Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Perfect Way to Start The New Year


Years ago, when we lived closer, my sister and I used to get our families together for New Year's Eve. We'd eat, drink, and play board games. In the morning, my sister and I would prepare a brunch: a cozy way to usher in a new beginning. I miss those yearly rituals.

My sister lives too far for that sort of thing these days, but my husband and I still carry on the tradition with our kids: a special dinner preceded and followed by various board games. In the morning we go for a long walk, eat a wonderful brunch and phone our extended families to express season's greetings.

I am always on the look out for new dishes to serve on the very first day of the year. This crustless quiche is perfect for any meal. It makes great use of leftovers. A mixture of pre-roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach mingles beautifully with cottage cheese and eggs to form the perfect brunch center piece.


Potato Spinach Crustless Quiche (serves 6-8)

1 1/2 cups sauteed chopped spinach
1 1/2 cups roasted potatoes, diced size
16 oz lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup egg whites
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup shredded cheese (mild cheddar or italian mix)
3 tablespoons GF breadcrumbs

Preheat oven 375F
Oil a ceramic lasagna dish

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.


More dishes for a New Year's Brunch:
Quinoa Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Eggs with Asian Tomato Salad

Monday, December 29, 2008

Oh, Dukkah--Where Have You Been All My Life?

dukkah up close

Every once in a while flavors find their way into your kitchen that renew your enthusiasm for good food. I discovered an Egyptian spice mixture called Dukkah on earlier this month. I couldn't resist the name. The ingredients in the mix include some of my favorite spices. The original recipe was for lamb chops--an excellent marriage of flavors. I used the leftovers to sprinkle on soup and almost everything I could think of--it's that good!

Authentic Dukkah is a mix of hazelnuts or chickpeas, seeds and a variety of spices. It is used as a dry dip for olive-oil soaked bread and to flavor everything from salads to meats.

dukkah on platter

The mixture from epicurious was made with pistachios instead of the more traditional hazelnuts or chickpeas. I altered it slightly. It was excellent and so easy to make. I am planning on concocting a new batch for our new year's eve meal this year. It will add an exotic flair to our celebration.

dukkah bowl half

Pistachio Dukkah

1/2 cup roasted salted pistachios, shelled
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a finely coarse mixture is obtained. Store in an airtight container.

Artsy-Foodie's Tip: Spice mixtures keep in airtight containers at room temperature for a limited amount of time depending on the spices' oil content. However, the addition of nuts to the mix makes it more likely to spoil faster. You can still keep it at room temperature but just for a day or so before the oil in the nuts starts to break down. It's best keep it in the refrigerator if you are going to need it at a later date. You can always toast it slightly in a dry pan to revive the flavors. But be careful, it burns fast.

Other great ways to use spices:
Pumpkin Seeds with Spices
Cinnamon Izmir Kofte-Meatballs
Pea Vines and Zucchini Patties

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow and Stick-to-Your-Ribs Meals


The weather has been unbelievable lately. Our city is paralyzed by snow. We are as stuck as the snowmen forming on front lawns all around us. It is a reminder that this is the season for slowing down and a perfect excuse to enjoy our families.

My children are loving it. They spend their days outside building snow caves and sledding down the hill. The cold air makes them ravenous by the time they're ready for the warmth of our home. I love stews for their ability to bind the people that share them. The aroma that fills the air as they simmer provides an open invitation to rest, chat and enjoy.

I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy holiday season.

Happy Hanukkah!
Merry Christmas!
Joyful Kwanzaa!
Happy New Year!


Turkey and White Bean Stew with Millet Polenta

For the Millet:
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups organic millet
6 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan
salt to taste

For the Stew:
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup sweet onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 Lb organic ground turkey, not extra lean
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 cups cooked white beans, cannellini or white navy beans
26.4 oz carton chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley, optional for garnish

To Prepare the Millet Polenta:
In a medium to large pot, heat the oil and saute the millet for a minute then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered, stirring every once in a while. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until mixture is cooked and creamy (like polenta). Add butter, sour cream, parmesan and more salt to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.

To Prepare the Stew:
In a large pan, heat the oil and saute the onions, garlic until cooked and slightly caramelized. Add the ground turkey and cook, mixing to break a part the clumps. Once the meat is cooked, add the salt cinnamon, oregano, basil and red pepper. Saute for another minute then add the cooked beans and chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Bring to a low boil and simmer covered for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve on top of the millet polenta. Top each portion with freshly chopped parsley (if using).


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spicy and Sweet Squash


This puree is a nice side-dish I came up with the other day when I was trying to tone down the natural sweetness squash. My husband loves spicy food and I have acquired quite a taste for it myself. When the kids were little, I use to make spicy condiments that he and I could add to our dishes, in order not torture our children's sensitive palates. I no longer have to do that for the three oldest ones. My six year old, on the other hand, uses the spiciness as the perfect excuse not to eat his vegetables. It makes him feel empowered which I think is healthy once in a while. All I have to do is steam some broccoli which he'll gladly eat instead of anything suspect like: Spicy Squash Puree.

This is a great side-dish paired up with a strong flavored protein such as lamb, a blackened fish or smoked tofu.

I love how simple it is to make. It literally takes five minutes to assemble, after baking the fruit/vegetable.
The spiciness of the smoked pepper is a really nice contrast to the sweetness of the squash. Add some sea salt and you are in business.


Spicy and Sweet Squash Puree
Everything I have added for richness such as the butter, sour cream or cheese is pretty much optional. It does add a lovely dimension to the dish.

2 medium size squash such as delicata, carnival or acorn
(seeds scooped out and cut into halves)
1 tablespoon of butter, or olive oil
1/4 cup lowfat sour cream
sea salt to taste
1/4 cup goat cheese gouda (optional)
1-2 tsp smoked chipotle peppers

Preheat oven to 375F.
Place squash halves on an oiled cookie-sheet, cut side down. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife (about 30 minutes)
Take out of oven and cool for ten minutes.
Carefully, scoop pulp out into a bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients and mash until creamy. This dish will keep for a day or two. However, the longer it sits the spicier it gets.

Artsy-Foodie's Tip: Isn't it frustrating when a recipe calls for only 1 tablespoon of a 5oz can of something like tomato paste or smoked chipotle in adobo sauce? Here's what I do: I take my muffin pan and divide the can into individual tablespoon portions then I transfer the whole thing to the freezer. Once they are frozen, all I have to do is put them into an airtight container and keep them in the freezer for future use.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Bake Almond-Chocolate Bars


Ever get tired of the "usual" snacks? Here is a treat that will remedy any snack-blues you may be experiencing.

I was feeling sorry for my snack-deprived children, when I came across this easy, no bake recipe for a power bar on Elena's Pantry.


I altered her beautiful recipe slightly by adding more agave nectar and omitting Stevia. I decided to use a different type of oil and less of it than what the original recipe called for. Finally, the addition of unsweetened applesauce made up for the missing oil.

Delicious treats that feature nutritious ingredients and are low in unnecessary refined sugars are my favorite. These little gems are packed with raw almonds and flaxseeds, providing plenty of healthy fats and protein, not to mention fiber. The melted dark chocolate topping provides a wonderful contrast in flavor and texture. I will be making these treats, and more variations on the original recipe, again soon.


Almond Bars with Dark Chocolate Crust

2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup unsalted roasted almond butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons canola oil or almond oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons agave nectar, or honey (if not vegan)
1 tablespoon GF vanilla extract
1 cup of high quality dark chocolate, chopped coarsely

In a food processor, process: almonds, flaxseed meal, coconut, almond butter and sea salt together until coarsely combined, about 10 seconds.
In a small bowl, mix the oil, applesauce, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Transfer to food processor with the almond mixture and pulse to combine . Press the mixture in a square brownie pan. Refrigerate for an hour.

Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl, using a double boiler or the microwave (in small increments)-- Stir often to avoid burning the chocolate. Spread the melted chocolate evenly on top of the almond mixture and return to refrigerator until chocolate crust forms. Divide into bars and serve. Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.


Artsy-Foodie's Tip: Although the dark chocolate crust is delightful, it does make it tricky to slice--imagine a frozen lake and you'll understand what I mean. The trick is to use a sharp knife with a warm to hot blade. Be careful not to burn yourself.

More recipes for you to snack on...
Apple Scones
Pumpkin Seeds with Spices
Oat Fig Bars

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pear Butter and Muffins


I came upon a cornucopia of pears through my CSA and decided to turn them into a light pear butter. Pears take on the loveliest velvety texture when baked and blended. It reminds me of the baby fruit purees I use to make for my children--yes, I would lick the leftovers. Since silkiness is provided by mother-nature, I just have to add the right complementary ingredients for my fruit spread. I chose maple syrup to provide some additional sweetness and richness, but the spices are really what makes this recipe special.


The batch will yield two jars. You can enjoy it as a spread or a nice change from applesauce. I used one jar for our morning toast and then turned the rest into a batch of delicious gluten-free pear muffins.


My kids loved them and immediately requested another batch.

Oven-Baked Pear Butter
The Pear Butter is vegan.

4 cups ripe pears, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoon orange zest
juice of one orange (1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg


Preheat oven 350F.
Mix all the ingredients in an oiled ceramic dish (lasagna pan). Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Transfer pears to blender and pulse until smooth. Cool and transfer to jars. Refrigerate for up to a week.


Pear Butter Muffins (makes 12)

1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup millet flour
1 cup[ brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup Sucanat (evaporated cane juice) or granulated sugar

1 cup Kefir or other liquid yogurt (buttermilk will work fine)
1/2 cup egg whites
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
6 tablespoons pear butter
1/4 cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven 375F.
oil a muffin pan.

Mix the first seven ingredients in a bowl.
Mix the next 4 ingredients (yogurt-vanilla extract) in a bowl.
Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Divide half the batter into the twelve muffin cups. Add 1/2 tablespoon of pear butter on top of each muffin. Then, top each dollop of pear butter with the remaining batter. Top each muffin with a sprinkle of walnut pieces and bake for 25-30 minutes or until nice and golden. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving or transferring to a platter.


Similar recipes for you to enjoy:
Pumpkin Butter with Candied Ginger
Simple Fig Jam

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cold/Flu Remedies

I am sick with a cold/flu. My usual TLC meal is jook, also known as congee. I make this thick porridge-like soup out of rice, broth, and ginger. It's very soothing and nutritious.

Here are some congee recipes:
Cooking Light's Rice Congee
Gourmet Magazine's Congee

What is your favorite cold/flu therapeutic meal?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cranberry-Apple Salad Dressing

cranberry-apple dressing

A good salad is like a good marriage: all the ingredients need to compliment each other. The idea is that if your salad dressing is on the sweet side you want to pair it up with a bitter leaf. A thicker vinaigrette would enhance an endive salad but overpower delicate watercress leaves. You also want just the right mix of textures. If you go overboard the heavier components stay at the bottom of the bowl. The most important thing is to keep things playful. Even when I tend to favor a simple salad I'll make it special by using some roasted hazelnut oil and high quality sea salt. Sometimes, I add some seasonal fruit slices, goat cheese crumbles and roasted nuts. My salad dressings don't usually involve any cooking time but this one is different and so worth the extra effort.

The creation of this salad dressing was an experiment gone well-- so I thought I'd share. It's creamy, tart and sweet. I love it with crisp salad leaves such as romaine or crunchy endives. The color alone is reason enough to make this delicious dressing.

cranberry dressing up-close

Cranberry-Apple Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup tart apple peeled and diced, such as Granny Smith or Pippin

2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
2 teaspoons dijon type mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Saute the chopped onions in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent and beginning to brown. Add the cranberries and apples and continue cooking, stirring often, until softened (about 5 minutes). Transfer to blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Process until smooth. Add more liquid (orange juice or water) if you wish for a thinner dressing.

cranberry dressing salad

For more wonderful salad recipes go visit Stacey's After Thanksgiving Detox week. She's featuring many gorgeous salad recipes to make up for last week's feast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Love Affair with Cranberries

cranberry bread platter

I have started a love affair with cranberries this year. Oh, I have always loved them but this season I am rediscovering the pleasures of adding their tartness to an array of dishes and baked goods.

cranberry orange bread slices

Orange, whether zest or fresh squeezed juice, brings out their loveliness even more. Too often, they are limited to make a shy gooey appearance out of a can at Thanksgiving. No offense to the canned-cranberry-sauce lovers out there, but this does no justice to this beautiful fruit. I am partial to scones, muffins and bread bursting with citrus and chunks of these bright red berries. And, when it comes to my Thanksgiving table, I follow in my sister's footsteps and make a delicious homemade cranberry-blueberry sauce which she introduced me to many years ago. My kids eat it by the bucket-full so I always double the batch.

This year, I have discovered a new recipe for Cranberry-Orange Bread. The aroma that fills my house as I type this post is simply indescribable. You'll have to bake a loaf to find out for yourself. Be warned: it must be left alone to cool for an hour before being sliced--not an easy thing to comply with when the sweet enticing smell teases you mercilessly.

So what is so different about this bread that warrants such passion on my part? The batter for one is sweet with orange pulp and a pillowy texture. The cranberries are crushed while still frozen, thereby providing the perfect cranberry flavor to bite ratio. The pulpy juice of fresh oranges makes such a delightful difference in the intensity of flavor and texture.

Cranberry bread up-close

This recipe was based originally on an America's Test Kitchen recipe.

Cranberry Orange Bread (makes 1 loaf)
If you are not concerned about the gluten you can make this recipe using 2 cups all-purpose flour (just omit the xantham gum) instead of the first 5 ingredients. If you are gluten free but would rather use a baking mix feel free to do so but don't forget to add the xantham as indicated in the recipe. I like the addition of almond meal but I have made this loaf entirely with Bob's Red Mill GF mix before with excellent results.

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup millet flour
1 teaspoon xantham gum
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cups fruit flavored kefir yogurt, or other liquid yogurt (buttermilk is a good substitute)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup agave nectar, or honey

1/2 cup of crushed frozen cranberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven 375F
Oil a loaf pan

Mix all the first 9 ingredients together in a bowl.
In another bowl: mix the oil, applesauce, kefir, juice, zest, egg and agave nectar until well combined.
Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl. Add the cranberries and nuts and mix thoroughly. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Check for doneness after an hour by inserting a knife in the center. Blade should come out clean. Let cool for an hour before slicing.

Artsy-Foodie's Tip:
Make this recipe into muffins for a nice individual treat. Reduce the baking time to 30 minutes instead.

Stop by for a visit later on this week for a wonderful apple-cranberry salad dressing recipe...
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