Tag Archives: cheese

Sesame Crusted Fish Tacos with Avocado Salad and Slaw

So, here we have meal #2 from the Cuizoo Arsenal.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting one done per day, but I’ll try to keep these coming as frequently as possible.  I know I’ll be cooking tonight, but once the weekend hits, I don’t make any promises as cooking cuts into my drinking time.  I kid.  (I should mention though that one small bottle of white wine has lasted me *all* week, which is some sort of healthy living record for me.  And no, I haven’t switched to bourbon in an attempt to take it easy on wine.)

Today we are going to talk about tacos.  They are generally a huge kid favorite and when it comes to flexibility, anything in a wrap is about as good as it gets.  Let’s first discuss the shell.  I, for one, don’t really like grocery store taco shells because they just break and make a mess.  When I came across this lightly fried/soft shell method for tacos a while back, I began to enjoy them again.  Basically, you soften a corn tortilla in a bit of oil in a saute pan, fill it with toppings and cheese, fold it over, and let it crisp a bit before flipping it and then crisping the other side.  What you end up with is a crispy (but not crunchy) taco shell with warm fillings and melted cheese.  It’s sort of a cross between a quesadilla and a taco.  This all being said, if you like regular taco shells or if you want to do soft tacos with flour tortillas, it’s totally up to you. One thing to add here is that you should always have some corn or flour tortillas in your freezer (and regular taco shells or tostado shells — which I do love — in your pantry).  It is a no-brainer of a meal.

Second, you need some protein.  Obviously, the choices are pretty obvious here.  A can or two of white or black beans heated up with some garlic and spices and mashed is fantastic in a taco (and about as fast as you can get for a dinner).  Grilled chicken or ground beef are the old stand-bys.  Sauteed veggies with cheese is great too.  You can also do a combination of several proteins and let everyone pick their favorites.  But it seems that the whole world is gaga over fish tacos right now (and I can’t say I blame them), so that’s what we did last night.  On the subject of the fish, I will add that the sesame crusted method I used makes a great and easy stand alone entree with a simple salad or vegetables. You can also add some bread crumbs to the sesame seeds if you like.

Third, you need some condiments.  The easy ones are salsa and sour cream.  Not much more difficult is making some basic guacamole.  When I do that, I simply mash one or two ripe avocados with a chopped garlic clove, salt and pepper, some cumin, and lime juice.  With last night’s meal, I had some tomatoes and cucumbers left over from the previous night, so I just chopped those up with the avocado for more of an avocado salad.  As the veggie or an additional condiment, I like to serve some form of cole slaw or salad greens with tacos because they are just as good inside the taco as on the outside. Find a good hot sauce for the grown-ups at the table and you are basically done.

Now, for variations that we love:  Spicy Mashed Black Beans with a Creamy Red Cabbage Slaw and Queso Fresco or Feta cheese — that is one of my favorites; Grilled BBQ Chicken (or leftover chicken) with Creamy Slaw and Cheddar Cheese; Steak with Caramelized Onions and a bit of Blue Cheese and Balsamic Greens; Fajita style with Grilled Chicken and Sauteed Red Peppers and Onions; or for a VERY quick dinner, just cheese and whatever else you may have leftover or in the freezer (guaranteed to be faster than any fast food).

As for the $15 limit, I might be slightly over because the fish itself was about $10.  But clearly you can make this meal just as easily with chicken or beans and cut that cost dramatically.  So, I’ll let it slide.

Sesame Crusted Fish Tacos with Avocado Salad and Slaw

Makes 8-10 tacos (enough for 4-6 people)

1 pound of mild white fish (I used cod)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (you can buy them pretoasted in Asian markets)
1 T butter
Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder
10 – 6 inch corn tortillas
4-6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Sour Cream
Salsa
Hot Sauce

Avocado Salad
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cucumber
10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes
Onion
Fresh cilantro from one bunch
1 garlic clove
1/2 of a lime
1/4 t cumin
Fresh cilantro
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Slaw
A small Napa or Chinese Cabbage (or any type of cabbage will work)
Fresh cilantro from one bunch
Olive Oil
1/2 of a lime
A bit of orange juice

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Melt 1 T butter and mix with sesame seeds.  Add to that 1/4 t salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to season (Chipotle Powder if you like it spicier).  Place fish on a parchment line baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, cut it into 3/4 inch slices, but leave whole filet in one piece (See pic above). Pat sesame seed mixture all over top.  Bake for 12-13 minutes until just opaque.

2.  While the fish is baking, mix avocado salad.  Halve, peel, and remove pit from avocado.  Chop it into a medium-sized dice and place in bowl.  Halve the cucumber lengthwise, remove seeds with a spoon, and chop into a medium-sized dice.  Quarter the cherry or grape tomatoes. Finely chop a small piece of onion to make about 2 T.  Chop about 1 T of cilantro.  Finely chop the clove of garlic.  Mix all of the above in the bowl.   Add the juice of 1/2 of a lime and a drizzle of olive oil.  Season with 1/4 t of salt, pepper, 1/4 t of cumin, and a bit of Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder.   Set aside.

3.  Prepare the slaw.  Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core.  Thinly slice 1/2 of the cabbage and place in a bowl (reserve other half for a different use).  Chop about 1/4 cup of cilantro and add to cabbage.  Drizzle with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of 1/2 lime, and a bit of orange juice to taste.  Season with 1/2 t of salt and pepper.  Play with the dressing if needed, adding more citrus, salt, or olive oil if necessary. Set aside.

4.  To prepare the tacos:  heat a bit of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Take one corn tortilla and place it flat into the pan, spinning it a bit to coat it with olive oil.  After about 10-20 seconds, it should be flexible (if it’s not, your shells may crack).  Add one or two slices of the baked fish and about 1 T of shredded cheese.  Gently fold the taco in half and hold with a spatula for a few seconds to make sure it stays folded.  Repeat with another taco (I usually do two at a time).  When the tacos are lightly golden on one side, flip and cook on the other side.  Remove to an oven safe platter and place in oven to stay warm.  Repeat with remaining tacos.

5.  To serve, put a bit of the avocado salad inside the taco and serve with slaw, sour cream, salsa, and hot sauce.  The slaw is also good inside the taco as a condiment.

Garlicky Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day lamenting the fact that I have had nothing to post because my summer cooking has been so simple — and really not recipe worthy.  How can I legitimately write a recipe for tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil?  Or chicken on the grill? Or lightly cooked corn with butter and salt? Or cucumbers with a bit of sour cream and mint?

It’s just all so … basic.  When you start with seasonal produce grown down the road and picked the same day, you just really don’t have to do much.  And late summer has all of our favorite stuff — corn, tomatoes, raspberries — which are not exactly challenging to eat up.  Zucchini, on the other hand…

So after my little pep talk, I decided to make something slightly more “recipe worthy.”  A counter full of heirloom tomatoes, a crate of sweet corn, a bunch of basil, and some beautiful artisan sourdough bread were the inspiration — and I’m pretty sure nothing bad can happen when you combine those ingredients.  The key to dishes like this are simple, but high quality ingredients.   Your dish will go from delicious to “out of this world and I feel like I’m in Italy” if you invest in wonderful olive oil and have a great artisan baker for the bread.

This would be perfect for a picnic or party and is still good the next day (the bread in the leftover salad loses its crispness, but my daughter and I didn’t mind and polished the rest off for lunch.)  Pour yourself a large glass of red wine and savor summer.

Garlicky Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 loaves of sourdough bread (about 1.5 pounds)
4-5 ears of corn, husked
1 large handful of basil, washed and torn into pieces
4-6 heirloom tomatoes, cored (I used 2 large and 4 smaller ones)
3-4 T good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus 1 T)
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1.  Prepare bread:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove crusts from bread (reserve crusts for another use) and tear bread into bite size pieces.  Don’t cut it — the rustic nature of the torn bread is perfect.  Toss the bread with 1 T olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and toast (stirring occasionally) for about 8-10 minutes until just lightly toasted. Set aside.

2.  Prepare corn:  Cover ears of corn in a large pot with cold water.  Bring water to the boil (as soon as it boils, the corn is done).  Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut corn off the cob and set aside.

3.  Prepare dressing:  Mix 3-4 T of olive oil with lemon juice, chopped garlic, a healthy pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper.

4.  When you are ready to serve, cut tomatoes into wedges or small chunks.  On a large platter or in a bowl, gently mix toasted bread, corn, tomatoes, basil, and dressing.  Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper or additional olive oil if necessary.  Using a vegetable peeler, make large strips of Parmigiano Reggiano and scatter over top of salad.  Serve immediately.

Grilled Mexican Corn

In our house, we love the movie Nacho Libre.  Of course it is silly, but it is also heartwarming and touching in many ways (with a great soundtrack too).  Thankfully, most of it is safe for children because it is one of their favorites — but I am a little liberal when it comes to movies. Every time we see it, I seem to enjoy it more.

In one scene, Steven is eating street corn and it always looked absolutely delicious.  And when he offers it to Nacho, he yells “get that corn outta my face” and swats it away. It has become a standard line in our house anytime corn is served.  Actually, movie lines are a big part of almost everything we do (Hello National Lampoon’s Vacation? We can’t start a trip without some reference to it.  OK, so maybe not that part I linked to though.)

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When we saw that a local vendor started serving grilled corn at our farmer’s market, I immediately told the kids we were going to have Nacho’s “Get That Corn Outta My Face” for lunch that day.  After trying it, my three year old decided we needed to call it “Get That Corn In My Face.”  He devoured it.  And then, somehow, ideas for Mexican Corn or Cuban Corn were everywhere.  I saw recipes in Cooks Illustrated and my hometown newspaper all in the same week.  It is apparently the “Tuscan” anything or the dulce de leche of this summer — somehow everyone decides it’s popular and pretty soon Pizza Hut is serving it.

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I decided I was going to figure out my version of it in time for corn season — even though I generally don’t fuss too much with corn beyond boiling, buttering, and salting.  I never want to risk the fleeting season by wasting a dozen ears on a dumb recipe.  This, however, is worth it.  It is divine.  I will warn you that it is rich — much richer than the corn you are probably used to.  Grilling the corn really enhances the sweetness and the kernels lose a little bit of their pop, making it almost meaty.  The toppings make it even richer — so it’s almost a meal in itself. Definitely serve it with something light.  If I could get my act together, I’d love to have a grilled corn party where I serve nothing but corn in this style with lots of different sauces and toppings.  What a great end of summer party that would be …  served up with appetizers and lots of real margaritas.  And, of course, we’d all have to wear our stretchy pants.

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Grilled Mexican Corn

Makes one dozen ears

Mayo mixture:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 t ground cumin
1 t smoked paprika
Zest of one lime
Pinch of chipotle powder (or more to taste if you like it spicy)
1/2 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

Butter mixture:
2 T butter, melted
1/8 t smoked paprika
1/8 t ground cumin
1/8 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 dozen ears of sweet corn
1 1/2 cups Queso Fresco, Cotija, or Feta Cheese (in small crumbles)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
12 wedges of lime

1.  Mix ingredients for mayonnaise mixture in medium bowl.  Mix ingredients for melted butter mixture in a small bowl.

2.  Preheat grill and rub ears of corn with melted butter mixture.

3.  Grill corn for about 8 minutes.  (We used indirect heat and grilled the corn for about 8 minutes indirect, turning frequently, followed by about 1-2 minutes over the coals to char the ears lightly.  I have also done this on a low flame gas grill — just be sure you are turning and moving the corn frequently so it doesn’t char too much.  The goal is to have the corn be just cooked with a slight char on it.)  Remove corn from grill and place onto a platter.

4.  Put cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges in separate serving bowls next to platter of corn.  Brush each ear of grilled corn with the mayonnaise mixture.  Then sprinkle with cheese, cilantro, and the juice of a lime wedge.  (You can do the whole platter or allow guests to prepare their own ear of corn.)

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Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

It’s only been recently that I have been able to crack open a box of mac and cheese and cook it for my kids.  I’ve always had to make it from scratch with soy cheese/soy milk because my daughter was severely allergic to dairy (which she has thankfully outgrown).  And somehow when you get used to making it from scratch, it just doesn’t seem that much harder than making it from the box.  Sure, it takes a little more time because you have to make the cheese sauce — but just think a minute about that powdered cheese sauce mixture.  Think about how one makes a cheese sauce (or cheese) and then reduces it to a fine powder which requires no refrigeration.  Really think.  I’ll wait.

Confused?  Yeah, me too.  I’m no food scientist, but even if it is Annie’s Mac and Cheese with Whole Wheat Pasta, you still can’t explain to me how that powdered cheese can provide one with the same nutrients as cheese.  And sure, we still make it once in a while and I keep a few boxes in the pantry in case the terror threat level gets jacked up (I have plastic sheeting too) or if we encounter Armageddon (and are lucky enough to still have running water).  But, on most days I take the 30 minutes of prep time and use a very novel product … some call it cheese.

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My version is made with whole wheat pasta, is thickened with sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat flour), and uses 2% milk.  The only thing I don’t cut back on or substitute is cheese.  Because you can do a lot of things to macaroni and cheese, but the one thing you CAN’T do is not use cheese.  And I even count soy cheese as real cheese here, because the final product is so darn good and such a great treat for those who can never have mac and cheese (I’d take the homemade soy cheese version over Kraft any day of the week).

This makes a great side dish (as you well know), but it is also a great main course if you add in some cooked vegetables/greens or serve it with a big salad.  Certainly you can add some meat if you like — ham, bacon, proscuitto, etc. are a natural fit.  It is also very flexible in what type of cheese you use — anything works.  And you can do it one of two ways — just toss the pasta with the cheese sauce (a la Kraft) or baked with some breadcrumbs on top.  Your choice.

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And the coolest part?  You will now know how to make both a roux and Bechamel Sauce.

(Allergy note:  if you want to make this dairy free, simply use dairy-free margarine or olive oil, soy milk or rice milk, and soy cheese.  It works out quite well.)

Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6-8

Pasta and Cheese Sauce:

1 lb. whole wheat pasta
6 T. butter
6 T. sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
4 cups of milk (I used 2%)
Cayenne Pepper
Nutmeg (freshly grated is the best)
1 t. salt
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated (a little over 2 cups)
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Breadcrumb Topping:

1 T. butter, melted
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated cheese (your choice of cheddar or parm, or both)
3/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs

Fresh herbs for garnish, optional

1.  Cook pasta until very al dente (it should be slightly undercooked) in salted boiling water.  Mine was supposed to cook 10 minutes total, and I cooked it about 7 minutes.   When finished, drain and set aside in a bowl or in the pan it was cooked in. (*If you are not going to bake the finished mac and cheese, you should cook your pasta fully in this step.)

2.  Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, melt 6 T. of butter and whisk together with 6 T. flour over medium heat.  This is a roux.  Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes.  Add in 1 t. salt and stir.

3.  Slowly add the 4 cups of milk, whisking constantly.  When all the milk is added, use a spatula to make sure you have all of the bits of roux out of the corners of the pan.  This is now called a Bechamel Sauce.  Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking frequently.  It should have thickened considerably.  Reduce heat to low and cook the sauce for about 20 minutes, whisking every once in a while.

4.  Stir grated cheeses into Bechamel Sauce and mix until they are completely melted and incorporated.  Season with a bit of Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg (somewhere between a pinch and 1/8 of a teaspoon of both — to your taste), and additional salt and pepper if necessary.  Remember that you are seasoning the sauce for an entire pound of pasta, so make sure it’s not bland.

5. Toss cooked pasta with Cheese Sauce and taste to make sure it is well seasoned.  Adjust if necessary.  You can serve it at this point if you want just a creamy mac and cheese.  If you want baked mac and cheese, read on.

6.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish and pour in the pasta with cheese sauce.

7.  Combine breadcrumb topping ingredients in a small bowl.   Sprinkle all over top of pasta/cheese sauce and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.  When it is done, you can sprinkle it with some fresh herbs (chives, parsley, etc.) if you like.

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Manicotti with Whole Wheat Crepes

I loved to cook as a kid.  I remember one particular cookbook that my mom had that featured recipes made with brand name products.  It was at least two inches thick — and I was pretty convinced that each recipe was magic.  Even if the main ingredient was Stove Top Stuffing.  I guess the corporate sponsorship gave the recipes credibility in my twelve year old mind.  I’m still a marketer’s dream, by the way.

One of my favorite recipes from the book was baked manicotti.  And, of course, it used some sort of prepared and dried manicotti shells.  San Giorgio, perhaps?  It was actually a pain in the ass kind of recipe — boiling the manicotti noodles ahead of time and then attempting to stuff the little tubes with the ricotta cheese mixture.  But for some reason, I always continued to think that prepared manicotti shells were the easy route.  (you remember, I am a marketer’s dream, right?)  I made it many, many times but then I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and I pretty much never made manicotti again.

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At some point (about twenty years later), I realized that manicotti was supposed to be made with tender and thin crepes, not pasta.  And I realized that it is actually a lot easier than you might imagine.  Go figure — I didn’t know it all at 12.  Remind me to tell you some time about the first time I attempted to make a lemon dessert involving lemon zest, which I had no idea how to accomplish.  The word chunky comes to mind.

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So, my new manicotti is made with whole wheat pastry flour crepes and it can be done in about an hour.  And for what it’s worth, I guess it is sponsored by Cuizoo.

Manicotti with Whole Wheat Crepes

Serves 4
(Could easily double for a crowd)

Prepare Crepes:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups of water
2 eggs
1/4 t of salt
Canola Oil

1.  Mix whole wheat pastry flour, water, eggs, and salt with a wire whisk until completely blended.  It should look like very thin pancake batter.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet with a bit of canola oil over low heat.  (I very rarely use non-stick pans anymore, but this is one job that it is almost essential for — unless you have a very well seasoned cast iron pan.  Make sure the non-stick coating is not flaking or scratched and use only over very low heat.)  Use a pastry brush to make sure the oil is spread all over the pan.

3.  Pour about 1/4 cup of batter  into the skillet and tilt the pan so it spreads out completely (about a 4-6 inch circle).  Let cook 1-2 minutes (or a little more depending on how hot your “low” heat is) until the surface of the crepe looks dry.  Loosen with a knife or thin offset spatula and gently flip.  The crepes should not get browned at all.  Cook one minute more and remove to a plate.

4.  Repeat with remaining batter until all crepes are cooked (this makes about 12-14 crepes).  Stack crepes on the plate as they finish and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.  You can make these ahead of time and wrap tightly and store in the fridge.

Prepare Filling:

15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley (basil is nice too)
6 oz. of shredded mozzarella (or italian blend of mozzarella, parmesan, etc.)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 t dried Oregano
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all in a medium bowl.

Assemble Manicotti:

10 crepes
Ricotta mixture
1 jar of prepared tomato sauce, or about 2 cups of homemade sauce
Additional shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese
Chopped Parsley or Basil for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  In a 9×13 glass pan, spread about 1 cup of tomato sauce, covering the entire bottom of pan.

3.  On a clean plate, take one crepe and spread about 2-3 T of ricotta filling down the middle.  Roll up crepe and put it in pan, seam side down over tomato sauce.

4.  Repeat with remaining crepes and filling (I fit 10 crepes in a 9×13 pretty nicely — eight going down the length of the pan and the remaining two end-to-end on the side.)

5.  Cover filled crepes with about 1 cup of additional sauce.  Sprinkle with additional cheese.  Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, uncovered.  It will start to bubble along the edges a bit.  If you like (after baking) you can broil it for a few minutes to bubble and brown the cheese on the top.

6.  Let stand about 10 minutes to firm up and sprinkle with chopped parsley or basil before serving.

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Whole Wheat Cheese Straws

Whenever we have friends over, I am always lacking in hors d’oeuvres.  I usually get so in over my head with a main dish and a dessert that I am lucky to put some cheese and crackers out.  I’ll blame it on the fact that everyone in my house is a slob.  Including me.  So if I can pull off a good meal, the kids are fed and clothed, and the house actually looks presentable, I have done my job to the best of my ability.  Alternatively, if I invite you over and we have pizza and the laundry is sitting in the family room unfolded, you will know that I took the day off.

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But these little cheese straws are pretty damn easy — and you can pull them off in no time flat if you have unexpected guests.  My version uses whole wheat pastry flour and I think they are every bit as delicious as their white flour counterparts.  Make sure you use the whole wheat pastry flour as it ensures a very tender pastry — other types of whole wheat flour will probably not be as good.  The type of cheese and seasonings can be changed based on your mood — try them with parmesan and a bit of oregano or fontina and rosemary… the possibilities are endless.  Unless you run out of cheese, of course.  Then you can open up a box of crackers.

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The simplest version, and one of my favorites, uses some great sharp cheddar and cayenne pepper.  They are a tad spicy, so you can cut back if you are cooking for the kids (or choose another herb or spice).  And while they keep in a sealed container for a day or two, I think they are definitely best when served the same day.  Preferably with a nice glass of wine or chilled champagne.

Whole Wheat Cheese Straws

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on how long you make them

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), cut into cubes
8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 t cayenne pepper
5-6 T heavy cream

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  In bowl of food processor, combine butter, cheese, flour, salt, and pepper and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.

3.  Add about 4 T of cream and pulse until dough comes together into a mass.  I usually need about 6 T for this to happen because whole wheat flour generally requires more moisture than white flour (the humidity also impacts this).  But use just as much as needed so it doesn’t become too sticky.

4.  Turn dough onto a sheet of parchment paper and bring together into a flattened ball.  Roll out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick (your preference — thinner will be crispier, thicker will be chewier).  Cut into strips about 1/2 inch thick and place on another sheet of parchment, leaving a little space between them.  This batch I left about 4-6 inches long, because I wasn’t feeling fussy.  You can make them longer — which makes a cool presentation in a vase or glass.  You can also twist them if you like.

5.  Put parchment and cheese straws onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for about 15-17 minutes, until golden.  (If you go thinner, they may take a little less time … thicker, a little more.)  If you need two baking sheets to cook them all, make sure you rotate the sheets halfway through.

6.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes on baking sheets.  Remove the cheese straws from the sheets and allow to fully cool on racks.

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Sprouted Wheat “Enchiladas”

This meal was one of those “fly by the seat of my pants” moments.  I have many of those.  

It highlights one of those go-to ingredients that allow you to have a quick and easy family dinner:  tortillas or wraps.  With a few leftovers and a few simple ingredients, you are on your way to dinner in about 45 minutes.  This recipe is inspired by the old enchilada casserole recipes that I remember having years ago (and yes, I realize that enchiladas are only made with corn tortillas — I’m taking some crazed mother latitude here).  

I usually have sprouted wheat wraps on hand and in the freezer.  If you haven’t heard much about sprouted grains, here’s the lowdown… they tend to have better vitamin and nutrient content because the grains are whole and sprouted.  In addition, they are digested more like a vegetable than a starch and have a lower glycemic index.  The sprouted wraps tend to be tougher than a typical white flour wrap or burrito, but in this recipe they are baked in sauce and some cheese so they become very soft.

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As with most leftover inspired meals, use what you have on hand and think of this more as a technique, rather than a recipe.  

Sprouted Wheat “Enchiladas”

Serves 4 adults, or 4-6 with kids

4-6 oz. of leftover protein (we used pork, but chicken, shrimp, tofu, etc. would be great —  or skip it and up the amount of black beans)
1/2 cup of leftover sauteed greens (we used collards, but try spinach, kale, etc.)
1 medium onion, chopped 
3/4 cup of cooked or canned black beans
3/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese, plus additional for the top
1/2 t smoked paprika (or chipotle powder if you want to make it spicy)
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
Zest of one lime
16 oz. jar of good quality salsa
1 cup of sour cream (or try yogurt if you like)
4 – 8 inch sprouted wheat tortillas (or white, or whole wheat, your choice … if you are using corn tortillas, you will need a lot more than 4, b/c they are usually much smaller)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Lightly oil an 8 inch casserole pan.  

2.   Shred or chop pork/meat and place in medium bowl.  Mix with chopped leftover greens, chopped onion, black beans, grated cheese, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and lime zest. (Other mix in ideas:  corn, cilantro, peppers, etc.)

3.  Mix together salsa and sour cream.  

4.  Spread a 1/2 cup of salsa/sour cream mixture onto bottom of casserole dish.

5.  Lay out one tortilla and spread 1/4 of the pork mixture in the middle.  Roll up and place in casserole.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  

6.  When all tortillas are filled and in dish, cover with remaining salsa/sour cream mixture and sprinkle with additional grated cheddar cheese if you like.

7.  Bake at 375 F for about 35 minutes until bubbly and browned.  Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.  Use a long spatula to serve one whole wrap, or cut into portions for the kids.  

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Making Pizza … Whole Grain Spicy Spinach White and Plain Old Cheese

I love making pizza with the kids.  Number one, they are always psyched to hear that pizza is on the dinner menu which means we can skip the overly dramatic groans.  Number two, they love to help — and  giving them the ability to make their own dinner is a skill that might come in handy moving forward.  Sure, it’s certainly easier to pick up the phone and order one, but I can assure you that what you make at home is just as good as delivery (if not better), considerably cheaper, and healthier.  And when the kids go to school the next day and say they made their own homemade pizza for dinner, a little vision of yourself as Martha Stewart crossed with Maria Montessori will light up your ego.

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I generally make my own crust.  And I know many of you are probably getting ready to click away at the thought of that — but don’t.  I do this because I have a breadmaker — which is a guilty pleasure for someone who loves to cook, not because it makes wonderful bread, but because it’s so damn easy.  They are super reasonable to purchase and you just need room to put it somewhere.  The food lover in me knows that the resulting bread is but a shadow of a real hand-kneaded and shaped loaf of bread, but the mother in me thinks it’s pretty wonderful to even get close to the real thing using my own ingredients.  No high fructose corn syrup in my bread.  And on the weekend it might be nice to make the dough from scratch and by hand … but during the week, I’ll take a machine to help me out while I’m trying to do first grade homework with a two year old hanging on my leg.

The great thing about using a breadmaker for pizza dough is that it simply does all the legwork (up to the baking point).  You dump the ingredients in, turn it to dough cycle, and it does all the mixing and kneading while you go on school runs, feed the baby, or hide in your closet with a good book.  And for those who work outside the home, most machines also have timers to auto start.  That all being said, however, you can also buy ready to make pizza dough from most grocery stores and even some pizza shops.

Whole Grain Pizza Dough (makes 2 lbs. — enough for two pretty large thin crust pizzas)

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 t sea salt
1 package active dry yeast (a little over two teaspoons)
1 3/8 cups room temperature water
3 T olive oil

Combine all ingredients in breadmaker and set to “dough” setting (mine takes 90 minutes).  When the cycle is finished, remove dough to a bowl that has been coated with olive oil.  Rub oil onto dough and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and park in the fridge til your ready.  If you don’t have a breadmaker, you can certainly make it by hand — it would probably take about 5 minutes of kneading and then at least one rising cycle (of about an hour).  I haven’t done it with this recipe, so I am not positive how it would turn out.  Because of the whole wheat flour, this dough is best for very thin crust pizzas.

Portion out about half of the dough for one large pizza.  (You can alternatively take the entire recipe of dough and portion out 4-6 smaller pieces if everyone wants to make their own pie.)  I generally don’t use a pizza stone, but you can if you like.  I have read that you can preheat a pizza stone and then put your baking sheet right on top of it to get both a crispy crust with less risk of the pizza sticking.  I am going to try that next time.  What I generally do is take a half sheet pan (with edges), line it with parchment, and sprinkle with corn meal.  I then roll out the dough right on that so I don’t have to transfer it.  Half of a portion of the dough will fit a half sheet pan almost perfectly (very thin crust).  I have a small wooden rolling pin that is perfect for this job and the dough usually cooperates nicely.  It will just take a few minutes (maybe 5?) to get it really thin.  Preheat your oven to a very hot temperature — I usually do 450 F on convection.

Easy Plain Old Cheese Variation

Once crust is rolled out and very thin, spread with several tablespoons of your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, parmesan, or other cheeses you might like.  We used to do soy cheese when my daughter had dairy allergies and that worked just fine too.  Season with Italian herbs and salt and freshly ground pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the lowest portion of your oven for 10 minutes or so until it is very bubbly and the crust is brown and crispy.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil if your kids will tolerate the green. (mine love it…)

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Spicy Spinach White Variation (can also use kale, chard, or other dark leafy greens)

1/2 cup olive oil
Two cloves chopped garlic
Red Pepper Flakes
4 cups (packed) spinach
Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Mix about 1/2 cup of olive oil with salt and freshly ground pepper, two cloves of chopped garlic, and a teaspoon (or more) of hot pepper flakes.  Warm this gently in the microwave or on top of the stove.

Chop about four packed cups of washed and stemmed spinach.  Heat a saute pan with a couple of teaspoons of your olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture.  Saute spinach until wilted, adding a bit of water if it starts to stick.  Set aside.

Roll out second crust using same method in half sheet pan (with edges) lined with parchment.  This pizza should probably NOT be baked directly on a stone or flat sheet because the oil drips out and could make a nasty mess in your oven.  When rolled out very thinly, take half of remaining olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture and spread all over crust making sure to distribute garlic and pepper flakes somewhat evenly.  Sprinkle sauteed spinach all over pizza and cover with mozzarella and parmesan.  (other cheeses are great here too…)  Drizzle remaining olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture over cheese and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.    Bake in lowest portion of your oven for about ten minutes until cheese is bubbly and the crust is brown and crispy.  Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil.

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