Sunday, January 31, 2010

Southwest Salmon Patties

All of us know that salmon is soooo healthy. Among other things, it is packed full of essential fatty acids that are great for heart health. Both for health reasons and environmental reasons, wild salmon (rather than farm raised) is the best way to go. But wild salmon is both difficult to find and difficult to afford! Solution: use canned Alaskan Wild Salmon. Since I'm not exactly close to Alaska (though it sure feels like it outside), it's still not the best case scenario environmentally, but it sure beats farm raised salmon from halfway across the world. At around $2 a can (serves 2 in the recipe) it's also much friendlier on the pocket book!

This recipe is pretty simple - I paired ours with a cucumber and avocado relish. For the relish I combined equal parts diced cucumber, avocado and cilantro. I tossed this with a dressing made from equal parts lime juice, olive oil, and minced garlic, plus a pinch of a salt. It made for a great Sunday lunch (FYI on the weekends cooking lunch is my responsibility - it is something I cherish greatly!)

Southwestern Salmon Patties (Serves 2):
1 7.5 oz. Can WILD Salmon, drained and broken up into small flakes
1/4 Cup Corn Kernels (thawed if using frozen)
1/4 Cup Diced Red Bell Pepper
1/4 Cup Finely Minced Onion
2 Large Garlic Cloves Finely Minced
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
Dash crushed red pepper
Salt to taste
2 T. Flour (I used almond flour to keep this wheat-free)
1 egg, scrambled
1/4 C. breadcrumbs (again, I used almond flour)
Olive oil for cooking

Thoroughly combine the salmon, corn, pepper, onion, garlic, spices, 2 T. flour, and egg. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes (this is isn't absolutely necessary, but it makes the patties easier to form). Divide the mixture evenly into six patties, about 1/4 inch thick. Put the 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or almond flour in a shallow bowl. Coat both sides of each patty lightly in breadcrumbs (just set the patties in the breadcrumbs, and then flip them over to coat opposite side).

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with a little olive oil. Put patties in an even layer in the skillet. Cook 5-7 minutes until nicely browned. Flip over and cook another 5 minutes until browned on that side as well.

Serve warm with cucumber avocado relish or a salad.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fennel and White Beans

Yet another easy bean recipe! Before making this dish I had never tried fresh fennel (also called anise). It has a slight licorce/anise -like aroma, so I was kind of afraid it would have a strong off-putting taste. Boy was I wrong, it is wonderful - slightly onion like, slightly cabbage like, sweet once cooked, just a hint of anise. As we were eating this dish for lunch Alfred said (licking his plate - and no I'm not joking, he often licks his plate), you have to make this again!

In case you don't know what fennel looks like here's a picture:

You'll only need the fennel bulb for this dish. It's the white part, not the green leafy part. You can save the rest for something else.

It took about 20 minutes to cook this dish - but half of that time is just waiting while the dish simmers. We paired this with some sauteed swiss chard (I LOVE chard) for a filling vegetarian meal.

Fennel and White Beans:

1 Can White Beans (I used navy beans because that's what I had in my cupboard), drained and rinsed
1/2 a large fennel bulb thinly sliced
1 large onion halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 Cup Water (or broth)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Olive oil for sauteeing

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the pan, then add the fennel and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the fennel and onions are tender and golden brown (5-10 minutes). Add in the drained beans, oregano, water, salt and pepper. Let simmer uncovered for about 5-10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ideas for a Quick and Healthy Breakfast

This semester I am teaching at 8:30am. In order to fit in an hour of exercise, a shower and breakfast in time to catch the 7:10 bus to campus I spend a little time on Sunday preparing several breakfast items that just need to be reheated or assembled on weekday mornings. I don’t operate well on an empty tummy, so I always make sure to have a healthy breakfast that will keep me fueled for hours. No matter what your schedule, I'm sure you're pressed for time in the mornings - but you also need a good meal, so here are some of my favorite options:

Steel Cut Oats
Unlike the more common old fashioned and quick cooking oats, steel cut oats are thick rice-like grains. Because they are thicker they take longer to cook (about 20 minutes – follow the directions on the package – for a little extra fiber add in a couple tablespoons of flax seed meal). Like many others, I prefer the chewier texture of these whole grain oats to quick cooking oats. I make a big batch on Sunday. When I want some in the morning I scoop some into a bowl, drizzle with a little non-dairy milk and microwave for 2 minutes. I often top my oats with some walnuts, a dash of cinnamon, a little agave nectar, and some dried or fresh fruit. Of course, rolled oats (quick cooking or old fashioned) are a very healthy option to - but it's better (and MUCH cheaper) to buy them plain and then add a little honey or agave or jam. The pre-sweetened packets not only have a ton of sugar, they also have an outrageous amount of sodium.

Quinoa Muesli
Like the steel cut oats, quinoa takes about 20 minutes to cook, so I cook a batch on Sunday. There are many tasty options for using quinoa, you could reheat it and serve like the oats. One of my favorite options is to mix equal parts quinoa and yogurt. Then I add in a dash of ginger and cinnamon, some nuts/seeds, and half of a chopped apple or pear.

Quinoa “fried rice”
I tend to eat sweet dishes for breakfast, but this is one of my favorite savory items. To make quinoa “fried rice,” sauté some veggies (pre-chopped zucchini, onions, carrots, peas, cabbage, garlic – take your pick) in a little toasted sesame oil for 2 minutes then push the veggies to one side of the pan and scramble an egg in the other half of the pan. To serve mix the veggies, egg, and however much (pre-cooked) quinoa you like; season with a little salt or soy sauce. The taste of this dish reminds me of fried rice and it is equally good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Everyone (except my husband, what a weirdo!) like pancakes, but they aren’t exactly quick to whip up; however, they freeze beautifully! On Saturday or Sunday mix up a big batch of flap jacks (use your favorite recipe and try adding in some whole grains, flax seed meal, oats, or almond flour to healthy them up) and cook them all. Eat what you like, then wrap individual portions (2-3 depending on size) in foil and freeze. Just like Eggo’s, all you need to do to serve them during the week is pop the frozen pancakes into the toaster. Instead of the traditional syrup, try topping them with some apple butter, nut butter, agave, jam, and/or honey. My favorite combo is nut butter and banana. Below are links to a couple of my favorite pancake recipes.

Granola Parfait
Not so original, but oh so good! I LOVE yogurt and granola, so this is one of my favorite breakfast (and snack) options. Simply top yogurt with some chopped fruit (or stir in some applesauce), and granola. Here’s a link to my granola recipe.
For the last month I (really my personal chef/husband) have been making my own yogurt. It’s very simple, and I plan to blog about it really soon!

Of course, you could always eat a quick bowl of cold cereal, if it is a healthy one (e.g. raisin bran, not fruity pebbles). But variety is nice!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chicken Curry

I am a firm believer that good food is the world’s best medicine. Modern science has revealed that spices and vegetables are the most potent medicinal foods (something practitioners of Aruveydic and Chinese medicine have known for centuries). International cuisines use these natural healers more than conventional American food; however, one of the best side-effects of having a diverse population is that we Americans have access to foods from all over the globe. Friends (including my husband) from many different countries have exposed me to dozens of different herbs and spices. My love affair with cookbooks has allowed me to experiment with many of these "exotic" ingredients and novel cooking methods (this has only increased my obsession with all things edible)!

Lately I’ve been on a kick with Indian food – mostly cooking vegetarian bean dishes and cauliflower dishes. Today I made my first chicken curry. This dish contains lots of healthy ingredients including onions and garlic both of which contain elements that benefit the cardiovascular system. It is also contains spices such as cumin and coriander, which improve digestion. Most notably, it is contains turmeric, a mildly flavored spice that gives curry its signature yellow-orange hue. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory agent that can relieve conditions from arthritis to hepatitis-C, it is also said to improve brain function (particularly memory) and it has strong cancer-fighting abilities (at least 30 medical studies show it reduces or inhibits the growth of tumors). Sounds like a super food to me!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I strongly recommend you purchase the spices for this recipe from an ethnic grocer – if you don’t have an Indian or Middle Eastern shop nearby, try a Hispanic market. You will save money and get fresher spices.

In preparing this dish I drew on a recipe for "Kukra nu saak" from a lovely book titled, Cooking with My Indian Mother-in-law by Simon Daley and Roshan Hirani. I highly recommend this book - it is full of scrumptious recipes with very clear instructions and sweet family anecdotes. Okay onto the recipe (it’s kind of long, but don’t be intimidated), it is amazingly delicious!

Chicken Curry (Kukra nu saak):
1 Whole Chicken (around 4lbs) cut up and skin removed
3 Tablespoons of Oil
1 Cinnamon Stick
3 Medium Onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1½ Inch piece of ginger, finely grated
3-4 Large Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Chopped Cilantro Stems
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala spice blend (or a combination or cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg)
1 Tablespoon cilantro leaves

1)Put oil in a large pot, warm over medium heat. Add cinnamon stick and onions. Cook, stirring often until onions are lightly browned, approximately 15-20 minutes.

2)While onions are cooking use a mortar and pestle or a bowl and the back of a spoon to mash the garlic, ginger and salt into a paste (it’s okay if it is slightly chunky still)

3)Once the onions are brown add the garlic-ginger paste, cilantro stems, coriander, cumin, chili powder, and turmeric to the pot. Cook about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, combine well. Let the mixture cook about 5 minutes or until you begin to see the oil separate from the tomato mixture around the edges (this is called “oil pooling” and it lets you know the base sauce it ready).

4)Add the chicken pieces, stir to coat and let cook 5 minutes. Add enough water to come about half-way up the chicken (about 2 cups), cover and let simmer on medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

5)Add the garam masala and cilantro leaves, stir and taste to see if more salt is needed. Let simmer uncovered 10 minutes.

We served our chicken curry with steamed brown rice, peas and a cucumber salad. I'm already excited about eating the leftovers tomorrow!

**Because it's just the two of us, I only made half of the recipe and we still had plenty of leftovers. You can also easily turn this into a vegetarian dish by substituting cooked chickpeas for the chicken (2 14 or 15oz cans should be about right).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit

My grandpa taught me the bean song when I was really young. I got a big kick out of it, and I still sing it sometimes! If you don't know the song I'm referring to, here's a link to the lyrics.,_Beans,_the_Musical_Fruit

Despite their infamous side-effects, beans are my favorite source of protein. Tasty and cheap, can't be beat! My pantry is always stocked with garbanzos, lentils, black-eyed peas, navy beans, pinto beans, and black beans. Canned beans are particularly useful for making a quick meal (they can have a lot of unnecessary salt, so look for reduced sodium and/or organic). A few spices and some fresh veggies can turned plain old beans into a delicious, nutritious and inexpensive meal. Most of my bean dishes are a product of whatever veggies or leftovers I have on hand.

One of my favorite combinations is black beans and winter squash (acorn or butternut usually) or sweet potatoes. It may sound like an odd combo, but it is sooo good! Today I made it for lunch, and used up a acorn squash I've had for well over a month!

1 Acorn Squash
1 Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 Medium Onion, diced
3 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Teaspoon Cumin
Pinch Cinnamon
Pinch Oregano
Salt to taste
Olive oil
1/4 Cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 Cup Water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut acorn squash in half, scoop out seeds (discard or save to roast), coat flesh with a little olive oil. Place squash halves cut side down on baking sheet, cook 30-40 minutes, until flesh is tender.

Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until onions are translucent. Add beans, spices, cilantro and water. Let simmer until water is evaporated.

Fill squash halves with bean mixture, eat, smile :).

**If you don't have acorn squash you can add some diced cooked sweet potato or butternut squash to the seasoned beans.

Another really simple bean dish is white beans (try navy, cannellini, or great northern) and greens. Saute some onion and garlic in olive oil, add in a can of drained rinsed beans, add a little water or broth (1/4 cup) and salt to taste. Cover and simmer on low 30 minutes. Meanwhile, saute or blanch some collard greens or Swiss chard. Combine the beans and greens and eat up!

One more favorite - Indian spiced chickpeas. Combine sauteed onions and garlic, a teaspoon each of ginger, fennel seeds, coriander, turmeric, and mustard seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas, and 1 can diced tomatoes. Let simmer for about 30 minutes and enjoy!

Experiment with your favorite beans and spices and let me know how it turns out!

P.S. If there aren't any posts for a while it's because school starts Monday. Teaching and dissertating are sure to keep me busy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Simply Delicious Ciabatta Bread

Yesterday Alfred requested that I make him some ciabatta bread. I was more than willing because I love to bake - but I haven't baked much since I gave up sugar and wheat - and because I welcome any task that distracts me from the work I should be doing (this holiday break has turned me into one lazy girl!). Baking bread in the winter is also great because it really warms up our chilly apartment!

In my bread eating days ciabatta was one of my favs, but I had actually never baked any, so I went to google in search of a recipe. I quickly found a wonderful no knead recipe complete with a short, easy to follow video tutorial. (Here's the link
The bread is relatively thin (kind of like foccacia). It is perfect on its own, but it's also great with soup or made into a sandwich.

All the recipe requires is flour, salt, yeast, water, and a hefty dose of time (it requires an 18 hour rise). The long rise produces a bread with a lovely stretchy, chewy crumb. It took a lot of will power (and my all too recent memories of stomach pain) to keep me from indulging! Alfred is not easy to please, and he gives it two thumbs up.