Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maybe the Best Pizza Ever

I love pizza. Who doesn't? It's a pretty common weekend meal at my house, as it was last night, and this is the combination of ingredients I like the best. If you like meat on your pizza, I suspect Italian sausage or something similar would be great. But I like my pizza veggie-ful, and this MBPE pizza is the one I come back to the most. This pizza is so good that even though you get an entire, full-size pizza out of it, I find that it never makes more than about 2-3 servings.

I'm not going to lie to you - this takes some serious prep time. The sauce comes together in minutes, but the crust takes 2 rises (about an hour a piece), the peppers take about an hour to roast, and the onions take a good 30 minutes to caramelize. But you can mostly walk away while those things are happening (except with the onion caramelizing - that takes your fairly undivided attention), and the result is just plain wow. Your house will smell like a savory heaven. When you have some time, give it a shot. If you make extras of everything to store in the freezer, you'll be ready to go on your next pizza night.

The crust and sauce recipes are not mine. Instead, they're links to the best dang crust and sauce I've found, and that I've used forever, so why mess with perfection?

Yield: 1 thick crust pizza, roughly "medium" size
Start to finish: Hours if you're making everything from scratch, 30 minutes if you have things ready to go

Maybe the Best Pizza Ever
1 recipe Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
1 recipe Exquisite Pizza Sauce
1 C baby spinach leaves (or however much you have hanging around)
1/2 onion, caramelized (for great instructions and a video, see here)
1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into bite-sized pieces (for roasting instructions, see here)
1/2 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, sliced into bite-sized pieces
Sliced olives (as many as you can handle)
1 C grated Italian cheese mix, or more if you prefer (my favorite is Tillamook's mozzarella/Parmesan/smoked provolone)

1. Get your crust ready.
2. Preheat oven to 425.
3. Place your toppings in this order to avoid burning: Sauce, spinach, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, cheese.
4. Bake for 16-20 minutes. Crust will be baked, and cheese will be golden brown and bubbly.
5. Let the pizza sit for a couple of minutes so the juices settle, then slice and serve.

Zucchini Fritters

If you have any zucchini left in your garden, this is a great way to use them up. It takes a little time, but the results are well worth it. This is one of my favorite take-along picnic foods, but they're fantastic as a snack or light meal, too. They're wonderful dipped in marinara sauce.

Yield: 8-12 fritters
Start to finish: 45 minutes

Zucchini Fritters
2 T oil
1 onion, diced

2 medium zucchinis, grated (use the coarse side of a cheese grater)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 C seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wrap the grated zucchini in a kitchen towel and twist to squeeze out all the extra moisture you can. You can do this by hand - just get as much moisture as possible out of the zucchini.
2. Saute the onion and zucchini in 1 T oil for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent.
3. Add the garlic, and sautee until all the remaining liquid evaporates (about 5 minutes).
4. Put the zucchini mixture in a large-ish mixing bowl, and stir in eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan, and salt and pepper.
5. Add the remaining 1 T oil to your skillet. Place balls of zucchini mixture in the skillet and flatten somewhat with a spatula (or "pancake turner", if you're from that part of the country). I've found that using an ice cream scoop to make the balls gives me pancake-size fritters. If you'd like yours smaller, just scoop some of the zucchini mixture out with your hand.
6. Fry on both sides until golden brown, 1-2 minutes per side.

Monday, August 1, 2011

BBQ Bean Burgers

I really wish I had taken a picture of these before they were all gone, because they were a thing of beauty. I also wish I had measured the seasonings, because they were a thing of deliciousness. However, I honestly don't think you could go too far wrong just eyeballing the seasonings - this is a very forgiving recipe. The liquid smoke gives it a wonderful touch of hickory flavor that really adds to the "burger" feel, so be sure to include that.

It's also a true quickie, perfect for weeknights. You can serve these with fancy salads, delicious baked sweet potato "fries", or whatever else you might want, but if you just throw some Terra Chips on the plate you'll have dinner on the table in about 10 minutes. Honest.

As always, the asterisk (*) indicates a wild guess about the actual amount of the ingredient used.

Yield: 3-4 servings (depending on how large you like your burgers)
Start to finish: 10 minutes

BBQ Bean Burgers
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 C bread crumbs, plus 1/4 C to use as needed (I used store-bought)
1/4 C quick cooking oats (not instant)
1 egg white
*1 t cumin
*1/2 t onion powder
*3/8 t garlic powder
*1/4 t liquid smoke (I used half a cap)
Salt and pepper to taste
Your favorite BBQ sauce
Sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
French fried onions (Durkee, French's, etc.)
Whole grain hamburger buns
Lettuce, tomato, etc., - if you must

1. In a medium bowl, mash the rinsed and drained beans. I've tried lots of different methods and find that using your hands is by far the most effective.
2. Add all of the other ingredients from the first part of the list and mix well.
3. Form into 3 or 4 patties - 3 will give you roughly 1/3 pound size patties, 4 will give you about 1/4 pound size.
4. Cook. I use my trusty George Foreman grill, but you could also use a skillet with a little oil or nonstick spray, or even an outdoor grill. You'd probably want to put foil under the burger if you use an outdoor grill, since these aren't quite as dense as meat burgers.
5. Garnish with cheese, BBQ sauce, french fried onions, and anything else that strikes your fancy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I love kale. And I love anything that can be eaten in a tortilla, which in my experience is almost everything. And, as a good New Mexican, I love green chile. So ta-da! The kalesadilla was born. I don't know that using whole wheat tortillas and kale makes this super-healthy, but it could be worse and was certainly tasty. I originally started with about half the amount of green chiles in this recipe and found that it definitely needed more to be able to taste and appreciate them. Your mileage may vary.

Yield: 2 servings
Start to finish: 20 minutes

1/2 small bunch of kale (I used Italian, but any kind is fine)
Olive oil
4 eggs
Salt to taste
1/2 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1/4 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 or 4 whole wheat tortillas (depending on whether you fold or stack your quesadillas)

1. Strip the leaves from the kale stalks. Pile them on top of each other and slice finely. It will look like a fairly enormous pile of kale, but it will cook down to about 1/4 the size.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute the kale until wilted and cooked down. Kale is one of the rare greens that actually needs to be cooked to access its full nutritional value, and it's also pretty tough, so don't worry about overcooking it.
3. While the kale is cooking, crack the eggs into a bowl, add salt, and beat until well-mixed.
4. Add the eggs to the pan with the kale. Add the green chiles. Stir constantly until the eggs are scrambled to your taste. (HINT: Leave them just a little more moist than you usually like them, since they will be on the heat again later.)
5. When the eggs are nicely set, spoon them into a bowl and set aside for the moment. Rinse out your skillet - or use another one if you're not picky about the number of dishes you have to do - and lightly coat it with butter. I just rub a stick of butter very quickly over the pan for this. You could use a little oil, of course, but I prefer the taste of butter on my quesadillas.
6. Place one tortilla flat in the pan. Sprinkle half the sharp cheddar cheese over the tortilla, then scoop half of the egg mixture onto one half of the tortilla. Fold the other half over the egg mixture, and brown the kalesadilla lightly on both sides.* Slice and serve!

*If you are a quesadilla stacker, spread the filling out over the entire tortilla and place another tortilla on top. Fair warning, though, you won't get as satisfyingly chunky a kalesadilla that way.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Breakfast Couscous

In keeping with my recent focus on things to eat in the morning, here's another quick and easy breakfast option. I made this up for a camping trip last summer, but I've made it many times in an actual kitchen since then. I usually prepare everything the night before so that in the morning all I have to do is add hot water. Like the oatmeal "recipes," this is really a series of approximations, and the flavors can certainly be varied. I think this is my favorite flavor combination, though.

Yield: 1 serving
Start to finish: 7 minutes

Breakfast Couscous
1/3 C dry couscous
1/4 t cinnamon
generous pinch cardamom
1 t ground flax seed
1 t brown sugar
2 dried apricots, chopped
1 dried apple ring, chopped
1 T slivered almonds
2/3 C boiling water

1. Put all ingredients except water in a heat-proof bowl.
2. Pour boiling water over couscous, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes until all water is absorbed.
3. Fluff lightly with a fork and enjoy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roasted Broccoli Penne with Savory Orange-Beet Salad

This is my current favorite weeknight dinner. The whole thing comes together in half an hour, and it involves broccoli and garlic, two of my favorite things to find in the kitchen. Of course, there's a good chance you'll reek afterward, so maybe skip this one for Valentine's Day dinner.

Note: The salad requires roasted beets, which take about an hour and then need to cool. My advice? Roast a bunch of them early in the week and slice them into salads, drizzle them with olive oil and serve as a side dish with salt and pepper, combine with feta and toasted walnuts...

Directions for roasting beets are at the bottom.

Yield: 2 servings
Start to finish: 30 minutes

Roasted Broccoli Penne with Savory Orange-Beet Salad
1-1/2 C whole wheat penne (dry)
2 crowns broccoli (I use the florets and the small stalks, sliced into bite-sized pieces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste - be generous
2 T olive oil
1/4 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 handful walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Put penne on to cook according to package directions.
3. Toss broccoli, garlic, salt, and pepper in the olive oil. Spread in a single layer in a baking dish.
4. Roast the broccoli mixture for 10-12 minutes, until broccoli is just tender. It will be a lovely, deep, bright green.
5. Drain the pasta well, and return to the pot. Toss with the broccoli mixture, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese.
6. For maximum color impact and general tastiness, serve with...

Savory Orange-Beet Salad
1 roasted beet, peeled and sliced
1 orange, separated into slices
Juice of 1 orange (about 1/4 C?)
1-1/2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Arrange the beet and orange slices artfully on the plate.
2. In a small jar, combine orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Shake well.
3. Drizzle the dressing over the beets and oranges.

How to roast beets:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If your beets came with greens, cut those off and save them for another purpose. (You can use them the way you'd use spinach or any other greens.) Rinse the beets well to remove any dirt. Put the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Double it up if your foil is flimsy -- trust me when I tell you that beets are juicy and will drip all over your oven. Drizzle olive oil over the beets, making sure they're covered with oil. Fold the foil to cover the beets and crimp the sides to make sure the packet is tightly closed. Roast the beets until they're tender. It will take about an hour, less for smaller beets, more for bigger ones. Poke through the foil with a fork to check doneness. It should slide in easily, kind of like a baked potato. When the beets have cooled, the peels should slip right off when you rub them, but you can also peel them with a paring knife.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Max Klinger's Lebanese Love Stew

First, a few words about the name of this soup... The "Lebanese" part is because the soup this was originally supposed to be is a traditional Lebanese recipe. The "Max Klinger" part is because this soup is a complete screw-up. (If you don't know who Max Klinger is, shame on you.) I started cooking before I checked the cabinets for the recipe ingredients, and almost immediately I had to punt. I won't bore you with the numerous substitutions I made, or the things I added simply on a whim, but the end result is a soup so far removed from the recipe it was supposed to be that it's something entirely new. I have no idea if anything about this soup is still Lebanese, but it turned out pretty darn good!

Yield: 6-8 servings
Start to finish: 30 minutes

Max Klinger's Lebanese Love Stew
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 T salt
1 C lentils (dry)
8 C water or vegetable broth (important: if you use broth, make sure it's low sodium or reduce/eliminate the salt above)
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
4 C baby spinach
1 T coriander
1 t cinnamon
salt to taste (be sure to taste!)
1/4 C lemon juice, or 1 lemon, sliced

1. In a stock pot, saute the leeks and garlic in the olive oil until the leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and stir well.
2. Add the lentils and saute for 1 minute.
3. Add water/broth, carrots, and potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes until lentils are softened.
4. Stir in spinach, coriander, and cinnamon, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
5. Add a splash of lemon juice to each bowl before serving (squeeze 1 slice of lemon into each bowl, or stir in about 1/2 t bottled juice).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Not-So-Chunky Monkey Oatmeal

It's freezing here. Actually, it's much worse than that: We're lucky if we see freezing as our high for the day. To warm me up, I've been eating a lot of oatmeal for breakfast lately. I know oatmeal isn't all that exciting, and it's not all that sexy (although it makes a really nice facial), but it is hearty and healthy. The one thing it very often isn't is tasty. To avoid the dreaded library paste glop, I recommend either the ironically sinful Amish treat of baked oatmeal or one of these tasty variations. This is a quick breakfast, but to save even more time I usually assemble all the dry ingredients in the bowl the night before.

Start to finish: 5 minutes
Servings: 1

Note 1: This symbol (*) means the amount is approximate. I just lightly cover the surface of the oatmeal with these ingredients.
Note 2: Don't omit the cinnamon. Everything is better with cinnamon.
Note 3: The peanut butter gives a nice shot of protein. You can add a little calcium, too, by sprinkling some powdered milk over the oatmeal.

Not-So-Chunky Monkey Oatmeal
1/2 C rolled oats, preferably organic, not the quick kind
1 t* ground flax seed
1/2 t* cinnamon
1 small banana
1-3 t peanut butter (amount depending on personal taste, and creamy is always best)
1 C water

1. Measure oats into a microwave-safe bowl.
2. Lightly cover the surface of the oats with ground flax seed and cinnamon, or measure them if you're feeling confident about those amounts.
3. Slice the banana into the oats and top with a dollop of peanut butter.
4. Add water.
5. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving for 30 seconds at a time, then stirring, until oatmeal reaches desired consistency. I like mine pretty thick, and it usually takes me about 2 minutes.
6. Stir the oatmeal well. The banana should fall apart and add a luscious creaminess, and the peanut butter will be melty and gooey, in the best possible way.

PB&A Oatmeal
Follow the directions above, except substitute half an apple, diced, for the banana and add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. I usually use Granny Smith, but any good, crisp apple works.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolution Soup

Okay, we've had our fun over the holidays. We've played with all our new toys, behaved mildly inappropriately at some public gathering, and we've realized that our jeans are a little more snug than they were before Thanksgiving. Now it's time to stow the Christmas decorations in the garage and get back to real life. To that end, I give you tonight's invention: Resolution Soup. It's a variation on one of my favorite quick soups, based on a combination of what was in the fridge and what would be super healthy. Kale's a nutritional powerhouse, broccoli fights cancer, beans are full of fiber, garlic lowers your cholesterol, and Tofurkey... Well, Tofurkey is a little sketchy, but I wanted something to take the place of the turkey kielbasa I usually use. I didn't measure as I cooked, so I'm guesstimating at these amounts, but my result was so yummy I don't think you could go far wrong.

Note: This soup is vegan, but you can easily carnivorize it without adversely affecting the healthiness. Just use chicken broth and turkey sausage in place of my veg ingredients.

Servings: 6-8
Start to finish: 30 minutes

Resolution Soup
1/2 large onion (or 1 smallish onion), diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 package Tofurkey Italian-style sausage, sliced
4 C vegetable broth
1 can cannelini beans, with liquid
4 C kale, chopped roughly (I used about 6 handsful - roughly half a bunch of kale)
2 C broccoli (again, a gross approximation of what I had left over)
2 t Italian seasoning
dash red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste (but I doubt you'll need either)

1. In a stock pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is slightly softened.
2. Add sausage and saute for about 3 minutes or until sausage is slightly browned if using meat sausage, stirring frequently.
3. Add all the other ingredients to the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until broccoli and kale are softened but not mushy.
4. Serve with good crusty bread or on its own.