Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Scenes from my pantry: Italian Bean Ramen

My youngest son departed for the college this year.  His exodus left us with an empty nest and ramen noodles.   A case of ramen noodles tucked into the trunk of his car now seems like overkill, and we are left with at least half of case of chicken flavored ramen noodles.  This may be destiny as we experience the waves of college expenses.  

Who knew the internet was filled with recipe ideas using packages of ramen noodles (Of course, minus the flavor packet).  I came across this very easy recipe with a twist on fast minestrone soup which is perfect for a weeknight meal or a work lunch box.  

This is proof you can create a healthy and satisfying meal from a package of ramen noodles.



Italian Bean Ramen
Serves 4
Recipe from allrecipes

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1-1/12 teaspoons dried rosemary
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 large celery stalks, diced
1 medium boiling potato, died
4 cups water
1 (15.5 ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles, coarsely broken in package (flavor packet discarded)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1.  Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Cook onion with salt, covered, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add carrots, celery, potato, and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

2.  Puree 1/2 cup of beans with 1 cup of soup broth in a blender.  Add to soup along with remaining cup of beans and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add ramen stirring occasionally, until just tender about 3 minutes.  Stir in parsley.

3.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon Parmesan over each serving of soup.

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Savoring the Season: Cranberry Lemon Muffins


The holiday season brings an abundance of Meyer lemons from my backyard tree and fresh leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving's relish that adorns the table every year.  Cranberries and lemons are a natural flavor pairing and each year, I find a way to combine them.

This year, the simplicity of muffins bring a burst of lemons and cranberries in every bite to leisurely enjoy at breakfast or anytime of the day.




Cranberry Lemon Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from Everyday dishes



Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
2 cups fresh cranberries

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with liners. Set aside.

2.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, milk, vanilla, butter and lemon juice until combined.  

3.  Fold in lemon zest and cranberries until well distributed in batter. Scoop batter into muffin liners until 3/4 full.

4.  Bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove muffins and allow to cool.

 Enjoy!



Monday, December 5, 2016

Festive Fizz Cocktail


It's the holidays! A wonderful and most Booziest time of year. And to make your spirits brighter here is a festive fun cocktail you can whip up with just a few simple ingredients and a couple of really hard shakes.



Festive Fizz Cocktail
Serves 2
Recipe from all recipes


Ingredients:

Holiday Simple Syrup

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 (3-inch) rosemary sprig

For Cocktail

1 egg white (If you are concerned about consuming raw egg use 2 tablespoons pasteurized liquid egg whites, such as Egg Beaters).

1/4 cup white rum
1-1/2 tablespoons Holiday Simple Syrup
6 to 8 ounces sparkling rose wine

Directions:

Make Syrup:

1.  Stir together sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over low heat.  Remove from heat and add cinnamon and rosemary.  Cover and steep 1 hour.
Note: This makes more syrup than needed: use leftovers in iced tea or another cocktail.  Leftover syrup will keep chilled in an airtight container up to 1 month.

2.  Discard cinnamon and rosemary.  Spoon 1-1/2 tablespoons syrup into a small bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 10 minutes.

Make Cocktail:

3.  Put egg white, rum, and chilled syrup in a shaker.  Cover and shake hard 15 seconds.  Add ice to shaker and shake hard until chilled and frothy, 30 to 45 seconds.

4.  Strain into 2 coupe glasses.  Top each with 3 to 4 ounces wine.  Garnish with a pinch of ground cinnamon and fresh rosemary.  Serve immediately.




Thursday, October 20, 2016

Weeknight Wonders: Szechuan Green Beans and Tofu Stir Fry

We have embraced our empty nest status and continue to focus on creating a less hurried lifestyle (still a struggle) and rising to the challenges of cooking for two.

Until recently, I was not sure what I felt about tofu.  Tofu is essentially mashed soybean curd.  Does that sound appetizing to me?  No, it does not.  A great substitute for meat?  I think not!  There is no comparison to the texture or flavor of meat.   So what is it about tofu that finally made me think seriously about it as a real food ingredient?  Well, you have to look at tofu, as just that, tofu. 

Tofu is a healthy ingredient loaded with calcium, iron and other micro-nutrients.   A good addition to healthy eating and it is a good source of protein.  More importantly, tofu can be marinated to add any flavor, and that is a plus.

This quickly prepared weeknight meal was pretty good and it improved tofu's standing with me.  The extra spice provided by the Szechuan sauce made this recipe worthy of being a keeper.



Szechuan and Green Bean and Tofu Stir Fry
Serves 4
Recipe from Eating Well


Ingredients:
1 teaspoon, plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup water, divided
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:
Whisk 1/4 cup of water, soy sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, crushed red pepper and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Cut tofu into 1/2-3/4-inch cubes and pat dry.  Toss the tofu in a bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons corn starch to coat.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the tofu and spread across the surface of the pan.  Let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.  Gently turn and stir.  Continue cooking and occasionally stirring, until light brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan.  Add green beans, garlic, and ginger; cook stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook until the beans are crisp tender, 2 to 4 minutes.  Stir the reserved soy sauce mixture and pour it over the green beans.  Cook, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute.  Add the tofu and cook, stirring until heated through about 1 minute more.

Enjoy!




Sunday, September 18, 2016

Scenes from My Pantry: Coconut Chicken Corn Chowder


Soup is on! One of my favorite ingredients in soup is coconut milk. Coconut milk provides a smooth and creamy base without the heaviness of cream.  This recipe not only delivers coconut milk as a layer of flavor but the base of the broth is simmered with fresh corn cobs to release the milky sweet liquid from the cobs.

This soup represents the segway from late summer ingredients fresh corn and basil to the early hints of fall with sweet potato. This soup is easy to prepare and it is even better the next day!




Coconut Chicken Corn Chowder
Serves 4
Recipe from Clean Eating


Ingredients:
2 large ears corn, husked
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 cup finely diced celery  (about 4 stalks)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, light and dark green parts divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1/2 sweet potato (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil 
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded coconut), toasted

Directions:
1.   Cut kernels from corn, reserving cobs.  In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium.  Add corn kernels, celery and light parts of onions and cook, stirring, often, until celery and onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2.   Meanwhile, snap reserved corn cobs in half.  In a separate saucepan, bring corn cobs and chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve into corn mixture; discard corn cobs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook,
stirring occasionally, until corn kernels are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

3.   Using a slotted spoon, transfer about 1 cup of the corn kernel mixture to a blender; add coconut milk and puree until smooth.

4.   Stir chicken and sweet potato into broth mixture.  Increase heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sweet potato is tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

5.   Stir in coconut milk mixture and cook until heated through.  Remove from heat and stir in dark green parts of onions, basil and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  To serve, top with coconut flakes.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Table for Two: Lasagna Baked Penne

"Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak"~ Ma Ja Sati Bhagavati


As the idea of becoming an empty nester started to really take hold, so did the notion of making a real change in my perspective and priorities.  My mind and body are in constant motion providing a free uninhibited physical and mental space for irrelevant worries, tasks, endless to do lists, unknowns, projects, self-improvement, insecurities and the list goes on and on all fueled by projects, plans, and goals.  I have finally accepted that my energy is not boundless, and how it is expended lies entirely up to me.

As my youngest headed off to college to experience his new found independence, my husband and I took off for a serious vacation with friends from Spain.  This was an out of the ordinary vacation that took us from New York City on the east coast to the west coast from California to Washington.  During our journey the clutter in my brain began to diminish and with the natural beauty that surrounded me daily,  I was more reflective.  It was the small things that were having the most impact on me like eating simple meals at the table with friends in the late afternoon, drinking a glass of wine in the evening while staring at the sunset on Puget Sound and waking up to strong hot coffee in the morning.   My body physically moved most of the day but not to the noise of stress and exhaustion but to the humming of a more natural rhythm.


This was the moment of epiphany and it was crystal clear it was time to make real changes.




Where to begin....Started by making simple changes to my lifestyle which includes a simple meal plan scribbled on a piece of scrap paper.  No eating over the sink or while in motion.  Actually sitting at the table and eating.


Starting each day a little earlier to enjoy the pleasure of just sitting and enjoying my cup of coffee. This allows me to feel more centered and slowly move into my day.  Followed by ending my day a little earlier to give myself a little more downtime.

Enjoying a simply prepared pasta dish on Sunday serves as a good meal and a couple of healthy lunches during the week. This pasta dish provides for a generous helping of leafy greens and all the comforts of baked lasagna without having to take the time to layer.


Lasagna Baked Penne with Kale and Mozzarella
Serves 4
Recipe from Hello Fresh

Ingredients:
1-lb. ground beef
12 oz Penne Pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
8-oz kale, ribs discarded
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Chili flakes, to taste
1 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
4 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add the penne to the boiling water and cook for 9-11 minutes, until al dente.  Drain.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add chopped onion to the pan and cook, tossing 4-5 minutes, until softened.  Add the beef, garlic and oregano, and as much chili flakes as you like to the pan. Cook, breaking up the meat, until browned.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the drained penne, beef mixture, tomatoes, kale, and half the mozzarella.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a lightly oiled baking dish (9x13) and sprinkle with panko and remaining mozzarella.  Place in oven for 12-15 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.  

Enjoy!






Monday, July 11, 2016

Scenes from My Pantry: Tabbouleh Summer Salad

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad traditionally made with parsley, mint, tomatoes, bulgur (cracked wheat) lemon juice and olive oil.   Like the spelling of Tabbouleh or  Taboule, or Tabouli, the variations are endless.  Traditional Lebanese and Israeli versions are focused squarely on the herbs, and the bulgur is meant only to be a garnish. 

My version adheres to the general principles of good tabbouleh, but like my personality I rarely follow the rules.  However, there is a cardinal rule in Tabbouleh which cannot be broken no matter what part of the world you prepare and enjoy this salad. The ingredients must absolutely be FRESH.

Let's start with the parsley. You are going to need a lot.  Mint?  You will need quite a bit too. Oh yeah, I use a lot of bulgur too, and chopped cucumbers, so get ready to break the rules.  No matter how you prepare this salad, its refreshing, healthy and delicious. You can serve it as vegetarian entree or simply as a side dish.




Tabbouleh Summer Salad
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 cups bulgur (cracked wheat), pre-soaked.
3 cups parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 white onion, or 3 scallions, finely chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
3 medium ripe (firm) tomatoes, seeded, and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Pre-soak bulgur: Place 1 cup bulgur in a bowl.  Pour 1 cup boiling water over bulgur and let stand for an hour ( Yields: 2 cups of bulgur)

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together, except for the lemon juice and olive oil. Gently toss to mix the ingredients.

Add lemon juice and olive oil. Gently blend again. Cover and chill for at least hour to allow the flavors to develop.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Savoring the Season: Grilled Spiced Corn with Bacon


Growing-up there was only one way to eat sweet fresh corn and that was boiled.  My corn on the cob was always dressed the same.  A corn holder for each side, a pat of butter, salt and pepper.   I spent a lifetime eating corn without the slightest of variance.  Why? because it was good, it felt right and it never occurred to me it could be even better.

Do you know how to take fresh sweet summer corn and have a peak experience eating it?   Kick it up, spice it up and grill it up! Put some char on those kernels!  You will never eat corn the same way again.



Grilled Spiced Corn with Bacon
Serves 4
Recipe from All Recipes


Ingredients:
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
4 ears corn, husks and silks removed
4 slices bacon  (thinly sliced)

Directions:
1.  Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat  (375 F to 450 F)

2.  Stir together chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, and oil in a small bowl.  Rub mixture over corn.  Wrap each ear of corn in a bacon slice so that the bacon goes from one end of the ear to the other, without covering the whole ear.  Wrap corn in heavy-duty foil or a double layer of regular foil.

3.  Grill until bacon is cooked (it won't be crisp) and corn is piping hot, 20 to 25 minutes.  For crisp bacon, carefully remove corn from foil and grill it directly on grate for about 2 minutes more.

Enjoy!




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Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Does My Garden Grow: Summer Vegetable Salad

The summer garden is in full swing. The beans are abundant, squashes are arriving, tomatoes are ripening, spring onions are ready, and we have harvested the last of the remaining spring carrots and beets.

Mother Nature produces phenomenal flavors and textures, and she intends for you to enjoy it as close to nature as possible.  This salad stays close to its roots and is made with only a handful of fresh ingredients.  If you have ever played in the dirt (a/k/a gardening) and harvested fresh vegetables then I don't have to describe the phenomenal flavors, colors and textures.

If you enjoy summer vegetables salads don't limit yourself to only the ingredients listed here in my recipe.  Mix and match, and use what is seasonally available. 

An important ingredient in dressing salads is olive oil and all olive oils are not created equal.  Think of olive oil like wine and find the right match.  In this salad I created a light vinaigrette using a Tuscan style citrus blend (lemon, lime and tangerine) olive oil which adds brightness and paired perfectly with this fresh summer salad.  If you are interested in high quality olive oils then check out  Pasolivo Olive Oils hand crafted olive oils from California.


Salads like this one remind me at the end of the day simple is indeed best.



Summer Vegetable Salad
Serves 6


Ingredients:
1-lb. Use any combination mixed fresh beans,  cut into thirds 
1-2 zucchini sliced and cut into 1' quarters
1-2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
Medium onion, chopped
1 cup good quality feta cheese

For the Vinaigrette 
1/4 cup Pasolivo olive oil or other high quality olive oil
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of Kosher salt
Pinch of Fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil  (if using fresh double the amount)
1 teaspoon dried Oregano (if using fresh double the amount)

Directions:
Prep all the vegetables. Bring a large pot with a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add vegetables and cook 2-3 minutes.  Immediately drain and then add to an ice water bath to stop cooking (Tip: Keeps vegetables bright). Drain well.  Add vegetables to a large bowl.

For the Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl whisk together vinegar,  salt, black pepper, mustard, basil and oregano.  Slowly whisk  in olive oil to emulsify.

Note: You can add all the salad dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake until the dressing is emulsified.

Enjoy!


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Keeping it Simple: Potato and Kale Soup


Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated~Confucius

There is nothing complicated here.  Only a few fresh ingredients needed.  Take a moment and savor the simplicity.


Potato and Kale Soup
Serves 6


Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 strips applewood bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 large carrots, diced
6 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
A half-bunch fresh kale leaves (8-10) with the stem removed, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 can cannelloni beans drained
A good pinch of kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
In a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add bacon, onion. and carrot.  Sauté until the onion is translucent and the bacon is slightly crisp (3-5 minutes).  Add garlic, pinch of salt and ground black pepper.  Cook another minute.  Add kale.  Cook another 3-5 minutes until kale has wilted.  Add chicken stock, beans and potatoes.

Simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes.  Soup is done when potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and kale is tender.

Enjoy!



Monday, March 28, 2016

Shout out to all my Peeps



I am late to the party!  






Happy Easter!  



Pink Bunny Martini
Serves 3

Ingredients:
1-12 ounce frozen Raspberry Lemonade concentrate
8-ounces gin  (adjust the amount of gin to your own taste)
12-ounces tonic water


Directions:
In a tall pitcher, mix raspberry lemonade concentrate, gin and tonic water. Blend well. Serve ice cold.

Note: To make the sugar rim. Use white sugar with a few drops of neon color pink food dye or use a very small amount of red food dye and blend well.


Enjoy!



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spicy Ramen Stir Fry with Broccoli, Tofu, and Mandarin Oranges

My post-parenting years begin soon.  We are moving from a child focused life, back to our own lives.  As parents of two amazing sons, who are fiercely independent, intelligent, humorous, kind and inspiring, this would be the time in our lives we pat ourselves on the back for a job well-done.  If only it were that easy.

I remember like it was yesterday when our older son came by the house the night before he moved to Texas.  We thought it would be less difficult because he had been on his own for awhile, but when he left that evening there was a swell of emotions.  It was the moment when you realize your son is grown-up, he is ready.  Your job was to let him go and it was hard.

Our youngest son will be heading off to college this summer.   He is excited.   We are excited for him. He is ready to fly.  Our job once again is to let him go, and again, it is going to be hard.

We have spent half of our lives raising children and getting them ready for their future.  As our last child steps out, we have to step out too.   I think we are ready.  

What does a meal have to do with a empty nest?  A lot.  How we cook for our children is different than how we would choose to cook for ourselves. Proof is this simple stir fry using plain ramen noodles, broccoli, mandarin oranges and baked tofu make for a quick weeknight meal.



Spicy Ramen Stir-Fry with Broccoli, Tofu, and Mandarin Oranges
Serves 4
Recipe from Vegetarian Times



Ingredients:
1 7-oz package baked tofu, cubed
3 cups small broccoli florets
4 mandarin oranges, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons hot-chile sesame oil
1 3-oz package plain ramen noodles

Directions:
Combine tofu, broccoli, orange segments, and hot-chile sesame oil in medium bowl, stirring to coat evenly.  Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.  Set aside.

Heat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray,  Add broccoli mixture, and stir-fry 7 to 8 minutes, or until tofu is browned and broccoli is tender.

Add noodles to skillet, and toss to combine with vegetables, adding cooking water to moisten.  Season with salt and more hot-chile sesame oil, if desired.

Enjoy!