Monthly Archives: May 2014

Mama D’s First Fruit Adventure…Admitting the Love

It will never be said that Mama D doesn’t love her vegetables. Even before I took the healthier fork in the road, veggies have always been center stage in my cooking. Fruits on the other hand, have taken a back seat to almost everything. Aside from a  fruit dessert, DIGITAL CAMERAvery little has been said about this food group. I aim to change that right now. I don’t dislike fruit, it’s just not the first ingredient I reach for, even as a supporting ingredient. It has come to my attention that I do not eat enough fruit and that while my diet is pretty healthy, more fruit could make it even better. So I’m heading down the sweet and fruity road and I’m taking you with me.

I’m not completely anti-fruit. I do enjoy certain fruits especially grapes when they’ve been allowed to ferment for a while… wineNo, honestly I do enjoy many fruits. Spring and Summer fruits are my favorites. Berries, melons and stone fruits can always find a place in my kitchen and on my plate. Making it a daily habit is what I’m working on.

My first adventure involved making fruit infused water. I have this great pitcher that has an insert that holds fruit. I’ve used this for water quite often. It’s also a great vessel for sangria, but I digress. Today’s infusion was strawberry and kiwi. They imparted a very noticeable aroma and flavor. The water even took on a slightly pink tint. It was quite delicious and was very nice sipped with breakfast or out on the deck.DIGITAL CAMERAWhile not providing a lot of fruit nutrition, it is according to this website, an aid in digestion, blood sugar control, and immune system strengthening. It’s refreshing and a pleasant way to drink more water.

Woman does not live by drinking her fruit alone so I’ve been exploring other ways to incorporate fruit into my meals. Enter fruit salsa. Who would have guessed that fruit and hot peppers could co-exist. They do and they can really elevate simple grilled meat and poultry to a new level. I experimented with frozen and canned fruits, but I didn’t hit the jackpot until I used fresh (Duh). This is my take on Mango, Peach and Chipotle Salsa. DIGITAL CAMERAThe ingredients are precisely that along with some green onions, honey and the juice and zest of several limes. The peaches take a quick dip in some boiling water to allow their skins to come off easily. Here’s the step by stepDIGITAL CAMERAThey are chopped along with the other ingredients into salsa sized pieces that will join forces in the bowl to become a sweet, spicy, and satisfying salsa (yes, it does warrant alliteration).DIGITAL CAMERAThe salsa is bright in color and flavor and is comfortable on a chip or a chicken breast. I’ll bet it would make an awesome ice cream topping, too.DIGITAL CAMERA

Peach and Mango Salsa with Chipotles
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Servings
2 Cups
Servings
2 Cups
Peach and Mango Salsa with Chipotles
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Servings
2 Cups
Servings
2 Cups
Ingredients
Servings: Cups
Instructions
  1. Combine the chopped mango, peaches, red bell pepper, and sliced green onions in a medium bowl.
  2. Allow any excess adobo sauce to drip off of the chipotles. Slice the chipotles open and scrape out the seeds and membranes. If you like more heat leave some seeds. Chop finely and add to the bowl.
  3. Zest the lime and add it to the bowl. Squeeze the lime's juice into the bowl. Toss everything together.
  4. Add the honey and the pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. Serve with chips or use as a cold sauce for grilled meat.
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So, I would classify this as a very successful adventure. I’m starting to  look at fruit as more than a snack or a topping for cereal. I plan on exploring more fruit combinations for salsas, but I also plan on experimenting with other fruit recipes. I’m starting to feel the love. As the saying goes, it’s a process… Stay tuned.

Memories of Cook Outs and Not Potato Salad

Here in the Midwest we are getting brief glimpses of warm weather. Even though days in the 80’s may be sandwiched between rain and cold, we all know that soon those single days will chain together into whole weeks. Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the summer season will be here in a week.

When I was growing up, Memorial Day was spent outside with my dad. He was off work 50's barbecue grilland eschewed golfing on a holiday, so I had lots of home time with him. The day revolved around my dad listening to the Indy 500 on the radio (it took the better part of a day back then) while he puttered around the yard. Dinner would come from the grill and usually it was chicken. My dad was a newest gadget kind of guy and our grill had an electric rotisserie and a metal door with a tempered glass window that allowed you to watch the food cook to golden perfection.

I inherited his grilling gene. Mama D’s family grills…a lot. We actually grill year round. We DIGITAL CAMERAlike to do entire meals on the grill; meat, potatoes, veggies, even fruit for dessert. But summer isn’t made of grilled food alone. Cold sides make grilled food taste better. Something about the contrasting temperatures and palate cleansing properties just work. Whatever, this isn’t about grilling it’s about the sides and it’s not about potato salad. It’s about “Not Potato Salad.”

Cauliflower does its very best potato imitation in this dish. Surprisingly, cauliflower has many of the same properties as potatoes without all of the starch. It’s  white and when cut in small florets and steamed until tender it has a texture similar to potatoes. I discovered this dish in my “low carb” days and it has remained an often requested side at family barbecues. You can make virtually any style of potato salad into “not potato salad.”

Today I’m sharing a more or less traditional version that In my new en”light”enment I have trimmed down in fat. Even though the salad is vegetable to begin with, I add lots of veggies chosen for their crunch.DIGITAL CAMERA Naturally, cauliflower is the main ingredient. Once it is cut into small but uniform florets it needs to be cooked. I usually steam it, and I like using the microwave and this steamer that I got at a Tupperware party sometime in the 90’s. It does a great job and brightens the kitchen at the same time.DIGITAL CAMERAI like the cauliflower soft but not mushy. I want the pieces to hold up in the dressing so, 7 – 9 minutes in my microwave does it.

I like hard-boiled eggs in my potato salad and that’s what I want in the Not-Version. Onions are an absolute necessity. Scallions, red, or sweet are all good and I choose based on the herbs I will use But I’ve also been known to use whatever I have on hand. This time I invited scallions to the party. Most potato salads include celery. Many of you know how I feel about celery…it’s not going to happen. I’ve found another vegetable that packs as much crunch without the strings; jicama. I added some red bell pepper to give things a pop of color and flavor. For this go-round I used lemon zest and fresh dill.DIGITAL CAMERA The dressing must be creamy and there has to be some mayonnaise. I opted for the light version. This one has added benefits of Omega-3 and plant sterols for heart health. Non-fat Greek yogurt filled in for sour cream and fat-free half & half thinned things down a little bit. Fresh herbs, a touch of lemon juice, white balsamic, and prepared mustard rounded out the flavors. A few drops of agave nectar give a very subtle sweetness that brings everything together.DIGITAL CAMERAAs with most of my recipes, this is just a guideline. Everything is open for discussion and my feelings will not be hurt if you go your own way on this. The only thing I insist on is that you chill the salad before serving. It gives the flavors a chance to meld, plus cold and crunchy just tastes better.

Not Potato Salad
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An en"light"ened side dish. The flavors of potato salad join steamed cauliflower for a healthier alternative. Use herbs, vinegar, and mustard that suit you.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Not Potato Salad
Print Recipe
An en"light"ened side dish. The flavors of potato salad join steamed cauliflower for a healthier alternative. Use herbs, vinegar, and mustard that suit you.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Steam the cauliflower in the mircowave or on the stove. It should be fairly tender but not mushy. Rinse under cold water and set aside to finish cooling.
  2. Combine the cauliflower, onion, red pepper, jicama, lemon zest, and herbs in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Mix the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and agave nectar together. Add the fat free 1/2 & 1/2 and a pinch of salt and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to combine. Chop two of the eggs and gently fold into the salad. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
  5. Spoon into a serving bowl. Slice the remaining egg and lay on top of the salad. Sprinkle lightly with paprika if desired and garnish with a sprig of herb. Chill for at least 3 hours
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As we sail into summer, take time to revel in the sunshine and warmer weather. We have earned it and this season is a fleeting one. Make the most of it. Fill it with family, great food, good friends, and more than a little love.  Mama D        

For the Love of Spring Greens and Salad Greens

DIGITAL CAMERAHave you noticed that there is a lot of green outside? I am DIGITAL CAMERApositively giddy that I can look out my window and see green. My bushes have enough green to be a privacy fence. The clematis and hop vines are climbing steadily every day. Even my chives plant has decided to turn green again. DIGITAL CAMERAI love the greens of Spring, and after the winter we have had here in the Midwest they are more than welcome.

Spring is a time to embrace the coming bounty of produce which we will begin to see sometime in June (I hope). In the meantime, I’m enjoying salads. Yes, they fit nicely into Mama D’s new healthier lifestyle but they are also delicious, quick to fix, and the perfect meal for one or two.

The base of any good salad is greens. When I was growing up, iceberg was the year round staple. Summer meant garden lettuce and the occasional dandelion salad. Now there is DIGITAL CAMERAsuch a plethora of choices at the store that the mind boggles atDIGITAL CAMERA the variety. I have my favorites as I’m sure everyone does and I have to admit mine are rather simple. Spring/Baby Green Mix is tied with Romaine Hearts for my “go to” choices. I do, however love Baby Kale and Arugula and how could I leave out Baby Spinach. The veggie bins in the refrigerator are always bursting at the seams with greens.

Whatever the base of my salad is, what goes on top is where my creative juices start flowing. Everyone has their own philosophy as to the topping to greens ratio. I have two approaches and it depends on the role each salad will serve. If the salad is a supporting player, I’ll apply the toppings with a lighter hand like this Arugula Salad served as a base for the grilled beef. A little tomato, jicama, and mint was all that was needed.DIGITAL CAMERA

When that same beef made a return appearance in a salad later in the week, it was joined by lots of toppings that almost made the bed of arugula and romaine disappear. Olives, cucumbers, artichokes, cannellini beans and tomatoes were among the players that created a very hearty main dish.

DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it comes to dressing a salad, I’m becoming a less is more person. It started because I was trying to cut back on fat and calories, but I soon realized that the salad tasted better and more “salad like” with just a drizzle of dressing. I’ve been making “scratch dressings” lately, taking liberties with the oil to acid ratio. Acids, herbs and flavors make up more than half the volume. The extra virgin olive oil, usually 1/4 cup or less, adds the flavor and richness that’s expected, but the other ingredients are the real stars.

This is a basic vinaigrette recipe that is open to as much interpretation as you desire. With all the wonderful vinegars out there’s a flavor for every mood. From Red Wine to Fruit Balsamics, each type imparts a distinct flavor. Other great choices are Sherry or Champagne vinegar. Rice vinegar has a light taste that lends itself to cucumber and Asian salads.DIGITAL CAMERA

A Basic Vinaigrette on the Light Side
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A basic dressing recipe that uses less olive oil than traditional vinaigrette. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar or use a combination of both. Add, subtract and adjust the ingredients to make you own dressing of love.
A Basic Vinaigrette on the Light Side
Print Recipe
A basic dressing recipe that uses less olive oil than traditional vinaigrette. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar or use a combination of both. Add, subtract and adjust the ingredients to make you own dressing of love.
Ingredients
Servings: Cup
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except salt and pepper in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Cover jar tightly and shake until ingredients are completely blended.
  3. Taste dressing. Add a little salt and pepper and shake well, again. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper as needed.
  4. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.
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I’ve taken to grilling extra chicken or pork on the weekend to use for quick weeknight supper salads. Then it’s whatever topping that comes to mind…like Taboulleh.

DIGITAL CAMERAA side dish staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, it adds body,texture and flavor to a salad. It tastes best made the day before so the flavors can really get to know each other. I’ve adapted this recipe to align with my tastes. Parsley and mint are key ingredients, but I like them in moderation. To get nice uniform finely chopped herbs, I use a processor. I used green onions in this recipe, but I like red onions as well. A lemon juice based dressing is absolutely necessary and I like mine with a big hit of garlic.

Tabbouleh Salad
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This recipe is very adaptable. From side dish to main dish to salad topper, it's a tasty addition to any meal.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Tabbouleh Salad
Print Recipe
This recipe is very adaptable. From side dish to main dish to salad topper, it's a tasty addition to any meal.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Rinse the bulgur and allow it to drain. Heat the chicken broth to just boiling. Put the bulgur in a heat proof bowl. Add the broth and allow it to sit approximately 30 minutes.
  2. The bulgur should puff up some and be chewy, (but chewable.) If there is excess broth, drain it off, but it doesn't have to be bone dry. Leave the bulgur in the bowl.
  3. Place the parsley and mint leaves in the bowl of a processor. Pulse until finely chopped, but don't let it turn into a paste. Scrape the chopped herbs into the bulgur and toss to combine.
  4. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions to the bulgur mixture and toss to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the olive oil, lemon, juice and garlic. Shake until completely blended. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste and shake again. Repeat adding salt and/or pepper if needed.
  6. Pour the dressing onto the bulgur mixture and toss once again to combine. Chill for 4 hours or overnight. Serve as a side dish or as part of a meal salad.
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So the salad was created. Romaine hearts held a generous portion of the Taboulleh. Some grilled chicken added lean protein. I threw some olives and feta cheese on top because that’s how I roll. I didn’t feel the need to add any dressing, but I’ll leave that up to you.

DIGITAL CAMERAI see many more salads in my future and my adventures with toppings and dressings will continue. Having more salad meals is a choice that I’m enjoying living with. I think I’ll be revisiting this topic again. Love, (And Happy Mother’s Day). Mama D

Rock, Roll (Up) and W(rap)

Call it a wrap, call it a pin wheel, heck, you could even call it a burrito or Stromboli. When a filling is wrapped in a bread product of one kind or another, and eaten out of hand it is, pinwheel_sandwichbesides being convenient, a delicious and versatile food. I remember when wraps first came on the scene. As I recall, it was sometime in the 80’s and pin wheel slices of ham and turkey sandwiches graced appetizer platters everywhere. The fillings were simple at first, but then cooks got more adventurous and even the wraps themselves went gourmet, adding vegetables and herbs to the basic recipe.

9-spinach-pita-wrapThe wrap is now a standard item on many casual lunch menus and every grocery store carries a variety of wraps. In my heart I know many of these are just fancy tortillas, but they do add flare to sandwich fixings. Recently they have had to share space with a new kid on the shelf, Flatbread.

The Flatbread, as a wrap vessel was probably founded in the fact that a rectangular shape wrapped better than a round one. It’s main claim to fame however, is that it’s great just laying there begging to be topped with whatever the imagination can think of. This is my current darling for sandwiches and pizza. DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve found a brand called “Flat Out” that comes in lots of flavors and even low carb/high fiber varieties. As I continue my healthier adventures, this seems like a marriage made in heaven. They are thin, pliable and quite tasty. I found them at Meijer with the breads at the deli counter. The company is located in Michigan and Flat Outs seem to be available at various stores across the country. 

The recipes that follow are my musings…a basic plan if you will, that you are invited to elaborate on and make your own. Cream cheese or another creamy spread helps cold fillings stay together. Once formed, wrapping the wrap in plastic and refrigerating it for a while also helps. For hot fillings a bit of cheese can melt and act as glue to hold things together. Don’t be tempted to overfill, it will come out (in) the end.

I love Breakfast burritos. Sadly, my favorite haunt for this meal just closed, but with Flat Outs I can do it myself and so can you.  Just scramble some eggs with the meats, veggies and cheeses of your choice, wrap it up and eat it up.

DIGITAL CAMERA

Breakfast Wrap Sandwich
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This is how I made mine...use the vegetables you love or have on hand. Add meat or not, but add some cheese, it tastes good and helps glue things together.
Servings
1
Servings
1
Breakfast Wrap Sandwich
Print Recipe
This is how I made mine...use the vegetables you love or have on hand. Add meat or not, but add some cheese, it tastes good and helps glue things together.
Servings
1
Servings
1
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium fry pan. Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add the peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes until the peppers begin to soften.
  2. Add the spinach and garlic to the pan and cook stirring frequently until the spinach is wilted and the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Scramble the eggs and add to the pan. Cook and stir over medium low, adding half of the cheese. Heat until the eggs are set to your liking.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the flat bread and top with the eggs. Roll up carefully and let sit for 1 minute. Cut in half and enjoy.
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Leave out the eggs and ramp up the vegetables and it’s time for lunch. This wrap gives a nod to the pin wheels of the old days by using light cream cheese of the chives and green onion variety for the base and glue. Any vegetables would work. I opted for colored peppers, zucchini, and onion sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic.DIGITAL CAMERA

Veggie Wrap Sandwich
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This is how i made mine. You can choose the veggies you love and use any flavor of cream cheese spread.
Servings
1
Servings
1
Veggie Wrap Sandwich
Print Recipe
This is how i made mine. You can choose the veggies you love and use any flavor of cream cheese spread.
Servings
1
Servings
1
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium fry pan. Add the onions and the peppers. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until they begin to soften. 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini ribbons and garlic to the pan and cook for 3 minutes more.
  3. Spread the cream cheese on the flat bread within a 1/4 inch of the edges. Top with the cooked vegetables and roll up.
  4. This is good warm or at room temperature.
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DIGITAL CAMERA

Let’s not forget about the Flatbread Pizza. These Flat Outs make a terrific pizza crust. They are a perfect size to feed one lavishly, but can be cut into smaller pieces for an appetizer. This pizza used herbed ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and mini gourmet tomatoes. Topped with some Italian Herbs and a splash of olive oil it was indulgent without breaking the carb bank.DIGITAL CAMERA

Flatbread Pizza
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This is my favorite combination for a meal for one. Choose the toppings you like, make more and share them with friends as an appetizer.
Servings
1
Servings
1
Flatbread Pizza
Print Recipe
This is my favorite combination for a meal for one. Choose the toppings you like, make more and share them with friends as an appetizer.
Servings
1
Servings
1
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Lay the flatbread on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 2-3 minutes. remove from oven.
  2. Spread the ricotta on the flatbread leaving a 1/4 inch edge. Lay the mozzarella on top of the ricotta.
  3. Lay the tomatoes on top of the cheeses. Drizzle with olive oil and top with the herb blend.
  4. Return the pan to the oven and bake 5 - 8 minutes or until the cheeses are melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes before cutting.
  5. Cut in strips and enjoy. Make more than one, cut it in smaller pieces, and serve as an appetizer.
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DIGITAL CAMERAThese handy bread canvases are now a staple in my refrigerator. As warm weather approaches, I can see them making appearances on the grill both flat and wrapped. I can see them with sweet fillings laced with fruit and so many other ways. Flatbread is here to stay in general and in Mama D’s Kitchen in particular. I for one, couldn’t be happier.