A Twist On Zucchini

A Twist On Zucchini

Last year for Amazon Prime Day, I invested in a fancy-schmancy vegetable spiralizer. You know, the kind of kitchen gadget that turns ordinary, healthy veggies into what looks like pasta. If you sauce it just right, you’d never even know you’re eating good-for-you-zucchini, instead of carb-loaded spaghetti noodles.

4 Blades to choose from, but I’ve only used one!

So I thought I’d share an simple 7-ingredient recipe featuring the zucchini noodles.

Zucchini Noodles Caprese
Pesto (I use store bought because it is easier and it’s a truth that I’m lazy)
Zucchini- spiralized and raw
Tomato Slices
Fresh Mozzarella Slices
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Basil

Yep- that’s it. Toss the noodles in the pesto, layer thick slices of tomato on top, then add a slice of fresh mozza. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, and spice it however you want. Top the whole masterpiece with a sprig of basil and dig in.

Bon Appetite!

Popcorn has a day!

Popcorn has a day!

Today in my inbox I received a proclamation from the lovely folks at National Day Calendar. It’s National Popcorn Day. Popcorn has its very own day. And rightly so.

Hand to heart, popcorn is the one food I simply could not give up. I can resist (who am I kidding?). I even defriended it for a while, but I will always come crawling back to it. My favorite is movie theater popcorn, followed by the microwave stuff. Pop a bag of that salty, fluffy goodness and I’m eating the entire thing. Those 100 calorie snack bags are for underachievers.

I’m not a purist, although I do prefer my popcorn with just salt (definitely not a fan of anything sweet). In college, I had an air popper and my roommates and I would add brewers yeast or parmesan cheese to the snack. But recently, I’ve discovered several new flavors – Cilantro Lime, Garlic and Herb to name two.

Today I want to share a recipe I discovered from Shutterbean on Pinterest for Sour Cream and Onion Popcorn.

Photo courtesy of Shutterbean.com

SOUR CREAM & ONION POPCORN

makes enough for 2-4

recipe slightly adapted from Seriously Delish

  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons powdered buttermilk*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1  teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place a 3 quart saucepan (or Whirley Pop) over medium-high heat. Add coconut oil and popcorn kernels to the pan. Close the lid and  move pot back and forth (or whirl around!) on the stove and pop the popcorn until you start to hear the popping slow down. Remove from the stove. Put popcorn in a large bowl and set aside. (I cheat and use lite microwave popcorn.)

Drizzle the popcorn with olive oil and toss it well to coat. In small bowl, whisk together dill, cheese, buttermilk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour it over the popcorn and toss the popcorn evenly to coat it in the mixture. Taste the popcorn and season it additionally if needed.

* If you cannot find powdered buttermilk for this recipe, powdered milk can be used in a pinch. You might need to adjust to the salt level as the powdered milk is slightly sweeter and less tangy than the buttermilk.

Enjoy!

A New, Healthier Me

A New, Healthier Me

I’ve recently lost quite a bit of weight (Let’s talk again in six months to see if I’ve kept it off, okay?) and I managed the task by dieting and some occasional exercise. It seemed to take forever, so you can bet I’m going to go out of my way to try to keep it off. But along comes Autumn, a season when I typically want to get in my kitchen and cook up all the yummy comfort-style foods that I am nostalgic for. Meatloaf, lasagne, chicken and dumplings, homemade mac and cheese. Exactly the kinds of foods that adds the pounds on in the past.

So, I’ve started a new recipe file and I’ve titled it Keeping The Pounds Off (or Do Not Put That In Your Mouth). Every meal is an adventure in trying to find ways to make a recipe healthier, but still ensure the taste brings back good memories.

Recently, I tried a recipe for Healthier Chicken Pot Pie from AllRecipes and was pleasantly surprised. It was easy and tasty. Here’s a picture of the final product. I’ve copied the recipe for you below. If you try it, I hope it brings back memories of family meals and fall.

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Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery in a saucepan. Cover with water. Boil until chicken is no longer pink in the middle and vegetables are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
  3. Cook and stir onions in butter in a saucepan over medium heat, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and remove from heat. Set aside.
  4. Place chicken mixture in bottom pie crust; pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in top to allow steam to escape.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until pie is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Gemma Sig-1

Caprese salads are the bee’s knees!

Caprese salads are the bee’s knees!

A few months ago I injured my knee while walking to the bus stop. What I thought was a simple sprain turned out to be so much more and extremely painful–namely, a torn meniscus, a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (also known as the ACL) and incipient osteoarthritis in my left knee. Yes, I’ve got it all at the moment. My orthopaedic surgeon is taking a wait-and-see approach and I’m doing physiotherapy (which is helping a lot, actually). I have to do special exercises just for my knee every day…and now they tell me to… lose a little weight.

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Yes, Kevin Hart, I wore that same expression on my face when they said it!

The foodie in me is not happy about this, but I do have some extra pounds that I’d love to see magically vanish…so I am trying to take a reasonable approach that involves cutting back on certain things, namely carbs, and not completely cutting out all the things I love.

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Did someone say bread….? Yum!

I freely admit it: I am a carb junkie. I love potatoes. I absolutely adore pasta. Got waffles? Yes! Sourdough bread? I am in ecstasy. But…these are, of course, the very things I need to cut back on if I am going to lose the first 5 kilos my physiotherapist says will help my knee feel better.

At least it’s summer. And usually during the summer–as long as it’s hot (which there is no guarantee of here in Sweden) I tend to crave other thing than…bread, pasta, comfort food. Lately, I’ve been craving roasted veggies–tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, red onions, carrots, you name it. I’ve also been longing for a good Caprese salad since my June trip to Matera, Italy.

Oh my stars! I love a good Caprese salad! Photo credit: www.pioneerwoman.com

Oh my stars! I love a good Caprese salad! Photo credit: www.pioneerwoman.com

Caprese salads are the bee’s knees and super simple: the only ingredients you need are

  • ripe tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • good quality mozzarella
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

That’s it. It doesn’t need to be more complicated. Pull out a shallow bowl or serving dish. Slice the tomatoes–not too thinly, you’ll want thicker slices to really enjoy this–and set them aside. Drain and slice the mozzarella. Again, not too flimsy slices. You want to savour the texture and the flavour. Pick a goodly amount of basil leaves–no point in stinting since–again–this is all about flavour.

Now don't you want to try a bit of that loveliness? Photo credit: www.recipeshubs.com

Now don’t you want to try a bit of that loveliness? Photo credit: www.recipeshubs.com

Now start placing the ingredients on your plate–tomato slice, mozzarella, basil–repeat–until you’ve got this lovely vision of red, white and green that makes you dream of Italy. Sprinkle a little sea salt and black pepper over this beauty. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

And you’re done!

Told you it was easy. 🙂

Now if you want to jazz it up, you could roast the tomatoes or use dollops of burrata (a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream) or add some fresh baby spinach or toss in some strawberries or use crema di balsamico (a thicker, slightly sweeter version of balsamic vinegar that’s good on just about everything) instead. Go wild with it. 🙂 I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Caprese salad so I stick with the basics.

The great thing with a Caprese is that you can have it as a side salad or as your main dish–and it’s so pretty that people think you slaved over it when it took no time at all. Simply pretend it was so much more difficult than it really was to pick the perfect basil or slice that tomato just so.

So next week when I am in Philadelphia (where it’s always hot during the summer) instead of Stockholm (where you never know what sort of summer weather you’ll get), I have the feeling I will be eating a lot of Caprese salads.

Are you a Caprese salad lover? Or does some other bit of salad loveliness speak to you?

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My Food Musings

Hard to talk about women and food without a floodof emotions, memories and chocolate. It seems like it plays such an important role in our lives, weaving a rich tapestry that ties together the unforgettable moments of our past, shaping who we are as individuals, mothers, partners. What you ate when your young heart was broken may always stay in a quiet corner of your mind. For those of us who have donned a wedding dress, we probably can recall with amusement what our diet consisted of as the big day neared, trying on that lily-white gown every few days in anticipation.

 

And then there’s cooking. Talk to a handful of women and no two of them have the same story about a childhood favorite dish their mother whipped up to warm them on a rainy day or the same recipe for meatloaf. We have our own tricks up our sleeve, convenient shortcuts, ingredient lists honed by way of picky eaters or allergies or someone’s aversion to mushrooms. Our time in the kitchen can have almost a magical quality to it. Some of our recipes have been passed down through generations, we may pull out cookbooks or index cards so weathered or dog-eared they have the appearance of a rare antique manuscript. Others seem to come out of nowhere. “Where did you learn how to make this?” we may have heard from our partners or dinner party guests, upon tasting a new venture. And the answer could even elicit a laugh. Sick in bed one day, you happened upon a chef on the Food Network espousing the virtues of lamb. Or at the doctor’s office, a years-old issue of Good Houskeeping provided a garlic chicken recipe too mouth-watering not to try. The combination of creativity, skill and sheer luck in the kitchen makes the experience very personal for each of us, and powerful, with successes and failures that mirror life itself.

 

For me, it’s all about keeping it simple. I actually do love to cook, but I’m not a fan of any activity that’s very time-consuming, nor do I usually have that time to spare. I’m always impressed by the kitchen alchemy some people practice, seemingly bringing to fruition gastronomic delights out of thin air, but in reality applying incredible skill, taking great pains in attention to detail and procuring hard to find ingredients. I’m not ashamed to say that for me, this is all a little extraneous. I like a simple recipe with a short list of good ingredients that comes off as hearty but sophisticated with a minimum amount of toil on my part. I learned to cook from Jamie Oliver, the cheerful and gregarious British chef with boyish charm and recipes spanning from his youth in prep school to his current role as husband, father and healthy-eating advocate. My philosophy when it comes to food doesn’t involve diets or restrictions of any kind, beyond my own preferences, which skew towards savory, unostentatious dishes. Food to me can be of course to an extent a source of comfort, and I do occasionally splurge on a few items that have questionable nutritional value, to say the least. But I very much appreciate the nurturing aspect of a great home-cooked dish. Feeding your loved ones, your physical body and your soul with delicious food that was enjoyable to make is one of life’s purest pleasures. For women especially, cooking and eating adds so much value to our daily lives. Sharing intimate moments with each other over half-priced apps in the afternoon lull of a local restaurant or romantic evenings with our partners or watching children eat our lovingly-prepared meals, those things are unique moments in time, emphasizing what’s important when an otherwise routine existence could be stripping the excitement from each passing day. A gourmet chef may not have been my calling, but my experience with food, like a lot of us, has shaped my relationships and to an extent who I am as a writer. Thinking about it makes memories flutter from the depths of my brain and a rumble gently emerge in my stomach.

Ode to Tea Scones

Ode to Tea Scones

Lately, I’ve had a craving for tea scones. I suppose it has something to do with that wacky weather we’ve had in Stockholm. One day freezing cold, the next day spring-like. It makes me want comfort food. And sometimes the only thing that will do is a plate of scones with cream cheese or whipped cream (since it’s not very easy to find clotted cream in Stockholm) and strawberry preserves. Last week I baked twelve scones. They were quick to whip together and were so fluffy and yummy-crummy. And now I want to bake more.

Not my scones, but don't they look yummy? (Photo credit: BBC Food)

Not my scones, but don’t they look yummy? (Photo credit: BBC Food)

Now, tea scones don’t taste much different from the buttermilk biscuits my grandmother used to make. And probably they’re the same thing, just with different names on either side of the pond. The first time I had scones was in London. In fact it was during my very first trip to London. The hubster and I went to Fortnum & Mason’s to pick up marmalade and tea (we were addicted to them even though we were pretty broke back then) , and then we saw their café and we knew we had to try their scones. So we splurged and had afternoon tea. It was wonderful. We were both in heaven. We didn’t really care about the sandwiches…we only wanted scones. And we gobbled them down with plenty of clotted cream (sheer bliss!) and strawberry jam.

And soon they became our obsession.

We tried to make our own. Sometimes they came out perfectly…other times, not so great. I experimented with them–baking them with dried cranberries or saffron or blueberries. They didn’t really do it for me. Eventually we realised we were over-complicating the recipe and found a very simple one that always delivered great results. You see, I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t need fancy scones. I don’t need them with white chocolate or orange zest or whatever other things some people like in their scones. I am a bit of a traditionalist. I just want plain ol’ scones with lots of cream and jam.

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Still not mine, but doesn’t it make you hungry? Mmm….scones! (Photo credit: unknown)

Now that I am talking about scones, I am craving them again. I think I will have to bake another tray. A girl needs scones. Especially when she is trying to finish her novel. 😉

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