Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vegetable Tomato Sauce

We had some bits of grilled zucchini, tomato, onion, and bell pepper leftover from the kabobs earlier this week, so we decided to make this sauce and serve it over pasta, with a big green salad on the side.  I'm always happy when I get to make use of leftovers like this!

Other cooked/grilled vegetables that would be equally tasty: eggplant, squash, fennel, celery, carrots, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, or cauliflower.  You need about one cup total, chopped or sliced.

I pretty much followed Bittman's recipe exactly, except that we added some minced garlic about a minute before we added the tomatoes.

He says this recipe makes enough sauce to coat about a pound of pasta.  Not for me!  I'm one of those people who like just a little pasta with their sauce, not the other way around.  I like there to be extra sauce left on the plate after the noodles are gone so I can mop it up with a big hunk of crusty bread.  So if you are one of those people, it might only coat half a pound of pasta.  Either way, the end result is a thick, chunky, delicious sauce that is very simple and quick to make.

Fast Vegetable Tomato Sauce
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4, enough for one pound of pasta (unless you like a lot of sauce, like I do, and then it might only coat half a pound)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced, if you want
One 24- to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped or sliced cooked vegetables
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley or fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes, until soft.  Add the garlic, if using, and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Let the tomatoes cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  They will break apart and the mixture will thicken during this time.  Add the vegetables, and cook until heated through.

Taste, adjust the seasoning as necessary, and immediately toss with pasta, or spoon over polenta, spaghetti squash, chicken, etc.  The possibilities are kind of endless with this one.  You can also make this ahead of time and refrigerate for up to several days until ready to use, just reheat gently before serving.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beer-Glazed Black Beans

This weekend my sister Jamie and her boyfriend Matt came down to visit.  We had a great time giving him the tour of downtown Corvallis, making the rounds through all of our favorite local shops.  Back at our place we played a rousing game of 10,000 (Joe won) before starting dinner.  They brought marinated chicken, tofu, and veggies to grill, and I made beer-glazed black beans to go with.

I use canned black beans a lot, but lately I've started using dried ones more and more.  I really do think they taste better, and they are so cheap!  That morning, we rinsed them and picked out any weird looking, shriveled beans and/or rocks, and started them soaking in a pot with cold water.  About 8 hours later, we gently boiled them until they were tender (checking every 10 minutes, as they go from tender to mushy very quickly).  Then we just added little salt and pepper and they were ready to go.  We cooked a whole pound of beans, even though we only needed three cups of cooked beans for the recipe.  The extra cooked beans were put into a Tupperware container (adding water to cover), and stuffed into the freezer, ready to be used for another meal.

We used a Hefeweizen for the beer, but you could also use a lager, stout, or porter.  The lighter beers add more of a fruity flavor to the dish, while the dark beers add a deep, caramelized flavor.

Beer-Glazed Black Beans
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup beer
3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained but still moist (could also use pinto beans or black-eyes peas instead)
1 tablespoon chili powder or ground cumin
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add the oil to a large skillet and heat to medium-high.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onion has softened, add the garlic, cook for another minute or so, then add all the remaining ingredients, including a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.  

Let the mixture come up to steady simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes.  The liquid will reduce and the mixture will thicken.  Check back often to make sure the liquid doesn't boil away too rapidly.

Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve hot.  This dish can also be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge for up to three days, and reheated before serving.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cranberry Flax Muffins

This is one of my favorite muffin recipes.  I make these every chance I get, not only because they are yummy and healthy, but because last year in our CSA we got a TON of flaxseed, so I'm always looking for ways to use it.  This time I made them for my friend Shelly for her birthday.  She enjoys eating healthy, organic food as much as I do.  Her husband even refers to me as her "organic food twin".

Don't judge the recipe by the look of these muffins - I forgot to add baking soda so they didn't rise very much.  It didn't seem to effect the flavor, they just look kind of squatty.

This recipe mostly uses ingredients you could theoretically have on hand in your pantry at all times, except, in my case, for the buttermilk.  I never have buttermilk, and I hate buying a whole carton of it for one recipe.  That's why I always keep a tub of dehydrated cultured buttermilk in the fridge.  It seems to keep forever, and it's a great substitute for baking and cooking when the recipe calls for liquid buttermilk (it won't work for dressings though).  You can find it in the baking aisle.

There are also a ton of ways to modify this recipe.  I've linked to the original recipe below, and if you go there you'll see a bunch of comments from people describing the different things they have done to change the recipe.  Some add shredded carrots, some use blueberries instead of dried cranberries, some use applesauce instead of the oil, etc.  One of these days maybe I'll try a variation, but the original is just so good!

Cranberry Flax Muffins
adapted from
makes about 18 muffins

1 1/2 cups bran flakes cereal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 cup 1% buttermilk
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
2 tablespoons whole flax seed

Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare your muffin pan by either spraying the cups with nonstick spray or setting a paper liner into each cup.

Combine the first nine ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg whites, buttermilk, honey, and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients until just moistened.  Stir in the cranberries.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing the muffins to a wire rack.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yumm! Enchiladas

Besides Yumm sauce, the basic ingredients of a typical Yumm bowl - rice, beans, cheese, salsa, olives, sour cream, and cilantro - are also basic ingredients in lots of Mexican food dishes, such as enchiladas.  So I decided to incorporate Yumm sauce into my usual enchilada recipe and see how it turned out.  Joe and I really liked the result!  It still tasted like an enchilada but there was also that familiar zing of Yumm sauce flavor.

I know the best way to make enchiladas is to lightly fry the corn tortillas in oil, submerge them in warm enchilada sauce, then fill with cheese and/or other filling and roll them up.  That's the way my mom used to make them.  A few years ago, however, she came up with a much easier method and I have been making them that way ever since.  Instead of frying, filling and rolling each tortilla, you skip the fry step entirely and just lay them flat in the pan, add your filling over them, and layer more tortillas on top.  The result is more like a lasagna-type dish.  It's just as good in my opinion, but healthier and not as messy to prepare.

I used a can of enchilada sauce because it had been in my pantry for awhile and I wanted to use it up, but next time I would like to make my own.

This recipe is for a small (9 x 9) pan because I wasn't sure how they would turn out so I just made a small batch.  I just used canned red kidney beans and cheese this time, but you could fill them with just about anything.  In the past we have used Mexican spice tempeh and cooked shredded chicken.

Yumm Sauce Enchiladas
inspired by Cafe Yumm 
Serves 4

1-19 ounce can enchilada sauce (or make your own)
9 corn tortillas
1-15 ounce can dark red kidney beans
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup Yumm Sauce (that might be a conservative estimate, I didn't measure)
Optional garnishes: sliced black olives, diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro, dollop of sour cream, sliced avocado

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Warm the enchilada sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

In a 9x9 baking dish, spoon a little of the enchilada sauce over the bottom, spreading it out in an even layer.

Place a layer of tortillas over the sauce, breaking them into pieces to fit into the corners as needed.

The next layer is your "filling", so add about half the beans, and 1/3 of each of the cheeses.

Add about half of the Yumm sauce in dollops over the whole surface, then use a spatula to spread it out a bit more evenly.

Next, add another layer of tortillas, the rest of the beans, another 1/3 of each cheese, and the rest of the Yumm sauce.  Cover with the remaining tortillas.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce evenly over the top.

Top with the rest of the cheese, and scatter sliced olives over the top, if using.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until it's bubbling excitedly around the edges and the cheese is melted on top.

Remove from oven, and preheat the broiler.

Top with diced tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions (if using).  Return to the oven and broil for a few minutes, just to warm up the toppings you've just added.  Let stand for about 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.  Serve with sliced avocado and sour cream if desired.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tahini and Vegetables

We have lunch potlucks at my work about once a month, and sometimes it's a challenge to think of something to bring that can be made ahead of time, can be served cold or at room temperature (or can be stored warm in a crock-pot all morning), and that's relatively cheap to make.  I really liked the dish I brought this month.  I found it on VeganYumYum, an amazing food blog.  I made a double batch so we had it for dinner too.  It was really tasty and I noticed several people coming back for seconds at the potluck so I took that to be a good sign!  I think if you like noodle dishes with peanut sauce you would probably like this too.

It says it serves 4-6 normally, however, I think it must have served about 12-15 at our potluck, but that's because there is always such a huge spread of food that people just take tiny portions of everything.  

I used roasted tahini for this recipe, because that's what I had, but raw tahini is what she used in her blog.  Tahini is made from sesame seeds, and usually located near the peanut butter in the grocery store or possibly in the natural, health food section.  Tahini is not the same thing as sesame paste (she says you can use that instead of tahini, but you need to use less).  

Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles
adapted from VeganYumYum
Serves 4-6  

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 carrots, peeled
1/4 of a large green cabbage head
1 stalk broccoli, florets only
Handful fresh mint, chopped (cilantro or basil would work as well)
Sesame seeds and more mint, for garnish

For the Tahini Sauce:

1/4 cup tahini (raw or roasted)
2 tablespoons low sodium Tamari, or soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili sauce or 1 chopped fresh chili
1 teaspoon Dijon or Stone-ground mustard
1 pinch salt, if needed
Fresh ground black pepper

Cook the noodles according to package directions.  Drain, then rinse with cold water.  Lightly coat the noodles with oil to prevent them from sticking while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  They can even be stored in the fridge at this point if you wanted to do this step a day or two in advance.

Lightly steam the broccoli florets in the microwave-safe bowl with a couple tablespoons of water, covered, or use a steamer basket on the stove.  (I didn't actually do this for mine, but I thought the broccoli was a little too 'raw' tasting so I am telling you to steam yours.  After they are steamed, chop them smaller if necessary, they should be about the size of grape tomatoes.  

Remove the core from the cabbage.  I do it by laying the wedge of cabbage on it's side, then slice down at an angle to cut the core out.  It's hard to explain, but she does it a little differently and took a nice picture of it.

Shred the carrots and cabbage.  You can use a box grater for the carrots, or use a food processor, using the the shredder disk as you would for shredding cheese.  For the cabbage, use the slicing blade on the food processor (the one with one single wide slit), or just slice it thinly with a knife.  

Toss together the vegetables and the pasta into a large bowl (you'll want to have plenty of room in the bowl to toss it all together with the sauce too)  

Mix together the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl.  My tahini was cold from the fridge so it took several minutes of determined whisking for it to become a smooth uniform sauce.    Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

Pour the sauce over the noodles and veggies and mix thoroughly, using your hands, or, if you are serving this to lots of coworkers, a good pair of salad tongs.  Add the chopped mint and sesame seeds just before serving.  

This keeps for several days (I know this for a fact because I ate it for several days in a row after I made it!).  She suggests making a double batch of the sauce if you are a big fan of it, or if you are going to make it in advance, because the noodles will start absorbing the sauce over time.  

I didn't actually double the sauce recipe, because I would have had to quadruple it since I was already doubling the whole thing anyway, but I reserved about 1/2 cup of sauce and mixed it in just before serving it at the potluck, which seemed to freshen it up nicely, then garnished with the mint and sesame seeds.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tofu Chow Mein with Mushrooms and Bok Choy

I'm loving our stir fry theme right now.  We had extra cilantro, scallions, and limes from our beef stir fry earlier this week, so we decided to try another of Jamie Oliver's stir fry recipes.  This time we chose his recipe for chicken chow mein, except we substituted tofu for the chicken.

We decided to use Mark Bittman's recipe for poaching tofu.  If you are using firm or extra firm tofu, you don't necessarily have to do this, but we thought it would help keep the tofu from falling apart in the stir fry.  Just bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Carefully add the whole piece of tofu to the boiling water.  Lower the heat so the water bubbles gently.  Cook until the tofu floats, about 5-10 minutes, then remove the block with a slotted spoon and allow it to drain on paper towels.   

Tofu (or Chicken) Chow Mein
serves 2-3

1 tablespoon ginger, minced or finely sliced (if you use the jarred stuff like me, it is already minced)
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 a fresh red chili, finely sliced
1 large skinless chicken breast fillet, preferably free-range or organic, OR a one pound block of firm tofu, poached as described above if desired.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, finely sliced
Small bunch fresh cilantro
2 baby bok choy, or one larger bok choy
Handful shiitake mushrooms (optional), roughly chopped or left whole
4 ounces (2 bundles) chow mein noodles
Peanut or vegetable oil
1 heaped teaspoon cornstarch
One 8-ounce can water chestnuts, not drained (I could only find a 5-ounce can of sliced water chestnuts)
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 small lime

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water, pick the leaves off the cilantro and set aside, and finely chop the cilantro stalks.  Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise and set aside.  If using chicken, slice it into 1/2 inch strips and lightly season with salt and pepper.  If using tofu, slice into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes.  

Preheat a large wok or large frying pan over high heat.  When good and hot, add a couple tablespoons oil.  Add the chicken or tofu pieces and cook for a few minutes, until lightly browned.  

Add the noodles and the bok choy to the pot of boiling water.  Cook for 2-3 minutes only, then drain in a colander set over a bowl, to reserve some of the cooking water.  

To the tofu (or chicken), add the ginger, garlic, chili, cilantro stalks, mushrooms if using, and half the scallions.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.  Add the cornstarch, water chestnuts (including their water).  Stir, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom.  Remove from heat.  Stir in two tablespoons of soy sauce.  Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the mixture and stir to combine.

The stir fry, before adding noodles and bok choy (yum!):

Add the noodles and bok choy to the stir fry, adding a little of the cooking water to loosen the noodles if necessary.  Taste and season with more soy sauce as needed.  

To serve, pile your portion into a bowl or onto a plate, making sure to grab a piece of bok choy or two.  Spoon some of the juices over the top, and garnish with some of the reserved scallions, the cilantro leaves, and lime wedges.  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sizzling Beef with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce

Has anyone else been watching Jamie Oliver's new show, Jamie's Food Revolution?  I think it's great what he's trying to do with that town in West Virginia.  He's trying to reform the school's lunch program and get people in that town to learn how to cook and eat real food, not frozen/fried processed crap.  In one episode, Jamie prepares this fresh teryaki noodle dish with 5 different kinds of veggies in it for the school's lunch, but it's not considered equivalent because it doesn't contain a full 1 1/4 cups of veggies.  So he points to the burger and fries they are serving and asks where the vegetables are in that meal?  She responds, "French fries are considered a vegetable."  WHAT?!?!  Ugh, we have a long way to go people. 

In the most recent episode, Jamie was trying to get 1,000 people to cook in his community kitchen in 5 days.  Each person learned how to make a basic stir fry and got their picture taken with their finished dish, which was taped up on the wall.  After watching people cook and eat that delicious-looking stir fry for an hour, it's no wonder we had a craving to make one ourselves.  I happen to have his cookbook, also called Jamie's Food Revolution, so we flipped through that for a stir fry idea.    

We decided on a stir fry that used sirloin, rice, and black bean sauce.  We couldn't find black bean sauce at the Co-op, so we went to a little Asian food store in town and found a chili black bean sauce.  The recipe called for a fresh red chili, so we thought we would kill two birds with one stone and get this sauce.

...It was SO UNBELIEVABLY SPICY.  The flavor, from what I could tell, was really good, and the meat we got was really tender, but it was so spicy I couldn't even enjoy it.  I think I was actually in physical pain.  Next time, we'll just do the regular black bean sauce (like the recipe called for), since I am such a wuss.

Anyone want a jar of super spicy black bean sauce?  You're welcome to it!

Sizzling Beef with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce
adapted from Jamie's Food Revolution
Serves 2 (we had extra rice)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup long grain or basmati rice
1/2 pound top loin or sirloin
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced (or approximate the equivalent of jarred mined ginger)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 a fresh red chili, finely sliced
2 scallions, finely sliced
a handful of fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons sesame oil (could probably use less, it was pretty oily)
Peanut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons good-quality black bean sauce
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more as needed
2 limes
1 egg, preferably organic or free-range

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, stir in the rice and cook according to package directions.  When the rice is done, use a fine mesh strainer to drain the rice, and rinse in cold water.  Allow the rice to dry out and chill in the fridge while you get the rest of the meal going.  You could also make the rice the night before and refrigerate until ready to use.

Trim any excess fat from the steak and slice into 1/2 inch strips.

Pick the cilantro leaves off their stalks and set aside.  Finely chop the stalks.

In a large bowl, add the ginger, garlic, chili, scallions, cilantro stalks, and steak strips.  Add the sesame oil and mix everything together.

Preheat a wok, or a large frying pan, over high heat.  When it's very hot, add a couple tablespoons of peanut oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Pour your bowl of chopped ingredients into the pan.  Mix quickly and give the pan a good shake.  Stir fry for about two minutes, stirring constantly so nothing burns.  Add the black bean sauce, one tablespoon of the soy sauce, and the juice of half a lime.  Keep stirring.  Taste and season with salt and pepper and more soy sauce as needed.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl, cover with foil to keep warm.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel and return to the heat.  Add a couple more tablespoons of peanut oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Crack the egg into a small bowl (I always crack eggs into a small bowl first, just in case I get a piece of shell in the egg, I still have a chance to fish it out) then add the egg to the pan, stirring immediately.  Add a tablespoon of soy sauce to the egg while it quickly cooks.  Once it is scrambled, gradually stir in your cooked rice, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan as you go.  Keep mixing for a few minutes until the rice is steaming hot, then taste and season with soy sauce as needed.

To serve, spoon the rice into bowls or onto plates.  Top with the meat and black bean sauce.  Garnish with cilantro leaves and wedges of lime.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Curried Lentil Burritos

I had made a version of this burrito filling a few months ago, using a Cuisine At Home recipe from Cuisine Tonight: Sandwiches and Salads.  It's basically a mixture of lentils, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes, wrapped in a tortilla.  However, when I went to make it this time, the book was nowhere to be found.  A week later, as I'm writing this blog, it's still MIA.  So I just did the best I could from memory.  I consulted How to Cook Everything for directions on how to cook the lentils, and found that he has a similar recipe for Lentils and Potatoes with Curry.  It sounded very similar to the Cuisine at Home recipe, except that it was missing diced tomatoes and spinach, and it was not wrapped in a tortilla.

I omitted the potatoes because I don't like my burritos to have that many carbohydrates in them.  To me, the tortilla is plenty.  I'm the same way with rice.  I'll either have the burrito filling with rice and no tortilla, or the filling and tortilla but no rice.  I started doing that back when I was in Weight Watchers and it helps keep the Points values down to a reasonable level. 

Dried lentils are great to have on hand because they cook really fast - about the same amount of time it takes to cook rice.  They are a cheap source of protein too.  

Curried Lentil Burritos
inspired by Cuisine Tonight: Sandwiches and Salads, and Mark Bittman: How to Cook Everything
Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 cup dried lentils, washed and picked over
3 1/2 cups water, vegetable stock or broth, plus more as needed
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large bunch spinach, washed and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 flour tortillas, any size that you want

Heat the oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the curry powder and stir to combine.  A couple of minutes later, add the water or broth, the lentils, and the tomatoes.  Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the the mixture simmers gently.  Cover partially and let the mixture cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the lentils become too dry, add more liquid.  Season with salt as the lentils become tender.  

I don't really remember exactly how long we ended up cooking the lentils.  It's the kind of thing where you just need to keep checking on them and taste a few every now and then to see when they become tender.  We just kept them simmering until they started to fall apart a little, at which point we figured they were tender enough.  You should have a nice thick mixture when you are done.  If you still have a lot of liquid, remove the lid completely so more liquid will cook off.    

When the lentils are done, stir in the spinach.  It will cook down in just a couple of minutes.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper as necessary.

For the tortillas, heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat.  Lay one tortilla down inside the dry skillet and let it cook for 20 seconds or so, until it's lightly browned in spots.  It may even puff up a little.  Flip, and cook the other side.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.  

Fill and fold up your burrito.  Garnish with plain yogurt, Yumm Sauce, or cilantro if desired.  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Turkey Noodle Soup

This meal is brought to you by my mother-in-law, Sharron!  She made a delicious turkey at her house for Easter dinner.  After dinner, Joe carved the rest of the turkey (and we packaged up a portion of it for ourselves for leftovers), then Sharron put the whole carcass in a huge pot of water and let it simmer for about an hour or so.  Then we poured the contents of the pot over a strainer, reserving the broth.  It filled three large mason jars, and she let us take two of them home with us!  We don't cook whole chickens or turkeys are our house very often, so to get real homemade stock like this was really a treat.

When we got the jars of stock home, we refrigerated them overnight, and the next day they had become completely gelatinous, with about a half-inch layer of white colored fat on top.  We scooped off the fat with a spoon, and kept the stock refrigerated until we were ready to use it.    

A few days later, I made Mark Bittman's Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, using one of his variations that included fusilli and roasted garlic, and using turkey instead of chicken.  Of course, it turned out awesome!  It would be hard to screw up anything that started with homemade stock.  I only had one problem with it, and that was the shape of the onions.  He has you halve the onion and thinly slice it.  To me, that produced slices of onions that were too long compared to the other ingredients.  If I were to make this again, I think I would quarter the onion and then slice it.  But that's just me being picky.  It reminded me of a little place I like in town called the Soup Shop; all the ingredients in their soups are roughly the same size, which makes it easy to get perfect spoonfuls of soup!

To go with the soup, we had slices of Sharron's "Alligator Bread".  It's a sweet bread, kind of like Challah.  She has been making it since Joe was a little kid.  She just decided to make it in the shape of an alligator one day, and Joe and his sisters loved it so much that she has been making it that way ever since.  Isn't that so cute!?

Turkey Noodle Soup with Fusilli and Garlic
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
Serves 4-6

8 ounces fusilli (or other curly pasta)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 head of roasted garlic, cloves removed from their skins and mashed into a paste
6 cups turkey stock (or chicken stock)
8 ounces cooked and cut up boneless turkey meat (we did a mixture of light and dark meat)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish (we forgot this)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water and add the pasta.  Cook until it's just about done, but still lightly chewy.  Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.

Add the oil to a deep saucepan and heat over medium-high.  When hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the mashed garlic, stir, then add the stock.  Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Once the soup is boiling, add the cooked pasta and the cut up cooked turkey.  Cook for a couple of minutes, just enough to finish cooking the pasta and thoroughly heat the turkey.  Taste, and season with more salt and pepper as necessary.  Garnish with the parsley and Parmesan.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Steamed Artichokes

A week ago I saw a nice looking basket of artichokes at the Co-Op, and, on a whim, I bought one.  Up until this point, I'd never made anything that started with an actual, whole artichoke. I'd only used jarred or frozen artichoke hearts, and usually the end result was spinach dip, so you couldn't taste the artichokes anyway.

Well this time, I wanted to cook the artichoke as simply as possible, so I decided the simplest way would be to steam it.  Then I wanted to eat it leaf by leaf, down to the heart, so I could really appreciate what an artichoke actually tastes like.  However, I hadn't the foggiest idea of where to start.  After consulting numerous online cooking sites and my trusty How to Cook Everything Cookbook, I learned how to turn this strange looking vegetable into a tasty meal.

If you've never eaten an artichoke before, what you do is peel off the leaves, one at a time, put the base of the leaf between your front teeth and scrape off the tender flesh.  Discard the remaining leaf.  As you get closer to the center, the leaves get more and more tender.  Dipping the leaves in melted butter is standard, though we also tried Yumm sauce (the standard condiment in our house) which was really good as well.

Joe and I started out eating each leaf slowly and thoughtfully, savoring the flavor and complimenting ourselves for trying something new.  As we neared the center, we started eating faster and faster, excited for what (we had read) would be the best part, the part that made the whole thing worth eating - the heart.  We had to pause briefly after we finished off the leaves in order to scrape out the "choke", i.e, the stringy thistle which you don't want to eat, but what remains after that is totally edible, and totally delicious!

 You can also remove the choke before you serve it - just pry open the very innermost leaves and scrape it out with a spoon.  Just be sure to let it cool down a bit first.

Steamed Artichokes
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4

4 large or 12 small artichokes (or, if you are just experimenting, use one like I did)
Melted butter, lemon wedges, olive oil, and salt for serving (optional: Yumm Sauce!)

First, you want to cut off the stem so it sits flat, leaving about 1/2 an inch or so, then trim about 1/2 an inch off the top.  Next, snip the pointed ends of the leaves off with kitchen shears.  Rub lemon juice all over the freshly cut surfaces to prevent browning.

Fill a large pot with about 5-6 inches of water and bring it to a boil.  I added a handful of thyme sprigs and the rest of my lemon juice to the pot for added flavor  (Bittman suggests tarragon, thyme, onion, garlic, lemon juice, or vinegar).  Once the steam gets going, turn the heat down a bit, set a steamer basket in the pot, and set the artichoke bottom up in the steamer.  Cover and cook for 20-40 minutes.  Make sure the water in the pot doesn't dry up.

To check to see if it's done, pull off one of the outer leaves and taste it; the leaf should pull away easily and the flesh should be tender.

Drain upside down for a minute or two if serving hot, or just leave it upside down and let it cool completely if you plan to serve it at room temperature.

Serve hot with melted butter, lemon juice and/or olive oil and salt.  He also suggests serving it at room temperature with mayo.  Sick...I mean...sure, if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kiwi-Strawberry Mandala

Sometimes I can be convinced to eat fruit for dessert, if it's something as tasty as this!

We've been making our own yogurt for about a month now, and having it around all the time (especially knowing that each batch only lasts about a week) means that I am now enjoying yogurt almost daily.  Usually, I mix in a small spoonful of strawberry preserves and top with a little granola or grape nuts.  Yum!

I don't know what a mandala is, nor am I going to bother to look it up for this post, but basically this recipe just involves dressing up plain yogurt and adding some fresh fruit.  Simple and delicious!

It calls for vanilla yogurt, and I planned on just starting with my plain yogurt and adding a little vanilla extract, but I completely forgot.  Oh well.  It also calls for something called cream honey, which is another name for whipped honey.  I didn't have that, and after briefly floating the idea of trying to whip regular honey with my hand mixer, I just stirred regular honey into the yogurt.  Didn't seem to cause a problem. :-)

Kiwi-Strawberry Mandala
adapted from World's Healthiest Foods website
Serves 2

8 ounces low-fat vanilla or soy yogurt (if you have plain yogurt, just add a tiny bit of vanilla extract)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon cream honey (or regular honey)
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest*
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest*
1 kiwifruit
4 strawberries
Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans, and/or orange zest for topping

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, orange juice, honey, and the zests, until throughly combined.  Divide the yogurt mixture into two soup bowls.

Peel the kiwifruit and thinly slice into rounds.  Take the stems off the strawberries and slice into quarters lengthwise.

Arrange the fruit on top of the yogurt and garnish with nuts or orange zest, if using.

Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or so until the yogurt is chilled (i.e., put these together before you eat dinner and they will be ready for dessert!)

*use organic if possible, to avoid wax coating.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weeknight Meat Loaf with Herbed Potatoes

This month's issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a spread of all different kinds of meat loaf recipes.  The version I normally make is a really good one from Gourmet magazine, but I'm always game for trying out new recipes.  They even had a meatless "meat" loaf that I'm going to try out in the near future!

This version uses a lot of Mediterranean ingredients like feta, plain yogurt, lemon, and cucumber (on the side).  You press it into a square baking dish, so it cooks faster (thus the "weeknight" in the title) and comes out very dense.

The herbed potatoes that go with it were fabulous!  The rosemary smelled amazing.  It was also really easy because they cooked in the oven at the same time as the meat loaf.

It's not really a good time to buy tomatoes, and the Co-Op didn't have Romas, but they did have some slicing tomatoes from Mexico.  They were alright.

Here is the meal, before going into the oven.

I had fun being incredibly meticulous with the layering of the tomato and lemon slices.

Weeknight Meat Loaf
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, March 2010
Serves 9

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef or ground lamb (we used lamb)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into thin wedges
1/2 a medium cucumber, cut up
Feta cheese (optional, for garnish)
I recipe Herbed Potatoes, below

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.  Line the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish with parchment paper or foil.

In a large bowl, mix together the egg, yogurt, onion, bread crumbs, oregano, mint, lemon zest, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add the beef and 1/3 cup feta cheese.  Mix gently to combine (take off your rings and dig in with your hands!).  Evenly spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish, pressing it into the corners and smoothing the top.  Arrange the lemon and tomato slices over the top however you like.

Bake 45-50 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 F.  Ours had to bake about 15 minutes longer than the time they recommended before it got to the proper temperature, not sure why.  It was still pink in the middle, (but we could tell that it was definitely cooked), Joe thinks it was just because all the juices pooled in the center, since there was really no way for the meat to drain while it cooked.

When it's done, you need to pour off the fat.  There was A LOT of liquid to pour off in ours (not just fat, but possibly the liquid from the yogurt and tomato?).  Anyway, it felt like we poured a lot of liquid.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

When ready to serve, cut into 9 squares.  If the serving size seems small, play a trick on your eyes like I did; cut each wedge in half again, so you have two shorter pieces of the same size, so it looks like more food on your plates. :-)  Serve chopped cucumber on the side and garnish with crumbled feta cheese.

As for the leftovers, we did meat loaf sandwiches one day, and then another day we chopped it up, mixed it with some rice, leftover cucumber and feta, and had it in a wrap (with Yumm Sauce, of course).

Herbed Potatoes

2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the sliced potatoes and the oil.  Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake in the oven with the meatloaf for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are starting to crisp and turn brown.  Remove from oven and season with the rosemary, salt, and pepper.
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