A Different Take on Meatloaf

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Having grown up in Guatemala, my parents did not experience American cuisine until they moved to this country when they were in their mid-twenties. For most American dishes, my mother took the basic structure and idea of the meal, and made up what she believed was in it, or what she thought would make it taste right. Therefore, my own initial exposure to American food came in whatever form my mother adapted it. I generally don’t like traditional meatloaf because I have been spoiled  by (and accustomed to) my mother’s meatloaf, filled with vegetables and flavor. I like to pair this version of meatloaf with even more vegetables on the side (here I roasted squash), but you can make mashed potatoes or rice if you’re looking for something different.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb lean ground beef

3 cups collard greens (I also like to use spinach, kale, and chard)

1/2 cup diced white onion

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 large bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 egg

1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon pepper

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat oven to 350F. In a saucepan, sauté onions and garlic with heated olive oil until onions are translucent. In a bowl mix salt, pepper, egg, and ground beef. Chop greens into small pieces and add to ground beef along with onions, garlic, bell pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly.

Place mixture into a glass bread pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until meat is cooked through but still moist and juicy.

Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with your favorite meatloaf side dish and enjoy.

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Whole Wheat Honey Pumpkin Muffins

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I’m training for a half marathon and prepping to go wedding dress shopping in two months (eeek!), so indulging in holiday treats isn’t that much of an option for me right now. If you’re looking for a healthy fall treat (that tastes like a cheat), I would highly recommend these muffins. They came out moist, not too sweet, and rich with pumpkin and autumn spice flavors. It’s a great midday treat that we enjoyed with some fresh coffee.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of pumpkin purée

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup of honey (I’ve read using just honey works well too – just double the amount to replace the brown sugar)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

1 tablespoon coarse raw sugar for topping

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 375F.

In a bowl, mix the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Sift the dry ingredients together and add the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, honey, and chocolate chips. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together with a spoon.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners and scoop the mixture evenly into the pan. If desired, sprinkle a little bit of coarse raw sugar over each muffin – it will give the top a sweet crunch and it looks very pretty.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Then try to let them cool before eating…which can be the most difficult part.

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Zucchini & Turkey ‘Lasagna’

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I’ve made this zucchini dish several times and love coming back to it with new ingredients. This time, instead of ground beef, I decided to use ground turkey. I actually like this low carb/gluten free meal much better than traditional lasagna.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 large green zucchini

2 large yellow squash

1/2 white onion

1/2 cup sliced crimini mushrooms

1 pound ground turkey

2 cups tomato sauce

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon peper

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 cups low fat shredded cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Chop the onion and mushrooms and add to a pan with a little bit of olive oil. Sauté until the onions are a little translucent.

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Add the ground turkey to the pan and using a wooden spoon, separate the meat while it’s cooking. While the turkey cooks, slice up the squash into long flat slices.

Add the tomato sauce once the turkey has mostly cooked through on the outside (it will finish cooking in the oven) along with the salt, pepper, thyme, and fennel seeds. Let the meat soak in the tomato sauce and spices for a couple of minutes on the stovetop.

In a large flat baking dish lay the squash flat to create the bottom layer of your lasagna. Then simply layer it with meat, followed by cheese, then squash again. Your top layer will be a final layer of squash topped with a layer of cheese.

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Put in 350F oven for about 15 – 20 minutes for the meat to finish cooking and the cheese to melt. That’s it! It’s easy and it makes plenty. I can’t wait to have this for dinner again tonight. Leftovers are just as good.


Zucchini Noodle Salad

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I am not actually a vegetarian, but I often tend to lean in that direction. I enjoy meat, and am not willing to completely give it up, but I find myself seeking out vegetable based dishes more often than not. I also love finding ways to swap out ingredients in dishes in favor of making it healthier. There are many vegetables that work so well to replace starches such as eggplant lasagna or spaghetti squash, so taking a cue from the latter I decided to try making ‘noodles’ out of zucchini. I am so excited with the results. I flavored it as I would a light pasta salad, and served it warm. It was a perfect light and comforting meal for these early autumn nights.

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INGREDIENTS (makes 4 large servings):

5 zucchini (I used green, you can of course use yellow squash as well)

1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 corn husk

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 orange bell pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Goat cheese for sprinkling on top

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Cut your zucchini long ways in half and carefully make thin long slices from each half. I laid the zucchini flat on my cutting board and make horizontal slices to get thin flat slices. If you have a mandolin this process should be much easier, I had to use a knife. After you’ve cut all your thin slices slice the zucchini into thin long strips. You can make them as thick or thin as you would like, the idea is just to emulate spaghetti. Keep in mind that zucchini shrinks when it cooks. On a griddle (or in your oven on a piece of aluminum foil) roast the corn until it is evenly cooked. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and sprinkle a little bit of olive oil and salt just enough to lightly coat them. Add tomatoes to griddle and let them roast for a couple of minutes. I used tongs to keep them moving so they would grill from both sides.

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Once the corn is cooked, remove from heat and let it cool down. When it is safe to handle, use a knife to remove the corn kernels from the husk. Add the zucchini to a pot and cook until they are slightly tender but not soggy. Mix in the other vegetables and add remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with little dollops of goat cheese. You can have this hot or cold, it’s yummy either way.

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Eggs in Tomato Sauce

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This past weekend, I decided to use my brand new skillet for the first time by making an egg breakfast. I love our cast iron griddle, but this is my first cast iron skillet and I’m so excited to be using it! They may look like fried eggs, but these were actually cooked in the tomato sauce in the oven. Next time, I would love to add some mushrooms or some crumbled bits of chorizo to further enhance it.

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INGREDIENTS (makes for four eggs):

2 cups tomato sauce (I used the Trader Joes Puttanesca sauce which has olives, capers, and anchovies that give it a great flavor)

4 eggs

1/2 large white onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

In a medium sized skillet I sautéed some chopped onion before adding the tomato sauce to give it more flavor. After sautéing onions in the olive oil until they’re lightly browned on the stove top, add the tomato sauce and let it simmer for about a minute. When the tomato sauce is evenly warmed up crack your eggs right into the sauce. You can make little ‘pockets’ in the sauce before adding your eggs so they can submerge into the sauce a bit more. Lightly salt for taste and put skillet into oven for about 2 minutes for over easy eggs and about 5 minutes if you want the yolks to cook through. I quickly learned that it may continue to look like the yolk is soft, but it cooks very quickly using this method.

We ate this with some toasted corn tortillas, but if served with bread, or even alone it’s just as delicious.


Fresh Guacamole

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I’m sure there are hundreds of recipes on the internet for guacamole claiming to be the best. I do not claim that mine is ‘the best’ because I haven’t tried everything out there, but I will say that anyone who has ever tried my guacamole thinks it is absolutely delicious. Like with most of my recipes, I rely on fresh ingredients to make it work. Avocados are still in season, and living in Los Angeles means endless amounts of avocados around every corner. I made this with the help of my mini food processor, which has been one of the best purchases I have made for our kitchen. Prep time was less than ten minutes – so little time needed for so much goodness.

INGREDIENTS:

3 Large ripe avocados

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/2 large yellow onion

3 ripe tomatoes

2 lemons

2 tablespoons oregano

salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Slice the avocados in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the avocado with a spoon. I like to slice the avocados into little cubes while still in their shell to make the mushing process easier before scooping out the good part. Combine cilantro, onion, and tomatoes in food processor and give it a rough chop. Add chopped ingredients to bowl with avocado and mash with a large spoon. I like to leave some globs of avocado but you can mash as much as you like. Add the juice of about two lemons and some salt to taste (I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of fine sea salt). Top off with minced oregano.


Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and Asparagus

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I recently decided to try making chimichurri sauce for the first time, so I looked up a few recipes to get a basic idea, and then ended up taking my own approach. I grilled skirt steak with just a bit of salt and pepper rubbed over it, then topped it with sauce and paired it with simple grilled asparagus. I added an extra dollop of sauce to each plate to have some for the asparagus as well.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup arugula

2 cups parsley

2 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 jalapeno

2 garlic cloves

1/2 white onion

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and grind until smooth. Add a tiny bit of water if it’s not coming out as smooth as you would like it. Serve over grilled steak with vegetables.

 


Grilled Chicken and Freshly Made Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat Angel Hair

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Finding meals that are both delicious and quick to make can of course be a common challenge. This meal only took about 20 minutes total, if that. It was low fat, healthy, and really yummy.

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Eating outdoors on cool spring evenings is always an added bonus to a home-made meal. It’s a fun treat for our cats to roam around on the patio for a bit too as you can see in the photo.

INGREDIENTS:

2 large chicken breasts (I cut them into slices)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large can peeled plum tomatoes

1 medium white onion

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 garlic cloves

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb 100% whole wheat angel hair pasta

INSTRUCTIONS:

Rub chicken breast pieces with salt and place on heated griddle, grill each side for about 5 minutes each – until both sides have griddle marks and meat is cooked through when sliced. While chicken is grilling heat a pan with olive oil and add the garlic and onions. Once garlic and onions are translucent add the tomatoes (with juices), thyme, salt and pepper. With a wooden spoon smush down the whole tomatoes, you can use sliced tomatoes too but I like the whole since they seem to hold on to their juices better for more flavor. Allow ingredients to simmer then add chicken breast slices to pan, let the chicken simmer with the sauce for another couple of minutes. Cook pasta per package instructions and serve topped with chicken and sauce.

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Grilled Fish in Plantain Leaves

 

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I had a lot of extra plantain leaves from making new years tamales, so I’ve been thinking up ways to use them up. I took some inspiration from Caribbean cooking and decided to grill some fish inside the leaves instead of right on the griddle. The plantain leaves give the fish a great taste and help preserve juiciness. I topped it off with some vegetables in a spicy/sour sauce and plain steamed white rice.

INGREDIENTS:

4 fillets of white fish of choice

8 plantain leaf pieces

1 lemon

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 serrano pepper (warning – these can get pretty spicy)

2 bell peppers

1/2 small package of mushrooms

1 teaspoon ground ginger

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Rub the fish fillets with salt and pepper. In a small bowl add the juice of the lemon, thyme, and olive oil. Spread the lemon mixture onto each fillet. I like to slice about 2 -3 slivers into the fillets to get the seasoning inside as well and it helps with the cooking. Place each fillet on two pieces of plantain leaves, crossed, and wrap over the fish securing with toothpicks.

Place your fish pouches on a hot griddle (or grill if you have access). Let each side cook for about 5 minutes before turning over.

In a skillet heat up a little bit of olive oil and add all your vegetables, diced. Add any of your remaining lemon mixture, the ginger, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Serve over white rice topped with vegetables.