Monday, March 31, 2014

Whole-Wheat Banana-Buttermilk Pancakes

It's been so long since I've had a chance to make a weekend breakfast!  (John's been working some crazy hours lately . . . resulting in a wacky sleep schedule for him, and little time for a leisurely breakfast on the weekend for either of us.)  This past Saturday, however, I managed to whip up a quick batch of pancakes!

We were out of eggs (!) so I quickly whisked 2 tbsp ground flax seeds into 1/4 cup of warm water and let that sit for a few minutes to thicken.  However, in my opinion, flax seeds can impart a strong flavor to what would otherwise be a delicate baked good.  Bananas and whole wheat flour to the rescue!  Pairing the flax seeds with other assertive flavors definitely masked their strong flavor; John noted that he couldn't tell there were flax seeds in the pancakes.  Score!

Whole-Wheat Banana-Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 8 to 12 pancakes, depending on size

1/4 c warm water
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
1 c whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large, very ripe banana
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, coconut . . . any light, neutral-tasting oil will do)
1 c buttermilk
chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, and/or blueberries (optional)

1. Combine the water and ground flax seeds, stirring well with a whisk or fork.  Let stand at least 5 minutes, or until thick and gelled.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Peel and mash the banana.  Whisk in the sugar, oil, buttermilk, and flax mixture.  Whisk in the dry ingredients until well-blended.
4. Pour batter onto preheated, lightly-greased griddle.  Sprinkle tops of pancakes with chocolate chips, walnuts, or blueberries.  Cook until dry around the edges and bubbles pop all over the surface of the pancake.  Flip, and cook the second side.  Keep warm on a baking sheet in a warm oven until ready to serve.
5. Serve with your favorite pancake toppings!  (I added chocolate chips to the batch I made last weekend, and topped my share with peanut butter and sliced bananas . . . a delicious, healthy, protein-packed breakfast!)

What do you like on your pancakes?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Apple-Fennel Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

It's spring!  Well, not really . . . it's still sort of winterish in Minnesota.  Truthfully, I feel like I need to qualify this time of year as "early spring" -- the days are getting longer and the weather is slightly warmer, but you still need to check the weather every single day to figure out how to dress.  Some days, you need your wool coat, some days you need a fleece, some days you need an umbrella, most days you still need a hat and mittens.  It snowed last week, today it's going to be 60 degrees outside.  You know . . . THAT time of year.  :)

Regardless of the weather, the increased sunlight makes me feel lighter -- and consequently, I want to eat a lot lighter, too!  Planning for big lunch-sized salads a few times per week helps ease the transition, and this week's salad was beautiful and light, but still hearty enough to get me through my afternoon.

Apple-Fennel Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

Serves 1, with plenty of leftover dressing

For the Vinaigrette:
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1/2 small shallot
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tbsp white-wine -or- champagne vinegar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c walnut oil
2-4 tbsp fennel fronds (optional)

For the Salad:
your favorite lettuces/salad greens (about 2 cups)
1/2 c thinly-sliced fennel
1/4 c sliced celery
1/2 an apple, chopped or sliced
1 oz walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 oz blue cheese, crumbled

1. Make the vinaigrette: combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a wide-mouthed pint mason jar, (or really any wide-mouthed jar -- old salsa and peanut butter jars work fabulously for dressings,) and whiz with a stick blender until creamy.  Alternately, you could use a regular blender and transfer to a jar or bottle after blending, or finely mince the garlic and shallot by hand, then whisk the ingredients together in a bowl until emulsified.
2. Assemble the salad: layer your greens, fennel, celery, and apple on a plate or in a large salad bowl. Drizzle about 1 tbsp of the vinaigrette over your salad, or more or less to taste.  (I find that a little goes a long way with most dressings!)  Top with walnuts and blue cheese.

I love the crispy, crunchy, creamy, nutty, sweet, sour, and bitter balance happening in this salad -- there's a LOT of flavor going on, but the flavors all compliment each other beautifully.  This is also pretty filling, given the protein in the walnuts and cheese, all of the fiber-rich veggies, and the healthy fats in the walnuts and dressing.  Definitely a lunch to look forward to!

What is your favorite meal-sized salad flavor combination?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

400-calorie dinners (vii)

Two more 400-calorie dinners we've enjoyed this week . . . 

Stir Fry:

So far, the "tricks" I've discovered to making a delicious, 400-calorie stir fry are these:

1. Use only a little oil (or cooking spray) to brown your tofu and cook up your veggies
(Let's face it . . . most stir-fries can end up a little greasy, can't they?)

2. Keep an eye on your rice portion
(I find 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup is plenty for me.)

3. Make your own sauce!
(Most commercial stir-fry sauces are loaded with salt and sugar, and probably some GMOs or other not-too-desirable ingredients.)
Here's my default stir-fry sauce recipe, in case you're curious:
2 tbsp low-sodium tamari
2 tbsp water
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Add the sauce just as your veggies finish cooking, and boil/cook the stir fry until the sauce thickens and clears.  (This should just take a minute or two.)


I followed the recipe for "Neelam's Festive Rice Pilaf," from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, nearly as written, making a few substitutions based on what I had on hand, (swapping in currants and dried apricots for the raisins and dried blueberries, and edamame for the frozen peas.)  I also gussied up some fat-free Greek yogurt with a pinch of salt, plenty of minced fresh ginger, chopped mint, and minced cilantro, and served the yogurt with the rice, as the recipe suggested.  Delicious!  The rice is fantastic on its own, (I love the sweet-salty-spicy-savory balance,) but the yogurt really makes the dish.  (Plus, most of us can always use a bit more calcium and protein on a daily basis, right?)

What are your favorite stir-fry ingredients?  I have a tendency to overload my stir-fries (and curries) with every vegetable under the sun, but really showed restraint this week.  :)  I loved the simplicity of using just red onion, broccoli, and shiitake mushrooms!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

mac and cheese interruption

I interrupt this regularly-scheduled blogging about healthy meals to bring you . . .

Mac and Cheese!  Homemade mac and cheese and I were at odds for years -- every recipe I had ever tried turned out greasy, stringy, lumpy, or otherwise unappetizing.  Cook's Illustrated, THANK YOU!  (Here is an approximation of the recipe . . . I wouldn't recommend making the changes the blogger made, though, as the evaporated milk and American cheese are both kind of crucial to keeping the sauce creamy and smooth.)  I followed the printed recipe nearly to a T, including the buttery, parmesan-rich crumb topping, (which the blogger did not add . . .) and added about 3/4 lb baby spinach to the pasta water at the end of cooking for an attempt at adding some nutrition to what I would otherwise consider to be homemade junk food. :)  (I also forgot to add the pasta water to the sauce, because I forgot to reserve any.  Does anyone else have this "problem" remembering to reserve pasta water?)  John has already requested this (sans spinach) for part of his birthday dinner . . . must be good!  ;)

I think my favorite part about this recipe, however, is that it's reasonably simple, especially for a Cook's Illustrated version.  (I often find their recipes unnecessarily complex, and only a little bit better than a much simpler version.  Not so with this one!)  The breadcrumb topping is whizzed up in a food processor, and the sauce is made in the same pot in which the noodles were boiled -- after draining, of course.  :)  No knife or cutting board required!  I love the meditative effects of veggie-chopping just as much as the next healthy eater, but sometimes, it's nice to throw a few things together and call it done, ya know?

This recipe makes a HUGE amount, (I believe the printed recipe says it serves 8, but we get more like 10 to 12 servings at our house,) and holds well as leftovers.  (Another flaw with most macaroni and cheese recipes . . . they are often awful leftover, but not this one!  Stays creamy and delicious all week long.)  I believe this would also be delicious after freezing, then thawing and baking -- score!


Saturday, March 08, 2014

400-calorie dinners (vi)

Full disclosure: I've kind of fallen off the calorie-counting bandwagon this past week.  Why?  Well, I've had a number of meals involving guests, (either at my house or out,) parties, and other fun things to attend, and calorie-counting is a little bit tedious in front of others.  :)  I've still been trying to eat healthfully and keep portions reasonable, I just haven't been weighing or measuring things.

However, I did manage two "properly" counted 400-calorie meals this past week:

Biscuits and Gravy:

Really, there's nothing even remotely healthy about this meal, except for a hefty protein dose -- fat and white flour smothered with more fat, white flour, and a bit o' tempeh.  :)  Just goes to show that even when counting calories, there's room for an occasional indulgence, right?  (Plus, this is one of John's all-time favorite breakfasts, and I had a package of tempeh in the freezer . . . hard to say no to that, right?)  I used the buttermilk biscuit recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook,  make a batch of "Tempeh Sausage Crumbles" from Vegan with a Vengeance, (using extra olive oil,) then finish the mess off with a sprinkling of all-purpose flour, and half vegetable broth/half milk.  Cook until thick, and breakfast is served!  This week, I happened to be out of regular milk, and subbed in buttermilk with excellent results.  (I did omit the lemon juice called for in the tempeh sausage crumbles, as I didn't want things to get too weirdly tangy, and John is also sensitive to sour tastes in food.)  John declared this my best batch of biscuits and gravy to date!  Woot!


Why on Earth has it never occurred to me to make bibimbap at home before?  Hands-down my favorite order at any Korean restaurant, ("no beef, tofu please!"), and a cinch to make at home.  3/4 cup brown rice tossed with 1 tsp each toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar, topped with shredded carrot, diced red onion, shelled edamame, tofu, nori, sesame seeds, a sunny-side-up egg, and a dribble of sriracha.  Heaven!  Protein-packed, too, which is guaranteed to keep me full well into the evening. A great use of whatever veggie odds and ends we have on hand, I can see this becoming a frequent repeat at our house, especially with beautiful, in-season summer produce!  (Plus, anything involving eggs is always a hit with John.)

Have you had Korean food before?  What's your favorite order?  (As an aside, the syrupy-starchy-sweet-potato bite is my favorite of those little side dish ban-chan salads!)