Monday, August 31, 2009

Chickie’s Linguini & Clam Sauce


My mom makes the best clam sauce in the whole wide world. (See for yourself--these are the mouthwatering pics of the actual dinner she made when I was visiting her this past week!) I love this sauce because it isn't white, and it isn't red. It's in between. She makes a basic white clam sauce but adds some chopped tomatoes to the sauce.

This is a slightly sweet sauce because of her secret ingredient: Marsala wine. A lot of white clam sauce recipes call for dry white wine, but she insists on Marsala and Marsala only, which gives the sauce a slight sweetness that offsets the garlic and clams. The chopped tomatoes (rather than puree) complement the Marsala, and when the alcohol reduces, thickens, and the basil works its magic, well, you've got yourself a bit of snack heaven on your hands. Crusty bread and a glass of your house red is a must!


CHICKIE’S LINGUINI & CLAM SAUCE


1 pound of linguini
¾-1 cup exrta-virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup Marsala wine
2 cans of 6.5-ounce chopped clams, 1 drained, 1 juice reserved
1 Tbs. dried basil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
Locatelli Romano cheese, grated

Boil water for pasta, and cook al dente, according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepot, heat olive oil over medium low. Add garlic, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, being sure garlic doesn’t burn.

Stir in wine, clams, basil, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper, tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce to a very soft simmer, and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes. Toss sauce with hot pasta, and serve, passing grated cheese at the table.







Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quinoa Crunch

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!!!

Let me count the ways...

Cheap? Check. (Verrry cheap. As in, pennies, cheap. Check the bulk grains section in the healthfood store. You're covered.)

Quick? Check. (As in, I threw this in the oven while my coffee brewed and I showered for work.)

Easy? Check. (As in mix, spread, bake. Done!)

Oh and there are so many wonderful ways this is the perfect snack:

Quinoa is the highest and only complete-protein grain out there.
It's versatile; tasty in savory and sweet recipes. You can use this quinoa crunch anyway you would granola - on yogurt, baked into Blueberry Crunch Muffins, or mixed into Fig Scones, or poured into a bowl with cold milk.

This would be a fab grain to add to my old stand-by, Mix & Match Granola. Remember this one?
(CLICK HERE, if you don't remember.) ;)
Quinoa Crunch is close to perfection in a snack.
Snack heaven. Snack love.
Perfect to eat while watching eye candy on the old cable TV. And also for watching version two of eye candy on the old cable TV. (Indulge me for a moment. Thanks.)


QUINOA CRUNCH
adapted from Body & Soul Magazine

1 cup quinoa
1 Tbs. agave or organic maple syrup
1 Tbs. safflower oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or so, till golden brown. Cool completely on the sheet and store leftovers in an airtight container.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cranberry & Blood Orange Bread


Fear! Fear! Fear! Swine flu! War! Danger! Apocalypse! Terror! Lewd dudes on the Subway!

Sigh...I've decided I will not be terrorized by my television, and have decided NO MORE NEWS! Even the cooks on the cooking shows seem strung out. So I've made a hard and fast decision: I have chosen to allow from my TV and into my home ONLY fiction, fantasy, animals running around in the woods, and cute people. Lots of cute people. Especially cute people.

It's time to take back my TV. Thousands of digital channels at my fingertips, and somehow the *real terrorists* (newscasters) sneak their way in, spreading the disease of fear within seconds (while wearing a swanky satin blouse and a smile). No more swine swiggity swak for me, thank you very much.

My dad used to always say "Why fret about something you can't control?"

Well, Dad, I heard what you said. I can and will control my TV, and filter what comes into my home. And I choose to filter out the blood and fear and filter in only cute people.

Well, let me be a little clearer...The only blood or fear I will see on my TV will involve very good-looking Vampires in the deep south with great haircuts. (Yeah, you know what I'm sayin'. :))

In honor of those sexy, bloody cutie pies on HBO, I give you something I'd love to bring over to their next uh, community...meeting...

Blood Orange & Cranberry Bread
(adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

Ingredients:
2 cups flour (I used a combo of millet and spelt)
3/4 cups to 1 cup sugar (I used 6 packets of Stevia sweetener)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 t salt
zest from 3 oranges
3/4 cups blood orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 c cranberries, coarsely chopped (I used 2/3 cup of dried organic cranberries)
2 Tbs. flax seeds (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf tin (I used two mini loaf pans).

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest.

In another bowl, combine the orange juice, egg and melted butter together.

Add in the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Add cranberries and stir just until blended. Pour batter into tin(s), sprinkle with optional flax seeds, and bake for about 1 hour (30 minutes for mini loaves) or until cake tester comes out clean. Just check with a toothpick at 30 minutes to be safe. Let cool on a wire rack.

Summertime Picnic Feast

I love snacks. I love them more than elaborate meals with huge portions. The Spanish have it spot on with tapas.

Over the weekend, we had a hankering for a snack smorgasbord. It was the perfect meal for a hot summer afternoon. I also think these dishes would be great for a summer eve cocktail party with sangria. You can make all of the dishes ahead of time, and are all delicious served at room temperature. Don't forget to scatter the platter with lots of fresh, raw vegetables and crusty bread sticks or crackers for dipping.

BABA GHANOUSH
(Eggplant & Tahini Dip):
Courtesy of Karen Srour of Food Network

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice

Directions:
Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and put upside down on a greased foil lined pan. Put under a broiler until the outside skin is charred black and the pulp inside is soft (15 to 30 minutes). Scrape out eggplant and put in bowl to cool, preferably in refrigerator for several hours. Pour off extra liquid before using.

In a food processor, mince garlic, and scrape down sides. Add eggplant, salt, and 1/4 cup tahini. Pulse the food processor to mix. Slowly add lemon juice. Taste. Adjust salt and lemon or tahini.

Serve on a shallow platter and garnish with chopped parsley, miniature eggplant, tomato or radish roses. Serve with warm pita bread or crackers.

TUSCAN TUNA BOATS:
Ingredients:
2 or 3 celery stalks, halved
1 can of good Italian tuna, packed in olive oil
½ a lemon, juiced (and zested, optional)
Handful of fresh basil or mint leaves, coarsely chopped (or combo of both)
¼ cup fresh fennel, chopped
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Directions:
To a mixing bowl, add drained tuna, basil (or mint), fennel, olive oil, lemon juice (and optional zest). Stir, breaking up the tuna. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill/marinate in the fridge for an hour.

When ready to serve, pack tuna into celery stalks and place on a pretty platter.


SPICY BACK BEANS ON EGGPLANT WHEELS
Ingredients:
1 medium-sized eggplant
Salt & pepper
1/8-1/4 cup olive oil for cooking, plus olive oil for brushing eggplants
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ a roasted red pepper (pimiento), chopped
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried cumin
¼ teaspoon dried cayenne pepper or hot sauce
½ lime, squeezed
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice a medium-sized eggplant into thick rounds. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place rounds on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or so, until eggplant is lightly browned. Flip the rounds and bake another 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauce pan, heat the 1/8-1/4 cup oilive oil. When pan is hot, sautee the onion till transluscent, about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and spices and sauté for a couple minutes. Add red pepper, beans and lime juice. Cook until beans are heated through. Stir in cilantro.

Scoop the bean mix onto the eggplant rounds with an ice cream scooper (about ¼ cup). Return the baking sheet to the oven for about 10 minutes, so the beans become a little browned on top.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crunchy Carrot Pineapple Snack Cake


A cake with no butter? No dairy? No sugar? No refined flour? Only organic fruits, grains and nuts? That tastes good?

Did I just hear a "get the heck outta here?" Yeah, that’s what I said too...

Who wants to hear the words "cake" and "sugar-free" in the same sentence? But trust me on this one. It is delightfully and truly delicious, thanks to my favorite nutritionist in the whole wide world, Ann Louise Gittleman.

Believe me, I'm no anti-dessert, anti-fun, crotchety Miss Gulch of Food...As we all probably know by now, I've been known to get DOWN with a red velvet cake or some real-deal milk chocolate chip cookies. I admit I've a killer sweet tooth and I loooove to bake. But for every day eating, I really do try to limit my sugar and flour consumption. And hey, I honestly appreciate what comes out of Mother Nature's "oven" just the way it is, without it being transformed by complex cooking techniques. (A crunchy, cold apple is just so under-rated!) :)

This carrot cake tastes amazing spread with Stevia-sweetened cream cheese (soy for me) or a bit of honey drizzled on top, but it's also really delicious as is.


ALG'S CRUNCHY CARROT PINEAPPLE SNACK CAKE
Recipe courtesy of Ann Louise Gittleman
(serves 8 to 10 people)

3 large carrots
1 large egg
3/8 cup oil (like coconut or macadamia nut)
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple in own juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used spelt & millet flours)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (or cloves)
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Scrub and grate the carrots on the small side of the grater. Measure 1 cup and set aside. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (I don't have a square pan, so I used a Bundt cake pan and it worked out beautifully).

In blender, combine egg, oil, pineapple and juice, raisins, walnuts and vanilla. Process until raisins are finely chopped. (I don’t have a blender yet, so I just chopped the heck out of all of this on a cutting board, and it worked fine.)

Measure flour, spices, salt, and baking powder into large mixing bowl. Stir well. Add blended mixture and grated carrots to dry ingredients, mixing until batter is uniform.

Spread batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until toothpick comes out clean. [Test the cake at 30 MINUTES because that is all mine took to bake.] Cool and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roast Beef with Wine Sauce

Oh hello CROCK POT baby, you loyal, dependable, always-on-my-side Friend-O-Mine. Yeah.

I love that I can put you in the back of my cabinet, forget about you for months, but then when we see each other again, it’s like we were hanging out just yesterday. Nothing’s changed. I can count on you to always be the same. You never let me down. You are always there to help. You make my life easier. You don’t care if I have on make-up or not. You love to sit in my kitchen all darn day long, and you never make a mess. And I can call on you in any hour of need.

Crock pot, would you like to come to my wedding? What? You don’t know anyone? Ah, not to worry, dear old Crocky, I am going to seat you next to my other BFF, Mr. Cast Iron Skillet.



HERE'S THE BEFORE SHOT AT 9AM BEFORE WORK:

AND HERE IS THE AFTER SHOT, 8 HOURS LATER:

ROAST BEEF WITH WINE SAUCE

3 pounds (or so) organic beef roast
5-8 shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 or 2 onions, sliced
2-3 carrots, cut into chunks
3-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
5-10 new potatoes
Sea salt & cracked black pepper
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
A teaspoon of horseradish powder or a tablespoon horseradish in a jar
2-3 Tbs. ketchup
2 Tbs. onion granules
2 cups broth (beef or vegetable)
Olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

1. Place onions, carrots, garlic, mushrooms and potatoes in the crock pot.

2. Generously salt & pepper the roast on all sides. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, and when it’s hot, add the seasoned roast. Brown the heck out of it on all sides (because, as Chef Anne Burrell says, "brown food tastes good!"). Add the roast to the crock pot.

3. Turn the frying pan burner down to medium. Add wine, and stir and scrape up all the browned bits. When wine is reduced by half, add the stock and all the remaining seasonings. Stir it up. Pour all of this into the crock pot. Cover and turn on low. Fuggedabodit for 6-10 hours. Come home to a delightfully aromatic home and begin salivating.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a temporary attempt to cut wheat, dairy and sugar from my diet (basically avoiding all white foods so that I look good in my white dress this fall ;-)), I adapted this cookie recipe -- using agave nectar and spelt flour instead of white flour and white sugar.

With furrowed brow and dour skepticism in my snack-loving heart, I put the baking sheets in the oven. Then I remembered my brand-new and full-on effort to try to find something positive in every experience (and remain focused on it!). I hoped for the best. And you know what? These lil' babies stepped up to the plate. My plate! They are delicious, chewy, 4th grader after-school snack-worthy. Serious. And I’m not talking “these aren’t not bad for health food.” Nope. I’m talking, “Damn child, these cookies taste GOOD! I should try to sell this thing to Nabisco!”

And of course, just like my white ingredient-laden nemesis, I ate way too many. But what’s the positive in that? Ah, let me count the ways…Fiber, low-glycemic index, they’re yummy, my dress will still fit, they make me smile, my house smells good while they bake, organic yummies, unprocessed yummies, happy snacking, I get to share my recipe with you, I love chocolate, chocolate makes me happy, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…


SPELT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Adapted from Eat Right For Your Blood Type

Ingredients:
1/3 C. canola oil
½ C. maple syrup (I used agave nectar)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 organic egg
1 ½ C. flour (spelt, oat, brown, rice <--I used spelt)
¼ flax meal
1 tsp. baking soda
½ C. chocolate chips or unsweetened carob chips
Dash of allspice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven 375 degrees.

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup and vanilla. Beat in the egg.

3. Stir in the flour, baking soda and allspice. If mix seems to wet, add a little more flour, a few tablespoons at a time until it has a nice, thick cookie dough consistency.

4. Fold in chocolate or carob chips.

5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 1 ½ inches apart, onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Eat them with an ice cold glass of milk (or soy milk). Paula Deen likes hers with ice cubes, and I tried it. She’s right—it rocks. :-)

Happy Birthday Pupcakes!

Everyone, this is Wilson. Wilson, this is everyone.

Wilson is the sweet and lovable doggy of my fiance’s sister. She is such a good doggy mommy and loves her pupster so much, that for her birthday, I decided to make her special cupcakes in the likeness of the cute little rumproast that is Wilson. Using my Hello, Cupcake! Cookbook as a guide, I came up with these “pupcakes.”

Hello, Cupcake! is an amazing book—it’s filled with ingenious cupcake decorating ideas that come out not even looking like cupcakes, but like, say, spaghetti & meatballs, a box of buttered popcorn, sharks, kitties, a TV dinner, Christmas ornaments, and bunnies digging in the dirt.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PUPCAKES!
Hello, Cupcake!

This cookbook has great cupcake recipes in addition to the decorating ideas. Adding four whopping eggs and the buttermilk makes the texture of these cakes soooo soft and creamy, but also firm enough on top so that they can take the weight of the decorations. This recipe surprised me, and I have to say these are some of the best tasting cupcakes ever!

Ingredients:
1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix (vanilla, devil’s food, or yellow—I used devil’s food)
1 cup buttermilk (in place of water called for on the box)
Vegetable oil (the amount on the box)
4 eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

Frosting:
1 container of Duncan Hines French vanilla frosting

For Decorations:
Per cupcake:
½ a pink Starburst chew
2 mini chocolate M&Ms
1 small black jelly bean OR 2 chocolate chips
Multi-colored sprinkle dots
1 Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie or any thin wafer cookie

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Follow the box instructions, putting all the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified on the box, using the amount of vegetable oil that is called for, and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.

3. Fill paper liners two-thirds full. The book recommends filling a ziplock bag with half the batter, snipping off ¼-inch of the corner, and piping the batter into the muffin tins. Repeat with the second half of the batter.

4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To decorate:


NOTE: BE SURE CUPCAKES ARE COMPLETELY COOL (as in, not even a little bit warm!) or else the frosting will ooze off into a drooling, sappy mess!!

1. Frost a cupcake with the vanilla frosting, as you normally would.

2. Next, fill a ziplock bag with a big scoop of vanilla frosting. Snip off 1/8-inch of a corner.

3. Pipe the outline of the dog's muzzle as in the picture above. Pipe two kidney-shaped eye sockets.

4. Cut the cookie or Thin Mint straight in half with a paring knife to create ears. Frost each ear with frosting and place them in the cupcake.

5. Place the M&Ms for eyes and the jelly bean for the nose on the cupcake. If you don’t have jelly beans, you can microwave two Nestle chocolate chips at 9-second intervals to soften a bit, and shape them into nose shapes with your fingers.

6. Place the sprinkles on the face for whiskers.

7. Cut one Starburst chew in half lengthwise with a paring knife. Press the candy half with your thumb to shape like a tear drop. Score a line down the center with a paring knife to create the likeness of a tongue. Place the tongue on the cupcake to finish the sweet little Wilson face. Feel tempted to scratch behind his ears, but don't do it for fear of smearing his frosting fur.

8. Place the cupcakes in a box – I bought a cupcake box from my local bakery. Place a pretty note or card on top and give your pupcakes to someone special. :-)

 
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