It was a very hectic weekend. Sia’s school had a fair on Saturday and she was very excited. It was a lot of fun but the food is very unhealthy. I did volunteer at the healthy table and it did have lots of healthy options but my daughter didn’t indulge in any of them. She instead had pizza and cotton candy! Pizza, I guess is okay but that cotton candy really bothers me- just plain processed sugar and some terrible dye. I try to keep Sia away from it but it’s hard at a fair- it’s right in front of your face. Anyway, she had the cotton candy on Saturday and Sunday! We have a May fest in our town every year and this year it was on Sunday- so guess what, we had a lot of unhealthy food there as well. There was a hotdog for Sia and yes, another cotton candy! I, on the other hand, had the best barbecue chicken I’ve had in a long time. There was a vendor called the Coney Island grill company and they were serving 2 big pieces of chicken on top of white or wheat bread topped with the yummiest barbeque sauce I have ever had- and that includes the barbeque place I love to go to in Austin when ever I visit my cousin! My husband was shocked at the amount of food I had bought especially since he had bought quite a bit him self from another vendor. Well, I wasn’t worried since my plan was to devour the whole thing myself- and I almost did… well, I had to share a little bit. I also had a yummy lemon cupcake. I am usually not a cupcake person- not a fan of the icing- this one was delicious! I digress- we got home and I started to wonder what I should feed Sia for dinner?? It had to be something healthy after two days of eating junk! We were not eating out again and I didn’t have much in the fridge and I was in no mood to cook! After some thinking, I came up with quesadillas. I had whole grain tortillas in the freezer and my favorite ‘go to’ frozen vegetable- spinach. I always have some around for times like this when you have no idea what to make and need something quick, easy and healthy. I wanted to give her a healthy grain, protein and vegetable. So, I decided to make scrambled eggs with spinach and add it to the whole grain quesadilla- a perfectly balanced meal that can be prepared in an cinch. Sia loved it and I had a few bites with a salad and it was delicious! Yes, of course I had a salad- I had to- after that monster of a meal I consumed at the fair!
I continue with my quest for healthy kid friendly desserts and snacks. A friend makes my banana bread which her daughter loves- she asked if I could possibly come up with a similar recipe but with a vegetable- like a carrot cake. I remembered a zucchini bread I used to eat many moons ago from Starbucks. From work I would usually venture out to get a mid-afternoon snack which would be a tall Caffe Mocha usually with a slice of zucchini bread. The bread was absolutely delicious- I still remember the color and taste really well- this was about 10 years ago when I ate whatever I felt like and weight and nutrition were furthest from my mind. So when my friend reminded me of the zucchini bread, I immediately started looking for a recipe to adapt to my taste. I decided to include chocolate in the bread as anything with chocolate is good and I thought kids would be more likely to eat it and ignore the green stuff running through the cake! I tested a few recipes and finally liked this one- the texture was firm but moist and most of all, it was delicious! I baked it through the day, so neither my daughter nor my husband witnessed it. I gave a slice to my husband the next morning before he went to work- asked him how it was and once he told me it was really good, I informed him it was made out of zucchini. He was shocked! My daughter really enjoyed it as well, I decided not to enlighten her with all the ingredients. My husband, however, went ahead and divulged within minutes of eating it- Sia had a disgusted look on her face. I explained to her that if she likes the taste how does it matter what is inside the bread.. she thought about it for a few seconds and decided to have another slice. So my advice to parents out there would be that maybe you shouldn’t tell your kids what is in the bread- it may not go so well!!
I was watching food television the other day and saw someone make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. It looked delicious but it seemed quite labor intensive. I have been meaning to make this dish for a while but have been lazy – so I made it simpler. I decided to use less garlic- it takes too long to peel 40 cloves. I used one head of garlic instead and it was more than enough. I also coated the chicken pieces with seasoned flour before I browned them. I saved a step by doing this- I don’t have to take the chicken out and make a roux separately. I also decided to add pancetta for an extra layer of flavor – boy, what intense flavor bacon gives to a dish! Everything is good with bacon! The fresh thyme is a great addition- it brings a very earthy flavor to the dish. I served the chicken with couscous that I made with pine nuts and currants. I usually add golden raisins to my savory dishes- never used currants before- well I am a fan! They are great tiny little balls of sweetness and go really well in the couscous. My daughter who usually takes the raisins out, somehow didn’t mind the currants in the couscous. I added a little extra chicken broth to the dish so we can enjoy extra sauce with the couscous.
So, since the dish didn’t have any vegetables, I was planning on serving a salad. I had baby arugula in the fridge and decided to make it simple and add some lemon juice and salt. It suddenly occurred to me maybe I should serve the seasoned arugula on top of the dish! What a brilliant idea- actually it’s not mine- I have seen it many times on food television– they usually add seasoned greens on pizza, pasta, etc. Well it is a great idea- it tasted fantastic! The lemony arugula was perfect with the creamy chicken and the sweet couscous. It really was a brilliant dish and I think great for company. We drank a Riesling with the chicken- the same one I used to make the sauce. It stood up to the strong flavors of the chicken dish but was light at the same time. It was a very enjoyable meal indeed- nothing better in life than to enjoy great food and wine with the people you love most!
Who doesn’t love meatballs? My daughter and husband especially do- in all forms. Last week Sia reminded me I had not made them in ages- she does that even when I have not made something in a week but in this case she was right- I had not cooked meatballs in a long time. Now that I am writing this blog, I feel I cannot repeat a recipe- so I started thinking how I can make the meatballs different this time. Of course I wanted to make them healthy but thought I should disguise some veggies in the meatballs as well. I decided to saute frozen spinach with some garlic and shallots and added the mixture to the ground turkey. Speaking of ground turkey- any ground meat can be used but I am trying to use less red meat and I feel dark meat ground turkey does the job really well- although you can’t beat the taste of meatballs made out of a combination of beef, pork and veal! I also decided to add a tiny chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese in each meatball. It give the meat a nice creamy texture- also while cooking the meatballs in the marinara sauce, as the cheese melts and, oozes out into the sauce making it extra delicious! Somehow meatballs taste extra yummy with spaghetti- don’t know what it is- maybe it’s the texture of the thin long pasta but any other pasta shape just doesn’t do. Instead of serving the meatballs with plain spaghetti, I dress it up a bit. Once I cook it, I saute it with some minced garlic, olive oil, salt, dried basil and oregano. It really makes a big difference to the dish on the whole- the dried herbs and garlic take the spaghetti to a whole new level. Another great way to serve the meatballs is on a crusty roll. I usually toast the roll with a drizzle of olive oil. I then rub a garlic clove all over the crusty goodness with a sprinkle of salt. I place the meatballs on top with a slice of provolone or mozzarella cheese- melt in the toaster oven and it’s the best meatball sandwich you will ever taste!!! Of course for the adults, some salad and red wine is a must!!
Here we go with another mango recipe! I just can’t help myself. There are so many of them in my house and this last variety I bought from the Indian store are extremely fragrant- so I can smell them all over the kitchen and dining area. My cousin had given me some macadamia nuts from Hawaii. I stored them in the freezer and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to use them. I had already baked mango cookies and wanted to look for something different- how about a mango cake, I thought!! I started to look for inspiration on the web but there wasn’t that much out there. I finally found one and tweaked and modified it to my liking. What I liked about this particular recipe was that it had crushed pineapple in it- actually the recipe didn’t have any fat-, no butter or oil. I think that is why they included the pineapple since it gives the recipe great texture in the absence of fat. Well, I decided to include both the fat as well as the pineapple. My choice of lipid was extra light olive oil. I like using it for my baking, it does not have the nutty and fruity taste of extra virgin olive oil but it still has it’s goodness. I believe in cooking healthy but don’t like the idea of eliminating the fat all together. Overall the cake had great texture and a fabulous taste. The macadamia nuts brought a nice creamy crunch to the dessert. The mango chunks and the pineapple melt in the mouth. Its a great cake to have with afternoon tea or even a nibble for breakfast. I usually cut a little piece for my husband to enjoy before he goes to work- he likes that- a nice sweet way to start your day.
Once in a while I come up with an absolutely genius one pot meal. Well, this is it- I even surprised myself when I tasted it. I wanted to make something with spanish and mexican flavors but didn’t want to make the normal quesadillas or fajitas or even burritos. I thought about it for almost the whole day and then finally came up with this fabulous dish. I had bought some ground turkey from Trader Joes the day before- I was actually planning to make meat balls with veggies but somehow didn’t feel like it. I have noticed that if I force myself to cook a dish, it doesn’t taste very good… I have to really want to make it – I usually visualize it in my head before I cook the dish- it sounds a little cooky but that is how my brain works. Anyway, I wanted to incorporate the ground turkey somehow in the dish, so I decided to pair it with rice and beans. When I think of Mexican food- tomatillos come to mind – I love using tomatillos– they have a very tart and creamy flavor. I also wanted to create a smoky dish but didn’t want to add any heat since I wanted Sia to enjoy it- so I decided to use smoked paprika which has a little bit of heat but a lot of flavor. I also decided to use one of my favorite ingredients- roasted frozen corn. It also has a nice roasted smoky flavor. I blended the tomatillos, garlic, cilantro and vidalia spring onions and used that as the underlying flavor for the rice. I don’t know if you all have noticed huge vidalia spring onions every where?? They are delicious- mild enough to use in salads but also have a lot of flavor for sauces, etc. Once the rice was cooked with all the delicious ingredients, I decided to take it to the next level and add cheese. My first thought was to add queso blanco but then I remembered I had a blend of shredded mexican cheeses in my fridge. It included monterey jack, queso blanco and a bunch of other cheeses- perfect! I love sweet and savory flavors in my dishes and decided to add raisins- they are optional but I would highly recommend them. The little burst of sweet juice midst the smoky rice was very pleasant. Now as we all know my daughter is obsessed with mangoes- so we have plenty in the house at all times. I wanted to make a cool salad to go with the rice and decided to combine avocados with mangoes. I thought very hard about this since both the ingredients have similar textures- my initial idea was to add some crunch to it but at the end I decided to keep it simple- some salt, lime juice and cilantro. I served the salad on top of the hot rice- it was out of this world!!! If you cook just one dish from this blog I would recommend this one- it was truly delicious. All the flavors went really well together- the hot smoky rice with the cool creamy salad- a match made in heaven!
When I think of spring, asparagus comes to mind. It’s the first thing I start to notice in the fresh markets- I am talking about local asparagus. We do see asparagus from other countries in the winter but somehow it’s not the same- I guess it’s the mindset- the ones in season just taste better to me. Anyway, to round off the Mother’s Day dinner I decided to make asparagus. I also love the salty taste of pancetta and thought it would go really well with the creamy fresh tasting asparagus. Pancetta is an Italian bacon that is cured with spices and not smoked. It gives dishes an underlying depth of saltiness and nuttiness. I decided to use shallots instead of onions or garlic- I wanted the pancetta taste to come through and not be over powered by anything stronger. Well, the marriage of those flavors was a very successful one! The asparagus was perfectly cooked and bright green with little red brown specs of pancetta all over. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth. Overall the steak, potatoes and asparagus made a fabulous meal- now only if someone would cook it for me again!!!