Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sticky Coconut Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Syrup

Looking for a creative way to reuse leftover rice, I remembered a sweet coconut rice dessert my Indonesian 4th grade teacher brought to class one day. After scouring the internet, I found several close-enough recipes to try my idea out. Using leftover jasmine rice instead of "glutinous rice powder," and brown sugar instead of shaved coconut sugar, my mission was successfully accomplished. The result is a starchy, very sweet dessert that pairs well with a strong, sweet cup of tea.

Sticky Coconut Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Syrup

For the Rice Balls:
About 2 cups Jasmine rice, cooked
1 T brown sugar
About 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

For the Syrup:
1/3 C Coconut Milk
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Add brown sugar to cooked rice; stir vigorously until well blended, mushing the rice up a bit as you go. Scoop the rice mixture into 1" balls, then roll in flaked coconut. Set aside.

In a small sauce pan, heat coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until thickened and syrupy, careful not to burn the sugar. 

Place rice balls in a serving dish, and spoon over the coconut sugar syrup. Bon appetit! 

Spicy White Bean Dip with Crusty French Bread

I had no idea what I was going to make this weekend. My mother can attest to this fact; on the phone I was complaining about how I had nothing to cook and she said I should just post whatever I make anyway. But I couldn't in good conscience just post spaghetti with diced tomatoes from a I dug deeper in my cupboards to see what I could find.

I had an old can of butter beans, and plenty of flour and yeast...I could make french bread, with a white bean dip! After some internet research I found a recipe that didn't call for lemon juice (I am out of lemons probably for the first time since I moved to California!), and that also incorporated one of my favorite condiments, Sriracha sauce.

You can see the tasty results below!

Spicy White Bean Dip with Crusty French Bread

For the dip:

1 15 oz can White Beans
1 Clove Garlic, chopped
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Sriracha or other Asian chile sauce
1 tsp Soy Sauce
2 tsp Sesame Oil
1/4 C Water
Juice of 1 lime

Drain the beans and rinse. If using a large bean (like butter beans), remove the thin skins from the beans. 

Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor, adding the beans last. Blend until smooth. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, Sriracha, and sliced green onions.

For the bread:

2 3/4 C flour
1 packet active dry yeast 
1 C warm water (110­° F)
1 T olive oil or melted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Add water to a large bowl. Add yeast and sugar. Cover bowl and set on counter in a draft-free area, to let yeast proof. 

After about 10 minutes, when yeast is foamy, add the other ingredients except for the egg white. Mix until dough comes together (it will be very sticky!) Flour a flat dry surface, and turn dough out. Knead 8-10 minutes or until elastic and smooth, using additional flour as necessary to prevent sticking. 

Spray a clean bowl with cooking spray; add dough ball and roll so dough is coated. Cover bowl and place in a draft-free area to rise until doubled, about 1 hr.

(These initial steps can be done in a bread machine as well. Proof the yeast in the bread pan in the machine, add the other ingredients, then select the dough cycle. When dough cycle finishes, remove dough from pan and continue with the steps below).

Punch dough down. Roll out into a rectangle, then roll up the dough into a log. Sprinkle corn meal on a baking sheet; place dough log on sheet, seam side down. Cover and let rise 30-40 minutes.

Bake in a 375° F over for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with lightly beaten egg. Return to oven and cook 15-20 minutes. The bread will be golden brown, and when you rap on the crust it should sound hollow. Let sit 15 minutes before cooking.

Slice 1-inch thick, brush with olive oil, and broil until golden brown. Serve with Spicy White Bean Dip.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kung Pao Tofu and Veggies

I had planned on making Kung Pao chicken and tofu. All day I was craving something spicy, salty, and tangy, and I new that anything Kung Pao'd would fit the bill.

Then I opened up my package of chicken and gagged from the smell. Usually that's not something you want to have happen with food you're about to eat!

So, I took out some tofu, and used twice as many mushrooms as I normally would in this dish. Honestly, I didn't miss the chicken, though if you're wary of tofu, you can substitute chicken, pork, or shrimp.

Kung Pao Tofu and Veggies

Chop your veggies. I used six large white mushrooms, a red bell pepper, two stalks of celery, 3 green onions, half of a sliced yellow onion, and three cloves of chopped garlic.

I used dry roasted, unsalted peanuts in this dish. 

Toast about 1/4 cup peanuts in your walk, sans-oil, until lightly toasted. Cut the tofu into 1/2" cubes. Heat 1-2 TBSP in your wok on high heat, until almost smoking. Add 3 dried chiles and saute until fragrant; remove from pan. Add tofu and stir fry until golden brown; remove from pan.

Stir fry veggies in batches with wok on high heat, removing from pan when crisp-tender and charred. My wok seems to finally be seasoned properly; ingredients don't stick to it, and it actually gets hot enough to put a nice char on everything. I started with the mushrooms, removed, stir fried the celery, removed, stir fried the red peppers, removed, stir fried the onion, added the white parts of the green onion, added the garlic, then added all of the veggies and tofu back to the pan.

Add the Kung Pao sauce. Mine was: 1 1/2 T rice vinegar, 2 T soy sauce, 1 T white wine, 1/2 T grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp oyster sauce, 2 tsp hoisin sauce, 2 tsp chile paste, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 T sesame oil, and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. Whisk in about 1 T corn starch before adding to pan with veggies; let cook 1-2 minutes, or until thickened.

Serve with Jasmine rice, and garnish with the tops of the green onions.

Full Recipe
Kung Pao Tofu and Veggies

1/2 lb tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
6 large white mushrooms, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, choppped
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 green onions, slices, white and green parts separated
3 dried red chiles
1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, toasted

For the Sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 T white wine
1 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp chile paste
1/2 T grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp sugar
1 T sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 T corn starch 

Heat 1-2 T canola oil in large wok until almost smoking. Add chiles and saute until fragrant; remove from pan. Add tofu; stir fry until golden brown and remove from pan.

Stir fry mushrooms, remove from pan.

Stir fry celery, remove from pan. Do the same with the red bell pepper.

Stir fry the onion. Once charred, add garlic and white parts of green onion. Stir fry until fragrant.

Mix together all ingredients for the sauce until smooth. Add to pan and cook 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

Serve with Jasmine rice and garnish with the green tops of the green onions.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oatmeal with Blueberries and Agave

I've been having oatmeal for breakfast most mornings. It's very filling and packs a ton of soluble fiber. This morning I had it with fresh blueberries and 1 tsp of agave. The blueberries were so pretty I just had to snap a  picture.

A side of mango completed a delicious meal!



Is there any natural food more violently colorful than Borscht?

This is only my second time making Borscht. I made it last year after my friend Malina visited. Malina speaks Russian and has spent a lot of time in Russia, so we went to a restaurant called Traktir, which specializes in authentic eastern european cuisine.

The Borscht was AMAZING. Savory, lighty sweet, and tangy, garnished with sour cream and fresh, aromatic dill.

We eat a lot of beets anyway, so Borscht is the perfect addition to my repertoire of recipes for the sweet, earthy root vegetable. There are an infinite number of ways to make this dish — every region has its own method of preparation, including a Polish version that uses parsnips instead of beets.

This recipe is the result of research, experimentation, and taste-testing. Use it as a guide, and but adjust it to make a Borscht that is truly your own.

Scroll to bottom for full recipe

The star of this dish is, obviously, beets.

Grate the beets, and julienne one. Grate two carrots, slice an onion, chop three cloves of garlic, and peel and cut a celery root into large chunks.
Celery root sort of looks like a tumor that has been cut in half, only to reveal a fetal twin

Slice the sausage. Heat about 2 TBSP olive oil in a large soup pot (omit if using pork or beef sausage).

Brown the sausage on all sides. 

Remove from pan. 
Add carrots, beets, garlic, onions, celery root, and 1/2 tsp of caraway seeds to the pan. Cook for ten minutes, or until softened. 

Add 2 T tomato paste, 1 T paprika and a bay leaf to the pan and cook for two minutes.

Pour in 6 cups of beef broth and 1/2 can of diced tomatoes.

Taste the broth and season with salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar until broth is well balanced and slighty tangy. 

Shred the cabbage...

Then add to the pan.

Cover the pan and cook until the cabbage is tender. Remove the celery root and bay leaf. Taste again and adjust seasonings.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped fresh dill.

Full Recipe

3 Beets
2 Carrots
1 Celery Root
1 lb Cabbage
1 Yellow Onion
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 Package of smoked sausage beef, pork, chicken, or turkey!)
1/2 can of diced tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
6 cups fat-free beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP Paprika
1/2 tsp caraway or fennel seeds
1-3 TBSP Red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Fat Free Sour Cream
Dill, for garnish

Peel the beets and grate 2 of them on the largest side of a box grater. Julienne the remaining beet (this adds another dimension of texture to the dish).

Peel and grate the carrots.

Peel the celery root, then cut in large chunks. This will just be used to flavor the broth, then discarded before eating.

Cut the onion into slices.

Roughly chop 3 cloves of garlic.

Shred the cabbage.

Cut the sausage into 1/2" thick medallions. Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a large soup pot, and brown the sausage on both sides. Removed from pot.

Add garlic, onion, carrot, caraway seeds, beet and celery root to pan. Cook ten minutes, or until softened.

Add tomatoe puree and paprika. Cook about two minutes.

Add diced tomatoes, broth, and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil and taste broth. Add salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. The broth should be savory, lightly sweet, and have a slight tang from the vinegar.

Add the cabbage and cook until all vegetables are tender.

Remove celery root and bay leaf. Taste again and adjust seasoning.

Serve with a dollop of sour creap and some chopped fresh dill. Can also be served chilled.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Healthy Cherry Lemon Coffee Cake

I bought a pound of cherries at the farmer's market last weekend, and they sat in my refrigerator getting softer by the day until I just HAD to do something with them, before it was too late!

I had originally wanted to make hand pies, but the thought of making and rolling out a crust for all of those little pies was just....thoroughly unappealing.

Cherries are deliciously tart and sweet on their own, but so many of the recipes I came across required cooking them down in cups of sugar.

Then I found a recipe for Healthy Cherry Coffee Cake. No crust, no need to cook the cherries!

I made some tweaks — subbing olive oil for the butter and a combination of whole wheat and unbleached flour for the white, for example — and the result was a light yet hearty tasting Cherry Lemon Coffee cake. The lemon flavor really comes through, and the cake has a nice dimension of nuttiness thanks to the whole wheat flour and oats.

Healthy Cherry Lemon Coffee Cake

First, you need cherries!

I used twice as many as the recipe called for, because they were about to go bad. This made the cake a little soggy (because of the extra cherry juice!) so stick to one cup. You'll need to pit the cherries.

Just use a paring knife to cut the cherries in half, then remove the pit from whichever side it remains lodged in. 
It's time consuming, and lots of juice will get on your hands...
but aren't they just GORGEOUS?

Set the cherries aside, and combine the wet ingredients, along with the sugar and lemon zest, in a large bowl.
Fat free sour cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemons zest, egg, sugar, honey, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Then add the dry ingredients to the wet. The batter will be very thick. I chose to spread half of it in the pan, then layer with cherries...

...then cover with remaining batter.

The batter is very thick, so it might be easier to just add it to the pan all at once, and layer the cherries on top, gently pressing them into the batter.

Combine 1/4 C oats, 2 T brown sugar, and 1 T olive oil until crumbly; sprinkle over top of the cake.

Place in a 350° oven, and bake about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.


So, was it as good as coffee cake made with butter, white flour, full fat sour cream, and all white sugar instead of honey?

Well... no. BUT!!! It is a perfectly tasty, healthy substitute for when you just can't pass up the chance to bake a yummy treat!

Full Recipe

Healthy Cherry Lemon Coffee Cake


2T light brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1T olive oil


1/4 c Honey
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 cup of fat free sour cream
1 large egg
1 Tbsp vanilla
2t lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
dash cinnamon
1 cup of pitted cherries

Preheat oven to 350

Add honey, sugar, olive oil, sour cream, egg, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest to large bowl. Whisk until combined. 

In a separate bowl, mix together flours, bakin powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until blended. 

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until incorporated. The batter is VERY thick - almost like the batter for drop biscuits.

You can either: spread half the batter on the bottom of an 8" round or square pan (sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper), layer the cherries, and cover with remaining batter OR spread all of the batter in pan and top with cherries.

Mix together oats, sugar, and olive oil until crumbly; sprinkle over top of batter.

Place in oven and back for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Chicken with Castelvetrano Olives, Lemon, and Tomato

This Chicken with olives, lemon, tomatoes, and onions was absolutely heavenly. The original recipe is called "Chicken That Fancies Itself Spanish With Lemons, Onions, and Olives" and I found it on a wonderful blog called Food 52. I figured if Nate can be in Spain enjoying the food, I could try to make some Spanish-style cuisine for myself! 

I made some alterations to the recipe to make it a little healthier, and as usual you can play around with the ingredients until you get something you like (for instance, the olives aren't entirely necessary if you don't like them).

This is a perfect fall and winter recipe, but the tart lemon makes it taste fresh enough that it's suitable for the warmer months too.

Chicken with Castelvetrano Olives, Lemon, and Tomato

 Prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time, because once you start cooking, you won't really be able to stop!

You'll need to pit the olives. Good luck!
Friendly tip: BUY PITTED OLIVES. I learned this the hard way.
 You'll need lemon zest for the stew, and grated cheese for the breading on the chicken. I used Manchego, though any hard cheese would really be fine.

You will need 6 peeled, roughly chopped cloves of garlic, 1 large yellow onion cut into hearty slices, about 3/4 c pitted olives, the zest of 1 lemon, the juice of two lemons, 1 cup of white wine, 1 can of diced tomatoes, and 1 bay leaf.
My mother gave me some saffron, which you can see soaking in the wine...
The original recipe called for a whole 4 pound chicken, cut into pieces, but I just used 2 lbs of chicken thighs.You could leave the skin on if you aren't watching your diet, and I am sure it would be DELICIOUS! However, I chose to remove the skin — it's really easy to do with chicken thighs.

Pat the thighs dry after you removed the skin. Add 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 T paprika, and 1/4 c grated Manchego to a plastic bag. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then place in bag and shake until completely covered in a light coating of the flour mixture. You will need to do this in batches.

While you are doing this, heat about 3 T olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. After coating the chicken, add it to the pan in batches, making sure both sides get well browned. Again, do this in batches. If you overcrowd the pan the chicken will start to steam and won't get crispy. This is especially important if you are using skinless chicken.
Juicy, crispy chicken.
Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the sliced onions, garlic, olives, lemon juice, and bay leaf to the pan, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon.
Once the sun goes down, so does the quality of my photography. Need better lighting!!
Add about 1/2 T of smoked paprika and just a pinch of cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook until the vegetables are getting soft and the lemon juice has reduced by half. Then add the can of tomatoes and the cup of wine.

As I mentioned, my darling mother recently gifted me some saffron. I used but three threads of saffron for this dish, soaking them in the wine before adding to the dish. Apparently this helps release the flavor. The taste was subtle and the spice gave off a honey-like aroma, though it tasted quite bitter on its own before it was added to the dish. If you have some on hand I would definitely use it, as it added a nice layer of complexity to the broth.

Now bring this mixture to a boil, then add the chicken back in.

Cover it, and place in a 425 degree oven. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with plenty of the delicious broth, and garnish with cilantro.
Blurry but delicious. 

Full Recipe
Chicken with Castelvetrano Olives, Lemon, and Tomato

About 2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c grated Manchego cheese
1 T paprika
Salt and Pepper

1 large yellow onion, cut into hearty slices
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 lemons, juiced
zest of 1 lemon
3 threads of saffron, soaked in:
1 cup of dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 T paprika
1 pinch cinnamon
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper
Cilantro, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425°

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Combine flour, paprika, and grated cheese. Dredge chicken in flour mixture until thoroughly coated, or add to bag and shake to coat. 

Heat about 3 T of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown chicken in batches, then set aside. 

Add onion, garlic, olives, lemon juice, bay leaf, and cinnamon to the pan. (Note: the dish is quite acidic. If you aren't overly fond of the tart lemon flavor, use the juice of only 1 lemon and an equal amount of chicken broth). Make sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook until onions are soft and liquid has reduced by half. Add wine and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Add chicken to pan, cover, and place in oven. Cook 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Garnish with cilantro. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fresh Mango Salsa

This mango salsa recipe is fresh, zesty, and full of seasonal delights. Did you know that mangoes are in season right now? They were 2 for $1 at the grocery store (no appearance made at the farmer's market!) so I had to get some. Most of the time the mangoes at the store are either so unripe they're inedible, or so bruised and soft that eating them is a sloppy impossibility. But not this time of year!

The best part of my mago salsa experience was that when I got home from work that day, my neighbor had decided to leave me a little treat...

A jar of Vinegar Syrup infused with Strawberry and Peach. Like...vinegar vinegar? Oh yes. Its description belies its ambrosia-like taste...Tart, sweet, and with a delicious fruity complexity thanks to the use of two types of fruit, it's so good I could drink it straight. OH WAIT. I LITERALLY DID. Only about a half-teaspoon of it...but still! I can't wait to use some in a summer vinaigrette when I get greens from the market this weekend. It also is a perfect addition to....

Fresh Mango Salsa 
Served over spice-blackened chicken

First, assemble your ingredients.

I chose mango, red onion, lime juice, a jalapeno pepper, an avocado, the aforementioned vinegar syrup, some diced zucchini and summer squash, and some fresh parsley. This recipe is super customizable — you could use peaches or nectarines or even pineapple instead of mango; a serrano or (gasp!) habanero chile for more heat; you can de-seed and remove the jalapeno membrane for less heat; and of course if you don't happen to have strawberry-peach vinegar syrup you can use more lime juice instead. 

You need to cut the mango. Cutting mangoes is kind of a pain because they have a huge flat oval pit right in the middle. So what's a girl to do? 

Lay the mango on its stem end, then cut down either side of the center pit. 
Mango half, center pit, mango half...
Carefully score each edible half of the mango, then invert the peel.

Voila! Now, simply cut the mango chunks from the peel.

Now chop the other ingredients, except for the lime and the avocado.

Well, I had some leftover zucchini and summer squash, so I chopped that up and added it in too. You could also use cucumber.
I also added about 3 T chopped fresh parsley; you could use cilantro as well (I just didn't have any).

Toss all of the chopped ingredients together in a medium bowl, then squeeze over the juice of 1 lime. Taste, and add more lime juice and some salt to balance the flavors. Follow your tongue on this. At this point, I also added a half tablespoon of my delicious vinegar syrup. 

Now cover this, and let it sit for about an hour in the fridge. It will get spicier over time, and the flavors will really have a chance to meld.

Right before serving, give it a stir and add 1 large-diced avocado. Did you know that the American Heart Association Dietary Guidelines recommend that 30% of your daily calories come from unsaturated fat? Avocados are a cholesterol free way to help fulfill that requirement (and 1 half avocado only has 160 calories), while also getting a serving of fruit that is chock full of vitamin k, vitamin c, fiber, and potassium. 

Now toss all of the ingredients together so that the avocado gets coated in lime juice — this will prevent it from browning. 

And serve over spice-blacken chicken (or any spicy, grilled food — pork loin or flank steak would be great here!)

Spice Blackened chicken with mango salsa, brown rice pilaf with brocolli, and mixed baby kale

Stay tuned...there is a mighty fine-smelling dish cooking up in my oven right now that I'll probably post about tomorrow!

Full Recipe
Fresh Mango Salsa

1 mango, large dice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, small dice
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2 summer squash, peeled and diced
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
juice of 1-2 limes
salt to taste
1 avocado, diced

Add first 6 ingredients to medium bowl; toss with time juice and add salt to taste. 
Cover and let sit in fridge for an hour. Add avocado, toss, and serve over grilled or roasted meat or with chips.