Friday, January 29, 2010

West African Vegetable and Peanut Stew

It's snowing in Nashville right now. Really snowing. My classes were cancelled, and we're allegedly expecting 6-10" before this is all over. It's the perfect day to hibernate with some of this stew that I made last night. Truthfully, this is much more my kind of stew than a heavy beef version. The curry peanut flavor together with the lime and cilantro takes me somewhere warmer, and all of the vegetables fill me up with all kinds of health benefits. This does take some time to come together, but it makes quite a bit more than the 4-5 servings the recipe stated, so you can eat it for days. Judging by the weather, that might be a good thing at this point!

West African Vegetable and Peanut Stew
source: Food and Wine via The Tennessean

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups frozen cut okra
1 cup frozen green beans or 1/4 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional)
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts (optional)
Lime wedges, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeños and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Whisk in the broth and peanut butter, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the sweet potatoes and carrots, cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are just tender, about 20 minutes. Add the okra and green beans, cover partially and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer the stew to bowls and serve hot. Pass the cilantro, peanuts and lime wedges at the table.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans

It should come as no surprise that I like to eat. However, this can make weight-maintenance and/or loss a challenge, especially when I crave some cheesy pasta dish. One way to avoid eating a whole box of pasta is to bulk it up with vegetables, like in this recipe. Potato gnocchi are cooked with sliced onions, spinach, tomatoes, and white beans. The beans add fiber and protein and are texturally-similar to the gnocchi, so you hardly know they're there. A sprinkling of good Parmesan and part-skim mozzarella gives you flavor and makes this feel indulgent. Serve with a mixed green salad.

Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans
source: Eating Well
Yields 6 servings

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 16-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 cups chopped spinach leaves (or kale, chard, or green of your preference)
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumped and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and water. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chard (or spinach) and cook, stirring, until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans and pepper and bring to a simmer. Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 3 minutes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Malaysian Lime-Coconut Swordfish

This weekend, Joe and I accomplished a seemingly impossible and challenging task for us. We ate every single meal at home. Granted, we painted the town red on Wednesday night for his birthday, thus somewhat necessitating some nutritional and fiscal recoup. But I don't know if we've ever gone a whole weekend without going out for a meal. I also branched outside of my norm, preparing not one but two new foods in this meal: swordfish and bok choy. I've eaten both of them before but never prepared them myself. I simply stir-fried the chopped bok choy with some garlic and sesame oil. The other side consisted of curry-roasted potatoes.

But the fish was the star of the show. The meaty swordfish steaks, grilled perfectly by Joe, were complemented by a phenomenal sauce. The sauce had multiple notes: citrus, sour, sweet, and spicy. The coconut milk gave the sauce body without being too heavy. I found myself dipping the bok choy and potatoes in some of the extra sauce. This sauce would go with any firm-fleshed fish or even chicken. The recipe originally calls to broil the fish, but we chose to grill.

Malaysian Lime-Coconut Swordfish
source: Cooking Light July 2000

  • 1/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thai chili paste (I doubled)
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) swordfish steak (about 1 inch thick) (I had 2 steaks totaling about 1 lb.)
  • Cooking spray
  • Cilantro sprigs (optional)
  • Lemon wedges (optional)

Preheat grill.

Combine coconut milk, cilantro, lemon zest, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chili paste, shallots, and garlic in a food processor; pulse 3 times or until coarsely chopped. Spread 1/2 cup shallot mixture evenly over fish. Grill, flipping once, until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve the fish with the remaining shallot mixture, and garnish with cilantro sprigs and lemon wedges, if desired.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mongolian Beef

Making Chinese food dishes at home is surprisingly easy and tasty without all of the grease once you get some of the ingredients. I know I put off buying hoisin sauce for quite a while, but now it's so easy to throw something like this together knowing that I already have most of the ingredients on hand. Besides, the two things I miss most when I'm eating healthfully are pizza and Chinese food. I doubled the amount of chili-garlic paste, which made it quite spicy. If you use the original amount, it will still have some heat. I served this on top of lo mein noodles, but next time, I think I will add some broccoli and serve it over brown rice.

Mongolian Beef
source: Cooking Light December 2009
Yield 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry (I subbed dry vermouth)
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (I doubled.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced across the grain
  • 16 medium green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces

1. Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring until smooth.

2. Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger, minced garlic, and beef; sauté for 2 minutes or until beef is browned. Add green onion pieces; sauté 30 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture; cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I've finally figured out the best way to make bread without a) destroying the kitchen and leaving my husband to clean up piles of flour or b) ending up with a funny bread machine pan-shaped loaf. Let the bread machine do the kneading work on the dough cycle, and then bake it in a normal loaf pan. This bread recipe comes from the venerated King Arthur Flour company, and I originally saw it on the back of a flour bag. Knowing that others loved King Arthur Flour for their recipes and the quality of their flour, I wanted to give it a try. This whole wheat loaf is dense but moist and perfect for coating a slice with some butter, fresh and warm right out of the oven. I will be making this recipe again.

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread
source: King Arthur Flour

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 1/3 cups (10 1/2 ounces) water
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (3 ounces) honey, molasses, or maple syrup
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) nonfat dried milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt


Mixing: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for "dough" or "manual.") Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 hour, or until it's crowned about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for about 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190°F at the center of the loaf). Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature. Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Last year, when I became pescatarian for Lent, I went through and bookmarked a bunch of vegetarian recipes from Epicurious. Occasionally, when I'm looking for inspiration, I remember those recipes and revisit them. This time I realized that I had the makings for one of the dishes and put it on the menu. Better yet, it even used the slow-cooker, though it could be adjusted for the stovetop. Based on some of the reviews, I bumped up some of the spices and added more, but it was still a tad on the bland side. Next time I would add more garam masala, curry powder, and cayenne powder. The website calls this "spicy", but there was almost no heat!

Chickpea and Spinach Curry
adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas, picked over
  • 8 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

In large bowl, combine chickpeas and enough cold water to cover by two inches. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain chickpeas, then combine in slow cooker with 1 cup water. Cover and cook on high, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 4 hours. Add spinach, tomatoes and their juices, coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, curry, cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook 1 hour more. Sprinkle in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir in cilantro and serve.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi

Much to my dismay, I tend to not branch out very much when dealing with seafood. Usually, if we have seafood, it's either shrimp, salmon, tilapia, or catfish. This week I took Joe to the grocery store with me, and he picked out two mahi mahi fillets for us to have. A quick Google search led me to this All Recipes recipe that used ingredients that I already had, and it was incredibly good. The glaze is tart from the vinegar but sweet from the honey and spicy from the ginger, while the soy sauce adds an umami flavor. Even though I only had two fillets, I used the full amount of marinade. I had never cooked mahi mahi at home and was pleased at what a meaty fish it was. It would hold up well on the grill in the summer. In the time it took for the fish to marinade, I got brussel sprouts and potatoes roasting in the oven, making this a quick supper as well!

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi
source: All Recipes

3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 (6 oz) mahi mahi fillets
1 tbsp canola oil

  1. In a shallow glass dish, stir together the honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic and olive oil. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper, and place them into the dish. If the fillets have skin on them, place them skin side down. Cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marinate.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove fish from the dish, and reserve marinade. Fry fish for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning only once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets to a serving platter and keep warm.
  3. Pour reserved marinade into the skillet, and heat over medium heat until the mixture reduces to a glaze consistently. Spoon glaze over fish, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chilaquiles Casserole

If there is one genre of food that I constantly find myself attracted to making, it's the "healthy Mexican-inspired casserole." Luckily, there are tons of recipes and variations on recipes of this sort, and, while I have the few that I make over and over again, I have yet to grow tired of experimenting. This version used grated zucchini, which intrigued me, and also provided a use for some enchilada sauce that had been sitting in my pantry for a while. The enchilada sauce adds most of the flavor and heat, though you could add bell peppers, jalapenos, or any other kind of vegetable or pepper to this casserole without any problem. I cut down the cheese by a 1/4 cup, and it was plenty cheesy. This will also make for great leftovers, if not a great picture.

Chilaquiles Casserole
source: Eating Well

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed (or a 15-oz can, whatever is available)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, frozen (thawed) or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 corn tortillas, quartered
  • 1 19-ounce can mild red or green enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (I used 1 cup of full-fat Cheddar cheese)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are heated through, about 3 minutes.
  3. Scatter half the tortilla pieces in the pan. Top with half the vegetable mixture, half the enchilada sauce and half the cheese. Repeat with one more layer of tortillas, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil.
  4. Bake the casserole for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Kale, Raisins, Walnuts, and Feta

One of the oft-repeated tips to eating healthfully and sustainably is to use meat as a side or garnish, which is exactly what I did last night. The central focus of the plate was this gorgeous vegetarian dish using the odd but filling spaghetti squash. On the side, I had a link of pesto chicken sausage. The kale added a hint of bitterness and a touch of color, but I loved the addition of the sweet raisins and salty feta. There's something to that sweet-salty combination. The original recipe calls for spinach, which would cook down a bit more than my kale, but any green you have around will do.

Spaghetti Squash with Kale, Raisins, Walnuts, and Feta
source: Cara's Cravings

1 large spaghetti squash, roasted, seeds discarded
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, sliced
10 oz of kale, chopped and stems removed
30gm walnuts
40gm raisins
1oz feta cheese, crumbled
pinch of nutmeg, salt & pepper

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over low heat. Remove from heat when they are fragrant and just beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the kale, cover, and let cook until the kale is wilted down, about 5 minutes.

Use two forks to remove the stringy flesh from the cooked spaghetti squash. Toss this with the kale and onions, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the walnuts and raisins and heat through. Mix in about half of the crumbled feta, and top with the rest of the cheese to serve.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hamburger Buddy

Oh, comfort food. Somehow, it's those things from childhood that we tend to crave during stressful times or the cold, dark days of winter. This meal is a take on Hamburger Helper but adds a healthy spin with the addition of a pureed vegetable mix of carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Perfect for a picky child or husband, this will fill you up but not weigh you down. With a side salad, you'll have even more vegetables on your plate! I found it a tad on the bland side, so it perhaps needs a little more thyme and salt, but you can add whatever other spices or herbs you think would go well with it.

Hamburger Buddy
source: Eating Well
Yields 6 servings

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, large ones cut in half
  • 1 large onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound 90%-lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles, (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or chives for garnish
  1. Fit a food processor with the steel blade attachment. With the motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and process until minced, then add carrots and mushrooms and process until finely chopped. Turn it off, add onion, and pulse until roughly chopped.
  2. Cook beef in a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften and the mushrooms release their juices, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in water, 1 1/2 cups broth, noodles and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Whisk flour with the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl until smooth; stir into the hamburger mixture. Stir in the sour cream. Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley (or chives), if desired.