New Year, Lots of Firsts – ‘Spiralizing’ Zucchini Noodles & Avocado-Miso Dressing

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I bought this crazy thing called a ‘Spiralizer.’  Like everyone else I’m determined to eat cleaner and lose weight this year (I say as I eat a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup – seriously, I just did), so I went on a recipe hunt.  During my search I stumbled upon this fun blog called ‘Inspiralized.’  Ali, the genius blogger of Inspiralized uses this crazy contraption called a spiralizer to make noodles, mostly out of zucchini but she’s very versatile and provides so many delicious looking recipes so I wondered – how much does a thing like this cost?  I headed over to Amazon to check it out and found they were only $30! THIRTY DOLLARS!  My bar tab is usually more than that!  So with a couple clicks and free shipping using my Amazon Prime account my newest gadget was on it’s way.

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Arriving on Monday, I was VERY excited to try out my latest purchase and having a potluck at work on Wednesday I thought that would be a good time to give it a try.  I searched for an easy recipe I could use and found a fun recipe on a food blog called ‘Love & Lemons‘ for Zucchini Noodles & Avocado-Miso.  And the damn thing was vegan AND gluten-free.  I am neither of these things, for the record, but I do love and appreciate good food, so I was off to make my first vegan and gluten-free dish ever (by the way, I’m putting bacon and Parmesan in my dinner tonight; the gods of balance demand it).

Off to the store I went where come to find out,  I proceeded to purchase WAY more zucchini than I needed.  Seriously, I bought 18 zucchini’s and NO ONE needs this many.  This little contraption literally turns virtually the entire zucchini into pasta with the exception of a small core.  Next thing I know I was spiralizing.  I started with my ‘spaghetti’ like noodle for my potluck recipe, things got out of control, and next thing I know I’m switching blades and making ribbon cuts.  For the record, I really was way more exciting when I was in my 20s (sigh).  

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The recipe is pretty easy from here – once your noodles are done just add your ingredients (sliced almonds, edamame, green onions and lime juice) and then throw all the dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour over top and enjoy! (I don’t know why the color on this picture is so weird – I need to learn to take better food pics!)

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I linked to the original recipe, as well as the Love & Lemons blog above, but I will post what I did below because I can never stick to an original recipe to save my life.  A couple things to note

1. Be careful on the Ginger.  It’s powerful and a little will go a long way in the dressing.

2. I kept the dressing in a separate mason jar and put on as needed.  Your noodles and the dish as a whole will last longer – just like you would do with any other salad dressing!

3.  I’ll be very honest, I liked the dressing, but I almost think I would like a balsamic dressing better.  My taste buds are telling me a vinegar cut into the noodles would be good. 

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Zucchini Noodles & Avocado-Miso Salad


ZUCCHINI NOODLE TOSS:

2 medium zucchinis
1/2 cup chopped mango (or apple, pear, etc.)
1/2 cup edamame (shelled and blanched)*
1/4 cup sliced almonds
extra squeezes of lime and extra salt, if necessary

 

AVOCADO-MISO SAUCE:
1 avocado
1 lime zest and juice
1 small zucchini (about 1/2 cup or so)
1/2 tablespoon miso
to that recipe, I added these things:
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
a little extra miso, add to taste (as you would salt)

 

METHOD:
I blended the dressing components together in my food processor until smooth.

I make my zucchini noodles with a spiralizer (Paderno World Cuisine Spiral Vegetable Slicer, $30 from Amazon).  You could also use a julienne peeler, they will be less curly and more straight.

Toss the noodles with as much or little sauce as you like. Taste and adjust seasonings (the sauce will become more diluted as you toss it with the noodles, so you may have to add some salt and pepper).

*Blanching Edamame – Boil water, then add salt, the Edamame, and boil for approximately 5-6 minutes.  Drain and shell the soybeans from their pod.

 

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Bacon and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

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Fun fact – I am not a mushroom girl.  And I’ve ate some pretty weird stuff in my life having traveled extensively, but mushrooms – nope.  It stems from my childhood.  Seeing a can of slimy, disgusting mushrooms at age 5 wasn’t my thing and while I grew out of most of my irrational childhood dislikes, I held strong onto my hate for mushrooms.  Until recently.  A good friend of mine said to me a year back or so “Heather have you ever had fresh mushrooms?  They’re WAY better than those gross canned ones.”  And I hadn’t.  Once I’d swore of mushrooms they all went into the same category for me – DO NOT EAT.  So I decided to give them a try.

I remember my first time – I was at a local restaurant called Zins and they had asparagus wrapped in fresh mushrooms with Parmesan cheese.   Zins offers a tapa’s type dining – small meals to share but without the Spanish flair that I truly love about tapas.  So I figured since I was sharing them, I may as well give them a try.  I slowly took a bite and started to chew….and another bite…and another….”hell, these aren’t half bad” I thought.  And so it began.  I slowly would order mushrooms in or on things.  Nothing crazy.  I wasn’t ordering a mushroom pizza but I wouldn’t pick them off of a combination pizza anymore.  I’d been taking baby steps for awhile and even went so far as to buy a package of fresh mushrooms, but to be honest they simply sat in my fridge, staring at me each time I opened the door.

Then, last week I was invited to attend a “healthy” potluck group at work and decided to jump on the bandwagon.  I searched my favorite food blogs high and low for something that was healthy, yet would be easy to make and bring to work.  While on one of my favorite food blogs, Skinnytaste, I came across a recipe for bacon and spinach stuffed mushrooms.  And I decided to take the plunge and give them a try.  Oy veh, am I sure glad I did – they were FANTASTIC!  So fantastic I’m desperately searching for some event in which I can make the damn things again.

So here is a breakdown of how I made this recipe; I’m not good at following directions so I made some adjustments.  The entire recipe is posted at the end:

Take your mushrooms and remove the stems from the caps.

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Next, line a baking sheet with foil and cover with a light layer of cooking spray.  Place the caps on the foil and sprinkle LIGHTLY with salt (you’ll understand why very soon – you’re going to be using a TON of garlic).

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Finely dice up the mushroom stems and keep them in a bowl seperate from any other ingredients.

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In a skillet, place spinach and cook until it wilts, about 1-2 minutes.  Squeeze any extra moisture out of the spinach (this works good in a paper towel) and mince the spinach.  Make sure the skillet is clean and fry 6-8 pieces of bacon.  I recommend 8 pieces and eating a few, but do what you want.  Chop up the bacon and add in with minced spinach.

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Here’s where this gets delicious.  You can clean out your skillet of the bacon grease or use a new skillet if you want.  This would be the healthiest option.  OR, if you love flavor and awesomeness, leave the bacon grease in the skillet and add the olive oil and garlic.

Let’s also be clear here – you could follow the directions and use the amount of garlic posted but I would 
absolutely use way more than a normal person.  Fact – garlic is awesome.  I totally cheated and just used a jar of minced garlic I had in the fridge and I used 5 BIG spoonfuls.

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Saute the garlic for a few minutes and add in the minced mushroom stems, sauteing for a another couple of minutes.

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Remove from heat and in a bowl combine the garlic and mushrooms with a spinach and bacon.  Add in the Parmesan and breadcrumbs and combine.

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Press the mixture into the mushrooms and line on the baking sheet.

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Bake for 20 minutes and voila!

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These little things are PACKED full of flavor and deliciousness!  The recipe below is my altered recipe and this made about 22-24 mushrooms.  I did have stuffing leftover and could have made 2/3 to a full other package of mushrooms, depending on the size.  Here is the link for the healthier version from Skinnytaste of bacon and spinach stuffed mushrooms; there are other great recipes to try on her site so I recommend you check out her food blog as well!

Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz (2 packages) fresh, full mushrooms, stems separated
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin (I used minced garlic and used 4 BIG spoonful’s – I love garlic J )
  • 2 bags fresh baby spinach
  • 8 slices center cut bacon (I actually only used 6 slices in this recipe because I ate two slices)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese (4 tbsp ish…a little more cheese is never a bad thing in my book)
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

1)     Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a foil lined baking pan or baking dish with cooking spray.

2)     Remove stems from mushrooms and mince fine.  Set aside.

  • Do not combine these with any other ingredients as you’ll need to eventually sauté these later on.

3)     Heat a medium sized skillet. Rinse spinach and add to the skillet; cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan, squeeze excess liquid and chop fine. Set aside.

  • I used a big skillet and had to cook one bag at a time.
  • The spinach will be too hot to touch for a bit, so if you don’t have time to let it cool set on a couple sheets of paper towels and squeeze excess liquid from them.

4)     Dry skillet, add bacon to the skillet and cook on low heat until bacon is cooked through. Set aside on a paper towel. Coarsely chop.

  • You can use turkey bacon as a healthier alternative however I used a lean bacon with not a lot of fat so it was easier to chop and crumble up.

5)     Clean skillet and add olive oil to the pan. Add garlic and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes.

  • I did not clean the skillet and instead added my olive oil and garlic right into the bacon grease.  If you want to save a few calories then clean the skillet, however cooking in bacon grease gives a great flavor you won’t otherwise get.  Also great to cook in bacon grease – corn, especially right off the cob.  Sorry, I’m digressing…

6)     Add minced mushroom stems and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.

7)     Remove from heat and combine mushroom stems with sautéed spinach, bacon, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese.

8)     Season mushroom caps with salt. Fill mushrooms with spinach mixture. Place on your baking sheet or oven safe dish and bake 20 minutes or until golden.

  • I didn’t season mine with salt because I used so much garlic.  And I think Blue Zones says garlic is good and salt is bad, so there you go!

Makes approximately 22-24 mushrooms and I did have some filling left over, it just depends on the size of the mushrooms you buy.

Also, if you like spicy and want to give these a kick you can season the mixture with red pepper flakes and/or reduce the parmesan and combine with shredded pepper jack.

2013 Holiday Foodie Gift Guide

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The holiday season is upon us (I mean seriously, there’s only one month and a few days till Santa visits!) and there are so many fun gifts that you can get for the foodie in your life! I’ve compiled a list of 12 fun holiday gift ideas ranging in size and price for your shopping list!  In no particular order, they are….

12.  A ‘Cheese of the Month Club’ Membership

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Okay so I said in no particular order but lets be honest here – this is probably going to be the best gift on this list!  Who wouldn’t want to have delicious, surprise cheeses from around the world show up at their door every month?!  Amazing!  Now there are numerous cheese of the month clubs you can choose from and they can be a bit pricey, but if your pallet extends beyond cheddar and mozzarella, it will be worth the money.

The top two Cheese of the Month clubs I could find were the Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club and Dean & Deluca’s Cheese of the Month Club.  Each offer to ship your cheese’s once a month vary in price from approximately $100 up to over $500, depending on the frequency of your shipment.

11.  Hero Bags Two Bottle Wine Carrier Tote

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What’s a cheese of the month club membership without a little wine to go with it?!  Hero Bags makes a two-bottle wine carrier tote bag for all of your wine carrying logistics because anyone that has ever attempted to bring more than one bottle of wine with them knows how annoying all that clanking around of the bottles can be!  Whether you’re going to a dinner party or bringing your lifeline to get through the holidays, this wine tote fun and inexpensive gift for the wine lover in your life!

10.  The Fast Slow Cooker

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Yes, you read that right.  This is a fast slow cooker – a 2-in-1 pressure AND slow cooker!  Fully programmable with safety features, this cooker allows you to steam and saute meat and vegetables in minutes, or let meals cook all through the day – completely worth the $179.99 price tag!  Visit Breville for all the details!

9. Roast-Grind-Brew Coffee Machine

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Are you a coffee connoisseur AND you support farmers and local business?  If so, the world’s first roast, grind and brew coffee maker may be the gift you’re looking for.  Starting as a Kickstarter project, Bonaverde Coffee Changers has more than doubled their campaign goal and will allow coffee lovers to take their experience to the next level!  Click here to learn more on their Kickstarter page!

8. Kitchen Sign Wall Art

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Your living room and bedroom walls don’t have to be the only place in your home that can display fun art and design!  These fun wooden wall signs from ExpressionsWallArt are 100% hand painted and affordable!

7. Custom Jar and Canister Labels

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Looking for more ways to make your kitchen unique and fun?  The Mustard See Dream Etsy shop lets you customize labels for all of your jars and canisters!  Easy, affordable and fun!

6. OXO Corn Stripper

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If you love corn as much as I do than you know that corn on the cob is best!  Those of us living in Iowa are lucky enough to see farmer’s on various corners selling their fresh sweet corn every year, but did you know that sweet corn doesn’t have to be ate on the cob?  Sometimes it’s just messy.  Sometimes you want to add the corn as an ingredient.  And cutting it can be a pain.  The OXO Corn Stripper lets you easily strip the corn from the cob and keeps it all together in an attached cup!  Super affordable and easy-to-use!

5. Thai Granite Mortar & Pestles

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I know I know – you’re wondering what this.  The adventurous cook and foodie in your life will know AND appreciate this Thai Granite Mortar & Pestle!  Ditch the food processor and blender and get back to the roots of grinding up sauces and pastes by using what a true Thai cook would use to mix flavors – the mortar and pestle.

4. Spanish Suitcase

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If the adventurous foodie in your life doesn’t like the cooking aspect as much as the eating aspect, then the Spanish Suitcase is a fun gift you can give to bring the flavors of Spain to them!  From chocolate themed to seafood to snack themed, Spanish Suitcase’s range in price and contents so you can surprise the foodie in your life!

3. Roll-On Olive Oil Dispenser

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The Oil-On is still in the concept phase but long story short allows you to avoid soggy bread and put your olive oil on your bread smoothly and evenly!  It’s a fun little gift that you can give the foodie and gadget lover in your life!

2. Breville HealthSmart Steamer

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The HealthSmart Steamer by Breville features three trays allow you to cook multiple meals or side dishes at once!  The trays can be adjusted for size and feature six indents to make hard-boiled eggs.

1. Hot Chocolate on a Stick

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Warm up a cup of milk and then break out your Belgian Chocolate on a stick!  Swirl it in your milk to create your own homemade hot chocolate!  This was featured as one of Oprah’s favorite gifts of 2009, and we all know that Oprah knows how to pick good gifts!

New & Improved

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live-a-little-FOODIE

This isn’t my first rodeo.  Long ago I attempted a food blog where I exclusively cooked and wrote about it, and I will admit it was lots of fun, however this thing called ‘life’ got in the way and I found myself not cooking nearly as much as I would have liked.  BUT I never stopped eating, exploring, trying new things, researching new food-related appliances, and in general being a foodie!  So I’m back!  With a new blog, a new design and a new spin!  I’ll be rambling about all nonsense as it relates to food.  You’ve been warned.