From Today’s Kitchen: Quiche Au Fromage (Plus Spinach!) Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

Springtime, and the living’s easy.

 

When searching for the perfect, light, healthy and above all easy Springtime recipe, look no further than a nice quiche. Delicate, tasty, yet still packed with nutrients, this dish has always been one of my favorites. My mom has been making Julia Child’s Quiche Au Fromage since I can remember- yes, I was that 6-year-old bringing a piece of chilled quiche for lunch in first grade.

I like to throw two quiches in the oven at once- it’s just as easy to make two, and the Pillsbury pie crusts come in a package of two. Eat one with a side salad for dinner, serve with fruit for a nice lunch, and put the other in the freezer or fridge to have on hand when company unexpectedly stops in. Wouldn’t you like a nice, chic dish to serve at the drop of a hat? It’s also convenient to bring to luncheons or pot-luck events, day or night, no matter the season. C’est parfait!

Here is the Julia Child recipe I’ve been using for Quiche Au Fromage. The other day, I added spinach. I’ve recently become obsessed with spinach and thought adding it to my quiche would add some antioxidants, protein and other super-food stuff.

 

1 cup grated Swiss cheese

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 cup chopped ham

1 chopped shallot

2-3 tablespoons butter

3-5 eggs ( I always use 5)

1 ½ cups half and half (I use the low-fat, it tastes fine)

pinch pepper

½ teaspoon salt

one uncooked pie pastry (Pillsbury)

 

What is your favorite easy Springtime recipe?

 

Media Credits:

first photo courtesy of proteinpower.com

second photo courtesy of my iPhone (this was the quiche I made)

third photo courtesy of thedailygreen.com

Big Spoon, Little Spoon Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

When it comes to staying healthy and watching what you eat, there are many tips, tricks and secrets out there. You can pour liquid all over your plate after you’ve finished half your food, or follow the three-bite rule, or eat only green foods. Everyone has their own weird food idiosyncracy that they like to remember as their healthy eating mantra. As I prepare for the warm weather-which will be here sooner than I’m used to- and accompanying skin-baring styles, I turn to the method I like to call “spooning.”

It’s not anything like that. I like to follow the “big spoon, little spoon” rule when it comes to serving sizes! Each set of flatware from our wedding (love you, Sur la Table!) comes with two sizes of spoons.

One is larger, about a tablespoon-plus size, and one is much daintier and slighter, perfect for stirring my tea. I use these as my guidelines.

If I’m eating something healthy, like a helping of my Kashi cereal in the morning or a nice bowl of creamed spinach, I’ll use the big spoon. If I’m enjoying some Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (shhhh) while catching up on Modern Family, I reach for the little spoon.

 

Numerous diet and health studies have shown that when you use a smaller spoon or a smaller plate for your helping, your eye tricks your belly into thinking you’re full more quickly, and you end up eating less.

 

I think to myself “Big Spoon Protein, Small Spoon Sugar.” I use this to track how much I eat of one thing, and make sure I’m getting the proper nutrients and not too many bad, empty calories on a daily basis. If it’s good for me or a “superfood” like kale, carrots, avocado, or eggs, I’ll use the big spoon when dishing out my ingredients or if I’m eating it out of the bowl. Peanut butter is my exception, and requires a big spoon- there’s protein in peanut butter, right?

This rule can also be applied to forks- use the big forks for veggies and healthy meats, and the small forks for pies and carbs. There’s a reason they’re called “dessert” forks! Forget Mary Poppins and her giddy song- a spoonful of sugar is not good for you. Unless it’s a little spoon:)

Media Credits:

first photo courtesy of shutterstock.com

second photo courtesy of surlatable.com

third photo courtesy of foodnetworks.com

fourth photo courtesy of beststuff.com

fifth photo courtesy of eatlovefood.com

sixth photo courtesy of last.fm

From Today’s Kitchen: Spicy Vodka Sauce Wednesday, Feb 29 2012 

I am incredibly excited each time I master a new recipe. Especially if said recipe was one I had thought about before, but had been intimidated to try.  The perfect spicy vodka sauce had always fallen into that category of recipes I’d heard of other people making and loving, but that I was too afraid to try. Enter this recipe, forwarded from my mom, courtesy of http://www.justapinch.com. Every budding cooking ingénue loves to add new, successful options to her recipe book!

You will need:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium celery stalks, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

¼ c EVOO

¼ lb proscuitto or cooked bacon, very finely chopped

¾ c vodka (of a quality you would drink)

28 oz canned, crushed tomatoes

¼ tsp oregano, dried flakes

2 tbsp parsley

1 tbsp basil

12 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup half and half

 

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, celery and garlic in oil; stir until soft. Add prosciutto and vodka. Simmer until almost all liquid is gone.

 

Add tomatoes, cayenne and herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Stir in half and half, and heat for 3 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, cook pasta (penne grabs onto the sauce much better than ziti)

 

My kitchen notes: I’ve made this recipe twice, and at first,I was wary of the vodka- so I precisely measured the perfect amount and poured it very slowly. I recommend not skimping on the celery (this is a great recipe for when I have extra celery on hand) or the cayenne pepper! I did not measure out the herbs (I hardy ever measure herbs) except the cayenne pepper. I used fat free half and half to make it slightly more healthy. I used prosciutto-my husband’s favorite thing on Earth- instead of cooked bacon.This was a huge hit in my household, and I am so excited to make it again!

Happy cooking! Do you have a favorite vodka sauce recipe?

 

Media Credits:

all photos courtesy of my iPhone

From Today’s Kitchen: Chicken Milanese with Stir-Fried Shanghai Bok Choy with Ginger Wednesday, Jan 11 2012 

My in-law’s Christmas present to my husband and I was a wonderful experience with a farmshare on John’s Island. Every Saturday morning, we get to head over to the farm and fill a bag with the freshest, most beautiful vegetables, eggs and wine! This week was our first time- we walked away with kale, turnips, carrots, tomatoes, beets, butternut squash and bok choy. I’ve never made anything with 90% of those ingredients, so I headed to my iPad Epicurious app for inspiration!

Last night, I tried my very first every stir-fry with Bok Choy, which is what they are rumored to be serving at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday. Hey, if it’s good enough for Brad and Angie, it’s good enough for me! I paired it with Giada’s Chicken Milanese, which I’ve made before and rice pilaf, to be on the safe side in case I royally messed up the Bok Choy.

For the Chicken Milanese, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis (I eliminated her use of fennel)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 ¼ cups plain dried bread crumbs

2/3 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

4 (6-8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, tenderloins removed

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups (12 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup (4oz) marscapone cheese, at room temperature

 

For the chicken: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 150. Spoon the flour into a wide, shallow bowl; crack the eggs into another wide, shallow bowl; combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, basil and thyme in another wide, shallow bowl. When the chicken is approximately ¼-1/2 inch think (Giada recommends using a meat mallet to thin the chicken- I just bought thin breasts and trimmed them) dredge the chicken pieces into the flour, then the eggs, and then the bread crumb mixture.

In a large, nonstick pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Place 2 pieces of breaded chicken in the oil and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. When they are cooked, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

For the sauce: Add the olive oil to the reserved cooking juice in the sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender. Remove the pan from heat and add the marscapone cheese. Stir until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Arrange the chicken on a plate, then pour sauce over the chicken. Enjoy!

 

 

For the Stir-Fried Shanghai Bok Choy with Ginger (courtesy of Epicurioius):

This recipe calls for some unusual, Japanese flavor-inspired ingredients, so navigating new aisles of the market was an adventure! My one gripe about this recipe: I do not have an official wok, so I used a regular sauté pan, which did not achieve the optimal results. A wok from Sur la Table has been ordered, though, so next attempt should go much more smoothly!

 

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled

¾ lb Shanghai bok choy

¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (preferably Shaoxing)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon corn starch

½ teasppon salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon Aisian sesame oil

 

Cut half of the ginger into very fine matchsticks and reserve. Grate remaining ginger. Remove any bruised or withered leaves from the bok choy. Trim 1/8 inch from bottom of each bok choy, then cut each head into quarters. Wash bok choy in several changes of cold water and dry in a colander or salad spinner until dry to the touch. Whisk together ginger juice, chicken broth, rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, salt and sugar in a small bowl, until cornstarch is dissolved.

Heat wok over high heat, pour oil down side of wok. Add ginger and stir-fry 5 seconds. Add bok choy and stir-fry until leaves are bright green and just limp, 1 to 2 minues. Stir broth mixture, then pour into wok and stir-fry vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce is slightly thickened (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil.

This recipe was yummy, and tasted healthy. Next time, I will add more flavor to the bok choy sauce. It took about 20 minutes for both dishes, which was challenging at the last five minutes trying to finish up the bok choy perfectly and remove the chicken from the oven while still warm. But overall, a successful evening! Enjoy!

From Today’s Kitchen: Butterfly Basil Chicken Monday, Aug 22 2011 

Sorry, friends! It occurred to me today that in all of my previous From My Kitchen posts, I had neglected to include the original, full recipe! Here I was, raving about how fabulously delicious and nutritious something is, without giving you the secret ingredients and measurement instructions! So sorry, will not happen again. Here is my latest new culinary adventure, again courtesy of Teresa Giudice’s great cookbook Fabulicious.

 

I love this dish because it’s listed under her “Easy and Quick” recipes- perfect for a weeknight when you don’t have hours (or tons of energy) to prepare a feast. This has protein, delicious herb flavors, and zucchini. Need I say more? I highly recommend picking up her cookbook, available on Amazon!

(photo of ingredients on my counter: kitty on table in background not required for dish to come out deliciously!)

 

Here are Teresa’s ingredients and instructions:

4 tbsp EVOO

            1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

            1 tbsp lemon juice

            1 tbsp salt

            ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

            4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

            3 tbsps finely chopped fresh basil

            2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8 inch-thick rounds

            8 ounces farfalle

            choppd fresh parsley for garnish

 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsps of oil, the balsamic vinegar, and the lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on both sides with the chopped basil. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides and the chicken feels firm when pressed in the center (10 to 12 minutes) Transfer to a plate, tent with aluminum foil, and keep warm. Add the remaining tbsp of oil to the skillet and hear over high heat. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well. Divide the pasta among deep soup bowls. Top each with a chicken breast half, and then equal amounts of the zucchini. Drizzle each serving with the balsamic vinegar mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

Since I was cooking for just the two of us, I only used one chicken breast (I made this after Fajita night, when we use the other breast- that way the chicken is only in the fridge for a day)

I didn’t realize how much I loved zucchini until I tried this dish!! I have to say, it’s definitely more my speed than the fiance’s- he’s a steak or burgers kind of guy- but with his crazy stressed out hours at the lab, I’m trying to sneak veggies into his diet as often as I can! Hence the “his” and “hers” portions in bowls!

 

Media Credits:

all photos from my iPhone

From Today’s Kitchen: Gemelli Twists with Tomato Soffrito Friday, Aug 12 2011 

A healthy, crunchy, vegetable-heavy pasta dish is a must-have for any good kitchen repertoire. Up until I discovered Teresa Guidice’s cookbooks, Skinny Italian and Fabulicious, I was missing basically any hearty Italian recipe.

This was my new recipe adventure for the week. I was looking for something filling, with lots of protein and vitamins to help us get through the crazy week. But something light and refreshing to help make those daily workouts seem worthwhile. This was super easy to pull together, which is important on a weeknight when energy is in short supply and chopping the vegetables is incredibly satisfying and bit like therapy.

I used canned diced tomatoes, because, well, seeding them myself is just so messy, and I like to limit the flinging around of sharp knives when the kittens are intrigued by whatever I’m cooking.

I also doubled the amount of carrots, because, well I love carrots.

The divine smell of the simmering carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes starts overwhelming the kitchen. The easy-to-make pasta is easy as boiling water, and then you just mix them together and create your deliciously light and healthy summer dish.

This is a dish that also taste delicious when served cold, so be sure to keep some leftovers in the fridge for lunch the next day!

 

Media Credits:
Teresa Guidice photo courtesy of njmonthly.com

All food photos courtesy of my iPhone

From Today’s Kitchen: Sole a la Grenobloise avec Fried Rice with Kale and Scallions Wednesday, Jul 20 2011 

My obsession with all things Gwyneth Paltrow is no secret. So it was really just a matter of time until I tried something from her fabulous cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. Thanks to the best Maid of Honor ever, my sister Julia, for the gift!

After reading through all her enticing recipes and advice about cooking, I settled on two choices: a fresh fish dish, Sole a la Grenlobloise, with a super-healthy looking side dish of Fried Rice with Kale and Scallions.

First, I looked at her “total and active prep times” (a very much appreciated feature of her book) and figured out that I would need about 30 minutes total to make both dishes. I started to work, but then realized the recipe called to “steam” kale. I do not know how to “steam” anything, let alone kale, which I’ve only recently been introduced to via health foodies everywhere.

But then I realized, I was using my FABULOUS rice cooker (a gift from my mom several months ago that I’ve used maybe twice before this). I could cook the rice in the bottom portion of the rice cooker, and then use the top metal basket thing that I had previously ignored as a silly attachment that I simply could not figure out how to use, to “steam” the kale on top of the rice. Voila! Problem solved! Yummy, steamed kale and delicious cooked brown rice in just 7 minutes.

Dinner was a success. The flour and milk coating for the fish was a bit messy, and I will warn you: sole is not a very flavorful fish, so don’t skip the lemon circles! Also, the smell lingers, so be sure to toss the trash bag right away. What a quick, easy recipe to make a healthy, Gwyneth-inspired evening.

The real hero of the recipe (besides her GOOPness, of course) was my rice cooker. I highly recommend picking one up. I now use it all the time- just throw the rice in for 20 minutes, and it automatically stops once its cooked but keeps it warm until you’re ready to serve it. What could be better? Oh yes, a metal basket on top that steams the kale:)

Media Credits:

Gwyneth: photo courtesy of rickey.org

Gwyneth cookbook: photo of fitperez.com

all food photos from my iPhone

The Joy of Substituting Ingredients Sunday, Jul 10 2011 

The budding housewife has emerged, armed with an arsenal of cookbooks and trusty recipes courtesy of my recent bridal shower.

(photo courtesy of bfeedme.com)

With the attempts to create culinary confections and dining delights also comes the frustration of ingredient shopping. From my own recent cooking experiences, I’ve discovered that it’s not actually that hard to follow a recipe and put things together without calling the fire department. The hardest part has been tracking down, and keeping a lasting supply of, the proper ingredients.

Some things I always have in my pantry: brownie mix (although I usually never have eggs, oops!), onions, garlic, butter, Capn Crunch (I can’t guarantee there will be milk!), and plenty of Progresso soup. But you’d be hard pressed to find a chef who can whip up anything edible with that combination of carbs.

The key to mastering the “joy of cooking”, as some like to say, is mastering the art of shopping. Not shoe shopping, but grocery shopping. In addition to my Chicken Noodle soup collection to feed an army during hibernation, I’ve now learned to pick up scallions, oats, bread crumbs, cheese, potatoes, corn, flour, olive oil, cream cheese, and of course Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. Some great advice is to look ahead a few nights: I’ll go to the market now, grab stuff I need to make dinner tonight, and then pick three more recipes I will attempt in the coming week, and stock up on those ingredients while I’m out. It’s very European to go shopping every day for just the day’s provisions, but it doesn’t seem to be too economical when driving over California in search of decent grocery stores costs you $3.89 a gallon. Plus it will keep you on track- when you’re lacking energy or motivation to try something new after a long day, knowing you already have everything you need at your fingertips will help keep your fingers away from the phone for pizza delivery.

Another huge part of learning to cook was learning to substitute ingredients. Not just olive oil for vegetable oil in EVERYTHING(except brownies….) But really learning what will work instead of something else has saved me lots of time and effort, not too mention headaches.

(photo courtesy of bigoven.com)

A few dinners ago, I was attempting my very first Giada recipe- Chicken Milanese- and I realized I did not have any marscapone cheese. I had no clue what this obscure Italian delicacy was, but it seemed to be pretty important to the texture of the dish. To maintain the consistency I needed, with the chicken already in the oven, I just grabbed some onion flavored Philadelphia cream cheese out of my fridge. Worked out great!

I’m sure the Julia Child in me will continue to peek through in short bursts, but in the meantime, I’m happy to try new recipes, one mistake at a time, even if that means learning the hard way that a rubber band will not work the same way as twine for holding a baked brie pastry together.

Bon Apetit!