Archive for October, 2012

October 30, 2012

Swiss Chard and Chickpea Salad with Peanut Chili Dressing

A good peanut dressing is hard to find. I’ve had quite a few misses that left me slightly nauseous and thoroughly discouraged.

Not to get all Debbie Downer on you, but I had kind of given up on making a good Asian-y peanut sauce altogether. (SO sad, I know.)

But when the mood struck for something a little spicy, gingery and peanutty, I decided to give it another try. And FINALLY, I ended up with something I was pretty happy with.

I thinned out the sauce with a little warm water to use it as a salad dressing (the sauce recipe below ends up on the thick side) over a nice crunchy and fresh mix of carrots, Swiss chard, chickpeas and rice.

This sauce is also great spooned over warm steamed veggies and tofu or as a dipping sauce for rice paper rolls or dumplings. A little swirl of Sriracha with it is pretty killer too.

PEANUT CHILI DRESSING

  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • juice of half a lime (extra to serve)

Heat oil in a small pan over a medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant, add chili and ginger and continue to cook for another minute, stirring.

Add peanut butter, soy sauce , coconut milk and water and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring for about 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken. If it becomes too thick, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Allow to cool and add lime juice.

Serve over salad or as a dipping sauce for vegetables or dumplings.

SWISS CHARD AND CHICKPEA SALAD
(serves 2)

  •     1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and dried
  •     1/2 cup brown rice
  •     2 cups shredded Swiss chard
  •     1 medium carrot, cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  •     2 green onions, thinly sliced (set some aside to garnish the salad)
  •     1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
  •     1/4 cup chopped peanuts (or cashews)

Place all the ingredients besides the nuts together in a bowl with the dressing and mix well to combine. Top with reserved green onions, chopped nuts and extra cilantro. Spritz a little extra lime juice on there for extra punch.

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October 26, 2012

Coconut Granola

When I go for a run in the morning, music is a necessity. I try to pick songs that make me want to dance, which is my way of tricking myself into thinking that this repetitive straight forward motion is akin to dancing and it feels great!

I take playlists seriously. Like really seriously. I intentionally put a totally rad jam on at key time markers – like around 20 minutes in, when I know I’ll be deciding whether to make it a long or short run, I’ll bust out Bootylicious. (I’m going through a 90’s nostalgic phase right now.)

But a lot of the time, good music isn’t enough to keep me occupied for 50-60 minutes. (Ok, 45 minutes.) I need things to think about, figure out and bounce around in my brain.

Some days are inevitably more interesting than others. I’ll plan what I’m going to wear out to dinner that night, try to come up with an idea for a blog post, or suddenly realize that Aretha Franklin is totally my spirit animal…or maybe it’s Hugh Grant when he’s dancing in Love Actually. Can a movie scene of an Englishman dancing be a spirit animal? I mean, why not?

Bam. I just ran 4 miles.

Most of the time I just think about food. What I’m going to cook for dinner today or tomorrow, and what I want for breakfast.

There are few things better than having a good workout behind you and digging into a big bowl of fruit and yogurt with a sprinkling of crunchy, slightly sweet homemade granola. That’s treating yourself right.

I’ve been dreaming about an extra coconutty, honey-sweetened granola for a while now and the other day during a run, I decided that was the day to do it.

I didn’t put any dried fruit in this granola because we’re coming into mango season in Sydney, and that’s pretty much all I want with my oats these days.

But if you’d like to add some dried fruit to yours, mix it in after your granola is baked and cooling. I used both coconut flakes and shredded coconut for extra coconuttiness and flavor…which might be a little obsessive. Feel free to omit one or the other, based on what you have at home.

Make some granola this weekend, you deserve it!

COCONUT GRANOLA

adapted from Two Peas in Their Pod

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup honey (warmed so that it’s more liquid-like)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 300 F/150 C. Line parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, pecans, pepitas, sunflower seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey and vanilla. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are well-coated.

Pour the granola mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread granola into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until granola is golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes. Let granola cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 month.

Makes about 4 cups of granola.

October 24, 2012

Pumpkin and White Bean Patties with Rosemary

Is pumpkin the new bacon? Discuss.

The virtues of salty, crispy bacon aside, I’m always and forever all-in for pumpkin. I’ll take it sweet or savory, roasted or pureed, spiced or herb-flecked.

This time of year, there are pumpkin and pumpkin pie-spiced (an entity unto itself) recipes everywhere. I love butternut squash and pumpkin dishes all year round but I lean toward the savory ones most of the time.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see no shortage of pumpkin or butternut squash recipes here – especially savory ones – because it’s what I’m cooking. Even as we ramp up for summer here in Australia I still have a massive hunger for all things (American) Northeast October and fall-ish. I can’t help it. Luckily the weather in Sydney is accommodating my pumpkin roasting habits.

These pumpkin and white bean patties are a good way to use some pumpkin purée (be it left over or specifically made for this purpose) – they’re simple to make and require only a few pantry things. If you don’t have/don’t like rosemary – I think sage or thyme would be pretty awesome too.

I think these would even go well with some bacon – if we want to be diplomatic about it.

Pumpkin party worldwide.

PUMPKIN & WHITE BEAN WITH ROSEMARY

Makes 8 patties.

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 1 15-ounce can)
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of rolled oats
  • a handful of Parmesan cheese (optional)

To make your own pumpkin purée: Place cut and peeled pumpkin on a baking tray with 1/2 inch to 1 inch of water in it. Bake at 400 F/205 C for 20-30 minutes (adding a little more water if needed) until soft. Allow to cool, then purée in a food processor.

In a small pan, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add garlic and rosemary and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

In a food processor, place white beans and the garlic, rosemary and olive oil mixture. Pulse in the food processor until finely chopped and close to pureed.

Place pumpkin purée, white bean rosemary mixture, egg, oats, Parmesan and a pinch of sea salt in a large bowl and mix with a spoon until well combined. Place in the refrigerator to rest for at least a half an hour (so the oats can soak up the egg and purée).

Heat oven to 400 F/205 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with olive oil or baking spray.

Form the pumpkin white bean mixture into 2 1/2 to 3 inch-wide patties and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes and flip the patties, then bake for another 10. (20 minutes total.) Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2-5 minutes and serve over salad or on a small bun with desired toppings. (Hello, caramelized onions!)

 

(You could also pan-fry these in a large skillet with olive oil over a medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on eat side.)

October 22, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn

Does making popcorn require a real recipe? Probably not. Maybe this is a cop-out.

But maybe it’s also Monday, and we all kind of want a half-recipe.

Plus, making your own kettle corn automatically makes you more accomplished than just buying it. Especially on a Monday.

Cinnamon sugar makes kettle corn extra fancy. AND it’s classified under the most amazing category of all snack categories: salty-sweet.

Let’s be serious, combining sweetened popcorn with flaky sea salt is just a good idea. Hitting it with a little cinnamon spice is an even better one.

It’s safe to say that I think you deserve a little cinnamon sugar kettle corn and an easy non-recipe in your life today.

Get your salty-sweet on and enjoy, friends!

CINNAMON SUGAR KETTLE CORN

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • sea salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon and stir with a fork. Set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Put 3 kernels in the pot and put the lid back on. Once all three have popped, stir in your cinnamon sugar mixture and toss in the rest of your kernels. Put the lid back on and listen for the kernels to start popping.

Every 20-30 seconds or so, take the pot off the heat and give it a shake, with the lid on – this prevents the kernels on the bottom from burning. Repeat until all kernels have popped. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

October 19, 2012

Moroccan Roasted Carrot and Eggplant Quinoa Salad

I have a hard time not buying new notebooks. I’ve gone digital with evernote on my phone, in addition to using another basic list-making app, but I still keep handwritten lists in notebooks. I’m probably just addicted to list-making, but I think it’s got something to do with the notebooks, too. There’s something exciting and satisfying about starting a new notebook that’s addictive.

Just yesterday I found myself fondling a neon hardcover number just minutes after forcing myself to put down a red diary in another shop. (I’m still thinking about the neon one.)

My thing for notebooks is not unlike my obsession with all things related to the Tudor dynasty (books, documentaries, movies…) and British history, in general, which is a little weird. And I can’t say no to ice cream, hot sauce or a cheap sundress to save my life. I would call these things siren songs, but I’m pretty sure they’re the most unrebellious and harmless things that someone could be drawn to.

I also can’t ignore a good spice section in a supermarket – I’m constantly compelled to buy new spices or spice blends just in case. (Incorrigible, I know.)

It’s no secret that I love a good grain salad, and I love getting new ideas for them. This one is from Food & Wine – the combination of warm, Moroccan-type spices, roasted vegetables and red quinoa sounded like something I had to make for myself. I added some roasted eggplant into the mix, because I had one loitering around my crisper.

This is a great salad to make for a potluck or to serve a group. You can also make the batch for yourself and get a few weekday lunches out of it.  Add some chickpeas, white beans or cooked chicken to make it a little more substantial.

Roasted Carrot & Eggplant Quinoa Salad
adapted from Food & Wine

Spice mix:
– 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
– 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– salt & freshly ground black pepper

Salad:
– 4 large carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
– 1 small-medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
– olive oil
– 1/2 cup walnuts
– 1 cup red quinoa
– 2 or 3 large handfuls of mixed salad greens
– 1/4 cup dried cranberries
– 1/4 cup chopped coriander/cilantro

Dressing:
– Olive oil
– 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 400 F/205 C.

In a small bowl, whisk the paprika with the turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and 1 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. In a large bowl, toss the carrots and eggplant with and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice mix and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender.

Toast the walnuts in the dry pan over a medium heat until golden. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa with 2 teaspoons of the spice mix and the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the oil with 1/2 tablespoon of the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the salad greens and toss to coat. Spread the greens on a large platter. In the same bowl, another tablespoons of oil with the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the zest, mustard and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix and season with salt. Add the quinoa, walnuts, cranberries, coriander/cilantro and roasted vegetables and toss well. Spoon the quinoa salad on the greens and serve.

October 17, 2012

Spring Vegetable Carbonara

The other night, I found myself on the bus home from the city dreaming of this dish. I mentally went through the contents of my cabinets and fridge and began building this dinner. I was soothed (yes, soothed!) by the simplicity of it, and excited for the flavors before I even got home.

To me, there’s nothing better than a big bowl of carbs after a long day. Pasta for dinner is a total triple threat: convenient, comforting and quick.

I realized that I don’t have many pasta dishes on this blog, which I guess is because I usually make pasta for dinner (real blogger talk: that means there’s no natural light to make it look pretty!) and it usually doesn’t follow any sort of recipe. I use whatever I have on-hand — a little of this, a little of that and then it’s eaten in a flash. That’s how pasta night works.

Pasta carbonara usually is involves pancetta or bacon in some form, which I, of course, encourage. But I thought I’d give you a vegetarian option to show another possibility for a simple, eggy carbonara sauce. I was even going to go so far as to call this Primavera Carbonara, but I think that’s confusing or too Italian or has too many A’s.

It’s slightly creamy, with a serious hit of salty Parmesan and an excessive amount of fresh ground pepper, topped with fresh spring asparagus and peas. (More real talk: the peas were actually from the freezer. No one dreams about shelling fresh peas at 6pm.)

AND this whole thing comes together in 20 minutes or less. It’s kind of the perfect weeknight dinner.

Spring Vegetable Carbonara
serves 2

- 220 grams or 8 ounces of the pasta of your choice
– 1 cup asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
– 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas thawed
– olive oil
– 2 cloves of garlic
– a pinch of chili flakes
– 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk
– a big handful of Parmesan, and more for garnishing
– salt & fresh ground pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add a generous sprinkling of salt and the pasta. Cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente.

While the water is heating/pasta is cooking, get going on the vegetables.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add garlic and chili and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add asparagus and peas and cook until just tender – about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

Whisk the egg and egg white in a large bowl. Add Parmesan and lots of ground black pepper.

Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. It’s time to work quickly now! Pour the hot pasta in the bowl with the egg and Parmesan. Toss vigorously to coat the pasta (the heat of the pasta cooks the egg.) Add your asparagus and peas and toss again. If the sauce is a little thick, add a tablespoon of the pasta water at a time, to thin it out. (I didn’t have to do that this time.)

Serve immediately, with more Parmesan sprinkled on top, if desired.

Tips:
– Make sure the eggs are at room temperature

- Generously salt your pasta water – it gives it flavor
- Set a timer for your pasta – it may seem silly, but I love perfectly cooked pasta and hate to risk it!
- Work quickly once you drain your pasta – it has to be warm enough to partially cook the eggs, thickening them into a sauce.

October 15, 2012

Vegetable Indian Curry

This is what a Monday night looks like in our house.

Lots of vegetables tied together with some bold flavors. It’s about treating yourself right.

The weekend is my favorite time for trying new restaurants, eating ice cream for dessert (or lunch) and having a couple of glasses of wine. All of these wonderful things mean that I sometimes don’t get the ideal amount of vegetables from Friday night to Sunday night. (Or if I do, they’re accompanied by their bffs bacon and cheese.)

On Mondays, I aim for a vegetable top-up. I like to center meals around veggies with things like soups, salads and stir fries.

Curries are one my favorite ways to incorporate a lot of plant life into my Monday (or any day) – you get tons of flavor and spice with a combination of a few pantry items. They’re often vegan too, which is just a bonus. (Or useful, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to feed a vegan!)

With the help of jarred curry paste, my Thai curries are usually a success. But my Indian curries are always a little more…interesting.

I’ve tried a bunch of recipes using dry spice combinations and EVERY TIME I freak out within the first 15 minutes, thinking I’ve screwed it all up somehow. It’s almost always fine by the time everything’s cooked properly. What the heck was I so worried about back there?

I finally realized that Indian curries are just late bloomers. They need a little extra time for all of the flavors to develop and come together in the way they’re supposed to. Let them simmer or sit for a while and they’ll come good – with the warming, complex flavors that you were looking for. No need to freak. Leftovers get even better too. Another bonus!

Feel free to add or substitute whatever vegetables you’d like or toss in some chickpeas, tofu or shrimp for a protein boost. Curries are endlessly adaptable and a great way of making your daily (or weekend) dose of veggies full of flavor.

South Indian Vegetable Curry
adapted from Bon Appetit

- 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 cups)
– 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
– 1 2-inch-long 1-inch-diameter piece peeled fresh ginger (about 2 ounces)
– 3 tablespoons grape seed oil
– 1 tablespoon garam masala
– 2 teaspoons ground cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
– 1/2 serrano chile, seeded, chopped
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 3 cups vegetable broth
– 2 teaspoons (packed) golden brown sugar
– 4 curry leaves
– 2 whole green cardamom pods
– 1/2 cup coconut cream
– 2 medium  russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
– 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
– 3/4 cup diced canned tomatoes, drained
– 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 2-3 large handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Puree first 8 ingredients (onion through coriander) in processor until paste forms. Cook in large pot over medium heat until aromatic, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste. Cook until mixture starts to darken and brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes longer.
Add broth, brown sugar, curry leaves, and cardamom. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits. (This part can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.)
Add coconut cream, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peas, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to mixture in pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Add spinach, if desired, and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard curry leaves and cardamom.
Serve with steamed rice.
Tip:
If you’re freezing your leftovers, you may want to slightly under-cook your veggies as things like potatoes sometimes get mushy in the thawing process. Try removing the portion you’re freezing 5 minutes early and allowing it to cool completely before freezing.
October 12, 2012

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Among the long list of hypothetical situations that can be explored (Mr. F freaking loves a hypothetical, by the way. I think I spent the 2nd and 3rd years of our relationship deflecting 60% of his hypothetical questions.) I would guess that the “desert island” scenario is the most played out.

However. As I do (sometimes) enjoy a made-up and unlikely situation, my favorite to ask other people is among the: “If you could only listen to/read/watch/eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?” variety.

Sometimes I grant numbers from 2-5 to these questions, if picking only one just seems cruel.

But really, it’s a roundabout way of asking for a Top 5 list. And I do love a list.

My answers to these questions have changed many times – except for my Top 2 foods . Those are on lock.

1. Sweet Potatoes

2. Peanut butter

This is the stuff I could live on. If, you know, I found myself in a situation where some unknown deity was granting me these and only these foods for the rest of my life – I would happily make it work (good butter, sea salt, black pepper, maple syrup and maybe some chili flakes included, of course.)

Today, we’re concerned with my second choice. The PB. Even as a kid, I was a purist. No jelly for me on those sandwiches, thanks. Straight peanut butter, all day every day. (There may have actually been an entire year of my hyper-finicky childhood where I ate only PB sandwiches for lunch. Almost proving my theory that I could live on PB alone. But, I digress.)

These peanutty PB cookies have minimal ingredients and no flour – just all-natural peanut butter with a bit sugar for sweetness, a hint of vanilla and a few chocolate chunks bound together by a single egg. Oh and the teeniest sprinkle of sea salt on top, if you’re into that.

The result is a perfect peanut butter cookie – soft and chewy with a crisp edge. This is the kind of cookie that me and my PB-loving gluten-free friends could live on forever.

The ingredients list is super simple. And only one bowl is needed – bonus!

 

Line ‘em up.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
– 1 cup peanut butter (I used all-natural crunchy, but use whatever you’d like)
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup chocolate chunks (I used part of a Cadbury milk chocolate bar chopped into small pieces.)
– a couple pinches of sea salt

Heat oven to 350 F/ 175 C.

Prepare a baking tray with parchment/baking paper

Place peanut butter (at room temperature) and sugars in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat again with the mixer until incorporated.

Fold in the chocolate.

Make 1-inch balls of cookie dough by rolling a small spoonful between the palms of your hands. (Don’t fiddle with them too much.) Place them on the baking sheet an inch apart. Top each cookie with a couple of sea salt flakes.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes. DON’T touch them before that 5 minutes is up, they WILL crumble.

(Sorry, that was harsh, but this 5 minutes is crucial for ensuring that you get soft peanut butter cookies that will stay together like the flour-full ones do.)

Makes approximately 30 cookies.

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