Sunday, August 30, 2009

Where are the pics?

They're coming, they're coming! I've had several posts saved as drafts, waiting to download the pics from my camera, upload them to the website, blah blah blah. Rather than get a massive backlog of posts, I'll just come back to them later and add the pics - so enjoy for now! I'll let you use your imagination ;)

Caramelized Autumn Spice Apples

Today felt like one of those beautiful, warm autumn days - my absolute most favorite of the year. To enjoy every bit of it, I made an autumn treat after dinner.

What You Need:
  • An apple (I had a Pink Lady in the fridge)
  • 1 tbs of butter
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
What You Do:
  • Cut the apple into chunks. It's easy to use and apple corer and then cut up the slices.
  • Begin melting the butter in the pan and add the apple pieces and let them warm.
  • Add the sugar and stir around to coat the apples pieces.
  • Sprinkle in cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
Also great with cinnamon sugar graham crackers or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From the Garden

This is an easy meal that could either be straight from your garden, or probably all purchased locally from a farmers market. Simple, filling and tasty. My co-op has an awesome variety of potatoes (even purple ones!), so I might try this with some other options as we get into the colder months. Also, you could very easily add a meat to this dish if you wanted. It'd be almost like a stew without the broth.

What You Need:
  • Potato (I used a red potato)
  • Veggies (Carrots, yellow squash, zucchini and broccoli)
  • EVOO
  • Seasoning
What You Do:
  • Wash and cut your potatoes and veggies.
  • Option A: Stir all veggies with a little EVOO and seasoning and bake at 350 for 10-15 min.
  • Option B: Steam veggies while potatoes (stirred in EVOO and seasoning) bake.

I chose option B because I had already steamed my veggies earlier in the day, without knowing exactly what I was going to make for dinner. Also, I used a little sprinkling of Season All (seasoned salt) on my potatoes. Cooking the potatoes and veggies separately spared me from eating overly salted foods. If you're using any type of herbs for seasoning, I'd say throw 'em all together and bake.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tilapia and Harvest Grains

I've always eaten a lot of white fish as part of my diet, until I went on a sprint as a vegetarian. Now I've reintroduced fish to my diet, and tilapia was first. On a trip to Trader Joe's this morning, I picked up farm raised tilapia and harvest grains, among a few other things. TJ's harvest grains is a hearty mix that makes a great side dish, or is substantial enough on its own with steamed veggies added. This was an easy, filling and healthy meal.

What You Need:
  • Fish of your choice
  • Grains (quinoa, cous cous, harvest grains mix, lentils, etc.)
  • Veggies (I added carrots)
  • Seasoning (For fish, grains and veggies, I love Salsa Lizano, a Costa Rican staple.)
What You Do:
  • A few hours prior to starting your meal, marinate your fish in a seasoning rub or sauce.
  • Cook your grains according to package directions. I've often had problems with TJ's harvest grains sticking to the bottom of the pot, despite following the cooking instructions. This time, I smartened up and used a deep, non-stick frying pan with a lid. What do you know...not a single grain wasted by being glued to the bottom of the pan.
  • Chop your veggies and toss in with the grains to steam.
  • As the grains are nearing their finish, start the fish. I did a pan-seared tilapia tonight by melting a little Smart Balance in the bottom of the pan and then cooked the fish on both sides until it was cooked through.
  • Make a nice little bed of grains on your plate, top with the fish and finish off with an extra dash of seasonings or drizzle of sauce if you choose.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Roll me out of bed

I've been all about the eggs lately - scrambled, omelets or hard boiled. I had an early wake-up call this morning for a volunteer project in the park that ended up getting rained out. Since I was up, and everyone knows an early trip to a bakery gives you the best pick of the freshest goodies, I headed out on an errand. Tonight is a birthday party for a friend of a friend and I wanted to bring her some treats. After that, I crashed until lunch time. What do you make for lunch, but is really your first meal of the day? A breakfast sandwich, of course.

What you Need:
  • A tasty roll (I have some fresh Jewish egg-washed rolls from the co-op)
  • 1-2 eggs (from free-range, vegetarian fed chickens)
  • Cheese (I mixed it up this morning and opted for Monterey Jack)
  • Butter (my choice is Smart Balance with Flax oil)
What you Do:
  • Pop your roll in the toaster oven while you're cooking the egg(s).
  • Cook your egg as desired (I made mine into an easy omelet with cheese).
  • When both are finished, butter the inside of the roll, add your egg(s) and close.
Adding the Monterey Jack cheese was really tasty. The egg washed roll was also sweet tasting on its own. Putting it all together was delicious!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday Baking

Saturday night I went to a friend's birthday party at a rented social club. The birthday girl is not interested in presents - not store-bought ones, anyway. She is asking party guests that if they do bring a gift, to let it me something homemade. So baking it is! I'm a big fan of Florida Crystals Natural Can Sugar. In fact, I have totally switched from using granulated sugar to using this type both for personal health and environmental reasons. On the back of the sugar bag, I found the following recipe, which sounds like a tasty treat for a late August summer snack.

What You Need:
  • 1 cup butter, room temp (I used soy margarine)
  • 1 cup Florida Crystals
  • 2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp lemon extract (I found that it could use a little more lemon flavor. Maybe 2 tsp?)
Optional Lemon Icing
  • 1 cup 10x powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbs lemon juice
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
What You Do:
  • Cream the butter and Florida Crystals until smooth.
  • Add the flour, sour cream, baking soda and lemon extract and blend until smooth.
  • Divide the dough in half and place each half on a piece of wax paper. Roll each section into a 2-inch log and freeze until firm.
  • Remove 1 log at a time, slice dough into 1/8 inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake at 350 until edges are golden brown.
  • Cool and drizzle with icing, if you choose.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tanzanian Dinner

One of my neighbors, Nick, is pretty skilled at making international cuisine. I'm a huge fan of his Moroccan chicken made with chickpeas, his Mexican food and another great French chicken dish.

The meal below is Ugali (a type of polenta) and cabbage soup. The seasonings in the soup are spicy on their own, but coconut water is added to the broth which cuts the intensity. The aroma while cooking is amazing, but the taste was a little bit of a let down. The flavors didn't stand out as much as I thought the would after smelling it (it smells a lot like Indian food - curry is used) and I think that might have to do with the combination of the sweetness from the coconut water. Adding plain water or a veggie stock may allow the intensity of the spices to remain in the flavor of the soup. As you can see from the picture, no silverware! You squish the Ugali into a spoon shape and scoop the cabbage with it. Not only is it tasty, but it's fun to eat! We complimented it with mango slices for dessert and coconut water for a drink (always from the young, green coconuts).

Nick made this meal in honor of his friend and former neighbor, Brooke. She was doing medical work in a village in Kenya and was killed in a bus accident in Tanzania. It is often that we gather with friends over meals, and seems a fitting way to quietly honor a life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Garlic Chicken Caesar Pitas

Clearly, I have a backlog of chicken recipes I have neglected to post over the past few weeks. Although the past three recipes have all been chicken, I only each chicken once every two-to-three weeks. In fact, that's all the meat I eat. I'm a real sucker for a great chicken caesar salad and I'm loving the way I've been cooking chicken lately. I had all the ingredients at home and ready, except for the lettuce, which I picked up after work. Easy meal!

What you Need:
  • Chicken breast strips (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • EVOO
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Romaine or green leaf lettuce (in the garden)
  • Tomato(es) - from the roof garden!
  • Organic Caesar dressing
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Multi-grain pita, cut in half
What you Do:
  • Prepare the chicken as I have in other recipes - diced, cooked in EVOO and fresh minced garlic.
  • Chop your lettuce and dry in a salad spinner (I bought my first one a few weeks ago and use it every chance I get!) and cut the tomato(es).
  • Mix the veggies, chicken, parm shreds and dressing. Then stuff those pitas!

Chicken Burrito

Since I have moved to Philadelphia, I am at a loss of a great Mexican restaurant. When I was in college, I was spoiled with the best Mexican restaurant I've ever been to just a couple minutes down the street from campus. Boy do I miss it! Anytime I have a hankering for Mexican food, I usually make it myself now. It's not quite the same, but it's better than what I've tried here.

What you Need:
  • Chicken (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • Taco seasoning (Old El Paso 40% less sodium)
  • Shredded Mexican blend cheese or Queso Fresco
  • Tomatoes (fresh from the garden!)
  • Tortillas (I like the bigger size ones)
What you Do:
  • Dice up the chicken, brown it and then cook as you normally would prepare tacos - directions on seasoning package.
  • Once the chicken has cooked, add it to a warmed tortilla with your toppings.
  • Roll up and enjoy!

Another take on Quinoa and Veggies

You're probably noticing that this is one of my favorite healthy and easy meals. It's quick to prepare, tastes great and there are usually plenty of leftovers to take to work for lunch.

What you Need:
  • Chicken strips (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • 1-2 cloves of fresh, minced garlic
  • EVOO
  • Quinoa (mix of organic white and heirloom red)
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Other veggies you may want - peppers, zucchini, eggplant, etc.
  • Local, hormone free mozzarella cheese
What you Do:
  • Start quinoa first because it takes longest - 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water.
  • Add cut up veggies to quinoa and water at start.
  • Dice the chicken into small chunks, and stir up with EVOO and minced garlic.
  • Brown in a small frying pan until cooked thoroughly.
  • Mix all together and grate the mozz over top immediately to melt.
I've eaten this meal a few times without the cheese, but the little bit of melted cheese really adds something extra to it to make it that much more filling and tasty. Yum!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fire up the veggies!

Something my neighbors and I do often is make our dinners over an open flame, then sit and enjoy a night by the fire, usually with a beer or 3. A couple weekends ago, I had two college friends visiting and after a long day at the beach, we threw together a quick but easy dinner to make over the fire (I'd originally planned to make falafel, but because of the nice weather we took advantage of continuing to be outdoors).

On the way back from the beach, we stopped at a rest stop with a farmer's market and picked up a couple of eggplants. We had a large squash from the garden, and then picked up a few zucchini, mushrooms (cooked separately, as I violently detest them), provolone cheese and whole wheat pitas from the grocery store.

To prepare the veggies, I cut the zucchini and squash into small pieces and stirred in a bowl with EVOO and a couple of diced garlic cloves and a sprinkle of salt. After salting and rinsing the eggplant, I also cut it into small pieces and let it soak in a mix of balsamic and red wine vinegars. This gives a tart but delicious taste.

Once we got the fire roaring and put the cooking grate over it, I used an old cookie sheet (note to self - invest in a cast iron pan) and laid out all the veggies. I ended up putting all (except the mushrooms) on at one time, which mixed the vinegars and garlic. I halved the pitas and warmed them on the edge of the fire...let me tell you, there is nothing like a fire-warmed pita! Once all the veggies were cooked, we stuffed the pitas, put a piece of cheese inside and savored them!

That's me in the middle with my college roommate, Chrissy, on the right and our friend Christian on the left - he was visiting from Florida. And of course, we have our veggie pitas!