Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ultimate Vegetarian Stuffed Potato


It's no secret... I have eaten at BrushFire Barbecue A LOT... I have a great excuse, since Logan works on the ice cream side.  Most of their dishes can be ordered either vegetarian or pescatarian friendly.  One of my favorite dishes is the "Messy Baked Potato," which is overflowing with barbecue sauce, melted cheese and, for most diners, brisket, smoked turkey, or some other meat.  I order the messy baked potato with salmon, which is quite tasty.  For Logan, who does not eat fish, we just order the potato without meat or fish.  Either way, it's quite yummy, but probably not the healthiest thing we eat.

I wanted to make a healthier version of this dish, with a bit of greens and other vegetables, to balance out the richness.  The recipe was enough for five gigantic potatoes, so plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Ingredients
5 baked potatoes (I recommend baking in the oven, for a nice crisp skin)
2 C. shredded cheese (I used cheddar and asiago)
Barbecue sauce of your choice
1 1/2 C. Trader Joe's frozen kale
2 C. Trader Joe's Power Greens blend (can substitute spinach, chard or any other greens)
2 cloves garlic
1 C. sliced mushrooms
1/2 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, chopped
Olive oil for sautéing vegetables
Salt and Pepper
Greek Yogurt (I use this instead of sour cream)
Fresh vegetables for garnish (e.g. chopped tomatoes, avocado, green onions)

1. Saute greens in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper.  Saute mushrooms and chopped pepper with salt and pepper until soft. 
2. Slice baked potatoes open.  Top with vegetables, barbecue sauce and shredded cheese.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  
3. Before serving, top with garnish and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Miso-Ginger Rice Noodle Soup



This summer, I spent two weeks in Boston, at a PhD residency.  9 of the days were at Lesley University, Porter Campus, which is in Cambridge.  On the first floor of Lesley, there is a corridor with seven or eight Asian restaurants, with every variety you can imagine... sushi, Korean food, Thai food... and... a RAMEN NOODLE SHOP!!!  

I went to the ramen noodle shop twice, and had the same thing both times.  The spicy-miso bowl was absolutely gigantic and delicious.  Both times, it was enough for two meals.  I have attempted to recreate the dish three times, with some success.  

A few tips:
- Make the extra effort to buy fresh noodles, found in the refrigerated section at most Asian markets.  Cook and store the noodles separately from the soup, as noodles will continue to absorb liquid.
- Visit your local Asian grocery store, and take the time to walk around and explore.  Experiment!  Buy a few varieties of greens, and try them in your soup, or in a stir-fry.  

Ingredients
1/4 C. olive oil, or blend of olive oil and sesame oil
3/4 C. green onions, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 of 14-oz. container miso paste (Miso is a bean paste, which comes in a variety of styles, including white, yellow and red.  I used "Mellow Red Hawaiian Style.")
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
3 carrots, peeled and thinly
2 C. baby bok choy, chopped
1 C. fresh spinach  
1 3.5 oz. package Enoki mushrooms, cut into thirds or so
1 150 gram package White Beech mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 C. Trader Joe's "Soycutash" frozen vegetable mix, or frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 C. frozen peas
1 14 oz. package firm tofu, cubed
12 C. water
1 16 oz. package fresh noodles (I used Pho noodles)
1 Tbsp. Sriracha chili sauce
2 Tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids or soy sauce of your choice
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper 


1. Saute green onions and garlic in oil for five minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Add tofu and ginger.  Cook an additional five minutes, covered, over medium heat.
3. Add water, all vegetables, miso paste, black pepper, Sriracha and soy sauce (or Bragg's).
4. Cook over medium-high heat approximately 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are cooked through.  Taste and stir periodically.
5. Cook noodles separately in boiling water.  Rice noodles only need to be in the boiling water for 5-15 seconds!  Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent noodles from sticking to each other.
6. Serve soup over noodles in big bowl, to allow plenty of room for slurping up noodles!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Something New Popped Up

Yes, I realize my blog post title is "corny"... pun intended.  I will also admit to eating popcorn while I am writing this post... it seemed only fitting.

I recently found out about a fairly new company, based in Arizona, called Kettle Heroes.  Founded by brothers Rudi and Aaron Sinykin, Kettle Heroes makes many varieties of popcorn that are KOSHER. 20% of profits go to local nonprofits, including Boys and Girls Clubs and the Pat Tillman Foundation.  The popcorn is now available in the Tucson-area (Yay!!!) at Basha's, and coming soon at AJ's.

Rudi sent six different flavors to the Arizona Jewish Post for us to try.  I actually ran to meet the UPS driver when I saw the truck pull up, and made everyone at work stop what they were doing to come try the popcorn.  (I am the self-proclaimed social director at work, so a popcorn tasting party was in order.)  We sat around our board room table and tried each flavor, sharing comments and picks for each or our favorites.

We tried Cayenne Lime Kettle Corn (that flavor mysteriously disappeared from my house the night before Logan got her braces on), Movie Theatre Popcorn, Blue Note Cheddar Corn, Smoked Chipotle Cheddar, Original Kettle Corn and Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn.  Simon Rosenblatt has been asking me for nutritional info since I posted a teaser on Facebook.  Depending on the flavor, a serving, which is about 1 1/2 C., averages 130 - 150 calories.  Not bad for a snack food!  The amount of sugar varies by flavor, so there are definitely options for those on a no or low-sugar diet.


My favorite flavor is the Blue Note Cheddar Corn.  I like cheesy flavors in general, but sometimes they are too intense (or cheesy).  Blue cheese can be tricky too, as it is definitely one of the stinkier cheeses, and can therefore be overpowering.  What I love about the Blue Note Cheddar Corn is that the flavor is subtle.  It has a blend of aged white cheddar and "notes of blue cheese," so it has the nice zing and flavor of blue cheese, without being overpowering.



The Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn is also on my favorites list.  It reminds me of eating cinnamon-sugar toast (kind of Midwest thing, I think), without the messy, sticky result.  I think these two actually tie for my favorite... one savory, one sweet.

The Cayenne Lime Kettle Corn was a little too spicy for me.  It had quite a kick of back heat.  Logan really liked it though; that was her favorite flavor.  The Smoked Chipotle Cheddar is more my speed for a spicy snack, as the smokiness of the chipotle chili, along with the cheddar to mellow things out, gives the flavor just enough spiciness without being too spicy to enjoy.

Kettle Heroes does more than just packaged popcorn for retail sales.  They also have a food truck for making popcorn on-site for events and have fundraising options for nonprofits looking to sell their own unique product.  They will print custom labels for your organization, and set up web sales for you, which eliminates the need to go door-to-door.

All of the flavors are kosher certified, so it's a great product to consider for synagogue, religious school or Jewish youth group fundraisers and events.  Happy munching!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Got the Passover Blues?

Passover foods. Two words. Oy vey! I start moaning and complaining about Passover weeks before its arrival. Seder foods aside, which I actually enjoy, the intermediary days can be dreadful, as far as dietary restrictions are concerned. Besides refraining from eating gluten, grains, etc., I do not eat meat, and am allergic to eggs. I also try to avoid matzo as much as possible, as it does not do well with my digestive system (does it do well with anyone?). At times it can feel like there is absolutely nothing to eat, or at least nothing I want to eat.
This year I am determined to see Passover as a challenge I can take on, and have fun with in the process. I collected Passover-friendly recipes from some of the best local chefs in Tucson. Fresh, new ideas for Passover cooking is giving me hope that it won’t be such a miserable eight days.
Creating or modifying recipes that are Passover-friendly involve either substituting the ingredients that cannot be eaten during Passover or crafting a recipe that does not rely on a starch. There are five grains that can’t be eaten during Passover; wheat, rye, spelt, oats and barley, unless they have been turned into matzo. Kitniyot, which include rice, millet and legumes are a bit trickier. Jewish people of Ashkenazic descent (e.g. Russian, Polish, German, Czech) do not eat kitniyot during Passover, while Sephardic Jews (e.g. Spain, Morocco, Yemen) do not have this restriction.
The custom of prohibiting kitniyot during Passover originated, arguably, during the 13th century, although discussion on the topic can be found in texts from the Tannaim period, from approximately 10 – 220 C.E. While kitniyot are not mentioned in the Torah as prohibited during Passover, rabbis argued that rice and millet are so close to grains that they could be used to make matzo, and should therefore be avoided. Kitniyot are boiled and prepared similarly to grains, yet another reason that people might get confused. Some Conservative and Reform Jews do eat kitniyot during Passover, depending on which teaching or school of thought they follow.
I put a call out to local chefs, asking them to design recipes that would work during Passover. Their submissions range from traditional side dishes, such as Chef Albert Hall’s Passover noodle kugel, to cold dishes that would be hearty enough for a meal, such as Chef Ken Foy’s chilled cucumber and brie soup. For meat eaters, there’s a garlicky chicken dish.
Chef Kenneth Foy – Dante’s Fire
Chilled Cucumber and Brie Soup
Ingredients:
½ white onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup matzo meal
3 cups heavy cream
¼ wheel of brie, skinned and cubed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 tablespoon dill
2 European or hot house cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
 Method:
Combine onions, celery, garlic, dill and butter and sweat over low heat.
Slowly incorporate flour.
Add vegetable stock and cream, bring to simmer. Add Brie.
Puree mixture using blender or emulsion blender.
Strain and chill.
After mixture is chilled, return to blender and add cucumbers and sour cream.
Season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy your soup!

Chef Jonathen Landeen – Jonathan’s Cork
Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime
Ingredients:
3 T. olive oil
¼ C. lightly packed fresh mint leaves
2 T. kosher salt
6 med. garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 T. black pepper
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tsp finely grated zest and ¼ C. juice from 2 limes
1 Tsp. minced habanero chile
1 4 lb. whole chicken
 Method:
Process all ingredients except chicken in blender until smooth paste forms, 10-20 seconds. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully loosen skin over thighs and breast and remove the excess fat. Rub half of paste beneath skin of chicken. Spread entire exterior surface of chicken with remaining paste. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken. Place in gallon-sized zipper lock bag and refrigerate 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
Place on rotisserie and cook 1-2 hours, depending on heat.

Chef Albert Hall – Acacia
Noodle Kugel
Ingredients:
1/2 pound wide kosher for Passover egg noodles
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 pound cottage cheese
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Boil the noodles in salted water for about 4 minutes.
Strain noodles from water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine noodles with remaining ingredients and pour into a greased, approximately 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Bake until custard is set and top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Chef Ryan Clark – Agustin Kitchen
Passover Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves (5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
 Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts until golden brown. Let cool and then chop.
In a large bowl mix together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, chopped walnuts and salt. In a separated bowl beat the egg whites and vanilla until combined. Add the egg white mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until smooth.
Line a sheet pan with parchment and spoon the batter into 6 even mounds. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until the cookies are shiny and lightly cracked. Cool completely before serving.

Marianne Baines – Kingfisher
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE
 Serves 10-12
Makes one 9-inch cake
Ingredients:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces unsalted butter softened
4 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts, pecans, or almonds
Ganache:
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Garnish:
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1-2 cups toasted, finely ground nuts
12 (or more) perfect strawberries, stems on, washed and dried on paper towels
Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and paper  a 9-inch cake pan. In a double boiler set over simmering water, melt both chocolates with the butter, stirring until smooth. In an electric mixer, whip the eggs and sugar together until a ribbon forms. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture, then vanilla and nuts. Spread in pan and set the pan in a larger baking pan filled with hot water. Bake for 1 ½ hours, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and water bath and let cool on a rack. Transfer to refrigerator and chill several hours or overnight until firm.
Make ganache: Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream to simmering and pour over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Cool until firm enough to spread. 
When cake is chilled, remove from pan by heating pan slightly and inverting. Crumb coat the cake and chill for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes. Reheat ganache to pouring consistency and pour over cake, allowing the ganache to flow down the sides without touching it, to give it a perfect glaze. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cake in spirals or lines and draw a toothpick through to make a design. Chill until almost set. Press toasted nuts into side of cake if desired.
 Dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate and allow to chill until set. Make little rosettes with thickened ganache all around the cake and place a strawberry on each one.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vegan Pesto

We are trying to cut down on dairy this week, especially since Logan has had a touch of the crud that's going around, with congestion.  I had a craving for pesto tonight, and was trying to figure out what to substitute for the cheese... the answer is, you don't need to substitute something for cheese, just make the pesto flavorful and interesting, and you won't miss the cheese!
Ingredients
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
3/4 C. toasted pecans (toast in dry frying pan or oven)
1/4 C. roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 C. sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/4 C. fresh basil, removed from stems
1 roasted green chili, skin and seeds removed
1 tsp. fresh chives
1 tsp. fresh oregano
1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley 
2 Tbsp. very hot water (I used water from the pasta pot)
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 C. olive oil

Pesto is super-easy to make.  I put everything in my Ninja Blender (you could also use a food processor or a VitaMix Blender, although I'm not sure if a regular blender would work) and pulse until everything is chopped, and has a paste-like consistency.  The word pesto actually means "paste."  The hot water helps everything combine harmoniously.  

Combine with your favorite cooked pasta, or spread on toasted baguette slices.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Babka Like Your Bubbe Made

Mmmmmm..... Tastes like my Grandma Lil's baking!  This package of love arrived at my doorstep today.  The owners of the company Small Batch Baking Company actually sent me their product via 2-day delivery, but Tucson having lost a postal distribution center, these goodies didn't arrive for almost a week.  They offered to send out a new batch, as each batch is baked, packaged and shipped while it is still fresh.  

I am pleased to tell you that the babka are absolutely delicious, moist and very flavorful, so the shipping time was not an issue.  Small Batch Baking Company makes four varieties of babka: traditional chocolate, chocolate cappuccino, blueberry cinnamon and chocolate raspberry.  I tried the chocolate cappuccino first, and corny as it might sound, I was transported in time by sensory memory to my grandma's rugelach, which had chocolate chips and cinnamon in the filling.  While rugelach is more like a cookie, and babka is more bread or cake-like, the filling tastes so much like my grandma's baking... not overly sweet, but rich with chocolate along with the warmth of cinnamon.

So, what is babka, exactly?  According to the Small Batch Baking Company website babka is "...an Eastern European sweet, leavened bread made with a rich dough."  The dough is tender and buttery.  The most common filling is probably chocolate, at least according to Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.  In the episode, she wanted to buy a chocolate babka for a party, but had to settle for cinnamon when the bakery was sold out.  Cinnamon and chocolate pair quite well together, which is why I highly recommend the chocolate cappuccino flavor, but I enjoyed all three flavors I tried.

These babka are totally worth ordering.  While I am usually a proponent of baking something myself for special occasions, I could totally see taking these out of the packaging, putting them in my own container and letting people think that I made them... they really are as good as homemade.  Make sure you order two bags of your favorite flavor; one to eat and one to take somewhere when you need to bring a dessert.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bowl of Love: Pumpkin Soup

Nothing says "I love you" like a bowl of homemade soup.  My Grandma Lil always said the most important ingredient in any recipe is love.  Soup is no exception.  You can't rush it, and tasting throughout the cooking process is a must.  

When pumpkin is in season I chop and steam it, then keep bags of it in the freezer, to defrost for recipes as needed.  I leave the skin on when I freeze it.  When the pumpkin defrosts, the skin pulls right off.



Ingredients
  •  1 C. sliced yellow onion
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. butter (separated into 1/4 C. segments)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 5 C. pureed pumpkin
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 C. diced sweet potato
  • 1 green chile, diced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 C. almond milk
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 2 C. water
  • Garnish: pumpkin seeds and plain Greek yogurt
1. Saute sliced onions in olive oil and 1/4 C. butter with sea salt, over medium heat, until caramelized (in large pot). When onions are browned add chiles and cook until soft. 

2.  Add carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, stock and water.  Add all spices except maple syrup, brown sugar and yeast.  Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

3. When carrots and sweet potato chunks are thoroughly soft, add maple syrup, 1/4 C. butter, brown sugar and almond milk.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove half of the soup from pot and puree in blender.  Re-combine pureed soup with what is still in the pot.  Garnish with pumpkin seeds and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.