Monday, August 30, 2010

roasted chicken and potato salad

     This is one of those recipes that makes you, the cook, look like a culinary genius. You and I both know this isn't really cooking, but a great short-cut with delicious results. The secret to great flavor is the indispensable rotisserie chicken and a simple homemade vinaigrette.
     I prepared this salad a couple of weeks ago in the church kitchen and it was a big hit. It is colorful, fresh and healthy. Everyone, even little kids will gobble it up.
     After all, who doesn't like flavorful, roasted chicken and crispy, seasoned potatoes? My girls, nearly grown, scramble to make it home when they learn I'm preparing this for dinner.
     Be brave. Put your own spin on things... Feel free to use your favorite vinegar or favorite mustard to change it up. Try something different like the jewel tone fingerlings. They come in a little bag and sport names like red bliss, Yukon gold, baby sweet and purple.
Ingredients
salad:
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed, approx. 4 cups (Reserve and freeze carcass for stock. For stock instructions, click here.)
1 pound, small potatoes
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Montreal steak seasoning
mixed dark, leafy greens, like baby spinach, arugula, or spring mix
vinaigrette:
6 T. evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
2 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. raw honey
2 T. Dijon mustard or Country Style Dijon, (w/ whole mustard seeds)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T. capers
Directions
Remove chicken meat from carcass and tear into large, bite-sized pieces. Depending on how many people you are serving, you may have chicken meat left over. This can be frozen for another purpose or refrigerated for tomorrow's fabulous lunch... Your co-workers will be impressed and positively green with envy.
Drizzle potatoes with evoo and sprinkle with steak seasoning. Bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make your vinaigrette and set aside.
When potatoes are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, pull them out of the oven. Allow them to cool for a few minutes while you plate the salads.
Mix greens together in a bowl. Place on individual plates. Top lettuce with pieces of chicken and a few potatoes.
The vinaigrette is thick and rich. Each component of this salad has abundant flavor... It is NOT necessary to drown the greens. Apply vinaigrette sparingly.
     This salad is great on it's own, but would be lovely served with homemade veggie soup, tomato-basil bruscetta or a fresh baguette, sliced and topped with herbed cheese spread.

Friday, August 27, 2010

taco soup

     This recipe was given to me by my mom and as my brother-in-law Steve said, it is probably one of the best soups she has ever made. And that's a BIG statement to make, considering that she is the reining Gravy Queen, Monarch of all things edible and liquid... like gravies, broth and soups.
     Surprisingly enough, I didn't need to fix this recipe... which, if you know me, you know I feel the need to make changes most of the time. This recipe remains exactly how she gave it to me.
     It doesn't contain meat and can be a vegetarian dish if you switch the chicken broth with vegetable broth or mushroom broth. The secret to the creamy texture is refried beans! It gives the soup a rich, velvety consistency, seemingly decadent without the guilt!
     This soup originated as a Weight Watcher recipe. My mom sometimes adds brown rice under it and low fat cheddar cheese over it.
     Pair the soup with a big green salad and you're good to go! For those of you in a frigid climate, this will warm the cockles of your heart all the way to your toes... whatever cockles are!
Ingredients
1 T. (or less) olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 can fat free refried beans
1 - 15 oz. can chicken or veggie broth, preferably homemade
1 -15 oz can petite diced tomatoes w/ juice
1 can tomatoes and green chilies w/ juice
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can great northern or navy beans, undrained
1 # bag, frozen kernel corn, or 1 can kernel corn, drained
salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Saute' onion in oil until soft and golden. Add refried beans, mash to soften. Sprinkle with taco seasoning.
Slowly add broth, breaking up and incorporating refried beans, until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste. Simmer for 30- 40 minutes.
Top soup with cheddar cheese, if desired. Brown rice underneath is good, also! I've added a dollop of low fat sour cream or Greek yogurt to the top on occasion.
(It is a tiny bit spicy. If you wish, exchange tomatoes and green chilies for another can of diced tomatoes to lose the heat.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

bravo, brave girl: chicken southern living

     When I arrived at Gail's house for a visit, she said she had cooked dinner for me. I asked what it was and she informed me that it would be a surprise. Hmmm, what could that mean?
     As it turned out, she had taken one of my old stand-bys and changed it. I was impressed by her ingenuity and the taste of the dish she had made her own.  
     That, friends, is what it is all about! In a previous blog post, entitled, Is There a 12-Step Program for This?, I challenged you to be brave in the kitchen. After all, it is YOUR kitchen!
     My recipe is an all-time favorite of my own family, our church family (who I cook for on a weekly basis,) and friends.  It is fast, effortless and delicious.
     This chicken dish has the distinction of looking and tasting like you spent hours in preparation, when in reality it requires only minutes... no muss, no fuss.
Ingredients
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans, cream of chicken soup
2/3 c. dry white wine
6 slices, swiss cheese
2 T. choped italian parsley
2 c. herb stuffing mix
1 stick unsalted butter
Directions
Spray 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Wash chicken breasts and place in baking dish. Lay one slice of cheese over each of piece chicken.
Combine soup, wine and chopped parsely in a bowl and whisk until blended. Pour over chicken, making sure it is covered. Melt butter and combine with stuffing mix. Spread over top of chicken, gravy mixture. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven, uncovered for fouty five minutes to an hour.
     Note: We like it with rice. If you want to add a couple more chicken breasts, use a family sized soup instead of two small ones. In my household, the gravy is king!
     If you run out of gravy before you run out of rice, it gets ugly and mayhem ensues! If you increase the soup, increase the wine a little.
     When talking of stuffing mix, I am referring to the type used for Thanksgiving, such as Pepperidge Farm, not Stove Top.

Gail's Chicken Southern Lemon:
     Gail added lemon juice to the wine and soup mixture, then substituted cornbread stuffing mix for the herb type I had used.
     All other directions remain the same. The result was great... I love them both! I may have to make Gail's version next time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

the nutritionista diaries: five week menu plan

Dear Diary,
     I have been making dinner for my family five times a week, for at least 150 years and I am SICK of fixing the ‘usual suspects’ list of meals every, single night. I am bored! I am tired! I am fresh out of ideas for even one more meal! I need serious assistance! 
My only alternative is to run away from home and join the circus, but I am deathly afraid of clowns. Please, HELP!
     The following menu plan is an example, made to suit my family. This plan has changed and evolved over the years to fit the ages of our children, changing dietary needs, tastes, and budget. Nothing is written in stone. You can adjust your weekly menu to fit local food store ads, planning around the sale items.
     Weather effects the menu plan, as well. If the weather is very warm, forget about the oven and make one of the main dishes into a big salad with the meat on top. If it is blustery outside, a hearty soup or stew may be what you crave.
     Work schedules dictate the need for incorporating convenience items into recipes. This covers 5 days of each week. Leftovers, dining out or ordering in can fill the remaining two days. So, put on your thinking caps. How does your family eat? What are their likes and dislikes? Come up with a plan. You will be so relieved!
Week 1
Meatloaf, cheesy scalloped potatoes, green beans, whole wheat rolls
Baked chicken with homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, baby peas
Cheese tortellini w/ artichoke sauce or pesto, salad, garlic bread
Chicken chili (use leftover baked chicken,) cornbread, spinach salad w/ apples and bacon
Teriyaki salmon, orzo and wild rice salad, steamed broccoli and baby carrots
Week 2
Pot Roast w/ potatoes, onion and carrots, green beans, rolls
Tacos, rice and beans, guacamole, lettuce and tomato
Chicken Fricasse, rice, salad, rolls
Lemon Tuna Pasta, salad, garlic bread
Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Week 3
Creamed chicken, rice, cranberry, baby peas, rolls
Spaghetti, salad, Italian bread
Hamburgers and/or hot dogs, French fries, lettuce and tomato
Breakfast night: French toast, waffles or pancakes
Grilled rare tuna on top of salad, rolls
Week 4
Chicken pot pie, cranberry sauce, salad
Grilled steak, sliced on top of spinach and Gorgonzola salad, rolls
Veggie lasagna, salad, Texas garlic toast
Fajitas (chicken, beef or shrimp,) Spanish rice, veggie toppings
Oriental chicken salad, ramen noodle soup w/ fresh vegetables and ginger
Week 5
Homemade pizza, Greek salad
Pork tenderloin, sauteed apples, green beans w/ lemon and garlic, rolls
Chicken tetrazzini, salad, garlic rolls
Baked Fish in foil pouch w/ mixed vegetables, salad
Zesty beef soup, rolls, salad
Alternates to menu items
Purchased lasagna, frozen pizza and chicken pot pies can be used to save time, if absolutely necessary.
Deli chicken strips can be used for oriental chicken salad.
Large batch of spaghetti sauce and several meatloaves can be made ahead and frozen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

marie's hummus

This is my lovely friend, Marie's recipe. It is the best hummus I've ever had, easy and economical as well!
Ingredients
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas,) drained, reserving liquid
1/3 of canning liquid
1 large clove garlic, peeled
juice of a large, fat lemon
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tblsp. tahini
olive oil
Directions
Drain garbanzos in colander set over a bowl or measuring pitcher. Measure out one third of liquid in the can and reserve. Place garlic clove in food processor and puree. Add chickpeas and 1/3 of the canning liquid. Process until finely crumbled. While machine is running, add lemon juice, salt and cayenne. Add tahini. Scrape down the bowl of food processor, making sure any large, grainy pieces of the garbanzos are pureed.
Taste, then add small amount of evoo (extra virgin olive oil.)  This will smooth out the texture of hummus. Add as much as needed until consistency is to your liking. You do not need a lot. A little more tahini can be added for smoothness, also.  The lemon juice makes the hummus taste very fresh! The cayenne will give it a tiny kick. If you require a bigger zing, add more. Use these ingredients sparingly and taste repeatedly!  You can always add more, but cannot remove it. 
     NOTE: I don't care for Walmart brand chickpeas... last time I bought them, I found them to be grainy and mealy. This means that it will be more difficult, or impossible to gain a smooth consistency in the end. Other brands seem to work well. If you can find a middle eastern brand, get it! I have used Bush's, Kroger and several organic brands with great success.
     Store bought hummus comes in several varieties. You can easily tailor your homemade hummus to your family's liking, just like the commercial brands do. Toasted pine nuts, chopped kalamata olives or diced, roasted red pepper are just a few favorite topping ideas. When serving a crowd, place toppings in small dishes surrounding the hummus for people to choose their own. Walmart carries whole grain, low-carb flatbread and pita in the deli... it is wonderful and healthy. Sam's Club has these pita chips that are baked. They work well for larger crowds.
     Spread flatbread or pita with hummus, add sliced carrots, tomatoes, olives, broccoli sprouts and lettuce. Roll up and enjoy your delicious veggie wrap! Slice onto smaller pieces for a healthy afternoon snack for you or the kids. This will chase away that slump we all feel around three p.m. and make your pre-dinner hours more productive.
thanks, marie!

the bartlett literary and tomato pie society

     About ten or eleven summers ago, during the sweltering peak of tomato season, I made a Tomato Pie for some of my lady friends. Needless to say, the crowd went wild.
     Tomato pie, which tastes like pizza in a piecrust, was then requested for every event involving food for months on end. It is light and airy, cheesey and fresh.
     Little did we know, our menfolk weren't quite as taken with this pie as the ladies were. They just didn't get it... what was the point, and where was the meat?
     The following Valentines Day, we threw a little party and played a version of the Newlywed Game, with yours truly posing as gameshow host, Bob Eubanks.
     One of the questions, "What is the WORST thing your wife ever made for dinner?" I was completely flabbergasted when the contestant's reply was, "Well, one time she made this awful tomato pie..." Needless to say, the gentleman was immediately disqualified for offending Bob.
     The group could barely contain themselves... laughing long and hard! The silly tale of Tomato Pie lives forever in our hearts and makes us laugh every time it is mentioned.
     Here is the recipe... It is still a fave of the lady friends (and no one really cares if the men like it or not!)
Ingredients
2 pie crusts
12 Roma tomatoes, peeled and sliced
Fresh basil leaves
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 c. shaved parmesan
1/3 c. mayonnaise
zest and juice of two nice, fat lemons
1 t. sugar
pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg beaten with a T. of water
Directions
Place one pie crust in pie plate. Peel tomatoes by dropping them for a few seconds into a pot of boiling water. Remove and cool slightly. Skin should slide off.
Mix tomatoes, lemon zest and basil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing with a spoon to blend. Layer tomatoes mixture, basil and cheese in pie shell.
Whisk mayo, sugar and lemon juice. Pour over ingredients in pieshell. Top with other crust. Crimp edges of crusts together.
Cut vent holes in top of pie. Brush top with egg wash. Place on cookie sheet or pie ring on center rack of 350 degree oven. Bake for 45 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

the nutritionista diaries: webfriends

Dear Diary,
     Help! I just found out that 20 distant cousins on my mother’s side are in town and descending on my house for dinner. Who are these people? Were they raised by wolves? What happened to advanced notice? 
     All I can come up with is a fabulously yummy recipe that feeds a mere four people! I am numerically challenged and fractions are NOT my friends. What’s a girl to do?
     Definition: webfriends /web frenz/ n.,  helpful sites for the gastronomically challenged;)
     These websites are helpful for various reasons. Some will provide conversion charts to increase the size of your favorite recipe. Others will help you plan a backyard barbeque for Fathers’ Day.
     www.allrecipes.com: Locate a similar recipe to the one you already have or use one of the recipes from their vast selection. Type in the conversion amount and voila! You now have a recipe with the quantities you need. 
     It will tell you how go from ‘serves 4’ to feeding hundreds. Best of all, you are cool as a cucumber and dressed to impress… in the kitchen, of course!
www.foodnetwork.com: Tv show recipes plus theme dinners such as Dinner at the Beach, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Party menus. 
     By typing in one keyword, your computer screen will be flooded with ideas and recipes galore by your favorite celebrity chefs.
www.epicurious.com : This website has recipes from Bon Apetit and Gourmet magazines, plus things seen on the TV show, Epicurious.
www.publix.com/aprons : Aprons meals appear each week in the Publix ad., but are available online as well. This is encouraging to those merely existing, in a grocery wilderness without Publix supermarket in your area.
      Most of these recipes are fast and have few ingredients and feature items on sale for the week. Easy access and economical ideas make this website an invaluable resource.
      There are many more websites out there to choose from, so Google on, future chef, Google on.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

picnic food and fables

     What is it about the prospect of eating outdoors that conjures up thoughts of anything from a simple sandwich to the most elaborate meal? As I contemplate a present day picnic menu,  I am reminded of a couple of picnics past... one silly, both memorable.
Picnic One:
     About thirteen years ago, my husband uprooted me from the place I had grown up to move halfway across the country, as he began a new job.
     I, still traumatized by the move was not in an entertaining frame of mind. But, we were invited to attend a picnic at a very large local church, celebrating our nation's birth. With two bored kids, stuck in a company apartment, we loaded up.
     With most belongings still in storage, I half-heartedly dragged out an old quilt replete with stains and holes, along with a couple of rusty beach chairs. Our family of four, dressed in matching Old Navy flag tees, drove through a Backyard Burger.
     The place we settled was near a large group of people who had obviously attended this party before. The neighboring crowd had a large, lovely canopy to shield them from the blazing July sun.
     Tiki torches, burning citronella oil, ringed the little camp. Who in the heck were these people?
     A hibachi grill was searing about a dozen shish kabobs and a table complete with large umbrella, covered with a watermelon print tablecloth held a fruit platter, a cheese tray, assorted crudites, a patriotic flag dessert and beverages in a galvanized basin filled with ice.
     Are these the gypsies I've heard stories of? Do they live in this spot year round?
     They had matching watermelon themed picnic ware. The hostess, who truly WAS the most-est I had ever seen was dressed to match her picnic theme.
     She was garden-party ready with her gauzy white dress, large watermelon painted straw hat and brightly colored sandals. Really? Is she serious? (Apparently she was Martha Stewart serious.)
     Even the quilt on the ground was, you guessed it... a watermelon pattern. The group's silent inspection of our hole-y quilt, rusty chairs and paper bag fare spoke volumes.
     Without uttering one syllable, they gave us a knowing look that said, You aren't from around here, are you? We enjoyed the evening, but I vowed to either never be ill prepared again... or pay closer attention to my picnicing neighbors.
Picnic Two:
     A few years ago, while on a student trip to England and France with my eldest daughter, we were treated to a picnic on, of all places, the beaches of Normandy! Yes, yes, THE Normandy. In France. Location of the D-day Invasion.
     The beaches are rough and rocky, with jagged high cliffs and shiny, golden sand. A quaint country inn near the town of Le Havre provided our group of 200 with sack lunches, each consisting of a long, crisp, freshly baked baguette, sliced and buttered, filled with thick cut ham and a very robust Swiss cheese; a shiny red apple and bottle of water.
     As we dined on the rocks, looking out over the shore, remembering those who had given their lives on that very beach so many years ago.  After lunch, with the waves licking at our toes, my girl and I explored and collected a few smooth stones. Today, six years later, those stones reside in a hand-carved wooden bowl.
     That rustic picnic remains one of my favorite memories. The freshly baked bread, the crisp ocean air, the history of that place and the company of people I love.
     Grand and accessorized, elaborately themed or simple and stark. No matter the food or location, a picnic is a lovely way to enjoy a meal. It is a way to unplug, unwind and reconnect with friends or family.
     As the days become shorter and the air gets cooler, plan a little outing of your own. Visit a historic battlefield and learn something new!
     Find a free outdoor concert and pack a lunch. Plan a romantic dinner by the shores of a lake or river.
     Get out a REAL tablecloth. Dust off your grandma's china. Use real forks. Make food from scratch.
     Add your favorite people and let the conversation and laughter flow... make some memories!

Monday, August 16, 2010

very best vinaigrette... ever

     Never, never buy store bought salad dressing again! This may be fighting words to some of my friends, but I assure you, the extra corn syrup and modified food starch is NOT beneficial to anyone's health. Here is a recipe I use as the jumping off point for all types of salad dressing.
     You can easily take the basic measurements and ingredients and alter them for the dish you are creating. For example, switch up the mustard from plain Dijon, to country style Dijon with whole mustard seeds for a rustic and hearty texture. Change out the red wine vinegar to a champagne vinegar or balsamic.
     This dressing is very rich. It should be enough for the whole family and takes only a few seconds to make. You can have fresh dressing with each meal. It should be used sparingly... don't drown the greens!
     And while we are on the subject of greens, PLEASE step away from the iceberg! Iceberg lettuce, while cheap and long lasting, has virtually NO food value. Add darker leaves to your pale ones.
     If you or your family are not veggie lovers, sneak in a few leaves of baby spinach, romaine, peppery arugula or soft butter lettuce for some great vitamins and health benefits... (but, shhh. Don't tell, not even yourself. Just eat it!)
Ingredients
6 T. evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. raw honey
2 T. red wine vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground, black pepper to taste
fresh herbs of choice, optional
Directions
In small deep bowl or glass jar w/ tight fitting lid, whisk or shake together evoo, garlic, mustard and honey. Slowly whisk in vinegar. You will notice the dressing becoming opaque and thick. This is known as emulsifying. Season with salt and pepper. If dressing is too thick for your liking, thin it with a little fruit juice, such as orange juice or a tablespoon or two of water.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

margherita & friends: we don't need no stinkin' 30 minutes!

     Dinner in 15, woo hoo! Recently, my favorite food store, Publix, was the inspiration for a fresh, healthy, budget dinner. Their fabulous, bakery-made pizza dough was on sale for a mere $1.79! I bought several and placed all but one in the freezer. I added a few ingredients, most of which I had in the house or yard and dinner was served!
The History of Margherita Pizza:  A Culinary Tale
     In the late 1800's, the wife of King Umberto I of Italy was named Queen Margherita. On touring the Italian countryside with her husband, she observed the peasants dining on thin, flat bread that had been rubbed with olive oil and spices and baked in stone ovens. She was so enamoured by this treat, she could not forget it.
     To honor the queen, who was so beloved by her subjects, Chef Rafaelle Esposito decided to make a very special pizza just for her. He baked a pizza topped with fresh, ripe tomatoes, mozarella cheese, and fresh basil, to represent the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green.
     This became Queen Margherita's favorite pizza and when word got out that this 'peasant food' was one of the queen's favorites, she became even more popular with the Italian people. She also started a culinary tradition, Pizza Margherita, which lasts to this very day in Naples and has now spread in popularity throughout the world.
     Here is my version, made by me, the queen of my own castle (haha) and designed for my tastes. I am a huge fan of mushrooms and garlic. (They are the friends.) You can add or delete things to make your taste buds happy.
     If you are a man, reading this note and think to yourself, "Where's the MEAT?," just deal with it or add a very small amount of cooked meat to your healthy green salad that you KNOW you should be eating. And remember what we have learned so far... NO iceberg lettuce!
Ingredients
one pizza crust
olive oil
8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes, optional
2 large, thinly sliced tomatoes
fresh mozzarella pearls
basil leaves
garlic powder, for crust
several pinches of kosher salt
lots of freshly ground, black pepper
Directions
Oil pizza pan. place dough on pan, drizzling oil over. Coat clean hands with olive oil, rubbing all over dough and stretching it until thin. Be careful not to puncture or tear the dough. Place on pan to rest. Sprinkle edges w/ garlic powder, if desired.
While you are working with the dough, saute the mushrooms, red pepper flakes and garlic in a tiny amount of olive oil. You decide how much red pepper is enough. I usually use about 1/4 t. or a little less. Salt and pepper it a little. Place the tomatoes close together on dough. salt and pepper lightly. Arrange mushroom mixture over tomatoes and top w/ basil and the mozzarella pearls. Hit it one more time with a pinch of salt and generous amount of freshly ground, black pepper.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven. If you have a pizza stone, spray sides of oven w/ plain water in a spray bottle before closing oven door. The steam will help dough to rise a little more and become crispy.
Remove from oven, dot with a bit of olive oil. Cool and enjoy with a crisp, green salad for a fast, healthy meal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

seared tuna with tomato lemon salsa

     Here is the perfect summer supper... no stove, no oven needed. Simply a grill, outside or in. Farm stand tomatoes are plentiful and several food stores and fish markets stock ahi tuna.
      If you are unfamiliar with this fish, I urge you to become fast friends, immediately! This is one of the mildest, most versatile types of fish. It is very popular served raw for sushi or tuna tataki, seared as a steak and even used in grilled fish tacos. It is firm, not fishy in taste and reasonably priced. 
     This recipe is one of my family's favorites and a frequent menu staple throughout the summer months when tomatoes are at their peak! Try using a combination of colors or sizes of tomatoes, such as red, orange, yellow or purple heirloom for a more vibrant presentation.
     My family eats so much of the tomato salsa, I have to double this part of the recipe. They will eat it on salad for several days afterward, if any remains. They also like it with tortilla chips.  
     The vinaigrette recipe can be used to marinate chicken breasts, or can be added to some ground turkey burgers jazzed up with shallots and goat cheese. You could add a little soy and orange juice to make a marinade for skirt steak for fajitas or for other tougher cuts that need breaking down, like flank or flat iron, or pork tenderloin. It would also be good to flavor some hamburgers and makes a lovely salad dressing on its own.
Lemon Vinaigrette and Marinade:
Ingredients
1/2 cup lemon juice, approx. 3 lemons
2 T. honey
zest of 3 lemons
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 cup evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Directions
Whisk together all ingredients in small bowl or shake up in mason jar w/ tight fitting lid. Set aside. Any remaining dressing can be stored in refrigerator. Olive oil will solidify, so bring to room temperature before serving.
Grilled Tuna:
Ingredients
4 Tuna steaks
few fresh oregano leaves
1/2 c. lemon vinaigrette
Directions
Take 1/2 cup of the lemon vinaigrette and add some fresh oregano leaves. Pour over tuna steaks in a shallow, non-metal baking dish or in gallon-sized plastic zipper bag set into a bowl. Make sure tuna is well coated with marinade. Set into refrigerator for around 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the tomato salsa.
After thirty minutes or so, heat grill on high heat. Remove tuna from dish or bag, discarding marinade. Grill on high heat, approximately 2 minutes on each side. Meat will be fairly rare on inside. For medium rare, grill 3 minutes.  
Forget about cooking it well done... It will NOT be the same. The longer you grill it, the stronger the fishy tastes will be. The oils in this thick cut do that to the flavor. When consuming it raw, the flavor is very sweet. That is what we're trying to retain.
Remember, this blog is about being BRAVE in the kitchen, so try it a little rarer than you normally would.
Tomato Salsa
Ingredients
6 large tomatoes, diced.
1 cup lemon vinaigrette
a few more leaves of fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Mix together, add salt and lots of pepper. Set aside.
Assembly Instructions:
Baby Greens of choice... First and foremost rule: NO iceberg! (I'm working on a logo with a red circle and line through a head of iceberg lettuce! Haha.) No, really. I'm not joking... No iceberg. It has absolutely no food value.
Try something dark and full of nutrients... the darker the leaf, the better it is for you.  If you are afraid of dark, leafy things, try a pre-packaged blend from the store. They are a little more expensive, but get something on sale and don't waste it. If it isn't your favorite, try something new the next time around.
Here is a list of possible candidates for your salad makeover:
Arugula (also known as Rocket)
Butter
Bibb
Red Leaf, oak leaf
Romaine (hey, you've heard of that!)
Spinach (my fave)
Baby Kale
Mache'
Place salad greens on plates. Top with grilled Tuna steaks. You can sliced them first, if you wish. This displays the pretty pink insides of the tuna, a beautiful contrast to the green leaves and the brightly colored red, orange or yellow tomatoes.
Spoon the lovely Tomato Salsa over the whole thing. Stand back and admire your creation, now... because once everyone tastes it, it will disappear in a flash.
Serve with crusty bread or bruschetta you've sliced, grilled and rubbed with a raw clove of garlic... You'll need it to mop up ever little drop of this lovely vinaigrette! Buon Appetito, Y'all!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

the nutritionista diaries... no more plastic food

Dear Diary,
Why is my face broken out and my favorite jeans burst into flames when my thighs rub together? Why do the people at McDonald’s know me by name and ask if I want the usual when I walk in? 
     God has provided a wealth of beautiful and glorious foods for us to choose from here on this earth, yet many times we choose things that aren’t good for us. 
     Although our lives are sometimes hectic, we can train ourselves to spend fifteen minutes or so preparing simple, healthy meals in the same amount of time it takes to throw a frozen dinner into the microwave or sit in the drive-thru at a fast-food place. When time permits, homemade usually costs less, tastes better and is healthier for you.     
      You have probably seen or at least heard of the food pyramid. The USDA has reworked the pyramid and now it's a plate. There are five catagories, fruits, grains, protein, veggies and dairy.
     If you have young children in your home and your diet consists mainly of mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets and pb and j, try to broaden horizons by adding fresh fruits and veggies with the standard fare. Never make separate meals for picky eaters. When hungry, they will eat.
     Include several colors on each plate. This is a rule my mom lived by. It made an enormous, visual impression on me. A plate of colorful food is much more appealing than dull, monochromatic fare. 
     The colors and textures provided by Nature are the best. The plastic ones, provided by Ronald and friends are not! 
     If you train your mind and the minds of your children, you will begin to notice the cravings for high fat- low nutrient things diminish.
     Be in a first name basis with the people who grow your food, like the friendly locals in your neighborhood farmers' market. Allow kids to pick out a few colorful veggies.
      So, if you're feeling inspired and ambitious after this little pep talk, plan and plant a little kitchen garden. Even a large pot on the patio or a 3x3' plot outside your kitchen door will make a huge impact on the way you and your family thinks about food. A beautiful, ripe tomato grown by you or a local farmer is far better than a semi-plastic replica grown in a faraway greenhouse.

swimming, fully immersed in a foodie gene pool

     I was a foodie from the day I was born! Earliest recollections indicate that time spent together planting and growing, harvesting, cooking and preparing food are happy associations for me.
     Everything I know about cooking, I learned by reading massive amounts of books on every subject pertaining to food, as well as by watching as a child, my family's relationship with edible things.
     My maternal grandparents, who lived nearby, were my best teachers without even being aware of it. They were products of the Great Depression. They didn't waste anything and they shared their abundance with others. Both were very brave in the kitchen.
     Grandaddy grew organically and lived green before green was cool! His compost pile had the richest, blackest soil that could ever be found. Most of the vegetables we ate each night for dinner was grown by him... You can't get more local than that!
     My mom is a very good cook, but her brain, unlike mine, is wired in a very organized manner. She must have a recipe in front of her with quantities, measurements and specific ingredients already decided for her. My style of cooking sort-of resembles Edward Scissorhands giving a haircut.
     My dad was always well fed and content.  Many a possible suitor (including my future husband,) visiting my sister and I, or friends of my brothers, made a mental note about dinnertime at our house. It was not uncommon for us to have a few strays at our table on any given day.
     Planning life around the next meal is one of my mental illnesses, but it runs in the family...

is there a twelve-step program for this?

     I am addicted to food... There. I said it. 
     Now, that I've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you a little more about my lifelong love affair with all things edible... well, most things edible.
     You won't be reading much about the many attributes of cooking with liver in this blog. Ever. Okay? You just won't.
     Many people are intimidated by all of the experts in the field of culinary arts... Some so much so that making a quick, healthy meal seems a daunting task.
     In the past four years, I have learned a lot about feeding people in large groups and small.  I am currently a cook in a church kitchen.
     For several years, while homeschooling my kids, I taught a cooking class at our homeschool co-op. I started writing down things I learned. I titled my musings, The Nutritionista Diaries.
    I want to encourage you to be brave, even when you are merely making a weeknight meal. We are ALL extremely busy, but given the same 24 hours. The key to being successful is to make your 24 hours work for you, not the other way around.
Here are ten things I've learned along the way:
  • Read about what others are cooking.
  • Stop buying over-processed food and don't buy packaged food in bulk.
  • Shop more often, buying less. Stop being wasteful and use everything you buy.
  • Eat foods in their growing season and buy local. Eat real food in its natural state.
  • Keep it simple. Don't spend a lot of time on preparation.
  • Put some thought into it. Make it colorful.
  • Experiment with new ways of making your old favorites healthier.
  • Involve your whole family, from preparation to final clean-up... no divas allowed.
  • Eat together, unplugged, without distraction.
  • Laugh a lot, even about the culinary mistakes.
Is there a twelve-step program for this?