Jun 21, 2008

She: Sweets of sorts

Right now I'm waiting 2 hours for one type of sweets to freeze, and for another to cool. Figured I'd spend the time by letting you know what I was up to...First, I have been eating a TON of cherries. Its cherry season here, and I have never before been so enamoured with the fruit. But after three weeks of the red stuff, some of the farmers at the market have been picking stuff that is ripe right then, so it won't last as long. We bought 4 lbs of cherries this week for just a few bucks and I was determined to do something with them. Besides pit them. that is. I made Mark do the dirty work since we couldn't find a cherry pitter. However, I just read a tip: you can use a straw to pit cherries. Yes! You take off the stem, then poke the straw thru that end, and it will push out the pit on the other side. Nifty. Anyways, I didn't want to make a cherry pie. The crust is always so heavy and not that good for you. I found a Macaroon Cherry Tart Recipe from 101cookbooks blogger. Instead of a traditional crust, it uses a lot of coconut and egg whites, so it is marginally better for you. It smells awesome, and I've had to remind Mark twice to let it actually cool!
On the other hand, I'm freezing my new rocket pops! I bought a set of three tovolo rocket pops that let you layer flavors. I've been looking at these and the pig/icecream sandwich presses they have for a long time. Of course, the real kicker was the pudding I picked up for it. I wanted that fat free, sugar free jello pudding you can get--makes it preeeetty guilt free as a treat.All day on our list of errands I would cry "pudding!" in a cosby accent. Its silly, but Mark started picking it up, too. We were walking around the grocery store barking "pudding!"...anyways. I couldn't find anything but a few boring flavors. I got bananna and chocolate, of course, but besides cheesecake or pistachio (eeeeh) there was nothing but vanilla! What is that about? What about all the funky jello from my childhood? Sigh...

Jun 17, 2008

He: Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

What do you do with squash? Why does everyone spend all of their time trying to find ways to hide it in baked goods, cover it with cheese, disguise it as something other than what it is? The only thing that squash has really done to us is to drive us to come up with enough ways to use it before it goes bad. This is one of those really fabulous ways to use it when you have an overabundance and just can't stand the idea of just cooking it by itself.

4 lb. assorted summer squash
2 lb. spring onions with tops
2 tbsp. good olive oil (preferably a nice extra virgin)
30 corn tortillas
1 jar of Fronteraenchilada sauce
1 tbsp. dry oregano
1 tbsp. smoked chile powder (not chili powder, but a singular powder like ancho, chipotle, aleppo, pasilla)
sea salt and black pepper to taste
cheddar, jack, or some other melting cheese (if desired)

1) Cut the ends off the squash and cut into planks about 3/4" thick. Do the exact same thing with the onions bottoms (save the tops to cut like green onions at the end).
2) toss the squash and onions with the oil and a little salt and pepper (it's really hard to say how much, just aim to make them taste like squash and onions, just a little bland...if you're really unsure try a Tbsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper).
3) Grill on a preheated grill until soft, or about 2 minutes each side. Cool completely
4) Cut all of the vegetables into a nice 1/4" dice, add the oregano, smoked chile powder, the sping onion tops (cut very, very thinly) and any additional salt and pepper if you aren't satisfied with how they taste. Here's my load of veggies all set to become filling

5) Set up your enchilada assembly station just like this picture on the left, with plastic lining your counter and enchilada sauce on top of the plastic. This is an old restaurant trick...trust me it works like a champ.
6) Add a small amount of neutral tasting oil (canola, soy, corn...something inexpensive, since it's just for frying...kinda) to a large skillet and fry the tortillas in this oil for about 5 seconds on each side.
7) Move the tortillas to the assembly station and add a small amount of the squash mixture (about 3 tbsp per tortilla), and roll up the enchiladas.
8) As you finish each one move them into a casserole pan with the seam side facing down. Also, they work best if you push them right up against one another, otherwise they will tend to unroll. These are mine all set for the oven (note, I did some without cheese for the lactose intolerant guests that I had.

9) Once you have them all in the pan, top them with additional enchilada sauce, cheese if desired and then bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
10) They are done when the cheese is melted and the house smells like enchiladas (try not to get them too brown or the tortillas will be like eating tree bark.

11) Enjoy and thank me for putting up something else healthy!

He: White Lasagna

So, the family has been not so happy with me and the blog. Well, they're not unhappy, more annoyed that we create all of this really cool food that they hear about over the phone and there is never a recipe put up that they can try and make. Well you people here's me making an attempt to communicate better and put up more things that you can make at home that could be healthy.
This is a fairly involved recipe for a white lasagna that you might find in northern Italy (please don't hold me to this, but the techniques are accurate to what would be done). I am going to try and demystify the recipe and the difficulty in the techniques as I go along. As always with my recipes, if something doesn't make sense email or comment and I will explain in different terms than what I have put up here.

Meat sauce ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
2 oz. unsalted butter
2 oz. white flour
1 qt. 2% milk
2 ea. bay leaves
10 ea. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (please don't be lazy with this one, pre-ground always tastes like sawdust)
salt to taste

cheese mixture:
1 head cauliflower (finely chopped, stem, leaves, everything)
2 bunches red chard chiffonade(cut into ribbons) leaves and stems separated
1 lb. 2% cottage cheese
2 tbsp. dry oregano
2 tbsp. dry parsley (you can use fresh on the herbs, just double the amount)
1 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
3 ea. large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil (divided into 2 tbsp. increments)
salt to taste

assembly ingredients:
1 lb. low fat mozzarella (sliced)
2 lb. lasagna noodles
sea salt to boil with the water for the noodles (1 tbsp per gallon of water)

To make the meat mix:
1) Brown the meat in a saute pan on medium heat until cooked through. Drain excess water and grease.
2) Make the bechamel by melting the butter on high heat stirring frequently until after the first foaming.
3) Immediately add the flour and whisk until evenly distributed.
4) Continue cooking on high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture smells nutty and is a pale golden brown (maybe 5 minutes). Immediately add the milk and stir to combine.
5) Add the nutmeg, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to as low as it will go and cook for at least 5 minutes.
6) Remove from the heat and allow the spices to infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and peppercorns and stir in the cooked meat.
7) Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt (it's best to err on the side of slighly bland rather than slightly salty, the cheese added later will up the salt content significantly).
8) Set aside until assembly

To make the cheese mixture:
1) Turn oven to as high as it will go.
2) Take the cut cauliflower mixture and toss with 2 tbsp of canola oil and a tbsp or two of salt, spread out on a sheetpan and roast until the florets begin to caramelize.
3) Add the remaining 2 tbsp canola oil to a saute pan set on medium high heat and add the chard stems. Cook until soft.
4) Add the chard leaves and cook until just wilted. Season to taste with salt.
5) Cool the cauliflower and chard until at least room temperature (best if they are cold before proceeding).
6) Combine the vegetables with all remaining ingredients for the cheese mixture.
7) Set aside until assembly.

To cook noodles:
1) Boil in salted water according to package instructions.
2) If you really need help with this step you should not be attempting this recipe

Assembly and final cooking:
1) Assemble in this order: noodles, cheese mixture, meat mixture, noodles, cheese mix, meat mix, noodles, cheese mix, mozzarella.
2) Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
3) Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Here's a picture of what the final pan will look like. We had another shot with just a single portion of this, but it looked disturbing cut. If you consider the ingredients that go into this dish there is a great deal of protein, only a nominal amount of fat, and a lot of fiber from all of the veggies that are in it. Outside of the healthful items that are here, this really keeps well (10 days or so, refrigerated) and reheats fabulously.

Jun 13, 2008

She: Mexicali dinner

So, last week we made a Kick. Butt. Dinner. It was fabulous. and I can actually say we split duties. Usually he does most of dinner and I do dessert and random tasks. But this was great. Mark made some turkey that he did his little ziplock technique to...he posted that Sous Vide? Anyways. We had that, and he cooked black beans, and I made the corn bread and guacamole, and whatever it was I made for dessert which I can't remember.

Almost everything came from our farmers market. The honey for the cornbread, the corn, avacados, cilantro, etc. That was really nice, and I felt good about the organic local stuff. Now we go to our little market off sunrise every saturday morning and get our veggies. And right now, cherries. I should get Mark to post his cherry custard, which kicked butt...but back to this meal. I'll let him explain the meaty stuff should he desires, but I was really pleased with the guacamole--my first attempt. I thought I'd give ya the recipe.
Two avacados. I sliced 'em in half and twisted. I scooped it all out in small chunks with a spoon and put it in a bowl. Then I took the cilantro, twisted it up in a bunch that I folded twice and cut it up (faster that way). I added one sweet pepper, 1/4th to 1/2 tsp salt, a tad bit of ground black pepper, and I squeezed one lemon to mix it up. I actually like lemon in it better than limes--it has more zing, I think. Stir it up and mash just a little.

The thing I remember was at the market I was about to pick some that were too hard or too soft. Mark picked one up and showed me where to poke it gently--near the stem. You want that to give slightly, and mostly ignore the rest of the fruit. Oh, and he swore that keeping the pit in with the guacamole would keep it green, but I looked it up. Its an urban myth, about nitrogen or something keeping it fresh, but in reality it doesn't. So if you have leftovers, press plastic wrap to the surface. The citrus juice helps the color stay green, too.
Doesn't dinner look beautiful? It was great, cheap, local, and healthy!