Saturday, March 31, 2012

Zucchini Pasta

This recipe is my variation of one I had gotten from my friend Kristi, one of many delicious recipes I might add!  It was last summer when everyones zucchini plants were going insane in their gardens, what perfect timing!
I find myself saying a recipe is a huge success when everyone is eating what I cook rather than making themselves a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of cereal.  Yes.  You heard me right.  If the wee ones don't like what is served, they make their own dinner.  Since they are not big enough to use the stove,  those are the only options for them to do independently.  It happens, but not often.  This recipe is a rather large success for sure and they love the leftovers for school lunches!

Here's what you need:

  • 2 1/2 pounds of zucchini and yellow squash (or all of one)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (I always have a vidalia or a sweet onion)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 2 tsp 21 Season Salute (Trader Joes is the place to get this)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it really depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 12-15 leaves Basil, chopped
  • Parsley, 3 Tblsp chopped
  • Lemon, zest and juice
  • 8 oz long pasta (I use 4 oz of whole wheat pasta and 4 oz of white)
While you are getting the rest of the ingredients together throw a large pot of water on the stove to start boiling.  It's a time saver for sure.
Now get to work on that zucchini/squash, or both.  What you are looking for here is to peel the squash until you start hitting the seed core.  No need for those seeds in this recipe.  I make a lengthwise peel, then rotate it a bit...repeat.  You will wind up with a big old pile of zucchini/squash "pasta" in no time.  Ignore the pink in the background...I think it's a bag of romaine hearts.  Whatever.  

Chop your garlic and slice your onions thinly.  I don't think I should even have to consider them to be actual ingredients...they should be treated like olive oil, salt and pepper as far as I'm concerned, just a given.  You know you need them in the recipe to make everything taste good so just automatically add them to everything...unless you're baking.  That would just be nasty.

Once the water starts to boil add in your pasta.  While it's cooking you can get the rest of the dish cooked.  It's that quick.  Just make sure you have everything else ready before you drop those noodles in the water.

So the best pan I find to use to cook all the vegetables up in is my wok.  A few tablespoons of olive oil in there should work just fine.  Once that's nice and hot add in the onions for a few minutes before adding in the garlic.  Prepare about a minute thirty seconds the house is going to smell amazing.  

Add in the 21 Season Salute, red pepper flakes, and sun dried tomatoes to the mix.  If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you to get this seasoning, first, I would like to extend my condolences, second, try some Italian Seasoning you can get anywhere, it won't be as good but it will do.  Seriously, I may need a moment of silence for anyone who doesn't have a TJ close by.  Sigh.
Grate your cheese while this magic is going on.  There isn't much better in my opinion than freshly grated Parmesan.  

OK.  Now add in the zucchini/squash "pasta".  

This will not take long since they are so thinly sliced. 
Mix it all up in the wok so that nothing burns on the bottom.  In about three minutes you will be close to eating.  At this point I am telling the wee ones to get the table set for dinner.  You want it ready so that when this dish is done you can just sit and stuff your face.  
Before you drain your pasta, keep a cup of pasta water aside to help with the sauce.  I put the pasta back in it's pot and then add in the wok goodies, a few more tablespoons of olive oil, the basil and parsley.   Don't forget to zest your lemon and then juice the whole thing in.  Zesting a lemon that has already been juiced isn't easy, trust me.  The husband insists that he hates zest but I put it in a ton of dishes (of course I don't tell him this!) and he loves it.  Men.  
See where you are at and add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid, if you think you need a bit it.  I never need the whole cup.
Put this pot of heaven in a large serving bowl and then make it rain with parmesan, about 3/4 cup.  The rest I reserve for the table.
I usually serve this with a simple salad of romaine (Remember?  It was on the counter in the background?) with basil and parsley, some tomatoes and cucumbers or whatever veg is in the fridge and a vinaigrette.  French or Italian bread...either works just fine for me.

Bon's time to eat!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chinese "Vegetable Medley"...or Stir Fry

So let me explain the name of this recipe.
About a year ago my middle wee one absolutely refused to eat the stir fry I had made.  She wouldn't touch it and I have no idea why.  I made it again a few weeks later and she ended up making herself a peanut butter sandwich.  Whatever.
I got the brilliant idea to make the stir fry again and rename it a Vegetable Medley, because after all, messing with my children is one of the perks of motherhood.  I filled my husband in on the ruse and watched as she ate every damn morsel on her plate.  Not even a grain of rice was left.  This was made in our house probably every other week and I always had to remember to call it by it's new name...that was getting old.  After about 3-4 meals of the Medley under our belt and there we were sitting at the table happily eating it again and I ask "So?  How's dinner?".  Everyone replies with "Delicious!  So Good!  Mom you rock!".  So I lean over and put my arm around the middle one and say "You know, it's really a stir fry.".  The look of horror on her face that I pulled one over on her (again) was priceless.

Here's what you need:
  • 1 package Tofu (cubed)
  • 2 cups Brussels Sprouts (sliced length wise in thirds, or fourths, depending on the size)
  • 2 Peppers (green and red were what I had)
  • 1 1/2 cup Cremini Mushrooms
  • 1 bag Baby Spinach (6 oz)
  • 3 Tblsp. Grated Ginger
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • 3-4 Green Onions
  • Juice of 1 Lime (2-3 Tblsp.)
  • 1 Tblsp. Soy
  • 1/4-1/2 Teasp. Red Chili Flakes
  • 1/3 cup Cashews or Peanuts
  • Wok or large saute pan
  • Brown Jasmine rice
  • Sesame seeds
  • Butter
For the Marinade:
  • 3 Tblsp Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tblsp. Soy (I use reduced Sodium)
  • 1 Teasp. Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp. Maple Syrup (You don't want the fake stuff here)
  • 1 Tblsp. Sesame Oil
I use brown jasmine rice whenever a recipe calls for rice.  It's lovely, I promise.  It takes 35-40 minutes to make so I start it first.  In the pan I am using for the rice I melt 3 tablespoons of butter and toss in 2 1/2 tablespoons of sesame seeds.

When the sesame seeds are golden I remove it all from the pan and then add the water and rice...I use a 4 to 2 ratio...4 cups water to 2 cups rice.  When it is finished add the butter and seeds for an amazing rice dish.  You can add parsley and Thai basil for a stand alone rice side if you choose.  Yum!
While the rice is cooking please use this time wisely and chop the hell out of the rest.

Tofu comes in a this bad boy.

Cube it like this.

In a medium sized bowl combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and add the tofu.  

I usually let it marinate for about 20 minutes but you can let it sit for up to an hour.  
While that's soaking up all the loveliness that is the marinade get yourself a sharp knife and get to the time you're done getting everything together you are ready to go!  

This is going to be quick too...which is why we eat it so often!  
Heat up the old wok and add a teaspoon of Canola oil.  Sometimes all I have is Olive Oil, don't be so picky here.
I suppose it doesn't matter what order you do things at this point but I start with the Brussels and get them nice and caramelized. 
Have a clean bowl large enough to hold everything once it's done since you will be working in stages for a few minutes.   
Add the peppers and cook them gently...don't overcook them.  Leave them with some crunch.

When they are done just plop them in with the Sprouts.

Then on to the mushrooms...
Add these lovelies to the Brussels and peppers.

Use a slotted spoon to get the tofu from the bowl to the wok but save the marinade!  I like a nice golden color to my tofu personally, which takes about 10 minutes.  

At this point add in the garlic, ginger and half the green onions, let it cook for a minute or so.  

Once it's done to your liking add in the marinade and the vegetables.  Then add the spinach.  Heavenly.

Cook the spinach until wilted, 1-2 minutes TOPS!  Then plate it up with the rice and remainder of the green onions and the nuts.

The middle one had a good laugh about all the name craziness (as did we all!) and forgave me but we still call it a Medley...and laugh all over again.  
Bon's time to eat!