Super Bowl Shuffle

Spinach artichoke dip + chicken apple sausage = faster than the halftime show. Every year, I’m more interested in the food served on Super Bowl Sunday than the game. So this afternoon I tested out a couple of apps that would be perfect for the big game, or any party really:

  • Spinach artichoke dip – Adapted from Everyday Food, I used more spinach than artichoke, so it produced a bright green color. Much healthier than the store bought version, it’s still big on flavor. (Note: I didn’t have scallions, so I doubled the garlic instead.)
  • Homemade “chips” – Slice 1-2 tortillas into chip sized shapes and place in a pyrex dish; drizzle lightly with olive oil and fresh parmesan; mix to coat. Broil until crisp and golden brown (10 minutes or so). Place on a paper towel to cool slightly.
  • Chicken apple sausage – I chose Bruce Aidell’s, but any brand is fine. Slice into 1/2-inch pieces before placing in the same pyrex dish. Broil until cooked through (10-12 minutes). Serve with forks or toothpicks.

The whole process took less than a half hour. Touchdown!

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One Pot Pasta

Pasta+ canned beans + frozen veggies = one pot pasta. My “one pot” theme continues, but this one is an original using interchangeable ingredients already in your kitchen. I chose spaghetti, cannellini/navy/white beans, frozen peas and fresh tomatoes, which resulted in a healthy yet buttery dish due to the beans coating the pasta.

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Here’s how:

Boil spaghetti or any pasta of choice; add frozen peas towards the end of the boiling time (depends on when its near al dente). Meanwhile, microwave beans in a separate dish and dice 2-3 tomatoes. Drain pasta with lid, retaining pasta & peas mixture in same pot. Add warm beans and diced tomatoes; plus 1 tsp butter, a dash of oregano. Coat lighlty with olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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One Pot Wonder

One pot casserole = less dishes + uber flavor. There’s something pleasant about cooking a full dinner in one pot. Maybe it’s the fact that you see a future without a pile of dishes, or because the flavors all meld together and it smells more and more aromatic as you go.

This weekend I picked up a bargain cookbook called “One Pot” at Books Inc. in Mountain View for $6 on clearance. There are some pretty intuitive recipes that use ingredients which can be stored ahead of time (i.e. canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, rice, etc.) and they’re healthy too.

Tonight’s chicken & rice casserole took about 1.5 hours total, but I used brown rice which takes longer to absorb liquid. On a cold Sunday night, it was a good recipe to try and we have leftovers for the work week. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or stove/oven-friendly casserole dish over medium heat.
  2. Cook 2-4 chicken breasts until golden brown on the outisde, and no longer pink inside. Transfer to a plate.
  3. In the same pot, saute 1 finely chopped onion for 5 minutes or until soft; repeat with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
  4. Add 1 cup of long grain rice and stir for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add 10 ounces of frozen vegetables (I used peas), two cups of heated broth (chicken or vegetable is fine), plus 1 teaspoon thyme (and 1 tsp paprika – which I didn’t have). Bring to a boil.
  6. Add chicken breasts on top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 teaspoon paprika. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. (Brown rice took an additional 20 minutes but it likely varies.)
  7. Sprinkle with 1.5 cups cheddar cheese and broil in the oven until cheese is melted. Serve warm.

Stocking Up

Last month I made vegetable-based stock for use in soups, meat and other dinners to add moisture, plus a boost of flavor. Since I haven’t been cooking this week, I thought it was the perfect night to take all the soon-to-expire veggies out of the fridge and “stock” up. This time around I boiled about 5 cups of water and added chopped onions, cabbage and kale. I added more water throughout to keep the pot full, since much of the liquid is reduced during the process. Also, I added a little wine and sprinkle of salt. (By the way, just a tablespoon of the frozen stock from last month added a kick to tonight’s ground turkey. The flavor is extra concentrated.)

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City of Sinful Eating

Vegas + celebrity chefs = foodie jackpot. I had the pleasure of two memorable meals in Vegas last week: Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and Todd English’ Olives. My first Thomas Keller experience is captured on film for your viewing pleasure – the gorgeous plates live up to his meticulous reputation. (And a special thanks to the “benefactor” who treated us!)

Accidental Gravy and Other Experiments

Buttery potatoes + leftover chicken + broth = surprise gravy! Tonight I was short on time, but had a random burst of ideas for a “hands-off” meal. First, a fresh delivery from Farm Fresh to You arrived, so I prepared “Herbed New Potatoes” from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook (using red potatoes, even though she calls for white or Yukon Gold).

While the potatoes steamed for 30 minutes or so, I microwaved frozen corn and pulled out the leftover “honey-baked” chicken breast from last night. The potatoes left a nice frothy butter sauce in the pan, so I poured chicken broth in and added the chicken breast. After bringing it to a boil, a delicious aroma started rising. Suddenly David was asking for some of the “sauce” to pour over the chicken – and voila, gravy!

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In our quest to eat healthy in 2010, I thought I’d share some of my other recent experiments:

Honey-Baked Chicken Breast with Sauteed Peas & Baby Bella Mushrooms and Brown Rice

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Leftover Turkey & Butternut Squash Meatballs with Broccoli and Flax Fettuccini

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Healthy Burgers & Fries

Ground turkey burgers + roasted red potato fries = healthy fast food. David wanted hamburgers for dinner, but we’re both watching our calories in the New Year (and I keep a regular stock of ground turkey in the freezer). So we opted for ground turkey burgers – and what goes better with burgers than fries?!

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Burgers: To mimic the moisture and flavor of top sirloin burgers, I combined about half a cup of leftover roasted butternut squash (from last week’s risotto) with 1 package ground turkey, 1 egg, and salt & pepper. I formed 2 generous burger patties by hand, and used the remaining half of the mixture to make meatballs for another night this week. Broil or roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. (Cook time will also depend on the type of pan you use.) We had our burgers with wheat sourdough, provolone/cheddar, spinach leaves and tomato slices – for an extra boost of nutrients!

Fries: Starting with red, white or russet potatoes, slice each in half lengthwise and then cut each half into quarters or thirds lengthwise. Each fry may range in size and shape, but they should be somewhat uniform for the sake of cook time. Toss with oil (vegetable or canola is best, but I only had olive) and make sure the pan is coated too. Roast at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly and toss with salt.

While the meal was delicious, don’t expect it to be quite as “fast” as the real thing. But you can have burgers & fries  in less than hour AND stay on track with your healthy eating resolutions.

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My First Risotto

Butternut squash + risotto + beginner’s luck = success! I’ve never attempted risotto, but I came across tempting recipes on Epicurious while exploring dinner options for Capay‘s recent surplus of butternut squash. Since I didn’t have enough leeks for Risotto with Butternut Squash and Leeks, and I went with Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto, which was healthy to boot! At just over 300 calories per main dish serving, it was the perfect dinner to kick off lighter eating in 2010 and offered a surprisingly buttery flavor.

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A couple of notes on how I modified the recipe, which originally appeared in now defunct Gourmet Magazine in November 2001:

  • I didn’t include garlic, because I didn’t have any – but would recommend it if you do
  • Rather than saving 6 slices of butternut squash for serving, I mixed all but 2 slices in the risotto. As a result, the squash was definitely the dominant ingredient; so next time I would hold back 4 slices from the mixture (and use for something else later). That way the rice will be more balanced.
  • I used less arugula than the recipe called for, and another Epicurious reviewer didn’t use any at all (I also agreed with her decision not to serve slices off butternut squash on the side, which explains why the squash was so dominant – above).
  • I had only 4 tablespoons of parmesan, even though the recipe calls for 5. I’d go with 5 and sprinkle a little extra on top when serving.

The recipe serves 6 main dish servings – and it earned unanimous thumbs up in my house!

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