Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Brief Intermission

I have to put into writing that I'm going to take a couple weeks off from blogging. I have a busy few weeks coming up, with wrapping up job applications, studying for my certification tests, and traveling to Colorado for my sister's wedding. I always feel like I need to be blogging about the tasty creations that come out of my kitchen, but I need to officially stop pressuring myself for the next 3 weeks. I'll still be cooking, and promise to report back on anything worth sharing! See you in a few weeks!

Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Wheat Berry Salad

If you are a regular food blog reader, you have maybe seen a variation of this recipe before. Cate of Cate's World Kitchen first called it to my attention, and the original recipe was posted by Molly of Orangette. I had some wheat berries that I thought would make a great addition, and through googling I discovered Kevin from Closet Cooking had already successfully tried a version of this salad with wheat berries. I ended up mostly following Kevin's recipe, but added in spinach like the original recipe called for.

I knew Joe would have questioned my judgment if I served the simple spinach, butternut squash and chickpea salad for dinner. Adding the wheat berries was a perfect way to add some heft to the salad, creating a healthy and filling dinner entree. We both loved this, and found the chilled salad made excellent lunchtime leftovers. I'm going to try to stop cooking with butternut squash now that we're getting closer to spring... but I might have to make this one more time before the cutoff!

Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Wheat Berry Salad
Adapted from so many other great bloggers!
(makes 4 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound squash (peeled, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces)
2 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup red onion (chopped)
2 tablespoons cilantro
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup tahini, lemon and yogurt dressing

1. Toss the squash in the oil, salt and pepper to coat.
2. Bake in a single layer in a preheated 400F oven for 30 minutes flipping once in the middle.
3. Mix the warm squash with the spinach so that the spinach wilts. Add the wheat berries, chickpeas, red onion and cilantro and toss with the dressing.

Tahini, Lemon and Yogurt Dressing

2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup cup Greek yogurt (or regular plain yogurt)
1 clove garlic (finely minced)
salt and pepper to taste
½ to 1 cup water

1. Mix everything and add water to get it to the desired consistency.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Vegetable and Bean Soup

Hi, remember me? I used to blog, and then I started working far too much! I don't have a day off until Sunday, and I will have worked 13 days in a row at that point. When it rains, it pours, right? Between school, babysitting, and the Chopping Block I've been going non-stop. I have managed a couple good meals when I've had a brief quiet moment at home... but I can't take any credit for this one. I had to work from 8 am to 7 pm on Sunday, so Joe volunteered to cook dinner. I love when he does that! It is so nice to come home to a warm and freshly made meal like this after such a long day of work.

I love that this soup was so healthy, but still satisfying. I had eaten chips with guacamole and gougeres for lunch (busy day at work!), so I was dying for a healthy meal for dinner. This soup replaced all the nutrients I'd been lacking during the day, and gave me energy to help Joe bottle our latest batch of homebrew before hitting the sack. I think the only change Joe made was extra seasoning at the end-- extra salt and acid was needed to kick up the flavor. A fantastic soup for this time of year, as we slowly transition to springtime weather.

Spring Vegetable and Bean Soup
from Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 3/4 quarts vegetable stock
olive oil
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups broccoli florets
7 cups (7 oz) spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Peel and slice the carrots. Chop the celery and onion, and peel and dice the garlic. Put the broth in a saucepan and heat until boiling. Put a large saucepan on medium heat and add 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add all your chopped and sliced ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon. Cook for around 12 minutes with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened but are still holding their shape, and the onion is lightly golden.

Add the boiling broth to the vegetables in the pan. Add the cannellini beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and tomatoes. Stir well, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Add the spinach right before serving, and cook for 3o seconds. Remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper (and some white wine vinegar if you want), and ladle the soup into bowls. Finish the soup with a drizzle of olive oil, and serve with garlic bread.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tempeh Tacos with Spinach, Corn, and Goat Cheese

I love creative combinations for tacos, and this quick recipe from Real Simple fits the bill perfectly. I'm sometimes underwhelmed with the simplicity (aka blandness) of some Real Simple recipes, but a little extra seasoning made this dish flavorful and so easy to pull together! I originally planned to serve this filling in homemade tortillas, but we got caught up shopping on State Street got home later than I expected. I scored TWO Juicy Couture hoodies for a total of $40, though, so I think it was worth sacrificing homemade tortillas this time around. This filling was so good, and Joe and I kept raving about it after each bite. That's a really good sign, isn't it? Imagine how good this would be with fresh corn and homemade tortillas in the summer!

Tempeh Tacos with Spinach, Corn, and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine


* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 package tempeh, crumbled
* 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 teaspoon cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
* kosher salt and black pepper
* 1 10-ounce package frozen corn (2 cups), thawed
* 1 5-ounce package baby spinach (about 6 loosely packed cups)
* 8 small flour tortillas, warmed
* 3/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (3 ounces)
* 3/4 cup store-bought refrigerated salsa


1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, chili powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Add the corn and cook, tossing, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and toss until wilted.
3. Fill the tortillas with the tofu mixture, goat cheese, and salsa.

If you live anywhere near us, save some effort and buy fresh guacamole from Harvest Time. It is better than I've ever made by myself! Then you can spend that extra time and energy making margaritas! Just make sure to invite me over, ok?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Irish Brown Soda Bread

I have 50% Irish blood running through my body, so this time of year I start feeling all sorts of cultural pride. I had a lot of Irish experiences growing up, with a step dancing sister, a bag piping brother (sorta Scottish, I know), and a father obsessed with tracing his Irish ancestry. We got to take a couple trips to Ireland when I was younger, and I have such fond memories of exploring the Irish countryside with my family. I know all six of us have a fond spot for anything Irish.

My brother played the bagpipes at our wedding, as we exited the Cathedral. It was awesome!

Last weekend I was visiting my sister in Colorado, and she pulled a loaf of this bread out for breakfast one morning. She must have been reading my mind, because I'd seen this recipe from Bon Appetit on the flight to Denver, and I was planning to make soda bread as soon as I got back to Chicago. Her version was so good, however, that I ended up looking it up online. This recipe for Brown Soda Bread is from Cooking light, and it was dense, healthy, and just subtly sweet. It is amazing for toast in the morning, with just a little butter melted on top. I imagine it's also excellent for sandwiches, especially with smoked salmon. The best part? It's QUICK, and so easy! Just toss the ingredients together, then go study abstract algebra for an hour while it cooks. Or I guess you could watch TV, or do something a little more fun!

This is a page from the scrapbook I made in high school. Thankfully I didn't save any dorky pictures of myself from this trip to Ireland in 1999. I'm sure my parents have plenty, but there is no way they're getting on this blog!

Next weekend my mom and other sister will be in town for a concert (Flogging Molly! Another important part of any Irish American youth's experience!), and I am sure I'll make this again. Now I just need to think of a vegetarian meal to make for St. Patrick's day... any suggestions? (Also, did I mention we gave up meat & seafood for lent? That's why there have been so many vegetarian recipes lately. We're doing ok, but the other day I was totally craving a chicken burger, thanks to Annie!)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Brown Soda Bread
from Cooking Light, March 2010

* Cooking spray
* 11.25 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
* 2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
* 1/2 cup steel-cut oats (such as McCann's)*
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon wheat germ*
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Coat a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, and coat with cooking spray.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through salt). Combine buttermilk and egg; add to flour mixture. Stir just until combined.

Don't smooth the batter out too much; you want it a little rustic looking on top.

4. Spoon the mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert bread onto a wire rack; cool completely. Remove parchment; slice bread into 12 slices.

* I got my steel cut oats and wheat germ at Whole Foods, but I bet you could find them at a decent sized regular grocery store. I'd check the cereal aisle for both, or the bulk foods section. And pay attention to how much you need, because I have about 2 cups of extra steel cut oats! Guess I'll be searching for another recipe soon... or making this bread a lot more!

Perfect for breakfast toast.
(Also, perfect plates for blogging. Right Laura?)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moroccan Style Stuffed Acorn Squash

I was first inspired to make acorn squash when I saw a recipe for quinoa and mushroom stuffed acorn squash at work. It was part of a vegetarian thanksgiving class, and I thought it sounded like something I'd enjoy making for a regular weeknight dinner. I grabbed the whole packet of recipes from that class, and managed to make the Sweet Corn and Gouda Bread Pudding as part of Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house. Then, I lost the recipes, and forgot all about acorn squash.

It didn't take long for it to come up again, though, when Cate blogged about Stuffed Acorn Squash in December. After that I felt like I saw acorn squash at every grocery store I went into, but I was always in a hurry, or already had a week's worth of meals planned. Trying acorn squash was always just one recipe below the weekly cut off. Finally, this week, I realized spring would be here before I knew it, and then I will soon be trading squash for asparagus and peas. The time had finally arrived; I would try acorn squash this week!

I searched the internet for various recipes, and ended up back where I started. Cate's recipe was a vegetarian adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe that had been blogged about multiple times, and Cate had already done the hard work for me. The bulgur was mixed with onions and garlic that had been sauteed with cinnamon and nutmeg, and the sweet and spicy smell was amazing! Joe and I were both practically drooling from the smell alone. The mixture was perfectly seasoned, and the golden raisins added the perfect touch of sweetness. A half squash paired with a salad was a perfectly balanced meal, satisfying and also really healthy. Make this before the weather becomes too spring-like, or else try to remember it for next fall when it'll really hit the spot!

Moroccan-Style Stuffed Acorn Squash
adapted by Cate's World Kitchen, from Arugulove, originally from Martha Stewart, October 2009

3 small to medium acorn squashes halved and seeded
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp. course salt, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bulgur wheat
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
1 1/4 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place the squash halves cut-sides down in a greased 9×13 inch casserole dish or roasting pan. Bake until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

While the squash is in the oven, heat the oil in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the onions, cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and fragrant (5 to 7 minutes) adding 2-3 tbsp of water after the first two or three minutes to keep the onions from drying out or burning.

Add garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

Add remaining teaspoon salt and the bulgur, and stir to combine. Add water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit covered for 5 minutes.

Fluff the bulgar with a fork, and add the raisins, parsley, pine nuts and garbanzo beans. Stir together to combine and adjust seasonings if necessary

When the squash is soft, take it out of the oven. Let it cool a little and scrape out enough of the flesh to form 1/4 inch thick bowls.

Mix the squash flesh into the bulgur mixture. Divide among squash halves, and return them to the oven. Bake until warmed through and tops are browned, about 12 to 14 minutes.

Serves 6.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spicy Corn Cakes with Black Beans

My mom and I frequently rehash our best dinner recipes when we're catching up on the phone. We both love cooking and trying new recipes, so we have a lot of fun sharing our most successful meals with each other. This recipe came from her, and it sounded so good I requested she send the recipe my way immediately. It took a little extra nagging, but my patience paid off and I had the recipe in my inbox within a week.

I was so glad I begged for this recipe! The corn cakes were delicate and studded with pieces of corn, and they were perfect for scooping up the soupy black beans. I played up the seasoning on my black beans, so there was cumin and oregano with a bit of spice from the paprika and jalapeno. The can of tomatoes was important, because my mom had advised that the beans have some "saucy-ness" to them. Cheese, sour cream, and avocado slices topped off a satisfying and flavorful vegetarian meal. This was a simple weeknight dinner, and could also be a fun different approach to a taco bar when having friends over for dinner. Just add some Mexican beer or margaritas and you're party ready!

Spicy Corn Cakes with Black Beans

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp hot smokey paprika
1 can black beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 tsp. dried oregano, chopped

Heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the jalapeno. Saute until starting to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute an additional 30 seconds. Sprinkle the chili powder, cumin and paprika, and stir. Saute for about 30 more seconds, until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the black beans, tomatoes, and oregano. Bring to a slight simmer, then turn down to low to keep the beans warm as you prepare the corn cakes.

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
½ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 tsp. canola oil

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking soda, chili powder 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp pepper.

Whisk together butter, buttermilk and egg until well combined.

Quickly mix wet and dry until just blended, leaving small lumps, fold in corn.

Heat large cast iron frying pan over med. High heat. Brush with 1 tsp oil. Working in batches, add batter ¼ cup at a time. Cook pancakes until brown and fluffy, about 4 mins., turning once. Transfer to warm plate and cover loosely. Stir batter and wipe pan with oil between batches.

Divide pancakes among plates and top with beans.

You can add cheese, or sour cream, cilantro, etc….as toppings.