Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meet Fox Meeting an Avocado

So, it's been almost a year. A few things have happened in the past year. Among many other things, Graham turned four, I graduated with a B.S. in dietetics, and G2 traveled all the way to India. The most exciting thing that happened is that sweet baby Fox joined our family. In cooking, I've been a little lazy, tried out many convenience foods, tried my hand at batch cooking and freezing things, and I am always trying to find make-ahead meals. This need for easier prepared meals came about while I was pregnant with Fox. Now that he already 5 1/2 months old, I am out of the baby haze that occurs with a new born and ready to tackle things in the kitchen again. (I think). It also seems a good time to kick up the blog again, because Fox had his first solid food today-a little bit of avocado. Since I chronicled so much of Graham's first bites and years through this blog, it only seems fair that I do the same for his little brother. Without further ado...Fox's first bite.

Keeping up the blog helps keep me accountable for providing my family with nutritious and delicious things to eat. I'm looking forward to getting back on track. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Snicker Doodles

Not that cookies have any big nutritional merit, but these were fun to make. And they were delicious! A little crisp on the outside, buttery, light and soft on the inside. The cookies weren't overly sweet. I made these for a friend, but even though the recipe says it makes 24 cookies, it made more like 4 dozen. I scooped large cherry sized balls out of the dough, and then let Graham roll them in the cinnamon sugar. That made perfect sized cookies. I had enough to give to my friend, a few more to share at a play date, and plenty for Graham and I to do some serious cookie damage.

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
Chill dough  for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
Place on parchment lined cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes.
Remove from pan immediately and eat them up!
*Although cookies may not be high on the health food list, cinnamon actually has quite a few redeeming qualities. It contains calcium and maganese. In Chinese medicine it is used for colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea and painful menstrual cramps.  There have also been studies showing cinnamon has a beneficial effect on blood sugar. Some studies show cinnamon intake in type 2 diabetics lowered fasting blood glucose and cholesterol. I doubt these snicker doodles would do all that, but interesting to know about the healing powers of a spice like cinnamon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sole with Lemon Caper Sauce

I'm beginning to wonder why I pay an arm and a leg for a piece of fish at restaurants. It just seems so easy to make at home. G2 was on a business trip and G3 and I dined on our sole on the patio. He ate all of his (above) and then asked for more! Luckily, that was only half of a fillet, so he got the rest of it.

2 3 oz sole fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp butter
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp capers, drained and minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
chopped fresh parsley

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Cook in warmed olive oil over medium high heat, 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm. Melt the butter in the pan, add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add broth and wine, bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes until it's reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add capers and lemon juice, cook a few more minutes, then stir in parsley. Drizzle over the cooked fish.

I loved the briney-ness the capers gave this dish, and was surprised Graham liked it as much as he did, but he does love lemon. Our sides were a little boring, wheat couscous and steamed green beans, but were great for soaking up the sauce. Maybe that's the draw of the restaurant dishes...the sides. Well, and the fact that it's always nice to have someone else cook for you.

*Sole is a mild, white flat fish, similar to flounder. It is low calorie, low fat and high protein. Capers, which are actually little flower buds, don't have much nutritional value, but I was surprised to find out they do contain a tiny bit (1% of RDA) of vitamin C and Iron. And of course, they have plenty of sodium.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Salad To-Go

For whatever reason, I often end up bringing salad to potlucks or get-togethers. I like to make all of the veggies part of the dressing so it's easy to toss together once it reaches its intended destination, but doesn't wilt the lettuce before we get there.  I think the first time I ever had salad in this fashion was on vacation with my in-laws, way before they were my in-laws. My mother-in-law would make a salad the first night that usually included tomatoes, capers, and black olives in balsamic vinegar an olive oil. I'm not sure what else she put in there, but she was probably listening to Bob Marley as she put it together in the beach condo kitchen. After we ate that, she would keep the marinade and add a few more veggies the next night. I thought it was super gourmet, but now knowing the quiet genius my mother-in-law was, I think it was her easy way of having salad every night.

For this Easter salad I used tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and red bell pepper all chopped up. I mixed about 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/8 cup of red wine vinegar with salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and Italian seasoning. Add the dressing to the veggies and put in a to-go container. I also like kalamata olives, but I put those on the side since the hubby and one of his brothers don't like them. Feta cheese is a nice add in for this, too. Chop up some romaine and mix it with some spring mix. Put it all in a cooler with some ice packs, go to church, then show up at destination and toss it all together. The dressing breaks down the veggies a bit, just adding to the dressing effect. (I try to take my own big salad bowl and tongs, one less thing for the host to have to worry about finding a dish for).

*Of course, this salad can be as healthy as the veggies that are chosen to put in it. Making dressing out of vinegar and oil is almost a healthier option than bottled dressings, high in sodium, fat and preservatives.  One of the reasons I like to bring salad is that at most potlucks there are lots of delicious, heavy, cheesy things. I think a salad helps to cut through all of that, and provide a little bit of reprieve from the guilt of eating so much good stuff.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ricotta-Spinach Pasta

This is another winner from Cooking Light. I swear I read other things. Well, text books and a few other magazines is about it these days. But, the reason I keep coming back to CL is that their recipes are usually fairly simple, pretty healthy and come without a complicated ingredient list. Some are better than others, of course, but this pasta was super flavorful. It was perfect for our patio meal the other night. A definite keeper. Since I actually followed the recipe as it was written (that rarely happens), I'll just post the link. Ricotta-Spinach Pasta. Oh, wait. I did use dried fettuccine rather than refrigerated. See? Never totally from the recipe. It was quick and delicious, and the colors of the red peppers, spinach and ricotta made it pretty to look at, too.

(I took a picture of this, but it has disappeared into some sort of technology hole. Weird).

Strawberry Feta Dip

I was trying to think of some kind of spring-y, Easter-y appetizer to take our family get-together, and what says Spring and/or Easter better than strawberries? Not wanting it to be too sweet, I decided to make them savory by using balsamic and feta cheese. Turned out pretty good. I guess it's a dip. I served it with buttery crackers. I suppose over lettuce it could also make a great salad.

16 oz strawberries, diced
2 Tbsp chopped basil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
lots of freshly ground black pepper
8 oz crumbled feta
olive oil

Mix the strawberries, basil, vinegar and pepper. The vinegar will break down the strawberries, which is good, but if it's mixed too early, they'll turn to mush. About an hour is enough time for them to marinate. Mix the feta and olive oil. Spread the feta mixture on a flat serving dish and top with strawberry mixture. Gently toss to mix. Serve with crackers or crostini.

*Now is a great time to eat vitamin C rich strawberries since they're in season. There are several places here in Memphis, like Jones Orchard, you can even go pick your own. Strawberries are also an excellent source of manganese, a trace mineral. Manganese aids in strong bones, synthesizing fatty acids and cholesterol and helps control blood sugar.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Veggie Enchiladas

In case it's not evident from this blog, we really like Mexican food. We cook it a lot. We eat it at restaurants a lot. Graham's first restaurant outing (I think he was 3 weeks old) was at a Mexican place. It's just around. It is always fun to cook something at home that I don't feel like we can get a restaurant. These enchiladas definitely beat any I've had out in a while.

First make the sauce (adapted from American's Test Kitchen Cook Book)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, minced
big pinch of salt
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ancho chile powder
1/2 Tbsp chile powder
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp sugar
24 oz tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
lots of ground red pepper

Saute the onion and salt in hot oil for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chile powders, cumin and sugar and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened. Add pepper and more salt to taste.  Add more water for a thinner consistency. This makes a lot of sauce, but I like it baked into the shells and G2 likes it saucy on top. This way we have enough for both ways.

For the enchiladas:
1/2 red onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
10-12 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onion and carrot and saute for a few minutes. Add zucchini, squash, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until crisp tender, just a few minutes since they will cook longer in the oven. Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 30-40 seconds to make more pliable. Spread a little sauce on the bottom of an oiled 9x12 pan. Add some of the veggie mixture down the middle of the tortillas, sprinkle with a bit of cheese, roll it and place it in the pan. Repeat. Cover all of the enchiladas with sauce and top with remaining cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

These can be made ahead to the point of baking, which is great if you have time earlier in the day but a busy week night. Or class, like I did. Thank you, sweet husband, for snapping a photo of these enchiladas.

*I like that these fall into that complete meal without much thought category. Veggies from the filling, cheese for dairy, tortillas for grains and adding some black beans for a protein and fiber boost.