Saturday, September 29, 2012

Christina's Stir Crazy Spaghetti Squash

I certainly wouldn't consider myself a health-freak, nut, and whatever other noun you want to add to the end of that. However, I love learning about all the health benefits from certain foods. I'm convinced I should have studied dietetics in college, the only downside was the science classes. No. Thank. You.

Unfortunately, it isn't uncommon to find people who don't know the nutritional difference between fruity cereal bars and natural fr,uit and oatmeal. Let me just tell you my friends, a difference exists. I'm not here to rave about how you need to change your lifestyle to zero carbs and fats. Trust me, I would not be able to survive without pasta or cheese. I am however, opening your eyes to healthy substitutes for your vices.

I just watched Parks and Recreation (a show that never ceases to make me laugh and be even more in like with Ron Swanson). This episode was about Leslie Knope attempting to tax these MASSIVE soda drinks that are considered "small" in the vain of Michael Bloomberg. Ironically enough, the realistic perspective is what made it so funny. Isn't that always the case?

Ever heard of the Paleo diet, I mean lifestyle? One of the many advocates,  Mark Sisson, has a blog titled Marks Daily Apple. If you're anything like me, you'll get hooked (hypothetically) and start to think about attempting this lifestyle.  I tend to do that. You know- read something, think incredibly ambitiously about the end result, and finally realize I'm sitting in the same position ten minutes later saying "I could really go for some ice cream at 10pm".  This all to say that I've seriously thought about attempting a Primal Living Lifestyle for a month straight. Unfortunately, such a LIFESTYLE means going to the gym as well. Ugh.

I'd like to think this recipe leads to a good start.  It's a very healthy meal that is nothing short of fun, easy and positively delicious.  It is filled with fiber, protein, and vitamins so you'll be satisfied for quite a while.

2 miniature Hungarian peppers, chopped and sans seeds
6 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
3 zucchini's, sliced
1 large spaghetti squash
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can plain tomato sauce
10oz mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbs dry oregano 
4 pieces chicken breast
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1. In a deep sautee pan, cook onions, garlic, peppers, and olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent 

2. In another pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, cook the zucchini for only a couple minutes then transfer to the pan for the sauce
3. Add tomatoes, sauce, zucchini, mushrooms and seasoning into pan and stir sporadically (careful, this is a messy process with so many ingredients in pan)
4. In the pan you cooked zucchini in, drizzle a bit more olive oil and cook the chicken until the surface turns white

5. Place the almost fully cooked chicken into the sauce pan and cook for another 5 minutes (make sure it's immersed into the sauce so it absorbs all the delicious flavors)

6. Stab the spaghetti squash everywhere and cook it in the microwave for 10 minutes then let sit for a few minutes 
7.Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds like you would for a cantaloupe. Then use a fork to shred apart the spaghetti squash and place it into serving dishes

8. Cover spaghetti squash with sauce and chicken and serve hot

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sauteed Hungarian Peppers and Mushrooms

Last weekend was the first time Brian and I went to the Montgomery farmer's market and let me just say, it was an absolute blast!  Any place where there is live indy music, fresh baked goods and produce, and happy dogs with their owners, it's nothing short of golden. The items we purchased goes as follows: Zucchini carrot bread for my in-laws, heirloom tomatoes for my parents, and large zucchinis, miniature Hungarian peppers and cupcakes for Brian and I. Everything was delicious and I can't wait to go back!

The peppers are the last ones standing and I have used them for a few dishes thus far. I made a delicious guacamole (see Guacamole post and just add diced peppers) and sauteed mushrooms.  It is a very easy side dish that will go well with any entree. 

Serves: 2-4         Prep time: 5 minutes           Cook time: 10 minutes

1 lb sliced mushrooms (button or crimini will work just fine)
3 miniature Hungarian peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. Wash and slice mushrooms if they aren't already (use a damp cloth to wash the mushrooms because they absorb water easily)
 2. Remove the seeds from the peppers prior to dicing
3.Pour the olive oil in a hot sautee pan/skillet on medium heat
4. Once oil gets hot enough, combine the rest of the ingredients in the pan and stir repeatedly until the mushrooms take on a tender consistency
5. Serve hot and enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shrimp, Mushroom and Zucchini Risotto

It's about 8pm in Cincinnati and I am having a wonderful day thus far. The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, I made a delicious meal, and my husband offered to clean the kitchen for me.  Against my meticulous judgement when it comes to cleaning the kitchen, I let him... and he did a great job!

It was in the midst of constantly stirring the risotto that I homed in on how therapeutic cooking is for me.  Have you ever been by yourself in a moment when you realize you're doing something you were naturally made to do? OK, yes, I understand I sound like a hippie walking out of a Phish concert, but It's true! I was stirring the risotto and realized just how content I was.  As some of you may know, I call food "edible art".  I'm quite sure that is a term I cannot patent and that everybody in their own sense thinks that way about food.  But have you ever considered just how important and influential it is for life's most joyous moments? 

Two years ago I suffered through some serious stomach issues and ended up not being able to eat for a week straight so the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. Did I mention that New Year's Eve fell smack-dab in the middle of that one-week period?  It was horrible. I had no idea how much my life revolved around food until that week. Yes, I always knew I loved to eat. As Julia Child said "...I love to eat and I'm good at it!" Holidays however, are times when food is a staple within each hour and if you're not eating, you're drinking (pick your beverage of choice).  My family and friends were eating food and drinking champagne and beer while I on the other hand, drank Lipton soup.  All this to say, the entrance into 2011 was sub-par in my book.

I don't say all that to complain. I say it to prove just how thankful I am for the gift and love of making art, I mean food, I mean art! Even if you're only cooking for yourself, live it up and make it special! Set the table and forget about having to clean more or prepare more. You only live once so bask in the meals you've worked so hard to prepare, and remember, it's a gift!

So I sit here now, sipping my Dundee dark stout beer and thinking about how delicious tonight's meal was. I am a happy woman.

Ingredients                       Serves: 4-6                   Prep time: 15                Cook time: 40 minutes
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 long zucchini sliced into larger bite sized pieces (I did a thicker julienne cut)
8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
10 oz fresh shrimp with tails and shell removed (if purchased frozen, thaw them before cooking with them)
3 tbs unsalted butter
6 cups chicken broth
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay) 
1 tsp crushed rosemary 
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbs salt
1 tbs black pepper, crushed

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a deep sautee pan over medium heat (butter for flavor, olive oil for cooking- it also prevents the butter from burning)
2. Add garlic and onion then begin stirring until the onions are translucent 
3. Add shrimp, white wine, rosemary, some salt and pepper to the pan. 
4. Let the shrimp cook for a few minutes while stirring every so often
5. Add the vegetables and continue to toss/stir 
6. Add the broth to the vegetables and bring it to a slight boil
7. Once it boils, turn down the heat low and place the arborio rice into a deep sauce pan over medium heat
8. Stir the Arborio rice continuously and slowly add a couple ladles full of broth from the pot with the vegetables and shrimp. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot because the rice is very sticky
9. Once you've used the last bit of broth and tasted the rice to be sure it is fully cooked, add the Parmesan cheese and stir one last time
10. Add the rice to the vegetables and shrimp and stir to mix everything together
11. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot!