Monday, April 30, 2012

Fish Tacos

We've never met a taco around here we didn't like.  These fish tacos were no exception.  The last time we had fish tacos, I broiled the fish.  Our oven is in even worse shape than it was a few days ago, and needs to be pulled out from the wall to access some sort of wires in the back to install the new heating element.  Needless to say, no broiling was happening last night.  The cover of this month's Cooking Light has a picture of fish tacos, which look amazingly good, and inspired this dinner. 

Fish Tacos
recipe inspired by Cooking Light

3/4-1 pound tilapia
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon canola oil
8 tortillas, flour or corn

1 mango, chopped
Guacamole: 2 avocados, 2 Tablespoons finely diced red pepper, juice of 1 lime, 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pickled jalapeno slices
1-2 chopped green onions
Hot sauce

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, combine cumin, salt, paprika, pepper and garlic.
Sprinkle half of mixture on one side of tilapia, and put seasoned side down in the skillet.
Sprinkle remaining spice mixture on the tilapia.
Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until flaked easily.
Serve in warmed tortillas with lots of toppings.

I mentioned last week that I might try to use some of the leftover vinegar slaw as a topping, but I decided the celery seed made it taste too pickle-y for that.  Instead I ate the leftovers for lunch (ie. standing in the kitchen eating straight from the container while Colin tried to grab my fork).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pulled Pork with Sweet and Sour Vinegar Slaw

We brought back the crock pot this weekend.  After the great crock pot bender of March, it took a brief hiatus.  What better way to bring it back than to make good old pulled pork barbecue? 

Pulled pork in the crock pot is one of the easiest recipes of all time.  After some very quick prep, you let it cook all day until your house smells like barbecue and the meat is tender and shredded.  A light vinegar slaw is the perfect accompaniment for some slightly sweet, slightly sour, crunch. 

Crock Pot Pulled Pork
3 lb. boneless pork butt (you can get any size you want, as long as it fits in your crock pot)
Canola oil
1/2 sweet onion, thickly sliced
3 Tablespoons pork rub (optional)
1 bottle barbecue sauce (I used about 3/4 bottle of Stubb's Spicy)

In a large pan or pot, heat canola oil over medium high heat.
Sear the pork on all sides until a brown crust starts to form, a few minutes each side.
Place onion slices in the bottom of the crock pot.
Transfer pork to crock pot and coat liberally with dry rub seasoning, if using.
Pour 1/4-1/2 bottle barbecue sauce over pork.
Cook on high for 5-6 hours.
Using two forks, shred the meat.
Drain off excess fat, a ladle works well for this step.
Add more barbecue sauce, as desired.
Cook on low for 2-3 hours.

This made enough for 6 large sandwiches.  To reheat, I let it sit for 2 hours in the crock pot on low. 

Sweet and Sour Vinegar Slaw
recipe inspired by Sunny Anderson

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (plus more to taste)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons celery seed
salt and pepper
1 small head cabbage (I used green, but red would be even better)
3 medium carrots (I used about 10 baby carrots)
1/4-1/2 red onion
1 medium apple

Whisk together dressing ingredients (vinegar through salt and pepper). 
In a food processor using the grater blade, feed the carrots, onion and apple through the feed tube.
Switch to the slicing blade, and feed the cabbage into the food processor.
In a large bowl, combine contents of food processor bowl and dressing.  If you have a large bowl or container with a lid, it works very well to put everything in and shake to distribute the dressing evenly.
Make the slaw well in advance, at least a few hours, the vinegar breaks down the cabbage a bit and helps all the flavors mellow and blend together.  Taste before serving and adjust dressing as necessary, I ended up adding some more vinegar and salt.

This made a lot, we ate it three nights in a row with the pulled pork, and still have leftovers.  I might try it as a topping for tonight's fish tacos, I'll let you know if that works out. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carrot Cake Smoothie

Look! I made a smoothie that isn't green!  It does still have vegetables in it, however, so you can count it as healthy.

As I've mentioned before, carrot cake is my favorite cake.  I've taken to buying bags of baby carrots for us to snack on throughout the week, and at one point we had three bags (two opened, how does that happen...) in the fridge.  This was the perfect use for a couple carrots.

Carrot Cake Smoothie
Based on Oh She Glows

1 banana (frozen works best, but fresh is fine)
1/2-1 cup almond milk (any milk will do)
1 carrot, grated (or 4 baby carrots)
A few shakes of Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg
A few drops Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon chia seeds
1 Tablespoon flaked coconut
Ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blend and run until smooth.

If you have a fancy, high speed blender like the Vitamix, you could put the carrots in in chunks, but for a regular blender I would recommend grating first.

At some point I'll to try adding spinach for extra nutrition, but I'm a little nervous about the color combo of green and orange.  Brown smoothie?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

There's a problem with the oven.  A problem that means it takes an hour to preheat to a temperature that is no where near the one set, and randomly cools down while it's cooking.  This meant that after "roasting" in a 425 degree oven for nearly 2 hours, the pan came out cool enough to touch and the vegetables were lightly cooked and lukewarm.   Needless to say, Jon's to-do list for this weekend includes fixing the oven or buying a new one. 

This meal was inspired by yet another Pinterest find.  This one, to be specific.  I strayed quite a bit from the original recipe, but really it just put the idea into my head to do a roasted vegetable couscous.  Also, the website is British, so it says things like aubergine instead of eggplant, courgettes instead of zucchini, and shallow tin instead of baking sheet.  That's fun. 

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into pieces
2 small onions, roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups (or one can) chickpeas
1 Tablespoon capers
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat Israeli couscous, but any kind will do)
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth (or however much you need to cook your couscous)
Goat cheese or feta (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
On a baking sheet (or two), spread the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onion and cherry tomatoes.
Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, capers and olives.
Sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with red wine vinegar.
Cook couscous according to package directions, using vegetable broth in place of water. 
When couscous is cooked, add it to the bowl, and drizzle with olive oil.
Mix in roasted vegetables, stirring to combine and season with additional vinegar and salt and pepper, if necessary.
Top with fresh basil and optional cheese, for serving.

Good thing this makes a lot, because we'll be eating it until the oven is fixed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Vegetable Quinoa

We went to New Hampshire to celebrate my Mom's birthday this past weekend.  The plan was for everyone to help with cleaning up their yard, pruning, weeding, and planting for the summer.  Everyone else worked very hard and I stood around chatting with my sister and held the baby.  I did do some cooking, though.  We had salmon for dinner, and I brought along this Spring Vegetable Quinoa. 

I'm not even sure if mushrooms are Spring vegetables.  I have absolutely no idea when mushrooms are in season, but, as you know, I've been on a mushroom kick lately, so in they went.

Spring Vegetable Quinoa

2 cups quinoa, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth (I think you could cut this down to 3 1/2 cups, mine was a little soupier than I wanted.)
3 small shallots, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
Olive oil
16 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, sliced into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup fresh spring peas (or 1 cup frozen peas, thawed)
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

In a pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add the shallot and onion and saute for a minute or two.
Add in quinoa and cook for one minute, stirring.
Pour in vegetable broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
Meanwhile, in a saute or frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add in mushrooms and cook until sauteed but not mushy, about 5 minutes.
Depending on the thickness of your asparagus, add this to the pan to cook until crisp-tender.  My asparagus stalks were pretty thick, so I added them at the same time as the mushrooms.  Then I got distracted by my kitchen helper and they got a little overcooked, so don't go wandering off while they're in the pan.
Combine cooked quinoa, mushrooms, asparagus, green onions and peas.
Stir in lemon zest and juice.

This is a great make-ahead dish, as it can be served either warm or at room temperature.   If you want to add a little something to it for serving, I recommend roasted sunflower seeds (my latest addiction), raisins, balsamic vinegar, or goat cheese.  Or all four. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas - Vegan

We've made a version of these before, but I have to say I like this one better.  Even without the cheese.  I never thought I would say that.

The filling is chock full of vegetables and spices, and the chopped avocado on top gives it the perfect creamy finish.  Jon topped his with sour cream, but I didn't miss it.  Some of the dishes I've made in the last few months have left me staring wistfully at Jon's plate saying things like, "How is it with cheese?  Goat cheese is my favorite.  I bet it's good.  Mine is good, but not as good as yours.  I hope you appreciate how good yours is."

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas - Vegan
Inspired by Oh She Glows

olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped and cooked (I roasted mine at 375 for 45 minutes, you can also steam or bake)
A few handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, it adds a little cheesy flavor and slightly thickens the sauce)
24 oz. tomato sauce (I had three 8 oz. cans, but you can use two 14 oz. cans as well)
6 tortilla wraps (I used whole wheat wraps)
Toppings: avocado, lime, hot sauce, cilantro, cheese, sour cream

Prepare your sweet potatoes.  I tossed mine with olive oil and roasted at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, turning a few times.  You can also steam, boil, or bake them.
In a bowl, combine tomato sauce, spices and nutritional yeast.   
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add in the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
Add in garlic, black beans, and sweet potatoes.
Pour in about half of your enchilada sauce, reserving enough for the bottom and top of the dish.
Add in chopped spinach, stir to combine and turn off heat.
In the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce.
Fill a tortilla up with a large scoop of the vegetable mixture, roll and place seam side down in the baking dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Spread any leftover filling over the top of the rolled tortillas and pour over remaining sauce.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Attempt to take a picture of an enchilada several times.  Give up and eat.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tropical Green Smoothie - Banana and Coconut

I've tried to convince you to drink green smoothies before, and I'm not giving up!  They taste bright and refreshing, and on the mornings after a particularly rough night in baby land, they give me energy. 

This mix gets it's tropical taste from the combination of banana and coconut oil, as well as the usual suspects of spinach, almond milk, and a handful of ice.  It would also be delicious with the addition of pineapple or mango.

Let's go back to the coconut oil, though.  According to Organic
The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.

That's a whole lot of good stuff.  There are a bunch of sites that suggest a multitude of uses for coconut oil, such as this one, this one, and this one

I use it for cooking, sometimes to replace butter, melted with chocolate to make a shell coating (amazing on ice cream, or in a bowl with a spoon...), and mixed into a smoothie, as I did here.  Topically, I use it as a lip balm, and it's the best one I've ever tried.  Smoothed on my skin, it helps my perpetually dry hands, and works very well as an after-shave leg balm.  It definitely tastes and smells like coconut, though, so if you like that, great!

Let me know if you have any other favorite uses for coconut oil, or if you give it a try!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Due in part to the large amounts of hummus (this week's flavor was roasted red pepper) we consume on a weekly basis, we also eat a good amount of pita bread.  Usually the stuff from the market does the trick, but since it was also the accompaniment to the Vegetable Chickpea Curry, I wanted to try something a little bit better. 

This isn't a difficult recipe, but it does take a few hours for rising time, so I'd recommend it for a weekend.  In my case I needed to wait until I had help at home, because invariably every time I got my hands covered with flour and dough the baby wanted something, and I drop enough crumbs on him as it is. 

Thicker and fluffier than store-bought pitas, these were the perfect doughy scoop along with the curry. Mine didn't puff into pockets, but they were easy enough to separate the layers if you want to make a sandwich. 

Whole Wheat Pita Bread
recipe from Epicurious

1 (1/4 oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 cups bread flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

In a large bowl, stir together yeast, honey and 1/2 cup warm water.  Let stand until foamy and bubbly, about 5 minutes.  If nothing happens, try again with new yeast.

Stir together flours in a separate bowl.
Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at warm room temperature until doubled in size and bubbly, about 45 minutes.
Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup water and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, using additional flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).  Call this your arm workout for the day.
Form dough into a ball and put into a large bowl with olive oil.  Turn to coat the dough completely in oil.  
Cover the bowl with plastic rise and allow to sit at warm room temperature to rise to double in size. This takes about 1 hour, but you can leave it longer depending on your timing.
Punch risen dough down and cut into 8 equal pieces.
Form each dough into a ball and roll out to about 7 inches.  Transfer to a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.  You can fit 4 pieces of dough on a baking sheet, so you'll need two.
Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth or they will stick), and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
Set oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.
Transfer pitas from the baking sheet onto the oven rack. You can fit four on the rack at a time.
Bake for 2 minutes, use tongs to turn them over, and bake 2 minutes more.
These keep well wrapped in foil in the fridge.  Reheat them before serving.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vegetable Chickpea Curry

If, like me, you ate far too many jelly beans or peanut butter eggs this weekend, you might also be ready for a healthy, filling, and very nutritious dinner.  This is one of those meals that I love making because once you've done the prep chopping, it's easy, delicious and even better the next day.  You can certainly customize it based on whatever vegetables you like or are quietly sitting in your produce drawer on their last legs. 

Vegetable Chickpea Curry
Serves 6

Olive oil

2 cups potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 small can tomato paste (about 1/3 cup)
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
A few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or ground)

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add in the onions and potatoes and saute for a few minutes.
Stir in garlic and spices (coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, kosher salt, pepper and ginger).  Stir constantly for 30 seconds.
Pour in tomatoes in their juice, tomato paste, and enough water to cook the potatoes (I added about a cup).
Cover pot and let potatoes simmer over medium low heat until just fork tender (about 20 minutes).
Add in chickpeas and green beans and cook over low heat for as long as you want.  The longer the better to let the flavors combine.  I gave it about an hour and a half. 
A few minutes before serving stir in the spinach leaves and allow to wilt. 

You can eat this over rice, but we opted to scoop ours up with homemade whole wheat pita bread (recipe to come!).

Optional toppings: greek yogurt, chutney, cilantro or parsley.  I had none of these things , but I did sprinkle a little smoked sea salt on top.  My sister gave us this salt as part of a Christmas gift (I loooove food basket gifts), and it's excellent, especially on a dish like this.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Skinny Sloppy Joes

Also known as Sloppy Josephines, or Sloppy Joe's thinner, vegan sister.  By replacing the meat with lentils, we upped the nutrition and cut the fat.  This is a far cry from the Sloppy Joes of the lunchrooms of yore.  I can't say I ever actually saw Sloppy Joes in a school lunch, but they are sort of iconic in that way.

I ended up eating mine with a fork, but you can certainly go full out sloppy.  Just have extra napkins on hand.

In other news, I am on a major roasted sweet potato fry bender.  We've eaten them three nights this week and I just stocked up again.  When sweet potatoes go on sale for 59 cents a pound, I take full advantage.  If I start to turn orange, you'll know why.

Skinny Sloppy Joes
Based on Peas and Thank You

Makes 6 large servings

1 1/2 cups dried lentils
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 small can tomato paste (about 1/4 cup)
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it, but there is a vegan alternative.  You can also sub soy sauce.)
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 Tablespoon hot sauce

Bring broth or water to a boil in a medium pot.  Add lentils and cook until tender, about 25-30 minutes.
In another pot, heat olive oil over medium.
Add onion and saute for a few minutes until it starts to look translucent.
Add in garlic, chili powder and oregano.  Cook for one minute, stirring.
Pour in tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire, barbecue sauce and hot sauce.  Stir to combine.
Add in lentils and heat over low for 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
Serve on lightly toasted rolls.  I topped mine with pickle slices, but thinly sliced red onion or pickled jalapenos would also be delicious.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Brownies, Two Ways

This weekend I went to a bridal shower for my brother-in-law's fiancee.  I volunteered to bring some desserts.  My mother-in-law suggested something in the chocolate family, but said that the most important thing to bring is her grandson.  Colin was all ready to visit, so I got to baking.  I couldn't decide between two brownie recipes, so I made them both.  The first are vegan low-fat brownies that are more cake-like, and also more conducive to wearing formal gowns in a few weeks.  The others are extra fudgy, extra chocolatey, bites of heaven.

Double Chocolate Single Chin Brownies
recipe from Peas and Thank You

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips (vegan if you are strict)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a small bowl (or your two cup measuring cup), stir together applesauce, sugar and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk to combine.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour batter into a prepared 8x8 pan or mini muffin cups.
If baking in 8x8 pan, bake for 18-20 minutes.  Bake for 10-15 minutes in the mini muffin cups.  

I made a test batch of these last weekend to decide whether I wanted to bring them to the party.  I underbaked them a bit so the middle brownies were extra gooey.  I tweeted Mama Pea herself to tell her how good they were and that the undercooked batch was like eating batter.  She probably thought I was a complete moron for alerting her to the groundbreaking discovery that undercooked brownies taste like brownie batter.  She was very nice about it, though.

In any case, these are more cake-like brownies, as you would expect since they have applesauce in place of butter and eggs.  They are almost like little mini chocolate cupcakes.  The chocolate chips are a nice addition. 

If you are looking for a more classic brownie recipe that's dense, intensely chocolatey, and fudgy, then this next one is for you.  There are few things in cooking that smell as good or look as pretty as chocolate and butter melting in a double boiler.  

Classic Brownies
recipe based on 500 Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate
1 cup light brown sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a barely simmering pot of water.  Whisk to combine.
Stir in sugar, salt and vanilla.
Remove from heat.  Using a hand mixer, and beat in the eggs one at a time.
On low speed, slowly mix in the flour.  Beat until smooth.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes and then lift out using the parchment.
Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

photo 1-1 photo 1-2