Thursday, March 26, 2009


While Matt and I were living with his parents, we occasionally when to a Middle Eastern restaurant called Shadi’s (spelling?). I fell in love with their fattoush. I knew I wanted to recreate this meal sometime, and this week seemed like a good time to try it out.

I looked up ingredients typically found in fattoush, but didn’t really use an established recipe. Here’s the gist of what I did:

2 chicken breasts
Lemon pepper seasoning
1 large or 2 small heads of romaine, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced and seeds removed
1 cucumber, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
3 or 4 pitas, sliced into triangles
¼ cup (?) extra virgin olive oil (plus some for pitas, a few tablespoons)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
small handful of mint, finely chopped
a few handfuls of parsley, finely chopped

I started by arranging the triangles of pita on a baking sheet. I then combined the olive oil, a little of the garlic, and salt and pepper, and brushed the pitas with this mixture. I then baked them at 350 until golden brown.

Then I grilled two chicken breasts with lemon pepper seasoning, and sliced into strips.

I combined all the veggies and lettuce into a large bowl, and added the parsley and mint (reserving some for garnish). I broke up the toasted pitas and added to salad.

Next, I went to work on the dressing. I combined ¼ cup of olive oil and the juice of one and a half lemons. I added the remaining garlic, and more salt and pepper. I created this dressing using trial and error. I know I added the juice from the half of the second lemon, and I am pretty sure I ended up adding more EVOO. Just work in it until it tastes “right.”

I poured the dressing over the salad, tossed to coat, and plated. I topped with the chicken, some additional mint and parsley, and a lemon wheel.

This salad was…So. Freakin’. Good. And healthy, too! I could have done without the mint, but didn’t really mind it. It is a traditional ingredient, so I am glad I added it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Healthy," Veggie-Loaded Shepherd's Pie

Matt has been BEGGING me to make shepherd’s pie.

I have been putting this off for years, actually…but I decided to finally give in. The bland combo of beef, potatoes, and corn just never did it for me, so I went on a cyber mission to find a “jazzier” version of this comfort dish. I came across this recipe by Ellie Krieger and immediately fell in love. It had a wonderful combination of veggies that brought more layers of flavor to the dish, and it was a healthier alternative to the traditional recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly, so I will not post it here (it is linked above). The only changes I made were adding 50% reduced fat cheese to the top, and a few small handfuls in with the potato/cauliflower mixture, and also adding scallions as a garnish.

This recipe was a winner. Partly because it was truly tasteful. Partly because it was somewhat healthy. But mostly because my husband had no idea that he was eating cauliflower! I told him a few days later, once the leftovers were gone. I’m sure now he would say that it didn’t quite taste right…but his clean plates and many helpings proved otherwise!

I apologize for the picture below, but this is a dish that really does not photograph well!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Healthful Morning Glory Muffins

Matt and I have been in our new home for about a month now, and our kitchen is finally finished…which means I can start cooking. Again. Finally.

I’ve made a lot of my good ‘ol favorites that I’ve already posted here, but one of the first new things I made, in order to try out my gorgeous, new range, were these morning glory muffins.

I was looking for a different way to use up two over-ripe bananas, and I stumbled across this recipe from cooking light. The recipe looked pretty good; I was excited to try to make something that was super healthy. I try, as often as I can, to cut calories and omit fat, sugar, etc. while I am cooking and baking, but never have I done anything this drastic!

What most appealed to me about this recipe was the addition of ground flaxseed. I had picked some up at a natural health food store the week before, thinking that I could add it to breads and other things I was baking. I was excited to test it out with this recipe!

The only thing that was concerning me with the ingredients was that it seemed like the batter was going to be a little too dry. I thought about this for a bit, took a look in my fridge, and decided that a little ricotta and some crushed pineapple would be a lovely addition. I scoured the comments and reviews to see if anyone had done this successfully, and while I did find that one person had added ricotta, no one had thought to add the crushed pineapple. I decided to go for it anyway.

I linked to the original recipe above, but I wanted to note the many changes I made, so it is listed here with my substitutions/additions.

Cooking spray
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used vanilla)
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pitted dates (I used dried cranberries)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple (I used dried apricots)
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/3 cup skim ricotta cheese*
I small can of crushed pineapple, with juice lightly strained*
1 teaspoon nutmeg*
I teaspoon cinnamon*
(* = addition to recipe)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Add ricotta and crushed pineapple; give a few more stirs to incorporate. Fold in dates (cranberries), walnuts, and pineapple (apricot). Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with flaxseed (I did not do this; I added all the flaxseed in when the recipe called to add the wheat bran). Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

These muffins were really tasty, and something you can feel almost good about eating! Matt even liked them, so you know they really are good! They also freeze really well. I take one to work a few times a week (still have some in the freezer), and they fill me up pretty well. I let it thaw on the way to work and eat right after homeroom at 7:30, and it fills me up until I can have a snack or lunch around noontime.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guinness Onion Soup

I am 100% Irish. Matt, despite his Italian look, does have a little Irish in him, too. But we did not have corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s Day. We are having it at the end of this month for family (our first gathering at our new house!), but I couldn’t just ignore my heritage altogether on this wonderful day.
I had remembered seeing a French onion soup recipe using Guinness last year, and decided to try my own version of it. I used my regular onion soup recipe (an Ina Garten adaptation), and just made a few changes.

5ish pounds yellow onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (I wanted leftovers to freeze)
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 bay leaf
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
2.5 bottles of Guinness
6 cups beef stock
4 cups beef broth
kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
French bread, sliced
garlic powder
parmesan cheese
swiss cheese
cheddar cheese

After slicing the onions, cook with butter and bay leaves in large stockpot for about 20 minutes, until golden. Add sherry, and deglaze the pan, letting simmer about 5 minutes. Add the beer, and let simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Add the thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and all of the stock and broth. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Slice a French baguette and brush with a mixture of EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and grated parmesan cheese. Broil until golden brown.

Ladle soup into oven-safe bowls, then top with the toasts. Cover toasts with swiss, cheddar, and parmesan cheese, and put under broiler until cheese melts and slightly browns.

I served this with a Caesar salad. This soup was delicious, as it always was, and the Guinness really did come through in the soup. A nice treat as we await our boiled dinner!