Monthly Archives: October 2011

Introducing: Lambi the guest blogger

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Oh man do I have a busy weekend planned. Unfortunately this does not allow me much time to blog, so I have asked my good friend, Lambi, to write up a guest post for me so you all will not have to go TeenyLittleSuperChef-less for very long. Lambi is also a culinary genius, so please, be nice to her. She’s also a total babe with the most gorgeous wool coat I’ve ever laid eyes on. Enjoy!

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Hey all you foodies! I’m Lambi and I would like to thank Juan Carlos for inviting me as his guest bleeter blogger.

Whie I, as you may have guessed, am mostly into tender seedlings leafy acreage morsels, my family often include healthy, home-grown, organic meat (shudder) in their meals, none of which (thankfully) are from my side of the pasture. In any case, the recipe I would like to share is yummy, sans meat.

Our farm is a crazy busy wonderful place at harvest time. While I am stuffing myself luxuriating in the fresh mud green grasses that the latest rain has brought, it is also time to bring in the buckets of fresh produce we have so carefully tended throughout the summer. Onions, tomatoes, celery, eggplant, oregano, basil and garlic… oh yes, did I mention I’m a garlic maven… indeed I am with 16 varieties already planted for spring– but I digress. With all this bounty it’s time to gulp down savor fresh, safe, organically grown fall flavors. I do make my regular contributions to the health of our garden compost pile, which is then turned into the soil in the fall and spring to make healthy garden crops. I do believe in giving what I can for the cause as do my pasture mates.

I hope you will enjoy this Eggplant Lasagna. While it’s not a quick recipe, you’ll have buckets bowls of sauce to freeze or can, and enjoy as a quick flavorful sauce for pasta. You should also have plenty of Lasagna left to put a bit in the freezer as well, unless you happen to be sharing your meals as I do, in a trough, with other more aggressive diners.

Eggplant Lasagna

Marinara Sauce

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic (I use one that has a little kick to it from Indonesia)

3 tbsp olive oil

12 firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered

1/2 cup chopped green onion and some of the tops

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup coarsely chopped celery

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

3/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp crushed anise or fennel seed

1 tbsp crushed oregano leaves

3/4 tsp rosemary leaves

1 tsp paprika

1 3/4 cups or half a bottle of dry red wine (can substitute grape juice)

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Directions:

1) Cook onion and garlic in oil until softened and translucent.

 2) Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the pan with the onions and garlic. Bring mixture to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Remove cover and simmer until reduced to approximately 8 cups. (I usually double this recipe to have enough to put in the freezer or can.

Lasagna Ingredients

(If you prefer the sauce thick, add 8 oz tomato paste to your sauce before proceeding)

8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

15 oz nonfat cottage or ricotta cheese

8 oz nonfat yogurt or sour cream

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 eggs + 1 tbsp water, mix together in small bowl

1 whole medium eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise

whole wheat bread crumbs, enough to use for breading eggplant

Directions:

1) Salt the eggplant and allow 10 minutes for the salt to draw the moisture out. Pour off the liquid, dip the eggplant in the egg mixture then coat with bread crumbs.

2) Fry in a very small amount of oil. (Eggplant will tend to soak up oil. The bread crumbs will keep the eggplant from doing this so much.) Turn as soon as one side is brown.

3) Place half the eggplant in a 13×9″ pan or casserole dish. Top with half the sauce and half the cheese mixture. Repeat layers.

4) Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until casserole is bubbly.

Enjoy!

Hmmm, just writing about all this is making me hungry… oh wait, I think I hear the dinner bell… uhhh yeah I think I have to go now. It looks like everyone else is heading for the barn….. WAIT FOR ME!!!!!!

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I’ve got a bundt in the oven

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There’s something about bundt cakes that just makes me smile. I don’t know whether it’s the hole in the middle, the way the sides are fluted which creates a really neat design, or just the word “bundt” itself. Whatever it is, I’ve had a mild love affair with the bundt cake ever since discovering mi mama’s pan crammed way back in the depths of her kitchen cupboards. Apparently she had hidden it away after some sort of disaster Jell-O incident involving lack of gelatinization and a red sticky mess being poured all down her pants. Note to all: you must allow the Jell-O to sit in the fridge at least an hour to congeal before attempting to turn out onto a serving plate. Oh well, we can’t all be geniuses… obviously, that train left her station long ago.

Over the years, I definitely believe I’ve gotten to the point of mastering my abilities in the area of the bundt cake. I can do no wrong. I mix, I pour, I bake and whammo, magic pops out of the oven and onto a plate. Few would attempt to challenge this claim. Those who have, may or may not have gotten a little brown “present” left in their favorite pair of shoes.

This past Sunday, mi mama, papa and I were invited to attend a lovely brunch out by the lake, and of course, I was requested to bring along one of my delicious creations. Ding ding ding! Why not a bundt cake? And after noticing mi mama’s recent Costco purchase of 10 lbs of fresh cranberries (bladder issues, maybe?) I immediately got to work concocting a yummy bundt-panned coffee cake.

Cranberry-Pecan Coffee Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tbsp Earth Balance, butter or non-hydrogenated margarine

2 tbsp applesauce

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

1 cup fresh cranberries, or frozen and thawed

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan with cooking spray.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.

3) In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cinnamon and pecans.

4) In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar, butter and applesauce until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until fully combines. Beat in the vanilla and yogurt.

5) Add the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Do not overmix.

6) Spread half of the batter into the bundt pan. Top with the cranberries, gently pressing them into the batter. Sprinkle with the nut mixture. Spoon the rest of the batter over the berries and nuts, smoothing the top.

7) Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool slightly before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Glaze Ingredients:

1 cup powdered sugar

2-3 tbsp milk

1) Mix sugar with milk using an electric hand mixer until smooth.

2) Drizzle over completely cooled cake.

3) Serve along with your favorite cup of tea and enjoy!

Just looking at pictures of this cake puts a huge smile on my face again, and brought many smiles and satisfied bellies to those at the Sunday brunch. Give it a try, sometime. You’ll be smiling too 🙂

Well, amigos, I must be going now. It’s my day to do the grocery shopping.

Hey, who put those crackers in my cart!

Who wants noodles when you can have tortillas!

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I find it very amusing sometimes when and where I can get the inspirations for my meals and recipes. Just the other day, I was lounging on my feather bed, sipping my morning cappuccino bowl of distilled water and watching an episode of “Garfield and Friends” when the image of a large pan of lasagna popped onto the screen. I immediately thought, “hmm, now there’s something I don’t make very often… I wonder if I should make one for mi padres?” I mean, really. If  a large cartoon cat appreciates a good pan (or twelve) of lasagna, why not a couple of large non-animated humans? The wheels in my head started turning and I quickly got out my mini dictaphone to take down the ingredients and cooking directions I would need to use for later.

Now I know when most people hear the word “lasagna” they think of a cheesy, tomatoey meat-sauce sandwiched between layers of long thick pasta noodles served by a lovely Italian man named Giovanni. And if I wanted to be uncreative and boring, I would have made something exactly like that myself. But no, I am the TeenyLittleSuperChef. Therefore, I wanted to push the envelope, go against the norm, and of course, pay homage to my Mexican roots. So instead I came up with a muy bueno dish I like to refer to as, La Sagna: Mexican-Style.

Mexican Tortilla Lasagna

2 tsp canola oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1/2 large green bell pepper, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb skinless, boneless ground turkey, 99% fat-free

14.5 oz can tomato sauce

6 oz can tomato paste

1 cup frozen corn

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

16 oz. low-fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

12 corn tortillas

shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet or pan over medium-high. Add onions, bell peppers, garlic and ground turkey. Cook until turkey is no longer pink and onions are softened.

3) Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, frozen corn, chili powder, ground oregano, salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer about 8-10 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan and egg in a small bowl until well mixed.

5) Layer 6 tortillas evenly on the bottom of a 9×13″ casserole dish. They should overlap each other. Top with half of the meat mixture. Top that with all of the cottage cheese mixture. Layer with the remaining 6 tortillas and top with the rest of the meat mixture.

6) Bake 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with a nice layer of Cheddar cheese. Return to oven for 5 minutes.

7) Take out, let sit 5 minutes, cut into individual portions and dig in. Delicioso!

I think even Garfield would approve of this one. Mi papa certainly did. I’m pretty sure there was some licking of his dinner plate at the end of the meal… and it wasn’t me this time… well, maybe a little bit. 

Well, on that note, I must be going. I have a piano recital this evening and I need to go brush up on my “Moonlight Sonata.

Beethoven, eat your heart out.

Gluten-free is the new black

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As promised, I’m back today to share with you the incredibly delicious cupcakes I baked for the birthday party I attended last night. I’ll spare you the details of the party, mostly out of respect for some of the attendees (i.e. mi mama). Let’s just say, some of us woke up with a sense of confusion and wonderment as to why a moustache had been drawn on their face with a Sharpie and their right hand was lying in a bowl of warm water. Thank goodness for rubber sheets…

Anyway, on to the cupcake recipe. I had been requested by the birthday girl to bake some gluten-free goodies since a number of the guests attending the party had either Celiac disease or some amount of gluten sensitivity. While we’re on the subject, I’d like to take a minute or two to talk about gluten, what exactly it is, and what this idea of gluten-sensitivity and/or intolerance actually is. By definition, gluten is the protein composite found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye. And while it may seem that by simply cutting out foods such as bread or baked goods containing these particular grains may eliminate gluten-consumption, gluten can actually be found in certain sauces like soy, cold cuts, salad dressings, alcoholic beverages, and even in the binders of some brands of multi-vitamin or nutritional supplements. People who have true gluten-intolerance suffer from a serious and possibly fatal condition called Celiac Disease. When a person with this disease consumes foods containing gluten, the lining of his/her stomach becomes damaged and prevents it from absorbing parts of food needed to stay healthy. Over time and if left untreated, this can lead to severe malnourishment, weight loss, and in the most extreme instances, death. The good news is, only around 1% of Americans actually suffer from this disease, and it can be treated properly by simply following a well-balanced and gluten-free diet.

Now the concept of gluten-sensitivity, on the other hand, is one that’s a little less unclear and harder to diagnose. This condition exists among people who test negative to Celiac Disease when given a blood test and don’t appear to have any damage in their intestines, yet still experience symptoms  common to Celiac such as stomach bloating and discomfort, chronic fatigue and severe headaches after consuming gluten. This condition has been reported in nearly 10% of the population and most have found that by simply following a diet similar to that prescribed for those with Celiac Disease, they are able to overcome the majority of their gastrointestinal issues.

One of the main misconceptions I think people have when it comes to following a gluten-free diet is that it is in someway more healthy and that the person will immediately lose a great deal of weight once they begin the diet. Unfortunately, this is not often the case and can actually cause a person to suffer from deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, fiber, etc because they are avoiding breads, cereals and grains that are fortified and not replacing them with gluten-free foods containing these nutrients. Or they may over-compensate by eating only processed foods labeled “gluten-free.” This phrase doesn’t necessarily mean “fat-free” or “sugar-free” and can still contain ingredients that have no nutritional value and a high amount of calories. Therefore, extreme care must be taken when adopting a gluten-free diet so as to make sure to still get all the proper vitamins and nutrients. Gotta read your nutrition labels, people.

Whew, that was more information than I initially meant to spout out. Sorry to bore you if this type of thing does not interest you in the slightest. Mi mama’s eyes always glaze over whenever I try to share some nutritional knowledge with her. She’d rather just eat and not give it (or anything else) another thought… shocking.

Hmm, now where was I? Oh yes, my cupcake recipe. Because these are gluten-free, they contain some ingredients you’re probably not totally familiar with or do not buy on a regular basis. I assure you, though, that all these items can be purchased at any of your local grocery stores. So don’t be afraid when you see the words “xanthan gum” listed in the recipe.

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup millet or fava bean flour

2 tbsp arrowroot starch or cornstarch

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

2 large eggs

1/2 cup light coconut milk

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup applesauce

2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cups.

2) Whisk all dry ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

3) Add wet ingredients and combine with a hand mixer on low for 1 minute until mixed evenly.

4) Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

5) Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

*If you want to make chocolate muffins, add in 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder with the dry ingredients. Follow same directions as stated above.

Vanilla Icing Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tbsp softened butter or non-hydrogenated margarine

2-3 tbsp skim milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1) Mix all icing ingredients in a large bowl with hand mixer until thoroughly combined. If too thin, add more sugar. If too thick, add more milk.

2) Divide evenly among cupcakes and top with colored sprinkles (optional).

*If you want to make chocolate icing, add in 2 tbsp cocoa powder. Follow the same directions.

Seriously, these were a huge hit at the birthday party and not even a crumb was leftover to take home to mi papa… or so he thinks. I snuck one into my sombrero when no one was looking and plan on surprising him with it after dinner tonight. I just hope the imprint in the frosting from my head doesn’t turn him off from eating it…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must  be going. I bragged to a few people at the party that I was an expert pumpkin carver and I think they may have just brought over a few for me to carve.

Aye Chihuahua, that’s a lot of pumpkins!!!!

I’m such a tease

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Sorry to leave you hanging, but I have a birthday party to attend this evening and still need to go shopping with mi mama for a present, so I have no time to post this evening. I promise I’ll be back tomorrow with the recipe for the yummy cupcakes I made exclusively for the party. For now, here’s a little sneak peak of what’s to come:

Okay amigos, to the mall I must go.

A new spin on pasta

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Do you ever have one of those moments in the kitchen where you have no idea what the heck you’re going to cook and so you just start throwing a bunch of different things together in a skillet and then before you know it, the resulting meal ends up tasting like heaven in a big ‘ol bowl? No, just me? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me last night. After enjoying my evening carrot underneath the coffee table, I meandered back into the kitchen without any plan for what I would be making for that evening’s meal. I like to have a plan. Usually I figure it out during my morning yoga session (yes, I know I should be meditating during this time, but it’s impossible to turn my teeny chef brain off). But during this particular morning, a new Shih tzu had joined our session and I was too busy staring at her lovely tail than think about food. Although the idea of a rump roast did come to mind…

Anyway, back to dinner. I found myself standing in the kitchen without a plan or a recipe and so I did what any other culinary genius would do– created. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (we won’t even talk about the Chocolate Chicken Piccata disaster). Luckily, in this particular instance, it worked, and now I will share the recipe with you. Forgive me if the measurements aren’t totally precise. I was too busy making magic happen than remember to write everything down.

Chicken Peanut Pasta

2 tsp canola oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped

1 large carrot, julienned

1 red bell pepper, julienned

3 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces

8 oz package rotini pasta

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp agave nectar or honey

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

chopped peanuts, for garnish

Directions:

1) Cook the pasta according to package directions. Rinse and set aside.

2) Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.

3) Meanwhile, steam the veggies (carrot, bell pepper and broccoli) until they turn bright in color, about 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook. Blanch under cold water and set aside.

4) In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, water, sesame oil, soy sauce, agave nectar, vinegar and ginger. Add to the skillet with the chicken. Stir to combine.

5) Add the pasta and veggies to the skillet. Stir well to combine and cover everything with the sauce. Allow to heat 4-5 minutes.

6) Portion onto 4 individual serving plates or bowls and top with chopped peanuts. Start swooning 🙂

Mi papa was all about this meal. I’m pretty sure he ate at least 3 of the 4 servings in just one sitting. Gotta love the metabolism of a young male athlete. Unlike me, who bloats up to the size stuffed burrito if I accidentally lick the floor one too many times.

I think next time I make this, I’ll try it with tofu instead of chicken. Then mi mama can do the same amount of ooing and ahhing as mi papa. Plus, we all know she adores anything with peanut butter…

Speaking of mi mama, I was looking through our spice cabinet the other day and came across something quite disturbing. Perhaps another intervention may be in order.

The Big “O”

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Let’s take a minute and talk about the “O” word. No, not that “O” word. I’m talking about the word “organic.” It seems this simple word has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to suddenly “go organic.” But what does the term “organic” really mean? Quite simply, it means that a certain piece of produce or food ingredient has been grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, sewage (mmmm, sewage), genetically-modified organisms or ionizing radiation. For some reason, consumers have come to think that the term “organic” somehow means that the food is also low in fat, sugars, sodiums etc., but in reality, that is not always the case. Sugar can be labeled organic but when broken down calorically, it’s still sugar. It still provides the same amount of carbohydrates and calories as conventional sugar, it just hasn’t been treated with any pesticides or chemicals. So is it actually healthier for you? Technically, yes, since you aren’t exposing your body’s cells to harmful agents, but in the end, your body still recognizes it as sugar and thus utilizes and stores it in the exact same ways. I find it unfortunate that people are willing to shell out exorbitant amounts of money on an item simply because it is labeled “organic” without really figuring out if it’s worth the extra cost. Granted, there have been some studies to show that eating certain foods grown organically are actually more nutritious for you. And by nutritious, I mean that they contain more antioxidants, vitamins and phytochemicals than conventionally-grown foods do and at times, are even superior in taste and quality. Ever had an organically-grown strawberry during the peak of its season? Mind-blowingingly delicious! And perhaps for those items, it is worth it to spend the extra money. But in my opinion (and that’s all that this is, remember), choosing to stick with conventionally grown for a certain portion of my groceries, is still an okay thing to do, physically and especially financially speaking.

Now one of the areas that I pay close attention to when deciding whether to buy conventional or organic is in the produce section. These items seem to be hit the hardest with pesticides if not organically farmed so I make sure to know which ones are safest to buy if I go the conventional route and which ones I should only buy organic. The Environmental Working Group has made a list of the fruits and veggies that are the most toxic when grown non-organically. Take this list with you the next time you go grocery shopping.

The Dirty Dozen (listed in order of most toxic)
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • My Beloved Carrots

The good news is there is also a list known as the Clean Fifteen which is comprised of the fruits and veggies that are acceptable to purchase without the organic stamp of approval. Mostly due to their having thick, protective skins that tend to shield the edible parts from harmful pesticides.

The Clean Fifteen
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Corn
  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet Potato

Okay, enough about organic foods for the time being. I’ll get off my little soapbox for a while. Just long enough to provide you with a delicious recipe that incorporates quite a few items from both the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping

2-3 large sweet potatoes, chopped into large chunks

1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt

1 tbsp Earth Balance or Butter

2 tsp canola oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. ground 99% fat-free Organic turkey breast

2 large zucchini, chopped

6 oz. tomato sauce

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 tbsp water

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen corn

dash of Nutmeg

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2 qt deep casserole dish with cooking spray.

2) Place potatoes in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and return to burner (make sure burner is turned off). Add yogurt and Earth Balance and blend with a hand mixer until smooth but not watery. Set aside.

3) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onions, carrots, ground turkey and garlic. Cook until turkey is no longer pink. Add the zucchini and saute 2-3 minutes.

4) In a small bowl, mix the flour with the water. Add to the skillet along with the tomato sauce, Worcestershire, thyme, salt, pepper, peas and corn. Stir well to combine and simmer 5-7 minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

5) Pour turkey mixture into bottom of prepared casserole dish. Spread sweet potato mash evenly over top of turkey and sprinkle with nutmeg.

6) Bake 30 minutes or until sweet potato topping is slightly browned.

7) Remove from oven and allow to sit 5-10 minutes before serving. Dig in and enjoy all the goodness of a deliciously healthy autumn-inspired casserole.

 

Another recipe that doesn’t photograph too well, but still tastes amazing. Thank you, shepherds, for this great idea for a pie.

Now if you don’t mind, I must be going. I need to go finish writing up my thesis on the anti-carcinogenic benefits of Daucus Carotus consumption in Latin American canines.