Monday, November 30, 2009

Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad and Cranberry-Infused Vodka

I know this is what we are all craving post-Thanksgiving with too much rich food in our bellies. I know I was ready for some clean crisp green veggies to detox. And I've had this recipe bookmarked for quite awhile but just never got around to making it so now seemed like the perfect time.

The Brussels sprouts are RAW in this salad, which seemed weird to me at first, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Brussels sprouts are just baby cabbages so this is very comparable to a light cabbage salad or cole slaw.

It's great the next day, too. The sprouts stay crunchy and the lemon juice works its way in there to meld with the parm and the result is a very healthy and satisfying veggie dish. I followed this recipe nearly exactly, just substituting toasted hazelnuts for the walnuts.

To go with the sprout salad, I bought a pre-made 6-grain pizza crust, spread on it a layer of homemade pesto, and added cherry tomatoes and mushrooms that I had roasted and frozen in September. Topped with crumbled goat cheese and parmesan and baked for 10-12 minutes....heaven.

Finally, I was inspired by the cranberry-infused vodka on The Heavy Table so I had to try it. My friends know that if there is one thing I love to make, it's moonshine! I love making infused vodkas, kaluha, irish cream, etc. This one looks so pretty and it's currently marinating for upcoming holiday celebrations. I think it will go smashingly with some prosecco for a festive holiday drink.

However, there are just too many things wrong with the recipe on The Heavy Table website...first, they use the word DETHAWED wich I seriously hate. Second, they say to process the cranberries for 2 minutes in a food processor...that is a long time and I think you would end up with cranberry soup if you did that. Finally, it only calls for 3 cups of vodka and what seems like way too much sugar (2 cups). So, I scrapped their whole recipe and made up my own. I'll let you know in a few weeks if it worked in my favor or not!

Cranberry-Infused Vodka
1 liter vodka
1 package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Mix sugar and water in saucepan over medium heat until dissolved.
Pulse cranberries in food processor briefly until chopped.
Mix all together and let sit for a few weeks, stirring occasionally.

Serve with tonic, soda, prosecco, on the rocks, or up in a martini glass.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Leftover Cranberry Sauce Oat Muffins

Not everything I make turns out perfectly. I'm just a regular person who tries recipes here and there, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. This is an example of one that didn't turn out perfectly but I liked the flavors and idea so much that I'm going to post about it anyways.

I already gave you a great idea for using your Thanksgiving leftovers, but I also get lots of leftover cranberry sauce. My grandma makes the cranberry sauce every year and lets me take home the leftovers. I usually make a KILLER salad dressing out of it (cranberry sauce, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil) which goes great with greens, feta cheese, and toasted walnuts.

This year I saw a recipe on the Serious Eats website for Cranberry Oat Muffins and I wanted to try it.

I think my downfall here was substitutions. Olive oil for vegetable oil, oat flour for regular flour, soy milk for regular milk. I'm just so impatient that I didn't go to the store to get the right ingredients and I used what I had on hand. The resulting muffins tasted great, BUT fell apart and crumbled. I got the first one out of the pan to take a picture but the rest were kind of messy.

I would love to try this recipe again with the appropriate ingredients, and I would also add some walnuts or pecans. Luckily, I was able to wrangle Grandma Verna's cranberry sauce recipe out of her so I can make my own and try this again!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie

Sure, turkey sandwiches and turkey soup are great. But year after year, I get bored with those traditional leftovers.

So this is what my family has done for several years with our Thanksgiving leftovers. It's so simple and freezable and you'll appreciate this piping hot from your oven in the bleak days of mid-January. It's a shepherd's pie, of sorts. Just a pie crust with layers of your leftover Thanksgiving dinner and topped with all those leftover mashed potatoes.

We use a store-bought pie crust (which are always on sale at this time of year anyways) but if you have lots of stuffing/dressing leftover, I think you could press that into the bottom of the pan and use that as your crust! The only other new ingredient you need - and this is entirely optional - is a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I like the extra color in there.

So, here is how we do it: put your store bought thawed pie crust in the bottom of a pie plate. Layer a bit of leftover stuffing/dressing, diced leftover turkey, and some frozen mixed veggies. Pour leftover gravy over the layers. Top with mashed potatoes. Cut off the edges of the crust and press around the pan with a fork or make pretty edges. Sprinkle with some paprika for color and freeze until you are ready to eat more turkey. Then when that day comes, just throw it in the oven until it's hot.

It's kind of like a store-bought pot-pie, but this is made with real ingredients and love from scratch by your mom (or whomever makes your Thanksgiving feast). It's also a fabulous thing to send with your college-aged kid back to his apartment, or to give to a young couple with a 2-year old and another on the way, or to your octogenarian grandparents. Everyone loves a simple one-dish meal that they just have to throw in the oven to get dinner on the table!

And you won't get bored with turkey sandwiches ever again!

Note: I'm sure you noticed the photos are better than usual. They are courtesy of Nick and Kim Fosse and Kim's fancy new camera.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Favorite Snack - Peanut Butter Yogurt

If you need a snack but want something that doesn't pack a bunch of empty calories, this is the thing for you. I like to have this on nights I'm craving ice cream but don't want all that fat, sugar or artificial flavorings.

It doesn't look pretty, but it tastes great!

Here's how you do it: start with one small spoonful of peanut butter (I use Earth Balance chunky) and put it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds or until it's swirlable. Add 3 big scoops of thick and creamy greek yogurt and mix together.

Now, there are a bunch of directions you can go from here, but I usually stick to just two different routes. One - add chocolate chips for a PB/Choc Yogurt snack. Or, two (as seen here) a squirt of honey and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.

This is a decadent treat that's got protein, good fats, calcium, and a hint of sweetness. It's substantial so you'll get filled up and feel totally satisfied. You'll have no guilty regrets after enjoying this snack!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Apple Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

This is my contribution to the Thanksgiving day meal (well, this and a bunch of wine). I can't decide if it's an appetizer or a dessert...could easily be either one, but I'm going with appetizer. It will be nice to have something cold, crunchy, and relatively healthy before all that hot mushy food.

The original recipe is from Pampered Chef, I think. A co-worker brought it for a potluck at work a few years ago and I thought it was great! The chips are supposed to be made from flour tortillas but I had some wonton wrappers left in the fridge so I substituted them AND I used leaf-shaped cookie cutters to crank up the cuteness factor.

Apple Salsa with Cinnamon Chips (adapted from the Pampered Chef)
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 kiwi, peeled and chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped
zest and juice of 1 medium orange
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. apple jelly (I used orange marmalade)

Mix all together.

For the chips, brush tortillas or wonton wrappers with water and sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. If you're feeling fancy, use cookie cutters to make your chips into an adorable shape (snowflakes, leaves, etc). Bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Minnesota Vikings Soup

This is a “clean out your refrigerator” soup for those times when you’ll be gone for a few days and need to use up your produce. I essentially threw every vegetable I could find in my house into this soup. I could have called it Rainbow Soup, but I didn't add anything red. That could be easily remedied by adding some canned or frozen tomatoes.

So Rainbow Soup would have been a fun title, but after adding a half of a small purple cabbage, everything was dyed a beautiful shade of MN Vikings Purple. And why not celebrate a team that keeps on winning games? It's kind of fun to have a winning team! That Favre guy seems to know what he’s doing.

The next day, the purple soup will have become even more shockingly bright and will have dyed all your pretty veggies and beans (everything but the kale) indigo. You will scare your co-workers when you heat this up at the communal microwave. Just a warning.

Minnesota Vikings Soup (aka Rainbow Soup, aka Everything But the Kitchen Sink Soup)
½ yellow onion, diced
2-3 orange carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 yellow carrots, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 bay leaves
6 cups water and bouillon cubes or stock
½ small head of purple (or green) cabbage, chopped
1 bunch kale or chard, removed from stem and chopped
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a big soup pot, heat some olive oil and add the onion, carrots, parsnip, potato and celery. Add bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until veggies are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add water and bouillon cubes (or stock) and bring to a boil. Add chopped cabbage and kale and beans. Cover and simmer another 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Note: In hindsight, the name of this soup may be a bit insulting since the purple cabbage was a gift from my Packer-fan friend Sarah! Though I did include cheese in the recipe to appease her and any other Wisconsonites out there.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quinoa Stuffed Squash

I have already shown you one stuffed squash recipe, sort of. That one was for Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash, back in September. When Sarah gave me a cute little festival squash from her Harmony Valley Farms CSA, I knew I had to do another stuffed squash because it was so darn cute - orange and yellow stripes - that it looks pretty on a plate as a serving vessel.

This time, I cooked up my usual red quinoa, added toasted hazelnuts and chopped craisins. A little scallion for color and crunch and some crumbled goat cheese also go well with these flavors. The final squash half was very filling (I couldn't even eat half of the squash half).


Quinoa Stuffed Squash
1 small squash (I had a festival or carnival squash)
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 handful toasted hazelnuts or other nut, chopped
1 handful chopped dried and sweetened cranberries
2 scallions, chopped
a hunk of goat cheese, crumbled
splash of balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Carefully cut squash in half, remove seeds and goop. Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast - cut side down - in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until soft.

Mix quinoa, nuts, craisins, scallions, and goat cheese in a small bowl. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add mixture to center well of cooked squash and return to the oven to heat through. Top with a dusting of freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Roasted Root Veggies and Fish

It has been one hell of a week! Lots of time spent in the office - 7am meetings, 9pm meetings, and everything in between. On top of all that, I decided to get a second job for the holidays at Macy's. That's right, a big fat twenty percent discount is MINE!

I was thankful this past week even with the crazy schedule to be able to eat delicious leftovers....I cannot stress enough how much in love I am with reheated Kale and Chard Panade with a poached egg on top. Seriously, it's divine. But the panade is long gone so it's time for a new recipe.

I found the recipe for Roasted Root Veggies and Fish in the awesome (and free) magazine Real Food, which you can pick up at Lund's and Byerly's stores in the Twin Cities. The magazine is fabulous - edited by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, who is hands down the BEST local food writer (or even just writer). I first became a fan of her weekly restaurant reviews in City Pages, then followed her to Minnesota Monthly. She has taken the Real Food magazine to a new level and it's amazing that you can get it for free when it's packed full of great recipes, photos, and articles.

Anyways, I changed this recipe a bit based on my tastes and budget (omitting the potato, substituting salmon for the halibut). The hardest thing (and it's not hard at all) is cutting all the root vegetables into a 1/4 inch dice. Then you let your oven do the rest of the work! Here's a pic of the veggies pre-roasting.

And, once again I'm fortunate to be on the receiving end of a very generous friend with extra fresh and local produce. Sarah showed me the most carrots I've ever seen in one place in my life (all in her fridge), which is why she gave me some orange and yellow carrots, turnips, and onion from her winter CSA share. All of those made it into this dish! The end result is colorful, healthy, and very delicious!

Roasted Root Veggies and Fish (adapted from Real Food magazine)
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced (I used a mix of orange and yellow)
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme
4 boneless/skinless fish filets (halibut, salmon, mahi mahi, or any mild flavored fish)
lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put all the diced veggies on a sheet pan, add a healthy drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme (I used dried instead of fresh). Roast for 35 minutes or until the veggies are soft.

Season the fish with olive oil, salt, pepper, and more thyme. Clear a spot in the middle of the pan for the fish and spoon some of the veggies on top. Crank up the oven to 450 degrees and roast the fish and veggies for 15 minutes or until fish is done.

Finish with a squirt of fresh lemon juice and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kale and Chard Panade

My kitchen smells ridiculously amazing right now. Try to imagine the aroma of slowly cooked and caramelized onions, the best quality gruyere cheese, a mixture of lightly wilted kale and chard, and toasty cubes of bread from Rustica bakery....if you look up "comfort food" in the food dictionary, you should find this recipe.

This recipe is taken directly from Orangette (read Molly's post on soggy bread, it's great!). Just know if you want to make this, read all the instructions first or you may be surprised to find it takes about 2 hours from start to finish (at least 1/2 hour for the onions to caramelize, and another 1 1/2 hours to bake the panade). The only thing I changed about the original recipe was to use 1 bunch of chard and 1 bunch of dino kale. And, if making again, I would reduce the amount of garlic by half.

This fancy casserole is another great way to add more kale into your diet!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Honey Apple Oat Cake

Just reading the title is tasty, right? I found the recipe for this cake in Cooking Light last year and it was one of those things I liked so much I ate one piece and threw the rest in the garbage so I wouldn't eat too much of it (I do that to Doritos if they're anywhere in my vicinity, too - but I have to crush them first otherwise I probably would dig them out of the garbage later.). I finally figured out that sweets are something you should give away, not throw away, if you don't want to eat the whole batch.

Anyways, this is a fabulous cake to make on a crisp November evening to share with two lovely friends and a bottle of chilled prosecco after a wine tasting at your new neighborhood wine shop.

The cake ends up super moist from the honey and applesauce. There's no oil at all in the recipe which cuts down on the fat. There's quite a bit of sugar, but only a scant 1/4 cup butter for the whole cake. Cooking Light says that 1 serving is only 255 calories and 5.4 grams of fat - not bad! Plus it has 3.4 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of fiber. I think this counts as a Green and Lean recipe for sure! I can also verify that a small piece goes perfectly with a hot mug of black coffee for breakfast!

Honey Apple Oat Cake (from Cooking Light)
1 cup quick-cooking oats (I used regular oats and it worked just fine)
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour and it worked just fine)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Mix oats and water and set aside. Mix dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, soda, salt). In separate bowl, beat sugar, applesauce, honey, and eggs with hand mixer for 1 minute. Add the oat/water mixture and dry ingredients a little at a time until fully mixed. Pour into greased cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 48 minutes (my cake was done after only about 30 minutes) or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Mix topping ingredients in small saucepan and cook until bubbly. Quickly pour over cake and broil for 1 minute until top is bubbly and golden.

If you're feeling decadent, top with freshly made sweetened whipped cream.

Give a majority of the remaining cake to your friends to take home to their husbands and/or sister and kid.

Friday, November 13, 2009

White Salad

OK, the last post was for a perfect Thanksgiving side dish or salad, this one is perfect for your Christmas table! First of all, the colors...white, white, white, a tiny punch of red, and maybe a bit of green if you add some parsley. Beautiful. And the flavors are so fresh and clean to balance out all the other heavy holiday fare.

You must include this salad in your holiday food rotation, or just winter lunches. It's light and crunchy - two adjectives that aren't usually used to describe winter food. I loved it. As usual, my photos are nothing compared to the original post on Not Without Salt (check out the link below for the pretty pictures!)

Winter White Salad (from Not Without Salt)
1/4 celery root, peeled and sliced thin
1 pink lady apple (leave skin on for a splash of bright red color in the salad), julienned or sliced into matchsticks
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 leek, white parts only, sliced into rings
1/4 cup creme fraiche
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
a couple parsley leaves for garnish and color

Mix ingredients together and enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Wild Rice Salad

I've never been a big fan of the Thanksgiving meal because it seems like all the food is just hot and mushy. My favorite things on Thanksgiving day are the lefse with butter and sugar, my grandma's cranberry sauce, and Boujolais Nouveau. I compensate for my distaste of potatoes and turkey and stuffing with extra quantities of "The Booj" as my bro Nick calls it.

However, if this salad were served at Thanksgiving I would have a new favorite side dish. Unfortunately, the crowd that gathers at my T-Day celebration isn't much receptive to anything that breaks with tradition. So, I adapted this side dish into a main course entree that I will enjoy all next week for lunch. If your Turkey Day crowd can handle it, I highly recommend omitting the chicken and adding this beautiful and tasty dish to your feast. It's got great crunch from the celery and sweetness from the craisins. The best part is that it's totally lean, no mayo at all - just yogurt or buttermilk to make the tangy and creamy lemony dressing.

Thanksgiving Wild Rice Salad (adapted from the New York Times)
1 quart water
1 cup wild rice
salt to taste
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped
1-2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (optional - use only if serving as a main dish)
3-4 celery stalks, sliced thin
handful chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring the water to a boil, add salt to taste and wild rice. Lower heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes. Drain and toss with the other ingredients.

1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, grated on a microplane
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used yogurt)

Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with wild rice mixture. Add more salt or pepper to taste.

I assume this would go fabulously with a couple bottles of "The Booj."

NOTE: I want to let you know this is one of those salads that get BETTER after sitting in the fridge overnight. The lemon flavor intensifies and settles into the rice to make it a party on your tongue.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spicy Black Bean Tostadas

I love fall and winter food, really. But after weeks of eating lots of leftover roasted veggies and soups, my stomach was screaming for something to wake it up. I need spice and I need it now.

This post was my inspiration for my dinner. I thought black beans and feta was such an odd combination, but it really works! I did mix it up a little bit based on what ingredients I was craving (i.e. adding chipotle peppers for SPICE!).

First, I made the slaw and let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. Then I sauteed a half an onion and added a chipotle pepper and teaspoon of the adobo sauce. I added the beans and smooshed it all together to make a yummy spicy black bean mash. Put together on a corn tortilla with fresh avocado and some feta stomach was definitely awoken!

Spicy Black Bean Tostadas
shredded cabbage or slaw mix
1 lime, juice and zest
1 leek, white parts only
cilantro, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
1 tsp adobo sauce from chipotles
1 tsp cumin
1 can black beans, drained
corn tortillas
feta cheese

Make the slaw - mix cabbage, lime juice and zest, leek, cilantro, and salt and pepper - and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors merge together.

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, add the chipotle pepper and sauce, cumin, beans, and salt and pepper to heat through. Mash with a fork.

Heat corn tortillas with olive oil in skillet on one side until charred, flip over to char the other side and add a smear of beans and some crumbled feta cheese. Remove from heat, add slaw and avocado.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spinach Artichoke Whole Wheat Penne

I actually tried to cook a Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meal. I followed the recipes almost exactly from a recent episode. She made thinly pounded chicken rolled up with asparagus and cheese served with a lemon dijon pan sauce and a pasta side dish that was supposed to taste like a healthier version of spinach/artichoke dip (it didn't).

Overall, the meal was pretty good (the best parts were the lemon dijon pan sauce and the artichokes) and it was loaded with iron, fiber, protein, and other important vitamins and minerals. If I were to make this again, I would NOT do the rollup business (I honestly felt ridiculous buying asparagus in November), and just bake the chicken breasts and make that yummy sauce to go on top. Also, I would definitely use 2 cans of artichokes and less pasta.

I have no idea if the dinner was ready in under 30 minutes, but it couldn't have been too far off. Rachael may be one of the most irritating people on the planet, but the meal was simple, healthy, pretty, and tasty. Here's how I would adapt the recipe for the pasta to my taste if I were to make it again.

Spinach Artichoke Pasta
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1 big handful toasted almonds
1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
1 shallot, diced
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 bag or box whole wheat pasta
grated parmesan cheese

Blitz first 6 ingredients (through oil/salt/pepper) in a food processor and set aside.

Add artichokes to a non-stick skillet with a little olive oil and heat through and start to brown.

Cook whole wheat pasta according to package directions. Save a cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Mix pesto with reserved cooking liquid, add pasta, artichokes, and cheese. Mix together and serve with baked chicken breasts topped with lemon dijon pan sauce.

Lemon Dijon pan sauce
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 - 3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp dijon mustard
lemon zest and juice

Melt butter in skillet, add flour and cook 2 minutes. Add stock and mustard and whisk to get rid of lumps and thicken. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and juice. Serve over chicken or fish.