Thursday, April 29, 2010

Falafel Patty Melt

In my quest to find more vegetarian meals, I tried out this recipe from the current issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I didn't see the need to heat up the oven just to melt cheese on the bread before adding the falafel patties, so I just melted the cheese on the patties in the frying pan. I also added some delicious cremini mushrooms from the farmer's market instead of the tomatoes suggested in BH&G (anyone who knows me can speak to how much I detest raw tomatoes). This is an easy, healthy recipe that I would be an excellent substitute for a meat dish for dinner.

Falafel Patty Melt
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, May 2010

1/2 c. frozen peas
One 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 T. olive oil
8 slices dilled Havarti cheese (4 to 6 oz.)
4 flatbreads or pita bread
Romaine leaves and sliced mushrooms (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place peas in a 1-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover and cook on 100% power (high) 2 minutes. In food processor bowl or with an immersion blender, puree garbanzo beans, carrot, flour, 1 T. of the olive oil, 1/2 t. pepper, and 1/4 t. salt. Stir in peas. Form mixture into 4 patties.

2. Heat remaining oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until browned and heated through.

3. Once browned, place 1 slice of cheese on top of each patty in frying pan and heat until the cheese melts, a few minutes. Place in pitas or flatbread and top with lettuce and sliced mushrooms.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seared Salmon with Jalapeno Ponzu

I've recently trying fish again for the first time and many years and discovered that I like it (at least salmon and tilapia) and I've trying to incorporate it into my diet. So far, that's mostly consisted of pan-frying salmon and tilapia filets in a little butter and seasoning them with salt and pepper. Fish filets are a quick and healthy dinner and I've been looking for easy recipes to dress them up a bit, like this one. If you're not a fan of jalapenos, just leave them out and you'll still have an fast, delicious dinner.

When you buy fish, look for the Marine Stewardship Council certification, which means that the fish was sustainably harvested. If you're thinking it's going to be too expensive, I bought Market Pantry Salmon from Target with the Marine Stewardship Council certification (and it was on sale too!).

Seared Salmon with Jalapeno Ponzu
from Cooking Light, May 2010

yields 4 servings

1/4 c. less-sodium soy sauce
2 T. fresh orange juice
2 T. mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. dark sesame oil
Four (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 large jalapeno pepper, cut crosswise into thin slices

1. Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, skin side down; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Arrange 1 fillet on each of 4 plates. Top fillets evenly with jalapeno slices. Spoon about 2 T. soy sauce mixture over each serving; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Seasoned Salt

Tonight our dinner was nearly completely local, which I'm rather proud of. I was able to make a meat-and-potatoes dinner that is my husband's favorite kind of meal from nearly total local sources. We had cheeseburgers made with organic, grass-fed ground beef from Grassy Way Organics with local Hook's smoked cheddar cheese, local greens and tomatoes from the farmer's market on whole-wheat buns from Clasen's Bakery (which is right to where I work) and roasted fingerling potatoes (from the farmer's market). Although I don't know where the bakery gets its ingredients (and they're probably not local) and our condiments were not local, I feel pretty good about what I put together for dinner.

If you are able to spend the money, I highly recommend spending the extra money for grass-fed beef. Grass-fed meat tastes...well, more meaty. I was able to buy two pounds of grass fed beef for only $4/pound at the farmer's market. I wasn't quite ready to spend $17.50/lb for steak, so I started with a something very affordable. I'd rather spend more money for a small amount of really high-quality local meat than have unlimited cheap ground beef and factory farm chicken breasts.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Seasoned Salt
from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics

A copper gratin dish or cast-iron skillet is ideal for roasting potatoes, but a rimmed baking sheet works equally well. To ensure the potatoes cook evenly, slice larger ones in half lengthwise and leave smaller ones whole.

2 t. coarse salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/4 t. finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 t. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1.5 lbs. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a large oven proof gratin dish or skillet in the oven 15 minutes. Combine the salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl.

2. Toss the potatoes in a medium bowl with the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with the seasoned salt mixture, and arrange the potatoes in a single layer in the preheated pan. Roast until they are golden on the outside and tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and serve hot with additional seasoned salt on the side.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Vegetable Carbonara

I picked this dish out of the most recent issue of Cooking Light for a number of reasons-first, it looked delicious! No matter how healthy something is, I'm not going to eat it if it's isn't tasty. It's also really healthy and used the asparagus and eggs I got from the farmer's market this weekend. I'm also working on eating less meat, and this only has a few slices of bacon, which lends a lot of flavor without a ton of calories. I also happened to have everything else on hand with the exception of the red pepper and I'm working out cleaning out our cabinets and refrigerator a bit, so it was really a perfect storm of reasons to make this dish. And I definitely didn't regret it! 

If you don't want to spend the money for pecorino Romano cheese, grated Parmesan will work almost as well. I also recommend using farm-fresh eggs if possible since they are much more flavorful than the supermarket ones and will make the sauce richer.
Spring Vegetable Carbonara
from Cooking Light, May 2010

makes 4 servings (about 1.75 c. each)

1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
12 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. uncooked cavatappi or fusilli pasta
1/2 c. (2 oz.) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 c. chopped seeded red bell pepper

1. Cook peas and asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water; drain. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 c. cooking liquid. Combine pasta and vegetables.

2.  Combine cheese and the next 3 ingredients (through eggs) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add hot cooking liquid to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally.  Remove back from pan, reserving 1 T. drippings in pan. Add bacon to pasta mixture. Cook bell pepper in drippings for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta mixture; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove pan from heat and stir in egg mixture. Return pan to low heat; cook for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly, stirring constantly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

I've had this recipe bookmarked ever since I got the May issue of Martha Stewart Living. Rhubarb made it's first appearance at the farmer's market this week and I immediately thought of this cake when I picked up a pound of some beautiful organic rhubarb early Saturday morning. I feel lucky to live in the city with the country's largest producer-only farmer's market every time I go there and love letting what is available there dictate most of my meal plan for the week.

As much as I like rhubarb and strawberry-rhubarb pie, I would pick this cake over pie any day. I love the soft, tart layer of rhubarb on top that melts into a dense, buttery cake on the bottom, ending with a satisfying crunch of streusel-like crust. It goes great with a cup of tea or coffee or makes a great dessert on its own.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
from Martha Stewart Living, May 2010

makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
Coarse salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for buttering pan
1 lb. rhubarb, trimmed and cut on a very sharp diagonal about 1/2 inch thick
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
Coarse salt
1/2 t. finely grated orange zest plus 1 T. fresh orange juice
2 large eggs
1 c. sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the topping: Stir together butter, flour, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until moist and crumbly.

2. Make the cake: Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Dot with 4 tablespoons butter (cut into pieces). Toss rhubarb with 3/4 cup sugar; let stand for 2 minutes. Toss again, and spread in pan.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Beat remaining stick butter and cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in zest and juice. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, until smooth. Spread evenly over rhubarb. Crumble topping evenly over batter.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and top springs back when touched, about 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Portabella Mushroom Melts

In general, I'm not a fan of recipes for sandwiches. Do people really need instructions on what to put on bread? Occasionally I'll come across a worthwhile sandwich recipe, but most of the time they just seem obvious. Even though it's not something I'd normally do, I'm presenting a sandwich recipe today because it's true to the way I'm approaching food right now. First of all, it's a vegetarian meal. I'm really trying to cut down on my meat consumption, both for health and because of the environmental impact. I'm also trying harder to embrace local products (again for health and the environmental impact); the mushrooms, bread, spinach, and cheese all came from the farmer's market. I am fortunate to live in Madison, home of the country's largest producer-only farmer's market, so I am never at a loss for local ingredients. Now that the farmer's market is back outside for the summer (and thus much larger than the indoor winter farmer's market), much of my cooking inspiration will come directly from what I find at the farmer's market each week. In addition to being healthier and better for the environment, food from the farmer's market just tastes better and I feel good supporting my local economy. I can't begin to say how much I missed the Dane Country Farmer's Market during my years in Iowa.

I don't have any specific measurements in this recipe other than two mushrooms, because the perfect sandwich is different for each person. I say throw whatever veggies like and have in the fridge on the sandwich and top with your favorite cheese and condiments. Who can go wrong with good bread, a pile of veggies, and a delicious cheese?

Portabella Mushroom Melts
serves 2

Four slices good quality bread (I used caraway rye from Cress Spring Bakery)
Butter or olive oil
Mayo or Miracle Whip
Two whole portabella mushrooms, thoroughly washed with stems removed
Green peppers, thinly sliced
Red onions, thinly sliced
Spinach, washed
Sliced cheese (I used raw milk cheese; swiss or white cheddar would also be good)

1. Preheat broiler. Spread butter or oil over the bread and toast under the broiler until the bread is golden brown, a few minutes. Remove bread from oven and spread with mayo.

2. Place mushrooms on bread and top with desired vegetables and cheese. Put back under broiler until cheese is melted, a few minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa Salad

I'm always looking for more satisfying and healthy vegetarian dishes to try. I too often eat chicken, ground beef, and pork because they are cheap and easy to prepare sources of protein, but it would be better for my health and the earth if I cut down on meat consumption. I don't eat as most meat as most people, but I would still like to eat less. I adapted this recipe from a recipe in the May 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine, adding some more vegetables and using ground cumin instead of cumin seeds, since that's what I had on hand.

Although quinoa isn't a grain most people have in the pantry, it has been growing in popularity in recent years. Quinoa comes from South America and was once held sacred by the Incas. It is high in protein, fiber, and iron and contains a balanced set of amino acids unlike wheat or rice. Next time you're thinking of having rice or couscous, try quinoa instead.

Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa Salad
adapted from Santa Fe Quinoa Salad from Food and Wine, May 2010

makes 4 servings

3/4 c. quinoa
1.5 c. water
Kosher salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
2 T. fresh lime juice
6 T. canola oil
Freshly ground pepper
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (with jalapenos, if you can find them)
One 15-ounce can corn, rinsed and drained
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 c. finely chopped cilantro
One 3-ounce jar cocktail onions, drained and finely chopped (raw white/yellow onions would also work)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet; refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

2. Whisk together cumin, lime juice, and oil until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the dressing into a bowl and add the black beans, corn, bell pepper, cilantro, and cocktail onions. Scrape the quinoa into the bowl, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Memphis Sweet Potato Fries

I still had sweet potatoes left over after last week's attempt at sweet potato fries, so I thought I'd give a new recipe a try. Last week I went about as basic as you can get, so I decided to try one that is a little more complex, though by no means complicated. I'm always looking for more healthful substitutions to make in my diet, and sweet potato instead of regular potato fries is one I can easily get behind. These fries are salty and sweet and an excellent companion to burgers, brats, and myriad other things. I added a final dusting of freshly ground sea salt once the came out of the oven, but it is by no means necessary. Try them-you won't be disappointed!

Memphis Sweet Potato Fries
from Patrick and Gina Neely, via Food Network

4 T. olive oil
1 t. paprika
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch wide strips
1/2 t. salt
2 T. brown sugar

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, paprika and cinnamon. Toss the potato strips into mixture, to coat well, and spread onto baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and brown sugar.

3. Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic Hummus

Hummus is my dip of choice for veggies. Ranch dressing and sour cream-based dips are good, don't get me wrong, but hummus is so much healthier and has a much more interesting flavor. It's so simple that I thought it was about time to try making it myself. I also got a new KitchenAid food processor last week and this is a great recipe to test it out. Roasted red pepper hummus is my favorite, but I always like to start with the basics. This recipe couldn't be easier, so there's really no excuse to buy it from the store anymore.

This hummus is a little thinner than I like; next time I'll probably use 3/8 cup of olive oil instead of the full 1/2 cup. This is a recipe where the flavor of the olive oil really comes through, so don't skimp on quality. Tahini (sesame seed paste) should be available in the ethnic food section of most grocery stores. It is somewhat expensive, but it doesn't take very much to add that wonderful sesame flavor. In the future I plan on adding other ingredients like roasted red peppers or olives to make the hummus a little more interesting.

Classic Hummus
from Food and Wine

1 c. cooked chickpeas, drained
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Gradually add the olive oil until incorporated. Season the hummus with salt and pepper and scrape it into a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve or use.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad

I sure seem to have a knack for planning more labor-intensive dishes on days I end up having to work late. But even if I could really have used a sous chef today, all the effort was worth it when I had a flavorful and healthy meal.

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad
from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

serves 6
2 T. peanut butter
3 T. rice-wine vinegar
1 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. honey
2 T. fresh lime juice, plus 6 lime wedges for garnish
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. freshly grated ginger
1 T. peanut oil
2 T. finely chopped fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
1 quart homemade chicken stock or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock, skimmed of fat
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 lb. rice vermicelli or capellini pasta
1 cucumber, seeded, cut into 3-inch-long matchsticks
2 carrots, cut into 3-inch-long matchsticks
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Place peanut butter, 1 T. rice-wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, 1 T. lime juice, garlic, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Set the peanut sauce aside until ready to use.

2. Whisk together the remaining 2 T. rice-wine vinegar, the remaining 1 T. lime juice, the peanut oil, and mint in a small bowl and set the vinaigrette aside.

3. Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan; cover and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer about 15 minutes, until chicken is completely cooked. Remove chicken from pan, and set aside to cool, reserving stock. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces, and toss with reserved peanut sauce.

4. Add 3 cups water to the stock, cover, and return to a boil. Add the vermicelli, and cook, uncovered, until al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain, and toss with the reserved vinaigrette.

5. Divide noodles, cucumber, red pepper, carrots, red onion, and chicken among six bowls, and garnish with the mint sprigs and lime wedges. Serve.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Burgers and fries are a natural pair, but I was looking for something a little healthier and more imaginative to go with Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers, so I opted for sweet potato fries. This recipe couldn't be simpler, but it is important to cut the fries into matchsticks with square ends or you'll end with with blackened ends that are very unappealing. These fries will get black spots all over the outside, but they don't taste burnt (with the exception of crispy ends that weren't cut square).

Sweet Potato "Fries"
from Ellie Krieger

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled (2 medium potatoes)
1 T. canola oil
1/2 t. salt, plus more, to taste
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick matchsticks, and toss with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake until the "fries" are tender and crisp, about 30 minutes.

3. Season with additional salt, to taste. Serve immediately.

Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers

I put this recipe together because I had thawed some ground turkey and was looking for something more imaginative than spaghetti with ground turkey in the sauce. It is inspired by Basil Pan Burgers, a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which I've made a lot in the past. I served them with Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers

makes 4 burgers

1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese
2 T. fine dry bread crumbs
2 T. ketchup
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey

1. In a medium bowl combine egg, onion, blue cheese, bread crumbs, ketchup, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add turkey; mix well. Shape turkey mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties.
2. Lightly coat a heavy skillet with cooking spray (or use a heavy nonstick skillet). Preheat skillet over medium-high until hot. Add burgers. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until temperature measures 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, flipping burgers once halfway through cooking. If burgers brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium low. Serve on buns with desired toppings

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Laine's Chicken Salad

I threw this together last night because I had thawed a chicken breast without exact plans for it and didn't want anything warm for dinner, as we have been enjoying some beautiful, summer-like weather. The measurements may not be perfect as I wasn't measuring anything as I was putting it together, but it turned out pretty well anyway. Sometimes it's good to just follow your instincts! I may work on developing this further in the future.

Laine's Chicken Salad
makes 2 sandwiches

1 chicken breast, cooked, cooled, and diced
1/2 celery stalk, diced
2 T. diced onion
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped, or 1 t. dried
1/2 c. Miracle Whip or mayo
1-2 T. coarse mustard, such as Dijon or Polish 
Juice from 1/2 a lemon (freshly squeezed is preferable)
Freshly ground pepper

1. Combine the cooked chicken, celery, diced onion, and parsley in a bowl. Toss to combine.

2. Combine the mayo, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and stir well to combine. (Alternatively, you can just add all the sauce ingredients directly to the first bowl and stir well to combine, but combining them in a separate bowl first makes sure they are evenly distributed). Add to bowl with chicken and stir well to combine all ingredients. Serve on wheat or multi-grain bread.