Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Garlic-Herb Focaccia Bread

Rating: 5 stars
Prep time: Super easy

I love focaccia bread, and actually used to make it pretty frequently before I got married. The recipe I used then was an authentic Italian focaccia recipe, and it was yummy, but it took about 4 hours to make and dried out after about a day. A few months ago, I realized there was no reason I couldn't use my all-purpose dough to make a light and fluffy—and much faster to make—focaccia. The other night I put the idea to the test, and it was delicious—including the leftovers! I will definitely be repeating this. It's also a pretty healthy snack, since it's loaded with healthy oils and spices.

1 clove garlic, finely minced
Olive oil
Rosemary, oregano, and basil
Grated parmesan
Coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 425. Grease cookie sheet. Make up one batch of pizza/breadstick dough according to recipe—you are aiming for a pretty soft dough here, so go easy on the flour. Knead minced garlic into bread dough. Coat dough with oil and let rise, covered, for about 15 minutes. Gently work dough onto greased cookie sheet, spreading evenly but not too thinly. Cover and let rise for another 20-30 minutes. Brush top of bread with olive oil; with fingers, press dimples into bread every 3-4 inches. Top with sea salt, rosemary, oregano, basil, and grated parmesan. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. (Note: the second time I made this, I cooked it on the second oven rack instead of the highest rack out of necessity. It actually ended up making a FABULOUS crunchy artisan bottom crust... I think I will do it on that rack from now on!) Let cool for a few minutes; cut into squares and enjoy!

Roasted Chickpeas

Rating: 5 stars
Prep time: Super easy (though the cooking process takes about 20-30 minutes)

I am always looking for healthy snacks that are high in protein and... oh yeah... taste good too. I found these roasted chickpeas on a few blos, and tried them this week—oh man, are they good!!! I told Mahon, "They taste like they shouldn't be healthy..." but they are. So indulge yourself! They are such an awesome combination of crunchy outside and creamy inside.

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (you can use a can; I personally get the dried beans and cook them)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
A generous sprinkle of your favorite seasonings

Preheat oven to 425-450 (if your chickpeas are very soft, the higher setting will work better). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a bowl, toss the chickpeas, olive oil, and seasonings together (I've been using my Creole seasoning again and LOVING it on these, but I plan to try different things as well—I have even seen some done with cinnamon sugar!). Spread coated chickpeas onto pan, making sure that they are not on top of each other. Bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets and how crunchy you want them, stirring occasionally. I usually will put them in for 10-15 minutes, stir them, and then check them in 5 minute increments after that so that they don't burn. I take them out when they no longer feel soft and squishy to the touch, and when my "test chickpea" tastes a bit crunchy on the outside. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Green Smoothies

Rating: 5 stars—even my super picky sister likes these
Prep time: Easy

This is not so much a recipe as a method. Really, you can use any combination of greens/fruits that suits your fancy; you can also add sugar (although that would totally kill the nutrition factor), honey, agave, or another sweetener if you so desire. For me, the 100% OJ concentrate, plus the banana, sweetens it up just fine. This is the smoothie that I make every morning; it yields 4 cups.

Here are the steps:

1. Fill blender with 1 1/2 cups warm water
2. Add fresh greens in until blender is almost all the way full (but not packed)—I alternate using baby spinach and spring mix salad right now
3. Peel and chop one medium carrot; put chopped carrot on top of greens
4. Pulse in blender until carrots are somewhat chopped up; then allow to blend on highest setting for 1-2 minutes, or until you can't see anymore leafy bits and it's all liquified. (My blender is really enthusiastic and tends to throw stuff up onto the sides while it's blending, which leaves me with a lot of carrots and spinach chunks... not what I want to be eating with my smoothie! While the blender is going, I'll usually take a spoon and scrape down the sides so that all the chunks get integrated.)
5. Turn the blender off. Add in 1/2 banana (fresh or frozen), 1-2 Tbsp 100% orange juice concentrate, a handful of frozen strawberries (I probably do about 6-8 strawberries), and some frozen blueberries (I probably do about 1/4-1/3 cup blueberries). Pulse blender again to get the big chunks broken up, then blend on highest setting for another minute until smooth. If the smoothie gets too thick to blend, add in another tablespoon or two of hot water, stir it up, and blend it again. When it's done, I usually taste it to see if it needs something else—more OJ, fruit, etc.

Like I said, this can be done with any combination of fruit. I use the berries and banana because they are a) cheap and b) very flavorful, and make a great balance to the spinach. I know my mom sometimes puts apples in hers, but apples are a precious resource in our house and aren't getting wasted on any old smoothie! When peaches & pears are in season, though, I plan to add some of those in as well.

One last note—I do my grocery shopping every 2 weeks, which means it's hard to keep all the fresh stuff fresh. At the beginning of my grocery period, I will pull out some of my fresh spinach and put it into ziploc bags to freeze for the end of the grocery period, when the spinach tends to get wilty. Also, I will usually get about 7 bananas, enough for 2 weeks worth of smoothies. For the first week, I'll use half of a fresh banana every day, and freeze the other half... then when the second week rolls around (when the bananas would be brown), I use the frozen halves.

Lemon Cream Pasta with Rosemary Grilled Chicken

Rating: 5 stars
Prep Time: Easy (and fast!)
Source: YourHomebasedMom.com

Man, this pasta dish is good! The original name is actually—I kid you not—"Really Good Noodles & Chicken," but I wanted to call it something that actually describes what's in it. This cooks in about the amount of time that it takes to boil your spaghetti! The original recipe also has tomatoes and bacon in it, but we didn't have any. I also adapted this to be cooked entirely by stovetop, since we have NOT been having grilling weather!

8 oz spaghetti
1/2 cup cream
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 chicken breasts, thawed and patted dry
Olive oil
A little more lemon juice

Boil salted water for pasta. On another burner, heat (empty) skillet over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of chicken breasts with olive oil. On one side, sprinkle black pepper, salt, and dried rosemary. When skillet is hot (really hot—it will start smoking slightly), place chicken breasts in pan. (I recommend covering them with a lid as well unless you want to set off your fire alarm.) Cook about 5-7 minutes or until very brown; flip breasts over with tongs and cook 5-7 minutes on other side. Once chicken is thoroughly grilled, remove from pan onto cutting board. Lightly pour lemon juice over hot chicken breast; slice into long strips and tent with foil until ready to use. 

Once pasta is almost done, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook for a few minutes until lightly browned and softened. Add cream, salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or two until bubbly. Add in pasta and parmesan cheese. Serve, topped with chicken and more parmesan cheese (and bacon and tomatoes if you so desire).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tres Leche Cake

Rating: 5 amazing stars
Prep time: Medium
Source: The Pioneer Woman (slightly altered by me)

We will be serving this at birthdays, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and every other place we can think of for the rest of our lives. Period.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

1 pint heavy cream (I just used what was rest after subtracting that 1/4, and it was plenty)
1 1/2 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray 9x13 cake pan. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Separate eggs. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed, until yolks are thick and pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour yolk mixture over flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.  

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Continue to mix while pouring in remaning 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold egg white mixture into batter very gently until just combined. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. (The original recipe says to bake 35 minutes minimum, but I did that and my edges were definitely overcooked. Next time I would start checking at 25 minutes.) Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter (or, if you are ghetto like me, a rimmed cookie sheet!) and allow to cool completely. The cake will not be as thick as a normal cake—this freaked me out at first, but once it was iced with lots of whipped cream, I decided it was actually a good cake-to-whipped-cream ratio. However, if I wanted to serve more than 12 people, I would probably do 1.5 times this recipe to make a thicker cake.

When cake is cool, combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Pierce surface of cake with fork several times. Slowly drizzle ALL of the liquid onto the cake—I stopped too soon last time, and the middle of my cake was too dry. This cake can hold a LOT more liquid than you think it can! Next time I will saturate the cake in installments... drizzle some liquid, wait 10 minutes, do some more, wait 10 minutes, etc. That way it can all soak in. (Note: the Pioneer Woman's recipe says to discard 1 cup of the liquid, but that offends my miserly sensibilities, so I just subtracted 1 cup of the liquid to begin with.) Cover cake with plastic wrap and chill until you are almost ready to serve it (at least 30 minutes). Don't ice it until you're ready to serve it—that way the cake won't absorb the whipped cream frosting.

To ice the cake, place remaining whipping cream in mixer with 1.5 T sugar and beat on high speed until very thick and fluffy. Spread generously over top and sides of cake. Top cake with maraschino cherries (a la the Pioneer Woman) or chopped strawberries (our preference!). Try not to eat the whole thing! This cake yielded 12 slices for us.

Southwest Eggrolls

Rating: 5 stars
Prep Time: Medium

These Southwest Eggrolls are a lot like the ones you get from Chili's.

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
1 can (or equivalent) black beans
1 can (or equivalent) corn
2 large chicken breasts, boiled and cubed
2-3 generous handfuls fresh baby spinach (or 1 package frozen)
1 package won ton wrappers OR soft taco size flour tortillas (if you do tortillas, you will need toothpicks as well)
Spices (see below)
Vegetable oil for frying

In a large skillet (and I really do mean large!), sautee onions and peppers in butter until lightly browned and tender. Add beans, corn, chicken, and spinach. Season to tase—I use Emeril's seasoning blend, which according to this recipe has paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, oregano, and thyme. Cook on medium-high heat until all ingredients are hot and spinach (if fresh) is moist and wilted. Remove mix from heat. In skillet (I usually empty the filling into a bowl, rinse the skillet, and reuse it) heat vegetable oil with your stove set to just above medium heat. You want enough oil so that it will cover at least 1/2 of your wrapped eggrolls. (Oil will pop a lot when it is ready to use.) While oil is heating, fill won ton wrappers or tortillas with filling. Won ton package will tell you how to seal the wrappers; if you are filling tortillas instead, use toothpicks to keep them closed. Once oil is hot, place sealed eggrolls in skillet. Fry until lightly browned on each side; remove with tongs and let drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.

Serve hot. For a dip, mix equal parts Ranch dressing and salsa. Enjoy—these are seriously addicting!