Monthly Archives: September 2012

Zucchini Parmesan

Zucchini season is winding down, so in one of my last zucchini-based recipes of the season, I tried this delicious looking zucchini parm. I don’t know if this necessarily falls under the category of “healthy”, considering the cheese and the sauce, but the coating on the zucchini is nice and light, and this could really be served as a meal instead of a side. We loved it.

ZUCCHINI PARMESAN (serves 4-6 as a side)

– 3 large zucchini, washed and cut into 1/4 inch rounds (leave skin on), or cut into strips. Strips might actually be really nice to make this more of a “lasagna”.
– Sauce, approx. 2 cups
– Mozzarella, approx. 1 & 1/2 cups
– Freshly grated Parmesan, approx. 1/4 cup
– Olive Oil
– Breadcrumbs, 2 cups
– Freshly grated Parmesan – 1/4 cup (added to breadcrumb mixture)
– Kosher Salt
– Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Cut zucchini into rounds or strips, and place on a cooling rack over a paper towel. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. This draws out the water from the zucchini, so that it bakes a little more crispy, a little less soggy.


3. Look at all the water that’s coming out of these!! Would you ever think?  After about 20 minutes, flip the zucchini rounds/strips, salt the other side, and let sit for another 20 minutes to fully extract as much water as possible. Then, rinse them in a colander and lay them in one layer to dry.


4. When dry, toss zucchini in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. 

5. In a different bowl, combine breadcrumbs and parmesan. Lightly spray a baking sheet with olive oil (Pam makes a decent organic olive oil spray that I use for things like this).

6. Gently press the zucchini rounds/strips into the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture. Arrange on the baking sheet. Bake at 375 for approx. 30 minutes, flipping once halfway, until golden brown-ish.
7. Break out your lasagna pan, or just a deeper baking dish. Put a thin coating of sauce over the bottom of the dish, and then place your first layer of zucchini rounds/strips on top of that, overlapping as needed. Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan.


8. Repeat this sequence – sauce, zucchini, mozz/parm, until you’re out of zucchini. Top with a bit of sauce and the last of your shredded cheese, then bake at 375 for approx. 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

9. Remove from oven, let cool a bit, then use a spatula to cut into portions. This actually – surprisingly – reheated remarkably well the next day. The crispier the zucchini, the better!



Greek Yogurt Chicken


Greek yogurt is everywhere nowadays. I’ve started using it in baking, cooking, even in dressings. But a Greek yogurt coating? On chicken?? When I first read about this on Pinterest, I thought it sounded totally gross, but I was too curious to find out how it would be. Turns out, it’s healthy, flavorful, and creates a little tangy coating that keeps the chicken juicy. This recipe can be ready from start to finish in an hour, tops, which gives you enough time to make a nice side salad, or steam some veggies, and have yourself a nice glass of wine. We’ve used this recipe dozens of times, and it’s just one of the easiest, most delicious ways we make chicken.

GREEK YOGURT CHICKEN

– Chicken breasts
– 1 container greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
– Freshly grated parmesan cheese, approx. 1/3 cup
– 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 
– 1 tbsp. kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp. pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a “breading” bowl, combine the yogurt, cheese, and seasonings, stir to combine.

3. Place a cooling rack over a deeper roasting pan lined in foil. This creates a “convection” type of cooking for those of us with basic ovens (someday, Viking convection oven. I’m coming for you!).

4. Coat the chicken with the mixture. You really don’t need a lot of it – it’s a ton of flavor in even a thinner coating. 

5. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, depending on your oven. It seems like some folks have had a lot of luck with this coating turning golden, almost “fried” looking, but whatever color it ends up being, just make sure you make a small slice to check that it’s cooked all the way through.

My Mom’s Minestrone Soup

I love soup. It’s hearty, healthy, and comforting. With the Farmers’ Markets packed with produce, this is a great way to use up some veggies and kind of ease your way into fall. My mom’s minestrone is at the top of my list of favorite things. It’s delicious the day of, for days afterwards, and even pureed. We’ve always added some thinly sliced provolone cheese to the soup to give it a little more richness, but that’s up to you.  This minestrone just makes me feel better every time I have it.

MINESTRONE SOUP (makes an enormous pot of soup which you can freeze – if there’s any left after a couple of days)
– 1 cabbage, sliced into long strips. I usually take out the “ribs” of the cabbage and just use the majority of the leaves.
– 4 stalks celery, cut
– 1 large vidalia onion, sliced into long strips
– 2 32 oz. containers of chicken stock (or vegetable, if you want to make this completely vegetarian)
– 2 cans chick peas, rinsed and drained
– 1 large can plum tomatoes, roughly cut (don’t get diced tomatoes – the plum ones work so much better)
– 1 16. oz can chopped spinach leaves
– 3 tablespoons butter


1. In a large stockpot, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. 
2. Get your veggies ready, and then add them to the pot with the melted butter. Cook down until wilted.

3. When the veggies are soft, add the chicken or veggie stock, and stir.  
4. Add tomatoes and juice from the can, spinach, and chick peas.  Stir, cover, and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 1 hour or up to 4. Add kosher salt/pepper to taste, but be careful not to overseason – the flavors will continue to come together overnight.

5. When soup has simmered enough (I usually can’t wait the 4 hours), pour yourself a bowl, shred some provolone cheese into it, and dig in. This is good today, but it will be great tomorrow. 

Mom’s minestrone soup = love



Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps

These turkey taco lettuce wraps, from the very first time I made them, got added to the rotation immediately. They are incredibly healthy: you make your own taco seasoning, so you avoid all the preservatives and bad things in the grocery store seasonings, the lettuce wrap completely eliminates the corn taco you would otherwise use, and if you use the guacamole recipe from a couple days ago, you get the added bonus of the avocado health benefits.

Also, this is fun to eat! It’s a little messy but so worth it. If you’re having trouble with the lettuce wraps, you can always shred the lettuce and put the turkey and toppings over it like a turkey taco salad.

TURKEY TACO LETTUCE WRAPS (adapted from Skinny Taste)
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
– 2 lbs. ground turkey
– 1/2 vidalia onion, minced
– 1/2 yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, minced
– 8 oz. tomato sauce
– 1/4 c. water
– Any kind of lettuce for the wraps – boston bibb works well, as does iceberg or romaine (seen here)

Taco Seasoning:
– 2 tsp. garlic powder
– 2 tsp. cumin
– 2 tsp. salt
– 2 tsp. paprika
– 1 tsp. chili powder
– 1 tsp. oregano

1. Mix ingredients for taco seasoning, adjusting to your preference (if you like it a little hotter, double the chili powder), and set aside.

2. Over medium high heat, brown the turkey. 

3. When turkey is brown, add taco seasoning and stir to combine.

4. Mince that bell pepper and the onion, add to the ground turkey, along with the tomato sauce. Add 1/4 c. of water and stir to combine well. Cover and simmer on low for approx. 25 minutes. 

5. Arrange your toppings, assemble, and bring a lot of napkins to the table – this is a messy one!

Ricotta, Apple, and Honey-stuffed Squash Blossoms

I love fall, and I love the Scranton Farmers’ Market.  The other day, I spotted these gorgeous little squash blossoms, tucked inside a little plastic bag:
  

Look at these guys!  Gorgeous. Making squash blossoms has always seemed pretty out of my league – they’re so delicate, and seemingly decadent. But I couldn’t resist.  I bought a bag, went home, and googled the trash out of “squash blossom recipes”.  The basic premise seemed simple enough – stuff them with something, then either deep fry, bake, or pan sear them.

Since I’d been alerted to the fact that it was Rosh Hashanah, and Brad and I have basically decided on combining our different religious backgrounds to include “traditions”, I thought I’d make him a little pan-seared squash blossom, stuffed with a filling of ricotta, apple, and honey (for a sweet new year). We could have eaten these for dessert instead of a side at dinner. They were savory, so pretty, and honestly, they looked like SO much more of an effort than they actually were to make. So here we go.


RICOTTA, APPLE, & HONEY-STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
* We had about 8 blossoms in total, but a normal person would probably have eaten 2, max, as a side to dinner

– Squash blossoms
– Good quality ricotta, approx. 2/3 cup
– 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg, or to taste
– 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
– 1/2 apple of your choice, microplaned (no skin)
– 2 tablespoons organic honey
– extra virgin olive oil (REAL olive oil, see this post for a heads-up on the olive oil you may have been consuming)

1. Be unable to walk by squash blossoms without thinking they’re so pretty, and then mentally talk yourself into the fact that you can cook with them.

oh, hello there!

2. Wash out the blossoms – gently. You can kind of ply them apart with the larger end of a chopstick. Just make sure any bugs, etc. are out of the blossom.


3. Gently snip out the center of the blossom, being careful not to make a hole in the bottom of the blossom, or tear the leaves.
that center part, the polleny-looking thing, has gots to go.
4. Combine the ricotta, honey, salt, nutmeg, and microplaned apple, stir to combine.  Add mixture to a plastic bag, snip a small corner off the bag. This is now your pastry bag, so you can insert the filling into the blossom more easily.

5. In a large saute pan, add a 1/4 inch of olive oil. Heat over medium high heat until hot.

6. Insert the filling into the squash blossoms. Twist the petals together so that the filling is securely enclosed.

7. Carefully add the squash blossoms to the pan, searing lightly (approx. 2 minutes). With a pair of tongs, flip the blossoms over so that all sides are cooked evenly. Some filling will fall out, but just keep turning them.

8. Serve alongside dinner (ours was Greek Yogurt Chicken and baked leeks). Have your non-practicing, but still tradition-sentimental, Jewish fiance think you’re the most thoughtful thing ever because you remembered his New Year.

Guacamole




So we’ve talked about my avocado obsession, right? I could eat them all day long. Not only are they delicious, but they’re so good for you, and there are a million articles about how they promote heart health, blood sugar regulation, even anti-cancer benefits! Also, according to this site,  the avocado is “colloquially known as the Alligator Pear, reflecting its shape and the leather-like appearance of its skin.”, which totally makes sense.  Ha. The Alligator Pear.

Anyway, this guacamole recipe is super easy and perfect with Pretzel Crisps, which we should basically buy stock in at this point, because we go through so many of them on a weekly basis.  It’s also a great topper for turkey tacos, which are up next.

GUACAMOLE
(serves 4 regular people, or 2 people who live in this house and really love guacamole)
Ingredients:
2 avocados
4-5 cherry tomatoes, seeded and diced 
1/4 of a large vidalia onion, diced
cilantro (approx. 2-3 tablespoons)
juice of 1 lime
kosher salt to taste

1. Peel and dice the avocados. I’ve found that an easy way to do this is right in the avocado half itself (see the dice in the avocado half in the picture above?).  Then just run a knife around the edge and the diced pieces should kind of just squeeze out into the bowl. Mash this gently with a fork.  As you add the other ingredients, the avocado will continue to get smoother, so it depends on how chunky you like your guac.


2. Add the lime juice (this will also prevent the avocado from browning) and the kosher salt, so the salt can kind of blend with the acid in the lime juice.

3. Add the diced tomato and onion (try to make these pieces the same size) and cilantro, mix everything together. Adjust seasonings and enjoy!


HHI

Brad and I just got back from a week in Hilton Head with my mom and dad, and we had a blast. My parents drove down, and B and I flew to meet them, so we had dinner the first night at The Olde Pink House in Savannah, Georgia. I am obsessed with the architecture in Savannah – it’s just such a cool, beautiful little city. 

I forgot about Southern Cooking, though.  At dinner I ordered what I thought was a simple southern fish dinner.  This is what they brought out:

omg.  I had two bites and then looked at Brad all, “I’m sorry. I just can’t.”  Luckily, he is more adventurous than I am, and so we swapped dinners. His duck crepes were delicious!

We had a great time in Hilton Head. Lots of golfing, bike rides, late dinners and cocktails on the patio. It was gorgeous weather the entire time, and I got to spend some serious QT with three of my most favorite people in the world.  How do you do better than that??
My parents, who are the cutest. Don’t let my mom’s diminutive size fool you. Apparently she’s a ringer (and a  serious trash-talker, at that) when it comes to the game cornhole, who knew!
Hilton Head Island
No trip would be complete for BAF without some lox.

Savannah

Fried Green Tomato “BLT”

Farmer’s Market Quinoa Salad

Incredibly, I have never been to the Scranton Farmers’ Market until this week.  Holy crow, have I been missing out. Gorgeous produce, cheeses, meats,even flowers (!), all from local farms and farmers.

There’s really nothing better, food-wise, than farmers’ markets – supporting your community while being able to find out about what you’re eating and where it came from. I picked up some corn, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and basil, and decided to use a mix of red and white quinoa as a base for this salad. We ate it that day, then took it to Frontier Days, where it was delicious even cold.  The honey-lemon vinaigrette seems odd in theory, but adds a dimension of sweetness that adds to the overall flavors – a feta creaminess, a basil crispness, etc. This is a great end-of-summer dish to use up whatever vegetables you find at the farmers’ market (or, okay, the supermarket).

SEPTEMBER QUINOA SALAD
Ingredients (serves 6-8 as a side dish)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed really well
1/4 c feta cheese, crumbled
3 ears corn, cut off the cob
2 tomatoes, diced
2 zucchini, seeds removed (just drag a spoon down the center after you cut them in half) and quartered
vidalia onion, sliced
basil, julienned
EVOO
2 garlic cloved, minced

Honey-Lemon Viniagrette:
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced 
kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Make the dressing – combine all the ingredients in a small mason jar, adding the honey last so the spices can absorb into the lemon juice. Shake it up and let it sit while you make the rest of the dish.
2. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if you want to make this completely vegetarian) to a boil. Rinse the quinoa really well – this is important, since the “dust” that collects on the outside of the quinoa is bitter and will ruin any dish you make if any of it remains. I have a really fine-woven strainer that I bought specifically for rinsing quinoa – otherwise it’s a total PITA trying to get the “dust” off it thoroughly.  Add quinoa to the boiling chicken broth, turn the heat down to medium low, and put a lid on it. Let cook until the broth is absorbed and the quinoa is soft and fluffy.
3. In a different saucepan, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon EVOO over medium high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the corn, zucchini, and onions, and a little salt/pepper.  Let cook about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the cooked quinoa and give it all a good stir.
4. Chop up 2 tomatoes, and add to the quinoa/veggie mixture.
 
Look at these Farmers’ Market tomatoes!!  Gorgeous.

4. Add feta, stir it all up so it gets melty and combines everything together nicely.  Then julienne some basil. 

Let’s julienne some basil!  First, clean some leaves, then make a little stack of them. Roll them tightly together like a cigar, then slice thinly from the top down to get perfectly ribboned basil. It’s kind of insane how amazing chopping basil makes your kitchen smell, every time.


5. Add dressing to the salad, mix well, then top with the julienned basil. Serve and enjoy.

Breakfast Burritos!

I’ve never been much of a breakfast person. I tend to subscribe to the ´╗┐whole “food doesn’t fit into a specific time slot” theory of eating, which basically means that if I’m craving pancakes, it’s usually for dinner, and whatever leftovers I have from the night before (especially pasta), it’s what’s for breakfast.  That said, I am completely obsessed with breakfast burritos. Not only are the healthy, versatile, and filling, but you can make a whole batch of them and freeze them, then nuke them individually for maybe 2 minutes and your breakfast is ready to go. For those people who love sleep and consequently are pretty hurried in the morning (me), these are a great timesaver, and a much better option than the sodium breakfast sandwiches available at just about any of the places you can stop at on your ride in to work.
HAM, ASPARAGUS, & CHEDDAR BREAKFAST BURRITOS
Ingredients (serving size can be whatever you want it to be – it’s usually 1.5 egg whites per burrito, and other ingredients to your desired filling, so this recipe made 8 burritos):
– Eggs
– Breakfast ham
– Vidalia onion, diced
– Asparagus, chopped
– Grated Cheddar
– Small whole-wheat wraps – don’t use the regular burrito size, because these will be enormous
– Butter, EVOO
– Kosher salt and pepper to taste

 1. Dice up 1 vidalia onion and maybe 1/2 a bunch of asparagus. Asparagus spears will naturally break off at the part of the stem that gets woody if you just bend it until it snaps.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When melted, add the asparagus and the onion, cook until soft. Remove from heat and transfer the asparagus/onion mixture to a plate.
3. Dice some breakfast ham, and add to the pan that the onions and asparagus were in. Cook until browned, then remove from heat and transfer ham to the plate with the asparagus/onion mixture.
´╗┐
4. Using that same pan, melt a small tab of butter and add eggs that have been whisked. I used mainly egg whites, maybe 1-2 egg yolks. Yolks are chock full of cholesterol, sure, but they mainly just gross me out. Scrambled eggs though – yummo! Once these are set, leave them in the pan but turn off the heat.
5. With your little assembly station ready (scrambled eggs, ham/onion/asparagus mixture, cheddar cheese, burritos), place one burrito on a flat surface, then add eggs, asparagus/ham/onions, and cheddar. I am pretty terrible at rolling burritos, so I can’t even tell you if this is where the ingredients are meant to be placed, or how to roll them well. I kind of just winged it, and they turned out fine, which means I’m sure you’ll be all set, too. 

6. Once you’ve rolled your burrito, roll it up in a paper towel (this will help it not get soggy when you microwave it, I find that Viva “choose-a-size” is perfect for smaller burritos), and then wrap that tightly in a piece of aluminum foil. Put the assembled, paper-toweled, foil-wrapped burritos in a freezer ziplock bag. 

When ready for breakfast, remove one of the burritos, remove the foil (as I learned from watching my babysitter when I was 6 microwave a hamburger still in foil, microwave + aluminum foil = bad news bears), and heat for 1 minute on one side, flip to the other side, and microwave for 1 minute more.

These are super tasty, and keep really well too. I thought that 1 burrito might be too little, but it ends up being a perfect breakfast portion for both me and Brad, which says enough!

Favorite. Salad. Ever.

One of Brad’s and my favorite restaurants in NEPA is the Summerhouse Grill, an amazing, farm-to-table restaurant in Montrose. The food is clean and fresh, it’s BYO, the space is cozy and adorable, and the 45 minute drive from Scranton is time well spent, especially for a date night. Last year, we went to a cooking class they hosted, and learned to make a salad that has been my go-to ever since.  The brightness of the lemon-coriander vinaigrette is balanced by the creaminess of the super-thinly sliced avocado and the peppery crunch of the paper-thin radishes. This was served as an accompaniment to Mexican food, but it really goes with anything. Have I mentioned how much I love avocados?  Because I really, really do.
MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH LEMON-CORIANDER VINAIGRETTE, AVOCADO, AND RADISHES
Ingredients:
Mixed Greens
1 Avocado
3-4 radishes
Dressing:
3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use California Olive Ranch olive oil, and only this brand, since reading this “hair-raising article on black market olive oil in the New Yorker that changed the mind-set of every cook who read it.” )
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Coriander
Kosher salt/pepper to taste
1.  Wash the greens, and then (surprisingly), add a teeny pinch of kosher salt to them. Lettuce is technically a vegetable, and should be dressed like one.
2. In a small bowl, squeeze 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I usually find that this is half of a lemon. Roll it out on a hard surface before cutting it, to loosen the lemon juice) and add to that the coriander, kosher salt, and pepper. 

3. Once you’ve added the spices to the lemon juice (since the ingredients will absorb into the acid better than the oil), whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil.

4. Verrrrrry thinly slice the radishes and the avocado. They should be paper thin – a microplaner will be able to accomplish this, but it usually just takes a couple practice runs and tossing out the thicker slices before you get it right.

5. Toss the greens with the salad, top with the radishes and the avocado. At the cooking class we went to, the folks at Summerhouse noted that the paper-thin slices “take this recipe from a salad to an event”, and I totally agree.