Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 29 Dinner - Asian-Style Wild Rice Salad

This recipe takes a couple of local, seasonal ingredients and is flavored with the tastes of the far east.  The vegetables and grains are packed with valuable nutrients and accented with the bright, sweet citrus flavors of winter and the indispensable Asian condiment, sriracha chili sauce to add some flavorful heat. 

The salad will be slightly wet when room temp.  This is intended to keep it moist when refrigerated, so if you serve it immediately after making, use a slotted spoon and allow to drain, slightly.

Asian-Style Wild Rice Salad
serves 4

1 cup wild rice blend (one that combines wild rice and brown rice)
2 cups light coconut milk
1 T peanut oil
2 cups shelled edamame
4 cups broccoli, finely chopped (about one large head)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup mirin
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha hot sauce
juice of 1 meyer lemon
juice of 1 blood orange
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves

In a small saucepan, bring rice and coconut milk (or vegetable broth) to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, add a pinch of salt, and stir well.  Cover and cook until al dente, about 35 minutes. 

In a large wok, heat peanut oil to medium-high.  Add garlic, edamame and broccoli and stir-fry until lightly cooked, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Add remaining ingredients (except for the cilantro) and the cooked rice and stir very well to combine.  Allow mixture to come to room temperature (stirring occasionally), about 40 minutes.  Toss cilantro leaves with the rice mixture just before serving.  Serve salad at room temperature or cold.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 28 Dessert - Rustic French Oatmeal Cookies

Since Obe and I are doing our best to stay away from packaged, processed foods, I've been doing a fair amount of baking at home.  Even though I used to do it for a living, I never seem to get sick of making cookies!  Since we are also trying to stay away from refined flours, I've been doing some experimenting with whole-grain cookies, lately.  This recipe calls for oats and whole wheat pastry flour, which is a wonderful substitute for white flour.

The floral aroma of the Herbs de Provence and rosewater with the bittersweet chocolate studded with coarse grains of salt is truly a flavor experience!  These cookies are fragrant, buttery, crispy-chewy and a little savory-sweet.  If you have become bored with the usual chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie, do try these.  Your taste buds will thank you!

Rustic French Oatmeal Cookies
about 2 dozen large cookies

1/2 pound butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. rosewater (optional, may substitute vanilla)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 T coarse kosher salt
2 T herbs de provence
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter with sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add rosewater and egg and mix on low speed until combined.  Combine baking powder, soda, herbs, salt and flour in a separate bowl.  Add to standing mixer and mix on low until combined.  Add oats and chocolate chips, and mix on low to combine.

Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.  Make 6 cookies per medium-sized tray (these cookies spread out a lot).  Flatten each mound of dough with the palm of your hand, then bake until lightly browned, about 13 minutes.

Day 28 Dinner - Potato, Leek and Crab Frittata

When I'm not in the mood to spend a lot of time on dinner but I still want something hot, I love a good frittata.  The mild, sweet crab goes quite nicely with potatoes and leeks (although for a vegetarian dish, the crab can quite easily be omitted), and the ricotta adds a wonderful creaminess without too much fat.  Serve on its own for a light brunch, or add a simple green salad and you've got a quick and easy dinner.

Potato, Leek and Crab Frittata
serves 4

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large leek, sliced and rinsed
1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced
6 oz. lump crab meat
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
8 eggs, whisked
1/4 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
1 T fresh oregano, minced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Heat butter and olive oil in a large, shallow pan over medium heat.  Add leeks and potatoes and saute until leeks are soft, about 7 minutes.  Add crab, ricotta, salt and pepper and stir until cheese is completely incorporated into the vegetables.  Add eggs and mix until vegetables are evenly distributed, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes. 

Sprinkle parmiggiano cheese on the top and transfer pan to oven.  Bake until fritatta is set and lightly browned on top, about 3 minutes.  Using a spatula, loosen the fritatta from the sides and bottom of the pan and slide onto a plate.  Sprinkle the oregano on top, slice into wedges and serve.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 27 Dinner - Spaghetti and Bison Meatballs

Admittedly, I am a little bit obsessed with Bison.  And with good reason!  It is extremely lean, very low in cholesterol (lower, in fact, than some fishes!), always hormone-free (it's the law!) and it tastes rich and wonderful.  If you've never tried it, it is similar to beef but has a slightly sweeter taste. 

I paired these meatballs with a Puttanesca-like tomato sauce that is tangy, briny and a little bit spicy.  Usually Puttanesca is more geared toward seafood, but I think the lean bison goes quite nicely with this flavorful sauce. 

Spaghetti and Bison Meatballs

1 pound ground bison
3 garlic cloves, grated using a microplane to make a puree
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 egg

2 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 T capers in salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup white wine
1 T honey or agave
4 oz. olives (any variety you like), pitted and chopped
2 T fresh oregano, minced
8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano

Make meatballs.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all the ingredients except for the bison in a small bowl, whisking thoroughly to combine.  Add to bison and gently mix with your hands until combined.  For into small, golf-ball sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake until meatballs are firm but not well-done, about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Wipe meatballs clean with a cloth or paper towel (they will have aquired some excess "goo" during baking).

Make sauce.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions, capers and red pepper flakes and saute until onions are soft, about 6 minutes.  Add wine and allow to come to a boil.  Cook for about a minute, then add diced tomatoes, olives, and honey and bring to a boil again.  Reduce heat to low and bring sauce to a simmer.  Add meatballs and cook until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.  Add pasta and oregano and toss to combine.  Top with grated parmiggiano reggiano or your favorite alternative and serve.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 25 Dinner - Barley Risotto with Leeks and Peas

There are few dishes I enjoy more than a steaming hot bowl of risotto.  I love the creamy texture, the warming quality, and the toothsome chew of the rice.  Risotto is not, however, the healthiest of meals.  It is generally made with refined arborio rice, butter, and lots of cheese! 

This version is made with fiber-rich barley instead of rice and nutritional yeast flakes instead of cheese.  The creaminess comes from a little milk added to the stock (which you can replace with more stock for an even healthier version) and the result is a velvety, flavorful concoction that is sure to please the palate.  Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk section of any Whole Foods.  It is often used in vegan dishes to lend a tangy, cheese-like flavor.  I always have some in my pantry to add flavor without the fat.  If you've never tried it before, give it a shot!  It looks strange, but it is a healthy, flavorful, and very inexpensive alternative to cheese.

Barley Risotto with Leeks and Peas
serves 4

2 T olive oil
1 large leek, halved, sliced and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup barley, rinsed
4 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
1 package frozen peas
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

Add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add leeks and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.  Add wine and stir, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add barley and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently. 

Cook until much of the liquid has evaporated, stirring almost constantly, then add stock, one cup at a time.  At each stage, add the cup of liquid and cook, stirring constantly, until much of the liquid is absorbed.  After all the stock has been added, add the milk in two stages in the same manner as the stock.  After adding the last cup of liquid, add the frozen peas.  Cook mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed, then add lemon zest and juice and turn off the heat.  Stir for a few more minutes off the heat, then stir in salt to taste.  Serve immediately.

Day 24 Dinner - Simple Split-Pea Soup with Herbs de Provence

Split-pea soup doesn't seem to be very popular any more.  Maybe it's the color, or the many watered-down, flavorless versions available in cans, but it isn't really a soup that anybody gets excited about.  For me, it is a go-to soup when I want to make something that requires little effort and attention, and it uses mostly pantry-staples so it's inexpensive to put together!  Not only that, but with the right seasoning and a nice hint of pork, split peas can really taste fantastic and they fill you up quite nicely.

This soup, because of it's simplicity, is also a great template for a huge diversity of variations.  You can add sliced rainbow carrots, chopped fennel, garnish with crispy kale or add chopped kale, add diced potatoes or sweet potatoes, or you can throw in any extra vegetable you feel like.  The herbs de provence give the soup a hint of sweetness and make it delightfully fragrant. 

Simple Split-Pea Soup with Herbs de Provence
serves 4

1 tsp. olive oil
4 french sausages (or any mild-flavored sausage)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups dried split-peas
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 T herbs de provence
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Remove sausage meat from casings and add to pot in small chunks.  Add onion and saute until sausage is browned, about 10 minutes.  Add split peas, stock, and herbs de provence and bring soup to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer the soup until peas are very tender and the soup is thick and chunky, about an hour.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with whole-wheat toast or cornbread, if desired.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 19 Dinner - Chestnut-Mushroom Soup with Crispy Kale

I really adore a hot bowl of soup in the winter time, so I will probably end up posting a lot of soup recipes in the months to come!  This one was inspired by an very rich and decadent "Silver Palate" recipe that we made for Thanksgiving.  My version is much simpler and contains no cream, so enjoy a nice, big bowl without any inhibition! 

For the mushrooms, I used a lovely Hazel Dell Farms medley which contained trumpets, cinnamon caps, crimini, and maybe more.  You can use whatever your mushroom-loving heart desires!  Serve the soup with a big slice of whole-grain bread with a little butter and sea salt and you've got yourself a hearty, flavorful meal to snuggle up to on a snowy winter's eve. 

Chestnut-Mushroom Soup with Crispy Kale
serves 4

1 T plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups mixed, fresh mushrooms, stems removed and chopped
7 oz. roasted chestnuts
6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 T salt
2 T butter (optional)
1 bunch kale, stems removed

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, celery and mushrooms and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add chestnuts and saute for two more minutes.  Add stock, thyme and salt and bring soup to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer soup for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crispy kale.  Preheat oven to 350.  Tear up the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and salt to taste.  Arrange in a single layer on two baking sheets (or one large) and bake until leaves barely start to brown, about 10 minutes.

Just before serving, add the butter to the soup and stir until melted.  Serve soup with kale on top or on the side (we like to do both!).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 18 - Mediterranean Tuna Pasta

Well, dear readers, after a nice, long vacation we are back in full force!  This recipe is what I like to call a "pantry staple."  In other words, if you keep a well-stocked pantry you can throw this together without doing much in the way of grocery shopping!  The sauce features one of my all-time favorite winter fruits, the meyer lemon.  Meyers have a softer rind and a sweeter flavor than regular lemons and add a delicate brightness to winter dishes.  If you can't find Meyers, regular lemons will work just fine.

I used organic farro pasta (thanks for the recommendation, Lisa!) of the casareccia variety.  Use any kind of tube or rolled pasta that will cling to the sauce well.  

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta
serves 4

2 T olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 T capers in salt
8 oz. roasted piquillo peppers, chopped
1 28 oz. can of marzano tomatoes, chopped
12 oz canned tuna, drained
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon
9 oz (or four servings) farro casareccia pasta
8 cups baby arugula

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallots, garlic and capers and saute until fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Add peppers, tomatoes, tuna and paprika and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions.  Add cooked, drained pasta, lemon zest and lemon juice to the sauce and stir to combine.  Mix two cups of arugula with each serving of pasta just before serving, so the arugula wilts slightly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 12 Dessert - Walnut Joys

I don't tend to eat a lot of snacks during the day.  Mostly, I think, because when I am at work I don't really have time!  But we, at the Ariss household, are very fond of our post-dinner snacks.  Late-night eating can often be a hazard to your health (almost as though when the sun goes down, so do your eating inhibitions!) but it doesn't have to be a bad habit.  We decided rather than go against our instincts, we replace the bad food with good stuff!  Usually, I have an apple and a cup of green tea, a handful of almonds and dried cranberries, or some freshly-popped popcorn with a little garlic oil.  Something simple, often sweet and nutritious.  Every now and then, though, you just want dessert!  So, I'm happy to say I will include a Good Dessert recipe when the occasion calls for it.

These cookies are a play on one of my favorite candy bars!  I used walnuts instead of almonds, because I snack on almonds regularly and I wanted to have something different.  The bulk of the cookie is plain, unsweetened coconut with a little chocolate to make them extra decadent!  For a different twist, replace the chocolate and walnuts with whatever the heck you want!  Dried cranberries, almonds, raisins, chopped dates, or pisachios would all be excellent substitutes. 

Once you try these, you may never waste your money on a crappy candy bar ever again!  You'll save yourself from something unsustainably produced with lots of artificial ingredients and corn syrup.  Victory is ours!

Walnut Joys
makes about 16 cookies

4 egg whites
1 3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a standing mixer, beat egg whites until foamy, about a minute or two.  Add all the other ingredients and beat until combined. 

Using a small ice cream scoop, about 2 inches, scoop mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between cookies.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cookies are set and the coconut is brown and toasted.  Allow to cool completely before enjoying.

Day 12 Dinner - "Cream" of Broccoli soup with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

This evening as I was pondering over what to make for dinner, I suddenly got a major craving for a big, buttery baked potato.  So, I decided to take my favorite elements of a baked potato (potato, broccoli, and butter) and turn it into a healthy, "Good Dinner"-style soup! 

When Obe and I were vegans, I came across a wonderful tomato soup recipe in my favorite vegan cookbook, "Veganomicon," that called for pureed potato (instead of heavy cream) to add a "creamy" texture to the dish.  Although we happily enjoy meat and dairy again, we still try to keep our consumption to a minimum, and it's nice to know those little tricks in order to avoid unneccessary calories!  Make sure to use yukon gold potatoes, as they are essential to the soup's velvety texture.  We finish the soup with a little butter to add richness, but you can easily leave the butter out for a lighter meal. 

"Cream" of Broccoli soup with Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
5 small yukon gold potatoes (about 5 cups), diced
6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock (recipe follows)
2 cups finely chopped baby broccoli (may substitute regular broccoli)
1 small bunch green onions, sliced thin
2 T butter
salt and white pepper, to taste

Brussels sprouts:
6 cups brussels sprouts, leaves removed
2 tsp olive oil
salt, to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and potatoes and saute for another minute, then add stock and turn heat up to high.  Cover and bring soup to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and keep covered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fork-tender (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, roast brussels sprouts.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss leaves with olive oil and salt and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast until leaves are browned and a little bit crispy. 

Using an immersion blender (or a food processor, in shifts) blend the soup until completely smooth and creamy.  Add chopped broccoli and cook for another ten minutes.   Add green onions and butter just before serving and stir in until the butter is melted completely.

Top each serving with a small handful of brussels sprouts.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 11 Dinner - Marco's Pizzeria Queens Pizza with Arrosto Salad

Sometimes, you just want to order delivery!  Obe and I are particularly fond of Marco's Pizzeria.  They make thin-crust pizzas in a coal-fired oven and use lots of fresh, local ingredients.  We ordered their Queens Pizza, which is covered in eggplant, peppers, and lots of other veggies. 

As an accompaniment we ordered the Arrosto salad, which has an assortment of coal-fired veggies atop mixed greens.  Aside from the refined-flour crust, this meal was actually quite healthy and packed with vegetables.  I find the best way to stay on track when eating out is to order whichever item on the menu has the most vegetables.  Vegetarian options are often a safe bet, and ordering a salad is always a good option!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 10 Dinner - Linguine Marinara with Arugula

Is there anything quite so comforting as a nice, hot plate of pasta?  To me, pasta is the ultimate comfort food, because not only does it fill you up and taste delicious, it is also super fast and easy to make!  I added arugula to this dish because, as always, I had to sneak some healthy greens into the meal.  Besides being healthy, though, the arugula adds a bright, peppery burst of flavor and beautiful color.  If you want to add greens but aren't a fan of arugula, baby spinach is an easy substitute.

Poor pasta has fallen out of favor, these days, because it generally serves as empty calories.   However, there seems to be an endless amount of alternatives to refined-flour pastas popping up on grocery market shelves.  Most of us are familiar with whole wheat pasta, but the other day I discovered pasta made out of organic whole grain einkorn.  If you've never heard of einkorn, join the club!    Apparently, it was the first wheat ever to be cultivated, but was lost over time with all the hybridization of domestic crops.  The grain is very high in protein and fiber and has a rustic, toasty flavor.  I found it to be very tasty!

Linguine Marinara with Arugula
serves 6

12 oz. Einkorn Pasta (or Whole Wheat Pasta)
1 T olive oil
4 small Italian Sausages
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can Tomato puree (may also use crushed or diced tomatoes)
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried basil
12 cups baby arugula
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan on medium-high, heat olive oil.  Remove sausages from casings and add to the pan in small pieces.  Fry sausage for about 4 minutes, then add onions.  Saute until onions are soft, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree, stock, and herbs.  Reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Drain pasta.

Place each serving of pasta in the center of the dish.  Add one ladle of sauce, then add 2 cups arugula and top with another ladle of sauce to gently wilt the greens.  Serve.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Brunch - Herbed Polenta and Poached Egg with Carrot and Kale Salad

Obe and I just love weekend brunches.  Brunch food, however, is not usually very healthy!  Pancakes, waffles, and eggs benedict are all delicious, but very high in calories and low in nutrients.  So, I've decided to include a brunch recipe each weekend.  That way, we'll still enjoy our favorite weekend tradition without undoing all the hard work we put into eating well throughout the week.

This meal pays homage to those ever-versatile and always beautiful rainbow carrots.  They are sliced, without peeling, so that the bright, bold color is not lost and roasted to al dente perfection.  The polenta is rich and creamy and a little bit goes a long way.  If you want to make a lower-calorie version, omit the milk and replace with vegetable broth or water and cut the amount of cheese in half and sprinkle on top of each serving instead of mixing it in.  But don't forget, a little bit of indulging for one meal a week is usually fine.  We all need to treat ourselves once in a while!

Speaking of treats, I have also included a cocktail with this meal.  Omit the alcohol and you have a healthy and refreshing brunch beverage!

Herbed Polenta and Poached Egg with Carrot and Kale Salad
serves 4

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup polenta (not instant)
1 tsp. salt
2-3 T fresh sage, minced
2 T fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
4 eggs
1/4 cup vinegar

1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 small rainbow carrots, washed and sliced into 2 x 1/4-inch pieces
1 T olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Make the polenta:  In a medium saucepan, bring milk and vegetable stock to a gentle boil.  Stream in the polenta, while whisking, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Stir continuously (or at least every two minutes or so) for about 10 minutes.  Add herbs and salt and cook until polenta is thick and grains are soft, about 5 to 10 more minutes.  Add gruyere and stir.

While Polenta is cooking, poach eggs.  Fill a large, shallow pan with water and bring to a boil.  reduce heat to about medium-low (just until water stops bubbling), then add vinegar.  One-by-one, break each egg into a small cup and quickly pour into water.  Cook about 3 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.  Toss carrots and kale with olive oil and salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until kale is crispy and very lightly browned.  Sprinkle balsamic vinegar and toss just before serving. 

Serve polenta topped with a poached egg and the kale and carrot salad on the side.  Serve with Carrot-ginger cocktail, if desired.

Carrot-ginger cocktail
serves 1

2 oz. Reed's ginger beer (preferable to other brands because it has no corn syrup)
2 oz. Carrot juice
1 oz. Vodka

Chill vodka and a champagne glass in the freezer for 20 minutes or more.  Combine all ingredients and serve.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 8 Dinner - Cherry Creek Grill Macho Salad

Obe and I just love going out to dinner.  Even though we are making efforts to eat right and cook more wholesome food for ourselves, once a week or so we get the itch to have a night on the town.  I find nothing wrong with that in the long term, as long as you go to the right places and make the right choices!

I say, when in doubt... order a salad!  That way, even if you're packing on more calories than you normally would eating at home, at least you are getting lots of nutritious vegetables in your meal!  Salads at restaurants tend to be dressed rather heavily, so if you really want to be virtuous you can order your dressing on the side.  Take it a step further, still, and skip the cheese!

This salad I had tonight at the Cherry Creek Grill was so delicious, I'm going to make a "Good Dinner" version of my own tomorrow night.  Although everything about the salad was tasty, I would have preferred it to have a more seasonal selection of vegetables.  If a restaurant is using ingredients such as corn, avocado, and tomato (which are all in season during the summer) in the middle of winter, my guess is they're coming from far away.  I like to focus on keeping my diet full of vegetables that come from as nearby as possible.  It's better for my health and the health of the planet!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 7 Dinner - Black Bean Soup with Poached Egg and Kale Chips

A few years ago, Obe, my dad and I were in Estes Park and decided to stop at this cute little Costa Rican restaurant called Pura Vida for lunch.  I ordered a cup of black beans and they brought it to me with a poached egg floating on the top.  Now I am hooked for life!  The egg adds a lovely texture and luxurious richness to the soup, and as you break the yolk it slowly oozes that liquid culinary gold into the bowl, making each spoonful just heavenly. 


Since I like to sneak greens into my dinner as often as possible, a side of kale chips accompanies this meal.  They are crispy, flavorful, and really, really good for you.  Once you've tried them, you may never want to buy a bag of potato chips ever again!  Avoid the very thick-leaf Kale varieties for this recipe.  I used Lacinato Kale because it has thinner leaves and makes a more crispy chip. 

Black Bean Soup with Poached Egg and Kale Chips
serves 6

2 cups dried black beans, picked through and rinsed
2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp coriander
dash cinnamon
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves
6 eggs
1/4 cup white vinegar

Kale Chips:
2 bunches kale, washed well, stems removed and torn into chip-sized pieces
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook black beans in plenty of water in a pressure cooker set to high until very tender, about 30 minutes.  If you don't have a pressure cooker, use a regular pot, covered, and adjust cooking time accordingly.  Drain beans in a colander and set aside. 

In a large pot, heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and saute an additional minute.  Add beans and vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add spices.  Puree soup with an immersion blender (or, puree in batches in a blender or food processor).  Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

Make kale chips:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dry kale pieces thoroughly in a salad spinner and toss with olive oil and salt to taste.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spread kale pieces out in a single layer.  Bake until the leaves become crispy, but not brown, about 10 minutes.

While chips are baking, poach the eggs:  Spray a large saute pan with cooking oil (or coat with a little bit of olive oil) and fill with about three inches of water.  Add white vinegar and bring to a simmer.  Adjust heat so that steam is rising from the water but it is not bubbling.  Crack each egg into a small cup and gently pour the egg into the water.  Cook until whites look very firm but yolk is still runny, about 3 or 4 minutes.

Portion soup into bowls and place one poached egg into each bowl.  Top with cilantro leaves and serve with kale chips on the side.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 6... Leftovers!

One of the reasons I like to make recipes with high yields (6 servings is my usual, as you may have noticed by looking through all the recipes I've posted so far) is that I love to have a fridge full of leftovers.  I like to portion out the leftovers into individual servings so they're ready to take for lunches the next day.  Talk about convenience food! 

So, tonight we took it easy and ate what we had so we could have a little extra time to relax.  Not to worry, though, we'll be back again tomorrow with a brand new recipe!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 5 Dinner - Big Winter Salad with Walnut Dressing

There was a time, many years ago, when I didn't like eating salads for dinner.  I thought salads were lame.  It wasn't until I had my first job as a pantry chef in a restaurant (where half of my job was making all the salads) when I realized that salads could not only be great for dinner, they could also be filling, flavorful, beautiful, and healthy all at once.  Not to mention, salad is the ultimate fast food!  No cooking required! 

The key to a delicious salad, I believe, is choosing fresh ingredients that are in season and having a really great dressing.  So, for those of you who see the title "Big Winter Salad" and feel immediately disinterested, please give this one a try.  It is packed with wholesome, healthy greens, sweet and tangy winter fruits, and the dressing is rich, super-garlicky, and so easy to make you'll want to make it in massive amounts and put it on everything!

Big Winter Salad
serves 2

6 cups Brussels Sprouts leaves
3 cups mixed greens (I used the "Organic Girl" Herb Baby Romaine mix, just pick your favorite)
1 small apple, sliced (I used Braeburn, but any variety should do)
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/8 cup pistachios, very lightly toasted
1 sausage (I used "Continental Sausage" brand Wild Boar sausage with apricots and cranberries), cooked and sliced

2 garlic cloves (if you don't want so much garlic, one clove is fine)
2 T yellow mustard
Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar (if you can't find this, use regular balsamic)
2 oz. Walnut Oil
1 tsp salt

Make the dressing:  In a blender, add garlic, mustard and salt and pulse a few times to chop the garlic.  Pour in vinegar until it reaches the 2 oz. mark, then blend the ingredients until smooth.  With the blender running, drizzle in the walnut oil very slowly until the whole thing measures 4 ounces.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.  If the dressing tastes too strong, drizzle in some olive oil and blend to mellow out the flavor. 

Boil a kettle full of water.  Place brussels sprouts leaves in a large bowl and pour boiling water until the leaves are submerged.  Allow to cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, then immediately drain and rinse with cold water until the leaves are no longer warm.  Gently squeeze the leaves to remove excess water, or spin them dry with a salad spinner.

In a large bowl, mix the brussels sprouts, mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, and cranberries.  Toss with about 1 ounce of dressing (more, if you'd like--you will have some leftover either way) then divide mixture between two plates.  Take the apple slices and arrange them around the salad, then top with pistachios and sausage slices.

Day 5... Weight Loss!

It seems no matter what kind of diet and fitness books I read, they almost always recommend that you get in the habit of weighing yourself every day.  In particular, I'm referencing my suggested reading of the week, Mark Bittman's "Food Matters." 

The book is available on paperback for about $15 and is full of motivational information on why we all need to get out of the habit of eating processed foods and start focusing on dominating our diets with plants instead of eating so many animal products.  In fact, most of my recipes will be in keeping with his serving sizes when it comes to meat portions (last night's serving of soup only has one scallop per person). 

If you don't have time to read a whole book (or, if you just don't feel like it!) he also has a wonderful article in this month's bon appetit magazine.  The article is pretty much a synopsis of the book, so you get the spirit of it without the bulk.  I will say, however, that one thing I found very helpful about the book was all the information it contains about what he calls "sane eating."  Personally, I find it difficult to make big changes in my diet (especially the first two weeks or so) but when I have a lot of facts to help keep me motivated, it really helps me stay on track. 

Since I've basically been using Mark Bittman's "rules" to guide me through this process, I started weighing myself every day--even on the weekends, which I never used to do because weekends were for cheating and I would inevitably gain a pound or two because of it.   So, since the new year began I have officially lost three pounds!  Hooray!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4 Dinner - Green Miso Soup with Scallops, Shitakes and Baby Bok

Well, Marczyk's had their scallops on sale today and I can never resist a good fish sale!  So, I gathered whatever looked good and green in the produce department and added a bunch of Asian-inspired flavors to make what I think is a really wonderful soup.

The lovely thing about dishes with lots of different vegetables is that they usually do well with substitutions.  If you can't get baby bok, cabbage or brussels sprouts would work just as well (although cabbage should get stir-fried for several minutes longer so it gets tender).  No serrano chiles in the store?  Use a couple of jalapenos, instead!  If you aren't a fan of cilantro (perish the thought!), Thai basil would be a wonderful substitute.  If you don't live in Colorado and can't find Hazel Del's mushroom seasoning (I buy it at the Farmer's Market during the Summer so there's always some on hand--it is truly unique and wonderful stuff!) use your favorite spice rub for fish, or just season the scallops with salt and pepper. 

Whatever you decide, make sure to add this meal to your weeknight repertoire because it's delightfully refreshing, easy to put together, and full of unique flavors to wake up your sleepy senses.

Green Miso Soup with Scallops, Shitakes and Baby Bok
Serves 6

1 T Peanut Oil
1 Leek, chopped and rinsed
1 Serrano pepper, chopped
1 10-oz. package frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup Mirin
5 cups water or vegetable stock
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 T fish sauce
2 limes, juiced
2 T white miso

For Stir-Fry: 
1 T peanut oil
6 scallops
2 T plus 2 tsp Hazel Del Mushroom seasoning
8 oz. Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 heads Baby Bok Choy, sliced
1 tsp fish sauce

Heat the peanut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped leeks and serrano and saute for two minutes, until the leeks are just a little soft.  Add peas and stir to combine.  Deglaze pan with mirin, stir, then add water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 6 minutes.  Turn the heat off and add fish sauce, cilantro and lime juice. 

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it reaches a uniform consistency (it will still be a little bit chunky).  Stir until foam disappears, then add miso, puree for another minute, and set aside.

Generously sprinkle mushroom seasoning on scallops, making sure to cover them completely with seasoning.  In a large pan, heat peanut oil on medium-high and add scallops.  Sear each side for two to three minutes until it achieves a nice, lightly crusty exterior (if you have very large scallops, cover the pan while searing to help them heat through). 

Remove scallops from pan and add mushrooms and remaining mushroom seasoning.  Cook until mushrooms are soft, then add fish sauce and bok choy and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

Serve soup in large, shallow bowls.  Place 1 Scallop in the center of each bowl and garnish with the mushroom stir-fry and plenty of cilantro leaves. 

Day 4... Getting into the swing of things

I'm having trouble sleeping this evening (note the time this was posted!).  It is always exciting to start a new way of doing things, but it can be especially tough in the beginning.  One of the things Obe and I decided to focus on with this new way of eating was eliminating processed foods from our diet.  Coincidentally, this turned out to mean a dramatic reduction in our snacking overall.  When we actually made a conscious effort to snack well, we stopped snacking for the sake of snacking and started snacking for snacking's intended purpose, which is to settle your hunger and tide you over until the next meal.  There were many days in the past month or two where we would go all day without a square meal, then come home famished, have dinner, and snack all night long. 

So, having no more than an apple, a small handful of almonds, and a cup of tea after dinner means I get hunger pains in the middle of the night if I don't go right to sleep!  However, a little bit of hunger versus a bellyache from eating too much junk is much easier to wrestle with.  There's not a thing you can do to make yourself feel better after overeating, but if you're hungry you can always just eat! 

The good news is, these hunger pains will probably be gone by the end of the week.  In the meantime, at least I have time to get a little extra blogging in! 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3 Dinner - Wintry "Dirty Rice" with Brussels Sprouts

I don't know about everybody else, but one of my favorite wintry grains to cook with (and to eat) is wild rice.  Not only does it have a wonderful toasty, nutty flavor but it is rather beautiful in dishes and it happens to be very healthful.  The variety I purchase is Lundberg's, which is non-GMO and sustainably farmed.  Any ol' variety of wild rice should do, and if you don't like wild rice this recipe would work just as well with brown rice. 

This dish is a healthy, seasonal veggie-packed take on Southern Dirty Rice.  Instead of being loaded with giblets and sausage, I use a smaller amount of sausage and bulk up on the brussels sprouts!  Quickly shocking them before adding them to the rice gives the sprouts a nice, toothsome texture and helps them keep their bright, beautiful color.

Wintry "Dirty Rice" with Brussels Sprouts
serves 6

1 T olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 small leek, halved, sliced and rinsed
4 small sausages (I used Marczyk's French Sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh sage, chopped
1/4 cup bourbon (may substitute white wine)
2 cups wild rice
4 cups water
2 tsp salt
generous pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
6 cups brussels sprouts, leaves separated

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute leek and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.  Remove sausage from casings and add to pot in small chunks.  Cook until sausage starts to brown, about 7 minutes, then add garlic and sage and cook 2 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with bourbon, then add rice, water, salt and red pepper flakes and bring liquid to a boil.  Cover pan and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit, covered.

Separate the leaves from the core of each brussels sprout (this takes a while, so do it while the rice is cooking to save time).  Rinse well.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.  Add the brussels sprouts to the water and boil very briefly, so that the leaves become tender, about a minute.  Immediately drain and plunge into the ice bath for about 2 minutes or until the leaves are barely cool(but not cold) to the touch.

Add sprouts to the rice mixture and stir until combined.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.  Serve immediately with a sprig of sage to garnish, if desired.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2 Dinner - Leftovers!

Well, it seems a little early to be posting repeats, but sometimes you just have to have leftovers for dinner (especially when they're tastey and healthy!).  Sunday is, after all, a day of leisure!  So Obe and I are going to relax and watch a documentary ("Babies," on Netflix - one of my favorite movies) and we'll be back again tomorrow with a brand new recipe!

In the mean time, check out this beautiful photo of yesterday's recipe cooked and shot by my dad, Erik Strom:

He used red lentils instead of french, which really give the soup a lovely orange color to contrast nicely with the bright red and green.  Very festive!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 1 Dinner - Rainbow Chard and Lentil Soup

Rainbow Chard is definitely one of the prettiest vegetables in season right now, and whenever I see a good-looking bunch at the store I have to buy it, even if I've got no idea how I'm going to use it!  So, tonight I made a brightly-colored, cleansing soup with French lentils and a few tangy surprises! 

Rainbow Chard and Lentil Soup
serves 4 to 6

1 T olive oil
1 tsp. butter
1 large bunch Rainbow Chard, leaves chopped and stems finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup french lentils, rinsed
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
6 cups water or stock
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 orange
Juce of 1 lemon
1 Pomegranate, seeded

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add diced chard stems and garlic and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add lentils, stir to coat with oil, then add the rosemary and water and bring to a boil.

Simmer soup until lentils are mostly cooked, about 15 minutes, then add the chard leaves and cranberries and allow to soften.  When the chard has wilted but is still bright in color, remove from heat.  Add citrus juices, season with salt and pepper, and stir. 

Ladle into bowls and top with pomegranate seeds and an extra sprig of rosemary if desired.

Day 1... Recovery!

Let's just say it has been a very festive holiday season in the Ariss household!  Obe and I have been eating lots of Christmas sweets and treats and lots of meals out and our bodies are paying for it.  We both gained weight and we've both been sick with colds TWICE in the past two months.  Isn't it amazing how the body reacts to abuse? 

So this first week is going to be a little bit like rehab...  we're going to replace the bad habits with good ones.  I'm going to focus on keeping the house full of whole foods to snack on instead of treats!  The candy bowls are getting filled with raw almonds, pistachios, dried cranberries, and dried figs to replace the mint M&M's and Hammond's peppermint pillows.  I'm also going to be doing some serious grocery shopping to replenish our fridge and pantry with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Over the next year, we will be posting pictures of all our dinners and we'll include recipes for every meal I prepare.  We'll also include our progress with weight-loss and general well-being, recommended cookbooks and reading material for inspiration, and helpful tips and hints for staying focused on eating well and cooking great meals.

We are so excited to start this adventure and share it with the world!  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our first good dinner of the year!