Monday, January 30, 2012

Cooking with Trader Joe's - Energy Bars

I love homemade granola bars! I wanted something that could be a quick snack during the day and these chewy little bars seemed like the perfect fit. I used what I had on hand so I ended up swapping some ingredients: dried cranberries instead of raisins, almond butter instead of sunflower seed butter, and sunflower seeds instead of pepitas. I also used half the amount of agave it called for, and it was sweet enough for me.

I found this recipe in a new cookbook I got for my birthday: Cooking with Trader Joe's. This version is all about "skinny" recipes using Trader Joe's products.

All the recipes seem nice and easy and heavy on the veggies. There are lots of recipes using tofu and tempeh. We loved 4 out of the 5 recipes we've made from it so far:

1) Mexican potato hash: this dish gets it's kick from soy chorizo, which I'd never had before but really liked. Potatoes and shredded carrots make up the bulk of the dish, which help make it really filling.

2) Tofurella sticks - yep, exactly like it sounds - these are lightly breaded and pan-fried, dipped in marinara. Just for fun, I made a couple of mozzarella sticks using string cheese as well.

3) Crave-worthy Brussel's Sprouts - delicious, and very simple. Lightly sauteed with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

4) Lentil Pate - this was just so-so for me. It's basically a dip with lentils, olives, capers, lemon juice, and garlic. I really liked it when it was freshly made and still warm, but later on in the week I was reluctant to eat it.

5) These energy bars. A big hit with me, obviously.

Energy Bars
adapted from Cooking with Trader Joe's Cookbook - Skinny Dish
makes 12 bars

Notes: If you don't have ground flaxseed, you can substitute an equal amount of cornstarch, but only use 2 tablespoons of water instead of 3. You'll just be missing out on some omega-3s. Depending on what nuts and seeds you use, these bars will be about 5-6 WW Points+ each.

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)
3 tablespoons warm filtered water
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1 cup roasted and salted pepitas, or roasted sunflower seeds, or just about any other seeds or crushed nuts
1/4 cup packed raisins or dried cranberries
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or other seed or nut butter
2-4 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on how sweet you want it
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir together the flaxseed meal the the water in a small bowl and let soak for 10 minutes until it forms a gel.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, coconut (if using), pepitas, and raisins.

In a separate medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave the sunflower seed butter, agave, and vanilla for 30 seconds. Stir together until well mixed. Add the banana and mash with a fork to combine. Stir in the gelatinized flax mixture.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Press the mixture firmly into a lightly greased 9x9-inch baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on the counter for 15-20 minutes, then chill in the fridge for about 45 minutes before slicing into 12 pieces.

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days, or individually wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.

Pro-tip: Try crumbling one of these bars over Greek yogurt lightly drizzled with maple syrup for a fabulous dessert!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Braised and Glazed Butternut Squash

It's a crime that I've never blogged about this recipe before. It's one of our go-to, favorite side dishes during the fall and winter months. We like to use butternut because it's the easiest to peel, but any winter squash (except spaghetti) will work. It's quick, delicious and goes with just about any main dish.

Braised and Glazed Butternut Squash
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Using a large deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, add the oil and garlic and heat over medium heat. After about two minutes, or when the garlic begins to color, add the squash, stock, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender, stirring a couple of times.

Remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated away and the squash begins to turn brown Shake the pan every so often and stir once or twice during this time. Try not to over-stir because it will break up the squash too much. Keep it cooking until the squash is browned and crisp to your liking. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed, garnish with parsley, and serve.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Salmon and Leek Pot Pie

While parts of Washington are getting all kinds of crazy amounts of snow this week, down here in the Willamette valley it's raining cats and dogs. Areas of my town have flooded; people are evacuating out of their homes, and some of the farms where I buy my produce and eggs are completely submerged. It's times like these where I am actually thankful that I live on a big ass hill. Whether you are holed up in your house because of rain or snow, make this salmon and leek pot pie to chase away your winter blues.

You know who else likes salmon? This fuzzy one:

Salmon and Leek Pot Pie
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
serves 4

Notes: The original recipe makes 6-8 servings, but since I only had one pound of salmon in the freezer and didn't want to buy more, I halved it. You'll still have to bake a whole sheet of puff pastry regardless, but this way you'll have lots of extra to nibble on. This recipe calls for dill, which if you know me at all, you know that I think dill is pretty much the worst thing ever, so needless to say, I left it out. The cookbook seems to think it's pretty important in this dish though, so if you like it, use it.

For the topping:
Flour for the counter
1 (9 1/2- by 9-inch) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (heads up, this takes about 40 minutes!)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the filling:
1 pound salmon fillets, skin removed
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large or two small leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill (Optional. If you do use it, don't sub dried)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch nutmeg (freshly ground if you have it)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Extra lemon wedges for serving

Get all your ingredients prepped while the puff pastry is thawing.

Preheat the oven to 425 F, and adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Lightly dust a clean counter top with some flour and gently unfold the sheet of puff pastry. Using a pizza cutter, cut along the two seams so that you have 3 pieces. Then cut each of those crosswise into four pieces, so you have 12 total. You could also get fancy and use different shaped cookie cutters if you wanted. Brush the pastry with the egg, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and lightly browned (don't worry if it doesn't look done; you will put it back in the oven later). Set aside to cool on the baking sheet until needed.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400 F (at this time I also moved the oven rack up to the middle position, because I was afraid of baking the pot pies that close to the heating element, even though the recipe didn't say to move it up).

Remove any pin bones from salmon and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Now decide whether you want to make your pot pies in individual ramekins or a 9x9 (or 9x13 if doubling the recipe) baking dish. I chose ramekins. Divide the salmon among the ramekins or spread out in the bottom of the baking dish and set aside.

Add the butter to a large Dutch oven and heat over medium. When the butter is melted, add the leeks and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, just about 15 seconds. Next, stir in the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Slowly whisk in the clam juice and milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce has thickened.

Off heat, add the peas, dill (if using), lemon juice, nutmeg, and cayenne. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Pour the mixture over the salmon in the baking dish or ramekins. Use a spoon to redistribute the salmon evenly throughout the dish.

Arrange the puff pastry rectangles over the casserole, or place one on top of each ramekin. Bake for about 13-15 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the salmon is fully cooked (place ramekins on a baking sheet before placing into the oven). Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving with the lemon wedges (enough time for a photo!).

Leftovers: We made four ramekins' worth of this meal, only ate two that night, and covered the other two with foil and stored in the fridge. The next night, we heated them up right in the ramekins in the microwave, using the "soup" setting. The puff pastry was obviously not as crisp the second day, but other than that it was delicious.

Make ahead: The topping can made up through that first 8 minute baking step up to one day in advance. Wrap them in plastic wrap and store at room temperature until ready to use. The sauce can be made up to a day in advance, just don't add the "off heat" ingredients. Transfer the sauce to a covered container and refrigerate. When ready to assemble and bake the casserole, transfer the sauce back to a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then proceed with the recipe. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Manhattan Clam Chowder

I love a bowl of creamy New England clam chowder just as much as the next gal, but not this month. For me, January is always about cutting back, trying to make up for the onslaught of unnecessary fat and sugar consumption otherwise known as December. The healthier tomato-based version of this classic chowder seemed like the perfect remedy.

This year was better (eating-wise) than most, on account of a nasty case of bronchitis that showed up at my door in the last few days before Christmas.

Why is that a good thing, you ask? I had planned to do all my holiday baking that week, and since no one wants a plate of cookies from someone who's coughing constantly and sounds like a 70-year-old smoker, I didn't bake a thing. Well, except for one batch of Leanne's Sugar-Free Coconut Almond Bark, but I made it right before I got sick, and I ended up eating most of it myself (I was sick, don't judge me). But at least the one thing I did make was full of healthy fats and contained no added sugar!

This chowder recipe is from a cookbook based on a popular restaurant called Mother's Bistro and Bar in Portland, OR. I went there once for breakfast (we waited outside for an hour to get a table!) and loved it. It's delicious comfort food made from scratch; you can't beat that.

Besides wanting something healthy, the other reason I decided to make this soup because I had a can of baby clams in my pantry that was set to expire soon and I didn't want to waste it. I love the little kick from the Tabasco. Don't be turned off by the long ingredient list - just think of all the veggies you'll be eating! From experience I can say that this soup freezes very well.

Manhattan Clam Chowder
adapted from Mother's Best, by Lisa Schroeder
serves 7-8

2 strips bacon, finely diced (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (1 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced (3/4 cup)
2 ribs celery, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced into half moons and washed (1/2 cup)
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (10.75 ounce) can tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
3 1/2 cups fish stock or 2 (14 ounce) cans clam juice
2 (10 ounce) cans baby clams in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 dashes Tabasco sauce, or to taste
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

Set a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven over high heat. When hot, add the bacon. Cook over high heat until it starts to brown , then lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon is just about crisp, about 4 minutes.

To this, add the vegetable oil, onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and bell peppers. Saute for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every so often, until the vegetables are very soft. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.

Next, add the diced and pureed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, potatoes, and the stock or clam juice to the pot and mix well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender.

Add the clams with their juice, the Tabasco, and Worcestershire. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Bring back to a simmer for several minutes until heated through.

Ladle the chowder into bowls and serve with crusty bread or crackers. Oyster crackers are ideal, if you have them. 
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