Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bob Harper's Roasted Cauliflower

I have never said "Oh boy! I really want some cauliflower tonight."  It has never been one of my favorite veggies, in fact, I am pretty sure this is the first time I have prepared cauliflower.  The recipe was from an episode of the Biggest Loser, and it looked good so I decided to give it a try.  I have to admit it was delicious and I will definitely be repeating this one.  The recipe really did not take a lot of time or effort and had a lot of flavor.  I added spinach because it was in my freezer and I always have to have something green on my plate.  I also did not have time to chop up garlic and skipped out on the fresh thyme because that would have meant a trip to the grocery store.  I used what I had on hand and it turned out great.

1 head of caulflower (cored and cut into florets)
2 tbs of olive oil
2 tbs of red wine vinegar (I think I used more than this.  I love red wine vinegar!)
8 oz frozen or fresh spinach (optional)
spice blend containing garlic (I used Mrs. Dash's garlic & herb)
salt & pepper to taste

1) Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Spread the cauliflower florets and spinach in a baking ban.
2) Drizzle the olive oil and red wine vinegar over the cauliflower and spinach mixture.
3) Sprinkle salt, pepper and spice blend over the veggies.
4) Roast for about 30 minutes until the cauliflower is soft.  

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two Crock Pot Recipes to Warm You Up!

Since the weather in Minnesota seems to be shifting to the cold side once again, I figure it is time to make use of my crock pot.  I love adding ingredients to the crock pot, leaving and coming home several hours later to a warm meal.  Most crock pot dishes also either freeze well or keep in the fridge for awhile.  During the last two weeks, I have made Greek Chicken and Crock Pot Smother Pepper Steak.

I had this Greek Chicken recipe at a friend's house a LONG time ago.  I believe it originally came from a Weight Watcher's cookbook.  I don't remember the recipe, but I did a little guess-work and it turned out great!

(3) boneless skinless chicken breasts
(8) oz frozen spinach
(1) 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with oregano, garlic and basil (add another can if you like a lot of broth)
(1) cup reduced sodium chicken broth
(1/2) cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
(1) can or (1) package of frozen artichokes
(1) diced yellow onion
(8) oz kalamata olives (optional, i skipped them)
cous-cous, orzo, or brown rice to serve it over (I used whole wheat cous-cous)
salt & pepper to taste

Now for the easy part--just empty the ingredients into the crock pot,  minus the salt & pepper.  Turn the crock pot to low and leave for 6 hours.  If you don't have six hours, start the crock pot on high for an hour and a half and then turn to low for two and half to three hours.  Before it is done, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Now for recipe #2.  I found this recipe connecting with another blogger.  I agreed to review a few recipes for the cookbook she is publishing.  This was the first one that I tried.  You can make it for under $10 and it goes a long ways!  I followed the recipe, however I added water chestnuts which were a great addition.  I am a little weary of canned vegetables, so next time I think I would use frozen green beans.  I served it with brown rice.  Check out the recipe here.  Pictures below!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cheddar and Jalapeno

I can't help but love twice baked potatoes.  The unity of cheese, sour cream and bacon and potato is delicious, however not very good for you.  I started searching the internet for a healthy take on twice baked potatoes, and this is what I came up with.  I found a variety of recipes using sweet potatoes.  Most of them missed the mark health-wise, but I got some ideas and guidance from Rachael Ray's recipe and also one from the Skinny Chef.

3 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup diced jalapenos
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese
sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional if you want a little more spice)
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbs unsalted butter

1)  Poke several holes with a fork in the skin of the potato and then bake the sweet potatoes for about 60-90 minutes at 325 degrees. 
2)  Remove potatoes from the oven, and let cool for a few minutes.  Cut the potatoes in half.  They will be hot, so be careful. 
3)  Scoop the potato out of the skins and discard in a small bowl.  I like to keep a towel or a cover on the bowl so the potato stays warm. 
4)  Once you have scooped out all of the potato, add the jalapeno, yogurt, cheese and butter into the bowl and stir until mixed well. I would use a potato masher or large fork.  Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Add the dash of cayenne pepper if you choose, mix well and then taste.  Add a little more if you like a little more spice, but be careful when adding cayenne pepper only adding a small amount at a time and then tasting. 

5) Scoop the potato back into the skin.  The potatoes can sit overnight in the fridge, and before you serve them, put them in an oven at about 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes.  

I am pleased with the way these turned out and will definitely do them again!  Next time, I think I might just skip the butter and add more Greek yogurt!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wonder no longer--the recipe I made was roast beet and feta gratin.

Beets--I think they are a love them or hate them kind of vegetable.  I happen to love them.  Maybe it is my Scandinavian heritage--I do have a tendency to like hardy vegetables (turnips, parsnips, rutabegas).  Anyways, beets are incredibly healthy containing calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium and folic acid.  Studies show they prevent heart diseases and colon cancer, and they also promote healing.  You can bake them, boil them, eat them right out of the can, put them in a salad or make roasted beet and feta gratin. The recipe is taken from Epicurious.

(3) medium sized beets
(3/4) cup Greek yogurt (the original recipe calls for heavy cream)
(2) fresh mint springs & 4 tbs chopped fresh mint
(1/2) cup feta cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1)  Trim the beets and roast them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 50 minutes in a baking pan.  Fill the pan with about 1/4 inch of water and cover tightly with foil.  When they are done, peel them and slice them (wait for them to cool a bit!)
2) In a small saucepan, bring the yogurt and mint springs to a boil.  Let sit for 15 minutes.
3) Butter a 1.5 qt casserole dish and layer the beets.  Sprinkle a little salt on each layer. Drizzle the warm yogurt over the beets.  Cover in feta cheese and the chopped mint.
4)  Bake in the over for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.  The beets are done when the feta cheese is golden brown.

* I would use more yogurt next time and more cheese and spread the mixture between the layers of beets.
* I would use crumbled goat cheese instead of feta cheese.  
*If your beets are larger, bake them a bit longer. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What did I cook?

A fantastic fall dish...

 ...that was easy to prepare and delicious.  Can you guess the ingredients?  Stay tuned for the recipe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greek Chicken

This recipe just might be one of my favorite meals!  It is quick, easy and delicious.

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts tenderized
3-4 cups of fresh spinach
4-5 Roma tomatoes cut into large chunks
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
Cavender's Greek Seasoning (or salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder)
3 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
optional incredients: 1 1/2 cups of artichoke hearts (canned or frozen), 1/8 cup of kalamata olives

1) Sprinkle each chicken breast with the Greek Seasoning.
2) Heat EVOO in a frying pan (that has a cover).  Add chicken breasts and cook for 5-6 minutes on one side.
3) Flip the chicken breasts over, and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Cover the chicken breasts in the spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, olives and feta.  Cover the pan and cook for another 4-5 minutes. 
4)  Serve the chicken breasts and spinach tomator mixture over brown rice, wild rice or rice pilaf.  The olive oil leftover at the bottom of the pan will also add a lot of flavor to the rice.

* If you use the artichokes, i would heat them for a minute in the microwave before adding them to the chicken so they get thoroughly heated. 
* If you love olives and are tempted to add more, beware that they do add a very intense flavor.  I find less is more with olives.
* You can add more of any of the ingredients really--I love adding a ton of spinach and tomatoes. 
* I love this recipe with fish instead of chicken.  Cod and walleye work really really for this recipe, you just have to cook it much less, 1-2 minutes per side.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Restaurant Review: Bradstreet Crafthouse

This week was restaurant week in the Twin Cities--so we decided to mark the occassion with a trip to the Bradstreet Crafthouse.  What is significant about Bradstreet, is they are not exactly known for their food, but their 19th Century Cocktails.

Food:  The menu designed specifically for restaurant week was $15 a person.  For an appetizer we had a choice of hummus with house bread or edamame.  We went with both--and neither was particularly special.  We also ordered polenta fries, which we could not resist.  They were excellant and came with a red pepper puree and an herb mixture for dipping. Our dining companions ordered ceviche and the flavor was nothing short of awesome with the combination of ginger and citrus.

For a main course, we shared a BLT and calamari.  The BLT was probably the best I have eaten--it was a large piece of pork belly, served on a crostini with a spinach mixture, tomato jam and a fried egg.  I would definitely go back for that BLT.  The calamari was also great--served unbreaded with cherry tomatoes, capers and shitake mushrooms, with a citrus/olive oil sauce.  

Dessert was probably my favorite course, which is pretty rare.  Dessert was served in a large shot glass, and consisted of moscato jelly on the bottom, a scope of vanilla ice cream, fresh raspberries, topped with real lime soda.  It was refreshing and very flavorful.  

Service:  Our waiter was knowledgable and helpful. Really--most of our questions were about the cocktail menu.  I was a little overwhelmed by it, and when I asked him what he thought of my potential choice, and he said it was a "must try" it made my decision much easier.  He also supplied our table with a couple of rounds of drinks on the house, which was a really nice touch and made me want to go back.  One drawback was one entree took forever to come, which was frustrating, but did not take away from the experience too much.

Prices:  The restaurant week menu was a great price and I have no complains there.  Looking at the rest of the menu-choices ranged between $6-$15 for a small plate, which really is not that bad.  Cocktails were $10 a piece, which may seem pricey, but when you look at the kind of alcohol they are serving (its not phillips or smirnoff), the ingredients in them, and presentation--it is not a bad price at all. 

Atmosphere:  I loved the atmopshere!  Low lighting, comfy booths, tasteful decor that was not over the top--It makes me want to go back for another date night. It felt effortlessly stylish, yet cozy at the same time. 

Cocktails:  I don't feel like I can adequately comment on the cocktails.  I had a Juliet & Romeo, which consisted of plymouth gin, mint, cucumber, lime and rose water.  It was refreshing and I would easily order one again, although it felt a little summery.  We had a small sample of a Southside, which is a mojito made with gin rather than rum.  I really liked that as well, and will look forward to making them next summer.  The reason I can't comment much on the cocktails is a lot of their best ones, are made with dark alcohol which I do not enjoy.  I will say that everyone definitely enjoyed the drinks.

So would I go back?  Probably not for dinner, although the food was awesome.  What I would go back for is a night cap and late night snack.  Bradstreet's focus is on the cocktails--and going there for dinner took away from that a bit.  I think the best way to enjoy Bradstreet is for a before dinner appetizer or an after dinner snack.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Money Saving Tip: Stocking Your Pantry and Freezer

If you are like me, you go into the grocery store for eggs and milk and come out with eggs, milk, frozen yogurt, a delicious looking cheese, a new kind of salsa you have never tried and maybe a bag of M&Ms.  I am definitely an impulse buyer at the grocery store, so the less I am there, the better. 

Often I find a recipe that I would really like to make, and a trip to the grocery store is required.  What is frustrating to me, is more often than not, it is an ingredient like chicken broth that should be in my pantry.  So what is the solution?  When I buy an item that I know I will need again, I buy a few of them.  When an item I use a lot is on sale or there is a coupon for it--I take advantage of it.  Now my freezer and pantry are stocked to the point where I can come up with a meal using what I have on hand, without going to the grocery store, saving me time and money.

Here are some items I like to keep on hand: boneless skinless chicken breasts, ground turkey, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, peanut butter, stir fry sauce, cereal, tomato sauce, pasta, rice, black beans, chili beans and tuna. 

You do not have to buy them all at once of course, but when you purchase something at the grocery store, think about how much you use it, and if it is frequently, you might want to buy a few and save yourself a later trip.  This is a great way to slowly stock your pantry and freezer.  It also eliminates a step to cooking, making it easier to avoid going out to eat or ordering take out. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pizza--the Quick, Healthy and Easy Version

Pizza is easily one of America's favorite foods.  We like it in all it's forms--delivery, frozen or at a pizzeria.  Most of these versions do not have the reputation of being healthy.  However, it does not have to be this way.  You can enjoy pizza in a healthy way very easily and quickly.  Most of the fat and extra calories in pizza comes from the meat and the cheese.  Here is a healthy way to enjoy pizza.
First--the cheese.  You do not have to pile on a lot of it to achieve the taste and texture of cheesy pizza.  A little actually goes a long ways.  I personally am not a fan of the really low calorie/low fat cheese because they melt funny.  However, mozzarella made with 2% milk actually melts pretty nicely, and you do not compromise on flavor either.  My rule of thumb with cheese is this--I put on just enough so it "covers" the pizza, yet you can still see what the toppings underneath are. You can see how I do it in the picture below (although that is a little sparse because I think it was the last of my mozzarella).  
Now for the meat--I love pepporoni and sausage pizza.  Neither pepporoni are good for you, so I substitute turkey pepporoni and the sausage with ground turkey spiced up with a little Italian Seasoning.  It works and I can hardly tell the difference.  My latest favorite is roast chicken.  I take a chicken breast, bake it in the oven with a little olive oil and Italian Seaoning, cut it up in small pieces and put it on the pizza. 
Veggies--I often use pizza as a reason to use up leftover veggies in the fridge.  Sliced tomatoes, quartered artichokes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini are some of my favorites.  I often sautee the peppers, mushrooms and zucchini  for a few minutes in olive oil before putting them on the pizza. The best part about the veggies is they give you some extra nutrients and a lot of flavor and they do not add a lot of calories.
Now for the quick and easy part--I confess that I am not a baker.  I really do not enjoy working with dough at all.  However, the Betty Crocker pizza mix is very easy to handle and I have never had an issue with it.  Follow the directions and you will end up with a great crust in a short amount of time. 
Now for my secret to great pizza--sauce! I love pizza sauce and a lot of it.  I do not make it homeade, but use the Contadina brand that squirts out of the bottle.  I am pretty liberal with the sauce because I love the flavor and I feel it makes up for using a smaller amount of cheese. That is my finished pizza--the crust is a little more thin than I usually make it. 
You can not really call this pizza from scratch because of the sauce and the dough, but it is quick, easy and healthier than most pizza options.  I can make a pizza in 20-30 minutes with cooking time included.  Delivery often takes longer than that and some frozen pizzas take 35 minutes to cook.  So my recommendation--keep some pizza making ingredients on hand and save yourself time, money and calories!