Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Soup with Red Lentils, Roasted Peppers, and Spinach

This soup has golden cooked lentils, bright flecks of puréed roasted peppers, and green baby spinach. It also provides a healthy dose of garlic.

You might be wondering why the title says "red lentils" but the description says "golden cooked lentils." Red lentils lose their pinkish color during the cooking process. However, they cook more quickly than the green and yellow varieties, and have a smooth consistency that works well in soups.


1 generous cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 cups water
2 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 yellow, orange, or red peppers (or 1-pint mini-peppers), washed, seeded, and cut in strips
dash red pepper flakes (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cipollini onion or shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups baby spinach, washed

Place the lentils and water in a medium sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the lentils 20 minutes, or until tender and falling apart.

While the lentils are cooking, toss the pepper strips in 1 tablespoon olive oil, then place on a baking sheet and roast at 400F for 15 minutes, or until tender and just starting to brown. Let the peppers cool.

Place the cooled peppers in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

When the lentils are almost ready, heat the remaining 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and the red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the garlic, then the onion, and sautée until the garlic turns golden-brown.

Stir in 1 teaspoon salt.

Carefully pour the cooked lentils and puréed peppers into the skillet, stir until thoroughly combined, and cook about 5 minutes.

Add the baby spinach to the skillet, and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted, stirring occasionally.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Orange Swirls

While I love to cook, there are times when it's nice to sit back and enjoy something prepared by someone else. My mom is a really good cook -- I was lucky to grow up eating homemade bread, pasta, and cookies. I do my own cooking now, but I ask my mom to make something for my birthday each year. This year, I asked for orange swirls.

The swirls have a yeasty, orange-flecked dough, and a simple honey-nutmeg-almond filling. (There's also a honey-lemon glaze, which we skipped.) We wound up with 14 good-sized swirls, rather than the 10 suggested by the recipe. The swirls take two to three hours from start to finish, so if you want to eat them for breakfast, you might consider making them the day before.

The recipe comes from the Holly B cookbook -- I ran across it at Dana Treat.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Almond-Cranberry Cornbread

There were two things about this cornbread recipe that interested me. First, it adds almond flour to the standard blend of cornmeal and all-purpose flour. Second, it's dotted with dried cranberries and sliced almonds -- two of my favorite things.

The resulting cornbread is supposed to yield 12 servings, but I have to admit that I ate one fourth of the pan in a single sitting. Whoops.

If you don't have almond flour, you can finely grind blanched almonds in a food processor. The recipe contemplates that the bread will be baked in a cast-iron skillet; I don't have one, so I used a 9x9 baking dish.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blueberry Ginger Jam

Each summer, when blueberries are in season, I wash and freeze a large baggie-full for use later in the year. Then, when I need a change from the usual winter produce, I head to the freezer for some berries. Last month, I used some of my stash to make blueberry chia muffins. This weekend, I went back to the freezer, and used some more berries to make blueberry ginger jam.

I'd never made jam before, but the recipe was simple: combine blueberries, grated ginger, port, sugar, and lemon zest in a saucepan; bring to a boil; and then simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. That's it.

The original recipe called for four cups of blueberries. That would have finished off my stash, and so I made 1/4 batch. I omitted the port (although I think it would have been good) because I didn't have any on hand. Also, I used pineapple juice in place of the sugar. Towards the end of the cooking process, I deglazed the saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of hot water, so as not to miss out on any blueberry-ginger goodness.

Recipe here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Black Ale Chocolate Pudding

Beer in chocolate pudding seems weird. And whisking beer into half-and-half seems weirder still. At several points in the cooking process, I was convinced this was going to be a complete disaster, not to mention a waste of perfectly good chocolate and ale. Luckily, I was wrong. Black ale chocolate pudding is actually pretty darn good.

With the first spoonful, I can taste both chocolate and ale. After that, the flavors blend.

Loosely adapted from this recipe and this recipe.

1 cup skim milk, divided
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup black ale, or stout
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
4 tablespoons cornstarch
dash salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a sauce pan, combine the half-and-half, ale, sugar, and 1/2 cup skim milk over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to simmer. (Note: the foam from the ale makes it hard to tell when the mixture is simmering -- I waited until the foam was reduced and the simmer broke through the remaining layer of bubbles on top -- this took about 5 minutes.)

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to slowly whisk for five minutes.

Remove from heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder, then add the chocolate chips and let the mixture sit five minutes. Stir until the chocolate chips are fairly well blended with the ale mixture.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk with the cornstarch, salt, and egg. Ladle a little of the chocolate/ale mixture in the bowl, and whisk until combined. Then, pour the entire cornstarch mixture back into the sauce pan and whisk until smooth.

Return the saucepan to medium heat. Whisk slowly until the mixture returns to a simmer (this took about 10 minutes for me). Simmer 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla.

Serve warm (this is good!) or chilled (also good).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Walnut Bread

I was so pleased with the olive bread that I made a couple of weeks ago that I decided to try the same recipe again -- but this time, with 1 and 1/2 cups of walnuts (and 2 teaspoons salt) in place of the kalamata olives called for in the original recipe.

Although I used the same flour, the inside of the walnut bread was a different color than the interior of the olive bread -- I think the substitution of walnuts for olives must somehow be responsible for this.

Delicious with a smear of butter and a drizzle of honey.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Yellow Split Pea Stew With Kale and Smoked Paprika

It's been an unusually cold week in Colorado. So, it seemed like a good time to try a recipe for Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Paprika posted at Elana's Pantry. I liked the idea of a steaming bowl of soup with split peas and kale. I was also intrigued by the recipe's use of smoked paprika; my mom's family is Hungarian, so I'm familiar with paprika, but I'd never heard of the smoked variety. Turns out it's a Spanish cousin of the paprika that I grew up with. And deeelicious.
While I used many of the same ingredients as Elana, I changed things up a bit. Rather than using vegetable broth, I cooked the peas and kale together, to create their own broth. Also, I added the smoked paprika at a different stage of the cooking process, and didn't puree the split peas.

1 cup yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
1 bunch kale, washed
5 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, washed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon salt

Tear the green portion of the kale leaves from the center veins. Discard the veins and chop the greens.

Place the split peas and kale in a large pot with the water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for about an hour, until the peas are tender and starting to fall apart. Remove the bay leaves and set the split pea mixture aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and smoked paprika and cook over low medium low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the mushrooms and sautée until tender.

Stir in the salt, then add the split pea mixture.

Increase the heat to medium, and cook until the stew is warmed through.

Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Olive Bread

I love olives. And bread. So, when I ran across a recipe for olive bread, it went right to the top of my "to bake" list.

The recipe takes more than 12 hours from start to finish, but the hands on time is minimal. The night before baking the bread, I combined bread flour, yeast, olives, and water. After covering the mixture and letting the yeast work its magic overnight, I worked the dough into two loaves, and placed them on a lightly oiled baking sheet to rise for a couple more hours.

Then it was time to bake the bread. While the recipe said to put the dough in a preheated pot to bake, I didn't want to bake any of my pots in the oven. So, instead, I preheated the oven to 400F, placed the loaves (still on the oiled baking sheet) inside, then reduced the heat to 375F and baked them until their crusts were golden and an inserted thermometer read 210F (a method I borrowed from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian).

The recipe yielded two good-sized loaves of olive bread. I used the first to make some toasted sandwiches with provolone and chopped peppers. (A similar sandwich, made with regular bread, can be found here.) Since I was about to leave town for Thanksgiving, I put the second loaf in the freezer -- I'm pleased to report that it emerged from the icebox with the same "fresh baked" texture it had when it went in, and that I'll be enjoying more olive bread sandwiches this week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

When making chocolate chip cookies, I'll usually mix a handful of nuts into the batter along with the chocolate chips. Rather than adding nuts at the end, this recipe starts by toasting unsweetened coconut until golden, then blending the coconut with softened butter. The resulting cookies look like standard chocolate chippers, but are permeated with coconut flavor. While baking cookies always smell good, these cookies filled my apartment with the smell of coconut, which was an added treat on a cold November day.

The recipe uses a decent amount of butter and sugar, but yields a lot of cookies (I got 5 dozen). I adjusted things a bit by substituting spelt for one third of the all-purpose flour, and adding a handful of oats to the batter (at the same time I mixed in the chocolate chips), for added texture.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet Potato Salad

Via the Bitten Word: a salad with roasted red onions, sweet potatoes, walnuts, and green beans, topped with a tangy yogurt sauce.

It's a super simple recipe: toss chopped sweet potato and red onion with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them. When the sweet potatoes are tender, add green beans and walnuts to the baking sheet, and cook another 5 minutes. Serve the roast vegetable mixture on a bed of lettuce, topped with dressing made from plain yogurt, garlic, and white wine vinegar.

The one part of the recipe I wasn't sure about was the frozen green beans. They were alright, but I think I'll use fresh green beans the next time I make this.

The recipe says it serves four, but I would say its more like three servings.

If you're looking for other winter salad ideas, you might like gado gado.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Your Consideration: Last Minute Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

This year, I'll be traveling down to Arizona for Thanksgiving, where I'll have a holiday dinner of side dish + pie. While it might not be the ideal Thanksgiving meal for a vegetarian, my sister-in-law bakes an awesome pie, and my niece does an adorable dance in honor of the holiday.

As you can see, she has a real interest in the culinary arts.

If I had access to my own kitchen this Thanksgiving, I might make one of these vegetarian main dishes:

Stuffed portobello mushrooms with balsamic glaze, from Love and Olive Oil: I made this a few weeks ago. Or, I made something like this, except instead of stuffing large portobello mushrooms, I chopped up some baby bellas and roasted them along with the stuffing ingredients (which include artichoke hearts, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese). The result was tasty -- especially with the balsamic reduction -- but not especially photogenic. I think a stuffed mushroom would make a better presentation.

Veg lasagna: Easy but good. The lasagna can be assembled in advance, so you can spend Thanksgiving day doing other things.

Roasted butternut squash, rosemary, and garlic lasagna: This lasagna recipe is a little more involved, but the results are delicious: roasted butternut squash is layered with a rosemary-infused cheese mixture and lasagna noodles, then topped with (unsweetened) whipped cream and parmesan cheese. While it sounds (and tastes) decadent, the recipe comes from the archives of Cooking Light magazine, so it might even be reasonably good for you. The butternut squash and white sauce can be prepared the night before.

Pearl couscous with fall vegetables and carmelized onions: This is what I made last Thanksgiving -- butternut squash, turnips, and other veggies are simmered in a saffron-spiced broth, then served over pearl couscous with carmelized onions. Again, somewhat time-intensive, but it made for a nice holiday meal.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vegan Chiles Rellenos

Kind of a chile relleno, kind of a (cumin-spiked) twice-baked potato.

There are a few different steps involved but none of them are complicated. You can break up the cooking time by preparing the poblano peppers and/or the potato-bean filling in advance.

6 cups yukon gold potatoes, washed and chopped
6 poblano peppers, washed
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus additional oil for brushing
1 onion, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 15- ounce can (1 and 1/2 cups) black beans

Poblano peppers

Slice each poblano pepper in half length-wise, and gently remove the seeds and membranes, being careful not to cut through the pepper's outer wall.

Place the poblano pepper halves face down on a broiler-safe baking tray. Broil (monitoring carefully) until the peppers' skin bubbles and begins to turn black.

Remove the peppers from the broiler and use tongs or a spatula to place them in a large paper bag. Roll the bag shut and allow the peppers to sit for 15 minutes.

Take one pepper out of the bag, and carefully peel off the skin. (It's OK if not all of the skin will peel off, just be sure to get the bubbly/loose parts.) Repeat with the remaining peppers. Set the peeled peppers aside.

Potato-bean filling

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the potatoes, and cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Add the cumin seed and onion and cook for about 10 minutes (until the onion is soft), stirring occasionally.

While the onion is cooking, pour the cooked potatoes into a large bowl and mash.

Once the onions are soft, stir in 1 teaspoon salt, then mix in the mashed potatoes.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup water and the beans.

Assembling and baking the chiles rellenos

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Lightly brush a baking sheet (or two) with canola oil.

Pick up one of the poblano pepper halves. Use your other hand to scoop up about 3/4 cup of the potato-bean mixture, and gently pat it into the pepper. Place the stuffed pepper onto the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the pepper halves have been filled.

Bake the chili rellenos for 25-30 minutes, or until the potato-bean filling begins to brown on top.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blueberry Chia Muffins

A vegan-friendly muffin recipe (no eggs or butter) with blueberries, chia seed, and a hint of citrus.

Chia seeds contain more omega-three fatty acids than flax seed. You can read more about chia seeds here and here, and find them in many health food stores. This was my first attempt at baking with chia seeds -- usually, I stir them into my yogurt.

Loosely adapted from this recipe at Eat Me, Delicious.

1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1 additional tablespoon flour if using frozen blueberries)
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup (6 ounces) plain or vanilla yogurt (use soy yogurt for vegan muffins)
2 teaspoons vanilla
juice of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon (1/3 cup juice total)
1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon peel
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup chia seeds

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place muffin cups in a muffin tin (or lightly brush the muffin tin with oil).

If using frozen blueberries, gently toss them with 1 tablespoon flour and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose and spelt flours, baking powder, salt, and chia; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt, vanilla, grated rind, and juice.

Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just blended.

Gently stir in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, dividing it evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool before serving.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Veg Lasagna

I suppose everyone has their preferences when it comes to lasagna. I like mine packed with veggies, but I don't want the vegetables to distract from the cheese. Which is how I wound up with a veg-cheese filling that blends puréed spinach, grated carrot, and chopped onion with mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta.

I originally made this lasagna with hand-chopped fresh spinach, but when I got a food processor, I found that it was faster (and cheaper) to use frozen spinach -- there's no change in flavor, and a slight improvement in texture. I also use store-bought tomato sauce in this lasagna, although you can make your own if you want. It's a pretty simple, no-fuss recipe, but the result is respectable enough to serve guests.

9 lasagna noodles, cooked per package instructions
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1 carrot, washed and grated
1 onion, washed and finely chopped (or grated)
dash nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1 egg
15 ounces (approx. 1 and 3/4 cup) part-skim ricotta
8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese, divided
About 3 ounces grated parmesan cheese, divided
26 ounces store-bought tomato sauce (about 3 cups)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Purée the spinach in a food processor.

Transfer the spinach into a large bowl, and slowly blend in the carrot, onion, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ricotta, along with 2/3 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the parmesan. Set the veg-cheese mixture aside.

Pour about 1/3 of the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish, so that the bottom of the dish is covered.

Top the tomato sauce with three of the lasagna noodles.

Cover the lasagna noodles with 1/2 of the veg-cheese mixture (spreading the mixture so that the noodles are evenly covered).

Top the veg-cheese mixture with three more of the lasagna noodles.

Pour another third of the tomato sauce over the lasagna noodles.

Use the rest of the veg-cheese mixture to cover the tomato sauce.

Top the veg-cheese mixture with the last three lasagna noodles.

Pour the last of the tomato sauce over the lasagna noodles.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the foil and add the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake (uncovered) for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Remove the lasagna from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.


(I get 9 generous servings -- any leftovers freeze nicely.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Truffles With Pecans, Coconut, And Chocolate

I know that, from my recent posts, it must look like I eat nothing but sweets and soup. That's not exactly true, but I do have another sweets recipe to share -- this time, homemade truffles, made with mashed sweet potato, pecans, coconut, and two types of chocolate.

They're tiny, so you might need to eat a few of them.

1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 cup pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Place the chocolate chips, sweet potato, pecans, coconut, vanilla, and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture becomes relatively smooth and forms a ball.

Scrape the truffle mixture out of the food processor and into a bowl; cover and refrigerate for one hour.

After about an hour...

Set out a piece of wax paper or parchment paper (to place the finished truffles on).

Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator.

Place the cocoa powder on a dinner plate.

Roll 1 teaspoon of the truffle mixture between your hands to create a ball.

Roll the truffle ball in the cocoa powder until coated, and place on the parchment or wax paper.

Repeat until all of the truffle mixture has been used.

Refrigerate until serving (or enjoy immediately).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ginger Beet Soup

I'm don't know about you, but beets were not my favorite food growing up. In fact, I thought they were gross. Then, on a whim, I tried a bowl of ginger beet soup at a restaurant -- and discovered that beets weren't so bad after all. In fact, ginger beet soup was really really good.

This recipe from Maya at My Feasts creates a pretty close approximation of the soup I had that day. First, sautée leeks, ginger, and garlic over medium-low heat, and then add roasted beets, salt, pepper, and broth to the pot. After allowing the ingredients to simmer for a bit, purée, then finish with fresh lemon juice. It's a simple recipe, with great results. Not only does the soup have a nice ginger-beet flavor, but it will make your kitchen smell wonderful.

My only stray from the recipe was using water in place of broth -- happily, the leeks, garlic, ginger, and beets created their own.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had a craving for ginger + chocolate, so I decided to try this recipe for ginger chocolate chip cookies. I more or less followed the recipe exactly, except I used diced crystallized ginger instead of ginger chips, and I substituted 1/3 cup spelt flour for 1/3 cup of the all-purpose flour. Also, I decided to live dangerously and not grease the (nonstick) baking sheet, and it turned out fine.

When I read the recipe, I wondered whether little bits of ginger would give the entire cookie a ginger flavor, or whether it would only be noticeable when I bit into a piece of ginger (sort of like biting into a raisin in an oatmeal raisin cookie). Happily, the ginger flavor does permeate the entire cookie, and is punctuated when biting into an actual piece of ginger.

The only thing I would do differently when making these cookies in the future is doubling the recipe. I made my cookies a little bit bigger than the ones contemplated in the recipe, so I wound up with about 28 cookies instead of 36.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beer Cheese Soup

Again with the cauliflower. This time, in soup. With beer.

1 head cauliflower, washed and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, washed and diced
1 stalk celery, washed and diced
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground mustard
black pepper to taste
8 ounces (1 cup) beer (I used a black ale)
4 cups veg broth (I used un-chicken broth*)
1 cup water
2 carrots, washed and diced
2 cups potatoes, washed and diced
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
About 2.5 ounces gruyére, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until tender (10-15 minutes).

Strain the cauliflower and let cool.

Place the cooled cauliflower in a food processor along with the milk, and process until smooth. Set aside.

Return the pot to the burner, and melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 10 minutes).

Sprinkle the flour, dry mustard, and black pepper over the onion and celery and cook three more minutes, stirring constantly.

Slowly pour the beer into the pot, whisking constantly.

Slowly add the broth and water to the pot, whisking constantly (this will take several minutes).

Carefully add the puréed cauliflower, stirring until smooth. Then, add the carrots and potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down to medium-low heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the burner, take out the bay leaf, and add the grated cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted smoothly into the soup.

Serve immediately.

*I didn't add salt because my broth contained a decent amount of sodium.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Yam Soup

From Paulette Mitchell's cookbook A Beautiful Bowl of Soup: a steaming bowl of apple yam soup, flavored with white wine, ginger, and curry powder, and topped with chopped pecans. A copy of the recipe can be found here.

Although the recipe calls for seasoned pecans, I just used plain chopped pecans (which are pretty amazing on their own), and saved the butter for the bread I ate along with the soup.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pasta With Walnut Sauce

I love walnuts, so I was intrigued by a recipe for pasta with walnut sauce in the New York Times last week. However, I didn't want to take the time to track down "fresh ricotta" or walnut oil, so I did a little googling and came up with another recipe, one that used basic ingredients I keep around the house (walnuts, bread, milk, parmesan cheese, garlic, dried marjoram, olive oil). Not only are the ingredients easy to find, but the recipe is super-simple: soak a slice of bread in milk, then purée the walnuts, cheese, garlic, and marjoram. The olive oil, soaked bread, and milk are then processed into the sauce. The result is rich, pleasantly creamy, and great tossed with pasta and broccoli.

The recipe was vague about the amount of salt; I would recommend at least 3/4 teaspoon. I also used a little extra milk to thin the sauce, which was quite thick.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Best Homemade Mac And Cheese EVER (Recipe Included)

As much as I love macaroni and cheese, it's not the best summer dish. Who wants to fire up the oven when there are so many fresh fruits and vegetables around?

But now that autumn is officially here, mac and cheese started to sound good again. Unfortunately, when I pulled up an old post about The Best Homemade Mac And Cheese EVER, I realized that I never actually published the recipe, instead noting modifications upon modifications to a recipe for kid-friendly mac and cheese from Food Blogga. D'oh.

So, here, in one place, is the recipe for The Best Homemade Mac And Cheese EVER. Since the sauce contains cauliflower, there is no need for a side vegetable. However, this version of macaroni and cheese is especially good with (or followed by) fresh apple slices.

1 bunch cauliflower (if you can find it, orange cauliflower boosts the color)
8 ounces pasta (I like spirals, twists, or campanelle)
2 1/2 cups skim milk, divided
1 tablespoon butter, plus butter to coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
About 2.5 ounces gruyére, grated
dash grated nutmeg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste (I add more pepper than salt, since the cheese already contains a decent amount of salt)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Wash the cauliflower and cut into small pieces.

When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until tender (10-15 minutes).

Strain the cauliflower from the hot water and set aside.

Add pasta to the pot of hot water and cook per package instructions.

When the cauliflower has cooled, place it in a food processor along with 1/2 cup milk, and process until smooth. Set aside.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and set aside.

Return the pot to the burner, and melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the flour absorbs the butter and turns golden brown.

Create a white sauce by adding the remaining 2 cups of milk to the flour mixture, about 1/3 cup at a time. Each time milk is added, whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken and simmer, then add more milk.

When all the milk has been used, add a generous amount of black pepper and a dash of nutmeg to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer about 5 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat and gently add the puréed cauliflower and grated cheese to the white sauce, stirring until smooth.

Add salt (and additional pepper) to taste.

Mix the pasta into the sauce and stir until coated.

Pour the pasta and sauce into the buttered baking dish, and sprinkle panko on top.

Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes.

Let the mac and cheese sit for about 5 minutes, then serve.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Buttermilk Waffles

Topped with diced apples, walnuts, and maple syrup.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons oil
1 egg

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, and egg.
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir to combine thoroughly.
Allow the batter to set while heating a waffle iron (per waffle iron instructions).
When the waffle iron is hot, ladle batter on to the iron and cook per waffle iron instructions.
Serve immediately.

I get four to five waffles on my iron. Leftover batter can be refrigerated in a tightly covered container, and keeps about five days.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Summer Version of a Winter Favorite

Fresh figs in August -- dried figs (and dates) in December.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Spelt Salad With Mint, Parsley, Artichoke Hearts, And Cannellini Beans

Salads make a great summer meal; I often eat them once or twice a day. However, as we headed into August, I began to want a change from my usual salads. So, I dug through a stack of recipe clippings and found an old Cooking Light recipe (from the days of their Inspired Vegetarian section) for a spelt salad with mint, parsley, artichoke hearts, and cannellini beans. It turned out to be a great pick: the spelt has a nice, nutty flavor; the mint and parsley blend smoothly to create a pleasant herb taste; and who can resist artichoke hearts? (I think they are a close runner-up for "vegetarian bacon.") Plus, the recipe uses canned beans and artichoke hearts; the only real cooking involved is simmering the spelt for 30 minutes. Which is perfect for a salad in August.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cannellini Beans With Tomato And Basil

From Jack Bishop's Italian Vegetarian Cookbook: a vegan caprese salad, with seasoned cannellini beans in place of mozzarella cheese. The beans require a little work (the recipe calls for dried cannellini beans to be soaked and then simmered with garlic and bay leaves) but can be prepared in advance. Once the beans have cooled, simply toss them with basil, diced tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper -- very easy, and very refreshing.

Served with polenta and spinach.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lavender Chocolate Bars

Veggie Belly recently posted about several interesting things to do with lavender (both edible and not). It reminded me that I'd been meaning to write up the lavender chocolate bars that Rhubarb made. It's another recipe from Ani's Raw Food Desserts; the ingredients include lavender, almonds, raisins, and cacao powder. I'd never noticed it before, but raisins plus chocolate creates a wonderful caramel-like flavor. Lavender plus chocolate is simply divine. The bars need to be kept in the freezer, which makes for a cool, chocolatey summer treat.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

I like to start my work day with cookies. Not for breakfast, of course. Instead, I eat a bowl of cereal or some peanut butter toast at home, then head to the office and, within five or 10 minutes of arriving at my desk, break out the cookies. It's basically my treat for going in to work.

Since I eat cookies on a regular basis, I like to think about ways to make them slightly less bad for me, while not sacrificing taste or texture. One of my tricks is to make peanut butter cookies using whole wheat flour instead of white flour -- while I'm not always a fan of whole wheat cookies, I think that the nuttiness of whole wheat blends really well with peanut butter.

After some experimentation, I've adapted my usual chocolate chip cookie recipe to include spelt flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour. (I tried making chocolate chip cookies using only spelt flour, but they turned out thinner and less chewy than I like.) The revised recipe also uses a little less sugar than the original.

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white spelt flour
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 12-ounce package of chocolate chips
1 cup nuts (right now, I'm on a macadamia kick)

Preheat oven to 375.
Cream the butter, sugar, molasses, and vanilla extract.
Beat in the eggs.
Stir in the salt and baking soda.
Slowly stir in the spelt and all purpose flour until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Using a teaspoon, scoop up little bits of dough and drop them onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Strawberry, Avocado, and Spinach Salad

Rhubarb says that avocado is the vegetarian bacon. But would bacon taste this good with strawberries and a balsamic vinaigrette? I think not.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chocolate Cups With Almond Cream And Berries

I wanted to make a birthday dessert for someone who doesn't do wheat, rarely does dairy, and is cutting back on sugar. As someone whose dessert repertoire leans heavily on butter, sugar, and all-purpose flour, I was a little stumped. Then, wandering through the stacks at Powell's during a recent trip to Portland, I noticed Ani's Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo. The design was cute, the photos were pretty, and the recipes were not only simple, but also consistently wheat-, dairy-, and gluten-free. So, I decided to give it a shot.

The recipe I chose was "Almond Frangipane Kream," which I planned to serve as a pudding topped with fresh berries. How simple was it? Put some raw almonds in a blender along with agave nectar, vanilla, and water, and process for about 30 seconds (or until smooth). That's it.

The result was a pleasantly sweet, smooth blend that tasted of almond and vanilla. I really liked it, but I was worried that the dessert might need a contrasting flavor, and so I ran out at the last minute and bought some little chocolate bowls. (Yes, the bowls were a cheat, both in terms of being store-bought and in terms of containing some sugar and dairy...) In retrospect, my concerns were unfounded, as the berries themselves provided a good contrast to the cream.

This is the only recipe that I've tried from the book to date, but, so far, I'm pleased with my selection. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the book is accessible even to someone who isn't a raw foodie. Other recipes I'd like to try in the future include Pineapple With Ginger And Lime, Lavender Chocolate Bars, and Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake (!!!).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Socca (Chickpea Pancakes)

I'm not very big on pancakes for breakfast, but I've discovered that I really like having pancakes for supper - or, at least, I like dining on socca (pancakes made with chickpea flour). The socca recipe is simple, requiring only chickpea flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, and water. After the batter rests briefly, the pancakes are poured into a skillet coated lightly with olive oil, then cooked for three minutes on one side and one minute on the other. One half-batch serves two people. Rhubarb and I ate them topped with zucchini and tomatoes, which were roasted with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. Very simple, but also very satisfying.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Pack a Salad/Salad With Rice Noodles, Tofu, Cilantro, and Peanut Sauce

Salad makes a great lunch, but I hate handing over $8 any time I want fresh greens on a work day. So, I saved one of those nifty plastic bowls from a local salad shop, and have been using it to carry my own homemade blends of veggies to work.

I've come up with the following method for layering a salad that will travel to work:

*Pour the dressing in the bottom of the bowl.
*Next, add ingredients that will not get soggy in dressing - for example, diced carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, apples, cabbage, red onion, olives, beans or walnuts.
*If you are using diced or crumbled cheese, add it next. Noodles work well at this stage, too.
*Finally, add the veggies that would get soggy if they sat in dressing (lettuce, spinach, herbs).
*Add-ins like baked tofu, falafel, or tortilla chips can be wrapped separately and mixed in at lunchtime.

This week's salad features rice noodles, tofu, cilantro, bell peppers, and red onion in a spicy peanut sauce (which can be more or less spicy depending on the amount of red pepper flakes used). It requires a little advance work (cooking the rice noodles, baking the tofu, and assembling the peanut sauce) but, once prepped, these ingredients can be used all week. I prefer to chop my veggies each night, but that could be done in advance, too.

I didn't have them this time, but chopped peanuts would make a great topping.

1 batch baked tofu, cooled
1 batch peanut sauce (see below), cooled
4 ounces rice noodles, prepared per package instructions, drained, rinsed in cold water, and set aside
2 red or orange bell peppers, washed and diced
2 cups cabbage, washed and thinly slivered
10 cups of greens (I used a lettuce/spinach blend), washed
1/4 red onion, washed and thinly slivered
1 bunch cilantro, washed

For each salad:

Pour 1/4 cup peanut sauce in the bottom of the bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon red onion, 1/3 cup bell peppers, and 1/3 cup cabbage.
Add about 1/2 cup chopped rice noodles.
Top with 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, and 2 cups chopped greens.
Close container.
Separately pack the tofu.

Peanut Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I like the fresh ground peanuts from the health food store)
Dash red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup water

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a sauce pan over medium heat until the sauce is smooth.
Bring the sauce to a light simmer.
Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally, until it thickens to the consistency of gravy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spelt Scones

I've been wanting to try spelt flour in place of wheat flour. I'd read about its nutritional benefits, and I liked the fact that it's higher in protein than wheat flour. However, I wasn't sure that baked goods made with spelt would have the same texture and consistency as those made with wheat.

I chose cream scones for my first attempt at baking with spelt, using white spelt flour in this recipe, and adding a little grated orange rind and a handful of dried cranberries. Cream scones might seem like an odd choice in light of my interest in the nutritional aspect of spelt, but they were a great vehicle for the flour: the scones rose beautifully, and had a light, flaky texture. I say "had" because, although I made them just yesterday morning, they're already gone.