Archive | March, 2012

Spinach is Greener than Grass, on Both Sides

31 Mar

While music artists such as Ray Charles and Billy Joel seem to have American states on their mind , I seem to always have spinach on mine. It is creeping into all of my meals. My hands unwittingly nudge a bag of spinach out of the refrigerator, then excitedly plop the leaves into a  pan of food simmering on the stove top. If I’m not careful, the cheese in my macaroni and cheese will soon be replaced with spinach, I will justify extra carbs by the addition of cooked spinach, and I’ll even be anticipating Popeye-esque muscle bulges.

Though I wouldn’t mention this ingredient’s increasing prevalence in my life on, say, a first date, at least I’m stalling old age. That’s right. I did a little research and discovered some interesting, dare I say exciting, health benefits of spinach. Researchers involved in The Chicago Health and Aging Project reported that eating three servings of spinach (or other green, leafy, vegetables) each day could slow down cognitive decline by 40%. That equates to five years of younger age, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The anti-aging benefits of spinach are due to the  antioxidants it is packed with, which block the effects of free radicals – toxins produced by the body that damage cells and can lead to heart disease, cancer and strokes.

Ok, ok – I’ll stop now, for the sake of any readers I haven’t already lost. Below is a simple recipe for pesto and noodles. It took me about 20 minutes, flat, to make it last Sunday. Enjoy!

PESTO WITH FETTUCCINE NOODLES

INGREDIENTS (Makes 4 servings):

– 10 oz. package frozen spinach

– 3 cloves garlic (or 1 Tbs. minced garlic)

– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

– 1 tsp salt

– 1/4 tsp pepper

– 1/4 cup oil

– 1/4 cup water

– 6 oz. fettuccine noodles

DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare fettuccine noodles according to dire

ctions on box.

2. Combine spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, oil, and water in a blender or foodprocesser. Pulse until well combined.

3. Combine cold pesto with hot noodles. Eat!

CALORIES (per serving): 325

I love, and have always loved, this recipe in some form. The one presented here is a healthier version of my mom’s (I substituted water for some of the oil, and eliminated the walnuts). But, as per always, if you have an adjustment that you think would enhance this recipe, tweak it.

A Parfait Parley

25 Mar

My spinach-eating efforts were successful! I gave blood again on Friday morning with not a single reprimand from the nurses hinting at my borderline anemia (implying that it no longer exists). Phew. I wish I could offer another iron-dense recipe in this post, but the insanity of the last week or so has prevented me from performing any elaborate kitchen escapades. And by elaborate, I mean requiring more than opening, pouring, or mixing together. To be gentle: I had a run-in with my landlady last week, and to avoid eviction (really, I think!) quickly found another room that is being sublet to me for my remaining months in Maryland. As it turns out, a twin-sized mattress DOES fit into a Honda Fit. Although, its large presence in the car makes steering difficult, bringing my driving abilities, generously self-rated at a ‘5’ on a scale of 1 to 10, down a half-point.

Packing, then moving, then unpacking is a treacherous and exhausting process – but at least a good workout. I’ve spent the week catering to my OCD-like need for cleanliness, attempting to re-organize my things and sweep the carpet in my new room with a vacuum that prefers spreading dust and dirt over vacuuming it. So instead of cooking, I microwaved, and made quick little snacks. One of these snacks is featured below. What with the yogurt craze that seems to be going around these days, it may be something you’ve thought of already yourself. But it’s delicious, healthy, and quick to fling together, making it noteworthy in the food tweaks realm.

HOMEMADE MCDONALD’S YOGURT PARFAIT

INGREDIENTS (Makes 1 serving):

– 1 [6 oz.] Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt (choose your flavor; I recommend veering away from the more experimental flavors, such as Caramel Delight and Lemon Chiffon)

– 2 packets of McDonald’s granola packets (if, like me, your mother has an obsession with McDonald’s yogurt parfaits, minus the granola packets, which she gifts to you, and which you now have enough of that it’s worth hiding them to avoid explanation) OTHERWISE: 2 Tbs granola or granola-esque cereal (such as Raisin Bran or Honey Bunches of Oats)

– 2 Tbs. raisins

DIRECTIONS (not because I underestimate your intelligence, but for the sake of blogger consistency):

1. Spoon the yogurt into a bowl.

2. Sprinkle the granola and raisins on top.

3. Mix. Eat. Enjoy.

CALORIES (per serving): 205

The yogurt flavor I most enjoy inserted into this combination is Strawberry Banana. And I prefer granola over cereal, although perhaps I have not found the ideal cereal for mixing into yogurt? Please, tweak it up in response to this query! Or if you have any other wildly creative yogurt parfait combos that you know I’m dying to hear about, please tweak it!

Please, sir. I want some less.

12 Mar

Before attempting to conjure up a batch of my own, I did a thorough background investigation on how to make sweet potato fries, intently reading online recipes and blog posts. However, I quickly realized that the people writing these were trying too hard. Is it, I wondered, necessary to give step-by-step instructions on how to  section off a sweet potato? And how, exactly, do multiple beauty shots of sweet potatoes – far away then close up, skin-on then skin-off, raw then fried – enhance the recipe? I appreciate sweet potato fry makers’ desire to leave no detail out, not even the layout design for arranging fries on the oven pan, but it was getting to the point where the average American’s intelligence seemed to have been sorely underestimated…

I concluded that the best interpretation of a ‘sweet potato fry’ was just that – a thin slice of sweet potato, salted and baked to a state of crispy tenderness. There really is no “recipe” for creating these morsels of deliciousness, it’s so simple to do. Just: buy a sweet potato, peel it, cut it into thin strips, sprinkle with salt, bake for 20 minutes (or until tender) at 400-450 degrees, flipping the strips over at the halfway point. Yeah…that should do it. I challenge you to NOT tweak this recipe, unless you can somehow simplify it further. Perhaps it’s possible to make a sweet potato into a single fry? Or maybe skin-covered fries are actually delectable? De-tweak, I suppose!

 

Say Cheese

4 Mar

This white pizza recipe was birthed in an effort to clean out my freezer. Yes, 24-packs of tortillas will be lovely after I have child number ten, but until then…And why haven’t they marketed individual shredded cheese packets yet? The Yoplait people need to take the Kraft ones under their wing; maybe then the dairy section will finally be in harmony, making grocery shopping an even more delightful experience. Which reminds me of a Brian Regan stand-up clip (especially the last bit, about the dairy versus juice aisles): Brian Regan, Foods and Labels; enjoy!! I admit, my humor is derivative.

WHITE PIZZA on a TORTILLA

INGREDIENTS (Makes 1 serving):

– 1 tortilla

– 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any other cheese you find fitting that seems to have taken up permanent residence in your freezer!)

– White Onion, chopped

– Red Tomato, sliced

– Garlic Salt

– Oregano (or any other Italian-leaning seasoning should do; for example, dried basil)

Salt and Pepper

– 1 Tbs. light Ranch dressing, for dipping

DIRECTIONS:

Top tortilla with cheese, onion, tomato, garlic salt, oregano, and salt and pepper. Bake, at 450 degrees, for 10 min., or until cheese is melted and tortilla is nice and crispy.

CALORIES: 250

I find that vegetables taste better on sauceless pizza; their flavors seem to come out more. Feel free to combat me on this one. Otherwise, bring out those vegetables nearing the end of their shelf-life and throw them onto your own personal pizza! Also:  without the tomato sauce, it’s much easier to enjoy every bite of your pizza ensconced in ranch dressing, yum yum.

Tweak on.