Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home is where the Comfort is....

There have been many changes around the Small Space kitchen over the last 20+ months.

Highlights include moving to a new kitchen (hooray for full-sized appliances, and a dishwasher!); a cook's recovery from illness, and the subsequent ability to return to eating most of what she wants (huzzah!); and the addition of Mini-Taste-Tester to the family (she's getting teeth, and getting ready to use 'em).
The King of Pancakes and I are eager to get back to eating and enjoying healthy, home-cooked meals, and excited to bring you along for the adventure!

Today's offering is an old homey favorite, with a fat-reducing twist. You may also substantially reduce sodium by using no-salt-added tomato sauce, and omitting salt through the rest of the preparation. The herbs, veggies, and aromatics in this recipe give it great flavor. Green is the traditional pepper, lending a tangy flavor, however multi-color peppers can also yield a beautiful and tasty result.

Lighter Stuffed Peppers

4 small or 2 large bell peppers, cored and membranes removed
10 ounces skinless ground turkey (99% lean)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
14 oz. can of tomato sauce, divided

2 ounces cooked whole grain pasta, prepared according to package instructions
dry grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 375F.

Poke a small hole in the bottom of each pepper, then set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and 1/2 cup tomato sauce, reserving remaining sauce. Thoroughly combine meat mixture, and divide evenly between peppers. Place peppers in an 8x8 baking dish, and cover with remaining sauce. Bake 40 minutes, occasionally spooning sauce over the peppers. If you find that the sauce is becoming too dry, cover lightly with foil after 20 minutes of baking.

Serves 4.

Monday, September 28, 2009

21 months later....

And we are finally bringing it BACK!

Big Eats, Small Spaces will be back, in our new space, with new recipes, starting Wednesday.

Upcoming recipes:

Turkey-Stuffed Bell Peppers
Nanaimo Bars
Lobster Mashed Cauliflower
Brown Sugar Glazed Poached Salmon

and much more!!

Look forward to seeing you in the kitchen!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas, a week early...

Zeke is ready for Christmas!

Despite a little bit of asynchrony at the beginning, our Christmas Party went exceptionally well. The conversation was lively, the ornaments were sparkling, and the food was delicious!

The big hit of the night appeared to be the chili. My vegan chili recipe came directly from me not knowing anything other than the fact that I like chili, but I like it to be healthy. I also like colorful foods. The chili is all of the above! Plus it's easy to expand to serve as many people as you like....provided you have enough pots and pans to cook it in...

Ren's Vegan Chili
for every six servings you need:
2 teaspoons margarine
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper chopped (I start with a green, and then add yellow, orange, and finally red if I'm going from 6 to 12 to 18 to 24 servings)
1 19oz can of diced, unsalted tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 can black beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
cayenne, salt, and black pepper to taste

In a medium-sized pot or dutch oven, melt the margarine. Sautee the onions, garlic, and pepper until carmelized. Add the tomatoes, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the tomatoes simmer, drain and rinse the beans. This is critical, as kidney beans in particular come packed in corn syrup, and nobody needs that sugar!

Once the beans are rinsed and drained, stir them into the pot, followed by the chili powder. Season otherwise to taste. Allow to simmer for a minimum 15-20 minutes before serving. As most things of this nature go, the chili is best made a day ahead. Serve over crumbled corn muffins with cheese and sour cream. (Which, by the way, I completely forgot to put out for the party! Remember that out-of-whack start? Yeah...)

Cheddar broccoli soup had also been on my mind these past few weeks, however, when I went to buy the broccoli, there was none to be had. Briefly I converted my plan to a cauliflower carrot soup, but held out hope for broccoli to magically appear -- and sure enough it did!

This recipe is similar to my earlier recipe for cheese soup, however this time I substituted some Fat Free evaporated milk for some of the skim milk, to add some richness.

Ren's Reduced Fat Rich Cheese and Broccoli Soup

6 cans of evaporated milk, heated but not simmering
1 quart skim milk
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1.5 lbs of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tossed with 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 bags of frozen broccoli florets
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Blend the milks in a saucepan, and heat over medium-low until steam just rises from the top. Increase the heat to medium, and whisk in the mustard and shredded cheese.

**Space-saver/dish-saver TIP! Buy the pre-shredded cheese, and add the flour directly to the zipper bags. Shake to coat evenly, and then pour right into the pot!

Once the cheese has melted, add the broccoli, and return to medium-low, stirring periodically, and watching to ensure the soup does not boil. This transfers extremely well to a crock pot on low once the cheese has been melted in. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Allow to cook until broccoli is tender -- roughly 40 minutes. Serve with crackers or breadsticks.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Coming back again....

It's been a long two months off. My apologies, but food and I have had to renegotiate our relationship in some serious ways. Sure makes it hard to plan out a food blog, when you don't even know what you can eat!

But, things are evening out yet again, and hopefully we'll be able to be back, in force, starting with this weekend's event: Our annual ornament exchange!

The Menu:
Chex Mix (the real kind...not out of a bag!)
Chex Muddy Buddies
Oreo Truffles
Ren's Easy Vegan Chili
Ren's 3C Soup (Cauliflower, Carrots, and Cheese!)
Corn Muffins
A special offering from my friend Jen, the
Beantown Baker!
Oh, and of course, chocolates.

I have a love/hate relationship with Chex Mix. I love eating it. It may be one of the most delicious things I have ever experienced. But, I hate Chex as a cereal. Until now, I have always had to find a way to choke down the leftover Chex, or watch it go to waste, taking up precious room, on my small kitchen shelf. But no longer!

Careful merging of the two recipes currently found on the back of the Rice Chex and Wheat Chex boxes allows for 100% utilization of said Chex in delicious ways! You just have to know what to omit....

Grocery List

1 Large box of Rice Chex
1 Regular box of Wheat Chex
2 sticks of margarine or butter
Worcestershire sauce
Peanut butter
Chocolate chips
Unsalted Cashews or Peanuts
Pretzel nuggets (small ones)
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Seasoned Salt

Chex Mix -- the efficient variation!

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 cups Rice Chex® cereal
5 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 1/2 cup mixed nuts
1 1/2 cup bite-size pretzels

Preparation Directions:
1. Heat oven to 250°F. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.
2. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.
Microwave Directions: In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

1 Serving: Calories 140 (Calories from Fat 60); Total Fat 6g (Saturated Fat 2 1/2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 330mg; Total Carbohydrate 17g (Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 2g); Protein 3g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 2%; Calcium 4%; Iron 25% Exchanges: 1 Starch; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 1
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Muddy Buddies -- Again, efficiency style!

All remaining Chex
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation Directions:
1. Dump cereal into a large bowl; set aside.
2. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, stir together chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Microwave uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

1 Serving: Calories 220 (Calories from Fat 80); Total Fat 9g (Saturated Fat 4g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 200mg; Total Carbohydrate 30g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 17g); Protein 3g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 2%; Calcium 6%; Iron 25% Exchanges: 1 Starch; 1 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 2

Tomorrow, we'll have the soups -- and pics!

Thanks for reading...happy eating! :)

Monday, October 8, 2007

My other boyfriend is Trader Joe.

I love Trader Joe's. If you live in the Pittsburgh area and haven't made the trek to the Trader Joe's on Penn Avenue yet, you should. You probably own a car, so going there and loading up will make the trip well worth it!

Why is it worth this trip? Trader Joe's specializes in inexpensive, natural foods, many of which are also organic. It also caters to those with special dietary needs who would otherwise find themselves going broke at "Whole Paycheck". In fact, many of the foods that Trader Joe's carries are manufactured by makers you already trust and love, but with the artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives removed.

This recipe features many of the good things Trader Joe's has to offer, and shopping for the ingredients will give you a tour of most of the store! If you don't have a TJ's nearby, just approximate with my notes.

Asian-style Vegetable Soup

1 container TJ's Ginger Soy broth
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 package TJ's Harvest Mix Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, onions, peppers, and mushrooms -- Birds Eye has a similar mix)
1/2 package extra firm tofu, cubed OR 1/2 pound of frozen uncooked shrimp
1/2 package TJ's rice stick noodles
3 green onions, snipped into 2 inch lengths
4 pieces of fresh cilantro

In a 4 quart pan, combine the first three ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Add the vegetables and shrimp if using. If using tofu, heat 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil plus a drop of sesame oil in a pan. Cook tofu cubes to remove excess moisture and until just browned.

When Shrimp starts to turn pink, or when broth begins to simmer again, add noodles. Also add tofu at this time if using. Allow to simmer 7 minutes, until noodles are soft. Remove from heat and add green onions and cilantro, stirring them in. Allow to sit 3-4 minutes.

Serve hot. Serves 6, and when made with tofu, the whole pot will cost you about $5 to make!

Saturday, October 6, 2007 does a body good.

There have been changes afoot around the Small Space Kitchen. With some health changes has come eating changes, and so the Kitchen is headed toward a vegetarian theme. I still have chicken in my freezer, though, so until that runs out, there will be some more meaty things coming down the line.

But today we have a personal favorite, Peach-raspberry pie. I love pie. Love. It. I also love hitting the jackpot at the Haymarket and getting 5 beautiful, gigantic, freestone peaches for $2, and a container of raspberries for $.75.

Peach pie is one of those things that often gets lost in the shuffle. In a lot of ways it's the "middle child" in the pie triumvirate which includes apple and cherry. Strawberry pies don't often compete, as they're not usually a baked pie, and blackberry pies due to rarity have the benefit of novelty.

Why do peaches lose out? It's hard to say, especially since when done right, they are much easier to prep for a fresh fruit pie than apples or cherries. And after you read through tutorial and recipe, however, I'm sure peaches will hit higher on your pie radar!

Step 1: Start with the right fruit. There are two main types of peaches you'll encounter, freestone and cling. You may have seen these words appear on canned peaches and wondered what they meant. While it means little to you the consumer of a canned, pitted fruit, the difference becomes apparent when working with the fresh, whole fruit! Freestone peaches develop so that the flesh is free from the stone -- the stone being the pit. Cling, on the other hand, are the peaches whose fruit comes away from the pit in clumps, giving the would-be pie-maker a much more difficult task. Ask your produce person before buying to make sure.

Step 2: Be a blancher, not a fighter. When you get your peaches home, rinse dirt from peaches under running tap water in the sink. Then either boil water in a tea kettle or pot, and then pour the boiling water over the peaches, or place them in the boiling pot for 3 minutes. Blanching your peaches allows the skin to peel off easily with your fingertips or the help of a small knife. Either way, the blush of the skin should decrease a bit as you boil the fruit -- this is simply the translucent skin pulling away from the flesh. A uniform translucency tells you your peaches are ready.

Step 3: Slice! Be careful, as the blanched skinless peaches are slippery. Firmly keeping a finger in the stem end will do the least damage to your fruit as you slice the fruit off of the stone.

Once you've sliced your peaches, toss them with some lemon juice to prevent browning. Sliced peaches may be refrigerated overnight if you want to spread the workload over two days. Here again they out-do apples -- refrigerated peaches retain their texture and flavor much better than apples.

Where do the raspberries come in? While I love peaches, they are often a very straight-line sweet flavor. The raspberries add a touch of tang and depth, making what would be a very good pie truly memorable. It doesn't take many raspberries to add zest to the pie.....just toss them thoroughly with the peaches to get good distribution.

And the recipe:

Peach-Raspberry Pie


  • 1 (15 ounce) package pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 5 cups sliced peeled peaches (4 extra large, or 6 medium)

  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, picked over and rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
    Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. Brush with some of the beaten egg to keep the dough from becoming soggy later. Prick with fork to prevent bubbles.

    Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently. Pour into the pie crust, and dot with butter. Cover with the other pie crust, and fold the edges under. Flute the edges to seal or press the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in egg. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.

    Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. If the edges brown to fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving. This tastes better warm than hot.

    picture to come!

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Vegetarian Delight

    This summer we spent a week with my in-laws in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan. The Cherry Capital hosts the National Cherry Festival each July, and the fruit-related fun doesn't end there. The area is truly amazing, with its fresh fruits and vegetables coming from a multitude of local farms and orchards.

    One morning, the King of Pancakes' parents went out to a local farmers' market and brought back, among a load of other fresh loot, nearly a dozen beefsteak tomatoes. His mom had found a recipe in a Parade Magazine she'd wanted to try, which is my feature today. We packed it up and took it to the beach at Cathead Bay, but it is colorful enough to serve as part of a brunch or lunch occasion, and simple enough for everyday if you use pre-made ingredients.

    The recipe recommends beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, however if you want to make this an appetizer of more manageable proportions, I recommend ripe Roma tomatoes cut into rings.

    Triple Threat Tomatoes

    8 large ripe tomatoes, 3 inches in diameter (roughly 4 pounds, if you want to go smaller)
    3/4 c. Chickpea Slather (recipe follows) or your favorite hummus
    3/4 c. Kalamata Olive Spread (recipe follows)
    3/4 c. pesto (store-bought, or use your favorite recipe)
    One basil leaf for garnish

    Cut each tomato into three 1/2 inch slices if using large tomatoes. 1/4 inch if using small ones. Divide into 3 groups, and top with 1 T. for large slices, or 1 t. for small, some with each of the three toppings. Or, as we discovered, allow your guests to top as they desire. Several of us loved them with all three toppings combined, and it looked lovely.

    Chickpea Slather (none of us liked this name, but we did like the taste!)

    1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed well and drained
    1/4 c. sesame tahini
    3 T. warm water
    3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
    Zest of 1 lemon
    Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
    2 t. finely mince garlic
    1 t. ground cumin
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Process all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week. Prepare at least several hours ahead for the best flavor.

    Kalamata Olive Spread

    1 c. pitted Kalamata olives
    3 cloves of garlic, peeled
    2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
    2 T. fresh lemon juice
    2 T. chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 t. dried
    2 T. chopped flat leaf parsley

    Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until just pureed (use the pulse function for best results.) Store, covered, in the refrigerator for a week as well.

    Serve the topped tomatoes with a sliced baguette, and you will think you've been transported to Europe! Yum!