Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kale Chips

Kale chips? Yep, one of the healthiest most nutrient rich cancer-fighting foods can easily and quickly be made into crisy chips.

While this might sound novel to a few readers, I'm pretty far behind the curve on this "recipe" - I've seen versions of it on TONS of cooking blogs. I've been wanting to make it for months, but I always forget to buy kale on my weekly trip to the market.

I'll admit I was a little skeptical of claims that healthy greens coated in a bit of olive oil, and baked for just a few minutes would become light cripy chips. Well trust me it works, and it is now pretty close to the top of my list of favorite snacks. Alfred loved them too - we just finished snacking on a bunch as an appetizer while we waited for our soup and cornbread to finish cooking.

Raw Kale:

Kale Chips:

All you need is:
3-4 Cups Kale Leaves (you can save the stems for another purpose or roast them too - but they won't get crispy)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Wash the kale and dry completely - they really must be absolutely dry! Tear the leaves into large pieces, drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to rub the oil into all of the leaves. Spread leaves in an even layer on a baking sheet. Cook for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, until crispy and slightly brown. I just sprinkled ours with a little sea salt, you could also season them with granulated garlic and/or crushed red pepper.

I hope you try these - it's a great way to sneak some extra veggies into your diet.

By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Asian Chicken Skewers with Sesame Garlic Veggies

Alfred almost always cooks dinner solo during the week. Waking up at 5am and working until 5pm usually means I'm ready to lounge around when I get home. Today I was really in a cooking mood. First I made us something to have for lunch tomorrow (a bunch of sauteed veggies with rice noodles), and then I made the sesame garlic veggies for this meal (our dinner tonight). Alfred took care of the chicken, so this meal was a cooperative effort.

Here's the Recipe:
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, each cut into three strips
Juice and Zest of 1 Orange
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon Agave or Honey
1 dozen Bamboo Skewers (optional)
2 Large Carrots, peeled and julienned
1 pound Green Beans, ends trimmed
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Large Garlic Cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

For the chicken:
To make the marinade combine the orange juice, zest, lime juice, five spice powder, 1 teaspoon salt and agave. Coat the chicken with the marinade, let sit for at least 1 hour (up to overnight). When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If desired, thread the chicken pieces onto bamboo skewers. Cover a baking sheet with foil (for easier clean-up). Place chicken skewers/pieces on baking sheet, bake for approximately 20 minutes (until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown).

For the veggies:
While the chicken is cooking, bring 5 cups of water and 1 Tablespoon of salt to a boil in a medium-sized pot. When the water is boiling, add the carrots and green beans. Cook the veggies for 3 minutes. Drain veggies. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the sesame oil and garlic – cook 30 seconds. Add the veggies and sesame seeds. Toss veggies to evenly coat with garlic and seeds.

This makes for a quick and easy week night meal, especially if you marinate the chicken the night before! Of course it’s also pretty tasty and healthy (to make it even healthier you could use chicken breasts in place of the thighs). I’m more than content with the chicken and big serving of veggies, but if you’re like my hubby and you need some carbs serve this with steamed brown rice.

By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Simple Cucumber Raita

Raitas are yogurt-based condiments/salads common in Indian cuisine. They are often served to counteract and compliment spicy main dishes.

Cucumber raita is one my favorite raitas. The “recipe” is very easy to modify, depending on your own taste preferences. For example, you can use a number of different herbs to flavor this dish, cilantro is quite popular. You can also add in raw minced garlic, onion, and/or chilies for a sharper taste. I happen to love the cool, refreshing combination of cucumber and mint. I frequently use my homemade yogurt to make this. I like to serve it alongside curried chickpeas* for a filling vegetarian meal or as a snack with pappadum.**

11/2 Cups Yogurt, stir the yogurt well to make sure it is very creamy and smooth
1 Large Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 t. Dried Mint (Fresh would be great, but I had some dried on hand)
Sea Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients, refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the flavors combine. Enjoy!

*To make curried chickpeas, follow this recipe for chicken curry - -
but substitute 2 cans of drained, well- rinsed chickpeas for the chicken.

**Pappadum are crispy wafers made out of lentil (urad dal) flour. They come in a number of flavors, from plain to garlic to spicy pepper. They are very inexpensive and should be available at all Indian grocery stores. You can fry them in a little oil to crisp them up; I prefer to brown them slightly over the gas flame on my stove-top. Swad is a good brand.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Easy Homemade Yogurt

If you’re thinking “why would I want to make yogurt?” consider the following:
1)Making your own yogurt will save you money – homemade organic yogurt will cost you about half the price of store-bought organic yogurt
2)Yogurt is extremely good for you – the live cultures in yogurt help promote healthy digestion and they strengthen your immune system
3)Eating yogurt can help you get the recommended 3 daily servings of dairy
4)Yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium
5)Individuals who are lactose intolerant can eat yogurt even though they can’t eat other dairy products (the cultures consume the lactose, so yogurt is essentially lactose free)
6)It is just plain fun to DIY

The recipe is quite simple, hardly a recipe at all in fact. To give credit where credit is due, my friend Kristin gave me the initial instructions for how to do this.

Milk: I use skim milk, you can use whatever you like, but organic milk is strongly preferred!
Plain (Unsweetened) Yogurt: I use full fat yogurt for my initial starter. Again organic is preferred, and the yogurt must be 100% yogurt – no gelatin or other added thickeners. Some good brands include: Stonyfield Farms, Fage, Oikos, and Dannon.
**After you’ve made the yogurt once, you can keep some of your homemade yogurt and use it as your starter the next time.

You will need around 2 tablespoons of yogurt for every 1 cup of milk.
I usually make a half-gallon at a time, and it lasts me 1 week.

1)Put the milk in a large stockpot. Heat the milk until it is just about to boil, but don’t let it boil. In other words, scaled the milk. If you have a thermometer, it should be around 170 degrees.
2)Let the milk cool until it is around 110 degrees, or until it is very warm, but not hot (e.g., you can put your finger in it and it won’t burn you.) This will take some time, so be patient.
3)Once the milk is cooled whisk in the yogurt until it thoroughly combined.
4)Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into glass or sturdy plastic containers (I re-use old quart-sized yogurt containers from my pre-homemade yogurt days).
5)Line your biggest stockpot or a deep baking dish with a couple of kitchen towels. Nestle the milk/yogurt filled containers in the pot/pan, putting kitchen towels or rags in between the containers and on top of them. The towels provide insulation, which will help the milk/yogurt stay warm and help it turn into a nice creamy yogurt.
6)Place the pot/pan in your oven (turned off), and let it sit overnight or 6-8 hours until the mixture is thick like a typical yogurt. If it is really cold in your home you may want to turn your oven onto its lowest setting for 5 minutes every two hours.
7)Once the yogurt is thick, refrigerate it. That’s it, so simple!

Don’t freak out if you have some separation, meaning there is liquid (called whey) separated from the solid yogurt. Just drain off the liquid. Also, if you want a really thick Greek-style yogurt you can pour the yogurt into a large strainer lined with some cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Let it drain until the yogurt reaches your desired thickness.

Okay so now you’ve got a bunch of yogurt, what should you do with it? Here are some ideas:
1)Serve the yogurt with some fresh fruit – berries, peaches, pears, bananas, etc.
2)Make a smoothie with yogurt, fruit, flaxseed meal (especially if you’re Erik), and a little honey or agave if your fruit isn’t very sweet
3)Top the yogurt with your favorite granola or other crunchy cereal
4)Stir a spoonful of your favorite jam or jelly or applesauce into the yogurt for homemade flavored yogurt
5)Serve a dollop on top of a baked fruit cobbler or crisp (much like crème fraiche)
6)Use in place of sour cream (e.g., on tacos or baked potatoes)
7)Make a veggies dip by stirring some minced garlic, fresh or dried herbs and salt and pepper into your yogurt
8)Combine some yogurt and your favorite spices for a flavorful and tenderizing marinade for chicken
9)Use yogurt in your favorite muffin or quick bread recipe
10)Use yogurt in your favorite curry recipe

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Senate Inspired Navy Bean Soup

According to the US Senate website, the Senate restaurant has been serving its popular navy bean soup every single day for over 100 years. Like everything in politics, the exact origins of the soup are a matter of much debate. However, most seem to agree that the legendary soup - made of navy beans simmered with some basic vegetables and a ham hock – is mighty tasty.

After finding a bag of dried navy beans in my cupboard (the best part of cleaning up my cupboard is finding things I didn’t know I had!), I decided to make a modified version of this hearty soup. I made mine a little healthier by adding in some extra veggies and substituting smoked turkey sausage for the ham hock. While I frequently give the actions of our Senators two thumbs down, I must say this soup deserves two thumbs up!

1lb. dried Navy Beans, soaked overnight
2 T. Olive Oil
2 Medium Onions, diced
1.5 Cups diced Carrots
1.5 Cups diced Celery
1 Cup diced Fennel Stems (this is optional, but I had it leftover from the fennel and white beans I made last week so I threw it in!)
5 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
3 Bay Leaves
1 t. Thyme
¼ Cup White Wine
7oz. Smoked Turkey Sausage, diced
6-8 Cups of Stock or Water
Salt and Paper to Taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot; add the vegetables and sauté over medium heat until the veggies are tender (around 15 minutes). Once the vegetables are tender and starting to brown add the white wine to the pot, scrape any browned veggie bits from the bottom of the pan. Next, stir in the spices, sausage, and drained beans. Add enough stock or water to cover the beans and veggies. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, until the beans are very tender. Serve with a green salad for a very satisfying meal.

**You will notice the icon at the top for Slightly Induglent Tuesday - On Tuesday's Amy of Simply Sugar & Gluten Free hosts a forum where other bloggers can post links to recipes on their blogs. Check out all the yummy stuff here: