Monday, November 12, 2012

As Sweet As A Potato

Last Christmas, my mother gifted me a crock pot. Last Christmas, my mother gave me a life-changing gift.

Okay, so maybe not so drastic as “life-changing”, but it can be the lazy girl’s best friend to a hearty and healthy dinner.

And what is better in the fall than sweet potatoes? This cousin to the yam is packed with vitamin A, potassium and fiber. Plus they’re delicious. They’re subtly sweet taste goes with everything from savory dishes, like my adapted Crock Pot Sweet Potato Chicken Drumsticks, to Grandma’s traditional sweet potato pie. Their bright orange color inside color adds an eye catching vibrancy that makes you almost just want to look at your meal instead of divulge in it…almost.

I originally found a Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew recipe on and added my own twist.

Crock Pot Sweet Potato Chicken Drumsticks

Servings: 6 (1 chicken drumstick and 1 cup sweet potatoes)
Calories: 249, Fat: 3.3 g, Sat. Fat: 0.8 g, Carb: 33 g, Protein: 14.5 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sodium: 519 g, Potassium: 777.5 g

5 – 6 skinless chicken drumsticks
2 lb sweet potatoes, cubed
½ lb white button mushrooms, sliced
4 shallots, halved
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine or white cooking wine (found next to the vinegar in the grocery store)
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or ½ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ Tbsp white wine vinegar

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

1.      Place cubed sweet potatoes, sliced mushrooms, halved shallots, minced garlic into the crockpot.
2.      Bury drumsticks into the ingredients already in the crockpot.
3.      Season with rosemary, salt and pepper. Add dry white wine and white wine vinegar. Carefully stir to combine all ingredients.
4.      Put lid on and cook on low for the next 4 hours. Do not lift to stir.
5.      After 4 hours, check temperature of chicken (should be 165 degrees for at least 15 seconds) and sweet potato chunks should be tender. 

Serve this on a busy yet cool fall or winter day. It’ll warm you up right away! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Now With Nutrition Facts!

All of the recipes I post from here on out will include serving sizes and nutrition facts! These are not nutrition facts that I have taken from other sources, but nutrition facts that I have analyzed myself. I will include at least one extra nutrient a dish is high in for a little extra bonus. Be happy, be healthy!

It's Not Bad To Be A Little Cheesy

If you like something, make it in large quantities, but only if you know you'll eat it all. With this dish, you'll be licking the bottom of the pan.

Pizza Hut used to or still does (I haven't checked) makes a dish similar to a cheap, cheesy, meaty, unhealthy lasagna. One night I found myself craving it because who doesn't love carb filling, greasy, cheesy pasta?

I found myself with a new make this dish, but make this dish healthier. I think I have found a solution. Inspired by a recipe called Bakey Cheesy Pasta from, I put my own twist on it and here is what satisfying dish I have deliciously made to share.

Caution: This recipe does contain meat. I'm currently deciding what filling vegetable to replace the meat.

Cheesy Lasagna Impostor 

Servings: 8
Calories: 301, Fat: 15.5 g, Sat. Fat: 6.5 g, Carb: 16 g, Protein: 24.5 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sodium: 167 g, Calcium 233.5 mg

1 box (13.25 oz) whole grain penne
1 chopped green pepper
1/2 chopped lg yellow onion
Olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
1 package (8 oz) shredded low-fat mozzarella

Prep Time: 20 minutes (including pasta cooking time)
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 35 minutes

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Make pasta per box instructions.

3. While waiting for water to boil and pasta to cook, sautee green pepper and onion in a little bit of olive oil with 1 tsp each of dried basil, dried oregano and garlic powder. Sautee until onions are translucent and reduce heat until pasta is finished.

4. In a separate pan, start to brown ground turkey. While ground turkey is in the pan, season with 1 tsp of dried basil, dried oregano and garlic powder. Cook until full browned. Time browning the meat with the end of the pasta cooking to reduce sitting time. Start browning about half way 1/4 to almost 1/2 cooking time of pasta.

5. Drain pasta in colander.

6. In a 13 x 9 dish, carefully combine turkey, green pepper and onions and pasta. Stir in pasta sauce until it completely covers the dish from bottom to top. Sprinkle 2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top. Bake for 15 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven. Let rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Store leftovers for a couple days. Serve with bread or side of steamed vegetables.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is it cold in here? Or is it just a burrr-ito?

Burritos are anything but cold. They can be mild, spicy or hot, hot, hot!

For Day 1 of the 3 Day Whole Wheat Flour Fest, I decided to create homemade whole wheat tortillas and use them to build my own take on a burrito. Not a typical burrito, but my own healthy twist on a dish that is usually filled with cheese, beans, rice, and meat.

I used the whole wheat tortillas as a shell for Fish Burritos with Shredded Lettuce-Carrot Slaw.

Fish Burrito with Shredded Lettuce-Carrot Slaw

Fish Burrito with Homemade Whole Wheat Tortilla and Shredded Lettuce-Carrot Slaw

Homemade Tortilla
2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 C warm water

Equipment Needed:
Mixer with dough hook (or wooden spoon)
Flat surface
Rolling pin
Cast iron skillet, griddle, or 12-inch skillet. 

Total Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 12 tortillas

POUR flour, oil and salt in mixing bowl with dough hook. (If you don't have a mixer with a dough hook, use a wooden spoon and mix carefully.) Using the mixer with the dough hook, beat mixture on medium speed until crumbly, scraping extra off of the sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

ADD warm water gradually while the mixer is running on medium speed. Continue mixing until dough is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not over mix dough.

TAKE dough out of bowl and separate into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten it out with the palm of your hand on a flat surface. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. 

ROLL out dough on a lightly floured flat surface into 6 to 8 inch flat circles using a rolling pin. 

HEAT a cast iron skillet, griddle, or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Grease pan with a small amount of oil and carefully cook each tortilla. Cook each side of the tortilla until slightly puffy and brown, about 30 to 45 seconds each side. Stack cooked tortillas on a plate, separating each tortillas with a paper towel. 

I had never made these before and the taste is definitely preferred to those of store bought tortillas. It took me a couple tortillas to make them into a somewhat circular shape, but after that they turned out perfect. 
Shredded Lettuce-Carrot Slaw
4 C shredded lettuce
2 1/2 C shredded carrots
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 C fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Equipment Needed:
Large glass bowl

Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: about 7 1/2 cups

PLACE shredded lettuce, carrots, tomato, and fresh cilantro in a large glass bowl. Toss with olive oil and black pepper. Add lime juice to taste and toss. 

This shredded lettuce-carrot slaw went perfectly with the tilapia in the burrito as well as on the side. It was a fresh taste and the carrots added the perfect crunch. I purchased pre-shredded bags of both lettuce and carrots just to take a little of the work out of prepping. 
Fish Burrito
2 to 4 Tilapia Fillets (depending on size of fillet)
6 whole wheat tortillas
2 to 3 C shredded lettuce-carrot slaw

Equipment Needed:
8 x 8 baking dish 

Total Time: about 20 to 25 minutes
Yield: 6 burritos

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. 

SPRAY baking dish with non-stick spray. Place fillets in baking dish. Bake fillets until fillet flakes easily with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. After finished cooking, remove from oven and carefully cut fillets into chunk sized pieces, allowing for minimal rest time. 

PLACE tortilla on a place. Line fillet chunks and slaw towards the back 1/3 of tortilla. Fold in both side flaps over fillet chunks and slaw and then fold back flap over and wrap. 

The tilapia I purchased for this recipes was prepared with a tortilla, lime and chipotle crust. The flavor of the crust went perfectly with the sweet and tangy flavor of the slaw as well as the texture from the homemade whole wheat tortilla. The tortillas will keep for a couple of day, especially if you place them in the refrigerator and warm for a couple of seconds in the microwave. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Strong as Popeye

If spinach helped Popeye become a strong sailor man, it definitely is beneficial to the rest of us! 

When I'm trying to figure out what I would like to cook next, I try to revolve it around one ingredient that I can buy in a bigger quantity and use in multiple recipes. Last night, that super ingredient was spinach! 

I love spinach. Its beautiful earthy green leaves are versatile for both a bed of fresh salad or cooked down into in a savory dinner dish. It's funny how so much fresh spinach can cook down to about half of the original amount. Either way, spinach packs a nutritious punch of vitamins and minerals. 

This luscious leafy green vegetable is a wonderful source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, iron and magnesium. Eating just a little monounsaturated fat (the fat in olive oil and salmon) with your spinach will help the body's absorption and use of vitamin A. How else do you think that Olive Oil helped Popeye become so strong and healthy? 
I used spinach in the creation of 2 meals: the Popeye Special and a Baked Potato Salad

Popeye Special (left) and Baked Potato Salad (right)

Baked Potato Salad
2 1/2 lb sm red potatoes, quartered
2 C fresh green beans, about 1 to 2" cuts
1/2 red pepper, thin slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups fresh spinach

Total time: about 60 minutes (including prep work)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. 

In large bowl, mix potatoes, green beans, red pepper, olive oil, oregano, garlic salt and black pepper. Place on greased large baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. 

Remove baking sheet from oven. Gently mix in spinach on baking sheet using a spatula or large spoon. Place in the oven for another 15 minutes. 

This Baked Potato Salad retained a fresh, garden taste while baking in the oven. The heat left the vegetables with a nice crisp texture without blackening them or leaving them with a burnt taste. The next time I make this dish, I may try to replace the fresh oregano with fresh rosemary for a different herbal taste. 
Popeye Special
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 med red pepper
1/2 C celery, chopped
6 sm green onions, chopped
8 oz fresh spinach
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 eggs, lightly beaten

Total time: about 25 minutes (including prep work)
In frying pan over medium heat, add ground beef and mushrooms. Cook until the ground beef is no longer pink. Drain excess beef juices. 

Add red pepper, celery, green onions, spinach, oregano, garlic salt and pepper to the pan with beef and mushroom mixture. Cook until all ingredients are equally mixed and spinach is beginning to wilt, about 1 to 3 minutes. 

Add lightly beaten eggs to the frying pan. Gently cover and mix in eggs to the ingredients in the pan. Let mixture sit until eggs solidify. Flip mixture occasionally using a spatula to cook all of the eggs. 

I think this recipe would be fantastic as a hearty breakfast or a quick dinner. The recipe originally did not call for oregano, but I added it because the flavor seemed a little bland without it. The next time I make this recipe, I may venture out to try different vegetables since this recipe seems fairly versatile. 

Before last night, I had no idea how to chop a green onion, but this video was extremely helpful:

For both of these recipes, I used bagged spinach (which can be found near the bagged lettuce). Using bagged spinach took out some of the prep time for each recipe if I had used a head of spinach, but both options are fresh and recommended over canned spinach any day. 

Steve was my only guinea pig for these dishes (as he will probably be for a majority of them...what a lucky guy!) as well as trying them myself. While he usually doesn't like mushrooms or peppers, he had no complaints about either in these dishes (and he wasn't just being nice!). He suggested that if he were a kid, these would be good recipes to get him to eat his vegetables. Overall, these 2 dishes were successful and made plenty for leftovers for lunches for a couple days. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tonight, I'm feeling Corn-y

Earlier in the week, I was generously given 5 husks of organic corn. Instead of making the usual corn on the cob, I wanted to make the most of the fresh sweet corn. With such a bounty of yellow kernels, I found a recipe for corn stuffed tomatoes and shrimp tacos with corn salsa (from a July 2010 issue of Light & Delish).

I, of course, loving to make changes where (I think) I can to make a dish healthier, took my own liberties with these recipes. According to the audience I was serving (Ali and Steve), the changes were a success!

The following recipes are the exact version that I made:

Corn Stuffed Tomatoes

2 1/2 C fresh corn kernels (raw)
1 C cooked brown rice
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
6 medium vine tomatoes

Total Time: about 60 minutes (including rice cooking time)
Start by cooking brown rice. In a medium pot, combine 2 1/3 C water with 1 C brown rice. Bring to boil. Turn heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Fluff with fork.
After rice has finished cooking, combine all ingredients in a large bowl (with the exception of the tomatoes).
Slice off and gut inside of the tomatoes and fill with corn mixture.

By not cooking the sweet corn and just placing the kernels into the mixture, there was a perfect crunch (along with the peppers and onion) to the soft texture of the rice. The lemon juice brought out the sweetness in the vegetables and added the perfect tang. The fresh cilantro and cumin brought out the natural flavors in the other ingredients but added flavors that made the dish complete. I loved this dish and it also got high remarks from Ali and Steve.

Shrimp Tacos with Corn Salsa

Corn Salsa
1 C fresh corn kernels
1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted petite diced tomatoes
1/3 C red onion, diced
1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh lime juice from 1 lime

Over high heat, cook corn kernels until corn is lightly charred, about 2 minutes (using fresh corn). Add tomatoes and onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the juice of 1 lime and cilantro.

Shrimp Taco
8 corn tortillas
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
fresh lime juice from 1 lime

Total time: 30 minutes
Heat oil, garlic and cumin in skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp is cooked through ( (should look pink), about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Toss with lime juice.
Warm tortillas by placing them on a warm skillet and flipping once or twice over medium heat until tortillas are warm, about 15 seconds.

A couple years ago, I made this dish for my family, but I think this time I fixed my mistakes. It is much easier (and cheaper) to use fresh shrimp instead of buying frozen shrimp. The first time I made this dish a couple years ago, I used frozen shrimp (which I forgot to devein before cooking). By using fresh shrimp, it was much easier to devein and peel.
If I were to make this dish again, I would have bought better tortillas. I bought 99cent tortillas, which seem to break apart easily and had a gritty texture.
The shrimp were delicious and went perfectly with the warm corn salsa.

The combination of corn stuffed tomatoes and shrimp tacos with corn salsa went perfectly together because they shared similar flavors, but were also different in their own respects. The fresh corn tastes way better than frozen in these dishes. The fresh corn gave the dishes a sweet taste that could have other wise been bland and boring. Overall, both dishes were given high remarks by my dining companions.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My "First" Meal

Don't get me wrong...I have created meals before. It's not my first time using a frying pan or an oven and I'm not holding a knife, wielding it around thinking "how do I use this thing?". But my goal is to take my culinary expertise farther than being able to make a grilled cheese with tomato.

Starting tonight, I want to be able to develop different skills, create beautiful meals, and truly understand food and recipes for more than its nutrient content. I know I'll never fully master (if anyone has completely mastered this) the art of cooking, but at least this is a start to a lifelong useful skill.

Tonight, I will be serving Corn Stuffed Tomatoes and Shrimp Tacos (both recipes courtesy of a July 2010 issue of Light & Delish) to Steve, my boyfriend, and Ali, my wonderful cousin. If there were any 2 people that I would want to share this experience with, it would be them.

I'll update after my summery, slightly Spanish creations have been composed.