Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs (aka Italian Wedding Soup)





I grew up with a version of this soup that didn't have spinach, was made with beef meatballs, and had pastina as the pasta shape. My friend Vanessa shared this truly scrumptious version with me that has spinach and healthier meatballs made with ground chicken (or turkey). I added basil to the meatballs because I just love that flavor with the cheese. You can make this recipe in a half an hour if you have ready-made stock. The original recipe involves the longer process of boiling chicken to make the stock.

This is an incredible first course for a special dinner, or you can have it with grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches for a quick weeknight supper. :) Let me know what you think!

Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (or dried whole wheat couscous)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
a pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
6 cups canned chicken stock or broth
2 cups water (or 8 cups total of homemade chicken broth/stock)
1 1/2 cups small pasta (like ditalini, mini farfalle, pastina, orzo, etc.)
5-6 oz (or more) triple washed fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a deep pot over medium heat add oil, chopped carrots, celery and onions and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook veggies 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. While the veggies cook, combine meat, egg, garlic, grated cheese, bread crumbs, nutmeg.

3. Uncover your soup pot and add broth and water to the pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. When soup boils, reduce heat a bit to a simmer and start to roll meat mixture into small balls, dropping them straight into the pot. You are making meat dumplings that will cook in the broth. When you are done rolling the meat, add pasta to the soup and stir. Cover and simmer soup 10 minutes. When pasta is tender, stir in chopped spinach in batches. When spinach has wilted into the soup, the soup is done and ready to serve.

4. Ladel soup into bowls and sprinkle some parmesean cheese on the top if you like.


TIPS:
1) You can plop those little meatballs into the stock in seconds flat if you have a cookie scooper. I have a 1-tablespoon scoop, which I used. It also keeps the meatballs fluffy and dumpling-light because the meat doesn't get tightly packed from hand-rolling (although I admit I adore TINY meatballs....so if you have time to lightly hand-roll into 3/4-inch balls, I recommend it. :))

2) I always keep 2-cup serving-size baggies of homemade chicken stock in the freezer so I can throw dishes like this together in a flash. You can make homemade stock in the crockpot while you are away...leftover chicken or turkey, or the carcass, onion, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and a few herbs. Throw it all in the crockpot and fill with fresh water, put it on low and leave it for 6-10 hours. To store: Put a baggie in a glass, ladel in two cooled cups of broth, seal, and pile labeled bags in the freezer till you need them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wholesome Whole Wheat Molasses Bread





Whole Wheat Molasses Bread


You may have noticed by now, I really like quick breads and soups & stews - and I like them even better paired together. To me, the perfect winter supper is a good hearty vegetarian soup and a thick, warm slice of grainy bread. This recipe is flapperfood all the way because: 1) it's healthy, has fiber, and no processed ingredients, 2) it's easy and quick to prepare, and of course, 3) it's yummy!

Iron and calcium-rich molasses adds a rich, deep tone to the bread and an earthy sweetness - yet it's not too sweet. You can slather it with butter (I love Soy Garden on breads) and cinnamon sugar (My favorite is Stevia mixed with cinnamon and sometimes a little ginger and cloves), or you just can eat it warm, as is and dip it into your favorite soup, or a hot mug of cocoa.

Ingredients

Oil or butter for greasing pan
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt, or 11/2 cups milk and 2 tablespoons white vinegar (see Step 2)
2 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses

Directions:

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom (not sides) of an 8-by-4-inch or 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, preferably nonstick.

2. If you're using buttermilk or yogurt, ignore this step. Make soured milk by warming the milk gently -- 1 minute in the microwave is sufficient, just enough to take the chill off -- and add the vinegar. Set aside.

3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, stir the molasses into the buttermilk, yogurt or soured milk. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients (just enough to combine) then pour into the pan. Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mix & Match Granola



Warm, spice-infused fruits and grains wafting through your home will transport all there to a heavenly bed and breakfast. :) I admit it's hard for me to pay 7 bucks for a puny, cold (albeit tasty) bag of granola in the store knowing it's so easy to make my own scrumptious version in minutes flat, and a LOT of it for cheap (you can buy organic grains and dried fruit in the bulk section of the health food store for pennies).

What I like about this particular recipe is that it's changeable--you can mix and match the ingredients depending on what's on hand. It lasts for weeks in an airtight container so it's on-hand and ready to enjoy.

Mix and Match Granola


4 cups rolled oats, wheat, or barley (any combination)
½ cup sunflower or sesame seeds
½ cup honey, maple syrup, or a thick syrup made with ½ cup brown sugar and 2-3 tablespoons water
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla and/or other extract
¾ cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
½ cup nuts (optional)
½ teaspoon salt

(other possible ingredient ideas: flax seeds, coconut flakes, figs, dates, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and on and on and on...:))

Directions:


1. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together except for the dried fruit. Set the dried fruit aside.
2. In another bowl mix the sweetener, oil and extract together.
3. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. The liquids will be absorbed and the granola will become darker and shinier.
4. Spread the granola in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 325°F for 25 to 35 minutes or until fairly dry and starting to brown. Stir every ten minutes while it is baking to keep the granola on the bottom from burning.
5. Remove the granola from the oven and stir in the fruit.

Tips


1. Granola will become crispier and crunchier as it cools. Let it sit a bit before removing from pan--that way the grains will cool into nice clumps. :) Cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.
2. If storing at room temp, use within a couple of weeks. It will last for six months or longer in the freezer.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sage Roasted Winter Veggies



Vickie's wonderful comments on my "Roasted potatoes and onions" recipe inspired me to create a roasted veggie dish that includes brussels sprouts. Fresh, woodsy sage pairs perfectly with sweet potatoes, and sweet potatoes blend beautifully with the caramel flavor of roasted beets, brussels sprouts, and sweet vidalia onions.

This dish cooks itself. Throw it in the oven and leave it till the timer beeps!

Sage Roasted Winter Veggies

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large vidalia onion, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
1-3 fresh beets, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
About 15 brussels sprouts, halved or left whole
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8-10 sage leaves, rolled and julienned
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix it up with your hands. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet (foil-lined for easy clean-up!). Bake until the veggies are golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes.

You can reheat these leftovers in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

Hunter's Minestrone




My girl Jessica sent a request for a minestrone recipe, and this is one that I wanted to share. This recipe comes from the innovative and gifted Tyler Florence. When I saw him prepare this soup on his show Tyler's Ultimate, I knew it was a winner. It differs from the classic minestrone because contains no zucchini (cooked zucchini always reminds me of warm, soggy cucumbers! No can do!) It also contains italian sausage (as opposed to chicken meat) and savory field herbs like sage and thyme. I flapperfied it by using chicken sausage instead of pork sausage, and whole wheat pasta instead of regular. Let me know what you think!

This is a hearty, warming winter soup that tastes even better the next day!

INGREDIENTS:

2 quarts of chicken stock (8 cups)
1 head of garlic, halved
1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8-12 sage leaves, rolled and sliced thin
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped fine
3/5-1 lb sweet italian sausage (turkey or chicken sausage is nice!)
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped (by hand or food processor)
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 (28-oz.) can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 28-ounce cans of canneloni beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
Frshly ground black pepper
Salt (optional)
Grated parmigiano-reggiano

DIRECTIONS:

1. Combine the stock and garlic, skins and all, in a big saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain out the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard.

2. Bring pot of salted water to boil for pasta.

3. Chop celery, carrot and onion and keep on side of stove till ready to use.

3. In a large sauce/soup pan, heat up 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add sage, rosemary and thyme and stir for 3-4 minutes, infusing the oil with wonderful flavor. :) Add sausage and cook, breaking up pices with a wooden spoon till browned.
Add carrots, onion and celery to pan and cook 3-4 minutes till softened (not browned).

4. To same pan, add tomatoes, bay leaf, beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover to a peaceful simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

5. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 6 minutes or so--should be underdone a bit.Drain and stir into the soup.

6. Add parsley, a little salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf.

7. Ladel soup into bowls and top each bowl with some grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Serve with whole wheat garlic bread or some other nice bread to mop up juices. :)

8. Eat. Smile. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spicy shrimp and Roasted potatoes and onions

Rustic, fresh, simple and bursting with flavor. It's a healthy and verrrry easy dinner to make on a weeknight. The main course is Spicy Sauteed Shrimp and the side dish is roasted potates and Cippolini onions. This basically roasts itself in the oven and comes out all carmelized, sweet and savory. Comfort food with no guilt! Add a crisp, green salad (see my recipe for Christmas Salad) and you are all set. :)


Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Onions

2 pounds new potatoes (white, red, or Yukon gold), scrubbed and halved
1 pound cippolini onions, blanched & peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, boil a small pot of water on stovetop. When boiling, drop in onions and blanch for about 1 minute. This will loosen the skin so you can peel them very easily. Otherwise you end up taking half the onion off with the skin. ;)

2. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix it up with your hands. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet (foil-lined for easy clean-up!). Bake until the potatoes and onions are golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes.

You can reheat these leftovers in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

While potatoes are roasting, you can prepare a green salad and prep your ingredients for the shrimp. Have it all by the stove so it’s ready to cook. Begin cooking the shrimp when you pull the potatoes out of the oven to cool a bit. The shrimp only takes 3-5 minutes!

Spicy Shrimp

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon, juiced
1-2 handfuls of chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
Coarse salt, about 1 teaspoon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Set a frying pan on medium-hot and then add the half the contents of bowl to the pan. Cook shrimp for 3 minutes until pink and just firm. Cook second batch the same way.

This shrimp dish also tastes delish atop a nice bowl of Pasta Aglio Olio!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cinnamon Apple Carrot Flax Bread





I had a craving for something sweet, warm and chewy for breakfast but I have that New Year's-watching-the-calores thing going...so I just made up this quick bread recipe on the spot using all healthy ingredients that I already had lying around. How can you go wrong with shredded vitamin-rich apples and carrots, high-fiber flax meal and whole wheat flour, and metabolism-boosting spices like cinnamon and ginger? It came out super moist and tastes like it should be sinful. But it isn't. :)

Cinnamon Apple Carrot Flax Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
¼ cup flax meal
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½-1 tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 peeled & grated apple
1 grated carrot
1 egg
1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
¼ cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk (or sour cream or yogurt)
1 tsp vanilla
Topping (optional): a little shredded coconut or a sprinkle of cinnamon flax sugar

1. Sift together first 8 ingredients into a large bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine. Stir in the grated carrot and apple.

2. In another bowl, cream together eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.

3. Stir dry mix into the wet mix and combine well.

4. Grease only the bottom of a loaf pan and add batter to pan. Spread out evenly. Sprinkle optional coconut or cinnamon flax sugar on the top.

5. Bake in the center rack of the oven on 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Let it cool off. Schmear it with lotsa butter (for spreading on toast and stuff, I really like Soy Garden brand butter) and eat it up!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Puerto Rican Pigeon Pea Stew



COMFORT FOOD!!!! Delicious.

Pigeon peas are sort of a cross between peas and lentils. They are very popular in Latin American cooking, and you can find them in the International Food aisle of your local grocer. Look for the brand Goya. The soup is made of a Latin American base called sofrito, which consists of powerhouse flavors of finely chopped and cooked peppers, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro.

You can buy prepared sofrito in a jar (it isn't bad), but making it from scratch will give your stew a huge, fresh, amazing flavor layers to your soup base. This stew tastes like something a beautiful old Jamaican grandma would prepare for her family.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours
Serves 4


INGREDIENTS

2 (15-oz) cans Goya pigeon peas
¼ lb smoked ham, boned ham hock, or Spanish chorizo sausage, diced
3 cups water
2 cups chicken broth

For sofrito:
1 large fresh jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
6 ají dulce chiles*, finely chopped, including seeds
(*ají dulce chiles look like just habaneros but are sweet not hot - very important not to confuse the two! If you can't find these chiles, you can use 1 light green sweet Italian frying pepper instead.)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or oregano leaves

6 oz calabaza or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
1 garlic clove
4 fresh cilantro sprigs

1 yellow plantain, peeled & sliced on the diagonal
1 Tbs. olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

1. Simmer peas, ham, water, and broth in a 4-quart heavy pot, uncovered, 30 minutes.

2. Make sofrito while peas simmer:
Cook jalapeño, bell pepper, ají dulce chiles, onion, and garlic in oil in a skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add cilantro, tomato, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season sofrito with salt and pepper.

3. Simmer and season stew:
Stir sofrito and squash into pea mixture and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and liquid is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Mash garlic clove and cilantro to a paste with a mortar and pestle, then season with salt and pepper and add to stew.

4. In a small skillet, sautee plantain in olive oil on moderate heat for a few minutes on each side until softened and golden brown.

5. To serve, ladle stew into bowls, garnish with a little chopped cilantro over the top and serve with plantains.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Coffee, tea, a recipe?


Coffee, tea, a recipe?
Leave a comment below, and let me know if there's a particular dish you're craving. I'll cook it and post the goods here, including recipe. I'm your beck and call girl, er, cookgirl.
(And no, the boots are not for sale.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pasta Aglio Olio (Italian & Greek Versions)




I grew up with the Sicilian version of this dish, and it has remained one of my favorite, quick-fix as well as dinner party staples for years! Aglio Olio translates into "Garlic and Oil", which is the base of this sauce. I recently moved to a mostly Greek neighborhood, which inspired my recent creation of the spinach-feta version.

There's lots of fresh garlic in this dish - great for the immune system, and a powerhouse of flavor. The chewiness of whole wheat pasta (penne or rotelli) stands up beautifully to the pungent flavors of the Greek version, which is what you see in the photos. Spaghetti (non-whole wheat) is the classic shape for the Sicilian version, and looks so pretty flecked with the bright green parsley. My mouth is watering just typing!

Sicilian Aglio Olio

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (2-ounce) tin anchovy fillets
6 to 8 large cloves garlic, crushed & minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
Coarse salt
1 pound pasta (any shape), cooked to al dente
Good parmesean cheese, grated

Greek Style Aglio Olio
(aka Pasta alla Diana Cazadora!):

Same ingredients as above except add:
2 extra Tbs. olive oil to the 1/4 cup oil
5 ounces (1/2 a small box) frozen, chopped spinach - thawed and squeeeezed dry
Subsitute the parmesean with 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
The juice of 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS:

1. Chop, prep and set all ingredients near the stove so it is at your fingertips.

2. Boil pasta according to package directions to al dente--slightly chewy (not too soggy).

3. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce:

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat (very important so the garlic does not burn, otherwise it will taste bitter and you will want to feed it to the cat.)
Add garlic, anchovies and red pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon, pressing the anchovies till they break up and melt away into the oil.
*If making the Greek version, now is when you add the spinach. Sautee for just a minute or two.

5. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss gently to combine. Add half the parsley (and the feta, plus juice of 1 lemon, if making Greek version).

6. Spoon into pasta bowls or onto plates, sprinkle with remaining parsley. For Sicilian version, sprinkle very liberally with parmesean cheese.

I like to top both versions with some spicy sauteed jumbo shrimp, serve with crusty Italian bread (some bakeries make Whole Wheat Italian loaves now!), and a nice dry Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio. As a side dish, the simple, mellow sweetness of roasted beets or winter squash pair nicely with the spicy, garlicky goodness of the pasta.

Mangia!




Pineappple Chocolate Chip Cookies






The recipe for these buttery, chewy cookies came from my maternal grandmother. She was a real flapper in the 1920s, and her name was Stella. While I never had the chance to meet her, I do believe she was probably one of the coolest chicks to bake a cookie. My mom told me that flappers used to meet for "Coffee-and." That is flapper-slang for coffee and a donut, coffee and a piece of pie, coffee and some pastries, you get the idea. So next time you want to get together with your girl or guyfriend, suggest they come over for some "Coffee-and," and thrill them with this cheeky little number of a sweet. These soft cookies have an ultra-light, delicate texture. Soooo yummy! I like to make (and eat) them with coconut flakes and real butter. :) Here's to you, Stella!

INGREDIENTS:
2 sticks of room temperature, unsalted butter
(OR 1 cup of shortening)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 (8 ounce) cans crushed pineapple, drained
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup of chopped walnuts OR 1 cup of shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter (or shortening) and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pineapple and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking pwder and salt. Gradually add the creamed mixture to this bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts/coconut.

IMPORTANT: If using BUTTER (not shortening), it is important to put the dough in the fridge and chill it for 15 or 20 minutes. This will keep the cookies from spreading too fast and burning and flattening. If using shortening, you can skip this step entirely.

3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Here's a nicely spreading batch of all-butter/no shortening cookies, mid-bake in the oven. You can see the flecks of coconut becoming golden. YUMMY!!!!!





"Coffee..."




"AND!!"


(ta-DAH!)



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Linguine with Red (or White) Clam Sauce



OK I know anchovies as an ingredient border on horrifying to a select few, but even if you aren’t a fan of the underrated little fishie, I want to encourage you to give this recipe a try. Here’s why: the anchovies actually dissolve into the oil, with the sole purpose of infusing the olive oil with a lovely salty/nutty flavor rather than fishy. It’s true, I promise! Anchovies prepared this way give a very special base to many sauces. Give it a try – and if you truly can’t stand the flavor of the end product (but I have a feeling you will), you can always bring the covered dish to the elderly woman who lives down the street and share some snacklove. :)

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound linguini
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 two-ounce can of anchovy fillets, drained
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 (15-ounce) cans whole baby clams, with their juice
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the linguini and cook to an extra chewy al dente, 7 minutes or so. The linguini will continue to cook in sauce, later.

2. To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add oil, anchovies, garlic, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook together and have fun watching the anchovies melt into oil and break up completely. Add the onion, and stir and saute till it softens. Add wine to the pan and shake it a bit. Add clams and their juice.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir gently. Simmer for 1 or 2 minutes. Taste the sauce to see if it needs salt. It probably won't because anchovies and clams are both very salty, but toss in a bit if you want to.

4. Drain pasta and add it to the clam sauce. Add half the parsley. Toss with tongs and coat the pasta in sauce with clams until the pasta absorbs the flavor and juices, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and season with salt, sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top. (That always makes everything look gorgeous on the table)

I like to serve this with crusty whole wheat Italian bread and my Christmas Salad (even if it’s July). The salad recipe is in the index!


EQUALLY DELIGHTFUL WHITE CLAM SAUCE:

Follow the recipe above but make the following exceptions if you hanker the tomato-less variety:

-Omit the onion, oregano and tomatoes
-Use white wine instead of red
That's it!

Thyme & Mushroom Quiche with Spinach Crust



QUICHE FORMULA FOR
SUNDAY FUNDAY FABULOUSNESS

I hope every person reading this will go out and buy one of the best cookbooks in the whole wide world: Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Not only is every recipe foolproof and scrumptious, but the book is beautiful: Mollie hand-lettered and illustrated every single page of this book. A pretty, artistic labor of love, a disarming and wonderful book, she and her work shine positive energy and radiate happy snack vibes.

That said, I've FlapperFooded one of her lovely quiche recipes by replacing wheat germ with flax meal, white flour with whole wheat, butter with olive oil. Stuff like that.

Here's the setting for your FABULOUS SUNDAY FUNDAY: Brew a pot of yummy coffee, play the Nina Simone Sings the Blues record, get the Sunday paper ready. Make this quiche. Share it. Have no choice but to feel good. :)

DIRECTIONS:

Quiche is EASY to make but everyone will think you are a gourmet goddess or god.

Layer:

1. CRUST
2. CHEESE
3. VEGGIES
4. EGG CUSTARD

That said...

1. THE CRUST:

1 10-oz. box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and sqeeeeeeezed out dry!
3 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 cup white or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup of flax meal
1/4 teaspoon of salt
dash of nutmeg (optional)

Sautee spinach in olive oil over medium-high heat till warm and slightly cooked. Plop it into a mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients. Blend well (I use my hands when the spinach has cooled a bit).

Press this mix into a 9" oiled pie pan. Shape it into a crust and bake it for 15 minutes on 375 degrees.

While it's baking, prepare the filling. You can layer everything into the hot crust and throw it right back in the oven. No need to cool.

2. THE CHEESE:

Shred or chop 1/4 to 1/3 pound of delicious cheese: GRUYERE (HUGE crowd pleaser), CHEDDAR, SWISS are good choices.

3. THE FILLING:

Sautee some veggies & herbs, a little salt and pepper, in olive oil. Add on top of the cheese layer.

(EXAMPLES: sliced mushrooms (1/2 a pound) or 1 sliced tomato, or 1 stalk of broccoli -- you get the idea -- with herbs (thyme, basil, oregano or whatever you like), salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of garlic powder. It is fool proof, really!

5. THE CUSTARD:

In a mixing cup or bowl, whisk 3 eggs with 1 cup of milk (soy, whole, regular, whatever you like). Pour over the top of the quiche. Dust top with paprika so it looks pretty.

Bake on 375 for 35 to 40 minutes, or until firm. Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing, and serve at any temperature. :)

6. THE COMMENTS of your delighted snackmates:

"You are a goddess."

"Holy cow, where'd you learn to do that?"

"You are a demi-god."

"You should have your own cooking show."

"Wanna get married?"

;)



Monday, January 5, 2009

Blissful Banana Bread



THE.
BEST.
BANANA.
BREAD.
PERIOD.
(Exclamation Mark!;))
So eeeasy and delicious! Have a few gnarly, over-ripe bananas on the counter ready for the trash? Keep 'em, and amaze your friends by making this lovely loaf! I substituted sour cream for yogurt because I had some I wanted to use up, and it turned out moist and dense like banana bread wants to be, so I would say use whichever you have.

This recipe makes one 9-inch loaf.
(But I doubled the recipe below so I could keep a loaf and share a loaf :))

TIP!
If you grease and flour only the bottom of a regular loaf pan, it will cause the bread to cling to the sides and rise sky-high out of the pan in a delightful, fantsnacktical way!
(If using a nonstick loaf pan, on which the sides are very slick, grease and flour sides as well as the bottom.)

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts , chopped coarse (about 1 cup)
3 very ripe bananas , soft, darkly speckled, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
2 large eggs , beaten lightly
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of regular loaf pan, or grease and flour bottom and sides of nonstick 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside.

2. Combine first five ingredients together in large bowl; set aside.

3. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in medium bowl.

4. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky.

5. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
(Or eat it my favorite way: ice cold outta the ice box!) :)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ricotta Pie with Fresh Berries




This is happy food. Can't eat it without feeling happy! There are a few different versions of this traditional Easter pie-- the custard part is usually either lemon or almond flavored, the latter with candied fruit, chocolate and/or nuts. The recipe below is for the lemon version, and the pics above show the almond/fruit/nut version. I always top mine with fresh berries and dust with powdered sugar because it is soooo pretty that way!

If you want thee almond recipe, let me know. I'm a lemon girl myself, but both are happy snacks.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

DIRECTIONS:

  1. To Make Shell: Combine the flour, 6 tablespoons white sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk and the 1 whole egg. Work dough until it forms a ball. Do not knead or over work the dough. Generously flour a work surface and roll dough out to fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Place dough in a greased pie plate. Poke holes in the center with the tines of a fork. Do not prebake.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  3. Beat ricotta, yolks, and sugar until lemon colored. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla.

  4. Beat whites until stiff, fold into lemon mixture. Pour mixture into the prepared shell. Do not over fill the shell, it rises slightly when baking.

  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 to 50 minutes. Let pie cool then refrigerate to set, the pie will become creamy and dense. Serve cold.

Chocolate Cinnamon Bread



My new facebook penpal chef extraordinaire (and college chum!) shared this recipe with me. I'm a big fan of quick breads! This one is much more like chocolate cake than bread...and so moist! I substituted sour cream for the buttermilk because it's all I had and it worked out. :) Thank you Vanessa! :)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk (or sour cream or yogurt)
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
(Christi's addition - a couple of handfuls of cinnamon chips)

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
pinch ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350F and thoroughly grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, waiting until the previous egg has been completely incorporated before adding the next.

In a medium bowl, sift together all purpose flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In a measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, water and vanilla extract.

Working in two or three additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the sugar mixture. Begin and end with an addition of the flour mix.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together topping ingredients: sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and ground cloves. Sprinkle evenly on top of the loaf cake.

Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

Cool completely before slicing.

New Year's Soup (aka Lentil Soup with Ditalini)


This is a traditional New Year's soup (though it hits the spot on any cold winter's night!). Eat it at midnight along with some grilled Italian sausages and have GOOD LUCK the rest of the year! ;)

This recipe can also be made totally vegetarian by omitting the pancetta/ham.

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. or so of pancetta, chopped (or ham)
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bag of lentils
1/2 tsp each thyme, basil, oregano
1/2 a 32 ounce can of diced or whole tomatoes
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. ditalini shaped pasta (half a box)
Parmesean cheese, grated
Crusty bread

1. Sautee pancetta (or ham) in olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes till it browns lightly.

2. Add onion, celery and carrots, salt and pepper, and sautee till softened. Add garlic. Stir & continue cooking for a minute or two.

3. Add lentils, herbs & salt and pepper, stir, and add about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and partially cover, then lower heat to the lowest simmer possible. Allow to simmer quietly & peacefully for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook ditalini according to box directions until al dente. Drain.

5. Add diced tomatoes to soup, stir and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.

6. Stir in cooked pasta to soup.

7. Ladel soup into bowls, drizzle a little olive oil over the top, sprinkle some fresh cracked black pepper, and parmesean cheese. Eat it up with some crusty bread!

"Christmas Salad" (aka Tri Colore)



Dressing:

1-2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar (a couple Tbs)
salt
fresh black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp honey
a squeeze of lemon
a couple sprinkles of dried basil (or thyme, or both), onion powder, garlic powder
1/4 cup or so olive oil

Whisk the above (except olive oil) in the bottom of a big salad bowl. Keep whisking, and slowly drizzle in olive oil till it's thick and nice looking. Stick your finger in to taste and adjust the seasonings.

Add the following and toss:

1/2 head of Green leaf lettuce, chopped
1/2 a Radicchio, sliced
1 Fennel bulb, sliced thin

Serves 4 (or 2 people with my type of appetite ;))

San Francisco Cioppino (Seafood Stew)


I love the story behind this savory fish stew. This Italian-American dish comes from the San Francisco Bay area. It is said that, way back when, the local Italian-immigrant fisherman would all throw a bit of whatever they caught that day into a pot, "chipping in" whatever they had and ending up with a nice stew to share. Thick Italian dialects inevitably end up adding a vowel to the ends of words, so "Chip In!" sounded more like "Chip Een-oh!" Down the line, some clever restauranteur "Italianized" and "elegantized" it to it's current spelling. And that's the tasty tale of Cioppino.

Ingredients:

* 1/4 cup (3 turns around the pan in a slow stream) extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 2 to 3 flat fillets of anchovies, drained
* 6 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
* 2 celery ribs, chopped
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 cup good quality dry white wine
* 1 (14-ounce) container chicken stock
* 1 (32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (about 1 tablespoon)
* 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
* 1 1/2 pounds cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
* Salt and pepper
* 8 large shrimp, ask for deveined easy-peel or peel and devein
* 8 sea scallops
* 16 to 20 raw mussels, scrubbed
* A loaf of fresh, crusty bread, for mopping

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot over moderate heat combine oil, crushed pepper, anchovies, garlic, and bay. Let anchovies melt into oil. The anchovies act as a natural salt, the pepper flakes will infuse the oil, providing heat.

Chop celery and onion near stove and add to the pot as you work. Saute vegetables for a few minutes to begin to soften and add wine to the pot. Reduce wine a minute, then add chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, and parsley. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.

Season fish chunks with salt and pepper. Add fish and simmer 5 minutes, giving the pot a shake now and then. Do not stir your soup with a spoon after the addition of fish or you will break it up. Add shrimp, scallops, and mussels and cover pot. Cook 10 minutes, giving the pot a good shake now and again.

Remove the lid and discard any mussels that do not open. Carefully ladle stew into shallow bowls and pass bread at the table. Dip the crusty bread in to soak up the juicy deliciousness. :)

 
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