Friday, March 25, 2011

Irish Soda Bread, Weeknight Dinners, and Nutrifact #2

Yes, I am denying the fact that I should be finishing up an assignment that is due on Monday. It's just been too long since I've posted anything. Here are a few shots of the soda bread I made for St. Patrick's Day. Same recipe as in my first post, but I also made one loaf with half of the flour as whole wheat. Everyone actually liked that one best!

They looked like monstrous versions of those paper fortune tellers or chatterboxes.

This past week I've been pressed for time and so have made simple dinners. Monday was a pasta with in a brown butter sauce with leftover veggies thrown in. To brown butter, simply put the desired amount in a pan over medium heat and keep an eye on it. The goal is to make it foam, but not burn. A tasty second step would be to toast some nuts in it. I used my last precious tablespoon of pine nuts. I also added mushrooms, one slice of bacon (easily removed from the freezer!), blanched asparagus, some leftover chicken breast, and cracked pepper.

I snapped this picture while I was cooking, but once Ryan got home, we were both so hungry I didn't want to stop for a proper photo shoot.

Next, I made a salad recipe I found in this month's Cooking Light. Here is my modified version:

Tuna and White Bean Salad
Serves 2-3
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tomato, thinly sectioned
5-10 asparagus spears
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
4-6 slices cucumber, halved
2-3 cups lettuce
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tuna, packed in water

Cut off hardened ends of asparagus and steam covered for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, make dressing by combining first five ingredients. Place 1/4 cups dressing, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, tuna, and beans in a bowl and toss. Place about 1 cup of lettuce on each plate. Top with a few asparagus spears and about 1/2 cup white bean mixture. Serve with remaining dressing alongside.

Light and refreshing!

I regret that I have not had a chance to write another Nutrifact til now.

Nutrifact #2: Protein Intake and Satiety
Since I'm on campus for what feels like forever everyday, I am always trying to think of things to eat to fill me up for long amounts of time without overloading on calories. First, let's start with the basics. The recommended diet divides your caloric intake like so: 40-60% from carbs, 10-30% from fat (with <10% from saturated fat), and 15-30% from protein. Now, if you want to increase your satiety levels between meals and extra fiber isn't working for you, try consuming closer to 30% of your calories from protein. Most women need about 1800 calories if they are at least semi-active (which they should be), so this would translate to 540 calories per day from protein. Men on the other hand could get closer to 900, depending on how active they are.

The most effective way to add protein to your diet in such a way to increase satiety is to consume it at breakfast. Add an egg (6g protein/egg...and all in the white), Greek yogurt (14g protein/6 oz!), low-fat meat, or low-fat milk (1g protein/1oz).

Here are my favorite filling breakfast combos:
1/3 cup oatmeal cooked with water topped with a fried egg and 1 tsp butter (200 calories, lasts for about 4 hours)
6 oz lowfat vanilla Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup bran flakes and a few frozen berries (225 calories, lasts for about 4 hours)
1 piece toast topped with 1 tbsp peanut butter + 1 orange or other high-fiber fruit (190-250 calories depending on the type of bread, lasts for at least 3 hours)

All of these breakfasts combine fiber and protein to keep you going until your lunch break! Try it out!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blood Orange Pudding Cakes with Vanilla Custard and Blood Orange Caramel

As you can see, the mini muffin tins had quite a different result than my silicone mold. But after the initial frustration, I remembered that the secret to success is pretending like every accident is on purpose! Those who had tried my first batch earlier this week actually said these tasted better, and I think it is due to the visible (and accidental) crust formation and caramelization on top.

I was playing with the manual focus setting on the camera that day, so please excuse the slightly out-of-focus photo below (and the Irish Soda Bread shots soon to come). But I simply had to show you the beautiful combination of the reduced blood orange juice with the yolk/flour/sugar mixture.

The recipe coupled the cakes with a delicious and outrageously easy Vanilla Custard. I also decided to add the Blood Orange Caramel since we had enough oranges. It didn't properly thicken, but boy was it sweet.

The photo below was taken right before dessert was served.

My mother was putting together some fantastic Asian-flavored kebabs while I was making the dessert.

After a day of frustration with my limited camera and food styling abilities, I swore to learn more about the subject this summer. Anyone have a good book/website suggestion?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Freezer Magic and Picnics

Last Wednesday my mom and I spent the day cooking ahead for the coming weeks (sure to be busy with my last six weeks of the semester and my sister's wedding preparations!). We made Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage (click here for the recipe) and Green Chili Soup, as well as grilled chicken and London broil to slice up.

A friend joined me and Ryan for dinner that night and we ate one of the rigatoni dishes. It was a rousing success, I believe! I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts alongside.


You can see my stack of new plates in the background! White! They photograph so much better than my clear or black dishware. And you'll never guess how much...$1 each. I couldn't have been happier. About plates, that is.

I extended my freezing frenzy to the package of bacon in my fridge as well. I placed the slices on a big sheet of foil, rolling it up after each slice. This way when I need three slices for a recipe I don't have to feel like we need to eat the whole rest of the package for breakfast the next day (although I'm sure Ryan would disagree).

On Thursday, I baked my first successful upside-down cake. Ask my housemates from last year if you want to hear the story about my Nectarine Upside-Down Cake. This time, however, I made it with blood oranges, following a recipe I found on The Quinces and the Pea. I slightly reduced the sugar and will reduce the oil if I ever make it a second time.

Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Orange Topping
3 blood oranges

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
3/4 cup blood orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp orange zest (I forgot this)

Preheat oven to 350.

Zest oranges and set aside. Peel and slice oranges into about 1/4 inch thick slices. (I recommend buying blood oranges that look like normal oranges. The ones that have slightly red rind tend to be dryer and sourer and fall apart.)

Oil bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan. (Critical step!!)

Heat sugar and water for caramel in a small saucepan over medium heat, scraping any sugar from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, swirling occasionally, until it turns an amber color. This might take a while, so I recommend juicing the oranges for the cake while you wait and swirl.

Once the caramel is the right color, take of the heat and quickly add the butter, stirring with wooden spoon. Place back on the heat for a few seconds, constantly stirring. Quickly pour into pan, tilting so it coats evenly. (It will harden very fast, so work as quickly as possible!)

Arrange the orange slices on top of the caramel. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, juice, and zest. Slowly pour wet into dry and stir just until mixed.

Pour batter over oranges/caramel and bake for 35-40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in pan, then flip upside down to finish cooling.

As for those Grilled Chicken, Apple and Brie Sandwiches I told you about...they turned out dandy. It would have been nice to have some chutney to spread over the bread.

It was a beautiful day. I wish spring could last forever.

Today is gorgeous, too, so I must set aside my computer and enjoy it! I'm at my parent's house again...the day of the birthday celebration! I could hit myself for forgetting the bouchon tray I used to bake the pudding cakes...but I'll just have to use some mini muffin pans instead. I'll let you know how that goes!

Friday, March 18, 2011

In the Works

Spring break has given me the time for which I've been longing to bake and bake and bake. I don't have anything complete to post about today due to pictures being on various cameras and other silly things like that.

But here are some teaser shots of recipes to be posted soon!

The first is a dessert I'm formulating for my dad's birthday celebration on Saturday. Blood Orange Pudding Cakes with Vanilla Custard and Blackberries. I'm thinking of making some blood orange caramel to drizzle on top as well.

I've been going crazy with blood oranges lately. I also made a Blood Orange Upside-Down Tea Cake. Pictures to come soon!

This week I've had the luxury of being at my parent's farm most of the time. Photographing in natural light in their kitchen and back porch makes me never want to snap pictures on my stove-top again.

I made these mini baguettes for a picnic Ryan and I went on today for lunch...Grilled Chicken, Apple, and Brie Sandwiches!

I also have two Irish Soda Bread loaves in the oven right now to serve tonight at a St. Patrick's Day Party. That are looking beautimous, I must say, but the middles of the loaves are still a little soggy.

Look for more posts soon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pesto #2 and Mushroom Blini with Smoked Salmon

Having made my first pesto a mere three weeks ago, I can't stop imagining different combinations of ingredients to whirl about in my little food processor. This past week, the night before my two most monstrous midterms, I took a study break and created this pesto. Once again, pine nuts were out of the question. So, along with marvelously budget-friendly basil from Trader Joe's, I reached for pistachios. I also substituted lemon juice for 1 tbsp of the olive oil. This was my favorite pesto by far of the two I have made.

I unfortunately did not write down the ingredients at that moment, so this is my best guess.

Basil-Pistachio Pesto
4-5 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup pistachios
2 tbsp olive oil
juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients in food processor and puree.

Last night, I came up with dinner on the fly inspired by the mushrooms and smoked salmon staring at me from the back of the fridge. I had made blini once before, topped with smoked salmon, sour cream, and dill. So when I found this recipe for Mushroom Blini, I set to work.

I didn't change the blini recipe, except to use whole-wheat flour instead of white. For toppings, I set out sour cream, boursin, a mushroom saute I whipped up with the extra mushrooms, the leftover pesto, and dill.

I also served some Roasted Mini Potatoes alongside the blini. I simply tossed them in olive oil and sprinkled over 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe's and put them in the oven at 400 until I had finished making the blini (about 30 minutes).

Last Friday night, to start off my spring break, I set out to make a lemon meringue pie. However, I could not get the filling to thicken for the life of me! I ended up freezing it...and it still tastes delicious. But I will not let myself be defeated.

Does anyone have any good lemon meringue pie recipes for me or foolproof methods for working with cornstarch??

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hunger Is Real

I am back after a crazy week of midterms and can finally catch up on posts. As I mentioned earlier, I went to a conference about world hunger a couple weeks ago.

There are so many issues in the world to which we have become dead. Paradoxically, it is the magnitude of a problem that makes us ignore it. We assume there is nothing we can do. By ourselves. As individuals. So we forget about it in the chaos of our petty everyday to-do lists.

I may be sounding a little harsh. But I want to challenge you to consider what it means to be a steward of the earth. Here are some facts that might astound you. And they are intended to.

We have been producing enough food to feed ourselves since the 1960s, and yet 25,000 people die every day due to hunger and hunger-related causes.

If everyone in the world lived as Americans do, it would take the resources of 6.5 earths to sustain.

A child starves to death every 6 seconds.

963 million people go to bed hungry every night.

Hunger kills more than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

I am not trying to depress you. I am simply trying to open your eyes to an issue of paramount significance in the world. From what I gathered at the conference, here are some small ways you can help (unless you, unlike me, have trillions of dollars to fund a mass reversal of the economical condition of hunger-ravaged countries):

Volunteer at your local God's Pantry or soup kitchen.
Raise awareness by telling others about the issue.
Volunteer with the World Food Program or other organizations on the front line of attack against hunger.
Grow your own garden and live as sustainably as you can.
Buy from local farmers.
Go on trips to areas particularly affected by hunger (asking for financial help for trips of this kind also helps to raise awareness).
Choose to expose yourself to the issue and then channel your emotion into action.
Put the cause first and don't care about whether you get any credit for helping.
Make connections with people who are passionate about the issue.
Pool resources with others to help fund relief.

We must remember, just as with any big issue, not to get overwhelmed; rather, we should break it down into achievable units.

I recommend that you watch this video, made by a student who was at the conference. It might help you realize the gravity of the situation.

On a lighter note, the food at the conference was scrumptiously delicious. A bit ironic, I know, to have good food at a conference about world hunger. But it was all from locally grown organic produce (especially from greenhouses), and so modeled the support of local economies.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to take pictures of it until the last night. And even then, I ate my salad before I remembered. So you will just have to take my word for it that the salad was beautiful. It was composed of golden roasted beets (golden beets are amazing!) and micro greens (a mix of shoots and seedlings) with goat Feta cheese and honey mustard dressing.

The entree, pictured below, was Chicken Paupiettes with a Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing with Sauteed Cabbage, Vegetable Bundles (consisting of carrots and rutabagas), and Yukon Gold Rosti Potato Cakes.

For dessert, I was delighted with a Warm Empire Apple Cake with Organic Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Breakfast and Dinner

I have two very different recipes to post about today. First, I had been thinking about caramelization for the past few days after drooling over the recipe for Peanut Butter-Banana Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Glaze and A Caramelized Banana Disk by Cupcake Bakeshop. I MUST make them someday.

But the idea of caramelized bananas became a reality when I brought home an overripe banana from the conference this past weekend and it continued to brown away atop my kitchen cart. Yesterday morning, I caramelized it and served it over honeyed Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of granola for our breakfast.

 Caramelized Banana
1 banana
1 tbsp butter
Melt butter in a small frying pan. Slice the banana into it and let it cook on medium-low. When a nice brown casing forms on the bottom, flip them over until done. Don't let them cook too long or they will get mushy.

As for the second recipe, last night I was trying to find a good kale recipe to serve along with our Trader Joe Chicken Apple Chardonnay Sausages! I ended up basing it off of this recipe. I think Ryan liked it more than me, actually!

Braised Kale and Kidney Beans
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves (I was, horror of horrors, out of garlic and had forgotten about my refrigerated stuff. So I used ginger, since there were no onions in the house, of course.)
1 tomato, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
salt and pepper
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken broth
balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in large pot (The recipe called for a Dutch Oven. But, alas, I am not in possession of one.) over medium high heat. Add minced garlic and tomato and saute until fragrant. Stir in kale and broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil and then turn heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add beans. Drizzle over some balsamic vinegar. Stir gently. Cook uncovered until beans are heated and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. (The recipe also served them with poached eggs...which sounds delightful!)

Makes 6 servings
Nutritional Info:
Calories: 122
Fat: 3.1 g (Sat Fat 0.5 g)
Potassium: 573 mg
Carbs: 19.3 g (Fiber 7.2 g)
Protein: 6.4 g

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Happens When You Watch Chocolat

I feel guilty posting about chocolate after a weekend at a conference about world hunger (post to come soon). But Ryan and I watched the movie Chocolat last night and I was inspired. Yes, to open my own chocolaterie, but mostly to make thick hot chocolate. With a dusting of cayenne pepper. Mmmm...

This morning, for breakfast, I did it. I know...not the healthiest breakfast imaginable. But I did use skim milk...

Actually, I wasn't completely happy with the recipe and so will not post it...but here is the pictorial documentation! It was delicious, but a little lumpy. I need to work with the combination of the ingredients.

 Also, the night before I left for Guelph, I made a big batch of chocolate chip pecan cookies! Some to comfort Ryan while I was gone and some to appease my travel-mates.

I healthified the recipe of a good friend of mine to create these cookies. I thought they were wonderful. And so did Ryan and my comrades. However, Ryan did claim they went stale faster than normal cookies. I'm not sure about that...

Chocolate Chip (Pecan) Cookies (adapted from Eunice Logan Chocolate Chip Cookies)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening (I know, I know...right after that trans fat post too. But it works.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 3.5 oz package instant vanilla pudding mix
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
8 oz chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecan pieces (optional)

Soften butter and beat with shortening. Add in sugar and beat. Add eggs and vanilla and beat. Add baking soda and salt and beat. Add pudding mix and beat. Add flours and beat. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by teaspoons onto baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. Makes about 3.5 sheets full.

Nutritional Info (with pecans)
Calories (per cookie from 60 cookie batch): 88 (without pecans), 95 (with pecans)
Sat Fat: 2.2 g
Sodium: 76.9 mg
Carbs: 11.9 g (6.7 g sugar)
Protein: 1.2 g