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Keeping it Real for Valentine’s Day

There are some who will go all out for Valentine’s Day – reservations at a romantic restaurant, roses, chocolates, champagne, etc.  That’s wonderful and sweet and everyone should experience that once in their lives.  For some of us though, a more casual event is in order.  If you are like me and you are married, and a mom, and you have to get up for work the next day; you might want a simple evening at home.  Maybe you’re hosting a singles party for those without a significant other.  Maybe you and your sweetie can’t be together for whatever reason.  That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourselves.  I have the perfect menu for you.  The recipes that are fun and easy and great for any time of the year.

Aphrodite’s Love Boats

Ingredients

Romaine Lettuce – 1 head or 2 hearts
Hearts of Palm – 1 can (15 oz.)
Artichoke Hearts (in oil) – 1 can (14 oz.)
Cucumber – 1
Feta Cheese – 8 oz. (crumbled)
Red Pepper Dressing (recipe follows) – ½ to 1 cup

Directions

  1. Cut the base off the romaine, leaving the leaves intact. Rinse the lettuce and drain.
  1. Drain the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
  1. Thinly slice the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
  1. Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds by scraping with a small spoon. Thinly slice the cucumbers.
  1. Arrange 8 – 12 romaine leaves on a platter.
  1. Toss together the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, cucumber, and feta cheese and fill the romaine leaves with the mixture.
  1. Drizzle red pepper dressing over the top of the “boats” and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

Ingredients:

Red Peppers – 3-4
Red Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup
Olive Oil – ½ cup
Garlic – 1-2 cloves (fresh or roasted)
Fresh Basil – 4-5 large leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
Salt and Pepper – to taste

Directions:

  1. Char red peppers until skin is completely blackened.
  1. Put peppers in a bowl and cover with foil to steam.
  1. When they are cool enough to handle, remove skins and seeds.
  1. Place ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until blended.

Note: You can use store bought roasted peppers. Drain them and skip to step number 4. The dressing will be a little denser but you can thin it out with more liquid like vinegar, oil, or even water.

Venus de Mezze – Mediterranean Appetizer Platter

Chicken Gyro Meatballs

Ingredients

Ground Chicken – 3 lbs.
Bread Crumbs – 1 ½ cups
Eggs – 3
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves – minced
Dried Dill – 2 tsp.
Dried Coriander – 2 tsp.
Dried Oregano – 1 tsp.
Salt – 2 tsp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  1. Mix meat, bread crumbs eggs, garlic, dill, coriander, oregano, and salt together .
  1. Form and roll mixture into small meatballs.
  1. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Spanakopita Bites

Ingredients

Phyllo Dough Cups – 2 pkgs (15 each)
Frozen Spinach- 2 boxes (thawed)
Red Onion – 1 small
Garlic – 2 cloves
Eggs – 2
Feta – 4 oz.
Dill – 4 sprigs
Scallions – 3
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Olive Oil – as needed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  1. Thaw spinach, then wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze excess water out.
  1. Dice red onion and mince garlic. Chop dill and thinly slice scallions. Beat the eggs.
  1. In a large sauté pan, cook onion and garlic until softened.
  1. Turn off heat and mix in spinach, dill, and feta. Stir in eggs and add salt and pepper.
  1. Fill each phyllo cup with 1-2 tsp. of filling.
  1. Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes until filling is cooked through.

Hummus

Ingredients:
 
Garbanzo Beans – 1 can (drained and rinsed)
or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
Garlic – 1 clove (or more to taste)
Sesame Oil or Tahini – 1 tsp.
Lemons – 1- 2 (juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste
Pita Chips (4 pitas toasted)

Directions:
 

  1.  Wash and dry lemons and zest them.
  2. Crush and peel garlic clove.
  3. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon.
  4. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like.
  5. Adjust seasonings.
  6. Serve with toasted pita chips.
Eros is My Hero – Steak Sandwiches with Thai the Knot Chimichurri Sauce
Ingredients
London Broil – 2 lbs.
Marinade (recipe follows)
Chimichurri (recipe follows)
Good Quality Bread – 8 thick slices or 16 thin slices
Olive Oil – 2-3 tbs. for toasting the bread

Directions

  1. Marinate the steak for at least an hour in the fridge or up to 24 hours. Take it out about 30 minutes before grilling so it can come to room temperature.
  1. In the meantime arrange the greens on a serving platter.
  1. Remove steak from marinade and discard marinade.
  1. Place steak on a hot grill for about 2-5 minutes per side depending on thickness.
  1. Allow meat to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  1. Slice thin pieces against the grain.
  1. Drizzle bread with olive oil. Toast bread in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned and slightly crisp around the edges.
  1. Arrange about 4 oz. of meat on 8 pieces of bread. Drizzle with chimichurri. Can serve open-faced sandwich just like this or place second piece of bread on top.

Marinade

Ingredients

Pineapple Juice – 1 cup
Tamari (Gluten Free Soy Sauce) – ¼ cup
Rice Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup
Garlic – 3 cloves – grated or chopped
Ginger – 1 inch piece – peeled and grated or chopped

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  1. Pour over the steak and let it marinate for 1-24 hours.

Thai Inspired Herb Dressing

Ingredients

Basil – 1 handful
Cilantro – 1 handful
Mint – about 5 leaves
Garlic – 1 clove
Ginger – 1 tsp. grated
Limes – 2
Rice Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup (if needed)
Salt – to taste
Neutral Oil – ½ cup (vegetable or canola)

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor combine basil, cilantro, mint, garlic, ginger, a pinch or two of salt, and the juice of 1 lime.
  1. Blend until ingredients are combined.
  1. Drizzle in oil until you get a dressing consistency.
  1. At this point, taste and adjust. You can add more salt or lime juice or rice wine vinegar as needed.

Note: Sometimes limes don’t provide enough juice. You can use rice wine vinegar to add a mellow acid note if the limes aren’t juicy enough. You can also just use the vinegar if you don’t have fresh limes on hand.

Love me 2 Thymes Potatoes

Ingredients

Red or White New Potatoes – 30 small
Salt – 2-3 tsp. as needed
Olive Oil – 2 tbs.
Lemon – 1 (zest and juice)
Dried Thyme – 1-2 tsp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  1. Scrub potatoes. Place in pot with enough water to just cover them. Simmer until cooked through. Add 1 tsp. salt while potatoes are simmering.
  1. Drain potatoes and allow them to cool slightly.
  1. Using a pastry scraper or small pan, press on potatoes to flatten them.
  1. Zest juice the lemon.
  1. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, lemon zest, 1 tbs. of lemon juice, thyme, and a few pinches of salt.
  1. Spread potatoes in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  1. Bake until potatoes are browned and slightly crisped.


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All You Need is Love II

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All You Need is Love II

In my most recent post, I suggested a list of ingredients that I recommend you keep on hand on a regular basis. My reasons for choosing these ingredients are that they are easy to find, healthy, and inexpensive – and can provide a long list of versatile and delicious meals.

I gave you a list of ingredients and a list of 8 dishes you can make with them. I have previously provided 4 recipes and now I will provide the final 4. In my next post I will provide a game plan for keeping an abundance of prepared food on hand with minimal planning and work. If you are willing to do a little extra labor for a couple of nights, you can probably save yourself 2 or 3 nights of cooking later on.

I previously provided recipes for Black Beans and Rice, Lentil Soup, Vegetable Soup, and Stuffed Peppers. The remaining recipes follow.

Vegetarian Chili
Veggie Stir Fry
Fried Rice
Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Vegetarian Chili

1 medium onion – chopped
1 medium to large bell pepper – chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic – minced
1 (or more) chile of choice – minced (I like serranos and jalapenos for this)
3 cups of canned tomatoes (pureed, strained, sauce)
1 cup of water
3-4 cups of cooked beans of choice (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
Cilantro (optional)
Oil, Salt, Pepper (as needed)

Heat up some oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan or pot you are using). Saute onions and peppers for a few minutes. Add garlic and chile and saute for another minute or two. Add tomatoes and water and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes to combine flavors. Add salt and pepper as needed. Add in cooked beans.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasonings as you go. Finish with chopped cilantro to taste. For a more filling meal, serve over rice.

Note: Try to use at least 2 kinds of beans for this dish. It’s nice to have variety. My favorite beans for chili are black, pink, kidney, and garbanzo. Feel free to use any kind you like.

Veggie Stir Fry

Chopped Veggies of your choice (2-4 cups)
1-3 Garlic Cloves – minced
Chile – minced (optional)
Oil (one that can stand a high heat such as canola or coconut)
Water – approx. ¼ cup
Tamari – to taste
Cilantro (optional)
Cooked Rice – 2 cups

I like to use big chunks of veggies for this. Just make sure they are similar in size so they cook at the same rate. The veggies we have on hand from the shopping list are carrots, celery, onions, and bell peppers. Heat up some oil in a sauté pan. Add all the chopped veggies and sauté for a few minutes. When veggies are cooked about halfway through, add the garlic and chiles. Small pieces of garlic burn quickly and can ruin a dish so we add them later in the cooking process. Cook for about 2 minutes and add some water. We add the water for 2 reasons. One, it will create steam and speed up the cooking process. Two, it will keep the garlic from burning. Add tamari to taste. Finish with cilantro and serve over cooked rice.

Fried Rice

Chopped Veggies of your choice (2-4 cups)
Garlic – minced
Chile – minced (optional)
Oil (one that can stand a high heat such as canola or coconut)
Water – approx. ¼ cup
Tamari
Cilantro (optional)
Cooked Rice – 2 cups

I like to use smaller chunks of veggies for this. Just make sure they are similar in size so they cook at the same rate. The veggies we have on hand from the shopping list are carrots, celery, onions, and bell peppers. Heat up some oil in a sauté pan. Add all the chopped veggies and sauté for a few minutes. When veggies are cooked about halfway through add the garlic and chiles. Small pieces of garlic burn quickly and can ruin a dish so we add them later in the cooking process. Cook for about 2 minutes and add some water. We add the water for 2 reasons. One, it will create steam and speed up the cooking process. Two, it will keep the garlic from burning. Add tamari to taste. Stir in the fried rice and cook until everything is mixed together and heated through.

Note: This recipe is very similar to the Veggie Stir Fry. The difference is that you chop the veggies into smaller pieces and you add the cooked rice into the pan instead of serving the veggies over the rice.  Also, this is a great time to use the leftover rice from the fridge.  No need to make fresh rice.  The old stuff actually works better.

Quick Refrigerator Pickles

2 Cups of Water
1 cup of Vinegar (I like white or apple cider)
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar (or agave or honey)
3 cups of Veggies of your choice (carrots are my favorite but celery works too)

Bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil and let simmer for a few minutes until salt and sugar dissolve. Clean, peel, and slice veggies into bite-size pieces. Place in clean glass jars. Pour in pickling liquid. Let this cool before you cover with lids. Place in refrigerator.  These will be ready in a few hours and keep for about 2 weeks, if refrigerated.   They only get better with time. Serve as a snack, side dish, on a sandwich, any way you like. These pickles will be very mild. Feel free to adjust salt and sugar ratios or add garlic or chiles to spice things up a bit. If using garlic or chiles, add them to the cooking liquid and simmer along with the other ingredients.

Note: You can save old jars from store-bought pickles, or salsa for this use. No need to buy new ones. You can also use plastic containers, but I prefer glass for this.  

All you need is love…

Well actually all you really need are carrots, celery, onions, and a few other things to create delicious meals on a regular basis. You know how I feel about ingredients. They are affordable and enable you to prepare your own healthy meals whenever you please. I’ll give you two lists of things that you should keep on hand to make delectable dishes and a couple of easy peasy recipes to prove it.

Fresh Ingredients
Carrots
Onion
Celery
Bell Peppers
Garlic
Chilies (jalapeno, Serrano, etc.)
Cilantro (or any fresh herb you use on a regular basis)

Pantry Ingredients
Rice
Beans (at least 2 or 3 kinds)
Stock/Broth (I like vegetable, but chicken or beef work too)
Canned tomatoes (diced, pureed, whole)
Oils
Vinegars
Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)

I’m working under the assumption that you have salt, pepper, and sugar (or some kind of sweetener) on hand already.

Let me explain my rationale for these choices. There are certain bases that you can create for any number of dishes. I’m all about that base, ‘bout that base. Sorry I couldn’t resist. Here are some examples.

Mirepoix is a classic French combination of diced carrots, celery, and onions. It’s usually one part carrots, one part celery, two parts onion. For example, it would be ¼ cup of carrots, ¼ cup of celery, ½ cup onions. It’s a great start for soups and stews.

Trinity is classic in New Orleans cooking. It’s a combination of diced celery, onions, and bell peppers. I’m pretty sure you can’t make gumbo without it, although I’m not a gumbo expert.

Sofrito is a Latin base that is much more flexible in it’s ingredient list, but could include any or all of the following: onions, bell peppers, chilis, garlic, cilantro. The list goes on. There are as many variations as there are cooks.

Here is a short list of meals you can create with the ingredients listed above and, as promised, recipes follow.   There are also links to recipes that I have provided previously on this site.

Vegetable Soup
Lentil Soup
Black Beans and Rice
Vegetarian Chili
Veggie Stir Fry
Fried Rice
Stuffed Peppers
Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Vegetable Soup (Vegan)
1 quart vegetable stock
2 cups water
1-15oz. can diced tomatoes with it’s liquid
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
¼ to ½ cup onion, diced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer until vegetables are cooked through. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Note: Add any additional vegetables that you have on hand. This is a great way to use up leftover veggies. Just don’t cook them for as long as the raw ones. Feel free to add any herbs and spices that you like as well. You can even add some beans to bump up the protein and make the soup a more complete meal.

Variations

Gringa Style: Add 1 tsp. each of cumin and chili powder as well as ½ cup each of sliced zucchini and corn kernels.   To finish, add some chopped cilantro. Some cooked black or pink beans would also be a delicious addition. (add approximately ½ cups of beans or more to your liking)

Italiano Style: Add 1 tsp. (or more to taste) of each dried basil and dried parsley. Add up to 1 cup zucchini and/or summer squash as well as some cooked white or garbanzo beans. (add approximately ½ cup of beans or more to your liking)

Stuffed Peppers (Vegan)
2 – 4 bell peppers (any color you like)
Leftover Black Beans and Rice
Tomato Sauce, at least 2 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bell peppers in half. Remove stems and seeds. Stuff with leftover Black Beans and Rice. Place peppers in baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until peppers are cooked and everything is heated through.

Note: If you really want to be efficient and save yourself another night of cooking, prep the peppers on the same night that you prepare the Black Beans and Rice. Double the recipe, if necessary.   Set everything up in a baking dish, cover and refrigerate (or freeze). On a night when you don’t have time to cook, pop the baking dish in a 350 degree oven and cook through.


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Veganomics – Hummus – Recipe

realishhummus

Okay, let’s just say that I LOVE hummus. It’s delicious, affordable, versatile, and crowd-pleasing. My husband and I have often made a meal of it with sliced veggies and pita bread or crackers.   I personally use dried beans almost exclusively, but in this case I often make an exception. The recipe below is very straightforward and easy to remember so that’s the one I’m providing. It’s basically one of everything: 1 can of beans, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp. tahini, 1 lemon. Olive oil and salt as needed. It’s extremely easy to double the recipe.   I wouldn’t make more than 2 cans worth (or ½ lb. dried) at a time as the food processor might not be able to accommodate more ingredients. You can also use this recipe if you have a mini-food-processor. The one of everything version is perfect. The only issue is that you can’t drizzle the olive oil while the processor is going. You have to add a little olive oil at a time and start and stop until you get the consistency you like.

Hummus

1 can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
1 clove of garlic (or more to taste)
1 tsp. tahini
1-2 lemons – juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste

Wash and dry lemons and zest them. Crush and peel garlic clove. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Adjust seasonings.  Serve with veggies, pita bread, crackers, chips. Hummus also makes a great sandwich or wrap. Spread bread with hummus and pile on whatever veggies you like.

Note: Tahini can have a seemingly high price tag when compared with the other ingredients. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way. It keeps in the fridge indefinitely, and even if you made hummus once a week, your supply would last from 6 months to 1 year. Also, you can skip it. It’s not mandatory but I think it adds a nice flavor. That being said, if I didn’t have tahini on hand, I would still make hummus.


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Veganomics – Greens and Beans – Recipe

 realishcabbage realishdrywhitebeans

Greens and beans are an Italian classic, especially escarole and white beans with lots of garlic. If you are not familiar with escarole, it resembles a thicker head of green leaf lettuce. It’s delicious and stands up to cooking, but can also be used in salads if it’s allowed a little time to marinate in it’s dressing. I love escarole but I also love cabbage, and I find it to be less expensive and more versatile. Since this is part of my Veganomics series, I’m going with the cabbage for this recipe. You can use any cabbage you like, green cabbage, savoy cabbage, or napa cabbage. These are the three most popular ones that I find readily available. I love savoy cabbage. I call it “medium” cabbage. Regular cabbage can be a little heavy and napa tends to be very light. While the savoy can be a little pricier than the green, I don’t mind spending a little extra and it still stretches a buck.

Even though we are basing this Veganomics series on the versatility and delicious nature of beans, I’d like to give you some ideas for using the leftover greens from the recipe below.

  • Slice it up for a lighter version of cole slaw
  • Chop or slice it and use it as a base for salad in place of your favorite lettuce
  • Add to soups, stews, or stir-fries to bump up the vitamins and fiber in your meal
  • Use it as a wrap in place of bread or tortillas
  • Use whole leaves as serving containers for dips at parties

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that cabbage might play a big role in my next Veganomics series. More to come on that…

Here is my favorite recipe for greens and beans. Mangia!

Greens and Beans

½ lb. of dried white beans (or 2 – 15 oz. cans drained and rinsed)
½ head of savoy cabbage – thinly sliced
1-3 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper
Oil of choice for sautéing
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Fresh lemon juice to taste (optional)

Cooking the beans

Rinse and then soak dried beans for at least a couple of hours or overnight, if possible. If you don’t have time to soak the beans, you can skip this step. Just keep in mind that it could extend your cooking time. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour until they are cooked through. Add about one teaspoon of salt to the beans about halfway through cooking. If using canned beans, skip this step.

Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with oil. Over low heat, cook whole cloves of garlic until they are very soft. Remove them from the oil. Mash the garlic with a little salt to make a paste. At this point you can raise the cooking heat to about medium. Add the cabbage and cook until wilted. If the pan seems a little dry add some water. This will create some steam and quicken the cooking time without having to add extra oil. Remove cabbage from the pan. Add a little extra oil if needed and then sauté the white beans to heat through and soften up. Add in the mashed garlic and stir to incorporate with the beans. Add cabbage back in and cook until everything is heated through and cooked to your liking.   Along the way add salt and pepper to taste.   Pile on a serving platter. Just before serving you can drizzle lightly with a good quality olive oil and some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Use the red pepper flakes at any point during the cooking process or serve at the table for a finishing touch. Enjoy. Serves 4 as a generous main course portion or as a side dish for 6 – 8 people.

Leftover Tips

While this is delicious reheated, as is, for lunch or dinner, here are some other tasty options.

Turn it into a soup, by adding stock and veggies of your choice (i.e., diced potatoes, carrots, tomatoes) and simmering until the veggies are cooked through. Adjust seasonings and enjoy.

Toss it with pasta and sun-dried tomatoes and dress with some pasta water and olive oil.


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Veganomics – Lentil Soup – Recipe

RealishLentil

Normally I provide a canned equivalent for the beans in my recipes. I will not do that for this recipe. First, because I have never used canned lentils so I don’t know what the equivalent is. Also, lentils don’t need to be soaked and have a relatively quick cooking time. This soup benefits from having all the ingredients simmered together for 30 – 60 minutes.

Lentil Soup

½ lb. of dried lentils
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large or 2 small celery stalks, diced
½ medium onion, diced
1 quart vegetable stock (I like Kitchen Basics Brand)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
dried or fresh herbs of choice: thyme or parsley would work

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer until lentils and veggies are cooked through.   This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. If using fresh parsley, reserve until the soup is cooked through and add at the end. All other herbs can be added at the beginning.

Bonus Recipe – Split Pea Soup

Substitute green or yellow split peas for the lentils above and follow the recipe exactly. Leave as is for a chunky version or puree for a smoother consistency.

Serving Suggestion

I love to add rice, especially brown rice, to my lentil soup. It makes it heartier and gives it extra texture. You can mix it in or serve it on the side.

Leftover Tip

Be on the lookout for my Lentil Stuffed Cabbage recipe in a few weeks.


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Veganomics – Black Beans and Rice – Recipe

RealishRice&Beans

Black Beans and Rice

½ lb. of dried black beans (soaked and cooked)
or 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 chili, diced (I like serrano, but jalapeno would definitely work)
1 clove garlic, diced
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
½ can water
Cooked Rice (start with 2 cups, uncooked and then cook any way you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of cilantro, rinsed and chopped

Saute onion and pepper until softened, then add chili and garlic and cook for another minute. Add tomato sauce and then ½ can of water. Simmer for a few minutes and then add beans and rice. Stir until combined and heated through. Season as you go with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Serves 4 as a generous main course and 6 – 8 as a side.

Note: You don’t have to combine the rice and beans in one pot. You can keep them separate and serve them that way. I just really like it this way.

Leftover Tip

This also makes an awesome burrito filling with some salsa or guacamole.