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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tilapia and Lentils

Cooking fish can be one of the easiest things to do... and yet, it can be one of the most confusing too. Often overcooked or overwhelmed by too many flavors and ingredients, fish is misunderstood. Tilapia takes on the flavors you cook it with, its a clean slate to work with.

In this dish, I've taken super simple (not to mention cheap) lentils, cooked them with a little tomato paste and then simmered the fish on top with a slice of lemon. The fish is light while the lentils are filling, and together it's all tasty!

You can't really over cook the lentils- (let's say you walk away from the stove for a couple of hours....think of split peas, they will just form a thicker, smoother base the longer they cook.) And you will nestle the fish right into the lentils and cover, which will help keep the fish moist.

So, we've got simple flavors and cooking instructions, it's light and yet filling and easy on the wallet. It's fat and happy ... and .... forgiving! Enjoy!

Tilapia in Tomato Lentils

Sautee in olive oil until soft:
1/3 cup of each (chopped): onions, carrots celery

Add and stir to incorporate:
1 Tbls (heaping) tomato paste
black pepper

1/2 cup lentils
3 cups water (or broth if you have it)
1 bay leaf

Simmer until the lentils are fork tender (this could take up to 1 hour); add the fish when there is still a little liquid in left in the lentils.

2 Tbls tomato balsamic vinegar (or plain balsamic vinegar)
Squeeze of lemon
handful of fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Now add 2 pieces of tilapia, settle it into the lentils (tilapia is delicate, so be gentle).
Top each fillet with a slice or two of fresh lemon and a sprinkling of seasoning salt, cover.
Continue to simmer for until the tilapia is flaky (just use your fork and take a peek inside the fish, this is only going to take about 5 minutes.

Serve each fillet on a bed of lentils.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tomato Black Bean Dip Soup

The name sounds funny, right? But how often can a soup act as a dip using the same recipe? Surprisingly quite often, actually. Take this Tomato and Black Bean soup- by adding less water, or just by letting the soup cook a bit longer, you end up with a thick and hearty dip that is perfect with chips and cheese. On the other hand, as a soup it works great with a warm tortilla and cheese as well. When I began making it, I wasn't sure what I was making, and in the end I found two options on my hand. And its a vegetarian option with protein from the beans.

Whether you decide to go with a soup, a dip or split it as both- it's warming and filling- keeping you fat and happy!

Tomato Black Bean (Dip) Soup

Sautee in olive oil until soft:

1 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced celery
1 Tbls ground cumin
1 Tbls lime pepper
Add, sautee for 3 minutes:
1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
1 garlic clove

1 can black beans - smash half of the beans with the back of the spoon
1 can tomatoes
1/2 can water (add more for a thinner soup, less for dip)
Salt and pepper to taste
Simmer 10 minutes.

Add shredded cheddar on top and serve with chips or a warm tortilla.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fennel Sausage Spinach Ravioli

Favorite thing to make, hands down, is pasta. Maybe because I have such fond memories of making pasta with my family growing up. Or maybe it's about getting my hands in the dough, feeling the ingredients and having the option to make numerous shapes, noodles and ravioli's.

It's also super fun to make flavored dough like spinach, the dough takes on a colored hue to it- green in this case. Wanting to vary the look of the ravioli, I made one plain and one spinach dough and then striped the ravioli; it looks so cool and professional!

To create the strips, grab one hunk of plain dough and one hunk of flavored dough, smoosh them side by side as you begin to roll into the pasta maker.  Continue to roll through the pasta machine until desired thickness is reached.

The filling was created to blend with the spinach dough and it works wonderfully. Feel free to just make a basic pasta, and not mix the doughs; look at my pasta posting to find out how to make handmade pasta.

Have fun and play with your food, get your hands dirty! See where it takes you! Making pasta makes me fat and about you?

Tips and Techniques: Typically, fillings need a binder like an egg to hold them together. I didn't use an egg this time because I just wanted a looser filling. If you prefer the filling to hold together more, simply add an egg and a handful of bread crumbs to the recipe below.

Fennel Sausage Spinach Ravioli filling

1/2 cup finely diced onion
3/4 cup finely diced fennel
1/4 tsp red pepper
seasoning salt and fresh black pepper
1/4 tsp (heaping) crushed fennel seed
2 cloves garlic
2 turkey sausages (remove from casing and crumble first)
1/4 cup finely shredded asiago cheese
2 tbls fresh thyme
2 tbls chopped fennel fronds

Saute the crumbled sausages in the saute pan, cook until about half way done.  Add in the onion, fennel, seasoning salt, red and black pepper until the onion begins to soften.  You may need to add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan since turkey sausage can be dry.  

Add the fresh thyme, fennel fronds and cheese, toss lightly and remove from heat.

Cool  the filling before stuffing the ravioli.

Need the pasta recipe? Click here for fresh, handmade pasta.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bacon Crepes with Blueberry Sauce

Everything tastes better with bacon- it's a proven fact. Watch any cooking challenge show and you'll see the judges drool at any dish with bacon. It's a sure fire win!

I had a taste for crepes one morning, and what would taste better with crepes.....than bacon! Simple bacon with caramelized onions- yum! The sauce is a bit different than what you might expect, it's a savory blueberry sauce. The blueberries lend themselves to a little thyme, resulting in a savory good sauce

Even with the bacon and caramelized onions, this comes across as a relatively lighter breakfast. And the blueberries give it a hint of a built-in-dessert. It's fat and happy together on a plate! Enjoy!

Tips and Techniques:  Don't be alarmed if the first couple of crepes don't work out- it's normal.  Just take your time with them and allow do allow plenty of time for the batter to rest.

Bacon Crepes with Blueberry Sauce

Begin with a basic crepe
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup of milk (more if needed)
1 cup flour
pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients in a blender or whisk by hand until smooth, set in the refrigerator for about 1 hour (this gives the batter time to rest and resolve all air bubbles). The batter should be about the consistency of heavy whipping cream.

Heat up a skillet (use one about 8 inches wide) and bush with melted butter. Pour in about a scant 1/4 cup of batter- twirl the pan so only the bottom is covered with batter. Flip when the crepe begins to lightly brown, brown on second side. Repeat.

Stack the crepes and leave in a warm oven until ready to fill.

Bacon Stuffing
While your crepe batter is resting, cook the bacon and onions.

Fry the bacon to your liking, set aside
8 slices of bacon, chopped

Use the bacon pan, leaving about 2 tbls of bacon fat in it. Add the onions, sautee to caramelize.
1/2 white onion- sliced very thin
1/4 red onion- sliced very thin
add in 1 chopped clove of garlic when the onions are about half way cooked.

Place the onions and bacon in a ceramic dish- put in the oven to keep warm until the crepes are ready.

Add 1 cup of sour cream, salt and pepper to the the bacon mix before placing in the crepes, the warm mixture will 'melt' the sour cream.

Savory Blueberry Sauce

Using the same onion/bacon pan (don't wipe out, you want the hint of onions and bacon in the sauce), add in:
1 cup of blueberries (I have frozen blueberries in the freezer for such occasions)
2 tbls olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbls pomegranate balsamic vinegar (or plain balsamic)
2 Tbls lemon honey (or plain honey with a squeeze of lemon)
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 Tbls sugar

Simmer (if the sauce gets too thick, add in a splash of stock). Add in a dot of butter just before serving.

Putting the bacon crepes and the savory blueberry sauce together

Take one crepe, place a big dollop of the bacon sour cream mixture in the middle, and fold to a square. Pour a spoon of simmering blueberry sauce over the top. Serve.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Meatball Soup with Dumplings

Nearly every recipe on my blog is my true creation; but once in a while I do find inspiration from someone else's recipe. I saw a version of this soup on a show...honestly I'm not sure which one. So this is an adaptation of that - if anyone has seen which show this is, do let me know and I'll credit it!

The mustard in the dumplings of this soup carry over and flavor the rest of the soup- it's hearty, tasty and an unexpected flavor. The hint of horseradish gives a zip as well.

My meatballs are wonderfully tasty and could be used in other recipes as well. It does take some time to roll out and brown them, but it's worth the time. This a manly soup- make it for your men today and watch them be fat and happy!

Meatball Soup with Mustard Dumplings

Sautee in olive oil:
1/2 cup chopped Onions
1/2 cup chopped Carrots
1/2 cup chopped Fennel

add stock (about 2 quarts)

add 1/2 cup red lentil beans (dried)
1/3 cup barley
cook about 10 minutes (or until your meatballs are ready)
In the meantime- turn your attention to making the meatballs. (see below)

add browned meatballs

let that simmer while you make the dumplings.

Turkey Meatballs

sautee until soft, then cool:
1/4 cup finely diced onions
1 clove garlic (pushed through a garlic press)

Mix in a bowl, using your hands:
the sauteed onions and garlic
1 pound of ground turkey meat
1/4 cup parsley
1 egg
1 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbls fresh chopped oregano
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Use a small cookie scoop, roll into tiny balls (try not to pack these too tight, you want to keep them somewhat loose so they don't get hard.)

Lightly spread flour on a large, flat plate. Roll the meatballs lightly in the flour and then lightly brown. Don't cook all the way through, because these will finish cooking in the soup.

Mustard Dumplings
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbls stone ground mustard
1 tsp creamy horseradish
3/4 cup water

Stir to incorporate all ingredients; drop teaspoons full into the simmering pot. You'll just need to push the dumplings down into the broth, they will reduce in size as they cook. Cover and let simmer for about 1/2 hour. Serve.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bok Choy, Sausage and Thyme Polenta

I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I love polenta! But I needed to change up the topping as I often make some version of a tomato ragu. This time I went for bok choy and a thyme flavored polenta- it turned out fabulous.

The olives give a nice salty flavor to the dish and brings it all together. I think you'll find it's warm and hearty and yet light all at the same time..sort of like fat and happy.

Tips and techniques:  Use a wine you would drink, if it's not worth drinking- it's not worth eating either. You can use plain water or milk in place of the broth for the polenta.

Bok Choy, Sausage and Thyme Polenta

2 turkey sausages
1 small Spanish or yellow onion, chopped
1 large head of Bok Choy, rough chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1/2 cup of olives, chopped (use a good black olive)
1/2 - 1 cup of white wine

Begin the polenta first (recipe below.) In a large sauce pan, cook the 2 turkey sausages until just done.
Remove the sausages, set aside.

Add the onion and Bok Choy into the pan with a little canola oil, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes and pepper, saute a minute to allow the garlic to release its flavor.
Slice the sausages, add into the pat along with the wine and olives - simmer for about 5 minutes, longer if you want the veggies softer. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the thyme polenta.

Thyme Polenta
2 cups warmed broth, + up to 5 more cups of broth
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
2 Tbls chopped thyme

Whisk the polenta into the 2 cups of broth slowly. Stir often over medium low heat. As the polenta begins to thicken you will add another cup of broth 1/2 cup at a time.

This could take up to an hour. When the polenta is complete (taste it, is it still gritty? You may need to add slightly more broth)
Remove from stove. Add in the cheeses and the fresh thyme, as well as salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, stir to help cheese melt. Top with the Bok Choy mixture.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Smoky Cauliflower Soup

Can you ever really go wrong with a soup? And can you think of something you can't make into a soup? Even Champagne makes a great soup! (yes, it is all about the liquor.)

Cauliflower soup is nothing really new. But I do like to put a little char from the grill on my veggies to give them a smoky flavor. When its winter in Chicago- this is not really possible. So this is one of those times that I go to the liquid smoke, not a lot, but enough get the flavor in there.

I also used a head of orange cauliflower here. It was a quarter of the price of the white and after a little research, I found out that the orange head has twice the nutrients too. So now I have a creamy, smoky soup that's chock full of antioxidants and cost just pennies. How can you go wrong?

Make a soup today- you'll feel super warm and satisfied! And soups do freeze well- so make a double batch for those days you have completely no energy to make anything else. Top the soup with some tasty homemade croutons (recipe below), serve with a good red ale and you'll be fat, happy and warm!!

Smokey Cauliflower Soup

**if you can grill your cauliflower, do so. Then omit or reduce the amount of liquid smoke used later.

Toss with olive oil, roast in oven until lightly browned:
1 head of orange cauliflower, separated into pieces
1/2 large white or yellow onion, quartered

Add (half way through the cooking time)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

Place oven mixture in large stock pot on stove
add and sautee for about 4 minutes (to help release the flavors):

2 Tbls butter
drizzle of olive oil
1 tbls paprika
2 tsp smoke
fresh black pepper
salt to taste

add enough stock to just cover the ingredients. simmer for about 10 minutes, uncovered.
2 Tbls fresh thyme
1 Tbls chili pepper oil

carefully blend the soup (using either an immersion blender or your counter top blender). Blend to your linking- if you like a chunkier soup, blend less or blend more for a smoother soup, and you may find you need to add slightly more stock for a thicker soup (or less for thinner).

Serve with Thyme Croutons.

Take stale bread, cut into bite sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, fresh thyme, garlic salt and fresh black pepper. Bake until crunchy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pumpkin Granola

Granola is something I consider a staple. I typically have it for breakfast and I do keep a baggie of it in my desk drawer at all times for a quick snack; Dave tends to eat it as a snack after work ... and sometimes after drinking...

It's pretty simple to change up the flavor of your granola by adjusting a few seeds and one base ingredient. Again I found myself with some left over pumpkin and this is where it lead me - Pumpkin Granola. The addition of the pumpkin seeds (the pepitas- which you can pick up at Whole Foods) make a big difference. Also- if you do use the dried blueberries- take a few extra minutes and soak them in orange juice or they will get too dried and burnt. You do not need to do this to the raisins however. Granola stores easily in the cupboard- or store in the freezer for longer keeping.

Mix up your granola today with a little pumpkin and see how often you find your had in the granola jar...after drinking! Be granola fat and happy!

Pumpkin Granola

begin by soaking
1/2 cup of dried blueberries in 1/2 cup orange juice

Mix all the below dry ingredients in a large bowl:

7 cups oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepita, green)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flax seed
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Whisk the wet ingredients together:

1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbls brown sugar
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
2 Tbls maple syrup

Add the soaking blueberries and the orange juice to the wet ingredients. Now add to the dry ingredients, mix with your hands until all is covered - don't spend too much time mixing.

Spread on two lightly sprayed cookie sheets. Bake at 250 degrees. Toss every half hour until baked and crunchy. Depending on your oven, this may take 2- 4 hours.

Often I'll start it the oven and toss twice, then shut off the oven and go to bed. In the morning I have perfect granola.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shepherds Pie with Snappy Horseradish Potatoes

When it's chilly outside and you need a hearty dish- heck, even when it's not chilly- Shepherds pie just rocks! It's like goulash and that's fantastic!

In these economic times, I have been trying to cut corners and cook with cheaper items; we could say I'm being frugal- but cheap really describes it better.

Rather than by a nice, expensive piece of meat for this dish, I actually spent 2 bucks on a soup bone. Yup- that's it. I looked the soup bone over and decided there was quite a bit of meat on that bone. Cooked properly and long enough- there is enough meat on these things to make a hearty meal; I think I ended up with almost 3 cups of shredded meat for $2!

This should make about 7 servings (of course, this all depends on your serving size)- but if you do need to stretch this a bit then add a few extra potatoes to the top, add a little more broth, carrots and celery at the middle- the base flavor of this is fabulous! The addition of the creamy horseradish to the potatoes is addicting! We ate it so fast I didn't even get a photo of it until the next day!

Feel free to get a better cut of meat - but honestly the soup bone gives such great flavor to this dish and like I mentioned - I got enough meat off that bone I would not have wanted any more in it. Be frugal, make a goulashy dish and be fat and happy any time of the year!

Shepherds Pie topped with Horseradish Potatoes

Brown two soup bones
1 cup onions
1 stick celery

add and sautee:
3 crimini mushrooms

When the onions are softened, add:
1 tbls tomato paste
stir, cook 1 minute
add flour (2 -3 tbls) and 1 Tbls dried thyme

add broth enough to cover everything and 1 cup red wine
simmer 1 1/2 hours - or until meat is ready to shred. Now remove the bones- shred off meat and return to pot with:

1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup of fresh green beans
Simmer (add more wine and broth if need to cover everything).

In the meantime, boil:
4 medium sized potatoes, quartered, skin on (boil in broth for more flavor)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped.

Strain when potatoes are tender, but save the broth. Place the potatoes in bowl or Kitchen aide Mixer. Mix, add:

1/4 cup cream
Reserved broth -just add enough to make creamy
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbls creamy horseradish
2 Tbls of chopped chives
fresh pepper and salt

Taste the potatoes, adjust seasonings if needed.

Stir 1/2 cup frozen peas in the stew.
Now place potatoes on top of the stew- just plop spoonfuls down, spread and make little mounds and waves. Place in oven until bubbly and browning on top. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

There are those times when nothing but a fresh, crisp, healthy salad will do. You know those days-- when you've overindulged and need something light but delicious.

My friend Lesley picked up this fabulous Tomato Balsamic Vinegar for me and it came in handy on this day that I needed something ... fresh.

This is a super simple salad, playing off the vinegar I wanted to add highlight that tomato portion of the vinegar-so I picked up roasted tomatoes at Whole Foods in their fresh olive section and I have to say they were fabulous! I was quite surprised. You can easily make your own, but not until tomato season. Be sure to pack some of the garlic slivers, capers and brine along with the tomatoes.

There's thousands of salads and dressings out there and I make up new ones all the time. But not all are blog worthy, I felt this one is. It's back to real basics with salad- not all the extras that can overwhelm. Give it a try! It's a great winter break and it will be even better in the summer! It's being fat and happy through the seasons.

Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup diced Roasted Tomatoes
2 Tbls brine from the tomatoes (with the garlic and capers)
2 Tbls chopped parsley
1 Tbls lemon
1/4 cup of olive oil (or more if needed)
4 Tbls of Tomato Balsamic Vinegar

Whisk all the ingredients together, let rest for a minute.

Toss with fresh romaine, toasted pine nuts and large peels of Romano cheese (or asiago or Parmesan would work too).
Top with fresh ground pepper.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pancakes

Pancakes remind me of our cabin in the mountains. There is something about the smell of pancakes, syrup and bacon (cuz you can' t have pancakes without bacon!) and the way it plays of the fresh chilly outdoors with the river tumbling in the background and the pine trees creaking in the wind. Ah, that is the life.

Meanwhile, back in the city, I wanted pancakes but they needed a twist- something that sets them apart and helps fill the void of the crisp outdoors. At the restaurant, we made Ricotta Cheese Pancakes; sweet, moist pancakes. These are not like typical pancakes. They are extremely delicate and often hard to maneuver until you get used to them. And the insides are extremely moist and completely melt in your mouth. Delicious. Having some extra pumpkin in the fridge brought it all together. These are fun enough to have in the summer too- not reason to wait until the fall.

Some tips on how to handle these pancakes: You will whip the egg whites, and then gently fold them in into the batter. Dollop them onto a hot, well greased pan, you may need to slightly spread them out. Do not touch until the bottom is set- then in one quick motion- you need to swoop up the pancake in one scoop and flip it- no hesitation. Keep a paper towel close by and wipe your spatula off after each flip. These pancakes will remain tall and extremely moist.

When I say moist- I really mean moist. You may even think these are not fully cooked- but don't be nervous- you'll require no butter and less syrup, but these are sweet none the less. It's a great way to start the morning, perfect to sit on your balcony and watch the traffic roll by; the honking of the horns will just make you slip into the pancakes that much more. The city is a wilderness all it's own and these pancakes fit right in. Be fat and happy in the city.

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pancakes

Made about 18 medium-sized pancakes

3 eggs separated

3/4 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup pureed pumpkin, canned is fine
1/8 cup sugar (white)
4 Tbls brown sugar
3 Tbls flour (sift in)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground clove
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt

Mix the egg yolks with all the remaining ingredients. Whip the egg whites until stiff; fold into the pumpkin mixture.

Drop spoonfuls onto a hot, greased griddle. Carefully flip. Serve immediately with warm syrup.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cheesy Baked Eggs and Pasta Casserole

Left overs, love them or hate them- they are unavoidable. Personally, I love the challenge of finding a way to present to them so that it doesn't feel like you're eating the same meal over again.

In this case, we had leftover olive pasta and I knew from the moment I got up that morning that a baked egg casserole would was calling. I am from the Midwest (Minnesota) after all; we can make a casserole out of anything!

Next time you have leftover pasta -any kind of pasta will work- tomato, cream or oil based- throw this together for a super easy breakfast or a scrumptious lunch that can pair with a salad. You can even make this extra healthy by using all or mostly egg whites. The sauce of your pasta will the the base flavor for your eggs, and it's gonna be great!

Portion sizes are huge these days; save some for breakfast and see how early in the day you can be fat and happy!

Cheesy Baked Eggs and Pasta Casserole

You're going to need to assess how much pasta you have- and adjust accordingly. Below is what my version- use this as your base and go from there.

2 cups of left over pasta
Place in the bottom of a small casserole dish

Layer 1/2 cup of grated cheese across the pasta (use whatever, cheddar, Parmesan, goat)

whisk and pour into the casserole dish:
4 eggs
1/4 cup cream
2 tbls water
salt and pepper to taste

*you want enough egg liquid to cover the pasta

Place into preheated oven (375 degree) until the eggs are set in the middle. They will puff slightly, but don't overcook or you'll have dry eggs. Let rest for a minute and then serve.


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