Saturday, March 31, 2012

Almond-Crusted Tilapia


Almond-Crusted Tilapia


Looking to impress someone without totally demolishing your budget and time? Look no further! I’ve found that a lot of people are scared of cooking fish, but honestly it can be one of the easiest and fastest things to prepare when making a nice meal.

Buy it frozen. If you want to save a couple bucks and get better quality definitely consider buying frozen seafood. It is actually fresher than the stuff they stock at the seafood counter. Thanks to modern freezing techniques, fish is flash frozen just minutes after being caught on the boat. Make sure that the bag is vacuum-sealed and check to see if there is a layer of ice over the fish (which actually protects it). To defrost the fish, just take it out of the freezer a couple hours before you want to work with it.


Almond-Crusted Tilapia
Adapted from goodhousekeeping.com

2 lemons
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 (6 ounces each) tilapia fillets
¼ cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Squeeze juice from one lemon; cut the second lemon into wedges. In a cup, mix lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.
2. Spray a 13 by 9’’ glass baking dish with nonstick spray; place tilapia dark side down in dish. Drizzle tilapia with lemon mixture and top with almonds (pressing into fish). Bake 15 minutes or until tilapia turns opaque.
3. Serve with lemon wedges.


Thanks bro for taking the pics for this post! Go check out his other work at www.flickr.com/tottphotography!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roasted Broccoli


Roasted Broccoli


Broccoli is probably one of the best foods that has ever happened to me. Honestly most days I would easily choose broccoli over some prime Texas BBQ or even some chocolate-raspberry cake. There is just something about it that puts it far above all other vegetables. Maybe it’s the fact that it looks like a tree that is so enticing to me (if you knew my obsession with trees you’d understand this). Or maybe it’s the extremely saturated green color of it. But mostly I think it’s purely the magnificent, robust taste that just screams, “Eat me! I am so nutritious!”

If you’ve had bad experiences with broccoli in the past, try this recipe! It will make even the biggest broccoli haters fall in love.


Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss a large head of broccoli (cut into florets) with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 2 cloves of minced garlic (I just eyeballed all these measurements though, just go with your gut!). Place broccoli on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until some of the florets are lightly browned. Remove from oven and eat!!! Feel free to top with lemon juice, more salt and pepper, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. 

Thanks bro for taking these pictures! Check out his work at www.flickr.com/tottphotography. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Ginger-Cream Cheese Frosting


Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Ginger-Cream Cheese Frosting


Seriously, this is my absolute FAVORITE kind of cake. The thing I love most about it (besides the out-of-this-world taste and texture) is how versatile it is! I don’t think I’ve ever made carrot cake the same way twice. It’s so fun for me to come up with different things I think would be good to put in it. Like I always say, if you have a fear of failure with cooking (or anything really…) you’re never going to get anywhere. What you make may end up being good, but it will never be great.


I usually end up making full-blown carrot cakes cause I love the decorating process and the extra frosting you get from the two layers. But, why make a whole cake when you can spread the love even more and make cupcakes! Plus I was making these for a party and didn’t want to deal with the mess of plates and forks and such.


Cupcakes are perfect for entertaining. Not only do they take a whole lot less time, but they don’t need any special modifications so you can use any of your favorite cake recipes.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Ginger-Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda            
2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
3 cups grated carrots, packed
¾ cup crushed pineapple
½ cup raisins (optional)
¾ cup walnuts (optional)
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

Icing
8oz cream cheese, well softened
8 tbsp (¼ cup) butter, well softened
2 – 3 cups of powdered/icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp ground ginger

Instructions
Cake
Pre-heat the oven to 360ºF with a rack in the middle position. Spray muffin pan or line with muffin cups.
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
In a second, medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the sugar mix and mix until well incorporated.
Fold in the carrots, pineapple, raisins, walnuts, and coconut.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool COMPLETELY before icing.
Icing
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and ginger until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the icing sugar until well blended and desired thickness.


Note: If you don’t want to use the pineapple, add in an extra ¾ cup of oil


Thank you brother for taking my pics for this post!!! Go check out his photography at www.flickr.com/tottphotography

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Prosciutto Wrapped Cantaloupe

Prosciutto Wrapped Cantaloupe




If you're like me, the majority of the time you spend at the grocery store is in the produce section. This probably has to do with my love for freshness and perfection. I could seriously spend hours picking up all the tomatoes just to find the perfect one. And you don't even want to know how long I take finding the perfect melon or pineapple...



So, how do you pick the perfect cantaloupe? Well, you're first going to want to look for a golden/orange color underneath the rind (unripe cantaloupes will be green). Next test its firmness. Too hard and it will be unripe, too soft and it will be overripe. Lastly, and the funnest step is to smell it! A ripe cantaloupe has a sweet, well... cantaloupy smell! The great thing about cantaloupes is that they will continue to ripen, so if it's too green when you buy it, just let it sit on your counter for a few days and it should be good.






If you're weirded out by this recipe idea then take it up with the Italians. This is traditionally an Italian appetizer and one day I'll hopefully actually get to eat it in Italy! (I'm taking donations if anyone wants to send me to Italy... ;) If you haven't had prosciutto before, first of all I'm sorry, and second it tastes kinda like bacon. It is a thinly sliced, dry-cured ham that is so tasty!


Ingredients


Cantaloupe cut into 1 in cubes
Prosciutto, sliced about 1/2 in wide and 3 in long


Wrap prosciutto slice around a cube of cantaloupe and secure with a toothpick. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Mini Fruit Pizzas




This dessert reminds me of how girls spend hours on their make-up and hair just to give themselves the perfect look that say's "I'm not really trying too hard". When in reality they only need to do a little to make the best of what they already have going for them. Well these lil' pizzas are great cause you need only spend a little time to get eye-catching results!




This recipe is great too because it lets you get creative! Have fun choosing the fruit you'll use on these. Heck, go crazy and cut the fruit into fun shapes too! They are really so simple, and so so tasty!




Mini Fruit Pizzas


1 roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough
1 (7 oz) container marshmallow fluff
1 (8 oz) container of cream cheese
Fruit (strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, raspberries, blackberries etc.)


Bake sugar cookies according to packages instructions. Whip marshmallow and room temperature cream cheese until fluffy. Spread frosting on cooled cookies and top with fruit. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Aioli

Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Aioli




I hardly ever order fries when I go out. Despite their yummy goodness, the dripping grease that come along with the fries usually leave me feeling guilty by the end of the meal. So I try and steer clear...but if someone else orders them, you can be sure I'll be mooching. 


I must say I have an obsession with sweet potatoes. I always buy WAY too many at the grocery store, and then I'm usually stuck eating sweet potatoes every day (which isn't all in itself a bad thing). After a while though it can get boring and I CANNOT stand boring. Good thing I love being innovative!

These sweet potato fries are so, so tasty and never leave me feeling guilty. However, I usually end up eating the whole batch myself which probably offsets my attempt to be healthy...


Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Aioli
Adapted from Natural Noshing


Ingredients:

For Fries
1 medium sweet potatoes or yams
1 egg white
sea salt to taste
herbs or spices to taste (I used 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp pepper, but get creative!)

For Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup mayo
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 chipotle chili powder
juice from 1/2 lime (more or less to taste)
salt to taste

Directions:
1. Peel the potatoes and cut into strips or wedges with even thickness (thinner for crispier fries, thicker usually tend to be slightly soggy). Soak in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes to allow all starch to be removed. Drain and pat COMPLETELY dry. Meanwhile prepare dipping sauce. In a small bowl, add all ingredients and set in fridge for flavors to meld.
2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
3. In a large bowl, add egg white and beat until slightly foamy. Add potatoes, salt and choice of herbs/spices to taste. Toss to coat.
4. Spread potato slices onto baking sheet and make sure they do not overlap and are not crowded or touching.
5. Bake for 15 minutes. Take out and flip the fries over and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until cooked through. The thinner the fry, the shorter the time, so keep an eye on them! Reduce heat to 200F and let the fries dry for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy with chilled aioli!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Caprese Skewers


Caprese Skewers


Assigned to bring an appetizer to a party and can’t cook? Don’t fret! You can still impress your friends with this simple yet elegant appetizer.


I feel like being assigned to bring an appetizer is worse than any other assignment. Not only is it the first thing that people will eat and fill up on, but it usually has the reputation of needing to be presented beautifully. So basically you either have to go all out, or risk looking lazy and cheap by bringing chips and a jar of salsa. Don’t get me wrong though, I love some good chips and salsa.

With this dish you will be praised for presentation and taste! All at little time and expense to you.


Caprese Skewers

Ingredients:

Cherry or grape tomatoes (sliced in half)
Fresh basil leaves (cut into ½ inch squares)
Fresh mozzarella (mini balls, or cut into ½ inch cubes)
Toothpicks
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling (optional)

Skewer tomato half onto toothpick, followed by one square of basil, one cube of mozzarella, and the other half of tomato.
To serve: Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (optional)


Monday, March 12, 2012

Healthy Refried Beans


Healthy Refried Beans


Beans, beans the musical fruit…or as I like to say, the magical fruit. From my opinion, I think beans are underrated. Having been vegetarian for a year, I came to appreciate them in a new way. They not only are a great source of protein, but they are extremely filling, delicious, simple to prepare and pair, and quite inexpensive!



I personally like to use dried beans because they don’t contain the exorbitant levels of salt and preservatives found in the canned beans. However, it can take a little bit of planning if using dried beans.

I love refried beans, but really, the salt and lard content in those babies is ridiculous. So I decided to try my hand at making my own “healthy” version of refried beans.



Healthy Refried Beans

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups pinto beans
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt

Puree 2 cups of pinto beans, tomato paste, and cayenne pepper in a blender or food processor. Add water or leftover bean water to bring to desired consistency. Stir in remaining ½ cup of pinto beans. Salt to taste (if using canned beans, you won’t need as much salt).

To reheat beans: microwave; heat on stovetop in a saucepan; bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Top with cheese and green onions.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas




Food is one of the greatest ways to bring people together. And good thing too, because to me friends and food are two of the greatest things in life.  I love having friends over...but my budget doesn't always love that I love that. So I am constantly looking for new inexpensive recipes to impress and satisfy my friends with. 





Fajitas is just one of those things you have to share. I don't think I've ever gone to a restaurant and ordered fajitas just for myself. But let me tell you I love ordering fajitas. Not only do they taste delicious, but it is just so exciting having your food arrive on a sizzling hot skillet that has just paraded through the restaurant, creating all these wonderful aromas, making everyone else jealous. Plus there is just something so fun about getting to create your own meal. 

All in all fajitas are simple, delectable, and a great food to share. Perfect for entertaining!



Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients:
3 pieces chicken breast - cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 bell peppers - cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp olive oil
Combine chili powder, salt, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cornstarch, water and oil in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken, bell pepper and onion. Toss well and let marinate for at least 15 minutes. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in large skillet and cook marinated ingredients until peppers and onions are crisp and chicken is cooked through. 

Serve with tortillas, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, lime wedges, and cilantro.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels

Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels


Simple is better.


I feel like that's true for a lot of different things...but especially for food. Simple is not only better in that it usually requires less time, effort, and ingredients; but most importantly, simplicity allows for a flavor to be appreciated for its full capacity. 


I love this simple little appetizer because the bold flavors of the parmesan and scallions are beautifully melded and balanced by the buttery puff-pastry. 


Plus they just look so fancy!


Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine
Serves 8


Ingredients:
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from 17.25 oz box), thawed
1 egg, beaten
3 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Unfold pastry and brush with egg. Sprinkle with scallions, 1/4 cup of parmesan, salt and pepper. Roll tightly into a log. Freeze until firm but sliceable, about 20 minutes. Slice into 1/4 inch-thick rounds and place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and bake until golden brown,about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


To Make Ahead: Pinwheels can be baked up to 6 hours in advance; store covered at room temperature. Alternatively, make and freeze the log, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 1 week in advance. Let thaw slightly before slicing and baking.









Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hummus

Hummus


Looking to entertain in a classy and tasteful way, yet still be able to pay rent at the end of the month? This post is for you.


My lovely friend Laura is having a bassoon recital this week and asked me to do the reception! I immediately accepted the challenge and tried my best to find affordable, but delicious appetizers to serve. This weeks blog posts will document my findings. 


I have always LOVED hummus. The combination of creamy texture meets intense garlic is a unparalleled sensation. And luckily making it could not be simpler!


Hummus
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine


1 15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/4 olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp tahini paste (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
Salt to taste


In a food processor or blender, puree chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, cumin and salt until smooth and creamy. Add 1-2 Tbsp water as necessary. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.




Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice


Do you have leftovers?

If you do, give them to me! I absolutely love leftovers. Especially if they're really good leftovers. But even the not so great leftovers are fun because they leave room for innovation! I will take any challenge I can to make food taste good. 

And so you find me today with some leftover brown rice, a carrot, half a red pepper and some chunks of pineapple. A perfect recipe for fried rice!


I know you're thinking, "FRIED?!?!?!?! I thought she was gonna show us how to live beautifully???" 

Well, not all things fried are bad for you! Woah, hold up. Don't take that statement and go eat french fries and fried chicken every day this week. Because, while not all fried things are bad for you, most are unfortunately. I think this recipe passes my healthy tests though.

Pineapple Fried Rice
Adapted from eCurry

2 cups brown rice
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium carrot, chopped
1.5 cups of cubed pineapple
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp pineapple juice
Green onion

Heat oil in a large sauce pan or wok. Stir-fry onion, carrot, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes for about 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper and pineapple and cook for another two minutes. Pour beaten egg into pan and cook for 30 seconds before scrambling. Add rice, pineapple juice and soy sauce. Garnish with green onion. Serves 2.

Notes: You can really add whatever you want to fried rice. This particular recipe might be good with peas or lima beans or celery. But get creative!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Baked Lime Tortilla Chips

Baked Lime Tortilla Chips




Remember Rule #1 of living beautifully on a budget?

Let me remind you:

Rule #1 of living beautifully on a budget: make the most of what you have.

Well, Rule #2 of living on a budget is: be innovative with what you have.

If you're like me, your taste-buds probably start revolting after eating the same thing over and over again. But sometimes its seemingly unavoidable. For example you have to buy a whole head of lettuce even if you only want a leaf. In my case I bought a whole bag of corn tortillas...and trust me, after a few they start getting old. And that is what led me attempt making my own tortilla chips!


Baked Lime Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:

4 corn tortillas
Cooking spray (like Pam)
Lime
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut tortillas into wedges. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place tortilla wedges on baking sheet and lightly spray top of wedges with cooking spray. Squeeze lime generously over wedges. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Using tongs or chopsticks, turn over each chip and bake for an additional 7 minutes. Remove from oven and squeeze extra lime juice and salt over chips. (Chips are best when consumed within the same day.)