Meatless Monday - a day to celebrate others

>> Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm taking the easy way out today. The start of school for both of my kids (a first!) is this week on top of birthday preparations and festivities as my little boy turns 6. Busy, special times! So, today I want to share a few recipes from other blogs that I haven't tried yet but plan to. I've three recipes for you that look fantastic and are meatless to boot!

Before I get to the great recipe links I've found, a big thank you to the people at Meatless Monday for featuring my Greek Wheat Berry Salad this week. I'm thrilled to be able to participate with the Meatless Monday movement in this way, and thrilled that the editors there liked my recipe enough to put it front and center!

And, now the links. First up, a fantastic looking Whole Wheat Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Zesty Cook (actually a guest post from Simply Savor). This looks like a great coffee cake for breakfast. Love that it isn't loaded with sugar and that it uses whole wheat flour. I think that I might try adding in a little wheat germ for a little more protein and goodness.

Next, a very unique and delicious looking potato salad from Vegan Visitor - Creamy Potato Salad with Avocado. Never would have thought to substitute avocado for mayo, but I think it's a wonderful idea. The only downfall to this potato salad that I can see is that leftovers might not be that appealing with so much avocado present - so better eat it all! I think most everything is better with a little onion, so I'm sure that I'll add some when I make this along with some cilantro.

Last, dessert! I would have killed for a vegan brownie recipe a couple of years ago when I was on a strict dairy, wheat, and egg free diet for my little girl. This one looks really good - vegan or not. And if you're gluten intolerant, this is a perfect recipe to do a one-to-one substitution of the flour of your choice for the whole wheat flour. A recipe like this can handle most any flour. Vegan or not, check out this recipe for Vegan Dark Chocolate Brownies with Sea Salt from Simply Savor.


Meatless Mondays - Pumpkin muffins, one more time

>> Monday, August 24, 2009

I've already done a couple of posts on pumpkin muffins, but my kids like them so much that I'm going to do one more with the latest incarnation of the recipe.

To recap, I don't like pumpkin. Shocking, no? I am nothing if not picky! So, I was a bit flabbergasted when my son came home from preschool last fall begging me to make pumpkin muffins. Seems they made them a couple of times in his preschool class, and he loved them. So, knowing how good pumpkin is for you (you can read about that in my original post), I decided I would give it a go for him. I found a recipe at Smitten Kitchen and modified it a bit, and then a bit more, and then more still. My final recipe really bares so little resemblance to the original recipe, which I'm sure was absolutely delicious as it was, that I'm calling it my own. But thanks to Smitten Kitchen for getting me started!

So, how do they taste? They're very moist, and the kids gobble them up. Although they have as much pumpkin as flour in them, they don't have a heavy pumpkin flavor. The flavor of the pumpkin pie spice (substitute cinnamon if you can't find pumpkin pie spice) is the dominant flavor. My kids, as I've said, love these. Even better, their friends love these. (My son told me that every time he brought my pumpkin muffins as his preschool snack, a friend of his who loved these muffins made a point to pick the muffin crumbs off the floor at clean up time...and eat them. I'm flattered, but ew!) There is just something about these muffins that makes them a kid magnet.

And they're great for adults too! I cook them as mini-muffins (portion control), but they'll do just as well as regular muffins, just increase the cooking time a bit. I can have a pan of muffins made in less than 30 min in the morning. Fast, easy, tasty, and good for you! Give these a try for breakfast or a snack sometime!

Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups packed pumpkin (from a 15-oz can - be careful not to get a can of pumpkin pie filling!)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line mini-muffin pan with muffin cups.

Mix together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Mix together flour and baking powder and add to the pumpkin mixture. Mix until just combined.

Add batter to each muffin cup so that each cup is about 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean, about 18-20 min. Makes about 3 dozen.

If you don't have white whole wheat flour on hand, you can use regular whole wheat flour for a final product with a slightly wheatier taste or change the flour proportions to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup regular whole wheat flour.


Meatless Monday - Roasting vegetables and kohlrabi

>> Sunday, August 16, 2009

Have you heard of the vegetable called kohlrabi? I have been dying to try some kohlrabi for months now, but our grocery stores don't sell it, sadly. Happily, my local summer vegetable stand had a few (and just a very few) for sale last week, and I snatched some up. So glad that I did! This crazy vegetable was hit in our household.

So, what is kohlrabi? Kohlrabi - aka "cabbage-turnip" is a cruciferous vegetable that is pale green or purple in color, kind of circular, and smooth, except for the where the leaves sprout out of it. The kohlrabi I bought had the leaves already removed.

Kohlrabi, like all cruciferous vegetables, has a lot to offer nutritionally. Kohlrabi is a great source of dietary fiber, and it's an excellent source of vitamin C. Amazingly, a single half cup serving of cooked, diced kohlrabi has about 74% of the RDA for vitamin C and 16% more potassium than a half cup of orange juice. It's a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorous, and a very good source of copper and manganese. Throw in antioxidants, a decent dose of iron and calcium, and protein, and this vegetable (like pretty much all of the cruciferous vegetables) is a great one to add to your diet!

I've been so keen on trying this vegetable because of the descriptions I've read about its flavor. I've heard the flavor described as a cross between celery and apple in its raw form changing to a sweet turnip flavor when cooked. Might be the batch that I got, but I didn't get any apple flavor from mine. To my husband and me, it tasted more like a sweet jicama with just a little radish zing. It's really good raw and would be great in a salad. My daughter gave it two thumbs up in raw form, but she's easy that way.

I pondered how to prepare this vegetable after buying it, and finally decided to roast it. I like most any vegetable roasted. The flavor post-roasting was great, but I'm not quite sure how to describe it. I've had roasted rutabagers before (a turnip relative), and roasted kohlrabi is quite different in flavor. It retains it's original flavor, only the flavor is more complex with roasting with some turnip and broccoli characteristics coming out in the flavor. My son thought it tasted just like brocolli. He gave roasted kohlrabi two BIG thumbs up - going back for seconds and thirds. That's high praise from my picky eater!

On to the roasting! I know that this post has been primarily about kohlrabi, but roasting is a great way to prepare so many vegetables - carrots, onions, brocolli, red bell pepper, squash, zucchini, etc. And the method for roasting is pretty much the same for all vegetables - high heat, a little oil, and time. Easy peasy! For our kohlrabi meal, I also roasted some plain carrots alongside the kohlrabi. Young, tender carrots that aren't too big yet are fantastic roasted whole. If your carrots are big, try cutting them into smaller sticks and roasting. Yum!

Here's my method for roasting kohlrabi. Take it and apply to your vegetable of choice!

Roasted Kohlrabi (or vegetable of choice)

Coursely diced kolhrabi
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
1-2 TBSP olive oil
kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F. Coat kohlrabi (or whatever vegetable you're using) with olive oil, and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Mix in minced garlic.

Roast for 20 min. After 20 min, shake or stir the kohlrabi and check every 5-10 min until the vegetable reaches desired doneness, shaking with every check. Sprinkle kosher salt to taste on top of roasted vegetable. Enjoy!

Now to convince my local grocery stores to start stocking kohlrabi. Spread the word! Kohlrabi is an unusual vegetable that is both very nutritious as well as delicious!

And...if you like roasted vegetables, you might want to check out this book: The Roasted Vegetable by Andrea Chesman. A great cookbook with lots of wonderful recipes for roasting and using roasted vegetables.


Surprising HFCS food of the week

>> Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I should probably title this series "Surprising HFCS of every couple of every month or so" now, but I'm sticking with the "of the week" moniker. I'm rarely surprised by foods that contain HFCS now. I can usually see them coming. But, every now and then, a food catches me by surprise. That happened just this week...

The food that caught me off guard? Stewed tomatoes! So obvious, right? Of course there's HFCS in stewed tomatoes. (Sarcasm, in case you didn't pick that up.) I needed a can of stewed tomatoes with Mexican seasoning for a recipe that I made yesterday. I flipped the can over to scan the ingredients, and there it was - my old nemesis high fructose corn syrup. The can that got flipped was S&W Stewed Tomatoes - Mexican Recipe. They weren't the only offender. Del Monte Mexican Stewed Tomatoes also contain HFCS.

I surprised to find sugar as an ingredient at all in stewed tomatoes, but it was in all of them in some form - regardless of the brand. And where sugar is a common ingredient, you can be sure to find HFCS in one brand or another. There were several brands of stewed tomatoes that did not use HFCS - including the generic store brand and Hunts.

Speaking of unusual places for sugar to hang out, I found sugar in the ingredient list for most canned beans. I understand the purpose of the sugar - to sweeten up the beans and make the easier on the tongue - but when I'm buying a plain jane can of beans, I kind of expect to get just that. It took quite a bit of searching to find a can of beans that did not have sugar in it. (Private Selection Red Kidney Beans, Kroger's organic store brand, was added sugar free.)

Just another friendly reminder to read those ingredients! Sometimes you'll be surprised what is in seemingly straight-forward products!


Meatless Monday - Greek Wheat Berry Salad

>> Monday, August 10, 2009

Do you know what a wheat berry is? It's the whole wheat grain - what they grind to make whole wheat flour. It's also delicious cooked in its whole form! I have been eying recipes made with wheat berries for a while now, but only tried using unground wheat berries last week. Wheat berries turn out to be surprisingly simple to cook and they taste quite a lot like brown rice. In fact, I couldn't convince my son that it wasn't brown rice!

Uncooked soft white wheat berries

Before heading to this week's recipe, I want to take a moment to explore the humble wheat berry. First, what makes the wheat berry desirable? Well, it's a whole grain. All of the nutrients and good stuff (like fiber) remain inside the little berry. Unlike brown rice, wheat berries stay good for a long, long time. I've read reports of wheat berries that were stored in a cool, dry environment that were good as many as 20 years later! That might be a little extreme, but stored in a cool, dry location they will indeed last many years, and stored in a freezer they will last indefinitely. This is in contrast to ground wheat berries - aka whole wheat flour - which has a relatively short shelf life. Keeping the berry whole keeps all of the good stuff inside of the berry stable and secure.

I'm sure that there are many, many different variety of wheat berries, but I'm only going to talk about a couple of them - red and white wheat berries. Hard red wheat berries (I'm going to talk about both Spring and Winter wheat together) is the type of wheat that is used to make traditional whole wheat flour. It's also used to make all-purpose flour, though white all-purpose flour is made from only the endosperm with the nutritious bran and germ removed. (As an aside, non-whole wheat flour is often "enriched, " meaning vitamins and nutrients that were lost when the germ and bran were removed are added back in. Whole wheat flours are not enriched because those vitamins and nutrients haven't been removed in the first place.) Hard red wheat has a relatively high protein content. There is also a soft red wheat that has a softer endosperm and a lower protein content making it good for pastry and cake flour.

White wheat berries are a relatively new variety, having only been added as a market class in the US in 1990. White wheat and red wheat are nutritionally equivalent. The main difference in the two wheat varieties is that white berries have fewer phenolic compounds and tannins in the bran resulting in a milder flavor. White wheat is lighter in color than its red cousin and has a sweeter flavor. White wheat comes in both a hard and soft variety, just like red wheat. The two flours can be used interchangeably. (For a great comparison of the performance of the two flours, check out this article at The Fresh Loaf.)

The great thing about white wheat is the flavor. I have great success substituting white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in my baking because it doesn't really change the flavor. As with traditional whole wheat flour made with red wheat, baked goods behave a bit differently when cooked with whole wheat flours, so all-purpose flour is still a good thing to have around. I'm not much of a baker, but I find that I can substitute 1/2 - 3/4 of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour and have good results, depending on the recipe. Using white whole wheat instead of all-purpose doesn't change the flavor of the end product appreciably, but it may change the texture. If you haven't tried white whole wheat flour yet, buy some and give it a try!

Back to whole wheat berries and the recipe... I used soft white wheat berries for this recipe, but you can use whatever variety you have on hand. My grocery store only recently started selling wheat berries in their bulk bin section and carry both hard red wheat and soft white wheat berries. I'm giving you the recipe basically as I prepared it, but like most of my recipes there's a lot of flexibility. Feel free to increase or decrease the amounts of any of the ingredients to suit you taste. We served this salad as a main dish at room temperature, but it's also good cold. Make the recipe your own and enjoy!

Greek Wheat Berry Salad

2 cups wheat berries (I used soft white wheat berries)
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt (or chicken bouillon)
2 cups chopped grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 TBSP white balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar would work well too)
3 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp pepper

Boil wheat berries in water with 1/2 tsp salt (or chicken bouillon) for 40-60 min or until they have reached the desired tenderness. (Desired tenderness is subjective, hence the big window.) Drain in a colander.

Combine wheat berries, tomatoes, green onions, olives, basil, and feta and mix well.

In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, remaining salt, and pepper. Use a whisk to emulsify a bit. Pour over the wheat berry mixture and mix to coat the salad well. Serve and enjoy!

Will I cook with wheat berries again? was incredibly easy to prepare and makes a fine side dish as well as a base for salads. (I served the cooked wheat berries to my kids with just a little butter on top. They gobbled it up and asked for more.) My only problem with wheat berries is the cost. They're rather pricey where I am, so I am more likely to use brown rice or quinoa (equally pricey but with other benefits that I will discuss at a later date) instead of wheat berries. If I could buy them bulk to bring the cost down, it could possibly become a staple in our household, especially as whole wheat berries stay good for such an incredibly long time.


Meatless Monday - Falafel

>> Monday, August 3, 2009

When we lived in Boulder, CO, I was surrounded by shops selling falafel, but I never tried it. Then we moved to Baton Rouge, LA, and again, I was surrounded by fantastic restaurants selling Lebanese food and falafel. Still didn't try it. Then we moved to northern Wyoming. Not a falafel shop for hundreds of miles. Finally - finally! - I tried falafel on a trip back to visit family in Mississippi. Guess what? I liked it!

Have you heard of falafel? It's a little patty made primarily of chickpeas with some other good stuff thrown in for good measure. Typically, it is deep fried. I love the fried version - it gets a crispy crust that I just can't quite replicate in my non-fried version - but I am not fond of frying.

I'm not fond of chickpeas, but surprisingly I love both falafel and hummus. Both of these dishes have chickpeas as their main ingredient, but they also have other very strong flavors present that temper the chickpea flavor. Chickpeas, like most beans, are a kind of superfood, so I eat both falafel and hummus with no guilt.

I am constantly fiddling with my falafel recipe and trying new ones. My current incarnation comes compliments of Cooking Light - with my own twist, of course. I rarely remember to soak my chickpeas overnight, so my recipe calls for a can of chickpeas, but I have made falafel starting with dried chickpeas with good results.

If you've not tried it before, give my oven baked falafel a try! Stick it in a pita or on a piece of naan with a little tzatziki sauce (the sauce below is not a classic tzatziki, but it's really good) and some tomato, and you've got a fantastic meal!

Baked Falafel Pitas

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 large egg whites

1 cup Greek yogurt
4 TBSP tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. To prepare the falafel, combine chickpeas through garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Spoon mixture into a bowl. Add egg whites and stir until combined. Let stand 15 minutes. Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Spoon falafel mixture onto baking sheet and flatten slightly with a spoon to make about 16 - 1/2" thick patties. Spray patties lightly with cooking spray again. Cook for about 10 min. Flip patties over and cook for 5 more minutes.

To prepare sauce, simply mix all of the ingredients together.

Smear some sauce inside a pita and stuff with falafel and whatever toppings are desired. Enjoy!


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