Now bring us some figgy pizza!

I should totally be going to bed right now, especially since tomorrow I’ve sworn to wake up at the crack of dawn and begin damage control. The past two weeks have been pure overindulgence excused by Easter and the big news that I will be attending UCLA in the Fall on a full Fellowship! I’m in a constant state of shock. This will mean a new apartment and completely new life in L.A. come September. I plan to savor my last few months here in Costa Mesa, for as much as people love to complain about Orange County, I’ve really enjoyed my life here over the past couple years.

 Some of the food highlights from the past two weeks include an exorbidant amount of See’s Scotchmallow eggs, lunch out today at The Counter in Marina del Rey (see below!), dinner with Leah at Paco’s, pasta night with Iris, dinner at Mozza’s in Newport Beach, salmon eggs benedict for Easter at Dad’s, Nana’s Ham & Yams, and oh yeah….  8 pies I baked as gifts in my small kitchen the Friday before Easter [post to follow later this week].

So anyhow, back to this pizza! Two weeks ago, we literally ate pizza four nights in a row… we are complete pizza addicts. Dhiren made a pizza with goat cheese & figs and it was SO good that I made it again the following day.

Ingredients:

Basic pizza dough
Figs (fresh are the best, but since they were out of season, I used dried)
Goat cheese, crumbled
Honey
1/2 Onion
Olive oil
Mozzarella, grated

1. Prepare your dough! I will put a basic pizza dough recipe up in a couple days for those of you who are curious. For years I bought Trader Joe’s dough, but now we make our own. Not to knock Joe’s, but it always seemed impossible to get a crunchy, perfect dough with their pre-made, refrigerated kind…

2. Caramelize the onions until they are sweet and a deep golden color.

3. I recommend soaking the dried figs for a while prior to heating them up. I didn’t have time to soak them, so I just threw them on a skillet for about 5-8 minutes and heated them with about a tbsp of honey prior to putting them on the pizza.

4. Preheat your oven to about 400 degrees.

5. Roll out your dough as you like it, and brush with olive oil. Crumble goat cheese on top, and grate mozzarella on the entire pizza. Arrange the onions and the figs.

6. Stick it in the oven until the dough is crunchy and cooked (our dough doesn’t LOOK ready in this photo, but it was perfect!) I always use the touch-test with doughs, since looks can sometimes be deceiving.

I love combining sweet and savory flavors, and this is the PERFECT pizza for that. Hope some of you try it out!

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Sweet Crepes with Sautéed Cinnamon Bananas

This will be my last post until the weekend. I’ve been posting daily because I’m trying to catch-up on my long list of ideas and recipes that are standing by. I’m finding that blogging is taking up too much of my very limited time though. I have two auditions for grad school in t-minus three weeks, and so I need to be channeling all my creative efforts into that. I will be posting on weekends and scheduling posts to publish during weekdays, but I am banning myself from logging onto this blog or on Facebook on weekdays until February 18th.

Yesterday I woke up and thought that crepes with bananas sounded like a great idea. Crepes are easy to make, lighter than normal pancakes, and they make you feel oh-so-fancy. While in Paris in November we ate some amazing crepes, and some… not-so-amazing ones. The best one we tried was at the Sunday Market by the Bastille. It was delicious and stuffed with bananas and caramel sauce. I totally regret not buying a tub of $15 caramel from that stand. I also regret losing my camera which held pictures of it. 😦 (I still get sick thinking about how we left that camera on the plane…)

This was our favorite street performance we saw that day:

http://www.facebook.com/v/10100719818509791

I’ve tried lots of crepe recipes. Some require a blender, an hour of waiting time, etc. But then there are times when you’re in an “instant gratification” mood and in that case, this recipe works extremely well! I’ve been following Weight Watchers since September and so I’ve modified this a little to make it healthier (albeit, not as tasty). If you don’t care about caloric content, use butter and regular flour. Otherwise, you can stick with this recipe.

Ingredients for crepes (makes about five large crepes):

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose), sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but whole milk will make it tastier)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP light margarine, melted (or butter)

Whisk the eggs until frothy in a medium bowl. Add the milk, water and butter and whisk until combined. In a separate bowl combine salt, sugar and flour with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and fold in until just incorperated. Add the vanilla but take care not to over-mix.

Heat up a large skillet on medium-high heat, and when ready toss in a pat of margarine or butter.

This is the fun part. Working quickly, pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto the hot skillet and quickly pick up the pan and rotate it in a circular motion so that all of the batter spreads out to fill the width of the pan.

Roll them, and keep them wrapped in foil.

Ingredients for Sautéed Bananas:

  • Two bananas
  • White sugar (about 1/4 c.)
  • Butter or margarine (about 2 TBSP)
  • Cinnamon (about 1 tsp)

Melt butter in a skillet set on high. Toss in the bananas, sugar and cinnamon and let them fry for about 2 minutes, constantly scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula.

Arrange bananas inside the crepes, sprinkle with sugar, maple syrup, caramel sauce or nutella and enjoy!

 

Many thanks to Dhiren for helping me take photos on this post. Up next: Vegetarian Fiesta Burrito, Bread Pudding, Angelini Osteria Review & Homemade Ravioli & Pesto.

So-Simple Berry Vanilla Smoothie

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that makes me happier about eating healthy than smoothies. They are refreshing, filling AND they satisfy my sweet tooth. But, smoothies can be extremely unhealthy, especially when loaded with preservatives, sorbet and sherbet or worse: ice cream. I’ve tried some of the low-calorie smoothies at places like Jamba Juice and Juice It Up but they taste like chalk, and leave me $4 poorer.

This has become my favorite smoothie of all time.

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen blueberries or mixed berries
1 banana
1 cup 1% milk (you can use fat-free… but I just can’t do it… might as well use water)
1 tbsp vanilla

Blend them all in a blender until smooth & enjoy. It’s that simple. I probably drink this every other day in the morning or after a workout. It has 3 Weight Watcher Points because of the milk and it fills me up while helping me get in my dairy and 2-3 servings of fruit.

Cheesy Garlic & Mushroom Calzone

I’m trying to catch up on some of the recipes from 2011 that I left in the dust on my hard drive. This was a really fun recipe and a delicious dinner. It’s economical and easy to make, and you can make it into a healthier calzone by simply substituting lighter cheeses, whole wheat flour and putting more vegetables in it.

The first step is making the dough. This, for me personally, is a lot of fun, and easy to do. I think dough is always better when made a couple hours ahead of time. You definitely need at least one hour for it to rise, so this isn’t a fast dinner.

*Note: this recipe yields two large calzones!*

Ingredients for 

the dough:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp olive oil
I always combine the yeast, water, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, sugar and salt for about ten minutes before adding in the flour. Then I mix it together, using a fork at first and once it clumps together, I knead it on a lightly floured chopping board. I knead the dough for about 10 minutes, turning it over, pressing in, and so on until it feels soft ( some people say it should feel like skin). I always do the poke test. Once the dough pops back after being poked, it’s ready. Then, set it in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Coat it in the oil, cover with plastic wrap, and then let it rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size. 

Preheat the oven to 375 when you are ready to roll out the dough. Separate the dough into two portions. Roll both of them into circles.

To make the filling for one calzone, simply combine 1/2 to 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese,  1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms and 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves. Now, you can fill it with anything you like. I personally love a four-cheese calzone, but you can fill it with more vegetables to make it healthier. I also used light ricotta in this one. Arrange the filling on half of the calzone.

Fold the calzones in half and secure with a fork. Using a baster brush, cover the whole thing with an egg wash (beat one egg in a bowl). This will give it that gorgeous color and crisp!

Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite sauce!

Dee’s take on Nana’s Baked Mac ‘n Cheese

Since I date a vegetarian, macaroni and cheese has become one of my tastiest dishes and a guaranteed hit with the boyfriend. It’s quick, simple, delicious and I never need to reference a cookbook when assembling it. True, it’s not the healthiest option, but pair it with a salad and you can kind of justify it.

I made this for New Year’s Eve din-din at home, paired with some Trader Joe’s baby back ribs (for me), a salad and some cornbread. We had a fun time just hanging out at home, detonating poppers & banging on pots and pans.

My recipe comes from my Nana, who taught me how to make baked macaroni about a year ago.

Ingredients:

-butter, 4 TBSP
– half & half, 1 cup
-flour, 4 TBSP
– milk (1% – whole milk), 3 cups
-elbow macaroni (1 box)
-1 stick of cheddar cheese (or you can use different cheeses to make a more “gourmet-style” three or four-cheese macaroni)
-salt (to taste)
-breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup or so

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Immediately add the flour and begin stirring until it is incorporated into the butter.

2. Add the milk and the half & half and whisk until mixed together. As the milk heats up, grate the cheese into the milk mixture. You can also buy pre-shredded cheese or a four-cheese blend and slowly add it in, whisking every minute or so.

3. Meanwhile, boil the macaroni for about 6-7 minutes (or until al dente) and drain and pour into a Pyrex 13 x 9 baking dish or casserole pan.

4. Once the roux is thick and the cheese is melted, pour it directly over the pasta in the casserole dish.

5. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and casually arrange small cubes of chopped butter over the bread crumbs.

6. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

7. Take your cholesterol medication.

YUM.

Let’s Get STEAMY

The New Year is a time for all of us to reflect on our lives, contemplate our achievements and failures, look into the future and pledge resolutions for making us better people, and to LOSE WEIGHT!

Just kidding! ( but not really…) On New Year’s Day the whole nation realizes that eating Halloween candy, stuffing, English toffee and buttered rums nonstop for three month’s causes some unflattering bulges and a serious case of lowered self-esteem due to ill-fitting pants. I personally did a decent job this Fall up until December 10th. Then, I just went crazy and ate star-shaped sugar cookies for breakfast. It was like Hansel and Gretel in my apartment for three weeks. But now the fairy tale is over, I’m 5 pounds heavier, and it’s time to shift back into a more veggie-centric eating plan.

This leads us to today’s dinner: “A boring, vegetable soup.”

At least, that’s what I thought as I lifelessly began chopping carrots. But, surprisingly enough, it wasn’t boring and turned out to be quite tasty and filling. Plus it is  worth 1 Weight Watcher’s point a cup.

To make a tasty soup, all you need to do is throw a mix of your favorite vegetables into a soup pot. I used broccoli, celery, spinach, carrots, zucchini, onion, garlic, red pepper and cauliflower. Pour in enough chicken stock so that the vegetables are covered and then bring it to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season with thyme, lemon juice, pepper and (lots of) sea salt. You can also add in some noodles or rice if you need your carb fix.

What is YOUR favorite low-calorie dinner? I’m taking suggestions for upcoming posts. In addition to the vegetables, I’m starting up Pilates again, which I’m really happy about! I’m so sore I can barely manage to do basic functions. No matter how much walking or running you do, nothing will leave you more sore than a Pilates class.

Now I’ll leave you with this hilarious, and kind of inappropriate, “morning warm-up” workout video. I had visions of myself making a video of me attempting this, but then I realized I would live a life of shame from then on… so I decided against it.

Orecchiette with Peas in a Creamed Corn Purée

True story: I actually searched “name for a cheesy corn sauce” in order to find a better way to title this recipe (the results weren’t helpful). The word “purée” reminds me of baby food and has always bothered me. Tonight I needed a recipe that utilized canned corn,  left-over heavy cream from my Thanksgiving creme brûlées, and frozen peas. I winged it and this turned out amazing.

I first pureéd the corn with the heavy cream in the blender. I boiled the orecchiette (which is one of my favorite pastas ever since Italy) and then in a separate skillet, I heated up olive oil and sautéed the onion, garlic, chicken stock and peas, respectively. Once the liquid in the peas reduced, I added the pureéd corn and let it simmer until the pasta was done. After draining the pasta, I threw everything together into the pot and added about a 1/2 cup of low-fat ricotta for thickening and salted it to taste.

This was amazing, and I’m really proud (and kind of astonished) that something I spontaneously created turned out edible! I’m normally a “follow-the-recipe” kind of girl; one of those people who obsessively weighs ingredients and fills up the sink with measuring cups.

I attribute my success to our recent trip to Italy & France. I’ve never tasted more creative and delicious ways to prepare and coat pasta. I don’t think the typical Americanized “red sauce” will ever satisfy me in any real way again. Our three-week trip was INCREDIBLE by the way. I took so many food photos and mentally drafted dozens of reviews, but alas…

we lost the camera on the plane.

So it was a tragic return to Los Angeles. I hyperventilated and cried for days. Eventually, I decided to put it out of my head and have been trying not to think about the loss since. We luckily got home with four out of the five videotapes, so I’ve been screen-capturing stills from that and making “polaroids”. And as a consolation prize I bought myself my dream camera and a snazzy new L-series lens (and am finalizing full-coverage insurance!).

So anyhow, back to tonight’s dinner. This turned out really, really good. It was rich, creamy and satisfying. So if you have two cans of canned corn, some orecchiette and some peas hanging around, give it a try and let me know how it turns out!