Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

We are always looking for ways to get more veggies into our kids, and noodle form is one of the easiest.  It's hard to pick things out of noodles, and when you say "spaghetti" in any sentence, there is an automatic acceptance.  Kind of like in Chinese restaurants as a kid, when I would hear the waitresses describe potstickers to other customers as "Chinese hamburgers,"  not that any of my kids or anyone in my family has ever had any problem devouring potstickers, Chinese dumplings, or any other form of "Chinese hamburger." I'm not sure I want to divulge the total number of dumplings that I or either of my siblings can eat in one sitting. I'm also fairly certain that my husband had a certain minimum number that he also had to consume in one sitting in order to be considered "suitable for marriage." But I digress... this is about spaghetti squash and fake, yummy noodles.
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara Trio
I wanted to keep this meal high in nutrients, but still get a nice huge plate of noodles.  Enter player 1: spaghetti squash.  I also a trusty zucchini on hand, so enter player 2. I love zucchini noodles, and strongly feel that we have not yet, as a society, explored the extent of their possibilities. And, I also like to add at least some pasta to trick my brain into thinking it's all pasta.  Plus, it's easier on the kids who can sometimes be suspicious of a plate of just zucchini noodles, and what's one more pot.  If you want to simplify things, leave out one of the noodles, but we enjoyed the trio.

1 spaghetti squash
1/2 package whole wheat spaghetti noodles
1 small zucchini
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
salt and pepper
1/4 c feta cheese (or parmesan cheese)
4 oz cubed pancetta, or 6 slices turkey bacon, cooked and chopped
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and bake with rind side up in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides with a fork and set aside.  In the meantime, boil lightly salted water and cook the spaghetti noodles.  Drain, reserving a cup or two of the pasta water. Using a lemon zester, zest the entire zucchini so that it also is noodle-like in appearance.  Set aside.  Break two eggs into a bowl, and whisk with a fork.  Add half of the feta or parmesan cheese.

In a large saute pan or wok on medium high heat, cook the pancetta until crispy.  Add garlic once the pancetta starts to sizzle. Add the zucchini noodles, followed by the cooked spaghetti noodles.  Salt and pepper to taste. Stir, and then add spaghetti squash.  Once everything is hot, turn the heat off and add the egg mixture, stirring and tossing constantly so that the eggs don't scramble. Tongs are great for this.  Add in the parsley or cilantro, and the rest of the cheese, and serve immediately.

Please leave any comments or suggestions!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chicken Marbella and Amazing Salad Dressing

We had been looking forward to making this recipe for weeks.  Ever since Claire brought a little sample over one night, it's been on our list.  We just had to wait until the weather got a little colder and the grill seemed less inviting.  Don't let the classic Claire/Laura conundrum (Italian parsley or cilantro?) hold you back.  It's good with either!
Served with a side of sweet potatoes and green brown rice.
Chicken Marbella
Don't shy away from the list of ingredients. They might seem like an odd combination, but the capers, olives, and prunes in this dish combine perfectly and will make your mouth water.  The overnight marinade is essential as it lets all the flavors meld together, and adds moisture to the chicken.  Claire likes to marinade the chicken in 2 large Ziploc bags to keep the strong garlic flavor (it's a whole head, not just a clove!) from infusing everything in her refrigerator. To facilitate peeling a whole head's worth of garlic, I suggest smashing the individual cloves with a heavy can or the side of a knife.  Peel away the skin, and toss the garlic into the marinade.   

The original recipe, from the Silver Palate Cookbook, calls for 4 whole chickens (2 1/2 lbs each), but we used 2 slightly larger chickens with the same amount of marinade.  It was nice to have a little of the marinade to ladle over rice or pasta. The olives and capers make a robust brine, without being overpoweringly salty.  The recipe makes enough for a dinner party, a second (or third) meal, or enough for 2 families to share. I sliced one of the chicken breasts up the next day for a delicious sandwich.

1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1 c pitted prunes
1/2 c pitted Spanish olives with juice
1/2 c capers with juice
6 bay leaves
1 head garlic (peeled)
1/4 c dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 chickens cut into pieces, bone in and skin on  (or 10-12 chicken breasts with bone in skin on)

1 c brown sugar
1 c dry white wine (or madeira wine)
1/4 c fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro

Combine olive oil, vinegar, prunes, capers, bay leaves, garlic oregano,salt and pepper.  Divide in half and pour into 2 Ziploc bags.  Marinate 24-48 hours. (Don't skip this!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange chicken in a single layer in 1-2 pans, and sprinkle each piece of chicken with brown sugar.  (Or drizzle with honey.) Pour in white wine. Bake for 55-60 minutes, basting with pan juices.  With slotted spoon transfer chicken, olives, prunes and capers  to serving platter.  Pour 2-3 spoonfuls of pan juice over top to moisten.  Sprinkle generously with chopped cilantro and or parsley, and serve with Green Rice or rice pilaf.

Amazing Vinaigrette
It's just salad dressing.  How can there possibly be anything amazing about it?  Maybe it's good, but amazing?  Claire did a little research and came up with this recipe, and let me tell you, it is amazing.  It's made in the blender with vegetable oil instead of olive oil, and it stays emulsified for days, no shaking, rattling, or rolling. I still have my batch from 5 days ago, and it's still blended. It's also creamy and a little bit sweet.  My kids have been asking for it over ranch dressing.  Consider adding a little bit of water if you like a thinner consistency. It still works. Claire served hers with arugula, spinach, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and homemade croutons.  I just served mine with homemade whole wheat croutons.

1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp honey (to taste)
1/2 c vegetable oil

Blend together on high speed garlic, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, and vinegar for 1-2 minutes.  Slowly drizzle in vegetable oil, and continue to blend on high for 2 minutes.  It will become thick and creamy.  Store in fridge. 

Tell us if you try anything and leave us a comment!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bread with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

We made a double recipe and got 2 regular sized loafs and 2 mini loafs, which would have been good for giving away, except that we ate it all.  It did not last long.

 1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking powder

6 T butter, softened (3/4 stick)
1 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree

Whisk dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and mix until light in color, about 3-4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, and incorporate fully. Mix the pumpkin puree and vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture a little bit at a time, at a low speed.  Grease loaf pans generously. Divide into1 large loaf pan (8 inch) and 1 small mini-loaf pan (4 inch). Bake at 350 for 1 hour for the large loaf. The smaller loaf should be done after about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven for a few minutes, and then remove from pan and let cool before frosting with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, below.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 x 8 oz package of cream cheese
1/2 c honey
1 T cinnamon

In a medium mixing bowl, whip above ingredients together. Frost pumpkin loaves and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Please leave a comment and let us know how long it took before the whole loaf was gobbled up.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pan-seared Tilapia, Green Brown Rice, and Death By Kale

Claire is reluctant to cook fish in her house, so I've been easing her into it at my house.  Fish is wonderfully easy and quick, and oh by the way, healthy too. These tilapia fillets take no time at all.  I buy them in bulk and freeze 2-3 fillets in a freezer bag.  We had this for lunch with Green Brown Rice and about 2/3 bag of Death by Kale between the two of us. More on that below...

With Lemon Chive Dressing drizzled on top...
Pan-seared Tilapia Fillets
It's distressing how easy these are to make.  You can leave off the dressing and just use a squeeze of fresh lemon if you want.  I like to add a few herbs and salt to the flour/breadcrumb mixture. Tilapia is nice because its firmer flesh holds up well in the frying pan, and its milder taste is easy on pickier palates. My twins refer to all fish as "Nemo."  You would think that this would mean that they don't like fish, but you would be wrong.  They scream, "Bite! Nemo! Bite! Nemo!" which means "Give me another bite of fish as soon as possible because my mouth is empty and I am starving to death." It almost seems cannabalistic, but then I remind myself that Nemo is a cartoon fish. Bite away, kids.

2-3 fillets of tilapia
1/2 c whole wheat flour or whole wheat breadcrumbs or both
pinch of herbs (thyme, dill, parsley, sage)
1/2 tsp salt
2 T olive oil

Mix the flour/breadcrumbs, herbs, and salt in a shallow bowl or plate. Lightly coat the tilapia fillets with 1 T olive oil, and dredge in flour/herb mixture on both sides. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Place tilapia fillets topside down in the pan on medium-high heat. Once they are golden brown, flip gently to sear the other side. Serve once tilapia is flaky and done. (Cooking time will vary depending on thickness of fillet.)

These fillets are actually huge, and will serve 2. Unless you want seconds.

Lemon Chive Dressing
A version of this was originally posted with my steelhead recipe, but this one has no sugar and I made a few other adjustments. Thanks to Diane Morgan for her original version of this wonderfully versatile sauce that works well on fish, veggies, and salad, too. Add a little water if you are going to use this for salad dressing.

2 T olive oil
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice with zest
1/2 tsp salt
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
2 T minced chives

Whisk together all ingredients except the chives. Stir in the chives and drizzle over tilapia, above.

Green Brown Rice
This was originally posted as Green Rice on our very first post, but this is a slightly different version with brown long grain rice.  You will not believe how fragrant this rice is. And what a great way to get your kids to eat more green stuff. I had some leeks to use up, so I substituted them for the green onions.  I also had 1/2 c pureed cauliflower, so I threw that in- totally optional if you happen to have steamed pureed cauliflower sitting around.

6 cups cooked brown rice
1 leek, chopped (or 3 green onions)
1/2 c basil leaves
1 1/2 c spinach
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c chicken or vegetable stock

In a blender or food processor, puree all ingredients except cooked rice.  Fold into the warm rice until the rice is coated evenly. Serve warm.

Death By Kale
You might think kale is a garnish, but I haven't been able to stop eating kale since I made up this little gem.  I've been getting the prewashed 10 ounce bags of kale at Trader Joe's, and am working on my 3rd bag in less than 2 weeks. (We did make some kale chips with 1/2 bag.)  I even had this particular dish with some scrambled eggs one morning, and I fear I may be the first to experience Death By Kale, if that is possible.  I think it's the lemon and the salt that keeps me coming back. Pucker up, Nicole- you're going to love it.

6 cups of washed kale, coarsely chopped with most of the large ribs removed
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (at least 3 T juice)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or wok. Add garlic once the oil is hot enough to make it sizzle.  Add the kale (it will cook down more than you would guess). Sprinkle salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Add lemon juice. Continue to saute until the kale has cooked down and the leaves are tender. Enjoy.

Please leave us a comment, especially if you know of anyone that has ever died from eating too much kale.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lamb Pitas with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

This is a great recipe combo because the next night, you can use up the leftover lamb in pasta.  I actually had a difficult time finding ground lamb this time of year, so we mixed the lamb with beef and turkey.  This also helped in making the lamb a little easier to take for palates that are not used to the lamb flavor.
Tell me that doesn't make your mouth water a little bit.
Lamb Pita
These are so fresh and delicious. The cucumber yogurt sauce really makes it come together.  Kids also love building their own- be prepared for a little bit of mess!  This recipe is enough to feed 4 with leftovers for the pasta the next night. Adapted from

2 lbs ground meat (lamb, beef, or turkey)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 c chopped spinach (optional)

Add 1/2 tsp olive oil to large saute pan.  Once heated, add onion and garlic.  Saute until onions are soft. Add meat and spices, and cook until browned. Stir in spinach, and take off the heat once it wilts. Serve in pitas with yogurt sauce, thick sliced tomato, and red pepper strips.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
The lemon juice and lemon zest is the secret to making this sauce taste wonderfully fresh.

1 cucumber, peeled and grated
2 small handfuls of finely chopped spinach
1/2 large handful of chopped parsley
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
salt to taste
1/2 tsp dried mint (or 3-4 leaves of fresh mint if available)
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Mix all ingredients together and serve on pita sandwiches.

Greek Pasta with Lamb
This was so easy to make, yet so flavorful. Since the ground lamb mixture was already done, I was able to prepare the veggies while the pasta was boiling, and then just toss everything together in less than 20 minutes.  I served it with a huge fresh salad.

1/2 package of spaghetti noodles (whole wheat if you have it)
ground lamb mixture (precooked from above meal)
2 T balsamic vinegar
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 c grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, shredded or zested into noodles (optional)
1 cup chopped spinach (optional)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Cook pasta as directed, and drain. While the pasta is cooking, reheat the lamb in a large saute pan.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the ground lamb. Add the vegetables, saving the tomatoes and spinach for last. (Consider adding 1/4 cup of chicken stock or pasta water if the pasta seems dry.) Once the zucchini noodles are tender, take the noodles off the heat.  Serve immediately, with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Please leave any comments or suggestions!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Balsamic Apple Glazed Pork Chops and Savory Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes

Fall is here, and with fall comes anything orange and apples. And soups.  Stay tuned for more soups.  Claire and I had been off for a couple of weeks, so we were so glad to get back together for some major kitchen trashing. This session, we actually made several meals, but they'll be posted separately for ease.  Many of our earlier recipes are bunched together by cooking session, which was fun but harder to reference. Hope you like the shortened, but hopefully slightly more frequent posts.

Balsamic Apple Glazed Pork Chops
We changed this recipe a little so that there was no sugar added.  Another version calls for cherry jam- stay tuned.  It turned out wonderfully, and was well-received by our families.  I served them with the Savory Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes, below, and a side of broccoli. The broccoli was stir-fried with olive oil and a clove of chopped garlic. You could steam it, but the garlic is so good and rounds out the sweetness on the plate.

6-8 pork chops
1/2 onion, diced
1 large apple, finely diced
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1/3 c honey
1 T soy sauce
1 T grainy mustard
3/4 c water
1-2 T cornstarch

Pan sear pork chops on both sides and let rest in a 9x13 oven-safe baking pan.  Saute onion and apple in the pan used for the pork chops, then add balsamic vinegar, honey, and soy sauce.  Let cook about 2 minutes.  Add mustard.  In a separate bowl or cup, mix water and cornstarch together (so that you won't get lumps), and pour into the saucepan.  Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for another couple of minutes.  Pour over pork chops. Bake and 350 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes, depending on thickness of pork, until the internal temperature reaches 150-160 degrees. 

Savory Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
This is an original recipe from Claire. After making this, we came up with several additional variations, including one with caramelized onions and smoked bacon bits, but this is the original version.  Don't leave out the parmesan cheese, as it adds a depth of flavor to the sweet potatoes.

3-4 sweet potatoes
1/3 c nonfat Greek yogurt for every 2 potatoes
1 scallion, chopped
2 T parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1-2 slices of prosciutto, bacon, or turkey bacon, crisped and chopped

Bake sweet potatoes unwrapped for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Split lengthwise down the middle and scoop out the insides. Reserve the skins. Mix shelled out sweet potatoes with Greek yogurt, scallions, parmesan cheese, and salt to taste- but don't forget you're adding salt with the bacon/prosciutto.  Spoon mixture back into skins and sprinkle bacon/prosciutto on top. Put back in oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, uncovered.

Please leave us a comment!