Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Fries

Ever since sweet potato fries started popping up on menus everywhere as an alternative to french fries, I've had a hard time resisting them.  It was only a matter of time before I had to try my hand at making a healthier version at home.  Here they are.

There's no fooling anyone - these don't taste "fried" - but they do taste fantastic.  Starchy and sweet and tangy and spicy, these fries will definitely satisfy your sweet potato fry itch.  Serve them with sandwiches, burgers, or just eat them on their own.  You can avoid the guilt of the deep fried sweet potato and get all the same rewards.

Sweet potatoes are in abundance right now, so stock up and give these a try.   If you want to be fancy, you can make some kind of herb aioli to go with them, or just have them with ketchup, or even straight up.

Sweet Potato Fries
adapted from Food Network Magazine
serves 2+


3 medium-small garnet sweet potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Cut sweet potatoes in half length-wise, then into wedges (about 6 to 8 wedges per sweet potato).

2.  Toss the wedges with remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Lay out on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping them all once about halfway through, until browned and crisp on the outside.  Serve hot.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Muffins (CEIMB)

Any excuse to use pumpkin in a recipe, and I'm there.  This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe was for delicious, moist, delectable, and yet miraculously healthy pumpkin pie muffins.  I made them Wednesday night so we could grab them on our way to work Thursday morning.  It's like eating dessert for breakfast, only without any guilt whatsoever.  The usual magic from Ellie.

These muffins are spicy and fantastic.  Thanks to the pumpkin and yogurt (buttermilk in the original recipe), they maintain their moisture so well.  I made some minor modifications, namely using all whole wheat flour instead of half and half, pumpkin pie spice instead of the assorted spices (which are basically the same thing), reduced the molasses so they wouldn't be too intense, and the aforementioned yogurt instead of buttermilk.  I also omitted the pumpkin seed topping that Ellie recommended, mostly out of laziness.  They came out beautifully.

Above you see them fresh from the oven.  I'm guessing by the end of the day they will be mostly gone...

Pumpkin Pie Muffins
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
makes 12 muffins


2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
2 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Line a muffin tin with re-usable liners, or paper liners if you're not so eco-friendly.  (Otherwise spray with cooking spray).  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spice.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, molasses, canola oil, and one egg until well combined.  Whisk in remaining egg until combined.  Add pumpkin and vanilla and whisk thoroughly.

3.  Add half the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until combined.  Stir in the yogurt (or buttermilk), followed by remaining flour mixture.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups so each cup is about 2/3 full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool 15 minutes before removing from muffin tin.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Late Season Tomato Veggie Soup

This is the time of year when the weather has taken a turn for the cooler side, but we still have some remaining summer produce at the local market.  This recipe is the perfect way to make the most of both of these situations.  Warm, comforting soup that is hearty and filled with flavor and nutrients, but features beautiful late summer tomatoes.

It is hard to resist making tomato soup during the summer, but in southern California, the summers are not so conducive to soup.  Now that we have nice cool fall weather, I'm giving tomato soup one last hurrah in my kitchen, combined with sweet carrots and licorice-y fennel.

This soup is simple and vitamin-packed.  Another one to add to the list for cold season.

Late Season Tomato Veggie Soup
adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors
serves 3-4


2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 small leeks OR scallions, thinly sliced
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 small fennel bulb, cored and finely diced
2 tablespoons diced pimientos
pinch saffron threads
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
4 medium sized ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom if available
salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped dill or basil for garnish


1.  Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add leeks, carrots, fennel, pimientos, saffron, garlic, and parsley.  Stir and cook for about 1 minute.  Add 2/3 cup water and cover the pot.  Turn heat to low.

2.  Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes (plunge in boiling water first if necessary) and squeeze out the seeds into a mesh strainer over a bowl to catch all the juices.  Place remainder of tomatoes in a food processor.  Use a spoon to press the juices out of the seeds through the mesh strainer.  Discard seeds, and add juices to the food processor.  Puree until smooth.

3.  By now, the vegetables should be getting tender.  Add the pureed tomatoes and salt to taste.  Puree about half the soup until smooth.  You can puree it all if you wish, but I think it's nice to leave some vegetable chunks for texture.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.   Season to taste with salt and pepper as necessary

4.  Serve soup garnished with fresh herbs of choice. 


Monday, October 26, 2009

Spicy Pork Noodle Bowls

We don't eat a lot of pork in our house, but occasionally I have the urge to make it.  I especially enjoy it in the venue of Asian food.  There is something unfailingly satisfying about a noodle bowl, and lean pork seems like the perfect protein to feature in such a versatile dish.

This is one of those throw-together-on-a-weeknight dishes that is healthy and incredibly delicious.  Try not to scarf it down as quickly as I did, so you can actually savor the incredible combination of spices, and just the right degree of saltiness, with a backdrop of buckwheat soba noodles and hearty kale.

I think it's pretty obvious, but this is one of those recipes you should follow loosely according to your preferences.  The options are literally endless.

Spicy Pork Noodle Bowls
adapted from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express
serves 2-3


4 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
3/4 lb. thin cut boneless pork chops, trimmed, cut into 1/4" slices
freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch kale, stems and tough ribs removed, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot chile sauce
1 scallion, thinly sliced


1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Cook soba noodles according to package directions until al dente, usually about 3-4 minutes.  Drain.

2.  While noodles are cooking, season pork with salt, pepper, and five spice powder.  Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  When hot, add the pork and stir fry.  When pork is almost cooked through, add kale, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot sauce.  Stir and cook until pork is cooked through.

3.  When noodles are cooked and drained, add them to the skillet and toss to combine everything.  Serve topped with sliced scallions.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Savory Pumpkin Bread

There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread.  Especially when that bread contains strong hints of pumpkin pie.  Imagine it, if you can - wafts of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, as well as that warm bread scent, mingling together throughout your house. 

Okay, now you officially need to make this bread.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this recipe.  Usually when you think of pumpkin bread, you think of the moist, cakey loaf of gooey cinnamony sweetness.  But not this, my friends.  There is the slightest hint of sweetness, but it is definitely a savory bread.  You can enjoy it warm with a thin layer of butter, or slathered with fruit preserves, or even as a vehicle for a great turkey sandwich post-thanksgiving.  There are many possibilities.

If you don't have a bread machine, you might want to invest in one.  They are so inexpensive, and they make the bread-making process laughably easy.   Mine is not a particularly fancy one, but it gets the job done.  And this bread is a testament to that fact.

Savory Pumpkin Bread
adapted from Betty Crocker's Best Bread Machine Cookbook
makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf


3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup water (plus more if needed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine or quick active dry yeast


1.  Depending on your bread machine instructions, add all the wet ingredients followed by the dry ingredients, or vice versa.  (Mine requires wet first, then dry).   Set the machine to do a 1 1/2 pound loaf on the Sweet or Basic cycle, and use the light crust color setting.  Push start.

2.  When the machine is done (probably about 3 hours later), remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mushroom and Arugula Quesadillas (CEIMB)

This meal took me back to my college days.  It's the pick for this week's Craving Ellie in my Belly,  and it is a much healthier and more flavorful version of what I used to make in school when I was too lazy to make anything else.   It's every 20-something person's best friend in the kitchen - the quesadilla.

Granted, this is a much more sophisticated one.  Ellie's version features chicken, but I opted to make it a vegetarian dish.  There isn't that much cheese, there are veggies, there are spices, and there are whole grains.  Who knew you could cram all that into a quesadilla?  Well you can. 

I made my usual tweaks, some based on preference, and some based on what I had on hand.  I used baby arugula instead of baby spinach to bring a bit of extra punch to the meal.  I used cremini mushrooms instead of white button, because they are more meaty and compensate for my omission of the chicken.  I used jack cheese only, because, well, that's what I happened to have a lot of.

Also, I'm sure I'm not the only CEIMB-er who turned Ellie's 2-portion into a 1-portion.  Who ever ate just half a quesadilla?  No, no.  But if you feel like being dainty and calorie-conscious, by all means, share it with a friend.

This is tasty and easy, just what we always want from our supper.

Mushroom and Arugula Quesadillas
adapted from Ellie Krieger
serves 1-2


1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
generous handful baby arugula
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium-large whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup finely shredded Monterey jack cheese
cooking spray


1.  Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high.  Add the onion and mushrooms, and cook, stirring often, until browned and mushrooms release their moisture, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. 

2.  Add cumin, chili powder, and oregano, and stir.  Add arugula and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until arugula is wilted.  Turn off the heat.

3.  Lay one tortilla on a flat prep surface and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese.  Top with the vegetable mixture, followed by remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Top with the other tortilla.

4.  Preheat a clean medium-sized skillet  over medium heat and spray with cooking spray.  Cook the quesadilla for about 3 minutes, then flip carefully with a spatula.  Cook on the other side for about 3 minutes, until both sides are lightly browned and the cheese is fully melted.  Cut into quarters and serve.

This is great with salsa, or if you really feel bold, fresh guacamole.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chicken Orzo Casserole

I think I've found my culinary calling, and its name is the casserole.   Something about the cooler (relatively speaking) fall weather makes it so enticing.  This casserole comes from the current issue of Everyday Food, publication of the matriarch Ms. Stewart, and constant source of easy and delicious recipes.  Case in point:  a smooth, creamy casserole without any cream, featuring a medley of Greek flavors.

You may think you don't like feta cheese, but if you buy the fresh stuff in a block from your grocery store and make this casserole, you will grow to appreciate just what it can do.  It marries with dill and lemon so well, it's like they were born to be together forever.  They envelop tender, delicate little orzo pasta pieces and the whole thing just melts in your mouth.  Delicious.

You know a recipe is great when you're already looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Chicken Orzo Casserole
adapted from Everyday Food
serves 3


2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound chicken tenders, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup orzo
2 oz. feta, roughly chopped (or crumbled)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the broth, 1/4 cup water, butter, salt and pepper to a boil.

2.  Meanwhile, combine chicken, orzo, feta, dill, lemon zest and juice in a shallow 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.  Pour the hot broth mixture over it and stir once, gently, to incorporate.

3.  Bake until bubbling and starting to brown, and the cooking liquid is creamy, about 30 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes prior to serving.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Cornbread Salad

Well hello, my pretty.  Salad defies the salad-haters yet again!  This is a Southern twist on panzanella, using sweet and devilishly tasty cornbread cubes instead of ciabatta bread, and a tangy buttermilk dressing instead of a vinaigrette.  Yum and yum.

I haven't included a cornbread recipe below, because I figure you probably already have your favorite.  But in case you don't, this is the one I used, and it was fantastic.  It's probably best if you use day-old (or more) cornbread, so you don't feel too guilty about toasting it and putting it in a salad.  But do what you have to do.

The dressing for this salad is like no other dressing you've had, I promise.  It's zippy and zingy and zany and...zeal-inducing?  It's just so good.   And the salad's surprisingly filling, so feel free to make it your main course.

Cornbread Salad
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 2


1 1/2 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup baby arugula
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk*
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley
1 scallion, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Preheat toaster oven to 250.  Scatter cornbread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Place the lettuce, arugula, and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with the dressing that you make in step 3.

3.  Combine buttermilk, lime, oil, honey, parsley, scallion, salt and pepper in a salad dressing shaker or jar and shake vigorously to combine.  (Or whisk thoroughly in a small bowl).  Pour desired quantity over the salad and toss.  (You probably won't use it all).  Add cornbread cubes and toss.  Serve immediately.

* If you don't have buttermilk and don't feel like buying it, combine 2 tablespoons plain lowfat yogurt with 2 tablespoons milk.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

White Chili

Yes, there is a lot going on in that bowl.  But it is all delicious and lovely.  I am far from being a chili connoisseur,  but I think from now on, I will only like so-called "white" chili.  What makes it white?  Chicken breast and cannellini beans.  It's a beautiful big pot of comforting spicy deliciousness.

And then there are the garnishes.  This chili is beautiful alone, but I highly recommend including the garnishes.  This recipe doesn't just stop at jack cheese and cilantro; no.  We also put green onions, avocado, tomatoes, and lime.  It's a party in your bowl, folks.  And of course, I served it with cornbread.

Bring on the cool weather, because with meals like this I am happy to have a long fall and winter.

White Chili
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4-5


2 teaspoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 poblano or Anaheim chile, seeded and chopped
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
handful cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1 tomato, cut into wedges


1.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and chile, and cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.

2.  Add broth, salt, and chicken.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  If chicken breasts are not fully submerged, flip them over about halfway through simmering time to make sure they cook through.

3.  Remove chicken from pot and set aside.  Whisk in the cornmeal and beans to the broth.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Cut chicken into bite sized pieces, and add back to the pot.  Simmer 5 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring frequently.  Top individual servings with desired garnishes from:  scallions, cilantro, cheese, lime, avocado, and tomato.  Serve.


Friday, October 16, 2009

"Bangers" and Mash

I don't think it needs to be said.  You all know it.  British food gets a bad rap.  I've tried to defend it many a time, but there's no use.  People who trash British food have clearly never had a home cooked, a.k.a. Mum-made British meal.  (Or at least their mum wasn't as good a cook as mine).  Sure, there are a lot of British foods I have no interest in eating, but there are a lot of so-called "American" foods that I have no interest in eating, too.  (Chicken fried steak?  Yuck.)

Anyway, whatever your views on the culinary history of Britain, there is one traditional dish that most non-vegetarian people agree is pretty inoffensive.  Bangers are bready, meaty sausages, extremely heavy and extremely tasty.   I decided to use chicken bratwurst instead.  Feel free to use whatever sausage you like, but the idea is to get one of those already-cooked chicken or turkey sausages with interesting spices and flavors in it.  And who doesn't like mashed potatoes?

Grilled onions provide a deep, luxurious flavor to the sausage.  Simply sauteed spinach picks up the overflow of flavors from the sausage and the onions.  And delicately creamy mashed potatoes provide a pillowy backdrop for the other items on the plate.  Everything here is much healthier than it looks.  And flavor is not sacrificed one little bit.

There is a certain satisfaction in cooking an impromptu meal that takes you back to your childhood.  Even if you didn't grow up with this food, I'll let you borrow a snapshot from my upbringing and see if it doesn't provide the ultimate comfort.

"Bangers" and Mash
serves 3


for the mash

1 lb.  fingerling or similar potatoes, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup skim milk (more or less)
freshly ground pepper to taste

for the bangers 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 chicken bratwurst or similar sausages
1 bunch of spinach, thoroughly washed and spun dry


1.  Place potatoes in a medium pot and fill with water, about an inch above the tops of the potatoes.  Bring to a boil and salt the water.  Keep uncovered and cook at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and return to the pot. 

2.  Add olive oil and most of the milk, and mash in the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  If it's too dry, add milk until it's your desired consistency.

3.  While the potatoes are cooking, heat the 1 tablespoon EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook until just starting to brown.  Reduce heat to medium and add sausages.  Let cook for a minute or two, then flip the sausages with tongs to brown the other side. 

4.  When sausages and onions are nicely browned, add the spinach to the skillet and immediately cover with a lid.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Let cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, until spinach is wilted.

5.  Serve the bangers, mash, and spinach together on a plate.  As an added bonus, serve with HP sauce if you have access to it.  You'll thank me.



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Corn and Butternut Squash Soup

This soup may not be particularly pretty to look at (baby food, anyone?) but it presents a rich, slightly sweet, and wholly satisfying blend of the best of summer and fall.  Late summer sweet corn joins ranks with fall's superstar, butternut squash, to make a soup sophisticated in both flavor and texture.

I am a relative newcomer to the joys of winter squash, but butternut is my favorite so far.  It's hard to go wrong with butternut squash soup.  And when you add corn, it can only get better.  A hint of curry spice makes the flavor that much more interesting.  I wouldn't skip on the parsley garnish, either, which adds an extra bright element to an otherwise warm and grey-day type meal.

Corn and Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from Every Day Food
serves 4


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 small onion, chopped
kernels removed from 2 ears of sweet corn
1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup milk or cream
handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped


1.  In a medium, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high.  Add squash and onion and cook until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add corn and curry powder; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and add the broth.  Simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

3.  Puree most, but not all, of the soup in batches in a food processor or blender.  You want to leave some chunks of vegetables for texture.  Return to the pot and stir in milk.  Heat through over medium-low, but do not boil.  Serve sprinkled with parsley.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Summer may be over, but the tomato season isn't quite. I had some gorgeous golden-colored tomatoes in my CSA bag this week, and this recipe was the perfect way to showcase them. You can use any tomatoes you like to make this sauce, but I'd recommend really high quality, preferably heirloom, varieties. This is the sauce for the tomato you can't bring yourself to cook for fear of sullying its reputation.

This sauce is sweet and slightly tangy, with a bit of an underlying edge from the garlic oil. It's easy, quick, and refreshing. Equally great for a quick weeknight meal or a lazy weekend lunch.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce 

adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray  
serves 3 

1 large garlic clove, crushed  
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta (any cut you like) 
3 medium sized good quality tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped  
freshly ground pepper  
1 teaspoon lemon zest  
a few leaves of basil, finely chopped  


1. Place the olive oil and garlic clove in a small cup or bowl. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  

2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain. 
3. While pasta is cooking, crush the tomatoes with your hands in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon zest, basil, and the oil from step one (discard the garlic clove). Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce and serve.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Upside Down Apple Cobbler

On a cool fall day, there is nothing better than the smell of something baking. Particularly something that contains apples and cinnamon. This dessert seemed like the perfect thing to make on a holiday Monday, when we are under semi-house arrest due to illness. We had a few apples left from our trek out to orchard country last weekend, and I decided that I was going to make something homey and delicious with them.

Enter the ever-wise Beatrice Ojakangas. Her book, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, is just filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. This one is nothing short of fabulous. It takes an easy, traditional apple cobbler and literally turns it on its head. I have to say, I've always liked, but not loved, cobbler. On the plate the fruit juices run everywhere while the biscuit sits on top, minding its own business. Making an upside down cobbler just makes sense - the biscuity topping becomes a cakey base to absorb the fruit juices, and everyone is happy.

I would recommend using a variety of apple that is both sweet and tart, such as Jonagold, Braeburn, or McIntosh, so that your dessert is not too sweet. The biscuit/cake part is very sweet in its own right.

Upside Down Apple Cobbler
adapted from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever
serves 6


cooking spray
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup white whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup skim milk
2 cups sliced peeled apples
cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling


1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a shallow 1 1/2 qt. baking dish with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, mix butter, flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla, and milk to make a batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

3. Arrange apple slices over the top of the batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and no longer jiggly. Serve warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers

It was good to get back into the kitchen, even though I'm still not well. I couldn't stand eating takeout or going out to eat every meal, and I finally gave into the siren song that was coming from my grill pan to make this dinner. It was incredibly satisfying to have something healthy and filled with flavor that I made with my own hands again. Nothing like a few days without cooking to make you remember why it is such a therapeutic process.

These burgers are simple and delicious. The yogurt sauce is pretty fantastic too, and its creamy mildness serves a great contrast to the sharp spice of the burger. We had ours on sandwich thins, which have been popping up in the supermarket lately, but the original recipe called for pitas. Either way, I recommend the hearty whole wheat, so it can stand up to the intense flavor and juiciness that it will have to contain.

Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers
adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
serves 3


1 pound ground chicken
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
cooking spray
3 whole wheat pitas
1/2 hot house cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plan low-fat yogurt (pref. Greek)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, scallions, ginger, lemon juice, paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin, cardamom, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Stir until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes to let the flavors marry.

2. Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, spray with cooking spray. Divide the chicken into three patties, about 3/4 inch thick, and cook until done, about 5 minutes each side, until juices run clear when the patties are pierced.

3. While the patties cook, make the yogurt sauce by stirring yogurt with remaining cumin, a pinch of salt, and cilantro. Assemble the burgers by putting about a tablespoon or so of yogurt sauce into each pita, along with a chicken patty and cucumber slices.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chicken Chop Suey (CEIMB)

This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe is the ever-loved, ever-comforting, ever-not-really-Chinese-but-we-can-pretend chicken chop suey. Ellie's version is much lighter, of course. And I have to say, it tastes great. There's no intensity of flavor here, and if you are looking for that, this might not be the recipe for you. If you tried to add chilies or other spicy ingredients, it would lose all of its subtle warmth.

This is a basic stir fry with a few extra touches thrown in to make it more exciting. Most notably the won tons. I had never bought won ton skins before, but I am officially converted. (Yet again, Ellie introduces me to a new favorite ingredient!) Here they are baked instead of fried, and you really wouldn't know the difference, other than a lack of greasiness. They taste just like those fried won tons you get in Chinese restaurants.

Overall, definitely a success, and just what the doctor ordered for my cold.

Chicken Chop Suey
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 2


Four 3-inch square wonton skins, separated
cooking spray
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 small cloves garlic, or one large, thinly sliced
1 small head napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
3 stalks celery from the heart, thinly sliced
4 oz. canned bamboo shoots, drained and cut into thin strips
1 cup fresh* shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup low sodium chicken or veggie broth*
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup cubed or shredded cooked chicken
toasted sesame seeds

* Note: You can also do what I did and use dried mushrooms; reconstitute them in boiling water and then use that water instead of broth.


1. Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Lay the won ton skins on the baking sheet and spray them with cooking spray. Sprinkle lightly with salt and bake for about 5 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Set aside to cool.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and sherry until smooth. Set aside.

3. Heat canola oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When hot, add the scallions, garlic, cabbage, celery, bamboo shoots and mushrooms (unless using reconstituted mushrooms, in which case add them when you add the chicken later). Stir fry until cabbage softens and starts to wilt, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Add the broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the sherry-cornstarch mixture and stir to combine. Add chicken (and reconstituted mushrooms, if using) and heat through. Serve topped with sesame seeds and broken-up won tons.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Open-Faced Apple Gruyere Melts

This is more of a tasty idea than a recipe. It was born out of my coming down with a cold, combined with the glorious McIntosh apples we have in our fridge thanks to a trip to Oak Glen this past weekend. The cold comes in because I needed some soup for dinner tonight, and I wasn't up to making it for myself. My husband gallantly went out to pick up Panera's low fat chicken noodle (yum), and I made this lovely little open-faced sandwich with the whole grain baguette half that came with my soup.

The general idea is to take wonderfully crusty bread, cut it in half, and decorate the innards with delicious tart apples and nutty cheese. The combination here just happens to work particularly well, but I'm confident that your favorite cheese and apple would substitute just fine. (If you haven't tried Gruyere with apples, though, I strongly encourage you to do so).

Open-Faced Apple Gruyere Melts
serves 2


6 inch whole grain baguette, halved length-wise and cross-wise
1 medium sized McIntosh apple, cored and cut into thin slices
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, very thinly sliced


1. Preheat toaster oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Top the baguette halves with a thin layer of cheese, followed by the apple slices, followed by the remaining cheese. Place on the baking sheet and cook until cheese is melted, starting to bubble and brown, about 5 minutes.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Salad with Sauteed Apples and Cranberry Vinaigrette

When people are on restrictive diets, they often think with chagrin of all the salads they will have to eat. I have no pity for these people. With a little creativity, a salad is far from boring. If you add an ingredient or two that is just slightly naughty, in fact, a salad can taste quite decadent.

This salad features some beautiful fall flavors. It gives your mouth a bounty of textures to explore, and a fabulous contrast of sweet and savory. It takes those mopey dieters and gives them something to smile about.

The cranberry dressing is tangy and yet sweet at the same time. I'll have to make a mental note to use this one again in the future. Usually fruit salad dressings are not my thing, but this one is a notable exception.

Salad with Sauteed Apples and Cranberry Vinaigrette
adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Harvest
serves 2


the vinaigrette:
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried cranberries

the salad:
1 small Macintosh or Jonagold apple
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 cups baby greens of choice
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese


1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake, or whisk them together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until remaining ingredients are ready.

2. Cut the apple into 8 wedges, removing the core. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the apple wedges, flesh side down. Saute for about 4 minutes on each side, until browned and tender. Remove apples from skillet with tongs or a slotted spoon onto a paper towel. Reduce heat to medium-low.

3. Add the slivered almonds to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from skillet to a paper towel.

4. Assemble the salad: Divide the greens among serving plates. Top with apple wedges, nuts, and blue cheese. Drizzle with dressing. Serve.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beef with Broccoli

Beef with broccoli was always one of my favorite things to order in Chinese restaurants. I had oodles of broccoli in the fridge that needed to be used, so I thought I'd partake in my monthly beef in the form of one of my favorite Asian dishes.

This is a very easy recipe. Like any stir fry, it requires that you do all the prep work first before you start cooking. You need to be ready to throw things into the pan and keep an eye on them, keeping things moving almost constantly. Don't try to multitask here. Follow the directions and you'll be rewarded with a flavorful, reminiscent-of-takeout-from-your-favorite-Chinese-joint meal.

If you want to make it spicy, chop up a chile and throw it in with the veggies. Or if you want to just add a hint of extra flavor, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top of your meal before serving.

Beef with Broccoli
adapted from Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
serves 3


3/4 pound thin ribeye or flank steak
4 1/2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped


1. Trim excess fat from steak. Cut it into evenly sized pieces, no more than 1/4 inch thick and 3 inches long. Combine beef, 1 1/2 tablespoons broth, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce in a medium bowl and stir to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons broth, wine, sesame oil, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce in a small bowl for sauce, stirring to dissolve cornstarch completely.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add beef with marinade and stir fry until no longer pink, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil to pan and heat over high heat. Add ginger; stir carefully (oil will spit at you) for about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and stir fry until dark green, about 1 minute. Add bell pepper and remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes, or until broccoli is crisp tender.

5. Return beef and juices to the skillet. Stir the sauce in its small bowl, and add to the skillet, tossing and stirring until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Serve over rice, or on its own.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mediterranean Scramble

I haven't posted a lot of breakfast recipes in this blog, and the item that is most notoriously absent thus far is the egg. My husband is not a fan, so I generally only eat eggs when we go out to breakfast. Today I decided to spoil myself and make an utterly selfish breakfast for just little old me. I also wanted to use my brand new Le Creuset skillet, which I am pleased to say performed very well!

The first thing I ever cooked with any regularity was scrambled eggs. As I got better at it, I experimented with adding things, and to this day I still have the same basic formula. First I cook the veggies and meat, if any, then I pour the eggs over them; when the eggs start to set, I add cheese, scramble everything together, and end with seasonings. It's a pretty easy repertoire.

This version has delicious Mediterranean flavors - salty prosciutto, crunchy sweet red bell peppers, melty mozzarella, and grassy flat-leaf parsley. Everything comes together quite simply and makes for a beautiful weekend breakfast. I had it with some fresh baguette slices. Yum.

Mediterranean Scramble
serves 1


olive oil cooking spray
1 small (or 1/2 large) red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons diced prosciutto
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of water
3 tablespoons part skim shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
pinch of salt and pepper


1. Coat skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. When hot, add bell pepper and prosciutto. Cook, stirring only occasionally, for a minute or two, until prosciutto is just starting to brown and bell peppers are crisp-tender.

2. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies and let it cook untouched for about a minute, until eggs are starting to set (i.e. the part touching the skillet bottom is solidifying). Add cheese and stir everything up with a spatula.

3. As the eggs become almost cooked through, stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Go easy on the salt; prosciutto is already pretty salty). Serve with bread, pita, or whatever floats your boat.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pasta with Braised Kale

In honor of World Vegetarian Day (yes, that's a real thing, apparently), I made a delicious, meatless pasta dinner tonight. It features our good old friend kale, braised for about twenty minutes with onion and garlic, doused with lemon juice at the last moment, and tossed with pasta. It's simple, wholesome, and yum.

This is a great introduction to kale, for those of you who haven't tried it yet, or just haven't introduced it to your diners yet. It's much more approachable when tender and mixed with everyone's favorite starchy food.

Pasta with Braised Kale
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
serves 2-3


1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, large stems removed, torn into chunks and rinsed
1/3 pound whole wheat linguine or spaghetti
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan


1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

2. Add kale (still wet from rinsing) and remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and toss until just wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, and adding a little bit of water now and then if it becomes dry, until kale is very tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve about 1/4 cup pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. Add drained pasta to the kale pot.

4. Add lemon juice and a tablespoon of the pasta cooking water and toss everything together. If it's too dry, add more pasta water (you probably won't need to). Serve topped with a little bit of parmesan.