Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ultimate Comfort Food

Today was one of those days I just never got a chance to sit down to enjoy any sort of satisfying meal. So tonight after the kids were in bed, I still felt really hungry. Another Pumpkin Cupcake would be tasty, but not very filling. And there’s no way I was going to cook or clean up another dish. Solution: Eggs and avocados. While this recipe will probably not win the Amazing Avocado Recipe contest which ends tomorrow, it will become your new ultimate comfort food.  (If you have a favorite avocado recipe, submit it and you could win a $100 grocery card!)

The rush began early in a mad dash to get the house straightened/decorated for our morning Halloween party. My cereal was eaten while standing and frosting cupcakes.                                                   

The Halloween party was a success. Then again, when does dressing up as a duck and eating Pumpkin Cupcakes before noon (and drinking mulled wine if you’re a mom) not guarantee success?

The afternoon was filled with feeding kids lunch, cleaning costumes and feeding the cereal to the baby (a long ordeal since he’s still learning.) Bites of lunch were taken while cleaning up and searching for the piles of mail, etcetera, I’d stashed in drawers to clear clutter. I prepared dinner and ate a few spoonfuls of it while again trying to aim the baby’s spoon into his mouth.

But a few minutes ago, I finished a very satisfying bowl of Eggs & Avocados. Yum! This is the fastest, easiest and tastiest way you’ll ever cook eggs. They come out smooth and custardy because they’re cooked on low microwave power; and the mixing dish is also the baking dish that’s popped into the dishwasher. The creamy avocados on top make the egg seem even richer. (But because I’m I dietitian, I know the entire dish is only about 140 calories!)

Eggs & Avocados for One

1 egg
Splash of milk or water or cream
¼ avocado, diced

In a glass custard cup, mix together egg and milk until thoroughly combined. Top loosely with a paper towel and cook on 50% or 60% power in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute on 50% or 60% until eggs are set. Top with avocado and a dash of kosher/sea salt and ground pepper.

Eggs&Avocados for One

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Perfect Persimmons

Wild persimmons growing among yellow leaves

Bright orange Persimmons grow wild in southern Illinois! Who knew? I knew autumn was persimmon season and I usually buy one a year, taking a gamble that the fruit won’t be too bitterly tannic to enjoy. The trick is to let the fruit ripen until so mushy it feels rotten.  I’m impatient. So I usually cut into it too early. The result: It's so bitter it makes your teeth hurt!

The fruit is about 1 1/2" in diameter

On our camping trip over the weekend to the Shawnee National Forest, we discovered tall persimmon trees dotted through parts of the forest. But they were hard to spot as the orange fruit blended in with the gorgeous orange foliage of other trees. When we did find a persimmon tree, the best part was that Mother Nature had already done the ripening for us! The most delicious persimmons were mushy and so ripe that they turned a blue-ish hue, that’s right, blue!

Biting into the soft fruit was heaven; they were rich and super sweet with a heady honey aroma and flavor. The girls and I ate a lot of them; many right off the ground. This year we enjoyed more than our one-a-year persimmon – foraged not from the supermarket, but from the surprisingly rich bounty of Land of Lincoln.

Hiking in Shawnee Nat. Forest

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thanks Martha

I’ve been cherishing these days of 80-degree weather; I love summer and it’s given me a chance to make it to the bottom of my summer To-Make-Recipes pile. (Although I've been itching to try all the autumn pumpkin recipes I've been stumbling upon, like Pumpkin Creme Pies.) “What’s at the bottom of the pile?” you may ask. Martha Stewart. Often, I’m less than lucky with Martha Stewart recipes; in their attempts for brevity, I find important details are left out. But tonight, Martha's FOOD magazine came through for me. And how! It was especially glorious that this recipe used the last of the bounty of tomatoes still ripening on my vines.
The squishy crust that bakes toasty

At first, I was intrigued by the crust of this Tomato-Ricotta Tart. It’s just fresh breadcrumbs mixed with olive oil and squished into a tart pan. I adapted it to use whole grain soft sandwich bread, and that worked very well because it was very squish-able. This simple crust may work for other quiche-like dishes.

The basil plant is all dried out, so I used my fresh mint and it brightened the dish. And I grated a deliciously aged Vella Dry Jack cheese instead of Parmesan. 

Here’s my version of a super supper dish that goes together quickly. The girls loved hearing we were having tart for dinner and they liked eating it too.

Tomato-Ricotta Tart

2 cups course fresh whole wheat bread crumbs

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup whole-milk ricotta

½ cup Vella Dry Jack cheese (or Parmesan), finely grated

2 eggs

3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

1 ½ pounds thinly sliced beefsteak tomatoes (about 2-3)

Preheat oven to 400°. In 9-inch springform pan, toss breadcrumbs and oil; press evenly into bottom.

Whisk together ricotta, grated cheese, eggs, mint and season with salt and pepper. Spread over top of crust; arrange tomatoes on top.

Bake until tomatoes are almost dry, about 35 minutes. (The edges will get dark and crispy.) Cool. Unmold and serve warm or at room temp.

Friday, October 8, 2010

If they shuck them, they will eat them

Aren’t these beautiful beans?! Dark purple. Deep green. Mottled green and purple. They’re fresh lima beans and purple pole beans from the farmers market. The girls helped me shuck them; and they really were a big help. Even the two-year-old was able to sweep her fingers down the pod to slide out the beans. The tricks were to give them each their own container; also, I cracked open the pods for my younger daughter. Her big sister snapped and shucked like a champ. 

We tossed them into this infinitely versatile recipe from the infinitely versitile Meal Makeover Moms cookbook.  (Their new cookbook is due out any day and I'll be ordering a case of books for my friends!) The original recipe calls for broccoli and corn.  But I always swap in the veggies I have.  My cupboards were also bare of hoisan sauce; I substituted chili sauce, lime juice and fish sauce. So here’s my version of a kid-friendly dish with real Asian flavor:

Mixed-Up Tofu (adapted from The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers)
6 oz angel hair pasta
One 14-oz pkg extra-firm tofu, drained, and cubed on a paper towel covered cutting board (or a couple hot dogs, sliced, if your fresh tofu is fermented when opened!)
2 tablespoons lite soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup shucked purple pole beans
1/2 cup shucked fresh lima beans
1 puple pepper, sliced in thin strips
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh, peeled ginger, chopped 
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
2.  Whisk together the soy sauce, chili sauce, juice, fish sauce and corn starch.  Set aside.
3.  Heat oil in large non-stick skillet high heat.  Add tofu (or hot dogs,) vegetables, garlic, ginger and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add 2/3 cup water, cover and steam until veggies are tender.  Stir occasionally.
4.  Give the soy sauce mixture a stir and add to skillet, cook until liquid thickens about 2 minutes.
5.  Serve in individual bowls over pasta, top with nuts.