Tag Archives: healthy

Chicken Soup with Kale and Quinoa {Healthy + Easy}

16 Feb

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-3

All I ate yesterday was this soup, and cookies.

I mean, a lot of each of them, but very little variety throughout the day. I made both because I had cravings – and satisfy said cravings, I did. I hear this cold spell they call “winter” may be breaking soon, but until then, I am all comfort foods, all the time.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup

This soup is incredibly healthy and satisfying – homemade stock, organic chicken, quinoa, kale, and veggies. It also serves as a reminder that when you like all of the ingredients that go into a dish, chances are very high that you will like the end result … and return to the pot for more. Like 4 times.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-2

Stay warm!

Ingredients:

– 3 carrots {wash all; leave one unpeeled and cut it into three pieces; peel two, and cut the tops and bottom off of them}
– 2 pieces of celery {wash all; cut into three pieces each}
– 1 yellow or white onion {wash it; prep it to get read to chop; cut off the top and bottom, and remove the outer peels}
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 whole organic or hormone-free chicken, any size
– water {about 6-10 cups}
– 1 t dried thyme
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced
– 3/4 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and dried
– 1 bunch lacinato kale, washed and sliced in to thin ribbons, and then roughly chopped

How do I make it?

  • Place the unpeeled carrot, the celery, and the trimmings (the parts you cut off and wouldn’t eat) from the carrots, celery, and onion in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the pot over to the counter next to the sink.
  • Wash the chicken in the sink and remove the bag of giblets, if it’s inside the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels (just so it doesn’t drip).
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetable trimmings. Cover with water until the chicken is submerged by an inch.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat; when it boils, reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering – this is about medium heat for me because the pot is so full.
  • Cook for about an hour.
  • During this time, dice the onion, slice the garlic, and slice the two remaining carrots into coins less than 1/4″ thick.
  • After the hour, try to skim off any fat from the top, but don’t worry, you will have another chance to skim off fat.
  • Place a very large bowl (or another soup pot) in your sink, and place a colander inside. Have a second large bowl, and a fine mesh strainer available close by.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs, and place on a surface with a lip (like a curved plate). Let it cool for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, carefully pour the contents from the pot into the colander that is inside the bowl. Discard what lands in the colander – you only want to keep the chicken stock (and the chicken, which you have set aside).
  • Place the fine mesh strainer over the second bowl, and pour the chicken stock from the first bowl into the second.
  • Now, you could choose to cook right through to completion {if you do, skip down to the next curly brackets}. But because the quinoa and kale will soak up the stock, I would stop here to refrigerate the stock overnight, to let the fat rise to the top (then the quinoa and kale will be cooking in slightly healthier stock – I mean, not a TON healthier, but every bit counts, right?). To do so, let the stock cool enough that you can put it in a container that seals tight (like a thick plastic pitcher with a snap-on lid). Pull the chicken off the bone, and refrigerate separately. Refrigerate the carrots, onion, and garlic as well.
  • The next day, skim the fat off of the stock.
  • {If you decide to cook straight through, start again HERE:} Heat a large soup pot over medium-high. Add a bit of olive oil and cook the diced onion and carrots until they start to soften; add the garlic and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the strained, skimmed stock back to the pot, and bring back to a boil.
  • Add the quinoa, and cook with the lid off for 10-12 minutes, or until the “tails” form on the quinoa.
  • Add the shredded kale, and cook for just a few minutes more. Add the chicken and heat through.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-4

More info please?

This is another great lunch to bring to work – just keep a pitcher in the work fridge, and have a bowl on hand for heating.

The kale will hold up well to the boiling and being submerged in liquid for a few days.

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Chicken Noodle Soup {Healthy + Easy}

8 Feb

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-5This is a LONG cold stretch, isn’t it? The winter has been unrelenting for so many parts of the country. Know what helps? Soup.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-7

Soup helps so many things. It is an ultimate comfort food for a reason – it warms from the inside out, and somehow always brings a smile. This winter, I have been thrilled every time I have seen a big bowl of chicken noodle soup staring back at me when I open the fridge. Score.

Making chicken soup from scratch is not difficult, and you know exactly what is going in to it: chicken, vegetables, garlic, herbs, water. Noodles if you want them, and salt to your taste. It is barely more work than boiling all of those things together, I promise. Healthy, easy, satisfying.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-3 copyIngredients:
– 3 carrots {wash all; leave one unpeeled and cut it into three pieces; peel two, and cut the tops and bottom off of them}
– 2 pieces of celery {wash all; cut into three pieces each}
– 1 yellow or white onion {wash it; prep it to get read to chop; cut off the top and bottom, and remove the outer peels}
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 whole organic or hormone-free chicken, any size
– water {about 6-10 cups}
– 1 t dried thyme
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced
– 1 c wide egg noodles {optional}

How do I make it?

  • Place the unpeeled carrot, the celery, and the trimmings (the parts you cut off and wouldn’t eat) from the carrots, celery, and onion in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the pot over to the counter next to the sink.
  • Wash the chicken in the sink and remove the bag of giblets, if it’s inside the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels (just so it doesn’t drip).
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetable trimmings. Cover with water until the chicken is submerged by an inch.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat; when it boils, reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering – this is about medium heat for me because the pot is so full.
  • Cook for about an hour.
  • During this time, dice the onion, slice the garlic, and slice the two remaining carrots into coins less than 1/4″ thick.
  • After the hour, try to skim off any fat from the top, but don’t worry, you will have another chance to skim off fat.
  • Place a very large bowl (or another soup pot) in your sink, and place a colander inside. Have a second bowl, and a fine mesh strainer available close by.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs, and place on a surface with a lip (like a curved plate). Let it cool for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, carefully pour the contents from the pot into the colander that is inside the bowl. Discard what lands in the colander – you only want to keep the chicken stock (and the chicken, which you have set aside).
  • Place the fine mesh strainer over the second bowl, and pour the chicken stock from the first bowl into the second.
  • Take the empty pot and heat over medium-high. Add a bit of olive oil and cook the diced onion and carrots until they start to soften; add the garlic and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the strained stock back to the pot, and bring back to a boil.
  • While you are waiting for it to boil, pull the chicken off of the bone. I usually just use the white meat in my soup. You can chop it or shred it.
  • Add the noodles {if using} and chicken, and cook until the noodles are cooked through.
  • You could eat the soup now, but you will probably find it to taste a bit greasy. So, if you can bear to wait, once it cools a bit, refrigerate it over night. I find that a thick plastic pitcher (or two) with a snap-on lid words great for refrigerating and serving purposes.
  • In the morning, you will find that the fat has risen to the top and solidified. Just scoop it off with a large spoon and throw it away. You may be scooping out a bit of thyme this way, but don’t worry, you already cooked the flavor out of it.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-8

More info please?

This is a great lunch to bring to work – just keep a pitcher in the work fridge, and have a bowl on hand for heating. It also freezes really well, I would recommend portioning into the round ziplock containers before freezing. You can change up the noodles you use, but the wide egg noodles just scream chicken noodle soup, don’t they? Want to make your own chicken stock for use in another recipe?  I would use this same method and just stop at the point where you strain the stock. Use the chicken for another purpose, like a chicken salad.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-6

Cheesy Breakfast Grits

28 Jan

Cheesy Grits-3I grew up in the Midwest, where all I knew about grits was “That’s something they eat in the South.” Really? How was this corn derivative not a staple in the Corn Belt?

I first became acquainted with grits when I attended law school in the South – Shrimp and Grits made a believer out of me. But it wasn’t until the last year or two that I have kept a package of it in my pantry and cooked with it on a regular basis.

Grits are just ground corn. Depending on the brand you buy, they may look exactly like cornmeal that you would use to make corn bread. I am currently working on a bag of Bob’s Red Mill, and the grains are a bit bigger than Quaker, which had been my previous standard. Both are great; Bob’s is a bit heartier, while Quaker is smoother. Just a matter of personal preference. In this video, Bob explains that his family has found a method of grinding corn that does not “degerminate” it – that is good news! It means that their particular variety qualifies as a whole grain – which is healthier than when the germ is removed.  Corn GritsGrits are cooked in liquid, either water or milk. Experiment as you will, but I find that 1/4 c of grits and 3/4 c skim milk, with a pinch or two of cheese, makes a perfect, filling, warm (fast!) breakfast. It will keep you full until lunch, for sure – and what a great way to sneak in another serving (or so) of milk and whole grains (if the brand you use has the germ intact). Just pop the bowl in the microwave, and it will be ready in the time you take your morning shower {if you keep your shower to less than 7 minutes}.

Cheesy Grits-6

Ingredients:
– 1/4 c grits
– 3/4 c skim milk
– 2 t shredded cheese {I used a cheddar-jack mix – you should experiment with any mild cheese you have on hand}
– 1/4 t grated parmesan

How do I make it?

  • In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl (bigger than a cereal bowl – it will bubble up just a bit), place 1/4 c grits and 3/4 c skim milk less 2 T (so, use all of it except 2 T).
  • Microwave on medium power for 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining milk, and extra if you would like, until it has a creamy, thick consistency.
  • Stir in cheeses of your choice.
  • You may want to add a pinch of salt, because grits have no sodium, but your cheese may give it the flavor you need, so give it a taste first.

Cheesy Grits

Cheesy Grits-2

Cheesy Grits-4

More info please?
Polenta is also just ground corn, but from my understanding and research, polenta (Italian) and grits (Southern American) are traditionally made from different types of corn, and ground to a different consistency. This results in a slightly different taste and texture. But do you want to know what Bob’s Red Mill thinks about that?

Bob's Red Mill Grits PolentaI also enjoy a bowl of cheesy grits with a poached egg on top – the runny yolk stirred in to the grits is a treat.

New Year’s Resolutions

14 Jan

We are two weeks in to 2014, and I thought I would check in on how everyone is doing with their New Year’s Resolutions. How goes it?

I try more and more to not have to find a reason to make positive changes, but there is something about a crisp new page on the calendar that is conducive to new behaviors, attitudes, and … food! New ideas in the kitchen, new recipes, new ingredients, you name it: 2014 seems like a great opportunity.

I have a few food-related New Year’s Resolutions for myself and want to share them with you here, and then I will check those boxes, so to speak, in future posts. I even made a “New Year’s Resolution” tag, if you would like to follow along that way. We are more likely to stick to our goals when we share them with others, right? Well here we go!

  1. Take healthy lunches and snacks to work: It’s often a struggle for me, time-wise, to plan meals for the week, get to the grocery store, cook, pack lunches the night before, and remember to bring it the next day. I would love to get this down to a system! It seems like casseroles and other one-pot comfort foods might be a good option (one container – easy to transport; and filling – our work cafeteria closes at 2pm so healthy afternoon snacks can be challenging). For snacks, healthy, filling, and easy to transport are also key. On busy days, I maaaay be guilty of trolling the halls for unattended candy jars (sigh), and I would love to curb that habit.
  2. Eat filling and healthy breakfasts: Too often I find myself needing to hunker down and work hard between 10:30 and 11:30 on weekdays … not because of any particular deadline or project at work, but because 10:30 is about when my coffee buzz has waned, and 11:30 is when it’s socially acceptable to eat lunch. When I have a full breakfast, I can power through; when I skip breakfast, I feel it. I generally don’t have a ton of time to prepare breakfast in the morning, but oatmeal is one option; I would also like to get into a routine of make-ahead breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos, and other similar dishes that I can grab on the go or heat quickly right when I get to work.
  3. Eat less meat: I love meat. I do. But I would like to exercise more moderation. I can’t promise that I will have “Meatless Mondays,” but I don’t think that one or two days per week is unreasonable.
  4. Get to know a few herbs and spices better: How many spices are in your spice rack? I counted once, when a friend of mine was writing an article for a magazine on a related topic, and it was more than 60 – I have to guess I am over 70 or 75 now. Some I crank through, like oregano, cumin, and red pepper flakes … others, like garam masala, tarragon, and even paprika I would like to find a few solid recipes for. And as fresh herbs become more bountiful in the warmer months, I am looking forward to picking up something pretty at the farmer’s market and exploring! Which herbs do you wish you knew more about or used more?
  5. Make my father proud: My dad wishes I had a Jewish food blog. I don’t. That niche is not really sustainable for me, but I like the idea of trying to make one traditional recipe per month. It will be worth it even if only to hear my dad do his impersonation of what he thinks it sounds like when I write blog posts. So cute.

If you have ideas for anything in this post, please leave them in the comments!

After-Party Egg Scramble {Chicken and Dips}

4 Jan

Egg Scramble-2This year for New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t in the mood to battle crowds at bars, or have dinner out and then make a 10pm decision on where to ring in the new year – and I’m always in the mood to cook.  So I decided to have a few people over. I told my invitees that I didn’t need to know if they were joining until the last minute, and I was happy to be a back-up plan, or a place for them to start or end the evening of they had other plans.

That’s all fine and good, but it made planning a menu a bit difficult! Was I going to have 12 people over for 5 hours (heavier menu), or would 4 people swing by for an hour here and there, maybe on their way to eat (lighter menu)?

I decided to just make a menu that, if I had excessive leftovers, would translate into easy lunches for me for the rest of the week, and healthy snacks to have in my fridge for the weekend.

The “main event” on my NYE buffet, therefore, was a make-your-own mini sandwich station. I poached 3 chicken breasts and roasted a small filet mignon from Trader Joe’s (SUPER easy and delicious, pre-seasoned and ready to put in the oven!). I sliced a baguette, and then sliced the meats to fit, and set them out just on the cutting board with roasted peppers, pesto, and a caramelized onion dip made with greek yogurt and light cream cheese. There was also hummus available with a veggie platter, if people wanted to use the hummus with the sandwiches. It was a hit – my guests loved that it was substantial food that wasn’t too heavy.

The next morning, I was faced with the glorious leftovers. I looked at the chicken, peppers, and dips, and thought they might make an awesome breakfast – and I was right.

Egg Scramble-3

Pesto, when you think about it, is just spinach, herbs, oil, and cheese – all things that go well with eggs {sure, a bit of walnut, but it’s pulverized}. The onion dip was made of richly caramelized onions, and dairy product. If you have never scrambled eggs with a splash of milk, you are missing out; the dip was thicker than milk, but still a dairy product, and I figured I would just try it, to see if it went well with eggs. Win.

Serve with some French Fries or Roasted Potatoes, and call it your hostess gift to yourself.

Egg Scramble-5

Ingredients:
– 2 eggs (pictured here is 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites)
– 1 T skim milk
– 3/4 t pesto
– 3/4 t onion-flavored dip with dairy base {I will post the recipe a bit later!}
– handful of meat, to your taste, chopped small (chicken or beef)
– any other leftover veggies, like spinach from making pesto (optional)
roasted peppers, any amount

How do I make it?

  • Set a medium or large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  • While the skillet is warming, whisk the eggs with milk until it’s uniform. Then whisk in the pesto and onion dip.
  • Spray the warm skillet with olive oil spray.
  • Once the spray has warmed, heat the meat until it browns a bit on the edges. Add the red peppers and mix, just to warm them.
  • Push the meat and veggies to one corner of the pan, and re-spray with oil.
  • Add the egg mixture, and begin to scramble. When they are about half-done, stir in the meat and veggies. Cook until it’s as firm as you like it. When it’s almost done, stir in spinach, to wilt it. Spinach won’t need more than a few seconds in the pan.

Egg Scramble

More info please?

You can really add any meat or veggie to this recipe. Potential party foods you may have on hand that would be delicious in an after-party scramble include broccoli, raw peppers, tomatoes, or marinated mushrooms. Cook any raw veggies at the same time you heat the meat, and add any cooked veggies to warm with the peppers.

You can also add any cheese left over from a cheese platter, when the eggs are almost done. I shredded some parmesan reggiano (that I “forgot” to put out at the party … and got to keep for myself…) on top once it was done.

Egg Scramble-4

How to: Make Kale Chips

30 Dec

How to Make Kale ChipsGuess what. You have ONE day until New Year’s resolutions begin. One more day to live it up before it’s back to salads and the overcrowded January gym for you. I hope you enjoy it!

I will start the January detox one day early for you, with Kale Chips. If you have not yet tried Kale Chips, SPOILER ALERT: they are not chips. They are kale. Kale that has been baked until crisp.

How to Make Kale Chips-12

Kale Chips are a super-healthy, super-crunchy dish that you can make with two ingredients: a bunch of kale and a bit of extra virgin olive oil. I recommend a pinch of salt as well, but that is up to you. And they are super-easy to make.

Step 1: Select the kale. I use lacinato kale for every kale recipe I have made. I prefer its texture to that of curly kale. If you “don’t like kale” but have only tried curly kale, why don’t you give lacinato (aka dinosaur aka tuscan) kale a try. It looks like a darker, thicker romaine lettuce (but you buy it in a bunch rather than in a head). If you don’t know if your local grocery store carries it, just call first. It is always at my local Whole Foods, farmer’s markets, and a few other stores I frequent – but it’s not everywhere all the time.

How to Make Kale Chips-5Step 2: Wash the kale. I have been washing my leafy greens in a large baking dish recently – they fit perfectly, and I just fill the dish with water and shake/scrub the greens in the water, drain, and repeat a few times. How to Make Kale ChipsOf course, you can also tear them first and use a colander (I just find the leaves are just a bit long to fit in the colander whole).

How to Make Kale Chips-2Step 3: Tear the kale into chip-sized pieces. The chips get VERY crisp and flaky, so I prefer to make them bite-sized so there aren’t kale shards all over the floor and couch. I recommend somewhere between the size of a peanut and a saltine {Note: saltine and peanut shown only for scale and size purposes!} It takes a little longer to make them small, but I think they crisp up better that way, and it’s worth it. Keep in mind that the chips will shrink when they bake. The smaller they are, the more they will shrink, because they will curl more. Oh, and don’t use any tough stems, just the leafy parts.

Satine comparison - Kale chips

Peanut comparison - Kale chips

Step 4: DRY the kale. Use as many paper towels if you need to, but the kale needs to be as dry as you can get it before you add the oil in the next step.

Step 5: Place the kale in a bowl and drizzle 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (per bunch of kale) over the torn leaves. Use your hands to massage it in and cover all of the pieces.

Step 6: Spread the kale on a baking sheet in a single layer, and sprinkle VERY lightly with salt, if using.

How to Make Kale Chips-4Step 7: Bake for 15 minutes at 350. I have read some recipes that say you have to use very low heat, in the 200’s; others say very high heat, in the 400’s! So I go in between, at 350, and if they are not crispy at 15 minutes, I stay close by the oven and give them a few more minutes to do their thing. I find about 15 minutes works, and I also don’t need to flip them.

When the Kale Chips are done, they should flake to the touch and crumble if pinched. Kale Chips will keep up to a week in an airtight container – that is, if they aren’t eaten before then. You can just keep the container on the kitchen counter, but I accidentally refrigerated a batch once, and they held up fine!

How to Make Kale Chips-11

Roasted Potatoes

28 Nov

Roasted Potatoes-7

I am often asked what my favorite dish to cook is, but today I was asked what my favorite food is. Not something that I have been asked in a long time,  and it took me a minute to answer as the kid in the candy store that was my head ran around in circles.

“French fries.”

But as the words came out of my mouth, I found myself running through different cuts of french fries. If I went to a restaurant that offered thin cut, thick cut, steak cut, waffle cut … what would I choose? And what about thin and crisp potato skins? What about fully loaded potato skins? Twice-baked? So many options. My mind raced. And then it hit me …

I love potatoes.

“I take it back. Potatoes.” ZA and I shared a moment when she revealed that she, too, loved potatoes and thinking about it, would probably answer her own question the same way. So simple, so versatile, such a staple.

I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t get the texture I wanted from roasted potatoes – well-done inside, and crisp outside – until I realized two tricks: 1) You need to start with potatoes that are baked, rather than raw; and 2) The less you mess with them while they are cooking, the better!

Ingredients:- 6 medium russet potatoes, baked (can be altered, but I recommend using smaller potatoes, and budgeting more than one per person)
– 6 cloves garlic, peeled (smashed if you would like!)
– 2 T extra virgin olive oil
– 1 t dried oregano, or 1 T fresh oregano
– 1/4 – 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes

How do I make it?

  • {To bake potatoes, either toss a few in the oven while you are cooking something else (prick them with a fork first) – 45 to 60 minutes at any temperature between 350 and 400 should do it. Or, prick with a fork and wrap in paper towel, and microwave one at a time for 6 minutes. Cook before handling!}
  • Preheat the oven to 400 and, if you have a heating element on the top of the oven, set a rack in the top 1/3. If your heating element is only on the bottom, set the rack in the middle of the oven. You will want your pan to be close to the heating element, but you don’t want to over-brown on the bottom of the pan.
  • Cut the potatoes into 1″ cubes. This is why I like to use medium potatoes – you can cut them in half once the long way, then in half again the long way, and then easily chop into cubes that will cook at a good rate (and most importantly, all of the pieces will have skin on them!).Roasted Potatoes
  • Transfer the potatoes to a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Make sure they all fit in a single layer.
  • Add the garlic cloves to the pan.
  • Drizzle the oil over the potatoes and garlic. Add the oregano and red pepper flakes. Top with freshly ground pepper, if you would like.
  • Using your hands, toss the potatoes, garlic, oil, and spices together in the pan, making sure to coat the potatoes with the mixture as much as possible.
  • Roasted Potatoes-2Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, without stirring the potatoes around. After this time, give them a good flip. You should start to get a nice golden crisp on the potatoes.
  • Return the potatoes to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes.

Roasted Potatoes-5

 

If you like this, you may also like:

Food_013_

Quinoa Breakfast Cakes-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Raw Kale Salad with Garlicky Dressing

24 Nov

Easy Kale Salad with Lemon-Garlic Dressing

Work last week was one of those where meetings, projects, and emails were unrelenting – and then I had work-related social events after work every night, to boot. While looking back, such a week can be satisfying because of what was accomplished, what was not satisfying was the food I ate. Rushed mornings getting out the door, “working lunches,” and bar food for dinner is not my preference; but unfortunately, it is sometimes a reality.

But it is a new week! So I am starting it off with a clean slate: a simple kale salad, with an easy fresh dressing. I know some people are skeptical of eating raw kale; they think kale is so tough that it needs to be braised or sauteed to break it down. But give this salad a try. Massaging in the lemon juice and oil will wilt the kale just enough to take the edge off.

I sometimes struggle to think of toppings for salads, but this one requires no such contemplation. I first made this recipe for Cooking Club (Hostess: MD; Theme: Meatless Monday; Date: 09.30.12) and it has become one of my staples. The recipe calls for freshly-made breadcrumbs to be sprinkled for crunch – I love this concept. The crunch is evenly distributed, and the carbs are kept to a minimum. When I do not have fresh breadcrumbs, small homemade croutons from a hearty whole grain wheat loaf fit the bill. {I think that store-bought breadcrumbs would be too fine to add the crunch – if you can’t do homemade, I recommend the croutons.}

Easy Kale Salad

Ingredients:
– 1 bunch lacinato kale, sliced into very thin strips {I can’t vouch for any other variety of kale in this recipe – but lacinato is awesome!}
– juice from 1 lemon
– 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, smashed
– hot red pepper flakes, to taste
– 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
– fresh croutons or bread crumbs

How do I make it?

  • Place the sliced kale in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Place the smashed garlic in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and pinch of red pepper flakes, and whisk. Add salt and pepper if you would like, but try it on its own first – you can always add salt and pepper later.
  • Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. Massage the dressing into the kale – squeeze the kale and make sure the dressing is evenly distributed.
  • Add half of the cheese and toss again.
  • Let the kale sit for a few minutes. Add the bread crumbs or croutons, toss again, and top with remaining cheese.

If you like this, you may also like:

Warm Kale, Sweet Potato, & Quinoa Salad  Southwest Quinoa Bowl

Serve with:

Roasted Chicken with Lemon-5Chicken Burgers 4

Beef and Onion Ragu with Spaghetti Squash

16 Nov

ImageI had the opportunity to get out of the city over the long Veterans Day weekend, and I spent a few days in one of my favorite places: Charlottesville, Virginia. My memories from Charlottesville are warm and inspiring, and I think the air is different there – the breaths I take are clean and crisp, and reinvigorating. I try to escape to Charlottesville now and again to recharge. And, of late, to cook!

I convinced my friend NB to join me for the weekend, and as we paged through magazines looking for something for me to make for dinner, we both simultaneously pointed to the same picture: Cooks Illustrated’s Rigatoni with Beef and Onion Ragu. The temperatures had dipped into the 30’s overnight, and we were craving some serious comfort food. As we read through the recipe, NB asked if I could “healthify it,” and I accepted her challenge.

Chopped Ingredients for Beef RaguHealthification #1: Instead of 2 oz of pancetta and 2 oz of salami, I opted to use instead 3 oz of pancetta (aka “italian bacon”), and no salami. As we perused the available pancetta, we were shocked at how much the nutrition information varied from brand to brand. We ended up with Wellshire Farms which, in addition to having a low number of ingredients, has no antibiotics, nitrates, or nitrites – and only 2g fat in a 2 oz serving, with 350mg sodium. Other pancettas available had almost 10 times the amount of fat, and very high sodium. It’s always worth a look, even when buying bacon! We felt very good about using this product in our meal.

Shoulder ChuckHeathification #2: A shoulder roast of steak, rather than the suggested chuck eye roast. When you are braising meat for hours and hours, you do need a meat with some fat in it, but I asked the butcher what he would recommend for a leaner cut than chuck eye. He said that if the recipe used chuck eye, that I should not go any leaner than shoulder. I looked through the shoulder cuts available and selected the leanest I saw.

Using Spaghetti Squash for the BaseHealthification #3: Spaghetti Squash instead of rigatoni or other pasta. NB and I had discussed whole wheat pasta, but in this recipe, you mix the squash completely in to the ragu. It’s a great way to hide a healthy ingredient (much like hiding quinoa in this Marinara Quinoa with Chicken), so even if you are not totally jazzed about spaghetti squash, I have a feeling this will work for you. Note that I just added a bit more squash for the base, and color in the pictures. Two bites in, NB confirmed that we had made an excellent choice, and that the spaghetti squash provided just the right bite of texture. I agreed.

The process to make this Beef and Onion Ragu with Spaghetti Squash is not difficult, but is a bit lengthy, and I recommend making this recipe when you will be home on a chilly day and don’t mind the oven being on for a few hours.

Ingredients:
– 1 to 1.5 lb beef shoulder roast, cut into 4 to 5 pieces and trimmed of major pieces of fat
– S + P
– 3 oz pancetta, chopped roughly into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 carrot, peeled and chopped roughly into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 celery stalk, chopped roughly into 1/2″ pieces
– 2.5 lbs onions (about 7 medium), peeled and cut into 1″ pieces {You read that right. If you like onions, this recipe is for you! Try a mix of yellow and sweet onions.}
– 2 T tomato paste
– 2 c water
– 1 c Sauvignon Blanc, or other dry white wine
– 2 T minced fresh oregano
– 1 spaghetti squash, roasted and processed
– 1/4 c Pecorino Romano, grated {and extra for serving}

How do I make it?

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300.
  • Sprinkle beef with 1/2 t kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside.
  • Process pancetta in a food processor (a smaller processor may work better with the small amount of food you will be using in these first steps) until ground to a paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  • Transfer paste to an oven-safe dutch oven or soup pot and set aside.
  • Do not bother cleaning out the processor bowl. Pulse onions in processor in batches (it may take 3-4 batches), until the pieces are 1/8 to 1/4 inch pieces, about 8 to 10 pulses per batch. Transfer the onions to a medium or large bowl and keep them at the ready – you will need them in a moment.

Let’s pause for a photo break.

Onions in the Food Processor

I was interested to read in Cook’s Illustrated that using a food processor to chop the onions will result in more surface area being exposed on the onion pieces, in short (and skipping a bit of the science here), leading to a release of chemicals that gives a meatier flavor. Who. Knew.

  • Cook pancetta paste mixture (with the carrot and celery) over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered (= you can’t see it any more on the meat) and fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes.

What is fond? This is fond. You may think it’s food sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot. But no, if you manage to keep it a light brown, it is actually a very shmancy thing called “fond.” Below is an illustration – check the bottom right quadrant of this picture for the heaviest fond concentration.

  • What does fond look like?Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, about 90 seconds.
  • Stir in 2 cups of water a little bit at a time, scraping up the fond. This works best if you add just a little water, and scrape up the fond as the water is boiling (it doesn’t work as well if you add all of the water at once).
  • Stir in onions and bring to a boil. {Note that I wasn’t sure how this was going to happen – but the onion cooks down and there will be enough liquid to boil, I promise!}
  • Stir in 1/2 c of wine and 1 T minced oregano.
  • Add beef and push it into the onion mixture, to ensure that it is submerged. Transfer the pot to the oven, on that low rack, and cook uncovered until beef is fully tender, about 3 hours.
    • {This may be a great time to roast your spaghetti squash. While I recommend 400 degrees, it will be fine at 300. Just leave it in until it starts to brown on the outside and collapse – should be under an hour, but you should have some time on your hands during the 3-hour beef braise!}
  • Transfer beef to carving or cutting board. Place pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost completely dry. This may take a half hour to 45 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 c wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • While the liquid is cooking out, using 2 forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces. Comme ca:

Shredded Beef

  • Return shredded beef, and the remaining oregano, to the sauce, and stir it in. Add the spaghetti squash, separating the strands with forks as you mix it in. Finally, add the cheese, and stir one last time!

Ragu + Salad = Dinner

Original link: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/7484-rigatoni-with-beef-and-onion-ragu# ; also available at http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-public-kitchen/rigatoni-with-beef-and-onion-ragu.html

Product Review: COCOZIA Organic Coconut Water

11 Nov

COCOZIA Review-4Coconut water is “in.”

I was a bit behind the curve on this one and had not tried it until I was contacted by the marketing department from COCOZIA, who offered to send me an Amazon gift card, with which I was to purchase a 12-package case of their product. In return, all they asked was that I review the product on Amazon and on my blog. This is my first product review where I was contacted by the product’s representatives, and I am looking forward to more!

This post is 100% my own words and thoughts; the only compensation I received was the gift card I was sent, the full amount of which was spent on the product.

We eat (and drink) with our eyes first, so let’s discuss packaging briefly. In short: Clean and cute. No pictures of palm trees or coconuts, just stylized font and a focus on the certified organic nature of the product. And who doesn’t love a good “USDA Organic” stamp? I don’t know the technical term for the packaging, but it feels like a thicker, almost cylindrical juice box – complete with an expandable straw on the back. There is also an option to peel back a silver tab for a wider-mouth opening, to drink or pour directly from the package.

Now, coconut water is completely distinct from coconut milk. This NPR blog post offers that coconut water “contains two minerals that help balance fluids in the body, sodium and potassium.” As a coconut ages from a young green coconut to a mature brown coconut that you probably are picturing, the coconut water “morphs into the white coconut meat that’s often pressed to produce coconut milk or oil.”

To show you the difference between coconut water and milk, in an 11.1 oz package, COCOZIA coconut water has 70 calories, 0g fat, 65mg of sodium, 730 mg of potassium, and 14g of sugar. But an average (full-fat) coconut milk  has – in one cup, which is 3.1 oz less than the above stats – 557 calories, 57g of fat (51 g saturated), 36g of sodium, 631g potassium, and 8g of sugar.

They are just not the same product.

Now how about taste? Well, the taste is a bit unexpected. I would describe it as a watered-down juice of some fruit I have never had before (and that I would not particularly seek out again). It leaves a slight aftertaste, too. I have not tried other coconut waters, so I am not comparing them, but I don’t think that I would purchase coconut water to drink in the future, based on this experience.

NOW, let’s talk cooking. When I was researching the product before I agreed to test the product, I saw enough articles and blog posts about cooking with coconut water – in smoothies, using instead of coconut milk in recipes, and as a substitute for water as well – that I definitely wanted to try it out.

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: I decided to try substituting COCOZIA coconut water for tap water to make brown rice. It was great, and I recommend it! The coconut water gave the rice a really subtle coconut flavor that pairs well with stir-fry and curries. Just substitute it cup for cup, ounce for ounce. Coconut water is expensive – each package costs a bit over $2 on Amazon – but it is worth picking up a smaller quantity and trying out a basic rice recipe. I used regular (non-microwave) brown long-grain rice, and just followed the directions on the package.

COCOZIA Review-3It doesn’t look different from other rice, but the taste is there. This picture features brown rice cooked in COCOZIA coconut water, with a simple stir-fry of chicken, broccoli, garlic, shallots, ginger, and soy sauce – quantities are totally variable according to your tastes!

COCOZIA Review-2