Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baked Cauliflower Burgers

My recent veggie burger obsession is just about to an end. It's not to say that there won't be any more veggie burger recipes on this blog (I've got one more in the hopper just waiting to be published), but I've made it almost all the recipes I bookmarked in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, with most of the rest lying in wait until their feature ingredients come into season. My favorite has to be Sweet Potato Burgers with Lentils and Kale, but these burgers run a close second. Dijon-Roasted Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes of all-time so it's no surprise that these cauliflower burgers would delight my taste buds as well. The balanced combination of spicy Dijon mustard, vinegary capers, and salty, savory Parmesan takes cauliflower from a splendid side to a hearty and delicious main dish. Although best fresh out of oven amidst the intoxicating aroma of toasted bread crumbs and Parmesan, they also provided a bright spot in my day as I plucked them from my lunch bag at work, keeping me full and fueled all day long. Veggie burgers for lunch every day might seem like punishment to some, but this scrumptious collection of flavors was nothing but welcome for the six days in a row I chowed down on them. Even though my veggie burger madness is waning, I know these will be back on my table as soon as cauliflower appears in the farmer's market this summer--but make sure you don't wait that long.

Baked Cauliflower Burgers
from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
makes 6 burgers

1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons potato starch
2 eggs
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups toasted bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place the cauliflower in a steaming basket set in a small saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water, cover, and steam for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower can be effortlessly pierced with a knife. Cool slightly on a baking sheet or cutting board.

3. In a food processor, puree two-thirds of the steam cauliflower with the mustard, potato starch, eggs, and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

4. Chop the remaining cauliflower into 1/8- to 1/4-inch piece (or pulse in a food processor until roughly chopped). Add to the pureed mixture. Stir in the parsley, capers, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Fold in 1 cup of the bread crumbs. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties.

5. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and Parmesan on a plate. Gently dredge the patties int the crumbs so that they are coated on both side and the edges. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until the burgers are firm and uniformly browned.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Flax Oatmeal Cookies

When trying to decide what post to put up today, I discovered I've been hoarding all manner of cookie recipe posts. With  my recent discovery of my two new favorite workday snacks, I seemed to have forgotten all about delicious cookie recipes like this one. The perfect compromise between a healthy snack and tasty treat, this tempting cookie kept me going through many a busy workday and certainly doesn't deserve to be relegated to my library of unshared recipes. It's no revolutionary recipe, the classic combination of cranberries and walnuts uniting a slightly sweet oatmeal cookie, made tender and even more nutritious and flavorful by the use of whole wheat pastry flour. While these cookies will never be a show-stopper, this is a reliable recipe to come back to time and time again, adapting for whatever dried fruit and nut combination you have on hand. Quick to prepare and crowd-pleasing, this recipe is an easy way to sneak more whole grains and omega-3s into your diet. Take advantage of the (hopefully) last days of winter to bake up a big batch of these cookies, filling the house with tempting aromas and pure comfort.

Cranberry Walnut Flax Oatmeal Cookies
from King Arthur Flour
makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup soft butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1/2 cup whole flax meal
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, and egg until fluffy.

3. Mix in the flour, oats, flax meal and seeds, cranberries, and walnuts.

4. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes or so at room temperature, for the oats to soften. Towards the end of the rest period, preheat the oven to 350°F.

5. Scoop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each ball of dough slightly.

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool them on the baking sheets for 15 minutes or so, to allow them to set. Move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad

When the weather is warm and the farmer's market is in full-swing I become completely obsessed with creating new main-course salads. Although they still make regular appearances in my diet, in the depths of winter my culinary obsessivness is typically redirected to warm dishes like soups, or more recently, veggie burgers. The unseasonably warm weather of late has rekindled my salad obsession earlier than usual, with my first new creation of the season landing on my dinner table on Valentine's Day. My husband asked if I wanted to venture out into the crowds, but I much prefer a nice dinner at home on the days when everyone is expected to go out, so I got to work in the kitchen. Although it may not seem like salad is elaborate enough meal for a romantic dinner, this salad is so full of intensely savory flavors and luxurious ingredients that it is more than appropriate for any special occasion. Shrimp, cooked gently in bacon fat, blends deliciously with creamy, tangy goat cheese and smoky, crispy bacon on a bed of spinach, corn, and red onion, creating the perfect balance of rich and fresh flavors. The generous helping of vegetables is the perfect foil to the decadent toppings, keeping the dish light and crisp, creating a contrast that allows all of the lush components to really shine. Add a glass of wine and piece of crusty bread with butter for the perfect meal to linger over with friends, family, or that special someone, be it Valentine's Day, or just an ordinary Tuesday night.

Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad
serves 2

4 ounces bacon
8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup corn
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 ounces goat cheese
Salad dressing, for serving

1. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, turning frequently, until browned and crisp. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.

 Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat from the pan. Add shrimp to pan and cook until shrimp is translucent, taking care not to overcook (shrimp will become tough and gummy). Remove from the pan, divide between the two salads, and serve promptly with your dressing of choice.

3. Meanwhile, divide spinach evenly between two large places, topping each with half of the corn, red onion, and goat cheese. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces and sprinkle evenly over the two salads. Add the cooked shrimp, top with dressing of choice, and serve warm.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fried Tofu with Spicy Ginger Sauce

I've pretty much given up on trying to feed my husband tofu. I've snuck it in to our meals periodically over the years, and although he usually eats it without complaint, I know he's wishing there was steak instead. But when he's gone for the night, I relish the opportunity to make dishes like this for myself. I happen to enjoy the inherent texture and taste of tofu, but it's true utility is as a blank canvas for other flavors. Tofu is most successfully used (in my opinion) with vibrant Asian flavors like garlic, ginger, and hot peppers, this dish being a prime example. A bold sauce is created in short order by the simple combination of a few basic Asian ingredients, a beautiful melange of salty, sweet, and spicy flavors that soaks happily into the pan-fried tofu. Furthermore, this sauce has almost infinite utility in quick stir-fries and fried rice, catch-all dishes I make quite often to use up odds and ends of ingredients or simply because I'm in the mood. I find the contrast between the crisp outside and soft center of the fried tofu simply heavenly, but if you're not a fan of tofu, this sauce would be just as delicious over chicken. Accompanied by steamed rice and vegetables (I chose brown rice and sugar snap peas), this well-rounded dinner makes it from the stovetop to the dinner table in a snap, settling even more quickly in the bellies of delighted diners.

Fried Tofu with Spicy Ginger Sauce
adapted from Food and Wine
makes 2 main-course or 4 first-course servings

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
One 14-ounce container firm tofu
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Steamed rice, for serving

1. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce with the sugar, red pepper, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil, ginger and sesame seeds.

2. Slice the tofu crosswise into 8 thin slabs. Dry the tofu with paper towels, pressing until no moisture remains.
3. In a large skillet, heat remaining sesame oil until over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook over , turning once, until browned and crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Spoon the sauce over the fried tofu and sprinkle with the scallions. Serve with steamed rice.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cherry Whole Wheat Scones

This is, quite simply, a scone for fans of the traditional, not-terribly-sweet scone and whole grains. Since my discovery of whole wheat pastry flour I've found almost no need to use all-purpose flour. Nearly every time I've used whole wheat pastry flour where all-purpose would traditionally be used, I've found I liked the result much better, and these scones are no exception. Chewy, slightly tart dried cherries play beautifully with the nutty whole wheat flour under a dusting of crunchy cinnamon sugar in these scrumptious scones. The more I bake with whole grain flours, the greater appreciation I have for the taste of the flour itself and using it to add flavor, instead of just serving as a blank canvas, as all-purpose flour does. Whole wheat pastry flour also gives baked goods a much more tender, flaky texture so I just can't think of a reason to go back to the bland days of AP flour. I'll admit that my taste buds were trained to like whole grains from a young age, but I think nearly everyone can not only adapt, but learn to really enjoy whole grains as well, although most people probably won't ever become as fervent about them as I am.

Although I've faithfully transcribed this recipe, you'll notice that I obviously didn't cut my scones into wedges as instructed. With this soft, sticky dough I found it far easier to simply divide the dough into equal pieces and make round drop scones, but that of course, is up to you. I have no particular allegiance to either shape, and as long as there's a tender, flaky center and crisp crust on the outside, I'm happy. If cherries aren't your thing, there's no shortage of other dried fruit that would work beautifully in this recipe-currants, blueberries, cranberries or pretty much anything your heart desires. As with most scone recipes, extras will freeze nicely for breakfast-on-the-go during the week, although they will never be as delicious as they are fresh out of the oven. A freshly-baked scone, hot cup of coffee, and newspaper is my ideal way to start my Sunday, allowing myself a few moments to relax and refresh before tackling the errands of the day. Even if it isn't quite the same meditative process for you, these scones are still a tasty and nutritious way to fuel up for the day and well worth a place in your recipe collection.

Cherry Whole Wheat Scones
from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
yields 8 scones

1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a baking sheet or clay baking brick.

2. Combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the cinnamon in a cup and set aside. Sift the remaining sugar,t he flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. If any of the bran remains in your sifter be sure to add it to the flour  mixture. Add the dried cherries and stir well.

3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Reserve 1 tablespoons of the beaten eggs for later. Beat the oil and milk into the remaining eggs. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the egg mixture, and stir until just combined: The dough will be soft. Turn it onto a floured surface and pat in into a circle about 8 inches across and 1/2 inch thick.

4. Cut the circle into eight pie-shaped wedges. With a spatula, lift each wedge and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet or brick so that they're not touching. Push any errant cherries back into line. Brush the tops of the scones with the reserved egg and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar.

5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sweet Potato Burgers with Lentils and Kale

I've been pretty lucky with discovering new favorites lately, most recently with the discovery my new favorite veggie burger. Although I'm willing to deal with less than ideal structural integrity for great flavor, this burger leaves me wanting for neither and is probably the sturdiest veggie burger I've ever made. I've adored the combination of sweet potatoes and garam masala since I made these fries, those flavors beautifully uniting with savory lentils and hearty kale in this delicious veggie burger. Every co-worker of mine who has walked past my desk during lunch has commenting on the amazing aroma, so I  know it's not just me inticed with this perfect melange of veggies and spices. It's easy to get a little bored with veggie burgers when eating one for lunch everyday, but this burger remains a delightful treat for the senses each time I pluck one from my lunch bag. If you've been watching the steady stream of veggie burger recipes on this website lately, but haven't yet jumped in, try this recipe. It may require quite a bit of time in the kitchen, but your effort will be rewarded many times over and make vegetarian eating a real pleasure.

Sweet Potato Burgers with Lentils and Kale
from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way
makes six 4-inch burgers

3/4 cup French (green) lentils
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
3/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/4 cup almond meal

1. Pick through the lentils and rinse thoroughly. Bring the lentils and at least 3 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and then transfer lentils to a large mixing bowl. Coarsely mash them with a potato masher.

2. Meanwhile, steam the kale: Place the kale in a steaming basket set in a saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water, cover, and steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until completely tender. Remove the kale. When cool enough to handle, wrap in a clean kitchen cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Finely chop and set aside.

3. Place the sweet potato in the steaming basket, adding more water if necessary. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the potato is completely tender. Add the potato to the lentil, mashing thoroughly with a fork or potato masher.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

5. In a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garam masala, curry powder, and cayenne and cook until the onion is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped kale and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, tossing to combine. If a crust has formed on the base of the pan, add 2 tablespoons water and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon.

6. Mix the kale-onion mixture into the lentil mixture. Stir in the eggs, cilantro, salt, and lime juice. Fold in the bread crumbs and almond meal. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties.

7. In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shiitake, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Who doesn't love pizza? While occasionally it's a cheap sausage pizza from the grocery store that will best satisfy my craving, I more often than not like to class it up a bit with some special ingredients when I'm making pizza from scratch. When made at home, pizza can be a healthy and well-balanced meal without sacrificing soul-satisfying flavor. Shiitake mushrooms are the height of savoriness, playing beautifully with fresh spinach and goat cheese until a blanket of ooey-gooey mozzarella on a nutty whole wheat pizza crust. A born-and-bred Wisconsin girl, cheese finds it way into more of my foods than it probably should, and I particularly appreciate the contrast between the tangy pops of creamy goat cheese and browned bits of smooth mozzarella. The wilted spinach keeps the dish feeling fresh and the mushrooms pack a big punch of umami without making the pizza heavy. It's easy to get carried away with pizza toppings, but restraint is what allows each ingredient to really shine in this recipe.

An equally fine option for Meatless Monday or a cozy date night at home, this simple combination of ingredients will not leave you wanting or digging out the number for Papa John's (or preferably Glass Nickel or Roman Candle in the Madison area). Rounded out with a nice side salad (and perhaps a glass of wine?), this meal makes you feel like you're getting away with pigging out on junk food when you're really treating yourself body right, from your taste buds to your soul, a particularly apt choice on Valentine's Day.

Shiitake, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Pizza
serves 3 to 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
4 ounces spinach, washed and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 12-inch whole grain pizza crust
4 ounces pizza sauce, homemade or purchased
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Heat olive oil a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, until slightly golden and softened, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted down, 2 to 3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees or according to pizza crust directions. Spread pizza sauce evenly over crust, top with mushroom and spinach mixture, sprinkle goat cheese evenly over pizza, topping everything with the shredded mozzarella. Place pizza in oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let rest for a couple minutes, then slice into 8 wedges and serve hot.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

About a month ago, I found my new favorite snack. And just last weekend, I found my new second favorite snack. Although I'm not at all surprised that the gods of precision cooking at America's Test Kitchen have created this fantastic recipe, I just can't get enough of these delicious granola bars. The best way I can describe them is like Nature Valley peanut butter crunchy granola bars, but much better. When I'm short on time, I won't hesitate to reach for one of the Nature Valley variety, but if I can spare an hour or so, I'll be going straight for this recipe. Just one batch of these granola bars will provide me with enough mid-morning work snacks for a couple of weeks (if I don't have to share), which is well worth the couple of minutes invested for each. These granola bars are just the right combination of saltiness and sweetness, with each carefully chosen ingredient contributing something to these perfect little squares of happiness. Once I finish making my way through this initial batch, I already have plans to swap out the almonds for the peanuts and almond butter for the peanut butter for what I think will be a different, but equally tasty, riff on these granola bars. That is, if I can resist the urge to try out their chewy granola bars first...

Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
from the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
makes 16 bars

3/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse
3 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey
1/2 packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons peanut butter

1. Adjust an oven rack tot he middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with an aluminum foil sling and coat lightly with vegetable oil spray.

2. Toast the peanuts in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the oats and oil to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until golden and fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the toasted oats to the bowl with the peanuts and stir in the salt.

3. Add the honey and brown sugar to the skillet and simmer gently over medium-low heat, stirring often, until sugar is fully dissolved, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, and peanut butter.

4. Working quickly, stir the hot honey mixture into the peanut-oat mixture until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and pack very firmly into an oven layer. Bake the granola until golden, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

5. Let the granola cool for 10 minutes, then remove it from the dish using the foil and cut into 16 bars. Let the bars cool completely before serving.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Miso Soup with Shrimp

Like so many of the less-than-standard ingredients I have at home, the red miso and shiratiki noodles in my refrigerator were bought on a lark. Inspired by the many bowls of miso soup I've enjoyed while out for sushi, I make simple miso soup at home on a regular basis, but a healthy supply of miso paste still remains in the fridge without any particular destiny. I typically think of miso soup as a light side, but a recipe from Whole Foods Market inspired me to make this much more substantial dish.

Even though I used what is considered a relatively intense miso (red), but I still found this soup to be full of flavor without being overly assertive. A welcome change from my usual weekly fish/seafood dinner, this combination of delicious shrimp and fresh broccoli, accented by a touch of spice, is far more satisfying than something so surprisingly low calorie seems like it could be. Shirataki noodles, although becoming much more common in grocery stores, may be impossible to find for those not in larger cities, so feel free to use 4 ounces of udon or soba noodles (or even whole wheat spaghetti) instead (as in the original Whole Foods recipe).

In addition to relishing in the beautiful flavor profile, I was particularly delighted by how quickly this entire meal came together and that none of the ingredients need much in the way of prep. A great way for fans of Asian food to enjoy classic flavors, but also a gentle introduction to the uninitiated, this soup (or some variation thereof) is sure to make it back onto my dinner table, hopefully getting a chance to grace yours as well.

Miso Soup with Shrimp
adapted from Whole Foods Market
serves 4 as a first course or 2 to 3 as a main

6 cups vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
8 ounce package tofu shirataki noodles (I used spaghetti-style)
1/2 pound frozen peeled and deveined shrimp, uncooked
1/2 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen broccoli florets
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons miso (darker miso will have a more intense flavor; I used red)
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Cook shirataki noodles according to package directions and set aside.

2. In a large pot, bring broth to a boil. Add shrimp and broccoli, cover and simmer until shrimp are just cooked through and broccoli is bright green, 4 to 5 minutes.  During the last few minutes of cooking time, add the shirataki noodles and cook until warmed through. Meanwhile, whisk together water, miso and ginger in a medium bowl until smooth; set aside.

3. Turn off heat and uncover pot. Stir in miso mixture and green onions then transfer soup to bowls. Garnish with pepper flakes and serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Black Olives, Garlic, and Feta Cheese

Monday night is the definitely the night when I have the least ambition to make dinner. No matter how relaxing Sunday might have been and how much sleep I might have gotten, I am always dragging when I get home from work on Monday. I've also probably eaten too much less-than-healthy food over the weekend, so Monday demands a quick, healthy, preferably vegetarian meal. I adapted this recipe, originally intended to feature the fresh tomatoes of the summer, to use canned tomatoes, the best option in winter when only long-travelled anemic tomatoes can be found in supermarkets. Despite a lack of meat, this is a really satisying meal where salty olives and cheese mingle beautifully with roasted tomatoes and fresh parsley, accented perfectly by unexpected vinegar-y pops of capers. With a nice side salad and glass of wine, this meal is the perfect remedy for the frustration and exhaustion that all-too-often comes with a return to work on Monday.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Black Olives, Garlic, and Feta Cheese
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

3/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted if possible
1/2 cup Kalamata or other black olives, pitted
3 tablespoons drained capers
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until just done, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

2 .Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors are blended and sauce is warm, about 10 minutes (or really as long as you like-reduce the heat if you'd like to simmer the sauce for a long time).

3.  A few minutes before serving, add olives and capers and cook until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add parsley and cooked pasta and toss well to coat. Divide pasta between 4 bowls or plates and crumble one-fourth of the feta cheese over each. Serve warm.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Blueberry Spelt Muffins

There's nothing that makes my Sunday morning ritual of reading the newspaper and watching CBS Sunday  morning with a hot cup of coffee more special than muffins or scones fresh from the oven for breakfast. When the farmer's market isn't on the Square and I can't get a scone from my favorite healthy scone purveyor each Saturday, I like to bake something special, freezing extras to be had for weekday breakfasts. Recently I was gripped by a craving for blueberry muffins, which were more than satisfied by this healthy and flavorful recipe. For those looking to explore "alternative" flours, spelt, which pairs beautifully with berries, is a great place to start, but even if you don't have an eclectic collection of flours as I do, these are still delicious when made with whole wheat pastry flour or a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Subtly sweet, tender, and moist, these muffins are a great way to start any day, whether a relaxing weekend morning or hectic weekday, and healthy enough that you can indulge in the jumbo size without any guilt (as I did). On that note, because I made jumbo muffins instead of standard size (and my oven often seems to run a bit hotter than it should) I've left the baking instructions as written by Whole Foods, but I would encourage you to start checking the muffins early so they don't dry out. A solid version of an old standard, these muffins are sure to please almost any palate and a great way to get your family to enjoy whole grains.

Blueberry Spelt Muffins
makes 1 dozen regular-size muffins, or 6 jumbo muffins
from Whole Foods Market

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) softened butter or canola oil, plus more for greasing the pan
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners. In a large bowl, cream together butter or oil and sugar. Stir in applesauce, eggs, orange juice and vanilla.

2. In a second large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, zest and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter-egg mixture until just combined. Gently stir in blueberries. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thai Carrot Burgers

This has been one of those weeks at work where the demands on my time never seem to cease. During those weeks when work is particularly chaotic, having a delicious and nutritious lunch is more important than ever, particularly if it doesn't take me very long to throw together at night. One of my favorite solutions to this problem is whipping up a batch of veggie burgers on the weekend for lunches during the week. My recently rekindled obsession with veggie burgers (thanks Moosewood!) has led to me start tackling the long list of bookmarked recipes I haven't yet made from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, starting with Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Burgers and most recently leading me to these vibrantly flavored Thai Carrot Burgers. Fans of the cuisine of Southeast Asia will be delighted by this melange of sweet, spicy, fresh, and earthy flavors, reveling in the cloud of spices that fills the kitchen while these burgers are cooking. Sweet carrots play beautifully with the spicy serrano,  rich and creamy peanut butter, and fresh cilantro in this powerfully aromatic burger that has more flavor than anything that healthy has a right to. Although best fresh out of the oven, these will still delight even if (unideally) frozen and reheated in the work microwave. As corny as it sounds, even when life is crazy, try not to lose yourself in the shuffle-staying healthy and energized with meals like this is the best way to make it through.

Thai Carrot Burgers
from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
makes four 6-inch burgers

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch scallions, including one inch into the dark green parts, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped (seeded or not, depending on your personal heat threshold)
4 cups grated carrots (about 8 medium size carrots)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
Juice of 1/2 lime 
1/4 cups roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat a large lidded saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When hot, add the scallions and cook just until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile pepper and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the carrots, salt, coriander, tumeric, and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the carrots are soft but not mushy.

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, peanut butter, and lime juice. Stir in the carrot mixture and the cilantro. Fold in the bread crumbs. Let sit for about 10 minutes, allowing the crumbs to absorb some of the liquid. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 4 patties.

4. In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned each side, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.