Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Flavors!


Christmas has come and gone; we had ample opportunity to spend quality time with our loved family and friends!  Our memories are what we will take in to this New Year.  One generous gift, thanks mama Diane and Mike, was an assortment of olive oils and balsamic vinegar from the Olive Gallery in Yorkville, Illinois.  These flavorful treats will provide us with ample opportunities to be more creative with our recipes.  So far we have tasted them in their original state, with fresh crusty bread of course, and they are all divine!  Here's what we have:

     Jalapeno White BalsamicVinegar

     Cilantro and Roasted Onion Olive Oil ( used in our Roasted Tomato and Black Bean soup recipe!)

     Blood Orange Olive Oil

     Meyer Lemon Olive Oil

     Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar

     Oregano White Balsamic Vinegar

We'll have more recipes using the others... stay tuned!

Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream

Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup Ingredients
7 medium tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, cut into large pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp Cilantro and Roasted Onion Olive Oil or regular olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 (15.5-oz) cans black beans (preferably low sodium), drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Toss the tomatoes, onion and garlic with the oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then transfer to baking sheet. Roast until the garlic cloves have softened, the edges of the onions are browned, and the tomatoes have collapsed, 35-40 minutes, stirring once after the first 20 minutes.

Transfer the roasted vegetable mixture to a 4-quart saucepan. Add the borth, beans, cumin, chili powder and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Stir in the hot sauce.  Mix the avocado and sour cream in a small bowl. Divide soup among 4 bowls and garnish with a dollop of avocado cream and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fig Bran Muffins

Finding a great recipe for healthy muffins isn't easy.  So when we found these, in an Ellie Krieger cookbook, we gave it a try.  Figs are such a wonderful tasting fruit ( see our fresh figs and goat cheese recipe!) and putting them in a muffin gives it a lot of great flavor, not to mention added health benefits: Figs are a fantastic source of vitamin B6 which is responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin, lowering cholesterol and preventing water retention, they are also high in dietary fiber, calcium, magnese and potassium!  Plus these muffins are very moist, thanks to homemade applesauce.  Make these muffins on the weekend, then wrap them individually and freeze them in a sealable plastic bag. Then in the morning pop one in the microwave for a minute and you'll have a warm, healthy muffin to eat on the go. Enjoy with your morning coffee or lowfat milk for a great start to a busy day.

Makes 12 muffins


Cooking spray
1 cup chopped dried figs, plus 3 whole dried figs
1 1/2 cups bran cereal (recommended: All-Bran)
1 cup lowfat milk
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup natural applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with cooking spray. Thinly slice the whole figs.
In a large bowl, combine the cereal and milk. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
Add the applesauce, honey, oil, molasses, and egg to the cereal mixture and stir until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the chopped figs. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and top each muffin with a fig slice. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. If necessary, run a knife around the muffins to loosen. Unmold and cool completely on a rack.

Nutritional analysis per serving (Serving size: 1 muffin)
Calories 230; Total Fat 8 g; (Sat Fat 1 g, Mono Fat 4 g, Poly Fat 2 g) ; Protein 5 g; Carb 42 g; Fiber 6 g; Cholesterol 20 mg; Sodium 135 mg
Excellent source of: Fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate, Manganese, Phosphorus
Good source of: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Cookies!!!!

Merry Christmas!  We made some holiday favorites this weekend, Gingersnaps, Pecan Cups, and Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark- all taste tested and approved, so rest easy, if you make these cookies Santa will surely give you what you asked for this year! 

Pecan Cup Cookies
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1 egg
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch salt

1/4 C. butter
1-3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 C. flour


- Spray 24 count mini muffin pan with Pam or the like.
- Cream butter and cheese, add flour, and blend well.

- Divide into quarters. Then divide each half into quarters.

- Make a small ball and drop into pan, fit each ball to cup.

- Fill each cup w/ filling, do not overfill, you should see the crust

- Then bake at 350 F for 17 minutes. Then at 250 F for 10 minutes.

- Knock pan to loosen, do not cool in pan.

- Place on cooling rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar

yeild: 24 Cups

1 C. sugar
3/4 C. margarine, softened (you can use butter)
1/4 C. molasses
1 egg
2 C. flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves

- Lightly grease cookie sheets

- Combine first 4 ingredients; blend well

- Stir in remaining ingredients

- Chill dough

- Heat oven to 375 F

- Shape dough into 1" balls, roll in sugar

- Place 2" apart on cookie sheet

- Bake 8-10 minutes; cool 1-2 minutes

 Yeild: 6 dozen cookies

Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark

1 pound Dark Chocolate
1 pound White Chocolate
1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract (divided)
6 Candy Canes, crushed

- Line a jelly roll pan ( or 12 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 1 edge) with parchment paper

- Place candy canes in a plastic bag, crush in to 1/4-inch chunks or smaller

- Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler, stir in ½ tsp. peppermint extract

- Pour mixture evenly onto prepared pan and place in the freezer to harden

- Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stir in 1 tsp. peppermint extract

- Pour mixture onto dark chocolate layer in cookie sheet, spread evenly quickly and top with candy canes

- Place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm

- Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle)

Yeild: 2 pounds of candy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving WIth Friends

Thanksgiving is a great time of year to spend time with friends and make traditions.  This year was our second in a row celebrating Thanksgiving a week prior to the real deal, with all of our friends!  Rob and Laura hosted in their beautiful new home, which meant they made the turkey.  It turned out so flavorful and juicy, just like the pros- it was perfection! We brought along some Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie and the Roasted Garlic and Chive Mashed Potatoes ( recipes below).  Other tasty additions to our meal included Green Bean Casserole, fresh bread rolls, Sweet Potato Casserole, Lemon Almond Broccoli, Mixed Green Salad with Apple and Apple Dressing, Stuffing, Gravy... and then for a dessert cocktail Lauren brought along homemade Irish Cream- which was so good I can't even put it in to words to do it justice!  Our Chocolate Pumpkin pie was rivaled only with a delicious homemade Pumpkin Pie- the verdict was Chocolate was very rich and almost similar to a cheesecake and the Original Pumpkin pie was perfect, light, creamy and the perfect blend of pumpkinny spices!

Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
Serves 12
( the filling made enough to fill 2- 9" pie crusts, go for a store bought graham crust if desired!)
2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (about 16 crackers)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao), finely chopped

6 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably 55 percent cacao), chopped
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Ground cloves
1 ounce milk chocolate, melted


1.Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in bowl. Firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of a deep, 9 1/2-inch pie dish. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

2.Remove from oven, and sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over bottom of crust. Return to oven to melt chocolate, about 1 minute. Spread chocolate in a thin layer on bottom and up sides. Let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
3.Make the filling: In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt semisweet chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

4.Mix pumpkin, milk, brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves in a medium bowl. Whisk 1/3 pumpkin mixture into chocolate mixture. Whisk in remaining pumpkin mixture until completely incorporated.

5.Transfer pie dish to a rimmed baking sheet, and pour pumpkin mixture into crust. Bake until center is set but still a bit wobbly, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pie dish on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours (preferably overnight). Before serving, drizzle melted milk chocolate on top. Serve immediately.
Read more at Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie - Martha Stewart Recipes

Roasted Garlic and Chive Mashed Potatoes
( Serves 12)

5 pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut in to cubes
1 stick un-salted butter, cut in tablespoons
1 head of garlic, roasted
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk, lowfat

Salt and Pepper

To roast Garlic, wrap the whole clove rubbed with olive oil in foil and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes at 350.  It should be soft and fragrant. 

Place potatoes in a large pot with water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 30-35 miutes, until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain, return to stove in pot.  To fully dry potatoes, keep flame on under the pot and toss potatoes around until steam ceases.  This keeps your mashed potatoes light and fluffy not pasty. 

Using a fork or hand masher, blend in the whole head of garlic by squeezing each clove out of its shell.  Add in the butter ( save 2 tablespoons), mashing well after each tablespoon.  Slowly add in buttermilk, you may not use all, just mash in till desired consistancy.  Salt and Pepper, add chives and more butter to taste.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spinach and Garbanzo Bean Salad

Light and refreshing salad, great for lunches with high protein, very filling garbonzo beans.

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
4 cups baby spinach leaves
Yogurt with Orange Essence, recipe below, optional
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves, optional


In a medium bowl combine the chickpeas, parsley and onion. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture and toss to combine. Serve the chickpea salad over a bed of spinach leaves. Top with the yogurt sauce and a sprinkle of mint, if using.

Yogurt with Orange Essence:

1/3 cup lowfat plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon honey

In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, orange zest, orange juice and honey.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Butternut Squash Ravioli and White Wine Butter Sauce

Who doesn't love fall, especially the wonderful one we are enjoying this year?  With it comes some incredible produce like squash... acorn- pumpkin- spaghetti- butternut, and all are loaded with vitamins and nutrients that happen to be very tasty, especially when mixed with a blend of goats cheese, green onions and basil in ravioli!  Try this recipe and you will NOT be disappointed.  We usually only make enough to have for dinner since leftovers do not keep well.  Freeze and store the remaining filling for more future ravioli dinners, appetizer dips or fillings, or as a sauce on rice or whole grain pasta.

Serves 4
1 lb Butternut Squash, peeled seeded and cubed
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
3 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth ( low sodium)
To make:
1 package of Wonton Wrappers
2 tablespoons water, to seal
To Serve:
Fresh Basil
Parmesan Shavings
More fresh cracked pepper


Put cubed squash in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for additional 25 minutes until it is fork tender.  Drain well and return to pot.  Stir in goat cheese, scallions, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a frying pan, add in broth and wine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes until reduced.  Set aside.

Bring another pot of water to boil to cook ravioli in.  Have a slotted spoon to remove them once cooked nearby as well as a large platter.

Set up a clean work surface to build your ravioli- bring the filling mixture, 2 tablespoons of water in a shallow little bowl and wonton wrappers.  Have the wonton wrappers laid out to make 4 at a time, so 8 wonton wrappers in a 4 x2 configuration.  Dip your finger in the water and swipe the edges of the wonton wrappers around the outer edge.  Place about 2 teaspoons of filling directly in the center of your wonton and top with the other wrapper, seal with a fork around the outer edges as shown in our picture. 

Working in batches of 4 at time continue to build as many ravioli as desired.  Place 4 at a time in to the pot of boiling water for 2 minutes, then with your slotted spoon remove them and place on your platter.  They stick to each other if you stack them, so keep it to one layer. 

To serve, place a portion of the ravioli on 4 plates, divide and spoon on the sauce, fresh basil, parmesan shavings, and fresh cracked pepper!

Banana Pancakes

Breakfast has always been our favorite meal, whether it's making it at home or going out to a quaint and yummy restaurant.  There's no doubt that when you wake up to start a new day, with the sun rising, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and being in warm pj's... that breakfast is a special meal, especially on the weekends with ample time to make delicious creations!   Pancakes are a favorite for many, and they are fun to customize based on your cravings or ingredients on hand.  To make a heart healthy AND very delicious, light, fluffy pancakes- follow this recipe and enjoy a happy morning :)

Yield: 4 servings (serving size 2, 5-inch pancakes)


DRY ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift together dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. 

** Sifting breaks up clumps, adds air to the flour which helps produce lighter cakes, and makes measurement more uniform**
WET Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup mashed banana ( about 1 medium)
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In another medium bowl, beat together the eggs then add buttermilk, banana, non-fat milk, honey and vanilla.

** Substitute the mashed banana for an equal amount of either Pumpkin puree, Applesauce or just buttermilk. 
*** If you don't have buttermilk on hand simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice to regular milk, stir and let rest for about 3-5 minutes, and bada bing you'll have Buttermilk!

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. The batter will be somewhat lumpy.

Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to ladle the batter onto the griddle or skillet. Flip the pancake when the top is bubbling and it is golden brown on the bottom. Then cook until the other side is golden brown. Hold on an oven proof plate in the oven until the entire batch is ready. When all the pancakes are ready, you can serve with warm pure maple syrup or fresh made fruit preserves and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Broccoli, Tomato and Feta Fritatta

Happy Halloween, and good morning! This breakfast turned out so colorful and tasty, we wanted to share it with you. Easy, fresh, healthy, filling and tastes delicious, follow this recipe and welcome to a really good morning:

Serves 2
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fat free milk
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounce crumbled Feta cheese
1 teaspoon unsalted butter


Beat eggs, salt and milk together. In an oven safe skillet, melt the butter over medium heat on the stove top. Add in the broccoli to soften and coat. Pour the eggs in the pan and cook until the eggs just start to firm up, pushing the eggs back and forth with a spatula. Spread evenly over the pan, and take off the flame. Top with tomatoes and Feta, then put it in the oven for 10 minutes until the eggs are completely set, but not browned. Divide on two plates and serve warm, with toast and coffee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet and Sour Brisket

We ran across this recipe in our favorite cookbook, The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger. It's slow cooked brisket in a home made, and plate licking, sweet and sour sauce. We bought our brisket at Fulton Market and literally couldn't wait to prepare this, but it takes some time! So make this on the weekend, and please let us know what you think, because we literally have never tasted any brisket more incredible then this one! We had to share. Some tricks we learned while making this... make sure you have a large stove top to oven pot, like our Le Creuset dutch oven with the heavy lid. Also, you have to let the roast rest and cool down for 45 minutes before slicing it- otherwise it will shread ( which is also yummy but not as ideal for sharing a sliced roast!) Just put the sliced meat back in to the sauce over the stovetop to heat it back up- and it's perfection!

1 (3-pound) beef brisket, first-cut or flat-half cut, trimmed of any excess fat
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, cut in 1/2, then thinly sliced into 1/2 moons
3 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
One 15- oz. can tomato sauce, preferably no salt added
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup golden raisins
5 black peppercorns
1 allspice berry


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Pat the brisket dry and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or braising pot. Sear the brisket until it is browned, 4 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot and cook the onion, stirring a few times, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, broth, brown sugar, 1/3 cup of the vinegar, the raisins, peppercorns, and allspice and stir to combine well. Bring mixture to a boil, return brisket and any accumulated juices to the pot, spoon some of the tomato-vinegar mixture over the brisket, cover tightly, and transfer to the oven. Cook until the brisket is fork tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Remove the brisket from the oven, transfer the meat to a cutting board, and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes or, if serving later, cover and refrigerate the meat and sauce for several hours or overnight. When you are ready to serve, cut the meat against the grain into 1/4- inch thick slices. Return the sliced brisket to the sauce until heated through, then serve.

Yield: 10 servings, serving size: 4-ounces brisket plus 3 tablespoons of sauce

adapted from 2007, Ellie Krieger, All rights reserved

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese, Cinnamon and Honey

Figs are a great fruit to eat fresh, it's incredible the difference in taste and texture when you compare it from what we're used to- Fig Newton's anyone? We saw these beautiful and sensual fruits ripe and in season at the Whole Foods and couldn't resist trying something new with them. The mix of goat cheese and honey in a fresh fig creates a perfect balance of flavors and texture- this works great as an appetizer, dessert or even a quick breakfast in a pinch! Try these out fast, as this recipe works best with the fresh figs and like we said, they're in season now,


10 fresh figs
4 oz Goat Cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon good honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Cinnamon


Remove the stems of the figs and cut into quarters from the top down to, but not completely through, the base of the fig. Cream or whip the goat cheese with half the honey and a half the cinnamon, then and place it in a sandwich bag- snip the corner to allow a small hole for piping the cheese. Pipe cheese into the center of each fig. Drizzle the remaining honey and cinnamon over the figs and serve!


10 fresh figs
4 oz Goat Cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon good honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Cinnamon


Remove the stems of the figs and cut into quarters from the top down to, but not completely through, the base of the fig. Cream or whip the goat cheese with half the honey and a half the cinnamon, then and place it in a sandwich bag- snip the corner to allow a small hole for piping the cheese. Pipe cheese into the center of each fig. Drizzle the remaining honey and cinnamon over the figs and serve!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dark Chocolate Dipped Bananas

Chocolate.... Bananas.... Chopped pecans.... We're not sure we need to say more.... try these out and you really won't miss ice cream ever again.

4 medium ripe but firm bananas
8 wooden craft sticks
3 tablespoons finely chopped Pecans
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cocoa solids), chopped

Peel, then cut each banana in half crosswise and insert a craft stick into each half. Place on a tray, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until frozen, about 3 hours.

Place the peanuts in a shallow dish or on a plate. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over slightly simmering water, over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently. Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the top pan. Pour the melted chocolate into a tall glass. Dip each frozen banana into the chocolate, turning it to coat, and immediately roll in the peanuts. Place on a tray covered in waxed paper. Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper and freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash

Many apologies for the lack of recipes we've posted this October! It's been a hectic time with birthdays, freelance work, busy weekends and more. We've been cooking a lot, and enjoying the plentiful fall produce, just not sharing... we are back, no more excuses, with a fabulous fall recipe that uses pantry items and leftovers! This dish is rich in flavors, the contrast of spicy and savory fillings within the sweet acorn squash with gooey mozzarella cheese topping it off is very satifying, and packs a healthy dose of vitamins! Use any leftover fillings the next day wrapped in tortillas.

Serves 2 ( with plenty of leftovers for filling another squash or use as taco fillings the next day)

1 acorn squash ( about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
Cooking Spray
1 cup cooked brown rice ( use any leftover rice if it's on hand- plain, with seasonings and veggies- whatever!)
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chilil powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 15-oz can black beans, lower sodium, rinsed and drained
5 dashes hot red pepper sauce, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese

To Prepare:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Cut squash in half vertically ( from top where stem is to the bottom). Scoop out and discard the seeds. Rub the interior with a light coating of olive oil, salt and pepper, then place cut-side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender about 35-40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray or olive oil; heat over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, beans, rice, and hot sauce; cook until heated through, about 4 minutes, stir often so it doesn't burn. Taste test for seasoning adjustments, add any salt or pepper and then set aside
4. When squash are tender, reduce oven to 325 degrees. Fill the squash halves with the rice/ bean mixture ( about 1 cup in each half). Top with cheese. Place on the baking sheet and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 5-8 minutes.
5. Enjoy this hearty, healthy, very filling meal and let us know what you think!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mahi Mahi Night

Fish dinner is a great meal if you're in a hurry, plus the health benefits aren't too bad! We try to incorporate some fish in to our menu each week; however it is not always easy to find sustainable, safe and fresh fish here in the midwest. This week we made some US Mahi Mahi fillets from Trader Joes, flash frozen to lock in nutrients and freshness. Plus they are on the "Good Alternative List"

If you are interested in how to choose seafood that are safe and environmentally sustainable, here is some information (thank you Katie!) for finding the right fishies:

there are slight differences but mostly the 2 sources match
These links include PDF's of pocket guides that you print out and then can carry in your wallet!

So to make our fish bundle:
Place any 2-3 fish filets in a shallow pie plate covered with foil, spray with pam. Drizzle olive oil over, about 1 tablespoon, to coat the fish. Season with fresh minced garlic, slices of lime (or lemon), salt, and pepper. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven till fully cooked- this depends on the thickness of your fillet- follow packaging instructions. To serve, squeeze fresh lime or lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Our sides included Butter Parsley Turnips and Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes, please inquire if you are interested in those recipes!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

Sunday at the Farmer's Market, all the good Red tomatoes were gone from our favorite vendor, BUT never fear- we found some really great looking heirloom Green tomatoes... so what else could you make with these tart juicy tomatoes? Well that's what we thought! Fried Green Tomatoes, very simple to make, and not so unhealthy for you if your oil is hot enough. Here's what we did,

The main Star:
1 extra large Green Tomato, evenly sliced 1/8" thick

The Egg Wash:
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup low fat buttermilk or fat free cream or Milk!
dash salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a shallow pie pan or dish, beat all ingredients together, set aside

The Crust:
1/2 cup cornmeal or cornmeal flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
In another shallow pie pan or dish, mix all ingredients together, set aside

To Prepare:
In a frying pan with deep sides, add in 1/4 -1/2 cup canola oil (depending on the size of your frying pan, you want to have a thin layer of oil in the bottom 1/8" high) heat up the oil over high heat.

Dip the slices of tomato in the Egg Wash, then coat them in the Crust mixture.

Gently place the tomatoes in to the hot oil, cook about 3 minutes per side. They should be golden and crispy.

Then transfer to a plate with paper towels on it and sprinkle with more salt/ pepper to taste. Serve with fresh parsley, ranch dressing or all alone. They're all good!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weekend with Heidi and Alejandro!

There is one really, truly special thing that happened while I was living in Wisconsin- meeting two wonderful new friends, Heidi and Alejandro. These two have very kind hearts and made living alone in the middle of WI bearable. Sharing their homemade meals, inspired by Costa Rican cuisine, prepared by the Chef du Jour Alejandro, I was spoiled. I will never forget their generosity and am very grateful for the continued growing friendship we've kept. So this past weekend we stayed with these two incredible hosts, for our annual Maywood Earthride. While Heidi and I took on 70 miles of the uphill in the wind Kettle Moraines, the boys stayed home and cooked a champion feast! On the menu for the weekend: turkey quesadillas packed with fresh grilled veggies, egg skillets, veggie hash, beignets with mango sauce, mango sauce glazed fruit salad, and slow cooked short ribs with plantains, chayote, yucca with sweet corn over a bed of hot rice.... mmmmmm. Jason and I got an education on using new exotic veggies as well as USING all your groceries, and I mean utilizing each left over or ripened banana to create exquisite meals that taste anything but leftover. For instance, the turkey used in those loaded quesadillas was in the fridge from a recent roasted turkey dinner and after eating all those delectable beignets, we had leftover mango sauce, so Heidi tossed that in to a fresh fruit salad! It's simple things you can do to really get the most out of your food with very little waste. Next time you're about to reheat the same meal from tonight's dinner, think of a creative way to incorporate it in to a whole new dish, like soup or quesadillas or even a baked savory tart!

The dish we are going to blog about is the dessert BEIGNETS... (pronounced: bey-nyay) it is a pastry made with deep fried dough and then Alejandro creates decadent sauces to drizzle on the top- this time was the aforementioned Mango Sauce... read on and try it yourself... if you don't have a deep fryer just use canola oil and your large dutch oven pan!

For the Sauce, you'll need
1 large mango, skin and seed removed then chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Add all ingredients into a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, using a hand immulsion blender, blend the mixture till smooth. Continue to reduce the mixture until thickened, about 25 minutes total.

For the Dough
1 cup water
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3-4 large eggs (4 if the eggs are on the small side)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Bring the water and pinch of salt to a boil in a large sauce pan, dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and slowly stir in the flour, it will get thick but contune to stir constantly until the mixture is smooth- no lumps! Then add in one egg at a time, making sure to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next one. Last, stir in the vanilla.

To Make the Magic happen...

Get your oil HOT whether it's on your stove or in the fryer. Then using 2 spoons scoop and scrape the mixture ( like cookies) in to the hot oil, don't over crowd them, they puff up. They cook for about 7 minutes total until golden brown.

Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on top and drizzled with your Mango sauce.... ENJOY :)

Thank you again to our amazingly generous, wonderful friends for having us over and taking such great care of us, we can't wait to have you back at our place next time!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pickled Veggies

If you've ever been to Nuevo Leon you've tasted those pickled carrots and possibly the hotter jalapenos with them! We've always wanted to try to make our own, so we asked Alejandro how it's done, and it is very, very easy.... the best vegetables to use are:

Whole Jalapenos
Sliced Carrot
Chopped Green Beans
Sliced Onions
Garlic, whole
Cauliflower... broccoli... chopped.... whatever you have on hand

To make it:

In a large sauce pan toss in any or all of the above ingredients, then cover with a 50/50 mix of vinegar (plain, white wine, rice wine whatever you've got) and water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes. When it cools store it on your kitchen table in a sealed vessel and use it to add some flavor to your morning eggs.... on your sandwich for lunch or with dinner!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chicken, Chipotle and Avocado Soup

As the warm summer air slowly fades away, cool shorter days begin their take over. This recipe is for those of us stuck between mourning summer's end, and anticipating the crisp fall colors. The fresh ingredients in this simple soup will keep you locked in to the summer, while the richness and wamth of homemade broth ease you into the cool fall nights. Since the ingredients and this recipe are so simple, the broth takes center stage. Making your own broth is the only way to ensure it can stand up for this task. We reserve our chicken carcass from recipes such as our "Whole Roasted Chicken Tacos", and store it in an airtight bag in our freezer.

1 chicken carcass
10 cups water
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped (see note*)
1 cup onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients in a large heavy bottom pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, place lid on the pot, and set your timer for 90 minutes. Strain the contents through a mesh sieve into a large bowl, reserve the carcass, toss the veggies and any skin. When the carcass cools, you can pick off the bits of chicken to use in the soup, usually about 1 cup.
* NOTE: For the veggies, you don't need to carefully chop up each piece in uniform shape or size, these are only used for flavor in the broth and are dicarded. For the celery, we like to use the discarded top and core that aren't what you would want to snack on with your peanut butter.

Chicken, Chipotle and Avocado Soup
6 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 chipotle chili pepper in Adobo sauce, seeded and sliced thinly (see note**)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon each Salt/ Pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 avocados, pitted and diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 limes

Bring the broth, chipotle chili, and garlic to a boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, you will need to cook up 1-2 chicken breasts to add in on top of the reserved chicken from the carcass. We seasoned ours with 1/2 the Olive Oil, Paprika, Garlic, Salt and Pepper. Pour the other 1/2 of the olive oil in a medium pan over medium/ high heat, cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Set aside under foil for 5 minutes before chopping it up. In four bowls, divide the avocado, green onions, chicken, and cilantro. Ladle the broth mixture over each bowl, and squeeze some lime juice over the top. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream if desired.
** NOTE: Chipotle Chilis in Adobo come in a small can at the store with about 10 chilis, we divide them in to separate zipper baggies and keep them in our freezer to use whenever a recipe calls for it. Usually a recipe will only call for 1-2 chilis, as they are very potent in flavor (and heat if you leave those seeds in!).

Pilsen Farmer's Market

Each weekend from June through the end of October, we look forward to Sunday mornings browsing the local produce and products at our Pilsen Farmer's Market. During this time, Basil, cucumbers, peppers, squash, sweet corn, swiss chard, blueberries, watermelon, tomatoes, and honey are all in season. Honey is brought to the market from 1 block away, where you will find a full functioning beehive on top of Simone's, our local restaurant and bar. Another one is called the Carpenter Street Beeyard also in Pilsen- who knew we had so many? The Chicago Botanic Garden vendor seems by far, to be our favorite spot. All the produce is grown in local greenhouses near Pilsen, so each vegetable is picked VERY fresh and brought to the market that day. We had a lot of fun exploring the seasonal picks; each inspiring new recipe creations that we will be enjoying and sharing this week. Stay posted.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tuna Burgers for 2

In an effort to stay away from the grocery store and use up some ingredients we had on hand, Tuna Burgers were brought to life- not a tuna salad sandwich and not a beefy burger, but a merging of the two... the result was a delicious warm patty of perfectly seasoned tuna on a bed of spinach and fresh tomato- give it a try,

20 ounces of tuna in water, drained VERY well
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon Teriyaki
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
Canola Oil

Combine all ingredients together (save the Canola) and form in to 4 equal sized patties. In a large frying pan, distribute Canola oil to cover bottom of the pan, and heat over medium high heat. Add the burgers and cook till browned, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with your favorite sliced cheese, spinach, tomato, and avocado on a bun. Enjoy!

Cajun Halibut with Swiss Chard

1 bag of frozen Trader Joe's Halibut Pieces, thawed and pat dry
1 tablespoon Cajun Hot seasoning ( ours is from Stanleys)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch thinly sliced Swiss chard
1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins

Season Halibut pieces with Cajun mix. In a large frying pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Place the pieces in the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, till seared and cooked through but not dry. Serve with Swiss Chard recipe below.

Swiss chard with olives and golden raisins

Brown 1 chopped onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 bunch thinly sliced Swiss chard, chopped pitted green olives, and golden raisins; sauté for about 6 minutes or until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Bob's Corn

Every year for the past 18 years, Amber's family has celebrated TEVA fest ( Terry and Eva's wedding anniversary Pig Roast, camp out fest!) Bob's corn is the highlight of the meal, ok the pig roast is amazing too, but there's something special about the freshest corn on the cob that you could ever imagine... perfect crisp bite, savory sweetness, grilled in it's husk to perfection and dipped in real butter to make it the most incredible food you have ever eaten... you can't duplicate it- so sorry, but this post is just to brag.

Tomato and Artichoke Orzo

We came across a great article on the web with some ideas for using the top super foods, Artichokes are one of them; this is some info from that article- followed by a recipe they shared and we adapted in to a meal!

"A study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that artichokes had the highest antioxidant capacity of 40 vegetables and herbs tested. "Like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, artichokes are rich in flavonoids, which help slow the growth of breast and other types of cancer cells in lab studies," says Dong Moon Shin, M.D., a professor and Frances Kelly Blomeyer chair in cancer research at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta. "

4 fresh artichokes
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red wine
28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
4 cloves minced garlic
fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 cups cooked orzo pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Boil 4 artichokes for 30 minutes; drain. In the same pot, brown 2 chopped celery stalks, 1 chopped onion, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 cup red wine, a 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, and 4 cloves minced garlic. Place artichokes in tomato mixture; spoon mixture over then. Cover and simmer for about 35 minutes or until artichokes are tender. Serve over a bed of orzo pasta topped with grated cheese. Enjoy knowing that you are eating SUPER food!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whole Roasted Chicken Tacos with Avocado Corn and Cucumber Salsa

3 pound whole chicken- gizzards removed
3 limes- 2 loose chopped; 1 juiced
1/4 red onion- loose chopped
1/4 cup cilantro- loose chopped
1 tablespoon Canola Oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Garlic powder
Chili powder

Place the chicken in a 9x9 dish, season the interior with salt and pepper then stuff with chopped limes and onion and cilantro. Rub in the Canola oil on the outside ok the chicken, then season well with the remaining ingredients. Using twine, tie the two legs of the bird together to close off the stuffing from falling out. Cook on a hot grill over indirect heat for 1 hour, or unill the temp reads 165 degrees. Allow the bird to rest in foil for 10 minutes before shredding the meat for the tacos!

Avacado Corn and Cucumber Salsa
2 avocados- diced
2 limes- juiced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ears of corn, cooked and removed from cob

Toss everything together in a medium bowl. Serve with chicken.

You'll also need taco toppings:
We used,
Corn Tortillas
Shredded Red Cabbage
Greek Nonfat plain yogurt
More chopped cilantro
Fresh lime juice

For the tacos, char fresh corn tortillas over an open flame ( on your stove or grill), then load up some shredded chicken, fresh avocado salsa, shredded red cabbage and fresh chopped cilantro. You can also top that with plain non-fat Greek yogurt and more fresh squeezed lime juice. Fold in over and enjoy!!!!!!!