Sunday, February 27, 2011

There's a fungus among us!

Who knew fungus could be so tasty and versatile?
Heading to a party? You can whip these little cuties up in no time flat and bake them at your destination, or bring them fully cooked and piping hot. These are a much healthier alternative to the breaded and fried mushrooms.

Concetta's stuffed mushrooms

2 teaspoons mashed roasted garlic
3 tablespoons goat cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary (coffee grinder to ground rosemary)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoons bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

8 to 10 button mushrooms with stems removed.

Combine all filling ingredients, puree in food processor. Stuff mushrooms. Spray baking sheet and bake 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.

(Gluten free modification, omit bread crumbs)

A new ninja in town...

Welcome the ultimate party ninja, Concetta!
I am thrilled to announce that a friend and chef extraordinaire will be sharing her talents as a special guest contributor. She is the beautiful woman in the middle of this sister snuggle, and has years of culinary experience. Concetta is the guru for all your party food needs. I hope that sharing her appetizer recipes will eliminate some of the stress of hosting a get together. And it may even inspire you to volunteer to bring a dish as a guest! I myself cannot wait to serve up some of her delicious delicacies. Cheers... and let the party begin!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Souper Bowl Supper

Chicken wings, nachos, chips and chili cheese dip, little smokies, brownies, and beers! It's Super Bowl Sunday, after all. 
How about something with all the flavor, heartiness and fun of the typical football fare, but none of the guilt?  Score big by calling an audible and changing up your game!

Pozole is a traditional Mexican stew often eaten on special occasions. I'd say Super Bowl Sunday qualifies! The dish varies by region and can be done many ways. I've made this a straight forward crowd-pleaser that will have even the most skeptical fan cheering for more.

The Starting Lineup:
  • 1-2 pound pork roast or shoulder
  • 6+ cups low sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1 can white + 1 can yellow hominy (drained and rinsed)
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • cumin, salt, oregano, smoked paprika
  • juice of 1/2 lime or 2 key limes
Pre-game warm up:
In a crock pot on high, or large stock pot, add pork, stock, hominy, garlic and dried herbs and spices. Bring to boil, cover and simmer on low for about 2 hours until pork is tender. Remove the pork, shred it, and return to pot. Taste stew to adjust seasonings. Add additional stock if necessary. I squeeze in about a half of a lime at the end of the cooking time

While the stew is stewing, you may need some backup to prep the garnishes. Call in your second string chef and get chopping!
Prepare separate bowls of each topping and serve family style. That way the toppings stay fresh and crisp, and everyone gets to eat it just the way they like it.
  • radishes very thinly sliced
  • diced white onion
  • shredded cabbage
  • lime wedges
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • diced jalapeno or piquin chili peppers
Now, you can get away without the avocado or chili peppers. But the radish, cabbage, onion, and lime are essential and served in every variation of this recipe throughout Mexico. And for good reason- they provide an added crunch and freshness that takes this stew to a whole different level.

Winning Play:
Pile on all the goodies right on top of your bowl of piping hot stew. Some hot sauce and a few squeezes of lime are the perfect finish. Options for a side are warmed corn tortillas, home made tortilla chips, or some toasty bread to soak up all the deliciousness.

Extra point: This dish is known as a hangover cure or preventative, so it's perfect for those who end up playing into overtime. Serve with an iced cold Corona, or two! This recipe is undefeated in my book.

Ok, enough football analogies.

Buen provecho!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Salad as Comfort Food?

To me, comfort food is something you grow up on, is scrumptiously delicious, and may not be a shining example of healthy eating. Tuna noodle casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken... not things I myself grew up eating, but without a doubt popular among the masses.

One of my favorite meals from my childhood, that has become one of my own family's frequent requests, is Taco Salad. It meets all the criteria of being a comfort food, BUT when you make some smart substitutions and use moderation with the "bad" stuff, it actually is healthy and ridiculously delicious.

Here is what WE love in it:
  • mixed greens (something crisp like Romain with cabbage and carrots)
  • ground turkey
  • sliced black olives
  • diced tomatoes
  • chopped scallions
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
  • 1 can black beans
  • finely shredded reduced fat natural cheese (cheddar, Mexican blend, colby jack all work)
  • Doritos Nacho flavored chips*
  • Wishbone brand Western dressing*
  • taco seasoning mix (or chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt)
*These are ingredients essential for the deliciousness and require the use of self-restraint and moderation. Don't bother trying to substitute something else.

Brown the turkey and season with the taco packet, or add salt, pepper, chili powder and any other spices you like. I use a little bit of olive oil in the pan, since it's such a lean meat, to help with flavor, moistness, and browning.

Drain and rinse all beans and the olives. I buy low or reduced sodium if it's on sale. Assemble your salads in individual bowls beginning with the lettuce (I tear it up into small, bite sized pieces even if it's been pre-cut and washed). Top with 1-2 TBSP of Western dressing. Don't go overboard on this. It does have fat, and high fructose corn syrup. But a little goes a long way and it's just so darn tasty in this dish!

Now go crazy with the beans, tomatoes, scallions, and olives. As much as you like. Top with a serving of the ground turkey, a little shredded cheese and about 5 Doritos crumbled on top. Mix and enjoy!!! If you like it spicy, dice up a few jalapenos to top it all off.

If you keep it under control with the dressing and chips, you have a high protein, high fiber meal that is as rich in nutrients as it is in flavor. And you don't feel like you're depriving yourself.

We eat it year round, but it's especially awesome in the summer since it requires little cooking, and lots of garden fresh ingredients.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Na-cho Ordinary Baked Potato

As delicious and tempting as it is to pile it high with cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and sour cream, all the fat and calories you add outweigh the nutritional benefits of the potato itself. So, the key is to select toppings that will give you all of the flavor and satisfaction, without doing major damage to your diet.

A big white baker potato is the classic choice, but I've been really enjoying Yukon Gold. Especially the baby variety. They have a rich and buttery flavor, thin tender skin, and nice light texture- so you can get by with less condiments. You can of course use any variety of potato that you have on hand or prefer.

For a quick and satisfying lunch, I pop them in them in the microwave. The baby ones take no time! Just pierce the skin with a few little holes to allow steam to escape. They should be fork tender when done, but don't overcook. They'll continue to steam a little after you nuke them and can quickly dry out and the skin gets chewy. Slice it down the center when it's piping hot and pinch the ends towards the middle, so it explodes open waiting to be bathed in yumminess.
Try one of my favorites:
  • sea salt & fresh cracked pepper 
  • taco seasoning (or chili power and smoked paprika) 
  • diced jalapenos 
  • black olives 
  • diced tomato or a spoonful of salsa
  • a dollop of plain Greek style yogurt or light sour cream

Here are a few other suggestions for delicious baked potato toppings that are healthier and a little more creative than the potato skins at happy hour.
  • extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme
  • extra virgin olive oil and blue cheese crumbles
  • turkey chili with beans
  • horseradish, light sour cream, salt and pepper
  • pesto sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper