Monday, June 29, 2009

White Citrus Sangria

This recipe is from Michael Chiarello's show a few years ago. I recently made it for some girlfriends and it was as good as I had remembered it. I used kumquats and limes from our yard and didn't have a blood orange but it looks pretty if you can find one!

White Citrus Sangria (6 servings)

2 bottles pinot grigio
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
1/3 cup sugar
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 blood orange, thinly sliced
3 kumquats, sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced

In a large pitcher, combine the wine, brandy, and orange liqueur. Pour in the sugar, stir or shake the pitcher thoroughly to mix. Add all citrus slices at once. Allow the mixture to sit for 1 hour before serving to allow the citrus flavor to come through. Serve cold (I chilled it in the pitcher and then served it over ice).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Brownies to feel good about

Have you heard of those cookbooks (like the one by Jessica Seinfeld) where people (moms) add pureed vegetables to things to get some nutrition into their vegetable averse progeny? Well, my attempt at making brownies with sweet potatoes has nothing to do with that. I just thought it looked interesting and wanted to make a dessert with no white flour and no sugar. The recipe I tried was from Cook 4 Seasons and my trial run with making these did not disappoint me. I felt good letting my daughter have one after dinner. And, I admit, I've made 2 batches in 3 days. I HAVE to stop eating these.

I used good quality cocoa powder and my husband first thought it was flourless chocolate cake. He didn't guess there wasn't any added sugar and it doesn't have a maple flavor like I expected it too. Don't be put off by the espresso powder if you don't like coffee-flavored desserts. I think the small amount adds a lot to the recipe (and I had some in the cupboard after making the chocolate-espresso cookies). I hope you like them too - and I hope you don't overdo it like I did.

Notes: I left out the pecans but otherwise made it like the original recipe. If you don't have/use coconut oil, try pure butter or grapeseed oil instead. I used canned sweet potato puree from Trader Joe's (100% sweet potato) because I had some on hand but it's easy to make your own as described at the end of the recipe.



Sweet Potato Brownies

4 T extra-virgin coconut oil
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or teff for gf)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 T espresso powder
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
2/3 c. sweet potato puree
1 egg

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 inch square pan.  In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt coconut oil.  Remove from heat and stir in cocoa.  Let cool slightly.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, espresso and salt.

Combine maple syrup and sweet potato puree, followed by egg an vanilla.  Blend with the cocoa mix.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring to combine until no traces of flour remain.  Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the surface barely looks dry and an inserted knife comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 20 minutes.  Cool before serving.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Edamame Carrot Salad

Here's a simple summer salad. I've started making this probably 7 or 8 years ago and because my husband doesn't like edamame at all, I sort of forgot about it. Recently, I made a couple of batches and kept it in the refrigerator for lunches (protein, no sugar, lots of crunch) and I'm sort of addicted. I think it's the combination of fresh ginger and sesame oil.

You can buy frozen shelled edamame, thaw it (or bring it to room temperature in the microwave) if it's cheaper or more convenient than the refrigerated kind. I add a little salt to taste. The original recipe had a tablespoon of sugar but I think the carrot is sweet enough. You can add a little diced red bell pepper or chopped sugar snap peas to it and adjust the amount of the dressing.

Edamame Carrot Salad (2-4 servings)

1 1/2 c. shelled edamame (soybeans)
3/4 c. shredded carrot
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1 T. minced ginger
2 t. toasted sesame oil

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, and ginger, Add the carrots and edamame and toss until coated.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where I've Been

I've taken the past 10 days or so to vacation with my family. Most of you already know where we went, but for those of you who don't, here are a few (food) clues:

My daughter's breakfast the first morning

A wonderful dinner of fresh fish (blackened scallops and prawns on the left, seared ahi on the right, and yes, live koi in the background)

The box on the counter of our condo - I won't eat papayas any other place!

My daughter trying to chase down her dinner (she would have ignored the sign above had she anything to feed the bird)

The best meal we had on our last night - curry coconut stew with scallops, shrimp, mussels, and ahi

You guessed it - Kaua'i, the Garden Isle of Hawaii. We stayed in Poipu Beach for the week and it was an amazing trip. My food recommendations if you're ever on this island are Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt, Plantation Gardens, and Duke's.

2 funny stories from our trip: My daughter laid on the ground crying because the parrots in the hotel lobby didn't talk and sing like the Tiki Room at Disneyland (wait, is that funny or sad??) and she thought the fish were "flapping their wings" in the water.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Farmer's Market

I love farmer's market (especially South Pas on Thursday nights) and this Saturday it was the perfect antidote to the dreary day and my weary mood. I've eaten so many cherries since then that it's embarrassing. And, although it's a little out of season, the asparagus that I made last night hit the spot.

My friend Sarah first made this recipe for me with asparagus from her garden. I think that was the first time I'd had asparagus that fresh and I've continued to make it this way. The presentation on a platter was so pretty but due to some technical difficulties (third time the computer is being fixed in one week - and I thought Macs didn't have problems) I have no picture of that. I didn't use all of the dressing so I made spinach salad last night with the leftover dressing.

Try it, you'll like it!

Sarah's Asparagus with Bleu Cheese (serves 6)

1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus cut into 2 inch wedges (I used 2 bunches)
2 small tomatoes, cut in wedges or diced
1/3 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 c. crumbled bleu cheese

3 T cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar (more or less depending on your taste)
1 T onion, diced or grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/3 c. vegetable oil.

Cook asparagus in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or steam it until it's "crisp tender" (al-dente?). Add the tomatoes.

In a blender, combine the dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with the asparagus/tomato combination and sprinkle the almonds and bleu cheese on top.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I had some friends over the other night and after taking a bite of these cookies, I've concluded that my tendency is towards excess when I break my no sugar/no flour rule. The best way to describe these cookies is brownie pancakes. They were so fudgy and yummy that it was hard to get them off the parchment paper even after they were completely cooled. I originally planned to leave out the walnuts but when I tasted a bit of the batter, I knew they needed something to break up the chocolateness and add a little crunch. One friend suggested peanut butter chips instead of the chocolate chips which I think would be deadly but amazing.

The recipe came from Celebrating with Julienne, the new cookbook I've been loving. So, just for Lisa, here it is:

Chocolate Espresso Cookies (makes 2 dozen large cookies)

1 lb fine-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 extra-large eggs
2 T instant espresso powder
1 T vanilla extract
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sat
2 c. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate chips (56% - 60% cacao)
2 c. chopped walnuts (about 8 oz)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line 4 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir the semisweet chocolate and butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla in a large bowl for 1 minute or until blended and slightly foamy. Mix in the melted chocolate mixture. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Using 2-3 tablespoons of dough for each cookie, spoon dough onto 2 of the baking sheets, forming about 6 cookies per sheet. (I don't usually bake with 2 cookie sheets at once but I did this time placing one on an oven rack in the top third of the oven and one on an oven rack in the middle of the oven.) Bake until the cookies are crackled on the top and moist in the center, about 14 minutes. Do not overbake. Put the baking sheets onto cooling racks and let the cookies cool completely still on the baking sheet. The cookies firm up a little bit as they cool but they'll still be soft. Repeat with the remaining 2 sheets of cookies.

* A note in the cookbook says that they're best the same day they're baked (they were still great the next day) and to bake the cookies immediately after the dough is made.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Three Cheese Penne with Sausage

Baked pasta has to be the ultimate comfort food for me. I love lasagna, baked ziti, anything warm with gooey cheese and loads of carbs. This recipe was originally from Cooking Light but I can't find it on their website anymore. I usually make it just like this but in a pinch, I've used a jarred sauce (like Trader Joe's Arrabiata) in place of the cherry tomato, bell pepper, tomato sauce part of the recipe.

Often, I half the recipe or split it into two dishes and share it with someone else. Spicy sausage changes the flavor but if you like things a little hotter, it's a good addition. My favorite part is the creamy, melty goat cheese - it adds a richness to the dish without a lot of extra calories.

Three Cheese Penne with Sausage (4-6 servings)

2 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne
2 links (4 oz ea.) sweet italian sausage (I use chicken or turkey)
1 c. finely chopped green bell pepper
1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. tomato sauce
3/4 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 3 oz)
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese (about 2 oz)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions but without any salt or fat. Drain and keep warm. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage, add it to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes until it's starting to crumble. Add bell pepper, seasonings, cherry tomatoes, and garlic to the pan. Saute 6 minutes or until the bell pepper is tender.

Stir in tomato sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add pasta to pan and toss it to coat with the sauce. Spoon it into a baking dish coated with cooking spray (8 in. square, deep round dish etc.). Stir in mozzarella and goat cheese and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes or until bubbly and browned.