Friday, March 25, 2011

Quinoa with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

I just finished installing my BFA Show! I feel on top of the world and thought I'd reward myself with a wonderful meal.
Only a mini post tonight, but it was tasty! Quick, simple, and full of earthy flavors!

Shiitake Mushrooms
White Wine

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabellas with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Balsamic Red Wine Reduction

That title is kind of a mouthful, but this saucy dish will have you stuffing your mouth until your plate is empty!
And even though there is a lot going into this, it all cooks in one big baking dish, making the timing of this meal as easy as can be.

Let's talk about nutrition for just a minute. Ever wonder what exactly you are getting from your food? Well, here is what you are getting from this food:

Spinach: Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Fiber, Calcium, and Antioxidants such as Lutein and Beta-Carotene
Portabella: Potassium, Niacin, Riboflavin, Selenium, Phosphorus and Zinc
Fingerling Potatoes: Potassium, Vitamin C, Iron, Protein and Fiber
Goat Cheese: Calcium, Protein and Iron
Oregano: Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Iron, Vitamin C, Folates, Manganese, and Antioxidants such as Carotene
Garlic: Manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Sulfur-containing compounds such as Allicin
Onion: Vitamin C, Organosulfur compounds such as Allium, Chromium, Vitamin B and Antioxidants such as Quercetin
Olive Oil: Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, Vitamin E
Balsamic: Iron and Calcium
Red Wine: Antioxidants such as Resveratrol

So basically what I'm getting at is, know what your food is doing for you, and be grateful! Thank you Mother Earth! Eat food as directly from the earth as possible for maximum benefits. There is so much fuss now of days about everything you eat being bad for your body. I'd just like to point out that food is still good for you! You just have to appreciate all of those things that grow out of the ground: Vegetables, Grains, Natural Starches, and Fruits.

And now I'll get on with it.
So ladies and gentlemen here it is!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabellas with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Balsamic Red Wine Reduction

What you will need:

10+ Fingerling Potatoes
4 Medium Portabella Mushrooms
1 Bag Baby Spinach
4-6 cloves Garlic
10 Golden Pearl Onions
4 Tbs Goat Cheese
Olive Oil
Red Wine

Preheat your oven to 400˚ and take our your biggest pyrex and grease it up.

Lets get those cute little potatoes going! Give them a good scrub and dry them off. Chop them roughly into smallish pieces. If you like them a little thicker you might want to increase the cooking time. Dump the potatoes into the pyrex.
Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife so they fall out of their skins. Give them a rough chop and add it to the potatoes.
Now for the onions. I LOVE GOLDEN PEARL ONION! I just needed to get that out. They are sweet and kind of pop in your mouth like grapes. But, if you can't find them, any small onion or a yellow onion would do. Skin the onion and cut off the tips. Don't chop pearl onions! Add to the potatoes.
Take a few sprigs of fresh oregano, chop it up and add it to the mix. If you don't have fresh herbs you can go wild adding whatever dried herbs you've got.
Drizzle the potatoes with a generous amount of olive oil and mix them up so everything is coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Don't be fooled, spinach cooks down a lot! You will need a whole bag, trust me. I removed the stems but you don't really have to. Put the spinach in a large wok or frying pan, drizzle with balsamic, just a little, and add some salt. Turn to medium heat and toss it around until the spinach is wilted. About 1-2 minutes.

If you really want the spinach to stay green you can blanch it in cold water at this step but I didn't really care, I knew it would be covered in sauce anyway. Get out a plate and put some paper towels on it. Scoop the spinach onto the paper towel and let it drain. Set aside.

On to the Portabellas! Chop off the stems, we aren't going to use those. Scoop out the gills with a spoon and a little bit of the meat so there is a nice bowl shape in the mushroom cap. Keep the gills, we are going to use them to mix with the spinach later.

Place the potatoes in the oven at this point and let them get a head start while you finish off the mushrooms (about 5 minutes or so).
Now spread your favorite goat cheese into the mushroom caps. I used about 1-2 Tbs in each one.
Squeeze the extra juice out of the spinach so it's not soggy. Stir the spinach and mushroom gills together, and scoop it into the mushrooms. Pull the potatoes out of the oven and nestle the mushrooms into them.
This should cook for 20-25 minutes.

Once that's in the oven we are going to start the Balsamic Red Wine Reduction. Use the wok or frying pan that you used for the spinach earlier. Pour in about 1/4 cup balsamic and 1/4 cup red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon). Add a little squeeze of honey. Turn to medium low heat and keep at a simmer until the potatoes and mushrooms are done. Swirl or stir every few minutes so it doesn't burn. The volume should reduce by about half, and it should thicken.

When the potatoes and mushrooms are done, pour the reduction over it, making sure you get all the mushrooms. Swirl the pyrex so the reduction spreads out over the bottom of the dish. Turn the oven to Broil and move a rack to the top of the oven. Place the dish on the rack and broil for 2-3 minutes so the potatoes get a little brown.

Plate up and enjoy! Be sure to pour some of that Balsamic Red Wine Reduction on top!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Coconut Curry Tempeh

This dish is exotic and rich. You wont believe you just ate such a complex and hearty meal that was actually. . . .  .VEGAN! If you are scratching your head and saying "What is tempeh?" here is your answer. Tempeh is a vegan protein composed mainly from compressed soybeans. I used Trader Joe's Organic 3 Grain Tempeh, which is made from soybeans, rice, barley, and millet. It is rich in texture, and high in protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12. If you can't find tempeh, you could easily substitute Firm Tofu in this recipe.
One of the things I really love about this dish is that you cook it all at the same time, in the same pan. There is very little timing things carefully to finish at certain times. Also, you can combine everything in a bowl ahead of time and put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. Perfect if you are making this for company and want to prep everything ahead of time. Once it is cooking you can kind of walk away from it too, just stir occasionally and add splashes of water every 10 minutes. How easy is that?

Coconut Curry Tempeh

What you will need:

14oz Coconut Milk (2 cups)
1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
2 Tbs Yellow Curry Powder
2 Tbs Hoisin (can sub. Soy Sauce and Sugar)
2 Tbs Fresh Ginger, minced
1 Tbs Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Tbs Palm Sugar (can sub. w/ Brown Sugar)
2 tsp Chili Garlic Sauce (or Sriracha)
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sesame Oil (optional)
Dash Cumin (optional)
1 Package Tempeh (or Tofu)
1/2 cup Shiitake Mushrooms
1 Red Bell Pepper
1/3 cup Golden Pearl Onions
Lime, sliced as garnish
Cilantro, chopped as garnish
Brown Rice

If you are using dried shiitake mushrooms like I am, we need to get them soaking (if using fresh you can wait). Take a handful of mushrooms, about 1/2 a cup, and place them in a bowl. Fill the bowl with warm water and set aside. We want them to be able to soak for at least 20 minutes while we get the rest ready.

Now for the amazing saucy part. You can work in a bowl, big mixing cup, or even right in the large wok or skillet you will be cooking in. Combine the coconut milk, rive vinegar, curry powder, hoisin, ginger, garlic, sugar, chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cumin. Fresh garlic and ginger make a big difference, use if possible. Ginger is a lot easier to work with than it looks; just slice off the skin, and mince, it will cook up nice and soft. Stir it all up and taste it. Does it need anything? Don't be afraid to alter the recipe, it's your taste buds not mine!

Tempeh needs to be cut fairly thin. Cut into strips, then turn them on their sides and slice through the middle to make thinner slices. It should be about 1"x1"x1/3" pieces.  If using tofu, make sure you press it first and then cut into similar sized pieces. Once cut, add it to the curry mixture.
Wash and dry the red bell pepper. Core and remove the seeds. Then cut into roughly inch sized pieces. Add to curry.
The golden pearl onions are one of my latest fascinations. If you were able to find them, you are in for a real treat! They are sweet and delicious with amazing pops of texture. If you can't find them, use any small onion or a chopped yellow onion. Peel the onions and add to the curry. Don't chop the pearl onions, you will love them whole, I promise!
Drain the shiitake mushrooms. Squeeze them gently in a paper towel, and then add to the curry. If using fresh mushrooms, slice them thinly and add to the curry.
Now that everything is ready, put it all in a large wok or skillet and turn to medium-low heat. It will need to cook for about 40 minutes. If you are using tofu it might not take as long. Stir occasionally and monitor the temperature to keep it at a simmer. After a while it will start to look thick. Add about 1/4 cup of water every 10 minutes to keep it from drying out.
While this is cooking, start some rice. I made 2 cups of brown rice in a rice cooker and it was plenty for the amount of curry.
Spoon rice into a bowl and top with a heaping scoop of curry. Garnish with fresh lime and cilantro.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

These cookies are soft and rich, salty and sweet. Good luck eating just one!

What you will need:

1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/3 cup White Sugar
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Tbs Milk
1 1/2 cup Flour
1 Tbs Unsweetened Cocoa
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
Mini Peanut Butter Cups (I used the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Trader Joe's)

2 Muffin Tins (or a lot of patience)
Since these cookies are so soft and fluffy, you can't move them when they are hot or they just fall apart, trust me, I tried. If you have 2 muffin tins it will go faster.

Preheat your oven to 350˚
In a medium bowl soften the butter. Then add the peanut butter and mix until creamy. Add the sugars, egg, vanilla, milk, and mix again. Add the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda, and mix.

Scoop 1"-1 /1/2" sized balls of dough into each cup of a muffin tin. Then press a peanut butter cup into the center of each dough ball. Bake for 9 minutes.

This cookie sheet is just how I served them, not baked them.
These need to be completely cooled in order for you to get them out of the muffin tin without destroying them. So, you can either wait patiently or you can put the whole thing in the freezer for about 5 minutes. This way the dough and chocolate will set up. Once they are cool, use a spoon to go around the sides of the cookie, then gently scoop it out of the cup and put it on a plate (not a paper towel). Also, I would recommend starting with the ugliest cookie in case they aren't quite ready yet and it falls apart. I didn't feel like waiting until this step to make the final round of cookies, so I just stored the rest of my dough in the fridge to use later. With two muffin tins I got 24 cookies, and that was enough for what I needed. This batch will make about 24-32 cookies. Enjoy!

Might I recommend pairing these with a glass of milk first and foremost,
and secondly a trip to the gym!

Fresh Pizza Sauce and Pizza Margherita

In Italy last summer Jesse and I ate tons of Pizza Margherita. On our first day in Italy, after 18 sleepless hours of traveling, we arrived in Napoli. We immediately crammed ourselves onto a shuttle bus to get across town, and then trekked by foot, backpacks and all, to a little hole in the wall pizzeria called L'antica Pizzeria Da Michele. I had read about how amazing it was in the book Eat Pray Love and was determined to see for myself. There was a huge crowd outside and everyone had numbers. I worked my way inside to order. There were three options on the menu: Marinara, Margherita, Margherita Double Cheese. I ordered a Margherita to go and took a number. The place was small and packed. There wasn't even a kitchen, the chefs were right there, the wood burning pizza oven was right there, and they made the pizza right before my eyes!!! They were old Italian men with gray hair and worn faces. They made it look so easy, spin the dough, sauce, cheese, basil, in the oven, out of the oven, in my hand. Since the little place was way too full for us to sit inside, Jesse and I found a curb to sit on down a side alley. We popped the box open and scarfed it down before I even thought to take a picture. But here is the box! And Jesse got a souvenir pizza stain on his shoe. It was amazing! Simple, fresh, soft, delicious. Nothing like pizza here. The dough was almost like naan bread and the sauce was indescribable! And although we tried tons of pizza places in Italy, nothing came close to that very first pizza.
Da Michele, Napoli = THE BEST PIZZA!

Later in Pompeii, another Margherita please!

So after getting to experience the wonders of fresh authentic simple Italian pizza, I wanted to make my own! The idea was sparked by picking up a bag of the fresh garlic and herb pizza dough at Trader Joe's. I decided to try making pizza sauce from scratch, because putting packaged Boboli sauce on fresh dough just didn't seem right. So here my friends is my homemade pizza sauce!

Roasted Garlic and Pepper Pizza Sauce

What you will need:

6 Plum Tomatoes
1/4 Onion
5 cloves Garlic
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Jalapeno
Olive Oil
Parsley or other Italian seasonings

Grease a baking dish and heat oven to 375˚. Wash the tomatoes, core and half them. Smash garlic with the side of your knife so they fall out of their skins easily, you don't really need to chop them. Roughly chop the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno.

Toss it all in your baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and seasonings. Toss with your fingers so it's all covered in oil. Place in the oven for about 30-45 minutes. The top of the vegetables should be browned. If you get impatient towards the end and want them to brown a little faster you can broil them for a few minutes like I did.

Let them cool down for a few minutes and then scoop it all into a blender. Blend until creamy.

Taste the sauce for flavor at this point. Does it need anything? Add balsamic, salt, pepper, seasoning, and olive oil to taste. Blend for a few more seconds to incorporate. Now taste for texture. Your sauce might be done at this point, but if you like really smooth and creamy sauce then lets keep going!
Now we are going to get out a mesh strainer and place it over a medium sized bowl. Using a spatula, press the sauce around in the strainer to separate out all of the skins and seeds. I poured about 1/2 a cup of sauce into the strainer at a time so it was more manageable. You might need to dump out the strainer half way through. Then you will have a tasty smooth and spicy pizza sauce! This will store fine in the fridge until you are ready to make pizza.

Now you guys get to see my failed attempt at "tossing" pizza dough. Although these photos look like bloopers, it was harder than it looks. I did all my homework. I read all about how to stretch a pizza dough without a roller. In the end, I should have used a roller. But this is what I did:

Pizza Margherita

What you will need:
1 bag Trader Joe's Pizza Dough
Fresh Pizza Sauce
Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Flour or Cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 450˚ and place your pizza stone in the oven for about 30 minutes. Flour a clean large surface. Take out your pizza dough, dump the dough out of the bag and onto the floured surface and let it sit for 20 minutes. Get out all of your pizza toppings so you can have them ready to go.

Now to stretch the dough. If you are smart you will use a roller. If you are stubborn like me and want to do it by hand, good luck! This is what you are supposed to do, not exactly how it worked out for me though! Keep the flour on hand!

Working from the middle of the dough, use your fingers to press outwards and spin the dough in a circular motion as you go. Lift the dough onto your fists (just a few inches apart) and let the dough hang. Slowly stretch the dough, turning it as you stretch. It will start thinning in the middle, move your fists
outwards to the edges. 

Keep your fists close to the counter so the dough can still be supported by it (this is one of the main points I failed at). Keep stretching and turning while trying to keep an even thickness (impossible). Set the dough back down and finish stretching with your fingers, pressing and flattening until it's about 12" in diameter.

Pull your pizza stone out of the oven and place it on the stove top. Sprinkle the stone with cornmeal or flour so the pizza wont stick. Carefully place the dough on top of the stone and stretch the dough out to the edges. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes so the crust sets up a bit.

Spread the pizza sauce over the crust, about 1" from the edges. Spread out the mozzarella (Italians use very little cheese). Sprinkle with basil but set some aside for the very end. Place it back in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Pull it out of the oven, top with the remaining basil, slice, and enjoy!

Despite the chaos of tossing the pizza dough, it tasted really good! And the sauce was really delicious, leaps and bounds better than Boboli! My mom, Jesse, and I gobbled up the whole thing, and I think they had fun laughing at me trying to make it too!