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Archive for April, 2010

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This is my idea of “fast food”. When I have a long, busy day and I am not getting home until late, I don’t crave take out, a drive thru or a restaurant – I want my home, my kitchen and my ingredients. I have been known to come home from a very busy day and whip together a full on pasta dish with fresh veggies and things I have in the pantry. This recipe is something I threw together randomly, last week after my Thursday night yoga class with things I had on hand and it was so good I went for it again this week. I don’t get home until almost 9pm on Thursdays, so after a long work day and a 90 minute yoga practice I want something light, tasty and quick.

Since avocados are in season right now, I have been buying a few every time I go to the market since I could eat them daily. The last time I made this salad I had some leftover dried great Northern beans that I had soaked for a soup I had made and they were even better than the canned beans I used this time. Unfortunately, for as much as I prefer dried beans over canned, they are just not as quick to prepare and therefore not ready on the drop of a dime. Any white bean will do for this recipe, great Northern, cannellini, navy or even lima beans.

This salad is light, refreshing, adequately filling and it has the perfect balance of crunch and creaminess. I had a small piece of toast on the side. This makes a great main course dish or a it can be substituted for your typical green salad.

White Bean and Avocado Salad
serves 2-4 (depending on how you are serving it)

1 can of white beans (15.5 ounces) cannellini, great Northern, etc
1 avocado diced
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
4 or 5 green onions, chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
salt
fresh ground pepper
2 T olive oil
handful grape tomatoes, halved

Drain and rinse the beans. Place the beans, tomatoes, avocado, green onions and cilantro into a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and lime juice, season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently toss until combined. Don’t worry if the avocado starts to mash-up a bit, mine did this time as the avocado was very ripe, it still tastes delicious. Serve immediately as main dish or side dish. Refrigerate leftovers.

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When I made the decision to start this blog, I wanted to make sure that I was not only cooking and sharing my recipes that I have been making for years, but to also try new things and new recipes. I came across a wonderful site a few weeks ago, Fresh365, and quickly realized that I would definitely be trying out a lot of her recipes. The site features a collection of fresh, vegetarian recipes as well as beautiful photography.

When I read this recipe I couldn’t wait to make it. I had never had black rice before and I love rice and all of it’s varieties. I wasn’t able to find just plain black rice, but I found something called “Black Japonica” – a blend of Japanese short grain black rice and medium grain mahogany. Between a brand new grain and all of these delicious and beautiful in-season items, I knew that I couldn’t go wrong.

The asparagus was the best I have seen it yet at the market and my chives have been growing like crazy in the yard. The taste of the black and mahogany rice was nutty, mushroom-like and even a little bit sweet. That paired with the bright hints of orange, the crunch of the fresh herbs and pine nuts, made my mouth and mind just explode with thoughts of “fresh” and “spring”. This dish actually made me insanely excited for the upcoming months and for even more fresh vegetables and herbs. I am counting down the days till I can start my veggie and herb gardens again and that time can’t seem to come soon enough. For now delicious dishes like this, taking advantage of the in-season items I can get at the grocery store and at farmers markets, will definitely hold me over.

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Spring Black & Mahogany Rice
Adapted from Fresh365
serves 4

14 oz extra firm tofu, drained and pressed, then cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 1/2 c fresh orange juice (I had 3 oranges and was only able to get 1 c of juice so that’s what I used)
1 T honey
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t salt
1 c Japanese black and mahogany rice
2 c water
4 T olive oil
20 stems asparagus, tough stems discarded, cut into 1” pieces
1 small bunch chives, finely chopped
1 c packed basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
1 T vinegar (I used red wine)
salt & pepper, to taste

Combine pressed tofu, orange juice, honey, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Gently toss to coat tofu. Let sit at least 15 minutes.

In a medium sauce pan, combine black rice and water, over high heat. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer, 40 minutes. Set aside. (I found that I needed to keep adding more water to my rice as it was just soaking it up)

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 T olive oil, over high heat. Add marinated tofu cubes, and cook 8-10 minutes, until golden brown, shaking pan often to avoid sticking. It was taking a bit for the tofu to start browning so I spooned out some of the marinade and allowed the tofu to brown up a bit then added it back in. Add asparagus, and cook 5 minutes, until tender (again shaking pan often).

In a large serving bowl, gently combine tofu and asparagus with rice. Add chives, basil and pine nuts. Drizzle with 2 T olive oil and vinegar. Gently toss and season to taste with salt, pepper and more olive oil, vinegar, citrus or honey, if desired.

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I have been making this hummus for years and it is always a hit at parties. There is just the right amount of spiciness with a smokey heat that sneaks up on you from the chipotles. I try to buy low or no sodium organic garbanzo beans (chick peas) when they are available, so I can control the salt myself. Garbanzos are naturally high in fiber and low in fat so this is a perfect snack with carrots when you have the munchies.

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Chipotle Hummus

Makes 3 cups

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, chopped (I used 1 this time since it was HUGE)
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
1 T olive oil
1 or 2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo, chopped*

* sometimes I just put a tablespoon or two of the adobo sauce instead of the peppers – go easy with this if you don’t like spicy, it can get spicy quick

Reserve 1/4 cup liquid, rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas. Place chickpeas and reserved liquid in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup tahini, well stirred, 2 garlic cloves, chopped, chopped chipotles, and 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt. Process until smooth. I drizzle in just a bit of olive oil while its processing, it makes it even smoother and gives it a bit of a better taste. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Sprinkle a bit of cayenne or smoked paprika and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top when serving. Serve with pitas, tortilla chips, crackers, raw veggies, on a sandwich and more.

Other variations:

Try making with roasted garlic instead of raw garlic.
Add roasted red peppers.
Substitute cumin for chipotle.
Blend in 1 cup of roasted vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and garlic for a roasted vegetable hummus.
For olive hummus, fold in 3/4 cup of chopped green or black olives.
Try adding some lightly toasted walnuts or pine nuts for a yummy nutty hummus.

Do you have any other hummus variations you would like to share?

**The beautiful bowl above is a handmade pottery bowl made by a good friend of mine, Karen Felicetta. I love the way this hummus looks served in this bowl.

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(I am super unhappy with these photos, the lighting in the kitchen was horrible and the photos don’t even begin to show how beautiful this dish was)

I am a carboholic, there I said it. I love pasta and grains. Being that I have a gluten intolerance I have been exploring and finding new carbs and various grains and I love it. Brown rice pasta is soo delicious and far lighter than the usual wheat pasta. Mark actually prefers rice pasta to regular pasta now. It is very easy to find and works in all regular pasta recipes. I am planning on trying to learn how to make my own gluten free pasta soon.

I will pretty much eat pasta any way it is prepared and I am always playing around with new recipes. This one was fantastic. After being on a cleanse for 30 days and avoiding all dairy and really going light on the carbs this was a great and light way to celebrate. There is very little cheese in this, but by adding back some of the pasta water when mixing the sauce, it give it this delicious and creamy texture. Roasting the broccoli is something I have never done before and it was brilliant, it still had a great crunch, but had that delicious brown-edged roasty flavor and the red pepper flakes gave it just the perfect amount of heat. Mark actually said “this is the single best pasta dish I have ever had, EVER!” I love when I can make something that makes him that happy.

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Roasted Broccoli and Almond Penne

Adapted from Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs via So Good & Tasty
serves 6*

3/4 cup almonds
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
salt & pepper
1 pound brown rice penne pasta

1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Preheat the oven to 450˚F.

In a large bowl, toss the broccoli florets with a couple of glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Transfer to a large baking sheet and spread the broccoli into one even layer. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until some of the edges have started to brown.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of water, it will take a while for it to come to a boil.

Place the garlic and salt in the food processor, and pulse to a fine paste. Add the almonds and grind into a chunky pesto paste. (I left it pretty chunky since I wanted to enjoy the bits of nut)

Transfer the nut mixture to a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, then add most of the herbs. Stir in the parmesan, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Salt the pasta water generously, and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and reserve a big cup of the pasta water. Toss the almond pesto with the pasta and broccoli, if you need to thin out the sauce use the reserved water. Serve topped with a sprinkling of the remaining herbs.

* A quick note on the serving sizes I follow, I tend to make recipes at their full serving size as most of what I cook makes beautiful and light lunches in the next day or two. Feel free to cut the recipes in half if you don’t brown bag it to lunch or don’t like leftovers.

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We eat a stir fry of some sort in our house weekly. I just change the ingredients to the season and our cravings. This particular recipe produces an amazing, colorful and crunchy plate of deliciousness. I serve it over brown rice, but it would also be delicious over thin rice noodles. This recipe is very easy and you could most definitely substitute and change things around often to keep it new and exciting. I will be making this often.

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Vegetable Cashew Stir-fry

adapted from Gourmet, May 2007 and Fresh365

Yields 4 servings

3 T sesame oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 c of shitake mushrooms sliced
1 c of julienned carrots
1/4 lb snow peas (apx 2 c)
1 bunch scallions, chopped (white and green parts separated)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 T grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 t dried red-pepper flakes
3/4 c vegetable broth
1 1/2 T soy sauce (I use gluten-free low sodium tamari soy)
1 1/2 t cornstarch
1 t honey
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/2 c salted roasted cashews
1 T sesame seeds

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add oil, then stir fry peppers, mushrooms, peapods, carrots, garlic, ginger, red-pepper flakes, and scallion whites until vegetables are just tender. In a small bowl, stir together broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper. Add to veggies in wok. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in scallion greens, cashews and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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A lot of times I cook without a recipe, making stuff up, tasting and perfecting as I go. This was one of those times. So bear with me and the fact that I have no exact measurements.

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I bought some fresh Cod at the fish counter at Wegmans and couldn’t wait to get it home and try something new. I pulled out my Flavor Bible, which is a phenomenal book that allows you to search complimentary combinations for particular ingredients. Basically you would look up cod and see what ingredients pair well with it. I found that garlic, butter and chives all did as well as potatoes. I was very excited about this as I had all of those ingredients on hand and our chives had been growing nicely in our yard for a couple of weeks. I decided to bake the fish with a very light coating of butter (I have been using ghee, an Indian clarified butter that I was using while on my cleanse), chives, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. I also had both brussels sprouts and baby red potatoes from the farmers market that sounded like the perfect match with the rosemary I had also just bought. This was a delicious and light meal.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Baby Red Potatoes

brussels sprouts halved

baby red potatoes cut into wedges

1 T olive oil

2 T rosemary, chopped

sea salt

pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 450°F

Place the cut brussels sprouts and potatoes on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan, drizzle olive oil over, evenly sprinkle the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper over the top. With your hands gently toss the ingredients together. If they feel a bit too dry, add little more olive oil.

Roast for about 30-45 minutes depending on how you like them. We like our roast veggies dark and crispy so we leave them in as long as possible.

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Baked Cod with Lemon and Chives

2 fillets of cod

1 lemon

1 bunch of chives, chopped

1 T of unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, minced

sea salt

pepper

Squeeze the juice of half of the lemon over the fish, place a small amount of butter on each fillet (I probably used about a tablespoon between the two fillets), sprinkle the garlic, salt, pepper and chives over the fish. Bake for approx 15 minutes at 450°F at the end of your veggies roasting. The fish should be white and easily flake with a fork. Serve the fish with lemon wedges.

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Three things I am very obsessed with: my slow cooker, soup and fresh corn tortillas! I have made black bean soup quite a few times, but this is hands down, the best it has ever turned out.

Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit and smitten kitchen

A big note about cooking times when using dried beans: The original recipe says 6 hours, smitten kitchen’s took 2 hours 45 minutes, mine took just over 4 hours. Not sure if it is a variation in the beans or slow cookers cook times.

Yields 6 main course servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-size red onions, chopped
1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (I only used 2 this time, as they were MASSIVE cloves)
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chiles from a can (this gives it a solid kick, dial back if you are wary, I LOVE spicy so I used even more than this)
7 cups hot water (I just used very hot tap water)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 avocadocilantro
green onions

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 3 hours. [See note up top.]

Transfer bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth. Return puree to the pot or a large serving bowl (the original recipe calls for just two cups of the soup to be pureed but I wanted a smooth and creamy soup this time). Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste; we found we needed more salt. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with diced avocado and chopped cilantro and green onions.

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What goes better for dipping into your spicy black bean soup than warm, freshly made corn tortillas?? NOTHING. Being that I have an intolerance to gluten, I have found a love for corn tortillas and their many practical uses. They are delicious with soup, on tacos, for breakfast, the list just goes on and on. I would always get incredibly excited when I would go to a restaurant that made their own. Since so few did, I always assumed it was incredibly difficult or time consuming. Man, was I wrong. This was the first time I made them and it was a breeze. The most important thing to remember is that the more imperfect they are, the more “homemade” they look, so don’t stress about the perfection.

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Handmade Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas)

Yields 16 tortillas

2 cups masa harina (Mexican corn “flour” for making tortillas—Maseca brand is widely available in well-stocked groceries and Mexican markets)
1-1/4 to 1-1/3 cups of water

  1. Mix the Masa Harina and the water; knead to form your masa (dough), you will be able to tell if it needs more water.
  2. Roll the dough with your hands into a long cylinder and equally divide it into 16 pieces
  3. Take one of the 16 pieces and roll it into a ball with your hands
  4. Set the masa on a piece of plastic in the tortilla press; cover with another piece of plastic (at the time I made this, I didn’t yet have a tortillas press and I had to use a combination of a coffee can and a rolling pin)
  5. Press the masa
  6. Transfer the tortilla to a hot, dry skillet
  7. Cook for about 50 seconds on one side; gently turn
  8. Cook for about 50 seconds (it should puff slightly); turn back to the first side and cook a few seconds longer if you think you need it. You’ll probably have to play with the time a bit to get it right.
  9. Remove and keep the tortilla warm in a tortillas warmer or on a cookie sheet in the oven (set to 250°F)

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Here are some of the yummies we made in the days after with the corn tortillas. Veggie tacos with avocados, tomatoes, limes, lettuce, cilantro and green onions and a side of mexican rice (I am still perfecting that recipe so I will post it when I am happy with it).

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And a quick egg taco for a tasty and fast breakfast. Just fry an egg quick, put it on a warm tortilla and top with cilantro, green onions, salt and pepper and whatever else you’d like. One of my favorites.

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