Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quick post #6

Grown up Green Eggs and Ham

Or, a continuation of my Frittata obsession.

2 large eggs
1 - 2 tbsp fresh pesto sauce
1 tbsp sliced onion
1 large mushroom, sliced
Large handful of baby spinach and arugula mix
1tbsp crumbled feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 slice Peppered bacon

Heat up a touch of olive oil (about a tsp) in a medium pan over medium heat, and saute onion and mushroom. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the onion and mushroom are cooking, whisk the eggs together with the pesto sauce. You shouldn't need extra seasoning at this point, especially if you have a traditional pesto with raw garlic, but if you feel the need, certainly add more garlic.

When onion is tender and mushroom sliced are browned, add the spinach and arugula mixture, and toss until the greens are wilted.

Make sure the veggies are spaced evenly on the bottom of the pan, and pour in the egg mixture, turning the pan to ensure even coating. Allow the eggs to set, using a spatula to help keep the sides free from sticking, about 2 -3 minutes.

When the eggs are no longer completely liquid, flip! You can use a large flat spatula, or, if you are daring, you can wiggle the pan a bit to make sure your half cooked egg disc is loose, then use that fancy saute motion to flip the whole thing. Think Julia Child. Sometimes you get a perfect flip, sometimes you have doubts, and get an imperfect flip. Either way, it tastes good.

After I get the frittata flipped, I turn off the heat and let the other side finish cooking with residual heat for another 30 -60 seconds. Add in your crumbled feta cheese, fold in half, then slide onto your plate next to your awaiting peppered bacon.

Dig in!

I love frittatas because of the many variations of flavors you can have. They are totally customizable to your tastes and they are an excellent way to use up miscellaneous ingredients in your fridge.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quick post #5

There's something heartening about having a pot of something simmering on the stove on a rainy day.

For me, today that something was a pot of chicken stock, easily made from scratch.

I started with chicken bones leftover from some thighs I processed yesterday. (When there's a good deal at the store, you stock up!)

I also picked up some mirepoix vegetables, onions, celery, and carrots, from a local organic market.

The last addition was some white button mushroom stems. The stems tend to be woody, so I prefer not to use then in my other recipes, but they can still impart that lovely earthy flavor I love.

I roasted all the ingredients in the oven (350°, 45 -60 min) to deepen the flavor and color.

Then follow your typical stock directions: add everything to a large stock pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and let it simmer for several hours. Check occasionally and skim off the fats and yucky stuff that floats to the top.  Keep an eye on the water level, and add more as needed to keep the ingredients completely submerged.

After 2 - 3 hours, strain the stock either into a container, or into another pot for further simmering if you want to reduce the stock even further.

If you have a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth, strain the stock into a container for storage.  If you don't, let the stock settle and cool, then carefully pour it into a container leaving any bits in the bottom of the pan.

Store in the fridge, and use as needed throughout the week.  You can store stock in the freezer as well. Try freezing it in ice cube trays to get individual servings of stock you can add to a variety of recipes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Clean Eating Challenge

I recently completed a 28 clean eating and fitness challenge.

Some of the reasons I decided to jump in and do this are:
1.  My exercise goals and my exercise realities were not in alignment. I would always have plans to go for a walk or work out at my local pole gym, but often found myself getting wrapped up in other things or being completely distracted. This challenge requires a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise for 6 days a week, not much of an effort if you really think about it, and with the community being as supportive as it is I feel like this will be cake. Most days.

2. The food part of the challenge is a “Clean Eating” type of diet. Not diet, life change*.  There are a few variations on the idea, but generally eating clean means avoiding overly processed foods and beverages with excessive amounts of additives, sugar, sodium, dyes, etc. The easiest way to achieve this is to basically skip the middle aisles of most grocery stores. Any food item in its whole state, with little to no processing is fair game. Think produce, meats, eggs, and whole grains. This does require making a lot of meals from scratch, but that’s all part of the fun! Well, for me anyway.

I’ve learned a similar idea about what makes food good for some about ten years ago while taking some cooking classes, it just never really had a name.  What I learned was that fresh ingredients make for excellent meals, when you cook from scratch, you control what goes into your food, and that simple is often better when it come to preparation and presentation.

I remember one of the chefs telling us about the best dessert he ever had in a restaurant. It was fresh ripe fruit, still on the branch, simply presented on a plate.  He was so impressed; it made an indelible imprint in his memory
A lot of people have lost sight of this simplicity and insist upon doing a lot to food, but really if it’s fresh and ripe, less can be more when it comes to presentation.

To be able to achieve this at home, only takes a little bit of cooking knowledge and a little extra time and effort. But its time and effort well spent if it means your food tasty and fresh, you know all the ingredients in it. 

* I say its a life change, since diets aren't forever, and therefore do not yield lasting results.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Quick post # 4

I've been enjoying salads for lunch or dinner for the past couple of weeks; they're healthy, quick and delicious, making them ideal meals for the summer.
Layering my salad ingredients probably started out of sheer hunger. Who has time for tossing a salad when you're ravenous and all you want to do is stuff food in your face?
But, this layered assembly method stuck with me and now I've got it down to an art.

Start with one or two fistfuls of salad greens of your choosing and place them inside your bowl. Now unless you have enormous bowls, this alone will fill them to capacity, or close enough that adding anything else could result in a tragic mess.
Don't fear, our next step will rectify this. Add any seasonings you may like such as salt and pepper to taste, and then the recommended serving of your favorite dressing. Mine's ranch, and I use a smidge more than 2 tbsp, measured by eye.
Now is the time to cut and/or toss the greens so they get an even coating of dressing. You'll notice that as this happens that the greens will start to take up les volume in your bowl. (The dressing helps to weigh down the greens so there is less air present between all the leaves)
Next, layer on whatever toppings you like. Today I added parmesan cheese, cucumber slices, a tomato, and two hard boiled eggs.
Topping combos are endless, and some of the others I've added recently have been diced chicken breast, sliced mushrooms, sliced bell peppers, carrots, and other typical salad mix-ins.
By leaving the ingredients in layers on top of the greens, I can dig into my salad and get a little bit of everything on my fork, without chasing them around in my bowl.
I also avoid the potential mess of my salad spilling over the sides of the bowl when I try to mix all the ingredients together.
For me this is clearly a superior way to eat salad at home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lunching with friends

Last Friday I made lunch for my bff and myself.
It was simple, refreshing, and delicious.

Tuna salad (white albacore, mayo, Old Bay), tomatoes, and salad greens with ranch dressing.

P.s. I love her square plates!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Quick Post # 2 - What do you put on your eggs?

Normally, I use A1 sauce on my eggs. It's weird, but I like the savory kick it has.

I'm all out of A1, and my backup is usually ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic seasoning, but today I decided to tweak that a little.

Since its the being of summer, I've been craving a good crab feast, that means Old Bay.

Trust me when I say that Old Bay is good on everything; French fries, popcorn, tuna salad, any and all seafood, chicken, corn, pizza... Even icecream. Yup, icecream, and I'd recommend sprinkling Old Bay on vanilla.

But that's another topic.

Today I decided to make a Maryland style egg scramble with ingredients I had on hand: corn, bacon, cheese, and Old Bay in my egg sauce, instead of garlic. It was glorious. If I had crab, that would have gone in t tooo, and I'm sure that would make for a special breakfast.

Crabbing was a summer ritual growing up, and marked the end of the school year for my sister and me. I do miss living close to the water, where if you could get your hands on some chicken necks, string, and some patience, you could snag fresh crab. I'll have some crabs sometime soon, its high on my summertime to do list.

In the meantime, I'll continue to put Old Bay on just about everything I eat.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

I've been smelling all amazing charcoal grills of everyone in the neighborhood and decided to fire up the fire pit to roast brauts for dinner.

I also made a s'more for desert with some of the bacon chocolate bars I have stashed.

It was beyond delightful.

I forgot to take pictures of the actual food, but in my defense, I was hungry!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10 Things I love about Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is a lovely vegetable. I've experimented with them in the past, but my initial attempts at making good dinners with them were a bit of a let down. Thanks to Pinterest, however, I have found some really good recipes and cooking methods that make them a go-to meal about once a week. Here are some of the awesome things about Spaghetti Squash that I love:

1.The meat of the squash, when cooked, breaks in to noodle like strands, hence its name, and those "noodles" can replace any wheat noodle or rice in just about any dish. This is a good way to sneak in more veggies and cut back on carbs.

2. The "noodles" have an al dente texture when cooked, and might seem a little crunchy, but in a good way. They also have a slightly sweet flavor that lends itself well to savory sauce pairings.

3. They pack a big nutrition punch. In a one cup serving you will find:
0 g of fat, 10 g of carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g starch) and 1 g protein, plus a variety of vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and Vitamin A. (MyFitnessPal app)

4. The ones you find in the grocery store are usually yellow, but they can range from cream to orange in color. Spaghetti squash on the more orange side have a higher concentration of beta-carotene, and eating pigment rich vegetables will give your skin a healthy glow! (Glamour)

5. Spaghetti squash falls under the Winter Squash category, which means it is readily available during the winter months. This is encouraging when so many other vegetables are out of season.

6. There are several ways to prepare them, and all of those are super easy.  My favorite method is baking, but they can also be microwaved, boiled, or steamed.

To bake, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and goop, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, and bake, cut side down for about 45 minutes at 350°. If they aren't fork tender by then, I flip them over and bake for 10 - 15 more minutes. Let them rest until they are just cool enough to handle, and use a fork to scrape out the "noodles"

7. The seeds can be roasted, just like pumpkin seeds!  Make sure you don't discard the seeds when you remove them from the squash. I like to rinse and dry them while the squash is baking. To roast, again just sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle on some olive oil, and then spread the seeds evenly across a foil lined baking sheet. They take 5 to 10 minutes, so you need to keep an eye on them. But you can absolutely roast the seeds while the squash is in the oven; yay multitasking!

8. They are their own containers. The first spaghetti squash recipe I found on pinterest utilized the hollow shells as a baking vessel after you mix the "noodles" with the decedent, yet light, cream sauce. The spaghetti boats were a hit, and soon became our go-to serving method. The recipe makes 2 large servings, and you'll be amazed when you devour the whole thing, and not feel bloated or overstuffed.

9. Spaghetti squash are fairly inexpensive, depending on the season, but will run between $0.70 and $2.00 a pound. Eating healthier foods seems to get more and more expensive, so having low cost produce available certainly makes that task much easier.(Cost)

10. They are easy to grow. If you have the time and space, this variety is simple to grow, in ground or in containers. Be sure to plant more than one, as they need to cross pollinate between male and female plants. (Wikipedia)

The recipe possibilities are endless for these amazing vegetables, and I hope you enjoy experimenting with them as much as I do.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Long Time, No Blog

So its been about three years since I've posted to the blog. That's a daunting length of time to over-come. I find it ironically funny that while Life things got in the way of maintain the blog, new life things have inspired me to start writing and cooking again.

So what have I been up to all this time? In a nut shell, I got busy with my job and wrapped up in a new relationship, and I'm sure involved in many activities that took up my time.

I also stopped cooking as much, partly because of my hectic schedule, partly my new partner was also cooking for us. There's been some sporadic cooking events, and I will probably refer back to those recipes going forward.

Pinterest has been a major source of recipe inspiration (as well as an amazing time suck)

Recently I've decided to quit my job and go back to school, and once I got my schedule settled, it has been an interesting challenge.

I've also started a part time job at a local gym, its fun, and I get to exercise!

All that adds up to a reawakening of my interest in fitness and nutrition. Many of the recipes I've tried lately have been low carb, and low fat, and full of veggies.

For instance, this past Sunday I put together a Spaghetti Squash Lasagna based of a Pin found awhile ago, called "Million Dollar Spaghetti" The original recipe called for traditional spaghetti noodles, lean ground beef, tomato sauce, butter, and a cheese layer made of cream cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Admittedly, that sounds fantastic, but it also has a lot of unnecessary fat and calories. At 12 servings, each serving would be 555 calories, with 36 g of fat, 30 g of carbs, and 28.2 g of protein.

I substituted some ingredients, such as spaghetti squash for the pasta, 2 TBSP of olive oil for the butter. Other ingredients were omitted like the ground beef (personal preference) and the cream cheese (unnecessary). My version, divided into 12 servings has 135 calories per serving, with 13.4 g of fat, 23.6 g of carbs, 12.7 g of proteins. Less of each, but lean ground beef could easily be added back in if you desire more protein, but the dish don't need it to be amazingly delicious. Its a good thing this is healthier, its so good you want to go back for seconds, every time.

Million Dollar Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

1 med Spaghetti Squash, about 4 cups cooked
6 cloves, Garlic - minced
1 container 100% Natural Diced Tomatoes, 14.5 oz Can
2 cans of Tomato Sauce (15 oz cans)
2 tbsp(s), Oil - Olive
1/2 cup(s), Sour cream
8 oz(s), Cottage cheese - Lowfat, 1% milkfat
1 cup, Mozzarella Cheese Shredded
1/4 cup(s), Cheese - Parmesan, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 350* Prep spaghetti squash by cutting in half and removing seeds and guts. Drizzle on 1 tbsp of the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste to cut side o squash. Place cut side down in baking dish and bake for 45 to 60 minutes in 350* oven. I like to check squash at the 45 minute mark, and if it needs more time, I flip them cut side up and bake for 15 more minutes. The flesh should be tender and flake away when scraped with a fork.

While squash is baking, make the sauce: Heat the other tbsp of olive oil on medium heat, in a sauce pan and add diced garlic, cooking until tender. Add canned tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes, stir to combine. Reduce heat and bring to a simmer. Add any additional seasonings to tastes, such as Italian herb blends, and red chili flakes. Allow sauce to simmer for 30 - 45 minutes to reduce and thicken, stirring occasionally. Optional: after sauce has cooked down, blend with in a blender, food processor, or with a stick blender.

While sauce is simmering, combine the sour cream and cottage cheese in a medium bowl, stirring until combined, and set aside.

Once the squash is done, scrape the flesh with a fork to create the "noodles". Allow to cool slightly while getting the rest of the ingredients together for layering. The lasagna should fit into the same casserole the squash was baked in, so less clean up!

 I start the layers with a 1/2 scoop of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then add the squash noodles from one of the halves. Try to keep the layers even as you go. Next is the cottage cheese/sour cream mixture, use a spoon to dollop the entire mixture evenly across noodle layer. Next sprinkle on a handful (approximately 1/4 cup) of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Pour about 3 cups of the sauce evenly across. Then start the layers again, with the second half of the squash, another handful of mozzarella, and the rest of the squash. The rest of the mozzarella and the parmesan cheeses go on top to get all melted and delicious. Pop the casserole dish back into the hot oven for 10 - 15 minutes to warm through and melt the cheese layers.

Make sure the lasagna cools a bit before eating, its so tasty, eating it piping hot may lead to burnt mouths.