Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spanish Rice

Back in my office-working days, I got an authentic Mexican rice recipe (okay, it was more of "add a little of this, and a little of that" kind of thing) from one of the girls at work. It never turned out quite like the standard rice you get at most Mexican restaurants. So, I found this one online last weekend and tried it and it is really good. The best Spanish rice I've ever made. (You know it's a keeper when your 3-year-old asks to eat it for lunch 2 days in a row afterwards). Normally I make brown rice, but since it was my first time making it, I used the white rice it specified. Next time, I'm going to use brown rice and cook it longer.

Note: I tried it with brown rice and just cooked it longer (until the rice was done) and it was really good.

(recipe via menuplanning101)

2 cups white rice
vegetable oil
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1 heaping tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 c. water

Pour rice in a large pot. Add enough oil to cover every grain. Toast rice over med. heat, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn rice. (Takes about 15 minutes) Once rice is browned, add in peppers, onion, garlic, and bouillon. Cook until onions are tender and garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add spices, tomato paste, and water. Stir until just blended. Cover pan and heat to boiling. Once boiling, turn heat to low and let rice simmer until all liquid has evaporated (about 30 minutes). DO NOT REMOVE LID. Once all liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat, and fluff with fork.

Pumpkin Bread with Flaxseed

I love pumpkin bread and this one, from The New American Plate Cookbook, did not disappoint. It is surprisingly moist and I added chocolate chips instead of cranberries, so it was even more of a treat.

Canola oil spray
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dried cranberries (I used chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8x4-inch loaf pan with canola oil spray and set it aside.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, flaxseed, sugar, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the pumpkin, canola oil, applesauce, apple juice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir in the dried cranberries. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter. Do not beat or overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and continue cooling on the rack.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No High-Fructose Corn Syrup Granola Bars

We go through lots of granola bars around here, and some of them have lots of corn syrup (okay, I would say all of them), so I decided to try some homemade versions. This was the first one I tried and I liked how they turned out. Being a chocolate lover, I might try putting melted chocolate on top of these (now how's that for adding some health benefits?)

Recipe via

2 cups oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup peanuts, crushed
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
approximately 8 oz. dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. To crush your peanuts, put them in a plastic bag and smash them with a heavy mallet, measuring cup, or sauce pan.Then, mix the peanuts, oats, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds in a baking dish with sides. Toast them in the oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t get burned.Meanwhile, prepare a glass baking dish (about 11 x 13 inches) for your granola by lining it with waxed paper lightly sprayed with a nonstick spray.
Put the brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. (I forgot to take a picture of this step, but it looks so pretty!)
By now, your grains and nuts should be toasted, so mix everything together in a large bowl. The grains, the liquid “glue,” and the dried fruit. Oh, and turn off your oven, because you’re finished with it now.Mix everything REALLY WELL because you want to make sure the “glue” gets all over everything. Now, dump your granola mixture into your prepared baking dish.Spread out the mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Now fold over the sides of the waxed paper or add a sheet on top, and PRESS HARD all over the granola. You want to compact it together so that your bars won’t fall apart when you cut them.Wait 2-3 hours or until the granola has totally cooled.
Then, open the waxed paper …And carefully turn the granola onto a large cutting board, peeling away the rest of the paper.Now, firmly pressing down with a big knife (not sawing), cut your granola into whatever size bars you’d like.I wrapped ours individually in plastic wrap, so that we could just throw one into our bag or lunch box in the morning. If you’d like to save on packaging though, you can store yours in an airtight container, between sheets of waxed paper (so they don’t stick together).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Eggplant and Spinach Lasagna or Pasta

I adapted this from Gourmet 2002's September issue. I love eggplant and spinach and lasagna, so this was a great dish in my opinion. The recipe has you make your own marinara sauce by roasting plum tomatoes, but I skipped this step and used a nice jar of marinara sauce.

2 jars marinara sauce
2 lb. Asian or baby Italian eggplants, halved crosswise, then cut lengthwise into slices slightly less than 1/4" thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10 ounces baby spinach
1 pound ricotta (preferably fresh)
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 oz)
8 dried lasagna noodles (not no-boil; 8 ounces), or 8 ounces of any kind of pasta

Toss eggplant slices with oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and arrange in 1 layer on 2 oiled baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking and turning slices over once, until tender, 12 to 14 minutes.

Cook spinach in 3-4 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 1 minute, then drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle, squeeze any excess water from spinach and coarsely chop. Stir together ricotta, yolk, spinach, parmesan, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined well.

Cook lasagne noodles (or other type of pasta noodles) in a 6-8 quart pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain noodles in a colander and rinse under cold running water.

Spoon 2 cups tomato sauce into a 13- by 9- inch glass baking dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread 1/3 cup filling evenly over each noodle and cover with eggplant slices in one layer. Roll up each and arrange spirals, seam side down and without touching, over sauce in dish, then make 4 more rolls and arrange in dish. (If you're using another kind of noodle, just layer the noodles, then the filling, then the eggplant on top of that). Brush noodles with water, then spoon some sauce down middle of rolls and cover dish tightly with foil.

Bake in middle of oven until heated through, about 20 minutes. Heat remaining tomato sauce and serve on side.

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

I've heard of substituting lentils for ground beef in recipes, but had only tried it in spaghetti sauce. I thought this worked really well and my family liked it too.

1 onion, diced small
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups lentils
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup carrots, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
dash of thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can corn
1 can stewed diced tomatoes
mashed potatoes

(I am constantly making up my own concoctions, and this is no exception, so if you feel the amounts need to be tinkered with for your liking, go ahead and change this recipe).

In large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute onion and celery for 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and saute. Add chicken broth, lentils, carrots, all the spices, corn and tomatoes. Bring to boil and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils have softened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the lentils are cooking, make traditional mashed potatoes in another pot. (Or, if you want to make it easier, just make instant mashed potatoes).

When the lentils are done cooking and the mashed potatoes are ready, put the lentils in a greased 9x13 pan. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the lentils. Sprinkle with paprika (and cheese, if desired) and bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nikki's Healthy Cookie Recipe

I stumbled upon 101 Cookbooks this weekend and found these cookies. I doubted they could even taste good. Well, after making them, I can attest to their goodness. I used applesauce instead of the bananas and they tasted good. They maintain that just-out-of-the-oven-melted-chocolate sensation of traditional chocolate chip cookies while keeping the fat and sugar to a minimum. I think I'll go eat another one right now.

(recipe via 101 Cookbooks)

Nikki's Healthy Cookies

You can use unsweetened carob, or grain sweetened chocolate chips, or do what I did and chop up 2/3 of a bar of Scharffen berger 70%. I sort-of shaved half the bar with a knife and then cut the rest into bigger chip-sized chunks. You can make your own almond meal by pulsing almonds in a food processor until it is the texture of sand - don't go too far or you'll end up with almond butter. And lastly, the coconut oil works beautifully here, just be sure to warm it a bit - enough that it is no longer solid, which makes it easier to incorporate into the bananas. If you have gluten allergies, seek out GF oats.

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm - so it isn't solid (or alternately, olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 - 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don't worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. I baked these as long as possible without burning the bottoms and they were perfect - just shy of 15 minutes seems to be about right in my oven.

Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies.

Dinosaur Meat

If you're not already subscribed to Gwyneth Paltrow's weekly Goop, then you better get on her mailing list! A couple weeks ago, she gave the recipe for this Dinosaur Meat, her friend's version of chicken nuggets, sans the meat. I made them last night and I really liked them. (My kids didn't, but they will if I keep making them and hopefully they'll come around). Anyways, they are alot like chicken nuggets and are a cinch to make.

(recipe via GOOP)

Serves: 2 adults and 2 kids
Time: 30 minutes

4 ounches seitan (I got the traditionally seasoned seitan next to the tofu at Whole Foods)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 pinches salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced

Slice the seitan into 1/2" wide medallions. Fill a covered dish or a baggie with flour, breadcrumbs and two pinches of salt and shake the seitan around. Heat a pan with two tablespoons of oil, add the garlic and sprinkle off the excess flour mixture as you put the seitan in the pan. Fry till golden on all sides. Serve with a vegetable and a grain. I sometimes make a silly design with the ketchup.

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

I quit buying bread at the store a couple of weeks ago in favor of a more nutritious, homemade approach to satisfying our family's need for bread. I've played around with several different recipes, specifically "sandwich"-type recipes and found this one exceptionally good. It's soft and the orange juice makes it sweet but not orange-y. Let me know how you like it if you try it out.

(recipe via King Arthur Flour)

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water*
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 3 3/4 cups King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • *Use 2 tablespoons less water in summer (or in a humid environment), 2 tablespoons more in winter (or in a dry climate).


1) Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes, till it becomes puffy. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.

2) Combine the yeast/water with the remaining ingredients, and mix and knead—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—until you've made a cohesive dough. If you're using a stand mixer, knead at low speed for about 7 minutes. Note that 100% whole wheat dough will never become smooth and supple like dough made with all-purpose flour; it'll feel more like clay under your hands, and may appear a bit rough.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise till it's expanded and looks somewhat puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Note that dough kneaded in a bread machine will rise faster and higher than bread kneaded in a mixer, which in turn will rise faster and higher than one kneaded by hand. So if you're kneading by hand, you may want to let the dough rise longer than 90 minutes.

4) Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan. Gently shape the dough into a smooth log, and settle it into the pan, smooth side up.

5) Tent the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaf to rise till it's crowned over the rim of the pan by about 3/4", about 75 minutes. Don't let it rise too high; it'll continue to rise as it bakes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

6) Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Lightly tent it with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, or until the center registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

7) Run a stick of butter over the top of the hot loaf, if desired, for a softer crust. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.