Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy Hot Spinach Salsa Queso Dip

If you have processed cheese laying around, you should definitely make this. (I know, I know--I'm supposed to be into healthier cooking and Velveeta is not considered good for you. But we all need a little processed cheese in our lives. And if you snub your nose at're no friend of mine. AAAAND, you're totally missing out.)

The 'heat' (spice) can be controlled by what type of salsa you get--we used a medium spicy salsa and it was tempered somewhat by the creamy/mild cheeses. And it gave just the right amount of heat.


  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 lb Velveeta cheese (2% fat--this is the reduced fat version)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (light)
  • 1 jar salsa (I used 3/4 full jar of a 16 ounce jar)
  • A handful of chopped cilantro (optional-but good)

Now there's 3 ways to make this:

1) Cut the Velveeta and cream cheese into cubes and place all ingredients in a microwaveable-safe dish. Heat until cheese has melted and stir to combine all ingredients.

2) If you prefer, you can place all the ingredients in an oven safe dish and bake until the dip is heated through--continuing to stir to mix all ingredients. I usually put the dip in at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes--keep an eye on it as it depends on how deep your dish is--it can take as little as 10 minutes or as much as 20-25 minutes to have all the cheese melted. When it's hot and bubbly, it's ready!

3) OR, you can place all ingredients in a crockpot and heat until cheese has melted (continuing to stir the mixture to combine ingredients). It should take somewhere around an hour to have the cheeses melt (but check as crockpots vary). This particular method is great if you can leave it on the low setting--then your dip will stay warm for a while. But I bet it won't last!

Serve warm with tortilla chips. Heaven! Should make a small crowd very happy before dinner is served (like 4-6 people).

Horseradish Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

A few years ago, my husband and I had a wonderful meal downtown Chicago at Wildfire. LOVE that restaurant. Cort ordered an amazing horseradish potato encrusted filet mignon. Neither of us have ever forgotten it. The flavor from these mashed potatoes reminds us of that meal and we've replaced my standard garlic mashed potatoes that I put through a potato masher--maybe we've just demoted the latter...

Anyway, these are fantastic! Just incredibly wonderful. The horseradish taste is not very strong (in fact, I add more than is called for and it's still not overpowering) and complements the tang of the sour cream. Usually, I make them with chives. But my chive crop has dwindled as fall is here, so green onions were a good substitute. In fact, I may use both chives AND green onions next time. I liked them equally. Let me know which you prefer.

The recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.


2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes (unpeeled)
*1/2 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. butter (can use light butter)
1 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup chopped chives (or green onions-also called 'scallions')
1/4 cup prepared horseradish (in the refrigerated section close to pickles, cheeses, etc.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place potatoes in large saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well; cool slightly. Peel and mash potatoes ; place in large saucepan. Over medium heat, dry out potatoes for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

(Basically, you put the drained potatoes back in the pot and then stir them over heat for a minute or two. I didn't even mash the potatoes. After 'drying' them out, I poured the milk over them--as the step below states--and stirred with a spoonula until they more mainly mashed--but not pureed. We like a chunkier mashed potato once in a while.)

Heat milk in small saucepan (or in microwave) until warm. Stir butter, sour cream, chives/green onions, and horseradish into potatoes. Add warm milk and stir until completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately. OR, you can pour them out into a casserole dish and reheat before serving. I like to microwave them a little bit prior to sticking them in the oven so as to quicken the warming process. If you plan on reheating them, you may want to make sure the consistency is not too dry and add a little more milk as you think is necessary. They can dry out a little bit once reheated. Feel free to garnish with more chives or green onions.

Serves 6, according to recipe. But I think it serves closer to 8 or more when you consider that the mashed potatoes are usually a side dish. We had the mashed potatoes with burgers.

*The original recipe says not to add the milk, but I do anyway because I noticed that the potatoes harden/dry out slightly without the milk after sitting out for a while or being reheated.

You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to have mashed potatoes...they took less time than I imagined. You'll be glad you made them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vanilla-Ginger-Orange Pear-Sauce (Like Applesauce, But With Pears)


OH how I love, love, love fall!!!! Last week, my parents came to visit and we went to the orchard. We picked late harvest peaches and early harvest pears. After they left, I was left with pears that just did not seem to be ripening. What’s a girl to do? We don’t throw out food in this house….so what about pear-sauce? Like applesauce, but with pears? Bingo!

Then, I started thinking about the candle/lotion combination that I’ve seen at bath and body shops and they always sounded tasty to me… this is what I’ve come up with--I’m happy to say that the combination was awesome!!!! I must share—but my proportions are approximate—luckily, no harm is done if you are off by a little bit.


  • 12 pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into cubes
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated ginger (use less or more depending on your taste)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (use the real stuff—not the ‘imitation’ vanilla)
  • juice of 2 freshly squeezed oranges--you can add zest if you prefer a stronger orange taste
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup (optional—I used it and really didn’t need-I prefer things not so sweet)
  • About 1 cup water (you may want to start out with less and add more as needed)

Add all ingredients to a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to allow it to boil, but stir for a few minutes so the pears do not stick to the bottom of the pot.

Reduce heat and allow the pears to cook for 20-30 minutes more, until soft--continue to check on them and stir every few minutes.

(If the pears seem to keep sticking to the bottom of the pot, you may want to add a bit more water....just add a little at a time or the whole mixture can be too watery.)

Mash the mixture with fork or bean masher until it reaches the consistency of your liking. I like mine a bit chunky. If you like yours super smooth, I suggest you puree the mixture in a food processor or blender.

Makes approximately (I am guessing here) 6 cups--sorry I did not measure. Basically, you can count on some for yourself and some for your neighbors or friends and maybe a bit left over to freeze. I don't can my applesauce--we freeze it. But if you are interested in canning, there are many websites out there that will tell you how. Here's one to get you started.

This pear sauce is very aromatic and incredibly delicious--great with granola, over toast with peanut butter, on top of pancakes or waffles, or just eat it plain as a healthy snack.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Easy, Healthy, Chicken and Salsa Soup

Fall is here!!! Woo-hoo! I’m so inspired but I have to mark the cool weather start with soup—we LOVE soups. Chicken and salsa soup is a SUPER easy dinner to make when you are in a hurry and I guarantee it’s a surefire winner of a meal for guests too!

The beauty of this soup is that if you already have cooked chicken on hand, you don’t have to follow the directions below—you can throw all the ingredients in a soup pot and heat until it starts to boil. Then turn off the heat and your soup is ready!


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
2 (14.5-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth (or approx. 3 1/2 cups)
1 to 2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder or 2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. cumin (optional-but good)
1 1/2 cups loose-pack frozen whole kernel corn
1 can black beans (about 14-15 oz), rinsed and drained (optional-but very good)
1 cup bottled chunky salsa (fresh salsa is best-I prefer the Herdez brand if fresh is not available)

For serving:
About 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese—Cheddar or Monterey is good (if your salsa is mild, you can use Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeƱo peppers instead)
*3 cups tortilla chips
Light sour cream (optional)

Combine chicken, water, broth and chili powder in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

Cover; cook for 8 minutes. Uncover; add corn. Cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Stir in salsa; heat through. Sprinkle cheese over each serving. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream or any other toppings of your choice.

Makes about 6 servings.

**I like to use baked corn tortilla strips as a topping instead of tortilla chips: Cut about 10-12 corn tortillas into strips (any size) and spray lightly with olive oil (the olive oil version of ‘Pam’) and sprinkle lightly with salt (optional) and cumin/chili powder. Bake at 325-350 degrees for 5-10 minutes or so—when they start to turn brown, take them out of the oven. They help thicken the soup, when added before serving, and provide a great texture!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nutty Chocolate Banana Clusters (aka Nikki's 'Healthy' Cookies)

I must preface this entry by saying 1) I found these to be really good. 2) My husband (who is usually my taste-tester) is a REAL cookie fan and said these were good, but definately not to be called 'cookies'--more like ice-cream toppings or parfait layers.

Having said that, I am SO glad that I made these. They are almost guilt-less treats. Made me want to scrub the toilets or dust the cobwebs just to earn a few more. I read somewhere that they amount to about 79 calories a 'cookie'. And gives you energy to boot. No butter, no eggs, no flour, no sugar. And still good.

Sort of like bread, my healthy cookie search continues. There are just never enough healthy cookies out there! Enjoy!!!!!!!

Thanks Heidi Swanson--recipe courtesy of


3 large ripe bananas, well-mashed (about 1½ cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil (can be found at natural food grocery stores like Whole Foods)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded and unsweetened (can purchase in bulk foods section at Whole Foods)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (or carbo nibs for the vegans out there)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, --you're going to use the top third rack.

In a large bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla extract and coconut oil. Set aside. Oh, and this is what coconut oil looks like:

In another bowl, whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough.

Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart onto a parchment- (or Silpat)-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Check at 10 to 11 minutes to make sure the bottoms aren't burning. Mine took at least 15 minutes--check that the bottoms are burning--each oven is different.

Makes about 3 dozen 'cookies'.

FAST 'No Knead' Multi-Grain Bread

No, the bread doesn't make itself quite yet...but we're getting close. At first I thought I should put this non-rising loaf in my 'bloopers' reel, but after tasting it and hearing Cort's's making the blog cut. You can choose for yourself--but be forewarned: this is a hearty, European-consistency bread that may look like a brick. I realize that my great mistake may have been in using 'active dry yeast' instead of 'instant' (even though per the recommendations online, I doubled the yeast amount due to difference. I probably should have 'proofed' it--but now we're getting over my head).

I served it alongside leftovers at dinner and noticed my husband hadn't eaten more than a few bites. When I asked him why, he said it was so good, that he was savoring it and saving until last. Then he went back for more. So, maybe for the amount of effort involved, I'll share it with you too....

The recipe below calls for rye flour--which I've seen in some grocery stores. I know King Arthur catalog sells it and so should Bob's Red Mill. However, I go to the bulk foods section of my natural foods store (Whole Foods).

The recipe is from Mark Bittman (quite possibly my favorite cook--author of my now standard wedding present "How to Cook Everything"). Thanks to my grad school roommate and friend, Ellie, for introducing me to him--what a find! He writes what, in my opinion, may be one of the most useful columns of the NYT.


2 cups whole wheat flour (I did 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup bread flour)
1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten (my addition to create a 'lighter' dough--it's basically wheat protein)
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
(Olive) oil, as needed

Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be 'shaggy'. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. This is what mine looked like after 4 hours (sorry about darkness).

Oil a standard loaf pan (8 or 9 inches by 4 inches; nonstick works well). Lightly oil your hands and shape dough into a rough rectangle. Put it in pan, pressing it out to the edges. Brush top with a little more oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour more.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake bread about 45 minutes, or until loaf reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees (I used a meat thermometer). Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack. (REALLY? Let it cool? No! Eat it hot with butter! Buck the trend. Who are these people who don't eat hot bread?!)

Yield: 1 loaf.

The bread is absolutely heavenly when toasted and buttered.

Good luck and happy bread making. I'm going to keep at my efforts and if anyone has any recipes/tips to share for the lazy cook, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Napa Cabernet & Fresh Fig Preserves

My parents and I spent the day at the Botanic Gardens and I finally got to see the fig plant up close. Aren't figs beautiful?

Anyway, I felt inspired. Here's what I came up with trying to use up a Napa Cab (got on major sale!) and some fresh figs.


2.5 cups figs, quartered
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon* (doesn't have to be a Napa one!)
1/2-3/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or a little more depending on how dry your wine is)
Juice of one lemon

In a heavy saucepan, add all your ingredients and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the jam starts thickening up and coats the back of a spoon (check on mixture every couple minutes and stir to prevent sticking or burning).

Allow the preserves to cool. Refrigerate. (I like to stir them up a bit with a fork to mash the fruit--but you don't have to do that unless you don't like your fruit chunky--in that case--cut your fruit up smaller)

My favorite way to eat them is with cheese and crackers, fruit, and nuts. Or you can serve these tasty preserves over toast with butter, peanut butter, or cream cheese. Or serve them over ice-cream. They'll taste good no matter what!

*Next time, I think I may try them with a port.....

Makes one jar (about 12-13 ounces).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dessert As A Provincial Peasant: Almond, Apricot, Cream Cheese Crostata

My parents came to visit this weekend and knowing that my mom LOVES apricots, I finally had a reason to pull out this recipe that I had clipped back in August of 2006. This is my favorite kind of food/dessert--the kind of rustic tart you'd eat if you were sitting at a cafe in Europe. The kind of dessert your European relatives would make. The kind that looks imperfect, but tastes wonderfully home-made.

I love the combination of almonds and apricots (think of an apricot seed and that flavor). This recipe is adapted because 1) I was in a hurry and misread only needed the egg yolk, HALF the package of almond paste and 3 ounces (not 4) of cream cheese and 2) I did not have apricot preserves and had to use mixed berry jam/preserves. Didn't matter. Still really good. Here's the original in case you want to read the reviews. And no, I did not find the almond flavoring to be overwhelming despite my misreading of the directions.

Oh, what is a crostata, you might ask? An Italian, rough-looking, free-form fruit and/or cheese pie.


1 (7-ounce) log almond paste
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
4 ounces cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 14 or 15-ounce package), room temperature
5 to 6 large apricots, quartered, pitted
1/4-1/3 cup apricot jam (or other jam)
3 crushed amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Blend first 5 ingredients in processor until finely chopped. Blend until filling is smooth. This is what my can of almond paste looked like in case you don't find a "log":

Unroll crust on heavy rimmed baking sheet. Spread filling over crust, leaving 1 1/2-inch plain border--no, I did not measure--that's crazy thinking. Arrange apricot quarters, rounded side down, in spoke pattern in 2 concentric circles atop filling (as you can see, I had to go willy-nilly with my apricots).

Fold dough border up over edge of filling.

Heat jam in microwave so it will be easier to work with and brush the exposed apricots with warm jam (I love to use a silicone brush so no brush hairs remain in my food).

Bake crostata until crust is golden brown and apricots seem tender and slightly browned (or when jam goes all over the place and the crostata looks provincially messy), about 43 minutes (seriously, did not time it, but that is VERY exact and directly from the written recipe).

Sprinkle with crushed amaretti. What do those look like? Here:

Cool the crostata for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

It's really good. No ice-cream needed...unless you want to go WAY over the top. Serve with some good coffee on the side, if possible.

Makes about 8 servings. So good!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mellow Mushrooms: Roasted Mushrooms with Cognac

I'm the kind of person that has random and various esoteric ingredients just laying around and waiting for that perfect recipe. One such example is Chardonnay salt.....But while digging around (yet again) in the cupboards, I found a little bottle of cognac and remembered that Jamie Oliver had roasted mushrooms with it. The rosemary, cognac, and truffle oil I added (instead of olive oil) made this mushroom dish very woodsy. I imagined these mushrooms would be great side to serve alongside lamb (if you make lamb) or on top of polenta with cheese.

I used all baby bellas and recipe was still good--next time, I will use a mixture of mushrooms. This is a ridiculously easy recipe & made the rest of my dinner pale in comparison. Note: Parchment paper is available in baking shops and also in the baking section of most grocery stores. In addition (or instead of rosemary), you can also use thyme and sage to flavour the mushrooms.


Adapted from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

  • 1 pound of mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake), cleaned with larger mushrooms cut in half
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (Truffle-flavored olive oil is awesome too!)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Chardonnay-flavored salt if you're weird like me)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. cognac
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine your mushrooms in a bowl and add the olive oil, making sure that the mushrooms are evenly coated. Add the salt, pepper and rosemary and mix well. I also added the cognac at this point (why wait?) and mixed all ingredients together.

Take one sheet of parchment paper (it should be roughly 18 x 22 inches in size) and place it on a counter. Pile the mushroom mixture in the centre of the parchment, flattening the mushrooms slightly so that they're not mounded too high in the centre. (Jamie says to drizzle on the cognac at this point.) Cover the mushrooms with another sheet of parchment of equal size.

Fold all the ends of the parchment up and in so that a tight seal forms on all sides. Slide the parchment package onto a baking sheet and then place in the oven. As you can see, I did not have enough parchment paper, so I folded it and put the seam side down on the pan. Worked fine.

Bake for 15 minutes. If you like your mushrooms a little more "done", place them back on the pan and bake for 5-10 more minutes, out of the parchment paper. I think the parchment seals in the flavor first.

Open the package (carefully as a lot of steam will be released). Taste the mushrooms and adjust seasoning.

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and sprinkle on the parsley before serving. Easy!!!!

Yes, they were delicious!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tomato Pie--A Slice of the South

A Yankee would think I was referring to a pizza. A Southerner would know I'm referring to this below....the recipe below is adapted from Paula Deen, but mainly based on reviewers' suggestions/comments from this site.

We just got back from our family vacation at Kiawah Island (right outside of Charleston, SC). That place is HEAVEN for my husband and myself. One of our traditions when we go with just the family, has become to eat a tomato pie from Rosebanks Farms for dinner one night. I've made a tomato pie before that was pretty good--but this one below was WAY better and more like the one we get at Kiawah. I highly recommend trying it! You can't go wrong with this recipe. 


Serves 6-8

5 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
Approximately 15 fresh basil leaves, chopped or shredded
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup chopped green onion OR 1 small onion, chopped
1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell
3/4 cup grated part-skim mozzarella
3/4 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup light sour cream 
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes--this method sometimes did not work, according to reviews. So, I came up with my own method that seemed to work great: slice the tomatoes, lay them on several layers of paper towels, salt them, and let them sit for 10 minutes. Then, pat them down with more paper towels until more of the tomato juice has absorbed. (Yes, I realize this isn't as environmentally friendly--but suit yourself.)

Layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell.

Combine the grated cheeses, mayonnaise, sour cream, and salt and pepper together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. (Mine seemed to need slightly more than 30 minutes).

And since I always seem to overbake my crust, I added foil around the sides to cover up the crust and prevent burning and I'm happy to report that my system worked relatively well. Here's what it looked like going into the oven:

And here's the amazing goodness that came out of the oven:

To serve, cut into slices and serve warm. You will definately enjoy this--it was a real hit with the family. It would be wonderful to serve this tomato cheese pie with green beans/salad/crusty bread. YUM!

Y'all come back!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dr. Oz's Green Drink--Maybe This IS Craziness....Stay With Me....

Every once in a while after bad behavior (i.e.-frying, excess cheese, lack of gym time)....I turn to this "detox" drink--Cort would probably ask if this was my penance....

I don't really believe in detoxification (sorry those of you that are "so sure"--I believe in moderation and all around day-to-day healthful living with occasional splurges (although I could do better with the healthful living part, but here's step #1....).

I know that everyone is shuddering as they read this and I am dangerously close to losing my credibility....

At first, I was sort of grossed out by the combination of ingredients, but I'm not sure you'd be able to pick out every single one and to me, it doesn't taste that bad....makes me feel a bit energized. Figured I wasn't the only one who veers off the healthy path so thought I'd share this recipe for those of you who are brave.


Makes 3-4 servings (feel free to scale it back)

Dr. Oz says he makes a breakfast drink for himself many mornings that he calls his green drink.

2 cups spinach
2 cups cucumber
1 head of celery
1/2 inch or teaspoon ginger root
1 bunch parsley
2 apples
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Sometimes, I need to add a little ice or water to process the mixture smoothly.

This recipe makes 28 to 30 ounces—about three to four servings--if you can get someone else to drink it with you (ha! you should see my husband's face....). I really sort of enjoy me weird.

Apparently, during the episode in which this drink was featured on the Oprah show, Oprah took a sip and was pleasantly surprised, "It's a glass of fresh," she said. I can hear you now..."fresh what?!"

A toast to your health!!! On our way to 5 a day! And on our way to more 'normal' recipes from now on....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Onions

This is one of those posts where my picture does not do the recipe justice. These potatoes ARE SO GOOD! And soooooo easy! They are an absolute staple in our house. And courtesy of my mother in law, Carol. And a very healthy side dish.

Keep in mind that however you cut the potatoes, they need to all be cut the same (roughly) so that they can cook evenly.


I've tried to estimate proportions, but there is no exact science to it. Seems like for every 2-3 potatoes, use one small onion. Estimate approximately one small-medium potato for each person.

2-3 sweet potatoes, (I like them in thin half moons-but you can cut them any way)
A couple TBsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into rounds or half rounds
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients together and evenly spread them on a large baking sheet. I like to mix them with clean hands directly onto the baking sheet and then spread them out.

Roast the potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check halfway into the time (about the 25-30 minute mark) and mix all the potatoes to redistribute them so they get evenly roasted. It's okay if they overlap a little bit.

Serves 3-4 people as a side dish to chicken, fish, or very good part of a vegetarian meal with 'choplets' or 'multigrain cutlets'.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fried (Gasp!) Zucchini Patties

But at least I'm frying a VEGETABLE. Not that it makes it healthy....but these patties are just SO good. Earlier this spring, I had dinner at a family friend's house and the host (Mariana) served wonderful zucchini patties for dessert with powdered sugar. They were amazing! The ones below, that I made for this entry, are savory--not sweet. But, eventually, I still plan on attempting the sweeter version of these patties (that did not include any sugar in the composition).

Serve these savory patties with your favorite dipping sauce--I imagine they'd be great with marinara sauce or Ranch (the patties below are pictured alonside a zesty Ranch).


3 medium zucchini
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 very small onion (or half a medium onion), diced
1-1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
½ cup Asiago cheese (or Parmesan/Romano)
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Wash and cut the end off of the zucchini--do not peel. Shred the zucchini using the large holes of a cheese grater. Squeeze the shredded zucchini inside of a clean towel until you’ve removed as much liquid as possible. Or, alternately, you can put the shredded zucchini on several paper towels, lay more paper towels on top and pat down gently (repeat a couple times).

Place shredded zucchini into a medium sized bowl. Add garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, cheese (shredded), eggs, salt and pepper. Stir with a fork until well mixed.

Heat olive oil (about ¼ inch deep in bottom of skillet) to a medium heat (I used a bit less and it turned out ok). When the oil is hot enough drop a glob of zucchini batter into the skillet and flatten it a bit.

After about two minutes, turn the cakes over ( they should be a nice shade of golden-brown) and cook on the other side until done (about 2-3 minutes).

Place on paper towels (to absorb any oil). Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice and enjoy!

Serves 6.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No Knead! Ciabatta Bread (If I Can Do This, So Can You!)

If you have hands, you can make this. Seriously, it’s that easy. A lot of people seem intimidated by breadmaking. I was one of them. Until I tried the New York Times “No Knead Bread”…I will post on that sometime. The NYT no-knead bread is truly wonderful and bowled my family over. Ever since trying it, I have become open to trying other kinds of “no knead” breads.

This particular entry focuses on my experiment with no-knead ciabatta bread (which we LOVE). Ciabatta bread makes the most amazing sandwiches. Keep in mind that ciabatta is a FLATTER shaped bread--crusty on the outside and airy/chewy on the inside. And look to Chef John's example (below) of what yours should look like (this was my FIRST attempt, but I'll get better with more practice).

I can’t believe I don’t make bread more often. The only hassle is washing a bowl and a pan (2 things!) and waiting…a LOT. But bread is SO CHEAP to make compared to buying it. WOW.

This recipe is courtesy of Chef John and I made the recipe exactly as he directed. I have typed up his verbal instructions. Watch his informative video before making this bread. It helped me out a lot. Here’s his video:

No-Knead Ciabatta Bread from Foodwishes on Vimeo.


-Chef John from
Ciabatta means "carpet slipper" in Italian

4 cups bread flour (I used 3 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup wheat)-*Note: you can use All-purpose flour if you want
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups warm water

1) Mix all ingredients together (he used steel bowl). Dough will look very sticky and then too dry,. Then dough will come together perfectly & look sticky.

Cover with aluminum foil & let dough rise for 18 hours --don't place the bowl in too warm of a place so it doesn't over-rise (room temp-65-63 degrees F). Dough will look very bubbly, very soft, and have a beautiful viscosity (has amazing gluten strands--stringy when pulled by spatula).This is what mine looked like:

2) Punch it over with spatula & punch it down a few times (with spatula) and fold it over itself a few times (with spatula).

Spray a heavy half sheet baking pan with olive oil (or drizzle and spread) and generally sprinkle cornmeal over the oiled pan. Set aside.

Neat trick: Spray your work surface with water and put plastic wrap over it. It will not move as water will make it stick.

Sprinkle work surface with flour and then, using spatula, scrape dough out of bowl and onto work surface.

Lightly flour top of dough and somehow, someway (stretching, pulling), punch air bubbles out--form it into a long, flat shape and lightly punch out the air bubbles and continue to shape it manually--should move pretty easily on the plastic surface. (My mistake was that I flattened out TOO much so it didn't end up rising as it probably could have).

Drag your plastic wrap over to edge of pan and flip it over. If your bread dough loses its shape during the flipping process, just reshape it as best you can. It's not meant to look perfect.

3) Sprinkle some more flour on top of the loaf and cover with a dry kitchen towel. Let the dough rise 2 more hours. Dough will rise more out than up....totally normal! Still will be pretty flat.

4) Place in 425 degrees F for 35-45 minutes. It will rise, but it will still be flat-shaped. That is ciabatta's nature.

It will come out crisp on outside, but will be soft, moist, and spongy on the inside.

Good luck!!!!!

*Apparently, using bread flour provides extra protein/gluten and that seems to add more chewiness.