Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Marx Foods Fregola Sarda Recipe Challenge

Once again Marx Foods has given me the opportunity to stretch myself as a cook by participating in their bloggers Fregola Sarda Original Dessert Recipe Challenge! To each participant Marx Foods sent a box with Fregola Sarda, Vanilla Beans, Star Anise, and Saffron Threads from which we were to create an original dessert within the challenge perameters:

The Challenge:
Use the fregola and one of the other samples in your box in an original dessert recipe. You can use any other ingredient in addition to the fregola and one of the other three.

After December 4th we will post links to all entered recipes on the Marx Foods blog & the two champions will be picked. One will be selected via reader poll here on the blog. The other will be chosen by the challenge participants and the the staff.

The Prize:
Each champion will receive $100 worth of baking ingredients from (their choice). We’ve recently added some great ones to the store…think of how much baking you could get done with a quart of premium vanilla extract…you’d be busy for years! Of course there’s also bulk dried fruit, specialty sugars, yuzu juice, elderflower syrup….etc, etc.

Here are the ingredients provided by Marx Foods and a walk-through of how I approached the challenge!

I'm not sure why I made this association but when I saw this box of ingredients it made me think of a dessert my mom used to make with rice, warm milk and cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. I decided to come up with a modern, grown up version of that dessert using the fregola in place of the rice. Instead of milk, I decided to go with vanilla bean ice cream and turned to Alton Brown's Serious Vanilla Ice Cream recipe as my starting point. Since making that ice cream is a two day process, I prepared it in advance so I could have it ready to use today.

I had a couple of ideas about how to prepare the Fregola and ended up dividing it in half and cooking 1/2 cup of it in water and agave nectar and 1/2 cup in 1 cup almond milk, one vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons agave nectar. I let each version simmer for about 15 minutes until the fregola was done and gave them each a taste test. The clear winner for me was the one prepared with almond milk, vanilla and agave nectar. Yum!!!!!

After letting the fregola cool to room temperature I spooned it into two serving dishes as the base of my dessert.

In addition to the vanilla bean ice cream I decided to use some apple and toasted almonds as toppings. I thought the saffron threads were a natural pairing with the ice cream and apple so I chose to sprinkle saffron on my dessert in place of the cinnamon and sugar my mom used in my childhood version.

After spooning in the ice cream and placing the apple slices in the glass, I sprinkled the toasted almonds and saffron threads on top for my grown up finished result!!! My husband and I both gave this dessert two enthusiastic thumbs up!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Salmon and Risotto

Tonight's dinner for one took a little bit of time to get ready but was well worth it! I wanted to use the last tomato of the year from our garden as well as the last zucchini and tiny bit of thyme so I thought about it for far too long today and came up with a slow roasted tomato seasoned with garlic and thyme (made in the toaster oven) layered with risotto with the zucchini stirred in at the end along with the seasonings, cream and cheese and the whole dish was topped with Salmon. I will totally admit to being inspired by reading that Paul McCartney and is new wife had Salmon risotto at their reception but hopefully, this dish was even better! LOL!

This dinner was so incredibly good and the only leftover I have to deal with is the risotto. To make it even better, I didn't have to wash my plate since it was a fabulous bamboo Linkdisposable plate given to me by Marx Foods. The plate held up incredibly well, even to the juicy tomato! This meal makes me wish the garden season wasn't ending!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Getting Back On Track

Since I was knocked out with the flu for most of the week I didn't do much cooking for myself so there wasn't much to share. However, I did make a wonderful Rustic Potato Leek Soup and now that I'm feeling better I added a little of the red pepper chicken sausage that I used in the last post to spice it up a bit. To round out the meal, I made a salad with Kale and red peppers that were messaged with a bit of olive oil and kosher salt.

Soup and salad - yum!

And while I was watching the Vikings break my heart in football today, I consoled myself with a new pizza recipe using polenta as the crust. It was so easy and so good! I simply made polenta like I would usually make it and then spread it over an oil covered pan. I brushed a bit more olive oil over the polenta crust and baked it for 30 minutes before adding sauce and toppings. The sauce is homemade as well so now I have extra in the freezer for my next pizza craving. The green pepper was the last one from the garden and it was perfect on this pizza!

And since I still had Kale salad left, I had it again with my pizza. Perfect and very little fuss for dinner.

I've also come to the conclusion that I need more "rustic" dishes to go with the food I've been making lately.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You are what you eat!

Today at work I kept thinking about the old phrase "You Are What You Eat" and decided that I am going to eat something special everyday because I'm special! Eating for one doesn't have to be second rate and just because you're eating alone you shouldn't treat yourself as second rate.

So with that in mind I decided to make something worthy of a sit down meal and spent my lunch break at the grocery store looking for inspiration. I already had Phyllo dough in the freezer along with chicken sausage with red peppers and spinach (Costco - yum) and dried, mixed mushrooms so I picked up Cannellini beans and I had the makings of this dinner. To make the filling I added a bit of onion, garlic, carrots and seasonings and used the liquid from reconstituting the mushrooms as well. While the filling cooled I got the Phyllo wrappers ready by brushing every other layer in a 6 layer stack with canola oil. After adding 1/2 cup of the filling I pulled up the edges to the center, twisted and wrapped and placed the entire pouch on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. While they baked for 25 minutes at 350 degrees I went through the mail, watered the lawn and got a few other errands done so by the time they were ready I could sit down and enjoy my meal. Here's a photo of my dinner plate...

As well as one of the unopened pouch.

As dinner for one doesn't need to be second rate, neither do disposable plates! Marx Foods had sent me some free samples of their Eco-Friendly Palm Leaf Plates and tonight was the perfect night to use one. I loved the rustic look with my dinner in a pouch and the eco-friendly part totally fits with my efforts to eat greener! The plate was not only attractive and sturdy, but it stood up to dinner and washing and can be used again tomorrow! You can't beat that!

I'm excited for the dinner possibilities for tomorrow!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rough Start to Cooking for One

I had high hopes of having a menu written, groceries bought and prep work done for meals for this week but instead I had a weekend with my daughter home from college! I'll take daughter home over organized meals anytime!

So here's what I did get done for this week and now I have to plan around it. Andrea asked for roasted chicken while she was home so I made a bit more than I needed. To use the chicken for an easy lunch that I can take for work I picked up a variety of lettuce as well as strawberries. I had some nuts in the house that I roasted and a bit of goat cheese that needed using up so there I have my fixings for a lovely chicken salad that I can pack in advance and take to work. I also boiled and peeled some eggs that pack well for breakfast. Finally, I made a batch of vegetarian chili that I plan to reinvent during the week.

However, this book is waiting for me at the library (which I'll walk over and pick up during my lunch break today) so maybe I'll get a bit more insight into this cooking for one business by reading it.

While I was at the library I also found this little gem so will be diving into two books about cooking for one tonight!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New (Again) Frontier - Cooking For One

It's been a long time since I've had to plan meals and shop for one but with Greg working out of the State and Andrea at college it's time for me to stop living off what was in the freezer and plan some exciting meals again! My key goals in planning will be (1) to reduce food waste by only buying what I need and using what I buy before it goes bad, (2) to eat healthier by being mindful of what I will eat throughout the day, and (3) to cook creatively by having the ingredients on hand to make something new each week.

My known shopping resources that I use now are Super Target (good for quick pick-ups over lunch break at work), Costco (for far fewer items now that I'm planning for one - or should I find someone to split things with??? hmmmmm...), Trader Joes (another do-able lunch break stop), local grocery stores and the garden in our yard. As the garden will soon freeze over I will have to research my other options for fresh, local produce, but hope to keep that as a main part of my diet.

While I'm at it, I've been looking at eating "greener" and have checked out half a library of books on meatless meals, vegan cooking, raw food diets and anything I could find on using seasonal ingredients. I will plan my first menu by the weekend so I can get some of the major shopping and food prep done before Monday morning.

If you have any tips on cooking for one that will keep me from being incredibly repetitive (my typical living alone pattern of cooking) I'd love to hear them!

Monday, June 20, 2011

So this week, while I continue with the Neti Pot and increased water intake, I'm going to increase one more thing - my vegetable consumption!! I don't think I have an issue getting enough fruits and veggies in every day but I do think fruits tend to win out over vegetables and I want to flip that around. I've also decided to keep phrasing everything as something I'm adding to my life rather than something I'm taking away. I've had too many years of feeling deprived and that never worked for me so I'm hopeful that adding good things to my life just doesn't leave the room or desire for things I don't need.