Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hidden Veggie Puttanesca

Hello!  Notice anything new?  I'll give you a hint- look to your right.  Yes!  I've been awarded "top health blogger" status at!  I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be receiving recognition for this humble little blog.  Shall we celebrate?  I don't know about you, but when I hear "celebrate" I think one thing- carbs!  How about a nice big plate of pasta puttanesca? 

And what the hey, since this is a blog about vegetables after all, let's load it up with veggies- ones I promise you will hardly even notice.  Now, we all know the story of puttanesca, don't we?  That the "ladies of the night" would leave it out in windows to attract gentleman callers?  Well, this vegefied version had 3, count 'em, 3 handsome men gathered around my kitchen table in no time.  That's the power of puttanesca.

Hidden Veggie Puttanesca

1 lb angel hair or spaghetti noodles
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium carrots, grated
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp italian seasoning
5 tbsp capers
1 1/2 cups oil cured olives, pitted and chopped (can substitute kalamata)
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
24 oz tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp kelp granules (optional, but gives it an oceany flavor similar to anchovies)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Fresh grated parmesan, for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring oil to medium high heat and add onion and carrots.  Sautee until onions are translucent, about 6-8 minutes.  Add spinach, red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, capers, olives, and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.  Then add rest of ingredients and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to instructions on package.  Drain (but don't rinse!  Never rinse- you want all of that lovely starchiness) and gently work sauce into pasta.  Spoon into bowls or onto plates
 and sprinkle with parmesan. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Caribbean Jerk Jicama Slaw with Roasted Edamame and Avocado

I've been feeling a little "blah" lately.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I've finally quit drinking coffee- or should I say I'm in the process of quitting it.  One day at a time, right?  My reason for quitting didn't have so much to do with coffee as it did the Coffee Mate I can't seem to enjoy it without.  You see, I've always taken good care of my teeth, and I've always had relatively easy Dentist appointments.  But this last one was a doozy.  Scrape, scrape, pick, pick, "You know, you have severe erosion of enamel," scrape.  I didn't ever want to go through that again!  So I took a look at my diet, and the only thing that had changed since my last appointment was the addition of coffee and coffee mate- lots of it.  So white tea it is.  White tea is full of antioxidants, has a mild flavor so there is no need for sweeteners, and causes less staining than green tea.  It helps to have a substitute, but I've been having horrible headaches.  I'm not sure if it's because the tea has less caffeine, or because my body is craving the chemicals in coffee mate, but it's no fun!  So, once again, I turn to mother nature to heal me.  

Much better.  This salad, or slaw, or whatever you want to call it, did just the trick, and was amazing.  I didn't need this much healing, but once I tasted it I just couldn't stop myself.  It's loaded with healthy fats and vitamins, and oh, that dressing.  So, so good.  And so easy!  

Caribbean Jerk Jicama Slaw with Roasted Edamame and Avocado
Roasted Edamame
1/2 cup shelled edamame
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

In a bowl, mix edamame with oil and seasonings.  Spread out on foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 400F for 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until nicely browned.

Coconut Caribbean Jerk Dressing:
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1- 1 1/2 tbsp caribbean jerk seasoning
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Whisk ingredients together.  

1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup shredded red cabbage
1/4 cup grated jicama
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup shredded red bell pepper
1/2 avocado, chopped 

Mix together all ingredients except for avocado (you don't want it to get mushy) and toss with dressing.  Top with avocado and roasted edamame. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Round Table Gourmet Veg Copy Cat Recipe

There's been a lot of pizza making going on in the Wilson household this year.  For the first 6 months they were all soft and Digiorno-y- and that's about the biggest insult I can think of for a homemade pizza. I was being stubborn.  I'd heard that in order to make a good pizza crust you must use a pizza stone- I just didn't want to believe it.  And it's not that I didn't have one- I did.  But it was something new to me, and I don't do "new" well.  Finally, I broke down and pulled it out.  I must have researched how to use that thing for an hour straight, I was so scared!  But just like most things in life, this turned out to be much easier than expected, and I was able to create the pizza crust of my dreams.  Now it was time to face my next challenge: a pizza that can hold a candle to the Round Table Gourmet Veggie.

The secret to the Gourmet Veg lies in Round Table's creamy garlic sauce.   I tried making this with store bought garlic alfredo sauce, but that was a huge letdown  (probably because store bought sauce never tastes good anyways.)  I tried making it with ranch dressing, as some people on the internet had suggested, but that was a flop as well.  But this?  This- is magic.

I did without the zucchini and mushrooms, because this is how I always order it.  I may have made peace with mushrooms and be on speaking terms with zucchini, but I still don't necessarily want them on my pizza.  But of course, if it tickles your fancy, pile them on. 
I used Jay's Pizza Crust recipe, which is amazing, but yields an extra large pizza.  My stone is medium-sized so I cut the dough in half and stored the rest in the freezer or fridge.  But you can use any dough you feel comfortable with. 

Round Table Gourmet Veggie Copy Cat Recipe

Creamy Garlic Sauce:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk, warmed in microwave until lightly bubbling
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp italian or pizza seasoning
pinch salt
pinch pepper
pinch nutmeg

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Use a baby whisk to whisk in the flour and stir for about 2 minutes.  Add milk and bring to a boil. Add garlic, italian seasoning, salt, pepper and nutmeg, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more.

1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
1/4 cup shredded fontina
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup ground parmesan

Spread sauce evenly over entire pizza.  Add spinach, then top with fontina.  Add rest of  veggies, then top with mozzarella, cheddar, and lastly, parmesan. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Balsamic Pasta Salad with Bocconcini and Roasted Asparagus

I'll never forget the first time I took my husband to Whole Foods.  "This place is miraculous" were his exact words.  And it really is.  It's nothing like the grocery stores we've become accustomed to- at which people rush around in an angry frenzy, all of them wishing they were somewhere else.  It's a place where people come to admire the fruits of mother nature- a museum for people who love food, if you will.  And if Whole Foods is a museum, then the salad bar is where the crown jewels are held- and priced accordingly.  So rather than spend a week's worth of diapers on one meal, I've taken to tasting and then recreating their offerings at home.  And this balsamic pasta salad, in my opinion, blows theirs straight out of the water. 

Words cannot express how much I love balsamic vinegar, and this salad is such a perfect vessel for it.  It's also great to make ahead of time, as the flavors only intensify, especially in the asparagus, which soaks it up so beautifully while still holding its shape.  Heaven.

Balsamic Pasta Salad with Bocconcini and Roasted AsparagusYield: 4-6 servings
(Can be made vegan by substituting nutritional yeast for parmesan and omitting bocconcini)

12 oz multicolored rotini
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup capers 
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sundried or slow-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup sliced red onions
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 cup bocconcini
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Drizzle asparagus with 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender.  Bring large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to instructions on package.  Whisk together remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.  Add all ingredients to pasta and gently toss with dressing.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Too easy cracked peppercorn bread with honey almond "schmear"

Some women have naturally adorable sneezes- barely audible little squeaks that cause their faces to pucker up ever so slightly.  Some women try to mimic these adorable sneezes- but it never works.  You can't just add a dainty little "choo" to a trumpeting "Aaaah!"  My sneezes are definitely not adorable-  but they can be a sign of good things to come.  At least, they were today.

When I lived in the Bay Area I was lucky to have a well-paying job.  Unfortunately, I was surrounded by amazing food joints, which meant that I had no need to learn how to cook and my savings account stayed at a steady $5.00.  I've come a long way since the days when Rice-A-Roni seemed like rocket science, but I still have yet to create a bagel that could hold a candle to my favorite morning stop, Noah's.  And, really- who wants to go to all that trouble for a version that is so lackluster compared to its counterpart?  So rather than exhaust myself only to be disappointed by the outcome, I decided to make a rustic bread inspired by my favorite breakfast of all time- the cracked peppercorn bagel, and to top it off with it's soul mate, honey almond schmear.

I know what you're thinking.  You've been lied to before.  But this bread is no tease- there's no kneading, no bread machine, no dough hook required.  

This recipe has been adapted from Jim Lahey's rustic loaf recipe.

Too Easy Cracked Peppercorn Bread
3 cups flour (bread flour works best, but all purpose is fine, too)
1/4 tsp instant yeast (fold up the package and store in ziploc bag in fridge)
1  1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tbsp whole peppercorns

Just mix together all dry ingredients except for the peppercorns, then add water and use a fork to combine.  It will look lumpy and not very promising, like this:
Cover with saran wrap and let rise in warm place (microwave works perfectly) for 12 hours.
Bring a small pot of water to boil and add peppercorns.  Let boil for 10 minutes, then let cool, and roll them around in a dish cloth to dry.  Place in ziploc bag and crush with hammer or mallet.  Don't get too crazy here- you don't want them ground, just halved or quartered.  Some may not get crushed at all- that's no biggie.
This picture is a lie.  You will need two hands.  But go on, mix it all up.  Squish it around, fold, whatever you gotta do to get it all incorporated. Cover again and let rise for 2 hours.
Sprinkle flour around the sides and use your hands to scoop out the dough
 Place on waxed paper coated generously with flour.  Fold in all four corners of the dough, then turn dough over and fold up both sides of the waxed paper to form a tent.  Let rest until doubled, about one hour.

Pick a ceramic pot that can withstand very high temperatures.  I used my crockpot, but because the lid has a plastic handle I used a cookie sheet as a lid instead.  Place the pot in the oven before turning it on, then set to 475.  Let the pot heat up for 30 minutes.  To grease or not to grease?  I grease the pot, but I wait until it is hot (if you grease it before, the burnt oil releases  a terrible smell and gets caked onto the pot to the point that it is impossible to remove.)  I like to grease it by dropping about a tablespoon of oil into it, then working it around the pot with a cotton cloth, making sure not to touch anything.  Then carefully plop the dough in it.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes (original recipe says 30, but I find 20 works better.)  Then use oven mitts to remove lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.  Turn the pot upside down and plop bread onto wire rack to cool.  Do not cut into it yet!  You must wait at least one hour or the crust will lose it's crispiness.  But don't worry- it will still be warm and wonderful after the wait.  

Honey Almond "Schmear"
1 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to get acquainted. Stir once more before serving.