Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Avocado Egg Stacks

Sometimes it's hard to cook when you're sad. For me, cooking is an artistic outlet. It's a chance to explore new ingredients, techniques, and flavor combinations. And it's hard to do that when someone you love has died and there's a big hole in your life. It's less fun to create, and it's often less fun to taste.

I discovered this recipe shortly before Charles died, and this proved to be a great go-to meal that week when he was in hospice and died. I think I made these Avocado Egg Stacks six times in the span of a week and a half to two weeks. It's a pretty balanced meal--complete with whole grains, protein, healthy fat, fruit (isn't avocado technically a fruit?), and veggies if you count the salsa. It's filling. It's tasty. And it comes together very quickly and easily. This was a good meal to throw together when I didn't want to think too hard or spend forever cleaning up my kitchen. And it was good in that I knew it would taste good with very little effort, but it's simple enough that I didn't care if it ended up tasting blah because I felt blah.

The full recipe is on A Couple Cooks, but here's the basic gist: toast an English muffin; add sliced or mashed avocado, salt, and paprika or chipotle seasoning; top with a fried egg and salsa; eat. I've made it with and without salsa, and actually like it a little better without. I used paprika every time since I don't yet own any chipotle seasoning. And I typically used half an avocado rather than a whole one.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Peach Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Lavender Balsamic Reduction

Confession: I get really frustrated with recipes that have summery ingredients and advertise themselves as summery, but require the oven. When it's over 100 degrees outside, I refuse to turn on the oven. Yet here I am sharing a oven-requiring recipe with summery ingredients. To my credit, it was only in the 90s the day I made it . . . and one of the two inspiration recipes was actually grilled rather than baked. I unfortunately don't have a grill, so I was stuck with waiting for a cooler day that could handle the oven being on for a bit. But if you're interested in grilling this baby, be sure to check out The Healthy Foodie recipe linked below.

Peach Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Lavender Balsamic Reduction

Yield: 3 servings (2 slices each)

1 medium to large yellow onion, sliced
1/2 Tbsp. butter
Salt, pepper, and sugar to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 scant tsp. dried lavender flowers
1 whole wheat pizza crust (cooked, not dough; I used Boboli)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1/3 cup reduced fat bleu cheese crumbles
1 medium peach, thinly sliced (peeling is optional)

To caramelize the onions, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the onions and butter and reduce heat to somewhere between medium and medium-high. Season with a bit of salt, pepper, and sugar. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until onions are very tender and golden brown. As needed, add a Tbsp. or two of water to deglaze the pan every so often. Note: for better caramelized onions, cook them on medium-low for close to an hour; I just didn't want to wait that long this time.

For the balsamic reduction, use the smallest saucepan you have. Bring balsamic vinegar and lavender to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium-low-ish and simmer for around 15 minutes, stirring often, until vinegar is thick and syrupy, and has reduced to 1-2 Tbsp. in volume. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Preheat oven (and pizza stone if you have it) to 400 degrees.

Drizzle olive oil over the pizza crust and, using a pastry brush or your fingers, spread it around evenly. Layer 1/4 cup mozzarella, caramelized onions, bleu cheese, peach slices, and remaining mozzarella.

Bake for 5-12 minutes, until crust is browned and cheese is melted. Mine took about 7 minutes on the pizza stone in the oven. Remove from oven, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and cut into 6 wedges to serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (compliments of My Fitness Pal)
415 calories; 15.5 g. fat; 58.8 g total carbs (10 g. dietary fiber, 13.3 g. sugars); 18.3 g. protein 

  • This was excellent. The mozzarella toned down the bleu cheese and kept it from overpowering the other flavors, as bleu cheese is very capable of doing. The cheeses and onion complemented the peaches beautifully, and the lavender balsamic reduction was the perfect final touch.
  • If you don't have lavender, you could definitely leave it out and the reduction would still be great on this pizza. I was just excited about finding another way to use dried lavender.
  • I didn't time my balsamic reduction well, so it cooled completely by the time the pizza went into the oven . . . and it got really thick--turned into more of a solid than a liquid. I was able to kind of re-liquify it by putting it back on low heat while the pizza baked, but it was still hard to drizzle. Next time I'll start the reduction later.
  • I imagine gorgonzola would be good on this, as in the Cooking Light recipe. I was even planning to get gorgonzola, but the bleu cheese was about 1/3 the cost and came in a reduced fat option. Sold.
  • There are a lot of "z"s in this post. With the mozzarella, the pizza, and the drizzle, we've got a lot of "z"s going on. Just thought I'd point that out.