Friday, November 27, 2009

Smashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives (CEIMB)

This week for Craving Ellie in my Belly, we each were to make an Ellie dish for our Thanksgiving spread.  I chose something simple - I had offered to be in charge of potatoes, and no Thanksgiving is complete without some kind of mash.  If you like your mashed potatoes smooth and creamy, you might prefer something like this.  These, however, are a lovely rustic smash with the peels still on, the occasional chunk, and yet they still have a lovely smoothness to them.

I think we all know that the traditional topping for a baked potato is sour cream and chives.  I have never been a huge sour cream fan, but somehow when you mix it all together with the fluffy potato innards instead of letting it rest on top, I like it.  And that's exactly what this mashed potato recipe is.  You'd never even guess that there isn't a drop of butter in the recipe.   Also, it's one of the easiest side dishes ever, apart from the exercise of mashing the potatoes, but that's a great way to let out aggression!

I doubled the recipe for our group of eleven, and there was still way more than enough.  If this is your only side dish at a non-thanksgiving meal (such as bangers and mash, perhaps?) then believe the serving count as it is.

Smashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 4


1 1/4 pounds baby yukon gold potatoes, large ones halved
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth, warmed
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream (NOT nonfat)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
freshly ground pepper to taste


1.  Place potatoes in a large pot and fill with cold water to about 1 inch above the tops of the potatoes.  Salt it, cover it, and bring to a boil over high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, uncover and reduce heat slightly to medium-high.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are knife tender.  Drain.

2.  Return potatoes to the pot and add the warm broth.  Mash with a potato masher to the desired consistency - I'd recommend getting rid of any serious chunks of potato, but leaving a somewhat rustic texture.

3.  Stir in sour cream, chives, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Maple and Sage Roasted Butternut Squash

Happy Thanksgiving!  As we all know, thanksgiving is a day that is all about appreciating things.  Especially side dishes that showcase fantastic fall flavors.

One of my contributions to today's feast is this fantastic and simple maple roasted butternut squash side dish.  It features my favorite herb, sage, and my favorite sweetener, maple syrup.  It comes together quickly, it makes your house smell like donuts, and it's delicious.  Nuff said.

Maple and Sage Roasted Butternut Squash
makes about 4 cups


1 3-lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
handful fresh sage leaves


1.  Preheat oven to 400.

2.  Lay out the squash on a ridged baking sheet and toss with the maple and oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes, taking it out once about halfway through to turn the squash. 

3.  Add the sage and toss everything together, then bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown and sizzling.  Discard any burned chunks of maple syrup - they won't taste too good.  Serve.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Oh my god.  Yes, this is that good.

Tonight I conducted an experiment in my kitchen, adapting the recipe for spanakopita filling from the barefoot contessa and making one big spanakopita instead of the individual triangles.  It was so incredibly fantastic, I don't know where to begin. 

Spanakopita is often served as an appetizer, but this variation can easily be your full meal.  Salty feta, earthy spinach, and gorgeous spices encased in a crispy phyllo shell - this is vegetarian bliss.   Yum. 

Eloquence is escaping me, so let's get straight to the recipe.

adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
serves 4-5


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup small-diced feta cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted and cut in half
2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Warm olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes, just softening, not browning.  Add scallions and cook for two additional minutes.  Remove from heat.

3.  Meanwhile, squeeze most of the moisture from the spinach and place in a large bowl.  Add onions and scallions when they're done cooking.  Stir in eggs, parmesan, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.

4.  Lay out the phyllo sheets on a work surface.  Brush an 8 x 8 baking dish with vegetable oil using a pastry brush.  Working quickly so they don't dry out, brush a small amount of vegetable oil onto each phyllo sheet.  Lay the first five halves into the baking sheet after oiling each one.  The edges will go up the sides of the baking dish, so lay them in different directions to create a sort of crust coming up the sides of the baking dish.

5.  Spread the filling evenly over the phyllo.  Top with the remaining five halves of phyllo dough after brushing each one with oil in the same manner you did with the first five.  When all the phyllo is in the pan, fold down the edges that are coming up over the top of the baking dish to create a sort of seal.  Sprinkle lightly with salt, and bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and crisp.  Serve hot.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato and Red Onion Tart

Tonight I took one step further into the realm of pastry crust.  This time it was a free-form tart, a galette of sorts, and one of the savory variety.  While the crust came out a little bit crumbly, the tart was in one piece and it tasted fantastic, so I think I can safely pat myself on the back.

This is a very elegant meal on its own, or with a simple green salad.  It could also work as an appetizer or side dish on Thanksgiving day, if you are looking for a last minute addition to your menu.  The flavors are mild and lovely, with just a hint of robust rosemary to liven things up a bit. 

I suppose if I'm really going to get good at the whole pastry crust thing, I need to go for the full fat, white flour and butter variety.  But these experiments with the more healthy alternative are still quite fun.  So enjoy a relatively guilt-free tart, on me.

Sweet Potato and Red Onion Tart
adapted from Eating Well Magazine
serves 8-10


3/4 cup walnuts
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 tablespoons ice cold water

1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 egg white, mixed with 1 teaspoon water


1.  Preheat oven to 425 (unless you are making the pastry dough ahead of time, which you can feel free to do).

2.  Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until finely ground.  Add flour, rosemary, salt and pepper, and process until smooth.  Dump out into a large bowl and form a well in the center.  Pour EVOO and water into the well, then gently stir everything together, gradually combining the dry and wet ingredients, until a cohesive dough begins to form.  Knead with your hands to form into a ball, just until it comes together.  Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 days.

3.  Combine sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.  Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet (but leave room for the onions).  Toss onion in the bowl with 1 teaspoon oil.  Spread evenly on remaining space of the baking sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375.

4.  Line a work surface with parchment paper.  Lightly dust with flour, and then lightly dust the disk of dough with flour.  Roll out to a rustic 15-inch circle, adding more flour if necessary to prevent sticking.  Transfer to a baking sheet with parchment in place.

5.  Leaving a 2 inch border, sprinkle cheese over the dough.  Maintaining the 2 inch border, create an overlapping circle of the larger slices of sweet potato around the perimeter.  Follow with another circle of onion, and finally fill in the center with overlapping sweet potato.  It will look sort of like a bulls-eye. 

6.  Pick up edges of crust with a spatula and fold over, covering the edges of the sweet potato slices.  Dough may be crumbly, so be patient and smoosh it with your fingers as necessary.  Brush the crust with the egg wash.  Drizzle veggies with remaining teaspoon of oil.

7.  Bake until lightly browned on the edges, about 50 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

A few more steps than my typical recipe, but well worth it!  Enjoy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Double Chocolate Brownies

There are brownies, and then there are brownies.   I can't even count the number of brownie recipes I have tried in my lifetime, one of which I posted on this blog before.  But sometimes a brownie recipe comes along that makes you want to share with all your friends.  For brownie purposes, it is The One.

And best of all, it's fairly low fat.  It comes from Ellie Krieger, after all (with my tweaks).  It was published in the Food Network magazine a few months ago and I finally got around to trying it today.  It is cakey and fudgy at the same time - super chocolatey and rich without giving you the sensation of instant artery clogging.  Definitely one to add to the holiday repertoire!

Double Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Food Network magazine
makes 24 small brownies


cooking spray
6 ounces dark chocolate (60% to 70% preferred), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white whole wheat four
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350, and coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

2.  Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (or a makeshift double boiler - heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water).  Stir occasionally until melted.  Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar until smooth, then add yogurt, oil and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until blended.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.

4.  Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Cool in the pan before slicing.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Lion's Head (Pork Meatballs with Napa Cabbage)

Obviously it is not uncommon for me to try cooking something I've never cooked before.  But occasionally I am so crazy that I try cooking something I've never even eaten before.  I know.  I'm a maniac.

Tonight's dish was motivated by a particularly beautiful head of napa cabbage that I picked up at the farmers market last weekend.  I sought out a recipe that put a spotlight on this lovely pale green cabbage, and found Lion's Head.  I was intrigued.  And considering I got the original recipe from Rachael Ray, I'm guessing it's not the most authentic Chinese cuisine.  But it's tasty.

This is a meal meant to be served over rice, but I chose to have it as a shallow sort of soup.  It reminded me of matzo ball soup, only with giant meatballs instead of matzo balls.  The flavors are mild, so if you're looking for something with more zing I'd add ginger or maybe hot chilies to the meatballs.  As it stands, it's a comforting and hearty meal that is pretty inoffensive, and maybe even yummy.  You be the judge.

Feel free to substitute ground turkey or chicken, though if it's too lean it will be too dry.

Lion's Head
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 3


1 pound lean ground pork
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 small to medium head of napa cabbage, cored and chopped


1.  Combine pork, soy sauce, egg, garlic, scallions, bell pepper, and one tablespoon of the cornstarch in a bowl.  Stir together until combined, but do not overmix.  It's kind of gross, but you should probably use your hands.  Form into six large meatballs.  Dust the meatballs evenly with remaining cornstarch.

2.  In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over high heat.  When it is starting to ripple, add the meatballs and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, so the meatballs are nicely browned all over but not cooked through.

3.  In a medium to large Dutch oven or soup pot, bring the chicken broth to a bubble.  Add half the cabbage, followed by the meatballs, followed by the remaining cabbage.  The pot should be pretty much filled up to the top.  Put on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and let simmer for about a minute.  The cabbage should be mostly wilted and the meatballs should be cooked through.  Serve.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Berry French Toast Bake (CEIMB)

This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe was for Peach French Toast Bake, which sounded lovely.  The recipe uses frozen fruit, so you actually get to enjoy out-of-season fruit on your French toast.  I opted to go for berries, since it's what I happened to have in the freezer.  I also made a few other adaptations to the recipe, including shrinking it down to a single (or double, if you're not that hungry) portion.

The results were good, but I don't know if I'm convinced that I want to switch from my normal French toast method.  The overnight soaking didn't produce anything magical.  But the flavors were nice, and it was somewhat more elegant than your typical French toast.   All in all, a success.

Berry French Toast Bake (CEIMB)
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 1-2


cooking spray
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 egg
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup mixed frozen berries
2 tablespoons brown sugar


1.  Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray.  Lay the bread slices in the pan.

2.  Whisk egg, milk, and vanilla together in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over the bread slices.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Scatter the berries over the bread, and sprinkle the top with brown sugar.  Top with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3.  In the morning, preheat the oven to 350.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until browned and puffed up.  Serve.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter Squash Cassoulet

I'm giving you another hearty, warm and comforting fall dish today, people.  And again, miraculously, it's vegetarian.

I think if you've browsed this blog at all you have gathered by now that I am not a vegetarian.  Still, I try to eat a well-balanced and wholesome assortment of food, and the goal is to not eat too much meat.  Both for environmental and for health reasons.  This meal is a great example of how you can have a complex and filling dinner and not even notice the lack of meat.

Use whatever winter squash you like in this recipe - I used buttercup squash, but butternut, acorn, or pumpkin would be fabulous too.  The squash, beans, roasted garlic and caramelized onions all have a lovely melty texture that goes wonderfully with the crisp bread crumb topping.

Winter Squash Cassoulet
adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Eat Well
serves 4


1 head of garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 small winter squash, 1-2 lbs, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 slice whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


1.  Preheat toaster oven (or oven, if you must) to 375.  Cut garlic head in half crosswise and wrap the two halves together in foil.  Bake until soft, about 30 minutes.  Cool, then squeeze cloves from cut halves into a bowl, discarding papery skins.  Set aside.

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute, stirring often, until they soften.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and preheat the oven to 375 (if you didn't already use the full sized oven in step 1).

3.  Stir beans, squash, broth, thyme, salt, pepper, and reserved garlic in with the onions.  Cover and bake until squash is tender, about 40 minutes.  Mix bread crumbs with parmesan and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle evenly over the top.  Return cassoulet to oven (uncovered) and bake until bread crumbs are browned, about 10 minutes.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes over Polenta

There is nothing wrong with simplicity.  In fact, it is a magnificently beautiful concept that gives rise to dishes like this one.  I have been craving polenta for weeks, and I finally decided to partake this evening in a rustic, hearty and comforting dish with beautiful Italian flavors.  There are very few ingredients, but they are good quality ones.   This is a perfect meal for a cool fall evening, with a glass of wine and some good music in the background.  Bliss, my friends.  Bliss.

The other fantastic aspect of this meal is that it gave me a chance to try out a different way of making polenta, and I am officially a convert.  I had heard about this method many times before, and finally got around to trying it.  Why would I ever go back?  You'll see in the instructions below that your days of whisking almost constantly on the stovetop are behind you.

Please try this.  If you have a hunk of crusty bread nearby, even better.

Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes over Polenta
serves 2-3


3/4 cup polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons quality balsamic vinegar
handful basil leaves, torn
3 large garlic cloves, crushed with the flat edge of a knife
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese


1.  Preheat oven to 425.  In an 8 x 8 baking dish or similar sized casserole, combine polenta, water, broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste.  Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until polenta thickens and has a porridge-y consistency.

2.  While the polenta is baking, place the tomatoes in a single layer in a small baking dish.  Drizzle with EVOO and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.  Add garlic cloves and basil, and toss everything together.  When the polenta has been baking for about 15 minutes, add the tomato dish to the oven.   Each time you open the oven to stir the polenta, stir up the tomatoes, too.

3.  When there are about 5 minutes left in the baking time, stir parmesan into the polenta.  When everything is done (tomatoes are mostly burst, polenta has thickened), serve tomatoes and juices over the polenta.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Persimmon Salad

I've had a few fuyu persimmons hanging out in my fruit bowl for a couple of weeks now.  I have to admit, I'm not a big enough fan to enjoy eating them straight up.  Unfortunately, most baked goods that contain persimmons call for the much pulpier hachiya persimmon, so I was running out of ideas of how to use these guys.

Then it came to me.  The fuyu persimmon is sweet and crunchy, much like an apple.  Apples are great in salads along with nuts, cheeses, and other such things.  Inspiration struck.  I turned to the Barefoot Contessa for the dressing idea, and decided to build a festive, fall-oriented salad.  There are so many delicious flavors in the bowl, that even if you're not a huge persimmon fan, I promise you'll enjoy it.  And if you are, well, there's no question.

Note - use a good quality blue cheese for this recipe, one that tastes good on its own, so that you don't botch the flavor of the salad with a nasty cheese.

Fall Persimmon Salad
serves 2 as a main course


2 ounces diced prosciutto
5 ounces mixed baby greens
2 fuyu persimmons, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted in a dry skillet and chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

the dressing:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


1.  In a small skillet over medium-high heat, cook the prosciutto until crispy.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Combine the greens, persimmon, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese in a large salad bowl.  Add prosciutto when it's not too hot.

3.  Make the dressing by whisking all ingredients together, streaming in the oil last, or by putting all ingredients in a salad dressing shaker and shaking vigorously.  Pour just enough dressing over the salad to coat the greens (don't drench them), then toss everything together.  Serve.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Karahi Chicken

My sister and I took an Indian cooking class a few months ago taught by the lovely and talented Neelam Batra.  She told us about her published cookbooks, and I immediately fell in love with one of them.  It's called Chilis to Chutneys, and it features an assortment of recipes that combine Indian flavors with more western style dishes.  And thank heavens, it does NOT refer to itself as "Indian Fusion." 

The fact is, I love Indian food.  With most of my heart.  An even bigger portion of my heart, however, I use to love my husband, who does not dig the Indian food.  So this cookbook is a great solution - it brings Indian spices within his comfort zone.  Case in point with this dish.  At first glance, it's just your typical stir fry.  But when you take a bite, it surprises you with some bold Indian spices that you weren't expecting.  He definitely liked it.

It also features one of my favorite flavors, cilantro.  I realize there are cilantro haters out there - and they will want to skip this dish.  But it reminds me of a delicious cilantro chicken my mother always made that is one of my all time favorites of her recipes.  Something about cilantro and tomato - it's just a beautiful combination.

I improvised a bit with what I had on hand, so this is my version of Ms. Batra's recipe.  Feel free to change up the spices to use whatever Indian goodies you have in your cupboard.

Karahi Chicken
adapted from Neelam Batra's Chilis to Chutneys
serves 4


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
1 generous cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips


1.  Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the onion and ginger, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the garlic and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until a cohesive sauce starts to form, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add cilantro, garam masala, cumin, salt, pepper, and chicken.  Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is mostly cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add bell pepper strips, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes to marry the flavors.  Serve over rice, or with naan.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roasted Potatoes with Bacon, Leeks and Sage

Well hello, fall comfort food.  Thank you for turning up on my dinner plate.

This is such an easy dish that showcases some incredible fall flavors.  Baby fingerling potatoes, crispy and brown on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside?  Check.  Pungent fresh sage leaves, turned crispy after a visit to the oven?  Check.  Roasted leeks and crispy bacon to tie it all together with a power chord of flavor?  Check.

It's that simple.  And it's that good.  This sounds like a side dish, but trust me, you won't need anything else.

Roasted Potatoes with Bacon, Leeks and Sage
adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish


1 strip of bacon, chopped
1 pound of baby fingerling potatoes, halved
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Preheat oven (preferably toaster oven) to 375.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

2.  Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon pieces and cook until browned and crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

3.  Toss the potatoes, leek, and sage with the olive oil (and drippings from the bacon, if you like, in which case reduce the amount of oil).  Season lightly with salt and pepper, place on the baking sheet, and bake for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are getting evenly browned, and leeks and sage are getting crispy.

4.  Add the bacon pieces and toss everything together.  Raise oven temperature to 400 and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until everything is browned and crispy, and potatoes are tender.  Serve.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

White Bean & Sage Hummus

White beans are one of those ingredients that I've grown to love more and more as I experiment with them.  They have a mild flavor, but a fantastic texture that lends itself so well to soups and dips.  Here is an elegant variation on hummus, featuring white beans and my very favorite herb, sage. 

I made this recipe up as I went along, tasting here and there and adjusting accordingly.  It came out pretty fantastic.  It's healthy, hearty and delicious.  You could easily make a meal out of it with some veggies, or spread it on a tortilla and make a wrap with some veggies and/or meat of choice.   We had company today, and the general consensus definitely seemed to be favorable!

White Bean & Sage Hummus
makes about 2 1/2 cups


1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
4 or 5 leaves of fresh sage
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste


1.  Place the beans, lemon juice, tahini, sage, and cayenne in a food processor and puree until mostly smooth.   With the processor running, stream in the EVOO until desired consistency is reached.  It should be smooth, but still nice and thick, like hummus.

2.  Season to taste with salt and serve immediately, or cover and store in the refrigerator for a day or two.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Peanut Butter Blossoms

It's not a holiday season without cookies.  It just isn't.  Peanut butter blossoms don't have anything particularly holiday-ish about them, but somehow I associate them with this time of year.  They feature the greatest flavor combination of all, chocolate and peanut butter.  I tweaked them slightly to add a hint of nutrition, but some things just can't be taken too far.  These are decadent little fellows, and that's why we make them small.

Pillowy peanut butter cookies providing support to a full-sized, slightly melted Hershey's kiss - it's just that simple.  I experimented with doing half dark chocolate and half milk - they'd also be great with Hugs, or with any of Hershey's other odd kiss formations (so long as it's something that goes with peanut butter - I'd stay away from the mint flavored ones).

Hershey's may not be the best chocolate there is, but this is one way to make it taste absolutely fantastic.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
adapted from the Hershey's kiss package
makes about 4 dozen


1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup creamy all natural peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
48 Hershey's kisses, unwrapped (milk, dark, or combination of both)


1.  Heat oven to 375.

2.  Beat butter and peanut butter in a large bowl or stand mixer.  Add both sugars, and beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually beat into the mixture from step 2.

4.  Form 1 inch balls of dough and place on two baking sheets.  You should get about 48 cookies.  (I got 45).  Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and immediately press a kiss into each cookie.  The cookies will crack a bit; don't worry!  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Smoky Autumn Greens

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and some things are automatically on the menu - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie, etc.   For me, thanksgiving is all about the side dishes, and it seems like a great opportunity to showcase earthy fall flavors and add some color to your plate.

This side dish is, in a word, awesome.  I have to admit, I wasn't expecting magic on a plate, but it's what I got.  The smoky bacon, tangy pomegranate, and tender greens are a completely dynamite combination.  Try it out and see.  I think there will be a new source of green on your buffet table this year.

Note that this quantity is only good for 2 or 3 people, so if you're serving a crowd, make sure you multiply accordingly!

Smoky Autumn Greens
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 2-3


1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 slices of smoked bacon, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and dried, stems and ribs removed
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
handful of pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth


1.  Heat a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and bacon, and cook until the bacon is browned and crispy, about 5 minutes.

2.  Roughly chop the chard and add it to the pan.  (If you're doubling or tripling the recipe, make sure you add the chard in batches,  adding more as it wilts down).   Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir.

3.  Scatter in the pomegranate seeds and pour in the broth.  Simmer until greens are very tender and most of the broth is evaporated.  Serve.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Steak with Whiskey Sauce

Some cookbooks are just too good to pass up.  I try to avoid really butter-laden, gluttonous meals, but when the beloved Pioneer Woman's cookbook came out last week, I had to have it.  Her blog is my favorite of all the blogs I read (and there are many), more for her wit and her stunning photography than the recipes themselves.  You see, PW is not afraid of butter.  I'm not either - in fact, I love it - but I use it in moderation because I try to keep my meals on the healthier side.

So tonight I decided to experiment with one of her dishes, and make it a bit more heart healthy.  I changed up a few things,  but the spirit of this dish is still there.  This is a delicious steak with a simple yet unusual sauce.  We don't normally have whiskey in the house, but I'm glad we happened to have some right now, because this is a sauce I plan to make again and again.

I definitely recommend serving this on a bed of sauteed veggies.  We had ours with some baby bok choy, which soaked up some of the extra sauce and made for a nicely rounded meal.

Steak with Whiskey Sauce
adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
serves 2


2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons diced onion
1/4 cup whiskey
1/4 cup low sodium beef broth (chicken broth will work too)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup milk
10 to 12 oz. top sirloin steak, trimmed and cut in half


1.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until brown, about 4 minutes.

2.  Turn off the burner when the onion has browned, and add the whiskey.  Stand back just to be on the safe side.  When most of the whiskey has evaporated off, turn on the burner to medium and pour in the broth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3.  Whisk in another 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and allow the mixture to bubble for about 30 seconds.  Reduce heat to low, and whisk in the milk.  Allow to simmer on very low heat while you prepare the steaks.  Stir occasionally.

4.  Melt remaining tablespoon of butter with remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the steak(s) with salt and pepper, then add to the hot skillet.  Cook about 4 minutes per side for medium rare, depending on the thickness of your steak.

5.  Plate the steaks and spoon the sauce over each one.   You might have some leftover sauce.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chicken Paella with Sausage and Olives

Paella is one of those fabulous meals that is a little bit different every time you have it, but always comforting and hearty.  This variation includes no seafood whatsoever, so I was excited to try it for my husband's sake.  It comes from the brand spanking new Ellie Krieger cookbook, So Easy.  And it really is.

This meal is genuinely fun to make.  It's one of those science-experiment-in-the-kitchen recipes, only it requires little effort.  It just comes together as a fantastically spicy and rich, yet nutritious and easy on the waistline, one pot meal.  The warm spices are perfect for this cool fall evening.  I always thought of paella as a labor of love, but this one can easily be served as a weeknight meal.

Chicken Paella with Sausage and Olives
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 4


1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 oz. chorizo sausage, casing removed, chopped
1 lb.  skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green olives
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of ground turmeric
small pinch of saffron threads


1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet or a medium-large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes.  Add chicken pieces and cook until browned on all sides (not necessarily cooked through), about 4 minutes.  Transfer chicken and chorizo to a plate.

2.  Add remaining oil to pan.  Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, about one minute.  Return chicken and chorizo to the pot and add broth, peas, rice, tomato, olives, salt, pepper, turmeric, and saffron.  Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven. 

3.  Cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Baked Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Crumb Topping

I posted a pumpkin pasta recipe once before, but believe it or not, this one is completely different.  Some of the ingredients are the same, mostly because there are certain flavors (sage, nutmeg) that simply have to go with pumpkin.  But this is a great example of how the same basic flavors can be combined in a variety of ways to make utterly different dishes.

This is a crunchy, flavor-packed, spicy and sophisticated pasta dish that's a fun twist on flavors you think you know well.   And it's not even decadent.  Pumpkin is so good for you, it's ridiculous.   We just have psychological associations with pumpkin and nutmeg that make us think "Oooh, I'm indulging."  But in this case, it's really not true.

This is a great way to use up leftover canned pumpkin from, oh, perhaps pumpkin muffins or cookies.   Enjoy the fall flavors and surprise your family with a completely unexpected variation on a familiar theme.

Baked Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Crumb Topping
adapted from Veganomicon
serves 4-5


the topping:
3 slices of stale (i.e. not super soft) whole grain bread
handful of walnut pieces
4 or 5 fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

the pasta:
cooking spray
1/2 pound short cut whole grain pasta
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth


1.  Make the topping by putting all the topping ingredients in a food processor, except the oil.  Process until a coarse bread crumb mixture forms.  With the processor running, stream the oil into the bread crumb mixture.  Set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 375 and spray an 8 x 8 or similar sized casserole dish with cooking spray.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

3.  While pasta is cooking, heat remaining olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Saute the onion, stirring only occasionally, until onions are browned and starting to caramelize, about 10 to 15 minutes.

4.  Combine the pasta, onions, sugar, nutmeg, cayenne, pumpkin, and broth in a mixing bowl until well mixed.  Pour into the prepared casserole dish.  Top with the bread crumb mixture.  Bake 25 minutes, or until bread crumb topping is golden brown.