Monday, January 31, 2011

Meatless Mondays--Manchego & Mushroom Quesadillas

Just last week I posted about my third blogiversary and how I want to use my fourth year to improve my photography and do a blog redesign.  Then, just the other night, this idea popped into my head and it wouldn't leave.  So here it is--I want to utilize my Monday posts to highlight the sweeping movement known as "Meatless Mondays".

I'm not here to preach about why you should be a vegetarian because, well, I'm not.  I'm also not going to preach to about environmentalism and how Meatless Mondays aim to help reduce the strain placed on the Earth by farming animals for meat production.  If you'd like to do some reading about it and decide for yourself, here is the official Meatless Monday webpage.  That's all I'll say about it.

What I will do is say that I simply prefer meatless meals every now and then.  I don't always feel the need for meat-centered meals.  Some days, I can tell my body is needing meat protein.  Other days, I don't even crave it.  Plus, vegetarian meals are most often considerably cheaper.  So, here I am, dedicating my Monday posts.  I hope you'll enjoy them.

mushroom manchego quesadillas

Manchego and Mushroom Quesadillas
adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Weeknight: Fresh & Fast

2 medium Serrano chiles, seeded, minced, and divided
1 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, minced
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
6 small corn tortillas
5 oz. Manchego cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 c.)

1.   In a small bowl, mix half the mined chile, tomatoes, cilantro, and green onion.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2.  Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add one TBSP oil.  When the oil is warm, add the shallots and stir until fragrant, about one minute. 

3.  Add the mushrooms and remaining chile, then season with salt and pepper.  Saute until the juices evaporate, about five minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.  Put the mixture in a small bowl and set aside.

4.  Wipe out the skillet and return to the stove.  Turn heat down to medium-low.

5.  Lay out the tortillas.  Sprinkle approx. 1/4 c. cheese over three tortillas, then top with one-third of the mushroom mixture.  Layer another 1/4 c. cheese over the mushrooms and place another tortilla on top.

6.  Pour a bit of the remaining oil in the skillet and cook each quesadilla until golden and crisp, about three minutes per side.  Transfer to warmed plates.  (If cooking a larger batch, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place the finished quesadillas onto a baking sheet or pizza stone.)

7.  Just before serving, cut quesadillas into thirds.  Serve with the salsa.
two years ago: lemon-lavendar cake
three years ago: Tuscan chicken and roasted vegetables

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

It's obvious I love food.  I mean, isn't that why all of us are here giving this little ol' blog a bit of our time?  Food not only nourishes us, but it can calm us, excite us, and bring us together.  But food's not the only thing that can do that.

Branny, of Branny Boils Over, knows that.  She loves and knows her food, but she also loves animals with every fiber of her being.  Whenever she talks about her beloved pups, you can just tell she'd do anything for them.  In fact, she'd do anything to help any animal in need.  That's why she's hosting her Charity Souper Bowl.  You see, just by sending her the info on this post and having her link it up to her blog, Branny will donate $1.00 to the ASPCA.  

She's doing it in honor of all of her beloved animals and I'm participating to my beloved Barrett, our family's beautiful golden retriever who passed away of leukemia when she was only four years old.  I was never an animal lover before Barrett.  But the first time she laid her head on my freezing cold feet and looked up at me with her sweet eyes, I could just tell she was saying, "I love you.  I'll always be here to keep your feet warm."  I wish she was still here.  All I have of her now is a bone-shaped charm engraved with her name.

So, in honor of Barrett, and all the other animals that need our help, I give you this Brazilian shrimp soup.  It's high on flavor and spice.  It will definitely keep you warm, kind of like Barrett kept me warm all those times.

brazilian shrimp soup

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
seen on Annie's Eats, originally from Savory, Spicy, Sweet

2 TBSP olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4c. long-grain rice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 (14.5 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
5 c. water
1 c. canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and cut in half horizontally
1/4 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about seven minutes.  

2.  Add rice, red pepper flakes, salt, crushed tomatoes, and water to the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for ten minutes or until the rice is almost tender.  

3.  Stir in the coconut milk.  Return the mixture to a simmer, then stir in the shrimp.  Simmer until shrimp is just cooked through, three to five minutes.  

4.  Stir in the pepper, lemon juice and cilantro.  Serve immediately.  Serves four to six.

one year ago: white chicken chili
two years ago: my first attempt at whole-wheat pita

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Baked Penne with Sausage, Ricotta, and Olives

Ah, comfort food.  Sometimes you just have to have it.  In the summer, comfort food may be a bowl of ice cream that's just a little too big.  In the fall, warm pumpkin bread or baked apple anything will do the trick.  Come wintertime, it's all about noodles and potatoes and baked pasta.  Apparently carbs equal comfort during the winter months.

I made this dish a little healthier by using whole-wheat penne, turkey sausage, and part-skim ricotta.  You see, I didn't want my need for comfort to turn to guilt and remorse as soon as dinner was over.  I can never tell much of a difference with these changes, anyway.  Plus, evenings that call for a comforting dinner usually call for a little dessert, as well...

baked penne with sausage and olives

Baked Penne with Sausage, Ricotta, and Olives

1 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 c. coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
2 TBSP salt, plus more, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb.whole-wheat penne
15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

1.  Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a deep 2 1/2-quart baking dish, if necessary. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

2.  In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned. Drain any excess fat from the pan. 

3.  Stir in marinara sauce and olives, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside. 

4.  Meanwhile, add 2 TBSP salt and the pasta to the boiling water.  Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the pasta is not quite al dente, two minutes less than the package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. 

5.  Return the pasta to the cooking pot. Stir in the tomato sauce and ricotta. Spread the pasta and sauce in the prepared dish and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until the surface is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let cool for five minutes and serve. Serves six. 

one year ago: corny corn muffins
three years ago: The most delicious lemon bundt cake you'll ever eat.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Third Blogiversary--Crumb Cake Muffins

 Wow.  I've been blogging for three years.  I can't believe it. 

When I started "Apple a Day" three short (long?) years ago, it was something to do to fill my time.  I liked to cook and I liked to write, so it seemed a natural extension to write about my cooking.  I started with this post featuring Paula Den's mac and cheese.  But, readers, this little blog has turned into so much more.  It's now a place where I share with friends and family, where I meet new friends, and where I can share what's happening in my life.  It really is my little corner of the blogosphere--a place where food and therapy meet.  And I need to thank all of you for hanging in there with me and stopping by every now and then to see what I'm cooking and what's happening in my life.

I have some lofty aspirations for "Apple a Day" during its fourth year.  Once the wedding mayhem is over and I'm on my summer break, I'm planning to do a re-design and seriously work on my photography skills.  I've got a fantastic camera and I've never really put in the time to truly learn how to work it.  It's time to change that.

For now, my faithful readers, I offer you these crumb cake muffins.  I was craving a sweet breakfast, but I didn't want one breakfast to undo an entire week's worth of conscientious eating.  By making a few simple adjustments, I ended up with a muffin just sweet enough to satisfy my craving.  What a perfect little blogiversary breakfast!

Crumb Cake Muffins
adapted from

For the topping:
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. packed light-brown sugar
2 TBSP finely chopped candied ginger
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP whole-wheat flour
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

For the muffins:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 TBSP sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. nonfat buttermilk
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. canola oil
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
baking or cooking spray

1.  In a medium bowl, make the topping by combining oats, brown sugar, ginger, flours, and melted butter.  Stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside. 

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a twelve-cup muffin tin with cooking or baking spray and set aside. 

3.  To make the muffins, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine. 

4.  Pour buttermilk, applesauce, and oil in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine. Stir into flour mixture until well combined. 

5.  Fold egg whites into the batter. 

6.  Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full.  (I used a standard-sized scoop.)  Sprinkle with a generous tablespoon of reserved topping,  pressing gently to adhere topping to cake.  

7.  Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan one a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.

three years ago (hooray!): The Lady's cheesy mac

Friday, January 21, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Grapefruit Salad

Swimsuit shopping.  Blech.  One of the easiest ways to ruin a perfectly lovely shopping trip.  

To get ready for the swimsuit shopping and this summer, I've been eating more salads.  Lots and lots of salads.  This, in combination with working out, had me losing weight and feeling fantastic as I headed out to Vegas for a weekend with my mom.  She'd been planning for months and I was set to have a blast.  The first night was wonderful.  Then...disaster.  I got the stomach flu.  Seriously.  Who gets the stomach flu in Vegas?  Hangovers?  Absolutely.  But stomach flu?  What a downer.  Since I was feeling so puny, we did some shopping instead of going to the spa, drinking, and chowing down.

Stomach flu in Vegas?  Bad idea.  Swimsuit shopping the day after the stomach flu?  FAN-TAS-TIC idea.  I found two cute suits in one trip and, boy oh boy, did my stomach look flat!

I don't plan to get the stomach flu again any time soon, but I do plan to keep up the salad regimen.  That should be quite easy when I've got tasty ones like this on my plate.  What a bright and unique combination of healthy and filling ingredients!

caramelized onion grapefruit salad

Caramelized Onion and Grapefruit Salad
from Giada De Laurentiis, found on

For the onions:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
2 pink grapefruits
1 head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced or torn into 1-inch pieces
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
3 scallions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1.  To make the onions, heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool, about ten minutes.

2.  Make the dressing by whisking together the red wine vinegar, lemon juice and honey.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until blended. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

3.  To prepare the salad, peel and trim the ends from each grapefruit. Using a paring knife, cut along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and add them to a large salad bowl.   Squeeze the juice into the bowl.

4.  Add the lettuce, fennel, cucumber, scallions, and thyme.

5.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until all the ingredients are coated.  Arrange the caramelized onions on top and serve.

one year ago: Thai-style halibut with red curry-coconut broth
two years ago: My Inauguration Day submission to "Eat to the Beat", a patriotic flag cake

Friday, January 14, 2011

Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Sweet Potatoes

Sunday supper.  It seems a lost tradition for most families.  Don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty as the next cook.  Sunday dinners have become just the same as most other nights.  Instead of making a dinner steeped in deep all-day flavors, I let the errands and the chores take over and a meal that could've been thoughtful and homey becomes quick and ordinary.

Last Sunday, I changed that.  It was a chilly evening, just waiting for the kind of meal that fills the house with delicious aromas.  It didn't take more than 15 minutes for the garlic and rosemary to waft through the entire downstairs.  Just minutes later, the sweet and comforting smell of roast chicken was right there.  By the time the chicken was on the table, I couldn't wait to dig in.  One bite and I remembered why Sunday suppers are so important and so special.  

This was better than any roast chicken I've ever made.  The reason is simple.  Slipping the butter mixture under the skin was absolutely key to getting all that rosemary and garlic flavor into the chicken.  I will never again roast a chicken without doing this.  It made such a difference.

I hope you'll take some time this Sunday to make a real supper.  I know you won't regret it.

roast chicken with rosemary

Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Roasting
1 chicken, about four lbs.
3 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced and divided
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 orange, quartered
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, left in tact
2 sweet potatoes, about 1 1/2 lbs. total, peeled and cut into 3/4-in. chunks
1 red onion, cut into sixths
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

1.  About 30 minutes before roasting, remove the chicken from the refrigerator.  Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken and discard.  Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.  Place a roasting rack in a roasting pan, oiling if necessary.

2.  With the chicken breast side up, beginning with the neck cavity, slip fingers under the skin to separate from the meat on both sides.  Take care not to tear the skin.  Then, starting at the body cavity, separate skin over thighs and drumsticks.

3.  In a small dish, mash together 2 TBSP butter, 2 tsp. rosemary and 2/3 of the minced garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Push 2 TBSP of the butter mixture under the chicken skin, distributing evenly.  Coat the exterior of the chicken with the remaining TBSP.  

5.  Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper, then stuff with orange quarters and rosemary sprigs.  Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wings tips under the back.  Place the chicken, breast side up on the roasting rack and place in the oven for 15 minutes.    

6.  Meanwhile, toss sweet potato chunks and onion pieces in the olive oil and remaining chopped rosemary and garlic.  Salt and pepper, to taste.

7.  After 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and place the vegetables around the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the oven and roast 45-55 minutes more, until sweet potatoes are fork tender and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees Farenheit.

8.  When chicken is done, transfer the vegetables to a serving dish.  Insert a pair of tongs into the chicken cavity and tip up to allow juices to run out.  Tent with foil and allow to rest 15 minutes.  Remove the string.  Serve the chicken surrounded by roast vegetables or carve and serve chicken pieces on a platter with vegetables in a separate bowl.

one year ago: Tuscan vegetable soup
two years ago: 1-2-3-4 lemon cupcakes

Monday, January 10, 2011

Broccoli and Leek Soup

I found this recipe while browsing the Williams-Sonoma website and it seemed like the perfect way to be healthy and indulgent at the same time.  After a few bites, I decided a mug of this would be a great accompaniment to a small turkey or ham panini.

broccoli leek soup

Broccoli and Leek Soup

2 TBSP. olive oil 
2 leeks, including tender green portions, rinsed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb. broccoli, trimmed, florets and stalks cut into one-inch pieces 
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock 
2 c. water 
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
3/4 c. light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, divided
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh chives 
    1.  In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the leeks and garlic and sauté until softened, three to five minutes. 

    2.  Add the broccoli and sauté, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about two minutes more.

    3.  Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    4.  Stir in 1/2 c. sour cream or yogurt then use a blender or food processor to puree the soup in batches until smooth.  Return the to the pot. Alternately, process with an immersion blender until smooth. 

    5.  Reheat the soup gently over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the sour cream or remaining yogurt and chives.  Serve immediately.
    Serves 4.

    one year ago: apple cranberry muffins

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    30 Things While I'm 30--Tabbouleh

    Growing up, I never much cared for tabbouleh.  I really only had it a couple of times and I distinctly remember the sharp flavors and parsley (which I though was only used as a garnish) getting caught in my teeth.  Of course, it's entirely possible the tabbouleh I was eating wasn't the greatest.  Phoenix wasn't exactly known as a mecca of middle eastern cuisine back in the 80s and 90s.

    Many of you would list it as a favorite, though, so I put it on my 30 Things to Make While I'm 30.  I was a little nervous because I wasn't even sure what it was supposed to taste like.  

    Luckily, this recipe hit the nail right on the head.  It's full of flavor and packed with healthy and economical ingredients.  I can say I now like tabbouleh.  



    3/4 c. medium-fine bulgur 
    1 c. water
    3/4 c. fresh lemon juice, divided
    scant 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
    5 garlic cloves, minced
    8 green onions, including tender green portions, diced
    1 c. chopped fresh curly parsley
    1/3 c. chopped fresh mint
    4 large, ripe tomatoes, diced
    1 English cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
    2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
    1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
    Romaine lettuce leaves, for serving

    1.  Place bulgur in the bottom of a large heat-proof bowl.  Bring water and 1/2 c. lemon juice to a boil.  Pour over bulgur.  Cover tightly and allow to sit 30 minutes.  Uncover and drain any excess liquid, pressing bulgur lightly, if necessary.

    2.  Toss bulgur with olive oil and garlic.

    3.  On top of the bulgur, layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed.  Sprinkle 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper on top.  Cover tightly.  The mixture may sit out for up to six hours before serving.  If preparing in advance, place bowl in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

    4.  To serve, toss all ingredients with remaining lemon juice and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.  Scoop with lettuce or pita bread, if desired.  Serves 4-6.

    one year ago: Canyon Ranch's mushroom tart

    two years ago: oil-cured olives baked with white wine and garlic

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Chicken and Soba Noodle Soup

    As promised, readers, here come the healthy recipes.  This one make a great weeknight meal since it took virtually no time to prepare and cook.  I think I had this light, yet filling bowl of soup on the table in 20 minutes flat.  I enjoyed it very much, especially as a break from all the rich and heavy foods the holiday season can bring.

    Chicken and Soba Noodle Soup

    3/4 lb. dried soba (buckwheat) noodles
    6 c. low-sodium chicken broth
    2 c. water
    1⁄4 c. yellow or white miso
    1 1/2 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
    2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
    2 boneless, skinless whole chicken breast, cut into thin strips
    2 c. packed baby spinach leaves (I used one whole bag)
    3 green onions, white and light green portions, thinly sliced 
    freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
    1.  Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about four minutes. Drain and set aside.

    2.  Reduce heat to medium high and whisk together the stock, water, miso, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the miso is completely dissolved, about three minutes.

    3.  Add the chicken strips and cook until just opaque throughout, about two minutes. 

    4.  Add the spinach and cook until slightly softened but still bright green, about one minute. Add the green onions and cook for one minute more. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    5.  Using tongs, divide the noodles evenly among warmed bowls.  Ladle the soup on top of the noodles. Serve immediately. Serves four as a main course.

    two years ago: chicken piccata