Thursday, May 14, 2009

Time to wrap up the blog

After much consideration, I've decided I just don't have time to maintain this blog the way I'd like anymore. With a toddler running around and a baby due in September, I'm just too tired to blog at the end of the day.

Maybe someday I'll return to it, but for now, I have decided to wrap things up. I will leave this blog up, though; I go to it often myself for recipes that I haven't written down elsewhere.

And, just so you don't feel I'm leaving you hanging, I have a few kitchen tips to share.

From my brother-in-law, John: If you just want part of a banana, don't peel the whole thing and wrap the remainders in plastic wrap to put in the freezer. Whoever came up with that solution was dead wrong. Just slice off what you want to eat and leave what you don't eat in the peel. It will form a tough skin on the exposed banana part, and you can cut that right off when you're ready to. Underneath, it's good as new.

Also in today's banana news: If you buy bananas that aren't ripe yet -- don't you hate that? -- keep them covered in a brown paper bag for a couple days, and that should speed up the ripening process.

From my friend Dave: If you find your fresh herbs go bad sitting in the fridge, treat them like you would fresh flowers. Put them in a glass with water and put a paper sack over them, and they will stay fresh for quite a while.

Regarding the luscious avocado: If you aren't eating a whole avocado and want to keep the rest from turning brown, leave the pit lodged in it after cutting it in half and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

That's all I have for now. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chocolate chip pecan cookies

I've always loved chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, but when I tried a chocolate chip-pecan cookie, I was smitten.

It was the day after Alice was born, and my friend Jean came to see us at the hospital, armed with gifts for little A and a bag of cookies. Dan and I couldn't stop snacking on them until they were gone. I can't remember the brand, but they were delicious, crunchy little devils.

The ones I make are not crunchy -- I have a feeling that attribute only comes with some kind of partially hydrogenated oil, though I can't be sure -- but they are still hard to stop munching. Mine are made with butter, and I try to make them at least a tiny bit healthy by using organic ingredients, whole wheat flour, and unrefined sugar.

Chocolate chip pecan cookies (makes about 3 dozen)

2 sticks salted butter (if you just have unsalted, add a little extra salt to the recipe), room temperature

3/4 cup sucanat or other unrefined, granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4-1 cup chopped pecans

1.) Mix the butter with the sugars well, until they look pretty creamy. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla.

2.) In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda, and mix well with a fork or whisk.

3.) Add that dry mixture to the other bowl, beating well.

4.) Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

5.) Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Roll cookies into balls a little bigger in diameter than a quarter, and place on a grease cookie sheet.

6.) Flatten the cookies a little with the palm of your hand, and bake at 375 degrees for 11-12 minutes. (Make sure not to make them too big, or they will break in half when you eat them.) Cool before removing from cookie sheet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Curried sweet potato soup

I was trying to recreate the curry soup at Roots. I'm obsessed with it these days! I knew I wouldn't be able to get the exact same thing, but I came pretty close. This is delicious -- and extra-super-duper healthy, too.

Curried sweet potato soup (makes 8 servings)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 large red pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 medium red onion, chopped (a yellow onion would be fine, too)

2 shallots, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup diced apple (about 1 apple), something sweet like a Gala

2 cups soy milk

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons honey

1.) Heat the canola oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.

2.) Add the red pepper, garlic, and ginger, and stir. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the broth, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pot.

3.) Add the sweet potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, and simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the apple, and cook 5 minutes more, or until potatoes and apple are tender.

4.) Season with salt and pepper, and puree until smooth in a food processor or with a hand-held blender.

5.) Return soup to pot if you used a food processor, and stir in the soy milk. Reheat.

6.) Turn off the heat, and stir in the honey.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Black bean hummus

Hummus is so good for you; you can pack it full of nutritious ingredients, and legumes are a wonderful vegetarian protein.

But I find that I tire of the taste of regular hummus, which is made with garbanzo beans, but I still enjoy its dip-like consistency to enhance my raw veggies and sandwiches. So, I'm always hoping to find new bean-filled recipes that I can use -- such as this incredible garlic and white bean dip. Someday soon I'm going to try to make some kind of lentil-walnut spread.

Today I made black bean hummus, which is very similar to the regular kind but has lime and cilantro. The addition of carrots is important because my black bean hummus tends to be very thick. The carrots give it a little juice and sweetness and boost its nutritional value.

Black bean hummus (makes 1-1/2 cups)

1 small can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup tahini

juice of 2 small limes

2 small carrots, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

3/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve as a sandwich spread or with fresh vegetables, pita chips, or crackers.

Food fact: Legumes are a type of vegetable that includes beans, lentils, soy nuts, edamame, and peas, among several others,and they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, according to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

"Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium," reads the clinic's Web site. "They're also a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol."

According to Nutrition Data, 1 cup of black beans has 227 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 15 grams of protein.

The Mayo Clinic offers a helpful guide to legumes and how to use them in food.

Coming soon: A post with useful kitchen tips.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Peanut butter & Nutella cookies

A facebook friend recently suggested the awesome combo of peanut butter and Nutella to me. I tried it, just spooning each out of a jar, and decided to see what a cookie version would be like.

If you've never had Nutella, you're missing out. It's a delicious spread made with hazelnut and cocoa. And it turns out to bake surprisingly well: I thought it might get runny and burn, but it hardens ever so slightly, so the end result is a little like frosting.

I think these cookies are super yummy, but if you're in the mood for straight-up peanut butter cookies, you can use this recipe, too.

Peanut butter & Nutella cookies (makes 12-15 large cookies)

3/4 cup peanut butter (the all-natural, no-sugar-added kind)

1/2 cup Nutella

1 stick of salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1-1/2 cups flour

1.) Mix the butter and sugars together in a mixing bowl. Beat in the egg, then beat in the vanilla and peanut butter.

2.) Combine the salt, soda, and flour in a bowl, then add those ingredients to the wet ingredients.

3.) Mix well, then roll into balls with your hands. I made balls about the size of golf balls.

4.) Put the cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten a little by hand, then scoop out about 1/2 teaspoon of dough from the center of each cookie. (You might have enough dough from this for 1-2 more cookies.)

5.) Spoon out 1 teaspoon of Nutella per cookie, spreading it into the little dip you made.

6.) Bake for about 13 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

*If you want plain peanut butter cookies, this is a great recipe. Just roll the dough into balls a little smaller than noted above, put them on a greased cookie sheet, and press an X into them with a fork.

Coming soon: Black bean hummus.