Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Broiled Asparagus

It's easy being green! Asparagus is in season come springtime, and it can become a quick side dish if you have a spare ten minutes.

- Desired quantity of asparagus stalks, woody ends cut or snapped off
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt (You can use regular table salt of course, kosher salt has a bigger grain and adds a nice crunch.)
- Pepper, freshly ground

How To Cook It
1) Set your oven to Broil.
2) Place asparagus on a baking sheet or broiler tray in a single layer.
3) Lightly drizzle the asparagus with the extra virgin olive oil. Don't drown it! A little goes a long way.
4) Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of all to taste.
5) Broil for approximately 5 minutes until asparagus is cooked. Pierce with a fork to test; it should have some give, but not me mush.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Orange Julius

A old friend from high school recently asked if I had an Orange Julius recipe. No such luck. So, in hopes of finding one I scoured the web. It seemed like the majority trying to imitate the chain's "secret" recipe used frozen orange juice concentrate, instant vanilla pudding mix, non-dairy coffee creamer... that's not the kind of ingredient list I like to see when I'm preparing a treat. You can actually light non-dairy coffee creamer on fire. In case you didn't hear that folks, I said on fire. Sure most ingredients are carbon-based and will burn, but this stuff is a different kind of beast. You'll see what I mean if you click the link above.

Anyway, back to the recipe. This isn't a healthy treat, but the ingredients are fresh and basic. Greg tells me that it tastes like the real deal, and I agree. Enjoy in moderation!

- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 5-10 ice cubes

How To Cook It
1) Pour all ingredients into a blender.
2) Blend and serve. This recipe makes three small drinks or a couple on the larger side.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Fugassa was a dish I remember my Nana making while I was growing up. At it's core, it's a piece of flatbread or pizza dough topped with olive oil and onions. I like to add herbs, garlic, and a small amount of cheese to put taste buds over the top.

You'll need a dough recipe for the base of the Fugassa, and I highly recommend spending $15 and buying Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day. Not only will you find a great Olive Oil Dough recipe that you can use for pizza, you'll find many other recipes for loaves you'll love to bake and share with your loved ones. This is the book got me baking bread again after having my son! It's not intimidating, and gives you the tools to do great things with your oven.

- Enough pizza dough to spread across an 11x17" baking sheet (about an overflowing cereal bowl's worth). I half of the Olive Oil Dough I made using the recipe from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day.
- 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil + extra for greasing the baking sheet
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 2 heads (yes, heads not clove) garlic
- 1/2 of a large sweet onion, sliced into very thin rings
- 1 TBSP oregano

How To Cook It
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Grease your baking sheet with a little of the extra virgin olive oil.
3) Using a food processor, blend the garlic, 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, and oregano until thoroughly minced and combined. You can also finely dice the garlic and mix it with the extra virgin olive oil and oregano if you don't have a food processor.
4) Spread out the pizza dough evenly across the baking sheet.
5) Using a small spatula, distribute the garlic mixture evenly across the dough.
6) Sprinkle the dough and garlic with about half of your parmesan and mozzarella.
7) Add the onion rings.
8) Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of all.
9) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until your Fugassa looks golden brown. We're using a lower temperature than you'd usually use to bake pizza to avoid charring the onions on top.
10) Slice and serve.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Experiment. It's Good For You!

When you're cooking a meal for someone outside your household, it's customary to prepare something familiar. I like to break tradition and experiment in the kitchen. There's definitely risk involved, but as long as I'm prepared to order a pizza if my culinary efforts go down in a blaze of glory -And they have... just ask my husband, Greg, about the time I attempted to make my Nana's Rice Croquettes in our first year of marriage.- , what's the harm? There's something exhilarating about trying new flavors in the company of friends and family!

Oh, and don't forget to ask for feedback. Not just the ooey gooey "It's great." feedback, but genuine responses. Don't be afraid of constructive criticism! Take the good and the great with the bad and the ugly, and use what you learn to improve.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spinach and Cheddar Quiche

Have ya'll figured out that I like spinach yet? Start with making (or buying) a single pie crust and add in quiche-y goodness.


For the crust you'll need...
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 4-6 TBSP water

For the filling you'll need...
- 5 eggs
- 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 small minced onion
- 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp sugar

How To Cook It

The crust...
1) Blend flour and salt.
2) Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter until the pieces are the size of small peas.
3) Sprinkle the water/vinegar into the flour mixture while gently tossing the mixture with a fork. Form into a ball. Try to handle the dough as little as possible, but add a little more water if the dough is too dry.
4) Put the ball into the refrigerator to chill.
5) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
6) Grease a 9 inch pie plate.
7) After about 15-30 minutes, remove the dough ball from the your 'fridge and place on a floured surface.
8) Roll from the center to the edges to make a round flat dough that is a little bigger than your pie plate.
9) Gently fold it in half to pick it up and place it on the pie plate.
10) Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake for 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

The quiche...
1) Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl. An immersion blender works great for this!
3) Stir in the cheese, onion, and spinach.
4) Before the heavier ingredients can settle, pour evenly into the partially baked pie crust.
5) Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then lower the temperature to 300 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes more, or until a knife inserted one inch from the edge of the pie plate comes out clean.
6) Allow your quiche to rest and set for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vegetable Fried Rice

Skip the takeout, and make yourself some fresh vegetable fried rice. Many thanks to my Uncle, Charlie Lum, for the tutorial. If you don't have the veggies in the recipe below on hand, you can sub in others. Can you cook rice? Can you scramble an egg? Can you fry/sauté things in a pan? Yes, yes, and yes? Then, you can make this dish!

- 7 cups cooked brown rice
- 16 ounces mixed vegetables (I used a defrosted bag of frozen mixed green beans, carrots, corn, and peas.)
- 1/2 cup slices scallions/green onions
- 1 cup snow peas, chopped in half
- 6 eggs, yolks and whites whisked together
- Sesame oil (canola oil would also work well)
- Reduced sodium soy sauce

How To Cook It
1) Scramble the eggs. Use your spoon or spatula to break them up into small pieces.
2) Heat some sesame oil (about 1 TBSP) in a large pan or wok. Add the scallions and sauté for a minute or two.
3) Scallions cook quickly, so set them (and their oil) aside in a separate bowl.
4) Add more sesame oil to the pan, allow it to heat, then add the snow peas. They'll take the longest to cook. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining mixed vegetables.
5) Cook the snow peas and mixed vegetables for 4-6 minutes and return the scallions to the pan.
6) Once you're satisfied with the consistency of your veggies, stir in the rice. Cook until the rice heats through, stirring constantly to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
7) Stir in the scrambled eggs.
8) Add soy sauce to taste. I like to put in enough so that the color of the rice is just a little browner, but not enough to make the pan a salt fest!
9) Feast.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Debba's Eggplant Parmesan

Many thanks to my Stepmom, the aforementioned Debba, who shared this recipe with me so that I could recreate  her version of the well-known Italian dish. The prep work is a cinch, but takes some time. If you're like me it'll always taste better when someone you love makes it for you, so get with the kitchen delegation!

You won't be using your measuring cups or spoons for this dish, so put 'em away!
- 3 small (or 2 medium/large) eggplant, sliced thinly. I used two small regular eggplant and threw in a small Sicilian one (they're purple and white) for kicks.
- 2-3 eggs
- Rustic-style pasta sauce, preferably one with sliced mushrooms. I wound up using a little over two 24 ounce jars.
- Shredded cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, and/or provolone)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Breadcrumbs

How To Cook It
1) Dip slices in egg and bread crumbs and fry in extra virgin olive oil until both sides are nicely browned.
2) Put a little of your pasta sauce it the bottom of a rectangular casserole dish.
3) Put in a layer of the fried eggplant slices.
4) Sprinkle on a layer of shredded cheese.
5) Add another layer of sauce.
6) Add another layer of eggplant.
7) Add another layer of cheese.
8) Repeat steps until you run out of fried eggplant slices.
9) Cover everything with sauce.
10) Add a final layer of cheese and breadcrumbs.
11) Cover the casserole dish and allow it to rest in your 'fridge overnight.
12) The following day, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the your assembled Eggplant Parmesan (uncovered) for 45-60 minutes... until everything is nicely browned!
13) Serve with freshly cooked pasta or some garlic bread. I used vegetable radiatore pasta in the photo above.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Very Berry Smoothie

Now that our temperatures are pushing 60 in the city, it's officially smoothie weather! I love making smoothies for a delish high-protein breakfast. What I throw in the blender is different every time, so actually writing down the recipe has been an enjoyable challenge. While the ingredients are changing constantly, one bit of advice remains the same: Always use frozen fruit instead of ice. Ice will unnecessarily water down your smoothie, and frozen fruit (buy sans the added sugar) works just as well to thicken and cool your beverage.

- 6 ounces Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt has more protein than your average yogurt because more water is strained out. If you're a first-timer looking to try some, I highly  recommend Chobani.)
- 1/2 cup raspberries (The raspberries pictured don't look much like raspberries, so you'll have to trust me on this one. They defrosted while I was eagerly awaiting the delivery of a grocery order, but they're still perfectly good for putting in a blender.)
- 1 cup blueberries
- 2 TBSP milled flax seed (You won't taste it, and it's good for you!)
- 1 cup pomegranate juice

Note: This recipe will make enough for one large smoothie, or (as in my case) plenty to share with a hungry toddler.

How to Cook It
1) No fancy cookery here folks! Toss all of your ingredients in your blender, top it with the lid, and switch it on to combine.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

As a vegetarian who wishes to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, I need something to fun to cook that isn't corned beef and cabbage or a meaty Irish stew. Enter Irish Soda Bread!

No sugar, raisins, or whiskey here. This recipe is based on one found on the web page for the Society For The Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. If you have time, read up on the history behind the bread.

It doesn't get more straightforward than this!
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup wheat flour
- 14 ounces buttermilk
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt

How to Cook It
1) Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Grease two cake pans and set aside.
3) Mix your dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together.
4) Pour in the buttermilk and either knead by hand or mix using the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer.
5) Pat the dough into a flat round in the bottom of one of your cake pans.
6) Dust the top with flour and use a serrated knife to cut a cross into the dough.
7) Place the other cake pan on top and bake for 30 minutes.
8) Remove the top pan and bake for 10 minutes more, or until the bread is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped.
9) Spread out a clean kitchen towel and sprinkle with water until damp. Put the hot bread on the towel and wrap it up. The water on the towel will keep the bread moist.
10) Wait (if you can!) to serve until the bread cools a bit. It will be easier to cut.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spices And Herbs Are Our Friends

Thanks to the help of my wonderful husband and father in law, I now have my collection of spices within easy reach. I had purchased some four-ounce magnetized jars a while back, but had nothing to stick them to.

Today we added a few sheets of steel from the hardware store, and some handy-work with a level and drill (thanks guys!!). The formally mish-mash pile of spice jars stacked on top of my kitchen cabinets are now a functional piece of art. Let me tell you, it sure beats breaking out the step ladder every time I need the parsley or cayenne pepper!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hearty Vegetable and Wild Rice Bake

Nothing says it's chilly out there like root vegetables in the oven. When you're in need of some non-cheesy, non-greasy, straight up hearty comfort food, this meal is for you.

- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- 6 cups of chopped sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in any ratio (I used 2.5 cups sweet potatoes, 1 cup parsnips, and 1.5 cups carrots this time.)
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp parlsey
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 cup apple cider
- 3 cups vegetable broth

How To Cook It
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Put the rice into 4 cups of boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes, drain, and set aside.
3) Sauté the onion and shallot in the olive oil and salt until they start to brown.
4) Pour barley, drained rice, and the cooked onions and shallots into a 9x13 inch casserole dish. Stir together and spread out evenly.
5) Sprinkle a little of the sage and parsley over the top of the grain mixture.
6) In a separate bowl or container, mix the carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnip pieces together. Spread them out on top of grain base.
7) Sprinkle the remaining sage and parsley across the top of your vegetables.
8) Pour the cider and broth over all.
9) Cover with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil and bake for an hour.

Note: You can bake this ahead of time if you need to. Once you've completed the above steps, simply put it in your 'fridge overnight and heat up in the oven (at about 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit) until it reaches your desired temperature. Before reheating, add a splash of additional cider or broth to keep everything moist.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aloo Matar: Potatoes and Peas Curry

This dish takes some time to cook, but the preparation is pretty basic. Since it freezes well, Aloo Matar is in my arsenal of "make ahead" dishes. Assuming that you aren't cooking for a large group, the amount of ingredients used will create enough food to leave you with leftovers aplenty.

One of my simple pleasures in life is enjoying the aroma of this dish filling my home. All of the spices make it smell so good. I hope that you find cooking (and eating) it to be just as enjoyable!

- 3 medium onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
- 9 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 large tomatoes, chopped
- 4 1/2 cups peas
- Approximately 4 pounds (equals about 4 large) potatoes, peeled and cubed.
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used unfiltered, that's why it's so dark green. I've tried many kinds of olive oil in this recipe, and all have had tasty results.)
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 4 tsp coriander
- 1 1/2 TBSP salt

How To Cook It
1) Put the onions and garlic cloves in a food processor or blender. Purée untill smooth.
2) Blend in the ginger, paprika, chili powder, turmeric powder, and coriander to the onions and garlic.Allow the mixture to sit for about five minutes or so that everything can meld together.
3) Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pan. Add your the ingredients from steps 1 & 2 and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture deepens in color (the onions and garlic are browning in there, it's just difficult to see because of the spices) and the oil beings to separate out.
4) Add your tomatoes and salt. Cover the pan and (continuing to stir frequently) cook everything down until the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices look like a rich gravy, or curry paste.
5) Gently fold in the potatoes and peas, coating them with your curry paste.
6) Pour in the vegetable broth and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the broth boils down to your desired consistency (about 1 hour in my case).
7) Serve over rice or with naan and enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Balsamic Tortellini Over Fresh Baby Spinach

Ever wondered what tastes better on tortellini than tomato sauce? Balsamic vinegar of course! This light dinner or lunch entree has a small ingredient list, but packs a delightful punch to the taste buds. You'll be making a quick and easy reduction of balsamic vinegar with a little butter and sugar to coat the tortellini. Delish!!

- 20 ounces cheese tortellini
- 1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
- Spinach (about 8 ounces would easily be enough for four people)
- 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 TBSP sugar

How To Cook It
1) Pour the balsamic vinegar into a nonreactive pot (ex: stainless steel, enameled, ceramic, glass, etc.).
2) Start to heat the vinegar on your stove and stir in the sugar until blended.
3) Bring your vinegar mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to medium/medium-low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) Stir in the butter, and continue to simmer on low heat for an additional 5 minutes or so.
5) Remove your reduction from the heat. The mixture will thicken a bit as it cools.
6) Meanwhile (while your balsamic is simmering away), cook your tortellini for about 6-8 minutes in boiling water.
7) Drain the tortellini (don't rinse it!) and return it to the pot you used to cook it.
8) Pour the balsamic reduction over the top and stir gently to evenly coat the tortellini.
9) Toss in the parmesan cheese throughout.
10) Spoon the warm pasta over a waiting pile of spinach.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blueberry Maple Muffins

Every now and then, I get a hankering to whip up a quick batch of muffins. They're a great breakfast treat.

Blueberry muffins have always been my favorite, and I have a love for all things maple. If you're trying to watch your sugar intake, simply cut the sugar in this recipe by half. Milled flax seeds add fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acid, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Blueberries are both delicious and antioxidant-rich.

- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup wheat flour
- 1/4 cup milled/ground flax seed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (Use the real stuff!)
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries
- Vegetable shortening for muffin pan

How to Cook Them
1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Grease 12 muffin cups with vegetable shortening.
3) Mix together your dry ingredients in a large bowl until well blended (flour, wheat flour, flax seed, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt).
4) In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, eggs, oil, maple syrup).
5) Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until moistened.
6) Add the blueberries and gently stir into your muffin batter.
7) Spoon the muffin batter and berries into your muffin pan.
8) Sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar on top of each muffin.
9) Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and they're nicely browned.
10) Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the pan.