Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Favorite: Greek Yogurt!

Meet my favorite cooking staple: Greek Yogurt.

I like to think of Greek yogurt as "yogurt for grown-ups." Or at least, grown-ups who like to eat lovely things. Just try one spoonful, and I bet you'll be a convert for life. And don't get me started on Labne -- basically the yogurt version of cream cheese. It's to die for.

Let's Yo!
For cooking, the plain full-fat and 2% Greek yogurt versions work well. A bowl of it is a lovely way to start the day, but yogurt isn't just for breakfast -- it's also terrific for lunch, dinner...even dessert.

Here are a few ideas for making the most of your Greek yogurt experience:

  • Top plain, vanilla, or honey Greek yogurt with sliced bananas, berries, a drizzle of honey, pinch of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans for a morning treat that will keep you satisfied until lunch.
  • Brighten your morning routine: stir in a handful of blueberries, raspberries and/or sliced peaches and few leaves of fresh mint (minced) into plain, vanilla, or honey low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Grab and Go: Blend 1 cup of frozen berries, 1 frozen banana, 1 cup of orange or pineapple juice, 2 teaspoons of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and about 11/2 cups of nonfat plain (or vanilla) Greek yogurt for a healthy, tasty smoothie.
  • Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to top your famous chili, baked potatoes, tacos, enchiladas, goulash and more.
  • Stir a dollop of plain yogurt into stews, soups and sauces for a tart, creamy finish. You can substitute Greek yogurt for heavy cream or milk -- just stir it in at the end (off the heat) so it doesn't curdle.
  • Replace sour cream with plain low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt in your favorite dips. Labne is even better.
  • Ditch the mayo in your tuna, chicken, egg, potato and macaroni salad recipes. Try it with plain low-fat Greek yogurt instead. Just add an extra pinch of seasonings to balance it out.
  • Make your own salad dressings? Try plain Greek yogurt in your next batch of Caesar or Ranch.
  • Or try this: Top a salad of greens, pecans, sliced grapes, and cubed chicken breast with a mixture of a couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, a few tablespoons of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, a pinch of salt, black pepper and fresh tarragon.
  • Reduce the amount of butter in your favorite cookie recipes by cutting the amount of butter in half and replacing about a quarter of the original portion of the butter with plain full-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 cup butter, change that to 1/2 cup butter and then add 1/4 cup of yogurt. 
  • If you must use boxed cake or muffin mixes (sigh), omit the eggs and oil and use plain yogurt and water instead, 1 cup each.
  • Love the decadent cream cheese frosting on carrot cake and red velvet cupcakes? Make it with yogurt (or Labne!) instead of butter, using a 1:1 ratio of cream cheese to yogurt and you can have an extra slice. Whip up this quick version: 4 oz light cream cheese, 4 oz low-fat or full-fat plain Greek yogurt, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg.)
  • Mix 1-2 teaspoons of honey and 1 TBS of chopped crystallized ginger with 1 cup of low-fat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and use in place of whipped cream on top of your favorite gingerbread or pound cake recipes.
  • Top shortcakes with a dollop of low-fat plain, strawberry, or vanilla Greek yogurt mixed with macerated strawberries. 
Don't get me wrong -- I love cooking with butter and eggs and mayo and heavy cream. It's just that sometimes, it's a good idea to shake things up. Because then you can shake it in your skinny jeans, too. (Wink.)


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Gravy: Roasted Pepper "Vodka Sauce"


October is "National Pasta Month" so I figured I'd share one of my favorite pasta sauce recipes. 

It's a nod to everyone's favorite indulgence: Vodka Sauce, but with some red peppers thrown in for good measure and some peas for color. Serve it with your favorite pasta or pour it over chicken cutlets and melted mozzarella on ciabatta rolls for the ultimate chicken parm. It would be great with ravioli or even as your lasagna base. Yum!

Roasted Pepper "Vodka Sauce"

3 large red peppers, stem and seeds removed
2 TB butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cup Half & Half
1/4 cup Vodka
2 TBS Goat cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

To Do:
Note: If you're serving with pasta, cook a pound of penne according to the directions, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.
  • Broil the peppers until blistered and softened, then let cool. 
  • Melt the butter in a large pot then sauté the minced garlic until softened (don't let it get too brown)
  • Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes and the crushed tomatoes along with the pasta water (if using).
  • Using a food processor or blender, purée the roasted pepper and tomato mixture until smooth, then return to your pot and bring to a simmer. 
  • Add 1/4 cup of vodka (or more to taste) and stir until the booze cooks off, about 10 minutes or so. 
  • Stir in the half and half and the goat cheese and cook until thickened. 
  • Add in the frozen peas for color and heat through.
  • Season with Salt & Pepper to taste, and enjoy.

And that's how you celebrate National Pasta Month!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Slow Cooker Sunday: Chicken Cacciatore

Happy Sunday!

I can't believe it is October 1 already. Where does the time go?

It was a gorgeous fall day here today -- the air was crisp the sun was bright and while the leaves are just starting to turn here, there was a slight crunch underfoot as we strolled down the sidewalk.

Today's slow cooker recipe comes from Food Network Magazine -- with a few tweaks: "Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore," just like Grandma used to make. Mushrooms, tomatoes, wine, basil, garlic, hot peppers, chicken thighs -- you can't really go wrong.
Crock full of flavor!
If you want to make your own batch, you can find the recipe here. Chris and I've tweaked a bit by adding some diced hot cherry peppers (and maybe a pinch of bacon salt when no one's looking) to the mix, but otherwise, it's straight from the book. Speaking of books, it was the perfect day to grab one and while away the afternoon.

Seven hours later, the house smells welcoming and tummies are ready to be filled. Served over pasta, rice, couscous or just with a hunk of crusty bread, it's a satisfying way to celebrate the arrival of another fall evening.

Have a delicious one!


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cooking for Twosday: Spinach Stuffed Shells

Happy Tuesday or "Twosday" as I like to think of it. 

Cooking for two is tricky sometimes -- if you make too much, you'll have leftovers coming out of your ears, and if you make too little, there's no chance of anyone having seconds.

I have a few trusty dishes that are the right size for two -- enough for hearty portions and a day or two of leftovers, perfect for taking to the office for lunch or a tasty midnight snack.

These stuffed shells are a quick and easy, with an infusion of spinach for a bit of color. Paired with a nice salad and glass of wine, your Tuesday night can turn into a lovely dinner date for two.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Dinner for Two? Done.
1 package large-sized pasta shells
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2-3 cups ricotta cheese (If you can find smoked ricotta, even better!)
Couple splashes light cream or half/half
S/P to taste
Garlic powder
Italian herb seasoning
1 jar of quality spaghetti sauce
1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese

To Do:
  • Prepare pasta shells per packaging directions -- boil until al dente and then drain. 
  • Let cool on a baking sheet
  • In a large bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, cream, 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese and the seasonings.
  • Fill the cooled shells with the spinach mixture and place in one layer of a 9x9 oven-safe dish that's been lightly covered with some of the pasta sauce. (The best way to fill the pan is to build an outside frame of shells, then fill in the center.)
  • Cover shells with the rest of tomato sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake until cheese is melty and bubbly. Sprinkle with more chopped spinach or fresh basil if you have some on hand.
  • Serve with a green salad and crusty bread, or as a side dish.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Shopping List: Fancy Tuna Fish in a Jar

Happy Saturday!

I have a confession. I've switched teams, folks. No more canned tuna for Chez Gourmess. I've taken a leap of faith and happily joined the jarred tuna camp. Yes, you might spend a few more dollars on it, but the quality and taste are worth the extra $ alone. So, go find a lovely jar of tuna -- plain or with some added seasoning, and definitely packed in olive oil not water --  and put it in your cart.

Just this once -- trust me.

My new favorite -- plain or with some pizazz!

Once you get it home, here's what to do with your fancy tuna:
  • Heat crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, a couple TBS of butter and some olives or capers in a pan and add in the tuna. Toss with pasta and top with some grated Romano cheese. Divine!
  • Make The Best Tuna Salad Ever.
  • Add it to your cheese/charcuterie plate.
  • Make a tuna melt -- use a sharp or smoked cheddar or Gouda.
  • Add tuna to some sun-dried tomatoes, olives and a bit of balsamic glaze and toss with your favorite greens for a lovely salad.
  • Make egg salad, spread onto a sliced croissant and top with tuna and juicy slices of tomato
  • Eat it right out of the jar.