Friday, July 29, 2011

Pesto, and Brie, and Jam... Oh My!

What do you do when you have a basil plant that is just bursting at the stem with bright, beautiful, green leaves? Why you make fresh pesto of course!  My boyfriend and I had another couple over (Hi W. and B.!) for drinks last night and I figured this was a great time to try a new creation.  I've made pesto before, but I wanted to put a twist on it to be part of an appetizer.  And so, it became a Pesto Tapenade served on a Baguette.

Ingredients - Pesto Tapenade
(Note: the amounts can easily be changed to suit your personal desires!)

2 c. Fresh Basil
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. Garlic
1/2 c. Pine Nuts
1/4 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 can Olives
1/4 c. Fresh Parmesan Cheese

Sidenote:  While I was at my local grocery store getting the goodies I needed, I was stuck at pine nuts on my list.  I couldn't find them anywhere.  So I called my own personal food guru, my mama.  Of course she knew where the pine nuts were, even though she had never been to my grocery store before!  Incase you don't have your own personal food guru, you can find the pine nuts in the Italian Section of your grocery store, not the Nuts Section like I originally thought.

1)  Pick the stems off the basil and thoroughly wash.

2) In a blender puree the basil, garlic, and olive oil.

Then add in the cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lastly the olives.

Remember you cab always add more in, but it's pretty impossible to take away... so add slowly!

3)  To serve, I spread a small amount on a sliced baguette.

45 Second Brie Appetizer

Love warm, gooey, salty yet sweet cheese?  Well this appetizer combines all those into one and it only takes 45 seconds to make!

Take your favorite jam and spread a small amount over the brie.  You can use any type of jam, mine this time happened to be a Blueberry Preserve.  

Pop the combo in the microwave for about 35 seconds (remember microwave times will vary) and serve with crackers.

This simple appetizer is always a crowd pleaser!

Have your own issues with finding rare items (pine nuts for me) in the grocery store?  Who is your food guru you turn to to help you out in a "pickle"?

Tell me all about it in the comments section below!

~Eat Well and Be Happy~

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Salty? Crunchy? Healthy? Yes, Please!

Do you ever crave that salty, crunchiness of potato chips? Feel like you've been so good with your eating habits and don't want to ruin the track you've been on?  Well, Kale Chips are the answer to your life's burning questions.  They will satisfy that salty/crunchy need and are a great compliment to almost any dish. (Plus kale is LOADED with Vitamin A, C, and K)

Sidenote: Thanks "Sissy K" for the recipe... I chose to spice it up a bit with some garlic powder!

Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder

1)  Chop off the stems of the kale.

 2)  Cut the kale along each side of the spine.  Throw out the spine and chop the leaves into small pieces.

3)  Brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt (generous amount) and garlic powder (a small touch).

It seems like a lot, but the kale really cooks down.

4)  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the kale is crunchy.  You will need to mix it a few times while cooking too.

Ever make Kale Chips before? Have a different variation of them?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!

~Eat Well and Be Happy~

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A New (and Successful!) Summer Creation

I always find it exciting when new dishes actually turn out well.  Trying new (and self-created) dishes can always be a risk, especially when your official taste-tester has just gotten home from work and is extremely starving.  You never quite know what you will get with a new dish, or how long it will really take.  Mine ended up taking a bit longer, well like 30 minutes longer, than initially planned.  But I must say, it was well worth the wait!

Spaghetti Squash
MorningStar Meal Starters: Crumblers
1 can Garbonzo Beans
1 can Dark Red Kidney Beans
1 can Black Beans
2 small cans Mushrooms
1/2 small onion (not pictured)
Spaghetti Sauce
Feta Cheese 

Check out this video on how to prepare the Spaghetti Squash...

I initially cooked the spaghetti squash for the 12 minutes like on the video.  However mine really needed an extra 10 minutes of cooking time.

While the squash is cooking,  chop 1/2 a onion into small pieces.  Saute in a large pan with some olive oil for about 5 minutes.

Combine the Crumblers, mushrooms and beans with the onions and cook through.  Finally, mix with the spaghetti sauce... I used about 1/2 cup.

Small plug: MorningStar Farms has amazing foods to create all types of dishes.  Be sure to check them out! 

While the squash was cooking I also made some Pita Crispers.  I used two 100-calorie pita breads, and cut each side in half.

Top with spray butter and sprinkle with parmesan/romano cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees until crispy, about 7 minutes.

Now to deal with the squash... Be sure it has cooled a bit before handling.  I learned my lesson the hard way with this one!  As shown in the video above, cut the squash in half and use a fork to scrape out the insides.

Top the squash with the Crumblers-Bean mixture and scatter with feta cheese. Voila, a super healthy, easy dinner!

Have opinions?? I'd love to hear them in the comments section below!

Question: What do you think this dish should be called?

Stayed tuned for the delicious Kale Chips recipe that were also served with this dish!

~Eat Well and Be Happy~

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Family Phenomenon in Paradise

It has always been important in my family to have dinner together, which were always made by the parents.  Now that we are older and live in different states, family dinners don't happen all the time.  However, when they do happen they are always filled with good food, wine, and laughter. While growing up this was a time where each child was to share what happened during our day.  Often though it sounded a little like this:

"I woke up, I had breakfast, I brushed my teeth... (insert here one sister saying to another... ewwww she's breathing my air...)."

This tradition has been something that my parents have instilled in all of us since we were little.  The tradition is now being passed down to the next generation.  So being all here (well maybe more like 5/10 which is 1/2), my sister and I wanted to turn the tables around and actually make dinner for them.    

This meal was a nutritious and family focused summer treat.  The key to making the meal is to stay on top of the clean-up.  That way more time can be spent playing a competitive game of CatchPhrase with the family.

The meal consisted of: Texas Caviar as the appetizer (shout-out to Jenny-Dubbs for the recipe!!), Vovo's Vegetarian Tortellini, salad, olive bread and dipping oil.

Make the appetizer first because it is much better after it has had a chance to sit in fridge for 30 or so minutes.

 Texas Caviar Ingredients:
3-4 celery stalks
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 can black beans
1 can black eyed peas
1 can pinto beans
1/2 can corn

1/8 cup olive oil (or slightly less)
1/8 cup sugar (or slightly less)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Whisk oil, sugar and vinegar together then pour over ingredients above.  Mix several times. Let sit for 30 about minutes or so.  Serve with your favorite chips.

We wanted a nice presentation and found this bowl.  When discussing how to arrange the chips and the dip, I said to my sister think of it like a math problem.  At which point she immediately became stressed and shut down.  As a sidenote, math anxiety was my masters thesis, with my sister as my main focal point!

Onto the dinner now...

Olive Oil
Chicken Broth
Grape Tomatoes
Sugar Snap Pea Pods
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Chop the garlic and the scallions (chef's choice to amount) and saute in olive oil.  

Add in the mushrooms and cook until brown. Then combine with a can of chicken broth.    

Chop the tomatoes and pea pods and leave to the side 

Boil water and cook tortellini.  Which the tortellini are cooking (about 7-9 minutes) add the tomatoes and pea pods to the mushroom mixture.  Normally I would also add shredded carrots to the dish, but according to my high maintenance sister "they taint everything in their path." At the last minute add some feta and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, again chef's choice as to how much.  Place the mushroom mixture over the tortellini on your favorite serving dish.  Top with a dash of sea salt.    

Again, be sure to serve with your favorite wine!

~Eat Well and Be Happy~

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Loving Hut... a Night Off.

The temperature yesterday in Naples, Fl. was over 90 degrees, with 85% humidity.  So needless to say, it was necessary to take a break from cooking (who doesn't every now and then).  With Sissy Krissy and little Baby P. visiting we ordered from The Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant.  This restaurant was certainly up our alley!

Hello World... I did so well on my first flight!
Thought to self:  Ok so maybe this post is turning into an excuse to just show my niece?? Oh well... She's the best!


Spring Rolls

Veggie Dumplings


My choice of dinner

Pho Bowl

The mama's choice

House Rice Clay Pot

The sissy's choice

Mongolian Wonder

Know of a good vegan restaurant in the Boston area? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!

~Eat Well and Be Happy~

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Vinegar Bliss

For all you fresh veggie lovers out there, this is certainly a meal for you.  While visiting my mama in Naples, and poking through the most amazing Whole Foods store, we created this meal.  The meal consists of what we are calling Portobello Beach Combers and Naples Nirvana Salad.  One certainly will feel healthier after eating this dinner.  However, I guess the best part of the meal would be the view from the balcony (which sorry, isn't sold in your local stores!).  
The finished product from the balcony

Portobello Beach Combers Ingredients:

4 Portobello Mushroom Caps
Light-Firm Tofu
Fresh Baby Spinach
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Vinegar (This was a speciality item we found at Whole Food Market that is like liquid gold!)

Naples Nirvana Salad:
1/2 cup Shredded Carrots
1/2 Cucumber
10-12 Grape Tomatoes
1/2 can Garbonzo Beans (Chick Peas)
1 Avocado
2 Scallions
Olive Oil
Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Vinegar

Liquid Gold!!
1)  Turn the broiler on low, and keep the door slightly ajar.  Start with the portobello mushroom caps.  Pull off the stems so they are able to lay flat.  Be sure to wash the mushrooms well because remember they are grown in "organic matter." Spray pan with Pam.  Add a pinch of sea salt and garlic powder to the caps and let rest.  

2)  Cut the tofu into about 1/8 inch thick pieces.  I cut four pieces, one for each mushroom.  Remember to squeeze out as much water as possible and to store the left over tofu in a tupperware filled with water.  Cook the tofu on medium heat, flip after 5-7 minutes.  The tofu is done after both sides have a golden color to them.  

3)  Place the pan of mushrooms on the top rack.  After about 10 minutes, flip the caps over.  The second side will only take about 3-5 minutes.  If the mushrooms are finished before everything else is done (as it happened to me) turn off the oven and keep on the bottom rack until you are ready to serve.

4)  While those are cooking, make the Naples Nirvana Salad.  Add the carrots and beans to a large bowl. Then move onto the cucumber.  My mom, being the one just watching the cooking this time (which is a VERY rare event) wanted the cucumbers striated.  So that's what I did...  Basically use your knife to slice stripes off the skin. Then thinly slice the cucumber and cut into fourths.     

5)  Next chop the scallions and cut the grape tomatoes in half.  Don't forget to continually check the tofu and the mushroom caps.  

Insert here:  Mommy says "More wine please..."

6)  Next slice each half of the avocado and combine with the rest of the salad in the bowl.  

 7)  Add a dash (or 2-3, it's Chefs' Choice) of sea salt and olive oil.  Then it's time for (said with a French accent) La Piece De Resistance... The Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Vinegar.  I used about 2 tablespoons of it for the salad.

8)  Set the salad to the side and assembly the mushrooms: Mushroom cap, tofu, spinach, feta.  Drizzle with olive oil and the vinegar (a spoon would probably help this).  Top with a dash of sea salt.  

9)  Serve with Olive Bread (be sure to add your favorite dipping oil to the side too!)

~Eat Well and Be Happy~