Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hearty Veggie Chili

I love this time of year--there's a nip in the air and there's a sense of grounded-ness...of 'settling in' to the winter and to the end of the year. In fall, I always take stock of the year. Maybe due to the school system, I really do think of fall as the beginning of the new year more than January 1st. For me, it's a time to reassess the direction of my life, what I want, and what this year will hold. Because of that, fall is a really healthy time for me. It can be difficult--as all the pumpkin lattes, scones, and breads arrive at every corner cafe (and I do love a pumpkin anything except pie, weirdly....). Candy is abundant. The food magazines start featuring roasts and nachos on their covers instead of fresh salads and grilled chicken breasts. Yet eating that stuff just doesn't line up with this forward-thinking, self-caring time of year. For me, luckily, comfort food is anything that can be eaten with a spoon. So soup often fits the bill for this time of year. This veggie chili is hearty and filling and continues to get even better-tasting over the next few days. This makes a big batch, so freezing half of it for another comfort food day may save you from the allure of the beef stew, pot pie, or cheesy potatoes that are so often billed as such. Really, isn't it more comforting to know you are taking care of this one and only body you have?

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
1 1/2-2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
salt and pepper
2 28-oz cans good diced tomatoes
1 small can diced jalapenos, drained
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 boxes broth (vegetable or beef)
1 teaspoon roasted garlic paste (optional)
2 cups chopped kale
corn kernels from 1 cob
Shredded cheese and light sour cream (optional)

1. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 7 minutes.

2. Add celery, sweet potato, and carrot, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and a large pinch of salt and some fresh pepper, stirring occasionally for another 7-10 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes, jalapenos, beans, broth, and garlic paste. Stir. Bring to a boil then turn to low and simmer for 1 hour.

4. Add kale and corn. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer another 20 minutes.

5. To serve, ladle the chili into a bowl. Add a sprinkle of cheese with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Serves 8.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crazy Good Brussel Sprouts

My husband couldn't get enough of these things. When you have a grown man popping brussel sprouts like they're french fries, I'd say even Martha would deem these a 'good thing.'

Pair with the double-stuffed sweet potatoes for what my husband called "The best vegetarian meal he's ever had."

1 lb brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed, and halved
6 dried figs, stemmed and quartered
1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
lemon zest to taste
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Toss brussel sprouts with figs and just a little olive oil and sprinkle sparingly with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until brown edges form, 15 minutes or so (keep your eye on it).

3. Remove from oven. Lower oven to 350. Add walnuts and stir to combine. Return to oven until walnuts are toasted, about 10 more minutes.

4. Remove from oven. Add lemon zest and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serves 4

Double-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Ever since watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, my husband and I have been trying to eat less meat. I believe that most Americans could use a little less meat in their lives. Of course, we all still want a tasty dinner that sates us. I came up with this recipe for double-stuffed sweet potatoes that are chock full of antioxidants and delicious to boot. Serve with the brussel sprouts for a meal that will make you forget all about the meat.

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
2 cups raw kale, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
15 (or so) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Poke holes in sweet potatoes with fork, set on baking sheet. Bake in oven 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through. Meanwhile sautee kale and oregano in a saucepan over medium heat with a little oil or broth until wilted. Take off heat.

3. Let potatoes cool slightly. Carefully cut potatoes in center to open being careful not to cut all the way through. You want to create a big pocket. Carefully scoop out flesh of potato and put into a medium bowl. Mix in kale, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Using a microplane, grate parmesan on top if using. Place back in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Serves 2.

Optional add-ins: kalamata olives, feta cheese, pine nuts, lemon zest

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Easy, Healthy Chicken Dinner

There's you. There's some chicken breast. There are some sweet potatoes that have been sitting for a week on the counter, and there are some green vegetables in the fridge that need some attention before they are past their prime. Plus you don't feel like going to the grocery store. That was my experience this evening, and I'm so glad that I decided to spend a half hour cooking instead of shopping because I created an easy and really nice meal for myself at home. The techniques are here--substitute regular potatoes, butternut squash, or carrots. Substitute fish or pork for the chicken. And substitute any vegetable for the green beans. Play with spices that you like--you can take it in an Asian direction with a nice Teriyaki marinade. Or Moroccan, Indian, or Mexican with those flavor profiles. Play! Have fun! That's what it's all about anyway.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, half minced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 large or 4 small sweet potatoes
Lawry's seasoning salt
Bunch green beans, trimmed

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice and equal part olive oil, minced garlic, and minced rosemary. Add chicken breasts and set aside to marinade.

3. Cut sweet potatoes into large chunks. Set into large bowl. Add whole garlic cloves. Add 1 Tablespoons olive oil, toss to coat. Spread out onto baking sheet and sprinkle with Lawry's. Ad the rest of the rosemary. Put in oven. (Note time...after 10 minutes, reduce heat to 400 degrees)

4. Heat a large pan over high heat with 1 Tablespoons olive oil. Take chicken out of marinade and blot dry. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Add to hot pan and do not move around. Meanwhile, toss the green beans with a teaspoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. After 2 minutes (or when browned), flip chicken, add green beans to pan, and place pan in oven. (If your pan has a wooden handle, wrap with foil). Finish cooking chicken in oven, 5-15 minutes depending on thickness of chicken breasts.

5. Plate and enjoy.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Crispy Crushed Potatoes

Syracuse, New York. 1999. My typical day started with a bagel, dry, as I rushed to class in the sleet and snow. After a few hours of class, I'd be hungry again, so I'd usually order a turkey sandwich, light on the mayo, with maybe a bag or pretzels on the side. For a snack, perhaps some Snack Wells cookies or some microwave popcorn covered in fat-free, canary yellow who-knows-what. Then for dinner, a big bowl of spaghetti with fat-free marinara. No wonder I screamed at the scale for 'lying to me' and one boy described me as 'under-the-radar attractive.'

As all of us who fell victim to the low-fat craze know, you can't always believe the hype. Which brings me to the poor, forgotten potato. For years, Atkins-era on, I demonized the potato (unless I was 'cheating' with French Fries.) I capitalize French Fries because they deserve our respect due to their deliciousness.

But the thought of cooking a potato in my kitchen was ridiculous to me.

Of course, some of us have to learn lessons the hard way. Although low-carb was effective, it was not sustainable. Nor healthy, I might add. Carbs are important for digestion, brain function, and blah blah blah. You don't care about that anyway. You want to eat carbs and I support you in that, my potato-loving friend.

So have two or three fingerlings with dinner! And if you make them this way, you won't even feel like cheating next time your girlfriend orders a side of fries.

OK, I'm lying. You'll still cheat but now you can get the crunchy, salty, creamy taste of fries at home, in your comfy pants, and not feel the leering stare of the creepy guy at the bar. Enjoy!

1 lb fingerling potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the potatoes and cook until they are soft enough to be crushed but nowhere near mashed potato consistency.

3. Drain the potatoes and dry with a towel. Lay on baking sheet (use a Silpat or parchment paper for easy clean-up) and smash with the bottom of a glass. Tip: I spray the bottom of the glass with a little olive oil or PAM before I smash each potato. You want to keep the potato in tact, so don't get overzealous here.

4. Drizzle half a teaspoon of oil on each potato and rub it around with your fingers so the whole top is coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake til golden and crispy.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring Salad

Tra-La! It's May! The Lusty Month of May! As I make my way around the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, I have Julie Andrews stuck in my head, singing this, and the bounty at the market right now sure is lusty. I came unprepared with one eco-bag, intending to buy "only a couple things." Forty dollars and fifteen pounds later, I'm lugging this bag up eight flights of stairs in the parking lot...but I don't care because I have bought a 'libelous display' of fruits and veggies and I am stoked to create something fresh, colorful, and healthy for dinner tonight. I'm thinking of all the creative things I can do with my fava beans, tangelos, purple asparagus, haricot verts, and butter lettuce. Ultimately, though, I don't want to hide the flavor of any of these gems! The beauty of a fresh, seasonal vegetable is that asparagus tastes more asparagus-y, and favas taste more fava-lous, and tangelos are tangel-icious! So, I just made this simple salad which showcases the ingredients for all the lusty freshness they have to offer. Happy May, Maidens and Lads.

1 cup shelled fava beans (about 1 lb shelled favas)*
1/2 lb haricot verts or green beans, trimmed
1 lb asparagus (any color), trimmed**
1-2 tangelos (substitute tangerine or orange), segmented
1 lemon, zested and juiced
extra virgin olive oil
Butter lettuce, 1 large head or 2 small heads, rinsed and dried

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. While water is heating, prepare an ice bath by putting lots of ice into a big bowl with cold water.

2. When boiling, put asparagus into water. (If it comes with a rubber band, that can go in the water which will make it easier to take the asparagus out). Cook for 2 minutes, remove asparagus with slotted spoon and plunge directly into ice bath to stop cooking. Repeat with haricot verts and fava beans.

3. When all the vegetables have cooled, drain the vegetables in a colander and dry using a salad spinner or towels. Cut the asparagus and green beans into one inch pieces and put in a medium bowl. Shell the fava beans, removing the white casing and add the bright green fava to the bowl with the green beans and asparagus. Add segmented tangelo or orange.

4. In a small tupperware container, add lemon juice. Add a generous pinch of salt and dissolve the salt in the lemon juice. Add zest of half the lemon, discarding the remaining zest. Then add equal parts (more or less to taste) olive oil. Close lid and shake vigorously to emulsify. Pour 3/4 of vinaigrette over bean mixture and toss gently.

5. Lay lettuce on plate. Dress with the remaining vinaigrette. Top with the bean mixture. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Makes 4.

Printable version here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Asian Turkey Burgers

I think it's so funny when people call me a Chef. Come on, a Chef? A Chef can cut a perfect brunoise! A Chef knows the proportions of a perfect Hollandaise and could do it blindfolded! A Chef can take an egg, some nougat, and a little pickle juice and make something delicious out of it! I am just a home cook. I love to do it and from time to time, I stumble across a successful dish which I like to share with you. Now that you are sufficiently convinced of my culinary humility, I have to tell you: THIS IS THE BEST TURKEY BURGER I HAVE EVER EATEN. I mean, it's gooooood. I attribute 75% of that to just dumb luck, but for whatever reason, the turkey burger gods visited my kitchen today and took pity on this Giada wannabe. So do it up with a little steamed broccoli and some brown rice for a rockin' weeknight meal. A Votre Sante!

1 lb ground white turkey meat
1 medium zucchini, grated
1/4 cup shredded carrot, steamed until soft (microwave with a little water or cook on stovetop) and cooled
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon almond butter
2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
large pinch salt
dash cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper
Cilantro (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients in bowl, mixing til combined but not overmixing.

3. Score meat into four sections using your finger or a knife.

4. Heat a nonstick pan over high heat with 1 Tablespoon canola oil. Form four patties with hands (warning--this mixture will be very sticky!) and drop into hot oil in pan. Cook the burgers for a few minutes, then flip. Immediately put the pan into the oven (if your pan has a wooden handle, wrap it in tin foil) and cook until internal temperature reads 160 degrees, 5-10 minutes depending on thickness of burger.

5. Using a potholder, remove pan from oven. (Helpful hint learned the hard way by your recipe writer: Put the potholder onto the handle of the pan so you don't forget that it's hot and grab it!) Take burgers off pan and let rest on cutting board or plates for 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and sesame seeds, if desired.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.