Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup

You may know by now how much I love chickpeas in salads. Fortunately for me, chickpeas are also great in soups, whether left whole or blended to add creaminess. I like making blended soups as an excuse to break out the stick blender, which I love but only use once a month or so.

This week's lunch features garnet yams, chickpeas, coconut milk, onion, garlic and ginger. It is spiced simply with a Madras-style curry powder, amped up with white pepper and cayenne.

There were many vegetables to chop.

But once you're done chopping, most of the work is done. Everything needs to simmer for half an hour or so.

When the veggies are very tender, blend them to a smooth consistency. It takes a few minutes.

When you're done blending, add the coconut milk and blend some more.

This was a great warming soup for a cold day. And tons of vitamin A!

Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Makes 4 quarts

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter, or ghee)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds garnet yams, peeled and diced
  • 4 -5 cups vegetable stock
  • 15 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook for 8-10 minutes until well softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the spices.
  2. Add the yams and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until yams are very tender.
  3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender, in batches). When very smooth, add the coconut milk and blend together. Heat for 5-10 minutes, then serve.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Onion

Is it just me or do cabbages kind of look like brains?

Maybe it's my German side asserting itself, but I've really been craving cabbage lately (I really want some sauerkraut too!). Here's another wintry side dish for these cold January days. It's very simple, just cabbage, onion, apple, all cooked together with a little butter and braised with balsamic vinegar.

If I have some fresh goat cheese around, I love to add a few crumbles to the finished dish. Even without it though, this is a vibrant addition to any meal. I enjoyed it with some simple pan-seared chicken and roasted potatoes.

Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Onion
Makes 4-6 servings
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Half of a head of red cabbage, cut in thin slices about 1-2 inches long.
  • 1 medium apple, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I use the $4 stuff from TJ's for this, nothing fancy)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 8-10 minutes until softened and starting to brown.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the cabbage and apple.
  3. Add the stock and the vinegar and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender.
  4. Season to taste with salt and (lots of) pepper, and additional vinegar if desired.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Tuna and White Bean Salad

I don't eat seafood very often. My SO is allergic and I've never been a huge fan, so I will occasionally choose a seafood option in restaurants and that's about it. But every once in a while I get a craving for tuna salad, whether the mayo-laden sandwich of my youth or a refined nicoise.

For this tuna salad I mixed:
  • Albacore tuna
  • A can of white beans (drained and rinsed),
  • Diced carrot and celery,
  • A tiny bit of minced onion (this does get eaten at work after all)
  • Toasted slivered almonds
  • Some dried thyme and dijon mustard
  • White wine vinegar and olive oil
This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
I'm enjoying it with arugula with some blanched green beans. Simple and tasty (and sugar-free).

Speaking of sugar, well, I'm doing better avoiding wheat than sugar. I definitely had a couple mugs of hot chocolate (with marshmallows!) this weekend, but when I was offered a soda I chose water instead, and when I went out to breakfast I ordered a savory dish with lots of veggies. We'll see how this goes over the next couple of weeks!

Any other favorite tuna salads I should know about?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Spinach Salad with Tofu, Avocado and Tangelo

Tangelo. Tangelo. Tangelo! What a fun word. I love fruit with weird names. Tangelos are a hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit, and they're one of my favorite citrus fruits.

I've been talking with LauraJayne about sugar detoxing this week, and I think it's time to take the plunge. I'm still working out the details of my plan, but basically I'm going to cut out all white sugars and wheat for a couple of weeks. I'll still use things like honey and brown rice syrup, but I'm going to try to get most of my sugars from fruits rather than added sweeteners. I've been having headaches lately (I rarely get headaches) and some digestive issues (sorry for TMI), so I am looking forward to experimenting with my diet and seeing if I notice any changes.

So, this week, while I research and prepare for this "detox," I am already cutting out sugary foods and eating simpler, healthy meals.

In this week's lunch:
  • Baby spinach
  • Red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Baked tofu (storebought)
  • Avocado
  • Tangelo slices
  • Sesame seeds (both white and black)
  • Rice wine vinegar and walnut oil

I love all of the contrasting flavors and textures in this salad! The fresh orange, crunchy cabbage, savory tofu and sesame seeds, and buttery avocado all come together really nicely.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Recently I came into possession of a large quantity of pistachios. What's a girl to do? Use up about half a pound of them in some chocolate pistachio cookies! I saw this recipe at Happy Go Marni. I was out of cocoa powder but I used extra unsweetened chocolate and it worked out quite well. These turned out very fudgy and moist, and the texture did not suffer over the few days they lasted.


Chocolate Pistachio Cookies
Adapted from Santa's Favorite Cookies via Happy Go Marni

1 1/3 cups shelled pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
3. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or the microwave) and set aside to cool slightly.
4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, the vanilla and almond extracts, and the melted chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture until just blended, then add in the pistachios.
5. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls on prepared baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for 8 minutes or until cookies are dry on the edges but still quite soft. It's better to underbake these slightly. Cool for a few minutes on the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Broccoli Pesto Quinoa

Time for a shock: I used a recipe for this week's lunch! An honest-to-goodness recipe!

Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks is a big source of inspiration for both recipes and photography. When I first saw her recipe for Double Broccoli Quinoa I was skeptical - broccoli pesto? Really? But I've been eating a lot of broccoli these days, and I'm starting to get sick of it. So I decided to give this recipe a try, and I'm glad I did - it's really garlicky and nutty with this great freshness from the broccoli and lemon juice.

Also, I don't use slivered almonds enough. Something about the size is just perfect in salads.

I love the color of this pesto. So bright and refreshing in January! In addition to the broccoli, it contains toasted almonds, grated parmesan, garlic, and lemon juice.

Mix pesto with quinoa and you get greenoa!

I bulked up the dish with some chickpeas (of course), a hard boiled egg, and some sesame seeds. I promise the quinoa is underneath all of the deliciousness!

I used the leftover broccoli pesto to make chicken tenders! First, I spiked the pesto with a little sriracha, then I mixed about a cup of panko breadcrumbs with some smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Then I spread the pesto all over the chicken tenders, dredged them in the breadcrumbs, and placed on a metal rack on a baking sheet. Sprayed with an oil sprayer, then baked for about 15-20 minutes (you could pan-fry too) and they turned out really well. The chicken stayed moist, and the pesto turned it into something different and a little special!

I want to use more actual recipes this year. I have some great cookbooks but rarely use them!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pumpkin Oat Bars

I bought a few cans of pumpkin puree over a month ago, and I haven't used any of it yet. Being the start of a new year and all, I wanted to make something healthy, with whole grains and minimal sweetener. I browsed other recipes for a while and combined a few.

Love Walnuts

Dry Ingredients

Wet Ingredients

All Together  Now

Fresh Out of the Oven
They turned out pretty well - I'm still going to experiment with the recipe a bit, but I like how hearty and chewy they are. They are moderately sweet, and I'm thinking molasses would be great as a substitute for either the brown rice syrup or the brown sugar.

Pumpkin Oat Bars
Inspired by Bob's Red Mill and Two Peas and Their Pod


3 cups oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup walnut oil (a mild olive oil would work too)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x9 inch baking dish with lightly greased parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (oats through spices). In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, slightly beaten egg, sweeteners, and oil. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in the walnuts and cranberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish, using a spatula to level the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the center is set and the edges are barely golden. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cut into bars.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Barley Salad with Artichoke Hearts

Like last week, I wanted something super simple for lunch this week. Marinated artichoke hearts were on sale at the grocery store, and I still have some barley in the cupboard. Time for a quick salad!

I simply cooked some barley until tender but chewy. Chopped up some carrots, celery, sun dried tomatoes, and the artichoke hearts. Mixed the cooked barley with a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), the sun dried tomatoes, and a few tablespoons of the artichoke marinade (mostly olive oil and white wine vinegar). Then I layered the salad in my plastic containers, starting with the barley-chickpea mixture, then the chopped veggies, a sprinkle of feta, and some salad greens.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Brussels Sprouts, Two Ways

Well, technically this is only one way to cook Brussels sprouts, and one way to use up the leftovers. Either way, I like it. The hazelnuts add richness and the lemon juice adds brightness, making boring old Brussels sprouts into something (slightly) more exciting.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts and Lemon

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • Juice of one lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool, then chop roughly. 
  2. Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Slice about 1/8" off the bottom of the sprout and remove any brown or discolored leaves. Slice sprouts in half, then cut each half in thin (1/8-1/4") slices. (You can also shred the sprouts in a food processor if you prefer - definitely the easier route if you are making a larger batch.)
  3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until beginning to brown. 
  4. Add the hazelnuts and the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Potato Cakes with Brussels Sprouts

  • Leftover mashed potatoes,1 1/2 cups
  • Leftover shredded brussels sprouts, about 3/4 cup
  • Red chili pepper flakes and/or smoked paprika
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  1. Combine potatoes and sprouts in a small bowl. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and/or smoked paprika - a little bit of heat really makes this dish.
  2. Pour flour, about 1/4-1/3 cup, onto a small dish. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Form cakes using 1/4 cup of the potato mixture (I made 6 cakes using the quantities above). Use your hands to shape them, then coat all sides in the flour. When the skillet is hot, add the potato cakes and cook for 3-4 minutes per side until crispy and deep golden brown. Serve hot.
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