Sunday, July 22, 2012

Madhvi's Tostadas

I have always been a fan of Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza. Too bad that it's one of the worst things on their menu. But when it's Fourth Meal time, you kind of forget about the nutritional information and instead focus all your energy on making sure that you get enough sauce. Why are they so stingy with the sauces?!?! Anyways, after much pinterest-ing (is that even a word?) to find the perfect recipe to fulfill my Mexican Pizza cravings without the extra calories and fat I came across several posts about Tostadas. Tostadas are crispy tortillas topped with beans, cheese, and whatever toppings you either have on hand or want to use. The tostadas are baked as opposed to fried and thus are a much healthier alternative to Mexican Pizza. The best thing about these Tostadas is that you can make them as elaborate or as simple as you like based on what ingredients you have on hand. These Tostadas are also more nutritious then their Taco Bell counterpart. Additionally, the components can be prepared ahead of time so that this can be an easy meal to put together during a busy work-week. 

Madhvi's Veggie Tostadas


1/2 a Red Bell Pepper - diced 
1/2 a Yellow Bell Pepper - diced
1/2 a Orange Bell Pepper - diced
1/2 a Red Onion - diced
1/4 cup Green Onions - sliced
1 1/2 Tomato - diced

1 cup Spinach - chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper - diced small
3 tbsp Oil (I used Olive Oil)
2 tsp Texas Pete Hot Sauce
3 tsp taco seasoning (I use McCormick's 30% less sodium taco seasoning)
1 can Refried Black Beans
5 Flour Tortillas
2 cups of shredded cheese (I used both Extra Sharp and Pepper Jack)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a pan and saute the mixed peppers and onion until soft. Add 2 tsp of the taco seasoning and let the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. In a small sauce pan heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil and add the jalapeno and stir until softened. Add the tomato, refried black beans, remaining taco seasoning and the Texas Pete. Stir until combined and set aside. Place the tortillas on a wire rack placed on a cookie sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray and bake until crisp, approximately 10 minutes, flipping half way through. 

Once the tortillas are crispy, spread the refried bean mixture on each tostada. 

Add the chopped spinach.

Top with 1 tbsp of the bell pepper and onion mixture. 

Add the cheese and place the tostadas back in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. 

Top with salsa, tomatos, green onions and a dash of Texas Pete and serve warm. Makes approximately 5 tostadas. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Oven Roasted Veggie Pasta

Do you know any picky eaters? I don't mean the "Oh, I don't like asparagus" type of people. I mean the "You want me to eat what? What do you mean there are vegetables other than potatoes?" kind of people. Personally, I love veggies of all types, and that's why one of my favorite pasta dishes is my aunt's Roasted Veggie Pasta. When I witnessed my 3 and 5 year old cousins devouring this dish I knew this was the perfect recipe for picky eaters. This pasta is full of good for you veggies, which makes it the perfect dish to ensure your picky eater is consuming delicious, nutritious food without catching on that that they just ate 4 different types of veggies, none of which was a potato. 

Roasted Veggie Pasta
by my aunt (my changes in italics)

1/2 a Zucchini, diced
1/2 a Yellow Squash, diced
1/2 a Bell Pepper, diced (I used a red bell pepper)
1/2 cup of Carrots, small julienne
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp dried Parsley
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Basil
1 tsp crushed Red Pepper (this may be omitted if you don't want the added spice)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
2 cups Pasta Sauce (I used the pasta sauce I had on hand)
2 cups Pasta, cooked (I used penne but any tubular pasta will work)
1 cup Italian Cheese (I happened to have a bag of Italian six cheese blend)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
In an oven safe casserole dish, toss the chopped veggies in olive oil and spices until well coated. Roast the veggies in the oven for about 40 to 50 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure even roasting. Once the veggies are finished roasted, stir the cooked pasta and pasta sauce into the veggies. Top with shredded cheese and cover, placing the dish back in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and the pasta is heated through. 
Serve warm with garlic bread. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fresh Fruit Tart

As soon as summer rolls around I always have tons of ideas of the things I could make with all the fresh fruit that is available. Oftentimes, however, I buy all this fruit and then don't get around to making anything because many of the recipes require so much time and preparation and thus the fruit gets used up in boring, but yummy, smoothies instead. This time I decided that I will pick one fruity dessert recipe and take it from there. The lucky dessert was a fresh fruit tart, which I thought would be the perfect dessert to bring to dinner and a movie night with a couple of friends. I thought of this particular recipe because the last time I made it all I was left with at the end of the evening were some crumbs in my very empty tart pan. While this tart is in no way, shape or form healthy (it is a Paula Deen recipe after all), it is a refreshing summer treat that is easy to prepare and indulge in every once in a while. The components of the tart can be made ahead of time and assembly itself is doesn't take much time, making this a very versatile dessert recipe.

Fresh Fruit Tart
recipe courtesy of Paula Dean (my changes in italics)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and sliced

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh strawberries, kiwi slices, blueberries, raspberries (I forgot to buy the raspberries)

1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed (I used lemonade)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Whipped cream, for garnish (I left this out)

For the crustPreheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, combine the confectioners' sugar, flour, and butter, and process until the mixture forms a ball. With your fingers, press the dough into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, taking care to push the crust into the indentations in the sides. Pat until the crust is even. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

For the filling and topping: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Spread over the cooled crust. Cut the strawberries into 1/4-inch slices and arrange around the edge of the crust. For the next circle, use kiwi slices. Add another circle of strawberries, filling in any spaces with blueberries. Cluster the raspberries in the center of the tart (You can decorate the tart with as little or as much of each type of fruit as you like, or even add more fruit for additional variety)

For the glaze: Combine the limeade (lemonade), cornstarch, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook the glaze mixture over medium heat until clear and thick, about 2 minutes. Let cool. With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart. You will not use all of the glaze.

Keep the tart in the refrigerator once it is fully assembled and remove about 15 minutes prior to serving. Slice into 8 wedges (I was able to cut 10 wedges that were sizable portions) and serve.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Margherita Pizza

I don't know about you, but I can eat pizza at any given time. I mean, it's the perfect meal, it's got the right amount of bread to fill you up and the endless combination of toppings keeps pizza interesting. Also, it's the perfect way to get rid of those pesky left over veggies you got from the farmer's market when you thought you'd have time to make a home-cooked meal every night that week. Even though pizza can be topped with any number of toppings, I prefer the basics, cheese, basil, tomatoes and tomato sauce,with just a sprinkling of crushed red pepper. The first time I had true Italian pizza was during the summer I studied abroad in France. I was lucky enough to go visit Italy, the home of all things saucy, cheesy, and carby. Ever since that first experience with true Italian Margherita pizza, I have been using Margherita pizza as my gauge to determine if a pizza place is worthy of a return trip. I mean, if the place can't even make a decent Margherita, then the pizzeria is definitely not worthy of my palate or the 20 minute wait time for my pizza to be ready.

Because Margherita is my favorite pizza, I decided that basil was the perfect herb to grow in my balcony garden...lucky for me, it's as easy to grow as it is to incorporate into a variety of dishes. So the basil that I used in the recipe below was grown by yours truly. Unfortunately, the tomatoes that I used was not as my tomatoes have yet to grow in.

The crust recipe below has been modified to make a herbed crust as opposed to the plain crust that is typically found on a Margherita pizza. This is my go-to crust recipe for when I want to re-create the carby goodness that is Italia. 

Margherita Pizza 

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust (recipe below)

Tomato Sauce (I use whatever pasta sauce I have on hand) 

5 Basil leaves -julienned 

1/2 of a Tomato - sliced

Turkey Pepperoni 

Mozzarella Cheese - shredded
Take the pizza dough and divide it into two balls to make two thin-crust 12-inch pizzas. I
bake my crusts in the oven for about 3 to 4 minutes before adding the sauce and toppings to get a more crispy crust. After the crusts are out of the oven, add the pizza sauce, pepperoni, basil, tomato and top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and serve warm.

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
recipe curtesy of (my changes in italics)

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast 
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (I warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds)
2 1/2 cups bread flour (I used all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt 

I also added:
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and set aside for approximately 10 minutes.

Stir in flour, oil, salt, dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Stir until smooth and form into a ball with your hands. Use the last 2 teaspoons of olive oil to coat the ball of dough. Cover with a towel and let the dough sit in a warm place to rise. I usually let the dough rise for about 30 minutes even though the recipe only calls for 5 minutes of rest time. 

Divide the dough into two balls and stretch and pat it into a round pizza pan. I use two 12-inch pans so I can have two thin-crust pizzas but one pan may be used to get one pizza with a thicker, chewier crust.