Monday, April 30, 2012

Asparagus and Dandelion Soup

 

So this week it's supposed to be hot here in Charlotte, high's in the upper 80's, and full blown sunshine.  I guess this is "spring" in the south, or spring started at the end of February... I'm definitely not complaining! Either way we're still getting used to the warm temps living here.   So why soup, you ask?  Because, honestly, I get chilly in the air conditioning (pathetic, I know), and more likely I need to detox after the weekend :) 

My Mom and Dad came to visit so we showed them some good southern hospitality and eats.  Early Sunday morning Chris fired up the smoker and by the afternoon we had mouth-watering pulled pork, brisket, and racks of baby back ribs.  It was delicious.  In addition to all that I made a strawberry, mango and goat cheese spinach salad, and tried out this recipe for mac-n-cheese.  We also celebrated my Dad's birthday, so I proudly made my first salted nutella tart.  Everything was slowly savored and we were fat and happy by day's end.  So today, you can see I REALLY needed some detoxing slimming asparagus.  And when I need to detox from a weekend of indulgence, I always turn to soup.


This soup yells spring not only because of the asparagus, but I love the addition of dandelion greens.  They have a pleasant bitter flavor that tastes great sauteed or in a soup.  Dandelion greens are another great leafy green to experiment with, I encourage you to give them a try.  Sweet potato, spring onions, white beans and a parmesan rind provide a complex flavor that is not only delicious, but healthy :)  The recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman and part of The Food Matters Project.  For the orginal recipe visit Adrienneats, and for what other food bloggers did, check out The Food Matters Project.

Ingredients

1/2 cup White beans
1/2 a medium sweet potato, diced (I left the skins on)
1/2 lb asparagus, sliced into 2" pieces
2 cups dandelion greens, leaves removed from stems
1 tsp garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Parmesan rind
4 cups fat free chicken broth
1 cup water
2 stalks of spring onion

Method

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 1-2 minutes.  Add chicken broth, white bean, sweet potato, asparagus, dandelion greens and parmesan (pretty much the rest of the ingredients).  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Top with extra parmesan and enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mango Chicken with Cashews


I am OBSESSED with this dish.   Like, eat it for 3 meals straight and then call all of your friends and family to tell them about it, obsessed (sorry Mom).  I might even go as far as saying it tastes better than any mango dish I have had in a Thai restaurant, and way better than most take out food.  I made this last week, and have plans to make it again this evening it is that good!

Fresh mango is the base of this dish.  Mango is sweet, delicious, prevents cancer and is loaded with vitamin A and C.  For this dish you simply add mango to a few other asian kitchen staples, and process in a food processor.  I couldn't believe how easy it is to make such a tasty sauce.  Next the sauce is heated stove top with chicken and red/yellow bell peppers.  Cashews top this dish and really take it to the next level.  Trust me.   


Mango Fun Facts & Trivia

• Mangos are distantly related to a few plants that you'd probably never guess: the cashew and pistachio. 
• More fresh mangos are eaten every day than any other fruit in the world.
• India grows more mangos than all other fruits combined and is the largest producer in the world.
• A mango tree can get as tall as 100ft.
• Monkeys choose to eat the seed from the green mango. Ayurvedic healers suggest that it is the seed that gives the monkey its energy and powerful strength to jump in the tress {pretty cool}.
• According to Indian folklore, Buddha was given a mango orchard by a faithful follower so that he could rest in its cool shade. Many believe that Buddha meditated under a mango tree!  {of course he did!  I would too}

If you're now craving a mango or looking for new ways to cook up chicken, give this a shot!

Ingredients

2 ripe mangos (peeled, seeded)
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 lime (juiced)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 thumb length of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 handful cilantro (chopped)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 pound chicken breast (sliced into bite sized pieces)
1 red bell pepper (sliced)
1 yellow bell pepper (sliced)
1 handful cashews

Method

Mix the mangos, chili sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and cilantro in a food processor.  If you don't have one, invest in one, ask for one for your birthday, etc.  They make cooking so easy!

Taste the mango sauce and make sure that there is a balance of sweet, sour, spicy and salty.  Heat oil in a pan.  Add the chicken and saute until cooked.  Add the mango sauce and peppers and simmer until the peppers are tender.  Remove from heat and serve on brown rice topped with cashews.  Bon App├ętit!

Mango Fun Facts from http://www.mango.org/

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rosemary Asiago Cheese Bread {Whole Wheat}


Why would anyone want to bake their own bread?  That's crazy.  People who bake their own bread are weird I used to say.  Mind you, I am not a baker - at all.  I don't consider myself skilled in cakes, pies or pastries.  Now, after discovering how easy it is to make my own pizza dough, I felt courageous enough to give a loaf a bread a shot.  So fun!  And I was delighted to find it also pretty easy.  This bread is dense, yet full of flavor.  I love the idea of being able to control exactly what goes into your bread, no preservatives, or crazy unrecognizable ingredients.

This week, I was encouraged to give baking bread a shot by the Food Matters Project.  I love, love, love being a part of such a food conscious, healthy yet creative group of food bloggers.  For those unfamiliar, every week a fellow blogger chooses a recipe from Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook, and over 40 bloggers take to their kitchens to create recipes inspired by that week's selection.


Real Whole Wheat Bread was this week's recipe chosen by Melissa of The Faux Martha.  When I'm at Whole Foods, I sometimes can't resist picking up a fancy loaf of bread with cheese in it.  So of course my take on the recipe involves cheese!  Fresh rosemary is also a obsession of mine.  So good!

Ingredients

3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp active yeast
2 cups freshly grated asiago cheese, 1/2 cup reserved
1 tsp of fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup water

Method

In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, yeast, salt, rosemary, Italian seasoning and 1 1/2 cups asiago cheese.  Add 1 3/4 cups water (I used room temperature water) and stir until blended. The dough should be wet and sticky, but not liquid.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on your counter for 18 - 24 hours.  Try to give it the full 24 hours for the best taste!

Grease a metal baking sheet pan with olive oil.  Place the dough on the sheet.  With a sharp knife, gently cut a large X into the top of the dough.  Brush the dough with the remaining oil and sprinkle with reserved asiago cheese, use from 1/4 to 1/2 cup.  {I won't judge you if you use a full 1/2 cup, go ahead, do it!}  Top with extra rosemary.  Cover with a towel and let the dough rise again for about an hour or two.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for about 45 minutes until it is golden and sounds hollow when you tap on it. Immediately place bread onto a cooling rack and let it cool before slicing.  This tastes amazing on its own, with a little bit olive oil, or with some hot soup! Enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Roasted Maple Cinnamon Almonds


Lately I have had all these things I "need-to-do" floating around in my brain.  They are starting to build up.  Things like, buy batteries, groom puppy, clean out closet, plant basil plant... try making my own spiced almonds.  Nothing earth shattering.  But things I really want to do, things that I have been putting off for days, weeks!  Last night hopped up on vanilla iced coffee, I decided to take action and just do.  I accomplished all of the above, including homemade maple cinnamon almonds!!  It felt so good to commit an evening to just knocking things off my list.  My brain thanked me today, I slept better last night, and now I have a yummy snack for the weekend :)


Almonds are really good for you.  We all know that, so I try to always keep some around.  Regular almonds are okay on their own, but I have learned they taste wayyyy better when you add a few healthy natural toppings.  The first batch I tried I coated the almonds with just cinnamon and baked.  Not so good.  The second attempt, I added an egg white to the cinnamon and baked.  Not so good either.  Still hopped up on caffeine, I made a third attempt.  This time I mixed pure all-natural maple syrup {maple makes everything more exciting} with cinnamon, coated the almonds and baked.  These turned out sooo good.  I recommend you try these out!

 Ingredients

1 cup unsalted almonds
1 1/2 tbsp pure all natural maple syrup {don't use Aunt Jemina!}
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt

  

Method

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, cinnamon and pinch of salt with a fork/whisk.  Add almonds and coat them evenly.  Spread out almonds on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Store these in an airtight container/plastic bag for a healthy portable snack!  Enjoy!


And just for kicks, here is a picture of Charlie Bear, groomed :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mostly Whole Wheat Pizza Dough


Making your own pizza dough is really fun.  It's inexpensive, healthy and this recipe by Mark Bittman is extremely easy.  I found it to be extra fun because the smells of raised dough brings back many memories.... I have to admit something... my very first job in high school was working at Chucky Cheese's.  Don't laugh.  Of course the girl who used to work at Chucky Cheese, grows up to write a blog called Cheese Please :)  At Chucky Cheese I not only was a birthday party planner, I also made the pizzas in the kitchen!  I absolutely loved it.  Anyways, having fresh dough in the house made me think back to those days and laugh. 

Putting aside my cheesy past, this recipe is for you if you ever felt that making your own pizza dough would be hard.  That's what I always thought, but when Niki from Salt & Pepper choose it for this week's recipe for The Food Matters Project, I put my trepidations aside.

The dough is 2/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 all purpose flour.  Other than that you just need salt, olive oil and a tiny bit of active yeast.  Side note: Active yeast is sold in a little packet found in the baking aisle of any grocery store.  I tell you this b/c I had no idea where you buy it, this was my first time! I combined all of these ingredients in the morning, and later that evening I made a pizza.  Easy breezy!  Mix, leave alone, roll out, top with ingredients.  That's it!


I decided to top my pizza with fresh mozzarella and my favorite simple ingredients.   (Make sure you buy halfway decent quality mozzarella, the cheap stuff isn't the same).  I probably could of added more veggies, but since it was my first time, I was worried about overloading the pizza and not have the dough cook through.  I also added some fresh basil from a plant that I recently bought.  Simple, yet delicious.

Ingredients
makes 1 large or 2 small pizzas

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour, or all purpose flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing

marinara sauce (I used a jarred garlic-olive oil marinara)
toppings (I used green peppers, onions, and mushrooms all sliced very thin)
fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
fresh basil
dried oregano

Method

Combine the flours, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 cups water (I used warm water and also added in 1 tbsp olive oil).  The dough should be relatively sticky and wet, like biscuit batter.  If not, add a little more water.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover, and put it in a warm spot. Let the dough sit for at least 6 or up to 12 hours. (The longer it ferments, the more complex the flavor.)

When you’re ready, heat the oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone put it in the oven at the same time so it can preheat as well. If not, generously oil a baking sheet or large ovenproof skillet. Dust your hands with a little white flour and fold the dough over in the bowl a few times. It will be sticky, but resist the urge to use too much flour; dust your hands again only when absolutely necessary and use a light, gentle touch. If you’re making small pizzas, divide the dough in half or quarters. Gently press the dough into the skillet or onto the baking sheet; it’s not important that the pizzas be perfectly round.  This dough tastes best when rolled out as thin as possible!!  But be careful not to tear the dough.  Note that pizza dough freezes really well; after dividing it, just wrap it tightly and use it within a couple of months.

Brush or drizzle the top of the pizza or pizzas with 2 tablespoons oil, cover, and let sit while you get your toppings together, but no more than 60 minutes or so.

Top with your favorite toppings and cook for 8-12 minutes.  Have fun and enjoy!


P.S, Kate (of Cookie + Kate, one of my favorite blogs, and one of the founders of The Food Matters Project) has been nominated for Best Cooking Blog in the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards of 2012! You should check her out and give her a vote if you have a moment!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper, Portabella and Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese


Do you ever go through a period of time where you don't feel like cooking?  I love, love, LOVE to cook, but frankly I haven't been able to pick up a spatula, turn on the oven, or even shop for ingredients.  My husband has also been out of town in LA for work.  When he's away my dinners tend to be, well quite frankly, childish.  Bowl's of cereal, candy and cheese and crackers all of sudden count as meals.  I'm not complaining, but I do find my choices amusing.  After 3 days I found myself hungry and ready to graduate to almost grown-up food.  I started with grilled cheese (the kid part) but added roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms and smoked gouda (grown-up ingredients). These ingredients taste amazing together!  My advice, roast your own red peppers!  It's pretty easy to do, and much tastier than the store bought ones.  Also try to find a good quality bread, I used a fresh locally made whole wheat loaf which really made a difference!

So in honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, try this combo out!


Ingredients
makes 1 sandwich

1 portabella mushroom, cleaned
2 red bell peppers (you'll have leftovers)
2 slices of whole wheat bread
3 or 4 slices of smoked gouda
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1-2 tbsp of butter
Sea Salt
Freshly cracked pepper
garlic powder

Method

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Lightly brush each red pepper with a small amount of vegetable oil and season mushroom with salt and pepper.  Place both peppers and the portabella mushroom in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove portabella mushroom from the oven, and turn the peppers with tongs.  Bake the peppers for another 15 minutes, rotate again, and bake for another final 15 minutes or until fully roasted.



Remove the peppers from the oven and immediately place them in a large ziploc bag.  Let cool for 15-20 minutes.  Remove peppers from bag, you should be able to peel the skin off each pepper with your fingers and a knife.  Slice into thin strips.  Also slice the portabella into thin strips.  Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Assemble sandwich by adding your desired amount of portabella strips and then roasted red pepper strips.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Top with the sliced gouda cheese.  Use a panini press or skillet, and cook until the outside is toasted and the cheese is melted.  Happy National Grilled Cheese Month!