Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quinoa and Parmesan Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes

Last week we had one of those Indian Summer dinners that made my mouth water and my senses tingle with joy. The main course, Baked Balsamic Agave Chicken, was succulent and flavorful. We munched Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes on the side. And we capped off the dinner with these delicious Quinoa and Parmesan Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes. These are easy to make, ridiculously healthy, and absolutely perfect to serve on the side of a some sort of grilled masterpiece of an entree. Nosh. Nosh. Nosh.

There is something magical about simple ingredients combined in the right proportions. These tomatoes are bursting with flavor, and the flavor of these little beauties is enhanced by roasting them. Simple, real, whole food, minus all of the junk and gunk that come in those supermarket pre-packaged foods. Oh yeah. Music to my ears. Or tongue. Whatever.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Baked Balsamic Agave Chicken

A few years ago, I stumbled across a recipe that screamed to me, "MAKE AND EAT ME NOW." The star of that recipe was an amazing reduction of balsamic vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard. I started making the reduction to dress salads, baste meat, spread on toasty bread...pretty much anything that could act as a vehicle for it became something that drove directly into my mouth. One of my favorite ways to eat this reduction (which I have since modified and tweaked) is to baste chicken with it, bake the chicken until it is nice and tender, and then smear a little more on top before sprinkling with parmigiana cheese and shredded fresh basil. This recipe is fast, easy, totally healthy, and sure to please even picky eaters.

A quick note-I promise that the flavors are not overwhelming. The simmering and reducing of the ingredients mellows the strong acidity of the vinegar and spicy edge of the mustard, and there is a delicious, delicate sweetness imparted by agave nectar. A-ma-zing. We ate this chicken with Quinoa and Parmesan Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes (recipes coming soon). It's a great, quick, half hour meal full of real, whole foods. You can't ask for much more. Ok-you could ask for Ryan Gosling to sit across the table to whisper sweet nothings to you while you ate it, but let's not get too greedy ;)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crispy Homemade Eggrolls

Sometimes life just throws you a season where blogging about all things delicious, natural and frugal just doesn't jive with reality. I know I have been away for a few months, but I hope you'll forgive me and come back to reading this here little old blog. I've missed doing this and chronicling my life in a way that allows me the catharsis of writing, as well as the fun of sharing all of the fun things I have had a chance to create and learn. So, for better or worse, I am back, and I hope you'll continue on this journey with me.

The past two days have been dreary here in Utah, but man, they were spectacular. Low 70s, clouds and some humidity-the kind where a cool, slightly damp breeze sweeps over your skin, just kissing it with a little moisture. When you're raised on the east coast and migrate to the mountain west, you generally love the no humidity thing, but every once in a while, it brings back a slight nostalgia for sticky, damp summers and frizzy hair. Today was one of those days for me. I wanted to sit next to my mom and snuggle with her on the couch while she played with my hair and we watched The Waltons together. All of this nostalgia and yearning for a day gone by got me to thinking about memories of the past few years-and all of a sudden, I remembered the first time I ever had a truly delicious eggroll. 

I hated eggrolls until I was about 25. Seriously. They always had slimy, limp cabbage in them, and stunk of old socks. I always refused them on the rare Chinese food nights we had, and dreaded the stench that would waft out of the foil-lined bag as soon as my dad opened it. Ugh. Shudder. Then, my beautiful, sweet roommate, Stephanie, who has the most perfect, creamy, freckled skin and fiery red hair that you will ever see, convinced me to try her homemade eggrolls. How can you resist the wiles of someone with perfectly freckled skin and blazing red hair? The moment I bit into the hot shell packed with spicy sausage, crisp carrot and cabbage, and delicious seasonings, I was a convert. This recipe pays homage to Stephanie's, while still taking some liberties with seasoning and flavors. Thanks, you lovely girl, for making my life a little more complete.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rustic Mediterranean Flatbread Pizza

Someday, I will lounge on the shores of a Mediterranean island, soaking up the sunshine. In the evening, I will make dinner from cheese and eggs produced from my own cows and chickens and vegetables from my small garden, and I will inhale the scent of sea air and millenia of civilization. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she? Dinner last night was a little less than my Mediterranean heaven, but it was still danged good, took 20 minutes, and embodied the flavors that I imagine linger heavy in the air in my dream paradise. This recipe is adaptable in a million ways and can be tailored to suit the individual palates of anyone at your dinner table.

The most amazing part of this dish is the flatbread base. I have made this several ways and it never disappoints. The bread comes together so quickly that it will wow you, cooks in a matter of 3-5 minutes, and has this wonderful earthy flavor from the extra-virgin olive oil. The original recipe (courtesy of Deb from Smitten Kitchen) uses fresh rosemary, and it is divine that way. I wanted more of plain base for a pizza crust and omitted the rosemary, but topped the flatbread with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to add some flavor and complexity before topping them with some great fresh veggies and cheese and spicy Italian sausage. Talk about yummy in the tummy. Hubby and I devoured ours quickly. You could substitute feta for mozzarella, add kalamata olives or sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, oh heck, anything that tickles your fancy. Personally, I loved the heat and slight fennel flavor of the spicy Italian sausage, and highly recommend using that as your topping. 

Spicy Parmesan and Paprika Kale Chips

I don't know about you, but I am a snacky person. In years past, and especially in times of stress, I had a strange affinity for the combination of salt and vinegar chips and chocolate ovaltine...yeah, I'm weird. So in my epic quest to find a snack that was satisfying, sufficiently salty and with the necessary crunch, I have investigated many options. Baked chips, reduced fat, all of the stuff you can buy pre-packaged at the store. I have a new favorite though, and it's homemade, delicious, slightly salty, slightly spicy, a tid bit cheesy, and crunchy crunchy. Oh, and it's made from kale and completely preservative and junk free, so I can eat them as often as I wish! That's my kind of snack. I know, you're thinking, "kale? ew!" Kale is so good. I love it in anything, but as a chip, it has a slightly earthy flavor and an amazing crispy-crunchy property that makes it irresistible. Even my picky hubby likes them! Make some, and revel in the beauty of healthy snacking.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fire Roasted Tomato Cream Pasta

Imagine eating a rich, velvety sauce, coating al dente whole wheat pasta, your tongue savoring every bite, wishing you could eat this everyday without looking like you ate something as naughty as Fire Roasted Tomato Cream Pasta, that's the dream, isn't it? The Fire Roasted Tomatoes lend a smoky sweetness to this sauce that is perfectly complemented by the robust flavor of Parmesan and ricotta. That sounds straight out of Cook's Illustrated, doesn't it?

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past week and a half. I sort of went into a bit of a tailspin and needed a break, but I am back and onto new and more delicious things!

I have been fighting this internal battle over healthy eating and body image lately. I have a lot of thoughts that I will share over the next few weeks in snippets here and there, but my thought for today is this: As long as I try to define who I am and my self-worth by the way I look, I will never truly know and understand my intrinsic value and nature. That doesn't mean I ignore my health or appearance, but that I realize that the only way I can define myself and my worth is by learning to love myself the way my Father in Heaven loves me. So that's where I am focusing now, and in the meantime, on some days, when I feel like indulging, I will eat this heavenly pasta.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gingered Summer Squash, Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup {Vegan}

We are experiencing a nasty weather change here in the Salt Lake Valley, and it is really, really making me feel like I want to wrap up in a blanket with some hot herbal tea and just escape into a fabulous novel. Part of that plan definitely includes eating some soup. This soup may seem like more of a fall soup, but it's really well-suited for any season. It is savory and light, with just the right hint of spice and flavoring to make it interesting, but not unpalatable for more skeptical eaters. I whipped this up while my hubby was having movie night with his Dad and sipped spoonfuls slowly as I watched reruns of The Big Bang Theory. It was the perfect ending to a nice day.

This root-vegetable and squash based soup comes together quickly, is made with simple, fresh ingredients, and is packed with nutrition. It feels indulgent because it is so creamy, but it's one of the most nutritious and guilt-free soups I have ever made. It's also vegan friendly. Fresh summer squash combines with carrot and sweet potato, is complemented by celery and onion, and is flavored with ample amounts of fresh ginger, smoky cumin and sweet agave nectar. The creamy consistency comes from using coconut milk and yes, silken tofu.

My thoughts on soy products have evolved over time. During my brief foray into vegetarian eating as a teenager (abandoned when I couldn't live without bacon), I tried a whole mess of meat-substitute products. These products are highly refined, packed with sodium and preservatives, and are honestly junk food as to the same degree that a Twinkie is junk food. With breast cancer running in my family, and the many studies that link soy to breast cancer, I have a special interest in the potential benefits and detriments of soy products. I think Dr. Oz said it best last year on one of his programs, "If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it's made in a plant, don't eat it." A wise man indeed. Studies on soy need to be replicated over the next few decades, but it is obvious that Eastern cultures that utilize whole soy in their diets, such as Tempeh, Miso, Edamame and unrefined Tofu have been doing something right for thousands of years. Small amounts of unrefined soy can be beneficial to your health and have no causal link to cancer, and in fact, may prevent cancer and other diseases. So I say, okay to soy, in small amounts, where it fits in my diet. Try to buy soy as naturally and organically as you can, as many of the large agricultural production companies (Monsanto, for example) spray crazy things on the soybeans (a side of Roundup, anyone?). The super-refined products (some of the milks, soy burgers, dogs and the like) are not your friend. Not one bit. So stick organic and unrefined, and you may look as awesome as any of the beautiful 105-year-old Japanese women that eat soy. Hey, I can dream, can't I? Pretty sure those women could kick my trash any day.