Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Raisins, Pecans and Feta

One of my favorite blogs is Cara's Cravings. She cooks very healthy meals, and they're always creative and innovative and seasonal! Lately Cara has had one squash/pumpkin recipe after another, and I've been drooling over her blog! I saw this recipe pop up in my google reader, and put it on my menu for last week. I made it as a side dish to the Pumpkin-Turkey Meatloaf. It was the most delicious fall recipe, like a warm salad in a squash bowl!

by Cara

1 large spaghetti squash, roasted, seeds discarded
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sliced sweet onion
1 10 oz package fresh spinach, thick stems removed
1/4 c. walnuts (I used pecans)
1/4 c. raisins
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper
*I also topped this with some minced raw red onion

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over low heat.
Remove from heat when they are fragrant and just beginning to brown.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the spinach, cover, and let cook until the spinach is wilted down, about 5 minutes.
Use two forks to remove the stringy flesh from the cooked spaghetti squash.
Toss this with the spinach and onions, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add the walnuts and raisins and heat through.
Mix in about half of the crumbled feta, and top with the rest of the cheese to serve.

Carrot Cupcakes

Since I started my new job in an office with all men, there aren't any fun traditions or birthday celebrations. It's light night and day compared to my job at the Y, where we basically take the morning off to celebrate someone's birthday! I decided to start bringing in some sort of cake, cupcake, cookie, etc. for birthdays.
Tomorrow is one of my co-worker's birthdays, and he requested carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I have a favorite carrot cake recipe, but it doesn't translate well to cupcakes, so I asked for a good cupcake recipe, and got about 5 great recipes. Some had apple, raisins, nuts, and other additions, but I wanted something basic, so I went with Annie's suggestion from Baking Illustrated. These came out wonderfully, and everyone loved them! Thanks, Annie!
The recipe yields 20-22, but I added about 3 cups of carrot and easily got 24 cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
1 lb. (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled (I used 3 cups shredded baby carrots)
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1½ cups canola, safflower or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; whisk together and set aside.
In a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, shred the carrots (you should have about 3 cups).
Add the carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients and set aside.
Wipe out the bowl of the food processor and fit with the metal blade.
Process the sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds.
With the machine running, add the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.
Continue to process until the mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 more seconds.
Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.
Scoop evenly into the prepared cupcake liners.
Bake for about 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan at least 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting, I used my basic cream cheese frosting found here!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ma Po Tofu

For dinner a few nights ago, I had a craving for Ma Po Tofu. I love to get it at PF Changs, but it's fried and not exactly healthy. I decided to try to recreate it at home without frying it. To get my tofu crisp and firm, I knew I'd have to bake it at a really high temperature for a while. I also made up the sauce recipe based on what I can taste in Ma Po Tofu - lots of garlic and heat. I served with this steamed broccoli and brown rice and it was so close in taste to PF Changs!

Baked Ma Po Tofu

1 block of extra firm tofu, drained and cubed in 1/2"
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. seasame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
5 scallion stalks, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. corn starch

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, add tofu.
Bake for 20 minutes, flip and bake for another 10 minutes. (I used a thin metal spatula to first slide across the bottom and loosen the tofu, then i flipped them over).
Prep remaining ingredients while tofu cooks.
Add stock, soy sauce, honey and corn starch to a small bowl, whisk with a fork to dissolve corn starch.
Heat a wok over medium-high heat.
Remove tofu from the oven, set aside.
Add oils to wok, swirl around, add garlic, crushed red pepper and scallions.
Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
Add tofu and liquid, gently toss and heat through, sauce will thicken quickly, don't burn!
Remove from the heat, plate and serve immediately.

Vegetable Lo Mein

Last week I recieved an email from a reader who asked if I had any lo mein recipes. I haven't made traditional lo mein before, but after she asked, I was instantly craving it!
I looked through many recipes online, and found some with oyster sauce, some with hoisin, and all with a little soy sauce or mirin. I wasn't sure what would give me the most authentic lo mein, so I knew I might have to try a few recipes to perfect it.
I am pretty certain that hoisin isn't in traditional lo mein that you'd find at a Chinese take out restaurant, so I decided to try the oyster sauce.
While it was still a good dish, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Do you have a recipe for le mein that's just like take out? I'd love to try this again.

For this recipe, I added some vegetables I had on hand, but some other options are water chestnuts, bean sprouts, baby corn, carrots, and bok choy. I used udon noodles because I couldn't find fresh lo mein noodles.

Vegetable Lo Mein

6 oz. udon noodles
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
6 oz. snap peas, sliced
4 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 block of firm tofu, cubed

Cook udon noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.
Heat a wok over medium-high heat.
Add EVOO, sesame oil, red pepper, snap peas, tofu and crushed red pepper.
Stir fry for 2-3 minutes, be careful not to burn anything.
Add noodles, scallions, soy sauce and oyster sauce.
Toss to combine and distribute sauces, plate and serve.

Coconut Curry Whipped Cauliflower

About a month ago, I tried making whipped cauliflower to stand in where a starchy mash would go on my dinner plate. I absolutely loved the Goat Cheese Whipped Cauliflower I came up with.

Cauliflower florets happened to be on sale this week, so I decided to try out another variety of the whipped cauliflower. I figured during the week I'd just scour the fridge to use up some cheese and condiments. Since we're moving (again) in two weeks, I'm trying to empty the pantry (again). But I can't complain too much, I finally get my dream house :)
So anyway, I found half a can of coconut milk and a lightbulb went off - add a pinch of curry powder and puree it to get a smooth, golden, curried coconut cauliflower! I topped it with some of the leftover shredded coconut from making granola (should have toasted it, but I was in a hurry to eat!).
The flavors were delicious, and I could have eaten 10 more bowls. Let's just say this will be the 2nd of many future whipped cauliflower dishes! This giant bowl (4 cups) had only 200 calories, where 4 cups of mashed potatoes has more than I want to think about...

Coconut Curry Whipped Cauliflower

4 cups of cauliflower florets, about 20 oz.
1/2 cup light coconut milk, warmed
2 cups plus 1/4 cup warmed vegetable stock
1 tbsp. curry powder or paste of choice
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Shredded coconut, for garnish

Add 2 cups vegetable stock and cauliflower to a small stock pot.
Cover, bring to a boil.
Turn heat to medium, simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until cauliflower is tender.
Drain, add cauliflower to a blender (I used the magic bullet in 2 batches).
Add coconut milk, curry powder, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
Blend for 30 seconds, until velvety smooth.
If necessary, add more vegetable stock a few tbsp. at a time (don't add too much or it will get watery).
Taste, adjust seasonings.
Pour into a bowl and serve with coconut.
(If necessary, add back to pot, turn heat to low to warm through, but mine was still very hot!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tropical Granola

When I saw this recipes on Annie's Eats a few weeks ago, I starred it in my google reader and knew I'd have to make it at some point. When I decided to make granola for Becks, I had to do it! It's so different from any granola I've had before, and so so so good! Annie hit the nail on the head with her flavor combinations. I made a few changes because of what I had on hand or forgot to buy! I hated buying macadamia nuts because they're so expensive, but they were well worth it in this recipe.

Tropical Granola
by Annie of Annie's Eats

4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup mashed banana
2/3 cup applesauce
½ tsp. salt
Dash of cinnamon
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1 cup dried pineapple, chopped
1 cup dried banana chips, chopped
½ cup toasted macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 300.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, mashed banana, applesauce, salt and cinnamon.
Whisk until very smooth.
Add the oats and stir gently with a spatula until the oat mixture is evenly coated.
Spread on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Using a large, wide spatula, turn sections of the granola over on the baking sheet.
Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until nearly completely dried.
If your granola layer is thick, you may need to bake it a bit longer, removing the edges that have cooked completely but making sure the center is done.
Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then crumble into a large airtight storage container.
Add toasted coconut, dried pineapple, banana chips, and macadamia nuts to the container.
Seal and shake well until everything is evenly combined.

Harvest Granola

The next granola I made for Becky is really a compilation of my favorite fall flavors - pumpkin, maple, cranberries, pecans, and cinnamon. I also added pistachios for some extra color and crunch. Again, so easy to make, you can throw in whatever you'd like and make it your own!

Harvest Granola

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pistachios
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, toss to evenly distribute.
Pour into a parchment lined baking sheet in an even layer.
Bake for 20 minutes, toss with a fork, bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, cool for 4 hours at room temperature, store in an air-tight container.

California Granola

Whenever someone in my family celebrates a birthday, if I'm not with them, I like to mail them some kind of birthday cookie or treat. Becky's birthday is on Sunday, so I had to figure out something to make for her. Becky is a little nutritionally challenged. She's a vegetarian, she's a runner, and she can be a picky eater. Becky tends to not eat enough calories in the day, and often asks me to help her come up with menus that are vegetarian and contain a good balance of fat, protein, carbs, fiber, etc. One of my best recommendations to her for snacks or part of a meal is greek yogurt with granola containing oats, nuts and fruit. So for her birthday, it only seemed natural that I make a few granola varities for her. I had one variety in mind that I recently saw on Annie's Eats, but decided to just grab some other fruit and nuts and see what I came up with. Depending on the price of your nuts and dried fruit, you can end up spending a lot more making granola than buying it, but you can also control the quality of the ingredients.

I ended up making 3 varities for her, and I'll be posting them in the next few days!

California Granola

4 cups Rolled Oats
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup diced mission figs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Add all granola ingredients to a large mixing bowl, mix thoroughly.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, spread granola evenly on baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, use a fork to toss and redistribute, bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, place cookie sheet on a cooling wrack.
Cool granola for 4 hours, place in a air-tight container.

Tex-Mex Lasagna

I have seen countless Mexican Lasagnas recently, and found myself drooling over each photograph. I had tried making a Mexican Lasagna a year or so ago, but it didn't work out right. I simply chopped up the vegetables, layered it in a disposable tin dish with flour tortillas, and froze it. When I cooked it, the lasagna was soupy and wet and the tortillas were mush. It was not good. I decided that I had the wrong approach, I needed to cook the vegetables first to get the moisture out, and I cooked it right away rather than freezing it. I think it could be frozen and it wouldn't turn to mush as long as the vegetables were pre-cooked, but I didn't want to take any chances this time around.
Well, it was a huge sucess this time around! I made two varities, one with vegetables and black beans, and one with zucchini and ground turkey. They both cut very well, and looked and tasted great!

Black Bean and Vegetable Mexican Lasagna

1 cup Enchilada Sauce
6 flour tortillas (to fit your baking dish)
1 small zucchini, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, diced
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
1 15 oz. can drained and rinsed black beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Lettuce, tomato and sour cream, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a skillet over medium heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO, zucchini, bell pepper, onion and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper, stir and sweat out vegetables for about 6-8 minutes.
Drain excess water, if necessary.
Add corn, spices and black beans, turn heat off, toss to mix spices evenly.
Pour half the enchilada sauce in a casserole.
Add a tortilla, top with 1/5 of the vegetable mixture, top with another tortilla and repeat.
After topping the lasagna with the last tortilla, pour enchilada sauce on top.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes, until melted and bubbly.
Remove from heat, rest for 5 minutes so lasagna holds its shape when slicing.
Serve with lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream.