Thursday, January 29, 2009

The snow stole my motivation!

I realize this is the longest I've gone without posting since starting the blog in August. I disappeared for a little while for a couple of reasons -- the main one being the fact that we got 14 inches of snow dumped on us the other night!
I felt stranded, didn't get out for a couple of days, and survived on leftovers and recipes you've already seen here. Nothing great for the blog.
So, expect a couple new recipes in the coming days. Sorry for the delay!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eggplant parmesan

Eggplant parmesan usually requires a very short shopping list, which is one reason I like to make it. All you really need to get is the eggplant and breadcrumbs; the rest of the stuff you probably already have in the house -- noodles, eggs, tomato sauce, oil. Even the dried herbs are optional. This will taste just as good with breadcrumbs seasoned only with salt and pepper.

Eggplant parmesan (serves 4)

1 medium eggplant, sliced in 1/4-inch-thick slices

8 ounces spelt noodles (or your favorite pasta), cooked

2 egg whites, beaten with a fork

1/4 teaspoon garlic granules

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried parsley

salt and black pepper, to taste

a 25-ounce jar of marinara sauce

1 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs

enough olive oil to fill a pan 1/8-inch deep with oil a few times

1/2 cup shredded parmesan (ground parm will also do)

1.) Sprinkle salt over the eggplant slices and let them drain on paper towels for 20 minutes or so.

2.) Put the egg whites in one small bowl, and toss the breadcrumbs with pepper, garlic, oregano, and parsley in another wide bowl.

3.) Heat some oil over medium-high heat in a nonstick pan. Dip one eggplant slice at a time into the egg whites, then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating completely.

4.) Fry the eggplant in the oil, about 2 minutes a side, until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels after sprinkling with a little more salt.

5.) Put the cooked noodles on the bottom of a baking dish. Spread marinara over them. Top with eggplant slices. Sprinkle the parmesan over the eggplant evenly.

6.) Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Love garlic? This dressing is for you!

This salad dressing is for big-time garlic lovers. I'm a serious garlic lover, for sure.

I found the recipe in a cookbook called "Barbecued," by Peter Howard. He says you can grill or roast the garlic, and because it's about 20 degrees today, I chose to use the oven.

I love love LOVE this dressing! And it will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.

Garlic dressing (makes about 1-1/2 cups)

30 cloves roasted garlic (I tossed them, unpeeled, with olive oil and roasted them for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees)

1 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon white sugar

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1.) Put all ingredients except vinegar into a food process and process until smooth.

2.) Slowly add the vinegar through the feed chute while the motor is running.

Today's food fact: An October 2007 New York Times article says researchers are looking into the benefits of eating garlic.

"In the latest study, performed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added small amounts to human red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide, the scientists found," the article reads.

"The power to boost hydrogen sulfide production may help explain why a garlic-rich diet appears to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer, say the study authors. Higher hydrogen sulfide might also protect the heart, according to other experts. Although garlic has not consistently been shown to lower cholesterol levels, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine earlier this year found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack."

Coming up: I have a delicious eggplant parmesan recipe I'll be posting, as well as that chestnut puree I mentioned a couple weeks ago.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quinoa salad

This salad is a little spicy -- though you can make it super spicy, of course -- and it's packed full of healthful ingredients. You can enjoy it as a side dish, but it also makes a very satisfying meatless main dish.

Lots of people wonder what quinoa is. It has a slightly nutty flavor, it's got more protein than other grains (although it's technically a seed), and it can be used as a substitute for rice in most dishes. Check out this NPR link for a thorough explanation.

Spicy quinoa salad (makes about 8 side servings)

3 cups cooked quinoa, chilled

3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup cooked edamame, chilled

1 medium zucchini, steamed, diced, and chilled

1 cup cooked corn, chilled

1/4 red onion, minced

1/4 sweet potato, steamed, diced, and chilled

chipotle sauce, to taste (I use about 12-15 shakes of chipotle-flavored Tabasco)

salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.

2.) Refrigerate at least 4 hours, then taste for seasonings, adjust seasoning if necessary, and toss again.

Food fact: According to a 2005 article in the UK's Daily Mail's Mail Online, eating certain spicy foods has its benefits. One major one? It can fight cancer.

"Vegetables such as broccoli and spices like red chilli pepper could be used to combat cancer, researchers have said," reads the article.

"Scientists believe the foods may have a cancer-fighting benefit by slowing or preventing the growth of cancerous tumour cells." To read the whole article, click here.

Today's question: What's your favorite spicy food?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Easy beef & bean tortillas

My Mexican dishes really don't photograph well. But they taste good, I promise!

This is another staple in our house, although usually we leave out the beef. We were in the mood for extra protein today, and ground beef sounded good.

I used two different salsas on this: On one half of the casserole dish, I used medium plain salsa, and on the other side, I used pineapple salsa. You can also pass the hot sauce and sliced jalapenos on the side, too.

Beef and bean tortillas (makes 4-6 servings)

1 pound ground beef

1 cup salsa

1-1/2 cups dried refried beans

4 ounces shredded cheddar or chihuahua cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

12 small corn tortillas (6-inchers)

boiling water, about 2 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil

store-bought mole sauce

fresh chopped cilantro and sliced avocado to garnish

1.) Put dried beans in a bowl, and slowly add enough boiling water to cover them. Stir, and let them sit about 10 minutes. Stir again, and let them sit while you prepare the beef.

2.) In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned, stirring frequently. You might have to lower the heat to medium as it gets hotter.

3.) Drain the beef (I use a strainer), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.

4.) One by one, put about 2 tablespoons beans, 2 tablespoons meat, and a little cheese in the center of each tortilla. Roll them up and line them up in a casserole dish or other pan. Mine tend to break as I roll them, but that's OK for this dish.

5.) Sprinkle the remaining beef over the top of the tortillas. Spread the salsa over that. Cover with a lid or foil.

6.) Bake at 350 for a half-hour, or until heated through. While this cools slightly, prepare your mole sauce according to directions.

7.) Serve these with the mole sauce on the side, as well as chopped cilantro and sliced avocado.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

I found several recipes on the Web for red velvet cake -- which I made for my friend Courtney, in celebration of her master's degree completion (hooray!). It was a little confusing because some of them used yellow cake mix, while others used cocoa, both of course with red food coloring for the rich color.

I wanted to make this completely homemade, so I opted for the cocoa version. It seemed like the most authentic to me, as well, based on this history of the cake's southern origins.

It turned out great, and it was fun to watch the batter turn blood-red. The recipe came from

The frosting was HEAVENLY! Not so sickly sweet like the store-bought kind. It's a recipe I'm sure I'll use again. It's from Joy of Baking.

Next time I make this, I'll get a better photo. This was taken at The Irish Lion, and I had to use the flash, so it looks bright red. It's actually a medium red, not bright at all.

Red velvet cake (makes 1 double-layer 9-inch cake)
1/2 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1-1/2 ounces red food coloring (I used 1 ounce because that was the bottle size)
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

1.) Cream shortening, then slowly add sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well with each addition.

2.) Make a paste using the cocoa and food coloring. Add this to the batter.

3.) Add salt, flour, and vanilla alternately with the buttermilk. (i.e. Add a little of the salt, then a little buttermilk, then a little flour, then a little buttermilk, then a little vanilla, a little buttermilk, etc.; that's how I interpreted those directions.)

4.) In a small separate bowl, sprinkle the soda over the vinegar. It will bubble. Sprinkle on top of the batter, and stir until combined.

5.) Spread the batter into two 9-inch cake pans, and bake at 350 degrees for a half-hour.

6.) Cool completely before icing with your favorite cream-cheese frosting; try the one below if you're feeling adventurous. It's got mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, and cream cheese -- wow! I recommend putting the cakes, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer for a couple hours before frosting. This will allow the cake to be sliced later without crumbling apart, because it will seal in moisture.

Cream cheese frosting
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces mascarpone (Italian cream cheese), at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1.) Cream together the mascarpone and cream cheese until smooth.

2.) Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until well combined.

3.) Beat heavy cream in a separate bowl until stiff. First fold just a little into the cheese mixture with a spatula, then fold the rest into it in two phases.

4.) Cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour, until firm enough to frost cake.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My favorite hummus

This recipe has a little of everything: It's sweet and spicy and has so many healthy ingredients -- healthy fats, garlic, legumes, citrus, and veggies. Yum!

My favorite hummus

1 can of garbanzo beans (15 ounces), rinsed and drained

2-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons tahini

2 small carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, quartered

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon (about 1 large lemon's worth)

1/2 cup fire-roasted red pepper from a jar (in water, not oil)

liberal pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1.) Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.

2.) Serve with pita chips, chopped tomatoes, black olives, and carrot sticks. Or spread onto a sandwich with a slice of red onion, sliced cucumber, and sprouts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vegetable chowder

I decided to make a veggie version of the tilapia chowder I love so much. It's a great day for soup today.

Serve this with warm whole wheat bread.

Vegetable chowder (serves 8)

3 carrots, chopped

1 sweet potato, diced

3 medium yellow potatoes, unpeeled and diced

1 cup green beans, chopped

6 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups frozen corn

1 cup frozen edamame

1 cup soy milk

salt and white pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons dried tarragon

1.) Combine first 5 ingredients in a soup pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, partially covered.

2.) While that is simmering, heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft and golden brown. Add onion to the soup pot. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

3.) Add the tarragon, corn, and edamame toward the end of the cooking time, allowing them to cook for 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Salmon-noodle casserole

I based this on a tuna casserole recipe to create this. I think it turned out really good.
Salmon-noodle casserole (makes 4 large servings)
3 cups uncooked whole-grain rotini noodles
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup fat-free milk
6 ounces cooked salmon
1 cup steamed green beans, chopped (or you could use chopped bell pepper or shrooms)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
optional: 3-4 tablespoons shredded parmesan

1.) Heat the butter in a large pan and cook the celery and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the soup and whisk.

2.) Add the pasta, salmon, and beans, and stir gently. Take off heat.

3.) Spread into a casserole dish. Sprinkle with parmesan.

4.) Cook at 350 for 30 minutes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Easy tortellini bake

Tortellini is currently one of my toddler's favorite foods, so we kicked up its health factor a notch tonight by cooking it with spinach and zucchini.

I realize this isn't very original, but it's so easy to make I wanted to share it. It's great for any busy weeknight, or when you don't feel like cooking. It's also a good way to use up vegetables.

Easy tortellini bake (serves 4)

about 5 cups of cooked tortellini

a large (25-1/2-ounce) jar of pasta sauce

10 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to get rid of the water

1/2 zucchini, steamed and diced (you can also use carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms)

1/2 cup shredded mozarella

shaved parmesan, to garnish

1/8 teaspoon garlic granules

1.) Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well using your hands.

2.) Spread into a casserole dish. Sprinkle with garlic granules.

3.) Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until heated through. Garnish with parmesan shavings.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How cool is this?

Kara and John, my sister- and brother-in-law, gave me this awesome gift: a variety pack of salts from Herbs & Spice and Everything Nice. I'm excited to do some research on how to use them. (Googling qualifies as "research," doesn't it?)

Upcoming recipe posts will include these, for sure.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Zucchini pancakes

Here is one of my favorite recipes from when I was little. I don't know exactly where it comes from, but I saw a Korean dish in a magazine once that was similar but had scallions.

You can serve these warm or cold, and they're even good as a sandwich with two pieces of crunchy whole-grain bread.

Zucchini pancakes (makes 10 small cakes)

2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 a small yellow onion, shredded

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons canola oil, divided

salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Combine zucchini, onion, egg, yolk, and flour in a mixing bowl, and stir well with a fork.

2.) Heat half the oil in a medium nonstick skillet on high.

3.) Drop heaping spoonfuls -- about 1/8 cup each, I'd say -- of the batter into the oil. (Make about 5 pancakes at a time, if you can.)

4.) Cook cakes for about 3 minutes a side, or until they are a medium golden brown. As the oil gets hotter with each skilletful of cakes, this time may decrease.

5.) Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel, and drain briefly before sprinkling with salt and pepper and keeping pancakes warm in the oven.

6.) Repeat with another round of cakes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cinnamon-walnut granola

I have been thinking about granola since the holiday season began. It's something I've always wanted to make as a gift for family. But, I ran out of time in 2008, and I didn't make any treats to give away.

Next year, I'll be making this granola and Jean's delicious turtles. I have to pat myself on the back here: This is really good granola! I think it's probably because it's so fresh. Who knows how long the store-bought kind have been out of the oven?

The basic granola recipe for this came from this month's Bon Appetit magazine. You can substitute any chopped dried fruit and nuts that you like. I'm sure it will taste scrumptious. I turned the magazine's concoction into my favorite flavor, cinnamon-walnut with golden raisins and dried apple.

This is one of those things that I will no longer buy, now that I know how to make it. That's always nice -- and thrifty! Plus, you know exactly what's in it.

Cinnamon-walnut granola (makes 5-6 cups)

3 cups old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons oil, divided

2 egg whites from medium eggs

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup flaxseed meal

1/4 cup honey


1 cup walnut bits and pieces

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apple

1.) Brush 1 tablespoon oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350.

2.) In a large bowl, whisk egg whites, remaining oil, and sugar. Add oats, flaxseed, and salt, and toss well.

3.) Spread mixture onto baking sheet evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir with metal spatula, then bake another 15 minutes.

4.) Sprinkle the dried fruit on top of granola, drizzle with honey, stir, and bake another 10 minutes.

5.) Stir again before scooping onto a cold surface -- a clean baking sheet will do -- to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. It will keep for about a month.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Miso hungry!

Looking for a way to spruce up peas and carrots? If you like ginger, you should try this recipe. It's from an old issue of Eating Well.

I've happily just discovered that my toddler loves it as much as I do!

Miso-glazed peas and carrots (makes about 4 servings)

3 tablespoons miso (white, preferably)

1 tablespoon mirin

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups thinly sliced carrots, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup water

2 cups frozen peas

1.) Whisk together miso, mirin, vinegar, ginger, and oil in a small bowl.

2.) Put the carrots and water in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring now and then, until tender-crisp, 5-6 minutes.

3.) Stir in the miso and peas, and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peas are heated through, and the sauce is thickened.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

White bean & ham soup

Here is something Dan threw together last year, and it turned out so great, we made it again the other day. It's a good cold-weather dish. The first time we ate it, it had a ham bone in it, which was nice and salty. These ham shanks worked just as well -- the meat falls off the bones during cooking -- but you'll have to add a little salt while eating. (You can also just throw everything in a crock pot and let it cook on low all day.)

White bean & ham soup (serves about 8)

3 small cans of white beans

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium carrots, chopped

2 small pork ham shanks, whole (about 1 pound)

4 celery stalks, chopped

2 bay leaves

dash of dried thyme

sprinkle of gumbo file

salt and white pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon canola oil

enough water to cover the ingredients during cooking

1.) Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the celery and onion, and let that cook on medium while you rinse and drain the white beans.

2.) Add the rest of the ingredients, except the gumbo file and salt. Add enough water to just barely cover the shanks, which stay whole. They will fall apart while cooking.

3.) Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours.

4.) Sprinkle with gumbo file, and continue to simmer, partially covered, for another half hour to an hour. The water should have cooked down some, and the soup should be slightly thickened when served.

This goes great with cornbread. We like to sprinkle the cornbread on top of our individual servings.

Friday, January 2, 2009

German red cabbage

Here is another typical German side dish. If only I had posted it a day earlier; apparently eating cabbage on New Year's Day brings prosperity!

If you want to give this a sweet-and-sour flavor, add a little vinegar at the end of the process.

Note: This dish freezes well.

Red cabbage (serves 4)

1 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 apples, peeled and shredded

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Heat oil on medium heat and saute the onion in it until soft. Stir often.

2.) Add the apple, cabbage and bay leaf.

3.) Add salt and pepper. Turn heat to low.

4.) Add water if needed; the ingredients should not be sticking to the bottom of the pot. Keep cooking on low heat.

5.) If you want this sweeter, add more apple. If you want a little sour in it, add the vinegar here.