Happy Friendly Friday, Folks!
It’s Fall, and the start of a new school year for many. What do you do to keep everyone fed and full of healthy energy to get things done?
I explore one option here.
While hosting family this summer, we gave those partially-prepped ready-to-cook meals a try, and started with Amazon’s kits, newly on the market. The lucky couple getting married Washington, Alanna & Alex even played guinea pig, and Kris picked up the slack when I started to feel a little spun around running multiple meal trials at once.* Continue Reading
Double-feature bonus posts this week! My offering to you, Dear Reader, for being a faithful audience. Enjoy!
A few years ago, I found myself buying one of those cup-salads from Whole Foods a lot in the summer. I liked it so much I figured I should start making it, so I can (a)get it without cilantro and (b)stop feeling like such a yuppie for buying a salad I could clearly reverse-engineer to make myself. Now when I’m up for more than throwing together some greens with nuts (read: up for more chopping), I’ll use this mix as the base recipe and improvise from there. I was actually pretty surprised when I couldn’t find a blog entry for this. Perhaps because it’s so straightforward, it didn’t feel like a recipe. This week’s weather in Seattle is sneaking up to the mid-80s, which counts as hot, so here’s a good option for those hot late Summer days when you don’t want to add another degree to your house by turning on cooking appliances. Air conditioning is a luxury, yo.
Sorry I’ve been a little M.I.A. with no weekly post for a while. I started a new job assignment and was pretty busy with that, …and a quick vacation in Kauai to get some quality relaxation in before my work & life falls back into hectic-ness. Also just generally always busy trying to seize life by the throat and shake it all around..
Without further ado, here’s a new installment:
Factor 1: Ah, how memories blur with time. A few years ago I got the privilege of exploring a little bit of Turkey, mostly Istanbul. As an ancient history fan, it was super exciting to explore this city with so much East-Meets-West history, with layers and layers of stories all piled on top of itself, not to mention multiple legacies of countless Roman leaders! That, and trying the food was such an adventure. I still dream of the egg and tomato dish I ate on an Airbnb host’s recommendation near Galata Tower in Istanbul. Fast forward to now, when I finally get around to trying my hand at the recipe below: tomato, egg, peppers, sounds delicious, right? Sounds the same!
Factor 2: When I was a kid and my mama went out of town I’d look forward to my Baba making his signature dish, egg and tomato fry. Yum! Apparently, it is a popular combination with me..
Voila: Sunday brunch dish trial, thinking I was making this:
Fresh back from a cross-country road trip through 4 national parks, three rolls of campfire-cooked Pillsbury products, and too many kinds of 80+-degree weather, I give you…
Cold Zucchini Basil Salad A variation from simply real health I googled after a random Instagram find.
1 large heirloom tomato, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3-4 zucchini total (prefer a mix of green and yellow summer squash)
1/4 c goat cheese
A handful of basil, rolled and chopped into ribbons
olive oil (the highest quality you have on hand)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 fresh lemon
1/4 c slivered almonds
1. With a vegetable peeler, thinly scrape the zucchini and summer squash into long ribbon slices, tossing the seedy core, or saving it for a Sunday frittata mix.
2. Add the ribbons to a bowl, season with sea salt* and pepper*, basil, drizzle with olive oil* per preference. [*NOTE: if you want salad for later, pack the zucchini separate from the olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to keep the crunch, and combine just before eating]. Toss to mix.
Thanks to Abby for loaning me a spiralizer so I could try it out!
Thanks to Fitnessista for this recipe combo, the proportions I made up from my trial.
For the pesto:
1/2 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
1 tsp garlic
1 cup spinach
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon goat cheese
For the rest:
1 large yam, peeled
your protein add of choice (shown below are seared scallops, made the Alton Brown way).
Purée sunflower seeds, garlic, spinach, basil, oil, goat cheese and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Season with salt. Thin pesto with water if too thick.
Cut off ends of sweet potato and install flush against spiralizer, spiralize to your heart’s content.
Boil sweet potato spirals in water no more than 3 minutes.
Combine with pesto.
Serve with blindfold on.
Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Extremely novel. Likelihood of Repeat: 50%
I couldn’t get my ‘roommate’ to eat much of it, but I’d like to try it again -next time with the julienne blade of my food processor. Lesson Learned: If you boil it too much the ‘pasta’ crumbles fast (similar risk with reheating). Yes, you could buy a single-purpose tool like a spiralizer if you think you’ll eat a lot of spiralized things every week, but a food processor might work just fine for a rare occasion. Also, I always forget how easy it is to make pesto, I need to do this more, especially since you can make cheaper versions without pine nuts! Yum! I have read that real sweet potatoes are more dense and jam up the machine, better stick with the soft orange ones –yams? Whatever they are called..
Do you ever say, ‘I’m just looking’ and then you find something? I was cruising around Pinterest to find a new recipe for cooking Valentine’s Day dinner for my husband. I was intrigued with the notion of taking traditional lasagna into a cupcake shape. It was well worth it – each cupcake had it’s own crispness (much like the corners of a traditional lasagna) and wonton wrappers felt less filling than pasta noodles. Overall a fun spin on an original that I will make again!
1/3 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper
24 wonton wrappers
1 ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ cup ricotta cheese
1 cup pasta sauce
Basil for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
2. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray
3. Brown beef, season with salt and pepper
4. Drain beef
5. Return pan to heat and add tomato sauce
6. Cut wonton wrappers into circle shapes (using the top of a drinking glass)
7. Start layering; wonton wrapper, tomato sauce, ricotta
8. Repeat layers until add about 2-3 wonton wrapper layers are added per cupcake
9. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
10. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are brown
11. Let cool for 5 minutes
12. Use a knife to loosen edges, then pop each lasagna out
13. Garnish with basil and serve
Novelty Rating: 3.8 of 5 stars Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
The taste of melted cheese is like gelato on a warm day and that’s lasagna; however, lasagna in a cupcake shape is phenomenal. I don’t think I could ever go back to making lasagna in a rectangular pan. My cupcake tin is now reserved for lasagna!
Lesson Learned: Use cooking spray and let the lasagna sit for 5 minutes after removed from the oven. Removing the lasagna cupcake from the tin is delicate and letting the lasagna rest for 5 minutes after removed from the oven is key (reserve a little cheese to munch on in the meantime). ☺
3 tablespoons good olive oil 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) 1.5 cups croutons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (used a mix of heirloom cherokee purple, cherry tomatoes and a couple romas)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Added: avocado, chopped in large chunks 3 tablespoons capers, drained (I don’t like capers)
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar sherry vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Steps
0. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
2. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 3 of 5 stars.
This was a nice, relatively low maintenance way to still be able to see the different kinds of tomatoes I put in and the pretty colors from the cherokee purples. Likelihood of Repeat: 30%
I think there might be too much delicious salty crouton in this recipe for it to be good for me, plus they get soggy after a little bit so this is not a salad for next day unless you separate things out. Plus, I almost never have bread around to make croutons or buy croutons or basil on their own.. Lesson Learned: meh.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating: Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Never cooked squash blossoms before..neato! Likelihood of Repeat: 85%
This was a great way to make use of something that would probably have otherwise wasted away. It allowed me to avoid deep frying, delivered a crunchy yet cheesy-smooth confection, but didn’t sit too heavy in the stomach afterward. Lesson Learned: baked and breaded goat cheese delivery device, delicious! Post-script update: if you have a tiny espresso spoon, that works better than a standard sized spoon to help stuff the goat cheese in.
1/2 a jicama, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/6 red onion, sliced in thin strips
~1 Tbs orange juice
~1/4 tsp lime rind
~2 tsp lime juice 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
a dash of salt to taste 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)
substituted: 2 sprigs mint, stems removed and leaves cut in ribbons
Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, and toss gently to coat. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in the mint just before serving. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.
Today’s Recipe #1 Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Never made this before, and it has quite a strong sweet flavor even without sugar. You really get to taste the jicama, which was a novelty to me. I only started buying (and identifying) jicama last year. Likelihood of Repeat: 80%
I think I have a strong bias for salads that don’t involve any leafy greens, bonus points for the use of multiple citrus items. I think I would like to re-try this with some orange slices thrown in too. Lesson Learned: 1/6 of a red onion may still be too much onion to rejoin humanity after eating this.
(2) Summer Rolls & Peanut Sauce
based on an altered recipe based on one from Chow.com
For the peanut sauce:
3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons chili-garlic paste
1 medium garlic clove, mashed to a paste –okay, I cheated with pre-chopped garlic from the jar, fresh garlic is too spicy sometimes..
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the summer rolls: 24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined fried or firm tofu, sliced
1 hank dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
5 (8-1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
1/8 cup mung bean sprouts**
4 sprigs fresh mint leaves
32 fresh basil
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-by-1/4-by-2-1/2-inch sticks
3 medium scallions, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-1/2-inch pieces (white and light green parts only) -used chives because i had some
8 butter lettuce leaves cut in half
jicama, julienned (same portion as cukes)
a dash of rice vinegar
For the peanut sauce:
1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
For the summer rolls:
1. Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain, try rinsing, then tossing with rice vinegar and salt; then separate in clumps for each roll lest the noodles get all stuck together during assembly.
2. Place all of the ingredients in separate piles and arrange them in the following order around a work surface: rice paper wrappers, tofu, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.
3. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface, or lay out a damp wooden cutting board. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with warm tap water. Working with one wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel/board.
4. Working quickly, lay down ingredients sparsely atop rice wrapper (see picture), adding lettuce last, and mint and chive leaves near end of roll for aesthetics.
5. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top.
6. Turn the roll so that the seam faces down and the row of tofu faces up. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Leave 3/4 inch between each summer roll on the sheet so they don’t stick together, and replace the water in the pan or dish with hot tap water as needed.
**If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours, OR wrap individually in plastic wrap, then in tightly-covered tupperware to keep overnight (see below for photo). Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping. If you are worried about it drying out, another precaution is to barely coat the outside of the rolls with sesame or olive oil, then wrap. The oil helps hold in the moisture.
Tip 1: Even when I scale down the amounts for the rolls, it’s been good to do the full or at least half portion of the sauce, since that is really the flavor that adds depth to the light crisp summer roll. Tip 2: I keep my coconut flakes in an empty spice container for easy sprinkling over this, yogurts, and desserts. Tip 3: I find my wrapping is more successful when I stretch the wrapper a smidge more than I think it will take. Definitely err on the side of less ingredients when you are first practicing the rolling.
Note: I first tried making these in the height of the Seattle summer (when I didn’t want to cook anything and add heat in a brief “80-degree heat wave”), and I am still using the same bag of rice wrappers, so yes, you will have more leftover, and you can stuff it with whatever leftovers you think will go well.
Today’s Recipe #2 Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars.
I’ve made it before. I think it’s tasty, but definitely getting a little stale to eat in the winter when I crave potatoes and meat dishes. ..but it tastes so…healthy..
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
As I mentioned before, I am still using the same packet of rice wrappers from the summer, and plan on continuing to put random ingredients together for a slapdash lunch. You will note the significant difference in length of steps between the two recipes above. That alone may indicate that #1 is going to win out in repeats.. Lesson Learned: I will always, always have leftover filling after I run out of those tasty rice noodles. This, in fact, was the original reason for recipe #1, as jicama only comes in certain sizes, so you’d have to make tons of summer rolls to actually use it up.
**Stay tuned for a future blog post on sprouting mung beans! I’ll do it so you don’t have to try it.