Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dr. Gnocchi (aka Lazy Lasagne)

Side view of baked you can see that it's gnocchi instead of lasagna noodles.

This recipe happened by accident.  If you follow Kosher Chic, you have probably noticed that in the last 6 months my posting frequency has gone done significantly.  I began working on a PhD in July (hence the title of this recipe), and my life has adjusted to a new rhythm: drive Logan to school, go to work, come home, do homework, go to sleep.  Sometimes there is time to squeeze in making dinner between homework and sleep, sometimes not. 

Logan has been helpful in sharing the burden when she can, making amazing Asian cold noodle dishes that she invents.  For the most part, though, I have had to figure out how to satisfy my craving for comfort foods, which are so good when you are feeling overly busy, and lack of time to make them properly.  This recipe came from the old adage "necessity is the mother of all invention." 

Last year, on Christmas Eve, I decided it would be nice to make a hearty lasagna for a nice evening of being at home and watching movies.  It did not occur to me, the Kosher Chic, that shopping on Christmas Eve might result in lack of choices at the store.  I was shocked that Trader Joe's was sold out of lasagna noodles... every possible variety.  I already had all of the other ingredients in my basket, and had my mind set on lasagna.  What to do?  Use gnocchi* instead of noodles!

The beauty of this dish, at this busy stage in my life, is that it does not require the usual layering and re-layering of each ingredient, as does the traditional counterpart.  Each layer is used just one time, as the gnocchi are hearty (and bulky) enough for just one layer on the bottom.  The dish also works extremely well for making ahead of time, refrigerating, and then putting in the oven the following day.

* Gnocchi, pronounced "nyo-kee") is a small dumpling, typically made from semolina and potato.

·      1 5-oz. package Trader Joe's "Power to the Greens" (mixture of fresh kale, chard and spinach) or a 5 oz. bag of fresh spinach
·      2 17-oz. packages gnocchi of your choice (you will have a lot of leftovers)
·      1 wedge, approximately .6 lbs, Asiago cheese (or parmesan, if you prefer) grated
·      1 16-oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
·      3 Tbsp. olive oil
·      1 16-oz. package fresh mozzarella
·      1 25-oz. jar Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara (or jarred marinara sauce of your choice)
·      Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and preheat oven to 375. 

2. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in sauté pan.  Sauté greens in oil, over medium-high heat, just until slightly cooked or softened (do not cook to the point of being soggy or completely limp).

3. Cook gnocchi in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until gnocchi rise to the top of the water.  Drain gnocchi, return to pot, and toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil to prevent sticking.

4. Layer and spread evenly in 9" x 12" glass baking dish: Gnocchi, ricotta cheese, sautéed greens, entire jar of marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese (in small chunks, dotted over surface) and grated Asiago cheese.

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is entirely melted and sauce is bubbly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Mom's Chicken Soup (Cures Everything!)

Ready to serve!

This fall, around the time of Yom Kippur, I came down with bronchitis that turned into pneumonia.  Not fun!!!  I have been a vegetarian for many years, but have experienced with some meat-eating these last few months.  When nothing else was helping me get better, I decided the only possible cure would be my mom's Kosher chicken soup.  Mind you, I have no idea how to cook meat, other than the occasional ground beef I make for my greyhounds.  I thought chicken soup would be extremely complicated... what do you do with the bones?  How do you fit the chicken in the pot? 

My mom's recipe is actually extremely easy.  It takes me around 10 minutes to get everything prepped and onto the stove.  Then I can sit back, for around 2 hours while it cooks, knowing that I will have lunch and dinner for the next week or so, plus plenty to share!  My mom, Freddi Pakier, teaches this recipe at one of her cooking classes.  The chicken soup recipe is taught in her Diets Don't Work class.  By the way, although she is in the San Diego area, she does come to Tucson from time to time, and can teach private classes in your own kitchen.

Note on quantity: If I want enough soup to have some to freeze, take to work for lunch all week and give a few jars away, I use 3-4 packages of Empire Kosher Organic Chicken Leg Quarters, which can be found at Trader Joe's.  For this quantity, cook in a giant stock pot, as in restaurant-sized.  For a more normal amount of soup, as in not feeding the whole world, you can use two packages of chicken leg quarters.  My mom actually uses an entire whole kosher chicken... not cut up or anything; she just removes the skin and puts the whole thing in a pot.
Everything in the pot, ready to cook.

2 packages (or more) of Kosher Chicken Leg Quarters (or even better, Kosher organic)
1 medium-sized yellow or sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 package (16 oz.) carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 .75 oz. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Optional: Additional vegetables (e.g. sliced mushrooms, chopped kale, sliced okra or even organic frozen mixed vegetables)

1. Place all sliced vegetables and dill in large pot.  
2. If desired, remove skin from chicken by rubbing a paper towel against it to loosen skin, then pulling it off.  Place chicken in pot.
3. Cover generously with water, cover pot and bring to a boil.
4. Cook over low heat for 2 hours, or longer.  The longer you cook the soup, the more marrow is extracted from the chicken bones, hence the greater the health value.  If desired, add additional vegetable around the 1:45 mark.  You can also add salt and pepper at this point.  Taste the broth, and season to your taste... I am usually pretty generous with the pepper grinder.
5. Turn off heat.  Using tongs, remove chicken pieces from pot.  Let chicken cool enough to handle, then slide the bones out.  The chicken should fall right off the bone.  Return all of the chicken, sans bones, to the pot and serve.
This version has sliced mushrooms, chopped kale and diced roasted green chiles. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

What's so kosher about Hawaiian shave ice?

Kosher shave ice?  (Not shaved ice, as the grammar-geek in me is wanting to type, it's actually called shave ice.)  This season, at Rincon-UHS football home games, the Kona Ice of Tucson truck has been selling Hawaiian shave ice, with 30% of the proceeds going to the Rincon-University Marching Band.  

During football games, I am generally running up and down the stands, pouring water for the band.  I haven't counted how many trips up and down, but it's got to be at least 20-25 times, up and down the stands.  Last week, it was still pretty warm out, so when I saw people going by with giant, overflowing cups of shave ice, my curiosity was peaked.  It looked so refreshing!

Shave ice is different from a snow cone, in that the ice is shaved, not crushed.  The texture is closer to snow, as opposed to chunky, hard pieces.  While it's been a long time since I've had a snow cone, I remember having to wait for some melting before I could taste the added flavors, which then pooled toward the bottom, in a sugary, syrupy concentration.

Hawaiian shave ice, since it is light and fluffy, doesn't have that issue with the flavoring.  The flavors are consistent throughout the cone or cup of ice, as they distribute more evenly.  The texture really does feel light and fluffy, like snow.  You don't end up with pockets of ice with no flavor, as in a snow cone.  

Kona Ice of Tucson offers around 10 self-serve flavors, with dispensers mounted on the outside of the truck, so you can make your own custom creation.  They also have 30+ more flavors on the truck, which you can order, either as one of their menu creations, or your own custom creation.  Some of the flavors are sugar-free, and yes, some of the flavors are kosher!  While none of the ingredients in the flavors would be inherently nonkosher, they do offer some flavors that actually have a kosher certification, which is ideal for an event at a synagogue or the Tucson Jewish Community Center (think Bar / Bat Mitzvah or birthday party).

The truck is owned by the Shapiro family, who you might know from when they owned a Baskin Robbins shop.  I tried the sugar free Tiger's Blood flavor, with a splash of peach and lime.  It was tasty and refreshing, and I will definitely try more flavors at the next home game.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Vegetarian-Friendly (Not Exactly Chicken) Soup

Logan and I are both sick with bronchitis... she is going on 10 days, I am going on 8.  I have given in to the Jewish remedy... homemade chicken soup.  I was extremely disappointed when I purchased chicken soup to go, from a restaurant I will not name, as I was expecting actual soup, in which the chicken had been cooked in a pot, making a rich broth, etc.  The to-go soup I purchased was basically chicken broth with cut up pieces of chicken breast added to it... not the same thing!  I begged my mom for her chicken soup recipe, which has been in my family for many generations.  It's quite easy to make.

The inspiration for this post's entry, however, was the Jewish-mother-guilt I felt for making homemade chicken soup for myself, which my daughter would not eat.  I decided to make two pots of steaming, healing soup... kosher chicken soup for me, and a brothy miso soup for Logan.  I added many vegetables with rich nutrients, as well as dried roasted seaweed.  While I can't prove the medicinal values of miso soup, as compared to my mom's chicken soup, of course, I think it holds its own, as far as soup that is soothing for someone who is sick.

3 scallions, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bunch broccolini, or greens of your choice (I used an Asian variety of broccolini, with large leafy greens on the ends)
3/4 C. sliced shitake mushrooms
1 package enoki mushrooms (NOTE: You can substitute with any mixture of thinly sliced mushrooms)
1/2 C. roasted seaweed (mine is already in small pieces... if you buy the whole sheets, slice thinly)
10 oz. yellow miso paste
1 16-oz. package firm tofu, cubed

This is an extremely easy recipe to prepare.  Dump everything in a large pot.  Pour hot water (I pre-boiled my water in a tea kettle) over the vegetables and miso.  8-12 Cups of water, depending on the size of your pot.  Add enough water to give sliced vegetables room to move around as the soup boils.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat, for 20 minutes.  Serve.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ultimate Vegetarian Stuffed Potato

It's no secret... I have eaten at BrushFire Barbecue A LOT... I have a great excuse, since Logan works on the ice cream side.  Most of their dishes can be ordered either vegetarian or pescatarian friendly.  One of my favorite dishes is the "Messy Baked Potato," which is overflowing with barbecue sauce, melted cheese and, for most diners, brisket, smoked turkey, or some other meat.  I order the messy baked potato with salmon, which is quite tasty.  For Logan, who does not eat fish, we just order the potato without meat or fish.  Either way, it's quite yummy, but probably not the healthiest thing we eat.

I wanted to make a healthier version of this dish, with a bit of greens and other vegetables, to balance out the richness.  The recipe was enough for five gigantic potatoes, so plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

5 baked potatoes (I recommend baking in the oven, for a nice crisp skin)
2 C. shredded cheese (I used cheddar and asiago)
Barbecue sauce of your choice
1 1/2 C. Trader Joe's frozen kale
2 C. Trader Joe's Power Greens blend (can substitute spinach, chard or any other greens)
2 cloves garlic
1 C. sliced mushrooms
1/2 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, chopped
Olive oil for sautéing vegetables
Salt and Pepper
Greek Yogurt (I use this instead of sour cream)
Fresh vegetables for garnish (e.g. chopped tomatoes, avocado, green onions)

1. Saute greens in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper.  Saute mushrooms and chopped pepper with salt and pepper until soft. 
2. Slice baked potatoes open.  Top with vegetables, barbecue sauce and shredded cheese.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  
3. Before serving, top with garnish and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Miso-Ginger Rice Noodle Soup

This summer, I spent two weeks in Boston, at a PhD residency.  9 of the days were at Lesley University, Porter Campus, which is in Cambridge.  On the first floor of Lesley, there is a corridor with seven or eight Asian restaurants, with every variety you can imagine... sushi, Korean food, Thai food... and... a RAMEN NOODLE SHOP!!!  

I went to the ramen noodle shop twice, and had the same thing both times.  The spicy-miso bowl was absolutely gigantic and delicious.  Both times, it was enough for two meals.  I have attempted to recreate the dish three times, with some success.  

A few tips:
- Make the extra effort to buy fresh noodles, found in the refrigerated section at most Asian markets.  Cook and store the noodles separately from the soup, as noodles will continue to absorb liquid.
- Visit your local Asian grocery store, and take the time to walk around and explore.  Experiment!  Buy a few varieties of greens, and try them in your soup, or in a stir-fry.  

1/4 C. olive oil, or blend of olive oil and sesame oil
3/4 C. green onions, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 of 14-oz. container miso paste (Miso is a bean paste, which comes in a variety of styles, including white, yellow and red.  I used "Mellow Red Hawaiian Style.")
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
3 carrots, peeled and thinly
2 C. baby bok choy, chopped
1 C. fresh spinach  
1 3.5 oz. package Enoki mushrooms, cut into thirds or so
1 150 gram package White Beech mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 C. Trader Joe's "Soycutash" frozen vegetable mix, or frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 C. frozen peas
1 14 oz. package firm tofu, cubed
12 C. water
1 16 oz. package fresh noodles (I used Pho noodles)
1 Tbsp. Sriracha chili sauce
2 Tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids or soy sauce of your choice
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper 

1. Saute green onions and garlic in oil for five minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Add tofu and ginger.  Cook an additional five minutes, covered, over medium heat.
3. Add water, all vegetables, miso paste, black pepper, Sriracha and soy sauce (or Bragg's).
4. Cook over medium-high heat approximately 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are cooked through.  Taste and stir periodically.
5. Cook noodles separately in boiling water.  Rice noodles only need to be in the boiling water for 5-15 seconds!  Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent noodles from sticking to each other.
6. Serve soup over noodles in big bowl, to allow plenty of room for slurping up noodles!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Something New Popped Up

Yes, I realize my blog post title is "corny"... pun intended.  I will also admit to eating popcorn while I am writing this post... it seemed only fitting.

I recently found out about a fairly new company, based in Arizona, called Kettle Heroes.  Founded by brothers Rudi and Aaron Sinykin, Kettle Heroes makes many varieties of popcorn that are KOSHER. 20% of profits go to local nonprofits, including Boys and Girls Clubs and the Pat Tillman Foundation.  The popcorn is now available in the Tucson-area (Yay!!!) at Basha's, and coming soon at AJ's.

Rudi sent six different flavors to the Arizona Jewish Post for us to try.  I actually ran to meet the UPS driver when I saw the truck pull up, and made everyone at work stop what they were doing to come try the popcorn.  (I am the self-proclaimed social director at work, so a popcorn tasting party was in order.)  We sat around our board room table and tried each flavor, sharing comments and picks for each or our favorites.

We tried Cayenne Lime Kettle Corn (that flavor mysteriously disappeared from my house the night before Logan got her braces on), Movie Theatre Popcorn, Blue Note Cheddar Corn, Smoked Chipotle Cheddar, Original Kettle Corn and Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn.  Simon Rosenblatt has been asking me for nutritional info since I posted a teaser on Facebook.  Depending on the flavor, a serving, which is about 1 1/2 C., averages 130 - 150 calories.  Not bad for a snack food!  The amount of sugar varies by flavor, so there are definitely options for those on a no or low-sugar diet.

My favorite flavor is the Blue Note Cheddar Corn.  I like cheesy flavors in general, but sometimes they are too intense (or cheesy).  Blue cheese can be tricky too, as it is definitely one of the stinkier cheeses, and can therefore be overpowering.  What I love about the Blue Note Cheddar Corn is that the flavor is subtle.  It has a blend of aged white cheddar and "notes of blue cheese," so it has the nice zing and flavor of blue cheese, without being overpowering.

The Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn is also on my favorites list.  It reminds me of eating cinnamon-sugar toast (kind of Midwest thing, I think), without the messy, sticky result.  I think these two actually tie for my favorite... one savory, one sweet.

The Cayenne Lime Kettle Corn was a little too spicy for me.  It had quite a kick of back heat.  Logan really liked it though; that was her favorite flavor.  The Smoked Chipotle Cheddar is more my speed for a spicy snack, as the smokiness of the chipotle chili, along with the cheddar to mellow things out, gives the flavor just enough spiciness without being too spicy to enjoy.

Kettle Heroes does more than just packaged popcorn for retail sales.  They also have a food truck for making popcorn on-site for events and have fundraising options for nonprofits looking to sell their own unique product.  They will print custom labels for your organization, and set up web sales for you, which eliminates the need to go door-to-door.

All of the flavors are kosher certified, so it's a great product to consider for synagogue, religious school or Jewish youth group fundraisers and events.  Happy munching!