Sunday, January 31, 2010

Swiss and Caramelized Onion Tarts

This tart has been in my head for a long time. Caramelized onions are one of the most divine foods on the face of the planet, and pairing them with Swiss cheese and pie crust to make onion tarts just seemed scrumptious. And they were yummy :)

Of course, the star of the show are the onions. How long-cooking in a skillet with a little olive oil and salt can turn these burn-your-eyes-out-of-their-sockets veggies into something so complex and wonderful, I don't know. Maybe it's magic. Onions prepared this way are delicious in many ways; on pizza, on a salad, on a sandwich, straight out of the pan with nothing but a fork...

Swiss and Caramelized Onion Tarts

3 medium onions, halved pole to pole, and sliced 1/4-inch thick.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, room temperature
4 slices deli Swiss cheese

1. Heat a 12-inch, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil and let it heat for 10 seconds. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until you start to get some nice color, about 5 minutes.

2. Once you've started to get some nice color and char marks, turn the heat down to medium. And let it cook. And then stir. And let it cook. And then stir. And let it cook. You get the idea. This doesn't go fast--it will take 45 minutes or so--but it's so worth it.

3. When the onions look like this, take them off the heat. Yum!

4. While the onions are cooking, prepare the tart shells: Heat your oven to 425. Unroll the pie crust and cut it into 4 wedges.

5. Carefully lay a pie-crust wedge in a 3-inch non-stick tartlette pan; use your knuckles and fingertips to press the pie crust to the sides and bottom of the pan.

6. Press the overlap against the top edge of the pan to trim the excess. (Don't worry about the extra dough; we won't waste it. Read all the way down to the end of the post...) Prick the bottom several times with a fork.

7. Bake the tart shells for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned.

8. Cut each slice of cheese into 4 triangles, and lay 3 or 4 pieces on each shell.

9. Divide the onions between each shell. Return the tarts to the oven, and bake them until the cheese is melted and the shell is golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Makes 4 tarts.

Here's something yummy to do with the excess dough: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lay the pie crust pieces on the prepared baking sheet, brush them with melted butter, sprinkle them liberally with cinnamon-sugar, and bake them in your already pre-heated 425 deg. oven for 5-7 minutes, or until they're just starting to brown. If you really want to go over-the-top, you can mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of your left-over melted butter, a couple drops vanilla, and enough milk to make the icing drizzle-able. Then you can drizzle the icing over everything (like dessert nachos), or you can dip them in the icing (like dessert chips-and-dip). Waste not, want not! :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stopping a slippery cutting board

A cutting board that slips around on your counter while you're trying to chop or dice something can be dangerous. Here's an easy way to make your cutting board stay put: simply lay a damp kitchen towel, or a couple damp paper towels (the towels need to be just barely damp, like from drying your hands), on the counter and lay the cutting board on top of the towels. Now you're safe to chop and dice 'till your heart's content :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coconut Curry Soup

This is one of my restaurant copy-cat recipes. Years ago I had something similar at a "noodle" restaurant (can't remember the name right now to save my life). It was so good I had to try to copy it. This is what I came up with, and I must say I think it's better ;) I promise you, as soon as the curry powder hits the hot pan you're going to be in heaven.

This is also one of the recipes from my book. One of my recipe testers said her kids freaked out because it was orange, but once they tasted it they loved it (at least "liked" it). Her toddler even wanted seconds.

I use frozen cauliflower because 1. I hate cutting cauliflower, 2. It's easy to have on hand in the freezer, 3. In the soup you can't tell whether it was fresh or frozen. Win-win, I say :) Slightly thaw the cauliflower to make chopping it easier.

You'll also notice I specifically say to not use light coconut milk. Light coconut milk isn't worth using, and for the amount called for in this soup, go with the regular. You'll be much happier with the finished soup. Also, 1 1/2 cups of the soup only has 256 cal, 9g fat, 6g fiber, and is 5 Weight Watcher's points. Yeah, use the regular coconut milk.

Coconut Curry Soup
Printable Recipe

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 small onion, diced
1 medium carrot, scraped and grated
1 tablespoon hot curry powder (or regular curry powder)
1 32-oz carton chicken broth (4 cups)
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen cauliflower florets, coarsely chopped
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast (about 6 tenders)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut milk (not light) (1/2 of a 13.5 oz can)
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat until hot. Add the oil and let it heat for about 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and curry powder; cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the chicken broth, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, and salt, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar, and simmer for 10 minutes. Take the pot off the heat.

3. Add the chicken and coconut milk, and stir to combine. Don't let the soup boil after adding the coconut milk. I play it safe by turning off the heat; the soup is plenty hot to heat the coconut milk and chicken through.

Add the cilantro and stir to combine.

Makes 6-8 servings.

1 cup = 171 cal/6g fat/4g fiber/3 WW points
1 1/2 cups = 256 cal/9g fat/6g fiber/5 WW points
2 cups = 341 cal/12g fat/8g fiber/7 WW points

Since this recipe only uses half a can of coconut milk you might wonder what to do with the rest. You could put the whole can in the soup. I don't know what that would taste like, so you'd be on your own there. You could make a double batch of soup and have awesome left-overs to share--or not (done it). You could put it in the fridge, wait for it to go bad, and then throw it away (done it). Or you can freeze it. Most things I found on-line said freezing coconut milk was bad...Don't do it. I did it anyway, and it worked just fine. You can freeze coconut milk. Thaw the frozen milk in the fridge or gently in the microwave.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

This is another 2-fer I made with left-over Roasted Vegetables (the first one was Roasted Vegetable Soup). The tarragon and red pepper flakes are perfect with the egg, and the vegetables make the frittata hearty and filling. This would be delicious served with fruit for breakfast, or a green salad for lunch or dinner.

My 2 year-old nephew wanted to stir :)

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups left-over Roasted Vegetables
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Heat your oven to 375. Whisk together the eggs, milk, tarragon, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper; set aside.

2. Spray an 8-inch, non-stick, oven-proof skillet (remove the rubber handle cover) with non-stick spray and heat it over medium heat until hot. Add the vegetables and warm them through, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the feta evenly over the vegetables.

3. Add the egg mixture. When you can see that the egg is starting to cook and turn opaque around the edges and on the bottom, give the mixture a gentle stir with a rubber spatula.

Run the spatula around the edges, and gently lift in several places to let the egg mixture underneath to cook. (sorry about the blurry picture, one-handed pictures are tricky!)

4. When the egg mixture is mostly cooked, and just the top is runny, put the skillet in the oven (make sure you've removed the rubber handle cover). Cook the frittata for 8-10 minutes, or until it's slightly puffed and the egg is set (I try to not let it brown too much).

5. Remove the skillet from the oven, run a rubber spatula around the outside edge of the frittata and slide it onto a cutting board.

This frittata can make 2 nice big servings, or 3 or 4 smaller servings.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Soup

This is one of the 2-fers I made with left-over Roasted Vegetables. A great bonus to using the left-over veggies in this soup is the squash and mushrooms don't get mushy or slimy because the texture was altered by the roasting. This super-low fat soup is the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich or salad (or both), or a delicious light meal when paired with some lovely bread. And it's so fresh and healthy tasting, feel free to have a giant bowl of ice cream afterward :)

Roasted Vegetable Soup
Printable Recipe

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and 1/8-inch sliced
2 ribs celery, 1/8-inch sliced
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup roasted red bell pepper (from 12 oz jar), chopped
2 cups left-over Roasted Vegetables
6 cups chicken broth

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and let it heat for 10 seconds. Add the carrots, celery, and salt, and cook, stirring often, until they've softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and cook 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, red bell pepper, left-over veggies, and chicken broth. Bring the soup to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.

Makes 6-8 servings (maybe 10 if side-dish servings).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Roasted Vegetables

Roasting is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook almost everything. A little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and some high, dry heat in your oven turns this mixture of vegetables into a healthy, delicious side dish. What's even better, if you make more than you'll eat with your meal, you can use the left-overs for a 2-fer. I love my 2-fers! I used the left-overs from this batch to make a Roasted Vegetable Soup and a Roasted Vegetable Frittata.

Notes: I used both whole garlic and pressed garlic. The whole cloves are awesome mashed up and spread on french bread; This recipe makes enough to serve the veggies with your meal, make a pot of soup, and make a frittata. If you want fewer veggies, simply cut the amounts in half.

Roasted Vegetables

2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, and cut in 1/4-inch pieces
2 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise, and cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1 lb small red or yellow potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4 to 1-inch pieces
1 lb crimini mushrooms, rinsed, stems trimmed, and halved (quartered if large)
1 medium red onion, cut in 1-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat your oven to 425 and spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick spray.

2. In a very large bowl, combine all of the vegetables and the olive oil, and mix well to coat the vegetables evenly with the oil. Add the salt and pepper, and mix well.

3. Divide the vegetables evenly between the prepared baking sheets, and spread them to an even, single layer. You can probably cram them all onto one baking sheet, but then they will steam in the water they release instead of roasting.

4. Roast the vegetables for 50-60 minutes, or until they are nicely browned.

**If you have one oven, adjust your oven racks to the 2nd and 4th position, and rotate the pans every 15 minutes. I have two ovens, but I did it this way to make sure it could be done.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chocolate Rocks

They look like something you'd pull out of your kids' pockets, but they are much sweeter than that. These chocolate rocks are one of my favorite decorations for fun occasion cakes. And let me tell you, when your elementary school-age kid pulls a small bag of these out of their lunch box, they become a superstar in the lunchroom ;)

These candies are just like milk chocolate M&M's, just in the shape of rocks. My grocery store sells them in their candy aisle for about $5.00 for a 12 oz package, and I've also ordered them from Fiesta Candy Company.

Here I've use the chocolate rocks to make an "S" on Sophie's 6 year-old Island Volcano Birthday Cake, and to randomly decorate the volcano and beach. Aren't they cute? They are such a super touch, and kids always want to make sure they get a piece of cake with "rocks" on it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

I got this recipe in 2004 from my sister-in-law's mom. She shared it with me after I raved about how good it was. She's from Louisiana, and told me this was authentic Creole :) It is definitely delicious, and every time I make it I'm amazed at how a handful of humble ingredients can be transformed into something to so flavorful and divine.

Red Beans & Rice

1 lb dry small red beans
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cups water
1 14-oz smoked or kielbasa sausage (regular, light, or turkey)
2 1/2-3 teaspoons Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

hot cooked rice
sliced green onion

1. The night before, sort, pick-over, and rise the dry beans. Put the beans in a large pot and cover them with water by 4 inches. Cover the pot and soak the beans until morning.

2. Use a colander to drain the soaking liquid and rinse the beans, and return them to the pot; add the onion and 8 cups water. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, and cook, with the lid slightly ajar, for 3 hours.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the sausage: Heat your oven to 400; line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with non-stick spray. Cut the sausage lengthwise, then in 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer the sausage to the prepared baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep warm (I fold the foil around the sausage to make a little packet).

4. At the end of 3 hours, add the cooked sausage, Tony's seasoning, thyme, and 2 cups water. Bring it back to a simmer, cover, and cook for 3 hours, or until the beans are tender. Add the salt, and serve with the rice and green onion.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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