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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Savory Kale & White Bean Soup w/Homemade Croutons

Wow, it has been so cold lately! I know it was well below freezing in Maryland all of last week, and in some parts of the country it was well below zero. I would never survive in a place that has bouts of frigid weather for a period of 10 days or more. The cold really does a number on the body! It is amazing how this past weekend felt so nice - in the 30s! In order to stay warm, I have been making lots of soup in my kitchen these days. I made an Italian Wedding Soup which is incredible (and I'll post that recipe soon), and I also made this kale and white bean soup. It i s such a very tasty and savory soup, and meat lovers will not even miss the meat. The soup is super flavorful and healthy, AND it is really easy to make. It definitely warms & comforts the soul. Enjoy - and stay warm!

Recipe for Savory Kale & White Bean Soup

INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 (15.5-ounce) cans of great northern beans, drained
4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth 
3 cups of water
1 rind or thick slice of Parmesan cheese
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. of dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
10 - 12 ounces of kale greens, chopped (you may prefer to remove the stems, but I included them)
Grated parmesan cheese, for topping
Homemade Croutons, for topping (recipe below)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in the onion and saute for 3 - 4 minutes, until softened. Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in the beans, broth, water, cheese, bay leaf, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Allow the soup to simmer on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the kale leaves, and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and croutons.

Makes 6 - 8 generous servings. Approximately 250 - 335 calories a serving (without Parmesan & croutons for garnish). 

Soup Recipe Adapted from: Epicurious 

Recipe for Homemade Croutons

INGREDIENTS:
Half a loaf of crusty bread - such as french, cut into crouton-sized pieces (cubes)
A few generous drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cut bread onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Stir gently to coat well. Sprinkle on a little bit of salt and black pepper. Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until crispy. Top each bowl of soup with 4 -5 croutons, and store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Greek Pizza with a Cornmeal Crust


Greg got me a pizza stone for Christmas (he also got me a Kindle Fire & an Epilady). What did I get Greg? I got him a hat and a tie. I'm pretty boring.

Before receiving the pizza stone, I always wondered why my pizza crusts would NEVER work out to my liking. Well, the answer is that I had never used a pizza stone. What a difference it makes! It helps to cook the pizza evenly, and it helps to extract moisture (from cheese, toppings, etc.) When I had used a baking sheet to cook pizzas, the moisture from cheese would seep into the crust and it would become a soggy mess.

The very first (and second) pizza I made with the stone was a Greek pizza. The pizza starts with a cornmeal crust, then it is spread with an olive oil & roasted garlic sauce, and it is topped with feta cheese, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, arugula, and spices. It is absolutely amazing! Greg and I are thinking of having some friends over for the Superbowl to enjoy the game and Greek pizza together (but I'll enjoy the pizza more, even though my home team is playing my nephew's home team). I just like food way more than I like football. Enjoy!

Recipe for Greek Pizza with a Cornmeal Crust

INGREDIENTS:
For the crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2/3 cup of warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Put the warm water in a liquid measuring cup. Add yeast and sugar and let sit for ten minutes until a bit bubbly. Put flour, cornmeal, and kosher salt into a food processor and pulse together. Slowly add in the olive oil. With the food processor running, slowly add in the water/yeast mixture through the feed tube. When it forms into a ball, stop and divide the dough into two even pieces. Wrap one piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for another use. Place the other piece of dough in a bowl coated with olive oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a  warm moist towel. Put somewhere warm  (like on top of the warm oven while the garlic is roasting). Let the dough rise for about an hour.

For the roasted garlic & olive oil sauce
2 large heads of garlic, with much of the skin peeled off
5 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
a pinch of lemon zest (optional)
1/8 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes
6 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped small

Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour a couple tablespoons of the olive oil on the foil. Place garlic on top of foil. Place in an oven heated to 375 degrees and cook for 45 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly, then use your hands to squeeze the garlic out into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, forming a bit of a paste while doing so. Set aside.

For topping & assembling
3 - 4 ounces of grated mozzarella cheese
5 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
10 - 12 kalamata olives, sliced thin
3 - 4 sun dried tomatoes in oil, sliced small
A handful or two of arugula leaves
A drizzle of olive oil
Dried Oregano
Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper flakes

Preheat pizza stone according to manufacturer's directions (most stones need to be at 500 for thirty minutes).

After the dough has risen, place it on an inverted baking sheet dusted generously with cornmeal. Spread out the dough to make a thinnish crust. Drizzle the dough with the roasted garlic & olive oil sauce, spreading evenly. Then top with most of the mozzarella cheese, add the feta cheese, add the olives and sun dried tomato, add a little more mozzarella, then add the arugula. Drizzle the arugula with a little olive oil and then top the pizza with a sprinkle of dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

Once pizza stone is ready, carefully slide the pizza onto the stone (leave stone in oven). Cook for about 6 - 7 minutes, or until crust is done and cheese is melted. Remove the pizza from the oven, let cool for a minute, slice and serve.
Greg & I enjoy our pizza with a small arugula salad topped with olives, feta, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Cornmeal crust recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Oh, how I love the sweet potato! I think they have a much better flavor than the white potato, and I know they are healthier. They are loaded with so many vitamins and minerals! I have been making all sorts of recipes with sweet potato recently - sweet potato soup, sweet potato hash browns, and these honey-roasted sweet potatoes. It is a simple and delicious side dish recipe. It goes well with meat (especially steak) and a green salad or green vegetable. You can even eat them for breakfast or a snack, and they are also sweet enough for dessert. Enjoy!

Recipe for Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

INGREDIENTS:
2 - 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small slices
2 Tbsp. of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. of honey
3/4 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp. of kosher salt
A pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large oven-safe baking dish with olive oil. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. In a smallish bowl, mix together the olive oil, honey, and lemon juice. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss well to coat. Spread the coated potatoes into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle on the salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper and gently toss. Cook the potatoes uncovered for 30 minutes, then toss and cook for another 30 - 35 minutes. Allow to cool for a minute or two before serving. If desired, sprinkle the potatoes with extra salt, red pepper flakes, and/or black pepper.
Serves 4 - 6. Approximately 150 calories per serving. 

Recipe Adapted from: The Food Network

Do you love the sweet potato? If so, you will probably love the sweet potato taco recipe and the sweet potato custard recipe. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Craving Healthy?

How are you doing on your New Year's Resolutions? If you don't have any, that is okay - I usually don't make any for myself! I did make a couple for 2013, and one was to cut down on my intake of sugar and flour. I am doing pretty well for the most part on my resolution - I have definitely cut way down on the intake! I have also tried to eat more servings of fruit and veggies - and I'm totally loving my juicer right now. If you have made a resolution to eat healthier, then this posting is for you - it is a compilation of my healthier recipes since I started this food blog last June. Each picture has a link to the recipe. Enjoy!

Soba Noodle Salad
Massaged Kale Salad - kale, toasted almonds, red grapes,
parmesan & a lemon-honey dressing.
Quinoa, Corn, & Black Bean Wraps  - you can substitute frozen corn for fresh corn.
CPK-Style Quinoa Salad with Arugula - a copycat recipe from the popular restaurant.
Sweet Potato Tacos - roasted sweet potato, great northern beans, hearts of palm,
and red cabbage topped with homemade tomatillo salsa. Yum!
Homemade Hummus Dip - so much better than store bought!


White Chicken Chili Soup - it's a chili, and a soup!

Homemade Orange Spiced Granola 
Pasta with Red Grapes & Chicken Sausage - also good with gluten-free pasta!

Well, there you have it! And, if you are all about sugar and flour and you are craving chocolate, then make some delicious cookie dough & coconut truffles!
Hey, what am I doing here? I'm not healthy! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Homemade Orange Spiced Granola

I made homemade granola for the first time the other day, and now I will never eat store-bought granola again! I came across the recipe for the granola in a cookbook that was given to me by one of my dear friends, Sandy. She had given me the cookbook because she knows how much I love to cook, and it inspired me to try to eat healthier (especially because I went through the cookbook on New Year's Day). Thank you, Sandy! I have made some pretty tasty recipes from the cookbook, including the granola. Greg and I ate granola for breakfast almost every day for a week, and then I made another batch a couple days ago. It taste great plain, on top of Greek yogurt, with milk and honey (or just with milk), and I'm sure it tastes great with many other things! I especially love the flavor of the orange zest in this granola. The recipe is super easy & it goes a very long way. Now I have no excuses to not eat breakfast before going into work (and neither do you)! Enjoy.
Greek Yogurt topped with Granola Goodness

Recipe for Granola Goodness
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 Tbsp. of expeller-pressed canola oil*
1/4 cup of honey
2 Tbsp. of pure maple syrup
1/8 tsp. of salt
 1/2 tsp. of ground cloves
1/4 tsp. of ground coriander
1 1/2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of raw cashews
1/4 cup of brown flax seeds
1/2 tsp. of freshly grated orange zest
1/2 cup of raisins

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 305 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the canola oil, honey, maple syrup, salt, cloves, and coriander. Add the rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and flax seeds to the bowl and mix well.
Spread the mixture in a thin layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, then stir the granola and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for several minutes. Stir in the orange zest and raisins.
Store the granola in an airtight container on the counter or in a pantry. Eat within a week.

Recipe makes about 12 - 13 servings (with a serving being 1/4 cup).

Recipe Adapted from: True Food - Seasonal, Sustainable, Pure

*Expeller-pressed canola oil is mechanically pressed from the canola seed, rather than extracted from the seed with high heat and chemical solvents. So in a nutshell, it's healthier than traditional canola oil (at least that's what they say). It can be found at stores such as Whole Foods.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Restaurant-Style Chicken Fajitas



Who doesn't love a good chicken fajita? There isn't much that someone can't like about fajitas - yummy vegetables, strips of chicken, and crunchy toppings all wrapped in a warm tortilla. Sooo good! I never really thought that chicken fajitas could be improved too much, but I have seen many chicken fajita postings on food blogs lately. The other day I came across a really good looking recipe in the Cook's Illustrated cookbook. I made the fajitas & they were the greatest fajitas ever!

I have been cooking more and more healthy meals during the last couple weeks. The first week that I started the healthy cooking, I made immunity soup, sweet potato-poblano soup,  tofu curry, and these chicken fajitas. Out of all the meals, I would say that these chicken fajitas were the least healthy. And out of all the meals, Greg liked the chicken fajitas the best. I think I liked the tofu curry best, but I also really love tofu and curry (Greg doesn't). The chicken fajitas are not unhealthy, but they aren't less than 200 calories per serving like many of the other meals that I had made! If you use healthier cooking oils and whole wheat or sprouted grain tortillas, then they are pretty darn healthy. Greg said the fajitas tasted like ones that you would get at a nice Mexican restaurant. The chicken is seasoned perfectly (smoked paprika is the BEST) and the veggies have a fabulous flavor and texture. The spicy pickled radishes also add a really nice touch. Enjoy!

Recipe for Restaurant-Style Chicken Fajitas

INGREDIENTS:
For the chicken
3 Tbsp. of canola oil, divided (2 for marinating, 1 for cooking)
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. of smoked paprika
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of ground cumin
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
16 ounces of 1/2-inch thick boneless/skinless chicken breast

For the vegetables
3 large poblano chile peppers, stemmed, halved & seeded
1 Tbsp. of canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, halved & sliced into 1/4-inch strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. of dried thyme
1/4 tsp. of dried oregano
1/3 cup of cream or heavy cream
1 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of black pepper

Pickled Radishes
For assembling
8 medium-sized soft tortillas (whole wheat, sprouted grain, flour)
Sweet & Spicy Pickled Radishes 

DIRECTIONS:
For marinating the chicken
In a large container, mix together 2 Tbsp. of canola oil, lime juice, paprika, salt, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add in the chicken breasts and toss well to coat on both sides of the chicken. Cover the container with a lid and let it stand at room temperature for at least 45 minutes, but no longer than an hour.

For the vegetables
While the chicken is marinating, adjust your oven racks. Put a rack in the highest position in the oven and then preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil. Place the poblano peppers skin side up on the foil and press them down to flatten. Place the baking sheet in the oven on the top rack. Cook peppers until their skin is puffed & slightly blackened, about 7 - 10 minutes. Make sure to rotate the baking sheet halfway through while they are cooking. Remove peppers from the oven and lower oven temperature to 200 degrees.  Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover them with foil. Allow them to rest for about 10 minutes; then slice the peppers into 1/4-inch strips.

Once oven temperature has lowered to 200 degrees adjust the racks. Put one rack in a middle position and one rack on the lowest position.

Heat the 1 Tbsp. of canola oil in a medium sized nonstick skillet set over high heat. When oil begins to smoke, add onion and cook until a bit blackened and softened, about three minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and oregano and mix. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the cream and cook, stirring frequently, until cream reduces and it coats the onions (about 1 minute). Remove the skillet from heat and add poblano pepper strips, lime juice, salt, and black pepper. Toss well to coat. Transfer the vegetables to a baking dish and cover. Place the vegetables on the middle oven rack.

For cooking the chicken
In a large oven-safe skillet, heat the 1 Tbsp. of canola oil over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add chicken breasts and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Flip the chicken and remove from heat. Carefully transfer the skillet to the lowest oven rack. Cook the chicken until it registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 10 minutes. Once chicken is done, remove skillet from oven. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Once the chicken has slightly cooled, cut it in half and then into 1/4-inch thick strips. Return the chicken to the skillet and coat it with the oils. Place the skillet over very low heat for about a minute while you take out the vegetables from the oven and warm the tortillas.

For assembling
Warm the tortillas in the microwave by zapping them for about 15 seconds. Spoon 1 - 2 ounces of chicken into the center of each tortilla and top with the vegetables and radishes.

Nutritional Information:
Each chicken fajita is about 225 - 350 calories, depending on amount of chicken and the type of tortilla used.

Recipe Adapted from: Cook's Illustrated

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Pickled Radishes


Who would have known that radishes could taste so delicious? I made these pickled radishes the other night to go along with our chicken fajitas (recipe to come very soon). I also ate the leftover radishes as a snack the day after we had the fajitas.  The radishes have a lot of flavor & they are fun to eat because they look so pretty in their red juices! These radishes are great for topping on guacamole or other Mexican-like dishes. They are also perfect for guilty-free snacking! Enjoy.

Recipe for Sweet & Spicy Pickled Radishes

INGREDIENTS:
10 - 12 radishes,  sliced very thin
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced very thin
3/4 tsp. of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. of salt

DIRECTIONS:
Combine all ingredients in a smallish container. Cover the container, and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes before using. You can also pickle the radishes by letting them sit in the fridge for 12 - 24 hours before using.

Recipe Adapted from: Cook's Illustrated
Spicy Pickled Radishes - a great addition to chicken fajitas! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sweet Potato Custard


Last Saturday I celebrated my 13th anniversary of my 21st birthday. Greg & I headed up to my parents' house and we enjoyed a vegetarian chili for lunch (made by my awesome aunt). We also watched Christmas Vacation and Elf, and we played Scrabble. We know how to party hard. Oh, and I also made my birthday dinner for everyone - I made sweet potato tacos. I always love that meal.

I had a few leftover sweet potatoes, and I wanted to make something yummy with them. I have always wanted to try to make a sweet potato pie, so I looked up recipes online. As I was reviewing the recipes, I thought it might be a good idea to just make the filling for a sweet potato pie. I made sweet potato custard in individual dishes for dessert on Sunday night. It was a total winner - I think it was one of Greg's favorite desserts ever.

Unfortunately, I probably won't be making this or any other sweet treats for awhile, because I am on a 2013 health kick! I am trying to eat healthier, so healthier recipes will most likely be appearing on the blog. But I might have to make some special truffles for Valentine's Day...

If you're not on a health kick, try out this sweet potato custard recipe. You will love it! And as far as desserts go, this one isn't too unhealthy - sweet potatoes are super good for you & there are no extra calories from the pie crust! Enjoy.

Recipe for Sweet Potato Custard

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound of sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
Sweet potato custard with toasted pecans. This dessert taste great chilled too!
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1 1/4 tsp. of vanilla
2 tsp. of pure maple syrup
1/2 cup of heavy cream
2 eggs
1 cup of granulated sugar
For topping
Pure maple syrup
Cream
Toasted pecans

DIRECTIONS:
Boil sweet potatoes with the skin on in a large pot of water. Boil for 50 minutes, or until fully cooked. Drain water out of pot and rinse the potatoes with very cold water. Carefully peel off the skin of each potato. If not too hot, use your hands to break up the potato into a large mixing bowl. If they are still very hot,  chop them into chunks with a knife and then add into bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and beat sweet potato and butter together on medium-high speed with an electric hand mixer for several minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until all ingredients are well incorporated. Lightly butter individual oven-safe serving bowls . Pour the sweet potato batter into each bowl. Place the bowls on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once oven is heated, transfer the baking pan with the bowls into the oven and cook for 55 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

If desired, top each bowl with a little bit of maple syrup, a touch of cream, and toasted pecans.

Recipe makes 6 - 10 servings, depending on the size of your individual serving dishes.

Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes