Monday, January 28, 2013

Meatless Monday: when a frittata is in order

Happy Meatless Monday! Even restaurants have jumped on the MM bandwagon, featuring a special Monday-only meatless menu. It's a good idea to go meatless most days, but in the name of marketing, Monday stuck. Here's a fab frittata recipe for you to try:

You'll need:

5 eggs plus three egg whites, beaten (can do all egg whites)
1-ounce Parmesan, grated
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch salt

2 teaspoons butter
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (purple, red or Yukon gold work well)
About 10-12 of your favorite mushrooms, quartered into rustic chunks
3-4 stalks of
asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces (or 1/2 of a medium zucchini, cut into rustic chunks)
3 green onions or one medium shallot

2 small Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves

To make:

Preheat oven to broil setting.

In medium size bowl, using a fork, blend together eggs, Parmesan, pepper, and salt. Heat 12-inch non-stick, oven safe saute pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp. butter to pan and melt. Add mushrooms and asparagus (and shallot, if using); saute for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. 

Melt the remaining 1 tsp. butter (or less) in pan. Add sliced potatoes, covering bottom of pan and going up sides a bit. When light brown, flip potatoes and let them brown on the other side. Add back in the veggies, then carefully pour egg mixture into pan and stir with rubber spatula. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the egg mixture has set on the bottom and begins to set up on top. Sprinkle with parsley. Optionally, add more cheese to top.

Place pan into oven and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned and fluffy. Remove from pan and cut into 6 servings. 

Feel free to switch up the vegetables around a theme (Southwest, curry, herbs and greens) - the possibilities are endless!

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Why the dog is still worth it

This is Cowboy Jack. He's a blue merle Sheltie who adopted us about four and a half years ago. We're the happier for it, despite the onslaught of furballs that effortlessly scuttle across the floor like soft tumbleweeds. 

Originally, Jack joined the family on the occasion of Greg's daughter's birthday in 2001. The runt of the litter, he was one of two puppies who managed to not drown in tropical storm Allison. The rest were swept away.

Cowboy Jack maintains that 'survivor' demeanor, a sweet temperament and a Facebook account, but our furry friend has become decidedly high maintenance. 

He has arthritis. 

He has a heart murmur. 

He wheezes like a steamboat.
He has nearly permanent skin allergies. 

And he suffers from kidney disease. So, Jack gets an IV every few days, prescription renal modified food, phosphorous blocker and acid controller. I roast chicken for him constantly. 

Despite all of this upkeep, that smelly old thing is still worth it. Even on the really bad days. Because, to a dog, there is no such thing as a bad hair day. And they just want to love and be loved. 

Do you have a beloved pet? To what extreme would you go for your non-human friend?

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Spicy crispy roasted kale

When living in England, I'd love ordering the crispy seaweed featured on the menu of nearly every Chinese restaurant. It was umami goodness, and fun to eat! The only possible downside was that the probability of ghastly green bits clinging to your smile afterwards hovered at about 43%. 

It was about a year later that I learned crispy seaweed isn't really seaweed at all - it was KALE. And back then, kale was hardly popular. In fact, any kale not consumed through a Chinese restaurant was probably lining a serving platter at a hotel, providing an ornamental buffer between the tray and fruits or cheeses or vol-au-vents. 

Now that we've discovered that a superfood in what was a coy backdrop, it's nice to have a few go-to recipes to give this leafy veg a starring role on the plate. Here's one that is consistently a hit. Make it right before you're ready to enjoy it. 

Spicy Crispy Roasted Kale

  • 1 bunch of your favorite kale
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • About a Tbsp of olive oil

To make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Mix spices in small bowl or zipper bag. 

Wash and pat dry kale. Shred into large bite-sized pieces in a large bowl. Add a small amount of olive oil to coat, then add spice mixture and mix well. Add more oil if needed.

Spread out onto a large baking sheet in one layer. 

Roast for 7-9 minutes, mixing it once during roasting to redistribute. Kale should be crunchy and light (since you're baking out the moisture). 

This is a great side for a lobster bake, anything with potatoes, or mac and cheese. 

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Labor of love: roasted butternut squash lasagne

It all started with an innocuous instant message. "Ping - hey, W., do you have a good vegetarian entree idea I could make for the family? Nothing too spicy. Just good." 

"Oh, there is this great butternut squash lasagne I made a while ago - I remember it was really great."

A short while later, I'd looked up said recipe and the reviews to see how to modify it. Many said it was time-consuming but yummy. Okay, no worries. 

What was I thinking? On the plus side, everyone gave it a big thumbs-up. On the minus side, I spent about three hours making this thing. I had to restrain myself from polishing off a bottle of wine while cooking, just to cope with the number of pots and pans this lasagne generates and the waning daylight.

If you want to really impress both the herbivores and omnivores in your life, this is it. Just be patient. Really patient. 

Note: I modified the original recipe from Epicurious to make it fill a 10"x15" pan. The recipe is for a 9"x13" and uses 9 lasagna noodles, and doesn't include onions or spinach. All I changed to make it for a bigger pan was to use 12 noodles, and added spinach and onions.  
Weigh the butternut squash when purchasing

What you need:
  • 3 medium onions
  • An 11-oz. package of baby spinach (the big box, preferably organic)
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, quartered, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 9 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    1/2 stick (1/4 cup) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 12 sheets dry no-boil lasagne pasta (7- by 3 1/2-inch)     
  • 1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper 
  • Dash of nutmeg

To make:

Make rosemary infusion: put milk and rosemary in a medium pot, and simmer on very low for about an hour. More time, more flavor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.

Caramelize onions: peel and halve the onions, slicing into 1/8" slices. Heat a medium size covered pot on medium-low; melt 2 tablespoons of butter and optionally a slosh of olive oil. Throw in the onions and let them cook for about 45 minutes until medium brown, stirring every few minutes so they don't burn. Add a dash of salt and pepper about halfway through cooking.

Make sure you fully caramelize the onions
Roast squash: toss cubed squash in large bowl with oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Spread onto two large sheet pans and roast in a 425°F oven for about 25 minutes, stirring a couple of times to ensure it doesn't over-brown.

Steam spinach: put enough water in a Dutch oven to cover the bottom and bring to boil. Empty the entire container of spinach into it, cover and let steam for about 3 minutes, stirring once, just to wilt it. Drain immediately in colander. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

Baby spinach is a must
Make roux and finish sauce: in a large heavy saucepan cook garlic in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Stir in flour and cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in milk mixture in a stream until smooth. Return pan to heat and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until thick. Stir in squash and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to break down the squash slightly. Sauce may be made 3 days ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

The sauce with squash before assembly
Reduce temperature to 375°F. and butter a baking dish.

Put it together: pour 1 cup sauce into baking dish (sauce will not cover bottom completely) and cover with 4 lasagne sheets, making sure they do not touch each other (break up the 4th one to piece it into pan). Spread half of remaining sauce over pasta,  sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan and layer on spinach.
Make 1 more layer in same manner, only this time with onions instead of spinach, beginning and ending with pasta.
Top it off with Bechamel: in a bowl with an electric mixer beat cream with salt until it holds soft peaks and spread evenly over top pasta layer, making sure pasta is completely covered. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan over cream. 

Cover dish tightly with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top layer, and bake in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake lasagne 10 minutes more, or until top is bubbling and golden. Let lasagne stand 5 minutes.

Garnish each serving with rosemary. Bask in the compliments. Drink some wine. Swear to never make it again. Make someone else do the dishwashing while you have more wine.

Ta-daa! Dee-lish

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

5 tips to avoid resolution abandonment

Welcome, 2013! It's open season: time to leverage that new page in a new calendar which is giving us permission for a fresh start.

Most of us make resolutions for the new year. People have been doing it since some kind of calendar existed. I can imagine people laboring away with pieces of flint, carving their resolutions on the back cave wall.

Sure, they probably were different resolutions than we have now. Then: 'don't get eaten by a big scary animal' vs. now: 'limit Botox treatments.'

There's something that hasn't changed though - we still don't keep most of our resolutions. Why not? Here are the top reasons:
  1. We don't have an accountability coach to hold us to the resolution.
  2. We don't check-in on progress. 
  3. The resolution wasn't something we truly wanted to do or change.
  4. The resolution was just too grand.
  5. You don't believe in yourself or your abilities.
How can you increase your chances of sticking with resolutions? Here are some ideas:
  • Write them down.
  • Get a buddy to keep you accountable and check in with you.
  • Review resolutions monthly if not more often.
  • Resolve to make changes in your life you truly want.
  • Break down a lofty goal into smaller goals you can actually achieve.
  • Reinforce the positive by becoming parts of real and virtual communities that are all about encouragement and align to your goals and objectives.
Here's to a great year, and to achieving your resolutions!
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