Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coconut Lentils with Kale and Currants

Here's another staple for your pantry. It's a one-pot dish that you can make when you have veggies on hand to use up. It's a great cold weather meal and the leftovers are just as delicious as the original!

Notes: Lentils are on the rise in popularity in the US, but they are already popular in lots of Indian dishes. They're legumes with a high protein, fiber, and iron count. They're dried, so they have a much lower sodium content than canned beans. I think they have a more distinctive flavor than a lot of beans. The red ones I used for this dish cook much faster than some of the varieties, so if you use a different kind, be aware that it may take longer.

Feel free to come up with your own spice mix. I wanted mine to be Moroccan-inspired, but you are limited only by your imagination.

1 1/2 cups red lentils
1/2 cup of currants or raisins
1 bunch kale (I had Lactino)
1 red onion
1 13-15 oz. can of coconut milk
1 tablespoon cumin
1 dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of water plus more just in case


Thinly slice your onion and your kale. Heat your butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and starting to brown. Add the kale and saute for about a minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add in your lentils and spices and stir to combine. Pour in the coconut milk and one cup of water. Add in the currants. Reduce the heat to medium: you want a steady bubble, but you don't want it to boil. Cook until the lentils are softened, approximately 35-40 minutes.

Keep an eye on the liquid level during the cooking. If it starts to look too dry (like the lentils have absorbed all the liquid) add more water. I ended up using about 2 cups total.

Enjoy a feast for the eyes and the tongue!

Muffin Tin Eggs

It's fun to entertain with breakfast or brunch, but there aren't a lot of breakfast dishes that lend themselves to easy prep for large groups. Baked eggs solves that problem!

Notes: I debated posting this because frankly I didn't care for the results. The eggs turned out very spongy and I was not a fan. But I figure some people might like their eggs well done. I've done some more digging and it turns out you should use some kind of base in bottom of the tin. I would recommend a little pile of kale, since kale and eggs are such a delicious combination! I have also seen recipes with sauteed onions and bell pepper in the bottom. Having something on the bottom will keep your egg from the direct heat of the bottom of the tin.

I did two types of eggs: one just cracked on its own and one scrambled with some kale and parmesan cheese (like a mini frittata). The regular one was much better. The scrambled eggs had an even spongier texture. Not tasty!

The lesson here is that you need to experiment in order to ward off the tough texture. Either shorten the cooking time, turn the heat down, or keep the eggs off the direct heat. I'm posting the recipe the way I did it.

2 eggs
1 or 2 leaves of kale
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese


Heat the oven to 350.

Use the butter to grease the two muffin tins that you will use for the eggs.

Crack the regular egg directly into the muffin tin and season with salt and pepper. Beat the other egg in a small bowl. Tear your kale into small pieces. Add the kale, cheese, salt, and pepper and mix to combine. Pour the the mixture into the other prepared muffin tin.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the eggs are set. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quinoa Veggie Stir Fry

It's been awhile since I made a recipe with quinoa. You can use it in any dish where you would normally use rice. I like it a bit better than regular rice: the texture is more tender and it has a nutty flavor.

Notes: I picked up a couple of ingredients I normally don't have on hand: tofu and roasted garlic chili paste. The co-op had baked tofu, which I had never seen before. I absolutely love tofu in Thai and Chinese food, but I can't ever seem to get the texture right when I cook it at home. The baked tofu was closer to what I was looking for. If you can't find baked tofu, regular tofu would work just fine. I would press the water out and add it to the pan first so that it crisps up a bit.

I hadn't used roasted garlic chili paste before. It's very good, though I think I might add a little more next time I use it. If you can't find it, a combination of regular garlic and some kind of hot sauce would get you in the flavor ballpark.

I have learned a lot from screwing up stir fries in the past. I think the biggest tip is to have everything ready before you even turn on the burner. I don't have a wok, so I just use a regular skillet, which means it doesn't take long to heat up. Have all your ingredients laid out next to the stove so that all you have to do is reach for them when you're ready. You can't leave stir fry unattended!

If you have all your ingredients prepped, stir fry is very Q.E.D. -- it only takes about 7 minutes!

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 head of shredded cabbage
1 cup of broccoli florets
1 cup of baked (or regular) tofu, cubed
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons roasted garlic chili paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
Olive oil


Dice your bell pepper, shred your cabbage, chop your broccoli, and cube your tofu. Arrange all your ingredients near the stove so that you can dump them into the pan when you need to.

Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. When the oil ripples and starts to smoke a little, add your cabbage (if you're using regular tofu, add it first). Stir the cabbage around so that it's all coated with oil (about a minute). Add the bell pepper and broccoli florets and stir until tender crisp (about a minute). Season the veggies with salt and pepper. If you're using baked tofu, add it now. Add in the chili paste and stir everything together (about two minutes).

Move your mixture to the edges of the pan, creating a well in the middle. Add in your cooked quinoa and soy sauce. Stir continuously for about 3-4 minutes until the quinoa starts to brown and get a little sticky. Remove the pan from the heat when you're done to make sure nothing burns.

Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cheesy Noodle Bake

I don't come from a long line of chefs. My parents and grandparents have a handful of "signature" dishes between them, but probably not enough to fill a cookbook.

But, one of the dishes I remember both my grandmother and my mother making was baked pork chops on top of cheesy noodles. The pork chops were never my favorite part, but the cheesy noodles? They are the definition of comfort. I've been craving comfort food lately, so I decided some updated cheesy noodles were in order.

Notes: Cheddar cheese is what gives the cheesy noodles their signature taste, but use a different cheese if you must! I decided to make this one vegetarian, so I opted for greens instead of pork chops.

1/2 lb of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, angel hair)
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup chopped greens (swiss chard, kale, shredded cabbage)
Butter (for greasing the baking dish)


Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a stock pot of water to a boil, add a small handful of salt to the water, and cook the pasta according to the directions. While your pasta is cooking, chop your greens and grate your cheese.

After you drop your pasta, heat the milk over medium heat until it's scalded -- warm and steaming with little bubbles around the edge, but not boiling. Season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain it and pour it into your buttered glass baking dish. Turn the heat off the milk, add 2 cups of the grated cheese, and stir until melted and smooth. Pour the cheese and milk mixture over the noodles. Add the chopped greens and stir to combine. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Let it stand 5 minutes, serve it up and enjoy!

Comfort on a plate!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Q.E.D.: Sardines and Greens on Toast

My friend Stacy over at Lola & Zoe recently did a post on kicking the winter blues. I have been confronting some winter blues (though they feel more like winter blahs) lately. Normally, cooking is one of the ways I solve the winter blues, but for some reason I haven't felt like doing much of that either. Even when I don't feel much like cooking, I still like to make my own food. For times like that, it's nice to have meals that are more assembly than cooking and this is one of those meals.

Notes: Haven't tried sardines? Well, why not? They're delicious. If you like tuna, salmon, and other steak-y fish, you'll like sardines. Sardines are also rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium. So not only is this meal Q.E.D., it's healthy too. Opt for the wild-caught sardines if you can find them.

This makes enough for one, so if you want to feed two people, I would double the recipe.

1 tin sardines, packed in either oil or water (I used water)
Half of a large baguette or a whole small baguette
1/2 cup of cilantro
1/2 cup of swiss chard leaves (or your favorite leafy green)
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 drops of Tabasco
Olive oil

Directions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Finely chop your cilantro and your swiss chard leaves and add them to a medium-sized bowl. Zest your lemon and add the zest to the bowl. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Slice your baguette into toast rounds. Lay them on a baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Once the oven is heated, bake them for between 4-6 minutes until toasted.

While the bread is toasting, drain the liquid out of your sardines. Lay them on a paper towel and pat them dry. Add them to the bowl with your greens mixture. Mash the sardines with a fork and stir everything to combine. Cut your lemon and squeeze the juice over the mixture, add the Tabasco, and stir again. When the toasts are done, spoon the sardine mixture on top and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spelt Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's been awhile since I did some baking, so how about a cookie recipe?

As I've mentioned, I'm an impulse baker. I was at the store today picking up a few things. I ducked into the baking aisle by mistake. Once I saw the bags of chocolate chips, it was all over.

When I got home, however, I realized that I only had about half of the amount of butter that my normal Alton Brown recipe calls for. Where others would get discouraged and decide to bake another time, the impulse baker taps into her inner chemist. Since I couldn't use my normal recipe, it was the perfect time to experiment.

Notes: These cookies are perfectly suited to my taste. I don't like cookies that are too sweet and these are just right.

Because it calls for whole wheat flour, the batter will likely be drier than you're used to. If you think it should be a little more moist, add more milk -- maybe four or five tablespoons instead of two.

Normally, I'm not specific about ingredients, but I highly recommend using natural peanut butter for this recipe. I only buy natural peanut butter, which is why I used it. Regular peanut butter may have a different oil content than natural peanut butter, which will mess with the fat content in your batter. If you want to experiment, be my guest, but just be aware that you might end up with cookies that spread out in the oven more than you're expecting.

This makes a whole mess of cookies, so be prepared to share!

2 1/2 cups of spelt or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
8 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (either smooth or chunky)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of milk
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups of semi or bitter sweet chocolate chips (I used mini)


Melt your butter in a small sauce pan. While the butter is melting, add the brown sugar and peanut butter to your mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer). In another medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Once the butter is melted, add it to the sugar and peanut butter. Beat them together on medium speed until they are well incorporated and the mixture starts to thicken. Add your eggs one at a time, incorporating each one into the batter. Beat in the vanilla and the milk. Finally, add your dry mixture in stages. Once the last of the flour is mixed in, stir in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate the dough for one hour.

Heat the oven to 325. Scoop the cookies onto cookie sheets. They should be the size of a heaping tablespoon or a small meatball. Bake for 14-17 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown and the edges are light golden brown. Allow them to cool 5 minutes.

Serve with a nice glass of milk and enjoy!