Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Recipe ReDux: Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is "Creative Quick Breads." My immediate reaction to that was “Ok….what’s a quick bread?” Times like this it’s obvious that I have zero culinary background. As I soon learned, quick breads are breads (and cakes, muffins, cookies, brownies, etc) that are leavened without yeast. I grew up on cornbread almost every weekend, love making banana bread, and definitely have a soft spot in my heart for both muffins and pancakes. Turns out, all of these things are considered quick breads. I love quick breads!

I also love the combination of bananas and peanut butter. I’ve never been a fan of jelly or jam (something about that sticky, super sweetness just really turns me off), but I sure did grow up eating peanut butter banana sandwiches. Lately I’ve been on a powdered peanut butter kick and really wanted to play around with it. If you’ve never heard of it, powdered peanut butter is basically pressed and dehydrated peanuts. The great part about it is that you get all the peanut butter flavor (and protein!) with almost none of the fat. I highly recommend trying it out if you haven’t already. As with regular peanut butter, I look for brands where the only ingredient is peanuts. Some brands have added sugar, so I try to stay away from those.

Anyway, I decided to make some muffins using my favorite flavor combo. Why? Because holiday season is coming up, and when we’re prepping the big meals for days on end, who wants to think about making breakfast in the morning? These muffins can be made waaaay ahead of time and frozen. Either take them out the night before to thaw in the fridge, or give them a quick zap in the microwave for instant satisfaction. Make these now, and your holiday guests can wake up in the morning to hearty, delicious muffins that took you almost no effort at all.

I decided to add both chia seeds and walnuts to my muffins because I love to load up my breakfasts and I prefer a little crunch in my baked goods. Both of these are totally optional, or you can replace them with your favorite nuts or seeds.

What’s your favorite quick bread?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Mushroom Lentil Burgers

This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is all about freezer meals, which is fitting because I was just talking to my friend the other day about freezing foods and how many foods are freezable. Personally, I use my freezer whenever I can get away with it...which usually results in an over stuffed freezer full of random things. Oops.

You see, I love to make extras of most things and freeze the leftovers to have on hand. This works wonderfully for soups, stews, smoothies (they keep better in the freezer than in the fridge), cookies, and cakes. I love pre-portioning things out into single servings so that if I need dinner or if I need to pack a lunch for the next day, I already have food ready to go, all it needs is a little defrosting time (if it’s going with me for lunch) or a quick zap in the microwave to have a hot meal in minutes. This works especially well for me when I know a busy period of time is coming up soon and I can stock up in preparation.

Now I’m experimenting with slightly more intentional freezing. I’ve also been experimenting with veggie burger recipes. What I’ve discovered is that making a double batch of veggie burgers is just as time intensive as a single batch, so why not make extra, then freeze the leftovers for quick sandwich meals in my future?

This burger recipe treats mushrooms a little like ground meat. Throw it together with some lentils (for protein) and oats (for binding power) and a some delicious flavorings, then shape and bake. These burgers feel hearty when you bite into them, but are full of vegetable goodness, and even hold their shape pretty when when eating them.

What do you use your freezer for?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tomatoes with Oregano and Lime

Tomatoes are one of my all time favorite foods in the world. Right now, when fresh tomatoes are at every farmer's market, I go out of my way to buy them every few days. They taste sweet and juicy and I just can't get enough of them.

I told you about that time my friend and I got tons of free greens from the farmer's market. What I didn't tell you is that I also discovered my new favorite way to eat tomatoes. One of the farmers had slices of tomatoes to sample with lime juice, oregano, and salt. Oh, My. Goodness. The tangy lime, the sweet juicy tomato, and the hint of salt and oregano just go together perfectly.

What I love most about this recipe is that it lets the tomato shine in all its tomato glory. It's simple, delicious, ridiculously quick to throw together, and a great side dish to any summer meal. Feel free to mix up the measurements to your preference.

What's your favorite way to eat tomatoes?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Roasted Carrots with Carrot Green Pesto

This month's Recipe ReDux theme is Fresh from the Garden and it's all about freshly picked goodies. While I don't have a garden of my own at the moment, I dream about the day when I own a home with a backyard and a vegetable garden full of deliciousness. Until that day, I get my fill of fresh produce by visiting farmer's markets whenever I can. 

While the weather this time of year is not my favorite (I'm a winter baby, deal with it), the produce most certainly is. Berries, nectarines, watermelons, zucchini, cucumbers, string beans, okra, tomatoes - the list of wonderful summer produce goes on and on. But one thing that I don't think gets as much attention this time of year as it should is the humble carrot.

Carrots are available all year round, and for me, at least, they are most associated with the beginnings of soup or chili. But in the summer you get a two for one deal; carrots and their bright, fresh greens. That's right, much like radishes, turnips, and beets, carrot greens are perfectly edible! 

My favorite thing to do with the greens is to make a pesto and serve it along with roasted carrots. It's the perfect pairing; the greens are grassy and just a little bitter, while the carrots are creamy and sweet. They just perfectly compliment each other. I've also made crostini with carrot green pesto topped with sweet, roasted cherry tomatoes which was equally delicious.

Side note, the next time you're at your local farmer's market, check to see if they have any greens to give away. I recently stopped by the Union Square farmer's market with my friend Jenny and we watched in horror as the vendor ripped off the greens from a bunch of beets at the buyer's request. It turns out, many people opt to take off the greens from their produce, and the vendors are happy to give them to you. For free. And all you have to do is ask. This is basically how I scored an insane amount of beet and carrot greens last week and have been slowly making my way through them every since.

Anyway, the point is, the next time you see a bunch of carrots with some gorgeous greens, don't throw them away! Use those carrots and their greens to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Raw Strawberry Chia Mini-Pies

So I’ve been missing for a while. In my defense, May turned out to be a…tumultuous month. There were some emotional highs and lows, there were losses that are still difficult to accept, and there were some life changes that were sad, but ultimately for the best. But, I have to tell you, despite all of that, I was relatively content. Why? Because I loved what I was doing at work. I had 6 beautiful weeks of working in Pediatrics where I got to interact with and help tiny babies and adorable children, the people who truly understand me the best, and I now know that that is where I am meant to be. What I’ve learned is that I should never underestimate the power of simply loving what you do every day.

Now I’m back in adult mode and summer is upon us. With the rising temperature, my desire to cook and bake has all but left me. I just can’t bring myself to turn on any kind of heat source. I’m in full on salad mode for my meals, but sometimes I just crave a good, homemade, baked good at the end of the day. Enter this month’s Recipe ReDux theme: Pie Love.

I decided to make my pies raw, since I made them on an especially warm and humid day. Using ingredients that I tend to always have on hand, I made a variation on my No-Bake Oatmeal "Cookies" for the crust, then blended up some strawberries to make a sort of strawberry chia seed jam filling. The result is light, refreshing, and just decadent enough to satisfy all my dessert needs. With strawberry season starting up, I’d say now is the perfect time to make these.

In retrospect, I wish I had built up the sides of the mini pies a little more to hold the strawberry filling better. So, my recommendation is to make only 8 pies, and donate the extra pie crust to building up the sides and making little pie-cups. I suppose we could call mine tarts instead. Either way, they're still delicious!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Vegan Cheesecake

This month's Recipe ReDux theme is Spring Cleaning. It's all about using those things you find in the back of your cupboard that you've maybe been ignoring for a little too long. For me, this usually includes an insane amount of nuts and some chocolate that has "bloomed" some time ago. Well, that's a pretty good place to start, don't you think?

Another item I've had in my pantry forever and rarely use is coconut oil. I know, I know, it's a wonder ingredient that you can use anywhere, blah blah blah. But the thing is, I don't like coconut. Like, at all. So I use the oil sparingly, and occasionally I'll try it out in a recipe and the flavor is so strong and overpowering to me that I simply cannot eat it. This is not one of those recipes. This recipe hides the coconut flavor wonderfully, allowing me to slowly use up this pantry item, one spoon at a time.

Anyway, I took one of the many bags of cashews I usually have on hand, soaked them, and put them through a food processor with some maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil, and lemon juice. Then I poured the mixture over some melted then re-hardened chocolate deliciousness (you'd never know that chocolate had looked all funny just a few moments before!), stuck it in the freezer, and called it cheesecake. Surprisingly, it does feel a lot like cheesecake. Just chalk it up to the magic of cashews.

I've made this cheesecake as a single, whole pie before, as small individual sized cakes, and this time, as something in between. The cashews and chocolate make for an incredibly rich cake, so I highly recommend lightening it up with fresh strawberries. I also strongly suggest eating it in the sunshine on a warm day. But that's just me.

What's been hanging out in your pantry? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mushroom Lentil Ragout with Grilled Polenta and Sweet Pea Pesto

I'm on vacation this week. I have been vacation-less since September, and any small break I've gotten has been for Jewish holidays, which I promise are hardly vacation. The problem is that last week was Passover, and basically everyone I know took vacation last week, leaving me out in the cold. So I'm spending my week seeing all the doctors I might possibly need to see and being outside as much as humanly possible. Oh, and I'm taking full advantage of my parents' kitchen and cooking up a storm.

But even though this vacation seems very un-vacation-y, I can still treat myself. I figured now would be the perfect time to feature a fancy, resort-like recipe. In collaboration with Wynn Las Vegas resorts, I did exactly that. You see, Wynn Las Vegas recently launched their own recipes for vegan food options in their various restaurants. I love that vegan diets are being accommodated everywhere these days, and vegans (and vegetarians) aren't constrained to the side dishes and salads. I decided to make my own spin on the Mushroom-Polenta Cake with lentil ragout and sweet pea sauce from Switch Steak. I plated it up all fancy and I pretended that I was treating myself to dinner at a resort (instead of, you know, dinner in the backyard with my dad).

Now, I have to admit, this recipe is freaking awesome. I mean, I'm not usually one to toot my own horn. I like my food, I think it's pretty tasty, and I would certainly never share a recipe that didn't work. But this recipe...Oh my. It's on the same level of my Creamy Tomato Pasta. I just can't get enough of it! It is, without a doubt, Vegas-worthy.

The mushroom and lentil ragout is hearty and filling, with just a hint of spice. The grilled polenta rounds have a subtle smoke to them. The sweet pea and mint pesto just lightens everything up and perfectly fit the beautiful spring weather yesterday. Get a little bit of everything in one bite and you will be in heaven - vacation resort heaven.

This is my Vegas recipe. What's yours?