Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Excuse me? Is it Muffin:30? I thought so.

Breakfast. Such a wonderful meal when you have the time. I think Saturdays exist simply so you have plently of time to glide around your kitchen, scrambling eggs, roasting sweet potatoes, and juicing an orange as to enjoy a slow and delicious breakfast. But many of us do not get several hours each day to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the morning. Most of us have a general plan for the morning grub, which often consists of whatever we can shove in our mouths the quickest, or possibly just coffee. Everyone has heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it makes sense, it's the first thing we put in our bodies, which often dictates how we will feel by lunch. If we eat nothing or crap for breakfast, by lunch we feel awful, beginning a cycle of sluggish energy the whole day through.
I wanted to find something simple I could make on Sunday and have a week of breakfasts that were healthy, filling and required no thought. BOOM, healthy muffins to the rescue! These puppies are quick, simple and full of healthy stuff for those beautiful bodies we are so fond of. Wheat germ, chia seeds, and walnuts, to keep you full and energized, along with raisins and a blend of spices certain to entertain your palate.  I tried two variations so far, but really these are a great base for whatever you like. Last week I made them Sunday, then just grabbed one each morning on my way out the door. When I had a little more time I would slice one in half, toast it and throw a dab of butter on it for a delicious variation on the same ole treat. Hope yall enjoy them!
Wet Mixture
Combine Wet and Dry. Then fold in nuts and fruit
Spoon into muffin tin and sprinkle topping

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins 
Adapted from "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures"

This is a healthy base for many muffin varieties. I think I liked the banana blueberry the best, but try different ingredients. Other additions could include flaxseeds, prunes, lemon zest, and pecans. 
The Goods: Makes 12 muffins
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1 large egg
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (any flavorless oil will do)
1/2 cup 2 % milk
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Topping (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For a DELICIOUS variation try Banana Blueberry Muffins:
Omit the pumpkin and raisins. Add 1 cup ripe bananas, mashed but not pureed when you would normally add the pumpkin. Also add zest from one orange at this step. Sub 3/4 cup fresh blueberries for the raisins, GENTLY folding into the dough last.

The Deal: 
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a regular sized muffin pan. In a large bowl throughly combine the first 10 ingredients. If using the topping, in a small bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar together.

2. In a medium bowl beat the egg. Beat in the brown sugar then stir in pumpkin puree, oil, and milk until well mixed.

3. Gently add the wet pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, until just combined. Don't overmix. Stir in the raisins and all but 2 tablespoons of the walnuts. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, then sprinkle remaining walnuts on top on the muffins. If desired sprinkle the topping over each muffin. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let sit for 2 minutes before removing from the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature. These can be kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Warm French Lentils

Healthy boyfriend made me a lentil heart!
I gotta be real with yall. I have not been in the blogging mood as of late. Im sorta having a idontfuckingknowwhatimdoingwithmylife!?!?!?!?! type week which is now turning into a month. Live in the moment they say. Do what makes you happy they say. Well how can you be present AND plan for the future? What if what you wanted to do with your life didn't make you happy? And what if you don't know what makes you happy or how to best serve this beautiful planet we are so blessed to live on?
Anyway as I have been spending my days organizing my stress away or breathing it out in yoga, I've not been puttering around much in the kitchen. I am hoping to do some work this weekend as to revamp the blog, but we shall see.

Also Ill fully admit I've become obsessed with pinterest and cannot stop looking at everything on that site all the time. I need help.

Getting back to food, Lentils are great for you, and everyone should eat more of them. Especially vegetarians who don't get their protein from meat, lentils and beans should be frequent guests on your plate. Lentils are legumes, so part of the bean family, and like many beans are full of wonderful things for your body. They have fiber, iron, protien, Vitamin B, and many other wonderful nutriets. If you are like me, it's easy to eat the same type of bean all the time. I eat black beans like they are going to stop growing them, and while black beans are great for you, variety is the spice of life. Of at least I get sick of food, and gotta change it up. Healthy Boyfriend can eat the same things for weeks on end, but I do not have that ability. I require change.
I LOVED this recipe. I will definitely use more vegetables next time, probably more carrots and add sweet potatoes, and I would love to figure out a way to use the turnips and onion instead of just discarding them (or composting if you can!). The dijon vinaigrette was outstanding, and made the lentils pop with flavor. This was a simple meal with loads of flavor. Good for a rainy day when you want easy, while still elegant.

Vegi prep, get a boyfriend to do it if possible. 
Saute carrots and leeks
Boil vegis and lentils
Prepare your vinaigrette
Warm French Lentils
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa's "How Easy if that"
Get a pretty spoon and serve it up!
If you eat meat, throw some spicy sausages in this dish at the end. Be sure to get green lentils, as cooking time varies depending on the color of lentil.
The Goods: Serves 4 to 6

The Lentils:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 leek, white and green parts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 carrots, scrubbed and 1/2 inch diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup French green lentils
1 whole onion, peeled and stuck with 6 whole cloves
1 white turnip, cut in half
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

The Dressing:
1/4 cup good olive oil
4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

The Deal: 
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the leeks and carrots, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile place the lentils, 4 cups of water, the onion with cloves and the turnip into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the leeks and carrots, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender. Remove and discard the onion and turnip and drain the lentils. Place them in a medium bowl and add the butter.

3. While the lentils are cooking, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to the lentils and stir well. Allow the lentils to cool until just warm. Serve warm, add additional salt and pepper as desired.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Granola...........Wait for it........BARS!

It's a mountain of nutrition!
I love discovering a recipe for something I would have never even thought of making. Of course it make sense, granola bars are just oats and whatever else you wanna toss in there. Problem is when you buy them at the store they are often filled with chemical junk and HFCS. But who doesn't want a delicious granola bar in the morning or in the afternoon for an energy pick me up? Well fret no more dear readers, you can make obscenely nutritious granola bars that taste better than any store bought variety.

First just look at the ingredient list. Talk about your nutrition powerhouse. Lets start with Oats: they are full of fiber, and specifically a type of fiber called betaglucan that is proven to help lower cholesterol. Studies have also proven that it may help lower heart disease. Oats are a whole grain so they are filling and nutritious, a great breakfast food, and/or snack to have on the move.

Then there is wheat germ. I know, why am I telling you to eat something with germ in the title? Trust me it's great for you. When wheat is hulled it's separated into parts and the wheat germ is the most vitamin and mineral rich part of the wheat kernel. In fact the germ is the embroyo of the wheat plant that will eventually be used to nourish the new wheat plant. And the germ is also completely removed when they process white flour which is why white flour has so little nutriuents. Interesting right?!  Wheat germ is known most for being super high in B vitamins and fiber.
Important note: I bought UNTOASTED wheat germ, but many grocery stores only offer toasted. Be sure to notice which kind you are buying so you don't toast already toasted wheat germ, or vise versa forget to toast untoasted germ.

Chia Seeds are something I am making a big effort to use more in cooking, because they are tiny little nutrtion powerhouses. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of omega 3's. They are also rich in calcium, iron and magnesium. Chia seeds are tiny, flavorless and can be added to oatmeal, cookies, or even just water for a filling drink. I throw them in my smoothies and plan on increasing my use of chia gel as an egg or butter alternative in baking.

Almonds are full of healthy fats and also proven to help lower cholestrol and the risk of heart disease. They are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. Prunes are full of vitamin A and beta carotene, basically these granola bars are squares of nutriet rich goodness.

Best of all they are easy as pie to make. Though that saying "easy as pie" is fairly annoying given pie can be pretty darn time consuming to make. It should be easy as scrambled eggs, or easy as ordering a pizza. Those things are easy, pie is not.

I made these adorable bars on Sunday and am still currently enjoying them as I sit here and write this. The fruit is chewy, the bar is flavorful but not sugary and the almonds add a lovely crunch. They get better after a day or two, so make them on the weekend and have a week of healthy bars to enjoy and share with friends.
And for any mom's out there, they have been kid tested and approved aka were even used to bribe kids to eat more vegetables. Muahahahahaha little do they know the bars are healthy for them! This also works on adults :) Seriously yall, makes these bars. I've heard many people preaching, promising, and just plain complaining about the desire eat healthier this year. Yours Truly included. Well, make these treats, and you'll be one step closer.
Oats, Sunflower seeds, Germ, and Almonds: toast them up
Place you butter sugar honey mixture in a pan
Melt it up
Throw everything in a bowl and stir 
Spread it on a pan. Parchment Paper is ESSENTIAL! (not pictured, doh moment)
Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa as well as Alton Brown's Granola Bars

Feel free to use any dried fruit you like, any combination that equals 1 1/2 cups. If you don't like sunflower seeds, coconut works as well. DO NOT forget to well grease your pan and use parchment paper. I forgot and spent a lot of time getting these bad boys out of the pan.

The Goods: Makes 20-24 bars
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup prunes, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries

The Deal: 
1. Butter a 9 x 9 baking dish, and line with parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ (unless already toasted, check your package) on a large baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until lightly browned.

2. Once your sheet of oat mixture is ready, place toasted ingredients in large bowl. Lower oven temperature to 300. Heat the honey, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook until all the brown sugar dissolves. Remove pot from heat and immediately pour into the bowl of oat mixture. Add chia seeds, dried fruit and stir to combine.

3. Pour mixture onto the prepare baking dish, being sure to evenly distribute the oat mixture. Water your hands and light press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

These can be kept in a airtight container for up to a week. They actually taste better a day after they are made.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Its a freakin breeze being a green bean casserole.

NUMMY! I like the reflection in the pan. I'm so artsy. :)
Lady's and Gents, this is one of my all time favorite things. I don't mean favorite foods, I mean favorite THINGS. I LOOOOOOOUUUUUUVVVVVE green bean casserole, really I would eat it every day. Creamy mushroom sauce, tender green beans, finished off with crispy onions, that's a mouth full of happy right there. I'm sure people exist who don't enjoy the GBC but I choose not to believe that. I've heard rumor of people that don't enjoy chocolate, which just HAS to be a lie. What's next, people who don't like good sex or laughing?

Green bean casserole takes me back to a time I hated all vegetables. Wouldn't touch them unless enticed by some fried chicken finger and/or nugget. Yet every Thanksgiving I welcomed a heaping scoop of green bean casserole on my plate. Sure it was mostly cream of mushroom soup and french's onions, but still I took immense pride that on Thanksgiving, the holiday of gluttony, my favorite indulgence actually had vegetables in it. It was only when I went to college I learned green bean casserole was a southern dish and not a staple on every Thanksgiving menu. I quickly introduced the wonder that is the cheap and easy green bean casserole to my friends still not knowing how incredible REAL made from scratch green bean casserole tasted. First I switched to fresh green beans, and will never pick up a can of green beans again. (I mean I might, but I'm trying to make a point here.) Then I figured out the sauce, but was still relying on those french's crunchy onion rings, which seem to be mostly batter. I know they are delicious, and lets just say I've eaten more than one can sitting in front of the TV watching Buffy or something equally awesome, but they are nothing but junk. Making your own onions is surprisingly easy and just, if not more, crunchy and tasty.

My point sweet readers, is this is a traditional southern dish, that EVERYONE should try. And if you are going to make it, best make it from scratch. No canned green beans or french fried onions here. Nope fresh vegetables, flour and cream make this dish heavenly, without adding icky chemicals to your body. This is often a side dish as it uses a cup of half and half, so is fairly rich. Using fresh green beans, onions and mushrooms increases the nutritional value of this dish, but it's not what I would call healthy. I would call it an instant hit at potlucks and the way to a person's heart. Or stomach at the very least. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Onions coated with flour
Onions baked and crispy. No eating yet!
Mushrooms sautéing
Simmering in broth
Getting creamy in half and half
Bring all your ingredients together, bake and serve!
Green Bean Casserole
Based on Alton Brown's No your mommas green bean casserole.
This time, Im not dreaming. It's really here!
The Goods: Serves 4-6 as a side dish

2 meduim onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Non stick spray

The Sauce: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

The Green Beans: 
1 pound green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1 gallon of water
2 tablespoons kosher salt. 

The Deal: 
1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine onions, panko flour, and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with non stick spray and evenly spread out onions. Bake until golden brown, tossing every 10 minutes, for approximately 30 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and set aside until ready to use. Once you remove the onions turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees. 

2. While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Fill a bowl with ice and water aka make an ice bath. Bring a gallon of water to a boil with two tablespoons of salt. Blanch aka boil the green beans for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately put beans in the ice bath to stop cooking. Once cool, drain and set aside.

3. Now to make your sauce! Melt the butter in a large saute pan (that can also be used in the oven) over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give off their liquid, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for one minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Add the half and half, stir and cook until the mixture thickens, around 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the green beans and 1/4 of the onions. Top with remaining onions. Bake in saute pan at 400 degrees until bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sofrito. So-do-it-o.

How can there be so much delicious food in the world? I don't understand, shouldn't there be a limit? There are just so many ways to combine tomatoes and onions. You add one spice, cook one thing differently and WHAM, entirely new flavor combinations to amuse your pallete. I know it's obvious, but I am so amazed at how many different ways there are to use the same ingredients. I want to know them ALL. But of course that takes time, blah blah. This recipe comes from Jose Andres, or Mr. Tapas, as I refer to him. He is a super famous chef who has restaurants, cookbooks, and nice belly, you know the usuals for a good chef. Sofrito is a classic spanish tomato sauce that has a ton of variations. The ingredients are simple, so there are plenty of ways to try your own spin on this classic sauce. Do not use traditional paprika here, the spanish smoked paprika is essential in creating the smoky flavor.
The onions part 1: Cooking
The onions part 2: Caramelized and ready for maters!
Based on Jose Andres recipe
Just remove bay leaves and serve! Or store for later.
The Goods: Makes about 2 cups
1 (28 oz) can whole plum tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 small onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon spanish smoked paprika
2 to 3 bay leaves

The Deal: 
1. Heat oil and butter on medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions, sugar, and salt and stir to evenly mix ingredients. Heat onions until browned and caramelized, about 40-45 minutes. Stir occasionally and reduce the heat if the onions begin to burn.

2. While the onions are cooking drain the plum tomatoes. Place whole tomoatoes in a food processor and blend until chunky, about 10 pulses. This is a very up to you step, puree more if you want a smoother sauce, blend less if you like a chuncky sauce.

3. When your onions are caramelized add tomato puree, paprika and bay leaves. Stir and heat about another 20 minutes. Add additonal salt if needed. Remove bay leaves before serving or storing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Edie Beets Salad

Hello Everyone! I'm Lissa's cousin Dorothy, and I'm doing a little guest spot on her food glorious food blog for your viewing (and cooking?) pleasure today. I've been thinking of starting my own foodie blog and my sweet cous' generously donated her space for me test the waters, so here we go!
Today we are making "Edie Beets Salad," which is named in honor of my parents' cat Edie Beats, the Small, Mean Thing. The reason its not "Easy Beet Salad" is because, while it is easy, there are a lot of little steps, and is a wee bit time consuming so I like to make a big batch of everything and store it in the fridge so I can easily assemble it throughout the week.
Beet salads are especially abundant in the summer and fall on Martha's Vineyard, MA, where I'm originally from, and I spent a lot of time in my early(er) 20s during and after college working in several cafes and restaurants that served them, all different varieties. This recipe takes a little something from the best and leaves out things I'm not wild about like... lettuce or raw baby spinach - don't get me wrong I adore almost all fruits and vegetables, but for some reason salad greens I could take or leave. I've been known to order greek salad on a bed of baby sprouts instead of its traditional Romaine. So we're leaving salad greens out of this, but by all means, add 'em if you want 'em! Beets are nature's candy, and they are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can put in your body. They are especially good for cleansing your blood and detoxifying your liver, which makes this the perfect dish to kick-start any new years resolutions to lose any excess holiday wobble (which I personally need to do - I'm tall and fine-boned and that means any extra weight hangs on my frame in all the unflattering places and its worn out its welcome thankyouverymuch. But I digress. This salad is healthy, filling, and satisfyingly sweet and savory. All food should be this good).

The goods: makes approximately 4-5 servings as an entree and twice that as a side salad:

2 bunches of beets (12-13 small to medium or 7-8 large beets) steamed, peeled, and cubed
1 small bunch of chives, chopped
1 pickled red onion (recipe follows)
sweet red onion vinegarette (ditto)
1 can of mandarin oranges, drained
sweet and spicy candied walnuts (recipe follows, or you could just use regular walnuts, almonds, whatever you have, i bet sunflower seeds would be good in this too. Use your imagination!)
goat cheese (or feta, gorganzola, bleu... any crumbled cheese would work, they're all good and you won't be using more than a tablespoon at a time)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

the first deal:
Rinse and trim any greens and tails from the beets (don't peel them yet! you'll do this when they're done steaming, you don't want to lose the nutrients from the skins). Place in a large pot and fill with water 3/4s of the way up the beets:

Bring water to a boil, then simmer until beets are soft when gently poked with a fork, 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size. check the water level occasionally to make sure it hasn't all boiled off (this happens quicker than you might think!). Add water as needed.

While the beets are steaming, make your pickled red onion:

more goods: adapted from a Bobby Flay recipe for Creamy Potato Salad with Pickled Red Onions on foodnetwork.com
1 red onion
1 bottle of Red Star red wine vinegar (save the bottle, you'll use it as a vessel to hold the dressing)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground mustard, or mustard seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil

the second deal:
Quarter and slice the onion 1/4 inch thick slices
combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and mustard together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, about 1 minute until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Add onion slices, submerge, cover, and put in the fridge for an hour (or put it outside on a cold winter's day - I should point out that I'm writing this from upstate NY, where we are having a rather Southern, mild winter this year).

At the end of the hour, remove the onion slices to their own container, and reserve the liquid in the vinegar bottle, adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil. This will be your dressing for the salad.
While the onions are pickling, check on water level for the beets, and then make the sweet and spicy walnuts:

even more goods: makes 2 cups of candied nuts
2 cups walnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

the third deal:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blanch the walnuts in boiling water 1-2 minutes. While nuts are blanching combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a medium sized bowl. Drain the nuts and immediately combine with sugar mixture until fully coated. Evenly spread on a cookie sheet lightly coated in cooking spray:

...and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until nuts are golden brown. Be careful near the end, powdered sugar can burn quickly! Remove from oven:

...stir the nuts to prevent sticking, cool, and store in an air tight container.

the final deal: assembling the fruits of your labor :)
Check the beets with a fork to test tenderness. When the tines of the fork slide in the beet gently, without any effort, they are done:

Reserve the beet juice if you like (I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it, its just too gorgeous to pour down the drain! side note: I'm thinking of making beet juice ice cubes for summertime lemonade) Rinse with cool water, and peel the beets - the skin will slide off easily with the slightest pressure from your fingertips, you probably won't need to use a veggie peeler (unless you've used organic beets which have a slightly tougher skin. Don't let this deter you from organic, its worth breaking out the peeler if need be, they tend to be a little smaller and sweeter than the average grocery store variety).
Cube the beets, and store in an air tight container:

time to assemble!
for 1 entree
throw a handful or so of beets in a bowl:

top with 1-2 tablespoons of chives:

add the pickled onion:

and mandarin oranges:

dress with sweet red onion vinegarette and toss together:

top with 1 tablespoon of goat cheese:

sprinkle with candied nuts and season with freshly ground black pepper:


Thanks for reading, and Thank you, Lissa for letting me in on your wonderful blog! I'm off to start my own!
Happy New Year!