Tag Archives: antioxidants

Lighter Pho Fare with Mini Me

wpid-2015-01-28_18.46.00.jpgMidweek, me and mini me try something out of our comfort zone to break up the monotony of our staple recipes. Routine bores me.  The chill factor climbed for us this month and heavy comfort foods are not comforting for my thighs! Sacrificing flavor for tight jeans is not my style either, so I found  a way to take my Italian cravings to the far east.

With some organic pork and ginger, our love for meatballs met my love for Vietnamese Pho.  While this traditional noodle soup is filled with mixed meats and seafood, portions can be heavy and the flavors can sometimes overwhelm each other.

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Fresh and Simple Summers

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Me and mini me have been enjoying every sprouting food market within a 60 mile radius this season and I love it. To me, nothing heals the mind better than love and food. Seeing the pride of growers, cultivators, creators and area cooks inspires me.  My life recently has been full of a lot of new colors, flavors and aromas. All of this has reawakened stalled dreams and brought new life even into my kitchen. What better way to celebrate this heightened sense of awareness and passion than with a simple, bright meal.

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Pasta Pomodoro!

My recent ventures to some local and not-so-local markets has had me  and mini me eating well ! A well fed body and heart is all we  really need. Check, I have both covered! I made sure to pick up some fresh pasta from a small family eatery this weekend. Me and mini me do roll our own pasta, but we need to really try to infuse our variety. These new flavors have us inspired!20140523-233333.jpg

This week, I experimented with a red pepper cappellini, spinach fettuccini, and garlic-chive spaghetti .. so many possibilities. These fresh rolled bundles balance perfectly together.  Like the yin and yang of love, the flavors complement and enhance the fabulous union!

The art of bringing out their uniqueness, without masking their qualities can be challenging. When I want to enhance and not cloak..I turn to my homemade lemon-olive oil. I use a rich extra virgin olive oil  and 6 meyer lemons to create an oil that quickly infuses flavor without overdoing it. I store bottles of it and use it for skin care and culinary exploits.

I cooked 6 roma tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, a shallot, sea salt, crushed red pepper and a handful of capers in about 4 tablespoons of the oil. Once the tomatoes started to cook down, I added 8 torn basil leaves and 1/4 cup of fresh Romano.  When mixed together, I used tongs to create little nests of each flavor.  With some simple grilled chicken and a lemon vinaigrette, it was heaven. Close to it anyway!
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Sassy Shrimp Scampi

 

There is nothing quite as bright as the hue of meyer lemons hanging over the Amalfi Coast. And every time I make our simple lemon basil shrimp, I feel like me and mini me have escaped to a land where cobalt blue meets canary yellow. We can dream, can’t we?

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The healing properties of lemon are innumerable, almost as innumerable as new love. This week, I’ve  been fighting a cold that is wreaking havoc on my mood and my nose, so I needed to call in the big guns !

I wandered through a small city market this weekend and found some beautiful meyer lemons, some ginger juice, incredible pastas, herbs and some fresh lettuce.

For the moment, I live in a landlocked town:( And I truly can’t stand it. I have always lived near the water or in pretty close proximity to a coast. It is challenging to find fresh seafood here. However, the city market was abound with well priced  fisherman stands and I made sure to stock up on some fresh shrimp.

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For our simple lemon basil shrimp, me and mini me used the juice of 3 meyer lemons, olive oil, sea salt, white pepper and oregeno. This is our basic marinade . It is important to let the shrimp sit in the marinade for at least two hours. Then we drain ig. We lay the shrimp in a baking dish lined with olive oil, and zest 1 lemon over the shrimp. We then chop three cloves of garlic in a bowl with a half cup of planko, two cubed tablespoons of butter and 5-7 torn basil leaves.  Take the dry mix and spread it evenly over the shrimp. We add crushed red pepper to taste  and some  shredded fontina. Simply cook it at 425 for 15 minutes until the shrimp is cooked through.

This is a light dish and is perfect with couscous and a bright spinach salad! Perfecto!

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Some Like it Hot!!

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And I do like it hot! My palette has recently been re-awakened by the touch of Spring and an unexpected gift of hope .  This new intense color in my life makes me feel almost reborn. What better to celebrate this rare feeling than to recreate a simple dish loved in so many cultures that I adore.  Food can signal emotion, and this opening of flavors also signals an opening of my heart too.

Mediterranean, Cuban, Mexican, Portuguese families all have a version of a traditional light stewed fish. One thing they all have in common is they balance a light fish with local salty and spicy flavors in a dish with more colors than the Amalfi Coast.

Me and mini me spent some time experimenting with the balanced flavors. Its health benefits are innumerable; high in protein, fiber, high in vitamin C, capsaicin and other anti-inflammatories.

Simply brown any white fish, tilapia..Cod if you wish..whatever is fresh and cultivated in your own back yard. Please be careful when buying seafood; added colorants and false labels can really be deceiving.

Mini Me works hard in the kitchen!!!
Mini Me works hard in the kitchen!!!

We simply browned the fish in olive oil, salt and pepper it, and set it aside covered. We turned the heat up, added chopped onion, chopped stuffed green olives, salt, pepper, oregano and two sweet orange peppers.  We let the vegetables cook until they were translucent. Then added one chopped jalapeno pepper ( more or less depending on the heat you want), and two good handfuls of capers. We added in some cherry tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the fish back in the pan, and lower the heat. Cook for 7-10 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

We made a simple wheat couscous as our side, with fresh spinach and tomatoes. The result is a dish that will surprise you in its simple direct beauty. And whose colors just may give you a little bit of hope for better days.  Mangia!!!!!

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Lovely Lemoncello!!

 

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There wasn’t a better surprise this week than finally mastering this beauty. It was a sultry treat for a special night!! A little Lemoncello, a little ricotta.. And a yogurt frosting made, light, full of goodness and unforgettable!

How Sweet It Is!

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Yes.. We did have a healthful meal or two this weekend, but I also gave into temptation. I tested new waters and found my new soul mate. And he never disappoints! This hazelnut cream dark chocolate piece of heaven was dipped in an orange glaze and..decorated with whimsy. Its crown toppled a few times but was worth it! Yum!

Foodie Spring Fling

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Italians know how to do a Spring fling the right way. But ours have staying power and substance. And they look damn good too. When Mother Nature starts opening its blooms.. traditional foods start to burst with greens and yellows.
Springs renewal brings a reminder of bathing suit season. Foods need to lighten up to accommodate, but flavor does not. Fire roasting springs veggies brings out their natural sweetness. So this week we made my own take on a primavera…lightened up.
Me and mini me fire-roasted 4 yellow and gold tomatoes, 2 sweet peppers, 5 cloves of garlic ( just crushed) with olive oil and sea salt at 425 until they start to burned just a bit.. About 15 minutes.
In another pan, I roasted some broccoli rabe, red onion, asparagus, and a diced zucchini.. And roasted them for only about 7 minutes.

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Cooking the greens at such a high temperature brings out their natural sugars, but you cannot over do them.

I took the two pans and put the in a deep bowl of whole grain rigatoni..you can also use a whole grain couscous. The vegetables work well over grilled chicken also.

While the pasta is still hot, I added 3 tablespoons of a very good balsamic vinegar (If you can find something from Modena…you are in!) 1/2 cup shredded fontina, and 5 basil leaves torn up. Make sure to mix the juices from the vegetables well to distribute evenly. This is an easy light Spring dish that I paired with some lemoncello. Perfect. And easy. All souls were satisfied and smiling!

Now..THAT is Amore! Italy’s Healthy Side!

Me and mini me strolling through Little Italy's food treasures!
Me and mini me strolling through Little Italy’s food treasures!

Unfortunately Italy is far from my current geographical stomping grounds. When I feel like bringing Tuscany and its colors, tastes, smells, sounds into my little haven… I retreat to the kitchen.

Me and mini me have had a long week. The weather has been frightful but fun, and we needed a few dishes that could keep us going strong. What better way than my version of Tuscan spring in a kale-sausage stew?

There is no other star brighter than the nutritional powerhouse of kale. It’s bright green hue showcases its might– low in calories, high in fiber, iron, vitamins A, C, E and K, an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid! What better base for my culinary trip back to Italia !

Me and mini me started by sautéing a basic base of four minced cloves of garlic and half of a red onion in olive oil. Then we put in 5-7 chopped ripe roma tomatoes. Once the garlic and onion were translucent I added sea salt and thyme. We added 6 links of a turkey sausage ( be mindful that some alternatives to pork sausage have a lot of salt..buy fresh if possible..we lucked out and went to a newly discovered local butcher).

Our Sausage-Kale Stew
Our Sausage-Kale Stew

Crumble the sausage in the pan and add vegetable stock. Keep the heat on low to medium and add a pound of tri-color tortellini and as much kale as you can handle! (Make sure to clean the kale well and chop it so it is palatable).

Add 5-7 fresh chopped basil leaves, pepper to taste and 1/2 cup of
Romano cheese. The colors and tastes are reminiscent of the spring greens of Italy’s countryside. Pair it with a nice glass of wine and forget…or remember…

whichever is more pleasant!

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Weekday Bolognese: That’s Amore!

As an Italian woman, I can easily spend 8 hours on a lazy Sunday perfecting my sauce ( gravy as we call it). My traditional Bolognese is created via a slow methodical path to perfection and is about as close to the pearly gates as I may see.

For a weeknight change-up, me and mini me made a quicker, healthier version.  It is lighter on the body and easier on my stove. But do not be fooled, quicker can sometimes mean better!

Mini me stirs the pot!
Mini me stirs the pot!

For a traditional Bolognese, several types of meat are used; some ground, some not. It is essentially a hodge-podge of flavors gently melded together. Tonight, we used ground sirloin, pancetta and ground turkey. Usually veal and pork are used. Either works for this weeknight gravy.

After browning the meat in olive oil, I brown half of a red onion with 3 or 4 garlic cloves. Just as they look translucent I add sea salt, fresh black pepper, a touch of cayenne and nutmeg. We add a large can of fresh crushed all natural tomatoes and 3 small chopped fresh tomatoes. As they come to a boil, we add two cups of beef stock and a cup of good red wine. The sauce looks soup-like, but after it boils  we simmer it until the liquid is reduced.

Be mindful to scrape the tomato off the side of the pot as you simmer. I add more salt, 6-8 chopped fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of nutmeg and continue to cook the sauce while I make my dried pasta of choice. Since our goal was to
lighten things up, mini me chose a whole grain vegetable pasta, offering low carb, high taste and a long list of nutrients.

Our Bolognese
Our Bolognese

Once the sauce is thick, I add 1/4 of half and half, more nutmeg, fresh basil, salt to taste and a good cup of shredded fontina. You can add new broth or vino if needed.

This hearty ” gravy” offers antioxidants, protein and fiber. Tomatoes are a known jewel of cancer prevention. A lighter whole grain and low carb pasta makes this an easy go to for anyone. Always freeze leftover sauce. Bolognese is easy to add to just about anything. Mangia!!!!

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