December 31, 2009

Good Rugelach, Bad Pictures...


I'm from New York so I'm pretty familiar with rugelach.  Here in St. Louis, however, people seem to be a bit confused about this particular confection.  I don't think I've come across rugelach once since I've lived here-- I also haven't come across many delis, but that's a whole other (sad, sad) story.

I made these for my roommate's work Christmas party to introduce some native St. Louisans to delicious buttery, cream cheesey rugelach.  And yes, I said my roommate's work Christmas party-- any excuse to bake, right?


They turned out perfectly (as in very reminiscent of the ones I used to get at bakeries in New York) and definitely weren't as fussy as all the blogs said they'd be-- trust me, I'm not a patient person.  They were actually relatively painless.  I even rolled out the dough with my trusty water bottle rolling pin (I think it's about time to invest in a real one).

The filling is endlessly adaptable but because I'm a chocolate kind of girl, I had to throw some in.

Rugelach
makes 32 small cookies
From Dorie Greenspan via NPR

Dough:
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
1 large egg (lots of the egg goes to waste...)
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

Filling:
1/3 cup blackberry jam
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation
Dough:
Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes – you want them to be slightly softened but still cool. Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds-- don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

Filling:
Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a separate bowl.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Cookies:
Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don’t defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)

Baking:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.  Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

December 18, 2009

Pumpkin Bread, back and better than ever


For some reason I never made any pumpkin bread during the appropriate season, so I'm making up for it now.  If you've been reading my blog for awhile, or if you know me, then you know I love pumpkin bread, and you know it was one of the first recipes I featured when I started blogging.  Back then, I used a family recipe and attempted to make it healthier by substituting applesauce for some of the oil.  While the results were nothing to be scoffed at, the addition of applesauce to any quick bread causes some noticeable textural changes after a few days-- the top gets a bit mushy and the bread can be gummy.


So this time I decided to make an all new, applesauce free yet still healthy, version of traditional pumpkin bread.  I used 100% whole wheat pastry flour and let me tell you, that stuff is amazing; it produces a texture, and taste, that's very similar to white flour.  I also used a mix of raw sugar and agave nectar in place of refined sugar and I changed around the spices for some added complexity.  However, my biggest change was using light coconut milk in place of the applesauce and some of the oil (in case you're curious, you can't taste the coconut flavor at all).  I think the coconut milk really made the recipe and, as a result, the bread turned out perfectly moist, slightly dense, wonderfully flavorful, and not at all gummy.

I was, and still am, amazingly pleased with the results.  Who knew a bread with no refined flour, no refined sugar, and hardly any oil could taste this good?  Believe me, you aren't making any sacrifices with this one.

Revamped Pumpkin Bread
As I noted above, this bread was a huge success but I do think you could probably add a bit less raw sugar (maybe 1/3 cup) because even though the bread was not overly sweet, it was by no means in need of sugar, and a little less sugar never hurt anyone.  I like to eat this toasted and spread with a bit of coconut oil or butter.  It.is.so.good.

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a generous pinch ground ginger, cloves, allspice, and cardamom
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
1/4 cup light agave nectar
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup raisins

butter for the bread pan

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter your bread pan.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until evenly combined (add the raisins as well).  Mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl until blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until everything is incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared bread pan and bake for 60- 70 minutes until a tester stuck into the center comes out clean.

December 11, 2009

Warm Brussel Sprout Salad with Goat Cheese


When it's 20 degrees outside (and in my apartment), cold salads just aren't appealing but I still want to eat my vegetables!  So I give you the warm salad.  Not really a revolutionary idea on my part; it's a lot like a vegetable sauté with a different title.


Warm salads are just as easy to prepare as cold salads and just as versatile too.  Here, I've done a simple brussel sprout salad with only a handful of ingredients (laziness) but you could easily add more variety.  I think chopped apples and shredded carrots or another root vegetable such as rutabaga or salsify would also work quite nicely.  And if I can give you any other advice, it would be not to skip the goat cheese; it melts just slightly over the warm salad and adds a wonderful richness and creaminess to an otherwise modest dish. 

Warm Brussel Sprout Salad
Ingredients

1 lb brussel sprouts, halved and sliced
1/3 cup dried cranberries and/or golden raisins (I used Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend, which is a mix of cranberries, tart cherries, golden raisins, and blueberries-- so good!)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons grade b maple syrup

pinch of salt, to taste
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Preparation
Warm the coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the chopped brussel sprouts and salt and cook for about a minute or two until the edges begin to brown.  Then add the maple syrup and dried fruit and cook until the brussel sprouts are slightly softened.  Plate and top with almonds and crumbled goat cheese.

December 8, 2009

Seriously Good Vegan "Meat"loaf


Mock meatloaf doesn't exactly sound appealing (and to be honest, this doesn't look appealing...), which is why we're not calling this that.  We can call this meatless meatloaf, or vegan meatloaf, or lentil loaf-- anything but mock meatloaf.

I browsed online for different recipes and interpretations of meatless meatloaf before I decided to basically just create my own version using other recipes as the model (this is what I do most often).  What I also do fairly often is not measure out exact quantities.  I just pour, or sprinkle, or drizzle ingredients until I achieve the consistency, flavor, and texture I want.  So for this recipe I measured out the base ingredients and then just winged it with the sauces and seasonings, which is really what I think you should do as well.


When I tasted this before baking, it was much less flavorful than it turned out in the end.  I think baking helped meld the flavors together and create a lot more complexity than their was originally.  And let me say, this turned out wonderfully.  It's been a while since I've had real meatloaf so I can't say whether or not it tasted like the real thing but I think it's a pretty good substitute.  It's comforting and flavorful and tastes great on a sandwich the next day.  It's super-yum.  Seriously.

Seriously Good Vegan "Meat"loaf
As I said in my post, I measured out the base ingredients and then just seasoned and sauced to taste.  I do have my estimations listed in parentheses but I would suggest following my lead and seasoning to your own tastes.  Also, I know nutritional yeast is not the most common ingredient to have in your pantry, or supermarket for that matter, but if you can find it (Whole Foods carries it in the bulk section) I would definitely suggest using it because I think it adds a lot to the richness, flavor, and texture of this dish.

Loosely adapted from MyVeganCookbook and PeasandThankYou

Base:
3/4 cup red lentils, cooked
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sundried tomatoes, minced (tomato paste would also work, but I was out)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, cubed and squeezed of excess water in cheesecloth
2/3 cup quick oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup nutritional yeast

Seasoning:
Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or low sodium soy sauce (~ 2 tablespoons)
Worcestershire sauce (~ 1 1/2 tablespoon)
ketchup (~ 3 tablespoons)
salt (~ 1 teaspoon)
pepper (~ 1/2 teaspoon)
oregano (~ 1/2 teaspoon)
red pepper flakes (~ 1/4 teaspoon)
chili powder (pinch)
allspice (pinch)

Preparation
Mix all of the base ingredients together in a large bowl (or the pot you used to cook the lentils and/or vegetables).  Season to your liking.  Transfer the mixture to a standard bread pan and press down into a loaf.  Spread ketchup over the top (optional) and bake at 375 F for 25-30 minutes.

November 30, 2009

Simple Apple Tart


I think this tart speaks for itself.  It's gorgeous and simple and just makes you feel content.


So simple, in fact, that you don't even need a tart pan.  And if we're being totally honest, you don't need a rolling pin either.


That's right, I didn't have a rolling pin because I don't own one.  I went to two stores to buy or, more accurately, look at rolling pins the day before Thanksgiving but in typical Lynna fashion, I couldn't make a decision (what if there's something better? cheaper? more productive?).  Foolishly, I thought I could just go to the grocery store and buy a rolling pin ON Thanksgiving.  But apparently, places are closed on holidays.


But I forged on and all was well.  I did this "galette-style" as Deb suggested, which took care of my pan-less problem, and had my Sigg water bottle play the part of the rolling pin.  So, I'm here to stand as evidence of the fact that you can make a perfectly lovely dessert with minimal ingredients, minimal cooking utensils, and not too much time.  You should try it.

Simplest Apple Tart
From Alice Waters via smitten kitchen

Dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

Filling:
2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar

MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.

DRIBBLE in water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.

PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400F.

OVERLAP apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.

BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over dough edge and the other 2 tablespoons over apples.

BAKE in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

MAKE glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.

REMOVE tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

BRUSH glaze over tart, slice, and serve.

November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving for One (or Two): Butternut Squash Soup and Sausage and Leek Stuffing


I spent Thanksgiving alone this year.  It sounds scary but I'm not trying to make you feel bad for me.  I was ok with it.  Sure, I made a few people who tried to make small talk with me by asking, "what are you doing for Thanksgiving?" a bit uncomfortable but, really, spending Thanksgiving by myself was kind of nice.

No family stress.  No people you haven't seen in a few years asking, "So, now that you've graduated from college, what are you going to do?" or perhaps more acurately, "You graduated?!?"  It was refreshing to be able to cook whatever I wanted, eat whenever I wanted, and not have to worry about what other people might like.  Yes, I love to cook for other people and eat with other people but something that not many people realize is that being alone can also be just as enjoyable.  And I don't feel like I missed out on food either, probably because I spent awhile planning my own Thanksgiving menu.  Here's what I ate:


Butternut Squash Soup with Sage
Italian Sausage and Leek Stuffing
Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Cranberry Sauce with Star Anise
Simple Apple Tart

The only problem with cooking and eating by myself was that I found it hard to keep from picking at everything (mostly the yummy stuffing) while I was cooking.  Needless to say, I ended up a bit too full when I was finished but isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about?

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage
Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 small onion or half a large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons olive oil
5- 6 sage leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1/8- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you can also use a pre-shredded Italian cheese blend, which is what I did because I didn't have any Parmesan)
2 tablespoons half and half
1- 2 teaspoons cornstarch or 1 tablespoon flour, optional
salt, to taste


Preparation
Saute the squash, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic together in olive oil in a large pot.  Once the vegetables have softened slightly and the onions are translucent, add half the chicken broth and sage leaves and boil over medium heat until the squash is soft. 

Next, add the soup and the rest of the chicken broth to your blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour the blended soup back into your pot over medium heat and stir in the cheese, half and half, and cornstarch if you're using it.  (Note: I find it works best to put the cornstarch, or flour, in a small dish and stir in a few tablespoons of soup and then add it to the pot.  This prevents lumps).  Add salt to taste and serve.

Sausage and Leek Stuffing
Ingredients

1/2 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage
1 stalk (?) leeks, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3-4 cups country bread, cubed
1 egg
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon butter

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread bread cubes out in a singe layer in a large baking dish and bake until pale golden, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Brown the sausage in a medium saute pan over med/high heat breaking up with a spoon as it cooks.  Once the sausage is cooked through, transfer it to a bowl with a slotted spoon leaving the drippings behind.  Add the leeks, celery, and carrots to the saute pan with the sausage grease and cook until just softened.

Mix together the sausage, vegetable mixture, and bread cubes and transfer to a 6x6 baking dish or small casserole dish (alternatively, if you'd like a thinner layer, you can use an 8x8 brownie pan). 

In a seperate bowl, mix together the egg, chicken broth, and milk.  Pour the liquid mixture over the stuffing and break up the butter in small piece over the top.  Place in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes.

November 10, 2009

Spelt and Oat Fruit Bars


 I don't feel much like talking today except to say that these are lovely, simple, and very adaptable breakfast bars.  Reminiscent of something you'd find at a small town B&B.  Great with yogurt, coffee, or tea.

Spelt and Oat Fruit Bars
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients
1 ¼ cups spelt flour
1 ¾ cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons butter (to ensure a crisp crumble topping)
1 ¼ cups naturally sweetened fruit preserves [I used no sugar added white peach and blackberry- thanks Julia!]

Preparation
1. Preheat your oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together (spelt flour, 1 ½ cups oats, salt, cinnamon, baking soda).

2. In a second bowl, whisk the brown sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extracts and applesauce. Add in the dry mixture, and mix to incorporate. It should look like cookie batter at this point.

3. Spray a 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the preserves evenly over the bottom layer.

4. With the remaining mix, add another ¼ cup oats and 2tbsp of butter. Mix with your fingers. Crumble it on top of the preserve layer.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is a bit crispy. Let them cool a bit before cutting.

November 2, 2009

Black Rice and Butternut Squash Bake


Oops, I know I promised this yesterday (or more accurately, two days ago since it's now 12:15am) but I got caught up in other, arguabley more pressing, things like applying for jobs.  But here it is! And it's very simple.  Something you could throw together with any mix of starch, veggies, and cheese you desired.  I chose black rice and orange vegetables because, well, it was festive and as we all know, I'm into things like that. 


Here are some other options:
Quinoa topped with zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and swiss
Millet topped with broccoli, chopped spinach, and cheddar
Brown rice with tomatoes, peppers, onion, and pepper jack

If you try something delicious, let me know.  This is a great go-to meal on a night when you don't have much time because you can just use whatever leftover vegetables and starch you have, top it with some cheese, bake it, and there's dinner.

Black Rice and Butternut Squash Bake
Ingredients

3/4 cup black rice, cooked according to package directions
2 cups cubed roasted butternut squash
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil, for sauteeing

1 small casserole dish (I think mine is 6x6)

Preparation
Preheat the over to 350 F.  Sauté the onion and carrot until onion is translucent and carrot is slightly softened.  Add the cubed butternut squash and heat til just warm.  Evenly spread the cooked black rice into the casserole dish, spread the vegetable mixture over the rice and press down with a spatula.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly across the top.

Place in the oven for 20- 30 minutes and then under the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and blackened in certain areas.

October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween and Ghastly Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes


I probably said this last Halloween but I'll say it again, I LOVE Halloween.  Unfortunately this year I haven't done such a good job of showing it.  You see, I thought and thought about an idea for a costume and when my friend Julia finally came up with one that was perfect for me (Cruella Deville) I turned all lazy and perhaps a bit too frugal.


So here I am on Halloween with no awesome costume to match previous years (Wednesday Addams, Minnie Mouse, 60's flight attendant, Betty Boop) but a lot of festive food* to make up for it.  Hopefully, Halloween will forgive me.


*I will be posting another Halloween themed recipe tomorrow!

Spiced Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes with Light Cream Cheese Icing
I found these cute little ghost shaped baking tins at Target, but obviously regular baking cups or even a bread or brownie pan will work just fine, for the latter two you will likely need to adjust the cooking time though.
Loosely adapted from Cooking Light and Make Me Hungry

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons melted butter
scant 1/4 cup canola oil
1 15oz can canned pumpkin

For the chocolate swirl:

1 cup batter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 cup skim milk

For the icing:

These measurements are inexact, basically you just want to achieve an spreadable consistency.  Not too liquid-y and not too thick, unless you like it that way.

1- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon skim milk
1 tablespoon softened butter
3 tablespoons whipped cream cheese

Chocolate for decorating:
~2oz dark chocolate
splash milk or cream


Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt, vanilla, pumpkin, melted butter and oil and stir until well combined.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix until everything has been incorporated.

Take 1 cup of the batter an transfer it into a medium bowl, add the cocoa powder, agave, and milk and mix well.

Spoon enough of the pumpkin batter into a prepared muffin tin (or ghost) to just cover the bottom, then add a spoonful of the chocolate batter and another spoonful of the pumpkin batter (until the muffin cup is 1/2- 3/4 full, depending on how big you want them to be) and swirl together with a knife.  This doesn't have to be precise, experiment with different ways and see what works best for you.

Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.


Icing and Decorating

For the frosting, mix all ingredients together in a bowl until your desired flavor and texture are achieved. Wait at least 30 minutes for the cupcakes to cool before frosting them.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler with a splash of milk or cream and then transfer to a pastry (or heavy duty ziploc) bag.  If using a ziploc, cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and then squeeze out the chocolate for decorating.

October 18, 2009

Mole Chili


I've been busy lately.  So busy that I missed my blog-iversary which, for the record, was October 14th.  It's strange to think that I started this blog a year (and 4 days) ago; before then, I hardly ever read food blogs and I was totally unaware that such a vast array of them existed.  Now, reading other food blogs, as well as keeping up my own, is something of a habit that I can't quite imagine my life without.

Unfortunately, ringing in a new blogging year came with a lot of flops.  In the past few weeks I've made a handful of things which weren't terrible by any means but were certainly nowhere near outstanding either and thus, in my limited time, not worth posting.  It wasn't until I came back to an old favorite, and one of the first real meals I started to cook from scratch, that I finally had some success.

The chili recipe below is a re-vamped version of a recipe I fell in love with a few years ago.  As I mentioned a while ago, it was my friend's Dad who first introduced me to homemade chili.  His was a hearty, healthy, and simple vegetarian chili that was comfort food without the subsequent bloating.  My recipe below is a spin on his simple chili with added cocoa powder and cinnamon for complexity and depth of flavor, lean ground beef for slightly more body, and fire roasted tomatoes for even more warmth.  This is my idea of the perfect cold weather fare.

Mole Chili*
This recipe is extremely adaptable.  Aside from the flexibility you have with seasonings, you can easily leave out the ground beef for a vegetarian version and add more beans or veggies such as zucchini, mushrooms, corn, peas, or celery.  In addition, you can play around with texture by using a food processor to prepare the vegetables or chopping them slightly larger by hand.

Ingredients

2 small sweet onions (or one large), diced
2 carrots, diced
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1- 2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2 bell peppers (red, green, yellow, whichever), diced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 14 oz can kidney beans

1/3- 2/3 cup water, broth or wine added as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Prepare all the vegetables, then coat the bottom of a 6 quart or larger stock pot with cooking oil and add the hot red pepper flakes.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the peppers and stir all together.  Let the veggies wilt another two minutes or so and then add the remaining spices and herbs.

Add the tomatoes.  Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer.  As you wait for the mixture to simmer, brown the ground beef in a medium sauté pan with a few spinkles of chili powder, salt and pepper.

Add the beans and the ground beef and simmer on low for at least 45 minutes adding extra liquid (water, broth, wine) as needed.  Stir occasionally to make sure the chili doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. Taste to correct for seasoning (hotter?).

Serve over brown rice, polenta, millet, egg noodles or with a side of cornbread (or whatever else you'd like) and garnish with chopped sweet onion and shredded cheddar cheese.

* I know this isn't a traditional mole, per se, but the complex blend of spices in mole is what inspired this recipe.

October 7, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto with Fried Sage

I love fall and pretty much everything about it. The air is crisp and comfortably chilly, the colors are warm, the food is wonderful and Thanksgiving is in the near future :). Some of my favorite falls foods (and I'm sure many of yours as well) are pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. All orange, all hard, all delicious.

So to celebrate the beginning of fall and its produce, I wanted to make something perfectly seasonal. And wow, did this hit the spot. I know it's quite a bit more indulgent than the recipes/food I usually post (and eat, for that matter) but indulging once in awhile is fine by me, as long as it's worth it. And yes, if you were wondering, this is definitely worth it.

I don't know if you know this, but risotto is like savory pudding. It's amazing. I could hardly keep my fork, or spoon (or hand?) out of this risotto; it was that good. The fried sage is the perfect garnish too; it allows for a slight crunch and a concentrated earthy kick to this supremely creamy and utterly heavenly dish.

You will thank me for this.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Fried Sage

Serves 4, generously
Adapted from both Just Vegging Out and Simply Recipes
Ingredients
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)

~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil for frying
extra sage leaves for frying and garnish

Preparation
Melt 2 tbsps butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and squash cubes and sauté until squash is tender and slightly mashable. Lightly mash some pieces with your spoon.

Heat broth in a medium pot. In a large pot heat 1 tbsp butter until melted. Add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated. Add the squash and onion mixture and stir until combined. Then add 1/2 cup of the wine and cook until almost fully absorbed.

With a ladle, begin adding hot broth until the rice is just covered. Let the broth evaporate/ absorb into the rice and add more until just covered. Repeat this process until the broth has been used up.

To fry to the sage, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Gradually tilt the skillet so the hot oil pools on one side and add 5 or so sage leaves (per batch). Stir until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp up (about 30 seconds). Transfer to paper towels to drain. Continue to fry in batches until you have your desired amount.

In the last few minutes of cooking the risotto, add the remaining 1/4 cup of wine and stir until absorbed. Then add the Parmesan and stir. Garnish with fried sage. Devour.

September 30, 2009

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread

I don't know if I've discussed this before but I've baked bread a fair amount of times and while they usually turn out pretty well, I can never seem to achieve that bread bakery quality. You know, the crusty on the outside, spongy and springy on the inside quality. Well, this bread is the closest I've come so far.

No, it's not perfect but the texture on the inside is pretty spot-on. The outside was crusty and hard when it emerged from the oven, but after sitting on the counter overnight it became more like the crust of a traditional supermarket loaf, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The crust actually had a nice oven baked flavor; it tastes like it looks, browned and oaty- definitely not a bad thing.

I used mostly white whole wheat flour for this bread (it's my first time trying it out so I used a bit of all-purpose as well) and like one of my new favorites, whole wheat pastry flour, I was very pleased with it. It's lighter in color and flavor than regular whole wheat flour but is almost equal in nutritional value (I believe white whole wheat has 1 gram less fiber than whole wheat per serving) so it's a great alternative to refined flour with a less noticeable change in flavor (than using traditional whole wheat). Plus, it was on sale at the grocery store! What more could you ask for?

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread

makes 2 medium boules (see Peabody's site if you would rather bake 1 loaf in a bread pan, instead of 2 boules on a pizza stone as I have done. Alternatively, Foodie Bride made her two boules in a dutch oven.)
Adapted from Foodie Bride's take on Peabody's recipe

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour [I added an extra 1/2 cup to the batter white kneading due to stickiness]

2 teaspoons honey mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water

Preparation
Set aside 1/4 cup rolled oats. Place the remaining oats into a medium bowl. Cover with boiling water. Mix with spoon to moisten all oats. Let bowl sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Place 1/4 cup of warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add soaked oats, buttermilk, oil, brown sugar, both flours, and salt. With hook attachment, mix on low speed to combine, then increase speed to medium and mix for about 10 minutes [I did this by hand and need to develop better skills]. Dough will be wet and cling to hook, but have a satiny finish.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and over with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm area for about an hour, the dough will almost double in size [Mine took longer than this to proof, maybe around 2 hours, since it wasn't too hot in my apartment].

Place dough onto a floured surface and flatten it with your hands, releasing excess air bubbles. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Knead a few times to form each half into a ball and rest seam-side down on two sheets of parchment paper cut larger than the dough ball. Cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.

While loaf is proofing, place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 F.

Remove plastic wrap and use a very sharp knife or razor to make 1/2″ deep cuts on the breads in a pattern of your choice. Use a brush to apply the honey and water mixture to the top of each loaf [you could also bake them separately if your stone is not large enough for both; in this case, wait until the first loaf has come out before prepping the second for the oven]. Sprinkle each with half of the remaining oats. Carefully transfer the parchment paper with the dough to the pizza stone [I slide the dough on parchment from a cookie sheet directly onto the pizza stone]. Bake for 40- 45 minutes, or until the top and sides of the loaf are a deep brown.

Remove the breads from the oven by grabbing onto the parchment and sliding the loaf on parchment onto your cookie sheet. Cool on a wire rack.

September 27, 2009

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting

If a cupcake were ever sophisticated, this would be it.

I bet this seems weird to some people- sure, you're familiar with tea and cake but tea in cake? But let's start at the beginning, shall we...

I got the idea for this ingenious mix of flavors at least a year ago from eat me delicious but my recipe inspiration came from another source. Right when I read the heading, "Earl Grey White Chocolate," I knew these were going to be something special (don't ask me why it took me so long to actually make them).

As usual I made a number of my own changes, the biggest of which was upping the amount of tea used. I read many different recipes and almost all of them said something along the lines of "the earl grey flavor was very subtle, next time I might try adding more tea." Being the lover of earl grey tea (and bergamot along with its debatable benefits) that I am, I didn't want these cupcakes to be subtle; I wanted them to be unmistakeably earl grey, and I think they were thanks to extra tea leaves in the batter coupled with tea infused milk.

These cupcakes came out perfectly, really, I have no complaints (is this a first?). The flavor was as strong as I wanted it to be, however, since earl grey is by nature a delicate flavor, it was by no means overpowering. The cake itself was light, tender, and subtly sweet, which provided a nice compliment to the more decadent frosting.

All I have left to say is that these are my kind of cupcake, and if you haven't already gotten the message: make them!

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes

I halved the recipe to make 12 cupcakes (below is the halved version, hence the awkward 1 3/8 cup flour)
Adapted from Vanilla Garlic

Ingredients
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 bags double bergamot early grey tea [I used the Stash Tea brand]

Preparation
Beat the butter until soft for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 30 seconds between each.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Then add 2 bags of the tea (bags ripped open and contents emptied) into bowl and whisk until combined.

Measure out milk and heat in the microwave until just boiling (1- 2 minutes on high). Place the remaining 2 tea bags into the piping hot milk and let steep for at least 5 minutes. when finished make sure to squeeze the tea bags to release any remaining milk. Next add the vanilla extract to the milk tea and stir.

Mix in the flour mixture and the milk mixture into the egg/butter/ sugar mixture, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Scoop the batter into cupcake papers about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18- 22 minutes* at 350F until a toothpick comes out clean.

*
the original recipe had a bake time of 22- 25 minutes but mine were ready (just golden on top) around the 19 minute mark.

White Chocolate Frosting
Although this frosting was good, I wish I could have tasted the white chocolate a bit more. Next time I might try skipping the milk altogether and lessening the sugar to 1 1/4 cups; this will also help if you like a thicker frosting. Also, the higher quality the white chocolate you use, the better the frosting will taste. I've found Lindt to be a good option for both affordability and quality.
From Diana's Desserts

Ingredients
4 1/2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick/3 oz./85g) unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt

Preparation
Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

Sift the confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Add the butter and salt and beat until smooth. Stir in the cooled white chocolate. Refrigerate until firm enough to frost the cupcakes, about 30 minutes.

September 20, 2009

Trail Mix Granola Bars

I've made granola bars a handful of times before but none quite like these. The first time I used a recipe I found under the lid of some Quaker oats and they turned out poorly, too cakey. The next few times I tried my hand at no-bake granola bars using brown rice syrup, oats, crisp rice cereal and whatever mix-ins I was feeling at the time; those turned out pretty well but I couldn't seem to perfect the ratios of ingredients and I used puffed rice cereal instead of crisp rice cereal but didn't realize my mistake until after I'd made a couple batches... oops. Needless to say (though I guess I already have), there were some problems, one of the biggest being that out of the fridge the bars totally softened up, and while I like a chewy granola bar, I don't want them to fall apart on me.

So here is some of my criteria for a good granola bar: a good granola bar needs to be filling, it needs to be wholesome, it needs to be able to hold up in the bottom of a handbag or backpack, and, perhaps most importantly, it needs to taste good.

I got my inspiration for these from my new favorite bars, Pure Bars. I can't find them at many places around here; actually, I can only find them at Trader Joe's and they only carry two of the six flavors (Cherry Cashew and Chocolate Brownie, if you were curious). Anyway, I've really wanted to try the ChocChip Trail Mix flavor but as I said, I can't find it anywhere so I decided to make it. I changed up the ingredients a little and came out with a bar that I'm sure is just as good (if not better than) the original (even though I've never had it).

These bars meet all my criteria for a good granola bar. The only thing I might do differently next time is decrease the amount of nuts so the bars aren't quite as caloric. What I did this time once I realized is cut them into smaller pieces. If you make 10 squares instead of six rectangles, each one will be about 200 calories with around 75 from fat, which is pretty much just how I like my granola bars- with a calorie count low enough to be a snack and a decent amount of healthy fats to keep you satisfied.

Trail Mix Granola Bars
Feel free to play around with these ingredients however you'd like. The original bar uses raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips, but I wasn't ready to make that splurge just yet. Also, you can use your favorite nuts and mix-ins instead of following mine to a T. I really enjoyed the sweet and salty combo that resulted from using some raw nuts and some salted ones. You could also double the recipe and press it into an 8x8 brownie pan if you want more bars.

Ingredients
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup dry roasted and salted pistachios
10 medjool dates, pitted [I always buy un-pitted and pit them myself to prevent them from drying out]
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon ground flax
1 tablespoon peanut butter
3 tablespoons oat bran

Preparation
Pulse chocolate chips in a food processor until broken up into smaller pieces (don't worry if they aren't uniform, and don't over process). Remove the chips and set aside. Add all nuts to the food processor (no need to clean) and pulse until broken into small pieces, remove and set aside. Pulse the dates, peanut butter and half the raisins in the food processor until a paste forms.

In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips, nuts, sunflower seeds, ground flax and oat bran and stir together. Transfer the date paste to the bowl and mix until well combined- this will take some time and seem difficult at first, but it happens.

Press the mixture into a parchment lines bread pan and even out (you can coat your hands with a small amount of oil, use the bottom of a cup, or press down with the exposed parchment). Freeze or refrigerate until hard (I used the freezer and waited a little under an hour) and then cut into as many pieces as you'd like.

Wrap in wax paper and store in the refrigerator.

September 13, 2009

Sunflower Chip Cookies

I had the bright idea of adding chocolate covered sunflower seeds to these cookies when I was at Whole Foods picking up some spelt flour. You see, Borders is right next to Whole Foods and they sell chocolate covered sunflower seeds (street names: little drops of heaven, crack, sunflower chips). These things are so good but aren't too easy to come by around these here parts. Still, I don't know why I haven't thought of adding them to baked goods before. They really made these cookies.

As usual, I adapted this recipe. For some reason I have this problem. I cant just make a recipe as is; for better or for worse, I have to fiddle with it. And so fiddle I did. I changed up the flours, substituted agave (my first time baking with it!), nixed the molasses etc. etc.

Though I tried to make my ratios of wet to dry ingredients as similar as possible to the original recipe, for some reason my cookie batter was definitely on the wet side. I added a touch more flour and then thought about adding some more, but the mixing was causing the color of the sunflower chips to run. Reluctantly I stopped mixing and decided to proceed with the wet, sticky excuse for cookie batter I'd created.

It was a bit hard to shape them into rounds but being the perfectionist that I sometimes am, I pressed on. While they were in the oven, I crossed my fingers that I didn't waste those precious little sunflower chips on what might turn out to be the worst cookies I'd ever made. But soon enough they were done and my fears were assuaged. Impatient, as I usually am, I had to eat one soon after it came out of the oven.

So here's the verdict: The flavor of these cookies is great (I'm going to give most of the credit for that to the sunflower chips- gold star!) and the texture was like a perfect soft baked cookie. The only "problem" was that they were super thin. I think this could be easily remedied by making smaller cookies (I, only having one cookie sheet, made them quite large). I tried to fix the thickness problem by making them a second time with regular chocolate chips (boo) and more flour, and while this certainly helped the thickness, the cookies were more cake-y and less sweet.

So here's my solution to super thin soft baked cookies (if you even want a solution): fold in half and enjoy. I ended up doing this with most of the sunflower chip cookies and it gave me twice the thickness, twice the softness and no need for recipe alterations. So what if it turned my near perfect circles into semi-circular confections, even my sometime perfectionist can live with that.

Sunflower Chip Cookies

Adapted from Vive le Vegan!

Ingredients
3/4 cup spelt flour (not the white kind)
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup light agave nectar
1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
scant 2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
heaping 1/4 cup chocolate covered sunflower seeds

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt, until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup with the agave and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the sunflower chips, and stir through until just well combined (do not overmix).

Place large spoonfuls of the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 11 minutes, until just golden (if you bake for much longer, they will dry out*). Let cool on the sheet for no more than 1 minute (again, to prevent drying*), then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 8-10 large cookies.

* I did not have this problem with drying at all, alternatively, my cookies were very, very moist- likely because of the changes I made to the recipe.

September 2, 2009

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

For some reason I really enjoy baking muffins. If I'm bored on a day off from work I'll think, "well, why don't I just make some muffins?" And then I will. I think it's because muffins are fairly easy to make, and I feel comfortable with them so I'm not afraid to experiment a little bit; and experimenting is what I love to do. Furthermore the muffins I make are a fairly modest treat, unlike the un-frosted cupcakes masquerading as muffins at most bakeries, so I don't feel bad or overly tempted having them around the house (but I must say, they don't last very long).

Usually, when I decide to make muffins I'll use whatever ingredients I have on hand at the time. After deciding on the star ingredient (in this case, blueberries) I'll browse recipes online to see what ingredients other people are pairing with blueberries and what ratios of flour, eggs, oil etc. they're using. Finally, after making some mental notes and likely having a few recipes up on my screen for reference, I'll start baking.

I almost always modify the recipes I work from and this is no exception. I looked at this recipe for general reference but made a ton of changes such as adding yogurt, taking out the buttermilk, lowering the oil content, using maple syrup as the sole sweetener (minus the sugar on top), among other things. If you take the time to try out this recipe (and really, you should), I have to suggest pairing it with a crossword puzzle, a sunlit room, and a hot cup of tea, because I don't know much else that makes a better morning.

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

very loosely adapted from Keeping Food True
makes about 9 muffins

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
heaping 1/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup water
1 3/4 cups fresh blueberries*
brown sugar or raw sugar for sprinkling

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin pan with canola oil or butter.

In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and in a small bowl combine all the wet. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined. Next, lightly stir in the blueberries until just incorporated. Using an ice cream scoop, transfer the batter to the muffin cups (each one should be about 3/4 full). Sprinkle the tops with brown sugar or raw sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

*this is A LOT of blueberries. If you don't want your muffins to be over-flowing with blueberries the way I like mine, I would suggest using decreasing the amount to 1 1/4 cups.

September 1, 2009

Non-Traditional Carrot Salad

A lot of times I feel like I don't eat enough vegetables. Sure, I eat plenty of fruit and probably more than my share of carbs, nuts and fiber but I'm often a slacker in the vegetable department. In an attempt to remedy this, I bought a whole bag of carrots from the grocery store and was determined to make them into something slightly more inventive than carrot sticks.

I didn't even know there was a traditional carrot salad until I did a bit of internet research. It turns out that the classic carrot salad is a mix of shredded carrots, raisins, chopped apples and... mayonnaise. However, since I wasn't in the mood for anything drenched in mayonnaise (I never am), I took a queue from the Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad I made about a month ago and the delicious sample of Asian carrot and cabbage slaw I had at Trader Joe's a few days ago.

I decided to make this salad with the traditional ingredients and a non-traditional Thai inspired dressing. The picture above doesn't do this dish any justice but it's the only one I have for now. Just trust me that this salad is much better than my picture and the dressing would be great on just about anything (well, maybe not anything, but you get the idea).

Non-Traditional Carrot Salad

Ingredients

For the salad
1 1lb bag of carrots, shredded (no need to peel)
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped [I actually didn't add these because I didn't have any, but I'm positive the crunch and extra peanut flavor would really add to this salad]
1 fuji apple, diced (optional)

For the dressing
3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
2 dates, pitted
2 teaspoons Bragg's Liquids Aminos (or about 10 squirts)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili paste [I used Thai Kitchen]
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 small clove garlic
juice of one lime
1/4 cup water
sriracha to taste

Preparation
Place all dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides when necessary. Pour the dressing into a medium bowl and put the shredding attachment into your food processor (no need to clean the food processor because the carrots will be mixing with the dressing eventually). Shred carrots in the food processor and pour them into the bowl with the dressing. Add raisins and apple and mix until everything is coated. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the top.

August 27, 2009

Homemade Hummus: Revised

Right now I'm coming off of a longer, more eventful and more relaxing break than I've had in a while. I was in Nantucket for a week hanging out, going to the beach, eating well and cooking some. My break ended with a lovely birthday dinner back here in St. Louis, which consisted of more eating well. Unfortunately, all I have to show for all these "good eats" is a revised version of an old favorite (and a few extra ice cream pounds)- not so new but definitely improved, hopefully like this year will turn out for me.

But onto the hummus...

I've been making homemade hummus for a long time. At first it was an attempt to save money and make something better tasting than the store-bought version, but unfortunately, it never quite surpassed my favorite stuff from the store. I fell into a rut of using the same ingredients (canned chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, salt, tahini, olive oil, and water) in the same way time and time again and it was always fine but never great.

However, after a little fine-tuning and the wonderful addition of a Cuisinart, I think I've come up with a much better and only slightly more time consuming version of homemade hummus. My problems in the past consisted of overly pungent garlic, a not smooth enough consistency and a tinge of that not so pleasant canned food taste from the chickpeas. So this time I decided to sauté the garlic in some olive oil before adding it, employ the Cuisinart, and buy dried chickpeas, which I then soaked and boiled.

Sauteing the garlic reduced it's harsh and unrelenting aftertaste-leaving qualities while the Cusinart allowed for a kind of creaminess I never could achieve with a series of crappy blenders, and last but not least, using dried beans lent an aspect of freshness and flavor that's absent from canned varieties.

Homemade Hummus Revised
Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 24 hrs [overnight should be fine as well]
1 tablespoon sesame tahini
juice of half a large lemon
1/4- 1/3 cup reserved liquid (from boiling chickpeas)
3 cloves garlic (2 large, one small)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon salt
cayenne or hot paprika for sprinkling

Preparation
Dump the soaked beans and the water they were soaked in, plus a little extra, into a large pot over high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce heat to medium to simmer the beans. Continue simmering until the beans have reached desired softness (about 30 minutes). While the beans are simmering pour the olive oil into a small saute pan over low heat and add the 2 large cloves of garlic. Saute until the garlic is golden in color and set aside.

Once the beans have reached desired softness, place a sieve over a pot to drain the beans and reserve their cooking liquid. Pour the beans into the Cuisinart along with the tahini, lemon juice, sauteed garlic and oil, raw garlic clove, salt and 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Drizzle in more cooking liquid as the mixture blends to achieve desired consistency.

August 16, 2009

Unfussy Guacamole


I didn't start liking avocados until recently- come to think of it, I still don't know how much I actually like avocados; they don't have much flavor and are oddly creamy, but they are, however, a good ingredient. Because of their creaminess, avocados make a wonderful base for spreads and dips, but I've even seen them used in some raw food puddings (still a little too weird for me...).

I don't really have much else to say about avocados or this guacamole because we all know what guacamole is and what to do with it, but I'll leave you with a picture of the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes I used to make it.


Unfussy Guacamole
I like to make guacamole in small batches because the avocado oxidizes quickly and nobody likes brown guacamole. I've also found that lemon rather than lime, for whatever reason, helps slow this oxidation process substantially. I made 1 batch of guacamole with lemon and 1 with lime- the lemon one stayed green, while the lime on browned pretty quickly even with a plastic wrap seal flush with the top.

Ingredients
1 haas avocado, halved, seeded and peeled
1/4 of a large red onion, minced
handful grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
juice of half a lime or lemon
sprinkle of cumin (optional)
sprinkle of coriander (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

August 9, 2009

Raw Brownie Bites

Lately, I've been pretty curious about raw foods. I know this sounds kind health nutty of me but what can I say, I am kind of health nutty? But seriously, what raw foods promise is rather enticing: smoother digestion, enhanced energy, better health- sounds pretty good to me. Aside from all that, I'm also interested in the fact that raw foods move away from something we're all accustomed to doing: cooking our food. In addition, many of the raw dishes I've heard of strive to emulate, and often taste like, cooked food such as raw tacos, raw lasagna etc.

About a month ago I tried the raw tacos at Vegadeli (a vegan deli, as the name suggests) in St. Louis and though they weren't that much like real tacos, they were pretty good. I can't say I felt expcetionally energetic after eating them or any better than I feel when I eat cooked food, but maybe those effects take some time? Now that I think about it though, I definitely felt WAY better than I would have after eating real tacos. Anyway, the point is that these tacos piqued my interest in raw foods even more. Thus, I decided to experiment with some raw "cooking" at home (much more feasible now that I have a CUISINART- yes!).

I played it pretty safe and decided to make something I'd have the least chance of hating or messing up- a dessert of course! So I made these raw brownie bites and wow, they were so yummy, not to mention quick and easy. Just the dates and cocoa powder alone tasted like delicious brownie batter. Plus, you don't even have to turn on the oven or the stove- what more could you ask for in the summer?

Raw Brownie Bites
Adapted from Angela

Ingredients
1/2 cup dates, chopped and pitted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [come to think of it, I don't know if this is really raw]
1 tablespoon raw agave nectar
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw almonds
~ 1/4 unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling

Preparation
Place the dates, cocoa powder and agave into the food processor and process until well blended. Next add the nuts and pulse a few times until the nuts are chopped into tiny pieces. Next, use your hands to roll the mixture into donut hole sized balls and then roll these balls in the shredded coconut. Store the brownie bites in the freezer until ready to eat.

August 2, 2009

Ratatouille

I have to say, I love Ratatouille. Aside from it being particularly fitting when the times, both economic* and seasonal, are taken into consideration, it's absolutely delicious. The rich warm flavors of the stew make it taste like comfort food, but an ingredient list consisting of mostly fresh vegetables allows it to be anything but heavy.

I found these plum tomatoes (above), as well as most of the vegetables I used for this recipe, at the Tower Grove Farmers Market here in St. Louis. It's much smaller than the main farmers market in Soulard but nearly everything is locally sourced, which makes for a big plus in my book.

I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but these plum tomatoes are small- much smaller than any of the ones you'll find at the grocery store. And that's how a lot of the produce there was- small, irregularly shaped, real- it makes you wonder about the stuff we're so accustomed to buying in the grocery store.

But back to a less political and more gastronomical issue- Ratatouille. Removing the skin from the eggplant, I think, made an enormous difference in the dish because it allowed the small cubes of eggplant to break down as they sauteed and add both flavor and body to the stew. I served the finished product along with a dollop of goat cheese (not very traditional, but quite good), a sprinkling of fresh basil and a few hunks of good french bread and it quickly became one of the few hot dishes I've enjoyed eating in the depths of summer.

*Traditionally Ratatouille, which originated in Nice, France, was a peasant dish because of its cheap ingredients and ease of preparation

Ratatouille
While I enjoyed this dish as a main course with goat cheese and baguette, you could easily have it as a side, serve it over pasta, use it as filling for an omelette, or as a topping for brusectta.
Adapted from a variety of sources, mostly Tartelette

Ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, 2 minced, 2 whole
1/2 large eggplant, skin removed and diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
about 2 cups tomatoes, roughly chopped [I used small plum tomatoes]
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup tomato juice or V8
fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

goat cheese
french baguette

Preparation
Prepare all the vegetables. In a large pot over medium heat saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Then add the eggplant and more olive oil as needed and saute until golden in color. Then add the zucchini, then peppers, then tomatoes, salt and pepper and continue sautéing.

Next, add the broth and tomato juice, stir and cover to let stew for about 20 minutes. Add about a tablespoon chopped fresh basil, stir and replace the cover to let simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Uncover, stir and let simmer for a final 20- 30 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced.

Enjoy topped with goat cheese, fresh basil, and baguette.

July 24, 2009

Raisin Bran and Berry Bran Muffins

"Good" is probably not the first word that comes to mind when people think of bran muffins. I'd venture a guess that "cardboard," "health nut," and... umm... "cardboard" come to mind prior to and often in place of the word "good." But these bran muffins are really good.

They aren't like the bran muffins at the bakery, which can be loaded with sugar and they aren't like the ones at my school, which I thought were healthy but then realized were around 450 calories; the freshman 15 didn't seem so mysterious after that. Instead, they are a hearty, modest, not too cardboard-y, not too greasy, not too sugar-y breakfast treat.

The yogurt in the recipe takes the place of a fair amount of oil and the mashed banana adds a natural sweetness with a barely discernible amount of banana flavor. These muffins don't turn gummy after a few days, which as I said before, often happens when applesauce is substituted in baked goods.

As usual, I made two varieties. I just couldn't help myself and it seems I never can. Choose one, or both, or play around with the recipe on your own adding any mix of dried fruits, nuts or berries you want. Whatever you do, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Bran Muffins
Adapted from a variety of sources but mostly Bobs Red Mill
makes about 8 muffins

Ingredients
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 oat bran [I think wheat bran would also work well]
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 "flax egg" (one tablespoon ground flaxseed whisked with 3 tablespoons hot water)*
1/2 cup low or non-fat plain yogurt (greek yogurt also works well)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
3 tablespoons neutral oil
1/4 cup milk of choice [I used light vanilla soymilk]
raw sugar for sprinkling

*creates a consistency just like a real egg- weird

Then I split the batter in two to test out a raisin and a blackberry version. Both came out very well. For the raisin version I added about a 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/3 cup raisins and for the blackberry version I added 3/4 cup blackberries. Remember these additions are to only half the batter.

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil 8 muffin cups. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Then incorporate your choice of mix-ins. [Or split the batter in half and make two versions like I did]. Use an ice cream scoop to transfer the batter evenly into the 8 prepared muffin cups [I filled each one almost to the top]. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Place in the oven and bake for about 18 minutes.

July 20, 2009

Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad

A few weeks ago (yes, that is how long ago I made this), I was really in the mood for some cold noodles. We were in the middle of an unfortunate heat wave here in St. Louis and the air conditioning in my apartment just wasn't cutting it. I had a lot of smoothies that week, and also lots of cold noodles. I actually made two similar Asian noodle dishes in one week, but like my air conditioning, the other one just didn't make the cut.

This one was just so much better. Maybe it's because I love peanut butter so much (who doesn't?) but this dish has so many other high points. For one, it's light and refreshing with hints of heat from the sriracha and coolness from the ginger. The crisp vegetables also lend a pleasant crunch and freshness. It's perfect for summer when you want something substantial without having to turn on the oven or the stove. "Yum" is really all I have to say- eloquent, isn't it?

Peanut Sesame Noodles

Adapted from smittenkitchen
makes 6 side-dish or 4 vegetarian main-course servings

For peanut dressing
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon red chile paste
1 teaspoon sriracha

For noodles
3/4 lb dried soba nooodles [dried spaghetti also works well]
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Preparation
Puree the dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.

Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, cucumber and tofu to dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.