Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Maple Chipotle Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Happy New Year everyone! I hope you rang in 2015 in a big way. I'm starting with a bold new snack for this month's Recipe ReDux.


The first Recipe ReDux of the year is "Start Smoking in the New Year" and it's all about smokey spicy goodness. To me, the very first thing I think about when you say "smokey" is chipotle chili. It's spicy, as chili peppers usually are, but it's also distinctly smokey. It adds depth of flavor that red pepper flakes or regular chili powder often lack.


I love pairing this smokey spicy flavor with something sweet to balance it. I love using it on butternut squash or sweet potato. This time I paired it with maple syrup. I added just a touch of cumin to round out the flavor, a dash of salt, and a bit of olive oil to help it stick. Then I drenched raw pumpkin seeds with the mixture and baked it off. The result is crunchy, sweet, spicy, and smoking hot - the perfect snack.


What's your favorite smokey spicy pairing?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Roasted Chickpeas


These days, I am too often torn between eating tasty food and cheap/free food. It’s the dilemma every student faces. Do I save money or eat healthy? The last two weeks have been especially challenging for me as I am doing a rotation in a smaller hospital that has no cafeteria. Instead, they provide staff with hot lunch every day, but few options for vegetarians. I can pretty much always count on there being white rice and steamed vegetables. That combination is boring, bland, and does not have any protein, but it's so hard for me to justify not eating the food provided. Rather than bringing in my own lunches, or spending a fortune eating out for lunch every day, I’ve been getting creative while still minimizing costs.

I’ve been bringing in things to mix into my rice and veggie plate. This usually includes salted pistachios for seasoning and crunch and a sauce or dressing of some sort for flavor. Or I would go one step further, roasting some chickpeas to provide that crunchy texture I’ve been missing, along with some much needed protein.

I love roasted chickpeas. They’re ridiculously easy to make, can be done with any flavor combination, and are addictively delicious. I love how crunchy they get and how the flavors you mix in with them stick so nicely. This batch is full of garlic, basil, red pepper flakes for some zing, and nutritional yeast (though Parmesan cheese would also be great here). They make a great snack or a fantastic addition to salads. I’ve been adding these to my rice and veggie plate, then topping everything with some version of my balsamic vinaigrette. Suddenly my bland, boring lunch seems pretty gourmet.


How do you dress up your lunch?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Chai Tea



I have to admit, I’m cheating a little bit with this month’s Recipe ReDux. You see, the theme is “Grab a Book & Cook” and we’re supposed to turn to page 42 (to celebrate 42 months of Recipe ReDux…and also the answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything) (sorry, I had to) of our favorite cookbook and make that recipe. But given my current living situation, I don’t actually have any of my cookbooks with me. I put them all in storage for the year since I just couldn’t choose which one or two should come with me to my tiny little room. Instead, the only food-related book I brought with me was The Flavor Bible, which is more like an encyclopedia of ingredients than a cookbook.

So I turned to page 42 and found the “Anise, Star” entry. Now, I’ve never cooked with star anise, but I’ve always liked the look of them. My mind immediately went to mulled wine (which I’ve already posted) or mulled cider (which I just wasn’t in the mood for). In both cases, I imaged a beautiful little star pod floating on top of a steaming mug of something delicious. Eventually, this something delicious became Chai tea.








Apparently most recipes out there for Chai tea don’t have star anise in it, but I found a few that do, and decided that was a good enough reason to start playing around with it. I love Chai tea and I love Chai lattes, but always find that when I order those at a coffee shop, they’re far too sweet for my taste. I love the idea of a spiced tea with just a bit of milk and a hint of sweetness to round it out. So I threw together some cinnamon, cloves, pepper, smashed cardamom seeds, fresh ginger, cloves, and of course, star anise. I cooked the mixture until it was bubbling and fragrant, then steeped some Darjeeling tea bags in it. The resulting tea is spicy and warm. I love adding hazelnut milk to get a little bit of a nutty taste to the tea, but regular milk would work wonderfully here as well. I think I’ve found my new hot drink for the winter!





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Savory Yogurt with Balsamic Tomatoes


I always used the think of yogurt as a sweet food.  Maybe it's because all the flavored versions are sweet and full of fruit.  Maybe it's because I used to associate sweet with breakfast, and yogurt was always a breakfast food in my mind.



Whatever the reason, I recently realized that my all-time favorite breakfast is not only savory, but it also features something distinctly yogurt-like.  You see, there is a special place in my heart for the classic Israeli breakfast of chopped salad, labneh sprinkled with zaatar, and a little bread to lap it all up. Labneh is a thick spread that I've heard compared to both yogurt and cheese.  Really, it's something in between.



The point is, I was recently inspired by my love of the savory labneh to look at yogurt in a whole different way. Yogurt is a great, easy snack, packed with good stuff. Greek yogurt is even better with a large wallop of protein thrown in there. While the fruit flavored ones are a fantastic snack, I also love the plain yogurt and how tangy it is. 



For the last few weeks, plain Greek yogurt and crackers has been a go-to breakfast or snack for me. I love the way plain, tangy yogurt pairs with sweet tomatoes. Everything is always improved with a little balsamic vinegar, in my opinion, but you can feel free to keep the tomatoes plain. I tend to buy Chobani since they're the most widely available, but any brand will work. Whatever brand you use, I highly encourage trying a savory twist on yogurt. You might even find a new favorite breakfast combo.



What's your favorite way to eat yogurt?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Minestrone Soup


This month’s RecipeReDux theme is “A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful,” which makes sense for November, because, you know, Thanksgiving. My immediate thought was minestrone soup. Now, for me, this memory is more of a late September/October memory than a Thanksgiving memory, but I’m thankful for it all the same.

I might have mentioned this in the past, but my favorite Jewish holiday is Sukkot. It happens every fall. We build a hut, or sukkah, in the backyard and we eat our meals in it for a week. I remember having fun decorating the sukkah with lights, strings of beads, and the longest paper chains we could manage as kids. I remember hosting my class in the sukkah every year. School was only a block away from my house, so we’d make a special, mini field trip to my backyard, where my mom would be waiting with snacks. But for me, the most memorable part of this beautiful holiday was always the minestrone soup.

Sukkot happens at the beginning of the fall season. The later it happens during the year, the colder it is and the happier I am. My favorite memories are eating in the sukkah at night, being cold, trying to huddle closer together at the table for warmth. Then, my mom would bring out the first batch minestrone soup of the year (we lived on that stuff all fall and winter long), and we would delightfully hunker down over our steaming bowls of soup and drink up the warm deliciousness. This is one of my all time favorite food memories.



The minestrone soup is no longer a magical soup for me, now that I understand that my mom made it because it was ridiculously easy to put together, but it still holds those wonderful memories in it. I should note that my family calls it minestrone because that’s what it most resembles, but my mother is a Hungarian Jew who was just trying to find a soup all three children could enjoy, so it’s not the most authentic recipe. And that’s totally fine by me.

This soup calls for a couple of canned goods, some fresh veggies, and not a whole lot of time on the stove. Not only is it comfort food for me, but it’s a very dorm-friendly recipe, one that I plan on using all winter long. While there are some basic ingredients that make this soup what it is, there are also a number of optional additions that we’ve added in the past, depending on what we have on hand. Here I’ve made the most basic version, but I’ve also included a list of additions.

One thing to note is that there are no noodles in this minestrone. I don’t know why, but noodles in soup have never really appealed to me. They tend to feel like mushy blobs of nothing, so I leave them out. Growing up, we’d sprinkle croutons over the soup instead to give each bite a nice little crunch. Delicious.



What food memory are you thankful for?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Five Spiced Sweet Potatoes



This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “Spooky Spices.” The idea is to tackle a spice that has been haunting (or intimidating) you. For me, the choice was immediately obvious: Five Spice Powder.

I don’t know what it is about this spice mix, but it’s always intimidated me. It just smells so...unfamiliar. So this month I decided to tackle this spice blend. The Flavor Bible managed to fail me completely (it lists chicken, pork, duck, and stir fries as good flavor pairings) and my initial google searches for recipes turned up chicken or noodle/stir fry dishes. While I’m always game for a good stir fry, I’m also currently living on a student’s budget (refer back to my last post on my tiny room for details), so I decided not to go all out on some big or elaborate recipe. Finally, I stumbled across a simple, beautiful, easy, and best of all, cheap recipe for sweet potatoes with five spice powder. Perfect.


Turns out this dish is fantastic! The lime juice adds a little tang and the five spice powder helps bring out the sweet earthiness of the sweet potatoes. It’s also ridiculously easy to make. I made this in just over half an hour, in my toaster oven. Easy to make, easy to clean up, and definitely easy to eat! Turns out this spice isn’t so spooky after all

What spice scares you?




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Beginnings (And A Tiny Kitchen!)

Tonight is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I think it’s fitting that this year it coincides with the beginning of a very exciting opportunity for me. As you know, about a month and a half ago I moved from a pretty spacious one bedroom to a tiny studio with barely any kitchen. Before the move, I pared down my kitchenware considerably, putting some of the less essential things in storage.

The kitchen I worked with all of August
The big news is that I have since moved again! I had a last minute opportunity to start my Dietetic Internship six months sooner than originally planned, so I once again packed up my life and moved. This time, I’m living in less that 100 square feet, in a dorm room. Which means that I once again had to weed through my kitchen and pick out just a few, absolute, essential pieces to take with me. 

My essential pantry items!


Now, I’ve lived in dorms and apartments with fully functioning kitchens for the last 6 years, and as you might know by now, I very much enjoy cooking food. So you better believe that I’ll be using the communal kitchen regularly, though I also rigged up a small personal kitchen space in my room for daily use. All this means that my kitchen supplies have to be 1) extremely portable and 2) significantly reduced. So I came up with a list of my absolute kitchen essentials:

My new digs!

Knives: Good quality knives make life easier. However, since this is a temporary set up for me, I brought my B-list knives (and will slowly go crazy over the next year using them). Either way, there are only 3 knives that you really need; a paring knife (though if you’re desperate, you could skip this one), a serrated knife, and a chef’s knife (the bigger and the heavier the better, in my opinion, and definitely the most important of the three). Ditch the huge set and just take these.

Cutting Board: I only need one. I love my wood cutting board, which just happens to be small and portable. If I ate meat or fish, I would add a similarly sized plastic cutting board as well. But I don’t, so only the one is necessary.

Pots and Pans: Because I am in a dorm, with limited storage, cooking for one, this list is different than what I would consider essential in a permanent kitchen. I brought with me a small, non-stick pan, and a 4 quart saucepan with a lid. That’s it. I would LOVE to have brought my 10 inch cast iron skillet, which I use ALL THE TIME, but it’s heavy and not particularly portable, so into a box it went along with all my larger scale pots and pans.

Baking: I rarely bake. At most, I roast vegetables in the oven. Since I have a toaster oven anyway, I figured I would keep my baking supplies to things that fit in there. So, I have a square cake pan, the roasting tray that came with the toaster, and tons of tinfoil. That’s it!

Utensils: One wooden spoon, one silicon spatula, and one set of tongs are all I need to accomplish what I want. Oh, and my large strainer, which I can use to drain beans, pasta, or cold brewed coffee.

Appliances: I happen to have a Cuisinart immersion blender with several attachments that cover most of my bases. I’ll be bringing all of those with me, minus the whisk. I also have my aforementioned toaster oven, an electric tea kettle, and a mini fridge. When it gets colder out I’ll probably bring my crockpot back from my parents’ house (but it’s not necessary yet). I might change my mind and bring in my personal blender later, but for now this is all I’ve got.

Eating: I’m bringing plates, bowls, and silverware for 2. I use mason jars as food storage and decided that they can totally double as drinking glasses. Again, I’ll be living in a dorm room, so space for both storage and guests is limited. But this way I can handle having a friend over or a weekend guest. If for some reason I am feeding more people than that, I can always grab paper plates and plastic cups and silverware from any store.

Misc: Can opener, vegetable peeler, scissors, and measuring cups and spoons are all on my must-have list. Also on that list are mixing bowls (minus the largest two of my set) and food storage containers, which for me is the aforementioned jars and also my handy glass tupperware.


That’s it! And, with the exception of the appliances, it all fits rather nicely on this little rolling cart for maximum portability. I plan to take the whole thing, roll it down the hall, cook up a storm, clean up, and roll it back to my room at least once a week. Needless to say, it will be very interesting to see how this next year of tiny living (and blogging!) goes.

Oh, I also moved from this view:


To this one:


Sigh.  It's only one year.

If you had to pare down your kitchen to the absolute bare essentials, what would be on your list?



Wishing everyone has a happy and sweet new year!  Here's to new adventures!