Happy Food

I absolutely love good, fresh, and healthy food. It makes me happy...so it's happy food!

Today I had two encounters with happy food. The first was my delicious breakfast. I had a toasted English muffin spread with part-skim ricotta cheese. Then I drizzled some Stone Fruit Compote on top and cut up a big bunch of organic strawberries.


I may or may not have had a bowl of vanilla ice cream this afternoon and drizzled some of the compote on top of that, too.

My second happy food of the day was Fresh Corn Salad. I plan to bring it to a picnic with friends tonight and serving it with tortilla chips. I got this recipe from my good friend and posted it last year. I'll re-post it below because it's so darn delicious.

Fresh Corn Salad
~I was pretty much obsessed with this after my first bite~

*Fresh Corn is important - do not substitute frozen or canned.*
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced (you can leave this out, if you don't like spice)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 8 ears fresh corn, husks & silk removed (I used 6)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, or whatever tomatoes you have on hand (I used a couple large tomatoes that I chopped)
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed
  • 6 scallions (green onions), sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro (I didn't use this because I don't like cilantro...don't hate me, I know everyone seems to like cilantro. But even the smell of it turns my stomach.)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. For the dressing: Shake all of the dressing ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid (or a plastic container or plastic baggie).
  2. Cook the corn in a big pot of boiling water until tender (5-7 minutes). Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut kernels from cob with a paring knife into a large bowl.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans, scallions, cilantro, and dressing and toss. Season with S&P to taste & serve.
*This salad can be made a day in advance.

I'm actually going to have a third encounter with happy food at the picnic tonight. It's kind of a secret happy food of mine. You see, I don't eat beef. I hate it. I want to like it, but I don't. However, whenever I even smell this happy food I practically start drooling with the anticipation of eating it. My secret happy food is....

Yes...all-beef juicy hot dogs with ketchup on top.

Ironically, I detest turkey hot dogs. I typically substitute turkey for beef in recipes all the time, but turkey hot dogs make me want to vomit.

Do you have any happy foods?

Pizza on the Grill

Making pizza on the grill is a really fun thing to do in the summer. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating different combinations of toppings. The first time I made pizza on the grill was at the Kitchen Workshop. We made a whole bunch of different pizzas and had a blast.

As I perused the latest issue of Everyday Food Magazine, they did an entire feature on making pizza on the grill. I was reminded of how much I enjoy grilling pizzas and I was intrigued by their topping recommendations.

Here is the recipe for basic pizza dough that was included in the July/August 2010 issue of Everyday Food Magazine.

Basic Grilled Pizza Dough
~This is so simple to make~

  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 packet (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
  • course salt and ground pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (I used 1 cup of whole wheat and 1 1/4 cup all purpose)
  1. Pour 1 cup warm water (not hot) into a medium bowl; add sugar and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).
  2. Whisk oil and 1 tsp salt into yeast mixture. (I actually add the salt after I add a little flour because I believe I heard somewhere that salt can disrupt the yeast). Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is incorporated (dough will appear dry).
  3. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until dough comes together in an elastic ball (2 minutes).
  4. Transfer to an oiled medium bowl (I actually slosh some oil around in a large ziploc bag instead...less clean-up). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes).
  5. Punch down dough and cover; let rise another 30 minutes (I actually had to go out at this point, so I just popped the dough in the fridge...it slows down the rising, but still works out perfectly. I can be stored in the fridge for several days and frozen for up to 1 month).
  6. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface (if it was refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature). Divide into 4 equal pieces (I actually divided it in half to make two medium sized pizzas). Let rest 15 minutes before using.
Grilled Pizza in Easy Steps

  1. Heat it up: Set up a grill with heat source, coals, or gas on one side over medium-high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill.
  2. Stretch it: On a lightly floured work surface, stretch or roll 1 piece of basic grilled pizza dough or 4 oz store-bought dough into 10 inch long oval or other desired shape. Brush one side with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.
  3. Grill it: Using your hands, place dough, oiled side down, directly over heat source. Brush dough with olive oil and cook until underside is lightly charred and bubbles form all over the top (one 1 or 2 minutes). With tongs, flip dough and cook until lightly charred (1 or 2 minutes). Slide dough to cooler side of the grill.
  4. Top it: Top with desired cheese and toppings; cover grill. Cook until cheese melts and toppings are heated through (2 to 5 minutes).
I chose two different types of toppings.

The first was called "Shrimp and Pesto": 2 tbsp basil pesto (I bought a jar at the store), 3 oz grilled shrimp, 2 small tomatoes (sliced or chopped), 1/4 small red onion (sliced or chopped), and shaved Parmesan.

The second was called "Grilled Asparagus and Ricotta": 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 bunch of asparagus (steamed or grilled), and 1 tbsp grated lemon zest.

Both were unique and delicious! I was especially surprised by the asparagus and ricotta cheese pizza because the lemon gave it such a fresh taste.

Some other suggestions were "Tomato, Basil, and Fresh Mozzarella", "Fontina with Carmalized Fennel and Onions", and "Sausage, Olives, and Mozzarella with fresh Rosemary". I can't wait to try some more flavor combinations!


Spicy Sliders

As I meandered through the aisles of the grocery store, I came across a package of buns for sliders. As a lover of all miniature forms of food (mini hot dogs, mini tarts, mini quiches...I could go on and on), I decided to try out these miniature burgers.

So I had the slider buns and a pound of ground turkey (since I don't eat beef) and went hunting online for an interesting recipe for turkey burgers. I came across the one below on allrecipes.com and we loved them!

Cumin Turkey Burgers
~These taste and smell delicious!~

  • 1 egg
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I only had the jarred kind on hand)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (I used panko)
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (I only had a pound and it worked out fine)
  • 6 hamburger buns, split and toasted (I used 12 slider buns)
  • Toppings could include slices of cheese, lettuce, and tomato
  1. Mix the egg, jalapeno peppers, and garlic in a large mixing bowl until the egg is well blended. Add the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, mustard, paprika, chili powder, salt, bread crumbs, and turkey; mix well and form into 6 patties (or 12 mini patties for sliders).
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil the grate.
  3. Cook the turkey burgers on the preheated grill until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 4 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Serve on the toasted hamburger or slider buns with desired toppings (if using cheese, add to the top of burgers during the final moment or two of cooking).
I served a yummy salad on the side composed of baby spinach and arugula, fresh blueberries, fresh sliced strawberries, a dash of salt and pepper, and topped with a splash of olive oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar. What a fresh and tasty summer meal!


Summer days

I am now beginning my summer vacation and could not be more content. I know that teachers get teased because they get so much time off...but I swear that if there wasn't a summer break, there wouldn't be any teachers.

I'm extremely passionate about teaching and truly love each and every student I have in my class...but by the time June hits, I'm SO ready for some space before I turn into "scary teacher". It's nice to have some time to myself, but by the second week of August, I start itching to teach again!

So now I am spending my days doing exactly what I wish and loving every minute of it. I've been going through some of the summer issues of my favorite food magazines. As usual, Everyday Food Magazine has caught my eye and I've been using some of their ideas to create little bits of wonderfulness. The following two recipes come from the July/August 2010 issue.

Stone Fruit Compote
~This is perfect for spreading on toast or topping yogurt~

  • 2 1/4 cups (3/4 lbs) stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, or plums
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch of course salt
  • 3 tbsp water
  • a flavor combination such as 1 star anise and 2 allspice berries OR 1 small cinnamon stick and 1 wide strip of lemon zest (I used a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and the strip of lemon zest)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the fruit is soft (8-12 minutes).
  2. Remove the lemon zest strip and/or cinnamon stick (if you used that flavor combination).
  3. Transfer to a pint size jar and let cool (I used a canning jar). Once it's cool, you can put the lid on it and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. This chunky spread can be put on toast with ricotta cheese or over some plain yogurt. I imagine it would be great over ice cream, too!
Couscous Salad with Black Beans, Mushrooms, and Corn
~This meat-less meal is filling and delicious~

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (you can use regular couscous or orzo pasta, too)
  • course salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • 1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno (optional, but delicious in it) thinly sliced (I chopped it)
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add couscous and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown and fragrant (about 4 minutes).
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups water, season with salt, and bring got a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender (about 15 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add 1 tsp oil to the skillet and cook the scallion whites and corn, stirring occasionally, until scallions are soft and corn is browned (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and then add to the mushrooms.
  5. Add couscous, black beans, lime juice, jalapeno (if using), and scallion greens to the mushroom mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve with avocado slices on top. (I actually added some crumbled tortilla chips on top and it was a the perfect salty companion to the salad)
For me, summer days are all about relaxing, enjoying the fresh produce of the season, and doing the things that I love. Cooking is definitely at the top of that list!