16 September, 2013

Light and Lemony Fish Cakes

It's official.  Crab cakes are my favorite food. 

Since moving to Denver, I forgot how much I love crab cakes. Back in PA, the Fiance used to make fun of me- if we ever went out to eat, and crab cakes were on the menu- well, everyone knows what I'm ordering! I can't help myself!  They're just so wonderful! Especially when in Maryland with the Fiance's family. 
This recipe may not be seasonally appropriate, but I found myself in a small crisis recently. My refrigerator is broken. Which means everything in the freezer is defrosting, including a bag of frozen tilapia. FISH CAKE TIME!
You can really taste the lemon in these cakes, it's light and refreshing.  I dusted the cakes with paprika, chili powder, and fresh pepper before pan-frying and it made for a nice crispy exterior, the cakes flaking apart easily with a fork. These fish cakes are chock full of fish, not a lot of filler here.  Just like a fish cake (and crab cake) should be.  

One of my favorite things about this recipe is it's perfect for make-ahead meals.  You can make these fish cakes, freeze them, and then just pop them out when needed for a quick, delicious, light meal. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce, or even better- homemade tartar sauce. 

Light and Lemony Fish Cakes

1 lb fresh or frozen tilapia fillets 
2 tbsp olive oil
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp dijon mustard
6 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 shallots, minced (about 2 tsp)
3 dashes hot sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper 
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fish fillets in a baking dish and rub with a tsp of olive oil. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until fish is cooked through.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Pat excess moisture off with a paper towel when cool.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the egg whites, mayo, lemon juice, mustard, breadcrumbs, parsley, shallots, and hot sauce. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  When fish is cool, flake it with a fork into small chunks (being careful not to mash it!) and add it to the bowl. Mix well. Form into 6 equal size patties. Place on a clean baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes before cooking.  At this point, you can leave them in the freezer until frozen, remove them and double wrap in plastic wrap and store in ziploc freezer bags for one month if you are making ahead. Defrost before cooking.
  3. After patties have gotten a little stiff after being in the freezer for 15 minutes, remove them and heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, chili powder, and fresh pepper. Sprinkle this mixture over both sides of the patties. 
  4. Once oil is hot, place the patties in the pan and saute until a nice golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Adding the fish cakes before the oil is hot will make it soggy- the most important step here is waiting for the oil to be hot enough. 
  5. Serve immediately. 

27 August, 2013

Veggie Loaded Meatloaf


It sounds so boring. So plain. Some meat. In a loaf form. Woo. 

But I love meatloaf. It never sounds exciting, but I everytime I find myself shoveling forkfuls into my mouth (in a most lady-like manner, of course), scooping up all the crumbs I've dropped on the table (and the floor, in the most lady-like fashion). 
The thing about meatloaf is it's really not that healthy. You've got a bunch of meat- usually a mixture of beef and fatty pork, traditionally topped with a bunch of bacon, loaded with bread crumbs, topped with some form of ketchup/ sugar combo.  

So I 'healthified' it. I skipped bacon. In place of regular 'ole beef I used grassfed beef (85% lean). In place of pork I used ground turkey.  And in place of bread crumbs I used crushed almonds. Add in a bunch of healthy veggies like kale, carrots, peppers, and even apple, and there you have it- my version of a healthier meatloaf. 

The kale I added had already been sauteed in garlic with tomatoes (the acid in tomatoes will cut the bitterness in kale- I almost always add tomatoes when making kale). I added the apple for a little sweetness to further combat the bitter kale (The Fiance sure does hate kale). I threw in every other veggie I could find in the fridge, which admittedly, wasn't much. To hold the meatloaf together, I pulsed some almonds in a food processor until ground but not powder to replace the bread crumbs/bread. It worked out well- the almonds added a bit of crunch, though it is a more delicate meatloaf than one made with bread crumbs.  Definitely let cool 10 minutes before you attempt to slice or it'll fall apart. Use the sharpest knife you have to slice. 
Funny story. The Fiance is all like 'what can I do to help?!'  (This means he wants me to say 'nothing, sit down, have a beer')  I say ' Peel these carrots'.  

'I don't know how to do that!' says The Fiance.  I cock my eyebrow.  'Just use this peeler and peel it!'

I continue on tornado-ing around the kitchen, flinging random sauces at walls and throwing crumbs on the floor. I look over at him.  He's peeled the carrot. And kept on peeling until all he's got is shaved carrot. 'I thought you wanted Juliet carrots!' he says to me.  JULIET CARROTS. Not julienne. I almost died. 

I took over the peeling from there. 

So take caution if asking your hubby for help in this recipe, it can get a little sketchy :)
Veggie Loaded Meatloaf

1 lb grass-fed beef (I used 85% lean)
1 lb turkey sausage
3 carrots, peeled and shredded with a shredder
3 stalks celery, diced small
1 bell pepper of your choice (I used half yellow pepper, half orange- what I had on hand)
4 shallots, peeled and minced
1/4 apple, diced
1/2 cup cooked kale
1 egg
1 cup whole almonds, placed in food processor to make 3/4 cup almond crumbs.
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Caramelized Onion Topping:
1/4 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup ketchup
6 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp dijon
2 tsp sriacha or hot sauce of choice (increase or decrease based on your preference)

Preheat oven to 325. 

1. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the bell peppers. Saute 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the shallots.  Saute another 10-15 minutes, until peppers are mostly soft.  Remove from heat and let cool. 

2. Add the meat to a large bowl, and add the carrots, celery, cooled peppers, apple, kale, almonds, parsley, salt and pepper. Use your hands (clean hands) to mix well. Get in there, don't be shy! Form into a loaf, Using your hands to 'smack it' into a loaf form.  Place on baking sheet, and throw in oven.  It will bake for about an hour, until internal temp reaches about 155 to 160 degrees. 

3. In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, raw honey, dijon, and sriacha.  Divide this mixture into two small bowls. Into one bowl, add the caramelized onions. Pour the ketchup/caramelized onion mixture onto the meatloaf in the oven.  About 15 minutes before the meatloaf is done, pour half of the remaining ketchup mixture on top. 

4. When meatloaf is done, let cool 10-20 minutes before slicing. Serve with remaining ketchup sauce. 

26 August, 2013

Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole

One of my favorite things in the world is sweet potato casserole.  Probably due to the insane amounts of sugar that are added to this side dish.  Brown sugar is usually mixed in and some sort of candy coating goes on top- often marshmallows (made with sucralose and gelatin- gelatin is made from animal hooves and bones) and more sugar.

 So I've made a healthier, less sweet version. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet (duh), so I don't see a reason to load up on added sugar.  I added 1 tsp of honey to 2 cups mashed sweet potato, and then added a granola topping mixed with a bit of turbino sugar (also called muscavado sugar- a brown sugar made by adding mollasses to white sugar). Turbino sugar gives a nice sugary crunch. 

Sweet potatoes are also considered one of the world's healthiest foods, so don't wait until Thanksgiving to eat! They give you a big dose of beta-carotene, are high in vitamin B6, vitamin C, and also contain vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, fiber, potassium  and magnesium- the 'relaxation and anti-stress' mineral- necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function. Read more about sweet potatoes health benefits here.  
It may not be Thanksgiving but I'm enjoying sweet potatoes year round.  If it WAS Thanksgiving, this is a nice make-ahead dish.  You can add the sweet potato mixture to a glass baking dish and store in refrigerator a day or two.  Just add the granola topping right before you pop in the oven or it'll get soggy in the fridge. 
Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potatoes
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Granola Topping
1 1/2 cups granola 
2 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup turbino sugar (can also use brown sugar if you have on hand)

Preheat oven to 325.

1. Lightly beat egg. Add all sweet potato ingredients to bowl and mix well. Pour into 8 x 8 glass baking dish.

2. Toss all granola ingredients together. Sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes. 

3. Bake 45 min to an hour, until granola topping a light brown in color. 

22 August, 2013

Raspberry Grapefruit Bundt Cake

Tis the season of raspberries!

And since I've been on a grapefruit kick, why not balance the sweetness of these fresh raspberries with grapefruit's tartness? 

-Enter Raspberry Grapefruit Bundt Cake- 
This is your basic pound cake recipe, with the addition of fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice and those plump red raspberries. Bake in a bundt pan, tube pan or make a regular 'ole pound cake, enjoy the deliciousness in any form!

This recipe makes a one buttery pound cake. It's ever so moist, with a slightly crisp exterior and large delicate crumbs. 

The grapefruit gives it just a slight hint of tart, which gives it a nice flavor as opposed to regular pound cake (though equally delicious). The red raspberries are thrown in whole when pouring batter into the pan, making for a pretty slice of bundt heaven. 

I though about drizzling the cake with a glaze- I was thinking white chocolate or maybe grapefruit. But the cake was just perfect naked.  :)  

My favorite part about this cake is that it's make-ahead and freezer friendly. Make ahead for company, or make the cake for yourself and freeze what you can't eat. 

To freeze, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and put in a ziploc freezer bag (after its cooled entirely). For best results and the moistest cake, try to freeze chunks, not slices. Freeze the whole cake, half a cake, a quarter of the cake.. unsliced. I'll be honest, I only had a little tiny wedge left to freeze (maybe 1/8 of a cake), as I ate almost the whole cake myself in 2 days. That'll be our secret. 

Raspberry Grapefruit Bundt Cake

1/2 pound unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more to dust pan
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder, plus more for raspberries
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pint fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Have ingredients at room temp. 

1. Cream butter and shortening together using a mixer. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing to incorporate into butter. Then add eggs one at a time, mixing just until incorporated before adding the next. Stop mixing immediately after egg is mixed in/you see no more yellow from the yolk. 

2. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add the flour to the mixing bowl a little bit at a time, alternating with the milk. Add a bit of flour, mix, add a bit of milk, mix, etc. when you run out of milk, use the grapefruit juice. End with the flour.  Mix in the vanilla. 

3. Toss the raspberries in a bowl with a tsp of baking powder. This will keep them from sinking. Grease and flour your pan of choice. Pour in a layer of batter, and then toss in a handful of raspberries, keeping them away from the edges of the pan. Add another layer of batter, making sure to cover raspberries. Throw another handful of raspberries on top, trying to place in different areas where last raspberries fell. Layer with batter, covering raspberries. Repeat until your out of batter/raspberries. Make sure there are no raspberries visible, they should all be covered with batter. 

4. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (only took 1 hour for me but I'm at a higher altitude, lower altitudes will take longer). 

5. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy! 

    24 June, 2013

    Key Lime Bars

    The ultimate summertime dessert. 

    Lemon bars have always been one of my favorite sweet treats.  I love the tartness, sweetness, and bright yellow color.  They look, feel, and taste like summer.

    So why not key lime bars? 
    Key limes are more tart and aromatic than your traditional supermarket lime, and a bit sweeter than lemons. These little fruits have been around for thousands of years and have been traced back to the Indo-Malayan region, North Africa, Palestine, and Mediterranean Europe.  Key limes now flourish in the Florida Keys, hence the origination of their name, though they have also been called the Mexican lime and West Indies lime. This is why the Florida Keys allegedly have the best Key Lime Pie! 

    I was looking for a quick and easy dessert to bring to a small farm picnic.  I'm part of a group at a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and we participate in a workshare.  In English, we work for 2 hours a week on a farm, and in return receive a bag with farm fresh produce. This is an excellent way for a farm to gain some help without having to pay for workers, and we get the pleasure of getting my hands dirty, learning all about gardening, weeding, and farming in general, AND we get to harvest my own vegetables.  I've been harvesting tons of spinach, swiss chard, kale, mizuna, lolla rossa, misc lettuces, radishes, and turnips.  We're still waiting for the tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and tons of other veggies to be ready. 
    We are so excited about the gorgeous lettuces we've been harvesting that we decided to have a farm picnic after we work at the farm. We make a big salad with just-harvested greens, bring a few sides and a few beers, and enjoy the farm! This past week I brought these key lime bars, and they were a hit. Creamy, tart custard on a graham cracker crust, topped with fresh whipped cream. How can you go wrong? I baked them on parchment paper for easy removal from the pan to get pretty bars.
    This recipe does make a tart key lime bar. I like tart.  If you desire a less tart, sweeter bar, reduce the amount of lime zest by half, and add an extra 1/4 cup sugar. These are fast and easy to make, but remember they must be refrigerated at least 4 hours after baking, preferably overnight, so allocate enough time for yourself.  Although I consider these a great BBQ/picnic dessert, they should be kept cool, so keep them in a cooler unless you want key lime soup  ;)
    Happy picnicking!

    Key Lime Bars
    This is based on Martha Stewart's recipe
    Makes about 16 bars

    1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs
    1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp sugar, divided
    5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    3 large egg yolks
    1 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest
    2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 23 limes)
    1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk 
    Parchment paper

    1/4 cup heavy cream
    2 tbsp confectioners sugar
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 Key limes, thinly sliced, for garnish
    1 tsp grated lime zest, for garnish

    1. Make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the parchment paper to line a 8 inch glass baking dish- leave two sides hanging over the dish so you can easily lift the bars out. In a bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tbsp sugar, and melted butter. Dump this mixture into the baking dish and firmly press the crumbs down until an even layer is formed. Bake for 10 minutes, let cool completely on a wire rack, leaving the oven on.
    2. Make the custard filling. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg yolks and lime zest. Whisk on high until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add the condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high and mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed back to low again and add lime juice; mix until just combined.  Spread mixture on top of cooled graham cracker crust. Bake 10 minutes, rotating halfway, until the top is set and barely jiggly. Cool completely on wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
    3. Make whipped cream. In a large bowl or electric mixer, whip cream until large peaks just start to form.  Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla and beat just until stiff peaks form. 
    4. Get bars ready for serving. Remove bars from refrigerator and use the parchment paper to lift the entire square out of the baking dish. Use a large, sharp knife to cut bars into desired size. Wipe the knife after every single cut you make to achieve pretty, clean bars. Decorate with whipped cream in whatever fashion you desire. I cut the tip off a ziploc bag and used a decorating tip to pipe the whipped cream on top of the bars, sprinkled some lime zest on top, and finished the bars with a thin slice of lime. 
    5. Refrigerate.  The bars can be kept for up to 3 days in a airtight container before they are topped with whipped cream. Once topped with whipped cream, they should be eaten the same day. 

    17 June, 2013

    Copper River Salmon on Seared Garlic Greens with Herbed Oil, Sicilian Orange and Fennel Salad

    Have you heard of Copper River Salmon?

    Wild and sustainably caught, Copper River Salmon is one of the most sought after salmon in the world. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game monitors Copper River Salmon weekly to ensure that an abundant number of salmon reach their spawning grounds, ensuring a long-term replenishing supply of Copper River Salmon in the future.

    Copper River is a 300 mile river in Alaska, the 10th longest river in the United States. It's quite a hike for these local, wild salmon to swim this long stretch of river to reach their spawning grounds, requiring the salmon to store up on those healthy omega-3 fatty acids to make the journey.
    Wild Alaskan Salmon is super healthy- high in protein, more vitamin D than a glass of milk (in a 3.5 oz filet).  And those omega-3's...  they are likely to have a role in:

    • Lowering chance of sudden cardiac death, risk of a first heart attack, and the chance of having a second heart attack.
    • Stabilization of abnormal heart rhythms
    • Reducing chance of developing degenerative conditions like Alzheimer's
    • Reducing chance of development and severity of varied severe mental disorders
    • Stabilization and regression of plaques (deposits that clog arteries) that could fatally rupture.
    • Optimum development of the brain and eye in the womb and in young children (when integrated into pregnant womens' diets)
    • and many other health benefits as well!***

    What does that mean in relation to the taste of the fish?  It means Copper River Salmon is succulent.  The extra omega-3's combat the fishy flavor, making for a 'meatier' fillet of salmon (almost like cutting a steak!) This salmon is a deep red in color, and when preparing this fish, I opt for simplicity- let the quality and taste of this fish shine through. 
    I simply pan seared it with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I had a bunch of greens I had harvested myself when working on a CSA (community supported agriculture farm), so I sauteed them all up together with some bacon and a bunch of garlic- fresh spinach, swiss chard, kale, mizuna, and the leaves from radishes and turnips (yes, you can eat those too!) Added a squeeze of lemon juice towards the end and seasoned with salt and pepper.  So good The Boyfriend even liked them.. and he hates cooked dark greens. You should have seen his face when I told him what I was making. 'I hate spinach' he said.  He didn't know what anything else was.  :)   If you know someone that doesn't like dark greens, saute them in bacon. Sure, it's not the healthiest way of preparations, but if you want all those vitamins and nutrients in your loved one's diet- bacon will do the trick.
    A simple and fresh Sicilian Orange Fennel Salad accompanied the salmon and greens.  This is one of my favorite summertime side dishes- use blood oranges if you can find them, but whatever you can find will suffice. To slice the fennel thinly, use a vegetable peeler! It's so much easier and provides really thin slices of fennel, making for a delicate presentation. This makes for a great picnic/BBQ salad, by the way. 

    Black olives are often added to this salad- the salty, briny olives complement the oranges really nicely. 
    The Boyfriend would have left me if I tried to serve him olives, so I skipped them.

    You can find Copper River Salmon at most supermarkets.  It's usually advertised heavily when it's available (mid-May to mid-June-ish).  It generally runs about $14.99/lb, and is worth the price.  

    Copper River Salmon on Seared Garlic Greens,
     Sicilian Orange Fennel Salad, Herb Oil
     Serves 2

    Two 7 ounce Copper River Salmon fillets 
    (makes two just-over-5 ounce servings)

    1 lb Fresh spinach, kale, or mixture of dark leafy greens on hand, washed and dried, stems removed
    2 slices of bacon
    1 tbsp minced garlic
    2 oranges, peeled, segmented, and pith removed- INSTRUCTIONS FOLLOW
    1/2 large fennel bulb, sliced thinly (or vegetable peeled into thin slices)
    1/2 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
    About 2 tbsp fresh basil (chiffonade- cut thinly)
    One lemon
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Salt and Pepper
    Herb Oil Recipe follows

    1. Make the Sicilian Orange Fennel Salad.  In a bowl, gently toss together the oranges, fennel slices, red onion, basil, a pinch of salt (omit of adding olives), and drizzle with 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 
    2. Make the Salmon. Brush salmon with olive oil until coated and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot (about 3 minutes).  Add the salmon to the skillet, meat side down and the skin up. Cook for 3- 4 minutes, checking to make sure salmon is not sticking to the pan and until golden in color. Flip the salmon, skin side down, and continue cooking until the salmon flakes easily with a fork- about 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness of your fillet. Slice a couple slices of lemon and serve on top of the salmon.
    3. Make the Seared Garlic Greens. Add the bacon to a large, cold skillet. Turn heat on medium.  Cook bacon until crispy, flipping once. Remove bacon and set aside. Add half the greens, stirring to coat in bacon grease. Saute for a minute or two, until beginning to wilt. Add the rest of the greens and the garlic. Stir to coat. Saute another 2 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of 1/4 of a lemon.

    Herb Oil:
    Super simple-  Add 1/4 cup oil to a small pot, and throw in a handful of fresh herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, parsley, and a bit of oregano. Heat oil over medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring with a rosemary sprig. 

    Use rosemary spring to brush the herb oil over the salmon.  

    How to segment and remove pith from an orange:

    1. Cut the top and bottom off of the orange.
    2. Peel the orange.
    3. Use a paring knife to slice the pith (the skin) off each orange segment. Do this gently to maintain the orange slices. Try not to break them in half. 
    4. Reserve any orange juice that leaks out and add to the Sicilian Salad. 

    ***Information on Omega-3 fatty acids gathered here 

    06 May, 2013

    No-Fuss Blackened Chicken

    I made some most delicious blackened chicken.  

    I also made cat shaped polenta.  But that's not really relevant.
    This is super easy and pretty fast.  Just rub the seasoning on, and bake. The longer you leave the rub on, the more the flavors will permeate the chicken.  Rub it on the night before for big flavor.

    I didn't plan ahead for that myself, just rubbed it on and threw it in the oven. 

    It was finger-lickin good.  Just a bit spicy, but not too hot.  You can adjust the heat by adjusting the cayenne.  The chicken was so moist, the skin nice and crispy. Just simple, healthy, and delicious!
    For summertime this would be awesome grilled! It would make a great addition to a BBQ or picnic. :)

    Blackened Chicken
    Serves 2

    1 lb chicken parts, skin on (I used drumsticks and thighs)
    1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    Blackened Seasoning:
    1 tbsp paprika
    1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried thyme) 
    1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
    1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
    2 tsp black pepper
    2 tsp salt

    Mix all the spices together to make the blackened seasoning.  Rub on the chicken.  Place in fridge to marinate, if desired.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil, and place skin side down on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Flip the chicken over, and bake another 15 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

    30 April, 2013

    Zucchini Pasta Primavera with Creamy Basil Pesto

    Yesterday it was 80 degrees in Colorado.
    Tomorrow it'll be in the low 30's and snowing.  Again.

    See if I care! I'm making summer meals- fresh and light- snow or not. 
    Take that.

    One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is make zucchini pasta.  In fact, I posted a Zucchini Spaghetti recipe last year that's pretty darn close to this one.  

    But this one is tossed in a creamy basil pesto.  
    This is a 15 minute quick and easy recipe, no fuss required.
    This just so happens to be a vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, paleo recipe. 
    It's so good, and so good for you.  You get some protein from the pine nuts in the pesto. I used what veggies I had on hand, though you could add pretty much anything.  I would've liked to add some spinach or kale, but it was quite filling as is.

    If you want a more traditional primavera (aside from using actual pasta, lol) add parmigiana to the pesto- about 1/4 cup) and top the primavera with added parmigiana.  

    I'll be honest, I didn't miss the cheese, and I thought I was going to.  
    The basil pesto gives it tons of flavor.  I had extra pesto leftover- froze it in ice cube trays, and then removed to a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Now I can add basil pesto to pasta dishes in the future, or top some grilled fish or chicken with it. 

    You will need a julienne peeler to make the zucchini spaghetti.  If you don't have one, they can be found at any kitchen store, or even Walmart and Target.  They're great to have, I peel carrots and other vegetables with them for a pretty look.

    Zucchini Pasta Primavera with Creamy Basil Pesto
    Serves 2

    4 Zucchini
    5 ounces grape tomatoes (about 1/2 of a 10 ounce container)
    1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
    1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
    1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
    1/4 cup coconut milk

    For the pesto:
    3 cups packed fresh basil
    1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    1. Prepare the veggies.  Peel and julienne the zucchini. Place in a colander, sprinkle with a tsp of salt, and toss.  Let sit in sink (this draws the moisture out so zucchini spaghetti stays crisp and doesn't get all soggy). 

    2. Heat a few swirls of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Saute until the onion is beginning to soften, turn translucent. Add the peppers. Saute until peppers are almost done and soft (about 10 minutes).  Add the grape tomatoes. Cook for a minute or so, and add the zucchini. Toss to incorporate, and cook until zucchini is just barely softening, about 5 minutes. 

    2. While cooking the onion and peppers, prepare the pesto. Simply add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and about half of the oil to a food processor. Pulse to combine.  With the food processor running, drizzle in the remaining oil until the desired consistency is achieved. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. 

    3. Add a cup of the pesto to the cooking zucchini and vegetables.  Toss to combine.  Cook about 2 minutes to get the zucchini to soak up the pesto, and add the coconut milk.  Stir, and cook another 2 or 3 minutes.  

    Plate and enjoy!

    A couple more posts to enjoy:
    Sweet Summer Squash Pudding
    Molasses Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Pineapple-Papaya Salsa
    Gorgonzola Sage Popovers

    24 April, 2013

    A Healthier Honeycake

    I've been delving into a bit of Paleo eating habits.  

    Paleo is the 'caveman' diet- you eat only what cavemen could've gotten their hands on- nothing processsed.  That means no dairy, flour, rice, corn, legumes, beans, sugar, etc.

    I think this diet has some merit in getting people to eat healthier, to be more aware of eating whole versus processed food.  Though I see nothing wrong in eating super-healthy quinoa, brown rice, and forbidden legumes.

    However, I think particularly in the baking arena, this diet is a healthier way of eating.

    Baking using the paleo principle means no processed sugar, no white flour, and no butter.  In this recipe, honey (while technically not paleo) replaces white sugar. Coconut milk replaces butter. And almond flour replaces while flour.

    The almond flour alone works wonders for your health.  It has higher protein and more vitamins than white flour.  Which makes you feel more full.  Which is great news for those of us with no self-control in eating baked goods (surely I'm not speaking of myself here...)  While I could eat close to a dozen mini cupcakes myself, there's no way I could eat that many of these honeycakes.  

    They satisfy the sweet tooth, but are so filling you won't be able to eat tons of them.
    That's what I need in a baked good. 

    I served these honeycakes with a coffee creme-anglais (made with coconut milk, egg whites, and coffee grounds). They are quite good with some tea or coffee on their own as well.

    A Healthier Honeycake
    Makes 24 mini-cupcakes
    2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
    1/2 tsp celtic sea salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tbsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground cloves
    1/2 cup honey (I used raw organic honey)
    1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
    1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (organic, nothing added but apples!)
    4 eggs

    Preheat oven to 350.

    1. Combine almond flour, sea salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine honey, applesauce, coconut oil, and eggs.
    3. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.
    4. Grease and flour a 24 count mini-muffin tin.
    5. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

    18 March, 2013

    No Mayo Egg Salad

    I love, love, love egg salad.  
    But I hate, hate, hate mayo.

    Olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon, of course. 
    The lemon juice gives it a nice zip. I add a bit of diced red peppers for color and added veggies.

    Serve on lightly toasted whole-wheat bread with fresh romaine. Or eat on it's own if you're paleo or gluten free!
    No Mayo Egg Salad

    6 hard boiled eggs, cooled and shells removed
    4 scallions, sliced, green parts only 
    1/4 cup diced red pepper
    3 tbsp good quality olive oil
    2 tbsp lemon juice
    2 tbsp dijon mustard
    salt and pepper to taste

    In a bowl, use potato masher to mash the eggs. 

    In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and olive oil. Add to the mashed eggs.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.  Voila!

    11 March, 2013

    Quick Fish Provencal

    I bought frozen cod that I was not impressed with. 
    Originally I simply broiled it, a little salt and pepper and lemon.

    Since I'm pretty new to the fish game, 
    I thought maybe I just don't like cod. 
    But then I made this. 
    Fish Provencal.

    Browned fish fillets stewed in tomato sauce and fresh herbs.

    So fast, so easy, and pretty darn good!
    This is a rustic version- I like to keep the onions and tomato chunks pretty visible.  For a more elegant version for entertaining, I'd suggest finely chopping the onion and pureeing the tomato before cooking.  

    This is also a pretty basic version. It can literally be whipped up in a half hour. Add black pitted olives if you desire for a little authenticity (The Boyfriend hates olives, so I skipped it). 

    Serve with crusty French bread, of course! (Unless you're gluten free!)
    Quick Fish Provencal

    4 6oz Cod fillets (or other white flaky fish)
    2 large tomatoes, chopped
    2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
    1 thyme sprig, leaves only
    1 tbsp fresh basil leaves (about 6 basil leaves, chopped)
    1 clove garlic, minced
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Salt and Pepper
    Flour (for dredging the fish- substitute almond flour if making gluten free)

    In a large skillet, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion.  Saute about 5 minutes, until onion begins to look translucent.  Add the garlic. Cook one minute.  Add the tomatoes and all the herbs. Season with salt and pepper, stir, and let sauce simmer while you prepare the fish. 

    Add 2 tbsp oil to a skillet and heat over medium to medium-high heat. Season flour with a bit of salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge the fish fillets in the flour until both sides are coated. Add to the hot skillet, and saute until fish is browned on both sides.  Remove fish, and add to the simmering tomato sauce. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes, or until fish is flaky and cooked through.  

    Garnish with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan if desired. 

    A few other favorite recipes:
    Sage Chicken Chili with Lentils and Garden Vegetables

    Butternut Squash Gnocchi in Saffron Cream Sauce, Crispy Pancetta & Crumbled Pecans

    04 March, 2013

    Herbed Shrimp Risotto with Balsamic Tomato

    Is there anything better in this world?
    This dinner received another 'restaurant quality' rating from The Boyfriend. 
    We both had seconds, and had no leftovers. 

    These pictures are a bit fuzzy from the steam, but it was so good we had to eat it immediately.  
    So I apologize for picture quality!

    This is a warm, comforting risotto with a deep seafood flavor, chunks of shrimp, topped with a bit of dill and chive tomato salad.

    Risotto gets all it's flavor from the stock you use.  I highly recommend making your own seafood stock for this dish.  It may sound hard and labor intensive (for those of you that have never made seafood stock) but it's really quite easy.  You just throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. That's pretty much it.

    If you don't have the time or energy to make your own stock and are purchasing store-bought chicken stock, do yourself two favors:  
    1. Buy low sodium (store bought stocks are SO SALTY!)  
    2. Simmer the stock in a saucepot with some fresh herbs (thyme rosemary, sage, etc) and some chopped onion, carrot and celery.  It'll make store-bought taste more like homemade. 
    Herbed Shrimp Risotto 
    with Balsamic Tomato

    1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, deveined, shells and tails removed and reserved for seafood stock
    1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1 tsp fresh thyme
    1/2 tsp fresh finely chopped rosemary
    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

    1 cup arborio rice
    2 shallots, minced
    1 tsp finely chopped dill
    1 tsp finely chopped chives
    1 tsp salt
    Zest of one lemon
    Extra virgin olive oil
    About 1 quart shrimp stock, fish stock, or chicken stock

    Balsamic Tomatoes:
    4 plum tomatoes, diced
    1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp basil chiffonade
    1/2 tsp chopped chives
    fresh pepper to taste

    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)

    For Balsamic Tomatoes:
    Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar, whisk. Toss together the tomatoes, basil, chives, and pepper. Dress with olive oil mixture. Refrigerate until ready.

    For Shrimp:
    In a bowl, add the shrimp and all the remaining ingredients for shrimp. Toss well to coat the shrimp in the olive oil/herb mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

    Heat a skillet over medium high heat with a few drizzles of olive oil. Add the shrimp.  Cook a few minutes until shrimp start to look golden.  Flip, and continue cooking about 2 more minutes until golden on both sides.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Once cool, roughly chop the shrimp into chunks, leaving 6 shrimps whole to place on top of risotto. 

    For Risotto:
    In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot, and saute a few minutes until starting to soften. Add the arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is fully coated with olive oil (1-2 minutes). Add 1/2 cup fish stock and cook, stirring often,  until the liquid is almost completely absorbed (4-5 minutes). Add another 1/4 cup shrimp stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed (~8-10 minutes).  This step is important- to cook arborio rice correctly, you must add the chicken stock in small increments.  Once absorbed, add another 1/4 cup, waiting for that to be absorbed, and continue adding 1/4 cups of stock until rice is creamy looking but still al dente, about 30-40 minutes. You may have leftover stock.  If you run out of stock, use water. 

    Add the dill, chives, salt, lemon zest, and chopped shrimp to the risotto. Stir, and cook just a few minutes longer, adding a bit more stock if risotto is looking dry. 

    To assemble:
    Mound risotto of plate.  Top with a spoonful of balsamic tomato salad and whole shrimp.  Sprinkle with Parmesan if desired. 

    20 February, 2013

    Pizza, Pizza

    Homemade pizza!

    (shh the crust is store-bought!)
    I'm sharing with you a method for cooking your store bought crust.
    And a recipe for quick homemade tomato sauce.

    You can top it with whatever you'd like!
    I topped this with sweet sausage, caramelized onions, and mozzarella.  

    After it was done baking, I garnished it with shaved Pecorino cheese, and arugula and parsley drizzled with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. 
    But I had leftover pizza crust! 
     Oh no, what to do?!
     This one I used the same tomato sauce and sweet sausage, added red pepper and diced asparagus, and topped with chimichurri sauce!

    I love chimichurri sauce!
    I'll share my recipe soon.

     Pizza, pizza.

    1 package refrigerated pizza crust
    (I used Pillsbury Artisan Whole Grain Pizza Crust, rolled out and cut into a circle, worked lovely!)

    Tomato Sauce recipe follows.

    1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Brush a cast iron skillet with a tsp of olive oil. 
    2. Press the pizza dough into the skillet, so it comes up the edges just about 1/2 inch.  
    3. Disperse the tomato sauce on the pie (you may not need entire tomato sauce recipe, I had about 1/4 cup leftover)
    4. Heat the cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Cook about 5 minutes.  Peek at the bottom of the crust, when it's beginning to turn a light golden color remove from heat. Don't wait until it's completely golden brown or it will burn in the oven.
    5. Top the pizza with whatever you desire.  I topped mine with sweet italian sausage, caramelized onion, and mozzarella.
    6. Bake about 6-8 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.
    7. Remove from oven and top with any garnishes desired (I topped it with shaved Pecorino, arugula, parsley). Enjoy!

    Quick Tomato Sauce
    3 tomatoes (can use canned crushed tomatoes if desired)
    1 tbsp tomato paste
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, depending how spicy you like

    Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tomatoes. Cut out white core, cut into quarters, and place in large bowl.  Crush the tomatoes using a potato masher (or your hands if you're really into it).  Pour the crushed tomatoes in a strainer, use a spoon to smash them down and drain them of as much liquid as possible. Once drained, mix the crushed tomatoes with all other ingredients. That's it!