Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa

March 24th, 2012

Let’s not talk about how long it’s been.

I have today a recipe inspired by a recipe. The original is a ridiculously rich, cheesy mess of a hot spinach and artichoke dip, made with butter, cream, and three kinds of cheese. My husband LOVES it, but it can’t be good for him, especially with the amount he eats. So, I made an attempt to “healthy-fy” it and this is the result, which also makes a very tasty and filling meal. The only downside of this recipe is that is takes 3 pots to make, but I’d like to think it’s worth it.

Also, if you haven’t tried quinoa, the South American ancient grain, this is an excellent introduction that plays off the nutty crunch, while covering it with something imminently familiar (cheese).

Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa
1 cup quinoa (well rinsed in a sieve)
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen spinach, warmed in the microwave and squeezed dry
1 can artichokes, quartered
1/2 cup milk
1/2 block cream cheese, cut into 1 in pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (more for sprinkling)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan (more for sprinkling)
hot sauce
salt and pepper

Preheat Oven to 400.
Cook the quinoa by heating in a medium sauce pan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 15 minutes, till the grain is soft and mostly translucent.

While the quinoa is cooking, in a separate pan cook the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes till lightly golden.
Add spinach and mix to coat with oil. Add artichokes and cook for 2 min more. Slowly add the milk and allow to warm, then add cream cheese and stir well to combine totally. Add the two shredded cheeses and stir. Season to taste with hot sauce, salt, pepper. Add to the quinoa and mix thoroughly.
Pour mixture into a 9in pie pan, sprinkle with extra cheese, and bake in the oven until golden crust forms on top.

Summer Breakfast Smoothie

June 23rd, 2011

Who doesn’t love smoothies! In the summer they are a great way to have cool treat that is slightly better for you than popsicles.
My family has always made pretty simple smoothies: frozen fruit, half a frozen banana, and apple juice. These are tasty smoothies, but they are also basically giant sugar bombs, with a little vitamin C. So, I’ve been working to improve that basic formula, while still keeping to the basic premise of easy and fruity-tasty.
This recipe came about while looking for a good post-work-out snack, with a good balance of protein and carbs. I like it so much I’ve had it for breakfast a couple times too.
Now, smoothies are really an art more than a formula. You take what you like, add in a little of something else, with enough liquid to make it blendable. Some people like super thick, spoonable smoothies, some people like thin, drinkable ones. I highly recommend playing with this basic recipe to get an idea for what you like best too.

Creamy Almond Berry Smoothie
a little less than one cup frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries all work, or a medley)
2 big fat spoonfuls of greek yogurt
1 big spoonful of creamy almond butter
about 1 cup milk or soy milk
Optional: bananas, honey (if you use unsweetened yogurt or soy milk especially), toasted flax seeds

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree at high power until desired consistency.
This makes one big or two small smoothies. All told, it probably has around 300 calories, with about 20g of protein. It is a pretty substantial little meal in that regard, but delicious and filling too.
Let me know what variations you come up with too.

Macaroni and Cheese!!!

May 15th, 2011

Who doesn’t love mac and cheese right?  It’s one of those classic American foods.  Mine has a secret ingredient too, that makes it super easy to make.  See, I love macaroni and cheese, but I suck at making rouxes, you know, the thickened cream base used in sauces like alfredo and mac and cheese.  So… I cheat.  Before I add the cheese, I add pureed soft, silken tofu.  The tofu provides a protein base in which the cheese can melt and emulsify, without separating out.
I like to think this makes it more nutritious too.
It doesn’t really add any additional flavor, so you have to pile in the cheese, but who doesn’t like cheese? I use three different cheeses: sharp white cheddar, hard Italian cheese (like parmesan), and a soft Italian cheese (like fontina). Now, because this is mostly just starch and fat (and protein too, yes), it’s good to have a veggie along side. I typically either add chopped, roasted butternut squash to the noodles, or just have roasted broccoli on the side.
After being finished in the oven, the mac and cheese is super creamy, gooey, with a little bit of a crispy top. Perfect.

Tofu Macaroni and Cheese
1 box macaroni noodles
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs flour
1/2 cup milk
1 hermetically sealed box of silken tofu, pureed
1 packed cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 packed cup shredded parmesan cheese
3/4 packed cup shredded or cubed fontina cheese
salt and pepper
Cholula or tabasco sauce

Preheat the oven to 400. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, minus about 1-2 minutes so it’s very al dente. Pour into a large baking dish and set aside.
Combine the parmesan and cheddar cheeses, set 1/2 cup aside for later.
As the pasta cooks, melt the butter together with the oil in a large sauce pan. Add the chili flakes and garlic and sautee till fragrant. Add the flour and stir around for about 2-5 minutes until the flour is golden. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring as you pour. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the milk thickens. Add the tofu and bring up to a simmer.
Slowly add the larger portion of mixed cheese and the fontina, stirring as you add. The cheese should slowly melt. You can leave some of it not quite fully melted, which will make for yummy, extra gooey bites in the final dish. Once the cheese is as incorporated as you like it, add salt, pepper, and chili sauce to taste. Pour over the pasta and stir to combine. Top with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese.
Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the top is just golden and crispy.

Ratatori instead of Elbows

mmm cheesy goodness

Vegetarian Vodka Sauce

May 1st, 2011

Well, Sage had asked me to post a chili recipe, so I made chili, and while it was really delicious, it was kind of ugly.  So, when I got a craving for vodka sauce, the farmer’s market was full of fresh tomatoes, I decided I’d post that instead.

Now, why vodka sauce has vodka in it, I have no idea.  You’ll have to ask wikipedia.  Essentially it is just a nice form of creamy marinara.  It is traditionally paired with penne pasta, and often has peas in it.  Imagine my excitement then when I found fresh-shelled English peas at the market!

To compensate for the prociutto that is traditionally in vodka sauce (making it decidely not vegetarian) I tried roasting the tomatoes in the oven.  It adds a little more depth to the flavor profile, without getting heavily smoky tasting.  I also like my vodka sauce pretty spicy, so if you don’t I would recommend toning down the garlic and the chili pepper flakes.  I served this with garlic bread made on olive bread, which was super yums.

Vegetarian Vodka Sauce
about 2-3 lbs tomatoes (I used 1/2 caprison and 1/2 beefsteak)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, diced
One head garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp (more or less) red chili flakes
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
1/4 parmesan cheese
1 handful parsley, chopped
1 cup English peas
1 handful basil, chopped or loosely torn
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 475. Cut the tomatoes into large pieces (halve small ones, quarter large ones). Place in a large roasting pan, toss in 1 Tbs of the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 min. When done, they should be slightly carmelized on the edges, and very soft. Pour into a food processor, and pulse for 15-30 sec to desired consistency.
While the tomatoes are about to finish, place the other 1 Tbs olive oil in a large sauce pan on med. Add the onion and chili flakes and saute till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 more minute. Add the vodka and let it evaporate. Add the tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered for 5-20 min (depending on patience). Add the parsley and mix in. Add the cream and cheese and stir to incorporate. Let simmer for another 5-10min. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce is simmering, put the pasta water to boil. When the pasta is almost done, add the peas and let them boil in the water for about 30-60 sec. You can add a little bit of the strained pasta water to the sauce at the end to thin it out a little.
Add the pasta and peas to the sauce pan and mix to coat. Serve topped with the torn basil.

It appears wordpress won’t let me post the pictures.  I will try to fix that, otherwise you are all welcome to post your pictures if you make it yourself!

Ross Family Sandwich

April 19th, 2011

I hope you will all forgive the absence of a post last week, but I was home alone and feeling pathetic.  It was all I could do to eat peas for dinner one night.  But now I’m back, and I will try to post two recipes this week.

As usual, today’s recipe was inspired/requested by my brother.  I’m pretty sure he’s the only one who reads this anyway.  To give you a little background, our Mom didn’t cook much when we were kids.  We ate out a fair amount and had brown rice and tofu about once a week for dinner.  This sandwich was one her masterpieces.  It’s super easy and super nutritious too.

Ross Family Sandwich
Bread (preferably whole or sprouted wheat)
Avocado, thinly sliced
Cheddar cheese, sliced
Tomatoes (salted)

Optional: thinly sliced apples (with Gruyere instead of cheddar), radishes, julliened carrots, banana peppers

The key to the sandwich is proper layering.  On one slice of bread, spread some hummus, top with the cheese.  On the other slice, spread out some thinly sliced avocado and sprinkle a little garlic salt.   Pile the veggies on the cheese, the more the better.  Top with the avocado bread slice.   Enjoy.

Best with sweet potato chips and a glass of beer.

P.S. This sandwich can be messy, so be sure to have lots of napkins handy when ready to eat.  I will post the pictures later, but my other computer isn’t working right now.

Korean Hotpot

April 5th, 2011
This recipe is a for a classic Korean dish called some combination of kopdol/dolst bibimbab/bibimbap, depending on where you go to eat it.  The name means “mixed up rice in a stone pot” and describes the dish so very well.
Have you ever had Korean food?  If not, I highly recommend it!  But, you might want to try it at a restaurant before invest in the special stone pot (dolsot) needed for this.   And as I presume most people don’t own one, this recipe is mainly for my brother, who I know does – because I gave it to him for Christmas.  Now, this will seem really complicated, but it actually should take no longer to prepare than it takes to boil a pot of brown rice.  Now, before you can make the meal, you have to prepare the pot.  I used the method described (somewhat sillily  here).
When done right, this dish has everything: savory, spicy, a little sweet, salty, good protein, lots of veggies, crispy, soft, crunchy, smooth.  YUMS
Kopdol Bibimbab
1 cup rice (I used a premixed variety that I bought at a Korean Mart)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
Water (according to instruction on rice package)

1-2 cups  of each veggie, washed and sliced (I like julienned carrots, sliced zucchini, snow peas, and bean sprouts)
Sesame Oil
White rice vinegar
Soy sauce

1/4 cup  gochujang
2 Tbs sugar (I like ½ brown sugar, ½ white)
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Egg (optional)

First, start the rice.  Rinse the rice in water until water runs clear.  Add the rice, salt, and sesame oil to a pan.  Turn heat to medium high and toss to coat the rice in oil.  Lightly toast the rice for a minute or two, then add the water.  Bring to  a boil, then turn down the heat to low.  Cover and simmer until soft, but with a little texture left.  (~20 min for white rice, ~45 for brown)

Now, preparing the veggies is a little more art than science.


This is a basic method of cooking them, which can be modified depending on the veggies and your preference.  The key is to cook each vegetable separately then put them on top of the rice looking pretty.

Place about a tsp of sesame oil in a medium-large saute pan. Heat up to medium-high heat and add vegetable with a dash of salt. Cook for a minute or two, until just underdone, but possibly seared a bit.  Add about a Tbs of rice wine vinegar to pan and stir around.  Continue cooking until all the vinegar has evaporated.  Place in a bowl and set aside.  Repeat with each vegetable.  You can mix it up by using soy sauce instead of the vinegar.  I like to use the hot pepper sesame oil instead sometimes.  You can also use this method to prepare tofu, though the vinegar isn’t necessary then. While preparing the veggies, set the dolsot on the stove and turn on to medium.  Brush a little sesame oil on the bottom of the pot.  Allow to heat up.

For the sauce, which is essential, mix together the last 5 ingredients and whisk with a fork until smooth.  Set aside.

When the rice is done, place about ½ – 1 cup in the bottom of the pot.  Allow to sit and sizzle for several minutes (about 5).  Top with several different sections of vegetables.  Add a fried egg if you like (sunny side up).  Finish  with plenty of sauce.  Mix it all up and enjoy.

Don't forget the sauce though.

Without Egg

extra yummies

With Egg!

Spring Revival

March 28th, 2011

I’m trying to get myself out of a funk that I think just about every intern in the country is probably experiencing.   I’ve joined a gym again, but more importantly, I’ve made a decision to re-dedicate myself to this cooking blog.  I have made a resolution to post at least once a week till I’m on night float in June.  And I realized that what better way to start than with the quintessential spring vegetable: Asparagus.

I try to eat fresh, local when I can.  This means when it’s spring, I eat a lot of asparagus.   Probably my favorite way to have asparagus is raw, shaved and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.  But, this may be a bit too “asparagus-y” for some folks.   For you I have the perfect meal for these warm sunny days and cool nights: asparagus pesto paninis.

Now, you don’t need a panini press for these, but they sure don’t hurt.  Mine is a Lodge, cast iron with a lid.  I used it to both grill the asparagus and toast the sandwiches.

Asparagus Pesto Panini
1 bunch fresh asparagus
4 cloves garlic
1 cup packed, coarsely chopped basil
1/4 cup hard Italian cheese (I used pecorino)
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for grilling)
juice from 1/2 lemon

fresh Italian bread, thinly sliced
melty cheese (such as whole-milk mozzarella)

Prepare the asparagus by rinsing in cold water and cutting off the last 1 inch of stalk. Toss in about 1 Tb olive oil and some salt. Grill, or saute if you prefer, until bright green, tender but not soggy (about 1-2min each side). (If you like a softer garlic flavor, you can also place the garlic cloves, in their skins, on the edge of the grill pan for this time.) DO NOT OVERCOOK the asparagus, or it will not have much flavor left for the pesto.

Steamy goodness

Grilling Asparagus

Pesto: Transfer the asparagus to a cutting board. Cut off the tips and save. Cut the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces. Crush the garlic and remove the skins. Add asparagus stalks, basil, Italian cheese, and pine nuts to a food processor and pulse while streaming in the olive oil and lemon juice. Pulse to desired consistency, season with salt and pepper.

Panini: Lightly brush one side of the bread with olive oil. On the un-oiled side, spread about 1-2 Tbs pesto spread, top with a few asparagus tips and plenty of cheese. Place on heated panini pan (I find just under medium heat is best) and press with heated lid. Panini is done when cheese is melted and bread is toasted.

Finished Product

Grilled Melty Goodness

This makes a lot of asparagus pesto, which can be used instead of regular pesto on pasta or as a dip for fresh veggies like carrots and peppers.

My Newest Obsession

December 12th, 2010

North African Food.  Well, really all of the Mediterranean that isn’t Italy… so Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Greek.  It’s so bad I was genuinely considering buying a tagine for over $100.   Instead I just made pita sandwiches with homemade hummus and a salad dressed with the lemony and sharp dressing used on fattoush.  The dressing recipe came (slightly modified of course) from my new cookbook: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison.  Probably a book I should have bought years ago, because it is fabulous.  If you need a single cookbook, this could easily be it.

Enough of that though.  Back to North Africa.  I fell asleep last night dreaming of preserved lemons and dates and warm olives.  I’m in love with zataar, a spice mix made of of sesame seeds, thyme, and sumac, even though the first time I smelled a jar of pure sumac at the Penzey’s Spice store I thought I had burned all my nose hairs off it was so astringent.  So here I give you an easy entry into the myriad flavors I’m fantasizing: hummus. This recipe is so easy, so yummy, you’ll be hard-pressed to ever buy a package of hummus from Trader Joe’s again.

Basic Hummus
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
2-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 big handful cilantro
1 big handful parsley
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs tahini
1/4 olive oil (I like about 1/2 really good extra virgin, 1/2 generic olive oil)
salt and pepper

Optional additions: 1/4- 1 tsp red chili flakes, 2-4 coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes (either dry or packed in oil), 2 big handfuls of basil, a handful of coarsely chopped kalmata olives, 1-2 chipotles in adobo

Put the garlic and herbs (and any of the optional additions) in the food processor with a generous dash of salt. Pulse for about 30-45 sec, wipe down the sides, and pulse again.
Add the chickpeas, tahini, and lemon. Pulse again until the chickpeas are coarsely ground and the herbs are starting to incorporate into the mix.
Wipe down the sides. With the processor going, slowly stream in the olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Continue to run the processor until the hummus is at the desired consistency.
[If you prefer a thinner hummus, more akin to the store-bought kind, add more olive oil and a little water to desired thickness while blending.]

Option 2: Eliminate the tahini and cilantro, add 1/4-1 tsp fresh thyme, and use canned cannelini beans instead of chickpeas. This makes an amazing Italian-style white bean dip.

Serving Suggestions:
– Hummus and carrots is my absolute favorite.
– Cut up store-bought, split pitas into 6ths. Brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and zataar. Bake at 425 till crispy.
– Use instead of mayonaisse or mustard on sandwiches. Especially big, fat veggie sandwiches with avocado, sharp white cheddar, sprouts, roasted red peppers, and all the fixins you can fit.

Easy as 1, 2, 3.

October 18th, 2010

Ah, Fall. The brisk Autumnal winds, the myriad colors of the changing leaves, the abundant harvest.
Oh wait.
I’m in California, it’s still 80-90 degrees outside. All the apples seem to come from New Zealand. So, I dream of soup. My favorite fall food. Rich, creamy, hearty soups. This one is the ideal fall soup, it has classic fall ingredients like winter squash, apples, onions, and sage. It comes out a vibrant color that reminds me of the reds and yellows and oranges of the leaves on the ground in New England. And possibly the best thing about it: it’s ridiculously easy to make.

“Creamy” Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 tart apple, cored
1 onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic
2-3 stalks fresh thyme, de-leafed
(or 1/4-1/2 teas dried thyme)
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
(optional)1 Tbs butter and 10-15 fresh sage leaves

Step 1. Chop up the first 4 ingredients into approximately equal sized pieces
Step 2. Toss the chopped ingredients from “Step 1” with the olive oil, thyme, and salt and
pepper and roast for 30-45min at 375F until the squash is soft
Step 3. Combine in a large soup pot: the roasted ingredients from “Step 2” with the cannellini beans and enough water to barely cover. Blend until creamy with a hand blender

Optional Step 4. In a small skillet on med-high heat melt the butter, then fry the sage leaves till dark and crispy. Top the soup with the brown butter and leaves.

I don’t have a picture of this soup because it never lasts. It’s pretty much the perfect soup. The beans not only add protein and make it a nice round meal (especially if you have some bread to dip in, or a salad on the side) but the give it a luscious creaminess. I used to add milk or cream to my butternut squash soup, but I like this technique so much better! I hope you enjoy it too.

HA! I bet you gave up on me!

September 17th, 2010

But NO!  Here is another recipe!

The sad thing is that this recipe has been sitting in my email box, already typed out for the most part for over a month.  I’ve just been in a guilty spiral about not posting, so I haven’t posted.  Makes so much sense, yeah, I know.

Anyway, this here is my favorite summer/early fall soup.  It can easily be served either hot, warm, or chilled.  It can be a complete meal in a pot, and goes great with snacks you probably already have around the house like tortilla chips and salsa.  It is gluten-free, and can be vegan if you leave out the cheese on top.

“Creme” of Broccoli and Lime SoupPeppers, onions, florets, stalks, oregano, garlic, spices, tofu, and lime juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes (or more to taste)
1 small onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, diced (or more to taste)
1 cup diced fresh pepper (such as poblano, anaheim, bell, etc)
2 stalks broccoli, chopped, with stalk and florets separated
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (may omit if not available)
1 box soft silken tofu
1 bunch cilantro leaves
juice and zest of one lime (or more to taste)
3-5 cups water or vegetable broth

Heat the oil on medium heat, in a heavy-bottomed, large soup pan with the cumin and
dried chili flakes. Add onions and saute until just translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add peppers, toss to coat, then add garlic. Continue to saute on medium heat for approximately 5 more
Add broccoli ends, mix into aromatics. Add approximately 1 tablespoon lime juice and saute until broccoli is cooked, but still crunchy (will appear a slightly darker green). Add broccoli florets and mix in thoroughly. Turn up to medium-high heat and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with lime juice, salt, pepper, and Mexican oregano.
Add approximately 3 cups of water or broth, or enough to barely cover the vegetables. Using a
hand-blender, puree the vegetables to a bloodless pulp (my husband’s words). As you are blending, crumble in the tofu and a big handful of cilantro. Adjust the amount of water to your tastes — more for a thin summer soup, less for a thick and creamy version. Turn down to low temperature and add the rest of the lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Finished Product

Toppings Options: diced avocado, hot sauce such as Cholula or Valentina, crumbled queso fresco, sour cream, coarsely chopped cilantro

Serve with: corn tortilla chips, roasted corn on the cob, barbeque