Sunday, September 19, 2010

Carrot Hummus

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the best mom... at least when it comes to hiding vegetables in the food I feed my kids. Now, hummus is undeniably a staple in my diet, and there's no questioning its power food status, but I'm always looking for a way to amp things up a few notches in the vitamin/mineral components of any dish. Adding canned or frozen carrots provides some additional vitamin A; these carrot forms are softer and therefore blend quite a bit easier into the hummus. By all means one could boil fresh carrots and achieve the same effect. Further amping up the hummus with a scoop of unflavored protein powder gives each serving a gram or two more of satiating protein. Adding protein powder to meals can be especially important if one's diet is primarily vegetarian. At least I think it is... supposedly Americans get more than enough protein...

Anywho, this hummus is tasty and packed with nutritional benefits. Lately, when I'm not experimenting with edamame, spinach, or red pepper versions, this is my go-to recipe. It's pretty straight-forward, and (as you may have guessed by my use of approximate amounts) extremely forgivable.
The Edibles:
  • 1 16-oz. can of garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas), rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 of a 16 oz. can of carrots (or about 1 c. frozen carrots, thawed), drained
  • 1 T. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic (or the equivalent in jarred or powdered)
  • generous sprinkling of fresh or dried parsely
  • generous shake of ground coriander
  • light sprinkle of onion salt (alternatively you could use onion powder generously)
  • 1 scoop natural, unflavored protein powder
  • enough water to get the blender/processor blade a-movin' (add 1 T. at a time)
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
The Making:
  1. Whir together all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  2. If you're patient, chill hummus for at least 30 minutes. (You'll be amazed by how much more intense the flavors become in such a short amount of time!)
  3. Store in a sealed container for maximum one week.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with pita chips, pretzels, cucumber slices, bagel chips, or (gasp!) carrots!

Kick-off Chicken Bites

It's football season, so what's more appropriate than some buffalo chicken bites? Getting their crunch from an oven bake, rather than deep fry, these babies are a healthy take on the classic fried chicken wing.

Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to spicy foods, so these are a tamed-down version. Of course more hot sauce could be added if you happen to have a stronger palate. With the addition of honey mustard, these nuggets are slightly sweet, but they still have a bit of a kick, so they are a good middle ground that will please a crowd. I served our nugs with some good ol' fashioned corn bread, because I'm fancy like that.
The Edibles:
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 T. parsley
  • 10 chicken wings (or 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks)
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 T. melted butter
  • 3 T. hot pepper sauce (such as Frank's RedHot®)
  • 3 T. barbecue sauce
  • 1 T. ketchup
  • 4 T. honey mustard
  • 2 T. worcheschire sauce
  • 1/4 c. water
The Making:
  1. Place the flour through parsely into a resealable plastic bag; shake to mix. Add the chicken, seal, and toss until well coated with the flour mixture. Refrigerate for an hour if you have the time.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with cooking spray. Remove chicken from bag and place on prepared baking sheet, allowing space in between the pieces.
  4. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and appears golden on the outside, about 45 minutes (time will be less if you have small cuts of the chicken). Turn over halfway during cooking so they cook evenly.
  5. While the chicken cooks, wisk together the butter and remaining ingredients overhot sauce in a small saucepan placed over low heat.
  6. Once cooked, carefully dip the wings into the sauce mixture, and serve!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Avocado & Tempeh Cheese Sandwich

It seems like "green" is the theme for my cuisine these days. This sandwich is a simple, delicious, vegetarian option that lends itself to interpretation based on the veggies and other toppings you have on hand.

This "recipe" uses tempeh right from the package. I love tempeh in all forms; I think it can be great sautéed but just as good un-cooked. In fact, I've found its straight-from-the-package form to be a lovely addition to the traditional PB&J! I know that it may be an acquired taste, but I particularly enjoy the nuttiness and bit of crunch it offers in its beany, protein- and fiber-packed little block!
The Edibles:
  • 2 slices of your favorite multi-grain braid
  • honey mustard
  • several slices of tempeh, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 of an avocado, sliced
  • 1 wedge of Laughing Cow spreadable cheese
  • several basil leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
The Making:
  1. If you prefer, toast your bread. Spread one slice of bread (or toast) with honey mustard to your liking.
  2. Layer tempeh, avocado, cheese, and basil on the mustard slice. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and salt (or omit for a lower-sodium option).
  3. Top with second slice of bread, and dig in!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Zucchini Pasta with Light Basil Cream Sauce

Barry the Basil plant has been whining for weeks, pleading with me to feature him on the blog once again. "But I've grown so big!" he said on Tuesday. "My leaves can offer so much to enhance your cooking!" he asserted on Thursday. By Saturday he'd grown tired of my snubs. "If you don't, I'll wilt!!!" he threatened. Now that got my attention.

So without further ado, please try your hand at this delectable dish where basil stands center stage. I have to respect the hard work devoted by Barry and my devoted botanist (Jay) in the deliverance of extremely flagrant leaves, as there is no arguing that this meal would not compare in awesomeness if dried basil were to be substituted. A zing of lemon juice and slight cheesiness in the light cream sauce stand in as secondary supporting flavors that provide perfect contrast and support for the basil essence.
The Stuff:
  • small saucepan
  • large saucepan
The Edibles:
  • 3/4 c. skim milk
  • ½ c. cottage cheese
  • 1 Laughing Cow wedge
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or the equivalent in powdered or fresh
  • ¼ c. fresh basil, loosely packed
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • ½ c. water
  • ½ T. whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ c. shredded mozzarella (or Italian blend) cheese
  • ½ grated parmesan cheese (or a blend with Romano cheese)
  • 1 zucchini squash, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
  • 6 oz. whole wheat thin spaghetti, cooked al dente
The Making:
  1. Drizzle 1 T. of extra virgin olive oil into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat. Add zucchini matchsticks. Cook until they are soft and slightly yellowed in color. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a blender or food processor, whirl together first 6 ingredients for 10-20 seconds.
  3. Pour the blended sauce into a small saucepan. Pour in ½ c. water, flour, and egg white. Place pan over medium heat. Slowly bring sauce to a rolling boil; stir with a whisk constantly. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, add shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan cheeses. Keep stirring over heat for 5 minutes, until cheeses have melted and sauce has thickened.
  4. Place large saucepan with zucchini over medium heat once again. Add shredded chicken and sauce. Stir well. Heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until all foods are warmed and sauce begins to boil. Add pasta and stir to incorporate. Heat for another minute or two. Serve warm, topped parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil.
For us, this made 2 sizeable dinners and one small lunch, but I would say that this serves 2. The servings are dependent on the amount of pasta you use and the size of your zucchini squash.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Almond Banana Muffins

For months now, I have had a box of Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking Mix sitting in my cupboard, unopened. Though I’ve had inspirations for its use, I haven’t acted on any… until now.

I’ve mentioned before how I take after my grandma (hi, Mommom!) who will go to extremes not to waste a morsel of any food. Leftover dip? Use it as a bagel spread for the next 3 days. A loaf of marble rye looking like it will go uneaten? Not if she can help it! Thick slices of that loaf will be reincarnated as French toast for breakfast… for 5 days. Oh memories...

When I spotted a banana in our fruit basket, enveloped in brown peel, it signaled to me that its days were numbered. What else was I to do but put it out of its misery? It was the humane thing to do... and it satisfied the Mommom in me, because I ensured it did not go to waste.

And waste it most definitely did not become! Behold! A moist muffin rich in whole grain goodness, full of ingredients that can lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. And should I add that it is boy-approved? Right on.
Makes 6 normal-sized muffins.

The Edibles:
  • 1 T. milled flax seed
  • 2 T. + ¼ c. water
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ c. agave nectar
  • 4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. baking mix (such as Trader Joe’s or Bisquick)
  • ½ c. oat bran
  • hearty shake of cinnamon
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 10 raw almonds, crushed or coarsely chopped
The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together first 6 ingredients; set aside.
  3. Mix together the baking mix, oat bran, and cinnamon. Add in banana and flax seed liquid from step 2. Mix well, but don’t worry if you see chunks of banana hiding in your batter. They will become delicious morsels in your muffins. Fold in almonds and ensure they are evenly dispersed in your batter.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, using a toothpick to ensure they are fully cooked.
Umm yeah. Definitely boy-approved.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Polenta Notso-Deep-Dish Pizza

Recipes for polenta pizza have popped every now and again in my searches for dinner ideas. In the mood for pizza, but lacking any crust options (I’ve used bagels, English muffins, tortillas, and pitas all with satisfying results), I decided to test the waters and try my hand at making a deep dish polenta pizza. Please note that I have never successfully executed making polenta from scratch using cornmeal, so I certainly was challenging myself in making this!

Despite the odds being stacked against me (and my pizza to-be), this pie came out of the oven and satisfied my craving (albeit a little less "deep" thank I'd hoped). Even the biggest healthy food critic (and unhealthy food fanatic) nodded his head in approval. It certainly is not the same as Giordano’s, but it is much lighter and offers a break from the traditional heavy, doughy pizza crust.

Furthermore, in comparison to standard pizza dough, cornmeal as a crust also offers more bang-for-your buck nutrient-wise.

“New research published in October’s issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals significant health benefits in milled yellow corn products, such as corn meal, grits and corn flour. The study, authored by Mario Ferruzzi, Ph.D., associate professor, department of food science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., demonstrates milled yellow corn products are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids, such as lutein. Carotenoids are yellow and orange plant pigments known for their association in the prevention of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.

"Additionally, carotenoid levels in milled corn products can be more than 50 per cent bioaccessible, or available for absorption after digestion. The process of milling corn products makes key vitamins and nutrients more easily bio-available than they would be from many other foods.” (Source: Baking Management)
The Stuff:
  • medium saucepan
  • 8-inch pie pan
The Edibles:
  • non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • sea salt
  • ½ c. frozen chopped spinach
  • ¾ c. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • ¼ c. mushrooms, coarsely chopped (half of a 4 oz. can)
  • ½ c. of your favorite marinara sauce
  • ½ tsp. dried Italian spice blend
The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spritz a 8-inch pie pan with olive oil non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan place 3 cups water seasoned with garlic power and a pinch of sea salt. Bring just about to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 or 15 minutes. If mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want a consistency approaching thick oatmeal.
  3. Spoon your newly formed polenta into prepared pie pan, working quickly so that the mixture does not stiffen. Spread it evenly to a thickness of about 1/2 inch over the bottom and sides of the pan.
    Optional: Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and put it in refrigerator until it is firm, an hour or more (you can refrigerate polenta overnight if you prefer). I note that this is optional because by the time I got around to the next step, my polenta was super-firm.
  4. Put polenta in oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges. Meanwhile, microwave frozen spinach until thawed. Squeeze out excess water and set aside.
  5. Remove polenta from oven, sprinkle with half of the cheese. Disperse spinach and mushrooms evenly over the top of the cheese. Spread marinara sauce over the top of the veggies. Cover the marinara with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Place pizza back in oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, two minutes, or until cheese begins to golden.
  6. Cut into slices and serve to curious guests with a fork. Refrigerate leftovers for a delightful treat the following day!