Contrary to popular belief, you CAN eat healthy without a regimen OR a recipe. They key is undergoing a kitchen makeover–and not the kind that involves new cabinets and upgraded appliances.
If you keep fresh, healthy foods in your refrigerator and pantry, you will have no choice but to concoct fresh, healthy meals. For example, with minimal creativity and ingredients I already had on hand, I threw together this roasted veggie and goat cheese fritatta.
First, I cut the beets, turnips, and onions into bite-sized pieces, and then I tossed them in a shallow baking dish with some olive oil and kosher salt. I put them in a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so, and then I threw them in a deep, nonstick skillet over medium heat. I poured almost an entire small carton of Egg Beaters (the equivalent of about 7-8 eggs) into the skillet and then scattered some chunks of goat cheese on top. I let the frittata cook until it was just about set, lifting up one side every so often to let uncooked portions touch the heat. Then, I placed the whole skillet (make sure it is oven-safe) under a broiler set to high. The result? A golden brown frittata with lots of wholesome, tasty goodness inside.
Shockingly, frittata leftovers reheat very well–just nuke them for about 30 seconds to take the chill off, then place them under a broiler until they just start to brown again.
What are your foolproof suggestions for eating healthy on the fly?
I love goat cheese. I mean, I love a lot of cheeses, let’s be real, but my love for goat cheese is almost as pure as my love for…I dunno…my boyfriend? My kitty cat? A cold beer? A perfectly shiny, good-tasting, and non-sticky lip gloss? Lemmonex (that’s right, lady, I love you like I love lip gloss)?
In any case, I had some goat cheese in the house, and I wanted to make sweet sweet love to it (read: scarf it down shamelessly) before my low fat diet really got rolling. So, I cooked and drained some rigatoni and then threw in the crumbled cheese to let it melt a bit. For some nutritional value (sadly, you cannot get all of your vitamins and minerals from goat cheese), I tossed in some raw baby spinach and just let the heat of the pasta wilt it down a bit. Finally, I sauteed some baby bella mushrooms in a separate skillet and then tossed them with my plated pasta (boyfriend does not like). Yum!
I don’t often improvise in the kitchen, despite pleas from others for me to do so. While I enjoy the structure of a recipe (and can always adapt it after experimenting and to suit my personal tastes), this delicious dinner reminded me that some of my tastiest kitchen triumphs have come when I just went with my instincts and rolled with the punches and the available ingredients. I encourage you all to ditch those cookbooks once in a while and trust yourselves to create great meals!
After splurging on some delicious morels at the Dupont farmers’ market, I decided to improvise with them instead of following a predetermined recipe. After much thought, I settled on a homemade morel alfredo sauce (which I served over store-bought whole wheat rigatoni).
I rinsed the morels and then sliced them, and then I set them aside while I minced some shallots and sauteed them in olive oil. Once the shallots were browned, I melted in a stick of butter and then added the morels. The smell was incredible–earthy, almost fishy, and very rich. I added a cup of heavy cream and some freshly grated parmesan cheese (I’d say at least a cup), and then I simmered the sauce until it was thick and creamy. I tossed in the cooked rigatoni, and voila! Savory mushroomy goodness.
At $12-$15 per pint, morels are certainly a special occasion treat for me. But, I really enjoyed this dish, and I will look forward to the next time I can make it with these rare and delicious fungi.
A while ago, Metrocurean posted a gorgeous picture of this recipe (from the blog of Marriott’s corporate chef). Asparagus? Good. Poached eggs? Good. FRIED poached eggs?!?! Goooooood.
Sadly, I was only halfway invested in this recipe last night–roasting the asparagus was no problem, and I definitely wanted to fry a couple of poached eggs, but I wasn’t in the mood to fiddle with the brown butter sauce. So, my end result didn’t photograph or taste nearly as lovely as Mr. Hotel Chef Man’s did. However, I did learn a few important things…
1) Asparagus is the bestest. I roasted mine (under a low broiler) in just some olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper, and they were delicious–soft, but not mushy, and bursting with flavor.
2) Poaching eggs is hard. I read somewhere that putting them in plastic wrap “sacs” (and then dunking them in boiling water) was the best method for cooking the whites all the way through AND keeping the spherical shape. Well, the whites were cooked all the way through, and the shape WOULD have been spherical–had half the whites not stuck to the plastic wrap. D’oh! Next time, I’ll be using some non-stick spray on those bad boys.
3) Frying poached eggs is even harder. Once the eggs were poached, I put the sacs in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make them easier to work with. After removing them from the plastic wrap, I coated them in an egg/milk mixture and then rolled them in seasoned breadcrumbs. This would have been a lot easier if half of the aforementioned whites hadn’t stayed with the plastic, making the yolk precariously exposed. Nothing burst, thank goodness, and I fried those suckers in olive oil until they were just golden brown.
4) There’s a reason this recipe called for a brown butter sauce. Even though the asparagus were flavorful and the eggs turned out to be rich and texturally interesting, there was definitely something missing. Next time, I’ll do what the Marriott chef says and attempt the whole shebang. In the meantime, here’s how it all looked–not half bad for a first effort!
When I got two lovely eggplants in my weekly produce delivery, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them–eggplant parmesan. Sure, it’s the obvious choice, and it doesn’t involve a lot of culinary creativity, but it’s one of my favorite dishes.
What I love about eggplant parmesan is that everyone makes it differently. Some people salt the eggplant, some people don’t. Some people slice it thin, some people prefer thick. Some people bake the whole shebang, and some people bread and fry the eggplant. The possibilities are endless, and each variety has its own special deliciousness.
For mine, I slice the eggplant in thick rounds–skin on–and then salt them for about an hour (this draws out the water and also prevents me from having to season much later). I dry the slices well, bread them in egg and Italian breadcrumbs, and pan fry them in olive oil until they’re browned but still fairly firm. Then, I layer a baking pan with, in order: sauce (usually canned, though one of these days I’m going to make homemade marinara and freeze it for just such an occasion), eggplant, grated parmesan cheese, and shredded or sliced mozzarella. Usually, I have two full sets of layers (either by using one large eggplant or two small ones), and the mozzarella always goes on top. Then, I bake everything at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and I finish under the broiler for a few minutes, just until the top layer of cheese is golden and bubbly.
How do you make YOUR eggplant parmesan?
It’s kind of like “Choose Your Own Adventure,” only with food.
Seriously, the lovely Lemmonex and I were chatting the other day about our dinner plans, and I was STARVING. I had ingredients for eggplant parmesan (to be covered in the next post), but I hadn’t yet salted the eggplant and I didn’t want to wait. So, I decided to improvise and make a big ol’ frittata.
There’s really no recipe to follow, because frittatas are SO easy. Decide on your ingredients, cook them (if necessary), add eggs and cheese, cook till the eggs are pretty much set, and then pop in the broiler to brown and finish.
In my case, I roasted the asparagus under the broiler with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, just until they started to soften. While that was going on, I caramelized a yellow onion (with high heat, butter, and a couple of teaspoons of sugar) and chopped some Canadian bacon. When the onions were ready, I transfered them to a bigger skillet and sauteed them with the asparagus and ham for a couple of minutes. I scrambled six large eggs and mixed in about a cup of fresh-grated Gruyere, and then I dumped it over the veggies in the skillet (which was over medium high heat). Every so often, I used a spatula to lift the edges and make sure that all of the eggs got some quality time with the surface of the hot pan. Once the top of the egg was nearly “jiggle-free” (very scientific, I know), I threw the pan under the broiler and let it get golden and bubbly. Voila!
If you can’t follow that impeccably researched “recipe” (ha ha), there are oodles of versions online and some tutorials to show you how it’s done (ah, the power of teh Google). If I do say so myself, my version was delicious–and it had enough protein oomph to fill me up all morning when I reheated it the next day for breakfast. Feel free to shoot me any questions!
Last week, my parents let me crash at their place, use their car, and generally disrupt their lives (hey, it’s what kids do, even when they’re all growed up). So, to thank them, I offered to cook them dinner one night while I was in town. My mom is somewhat persnickety about the ingredients she likes and dislikes, so I opted for a cavatappi with sauteed vegetables. There was a recipe that I started with (I believe it was from Regis Philbin’s wife, of all people), but I modified it so much and it was so easy that there’s really no point in digging around my luggage to find it. Basically, I sauteed the garlic, broccoli, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms in a little olive oil while the pasta cooked and the chicken browned; the “sauce” was nothing more than a little bit of dry white wine and some chicken broth. I added fresh chopped basil at the end–I think the original recipe called for dried, but that idea was wholly unacceptable to me. Oh, and I threw in some red pepper flakes for kick, but not nearly enough for my taste.
That’s the beauty of these simple pasta dishes–you can throw in whatever you like, omit whatever you don’t, and enjoy a home-cooked meal that is healthy and easy to prepare. And the leftovers were great!
The best part about federal holidays? The fact that neither my sweetie nor I have to work, which means that we can enjoy a tasty and leisurely breakfast. This past Monday, it was blueberry pancakes (with bananas, for me), soy sausage links, and hot, fresh-brewed coffee. It definitely gave us the stamina…to vigorously clean our apartment (you all have dirty minds, by the way)! Yum…
Courtesy of Serious Eats–you really don’t need a recipe for pan-seared pork chops or flavored butter, but here’s the one that inspired our spicy feast. Instead of simply salting and peppering the chops, I rubbed them with the leftover Essence spice mix from the weekend’s shrimp pasta. The result was a VERY spicy (but very delicious) meal, complete with boiled potatoes (with leftover chipotle butter, of course) and a crisp green salad. Easy and impressive!
Just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Food Rockz, who provided the inspiration for this delicious Christmas morning grub:
The recipe for breakfast risotto can be found here–I ended up ditching the poached eggs in favor of over medium (me) and scrambled with cheese (boyfriend), and I went with regular bacon instead of pancetta because my stupid local Safeway is woefully inadequate. Sure, there were no Italian meats in sight, but there was plenty of Scrapple!
I’ve extolled the virtues of risotto before, and this is a great version to start with if you’re interested in experimenting. It’s a wonderful palatte for whatever ingredients you have on hand! Enjoy…