Monday, January 16, 2012

Oven-Roasted Tomato Relish

If you are like me, you get sick and tired of buying tomatoes in bulk at Costco and struggling to eat them before they get old and wrinkly.  Well fret no more, friends.  Your days of throwing away old tomatoes are over!!! I have recently discovered the best trick to using old tomatoes -- slow roasting them until they become a decadent and delicious relish or pasta sauce!  Simply dice the tomatoes, mix them with minced garlic (as much as you like), drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add dried herbs, roast at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, and voila!  You have concocted an easy, delicious, healthy, and nutritious relish that is delicious on top of chicken, steak, pork, salmon, pasta, tacos, salad -- the possibilities are endless!  I have made this relish numerous times, and I experiment with different spices each time.  I would suggest using italian herbs, such as basil, oregano, and parsley; an italian seasoning blend is good, too.  Unfortunately I do not have specific measurements to use as I have had different sizes/amounts of tomatoes each time I have made it.  This is very simple to make, and all the ingredients are pretty much "to taste" and depend on your specific pallet.  Don't be scared to experiment!!  Roasting the tomatoes gives them a super nice flavor, and the relish/sauce freezes very well.  So, enjoy not wasting tomatoes!!

I used about 1/2 container of grape tomatoes from Costco the first time I made this.  I left the tomatoes whole, and I added dried basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In using this method, the tomatoes created more of a sauce which I used on pasta.  In the pictures below, I diced up two roma tomatoes, added approximately 1 teaspoon minced garlic, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, and added a few shakes of italian seasoning. I am planning on using it on top of my leftover Potato and Onion Frittata for breakfast tomorrow.  Bon appetit :)
After about 20 minutes of roasting -- remember to take it out and stir!!

The final product -- num :)

Pork Loins with Caramelized Pears (You could use chicken....)

I ended up coming down with a gnarly cold this week.  I pretty much stayed in bed most of the weekend; however, my wonderful friend, Scott, helped me assemble my new treadmill!  I am feeling as though 2012 truly will prove to initiate a healthier, slimmer, better eating KK.  Additionally, I got to cook quite a bit, which is highly therapeutic to my current life situation.

Day 2 of my back-to-cooking weekend:  Pork Loins with Caramelized Pears.  I got this recipe from Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious magazine.  The original recipe called for chicken breasts, but I used pork loins since I purchased a super pack of them this weekend.  It turned out fantastic!  Pears are probably my favorite fruit, and I've mentioned my passionate love for onions.  The pork turned out incredibly moist and flavorful, and I could see how chicken breasts would be equally delicious.  The original recipe also says apples can be used in lieu of the pears -- but in my opinion, why would ANYONE avoid using pears?!?!  I highly recommend this recipe to everyone -- whether you prefer challenging yourself in the kitchen or limiting yourself to boxed mac 'n cheese.  If you can slice, measure, stir, and turn, you can definitely create this masterpiece for the mouth.  I actually 1/2'd this recipe since I was only feeding myself, and I found all the ingredients very easy to cut in half.  I served this dish with a side salad, but it would also be delicious with long grain rice.  Enjoy :)

Pork Loins with Caramelized Pears
Serves 4
4 boneless pork loin chops (or 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium pears, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing (I used Light House)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Sprinkle pork (or chicken) with salt and pepper.  Brown pork in butter in a large skillet -- approximately 3-5 minutes per side).  Remove and keep warm on a plate covered in tinfoil.  Saute onion in the same skillet until tender.  Add pears and brown sugar, and cook 3 minutes longer, turning occasionally.  Stir in vinaigrette and thyme.  Return pork to skillet.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes, turning pork every 5 minutes or so.  (If using chicken, simmer uncovered 6-10 minutes, turning chicken occasionally).  Slightly cut into the thickest part of the meat prior to serving to ensure the meat is white and no longer pink.  Serve meat topped with caramelized pears.

Skillet Gnocchi with White Beans and Spinach

I had a wonderful weekend :)  And, it's actually starting to look like January in Billings!  It has been snowing (finally) since last night, and I couldn't be more content on a Martin Luther King day.  I treated myself to leftover Potato and Onion Frittata topped with sauteed bell peppers for breakfast.  Leftover eggs always kind of freaked me out, but this dish could not have reheated better!  I look forward to indulging in my last piece tomorrow morning before work.

I discovered one of my new favorite vegetarian meals on Friday -- Skillet Gnocchi with White Beans and Spinach.  Not only is this dish incredibly healthy, inexpensive, and easy, the combination of flavors complement each other so well and literally form a culinary orgasm in your mouth.  Seriously.  I take advantage of cooking with spinach as much as possible as it is a powerhouse of nutrition -- loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids and tons of vitamins.  I love using beans as a protein, and pairing them with spinach and gnocchi (my Mom's fave) is a combination that I will try again and again!!  Although I would like to try making gnocchi from scratch, I used store-bought gnocchi, which only takes about 5 minutes to cook.  My roommate, Megan, and I lost our minds over this dish.  She primarily eats vegetarian dishes, and she was in awe of this meal.  In fact, although she doesn't fancy herself a cook or play with recipes very often, she is dead-set on making this dish on her own!! I couldn't be prouder :)  Enjoy, and bon appetit!!

Skillet Gnocchi with White Beans and Spinach
Serves 6, 1 cup = 307 calories!!
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped (yellow would be fine, too, but I like using red or orange for aesthetic value)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package (16 ounces) potato gnocchi, boiled
2 tablespoons butter
1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach
1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained (I used diced tomatoes with basil and oregano)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until tender.  Add garlic, and cook 1 minute longer.  Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to package directions (you usually boil in water for approximately 5 minutes -- gnocchi will float to the surface when cooked).  Add 2 tablespoons butter to skillet.  Remove gnocchi from water with a slotted spoon and add to the skillet.  Cook and stir for 5-6 minutes or until gnocchi is golden brown; I like it to get a little seared and crispy.  Stir in spinach, and cook until spinach is wilted (approximate 3-5 minutes).  Add the beans, tomatoes, and pepper; heat through.  Sprinkle with the cheeses, and cover and remove from the heat.  Let stand for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Right after I added the gnocchi to the dish.  Let those babies sear and get a bit crunchy!!

A few minutes after sprinkling with cheese.  Scoop right out of the skillet to serve!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Potato and Onion Frittata

The holidays were great, and not going to lie -- I ate waaaay too much food and drank entirely too much wine.  Regardless of how much fun I had eating, drinking, and playing with miss Ivy, it feels fantastic to be home cooking again :)  One of my New Year's resolutions is to eat (and cook) more often at home.  I've been eating out way too much, and eating at home more often will help fatten my wallet and slim my waist.  I, like most people, would like to get in better shape, and eating better goes hand-in-hand with that goal.  I have decided to menu plan on a weekly basis to help me both save money and be better prepared to cook when I get home from a tiring day at work.

I woke up this morning excited to head to the grocery store and make breakfast.  I've been craving egg frittata!  Walking out to my car, I encountered a horrible surprise; some jackass threw a rock through my driver's side window :(  I was furious.  Thankfully, my car is already fixed (!), and the roomie let me take her car to the grocery store, so everything worked out!

For breakfast, I made us a potato and onion frittata and sauteed bell peppers and onions.  The frittata turned out so lovely!! This is only my second time tackling a frittata, and I couldn't be more pleased with the way it turned out this morning.  I basically used one recipe from the Great Food Fast Everyday Food cookbook and another from a Simple and Delicious Taste of Home magazine.  Both recipes sounded great, although they used somewhat different techniques and ingredients.  I took ideas from both recipes, and my delicious love child was born.  The Everyday Food recipe advised me to use a non-stick broiler safe skillet, which I did not have.  Instead I used my cast iron skillet, which gave the frittata a crunchy bottom which I found quite delightful.  This breakfast turned out wonderful and healthy!  For a healthy side dish, I sauteed one red and one yellow bell pepper with 1/2 sliced red onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil and approximately 1 teaspoon minced garlic.  This breakfast was so enjoyable on a day that started out poorly.  I will definitely make this frittata again, and I will continue to experiment with different vegetables and spices to add to it. Enjoy!

Potato and Onion Frittata
Serves 4
2 T olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large baking potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 t dried rosemary, crumbled
Coarse salt & fresh ground pepper
8 large eggs
1/2 C lightly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 T shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium skillet (10-inch), heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, potato, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  Cover the skillet, and cook for approximately 10 minutes; uncover.  Cook, tossing the mixture occasionally, until the onion and potato are tender, about 5 minutes.  Scrape browned bits of the bottom of the pan as you toss the mixture.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, parsley leaves, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Heat the broiler on high with a rack set 4-6 inches from the heat.  Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the vegetables in the skillet and toss to coat.  With a spatula, press the potato and onion mixture to the bottom of the skillet to form the crust.  Pour the egg mixture into the skillet.  Cook on the stove, over low heat, lifting the mixture a few times around the edges with a spatula to let egg flow underneath.  Continue cooking until the frittata is almost set in the center, about 10 minutes.  Place the skillet under the broiler; broil until the frittata is set and the top is lightly golden, about 3 minutes.  Take skillet out of the oven, top the frittata with 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, and let stand for five minutes.  Run a clean spatula around the edges to loosen, cut pie-shaped wedges, and serve.  You could also loosen the entire frittata and slide it onto a plate prior to cutting the pieces.