Month: June 2012

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

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As I previously reiterated, soup is one of my comfort foods. Although people tend to eat soup in the winter, I enjoy soup all year around whether its hot or cold. Moreover, I think leftovers make great condiments for pasta,rice, or grains. For instance, just out of mere experimentation, I poured leftover chilled cucumber soup  over salmon and fettuccine.  It rivaled anything that a five star restaurant would serve. And it was cheaper.  I made this soup a couple days ago and I plan on using the leftovers as a sauce for one of my upcoming pasta dinners.  This soup is very rich and velvety. Its gourmet yet easy to make.  It’s also a delicious way to boost veggie intake, too.  This gorgeous  sunset orange hued recipe is low in sodium content  with natural ingredients. Because this recipe involves roasting vegetables, it is important that you do NOT remove peels from onions and garlic. Otherwise they will burn resulting a very unappetizing bitter flavor in the soup.   For a dairy creamy texture,  add about a cup of  skim milk or reduced fat cream. My recipe is parve though. This soup serves well with cheese rolls, bread sticks, or with a slice of toasted bread.  For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 3-4 large red bell peppers sliced discarding stems and seeds
  2. 1 large onion halved
  3. 1 clove of garlic
  4.  4 plum tomatoes halved and stems removed
  5. 6 cups of vegetable broth
  6. 2 teaspoons of Kosher/sea salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of oregano

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lay out vegetables on parchment paper over a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables. Roast for 35-40 minutes until vegetables are soft. Remove peels from onion and garlic. Scoop out flesh from the tomatoes and transfers all the vegetables into a soup pot. Sprinkle thyme and oregano.  Pour broth and cook over medium high flame covered. Bring to a boil. Remove lid and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes. Puree vegetables with hand blender or in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Yields 8 servings

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Peach Basil Bread

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I made this peach bread this morning.  This bread is similar to a banana bread, but so distinctive in its savor and moistness. Only this time, I decided to include basil for excitement and taste. My daring attempt paid off because as bizarre as it may seem, basil and peaches compliment each other in terms of flavor.  For this recipe, I used peaches (hence the name) but you can also use nectarines which is just as delicious. I normally help myself to a slice for breakfast but you can serve this as a side dish or a dessert.  Although it doesn’t contain yeast like a normal bread would, its not as sweet as a cake either. Its a loaf that looks like a bread and that’s where its name originated from.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 1/2 cup of self rising flour
  2.  3/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  3.  1 tsp of baking soda
  4.  1/2 teaspoon of salt
  5. 2 cups of  ripe  peaches/ nectarines ; 1 cup mashed+1 cup pureed
  6. 2 large eggs
  7. 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  8. 1 1/3  cup of unsweetened applesauce
  9.  1 teaspoon of vanilla
  10.  1-2 tbsp of  chopped fresh basil

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Add applesauce, peaches/nectarines, and vanilla and mix well. Combine dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Stir in basil. Pour mixture over a greased  9×5″ loaf pan.  Bake for  45-50 minutes. Cool bread in pan 15 min; remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.

Yields 10 slices

Low Carb Broccoli Kugel

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I was invited to spend a Shabbos with one of my very good friends last week.  She made a special request for a broccoli side dish. Having not made kugel in a very long time, I pursued the idea to make a broccoli kugel. Most kugels are very oily made with schmaltz , obscene amount of eggs;  ingredients that catalyzes high cholesterol and blood pressure. I very seldom prepare kugel for that reason.  I found a kugel recipe that it tasty, creamy, and healthy. This recipe has been simplified for your viewership. This broccoli kugel contains matza meal but for a more gluten free version, you can use gluten free flour or corn starch.  For a dairy version, lightly sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 pounds broccoli
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  4. 2 or 3 large eggs, or 1 to 2 eggs and equivalent of 1 egg in egg substitute
  5. 1 tablespoon matzo meal
  6. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  7.  Salt
  8. Ground black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide broccoli into medium florets. Cut peel from large stems and slice them. Boil broccoli in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water for 7 minutes or until very tender. Drain well and cool. Puree in a food processor, leaving a few small chunks. Transfer to a bowl.
Spray a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 7 minutes or until golden brown, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water if pan becomes dry. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
Add eggs and matzo meal to broccoli mixture and mix well. Lightly stir in onion mixture and any oil in pan. Season well with salt and pepper. Grease a shallow 8-inch square baking dish. Add broccoli mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon oil over top. Sprinkle with almonds and paprika, if using.
Bake in upper third of oven for 40 minutes or until set and very lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and run a knife around edges. To serve, cut carefully in squares. Use a spoon to remove portions.

Yields 4-6 servings

Traditional Challah

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I  posted 2 previous challah recipes ; whole wheat and water.  Unlike those 2 recipes, this challah recipe contains more eggs,oil, and sugar. This challah is not as health oriented but its still delicious,fluffy, and aromatic. I did,however, reduce the sugar and oil amount. Most challah recipes require 7-8 eggs whereas mine calls for 5+1 for the egg wash. I don’t make this challah that often but sometimes I need to avert from different ingredients and add a little more excitement to the baking process. If you want to be creative, you can throw in chocolate chips,roasted garlic/chopped onion,or flax seeds.  Challah leftovers make wonderful bread puddings as well. If you made challah before, then this recipe should be a cinch to you.   If you are pressed for time, you don’t have to complete the baking process in one day. Just simply refrigerate the  dough overnight and pick up where you left off the next day 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 ounce active dry yeast + 3 tablespoons sugar
  2. 4 1/2  cups warm water, divided
  3. 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
  4.  1 (6-pound) bag of bread flour
  5. 3/4 cup of sugar
  6.  5 eggs + 1 for egg-wash
  7.  1  cup of canola vegetable oil divided
  8.  Sesame seeds or poppy seeds for topping (optional)

Instructions

In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and 3 tablespoons of sugar in 2 cups of warm water, cover loosely with a towel and set aside. Place salt in a huge plastic bowl. Add flour to bowl.  Add sugar and  5 eggs. Yeast should now have bubbled/foamed and doubled in size, if yeast has not bubbled or does not seem active repeat the process again. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and slowly pour yeast and sugar water mixture into the well. Then add the remaining 4 cups of warm water into the well. Make sure the water is not too hot. Start kneading ingredients together and add a ½ cup of oil. For the next 10 minutes, knead, adding another ½ cup of oil slowly during that time as needed to create a workable dough. Dough shouldn’t be too sticky and also should not be dry. It should become one cohesive mass. Rub a little oil over the top and around the dough. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Place covered bowl in a medium plastic garbage bag and place open ends of the bag loosely underneath the bowl, trapping in air. Place in a warm spot and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.  Punch dough down and knead (lightly oil your hands if necessary), flipping it and releasing any air bubbles. Cover again, using the towel and the bag, and let rise 1 more hour.  Lightly oil your hands, and punch down again. With a sharp knife divide dough into equal parts.  Shape dough to your desire. Liberally spray 4 (9-inch) round baking pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place dough in the pans. Brush them with beaten egg.  Bake challas for 35-40 minutes or until the challas are golden brown. Allow then to come to room temperature before serving.

Yields 6 large challas or 8 medium challahs

Vegetable Casserole

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Pasta dishes are one of my favorite dinners. From spaghetti and meatballs to baked ziti, I use an innovative and holistic  approach to enjoying these dishes without the guilt of consuming the excess amount of fat. There are over a 100 casserole recipes and vegetables does give the pasta a healthy and hearty balance. This dish retains the creaminess without the heavy cream and butter. I include my cheese sauce that curtails the calories, fat content and cholesterol. This cheese sauce is plentiful and can be put away for later use. I use onions,mushrooms,tomatoes, zucchini, and spinach for this dish but this dish can be savored with many other produce. You can use squash, asparagus, broccoli,peppers,carrots, etc. I recommend fresh spinach if using. Rather than sauteing it with the other vegetables, I add it after the penne  (a.k.a. ziti pasta), and vegetables have been mixed well. The reason for this is to preclude the spinach leaves from wilting. When it comes to using raw vegetables, its important that they are washed well and thoroughly to clean out any chemicals or insects that might be imbedded in them. I have happened to have caught a small worm making its way around raw broccoli that I was going to prepare. Since we are forbidden from eating bugs, we are required to check our raw produce before using them.

For the cheese sauce, you will need:

  1. 4 tablespoons of  Earth Balance or Mazola Lite butter/margarine
  2. 4 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  3.  3 1/2 – 4 cups of low fat milk
  4.  1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  5.  Salt and pepper for seasoning

Instructions

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

For the casserole, you will need:

  1. 1 lb of  whole wheat/whole grain Penne Pasta
  2. 2 Medium Zucchini, diced
  3. 2 Garlic Cloves
  4. 1 large onion chopped
  5. 4 cups of Fresh Sliced Mushrooms
  6. 3 tomatoes chopped
  7. 2 Big Handfuls of Fresh Baby Spinach, washed and dried
  8. 2 cups of reduced fat shredded mozzarella
  9.  2 cups of reduced fat shredded cheddar
  10.  Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
Fill a large pot with water and sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt. Bring to boil and add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray and add the garlic and onions. Saute over medium until garlic and onions are caramelized and fragrant. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the veggies start to cook down and start to develop a nice golden brown color. Drain the pasta and add it back into the hot pot. Add the sauteed vegetables, spinach and about 3 cups of  cheese sauce  to the pasta. Stir everything together until the cheese sauce  is coating every piece of pasta. Add half of each kind of cheese and mix all together. Place in a casserole dish and top it with the remaining sauce and cheeses.  Bake covered for 45 minutes and bake  uncovered for the remaining 15 minutes.  Serve hot.
Yields 6 servings

Pan Seared Herb Flounder

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I originally planned to make a walnut crusted flounder. Due to my husband’s nut allergy, I used flour and corn flake crumbs to give the flounder a crunch.  I also greased the pan with cooking spray ; a technique used to cut the fat content. Flounder fillets are thin and small with a milky color that cooks up white. The mild delicate taste of Flounder is sweet and has a delicate texture with small flakes.  Because the flounder appeared to seem delicate, I was nervous about cooking it but the results weren’t completely disastrous.  It is important to keep an eye on this fish when its cooking because it is vulnerable of falling apart. A little lemon/lime juice enhances the taste in this fish. Some people like to drizzle butter-wine sauce over this fish and you can do that but I won’t be using this condiment for this recipe.  This dish serves well with string beans, mashed potatoes, or wild rice.

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless flounder-fillets
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Flour combined with cornflake crumbs, for dredging fish
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  •  1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of  EarthBalance butter

Instructions

Wash fillets in cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour flour and crumbs in a zip-lock bag. Add the herbs and spices and shake well till combined.  Melt butter in a sauce pan. Remove pan from stove. Add in mustard and lemon juice. Mix well till thick.  Grease a heavy-bottomed skillet  with cooking spray and heat on medium-high.  Dunk each fillet over the mustard mixture till covered. Then dredge the fillet in the flour mixture.  Keeping heat at medium-high, cook fish on 1 side about 3 minutes (more or less, depending on size of fillets), until deep brown and crispy. Turn fish and cook on second side, about 3 minutes. Turn fish only once.  Serve fish hot.

Yields 4 servings

Strawberry Mango Salad

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I haven’t made this salad in a long time. I remember this salad being devoured before I had a chance to serve it!  Since strawberries are no longer in season and my husband suspects that he is inherently allergic to mango, I don’t prepare this dish as often.  When I do, its me who ends up eating it. I do feel that fruit and vegetables blend well together but others beg to differ. I like the vibrant colors that the vegetables add to the salad.  Strawberry is the one of the  most popular berry fruit in the world. It is a rich source of vitamin C. They are also high in fiber, folate, potassium and antioxidants.Its juiciness and the deep red color improves the taste and appearance of the recipe. Mango,the king of all fruits is enjoyed by most people .Besides being delicious,it is rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and it also contains an enzyme with stomach soothing properties. These ingredients adds a sweet and tangy flavor to this salad. The almonds gives this salad a crunch. I’ve been  using almonds but you can use pecans if you prefer . If you have a nut allergy, you can omit the almonds. This dish makes a wonderful barbeque salad or it can be served at lunches or parties.

Ingredients

  • 4  cups spring mix salad greens
  • 1 cup chopped peeled mango
  • 1  cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1   ripe Haas  avocado pitted, shelled and cubed
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Dash salt
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

Directions

In a serving bowl, combine the salad greens, mango,onion, avocado and  strawberries. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, vinegar and salt. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Sprinkle with almonds.

Yield:  4 servings.