It’s cold here in Chicago and I am happy to report that I have not lost my sense of humor about this cold blast we are having. Instead of being angry, I have chosen to celebrate this cold by baking and cooking…and baking and cooking! Luckily the lovely Cutting Board Blog must have known this, as they are currently featuring my recipe for the beautiful Apple Crostata.
Hurry, go turn on your oven and be prepared to “warm up” with this lovely dessert.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Somewhere, hidden deep in the recesses of my pantry is my special stash of chocolate. It’s a secret because, well, I don’t feel like sharing it. No offense to other members of the household, but I just don’t think they would appreciate this little treasure like I do. I hold that stash near and dear to my heart. And thinking about it now, it seems rather ironic that I store it in an old trick-or-treating bucket that looks like a jack-o-lantern…totally classy and mature, I know.
I love chocolate and I have since I was little. Lots of good food memories come to mind when I think of chocolate. Because I love it so much, I suppose that could mean trouble for my waistline. But the good news is, I can control myself because I appreciate chocolate. I see chocolate as a fun indulgence or as a very lovely treat. Because of that, I try to enjoy it and savor it. That means I need less of it!
The ladies over at the Recipe Redux must have channeled my inner choco-holic when they came up with this month’s theme – our favorite pairing for chocolate. My mind of course went crazy with ideas. How about a mole? Or what about a twist on a ‘smore? When it came down to it, I decided upon a recipe that I felt would honor both the dietitian as well as the chocolate-lover in me. Reaching for almonds and my secret stash of chocolate, I bee-lined to the kitchen and got to work. I came up with a recipe that is the perfect snack or treat and one that highlights one of my favorite pairings: nuts and chocolate! Yum!
These roasted almonds are a delightful blend of sweet and savory.
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
3 cups whole almonds
2 ounces 60% dark chocolate
Kosher salt for finishing
Preheat the oven to 300’F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl whisk together the cayenne, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white and water together just until foamy. Add the almonds and toss to coat. Spread the almonds out onto the sheet pan and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Stir and toss to coat.
Place nuts in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the nuts cool on the sheet pan.
To a small sauce pot add the chocolate and set over low heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is completely melted. Using a small spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the almonds. Sprinkle with additional salt as desired (Kosher or sea salt).
Allow chocolate to cool and harden before serving.
When I was much younger I firmly believed I was a gifted artist. Looking back at my art projects from school it’s evident that I was giving myself quite a bit of credit. Enter my mom. God bless her. She is an extremely talented artist and was (and still is) one of my biggest supporters, always complimenting my work and hanging it everywhere. I knew from a young age that she was talented and I suppose I wanted to believe her when it came to my s0-called “talent.” I also wanted to be more like her; carefree, able to express myself and open to coloring “outside the lines.”
My mom is talented and creative and I love seeing what she can build on a blank canvas. For her, paints and other materials are her tools for expression. When I was a teenager I remember looking at all of the paints and those canvases feeling slightly intimidated. As soon as I would lay a color down, I would regret it. Or I would start painting one thing only to be disappointed in how it looked. Let’s just say I gave up on it for awhile.
It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve picked up “art” again. This time, in a medium that seems more true to who I am. A medium that excites me and elicits my creativity. That medium is food. With food, I can create beautiful, thought-provoking works of art just like you would with acrylics or paint or pencils. I love that you can turn a pepper into a million different dishes or cut it a different way it and it almost tastes different. For me, food is my passion and being able to express myself this way is a true treasure.
I tell you this story because maybe it’s time you looked at food differently. Maybe, right now, you look at food as just a way to get energy, shoveling it in without much care. Or maybe you’ve spent too much time eating out, letting other people have all of the fun in the creativity of making your meal. Or maybe you’ve been depriving yourself, looking at food as the enemy, counting calories and not receiving the benefit of composing and enjoying it. I encourage you to reflect on this. What is your relationship with food? Would it be better if you appreciated it more? Or if you took the time to nurture your creative side and explore food as your new “art” form? You may find it will do your soul a world of good to gain a new perspective.
Back in my days of my culinary externship I learned all about something called “family meal.” It sounds so nice, doesn’t it? Actually, it was. The concept was that the kitchen staff was to make the meal (usually from leftovers or food on it’s way out in regards to freshness) for all of the employees. I had the fortunate luck of being in a kitchen with a super-talented chef who hailed from Mexico. Every day he made something amazing out of absolutely nothing. I enjoyed every mouthful and learned so much about the Mexican culture. One day he made a dish with dried chiles, and when I asked him what it was called, he told me it was chilaquiles. Well, that meal changed my life. How could just a few simple ingredients make such a delicious plate of food? First, he made a sauce; he washed and seeded some dried chiles and toasted them in a hot pan. Once lightly toasted he transferred them to a bowl and covered them with hot water to soften them. Then he pureed them up with some sauteed onion and garlic and cooked it with a little chicken broth. To that he added strips of corn tortilla and it was amazing! I cleaned my plate and felt inspired.
Guajillo and Ancho chiles!
This month’s Recipe Redux challenged us to spice things up. Immediately I thought of that yummy chilaquiles dish, but I wanted to do something to make it my own. Since Mexican food (any of it!) and pizza are my favorite foods, I figured why not use them both!? And that’s how I came up with this riff on a Mexican pizza. It’s full of flavor and by chance, also loaded with good-for-you nutrition.
Enjoy and be sure to keep a glass of water nearby!
Hearty whole grain pizza dough topped with a spicy red chile sauce, black beans and fresh vegetables.
2 dried ancho chiles, washed, stems and seeds removed
2 dried Guajillo chiles, washed, stems and seeds removed
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pound whole wheat or whole grain pizza dough or 1 large pre-made whole wheat pizza crust
1 cup black beans (canned or cooked from dry)
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded, sliced thin
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 jalapeno, sliced thinly into rounds
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
To Make the Red Chile Sauce
Set a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles to the pan and toast until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chiles sit until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the chiles from the water and tear into pieces. Place the torn chiles in a blender along with 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Puree until mixture is smooth.
Set the skillet (you can use the same one that you used to toast the chiles) over medium-low heat. Add the oil and once hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pureed chile sauce and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with lime juice and salt. Note: If a smoother consistency is desired, transfer mixture back to the blender and process until smooth. Use caution with hot liquids.
To Make the Pizza
Preheat the oven to 425’F.
Shape the pizza dough into a circle between 14 and 16-inches in diameter and place on a large sheet of parchment paper. Spread a 1/2 cup of the chile mixture over the crust in an even layer. Top the pizza with the black beans, bell peppers and cheese. Arrange jalapeño slices on top of the cheese. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese bubbly and lightly browned.
Remove pizza from the oven and garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions. Slice and serve.
This recipe makes more sauce than you will need. That’s ok, because it freezes well or you can use to as a topping for your next batch of tacos or enchiladas.
Mark your calendars! On January 15, 2015 from 6-8pm I will be at the Athleta store on Southport Avenue in Chicago. Come and be a part of this special cooking demo designed to inspire awesome women athletes to get cooking.
I’ll be making the soup below and you can enter for the chance to win an awesome gift basket and other athletic-inspired prizes! Cheers to a healthy 2015!
Red lentil soup made with warm spices and fresh ginger.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cup red lentils (pick over to ensure no debris or rocks)
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sriracha, to taste
Place a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft and slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, curry and cumin and sauté another 5 minutes.
Add the cinnamon stick, lentils and chicken broth to the pot and stir. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow the soup to simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.
Take the soup off of the heat. Remove half of the soup and allow to cool slightly* or until warm to the touch. Keep the other half warm on the stove. Place the cooled soup in a blender (or process with a hand mixer) and pulse until pureed. Stir pureed mixture back into pot of soup and turn the flame back to medium. Add the lemon juice and stir well until hot.
To serve, place the soup in bowls and garnish with cilantro and sriracha.servings
*It is not advised to puree hot items in a blender due to the pressure generated from the steam. Be safe and allow your soup to cool slightly to prevent injuring yourself.
I absolutely love bread. I don’t think I could possibly live without it, nor would I like to try. Bread finds its way into almost every one of my meals. Too much you say? Yes, perhaps, but you know I am a dietitian, so of course I am careful to always balance it with other healthful foods and try to choose whole grain versions.
My love of bread started at a young age, but that love grew even more once I attended culinary school. After my first baking class I realized that I could make bread! I had seen my grandmother do it, but never thought I was capable of such a daunting task. All of that yeast and kneading? Looked like a puzzling science project to me! But there I was, in class, making bread. Sure, it wasn’t the best looking bread, but I made it myself. I was hooked and I wanted more! Well, you can imagine the joy in my heart then, the day I learned that the school had a monthly gathering of bread enthusiasts. This monthly gathering, fondly known as the Bread Guild, was where bread lovers got together and made bread under the careful direction of one passionate bread-baker-instructor named Chef Tom Beckman. So I went and I made bread and I failed more often than succeeded, but in that failure I learned. I learned that making bread is an art form. It requires patience for precisely measuring ingredients. It requires insight to know just when you’re bread is properly proofed. It requires love to properly handle and knead it to perfectly work the gluten. And finally, it requires skill! And that skill comes from making bread over and over again.
This month’s Recipe Redux challenge was for us to open a cookbook and turn to page 42 or page 142 and make the recipe from either of those pages healthier. I went immediately to The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that was a wonderful gift from my in-law’s for Christmas one year. I turned to page 42 and ironically, it was a page about reading the Nutrition Facts Panel. So, I turned to page 142 and I drew a sigh of relief because it was the bread section! English Muffin Bread lives on this page and boy do I love English Muffins, so I decided to Redux this recipe.
The original recipe is pretty simple, not requiring too many ingredients. Looking at it, I knew it could be amped-up nutritionally. So, I swapped out some all-purpose flour and replaced it with whole wheat pastry flour. Then I subbed honey for the sugar and added some ground flax seed. I felt like it was lacking a little salt, so I increased that to boost flavor. I love the results and am going to keep playing with this recipe to incorporate even more nutritious ingredients.
So, to make a long story, longer, I am so happy that this redux involved one of my favorite foods and one of my favorite cooking techniques. This bread recipe is a keeper and one I will be serving to friends and family. Heads-up, this is a fantastic bread for toast! Smear it with peanut butter and some slices of strawberry for a delicious breakfast or snack.
A more nutritious version of the original. Whole grain flour and flax seed is a perfect complement to this delicious hearty bread.
Cornmeal, as needed
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons freshly ground flax seed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
Spray one 8x4x2-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly sprinkle pan with enough cornmeal to coat the bottom and sides; set pan aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, yeast, flax seed and baking soda. In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, water, honey and salt until just warm (120’F to 130’F). Using a wooden spoon, stir milk mixture into flour mixture. Stir in remaining flour.
Place dough in prepared pan. Sprinkle top with cornmeal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 45-60 minutes).
Bake in a 400’F oven about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove bread from the pan. Cool on a wire rack.
Can you believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away? Me neither! It’s seems to have shown up unexpectedly like it always seems to do. If you’re anything like me, you always try to do way too much during the holiday season. Cramming every moment of free time with some kind of activity. With all of the things you have to do, why not make the cooking of the Thanksgiving turkey just a little bit easier and a lot less stressful? Sound good to you? Then follow this link to my Whole Roasted Turkey with Lemon and Fresh Herbs found on TheCuttingBoard.org blog.
Looking for a new pumpkin recipe to add to your list of favorite Fall baked goods? Try this pumpkin bread recipe that I created for the Cuttingboard.org. It’s a great after-school treat and makes an excellent gift for anyone on your holiday gift list.
As a newly minted member of the Recipe Redux, I was overjoyed that my first recipe theme was “spooky” spices. “Great!” I thought, “I love Halloween and I love spices!” I had a million ideas, that was until I saw the complete description of the October theme. As I read on, it became clear that they were going with a different angle. It turns out that I had to find a spice that I was afraid of or one that I had used that turned out to be a total failure.
Embarrassingly, I have had plenty of total disasters involving spices. Let’s see, there was the curried chicken dish that I served my husband that tasted like glue. Or the pot of 9 bean soup that had a flavor profile that likely resembled fresh dirt. How could I choose? I settled on cumin seed. Years ago I had made a recipe that called for toasting cumin seed. I was young and just out of college, trying to impress my friends. Thinking that I knew what I was doing, I set the cumin seed in the pan, turned the heat to high and walked away. Anyone who has toasted spices knows this is a huge mistake. Those cumin seeds went from smelling wonderful to smelling like a 5-alarm fire. It was a mess and without any back-up seeds, I had to serve a sub-par dish. So here I am, many years later, ready and willing to tackle the cumin seed again. This time, I would make soup and being older and wiser, I would stand-by, keeping an eye on those precious seeds so that they wouldn’t burn.
Ironically, I now love toasting spices. It adds so much complexity and warmth to a dish. In this recipe I decided to use red lentils as a hearty neutral base because they accept spices so well. I included a trimmed and lightly macerated stalk of lemongrass to the cooking liquid to provide a refreshing hint of citrus. And to finish, I added light coconut milk which gives the soup a delightful creamy sweetness.
Fearful no more of toasting spices, I am instead grateful for the learning experience I got from those cooking disasters. I will continue to make mistakes, but from mistakes sometimes come the best results! Bon Appetit!
Earthy red lentils cooked with toasted spices and lemongrass-infused broth then finished with a touch of light coconut milk.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped onion)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (about 3/4 cup chopped)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and smashed*
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Set a pot over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot add the celery, onion and carrots and cook vegetables until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the cumin seed, coriander and cayenne to the pot and cook, stirring frequently to toast the spices, about 1-2 minutes. Add lentils, broth and lemongrass and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until lentils are cooked and tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and cook 5 minutes more. Add lemon juice, then remove pot from the heat.
Using a stick blender or regular blender, puree the soup to a smooth consistency. (Note: If using a regular blender, stay safe and prevent unwanted burns by blending in batches and allowing soup to cool slightly before pureeing.
Serve warm topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
To prepare the lemongrass for the soup, first remove the outer leaves from the stalk. Take off a few layers until you get to the more tender inner leaves. Trim off the root end and also cut off the top of the stalk, leaving about 5 inches of lemongrass. Gently smash the stalk using a meat mallet, the back of a large knife or rolling pin to release the oils and then add to the soup pot.
I love a good egg breakfast sandwich. Note that I said a “good” breakfast sandwich, which ahem, means one that has good-quality eggs, whole grain bread and lots of yummy veggies. Those fast food places have a knack for making something that could be such a nutritious start to your day, a complete disaster! Sure they can be quite delicious, but that flavor comes at a nutritional cost since they are loaded with sodium, saturated fat and calories.
My idea you ask? Make your own and take it up a notch! My version is prepared using harissa, a popular spicy condiment used in North African cooking. Harissa is low in calories, but is amazingly flavorful and packed with nutrition thanks to the olive oil, red peppers and spices. My version also uses a whole wheat English muffin to replace the processed white muffin and is topped with refreshing lettuce greens for added nutrition.
The trick in getting people to appreciate and enjoy healthier cooking is to provide recipes loaded with flavor. My family loves this sandwich and doesn’t seem to miss those fast food breakfast sandwiches loaded with processed meats and cheeses.
A flavorful twist on a delicious breakfast sandwich.
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
2 large garlic cloves
½ cup roasted red bell pepper, drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
4 large eggs, whole
4 large eggs, whites only
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
4 English muffins (preferably whole wheat), toasted
2 cups arugula or mixed lettuce greens, cleaned
To Prepare the Harissa
Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the caraway and cumin seeds and toast until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes. Swirl the pan while toasting to prevent burning. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chili powder and stir for one more minute. Remove the seeds and chili powder from the pan, transfer to a clean coffee or spice grinder (a mortar and pestle will work too) and grind into a fine powder.
Add the ground spices to a food processor, followed by the garlic, roasted red bell pepper, olive oil, and sugar. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is smooth, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
To Make the Breakfast Sandwich
Heat the remaining oil a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes or until onion is softened.
While the onion is cooking, whip together the eggs, salt and pepper.
Add the egg mixture all at once to the pan with the onions and cook for one minute. Do not stir. Using a spatula, gently fold and lift the egg mixture, allowing the uncooked portions to flow under and cook. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until eggs are cooked, but still moist.
Spread 1 tablespoon of harissa on each half of the English muffins. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the muffin bottoms and top with ½ cup of greens. Serve immediately.
Note: This recipe will yield approximately 1 cup of harissa. Leftover harissa can be used as a condiment for burgers, sandwiches and wraps. It can also be mixed with olive oil or yogurt and used as a marinade. Refrigerate in a sealed container and use within 2-4 days.