Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin-Chipotle Soup

So, I was biking along on a Saturday morning and what did I spy in the ditch? A runaway pumpkin! What more could I want out of life. I'm sure it escaped from a truck on the way to the farmers market. It was a lovely little pie pumpkin that suffered a hairline fracture when it fell. I rescued it...only to take it home, scoop out its guts, and slip it into the oven (lightly coated with oil, face down) for about an hour, until the flesh became tender.

Then I scooped out the meet and stuck it in a storage container. It was only then that I asked myself: okay, now what?

So, I made pumpkin butter (see my Autumn Harvest Butter). Only there was still pumpkin left.

Then I made this soup. The smoky chipotles compliment the sweet molasses and the lentils help thicken the soup and add a bit of protein. You can skip the cayenne if you want to make it a little less spicy, but I love having it in there. There isn't a lot of bite to the soup as its currently written (but note: I have a high spice tolerance), but if it's too much, you can smooth it out and tone it down with a dollop of yogurt (or sour cream) on top.

I serve this with fresh, whole grain bread usually, but if bread isn't your thing, then you could easily couple it with a side of a sauteed green or roasted Brussels sprouts.

Pie pumpkins differ from other types of pumpkins in that the flesh is a little sweeter and they tend to be less fibrous. But, if you've got another pumpkin handy, just use that. It should work out about the same--and don't get rid of those seeds. You can roast them with salt and/or spices, or you can candy them! Consider serving a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds on top of this thick soup.

Pumpkin-Chipotle Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
3 tablespoons split red lentils
15 ounces 100% pure pumpkin or fresh, roasted pumpkin
4 cups water
1 tablespoon (or to taste) chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
1 tablespoon molasses
¼ teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Yogurt or sour cream (optional, garnish)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, sauté onion and celery in the oil until onion begins to turn golden. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 1 minute. Add red lentils and sauté 30 seconds. Add in the pumpkin, water, chipotle, molasses, and cayenne. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup mixture, then stir in the cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to heat once more. Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, if desired.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn Harvest Butter


This simple recipe combines some of the best flavors of fall: pumpkin and apple. The recipe I originally made used freshly baked, mashed pie pumpkin, but you can also use the 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!). The jar on the right is the pumpkin butter; the two smaller jars are spicy pineapple core relish.

The best part about this recipe is how fast and simple it is to make. How long you'll need to cook it will depend on whether your applesauce is very thick and how thick you like your pumpkin butter. I used homemade applesauce made from Macintosh apples the first time, but the second time, I just used store bought unsweetend applesauce.

Enjoy!

Autumn Harvest Butter

15 ounces 100% pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch cardamom
1 tablespoon lime juice

Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is sufficiently thick (this will depend on your personal preference).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Simple Donut Bread Pudding

At some point, I was watching Food Network as it played in the locker room of a gym I belonged to and Paula Deen was making Krispy Kreme bread pudding. My immediate reaction: eww. It didn't help when I saw how many donuts and how much cream went into the mix. I told myself I would never make a donut bread pudding.

But then, I saw a recipe in Women's Day for a Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding. "Oh," I thought to myself. "So much easier. 3 ingredients. That's right 3." Paula Dean's recipe came to mind, perhaps because my local grocer puts out day (or two) old donuts for $0.99, ($0.50 for the 2-day old donuts). I just needed an occasion to present itself.

And then, two days later, one of my professors sent out an email about a party at his house, in honor of a visiting writer. Attendees were asked to bring a side dish, which I decided must mean dessert. It was the perfect opportunity to try making a bread pudding. When I went to the grocery store, they had the 2-day old donuts in a grab bag, so I wasn't even sure what I was getting. I also bought some instant French vanilla pudding.

When I got home, I found out I had: 1 glazed cinnamon roll, one maple covered long john style donut without filling, one vanilla covered vanilla icing filled long john, and one plain raised glazed donut. I thought to myself: "Sure, why not?" and went to work. The end result turned out well, if I do say so myself, and one of my professors even sought me out to ask me to send him the recipe--he was especially happy to learn how few ingredients it had (more than 3, less than any other donut bread pudding recipe I could find).

This recipe is also lower fat than the other donut bread pudding recipes. This is not actually a tested fact, just something I'm assuming since it doesn't use whole milk or cream, nor does it use additional eggs.

Simple Donut Bread Pudding

4 stale donuts (app. 3 ounces each)
1 3-ounce box instant vanilla pudding
1 ¾ cup 1% milk
¼ cup cold (or room temperature) coffee
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup chocolate chips, optional
Powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350º F. Slice the donuts into thin slices and layer into an 8” square baking pan. Mix together the pudding, milk, coffee, and cinnamon and pour over the donuts. Press the donuts into the mixture. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, if using. Bake for 50 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool 15 minutes before serving, or store in refrigerator and serve cold. Dust with powdered sugar, before serving, if desired.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Red Indian Stew for Just a Few

This dish can be as mild or spicy as you like--and if you prefer more spicy than someone you'll be eating it with, kick the spice up some and serve the stew with a dollop of yogurt, which can be mixed in to cut the heat for those people with more sensitive tongues.

One of the great things about this stew is that it is rather forgiving. If you don't have the exact ingredients listed below, substitute--especially when it comes to your choice of protein. I've used chickpeas, Quorn, TVP crumbles, lentils, navy beans, shrimp, squid, and kidney beans in this in the past. This particular incarnation calls for lentils, because that's what I had on hand, and the end of this summer's zuchinni.

Dad came up the original vegetarian version of this stew--it originally used chicken--and then modified it to suit our tastes.

Red Indian Stew for Just a Few
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
+/- ½ tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon tres ochos pepper (optional, for additional heat)
1/2 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large zuchinni, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 ounces dried brown lentils
1 clove chopped garlic
1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped or diced
1 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup chopped cabbage
Yogurt, optional

In a small bowl, combine the Garam Masala, crushed red pepper, and paprika. Mix well. Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium saute pan, over medium heat, When the oil is hot, add the onions to the pan, sauté until golden brown and season with salt and pepper. Add the zuchinni, potatoes, and carrot. Saute 3-5 minutes. Add the lentils, garlic, tomatoes and ginger. Continue to sauté for 1 – 3 minutes.

Add the stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and lentils tender. Add the cabbage and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the cabbage has just started to cook. Remove from the heat and serve with rice or naan, and a dollop of yogurt (optional). Serves 3-4, depending on your appetite!

Peanut Butter Oreos

Every fall, my graduate department hosts a "Welcome Back" party of some sort--held at a local park and potluck style. Although attendants are encouraged to bring something homemade, frequently we wind up with people who stop at the store on their way over and bring some sort of chips and dip, or something sweet. This year, more than last, these functions seem to see more of the name brand (or generic, sometimes) packaged goods, rather than the items made in store.

I find this unfortunate on many levels. The stores here are all small chains or employee owned. The bakeries are of varying quality, as are the delis, but in my mind, any of these stores will offer a higher quality product than something meant to be shelf stable for months, years...you get the picture.

Anyway, at this year's picnic, someone brought peanut butter oreos. Why not? I thought to myself. I would never purposely buy them--I only buy regular oreos when I plan to make oreo bon-bons--and they are one of the dozens of flavors of traditional-style oreos Nabisco has produced. We won't talk about the "cakesters" aside from my comment that someone finally figured out how to market "whoopie pies" mixed with stale oreos.

I grabbed a couple at the end of the picnic and gave them a try. The peanut butter cream is less creamy than a traditional oreo and for a "Double Stuf," they don't have all that much filling. In fact, the peanut butter doesn't even taste particularly peanut-buttery. It's got a hint of peanut and a hint of grittyness like a certain off-brand of Oreo, but it by no means screams "peanut butter!"

Okay, so the dilemna. I had more than one oreo--but not enough to really incorporate into a real recipe. What to do with them? I'm a grad student so I make an effort not to throw anything away as far as food goes--if I can salvage it, that is. So, I crumbled my remaining Oreos and tossed them in the DQ Blizzard I'd gotten for almost free, thanks to a coupon. Fortuntaely, my Blizzard had both Reeses and chocolate fudge in it, making up for the lacking quality of the Oreos. Given an option again, I'd pass.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Squashes with Onions and Brown Sugar

I was eating dinner with a couple of friends last night: poached salmon was the star dish, accompanied by feta-roasted bell pepper muffins (to die for!), watermelon and grapes tossed together in the same bowl, and some squash.

The friend hosting dinner had been given several squash by her well-meaning parents, but wasn't sure what to do with them. She had zucchini and yellow squash, plus some dumpling squash and a beautiful spaghetti squsah. When I admired them, she told me if I could use them, to go ahead. So I did--at least with the summer squashes (the zucchini and yellow squash). Our other friend, who said she'd never had squash she liked took two very large servings! The key is to get the onions only golden before adding the squash and then to only cook the squash long enough for the flavors to blend.

Squashes with Onions and Brown Sugar

3 medium summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash, if you can), quartered and then sliced into 1/2" nuggets
1/2 medium purple onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Olive oil

Prepare the squash before you begin to cook. This makes life much easier. Saute the onions in 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan) over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until the onion begins to turn golden. Add in the squash and turn the heat up to medium-high. Saute another 2-3 minutes and then add the salt and sugar. Stir and then allow the squash to sit and carmelize 2 minutes before stirring again. Let the squash cook for another 1-2 minutes with disturbing it, stir again, and if all the squash is lightly cooked, remove from heat, toss with parsley, and serve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunrise Bike Rides

Okay, so this is cheating a bit. This image is from last year, around the times the leaves fell. But where I lived this summer, there wasn't anywhere to bike (at least not without risking getting hit by an 18-wheeler, a normal driver, or say, flying road debris) and so now that I'm back, I've started biking again.


My favorite time to bike is in the morning, when the sun is first rising. The bugs aren't out then and most people aren't either (fewer times I have to call out "on your left"). Plus, when I start the day out with a decent bike ride--that is, 12+ miles--then my whole day seems to go better. Of course, I can't pull that off every morning. I have teaching to attend to, or coursework, or just plain needing to get little things done and out of the way. But I think that morning, around sunrise, is one of the best times of the day. I think it's the one reason I look forward to the days getting shorter...it means that sunrise comes a little later.


I can't possibly be the only person who bikes that looks at this thing. Where do you like to bike and when?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amaretto Marinara

Sorry for the longer than expected delay in getting this posted. I have moved back to school and the weather here is gorgeous so I have been out enjoying it--and before that was the 2 day drive and the packing/unpacking--well, nonetheless, this is the pizza/pasta sauce I wrote about in my previous post.

As with any of these recipes, feel free to adjust the seasonings to your preference. I like my pasta and pizza sauces chunky, but if you don't, just drop the stick blender in and give it a whirl.

Amaretto Marinara

1 teaspoon olive oil
½ large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
4-5 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 28-oz can tomatoes in sauce (chopped or diced)
2 ounces amaretto liquer
¼ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf (optional)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
½ teaspoon original Tabasco sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons black pepper

Saute onions over medium heat in olive oil until they turn lightly golden. Stir in garlic powder and mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to cook 4-5 minutes or until most of the water has cooked out of them and the onions are beginning to brown. Add in the tomato paste and the can of chopped or diced tomatoes. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the amaretto and seasonings. Allow to simmer 20-25 minutes (over medium-low to low heat), or until it becomes thickened, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings to preference. Fish out the bay leaf before serving.

Hint: Add a pinch of sugar and then a pinch of salt if the flavor is okay, but a little flat. This will depend somewhat on the brand and style of tomato paste and canned tomatoes you use.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pizza Sauce, Coming Soon!

I've gone to the beach twice in the past three weeks to see a friend who will soon be moving across the country (she's a Marine and being relocated to a new base). I've had a great time both weekends I was down there--cooking, picking blueberries, seeing other friends, playing with her daughter. And while I was down there, we made pizza. She's not a big pizza (or bread) eater and I'm not really either, unless it's socially. But I'm about breaded out right now.

Since she'll be moving soon, I didn't want her to buy a lot of special things just for me to cook with (though it was nice of her to offer) and I didn't want to haul a lot of stuff with me or buy it there. It somehow removes some of the fun when Wal*Mart is right around the corner complete with all the supplies you need. We pretended it wasn't there for the most part.

The first time I made the sauce (which I'll be posting soon), I was flying blind. But a marinara-style sauce really isnt' that difficult as long as you don't have a cold or something else that effects your sense of taste/smell. The key was trying to make sure we got as much as we could, nutrient wise, out of the tomatoes--after all, why make pizza any less nutritionally sound than it already is? Tomatoes have alcohol-soluble nutrients, meaning you need some sort of alcohol (say, red wine) to fully benefit.

For alcohol my options were tequila (three different types, all her husband's), Jagermeister, or amaretto. I chose the amaretto. Its natural sugars combined with the earthy-nutty flavor of the almonds complimented the sauce nicely. Of course, dried oregano and other herbs--plus a lot of onion, garlic, and mushrooms, didn't hurt either!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dijon Chicken (or not)

I've been thinking about it and it's high time that I post one of my recipes that takes you either the vegetarian OR the flexitarian (um, this time I mean meat-eating) way. This is one of my old fallback recipes when I don't know what to make and have the ingredients on hand. As a student, easier said than done especially since I'm not eating chicken any longer. All the same, it's a good recipe that comes together pretty quickly.

If you're using both chicken and faux chicken to make everyone you're feeding happily, you can certainly double or triple this recipe. You should keep in mind though that the chicken and faux chicken should be cooked separately and if you're using the same dish of mustard for both, the respectful thing to do is to dip the fake strips first and then the real chicken.

Cutting the chicken (or substitute) into strips will help it cook faster and increase the amount of flavor per bite--but if you're short on mustard, feel free to make larger pieces. If you're using chicken, just make sure the meat is cooked all the way through before serving. It shouldn't have any pink color left.

Easy Dijon (Faux) Chicken
1 breast of chicken, OR faux chicken of your choice (I like Quorn), chopped into 1" x 2" strips
5 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
1 tsp turbanado sugar
bread crumbs

Mix the Dijon mustard with the salt and turbando sugar. Dip the strips of chicken or faux chicken into the mustard mix, then cover with bread crumbs. Lay these into a baking dish. Cover and bake in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until hot (covering it helps it cook through without drying out). Uncover and turn over to ‘broil.’ Continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes. Serve.

Note: Quorn and other meat substitute products often absorb liquid. If you're using one of these products, you may want to add 2 tablespoons of water when you uncover the dish, if the dish is starting to look dried out.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tuxedoed Oreos

"I'm serving chocolate mousse cake from Trader Joe's with French Vanilla ice cream. I was thinking about buying some of those chocolate wafers, but I didn't and these will work just as well."

I'm paraphrasing of course. My mom's boss and family friend held a going-away party for another co-worker and herself at the end of June. Their jobs had been "eliminated" in a series of budget cuts the local school district had to make in the wake of a budget shortfall--the third one within 9 months. The economy sucks everywhere, I know.

Anyway, she asked my parents to bring cantaloupe soup (a cold soup, it's wonderful for less than wonderful cantaloupe) and vegetarian picadillo stuffed peppers. Picadillo, pronounced peek-a-dee-oh, is a sweet and (sometimes) lightly spicy way of preparing meat. Our version has raisins and almonds in it and we use soy crumbles from the frozen foods section. She insisted she had dessert planned, that I didn't need to bring anything. But I didn't feel right going to a dinner party meant primarily for her co-workers without bringing something.

But, I was going to be going almost straight from my internship at a local natural history museum to her house. There was no way I was going to make anything that day. It had to be something that I could make over the weekend and which would age well.

When Mom said her boss would be doing something with chocolate mousse, these seemed like a natural. The Internet is full of recipes for this, so I don't claim anything particularly original, but I do want to point out that these work perfectly well with reduced-fat oreos and neufschatel. The best part about these is that they're kid-friendly (no baking, no sharp implements needed) and flexible...plus they go together pretty quickly. The ones I made used the white bark coating.

Oreo Bon-Bons

1 pound reduced-fat oreos
1 8-ounce block neufschatel (reduced fat cream cheese)
Powdered sugar for coating OR
White Bark coating (about 1/2 pound)

Smash the oreos so no huge chunks remain. This can be done with a gallon bag and a rolling pin--just be sure to get all the air out of the bag before you start hammering it. Or, you can toss them in your food processor and pulse it to break up the cookies. In a large bowl, using a fork, mix together the cream cheese and oreos until the color is even and it starts to come together to form a ball.

Roll small, equally sized balls of the cookie-cream cheese mixture. These can be any size you want, but it's easier to coat these if they're evenly sized--especially if you're using the white bark coating. Chill the small balls for an hour or two, until firm.

Spread the powdered sugar in a shallow dish, if using, or melt the white bark coating (follow instructions on the package, but generally you can do this in a double-boiler or by microwaving it on HIGH for 1 minute and then stirring. Microwave on HIGH for additional 15-second intervals until it is completely melted).

Dip or roll the balls through the powdered sugar or melted white bark. Let set and then store in refrigerator.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Time for Summer Salads!

With all of the fresh produce at the farmers market and at my local favorite grocery store for produce (most of it local, all very fresh, all reasonably priced), I find myself eating at least one salad a day during the summer. Fruit salads, green salads, orange jello "fluff" salads (a bit of an indulgence)...there's a long list.

Green salads call out for some sort of dressing. If you disagree, you're not listening closely enough. Even if it's just some oil and vinegar--or even just vinegar. Another time I'll post a different non-fat, vinegar based dressing I like to make for cabbage salads (they are not coleslaw).

Dad makes a really fantastic flexitarian Caesar dressing (it uses fish sauce). It's light and lemony and you don't feel like you're overindulging if you spoon on a little extra because compared to normal Caesar dressing, you really aren't. However, you just can't make that every time and not get tired of it. I recently added this dressing to my repertoire. The roasted garlic is a lot less...pungent than regular garlic. As I've said before, in the summer I tend to have roasted garlic around. Not only is it easy to throw on the grill if I'm grilling already, but it's also great smeared on bread and mixed into things like yogurt-tahini sauce for falafel.

You could make this salad dressing vegan if you substituted just a few things (namely the yogurt for a non-dairy yogurt, the Worcestershire sauce for vegetarian Worcestershire--regular Worcestershire contains anchovies--or liquid smoke, and used golden syrup instead of honey).

You might be tempted not to add the oil. I certainly was when I first tried this. In fact, I was pretty determined not to add oil. But, it wasn't going to happen. Without the oil, the flavor is sharper (but not in a pleasant way) and the foam just won't go away.

French Dressing

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4-5 dashes Worestershire sauce
3 dashes Tabasco
2 large cloves roasted garlic
2 tablespoons honey or golden syrup
Large pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a small blender and blend well. The mixture will look a bit frothy. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust. While blender is running drizzle in 1 ½ - 2 tablespoons of olive oil to create an emulsion.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Cocktail Smoothie

The smoothie craze seems to have ebbed, but I still like them from time to time (they're fast and cheap), especially when it's hot outside and we all know July is great for that. Actually the weather here is pretty pleasant right now, deceptively unlike the beginning of July and for the first 4th in years this area isn't under water restrictions.

The basic idea for this smoothie came from an Alton Brown recipe and is something I've been fiddling with for a few years. If you like your cocktails as you'd get them in cocktail hour, add a couple of ounces of rum (for a bit more sweetness) or vodka--you won't be able to tell it's there and neither will your guests--or leave it plain. Either way is good and the tofu adds a bit of protein. I tend to add 6 ounces, but if you're just starting to try tofu, you might be shy about using so much. You can't taste it, it just makes the drink creamy.

I usually buy frozen cranberry concentrate and add water to make my cranberry juice. It's easier to keep around a can of concentrate than to keep a 1/2 gallon of juice around. Because I do this, I usually do about a 1:1 ratio of concentrate to water, but it works just fine with normal-strength cranberry juice from a jug as well.

Don't leave out the salt--tofu also has a tendency to absorb a lot of flavor and you'll miss out on some of the fruity tang of this smoothie if you try to reduce the sodium. It's only a pinch.

Cocktail Smoothie

8 ounces troupical fruit cocktail in light syrup, frozen
1 teaspoon instant lemonade mix
6 ounces cranberry juice
4-6 ounces silken tofu
Pinch of kosher salt
2-3 ounces rum or vodka (optional)
Ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serves 2-3, depending on how much smoothie you want!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

4 Grain Pilaf (aka at last, something besides amaranth "grits"!)

A while back, I bought some amaranth because it's a good source of vegetarian protein. Little did I know that the primary recipe available on the Internet is for amaranth grits. There are a few that call for puffed amaranth, which is fine if you buy it that way but time consuming to do.

Amaranth will pop like popcorn, if you hydrate it first and then put it in a dry skillet. And like popcorn, it goes everywhere, only the "kernels" are very tiny. However, it's got a nice flavor and is great for surprising popcorn lovers.

Needless to say, my unpopped amaranth has been living in my refrigerator for a while. I try to keep my whole grains cool if I'm not going to be using them up pretty quickly. It keeps them from becoming rancid. But the other day I was in the mood for a pilaf. My two usual pilafs are made from bulgar wheat or quinoa. They're wonderful. Those recipes supported this one, which was partially gleaned from an idea on the web. The great thing about this recipe is that it's pretty flexible. If you don't have enough of one grain, add some extra of one of the others. It saves well and is good cold--I've been taking the leftovers to work for lunch.

Use veggie broth for a richer flavor, if you've got it on hand. If you like, add some dried fruit to your pilaf. I added about 1/4 cup of dried cranberries to mine because that was what I had open. It makes for a nice sweet bite.

4 Grain Pilaf

1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ medium onion, chopped
½ jalapeno, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup amaranth
1/3 cup bulgur wheat
1/3 cup quinoa (rinsed and drained)
3 1/2 cups veggie broth or water
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
½ cup frozen green peas
1/3 cup couscous
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon garam masala
Dried fruit (optional)
Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the olive oil, onion, pepper and all the seeds in a large, non-stick frying pan. Stir 1 to 2 minutes over high heat, until the seeds begin to pop and become aromatic. Add the amaranth, bulgur and quinoa and toast slightly. Add the broth and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until grains are tender, for about 20 minutes. Add the finely chopped vegetables. Add the couscous and stir to combine. Stir in the lemon juice and garam masala. Continue to simmer, covered, another 5 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are tender. Add the dried fruit, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Honey-Chipotle Dipping Sauce

To me, an integral part of summer is grilled food. Seasonal fruits and vegetables on the grill are a key aspect of this for me. However, some people like to have a bit more protein and there’s definitely logic to that. Protein helps you feel full longer. My protein is usually whatever the grocery store has on sale in the seafood department or pressed and marinated tofu.

My father was grilling shrimp a few weeks ago and made a marinade for them out of some soy sauce, lime juice, and pureed chipotle pepper, plus a generous pinch of salt. I wanted to reduce the marinade after the shrimp came out. I tend to do this with marinades and some are more successful than others. I added honey and sugar to help balance the heat and tartness of the marinade. Although this reduction worked out just fine, the flavor wasn’t quite what I was aiming for—I was hoping to replicate the glaze over a piece of salmon I tried in St. Louis earlier this summer.

I found the original version of this sauce online and made some modifications. The next time Dad made those shrimp, I made this sauce for dipping them in, but it doubles well as a sweet-and-spicy salad dressing, and also works well for painting vegetables as they grill (do it just before they come off the heat, otherwise it’ll just melt off) if you make it thicker. This still isn’t the sauce from the St. Louis brewery, but I like it and it encourages me to keep roasted garlic around, which when it’s done right is incredibly sweet.

If you don’t have wine, don’t worry about it. Add a little bit of water instead—or like I did last time, leave it out completely and just remember that you don’t have as liquid a mixture when you’re deciding how much cornstarch you want to add.

Honey-Chipotle Dipping Sauce

¼ cup rum
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white wine
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon roasted garlic, minced
½ - 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice
½ cup honey
½ - 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, pureed
Pinch of salt and sugar, if needed

In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together the run, soy sauce, wine, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and lime juice. Depending on how thick you want your sauce, vary the cornstarch between ½ tablespoon and 1 ½ tablespoons. Add to saucepan once the rum mixture boils. Stir well.

As the mixture begins to thicken, add the honey and pureed chipotle pepper. The amount of pepper you add should be determined by how spicy you want the resulting sauce. Bring back to a boil and cook until fully thickened. Taste and add salt and/or sugar, if needed for balance.

Yields: about 1 ½ cups sauce

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fruit, Rice, and Seed Salad

What do you take to a Wild Boar Roast?

That was what I asked myself during the last week before the end of the semester, when one of the other women in my program invited me to come join her (and 20 other people) for a boar roasting--an in-law had provided the Alabama boar at Thanksgiving and in May my friend and her husband had yet to eat the thing. Fortunately, the (well meaning) in-law had only given them 1/2 the pig.

Since I didn't plan on eating the boar and the woman who was hosting the roast is an excellent baker and cook, I wanted something 1) I would eat and 2) she probably wouldn't already make--which ruled out all desserts, hummus, and bread.

The next question was, "What do I have on hand?" I'd been trying to eat down the perishables (and non) since I wasn't going to be there over the summer and didn't really want to run out to the grocery store for anything.

I flipped through a couple of my Moosewood cookbooks and Madhur Jaffery's World Vegetarian until I found a couple of rice salad recipes I thought sounded good, but not great (mostly because I didn't have all the ingredients for either salad on hand). I tried to figure out what I thought would be the best aspects of both salads and combine them to create this dish. The sesame seeds were a last minute addition--and add a nice, nutty flavor to the entire dish. If you can't eat sesame seeds because of diverticulosis, try substituting 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil for toasted sesame oil.

Orange Rice Salad with Fruit
1 1/2 cups basmati rice (1/2 cup may be wild rice, if you have it)
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon frozen pineapple-orange juice concentrate, or the zest of one orange

Dressing

2 tablespoons of frozen pineapple-orange juice concentrate, mixed with 4-5 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½- ¾ cup currants, dried cranberries, or raisins
10 ounces canned pineapple chunks, cut in half if desired
1 small tart apple, chopped
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

In a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring to a boil, the water, rice, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoons pineapple-orange concentrate. When wells start to form in the rice, cover tightly and cook on low for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside. When the rice is done, place it in a large bowl and allow to cool at least 10 more minutes. Add the dressing and toss well. Stir in the fruits and sesame seeds. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sour Cream M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

After a pre-Cinco De Mayo party I held this weekend (it's finals week, although we all seem to have more time, none of it's co-ordinated), I had leftover sour cream. Since I don't really like sour cream for eating--I'm that person that always asks the Mexican restaurants to leave it off--I knew I had to find some other use for it.

I'd already made a cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream cake for the Tres De Mayo party dessert, but still had more sour cream. I searched the internet, thinking I might make muffins or biscuits--but then couldn't decide when I'd want to actually eat them.

Last night I had a final at a professor's house. He was going to cook for us, but asked us to bring beverages or food. I took some of the cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream cake, some vegetable purses that I made spur of the moment to use up some phyllo dough, and these cookies.

I found the original recipe, which called for more fat, no oatmeal and no cereal, online. I always tinker and I didn't want to wait for extra butter to come to room temperature from frozen. Who really has time for that, most days? It was one of the few recipes that didn't contain nuts or fruit combined with spices. The one person who reviewed it "didn't care for the recipe," but an identical recipe that used yogurt instead had pretty good reviews. I decided I had to try it out--the worst that could happen was that I wouldn't like the cookies and my professor could take them into the mailroom tomorrow. I know from experience that any food that winds up in the mailroom gets eaten by grad students (who love free food because we get paid so little to teach!) and professors.

Sour Cream M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

This egg-free cookie turns out crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. Be careful not to over bake. It should be soft in the middle when you pull it out and only lightly golden on the bottom.

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup light sour cream
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ cup old fashioned rolled oatmeal (quick oats works too, do not use instant)
¼ cup (about 1 handful) plain cheerios, lightly crushed[1]
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
3-4 ounces semi-sweet baking chips
2-3 ounces small candy-coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 375º F. In a large mixing bowl combine sugars, butter, and oil. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sour cream, sea salt, and vanilla. Blend until light and fluffy. Add in oatmeal, mixing by hand. Add the cheerios, if using, and flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips and candy-coated chocolates.

Drop dough 1 ½ teaspoons at a time onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. These cookies will spread slightly while baking. Bake for 9 minutes, or until the edges have started to firm and turn golden. Cool for 1 minute on pan before transfering to wire rack.

Yields: Approximately 48 cookies.
[1] If you do not have plain cheerios, you can use an additional quarter cup oatmeal

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baked Falafel

Since I'm a student, two things are important: eating inexpensively and meals that go together quickly. One solution is of course, fast food in the traditional sense: burgers or tacos, burritos or pizza, from some greasespot.

It's tempting sometimes, especially when I spend most of the day on campus and when I'm done with the day, the dog still needs to be walked, MY students have a million questions they've emailed me to ask, all of which are naturally very pressing, and then my coursework to complete.

Once or twice a week, as a way of destressing and making sure that I don't become too involved in just school work, I either host dinner or go to at one of my friends' houses. The great part about this is that it's cheaper for all of us. The unwritten code is to bring something, anything, to help make the meal and if you don't know what to bring, ask.

The other day, I was craving falafel. The falafel I ate growing up were pan-friend green disks. I love them, but don't have the time or equipment to make those falafel, which involve dried chick peas (garbanzo beans) and a mega food processor. I wanted something easier. I had a baked falafel recipe I'd tried before that I wasn't thrilled with and I'd recently seen a baked falafel recipe come across from another blog which seemed akin to the labor-intensive ones I ate growing up.

This recipe combines the flavors of the second recipe with the simplicty of the first. The falafel turned out well. The texture is fairly smooth, unlike some of the grainier ones you get from restaurants or when you make falafel from a mix and if you have cilantro (I didn't have much), add about 2 more tablespoons, chopped.

Baked Falafel

1 medium potato, chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 generous tablespoon tahini
½ tablespoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon sea salt (fine)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon paprika
Black pepper, to taste (about ¼-1/2 teaspoon)

Flour or bread crumbs, if needed

Preheat oven to 375º F. In a small saucepan, over high heat, boil the chopped potato in water until it is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well.

Place all the ingredients, including the potato, in a medium to large bowl and mash well a pastry cutter, potato masher, or a fork, until only slightly chunky. The falafel dough should be slightly sticky (this will depend on the type of potato you used). If it is very sticky, stir in flour or fine bread crumbs 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is only tacky.

One at a time, take spoonfuls of the mixture in your hands and form 15-20 balls (each about the size of a ping pong ball) and place them gently on a greased cookie sheet, pressing down lightly to form a thick disc.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the falafel over, and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.