Monday, June 20, 2011

Garlic Scape and Spinach Pesto

Recently a coworker brought in a huge bag of garlic scapes from his garden to share, and I was happy to accept a few handfuls, as I've never had them before and I rarely turn down an opportunity to try a new vegetable.


They look kind of alien-ish, I think. The tops will (I believe) bloom into flowers if not trimmed at this stage.

I always love to try new kinds of pesto, so I whizzed these guys together with some spinach (the garlicky flavor of the scapes by themselves was almost overwhelming), parmesan cheese and nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil of course. Tossed with some whole wheat rotini and some fresh mozzarella, and dinner was a snap.

I cooked 1 lb of pasta and used the entire batch of pesto in the recipe below, along with 8 oz fresh mozzarella chopped into bite sized pieces. Some chicken, sausage or tofu would be a nice addition, or some additional veggies like zucchini and mushrooms. I added a few leftover roasted cherry tomatoes, which added a nice contrast to the rich pesto and mozz.

Garlic Scape and Spinach Pesto
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8-10 garlic scapes, chopped in 1" pieces
4 ounces spinach leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted almonds and/or walnuts (I used 1/4 cup of each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
about 1/4 cup olive oil (or more to taste)

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Process/blend for 20-30 seconds, then drizzle in the olive oil and continue to process until smooth. Can be made a few days ahead of time (cover with olive oil and store in the refrigerator) and can even be frozen (ditto on the covering with olive oil).


Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Quinoa with Black Bean Hummus

Are you familiar with jicama? I have enjoyed this vegetable in restaurant salads for a few years now, but have never purchased one or cooked one myself. Actually, I don't know if anyone ever cooks them, or if they are only eaten raw.

Jicamas are kind of gnarly looking on the outside, but the flesh is crunchy, mild and slightly sweet - kind of like a cross between an apple and a potato. Jicama is a great addition to veggie trays, too, it is a sturdy vegetable and will stand up to a variety of different kinds of dips.

On Sunday I cooked up some plain quinoa, and I made a batch of black bean hummus (slightly spicy, with cilantro and lime). So, packing my lunch this week was a snap - couple handfuls of baby spinach, pile of quinoa, big scoop of black bean hummus, and some crunchy jicama and bell peppers (which I sliced ahead of time) on top. When I remembered, I drizzled some extra lime juice on top right before serving. Very refreshing.

I had extra black bean hummus, so I added it to some breakfast burritos I made for dinner one night, with scrambled eggs, bacon and leftover roasted potatoes. I love multitasking meals like this!

Black Bean Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

1 15-ounce can of cooked black beans, drained but not rinsed

Big handful of cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Juice of one lime
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Directions: Put all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor or blender. Process/blend for about 10 seconds, then pour in the olive oil and continue processing until smooth.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Banana Walnut Bread

I don't buy bananas very often. I prefer apples for my everyday fruit, supplemented with berries and stone fruits in the summertime of course. When I do buy bananas, I tend to forget about them for a week and then find this:

 Which is probably the best reason to buy bananas in the first place. (I know you're all jealous of my amazing 1960s formica countertops, by the way. Oh, the joys of renting...) These bananas are way beyond eating territory for me, and the bottom ends are practically rotten. But they are perfect for baking.

I considered making banana pancakes, or perhaps some banana oat muffins. In the end, though, it was a classic recipe for banana bread, made a little healthier (and a little easier) that won my heart. The sugar is reduced from the original recipe, and I used a combo of all purpose and whole wheat pastry flour. Last month I picked up a bag of hazelnut meal/flour on a whim, and I thought it would make a great addition too. I'm not sure what else to do with the hazelnut meal though, so if you have any ideas let me know!! Also, please share any favorite recipes or ideas you have for overripe bananas! I'm sure this won't be the last time I have a few forgotten bananas laying around.

Banana Walnut Bread
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking, via The Fresh Loaf
Makes one 9x5x4" loaf

3 very very ripe bananas
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, divided

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x5x4" loaf pan with buttered parchment paper.
Toast the walnuts in the oven (or in a pan on the stove) for 8-10 minutes until golden. Chop the walnuts, and set aside 2 tablespoons of the smallest pieces to put on top of the loaf.
In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a spoon or fork (or a potato masher, if you have one). A few small lumps are okay. Stir in the softened butter, sugar, and eggs.
In a small bowl, combine the hazelnut meal, flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined (do not overmix). Fold in 1/2 cup of the toasted walnuts.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top, pressing slightly to make them stick. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for just a couple of minutes, then transfer the bread to a cooling rack.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

No weekly lunch post this week - I've taken the week off to host some visiting family members. It's always fun to see my city through the eyes of tourists, and we're enjoying all that my (rainy and gray) city has to offer. It's always nice to have some fresh-baked cookies when guests come to town, and these lemon poppy seed cookies are great for this - they can be made a couple of days ahead of time and baked whenever you want.

One of the few sunny moments I enjoyed this week.

One flavor combination that I love is lemon and poppy seeds, the tiny nutty crunch against a fresh tart flavor. If almonds are also involved, I am almost guaranteed to like it. Here are a few lemon poppy seed recipes I've been looking at lately:

Poppy Seed and Almond Cake from Nettle and Quince - this recipe has the most poppy seeds of any I've seen (and the least lemon of the ones listed here)

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Coconut Muffins from Healthy Exposures - coconut sounds like a tasty addition

These Mini Blueberry Tarts with Lemon Poppy Seed Crust are just adorable! From Happy Sugar Fun Time

I was inspired to make some lemon poppy seed cookies after seeing these incredibly buttery-looking Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread on Lottie and Doof. The challenge was to make them gluten free. I am far from a gluten free baking expert, so the cookies did not turn out like shortbread and instead were thin and crisp, with slightly pillowy centers. Delightful, but not shortbread at all.

I also made some lemon sugar, which was a great idea and I highly recommend it:

Lemon Sugar
In a jar or other container with a lid, combine the zest of one lemon with 1/2 to 1 cup sugar. I used 3/4 cup sugar, all of which I used in the cookie recipe below. The lemon sugar can be stored for up to 2 weeks.


Another nice thing about this recipe is that it makes quite a bit of dough, and you can save some or all of it in the refrigerator or freezer for future use. I rolled the dough into a log and chilled it for a few hours before cutting half of it into slices and baking. I saved the rest of the log in the refrigerator and baked more cookies a couple of days later. Very convenient when you have house guests.

So I present to you:

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies (Not Shortbread)
Makes about 30 cookies

8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup lemon sugar (or 3/4 cup sugar plus the zest of one lemon)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup almond meal
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond meal, flours, poppy seeds and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, then add the lemon sugar and beat an additional minute. Add the almond extract, then stir in the dry ingredients.

Spoon the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, then pat the dough into a log. Wrap up with the plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 3 days. The wrapped dough log can also be frozen for a couple of months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut 1/4" slices of dough and lay them 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake until the edges are golden, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then place on a cooling rack.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Rhubarb Shortcake Ice Pops

As the days are growing sunnier and warmer, I decided to break out my ice pop molds over the weekend - I haven't used them since last summer. I am excited to make more healthy frozen treats this year!

I saw a fun idea to make strawberry shortcake ice pops using layers of strawberry puree and vanilla yogurt mixed with crushed vanilla sandwich cookies. I don't usually buy packaged cookies (I prefer to make my own) but these ice pops looked so fun that I wanted to give it a try. I'm sure any crunchy cookie would work. Also, I decided to swirl rather than layer these ice pops, mostly because the shape of my molds makes it rather difficult to pour anything into them so I can't achieve neat layers.

Regardless, these were a fun and delicious treat on a hot day. The rhubarb swirl was still perfectly tart, balancing the sweet and creamy yogurt very nicely.

Rhubarb Shortcake Ice Pops
Adapted from Baker's Royale

Makes 6-8 ice pops, depending on the size of your molds

3-4 stalks rhubarb (about 3/4 pound, or 12 oz), cut in 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt for a protein boost)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 vanilla-flavored sandwich cookies

Place the sandwich cookies in a plastic zip-top bag and crush them into small bits with a rolling pin or other heavy object. Set aside.
In a small saucepan (with the heat off), combine the rhubarb with 1/4 cup of the sugar and let sit for about 10 minutes to get the rhubarb juices flowing, then turn the heat on to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes until the rhubarb is very soft. Use a stick blender or regular blender to puree the rhubarb.
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir in the cookie crumbs.
Fill your ice pop molds about 2/3 full with the yogurt mixture, then fill the rest of the way with rhubarb puree. Use a skewer or a knife to swirl the two components together and to get out any air bubbles.
Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Farro and Feta Salad with Spring Veggies

I scored big in the bulk section last weekend: 3 pounds of almonds, 2 pounds of oats, a pound of dried chickpeas and another 3 pounds of farro. I haven't had farro in months since it's harder to find than wheat berries and quinoa, but I am happy to be back in stock.

This week we have a quick and easy salad that takes advantage of quick-cooking spring vegetables, English peas and broccolini. Regular broccoli would also be delicious, as would broccoli rabe or kale rabe. I am also happy to start using fresh thyme from my new thyme plant!

From left, we have flat-leaf parsley, oregano, and thyme. I need to repot these guys! I wish I had room for a full garden, but I have a small, east-facing balcony that doesn't get a ton of light. Good for herbs (and maybe lettuce?) but not much else. I have a great book called The Bountiful Container, which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to grow edible plants in containers. The authors go over a ton of different veggies, herbs and even fruits that can be grown in pots - what varieties to look for, what kind of soil and sunshine they need, when they can be harvested, etc. I am not great with plants but I keep trying!!

Farro and Feta Salad with Spring Veggies
Makes 4 main dish servings

1 1/3 cups dried farro
4 hard boiled eggs
1 bunch broccolini, about 1/2 pound
1 pound English peas, shelled (about 1 1/2 cups of peas)
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Rinse farro well, then place in a pot (with a lid) with about 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes until farro is tender and fully cooked but still chewy. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Bring another pot of lightly-salted water to a boil. Chop broccolini in half or thirds. Add the stem ends of the broccolini to the boiling water, and after thirty seconds, add the rest of the broccolini. After 20 seconds, add the peas. Boil for another 60 seconds (no longer!) then drain and place the veggies in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Make the dressing: Combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in about 1/2 ounce of crumbled feta. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk or shake to combine. Pour half of the dressing over the farro and stir well. Save the rest of the dressing in a sealable container or jar.

Lunch assembly: In your lunch container, combine 1/4 of the farro and 1/4 of the veggies. Add one of the hard boiled eggs, sliced, and 2 tablespoons of the pepitas and a handful of crumbled feta. Drizzle with a little extra dressing right before serving.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Lemon-Tahini Lentil Salad

I learned something about myself this week: I do not like roasted turnips. Admitting I don't like a certain food, especially a healthy vegetable, is not something I do very often, but I just don't see any way around it.

Poor turnips, object of so many childrens' hatred, and now mine too. At least the full-grown turnips. Baby turnips, on the other hand, can be quite tasty. I've made this recipe for Orechiette with Baby Turnips and their Greens (from In Praise of Sardines) several times, and it is a wonderful combination of the earthy (yet mild!) baby turnips, the slightly bitter greens, a touch of salt from some pecorino cheese, and heat from red chili flakes.

So, if you ever see baby turnips (about 1" in diameter), I do recommend them. Full-sized turnips, however, well, I'll have to try them again sometime. But not for a while.

Before I knew my true feelings for (full-sized) turnips, my big plan for this week's salad was to roast some turnips and carrots, and mix them with some lentils that I tossed with a simple lemon-tahini dressing. I used a base of baby spinach and topped the salad with a few salted pistachio nuts and a hard boiled egg. But the turnips were so gross (sorry to offend anyone who likes turnips - maybe you could share a recipe you like?) that after Monday's lunch I knew I had to come up with something else.

The roasted turnips looked so promising...

Even the carrots were contaminated with the taste of turnips. I felt bad, but I had to throw them out. Fortunately the lentils were good, so for the next few days' lunches, I added more spinach, more pistachios, and I chopped up a few dried apricots. The extra pistachios and the sweetness from the apricots really helped balance the earthy lentils, and I definitely wasn't missing the turnips.

This version was definitely tastier.

So there we have it. A gross lunch turned into a tasty one. And please, if you like turnips, I would love to hear how you cook them!

Lemon-Tahini Lentil Salad
Makes 4 main-dish servings

1 to 1 1/3 cups dried lentils, picked though and rinsed (I used French green lentils, but regular brown ones will work)
4 hard-boiled eggs
4-6 ounces baby spinach, washed and dried
Several dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup salted pistachio nuts

Juice of one lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini paste
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Simmer the lentils in lightly salted water until tender, drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss half of the dressing with the lentils and save the rest in a small container.

In the morning (or the night before), place a few handfuls of baby spinach in your lunch container. Add 1/4 of the lentils. Top with pistachios, diced apricots, and a sliced hard boiled egg. Drizzle with a bit of extra dressing right before serving.


Thursday, May 19, 2011


First of the season. From the farmer's market. Devoured in less than 10 minutes. Love!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fail: Rhubarb Custard Pie

This is far from my first kitchen fail, but it is the first that I have shared on Olalliberry. It's about time! I have learned to cook from my parents and relatives, reading cookbooks, and from watching a lot of Food Network in college (it was my favorite way of curing a hangover, believe it or not, along with drinking as much water as I could stand). But I have also learned a lot from kitchen mistakes that I've made all on my own. I love to experiment, and experiments sometimes go wrong. Fortunately, this one still turned out pretty tasty.

Rhubarb custard pie is a classic spring dessert, one I grew up eating and so I am pretty fond of it. I didn't have the family recipe handy, but I figured it was such a classic dessert that I could just search for a few recipes online and mix-and-match to my tastes. One recipe called for just 2 cups of chopped rhubarb, while another called for 3 - I chose the more fruit-heavy option. Everything looked good at first, and while it ended up tasting okay, it could have been a lot better.

There were two problems with this pie: first and foremost, the filling was watery in the middle. This is always a risk with any fruit pie, but I assumed that without a top crust, the excess liquid would evaporate in the oven. Lesson learned: when making a fruit pie it is (almost) always a good idea to add flour, cornstarch or some other starch to the filling to absorb the fruit juices. This should also help to stabilize the custard.

The second problem will take more time and practice to fix, and that is the crust. I've made pie crust at least a dozen times in my life, but it doesn't always turn out so well. This one was kind of tough, and definitely too thick. The flavor was good though.

I love rhubarb custard pie, and even a "fail" is still delicious. Next time will be even better.

P.S. You may have noticed the difference in photo quality between these pictures. The first two were taken with a DSLR (not mine, but I use it occasionally) and the last one was taken with the point-and-shoot that I've owned for six years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Black Rice Salad with Watercress Pesto

This combination was a bit of a gamble. The watercress was an impulse purchase at the neighborhood farmer's market, which opened for the season last week. I didn't have enough of it to do much except make pesto, so that is what I did. I pulled off the leaves and smaller stems, discarding the thicker, woodier stems. Combined with garlic, toasted walnuts, lemon zest, salt, and olive oil, it became a fresh and lively addition to this salad.
For the roasted carrots and kale, I used the same method that I used a few weeks ago - it worked very well. No fennel this time, and I used curly green kale instead of lacinato  - I'm glad to know this cooking method works with both types equally well. Just be sure to massage the olive oil into all of the curly edges of the kale, and it will roast much more evenly.
Delicious pesto
I decided to add a lemony harissa dressing to the roasted veggies on a whim (are you sensing a theme here?). Lemon zest, lemon juice, harissa paste, and a touch of smoked paprika gave a wonderful brightness to the veggies, contrasting with the nutty and comforting beans and rice.

And a sprinkle of feta for good measure. I love it when impulse veggie purchases turn out to be a success.

Black Rice Salad with Watercress Pesto and Harissa Roasted Veggies
Makes 4 main dish servings

1 cup black japonica rice (wild rice would also be delicious here)
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1 large bunch kale (curly or lacinato)
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped in 1” pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons harissa paste
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup watercress pesto (directions below)

Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain any extra water and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss the chopped carrots with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until almost tender. In the meantime, cut the kale leaves from the stems and slice into thin strips. Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, using your hands to massage the oil into all of the curly parts. When the carrots are almost tender, pour the kale on top of the carrots and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted but not crispy. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the lemon zest and juice with the harissa paste and smoked paprika. Set aside.

Lunch assembly: in the morning (or the night before), combine 1/4 of the cooked rice with 1/2 cup beans and a spoonful of pesto in your favorite lunch container. Add 1/4 of the roasted veggies and drizzle with 1/4 of the lemon-harissa dressing. Top with a sprinkle of feta.

Watercress Pesto
Makes about ¾ cup

1 bunch watercress
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
Zest of half a lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the leaves and smaller stems of the watercress any larger stems. In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic and walnuts, then add the watercress, lemon zest and salt and pulse/blend. Drizzle in the olive oil while processing/blending until it turns into a smooth, bright green paste.

Extra pesto is delicious on roasted potatoes, tofu, eggs, pasta, or toast.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Roasted Rhubarb Scones

I am a big fan of rhubarb. I grew up eating it as we always had a patch of it growing in the back yard, growing bigger every year. Roasted rhubarb is one we never tried, and I'm glad to have finally tried it. The method I followed, from The Kitchn, suggested adding cinnamon but I chose cardamom as I feel cinnamon can be a bit overpowering, especially with a fruit as mild-flavored as rhubarb.


After the rhubarb is roasted, you set it aside to cool while putting together a quick buttermilk scone recipe by hand. I was out of buttermilk and mixed yogurt with plain milk - a nice substitute in a pinch. I will definitely be roasting more rhubarb in the next couple of weeks, while the fresh rhubarb lasts. It is delicious by itself, and I can imagine loving it over yogurt, ice cream, french toast or waffles, etc.

The unbaked scones can be frozen for future quick treats or breakfasts, and I definitely recommend freezing at least half the recipe unless you are planning a big brunch - these scones are wonderful the day they are made, but quickly drop off into chain coffee shop scone territory the next day. But fresh out of the oven, these are some of the best scones I've ever had - light, flaky and buttery, and the sweet-tart rhubarb is a refreshing addition.

Roasted Rhubarb Scones
Roasted Rhubarb method from The Kitchn, Scones adapted from Tartine via NPR
Makes 12 scones

For the Roasted Rhubarb:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Chop 2-3 stalks of rhubarb in 1/2" pieces. You need about 1 1/2 cups for the scones (but you may want extra for a snack!).

Put the rhubarb in a baking dish, then add 2 tablespoons sugar and a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, stir and set aside.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sugar and rhubarb juices are caramelized and the rhubarb is very tender. Set aside to cool.

For the scones:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter in 1/2" pieces, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

In a large bowl, combine 4 3/4 cups (680 g) flour (I used 200 g whole wheat pastry flour and 480 g all purpose flour), 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir well, then cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender, a fork and a knife, or your hands. It shouldn't be completely blended, there should be some pea-sized chunks of butter.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup milk (whatever type you prefer) and 1/2 cup yogurt until blended. Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the roasted rhubarb. Do not overmix, there will still be some shaggy areas.

Dump the dough onto a mat or a floured surface and pat into a rectangle about 6" by 14" and 1 1/4" thick. Cut into 12 pieces. At this point the scones can be frozen, on a baking sheet, then individually wrapped (I used a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil) and kept frozen for up to a few weeks. Whether fresh or frozen, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Serve hot.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Citrusy Barley and Golden Beet Salad

I think this is a record - the first four days in May have all provided actual sunshine in Portland. Actual sunshine!! It's amazing how the general mood in this city lifts when it stops raining. It's cloudy now, of course, but those four days were pretty darn nice.

This is not the first beet salad I've made, and it certainly won't be the last. This one is a little different, though, with a citrusy-shallot vinaigrette and a little kick from some pepperoncini peppers. Pepperoncinis are my new favorite thing - I've been putting them in everything from pizza to stirfry.

Citrusy Barley and Golden Beet Salad
Makes 4 main dish servings


1 1/3 cup hulled barley
2 golden beets
Half a head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
Pepperoncini peppers, as many as desired
Sunflower seeds (optional)

Zest and juice of half an orange
Zest and juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 medium shallot, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Rinse the barley and place in a medium pot with about 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until barley is tender but still chewy. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Wash and trim the beets. but don't peel them. Drizzle each beet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then wrap each beet in foil. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour or until easily pierced with a knife. Set aside until cool, then peel the beets and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Make the dressing: put all ingredients in a small jar or other sealable container and shake to combine. Pour about half of the dressing over the barley and mix well.

In the refrigerator, keep the barley, beets and cabbage in separate containers. Each night (or in the morning) put a serving of each component in a lunch container, then top with crumbled feta, pepperoncinis and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with a little extra dressing before serving.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Super Seedy Veggie Wrap

The top two definitions of seedy (per google) are:
1. Sordid and disreputable
2. Shabby and squalid

This wrap does not fit either of those definitions, although I like the idea of a disreputable (but healthy!) lunch making the rounds to various pay-by-the-hour motels around town. I can see the marketing team now, "Eat more seeds, be less seedy!"

I do have a couple of other things to say about this wrap:
1. I am terrible at wrapping wraps. Maybe I've been overstuffing them?
2. I LOVE seeds.
3. I do not like the wraps I bought. They taste almost sweet, yet cardboardy. Does anyone have a favorite wrap they can recommend? Preferably a whole grain version?

Packed and ready to go.

Super Seedy Veggie Wrap
Makes 5-6 wraps

1 package of whole grain sandwich wraps
Half a head of red cabbage, sliced thin
3 carrots, peeled and cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
Baby spinach leaves
Salad sprouts (from radishes, clover, broccoli, etc)
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
16 oz. cottage cheese
2-3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 1/4 cups seeds (I used 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds and 1/4 cup each of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and hemp seeds)
Freshly ground black pepper

Toast the seeds, if desired, and set aside.
For each wrap, mix together 1/3 cup cottage cheese, 1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard, several grinds of pepper, and a handful of parsley. Stir in 1/4 cup mixed seeds.
To put the wrap together, layer spinach leaves, cabbage, and carrot shreds on your wrap. Spread the cottage cheese-seed mixture down the center of the wrap, then top with sprouts. Roll up as best you can, trying to keep the filling inside. Serve and enjoy.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Roasted Radishes

I may have gotten used to raw radishes in salads, but I never would have thought to roast radishes before seeing them featured in Melissa Clark's column. Roasting brings out the sweetness in any vegetable, and radishes are no different. The sweetness plays off the radishes' natural peppery flavor quite nicely, and I can see these being used as their own side dish, or mixed with other roasted root vegetables, perhaps with some garlic and herbs.

Or you could eat them straight out of the oven for an afternoon snack, like I just did.

Roasted Radishes

Radishes, washed and trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
White wine vinegar or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375F. Place the radishes in a roasting dish and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 30 minutes until radishes are tender and getting browned. Remove from the oven and toss with 1-2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Spring Millet Salad

Were you a picky eater as a kid? I was pretty open-minded, but definitely had my quirks, and there were more than a few foods I just wouldn't touch. Radishes were one of them - I don't know why, they seem so mild and harmless now, but there was something I didn't like about them. As I've gotten older, I've enjoyed seeing how my taste buds change and learning to like some of those foods I avoided as a kid.

I have learned to like thinly sliced radishes in salads, and to go with them, I wanted to take advantage of more colorful spring veggies this week, including half a head of red cabbage left over from last week's lunch (one more reason to love red cabbage - it lasts for such a long time!).

To go with the veggies I cooked some millet and some yellow split peas, and toasted some pumpkin seeds for a crunchy topping. I crumbled some goat cheese, made a lemony dressing to keep at work and use throughout the week, and was all set.

Spring Millet Salad
Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/4 cup millet
1 1/4 cup yellow split peas
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
Radishes, as desired, thinly sliced
Sugar snap peas, as desired, cut in half
2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

1 small shallot, minced
Juice of one lemon
White wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook the millet: in a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, then stir in the millet. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain any excess water and set aside.

Cook the yellow split peas: bring a pot of water to a boil, then add a spoonful of salt and the peas. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until just tender, then drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Toast the pepitas in a small saucepan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and toasty smelling.

Make the dressing: juice the lemon, and add white wine vinegar to make a total of 1/4 cup. Stir in the minced shallot and yogurt, add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the olive oil.

Put it together: pour about half of the dressing over the millet and stir together. Layer the millet, split peas, and veggies, then top with the toasted pepitas and some goat cheese. Drizzle some of the remaining salad dressing just before serving.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Butterscotch Cookie Dough Balls

I was looking around the interwebs last week, searching for a tasty treat to make. I had two criteria: first, it had to use ingredients I already had on hand (so no eggs or milk), and second, it had to be fancy enough to be given as a birthday gift. I remembered seeing a recipe for unbaked chocolate chip "cookie dough balls" on Oh She Glows and thought it sounded perfect - and easy to make, too, with a food processor on hand.

I whizzed up cashews, oats, whole wheat pastry flour and salt, then added chopped medjool dates and honey. It took only a couple of minutes to go from raw ingredients to delicious cookie dough - no baking required!

(I added a little more honey after that last picture, to help the dough come together into a ball.)

And instead of chocolate chips, I used butterscotch chips, a few handfuls of which were sitting in the cupboard after being requested specifically by Sweetie to be used in the latest batch of granola bars (which was a great idea, btw).

I mixed a handful of butterscotch chips in with the dough, and melted the rest to use as a topping. Or rather, I tried to melt them, but for some reason they just turned into a paste instead of a liquid... but I made the best of it and kind of "molded" the butterscotch paste onto the cookie dough balls. It worked well enough.

The birthday girl enjoyed them quite a bit! And so did I :) I would definitely recommend Angela's recipe if you're looking for a different kind of cookie-like treat. After all, who doesn't love raw cookie dough?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Apple Crunch Salad with Smoked Cheddar

This week's salad is all about texture. Combining foods with different textures helps keep this meal fun and interesting even after eating it for a few days in a row. Here's what I used:

Crunchy: romaine lettuce, thinly sliced red cabbage, fuji apple
Chewy: wheat berries
Smooth: chickpeas and applewood-smoked cheddar

All tied together with a simple vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.

This is also the kind of salad that is very easy to store in the refrigerator all week. On Sunday I:
  • Cooked the wheat berries in lightly salted water, then stored them in the refrigerator. 
  • Chopped the lettuce and cabbage and stored it in a large bowl in the refrigerator. 
  • Opened a can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and stored that as well. 
  • Chopped one apple at a time and used half per salad, so I did have to chop an additional apple mid-week.
  • Chopped some smoked cheddar into small chunks.
  • Made the dressing, which I stored in the shared refrigerator in my office.
Yay for easy lunches!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fried Rice with Spring Vegetables and Spiced Pork

When I think of fried rice, I usually think of my fifteen-year-old self and my one vegetarian friend at the time, sharing a pound and a half of grease from the food court at the mall. Not a good association! Fried rice can be very healthy and versatile depending on what you do with it.

I saw a recipe for fried rice with spiced pork on Cooking by the Seat of my Pants and thought it sounded fantastic. The marinade for the pork was particularly interesting, filled with warm spices and even molasses. I was intrigued, to say the least. I didn't have five spice powder, so I improvised with a combo of cloves, coriander, ginger, cayenne pepper, and mustard powder. I think it's close enough to the real thing.

But the best part about fried rice is that it can be mostly prepared ahead of time. Cook some extra rice and refrigerate it, mix together the marinade and pour it over your thinly-sliced protein of choice (I think tofu would be amazing with this marinade) and refrigerate it overnight.

The next day, chop whatever veggies you have - I used some lovely shiitake mushrooms and some crunchy broccoli raab, as well as some green garlic (also used in the marinade).

Then it's time to work quickly. In a large skillet or wok, heat a small amount of neutral oil over medium-high heat. Take the pork/tofu/whatever protein you are using out of the marinade and cook for a few minutes on each side, then remove to a plate. Add the veggies to the skillet and cook for another few minutes, then add the leftover rice. Stir to break up the clumps. Beat a few eggs and pour over the rice, stirring well until the egg is fully cooked.

Serve immediately, and top with extra green garlic and some sriracha. I think this is a much better memory of fried rice - I'll keep it around for a while.
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