Thursday, January 31, 2008

And the Salad Just Couldn't Be Held Back

Ahhhh, we just couldn't help ourselves. We're too excited, and one recipe for our debut offering just wasn't enough. Plus, given that this is one of the sweet months of the year, we'll be serving up yet another treat before Valentine's Day in an upcoming post. Now, we can't just keep dishing out desserts one after the other, can we? Or maybe that's what February should be all about? Well, we think we need to squeeze in a little leafy goodness to round things out a bit, sort of make a meal of things.

So, we'll get on with it and introduce one of our favorite little peformers. It fits the bill for casual or formal gatherings. It loves the opportunity to steal the show and fill the plate with all of its contents and counterparts where it can shine and be applauded, appreciated, and smiled at while bumped up against a piece of crusty bread. But, when in need, it can be humbled to take up only part of a plate and play a delightful, colorful, and vibrant second fiddle to a main dish.

Spinach and Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as an entree salad or 6 as a side

There is some fat content in a portion of our recipes, and you'll notice that these are always of the heart-healthy variety, i.e., canola and olive oils, butter substitutes like Smart Balance and Benecol, healthy nuts, etc. We try to use less of these ingredients where possible, a bit like a sliding scale, but they are effective in rounding out taste, presentation, garnishing and overall enjoyment. As you gain experience with this type of cooking, you will become more comfortable and familiar with your own tastes and needs and able to start adjusting these items on your own when you want to!

We assemble the salad ingredients more according to taste than to actual measure, given that some like more veggies and some like more pasta. Feel free to experiment with your tastes. The following is a great guide to get you started. When the salad is to be served for a main dish we add meat or fish, but for an accompaniment to a main dish we leave the meat out.
Oh, so many choices. Just make sure you fill your belly. I mean, really, let's not forget what's most important now!

3 c cooked orzo pasta, follow package directions
3 c coarsely chopped spinach
1/3 c soft dry-packed sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 c fresh diced tomatoes
4 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 c pinenuts
Parmesan cheese, shaved, if your dietary needs allow
3 grilled and sliced seasoned chicken breasts ~ optional [we suggest brushing very lightly with olive oil, a little sprinkle of lemon juice, garlic, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper - delicious!]

Put sundried tomatoes in small bowl of warm water to further soften for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the water off and toss the tomatoes, with all other ingredients together in large salad bowl, reserving parmesan. Add desired amount of dressing just prior to serving, adjust salt and pepper, toss, and garnish with parmesan if using.

Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes about 3/4 cup dressing

You can choose to go heavier or lighter with the application of dressing on the salad depending on your own taste and dietary needs. As you might have guessed, Alice uses less dressing.

2-3T fresh lemon juice
1/4 olive oil
1/4 c canola oil
1 T water
2 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t garlic powder or 1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Whisk ingredients together by hand or in blender. Pour over salad in desired amount.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!!!

We figured rather than throw an expected salad out here on this momentous first post or something with whole grains (now don't get us wrong, these things are good, good for you, and will surely find their way to this blog) we'd start things off [Achem...] right, maybe even with a little flourish. How about raspberries? How about something creamy? How about d-e-s-s-e-r-t? Are you with us?

I'm sure I heard a resounding yes from our readers. We're glad you think so. About this time of year I get itchy for something that tastes fresh, like ripe-from-the-sun fresh. And then I look outside and know that the sun won't be ripening much of anything for a few more months yet, which might explain this wintery hankering.

There's something about a few months of snow to cause vivid daydreams, hallucinations if you will, of warm summer sun, days at the park, picnics, biting into ripe fruit and the pleasing sensation of juice dribbling down your chin followed by the who-cares attitude when it slaps onto your shirt. It's summer, after all! It's the time of year when we celebrate vitality, fullness, abundance, the gathering in of goodness before the slow wind-down into fall. While I am a firm believer in the benefit of experiencing each season for what it brings, you can't blame a person for looking outside at the beautiful, yet very cold snow falling, and thinking forward to the days when I can dig my fingers in the dirt and plant a garden or visit the farmers market for something sweet and natural and utterly delicious.

So after a week like this, I naturally thought of raspberries.

In late January, we must head to the freezer for such things, and luckily this recipe uses the fresh or frozen type so it can be enjoyed any time of year. It also has the added bonus of being very easy to prepare. It's a way to enjoy raspberries in true wintery fashion, and it tastes gooood. Enjoy the shivery, raspberry, creamy deliciousness! And thanks again for visiting - see you next week!

Frozen Raspberry Cream Pie

1 can nonfat sweetened condensed milk
2/3 c frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate, thawed
8-oz tub fat-free whipped topping
1 1/2 c fresh or frozen raspberries, thawed
Lowfat graham cracker crust

Line bottom of 9x9” pan with lowfat graham cracker crust. (I just crush the crackers and add a little sugar. You can mix in a little butter if the extra fat and calories are not a concern.) Combine milk and lemonade concentrate. Fold in the whipped topping, then half of the berries. Spoon filling over crust, and top with remaining berries. Freeze. Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.