Thursday, May 14, 2009

Time to wrap up the blog

After much consideration, I've decided I just don't have time to maintain this blog the way I'd like anymore. With a toddler running around and a baby due in September, I'm just too tired to blog at the end of the day.

Maybe someday I'll return to it, but for now, I have decided to wrap things up. I will leave this blog up, though; I go to it often myself for recipes that I haven't written down elsewhere.

And, just so you don't feel I'm leaving you hanging, I have a few kitchen tips to share.

From my brother-in-law, John: If you just want part of a banana, don't peel the whole thing and wrap the remainders in plastic wrap to put in the freezer. Whoever came up with that solution was dead wrong. Just slice off what you want to eat and leave what you don't eat in the peel. It will form a tough skin on the exposed banana part, and you can cut that right off when you're ready to. Underneath, it's good as new.

Also in today's banana news: If you buy bananas that aren't ripe yet -- don't you hate that? -- keep them covered in a brown paper bag for a couple days, and that should speed up the ripening process.

From my friend Dave: If you find your fresh herbs go bad sitting in the fridge, treat them like you would fresh flowers. Put them in a glass with water and put a paper sack over them, and they will stay fresh for quite a while.

Regarding the luscious avocado: If you aren't eating a whole avocado and want to keep the rest from turning brown, leave the pit lodged in it after cutting it in half and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

That's all I have for now. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chocolate chip pecan cookies

I've always loved chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, but when I tried a chocolate chip-pecan cookie, I was smitten.

It was the day after Alice was born, and my friend Jean came to see us at the hospital, armed with gifts for little A and a bag of cookies. Dan and I couldn't stop snacking on them until they were gone. I can't remember the brand, but they were delicious, crunchy little devils.

The ones I make are not crunchy -- I have a feeling that attribute only comes with some kind of partially hydrogenated oil, though I can't be sure -- but they are still hard to stop munching. Mine are made with butter, and I try to make them at least a tiny bit healthy by using organic ingredients, whole wheat flour, and unrefined sugar.

Chocolate chip pecan cookies (makes about 3 dozen)

2 sticks salted butter (if you just have unsalted, add a little extra salt to the recipe), room temperature

3/4 cup sucanat or other unrefined, granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4-1 cup chopped pecans

1.) Mix the butter with the sugars well, until they look pretty creamy. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla.

2.) In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda, and mix well with a fork or whisk.

3.) Add that dry mixture to the other bowl, beating well.

4.) Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

5.) Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Roll cookies into balls a little bigger in diameter than a quarter, and place on a grease cookie sheet.

6.) Flatten the cookies a little with the palm of your hand, and bake at 375 degrees for 11-12 minutes. (Make sure not to make them too big, or they will break in half when you eat them.) Cool before removing from cookie sheet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Curried sweet potato soup

I was trying to recreate the curry soup at Roots. I'm obsessed with it these days! I knew I wouldn't be able to get the exact same thing, but I came pretty close. This is delicious -- and extra-super-duper healthy, too.

Curried sweet potato soup (makes 8 servings)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 large red pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 medium red onion, chopped (a yellow onion would be fine, too)

2 shallots, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup diced apple (about 1 apple), something sweet like a Gala

2 cups soy milk

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons honey

1.) Heat the canola oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.

2.) Add the red pepper, garlic, and ginger, and stir. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the broth, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pot.

3.) Add the sweet potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, and simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the apple, and cook 5 minutes more, or until potatoes and apple are tender.

4.) Season with salt and pepper, and puree until smooth in a food processor or with a hand-held blender.

5.) Return soup to pot if you used a food processor, and stir in the soy milk. Reheat.

6.) Turn off the heat, and stir in the honey.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Black bean hummus

Hummus is so good for you; you can pack it full of nutritious ingredients, and legumes are a wonderful vegetarian protein.

But I find that I tire of the taste of regular hummus, which is made with garbanzo beans, but I still enjoy its dip-like consistency to enhance my raw veggies and sandwiches. So, I'm always hoping to find new bean-filled recipes that I can use -- such as this incredible garlic and white bean dip. Someday soon I'm going to try to make some kind of lentil-walnut spread.

Today I made black bean hummus, which is very similar to the regular kind but has lime and cilantro. The addition of carrots is important because my black bean hummus tends to be very thick. The carrots give it a little juice and sweetness and boost its nutritional value.

Black bean hummus (makes 1-1/2 cups)

1 small can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup tahini

juice of 2 small limes

2 small carrots, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

3/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve as a sandwich spread or with fresh vegetables, pita chips, or crackers.

Food fact: Legumes are a type of vegetable that includes beans, lentils, soy nuts, edamame, and peas, among several others,and they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, according to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

"Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium," reads the clinic's Web site. "They're also a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol."

According to Nutrition Data, 1 cup of black beans has 227 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 15 grams of protein.

The Mayo Clinic offers a helpful guide to legumes and how to use them in food.

Coming soon: A post with useful kitchen tips.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Peanut butter & Nutella cookies

A facebook friend recently suggested the awesome combo of peanut butter and Nutella to me. I tried it, just spooning each out of a jar, and decided to see what a cookie version would be like.

If you've never had Nutella, you're missing out. It's a delicious spread made with hazelnut and cocoa. And it turns out to bake surprisingly well: I thought it might get runny and burn, but it hardens ever so slightly, so the end result is a little like frosting.

I think these cookies are super yummy, but if you're in the mood for straight-up peanut butter cookies, you can use this recipe, too.

Peanut butter & Nutella cookies (makes 12-15 large cookies)

3/4 cup peanut butter (the all-natural, no-sugar-added kind)

1/2 cup Nutella

1 stick of salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1-1/2 cups flour

1.) Mix the butter and sugars together in a mixing bowl. Beat in the egg, then beat in the vanilla and peanut butter.

2.) Combine the salt, soda, and flour in a bowl, then add those ingredients to the wet ingredients.

3.) Mix well, then roll into balls with your hands. I made balls about the size of golf balls.

4.) Put the cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten a little by hand, then scoop out about 1/2 teaspoon of dough from the center of each cookie. (You might have enough dough from this for 1-2 more cookies.)

5.) Spoon out 1 teaspoon of Nutella per cookie, spreading it into the little dip you made.

6.) Bake for about 13 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

*If you want plain peanut butter cookies, this is a great recipe. Just roll the dough into balls a little smaller than noted above, put them on a greased cookie sheet, and press an X into them with a fork.

Coming soon: Black bean hummus.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stuffed turnips

Unfortunately, I have to say these turnips look a tiny bit better than they taste. The filling is really tasty -- how can you go wrong with mashed potato and turnip with spinach, parmesan and butter? -- but the turnips themselves tasted a little bitter.

I know for a fact that baked turnips can taste absolutely fantastic, and quite sweet; the turnip dish at Samira is one of my favorites. Maybe mine didn't work out because I forgot to put a little water in the baking dish when I baked them at the end of the recipe (see step 7)...

I think this filling is worth trying in other vegetables to stuff -- specifically mushrooms and onions.

Stuffed turnips (makes 2-3 main dish servings or 4-6 sides)*

4 medium turnips, ends trimmed, peeled

1 potato, peeled

5 ounces fresh spinach

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 tablespoon butter

salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Cut a deep circle into the tops of the turnips. That will help you scoop out the centers later. Boil the turnips in salted water until tender but still firm. Remove from water and cool.

2.) Using the same water, boil the potato until tender.

3.) Scoop out the centers of the turnips, leaving a shell you can fill. Mash the turnip centers and potato with butter.

4.) Boil the spinach in a small amount of water, cool, and squeeze to remove all liquid. Chop.

5.) Add the spinach and parmesan to the mashed veggies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6.) Fill each turnip shell with the mixture, piling the filling high. Place them in a baking pan.

7.) Add a little water to the baking pan, and bake the turnips at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

* From The Tao of Cooking, by Sally Pasley.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spinach & onion quiche

Yesterday afternoon I realized I had no idea what I was going to have for dinner, and I wanted to pick something up at the store that would include greens and protein -- and be something my whole family would eat. My immediate thought: spinach quiche.

I hadn't thought of quiche in ages, really, and I don't know why it popped into my head. I thought I'd go somewhere with a nice deli that would have a pre-made quiche, so I went to O'Malia's (a store I consider mostly over-priced but will frequent for certain things, like fish).

Well, I checked out all the quiche there -- a couple of frozen kinds trying to pass as healthy and a couple of kinds of quiche in the cheese department. None of the crusts were whole grain, and they included mysterious ingredients.

As I perused the goods, I remembered that I used to make a damn fine quiche back in my days as a baker at the now-defunct Encore Cafe, and it was pretty easy. I also remembered I had fresh spinach at home -- for that spinach-stuffed turnip dish I'm still planning to make -- and whole wheat flour, butter, milk, and eggs. I had no reason not to head home and get to work in the kitchen. All I bought was Swiss cheese.

The nice thing about quiche is that you can add whatever vegetables (or sausage, bacon, ham, etc.) you want. It's a great way to use up leftovers. Just make sure the veggies are drained as much as possible of any liquid.

The recipe looks very involved, but after making this once, you'll see how easy it is.

Whole wheat crust (for a 10-inch pie, plus enough for lattice topping*)

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

8-1/2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons cold water (you can add a little more, if you feel the crust is too dry)

1.) Stir together the flour, wheat germ, and salt.

2.) Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the flour mixture.

3.) Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture as well as you can.

4.) Sprinkle the water on top, and mix again by hand. When the crust clumps together nicely in handfuls, pack it into a ball and refrigerate it for an hour.

5.) Press the crust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan or round cake pan, making sure there are no holes in the coverage and that it comes up to the top of the pan's sides.*

6.) Bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 minutes.

*You will have some left over if you are using the recipe below.

Spinach and onion quiche (for a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan or cake pan)

1 whole wheat pie crust, partially baked (see #6 above)

2 cups milk, slightly warm

3 eggs, slighly beaten

1/2 medium red onion, sliced into rings

1 teaspoon oil

10 ounces fresh spinach, steamed, cooled, and squeezed of any liquid (you can also use frozen, just thaw it and squeeze out any liquid)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

pinch of nutmeg

3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/8-1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1.) Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown the onion rings briefly. Don't let them get too soft.

2.) Spread the Swiss cheese in the bottom of the crust. Top with spinach and onions.

3.) Whisk together the milk, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and pour over the spinach and onions. (You could have a little of the milk mixture left if you use more/different veggies than what I've used here.)

4.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the parmesan on top.

5.) Continue to bake for about 15 minutes, or until filling is set. It's OK if the very middle is slightly jiggly; it has to cool for 10 minutes before getting sliced, and it will continue to cook in that time.

6.) After cooling for 10 minutes, put quiche under the broiler very briefly to brown the top.