The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: June, 2013

Watermelon Lime Ice (with fresh black raspberries)

 One of my favorite memories of summer stems from being down on the Jersey Shore. And to date, not a summer has gone by where I haven’t spent at least a couple days baking beneath the sun, among monster waves beating the shoreline, in boats bobbing along the bay and enjoying some quintessential summertime treats. 

Over the years our time spent down on the shore has varied from several weeks to just a few nights. As schedules become busier and time seems to whiz by on a Monday through Friday time clock, capturing those perfect summer moments seems to come less and less frequently. But these moments are still possible for those willing to create and savor them.

There was once a time when I was lucky enough to visit the shore twice in the same summer. Once in June and once again in August. Our June trip was usually limited to a couple nights at the motel. A wood paneled Wind Jammer that hung heavy with the musk of cigar smoke. Something that could seem rather unappealing to the untamed eye come as memories to me, as unique as the stucco walled outdoor stairway I stubbed my toes on too many times to count.

We would climb the stairs with sandy feet, returning from a trip to Sundae Times. I never chose the sundae though. My heart was always set on the small stand at the end of the ice cream counter, for there was the man with the shaved ice.

My mom and brother and I would sit on the balcony in rickety outdoor furniture, our legs up on the balcony, eyes cast onto the twinkling lights of the bridge. The lifeline to the main land. I held on to the night like I clutched the spoon to my ice, never wanting to have to leave that island.

When I came across this recipe on Ashley’s site, I about ran out to the store to get a watermelon at that very moment. This recipe had the potential to rival Sundae Time’s shaved ice. And while nothing can transport me onto that Wind Jammer balcony at this very moment, this frozen treat sure comes close.

Watermelon Lime Ice (with fresh black raspberries) 

The original recipe can be found here.

I used about 4 TBSP water in total and just 1 tsp of honey as my source of liquid sweetener.

Walking back from town today I stumbled upon several black raspberry bushes in amongst some overgrowth along the patch of land in front of my house. I vaguely remembered these bushes existed, but as new construction comes up next door, the bushes have become incredibly accessible. They made a nice addition but this dish is quite perfect all on its own.

Pita Pizzas

I seem to be suffering from quite the writer’s block. It’s not too often that I am unable to sit down and start typing, unsure of where I’m going but somehow come up with something worthwhile that winds itself into a recipe. Today seems to be one of those days unfortunately.

What is particularly unfortunate about this is that I often start writing posts in my mind at inopportune times. Like while I’m out on a walk, or elbows deep in potting soil, or racing over the Braga bridge to New Bedford. These times are just not conducive to posting and so on this beautiful, sunnier-than-predicted Saturday, I find myself in a disjointed rhythm of typing and backspacing ultimately left with nothing but a blinking cursor and a lot of white space.

Rather than hash it out I’m going to leave you with a lovely little recipe for pita pizzas. Though I’ve found that making your own dough is incredibly simple thanks to a stand mixer, I have yet to perfect its crispiness factor (if that makes sense). I’m often left with a slightly doughy texture despite adequate cooking time as evidenced by bubbling cheese and roasted tomato skins. So for those who lack a stand mixer, or have yet to perfect their own dough recipe, or for anyone who enjoys a nice crispy little individual pie that comes together in less than 5 minutes, this recipe is for you.

Pita Pizza

Makes two small pizzas

Ingredients:

2 Joseph’s Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Pitas

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

several thin slices of mozzarella (shredded works too)

4 grape tomatoes, thinly sliced

4 slices of thinly sliced, imported Prosciutto

1/4 to 1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 TBSP chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475F. Place pitas onto a baking sheet. Spread tomato sauce onto pita(s). Then top with Mozzarella cheese, prosciutto,  tomatoes and basil. Lastly, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbling slightly. Remove from oven and serve!

Simple Summer Salad

 Tonight’s post is brought to you by the concept of simplicity.

A simple salad and one of my favorite summer quotes.

So with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

 F. Scott Fitzgerald

Simple Summer Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/3 cup cooked quinoa

6-7 leaves of kale, washed, dried and chopped

1/3 cup thinly sliced carrots

1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup chopped cucumber

5-6 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1/4 cup cannellini beans, if using canned, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese

Directions:

Prepare quinoa according to package directions, allow to cool. Place quinoa onto a plate. Top with all veggies, then add cheese and beans. Dress as desired.

Sweet Potato Egg Bake

I don’t know if anyone else out there is like me in the respect that they are drawn to miniature things, but I sure am. I hate to admit that I’ve purchased too many kitchen items in “miniature” versions out of pure cuteness factor, taking a total disregard for practicality and convenience (which I believe would have been the adult thing to do).

But before anyone goes and calls me materialistic or shallow (I know some of you were going there) let me just say that I’ve found these miniature items to be some of the most useful additions to my kitchen to date.

For instance, the adorable little salt and pepper bowls with the miniature serving spoons featured in this post. Sure they’re not your average salt and pepper shaker, and yes, I’ve had to purchase a replacement after my cat swooped in and gave a determined whack to one of the bowls, resulting in salty shards of glass. But I just adore them, like, they make me smile when I season things. It’s the little stuff right?

Then there is the variety of extra small spatulas that fit perfectly into my extra small cast iron frying pan and flip my egg just right, every time. I feel as though I might be starting to sound like a nursery rhyme. I assure you, my house, and most things I own are life-size.

I received my most favorite scaled down culinary instrument as a birthday gift this year. I unwrapped a set of Le Creuset baking dishes in cherry red. A standard 8×8” for all my brownie baking and roasting needs and a larger oval casserole dish that fit the bill for any entertaining. But then there was the oddball 4×4” square version. My eyes widened. My mother quickly blurted out “I’m not so sure what you’ll even do with one, but it was cute, and different…and not very pricey.”

I reassured her, I love it! I have no idea what I will do with it, but I love it! And I did.

During my internship I wasn’t very into cooking (weird, right?) and I was more than guilty of allowing the whole “cooking for one person is too difficult/boring/lonely/pointless” mindset to consume me. I’ve since realized that living alone was no reason to eat cheese, crackers and celery every night.

The good news about this sweet potato egg bake is with a wee little 4×4” baking dish, this can easily be made for a party of 1. However, bring out the bigger pan and I think you’ll find this recipe can be increased as needed to fit your guest list. I tend to rely on this dish as a quick weeknight meal but I think it could also work nicely for a brunch too.

Sweet Potato Egg Bake

Serves 1

Adapted from Naturally Ella

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sweet potato, cut into 1” cubes

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

1 or 2 eggs

1/4 cup cheese (I tend to go for Goat or Gorgonzola – but I think you could use just about any one of your liking)

Hot sauce, salt and pepper as desired

A handful or three of washed and dried baby spinach

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F. Prepare baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and lay cubed potato into a single layer, lightly spray potatoes with non-stick cooking spray or add a a drizzle of olive oil and toss the cubes until evenly coated. Bake for about 25 minutes, until fork tender.

Remove from oven, crack egg(s) over potato cubes, sprinkle with cheese and lay sliced shallots on top. Return to oven and bake until egg(s) are cooking to your liking, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bed of spinach, top with hot sauce, salt and pepper as desired.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Another day. Another veggie burger post.

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Why you might ask. Why so many posts dedicated to veggie burgers?

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Because they are delicious! And freezable. And taste good on a bun, over salad, in a pita, on-the-go.

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And I really hate pre-packaged veggie burgers. You know, the ones in the freezer section at the supermarket?

No offense supermarket shoppers and Morning Star Farms, but I have yet to try a meatless patty that tops anything I can make and freeze myself. Equally as convenient, but so much tastier.

When I was in college and terrified of cooking beef, I relied heavily on the black bean version for weeknight dinners. Who am I kidding, I’m still terrified of cooking beef. But luckily, I’m not terrified to make my own version.

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If there is any chance I haven’t convinced you about the homemade veggie burger’s capabilities, let me just say this: The recipe doesn’t even require fancy cooking equipment, just get your fork ready!

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Yields 4 patties

Adapted from Dishing Up the Dirt

Ingredients:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 a red bell pepper, diced

1 medium shallot, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP cumin

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 TBSP hot sauce (I used the garlic habanero stuff from the farmer’s market that I just can’t seem to get enough of lately).

Directions:

Mash about 1/2 to 3/4 of the beans with the back of a fork. Leave some whole, for added texture. Add the rest of the ingredients: un-mashed beans, bell pepper, shallot, garlic, egg, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, bread crumbs and hot sauce. Mix with a wooden spoon (or your clean hands). Form into four patties and cook up in a skillet coated with just a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Cook until patties are slightly browned, about 4-5 minutes per side!

Freezing Tip: Wrap patties in wax paper and a freezer Ziploc for a repeat meal. I usually unwrap the patties and microwave for about 1 minutes prior to cooking.

Fun additions include: avocado, cheese, ketchup, spicy brown mustard, spinach, tomatoes…or a nice side of baked sweet potato fries!

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad {With Toasted Walnuts}

I’m still struggling to get myself into a summer mindset. I’m going through the motions; packing beach bags, grilling on the deck, applying aloe to sun drenched skin, outdoor concerts, walking after dinner because the sun doesn’t set until nearly nine. I breathe extra deep breaths as I pass by large honeysuckle bushes, I stop and smother my nose in roses, insisting on pausing at each color variation for each bears a unique but wonderful scent.

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But because the Monday to Friday work marches on, I am learning how to feel summer without a traditional summer break. One way I’ve found to help combat this working gal dilemma is to make sure that I keep summer traditions alive. One of my favorites happens to be berry picking. Due to frequent soaking rains, the strawberry season is predicted to be shorter than usual. Perhaps that will be the excuse I’ll use as I find room in the fridge for nearly 3 lbs of these red beauties.

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This salad is incredibly simple and by using the freshest ingredients, the end result is full of flavor.

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You could say I’ve entered berry heaven. And I don’t intend on leaving anytime soon.

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Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad {With Toasted Walnuts} 

Serves 1

Ingredients:

A handful or two of baby spinach leaves

2 TBSP toasted, chopped walnuts

1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Goat cheese as desired

Balsamic vinegar for dressing

Directions:

Fill bowl or luncheon plate with spinach leaves. Top with walnuts, goat cheese and strawberries. Dress as desired.

Parmesan Quinoa {+ Kaniwa} Zucchini Boats

From discussions with patients, friends and strangers alike, I’ve come to realize that time is a very common barrier when it comes to making healthy food choices and consuming a balanced diet. After reading one of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s position papers today, I realized this reoccurring conversation was no coincidence. Collectively, time and convenience are one of the most significant influences that detract from and derail individuals when it comes to spending time planning and preparing their meals.

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Since we can’t extend the day by a few hours, I think spending time a bit more wisely can make all the difference. One of my favorite solutions to this dilemma is creating a plan followed by keeping a well stocked fridge, freezer and pantry (fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, versatile grains (think Quinoa, Amaranth, Brown Rice), low sodium canned or dried beans – you get the point). The third step is to implement the notion of “cook once, eat twice.” One cup dry quinoa will yield nearly 3 cups once cooked. By cooking once but eating twice (by having the extra quinoa ready-to-go in the fridge) you’ll cut your cooking time in half. Doesn’t that sound nice?

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I can’t say it enough. Quinoa preparation is nearly as simple as boiling water, and within 12 to 15 minutes, you have a nice high protein, high fiber foundation or addition to a variety of soups, salads, and entree options (even breakfast!) Twelve minutes for versatility and good nutrition? I’d say that’s 12 minutes worth spending.

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Unfortunately, it is unlikely you will ever be able to rely on the gas station or fast food chains to supply you with the nutritious convenience I’m referring to. But as soon as you make healthy choices convenient for you I assure you it becomes easier. And given that cost/economics is the second most common reason fueling our food choices, I bet the recommendations above will help to nip that obstacle in the bud too!

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When I spotted Kaniwa in the store, I mistook it for red quinoa. Once home, I chose to read the package a bit closer and discovered it is actually a cousin to Quinoa. This “ancient grain” is technically a seed, slightly smaller than quinoa although it’s cooking technique and yield remain the same. The flavor difference was undetectable but I found the texture to be a bit crunchier.

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Parmesan Quinoa {+ Kaniwa} Zucchini Boats

Serves 2-3 {depending on the size of the Zucchini’s used}

Adapted from Dishing Up The Dirt 

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini

2/3 cup cooked quinoa (or kaniwa or a combination of both!)

1 bunch radishes, greens removed

1/2 cup cannellini beans

1 medium shallot, thinly slice

1 clove garlic, minced

5 or 6 basil leaves, sliced into strips

2 tsp olive oil

freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping, about 1/4 cup

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. Cook quinoa and/or Kaniwa according to package directions and set aside.

Slice each zucchini in half, lengthwise. Scoop out inside leaving 1/4” shell. I used a metal 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, I bet a melon baller would work too. Discard flesh that has been removed (or perhaps save it for incorporation into another recipe).

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Once shimmering hot, add garlic and cook one minute. Add shallots and cook for another minute. Thinly slice radishes and add to pan along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another minute and remove from heat. Toss with quinoa, beans and basil in a medium bowl. Transfer mixture into zucchini boats using a spoon. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until zucchini is fork tender, top each with Parmesan cheese and return to oven until cheese has melted, about 3 minutes.

If you should have any additional quinoa filling, I put mine in a small casserole dish and cooked it alongside the boats.

Please note: The article I am referring to is The Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic (Copyright 2013). You can visit http://www.eatright.org for more information.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I am often asked the question, “are you a vegetarian?” In fact, I am not. Though I have made a conscious effort to reduce my intake of meat and chicken, the reasons are mostly due to convenience and an attempt to incorporate more beans and plant-based protein into my diet. You might remember this post where I reluctantly expose my bizarre fear of chicken.

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Though I am still working on my “relationship” with chicken, I’ve made this dinner quite a number of times and thought it was about time that I share it.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu

Serves 6

Adapted from Skinny Taste 

Ingredients:

1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken cutlets

3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

4-6 chives, thinly sliced

1 egg

2 egg whites

2 TBSP mustard

1/2 lb deli ham

1/2 lb low fat deli swiss cheese

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Using a meat tenderizer, lightly pound the chicken cutlets making them a bit thinner. Lay the chicken cutlets out onto a working surface and top each with a slice of ham and two slices of swiss cheese. Then roll and set aside, seam side down.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and mustard until combined.

On a large plate, spread out bread crumbs and chives, mix to combine.

Dip chicken into the egg mixture then coat with bread crumbs and place chicken, seam side down, onto baking sheet.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus Lemon Chicken Over Spinach Pasta

It’s kind of ironic. When I sat down to write a post to accompany Kamut Summer Salad, I must have spent at least three days typing and backspacing. I almost debated sharing the recipe “as is,” nothing additional. I drummed up some words worthy of sharing. But tonight I find myself with so many words and thoughts I’m struggling to put them into comprehensible paragraphs as quickly as my mind is producing them.

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I consider myself to be at the pretty extreme end of a “Type A” personality. I have motivation and a positive attitude that I cultivate and cradle like precious gems. I carry them with me everywhere, I work on improving my outlook and maintaining happiness with each spare moment I have. Over time, thanks to that neat little thing called a habit, I’ve managed to be able to almost subconciously work on myself (my attitude, my outlook, etc) each and every day while maintaining productivity at work, healthy relationships and of course, a balanced diet. I said almost, I certainly remain mindful of it, it’s just a bit easier these days.

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I once read (and don’t ask me where because I can’t recall) that in a far away land – fancy term for a location I also don’t remember – people accept feelings of anger, remorse, guilt, frustration or any weaknesses they may have and they embrace it. They recognize this feeling, they truly allow themselves to feel it rather than fighting, resisting, or denying. It’s at this point that they are able to work through this stormy cloud, this blip in the road and come out on the other side with greater knowledge, understanding and peace.

It may sound minor, and certainly this is not the only thing I’ve ever struggled with, but I’m going somewhere with this so bare with me; since starting up this blog I’ve envied the many creative writers and bloggers and cooks and crafters out there who are able develop their own recipes. Initially, being a type A kinda gal, I stuck by those recipes to the very 1/4 tsp. I slowly started making some small substitutions and worked with angst while the entree or dessert or snack came together before my eyes. I hadn’t followed the rules, it was unknown territory for me.

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But then I found that when I just followed the recipes, accepted that I did not need to reinvent the wheel, that just because I followed a path already traveled it did not take away from my own achievement I began to relax and was better able to appreciate all that I was capable of rather than what I had not done.

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 Lately I’ve found myself thinking I should blog about this but there isn’t a recipe. Talk about and ah-hah moment. When I finally accepted that I did not need to modify and substitute every recipe I came across was when I finally began to develop some of my own recipes and enjoy it. While you may not find these upcoming posts to be the fanciest recipes containing the most glamorous of ingredients, I think you’ll find them simple, attainable and quite satisfying.

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Roasted Asparagus Lemon Chicken Over Spinach Pasta

Serves 3 to 4

For the Chicken:

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Juice from 2 lemons

2 TBSP olive oil

Fresh thyme, chopped

Add lemon juice, olive oil and thyme to a large Ziploc bag, place chicken into bag, seal and massage chicken so it has been covered with marinade. Place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes, a bit longer is just fine too.

Cook chicken in a medium to large skillet over medium high heat about 10 minutes per side (time will vary depending on thickness of chicken), cook until juices run clear.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F. Lay stalks of asparagus onto a baking sheet, spray stalks with Pam non-stick cooking spray and roast for about 20 minutes or until slightly crispy.

Cook pasta of your choice according to package directions. Drain and divide among plates.

Top pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes, chicken and asparagus.

Balsamic Strawberry Basil Grilled Cheese

Today’s post would not be possible without the help of Dunkin Donuts. Okay, not really, actually, not even a little bit. But I bet I’ve got your attention now.

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Leave it to D&D to put out a breakfast sandwich served between two slices of a sugar glazed donut. First, the Today show did a taste testing and I was confused. It was almost as if they were suggesting that this alternative to the Egg McMuffin and Starbuck’s Artisan Egg Sandwich was something worth considering due to it’s competitive calorie count of only 360 calories. Then my father forwarded along an article from the LA Times with a subject line of “Job Security.” Can you sense the sarcasm yet?

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Carrying 360 calories, 20 grams of fat and 700 mg sodium with it, I must say, I’m not surprised. I will admit, this breakfast sandwich got me thinking. When you boil it all down, the combination of savory and sweet in one bite is just about the only thing I can appreciate about this breakfast sandwich.

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Though we’re about a week away from fresh strawberries here in Connecticut, the ones packaged up at local supermarkets are at least from the United States and can withstand more than four days in the fridge before mold sets in. There is nothing better than strawberries freshly plucked off the vine but until next week I must use what we’ve got.

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Though I don’t see this sweet and savory lunch making it to the masses, if you haven’t treated yourself yet to this blend of flavors I strongly encourage it. And for any locals, with fresh strawberries right around the corner, all the more reason to do something more with those berries besides making strawberry shortcake!

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Balsamic Strawberry Basil Grilled Cheese

Serves 1

 Ingredients:

Choose a wrap or pita pocket of your liking. I went with Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran Whole Wheat Pita

1/4 cup Goat Cheese Crumbles

1/2 cup Strawberries, thinly sliced

5 or 6 Basil Leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons

1 1/2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

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Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, spray with non-stick cooking spray. Very carefully split your pita in half and lay out onto your work surface. Place the thin slices of strawberries in a single layer onto each pita half. Sprinkle with goat cheese and basil ribbons. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over each half then very carefully fold each pita in half and then in half once more. Transfer to skillet and cook until both sides of the pita are slightly crispy, about three minutes total, flipping halfway through. Transfer to plate and serve.