Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pizza, Pizza! {Mushroom, Sage & Arugula Version}

Pizza, how I love thee.  Mushrooms and sage and edamame hummus?  Please come join the party.

Greenness makes me happy!  So does quick pizza recipes that are done in a jiffy.  I mean, let's get to eating this yummy concoction, shall we?

Earthy mushrooms are sauteed in veggie broth with garlic and fresh sage.  We cook it just long enough to get the mushrooms soft and deliciously tender.

Handy Kitchen Tip Alert!  Freeze leftover veggie broth in ice cube trays and then save in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.  Then just drop one or two in a skillet when you are sauteing.  No more wasted boxes of veggie broth!

Trader Joe's Edamame Hummus makes an appearance.  Have I mentioned how much I love Trader Joe's When you bake hummus, it takes on a cheesy flavor and texture.  Not like endless strands of mozzarella but almost like a melted feta consistency.

I used a store-bought whole wheat pizza crust.  If you want to make a homemade one, go for it!  But little shortcuts go a long way when you want dinner pronto!

Peppery, lush arugula gets sprinkled on top of the freshly baked pizza.  It adds such a lovely freshness.

Save your olive oil for a little drizzle on top.  We sauteed the mushrooms and sage in veggie broth so we can use a lil' to make this pizza simply divine.  This is a garlic-infused variety guessed it, Trader Joe's. Note to self--buy stock in Trader Joe's.  And by "stock" I don't mean the entire store.

This splendid pizza is cheese-free and meat-free and still tastes delicious!  A little slice of pizza heaven.

Mushroom, Sage & Arugula Pizza
*Serves 4
*Prep time: 15 minutes
*Cook time: 15-20 minutes
*Kitchen gear required: Pizza pan, cutting board, knife, skillet

1 whole-wheat pizza crust (I used a store-bought one)
1 box cremini mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup veggie broth
2 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1/2 cup edamame hummus (or regular hummus would be fine)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups arugula, washed
Drizzle of garlic-infused olive oil or regular olive oil

Ready, set, go!
1.  Chop the mushrooms and sage, mince the garlic.
2.  Saute in veggie broth in skillet until mushrooms are tender (but not overdone)
3.  Spread hummus on pizza crust and top with mushroom mixture and red pepper flakes
4.  Bake pizza for 15-20 minutes or until crust is crispy
5.  Top with arugula and drizzle with olive oil


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Handy Dandy Ingredient Combos

Happy Saturday my friends!

Today let's talk spices and flavor combos!  Having some spice knowledge in your cooking arsenal can help you break free from having to follow a recipe to the letter (we are talking about cooking here, baking is another entity).  Here's a little cheat sheet I use when I'm thinking about what in the world I'm going to make for dinner.

For example, if I'm cooking something with a Mexican flavor, I know that I definitely will want some cilantro and cumin and a spice element (jalapeno, green chilis, etc.).  Now, this list is by no means inclusive nor am I an expert in spices or other cuisines.  I'd love to hear your ideas for spice combinations!

*Ground cumin
*Jalapeno/Green chilis

*Peanuts & peanut butter

*Curry powder

*Red pepper


So you could take any of these ingredients and then use what I like to call "blank canvas" foods--lentils, beans, pizza, burgers, pasta--and put your own twist on them.  What are your favorite spice combinations?


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Easy Peasy Vanilla Balsamic Strawberries

It's summer and the last thing I want to do is crank on the oven to cook something.  Enter an oven and stove-free recipe that is so easy (seriously! it has 4 ingredients!) and refreshing and tastes fancy whilst being a breeze to prepare.  4 ingredients and 4 simple steps!

A day without strawberries is...well, a day with no strawberries and very sad indeed.

Isn't fruit just so unbelievably gorgeous?  The colors!  The textures!  Sorry for the exclamation points!

Balsamic vinegar adds earthiness and tang to the simple strawberries.  Aaaaannnnd, I'd like to introduce you to my secret weapon--vanilla bean paste.

My life was incomplete before this little beauty came into my pantry.  I order it from Amazon since I don't have time to be scraping out vanilla beans after a long day at the office.  The vanilla and balsamic and just a dash of honey make a delicious compote that just gets better and better the longer it sits.

These berries are wondrous over pancakes, waffles, yogurt, ice cream, you name it!  Or in my case, grilled polenta rounds and topped with pecans.  They are really versatile (cue Charlotte Web quote--"I am versatile, Wilbur.")

Have I mentioned the perks of crafting recipes for this blog?  Enjoying the fruits of one's labors, etc., etc.

Vanilla Balsamic Strawberries
Serves 2
Prep time: 10 minutes (come on, you can do it!  make this recipe!) and 1+ hour to let berries marinate
Kitchen gear required:  Bowl, knife, measuring spoon

1 1/2 cups washed and quartered strawberries
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 tsp. honey

Ready, set, go!
1.  Wash and quarter the strawberries and put in bowl.
2.  Add balsamic vinegar, honey and vanilla bean paste (or vanilla if your Amazon order is still en route).
3.  Gently combine and let berries marinate in the fridge for at least an hour so all the flavors can marry.
4.  Serve on pancakes, waffles, yogurt, ice cream or grilled polenta and top with chopped pecans.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

White Bean & Basil Dip

I'm still slightly traumatized from revamping a Julia Child recipe.  I mean,  it does seem as though I'm tampering with greatness here.  Sacrilege!  The audacity!  This recipe is a riff on her White Bean Dip but I dressed it up a bit more with extra garlic and made it healthier by cutting back on the oil.  Please forgive me, Julia.  I still love you.

This recipe is super easy and can be served with pita, veggies, chips.  Or in my case, a big spoon.

Now, in a perfect world they would have had the white Cannellini beans I wanted at the store.  But, life is full of disappointments and I had to settle for these Great Northern beans.  I think Cannellini beans are creamier in the dip but don't stress if you can't find them.  Just get a can of white beans but don't use navy beans...aren't I making this so simple?  Speaking of beans--rinse the living daylights out of canned beans and they taste so much better.  I throw mine in a colander after draining them and just rinse away.

Just when I'm thinking "hey my photographs are looking good!" I end up
with a close-up shot of pepper.  It's a journey.
A food processor is indispensable for making dips and spread.  I love my Cuisinart one to the moon and back.  It is the butter to my bread.  Wait, I'm trying to not eat butter or bread these days.  Heaven help me.

Voila!  A twirl or two (or 50) in the food processor and we have this velvety, garlicky, basil-y dip!

White Bean & Basil Dip
Adapted from Julia Child's White Bean Dip
Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Kitchen gear required: Food processor, knife, cutting board

1 can white beans (Cannellini preferred but can use Great Northern beans in a pinch), drained and rinsed
1/4 cups shredded basil, plus a few more leaves for garnish
1 lemon, juiced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Ready, set, go!
1.  Open can of beans and drain and rinse them really well.  Throw in food processor.
2.  Add lemon juice, minced garlic and basil, salt and pepper and process until desired consistency (you can make it as chunky or smooth as you like).
3.  Drizzle in olive oil while still processing spread.  
4.  Serve with pita wedges (hi Trader Joe's whole wheat pitas!), veggies or chips.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maple, Peach & Cashew Crisp (no added oil/butter)

Yes, my friends, you read that right.  This crisp has zero.nada added butter/oil/margarine.  This here is a plant-strong crisp and it tastes downright amazing!

I was blessed with a bounty of peaches.  Tree-ripened fruit really takes the cake.  I mean it!  It's better than cake.

I've been searching my whole life for a vegan, no-added-fat crisp recipe.  When I couldn't find one, I decided I had to take matters into my own hands and create one myself.  Cashews are the star of the show in this crisp topping.  They are nutty, creamy and add a lovely richness to the crisp topping.  Some oats, maple syrup and brown sugar are the backup singers.

The cashews are pulverized until they almost become cashew butter. We want some nice coarse crumbs and for those cashews to stick together.

Our peaches are sliced and combined with some reduced apple juice and flour.  Let's top these luscious peaches with our topping!

Done and done!  Now we bake this beauty until the topping is crispy and the peach juice is bubbly.  Sigh.  Is there anything better than the scent of a crisp baking in the oven?  Might I venture that the answer is no?

I played around with coconut whipped cream.  It is just a can of full-fat coconut milk and wowzas! it can become whipped cream.  Easy as pie.  Err, crisp.  Obviously full-fat coconut milk is not exactly a health food per se but it's a wonderful alternative to a dairy option.

Maple Peach & Cashew Crisp with Coconut Whipped Cream
Serves: 8
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 35-45 min
Kitchen gear required: Paring knife, food processor/blender, saucepan, measuring cups/spoons, hand-held mixer

Crisp filling:
6 cups peeled and sliced peaches
1 cup apple juice
2 Tbsp. all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Crisp topping:
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
3/4 cup oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Coconut whipped cream
1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated upside-down overnight
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla or vanilla bean extract

Ready, set, go!
1.  Bring apple juice to a boil in saucepan on stove and let simmer until it is reduced by half and syrupy. Remove from heat.
2.  While the apple juice is simmering, prep your peaches.  Peel and slice them into a large bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. all-purpose unbleached flour and cinnamon.  Add slightly cooled apple juice to peach concoction and gently stir to combine.  Pour into a casserole dish or 9x13 pan.
3.  Put cashews in food processor and pulverize until they become crumbs.  You want the mixture to stick together when you press a bit between your fingers but not to the point where it becomes cashew butter.
4.  Add oats, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup to cashews in food processor and pulse until combined.
5.  Top peach mixture with maple/cashew/oat topping and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the topping is crispy and the peaches are bubbling.
6.  Pour the cold coconut cream into a cold bowl (just put a bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes or so) and whip with a handheld mixer until thick.  Add the maple syrup and vanilla to taste.  This works best if you put it back in the fridge for two hours after whipping but I couldn't wait that long to try it on top of the crisp!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday Soundtrack--Hey Howdy Hey

Thanks to my brother and sis-in-law for introducing me to the fabulous Stella girls on You Tube.  Aren't they THE.CUTEST?  And so talented, to boot.  Enjoy your weekends!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rainbow Salad (aka Clean Out Your Crisper Drawer)

Sometimes my refrigerator crisper drawer needs a little love.  Here's the challenge:  clean out your crisper and see what kind of awesome salad combo you can come up with!

You might just be surprised at the loveliness that you can create out of, well, leftovers!  Don't let those little extras go to waste.  If your lettuce has seen better days, just lop off the yucky parts and chop up what's left. Same goes for the kale, peppers, name it!

That little bag of frozen peas in the freezer?  Let's use that too!  No use leaving it out in the cold (ha, ha).

Mix it all up in a bowl and top with your favorite dressing.  This reminds me of those math equations--how many permutations can we come up with?  To infinity and beyond!

Adding some fun twists can take your salads over the top.  Salads don't have to be boring.  They can be a flavor explosion!  I've been loving/craving olives lately so I topped my salad creation with chopped Kalamata olives and an avocado/lemon dressing.

Here's what I threw into my Rainbow Salad...enjoy!  Let me know what combos you come up with!

Rainbow Salad
Serves:  4
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Kitchen gear require: Knife, cutting board, bowl

1 raw beet, grated
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
3 radishes, chopped
1 cup lettuce, chopped
1 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup thawed frozen peas
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup green onion
2 Tbsp. Kalamata olives, chopped
Lemon-Avocado Dressing 
1 avocado
1 lemon, juiced
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp. Kalamata olive juice (can't let all that briny loveliness go to waste!)
1/8 cup water

Ready, set, go!
1.  Chop/grate/tend to all your veggies.  Throw them in a big bowl and toss to combine.
2.  Put all the dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
3.  Put salad onto chilled plates and top with dressing.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Soundtrack--Broadway Style

I hope you all are having a splendid Saturday!

I've been refinishing kitchen cabinets this weekend and thank goodness for Pandora!  Nothing like a work party with plenty of music to sing along to at the top of one's lungs.  This is one of my favorites from Les Miserables.  As if I could have a favorite!  Ha!



Friday, July 5, 2013

Sous Chef, Where Art Thou?

Evidence of Hurricane Amy in the kitchen.
Accepting applications for a sous chef  immediately.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Honey Peach Oatmeal

Remember how I messed up my peach jam and made peach sauce instead?  I now am in possession of darling little containers of peach sauce and searching for ways to use it up.  Enter peach oatmeal. This is SO easy and really, really tasty.  So delish, in fact, that I may be tempted to make peach (or other fruit) "sauce" on a regular basis just so I can spoon it on oatmeal.  I don't know why I never thought to top my oatmeal with jam (or jam attempts in my case) in the past.

I've eaten many a bowl of oatmeal in my day.  It was a staple whilst I was growing up and I really love it (provided I don't eat every day, which I don't, in case you were worried or thought I did).  Not only is it cheap, it's packs a big nutritional punch and you can make so many flavor variations.

But today, it's all about peachy-ness.  Side note:  I can never eat the packaged instant "peach" flavored oatmeal again.  Tree-ripe peaches stirred into fresh-made oatmeal have made me cry "nevermore, nevermore, nevermore!" to the fake stuff.

Honey Peach Oatmeal
*Serves 1
*Prep time: 15 minutes for sauce, 10 for oatmeal
*Kitchen gear required:  Cutting board, knife, large saucepan, small saucepan, measuring cups

Peach Sauce (could also use a fruit-juice sweetened jam)
4 cups peeled and chopped peaches, mashed up
1/2 cup honey (can use less)
1/2 cup water
1 lemon, juiced
Note:  My peach "sauce" has a package of low-sugar pectin added because I was trying to make jam.  I don't think it would altar the flavor or consistency to leave the pectin out.
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water
Salt, to taste
1 Tbsp chopped pecans
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I love vanilla almond milk)

Ready, set, go!
Peach sauce
1.  Combine honey,water and lemon juice in large saucepan and heat until honey is melted
2.  Add peaches
3.  Simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, remove from heat.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
1.  Add 1 cup water and 1/2 cup oatmeal to small saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.  Simmer until oatmeal is cooked and desired consistency.  I like mine pretty thick.
1.  Spoon oatmeal into bowl
2.  Top with peach sauce
3.  Top with chopped pecans and milk
4.  Have a peachy day!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Refreshing Cucumber, Lemon & Mint Water

I have two questions:

1) How is it the week of July 4th already?
2) Why is it so hot?

While I don't have the answers to these great cosmic questions, I do have something to help temper the heat and provide inspiration for your 4th of July picnics and BBQs this Thursday.  Spa water.  Ok, stop right there.  See, that's why I didn't label this post "spa water."  It kind of sounds like I'm advocating drinking water out of a spa which is totally gross.

One of the best (and I mean THE BEST) parts of fancy hotels/gyms/spas is their water.  And I am referring to drinking water.  There's something about the chilled water with this faint tinge of cucumber and mint that is oh so refreshing.  Let's make this cooling beverage in the comfort of our own homes, in our tank tops and mismatched pj shorts if we want to.  No worrying about how to turn on the sauna situation (is it totally normal to sweat that much in a sauna?  I highly doubt it) or commit some kind of spa/gym social faux pas.

Faux pas (dictionary definition):  a social blunder.  Originally, French, literally "a false step."  Rhymes with "no thaw."  In modern day vernacular:  I committed a faux pas at the spa by throwing my dirty towels in the clean hamper, etc., etc.

The ingredients are very simple and inexpensive.  Why not keep a pitcher in the fridge and take a trip to the spa (figuratively speaking) when we feel like it?

Cucumber and lemon slices are paired up with fresh mint leaves in a pitcher of water.  They are not worried about committing a faux pas.  Done.

Let's just leave it at that--simple, cooling and perfect.

Refreshing Cucumber, Lemon & Mint Water
*Serves as many as you like (depending on how many pitchers you want to make!)
*Prep time: 5 minutes (allow enough time to let the concoction sit in the fridge at least 4 hours)
*Kitchen gear required: Knife, cutting board, pitcher

1-2 lemons, washed and sliced
1/2 large cucumber, sliced (I recommend organic since non-organic cucumbers are so dog-gone waxy)
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, washed (about 10 mint leave)
Pitcher of filtered water

Ready, set go!
1.  Fill pitcher with water
2.  Add sliced lemons, cucumbers and mint leaves
3.  Chill in fridge for at least 4 hours
4.  Serve in glasses with ice and straws.
5.  Put your feet up and relax (preferably with a large fan blowing on you)