Wednesday, January 30, 2013

From the Oven - Vegetables Pizza with Homemade Pesto

We try to do @ least 1 vegetarian dinner per week but it almost always ends up being some kind of pasta.  To change it up a little bit, I went with a pizza for this week's meatless night.  But I make pizza quite a bit & I don't want to use the same old toppings...what now?  Just as I was scratching my head over this question, a voice spoke to me & said "What about zucchini & tomato?  And some onion?"  No, I wasn't going crazy & hearing things in my head; it was Russell talking.  Zucchini & tomato, huh?  Sounds Mediterranean.  How about a homemade pesto instead of a tomato sauce? Maybe use feta instead of mozzarella?  Oh wait...Russell doesn't eat feta, blurgh!

Never have I done so much for a pizza...
   For the pesto:
     2 cups basil leaves, packed
     3 cloves garlic
     0.25 cup pine nuts
     0.5 cup extra virgin olive oil
     0.5 cup pecorino romano, grated
     Salt & pepper to taste
   For the pizza:
     1 package prepared pizza dough
     2 roma tomatoes, sliced
     1 medium zucchini, sliced
     1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
     0.75 cup shredded mozzarella
      0.25 cup pecorino romano, grated

But @ least it wasn't too complicated...
     In a food processor, chop up the basil leaves
     Add in the garlic, pine nuts, & half the olive oil; blend until it turns into a paste
     Add in the rest of the oil, season with salt & pepper, & blend until smooth
     Mix in the cheese & set aside
     Sauté the onion over medium-low heat until soft; then sauté the zucchini slices until they are soft
     Roll out the pizza dough & spread the pesto evenly on top, keeping away form the edges
     Sprinkle mozzarella over the pesto & lay down the tomato & zucchini slices
     Spread the caramelized onion on top & grate pecorino romano all over
     Bake at 450F for 10 minutes

Makes 1 cup of pesto & 1 10-inch pizza

I stretched the dough out too thin in the middle so it kind of made a mess.  I can never get this part right because when the middle is the right thickness, the edges are too thick.  And when the edges are the right thickness, the middle has hole.  Ugh!  I also used way too much olive oil for my pesto (0.67 cup - what the recipe called for) & completely forgot to mix it with the pecorino cheese.  As a result, the pizza got a bit soggy & the excess oil spilled out of my cookie sheet & dripped down to the bottom of my oven.  Smoke alert!  Alas, the flavors of the pesto was fresh & had a good kick from the garlic.  The pizza was delicious & the sweetness of the onion & zucchini held up nicely against the tartness of the tomato & the sharpness of the pecorino.  I know I talked about not wanting a pizza stone in my previous post(s) but I think I need one if my crusts are always turning out undercooked & not crisp.  Is there any way I can get around this giant slab of stone situation??

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quick & Easy - Chinese-style Steamed Hake

If you are Chinese or if you have been to any banquet-style Chinese dinners, you probably have seen this dish: a fish sitting on a plate, under some green stuff,  over some soy sauce & oil, & it still had its head, tail, fins, & skin all in tact.  This was - & still is - one of my favorite ways of eating fish.  When I was a kid, my dad would scrape off the skin & portion out a perfect filet along the "back" half of the fish & put it in my bowl.  I would also always get both of the cheeks...@ least I would when we were eating @ home.  Now that I have moved out on my own, the opportunity to have steamed fish is rare.  And even though it is a pretty easy dish to make, I couldn't possibly finish a whole fish by myself...ourselves.  There has got to be a different way, right?

I was getting ready to make dinner one night - pan-seared Hake filets with salt & pepper - when it came to me.  Why not steam the filets as if it was a whole fish?  I mean, filet  is just fish minus the bones & stuff.  With the sudden inspiration & a really strong craving for steamed fish, I went to work.

It only takes a few essential ingredients from the fridge/cupboard...
     6 ounces Hake filet (or any other meaty white fish)
     3 tablespoons green onion, cut finely on the bias
     3 tablespoons ginger, cut into thin strips
     0.25 cup low sodium soy sauce
     0.5 tablespoon sugar
     0.25 cup canola oil

It's practically set it & forget it...
     Remove as much moisture from the fish filets as possible
     Place the filets into a heat-proof dish & sprinkle the green onion & ginger evenly over the top
     Steam the filets for 7 minutes or until the meat flakes apart easily
     Heat the soy sauce & dissolve the sugar in it
     Heat the canola oil in a pan for about 2 minutes
     Once the fish is done, carefully drain the liquid from the dish
     Pour the hot oil and then the soy sauce over the fish


Makes 3 servings

The end result was a little bit overcooked (I did 10 minutes) but the flavor was just as I remember it.  I put sugar in the soy sauce was because (1) that's how my Mama does it & (2) it cuts down the sourness that soy sauce can have after it has been heated.  I know most people also put cilantro on the fish but I didn't have any & I absolutely detest cilantro (unless it's in something);  but in all honesty, I didn't think it made the dish "worse off".  When drizzling the hot oil over the fish, it is going to create some sizzle but that's totally normal; just stay away from the splatter.  A little insider's tip: take some of the green onion, ginger, & a few big spoonfuls of the sauce & mix it thoroughly into a bowl of rice; that in itself is a whole other meal.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Quick & Easy - Apple Breakfast Smoothie

Happy 2013!  I wish everyone a fantastic year full of love, happiness, & - of course - delicious food!

I don't know when it became customary for me to make New Year's resolutions but it definitely didn't happen until a few years I moved to the US.  When I was still in school, my resolutions were almost always about how I would be more studious.  Then in the last 3 years, my resolutions shifted to how I would get healthier or how I would lose weight.  This year, I am making a different resolution: to take better care of myself.  This means physically, mentally, emotionally, nutritionally, & any other -ally that I can't think of right now.

To not only start off my year but also my day right, I am trying smoothies.  Yes, I know I'm a good number of years late to this game but I didn't have the motivation or the tools to even attempt to make this a regular thing so I never bothered.  Until now.  I didn't want to do the usual strawberries & banana smoothie so I did a bit of browsing and came across this recipe created by celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak (Katy Perry, Megan Fox).  This drink only takes a few ingredients, is quick to make, & it is super nutritious.

Throw in your blender...
     1 apple
     1 banana
     0.5 cup low fat milk
     0.75 cup plain Greek yogurt
     5 raw almonds
     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Give it a whirl...
    Blend at high speed until the desired consistency (~30 seconds)

Makes 1 serving

After having a few of these, I wanted to know just exactly how this concoction is healthy.  I did a little bit of digging & this is what I found:  Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, & they have phytonutrients that can help regulate blood sugar.  Bananas are high in vitamin B6, potassium, & they are a great source of energy.  Milk has plenty of protein & calcium & it is great for bone health.  Greek yogurt has tons of protein & it helps boost digestive & immune system health.  Almonds are high in manganese, vitamin E, healthy fat, & magnesium which increases blood flow as well as the distribution of oxygen & nutrients throughout the body. Cinnamon slows down stomach emptying, thereby sustaining the sensation of fullness  & lessens the body's blood sugar spike.  One additional perk about cinnamon is that its smell can increase a person's cognitive function.

This recipe comes in @ about 382 calories.  It tastes a bit like an apple pie when I could ignore the taste of the banana coming through the background.  Even though I used my super high-powered Ninja blender, there was still little bits of almond.  This was good since it gave me something to chew & tricked my brain into thinking I was eating my breakfast instead of drinking it.  Even though it doesn't look very large in the photo, this drink is filling & can keep me happy from 8am to lunch without the need for a snack.  Here is to taking better care of myself & to making this into a part of daily life!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

From the Oven - Mini Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cakes

The Boyfriend got me a Ninja kitchen system for Christmas.  If you know, the Ninja is not just a blender & food processor but it can also be used to make cake batters & dough.  Even though the informercials look really impressive, I wanted to test out the machine for myself to see if it really delivers on what it promises.  It just so happened that I have an easy coffee cake recipe that I've been meaning to try.  What better time than to do it now?

These should all be in the pantry/fridge already...
     1.75 cups all-purpose flour
     1.5 teaspoons baking powder
     0.5 teaspoon salt
     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     0.3 cup canola oil
     0.75 cup granulated sugar
     1 egg
     0.75 cup milk
     0.25 cup unsalted butter
     1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
     0.3 cup granulated sugar

It's as easy as 1-2-3...
     In a big bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, & cinnamon
     In another big bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, egg, & milk until it looks homogeneous
     Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture; mix until the batter is smooth
     Grease a muffin pan really well using butter, oil, or cooking spray
     Grease up a spoon & scope batter into the muffin pan, filling up about half way
     Bake at 350F for 15 minutes
     While the muffins are still hot, remove them from the pan & put onto a wire rack
     Melt the butter in a pan over low heat or in the microwave & mix the cinnamon with the sugar
     Dip hot muffins into the  butter & roll them in the cinnamon sugar until they are evenly coated
     Place them on a wire rack & let them cool down completely

Makes 12 servings

The flavor is nice & slightly reminds me of an old-fashion donut.  The texture was a little doughier than I thought it would be but it might have to do with the fact that I over mixed the batter.  As a matter of fact, my dad took 1 bite and said "it's so dry!"  Well, thanks a lot Daddy.  When it comes to using the Ninja system to make the batter, it wasn't exactly easier than using a hand mixer but it was a lot faster since the machine is really powerful (without being too loud).  Unfortunately, I think the power may be a bad thing for a batter like this since it was really easy to overdo it.  The biggest negative I have of the Ninja is that it was kind of a pain to clean around the nooks & crannies.  I am going to attempt a similar recipe using the Ninja again to see if it comes out the same; and if it doesn't, then maybe the problem stemmed from the recipe after all & not the machine.