Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall goodies: pumpkin pie smoothies

I love the flavors of fall. Mister Gurgly said he feels like we are in a week of "Iron Chef, Battle: Squash." Somehow, though, I don't think he will be arguing about the pumpkin pie smoothies Little Gurgly and I had for breakfast this morning!

I actually made a simple version of these last year for Little Gurgly while he was learning to drink from a straw.  This year, I decided they sounded too good not to get in on the action. I make smoothies really simply, and often I don't bother with the ice.  Mostly because I hate cleaning the blender.  I'm sure this would be delicious blended with ice, but I just didn't go there this time.

Little Gurgly's smoothie was made with whole milk and full fat yogurt, and mine with their skim cousins. I found his sweet enough without adding any sweetener, but found mine a little too tart, so I added some maple syrup.

I'm considering making some homemade pumpkin pie spice blend for this and other autumn treats, because I missed the warmth of cloves in here; all the other flavors come through nicely though, and really made me feel like I was eating pie for breakfast (just much healthier)!  Ground cloves and/or ginger would be really great here.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

2 Tbsp. Pumpkin purée (I used canned: NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 c. Plain yogurt
1/2 c. Milk (to desired consistency)
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1-2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)

Blend (or stir) pumpkin and yogurt together well, then stir in milk until desired consistency is reached. Add spices and blend once more.  Taste, and add maple syrup if needed.

If using this as a dessert, consider adding whipped cream and a crumbled gingersnap or graham cracker to the top for a fun and festive fall treat!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Green Eggs (and pasta?)

Before this even gets started, I must implore you: If you ever have a child in a Dr. Seuss phase, and you want to make him/her Green Eggs (+/- Ham), you must promise that you will never ever ever try to stir pesto into beaten eggs and scramble them.  Bad things happen to good eggs when you do that.  (They don't taste that bad, but they are so visually unappealing that you want to unsee them.)

Little Gurgly isn't really in a Dr. Seuss phase yet, but I made green eggs anyway.  I started by making a very slight variation of this recipe from 101 cookbooks. It was a great quick dinner for Mister and Little Gurgly a few nights ago while I met friends for dinner.  I was bummed out about missing it, but I figured it was a good night to make that since I'm trying to limit how much grain I eat.  As I taste-tested the sauce, I *really* wished I had made it a different night so I could have some.  I simply *had* to figure out a way to share in this goodness.  I had leftover sauce, and today I came up with exactly what to do with it.  I used it as a base for baked eggs.  And Oh my goodness...what a great idea.  I do wish that my egg had been just a little less done, so there would have been a bit of yolk to mix in with the sauce...but then again, without a slice of buttered toast to mop it up, what good is a runny yolk, anyway?  The sauce lends a nicely seasoned verdant flavor to the dish, and gives it a bit more substance.  You could substitute spinach for the kale, but I don't imagine it would be quite as good since the kale is a bit sturdier texturally.

Green Pasta Sauce (barely adapted from 101 cookbooks)
1 large bunch kale, double washed and roughly chopped (I used lacinato, aka Tuscan or dinosaur, kale)
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 oz goat cheese
Extra virgin olive oil (or broth) as needed for consistency
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional, but adds a nice brightness to the dish)

Boil a large pot of water, salted to taste.  If you will use the sauce for pasta, boil enough that you can cook the pasta in the same pot.  Add the onions and boil for about five minutes, then add the garlic and kale to the pot.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until the kale is nicely wilted and soft.  Be sure to test an onion for softness also.  Scoop out the vegetables with a strainer (I used a Chinese "spider" type strainer) and add to the bowl of your food processor.  If you are using this sauce for pasta, add the pasta now and cook per package directions.

Give the contents of the food processor a quick pulse, scrape down the sides, and pulse again.  Add the goat cheese and pulse once more.  Taste and adjust seasoning (it will most definitely need pepper, and will probably also need some salt).  If the vegetables were drained very well, it may need a little moisture, so add some olive oil, broth, or even some pasta water to thin to desired consistency.  Drain pasta when complete, toss pasta with sauce, and serve.

Baked Green Eggs
4 large eggs
1 cup of green pasta sauce (recipe above)
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spray four ramekins with cooking spray (bottom and sides).  Add 1/4 cup of green pasta sauce to each ramekin.  Crack one egg into each cup, over the sauce.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Check for doneness by giving the ramekin  a little shake.  When it is done you will not see any egg white jiggle on the top. (If you want a runny yolk and are okay with a little jiggle in the white of the egg, take it out as you like it.)  Serve in ramekin, on a plate, with a side of toast and/or fruit.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Savory-sweet Microwave Baked Apples

I'm not sure how I did this, but I just blurred the lines between salad and dessert, and am eating it for breakfast.

I'm currently (and temporarily) avoiding grain.  This sucks most at breakfast, especially in the early fall when I'm done with smoothies and none of the fruit is that good in a smoothie anyway.  I so want a warm bowl of scratch-made oatmeal, or a spicy-nutty granola bar.  Their time will come, but in the meantime, I have had to get creative to avoid egg monotony. 

I've been eating a lot of apples since it is just that time of year, and my grain-less evening snacks have often consisted of raw apples with nut butter, or microwaved baked apples with cinnamon, or dried cranberries in the place of the core.  But this morning, I had a revelation: stuff the apple with cheese for a little more "staying power" and a little less sweet than I want first thing in the morning.  I love apples with cheese (Oh, who am I kidding? I love everything with cheese), and sharp cheddar is always a good pairing for an apple.  But I also really enjoy those autumnal salads that include apples, nuts, dried fruit, and blue cheese on a bed of greens.  I bought gorgonzola dolce this week as it was on sale (along with the apples and pears that are now in season) and decided that this would be my cheese of choice.  Gorgonzola dolce is a semi-soft blue cheese, similar in consistency to a brie or camembert. It is sweeter and softer than standard gorgonzola, with a little less funk due to the shorter aging process, and is well-suited for this sweetish preparation.

I kept it simple this time with just the apples and cheese, because it is first thing in the morning and I didn't want to fuss, but this could be taken in so many different directions.  This could be presented as a salad course, perched on a bed of lightly dressed baby spinach (with perhaps the aforementioned dried fruit, candied nuts, or maybe some croutons), or as a first course with crostini for spreading the softened cheese and apple.  I immediately thought of a balsamic reduction being delicious with this combination.  It could be made into a simple but sophisticated dessert with a drizzle of good honey, and maybe sweet bread toast (I'm thinking the kind of date-nut bread that often accompanies a cheese course).  Of course, it could be baked in the oven instead, but I've chosen to microwave it in this case and it came out wonderfully.

Savory-sweet Microwave Baked Apples

1 apple (mine was a Cripps Pink)
1-1.5 oz gorgonzola dolce

Core the apple, leaving the peel intact. Microwave in a bowl for 2 minutes, uncovered.  Remove from microwave and stuff gorgonzola into the hole where the core was.  You are looking for it to be a little bit overstuffed and the cheese becomes almost liquid when melted.  Return to microwave for an additional 20-30 seconds, until cheese has melted.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chili-Rubbed Sweet Potato Salad

I'm going to come straight out and say it. When cooking, I rarely measure. Usually I just have an instinct for the amount of each ingredient the recipe needs, especially with seasonings.  Sometimes my instincts are way off.  But like so many people, that is the way I learned to cook: watching the women in my life (and sometimes the men) cook by eye and by tongue.  The "taste and tweak" method.  I think that's why I like cooking vegetarian food so much.  There is very little that you can't (or at least shouldn't) taste in the middle of the cooking process.
This recipe, is no exception.  The amounts of spices are approximate, but I think you can at least see where it is going and then do your own "taste and tweak" method to come up with something delicious, like I did.
And delicious this was.  I served it for dinner alongside grilled sandwiches.  I tell you that to highlight the fact that it must have been really good because Mr. Gurgly had seconds and thirds of it before he ate his second sandwich.  This is unheard of.

My inspiration was a half-full can of black beans in the fridge, the need to stretch about 2/3 of a leftover chicken breast into a meal for the three of us (Little Gurgly had the other third for a couple of meals where what we ate was too spicy for him), and the rut we've been in of eating a lot of sweet potato wedges (homemade) or fries (frozen) along with our sandwiches.  I felt like we needed to shake it up, and I love the combo of black beans and sweet potatoes.  Looking over the recipe, it seems like it was a lot of ingredients and a lot of work, but it wasn't really difficult at all and everything came together really nicely.  A single roasted sweet potato rubbed with texy-mexy spices for a little bit of smoky kick, combined with canned black beans, and some greens.  I opted for a chili-lime vinaigrette that echoed the flavors of the rub on the potatoes, and sweetened it with a little bit of agave nectar to tame the sourness of the lime and add a little bit of its signature smokiness.

If you wanted to serve it as a stand-alone meal, there are several ways to bulk it up.  I imagined it with some crumbled feta, goat cheese, or queso fresco added, as well as with some avocado, more black beans, or even some grilled chicken or tofu.  Likewise, I think the recipe could take all sorts of different vegetables and still fit together well as a flavor profile: some roasted or grilled corn, red bell peppers (roasted or raw), or some diced onion come immediately to mind.  I did quick-pickle some onion strings ahead of time thinking I would add them to the salad, but once the dressing was done I decided that the pickled flavor would compete too much with it.

Chili-rubbed Sweet Potato Salad

1 large/2 small sweet potatoes, washed and cut into cubes (you're looking for the size of home fries)
1-2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. smoked sweet paprika (or smoked hot paprika if you're a fiery soul)
1 tsp. ground cumin (I ground mine myself so it was on the course side, but it lent interest to bite into a bigger piece now and then)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Whisk together olive oil and spices in a large mixing bowl.  Add sweet potato cubes and toss to coat thoroughly.  Lay sweet potatoes out on a cookie sheet and roast for 10 min.  Move them around and return to oven.  Check after another 10 minutes, and remove when done.  I roasted mine for 15 min and then 15 more, and they were overdone but still delicious.

Prepare dressing:
Juice of 1 lime (and zest if you like)
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 Tbls. agave nectar (to taste, depending on how tart the lime and how much juice it gave)

1/2 can of black beans, drained and rinsed (mine didn't have seasoning aside from the usual salt in canned beans)
1 small clamshell of baby spinach (according to the container it was 2 cups but it seemed like much more)

When the potatoes are finished, allow them to cool while tossing spinach, beans, and dressing together.  Add potatoes, give one more quick toss (the potatoes don't really need the dressing, just to be sure there is equitable distribution of the potatoes) and serve.  This salad is good with the potatoes cooled all the way to cold, served at room temp, or even rather warm.  In the last case, the spinach wilts a bit, but I for one really like it that way.

Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish, or 2 as a meal.
Nutritional information for 1/6 of the salad without optional additions: 144 kcal, 19 g carb, 7 g fat, 3 g protein

Monday, May 21, 2012

Red Lentil Hummus

The Gurgly family is moving. Soon. Like in three weeks. I feel a tremendous sense of urgency (as evidenced by my taking time out to blog, hehe) about this. We have lots of food still in the pantry and freezer. It's a bit like an episode of Chopped, as there are some things I am trying not to buy any more of (like butter...we are down to less than one stick!)while trying to use other things as much as possible (like grains and frozen vegetables). It is going to be an interesting three weeks of menus, especially with the things I can't donate because they are already open. Hopefully I have some local friends that are interested in open containers of non-perishables. It is with this in mind that I post today's recipe: Red Lentil Hummus. I goofed not too long ago and bought a bunch of stuff when a local grocery store had a moving sale. They pretty much put the whole international aisle on clearance. For Mrs. Gurgly, this is like Christmas. I bought several bags of red lentils and a jar of tahini (if you're not familiar, imagine peanut butter made of sesame seeds instead of peanuts). I bought other things too, but they are mostly gone. The lentils and tahini remain. I kept intending to make Egyptian Red Lentil soup like my mother-in-law taught me, but we have had a really hot spring and I don't feel like eating hot lentil soup. So basically, I made hummus but subbed in lentils for the chick peas. And it is delicious. It turns out, the taste of the bean isn't really the flavor profile of hummus. The stuff you add is what gives it the flavor, and that didn't change. Although I think I might try a more Indian-inspired one next time...garam masala, coriander, etc. A few advantages of lentil hummus: 1. Nutrition (as per http://www.sparkpeople.com/food_vs_food.asp?food=76_78_chickpeas-(garbanzo)_versus_lentils). 1 cup of red lentils contains 60 fewer calories, 14 g fewer total carb, 2 g fewer fat than chick peas. They also contain 6 g MORE protein (12 vs 18 g) and 5 g MORE dietary fiber (11 vs 16 grams). Lentils are packed with nutrition. 2. Quick cooking in raw form. My red lentils boiled for less than 20 minutes. Try doing that with chick peas! And if you would use chick peas from a can as I typically do, add a huge difference in sodium to the nutrition advantage (something like 700 mg per cup vs 4 mg per cup in lentils). 3. Smoother texture. Unless you have a really great food processor, it's hard to attain the "store bought hummus" smoothness with chick peas. Lentils (slightly overcooked) made a very smooth hummus. So here is the recipe. I hope you enjoy as much as I did! Red Lentil Hummus 8 oz dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed 1/4 c tahini (sesame paste) Juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 tsp ground ginger 1 Tbsp. ground cumin 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped Put lentils in a saucepan and cover with water by about 1 inch. You can add some salt if you like (I didn't salt until later but they will turn out fine). Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer. Check them periodically starting after ten minutes. You want them to be soft but not completely falling apart. Red lentils don't take long to cook and it varies depending on how much heat is on, so just watch them and judge by taste test. When they are done, scoop them into a food processor with the garlic. Pulse them a bit to break down the beans and garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients, and salt if you haven't yet. If you know you'd like different/more spice, more lemon juice, add now. Pulse again until a smooth paste forms (about 30 seconds). Taste and adjust seasoning. If it feels a bit dry to you, you can add more lemon juice or a bit of water. Some olive oil would also loosen it and lend some more richness, but will also add to calories and fat. Mine was the perfect texture while warm but seemed to dry out a bit as it cooled, so I might add some more liquid next time. Mix-ins would be great here, too. I really like hummus with red roasted peppers blended in, or chopped Greek olives. I think both would be delicious here. Serve with pita chips or soft pita triangles, crackers, crudités, or as a sandwich spread. Since I have a bunch of corn tortillas, I will cut them in fourths and bake them dry on a cookie sheet or about 15 min on 400 degrees F for a quick baked tortilla chip, also out of the pantry!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tomato Tart with Brown Rice Crust

I ended up giving a good bit of brown rice left over from the Baked Brown Rice I posted about last week. I found a great use for it while paging through my copy of The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook by Bay Books. I adapted the recipe quite a bit, but used the Brown Rice Tart with Fresh Tomato Filling on page 148.
We've had nice weather here lately so we've been firing up the grill quite a bit. Rather than oven roasting the tomatoes, we threw them on while our chicken was grilling last night. Of course they would be delicious either way.

Tomato Tart with Brown Rice Crust

Brown rice crust:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 c shredded cheese (I used mozzarella b/c I had it)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a pie or tart pan with cooking spray. Mix rice, egg, and cheese together and press into greased pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Tomatoes:
6 Roma tomatoes, washed and halved
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Rub tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and roast in oven for 30 min. Alternately, grill on medium heat, skin side up first, for 3-5 minutes per side.


Filling:
4 large eggs
1/4 c milk
2 oz goat cheese or feta
2-3 oz basil pesto
Fresh ground black pepper

Arrange tomatoes on rice crust. Crumble goat/feta cheese over tomatoes. Beat eggs and milk together, season with pepper, and a pinch of salt if using goat cheese rather than feta. Pour egg mixture over tomatoes. Drizzle or scatter pesto over top of egg mixture and tomatoes. Bake in 350 F oven for about 30 min, until eggs are cooked through.

The leftover rice dried out a bit, which allowed it to make a crust with crunchy edges, which I really liked. This was delicious, with Mister Gurgly and Little Gurgly approving. I suspect the leftovers will make a great lunch tomorrow. Because it will be great warmed or at room temperature it is great for a brown at lunch, and would also be great picnic food if you sliced it ahead of time and wrapped each portion in some foil.

We served with a large garden salad and it is fantastic. I don't know that I would make rice for the sole purpose of making this, but I will certainly add to the rice I make so I have extra to make this.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Repurposing leftovers

As I have mentioned previously, one of my ways of saving money on groceries (or rather, affording higher quality stuff for the same as my old grocery bills) is to waste less and make good use of leftovers. Fortunately, this is something that is frequently done in restaurant kitchens, so there are lots of good professionally written recipes out there exploring this concept. Soups become gravies, sauces become stews.

One of my favorite ways to reuse leftovers is to use them as a filling. I heard once that Italians use leftovers to stuff the next nights ravioli, or the next day's calzones for lunch. I took this idea and ran with it.

My "wrapping" of choice is samosa dough, because it holds up well to fillings of all kinds (including things at are rather moist). It is also among the leaner doughs that I've found. And while samosas are typically fried, they are also wonderful baked. It's also a more passive process, not to mention neater and healthier, than frying.

Of course, savory shortcrust (pie dough), puff pastry, empanada dough, or pizza/calzone dough all work well too. Phyllo is finicky to work with but can also be a good option.

I use this recipe Inspired by Aarti Sequeira of the Food Network for my samosa dough. If I'm filling with something Indian I add the ajwain seeds. If not, I skip them.:

2 c flour
1/4 c vegetable oil (I have used canola and coconut. Coconut is great with an Indian filling)
1/2 c low fat yogurt or buttermilk
Good pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds, optional

Today I made samosas filled with leftover chicken molé. I also made a few filled with vinegary slaw that sat for a few days. I drained the vinegar but the cabbage and carrots were a bit pickly. These came out tasting a bit like egg rolls.

I rolled out the dough and cut into nine pieces. I filled each, careful not to overfill, and pinched the edges together. They mostly came out like turnovers, but one looked more like a samosa (pyramid shaped) and I'm not sure why. The edges stick together pretty well but if you want them to be pretty you can crimp with a fork.

I baked at 425 F for about 30 min, until golden.

They are delicious, and thrifty!

We had a few for lunch today, and the rest went in the freezer after baking and cooling. Depending on your filling and the size of your samosas, they can make a good appetizer for dinner guests, a quick snack if dinner will take a while, or for a workday lunch. By freezing, I was able to extend the shelf life of the chicken and slaw. They will sure beat a PB&J, or a fast food lunch, for Mr. Gurgly.

What's your favorite way to reuse leftovers?