Sunday, January 31, 2010

tasty kitchen

I've stumbled across a wonderful website.  You may have heard of it - Tasty Kitchen.  It's an offshoot of the Pioneer Woman blog site (which is also wonderful...but that's for another time).

The Tasty Kitchen website is basically a collection of recipes from people like you and me - these are recipes that have been tried, tested, and loved by cooks.  Often times, the recipes are posted by food bloggers, like myself, so they will have links to very entertaining blog posts.  And just about every recipe on there makes me hungry.

My favorite feature of the Tasty Kitchen site is the recipe box function.  All of the recipes I've uploaded appear in My Recipe Box.  See?


But there's also a community section of My Recipe Box - if I see a recipe I like on the website, I can save it there.  And I've saved quite a few in the two weeks since I discovered this beauty.  Here's some of the contents of my Tasty Kitchen Recipe Box (click on each for the link to the recipe):
Chicken & Dumplings

Restaurant-Style Salsa

Deliciously Dandy Ding Dongs

This week, my recipe posts will be inspired by recipes from Tasty Kitchen.  On the agenda - Asian pasta salad, scallops and pasta, and Italian meatball soup.  As always, I'll make modifications to fit my diet, and I'll showcase my own photos.  But until then...check out Tasty Kitchen!

Oh yeah...add me as a friend while you are there.  That would be lovely. :-)

Now I want to know from you - is there a cooking website you swear by?

Friday, January 29, 2010

pizza perfection

I have high standards for pizza.  It must be full of flavor, not grease...loaded with toppings...and dairy free.  For some reason, the pizza joints around town just don't seem to live up to my standards.  If I want a dairy-free pizza, I have to order it without cheese, and they never add more toppings to make up for it.  Instead, what I get is a thin piece of bread topped with a thin layer of weak sauce and about three pieces of meat.  Talk about unsatisfying!

Fortunately, I am not living a pizza-deprived life, thanks to this recipe.  This is the BEST pizza recipe I've ever had, and I've tried several of my friends' concoctions (sorry guys...this is better).  Once you try it, you'll wonder why you ever paid money for a pizza in the first place.

Try'll love it...I promise.

For the crust, you'll need 3 cups Better for Bread flour (I'm sure you could use all purpose, but Better for Bread is...well...better), 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 2 packages of quick rise yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 8 oz. of lukewarm water, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Simple enough, right?


 Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add the oil and water.  And then...don't be shy...just stick your hand in and knead.  It's fun, trust me.


Knead the dough for a good three minutes.  Try to resist the urge to bow out early.  Apparently, kneading causes gluten production which makes better bread.  I don't understand it, but that's what I've heard.  

Once you've kneaded for three minutes, shape the dough into a ball and cover it.  Let it rise until it's doubled in size.

While your dough is rising, you are going to whip up some sauce.  None of that sauce-in-a-jar for us...we're better than that.  :-)

Your sauce ingredients are simple - 1 small can of tomato paste; 1 small can of tomato sauce; 1 1/4 teaspoons oregano, basil, and garlic powder; and 1 teaspoon salt.


Put everything in a bowl (preferably larger than the bowl that I chose - man, did I make a mess).


Now stir...

This sauce is amazing.  I could eat it straight out of the bowl.  Don't do that, though - you'll need it for the pizza.

Okay, back to the dough.  If it's doubled in size, uncover it and punch it down.  Then let it rise for another 4 minutes.  Why four?  I have no idea...

After the random four minutes is up, roll out your dough into a nice large circle.


Yes, mine's more of an amoeba shape.  I think it adds character.
Transfer your dough to a pizza pan and let it rise on the pan for 10-15 minutes.


And now we put it all together!  Spread the sauce over the crust, getting it right up to the edges.  Then, put on whatever toppings you want.  Our personal favorites are red pepper, onion, turkey pepperoni, and turkey breakfast sausage.  It's a winning combination every time.


For cheese, you've got a couple of options.  If you are luckier than me, you can use real mozzarella.  If you are luckier than me and adventurous, try mixing Monterrey Jack and mozzarella...yum. 
If you are going for more of a dairy-free approach, soy cheese works amazing.  I'm not usually a fan of soy cheese, but there's so much flavor on this pizza you can't tell the difference.  We've served this pizza (with soy cheese) to our friends and they never knew it wasn't real cheese.

Or, the final option, is to do what I did on this particular pizza.  I just left the cheese off my half.  It sounds odd, but the sauce is just so flavorful that I didn't need the cheese!  And since I'm in control of the cooking, I made sure there were plenty of other toppings.


Place this beauty in a cold oven.  Did you catch that?  A cold oven.  No preheating.

Turn the oven on to 500 degrees and bake your pizza for 17-20 minutes.  You'll be able to tell it's done when the cheese is melted and the crust is golden.  It looks something like this.


YUM.  Excuse me while I go enter pizza paradise...

Perfect Pizza
Pizza Dough:
  • 3 cups Better for Bread flour
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 T. (2 - 1/4 oz. pkts) quick rise yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 8 oz. lukewarm water
  • 1/2 t. sugar
Combine the above dry ingredients.  Add oil and water.  Knead by hand 3 minutes; shape into a ball.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size.  Punch down.  Let rise for 4 minutes.  Roll out and place on pizza pan.  Let rise 10-15 minutes.  Add sauce, toppings, and cheese.  Place in cold oven; turn to 500 degrees.  Bake 17-20 minutes.  Serves 6.
Pizza Sauce:
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 t. oregano
  • 1 1/4 t. basil
  • 1 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. salt
Mix above ingredients to combine.
Nutrition (just crust and sauce): 310 cal, 4g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1199mg sodium, 59g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g sugar, 11g protein, 12% vit. A, 15% vit. C, 3% calcium, 26% iron.

This recipe linked to This Week's Cravings: Pizza!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

spiced okra

I think okra is one of the best vegetables in the world...maybe the best.  (You can tell I grew up in Oklahoma, huh.)  But, as much as I love okra, I'm hesitant to cook it without frying it.  I'm sure you can imagine why.  If you know anything about okra, you know it can get disgustingly slimy when cooked the wrong way - even if it tastes good, just looking at it will turn your stomach.

I have been determined to figure out more ways to cook okra without frying it - ways that won't end up slimy.  As of today, I've come up with at least one solution...and my husband LOVED it!  I've cooked it two ways - the way I'm presenting below and also by adding meat and making it a main dish.  Both ways were great.

This okra is healthy and really spicy.  And it's remarkably free of slime.

First mix together the following - 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can omit this if you are afraid of the heat), 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper.

Toss 2 cups of frozen okra (no thawing needed) and about a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet.  Heat on medium and start stirring.

Toss the mixed spices in with the okra and stir everything together.  Add a teaspoon of minced garlic.


Once you've got the okra good and coated with the spices, add 1/4 cup of water.  Continue cooking until the liquid is completely dissolved.  At this point, check your okra.  If it's still too crisp, add another 1/4 cup of water and continue cooking until water is dissolved.

Continue cooking with small amounts of water until your okra is tender.  Serve with a large glass of water - it gets spicy!

Spiced Okra
2 cups frozen okra
2 1/2 t. paprika
1 t. onion powder
1 t. minced garlic
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. white pepper
1 T. oil

Put okra and oil in nonstick skillet on medium heat.  Add spices and stir.  Add 1/4 cup water and cook until liquid is dissolved.  Check okra; if it's not tender enough, add another 1/4 cup water and cook until liquid is dissolved.  Continue until okra is tender.  Serves 4

Nutrition: 58 cal, 4g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg cholesterol, 3mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugar, 1g protein, 20% vit. A, 16% vit. C, 6% calcium, 4% iron.

Monday, January 25, 2010

hamburger minestrone

Everyone left such wonderful comments on my potato soup, that I got in the mood for some more soup (imagine that!).  I decided to experiment with minestrone.

I looked up the definition of minestrone - it's a vegetable soup whose common ingredients include beans, herbs, tomatoes, and a meat broth.  I love minestrone because it's both filling and light.  But, minestrone often doesn't love me because of the large amounts of beans that are often in it.

What to do?

My solution - take out the beans and use more "friendly" veggies.  But then I was left with another problem.  If you take out the beans, you are essentially taking out most of the protein.

My solution - add meat.

So here you have it - a beanless soup with added meat.  It's still delicious, light, and filling.  And, it can still technically be called minestrone because it is, at heart, a vegetable soup with herbs in a meat broth.

And who doesn't love that?

Our star vegetables are zucchini, potato, carrot, and celery.  To make it easy, just grab two of each.


To prepare, peel and chop the potato and dice the celery and carrots.  Set these aside - you'll use them in a minute.

Oh yeah, chop half an onion too.  That's important.

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, cook 1 pound of ground meat (hamburger or ground turkey), 1/2 cup of chopped onion,and one clove of minced garlic until the meat is no longer pink.  If there's any excess fat, drain it away.

To your cooked meat, add 6 cups of water, a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (undrained), 2 bouillon cubes (either beef or chicken, doesn't matter), 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning, 3/4 teaspoon salt, guessed it...those chopped veggies.

Bring everything to a boil.  Once it's good and boiling, reduce heat and simmer until your carrots, celery, and potatoes are just tender.  While they are boiling, chop up the zucchini.  Once your veggies are tender, toss that zucchini in.

Along with the zucchini, toss in a handful of uncooked macaroni (about 1/2 cup).

Stir the zucchini and macaroni in, and let them simmer until tender (about 15 minutes).  While that's happening, butter up some bread, pull out the wine, and set your table.  Dinner will be fabulous.

See?  Fabulous!

If you don't believe me, take a closer look...

Hamburger Minestrone

1 lb. lean ground meat (beef or turkey)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
6 cups water
28 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 bouillon cubes (beef or chicken)
2 t. Italian seasoning
3/4 t. salt
2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked macaroni

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, cook the meat, onion, and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Add the water, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery, bullion cubes, Italian seasoning, and salt; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are just tender.  Add zucchini and macaroni; simmer for additional 15 minutes or until tender.

Nutrition (calculated with ground turkey): 197 cal, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 40mg cholesterol, 513mg sodium, 27g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugar, 13g protein, 52% vit. A, 26% vit. C, 6% calcium, 13% iron.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

hearty potato soup

 On Monday, it rained.  On Tuesday, it rained and blew.  On Wednesday, it rained and blew and hailed.  Today, it just rained.  Needless to say, it's cold and wet here.

In this kind of weather, there's nothing like soup to warm the soul.  I'm a huge fan of soup, as you've probably noticed, and I particularly like this one.  It's creamy, hearty, filling, and perfect with a side of bread or served as a side with a grilled chicken breast.  It just does an amazing job of warming you up.

So here are our main players - potatoes, carrots, and celery.  You can modify the number of each that you use, but I suggest something along the lines of 6 medium potatoes, 3 carrots, and 5 celery stalks.  Peel the potatoes and carrots, rinse everything off, and then dice everything (see below).

Put these veggies in a large stockpot with 2 quarts of water (yes, it's important to measure the amount of water you use - you'll see why).  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.  Once it's done cooking, you want to drain the liquid out, but don't throw it away!  Save that veggie stock!  My suggestion for this is to put a strainer inside a large mixing bowl and just dump everything in there.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Sorry about that.

While those veggies are cooking, chop up some onion (I used half of a large onion).

Dump the chopped onion in a skillet with a few tablespoons of butter (or Smart Balance Light, if you are dairy free).  The recipe technically calls for 6 tablespoons, but I'm of the opinion that you can use as much as you feel necessary.  I don't even measure...I just dump it in.

Saute the onion in the butter until it's soft.  Then stir in about 6 tablespoons of flour, at least one teaspoon of salt (I generally use 2), and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper.

That's a horrible picture!  Ick.  But, as you can see, the flour more than soaks up the butter.  So we need liquid.  Slowly...slowly...add 1 1/2 cups of milk (or milk substitute) to the flour mixture and stir it up.  I used almond milk.  Your goal is to get a smooth, creamy sauce going.  Don't be afraid if at first it looks lumpy.  It won't stay that way.

When your flour and onion mixture looks nice and creamy like this, add it to the stockpot with your vegetables and stir it up.  Now, here's were that reserved veggie liquid comes in.  Slowly...slowly...add the reserved veggie liquid.  Continue adding liquid until the soup is the consistency that you like it (you will most likely not use all of it).  Heat it all through, stirring to make sure you've got it all combined.  Then serve it up!

Hearty Potato Soup

6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 carrots, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
2 quarts water
1/2 onion, chopped
6 T. butter (or substitute)
6 T. flour
1-2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups milk (or substitute)

In a large kettle, cook potatoes, carrots, and celery in water until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain, reserving liquid.  Meanwhile, saute onion in butter until soft.  Stir in flour, salt, and pepper; gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened.  Gently stir in cooked vegetables.  Add 1 cup or more of reserved cooking liquid until soup is desired consistency.  Serves 8.

Nutrition (calculated using 6 T. Smart Balance Light and Silk soymilk): 287 cal, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 734 mg. salt, 55g carbs, 6g fiber, 5g sugars, 6g protein, 77% vit. A, 34% vit. C, 13% calcium, 8% iron.

This post is linked to This Week's Cravings: Healthy Recipes

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

white bread

Beautiful, right?

Then add these...

plus two more full loaves that I've already wrapped for the freezer...

plus one more mini loaf that I already ate...

and you get the output of just ONE recipe!!!

I can't take credit for this recipe - I stumbled upon it while milling around Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen website.  The person who posted it made some pretty big claims - "easiest white bread" ever, "soft but substantial," "your house will smell like heaven," "your family will love you," "your friends will love you"...  I can say that so far the claims have proven true - it was pretty easy, it's definitely soft, it's definitely substantial, my house smelled amazing, and my husband thought I was awesome.  So far, my friends haven't expressed their love...but that's because I haven't shared the goods yet. :-)

I'll add a few of my own claims to this recipe - it takes only a few ingredients, makes enough bread to last a few weeks (at least!), and is IBS friendly (yay!!!).  It also makes good sandwich bread (see picture at the bottom of this post) - this was a major plus for me.  I'll definitely be making this again - oh, to enjoy toast again...that will be nice.

Check out the recipe here.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

chicken fried chicken with gravy

 While traipsing across Oklahoma over Christmas vacation, I got a hankering (that's what we call a craving where I'm from, for all you Californians who don't know the word). :-)  The hankering just grew when my husband and I went to the Cracker Barrel (for all you Californians who haven't heard of it, it's only one of the best country food restaurants known to man).  I kept eying the chicken and dumplings, fried okra, chicken fried steak, fried apples, and cobbler...but in the end I had to order something much more boring because of my dietary restrictions.

It was a bummer.  And it put me on a mission.  I determined that when I got back, I was going to figure out how to make something that tastes Cracker Barrel amazing but is a little easier on the gut.  I think I did it!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present...Chicken Fried Chicken. 

Sprinkle 4 thin chicken breasts (of similar size and thickness) with salt and pepper.  Let those sit and stare at you while you prepare the breading (I swear, sometimes I think chicken breasts have eyes).

Now, the best breading I've ever had used a sleeve of crushed Saltine crackers.  I didn't go with those this time - partly because they often contain milk and corn syrup (two things I'm trying to avoid) but mostly because they weren't in my pantry.  What was in my pantry was Chex cereal, which is conveniently free of both milk and corn syrup.  I figured it was the perfect time to improvise!

For the breading, I put eight cups of Chex cereal in the blender and let 'er go (I used mainly corn Chex, with a little rice Chex tossed in).  Then, I combined the crushed cereal with 1 teaspoon of seasoned salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, 3/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground red pepper.  This makes a TON of breading - I suggest saving half of it for later.

The breading should look like this...

NOTE: If you do have a sleeve of Saltines and want to use those instead of Chex, reduce your seasoned salt to 1/2 teaspoon (since Saltines have enough salt of their own).  Otherwise, keep the same ingredients.

Now we get to the fun part - tossing it all together!  This is also the part where we are going to get innovative about cutting calories.  Most restaurant versions of this dish are incredibly high in fat and calories (Applebees' version has 806 calories and 19.7g fat).  I imagine that most of the heart-clogging qualities of this dish comes from being dipped in whole buttermilk and deep fried.

We're not doing either of those things.  We don't like clogged hearts. :-)

Instead of deep frying, we're going to use the oven.  You'll want it preheated to 350 degrees.  Instead of buckets of oil, we're just going to use a teency weency smidgen.  To be precise, pour into a glass baking dish as little oil as you need to just barely cover the bottom (no more than 2 tablespoons).  My vote is peanut oil - it handles heat much better than the others and adds a nice flavor.  Other veggie oils will do, though.

Instead of buttermilk, we're mixing up a different concoction.  In a bowl, whisk two egg whites with about 3/4 cup skim milk or dairy substitute (I used rice milk).

Get all of your equipment in one place.

Dip each chicken breast in the breading, then in the egg white mixture, and then back in the breading.  Make sure it's good and coated.  Then place in your baking dish.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, and then flip your chicken over (be careful not to take off the breading on the bottom!).  Bake for another 10 minutes or until done.

While your chicken is baking, you'll want to make the gravy.  My directions on gravy are not very precise because I never make it the same way twice.  In fact, my mother has told me that I need to work on my gravy making skills...but I've rarely been disappointed in my efforts.

Melt a few tablespoons of butter (I used Smart Balance Light) in a saucepan.  Add some flour (I use about a quarter cup) and mix with the butter.  Slowly...very slowly...add milk (or some variation thereof) to the flour mixture, whisking and mixing as you go.  Bring everything to a boil - it will thicken up.  Add more milk until the gravy reaches the consistency you desire.  Add fresh ground pepper and seasoned salt to taste.

I hope you try this and enjoy it...I sure did.

Chicken Fried Chicken

4 thin chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 egg whites
3/4 cup milk
peanut oil

8 cups Chex or 1 sleeve Saltines, crushed
1 t. seasoned salt
1 t. fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. ground red pepper

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Mix together in one bowl breading ingredients.  In another bowl, whisk together egg whites and milk.  Dip chicken in breading, then egg mixture, then breading again.  Place in a glass baking dish barely coated with oil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes; turn over, then bake another 10 minutes or until done.

Cream Gravy

3-4 T. butter
1/4 cup flour
1-2 cups milk
salt and pepper

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add flour and mix well.  Slowly stir in milk and bring to a boil.  Add more milk until gravy reaches desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
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