Monday, January 28, 2013

Simple Kale Salad with Avocado and Chickpeas

Lists of food trends have been showing up everywhere. Of course, not all publications are in agreement. Bon Appetit sees a movement away from brownies to blondies and bread getting so dressed up it gets its own course on menus. The Sterling-Rice Group predicts we'll see more pickling and curing. Mercury News predicts we'll see more vegetables taking center stage, with dishes like cauliflower steaks. Cooking Light predicts sexy vegetables will prevail, a movement away from kale toward lighter, newer greens such as komatsuna.

Threats about the end of the kale trend showed up too often for my liking, with inquires about what the new quinoa, kale and cupcakes would be.

Luckily for me, the Huffington Post is holding onto kale, just encouraging me to use it in lighter preparations.

And this preparation would certainly count as lighter. This kale salad couldn't be simpler. It's lightly dressed with a bit of olive oil and lime juice. Red chili flakes give it a suggestion of heat. The addition of avocado, red onion and chickpeas ensure you get something interesting in each bite.

Make it more of a dinner salad by boosting the protein with more chickpeas, sauteed tempeh or oven-roasted tofu.

Take a big bite, smile, and think about all the new food trends we have to explore this year!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Broccoli Breakfast Hash

I love cooking on Sundays. I wake up, plan my meals for the week, and head out to the grocery store, list in hand, to get just the ingredients I need. It's led to much smarter shopping and far less waste at the end of the week.

I pick up a cup of Counter Culture coffee on the way home, always a treat on the weekends.

Then I head home, line up my groceries by meal, and get started cooking. I often end up spending a good deal of the day in the kitchen, enjoying both the process and the end results.

This week it was a delicious casserole of baked lima beans, smoked salmon potato cakes, and a quinoa, sweet potato and broccoli breakfast hash.

Altogether they won't provide every meal I need for the week, but the hash will cover all my breakfasts, and between the baked beans and potato cakes, I'll have most of my lunches and dinners already made.

This hash makes a hearty breakfast. After a bowl of this, I'm full until lunch. To make it special on the weekends, I fry up an egg and serve it on top. When the yolk breaks, it soaks through the quinoa and veggies, making each bite taste like something new. Or, leave it out and keep it vegan.

I'm linking up with Healthy Vegan Fridays! Yum!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Tomato-Coconut Braised Collard Greens with Chickpeas

I gave up meat nearly ten years ago, telling myself I'd give it up for a few weeks but pretty sure I'd come back to it. I'd grown up enjoying medium-rare steaks, crispy bacon and hamburgers. I can't remember what the last bite of meat I had was, but I remember the day, months later, when I sat in the school cafeteria and realized I hadn't craved meat in months.

That's not to say that I never craved a piece of bacon. I certainly have. But overwhelmingly I haven't missed meat in my life.

I'm delighted, three weeks in, to be feeling that way about omitting dairy in my savory cooking. Maybe it's because it's still new and novel. I'm loving experimenting with new recipes and discovering the myriad of ways I can use coconut milk. Maybe it's because I'm still allowing myself some leeway and ordering food with dairy if the mood strikes when I'm out. Or maybe it's because I've felt healthier for the past three weeks than I have in a long time.

Regardless, I'm excited for this year's dairy-free cooking challenge. Particularly if it means discovering dishes like this one.

I roasted sweet potatoes until they were just tender inside. I stuffed them with a tasty mixture of onions, chickpeas and collard greens, braised with coconut milk and diced tomatoes until tender.

The filling came together easily while the sweet potatoes roasted. I stuffed the sweet potatoes generously with the collard green mixture, which meant I got a little bit of everything delicious in each bite.

I ate one immediately, and then I pre-stuffed the remaining sweet potatoes and packaged them away for lunches for the week. They reheat beautifully, and they've provided me with weekday lunches filled with color.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Smoked Salmon Potato Cakes

Last week, they released the menu for President Obama's inaugural lunch. The menu has been described as artisanal, sustainable and local. There will be Maine lobster atop a light clam chowder, bison tenderloin with a wild huckleberry sauce, sauteed cabbage, red potato cakes with horseradish, tiny golden beets and a butternut squash puree. For dessert, there will be individual Hudson Valley apple pies topped with sour cream ice cream, a maple syrup sauce, and a bit of honeycomb. Together, these dishes complete a menu designed to celebrate "Faith in the America's Future."

Foods are sourced from small farms that support responsible growing practices. Recipes for the dinner are well crafted and incredibly specific, down to how many pieces of lobster to place in the bowl and precisely where they should be placed.

Unfortunately, I wasn't one of the 225 lucky guests to receive an invitation to the luncheon, but I'm preparing to celebrate alongside the President and the First Family regardless.

That's where these potato cakes come in. There a bit different than the ones President Obama will be enjoying, but I think they're just delightful. They use your standard white potatoes (I find red potatoes can be a bit watery for potato cakes). I'm substituting smoked salmon for horseradish (my preference, and a perfect sustainable treat for me).

They're surprisingly light and flavorful.

Make yourself a potato cake, take a big bite, and smile, thinking ahead to the next four years.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Breakfast Quinoa with Coconut and Avocado

Are you sick of the typical breakfast? Are you over bagels and cream cheese, toast and peanut butter, oatmeal, and cereal?

If so, there's a chance that this could be the breakfast for you.

I say a chance because this is certainly an unusual breakfast. Here, quinoa, simmered in coconut milk, is topped with toasted coconut flakes and bits of avocado. I left the quinoa unsweetened because I'm not one for extra sugary dishes before work.

What you get is a unique bowl of food, loaded with protein and healthy fats, that will keep you fueled until lunchtime or beyond.

Of course, avocado is just one way that you could top this dish. Wouldn't it be delightful with bananas and pineapple? Fresh cherries? Whatever fresh fruit you have? Sweetened a bit with honey or maple syrup?

The possibilities are endless, but if you're up for it, I would give this combination a try. It's a lot of fun and certainly unique.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and M&M Cookies

My cookie sheet doesn't fit in my new oven.

It turns out the oven in my new apartment is smaller than I thought. At least the fridge is full-sized. You wouldn't believe how many over-priced Brooklyn apartments have mini-fridges, the kind it's really only appropriate to have in a college dorm or next to your desk at your office.

This would not have been a problem had I noticed in advance or had I decided to make cookies when cooking stores were still open. But no, I only noticed when I was trying to shove a cookie sheet full of cookie dough (that had already been chilling for 5 hours, as per Matt and Renato's instructions) into the oven. It didn't fit. Either direction. It wasn't even close.

Yes, I could have given up and decided to just eat the raw cookie dough.

I won't lie.

I did do a bit of that.

But instead, I decided to get creative.

I used my toaster oven's baking try. It holds two cookies at a time for 12 minutes of baking and 8 minutes of cooling on the pan immediately after. I made about 20 cookies before I gave up and decided to freeze the remaining dough.

I'm glad I went ahead with baking. These cookies are incredible. They're moist and chewy, a fantastic combination of chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal cookies loaded with chocolate.

These are not your mama's cookies. One cookie is about the equivalent of two normal-sized cookies, but I won't tell if you decide to have more than one.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Roasted Mexican Corn and a New Year's Resolution

I'm not a big on resolutions.

I can't remember any of the resolutions I've made before.

That said, I do have a resolution for 2013: Cut dairy products out of all my savory cooking.

I can't do it when it comes to sweet cooking. I had chocolate mousse at midnight on New Year's, and I loved it. It was filled with heavy cream. It was heavenly. So I'm keeping dairy there.

I'm already meat-free, which I figure makes me challenging enough for friends willing to have me over for dinner, so I'm keeping dairy in my diet when I eat at friends' houses. We'll see when it comes to going out for dinner. I'll try to avoid cheese-laden dishes at restaurants, but I'm not going to drive myself crazy.

With that in mind, the savory recipes you see posted here coming up should be a little different. No cheese, no milk, no butter.

Still delicious.

For a food blogger, changing something in your diet forces you to cook all new recipes. I can't fall back on all my old cheese-filled favorites. Hopefully it will lead to lots of variety and new recipes up here.

I'm five days in and still sticking to my goal! Thursday I hosted my first small dinner party since deciding to cook dairy-free, and I went with a Mexican theme. This roasted Mexican corn dish was our side for the meal. It's adapted from a recipe for elotes, that delicious, creamy, mayonnaise and cheese-filled corn dish, that's one of my favorite Mexican dishes.

This adaptation felt light and fresh. I could go back for seconds without a touch of guilt.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Raspberry-Chocolate Macaroons

I, sadly, am a cook without a food processor. Living with roommates for years allowed me to avoid getting some of those tools that you really don't want to go without in the kitchen.

Several of them I replaced quickly. I had to have a saute pan and a pot large enough to cook noodles. A surprise housewarming party provided other essentials: a tea kettle, a lemon juicer, an ice cube tray and even a can opener (yes, moving to my own apartment left me short one of those as well).

At my old apartment, I used my roommate's food processor for everything. It made pizza and pasta dough making a snap. Pestos ground up in a matter of minutes. I no longer needed to chop chocolate for hours to make chocolate babkas. Hit "on" and the chocolate was chopped in seconds.

Though I've certainly adjusted to life without a food processor, there are just some recipes I can't make without it. I've had Deb's raspberry coconut macaroons bookmarked for months in anticipation of a visit home and access to my parents' food processor.

The wait was certainly worth it.

These macaroons are sweet and tangy at the same time, and you get a little bit of bittersweet chocolate in each bite. The simple coconut base allows all the flavors to shine through.

I can usually successfully keep my distance from cookies after I bake them, but I brought these on the airplane with me over the Christmas break and found myself cracking open the lid to the container again and again.

Happy 2013!