Saturday, February 26, 2011

better-than restaurant pizza

This is more of a food-review than an actual recipe but I've just GOT to share our latest trick. We have been using Namaste Pizza Crust Mix for the past three years and while it's GOOD we thought perhaps we could try and make it better. So... we used it to make a "deep dish" pizza!

Here's what we did. Follow the directions on the baggie to make BOTH crusts at once. Then spread them in the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan & bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Take it out, top it with your favorite toppings, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes and voila! Deep-dish herbed crust! I wouldn't recommend this as a regular addition to the table as the calories & carbs must be positively astronomic. But for special occasions like today I'll make an exception.

Today is our 16th anniversary, and to celebrate we're indulging in our latest pizza of choice. Instead of traditional sauce, we used barbecue sauce! That and a little cheese made the zestiest, yummiest pizza I've had since... well, possibly ever! And it's so quick to make up that it's almost dangerously convenient.

Enjoy! In moderation, of course.

Friday, February 18, 2011

mmm, mmm - Minestrone!

I have been craving minestrone for a few weeks now. Not my usual quickie-minestrone, but the kind of simmering-for-hours minestrone that would welcome my husband the minute he opened the door, with a giant fragrant "hug." The kind that if I HAD an Italian grandmother she might bring over on days just like this when it's foggy & drippy, just to cheer me up.

Ahh well, with no Italian grandmothers popping up to claim me I'll just have to make my own soup.

I love to make soup on cold days. It's the only food I know that can be as fast or as slow-cooking as I choose, and come out "just right" every single time. Today I felt like taking my time, and oh am I glad that I did. This is rich, savory, and wonderful... yet there's nothing in it to make my tummy regret having come back for seconds. In a word, perfect.

To share in this wonderful perfection you will need:
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cup frozen green beans
1 14oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can white beans, drained & rinsed
8 cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (the ones I use are double-size; you want enough to equal 4 cups of broth)
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
8oz uncooked Tinkyada pasta (yep, I'm being brand-specific here on purpose... you don't want any leftovers turning to mush!)
and 1/4 cup fresh pesto

In a large pot, saute all of the raw veggies until the onion turns clear. Now add everything else EXCEPT the pasta & pesto. *For the best flavor turn the burner as low as it'll go, place a lid on the pot, and let it sit for four hours. (yes the crockpot would work fine, but I always double my soup recipes & my crockpot isn't big enough!) Give it a stir every once in awhile, but don't worry about diligence... this is a soup for sleepy days when you'd rather not spend all day in the kitchen but still want that cooked-all-day flavor! Twenty minutes before serving, add in the pasta & pesto and TURN THE STOVE OFF to let the pasta cook.

*Like most soups, you can speed this up when you're in a hurry. Just bring the heat up to a nice lively simmer, and cook for 30-45 minutes. It will be ALMOST as wonderful!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First Impressions - Egyptian Koshari

We have been working our way through the Mediterranean countries, trying new & exciting dishes. This was one that we have been putting off just because it sounded... well, so WEIRD!

Apparently Koshari is sold "everywhere" in Egypt by street-vendors, as well as being made at home as a comfort-food breakfast. Every site I looked at had a slightly different variation, which apparently is also customary. So in keeping with that, we took about two dozen versions & combined them to create our own last night.

After serving it up, we looked into our bowls & nearly lost our nerve. Not only had we mixed some VERY odd ingredients together, but it LOOKS funny too. Yet when we mustered up the courage to try it, we discovered a wonderful treat. My daughter, who absolutely hates lentils, came back for seconds. My husband insisted we make it again - the very next day. And my son is discussing mix-ins to make interesting variations. It might not look all that great, and it sounds positively crazy - but Koshari gets eight thumbs up in our house!

To make OUR version, you will need:

1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
6 cups water
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups cooked macaroni elbows (we used Ancient Harvest Quinoa elbows this time!)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
and 1 tsp chili powder

In a medium saucepot, bring water to boil, then add lentils salt & pepper and let simmer for 25 minutes. Add rice, and let simmer 25-35 minutes until rice is cooked & water is gone. While the rice is cooking, saute onions & garlic in olive oil. Add tomatoes & chili powder, and let simmer until rice is cooked. Mix lentil-rice mixture, cooked pasta AND tomato-mixture all together, and serve hot.

For a quick & tasty dessert, we decided to make up some rolled dates. No recipe needed, all we did for this was pit fresh medjool dates & run them through the food processor, then roll little balls of the date-mush in shredded coconut. These babies are quick, raw, tasty, and positively addictive. Honestly, I like them ALMOST as much as dark-chocolate truffles.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

新年快樂 (Happy Chinese New Year!)

I love celebrations, but I think I enjoy planning new foods for celebrations just as much!

The Chinese New Year didn't mean much to me until the day my daughter was born ON the Chinese New Year, in the year of the dragon. My husband worked with several Hmong women at the time, and they went out of their way to congratulate us & tell us how lucky we were. Now at her insistence we usually try a handful of new Asian foods throughout the month of February.

Today I am introducing the family to a treat I've had just once, when I was eight years old. It's Vietnamese, and was served at a Chinese New Year party by a family of brand-new immigrants from Vietnam. It's called Ce Chuoi, and is positively dreamy. It incorporates several of my favorite non-chocolate dessert ingredients, and cooks up in minutes. Bananas, coconut milk & tapioca pearls blend together to create a creamy, dreamy dessert that's just as good hot as cold. And just in case that doesn't tempt you... it's vegan!

For this recipe you will need:

one 14oz can coconut milk
two cups water
1/2 cup tapioca pearls
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
and 4 bananas, sliced

*After trying it my family informed me that 1/2 cup sugar might be better... it was not quite sweet enough for them, even though I liked it as-is.

Bring the milk & water to boil. Reduce heat and add tapioca & sugar. Let boil until the pearls become translucent. If you're using regular pearls, this will take about 15 minutes. If you can only find the minute-pearls, it's only going to take 1-2 minutes so stay by the stove stirring constantly! Turn off the stove, and stir in the vanilla. To serve, divide the bananas equally between your serving-cups, and spoon the pudding over them. If desired, you CAN sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish. (I didn't, but it's traditional!)

This can be served hot as a thick soup-like dessert, OR you can serve it chilled. It will thicken as it cools to more of a pudding. Enjoy!