Thank you.

Mmm... So fresh and tasty!

Since it’s summertime and that’s the time for T-O-M-A-T-O-E-S, I have a fully summer dish, almost entirely prepared from purchases I made this morning at our local Suwanee Farmers Market. (Some extra virgin Australian olive oil is the only ingredient I acquired elsewhere.)

Colorful and Lovely

First, I had to refrain from eating all the tomatoes. Seriously. They are so perfectly ripe and delicious, I almost couldn’t help myself. I think I did eat close to a third of these plain before I was finished with the salsa!

I have culled you, my pretties!

I decided to go with the larger, green tomatoes and the medium-sized dark purplish tomatoes because they seemed to jump out at me. The other little ones are easy to pop in my mouth, but these larger ones? Not so much. Too much of a squirty-texture issue for me, if you’ll kindly forgive my oddities.

The ingredients, gathered and ready to go.

 The onion was just a small, sweet, white one that I diced then halved – part for the processor, the other to give the final product chunkiness. I’d never tried these lovely peppers before but went on the advice of the growers that they are mild. At only $2 for a dozen or so, I knew I couldn’t go wrong at least giving them a try. The garlic is from last week’s market trip – a luscious variety so very different from grocery store commodities as to be an almost wholly other species.

They're so green, they look like little melons.

 These just made me smile – practically perfect, bright green – I might be in love.

Sure wish I knew what variety these are...

 So very juicy I had to slice them carefully over top of the food processor’s bowl so I didn’t lose even a drop of their goodness.

Think I diced it finely enough?

 Not wanting to take a chance that I’d get this salsa hotter than I could handle, I removed the seeds and diced the little green pepper finely.

Almost ready for go-time!

 Full food processor – time to add a splash of olive oil (probably about 2 tablespoons or so) and fire that puppy up!

Hmm... Doesn't look terribly appetizing, does it?

 There really wouldn’t have been anything wrong with leaving the salsa like this. After I processed it, I mixed in the diced onions that I’d reserved, but it was just so watery that it didn’t seem “finished”. What else did I buy today, what else could fill this out? Hmm…

FRESH, RAW SWEET CORN – YES!!!

Salsa finished - ready to hang out in the fridge and "mingle".

 So much better and perfectly acceptable to eat as-is. So I did. Eat some. Then tried to figure out what else I could slather it over. Then remembered that I’d only finished breakfast about 30 minutes earlier. Not to mention the half pint or so of tomatoes I ate while I was fixing it. Yeah.

So it’s hanging out in my refrigerator, flavors getting good and matured together. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with it, but guaranteed I’ll enjoy the fool out of it!

Mountain Rose Herbs

Mountain Rose Herbs