Cookin Mama

Cookin Mama


Recipes (40) adoption (11) Theater (4) Musings (3) Sewing (3) running (3) Volunteerism (2)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Zucchini "Noodles" with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes

My Pinterest habit has brought us some pretty fun recipes.  Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of these amusing pictures of veggie “noodle” dishes, and, having discovered that if I have too much gluten I’m an unhappy Mama, decided to take a closer look.  I LOVE my pasta.  Like, way too much do I love pasta.  If I make it, I always make a ridiculous amount and eat 2-3 portions.  I figured that trying spiral cut vegetables might be a good way to get some healthier dishes using the same sauces and toppings we love on our linguine.  After reading (the often hilarious) reviews on the web and Amazon, I went with the Paderno Spiralizer.  It was in our budgeted price-range for kitchen tools needed for a healthier lifestyle. 

It arrived a day or so later (thank you Amazon Prime), and sat until I could get a meal plan or even just ingredients together.  I purchased the item along with Ali Maffucii’s INSPIRALIZED cookbook.  The pictures alone are drool-worthy.  In short order, many pages were tabbed.  Our first try of this new way of eating was with two yellow zucchini purchased at our local Strites' Farm, a family owned and operated orchard and farm.  Since I hadn’t researched or shopped for a specific dish, we went with a pesto and fresh tomatoes because I could get the basil and romas from our garden.   By “I could get” I mean I could ask my husband to pick through the overgrown herb garden that his wife hasn’t tended to recently and find me a couple of cups of basil…

Anyway, back to our inaugural spiralizer dish!  Evie and I set up the new toy, er, kitchen tool, and got to work.  Not only did it work, it worked VERY well!  I had been worried about a learning curve, or it being all hype, but we totally got a bowl of zucchini “noodles” that the Little Miss kept helping herself to while I prepared the other ingredients.  Let me tell you, anything that has your 7 year old daughter “stealing” zucchini and stuffing it in her face is WELL WORTH the investment! 

The pesto was the normal, basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, kosher salt and black pepper.  The tomatoes were sautéed with garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper.  The zucchini noodles were given a quick sauté in olive oil stove top.  We put the “noodles” down, topped with pesto, and then a dab of tomato.  Evie had hers with just kosher salt, black pepper, and a sprinkle of parmesan.  

Ingredient List
Two medium yellow zucchini, cleaned and ends cut
Two cloves garlic, minced, divided
Four Roma Tomatoes, sliced into rounds
Two cups basil leaves
Olive Oil
Pine Nuts
Parmesan Cheese
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Did this taste like pasta?  Not exactly.  Were we fooled?  Not at all, the zucchini was still a little crunchy...but we kind of liked it.   Because of the early success, this week's meal plan features three different recipes from the Spiralizer book...stay tuned!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chicken-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn

Little Sous Chef approves this message....

I have written previously about our affinity for Cuisine at home, so I won't go into too much detail here, but suffice to say, it is a wonderful magazine for anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen and trying new recipes.  My husband's amazing Aunt Kathy introduced me to this cook's dream of a subscription about 6 years ago...and I've said a silent thank you to her from my kitchen numerous times since!  One lovely thing about this publication is they do not have a website of recipes.  They do have a website, but the magazine that you've paid for doesn't show up for free online...ergo, making the dollars you spend on it completely worth it!  Did I say I wasn't going to go into too much detail?  Okay, I lied.  But trust me, it is so worth the "investment" of $29 for two years. The other awesome-ness about this is that not one of these recipes has been a "bomb"...they haven't all been super favorites, but I could probably do about 10 blog posts alone of recipes we absolutely love, just from Cuisine at home.

Here is one of the latest new family favorites learned from the July/August 2015 issue.  I share it with my notes, plus I have "their recipe" and "my recipe" because both times I've made this (the second time at the request of my 7 year old mind you), I've strayed a little from their instruction.

Chicken- Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn
Issue No.112 July/August 2015 Cuisine at home

½ cup quinoa (dry)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (I use 1 lb ground chicken or ground pork instead)
2 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp seeded and minced jalapeño
2 Tbsp chopped scallion whites
2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
¾ cup shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided (we like our cheese, I use ¾ cup in the recipe, and another ¼ cup as garnish)
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I use ¾ cup due to the additional ground meat)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder
½ tsp coriander, kosher salt, and black pepper – (for both lines of spices, alter as you like, we add more heat if we add more Greek yogurt)
4 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, stems, ribs, and seeds removed (we had green peppers in our garden, and they were delicious! The first time we made this, we used all colors of peppers)


Preheat oven to 375°

Cook quinoa according to package directions, set aside.

Their recipe:
Cook chicken in oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until completely cooked.  Transfer to a plate to cool, then shred with two forks.

Sauté jalapeño, scallion whites, and garlic in the same skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Deglaze skillet with lime juice, scraping up any brown bits.

My recipe:
Cook jalapeño, scallion whites, and garlic in oil 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Add ground meat, breaking up with spoon and stirring in aromatics as you go.  Completely cook all meat.

Continuing with their recipe + my notes:
Combine beans, corn, ½ cup (3/4 cup if you’re us) cheese, and cilantro in a large bowl.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine yogurt with all spices, salt, and pepper, mix thoroughly.  (they have you add it all together in one bowl, I like to get the spices mixed into the yogurt first).  Mix quinoa and chicken (or pork) into ingredients in large bowl, and then add yogurt mixture.  (side note – the yogurt mixture alone also makes an amazing tortilla chip dip…just saying).  Arrange bell peppers in a 9x13-inch glass baking dish; spoon filling into bell peppers. If you're like me, you'll have way more filling than peppers.  I just bake it the same, either in the pan or in a separate baking dish.  If you only have peppers: add 2 Tbsp. water to bottom of dish to help steam the peppers. For all dishes: cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil; bake another 10-15 minutes.

Garnish bell peppers with remaining ¼ cup cheese and scallion greens.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Family Favorite Smoothies

I promised a friend awhile ago now that I'd post some of our favorite smoothie recipes to the blog.  I had every intention of doing so, and, in my defense, I have had about 10 pictures of smoothies on my phone awaiting said blog post.  Then, today, a new friend asked us to share smoothie recipes...after she and her hubby cooked us a delicious meal.  The least I could do would be to put together a few of our favorite smoothie ingredients!  I should have called this the Mister's and My favorite smoothies.  Our daughter only cares for what we call "The Elvis": frozen banana, peanut butter, honey, and coconut milk.  Our freezer always has a bin of frozen bananas, ready to be thrown into a smoothie recipe.  Speaking of recipes, here they are below, hope you all enjoy them!

My Vitamix, a Mother's Day Present 3 years ago.  It has been used almost every day since.

As you see in the picture above, all of our smoothies are made with a Vitamix blender.  A splurge for sure, but one well worth it.  We use it almost daily, for smoothies, soups, sauces, salad dressings...the list goes on!  We start each smoothie with either a coconut milk or almond milk beverage.  NOT the canned coconut milk (which is an indulgence and makes a really yummy, creamy smoothie!), because it is high in fat, but one of the beverages, unsweetened, such as So Delicious.

My First Green Smoothie

serves 2

This was the first ever green smoothie recipe I tried.  It is by far one of our favorites, and we make it often when clementines are in season.

2 cups coconut milk
2 cups spinach or other greens
1 frozen banana
2-3 clementines, peeled
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
dash or two of cinnamon

Chocolate Cherry Almond

serves 2

2 cups almond milk
1 frozen banana
2 cups frozen cherries
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon almond butter
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Tropical Mint

serves 2

2 cups spinach
1 cucumber
1 cup frozen grapes
1 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup water

Watermelon Ginger

serves 2

1/2 small watermelon, rind and seeds removed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled
2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups frozen pineapple

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Carrot Soup + Biscuits for Friends

A gift for an ailing friend.

Carrot Soup

I know. I know.  It is July.  It is hot.  Who wants to stand over a stove and make soup?!  Well, me.  A few things led me to this:
  1. Evie and I were going to be hosting three of her friends over a lunchtime.
  2. These three friends, sisters, eat very healthy in their home, I didn't want to serve anything unhealthy!
  3. Evie loves "creamy goodness" soups.  This one qualified.
  4. I was working from home, and therefore able to spend some extra time in the kitchen.
There were a few other factors, such as why on earth carrot soup?!  But, really, I cannot remember exactly why I chose this particular type of soup.  I used a couple of different recipes, but mostly one from Super Natural Cooking that, until today, I hadn't had much success with recipes from that cookbook. I may have to give that book a second try.  Now that the soup recipe was formed in my head, then it was time to turn my attention to biscuits to go with the soup.

Cook Book Treasures

When I have extra time in the kitchen, I like to go through my older cookbook collection and try out an old-school recipe.  I discussed my cookbooks in a post once, but for those of you who missed it, I collect old cookbooks (and new cookbooks, and international cookbooks...).  It started on our honeymoon, when we found a used bookstore.  I found two old home economics textbooks from the 30s that were both hilarious and treasures at the same time.  Since then, I have received others as gifts.  Today's was part of a collection given to me after my Mother's friend Nancy lost her mother a few years ago.

These are special to me for that reason, and for the goodies inside.  My favorite thing in a cookbook is to find signs of use: food stuck to pages, handwritten notations, even doodles.  If you look closely, you can see the dried flour batter bits on this page.  I imagine Dottie touching the page carefully as she checks ingredients while preparing a meal for her family.  The first copyright on this book is 1942, the version I have is 1961.

I used the buttermilk biscuits recipe, in order to use up the buttermilk in the refrigerator from last week's meal plan.  I had the exact amount needed, what are the odds?!  These biscuits turned out great, the kids gobbled them up, crumbled them into the soup, and dipping them, along with apple slices, into the creamy orange soup.  I was happy to have put together a healthy, fun meal for the four little cherubs that spent the morning happily playing with dolls in imaginary home and school settings.


Buttermilk Biscuits

The Modern Family Cookbook ©1961

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk

Sift flour, measure and resift 3 times with rest of dry ingredients, the 3rd time into mixing bowl.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender, or rub in with finger tips.  Stir in buttermilk.  When thoroughly mixed, turn onto lightly floured board, knead a dozen times, and roll from 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick.  Cut with floured biscuit cutter and place on a greased baking sheet; brush tops with melted butter.  Bake in a hot oven (450°F) 12 to 15 minutes [mine were done in about 11].  Serve hot, they harden when cooled.

Carrot and Honey Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (to make this vegan, use olive or coconut oil in place)
3 ribs celery, preferably three inner-stalks, minced, include leaves.
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced  
2 lbs carrots, cleaned, peeled, cut into pieces (if you don't have a Vitamix, cut them small and                                                                                       uniformly)
6 cups vegetable stock
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 tablespoons raw, unprocessed honey

Start by heating a large stock pot on medium heat, melt butter.  Toss in the minced celery, onion, and garlic.  Sauté until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add in the carrots, a couple pinches of salt, and a few turns of pepper.  Sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add in 6 cups vegetable stock.  I share below one of my kitchen tricks: using a sharpie to write the date you've opened a container of stock (should you not have any homemade on hand).  That way, when you find it in the back of the refrigerator later, you don't have to wonder "hey! when did I open this one?!"

Bring soup to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until carrots are tender.  Stir in honey off-heat, then put the soup, in batches, into a blender, taking care not to burn yourself.  Pour blended, creamy soup batches into a large bowl, adding each batch and stirring to distribute evenly.  Test for salt levels, add more kosher salt and more honey as you deem necessary.  Ladle into bowls, serve, enjoy! 

I mean seriously, can you stand the cuteness?  AND, they all loved the meal! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomato and Basil Tart

It doesn't get more summery than a tomato and basil tart.  Just a few ingredients, three of them fresh (tomato, lemon, basil).  Unfortunately, I could only harvest basil from our garden, our tomato plant seems to be out to lunch this year.  Cuisine at home suggests, "if you can get them, feel free to use colorful heirloom tomatoes."  I have to admit, they were delicious, I used a raw on one burgers over the weekend, but it cost me $15.30 for five tomatoes!  Definitely not a cost effective way to go about this meal.  Good goat cheese isn't cheap, and puff pastry is not exactly economical either.  Therefore, even with the summery taste, this was kind of a splurge...but what a delicious one!  As an added bonus, it had a lot of steps that the little one could help with.  Any recipe that allows her to work alongside me is a good one in my book.  Unfortunately, the usual benefit of a kiddo making a meal = kiddo enjoying the meal did not hold true.  As she said "I'm not a big fan of tomatoes, Mama."  She contented herself with eating the crust after taking the required "perfect bite" we insist on (a bite that includes all of the flavors meant to be together in a dish).  Not sure if the goat cheese was too much for her, or just the tomato, but the adults in the house loved the meal.  I neglected to get any pictures of the vinaigrette, either the making of or the finished product, but trust was yummy. 

Tomato & Basil Tart with Goat Cheese

courtesy of Cuisine at Home Issue 112 August 2015

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp each honey and Dijon mustard
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Tart Ingredients
1 Sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbsp water [I used the whole egg]
4 oz goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp mined lemon zest
9 slices red and yellow tomatoes

Torn fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make the vinaigrette:
I placed all ingredients in the Vitamix, their recipe suggests pulsing in a food processor.  The Vitamix did the usual awesome job and produced a smooth dressing.

Make the tart:
Roll puff pasty on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch square, transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Fold over a 1-inch border on all sides, then score inside edges of border with the tip of a knife.  Top pastry with another sheet of parchment paper, then cover with another baking sheet.  Bake puff pastry until firm and set, 15 minutes.  Remove top baking sheet and parchment paper.  

Dock pastry with a fork, brush edges with egg wash.  Bake puff pastry until puffed and brown, about 10 minutes more; let cool slightly.

Make the filling:
Combine goat cheese, 1/4 cup basil, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper.

Spread cheese mixture inside border of puff pastry.  Arrange tomatoes on top of cheese mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Bake tart 10 minutes.  Garnish with basil leaves and serve with vinaigrette.