Saturday, January 29, 2011

Green and Lean Smoothie

This blog began as a sort of online journal of the food I ate. At some point, the tables turned and it began influencing the food I ate. It's kind of a which came first - chicken or egg - situation. I've quit blogging about some of the things I regularly eat because really - how many sauteed kale posts can you stand to read? So I try to think up new and exciting things to make and if they turn out well, I post them.

But the past couple of weeks have been unusual in my eating habits, because nothing really sounds exciting to me right now. I'm blaming it on the bleak January and endless winter that has few fresh seasonal produce items currently available.

Also, I recently completed a two week "winter cleanse" course through a local Pilates studio. Don't worry, that's not as intense as it sounds. Words like "cleanse" and "detox" are profanities in my mind, but this course was 6 classes a week of yoga, Pilates, stretching, and core conditioning. It was certainly muscle building and I'm this close to being able to do a real push up! But, instead of daydreaming of casseroles, pot pies, soups and stews, roasted fish and vegetables, or other typical winter foods, I was weirdly craving raw spinach. I think my body just needed some extra nutrition.

So, while right now I'm not able to give you some exciting recipe for miso glazed salmon or ricotta gnocchi (both on my list), I'm going to get back to my original blog roots and show you what I've actually been eating nonstop for a week - and loving it.

My Green and Lean Smoothie has become almost an addiction this week. I've plowed through an entire giant bin of baby spinach in 4 days. And before you even, the smoothie doesn't taste like spinach at all. It tastes like a creamy peanut butter and banana milkshake.

I added instant coffee to it today for a caffeine boost. I've tried it unsweetened, sweetened naturally with pure maple syrup, and with pitted dates. I've added flaxseeds which aren't necessary but add extra nutrients. No matter which way I've made this smoothie, it's been delicious, nutritious, and drop dead gorgeous.

Green and Lean Smoothie
1 cup milk (any kind, but I like soymilk or almond milk)
1 banana
1 Tbsp nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunbutter)
1 Tbsp flaxseed (I recommend buying it ground unless you like extra crunchy texture)
3 pitted dates (or 1 tsp maple syrup)
3 ice cubes
2 big handsful baby spinach

Add ingredients to a blender in the order listed and blend until well mixed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Florentine Eggs Benedict

Sometimes you must simply go all out and eat something truly decadent. My recent splurge occurred during brunch with Eggs Benedict accompanied by homemade hollandaise sauce, creamed spinach, and roasted portobello mushrooms (served with Smitten Kitchen's winter fruit salad and more than one mimosa).

If you are a calorie counter, then calculating the stats for dish might give you a panic attack. The hollandaise alone has twelve (yes, twelve) tablespoons of butter...not to mention the many egg yolks, and the creamy spinach spiked with a healthy handful of real parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Thankfully, I didn't have time to waste counting calories because I was too busy eating this RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS plate of food. And there is a ton of nutrition to offset the richness so you can't even feel guilty about it. Believe me when I tell you it tasted every bit as good as it looks (and maybe even better than that).

Florentine Eggs Benedict, inspired by a marriage of Giada De Laurentiis's Eggs Florentine and Ina Garten's hollandaise sauce.
2 wheat English muffins, split in half
4 poached eggs (here's how to do it)
4 portobello mushroom caps, stems removed and wiped clean
12 Tbsp butter, melted and still hot
4 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
10 big handsful of fresh baby spinach
freshly grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated hard cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago, or Pecorino

Poach your eggs in advance and store in a bowl of ice water in the fridge until ready to serve. Before serving, reheat in simmering water for 30 seconds.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees, coat your mushrooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes or until shriveled up and dark brown.

Make hollandaise: In a blender or food processor, put your egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Turn on the blender/processor. Slowly (very, very slowly!) start drizzling in your hot butter. It should be light yellow and thick after all butter has been added. Set aside. When ready to serve, blend again for 10 seconds with 1 Tbsp hot water.

Make creamed spinach: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sweat your onion in a couple Tbsp olive oil and/or butter with salt and pepper until soft. Add spinach in batches until wilted. Add nutmeg, cream, and cheese and cook until bubbling and reduced (about 7-8 minutes).

To assemble: start with 1/2 toasted English muffin, add roasted portobello mushroom cap, add a spoonful of creamed spinach, add reheated poached egg, and top with a spoonful of warm hollandaise.

TWO YEARS AGO: Split Pea Soup

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chocolate Chickpea Cake

Healthy substitutions can be a wonderful thing. For example, greek yogurt can stand in for sour cream or even mayonnaise in almost anything and it makes the dish healthier without sacrificing any texture or flavor.

But I am violently opposed to creating an entirely fat-free, sugar-free version of a delicious thing (like cake) out of fat-free cream cheese, fat-free whipped topping, fat-free cake mix, sugar-free instant pudding, etc. Gross. If you're going to eat cake, I think it should have real ingredients and taste good!

So, this recipe has no flour or oil, and uses a surprise ingredient substitution. I wanted to make this not because I don't like flour or oil. Nope. Actually, I wanted to make this because I love super moist, fudgy cakes and the picture that accompanied this recipe made my mouth water.

The secret ingredient is chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), although I'm certain that ANY bean (cannellini or black beans come to mind) would work just as well. I've had black bean brownies that were awesome. It sounds strange but nobody who tastes this cake would ever guess it's made with beans. Bonus: the cake is loaded with fiber and protein!

I served my warm cake with sweetened whipped cream and a ridiculously amazing bottle of red wine that was a Christmas gift. Pretty much nothing wrong with this picture!

Would I make this cake again? Absolutely, but not when I'm craving real chocolate cake. It had a fabulous deep chocolate flavor. But the fudgy moist cake I was searching for this was not. Instead, it had a somewhat unidentifiable texture but outstanding flavor. It was clearly not a traditional chocolate cake. For that, I recommend chocolate lava cakes. However, if you want a great (and healthy) chocolate dessert, give this one a try!

Chocolate Chickpea Cake, adapted from Serious Eats
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3 oz (1/4 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (or 350, but my oven runs hot).
Grease and flour a loaf pan (I used cocoa powder instead of flour).

Melt your chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a double boiler (in a glass bowl over simmering water).

In a food processor, blend your chickpeas, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt and blend again. Then add your melted chocolate. Batter should be thick.

Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Serve dusted with powdered sugar or with sweetened whipped cream.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mushroom Bourguignon

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

"Repurposing" is my favorite kitchen word. I hate wasting food, so I was preoccupied with the leftover ricotta (from the White Pizza with Greens) that was in my fridge. I've never really used ricotta for anything before so I had to do a bunch of creative thinking to repurpose it in a delicious way.

The awesome website The Kitchn had a dead simple recipe for ricotta pancakes that I had to make. I added lemon zest and juice to jazz it up a bit. The recipe prep is easy but it does take 3 bowls - one for your dry ingredients, 1 for your wet ingredients, and 1 for whipping your egg whites.

Mix your dry ingredients with your wet ingredients, then fold in your egg whites and you have a thick and fluffy batter that you add to a buttered hot skillet.

All these bad boys needed to be perfect was an awesome syrup. I used blueberries with a little maple syrup boiled and mashed together. The flavors and colors of this syrup paired perfectly with the delicate lemon cakes.

Heavenly! Not a bad way to start a weekend, if you ask me.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup, adapted from The Kitchn
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
3/4 cup whole milk
3 eggs - separated
zest and juice of 1 lemon (reserve a splash of juice for your syrup)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp maple syrup or sugar

In one bowl, mix your dry ingredients (flour, powder, sugar, salt).
In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients (ricotta, milk, yolks, lemon zest and juice, vanilla)
In a third bowl, whip your egg whites with a mixer until stiff.

Mix your wet and dry ingredients together, then gently fold in your whipped egg whites.

To make the syrup, boil your blueberries and syrup together until thickened and mash with a fork. Add a little splash of lemon juice at the end to brighten it up.

Heat a skillet, griddle, cast iron pan over medium high heat and brush a little butter over the surface. Pour one ladle of batter on skillet and spread out until it's about 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick. Cook until little bubbles form on top, then flip and cook about 1 minute more.

Top with blueberry syrup and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

I've had the idea for this dish in my brain for months and months. I don't know why I kept putting it off. Even after I made my grocery list with the proper ingredients, I waited a few weeks to buy the stuff. Then after my fridge and pantry were stocked with the right ingredients, I waited until my sweet potatoes almost started sprouting before I finally forced myself to make it.

Actually, I do know why I was putting this off. It's because it feels like holiday food. Hot and mushy and rich. But I'm very glad I made it because it was very tasty, and loaded with nutrition!

A shepherd's pie is some type of meat and/or veggies in a gravy-type sauce topped with some mashed potatoes and all baked together. Each Thanksgiving, we make amazing leftover shepherd's pies with our extra turkey, gravy, and potatoes.

This version of a shepherd's pie is much healthier sans crust, but with a mountain of cremini mushrooms, kale, a creamy yogurt gravy, and topped with beautiful bright orange sweet potatoes.

It was super flavorful and made an amazing dinner and an even more impressive workday lunch the next day. But it definitely needs a piece of crusty artisan bread slathered with butter to provide that contrast in textures to make a complete meal.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 yellow onion, diced
2 packages crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 bunch Tuscan kale, washed and stems removed and chopped
2 heaping Tbsp AP flour
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup plain, full fat, greek yogurt
salt, pepper, and olive oil

Place sweet potato cubes in cold water in medium pot over high heat. Bring to boil, add salt, and cook until soft. Drain, season with salt and 1 Tbsp butter, and mash. Set aside.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until brown. Add kale, salt, and pepper.

Sprinkle flour over veggies and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add in vegetable stock and boil until thickened. Add yogurt and remove from heat.

Pour veggies and gravy into an oven safe dish. Top with mashed sweet potatoes. Broil briefly until potatoes are slightly charred.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

White Pizza with Greens

As usual, I'm the one doing opposite what everyone else is doing. I know this is the traditional "healthy" eating time for all of those who've made new year's resolutions. Food Network this weekend is full of shows (even Paul Deen y'all!) featuring healthy recipes because many of us have gorged ourselves in the past two months.

Since my Christmas Day was squandered on the couch with the flu, I certainly didn't overindulge this holiday season. So now, instead of getting on the steamed veggie and salad bus, I'm cruising down the road to pizza town.

Specifically, pizza with lots of cheese. At least 3 kinds of cheese. Ooey, gooey, creamy, salty, melty, rich cheese. My pizza base was a piece of naan - soft Indian flatbread, similar to pita only softer.

Cheese number one is a fresh ricotta spiced with garlic, salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Then I layered on a whole bunch of shredded provolone cheese (although any Italian melting cheese would work, especially fontina or mozzarella) and finely grated parmigiano reggiano.

All that rich cheese needed a contrasting texture and flavor to make the perfect meal so I topped my pizza with some basic greens simply dressed in a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette.

It tasted as good as it looks! And while it's not as light as steamed veggies with poached fish, I still think it's healthy. Plus, who likes eating so extreme - stuffing yourself one day, then depriving yourself the next? Not me. I prefer to eat healthy and well-balanced food year round!

White Pizza with Greens
Pizza Crust (homemade, store bought, or pita or naan)
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
a pinch each of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper
1/2 cup shredded Italian melting cheese such as provolone, fontina, or mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups leafy greens
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees, or as hot as it gets.

In a small bowl, mix your ricotta, garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red together. Spread a thin layer of this mixture on your pizza crust. Top with your other 2 cheeses.

Bake 5 minutes or until edges of crust get darkened, then transfer to broiler until cheese is perfectly melted and bubbly and brown.

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper (or shake in a mason jar). Drizzle over greens until just moistened.

Top hot pizza with greens and eat immediately with a glass of wine.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

I used to think I hated buffalo sauce. I thought it smelled funky and had an unnatural orange hue. Plus it always reminded me of the one time I ate at Hooters on my 22nd birthday with my parents, my best friend Amy, and her parents. My dad brought us there because the first two restaurants we tried to get into had a long wait and we had tickets to a show. Before we went in, my mom started joking that he goes to Hooters a lot so it's his favorite restaurant.

When we walked in the door, every single waitress in that place knew my dad's name and came up to him to say hi. I was beyond embarrassed and super pissed. Then the manager came over to shake my dad's hand. Dad kept encouraging me to eat the buffalo wings but I pouted and complained that they smelled like diapers. I acted like a total snot.

I didn't find out until we got home that night that it was all a had gone into the restaurant first and asked the staff to play along so he could trick my mom. It backfired - she thought it was funny and I was the one who got mad!

I've since gotten over my distaste for buffalo sauce. In fact, Frank's Red Hot rules. But I still don't like chicken wings - too many bones for me. So this post on Serious Eats sounded brilliant - substitute cauliflower for the wings! I roasted some up right away and tossed it all in a melted butter and Frank's mixture.

The dressing was from Ellie Krieger - I used a fancy blue cheese (again found in the odds 'n ends bin at Kowalski's) and eyeballed the rest of the ingredients, heavy on the yogurt.

I added tomatoes, carrots, avocado, and lots of celery on a bed of spinach and this salad ended up being a great combination of spicy, creamy, tangy, and crunchy.

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
olive oil, salt, and pepper
2 Tbsp Frank's Red Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce) - or less to taste
1 Tbsp melted butter
greens - such as lettuce or spinach
veggies - carrots, celery, tomatoes, avocado
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp greek yogurt
2 Tbsp buttermilk
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast until charred all over. Toss immediately with hot sauce/butter mixture.

Layer cauliflower and veggies on top of greens.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together with a fork. Drizzle on top of your salad.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Potato Leek Frittata

Prior to Christmas, we had a little cocktail party at Angela's house to drink some bubbly and toast the season with Cassandra who was visiting from NYC. Multiple cheeses, breads, and fruits accompanied a rustic Leek and Potato Soup. It was a beautiful evening by the crackling fire.

That combination of leeks and potatoes - so classic - stayed in my brain. And then I read the Wedge's weekly produce blog (a great resource for finding what's in season or freshest each week), and read about organic ruby crescent fingerling potatoes. They're teeny tiny little spuds with a pink skin that taste amazing. I bought some immediately to make a killer frittata.

Leeks are one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. I love cutting them, cleaning them (cut into rings and soak in a bowl of water so the dirt sinks to the bottom), the smell of sauteeing them, and especially eating them! Leeks have a subtle onion flavor, but are mild and slightly sweet. They are prevalent in France, so I felt like amping up the ooh-la-la factor tonight with the addition of some Herbs de Provence.

Continuing on the French theme, I topped my frittata with a nub of French Raclette cheese that I found in the bin of cheese odds 'n ends at Kowalski's (truly, my favorite thing ever is to go through that bin and try a bunch of different fancy cheeses for $1 or $2 each!).

Frittatas are my favorite work lunch - at room temperature and accompanied by a green salad, I consider it a most satisfying meal, and I often feel sorry for those poor souls eating their Lean Cuisines or running through a drive thru!

Potato Leek Frittata
1 large or 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, chopped and cleaned
1 cup chopped or sliced potatoes, par boiled
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
1/2 cup water or milk
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup grated cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In medium non-stick and oven-proof skillet, saute leeks over medium heat with 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter. Add Herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. When softened, add your parboiled potatoes and cook until it's all hot and cooked through (but make sure there's still some moisture or oil in the pan so your eggs don't stick - add more if necessary).

In separate bowl, mix your eggs, milk or water, and spinach together with a little more salt and pepper and beat with a fork until frothy. Slowly pour egg mixture over leek/potato mixture and spread out eggs evenly in pan with all the other ingredients.

Cook 5 minutes or until it's halfway cooked (i.e. spatula pulls eggs away from side of the pan cleanly). Top with grated cheese and throw it into the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until it's puffy, cheese is golden, and the eggs are all cooked. You'll know it's done when you shake the pan and the eggs don't wiggle anymore.