Sunday, December 9, 2007

quick and healthy stuffed bells

Hey Everyone,
I made these stuffed bell peppers on Friday night in about 30 minutes! They are super healthy, and if you don't eat oranges, eating bell peppers is a great way to get in a good amount of Vitamin C to help prevent those common winter colds. Here's another tidbit: Did you know that the lighter a bell pepper is, the sweeter it tastes? So the yellow ones are significantly sweeter than the green ones, but this time of year they're also a lot more expensive. But once these green bell peppers are boiled for just a few minutes (about 5), they are tender enough to bite into, and their overall strong, raw flavor subsides during the cooking process.

You can stuff these bell peppers with almost anything, but I used the basic recipe template that my mom introduced me to, which included ground turkey and rice. I added in a few extra veggies to the rice, because I like incorporating veggies into my dishes as often as possible. Here's the general recipe I used. I didn't get a chance to measure because I was so hungry. I just wanted to eat! But I really do think these are pretty easy to whip-up and hard to mess-up. They're so flavorful, and not to mention festive looking!

This is what went into the rice (I made this in the rice cooker!)
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1/8 cup chopped olives
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
a few pinches of garlic salt
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 TBSP dehydrated veggie soup blend
2 medium-sized celery sticks, chopped
about 1/3 cup frozen peas & carrots

One thing I'd like to mention is that I mixed the rice half way into the cooking process because I wanted to make sure all the ingredients were equally distributed-it didn't negatively influence the rice (I know it's not a good idea to continually stir rice when cooking it, but I think doing it once or twice is ok, I haven't had any problems with this yet). Oh, and this recipe will make enough to fill about 5 bell peppers.

As the rice cooked, I cooked 1 lb of ground turkey with the following ingredients:
2.5 TBSP Pace Picante
a few pinches of garlic powder
a few pinches onion powder
2 tsp basil
a few sprinkles of black pepper
1/8 cup chopped sweet onion
1/8-1/4 cup chopped green onion

While the meat cooks in one pan, you can wash the bell peppers, then cut the tops off with a knife. You'll also want to use the knife to cut out the "insides" of the bells. I filled up a small soup pot with about 1 1/2 cups of water, then set the bell peppers in there standing upright. I cooked them over a medium flame for about 5-7 minutes, or until they were slightly tender but not falling apart. I made sure to put the tops in the pot too.

I also made the sauce that goes along very well with the bell pepper, it adds a little bit of natural sweetness to the dish
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

This should simmer in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes over a low-med flame, or at least until everything is melted together.

It's a good idea to mix the rice and meat together before stuffing the bell peppers. I also think that adding in a few sprinkles of colby/jack cheese to the rice/meat blend adds some nice flavor. After serving the bell peppers, each person can drizzle the tomato sauce/topping on top of the bell pepper, or you can serve it on the side. It's that easy, and it really is pretty good...but the best part about these bell peppers is how healthy they are!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I hope you all had a blessed and restful Thanksgiving. I had the opportunity to make Jose's family a Thanksgiving meal this year and it was a lot of fun. I was telling Jose afterward that when I was younger, I was so intimidated at the thought of making an entire Thanksgiving meal all by myself. I was afraid I'd undercook the turkey, or that I'd have to rely on canned goods for every side dish... I thought it would be an exhausting, stressful, and unrewarding process... But, thankfully, this year I was able to discover it's actually quite the opposite. Sure, it took a little while, but it was fun. I think one of the tougher parts about it was that I had to cook for a group instead of just one or two people, so I was a little worried that I wouldn't season things right...but somehow it all worked out and there wasn't a complaint made about the food!

One thing I still really want to get the hang of is tamale-making, though. In my family, my grandmother usually makes tamales for Christmas/New Years and I'd really like to whip them up the way she does, effortlessly. I have a feeling I'd probably just end up with a kitchen disaster...but who knows, maybe it'll turn out the way the Thanksgiving meal did if I just give it a try? Hmm...probably not. Just last year I was helping her roll up the tamale dough in corn husks before she cooked them, and that was tough enough for me. It's a lot harder than it looks! Still, I have a strange feeling my attitude about the tamale-making process will change...just wait and see.

Moving on to this apple-oatmeal bar recipe; I have baked this over and over again. I made it for Jose's Thanksgiving office party, then I made it for my mom, then I made it for Jose's family as a Thanksgiving's been a hit every time! I was bored one night and, as usual, had a sweet tooth for something not too heavy but still carby, so I made these apple-oatmeal bars. The initial recipe is completely fat free, but the next couple of times I made it, I decided that butter should be included in the topping. Sometimes butter does make it better, especially when used in moderation.

This is even easy to make because everything can pretty much be mixed up in one bowl, and I love that because that means there are less dishes to wash in the end!

Apple-Oatmeal Bars
2 Cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup apple juice

2/3 cups apple sauce

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 TBSP cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg

1 TBSP apple pie spice

These ingredients can all be mixed together in the same bowl, then put in a large baking dish (9X13"). Put in the oven for 10 minutes at 325 then add the following topping:

The topping (unhealthy version):
1 small fuji apple, cut into little cubes

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tbsp melted butter

1 2/3 cups oatmeal

You can mix all these ingredients together in a bowl, then add it to the top of the bread dough (10 minutes after it's been in the oven). I also lightly sprinkled the topping with cinnamon and sugar.

Fat-free healthier topping:
1 small fuji apple, cut into little cubes
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 2/3 cups oatmeal

1/3 cup vanilla soymilk
1/8 cup honey

Raise the temp of the oven to 350 and bake for about 50 more minutes to an hour.

Now it's time to start thinking about a Christmas dessert! I can't wait for my favorite holiday, we purchased and decorated our tree just today! I'm counting down :)...and so are my guineas, yoshi and mochi!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

marinated pork chops

I made these pork chops a few weeks ago...but I didn't bother posting the recipe or photo because, to be honest, I've been getting lazy with that. Also, it seems life has been pretty crazy lately, but not in the bad way, we've just been going out of town a lot on the weekends and I started working at another job, in addition to the one I already have. So, I'm sure you can understand why posting has been a little difficult for me lately. I do feel bad that the excitement of having a new food blog is sort of wearing off, but I refuse to continue neglecting it the way I have been.

Annyhowww, As the holidays approach, I hope to bake a lot more. I've always wanted to learn how to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, or any pie for that matter, so that's a recipe I'll be experimenting with...and I think Jose's actually going to be helping me with that. I want to figure out how to make it before Thanksgiving. I even need to figure out how to make a moist turkey in the oven...because I think he and I are going to be in charge of making the turkey this year, that should be exciting... I am a little nervous, though. I've never baked such a large piece of protein like that, but I do know there are tips posted all over the web. Does anyone have any seasoning ideas or turkey basting/baking tips that always seem to work? The good thing is, I used to help my parents put the turkey together a couple of times when I was growing up, so it's not entirely unfamiliar to me--they rubbed a garlic/spice butter blend on their turkey every couple of hours until it finished cooking...but I wonder if olive oil would work? Would it taste funny? Hmm...

Now, getting back to the pork chops... I've recently started making pork chops about once a week, and I've experimented with different ways of marinating far this is my favorite way of making pork chops. They cook really fast, it definitely helps that they are thinly sliced. I don't remember the exact amounts I used, but this is the general idea. When it comes to marinating, it usually doesn't really matter how much of each "sauce" or seasoning you use, as long as the flavor isn't too overwhelming, or so it seems. For these pork chops, I used the following ingredients:

I think this was about 3/4-1 lb of pork chops
1/3-1/2 worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
a pinch of pepper
a pinch of paprika
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
a sprinkle of salt, or garlic salt
a sprinkle of onion powder

Later, when the pork chops were almost done cooking over a low-medium flame, I added in about
1/3 of a small sweet onion--doesn't matter what kind
1 large roma tomato, diced
about 1/2 cup chopped up mushrooms
I seared these over a high flame with the pork chops until the onions were slightly darker, then I covered the all-purpose pan that held these ingredients and simmered them together for about 7 minutes over a low flame. I think it took about 20-30 minutes to make these--but I marinated the pork chops for about 3 hours ahead of time. If you don't have time to marinate them, they will still taste good--I think they should be seared a little longer, though, because, at least to me, they tend to taste better that way if they weren't able to absorb the flavors of the marinade sauce.

Hopefully I'll post again soon :). Thanks for leaving such nice messages for me to read when I least expect it!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mediterranean Chicken and Rice

Photographs of food really do look better when they're larger, I'll post bigger pictures from now on :).

I haven't posted in awhile. Lately I've been focusing more on preparing fast meals for dinner that don't require me to have the stove/oven on for so so long...our last electric bill was ridiculously high, and we just discovered that our AC might've been the culprit...since it's broken and only works "sometimes". Anyway, I decided I really wanted to make something tasty for dinner tonight, even if it required me to leave the stove on for a little longer than I would've liked. I actually got the idea for it from a book I picked up at the library earlier this week. The dish that inspired me to make this is called Milanese Chicken and Rice Skillet. The thing is, I didn't use a skillet, I used different spices, and even incorporated some Mexican food elements. I actually deviated from the recipe even more by cooking the chicken in a completely different way (I boiled it instead of cooking it in the skillet). The recipe called for chicken breast, but all I had were drumsticks. Improvising was a lot of fun, though. The picture in the cookbook was beautiful and yummy looking, I think that's what drew me to make the dish in the first place. But...I didn't really measure anything, though I do remember all the ingredients I used. Here are the ingredients that were used and the steps I took when making this eclectic plate that has both Mediterranean and Mexican flair.

I used 1 1/2 pounds of chicken drumsticks
I boiled the drumsticks in about 1 pint of water mixed with 1 TBSP chicken bouillon, some garlic salt and a little bit of cilantro (the chicken cooked in about 35 minutes--there were about 5 drumsticks).

While the chicken cooked, I prepared the rice, which is similar to the Mexican rice I've made in the past...but it's been spiced up a little more.
I cooked 1 cup of rice by first lightly frying it in a few TBSPS of olive oil, one small garlic clove, and about 1/8 cup finely diced onion.
I then boiled 3 roma tomatoes, removed their skin, threw them in the blender with 1/4 cup onion, 1 1/2 tsps chicken bouillon, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp cilantro--this all amounted to about 3/4 of a cup.
To the rice in the pan I added the tomato mixture and 1 1/4-1/2 cups water
As the rice cooked, I added a few sprinkles of garlic salt and pepper, about 1 tsp of paprika and onion powder, cilantro, and parsley. I also added about 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, and 1/2 cup celery.
When the chicken finished cooking in the boiling water, I dumped out the water then added some paprika, salt, pepper, about 1 1/2 tbsps Italian seasoning, about 2 TBSP olive oil, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup red bell pepper, 1/4 cup green bell pepper, and 1/2 a small can of diced black olives (about 1.5 oz) along with about 1/2 the olive juice--I seared the chicken in these spices/vegetables, then lowered the flame to a medium setting and sprinkled about 3/4 tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 cup golden raisins into the chicken mix.

That's pretty much it! Oh, and the book where I got the idea for this recipe is called Treasury of's a great book--so many great recipes!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

easy taquitos!

...and for the last day of chicken left-overs, I made taquitos! I'm gonna have to start using a recipe book because I'm running out of ideas for chicken; my palate is still somewhat narrow but hopefully that'll change soon...back to the topic, this is another recipe that'll work for those days when there isn't much time for anything fancy. This is also fun finger food for parties or snack time. I made this a meal by serving it with the traditional side of beans and rice...and the not so traditional organic mixed veggies :D... When I can't have veggies in the actual meal, I always make sure to serve them as a side so that I feel like I'm getting meeting some of the food pyramid requirements :P.

So what did I do for the taquitos? I used some shredded chicken, fried it with cubed potatoes, chopped garlic and onion. Of course, a pinch of salt and pepper were thrown in, along with a hearty sprinkle of cilantro and parsley. I put the chicken in corn tortillas, which I warmed up in the micro for about 20 seconds so they'd be soft enough to roll into taquitos without breaking. I also added some colby/jack cheese before rolling everything up and piercing the taquitos with a toothpick (so they would hold when frying). I then fried the taquitos in a covered pan with canola oil for about 1 minute on each side, or until they were slightly crispy/golden all around. That's basically it! This was a very fast meal to whip up; minus the cooking time for the chicken, I was able to finish this in 15 minutes!

Friday, October 5, 2007

honey ginger chicken and a fun seasonal veggie mix

When there isn't much time to make something fancy to eat, I try to make up for the lack of complexity with a dash of spices, a quick vinaigrette, or a fun texture. I tried to incorporate all those things into this dish, making sure to use up one of the many squashes I've managed to collect in my refrigerator. Chicken breast is a versatile protein I like to work with, though it does tend to be a little dry if it's cooked the wrong way. Essentially, I would've preferred to let the chicken marinate over night in the "sauce" I made for it, but, like I mentioned earlier, I didn't have the time. Instead, I decided to let the chicken cook on a very low setting for a few minutes, then sear in all the flavors by cooking the meat over a high flame for a much shorter period of time. In doing so, the end result was reasonably moist and very flavorful. I would still like to know how to get a perfectly juicy piece of chicken breast, though; most of the time it seems that the fattier meats are the juiciest, but I'm sure there's a trick out there I've yet to learn that could easily prove that idea wrong...time will tell :).

I used about a pound of chicken breast to make this dish, and I actually sliced each chicken breast in half so it would cook faster. After cutting the chicken into smaller portions, I placed it in a pan with a little olive oil and 1/3 cup of orange juice. One thing I'd like to note again is that I cooked the chicken breast with the seasonings covered with a lid over a low setting for about 40 minutes. Afterward, for about 3 minutes, I uncovered the chicken and raised the flame to a very high setting until almost all the liquid/juice evaporated and the chicken itself was slightly browned on one side--I think this is what helped "lock-in" the flavor.

Here are the ingredients I added to each side of the chicken pieces equally:
1 3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper

2 1/2 tsp parsley

2 TBSP honey

While the chicken cooked over a low setting, I prepared the veggies. Sometimes veggies can use a little bit of sweetness for extra flavor, so why not incorporate fruits when preparing them? I decided to add raisins to a mix of carrots and squash, but I also added chopped almonds because nuts tend to add a fun bite to whatever they're thrown in--I will never use pine nuts, though...just discovered I was allergic to those a few years ago, and it was not a fun discovery, to say the least :P.

Here are the measured ingredients I added:
1 1/2 cups cubed squash pieces
3/4 cups chopped carrots (a smart chopper does a great job with this)
1/8-1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup raisins

3/4 tsp fine herb spice

pinch of salt and pepper

2 TBSP olive oil

the veggies cooked pretty fast, especially the squash. I think it's best to actually cook the carrots alone in the olive oil before adding the other ingredients; the squash cooks a lot faster and almonds burn easily. By the way, burned almonds smell horrible...kind of like popcorn--I know because I burned some a few weeks ago and they do not give off a very pleasant smell when that happens :D.

Random Sidenote:
Oh, here are a few interesting excerpts from a CNN article about produce:
A research review of 41 studies conducted by the University of California at Davis found that, on average, organic produce contains as much as 27 percent more vitamin C, 21 percent more iron, and 29 percent more magnesium compared with traditionally grown foods.

USDA researchers have found that if it's [produce] not handled properly, produce can lose up to half its nutrients in transit. Water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C are particularly

You can read the rest of the article here

Thursday, October 4, 2007

sweedish meatballs with veggies and croutons? yep!

I've never had an original sweedish meatball dish, but I had the "American" version a few times growing up. When I started trying to figure out how to make them, I used canned cream of mushroom...but, eventually, I decided to try making these meatballs without using canned soup, or anything canned, for that matter. I also wanted to throw in some veggies that would work well with the meatballs, and I thought croûtons would be a fun way to add a new texture to the usually warm and meaty dish. I don't normally eat salad, but I really love putting homemade croûtons on any pasta dish I make. Even though it's fun to buy the box kind sometimes, I had some leftover bread from when we made honey oatmeal bread in our breadmaker, so I decided to use a few slices to make the croûtons. Here are the ingredients I used along with the steps I took when making the dish:

I mixed 1lb of ground turkey in a bowl with the following ingredients
3 tbsp dried veggie soup blend (salt free)
1/2-3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 TBSP chervil leaf

1/2 cup sweet white onion, diced

1 egg

1/2 cup garlic and herb bread crumbs

2 roma tomatoes, diced

Once these ingredients were all mixed together, I rolled them into 1" meatballs and cooked them in an everyday pan with some olive oil until they were golden brown on the outside--they cooked in about 30 minutes covered up with a lid. About 20 minutes into the cooking process, I added 1 1/2 cups water with 2 1/2 tsp of dissolved chicken bouillon and 1 TBSP mixed-in flour (to thicken the sauce) to the pan with the meatballs; I also like to add about 1-2 TBSP sour cream and 1 TBSP butter so that the sauce is creamier. I threw in a few more spices like 2 tsp Italian seasoning, and a few whole bay leaves. I also added about 2 cups of mushrooms, and about 1 1/2 cups raw spinach, then allowed these ingredients simmer for 15 minutes.

While the meatballs were cooking, I cut up about 1 cup worth of bread into croûton-size pieces. I then put them in a small baking pan, drizzled them with about 1 TBSP of olive oil, sprinkled about 1/2 tsp basil, 1/8-1/4 tsp garlic salt and a pinch of pepper. Then I baked these guys in the oven for about 10-12 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

I served the meatballs with croûtons over some lightly seasoned pasta sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and that was basically it! I try to add veggies to whatever I make. They have so much nutrients and I prefer to eat veggies over consuming vitamins. I also try to buy organic veggies whenever I can, but did you know that frozen vegetables, in general, are actually better than the fresh ones because they're picked when they're perfectly ripe (so they have more nutrients)? Interesting.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

cranberry chicken summer salad with citrus honey sauce

This is something I made this weekend when I was feeling too lazy to make something more time consuming. I basically made baked chicken fingers, a quick veggie/cranberry salad, some seasoned rice and decided I'd call it a salad. It was fast and easy but still flavorful. I didn't measure the spices I added to the bread-crumbs that covered the chicken, but here's a rough estimate of what all went in to this part of the meal:
1 lb chicken breast tenders
3/4 cup garlic and herb bread crumb
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp basil
Then the chicken breast tenders were dipped in an egg wash, covered in the bread crumb seasoning mixed. They cooked in the oven for about 30-35 minutes at 325.

The "salad", if you want to call it that, was also easy to make. Most of the prep time for this dinner was spent cutting up the ingredients I used, which included:
1/2 sweet onion
1/4 cup sweet, dried cranberries
1/4-1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 finely chopped onion
2 TBSP olive oil
a pinch of salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
I then seared all these veggies/fruits together until they had a sweet and spicy aroma.

The rice was cooked in chicken broth and a mixture of spices, then I made the dressing last, so I could throw it over the baked chicken before serving. This is enough dressing for about 2 people:
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed tangelo or orange juice (I actually squeezed a tangelo...and I've only recently heard of them :)
1/2-1 tsp honey (depending on how sweet you want it)

This was all pretty quick and easy to make, I had a very lazy weekend. Today we made a pizza...and I'm really happy with how well the bread maker makes pizza dough! With just a few extra seasonings sprinkled over the dough after rolling it into a pizza shape, and the proper veggies and cheeses, the bread maker pizza dough, and the pizza in general, comes out so much better than delivery! I should have taken a picture, but it was so good that I couldn't resist diving into it before getting the camera out. Slow weekends are nice...especially on cold winter days...which I am definitely looking forward. But there's good news, it seems the unbearable Texas heat is finally giving in, at least a little, to the slight coolness of the approaching autumn days...we're finally in the low 90s!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

fresh tostadas and salsa

I bought a $4 whole chicken at the grocery store on Sunday, cooked it in the crock-pot and I'm still finishing it up! What a bargain! I've been able to make so many meals with it, including last night's tostada dish.

I had to add a few more spices to the chicken, since it seems only the skin absorbed the flavor of the spices I added when I cooked it in the crock-pot. So I just chopped up about 1 1/2 cups of chicken, threw it into a pan with a little bit of olive oil, then seasoned it with cilantro, salt, pepper, and parsley. I added about 1/2 tsp of parsley, 1/4-1/2 tsp of cilantro, then a few shakes of salt and a sprinkle of pepper. I also cut up a small garlic clove and 1/8 cup of onion--added that to the chicken while it was spiced over a medium flame for about 5-7 minutes--or until it was slighty golden (I like toasting chicken sometimes because it adds good flavor, especially in Mexican dishes...I notice that pork chops also taste better when they're on the crispier side, not burned, though!)

As for the tortillas that I used for the tostadas, I purchased a bag of locally made tortillas that are completely preservative free (I am horrible at making tortillas, I tried a few times and all that results is a horrible mess and blocks of flour!), then I fried them in olive oil over a medium flame until they were crispy. If you don't want to fry them (I actually didn't fry the ones I ate) you can toast them on a grittle pan until they get crunchy--this is what my grandma does.

The garnish I used for the tostadas included the following ingredients: romaine lettuce (chopped), a chopped roma tomato, some grated cheese, and of course the salsa.

My grandma taught me how to make salsa a few months ago, but I wanted to add a few more things to it. I added chopped red bell pepper because it has a sweetness to it that balances out the spiciness of the chili piquin I used.
Here's what went into the salsa (this makes about 1/2 cup of salsa):
2 boiled roma tomatoes, with the skin removed
1 chili piquin
1/8 cup sweet onion
1 small chopped garlic
2 TBSP finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 tsp cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
a pinch of pepper
I threw the roma tomatoes into the blender with 2 1/2 tsp of warm water and the little piquin. While this was blending into a liquid, I chopped up the garlic, onion and red bell pepper, then lightly sauteed these ingredients in olive oil with the cilantro and pepper. I then added the sauteed veggies to the plain roma tomato/piquin chili "sauce", added about 1/4 tsp of salt, then I turned the blender back on for a few seconds on the "grate" setting; I didn't want a complete puree, there should still be some small pieces of bell pepper in there.

That's about it for the salsa, you can chill it if you want to, or eat it warm on top of the tostadas.

One thing I really like on my tostadas is refried beans. I still had beans left over from the other day (you can get the recipe here), so I just added a couple of tablespoons of oil to a pan (I used olive because it doesn't smell up the house as much as canola/vegetable oil, and it does taste good with the beans), spooned in the beans, raised the flame to a medium-low setting and started mashing them with a spoon once they warmed up. I didn't completely mash them into a big mushy thing, I left a few semi-whole and then let all the beans simmer over a low flame until most of the watery bean "soup" evaporated, so that I was left with the refried beans.

Oh, and before I go, here are a few more pictures of my guineas, I took these a few days ago:
This is Mochi (we refer to him as the mini buffalo, he kinda looks like it)

This is Yoshi! (he's actually really hyper, but you can't tell that here)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

spaghetti with (ground TURKEY!) meatballs in a homemade sauce and Italian bread on the side!

It looks like I only cook pasta, at least this blog would give visitors that impression! But I don't, it is one of my favorite things to make and dress-up, though. I was in the mood for some spaghetti and meatballs today, but I wanted to make a sauce that wouldn't feel like I was just eating, as Jose called it, a bunch of plain noodles lathered in tomato puree. I've gone to quite a few Italian spots, never really finding a place that serves a good and tasty spaghetti and meatball plate. It does seem that most of the sauces are overly-tomato tasting, and it doesn't seem like much thought actually goes into the sauce. I hate boring food, and this is definitely not a plain pasta dish. Pasta and french/garlic bread go perfect together, at least I think they do, so I decided to spice up a baguette I bought at the grocery store just yesterday, giving it a little bit more of a kick with a sauce that isn't just butter and garlic based. So here's the recipe and instructions on how to make this flavorful stuff:

As far as the meatballs go, they alone carry quite a bit of flavor and can definitely be used for meatball sandwiches if any are leftover. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I used ground turkey for the meatballs. My parents used to cook with it a lot when I was growing up, and it was actually my mom who taught me how to make these meatballs from ground turkey. It might sound a little odd if you've never tried it, but ground turkey actually has a much milder taste than beef, so it can showcase/hold the flavor of spices much better, in my opinion. It's also a lot leaner than beef, and you definitely won't have to worry about mad-cow disease if it's your meat of choice for this meatball recipe (by the way, this recipe makes enough servings for about 5 people):
1 pound ground turkey breast (or whatever ground meat you prefer)
1/4 cup chopped sweet white onion
1/2 cup garlic and herb bread crumbs
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 TBSP mustard
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 egg
All these ingredients can be mixed together in a bowl, then rolled into little 1 inch balls before being placed in an all-purpose pan to lightly fry in some olive oil, I used 1/4 cup and that might sound like a lot, but it actually wasn't since the pan I used was a good size.

As the meatballs cooked for about 25 minutes over a low-medium flame, I got started on the sauce, this is what went into the sauce:
15 oz can of Muir Glen salt-free organic tomato sauce
3/4 tsp garlic and herb spice
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar (to balance out the sourness of the plain tomato sauce)
3 whole bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground sage
1 3/4 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp vegetable broth powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
a pinch of nutmeg (everyone on food network does it, so I figured I should too :)
1/4 cup water (the sauce is kind of thick and will continue to thicken as it cooks)
1 cup portabella mushrooms
So I let this sauce simmer for about 10 minutes before adding it to the meatballs, which should now be browned on the outside. After I added the sauce to the meatballs, I let them simmer together while I cooked the pasta.

As far as the pasta goes, I just used a 12 oz bag of spaghetti. After I cooked it in the boiling water with a little bit of olive oil and garlic salt, I just added about 2 tsp of butter, a few shakes of Parmesan cheese, and a couple of olive oil sprinkles (as you can see, I definitely cook with a lot of this stuff :).

Now here's the Italian bread recipe, it's so fast and easy to make it could be served alone as a snack.
Preheat oven to 375
1/2 small baguette (horizontally halved--basically, it makes enough for 3 people)
1/8 cup melted butter
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
These ingredients can be mixed together in a cup, then drizzled with a teaspoon on the bread right before sprinkling it with about 1/2 cup of fresh spinach and 1/8-1/4 cup of a mozzarella/parmesan cheese blend. The baguette can then be placed in a 375 degree oven for 7-8 minutes. Afterward, you can garnish it with a few sliced roma tomatoes, and slice it into 3 medium-sized pieces, or about 4-5 small ones.

Funny thing about this spaghetti & meatballs plate is that I've actually made it before, but it came out so much better now that I actually measured the ingredients...even though it's my recipe. I don't get it haha! Happy cooking, next time I'll post something non-pasta related ;)!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Low-fat AND GOOD Snickerdoodles!

So today I baked some snickerdoodles before heading off to work, where they were then sampled by some fabulous gals with very refined taste buds; they were all under age 10 :). Of course, I didn't tell them they were low-fat, at their age, that isn't really a concern, unless they don't have a gallbladder like me! Anyway, they loved them...they even asked for more but I didn't want these sneaky snickerdoodles to spoil their appetite for dinner. Jose was even surprised that these classic but wonderful cookies could be made with such a small amount of butter, he calculated that they each had less than 1g of fat! Then we decided that the Food Network really needs to have a show centered around cooking healthy food that still tastes just as good or even better than the unhealthier versions. I do love me some Food Network, but I do get a little disappointed at how so many of the cooks/chefs on there feel the need to use a tub of butter to cook their desserts! If I wanted butter that bad, I would just eat the stick by itself and not even put the time into baking...and why put all that butter in a dessert if it's just going to leave you with regrets afterward? I swear to you, next to the chocolate chip ones I posted earlier, these cookies are some of the best and DO NOT TASTE LOWFAT AT ALL. I'm sure you'll have to try them in order to really understand what I'm talking about, so here's the recipe. They're super easy to make, and I bet you even have these ingredients in your kitchen already!

2 dozen delectable snickerdoodles with less than 1g of fat per cookie:
Yes, even Martha will find it hard to believe.

1 1/2 Cups white sugar
1/2 TBSP cinnamon
2 TBSP nonfat milk
2 TBSP softened/partially melted butter
2 eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon/Sugar Mix (guessing here--you decide what's good for you)
3 TBSP sugar
1 3/4 TBSP cinnamon

you know the unfancy drill of throwing it all into a bowl...then just roll up little 1 in. balls of dough and dip them into a cinnamon/sugar mix--place them on a cookie sheet and slightly flatten them out with a teaspoon and bake them at 400 for 10-11 minutes (they don't expand much, so you really just need about 3/4 of an in. between each cookie).

If anyone out there uses this recipe, tell me how you liked the cookies!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

About & Blogroll

Howdy, I'm Sophie! Welcome to my gluten-free blog, Flour Arrangements!

If you're wondering how I came up with the name for this blog, it was actually inspired by one of my favorite movies: Stranger Than Fiction. At one point in the movie, Will Ferrell brings the girl he's dating a box of different kinds of flours, and then he says: "I brought you flours!". I thought it was adorable, especially since she works at a bakery.

So you'd like to know a little about me?

I love to bake and cook. But about a year ago, after experiencing gut issues off and on throughout life, my doctor told me to switch to a gluten-free diet. The issues seemed to improve with the new diet. I went back to the docs for further testing; a genetic test then revealed that I have one of the "Celiac Disease genes". So there's more or less a 60% chance that I have it. The only way to know for sure is to go back on a gluten-rich diet, but the doc and I both don't want to do that :/.

So here I am: feeling better, still stingy with money and hungry for [a kitchen] adventure. My craving for sweets and carbs continues, but tasty and affordable gluten free baked goods are hard to come by. The solution to this problem? Experiment, experiment, experiment! That's what you'll find me doing.

I'm the girl in the kitchen making a big mess. I'm covered in many gluten-free flours and I've probably just spilled the ridiculously expensive xanthan gum on the floor again. Believe me, I'm no baking or cooking expert, but I'm also no longer afraid of baking gluten-free! (And I'm still trying to find that perfect gluten-free bread recipe!)

Because I understand how frustrating it can be to not be able to find specific recipes due to being on a particular diet, I enjoy helping people out with their own special health diets. If you're on the look-out for a recipe and you can't find one for what you're craving, let me know! Feel free to send me a comment and I'll see what I can do about helping you come up with one :).

Click Here to view my profile and contact info.

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