Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blackberry Lemonade Granita with Mint

Do you love fresh granitas? I do. A little background, Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings

My inspiration for making this came from a couple sources:
1.) Bekah got a brand new toy! It's a new Cuisinart Icecream, Sorbet and SoftServe Maker!
2.) My dad's garden produced some nice blackberries and mint. All I needed were a couple lemons and sweet inspiration.
3.) My mother's birthday. I wanted to make a little something from scratch so I got my ingrediants together and went at it.

* 2 cups frozen blackberries
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 cup water
* Lemon essence, from the rind
* Lemon juice from 2 Lemons
* Finely chopped mint.

Stir sugar and 1 cup water in small saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil 1 minute. Transfer syrup to large bowl. Chill until syrup is cold, about 3 hours.

Working in batches, puree blackberries with juices and cold syrup in blender until smooth. Strain into another large bowl; discard seeds. Add finely chopped mint and stir in lemon juice.

Process berry mixture in ice cream maker according the maker's instructions. Transfer sorbet to container; cover and freeze until firm, about 6 hours. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep frozen)

Additions to a good meal

As I'm making dinner there are some highlights to a meal, the main dish and then there are the extras that just make it.

So far, I made the Pico De Gallo, Gallo Pinto, then stuffed them into peppers. I needed a few additions to this already yummy meal So I made Platanos Maduros, Grilled Chicken Breast and Fried Cheese with Tortillas. Here are those simple recipes.

Grilled Platanos Maduros:
* 3-4 Plantains, preferanly dark and bruisy.
* Butter / Oil for pan (I use less and a non-stick grill) First you have to buy almost the blackest of the bananas. I know it seems icky, but these are sweeter and softer and grill better. I cut the plantains with a small sharp knife cut ends from each plantain and halve crosswise. Cut a lengthwise slit through skin along inside curve. Beginning in center of slit pry skin from plantain and with rippled blade of a mandoline or decorating knife cut flesh crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

On a flat grill or large deep skillet heat the oil or butter to 350°F and fry 12 to 15 plantain slices at a time, turning them, 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden, transferring as fried with a skimmer or slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Season plantain slices with salt. (Plantain slices should be slightly crisp on outside but soft on inside.)

Grilled Chicken:

* 2-3 Chicken Breasts, cut in halves
* Ground Cumin
* Cayenne Pepper
* Olive oil
* Sea Salt
* Lemon Pepper
* Lemon (couple wedges)

I like to marinate my chicken for a few minutes while getting the grill ready. I use a non-stick grill pan. I cut the breasts in large chunks to cook faster but not so small that they cook too fast and lose the tenderness. I try to cook one side so that the meat is cooked about half way through before flipping over. After the chicken is thoroughly cooked. I remove and chop up fajita style.

Fried Cheese and Tortillas:

Although I didn't make the cheese or tortillas, getting the right additions is everything. For the Fry-able cheese you have to go to a Mexican Grocery store and ask for Queso Para Freir. It is a harder cheese that will grill nicely. Leave it too long in the pan and it will melt away.

I got my cheese here:

Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers with Gallo Pinto

Mmm, Stuffed Bell Peppers have always been an item made in my home since I was a little girl. I didn't care much for the pepper itself and could pick out the insides. Now I just love them.

I was inspired to make a vegetarian Nicaraguan inspired stuffed pepper. My creativity was flowing and I had a plan. It all started with the Gallo Pinto (recipe made earlier than nigbt) and Soyrizo (Soy Chorizo.

* 1 package of Soyrizo
* 3-4 cups of Gallo Pinto (Rice and Beans mixture)
* 6-8 Large Bell Peppers, Red, Green, Yellow - whatever you prefer
* Package of Shredded Cheese, I used the Mexican blend fine shredded.

First you remove the Soyrizo from the casing and fry in a pan on Medium heat separately from all other ingredients. Once cooked add the Gallo Pinto to the Soyrizo and mix together while frying. Add in some of the cheese to bind it all together.

Cut the tops off the Bell Peppers and stand them up in a Pyrex or Aluminum Baking Dish. Try to wedge them next to each other so they don't fall during the cooking process.

Stuff the peppers almost 3/4 full and top with the shredded cheese. Bake in an oven at 350 for around 30-40 minutes or until bell peppers are tender. This recipe is super easy and pretty healthy. The bells are so fulling, you will forget there isn't any real meat in it.

:) Bekah

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Healthy Gallo Pinto

I love Gallo Pinto. It's something I grew up with. Don't discount this as a simple side dish, it's good with breakfast, lunch and dinner. :)

This dish can be Nicaraguan, Costa Rican and El Salvadorian, it is the same simple dish carried on with different names such as Casimento too. This hearty, healthy and filling dish is your basic rice and beans. The beans in this case are red, and the color of the beans on the rice gives gallo pinto, or "painted rooster," its name.

* 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
% 1/8 cup butter or olive oil
* 1/2 diced yellow or white onion
* Optional - 1/2 cup Pico De Gallo (Recipe posted)
* Large Can of black, red or pinto beans
* 1 Tblesp Ground Cumin
* 1 Tblesp Cayenne
* Salt / Pepper to Taste
* Two- cups of cooked steamed brown rice

Heat the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high flame. Add the onions, garlic and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through.

Add beans with half the juice in the can, this prevents the dryness and addition of more oil. Cook these together and add the spices, mix together.

Add in the brown rice, mixing together as they fry in the skillet. Make sure they don't stick to the pan, but get cooked together and all the juice is absorbed by the rice.

Gallo Pinto is one of my favorite dishes, I recently used this to stuff peppers. It was AMAZING, to be continued in another blog post.

XOXO, Beks

I love the Fajita Diet

I love the Fajita Diet!

I have totally convinced myself, eating healthy smaller meals of fresh grilled veggies and meat has been not only the way to eat very well, but very nutritious. I track my calories and this has been one of my favorites because of the simplicity of the food.

I make brown or white rice using a small rice cooker. I like to keep this simple. If I want to add a little flavor, I might mix in onion, cayenne and a little lemon pepper to flavor the rice.

I grill lean pieces of beef, strips of chicken breasts or fish. When I cook fish, I go with a white fish like tilapia. I like adding a little protein, I keep the marinades simple and add few spices. Everything else has spice in it, so don't over do each item.

Don't worry about all the salt, add garlic, cayenne and pepper. Try lemon and herbs. The flavors will have you forgiving the absence of sodium in your meal. The less the better.

I like whole black and pinto beans, as simple as they are - you can add protein and a whole lot of flavor to your meal simply by adding beans as another step. I like to then make Gallo Pinto, which is a dish made of rice and beans fried together with spices. It's called different things in Central and South American, but it can be agreed thoughout - it's delicious.

I add in veggies. The typical fajitas include strips of sweet onions and colorful bell peppers (red, orange, yellow and green). The more unique veggies are then added if I have them, like zucchini, green chiles, plantains and sweet corn. Options are endless and keep the fajita diet fun for each night.

Keep it simple with the tortillas. Don't let half your meal's calories go to the wrapper. Buy natural corn or carb light flour tortillas. Make two or three small tacos for dinner with healthy portions of meat and veggies.

I've been making fajitas during the week, it gets easier each night as you make your fresh salsa, rice and beans one night and have left overs. I'm getting ready to start posting more and posting my healthy Latin inspired favorite dishes, so get ready to see what I'm cooking.

Cooking with Love,

This Girl Really Cooks ~ Rebekah

Pico De Gallo Fresh Salsa

Pico De Gallo Fresh Salsa

I like to make fresh salsa daily, especially with certain meals. I'm always looking to add a little more to my meals and love cold spicy and fresh salsa. I like it spicy so I will add fresh jalapenos and some spice to the mix. It's these things that make my salsa different every time.

The Basic:
* 2 cups of diced tomatoes
* 1/2 white onion or 3 Green Onions, diced
* 2 limes, juiced
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Extras:
* 2 Teaspoons diced Garlic
* Cayenne Pepper
* Fresh Jalapenos
* Lemon Juice
* Tapatio Hot Sauce

Directions: Simply enough - Dice all items in small pieces. A food processor can be used for the cilantro, jalapeno and garlic. Mix all ingredients. Best if chilled and refrigerated for a few hours before eating so that the items mix well.

Yum! Add this salsa to avocados to make a chunky guacamole. Add sour cream to that to make a smooth and creamy guacamole.

M*therfuck'n Heirloom Tomato Sauce

M*therfuck'n Cherry Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Who doesn't love some M'Fkn Cherry Heirloom Tomatoes? These colorful little sweet tomatoes are fun to cook with. I bought some of these beautiful little babies a couple weeks ago and was inspired to make a fresh sauce from scratch. I added:

* Pat of butter
* 1/2 a sweet or yellow onion
* a basket of cherry heirloom tomatoes, diced.
* 1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
* 1 small bunch basil, leaves washed and coarsely chopped
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* Italian Seasoning
* Salt / Pepper
* Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, optional
* Grated Parmigiano, for garnish

Add butter to pan and let melt. Add the garlic and onion and saute lightly. Cut the cherry tomatoes in 1/2 or 1/4 and add in. Then add olive oil, 1/2 of the basil, and red pepper flakes if using; Add salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and cook the pasta until al dente. Strain the pasta and add to the mixing bowl with the tomatoes. Add the remaining basil, some Parmigiano and toss.

Love these!