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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 perfect...it'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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

rosemary roasted sweet potatoes

 
Roasted sweet potatoes make an easy and quite lovely accompaniment to any meal, and I find these particularly good.  With their natural sweetness, dusting of rosemary, and slight hint of cayenne, they satisfy all the taste buds (except maybe the pucker taste buds...but who wants to satisfy those during the main course???).  These are especially wonderful when drizzled with honey before serving.

This recipe can be easily cut down or expanded.  My directions make about four servings.

Start with two sweet potatoes...it's a logical beginning.  Try to find potatoes that are as even in width as possible.


Peel your sweet potatoes and cut off and discard the small, pointy ends.  Then, cut them into 3/4 inch thick rounds.


Have you ever noticed that sweet potatoes bleed?  and it's white?  I find it very strange...and somewhat disturbing.  Like I'm hurting them...


Poor little guy....

But I digress.  Moving on...



Put your rounds in a large bowl and toss them with the following seasonings: 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.


Next, layer your herb-coated rounds on a baking sheet covered in foil and well-coated with cooking spray.  Try to ignore the fact that they are still bleeding...and staring at you...


Tightly cover your baking sheet with foil.  This step is very important...it keeps them from staring at you and making you feel guilty...really!

Okay, not really.  It actually aids in the cooking process.  The not-staring thing...well, that's just a bonus.


Put your well-wrapped baking sheet of crying potatoes into a COLD oven.  That's right - no preheating!  Turn on your oven to 425 degrees and cook for 30 minutes.

Once that 30 minutes is up, open your oven and carefully remove the top layer of foil (no burning yourself!).


Once you've taken the foil off, place the potatoes back in for another 10-25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden.  Be sure to check your potatoes at this point.  My oven is notorious for burning the bottoms of things while leaving the tops undercooked.  You really don't want to burn your potatoes' bottoms.  After all...you've already made them bleed.  Enough is enough...


Once the bottoms are nice and golden, carefully flip them over.  I suggest using the thinnest spatula you have.  The potatoes are sticky at this point (they are caramelizing after all) and they like to try to stick to the foil. Once you've flipped them, put them back into the oven for another 15 minutes or so until the bottom edges are golden brown.  Once you've achieved the perfect caramelization (is that a word?), pull them out of the oven and marvel at your handiwork.


Slightly crisp...incredibly tender...delectably sweet...satisfyingly savory...with just a hint of cayenne.  Perfect!


Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch rounds
1-2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1 t. rosemary
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

In a bowl, toss all ingredients together until well coated.  Place sweet potatoes in single layer on baking sheet covered in foil and coated with cooking spray.  Tightly cover the sweet potatoes in another layer of foil.  Place in a cold oven.  Turn oven to 425 degrees and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven and remove top layer of foil.  Place back in oven and cook for 10-25 minutes, or until bottoms of potatoes are golden.

Remove baking sheet from oven and flip potatoes over.  Return to oven and cook for another 15 minutes, or until bottoms of potatoes are golden.

Note: If you want to further reduce the fat content, forgo the olive oil.  Instead, place potatoes on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Then, spray the potatoes with cooking spray and sprinkle seasonings on top.  The end product won't be quite the same, but you will save on fat while still getting quite a bit of flavor.

Nutrition: 89 cal, 4g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 621mg sodium, 14g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 1g protein, 187% vit. A, 3% vit. C, 3% calcium, 3% 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 people...well...you'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 cool...ice away!


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


...amazing...



Apple Turnovers
 
1 apple, peeled and chopped
10-12 sheets Phyllo dough, thawed
2 T. plus 1 t. butter or butter substitute
Cinnamon
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 right...my 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 (yes...red!) 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.

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