Thursday, July 29, 2010

Italian Zucchini-Tomato Skillet

The zucchini has arrived!

This little combo is one of my go-to basic side dishes in the summer. It's quick and doesn't involve the oven (too hot!). And I've found the tomato-basil-parmesan combo to be pretty palatable for most kids.

Let some garlic get the party started
Add the zucchini for a minute
The green onions get all up in
their business
Finish with tomatoes, basil,
and parsley
Recipe below; printable version here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas

Lots of sugar snap peas in the box lately! We eat most of them raw, nibbled as snacks or accompanying meals. But I've been looking for other uses for them.

This quinoa salad seemed like a simple summer side dish, one that would taste good cold. It went together fairly quickly.

Blanch snap peas and cut into
one inch segments
Boil up some quinoa and let cool
to room temperature

Toss quinoa and peas together with chives,
pumpkin seeds and a vinaigrette
I don't know what I was thinking when I pulled this recipe. I like quinoa, I like snap peas, I like olive oil...but I don't much like vinegar (with the notable exception of sea salt and vinegar Kettle Chips). This recipe uses a healthy chug of white wine vinegar as a major flavor. So why was I surprised not to like the taste of this salad much?

The Husband said it was good. The Girl seemed to like it. You'll have to take their word for it.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Zuppa di Verdure

When you discover last week's Swiss chard languishing in the crisper drawer (ahem), the only thing to do is make soup. Nothing is more forgiving to wilting greens than soup.

I decided to try a Mollie Katzen recipe I'd been hanging on to called zuppa di vedure (an Italian vegetable soup). Like most vegetable soups it has a friendly flexibility. You can swap out similar veggies to take advantage of what you have on hand. This time around I substituted sugar snap peas for green beans and skipped the mushrooms altogether.

It was lovely--much more charming than the picture above captures. It had a lightness fitting to the summer weather, with a flavor similar to minestrone. We served it with a crusty roasted garlic bread to dip into the broth. Yum!

Recipe below; printable version here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cooking with Kids: Watermelon-Raspberry Slush

The Boy love love loves finding his monthly Highlights High Five magazine in the mail. Seriously one of the most genius Christmas gifts he's gotten (thank you Great-Grandma!).

It often includes a kid-friendly recipe that preschoolers can make (with a little adult help, of course). The August issue featured raspberry-watermelon slush. Think convenience store icees, only without the high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. In fact, this one uses nothing but fruit and a touch of lemon juice.

Blend 1/2 cup raspberries...
...with 2 cups watermelon and
a splash of lemon juice.
Freeze in a 2 quart dish...
...stirring with a fork every 30 minutes.
After about 90 minutes it was thick and slushy, ready to be dished up. So tasty on a warm summer evening! And The Boy was so proud that he had made us all dessert.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A healthier berry crisp

Fruit crisps are delightful all year round, don't you think? Warm apples in the autumn, tart berries over ice cream in the summer. And so easy to make, which always scores a dessert a gold star in my book.

This particular crisp is dairy-free, so The Girl can enjoy it, too. With the usual generous butter in the topping side-stepped, it also becomes low-fat: four grams fat per serving, compared to twelve in my standard fruit crisp recipe.

Mix fruit together with brown sugar
and tapioca
Combine oats, flour, brown sugar and
cinnamon for the topping
Stir together with egg white, vanilla,
juice and just a bit of oil
Coat berries with topping, bake
and enjoy!
Recipe below; printable version here.

(PS I like to double the cinnamon and add a touch of nutmeg.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sugar Snap Peas & Pasta

As much as we enjoy snacking on raw sugar snap peas, one can only eat so many. This dish caught my eye as a potentially interesting snap pea vehicle. It uses fresh peas as the base for a summery pesto.

I didn't make many changes, other than declining the recipe's suggestion to push the pesto through a mesh strainer. The dish seemed little harmed by my laziness.

Begin cooking one pound of snap peas.
In the middle of their cook time, remove one cup
 of peas and run under cold water.
Cut the removed peas in half.
Mash one clove garlic with salt.
Purée remaining snap peas with
garlic mash, olive oil, and cheese.
Toss cut peas and the purée with
one pound of penne.
At dinner time, I added a chopped tomato and some shredded chicken and it became a main dish.

'Twas even better cold.

Recipe below; printer-friendly version here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beans of Awesomeness (with Greens)

I recently found Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson at our local library and spent an evening curled up with it on the couch. It's filled with luscious images that make you want to spend the day cooking (and eating). But as soon as I spotted this simple side dish using chard, I knew which recipe I would be trying first.

The official name is Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens. I've affectionately renamed them the Beans of Awesomeness. Because that is exactly what they are.

I wish I were a better food photographer, so I could capture how delicious this dish is. The beans have a textured, almost crunchy outside with soft centers; the flavor of the greens quietly blends in among the garlic and olive oil. What's more, it uses simple, easy to find ingredients.

The author cautions against using canned beans, which apparently don't hold up well to sautéing. So sometime the day of or in the few days before, you'll want to cook up one-half pound of large dried white beans (notes on how to cook dried beans).  I failed to think about the beans the night before, but got away with soaking them for five hours and cooking for one. I added a shallot to the stock pot just to make things a little more interesting.

From there, it all happens in a single skillet. Fair warning: you need a large skillet.

Sauté in butter or oil in a single layer
(this was too crowded)
Flip when beans begin to turn
golden and crusty
Add onion and garlic
Add chard, cooking just until wilted
The cookbook suggested serving the beans "over grilled slices of rustic bread rubbed with a clove of garlic and a fragrant extra-virgin olive oil." A homely bruschetta, if you will.

At this point in the meal, conversation stopped. Because we were too busy scarfing down tasty bean-topped bread.

The Husband declared he would happily serve the Beans of Awesomeness to guests. I heartily agreed. And in our house, that's about the highest compliment a dish can get.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Baked Egg Rolls

I was scheming up ways to use up the other half of the Napa cabbage, when I thought of egg rolls. One my my favorite appetizers! I haven't the foggiest idea how to deep fat fry (nor the inclination to learn), so I hunted down a baked egg roll recipe to try.

Sorry about the blurry pictures!

Begin by pulsing celery and carrots in a food processor until finely chopped. Mix in shredded cabbage and throw into the microwave to steam. (The recipe suggested covering the mixture with plastic wrap, but the thought of microwaving plastic was a little worrisome to me, so I put an upside down bowl on top instead. It seemed to work just fine.) While the cabbage mixture is steaming, begin sautéing onions, ginger and garlic in a large skillet. I doubled the amount of ginger and garlic, because the original struck me as a little conservative on those flavors.

Add ground turkey (or pork) and continue cooking. When the meat is cooked through, add the cabbage mixture and stir in soy sauce and ground pepper. Chill briefly.

Time to roll! The original recipe gave tedious rolling instructions that involved cutting off the two side corners. Who has the patience for that sort of detail on an egg roll? I did a couple the recipe's way, but didn't see any advantage to it, so I switched to a different method: add filling to the bottom quadrant, fold bottom corner towards center, fold side corners toward center, roll up toward the top corner and seal with a brushing of egg white.

And you have one small egg roll.

Lay the rolls seam side down on a greased baking sheet, brush with oil and bake until golden brown.  Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.

I measured out the three tablespoons of filling per wrapper just as the recipe called for and ended up with eight rolls, a far cry from the fourteen it claimed to make. They were delicious, although they definitely tasted like egg rolls made with ground turkey instead of the more common chicken or pork--a touch of the healthy vibe, if you know what I mean.

I froze a set of uncooked egg rolls as an experiment. If they freeze well, this could be a great way to preserve cabbage--especially since baking in the summer isn't always the most attractive option. When I try baking them, I'll let you know how it goes!

Recipe below or printable version here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Freezing strawberries

Freezing berries tends to remind me of making a deposit: banking the vibrant sweetness of summer against the gloom of winter.

Flash freezing is my go-to method of preserving berries. It involves little more than cookie sheets and some ziploc bags. Easy peasy. I left this batch of strawberries whole, to use in smoothies. Partially thawed, they also are a nice touch on cakes or in fruit salads.  Just don't let them thaw all the way or they can get smushy.
  1. When freezing whole strawberries, choose the nicest looking, firmest ones
  2. Gently wash, draining well
  3. Remove the hulls
  4. Place on a cookie sheet, making sure no berries are touching
  5. Freeze for a few hours (or overnight), until frozen solid like so many strawberry marbles
  6. Move into a freezer container or plastic freezer bag, removing as much of the air as possible to prevent freezer burn
Now wait until the weather turns cold and enjoy the reminder of summer!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pasta With Beans and Greens

I had never tried pairing pasta with beans as a main dish until earlier this year. (Pasta e fagioli, if you're feeling fancy.) But when I saw a few versions while cookbook browsing, I was intrigued.

Together, the grains and beans are a complete protein source, making it a tidy meatless meal.

It's a simple two-pot dish. In one pot, cook up some chunky pasta, some shape that can hold its own against the beans. We picked orecchiette, which looks like adorable wee turtle shells. The name actually means "small ear," but the thought of a bowl full of ears squigs me out. I'm sticking with turtle shells.

Meanwhile, get some garlic and onions going in a skillet.

Add chopped greens and cook, covered, for a few minutes. Add beans and basil and cook for a few minutes more.

Toss with the pasta and squeeze a lemon over it all to counter the bitterness of the greens. Although the recipe didn't call for it, we added a little grated Parmesan.

The kids were smitten with the orecchiette. "It's helmets, Mama! Little construction helmets! Like Bob the Builder," said The Boy. "Hats!" cried The Girl. But they diligently picked over every single bean and bit of kale on their plates, so it was kind of a failure in that regard. The new score: me: 1; kale: 1.

The Husband and I gave it a B. Although I liked the touch of lemon in this recipe, we have a version that uses tomatoes that I like better. But it was worth a try.

Recipe below; printable version here.

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