Monday, June 28, 2010

Meatless Monday - Panzanella Salad

I adore the fresh taste of basil. So much so that I grow an abundance of basil on my back deck. I have so much, I usually end up freezing it or making pesto to use it up.  I grow many other herbs too, and end up only using a portion of each.  This year I vowed to be more creative with the plethora of herbs that I insist on growing.

This recipe is a good way to use some delicious basil and also day-old bread.  Not only that, but once any of my several tomato plants start producing ripe red gems and my shallots are ready to be pulled up, this recipe will be a perfect use of my container garden!

                                                                                                               Photo by Ryan Macchione

Panzanella Salad with Ricotta (serves 4-6)
  • Loaf of crusty Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes, seeds removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 3 T red-wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Large handful of basil leaves
  • 8 oz ricotta
Bake bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer at 375 degrees until just golden, resembling large croutons, about 18-20 minutes.

In the meantime, combine bell pepper, onion, tomatoes, vinegar and oil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add basil and toasted bread cubes, stir to combine.  Allow bread to soak up the juices by sitting for 20 minutes.

Divide evenly among serving bowls.  Top with a large spoonful of ricotta.  Season with salt & pepper and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. 



Friday, June 25, 2010

The Most Delicious Chicken Salad

Many chefs have what they believe to be the best chicken salad technique.  The debate for the perfect way to keep that bird nice and moist is ongoing.  Most think that roasting a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast is the only way to keep it moist.  This is certainly a good option, but just too much trouble for me when I am looking for a faster, not-so-messy route.

Alas, I found an incredible way to cook chicken for chicken salad without all the trouble.  Not only does this chicken come out moist and juicy, but full of fantastic flavor!  This recipe would be great served at a shower or fancy lunch on a bed of lettuce leafs.

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can mix it up however you'd like: add dried apricots or fresh grapes instead of raisins, omit the celery or apple, swap out the pecans for walnuts or pine nuts...

Sara's Chicken Salad
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 T fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 & 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Pour broth around the chicken. Bake the chicken until no longer pink in the center and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 160°F, 20-25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, then cut into cubes.

Meanwhile, spread the diced pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly golden and fragrant, about 6-8 minutes.  Let cool.

Stir sour cream, mayonnaise, tarragon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add celery, apple, raisins, the chicken and pecans; stir to coat.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food News: Tackling the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

It is predicted that for the first time in history, the generation after ours will be live shorter lives than us.  Think about that.  Convenience and cheaper prices have become so much more important than feeding our children healthy, nutritious meals that we are responsible for shortening their life expectancy.

One watchdog group isn't just going to stand for this.  In the article, McDonald's May Face Suit Over Happy Meal Toys, I read that there is watchdog group threatening to sue McDonald's. They claim Happy Meals toys lure kids into unhealthy eating habits and break state consumer-protection laws, likening  McDonald's to "the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children."

Sure, McDonald's claims to have changed their unhealthy ways by now offering apples instead of fries and milk instead of soda, but studies have shown that 90% of the time, these healthy options aren't offered by the cashier and fatty french fries are given by default.

CSPI claims that McDonald's marketing to children is damaging because young children are not "developmentally advanced enough" to resist the marketing.  Parents, it's time for you to step in as well, and help your children make healthy decisions.  Their lives are at stake.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Salty or Sweet? Now, you don't have to decide...

The New York Times recently published an article about a new hybrid among an American staple.  No, this article had nothing to do with the Ford Fusion.  The hybrid I'm talking about combines the sweet and the savory, a beloved candy and time-treasured snack.  M&M put a nugget of pretzel inside its candy aisle classic!

Mars decided to capitolize on the sales of salty snacks rising greatly in recent years and I predict that this will be a huge success.  I typically try to share healthy food news or important articles I think everyone should be aware of.  Even as I write this article, I am snacking on a healthy trail mix... but to heck with that!  M&M's with a pretzel in the middle, how could I not share this news?  The only thing better than that would be if there was an M&M with a peanut butter-filled pretzel in the center!  Let's talk ideas, Mars...


Friday, June 18, 2010

Pizza Dough & Grilled Hawaiian Pizza

Making pizza is one of my favorite ways to get creative in the kitchen.  The possibilities are endless, from the toppings you add to the way you cook it.

For the pizza dough:  you can buy pre-made crusts like Boboli or rolled dough in a can like Pillsbury, which are definitely great for a super quick, super simple meal.  Trader Joe's sell pizza dough or you can even ask your local pizzeria if you can buy a ball or two of dough.  Or, if you have a bit of extra time, you can make your own dough.  It may sound a bit more involved than what you're looking for, but believe me nothing could be simpler.

Some tips:
  • Freeze extra extra dough for later use by placing a ball of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in the freezer for 45 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a freezer Ziploc bag and store fr up to 6 months.
  • Let dough come to room temperature before using.  If dough is too elastic and keeps shrinking back when you try to roll it out, let it sit out for 15 minutes and try again. 
Here is the pizza dough recipe I use:

Pizza Dough (makes 2 balls for about two 12-inch pizzas)
  • 1 cup hot tap water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
Pour water into medium-large bowl.  Whisk in sugar and sprinkle yeast on the surface of the water.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk oil and salt into yeast mixture.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.  The dough will appear a bit dry. 

Turn out to a floured work surface (a large wooden cutting board or your counter works best).  Knead for a couple of minutes, until until dough comes together in an elastic ball.

Transfer to an oiled medium-sized bowl.  Brush top with additional oil and cover with a dampened cloth.  Place in a warm, draft-free area to let rise.  After 45 minutes, punch dough down, recover, and let rise an additional 30 minutes. 

Divide dough in half to create 2 balls.  Freeze or refrigerate unused portion, if not using.

One way I LOVE to use my pizza dough is to grill it.  I roll my dough out on a wooden cutting board that is well floured so the dough will just slide right off onto the hot grill.  It only takes a few minutes to cook a pizza this way, and the flavor is out of this world!

Grilled Hawaiian Pizza
  • 1 ball pizza dough
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4" slices
  • 1/2 cup diced cooked ham (I freeze a few thick slices when I bake a ham for things just like this!)
  • 1/2 cup diced pineapple
  • Extra virgin olive oil
Heat grill to medium-high.

Roll out pizza dough to a 12" round circle (it doesn't have to be perfect!) on a floured cutting board.  Slide dough onto hot grill and cook for 1-2 minutes, until light grill marks appear on underside. 

With a large spatula, carefully flip dough to other side.  Brush olive oil on the top side.  Top with cheese slices, ham and pineapple.  Close the grill and cook just until cheese is melted, about 1-2 minutes longer.

Slice, serve, and enjoy!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Meatless Monday - A few resources to keep you meatless, local, and green!

Here is a list of resources that can help you stay Meatless on this Monday!

Greenopia - the motto at Greenopia is Eat, Shop, Live Green. This local guide provides business listings in a multitude of categories, all of which adhere to the strictest standards of eco-friendliness.

Farm to Philly - a site that has extensive information on eating locally.  Focused on where to find it, how to grow it, and what to do with it, this site keeps you up-to-date on what's in the local markets, along with tips on growing your own and cooking with the seasonal bounty.

Local Harvest - here you can find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Local Food Philly - a guide to local farmers’ markets, restaurants, independent retail stores, buying clubs, farm stands, and caterers committed to using and selling locally grown food.

Delicious and Meatless - for those Mondays where you just don't want to cook and are looking for a great meatless meal at a restaurant around Philadelphia.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Food for Thought... Chiles en Adobo

Why do they put chiles en adobo in a can? You only ever use 1 or 2, and maybe a little adobo sauce... why not put it in a jar so you can use the rest later?


Monday, June 7, 2010

Meatless Monday - Incredible Chocolate Pudding

My friend Alicia (aka "Al") from college is expecting her first child.  She is trying to get off the ground as a holistic nutritionist, based in Vancouver BC, and has started a webpage called New Mama Nourishment.  The site aims to provide nutritional support for women, their partners and their children as their families grow.

Alicia occasionally posts some of her favorite recipes on Facebook.  This chocolate pudding recipe is so great, I had to share it on Suburban Spoon!

Whole Foods Chocolate Pudding (recipe from Recipe from the May/June edition of Mothering Magazine)

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 - 3/4 ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup of raw, un-pasteurized honey
  • 1 tablespoon organic, unrefined/ extra virgin coconut oil (available at whole foods, and a great, healthy alternative to vegetable oil in any baking!)
  • 1 teaspoon organic vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (blender will probably work too!), and blend until you get a pudding like consistency. Add a little water at a time, if needed.

You won't believe how delicious this is!!! The great thing about this pudding is that it tastes just like the real thing, but instead of refined sugar and lots of dairy, this uses healthy fats and wholesome honey as a sweetener.

*The magazine notes that you can layer in plain yogurt and top with fruit for a fancy version!



Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food News

Here are a few articles that I found and wanted to pass along...

Burger Diet Linked to Higher Childhood Asthma Risk

Dr. Gupta Says Food Ads Offer Bad Nutrition Advice

Tips For Eating Sustainable Seafood For World Ocean Day

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