Monday, March 31, 2008

Beef Empanadas...I hope

This is the game plan. Thaw out the extra cornmeal crust from making my Green Eggs and Ham quiche and use it to make beef empanadas based on a recipe from Gourmet's Sept. '07 issue. Plan of attack: Make the filling. Roll out the dough and build one lonely little empanada. Bake sole empanada. Taste test the empanada. If it's a go, use the rest of the filling to make more. If it's even a so-so response, plop the rest of the filling unceremoniously atop a plate of goodies that constitute our usual taco salad and be done with it! the empanadas were good. But, oh-so frustrating to make with the cornmeal dough. It just wasn't flexible enough to pull over the filling without creating Frankenempanadas. Good thing I was enjoying a bout of patience (not the norm!), since I had to patch all the holes and be very delicate in placing them on the baking sheet for fear of making more splits. The one in the photo is the purtiest one I got out of 5. I did have lots of filling left over, since I really didn't have enough dough to make the whole batch. I'm just going to use the rest of the filling to make enchiladas for the freezer. Several of the recipes I found call for using frozen empanada dough disks. Just do that if you can find them, a store bought pie dough like Pillsbury, or use a recipe that creates a pie dough that can be stretched a bit more readily. We did really enjoy the cornmeal in the crust though. Maybe if I'd made the pastry recipe as it was written with mostly unbleached white flour instead of all white whole-wheat, it would have made it a lot easier to work with. I'm sure you could sub ground turkey meat for the beef.

Beef Empanadas:

1 recipe for double crust pie dough, or 1 package frozen empanada disks, thawed
~1 lb tenderized round steak, chopped finely (or you could use already ground, but I liked the texture of the chopped steak)
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
~1 tsp ground cumin
~1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder (no recipe I found called for this, so use it only if you want)
~1/2 tsp dried oregano
red pepper flakes to taste
1- 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes, drained with juice reserved...chopped
~2-3 Tbs reserved tomato juice
~1/3 cup chopped green olives with pimentos
2-3 Tbs raisins (I used dried cranberries)
~1/2 tsp salt
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (we used fresh duck eggs from Frank :-)
Optional: I happened to have a wee bit of shredded cheddar that needed to be used up, so I sprinkled a bit over the filling in each empanada before closing them up.

Heat a non-stick skillet over med., add a little oil and brown beef for about 4 minutes, or until you no longer see any pink.
Remove meat from skillet and drain off any fat.
Add some olive oil to the skillet and cook onions until soft...about 5 min.
Then add back in the meat along with the spices, tomatoes, olives, and raisins and cook to blend the flavors, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the eggs.
Allow mixture to cool.

If using your own homemade dough:
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil, or parchment paper and oil lightly.

Divide dough into 10 pieces. I rolled out the cornmeal crust between sheets of plastic wrap and then put them back in the fridge to firm up again. I only took them out of the fridge one at a time. But, you probably won't be playing the martyr with cornmeal dough, so just carry on as written. :-)
Roll and then cut one piece into about a 6" circle, lay on prepared baking sheet, and spoon about 3 Tbs of filling onto half of the circle, leaving about a 1" border. Brush the edge of the pastry with an egg wash or a little warm water, fold over the empty half, seal remaining edges. Cut a small slit to vent steam. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned. I turned mine over after about 15 minutes in an effort to crisp up the tops.

If you're using frozen empanada disks:
Another recipe I found had you heat the oven to 425. Brush the empanadas with oil, and bake until golden, in about 10 minutes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Orange Hummus

Ok, so I had these red lentils sitting and staring up at me from a pull-out shelf every time I opened the pantry door...for like, a YEAR. I can't even remember what I made with them originally...obviously it couldn't have been all that memorable. So off to the computer I went to search for a recipe, when I'd had just about enough of their plaintive mews...
I found a quickie recipe for red lentil hummus that sounded great for snacking with veggies, sandwiches, etc. The recipe touted that red lentils are more easily digested than chickpeas, so last night I set about making this flexible sounding recipe. Hm...
Did I do something wrong? First off, It was the consistency of soup. And, the flavor? Not really there. This is all to say that I'm not going to bother sharing the recipe for this slop, but instead I'll post on my favorite alternative-type hummus, using my holiest of holies...the chickpea. Man, you just gotta love these little guys. I'm pretty sure I'm an addict. Used in falafel, hummus, whole in casseroles, salads, soups...they're one of my favorite things to eat.

This recipe for Orange Hummus comes from of my dog-eared copy of Mollie Katzen's (of Moosewood fame) Enchanted Broccoli Forest. No photo until I make it again, but this recipe is a winner in our house. You might want to halve the recipe if you're just making for 2, since it yields 3 cups as written.

Orange Hummus:

2- 15oz cans chick-peas, drained and rinsed

1/2 tsp each:
ground cumin
ground coriander
ground ginger
ground mustard
mild paprika (sweet not smoked or hot)

3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs cider vinegar
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. soy sauce
cayenne to taste

Combine everything in a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container with a lid, cover tightly, and chill.

Mollie Katzen's note..."Serve as a dip, surrounded by and array of raw and/or lightly steamed vegetables- or simply with crackers. This also goes beautifully in a toasted pita pocket with minced salad greens and chopped ripe tomatoes."

Whole Grain Waffles with Strawberry-Rhubarb Topping

In February of '07 I put myself on a yeast-free diet for health reasons. In doing so, I had to change my eating habits pretty dramatically. Cutting out all wheat flours was a part of that process. I've since added most everything back into my diet in moderation, but I'm continually on the lookout for new recipes that utilize whole-grains versus overly processed flours, grains and sugars.
This is another recipe from Bob's Red Mill Baking Book, but it looks like it was originally featured in Cooking Light! I can't seem to get away from that magazine. Most grocery stores have a great selection of alternative flours these days, and I have to reign myself in constantly to keep from buying too many. Our fridge is already full of interesting flours that I can never hope to use up for just the two of us. :-)

We used a Belgian-style waffle iron and I think it made this batter a little trickier to use. What usually cooks in ~3-4 minutes took 6+ minutes. The waffle reeeeeeally did not want to release from the iron either. Note our first attempt...

I started oiling the iron (something I don't have to do with regular batter) and I think it helped. But, just know you'll have to cook them longer than you're used to for a thick style waffle. Pry one side at a time, as gently as you are able without giving yourself a steam burn. They'll be nice and crisped on the outside while retaining a lovely moist texture inside. A yummy waffle that I plan to make again with a few tweaks.

Whole Grain Waffles:

3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/3 cup Gluten Free Sweet White Sorghum Flour
1/3 cup Oat Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
dash of Salt
1 Tbs Maple Syrup (I used agave nectar, Monster said he likes a sweeter waffle than this made, so I'll add a little more next time)
2 Tbs Canola Oil
1 Tbs pure Vanilla Extract
1 Egg, separated
1 1/3 cup Milk (I used Silk unsweeted soy milk)

Mix together all liquid ingredients, except egg white. Beat egg white until stiff, but not dry, and set aside. Add all liquid ingredients, except egg white, to dry ingredients. Stir and fold in egg white. Bake on hot waffle iron and enjoy. A variation suggested in the recipe is to add orange zest to the batter, but I didn't try that this time. Instead, I toasted up some sunflower seeds and mixed into the batter, but I don't think I really cared for the addition.

We had leftover fresh strawberries from the salmon salad last night, so I paired them with 1/2 a bag of frozen rhubarb for our waffle topping. I used a similar method to what I do when making my Fruit Pancake/Waffle Topping, but with no lemon juice. The rhubarb provides the sour that the lemon usually does. I used some water to cook the rhubarb down and used more agave than I usually do. Then I added the cornstarch and sliced strawberries. Not cooking the strawberries for very long after that.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Colorful Fruited Salmon Salad

Spring is in the air and then some in Texas. We're already getting some pretty warm days here and there, so one of my favorite springy-summery salads has made it back into my menu planning. Bright, multi-hued food is healthy food, so this must fit the bill. A palette of deep orange wild salmon, saffron-yellow mango, juicy red strawberries, nice crisp cucumber, red-violet onions, emerald spinach, creamy baby red potatoes, and soft green avocado create a feast for our eyes and for our tummies. With a light dressing that lets all of the salad's individual components shine, this is one of our favorites.

There is a huge amount of information about salmon to be found on The World's Healthiest Foods. Scroll waaaaaay down on this page and look for the headings "Farmed Salmon Found to Have a Higher Toxic Equivalency Score than Any Other Food",
and the one under it, "Choose Sockeye Salmon for the Most Vitamin D".
There's a lot more great info to read about salmon here, but those were particularly interesting to me. Check out this link from the Monterey Bay Aquarium for more reasons NOT to eat farmed salmon.

Colorful Fruited Salmon Salad:

Wild sockeye salmon (it will be previously frozen this time of year)
~5 Baby red potatoes, halved and boiled for ~10-12 minutes.
Organic baby spinach and baby arugula mix (I used spring mix once and thought it had too much going on flavorwise with everything else, so keep the greens simple)
Organic Strawberries if you can get them...taste so much better, halved and sliced
Mango, pitted, peeled and sliced
Avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced on the vertical
Feta cheese, crumbled

whole grain mustard
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
a small squeeze of agave nectar (probably doesn't even need this if you have nice sweet fruit)
cider vinegar
canola oil
dash of hot sauce (optional)

Set a pot of water to boil. Salt the water, then add potatoes. Boil until just fork tender, then drain. I usually add a little salt and a wee bit of butter at this point.
Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450.
Place salmon skin side down on a foil-lined lightly oiled (where the fish will be) baking sheet.
Rub salmon with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Wild salmon tends to cook faster, so keep an eye on it.

Prep all your other salad goodies and make dressing. Arrange your greens on each plate and toss with a little of the dressing to coat leaves.
Place a piece of salmon in the center of each bed of greens (when removing from baking sheet, use a metal spatula to separate the salmon from its skin).
Artfully arrange all your toppings around the fish, then drizzle with more dressing.
Tuck in!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cajun-spiced Pork Tenderloin and Collards with Black-eyed Peas:

Very simple comfort food, I often serve this black-eyed pea and collard mixture over rice along side Cajun marinated and pan-seared tofu steaks. But, tonight we had a coupon for 1 lb of free pork tenderloin from CM, so I thought I'd just use the same seasoning mix I usually use with the tofu on the tenderloin. Try to buy a natural (hormone and antibiotic free) pork tenderloin, as I've found there is a huge difference in taste and moistness. If you're a veggie...just cut a block of extra-firm tofu into ~3/4" slabs, blot them dry, and toss with ~2 Tbs of spice mixture and some canola oil.
Place in a plastic baggie, or dish, cover and set in the fridge until ready to cook.
Then just pan-fry, or grill until nice and golden brown.

Cajun-spiced Pork Tenderloin with Creole Seasoning Rub:

3 TBS kosher salt (If you're worried about salt intake, or want to be able to put on more spice, but not more salt on the meat/tofu, just leave it out. Salt the meat/tofu separately so that you can control the amt. of salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (I just add extra black)
2 teaspoons dried thyme (I used only ~1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I use less, since I'm not a huge fan of oregano)

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir to blend. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Coat the tenderloin with canola oil, then sprinkle with as much of the rub as you'd like. Roll that sucker up in plastic wrap and marinate in fridge for ~2-4 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Over high heat, pan sear all 4 sides (~8 min. total) in an oven-safe pan.

Place pan in 400 degree oven until a meat thermometer reads ~147.

Remove from pan and let rest for 10 min. The meat should still be pink inside. You don't have to overcook your pork anymore, I promise!

Black-eyed peas with Collards:

~2 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches of organic collard greens (Swiss chard is delicious here too), de-stemmed and chopped
~1/3-1/2 cup chicken, or vegetable broth
balsamic vinegar
Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
1 or 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained, but not rinsed (I just used one tonight)

Heat oil on high heat In wok, or large non-stick skillet with lid. Add garlic and saute until golden. Add collards and toss to coat. Add vegetable broth, salt and pepper, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Braise greens for 12-14 min. When greens are done to your taste, add a couple glugs of balsamic vinegar and Tabasco to taste. Adjust salt and pepper if needed. Set aside, keeping warm.

Toss 1-2 cans drained but not rinsed black-eyed peas in wok to warm through. Add greens to peas and serve alone, or over rice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Yet another Cooking Light recipe! This is the first time I made this recipe. I changed it up by nixing the half-and-half and used whole milk instead. I garnished with my favorite Bulgarian plain yogurt (whole milk this time). It might be a little on the tart side for some, but I loved it. Adding half-and-half would have tamed some of the tang, I'm sure. I'm only going to use 2 Tbs of balsamic next time. It was really good though, and really easy.

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup:

1 cup organic beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or agave nectar)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (2?)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, whole
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained (I used one can of Muir Glen organic fire-roasted tomatoes, and one can of Italian roma tomatoes that had very low sodium content )
Cooking spray
~1/2-3/4 cup whole milk (I'm going to try Silk unsweetened soy milk here, next time)
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 500°.

Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar (agave), vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and milk, and process until smooth. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired. I served the soup with some cheesy Gruyere toasts with prosciutto. I just popped some slices of ciabatta topped with prosciutto and grated Gruyere under the broiler til toasty and melty.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

I thought a hearty salad made with a Butler family classic balsamic vinaigrette would be great with this soup. I don't know who came up with this first, but it's a good one.
Use about 3-1 oil to vinegar ratio here...I'm more of a 2-1'er though, since I like a perky dressing.

balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
lots of fresh ground black pepper
a clove of minced garlic
a dollop of Grey Poupon, or other similar 'tard
a squeeze of honey (or agave nectar). Go easy on the sweet, since the balsamic is sweet too.
a couple splashes of Worcestershire sauce
original calls for dried oregano, but I leave it out unless I have fresh oregano
a wee bit of dried thyme, or fresh if you've got it
Good extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients together except oil. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. You'll end up with a nice thick dressing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tandoori Tilapia with Coconut Basmati Rice and Cucumber Yogurt Salad

This meal comes together very just need to marinate the fish for 2 hours in advance of broiling, and marinate the onions for the salad one hour before finishing the salad. The key is not to rely on measuring too much. Take the recipes and really just tailor them to your preferences.
The fish stays nice and moist in it's coating of yogurt marinade and it also chars a bit under the broiler just like tandoori chicken might in a wood-fired Tandoor oven.
You could make plain rice, but why? All you do is dump all these goodies in a rice cooker and you've got this lovely golden coconut rice.
My directions/amounts are based on using the cooker, but I'm sure you clever people can adapt it to stovetop. And, don't feel like you have to use all the stuff I used in the rice. It'd be great just using coconut milk, tumeric, and dried fruit (raisins, craisins, dried cherries...).

Tandoori-Marinated Tilapia:

I only used 2 large filets that came to just under a lb., but the marinade makes enough for more fish than that. We just don't happen to like leftover fishies the next day. :-)

1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons garam masala (such as McCormick)
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 (6-ounce) tilapia, or other firm whitefish fillets

Combine first 10 ingredients in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish (or a large ziplock bag...wasteful, wasteful Erin!), stirring with a whisk (or smooshing in the bag, thus saving yourself a pan AND a whisk to wash!). Add fish, turning to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 2 hours.

Preheat broiler.

Remove fish from dish; discard marinade. I left a nice coat of marinade on the fish. Place fish on a baking sheet lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Broil ~10 minutes or until fish is firm to the touch with a fork, turning once. If you can only find smaller filets, be careful not to overcook them.

Cucumber Yogurt Salad:

1/2 cup red onion, thinly vertically sliced
juice of one lemon (~2 Tbs)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garam masala
~1-1/2 cups diced English cucumber
~1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
~1-1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt (I love White Mountain Bulgarian yogurt, and used a combination of the fat-free and whole milk yogurts here)
freshly ground black pepper

Place the onion, lemon juice, salt, and garam masala in a small bowl. Cover and set aside (no need to refrigerate) for one hour.
Add remaining ingredients and serve.

Coconut Basmati Rice:

It's been AGES since I've made white rice! And, the only reason I didn't make brown rice tonight was because...*GASP*...we were out! This was really yummy though, and I'm not sure it would have been as tender made with brown rice. I'm definately trying it next time though.
Try sauteing some raw cashews in ghee until golden and adding them at the end. I thought about doing this, but was too lazy to dirty another pot. :-)

You can see the rice and salad better on this plate, but the fish broke apart a little coming off the sheet pan, so it didn't get top billing. :-)

2 rice cooker scoops of basmati rice
1/2+ cup coconut milk
a healthy 1/2 tsp tumeric
a 2" stick of cinnamon
5-6 whole cardamom pods (try not to eat these...they're very potent :-)
a handful of dried cranberries
1/2+ tsp salt
~1 Tbs. ghee or butter
optional: handful of sauteed raw cashews

Throw in the rice through salt, then add water up to a little over the first hash mark on a rice cooker.
When rice is done, fluff with a paddle and add ~1 Tbs ghee/butter. Keep warm until fish is ready.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas

The Monster and I just fended for ourselves tonight instead of making dinner. But, since I'll have a long work day, I made dinner for tomorrow night today. I threw together what is in essence a quick casserole that I can pop in the oven when I get home. A long time ago my mom got us a subscription to Vegetarian Times. I'd made their recipe for Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas a number of times, but had lost the issue it was in. Thanks to Al Gore...the internet and Google came to the rescue! ;-)
I'll probably just make a quick green salad to go with. I'll post a photo tomorrow night when it comes out of the oven all bubbly with cheesy goodness.

Here she is...before I topped it with cilantro. I think I'll make this a day ahead next time we have it too. The corn tortillas soaked up a lot of the yummy enchilada snauce sitting in the frigo overnight. I only made half the recipe written and it made plenty for 2 plus enough for lunches the next day. If made ahead, cook covered with foil for ~25-30 minutes at 350. Then remove the foil, bump the heat to 375, and cook until cheese is bubbly.

Apple-Cinnamon Goodness Pancake/Waffle Topping

I had a couple of Granny Smith apples left over in the fridge from something or other, so decided to make those into our Sunday morning pancake topping. This could be my new favorite! I weighed light on the scale this morning, so figured I could afford the extra butter I used in the apples. ;-) I did forgo putting any extra butter on top of the pancakes themselves. They really don't need it anyway since they're already nice and moist. I ate my appley-goodness-topped oatmeal pancakes sprinkled with walnuts which added a nice crunch.

Apple-Cinnamon Topping for Pancakes or Waffles:
(This made enough for 2)

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 Tbs unsalted butter
amber agave nectar
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a large skillet (that you have a cover for) over med.-high heat. When just beginning to brown, add apples and sprinkle with cinnamon to your taste (I probably used ~1/2 tsp). I cooked them like this for a bit before reducing the heat a bit and adding about 3 good squeezes of agave nectar (again, just add to your own tastes). After adding the agave nectar, cover and simmer until soft and yummy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vietnamese Summer Rolls and (Chickenless) Asian Salad

These are great to make when you've got an extra hand for slicin' and dicin'. The Monster was up to the task, so off we went. They take a little practice to roll, but you'll get the hang of it by about the second to last one. ;-) Good news is they'll taste really great no matter what. My first one tonight was the prettiest one of rolling skills seemed to go downhill with each successive spring roll. This recipe for Vietnamese Summer Rolls comes from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen. The sauce is delicious, and it's highly tweakable. I added the juice of one lime, used agave nectar in place of the sugar, and added more garlic chili sauce for extra heat. I also found that it needed to be thinned with more water than called for. You might look for the cashew butter in the bulk section of your grocery store instead of buying a whole jar of it. If you don't feel up to making the rolls, the sauce is still a winner that would be awesome tossed simply with cooked Chinese egg noodles, quick sauteed green onions and cilantro.

I served the rolls with an Asian chicken salad we like sans chicken. :-) If you'd like to make a meal of just that, you can add the diced meat of two roasted chicken breasts, or cubed extra firm tofu. The original recipe comes from The World's Healthiest Foods recipe file.

Asian Chicken Salad:

5+ cups Chinese cabbage, sliced thin (I add more veggies since I think the recipe calls for a little too much chicken)
2 boneless chicken breasts, skin on and bone in
~ 1 cup shredded carrot
~1/4 cup minced scallion
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds or instead, I use this great stuff by Eden Organic called Seaweed Gomasio that I'm sure you could find at Whole Foods. The original recipe called for hijiki seaweed, but I found out online that it has really high amounts of inorganic arsenic in it!! It's great on stir-fries too.)

Optional (I added these because I had the ingredients from making the spring rolls and thought they'd be tasty in the salad too):
2-3 Tbs chopped fresh mint
~ 2-3 tsp. lemongrass, grated on a microplane.

2 TBS extra olive oil
2 TBS soy sauce (I used a little less)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 TBS agave nectar, or honey
pinch red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste (I don't add much salt, since the gomasio has sea salt in it)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Place chicken breasts on baking sheet covered with foil. Spray or rub with canola oil, then salt and pepper generously.
3. Bake until ~35-40 min., or until a meat thermometer reads 170. When done and cool enough to touch, remove skin, and cut into bite size pieces.
4. Thinly slice head of cabbage, and shred carrot. Carrot is easily shredded in a food processor with shredding blade. Otherwise you can shred it by hand, or slice thin. Chop cilantro and scallion and add to, cabbage and carrot.
5. Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Toss with cabbage mixture and chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or Eden Organic seaweed gomasio which has lots of toasted sesame seeds in it. I add the almonds to each individual serving, so that if there are leftovers they don't get all soggy in the dressing.

Serves 4

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chicken and White Bean Chili

I'm going to bed. Painted all day and have to get up and do it again tomorrow. At least tomorrow won't start with a 7:30 am appointment with the dentist to get drilled on!
A big bowl of chili was a good end for a hard day. It freezes nicely too, so we'll have the leftovers on a day I'm just not up to cooking.

Chicken and White Bean Chili:

1/4 cup olive oil (I probably use a little less)
1 1/3 cups chopped onion
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (oh, I added a red and green pepper this time)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I only use 1.5-1.75 lbs)
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (I use chipotle chili powder for the 1/2 Tbs)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano (I use less...not a big fan)
2 15- to 16-ounce cans white beans, drained, juices reserved
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice (try using a can of Mexican or Chipotle diced tomatoes)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until chicken is no longer pink outside, about 5 minutes. Mix in chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, and oregano. Add beans, 1 cup reserved bean juices, and canned tomatoes. Simmer until chicken is cooked through and chili is thickened, about 25 minutes. If chili is too thick, add more bean juices by tablespoonfuls to thin. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in cilantro and serve.

We top ours with avocado, Greek yogurt, and broken up tortilla chips, but put whatever you like on onions, cheddar?

Split-Pea Soup with Rosemary

I went ahead and cooked up a double batch of this when I was making the Thai beef so I wouldn't have to cook after work yesterday. It's one of our favorite soups that I have to be careful not to make ALL the time. I could seriously eat this at least once a week. It comes from Cooking Light magazine and I really haven't changed anything except using a little less rosemary than originally called for (I wrote in the original amt., so just use your own judgement). We ate this topped with a lot of steamed broccoli and plain yogurt, and served with a hearty multi-grain bread.

Split Pea Soup with Rosemary:

(I usually double this recipe and freeze half for later)

1 1/2 cups green split peas
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, divided (I use a little less, or it overpowers the soup...but fresh is pretty essential here)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
4 cups water
2 cups Vegetable Stock or 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can vegetable broth (Central Market's Organic used here)
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
plain greek yogurt (optional...Fage is a great one)

Sort and wash peas; cover with water to 2 inches above peas, and set aside. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and bay leaf; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
If you're doubling the recipe you might want to cook a little longer. Add 2 teaspoons garlic, 1 teaspoon rosemary, paprika, and pepper; cook 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.

Drain peas. Add peas, 4 cups water, Vegetable Stock, and salt to onion mixture; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour, stirring often. Discard bay leaf. Blend smooth with immersion blender. Or, if you're in the dark ages...bit by bit in a regular blender. :-) Just remember not to fill the carafe more than 1/2 full and hold a towel over the lid, or you'll end up wearing very hot soup.

Combine 1 teaspoon (or more) oil, 1 teaspoon garlic, 2 teaspoons rosemary, and parsley. Stir parsley mixture into soup. Spoon soup into bowls; top each with greek yogurt . A great way to use up leftover cooked brown rice is to serve the soup with some in the bottom of each bowl in lieu of eating the soup with bread. Other great additions are topping with steamed broccoli and/or avocado.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thai Beef Braised in Coconut Milk with Ginger

Yet another Cooking Light recipe. I made it almost as written, but used a mix of lite and regular coconut milks for a slightly richer flavor. Next time I think I'll bump up the spices, not the cayenne, but I think I'd like more curry flavor to come out of it. It's good just like it is...I just like to tweak at stuff. :-)

Thai Braised Beef with Coconut Milk and Ginger:

1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
3 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups light coconut milk (I used a combination of lite and regular for more coconut flavor)
2 tablespoons sliced peeled fresh lemon grass. Use a microplane grater or it can be fibrous when you eat it and just grate the first 2 or so inches of the stalk from the trimmed root end. Recipe says you can sub 1 tablespoon thinly sliced lime rind, but try to find the lemongrass.
3 bay leaves
6 cups hot cooked Chinese-style egg noodles (about 12 ounces uncooked...I only cooked half a package of noodles for 2 and we still had leftovers)
chopped fresh cilantro

Trim fat from beef. Cut beef into 2-inch pieces. Combine salt and next 6 ingredients (salt through black pepper) in a small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of spice mixture over beef, and toss to coat; reserve remaining spice mixture.

Preheat oven to 325°.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add onion, carrot, ginger, and garlic; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return beef to pan. Add remaining spice mixture, coconut milk, lemon grass, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 325° for 2 hours. Remove beef from pan using a slotted spoon; shred with 2 forks, set aside, and keep warm. Bring vegetable mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 10 minutes or until slightly thick. Discard bay leaves, then add beef back to pot. Serve beef and vegetable mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Green Eggs and Ham Quiche

When I offered to make The Monster green eggs and ham for breakfast St. Patrick's Day morning, he "politely" declined.

Hm..."Must fulfill need to make green eggs and ham!" says Inner Voice. Now, I am nothing if not driven by urges. What to do, what to do. I know!! Craft a lovely little quiche that is really just gussied up green eggs and ham?! Whew...Inner voice silenced...crisis averted.

There's no food coloring here (like I'd planned to use for his breakfast!). Just Italian parsley whizzed up in a blender with milk before adding in the rest of the ingredients for the filling.
I also tried a homemade crust, that albeit good, I'm not sure is worth the trouble/mess involved. I'm in hopes that making from scratch will get easier as I keep at it. This was my first attempt! :-) My usual modus is to buy a pre-made crust out of the freezer section at the grocery store. I'll post the recipe for the cornmeal crust I made, but you can always just save yourself some time and mess by using the store bought. If you do make the cornmeal crust, give yourself plenty of extra time. The recipe makes 2 crusts, so I'm popping the second in the freezer.

Sweet or Savory Cornmeal Pastry Crust:

I bought a really neat baking book by Bob's Red Mill at Half Price Books a few months back and decided to try out one of it's recipes for pastry crust. I've reproduced their exact recipe, with my changes in parenthesis.

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (I used white whole wheat...might have made it a little heavy)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (just added 1/4 cup more white wheat)
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
6 Tbs sugar (this is for the sweet crust, use less for savory. I used ~1/4 cup of Sucanat which is evaporated cane juice)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 Tbs vegetable shortening, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk

Place a medium sized bowl in your freezer.
Place the flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend.
Sprinkle the butter over the mixture. Pulse until just incorporated, then add the shortening and pulse until the texture resembles crumbs.
Retrieve your chilled bowl from the freezer. Put flour mixture into chilled bowl.
Add 1/4 cup buttermilk and egg, and mix until the dough begins to clump together. Add more buttermilk as needed to just bind the dough may not need all the buttermilk.
Divide the dough into 2 balls. Flatten each piece into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To partially pre-bake or fully bake:

Place one disk of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out to a 12" circle. Place the dough over a 9" quiche pan, or pie plate and gently press the dough into the dish. Trim the edges with a knife, or just use your fingers like I did, then refrigerate for 30 minutes, or freeze for 15 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 375.
Line the pie dough with foil and then fill with 2 lbs of beans, or pie weights. Bake 20 minutes, or until dough looks dry. Carefully, remove hot foil and beans/weights (save your beans to reuse as weights).
For a partially baked crust continue baking for another 5 minutes, or until a light brown. At this point you'll fill the hot crust if you're making a quiche and bake as per that recipes instructions.

If you have a recipe that calls for a fully baked crust, continue baking for 10 to 12 minutes more than that, or until deep brown. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Green Eggs and Ham Quiche:

This recipe is adapted from the sole cookbook in The Monster's possession when we got together. His mother saw fit to send him off to college with a very informative copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Full of all kinds of great basic info. Their Choose-a-flavor Quiche has morphed into my Green Eggs and Ham Quiche, because it's a good basic recipe that doesn't call for using cream. I'm sure a higher fat content would be delicious, but in the interest of my hips, I went with this one.

pastry for single-crust pie
3 eggs, beaten (I might add an extra egg white, or whole 4th egg next time, but I don't think it would fit if you use a store bought crust)
1 1/2 cups milk (if making "green" eggs, blend ~2 Tbs+ Italian parsley with milk in a blender until it's a nice pale green)
15-20 spears of asparagus, blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water, trimmed to fit like spokes on a wheel in pie pan (save the rest of the asparagus to toss into a salad or something).
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 dash freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup cooked ham, chopped (Try DeBecca Black Forest ham from CM's deli counter!)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used 3/4 cup swiss, and 3/4 cup gruyere)
1 tablespoon flour (I used whole wheat)

If using store-bought pasty shell:
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Line pastry in pie plate as directed.
3. Line unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil.
4. Bake in a 450°F oven for 5 minutes.
5. Remove foil.
6. Bake 5-7 minutes more or until pastry is nearly done.
7. Remove from oven.
8. Reduce oven heat to 325°.
9. Stir together eggs, milk, ham, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl.
10. Stir in meat.
11. In a separate bowl, toss the cheese and the flour together.
12. Add to egg mixture. Mix well.
13. Place pastry shell on a foil-lined baking sheet, then pour egg mixture into the shell, and arrange asparagus in a spoke pattern on top.
14. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of crust with foil (I usually do this about halfway into the baking process).
15. Bake in 325° oven for 35-40 minutes (I find this takes more like 1 hour- 1 1/4 hrs. total!), or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.
16. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

If making cornmeal crust:
Partially bake crust as per instructions in recipe above, and then continue with quiche recipe beginning with step 8.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Baja Fish Tacos

These were so good! We had a Central Market coupon for 10 bucks of free seafood and decided not to decide what to get until we'd browsed though the fish department and saw something that caught our fancy. I'll have to admit that I'd had a weird ongoing dream about fish tacos that lasted most of my previous night's sleep! Every time I roused, I'd be in the middle of dreaming of making this fish taco. Hm....might have colored the decision on what to get the next day, no? And so...Ono wahoo it was. I'd never cooked ono before, but it looked loverly. Turns out it was the perfect fishy for what I'd dreamed of doing, nice firm white fish, that has a fairly mild flavor. After harassing the fishmonger for a while..."are you sure this fish isn't being fished out of existence?"..."I'm not contributing to the ultimate demise of the species by purchasing this from you, am I??"...who knows if he knew what he was talking about when he assured me that it was ok to buy, but moments later we were walking out of the store with thoughts only of making last night's taco-fishy-dreams a reality.

Central market also sells a fantastic remoulade sauce in it's fish department, so I used that in the taco. Feel free to make your own though, since I have no recipe for that as of yet.
We also purchased a spice mix called Sassy Seasoned Pepper, but just using your own concoction of peppery goodness will be fine too. So, without further ado, here's the recipe.

Baja Fish Tacos:

Ono wahoo, or other like-fleshed white fish, cut into ~3/4 inch thick steaks
Salt-free pepper mix
a couple Tbs flour (I used brown rice flour)
one egg, beaten with a little water
canola oil and 1 Tbs butter
red cabbage, shredded
carrots, shredded
tortillas (we used Central Market's whole wheat tortillas)

I shred the cabbage and carrot using the shredding blade on my food processor, then set it aside. Mix the slaw with the remoulade right before serving in the taco.

Salt and pepper both sides of fish.
Place the flour in a plastic produce bag and toss the fish in it to coat, a few pieces at a time.
Place the fish in the egg wash, shaking off extra.
Dredge fish in cornmeal.

Heat oil and butter in a non-stick pan (I used about 1/8" oil in the pan)
Fry fish about 3 min on the first side and less on the second. Try to get a nice crust on the outside without overcooking the fish.

If you have a gas stove, warm each tortilla over a low-medium flame. Mix your remoulade into the slaw, then build your tacos. Top with cilantro and more sauce if desired.

Black beans made a perfect side to go with the tacos.

Oatmeal Pancakes for Two

Ever since discovering the original recipe for these, they've become a Sunday tradition. Really, they're kind of a redux of our breakfasts the other six days of the week. Oatmeal! Dad used to say that's all he got to eat as a kid. It was "mush in the morning, mush for lunch, and mush for supper!" But I kind of wonder about that, since he also had to walk to school uphill both ways, in the snow. His lament was lost on me however, since I do believe that I could very happily eat some version of mush 3 times a day! :-) Someday, I'll have to post on my favorite daily breakfast concoction. But today, I praise our Sunday treat, deee-licious oatmeal pancakes with fruit topping.

This recipe makes 10 pancakes that are each 1/4 cup measure of batter large. The original recipe calls for double the amounts...but since there are just the two of us, I'll type it up as I make it.
I've also changed the original recipe up by using spelt flour in place of white flour and I add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. You can leave all of these things out and still end up with a mighty fine pancake. Make sure you plan ahead, since the oats need to soak overnight in the buttermilk!

Oatmeal Pancakes...nom, nom, nom...

1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs well beaten (use 3 whole eggs if doubling)
1 tsp pure vanilla
~1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/4 cup flour (again, I use spelt flour and I'm sure whole wheat flour would work fine too)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbs sucanat, evaporated cane juice crystals (or other sweetener)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons grapeseed, canola, or other neutral flavored oil
a bit of freshly grated nutmeg if you want  (so good!)

Put oats into a large bowl, add the buttermilk. Let the oats soak in the buttermilk overnight.

Set oven it's lowest setting and put a sheet pan covered with foil in to warm.

Mix in the eggs, flour, baking powder, fine sea salt, cinnamon, Sucanat, vanilla, almond extract, nutmeg and canola oil.

Then proceed as with any pancake recipe. Heat a flat iron surface - griddle or large pan - to medium heat. If you need butter, use it, but we have a non-stick griddle and don't need any. They're about~18 bucks from Sears...get one! :-) Ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle to the desired size, usually about 5 or 6 inches wide (a 1/4 cup measure is a nice amount). When air bubbles start to bubble up to the surface at the center of the pancakes (about 2-3 minutes), use a flat spatula to flip them over. After a minute, peak under one for doneness. When golden or darker golden brown, they are done. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Serve with whatever you like to top your pancakes with. We use butter, and I often whip up a fruit topping with whatever frozen fruit we happen to have in the freezer. My basic recipe follows...

Fruit Pancake/Waffle Topping:

1 bag of frozen fruit (This morning I used blueberries and cherries)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon or more to taste
Agave nectar or sweetener of choice to taste
a pinch of salt
cornstarch and ~1 Tbs. water

Put the fruit and lemon juice into a sauce pan over med.-low heat, covered. Mix about 1 Tbs water and 1 Tbs. cornstarch in a small bowl. Check on your fruit and when pretty much thawed, add a couple squeezes of agave nectar and a pinch of salt. When simmering add your cornstarch and cook until thickened. Adjust taste if needed with more lemon juice and/or more sweetener.
That's all there is to it. I eat the leftover topping mixed with plain yogurt for a treat.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chana Dal with Cauliflower and Spinach

I felt the need for a recouperative vegetarian meal tonight to help us recover from the previous night's bbq growl-out. This flavorful Indian dish served over brown rice fit the bill nicely. The original Cooking Light recipe called for using yellow split-peas, but when I couldn't find any, I rewrote the recipe using chana dal. Chana dal, also known as Bengal gram, is the most widely grown dal in India. It's pale-yellow color has a sweet, nutty aroma. Chana dal has a very high nutritious value and it is praised by diabetics for its incredibly low index on the glycemic index. This meal takes a little time to prepare (still very easy), but it's ideal for making while you're waiting multiple coats of paint to dry on sample boards!

Chana Dal with Spinach and Cauliflower

~5 1/2 cups water, divided
1 cup chana dal
1 bay leaf
~4 cups chopped cauliflower florets
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups packed, baby spinach

Combine 4 cups water, chana, and bay leaf in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 50 minutes or until tender.

While chana is cooking...Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until butter melts. Add onion, ginger, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add cumin and next 5 ingredients (cumin through cloves); cook over low heat 2 minutes, stirring frequently. I added a little of the water from the chana to deglaze the pan at the end. Set mixture aside.

At the end of 50 minutes, add 1-1 1/2 cups water, cauliflower, and salt to chana mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20-30 minutes until cauliflower is very tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf.

Add onion mixture to chana mixture. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes or until thick. Stir in spinach; cook 3 minutes or until spinach wilts.

Serve over brown rice (I cooked mine in CM's veggie broth) and top with plain yogurt.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Golden Tilapia with Julienned Vegetables

Golden Tilapia with Julienned Vegetables:

~1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of ground clove (~1/8 tsp?)
a couple squeezes of agave nectar (orig. recipe calls for 2 tsp. sugar)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white rum
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound whole tilapia, filleted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil (I didn't use this much)
~3 cups julienned mixed vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers
orange juice and extra soy sauce

In a small dry saucepan, toast the peppercorn and clove over medium heat until puffs of smoke begin to appear, about 1 minute. Then add sugar, soy sauce, rum, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, and garlic powder and simmer over medium heat to reduce by half.
Remove from heat, strain and let cool. I usually toss it into the fridge for ~5 min.
Place the fish fillets in the cooled marinade and let sit for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade. Season the fillet with salt and pepper. Place the marinade in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat.
Saute the vegetable in a skillet until you get a little color on them, then add a splash of orange juice and a splash of soy sauce. Cover with a lid and steam for a minute or two. Remove veggies to a plate, cover with foil, and set aside.

Add some oil to a non-stick skillet, and saute the fillets for 2 minutes on each side. Place fillets on a foil-lined baking sheet and finish in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until done.
Brush marinade on finished fish. Serve with vegetables as soon as possible.

Acorn Squash:

1 or 2 acorn squash
brown sugar (I tried out agave nectar tonight, but brown sugar carmelizes much better)
salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400.
Cut squash in half and remove seeds and strings. Cut a small portion off the bottoms so that the halves sit level. Place in a baking dish, cut side down and fill dish with 1/4" water.
Bake squash for ~35 min or until soft.
Pre-heat broiler.
Place squash halves cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Salt and pepper the flesh, then add a pat of butter to the center. Crumble brown sugar on the inside and on the edges of the squash. Place under broiler on high for ~5 min.

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

Ok, ok, I know a lot of you are going...ick poo! But, don't knock it til you've tried it I always say. Unless we're talking about the baby duck heart the Monster ate while on a business trip to Copenhagen. Not going there, sorry.
I was in the mood for a little sweetie last night, happened to have the meager ingredients needed for this recipe on hand, so I thought I'd give it a try.
Well I'm pleased to say that I plan to make it again, making a few changes next time. I'll type up the recipe as I found it online, then list the changes I think I'll make next time.

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

Adapted from Vegetarian Express by Nava Atlas and Lillian Kayte (Little, Brown, and Company, 1995).

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 10-ounce package lite firm silken (aseptic-packed) tofu (not chilled like I used it! Your chocolate will solidify before it has a chance to fully incorporate into the tofu)
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar, honey, or brown rice syrup, or to taste (I used agave nectar)
Dash of nutmeg (I didn't use this)
1 banana, thinly sliced (optional) (didn't use this either)

1. Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan or double boiler with a tablespoon of water over medium heat. (I nuked the chips in a bowl for 10-15 second increments, stirring in between til melted most of the way. Then I just stirred until the rest melted in the already warm chocolate. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.)

2. Transfer the melted chocolate to the container of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the tofu and process until smooth. Add the brown sugar, honey, or rice syrup to taste, and sprinkle in the nutmeg. Process again until velvety smooth.

3. Stir in the rounds of sliced banana, if desired. Divide the pudding among 2 small dessert cups and chill until needed.

Ok, NEXT time I plan on using a melted Lindt 70% cocoa dark chocolate bar. I'm not sure if I'll use more than one bar (3.5 oz). Think I'll try that and see if it's chocolatey enough. Chocolate chips always taste like chocolate chips to me...does that make any sense whatsoever?? Kind of raisiny?? I know...I'm a weirdo.
I also want to add a little pure vanilla extract to the mix. See what that does for the flavor. I'll stick with the agave low-glycemic sweetener of choice these days. :-)
I suppose if you're not worried about eating a bunch of nasty stuff found in Cool Whip, it'd be nice to fold that into the pudding, or serve dolloped on top. But, after reading the ingredient list, I just don't think I can go there anymore.

Take this recipe for what it was meant to be last night. A quick semi-healthy cure for a sweet tooth. It's not gonna be your granny's puddin' but it was good, so give it a try! And, no won't even taste the tofu! :-)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chipotle-Orange Scallops over Wild Rice

We had a great meal with our friend Debbie tonight. These scallops are deliciously spicy and sweet...served over a nutty wild rice with sides of baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccolini with browned butter. Great company and great food! :-)

Scallops with chipotle-orange sauce:

Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapeños that are often canned in sauce; use more or less than we call for here, depending on your tolerance for heat. A preheated pan is essential for good browning, so heat your pan while you prep the ingredients.

2 tablespoons butter, divided
Cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/4 cup minced green onions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with paprika and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add scallops to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan, and keep warm.
Add orange juice and chile to the pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 1 minute). Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Serve the sauce over the scallops, and garnish with the onions. Serve over wild rice. It's nice to double the the amount of sauce (all except for the chipotles) because it's so good on leftover rice the next day. Just make sure to cook it down enough...nice and syrupy is best.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Grilled Chicken with Pepita Cream over Pumpkin-Chipotle Polenta

We had a gnarly rainy day in Austin today. Not the best weather for trying to paint sample boards. Instead of watching the paint dry, I channeled my frustrations into figuring out a creative use for leftover cooked chicken breasts from last night. I ended up with a delicious and comforting meal of chicken with a pepita-sage cream sauce served over a chipotle spiced pumpkin polenta. Alongside I served a dish of Mexican black beans and a refreshing salad with mango-orange dressing. If you try any of these recipes, amend them in any way that suits your tastes...I just happened to have all this stuff in my fridge, and thus it found it's way into my pots. The results were really yummy, even if my photo just looks like a big blob. :-)

Remaining polenta and cream sauce remade at Debbie's for lunch the next day with her pecan-crusted salmon. A lovely plating by Debbie to make up for last night's photo! I had a hunch that this would be awesome with seafood and it so was...nom, nom, nom.

Pumpkin-Chipotle Polenta:

1-2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
~1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
~1/2 tsp cumin
1 chipotle pepper, minced + a tsp. of adobo sauce
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup medium grind, or coarse polenta
1 cup canned unsweeted pumpkin puree
~2 Tbs butter
~1 tsp salt
~1/4 cup grated queso cotija
a couple good squeezes of agave nectar
a glurg or 2 of buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350.
In an oven safe pan with a lid, saute garlic and onion sprinkled with a little salt in olive oil for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Add cumin, chipotle, and chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Slowly pour polenta into boiling broth, whisking constantly.
Put the lid on the pot and place in the oven for 40 minutes, whisking every 10 minutes to prevent lumps. At 20 minutes, add pumpkin puree.
At 40 minutes, remove from oven and whisk in butter, agave nectar, salt, cotija cheese, and buttermilk.

Pepita Cream:

I think I overdid the sage in my batch, but have changed the amount in the recipe. I think the problem was that I added more uncooked sage to the blender, so just stick with sauteing it with the pepitas.

~1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
a dab of ghee, or butter
~1/4-1/2 tsp fresh sage, chiffonade
~1/3 cup 2% Greek yogurt
half and half, or milk to thin
salt to taste
save some pepitas out for garnishing

Toast pepitas in ghee, and about halfway, add sage cooking until fragrant.
Place mixture in blender, add yogurt, and half and half. Puree, then add salt to taste.

Mexican Black Beans:

1 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp cumin
30 oz. or 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1- 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1/2 tsp cocoa (I was just playing around by adding this)
salt and pepper to taste
lime juice
cotija cheese for topping

Heat oil in heavy large suacepan over med.-high heat. Add garlic, jalapeno, and cumin and saute for 30 seconds. Add beans and broth (and cocoa if you feel like being a weirdo), bring to a simmer then cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Coarsely mash beans with a potato masher. Continue boiling until thick, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. I transfered some to individual baking dishes, sprinkled with cotija cheese and covered with foil. I warmed them in the oven when the polenta was baking.

Mango-Orange Dressing:

1 large mango
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 clove garlic
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp cumin

Place all ingredients in blender and puree. This is an oil-free dressing, but I added some olive oil while the blender was whirring. It's good with, or without though.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chicken with Spinach Pesto and Roasted Vegetable Brown Rice

Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto:

2 whole boneless chicken breasts, or 4 halves
2 cups tightly packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I've also used toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or more to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil (I just eyeball this and try to use as little as I can get away with)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
~1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (the original recipe calls for parmesan)

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic in a food processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup of the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Before adding the cheese, put half of the pesto into a freezer bag and store in the freezer for the next time you make this.

Transfer the rest of the spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the feta. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pound each chicken breast to ~1/4" thickness. Heat a non-stick saute pan, or grill pan on medium high heat. Lightly oil the pan. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Or, you can just skip the pounding part and cook longer on each side as the original recipe called for. I just think it cooks more evenly pounded.

Spread the pesto over each piece of chicken and serve.

Brown Rice with Roasted Vegetables:

Veggies before they went into the oven...

Short-grain organic brown rice, cooked (I tend to keep the veggie to rice ratio pretty high, so end up with leftover rice for something else)
1-2 Japanese or ~5 small Indian eggplant (chop, salt and set atop paper towels for ~30 min. to remove some of the bitterness)
1 red pepper
1 yellow summer squash
1 zucchini
1/2 large red onion thickly sliced
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
Italian parsley

Cook a batch of brown rice...I only know how to do this in a rice cooker. :-)
Pre-heat oven to 450.
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Chop all veggies to about the same bite sized pieces. Toss on baking sheet with olive oil to coat.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and some balsamic vinegar and roast for about 12 minutes then stir. Roast for about 12 more minutes, then evaluate if they're done enough for you. When done, toss with rice, fresh Italian parsley, a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Falafel Pitas

Quickie Falafel Dinner

The Monster and I will likely be standing in line for our second vote of the day around our usual dinner time. So rather than getting take-out, I'll be making tasty falafel patties before heading out, so we can slap 'em together in two shakes when we get home.
They reheat pretty well, and a sammie is always fast and easy to put together when pressed for time.

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large egg
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 tablespoon olive oil

Sauce (I don't necessarily use these proportions for just the 2 of us, so I just mix what we need til it tastes good):
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1 garlic clove, minced

Remaining ingredients:
whole wheat pitas, cut in half (I just use whole wheat flatbread instead of trying to cram all the stuff into a pocket which inevitably tears anyway)
curly leaf lettuce leaves
sliced tomato

To prepare falafel, place first 8 ingredients (through chickpeas) in a food processor; process mixture until smooth. Divide mixture into 16 equal portions, and shape each portion into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties, and cook 5 minutes on each side or until patties are browned.

To prepare sauce, combine yogurt, lemon juice, tahini, and 1 garlic clove, stirring mixture with a whisk. Warm your pitas if you like, then fill with sauce, a couple patties, tomato and lettuce.

I like to serve with some kind of sauteed veggie on the side...usually sugar snaps, or snow peas. Tonight it's snaps.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thai Coconut-Curry Salmon with Greens

I'm always looking for new ways to prepare salmon and this is a Cooking Light recipe I made last month with great success. I added 3 tsp of hot curry powder this time, and I served over rice noodles since the recipe creates a yummy broth.

Thai Coconut-Curry Salmon with Greens

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2-3 teaspoons hot or mild curry powder
1 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar (I use a squeeze of agave nectar instead)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (I used over 1 tsp. for a little more heat)
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1 (1-pound) salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1 inch cubes
6 cups trimmed watercress (about 2 bunches) if you can't find watercress, try baby spinach
cooked rice stick noodles
Siracha (optional)

Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and curry powder; sauté 4 minutes. Add coconut milk and the next 7 ingredients (coconut milk through clam juice). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Add fish; cover and cook 4 minutes. Arrange watercress evenly over fish; cover and cook 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. You'll have a nice broth, so serve in a bowl over some cooked rice stick noodles.

4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Poppy Seed Buttermilk Pancakes!

If the Monster doesn't rouse from his World of Warcraft induced sleep-in soon I might have to take drastic measures to get his butt out of bed! Maybe I'll toss a few cats on him. It has been a while since I trimmed their claws...

I've got all the goodies I need laid out to make a new recipe I've been itching to try. These poppy seed pancakes have been in my recipe file for a few weeks now and I'm finally getting to make them! They're going to have to be awfully good to replace our favorite oatmeal pancake recipe, but they look like they could be up to the task.

Off to find some Monster wrastlin' kitties! :-)