Monthly Archives: February 2015

Mama D’s New Toy and Zucchini Pasta

When is zucchini not zucchini?Zucchini1

I don’t know, when is zucchini not zucchini?…. Why when it is turned into pasta.

ZucchiniNoodles2Vegetable pasta has become all the rage. It answers a need on many levels. Looking for gluten-free pasta that doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth? Veggie pasta. Watching your carbs vegetti3especially those “evil” ones found in real pasta? Yup, veggie pasta fills the bill again. Want to do something different with vegetables? You guessed it, veggie pasta. Looking for a new kitchen toy? One that can help you create this new culinary sensation? There’s a tool for that. The Veggetti. Actually there are several tools that can create this new darling of the food world. There are “spiralizers” that can turn virtually anything into pasta simply by impaling your food of choice on the machine and turning the crank.They range in price from $20.00 to upwards of $50.00. The Veggetti comes in at $15.00 ( but I got mine for $10 at Ross). That is quite a price difference. To be honest, there are some foods that this little gem has a hard time with. My first attempt at sweet potato pasta was less than successful, but as I continue to play with it, I’m learning that size and shape do matter. Still for the price and the size (which actually fits in a drawer since shelf space in my kitchen is at a premium), it’s darned brilliant.DIGITAL CAMERA

DIGITAL CAMERAI decided to put it to use in recreating a pasta dish that is near and dear to my heart. Linguine with Salami and Zucchini. Laden with cream and salami along with a generous amount of pasta, it is a tight fit (think skinny jeans) for my healthier cooking style. While I didn’t give up everything; there’s still some salami, a little pasta and I just had to include some cream, it is a lighter version of the dish.DIGITAL CAMERA

Two good size zucchini yielded a generous 4 cups of pasta. I added about 3 ounces each of pasta and salami. I used a mixture of heavy cream and fat-free half & half. There was plenty of garlic and a bit of olive oil. This recipe feeds two or three quite nicely.DIGITAL CAMERAThe salami, zucchini and garlic sizzled together in a large fry pan that was lightly coated with olive oil.DIGITAL CAMERAThe pasta was cooked just shy of al dente.

DIGITAL CAMERAThe cream/half & half mixture was added along with the pasta.

DIGITAL CAMERAEverything bubbled together for a few minutes until it was perfect. A generous dose of fresh ground pepper and a hint of grated Parmesan and it was ready to eat.DIGITAL CAMERA

Zucchini Pasta with Salami and Pasta
Print Recipe
Servings
3
Servings
3
Zucchini Pasta with Salami and Pasta
Print Recipe
Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just a minute shy of al dente. Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Using a Veggetti or spiralizer, turn the zucchini into thin ribbons.
  3. Stack the salami slices and cut into very thin strips.
  4. Heat a large fry pan. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Combine the zucchini, salami and garlic in the pan and cook stirring occasionally 5 - 7 minutes. The zucchini should be tender, the salami should be a little frizzled, and the garlic should smell wonderful.
  5. Add the cream and half & half to the pan and continue to cook another 5 minutes or so. The sauce should thicken slightly.
  6. Add the cooked pasta and cook until the pasta is heated through and the mixture is bubbly and fragrant.
  7. Add the freshly ground pepper to taste and spoon into individual pasta bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired, and serve.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

I’m sure I’ll be creating more “pastas” with my Veggetti. The lighter dishes that result are fun to make and eat. They are also healthier and definitely not light on the love.

 

Reflections on My Trip Around the Sun and Some Recipe Links

Years ago, when I was a Montessori teacher, we celebrated each child’s birthday with a symbolic trip around the sun, making one circle around a candle for each year of the child’s age. They were preschoolers so it only took a few minutes to complete every trip they’d made so far. There were a handful of accomplishments for each year; learning to walk, starting school, you get the picture.

Ceremonies aside, every year we each complete a trip around the sun. It begins and ends on our birthday. Everything we experienced in those 365(or so) days makes up what we have to celebrate. As I’ve done every year, I’m taking time to look back and reflect on how my most recent trip was. I must say that this year was really something. It was filled with more change 026and discovery than any of my other trips. That says a lot since I’ve had far more trips around the sun than I care to remember.

A new job, a newly retired husband, a new home, and a new grandson were the big stories last year. It was a year that saw me taking charge of my health and thus embracing healthier cooking adventures. I’ve included some of my favorite adventures here. Click on the red links to visit/ re-visit them.

A fabulous trip to the Bay Area resulted in some great pictures and a wonderful grilled vegetable adventure.San Francisco 2014 140

My search for healthier burger alternatives led me to experiment with turkey and beans. I loved the Black Bean Burger that was a delicious and nutritious result.DIGITAL CAMERASoups featured prominently this year. From decadent and rich to light and healthy they ran the gambit. I think my favorite was the Gazpacho. It was fresh and crunchy and tasted like summer in a glass.DIGITAL CAMERAGrilling has always been one of my favorite ways to cook. I shared lots of recipes that were partly or totally created on the grill. One of the best combined grilled chicken and asparagus with pasta. Don’t wait until summer to try Farfalle with Grilled Chicken and AsparagusDIGITAL CAMERAThere have been many Meatless Monday recipes some designated as such, some not. A new favorite that was a take off on an old camping dish was Vegetable Hash with Toads in the Hole. I love the fact that the choice of vegetables can be tailored to what is the freshest of the fresh.DIGITAL CAMERAThere were lots of other favorites that I enjoyed re-visiting myself. If you haven’t been there, check out the recipe page. It’s as easy as clicking on RECIPE at the top left of the Home Page.

I’m ready for my next trip around the sun. I learned from the last one that no matter what you encounter as my mother always said, “Everything happens for the best.” I believe that the best is yet to come.

On the Side…The Other Half of Dinner Love

Dinner is my favorite meal of the day. I love to create a plate of love for the evening meal. As you know, Mama D is a big fan of the one dish meal, be it soup, skillet, or casserole. Sometimes, well actually, quite often she enjoys a plate of food divided; that is a protein, a starch and a vegetable each standing on their own.DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought it was time to share some thoughts on and recipes for side dishes. At times side Lamb chop with Tomato and Zucchini Gratindishes take a back (or is it side?) seat to the main event. A succulent steak, beautifully sauced chicken, or a juicy piece of pork bask in the spotlight, but those dishes that sit off to the side of the plate are the compliment to the protein and very often make that protein even better.

DIGITAL CAMERAFrom a health standpoint, our plate should be half filled with vegetables, the other half shared by protein and starch, particularly whole grains. While I’m still an unapologetic carnivore, I have been trying to adjust the balance of the plates I create. I’ve been working towards putting as much creativity into the sides as I do the main.

When it comes to side dishes, I can’t help myself, sometimes I just have to put the starch and veggies together. There are plenty of one pan sides coming out of Mama D’s Kitchen.

DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my current favorites unites Brussels Spouts and Yukon Gold Potatoes. Bacon and onion hold it all together and a generous dusting of freshly cracked pepper seals the deal.DIGITAL CAMERAThick sliced bacon browns up nicely in a pan. Once the bacon and most of the drippings are removed, the onions, potatoes and Brussels sprouts jump in together until everything is tender, brown, and delicious.DIGITAL CAMERAThis side goes well with anything and is super easy to prepare. A recipe is hardly needed, but here you go.

Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
Print Recipe
This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
Print Recipe
This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings out of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes, sprouts and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is tender and lightly browned. This should take about 15 -20 minutes, but let your eyes and taste be the judge.
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

The casserole side dish is always a welcome addition to any meal. This particular one combines broccoli and cauliflower in a decadent cheese sauce.DIGITAL CAMERA How does this fit into Mama D’s healthier lifestyle? Well, as Oscar Wilde said everything in moderation including moderation. While not the lightest of dishes, I have trimmed a little fat here and there. I used an extra sharp cheddar cheese that allowed me to use only 3 ounces. A touch of blue cheese added some extra zing. DIGITAL CAMERAI did splurge on real butter, but it was only two tablespoons.  A good amount of onions caramelized in the butter before the flour was added to create a roux. I used low-fat milk in the sauce to trim a little more fat as well.DIGITAL CAMERAI blanched the cauliflower and broccoli to shorten the cooking time.

DIGITAL CAMERA I like the vegetables to be a little softer in this type of casserole, but if you want a little extra crunch skip this step.

I used whole wheat Panko crumbs, a small nod to health, but throw me a bone here.

DIGITAL CAMERAPanko is very crisp already so I only added a bit of butter along with some smoked paprika. Before it went into the oven I gave it a good dose of olive oil cooking spray.DIGITAL CAMERA The crust had the crunch of something made with a lot more fat.DIGITAL CAMERA

This casserole will easily serve six people as a small serving is almost as satisfying as a large one especially when it is paired with wonderful roast meat or poultry of your choice.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Au Gratin
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Broccoli and Cauliflower Au Gratin
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. To blanch the vegetables: Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil. Add the broccoli and cauliflower. Cook for 2 minutes (for the broccoli) and 3 minutes (for the cauliflower).
  2. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and immediately put them in a bowl of ice water. When cool drain completely and place in a gratin dish that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. In a medium saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the flour and cook and stir for several minutes. Slowly pour in the milk stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
  5. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the mustard.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar and blue cheese. Once the cheeses have melted, pour the sauce over the vegetables. Stir gently to coat everything evenly.
  7. Melt the remaining butter in a small pan. Add the Panko crumbs and smoked paprika and toss until the crumbs are coated.
  8. Sprinkle the crumbs over the casserole. Spray the top of the casserole liberally with olive oil cooking spray. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the vegetables are tender, the top is golden, and the sauce is bubbly. This should take 30 to 40 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes before serving.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

I believe that sides make the meal. It’s that little extra dose of love that elevates the meal to something special.

 

 

 

 

Pork Tenderloin A La Boulangere…and Other Words of (Pork) Love

When I was growing up, my mother would cook Pork Tenderloin often. It was the 50’s and she would get it from the butcher at the Bonnie Bee. He did all the work of pounding it into thin cutlets. She took these lovely slices home and dredged them in flour seasoned with Lawry’s Salt. Fried in Crisco, in her electric fry pan, and usually served with mashed potatoes, it was heaven on a plate. That was then…this is now. My approach is lighter and healthier but, the result is still heaven on a plate.DIGITAL CAMERA

Why do I Love Pork Tenderloin?                                                                                                                     It is just the right size: Weighing in at right around one pound it is the perfect size for two people with enough leftover to make a fabulous lunch the next day.                                    It is relatively cheap: the going rate around here is somewhere around $3.00 to $4.00 per pound. That’s cheap for 2+ servings of deliciousness in my book.                                                     It is lean: cuddled deep inside the loin, it has little visible fat and is as tender as pork comes.

DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a perfect blank canvas: it loves rubs and marinades,DIGITAL CAMERAand it can be grilled, roasted or sautéed.DIGITAL CAMERAWith a little patience, you can even stuff it.DIGITAL CAMERA

I think my favorite preparation however, is cooking this lovely little morsel whole. And I’m torn as to whether I like it better roasted or grilled. So, I’m sharing recipes for pork tenderloin both ways. The grilled version is more of a guideline than a formal recipe. The oven recipe is more specific and features smokey bacon that adds tons of flavor as well as an insulating robe of moistness.DIGITAL CAMERA The grilled version gets flavor from, well, the grill, and retains its juciness with careful supervision ( a little olive oil helps, too).DIGITAL CAMERANow, back to the roasted tenderloin. The inspiration for this recipe came from my Doubleday Cookbook. I’ve shared my long-term love affair with this two-volume gem before. It is still one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever used. The recipe is Roast Pork A La Boulangere;  potatoes, onions and pork prepared as a French baker’s wife would do it. This is usually done with a bone-in pork loin roast that results in succulent meat served with potatoes and onions that have roasted in the pork fat and juices. It is comfort food on steroids and probably not the healthiest of meals, but it is wonderful.

Substituting the pork tenderloin reduces the fat and cooking time tremendously. Yes, there is bacon, but it’s only two slices and the flavor they give to everything is more than worth the indulgence. Pork tenderloin cooks very quickly, 20 to 30 minutes in a hot oven is all it takes. The potatoes and onions take longer than that, so I gave them a head start. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil was all that I added. DIGITAL CAMERAI let them roast for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. While that was happening, I spread some Dijon mustard on all the sides of the pork. I wrapped the bacon around the little torpedo, securing the strips with toothpicks. Some freshly ground pepper and it was ready to sit high atop the partially cooked potatoes.DIGITAL CAMERAIt only took 25 minutes for the pork to cook. I strongly recommend using a meat thermometer. Current guidelines recommend an internal temperature of 145 degrees. This results in juicy slices with just a hint of pink.DIGITAL CAMERA

Pork Tenderloin A La Boulangere
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Pork Tenderloin A La Boulangere
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Combine the sliced potatoes, onions, and garlic in the pan. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Add 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes roast, prepare the pork. Lay the bacon strips crosswise on a cutting board. Brush a little of the mustard down the center of the bacon. Brush mustard on one side of the pork. Lay the pork in the center of the bacon mustard side down.
  3. Brush the remaining mustard on all the other sides of the pork. Wrap the bacon around the pork at a slight diagonal. Fasten with toothpicks. Sprinkle the remaining pepper on all sides of the pork/bacon bundle.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven. Place the pork on top of the potatoes and return it to the oven and roast for about 20 -25 minutes.
  5. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer after 20 minutes. The internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Continue to roast, checking often for the correct internal temperature.
  6. When the meat is cooked, remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the pork to a warm platter, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the foil and cut into thick slices. Serve with the potatoes and onions.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

While the roasted version is richly delicious,the grilled version has just as much to offer. As I’ve said, this blank canvas takes to anything you want to put it in or coat it with. This is a non-recipe, recipe. I’ve slathered it in mustard, soaked it in teriyaki, rubbed it with spices and tied it with herbs. These are suggestions that you can use to create your own pork love. Any marinade that strikes your fancy will work. The same goes for herbs, spices, and wet rubs, too.

A word of warning here: Pork tenderloin is very lean. Read that to mean it can go from wonderful to burnt and dry in a matter of minutes. Once the meat is on the grill, designate a responsible guardian. For even cooking and browning, turn every 4 or 5 minutes and move it around as needed. Keep that meat thermometer handy and check for the magic 145 degrees at the 20 minute mark. Continue to turn and check until that temperature is reached. Bring the pork in and allow it to rest before slicing. Partner it with any sides of your choice and enjoy the love.

DIGITAL CAMERAI keep a small stash of these little bundles of joy in my freezer. Every time I cook one it is a new adventure. There are so many directions to take this delight in that I know I’ll be sharing for a long time to come. I hope that you will, too.