January 30, 2009

Oatmeal, Flax and Walnut Bread

It's been about 3 weeks (?) since my roommates and I got back from winter break and though we've all made trips to the grocery store (maybe even multiple times), somehow we have not yet had a loaf of bread grace our countertop.  None of us are on diets, least of all the Atkins diet, so this seems to be a rather odd occurrence.  And I need my bread! 

I need more surfaces for my peanut butter (because apples, bananas and oatmeal just aren't enough), more items to be toasted (perhaps, french toasted) and more sandwiches to be made.

I think this is one of my favorite yeast breads I've made.  It combines a lot of ingredients I enjoy, has a moist crumb, a hearty flavor and is really healthy.  Although the flavor is hearty, the bread is not as heavy or dense as an 100% whole wheat version would be because of its ratio of white to whole wheat flour.  Furthermore, the taste of the yeast comes out really nicely in this bread lending it a fresh out of the oven quality even days after baking.

My final product came out pretty light in color compared to the picture that accompanies Matt's post.  I'm not quite sure why this happened because I baked it for nearly the full time and the bread was not underdone at all so, I think  it might just be my oven.  One way to get around this problem, if you're worried about it happening to you, would be to brush an egg wash or thin layer of oil over the top of the bread before it goes into the oven.  Either of these washes would work to brown top of the bread as it cooked.

One difficulty I had with this bread was that the pre-ferment was very solid; it was basically the consistency of bread dough.  This made it hard for me to incorporate it well with the rest of the ingredients because it was like mixing two completely different doughs together.  I think this was further complicated by the fact that I don't have an electric mixer.  Anyway, in the end it worked out, with some vigorous hand kneading, and I was glad I had put in the extra effort because this bread it definitely worth it.

Oatmeal, Flax and Walnut Bread 
from KathEats. com, courtesy of Kath's husband, Matt


  • 125g bread flour (1 C)
  • 125g water (.5C)
  • 1g instant yeast (.25t)

Mix all ingredients together, loosely cover, and place in a 70* area to ripen for 12-16 hours.

Final Dough

  • 251g pre-ferment (all of it)
  • 200g whole wheat flour (1.5C)
  • 175g bread flour (1.25C)
  • 100g rolled oats (1C)
  • 50g ground flaxseeds (3T)
  • 50g honey (2.5T)
  • 330g water (1.5C)
  • 2g instant yeast (.5t)
  • 13g kosher salt (1T)
  • 50g walnut pieces (.3C)

Warm water to body temperature. Pour in oats and flax and let soak for 5-10 minutes. Then mix all ingredients EXCEPT walnuts until mixture comes together. Mix on first speed for 3 minutes. Mix on second speed for 4 minutes, adding walnuts. If dough creeps up hook, push down with a spatula. I ended up having to take it out and finish kneading by hand because towards the end it just grabbed onto the dough hook and spun around. It should be fairly sticky but not runny, and have good strength when tugged.

Let dough ferment for 2 hours, folding after the first hour. After the second hour, shape into a compact ball and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes.

Shape dough ball into a oval loaf and place in a 9×5 loaf pan. Spray pan with cooking oil and lightly dust with flour.

Allow to rise for 1.5 hours. After 1 hour preheat oven to 400*. Slash loaf. Right before loading oven, splash 1 oz water in the oven for steam, then bake for 30-35 mins until very dark in color and interior hits 190* [I don't have a bread thermometer and baked mine for 34 minutes + it came out perfectly]

Cool and serve!  (70 cals/oz, 1.5g fiber/oz)

January 27, 2009

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

I know it's not the season for pasta salad but I had all the ingredients on hand (including some stuff I needed to use up) and with a glass of hot tea to balance out the coldness, it's definitely manageable.  Plus, the richness of the feta cheese, nuttiness of the whole wheat pasta and bold vinegar-y flavor of the kalamata olives make this more of a comfort food pasta salad than a light summer side dish.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

3/4 cup whole wheat orzo
about 7 kalamata olives, chopped
1 1/2- 2 oz feta cheese
1/4 bag spinach, chopped
2 tbsps red wine vinegar

Cook and drain the orzo reserving a bit of the hot pasta water.  Do not rinse the noodles.  Add about half the feta, all the olives, spinach and red wine vinegar to the orzo in the pot you used to cook the pasta (or a large bowl) and combine well.  Add reserve pasta water to make the sauce thinner if needed.  The heat from the noodles and pasta water should wilt the spinach. 

Transfer the pasta mixture to a refrigerator safe container and top with the other half of the feta.  Let cool to room temperature and move to the refrigerator until cold. 

January 25, 2009

Walnut and Date Granola

I recently realized, partly thanks to my roommate, that granola tastes quite good on top of oatmeal.  I saw this recipe a little while ago and had planned on making it but was spurred to do so after my trip to the grocery store today because granola is expensive!  I made my own once before, and it was pretty good but missing those much sought after clusters that everyone (yes, everyone) loves.   

I was interested in trying this recipe because it incorporated a couple of binding ingredients I didn't think of adding last time such as egg whites and flaxseed meal.  

Making it was slightly laborious because the recipe calls for taking it out of the oven twice to stir so that in total it bakes in three increments.  Luckily the increments are short (15 minutes) so I worked on clean-up and chopping the dates as it cooked.  

When it cooled I had a healthy sprinkling atop some Greek yogurt and it was good, but not quite as amazing as I had hoped it would be.  I know the granola you make at home is supposed to be better than the stuff you buy at the supermarket, so I'm sad to say that I'm not sure if this one is.  I think it was missing something, perhaps some ground cinnamon or vanilla extract or maple syrup as opposed to honey would have helped?  Also, I think there was too much brown sugar and too much honey overall.  

Still, one thing this recipe did remarkably well was cluster.  I think this is partially because I made sure to push the granola together and pat it down with my spatula (as if I were making granola bars) each time after I stirred it and, perhaps most importantly, as it was cooling. Pushing the granola together like this allows the sugars to bind the individual oats together as the mixture hardens.  So the bottom line is: this recipe has all of the right components to make the cluster filled granola you buy in stores but needs a little tweaking when it comes to flavor, so experiment.

Quick Omega-3 Granola
Adapted from Bon Appétit

  • 4 tablespoons walnut oil, divided [I used olive oil]
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar [I used less]
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) coarse kosher salt
  • 3 cups organic old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup walnut halves, broken in half
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal*
  • 1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped or torn into pieces [I always buy non-pitted dates because they are much moister and removing the pit is very easy]
  • 1/4 cup honey


Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush heavy large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons oil. Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, egg whites, and salt in large bowl. Add oats, walnuts, and flaxseed; toss well.

Spread mixture evenly on prepared sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Using metal spatula, stir granola. Bake 15 minutes longer. Stir again. Sprinkle dates over; drizzle with honey. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Stir to loosen. Transfer to clean baking sheet to cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled in airtight container.**

*ground flaxseeds; available at natural foods stores

**I think the baking time could be cut down slightly in each increment, I only did about 12 minutes each time.

January 20, 2009

Kale and White Bean Stew

Good recipe, bad picture.  I made this with my boyfriend at his apartment and forgot my camera so this is a picture of some leftovers I had for lunch the next day.

I bought the February 2009 issue of Bon Appétit to read on the airplane on my way back to St. Louis.  For some reason the 3 hour flight seemed eternal so I got through the entire magazine with too much time to spare.  I went back a dog eared the pages that had recipes I wanted to try and this was one of them.  It seemed so simple but still like just the right kind of thing to combat the cold.

I omitted a few things from the recipe mostly for reasons of cost or convenience such as the thyme sprigs (instead I used dried rosemary), the bay leaf (what do those really add anyway?) and the Sherry wine vinegar.  However, I think fresh thyme (or rosemary) would have been a good investment though because unlike the large sprigs, I could not pick out the dried rosemary so it changed the texture of the stew a bit.  Regardless, this stew was everything I thought it would be.  The flavors were pure and earthy and the stew even seemed slightly creamy, just right for a brisk January night.

Kale and White Bean Stew
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 1/2 pounds kale leaves, center ribs and stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped shallots (about 4)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine [I used Trader Joe's Honey Moon, don't know if it's "dry" but it tasted great!]
  • 2 15-ounce cans white beans (preferably organic), drained
  • 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as tarragon, parsley, and chives) [I used chives]


Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop kale.

Heat olive oil in medium pot over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic; cook until soft, stirring, about 15 minutes (do not brown vegetables). Add white wine and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. Add white beans, 4 cups broth, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes. Add kale and simmer 5 minutes longer. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Add more broth by 1/2 cupfuls to thin stew, if desired. Mix in Sherry wine vinegar and chopped fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

January 19, 2009

Black and Orange Chili

Ok, so I know there's no reason to stray from something that's already good but what about trying something new?  Chili is a wonderful cold weather companion but making an unnecessary trip to the supermarket is not.  But let's back track a bit...

My friend Diane's dad is a great cook and one dish I always loved eating at their house was his vegetarian chili.  It was warm, comforting and rich with flavor but not calories.  I wanted the recipe for a long time and finally got it through a trade: I gave him my recipe for pumpkin raisin bread (this pumpkin bread recipe with 1 cup of raisins added) and he gave me his for vegetarian chili.  

I was so excited to make it for the first time and when I did it was every bit as good as when I used to have it at Diane's.  It was my go to chili recipe for a long time and still is, but after I made it the last time and ate its leftovers for days and days, I was more sick of chili than I thought possible.  

So this time I thought I should try something new.  I had some carrots and sweet potatoes in the fridge that I needed to use up and cans of black beans and diced tomatoes in the pantry, which I had been saving for just such an occasion.  And while I can't say this chili is better than the old stand by, I think it's at least on par and a nice step in a slightly different direction.

Black and Orange Chili

1- 2 tbsps olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato or 2 small, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1 14 oz can black beans, drained
1/5 block firm tofu, crumbled (optional)
2- 3 tbsps chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsps  ground cayanne
1 tbsp siracha
hot red pepper flakes

grated cheddar or monetary jack to garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When hot add red pepper flakes, onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent but do not brown.  Add carrots, sweet potatoes, jalepeno, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and water.  Mix and bring to a boil.  Add all spices plus siracha, stir and turn heat down to a simmer.  Simmer covered for about an hour then add black beans and tofu and continue simmering for 15- 30 minutes longer until chili has thickened.  Garnish with grated cheddar or jack cheese.*

*This chili is also thick enough to use as filling inside a burrito.  I had some earlier today rolled into a whole wheat tortilla with grated cheese.

January 18, 2009

My Own Moroccan Chicken

The flavors I used in this dish were inspired from a Moroccan lamb stew I made a couple months ago. I don't love lamb and the stew took at least a few hours to prepare but the sauce was amazing so I wanted to make something with similar flavors that was quick and easy.

This chicken is smoky, sweet and mildly spicy. It tastes rich but instead is rather healthful. I love using a dried fruit in the sauce because it soaks up some of the liquid and fills with juices. I think chopped dried apricots would also work really well here. Additionally I think chickpeas and rice pilaf would be a nice complement to the dish as a whole.

Moroccan Chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot hungarian paprika
1- 2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2- 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 dates, chopped

chicken broth as needed

Mix all spices together in a small bowl. Dice onion, tomatoes and dates and set aside. Lay chicken breasts on a plate, coat both sides of each breast with olive oil, rub spices on both sides until covered. Add about 1 tbsp olive oil and diced onions to a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, place chicken breasts into the skillet. Sear on each side for 4- 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and dates, turn heat down to medium and cook until chicken is cooked through. If there is not enough liquid in the pan add chicken broth as needed (I probably used about 1/4 cup).

January 16, 2009

Marinated and Grilled Tofu

I really like tofu... when it's done well. Tofu, although a protein, has similarities to grains and pastas in that it works like a canvas for a variety of flavors. Its own flavor is very mild, which allows it to soak up the flavors of what it is paired with. Unlike grains, however, the meaty texture of tofu lets it act as the centerpiece of a dish because provides a heartiness.

One of my favorite ways to eat tofu is marinated and grilled, but it must must must have those grill marks because not only do they make the dish rather aesthetically pleasing but they also add a smokiness that's quite satisfying. I marinated the tofu in a spicy asian inspired marinade because it is so damn cold here in St. Louis right now. "Feels like -13 degrees." You have got to be kidding me.

Marinated and Grilled Tofu
*I paired mine with cooked frozen peas and quinoa for a quick balanced meal but if you have more time, tofu works very well with bok choy or broccoli and brown rice or Chinese noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Covers 9- 12 squares tofu (use a firm or extra firm variety- I used firm)

1 1/2 tsp siracha
2- 3 tsps madras curry powder
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp ground cayanne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Cut the tofu into 1/2- 3/4 inch thick squares. Mix all ingredients for marinade in a small bowl or ramekin. Lay tofu squares out along a small slightly indented serving dish or plate. Taste the marinade to make sure you do not need to adjust the spices. Pour marinade evenly over the plate of tofu.

Take out a grill pan and spray with olive oil or use 2- 3 teaspoons to grease the entire pan. Turn on the heat to medium high and allow the pan to heat up (heating the pan before placing in the tofu helps create the sear marks). Flip tofu to make sure it is evenly coated.

Once the pan is heated, put tofu in and grill for about 8 minutes of each side. Grilling time varies depending on the kind of tofu you are using, your grill pan as well as your stove. It is easy to check if a side is done by lifting up the edge to see if grill marks are present.

January 13, 2009

Simple Split Pea Soup

It was so cold today and I was not ready.  I was running around all day on campus and utterly unprepared (i.e. hatless and gloveless) for the freezing cold weather.  This morning I looked out my window and it was sunny, not to mention I didn't want to be late for my first class, so I ran out the door and immediately regretted my sparsely chosen outerwear. 

The problem with the cold is that it makes me want something hot and comforting, which usually also means something creamy and fatty and unhealthy.  I bought a bunch of great salad ingredients at the grocery store but with this weather, I can hardly imagine eating them.  So to satisfy my craving for something that would warm my insides yet still be healthful, I decided to make split pea soup. 

I looked at a bunch of different recipes but couldn't find any the suited the ingredients I had on hand and the amount of effort I felt like exerting, so I made up my own.

Simple Split Pea Soup

1 1/4 cups split peas, rinsed
1 1/2 tbsps olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 cups water
3 cups vegetable broth

salt and pepper to taste
fresh chives to cut over top

After split peas have been rinsed submerge them in the 3 cups water which will later be added to the soup.  They will soak and soften up a bit this way as you chop the vegetables.  Add olive oil and chopped vegetables to a large pot and sauté until soft but do not brown, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the split peas with the 3 cups water they have been soaking in as well as the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture is boiling turn down the heat and let simmer for about an hour and a half.  It will be ready when the liquid has reduced and the split peas have broken down.  Garnish with chopped fresh chives, salt and pepper.

January 9, 2009

Greek Salad

For some reason I have really been craving Greek food lately.  In the past week I've had a delicious Mediterranean wrap, with Greek salad and grilled chicken inside, at an NYC diner, a Greek salad topped with falafel and a side of grape leaves from a Greek restaurant in my home town and now this Greek salad that I made for dinner tonight.  This is probably the most Greek food I've had in, well, forever.  

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just started liking olives and now I must mention that I also just started liking feta cheese.  So who knows what the cause of these cravings is; all I know is that I want some Greek salad; now.

One problem I have with making salads at home is that I always feel like they are never as good as the ones I get at restaurants.  I'm not quite sure why this is, but I do have the sneaking suspicion that it might be because I never have as many ingredients on hand as they do at a restaurant so I always feel like my homemade salads are missing something.  Either I don't have the right kind of cheese or the right kind of dressing or a big enough variety of fresh produce to use.  It's always something.  But not this time.

Since I just got back to school, today it was time to take a trip to the grocery store and since I knew exactly what I wanted for dinner tonight (i.e. greek salad) I picked up everything I would need.  And for the first time, this salad was just as good as any greek salad I've had at a restaurant.  The feta makes it rich and creamy while the fresh dill brightens up the flavor and the romaine and cucumbers provide a satisfying crunch.

Greek Salad
Serves 1

1/4 bag of pre-chopped and washed romaine lettuce
1/3 of a large cucumber, washed, chopped and de-seeded (optional)
1/4 of a small red onion, very thinly sliced
4- 5 pitted kalamata olives, chopped
2- 3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
about 1 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

1 tbsp red wine vinaigrette (I used Trader Joe's brand)

* I also added some white beans marinated in harissa I got from the olive bar at Whole Foods

Make a bed of romaine in a large plate or bowl, add all ingredients on top, mix and enjoy.

January 7, 2009

Creamy Green-y Pasta

So this is how I used the leftover grated zucchini from the zucchini bread.  I actually wish I had a Cuisinart with detachable grater attachment at school because it was SO fast and so easy to grate this zucchini for the bread.  I also really loved eating the grated zucchini with spaghetti because of their similar shapes.  I didn't work with any kind of recipe when I made this so I'll only provide some rough guidelines here.  Feel free to ask any questions though!

Creamy Green Pasta

spaghetti or linguini pasta
grated zucchini
frozen peas
olive oil
heavy cream
grated parmesan cheese

Boil pasta until al dente (about 8- 10 minutes).  While pasta is boiling, saute zucchini and frozen peas in a small amount of olive oil.  Remove zucchini and peas from pan and set aside.  Place the pan back over low heat and add heavy cream, pasta water, parmesan cheese and nutmeg and stir until cheese has melted.  If the sauce is not thick enough add more cheese or some cornstarch.  Once the sauce is fairly thick and creamy add sauteed zucchini, peas and cooked pasta to the pan.  Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste.

January 6, 2009

Zucchini Bread

For some reason, in the midst of my mom's holiday baking extravaganza, the thought of zucchini bread crossed my mind.  I don't remember why or how or when but after that, it would not leave my head until I made it.  So I went to the supermarket, bought 3 zucchini and searched online for a good recipe.  I went through blogs and websites and google and while I found a fair amount of results, nothing seemed quite right.

Some recipes used way too much oil, others had hardly any zucchini, others seemed like they would turn out bland, so I decided to make up my own.

The best recipe I found was this one on epicurious for sweet potato and zucchini bread.  The reviews for it are very good so my recipe is very very loosely based off this one.  

When it came out of the oven I was skeptical of how it had turned out because I made so many changes and substitutions to the original recipe.   This is pretty much the first time I have strayed so far from what is written.

So after it cooled I cut off a piece and was pleasantly surprised at how moist, fragrant and flecked with green the inside was.  I tried a piece and..... it's so good! (If I do say so myself...) Especially because it's fairly guilt free- just a 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 1/3 cup sugar and almost half whole wheat flour. I had some extra grated zucchini left over so in my next post I'll show you how I used it.   I hope you enjoy this bread as much as I do.

Zucchini Bread

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 whole wheat flour
  • 3  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated zucchini


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Sift first  9 ingredients into medium bowl. Beat sugar, olive oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla to blend in large bowl. Mix in zucchini. Add dry ingredients and stir well.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and let stand at room temperature.)