Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grilled Portabella Burgers

I love a good grill-out. With the advent of the summer grilling season upon us, and especially with Memorial Day weekend mere days, no hours, away, I share with you my favorite way to grill up Portabella Mushrooms.

A few tips: first, take a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, combined with a pinch of salt and pepper, and season your caps. How much exactly? Hmm...sort of like this:

Let the caps sit while you prepare the grill and the other parts of your dinner, so the flavors marinate a bit.

Grill or broil your caps over medium heat. You don't want the outside of the caps to be charred and the inside raw and uncooked. About 5-6 minutes per side at medium heat is a good bet.

As far as the bun, there are two camps: toasted vs. untoasted. I usually lean toward a toasted bun for my burgers, and with these caps, it is no different.

It is the toppings for these Portabella Burgers that you must try: thinly sliced red onion, roasted red or yellow peppers and goat/blue (take your pick!) cheese. I've tried many a combo and in my humble opinion, this is the best.

Hope you enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend and the realization that oh-my-goodness the summer is really upon us!

Life is sweet-

Monday, May 24, 2010

(not so) Little R's big weekend

R had a big weekend. He lost his first tooth Friday night which led to his first visit from the Tooth Fairy. Note to parents of young children--be prepared for an early wake-up when you leave money for your child in their tooth fairy pillow. R came into our room early Saturday yelling, "look what I found under my pillow!!!"

Later on Saturday, the Sweet Peas headed to our town's Spring Fling, which included a "Touch a Truck" event and a raffle.

Who was the first winner of the raffle? R! He won tickets to a Columbus Clipper game, about which he is thrilled.

After a quick T-ball game, we were off to Cabo Cantina for R's victory dinner for winning our family's March Madness bracket competition. It was a perfect night, dining outdoors beside the Scioto River, eating some really wonderful Mexican food.

Sunday was beautiful, a summer-y, sunshine-y day completed with a grill-out dinner at our neighbor's house. A perfect close to a nearly perfect weekend.

I'm doing my best to soak this all in because after a jaunt to visit some family, we'll be participating in "Pack-a-thon 2010." We're moving in mid-June and while I am not exactly looking forward to the move, at least this time my pregnant belly won't be cramping my packing style.

Our meals for the week are heavy on the "easy," light on the "time in the kitchen." A couple salads, grilled fish, etc.

Hope your week starts off sweet-

Friday, May 21, 2010

Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas

My boys eat a lot of burritos, tacos, enchiladas and the like. They absolutely love Mexican food and I love that burritos and tacos are really good hiding places for healthy food spiced up to taste so good the boys forget to pick out the "what's this?" pieces of food.

We had never made tostadas, so I developed this version that was a big hit with the boys, SPH and I. I called the tostadas "giant chip tacos" and added my own barbecue twist to a traditional Mexican tostada. The result? A definite make-again healthy dinner that lead to all four of us being inducted into the clean plate club.

Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas

2 - 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (or so) corn
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup salsa
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
10 corn tortillas
1-2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
1 avocado, sliced thin

Preheat the oven broiler.

Mix the black beans, corn, red onion, cilantro, cumin, salt, ground pepper, salsa and barbecue sauce in a bowl. Set aside.

Place 5 corn tortillas on a baking pan and put under the broiler for minute or two, or until they are slightly golden. Flip and repeat, but only leave the tortillas on this side for one minute, as you will return them to the broiler with the topping. Remove from the oven.

Top each tortilla with about 1/3 cup of the black bean mixture and a sprinkle of cheese. Return to the broiler for a minute to heat the black beans and melt the cheese.

Remove from the broiler and top with a couple avocado slices.

The slight barbecue taste of the black bean mixture blends beautifully with the avocado and crisp tortilla. We'll be making these "giant chip tacos" again soon!

Hope your weekend is sweet-

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Processed Meats and BPA

A busy week here, but I had to share two food news' stories from this week.

First, we don't do a lot of processed meats in the Sweet Pea home, and if we do an occasional sausage, it is always nitrate-free. Nitrates are on my "UFI" list, and with a family history on SPH's side that includes pancreatic cancer, we just don't need them in our diet. But here's more research to support nixing nitrate-ridden processed meats from your diet.

Pregnant? Here's more research that perhaps canned foods, which often use BPA in their can liners, are something you should avoid. Read this article on why pregnant women in particular should avoid canned foods with BPA.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Kickin' it old school

They accepted our offer (after a couple counter-offers), so come about the time of our 10th wedding anniversary next month, we'll be closing on our new home.

I'm excited and overwhelmed, as I think this move is going to bring forth great things. As we begin the inspections-appraisal-loan-closing-packing-moving process, I'll do my very best to keep up on this blog. Perhaps a "how to purge your pantry and freezer before a move" post is in order.

But for now, a little bit of fun is in order...and nothing like kickin' old school at an 80s party.

How'd we look? I think our friend B's sweatshirt sums it up:

(the faces have been obscured to protect the innocent)

Suffice it to say, we had a good time.

And now, our meals for the week:

Homemade Falafel, Tzatziki, Roasted Zucchini and Mint
Grilled Chicken Sausage, Collards, Corn Casserole
Grilled Portabella "Burgers," Braised Red Cabbage, Berries (we're on a big berry kick)
Tuna Pasta Salad

Have a sweet week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Berry Pavlova


We put an offer in on House B, and now the waiting to see if they accept, counter or reject our offer has begun.

So to fill the time as I wait, how about another dessert recipe?

I made this recipe for our Supper Club last weekend, an amazing Russian meal. This recipe is named for a Russian ballet dancer, and true to its inspiration, it is light as air.

If you can whip egg whites, you can make this recipe. It is impressive to look at (like a ballet dancer), but deceptively simple to make. I added a little Sweet Pea touch and drizzled melted chocolate on top. Yum.

Berry Pavlova with Fresh Whipped Cream and a Chocolate Drizzle

4 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon orange extract or orange zest (optional)
1 cup fresh berries
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a mixer until just stiff. To know if the egg whites are whipped sufficiently, when you pull the mixer out of the whites, they should form and keep in the shape of peaks.

Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing briefly between each addition of sugar. Fold in the vanilla and cornstarch.

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment (if you use parchment, crumble it and then lay it flat--the slightly crumbled, uneven surface of the parchment will make it easier to remove the pavlova once cooked) or a Silpat liner, pour the egg white mixture in a 8-9 inch circle, using a spatula to shape. Create a slight indentation in the middle, sort of like a shallow bowl shape, so you will have space to place the whipped cream and fruit.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown.

Let cool and place on a serving platter.

When ready to serve, make the whip cream: make sure your bowl and mixer attachments are cold to help ensure good whipping of the cream. Whip the cream and orange (if using) until stiff and spread on top of the pavlova. Top with fresh berries.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, cooking for 30 second intervals on high and stirring between each interval until chocolate is fully melted.

Drizzle chocolate on top and serve.

Serves 6, maybe 8, if you are feeling generous.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Ch-ch-ch Changes

We're all about change these days in the Sweet Pea home.

R's got his first loose tooth (*finally*--my late-tooth-bloomer has patiently watched every. single. friend. lose teeth), and for some reason this is hitting me with a lot of "whoa, he really isn't little any more." So we're officially on Tooth Watch 2010.

Add to the tooth drama, lots of house selling and house hunting drama. We've sold our house and though this move will keep us within the same school system rather than take us across several states, the drama is that SPH and I are just not sure which home, let's call them A and B, to choose. Even as I type, I have the pictures, stats and realtor remark sheets on A and B to my immediate side. I'm thinking B will win out, but either way we have got to choose quickly or we'll be hitting up friends for a place to stay...(you've been warned!)

With all this change and drama, I think G has the right idea...go to the playground, consume yourself with joy and just enjoy life:

Thanks G, for keeping things in perspective!

With our upcoming move, I've been trying to incorporate as many pantry/freezer items into our weekly meals as possible, just to winnow down our food supply before the move.

Our meals for the week:
Vegetable Lasagna, Baked Apples
Tomato/Pizza Soup (perfect for a rainy day like tomorrow)
Asian Salmon Burgers, Asian Peanutty Noodles
Olive Olive Enchiladas
Seared Scallops, Green Beans, Berries

Have a great week!

PS--Did anyone catch the front page of the Columbus Dispatch this AM?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chocolate Oat Cake

It's been awhile since I posted a chocolate recipe, which is really too bad. I love chocolate. But what I love even more is a chocolate recipe that I can pass off as being somewhat redeeming.

This homemade chocolate cake has a secret ingredient: oatmeal. Actually, I guess it isn't so much of a secret since it is named Chocolate Oat Cake. But call it whatever you want, it is delicious, simple to make, and yes, even somewhat redeeming. However, don't assume the oatmeal makes this chocolate recipe taste like health food. It is full-on decadent and rich, a Sweet Pea family favorite.

I have my Aunt Susan to thank for this recipe. She made it all the time growing up (she lived one street over from my house) and while this is the simplified version, she often added chopped walnuts and powdered sugar on top.

Chocolate Oat Cake

1 cup quick or old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the oatmeal and boiling water. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars, then add eggs and beat well. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Lastly, add the oatmeal and mix until just combined.

Spread into a 9 x 13 greased pan and sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts (if using) on top. Gently "pat" the chips and nuts into the batter.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Makes 18 servings.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mater Paneer

I never tried Indian food until I was in my early 20s, and once I did, I was hooked. I love the complex flavors and intricate spice profiles of Indian food. Trouble is, when you try to cook Indian food, the methods, ingredients and descriptions are quite different than Western recipes. But I am stubborn, so I kept on keepin' on and came up with this (slightly Western-ized, but still authentic) version of my favorite Indian dish, Mater Paneer.

Mater Paneer is a dish of paneer (a firm Indian cheese), cooked in a tomato sauce with peas (mater). But to try and describe the flavors without ever having tasted them is challenging at best, like trying to describe a particular color to someone born blind.

So throw your food inhibitions aside and try this dish. It pairs perfectly with rice, couscous or another grain.

Mater Paneer

15-20 cashews
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup water
2-3 cups frozen peas
8 ounces paneer (Indian cheese)

Combine the cashews and hot water in a small bowl, set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the canola oil to medium high and add the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic and ginger, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, coriander, garam masala, cumin, cayenne and turmeric and cook for 5-6 minutes. Let cool a bit.

Combine the tomato mixture and cashews in a food processor or blender until well blended.

Return to the skillet and add the water and peas and cook until the peas are no longer firm.

Cube the paneer cheese into 1/2 cubes, and add to the mixture. Heat until the cheese is warmed, and serve immediately, over rice or couscous.

Serves 4.


PS--Turmeric? Garam Masala? Paneer? Yeah, I know, probably not things in the typical pantry. So either go out and find some at your local Indian/International grocery store (Bhavani is my local favorite, for all you Columbus folks) or hit up a friend. Side note: I have a fair amount of these spices for any local friends who want to try some...

Monday, May 3, 2010

The New Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group updated their "Dirty Dozen" list last week, the list of 12 produce items you should buy organic due to their high pesticide residue:

The 2010 Dirty Dozen
  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes (Imported)
(FYI, lettuce, carrots and pears were formerly on this list...they have been booted by blueberries, spinach and potatoes)

In doing a little research for this post, I found a great blog post to help decipher the best way to clean produce before you eat it: "8 Ways to Wash an Apple."

On the flip side, here is the current Clean Fifteen, 15 produce items with usually low pesticide residue levels:

Clean Fifteen

1. Onions
2. Avocados
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet Peas
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
12. Watermelon
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet Potatoes

Using these two lists can help you target your grocery dollars to make effective organic food choices.

Speaking of choices, here are our meal choices for the week:

Broccoli Fritatta, Whole Wheat Toast, Blackberries
Shrimp and Grits with Romesco Sauce, Asparagus
Black Bean Tostadas, Sliced Avocado, Green Chili Rice
Grilled Lemon Garlic Halibut, Tzatziki, Greek Salad

Have a sweet week-