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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thai Veggie Burgers with Peanut Sauce

I've become a bit of a connoisseur of veggie burgers.  I have certainly made my fair share of them.  I have made them out of eggplant, out of sweet potato, out of rice and beans, out of quinoa... okay obviously I have made a lot of veggie burgers over the past couple years!  I have to admit that I honestly love them all in different ways, but these... these are something special.  These are veggie burgers that my family ate happily, dousing them with peanut sauce and topping them with most colorful, beautiful cole slaw that you've ever seen.  These are the kind of veggie burger that all get eaten, that people take to work, that my mother heats up for lunch.  These babies were a big success, and now that I sit here typing about them as Alex and Rachael screw cement board onto my kitchen floor, it makes me crave them and want to make them as soon as the kitchen is back in order!

The burgers themselves are made from quinoa, oats, cornmeal, chickpeas, bell pepper and red onion.  Isn't that such a wonderfully eclectic combination off things!?  And gluten free too, I'll add.  They are flavored with salt, paprika, garlic, and sesame oil - are you drooling yet?  But wait, there's more: there's the slaw: red and green cabbage, shredded carrot, and cilantro.  That's it.  No "sauce" or anything but fresh, delicious vegetables.  The sauce comes later: it's a peanut sauce made from peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, fresh ginger, lime juice, and red pepper flakes.  Toss some chopped peanuts onto the entire thing before you top the bun, and you have yourself a filling, delicious veggie burger.  The flavors all meld together so well, and you get the best of both textural worlds: soft burger mixing the crunchy peanuts and slaw.  Man.  I want one of these now!

Recipe:

Thai veggie burgers with peanut sauce
from Annie's Eats
serves 6-8

Ingredients:
for the burgers:
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, plus more for pan
1 cup water or veggie broth
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large egg
1/3 cup diced red pepper
1/3 cup diced red onion

for the slaw:
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

for the peanut sauce:
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lime

toasted burger buns
coarsely chopped peanuts

Instructions:

1) In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa well.  Shake vigorously to remove as much water as possible.  Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat .  Add the drained quinoa to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the water or veggie broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let stand covered, 5 more minutes.  Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.

2) In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chickpeas, oats, cornmeal, salt, paprika, garlic, and sesame oil.  Process until the mixture is finely ground and well blended.  Pulse in the egg until combined.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Fold in the cooled quinoa, diced red pepper and onion, as well as an additional 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Stir together gently until evenly mixed.  Form the mixture into patties (about 6 - 8, depending on the size you make).

3) To make the slaw, combine the cabbages, shredded carrot, and cilantro in a bowl.  Toss to combine.  Set aside.

4) To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.  Whisk together until well blended and smooth.

5) To cook the burgers, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high.  Coat the bottom of the skillet with the oil.  Add the patties to the pan and cook, turning once, until both sides are browned and the patties are cooked through, about 6 - 8 minutes total.  Remove the cooked patties from the pan.

6) Assemble the burgers on toasted buns topped with the slaw, a drizzle of peanut sauce, chopped peanuts, and a squeeze of lime juice as desired.

Veggie burgers for lunch = 1 happy teacher!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Pearl Couscous Soup

Wow, life has been so insane lately.  And not in a good way.  I sometimes feel like I am about to literally explode with all the craziness going on in both my personal and professional lives.  Cooking and baking usually helps me relax at times like these, except for the fact that I've been too busy, not to mention that the kitchen is out of commission while Alex rips our floor out and tiles it.  So mostly I've just been not really eating (I guess it's a new type of wedding workout? I've lost 4 pounds...).  Luckily for you, I do have a small backlog of recipes to share, so that will get us through the next week.  After that, the floor will be done, I will be on April vacation, and maybe at least some aspects of my house will calm down!?

Anyway... let's talk about soup.  What better comfort food is there?  And when you can get it done in a slow cooker on a cold, busy March day, what more can you ask for?  This soup has pearl couscous, which I haven't used before, but I definitely love it.  It's kind of like a little round noodle.  Then there's kidney beans for protein, and lots of veggies like onions, carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes.  It's flavored with oregano, salt and pepper - so nothing too crazy, but it all comes together in the slow cooker to make a really delicious soup.  I brought the leftovers for my lunch for days until it was gone.  My family liked it too; they always appreciate when my soups have beans to help fill them up, and it always helps when it tastes delicious :)  I'm wishing I could whip up a batch of this right now!

Recipe:

slow cooker pearl couscous soup
from Vegan in the Freezer
yield 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup pearl couscous, not cooked
2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup carrots, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can (14.5 - 15 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 cup spaghetti sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions:

1) Heat the butter in a skillet.  Add the onions, bell pepper and carrots.  Sauté until the onions become translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.

2) Add the sautéed vegetables to the crockpot.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

3) Cover and cook on low 2 - 3 hours.  Check the couscous at 2 hours for tenderness.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Low Fat Banana Nut Bread

I recently found myself the proud owner of 15 bananas, all spotty and overly ripe.  This was due to the lucky occurrence of a parent donating the bananas for a pre-MCAS snack for my coworker's classroom.  Obviously, fifth graders aren't too keen on eating spotty bananas bright and early, so the majority of them were left after the two days of testing.  My teammate didn't want them and offered them to me.  I figured I could definitely make use of them by baking with them, and since I often buy bananas in order to let them get spotty but my sisters end up eating them, this was the perfect opportunity!

I decided to try a different banana bread recipe.  I love my jacked up banana bread, but since my family and I are in the middle of our pre-wedding diet, I thought I should find a good go-to low fat banana bread.  Enter Skinny Taste, and the low fat banana nut bread!

When you think "low fat bread," you probably don't imagine a sweet, moist bread bursting with banana flavor (there are seven bananas in there!) and studded with walnuts - but that's what you should think of when you get ready to make this bread.  It's low fat due to only calling for half a stick of butter, and it uses applesauce to help sweeten it naturally.  The recipe actually makes two loaves, and I figured one of them at least would go to waste.  I was very pleasantly surprised when my family devoured almost the entire two loaves in a couple days!  

And in full disclosure, these breads were, in my opinion, were not my finest work - no fault of the recipe's.  I was trying to use up old baking soda that was very clumpy and hardened, and some of the clumps didn't break apart.  If you've ever tasted baking soda in a baked good, it "tastes like poison" according to my mom, and she's right. And every now and then in these banana breads, you'd get some bites that tasted like chemicals and would make you want to spit everything out.  I got a bite in a slice of the bread and refused to cut another slice after that, but my family, despite poisonous bites, kept going back for more.  So, since then, I have thrown out the baking soda and bought a new box; no need to worry about poison bites in my next bread!  It just makes it even more impressive that my mother and sisters announced that this was my best banana bread ever!  Definitely need to make this again, without baking soda clumps!

Recipe:

low fat banana nut bread

Servings: 26 slices (2 loaves)  Size: 1 slice • Old Points: 3 pts   Points+: 4 pts 
Calories: 129.2  • Fat: 4.4 g • Carbs: 20.6 • Protein: 2.8 • Fiber: 1.4 g


Ingredients:
7 ripe medium bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (no clumps allowed!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces chopped walnuts (or 3/4 cup)
baking spray

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 8x5-inch loaf pans with baking spray.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk.  Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Add egg whites, bananas, apple sauce, and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until thick.  Scrape down sides of the bowl.

4) Add flour mixture and walnuts, then blend at low speed until combined.  Do not over mix.

5) Pour batter into loaf pans and bake on the center rack for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6) Let the pan cool at least 20 minutes.  Bread should be room temperature before slicing.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Pistachio Stuffing

Okay so it may be April, but I have come to realize that spring doesn't exist in Massachusetts.  And in all honestly fall lasts maybe a week.  We have winter, and summer (about 2 months of that).  So yeah, maybe this recipe is more geared towards the fall, but since there are only 2 seasons here, I hereby announce that fall and spring recipes are acceptable year round.

With that said, behold the best fall dish, and thus the best dish for any time of the year, really.  This was another one of my mother's choices.  I had set her up on A Couple Cooks' food blog, knowing that anything she chose from there would be amazing.  I was a bit concerned when I saw that this choice had been one of their Thanksgiving entrees (Thanksgiving in March?!) but hey, it was meatless and sounded delicious, so I went with it.

Now here is some background information.  Before I learned how to cook, I would rarely - maybe a few times a year - get this weird longing to get into the kitchen.  One of these occasions - maybe 10 years ago or so - I tried making stuffed acorn squash.  I don't remember where I got the recipe from, or what the squash was stuffed with.  What I do remember is my family and I refusing to eat it because it tasted terrible.  I have a very vivid memory of spooning some of the stuffing down to Daisy, who immediately spit it out onto the floor.  You know it's bad when your dog won't even eat it.

So for obvious reasons, I was kind of scared to make stuffed acorn squash again.  Alex, who has teased me about acorn squash for years, and Rachael left the house promptly when they heard my dinner plan.  Nick ran out to buy the makings for burgers, and Kenzie was whining and announcing she would refuse to try even a bite.  I ignored all of them and set about roasting the squash, cooking wild rice, sautéing garlic, shallots and kale, and chopping pistachios.  Seriously though - how delicious do those ingredients sound!?  Add feta into the stuffing, and if you're not drooling by now, there's something wrong with you.

Mark, my mother and I dug in first.  I think we were all nervous, but immediately we were shocked at how delicious they were!  Mom even said it was my finest work and made me promise to make them again soon.  Kenzie got curious - despite all the whining she did earlier - and devoured one herself, getting so excited about them that she packed one up and left to bring one to her work friend.  With still plenty of squash left, I called Christy to come eat some, and she loved them too.  The last lone stuffed squash was the subject of a fight between my mom and Kenzie over who would get it for lunch the next day!  So the bottom line is that these stuffed squashes are absolutely delicious - and I think my family trusts me with acorn squash again :)

Recipe:

roasted acorn squash with wild rice pistachio stuffing
from A Couple Cooks
feeds 6 - 8

Ingredients:
4 acorn squash
1 1/2 cups wild rice
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
1 bunch kale
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2) In a medium pot, add 1 1/2 cups wild rice and 4 1/2 cups water.  Boil for about 45 minutes until tender.  Drain any remaining liquid from the pot.

3) Meanwhile, chop each of the acorn squash in half and then in quarters.  Using a spoon, scrape out the guts and seeds.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the squash on the sheet and drizzle with olive oil on the cut sides; sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  Turn a cut side down on the sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes.

4) While the squash roasts, finely dice 3 cloves garlic and 1 shallot.  Cut the kale into thin strips (chiffonade).  In a large skillet, heat 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil; add garlic and shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the shallots are soft.  Then add the kale and sauté for about 2 to 3 additional minutes until the kale is tender and bright green.  Turn off the heat and stir in the rice, 2 tablespoons olive oil (I did not add any additional oil at this time), 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired.

5) Chop the pistachios.

6) To serve, place the squash quarters on a plate.  Top with wild rice stuffing, then sprinkle with feta and pistachios (alternatively, feta and pistachios can be mixed into the wild stuffing - That's what I did).

Clean plate club!  And shocked that she loved it :)


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bailey's Irish Cream Bread Pudding

What better dessert for Saint Patrick's Day than a bread pudding made with Bailey's Irish Cream?  I could think of none.  So on the big day, I made another batch of whole wheat Irish soda bread muffins, and my mom made corned beef and cabbage, and I made this for dessert.  I had gotten the idea a few days before and spent some time on Pinterest looking for a recipe.  This one jumped out at me because it didn't have chocolate chips as a main ingredient (it did call for them, but as an option).  I'm just not a huge lover of chocolate chips, and I wanted the Bailey's to be the star of the bread pudding.

This was a very easy recipe to put together.  You basically just have to mix everything together and bake it.  The final result?  Well... my mother said it tasted like you were taking shots, and she was right.  The alcohol flavor was way too strong.  I thought for sure after 45 minutes in the oven that the alcohol would burn off, but that was just not the case.  Apparently 1 1/3 cup of milk is not enough to combat a cup of Bailey's.  Wow.  This was not a bread pudding to be eaten before work in the mornings!  (And yet the recipe writer says she created it for Christmas brunch....)

If I made this again - because I do think that it's worth fixing - I would increase the milk and decrease the Bailey's by at least half.  The nutmeg and the raisins help to make it really delicious, and the texture was great.  It's just that after a small bowl of it, you're hammered.  Maybe that's the kind of dessert you're looking for?  If you aren't, just fix the milk and Bailey's amounts, and you've got yourself one heck of a bread pudding!

Recipe:

Bailey's Irish Cream bread pudding
from Lemon and Lace
serves 8

Ingredients:
6 slices soft bread, cut into 1" cubes
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup milk (soy or almond)
1 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
5 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
raisins or chocolate chips, optional

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter or spray a 2-quart casserole dish.

2) Beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla.

3) Slowly add the milk, then the Bailey's Irish Cream.  Mix.

4) Add bread into the liquid.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Toss until well coated.

5) Pour into pan.  Add chocolate chips or raisins if using.  Refrigerate now, if making ahead.

6) Bake 40 - 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Muffins

What's better than Irish soda bread at Saint Patrick's Day time?  Nothing, I say.  Some might claim that corned beef and cabbage is better, but ... considering that when my mom made it this year, and it was tough, and then Daisy pooped under the table while we ate, I would have to say that even my carnivorous family would agree that soda bread is better.

This year I changed things up a bit and tried a new recipe instead of our tried-and-true recipe.  I got the idea of checking out Skinny Taste to see if she had any great ideas on how to make it a healthier food, and stumbled across these little guys: whole wheat Irish soda bread muffins!  The muffin idea is excellent: portion control right there.  And the whole wheat is added to equal amounts of all purpose flour so they don't get dense.

Differently from my other recipe, these have butter (which seems strange since I was going for skinny muffins - but don't worry, there is only 3 tablespoons in the 12 muffins), and baking powder in addition to baking soda.  They do still, however, come out of the oven tasting like a delicious Irish soda bread (and they puff up beautifully!).  They were such a hit, I ended up making 2 batches over Saint Patrick's day weekend.  Easy, quick, and a delicious alternative to making one big loaf of soda bread!

Recipe:

whole wheat Irish soda bread muffins
from Skinny Taste
makes 12 muffins

serving size: 1 muffin
Points+: 4 points
calories: 147.8
fat: 3.7 g

Ingredients:
baking spray
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons chilled butter
1 cup 1% buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey or agave
1 large egg, beaten
3 ounces raisins (about 2/3 cup)

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray muffin tin with baking spray.

2) In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3) In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk, honey or agave, and egg until blended.  Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine.  Stir in raisins.

4) Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.

5) Remove tin and cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before muffins from tin; finish cooling on rack.  Serve warm or cool completely and store muffins in an airtight in an airtight container or ziplock bags at room temperature.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stir Fried Singapore Noodles with Garlic Ginger Sauce

Apparently the theme of the week was Asian noodle dishes, because two days after posting the Filipino pancit recipe, here's another one: stir fried Singapore noodles with garlic ginger sauce.  Drooling yet?  Well hold on: imagine soft rice noodles mixed with fresh stir-fried vegetables like peppers, shallots, mushrooms and peas, and douse it all in a garlic ginger sauce.  Now you're drooling.

In real life, if I read that explanation to my family, more than half of them would whine as soon as I said "mushrooms."  In the interest of world peace, I left them out of this recipe.  I also meant to use a few different bell peppers to add lots of color, but only found one lonely green one in the refrigerator (and of course 2 days later I found another green and a red hiding behind the giant head of broccoli).  As I said the other day, I randomly have tons of cabbage on hand right now, so I used some chopped cabbage in place of mushrooms (and bean sprouts, which I haven't been able to find anywhere in years.  Literally).

The rice noodles -yes, this is gluten-free! - get soaked in cold water while you stir fry all the vegetables until they're tender-crisp.  Then you toss the noodles in and stir fry them too.  After you remove it from the heat, you add the sauce slowly - there is a lot of it - and little by little, it gets absorbed and thickens and sticks to the noodles perfectly.  Mmmm.

This was Rachael's request; I made it for lunch one day when it was just me, her and Alex home.  They liked it but wished there were less peas (I did double the recipe, and perhaps doubling the peas was too much).  There is a lot of flavor; that sauce is full of chicken broth and soy sauce and garlic and ginger and even something called mirin, which is a sweet Japanese rice wine used in cooking (think, lower alcohol content, higher sugar content).  Apparently it has a pretty mild flavor but is awesome for making sauces "glossy" and helping it cling to foods due to its almost syrupy texture (yes I did my research).  Got any good mirin recipes for me?  Because I have a huge bottle of it now :)

Recipe:

stir fried Singapore noodles with garlic ginger sauce
from Pinch of Yum
serves 4

Ingredients:
4 ounces thin rice noodles
1 tablespoon oil
2 bell peppers. thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup frozen peas
sliced scallions for topping
for the sauce:
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek (I skipped this; it adds spice)

Instructions:

1) Soak the rice noodles in a large bowl of cold water.  Wash and cut all the vegetables.  Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the peppers, shallots, bean sprouts and curry powder.  Stir fry for 3 - 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and peas; stir fry for 2 minutes.  The vegetables should be bright and tender-crisp.

3) Drain the water from the rice noodles and add the noodles to the pan with the vegetables.  Add a little splash of sauce - about 2 - 3 tablespoons - and stir fry, moving the noodles around in the pan continuously so they don't stick together in one big lump - they should move freely and easily.  After a few minutes of stir frying, remove the pan from the heat.

4) Once off the heat, add the sauce in small increments, tossing/stirring the noodles in between each addition, until the desires "sauciness" level is reached.  The goal is for the sauce to thicken slightly when combined with the other ingredients and cling to the noodles instead of soaking into the noodles.  Top with scallions and more sauce if desired.