Sunday, October 31, 2010

Healthy Meals

Some days, the only thing that will satisfy me is a belly full of pasta and cheese.  But, its often nice to enjoy a meal that doesn't make you want to take a nap or go and run a mile.  Luckily, I have a non-picky husband who loves veggies almost as much (maybe even more?) than me!  He is often the one encouraging me to make something healthy rather than a creamy casserole.

We finished off the roast chicken by making a zesty Autumn Chicken Salad (chicken, matchstick carrots, apples, onions, and a lemon-dill-pepper dressing), on top of a bed of romaine.  We didn't entirely ignore the tummy-filling carbs; we had biscuits on the side.

Joe and I both LOVE fish!  Whole Foods had their frozen tuna on sale, so I gave it a try.  I used to be very suspicious of frozen fish, but since so many stores have started selling vacuum packed frozen selections, some of my favorites (tilapia, swordfish, tuna, salmon...) have become much more affordable and taste nearly as good as fresh.

Here is our Honey Mustard and Pepper Glazed Grilled Tuna on a bed of romaine hearts, served with quinoa, and topped with yellow bell peppers and tomatoes.  We were very happy with how it turned out! 

For our Sunday Supper this weekend, I wanted something hearty, yet still healthy.  Many recipe books later, I found a simple Chicken Cacciatore.  I've never made Cacciatore before, so I was excited -- I LOVE making things that are "entirely new" to me.  I changed up the recipe slightly, making it a bit healthier by using trimmed chicken tenders instead of skin-on chicken, and brown rice instead of white.  I also added some dry vermouth and capers to add a kick!
Chicken Cacciatore -- chicken, onions, tomatoes, garlic, capers, vermouth, oregano
Olive Rice
Chicken Cacciatore served over Olive Rice

As a side note:  I used to buy the pre-washed, pre-cut lettuce.  But, unless we ate it all in 2-3 days, it would start getting slimy and I'd have to throw it out!  Since moving, I have been buying the bags of "hearts of romaine" instead.  The 3 hearts can make a full week of side salads, I wash and cut what I need when I need it, AND it lasts so much longer!  I have yet to throw out a single leaf of lettuce and the overall cost per the amount of product is so much better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Artichokes... the Vegetable with a Heart

Often when I find artichoke recipes or see chefs cook them on Food Network, the chef will cut off all the leaves, throw them out, and just use the heart.  While the heart is delicious, its a crime to throw out all of those beautiful leaves!

A favorite meal at our house while I was growing up was steamed or boiled artichokes.  They're such a beautiful vegetable and make for a fun finger food meal.  I treated Joe and I to an enormous globe artichoke for dinner last night -- its great when they're in season because I got that giant for $2.50 (about half the price they are in the summer).

As an aside, artichokes are VERY healthy, you can check out a lot of the benefits here.

Our dinner:

Steamed artichoke with lemon garlic dipping sauce

Tilapia poached with lemon, capers, dill, and tomatoes


Cooking an artichoke is actually really easy.  I trimmed the points off the outer leaves and cut the top off the artichoke.  Then I cut the stem off at the base of the artichoke so it would sit upright.  In this case, the stem was long and beautiful, so I trimmed of the end, peeled it, cut it into 4 pieces, and steamed it along with the artichoke.  Its a great treat -- it tastes very similar to the heart.  I steamed the artichoke in a steaming basket in a covered pot.  I squeezed half a lemon into the steaming liquid (to prevent browning), and also added 2 bay leaves.  Artichokes take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to steam, depending on their size (this one took nearly an hour).  You can tell they're done when the leaves pull off easily and the tender inside of the leaf can be scraped off with your teeth.

If you've never tried an artichoke like this, you should!  Its an entirely different experience and flavor than the marinated ones that are served on pizzas and antipasto platters.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Perhaps My Favorite Meal in Italy

Amid exploration of the hill towns of Umbria (2007), we happened upon a very small town called Orvieto.  We got there in the evening, and there wasn't much open, but we certainly had to pay respects to their INCREDIBLE Duomo, which is covered in mosaic tile on one side.

Next to the Duomo, there was a small restaurant that happened to be open.  We sat on their patio, in a corner of the Duomo's piazza.  None of the wineries in the town were open, so we asked the waiter to pick out a local wine for us to try.  He suggested that instead of a full bottle, he could create a tasting of his own.  Along with our wine tasting, we asked if he could also put together some kind of sampling of the local foods.  These are what he came up with:

Half of the meats on this platter, he called "particulare," because they were local specialties that don't have English names.  It was an assortment of local salamis, and other cured meats.  I'm not sure what they all were, but I would love to duplicate that platter again!

He also made a platter of local cheeses.  Two sheep's milk, one goat milk, and one cow milk.  Surrounding some luscious local pears.  Perfecto!

Of course, there was also freshly baked bread and local olive oil on the side.  While this was by no means our biggest meal of the trip, it was incredibly local, personalized, and fit the atmosphere.  Our waiter was also so proud to show off the local specialties!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Cooking

Since moving to Colorado, we've been eating most of our meals at home -- giving me many opportunities to experiment with new recipes.  (New recipes are always my favorite thing to cook -- there's just something exciting about it!!).

Probably one of the prettiest quiches I've ever made.  Mushroom, bacon, swiss, and green onion.

 Roasted chicken!  Roasted with lemon, onions, and TONS of garlic.

Served with pan seared asparagus, stuffing, and chicken gravy.  Also notice our beautiful pumpkin!  Picked at a local pumpkin farm (where we also got to find our way through a 1.5 acre corn maze).

Perfect use for leftover roasted chicken and gravy:  individual chicken pot pies!!!
 Filled with lots of veggies along with the chicken, of course!

I wish I took pictures of the roasted beet and potato borscht (a slightly chuncky beet soup -- such a gorgeous color!), French onion soup (Julia Child's recipe, which involved caramelizing my onions for 45 minutes prior to making the soup...), asparagus risotto, shepherd's pie, lamb meatloaf, etc...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Eating with Famous People

(or at least taking our picture with them when they come to our table!)

Some of you may remember, that the family Christmas card from 2007 had a picture with the now UBER famous Michael Symon.

 Here we are at Lola, soon after Chef Michael Symon became Iron Chef Michael Symon.  I was SO excited to meet him!  As a perpetually disappointed Indians fan, I told him, "YOU are Cleveland's World Series!!"  That night, Mom and Carla had the duck and Dad and I had the rabbit.  Dinner at Lola does not disappoint, neither does dinner at Lolita, or lunch at B Spot (other Symon Cleveland establishments).

Food and Travel

Over the past few years, I have discovered that when I travel, my favorite pictures are usually the ones I took of food.  Yes, I am that strange person that takes out a camera, even in the middle of a fancy restaurant...  In 2007, my family and I went on a trip to Milan, Florence, and the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria.  Here are a few of my food photos from that trip:

Bruschetta with (clockwise from top left) pate, roasted garlic, tomatoes, arugula and parmesan reggiano
Fresh pasta with rabbit sauce

Possibly octopus?

Prosciutto and pineapple


Port with cantucci

If you haven't travelled to Italy yet, you need to!  The food there is incredibly fresh and cannot be replicated outside of the country.  And the wine, wow....!