Puxa Vida Tilapia

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I’m finally back with a recipe! And now coming to you from Colorado! The last few months of moving and traveling and new everything have exhausted me. And I’ve been cooking, but just not in the mood to blog. I hope to be back more regularly. I have a few recipes I found and fell in love with over the last few months that deserve attention here. So here we go…

In Colorado Springs we’re at an elevation of ~7000 feet so the high altitude tends to screw up recipes. Luckily, cooking is mostly the same. Water takes longer to boil and foods dries out quicker and can take longer to cook. But that’s about it. Baking is another story though and I’ll go into more detail on the few tricks I’ve learned as I share future recipes. (Although I’ve yet to bake a cake. And my first batch of cookies was a disaster. I’m making progress- slowly.)

This dinner was an easy success. I had no idea what “puxa vida” meant. The original source claimed it was Brazilian. So I asked my husband (who spent 2 years in Brazil on a mission) what it means and he translated: “Holy cow!” So there you have it. Holy Cow Tilapia! Weird name. But worthy of the excitement as this is some delicious fish.

A few notes: First, stick as close as you can to the original ingredient list. Use fire-roasted tomatoes and full-fat coconut milk and fresh lime juice, etc. if you want this to turn out as wonderful and flavorful as expected. Second, this recipe serves a ton. I halved it and it fed the 3 of us twice! And, last I upped the baking temperature which resulted in half the cooking time. No reason to wait twice as long for your dinner. Enjoy!

Puxa Vida Tilapia

INGREDIENTS

1 red bell pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
5 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk
2 (15 oz.) cans fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp. honey
juice of 1 lime
2 lbs. tilapia
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving
brown or white rice, cooked for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.. Finely chop the red bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, and garlic in a food processor (or by hand). Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the chopped vegetable mixture in the oil until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, diced tomatoes, and honey to the mixture. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes. Add lime juice to the sauce and remove from heat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

2. Place the tilapia in a deep baking dish. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the sauce over the fish, making sure it’s all well coated. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when pulled with a fork. Serve over rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 8.

(Adapted from Cheeky Kitchen)

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Cherry Almond Dutch Baby

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One last post coming to you from Chicago. Tomorrow we pack a truck and depart the city. Bittersweet, for sure. Sad to leave so many friends and favorite places behind, but ready to discover somewhere new. Before all the packing began and mountains of cardboard took over my kitchen, I made breakfast. I made two versions of puffed pancakes- one with vanilla, fresh blueberries, and cinnamon, and this one with cherries and toasted almonds. Dutch baby’s (same thing, different name) are even easier than traditional pancakes. You just whisk everything together and pour it into a skillet- no flipping required. Plus, one recipe makes just the right amount for us 2 + toddler (with some browned chicken sausage, hash browns, and fruit on the side).

You can use fresh or frozen cherries here. Since I had a bowl of ripe cherries on my counter, I went with fresh. But a little secret: frozen cherries are often cheaper and usually come pre-pitted!! As usual, I made the batter with half whole wheat flour. When it comes to the almonds, it doesn’t matter how you do it (I opted for the dry skillet on the stove method), just make sure you toast them. They taste and smell so much more amazing toasted than raw. Last of all, serve hot with lemon wedges,  powdered sugar, and a drizzle of warm maple syrup or honey.

Cherry Almond Dutch Baby

INGREDIENTS

3 large eggs
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or half white flour and half whole wheat)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. almond extract
pinch salt
4 Tbsp. butter
1- 2 cups pitted sweet cherries, halved
1/3- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (toast in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant)
powdered sugar, lemon wedges, honey and/or maple syrup, all for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Whisk eggs, sugar, flour, milk, almond extract and salt together until the batter is blended but lumpy; you can also do this in a blender. In a 12-inch ovenproof frying pan or cast iron skillet, melt butter. Add cherries and cook until warmed, about 2 minutes. Pour in batter and transfer to heated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

2. Remove pancake from oven and quickly scatter with toasted almonds, dust with powdered sugar and squeeze lemon juice over. Serve in wedges, piping hot.

Serves 2-4.

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

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Zucchini Banana Flaxseed Muffins

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I’m hoping to post a last recipe or two before we move, but life has already gotten crazy and, honestly, I might not be back for some time. Dustin graduated from his residency and master’s program this weekend. We’ve had family coming and going and week move in a week and a half (to Colorado) and have yet to pack a thing. But I did reserve a rental truck this morning, so progress! I’ve been cooking on and off. Mostly old favorites and a few new recipes that will eventually be published. These muffins I’ve already made 2 3? times and could totally go for another batch right now. We’re trying to eat everything left in the fridge and freezer all of my frozen bananas are becoming muffins.

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Add this to the list of muffins I feel good about feeding my toddler. They’re made with whole wheat, flaxseed, zucchini, and a bit of honey. There’s some Greek yogurt and coconut oil in there, too. And if you’re feeling indulgent, a few chocolate chips. I just sprinkled a few on top to make them extra alluring.

Zucchini Banana Flaxseed Muffins

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (optional- add another 1/4 cup flour if not using)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
2 medium bananas, mashed
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional- I put a few on top of each muffin)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with liners and/or generously grease with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In medium bowl combine flour, flaxseed (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon; set aside.

3. In a large bow mix together mashed banana, oil, honey, vanilla and egg until smooth. Add in zucchini (if very moist, squeeze extra moisture out first) and yogurt and beat again until well combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in chocolate chips, if using.

4. Evenly divide batter into muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins.

(Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen)

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Miso Chicken Soba Noodle Soup

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Most of my posts could start the same: “there was this little restaurant we found here in Chicago that served the most amazing fill in the blank and I just had to recreate it at home…”.  There are an endless amount of amazing places to eat here. And it’s no doubt what I’m going to miss most about this city. I’ve made a list of all of the ones we must revisit or try before we move and I’m determined to make it through my list in the next (less than) 3 weeks. One of them on that list is Sunshine Cafe, a Japanese restaurant that we’ve repeatedly ordered take-out from and hasn’t failed us yet. There’s only one piece of sushi on the menu- a California roll that is the best I’ve ever had. And the rest of the food is authentic (or so I’m told) noodle and rice dishes that we’ve only been impressed with.

Our first order included a miso chicken noodle soup- with buckwheat soba noodles, cabbage and onions, and a light miso broth- the inspiration for this recipe. I loved their version and this homemade one is just as great. What I love about soba noodles is that they’re so much lighter than regular pasta. They don’t leave me with that overly full or lumpy feeling. The miso is the magic in this soup. The chicken and mushrooms, leeks, bok choy add something substantial to a wonderful base broth. It makes a large potful and will keep for at least several days in the fridge. (Most, if not all, of these ingredients should be available in the Asian section of your local grocery store, or definitely at an Asian market or Whole Foods. Trader Joes even carries miso paste now, but not the soba noodles.)

Miso Chicken Soba Noodle Soup

INGREDIENTS

8 oz. dried soba noodles
2 Tbsp. canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil
2 medium leeks, halved, washed, and thinly sliced
5 oz. shitake mushrooms stemmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
8 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
8 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 lbs. bone-in chicken breast or thigh pieces (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup light yellow miso
2 inches (about 1 Tbsp.) peeled ginger, grated
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
12 oz. baby bok choy (about 3), sliced into 1-inch thick pieces and ends discarded
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the soba noodles and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the leeks, season with salt and cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and the white pieces of green onions and cook until begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to a boil.

3. Add the chicken (skip this step if you are using pre-cooked chicken) and cook until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to a plate until cool enough to handle.

4. Meanwhile, whisk in miso, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce into the broth and keep at a low simmer. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the miso is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. (Don’t let the broth boil once you add the miso or it will cause the miso to separate.)

5. Remove the skin from the chicken, shred the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces, and discard the bones. Add the shredded chicken to the broth along with the bok choy and soba noodles and cook until the bok choy is just tender and the leaves are wilted, about 3 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning as desired, and stir in the dark green parts of the green onions. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

(Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp who adapted it from Williams Sonoma)

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Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

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This was my attempt at recreating Whole Food’s smoked mozzarella pasta salad which is spicy and delicious, but thick and heavy and obviously not the healthiest. Whether or not you have tried and love theirs, I think you’ll like this. It’s lighter (even using whole wheat pasta) but just as addictive. Two ingredients make all the difference: smoked cheese (I used Gouda but smoked mozzarella also works) and chipotle in adobo. The chipotle peppers add even more smokiness and some unexpected zip. (I love chipotle in adobo. I use it all the time. Buy a jar and freeze what you don’t use. It lasts for months and months that way.) There’s also a touch of honey for sweetness, fresh parsley or basil, roasted red peppers (or artichokes or tomatoes or all of the above- why not?), freshly grated Parmesan, garlic… I could go on.

You could probably get away with swapping half of the mayo for Greek Yogurt. If you do, let me know the result. The olive oil is optional, but it helps to smooth the salad out. I let mine sit in the fridge for a few hours and then just before the BBQ I pulled it out and tossed it with a tablespoon or two of oil. Serve with something hot off the grill and your summer meal is complete.

Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. penne or gemelli pasta (I used whole wheat)
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (or artichoke hearts and/or fresh cherry tomatoes, halved)
6-8 oz. smoked Gouda or smoked mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh parsley (or basil), chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. chipotle in adobo, minced (about 1 pepper)
~1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

 DIRECTIONS

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Drain the pasta and pour the hot pasta over top of the spinach. Toss with the spinach and allow the steam from the pasta to wilt the spinach. Set aside to cool.

2. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, honey, chipotle in adobo, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

3. Once the pasta has cooled, stir in the roasted red peppers, cheese, and herbs. Pour the dressing over top and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Add 1-2 Tbsp.  olive oil to loosen pasta, if necessary. (I added about 1 Tbsp. after it had been refrigerated several hours.)

Serves 6-8.

(Adapted from here and here.)

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