Thursday, July 22, 2010

Moussaka Casserole

Wednesday is my day off, so I figured I'd use all my free time to get a jump start on cooking for the rest of my busy week. I seriously did work...made both Wednesday and Thursday nights dinner, and made a cream sauce for the pasta recipe I'll be making tonight. I knew I wouldn't be around much yesterday between an Abby's Table demo and then seeing Steve Miller Band at Edgefield last night, so preparing Thursday's meal ahead was a must.

So I'm in the middle of my cooking when my dad calls. My friend Jamie and I had been trying to win Justin Bieber tickets all week. We couldn't justify actually buying them, seeing as he's barely 16 and we are 22. But we figured if we won them, it would be fate. Well, we didn't win, but my dad calls Wednesday night around 5:30 asking if i can drop my plans for the night. He scored two Justin Bieber tickets; apparently one of the radio giveaway pairs that no one ever claimed. Excited as could be, I started getting ready in order to make it to the concert by 7.

Well another minor detail about my busy week, I booked myself to dogsit for one family and water plants for another, both things I had planned on taking care of that evening. So basically, I had to run all over town making sure I tended to those responsibilities, resulting in a major stress meltdown for me. It was rough. Thankfully, it all melted away when we got to the Rose Garden to see Sean Kingston perform "Fire Burning". But unfortunately, I didn't ever have the time or appetite to eat my Moussaka that I'd worked so hard on all afternoon. I'm happy to report that it did get the parental stamp of approval, so I'm sure you'll love it too!

Moussaka is a Greek dish that normally calls for tomato sauce and cheese, so I never actually tried it when I was living there. I found this recipe, which uses pumpkin in place of the tomato, and figured it was fate. You all know I can't pass up cooking allergy-free Greek food!

Moussaka Casserole

1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground buffalo
1 walla walla onion, chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 c. pumpkin
1 c. water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle oregano, basil and 1/4 tsp. of the thyme over slices. Bake 12-15 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the buffalo, onions and garlic and cook until meat is no longer raw, about 8 minutes. Add the pumpkin, water, salt and remaining thyme and bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from heat.

In an 8x8 baking dish, lay half of the eggplant slices along the bottom. Spread with half the meat mixture. Cover with the remaining slices, then spread the rest of the meat mixture on top. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Buffalo Shrimp and Summer Quinoa Salad

I've always loved anything drenched in buffalo sauce. I love the flavor, the perfect amount of heat; it's seriously good on everything. It never occurred to me how easy it would be to make it myself.

Back in the days where I could eat anything, buffalo sauce was my go-to dipping sauce. Especially for fries, but I wasn't picky. I'll put it on burgers, chicken strips, fish, whatever. My friends and I used to go to this restaurant back at school called Wingers who had their own signature buffalo sauce that they put on all their specialty menu items. My days at Wingers are a thing of the past, but thankfully, my days eating buffalo sauce aren't!

My friend Jamie is another buffalo sauce lover. Like, probably more than me even. So of course, when I decided to make this recipe, she was the first person I invited over.

The quinoa salad is a fresh addition to these heat-packed shrimp, added to the meal to cool your palate between bites of buffalo. I made two versions, one with tomatoes for my parents and jamie, and one without for me.

My one word of advice is to be careful not to cook the shrimp too long, they can get a little rubbery if they are overcooked.

Buffalo Shrimp

1/3 c. olive oil
4 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1 pound jumbo shrimp, shells removed, tails on
1/2 c. Franks hot sauce
1/2 stick butter

Whisk together the oil, garlic and vinegar in a large bowl until it looks murky. Season with salt and pepper. Add the raw shrimp, toss with your hands until all shrimp is coated in marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Once time is up, turn oven to the broil setting, about 500 degrees. Place the shrimp on a broil pan, coat with remaining marinade and put in oven, door cracked, for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then stir in hot sauce. Bring to a low simmer, then reduce heat to low to keep warm. If shrimp begin to look pink, use tongs to flip them over, and let them go no more than 2 minutes on the other side. Once shrimp is pink, remove from oven and toss in warm sauce. Serve warm.

Summer Quinoa Salad

2 c. water
1 c. uncooked quinoa
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 can. artichoke hearts, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced (optional)
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, about 12 minutes. Let quinoa cool before adding other ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, cumin, salt and pepper. When quinoa is cooled, add jalapenos, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots and parsley. Add dressing and gently toss to combine.

Both recipes serve 4.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pumpkin Soup with Jicama Turnip Salad

I'm housesitting this week, meaning I've literally only been at my house to cook and eat dinner. Since I have a dog waiting for me to let her out at the other house, I can't spend a whole lot of time at home, so I've been preparing meals that can be made fairly quickly.

Housesitting has been awesome. It's basically been some much needed girls nights, complete with wine and 80s chick flicks. I seriously have the best friends ever.

Anyways, getting back on track. Last night's menu had a very autumn-y feel to it, and I'm so excited to bring this recipe back in the fall. The salad, at least, was light and summery, so it wasn't too bad a meal to eat in the 90 degree heat. But it will definitely make more sense in a few months.

Pumpkin Soup

1 tbsp. butter or butter substitute
1 can pureed pumpkin
2 medium sweet potatoes, baked and pureed
1/4 c. almond butter
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the pumpkin, pureed sweet potatoes, almond butter, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Add broth, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Makes about 4 servings.

Jicama Turnip Salad

1 medium jicama, chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. cashews
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. wheat free tamari
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Combine jicama, turnips and cashews in a food processor and pulse until coarse, should look a bit like rice. Transfer to a large bowl and add tamari, vinegar and salt. Also great with a cup or arugala or spinach mixed in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mushroom Pie and Chutney's Indian Restaurant

I've got a 2-in-1 post for you today...I've been slacking a little. I'll say this, breaking up is hard to do.

BUT, as the old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get cooking! I may have changed that just a bit ;-). I'm glad that I can make people happy through food!

First off, I want to review Chutney's Indian Restaurant. This little spot is right off SE 164th, so really close to my house. I've driven by it countless times, but I've honestly never been to an Indian restaurant, or had real Indian food for that matter. My mom and I had been wanting to try it, so, with my dad out at a golf tournament all day, Wednesday night seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

I'm happy to report that almost their entire regular menu is gluten free, with the exception of the naan dishes, since naan is an Indian bread. My biggest downfall there was tomatoes, but the server was so helpful and knowledgeable that it made it a lot easier on me. Then, the owner came out and told me he'd put together something special that combined what I wanted with what I could actually have.

The result was fantastic. They made me a rice crepe filled with a mixture of lamb, bell peppers, onions and spices. Oh my gosh it was so good. Plus you get lentil chips as a precursor to the meal, and those were awesome and edible for me as well. Everything seriously rocked. I was so happy with it that the owner asked if he should add the dish to the menu. I hope he does, I'll go back for that anytime! You've gotta check this place out, I had absolutely no complaints. They were fabulous.

Since I knew I'd be working all day Thursday and had Wednesday off, I decided to make dinner early to eliminate prep time on Thursday evening. I'm glad I did because this recipe takes about an hour to put together. I actually found this recipe in Living Without magazine probably a year ago. There was a profile on jenny McCarthy, who feeds her son a gluten and casein free diet to help with his autism. At the end, she shared a recipe for mushroom pie. We've been eating it ever since, but its not exactly the healthiest gluten free meal out there (rings in at about 571 calories a slice...yikes!!), so I decided to give it a Vitortarian makeover.

Mushroom Pie, my way

Namaste pie crust mix
8 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
1 cup chopped walla walla onion
1 tbsp. safflower oil
1/2 cup arugala
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 container Tofutti soy cream cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the pie crust mix according to the package, and set it aside, uncooked. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Saute the onions for about 1 minute, then add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add basil, arugala, and cream cheese and heat until cream cheese melts. Pour the filling into pie crust and bake for 45 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chicken Stir Fry with "Peanut" Sauce

When I started planning meals for this week, I knew today was going to be rough because my manager at Lingonberries asked me to close the store. I don't mind working later at all, but I knew my family would be more than ready to eat when I got home, so I had to be able to whip up something quick and easy.

On top of that, my sister surprised us all with a visit, so I found out I'd be cooking for her as well. Meaning, since she's the only family member free of any restrictions, I knew my cooking would have to be really good to impress her.

So, I figured, what's easier than throwing some pre-cooked chicken and a package of frozen stir fry veggies into a skillet? Normally, I'd use fresh, local, in-season vegetables for this stir fry, but like I said, I needed a quick fix. This is the perfect recipe to make if you are in a hurry or if you are starving and can't wait to eat.

The sauce was originally supposed to be a peanut sauce, but seeing as I can't eat peanuts, I decided to substitute almond butter instead. Just as I figured, it turned out great! True, I am a total almond butter addict, but I think even a peanut lover would enjoy this take on the classic sauce.

As usual, my family absolutely devoured this meal...another win for me!

Chicken Stir Fry with "Peanut" Sauce

1 large pre-cooked chicken breast, diced
1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. wheat-free tamari
1/4 c. unsweetened apple juice
1/4 c. almond butter
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken for about 1 minute. Add thawed vegetables and cook for about 3-4 more minutes. While the veggies cook, whisk together tamari, apple juice, almond butter, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Once veggies and chicken are heated through, add sauce to skillet and cook for about 1 minute. Serve hot over brown rice. I use Rice Expressions frozen rice packets because they cook in the microwave in 3 minutes and contain 3-4 servings a package. Throw in a side salad and you've got yourself a meal!!

Serves 4.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pasta Bean Soup with Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

When I was in Pullman, I did a Gallo wine sampling at a Taste of Home cooking show in Lewiston, ID. As a part of being there, I got a bag full of random stuff, including free issues of the Taste of Home cooking magazines. About a month ago, I went through and highlighted recipes I thought might be adaptable enough to try making. That's where this meal came from.

I was out walking with Meghan and Gorman (my big pup) and we got a little carried away, so I was super late starting dinner. I was a little worried that the recipes I picked out were going to take too long to make. Thankfully, my parents had a movie on, so they weren't in any hurry to eat.

The whole meal only took about a half hour; of course the chicken, broth and sweet potatoes were already cooked, so that made my life a lot easier. I'd recommend cooking a bunch of chicken and freezing it so you always have some on hand. Canned chicken breast also works if you're short on time, just make sure it's organic!! Same with chicken broth, its always better if you make it yourself, but make a huuuge batch then freeze it for future use.

Both recipes were a definite success, so I'm sharing them below. I also made gluten free, sugar free amaretto-hazelnut strawberry shortcake for dessert!

Pasta Bean Soup

1 cooked chicken breast, diced
1/2 Walla Walla sweet onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. safflower oil
4 c. homemade chicken broth
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup. gluten free pasta of your choice

In a large skillet, saute celery, chicken, onion and carrot in safflower oil over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan, add water, broth, beans, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add uncooked pasta and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Discard bay leaf, and serve. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes/yams
1/4 c. coconut milk
1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. Frank's hot sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut

Poke holes in sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave on high for 10-12 minutes, turning once. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and mash in a large bowl with coconut milk. Stir in the syrup, ginger, hot sauce, and salt. Add walnuts and coconut. Spoon filling into shells and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serves 4.

The Strawberry shortcake was easy. I just combined strawberries, a little stevia, amaretto and hazelnuts in the Cuisinart and poured the mixture over the shortcakes. I just use the Namaste Biscuit mix for the shortcakes, substituting stevia for the sugar. It is so easy to make and incredibly tasty! Plus, there is no added sugar in the whole thing, making it just about as healthy as dessert can get!

My family loved the whole meal, even my dad, who is still a bit hesitant about all the changes. It makes me feel great that my cooking tastes good even to those who don't have to follow the same restricted diet I do!

Hope you all had a wonderful fourth of July! More recipes to come!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The trick to green smoothies

I haven't been cooking much for the fam lately, as you've probably noticed by my lack of posts. We've been all over the place. Thursday night I went back to Dorio, my new favorite Greek place, and checked out their happy hour with my friend Kim. I got the hummus again, I can't get enough of that stuff. They don't have a whole lot of happy hour drink specials, but I tried this Greek white wine that is made from like the leftover wine on the walls of the barrel...I can't remember what its called but it was to die for. Kim got an "Aphrodite Sunrise", their happy hour cocktail, and that was pretty amazing as well. I just love that place.

Anyways, getting back on track here, I've been eating out a lot because my parents have been super busy and we haven't seemed to coordinate on dinner times so naturally, I'm not feeling as well as I could be. I keep reading about cleansing with green smoothies for breakfast on other blogs so I decided to give that a try; give myself a fresh start for the new month. So I put together a mix of watercress, celery, apple and flax; a recipe I'd seen on another blog. Um, no offense to that blogger, but it was absolutely terrible. I had to choke the thing down, all the while chewing on those nasty celery strings that didn't blend into the smoothie at all. It was a nightmare. BUT, I felt great! I made it through my intense morning workout with energy to spare and had such clarity of mind. So I know the green smoothies are a good thing, I just couldn't handle drinking them.

This morning I was making myself a normal fruit smoothie and noticed we had some kale that was starting to dry out a little. Oh yeah, I bought it for the green smoothies I was supposed to be making every day this week. Oops... Not knowing what else I was going to use the kale for (I hate letting fresh veggies go bad), I threw a few leaves into my smoothie, hoping it wouldn't totally ruin it. And guess what, not only did it not ruin it, it was actually really good! I totally tricked my taste buds into drinking a quasi-green smoothie!

Here's my recipe, I highly recommend trying it. Its a great way to get some greens in the morning without having to feel like you are eating veggies.

Green-ish Smoothie

1/2 c. frozen blueberries
1/2 c. frozen peaches
1/2 banana
1 tbsp. flax seed
3 kale leaves
2 tbsp. coconut milk
1 c. water
6 almonds

Mix ingredients together in a blender and enjoy! I like to sprinkle a little granola on the top of mine, gives it a little something to munch on while you are sipping away.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nut-tritious Pumpkin Seed Butter Blend (Includes Pesto Pizza Recipe)

One thing I love about working at Lingonberries is trying new products. This product isn't new to the store, but I had yet to try it, so I bought some last week.

Backtracking a little, I LOVE nut butters. Almond butter is an addiction for me, but I truly love it all. Nut-tritious is a local company that makes healthy nut butter blends. They make almond, cashew, and macadamia among others.

So the other day I picked up some pumpkin seed butter to eat with one of my indian lentil crepes (recipe can be found on the blog), and it was pretty awesome. Then, Christina mentioned it is good on pizza as a substitute for pesto. Since I can't eat tomato sauce, I'm always looking for new pizza recipes. Last night, we had a little girl's night at Jamie's, which included us making homemade pizza. I brought all my ingredients with me and decided to try out the pumpkin butter-as-pesto idea since I didn't feel like going through the trouble of making red pepper sauce.

I can't even begin to tell you how good this was! I never in a million years thought pumpkin seed butter would taste like pesto, but it really does! It's my new favorite pizza topper!

So here it is, my girls night "pesto" pizza recipe - even if you don't have food allergies, its one to try!

Nut-tritious Pesto Personal Pizza

Crust: Any pizza crust or crust mix of your choice

2 tbsp. Nut-tritious pumpkin seed butter blend
1/2 c. diced cooked chicken
1/4 c. chopped spinach
1/4 c. artichoke hearts
1/4 c. daiya cheese substitute

Spread the nut butter as best you can over warm crust (helps it melt a little). Add toppings, cheese going on the very top. Cook at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 1-2.