Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home sick

A conversation after returning to work from a sick day:

Co-worker: Are you feeling better? I heard you were coming down with strep or something.

Me: Yeah, feeling worlds better. It's amazing what a Z-pack will do.

Co-worker: Yeah, it seems to be going around the schools. Did you get it from your kids?

Me: [blink]

Co-worker: Oh, right. You don't have kids.

Me: No... but I have a dog.

Tortilla Soup

I think I need an intervention. A Monday night intervention.

Because this is what my Monday night looks like.

This week, on the Bachelor, several of the girls learned what baseball is.

We also learned that honesty is not the best policy-- in fact, it may get your rose thrown into the ocean.

But that's okay.  There's always soup to make you feel better when you get back to the real world.

Hearty, wholesome, tortilla soup. Super easy. Super comforting when you get loaded in to the van at the end of a rose ceremony (hey, we all live vicariously somehow, right?)

And, of course, tortilla chips. I'm pretty sure that I downed the majority of this bag while at my friends' house. So good.

Crushed chips go into the soup to thicken it up...

A bit of cooking time, and you're ready to eat up over the next commercial break!

Tortilla Soup

Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
1 red pepper, diced and seeded
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
24 oz can chopped tomatoes
24 oz vegetable broth
4 oz tortilla chips, crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can sweet corn
4 tsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a stock pot, sautee onions, jalapeños, and red pepper until onions are translucent.

Add garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook an additional minute.

Add tomatoes, stock, and tortilla chips. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Add pinto beans, corn, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and more chips.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cucumber, mushroom, and quinoa salad with a warm balsamic vinaigrette

I want french fries. A chipotle burrito bowl. Some salted caramel ice cream. Oh, and a peppermint mocha. All in one sitting.

That's my red flag that there's something wrong (stress much?). I want flavorful food, and I want it fast.

This recipe is quick (read: 15 minutes), warm, filling, salty, sweet, and cool. Hits everything I want, with much less driving.

Make a big batch of this the Sunday before a big week and reheat and eat throughout the week. The flavors get better with time.

4 cups cooked quinoa
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 persian cucumbers, roughly chopped
2 cups mushrooms, cooked and sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Toss quinoa, mushrooms, and cucumbers together in a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, combine oil, vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss dressing with salad. Heat (if quinoa isn't freshly cooked) and serve!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quick dark chocolate pudding

Some days you find yourself running around nonstop-- class, gym, research, meetings-- for 14 hours.

Those are the days that you come home and immediately start looking for chocolate.

This pudding is dark, chocolatey, and comes together quickly. More importantly, it sets while warm and tastes better warm... which means you can put it in your face faster.

Oh, and it's fat free. No biggie.

Chocolate Pudding

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 cups skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients with milk in a deep saucepan. Cook over medium heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly until boiling. Lower heat and continue to cook, stirring constantly for an additional three to five minutes. Pour into serving cups, top with fresh berries, and eat immediately.

Or, you know, be civilized and let it chill in the fridge.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Apple, gouda, and mushroom pita sandwiches

After a week of trying new recipes, I had a fridge full of random ingredients. Mushrooms, gouda, cabbage... Not things I typically use on a daily basis.

This is a story of a meal that came together from the remnants at the back of my fridge. A lone sweet potato?

Boom. Oven fries.

Cabbage and mushrooms? Boom. Pita filling.

Oddly, it worked. The gouda and sliced apple are a classic flavor pairing, and the addition of a balsamic mushroom-cabbage salad gave the whole sandwich a nice earthiness.

Moral of the story: get in the kitchen and experiment! You never know when you might create a new staple recipe.

Apple, gouda, and mushroom pita sandwiches with sweet potato fries

1 apple, sliced
1/4 cup shredded gouda
1 cup cabbage
1 cup mushrooms
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 whole wheat pita
1 sweet potato

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice sweet potato into fry shapes. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the farm... Sautee mushrooms and cabbage with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender and cabbage is wilted.

Assemble the sandwich: cut the pita in half, fill each half with sliced apple,  shredded gouda, and mushroom-cabbage salad. Serve hot alongside the sweet potato fries.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mardi Gras Skinny Red Beans

It's that time of year again. Mardi Gras.

Beads. Babies hidden in king cakes. Crazy drunken festivities.

Oh. And the food.

Normally, cajun/creole-style red beans are loaded with flavor... and fat (BACON!). Here, I tackled a recipe for a slimmed down, vegetarian version.

As always, start by cooking down onions and garlic.

Add in other veggies, beans, and simmer. 

Just walk away. Fold your laundry. Play fetch with your dog.

Come back, and dinner's ready! This was so good, it's definitely joining my arsenal of go-to recipes.

Mardi Gras Skinny Beans

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped carots
1 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes (including juice)
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add carrots, bell peppers, and spices and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve over rice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

White bean and roasted red pepper dip

I love hummus. Probably more than any human should. It's a daily staple for me-- along with sliced cucumber and baby carrots.

After seeing this recipe for a white bean and red pepper spread in my handy Moosewood book, I decided to try departing from my normal go-to hummus. 

Trust me-- I was afraid. All my prior attempts at homemade hummus have failed, and resulted in me running right back to Trader Joe's to pick up a tub of their magical hummus-y goodness.

This recipe couldn't be any easier.

White beans, roasted red pepper, parsley, garlic, and spices.

Stick it in a blender and go!

All in all, it turned out pretty well. Very different flavor, but equally creamy and delicious. Snack of champions!

White bean and roasted red pepper spread

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

1 16 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste

Combine all ingredients except for seasoning in a food processor. Pulse until creamy. Season as desired, and pulse again. Serve with fresh, crisp veggies or pita chips.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Orange-pecan brownies

There isn't a single problem in the world that can't be solved with brownies.

Argument with a colleague? Bring brownies in the next morning. Argument? What argument?

Forgot someone's birthday? Bake up a pretty batch of chocolatey heaven, pack in a pretty tin, and extend the celebration.

Bawling while watching last week's episode of Grey's Anatomy? Put a brownie in your pie-hole to stifle the sobs.

These brownies are adapted from my go-to baking book, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, and More by Carol Walters. She is a genius. The original recipe is so simple and perfect, and makes the richest brownies I've ever had.

But I can't leave well enough alone. I had to go and add orange extract.

Real brownies involve actual chocolate and butter. Not cocoa powder and oil.

Combine eggs, sugar, and extracts.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Or, if you're like me, just break out a pot filled with water and a bowl.

I just want to take a bath in this!

Slowly stir chocolate mixture into egg mixture.

Slowly add flour...

Then chopped pecans...

Bake and enjoy!

This tastes like the brownie equivalent of one of those chocolate oranges that you smash with a hammer into pieces. Only better.

Orange-pecan brownies

Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, and More

2 sticks butter, softened
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler until smooth and combined.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, eggs, extract, and salt. Slowly stir in chocolate mixture. Add flour slowly and stir until well mixed. Fold in chopped pecans.

Spread batter in a buttered 9x13 pan. Bake for 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs. Don't over bake (that's the worst!).

Allow brownies to cool for an hour or two before cutting. Serve with a tall glass of milk.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Curried squash

Fact: Winter has finally hit Minnesota. Snow. Below zero weather. Wind chill advisories.

Fact: Curried squash is an excellent, warm dish to curl up with on the couch in such weather while watching 27 Dresses for the umpteenth time.

Fact: This dish didn't even make it to the couch. I stood over the stove, eating the squash while it was cooking in the pan.

Eventually it made it to a bed of lettuce for some photographic evidence of completion of said recipe. But only so you wouldn't think that I stood over the stove eating like the crazy single lady that I am.

Curried Squash

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tbsp yellow curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
Sriracha (to taste)
1 pound butternut squash, cubed
2 cups chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

In a skillet, sauté the onions in the canola oil, curry powder, and cumin. Once softened, add tomatoes and squash cubes. Cover and let simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Season with sriracha, salt, and pepper to taste. Eat out of the pan, or serve over lettuce with naan, if you can wait that long.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lime Thai fried rice

Confession: I love takeout. 

Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian. You name it, I'll put it in my face.

The only downside of ordering takeout? Leftover rice.

I hate throwing out food. It wasn't until today, when I was flipping through a cookbook, that I found out that day old rice is awesome for fried rice.

Tons of fresh veggies, lime juice, rice vinegar, and curry powder. Perfection.

Oooh, I love produce!

Sautee olive oil, onions, garlic, and curry powder until soft.

Throw in the rest of the veggies and cook until tender.

Throw in the rice and dressing, and boom! Thai fried rice.

Lime Thai fried rice

1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp curry powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup diced red pepper
5 cups day-old cooked rice (any kind-- I used brown basmati)
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup pea sprouts
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp sriracha

In a skillet, sautee onions, garlic, and curry powder together in oil. Add in the carrots, cabbage, and pepper; cover and cook until tender (5 minutes). Add in all other ingredients and cook, stirring constantly until rice is heated.

Serve immediately with a slice of lime and additional soy sauce.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Asian tofu salad

It's the middle of January. Our resolutions are starting to fall apart already (or, at least, mine are). I resolved to "eat clean," meaning less added sugar and processed, pre-packaged foods. 

Definitely lost that battle Monday night while watching "The Bachelor" and eating Chinese takeout with two friends. 

Oh, and chocolate-covered toffee with sea salt. But that was necessary. 

Oh, and then there was the spoonful of almond butter when I got home...

So now, I'm ready to get back on track. Aren't you?

I mean, we had to have something to go with that asian cucumber slaw, right?

This salad is quick, light, refreshing, and easy. It takes under five minutes to assemble, and keeps extremely well in the fridge for several days.

It's as simple as mixing up a dressing, crumbling sprouted tofu into it, and tossing.

That wasn't that hard, was it? Now just throw it over some quinoa, top with slaw, and boom! Dinner of champions.

Asian tofu salad

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sriracha (chili sauce)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cake sprouted firm tofu, drained and dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Combine all dressing ingredients until well mixed. Crumble tofu into dressing. Add parsley and toss.

Serve atop rice, quinoa, or a green salad. For the win.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Asian-style cucumber slaw

Have you ever wanted to eat a color?

Don't give me that look. Go on this journey with me, and you'll understand.

A few days ago, I woke up before sunrise to go to work, and it was snowing. All I wanted to do was cuddle my puppy and eat green. I don't mean environmentally friendly-- I mean the color.

Try this slaw, and you'll understand. Trust.

Halve and seed a cucumber.

Slice it into pretty crescents.. Try not to eat too many of them while you're assembling this slaw. I say this because I started with a whole cucumber and ended up with... well, half a cucumber in the recipe.

Add the juice of one lime. More green.

A teaspoon of brown sugar for balance in the dressing. (Yes, that's totally chalkboard paint and chalk on my brown sugar container. And yes, my handwriting is that bad).

Add sprouts.

Toss with the dressing and serve as a side or put on top of your favorite main course!

See? Eating green.

Asian cucumber slaw

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and seeded
1/2 cup pea sprouts
1 tbsp green chiles, chopped
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce

Slice cucumber halves into crescents. Mix with chiles and sprouts and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine all other ingredients. Pour dressing over cucumber mixture and toss. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. 

Serve atop your favorite entree (I like it over a quinoa salad).