Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crispy Sesame Tofu over Chinese Stir Fried Vegis & Brown Rice

Cringing is not welcome as we discuss my latest recipe- see title. Yes, tofu. FYI Paula Deen ate AND LOVED one of the contestant's tofu dishes on the Next Food Network Star last week, so if the butter pork queen can like it, so can you. I love tofu, it is obviously flavorless, & only as good as the marinade you cook it in, or method of cooking you choose. Extra-firm tofu is best for cooking it, assuming you want to keep a shape (cubed, spears...), & silken tofu is great for pureeing into soup, smoothies, dressings- it is a great, LIGHT substitute to mayo or yogurt in the above items.

The most important tip is to weigh down the tofu block to get the excess water out for a few hours. Using the tofu straight from the box is a mistake - it will be very spongy. Place the tofu block in between 2 dinner plates in the sink. Then weigh it down with whatever you have. I put a few plums (or any round fruit- lemon, orange, etc.) in a glass measuring cup, in a 4 qt. pot and put that on top of the plates. It should sit a few hours (the whole thing can be in the fridge if you want, just be careful when taking it out because there will be a lot of water on the plate). When you are ready, spill out the water and you are now ready to work with the tofu. I use tofu as a main dish when I am craving something light yet still filling. My brother makes tofu rectangles with bbq sauce and bakes in the oven. Any glaze or marinade would be great. However, in this recipe, I use the tofu as I would chicken and dredge it in flour for a take on sesame chicken, so to speak.

-Prepare brown rice according to bag's directions

-Place the tofu on a cutting board and cut horizontally, splitting the tofu open- now you have 2 slabs. Then cut down each 4 or 5 times, leaving you with 5 or 6 pieces, and then cut each of those in half. If you lost me, just make any shape you want. For this recipe I like short spears, easiest to work with.

-Put 3 tbsp. flour on a plate, and season with garlic salt & 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (putting the sesame seeds in the flour really imparts flavor into the tofu) & toss

-Coat each piece of tofu in the flour, & heat a tbsp. or 2 of canola oil in a large saute pan. When the oil is hot, add the tofu & cook 4-5 min per side until crispy and golden brown, then flip each piece. When they're done, place on a paper towel lined plate & set aside.

-Using the same pan, saute 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots, both sliced on the bias (diagonally). If the pan is dry, add a little oil. Saute a few minutes before adding red, yellow, & orange pepper, thinly sliced. Saute another few minutes & then add snow peas.

-Dissolve roughly a tbsp. of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of Trader Joe's Island Soyaki (it's basically their regular soyaki sauce with pineapple juice- it's soooo delicious. I try to steer clear from buying bbq sauces or marinades that have high fructose corn syrup, I personally don't see the point. So I keep some staple sauces in the pantry for when I decide I am too lazy to make my own sauce. My favorites: TJ Soyaki & Island Soyaki; Kraft Bull's-Eye BBQ sauces...)

-Pour the sauce over the vegetables, add more sesame seeds if you want, and let thicken.

-Make your bowl: rice, top with vegis (you can add any other vegis you want- mushrooms, baby corn, onions...), and then the tofu. Sprinkle chopped scallions over the top. Get everything in one bite! The tofu comes out crispy and the sauce from the vegetables really flavors the tofu even though the tofu itself is not drenched in sauce.

I highly encourage all you tofu skeptics to give it a serious try!!!!!! Seconds & thirds are welcome :-)


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Salmon & Farro...

...2 things that go great together.. apparently! It was my first time trying farro FINALLY- it's been a feat to find but alas, thanks to Gourmet Glatt, it is finally in stock. My friend Michal has been talking about farro for a long time and I've been trying to get a hold of it but obviously Florida is more advanced than NY in that department! :-)

With my farro (which I had absolutely no idea what I was gonna do with it), I decided to make wild salmon filet. I usually make my salmon with the same simple ingredients because I don't like to over think things with fish and my mantra for it is less is best. I may have posted a similar recipe for salmon before, though I can't remember and frankly am too lazy to search through the archives of my blog! But nevertheless, it may be slightly different as I tried a few new things.

As far as the farro goes, the entire thing was literally a whim. I followed the directions on the package, which I found worked wonders- it said to let boil for 15 minutes versus a recipe I found online which said to boil (the same amount) for 45 minutes- after 15-20 minutes the farro was really nicely done, I can imagine it would have been like mush after 45. So I'm glad I trusted the bag. Farro- it's a grain... wheat... protein. It's very similar to wheatberries (which I posted about in the beginning of my blogging days), but requires a shorter cook time. Like rice or couscous, it's basically a blank canvas. So I opened my fridge and the first 2 things I saw were a package of peeled and cut up butternut squash, and a container of blueberries... ??? ... blueberries in a rice-like dish? YES! I decided that I would make it work. As you already know from previous recipes, I am a huge fan of putting sweet in my savory (I never tried putting savory in my sweet though- hmmm food for thought!)- fruit in salad, preserves in chicken dishes, etc. It usually works out to my advantage, and I was really happy with the result this time!

Garlic Rubbed Maple Dijon Salmon
-large filet of salmon big enough for 2 people (or 2 regular sized portions)
-2 cloves of garlic
-sprig of dill
-juice of 1/2 a lemon
-3 tbsp. dijon mustard
-3 tbsp. REAL maple syrup (NOTTTT Aunt Jemima's pancake syrup!!!)- [try TJ or Target for the best prices]
-spoonful of roughly chopped capers

-preheat the oven to 425. Season the salmon with salt & fresh cracked lemon pepper
-grate the garlic cloves on a microplane and rub into the fish (yes with your hands)
-combine the dijon, lemon, and maple and then pour over the fish (you can leave a little leftover to drizzle/baste on during the last few minutes of cooking time if you want)
-sprinkle with chopped dill & the capers.
-cut the lemon half in pieces and place  in the baking dish
-bake for 20 minutes until flakes off easily but do NOT overcook- dry salmon, well, really sucks!
-when it's done, sprinkle with more fresh dill

Farro with Roasted Butternut Squash & Blueberries
-1 cup butternut squash, cut into small cubes.
-1 large shallot, finely chopped
-1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
-handful of blueberries
-3 basil leaves, chiffonade

-Roast on a baking sheet seasoned with olive oil salt and pepper for about 20 minutes (do this preferably before preparing the fish, at 450 degrees. Cut the cubes bite size, easier to eat, and easier to roast faster). Broil on low for a few minutes if you don't want to wait long but make sure it's well coated with olive oil or olive oil spray so they don't burn.
-Prepare the farro as per the bags instructions, drizzle with olive oil when it's done, and season with salt (I like to salt the water too)
-Saute the shallot with a little salt and sugar, and add to the farro with the butternut squash when it's done
-Drizzle in the balsamic, add the basil & top with blueberries

Don't let the blueberries scare you- they totally go!



Friday, June 24, 2011

Chicken & Wine... x2

Anyone who knows me, knows that I can not tolerate wine.. beer.. alcohol of any kind. I've tried. FAIL. Last night Avi even tried to teach me how to "like" wine- and as good as it looks in the glass, my face is not so pretty when I drink it. I just can't help it! At my wedding, the photographer caught a priceless picture of my face drinking the wine at Sheva Brachos. Anyways, my first stint of cooking with wine was a few months back, and I completely forgot to blog it until today, when I made a different wine chicken dish. Hence I will post both today, one simpler than the other. The first chicken dish I made with bone-in chicken legs and thighs & white wine (I forgot exactly which kind, but in the liquor store- first time ever(!!) I asked for a white wine that would be good for cooking and took what I was given), and the second with skinless boneless chicken breasts & red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon). The inspiration for my own journey with cooking with wine was from a chicken marsala that I ordered at Off the Grill (I believe it was there). So as an extremely wine-uneducated individual, when I sought out to make my own chicken marsala... with white wine, my friend Tzivie so kindly let me down easy by letting me know that marsala is red. Oh well, what do I know. I still decided to go for the white wine, so I can't technically call my dish chicken marsala but it was still damn good!

NOTE: Dijon mustard (i.e. my favorite- Grey Poupon) is NOT the same as honey mustard (i.e. French's)

Dijon Chicken with White Wine & Mushrooms
For the chicken:
-8 pieces bone-in chicken (thighs & legs)
-Dijon mustard
-1/4 cup flour
-Zest of 1 lemon
-salt and pepper
-Dried Italian seasoning
-1 sprig fresh thyme
-Olive oil

-Heat a layer of olive oil in a large saute pan
-Add salt, pepper, 1/2 the zest, italian seasoning, and the chopped fresh thyme to the flour on a plate
-Brush each piece of chicken with dijon (you can take the skin off but I think it's better with, even though the skin ends up coming off anyway) & then dip in the flour herb mixture
-Once the oil is hot (test it out first), add the chicken skin side down. Sear just a few minutes on each side (until skin is lightly golden brown)- the goal isn't to completely cook it here. Just to get a nice sear and color. About 4-5 minutes per side, more or less.
-Transfer to a plate & preheat the oven to 400

-1 large onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-10 ounce container sliced mushrooms (I used sliced baby bellas)
-3/4 cup white wine
-1 cup low-sodium broth (I used TJ's Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth; Imagine makes Kosher vegi broth and chicken broth as well)
-1 tbsp. dijon mustard
-1 lemon, sliced
-2 sprigs of thyme

-Saute the onions in olive oil on medium high heat in the same saute pan. Once translucent, add the minced garlic, season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and saute until softened.
-De-glaze the pan with the wine, stir over high heat and let come to boil, about 2 minutes. Then add the broth & dijon. You don't need to cook the wine for that long on the stove because it will finish cooking in the oven.
-Add the lemon slices, and the thyme, & add the chicken back to the pan. Make sure you are using an oven safe saute pan.
-Cover tightly with foil & cook for 20 minutes.
-When the chicken is done, you can thicken the sauce with flour or cornstarch (I did).
I know this is a lot of steps, but it is well worth it. You can definitely substitute with white meat if that is your preference. The next recipe is much easier, and took less than 15 minutes to come together.

Drunken Chicken Cutlets with Apricot & Mushrooms
When a recipe refers to something as "drunken," it's not that hard to figure out that it was cooked in wine. I always liked the term, so I decided to use it :-). This recipe is not chicken marsala, because I used a cabernet wine (I just happened to have it in the fridge) and not marsala so I couldn't call it that.

-4 chicken cutlets (these were actually 2 big boneless skinless chicken breasts that I cut in half with a filet knife- very easy to do, more bang for your buck, and portion control as well)
-3 tbsp. flour
-Garlic salt
-Olive oil
-1 medium sized onion
-1/2 tbsp. sugar
-salt and pepper
-2 cloves of garlic
-1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (or a little less than a 5 ounce container)
-1/4 cup red wine
-2 tbsp. apricot preserves
-1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
-2 tbsp. water (I didn't want to mask any of the flavors with a broth, which is why I used water)

-Heat a layer of olive oil in a saute pan
-Sprinkle garlic salt in the flour, and coat the cutlets. Add to the pan when the oil is hot
-You can fully cook them now, or par cook them and finish them later in the sauce-it's up to you. These chicken cutlets take like 4 minutes max per side since they are not too thick (but not too thin either).
-When done, transfer to a plate, add a little olive oil to the pan followed by the chopped onion. Season with salt & a the sugar which helps caramelize the onions.
-When translucent, add the garlic and mushrooms and saute a few minutes.
-Add the wine to de-glaze, bring to a boil & then add the apricot preserves, water, and balsamic. Let saute on boil a few minutes and then bring the heat down to medium high. The goal here is to cook out the alcohol on the stove so you're left with a sauce that is not so strong. This dish does not get finished in the oven like the previous one.
-Let the onions/mushroom mixture saute for about 5-7 minutes, before adding the cutlets back in. I thickened the sauce with 1 or 2 tbsp. flour (through a fine mesh strainer, while stirring, to eliminate clumps). I wanted the mushrooms and onions to absorb most of the sauce, so that it would be more like the consistency of a chutney, and not a runny sauce.
-Turn the chicken in the sauce so that it gets coated, just for a minute or 2.
-Garnish with dried or fresh parsley

You can play with the proportions as you desire... Now this is wine I can tolerate! Hope you enjoy, and have a good Shabbos!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Trader Joe's Meal

It's no surprise that if I was stranded on an island, I'd survive if there was a Trader Joe's.. seriously. Besides for the Whole Foods-esque shopping experience (without the steep prices), the food is always fresh & the people are NICE. There are never expired products on the shelves (a problem that I encounter sooo many times in a certain store in the neighborhood), and if I ever have a problem with any product, I bring it back, no ifs ands or buts. When some people hear that I love shopping at Trader Joe's, they say "wow but it's soo expensive" - so, I challenge you to prove that argument! The prices are always the same, they never fluctuate (ex: romaine hearts are always $2.99. Not on sale for $2.50 one week, and $4.99 the next), and the only things that I find higher in cost are way higher in quality, or organic, deserving the slightly higher price tag. I can pretty much fill my entire pantry & fridge, from an assortment of breads & pastas, to nuts, snacks, produce, wild salmon, & Kosher meat (they carry organic and regular chicken, & ground turkey), even 5 lb. bags of flour and sugar, as well as packages of yeast, which are- cheaper than Fleischmanns. They have the best chips and snacks, cheaper tofu than Nasoya, $1.79 marinara sauce, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, you name it. Obviously I swoon over certain products that I wish would be Kosher, but I take what I can get!! I'm not a coffee drinker but my parents can't live without the TJ dark roast coffee that you grind yourself in the store. Never mind the dried cereals (ex: Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls & Puffins, TJ's O's) healthy snacks (ex: cereal fruit bars, snickerdoodles, animal crackers) for Rosie- all natural, nothing with crappy dyes or chemicals and I can actually read the ingredients on the boxes. I never stress out shopping at there, even if the lines are long. Onward from my love rant, I decided to go yesterday right when we got home from Florida because I had nothing in the fridge- not even an egg or milk for Rosie. So I ventured out at 3:30. When I got home, I couldn't imagine what I would throw together for dinner- needless to say, I was wiped. Early morning-> plane ride-> unpacking-> food shopping... Luckily, without even realizing it, I had everything I needed to put together a healthy yet filling meal in literally under 20 minutes & with only a handful of ingredients- and the entire meal, "head to toe," (down to the salt), was all from Trader Joe's finest. Here goes:

Seared "Sausage" & Kale with Sundried Tomato & Basil Orzo

-Canola oil spray & canola oil
-Tofurky sun-dried tomato & basil sausage
-Kale (pre-washed and chopped)
-Sea Salt
-Garlic (ok, ok, I didn't get the garlic from TJ, though I could've!)
-Sliced sun-dried tomatoes
-Basil, chiffonade (click here to see what chiffonade is)

-Prepare the orzo as per the packages directions (add sea salt & a little oil to the water) 
-Heat a saute pan with canola oil spray over medium-high heat
-Slice the sausages on a bias, and add to the pan when it is hot (don't add too early or it won't sear). Let them cook for a few minutes on each side. If the pan gets dry, drizzle a little more canola oil (not olive oil- burns faster). When done, transfer to a bowl and set aside
-Add a little more canola oil into the pan, mince the garlic & add to the pan over medium heat, sprinkle some sea salt. 
-When the garlic is fragrant, but not yet brown, add the kale, spray with canola spray or a drizzle of oil, and sprinkle more sea salt. Toss with tongs so the garlic gets incorporated into the kale. Add just a tbsp. or so of water and continue to toss until just slightly wilted.
-Add the sausage back into the pan to stay warm.
-Season the orzo with salt (& pepper) if needed, and add the sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, and the basil. 

It was the first time I tried the Tofurky brand sausage, which was from TJ (TJ actually has their own brand of tofu sausage but I didn't like it as much as this one). It's a little spicy and I HATE spice- but it was totally manageable, and that's saying a lot coming from me.

If you've never been to Trader Joe's, well then I'm not sure how to talk to you. .. Just kidding. Just take the ride!


P.S. For dessert, I popped my own -organic- popcorn the old fashioned way (in a pot). Where from? You guessed it...

Monday, June 13, 2011

3 Cheese Pesto Baked Penne

I know I have a lot of catching up to do with Shavuos recipes, which I will get to soon I hope. However, I wanted to share my dinner that I made for tonight, this twist on classic baked ziti. I happen to not like ziti shape- I prefer smaller cut pasta, so I'll make this dish with any short-cut pasta and it comes out great every time. It's lighter than my macaroni & cheese, but just as good and comforting. Last week I bought a great huge bunch of basil from the fruit & vegetable store, and after washing and drying all the leaves, I decided to use most of it to make and freeze pesto in small containers (see pesto recipe for pesto chicken through link). You can freeze sauces and pesto in baby food containers or ice cube trays. Pesto freezes great! As I mentioned in the mac&cheese post, the only pasta I love and buy is Barilla Plus- I highly recommend you make the switch from boring old white pasta! You won't regret it! This was also a good opportunity for me to showcase Natural & Kosher's shredded cheese- I used 2 kinds here- 1. chef's blend, which is shredded mozzarella+cheddar 2. pizza cheese, which is basically shredded mozzarella

This recipe proves that you don't need a lot of ingredients on hand to make a great satisfying dinner without feeling so guilty afterwards. I literally have nothing in my fridge since we're going away for a week tomorrow. Pasta from the pantry, pesto & cheese from the freezer (shredded cheese freezes so great). Ta da!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

-1 box Barilla Plus penne, cooked according to packaged directions- don't overcook. Make sure to salt the water because it's the only chance to really season the pasta throughout.
-1 cup marinara sauce (I don't like it so saucy but add more if you do)
-3 tbsp. pesto
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1 1/2 cups shredded cheese of choice
-1 (16 oz.) container ricotta

-Combine all the ingredients in a bowl with the pasta, and season with some salt. I find that this recipe makes 2 round tins. Sprinkle the top with more cheese, and spray so that it doesn't burn. Bake covered for 25 minutes and uncovered for 10-15.

-This time, I decided to make it in 2 individual large muffin tins so that I wouldn't have leftovers to go to waste, one for me, one for Avi [read: portion control!!!]. I also had enough to freeze 1 round tin full, and 2 other individual muffin tins (I don't know what else to call the tin. It's like an extra large muffin, I use them for making challah rolls!- see the picture)

-Sprinkle with chopped parsley and garlic salt

For the side, I made a SIMPLE as can be edamame carrot salad with frozen preshelled edamamde (Trader Joe's) & chopped carrots (the only fresh produce I had left in my fridge!). I dressed it with lime juice, a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. So good and can't be easier or faster!

Put a spin on your baked ziti with the 3 cheese or pesto twist! Or both!
Enjoy. Forgive my week hiatus while I vacation!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Breaded Cheese- 2 Ways

No this isn't another baked macaroni dish, or a grilled cheese sandwich, rather actual baked cheese. 2 ways:

1) Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Roasted Beets & Grilled Peaches and Apricot Vinaigrette
2) Mozzarella Sticks with Kale and Sun-Dried Tomato sauce (I'll get to that later)

The goat cheese salad is something I made for the first time about a year and a half ago after we got back from Vegas last January. We went to Panini Cafe, one of the few Kosher restaurants there, and I ordered their goat cheese salad. It had mango, jicama, and 2 little breaded goat cheese rounds- measly, but good enough. Anyways, I vied to recreate a better version and I did. 

Having the goat cheese from N&K, I thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase it in a fantastic, different, way that will likely make you a goat cheese fan asap. The whole salad itself takes some patience and time but the result is well worth the wait. I was making roasted beets anyways for one of my Shavuos meals, which are so delicious, though I'm sure there are those of you out there who are cringing at the thought. Don't think of purple horseradish when I say beets. They are sweet, and so flavorful once roasted. The grilled peaches came out of having almost too-ripe peaches in my fruit drawer. I used my Calphalon grill pan for that. Look out for "my" secret tip for slicing goat cheese, ala Ina herself (Garten, that is). 

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Roasted Beets and Grilled Peaches & Apricot Vinaigrette 

-Goat cheese. To prepare it, make 1/2 inch rounds using a string of dental floss. Yessssss, dental floss! It's the best way to come out with perfect rounds without completely butchering the round with a knife. After you have the rounds cut, you can mold them a little since it is soft cheese
-Dredge the rounds in one beaten egg, and then in a mixture of panko crumbs, finely chopped fresh basil & parsley, and a sprinkle of salt.
-Lay the rounds out on a cutting board or plate & place in the fridge for a half hour to an hour (the firmer and colder they are, the better they will hold up to the cooking process) 
-In the meantime, roast the beets (preheat oven to 400. Peel beets, and cube [I suggest wearing disposable kitchen prep gloves]. Lay on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, & spray with cooking spray [the beets can dry out easily], sprinkle with salt and a little bit of sugar. Let roast for 45 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork. I like them underdone, still a little crunchy, but nicely sweet from the roast)
-1 peach, halved, then cut to size (to grill, heat a grill pan over medium high. Drizzle the peach pieces with canola oil, and grill a few minutes per side until you have grill marks).  
-Candied almonds 
-Cubed avocado
-Fresh baby spinach (this spinach was delicious, I bought it on Friday, a huge bag for $3 at the Farmer's Market in Grant Park)

-Make the Apricot Vinaigrette: (sometimes I substitute for strawberry preserves, as in mango strawberry spinach salad)
-1 tbsp. apricot preserves
-1.5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
-4 tbsp. (or 1/4 cup) olive oil
-1 tsp. dijon mustard
-1/4 tsp. salt

*I don't even know where I got this recipe from, but I make it in 2 seconds in my Cuisinart mini prep processor and it's my favorite dressing ever*

-Once the goat cheese is cool and firm, use the same grill pan as you used to grill the peaches (one less thing to clean), pour in a small amount of canola oil, and brush it so it evenly distributes in one thin layer 
-When the pan is hot (not burning hot), add the goat cheese, and grill 2 minutes per side or until browned on the outside but not too soft on the inside.
-Assemble the salad: baby spinach, avocado, beets, and the peaches. Sprinkle with the candied almonds (so easy to make- in a pan over medium heat, add brown sugar, stir with a spoon, when it starts to melt, add any nut you want, & stir until coated and the sugar is all melted). Dress the salad before topping with the goat cheese.

*For my one salad, I used 3 goat cheese rounds, 1/4 of an avocado, the equivalent of one small-medium beet, and one peach*

2) Baked Mozzarella Sticks
The Mozzarella sticks were totally on a whim- the N&K Mozzarella cheese sticks were staring me in the face, they are great for a snack, but how do I make a recipe out of them?? So I decided to make these. They are technically simple, but they do take a few steps (though less than the goat cheese). You can totally use these on top of a salad instead of the goat cheese.

-4 Mozzarella sticks (or string cheese), cut in half
-3 tbsp. flour
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 cup panko crumb + cornflake crumb mixture, seasoned with Italian Seasoning, salt & pepper
-Dredge the mozzarella sticks in the flour, egg, then crumb mixture
-Lay out on a cutting board or plate and freeze for 20 minutes, or refrigerate for 30
-Preheat the oven (I used my toaster) to 400 degrees, and spray the tray (lined with foil). Place the mozzarella sticks on the tray and bake for 7 minutes. YOU MUST WATCH THEM! If your oven is hotter/cooler- adjust the temperature, and don't take your eyes off them or they will MELT! 

My mom made this sauce, which I used to dip the mozzarella sticks in- way better than ordinary tomato sauce. I don't know of the exact proportions (neither does she), but it was delicious and needed to be shared. So I will tell you the ingredients that went in, and maybe it will just paint a picture for you! The combination of ingredients into a sauce was so great and would be delicious over pasta. All you need is your food processor/blender.

Kale & Sundried Tomato Sauce
-Lightly sauteed kale
-Sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
-Bunch of fresh arugula
-Freshly chopped basil
-Frozen garlic cubes (less potent than fresh garlic, so for a sauce that will be used raw, this is a better option)
-Cannellini beans (otherwise known as "white beans")- which is my favorite "thickening agent"  for soups and stuff. 
-salt & pepper

You can bread your cheese, and eat it too!! I can be cheesy once in a while ;-)


Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Cream" of Roasted Potato Leek Soup

I made roasted potato leek soup today for one of the Shavuos meals. I have actually blogged about this a while ago here, but I updated it a tad, and of course I had to incorporate some CHEESE into it. The "cream" is soy milk, so it is more forgiving...

"Cream" of Roasted Potato Leek Soup

-3 leeks, cut the hairy end off, as well as the dark green tops
-2 tbsp. Earth Balance, & 1 tbsp. of olive oil
-1 tbsp. sugar-6 cloves garlic
-8 medium-large Yukon gold potatoes (or 2 lb. bag)
-Salt & pepper
-1.5 cups packed spinach or kale
-Freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley-Roughly 6 cups of liquid: vegetable broth + water
-Skim milk
-Preheat oven to 450. Cube the potatoes, peel & halve the garlic, toss all with olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper and roast for about 30 minutes. That extra step really makes the soup taste better, but you can do without if on a time crunch.
-In the meantime, slice the leeks down the center, and then chop up into half moons. Soak in water and a little vinegar (helps release the sand- leeks are notoriously sandy/dirty) & swish 
-Once drained, saute the leeks in the EB & olive oil in a pot, season with salt and pepper. After 5 minutes add the sugar. This helps caramelize the leeks.

-Once the leeks are softened, add the roasted potatoes, & season more with salt & pepper
-Add the liquid- low-sodium vegetable broth / water. Better to add less now & more later as opposed to having it be too thin in the end.
-Bring to boil & then lower heat to medium-low
-Cook about 30 minutes, until the vegis are all soft enough to puree
-Add the spinach or kale, and the parsley. Puree with a hand blender & then season more if needed, and add more broth or water if you want it thinner. Stream in some soy milk to give the soup a "creamy" effect.

I snuck a bowl for lunch, and served it for myself with a garnish of parsley, a goat cheese medallion (which slowly melts into the soup- so yumm) & FRESH potato chips! When I was cleaning up I noticed one lone potato on the counter that I forgot to roast for the soup, what was I gonna do with one potato??? Potato chips! I cut them very thin & fried them in batches (for the first time ever- I always make baked potato chips) in canola.. They were a heavenly indulgence & very easy- heat a 1/4 cup of oil [not olive] in a small saucepan, drop around 3 thin slices at a time and move them around. Lay on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt or Lawry's garlic salt. Avi kindly left me 2 chips for my soup :-)

Even though it's practically summer, I couldn't resist making an excellent soup!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's here-- MAC AND CHEESE!!

Yes- mac and cheese IS the most typical dairy meal, but nevertheless, you can never go wrong with a delicious mac and cheese. Definitely a comfort food, but it doesn't need to have that heavy cheesy "I'll regret this in the morning" feeling. I make this when I'm really in the mood, with whatever shape pasta I have on hand (it doesn't have to be only elbow macaroni!!). The pasta I usually use is Barilla Plus. White pasta is useless, and I find 100% whole wheat pasta really mealy and heavy tasting. The Plus pasta is a good balance, tastes great & good for you. Usually I use N&K shredded cheese, but to mix it up I decided to use the N&K cubed cheddar cheese (I couldn't think of any other use for it), and it came out great! I didn't use the entire box of pasta for this recipe, rather just one round tin's worth, and saved some pasta.

-1 box of Barilla Plus penne or preferred shape short pasta
-2 tbsp. flour
-2 tbsp. Earth Balance
-1 cup lowfat milk (plus a few more tbsp. if needed)
-2 cups of cheddar cubes, cut in half to speed the melting process (if you use shredded cheese, use about 1.5 cups, more if you like it more cheesy)
-1 tsp. dijon mustard (preferred brand: Grey Poupon)
-Garlic salt & pepper to taste
-Chopped parsley
-Panko breadcrumbs

-Preheat the oven to 375
-Make the pasta according to package directions. Don't cook until mushy, it'll cook more in the oven
-Melt the butter in a small pot, add the flour and whisk over medium heat
-Slowly pour in the milk, continuing to whisk
-Add the cheese and mix until all melted. Add a tbsp. more or milk while melting the cheese if it is too thick. You can also reserve some pasta water to add to the sauce if you don't want to add the extra milk.
-Add the dijon, 1/2 tsp. of garlic salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper
-Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, and mix. Stir in the parsley
-Spray a round tin or dish and add the pasta, sprinkle panko crumbs on top, and more chopped parsley and spray with Pam.
-Bake until desired doneness (I usually keep it in covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 10- I like when the top gets crispy).
-My favorite side to mac and cheese is salty kale chips

Who would resist that??

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mother & Daughter Lunches

For Rosie's lunch today, I simply made her butternut squash pizza. She doesn't react well to tomato sauce, so I wanted to substitute it with something else. I had butternut squash puree that I give her aside basically any protein I make her for dinner. So I spread some on a whole wheat sandwich thin (I also buy the Trader Joe's brand), and topped each round with a slice of N&K Muenster Cheese & baked it in the toaster at 400 until the cheese melted- my kitchen really smelled like a pizza store, & she loved it! It was her first encounter with "pizza," & I think I'll do it more often. I used a pizza cutter to cut it into squares, and let her go at it on her own. She was in heaven, I think. (sorry for the poor quality picture because I used my phone). This is a fantastic way to hide a vegi in your kids pizza! You can do the same with sweet potato, even pea puree...

 My lunch was an apple cheddar panini. Apple in a panini, you ask? I told you I like sweet+savory together! In an attempt to make room for summer fruit, I decided to make an apple cheddar panini, using granny smith apple & the N&K sliced orange cheddar cheese from my basket. I've actually been making this kind of a panini for a while now & I love the combination. Even though you can theoretically get apples all year round, for some reason they remind me of fall/winter, and I love having peaches/nectarines, & blueberries stocked in my fridge for summer, so let's just say this is an homage to the granny smith, in an effort to get rid of them! Cheddar & apple go great together!

-2 slices of multigrain seeded bread, or any bread of your choice
-Honey Mustard (i.e. French's)
-Light Mayonnaise
-4 slices of a Granny Smith apple
-Sliced avocado
-Orange cheddar cheese

-Preheat a panini press, or grill pan on medium high, spray with nonstick cooking spray. If you use the panini grill pan, preheat the press as well on a separate flame on low, sprayed with cooking spray as well.
-Spread the honey mustard on one slice of bread, and the mayo on the other slice
-Layer the arugula, avocado, apple, & cheese on one slice, starting with the cheese, & ending with a piece of cheese if you want 2. Place in the grill pan, & top it with the 2nd piece of bread.
-Press with the cover a few minutes until the cheese is slightly melted (it will melt better if the cheese is slightly at room temperature). Flip & repeat.
-Cut in half & serve with salad of your choice (the one pictured is arugula, terra chip sticks, artichoke hearts, & a creamy balsamic vinaigrette

You can DEFINITELY eat this sandwich cold, if you don't have a panini press or grill pan (if you don't have a panini pan you can use a plate or a frying pan to press it).

Muenster... orange cheddar... check!

Until next meal...

Make Over Your Breakfast

I'm always trying to come up with fast and easy breakfast fixes, as I don't usually have so much time to think in the morning, with Rosie running around. So as soon as I saw the cranberry pecan goat cheese, I knew I just wanted to spread it on a toasted english muffin and be ready to sit down to eat it in less than 5 minutes. I LOVE goat cheese. However, I rarely buy it being that we are cholov yisroel it tends to be one of the very expensive CY cheeses, for a very little amount that I could easily use it up myself in 2 meals, that is how much I like it! Costco has gotten on board with a really cheap Kosher dairy Chevre but has yet to carry an industrial size log of N&K!! Come on!

I wasn't sure what to expect out of the goat cheese, as I never tried one like this. If you've never tried goat cheese at all, you must. The most typical use of goat cheese that I can think of is warm breaded goat cheese served over salad (I'll get there, it's one of my favorites), but I've also had it shredded over salad at Cafe Muscat in Queens ("Farmers Salad") which was a delicious way to serve it as well. Goat cheese is one of those cheeses that you can either love  or hate. It has a very distinct savory flavor (you can find many varieties in the supermarket, I've seen herb, olive chevre, etc.), which is why I was excited to try this sweet variety asap, something I've never seen before. I'm a huge fan of mixing sweet and savory (i.e. fruits in salad, and on chicken), and this cheese is just that- the pieces of cranberry and pecan give the cheese a hint of sweetness, but the savory flavor of the cheese itself is still very much there. The log is also dusted on the outside with cinnamon. I toasted the english muffin, & spread the cheese on top. I know this is not much of a "recipe" but I think it's the perfect way to showcase this cheese without butchering it up. I think it's a fashionable update to the familiar yet boring cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese..

Old boring breakfast: cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese (photo credits: Google!)

New exciting breakfast: whole wheat english muffin with N&K cranberry pecan goat cheese

So cheesy...

I've been given a mission... to test drive some of Natural & Kosher's best cheeses! Check out Sincerely Brigitte on Facebook, Brigitte Mizrahi who is the creator of 4 top lines of Kosher cheeses. If you don't have Facebook, you can check out her blog here and the overall site here (Anderson International Foods). Anyways, the basket was dropped off here yesterday afternoon and let me tell you I am definitely in for a challenge! I was not expecting such an abundance but needless to say, my fridge is now stocked with cheese that could easily last me a lifetime! Thank God N&K cheese freezes amazingly! Here is the basket. It consisted of 4 bags of shredded mozzarella (Chef's Blend and Pizza Cheese), 4 small logs of 2 varieties of goat cheese, 13 packages of sliced cheese, 2 packages of American slices, around 7 blocks of cheese, a sliced cheese variety pack, and a package of cubed cheddar. I feel like an Iron Chef! I wonder what the secret ingredient is...Anyways, I didn't come from a lasagna baked ziti kind of family. We rarely had it for dinner. Our dairy dinners were usually homemade pizza. However, when it comes to the holidays, we usually go all out dairy for lunches, and my mom makes a mean eggplant parmesan. So I'm going to try and pull out all the stops to create creative cheesy dishes that I hope you will all enjoy! Some will definitely be simple, as you don't always have to melt cheese with 100 other ingredients to make it good! I personally enjoy cheese best with tomato and avocado on a sandwich while others may hear cheese and immediately think of mac & cheese! I'll try to cover all bases.

So stay tuned as I embark on this challenge, and hopefully I'll provide you with some yummy cheesy recipes that will hopefully be healthy as well!