Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Incredible, Edible Egg!

              The Egg season is upon us.  Soon we will color and decorate eggs for Easter.  What do we do with all those beautifully decorated eggs?  When I was little I colored eggs at Easter and my mom would put them on the dining room table in a plastic egg tree.  She would leave them there until they were all eaten – sometimes up to a week.  We would have them in egg salad or eat them just like that – room temperature, probably not at their freshest.  We all know this isn’t the best safe food handling practice, but I am still here to talk about it! 

                Can we just eat them?  In recent years the egg has taken on a negative connotation.  They are full of fat, they are full of cholesterol.  They have too many calories.  People say it’s the yolks that are bad; they eat egg white omelets instead.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  In recent years we have seen the marketing campaign for eggs:  “the incredible, edible egg.”  This is a true statement.  Eggs truly are incredible. 

In the April 2012 issue of Runner’s World magazine, I came across an article about eggs subtitled, “Why eggs are one of the best foods for runners.”  You say you are not a runner? – that’s okay.  According to the article eggs can help us “slim down, protect our hearts, fight inflammation, maintain bone strength, and keep our vision sharp.”  People who ate eggs for breakfast lost more weight.  Research has shown that a protein found in egg yolks blocks platelets from clumping together – lessening heart attack risk.  Yolks are a great source of choline, which helps keep your brain healthy and helps reduce inflammation.  Eggs are a top source of Vitamin D, helping to build bone and the yolks also have an absorbable form of lutein which helps prevent macular degeneration of our eyes. 

Not bad for one small item in your fridge!  This article debunks any thoughts you may have had about eggs.  Put all those thoughts to bed and get up to a full egg omelet for breakfast or egg salad for lunch.  Or how about an egg skillet dinner.  Here’s a recipe right from the magazine I served one night for dinner.  It’s truly a one pan meal.  I doubled it to serve four.  Here’s what Runner’s World magazine says:  Heat a mix of 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used dried), ¾ cups greens (I used fresh, flat leaf spinach) until eggs are almost set.  Add tomato slices to top.  Cover; remove from heat; let stand 2 minutes.  Instant dinner!

So, in the next week, when you are hunting for, coloring, decorating, and displaying eggs, make eating them a part of it too!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Irish Soda Bread from your Italian blogger!

              For all of you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this upcoming weekend, here’s a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.  I know it’s not the healthiest of breads, but anything made at home is better than store bought or processed.   According to the March 7th issue of the Post Standard the first Irish soda bread was made in the 1800s when baking soda was introduced in Ireland.

                I know some of you are probably surprised that this full blood Italian makes Irish Soda bread!  Here’s my story.  About 15 years ago when I was planning my wedding I came across a recipe for Irish Soda Bread in a bridal magazine.  Because my husband is Irish, I thought I had better broaden my horizons with baking and include something Irish and start a tradition for St. Patrick’s Day.  So here’s the funny part!  As I am taking that first loaf of Irish Soda Bread out of the oven (at my parents – I was still living at home), my full blood Irish neighbor rings the doorbell and comes in with a freshly baked load of Irish Soda Bread.  She was shocked that her Italian neighbor had just baked an Irish treat and was caught off guard!  It was quite funny!  I have been making it every year since!  Last year, my 10 year old son made it mostly by himself.  It’s easy and tasty.  So, to all my Irish friends and family:  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Enjoy…

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup butter

1 cup golden raisins

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in margarine until crumbly.  Stir in raisins.  Add buttermilk and stir until mixture is combined and forms a soft dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Gather dough into a ball and gently knead (6 to 8 turns) with the heal of your hand until dough holds together.  Shape into a 7 inch rounded disk and place on an ungreased baking sheet (I used my Pampered Chef deep dish baker).  Cut a 1 inch deep X across the top of the bread.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Let cool on a rack.  Makes 1 loaf.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Whole wheat pizza - really??

           My friend treated some of us to a pizza lunch a while ago.  It was take out, but not just any take out.  It was a healthier version of pizza!  And it was great.  So, when my family asked for homemade pizza over the weekend I tried to recreate the take out version I had.  Usually, when I make homemade pizza I start with a “white” readymade crust, top it with sauce and lots of cheese.  Healthier than take out, but not quite.

            For this re-creation I started with a whole wheat readymade crust I found at my local store.  Now, I have changed over a lot of our grains to whole wheat, but never thought of whole wheat pizza!  So, when I saw the whole wheat crust in the store, I knew it was meant to be.  I rubbed a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into the edges of the crust (I always do this to help the edges brown and add another dimension of flavor).  I use my hands because olive oil is a great moisturizer too.  Then I topped the crust with a half can of pizza sauce.  Now, here is the special stuff.  I shouldn’t be taking all the credit for this, because Joey helped a great deal.  We then sprinkled diced grilled chicken.  I already grilled about two skinless, boneless chicken breasts with salt and pepper – I always make extra when I grill chicken – this is a good way to use up those leftovers.  Then we put diced steamed broccoli over the chicken – another way to use up leftovers.  After that we spread sautéed spinach over that.  The next step was to add a sprinkle of finely grated pecorino romano (you can use any cheese that you would put on pasta) and then we added 8 ounces of grated part-skim mozzarella.  I usually use 12 ounces on my typical homemade pizza, so I was able to cut some of the extra fat and calories there.  We cooked the pizza at 400° for about 20 minutes checking it at 15 minutes.  This made for a great dinner and I will tell you that I was satisfied eating just one slice.  It was tasty and filling and the kids ate it without complaint!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Un-recipe recipe

              Sometimes the best recipes aren’t recipes at all.  We eat chicken a lot at our house and every time we do, Jacob says he doesn’t like it.  I always remind him that he does indeed like chicken.   Every Tuesday is chicken night and I do try to cook it a little different every week.  Grilling is my favorite, but not always different enough!
 So, this week I tried something new.  I pounded boneless, skinless chicken breasts, piled the flattened chicken with fresh flat leaf spinach, and then added finely diced (not peeled) apple.  To each chicken breast I added a small (less than an ounce) slice of part skim mozzarella.  I then rolled up the chicken, securing with 3 toothpicks.  Remember to know how many toothpicks you put in, so you know how many to take out!  I sprinkled McCormack’s smokehouse maple seasoning (you could use any spice blend that you like or just salt and pepper) on the chicken and then sautéed them in about a tablespoon of olive oil until brown.  Then I deglazed (fancy word for pour in some kind of liquid!) the pan with leftover sparkling cider.  I let the chicken simmer covered until it reached 165 degrees (make sure to put the thermometer into the chicken and not the middle stuffed part.  I took the chicken out of the pan and then turned up the heat on the pan to reduce the cider into a pan sauce.  To serve, I cut the rolls into slices to put on the plate like a restaurant would and then drizzled a little of the sauce on each serving.  Take a look at my pic - It was delicious.  Jacob’s reaction was:  “this doesn’t look like chicken!”  Then he proceeded to gobble it up!
I say this isn’t really a recipe, because I thought about what would make a good dinner and what would be different and I put it together.  Think about what you have in your pantry and what would go good together.  I didn’t plan to use the Smokehouse maple seasoning until I looked at my seasoning cupboard.  I forgot I had the leftover cider, but I am glad I did.
Try this un-recipe or make up your own.  Happy eating!