jicama-lime slaw

Summer seems to be upon us here in Arizona, even though I think spring only officially got started a couple of weeks ago.  So, with temps in the 90s, and our grill performing its usual work-horse duties, I wanted a side that could herald summer.  Spring is fleeting.  Summer, well that just seems to go on forever.

I have my faithful stand-by recipes, but I like to experiment early in the season to find out if there’s anything worth making for upcoming picnics, get-togethers with friends, etc.  And I’m always enticed by oft-overlooked veggies.  Like the jicama, for instance.  You can find them in pretty much any grocery store, but it’s rare you see recipes calling for this uber-nutritious, fibrous root veggie.  And I’m surprised it took me this long to think of it as perfect for cole slaw.  The flavor and texture are spot on – crisp and sweet, somewhere between a water chestnut and a pear.  The jicama’s flavor is enhanced by the lime and doesn’t give way to sogginess when the dressing is applied.

If you’ve looking for a change of pace from a traditional mayo-based slaw, this one is perfect.  It’s tangy, zesty, and perfectly fresh for summer.  Enjoy!

 

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Jicama-Lime Slaw (recipe adapted from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
  • 1 c green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well.  Set aside. t
  2. Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw mixture and toss well to coat.
  4. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I was in time-saving mode, so I grabbed a bag of pre-shredded cabbage in the produce aisle.  Turns out it was the angel hair variety, so a bit too flimsy for my taste, but worked fine.  Next time I’ll either shred my own or make sure I buy a thicker shred.

 

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tilapia tacos with fresh tomato salsa

It seems lately I’m ever so slightly bordering on obsessed with fish tacos.  I’ve pinned ump-teen recipes to my Pinterest board, I’ve bookmarked a bunch in my favorites bar, and I’ve cooked them…a lot…recently.  If there’s any kind of taco I’m happy to eat, it’s fish.  Don’t get me wrong.  It would be my worst nightmare to be served up a plate of Rubio’s fish tacos and ordered to eat!  First, it’s a chain restaurant and fast food, at that.  Second, while I understand it’s a popular place for fast (see above) fish tacos, crunch the numbers on the Original Fish Taco (2 taco plate) and you’ll devour 620 calories, 360 or which are from fat, 40 grams of fat, 50 mg of cholesterol, and 780 mg of sodium.  Which is why I make them myself.

Being able to control portion size and ingredients is a huge deal.  And, believe me, it doesn’t have to be breaded and deep-fried in artery-clogging oil to taste good.  This recipe is the perfect example of how a variety of spices and minimal oil can come together to create a mouth-watering meal without all the fat and calories that come standard at your local fast food taco joint.  This recipe went together really fast.  I made the rub ahead of time and refrigerated it for a couple of hours.  The recipe doesn’t say you need to do that, but I thought the fish had a truly developed flavor because it had been resting in the spices for a longer period of time.

The salsa was bright and lively, too.  I threw on some fresh cilantro from our garden just before serving, and gave an extra squeeze of lime juice, too.  Low-fat and delicious.  So much better than fast food.  Enjoy!

2014-02-25

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Tilapia Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa (recipe courtesy ActivewearUSA)

Taco Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • ½ pound tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the herb and spice mix into a resealable plastic  bag.  Add the tilapia fillets and shake until the fish is completely covered.  Set aside to infuse with flavor.
  2. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil into a pan over medium heat and add the onion and corn.  Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, or until the onion is soft and the corn begins to blacken.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch.
  4. Remove the tilapia fillets from the Ziploc bag and place them into the pan, using a spatula or spoon to divide the fish into bite-sized pieces as the fish cooks.  Place a lid on top of the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring half way through.
  5. While the fish is cooking, prepare the salsa by roughly chopping the tomatoes and onion into small pieces.  Add them to a bowl with the minced garlic, lime juice, red wine vinegar and coriander, stirring until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When the fish is solid white and flaky, warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave.
  7. Divide the tilapia, onion and corn mixture evenly between them. Serve immediately with salsa for topping.

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white bean dip with rosemary and sage

Well, hello there,  2014!!!  By my calculations, I’m only about two weeks late to the party, but, hey…life has a way of being lived sometimes and I have to admit there’s been little time for cooking AND photographing.  Just cooking, lately, and Brownie meetings to supervise, and piano lessons to patiently sit through, and puppy obedience classes to attend.  Also, believe it or not, it gets dark really early this time of year in the desert.  By 5:30, if I haven’t cooked, plated, and photographed, there’s just not enough natural light.

Ahhh, excuses, excuses, excuses.  Enough of that, on to the bean dip.

I made this for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012.  It was a huge hit with our guests and, even though it was just going to be the three of us this year (one of whom wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole), I decided to do it again for our New Year’s Day feast.  We already had too much food, but this dip is so good (and gets better with each passing day), I was happy to have the leftovers for some post-celebration snacking.  It’s low in fat, high in flavor (lots of garlic goodness), and a good source of protein and fiber from the beans.  It’s also really fast and easy to assemble.  Put it together the day before you plan to serve it for maximum flavor mingling!  (I hear there’s a big football game in the not-too-distant future).  Serve with the crackers or crudités of your choice.  Enjoy!!

White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, Aug 2007)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh sage sprig (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with pita wedges crackers, fresh veggies. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

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cucumber peanut salad

Labor Day weekend is fast approaching and we’re having guests for dinner, so I’m experimenting with some new salads.  This one hit the spot.  It’s picnic or barbecue  perfect, has great flavor, texture, appearance, and goes together super fast.  The original recipe called for an English Cucumber, but the ones in the store were so enormous I opted for a package of mini cucumbers, instead.  I actually think they were more colorful, too; the green being brighter and more cheerful.  Because a cheerful salad is a delicious salad, right?

Adapt as you please.  With the exception of the delicious dressing (lime juice and a little brown sugar) this isn’t one of those stuffy recipes where a minor change will make any difference in the finished product.  Enjoy…and have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

2013-08-26

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Cucumber Peanut Salad (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Directions:

  1. Combine cucumber, onion, lime juice, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle evenly with peanuts.
  2. Step 2?  There is no Step 2.  So easy.  Serve and enjoy!

Serves four.

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***Cook’s Notes:  The peanuts make this a salad you either have to finish the day you make it, or eat any leftovers within a day.  They don’t hold up well refrigerated and stored in the dressing.  So eat it all up, or make sure you eat the remaining salad within 24 hours.

marcella hazen’s four ingredient tomato sauce

I’m not a superstitious person.  Breaking mirrors?  Walking under ladders?  Black cats crossing my path?  Pppplllbbbhhhh…..whatever!

I do, however, believe in signs.  Ok, this might sound freaky, but when my dad passed away suddenly 16 years ago, my contact lenses would consistently be in the wrong compartments.  You know, the left would be in the right and the right in the left.  I wouldn’t notice, obviously, until I put them in my eyes.  But it occurred more than regularly.  It was incredibly frequent, in fact.  Now, I know it’s possible I was simply rattled by the sudden death of my dad and grief can make us absent-minded, but, really – I’m sure it was a sign.  A little, humorous calling card from Dad that everything would be alright.

When my mom passed away suddenly right after Thanksgiving 2011, I had a house full of people at her home in Michigan for most of a week.  My mom’s alarm clock never went off during that week.  The first morning I was alone in the house, after all the guests and family were gone, the alarm clock went off!  It still gives me chills.  Call me crazy, but that was a sign!!!  Everything’s gonna be alright.

So….the long and short of it, when this recipe appeared in different searches, and different websites three times over the course of a week, well, that’s a sign:  Make This Sauce And Everything Will Be Alright!

Friday night I was short on time because Kat had been at a friend’s house after school, and the weather was crazy: rain, hail, high winds, flooded washes (desert living at its best).  Since my pantry is always stocked with canned tomatoes of some variety or another, butter, kosher salt, and onions, this was my go-to meal plan.

Yes, you heard me:  canned tomatoes, butter, kosher salt, and an onion.  Sounds like it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, but don’t let minimalist fool you.  This sauce is spectacular!  Maybe it’s the butter, but it was intensely creamy and delicious and savory, with great depth of flavor.  And it took me all of three minutes to put in the pan (only because I had to photograph it), and 45 minutes to simmer.  Life doesn’t get more alright than this.  Enjoy!

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Marcella Hazen’s Four Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Recipe Courtesy Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, no salt or herbs added
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half
Kosher salt

To serve
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, butter, onion halves, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat. Crush the tomatoes lightly with the back of a spoon as they cook, and stir occasionally. Simmer very gently for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat appear on the surface of the tomatoes. Remove and discard the onion.

Serve over hot pasta with Parmesan and black pepper, if desired.

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Cook’s Notes:  I also smashed a great, big garlic clove and let it steep with the tomatoes and onions, as well.  And, as you’ll see from the pics, I didn’t use canned plum tomatoes, either.  I used what I had on hand and the sauce was wonderful.  Next time I’ll probably try it with the plum tomatoes and see if “wonderful” could somehow be transformed to “out-of-this-world.”  Not that it matters much.  Wonderful is pretty darn good in my book!

simple spinach fritatta

If you give my kid the chance to pick dinner it’s either going to be one of two things; homemade mac and cheese, or “Brinner.”  Brinner, you ask?  What the heck is that??  Well, it only takes a little stretching of the imagination to take Brunch (breakfast for lunch) and turn it in to Brinner: breakfast for dinner.

I don’t mind breakfast for dinner.  It’s the sort of brain-dead dinner plan I can get into given I cook every night of the week.  We’re not big fans of eating out, so I have to be on my game planning meals every. single. day.  And, that, fair readers (or, reader, if you will), is a boat load of work.  But, while Brinner is always pleasing to a seven-year-old palate, that doesn’t hold true for her daddy.  After a long day at work, pancakes don’t cut it.  Honestly, neither do scrambled eggs, especially since he’s working on lowering his cholesterol through diet and exercise.  Nothing says, “I love you like a heart attack,” than a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon for dinner.

Which is where the adapted fritatta comes in.  It’s scrambled eggs only…fancy!  It’s also a dish that’s a completely a blank canvas.  You make it whatever you want it to be.  The original recipe called for lots of fresh eggs but I chose cholesterol-free Egg Beaters.  You want onion?  Add onion.  You like yours with a little meat?  Add some turkey sausage or diced ham or leftover shredded chicken.  I kept this one vegetarian because that’s what I had on hand.

It certainly felt more like a meal than a plate of plain-Jane scrambled eggs and hubby gave it great reviews (with a splash of hot sauce).  Next time I might man it up for him a little more with some meat, but even meatless it was delicious.  Enjoy!

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Simple Spinach Fritatta (recipe adapted from Love & Lemons)

Ingredients:

  • 1 carton egg substitute (I used Egg Beaters Original)
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind, I used 1% low fat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup (or so) scallions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
  • pinch of paprika or other spices you like (totally optional)
  • chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (also optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (preheat a cast iron skillet in it if you like)

Combine Egg Beaters, milk, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and any spices you want to add.  Whisk together until well combined.  Add spinach, scallions, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.   Mix gently.

Pour the whole mixture into your cast iron skillet.  Shred cheese on top and bake in the oven until it puffs up and becomes golden brown. I used an 8″ skillet and cooked them for about 28 minutes. You can eyeball it here or poke at it a bit until your eggs are firm and cooked.

Let cool then slice and serve.

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white beans with swiss chard and rice

 Any chance I have to make soup, I do.  The soup season here in the desert is short, to say the least.  What’s the old phrase?  Make hay while the sun shines?  Well, I make soup while the sun doesn’t shine.  Or, at least when it doesn’t shine so intensely.

This last week has been an amazingly cold, freakishly wintry stretch of weather.  Oh, I know we’re not buried in 19 inches of the white stuff.  But we’ve had frost, freeze advisories, and frozen fountains.  My winter wear of choice is a toasty, down-filled Patagonia beauty.  I generally wear it twice a year: once during our Michigan adventure after Christmas, and once if we head to the mountains in northern and/or eastern Arizona to get in some sledding or skiing.  I had never, until this last week, worn it in The Valley of the Sun.

If that’s not soup making weather, I don’t know what is.  I found this recipe in the New York Times about a year ago.  It is probably the heartiest, healthiest, most comforting bowl of soup I’ve ever made.  The original recipe doesn’t call for rice, but the rice bulks it up a bit and gives it a stew-like quality.  Also, I used red swiss chard which gave my broth a deeper, richer color.  And, although the original recipe called for 2 quarts of water, I subbed in 2 quarts of chicken stock.  To keep it a purely vegetarian meal, use water or vegetable stock.

This recipe is sure to satisfy your belly on a cold winter day and warm you from the inside out.  Enjoy!

White Beans with Swiss Chards and Rice

(Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, Recipes for Health)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound Swiss chard (1 small bunch)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound (1 1/8 cups) white beans, washed and picked over
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Parmesan rind (optional but recommended)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup rice (I used a Texmati blend)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • A few drops of fresh lemon juice (optional)
 Directions:

1. Stem the Swiss chard, and wash both the stems and the leaves in at least two changes of water until thoroughly clean. Dice the stems if they’re wide, and set aside. Stack the leaves and cut in wide ribbons or chop coarsely. Set aside separately from the stems.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion and diced chard stems. Cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, about five minutes. Add half the garlic, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant. Add the beans, bay leaf, Parmesan rind (tie the bay leaf and rind together with a kitchen string to make retrieval easier) and 2 quarts chicken stock. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour. Add the remaining garlic and salt to taste, and simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour until the beans are tender.

3. Add the rice and pepper, and simmer 15 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir in the chard leaves, and simmer another five to 10 minutes until the chard is tender but still bright. The mixture should be soupy but thick. Season to taste with salt and fresh black pepper. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice — 2 to 3 teaspoons — if desired, and serve in wide soup bowls.