Monthly Archives: January 2012

RECIPE: Polenta Stack With Navy Bean Salad

This recipe from Epicurious.com for Polenta Stack With Navy Bean Salad really grabbed my attention with the combinations of flavors that it put together. All things that I love, baked together to a melty one-dish wonder! How could it NOT be good?

I found this recipe really easy to assemble and when it was ready it was really satisfying and tasty. The feta cheese gave everything such a nice tangy taste while the beans added heartiness, protein and fiber.

The recipe calls for you to cook the packets on a grill until the packets are fully puffed and states it will take 10 minutes. I don’t have a grill so I did it in my oven with the setting on broil. It took close to 30 minutes to get heated through and the packets puffy.

The result? A really satisfying, wholesome meal that takes only 35-40 minutes and only 5 of that is preparing the packets for the grill or oven. Definitely a nice easy meal.

RECIPE: White Bean And No-Mushroom Stew

I choose this recipe from the December 2011 issue of Whole Living Magazine. It’s originally called White Bean And Mushroom Stew but the fact is that I don’t really care much for mushrooms. They’re slimy and well…their a fungus people! Need I say more?

Now it wouldn’t be a review if I didn’t tell you that I changed a few things in this recipe. Number one is, of course, that I omitted the mushrooms. Now if you’re one of those mushroom eaters then have at it and add the mushrooms but I didn’t here. 🙂 Number two, is I didn’t use any fresh rosemary. Why? Well the honest answer is I didn’t have any, not even the dry stuff, and I didn’t want to go out and get it. Number three is  that I thought it was a strange thing to ask people to buy a can of whole tomatoes and then puree them in the blender. I mean, if you’re going to buy whole tomatoes why not ACTUALLY BUY whole tomatoes people! So that’s what I did. I believe it took about 5 to 6 REAL whole tomatoes to make the required 28 ounces. I simply put them in the blender and it worked wonderfully well! But I won’t think less of you or talk about you behind your back if you decide to do the whole buying of the canned whole tomatoes thing. So do whatever floats your boat on that issue.

Now my reasons for buying actual whole tomatoes rather than the canned whole tomatoes is that first of all it’s more natural that way. They don’t naturally grow in cans and so I’d rather not use them that way. Also, for those of you who are aware of the whole BPA issue (usually found in plastic ware, etc) you might not know that it’s also found in cans. Most notably cans that have acidic foods in them like…well, I don’t know…maybe TOMATOES! It’s a fact actually.

You can safely buy vegetable in cans that aren’t lined with BPA but you have to usually buy organic to get that AND read the label. Companies that use BPA-free cans will tell you on the can because very few actually do it in the first place and it costs them more to produce the BPA-free cans so trust me they want you to know about it.

Now when it comes to BPA-free cans for tomato products it can’t be done. Because of the acid in the tomatoes they have to use cans lined with BPA in order to keep the cans from corroding. They don’t have a solution for that yet and if they do it probably costs way more than anyone is willing to pay including organic companies. You can however buy whole tomatoes in those milk-carton-like containers. There’s a Italian brand called POMI and that type of packaging is safe. If you want to know more about BPA in canned products just do an internet search and you’ll find more info than you probably wanted to know but it’s out there.

Now I’ll get off my health talk and get back to the White Bean And No-Mushroom Stew. Here are the ingredients:

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered (if you’re one of those fungi loving people) 🙂

1/2 cup white wine

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, pureed in a blender (or about 5 or 6 whole tomatoes pureed)

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

2 cups cooked white beans (equivalent to one 16-oz can), drained

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, and carrots until tender, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms (if using), and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Deglaze with wine, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add tomatoes, rosemary, beans, and 1/2 water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of oil.

For the white wine I used a 1/2 cup of Barefoot Muscato wine which gave the stew a nice sweet smell and flavor though you can use whatever white wine you want. I am sure it will come out yummy no matter what you choose. I chose the Muscato because I had some small bottles of them in my refrigerator and I didn’t really want to open a whole big bottle of white wine just for this recipe. Usually I would probably use a nice Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio but like I said I didn’t feel like drinking white that night.

Also, I prefer to make my own beans from dry. There are several reasons for this too. 1, it’s way more economical than buying them in cans and 2, well there’s those pesky bad cans again. So it saves you money and helps protect your health. I don’t think I need any more reasons than that.

I found this stew to be really tasty and flavorful even without the mushrooms. I topped the stew with some Parmesan cheese and parsley flakes and served it with a nice field greens salad and multi-grain garlic bread. I would definitely make this one again. Enjoy!

RECIPE: Broccoli-Olive Penne Pasta

One of my loves has always been pasta. Any kind of pasta and I am there! However, pasta isn’t always the BEST food to eat especially if you’re trying to maintain your weight and eat healthy. I usually give into my pasta urges maybe once a month or so and I usually use something other than white pasta which is just glue really if you think about it. My usual pasta is one made with Quinoa. It tastes just like regular pasta without the ‘glue’ factor and it also has a little more fiber and nutrients.

This recipe, however, asked for fettucine, spaghetti, or penne pasta and my usual Quinoa pasta didn’t give me those options so instead I opted for a whole wheat, high fiber pasta that had flax in it too. It worked just fine.

Now this recipe was given to me by our good Swiss friend, Juerg, and it’s been translated by from his German cookbook so here we go.

Ingredients:

1/2 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces

fettuccine, spaghetti, or penne pasta

extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, chopped

1/4 cup of black olives (kalamata olives are best because they have more taste)

capers

Sea salt

fresh ground black pepper

fine chopped parsley

aged peccorino or parmigiano cheese (preferably the real stuff and not the pre-grinded stuff in the jars)

Now cooking this is easy. Obviously put the water on for the pasta and bring to a boil. It will take about 8-10 minutes for the pasta to be done which is perfect because that’s about as long as it will take to cook the rest of it all.

Heat up some olive oil in a saute pan and add the shallot and broccoli. Saute for about 4-5 minutes and then add the olives, capers, sea salt, pepper and parsley. Saute everything for another 5 minutes.

Drain finished pasta and put it in individual bowls and divide the mixture over the individual bowls. Sprinkle each bowl with the wonderful cheese and enjoy!

It’s a really simple, healthy meal that makes you feel like you’re being decadent but really you’re not. It’s all good stuff but it’s really super flavorful. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

RECIPE: The Great New Year’s Eve Raspberry-Lemon Souffle Disaster!

I thought about not even writing about this recipe because it went so wrong but the fact is that sometimes when we cook things don’t go as we hoped they would. In fact, sometimes they’re a down right disaster! This is one of those instances. This one actually made me cry. I kid you not! There are several reasons for this outburst and a few are obvious – it was New Year’s Eve and I wanted it to be perfect.

Other not so obvious reasons were the fact that I felt deep down that this was going to be the BEST souffle I’ve made all year plus there was the feeling that 2011 was just trying to kick me in the ass just ONE MORE TIME before New Year’s because personally in my family 2011 SUCKED! I am glad it’s gone but I really miss my sister who didn’t make it to 2012 with us all! With all that going through my little brain I think you can see where the outpouring of emotion came from. It wasn’t just a souffle. It was another cheap shot from 2011! At least that’s the way I saw it!

So anyway…on with the recipe. I found this recipe for Raspberry-Lemon Souffles at BonAppetit.com and my heart just started to sing. Man, those sound sooo good! I had to try it and it would be the BEST souffle ever made by moi! I was sure of it. I’ve mastered several different souffles this year so this would be a piece of cake…err…souffle!

So I whipped up the recipe exactly as it read and I cut no corners. I was extra careful to whip the egg whites just right and incorporate them into the raspberry goodness as per proper souffle protocol. Now as is the usual challenge I never have exactly the right size souffle dish any given recipe is asking for. I mean HOW MANY different size souffle dishes are there? I’ve got three sizes already and NONE of them were the right size. The ones that I had closest to the 3/4 cup souffle dishes that they asked for were more like 1 cup souffle dishes. Just a little big so no big deal. I would just cook them a few minutes longer which I’ve done before with my other souffles.

I carefully put them in the oven and awaited the glorious rewards that would be my BEST souffle EVER!! I would show 2011 that I was not going to be beat down once and for all.

As per my usually souffle protocol I quietly turned on the oven light and began to film what was happening in the oven so that I could share my triumph with you all. Matt and I were quietly talking and laughing at the fact that they all appeared to be breathing in the oven. Inflating up with a deep breath and then gentle breathing out a little only to breathe in again and inflate. Oh what fun to watch! Then the horror began (watch the video to see it beginning with your own eyes! Oh the INHUMANITY!)

I told you it was horrible! Immediately after that I opened the oven to rescue what I could of the mangled souffle. As I picked up the cookie sheet with the four souffles on it I lost my grip because it was too heavy to pick up with one hand. Naturally I tried to grab it with my other hand (which was, by the way, NAKED) and proceeded to not only burn myself but also dropped the whole thing in the oven and the apparently practically uncooked souffles spread their guts all over my oven, the floor and anywhere else it could ooze to. Here is another video of the carnage:

And another photo:

There is no more documentation after this because the tears in my eyes were clouding the camera screen and I was in need of a really BIG glass of wine at this point. I shut the oven off and walked away. Matt cleaned up most of the excess and the rest I left for the morning.

What went wrong? I have no idea. I followed the recipe to a tee. I didn’t change anything. I followed the usual process for making souffles. All looked perfectly fine but yet everything was wrong. They collapsed on themselves and they were completely liquid inside still even after the allotted cooking time (which I adjusted a little longer being my dishes were bigger than the recipe called for). I haven’t a clue what went wrong. If any of you have experience in souffles and have an idea of where it all went wrong I am listening.

My mom told me not to cry over spilled souffles and suggested that I could try it again. I told her I thought I might be too scarred to try this recipe again. She admitted to me that a lemon meringue pie had inflicted the same scars on her years ago and she’s never tried to make one again. Maybe I will try this one again but not until I have some idea of what went so terribly wrong. Needless to say I can’t tell you how it tasted but I did lick a spoon before putting it in the oven and it tasted really nice. I can only assume the finished product would have too.

All I have left to say is ‘Goodbye 2011, don’t let the door kick you in the ass!’

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

WINE REVIEW: Gruner Veltliner 2010 – Niederosterreich, Austria

My brother and his wife sent me this bottle of wine as a thank you gift so when I made my Pumpkin Ravioli I decided that was the perfect meal to pair it with.

This nice, dry white wine was really nice and matched great with the meal I made. It smelled of citrus overtones and had a crisp, clean, citrusy taste. I detected a hint of peaches as well. It is a light bodied wine that wasn’t at all overbearing and complimented my meal perfectly.

I would give this wine a rating of 86.

RECIPE: Cranberry Bars

A little too gooey but still yummy!

Now there are several reasons why I picked this recipe. First off, I still have frozen cranberries in my freezer from last Thanksgiving when there was a buy one, get one free at my local grocery store so I naturally want to use them before they go bad and get freezer burn. Secondly, it’s Christmas and they’re red and sweet so it seemed as good a time as any to make them and thirdly, I found the recipe simply called ‘Cranberry Bars’ in my November issue of the Vegetarian Times and said ‘Looks good!’

It’s a fairly easy and straight forward recipe but, of course, I did change a few small things. The first thing is that I didn’t feel the need to strain the cranberry mixture through a sieve. It felt like an unnecessary step that would just create a big mess only to strain out some healthy cranberry stuff from the final recipe. It didn’t seem logical (Yes, I have a little bit of Spock in me) nor did it seem that it would improve the recipe. Frankly, I thought it would make the recipe less desirable. I mean why would you strain out something like cranberry bits from Cranberry Bars? I am baffled and I digress. I do that sometimes…

The second little thing that I changed was that I added a little more sweetened condensed milk than the recipe called for. I added probably 10 ounces rather than the 7 ounces that was specified. I did this because 1) I had extra condensed milk left over that I don’t know what I am going to do with and 2) the mixture is REALLY sour when you taste it. I question the need for the lemon juice in this recipe considering the fact that cranberries have their own natural sour bite to them. So my suggest would to be either to leave the lemon juice out or just add more condensed milk to the mixture until it gets to your desired taste. (I would suggest tasting the mixture BEFORE you put the egg yolks in it just so you don’t have to worry about any weird raw egg related sicknesses or anything).

Another thing that attracted me to this recipe was the use of graham flour in the recipe. I mean, who doesn’t like a nice, sweet graham cracker crust? After all graham crackers were invented by a vegetarian, what’s not to like? J

Okay, so how did they come out? Well, they tasted really good however my messing with the recipe created a thick, soupy cranberry bar. My thoughts on this are that I really don’t think you need the lemon juice in this recipe at all. Cranberries are really sour on their own so adding the lemon juice creates a huge need to sweeten it up a bit which is what I attempted to do with adding the extra sweetened condensed milk. My suggestion, and the one I’ll probably try next time I make these, is to eliminate the lemon juice all together and then you probably won’t have to sweeten it up any more than the recipe calls for.

So there they are…messy, soupy Cranberry Bars. Please try them yourself and play with the recipe and then let me know how yours turned out and what you did to make the recipe your own. See you next week!