Thursday, February 25, 2010

roasted vegetable tart

After making the apple turnovers, I had opened my refrigerator door several times to find a box of half-used Phyllo dough staring at me.  What to do?  More apple turnovers?  They were certainly excellent, but I was feeling a little more adventurous than that.  And what is more adventurous than a vegetable?

Ha...okay, there are probably a lot of things more adventurous than a vegetable.  Especially the way we generally prepare and serve vegetables.  If you are like me, your vegetable portion with dinner tends to come from a can or a bag.  If it is fresh, it's generally steamed or boiled.  Not horribly adventurous.

But let's change that!  Let's be adventurous with our vegetables!  And let's bring Phyllo dough along on the adventure!  Are you with me????

Good.  Glad we got that settled.

So here are my adventurous veggies for today (you might decide to be adventurous with others...the dish will still work) - eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and tomato.  If you know my husband and me, you know that this actually is being pretty adventurous.  We aren't generally eggplant eaters and we tend to avoid fresh tomato like the plague.  Yay for adventure!

The first thing I did was peel, slice up, and sprinkle salt on my eggplant.  Then I let it sit for about 30 minutes.  I think this is called "sweating" the eggplant.  I'm guessing it helps get some of the moisture out.  I'm not sure if it's really a necessary step, but doing it makes me feel like a more "official" cook.  Anyway, if you choose to feel "official" too, make sure that you rinse the excess salt off after a half hour or so.

Then, chop up your eggplant...

...and slice up your other veggies...

Mix everything together in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, two heaping teaspoons of minced garlic, and a few shakes each of salt, pepper, and basil.  Then lay your veggies out on a baking sheet coated in foil.

Put your veggies in an oven that has been preheated to 450 degrees and roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are tender and most of the moisture is gone.  It's a great idea to stir them around every 10 minutes or so to keep them from sticking and keep them roasting evenly.

When they are done roasting, they should look like this...

Once your veggies are nice and roasted, it's time to put your tart together.  That means resisting the urge to eat the veggies right out of the pan (and they'll smell so good you'll want to).

For the tart, you'll need Phyllo dough, cooking spray, and a pie dish of sorts.  I used a rather deep one, but a more shallow one would have worked fine as well.  Just use what you've got.

This part is so easy...spray the dish with cooking spray, and lay a sheet of dough down.

Then spray the dough with cooking spray and lay another sheet of dough down.  You'll want to rotate your dough a little each time so that you cover the sides of your dish.  Like this...

Keep spraying and laying and spraying and laying until you have a stack of dough about 10-12 sheets thick (or until you run out).  Don't worry about dough tearing or things not looking's not supposed to.

Then spoon your veggies in...

...fold the sides of the dough in...

...and pop it in the oven.  Cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the crust has browned.

Look at that!  So easy and yet so delicious!  You can completely remove your tart from the pie dish to serve if you like (it shouldn't fall apart), or just slice it up from the dish.  Either way, serve it like pie.

I think that's why my husband liked it so much...he loves pie. 

Roasted Vegetable Tart

10-12 sheets Phyllo dough
1 eggplant
1 sweet pepper, julienned
2 medium zucchini, sliced
1-3 tomatoes, sliced
1 T. olive oil
2 t. minced garlic
salt, pepper, and basil to taste

Slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt.  Let sit for 30 minutes and then quickly rinse salt off.  Chop into 1-inch pieces.  Combine with other vegetables in a bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil.  Place in single layer on cookie sheet covered in foil; roast in oven at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes (until tender and moisture is gone), stirring often.

For crust, spray pie dish with cooking spray and lay a sheet of Phyllo dough inside.  Spray dough and top with another sheet of dough, rotating slightly to cover the sides of the dish.  Continue until your crust is 10-12 sheets of dough thick.  Spoon roasted vegetables inside and fold over sides of crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until crust has browned.  Serves 6.

Nutrition: 155 cal, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 550mg sodium, 26g carbs, 5g fiber, 4g sugar, 4g protein, 23% vit. A, 81% vit. C, 2% calcium, 9% iron.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

apple turnovers

 When I first starting thinking about writing a food blog, I remember talking it over with one of my high school friends over facebook chat.  We hadn't talked in about ten years...basically since graduation!  In our conversation, it came out that we both were interested in finding ways to reduce the fat in the comfort food that we grew up eating...and we were both serious about making sure that flavor didn't get reduced in the process.

Jessica gave me the encouragement I needed and a challenge to go along with it.  She specifically requested that I find a way to make flaky apple turnovers that were as good as the ones featured on this blog post.  Well, Jessica...I did my best...and I liked the result.  This one's for you!

I think apple turnovers are best when they are fresh.  And, since there are only two people in my household, I make two turnovers (nevermind that each one is worth about 2 servings).  If you have more've got some options.  You can actually stick to the serving size and cut the turnovers in half before serving.  You can be more industrious than I am and actually just make smaller turnovers in the first place.  Or you can triple the recipe, neglect to tell your guests that each turnover is worth two servings, and giggle quietly to yourself while they demolish their healthy dessert.  Your call.

First things first...grab an apple!  Most people prefer the tart apples like Granny Smith for this sort of thing.  I just choose whichever looks cutest in the store at the time.  I think this is a Gala.

Chop your apple into pieces.  Easy enough.

To actually assemble the turnover, we are going to use Phyllo dough.  It's thin, so it makes a nice flaky crust when stacked on top of itself.  But it's also a lower fat alternative to traditional flaky crusts.  I love it!  Other ingredients you will need - butter or butter substitute, sugar, and cinnamon.

I should note here that you want to make sure you take time to thaw your Phyllo dough before making your dessert.  There's nothing more depressing than talking yourself into an apple turnover only to find out that you have to wait two hours for the Phyllo to thaw.

I have personal experience...believe me, it will scar you for life.

Lay out one piece of your nicely thawed Phyllo dough on the counter, and cover the rest with a damp paper towel (to keep them from drying out).  Thinly brush some melted butter over the top of the dough sheet.  You don't need to cover every inch, and it doesn't need to be saturated.  Your goal is to give it enough moisture to get the next layer to stick.

After you brush on a bit o' butter, lay another sheet of Phyllo dough on top.  Repeat brushing with butter and laying dough sheets until you've got a stack of dough about 5-6 sheets thick.  You should only have used at most a tablespoon of melted butter.  If you want to go even lighter, try spraying each sheet of dough lightly with cooking spray instead of using the butter. 

Place 1/2 of the apple pieces on the middle center of the dough stack.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Dot the top with up to 1/2 teaspoon of butter.

Fold the ends in...

...and then roll it up like a burrito.  If you need to, brush with a little butter along the way to get the dough to stick to itself.

Repeat with the other turnover.

Bake your turnovers at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.  I generally put a piece of foil over the top after 20 minutes (to keep it from over-browning) and then let it go for another 10 minutes, just to ensure that my filling is good and cooked.

Now for the icing!  Mix 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and enough milk (or milk substitute) to get a good glazing consistency.  I used about 2 teaspoons of milk.

No need to wait for your turnovers to away!

Yum.  Yum, yum, yum.  And just wait until you cut into it...


Apple Turnovers
1 apple, peeled and chopped
10-12 sheets Phyllo dough, thawed
2 T. plus 1 t. butter or butter substitute
1 t. sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
2 t. milk or milk substitute

Melt two tablespoons of butter.  Spread a sheet of Phyllo dough on counter and brush melted butter over top.  Layer another Phyllo sheet on top.  Continue until you have a stack of dough about 5-6 sheets high.  Repeat.

For each turnover, place 1/2 of the apple pieces the center of the dough.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and 1/2 t. sugar.  Fold sides in and roll up like a burrito.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until filling is cooked.

For icing, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to form a glazing consistency.  Spread glaze over warm turnovers.  Serves 4.

Nutrition for 1/2 turnover (calculated using Smart Balance Light): 254 cal, 6g fat,2g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 277mg sodium, 47g carbs, 2g fiber, 20g sugars, 4g protein, 9% vit A, 3% vit. C, 2% calcium, 9% iron.

Compare those nutritional stats to the original recipe...

Nutrition for original recipe (I'm assuming it makes about 10 turnovers): 1 turnover equals 609 cal, 36g fat, 13g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 45mg cholesterol, 263 sodium, 68g carbs, 2g fiber, 27g sugars, 6g protein, 30% vit. A, 5% vit. C, 5% calcium, 14% iron.

That's concoction has 1/6 of the fat...success!!!

This post is proudly linked to Foodie Friday (happy anniversary!) and the Saturday Blog Showcase!

Monday, February 15, 2010

napa valley spotlight + basil parmesan chicken and pasta

To celebrate Valentine's weekend, my husband took me to Napa Valley.  We love Napa Valley.  We love the architecture...the vineyards...the cute towns.  Napa Valley is one of our favorite places to go on a day trip.  The funny thing is...we don't really love wine!

Don't get me wrong...we like wine.  We buy wine on occasion and we'll even share a glass of it once every couple of months.  But we are definitely not winos.  We know nothing about pairing food with wine, and we only swirl and sniff in order to make each other laugh.  We never drink red wine (apparently, if you are truly a wine lover, you like it red).  We like it fruity, sweet, and generally drink it out of an Eskimo Joe's cup.

But we love Napa.  And since I cook with wine, I thought I would showcase both the winery we visited as well as one of my wine-infused recipes.  This will be a longer post, but hang in there...I've got some great pictures for you and a recipe you've got to try.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa is a relatively new winery to Napa Valley, but it's already made a name for itself.  Why?  Well, take a look.

That's right...that's a winery.  It's recently received fame for being featured on the Bachelor (or so my sister tells me) as well as Disney's Bedtime Stories.  I haven't seen it in either of those productions...but I did get to tour it!

You can't see the castle from the main road.  And when you pull into the drive, you have to drive almost to the top of the hill before you can see it.  When we arrived this weekend, the castle was shrouded in fog.  It was beautiful!

The castle is amazing.  The grounds are huge, complete with vineyards, a pond, jousting grounds, and even servants' quarters!

It's also got a moat...

...and a cat guarding the entrance.

Doesn't my husband look absolutely grand sitting atop his castle?

We took a guided tour of this winery that lasted almost two hours.  We got to see the beautiful grand hall - it has hand painted murals covering the walls and a fireplace that predates Christopher Columbus.

We also got to go into the underground caves that house all of the wine barrels (and a torture chamber!).  In this particular room, we participated in a barrel tasting...

And finally, our tour group was ushered into a beautiful room for a private tasting.

We tried a white, a rose, and all of the dessert wines. 

Man...they were amazing...

...even for non-winos like us.

(I also enjoyed the complimentary bread sticks...)

We had a ton of fun and even found some new wines that we liked.  Our favorites? - all the dessert wines. :-)  My favorite was the La Fantasia - it was a sparkling red wine (!) that tasted wonderfully of cherries.  My man's favorite was the Il Raggio del Sole, a muscat wine.  I think we're going to have to go back and buy some.

And now for the food...

What better to make when you get home from a winery than a meal that involves wine?  I admit, though...we did not use any wine from Castello di Amorosa in making this meal.  In fact, we didn't use Napa wine at all.  I tend to not cook with fancy wines...I'd rather drink those.  Instead, we buy relatively cheap ($5-7) wines for cooking.  Please note, though, that we never use cooking wines for cooking.  They are disgusting and overpriced!  Why cook with something that you wouldn't drink?

This is a pasta dish I created that my husband loves.  And, because it's fast and easy, it's often a dish we make for company as well.  It calls for the following ingredients: chicken breasts, frozen broccoli, minced garlic, basil-Parmesan pesto, dry white wine, lemon juice, dried basil, salt, and tortellini.  (If you are dairy free, just pick another type of pasta and use plain olive oil instead of the pesto.)

First, get some water boiling for your tortellini.  You'll want to cook about 2 1/2 cups of tortellini according to the instructions on the package.  When you toss the tortellini in the boiling water, also throw in a 14 oz package of frozen broccoli florets. 

While your pasta and broccoli are boiling, cook one teaspoon of minced garlic and 3-4 chicken breasts (cut into pieces) in a nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  The chicken doesn't need to be completely done at this point - just cook and stir for about two minutes to let the sides get browned.

Once the outside of the chicken is browned, add the following to your skillet: 1/2 cup basil-Parmesan pesto, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 4 tablespoons white wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dried basil.  If you are doing the dairy free version, use a few tablespoons of olive oil in place of the pesto and add extra basil and garlic for flavoring.  Stir around to combine and then reduce heat and cover.  Let all of this wonderfulness simmer until the chicken is cooked inside (about 6-8 minutes).

Drain your cooked broccoli and pasta, and add these to the cooked chicken mixture.

That's it!  Serve with a salad or bread sticks on the side.  Oh...and don't forget the glass of wine!

Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta
3 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 t. minced garlic
1/2 cup basil-Parmesan pesto
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. water
4 T. white wine
1 T. plus 2 t. basil
2 1/2 cups tortellini
14 oz. broccoli florets

Cook pasta and broccoli together, according to directions on package of pasta. Drain.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Spray with cooking spray and cook chicken and garlic for about 2 minutes, or until browned on sides.  Then, pour remaining ingredients in skillet, stirring to mix.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 6-8 minutes or until chicken is done.  To serve, combine pasta, broccoli, and chicken mixture.  Serves 6.

Nutrition: 364 cal, 13g fat, 4g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 87mg cholesterol, 489mg sodium, 23g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 33g protein, 3% vit. A, 5% vit. C, 10% calcium, 10% iron.

Friday, February 12, 2010

creamy crazy bowties

It was one of those nights when I wanted something good and comforting...something creamy...something delicious...and something that would help me clean out my fridge.  Here was my solution...

One of my favorite things to order when eating out are those fancy pasta dishes that incorporate a lot of meats and veggies and, of course, a deliciously creamy sauce.  Not exactly healthy, I know.  But who says they have to be loaded with fat and dairy and cream and all that is delicious?  Who says they can't be low fat and healthy (but still delicious)?  Not me!

In making this pasta, I really did clean out my refrigerator.  So if it sounds good to you, I encourage you to do the same.  Don't worry about buying the plethora of ingredients shown in the picture below.  Well...pasta is essential...and probably some meat and veggies...but you decide what meats, what veggies, and what spices.  This is a very liberating dish!

The first thing I did was get the water started for the pasta.  You want that cooking as you go along.  You also want to go ahead and get your veggies prepared.  I chopped up some yellow squash, tomato, and turkey pepperoni that I had sitting in my fridge.  For you, it may be broccoli and onion...or cauliflower...or foie gras (although I don't recommend that last one...gross!). But whatever suits your fancy, get it ready.

I decided that I wanted this to be a primarily chicken pasta dish.  So I sprinkled some chicken with salt and pepper and cooked it in a teaspoon of olive oil.  

Once the chicken was done, I removed it and put it on a plate.  Then, I threw the squash, some minced garlic, peppers (I used frozen ones), the pepperoni, and even about a tablespoon of bacon bits into the skillet and sauteed them in the leftover oil for a few minutes.

After a few minutes, I added my chopped tomatoes, a half cup of white wine, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of fresh parsley, and a tablespoon of basil.  

And then came the part of the recipe that earns the word crazy.  I added two teaspoons of McCormick steak seasoning.

This stuff is amazing...really!  I use it all the time.  And the funniest thing is, I only use it when making pasta.  Have I ever used it to season steak?  No!  But honestly, it really is delicious...such a lovely combination of salt and pepper and who knows what else.

Once the wine had boiled down, I threw in the chicken and added another 1/4 cup of wine.  I just love adding wine to pasta dishes.  It adds such a nice flavor to the veggies and helps them get to a nice state of crisp-tender.  I kept this cooking until the wine had almost vanished.  By now, my veggies were perfect, my chicken was nice and warm, and the flavors had hung out a bit together.

And now for my favorite part - the creaminess!  I mixed a quarter cup of flour with 2 cups of almond milk.  You can mix it with whatever kind of milk (or cream!) you want. 

Stir your flour/milk concoction really well, and then toss it in with your veggies and meat.  Mix well and bring to a boil for about a minute or so until it's thickened up a bit.

And then, for the final touch, add your cooked pasta!  At this point, you should also steal a taste and adjust the seasonings if you feel necessary.  Maybe add a sprinkling of thyme...or nutmeg...or cayenne, if you are feeling dangerous.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Crazy Creamy Bowties
NOTE: I'm writing the recipe as I made it.  But like I said, experiment!

8 oz. bowtie pasta
2 chicken breasts
1 t. olive oil
1 t. minced garlic
2 yellow squash, chopped
1/4 cup sliced turkey pepperoni
1 T. bacon bits
1/2 cup bell pepper, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 t. salt
1 t. fresh minced parsley
1 T. basil
2 t. McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 cups milk (or milk substitute)
1/4 cup flour

Cook pasta; drain.

While pasta is cooking, cut two chicken breasts into pieces, salt and pepper them, and cook in 1 t. olive oil.  After chicken is cooked through, remove to plate.

Add garlic, squash, turkey pepperoni, bell pepper, and bacon bits to skillet.  Saute for a few minutes, and then add diced tomatoes, seasonings, and 1 cup wine.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  After wine is reduced, add the cooked chicken and another 1/2 cup of wine.  Cook until reduced.

Mix 2 cups milk with 1/4 cup flour; stir into vegetables.  Bring to a boil for one minute, or until thickened.  Add cooked pasta.  Serves 6.

Nutrition (calculated with light soy milk): 341 cal, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 84mg cholesterol, 875mg sodium, 34g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 30g protein, 14% vit. A, 44% vit. C, 15% calcium, 20% iron

This post is linked to Foodie Friday!
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