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Posts Tagged ‘budget friendly’

It’s a New Years celebration…Black-eyed peas and Collard Greens!

Fresh collards...a New Year's must!

Fresh collards…a New Year’s must!

On a recent trip to Florence, Italy I came across one of my new favorite feel-good dishes–Ribollita. Ribollita is a basic, peasant-style thick soup that is perfect for the cold winter months. Traditional Ribollita is a vegetable and bread based soup that is served reboiled the next day topped with a dash of fresh olive oil. The original recipe calls for Tuscan kale and cannellini beans; however, my own traditions call for eating collard greens and black-eyed peas  on New Years day so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to adapt one of my favorite soups for ringing in 2013! Plus, my husband has yet to acquire a taste for collard greens and black-eyed peas, so each year I look for creative new ways to sneak them into our New Years day meal 🙂  This one is a winner! Plus, if you are making a New Year’s resolution to be “healthy” this is a hearty vegetarian, vegan (depending on the bread you use) dish that will please any carnivore or omnivore out there.

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Note: The soup is traditionally made the day before serving then reboiled (hence the name Ribollita) the next day. If you are stretched for time go ahead and make it all in one day–it will still taste good.

Good Luck Ribollita

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

2 russet potatoes peeled and diced

1 15 oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch (about 7 cups) fresh collard greens, washed, rinsed, and shredded/torn into bite sized pieces

6 whole tomatoes, peeled (can use whole tomatoes from a can, just the tomato, not the juice)

crusty bread

good olive oil

salt & pepper

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups...carrots, celery, onion

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups…carrots, celery, onion

Ribollita in the making...needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Ribollita in the making…needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil...just top with the ribollita then bake

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil…just top with the ribollita then bake

Ready to bake in the oven

Ready to bake in the oven

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot head olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook until soft–approximately 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, potatoes, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, you can crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the greens and beans. Pour 6-7 cups of water in the soup and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. About 1 1/2 hours into the cooking, use an immersion blender to roughly blend the soup to create a bit of thickness. Don’t over-blend–you want to the soup to still be rustic and chunky with a variety of textures from the vegetables and beans. Add 1 cup of torn stale crusty bread and continue to cook with the lid off to thicken the soup if needed. At this point the soup is pretty much done. You can continue the recipe at this point, but it won’t be real “ribollita/reboiled.”

To finish the ribollita, the next day bring the soup to room temperature. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using oven-proof soup crock or any other oven proof bowl add a little olive oil to the bowls to coat the bottom. Place a slice or two of crusty bread in the bottom of the bowl, then top with the soup. Bake in the oven until bubbly and heated through. To serve, add high quality olive oil to each bowl as a topping to the soup and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper.  I must admit…this soup is well worth the wait and I think it will be my newly established New Year’s lucky soup. Happy 2013!!

Lucy Ribollita

Lucky Ribollita

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Perfect Bites: Southern Pan Fried Okra

One of my absolute favorite foods is fresh fried okra. Not the over-battered kind, but the lightly dusted in cornmeal, pan-fried extra crispy (no goo) kind. This recipe is one that my mother passed along and it makes the perfect bite of fried okra every time. It is so simple and so delicious! I could eat an entire pan of this okra myself…but I practice self control and always make it when I have someone to share a few bites with 🙂

The trick to this recipe is the okra…only fresh summer okra will do. I have attempted to re-create the fried okra using frozen okra and it just doesn’t work out well. It actually ends up a soggy mess. So reap the benefits of your farmer’s market, CSA box, or garden grown okra while it lasts and fry up this Southern delight!

Mama’s Crispy Pan Fried Okra

  • fresh okra
  • cornmeal (white or yellow)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of cayenne (optional)
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying

To make:

Heat oil in a saute or frying pan (cast iron is best) over medium-high heat. I use just enough oil to cover the okra about 1/4-1/2 way. This is more of a pan fry method rather than a deep fry.

Cut the okra ends off and slice into rounds approximately 1/2 inch in length. Working rather quickly (to take advantage of the okra “goo”) place okra in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper (and cayenne if you are using). Sprinkle a heaping layer of corn meal on top of the okra and gently mix to coat the okra.

Lightly coat the okra in cornmeal, salt and pepper

If the okra is fresh enough there should be enough okra goo to make the corn meal stick. Carefully place okra in hot oil. Do not over fill the pan with the okra, you want only one layer of okra in the pan to ensure all of the sides of the okra get crispy. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 10  minutes, gently stir about 1/2 way through. Monitor the heat to prevent the okra burning or oil from getting too hot when covered. Remove cover and cook until okra has browned to your preference (another 5-10 minutes). I like a few pieces to be on the darker side (usually the smaller ones). Okra will crisp up more as it cools. Remove cooked okra with a slotted spoon from the oil and let cool slightly on a paper towel lined plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Just a little oil to pan fry this crispy summer treat!

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CSA box Veggie Chili–this is prior to the last few minutes of cooking…almost ready. A one-pot dinner filled with many healthy, delicious, perfect bites!

In trying to use up the bounty of fresh veggies in creative ways…I’ve come across plenty of perfect bites (and a handful of not-so-perfect bites).

This recipe is so easy and a great way to use up the veggies from your weekly CSA box. The “Farmer’s Market Chili” is a veggie-packed chili is full of flavor and can be adapted to be a great vegetarian main meal. This particular recipe is just shy of being vegetarian. I used beef broth but substitute vegetable broth and your meal is vegetarian…don’t top with cheese or sour cream and you have yourself a vegan chili! The portions can be increased exponentially to freeze for the upcoming chilly fall and winter days ahead. As far as the specific veggies—improvise based on what you have on hand. The key is to incorporate a few different textures in the chili. Another added bonus: this is a one pot meal! Have fun and enjoy 🙂

Simple Summer CSA Chili

3 medium zucchini, roughly chopped

2-3 medium/large yellow summer squash

1 bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 medium/large carrot, roughly chopped

1 small American eggplant (or…one small Japanese eggplant and one small white eggplant)

2 jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped (remove seeds to reduce spice level–use them to kick up the heat)

1 shallot, chopped

1 large clove garlic, chopped

2 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)

6 oz can tomato paste

28 oz can whole tomato (tear or roughly chop tomato, save all juice)

3 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin (fresh ground is best)

15 oz. can of beans (any type will do, I actually used chickpeas)

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp canola oil (substitute 1 Tbsp bacon fat + 2 Tbsp canola oil if desired)

cheese and sour cream (optional for topping)

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other thick bottom pot, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add green peppers, jalapeno peppers, and diced carrot–saute until softened a bit. Add garlic and shallot, stir and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir just until fragrant. Add eggplant, squash, zucchini, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Stir and saute for approx 1 minute–add 1/4 cup of the broth to de-glaze the bottom of the pan, continue to stir 1 more minute. Add tomatoes with juices, beans, and remainder of the broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for approximately 15 minutes or until the veggies are done to your desired crispness. Add additional broth, wine, or water if chili becomes too thick. I prefer a thicker, chunkier chili but thin to your taste preference. Enjoy!

Optional: Let cool slightly, scoop into a bowl, top with a dollop of sour cream and cheese.

Farmer’s Market Chili

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Dutch baby pancake–perfect breakfast, brunch, or dessert bite!

This recipe is one if the easiest recipes for a quick, tasty breakfast (or possibly dessert)!  When your husband, kids, or friends are in the mood for pancakes and you really don’t feel like laboring over a hot skillet to make single size pancakes for a crowd, this is a wonderful alternative–a Dutch baby pancake (also called a popover pancake, German pancake, Poffertje, or Bismarck).

There are a few notable differences from a traditional pancake. The Dutch baby pancake is a bit more egg’y (similar to a crepe) and makes one large pancake that you can slice up into single servings, or just put on a plate and let everyone gather ’round and tear off a portion family style. There are many ways to spice  up this recipe. You can add your favorite fruit, chocolate, cinnamon, etc.–your imagination is the only limit. This recipe is the basic version–not too sweet, a little chewy, and makes a perfect bite for breakfast, brunch, or sometimes dessert.

An additional bonus: you will get some good use out of your cast iron skillet and clean up is a cinch!

Basic Dutch baby Pancake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup regular all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk (I used skim, but whole or 2% will work as well)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2-3 Tbsp butter

2-3 Tbsp powdered sugar

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice (or juice from 1/2 lemon)

To make:

Preheat oven to 425. Combine flour, milk, and eggs in a mixing bowl–beat lightly with a fork or whisk. There will be a few lumps, which is ok. Put bUtter in cast iron or other oven-proof frying pan and place in the pre-heated oven. When butter melts, carefully pour bAtter into heated pan. Return to oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes. The pancake is done when it is lightly browned at the edges and puffed. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Serve immediately. Don’t worry if the pancake falls–it will still taste good 🙂

My new favorite “pancake” recipe

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Happy Zucchini Bread Day!

Today is both National Zucchini Bread Day and Administrative Professionals Day. What better way to combine the two “fun holidays” and make mini zucchini breads to take to work with you and share with your fellow co-workers! This recipe is a fun spin on plain zucchini bread. The sweet potato and adds some extra moistness and nutrition to this perfect loaf of not-too sweet quick bread perfect for sharing.

Sweet Potato Zucchini Bread

(slightly modified from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups zucchini (grated*, you can leave the peel on)–one medium/large zucchini
  • 1-2 cups sweet potato (peeled and grated*)–one small/medium sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

To make:

*Note: To grate the zucchini and sweet potatoes, you can either use a box grater (large holes) or use a grater attachment for your food processor

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 4 mini loaf pans (or a regular 9 x 5 loaf pan) with non-stick cooking spray. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in large bowl until well combined using whisk or electric mixer. Stir in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well. Pour or scoop batter to pans. Bake for about 30-45 minutes (if using a full size loaf pan the cooking time will be approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes). Either way use a toothpick or sharp knife to test the center–when the tester comes out clean the loaves are done. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Slide knife around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Feel free to bake this bread a day ahead. Once completely cool, cover in plastic wrap and foil. Keep at room temperature. The mini loaves transport easily for sharing 🙂

Delicious mini Zucchini Bread Loaves to share!

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Molasses Breakfast Roll

This is one of the easiest recipes for making a sweet breakfast treat. The star of this recipe is molasses. The molasses glaze spices up the mundane cinnamon roll and adds a wonderful layer of caramelized flavor with a hint of smokiness. I’d put this recipe in a “semi-homemade’ category. If you really want to be fancy feel free to make your own dough, but I cheat and use Pillsbury crescent roll dough. I love to cook but I also love using pre-made doughs when I want to feel like I’m making something special but not put in the extra time of dough prep. The homemade glaze is the highlight of these breakfast rolls…the dough serves merely as the vessel 🙂

Molasses Breakfast Rolls

  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter–for the glaze
  • 1 Tbsp butter–for the rolls
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp plain white sugar
  • 1-2 cans crescent roll dough (press together along seams)

To make:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a round baking pan with foil, spray lightly. In a small saucepan combine molasses, butter (for sauce), and brown sugar over medium heat–stir constantly to melt sugar and cook down until bubbly. I use a small whisk for this stirring to help break up clumps and make a smooth, caramel textured sauce. Pour sauce into prepared baking pan. Roll out crescent dough (you can do one at a time) and press seams together. Brush a light layer of melted butter onto the rolls, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar onto the dough. Gently roll lengthwise then slice into individual rolls and place into pan with sauce. Repeat until pan is filled–do not over stuff the pan as the rolls will rise and spread a bit. I used only one can of crescent rolls and this did not fill the pan completely–so feel free to use an additional can of dough if you prefer. If not…that’s just more sauce for the rolls 🙂

Bake for 10-13 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand 2 minutes then flip pan upside down onto a serving plate. Serve alongside a fresh cup of coffee and you’ll have the perfect sweet start to your day!

Let cool just a bit...then flip!

Sticky, sweet Goodness!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Side dish envy: Balsamic Butternut Squash

As much as I like a perfect bite of roast beef, turkey, or ham, filling my plate with multiple side dishes is my favorite part of a big holiday meal. Side dishes are often unfortunately overlooked during the holidays–a time when meats and desserts really shine. This recipe is so easy and results in a bold, flavorful side dish that will certainly be noticed. Leftovers reheat well or can be used as a tasty base for soup the next day. You can multiply this recipe to feed as many people as needed.

Roasted Balsamic Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

olive oil

salt and pepper

good Balsamic vinegar

To make:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If you buy whole squash, peel the squash with a sharp vegetable peeler then dice into approximately 1 inch cubes. To save some elbow grease you can buy the pre-cut butternut squash in most grocery stores in the produce aisle. I find the pre-cut are a bit dryer than cutting your own, but peeling and cutting the squash takes some effort. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash salt and pepper and olive oil until the squash are coated. Layer the squash onto a baking pan, lined with foil, in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until browned and softened to your likeness (you can check the tenderness with a fork). Turn the squash about halfway through the cooking to get a more even caramelization/browning of the squash. I actually don’t turn them and prefer one crispy side and one softer side 🙂 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with you favorite balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy…have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Perfect Butternut Squash bites!

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