Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mediterranean Summer Salad

Soooo... it's almost summer. How exciting!

Then I realize I haven't set foot in the apartment complex gym in, oh say, four months or so. And I've all but forgotten Gabe and my after-dinner walks since he started going back to school in August. And I've started this cooking blog in which I required, yes required, to find, cook/bake, and try many new recipes (some healthful, some... not so healthful, we'll just say). Suddenly, the prospect of summer, the sun, and the beach seems a little less appealing. Crap.

S as a result, I've recently embarked on a new culinary journey - one that involves a little less sugar, butter, and cream (Paula Deen would be so disappointed in me) and a little more on the fresh vegetables, fruits and lighter fare.

This dish was inspired by a recent one I had at Noodles, a Royal Oak restaurant we sometimes hit up for lunch. Not sure if they're national or not, but in case you haven't guessed it, pretty much everything they serve has some type of noodle in it and crosses a variety of ethnic cuisines. I usually head for the Asian section (Oh how I love you, Japanese Pan Noodles), but I opted for something new this time. Pasta Fresca (from the Mediterranean section) boasts sauteed fresh veggies and penne noodles in a light vinaigrette of some sort. Served with chicken and sprinkled with feta cheese, I don't feel at all guilty about eating the dish. So thought I would give it a shot on my own too.

Also, I killed two birds with one stone, since I had zucchini and yellow squash that definitely needed to be used up. Hate, hate, hate, hate wasting food. So success! And summer... here I come!

1 c. pasta (I used farfalle)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese
splash of white wine

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, garlic powder, dried rosemary, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Whisk briskly to fully incorporate. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion, zucchini, and squash. Sauté until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomato, pasta, and splash of white wine. Pour vinaigrette over salad and stir to combine. Continue cooking for additional 2-4 minutes, or until all is heated through. Spoon into bowls using slotted spoon, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hummus at Home

My short list of all things that are lame, for the week of April 19:
1. Weather that fluctuates from 30 degrees to 80 degrees in the course of a few days.
2. Getting sick because of said fluctuations.
3. Being sick on my birthday because of said fluctuations. Boooooo.

My short list of all things unlame, for the week of April 19:
1. Gorgeous day for a wedding last Saturday, gorgeous day for a wedding this Saturday.
2. Seeing the family this weekend at said latter wedding.
3. Getting to take photos at said latter wedding... LOVE taking wedding photos. So romantic!

One other unlame aspect of today was that I was able to whip up some hummus for dinner tonight. Luckily, I had it in me to pretty much make dinner last night after my weekly grocery shopping excursion, because I was not really feeling up to it after work today. But knowing that I had made some curry lentil soup, it seemed only fitting to muster up the energy to blend up the short list of ingredients.

Can you believe that I only tried hummus for the first time about two months ago? Talk about missing out! It's so good and so versatile, good on anything from bread to raw veggies to sandwiches. And so easy to make at home. Try it! My recipe comes by way of Pink Bites. Check out her blog, she's got some great recipes. And her name is Rita too, so you know she has to be awesome. :-)

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 c. lemon juice
olive oil for garnish
paprika for garnish

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Using your fingers, gently rub chickpeas to loosen and remove their skins (as many as possible). Transfer to a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chickpeas are soft. Drain, reserving about 1/2 c. of cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine tahini, lemon juice, salt, and garlic powder. Pulse until blended. Add chickpas and process until smooth, adding cooking water as necessary to reach desired consistency. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Swirl top with knife and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wedding Days

Let the year of the wedding commence... Gabe and I have been invited to a total of seven, count 'em, seven weddings this year. That's about four more than I've been to all the rest of my life, including my own. We attended the first one just yesterday, for our good friend Liz from college. Congrats to her and her new husband Aaron! Now the happy newleweds are headed to Jamaica for a week of fun in the sun. Whoo hoo! Did I mention I'm extremely jealous?

Both Gabe and I had a great time; it was a mini college reunion, and we caught up with a lot of people we haven't seen or talked to in quite a while.

Check out the beautiful wedding cake they had for the special occasion. Five tiers of snowy white fondant, covered in intricate pipings of flowers. Gorgeous. Almost too gorgeous to eat. Almost...

So I have had very little time lately to do any fun and cool cooking to post. I've had a pretty big project at work that has keep me busy both during and after work hours, but I am happy to report that it's been wrapped up as of 4:30pm on Friday... Very much to my relief. As a result, I should be posting much more regularly. Which I know you are happy to hear ;-).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sticky Chicken Wings

I used to hate chicken wings. Something about all the time and effort it took to eat those little suckers, plus you'd have to eat like 40 of them to feel satisfied. From my experiences (which were few and far between), they always just seemed kind of bland.

I now realize the problem. I didn't have this recipe. This recipe makes it worth it to get in there and get dirty.

Now, this really isn't a typical chicken wing recipe. Both Gabe and I are undeniable wimps when it comes to hot and spicy, so we're not the biggest fan of hot wings or anything like that. Instead, this recipe centers on honey instead, resulting in sticky sweet chicken wings that'll have you licking every last one of your little fingers. And using up a ream of paper towel.

Hopefully I will be updating the blog a little more often in the coming week. Life is pretty busy around these parts lately. Not a bad thing in general, but bad on the blogging front. So bear with me if I go MIA again, promise I'll be back. A sticky pinky swear.

4 lbs. chicken wings, thawed
3 Tbs. olive oil
2/3 c. soy sauce
3 Tbs. ketchup
1 1/3 c. honey
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cover a jelly roll pan with tin foil and spray liberally with non-stick spray. Arrange chicken on pan; salt and pepper as desired.

In a medium saucepan, combine olive oil, soy sauce, ketchup, honey, cornstarch, and garlic powder. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chicken, using basting brush as needed to ensure all wings are covered.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until chicken is done, turning chicken every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Turn chicken over a few times as they cool in order to get as much sticky sauce on them as possible.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Strawberry Banana Muffins

I have a problem. As I mentioned yesterday, I like sales. I typically don't buy anything unless it is on sale. That's pretty much my meal planning strategy. I like to stock up on lots of different types of meat and dinner staples when I can get them on the cheap, saving money and allowing me to have a variety of options available for dinner.

Herein lies the problem... My freezer. It's pretty small. So small that when I go on one of my grocery shopping binges, it becomes increasingly difficult to get everything to fit in. See? This is my temporary fix to the problem, for now:

So in my quest to continue cleaning/emptying/using up items in my freezer (remember these cookies?), I came across several packages of frozen strawberries. I had picked them up after visiting my brother and seeing his freezer, where he stores various frozen berries for smoothies.

I bought the berries, but never checked into the smoothie scene. So they sat for a while. And then a little longer. Finally, I decided this morning that I was going to make some muffins. Some strawberry banana muffins. Oh yeah.

After perusing around online for a while, I came across this recipe at Pennies on a Platter (via Tastespotting). It was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. A good amount of fruit, and I had all the ingredients on hand. I wanted to make them a little more healthful, so I omitted half the butter and added vanilla yogurt in its place instead. I could have also used this apple sauce I made only yesterday. But the yogurt had been around a little longer, so I wanted to use that first.

1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. yogurt or applesauce
3/4 c. light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 c. fresh or frozen strawberries, finely diced
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
white sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line muffin pan with paper liners or grease with non-stick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas. Add yogurt and melted butter and stir to combine.

In another large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gently fold in the strawberries, making sure they are coated with flour (to prevent sinking). Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle top of muffins with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Homemade Apple Sauce

When life hands you apples, make applesauce... Wait a minute, that doesn't sound quite right. Apples... apples... lemons... Whatever! Anyway, well, life did hand me some apples recently (not lemons!), and for a good price too. So I had to think of something to do with them.

Are you a bargain shopper like I am? At my local grocery store, there's always a rack located in the back marked "Reduced for Quick Sale." Usually, this cart is filled with fruits and vegetables that are on their way out... but not quite.

Thus, the apples. I scored an entire bag for about $1. I admit, I did have to throw a few away. And yes, a few were bruised and broken down. But for a buck, how could I go wrong?

Apples like these are perfect for making homemade applesauce. Applesauce that I commonly use when baking instead of oil, making whatever I'm baking a little more healthful, and a little less guilt-inducing. No additives, no preservatives. Just apples and lemon juice.
Of course, this applesauce is perfect to eat as is too. Just add a little sugar (and cinnamon too, if you so desire) to taste, and enjoy!


Lemon Juice

Peel and core apples, and place in large pot. Squirt with some lemon juice to prevent excess browning.

Place pot over medium heat and cook apples, stirring occasionally. When apples are somewhat broken down and soft, remove from heat. Pour into food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Eat right then, or refrigerate for baking later on.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Avocado Sandwich (Open-Faced)

Just a quick post about a very tasty and easy meal I had tonight. Thanks to the hungry mouse for giving me the idea this morning. I usually just make guacamole out of any avocados I buy, so it was nice to try something different.

With Gabe in class until after 9 pm, I don't usually plan anything complicated for myself when I get home from work. Plus, Wednesdays are usually grocery shopping night, so I eat and run.

By the way, don't be fooled by the picture. I definitely ate more than one of these little suckers. But, who cares? They're definitely good for you, so don't feel guilty about reaching for seconds. I wasn't!


1 whole avocado

1 roma tomato, sliced

1 Tbs. lemon juice

olive oil

salt and pepper

garlic powder

2 English muffins, cut in half

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with a fork. Add lemon juice, as well as salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste (if you don't like garlic, by all means, leave it out).

Toast English muffins halves. Spread avocado mixture evenly over English muffins, and place tomato slice on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil, add more salt and pepper if you like. Enjoy!