May 31, 2011

Easy Peasy Homemade Pizza Sauce

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I’m Irish… what can I say. I have only dated Italian’s whose families make their own homemade “gravy” so other than dinning out or going to a boyfriend’s house it was all Ragu for me.

One of my best Italian stories is when I was planning on going home after work one night to make Paul and I a pizza from scratch for dinner. I stopped at a local Italian grocery and started chatting with the pizza chef explaining that I would like ready to go pizza dough so that I could just roll out the pre-made dough and start piling up my pizza toppings. He was more than happy to give me his fresh made dough all rolled out in cornmeal (apparently the best way to cook pizza) and as he was folding it up for me to take home he asked what sauce I was going to be using. As I pulled from my basket to show him my jar of fancy Ragu, the look of disgust spread across his face as if he wouldn’t dare sell me his beautiful pizza dough if my Ragu was to be on it. He then proceeded to insist that I take home his homemade sauce for my pizza and how could I resist, or more so disrespect, this nice Italian man. The same story went on when he asked about the cheese and I proceeded to point towards the deli counter. "That's not real cheese" he said, my pizza was worth more to him than that. 

I ended up leaving, having now become good friends with this man, with full instructions on how to put together a pizza, my dough that just needed to be unroll as to not mess up his good work and all my topings freshly picked by the professional to ensure that the dinner I was making for my sweety was made with lots of spice and love.

Now I was given a lot of help my first time around but my nice little Italian man wasn't going to be around to help me forever so I needed to shape up and figure out some type of solution to my pizza sauce dilemma and then my mother gave me a great idea. She had been raving over and over again about these San Marzano tomatoes and how delicious they were, even right out of the can. She had recently used them to top over her chicken parmigiano and so I took a glance at the back of one of my Ragu bottles and thought that if I just added some fresh ingredients to the basic needs of sauce such as garlic, spices and some type of vinegar/lemon juice then I could probably make a pretty decent sauce.  It worked beautifully.


I used this sauce on pizza, calzones, as a dipping sauce for stromboli or garlic knots and it was fantastic. All the flavor i needed was there and I would just change up my spices and seasonings depending on what I was using my sauce for. A quick fix in an Irish world, but the taste would even fool a native Italian.



Easy Peasy Homemade Pizza Sauce

Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Ingredients
28-oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar or lemon juice
Kosher salt or table salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried (or 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh) oregano, basil, thyme, onion powder or parsley
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed




Whisk the tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice, and any optional ingredients together in a bowl. Add just enough water to thin the sauce so that it is easy to spread.



Use thinner sauce for pizza and thicker sauce for stromboli and calzones. Season with salt and pepper.



If you are making your sauce ahead of time, the sauce can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to six months.



Enjoy!

May 30, 2011

Strawberry Citrus Salad

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Today was an amazing day. Great friends, beautiful weather and deliciously light food. 

Paul is in the Army so I always like to highlight Memorial Day with some small gesture that we can celebrate his sacrifices for our country and then indulge and enjoy in gorgeous days like today. 


This salad was the perfect carry-on to our afternoon getaway. This was the first year in a long time that Paul hasn't been in the Memorial Day parade so we took the whole morning to sleep in, took our time getting ready,  tossed together this quick healthy salad and headed out the door to relax by the water. Our friends have a house on the lake nearby so we decided to picnic out on their dock until their cousin came over with the brand new pontoon boat and we all took a long afternoon ride.


Memorial day was spent in bathing suits under the sun with beers in hand just cruising around the lake. I was such a selfish relaxing day that we were taking full advantage of. Days like this in perfect weather with my wonderful man...and of course my delicious and light fruit salad, made for nothing short of a perfect day.


God Bless America and God Bless our soldiers... to those serving and who have served, you are our true American heroes! <3


Strawberry Citrus Salad
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Ingredients

3 cups sliced hulled strawberries
3 large navel oranges, peeled, thickly sliced crosswise

1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

The best way to hull strawberries is with a fork to ripe out the stems while salvaging the majority of the strawberry.
Toss all ingredients in large bowl.

Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes and then ready to serve.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!!!!
And then of course, I would like to dedicate this blog post to the love of my life SSG Holko.
All you have done for this country and all that you still do, you amaze and surprise me everyday. You are my true hero and no one could be prouder of the man you have become than I am. 
I love you... and Thank you!
"A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him"
(Paul's second tour in Iraq in 2008)

I love you Paul, Happy Memorial Day!!!!!!!

Enjoy!

May 26, 2011

Recap On Some Favorite Springtime Recipes

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Hey everyone! We have been having some of the most beautiful weather the past couple of days and wouldn't you know my luck, I have been home sick in bed.


I woke up this morning with a 100 degree fever and one of the worst cases of vertigo that I have had yet so to my surprise, with no appetite and very little mobility, I still wanted to share with my bloggybuddies my love for cooking.


Via the couch with lots of blankets and my puppies to snuggle with, I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes to date that would be perfect on a sunny 75 degree spring day like today.


Have a great evening everyone :)












Enjoy!

May 24, 2011

Chive and Cheddar Scones

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Fresh cut chives and grated cheddar cheese are two of my favorite breakfast ingredients whether it be in my eggs, biscuits or scones.

There is a farmers market on my way home from work that bakes their own chive and cheddar scones and for a little while I became seriously addicted and would stop almost everyday (or pick up enough to have one each day of the week) but they are literally that good.
This week I had an urge to create my own scone with the same ingredients and flavors I love within my own kitchen... some for breakfast and some for lunch sandwiches, yum.

I baked these up for Mother's day as well a couple of weeks back for our family brunch and they were a big hit, perfect for a bunch or outdoor entertaining dish. They are light, moist and extremely flavorful. 

I still love my farmers market but nothing beats HOMEMADE! 
Chive and Cheddar Scones 
Yields: 16 large scones

Ingredients

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 pound extra-sharp yellow Cheddar, small-diced
1 cup minced fresh chives
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine 4 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. 


Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Toss together the Cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, until the Cheddar and chives are well distributed.  Cut dough into two parts and work with one half at a time.

Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 4-inch squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.

Note: This gave me 16 large scones however if you cut your dough ball into thirds you can most likely get 20-22 scones out of this dough, obviously a little smaller in size.
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

May 23, 2011

Brown Rice with Black Beans, Jalapenos, Cilantro and Lime

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Rain, rain go away... please come back another day (or not for at least another month or so). 


It has been week after week of non-stop rain which makes it very difficult to stay on track with a healthy diet. This dreary weather just invites sweatpants, naps and comfort food but I had a little trick up my sleeve tonight to get a good taste of that comfort factor while still keeping to a healthy balanced diet.


My brown rice has so much flavor and its packed full of all the protein and carbs you need for an awesome healthy meal. 


The freshness of the cilantro and jalapenos really liven up these beans and rice for a great side dish. I'd serve these rice and beans along side enchiladas or even as a filler for tacos.
Brown Rice with Black Beans, Jalapenos, Cilantro and Lime 
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Ingredients

1 bag Trader Joe's Organic brown rice
2 tablespoons butter
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 large shallot, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, diced

1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Take one Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice pouch and cut a 1/4 inch opening to allow venting. Place rice ouch in microwave with steam side up. Heat on HIGH for about 3 minutes. Allow time for steam to evaporate, tear or cut open pouch and empty the rice out into a bowl.

In a medium saute pan, combine the butter, peppers, black beans, 1/2 the cilantro and the shallot over medium heat until warm (Ingredients are best when they are all fresh cut herbs and veggies). Constantly toss the mixture to make sure everything is combined.
Remove from heat and toss the mixture in with the rice. Lastly, toss in lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
(the sun let up for a brief moment for my picture, yay)



Enjoy!

May 22, 2011

Blueberry-Lemon Galette

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This Lemon-Blueberry galette brings earthy sweet flavors together with a rustic crust and the tart-sugared blueberry filling creating a light indulgence for the perfect dessert.

I made this galette at a family get together on a Sunday just like today and boy was I so pleased at how wonderful it came out. My Aunt Michele, a wonderful cook, was my true clarity when she mentioned that I out-did myself. 

The mix of tart and sweet in this dessert creates a taste sensation that fits perfectly anytime of day and is light enough to really cut yourself a nice large slice. Blueberries are one of those foods you can pop in your mouth anytime because it's a fruit that doesn't have too strong of a sweet taste which make it the perfect fruit for this pastry dish.

It's Sunday... grabs some friends, maybe a glass of wine and enjoy this wonderful dessert.
Blueberry-Lemon Galette
Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Recipe by Fine Cooking

For the Dough: 
6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
5-1/2 oz. (11 Tbs.) cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
3 Tbs. whole milk

For the Filling:
4 cups blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar, I use raw
2 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Big pinch table salt
1 large egg, beaten well
2 Tbs. granulated sugar

Make and Roll Out the Dough:
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or if mixing by hand, in a medium bowl). Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add them to the flour. On low speed, mix the butter and flour until the flour is no longer white and holds together when you clump it with your fingers, 1 to 2 minutes. If there are still lumps of butter larger than the size of peas, break them up with your fingers. Run a spatula along the bottom of the bowl to loosen anything stuck to the bowl. (If mixing by hand, mix with a pastry cutter or two forks until the butter is mixed into the flour as above).

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and milk and add them to the flour mixture. On low speed, mix until the dough just comes together, about 15 seconds; the dough will be somewhat soft. (If mixing by hand, add the yolk mixture to the flour and mix gently with a fork until the liquid is well distributed. The dough will still look crumbly and dry.

Dump the dough onto a clean counter and work it with the heel of your hand, pushing and smearing it away from you and gathering it up with a bench scraper and repeating until the dough comes together and is pliable). Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, press it into a flat disk, wrap it in the plastic, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes (or up to four days) before rolling it out.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove the dough from the refrigerator; if the dough is very firm, let it sit at room temperature until it’s pliable enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a round that’s about 13 to 14 inches in diameter. It’s all right if the edges are a little ragged. If you can’t get a roughly round shape, trim the dough so that it’s a rough circle and roll the trimmed scraps back into the dough. Transfer the dough round to the baking sheet and put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.



Fill and Bake the Galette:
Put the blueberries in a large bowl. Toss the fruit with the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Taste the fruit; if it’s more tart than you like, add up to 2 Tbs. more sugar. Add the lemon zest, honey, flour and salt, and toss until everything is evenly mixed.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to keep it from cracking when you assemble the tart. Heap the fruit in the center of the dough round. Using your fingertips, fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit to create a rim about 2 inches wide. Work your way all around, pleating the dough as you go.

Using a pastry brush, brush the pleated dough evenly with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the granulated sugar directly on the dough and fruit.

Bake the tart until the pleats of dough are completely golden brown without a trace of pale, unbaked dough, about 55 minutes. (It’s all right if some of the juices escape from the tart and seep onto the pan.) Transfer to a rack and let cool. The tart may be baked up to six hours ahead of serving. When cool enough to handle, use a spatula to transfer the tart to a serving plate or cutting board. Slice it and serve it warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

May 20, 2011

Hardy Spring Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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So its been about 70+ degrees the past few days and with high humiditys and more than enough rain and storms to last the whole summer. The sun finally poke through this afternoon and it was just enough to brighten the skies and make me believe summer will eventually be here with full sunshine and melted popsicles. So after talking a walk with my two dogs I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. It was Paul, his sister and I eating so there wasn’t too much that needed to be prepared but I wanted it to make something quick while having that good hardy summer taste.

These lettuce wraps are absolutely delicious and very simple to grab things in the cabinet and refrigerator and throw together. It can also be altered to be vegetarian very easily. A Hardy but light summer dinner! 


The taste is outrageous yet it’s so filling. The three of us were gobbling this up last night. Paul even switched over to having the mixture on a whole wheat wrap with some hummus on the bottom and it was still a huge hit. By the end of dinner we were swiping the left over’s off each other plates and stealing already made lettuce wraps from each other. It was great and no one went to bed hungry. We still had some left over from the mixture so I am actually going to have it this weekend for lunch. Yummmm!

You’re sure to be pleased….
Spring Chicken, Beans, and Rice Lettuce Wraps
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Ingredients

1 jar black beans – rinsed
3 corn on the cob – cut off and blackened on stovetop or grill
Lg handful of cilantro coarsely chopped
1 sm red onion – chopped
2 cups brown rice
Chicken in your favorite marinade – I used teriyaki – cooked
½ lime squeezed
Salt/ pepper to taste
Boston lettuce
Avocado (if desired)

Cut the corn off the husk and put in a frying pan to brown a little. Then rinse the black beans, cut the cilantro fine, chop the red onion and mix it all in a bowl. Cook the rice and chicken then drain and add it to the mixture. Wash your Boston lettuce so that there is no sand residue left over and slice up small pieced of avocado.

Then you scoop the mixture into each lettuce wrap leaf and top with slices of fresh cut avocado. (for vegetarian do not add the chicken). All done!

May 19, 2011

Summer Squash Medley

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Summer squash (yellow and zucchini) are the bright delicious flavors that add depth to your meal and smiles to your waist.
There is always time to whip up some squash and it’s probably the healthier of choices to boot. I am always looking for a quick and easy side dish, or something to add more color to my plate that helps make the meal look that much more appetizing and squash is always a winner.
Springtime there is so much squash available so of course I indulge, who wouldn’t. These aren't the kind of veggies you get complaints about like the tormented brussel sprouts and with such a light and simple ingredient toss its versitile enough to go with a variety of dishes. Throw this quick side on the plate with a savory steak or grilled chicken. Makes for a healthy balanced and light dish.


Summer Squash Medley
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Ingredients
2 yellow squash
2 zucchini squash
1tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 pepper


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut squash and zucchini into 1/2 inch slices then into half moons. Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place veggies on an aluminum foil lined pan and bake for 20 min or until tender.




Serves very nice with steaks topped with béarnaise sauce. Sprinkle with thyme if you like.




Enjoy!

May 17, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Cream Cheese Bison Burger with Jalapeño Bottle Caps

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It's grilling season and even in all the forecasted rain for this week, I still plan on having a beefed up burger with some of my favorite fixings.

There are so many different ways to have a burger that you could literally put anything in between two buns and you'd have yourself a burger, and if you lived in our house you would probably even loose the buns. Being that we are such burger lovers we enjoy eating what we like but it's not always the healthiest choice so as we have progressed in the kitchen we have altered our ways of cooking certain dishes to be healthier without losing the flavors.

Paul and I mix and match through-out the weeks with veggie, chicken and turkey burgers and then when the week comes for real meaty beefy burgers we make sure to go with bison. Bison meat (also known as buffalo) is a much leaner and healthier beef meats with a sweeter and richer flavor over regular beef (around 50+ calories more). Paul and I also omit the bun to cut out the heavy carbs that are sometime not needed when it’s just the two of us eating at home... but believe me when that backyard bar-b-q comes around it's a full burger for us top to bottom.

This burger is packet with such savory flavors and then topped with caramelized onions, a nice slice of cream cheese and then those crispy flavored jalapeño bottle caps... I mean stop it they this is so good. Each bit should have the juicy burger, the cool creaminess of the cheese, the warm soft onions and the fiery crunch of the bottle caps. This burger makes my mouth water and Paul always goes reaching for a next bite before he's even finished swallowing what’s in his mouth. It's that good.

Whether you test out our leaner beef/no bun version or use this recipe with all the over the top fixings, you are absolutely going to love it.

Bring summer to your table.


Caramelized Onion and Cream Cheese Bison Burger with Jalapeno Bottle Caps
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Ingredients
2 lb bison beef, 80-90% lean
1 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
3 dashes worcestershire sauce
olive oil
2 sm yellow onions
dash salt
2 tsp pepper


cream cheese, sliced medium thick 
jalapeño bottle caps (see recipe below)
hamburger buns, optional ;)

Mix the bison burger meat with the garlic and onion powder and the worcestershire sauce. Do not overwork the meat, it will result in a tough burger. Just gently fold it until well mixed in. Form patties with the meat, using about 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound of meat per patty. Here's a tip on making the patty: if you press a slight indentation in the center of each patty it will help keep the burgers in a nice disk shape when cooking and it keeps the burgers juices in.

Grill or fry the burgers on medium heat, about 6-7 minutes per side, less or more depending on the thickness of the burger. Don’t press on your burgers while cooking, and keep the flipping to a minimum. Let the burgers rest about 5 minutes before serving.


Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch saute pan over high heat. When hot add the olive oil, onions, and season with some salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to cook for 10 minutes until caramelized, stirring often.

Serve the burger with a thick slice of cream cheese then top with the caramelized onions and the jalapeño bottle caps.


Jalapeño Bottle Caps


Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup beer
2 cups jalapeño peppers, sliced
olive oil (for frying)

Mix the Dries, add the eggs, mix well then add the beer. Stir it up. 

Put oil in a hot pan, dip the jalapeño slices into the batter and fry until golden. Drain on paper towls and then top on the burgers.

Enjoy!

May 15, 2011

Crispy Smashed Garlic and Herb Roasted Red Potatoes

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French fries are a total weakness of mine, and I am sure many others, but these potatoes smashers will keep you snacking till the plates gone.

French fries are an American staple in the world of food. Everywhere you go there is normally some variation of French fries, curly fries, sweet potato fries, and waffle fries... I could go on forever. Well recently I saw this new technique for a baby potato version of a fry and alas the smashed baby potato was born (well for me at least).
The idea seemed so simple and yet created a very enticing visual when placed at a cocktail party or buffet. Like normal fries, they had the same consistency, a dipping sauce and are picked at like finger foods but the look of this large (baby) smashed fry just invited curiosity and packs a lot more crunch and spices in each bite than an ordinary fry.

The garlic and herbs blended with the spicy kick of the sriracha chili dipping sauce is a wonderful mix. Paul and I ate these up so quickly it was almost upsetting I didn’t make a second batch.

Being that we liked these so much we're defiantly planning on making them more often for company, a side dish to dinner or even for a burger-type bar-b-q. Make plenty, trust me... they go quick.
Crispy Smashed Garlic and Herb Roasted Red Potatoes
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno


Ingredients
12 to 15 baby red potatoes
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Put the potatoes in a large saucepan (preferably in one layer) and cover with at least an inch of water. Add 2 tsp. kosher salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are completely tender and can be easily pierced with a metal or wood skewer. Make sure they are cooked through but don’t overcook. The total cooking time will be 30 to 35 minutes.


While the potatoes are cooking, set up a double layer of clean dishtowels on your countertop. As the potatoes finish cooking, remove them individually from the water, and let them drain and sit for just a minute or two on the dishtowels.

Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Repeat with all the potatoes. Don’t worry if some break apart a bit; you can still use them.
Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; put a sheet of parchment on top of the foil. Transfer the flattened potatoes carefully to the baking sheet and let them cool completely at room temperature.
Heat the oven to 450°F. Alternatively, if you have a convection function, turn it on and set the temperature at 400°F. Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 tsp. salt and pour the olive oil over them. Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath them and that they are well coated on both sides.

Roast the potatoes until they’re crispy and deep brown around the edges, about 30 minutes if using a convection oven, 30 to 40 minutes if roasting conventionally, turning over once gently with a spatula or tongs halfway through cooking. Serve hot.
Spicy Dip
1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Enjoy!