21 December, 2010

Savory Cilantro French Toast

Say what? It sounds so taboo. A french toast that is savory? Oh yes, my friends, not taboo at all. According to the author on Food 52  this is South Asia’s version of french toast. Rock on Asia!

I like finding and trying a dish that I have never heard of before; I love when a dish meets or exceeds my expectations; and I prefer that the process doesn't cause me to swear. Yes, I admit, it is not just baking that causes me to use dirty words. (Don't you even think about it, my mom reads this blog!) The kitchen is a place where I curse quite often and I would like to believe that if I cut out cooking then the cursing would go away. But that is not an experiment that I am willing to conduct.

This toast kept me company one Saturday when I was having "breakfast for one". On a separate night, it was a big hit as tomato soup dippers when I was enjoying “dinner for two”.

2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
4 pieces of wheat bread cut into diagonals
1-2 Tbsp Butter
Hot sauce (optional)

Beat eggs with milk and stir in salt, pepper and cilantro. Heat a medium skillet or griddle on medium-high heat and add a 1 tbsp of butter to the skillet. Dip the triangles into the batter, drain excess liquid and lay toast in the skillet until browned on one side (2-3 minutes). You will want the toast to be a little darker and crispier than your average french toast. Flip and do the same on the opposite side.  Serve with hot sauce on the side for those who want to take it up a notch. Or serve on the side of a bowl of tomato soup.

14 December, 2010

Chipotle White Bean Casserole and Kale Crisps

I now return to my regularly scheduled program. The “shutdown” is over. What does that mean? It means no more 4am wake up call, no more 8pm bedtime, no more 1 drink maximum and no more carnivorous dinner requirement. And while there are several athletes and hard workers who survive and thrive on a vegetarian diet, I am not one to argue with a man who is waking up at 4am.

Wahooo! I will celebrate by sharing my favorite vegetarian dish and a bottle of wine. (well I likely won’t share the wine). This dish comes from 101 Cookbooks. The author has several vegetarian cookbooks with a focus on all natural ingredients. I serve this dish as a meal but it could prove successful as a holiday side dish or an appetizer served on top a sliced crusty baguette.

Serves 5-6 as a meal
2 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches red pepper flakes
2 pinches garlic salt or salt
1-2 large cloves of garlic minced
1-28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers*
3-15oz cans of white beans
1 block of feta cheese
1 bunch of kale **(see bonus recipe for leftovers)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make a tomato sauce by adding olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and minced garlic to a cold saucepan. Heat on medium heat until garlic is fragrant then add tomatoes, oregano and adobo sauce*. While sauce is simmering, rinse 1/2 bunch of kale, de-stem and finely chop. Drain and rinse white beans. Add beans and kale to the tomato sauce. Pour into a casserole dish and top with feta cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

*The Adobo sauce is intense but adds a very appealing smokiness to this dish. Although optional its worth searching for and usually found in the Mexican food aisle.
** You can use any green in place of kale but I urge you to try it. It is packed with vitamins and nutritional benefits. With the remainder of the kale I BEG you to try the following delicious and addicting snack.

In a bowl, combine a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Rub the liquid into the leaves and set on a pan. Sprinkle salt on the kale and bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until the leaves start turning brown and crispy. Munch on these right away or save for later. The picture shows dinosaur kale but curly kale works great also.

05 December, 2010

Pecan Cinnamon Scones

I say again, I am not a baker. I don't like baking and I am not good at baking. And with my Mom as my witness last week (sorry Mom), when I do try to bake,  words that Mom didn't teach me fly out of my mouth. However, every now and then I find a recipe that is worth trying. While visiting family for Thanksgiving I found a basic scone recipe in Southern Living magazine. I like this recipe because there are variations for sweet and savory and because I was able to tweak it which tickles my chef's hat. The result was what I would imagine would happen if a cinnamon roll and a biscuit had a baby. They would be blessed with a yummy pecan cinnamon scone that has now been added to my bag of "rainy weekend breakfast treats". Yes, I have one of those bags. You don't?

Makes 8 scones or 16 mini scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Icing: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1-2 tbsp milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using your hands combine cubes of butter into flour mixture until large chunks disappear and it resembles a sandy consistency. Set the bowl in the freezer for about five minutes. Add pecans and then add 3/4 cup of milk a bit at a time until ingredients are moistened. Turn dough onto floured wax paper and gently press or pat into a round about 3/4 of inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes. While scones are baking, mix 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 tbsp of milk at a time and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Use to drizzle on top of scones before serving.

Savory Scone: omit sugar and add 3/4 cup shredded cheese and 3/4 cup bacon or ham

24 November, 2010

The Frittata Experiment Continued- Mini Frittatas

Ahhh! Thanksgiving, you are my favorite holiday. I love you not only because you bring about feelings of warmth and coziness, not only because your main focus is spending time with loved ones, not only because the you require good food, but also because there is no pressure to buy “stuff” for people who don’t need or want "stuff". And by "stuff" I mean gifts.  I have very intense feelings on holidays that require gifts but I will spare you my rant. Instead I will post a crowd friendly recipe to feed those who may be milling about your home preparing food or burping babies or watching football. So grab a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and let us toast to a holiday without gifts. Cheers!

Makes 12 muffins
8 eggs, beaten
½ cup of milk
1-2 tbsp cilantro, chopped finely
4-6 strips of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
1 cup any color bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup mexican cheese blend
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a nonstick muffin tin. Beat eggs and ½ cup of milk in a medium size bowl. Add cilantro, peppers, bacon, cheese, salt and pepper to combine. Using a measuring cup with a pouring spout for convenience, fill each muffin slot leaving a bit of room. Cook for 20 minutes or until egg is set in the middle.

17 November, 2010

Discovering Spaghetti Squash and San Marzano Tomatoes

 dis·cov·er : to notice or learn, especially by making an effort

I was introduced to the spaghetti squash about two years ago and it is one of my favorite things to cook and eat (shhhh, don’t tell my first love, the avocado). You will spot the squash at your farmer’s market or in your grocery starting around September. It’s oblong in shape and usually a golden hue. After breaking down and cooking the squash you can run a fork through the insides and it comes out in spaghetti like strands. To try and explain this amazing phenomenon won’t do it justice until you experience it yourself. I promise a smile on your face as you discover this magical squash. 

 In the recipe below you can use any tomatoes you choose but I will take this time to tell you about San Marzano tomatoes. These beauties are considered to be the top notch tomato for saucing. I have seen “San Marzano tomatoes” on top pizzeria menus around the city and finally came across them at the farmer’s market. You can also find them canned in the grocery store. If you can get your hands on some try them and bring your sauce to the next level. That would be level awesome!

Spaghetti Squash topped w/ San Marzano Tomato Sauce:
Feeds 2-3 as a main dish with a side of cheesy bread
1 spaghetti squash
6-8 tomatoes, sliced in half (*San Marzano, Roma, vine ripened)
Olive oil, 2.5 tablespoons
Oregano, 1 tablespoon
1-2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using caution and your sharpest knife, cut the two ends off of the squash. Stand it up and slice down the middle. Next, using a spoon, scoop the seeds and strings out of the middle and discard. On a roasting pan, lay the squash skin side down, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast for about 25-30 minutes or until you can pierce easily with a fork. At the same time that the squash is roasting, put tomatoes in a dish drizzled with 1 tbsp olive oil and sliced garlic. Roast for about 20-25 minutes.

While the squash is cooling make the tomato sauce. Using a small saucepan on medium heat, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and roasted tomatoes with their juices. Use a spatula to mash up the tomatoes and garlic and add 1 tablespoon oregano. Let sauce simmer on low while you handle the cooled squash. Take a fork and scrape the insides out of the squash and place in a dish. The insides will come out in spaghetti like strands.

Serve squash topped with tomato sauce and a side of cheesy bread* 
*any type of bread in the oven drizzled with olive oil and topped with cheese for 8 minutes and finished with a minute of broiling

11 November, 2010

Back Pocket Lasagna

We should all have an excellent lasagna recipe in our back pockets for occasions that require such a hearty and yummy meal. Appropriate occasions that come to mind could be things such as:

1) a family gathering with kids and adults who are pleased by cheese and pasta and not much else
2) a group of friends over for dinner with prep ahead leaving time to visit while baking
3) arrival of a newborn with busy parents who could benefit from a mobile meal that keeps well
4) a Sunday meal with hopes of leftovers to help you cruise through Monday and Tuesday
5) a hungry husband who requests lasagna two weekends in a row (really?)
6) your craving for lasagna (if #5 happens then #6 likely won’t happen)

I have made a lot of different versions of lasagna and my personal favorite is a vegetarian lasagna (promises to post later) but the below recipe will likely please others. A few years ago I started with my Mother in Law’s recipe (cute husband’s request) and did some tweaking from there. My husband requested that I not change the way his mom finished off her lasagna...cheddar cheese slices. Mmmmm! Ok, request granted.

* Admitting that this one may not deserve “simple plate” status I have broken the recipe into three steps to make the process a bit more clear and perhaps “simple”.
1.5 -2 lbs ground beef
medium onion, diced
4+ cloves of garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
16 oz fresh spinach
1 lb package lasagna noodles
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
16 oz mozzarella cheese
6 slices medium to sharp cheddar cheese

Step 1 Making Tomato Sauce:
Brown ground meat with two cloves of garlic. After ground meat is cooked, add onion and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain excess grease and add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, oregano, ½ tsp salt and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Step 2 Details In between:
While tomato sauce is simmering, heat a shallow skillet on medium and add ½ tablespoon of olive oil. In batches, add a large handful of spinach and more olive oil until wilted. Next, add 2 cloves of minced garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant remove from heat and set aside. Cook pasta and lay out on dish towels to drain. Combine cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan, 1 egg beaten and ½ teaspoon salt. Add spinach to the cheese mixture and set aside.
Step 3 Building Lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and build lasagna in a casserole dish. Layer a couple spoonfuls of sauce, pasta, ricotta spinach mixture, mozzarella, meat sauce and repeat. End the top layer with pasta and cheddar cheese slices. Bake immediately or refrigerate until ready to bake for 30-40 minutes.

04 November, 2010

Reach Worthy Granola

Alot of us work at a desk. And at a desk you feel the need to reach; the need to reach for coffee, for a midmorning snack, for an afternoon snack, for your neighbor’s candy dish. Get rid of that reach guilt and make something you can be proud to reach for. Whip up a simple batch of tasty and healthy granola and reach for it all morning and all afternoon.

You can use your granola as a trail mix, as your morning cereal or to top off your fruit and yogurt.
Make a big batch on Sunday and bring it to work all week long.
Reach on my friends!

2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup honey
2 spoonfuls of natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds; 1 cup pecans (or 2 cups nuts/seeds of choice)
1 cup of dried cherries (or dried fruit of choice)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan on medium, heat 2 tablespoons of water, ½ cup of honey 2 big spoonfuls of peanut butter and vanilla. Combine oats, almonds, pecans and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the contents of the saucepan to the dry ingredients and stir until all ingredients are moist. Pour the contents onto the cookie sheet and cook for 40-45 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven, let cool, add dried fruit and package into ziplocs.

28 October, 2010

Ta Da! Turkey Pot Pie

ta-da (tä dä′) interjection
Informal used to suggest the sound of a fanfare: an exclamation of triumph or pride accompanying an announcement, a bow, etc.

A turkey (chicken) pot pie will always remind me of my sister. She LOVED them when we were kids and I HATED them for the simple fact that they had peas in them. And the only vegetable I don’t like (that I know of) are peas. However, I have recently learned to tolerate peas if they are fresh or frozen. But, no thank you to those mushy green things in a can that don’t even deserve to be called a vegetable.

You may question me (yet once again) on calling this dish a simple plate. I promise its very little work resulting in loads of “wow factor". And let me be honest, that is how I like to do things. To make this recipe even easier, I suggest cooking the turkey and cutting the vegetables a day or hours ahead of time and then throwing it all together when you are ready.

Serves 4-5, with a side of mashed potatoes
1 tbsp butter
½ cup onions
1 cup celery
1 cup carrots
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1.5 cups of chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon sage*
1 teaspoon thyme*
2 cups cooked turkey (1.5 pounds), diced
2 Frozen pie shell** (they usually come as a pair)

*if you don’t have these seasonings use an all spice or poultry seasoning
**you can make your own but this crosses the baking line for me
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, drizzle olive oil on the turkey breasts and season with an all spice /poultry seasoning or salt and pepper. Roast the turkey for about 20-30 minutes or until the middle is no longer pink. Take the pastry shells out of the freezer and let it defrost. Dice turkey and vegetables and set aside.

Heat a stock pot on medium to high heat and add 1 tbsp butter. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, celery, carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for five minutes. Add turkey, flour, sage thyme, salt and pepper and combine. Add chicken stock and peas and let simmer/thicken for about 10-15 minutes. (You can add more flour if you want a thicker consistency.)

Three cheers for no more frozen pot pies!
Crack an egg and roll it around the bottom of the pie shell, remove and set aside. This trick will help avoid a mushy bottom. Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water and set aside. Add turkey and veggies to the pie shell. The contents will seem like too much and overflow the pie shell. Top the contents with the second pie shell and gently form a seal. Brush the top shell with the egg yolk and cut a couple slits in the top for venting. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pie shell is light – medium brown.

19 October, 2010

The Shutdown and The Breakfast Burrito

My husband started a 40 day “shutdown” at work last week. Excuse the terminology but it basically means this for him: waking up at 4am,  home at 6:30pm and bed at 7:30pm for six days a week for the next 40+ days. Many of you have probably experienced this type of work schedule and if this is normal for your significant others please excuse my whining. So I am doing what any good wife would do and providing support not by waking up with him at 4:30am but by making sure he has a nutritious meal ready when he gets home. To my “light eater” followers, please excuse the hearty fare that will likely be posted in the next 40 days. And to my hearty eaters; well, eat your heart out.

Today I am posting a weekly favorite in our home, the breakfast burrito. Don’t let the name fool you as we eat this for breakfast, brunch and dinner. And recently I have found that if I use a couple more eggs, I can make a “breakfast bowl” for hard working hubby to bring to work the next day.

Serves two plus a breakfast bowl:
Olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced*
*yellow and orange peppers work also
1.5-2 cups of diced potatoes
Morning Star veggie breakfast sausages (or any breakfast sausages)
4-6 eggs
Splash of milk
Shredded cheese, Mexican blend
Flour tortillas
Sour Cream and Salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop potatoes into small cubes and microwave for about 2 minutes or until semi soft. Spray a baking sheet and the potatoes with olive oil and put in the oven for about 10-12 minutes and switch to broil for the last 2-3 minutes to brown the potatoes. While the potatoes are in the oven, crack eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a splash of milk and set aside. Heat or cook your breakfast sausages, crumble and set aside. Heat skillet on medium/high and add olive oil. Add peppers and cook for about five minutes. Add eggs to the skillet and let them set up (about 3 minutes). Use a push/pull motion to move them around and let them set up again. Repeat this until the eggs are fluffy but not dry. Turn the heat to low/off and add cheese, potatoes and sausage to the skillet. Pile the tortilla with egg mixture and top with sour cream and salsa.

Use the leftovers for a breakfast bowl to send or bring to work for a nutritious start to someone’s day.

08 October, 2010

Fan Mail Motivation

Today I take a break from recipes, to give a shout out to my fans. Although this list is short for now, I like to focus on the quality and not the quantity. On those nights when I am just not feeling it and I want to throw my hands up and order take out (yes, this does happen); I think about the fans. 

One of my biggest blog fans is my Aunt Kitty. She continues to offer great feedback that motivates me to ‘keep on keeping on’.

One of Aunt Kitty's favorite Simple Plates is the "Egg and Tomato Toast" http://simpleplates.blogspot.com/2010/07/egg-tomato-toast.html

On a regular basis Aunt Kitty saunters over to her local café and demands (requests) they create this toast for her. After a couple months of this, she sent me the email below letting me know that “We are famous”. The owner has decided to add Aunt Kitty’s breakfast and my Simple Plate to the menu.   
Aunt Kitty's Original Email:   So I'm having my usual Friday morning breakfast with my friends at the BirdMan Coffee & Books when the owner comes to me with a new menu.  "I hope you don't mind," she says, "but on my new menu, I've added your breakfast special.  I changed it a little.  Instead of using the sourdough bread, I found these great low-calorie bagels that are thin so I made it a breakfast sandwich.  Can I call it 'The Kitty Cat Special'?" Here's a picture of it, and it was delicious this way, too! She's going to offer it both ways!  Yay, you!

How exciting! First stop: Simple Plate makes the menu in St. Francisville, Louisiana.
Next stop: Famous food blogger extraordinaire. Thank you all for your support.

04 October, 2010

Game Night Taco Soup

My husband and I flew out to Georgia this past week to surprise my Mother In Law for her birthday. She seemed very happy about the visit and not at all overwhelmed by her week long surprise house guests. Now that's love! We had an awesome visit with a bit of rain that made for a perfect setting for our traditional family game night.

The rain caused a craving for something hearty and warm and my mind turned to a soup that my grandmother used to make for me. This soup is easy to throw together for a crowd and can please very diverse palates from the adventurous to the particular. This recipe serves about 8-10 hungry gamers.

Optional toppings: shredded Mexican cheese, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips
1 lb ground meat
1.5 packets of taco seasoning
2 -15 oz cans pinto beans
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, sliced in rounds then halved
10 oz bag of frozen corn
4-6 cups of water or broth

In a medium size stock pot, start browning the ground meat. With about five minutes left for the ground meat to cook, add onions. Next add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add taco seasoning and stir until combined. Add crushed tomatoes and simmer for about five minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add zucchini and turn heat down to simmer. Let soup simmer for about 15 minutes, add corn and beans and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Serve soup topped with cheese, avocado, sour cream and tortilla chips.

20 September, 2010

The Frittata Experiment-Spinach, Tomato, Feta, Sausage

Today's post will be a continuing feature I am calling “The Frittata Experiment”. For those who have never made or eaten a frittata, it can be described as a baked omelet or a crustless quiche. The frittata's appearance and taste will decieve you and make you question me for labeling it a “simple plate”. However, after you conquer a couple easy steps you will acknowledge the "simple" status.

The Frittata Experiment will consist of many different variations and tweaks providing enough fun to scare a person.  Similar to alot of my recipes (pita pizzas, veggie pastas, etc) this one is a basic blank canvas with room to dream for the creative. Stay tuned my frittata loving friends!

Serves 3-4
oven proof skillet*
6 oz bag of fresh spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 ounces feta cheese
6 eggs
¼ cup of milk
Boca soy breakfast sausage or sausage of choice

*Use an oven proof skillet for easy transfer to the oven. And WATCH the handle when you remove it. I forget and burn myself every time!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat six eggs with ¼ cup of milk. Add an all spice blend of choice or oregano, salt and pepper and set aside. Heat an oven proof skillet on medium-high, add olive oil and cook spinach until wilted. Add tomatoes and saute until juices are released. Remove veggies from skillet and put in a bowl on the side. Cook/heat your breakfast sausage of choice, remove from skillet and crumble in a bowl. Remove skillet from heat, add eggs, veggies, sausage and feta cheese. It will look like too much toppings but the egg will rise. Put the skillet  in the oven  for about 20 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.

13 September, 2010

Cherry Tomato and Artichoke Pasta

This is just one of many veggie pastas I make for a quick weeknight dinner. You can have this dinner on the table in 30 minutes from start to finish. If you or your family are still subscribing to the “it’s not a meal without meat” notion; top this dish off with some Italian or chicken sausage straight from the broiler. I use Trader Joe’s spinach and chive fettuccini for this dish but you can use any of your favorite pastas.

Serves 3-4 as a meal
1 package TJ’s Spinach & Chive Fettuccini
1-15 oz. can artichoke hearts, halved
1-15 oz can white cannellini beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Italian Seasoning or oregano
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine artichokes, tomatoes, and beans in a casserole dish. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and/or oregano. Roast for about 20 minutes, checking and stirring frequently.
Cook pasta al dente while veggies are roasting. Once the veggies are done serve them on top of the pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

05 September, 2010

Fig Toast

When I was a kid one of my Dad’s favorite snacks was figs. “Ewww figs,” proclaimed his three young daughters as he picked them off of Great Grandma Laura’s tree and popped them into his mouth. Now had we actually tasted the figs we might have changed our minds. Ohhh the irony that I am now a fig lover and yes admit to paying $3.00 for a small basket of them at the Farmer’s Market. The jokes on me Dad!

As an adult I find my palate is the complete opposite that it was when I was a child. I am not sure if it’s because I am tasting the foods I proclaimed to despise as a child or if my palate has actually changed. In any event, here is a simple recipe for enjoying my Dad’s favorite treat. Although I know he enjoys them right off the tree or cooked down into preserves; I hope he gives this a try.
This recipe will make about 4 toasts.
One basket black mission figs, 2 ounces feta cheese, olive oil, toast

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse, slice figs in half and roast for 10-12 minutes in the oven. While the figs are roasting, drizzle bread with olive oil and put on the second shelf of the oven for about 5 minutes until toasty. Remove the toast and let set until the figs are complete. The figs are ready when they have warmed and began to let go of their juices. Top the toast with the figs and sprinkle with feta cheese. Put the toast back into the oven for about 5 minutes and then switch to broil for the last 2-3 minutes.

31 August, 2010

Roasted Mushroom and Pepper Quesadillas

So the following story is a perfect example of how most of my meals are created:
It was late Sunday night and I had already accepted defeat and decided I had no motivation to cook dinner. In walks my cute husband returning from a weekend rafting trip looking awfully hungry and it broke my heart to have to tell him it was cereal night (although he loves cereal). I examined the contents of my fridge and saw the following: corn tortillas, bits and pieces of a yellow, red, and orange bell pepper left over from a weekend veggie tray; bits and pieces of a poblano pepper leftover from stuffed poblanos; one lonely portobello mushroom; and a partial bag of Mexican shredded cheese. And the story ends with roasted mushroom and pepper quesadillas and my cute husband and I living happily ever after. The End.

Makes 3-4 quesadillas
One portobello mushroom
¼ of a red, yellow, and orange bellpepper
¼ poblano pepper
Fajita seasoning
Olive oil
Corn tortillas
Mexican cheese blend shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice mushrooms and peppers, combine with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp fajita seasoning. In a casserole dish, cook veggies for about 15-20 minutes until soft but not mushy. Brush olive oil on one side of corn tortillas. Using an indoor grill (sandwich press, quesadilla maker or skillet on the stove top), layer cheese and veggie mix on bottom corn tortilla and top with another corn tortilla. Grill until cheese is melted and tortilla is slightly crunchy. Cut into four and top with sour cream or greek yogurt and your favorite salsa.

 *Warning: If you overload your tortilla the cheese will seep out onto the grill and form a brown crunchy cheesy delicacy that hangs off the edges of the quesadilla that I like to call "heaven". See Exhibit A. Enjoy!
Exhibit A

23 August, 2010

California Fish Tacos

Before I moved to California I had never heard of fish tacos. After trying them on several different menus, I decided I had enough research to try them at home. They are now a favorite weeknight and weekend dinner. This meal is so light and refreshing and a crowd pleaser on a warm day accompanied by cold beer.

1 head of green cabbage, shredded
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ Lime, Olive oil, white wine vinegar
cumin, salt, pepper
fish of choice or shrimp
fajita or taco seasoning
corn (fresh or frozen)
avocado, diced
salsa or pico de gallo
corn or flour tortillas

Preheat oven or grill and season fish with a fajita or taco seasoning. Combine shredded cabbage into a bowl with  about 3/4 cup chopped cilantro. Add 1/2 tablespoon cumin, the juice of ½ a lime, 3/4 tablespoon white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil and then set in the fridge. While the fish is cooking*, drizzle the corn with olive oil and put into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. For the last 3-4 minutes,turn to broil and leave until the corn is charred a bit. You will need to shake the corn a bit every couple of minutes while cooking. When the corn and fish are done, you can plate one of two ways: as a taco salad adding the slaw to a bowl, topping with corn, pico de gallo/salsa, diced avocado and fish: or as a taco adding slaw, corn, pico and avocado on top of tortilla and serve.

*Cook the fish on a grill or in a saucepan until done, time and heat depends on kind of fish used. Battered frozen fish can also be used if in a pinch or trying to please kids.

18 August, 2010

Pita Pizza

I stumbled upon a quick week night favorite a couple weeks ago when I was hanging out with my kid friend Niko. He gave the pita pizza a thumbs up and requested to take his leftovers home with him.  This cute kid has a very discerning palate and a mom who frequently cooks delicious and healthy meals for him. It felt great to impress such an earnest critic. The kiddos might even enjoy lending a helping hand.

Pizza is a versatile meal that you can easily change toppings to fit your mood, your dinner guests, or your leftover veggies in the fridge. 
Pita bread, flatbread, wheat or white
Tomato sauce or marinara sauce
Olive oil
Pizza toppings of choice
Mozzarella cheese

A few of my favorite topping combinations:
cherry tomatoes sliced in half and fresh parsley
sundried tomatoes, roasted corn, and mushroom
pepperoni and cheese
jalapeno pepper and black olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush olive oil on both sides of the pita bread. Use the easy tomato sauce recipe found here in one of my previous post: http://simpleplates.blogspot.com/2010/07/three-sisters-casserole.html.
Or buy a marinara sauce with mostly natural ingredients and no added sugar.
Spread the tomato sauce on top of the pita bread, top with a small amount of cheese, add toppings of choice, and top with a desired amount of cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes and crisp up under the broiler for the last 2 minutes.

13 August, 2010

Mushroom Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I am always giddy when a stuffed/wrapped pepper makes an appearance at a cookout. They are so impressive that it has never crossed my simple plate mind to try them myself. In the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone, I recently tried to conquer the pepper. And it was, for lack of better words... pretty simple.

Peppers of all variety, beware! I have discovered that stuffing and wrapping your pretty little self is prime simple plate material. Readers, stay tuned for more pepper action. I am hooked. 
P.S. I tried these in both the oven and on the grill and they are great.
Serve on top of red qunioa to make a meal.
2 poblano peppers
1 cup sliced whole button or crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Handful of fresh parsley or 2 tbsp dried italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Queso fresca or feta cheese, crumbled
4-6 strips of prosciutto or bacon
Cut poblanos in half and discard seeds. In a food processor, chop the mushrooms, parsley, and garlic. In a bowl combine mushrooms, breadcrumbs, cheese and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stuff the peppers and carefully wrap with prosciutto. Cook for about 25 minutes on indirect heat on the grill. If using the oven, cook for 20-25 minutes on 400 degrees then switch to broil for the last 2 minutes.

09 August, 2010

Honey Banana Nut Bites

Congratulations to my husband for completing a 106 mile bike ride this weekend. The Marin Century ride has been on his “to do” list for four years now. In honor of his exciting accomplishment, I am posting one of his favorite après biking snacks that he introduced to me about a month ago. This delicious treat goes perfect with a cup of coffee and an easy Sunday morning. It’s nutritious and filling for post workouts or maybe a great after school snack for the kiddos.

Congrats Robbie, this post is for you!
1 cup Peanuts or almonds
Graham crackers, vanilla wafers, etc
Banana, sliced
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey

In a food processor, grind nuts until they form a thick paste. You are  making natural peanut butter or almond butter. This will take about 10-15 minutes of grinding. The nuts will turn into a ground meal after a couple minutes. Keep grinding and eventually the oils in the nuts will release and form a paste/butter.

Mix the butter with 1 cup yogurt and 1 tablespoon honey.
Layer the butter on top of the cookie and top with a banana slice.

05 August, 2010

Potato Nachos

Mmmmmm nachos, how I love thee?
Let me count the ways, and the calories.
For the last movie night in my house we decided to make nachos for dinner. But I had to figure out a way to make them more of a meal and less of a mess. I needed them to be more nutritionally sound than processed cheese sauce on top of stale chips. I replaced the chips with crispy potatoes and added corn and beans. And let’s just say, they didn’t last the whole movie.

*Just a little note about the yellow potatoes called yukon gold that I used in this dish. Yellow potatoes have less starch and will crisp up better than a russet or white potato. The yellow potato gets its color from a chemical called anthoxanthins which is a pigment loaded with antioxidants. So the yellow potato has less carbohydrate and more antioxidants. So stop hating on the potato!

Serves 3-4 as a meal
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes*
Fresh or frozen corn
8oz canned black beans
½ tablespoon cumin
Juice of ½ lime
Shredded cheese of your choice
Pico de gallo

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Cut your potatoes into 3/4 inch thick slices and toss them with olive oil. Layer onto a baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes, flip the potatoes and cook for another 20 minutes. You will want them pretty crispy and cooking time will vary according to your oven and your preference.

While the potatoes are cooking, drain and rinse the black beans. Mix the beans with ½ tablespoon cumin, the juice of ½ of lime and set aside. Toss the corn with olive oil and put in a saute pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes. When the potatoes are out of the oven you can toss the corn under the broiler for about 3 minutes to add some browning. Layer the potatoes in a casserole dish, top with cheese, beans and corn and put the dish back into the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve topped with pico de gallo and press play on the movie.

03 August, 2010

The Turkey Sandwich

Why is it that when someone else makes you a sandwich or a salad it always tastes better? I have a memory of my sisters and me fighting for bites out of my mom’s salad bowl while she unsuccessfully tried to swat us away.
This simple plate is an inspiration from a sandwich my husband made for me three years ago when I sprained my ankle. I loved the crunch of the crisp romaine lettuce and so I decided to increase the crunch by taking the veggies that he served on the side and adding them to the sandwich. Whenever I am in need of a day off from the kitchen, I prop up my feet and make a request for this sandwich.

Two pieces wheat sourdough bread or any wheat bread
Roasted turkey from your local deli
Swiss cheese
Baby carrots, sliced in half lengthwise
Romaine lettuce
Radishes, sliced
Cucumber, sliced

Mix your mayo and mustard together in a bowl and spread onto both sides of your toasted bread. (Why is it always better when you mix them?) Add a layer of romaine lettuce topped with carrots, radishes and cucumbers. Next, layer generous amounts of turkey, top with cheese and then the second bread. Cut in half and serve with the extra veggies and hummus.

30 July, 2010

Lettuce Be Happy Wraps

cus•tom•ize [kuhs-tuh-mahyz] –verb
to modify or build according to individual or personal specifications or preference

Lettuce wraps are so appealing when we see them on a restaurant menu but we rarely think to serve them at home. However, when we serve them at home we can not only control the nutritional value but we can also customize them to our specific audience. With just a couple tweaks you can please omnivores and herbivores; you can please the carb averse and the carb lover; you can please adults and children. You can please everyone!

To make these vegetarian, use soy crumbles or extra vegetables. To make them carb friendly, eliminate the pasta. To make your family happy, try this recipe!

Serves 3-4
Butter lettuce (or iceberg)
10 oz Udon noodles (pasta of your choice)
1 lb ground beef, chicken or soy crumbles
Small white or yellow onion, diced
Green bell pepper, diced
Red bell pepper, diced
3-5 oz shitake mushrooms, chopped
8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 ½ tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 pinches red pepper flakes
1 tbsp lime juice

Rinse your lettuce, separate individual leafs and set aside to dry. Cook pasta according to directions, drain and rinse with cold water. Cut the pasta so that it’s about three inches long. While the pasta is cooking, brown one pound ground beef in a medium sauté pan and about three minutes before you remove from the heat, add two cloves minced garlic. Drain beef and set aside in a bowl.

While the beef is cooking, combine soy sauce, honey, vinegar, red pepper flakes and lime juice, in a bowl and whisk in sesame oil. Set aside.

In the same sauté pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil and add onion and peppers for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes. Next add about half of your sauce and cook for about 3 minutes before you add the water chestnuts. Once the vegetables are cooked but not mushy, add the beef and remaining sauce to the pan and let simmer on low for about 10-15 minutes. Sccop into cool lettuce leaves and serve for smiles.

27 July, 2010

Eggplant Bruschetta Couscous

“Bruschetta” is an Italian appetizer consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt, pepper, tomatoes, etc. There are many variations of this dish and I am so in love with every variation. My love led me to the creation of what I call “brushetta couscous”. The dish technically isn’t bruschetta because it is not served on bread. Report me to the Italian bruschetta police; I don’t care as long as you give this dish a try. For those not familiar with Israeli couscous, it is a wheat based baked pasta produced in the shape of round pearls. It is tiny and chewy and yummy and if you can’t find it you can replace it with any small pasta, rice or grain of your choice. Quinoa would likely be my second choice.

Serves 3-4 as a side dish
1 1/3 cup dry Israeli couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small eggplant, diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
Salt, pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Make a foil packet with diced eggplant, cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, 1 clove minced garlic and 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Place on the grill on high heat or in your oven on 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Remove the packet when the tomatoes have burst and the eggplant is soft. Be careful to not to spill the yummy juices that have gathered in the packet.

While the eggplant/tomatoes are cooking, prepare your couscous. In a saucepan on medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and couscous and toast for about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup 3/4 boiling water to couscous and once it returns to a boil lower heat to medium low for 10-12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Be careful not to overcook the couscous as it behaves just like pasta.

Once the couscous is done, poor the contents of the foil including the juice on top and serve.

22 July, 2010

Egg & Tomato Toast

If I were to make a list of my favorite things, one of the top listings (after my husband of course) would be breakfast or brunch on a weekend or on vacation. I love to linger over a cup of coffee, leisure conversation and a great bite. I am not sure which I enjoy more; going out for breakfast and getting new ideas from the menu or staying in for breakfast and recreating those menu items in my robe.

I have several routine menu items but the one below involves minimal ingredients that are likely hanging out in your house anyway. Eggs and tomatoes are a perfect match that should get married and live happily ever after. The cream cheese is an indulgence that can be left off or scaled back if one is watching his/her girlish or boyish figure. Or you could indulge and just loosen the belt on your robe.
Serves two

2 pieces whole wheat sourdough bread (or any bread desired)
4 eggs
1 tbsp skim milk
One large tomato or two smaller tomatoes
Whipped cream cheese
Salt and pepper

Crack four eggs in a bowl, add 1 tbsp milk and beat lightly. Cut the tomato into thick slices. Toast bread in toaster or in the oven and spread with desired amount of cream cheese. Layer the tomatoes on top of the cream cheese and salt and pepper the tomatoes.
I recently learned a foolproof method for cooking fluffy eggs: Heat a skillet on medium high and add a pat of butter. Add eggs and don’t touch them for about 3 minutes or until they set up. Once they are set do a push/pull motion with a spatula and leave them for about 2 minutes while they set. Repeat this until the eggs are fluffy and moist. When they look just a bit undercooked than you normally would like, immediately remove from heat. The eggs will cook a bit more on their own and turn out perfect. Layer the eggs on top of the tomatoes, salt, pepper and serve.

Corn Summer Salad

sum·mer 1 (smr)
A period of fruition, fulfillment, happiness, or beauty.

Nothing celebrates summer like corn and tomatoes. They love summer and we love them. As I was perusing my local farmers market this weekend, I ran across a table that was serving samples of corn salad and selling corn on the cob “picked this morning”. Sold! Most recipes I have seen for corn salad uses the corn cut right from the cob with no cooking involved. Eat raw corn? Come on people, we eat raw fish, why not raw corn? Give it a try; I think you will like it. It practically screams summer!

Serves 4 -5

3 ears of corn, husked and cut from the cob
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 small or one large cucumber, diced
½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 handful of fresh basil, slivered
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 block feta cheese *optional

Mix ingredients together in the order listed and serve immediately or haul it over to the neighbor’s house for a cookout.

15 July, 2010

Choppa Style Chop Salad

Lately, my favorite salad is of the “chop” variety inspired by my friend Daymi. A chop salad is one with ingredients chopped into tiny bites so that each bite contains incredible flavor. I promise the time and effort are well worth it. The result is a crunchy salad that you don’t have to haggle with to get the perfect bite into your mouth. (I apologize that the picture doesn't show the bite sized pieces.)

You can adjust ingredients to include your favorite salad fixings but below is a recipe to get you started. For my bike commuter husband who needs additional calories and protein I add lots of chopped salami and some boiled eggs on the side.
Romaine Lettuce (butter lettuce and radicchio are also good additions)
1 can Garbanzo beans
1/4 red onion
3 stalks Celery
1 cup olives
Red bell pepper (or any bell pepper )
1/2 pint Cherry tomatoes
1/2 block Feta cheese or mozzarella
Salami, slivered (chicken or beef)
Boiled eggs-cut in half
Red wine vinegar, olive oil (or desired salad dressing)
salt, pepper and oregano

These estimated amounts serve two very large salads as a main dish. Start by chopping your lettuces  into small bite size pieces and put them into a large salad bowl. Next drain and rinse a can of garbanzo beans and add to the lettuce. Finely dice 1/4 of a red onion, 3 stalks of celery and add. Chop 1/2 of a red bell pepper (or color of your choice),1 can of black olives or a handful of green olives and add. Quarter 1/2 a pint of cherry tomatoes and add. Chop or crumble about 1/2 block of feta cheese and add. Season with salt, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of dried oregano (the oregano adds a lot of flavor). Dress the salad with red wine vinegar and olive oil and refrigerate until you are ready to eat. Divide the salad into plates and top with slivered salami or protein of your choice.

Ahhhh! Crunchy and colorful, leaving room for dessert.  Daydream complete.

13 July, 2010

Three Sisters Casserole

This is the recipe that pushed me to press play on the blog. I submitted this for a contest on http://www.food52.com/ . Taking the step to publish one of my recipes left me unbelievably giddy which made me realize it was time to start the blog. A reader on the Food52 site left a comment that I should name this dish the "The Three Sisters Casserole". I did some internet searching and found out that squash, corn and beans were among the first crops for the Iroquois Indians and were called the "three sisters". The rest is history. No really, look it up....it's history!

2 cans cannellini beans drained 
1.5 cups frozen corn, defrosted
3 cups summer squash, diced
salt ,pepper, oregano to taste
Trader Joe's Lavash Bread (or any crusty bread on hand)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes, pinch
Two handfuls of shredded asiago cheese (or any cheese on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by making a tomato sauce of your own or use this simple recipe I adapted from http://www.101cookbooks.com/. In a cold saucepan add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Heat on medium until garlic becomes fragrant (3 minutes). Add the can of tomatoes, 1 tsp oregano and simmer on low while dicing the veggies. Turn off the heat.

Add squash, beans, and corn, to the tomato sauce. The more veggies added the thicker the casserole will be. Begin layering a casserole dish with the veggie mixture, topped by a couple strips of bread, followed by a veggie layer, etc ending with a top layer of bread. On the top layer of bread sprinkle two handfuls of asiago cheese. Bake for about 25-40 minutes until veggies are cooked through, cheese is melted and desired consistency of liquid in the casserole is reached. When serving you can remove the top layer of crusty bread and divide among servings to be used as a "scooper" or utensil. I like to serve with a diced avocado on top.

12 July, 2010

Dinner's on me!

1. A state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream

I have been daydreaming about starting a food blog for two years. Tomorrow, on my 32nd birthday, I will post my first recipe. But today, I just wanted to provide some insight about me and the reverie I have been caught in for a couple of years.

I love food and I like my food to be colorful and simple. I am not a chef and sometimes not even a cook. My meals can be as simple as a salad or sandwich from ingredients that happen to be in my fridge or pantry.

It breaks my heart to throw food away (thanks mom) and often I am serving a dish inspired from leftovers and produce that is a step away from the compost bin/trash. Once I identify possible ingredients I search for ideas from my favorite blogs and websites. If a recipe uses an ingredient I don't have or uses too many pots/pans/tools,  I change it. I dislike measuring so I rarely bake. Because I don't measure it's hard to write recipes; however, I will provide an idea of measurement with room for adjustment. I view cooking as an art not a science and think we should always adjust to our preferences. I am not a vegetarian; however, I rarely cook meat dishes at this time in my life when fresh and seasonal produce is readily available to me. At another time in my life when said ingredients are not available, my recipes will likely adapt.

Four years ago, I rarely cooked or thought about cooking. Then I met my husband and we moved to California. I don't know exactly how it happened but before I knew it I was making dishes that made him say "wow" and this made me happy. While working diligently at my dayjob, I daydream about creating dinner and the weekends farmer's market.

This blog is my daydream. Enjoy!