Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten of Green and Lean '10

For the past week, I've been reflecting on 2010 and have been filled with a complete sense of peace, gratitude, and pride. I remember last year at this time, I was determined to make 2010 a great year. My facebook status on 12/31/09 was: "I've got 3 words for you 2010: Bring. It. On." Attitude is everything. It worked. 2010 was amazing.

What I'm most proud of this year is the way I have faced my fears and tried new things. While I've been approaching all areas of my life with this intention, here on the blog it's been particularly apparent. I even pulled back the comforting curtain of anonymity and posted about me.

And now I am in the final day of a year that has been jam packed with delicious, colorful, nutritious, and home cooked foods. Many of them started out as frightening or scary ingredients or ideas.

Here are my favorite posts from 2010.

10. Chipotle Salad Dressing - this is probably the number one restaurant thing I crave and it's rewarding to be able to recreate it at home. I've also recreated French Meadow's tempeh cutlet with good results.

9. Zucchini Oat Bran Muffins - boy, oh boy was I proud of this one! First time I ever felt like I had created a recipe for a baked good from scratch that actually worked.

8. Garlicky White Beans with Veggies and Egg - this was the first time I'd cooked dried beans, and it wasn't the last. I've cooked up several big pots of black, garbanzo, and cannellini beans since then and I love having them available in the freezer for last minute meals.

7. Steamed Artichoke with Balsamic Aioli - artichokes are not scary! It's like eating crab legs...takes a little work to get to the good stuff, but it's worth it!

6. Vegetarian Lunch Meat - it was fun using vital wheat gluten for the first time and I enjoyed sandwiches with this "mock meat." I also used mock meat in my Vegetarian Pot Pie, Rustler Pizza, and Vegetarian Pulled "Pork" Sandwiches.

5. Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp and Pineapple - I've become really confident on the old Weber and I'm no longer afraid to fire it up for dinner. I used to think it was way too much work and too much mess but I've made a great Grilled Balsamic Veggie Sandwich and Grilled Chili Lime Veggie Burritos.

4. Squash and Spinach Risotto - lots of people are scared to make risotto from scratch but it's very simple and the results are ridiculously good. I also made a risotto out of barley that was awesome.

3. Pizza Dough - so much easier than I thought it would be! I even used it to grill pizza and make calzones.

2. Sweets - in the first couple years of my real food challenge, I didn't do a lot of baking. Now I know good desserts are real food if you use the right ingredients and enjoy them in moderation. I've made some amazing sweet things this year including the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, Guinness Cake, Chocolate Lava Cakes, Carrot Cake, and Greek Yogurt Lemon Mousse.

1. Wasabi Pea Encrusted Tuna Steaks - I used to think fish was difficult to cook at home, especially the kind that you want to eat rare. But this recipe was a breeze. And out of this world delicious.

I also want to give honorable mention to these recipes that stand out in my memory as being exceptionally delicious: Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Baked Egg Rolls, Avocado Boats, and Sweet Onion and Mushroom Galette.

The best part is that I'm not done yet. I have a fairly lengthy list of items I'd like to eat or try in 2011. I'll continue to post here and you're welcome to continue reading! Thank you for following along and I wish for you to make 2011 an outstanding year, just as I'm intending to do!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Miso Soup

I hope you all are having an amazing holiday season - eating good foods, drinking tasty drinks, and sharing time with family and friends. That's really what it's all about!

I sadly didn't get to enjoy the seafood lasagna my mom made for Christmas Day because I came down with a touch of a stomach bug. Instead I had a saltine cracker and a few bites of oatmeal. Not fun. As I ease back into real food, I thought miso soup would be a good way to go.

I bought a tub of miso paste at United Noodles a few months ago. It's a good investment because it will last FOREVER in your fridge, and Wikipedia says it's high in protein, and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Anyways, I wasn't even going to post this because it's such a non-recipe. BUT then I read the lid of the miso paste container and I deemed it too hilarious to not post. Read the first line of instructions carefully.

I'm not trying to make fun of other cultures or anything, but COME ON! If I was going to sell a product in another country I would at the very least have my product packaging proofread by a native speaker! This is just lazy marketing!

But it did give me a good laugh - now all I can think about is the scene in A Christmas Story where they're at the Chinese restaurant and the waiters are singing "Deck the harrs with bars of horry. Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra." Ah, good stuff.

So this miso soup was nice and gentle on my stomach, with enough flavor to satisfy me. I didn't have tofu or seaweed but I did have carrots, mushrooms, edamame beans, and chopped baby lettuce greens. I added some toasted sesame oil at the end because...well, because toasted sesame oil just makes everything taste better!

Miso Soup
3 cups water
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 Tbsp miso paste
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame beans
handful chopped greens (like spinach, arugula, or other leafy greens)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Heat water in a small pot over medium high heat with carrots and mushrooms. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots and mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium, add miso paste and edamame and stir gentry. Let it all heat together for a couple minutes.

Remove from heat and add greens and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

ONE YEAR AGO: Christmas Colors Casserole (I know it's a stupid name and the photos suck, but this dish tasted awesome. I'll be making it again soon!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spicy Beans and Tomatoes on Polenta

I love reading about Liz's pantry challenges over at the awesomely named blog Food Snobbery is my Hobbery when she does them. I know the feeling she gets when she's able to accomplish amazing meals without grocery shopping. There are few things that I'm more proud of than making a seriously delicious dinner out of stuff I find in my cupboard or freezer.

Tonight I experimented with a little container of Quaker corn meal which has been in my cupboard for awhile. I don't know if corn meal is exactly the same as polenta, but they're similar enough. I just boiled up some water, whisked in the corn meal, added butter and salt and it came out rich and creamy.

I also found a jar of roasted tomatoes and shallots in my freezer. I froze several pints of roasted cherry tomatoes in the fall and they came in handy tonight along with another frozen find: home cooked cannellini beans.

I was inspired by this post, but really all I did was defrost my tomatoes and beans (you can just open cans!), add a hefty pinch of crushed red pepper, ladle it on top of the polenta, and top it all with coarsely grated parmesan cheese.

Healthy, filling, comforting. It's also vegetarian AND gluten-free! Vegan, too, if you nix the cheese and butter. Exactly what you need the week before Christmas as you prepare your body for sweets, snacks, and cocktails!

Spicy Beans and Tomatoes on Polenta
2 cups water
1/2 cup corn meal or polenta
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
tomato sauce (either home made or store bought - or even just some canned tomatoes added to sauteed onions)
1 can of beans, any kind, drained (or 1 pint home cooked)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
grated cheese - any kind (I used parmesan)
fresh herbs - optional (I didn't have any but parsley, basil, or chives would be great)

You should follow the directions on the back of your corn meal or polenta package. But all I did was boil 2 cups of water in a small pot, whisk in 1/2 cup corn meal, add butter and salt and stir.

Heat your tomato sauce in another small pot (or add a can of diced or crushed tomatoes to some sauteed onions in a skillet). Add drained beans. Season to taste, as spicy as you can handle (maybe just start with a pinch and add from there).

Serve on top of polenta, add grated cheese, and any fresh chopped herbs you have in the house.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

All over the internet this month you will find Christmas cookie and candy recipes. Everyone is gushing about the traditional sweets that have been made in their families for years, and about how they're frantically finishing their Christmas baking.

I'm so not interested in Christmas cookies. Especially those sugar ones that have frosting and sprinkles on them. Or gingersnaps. Or pfeffernusse (I don't even know what the hell that is!). Or anything with candy canes. Those chocolate-less cookies do nothing for me. I'm a simple girl. When I want a cookie, all I want is a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Oh, relax. I'm not trying to start any big fights here. I realize that "perfect" is absolutely subjective and what's perfect to me could be average to you. Some people like their chocolate chip cookies chewy-soft (me!). This is the kind of cookie my mom has made for years and my gold standard for the ideal cookie texture. But Mom says she prefers Grandma's cookies which are crispy and crumbly. The difference? Grandma uses butter, Mom uses butter-flavored Crisco.

Not wanting any butter-flavored anything added into my body, but also not wanting to forsake that yummy chewiness, I used a mixture of butter and olive oil for my shortening. It worked like a charm. The cookies came out of the oven delicately crispy on the outside, ooey gooey on the inside, rich with the caramel flavor of extra brown sugar, and studded with good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips. In my humble opinion, absolutely perfect.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups flour
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together one at a time in the order listed. Ideally, but not necessary, you can chill or freeze the dough before baking. Roll into golf-ball size, smoosh down gently, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Best enjoyed warm and fresh out of the oven.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mixed Vegetable Hash

A couple of angels on my block named Joe and Gary saved the day (and my biceps) by snowblowing behind my garage. They would have done all my sidewalks, too, but I had already done it. Amazing, friendly, wonderful neighbors. I'm so lucky.

They say it's bitterly cold today, and it is. However, it's beautiful too! The sun is shining and neighbors are helping each other up and down the street. It warms my cold, cold heart! It's official - I'm now in the Christmas spirit!

I am also in the midst of an egg-stravaganza it seems. I can't get enough incredible, edible eggs in my system this weekend! I put this morning's egg on top of the prettiest breakfast I've ever enjoyed! All it took was a carrot, a parsnip, a handful of Brussels sprouts, a half potato, and a quarter of an onion.

I seriously thought I was making a single portion. Oops, actually I got a huge bowl of shredded vegetables after a quick pass through my food processor that I'm certain would feed four. Then I simply fried some of them up in a non-stick skillet with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Once the veggies get some color on them, flip and shape into a nice round form. Once they're all cooked down and browned, they will slide right out of your pan ready for your egg.

To all my fellow Twin Citians, I hope you have neighbors as wonderful as mine. Enjoy the beautiful weather today but stay warm and cozy if possible!

Mixed Vegetable Hash, makes 4 servings
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 cup Brussels sprouts
1/2 russet potato
1/4 yellow onion
olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Feed all your vegetables through the grater attachment on your food processor. Alternatively, you could use a box grater, or the julienne blade on a mandoline, or just chop finely.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add a couple big handsful of your grated veggies to the skillet and push down with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper, and drizzle more olive oil over.

Let cook 2-3 minutes or until veggies start to brown. Flip as best you can and cook the other side. Keep using spatula to press veggies down and into a round shape. Slide onto a plate and top with eggs cooked to your preference.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sunny Side Up Pizza

I needed this super filling, protein-packed pizza today in order to shovel the 16+ inches of snow that is trying to bury me. I was going to call this Breakfast Pizza but that's silly since I actually ate it for lunch and wouldn't hesitate to make it for dinner either.

I happened to have some leftover sauteed balsamic kale in the fridge from making my favorite meal ever, and I figured it would be fun to make that meal into a pizza. It worked beautifully!

In theory, you could make your own pizza dough, but I'm lazy today and just used a whole wheat pita as my crust. I started my pizza with the pita drenched in olive oil, garlic, fresh chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper.

Then I layered on the sauteed kale (you could substitute mushrooms, bacon, or any other breakfast meats or veggies you like) and some sliced cherry tomatoes. Some grated cheese is crucial for this pizza, and I used a delicious cave aged gruyere and also a little parmesan.

Crack your egg into the center (you could use scrambled eggs if runny yolks aren't your thing) and bake. The yolk becomes a rich sauce for the pizza when you cut into it.

This was definitely muscle-building food, which was needed for the first round of shoveling! Now it's couch potato time as I build up motivation for round two!

Sunny Side Up Pizza
1 whole wheat pita (or homemade pizza dough)
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper
sauteed kale and onions with balsamic vinegar (or cooked bacon, sauteed mushrooms, etc)
sliced grape tomatoes
grated cheese
1 egg

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Assemble pizza according to your tastes. Crack an egg into the center. Bake for 12 minutes or until egg white is set and yolk is still runny.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sweet Onion and Mushroom Galette

I know there are many people don't like mushrooms and/or stinky cheese and there is nothing I can do to change your mind. These pictures surely won't convince you, what with all the brownness and such. So, this post isn't for you. You might want to look away and go read some celebrity gossip blogs for awhile (I recommend this one!).

But, for the rest of you. Yeah, you - the ones who think stinky cheese is the bee's knees, and who think mushrooms are the cat's meow. To you lovely readers, all I can say is WOW. Wow, wow, wow. This galette is one of my favorite things I've ever made. It is bursting with the flavors of mushrooms, sweet onions, balsamic vinegar, creamy pungent taleggio cheese, and a flaky crust that's loaded with butter. I ate 3 pieces, and after writing that last sentence I'm tempted to go back for another. It is THAT GOOD.

A galette is a type of pie, with a free-form crust - which you load up with sweet or savory fillings. My version is kind of like a pizza, but with more of a pastryish crust and way more toppings than you'd find on a flimsy slice of pizza.

You could easily simplify this recipe by using store bought pie crust or puff pastry and I'm sure it would still be awesome. However, this simple crust blew my mind with how light and flaky it was. An absolutely perfect complement to those rich and juicy mushrooms. The sauteed onions and splash of balsamic vinegar added just the right sweet and acidic balance to the galette.

You can't tell because it all melted into the mushrooms, but I also added knobs of a super ripe soft taleggio cheese. I wanted a stinky cheese tonight, but you could radically change the personality of this dish if you used a light, fresh goat cheese instead. Ah hell, who am I kidding? ANY cheese would be good on this! But I think especially brie, gruyere, mozzarella, parmesan, or provolone would taste great.

Sweet Onion and Mushroom Galette
For the crust: (from Deborah Madison via Nirmala's Cooking Blog)
2 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into smaller chunks
3/4 cup ice water

For the filling:
2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp butter
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
A whole bunch of mixed mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used one package wild mushrooms, 1 package criminis, and 1 package button mushrooms)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2-3 Tbsp fresh)
salt and pepper
Ripe soft cheese, like taleggio
1 egg, beaten

1. First, make the crust.
Put first four ingredients in a bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. You want to keep the dough as cold as possible until you put it in the oven, because that will make it puff up and get flaky.

Remove the bowl from the freezer and put the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to combine, then add ice water a little at a time until it holds together when you pinch it.

Remove dough from food processor, work the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for another 15 minutes.

2. Then make the filling.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft, but not browned. Add all your mushrooms and thyme and cook for another 8-10 minutes until they're nice and brown and the liquid has cooked out. Add balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and continue to cook until liquid has again been absorbed.

3. Finally, assemble your galette.
Remove dough from freezer and roll out on floured counter to a large circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fold in four and transfer to a baking stone or parchment covered baking sheet. Pour your filling into the middle and spread it out, leaving 1.5 - 2 inches around the edge.

Fold up all the edges and pinch to hold. Dot the top with knobs of your ripe cheese and brush the edges of your dough with the egg wash.

Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Banana, Chocolate, and Pumpkin Waffles

About a week before Thanksgiving, I somehow got it into my head that I needed to make waffles. I've never made waffles before so I'm not sure where this idea came from. But I couldn't shake the thought of biting into a fresh hot crispy waffle doused in pure maple syrup.

Being thrifty, I didn't want to go buy a waffle maker so I thought I should borrow one instead. My mom didn't have one anymore and I thought I was out of luck until I asked my 93-year-old Grandpa Art on a whim if he had one. Well, wouldn't you know....a two ton monstrosity that must date back to the 1960's was all mine for the taking. Note the super safe fabric-covered cord.

Needless to say, I was THRILLED with my new toy. My grandma, who died over 20 years ago, used to make waffles on this thing! It's got history, AND it makes delicious waffles!

I may have gone a bit overboard and have made several different versions of waffles a couple times a week since then, with all kinds of different toppings. I remember around the time I was in kindergarten, my daycare provider Dorothy would make waffles for lunch and she'd serve them spread with homemade strawberry jam and heavy whipping cream poured on top. YUM.

First I made pumpkin waffles with the last of the roasted squash puree in my fridge. The recipe I found asked you to whip the egg whites separately - similar to a souffle recipe - so the waffles puff up nice and fluffy. It was a good recipe and the waffles were yummy.

A few nights later I made a batch of Alton Brown's Chocolate Waffles. These were SO easy and even tastier. I actually split his recipe in two and put cocoa powder in one half, and mashed ripe bananas in the other half.

The best part about making all these waffles is that I have several big ziploc bags in the freezer filled with waffles that cook up in a toaster (homemade Eggos!) in just a few minutes.

I think the crispy edges you get from the toaster almost make them taste better as leftovers! Also, because these waffles are crammed with fresh ingredients instead of artificial flavorings or preservatives, you can eat them straight from the toaster and they're so flavorful they don't even need syrup or other sugary toppings.

Pumpkin Waffles, adapted from the Pumpkin Waffles Blog
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 cup roasted pureed squash (or canned pumpkin)
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Mix all the dry ingredients together. In separate bowl, mix together egg yolks, milk, pumpkin, and melted butter. In a third bowl, whip the egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Fold dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture, then fold in egg whites but try to not overmix.

Heat your waffle iron and grease it with some olive oil or butter cooking spray. Add a ladle of waffle batter, close and cook approx 3 minutes or until waffles are golden and crispy.

Chocolate and/or Banana Waffles, from Alton Brown
1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

First mix your dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix all your wet ingredients in another bowl. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.

Split this batter into 2 equal servings (or just leave as one full batch of either kind and double the amounts that follow). Into one serving, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Into the other serving, add 2 very ripe mashed bananas.

Cook as described above in your greased hot waffle iron for 2-3 minutes.

HANDY TIP: Don't overfill your waffle maker.

ONE YEAR AGO: Green and Lean Loaf

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Mac-n-Cheese

My biggest and most humiliating cooking failure occurred the one and only time I tried to make homemade macaroni and cheese. I didn't cook the roux long enough and I used only one type of cheese, which was a much too sharp white cheddar. It tasted like raw flour on top of a bitter cheese. Alicia and Marney tried to spare my feelings but neither of them could eat it.

That experience was probably 5 or 6 years ago and I've been haunted by it ever since and have never attempted it again. Until last night, when I arrived home after a 2 hour commute and decided to hibernate while the heavens dumped 8+ inches of beautiful fluffy white snow on me.

I've since learned how to properly cook a roux to make a tasty bechamel sauce. That's simply a fancy French word for the white sauce that's created when you cook butter and flour together for at least 2 minutes, then whisk in milk or stock and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

My roasted vegetable version of mac-n-cheese has 1 cup of roasted pureed squash added to the bechamel. I also added a combination of fontina, gruyere, and parmesan. I had leftover roasted broccoli, grape tomatoes, and button mushrooms that I threw in there with a half box of cooked whole wheat penne.

Continuing to use up what I had on hand, I toasted up some thick slices of whole wheat artisan bread in the oven, then blitzed them up in the food processor to make some hearty bread crumbs. These got sprinkled on top of the mac-n-cheese, then a drizzle of olive oil to help it brown, and a trip into a hot oven for 20 minutes.

This macaroni and cheese is SO GOOD. Seriously, if these photos don't make you drool on to your keyboard, there is something wrong with you! The cheese flavor is mild, the squash flavor shines through, and the occasional bite into a sweet grape tomato or earthy mushroom will keep you eating and eating till you can't stop. I'm not usually one to go for seconds, but I actually had thirds of this dish!

Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 package whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
2 cups roasted vegetables (I used broccoli, grape tomatoes, and button mushrooms)
1 cup squash puree (I had pre-roasted and frozen my own, but you can buy frozen squash or use canned pumpkin)
2 1/2 cups shredded cheese - any combo (I used 1 1/2 cups fontina, 1/2 cup gruyere, 1/2 cup parmesan)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk (you could use lighter milk)
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried ground mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (either store bought, or homemade)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil pasta in accordance with package instructions. Roast your veggies and puree your squash if you haven't done so in advance. Grate your cheese.

In a medium pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add flour and whisk together. Let it cook at least 2 minutes but don't burn it. Slowly whisk in your milk and raise the heat a little bit. Add nutmeg, mustard, salt and pepper and cook and continue whisking until sauce is thickened (it should coat a spoon).

Whisk in all your grated cheese and your pureed squash. It should be a bright orange thick sauce that tastes amazing. Add your roasted veggies and cooked pasta. Mix well.

Pour your cheesy mixture into a greased casserole dish. Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are a toasty golden brown.

ONE YEAR AGO: Nothing, I was too busy selling Coach handbags at Macy's.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lemon Panko Salmon

I am so burnt out on Thanksgiving. No more hot and mushy bland food, please! Time for something totally different - like a bright lemony flavored crunchy crusty piece of salmon!

We are so lucky to have Coastal Seafoods in the Twin Cities. If you like fish and/or seafood, there is no better source for the freshest stuff around. Plus, the workers are always super helpful (and as I've mentioned, smoking hot). And if that isn't enough to entice you to stop by, then you should at least peruse the awesome treasure trove of recipes on their website.

Alicia introduced me to the Coastal Seafoods recipe site and I've gotten lost browsing there. She emailed me this recipe and I was very excited to try it because of it's simplicity and because it sounded absolutely delicious. And, it was both - super simple and very good! I like that I didn't have to try to dredge the fish in the breading. Instead you just pour the buttery bread crumbs over the top of the fish and throw the whole pan in the oven.

The smell of the garlic and lemon was intoxicating (or maybe that was the big glass of wine?). Too intoxicating I guess, because I forgot to take a photo of my beautiful food until most of it was in my belly. Served with some buttered wheat artisan bread and roasted broccoli and grape tomatoes, this was one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

There was a LOT of salmon leftover, so I flaked up the remainder and made beautiful salmon cakes with the addition of a couple beaten eggs and a few more bread crumbs. I froze the salmon cakes for future use. What a great way to put some closure to Thanksgiving for another year.

Lemon Panko Salmon, from Coastal Seafoods
1.5 - 2 lb salmon filet
1 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (I substituted 1 tsp dried parsley)
1 Tbsp dried basil (I omitted this because I didn't have any)
3 Tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
1 lemon, zested
2 Tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly oil or butter a baking sheet. Place salmon on sheet, skin side down. Lightly coat salmon with 1 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter.

Combine panko, garlic, parsley, basil, cheese, zest, salt, and melted butter. Mix well. Pour over fish and pat into place.

Bake 8 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cashew Tofu

One of my awesome friends (which one of you was it?) gave me an old cookbook called Tofu Cookery. I'm trying to expand my tofu recipes so it was fun to go through the book and pick out something to try.

The cookbook is totally 80's. I think I'll pass on the tofu vegetable gelatin mold (grody!), but there are a few winners in there. This recipe is one of them. It's so versatile that you can substitute other nuts and other proteins depending on your taste - Peanut Shrimp or Almond Chicken are just a couple of examples that spring to mind.

Also, it probably goes without saying, but just as in every stir fry recipe, you can use ANY vegetables that tickle your fancy. Bell peppers would be awesome, as would bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, broccoli, spinach, etc. But all I had on hand was celery, edamame, and leftover romaine lettuce and it worked just fine!

Cashew Tofu, adapted from Louise Hagler
1/2 cup raw cashews (or peanuts or almonds)
1 package extra-firm tofu, cut into pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 clove garlic, grated on microplane or minced
1/4 medium yellow onion, grated or minced
4 ribs celery, cut into bite sized pieces
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1/2 bag frozen shelled edamame
Big handful spinach, lettuce, or other greens
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger)
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp cornstarch

First, toast your nuts in a dry skillet (or roast in an oven) until golden brown and fragrant.

Then, mix together soy sauce, peanut butter, garlic and onion. Marinate tofu in this mixture for at least 30 minutes. Pan fry tofu in non-stick skillet or bake on parchment-lined sheet until browned.

In another skillet, heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add all your veggies and ginger and stir fry on high heat until crisp-tender.

Shake together in a jar (or whisk together in bowl) the water, soy sauce, and cornstarch until no lumps remain. Pour over veggies and boil until mixture thickens. Add browned tofu and toasted nuts.

Serve over brown rice or oat groats with lots of Rooster Sauce (sriracha hot sauce).

ONE YEAR AGO: Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie (a brilliant way of using your leftovers)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pinecone Cheeseball

I offered to bring an appetizer to our family's Thanksgiving day celebration again this year. It's purely selfish. I love the idea of Thanksgiving but end up eating mostly snacks, sweets, and wine because it turns out I don't really care for the turkey meal itself. So I wanted an extra fancy appetizer to look forward to.

Last year I brought a super cute apple salsa with cinnamon chips. This year, I'm going straight up traditional cheeseball! But to make it appropriate for the seasonal occasion, I'm stealing the idea for how to present it from my co-worker. You certainly can make this same recipe in a round ball shape and just roll in crushed nuts.

Or you can spend a few extra minutes to make it a pinecone.

Seriously. This is too fricking adorable, I'm afraid to even cut into it! Won't it look awesome on our Thanksgiving pre-dinner snacking table?

Pinecone Cheeseball
1 package cream cheese (8 oz), room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp dried dill
1 garlic clove, grated on microplane
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup sliced almonds (you could use whole ones or pecans too - it's easier!)
fresh rosemary

Mix all ingredients together well in a big bowl. Carefully shape into one large or two small teardrops on a serving platter. Refrigerate.

Toast your almonds on a sheet pan for 8 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until they just start to turn golden brown. Remove cheese teardrop from fridge and begin studding with almonds.

Start at the pointy tip of your pinecone and insert almonds parallel to the platter. Cover the whole pinecone in almonds, by the time you get to the large end, they'll be standing straight up and down. Garnish with rosemary to look like a twig from a pine tree.

Serve with crackers, bread, or raw veggies. And plenty of wine!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Scones

Ah, Sunday mornings. My absolute favorite part of the week! It involves hot coffee, the New York Times, and United States of Americana on The Current. Today it also involved watching a handful of cars try unsuccessfully to drive down the glare ice masquerading as a street in front of my house.

One thing missing in this whole scene was the smell of freshly baked breakfast treats wafting from the kitchen, so I searched out a recipe and got to work. I've been craving pumpkin like crazy so yesterday I baked up a huge buttercup squash (always my best pumpkin substitute because I find canned pumpkin tastes like metal).

I used the pureed squash to make a pumpkin spice latte and these scones. They required no specialty ingredients, so I had everything on hand except buttermilk for which I easily substituted plain yogurt. Good thing, since I'm sure my car would have ended up in the ditch or someone's front yard if I had tried to make a trip to the store!

Pumpkin Scones, adapted very slightly from Picky Cook
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup squash puree, or canned pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix flour and other dry ingredients in food processor. Add in butter and pulse until it's a coarse sandy texture. Mix together yogurt, pumpkin, and vanilla. Add to food processor and pulse until just combined.

Transfer mixture to well floured countertop and shape into a long rectangle, about 3 inches tall, 12 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. Cut into triangles and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20 minutes or until golden.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vegetarian Lunch Meat

Well well well. This was certainly an experiment out of my comfort zone. I commented on Crystal's post a few days ago about how afraid I was of vital wheat gluten. It just sounds so foreign and I'd never seen or used it before.

But just like any time I finally admit one of my fears, I seem to instantly become determined to get over it. I found vital wheat gluten in the bulk bins at the co-op, it's a silky white powder that I think was about $2.50 per pound, and you can get it packaged from Bob's Red Mill also. With this bag of strangeness staring at my from my cupboard for a few days, I decided to tackle a crazy recipe for homemade vegetarian lunch meat.

The recipe is so incredibly simple and it makes a huge loaf of veggie meat that tastes fantastic sliced on bread with mustard and pickles! I still can't wrap my brain around the concept of making meat out of wheat, then serving it on more wheat...but it tastes so satisfying and delicious that I don't really care. Plus I have heard that vital wheat gluten is super high in protein so it's probably good for me to boot.

The cooking process involves both steaming and baking. I puzzled over how to steam my loaf for awhile and then I decided to elevate it on a few canning rings from pint jars in a half inch of water over medium heat. It worked like a charm.

This fake meat tastes just like seitan, or mock duck, if just a smidge drier for easy slicing. If sandwiches aren't your thing, you could use this loaf cut into cubes for stir fries, curries, or pot pies.

Vegetarian Lunch Meat, adapted from Vegan Dad and The Life
1 can or pint of white beans, drained
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 medium onion, grated on a box grater
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 chipotle pepper in adobo (from a can)
2 Tbsp poultry seasoning
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups boiling vegetable broth
2 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten

Add beans, oil, onion, garlic, soy sauce, chipotle, and spices (through pepper) to a food processor and blend until smooth and well mixed.

Remove to a large bowl and stir in broth. It will look like a red watery mixture. Add the vital wheat gluten and mix well. It will quickly become very thick, use your hands to knead for a few seconds to ensure it's very well mixed. Add to a foil-lined loaf pan (or just wrap in foil like a burrito).

Heat 1/2 inch water in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Place 2 metal canning rings in the pot. Put your loaf (in the pan or out, doesn't matter) on the rings, cover, and steam for 1 hour. You may need to add a bit more water after 30 minutes.

Then put your loaf (again, in the pan or out) in a 350 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool.

Tastes great on bread with mustard and pickles.

ONE YEAR AGO: Kale and Chard Panade

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jones Chili

Jones Chili is also known in my house as The Cheapest, Easiest, and Healthiest Thing I Have Ever Cooked That Also Tastes Delicious, but that title is a bit verbose and won't fit up on top of this post.

Cassandra made this for me once in college in her boyfriend's grungy kitchen in a crappy white house on Fifth Avenue. If I remember correctly, it was something her mom made for her when she became a vegetarian. I love this recipe and I make it at least twice each winter.

If you can use a can opener, you can make this awesome huge pot of chili. At the core of the recipe is simply a bunch of canned goods. Even though I was told there would be no math in this blog, I think this formula is simple enough to remember - 5 cans or pints beans, 2 cans tomatoes, 1 jar salsa (as hot as you can stand).

Warm it all up together and PRESTO, you have an awesome bowl of chili. Technically, I guess you should probably throw some chili powder in there too. But the best part is that your salsa has all the spices and flavors you need to season the whole pot. If I forgot anything or got the formula wrong, I hope I get corrected in the comments.

There are also lots of other ways to make your chili more complicated (if you're like me and want to spend a few minutes chopping and stirring instead of just opening cans). I like to add onions, carrots, garlic, corn, green chiles, and sometimes bell peppers too. I also like to add some type of whole grain to my chili to help soak up some of the liquid and make it taste a bit heartier (brown rice, wheatberries, quinoa, or oat groats).

Leftovers are so versatile...I love eating them with tortilla chips for chili cheese nachos, with eggs, or even wrapped up in a tortilla. And bonus - leftovers freeze great.

Basic Jones Chili
5 cans of beans, plus liquid (my fave combo for taste and color is 2 cans spicy chili beans, 1 can black, 1 can garbazno, 1 can dark red kidney)
2 cans diced tomatoes (I like the fire roasted flavor)
1 jar salsa (I used homemade super spicy roasted salsa)

Heat all ingredients together in a big pot with 1 Tbsp chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Fancy Jones Chili
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (any color)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 bottle beer (I used Fat Tire)
5 cans beans, plus liquid (see note above for my fave combo)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 jar salsa
1 can shoepeg corn
1 can green chiles
1/2 cup brown rice, quinoa, wheatberries, or oat groats

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large dutch oven. Add onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Add chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until veggies are soft, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Add beer and deglaze bottom of pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes until beer has reduced by half. Add beans with their liquid, tomatoes, salsa, corn, chiles, and your grain of choice. Simmer 30-40 minutes to let flavors meld and serve when your grain is fully cooked.

ONE YEAR AGO: White Salad