Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eating your colors...

Dietitians can't stress the importance of eating a variety of vegetables and fruit; the more colors the better, so who am I to argue with them ? I am happy to oblige especially when it's a great tasting salad. My kids love to say that anything that tastes good is bad for you and anything that tastes bad is inevitably good for you. I believe there is always a way to make it taste good. Even though they are inclined to wrinkle their noses in distaste at the mere mention of the word "Salad" the plates will be licked clean with this one. Packed with protein and vitamins, it can be eaten simply as a salad or filled into wraps.

Recipe for Tex Mex Salad:
1 cup black beans
1 cup pinto beans
1 cup grilled corn
1 red pepper cut into strips
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 grilled chicken breast cut into strips
1/2 a red onion diced small
1 T sour cream ( optional)
2-3 T crumbled cheese ( optional)
strips of tortilla fried and set aside for garnish
Fresh salsa to taste- diced tomato, onion, garlic, honey, lime juice, cilantro and salt

1.Starting with the lettuce, place all the ingredients into 3 pasta bowls and top with the sour cream and salsa. Mix it and top with the fried tortilla strips.
Or use as a filling with warm tortillas.

Note: Avocados can be added in if desired as they add great texture and flavor. Cheese and sour cream can add on extra calories so I usually leave them out, but they make the salad more substantial, depending on your appetite.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just Peachy!

Summertime in New Jersey and the supermarkets are bursting at the seams with peaches and nectarines. Every time I see those beautifully crated fruit the compulsive shopper in me breaks out and loads one into the shopping cart. Unfortunately they tend to ripen all at once, and even though we try to keep up, I have to devise ways to use them before they turn ugly. Sometimes this chore turns into a major experiment ; the kitchen transforms into a test kitchen, and I into a crazy scientist with flour on my face, powdered sugar covered hair and grease stains on my clothes. As long as the end results are good-it's well worth it! So if you're having similar issues try some these at home...

Easy Peach Tart:
1 sheet of puff pastry thawed and refrigerated
2-3 peaches sliced thinly
2 T apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place the cold pastry on a baking sheet and layer the sliced peaches slightly overlapping them to avoid gaps.
3. Bake for 15- 20 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown and remove from the oven.
4. Heat the apricot jam in a pan or microwave. Dab it onto the peaches with a pastry brush.
dust with powdered sugar before serving if the peaches are tart.

Caramelized Peaches and Creme Fraiche:
4 peaches
2 T butter
2 T brown sugar
Creme Fraiche

Heat a saute pan or a skillet and melt the butter. Add in the sugar and allow the mixture to bubble briefly over low heat ( Do not burn or it will taste bitter) Place the peaches, cut side down and when they turn sufficiently golden, flip them over.
Serve with a dollop of Creme Fraiche ( available at Trader Joe's ) or simply with a scoop of Ice cream .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Authentic Italian...

Foccacia is a great bread to bake at home. Easy, foolproof and appealing, it makes wonderful sandwiches but can be eaten just by itself. This recipe and picture were sent to me by an Italian friend. Romina is a die-hard foodie and we get along wonderfully in spite of the fact that she speaks little English and I speak no Italian. On a recent trip to the US, she declared that she would love to contribute recipes to my blog and I accepted willingly. Like me, she is adventurous and will taste and reproduce anything that strikes her fancy. This particular recipe is a tried and tested old favorite. I have a feeling we will be hearing from her again....and why not? There is nothing as generous as sharing personal recipes- so feel free to send in your favorites and I'll be happy to spread it around.

Romina's recipe for Focaccia

(20 cm x 30 cm bread tin)

750g of bread flour

38 g fresh yeast (NOT dried )

390 ml lukewarm water

7 tbsp (tablespoon) of Olive Oil for the dough + 10/15 tbsp for top of focaccia and tin.

2 tsp (teaspoon) of Sugar

23 g coarse salt

Salt to taste

1.Crumble the yeast in a small bowl, add the sugar and half of the lukewarm water. Mix all to dissolve the yeast, then cover the bowl with a saucer and wait until a light foam forms on the surface.
2. Dissolve the salt in a glass with the rest of the water.
3. Combine the flour, 7 tbsp of oil, and the yeast mixture in a large bowl. Knead for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is homogenous, elastic and smooth (If the dough is too firm add some water and if it is too soft add some flour) - the dough should be spongy and should not stick to your fingers.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and sprinkle both the dough and the bowl with flour. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for at least two hours. The dough should double in volume.
5. Lightly grease the loaf tin with oil or cooking spray and stretch the dough to fill the tin.
Using your fingertips make dimples in the dough and pour
the oil over them . Then turn the dough upside down and repeat the process on the other side.
Cover with a clean cloth and leave it to rise for an hour in a warm place.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.(
200°c/Gas Mark 6)
Sprinkle the surface of the dough with the coarse salt and spray lightly with the salted lukewarm water. Bake it
for 10-15 minutes until golden. Buon appetito.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Keeping kids busy all summer long can be a challenge, especially if they try to alternate between the Wii and the TV. I put mine in the kitchen and get them to make their own treats. Raoul ( 14 year old) did exceptionally well and churned out 2 great tasting cookies; Double chocolate chip and Raisin oatmeal cookies. The oatmeal raisin were chewy and fruity while the chocolate chip ones were light and airy with a pecan in every bite. The only help he got from me was with the tasting!
Raoul's Raisin Oatmeal cookies:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp allspice
Pinch of salt
8 0z (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups quick cooking(not instant) rolled oats
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cups dried raisins

1. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, allspice and salt. Set aside.
2. Soften the butter in a large bowl. Add the granulated and brown sugars and continue to mix until fluffy, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Lower speed and add eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
3. Scrape out of bowl and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
4. Position rack in the center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
5. Remove dough from the refrigerator and using an ice cream scoop, scoop out balls and flatten them, setting them a few inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes.