Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A big ball of meh.

Had the parentals over for dinner this weekend, something it seems I don't do often enough. I was working with a few restrictions (no bell peppers, no citrus, no pork since they had it the night before).
I had been on a mad hunt for verjus (or verjuice, but verjus sounds much more sophisticated, non? Plus it's how I heard about it first, so that's the term that sticks in my memory.) since I thought I could take advantage of it's acid type flavors to use in place of citrus juice versus vinegar which is TOO acidic and vinegary for many recipes in my opinion. I finally found some at Andronico's (thanks Chowhounds) but then didn't even end up making chicken paillard, which is what I had planned.
Because I was now stuck rummaging through cupboards and cookbooks for some other interesting variation of "chicken breast," I had to make do. I found a raspberry chicken breast recipe similar to this one, and altered it based on what I had.

The recipe actually called for raspberry vinegar (I had fig), Worcestershire sauce (I had!), red wine (I had, but thought port would go better with the fig), and garlic (I only had powder - who doesn't have garlic?!?!). I marinated it for an hour or so in that mixture which didn't seem to be long enough. Grilled it up (and yes, the marinade does burn) and it turned out okay. I wasn't wild about it, but everyone else said it was good and they ate it, so you know. It's not poison at least. Maybe next time reserving some of the marinade and cooking it down to use as a drizzle on top would make me happier.

The next semi-fail came in the way of Ina's string beans with shallots. The recipe calls for three shallots which seems like a lot to me. I knew I had one shallot at home so I picked up one more. Only to find out once I arrived home, that not only was the garlic gone, but so was my other shallot. Having roommates is such a surprising and action packed way of life sometimes! So now, with only a third of the required shallot, I made do. Guess what, the recipe could've used more shallot. Again, it was still a hit and everyone ate it all, but I was unimpressed. I mean, nothing is Aylene's green beans aside from Aylene's green beans, but I did at least want to TRY to branch out.

Finally - a recipe I have had bookmarked for YEARS. And it's not like I forgot about it. It's in my bookmarks, so every time I start to type "foodnetwork" it pops up as an option. Yippee, I was finally making it!!!! And hey, guess what, I totally didn't like it. It was more cheese than cauliflower and I didn't think the flavor was good at all. Again, everyone else liked it - was I having an off tastebud night or am I just too critical? Don't answer that please. At least now I can let go of the dream. Dad doesn't like cauliflower much, but even he liked this (not too surprising since seriously, there were more bites that were just cheese and no veggie at all). I did tweak it a bit though. . . . me and my fat free half and half. . . .

Cauliflower Goat Cheese Gratin
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups (1 pint) of ff 1/2 and 1/2
1/2 pound Monterey Jack, coarsely grated (I used Clover Organic)
2 c grated Parmesan (I got mine from the cheese section at Andronico's)
8 oz goat cheese, broken into small pieces
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the cauliflower, heavy cream, and the 3 cheeses in a large bowl and then transfer to a medium casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

We wrapped up with the God awful black bean brownies which were politely tasted, not really enjoyed, and abandoned altogether once I shared how they were made. I'm not sure that my folks will ever come back after this, no matter how much fun they had playing Wii.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another couple of recipes for the big bean book of desserts

Will I never learn?
Beans do not make good pastries. . . . or DO they?!

Pumpkin Spice Walnut White Bean Muffins
15.5 oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
White Beans
Chick Peas
2 eggs
1 cup Splenda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup fat free dry milk
Fat Free
Dry Milk
1 Tbs vanilla
3 Tbs light margarine
1/4 cup fat free ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat oven too 350.
In a blender, blend the beans and eggs.
Combine with all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl, don't over mix though.
Pour in to muffin tins (I use large muffin tins, and this recipe made 5 muffins).
Bake for 40 minutes at 35.

And if that sucks, I can always go with some other pumpkiny treat to apologize to my tastebuds for the assault (just like I had to after the black bean brownie debacle). At least they're white bean OPTIONAL.

Harvest Pumpkin Brownies
1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin
4 eggs (1/4 C. dry egg powder + 1/2 C. water)
3/4 C. vegetable oil (or 3/4 C. white bean puree)
2 t. vanilla
2 C. whole wheat flour
2 C. sugar
1 T. pumpkin pie spice
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Mix wet ingredients (including the water needed for your powdered eggs but not the dry egg powder…remember you DON’T need to mix these before adding to your recipes) Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Pour into 9×13 pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool and frost with cream cheese frosting or dollop cinnamon whipped topping.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Petits Pains au Chocolat

What South Beach diet?

Petits Pains au Chocolat
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (one 17.3-ounce package), thawed, each sheet cut into 12 squares
1 large egg beaten to blend with 1 water (for glaze)
4 3.5-ounce bars imported bittersweet or milk chocolate, each cut into six 2x3/4-inch pieces


Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush top of each puff pastry square with egg glaze. Place 1 chocolate piece on edge of 1 pastry square. Roll up dough tightly, enclosing chocolate. Repeat with remaining pastry and chocolate. Place pastry rolls on baking sheet, seam side down. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover pastries with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Cover and refrigerate remaining egg glaze.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush tops of pastry rolls with remaining egg glaze. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until pastries are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And don't you think I didn't. I had some leftover pastry (I was a little short on chocolate) so I filled those ones with Nutella and strawberry jam. Yeah, it mostly ran out all over the place, but omg they were good. That's right. 24 baby pastries consumed in less than 24 hours by four non-dieting adults. These things were seriously so easy that I can't even understand why you're not already making them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black Bean and Avocado. . . . . brownies?!

Okay Cara. I admit. You have me intrigued. The ingredients are fairly inexpensive and I have most of them on hand, so I'll give it a whirl and not tell anyone what my brownies are made out of (unless you're reading this, then you don't get to play on the blinded side - I'm guessing I'll know who you are because you won't want to try the next batch of brownies I make).
"Alternative" "healthy" desserts are a very tricky business and I find it's better to just indulge in the real thing every once in a while, but my sweet tooth demands options that I can enjoy on a more regular basis. I'm already wondering how these brownies will take to peppermint extract or sugar free raspberry jam, two of my favorite brownie flavorings. Since I once made an avocado pie that was close to a key lime, you'd think I'd have more faith. . . I'll probably make a couple of batches - one with Splenda only, one with half Splenda, half sugar.

I made them with all sugar because I was already afraid they'd suck; with a swirl of cherry preserves on top, because, chocolate and cherry - mmm, right?
Well, if you can somehow convince yourself you're eating brownies when you eat these you're a much more imaginative person than I (or my three dinner guests). Tastewise, they're not HORRIBLE, but texturewise they're all wrong. Ew.

Black Bean and Avocado Brownies
Printable Recipe

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 of a ripe avocado (60gm)
6 tbsp cocoa powder (30gm)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons white sugar (75gm)
2 teaspoons instant espresso

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper.

Combine black beans, egg substitute, agave syrup, and avocado in food processor. Blend for a few minutes, until completely smooth. Add remaining ingredients and continue blending until fully combined, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spread into parchment-lined baking dish. Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the brownies comes out clean.

These are best if you let them sit overnight before slicing and enjoying!

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 12
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 98.0
Total Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 134.6 mg
Total Carbs: 19.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 4.2 g

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Mousse

In my never ending quest for more Phase I South Beach recipes, I stumbled across Cara's Cravings and immediately shared one. I tweaked her recipe a bit, here is mine.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Mousse with Dark Chocolate
2 servings

8 oz low-fat cottage cheese
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 1/2 packets of Splenda "cafe sticks"
2 squares dark chocolate, chopped

Use a blender (a regular one, or an immersion hand blender) to process the cottage cheese, peanut butter, and sweetener until completely smooth. It may take a good couple minutes, but you can get out all the lumps.
Transfer to a serving dish and chill for about 10 minutes in the freezer. Top with the pieces of chopped chocolate.

I got lazy and did some chocolate shavings on top and then just plunked the rest of the square down on the side. It doesn't take the place of my favorite SB dessert, but it was pretty tasty and I would make it again. Maybe even subbing out the peanut butter for sugar free jam if I'm craving a fruity flavor.
Apples dipped in this are amazing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Hot damn I love oven top popped popcorn. Glad to see I'm not the only one. Maybe I should retire my pre-made sprinkles - there cannot possibly be anything all natural about them, though the packaging says it's so (but they're so easy! And low in calories!), and tired parmesan/garlic combo. And I know it's wrong, but my aunt got me started on popcorn with Ac'cent - it's like, the best thing ever, and yes, I know that Ac'cent is MSG.

Scroll down in the above link to find these ideas

- curried

- southwestern

- spicy 'wine inspired'

- diy microwave popcorn (with links for Maple Popcorn Balls with Cranberries and Pecans
and Vanilla Caramel Popcorn

- truffled

- brown butter, rosemary, & lemon,,FOOD_9936_31761,00.html

- kettle-style

- chili-spiced

- "world's greatest"

A few chow recipes:

Parmigiano–Black Pepper Popcorn

Black Sesame and Mustard Popcorn

Frenchified Popcorn

Spicy Cinnamon-Sugar Popcorn

More ideas courtesy of the Chow Digest

Plenty of Popcorn Topping Ideas

Spicy popcorn

Roast Beef - How do I eat you? Let me count the ways. . .

Who knew all the things you could do with roast beef? Well, I do now, a little.
I had long since used the rb as my stand in meat for Crying Tiger salad when I was in a hurry and/or didn't have any leftover steak to use; now it does it again, in three different applications - all consumed in a 24 hour period. Yes, that's a lot of beef (and sodium). I feel like that Robin chick - telling you all of the dishes you can make for the week with one meat source.

With just two packages of Safeway Primo Taglio Roast Beef (which will run you around $10) you can make the following three dishes for two: Philly San Francisco cheesesteak sandwiches, South Beach-esque breakfast wraps, ramen/pho.

My shopping list - some items shopped from the store, some shopped from my fridge and pantry:
2 pkgs of beef, obvi
2 onions (one sweet, one yellow)
2 peppers (one green, one red)
Sourdough rolls
tater tots (since you're being unhealthy, you may as well roll with it, yes?)
Tostito's queso goo
pepperoncini peppers
sweet cherry peppers - a must if you want your cheesesteak to be the least bit believable
lowfat cheddar cheese
whole wheat tortillas
eggs if you're feeling breakfast burrito-y
some type of packaged ramen (I had a chicken flavored ramen from Japantown that came with soft, fresh noodles, in the fridge section - cooks up in like 3-5 minutes, depending on how good you are with multitasking)
bamboo shoots
mushrooms - I went with enoki because they're so cute and will cook in the broth of the soup
hard boiled egg

SF Cheesesteak
Pop your tots into a preheated 400 degree oven if you're taking that route and really, who doesn't want to take that route?
Slice up your bell peppers and onions. If you're using all of them, you'll only need about half for this recipe - that's what I recommend though so you can get a little bit of everything and have the rest ready to go for the other recipes.
Heat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a large saute pan over med-hi. Saute about half of the pepper and onion mixture until soft, stirring frequently.
Slice up one package of roast beef into 1" strips. Slice pepperoncinis and sweet peppers, removing seeds.
Once veggies are done, add the beef to the pan and turn off the heat. The residual heat will warm the beef without cooking it.
Split open your sourdough rolls and put half of the cheesesteak mixture into each. Generously dollop some of the queso all over the top and pop into the oven (hopefully your tots are done and out of your way; if not, hopefully your oven has room to share) for a few minutes until the bread is just getting a tiny bit crispy and the queso is even gooier.
Take sammiches out and top with pickled peppers - nom. Serve with tots and queso - yes, cheesy tots. Bliss out.

SBRB Breakfast Wrap
Saute 1/2 of the remaining sliced onions and peppers in oil over med-hi as you did with the cheesesteaks.
Heat two whole wheat tortillas in a damp papertowel in the microwave for 30 seconds. Cover with a handful of the lowfat shredded cheddar and nuke again for about 20 seconds each or until cheese is melted.
Lay two slices of roast beef on each tortilla and top with the cooked onions and peppers. Throw in some scrambled eggs if you're a hearty eater and not so concerned with calories. Wrap and nom.
This is also a fairly believable substitute for a Philly Cheesesteak if you're South Beaching.

Prep your ramen according to package directions (again, this was two servings).
Slice up remaining rb and additions (mushies, egg, basil, bamboo shoots) and have ready to go while water is boiling.
Add the yummy stuff to the ready to eat ramen and broth and add Sriracha to taste. Too easy and seriously only took me like 10 minutes to make. Win!

Monday, February 8, 2010

PB&J cookies

(this photo is so 1980s Tron with that grid design from my cooling rack)
I make these little treats every once in a while because they are SO easy, and they're a perfect, quick SB snack. It really is like eating a tbsp of peanut butter though, so don't get carried away.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies
3/4 c Splenda
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c creamy (trans fat free) peanut butter
1 tsp baking soda
sugar free jam

Preheat oven to 350. I use a silpat pad on a cookie sheet for these - the jam can run out of the cookie and gets VERY sticky. Silpat is great for not allowing stuff to burn on. If you don't have a Silpat pad, you can use parchment paper.
Cream the Splenda, egg, and vanilla extract together with a hand mixer on low for about three minutes.
Add the peanut butter and baking soda and mix to combine - only about 30 seconds or so.
Using a tablespoon, I scoop out a portion of dough and use it to form 2 balls; this dough is enough for 24 small cookies.
I put them on the cookie sheet, about an inch apart, and then use my thumb to smoosh down the center. I try to reform the edges a bit too if they crack too much; these cookies are super crumbly so anything you can do to help them keep their shape early on is a good idea.
I put some sugar free jam into a plastic baggie and snip off the end so I can pipe the jam into the indentations. I like to use a couple of different kinds of jam, and I can tell you that apricot seems to be the messiest - it bubbles out the most, and the jam seems to disappear into the cookie or something. Strawberry is much better. I think I'll try grape next time too, or blueberry. Yum.

Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until the bottoms just brown and cool on a wire rack. As I mentioned, they are VERY crumbly, delicate little things. They don't travel well in a baggie (like for lunch), but they're yummy, and rich, and peanut buttery and perfect little bite size treats when you're craving a pb&j but not eating bread.

** note **
I wouldn't recommend going larger on these (you know, like 12 big ones versus 24 little ones) as the texture gets a bit wonky and overly soft.  Just saying.  No one likes a flaccid cookie.

Butternut Squash Ravioli


When I need to get my mind off of something, I tend to retreat to the kitchen. The more involved and complicated the recipe, the better. Which means when I'm stressed out or sad, my place is a great spot for time intensive dishes that I don't usually make or have never tried before. (Come by, bring Tupperware.)
This weekend I bought my very first mandolin down at Soko (plus some plates, and bowls, and spoons, and some slippers over at Ichiban Kan, and maybe a couple of other random things because it's Japantown and THA CUTE and who can help themselves, yes?). I was all excited to make a tian and was feeling ready to cook my cares away with some nice, comforting, roasted veggies. As I wandered around Nijiya Market waiting for something to tickle my fancy (once I realized they wouldn't have any of the veggies I was wanting for my tian), my eyes fell on the wonton and gyoza wrappers.
Another hoof over the bridge to Safeway, a 20 minute search for a shopping cart (seriously? I ended up with one from Ikea that I found hidden in a corner of the parking lot; please note that the nearest Ikea is like 12 miles away, over the Bay Bridge), and I got down to business. Spinach and ricotta? Butternut squash? Something mushroomy? I went with the squash thinking that since I was being so healthy with my tian, a little brown butter sage sauce wouldn't hurt anyone.
I got my inspiration here, was immediately side tracked by this,* bookmarked for a later date * and then got down to business.

Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 butternut squash - I'm guessing it was about 2 pounds
4 tbsp room temperature butter
2-3 tbsp honey
salt & pepper
a pinch of pumpkin pie spice - maybe 1/4 tsp (or to taste)
1 pkg dumpling wrappers
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp of chopped sage

Heat the oven to 400 and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the pumpkiny seeds and strings and throw those away. Smear the halves with 2 tbsp of the butter (1 tbsp for each half) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until fork tender; I think this took me about 45 minutes - you know I don't pay attention to that stuff.
Let the squash cool a bit and then scrape out the flesh into the bowl of your food processor. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, the pumpkin pie spice and the honey, and puree until smooth. Give it a taste and decide what you think it needs - more salt, honey, butter, whatever. I was happy with this blend, but you might like it sweeter or richer. The original recipe I looked at for butternut squash ravioli called for you to add heavy cream which you could also do.

Get yourself a little "finger bowl" of water for sealing the ravioli. Dollop about 1 tbsp of filling onto each pastry square and wet two of the sides with the water. Press closed, and then seal by pressing firmly with a fork (but not so hard that you tear the dough). The goal here is to get a nice plump ravioli, but without having the filling smoosh out when you try to close it (which makes it tough to seal, and they're more likely to bust open when you cook them). I fold mine in half like triangles, but you could go a step further and bring the ends around to make them look more like tortellini.

They don't take much to get cooked - a couple of minutes in boiling, salted water and they're done. Be careful though - they're super delicate.

While mine were in the water I put 4 tbsp of butter into a pan and once it was melted down I added the sage. I let that cook until it was brown, then carefully drained each ravioli and put it into the butter to coat. A little sprinkling of some parmesan cheese, some crushed, toasted walnuts; maybe some biscotti or something, and voila. Nom.

I served mine with the veggie tian I love making, and a mixed greens salad with roasted onion vinaigrette with goat cheese and tomatoes.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Roasted Onion Vinaigrette

My version was close, but definitely based off of this one. I used regular olive oil for the roasting, and walnut oil once I was ready to puree. I did not have any Sherry wine vinegar, so I used red wine vinegar and added a dash of sherry. I also used brown sugar for the roasting.
I used spring mix for the salad and tossed the greens then added some cherry tomatoes and toasted walnuts. I think goat cheese would be an awesome addition, but don't I always. This would also be great for a warm spinach salad with some crumbled bacon. YUM.

Roasted Onion Dressing
  • 2 large onions (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 14 cups mixed greens (such as curly endive, romaine, Belgian endive and radicchio), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/2 small red onion, halved, thinly sliced

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Magic Juice"

Ingredients (makes two drinks):
6 hulled strawberries
1 peeled orange
5-7 mint leaves
1/4 peeled cucumber
4-6 oz gin, depending on taste
8 oz fresh lemonade

Dice, then muddle fruits and mint
Pour gin into fruit mixture and let sit for 10-15 minutes
Strain over lemonade and ice
Garnish with fruit slice or mint leaf

Infused sugar

What a sweet idea. And I concur. I always have a jar of vanilla sugar floating around, and now I'm all about the idea of lavender. I also love the suggestion of giving as a gift with a tag that says "You make my life sweeter."
Lavender Sugar by chick*pea.
photo by chick*pea

Scented Sugar shots by Martha