Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stuck in a Rut; or, Gingered, Cinnamony Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Parsnips, and Apples

It's been such a long, long, long week-- and it's only Thursday.

Normally, I'm all about being in the kitchen and trying several new recipes every week. When things get tough, though, my major food groups become:


So now it's time to slow down-- get some more color and less beige in my life. How about... some orange?

Simple, quick, and instantly gratifying. AND it doesn't come in a paper cup or tinfoil.

Gingered, Cinnamony Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

1/2 pound braeburn apples, peeled and diced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1/4 cup vegetable broth
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

In a medium pot, heat apples, sweet potatoes, and water. Add salt, cover, and allow to cook 20 minutes. Stir, add water as needed, and cook 20 more minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and puree using an immersion blender. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A hole in my fridge; or, Lemon-Lime Ginger Poppyseed Muffins

My conversation over lunch with one of my BFFs went something like this:

Me: You know how money burns a hole in some people's pockets?

BFF: Yeah...

Me: Well, butter burns a hole in my fridge.

BFF: You're weird...

My point is, if I have butter in my fridge, I must use it ASAP! It's a sickness.

Maybe I was secretly dropped on my parents' doorstep by Paula Deen, though I'd hate to think I have that hair in my future.

These muffins are truly a breakfast food-- though I'm always up for eating cake for breakfast.

Lemon and lime zest, poppyseeds, and freshly grated ginger. Woah.

If it sounds like I was just trying to empty my fruit/spice drawer... you're partially right. Don't judge these before you try them, though-- the lemon-lime-ginger combination is super refreshing, and the poppyseeds at a nice crunch to the dense pastry.

I love when you can see the zest-- so pretty!

Lemon-Lime Ginger Poppyseed Muffins

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

2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppyseeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, unsalted, slightly softened
4 teaspoons each grated lemon zest and lime zest
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Place muffin liners in muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Set aside.

Cream butter, zests, ginger, and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well.

In another bowl, combine the extracts and milk. Add dry and wet mixtures to butter mixtures, alternating.

Scoop batter into muffin cups (I like to use an ice cream scoop to ensure that all muffins are the same size). Bake 25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool, and serve with a cup of green tea.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Life gets in the way; or Garlic Mushrooms and Kale

Time for some real talk.

As most biomedical scientists here in the US know, funding for research has been getting cut over the past few years. Doesn't bode well for those of us who are up and coming, which means that it's even more important to get funded early and establish yourself ASAP.

So that's where I've been all week. Writing my first grant. And boy, has it been a doozy.

To get me through this, I've been relying on real brain food, like this sautéed kale and mushroom dish...

And Edy's Slow Churned French Silk Ice Cream. Because that's TOTALLY brain food, too, right?

Throw some seitan over the top, and it's a complete meal!

Promise, I'll be back up in your RSS feed soon!

Garlic Mushrooms and Kale

Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb kale, sliced into pieces
1/2 cup water
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp sriracha

Preheat the oil in a deep skillet. Cook garlic for one to two minutes, until fragrant. Add the mushroom and cook until browned. Add in the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until kale is wilted. Serve right from the skillet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Curried Spinach and Chickpeas

Sometimes, when I'm working in lab, I feel the urge to shout


Yeah. I'm weird.

But somehow, it seems as though things always go horribly wrong whenever I stop and become aware of what I'm actually doing (i.e., if I overthink something while working with cells, the cells are bound to kick it within a few hours).

What drives me bonkers is when my co-workers (as much as I love them) tell me to think of a protocol as "just like cooking."

I'm sorry. It's not "just like cooking." It's cancer cells, and fetal calf serum, and chemotherapeutic drugs. It costs way more money than spinach and chickpeas, I can't taste it to season it and make sure the balance of ingredients is right, and I certainly can't eat it when it's done.

So it's nice to come home every night and be able to follow a recipe where I can use my senses to make sure everything is in balance.

Speaking of balance... No idea what this bear is doing with its arms:

So few things in life go smoothly and come with instructions that can be fudged to satisfy you and you alone.

Put down the phone and the takeout menu, and make this 7-ingredient dinner that will both satiate your hunger and validate your existence.

Okay, well, at least I know the former to be true.

Curried Spinach and Chickpeas

Adapted from the 10 Things You Need to Eat

3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp honey
1 cup vegetable stock
One 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
16 oz bag frozen spinach, thawed

Heat the oil in a skillet; add onions and cook until translucent. Add in curry powder and honey, and stir until combined. Add in the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste, and serve immediately.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cranberry Citrus Poppyseed Shortbread Cookies

"I've given up chocolate for lent."

That's the response I've gotten to so many things I've made this week. So many dark, delicious baked goods neglected. I tried to give them a good home, but there's only so many cupcake/brownie/cookie dinners you can have.

So I've decided to give up chocolate. For one recipe.

These slice and bake shortbread cookies are simple and not too sweet. The flavors layer really nicely, and the baked dough has a nice, crumbly crunch to it.

Not going to lie-- I had way too much fun slicing these and seeing what patterns the poppy seeds and cranberries made.

No chocolate. All flavor town. Perfect for those who can't have chocolate.

If you gave up sweets... I got nothin'.

Cranberry Citrus Poppyseed Shortbread Cookies

 Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon extract
2 tsp orange zest
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp poppy seeds

In a medium bowl, combine the four and salt. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar for two minutes; add in egg, yolk, and lemon extract, and beat another two minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add the rest of the ingredients and dry mix to the butter mixture all at once. Combine well on low speed.

Divide dough in half and place each on a sheet of wax paper (I was out, so I used foil). Press each into a 1-inch diameter log, roll up, twist ends, and place in refrigerator for 3-12 hours.

To bake, preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheet with foil. Using a sharp knife, slice dough into 1/3 inch thick rounds. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until edges are barely golden brown. Remove, allow to cool a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mushroom Minestrone Soup

Sometimes, the going gets tough.

And when the going gets tough...

The tough make soup.

Yes, it's been gorgeous outside, but I'm not ready to give up on soup just get. Especially when it's so simple and made from pantry and fridge staples.

So what are you waiting for? Get on it!

Mushroom Minestrone Soup

Adapted from Cook Without A Book: Meatless Meals

2 vegetable bouillion cubes
2 quarts water
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can Cannellini beans, not rinsed
1/2 cup ditalini pasta
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
Salt and Pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the celery, carrots, and onions; cook until tender.

In a separate pot, heat water until boiling. Stir in bouillon cube until dissolved.

To the vegetables, add the Italian seasoning and red peppers; cook 1 minute. Add all of the rest of the ingredients. Cook 15 minutes, or until pasta is tender and vegetables are cooked through. Serve with nice, crusty bread.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lemon Maple Quickbread

Every holiday season growing up, I received an ugly sweater or themed pajamas from my relatives. Things that are well-intentioned, but will never get worn, and ultimately end up at the back of the drawer or the bottom of a donation bag.

When I received the The Sugar Bush Connection, I thought it would be the cookbook equivalent of those pajamas. It has been tucked away on my bookshelf for years, much like the clothes at the back of the drawer.

Sometimes, though, when I haven't done laundry for weeks on end because I'm drowning in coursework, those pajamas come out, and, inevitably, they end up being one of my favorite things to wear.

This cookbook was no different. On a stressful weekend, I reached into my cupboard, pulled out this tome, and began to page through recipe on recipe of maple-based concoctions.

With my friend Aaron's birthday last weekend, I decided that I would take a shot at a maple quickbread-- after all, I am never one to show up to a party or gathering without food.

That's right. I buy love with baked goods. I'm not ashamed. I'll own it.

Just as with many baked goods, wet meets dry.

... and bakes up into something lovely. Seriously, this made my house smell better than any scented candles or potpourri.

Crusty, tart, sweet, but not cloyingly so, this quick bread is perfection in loaf form.

Tucked in to a basket, paired with cookies and brownies-- the perfect birthday gift.

Lemon Maple Quickbread

Adapted from The Sugar Bush Connection

2 1/4 cups wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup almond milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside.

Combine first five ingredients, then cut in shortening until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients until mixed. Add wet mixture to dry and stir until well mixed. Pour batter into loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, our until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cook in pan completely before removing and slicing. Serve with a big scoop of Greek yogurt or ice cream.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mini Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal Cookies

Dear Trader Joe's,

You and I have been besties for a while now. Every Saturday morning, I wake up at seven, make a list of ingredients for recipes I want to try this week, and arrive at your doors just as you open, to beat the usual weekend crowd. We spend a quiet 20 minutes together, as I round up the delicious necessities for my week.

But, TJ, we need to have a talk. I almost always have to sprint through your freezer aisle, because you've decided that the shelf above the frozen mixed berries and green beans is the perfect spot for your chocolate-covered delights. Usually, I am able to ignore the siren song of dark chocolate almonds and edamame and orange peel.

However, TJ, you went too far today. You placed the cutest stinkin' tiny peanut butter cups at the checkout counter at eye level. And at $1.99, I could not resist.

I had to do something before the whole tub ended up in my mouth. So, of course, I put those gems in cookies.

TJ, while we do need to have The Talk about such strategic, maniacal maneuvers, today, I thank you. For these cookies may be my absolute new favorite.

Until next Saturday, TJ,


Mini Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal Cookies

An original recipe

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla exctract
2 1/2 cup uncooked oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 12 oz package mini peanut butter cups (if you don't have a TJ's, Reese's now makes some)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil (this helps to keep the bottom of the cookies chewy, not crisp).

Cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (except oats) together. Add dry mix incrementally to wet mix.

In a microwave-safe bowl, nuke 1/2 cup of peanut butter cups until slightly melty. Mix in to dough. Stir in oats, and then fold in the rest of the peanut butter cups.

Spoon rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes, until still slightly soft in the middle, crisp on the edges, and golden.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

No matter how hard you work sometimes, your to-do list never seems to shrink. I'll sneak super-easy things on to my list for almost-instant gratification.

Send an email to my boss? Cross that off.

Go make a cup of tea? Check.

Mail a letter? All over that.

Eventually, you have to come back to the Real List. And you haven't done a dang thing.

This vinaigrette is so fancy, you'll feel like you've accomplished something big. Not quite world peace. But big.

Lemon meets pepper meets garlic meets mustard. Heaven.

Dress up some chickpeas, greens, mozzarella, and dried cranberries.

Look at you. You've done something big today.

Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

Adapted from Cook Without A Book: Meatless Meals

3 garlic cloves, minced
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp brown mustard
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper and salt, to taste

Put all ingredients in a clean jar with a lid. Shake to mix. Dress up your favorite greens. Boom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vegetarian Dirty Rice

Today was one of those long days where all I wanted to do was curl up with a chick flick, ice cream, and friends and play silly middle school sleepover games.

I'm weird. I know.

But when your day starts with working through breakfast at 5:30am, meeting a buddy for a quick run, working in lab through the morning, skipping lunch to have back-to-back meetings, eating lunch at 5pm, going to the gym, and coming home to eat/work some more, you start to get a little weird.

And doing this without any coffee all day? Cut me some slack, folks.

Luckily, I still had some of this rice leftover to eat for dinner.

It's simple, hearty, keeps really well for days, and goes great with just about any leftover. Except chocolate granola. Found that out the hard way tonight.

A much more sensible pairing would be with black-eyed pea stuffed peppers. Too bad I didn't have any sense earlier when I was assembling my supper.

Vegetarian Dirty Rice
Adapted from Veganomicon

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 cup brown basmati rice
2 1/2 cups water

In a saucepan, sautee onions until lightly browned over medium heat. Add in garlic and coriander and sautee until fragrant. Add in tomato paste; stir until combined. Add salt, pepper, rice, and water. Mix to combine, and cover. Let cook for 40 minutes, until rice is thoroughly cooked. Fluff and serve with black-eyed pea stuffed peppers!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Samosa-stuffed baked potatoes

I never really ate Indian food growing up. My family favored Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Thai... But somehow we skipped that country.

The first time I ever tasted Indian food was at my friend Katie's house. Okay, so it was take-out food. And it was really just samosas and naan and chana masala. But still.

The memory is stuck in my mind so clearly. It was senior year of high school, and we were having a sleep-over so that we could get up early the next morning to go to a Varsity Science Team State Competition.

(Yes. We were--are-- nerds. But at our high school, Science Team was a Big Deal.)

(To us, at least).

Katie lived near the University of Chicago campus, where there were tons of different ethnic restaurants. When her mother showed up with the bag of takeout, we were giggling, watching 10 Things I Hate About You, and talking about who would take tops in the Boomilever competition. Being the ever-adventerous eater (and distracted by Heath Ledger), I dove in. Little did I know it would be the beginning of a love affair.

Fast forward six years. I live in a town with three excellent Indian restaurants, and randomly crave samosas under times of stress and competition (wonder why). I know those deep-fried beauties are terrible for your arteries, though, so was I ever grateful to find this recipe for samosa-stuffed baked potatoes.

I was wary when I read the recipe (anything involving me and the words "hot oil" and "popping mustard seeds" does not bode well), but it's supposed to snow, and I don't want to venture out right now.

Since I'd never made anything like this, I didn't deviate from the recipe... And don't think I really needed to. In the future, I'm thinking a chana masala-stuffed sweet potato might happen, though.

Samosa-stuffed Baked Potatoes

Adapted only very slightly from Veganomicon

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed, baked, and cooled
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1 can sweet peas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and carefully scrape the centers into a bowl. Mash with almond milk; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds and coriander seeds and cover; wait until you hear the seeds pop. Allow to cook one more minute, then add the onions and carrots. Cook until onions are browned, then add garlic and ginger; cook for one more minute. Add in spices and potatoes; mix to combine well and heat potatoes through. Fold in peas and lemon juice until combined.

Spray inside of potatoes lightly with olive oil. Fill the potatoes, place on cookie sheet, and bake 20 minutes. Serve immediately with additional lemon and cilantro!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Black-eyed pea stuffed peppers

We've kicked off the DetermiNation season with some nice, strong Sunday runs...

But let's be real. I run so I can eat.

Exhibit A: Black-eyed pea stuffed peppers.

It looks like a lot of work, but trust me, there's so much inactive cooking time that you can luxuriate in a hot bath while lunch is going.

Peppers get stuffed with delicious filling.

It's light, but feels rich and filling. The perfect after-run meal (that will leave you room for cupcakes later).

Serve alongside vegetarian dirty rice (recipe coming soon!)

Black-eyed pea stuffed peppers

Adapted from Veganomicon

2 large bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
3 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
15 oz can diced tomatoes
4 cups black-eyed peas, soaked

Cut peppers in half lengthwise; leave the stem on ('cause it's pretty). Set aside.

In a skillet, saute onions, jalapeños, and carrots in oil for five minutes. Add garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add herbs, spices, and salt; mix. Stir in tomatoes and peas, stir, and cover. Cook 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray a sheet pan with oil. Fill each pepper with some of the filling (you may have some leftover-- great on salads!). Place on sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot with dirty rice (recipe coming soon!)