Sunday, March 22, 2015

#Thinspiration

The title of this post, #Thinspiration, is perhaps my least favorite hashtag that exists aside from "#CleanEating" (I washed my apple before I smothered it in homemade dark-chocolate peanut butter spread, does that make it clean eating?). All over Pinterest and Twitter are these horrible posts of women and men with the bodies of Greek gods and goddesses flexing in excellent lighting -- each one captioned "#Thinspiration."

By now you've got to know that I am a huge proponent of healthy eating. Nutrition education and preventing childhood obesity are two of my biggest passions. But hear this: YOU DO NOT NEED TO INSPIRE YOURSELF TO BE THIN. You need to inspire yourself to do everything in your power to live a healthy life. You need to be good to yourself, respect your body and understand that it's okay to eat a cookie more than once a month. If you want to inspire yourself to get in shape, that's FANTASTIC. I'm cheering you on and will continue to do so until you reach and exceed your goals, and even if you don't I still offer you a high five.

But you do not need to be thin.

The only time I approve of #Thinspiration is when it involves a recipe. That faux-Alfredo is a prime example--it's not good to eat tons of butter and cheese and heavy cream. So I gave spaghetti Alfredo some #Thinspiration and a healthy meal evolved.


So too with this recipe: #Thinspiration Shepherd's Pie. Traditional shepherd's pie involves lots of ground lamb and creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. My version goes for lean ground turkey, tons of fresh veggies and cauliflower mashed potatoes. Still totally delicious, so much healthier for you.

The cauliflower mashed potatoes do have a few tablespoons of butter in them, but real butter without any weird chemicals or preservatives is infinitely better for you than creepy margarine substitutes.

Comfort food shouldn't make you feel guilty when you eat it and shepherd's pie is ultimate comfort food. Also it keeps really well in the fridge or freezer, so you can pull it out on a night when cooking a meal seems like an insurmountable task. Feel free to add some chopped up green beans to the veggie mixture; if I could find them in Spain I would have.

Ingredients:
For the mashed potatoes
2-3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium head of cauliflower, broken up into florets
4 tbs. skim milk
3 tbs. butter
2 tbs. Greek yogurt
1 tsp. garlic powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the pie filling
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. flour
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
3-4 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 c. English peas, fresh or frozen
3/4 c. sweet corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned (rinse before using if canned)
3 tbs. EVOO

1. To make the mashed potatoes, cover the potatoes and cauliflower with water and simmer until very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and remove to a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and mash to desired consistency.

2. In a large saute pan, heat the EVOO over medium high heat. Once it shimmers, add the onion and carrot and cook just until they begin to take on color, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir to combine.

3. Add the ground turkey and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 3 more minutes. Sprinkle the meat with flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute.

3. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary and thyme. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.


4. Add the corn and peas to the mixture and spread evenly into a large baking dish. Top with the cauliflower mashed potatoes and smooth evenly over the top, sealing the edges.



5. Bake at 400F for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack and let sit about 10 minutes before serving.

 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rosemary's Baby

I know I just posted yesterday, but I'm sick and I'm bored and I really don't feel like studying for my Spanish certification exam so consider yourselves very lucky.

That being said, because I am sick and cranky and can't hear out of my left ear, this will not be a fun and bubbly post. I'm too grumpy.

Anyway.

Sometimes I get all into making a fancy main course like a whole roasted chicken or shepherd's pie (coming soon to a blog near you) and I end up with zero inspiration for the side dishes.

I'm already worn out from ripping errant tail feathers out of a chicken carcass or attempting to skin fish so the last thing I want to do is whip up a batch of cranberry and almond wild rice or make some homemade mashed potatoes.

Therefore, I bring you these little gems. They're beyond easy and also, happily, beyond delicious: they're rosemary and garlic smashed potatoes. I made these to go along with some baked salmon for Tommy and he's been asking me to make more ever since. I recommend making a large batch because not only do they reheat exceptionally well but they would also be fantastic as part of a breakfast skillet with sausage, eggs and asparagus.

Do yourself a favor and only use fresh rosemary for these. If you try and use dried the flavor won't be the same at all really and they won't be great. Also, don't overcook the taters when you boil them or they'll just fall apart during the baking stage.

Also fun, these are kosher for Passover! I know, that hideous holiday is creeping right up on us. Because my parents are the world's greatest and my mother is Queen of the Care Package, I received a box of Manischewitz goodies including egg matzoh, matzoh ball soup mix and honey cake. I'm going to try to keep K4P but we'll see how that goes. At least I can inflict some minor damage on my intestinal system with the supplies my parents sent me. I'm so loved.

Ingredients:
10 small red potatoes, scrubbed
1/3 c. EVOO
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Cook the potatoes, completely covered in water, until tender--about 20 to 25 minutes.

2.  Remove the potatoes, cool and drain on a clean dish towel for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

3. Carefully smash the tops of each of the potatoes with a measuring cup or the palm of your hand (carefully!!!) until each potato is about 1.5" thick.


Drizzle the EVOO evenly over and under all the potatoes and distribute the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper among them.



4. Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Souped Up

If you know me at all, you know my feelings on souped-up vehicles which is to say: I view them with crushing scorn accompanied by an eye-roll so fierce that my eyeballs threaten to get stuck facing opposite directions in their sockets.
Something like this.
Your matte paint job reminds me of long, fake nails with a pink-tinged French manicure. Your lack of a muffler makes me want to call the cops and report you to the Department of Motor Vehicles for some unknown violation (yeah, I'm THAT person). Your absurd yellow halogen headlights are not only supremely stupid looking but incredibly dangerous for all oncoming traffic. Your car, as a whole, inspires me to open my own chop shop where I use the 3-pound meat cleaver my dad got as a gift from his younger bother where I service only your car and by service I mean hack that godforsaken thing into bits and then recycle it, piece by piece, while you watch.


Souped up cars are not my thing.

But souped up cold remedies sure as hell are. Oh yes my friends, I am on my second ear infection of the school year. My left ear is throbbing with pain and I imagine an inside view of my sinuses looks like a water park clogged with sodden autumnal foliage. Take a second and picture that.

I've told you all before that when I'm sick I am a fiend for soup. I love soup so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant (credit: Tracy Jordan). I especially love this soup, which is something of an acquired taste.

Because as much as I hate dumb, souped up cars, I FREAKING LOVE KOREAN FOOD. Yes, that was a big jump, but you will soon learn why.


I am blessed to have not one but two half-Korean friends who introduced me to the wondrous joy that is K-food long ago. From hot stone bowls to fresh tofu to old kimchi to fish cakes to tiny chili-covered fish to unpronounceable baked goods filled with bean curd and mango, I love it all. The gigantic Korean grocery H-Mart is my happy place and I fully enjoy being one of three white people when I visit.

I also fully enjoy when either of my friends or their Korean family members cooks for me. I am a total mooch and I will certainly invite myself over when they are having Korean barbecue. I actually have requested lunch that my friend Tammi's mother cook me a special lunch on more than one occasion and because Tammi is a kind soul she relays that message to her mother Kai and I get to stuff my face.

One of my favorite things that Kai makes is a soup called miyuk gook. It's a really simple combination of broth, seaweed, cooked rice and bits of beef. Tammi always eats it when she's sick and it's become one of my favorite comfort foods when I'm feeling under the weather as well.

Of course if you're not super into seaweed it might not be your jam, but I am a huge fan of that weird salty stuff and have been known to snack on sheets of plain nori paper so...

This is a bastardized recipe for that incredibly comforting soup. It comes together really quickly, and if you don't have any beef lying around you can certainly leave it out.

Now I'm going to go back under my quilt and watch 8 more episodes of Friends. I hate being sick.

Ingredients:
2.5 c. dried miyuk seaweed, cut into strips (can be found at most Asian groceries or specialty foods stores)
1 tbs. sesame oil
3 tbs. soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
About 4 oz. beef, drained of blood and minced
6 c. water
1 c. cooked white rice

1. Rehydrate the miyuk in a large bowl of water for about 20 minutes. It will grow substantially so use a good-sized bowl.

2. While the seaweed is soaking, sautee the beef with the sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic until not quite cooked through.

3. Remove the seaweed from the water bath, drain, sprinkle with kosher salt and rinse thoroughly.

4. Add the miyuk to the beef and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add the water and the cooked rice and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 20 minutes and serve immediately.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Whitefish Privilege


Go out to eat at any restaurant with a good selection of fish on the menu. Listen to the tables around you ordering, or the waiter detailing the specials list.

A picky diner will want to be assured that the fish they haven't heard of is whitefish. A waiter will make sure to note the chef's whitefish of the night.

Beloved for its mild taste and firm, flaky texture, whitefish is given privilege above most other fish.

Certainly above the lowly sardine (fantastic when cooked fresh) or lesser-known varietals.
Whitefish can hold its own against big players like salmon and tuna but it unceremoniously stomps on all the other fish out there to eat.

This is a story about whitefish. Maybe.

Honestly, I have no idea what I bought from the Mercado. It was just fish, and unfortunately it still had all the bones still in it. Guess who has two thumbs and learned how to (badly) fillet a fish so dinner could get on the table? This girl.


This fish is incredibly easy to cook because it is poached -- simmered slowly in a seasoned bath until it is perfectly cooked from the inside out.

Although according to Willy Wonka, (the one in the book) nothing is truly poached unless it has been stolen from the woods in the dead of night.

I added green onions, ginger, garlic and crushed reds to my poaching liquid but you can feel free to add and subtract in any way you would like. Star anise pods, galangal and thai basil would put a nice Pacific-rim touch on the fish.
I served what was left of the fish with this mountain of bok choy.

You also have a lot of freedom in the type of fish you want to use: snapper, flounder and halibut are a few good choices. Tilapia might be a little too fragile.



A note: make sure that the heat is down really really really really really I cannot stress this enough really really low on the saucepan. You don't want the fish to cook too quickly; there should just be small bubbles around the outside of the pan.

Also you might notice there is no final "after" picture of the meal. That's because I dropped my plate on the ground and it didn't look too pretty after that. (PS: This happened like 2 months ago and I'm still not over it. I'm just thankful something like this never happened when I was waitressing over the summer.)

Ingredients:
8 green onions, chopped
1 1-inch piece ginger, sliced, plus 1 tsp. grated
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or to taste)
4 6-oz. boneless, skinless pieces of fish
2 tbs. canola oil
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sherry or red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Fresh cilantro or parsley for serving

Directions:

1. Bring 4 of the green onions, the sliced ginger, 1/4 tsp. of the red pepper, 1 tbs. salt and 3 cups of water to a low simmer (tiny bubbles!!!) in a medium skillet.


2. Season the fish with 1/2 tsp. salt and add to the skillet. Cook until the fish is opaque throughout, 10-12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine the canola and sesame oils, soy sauce, vinegar, grated ginger, remaining green onions and remaining crushed red peppers in a medium bowl. Let marinate for about 5 minutes.

4. Serve the fish on top of steamed jasmine or white rice, sprinkled with the parsley or cilantro leaves and the green onion relish.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Let's Get Baked

Sunday is a perfect day, in my opinion, to bake. No, not the kind that's legal in all the fun states, the kind with measuring cups and flour and butter and sugar.

Actually, I prefer my kind. Not only does the high last longer (very few things bring me greater joy than watching a perfect batch of cookies come out of the oven), but the rewards are far greater: you get to eat something delicious. Also you don't end up laughing hysterically at an episode of My Name is Earle and wondering how you got there.

Now to be fair, if you want to bake and then bake (your choice of what bake comes first), these cookies will probably taste even more out-of-this-world. My only request is that you let a grownup handle the oven and don't use any heavy machinery.

These cookies are perfectly wintery. The oatmeal is toasty and soothing and the dried cranberries add a much-needed shot of bright tartness to these dull, grey days we have to slog through until Spring decided to get her shit together and show up.

Not only that, they're pretty damn easy to make as far as the world of cookie baking goes. No refrigeration or fancy ingredients required, no need to ice pretty designs or do anything more than dump a tablespoon full of dough onto a greased cookie sheet.

I used baking chocolate to drizzle over the tops of these cookies but you could make life easier on yourself and use white chocolate chips instead. I probably will the next time I make these. I recommend using very high-quality white chocolate in these cookies, as the cheaper brands have a nasty, artificial flavor to them. At home, my favorite white chocolate is the Whole Foods brand that comes in chunks, priced per pound.

I also recommend using dried cranberries that are lower in sugar, so not Craisins, for example. Their tartness is one of the nicest things about these cookies.

When I make these again I'm considering adding a little bit of orange extract and topping the cookies with a little bit of orange zest. If you're feeling adventurous, feel free to go ahead and do this. If not, that's okay too. These cookies are extremely delicious-as is but also serve as an excellent blank palette if you're feeling inspired. Dark chocolate chips, chopped pecans, toasted coconut and dried blueberries all could be incredible additions.

So go ahead and bake up this Sunday. It's been a long week. You deserve it. Hope you've got some episodes of Workaholics on demand...

Ingredients:
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups uncooked quick cook oats
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted, optional

12 oz good-quality white chocolate chips (or chunks)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Beat butter and sugars together until smooth and well-combined. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix well.


2. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the wet mixture and mix just until all the flour is incorporated. DO NOT OVERMIX. 


3. Fold in the white chocolate chips, walnut pieces and cranberries.

4. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a well-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just barely golden brown -- they should actually look a little undercooked in the center.

*5. IF NOT USING WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS: Let cool for a few minutes while melting the white chocolate in a double boiler. Cookies should no longer be hot to the touch when drizzling the white chocolate. Add another sprinkle of crushed walnuts on the chocolate if desired.







Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I'm Quin(oa) on You

If you know me at all, you know that I'm more than just keen on quinoa. I frickin love that stuff, and I don't know why. Maybe it's the nutty, toasty taste or the slightly crunchy texture. Maybe it's the 45 grams of fiber per serving or the crazy amounts of protein. Maybe it's just because I feel like I did hot yoga for 6 hours after eating just one serving of it (seriously, there's no better way to feel superior than to eat quinoa).

Sadly, Spain has not jumped on the grain train quite yet. Apart from the ubiquitous rice and couscous, (the food so nice they named it twice) it's hard to find any cool grains out here. Luckily, I have a mother who loves me and she sent me a bag of quinoa in a care package. Good thing too, because the last care package had about 4 pounds of Halloween candy in it.

As such, I have been carefully parceling this quinoa out serving by serving, hoping to make it last as long as possible. Then I created this recipe and it all went out the window. This recipe is so good it's a double-edged sword. I call it a power bowl because it has every ingredient you need to power through a long day or re-energize after a workout. Tommy thinks that name is pretentious and it sort of is but what do you expect from a girl who wants her funeral to be held at Whole Foods?

The way I make this recipe is vegan but if you want to add chicken, go for it. A lot of other vegetables would taste good too: snow peas, bean sprouts, edamame, you name it. The sauce itself is also pretty flexible in terms of spice and sweetness. I like a relatively even balance of flavors but it's totally up to you.

To save time I usually stab the sweet potato with a fork a few times and stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes or so. If you do that, this recipe only takes about 20 minutes to put together completely.

Eating this power bowl makes you feel kind of absurdly healthy so feel free to combat that with a dozen or so Oreos. It's what I like to do.

NOTE: I did have more and better pictures of them but this genius lost them somewhere on the depths of her computer. Stay tuned.

Ingredients:
For the Bowl:
1 c. quinoa, cooked according to instructions
1 medium sweet potato, steamed until soft and cubed
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. raw baby spinach
1 c. firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 tbs. ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. neutral flavored cooking oil

For the Sweet and Spicy Sauce:
1 tbs. Sriracha
1 tsp. honey
1 tbs. sunflower seed oil
1 tbs. sesame seed oil
Juice of 1/4 lemon

1. Heat the oil in a large sautee pan over medium-low heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add the broccoli, stir, cover and cook for about 3 minutes or until bright green.

2. Meanwhile, season the tofu cubes all over with kosher salt and pepper. Add to the sautee pan with the broccoli and cook, stirring often, until the tofu is golden brown.

3. Add the spinach at the very end and cook just until wilted. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with the quinoa and cubed sweet potato.

To make the sauce: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour over the power bowl, whisking constantly.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cold as Rice

I genuinely feel sorry for all of my friends and family in the States right now. I do not envy you the current, fearsome cold snap that FROZE Niagara Falls and dumped so much snow on the Northeast that Mayor Martin Walsh of Boston in a public statement legitimately encouraged people to stop jumping out of their second-story windows into the drifts.

Today in Almería it was so warm that I walked around without a coat on. Tommy currently has about 40 sprouted watercress seedlings on our front terrace. I would not trade with you guys for all the paella in Valencia (although I do envy your central heating in a fearsome way).

It's hard to want to do much more than huddle around a fireplace with a gallon of tea and a heated blanket when the weather is so nasty, but you do have to eat somehow. And since driving conditions across much of the country are incredibly dangerous, it's better to cook at home rather than order in and force some poor delivery kid to fight icy roads or go out to eat and take the risk yourself.

Thusly I present to you a 30-minute meal that will warm you up ("stick to your ribs," my mom would say), cost you very little and utilize probably what you already have in your fridge at home: brown rice primavera.

Primavera means spring in both Spanish and Italian, so while the weather outside might still be frightful, this recipe loaded with bright greens will help distract you for a short while. Typically, primavera is a pasta dish. Subbing the pasta with brown rice, however makes it much healthier and gluten free, if that's your jam (#Gluten4Life). This recipe comes together even quicker if you use a rotisserie chicken but you could also just use any chicken you have on hand; give it a quick sauté with EVOO, salt and pepper and you're good to go. Also feel free to add any other veggies you have lying around that need to be used up. I can see zucchini and carrot ribbons both being very tasty. If you want to get crazy, sub the brown rice for quinoa or another grain. It'll be good no matter what most likely

Ultimately, keep your chins up. The cold weather won't last forever, unless you are unfortunate enough to live somewhere like Saskatchewan. Just remember how miserable you are now when you're complaining about humidity in August. Really, which would you prefer?

Ingredients:
1 c. brown rice, cooked according to directions
2 tbs. EVOO
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and chopped into 1.5" spears
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 c. chopped baby spinach leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. parmesan cheese to serve

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant.

2. Add the asparagus and cook just until bright green and tender, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add peas and continue to cook for another few minutes.

3. Stir in chicken and rice. Add the spinach and stir until it is just wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan.