Friday, May 28, 2010

Quinoa Tabouleh


Quinoa tabouleh is one of my favorite culinary augurs of summer; it was practically demanded by our organic box this week, which was full of tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. You can, of course, use bulgur, which is equally as delicious and requires no cooking (just pour boiling water over it, cover and let it sit for an hour). But why deny yourself the insane amount of nutrients that quinoa has to offer? I like to garnish my tabouleh with toasted nuts, and sometimes include garbanzo or white beans for a little extra protein.

1 C quinoa, rinsed (it has a bitter coating, so rinse it well)
2 C water with 1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 cucumbers, chopped (and peeled if they’re not organic)
1 bunch parsley or cilantro, minced
a few tablespoons olive oil
a large lemon

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, then cover and simmer 30-40 minutes until water is absorbed. Stick it in the fridge to cool. In the meantime you can chop all your veg. Mix quinoa and vegetables together and toss with olive oil and the juice from your large lemon. Salt to taste.


Stir it all together and, if you have the patience, chill for a bit before serving. I especially like to eat this with grilled meat like kebabs or pork loin.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aloha Sweet Potato Salad

Serves 4


Mmm…this was a refreshing, cool, and indulgent picnic treat, a wonderful twist on the usual potato salad which, normally, I can’t get too excited about. And who would ever choose russet potatoes over sweet potatoes??

1/2 pound Bacon

3 cups Diced cooked sweet potatoes

2 cups Pineapple chunks, (fresh or canned and drained)

3-4 stalks celery, diced

1/2 sweet onion, diced and soaked in cold water

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Lime juice

1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup Macadamia nuts

Cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch pieces and fry in a skillet until well browned. Drain on paper towels. Combine the bacon, sweet potatoes, onion, celery and pineapple in a large mixing bowl and toss lightly. In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and pepper.
Add dressing to the potato mixture and stir until combined. Just before serving, stir in the macadamia nuts.

Long overdue comparative shot: week 30

It happened first with Sawyer: photographic silence between weeks 23 and 30. So I guess it was bound to happen with number two. Without further ado then, here is the comparative belly progress.

Sawyer Francis vicariously visiting the construction site that before too long would be our new house. I think I’m standing in Chris’ office.


And here I am in his office again, heavy with child. 30 weeks down 10 to go! Though maybe if I’m lucky I’ll be delivered from evil early, like I was with Sawyer.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Making a Star Wars birthday cake


A friend of mine recently agreed to let me have a go at making a birthday cake for her son who has a food allergies, and who loves Star Wars. So I used my trusty egg/dairy/nut free chocolate cake recipe to get started.

In this recipe soy milk, olive oil and margarine replace the butter, while silken tofu and cornstarch replace the eggs.

3/4 C olive oil

2 C sugar

4 oz. (about 1/2 C) silken tofu

1 1/2 C + 2 Tbs soy milk

2 tsp vanilla

2 C all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

2 Tbs cornstarch

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 C cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place olive oil, sugar and tofu in your blender or food processor and blend for 2-3 minutes. In the meantime mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add milk and vanilla to the oil-tofu mixture and blend until combined.

Pour liquid into large mixing bowl, add dry ingredients and beat until well mixed. Pour into two greased 9-in. round pans, or one greased 9x13 in. pan. Bake 25-30 minutes for round pans, and 30-35 for 9x13. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Dark chocolate frosting

1 C dairy-free, non-hydrogenated margarine, such as Earth Balance

4 C powdered sugar

4-6 Tbs soy milk

2 tsp vanilla

2-3 oz unsweetened dark chocolate, melted

2 Tbs corn syrup

Blend margarine and powdered sugar in food processor until ingredients begin to come together. While processing, add vanilla and corn syrup, then soy milk in a steady stream until the desired consistency is reached. Transfer frosting to bowl and beat in melted dark chocolate.

Here’s the triple layer baby all frosted and ready to go:


Next I covered it with blue fondant:


It was Chris’ idea to put tiny Vader helmets on the sides—genius in action. An exacto knife made quick work of these tiny galactic overlords:


Hmm, sort of a Vader-Skeletor effect, but I think everyone will know who it is:


On the black fondant ribbon at the base of the cake I used my trusty letter cutters to write the immortal Star Wars message:


Personalized for the birthday boy:


Then added stars:


And more stars, and light sabers:


And then Meredith’s wicked cake topper:


And the birthday boy himself, the Force flowing through his veins.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kale Chips, ie: VICTORY

serves 2-4


In the past few months Sawyer’s intellect has matured to the point that he really “gets” negotiation, and this has been a boon to his diet. Formerly the all-star nose-turner-upper at anything that wasn’t cereal, toast or Annie’s bunnies in cheese sauce, he has now pretty much made peace with the whole “this is what mom made for dinner; eat it or go hungry” idea. While he might put up the tiniest stink, we’ve managed to get him eating more or less what we eat, with the occasional toddler modification, all on the promise of “un bonbon” if he makes a valiant effort. Well, this whole system was completely overturned tonight when he ate tiny fistful after tiny fistful of kale chips, saying, “Mama, I eat more chips!”  I wish I could explain the miracle, but I think it’s simply that baked kale is truly tasty. Thank goodness this miracle came along when it did, because as much as I want to be that person that eats kale all the time (“sautéed with just a little balsamic vinegar,” say some of my friends, which tastes to me like shredded plastic bags with vinegar), who does yoga, and doesn’t kill house plants, the truth is that I only formerly liked kale when stewed to oblivion in winter soups packed with sausage and sweet potatoes and the like. But the times, they’re a changin’ with this kale recipe.

1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn into pieces

1-2 Tbs olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss kale leaves with oil and salt.


Spread on cookie sheet and roast for about 20 minutes or until crispy.

Homemade Ricotta: caprese salad with a twist


So I have this luscious bowl of homemade ricotta cheese sitting in my fridge, waiting to be lassoed by inspiration into something unforgettable. This was the first take—with perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, a little olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Besides being utterly delicious, it was nice to not have to slice the mozzarella and layer all the bits into an aesthetic masterpiece. Go ahead, call me lazy. Or call me an iconoclast for this deconstructed version of a classic. Since eating this, I've also enjoyed the cheese spread on a warm corn muffin, with fruit, and, once again, ON A SPOON AND STRAIGHT INTO MY MOUTH.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fish Tacos with Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Cream

Serves 3


Oh. My. So. Good. What a happy intersection of circumstances that brought this most delicious lunch together today. This is, admittedly, more than we usually bother to put together for a weekday lunch, but it was so good that I think it will carry me happily into next week, flavor-wise; I can just eat cardboard until next Tuesday or so.


White fish such as Orange Roughy or Tilapia

marinade (this is very approximate, sorry, I didn’t measure anything): 2 Tbs lemon juice, 2 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs salt, 1 tsp taco seasoning, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp dried onion

Let fish marinate for a few hours before broiling.


Citrus salsa

1 avocado

1/2 grapefruit

1/4 bunch cilantro, stems removed, minced

1/4 C minced red onion

salt to taste

Soak red onion in a bowl of water while preparing other elements of the salsa (this will neutralize the intense raw onion flavor). Cube avocado, remove grapefruit sections from the pith and slice. Mix all ingredients together, salt to taste.


Cilantro cream

1/2 C thick plain yogurt

1 garlic clove

1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed

a few tablespoons lemon juice

salt to taste

Place all ingredients in the food processor or blender and blend until smooth.


Sides: beans and rice

1 C brown rice

2 C water

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

1 15-oz can pinto beans

Bring water and rice to a boil with salt; cover, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan heat olive oil. Saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add tomatoes and rice, cover and simmer until excess liquid is absorbed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the pinto beans in a small saucepan. If you have time you can add diced onions and spices, but I like them plain too.


About 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, turn the fish and marinade onto a small cooking tray (I did mine in the toaster oven)—set oven to broil, cook fish for about 10 minutes until cooked through and browned slightly.


To serve the tacos you’ll need 8 to 12 small corn tortillas and some cheese. We like to heat our tortillas with a little cheese in the microwave, then add the fish, salsa and cilantro cream.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Makes 2 cups ricotta


I’ve been hearing for years how amazing (and easy) homemade ricotta is, and while I believed it, I didn’t buy into the superlatives until I tried it myself (in the wake of a failed goat cheese attempt) for our homemade themed cooking club meeting this month. This was faster and easier, in fact, than making yogurt (whose ease I’m endlessly advertising), and the result was so…sublime. And I mean sublime in the historical sense, the one where the object in question is so lofty and majestic as to inspire in the viewer (or taster) the idea of his own death. Yup, this stuff is powerful.

2 quarts whole milk

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

In a large pot, bring the milk, yogurt, heavy cream (if using), vinegar, and salt to a boil. Very gently boil for one to two minutes, until the milk is curdled:


Meanwhile, line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth (I just use a clean kitchen towel) and set it over a deep bowl:


Pour the milk mixture into the strainer and let drain until desired thickness is reached. Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze gently to extract any excess liquid. Makes 2 cups.

To serve with crackers: drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.


To serve with cookies or use in cannoli or another dessert, sweeten with sugar, add mini chocolate chips if desired.


You could also, of course, use it in the traditional ricotta-ways, like in lasagna or ravioli, but it’s so unbelievably delicious homemade that it almost seems a shame not to just eat it with a spoon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Silq bi'l-Tahina (Chard Stalk Hummus),

Serves 4


I am so excited about this chard stalk hummus, and not only because of its sentimental shade of pink. I found the recipe online totally randomly, but was delighted because, it’s true, the stalks often go in the compost bin. There are no beans in the recipe, but I admit that I added about 3 tablespoons great northern beans, just thinking that Chris might like the ‘substance’ that a little legume addition imparts. I thought it was great without beans though—really just like hummus, but with this wonderful, tangy, vegetal flavor. We polished most of it off today with sesame rice crackers.

1 stalks and stems from one bunch Swiss chard, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/5 C tahini

1/5 C olive oil

1/5 C fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons pine nuts fried for 1 minute in 1 teaspoon hot olive oil

1 teaspoon dried or 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped mint

Pita bread, crackers, raw vegetables for dipping

Place chard stalks in a pot of boiling water to cover and steam/boil until soft, about 10-20 minutes.


Drain well and place in food processor. Add tahini, oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt.


Process until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter; Drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish with the fried pine nuts and mint. Serve with pita bread, crackers and raw vegetables.

Whipped Cream Streusel Coffee Cake with Apples

Serves 6


No, not whipping cream or whip cream, but whipped cream. After the mother’s day family dinner last night I found myself with about 2 cups of leftover whipped cream from the pavlovas…so I invented this coffee cake recipe to deal with the excess, since we’re not the kind of people that eat many things a la mode. Did any other mothers make their own mother’s day breakfast this morning? I don’t mind. To me mother’s day is having time to do some of the things I love, hence a morning of cake baking. And this turned out to be delicious—the whole wheat flour gives it extra nuttiness, while the brown sugar imparts caramel overtones.



2 eggs

1/4 C white sugar

1/4 C brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 C white flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 C whipped heavy cream (mine was sweetened ever so slightly)

3 small apples, cored, peeled, thinly sliced


4 Tbs butter

1/4 C brown sugar

6 Tbl walnuts or pecans

2 Tbl flour

2 Tbs cinnamon

Prepare apples and set aside.


Combine streusel ingredients in the food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

For the cake: Beat eggs until fluffy and pale yellow. Add sugar and vanilla and beat another 2-3 minutes. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternately add dry ingredients and whipped cream, beating well after each addition.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-in round cake pan.


Spread half of the cake batter in the pan, top with apples and half of streusel. Spread remaining batter over apples, top with remaining streusel.


Bake for 30 minutes, until cake is golden and apples are soft.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mini Pavlovas with Lemon Curd

Serves 10-12


Total bliss. Period.

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

6 large egg whites at room temperature

Pinch salt

Lemon curd

1/2 C butter

3 lemons

2/3 C sugar

6 egg yolks

1 egg

Garnish with fresh fruit, whipped cream

Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Pour the vanilla and vinegar (if using) into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes. I love the almost electric tendrils that are left on the whisk when the meringue is ready.


Pipe or spoon the meringue into 10-12 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. I had neither of these, so I improvised with cooking spray and some cornstarch; worked fine. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked. I had a little trouble with this too—it was just so sticky! No matter what I did I ended up with a peak, and I was worried about them getting too spread out, so I just gave up. Ultimately not a problem. I could only fit 8 on a cookie sheet, so I put the rest in small ramekins. I think next time I’ll just do two cookie sheets and switch their position half-way through the cooking time.


Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white -- not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency.


Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. (I did not remove the meringues in the ramekins.)

To make the lemon curd: mince the lemon zest, juice the lemons into medium sauce pan. Over medium-low heat melt the butter with the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Whisk the egg yolks and egg together. Once the sugar is dissolved and the butter melted, slowly whisk the eggs into the sauce pan. Continue to stir until the curd becomes thick. Pour into a container and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Chill until serving.

To assemble the pavlovas: if you weren’t successful at making an indentation, just crush the top a little to make space for the curd. Spoon a few tablespoons of curd onto the meringue, top with fresh fruit (tonight we had sliced mango, strawberry, banana and kiwi) and whipped cream.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Leftover Cereal Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
I don’t know if other families face this problem, but Chris is a cereal eater--a particularly nocturnal cereal eater, I might add. But being forced to more or less be a lone ranger when it comes to finishing a box (I have different cereal tastes, and sometimes prefer other things for breakfast), he often leaves a few in the pantry with just a half cup or so, and they sit there for weeks, stalled out, in cereal limbo. So today I decided to clean up the loitering flavors and make them into some healthy muffins.
2 C leftover cereal (today’s mix included granola with raisins, some kind of banana clusters and Product 19)
2 C milk or soymilk
1/4 C olive oil
2 eggs
1/3 C honey
1 banana, mashed
2 small apples, cored and grated
1 1/2 C flour (I mixed whole wheat, barley and rice in equal parts)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the milk over the cereal in a large bowl and let it sit for an hour or so. The cereal will absorb the milk and get nice and soft. Next stir in the oil, eggs, honey, banana and apple:
Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fill your muffin cups to the brim, and bake for 16-19 minutes, or until muffins spring back when toughed lightly.

Roasted Potatoes and Grape Tomatoes à la Grèque

Serves 6


We got a 2 lb bag of potatoes in our box of organic goodness today. Here’s what’s interesting about that: we learned recently that the average American eats 150 lbs of potatoes per year. Among the group present at the time, some claimed to eat much more than that, but I was the only one who said, “No way…I bet I eat 5 lbs of potatoes a year…” I like potatoes just fine, it just doesn’t occur to me to eat them that often. And since you’re supposed to store them in a cool, dark place, I have often forgotten about them in the past when I did buy a bag, and have only rediscovered them when their sprouted tendrils have started to take over some part of the pantry and grow body snatcher pods. So when the produce arrived today the first thing I asked Chris was, “How do you like your potatoes?” It’s not that often that he really has a say, so this was a big moment. “Slice them thinly,” he said, “and cook them with that herb…what is it…the one that is like little sticks.” With some coaxing we arrived at rosemary, and from there this recipe was born.

5 small potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (1/4-in)

1 1/2 C grape tomatoes

1/4-1/3 C olive oil

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried sage

1 tsp Greek spice blend (I have McCormicks and like it a lot; in lieu of a blend you could mix oregano, mint and dehydrated onion)

salt (maybe 1-2 tsp)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl mix everything together:


Spread the mess on a cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.


Stir the vegetables and turn them as best you can, and return them to the oven for another 12. The picture at the top of the post was taken after this second 12-minute installment, but I let them go another 8 minutes or so to get them good and browned.

Total success. Sawyer needed minor prodding, Chris needed none, and even said, “This was my idea.” He gets full credit.