Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hot deal!

This weekend Joel and I were walking through the mall to get him a new battery for his watch. As I walked by the Bon Ton I noticed a display of items for 70% off. Naturally, it called to me. Joel on the other hand was on a mission. Here's the best news he's ever gotten, I'm a fast shopper. As I quickly scanned the table there was lime colored plastic picnic wear, random summer cast-offs, and finally my chicken.

Number one, I liked that it was white off the bat. Number two, it was 70% off. I wandered over to the cashier for her to price check the final price.  She rang it up to a grand total of just over $6. Sold!

As we walked away the follow conversation ensued:

Joel: What do you do with it?
Amy: It's for decoration.
Joel: Do you put something in it? Should we paint it?
Amy: We are not painting it. No we don't have to put something in it.
Joel: It doesn't even look like a chicken. People who grew up on a farm wouldn't need this.
Amy: It's like an accessory for our home. Like when you get dressed and add accessories to tie an outfit together.
Joel: *blink* *blink*

Well I like it. Joel doesn't understand the purpose but said, "well whatever makes you happy" when he realized he would never understand my rationale.

What do y'all think?

Toasted Barley and Green Bean with Tofu Salad

First, I hope everyone survived Hurricane Irene. Luckily, Ithaca had some rain and wind but really it just felt like a blustery October the end of August. Of course, other areas didn't fair so well.

In other news we watched "Biutiful," the Javier Bardem foreign film, over the weekend. Whoa daddy that's a long and strange movie. It was certainly moving but also a gritty and raw movie. In full disclosure my kind of movie is generally fun and light. I have a long list of movies I'd like to see but it's hard to get in the mood to see more difficult or heavy movies so I tend to be attracted to lighter movies. For that reason alone, I'm happy to have seen Biutiful because it's important for me to do things beyond my normal routine.

On and off over the past few weeks our CSA is packed with green beans. Honestly, I can mindlessly snack my way through our entire green bean provisions. A quick search and I stumbled upon this delicious salad recipe. I love love l.o.v.e. mushrooms so I was all over this idea.

First up is to deal with the tofu.

Since the tofu is packed in water and made up with lots of water I needed to press out some of the water before roasting it in the oven. Check out my contraption - it does the job.

About 45 minutes and a couple of paper towel changes later and these little guys were ready to go. I cut them up and threw them into the marinade for half an hour.

Moving onto the barley. First, I toasted the barley in a little sesame oil for a few minutes and added water to the pot to cook the grains.

The tofu and barley take about the same amount of time to cook. I love it when that happens! Less coordinating = better. Toss the tofu into the oven.

The next steps are super quick. Chop up and saute some mushrooms.

You guys, I love mushrooms. I swear I could eat this whole pan of sauteed mushrooms. The original recipe calls for shiitake mushrooms to couple well with the other asian-inspired flavors of the dressing. Here's the thing, that is expensive fungus. These regular old mushrooms were more within my price point and frankly still delicious.

Onto the glorious green beans. I trimmed the ends off the little guys and cut them in thirds. Then I plopped them into boiling and salted water for just two or three minutes. Finally, zip them under the faucet under cold water to halt the cooking and keep them bright green.

Finally, to make the dressing. Basically, I just whisk all the ingredients together. The hardest part is you may not have all of these in your cupboards. Once you purchase all the items you'll use them over and over again to achieve the wonderful and balanced flavors this dressing creates.

Rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, grated ginger, garlic = dressing. Easy, peasy.

Now it's time to toss it together it all together.

Ta da!

This salad was so good. I passed out it was so good. Joel had two bowls. You have to give it a try! 

After the recipe I will connect the link to the original recipe which includes the nutritional information. 

Toasted Barley and Green Bean with Tofu Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light

  • Tofu:
  • (12-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 5 (1-inch-thick) slices
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • garlic clove, grated
  • Cooking spray
  • Salad:
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 5 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 10 ounce large shiitake your choice mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced green onions (I didn't have any and omitted this ingredient) 
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • garlic clove, minced


Preheat the oven to 375. Next preparing the tofu it is important to press the water out of the tofu. Slice the tofu into 5 even sections. Place between paper towels and top with a cutting board with something to weigh it down I used a large sugar container. It takes about 45 minutes and I needed to change out the paper towels because they became so water soaked. 

Mix the brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a bowl.  Cut the tofu slices into 10 cubes each. Toss in liquid mixture. The best way to coat the tofu is by storing in zip lock bag for 30 minutes. Don't rush this step as I was tempted to do, the flavor is worth the wait. After it's had time to marinade place on baking sheet lined with tin foil and nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 35 minutes. 

Move on to preparing the salad. The first step is to toast the barley. Using a sauce pot over medium-high heat measure 1 teaspoon oil in pot and toss in barley. Toast for 3-4 minutes. Pour water into pot. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes. 

Prepare the green beans. Cut off tops and slice into thirds then rinse. Blanche the green beans - dump in boiling water for 3 minutes and then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside. 

To prepare the mushrooms first wipe the tops with a wet paper towel. Do not over wash just dust off the dirt. Slice the mushrooms and toss into pan with nonstick cooking spray and lightly salted. Lightly saute until slightly cooked through. Over cooking with create too-soft mushrooms. Don't do this. 

Mix the ingredients for dressing: 1 tablespoon oil, rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, honey, grated ginger and garlic and whisk together. 

Toss barley, green beans, tofu, and dressing into large bowl. Enjoy this warm, room temperature, or cooled. 


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Are you feeling fancy?

Earlier this week I had a surplus of zucchini and tomatoes. Isn't it a glorious time of year? I did a quick search the other day and found a NY Times article on Zucchini Tians.

Incidentally, a tian is a type of french pan, shallow and oval. I actually don't own one but I still believe I made a tian. I believed in Santa until I was 10 years old so really, I'm a believer even when evidence is presented to suggest otherwise.

Doesn't it feel so fancy to say you made a tian? So French, so sophisticated. Here's the deal. Have you seen ratatouille? You know, the cartoon movie with the rat who wants to be a chef in Paris, yeah that one. Well a tian looks fairly similar to the ratatouille the rat makes in the movie. How's that for fancy?

Now that I've whet your appetite, after mentioning a rat, let's jump into the how-to.

Start with a couple of these.

Slice 'em up or if you feel like it dice 'em up. I was feeling lazy so sliced it is.

   That'll do it. Now toss them in a pan with some olive oil.

During the final minute or two toss in some chopped garlic. I used the jarred stuff - again lazy.

In the meantime slice up your zucchini and tomatoes, evenly. Now it's time to assemble. Alternating the veggies line them up in a pan. Instead of laying the onions on the bottom I smushed them in between the zucchini and tomatoes, like so.

As you may notice my definition of "even slices" is quite liberal.  Bake off until the veggies are cooked through.

Top with some grated parmesan cheese for an amazing experience.

Zucchini and Tomato Tian
Adapted from NY Times

Serves 6

2 large or 3 small sliced zucchinis
3 medium tomatoes sliced
2-3 onions sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice onions and heat in medium heat pan with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to flavor. Saute until translucent about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic for a minute and turn off heat.

Slice zucchini and tomatoes. Spray an oven safe baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. To assemble: alternate zucchini, tomatoes and onion mix until snug in the baking dish.

Bake for 45-60 minutes.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Winner-winner chicken dinner

Wow it's been a week with one East Coast earthquake and now hurricane Irene. Duck and cover! The other natural disaster is the shortening of the days and of sunlight. Ithaca is already providing more cloudiness than I care for and I'm gearing up for my annual vitamin D deficiency - aren't we all? Ah, alas summer cannot last forever. So sad. But most heartbreaking is my newest obstacle while cooking with the lack of natural light. The horror! We're going to have to make this work together.

The other night I made a super simple and delicious chicken souvalki salad loosely based on a recipe I found in Cooking Light. However, the aforementioned light issue scared me off from engaging in the usual step-by-step photo tour. Ah well, I will figure out how to do this!

Here's the final product.

This was my attempt with what little natural light I had left - as you can see the bluish tinge from the wall bouncing light onto the food is a little well odd, unnatural even.

Here's a second attempt after turning on the light.

Strange looking again but at least it gives you a little better view of the meal.

If you are interested in making this it is so easy. 12 oz. of chicken breast sauteed up with cooking spray. Romaine lettuce, red onions, black olives, fat free feta, tzatziki sauce (1/4 cup greek yogurt, 1/4 cup light sour cream, chopped parsley, and lemon juice) and a whole wheat pita. Divide by four and it's the perfect easy dinner with left overs for lunch.

Both Joel and I thoroughly enjoyed this salad! Try it and pass along any photography tips you may be hoarding.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oh hey there.

Hey y'all! I'm am sorry to say I've been MIA for the past bit. My work life has been uber hectic, as in Joel thought I abandoned him for the better part of the past week and a half. I typically saw him for a few minutes as I was crawling into bed to pass out. The good news is I am back!

Oh exciting business to share. There's something about beets I've discovered that I enjoy....the greens! It's not the actual beets yet but still progress.

In other news, Joel bought me these cheery little guys.

Aren't they fabulous? They absolutely were the little perk I needed. Well, that and the extra sleep I've been missing.

In food-news I haven't really cooked much lately because of work. I have lots of yummy recipes I'm jumping into this week so keep checking back for new posts! We did go pick some delicious cherry tomatoes.

I just dipped a few into hummus for a yummy snack.  Isn't summer grand? I love fresh tomatoes.

What have you been making lately with the tomatoes that are bursting everywhere?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Salmon Burgers

Oh hey there - you like the photo above? Yes, it looks delicious. It looks plump. It looks like you could dive right in. Would you believe me if I said it started in can-form? Ok, well technically it started out as a fish swimming around but my point is in my kitchen it started in a can.

What, you've never had salmon from a can? Yeah me either  and let me tell you I was a little grossed out by it at first. Joel gently pushed me to try it and since I trust him in all matters regarding nutrition I decided to give it a shot. I reasoned I ate tuna from a can why not salmon? So dial down your judgment of a can of salmon.

So here's where we start:

This is such an easy recipe you're going to love it.

So here's the semi-scary part. Let me just prep you that when you decan, uncan? what is the proper terminology of how to take canned salmon out of the can?

Well moving on. Enough of my smoke and mirrors. Let me show you the salmon in its "natural" state.

The horror! It's slimy and what is all that black stuff smooshed into the flesh? Hang tight dolls. It's just the harsh reality of canned salmon. But, a. your wallet will thank me because canned salmon is so dang affordable, b. your taste buds will thank me for your perseverance.

Break up the salmon, throw in some bread crumbs, an egg, capers, and a few other things and form four burgers.

See not bad! What is it that politicians keep saying, "watching the sausage-making process is messy" or something to that effect. Same thing here, just different and decidedly more yummy outcome.

Now spray a pan with nonstick cooking spray and cook these little suckers up.

Then my favorite part, of course, the eating part. Pop onto a whole wheat bun, a little light mayo, and the most divine sliced summer tomato. Then I fall over because it's so satisfying.

So what did we learn?
1. canned salmon is our friend.
2. my first photo of the burger is far more appetizing than the photo above.
3. canned salmon is the right thing to do.

Salmon Burgers

Yields 4 burgers

1 14.75 oz. canned salmon
1 large egg
1 cup bread crumbs, I used whole wheat bread crumbs
2 tablespoons capers
salt and pepper

In a small bowl lightly beat the egg and set aside. 

In a medium mixing bowl put salmon, bread crumbs, capers, egg and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. This is easiest done with very clean hands. Form burgers.

Heat saute pan to medium and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cook burgers 4 minutes on each side. 

Serve on bun with your favorite condiments. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Lentil Salad

I told you all that I did a bunch of cooking this weekend already. Well we did attempt a hike with some friends of ours on Sunday. We've been working on a portion of the Finger Lakes Hiking Trail this summer and brought our friends to where we last left off the trail. On our way there it was slightly raining but we're tough, well, actually they are tough and I was being a good sport. Anywho, off we go up the trail and our light summer sprinkle begins to quicken and larger drops were falling. No problem, we were going for a short hike anyway. Plus it's been so dry the rain is a relief and the canopy of trees above us was pretty thick so we were fairly covered.

Then, and then, the skies start booming and cracking with thunder and lightening. At this point, I'm soaked to the bone and we're heading back to the car. Let's just say I was happy it was August to be doing this and not October where I would be shivering. Ah well, at least we got out for a while.

After getting home and drying off I looked forward to cooking something warm.

Enter the lentil salad. This is less of a recipe and more of technique. I make this fairly regularly and swap in other veggies. Lentils are a great and almost complete source of protein (Joel assures me) which makes this a  good dish to bring for lunch or serve warm over a green salad for a light dinner.

Ok enough yakking and more cooking. The starting line-up.

Some pretty basic stuff - some veggies and lentils. I forgot to snap a pic of the items needed for the vinaigrette but they are just basic pantry items.

First up, cook the lentils (read: dump into some water, simmer and cover until tender) for about 40 minutes.

At the same time, dice up the veggies and saute.

They look so yummy! I sprinkle whatever spices I have handy and sound good to me that day. I believe for these I added salt, pepper and lemon pepper. It was a wonderful combo.

Whip up the vinaigrette and dump over veggies and lentils.

Viola! Easy-peasy.

Summer Lentil Salad

2 cups lentils - rinsed
1 onion diced
1 large carrot diced
1 small zucchini diced
1 small yellow squash diced
Nonstick cooking spray
salt and pepper

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vinegar (I used red wine vinegar but cider vinegar would be delicious too)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by thoroughly rinsing the lentils you would be surprised what random debris can be in a bag of lentils. Once rinsed put in a pot with a couple of inches of water covering the lentils. I am sure there is a more precise ratio but this way works just fine. Put top on pot and let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until softened. Drain any excess water.

While the lentils cook dice the vegetables. Heat skillet to medium-low heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Saute onions and carrots until onions are almost translucent and carrots have started soften about 5-7 minutes. Be sure to season the saute with salt and pepper. Also, I add an "italian seasoning" mix I always have on hand but really any sort of seasoning you're in the mood for will work - how about lemon pepper seasoning?  Add zucchini and squash for an additional 10 minutes.

Add mustard, lemon, and vinegar to a small bowl. Slowly add olive oil while whisking to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss warm lentils and warmed vegetables together with vinaigrette. Serve warm over a bed of salad greens.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Zucchini pizza

Happy Monday y'all! My weekend was wonderful and relaxing and filled with cooking. I am so grateful for the rain this weekend for many reasons, it will help water the very dry area and specifically the farms that provide my CSA. Also, the rain afforded me a reason to curl up inside and dream of fall. It was a glorious weekend that allowed a lot of cooking.

Last week a good friend gave us this huge and beautiful zucchini.

Whoa doggie-that is a big zucchini. I also had a smaller zucchini and yellow squash from the CSA this week - tis the season. So when I saw this guy I knew what I had to do.

Thanks to my addiction to pinterest - I have been dreaming of this recipe.  Well this honkin' zucchini was just the guy to make my dreams come true.

It is as easy as it looks. All I did was cut up the big-guy as evenly as possible.

Plopped on some spaghetti sauce that was in my fridge and some light mozzarella.

Then I topped 'em off with some turkey pepperoni. I cut the pepperoni into quarters because I like the ratio better and because I'm the decider.

Then I slip them into a preheated oven set to 425 degrees for 15 minutes. I poked them with a fork to see if the zucchini was cooked through. Then for fun I topped with a little parmesan.

How easy is that? They are SO GOOD! Do it today. I would like to bring your attention to the little guy in the middle who is losing some cheese. People this is serious- cut the zucchini more evenly and straight than I did on that one.

We had a couple for lunch and went crazy for them. If you are into low carb things this is a good option or if you're like me and have zucchini everywhere this is a really fun way to eat one.

Now what to do with the remaining 2/3 of this zucchini....

Zucchini Pizza
Adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

Also - if you haven't checked out - come on over and join the fun! I'm slowly working my way through some of the recipes I've pinned. It's so much fun!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sweet Spot

I have a quick CSA update to share with you. There were a few items I cannot wait to dig into and share the recipes I try out. 

First, the good news. 

How awesome do these eggplants look? I am dreaming of the potential recipes to try on these puppies.  I love eggplant so I was pumped when we got not one but two of these. Yes! 

These tomatoes? I die. Dead. There is nothing I love more than summer ripe tomatoes.  It brings me back to splitting a tomato sandwich with my grandmother in the summer. The perfect light meal, toast, mayo, maybe a slice of cheese and tomato topped with salt in pepper. I'm in heaven. 

Duh, duh, DAAAAAAA! Eeek, beets. They do look wonderful, but they can't fool me. Actually I may try roasting these bad-boys. Tune in soon for updates on how that turns out. 

Also, I believe I've found the sweet spot in my apartment in terms of lighting and background for taking photos. Unfortunately, it's not in the kitchen. These photos redeem some of my terrible photos I posted yesterday. 

Happy Friday, peeps! 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Best Slaw Period

Sorry kiddos that I've been a little MIA this week - my work life is pretty hectic.

You know how there are ups and downs with how busy you are? I feel like I'm sitting in the seat of a roller coaster and I hear the click, click, click on the way up, up, up. Here's the kicker, I don't even like roller coasters! At any rate in a couple of weeks I'll be back in the groove of it all. In the meantime, I am planning on getting in a few posts up if for no other reason but to maintain my sanity.

Speaking of work, I recently attended a work pot-luck and brought this slaw.  It was a hit!

This is a great choice for a pot luck because it's not mayo-based and travels well. Also, you can whip it together in 15 minutes flat. I should know, I literally was rushing out the door. My friends were waiting for me so that we could get there in time and I just threw some tin-foil on the bowl and slammed the door behind me. When Joel walked in later that night he thought someone had come and ran-sacked the kitchen. It was a disaster. I'll tell you what I told Joel, the slaw is worth it!

One other thing, in my haste to throw this together I had only a few opportunities to include a full-blown photo shoot. Here are the highlights:

First, whip up the dressing.

Literally, whisk it up!

Dip clean finger in to do a quick taste test. Then avoid slurping up the whole delicious thing. Eye on the prize we're needing this to pour over the veggies.

Dump dressing on top of veggies and dash out the door in the nick of time for your ride. That may just be my method. Nevertheless, it travels well.

Finally, toss all together.

Oh bother, this really demonstrates my complete inadequate understanding of photography.

I know! Maybe a friendly co-worker will enhance the photo by showcasing the beauty that is the slaw.

Shadow Fail.

On the plus side, more than one person asked for the recipe. I just know you'll love it too!

Asian Slaw and peanut dressing
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef


For the Dressing
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (the original recipe calls for double the amount of oil, but I reduced it)
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced

For the Slaw
4 cups prepared shredded coleslaw
2 cups prepared shredded carrots 
1 red pepper, thinly sliced into bite size pieces
1 cup pre-cooked, shelled edamame (I use frozen for the convenience)
2 medium scallions, finely chopped
½ cup chopped salted peanuts 
½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro


This is so easy to assemble. Start by whisking (or stirring) the dressing ingredients together until the peanut butter is fully dissolved and set aside. If you have left over ginger then you are a lucky duck! Slice a small pealed piece and drop it at the bottom of your favorite water bottle and enjoy a homemade spa water treatment. Yum! 

Next, combine slaw ingredients in a large bowl. I used extra cabbage because the CSA provided us with a small green cabbage and it was still a nice ratio of veggies and dressing. One other note, I zip the frozen edamame in the microwave to thaw before tossing.  

Toss dressing over slaw and let sit for about 10 minutes to combine all flavors. Best served cold.