Saturday, October 29, 2011

Improvisation is the result of... a lack of ingredients

So maybe this isn't very original, maybe it is. You can google it to find out, I'm sure. I wanted to make hummus for a Halloween party but didn't have what I thought was chick pea's second in command: tahini paste. Since Halloween is all about disguise, I wanted everything to be in complete character! Saw once that Alton Brown uses low sodium peanut butter in place of tahini, so I thought this would be my perfect chance to get rid of that nasty low sodium, sugarless peanut paste that's been prowling the pantry for weeks!
I know olive oil is full of phenols and other healthy fats, but it still pains me to stream in a half cup for one can of chick peas, especially after today's bike ride. I always have tons of nonfat plain yogurt in the house for Indian food and thought hey, that's creamy and tangy.. two food traits I love. So here's the skinny on some home made hummus with things you're more likely to have in the house. I had cilantro to use up, so I threw it in with some freshly ground cumin.

  • 1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I like it eye squinting tangy so I use a squeeze or two more)
  • 1 tablespoon low fat peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt, some pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, 1 sprig for garnish
  • Pinch of paprika to blend in and to top with
  • 2 or so tablespoons of warm water (add as needed for consistency you want)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (can't have hummus without at least a hint of it!)

Using a food processor or magic bullet (forever grateful to my sweet cousin Nikita for mine), take the plunge:

1. Combine all ingredients except for the warm water and olive oil. Puree til pasty.
2. Add olive oil and water as needed to get right consistency.
3. After accomplishing your preferred consistency, transfer to a serving dish.
4. Sprinkle paprika and top with a cilantro leaf. You can also add olives around it.. for me, I grilled pita and arranged them around the bowl for easy partying.

Not only does the yogurt cut your cals, it gives a nice creamy texture and imparts a terrific tart.

You can also drizzle some olive oil for taste.. and to make it look like you didn't cheat with all these healthy ingredients ;)


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mom's Eggplant and Potato Curry

Giving credit to whom it's fairly due.. Thanks mom :)
If you roast the potatoes and eggplant in the oven until they're soft, it gives the whole dish a smoky flavor. For a faster cooking time, I suggest cooking the eggplant and potato in the microwave until softened.. then add it into the curry.
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 8 oz cans sodium free tomato sauce (you can also add a chopped tomato)
  • 1.5 teaspoon crushed cinnamon/clove mixture
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (split them up)
  • 1.5 teaspoon bhengan bharta masala (eggplant spice mix)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 eggplant - cut in big chunks. Slit each piece.
  • 5-6 small potatoes - cut in big chunks. Slit each piece.
  • Chopped cilantro

1. Prepare the eggplant and potatoes by cutting them up and placing them in a microwavable dish with a few teaspoons of water. Cook in microwave with some salt until the potatoes are tender.

2. Heat cumin seeds in olive oil. Once seeds are toasted, add onion and garlic for around 15 minutes (until the onion is nice and brown). Add the cinnamon/clove mixture in the last couple of minutes as the onions finish browning.

3. Add tomato sauce and tomato. Add pepper, cardamom, 1 tsp of garam masala, salt. Simmer on low for around 15 minutes. Add water as needed to get the gravy consistency you like.

4. Once the eggplant and potatoes are done cooking, drain them and add into the curry. Mix well and add water and salt as needed. Add the remaining garam masala as well as the bhengan bharta mix. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.

5. Top with fresh cilantro.

I serve this with roti, tumeric fried rice and yogurt. The tomato sauce gives it a nice tang, while the cinnamon/clove mixture give a noticeable bite. I never measure with the spices, so just add whatever you like to get the flavor you like. Cutting the slits into the vegetables not only helps soak up more curry in each piece, it also helps cook them faster.

Stay tuned for the simplest tumeric fried rice recipe :)


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Gnocchi with garden fresh spicy sauce

So I wish I could say I made this gnocchi from scratch, but frankly I didn't have the energy or counter space to make a mixture mound of flour, potato and eggs. Bought these pillowy morsels at World Market!
However, the sauce is partially home made. A co-worker brought me a bag full of farm fresh vegetables that were quickly approaching too much softness to be appetizing, so I decided to make a quick stewy, chunky vegetable sauce.. almost like a ragout. For a more meaty, smoky flavor, I sometimes add ground meatless crumbles.

Here's how the sauce goes..
  • Coarsely chop two beefsteak or roma tomatoes
  • Chop half of a red onion and two cloves of garlic
  • Thinly slice one yellow squash
  • Coarsely chop 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • Dice one red bell pepper
  • Thaw one cup of meatless crumbles (optional)
  • Teaspoon of italian herbs
  • Red chili flakes
  • Teaspoon sriracha suace
  • 1-1.5 cup of Classico Florentine & Spinach marinara sauce (depending on how saucy you like things..)
  • 1/2 cup skim mozzarella cheese
1. Saute red onion and garlic in red chili flakes and olive oil until tender. Season with very little salt and lots of black pepper. The Classico sauce will have enough salt that you don't need to add extra. If you're going to add meatless crumbles, add them after the onions are cooked. Let them brown up. If you can't stand fake meat, go to step 2.

2. Add yellow squash, bell pepper and tomatoes. Season with italian seasoning. Add Classico and sriracha. Mix well. Cover and let simmer on low for around 20 minutes. You can also add some shredded parm for some tang. Stir occasionally. After about ten minutes, add in the chopped spinach.

3. Boil water, add gnocchi. Once they float to the top, they're cooked.. about 3 minutes!

4. Drain gnocchi and combine with spicy sauce. Mix in a half cup of mozzarella cheese. Serve!

The mozzarella does a fantastic job of thickening up the sauce and making it rich and creamy. The more vegetables, the better. They provide a nice chunky texture to the soft gnocchi.. not to mention, lots of nutrients! I'm so glad I could use all those nice farm veggies to make this spicy, creamy, tangy tomato sauce.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stuff Shells with Spinach and Kale

When I was a kid, my mom use to make stuffed shells with ricotta, spinach and loads of cheese. As I've started getting older, my recipes have become healthy so I can save the flat tire for an unfortunate road incident. I was craving a taste of my mom's dish, so I came up with a very simple, pretty healthy version of stuff shells. These are rich with spinach, kale, nutmeg and a touch of red pepper flakes. The result? Extremely satisfying and not terribly guilty. You can add any vegetables you like.. next time I might try shredding in some beautiful, bright red bell peppers or throw in some sweet peas.

Around 3-4 shells per person is enough, so 4 people can eat with even leftovers for lunch to make your coworkers jealous. Great for potlucks! You can halve the recipe if it's just you and your cuddle bean.. or just snack on it for a few days!

  • 20 whole wheat jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 15 oz. containers of low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 24 oz container of marinara (I sauteed my sauce with onion, garlic and hot sauce)
  • 4 cups of spinach - washed and drained - finely chop
  • 3 cups of kale - washed and drained - finely chop
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese - grated
  • 2-3 oz skim mozzarella cheese - grated
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees
2) Cook shells (around 14 - 16 minutes is best to get the right texture) - drain and rinse under cold water
3) Spread marinara sauce in bottom of a large baking dish
4) In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine ricotta, spinach, kale (whatever veggies), parmesan, salt, pepper to taste, nutmeg, red chili flakes
5) Spoon mixture into shells, place on top of the sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 10-12 minutes
6) Broil shells for 2-4 minutes until golden brown