Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Enjoying the fruits of summer...

I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and it has really changed the way I think/buy/eat. The book discusses not only eating organically, but eating locally - which basically equates to eating only items that are grown yourself or grown and sold within a small radius of your home.

The book has a lot of valuable lessons in it. You would not believe the amount of fossil fuels that are used in growing and transporting food! It's an amazing read and I highly recommend it. In it, the author lists tips on living "green" as well as fantastic recipes.

After a recent trip to a farm stand, I tried making her Melon Salsa for dinner, changing a few things to suit my tastes. The results were not only one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted, but I was also extremely satisfied using locally grown produce and I even got to use some mint from my garden (ok, it's more of a few flower pots of herbs rather than a garden - townhome living thwarts growing the garden I dream of...)

For the meal, I then served grilled chicken topped with the melon salsa. I served it with a side of couscous and a salad. I made the couscous with chicken broth, instead of water, and added in some diced green onion for extra flavor.

Melon Salsa
  • 1 medium cantaloupe
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1-2 T honey
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
Dice cantaloupe and red bell pepper into 1/4" pieces.

Finely mince onion, jalapeno and mint.

Whisk together honey and vinegar in a bowl. Toss all ingredients in bowl and stir to combine.

Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Excellent served over chicken or fish.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Mexican on the Grill

Still sifting through a batch of produce that I picked up at a farm stand on the way home from the shore, I decided to make it a Mexican night! I fired up the grill and the end result was a healthy, tasty meal to satisfy my hunger for something robust...

Chicken Quesadillas on the Grill (makes 4)
  • 1 cup of leftover cooked chicken
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced into small pieces
  • 1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese
  • Canola oil
Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Brush one side of each tortilla with canola oil.

On half of the tortillas (oil side down), place about 1-2 T of the shredded cheese. Top with chicken, tomatoes, peppers, and scallions.

Add another layer or cheese to create "glue" to hold the tortillas together. Top with second tortilla, oil side up.

Slide onto grill and heat for about 4-6 minutes, pressing down with a spatula every so often. Carefully flip, and grill on second side until cheese is melted, about 3 more minutes.

Remove from grill and slice into wedges. Serve with sour cream and guacamole, as well as a side of grilled corn salad (recipe below).

Smoky Grilled Corn Salad
  • 4 ears of fresh corn, husked
  • 2 red bell peppers cut into 1" strips
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), cut into 3" pieces
  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T chipotle hot sauce (I used the adobo sauce from leftover canned chipotle peppers in adobo)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (I used Italian flat leaf parsley since I dislike the taste of cilantro
Thread peppers and scallions on metal skewers or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes.

Brush corn, peppers, and scallions with oil. Grill vegetables until charred in some spots, 15 minutes for corn and 5 minutes for peppers & onions.

Cool slightly. Cut corn off the cob and add, with onions and peppers, to serving bowl.

Heat 2 T oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cumin and saute until garlic begins to sizzle. Remove immediately - do not let garlic get brown. Add lime juice and hot sauce and combine. Pour over vegetables and stir to coat.

Season to taste with salt & pepper. Cool completely, add cilantro (or parsley).



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Turkey Burgers and New Potato Salad

Still on my healthy/eating locally kick, I tried something new for dinner last night - turkey burgers.

I often sneak turkey in the place of beef in things like chili and sloppy joe's, but I have never tried making, or eating for that matter, turkey burgers. This recipe does not try and fool you into thinking it is a regular beef burger, but in my opinion, it's flavor actually surpasses that of the usual red meat treat.

I don't feel that the burgers photographed well, but believe me - they were absolutely delicious. I used locally grown zucchini for the burgers. I also used locally grown new potatoes for the potato salad - which was another WINNER in my book.

Since I was only cooking for 2, I made 5 patties and froze 3 for later. I also halved the recipe for potato salad. Please try these recipes. They were absolutely delicious... and I am sure my pants fit better today!

Turkey Burgers
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 5 whole wheat (or regular) hamburger buns
  • 5 leaves of lettuce
  • 5 T mayonnaise
  • 2-3 tsp lemon juice
With a food processor fitted with a grating blade, grate carrot and zucchini (if you do not have a food processor, you may use a box grater).

In a large bowl, combine carrot, zucchini, turkey, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and egg. Form into 5 patties.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties about 5 minutes per side, until no trace of pink remains in the center.

Meanwhile, lightly toast hamburger buns in toaster oven or under broiler.

Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice. Spread on tops of buns. Add turkey patty and top with a leaf of lettuce and bun top.

New Potato Salad
  • 1 1/2 lbs. small red new potatoes, sliced 1/4 " thick
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped herbs (I used tarragon, chives, and parsley)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
Set a steamer basket in a large pot with a fitted lid. Fill with enough water to come just below basket. Bring to boil.

Place potatoes in basket, reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and steams 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, place lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.

Remove potatoes from heat and add to bowl. Top with herbs and carefully stir to combine.

You will make these recipes over and over, they are so good!


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grillin' & chillin' with summer kabobs

The summer is my favorite food season for many reasons; seasonal fruits & veggies abound and best of all it's grilling season!

During the warm months, I am constantly taking the heat out of my kitchen and to the grill. Throwing summer dishes together on the grill are not only quick & simple, but the flavor is unmatchable.

On the way home from the beach, we stopped at one of many farm stands en route and picked up a car load of fresh, local produce. Among the bunch, fresh corn and summer squash came together to make last night's dinner.

Grilled Italian Sausage Kabobs & Corn (makes 4 kabobs)
  • 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage in cases, cut into 1" sections
  • 2 medium summer squash, cut into 1" slices
  • 2 red onions, cut into small wedges (*see tip)
  • 1-2 T canola oil
  • Ears of corn, shucks and silk removed
  • Butter
  • Salt & pepper
You will also need:
  • Grill
  • Foil
Heat grill to medium-high.

Wrap corn in 10" pieces of foil and place on grill. Turn often for a total cooking time of 12-15 minutes.

In the meantime, thread kabobs on metal skewers or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes. Alternate onion, sausage, and squash on length of skewer.

Brush kabobs with oil and grill for 10-12 minutes, turning often.

Remove corn and discard foil. Brush with butter and sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. Serve along side of kabobs for a satisfying & simple summer meal!

You can also cut the corn in the cob into 1" thicknesses and thread on the skewers to make this an all-in-one kabob!

*Tip- for easier-to-handle onion wedges, cut only the hairy part of the root off, leaving the part that holds the onion together in tact. Cut onion lengthwise through the root so it will hold each wedge together so the onion is easier to thread & grill.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Trader Joe's Tri-Tip Asada

A “carne asada” is the Mexican equivalent to an American barbecue. Traditionally, marinated beef is roasted over a large fire pit while friends and family gather and prepare to eat.

But, with Trader Joe's Tri-Tip Asada, you don’t need a large fire pit – a grill will do (or even an oven). It is a fresh cut of tri-tip that comes marinating in a Mexican-inspired spice blend. At $5.99 per pound (comes in cuts of about 3 lbs.), it's a winner.

It grills up low and slow, to produce a moist and tender, but vibrant, piece of meat. Slice it up and serve with guacamole, salsa, cheese and tortillas to make fabulous fajitas. Or, do like I did and pair with a zesty salad and add some cornbread on the side. ¡Delicioso!

I am going to share one of my secrets with you. Something that is incredibly easy and absolutely scrumptious is cornbread mix. You can find it in the International foods aisle. You add water, butter, a can of creamed corn, mix & bake! The result is a very nice addition to any Mexican-style meal.

For the salad, I shredded some romaine and topped with Trader Joe's Corn Salsa, Mexican mix cheese, and ranch dressing.

What a great summer meal!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Breakfast Pizzas

I was given a brunch cookbook by a food-loving friend of mine, Michele. I was looking through it recently and saw an idea for breakfast pizzas. The idea of breakfast pizzas excited me so much, I decided to try making them for the crew when we were up at the mountains over the 4th of July weekend.

I went to Trader Joe's and purchased two kinds of pizza dough (one of my favorite finds from TJ's!), regular and whole wheat. The whole wheat crust took longer to bake than the regular, so keep that in mind if you try making this recipe.

And, of course the little Preston Market at the mountains did not have exactly the bulk breakfast sausage I was looking for, so we opted for sweet Italian sausage that I just removed from the casing. It worked well, so in case you can't find bulk breakfast sausage (which is basically the sausage in one package - not in casings) that you can use that. Also, you can use ground pork and Penzey's Spices breakfast sausage seasoning.

Breakfast Pizzas (makes 4 to 5)
  • 1 ball of pizza dough, room temperature (dough is much easier to roll out when it is not cold)
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 lb. bulk sausage
  • 1 and 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 bunch of green onions (scallions), chopped
  • Eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out pizza dough and cut into 5x5 squares or 8" circles (they will taste the same no matter what shape you cut them *wink*). Sprinkle baking sheet with a good layer of cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking before adding dough cutouts.

Brown sausage until fully cooked.

Make a circle of cheese on each pizza round, leaving room for an egg in the center. Top cheese with browned sausage.

Crack one egg in the center of each round. The egg will not run out if you have enough of a cheese & sausage border. Immediately put in oven.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (until eggs are cooked, a white film will develop over the yolk).

Sprinkle green onions over pizzas. Enjoy!

We also made home fries to add to the meal. To make:

  • 10 small red potatoes
  • 1-2 T vegetable oil
  • Salt & pepper
Heat oil in pan over medium/medium-high heat.

Cut potatoes into quarters (or halves if they are small). Add to pan.

Saute for 10-15 minutes, until browned. If you stick a fork in one and it splits easily, they are done!

Remove from heat and sprinkle with salt & pepper, to taste.

My friend, James, and his cow serving up some whole-wheat breakfast pizza!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An easier way to Eggplant Parm

I love eggplant parmesan. Love it! In fact, it's the only meal that I make that my boyfriend, Ryan, will eat without meat. Being an Italian-American, he must have meat at every meal. I think it's just the way Italian mothers raise their kids!

I love to make eggplant parm, but I find it time-consuming and you just make too many dirty dishes (one for flouring, one for dipping in egg, one for bread crumbs, pans galore...). Well, I have an easier, lighter recipe that I have been using instead of the traditional method. It's not quite as impressive as impressive as "Eggplant Parmesan", but it is just as delicious and also easy enough for a weeknight supper!

Eggplant Parmesan Knockoff

  • 1 eggplant, sliced about 1/4"thick lengthwise (from top to bottom) - I used a mandoline for easier, consistent slices
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated nmozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (I never use anything other than Parmigiano Reggiano, but use whatever you have)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium/medium-high heat. Add eggplant slices in batches and lightly brown on each side (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and place on paper towels to remove excess oil.

In a medium casserole dish, add a layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle with 1/2 of mozzarella cheese then add a thin layer of marinara.

Add a second layer of eggplant, the remaining mozzarella, and marinara. Sprinkle top with parmesan.

Bake for 20 minutes. Serve with spaghetti.

This recipe was featured on:

Eggplant on Foodista


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Homemade Popsicles, Perfect for Summer!

I recently bought some really cute popsicle molds at 5 Below and finally cleared enough room in my freezer to try them out! When the summer heat kicks in and you are looking for a healthy, cool snack, try these delicious treats:

Watermelon-Berry Popsicles (makes 6)

  • About 1 lb of seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1/4 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T lime zest
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • Popsicle molds

Working in batches, puree watermelon in a blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl (discard solids).

Puree strawberries. Add sugar, zest and juice and pulse until sugar has dissolved. Add to bowl with watermelon juice and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds.

Freeze until solid, 2 & 1/3 to 3 hours.

*Tip- to remove the pops from the mold, run the mold under warm water for a few seconds.



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Black Bean and Corn salad ¡Ay, caramba!

For a recent 3-day weekend, our street held a block-party. Since we were headed to the mountains and were not planning on attending, I did not plan on making anything.

We ended up returning much earlier than normal, so I was faced with pulling something together to bring to the pot-luck party that we decided to attend last-minute. Thinking about the fare I knew would be present (hot dogs, burgers, chicken, pasta salad.. the usual), I surveyed my pantry and came up with a snazzy little side dish that couldn't be easier to prepare! This dish was so tasty, I decided to turn it into a salad for my next week's book club meeting.

This yummy dish can be made with items you may already have on hand. It's a quick and easy side with a little zip!

Black Bean and Corn Salad
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of yellow corn kernels, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced into small pieces
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced into very small pieces
  • 2 tsp of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup of chopped diced cilantro
Combine beans, corn, onion, and jalapeño in a medium bowl.

Add lime juice and cilantro, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste, stir.

That's it! I told you it was easy!

*Since we all know I hate cilantro, I added that in the recipe just for my readers! Cilantro would be perfect for this Southwestern-style dish, but I actually used chopped Italian parsley to give it a little color.

To make this dish a salad:
  • Black bean and corn salad
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Shredded carrots
  • Shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Newman's Own Light Lime Vinaigrette
  • Tortilla chips
In serving bowl, toss lettuce, carrots, and dressing.

Top with cheese and bean & corn salad.

Nestle in tortilla chips.


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