Thursday, February 14, 2008

Roasted Veggie Pizza with Goat Cheese

My mom bought me a Williams Sonoma pizza stone for Christmas this past year, and I was thrilled! In the summer, I am a nut for grilled pizza, but Matt and I miss the thin, crispy crust so much in the winter time!

To accompany my pizza stone, my mom also got me a pizza cookbook, where I found a recipe that I used for inspiration, although I made plenty of my own modifications/additions/etc.

4 cloves garlic
2 red onions, cut into wedges
1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 zucchini, quartered and cut into strips
1 eggplant, quartered and cut into strips
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Pizza dough (I use Trader Joe's Whole Wheat)
Flour, for dusting
Tomato sauce (didn't have time to make my own, used Trader Joe's Fat Free Pizza Sauce)
6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush a cookie sheet with oil, or prepare pizza stone.

Spread the garlic, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant in a roasting pan. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the veggies and toss to coat. Follow with the balsamic vinegar, drizzling over to coat (about a few tablespoons worth?). Toss in half of the basil leaves, and combine everything together. Roast veggies in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking. Let cool.

Increase heat to 425 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and place on cookie sheet or stone. Let stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes. (I placed mine on top of the burners, and some of the heat from the oven warmed the stone/dough slightly). Add the tomato sauce, spreading it almost to the edges. Arrange the veggies on top of the tomato sauce, then sprinkle with the goat cheese. Drizzle some of the roasting juices over the pizza.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Garnish with remaining fresh basil.

What I would have done differently, though, was put the goat cheese on after cooking, or during the last few minutes of baking. Putting it on before hand left me with a mealy-texture as opposed to the creamy texture I love so much! Otherwise, the pizza was AWESOME! (And pretty healthful, too!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mac & Cheese

Today I decided to make homemade mac & cheese instead of just opening a box of Kraft. The original recipe I use is my Dad's, who called it his "world famous mac & cheese." My dad really was a great cook in his day, but a very messy one. That must be where I get it from??? However, I have been feeling really crumby about the amount of BAD food Matt and I have been eating since, say, December! So, I wanted to tone the recipe down a bit. I searched for quite a while, and ended up using a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I have made some modifications to it, but not much. I have put a * next to what I did differently that wasn't in the recipe.

Salt, to taste
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 (12-ounce) can 2 % reduced-fat evaporated milk
2/3 cup low-fat milk (2 %)
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or celery salt (optional)
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
8 ounces 50 percent light cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)*
4 ounces fontina cheese, grated**

*original recipe called for the 8 ounces of cheddar, but I wanted a bit more cheese, and I wanted to use 2 different types, so in addition to the cheddar I used 4 oz. of fontina as well. (Also like gruyere in this recipe)

1. Bring 2 1/2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and the macaroni; cook until the pasta is completely cooked and tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander; set aside.

2. Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 cup of the 2 percent milk, mustard, garlic powder (if using), cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the now-empty saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup milk together, then whisk it into the simmering mixture. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened and is smooth, about 2 minutes.

3. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cheddar and gruyere until melted and smooth. Stir in the macaroni, and let the macaroni and cheese sit off the heat until the sauce has thickened slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

The ATK recipe stops there, tells you to let stand and then serve. I like to bake my mac and cheese, so typically I would go on and add the next step below.

*4. Combine the pasta with the cheese mixture and pour into a baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with a few sprinkles of parmesan cheese and spread over the top of the macaroni. You could also add some additional grated cheddar and gruyere cheese to this mixture as well, if you have some on hand.

I have made a number of different mac & cheese recipes over the past few years, and I would like to officially declare this one my favorite!!!! And, the fact that is is lower in fat & calories makes me feel a little better about loving it so much!

Blueberry Muffins

I had a snow day today, the 6th of the school year, so I decided to bake. I made some blueberry muffins for my homeroom students. I wanted to make them a treat, but since homeroom is at 7:15am, something sweet (like a cupcake, etc.) didn’t seem right. So, I decided to do muffins. This recipe is my mom’s. I have enjoyed these muffins since I was a little girl! I’ve made them with cranberries and orange zest, or with frozen mixed berries as well. These muffins don’t plump up tremendously, but they are still very tasty. They are also LOADED with berries, so if you don’t like that, go easy on the fruit.

¾ cup margarine (softened)
1 ½ cup sugar
3 cups flour (I use 2 cups all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat)
3 eggs
¾ cup milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 to 3 ½ cups blueberries
Extra sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Add vanilla, then dry ingredients (mixed together in separate bowl) alternately with the milk. Stir in the blueberries.

Coat a muffin pan with nonstick spray, and then line with baking cups. Pile batter high in each cup, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spinach & Tomato Quiche

I love myself a good quiche! I have made nearly a dozen different varieties...asparagus and red pepper...spinach and bacon...peppers, onion, and sausage...feta, spinach, red onion, and roasted red pepper...I could go on and on. I found this recipe from last year, and have been pleased with its taste, texture, and simplicity. I still can't believe I use a Paula Deen recipe (oh the buttah and heavy cream that she adores!), but I must say, this one is fool proof!

For this particular quiche, I followed the recipe for the egg mixture, but didn't feel the need to combine the ingredients in a food processor. I hate to dirty extra appliances when not necessary. I find that beating the eggs, and then adding the cream and salt & pepper to the bowl works just fine. Instead of the bacon and spinach suggested in the recipe, I added the spinach, but also about 1/2 of a small white onion (diced), one large tomato (diced), and one package of Canadian bacon (per my husband's request...or demand!). I browned the Canadian bacon in a skillet before adding to the pie.

I layered the veggies and cheese in the bottom of the pie crust, and then filled with the egg mixture. When I add more fillings than the recipe calls for, I find that I don't quite use all of the egg mixture. I placed the pie plate on a cookie sheet in case of egg overflow, and baked about 5 minutes longer than the suggested time.

*I always find that quiche is better reheated, after it has really had a chance to set.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Raspberry Bars

Matt and I had his parents and sisters over for an impromptu pizza party last night. I wanted to make something easy and light, yet delicious, for dessert. I remembered I had this recipe for Raspberry bars on hand, and after a quick scan of the fridge and pantry, it was a go - I had all the ingredients! I have to apologize, because I got the recipe from somewhere, I just have no idea where. I had the recipe saved as a Word document on my computer but I had neglected to include the source. Whoever you are, THANK YOU! These bars were simple to make and such a nice treat! The raspberry and the oats even give it the illusion that it is semi-healthy! The only changes I made were adding about a 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the mix, and also using Trader Joe's No Sugar Added Raspberry Preserves instead of seedless jam. I happen to like the seeds, so I would have opted for a seeded variety anyway. This bar could easily be made with any type of jam/preservatives.

1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cup rolled oats
1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups seedless raspberry jam (room temp.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9x13 inch pan, and line with greased foil.

Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture. Press 4 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Balsamic Sirloin Salad

The salad trend continues…

Tonight I prepared some sirloin tips in a balsamic marinate to serve over a light, crisp salad. I drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil in a plastic bag, and then added balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves of minced garlic, dried thyme, salt, and pepper. I refrigerated for about 1 hour.

I prepared the salad with romaine lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, red onion, and sautéed mushrooms in a balsamic glaze. Once the meat was done, I let it rest, sliced, and placed on top of the salad.

For the dressing, I combined balsamic vinegar, Trader Joe’s reduced sugar apricot preserves, dried thyme, salt, pepper, and a clove of garlic. I pulsed to combine and then streamed in extra virgin olive oil. Matt and I both LOVED the dressing! The apricot preserves were a great compliment and contrast to the bite of balsamic vinegar. I will definitely using that combo again soon!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Southwestern Chipotle Salad

Months ago I had bought some canned chipotle peppers, hoping they would inspire some sort of Mexican or southwestern dish. Well…they finally got their chance to shine! Matt and I had fallen off the healthy eating bandwagon lately, and needed to get back on FAST! So, I had planned a number of salads and other lighter meals for the week. I sort of wandered around the grocery store aimlessly, throwing in whatever items caught my attention. I came home with banana peppers, corn, black beans, an orange bell pepper, lettuce, a red onion, mushrooms, and scallions. I decided pretty quickly that I was going to create a salad.

I started by pureeing the chipotle peppers in a food processor, dumping in much of the juice as well. I also added a glove of garlic, fresh cracked pepper, salt, cumin and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Once smooth, I poured over 2 chicken breasts and let marinate for 2 hours or so.

I cooked the chicken on my grill pan, and while grilling, got to work on my salad. I prepared the mushrooms, peppers, cucumber, onion, tomato, and scallions. I heated the frozen corn and set aside. I also heated a can of black beans. I created a bed of lettuce on the dinner plates and covered with all of the other veggies. I then sliced the grilled chicken and placed on the salad. I sprinkled the corn and black beans over the salads, and topped with freshly grated light Monterey jack cheese.

Over the salad I drizzled Trader Joe’s low fat Parmesan Ranch dressing, which I mixed with a pinch of cayenne pepper for a touch of heat. I finished off the salad with Trader Joe’s Southwest Style Gourmet Flatbread.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Apple Pie Contest

I don't have many pictures or much to say...but I did enter an apple pie contest today. It was my first time and I was very nervous! :-) I used my grandmother's sacred recipe to bake and enter a traditional apple pie. I had also created a concoction to enter into the non-traditional category, and at the last minute decided to include it. I was a frantic lunatic the morning of the contest and left the house with the pies right out of the oven. (Actually, my husband, Matt, had to go home to get my non-traditional pie after we arrived and I had figured out that I could enter one in each category).

I didn't have a spare second to take pictures, and I didn't even capture the recipe I used for the non-traditional. I will tell you that Cara, from Cara's Cravings, offered some great ideas, and I did look at this recipe for inspiration. I started with my grandmother’s crust recipe for the bottom crust, but I did add some milled oats and cinnamon to the dough. I filled the pie with Cortland apples and used the same spices as my grandmother’s recipe. But, I didn’t top with a traditional crust. Instead, I made sort of a crisp/cobbler topping. I combined butter, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans, and golden raisins.

And the drum roll please…
Turns out my traditional pie didn’t quote finish cooking, even though it looked like it was perfectly done. I made the pie the exact same way I have made it for years, and cooked it in the same oven, for the same amount of time. What went wrong will always remain a mystery… Needless to say, I did not make the finals. There were over 40 pies in that category, and although my pie when at its best is pretty darn amazing, a less than perfect version just didn’t cut it. As for my non-traditional…my pie did make the top ten, but didn’t win one of the top 3 slots. They didn’t tell you which place you won other than 1, 2, and 3, so I like to think that I came in fourth!

The judges tasting MY pie!