Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bannock (quick bread)

I found this recipe in an in-flight magazine, and I could tell from the ingredients that it was going to be good. It reminds me of Irish soda bread, but basically, it's a quick bread that you make in a cast-iron skillet. Bannock is in the biscuit/scone family, and it's a bread with Scottish/Irish/Northern England origins. Apparently it's also familiar in Native American cuisine, though sources say it was imported to the Americas. This recipe, which I've adapted and changed slightly (the original calls for light cream, butter, all flour, and rosemary), comes from a restaurant in Minneapolis called The Bachelor Farmer. In my version, 1% milk replaced the cream (and I used less than in the original), I used earth balance instead of butter, and I mixed in some whole wheat pastry flour with the regular white flour. This makes a great weekend breakfast - a slight hint of sweetness, soft crumbs, and very flavorful slathered with butter and honey. I made it with blueberries, but I'd bet cranberries would be good, too.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tblsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
4 Tblsp. sugar
1 1/8 cup earth balance or butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups milk (lowfat, 1%, any kind)
1 egg
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 400. In a food processor, pulse together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add butter and pulse until pieces have mostly disappeared and been incorporated with the flour mixture. Remove to mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and egg. Stir into flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Fold in the blueberries. Pour into a greased 8" cast iron skillet, and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. (Mine was done at 15). Cool slightly and serve.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Hello summer... Gazpacho for one...

Craving a savory smoothie today, I thought of gazpacho, which reminds me of Spain... where even Burger King has this refreshing cold soup. I whipped this version up today for lunch - it lacks bread, which is traditional, and contains basil, which is not. I kept it all for myself, but if you wanted to share, use another tomato, a whole cucumber and green pepper, and a bit more water. You could also use a different fresh herb in place of basil - parsley or cilantro, perhaps?

Gazpacho for one

3 cups ripe tomatoes – about 4 medium sized tomatoes
1/2 peeled chopped cucumber
1/2 chopped green pepper
1/4 cup onions
1 cup fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
1 Tblsp small green chilli (optional if you don't like heat)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, sea salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup filtered cold water o
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tblsp white wine vinegar

Blend all of the above in a blender or Vitamix...

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Vietnamese Cabbage & Carrot Salad

So, I have a recipe for baked Moroccan fish tagine featured in the new Zumba Lovers Cookbook, available exclusively from (though I can get it for you at a 20% discount if you're interested ;) The cookbook is actually surprisingly good. I mean, if Zumba can make an amazing dance fitness program and a clothing line, why not a cookbook, right? But I would have been skeptical had I not tried some of the recipes, which are actually really good. What's also cool about the cookbook is that the it is comprised entirely of recipes submitted by Zumba enthusiasts, along with stories about how many of them lost weight and adopted healthy lifestyles through Zumba. And they tested every recipe - I know because I was in communication with the editor multiple times about measurements and other issues with mine. The cookbook is also visually beautiful, full of bright pictures of food and people.

I've tried making several of the recipes in the cookbook so far, and most have been impressive. One of my favorites is this red cabbage and carrot salad. Lately, I've discovered that there are many vegetables that I despise when cooked but love when raw - brussels sprouts and cabbage are two of those. This red cabbage salad is crunchy, bright, and colorful, much like the cookbook itself. The peanuts add protein and a bit more heft to it, but it is still light. Original recipe credit goes to Huong Nguyen of Perth, Australia, but I've altered it somewhat, below (less vinaigrette than the original, more herbs)...

Vietnamese Cabbage & Carrot Salad

2 Tblsp. lime juice
1 Tblsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red chile, seeded and diced (optional if you don't want heat)
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. honey

1/2 red cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups - could use green if that's what you have)
2 medium carrots, peeled & julienned (about 1 cup)
1 Tblsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tblsp. chopped fresh mint
1 cup lightly salted roasted peanuts, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together first six ingredients for vinaigrette. Set aside.

Place cabbage, carrots, and herbs in a large bowl. Pour in dressing and toss. Add peanuts. Season with salt and pepper.

If you want to make this ahead of time, mix the vegetables and refrigerate but don't add nuts and dressing until you're ready to eat it.

4 servings, 315 calories, 10 grams protein. 0 mg cholesterol.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Fontina

Have you ever tried farro? If you haven't, then you should. It tastes nutty and chewy, it's a good source for complex carbs, and it's the oldest cultivated grain in the world. Although farro is distantly related to modern-day wheat, it contains twice the fiber and protein of wheat. And, if you overlook the spelling, you can make jokes about Ancient Egypt as you serve it to your four-year-old.

This recipe was one I stumbled on through one of my favorite blogs, The Chic Life, where the blog's author featured a link to this article about seven healthy foods that will be big in 2013. I had to try it - oven-roasted vegetables, chewy farro, melted fontina, how could you go wrong? And it was delicious - I filed it away mentally to make again, then couldn't find the recipe two months later when I was again craving it. Fortunately my friend at The Chic Life helped me locate it.

This makes a vegetarian main course that could serve 2-3 people, or a side dish that would give you leftovers for lunch the next day. I altered the original recipe, leaving out radicchio (because I forgot to buy it) and halving the amount of vinaigrette - it tastes fine without it. You could substitute other roasted vegetables you might like here (zucchini? red peppers?) and not go wrong. But don't skip fontina - it really adds an extra special character to this dish.

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Fontina

3-4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 cup grape tomatoes, or one big tomato cut into chunks
6-8 cremini mushrooms, cut into small chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1 small red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup farro
2-3 ounces fontina cheese, cut into small cubes
small handful of chopped parsley

1 Tblsp. olive oil
1/2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and onion in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, rinse and drain the farro. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, season with salt, and add farro. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until soft but still chewy in the center. Drain any excess liquid.

Combine the cooked farro and vegetables, then add the fontina and parsley. Whisk together the vinaigrette, seasoning with salt and pepper, and drizzle over the farro mixture. It's actually delicious without it, too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pasta With Lentils & Kale

For this eat-in month challenge, I've been challenging myself not only to not go to restaurants but also to try to eat more vegetarian-- to increase the number of days each week that I don't eat chicken or meat. So far it's been working pretty well, not only because I've been trying so many awesome recipes from Ottolenghi's Plenty but also because I've got another library cookbook I love, the Moosewood Restaurant's Cooking for Health. I put it on my Amazon wishlist, only because I can't bring myself to buy another Moosewood cookbook right now (I must own at least five). But it is terrific - I have made ten or fifteen things, and they've all turned out well. One of my favorite discoveries was a recipe for Easy Baked Tofu, which my daughter loves, despite deciding she didn't like "toe food" recently. Anything soaked in soy sauce seems to win her over.

That one is also worth writing down - 1 16 ounce block of firm or extra firm tofu, 2 Tblsp dark sesame oil, 2 Tblsp soy sauce, 2 Tblsp. ketchup. Mix sauce ingredients, cut tofu into bite-sized cubes, drizzle sauce over tofu, bake in oven for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees, stirring midway through... Would be great with a stir fry.

But here's my favorite one: Pasta with lentils and kale. One of my friends sent me another recipe recently that is also good, from Epicurious, but I like this one even more, just because it has a little more going on, as well as more vegetables. Also I like it that it has 25 grams of protein in one serving. It is very substantial and has a lot of flavor!

Pasta with Lentils and Kale

1 cup lentils (green or brown)
3 cups water
8 ounces chunky pasta (spirals, shells, etc)
3 Tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (I used a food processor)
3 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped carrots (again, food processor)
1/2 tsp. paprika
dash of cayenne pepper (or more)
4 cups chopped kale (can also shred in food processor)
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups diced tomatoes

Parmesan cheese

Bring lentils and water to a boil, simmer covered for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Boil salted water and cook pasta according to package directions, saving a cup of the pasta cooking water when you're done.

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium, saute onions 3-4 minutes, then carrots, garlic & salt, 5 min, then add paprika, red pepper, and thyme. Cook for 1 minute. Add kale and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water, cook until kale is tender, add more water if you need it.

In a big serving bowl, mix together lentils, pasta, and vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste, add grated parmesan to the top.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Easy, Healthy Maple Granola

This recipe, from the recently published cookbook of one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, is brilliant - granola that has clumps that stick together with the help of egg white. It's also not filled with extra sugary stuff that you find in many store-bought granolas. And it's really easy - makes a nice, slightly sweet granola that you can enjoy by itself, with milk or with yogurt (as in the parfait pictured here, which my daughter and I made together - just layer yogurt with granola and fruit). I adapted it slightly from the original - didn't have wheat germ so I used flaxseed, used sweetened coconut - but you could adapt based on what you have on hand and probably wouldn't go wrong.

Smitten Kitchen Maple Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup flaxseed
2 Tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg white
1 1/2 cup dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, etc

Preheat oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together everything except egg white and dried fruit. Whisk egg white until bubbly, then stir into granola. Spread onto baking sheet, bake 20 minutes, then turn over granola with a spatula, keeping together big chunks. Bake another 20-25 minutes, checking to see when it's golden brown. Take out, cool completely, then add dried fruit. Store at room temperature.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

"Plenty: Recipes from London's Ottolenghi" - Cookbook Review

I like to check out cookbooks from the library, in part because I recognize my tendency to buy cookbooks, cook three recipes out of them, then forget about them forever. I have a big, reproachful stash of cookbooks staring at me for my neglect. Usually the library solution enables me to continue this habit of sample/neglect without spending any money, although occasionally I'll buy a copy if I like the recipes enough and want to cook more. But a recent cookbook, Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi, affected me so profoundly I had to order it immediately.

After I check out said library cookbooks, I then go online to find other reviews of the cookbooks and see which recipes people have made that they thought were delicious. Often there's not a whole lot of information. But with this one, I was surprised at how much was out there - in fact, on the foodie website Chowhound, the month of May 2011 was dedicated to having members cook their way through the cookbook (and post results).

I was originally intrigued by a post on Chowhound where people were talking about their favorite vegetarian cookbooks, and this book kept coming up. I am always looking for new vegetarian recipes, trying to move away from the idea that meat has to be front and center of any meal with vegetables as afterthoughts. What makes this cookbook unique is not that it claims to be a compendium of vegetarian recipes, but that it offers fresh and original ideas for food using a lot of vegetables. Most of the recipes I've tried have been impressive. Some will definitely become staples. The cookbook is also beautiful to look at, with some amazing photography that in itself is a work of art. Almost all the recipes are photographed. And the cover is hard to describe - it's puffy and almost hug-able. The whole thing is basically a fetish object.

At top, we have chickpea, tomato and bread soup with a dollop of pesto. Next, caramelized garlic tart. The soup was almost like a flavorful minestrone, minus the pasta. The tart, with loads of caramelized garlic and two types of goat cheese, I thought, was delicious, but other recipe testers in my life found it a bit on the rich side.

Green bean salad with mustard seeds and tarragon was good but seemed like it needed something tart in it (there is no lemon juice or vinegar, just lemon zest).
Grape leaf, herb, and yogurt pie is decent - crispy roasted grape leaves and breadcrumbs as a "crust," a filling of yogurt, herbs, flour, etc. that cooks into solid form and is tasty.

The definite keepers in the book so far:

I made the Parsnips and sweet potatoes, roasted, with caper vinaigrette, to serve along with Zuni cafe roast chicken and bread salad. It was delicious - who knew? Parsnips were not in my repertoire. The vegetables become sweet, almost caramelized, the tomatoes are thrown in at the last few minutes, and the entire dish comes together as roasted vegetables kicked up a notch - sweet, savory, and just the slightest bit sour from the vinaigrette, which doesn't overwhelm anything.

Baked eggs with yogurt and chile are also a recipe I will make again. They are cooked in a bed of arugula, which I didn't have, so I used kale and baby spinach. They are nicely spiced with a bit of a Turkish pepper mixture called kirmizi biber, which he offers a substitution for - paprika and cayenne pepper. This is definitely a good way to get some vegetables in first thing in the morning, while still having the taste of a decadent brunch dish. The eggs, in my opinion, should be enjoyed communally, with good bread for dipping.

My two top favorites so far are mee goreng and sweet potato cakes. Mee goreng is a Malaysian street food, basically a fried noodle dish with tofu, green beans, sambal oelek chile paste, and bok choy. I will definitely be making this again very soon.

**Side rant: I love living in a big city with ethnic markets where I can find everything I need for great prices - just a plug for Dong A supermarket in downtown Orlando (Asian) and Abu Maher International Foods (anything Middle Eastern, Turkish, or Indian) near Winter Park. Try 5 lbs of jasmine rice at Dong A for less than $5. Fresh egg noodles in the refrigerator case. A huge bag of shallots for less than $2, when Publix charges the same amount for a pathetic little bag with two shallots in it.**

And this last picture doesn't do these sweet potato cakes justice. I made these for brunch this morning, and they are sooooo good - savory, a little crunchy on the outside, and savory-sweet inside - kind of like a latke but not exactly. The recipe is here, if you want to make it for your next brunch - it's pretty easy yet unusual, but I don't see how anyone could not like this. But the cookbook is probably at your local library. So at the very least, check it out there, read the links to the Chowhound raves and test drives, and like me, you may find yourself ordering a copy of your own.

Sweet Potato Cakes

Serves 4

2 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes

2 tsp. soy sauce
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 Tblsp chopped green onion
1/2 tsp. finely chopped red chile (optional)

3 T Greek yogurt
3 T sour cream
2 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
1 T chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Microwave the sweet potatoes until done (he steams them but I think microwaving does not sacrifice their ultimate purpose, and it's faster). Peel and mash, cool off.

Mix sauce ingredients.

Once sweet potatoes are slightly cooled, add soy sauce, flour, salt, sugar, onion, and chile. Do not over-mix. It should be sticky.

Melt a bit of butter in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Drop a spoonful onto the pan when hot, flatten with the back of the spoon. Cakes should be about 2 inches wide, 3/8 of an inch thick. Fry 6 minutes on a side until crust is nicely browned. Dry on paper towels. Serve hot or warm with sauce on the side.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

I'm going to try the Eat-in month challenge. This is something a lot of food bloggers are doing, and it involves not eating out at all for the month of January.

We usually don't eat out that much anyway, but it definitely happens at least once a week. And lately, it's been happening even more. Over the past several months, we've been remodeling our kitchen, so for a good long while, our kitchen was completely out of commission. We had the refrigerator in the living room and were only cooking what could be prepared in a microwave or toaster oven, since there was no stove or oven. It was much harder than I thought it would be - even very basic recipes seem to need something sauteed at the beginning. So we ended up eating out more than I would have liked to otherwise... and I became even more aware just how much salt and fat and other not-so-good things are in the foods we get at restaurants. Just in the last month, the kitchen has gone back online and I've been cooking up a storm. So the added challenge will just be not eating out at all this month. I think I'm up for it. I feel so much healthier already.

But to really be healthier, I do need to cook fewer desserts. Case in point: this buche de noel, or yule log, that I made for New Year's...