Tuesday, August 30, 2011

mainlining produce

Let's just say it has NOT been a healthy day for me, at least intake-wise. I ate both breakfast and lunch at school with the kids, and I realized, on my way home from work, that I was: 1. profoundly thirsty (thank you, processed foods,) and 2. hadn't had a single fruit or vegetable ALL DAY. The horror.

I decided that as soon as I walked in the door, it was time to start mainlining the produce:

A giant tomato and cucumber salad (with feta and olives,) two slices of toasted multigrain bread topped with baba ganoush and sliced avocado, and some fresh figs.

I feel better now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

thank you, Dora.

Thanks to my friend Dora, who provided both some of the raw materials (heirloom tomatoes from her garden) and inspiration (telling me about her breakfast of tomatoes and poached eggs yesterday,) for this meal, a healthy, indulgent breakfast made its way out of my kitchen this morning:

Wholegrain toast with honey and butter, poached eggs, sliced heirlooms with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and basil, fresh blackberries, and a second cup of coffee.

I'm fueled. :) Better start the cleaning and laundry!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

baba ga-what?

In response to Ali's recent comment:

"Again with the eggplant!!! But this looks so yummy that you will have me trying it before summer's over (actually I do have ratatouille on my "to-cook" list but was planning an eggplant-free version)! I've just never cooked it well...any tips to make it not taste like an old kitchen dishrag?"

I figured it was about time to make baba ganoush. I picked up a large, gorgeous, shiny, perfectly-ripe beauty of an eggplant at the Farmer's Market this morning, and decided there and then that I would be spending the next few days living off of salads topped with either beets and goat cheese or tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, with plenty of crostini and baba on the side.

This creamy, subtle dip is great with just about any crackery/bread-type object, crudites, or, well, tortilla chips, if that's all you have on hand. :)

1 large eggplant
1 head garlic
olive oil (about 1/4 cup, maybe a little more, maybe a little less)
2 tablespoons tahini
juice of one lemon
salt to taste
few dashes smoked paprika

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Halve the eggplant, (no need to stem or trim,) and rub the cut sides with a few teaspoons olive oil. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Trim the head of garlic so the cloves are just exposed at the top. Drizzle a small square of foil with about a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, and smear the head of garlic in the oil. Wrap up tightly in the foil. Add the garlic to the baking sheet.
3. Roast the eggplant and garlic for about an hour, rotating your baking sheet halfway through if needed. Cool slightly.
4. Scoop the eggplant flesh out of the peel into a bowl, and squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery skin. Add the tahini, lemon juice, salt, paprika, and a drizzle of olive oil to the bowl. Puree with a stick blender until very smooth. Add more oil as needed. (Alternately, you could add everything to a food processor or blender and puree -- I just don't have any of those fancy, high-tech appliances.) :)
5. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate before serving.

Note that I am usually fond of leaving the peels on fruits and vegetables. I have found, with past experiences, that eggplant peels just don't puree all that well, and they help your finished dip take on an unappetizing grey color, so lately, I have been tossing the peels after roasting. Feel free to add them to your batch, though!

Now Ali, I hope this doesn't taste like an old kitchen dishrag to you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

fried rice

Fried rice is one of those meals I tend to forget about -- probably because, when ordered from a restaurant, it is often greasy, overly-salty, and marginally healthy. However, when I make it at home, I have control over the amount of oil I use, (just a few teaspoons to keep everything from sticking to the pan,) the amount of soy sauce I use (usually only a couple of tablespoons of the low-sodium variety,) and most importantly, the variety of veggies I use!

Last night, I dug through my fridge, cupboard, and freezer, and found a whole host of veggies that were begging to be added to my fried rice!

After warming some garlic, ginger, and chile-garlic sauce in a couple teaspoons of canola oil, I went a little crazy! Cabbage, carrot, shiitake mushrooms, red bell peppers, corn, edamame, broccoli, green onions, and water chestnuts all made their way into my dinner, along with brown rice and a few beaten eggs. I finished the dish with two tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce, and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Perfect! Healthy, high-fiber, high-protein, and packed full of vitamins, but still so delicious.

What are your favorite fried rice ingredients? Do you love that greasy, salty, take-out goodness, or do you prefer to make your own?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

an obvious choice

With all of the gorgeous, fresh, local veggies in season right now, and the cooler temperatures we have been enjoying in MN as of late, I needed to make a massive heap of roasted veggies, wouldn't you agree? I followed the "Roasted Ratatouille" recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, adding 2 cups of cooked chickpeas for a little more protein/staying power. Now, what to do with those veggies, you ask?

Why, stuff them into crepes, of course -- isn't that the obvious answer?? ;) I haven't made crepes since Mardi Gras, and I was starting to feel like it was about time! My crepe recipe is so simple, (2 cups flour, 2 1/8 cups milk, 1 stick butter, melted, and 4 eggs,) and so delicious, (must be all that butter, plus then turning around and cooking them in more butter!), I felt like it was the obvious choice. :)

Thanks to French classes in high school, I have been making crepes for over half my life, so they feel like the easiest thing in the world. I also have a crepe pan . . . I know, I know. I don't make much room for unitaskers in my kitchen, but it's just so much easier to cook crepes in a crepe pan, as opposed to a nonstick frying pan. (No "tails" of batter shooting out of the edges when I use a crepe pan.) How 'bout you? Have you ever made crepes before?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

zucchini time

First off, know that I haven't posted in over a week because I haven't cooked in over a week! Between finishing up leftovers, eating out more than I should have, and slipping in a few lunches/breakfasts with the kids at work, I haven't needed to cook! Boooooooo!

OK, on to more important things: cookies! It's that time of year when Midwesterners will slip zucchini into any food that will allow, including cookies! It's hard not to, when one can obtain four very large zucchini from the Farmer's Market for a measly $1.50, wouldn't you agree? It's also hard not to, when cookies made with zucchini turn out this soft, chewy, and addictive. (But I'm still sticking to my "diet," wah, and calculated one cookie at around 100 calories, so, there you go.) I'll have to see how many of these cookies I can unload on friends and coworkers, because now that I've caught the zucchini-baking bug, I'm really wanting to make a zucchini-chocolate cake next. :)


1/2 cup raisins
enough hot water to cover

Combine dry ingredients:
3/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Penzey's Baking Spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups regular rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Cream together:
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup natural granulated sugar

Stir into butter mixture:
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 medium zucchini, grated and obvious water squeezed out (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
drained raisins

Stir dry ingredients into wet until combined. Drop by 2-tablespoon fulls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about four-dozen cookies, give or take.


I also have plans to use another one of my zucchini in roasted ratatouille, which I may stuff into crepes. (Doesn't that sound both homey and fancy at the same time?) What are some of your favorite uses for zucchini?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

soup: a love letter

Oh, soup, how much do I love thee? I was sitting on the couch the other night, when I was suddenly chilled by a cool breeze through my open windows. My first thought? "I need to make soup!"

Now, while it's still very much summer in our neck of the woods, the nights have been cooler this week, which has made me feel a-ok about making -- and eating! -- soup. Soup is definitely one of my favorite meals, and I eat it often during the cooler months.

Thankfully, I had nearly everything on hand to make this batch -- a quick trip to the co-op for egg noodles was all this bowl of warmth and comfort required. :) Living a block away from the co-op means spontaneous cooking inspiration can strike at any time these days!

Chickpea Noodle Soup

Yield: 4 substantial servings

4 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (use your favorite kind!)
2 cups cooked chickpeas
pepper to taste
4 to 6 ounces dry egg noodles

1. Saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in the olive oil until soft.
2. Add the broth, chickpeas, and pepper, and bring the soup to a boil.
3. Add the egg noodles; return the soup to a boil. Continue cooking until the noodles are al-dente. Cool slightly, and serve immediately!

I used to think I needed to "fancy-up" chickpea noodle soup with lemon, fresh herbs, etc. I've come to realize that what I really want, when I want chickpea noodle soup, is something glaringly simple and full of noodles. And seriously, use your favorite kind of vegetable broth, because two things carry this soup -- the broth, and the noodles. :) I don't typically make homemade broth, just because I lack storage space for the finished product, but if you have some on hand, by all means, use it! My favorite veg broth is the Rapunzel powdered base -- I use less of the powder than they direct, (about 1 tbsp per quart of water, instead of the full 4 tsp they direct,) and that's still plenty flavorful and salty for me. But by all means, use whatever you like best!

Monday, August 08, 2011


I had bookmarked a recipe from Vegetarian Times awhile back for Walnut-Stuffed Eggplant . . . and waited patiently for eggplant to come in season.

Finally! I added the ingredients to my shopping lists last weekend, and was excited to try out something new. While I've stuffed squash and portobellos, I've actually never stuffed an eggplant -- can you believe it?

Upon closer examination of the recipe, I was starting to feel less excited about this project. Reading the recipe reviews, some folks said that the meal took them two hours to prepare, and others complained about the cinnamon in the filling. I talked with my friend Dora about this meal, since she has stuffed eggplant before, and she gave me some pointers on streamlining the preparation.

I tweaked the original recipe quite a bit; here's what I finally came up with!

Walnut-Stuffed Eggplant, FOOD SNOB Version

2 medium eggplants (2 1/2 to 3 lbs total weight)
1 tbsp + 4 tsp olive oil, divided
3 cups diced onion
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup roughly-chopped walnuts
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp oregano
zest of one lemon
salt to taste
3 1/2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup whole-wheat panko

1. Preheat oven to 425. Halve the eggplant lengthwise, (leave the stem on for a more gorgeous presentation,) and place cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the eggplant about 30 minutes, or until fork-tender. Cool slightly. Scoop the eggplant flesh from the shells, and chop the flesh coarsely. Arrange the shells back on the baking sheet.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and add the onion and red pepper. Cook the onion until soft. Add the cherry tomatoes, walnuts, Italian seasoning, oregano, lemon zest, salt, and reserved eggplant flesh, and stir to combine. Cook, covered, about three minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Fold in the feta.
3. Heap the filling into the reserved shells. Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 4 tsp oil, and sprinkle over the filling.
4. Bake the stuffed eggplant for about 15 minutes, or until the filling sets and the crumbs brown. Allow the eggplants to cool for 10 minutes before serving!

Plated, with salad:

After my stuffed eggplant, salad, and dessert, my belly is also stuffed!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Magic Bus Cafe!

Now, I confess . . . I have been sloooooooooow to join in on the food truck revolution. Why? Well, I don't eat out much, frankly, and when I do, it's often for a special occasion/reason, so grabbing street food just doesn't fit the bill.

However, while art fairing today, I had the opportunity to try The Magic Bus Cafe!

Serving up all manner of hot dogs, made from meat or tofu, Dora and I spent a full five minutes staring at the menu in awe, trying to figure out what to order! After great debate, I settled on the "Mexicali Blues Dog" --

All dogs start with a toasted whole-wheat bun and a split and fried dog; the Mexicali came topped with refried beans, cheese, spicy relish, and pickled jalapenos. From my first bite, I could tell this was no half-assed tofu dog -- the high quality ingredients shined, and were combined in expert quantities for that great sweet-savory-spicy balance. By the end? My mouth was on fire, but in the best possible way. :)

OK. I guess it's about time I started frequenting more food trucks! (Well, beyond Cupcake's van. I have been known to treat myself to a cupcake on payday more than once! Red Velvet tends to kick off the weekend on just the right note.) What Twin Cities food trucks have you tried? Recommendations?

made for each other

What is it about peanut butter and bananas? I swear . . . those two foods were just made for each other. I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches, peanut butter and bananas (AND maple syrup) on waffles, peanut butter and banana smoothies . . . and NOW, peanut butter and banana muffins!

Heavily influenced by this recipe from Cooking Light, I, of course, made a few little edits -- can anyone else out there follow a recipe exactly as written? I know I can't. :)

Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins
yield: 16 muffins

3 medium bananas
1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp natural granulated sugar
1 tbsp molasses

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flax meal
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Penzey's "Baking Spice"
1/4 cup finely-chopped dry-roasted peanuts

Bake the muffins in lined muffin cups at 375 for about 20 minutes, rotating your pans front-to-back halfway through. Cool in pans 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


What other flavor combinations do you love?