Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cool Ranch Massaged Kale Salad

The ying and the yang, good v. evil, each action has a corresponding reaction, every rose has its thorn...we live in a world of opposites.

Remember my Hot Massaged Kale? Not to be outdone by Newton's third law, I developed a complimentary salad to answer to the spicy kick of the chipotle in the first recipe. Enter the Cool Ranch Massaged Kale Salad. Where the "Hot" was, well, hot, the "Cool Ranch" is not. The herbs in this salad give a feel of spring, despite the December air. I recommend making double the dressing so you have extra to dip crudités into!

Cool Ranch Massaged Kale Salad

1 head kale, destemmed and torn into bite size pieces
1/2 tbs salt
2 tbs olive oil
1 avocado
1/2 tbs honey
2 tbs fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh dill weed
1/8 wedge from a small yellow onion
1 small clove garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbs lemon juice
1-2 tbs almond milk, as needed
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 c carrots, thinly sliced
1 tbs sunflower seeds

In a medium bowl, combine kale, salt, and half the olive oil. Massage the kale until the leaves start to take on a shiny, wilted appearance.

In a blender, puree the rest of the oil with avocado, honey, herbs, onion, garlic, pepper, and lemon juice until smooth, using the almond milk to thin as necessary. Toss the remaining ingredients and the dressing with the kale to combine. Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Pot of Chili and Jalapeño Beer Bread

As part of my preparation for my raw experiment in January, I'm trying to cook everything that I will most likely crave in the wee weeks of the year. One of those things is a steaming hot bowl of meat-ful chili and a thick slice of toasted bread.

Also, I wanted to try out my shiny new Cuisinart. Formerly when I wanted ground beef, I'd pick up the cut of meat I wanted then have the butcher grind it down for me (I have a very serious aversion to pre-packaged ground beef....I mean, really, who knows what is put in there?). With the powerful new processor on my counter, I can grind my own meat. Yay! These are the things that make me happy....

So here it is....a HUGE pot of chili. I wasn't thinking clearly when I decided to grind one pound each of chicken and beef (instead of total). The result is enough chili to feed a small army....or just my family for two nights.

The bread was a vehicle to help me get rid of an insane number of jalapeños from my parents' garden. I still have quite a few, but at least this made a dent!

Big Pot o' Chili

1 lb chuck roast, placed in freezer for about an hour
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, placed in freezer for about an hour
4 tbs butter
1 tbs dried marjoram
1 tbs dried savory
1 tbs mustard seed
1 tbs caraway seed
1 tbs peppercorns
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chili powder
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 6oz can tomato paste
4 15oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 c water
2 15oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbs Chipotle Tabasco sauce
additional salt and pepper
greek yogurt and fresh parsley, to garnish

Cut the beef and chicken into 1" cubes. In a food processor, pulse until ground to desired consistency.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Add the ground meat and allow to brown. In a spice grinder, combine marjoram, savory, mustard, caraway, and pepper; grind into powder. Add ground spices, salt, and chili powder to the browning meat and stir to combine.

Once the meat is mostly brown, add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Allow to cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat ingredients. Pour in the diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Add water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add kidney beans and Tabasco. Stir to combine, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If needed, add additional salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with a spoonful of greek yogurt and some chopped parsley. Makes a whopping 16 servings of chili!

Jalapeño Beer Bread

3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c roasted jalapeños, diced
1 c shredded smoked cheddar
1 12oz bottle beer
1/2 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Add the jalapeños and cheese. Pour the beer into the mixing bowl and stir until blended. Pour mixture into a greased 9" loaf pan and pour melted butter over the top of the loaf. Bake one hour or until golden brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and cool an additional 10 minutes before slicing. Makes one spicy loaf of bread that is perfect for dipping into soup or sandwiching for grilled cheese with a kick.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Vegetarian Baby Shower - Part II - Avocado Sandwiches, Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers, and Rum Runner Punch

It's part deux of the baby shower goodies that graced my sister's party! Here we have miniature avocado sandwiches with tomato pesto, sweet peppers stuffed with Indian-flavored quinoa and served warm, and the non-alcoholic punch meant to mimic a rum runner. Enjoy!

Avocado Sandwiches

2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced thinly
1/4 c fresh lime juice
30 slices whole wheat cocktail bread, toasted
1/2 c prepared sun-dried tomato pesto
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c broccoli sprouts

Toss the avocado slices with lime juice. Spread 15 slices of bread with pesto. Top the pesto-covered bread with avocado, onion, and sprouts. Top with remaining slices of bread and secure with a toothpick. Makes 15 mini-sandwiches.

Quinoa-Stuffed Sweet Peppers

1/4 lb (about 15) sweet peppers
1 tbs peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c carrot, finely shredded
1/2 cup spinach, washed patted dry and roughly chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs pine nuts

To prepare the peppers, cut a slit in the pepper lengthwise from the stem to the tip. Gently open the pepper and pull out the seeds and ribs.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté about a minute (don't allow to brown!). Add remaining vegetables and sauté until the spinach is wilted down, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garam masala. Add the quinoa and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stuff each pepper with the quinoa mixture and place on a baking sheet, cut side up. Heat in the oven for 15 minutes. Serves 4-6 (I doubled the recipe for the party).

Rum Runner Party Punch

2 c pineapple juice
2 c orange juice
2 c blackberry juice
1 c pomegranate juice
4 tbs rum extract (1 oz)
2 tbs coconut flavoring
2 bottles sparkling white grape juice
1 liter club soda
Orange and lime slices

Chill all juices and the soda before making. Combine all liquids in a large punch bowl and garnish with fruit. Makes about 20 1-cup servings.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hot Massaged Kale Salad

Here's another raw recipe--this one adapted from The Raw Chef's recipe. By the way, I highly recommend signing up for his e-zine. It's entertaining and has great recipes! I first heard of this individual from my friend, Amber (of Almost Vegan), who had Russell James as an instructor at raw culinary school. I likes his site, so I signed up. So far, it's been a great (free) investment!

Anyway, this salad is great for the cold weather that's hit all of a sudden. Despite being uncooked, it's extremely warming with the spicy chipotle doing what it does best. Chipotle peppers are obviously not raw, but raw Nazis (rawzis?) could sub in cayenne or a fresh serrano for the heat. Kale is typically a pretty rough leaf to tackle, but massaging it with salt and oil causes the fibers to break down a little; this gives the kale more of a blanched texture. Plus, who doesn't love salt and oil?

Just saying the name of this salad raises my temperature a little....imagine a room lit only by candlelight....a little Barry White wafting through the speakers....and then someone says to you, "Hey baby, wanna have some hot massaged kale?" Aw yeah....

Ahem. Or it's just a healthy, easy to prepare salad. After all, who wants a relationship with a bunch of leaves? Now excuse me as I casually walk away from the awkward silence.

Hot Massaged Kale Salad

1 head kale, destemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tbs salt
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs grapefruit juice
1/4 tsp grapefruit zest
1 tbs tahini
1/2 chipotle pepper
1/2 tbs agave
1/2 grapefruit, segmented
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c sunflower seeds

In a medium bowl, combine kale, salt, and half the olive oil. Massage into kale until the leaves start to take on a shiny, wilted appearance.

In a blender, combine the remaining oil with the juice, zest, tahini, pepper, and agave. Toss the remaining ingredients and the dressing with the kale to combine. Serves 2.

Raw Asian Noodles (and very rare steak)

I received my first box of raw goodies the other day....just some hemp seeds, seaweed, sun-dried olives, and liquid aminos. The offspring had their curiosity sparked by the kelp noodles and asked me to make something with them.

Hell, I thought....why not? Let's see what this raw-anti-chef-to-be can come up with!

I threw together some standard ingredients and ended up with this raw noodle salad....Asian-style. Because I had it in the fridge, I also did a quick pan-sear on a steak and served it with the noodles. The kids dug it, as did I. Not too shabby for a first try, I don't think!

Raw Asian Noodle Salad

2 tbs liquid aminos or tamari
1 tbs sesame oil
1/2 tbs fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
5 pearl onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 oz lobster mushrooms, julienned
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced
1 12oz package kelp noodles

Whisk together aminos, oil, ginger, and pepper. Toss dressing with remaining ingredients and allow to sit a few minutes to allow the kelp noodles to soften. Serves 4.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Vegetarian Baby Shower - Part I - Mushroom Tartlets, Tofu Skewers, and Pineapple Cake

Is December really almost half over? I find it hard to believe that it is already almost the new year, and yet here we are.

While some may say debate that it's the most wonderful time of the year, I think everyone can agree that it's the most BUSY time of the year. Your own personal anti-chef has been busy, too. There's the job and the kids, as well as planning my next adventure in food. What may that be?

Starting January 1st, I'm going to embark on a mostly raw diet. My friend, Amber (of Almost Vegan), has been attending raw culinary school, which has pushed me from just pondering it to making the commitment in my head to do this. So I've been deep in the planning stages of this experiment of sorts. I bought a few new kitchen toys and signed up for a local co-op home delivery service for organic fruit and veggies (oh, the sacrifices I must make!). I've already given my first raw recipe a trial run, which I'll post about at a later date.

And now for the main event du jour: Recipes from my sister's baby shower! My sister is a
vegetarian, so the food naturally followed suit. I am splitting them into two posts for the sake of keeping my blog readable. On the menu were mushroom tartlets (recipe below), quinoa-stuffed sweet peppers, hummus (recipe HERE) and crudités, avocado sandwiches, tofu skewers (recipe below), a variety of flavored nuts, fruit bowl, and--of course--a virgin rum-runner punch.

First I want to show off the cake I made. My
sister's theme was pirates, so I created this rather messy-looking skull with sparkly blue eyes and the cutest pacifier ever. Can you read what it says? The cake was pineapple cake with coconut-
cream cheese frosting (recipe below--spoiler, I used cake mix). This recipe is totally a cheat, but after all I'm not the anti-pastry chef!

Now on to the recipes!

Mushroom Shallot Tartlets

3 tbs peanut oil
2 c fresh mushrooms of choice, diced (I used shiitake, oyster, and baby portabellas)
4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tbs fresh sage, minced
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs vegetable stock
2 15-count packages of frozen mini fillo shells
1/4 c goat cheese of choice (I used Humboldt Fog)
3 oz enoki-dake mushrooms (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms and shallots for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms start to soften. Add the herbs, pepper, salt, and stock; stirring frequently, cook another 10 minutes or until most the liquid is cooked off.

Arrange the fillo shells on two baking sheets. Divide the goat cheese evenly among the shells. Do the same with the cooked mushrooms and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. If desired, garnish with enoki-dake mushrooms (as you can see in the photo, I ran out of time....the poor enokis were left in the fridge!). Serve immediately. Makes 30 tartlets.

Crispy Tofu Skewers

1/4 c peanut oil
18 oz extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 1/4" cubes
1 tsp salt
1/4 c tamari
12 pearl onions
12 cherry tomatoes
1/2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters and then cut into thirds to make 1" wedges
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 10 minutes

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Salt the tofu cubes, then add in a single layer to the hot oil. Allow to fry for about 5 minutes, or until the bottom of the tofu is a golden-brown. Gently flip each cube and fry the opposite side for 5 more minutes. Depending on the height of the oil in the pan, the sides of the tofu may also need to receive contact with the cooking surface. The goal is the have all six sides golden-brown. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. When ready to assemble skewers, toss the tofu cubes with the tamari.

On each bamboo skewer place one pearl onion, one tomato, one cube of tofu, and one zucchini wedge. Arrange on a baking sheet and heat in oven 15 minutes. Make 12 tofu skewers.

Pineapple Cake and Coconut Cream Cheese Icing--for the lazy!

3 eggs
1 box pineapple cake mix
2 15oz cans crushed pineapple, undrained
1 canister of cream cheese icing
1 tbs coconut flavoring

Heat oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the cake mix and the pineapple and beat on low speed until just combined. Pour into the greased baking p an of choice and bake in the preheated oven according to the recommendations on the box for the cake pan you chose. Obviously I went with a skull-shaped pan....

For the icing, simply heat the icing in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until it's easy to stir. Mix in the coconut flavoring, and it's ready!

I was pretty pressed for time when cake-decorating came around, but that didn't affect the flavor negatively. For posterity, I also made chocolate cupcakes for those who weren't feeling the pineapple vibe.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Broccoli Cheese Soup

Winter is fast approaching, and soup is on the brain. Some might suggest that there are those of us that have soup for brains, but that's an entirely different conversation.

Actually....maybe that's what zombies are really after....

Anyway, here's a soup I made last weekend. It's warm, creamy, and delicious. Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 head garlic, cut in half
2 lb head of fresh broccoli
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper, plus additional to taste
3 tbs butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tbs flour
2 c vegetable stock
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 c whole milk
1 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Brush cut surfaces of garlic lightly with oil. Cut broccoli stems into 1/2-inch slices; cut florets into slightly larger pieces. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with remaining oil. Spread broccoli and garlic in a single layer on a large baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, stirring about ten minutes through.

When the broccoli is halfway through roasting, melt butter over medium heat in a medium stock pot. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add thyme and sauté an additional minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to create a paste. Whisk in half the stock and bring to a simmer.

When broccoli is tender and lightly browned, remove from oven and place about 1 cup of the florets into the stock pot. Place remaining broccoli into a food processor. Squeeze the garlic from peels into the food processor with the broccoli and purée with the remaining stock. Pour puréed broccoli into the pot. Stir in the cayenne and milk and slowly bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Allow to simmer for five minutes.

Stir in the cheese until completely incorporated and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Makes 4 servings. If desired, garnish with paprika and/or croutons.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Fried Rice and Chicken Spring Rolls....Leftover-Style

Ever get to the point where you have a fridge full of food, and yet nothing to eat? I found myself in such a situation over the weekend, which lead into a full-fledge fridge-busting operation. I had disposed of my half-head of cauliflower thanks to this soup that I made, but that didn't make much of a dent in my mish-mash of random ingredients. Or were they so random after all....?

I am occasionally amazed at how everything can come together, and this is one of those times. What started as "oh what the hell, just throw everything into a pot" turned into a rather cohesive meal, if I do say so myself. Leftover rice and ridiculous assortment of halves of veggies turned into fried rice. Cabbage slaw left over from one meal and chicken from another combined with a quick Asian dressing to make fresh spring rolls. I had myself a real dinner!

The final product will depend on the ingredients you have on hand, and I have left the ingredient lists somewhat vague to facilitate this. In the fried rice, I personally had on hand 1/2 zucchini, 1 carrot, half a jar of pickled baby corn, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, some celery, and half an onion. Your fridge contents and veggie preferences should lead you, though.This is one of the things that makes cooking fun!

Simple Fried Rice


2 tbs peanut oil

3 c vegetables of choice, julienned or sliced to be about the same size

1 tbs tamari

1 tbs hoisin sauce

3 cups prepared rice

1 egg

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tsp sesame oil


Heat the peanut oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, and stir fry for 5 minutes, or until they start to soften. Add tamari and hoisin sauce, stirring quickly to coat the vegetables. Stir in the rice and continue to stir-fry until rice is heated through (about 5 minutes).

Beat the egg, salt, and pepper together. Add into the rice, constantly stirring. Once egg is incorporated, drizzle sesame oil over rice and toss to coat rice evenly. Add additional seasoning to taste. Remove from heat and serve. Makes about 6 1-cup servings.

Leftover Spring Rolls


1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tbs ginger, grated

1 tbs hoisin sauce

1 tbs tamari

1 tbs oyster sauce

1 tbs olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 chicken breast, cooked, diced

2 c cabbage salad

8 spring roll wrappers, soaked according to package directions


Whisk together garlic, ginger, hoisin, tamari, oyster sauce, oil, and cumin in a medium bowl. Toss the chicken with the dressing to coat. Add cabbage and toss to combine.

One at a time, lay a soaked spring roll wrapper flat on a cutting board. Using about half a cup at a time, arrange the filling on the rice paper to be wrapped. Roll the wrapper tightly around the filling, tucking the ends to the left and right toward the center as you go. Repeat until each wrapper has been filled.

At this point, you can deep fry the rolls to create a crispy texture, I personally prefer them as is. Makes 8 spring rolls.

Vegan Carob Cupcakes with Icing

Imagine the birthday parties you've been to....or imagine the photos you've seen of your own first birthday. What image comes to mind most frequently? Chubby faces and hands smeared with chocolate, right? It's an important milestone is every baby's life, as well as every parent's.

Last night I had a first birthday to celebrate, but this baby is special. She can't have chocolate, because it's poisonous to her. Dairy is off the table because of lactose intolerance. While it would be easy to make a cake just for her, we wanted to celebrate this milestone with her....

Surprise! It's my puppy, Trillian's, first birthday!

This moist, fudge-y, melt-in-your-mouth cupcake uses carob powder to keep it as dog-friendly as you can get while maintaining high human satisfaction. Rice milk was substituted for milk, coconut oil for the necessary butter element. While eggs are on the safe list for puppies, I had a bag of Jonathon apples that I was desperate to use up, so I blended one up for some au naturel applesauce.

Put it all together, and what do you end up with? A tasty treat for canine and human alike. The dogs had cupcakes topped with just the icing. For the humans, I spooned a bit of strawberry-balsamic purée over the top and then added a dollop of icing. Trillian had a very happy birthday, indeed!

Carob Cupcakes

3/4 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons
carob powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 c applesauce
1/2 cup rice milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350F. Line or grease 12 muffin tins and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flours, carob, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk, oil, and vanilla.

Add applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the hot water. Pour batter evenly into the muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake in the preheated over for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy as is or add toppings as desired.

Carob Icing

1/4 c rice milk
1 tbs cashew butter
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 c carob powder
1 tbs agave (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a small, heavy saucepan warm the milk, cashew butter, and oil over medium-low heat. Whisk frequently until the cashew butter is well-combined with the milk. Add the carob powder and the agave and continue stirring until all ingredients are incorporated, dark, and shiny. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Allow to cool, then use to top your favorite desserts. Makes about 3/4 cup of icing, which is perfect for one dozen cupcakes.

Strawberry Balsamic Purée

8 medium-sized ripe strawberries
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (I used my chocolate-infused!)
2 tbs sugar

Purée all ingredients in the blender. Serve over your favorite desserts. Makes 1 cup of purée.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crispy Tilapia, Lemon-Thyme Quinoa, Sauteéd Bok Choy

This is a leftover from last month that I just got around to typing up. This fish stick is a little fancier than your average minced and frozen variety. By blending the seasonings into the buttermilk-egg bath, you avoid the loss of flavor caused by heat. Instead the subtle garlicky, lemony flavor cozies right up into the fish. You won't even miss the tartar sauce!

The side dishes we flavored to compliment the fish. I used red quinoa, because that's what I happened to have on hand; however, an variety will do. The bok choy is super quick and provides a leafy green to balance out the meal.

Crispy Tilapia Fish Sticks

1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp lemon zest
12 oz tilapia, cut into 1" wide strips
salt and pepper to taste
1 c coarse bread crumbs (panko, for example)

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a blender, blend egg, buttermilk, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper; transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a separate shallow bowl.

Season the tilapia strips with salt and pepper. Dip each strip into the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess liquid to drain off, then coat in bread crumb mixture. Lay on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining fish sticks. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Makes 4 servings (about 2 fish sticks per person).

Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

2 c fish or vegetable stock (or amount required per your quinoa package directions)
1 c quinoa
juice of 1 large lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare quinoa according to package directions using stock of choice.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients to form the dressing. Toss the dressing with the prepared quinoa until it is well mixed. Serves 4.

Herb Sauteéd Bok Choy

2 tbs light olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon zest
1 head bok choy, rinsed, and sliced into 1/4" inch ribbons (including stems)
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and zest; cook an additional minute. Add the bok choy and oregano into the pan; stir to combine with the onions. Cook it for a couple more minutes, or until cabbage just begins to wilt. Remove from heat.

Toss cabbage with the fresh basil and season to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Slow-Roasted Chicken, Harvest Vegetables, Rosemary Scones, and Pumpkin Mousse

I'm a few days late, but here is our typical Samhain feast. Traditionally (as in, before modern culture turned it into a demonized commercial festival), Samhain represented the end of summer and a celebration of the summer harvest. In addition to giving thanks for the harvest, Samhain was also a day to remember loved ones that have passed to the other side (or, simply put, died). It was common custom in pre-Christian times to set a place setting at the table for deceased ancestors and to recite a prayer to honor those that came before as well as those to come in the

With the gift of remembrance
I remember all of you.
You are dead but never forgotten,
and you live on within me
and within those who are yet to come.

Because I'm a fan of celebrating the original meaning of most holidays, I share this with the offspring. We don't go as far as to set an extra place at the table, but I do like to make a traditional meal and make a toast to our roots. If you can't tell from my holiday selection, there is a strong Celtic vein or two in my body.

Enough history....on to the food! This meal is meant to make use of seasonal ingredients. In the normal world, this is when hens would be full-grown and root vegetables would be most plentiful. The use of rosemary is a common theme, because traditionally rosemary is for remembrance.

Because the majority of the dishes make use of the oven (requiring different cooking temperatures, of course!), I have had to adapt my timing. The harvest vegetables include instructions for preparing while the chicken is in the oven. During the last hour of the roasting time, I prepare the dough for the scones. Then, once the chicken and veggies are out of the oven, I reduce the heat and pop the scones in to bake while the chicken rests. The pumpkin mousse can be made up to a day in advance.

Speaking of the mousse, I have no photo of it. Not that a photo would look especially exciting....just imagine pale pumpkin orange cream in a wine glass, topped with a dark chocolate drizzle. Or, better yet, make it and enjoy the dessert in person!

Slow-Roasted Chicken

4 tbs butter, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced + several whole sprigs of rosemary
1 tbs fresh thyme, minced + several whole sprigs of thyme
1 tsp lemon zest
5-6 lb whole chicken, innards removed, rinsed, and patted dry
salt and pepper
1 lemon, cut into fourths
1 medium yellow onion, cut into fourths

Preheat oven to 275F.

Combine butter, garlic, rosemary and thyme leaves, and lemon zest. Form a log of butter on a piece of plastic cling and wrap the cling securely around the butter. Place the butter mixture in the freezer to harden.

Season the inside of the chicken breast well with salt and pepper. Using your hand, separate the
skin from the breast meat gently (you want the skin to remain intact and attached to the bird). Rub the space between the skin and the breast liberally with salt and pepper. With a paring knife, make several one-inch slits in the breast meat, spacing the slits about an inch apart. Stuff the bird with the lemon, onion, and sprigs of herbs.

Remove the butter from the freezer, unwrap, and slice into as many rounds as you have slits in the breast meat (probably around 6-8). Push one round of butter into each slit. Using cotton string or twine, tie the chicken legs together. Place the chicken in a baking dish breast-side down. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes per pound. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 150F, flip the chicken to breast-side-up, return to the oven, and turn the heat up to 400F. Roast another 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160F. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving.

Harvest Potatoes

2 tbs peanut oil
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
2 lbs fingerling potatoes, large potatoes cut in half
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced

Preheat oven to 400F (or follow the directions in the note for preparing these potatoes along with the Roasted Chicken).

Combine the oil, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss the vegetables in the oil mixture to coat. Place in a baking dish and bake 30-35 minutes, or until tender.

To prepare while the chicken roasts: Start the vegetables in the oven in the last hour of the chicken's roasting time. Remove the vegetables at the same time as the chicken.

Rosemary Scones

3/4 c milk
1 tbs lemon juice
1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tbs butter, room temperature
1/2 c grated cheese
1 tbs fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tbs fresh thyme, minced
1 tbs olive oil
extra rosemary leaves for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, combine milk and lemon juice. Set aside to allow to curdle (alternatively, use 3/4 cup of buttermilk).

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until mixture becomes crumbly. Stir in cheese and herbs. Add curdled milk and mix in until dough comes together.

Knead dough on a floured surface, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Form dough into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges about an inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover with cling wrap and place in freezer for ten minutes.

Remove baking sheet from the freezer and discard the cling wrap. Brush tops of the dough with olive oil and garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until tops are pale golden brown. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Mousse

1 -15oz can pumpkin
3 c heavy cream
3/4 c fine sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate drizzle (recipe below), if desired

In a meadium saucepan, combine pumpkin, one cup of the cream, sugar, spice, and one teaspoon of the vanilla. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Once pumpkin mixture is cooled, beat the remaining cream and vanilla to medium peaks. Fold whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture until well-combined. If desired, top with chocolate drizzle or chocolate chips before serving. Serves 8.

Chocolate Drizzle
(adapted from this Almost Vegan recipe--thanks Amber!)

2 1/2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 c fine sugar
1/4 c + 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c heavy cream
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

In a small saucepan, melt the oil over medium heat. Whisk in sugar and cocoa powder until smooth. Slowly add cream, whisking constantly until sauce is smooth and heated through. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and salt, ans set aside. Allow to cool completely before drizzling over the mousse.

Tomato-Cauliflower Soup with Thai Flavors

'Tis the season....no, I'm not following the lead of certain radio stations and starting my caroling in November. The next line in this particular ditty would say something witty about soup, for that is what our new-found freezing temperatures has me in the mood for. Well, that and the (also new) sore throat....

This is a product of another fridge-busting attempt. It's easy, soothing, and satisfying. The cauliflower lends a creaminess and body to the soup, which was a nice surprise. I had my bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich that I also infused a bit o' the Thai into by rubbing the bread with garlic and lime, adding cilantro and garlic-chili sauce to the insides, and grilling in a mixture of coconut and sesame oils. Did I just create an Asian fusion comfort food? I think so!

Tomato-Cauliflower Soup with Thai Flavor

2 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 -28oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
1/2 head of cauliflower florets
2 tsp garlic-chili sauce (more or less, to adjust heat)
1 tsp agave nectar
3 c water
2 lime wedges
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (if desired)

In a large stock pot combine the oil and coriander. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the onions and cook another 5 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper; cook 3 more minutes. Transfer onion combination to a blender and pureé.

Return pureéd mixture to pot and add tomatoes, cauliflower, chili sauce, agave, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is soft, about 20 minutes. Add lime wedges and simmer 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat and discard the lime wedges. In batches, pureé the soup in a blender until the desired consistency is reached (I like to leave about one-fourth of the soup "as is" for a chunkier texture). Season with additional salt and black pepper and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sushi and Watermelon Rind Kim-chi

I have had a decrease in timeliness when it comes to posting lately. Not that I've had a LOT to post, by any means....quite a few repeats these days. I do have a few recipes to get off my conscious, though, so let's move on to playing ketchup--er, catch up.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make some sushi--or at least to roll some things in seaweed, as some of the maki does not contain any rice. I used this venture as a means to use up some ingredients I had lying around. My goal was to make a decent meal of sushi without making a special trip to the store. As you can see, I did all right!

In the first column on the left, I have a version of a spicy tuna roll, except this is a spicy shrimp roll. I used silken tofu instead of mayo in the spicy mayo. The second column is a mushroom, jalapeño, and cream cheese roll. Next is silken tofu and watermelon rind kim-chi. Last but not least, is a roll that used raw grated sweet potato and cauliflower instead of rice; the center contains fresh asparagus. I also created a handroll out of the left-over bits, which you can see in the picture below.

The watermelon rind kim-chi is a simple raw recipe that makes use of something that typically goes to waste. By using this easy pickling technique, you can eliminate trash and provide a nice spicy boost to many of your recipes. Personally, I love it on salads! You can see my jar of kim-chi in the photo below with my mis en place lined up and ready to go.

Watermelon Rind Kim Chi

rind from 1/2 large watermelon, skin and pink flesh removed, cute into 1/2" pieces (comes out to about 3 cups of rind)
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/4 c salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, minced
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
3 tbs crushed chili pepper flakes
1 tbs honey
2 tsp rice vinegar

Toss watermelon rind and carrot with salt in a large bowl. Allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

Add garlic, ginger, onions, chili flakes, honey, and vinegar to the salted rind mixture; toss to combine. Pack kim-chi into glass jars, adding a few spoonfuls of the red liquid that has formed. Allow to rest at room temperature for 24-48 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator. The flavor intensifies over time. Makes about 3 cups of kim-chi.

Sushi Rice

1 c sushi or short grain rice
1 1/4 c water, plus extra for rinsing rice
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs salt

Place the rice into a strainer and rinse with cool water until the water runs clear.

Place the rice and 1 1/4 cups of water into a medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the low cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and slowly sprinkle in the vinegar mixture while slowly stirring. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Make sure rice is room temperature before rolling.

Spicy Shrimp Roll Filling

3 tbs silken (extra soft) tofu
1 tbs Sriracha
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp salt
1 3.5oz can baby shrimp, drained well

Whisk tofu, Sriracha, lemon juice, tamari, and salt until well-combined. Mix shrimp into sauce to evenly coat. Makes about 3/4 cup of filling.

Sushi -- Maki-style*

sushi mat (typically bamboo, but any material that will easily roll will work)
prepared sushi rice (see recipe above)
nori (toasted or dehydrated seaweed sheet)
fillings of choice
small bowl of rice vinegar to wet fingers

Assemble your ingredients, making sure that fillings are cut into 1/4" strips. Lay the mat flat. Place a sheet of nori on top of the mat. Starting 1/2" from the edge of nori closest to you, thinly spread the rice from left to right edges up until 1" of nori remains at the edge farthest from you.
Place your ingredients in a horizontal line about 1" from the bottom edge of the rice layer. The filling should amount to about the diameter of one finger. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the rice and nori layers up and over the filling, using the mat to tighten as you go. Roll until you reach the edge farthest from you. Using the vinegar, wet the exposed edge of the nori and complete the roll. The tighter you roll, the better! To serve, slice into 1" rounds. Top with
Sriracha, toasted sesame seeds, or roe, if desired; serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Each roll makes 8 bite-sized pieces. Two cups of prepared rice will make about 6-8 rolls.

To create the hand roll, or temaki, shown to the right of my sushi rolls, place the ingredients on a diagonal, leaving a good two inches from what will become the bottom corner. Roll the nori corner to corner over the filling, stopping halfway to fold the bottom corner over the filling. Wet the edge with vinegar to seal the roll.

Raw Rice-less "Sushi" Roll

1/2 tbs rice vinegar
1/2 tbs sugar or agave nectar
pinch of salt
1/4 c raw sweet potato, shredded andpressed between paper towels to remove excess moisture
1/4 c raw cauliflower florets, finely chopped
4 stalks of raw asparagus, trimmed
1 nori sheet

Whisk together vinegar, sweetener, and salt. Combine vinegar mixture with sweet potato and cauliflower. Using the method described above, spread the sweet potato combination onto the nori as if it was sushi rice. Place the asparagus spears 1" from the edge of the sweet potato layer closest to you and roll as with a standard sushi roll. Cut into 1" rounds and serve.

*There are many places that describe how to roll sushi, complete with photos. I described the method to the best of my ability, but if you have never seen it done I suggest searching on-line for videos demonstrating the proper technique.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes and Mushroom Hummus

It's party time! With all the talk of football parties, holiday parties, and back-to-school parties, I thought I'd post a couple of stand-by favorites to such occasions. Of course no party is complete without hummus, and posted here I have a variation on my Basic Hummus Recipe. Stuffed tomatoes make an appearance at most my functions; if I find myself function-less, then there is nothing wrong with using this as a side dish.

Speaking of parties, my vegetarian sister has kindly granted me permission to throw her a baby shower. It's not until the end of November, but rest assured there will be more party-friendly foods to come!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

8 medium tomatoes
2 tbs olive oil
4 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c diced zucchini
4 oz goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbs fresh thyme, stem removed
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, grated
additional salt and pepper, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Cut across the stem end of each tomato to create a flat surface. Using a melon baller, scoop out the pulp each tomato. Chop the pulp and then set aside on paper towels to drain.

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until mushrooms begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add shallots and saute 2 mote minutes; add garlic and saute until shallots are translucent.

In a medium bowl, combine mushroom mixture, salt, zucchini, goat cheese, parsley, oregano, thyme, and drained tomato pulp. Gradually stir in bread crumbs, pepper, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan until mixture starts to come together.

With a paper towel, pat dry the inside of each tomato shell. Season inside of tomatoes with salt and pepper, if desired, then fill each tomato cavity with the goat cheese mixture. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top of the stuffed tomatoes and bake in preheated oven for 20 m inutes, or until tops are golden brown. Serves 8 as a side dish, or 4 as a main course.

Hummus with Mushrooms

1/4 c + 1 tbs olive oil
8 oz mushrooms of choice, sliced, dark ribs removed
2 cloves garlic, halved
1/4 tsp salt
1 can (15.5oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tbs tahini
1/4 c water
zest and juice from 1 lemon
pinch cayenne pepper
additional olive oil, water
salt/pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbs olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic and 1/4 tsp of salt and saute another 2-3 minutes, or until garlic starts to soften.

In food processor, puree mushrooms, garlic, beans, tahini, 1/4 c olive oil, 1/4 c water, lemon zest, juice, cumin, and cayenne to a medium-fine texture. Add about half a tsp each of salt and pepper to start.

While blending on medium speed, slowly add equal parts oil and water until paste smooths to desired consistency.

Transfer to a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Makes about 2 cups.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

It's fall (my favorite season!), which means sometimes all a girl needs is a comforting bowl of soup, and what's more comforting than chicken soup? While all ingredients can be prepared fresh, I admit that I cheated some. I used one can (drained) of wild rice to avoid dirtying a second pot; I also used the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. After all, there is little comfort to be had in a meal that you know you'll have to clean multiple pans after! Using my shortcuts turns this into a one pot meal.

I served this with some slices of Italian bread topped with fresh grilled tomatoes.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

5 tbs butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
4 tbs flour
1/2 tbs fresh cracked pepper
6 c chicken stock
1 c milk
1 c heavy cream
3 cups prepared chicken, cubed
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbs fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 c prepared wild rice
salt to taste
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

In a large stock pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, celery, and carrot and saute an additional 5 minutes. Stir in flour until thickenedy; add pepper.

Stir in stock, milk, and cream. Add chicken, thyme sprigs, oregano, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fish out the thyme sprigs and strip the leaves off; return the thyme leaves to the soup and discard the stems. Add rice and simmer another 15 minutes. Salt to taste; stir in parsley just before serving. Makes about 8 servings of soup.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Buttermilk Waffles with Balsamic Whip Cream

Breakfast isn't something I often make. Working nights, it's just not something that can be done the majority of the time. Having just purchased a waffle iron, however, I thought it was time. Since mornings aren't much of an option for me I made breakfast for dinner, or--as the offspring put it--"brinner."

The waffles are topped with balsamic whip cream, Nutella, and strawberries. Rounding out the meal we had the classic bacon and egg. It's tomato season, so you also see some tomato slices and fresh purple basil in the photo.

The whip cream may sound strange, but the bite of the balsamic vinegar really adds to the flavor. I used my chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar, but any good balsamic will work. This is also a great topping for fruit or ice cream!

Buttermilk Waffles

1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c milk
12 tbs melted butter
2 large egg, separated
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 200°F and turn on the waffle iron. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, butter and egg yolks; set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Sprinkle in sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are firm and glossy. Stir in vanilla.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed. Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter by spoonfuls and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated.

Pour the the appropriate amount of batter for your iron onto the hot waffle iron (I needed about 1/2 a cup per waffle) and cook until the waffle is crisp and golden brown (follow instructions for your iron). Set the waffle directly on the rack in the preheated to keep it warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining batter, placing the prepared waffles in the oven in a single layer. Once all the waffles are cooked, serve immediately. Makes about ten 5" square waffles.

Balsamic Whipped Cream

1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat to medium peaks. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thai Rice with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, and Lime

For some reason, no matter what I am making, I seem to only be able to use half a can of coconut milk at a time. I searched for a support group to help me with this problem, but none were to be found. Where is Fight Club's "Jack" when you need him?

I'm not a huge fan of freezing leftovers (little freezer space to speak of), so just making a double-batch of my usual coconut milk-utilizing recipes isn't much of an option. In a mini fridge-busting session, I came up with this super-simple, one-pot, vegan way to get rid of the other half of the can.

I am Jack's satisfied hunger.

Thai Rice with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, and Lime

1/2 can coconut milk (about 3/4 c)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 fresh chili, thinly sliced
1/2 c shredded carrots
1 c water
1/2 cup jasmine rice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook until soft (3-5 minutes). Add the lemongrass, zest, ginger, chile, carrots, remaining coconut milk, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice and salt. Cover and simmer on low heat another 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lime. Makes 2 servings.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Slow Cooked Chicken Verde Tacos with Mexican Rice and Black Beans

It was Taco Night in the anti-Chef household. I've been working a ridiculous number of hours lately, so I wanted a meal that required minimal effort on my part. This chicken uses a crock pot to achieve its slow-cooked status (and allows me to sleep while my electronic sous chef does all the work). The protein has a lot of flavor, so I recommend keeping the toppings simple. As you can see in the photo, I just used some fresh avocado and cilantro to finish my soft tacos. My oldest used some leftover Chilled Avocado Soup to top hers; the youngest didn't use any toppings at all.

Slightly more time-intensive were the side dishes. The black beans and Mexican rice were made for a potluck at work, and I was blessed to have some leftovers. I've included the recipes here, of course. Know that these work quite well made ahead of time! The microwave is my friend....

I finished off the meal with a little shredded cabbage slaw and some roasted bell peppers. Aside from the chicken, this meal counts as vegetarian and vegan. Perhaps some seitan instead for the non-carnivores out there?

Slow-Cooked Chicken Tacos in Verde Sauce

6 tomatillos, husks removed and halved
2 serrano peppers, stems removed and halved lengthwise
1 small yellow onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c cilantro
1/4 c fresh oregano
zest and juice from 1 lime
2 tbs honey
2 tsp salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
12 corn tortillas
toppings of choice

Preheat oven to 450F. Place tomatillos and serrano peppers, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Roast in oven 15-20 minutes, or until skins start to blacken.

Place roasted produce in a blender with onion, garlic, herbs, lime juice and zest, and honey. Puree with 1 teaspoon of the salt until well blended. Season chicken with remaining salt and the pepper and place in the crockpot. Cover with the tomatillo blend and cook on "Low" for 6 hours.

Using two forks, shred chicken and stir to distribute the sauce. Allow to cook another hour or two. Serve shredded chicken on warmed corn tortillas with toppings of your choice. Served 6.

Mexican Rice

1 tbs butter or olive oil
1 c uncooked rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 15oz can corn, drained
1 8oz can diced tomatoes with chilis
1/2 c spicy tomato juice
1 1/2 c cold water
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp chili powder
salt to taste
1/4 c cilantro or parsley, finely chopped

Heat butter or oil over medium heat in a large skillet (a wok works nicely for this). Cook rice in the oil for about 10 minutes, stiring frequently, until rice just starts to brown. Add the garlic and oregano; cook another minute.

Stir remaining ingredients in and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and salt to taste. Stir in cilantro. Makes about 5 cups of Mexican rice.

Mexican Black Beans

1 tbs light olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 c Mexican lager of choice
salt to taste
1/4 c cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
lime wedges

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add garlic, oregano, and cumin; saute one more minute.

Stir in zest, cayenne, beans, and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and stir in cilantro. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over beans. Makes about 4 cups of black beans.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fried Rice Balls, Chocolate Banana Muffins, and Bentos--oh my!

I've been experimenting with bento boxes lately. I happened into a beautiful bento box that I've been trying to use. I love the concept of the bento, and the gods know I could use help finishing up leftovers. I've put together a few so far that I'd like to share here, as well as a couple of recipes that have made it into my bentos.

This was my first bento lunch. I made a sushi roll of smoked salmon, avocado, and green onion with some leftover sushi rice and partial package of lox leftover from breakfast. I also had some grilled shrimp from the night before, so I rolled that up with shredded carrot into a spring roll. My teeny sauce bottles held soy sauce and my own plum dipping sauce. To round out my meal, I had miso soup and some watermelon in a separate container.

My next bento saw some more of the grilled shrimp, this time in its originally prepared state. With rice leftover from Chinese takeout, I made the fried rice balls you see in the top section (recipe below). The bottom section had a salad of shredded carrot and fresh mushrooms, and a few watermelon balls. Again, you see the teeny bottle of soy and plum sauce.

My youngest offspring expressed an interest in taking a bento lunch to school, so this is what I packed for her this morning. Once again, we had leftover shrimp (the mild version from last night's dinner). Also included are carrot sticks and broccoli, corn salad, whole wheat tortilla cut into fun shapes, and a Laughing Cow wedge of spreadable cheese. For dessert, she had grapes and a chocolate banana mini muffin (recipe below).

So far, I'm having a great time making these little lunches, and I will likely be making many more in the future. Now on the the recipes!

2 c leftover long grain rice
1 c water
2 tbs cream
1 egg, beaten
3 tbs onion, finely chopped
2 green onion stalks, finely chopped
2 tbs seaweed, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper powder
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbs protein of choice, cooked and finely chopped (suggestions below)
1 tbs sauce of choice (suggestions below)
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 c flour
oil for frying

Mix water with rice in a medium sauce pan and bring to a very low boil. Cook until water is absorbed; remove from heat.

In a large bowl, beat together cream, egg, onions, seaweed, red pepper, and baking powder. Stir in the rice until evenly coated. Mix protein, sauce, sesame seeds, and 1 tsp of the salt into the rice mixture. Stir in flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick enough to shape into balls.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat. With floured hands, shaped the rice mixture into 2-inch diameter balls.

Fry the balls for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain the rice balls on paper towels. Sprinkle with remaining salt and serve.

Protein suggestions:
Salmon (used in the photo above)
Spam (a Korean favorite, of all things)

Sauce suggestions:
Plum sauce (used with the salmon in the photo above)
Teriyaki marinade
Fish sauce
Hoisin sauce
BBQ sauce
Sour cream

1 3/4 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and bananas.

Stir flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins. For mini muffins, bake 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; standard muffin tins take about 25 minutes to bake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shrimp Diablo and Chilled Avocado Soup

Hot and cold, spicy and mild....this duo lends credence to the old saying "opposites attract." The shrimp is marinated in a puree that includes the infamous habanero chili pepper; one whole pepper gave me exactly the spice I wanted without obliterating the flavor of the shrimp. Of course, a milder pepper could be substituted--or just omit the chili altogether and go all the way with the garlic chili sauce. When handling hot peppers, remember to wash your hands well immediately after. Not only do you want to avoid getting the pepper's oils in your eyes, but you also want to avoid touching anything else. I can't tell you how many times I've ended up with burning eyes because I went straight from chopping block to the computer. Trust me, capsaicin lasts a long time on hard surfaces.

The soup is a chilled vegan soup that can easily be adapted to a raw recipe. The creamy cooling action of the avocado and sour coconut cream (recipe here!) tame the spicy kick of the shrimp beautifully. If you choose to serve the soup alone, I'd recommend kicking the cayenne up a notch to help bring out the avocado and lime.

In the interest of time-management, I made the soup first so it would chill the necessary amount of time. Once the soup is in the fridge, I prepped the rest of the ingredients and got the shrimp into the marinade. The corn can be prepared during the last 15 minutes of the shrimp's marinating time, and then all that is left to worry about is babysitting the crustaceans so they don't overcook. After that it's just a matter of whisking the soup ingredients together and plating!

Shrimp Diablo

2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs garlic chili sauce
1/2 to 1 whole habanero pepper
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tbs oil (chili infused, if desired)
1 lb large raw shrimp, peeked and deveined

Place all ingredients except the shrimp into the blender and puree. Combine sauce and shrimp in a freezer bag and marinate for 30 minutes.

Skewer shrimp, if desired. Grill or broil about 5 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes each side. Serves 4.

4 ripe avocados
2 tbs lime juice
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, chilled
1 shallot, minced
3 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne powder, or to taste
1 tbs butter or olive oil
1 c corn kernels
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/2 tsp cumin
1/3 c red bell pepper, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
chili oil, if desired to finish

In a blender or food processor, puree the avocados with the lemon juice until smooth. Add the stock, shallot, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and cayenne pepper; blend well. Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and chill for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter or oil over medium-high heat. Add corn, zest, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; saute until corn is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and stir in red bell pepper and last tablespoon of cilantro. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Whisk the sour coconut cream into the avocado puree and salt/pepper to taste. Spoon the warm corn salsa over the soup just before serving. Finish with a drizzle of chili oil. Makes about 6 cups of soup.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cantonese Style Spare Ribs with Veggie Spring Rolls

My youngest daughter brought home a Chinese cook book from the school library, and kindly demanded the ribs. That was the jumping off point of this recipe. I simplified the preparation to accommodate my odd sleep schedule and paired it with spring rolls to help cool us off on this hot, sticky day.

The spring rolls are prepared in the fresh style--that is, no deep-fat frying. I left the filling undressed to facilitate dipping (love plum sauce!). To increase portability, combine the filling with the dressing before rolling.

I apologize for the quality of the photos. I didn't realize the batteries on my camera were on their last electron prior to chowing down, hence the weird focus.

Cantonese Style BBQ Spareribs

1 tbs ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c hoisin sauce
1/3 c plum sauce
1 tbs whole peppercorns
2 lb pork spareribs, cut apart
2 tbs honey

Combine ginger, garlic, sauces, and pepper in a large bowl; add ribs and toss to coat. Place ribs and sauce in crock pot and allow to cook on low for 6 hours.

Set oven to broil and place the rack on the highest level. Remove ribs from the sauce and place on a baking sheet. Brush the ribs with the honey and broil for about 3 minutes, or until the ribs have a glazed appearance. Flip ribs, brush with honey, and broil another 3 minutes. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Veggie Spring Rolls

1 tbs sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
8 spring roll wrappers, soaked according to directions
1 c carrots, matchstick cut
1/4 red bell pepper, matchstick cut
2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced lengthwise and cut into 5" lengths
1 jalapeno, matchstick cut (optional)
1 c alfalfa sprouts

In a small skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until just soft. Stir in mushrooms and cook until tender (about 4 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Lay out a softened spring roll wrapper. At about one-third up from the edge closest to you, arrange a 5" layer of carrot using about 2 tablespoons of carrot per roll. Top with several slices of bell pepper, green onion, and jalapeno (if desired). Add 2 tablespoons of alfalfa sprouts. Bring the end of the wrapper closest to you over the fillings, and roll tightly until half the wrapper is aroung the filling. Bring in the left and right sides of the wrapper over the center, and then roll the rest of the way. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling ingredients.

Bias slice each roll in half and serve with plum dipping sauce. Makes 8 rolls.

1/4 c plum sauce
3 tbs rice vinegar
1/4 c water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbs sunflower seeds

Blend all iingredients until smooth. Refridgerate at least 30 minutes before use. Makes about 3/4 cups of dipping sauce.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stuffed Eggplant Marinara

Eggplant season is here, and it is incredibly difficult for me to say no to this pretty purple member of the nightshade family. I started out wanting eggplant parmesan, but ended up with this thanks to my aversion to battering and frying (see the Fried Pickle Wontons for my favorite way around such things).

This dish uses crispy tofu to fill the texture void left by skipping the vat of frying oil; the protein boost doesn't hurt anything, either. If you don't want to be bothered with gutting the eggplant just to put its insides back inside, simply cube the eggplant before roasting, mix it all together in a 9x9 pan, and bake as instructed.

Stuffed Eggplant Marinara

2 eggplants, halved lengthwise
1 tbs light olive oil
salt to taste
1 15oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
3 springs fresh oregano, stem discarded
6 sprigs fresh thyme, stem discarded
1 18oz block extra firm tofu, pressed, drained, and cut into 1" cubes
3 tbs peanut oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8oz baby portabella mushrooms, stems discarded, caps quartered
1/2 c shredded asiago cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush cut side of eggplant with olive oil and season with salt. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

Combine tomatoes, roasted peppers, oregano, and thyme in a bowl, crushing the larger tomato pieces. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.

Heat peanut oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry tofu several minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

In the same skillet that the tofu was prepared, saute onions over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and saute another minute. Stir in tomato paste, coating the onions. Add the crushed tomato combination and stir. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place mushrooms on a baking dish and bake for ten minutes. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant, leaving a 1/4" shell. Chop the removed eggplant and combine in a large bowl with the mushrooms, tofu, and tomato sauce. Season with salt again, if necessary, then divide the tomato mixture evenly amoung the hollow eggplant halves. If desired, top with cheese. Bake in oven for 10 more minutes, or until heated through. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crab and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers with Citrus Tomato Rice

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was hungry. Her parents invited her over to eat, but only if she cooked it. And so she did.

That's an over-simplified version of the origins for this recipe, but it works. My dad bought the ingredients, and I packed up the offspring and the puppy and we made an evening of it (on a school night--gasp!). I combined cream cheese, crab meat, and mushrooms to stuff into anaheim pepper halves. The rice dish was added to make this a complete meal (mmmmm, carbs).

Crab and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers

1 tbs light olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
4 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz crab meat, chopped
1 c red onion, diced
1 tbs fresh oregano, minced
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 tsp lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
dash hot sauce, if desired
6 large Anaheim peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 c shredded asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat medium saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and saute garlic for one minute. Add mushrooms and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine mushrooms, cream cheese, crab, onion, oregano, bread crumbs, zest, juice, pepper, and hot sauce (if desired). Mix until very well combined and salt to taste.

Arrange anaheim peppers on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the crab filling on each pepper half and top with asiago cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until filling is heated through and tops are a golden brown. Allow to rest 5 minutes, then serve. Serves 4-6 people as an entree. For hors d'ouerves, cut each pepper into 2" portions.

Citrus Tomato Rice:

1 tbs light olive oil
1 med onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, minced
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp lemon zest
2 c prepared rice
1/4 tsp salt
1 large tomato, diced
juice of 1 lemon

Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Saute onion 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and saute one more minute. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in oregano, paprika, cayenne, and zest. Stirring constantly, cook an additional 2 minutes and remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine rice and the sauteed onion. Stir in tomato and salt, adjusting seasoning to taste. Finish by stirring in fresh lemon juice. Makes 6 servings.