Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stuffed turnips

Unfortunately, I have to say these turnips look a tiny bit better than they taste. The filling is really tasty -- how can you go wrong with mashed potato and turnip with spinach, parmesan and butter? -- but the turnips themselves tasted a little bitter.

I know for a fact that baked turnips can taste absolutely fantastic, and quite sweet; the turnip dish at Samira is one of my favorites. Maybe mine didn't work out because I forgot to put a little water in the baking dish when I baked them at the end of the recipe (see step 7)...

I think this filling is worth trying in other vegetables to stuff -- specifically mushrooms and onions.

Stuffed turnips (makes 2-3 main dish servings or 4-6 sides)*

4 medium turnips, ends trimmed, peeled

1 potato, peeled

5 ounces fresh spinach

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 tablespoon butter

salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Cut a deep circle into the tops of the turnips. That will help you scoop out the centers later. Boil the turnips in salted water until tender but still firm. Remove from water and cool.

2.) Using the same water, boil the potato until tender.

3.) Scoop out the centers of the turnips, leaving a shell you can fill. Mash the turnip centers and potato with butter.

4.) Boil the spinach in a small amount of water, cool, and squeeze to remove all liquid. Chop.

5.) Add the spinach and parmesan to the mashed veggies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6.) Fill each turnip shell with the mixture, piling the filling high. Place them in a baking pan.

7.) Add a little water to the baking pan, and bake the turnips at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

* From The Tao of Cooking, by Sally Pasley.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spinach & onion quiche

Yesterday afternoon I realized I had no idea what I was going to have for dinner, and I wanted to pick something up at the store that would include greens and protein -- and be something my whole family would eat. My immediate thought: spinach quiche.

I hadn't thought of quiche in ages, really, and I don't know why it popped into my head. I thought I'd go somewhere with a nice deli that would have a pre-made quiche, so I went to O'Malia's (a store I consider mostly over-priced but will frequent for certain things, like fish).

Well, I checked out all the quiche there -- a couple of frozen kinds trying to pass as healthy and a couple of kinds of quiche in the cheese department. None of the crusts were whole grain, and they included mysterious ingredients.

As I perused the goods, I remembered that I used to make a damn fine quiche back in my days as a baker at the now-defunct Encore Cafe, and it was pretty easy. I also remembered I had fresh spinach at home -- for that spinach-stuffed turnip dish I'm still planning to make -- and whole wheat flour, butter, milk, and eggs. I had no reason not to head home and get to work in the kitchen. All I bought was Swiss cheese.

The nice thing about quiche is that you can add whatever vegetables (or sausage, bacon, ham, etc.) you want. It's a great way to use up leftovers. Just make sure the veggies are drained as much as possible of any liquid.

The recipe looks very involved, but after making this once, you'll see how easy it is.

Whole wheat crust (for a 10-inch pie, plus enough for lattice topping*)

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

8-1/2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons cold water (you can add a little more, if you feel the crust is too dry)

1.) Stir together the flour, wheat germ, and salt.

2.) Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the flour mixture.

3.) Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture as well as you can.

4.) Sprinkle the water on top, and mix again by hand. When the crust clumps together nicely in handfuls, pack it into a ball and refrigerate it for an hour.

5.) Press the crust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan or round cake pan, making sure there are no holes in the coverage and that it comes up to the top of the pan's sides.*

6.) Bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 minutes.

*You will have some left over if you are using the recipe below.

Spinach and onion quiche (for a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan or cake pan)

1 whole wheat pie crust, partially baked (see #6 above)

2 cups milk, slightly warm

3 eggs, slighly beaten

1/2 medium red onion, sliced into rings

1 teaspoon oil

10 ounces fresh spinach, steamed, cooled, and squeezed of any liquid (you can also use frozen, just thaw it and squeeze out any liquid)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

pinch of nutmeg

3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/8-1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1.) Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown the onion rings briefly. Don't let them get too soft.

2.) Spread the Swiss cheese in the bottom of the crust. Top with spinach and onions.

3.) Whisk together the milk, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and pour over the spinach and onions. (You could have a little of the milk mixture left if you use more/different veggies than what I've used here.)

4.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the parmesan on top.

5.) Continue to bake for about 15 minutes, or until filling is set. It's OK if the very middle is slightly jiggly; it has to cool for 10 minutes before getting sliced, and it will continue to cook in that time.

6.) After cooling for 10 minutes, put quiche under the broiler very briefly to brown the top.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seaweed wraps

This is one of my all-time favorite healthy meals. It's so easy to make and so good for you.

My photo here doesn't do it justice; because of my pregnancy, I'm not eating sprouts (I read that I shouldn't - don't ask my why), and I was out of cucumber. Those are two of my favorite things to include in these.

Try them with your favorite ingredients. I will list some options below the recipe.

On a sad note: That lucky morel never made it into our bellies. We just ran out of time to decide what to do with it. When we find more -- though we've scoured our area and haven't come up with any yet! -- I will post recipes, I promise.

Seaweed wraps

sheets of dried seaweed

water-packed, extra firm tofu, drained

red bell peper

broccoli sprouts



wasabi paste (I put mine on the side, in the soy sauce)

cucumber, peeled and seeded

a 2-egg omelet, with a little sugar sprinkled on top while still hot

1.) Make sure all wrap add-ins are cut into long, thin slices.

2.) Arrange any mixture of them in the middle of a seaweed sheet.

3.) Wet your hands a little before rolling the sheet into a handroll. Cut wrap in half.

4.) Serve with soy sauce for dipping.

Other wrap add-ins:

crushed peanuts

steamed and cooled sweet potato slices

yellow bell pepper

cream cheese

smoked salmon

imitation crab meat


green onions

Coming up: Turnips stuffed with spinach and parmesan.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Healthier sloppy joes

Who doesn’t love a sloppy joe?

That’s what I was in the mood for today – a meaty, saucy sandwich that was a little sweet, a little tangy. And while I wanted what I grew up eating – the kind of sloppy joe for which you basically just need ground beef and a seasoning packet – I decided to try the homemade version. It had to be healthier, I figured.

It turned out pretty tasty (but not exactly like the real thing, I must admit). I used a recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, my trusted source for typically American food, and tweaked it just a bit.

Healthier sloppy joes (serves 5-6)

1 pound lean ground beef (I recommend the Fischer Farms brand)

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped green pepper

8 ounces peeled, whole tomatoes from a can, juice included

2 tablespoons quick oats

1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon granulated garlic

½ teaspoon salt

a few shakes of hot sauce

a couple drizzles of ketchup

5-6 whole grain hamburger buns, toasted

1.) Brown the beef with the green pepper and onions in a large skillet until beef is no longer pink. Drain the fat.

2.) Stir in the tomatoes, oats, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt, and hot sauce. When it’s bubbling, reduce the heat and cook about 10 minutes.
3.) Serve on buns.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Our lucky morel

What a thrilling find! Dan and I were walking in our neighborhood with Alice today, and this lovely morel was just standing at the side of our road, waiting for us to pluck it out of the ground.

As I said in this post for chicken in morel cream sauce, I've never cooked with fresh morels before; nor have I ever gone morel hunting. But it was so exciting to see this one towering over the wet grass around it that Dan and I will be scouring our property in the coming days for more.

The question now is: What to do with the lone morel? We can't let it go to waste. (By the way, it measures about 5 inches tall, top to botttom.)

Check my blog this week to see what we did with it. I'll also be writing about how I plan to use those awesome salts I got from my sister- and brother-in-law.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Banana-berry bread

Another toddler-friendly bread -- and one that adults will like, too. I made this because I had to use up some strawberries and bananas, and I love the combination of flavors. It turned out so deliciously moist, thanks to the fruit and the yogurt.

You could use regular white or brown sugar instead of sucanat, but sucanat is better for you because it's unrefined (see food fact, below).

Banana-berry bread (makes 1 loaf)

1 cup sucanat

1/2 cup canola oil

3 small or 2 large mashed bananas

1/4 cup blueberries

1/4 cup chopped strawberries

1/2 cup yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups whole wheat flour, or 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup wheat bran, wheat germ, or oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

optional: 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (I'm going to try this next time!)

1.) Combine the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer.

2.) Add bananas, yogurt, vanilla, and eggs, and mix until well blended.

3.) Add the rest of the dry ingredients, and mix briefly.

4.) Stir in the berries and optional chocolate chips.

5.) Spread into a greased loaf pan.

6.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly before turning out of pan.

Food fact: Why choose unrefined sugar? Well, according to this article, research "suggests that substituting refined sweeteners with unrefined equivalents in food formulations could raise disease-fighting antioxidants in consumer diets." I think that's a pretty good reason.

The article, at FoodNavigator.com, a Web site devoted to breaking news on food and beverage development in Europe, goes on to cite research by scientists at Virginia Tech that found that substituting alternative sugars -- raw cane sugar, plant saps, maple syrup, and honey, among others -- for a daily consumption of 130g of refined sugar could boost a person's antioxidant intake by an amount similar to eating a serving of berries or nuts. The contrast between refined and unrefined sugars was likened to the difference between refined grains and whole grains.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dark chocolate truffles

Who knew chocolate truffles could be so easy to make? Sadly, this photo is what happens when you wait too long to photograph your food, and most of it gets eaten...

My original plan was to make vegan truffles, and I found this easy and healthy recipe at one of my favorite food blogs, Enlightened Cooking. But wouldn't you know, I am a scatterbrain and was more focused on finding good quality chocolate for the truffles -- I opted for Ghirardelli's semi-sweet chips -- than on reading the ingredients to make sure the chocolate itself was vegan, too.

Well, good thing I'm not vegan! These truffles turned out delicious. I followed the recipe in the link above with my milk fattened chocolate chips being the only change. I was so impressed with how the cashews and water really turn into a cream when processed. (I wish I'd taken a picture of that, too! Next time...) They are the vegan substitute for heavy cream in this. And, while I love the taste of cashews, they blended right into the truffle, making it taste rich and nothing like nuts (except of course for the ones I rolled in toasted almonds).

Next time I make this, I'm going to find vegan chocolate chips and try different flavors in the truffles. What a great gift for someone!

How annoying!

For some strange reason, the computer I usually use to do my blog is no longer recognizing my camera. That's why I haven't posted since Monday.

Please check back tonight or tomorrow for an update. I have two great recipes to share -- banana-berry bread and easy dark chocolate truffles!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thai chicken thighs with coconut rice

I created this recipe as an experiment, and I'm always nervous about those because I hate the idea that so many ingredients could go to waste.

Luckily, I guess it's hard to go wrong with common Thai ingredients such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, and curry. It turned out SOOOOO delicious, if I may say so myself!

I made this in a crock pot, but I'm guessing you could also layer everything the same way and cook it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or at a lower temp for a little longer to really let the flavors blend. (Just make sure the chicken is done; its juices should run clear. But I highly recommend investing a little money in a crock pot. They are totally underrated!)

The dish is shown in the photo above with Thai cucumber salad. (If you're a cucumber person, you should also try this Scandinavian cucumber salad and Michelle's gazpacho.)

Thai chicken thighs (serves 4)

2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter (the all-natural, unsweetened kind)

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (look for a post on tamari in the near future!)

1 tablespoon honey

1-1/2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

1-1/2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (I used this because I didn't have curry paste; you could whisk in a little of that instead)

1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I used canned)

10-12 mini sweet potatoes (are these called fingerlings?), peeled

1/2 large red onion, sliced

1 ounce fresh basil leaves

1-1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/2 cup cooking rice wine (you can get this at an Asian supermarket)

salt and pepper, to taste

fresh cilantro to garnish generously when serving

1.) Whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce or tamari, honey, fish sauce, curry powder, red pepper flakes, and canola oil in bottom of crock pot.

2.) Pour tomatoes on top; stir. Put the sweet potatoes on top of that.

3.) Spread the onion slices over the potatoes. Top with the chicken thighs.

4.) Pour the rice wine over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5.) Cook on low for about 5 hours, sprinkling in the basil leaves and stirring the whole dish about a half hour before cooking time is up. Serve over coconut rice (recipe follows).

Coconut rice (makes about 3 cups)

1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed

14 ounces coconut milk (shake the can before opening)

as much water as needed

Using a fork, smooth the coconut milk that has separated in its can. Mix with the amount of water required for cooking the rice and cook until done.

Note: I use a rice cooker, so I fill mine to whatever level is indicated; it was tricky with the coconut milk. The bottom of the rice browned a little, and the rice was a little crunchy. A stovetop pot is recommended, and make rice however you normally would as far as liquid content goes. (The coconut milk thins out as it heats, by the way.)

Coming soon: Vegan chocolate truffles from Enlightened Cooking!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thai cucumber salad

I successfully recreated one of my favorite salads from Bloomingfoods; I adapted it slightly by leaving out the hot green pepper and making a dressing that I guessed would taste similar using sweet and spicy chile sauce. It's really good! A great spring/summer side.

Thai cucumber salad (makes 4 side servings)

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

optional: a little sliced onion (I decided not to include that today)

a splash of lime juice

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons sweet chile sauce

generous splash of rice wine vinegar

Whisk together the lime juice, honey, chile sauce, and vinegar. Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and drizzle with dressing. You might have a little left over.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hawaiian ginger-chicken stew

Well, all this talk of cheese has made me realize I should up my intake of leafy greens. And I do love a warm dish rich with collards, mustard greens, or chard. (Check out this awesome spicy white bean stew recipe; it's a favorite!)

Thanks again, Eating Well. I stumbled upon this easy and super-healthy recipe the other day, and I adapted it by adding a mixture of brown and wild rice.

Hawaiian ginger-chicken stew (serves 4)

1 tablespoon canola or sesame oil (I mixed them)

4 cloves garlic, thinly slices

a 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks

1/2 cup dry sherry

1-3/4 cups chicken broth

1-1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce

1 bunch greens (I used red chard)

2 cups brown rice, or a mixture of brown and wild rice

1.) Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate with tongs.

2.) Add ginger and garlic to the pot and cook about 10 seconds. Add sherry and cook, craping up any brown bits, for 3 minutes. Add broth and water, and increase heat. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes.

3.) Add soy sauce, chile sauce, and greens. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until greens are tender. Return the chicken to the pot, add the rice, and cook another 2 minutes.

Today's question: Do you have a favorite recipe for greens, or a favorite kind of greens? I need ideas!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ricotta cheese

As I've previously mentioned, I've been craving all things cheese. And all kinds of cheese, as you can tell by the difference between this cheese dish and the one I made today.

As it turns out, ricotta is very easy to make, and it seems pretty hard to screw up, too. The only drawback is that it takes so much milk to make the cheese. I used a half gallon for this 1-1/2 cups of ricotta!

I decided to try it drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, to really be able to taste the flavor of the cheese the first time I made it. Next time, I'll use it in a recipe, such as for lasagna or gnocchi.

Ricotta cheese (makes 1-1/2 cups)

8 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1.) Bring milk and salt to a simmer over medium heat.

2.) Add the lemon juice, stir, and continue cooking 2 minutes. The mixture will curdle.

3.) Take off heat. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds and put them in a cheesecloth-lined (four layers) colander. Drain for 1 minute.

4.) Transfer cheese to a bowl, cover, and chill about 3 hours.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Baked beans

To go with our barbecue chicken tonight -- and I must add here that if you like barbecue, try Stubb's sauces! -- I decided cornbread and baked beans were in order.

Homemade cornbread is a cinch, but I'd never made homemade baked beans until today. Suprise! Also a cinch! It's one of those things that I now will probably never buy again. The add-ins are minimal, so even if you're having a cookout for lots of people, you can make this dish for very little money.

I browsed through several recipes for baked beans and found there's a wide range of possibilities. You can use different kinds of beans and choose from ingredients such as brown sugar, maple syrup, or even corn syrup; molasses, barbecue sauce, or ketchup; soy sauce or worcestershire; you name the condiment, it can fit in there.

Lots of the recipes had bacon as an ingredient, but I wanted to keep this vegetarian, so I left it out. Here's what I came up with, and I think it tastes delicious. (The color is not typical of baked beans, though, so if that bothers you, add a little B&B Kitchen Bouquet or something to darken it.)

Baked beans (serves 6-8)

3 small cans (15 ounces) navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 large onion)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

1-1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup light brown sugar

a splash of lime juice -- I added this in the middle of baking because the beans tasted so sweet to me; you could just cut down a little on the sugar

1.) Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Stir to mix well.

2.) Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring once while cooking.