Sunday, June 22, 2008

For Kaely

Today is the lovely Kaely's birthday. But she's far away in Boston, and I can't bake a cake to share with her! So here is your virtual birthday cake*, Kaely, from an imaginary world where I can make things that pretty.

And it is good for one yummy (if ugly) birthday cake, whenever the heck we are in the same city. I've had my eye on [this recipe] for ages, and I know you're just the person to share it with. I hope we can try it soon!

*I found the photo on Flickr, taken by the talented"dee m."

Thursday, June 19, 2008


So, I am trying to eat healthier snacks. After recently learning a great popcorn technique from Simply Recipe [Read it here! Learn!], I decided to have some of these yummy whole grains after my walk. However, I thought a few pats of butter might be a bit counterproductive. So I tried my new purchase, really going into Hippie territory: nutritional yeast, or "nooch," as the "in" Vegans call it. So I'm munching on it as I blog. And you know what? It's not bad! For those of you who haven't heard of it, this is not yeast yeast. From Wikipedia: "It is a deactivated yeast, usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses, then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging the yeast. It is commercially available in the form of flakes,photo or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal, and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores."

And you thought it was gross! So, I had read in about a billion places how good it is on popcorn. Fine, agreed. Any other uses you have enjoyed?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Live and (hopefully) learn

I took a walk for another trip to Sue's Produce, and I got all kinds of things I'm sure you'll be seeing in the coming days. One of my purchases about which I was excited was a plastic container full of "shelled" fava beans. Great! I'd never cooked them, and I'm pretty sure I've never eaten them. But they're another spring treat, and another darling of my food bloggers. We do love our seasonal veggies. I found a recipe on NPR's website for a salad using these green jewels [Recipe]. I made some changes, which I will outline below, but there was one change I'm pretty sure was not a good move. See, I know that there are two steps to shelling fava beans. First, you take them out of their fuzzy pod. Then, you pop them out of their individual waxy shells. But, I bought them shelled! So, I just blanched them and tossed them as a salad. They tasted okay--a bit chewy, but you know, seasonal!
As Matt dug in, he said, "Hmm, you said the shell is waxy?"
"Because, this is waxy, and then there's this bean-y thing inside."

I thought this was a great picture of how it should look!

Yep, we chomped on a few of those waxy shells. They weren't shelled, just removed from the pods. I've got a few lessons left, clearly. Nonetheless, I can recommend this salad recipe with fully prepared fava beans, which did eventually reveal a great texture and nice, mild taste.

Fava Bean and Feta Salad

2 cups fava beans, removed from pod but still in waxy shell.

2-3 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled

1 T lemon juice

4 t olive oil

1/8 tsp. Red pepper flakes

2 T parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Blanch fava beans—boil about three minutes and rinse with cold water. Then, you can pop them out of those darn waxy shells.

Combine the shelled beans with the rest of ingredients.

Hopefully, yours won't require more work at the table.

Super Salad

Just sharing another salad from the heat wave last week. I had seen a couple people talking about reduced balsamic vinegar, and I went down to make lunch with the thought that I was going to reduce some! I just wasn't sure what to do with it. As I looked around the kitchen, I came up with a delicious salad.

To reduce the vinegar, I put a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (Use four times what you want to end up with; I used 1/4 cup to get a tablespoon of reduction.) in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Once it boiled, I lowered the heat a bit. You'll start to smell the vinegar burning off, and the reduction will thicken. When it stuck to my spoon, I took it off the heat.

Then, I tossed a small handful of walnut halves in a frying pan over medium heat, tossing and paying attention so they'd toast but not burn (It takes three or four minutes).

Meanwhile, I filled a plate with spring mix. I sliced an apricot (a plum, nectarine, or even blackberries would work nicely too) and arranged it on the plate.

I drizzled about 2 tsp. walnut oil over the salad. Then I drizzled the reduction over it all, and enjoyed a light salad that was really rich in flavor.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Heat wave

So yesterday, we did eat dinner, though the only cooking was some fat-free refried beans from a can in the microwave Even with the central air on, turning on the stove or oven for anything seemed ridiculous. So, we had one of our favorite easy meals, a taco salad with fresh guacamole (avacado, minced red onion, a BIT of minced jalapeno, salt, and lime juice), Trader Joe's Double Roasted Salsa (yum!), lowfat cheddar, lowfat sour cream, and those refried beans, which are a tasty, healthy way to add protien to the meal. It waas quite satisfying, but not filling. So we were able to go out for ice cream! Unfortunately, the rain storm began on our way out, so we ducked into a convenience store for some Ben & Jerry's. Still yummy, but we were looking forward to finally trying Philly Flavors down the block. Soon enough.

Tonight, with the weather more bearable an dhaving seen Boursin cheese on sale, I created another simple, spring pasta meal.

Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Boursin Cheese:

Put a medium pot of water on to boil. Once it's boiling, add six ounces of short whole wheat pasta (I used w.w. bowties).

Ater you put the water on, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan. Add eight ounces sliced button or crimini mushrooms and a pinch of salt.

Four minutes before the pasta is done, add one bunch of asparagus, well washed, trimmed, and cut in one inch pieces to the pot. Once the pasta is done, drain it all and add it to the mushrooms.

Crumble about 2 oz. Boursin cheese (I used shallot and chive, but any of the flavors would be nice) into the mix. Stir it all until the cheese is melted, and serve.

Oh, Mark Bittman

He has a very practical column today on the New York Times about reducing (not eliminating) meat in one's diet.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Quick summer pasta toss

It's so hot that I wanted to do a quick supper, so forgive me for not having the energy to take a picture! I adapted a Food Network recipe a couple of years ago, and hadn't made it again for too long. And broccolini was only $2/bunch at Sue's Produce (which I wish was next door to me instead of in Rittenhouse) yesterday, so I knew it was time! I just simplified it a bit, which is saying a lot, since it was already a one-pot, one-bowl dish.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Cut one bunch of broccolini into one-inch pieces, and slice about six radishes.

Slice a shallot or dice a small amount (a couple tablespoons) of red onion and toss in a large bowl.

Once the water's boiling, add 8-12 ounces of whole-wheat pasta (I used small shells) and a tablespoon of salt. Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccolini to the pot. 2 minutes later, add the radishes. One more minute, and you can drain it all together.

Mix a couple tablespoons of sherry vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste with the onion or shallot in that large bowl. Add six ounces of crumbled feta, the pasta, and vegetables, and toss. Dinner's ready in about twenty minutes!

I know, i know, who cooks radishes? But they get sweet and stay crunchy, and it works.