Friday, July 4, 2014

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Today we are hosting a backyard barbecue where we will be serving this watermelon agua fresca. Watermelon beverages epitomize summer so we tend to try a new watermelon-based recipe every year. This drink is light and refreshing and as simple as pureeing watermelon with some water and agave, and pouring over glasses filled with ice cubes (or, as we prefer, watermelon ice cubes.) Happy 4th of July!

Watermelon Agua Fresca
Serves about 6

10 cups fresh watermelon cubes
3 cups water
1/4 cup agave syrup
watermelon ice cubes (see how to make them here)
approx. 30 mint leaves

Puree the watermelon cubes with the water and agave syrup until very smooth. Coarsely crush the mint leaves at the bottom of a serving pitcher. Pour the agua fresca over the crushed mint leaves and stir well. To serve, fill a serving glass with watermelon ice cubes and top off the with agua fresca. Garnish with additional mint leaves. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Peas

I read an article recently about foods that we should "break up" with. Some are quite obvious, such as white flour and processed meats. White flour because it lacks any nutrients and causes a spike in blood sugar levels. Processed meats because they contain saturated fats and unsavory fillers. Others are not too obvious, for example, dried fruit. Fruit, both fresh and dried are good for us, no? It turns out that some dried fruit preparations can contain added sugar and corn syrup, extra sources of glucose that most of us do not need.

Today, I am "breaking up" with spaghetti squash but not for  any of the reasons you might think. This recipe has been overdone at our house. It is one that I have been making almost bi-weekly since last fall. So I think it is time to give it a rest, for fear that my hubby will never want to see another spaghetti squash again. If you do get to try this recipe, you will surely agree that its ease of preparation and simple healthfulness make for a wholesome weeknight meal, and I'm sure you will understand why it become a  go-to recipe at our house over the last few months. 

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Peas

Serves 3 to 4

1 spaghetti squash
1/2 lb spicy sausage
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan
chopped parsley

1.  Carefully cut the squash lengthwise in half. Brush the cut sides with a little oil and place cut side down of a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until the spaghetti threads can easily be removed with a fork.
2. Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium high heat, for about 10  minutes, trying your best to break up any large chunks into small bite-sized pieces.
3. Once the sausage has been properly cooked, add in the  spaghetti squash and the peas. Combine well. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Transfer to a serving dish and top with grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kale Flatbread

These days, it is a rare event when I get to cook for my siblings, since the moments when they visit are so few and so far between. But I got the opportunity last month to make this flatbread for my sister, who braved the tortuous winter weather to spend a few days with us. This recipe will make a kale fan out of you, as it did for her.

Kale Flatbread
Serves about 3 to 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
10 oz washed and chopped kale
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded cheese
4 oz of cooked ham, cubed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
Flatbread dough (see recipe below)

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat and cook the kale until it has wilted a little. This might take about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2. Roll out the dough as thin as you can get without it tearing. Transfer to a well greased baking sheet and cover evenly with the shredded cheese, cooked kale,  and the ham.
3. Baked in a 350 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
4. While the flatbread is baking, add the balsamic and honey to a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 to 7  minutes. Drizzle the thickened balsamic sauce over the flatbread before serving.

Flatbread dough

1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup luke warm water
1 tbps olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Add the yeast with the sugar to the lukewarm water, in large bowl and let the yeast form bubbles and proof, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, salt, all purpose flour, and whole wheat flour. Mix well to form a ball. Knead on a floured surface for about 2 minutes. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or kitchen towel and allow to almost double in size.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Orange and Cinnamon Chicken with Herbed Couscous

Here is an easy and delicious recipe that includes the warmth and sweetness of orange and cinnamon. This dish is a favorite of mine during the winter months because the aroma just wafts through the house, adding a sense of coziness on these cold evenings. Also, when I serve this on a bed of couscous scented with parsley and mint, it adds a little bit of Mediterranean flair to a weeknight dinner.

Orange and Cinnamon Chicken with Herbed Couscous
Serves 4 to 5

5-6 chicken thighs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 garlic cloves (grated)
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup chicken stock


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Season the chicken with the cinnamon, garlic, black pepper, salt and orange zest.
3. In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Sear the seasoned chicken thighs on both sides, about 1 minute per side.
4. Place the seared chicken thighs in a large ovenproof dish. Pour in the chicken stock and orange juice. Cover tightly with lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
5. Once cooked, remove the chicken pieces from the sauce. Place the sauce on the stovetop over medium heat and allow to thicken; this might take about 6 to 8 minutes. Pour this thickened sauce over the chicken. Serve with herbed couscous (see recipe below).

Herbed Couscous

2 cups dry cous cous
2 ½ cups water
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp chopped mint (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the salt and oil. Add the couscous and stir well. Cover, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork, and add the herbs right before serving.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cuban-Style White Bean Soup

At the moment it is - 22 ºF in this part on Minnesota, with a wind chill of - 47 ºF. Schools are closed today, as are some businesses. It is easy for me to complain about living here but I feel I have been doing that since November. Instead, I am going to look at the positive: I get to spend an extra day at home with the hubby and our puppies. Plus, there is more time for cooking, something that is rare these days, particularly on weekdays.  

Yesterday, I made up a batch of this hearty Cuban style soup. The first time I had Cuban white bean soup was last October at Padrino's in Boca Raton, Florida. Usually, I'm not a soup person but this one takes me back to the Caribbean, with its distinct salted pork flavor.   Typically, these Caribbean soups and stews are made with dried beans that need to soak for a few hours prior to cooking. This version, however,  makes it easy by using canned white kidney beans, which by no means diminishes the heartiness and flavor of this soup. 

Stay warm!

Cuban-Style White Bean Soup
Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium sized carrot, diced
4 to 5 oz salted pork, diced
1 ham hock
3 cans white kidney beans
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro

1. Add the oil to a large stock pot set over medium to high heat. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves thyme and carrot. Cook until the onions have softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the salted pork and ham hock, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. 
2. Pour in the kidney beans and chicken stock. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Let simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Carefully remove the ham hock from the soup to a cutting surface and remove a much of the meat as you can. Return the meat to the soup, discarding the bone. Take a masher and roughly pass it through the soup to create a chunky consistency. Stir in the fresh cilantro before serving.