Mango Mint Smoothie

After my first fall morning run I wanted a satisfying and refreshing smoothie to continue the healthy start to my day.  The best part about a smoothie is that the combination possibilities are endless.  Today I used some fruits found in the fridge and fresh herbs from the balcony, the combo was everything I wanted and more.

2013-09-22 12.12.08Ingredients:

– 1 Kiwi, peeled and quartered

– 1 Mango, peeled and sliced

– 1 cup red seedless grapes

– Juice of 1 grapefruit

– 12 mint leaves

– 4 basil leaves

– 1 1/2 Tbsp chia seeds

– Soda water and Ice as needed for consistency

2013-09-22 12.05.57Directions:

Pt everything in the blender and blend until smooth.  Garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.  Makes 3 smoothies, so share with a friend or two!

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Meaty Lasagna

I make lasagna not because I love it, but because it is my husband’s favorite meal.  If we are ever out at an Italian restaurant and lasagna is an option, he will order it 8 times out of 10.  The remaining 20% of the time he will order a spicy seafood pasta.  I like to keep the lasagna simple but fresh, so I followed the recipe I grew up on with only minimal changes.  I did make this extra meaty, which you may or may not appreciate.  You will have extra sauce for serving and you can cut back on the meat as you see fit if 2 pounds of meat seems excessive to you.

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Ingredients:

– 9-11 Lasagna noodles

– 2 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese

– 1 1/2 cups mozzarella-shredded

– 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

– 2 eggs-beaten

– 1 lb ground beef

– 1 lb hot sausage

– 1 tsp oregano (dried since I didn’t have fresh)

– 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

– 5 leaves of fresh sage, chopped

– 5 sprigs fresh thyme, center stem removed and chopped.

– 2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

– 5 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 large onion, diced

– 1 red pepper, diced

– 1 green pepper, diced

– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

– 1/2 cup red wine

– salt and pepper to taste

– 2-3 28 oz cans tomato sauce (use 2 cans if you want thick sauce, use a half can or a full 3rd can if you want it a little more saucy)

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Directions

1. Make Sauce: In sauce pan, brown ground beef and sausage then drain.  Remove the meat and add a little olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan to saute the onions and peppers.  When they look a little sweaty, add oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, sage, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and simmer in the red wine.

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Add meat and tomato sauce, heat through simmering at least 30 minutes to develop flavor.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F

3. Cook lasagna noodles al dente and set aside.  Better yet, buy the “no cook” version!

4. Make filling: combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and eggs.  For an added touch I folded in the 2 Tbsp of fresh chopped basil.

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5. In 9×13 pan alternate layers of noodles, sauce, and filling starting with sauce on the bottom.  Top with extra cheese.

6. Bake 40 minutes.

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I have to say with all the fresh herbs I was pretty excited for this dinner.  It was fresh and filling with good depth overall.  I did find it best to add extra sauce as the no-cook noodles probably absorbed a bit of moisture and the sauce was extra thick and meaty to start with.  Adding the red wine to the sauce really does a lot to develop flavor in a short amount of time.  You can add a little sugar to improve the depth of the sauce of you don’t have red wine available.  We picked a deep red and drank the rest with dinner, complimented the meal wonderfully.

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Stir-Fry Stuffed Acorn Squash

Today was the ideal fall day, despite the fact that it is technically still summer.  The air was crisp and cool but in the sun you melt to a comfortable temperature.  This dinner took a little advanced planning and did require a bit of chopping, but worth the efforts.  Anytime I can convince my husband to eat a dinner (and go back for seconds) that is primarily vegetables and lean meat without dairy, grains, or processed foods it is win.  This dinner sort of came together as I was making it, trying to utilize the vegetables in my refrigerator that needed eaten.  This is my best recap of what happened.

2013-09-16 19.30.12Ingredients:

– 2 acorn squash

– 2-3 boneless pork chops ( you can use pork shoulder, pork loin…even chicken or beef), cut into bite-sized pieces

– 5 carrots, peeled and sliced in thin strips

– 5 stalks of celery, sliced

– 3/4 cup of shiitake mushrooms, stem removed and sliced

– 3 Hungarian peppers (I had some red and some yellow), thinly sliced in rings

– 1 1/2 heaping Tbsp of minced fresh garlic, plus 1 tsp for marinade

– 1/2 tsp ginger powder

– 1 bay leaf

– 1/3 cup soy sauce

– 1 1/2 heaping Tbsp of minced fresh ginger

– Infused olive oil (infused with dried chili peppers, garlic, and black peppercorn)

– salt and pepper

– 1-2 dashes of red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. 12-24 hours in advance put the pork in a marinade: 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1 Tbsp infused olive oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp ginger powder, 1 bay leaf.   I marinated the meat in a quart sized zip lock bag so I could remix easily a few times over the course of the day.

2. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then cut into wedges 5-6 per half.  To make the squash easier to cut, I poke holes into it and put in the microwave for 5 minutes to soften it up.

3. Spray the wedges with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, place on pan cut side down and roast at 450 for 15 minutes before flipping and cooking for an additional 15 minutes.

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4. While the squash is roasting get to work chopping the garlic, ginger, peppers, carrots, celery, and mushrooms.

5. In a hot skillet over medium heat add some infused oil to coat the bottom of the skillet and saute the fresh minced garlic and ginger (make sure the pan is not too hot like mine was on the first round, it will instantly burn the garlic and ginger).  You want a light brown with good fragrance before adding the sliced Hungarian peppers.  Cook until the peppers get a little soft, about 5 minutes mixing constantly.

6. Remove the peppers from the pan leaving behind some oil and garlic/ginger as able.  Add more infused olive oil as needed to coat the pan then add the pork, cook until nearly fully cooked.

7. Add the peppers back to the pan when the meat has just a few minutes left to cook, stir together and let cook for 2-3 minutes.

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8. Remove the peppers and meat from the pan and set aside.  Add more oil to thickly coat the bottom of the pan and saute the rest of the vegetables.  I sprinkled a few dashes of garlic powder and red pepper flakes in with the vegetables.  Depending on how thin you were able to cut your carrots, they will be the longest vegetable to cook.  I covered the vegetables for part of the cooking process to speed the cooking of the carrots.

9. When the vegetables are nearly finished cooking, add the peppers and meat back to the dish.  Stir well, cover, and let cook on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes to finish cooking and fuse the flavors.

10. Plate with the squash so it can be eaten in place of rice with the stir-fry.

I think in future I would add the mushrooms at the same time as the Hungarian peppers to have more of the mushroom flavor enhance the meal.  Otherwise I was pretty happy with the way these vegetables worked together to make the meal full of flavor without any one ingredient overwhelming the dish.

 

Pesto Deviled Eggs

Who doesn’t love deviled eggs.  I personally have a little bit of an obsession with eggs.  I will always say yes to a runny egg on pretty much anything, my favorite breakfast on the go is hard-boiled eggs, and if I’m feeling fancy I’ll make some deviled eggs for a gathering.  On Friday night I made a batch of hard-boiled eggs and I made the end of summer pesto…the dinner choice was obvious.

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I recognize it looks pretty gross, but if you like pesto trust me on this one.

Ingredients:

Measurements are not exact for mayo and pesto, you may need to adjust for consistency and taste.

– 4-6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled

– 1/4 cup of mayo

– 3 Tbsp pesto

– 1 dash of dried mustard

– 1 tsp cider vinegar

Directions:

1. Cut eggs in half and remove yolk.

2. Mix together yolks, mayo, pesto, dried mustard, and cider vinegar with a fork.

3. Put everything in a ziplock bag, cut a small hole in the corner, and fill centers of egg whites.

4. Sprinkle with a dash of paprika.

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My husband was blown away with the filling process, he thought I was so smart to think of putting the filling in a bag and then squeeze it out.  I let him go on about it for a few minutes before I broke it to him that I did not invent said technique, in fact it’s extremely well-known.

End of Summer Pesto

My basil plant has officially decided to pack it up for the summer.  It is bolting despite my efforts to prune and fertilize and the leaves are not as vibrant as they used to be, so it’s time to make Pesto!  My mother was boasting about how she used her basil at home and made 31 cups of pesto.  I thought my basil plant on the balcony was pretty big…it made 2 1/4 cups of pesto.  Note to self, get a bigger balcony.

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I didn’t have any pine nuts at home, so I substituted pistachios, and I used my infused olive oil instead of regular olive oil for a little something special.

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Ingredients:

Now I used some very loose measurements…it’s sort of about feel.  I wanted to use terms like “a lot”, “enough” and “a little” instead of actual measurements, but people like my husband will go a little crazy and abandon the project if I do that…so here are some guidelines as to what I did.

– 2 cups of packed basil leaves

– 4 sprigs of curly parsley

– 3 cloves of garlic

-12 pistachios, shelled

-1/3 cup infused olive oil (see “Garlic Chicken with Zucchini Ribbons” post for directions)

– 1/3+ cup of grape seed oil

– salt to taste

– 1/4 cup fresh shaved Parmesan cheese (I go pretty light on the cheese and add it to dishes later, most recipes call for 1/2 cup)

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Directions:

Put everything in the blender and pulse to blend, add oils slowly until consistency is smooth but not too runny.

For the final batch I didn’t have enough basil, so I added mint leaves, rosemary, and sage to fill up the food processor.  It had a nice herb flavor that will likely pair well with chicken.

Use immediately or store for a few days in the refrigerator.  If you want to freeze the pesto, most websites recommend not adding the cheese until thawed for use.  My mom has always frozen it with the cheese mixed in without consequence, so I did the same.  A good secret however is to pour a layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to keep fresh in the freezer.  Use in up to 3 months is recommended.  Again we must live on the wild side in my family, I have used pesto that is a year old and it’s still perfect and fresh…cheese and all.

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Baked Corn

I’m not exactly sure how to classify this side dish, other than call it what my family calls it…baked corn.  It’s not a corn bread, but it’s not a casserole either…it’s baked corn.  Usually we have this for thanksgiving, but I decided to make it to go with the chili, adding some jalapenos added to spice it up.

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Ingredients:

– 1 box jiffy corn muffin mix

– 1 cup sour cream

-2 eggs

– 1 can whole cream style corn

– 1 can whole kernel corn, drained

– 1 stick butter, melted

-1/4 cup chopped jalapenos from a jar

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Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a buttered casserole dish.  Okay to mix a day ahead of time and refrigerate before cooking.

2. Bake uncovered in oven at 350 for 60 minutes, or until center is cooked with a semi-firm consistency and browned on top.

This is NOT a healthy side dish, rather a special occasion side dish.  I have been toying with the idea of going all out and adding shredded cheddar cheese to it as well.

I find that if I mix it a day ahead of time, it needs at least an hour to warm up before putting it in the oven.  I have also used all sorts of dishes, this is an 8×8 but I have used a 9×11 and even a round pan.  To serve it’s best to scoop it out like a casserole.

Bean-free Chili

Football Sunday calls for good food with minimal effort.  For the first football Sunday of the season we decided to make a bean-free chili in the crock pot.  My husband happens to love chili, unfortunately, the beans do not love him.  This bean free version adds extra peppers for spice and makes both of us happy.

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Ingredients:

– 1 lb ground turkey

– 1 lb ground beef

– 1 lb spicy sausage

– 1 28 oz can of tomato puree

– 2 16 oz cans of diced tomatoes

-1 can tomato paste

-1 onion, diced

– 1 green pepper, diced

– 1 red pepper, diced

– 2 jalapeno peppers, diced

-1 poblano pepper, diced

– 1 cup celery, chopped

– 1 tsp cayenne powder

– 3 tsp cumin

– 6 Tsp chili powder

– 1 Tbsp crushed garlic

– 1 tsp dried oregano

– 1 bottle beer (we used Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest )

– 2-3 dashes of Frank’s Red Hot

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Directions: 

1. In a large pot (or in our case the lining of our crock pot is stove-top and oven safe) brown all the meat breaking into small crumbles.  Drain grease when fully cooked.

2. Add the diced onion, peppers, and celery to the meat and mix, cook for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.

3. Add all of the seasoning (I use heaping proportions of the spices, not level measurements) to the meat and pepper mixture, cook for a few minutes until fragrant.

4. Add the cans of tomatoes, beer, Franks, and tomato paste, mix fully.

5. Transfer the chili into your crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

2013-09-08 13.34.47To serve I made a jalapeno corn bake (recipe to come) and coleslaw for the side.  I like a little avocado on top of my chili, or we eat it with tortilla chips.  We aren’t big on the sour cream and cheese route, but add whatever you like to this spicy chili.  As with all chili, it’s even better the next day!2013-09-08 19.32.45