Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Announcing My New Blog Address!!!

Hey Ladies and Gents....

I was totally not intending to do it this soon (the new site isn't quite ready yet!), but I ran out of picture space on Blogspot here (didn't even know you could do that!), so it's really very urgent that I move NOW. So pardon the dust, but please do check out my new blog design and site, especially because I have a very special Valentine's Day post for you to enjoy.

You'll find it here: http://www.quickeasycheaphealthy.com.

If you are subscribed here, you will want to re-subscribe at the new address... but not yet because the button isn't ready yet!!! Like I said, pardon the dust!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dessert for Two

My favorite way to celebrate Valentine's Day is to pull out all the stops and make a delicious as-close-to-gourmet-as-I-ever-get meal that's more expensive and indulgent than our usual fare, and to finish it off with an amazingly impressive and definitely chocolate dessert. I like to wait until the kids are in bed, light the candles and dress the table for an elegant, intimate meal.

Not that I get to do that every year. Sometimes life intervenes, like this year. We will be traveling this weekend to attend my grandfather's memorial service, and won't return until late Sunday. Monday will be spent unpacking from the trip and trying to re-immerse ourselves in the daily grind, so I won't have time to go grocery shopping and I certainly won't be in the frame of mind to pull together a gorgeous meal the following day.

I'll save it for our anniversary later this month.

In the meantime, I'll share with you the dessert I would make if I was making a fabulous Valentine's Day meal this year. This dessert looks impressive, tastes dee-vine, and best of all, takes only 15 minutes of your time. Oh, and it's a whole lot easier than it looks, especially if you make it my way. You'll find vastly more complicated recipes, but they make it way harder than it has to be. Trust me; this is the way to go.

Chocolate Lava Cakes
4 TBSP butter
1/3 cup semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1 egg
1 egg yolk (freeze the white to use another day)
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP flour

Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave, stirring at 20-second intervals. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until it thickens slightly and lightens in color.

Beat in chocolate/butter mixture and flour until well blended and smooth.

 Butter two 6oz ramekins. (I used my fingers to smush the butter into the edges just to be sure the cake would pop out nicely.) Sprinkle cocoa powder to cover the inside.

Divide the batter evenly between the two ramekins. Bake at 425F for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is still a little "jiggly". (At 8 minutes, mine were probably slightly underdone, but still edible and presentable.)

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 seconds. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake.

Carefully invert the cake onto the dessert plate. Place your dessert plate on top of the ramekin while holding the ramekin in your right hand. (I'm not holding it here because I was taking the picture, but you get the idea!)

Place your left hand on top of the dessert plate...

...and flip so that your right hand is now on top. Set it down on the counter....

...and carefully lift off the ramekin.

And there's your lava cake!

You can garnish your lovely little cakes in a multitude of ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • fresh berries, especially strawberry or raspberry
  • mint leaves
  • a dollop of whipped cream
  • a scoop of ice cream
  • chocolate shavings
  • powdered sugar
I garnished mine with dried coconut strips which is what I had in the cupboard; they turned out beautifully!

What can be QUICKer than 15 minutes? Not much! Besides which, you can make the batter up to a day ahead and bake the cakes right before serving. 

I think you will agree that this is pretty EASY, especially considering how fancy and difficult it looks

Making individual servings like this makes it a CHEAP choice; no waste! I can't tell you how many times I've thrown away cake because we just don't eat it a lot. This is a much better route to go. 

HEALTHY? Well, it's dessert, what can I say? And certainly not the healthiest dessert I've ever come across. You can increase the nutritional value by choosing quality ingredients: dark chocolate, pastured eggs, raw sugar and real butter. I wasn't brave enough to try whole wheat flour, but I bet white whole wheat would work in this recipe. (If you try it let me know! I was afraid it would affect the texture too much.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Food for the Non-Fan

There are two kinds of people:

  1. The kind that go to a Super Bowl party for the football.
  2. The kind that go to a Super Bowl party for the food
I suppose you could argue that there are subsets of both groups, such as those who only go to watch the commercials, or those who only go because it's really the only thing going on that particular Sunday night. At any rate, I am firmly planted in group #2. And proud of it! 

Forget the football. Bring on the food, baby!

Hence, I bring you an appetizer that is definitely not meant for the dedicated football fan, but for his/her foodie guest. When I made them and told my DH they were for a Super Bowl appetizer, he said (and I quote), "Yeah, right." He is firmly planted in group #1. 

Who cares if the real fans don't appreciate these delicately crispy, lightly salty, and oh-so-good snacks? They weren't intended for them anyway; they are strictly just for us. You know, the food fans.

Would you believe me if I told you these gourmet-like crisps are super easy? And super quick? Read on, and perhaps I can convince you.

The recipe doesn't contain measurements because it really doesn't matter. You can have as little as 1 TBSP of shredded parmesan, or as much as 3 cups. It all depends on how big your block of Parmesan is, how long you want to spend grating it, and how many foodie friends you have. 

The only thing that's really necessary is that you do indeed begin with a block of Parmesan and grate it yourself. Probably some freshly grated Parmesan at the store would be OK, but I really think it's better to grate it yourself. 

Parmesan Crisps
shredded parmesan
freshly ground black pepper

Place the shredded parmesan 1 TBSP-full at a time on a silicone- or parchment- lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Bake for 5 minutes at 400F or until the cheese is melted and the edges are golden crispy. 

Allow to cool, then carefully remove from the cookie sheet and place in serving dish. 

Most people say these are best served the same day they're made, but I actually think they are sturdier and crisper the next day. They didn't make it any farther than that around here....

Of course, you can use different seasonings, by the way. I like the simple subtlety of the black pepper, but spicy seasonings like cumin or red pepper flakes would be delicious, as would more Italian herbs like rosemary or basil. Try them all and see what you like best!

These also work great as a delicious accompaniment to soup or salad.

So QUICK: 10 minutes or less for one cookie-sheet-full! You definitely have time for that, especially since that small amount of time is so well invested in deliciousness like this. 

Can you grate cheese and dump it on a pan? Then you can make these. EASY-Peasy!

CHEAP, on the other hand, is debatable. If you're making a batch large enough to feed a lot of guests, it will take a large amount of Parmesan cheese, which gets expensive. However, if you just make a few as a garnish, or as part of a platter of other appetizers and noshy stuff, the expense is minimal. It doesn't take much Parmesan to make a TBSP worth of shredded cheese.

It's very HEALTHY, too! Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium, of course, but also vitamins B and A, among other things. So enjoy guilt-free!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Super Bowl of "Chips" and Dip!

I say "chips" because I don't want you to think they will be exactly like those fatty, crunchy discs you pull from the foil bag. Nope, they're better! Not quite as crunchy - hence the quotes - but twice the flavor. Don't believe me? Try them and see!

2 medium potatoes
1 TBSP olive oil
salt & pepper

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and peel if desired. Slice thinly (use a mandolin slicer if you have one), but not too thin (you don't want the slices to be transparent). Drizzle the slices with the oil. Generously grease a cookie sheet with more olive oil and lay the slices on it in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or until edges are browned.

I chose to stick with the simplicity of salt and pepper because I knew I was going to make the dip below to go with them, but these can be seasoned in an infinite variety of ways. Use a seasoning blend or try your own favorite herbs and spices. I'll probably experiment with quite a few myself and post them as I try them. Let me know how you flavor yours!

Chips have to go with dip, at least I think so. Unfortunately, most dip is just as fattening as the chips, and full of unnecessary ingredients. Try this dip, instead, that uses yogurt as a base. Use Greek yogurt, or strain regular yogurt in a mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or the like.

Ranch Dip
1/2 cup Greek or strained yogurt
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream, mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried dillweed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Stir together the yogurt, cream cheese, and heavy cream until thoroughly blended. Mix in the spices. Refrigerate a couple hours before serving (ideally).

These chips are pretty QUICK, considering they were done, start to finish, in under 30 minutes. Just as quick as going to the store to pick up a bag! And the dip is super fast, aside from the refrigeration time, which isn't 100% essential.

They are pretty EASY, with some qualifications: you have to slice them just the right thickness, and you have to cook them just the right amount of time.

Definitely much CHEAPer than buying a bag at the grocery store! Two potatoes are mere pennies. OK, well maybe dimes.

And soooo much HEALTHY-er than the chips in the bag. And the dip in the plastic container, too. All good stuff here, nothing to feel guilty about while you watch the big game!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Slice of Life... or Maybe Just Pizza

This was just a last minute quick dinner idea, one that I fall back on frequently, and I had no intention of blogging about it when I started putting it together. It turned out so beautifully, though, I had to photograph it and share it with you. Would you like a slice?

I wish I could share it with you in person; that would be so much fun, wouldn't it? But since we've already eaten most of it, I can't do that, so I'll just share it virtually instead.

You can take it from virtual reality to actual reality by making it yourself. Here's how:

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
1 recipe Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (or any other pizza dough)
1/4 cup Ranch dressing (try this healthy homemade version)
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 TBSP olive oil
2-3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
handful of fresh chopped parsley

Roll the pizza dough out onto the pan. Bake at 375F for about 10 minutes or so. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. While it's cooling, cut the chicken into 1" or 2" pieces. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, and fry chicken pieces until golden brown on the edges. Spread Ranch dressing over surface of pizza crust. Evenly distribute chicken and bacon pieces on top. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted completely and crust is done. Remove from oven and top with parsley. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

I think some chopped red onions would be delicious on this pizza, and grated or finely chopped zucchini would add a nice crunch and some fresh garden flavor.

This is a great QUICK dinner for weeknights. I schedule pizza on the menu pretty frequently for this very reason.

It's also very EASY! It's hard to mess up pizza. If you're nervous about the dough, Trader Joe's sells a great ready-to-bake pizza dough that's worth a try. But really, pizza dough is not difficult to make - most recipes don't even require rising, or kneading or anything like that. And the flavor of homemade pizza crust is hard to beat!

The fact that it's CHEAP is another reason why it appears on my menu rotation frequently. Pizzas, like casseroles, are a great place to use up leftover meats, vegetables, and even fruits, depending on your tastes. You can even use leftover sauces or dips. The biggest expense is the cheese, but it's totally worth it.

Because it's made of wholesome ingredients, I consider it a HEALTHY meal option. Beware, though, that it packs a hefty calorie punch and is rather carb-heavy. Take that into consideration for your food intake during the day. And I would recommend eating 2 slices or less, and supplementing with a green salad.