Monday, April 25, 2011

Candied Walnuts with Herb Salad Mix

This is a recipe that allows you to have a lot of fun with changing it up and determining how healthy of a salad it will be.  By making the candied nuts myself, I can control the amount of sugar and fat. 

To start, sweetener is an option.  The reduction of the wine and balsamic vinegar does have bit of sweetness to it.  Instead of the brown sugar, you can use honey, molasses, agave nectar, stevia, etc and they will all give it a different flavor. 

I used to add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the reduction, but I found it to be unnecessary additional fat.  It didn’t seem to add enough flavor to warrant the extra fat calories.

The cinnamon is good for lowering cholesterol and is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.  I have added a variety of different spices including nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract to name a few.  It is fun and it changes the taste ever so slightly.

If the herb salad mix is too bitter for you, choose a different one.  Young baby greens is yummy and it would work even with romaine. 

Cheeses that work well with this salad include gorgonzola, feta, and goat.

Remember to have fun when you cook  and experiment.  You might surprise yourself.

Candied Walnuts with Herb Salad Mix 

Candied Walnuts
1c Walnut pieces, various sizes are okay

3/4c Red wine
1/2c Balsamic vinegar
1T Brown sugar
1/4t Cinnamon
Dash of vanilla

1 Bag herb salad
2 Beets, medium, and scrubbed
3oz Goat cheese, rolled in dried cranberries if available, if not add 1/4c dried cranberries to the salad

Balsamic vinegar
Sal Y Pimienta avocado oil or olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper

Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 min 350 degrees.   Place the beets in the oven as well.  After taking out the walnuts, raise the temperature to 400 degrees and cook the beets for an additional 20 minutes or until tender.            

Meanwhile, reduce the wine, vinegar, sugar and cinnamon in nonstick pan for about 10 minutes at a medium heat.  Reduce heat if liquid begins to boil so it simmers.  Should reduce by about a third.  Add the toasted walnuts and stir to coat.  Continue cooking over a med heat until all liquid dissolves and creates a glaze over the nuts.  Remove from heat.

After the herb lettuce mix is plated, add the roasted beets, and break pieces of the cranberry goat cheese into the salad.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar and oil over the salad; then place the candied walnuts on top.  Add fresh ground black pepper. 


Prep time:  10 min
Cook time:  30 min
Level of difficulty: easy

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Casserole

The Spicy Black Bean Casserole is a satisfying dish awakening all your senses as you smell the spice, crunch into the cheesy bread topping, and see the colors of the peppers, onion, and celery contrast with the darkness of the beans.  It's a great comfort food dish to have with these wacky weather changes going on across the US this week. 

Try a meatless dish once a week.  That's Vegetarian will provide an easy substitution and/or recipe for you to create the fantastic dish.  Watch the video and download a printable version of the recipe. 

Prepare any one of the dishes and you'll find yourself saying "That's Vegetarian?!"

Spicy Black Bean Casserole

2½c Black beans, rinsed and drained  
1c Onions, chopped
1c Tomato sauce
1c Celery, chopped
1 Sweet red, yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1 1/2t Cilantro, chopped
Chili sauce: 1/4c of hot such as Sriracha for a spicier dish or a 1/2 c of a milder chili sauce for a milder dish
1T Maple syrup
1/2t Powdered ginger
2t Chili powder
1/4-1/2c Low fat Mexican cheese blend, shredded (or a blend of Cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheeses)
2T Panko flakes (or bread crumbs)
1T Cilantro, chopped
1/8t Ground red pepper (or red pepper flakes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 2½-quart casserole with non-stick spray and set aside.

Place beans, tomato sauce, onions, celery, pepper, chili sauce, maple syrup, ginger and chili powder in a large bowl and mix well.  Add additional chili sauce until desired heat is achieved.  Spoon into casserole dish. 

Mix cheese(s), panko flakes, parsley, and red pepper together.

Baking options:
1.     Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 min, or until the beans are tender.  Take out of oven and sprinkle with the cheese topping and bake until cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. 
2.     Add the cheese topping, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour for a crustier cheese top.

Serve with baked tortillas garnished with additional fresh cilantro.

Prep time:  15 min
Cook time:  60 min
Difficulty level: Easy
Serving size:  Approx 1c

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup

I grew up loving cream of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on a nice rainy day in the often gray Buffalo.  What a great comfort food.  Of course, it was from a can that you would add water to or milk if you really wanted it creamy.  The generic brands were the worst.  Oh how far I have come. 

There are so many aspects to enjoy about this recipe.  For starters, the ease.  It is a few more cans and some dicing, but it is well worth it.  You can make it with fresh tomatoes and herbs for just slightly more prep time.  To stew the tomatoes, cut into chunks and cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes without adding any additional liquid.  However, especially with the fresh herbs, it will really change the taste of the soup.  It will become more vibrant.

Secondly, it is a very sensual meal.  I believe that we are more satisfied from our meals when we can attack more of our senses.  Visually and texturally from the tomatoes and cream cheese we get beautiful colors and a unique combination of creaminess with tomato heartiness.   The aroma just brings your sense alive.  If you use fresh tomatoes and herbs it will come alive even more.  Lastly, the taste will be the final test to win you over the recipe. 

The recipe can be altered to meet dietary needs as well.  You can use the butter with the olive oil when sautéing the onions and garlic.  This helps give additional flavor.  Or just use the olive oil.  You can add salt for additional flavor if sodium isn’t a concern in your diet.  The cream cheese can be non- or low-fat which I would recommend over full fat to limit the fat and cholesterol obtained from animal products.  The honey can be omitted if needed.  It helps lessen the acidity of the tomatoes.

Once you try the cream of tomato soup with the cream cheese, it will be hard, although nostalgic, to go back to anything else.

Cream of Tomato Soup

1t Butter (opt)
1t Olive oil
1 1/2c Onion, diced
1 Clove large garlic, minced
1/2t salt (opt)
1t Rosemary, dried
1t Basil, dried
1t Thyme, dried
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2c Tomatoes, stewed diced
32 oz Tomatoes, crushed
3T Dry sherry
1/4t Honey
4oz Cream cheese, fat free cubed

In a saucepan, melt butter (opt) and add olive oil. Sauté onions add garlic until onions are soft and translucent.  Add the herbs and pepper and sauté for a few more minutes, until the aromas of the herbs start to open.  Add tomatoes, sherry and honey.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add the cream cheese and cook until melted.  This tomato soup will be chunky.  You can omit the diced tomatoes or put it in a blender if you prefer it smooth.  Top with fresh chopped parsley. 

Serve with a crusty bread like ciabatta.

Serves 4. 

Prep time:  10 min
Cook time:  40 min
Difficulty level: Easy

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chili Con Tofu

Chili Con Tofu is an american way of life, for the most part.  You're probably thinking "But it has tofu not carne?????"  But it is all in the spices and veggies!!!  Oh, and in freezing the tofu.  When you freeze the tofu, it changes the texture.  I prefer to freeze it in the water to make the tofu even spongier to absorb the spices.  It crumbles unbelievably well too.  I have fooled meat eaters with this one.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Chili Con Tofu

1T Olive oil
1 Large yellow onion, diced
2T Garlic, minced
1 1/2t Chili Powder (or more to taste)
15oz tofu, frozen then defrosted with excess water squeezed out
1 Red pepper, diced
1 Yellow pepper, diced
1 Green pepper, diced
15oz Kidney beans, drained opt
15oz Black Beans, drained opt
3 Tomatoes, fresh diced
14.5oz Tomatoes, diced canned
5oz Tomato paste
1t Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
14oz tomato puree
1c frozen corn

Heat Olive oil in quart saucepan med high heat.  Sauté onion for 2 minutes, add garlic and continue sautéing for an additional 2 minutes until slightly soft.  Add 1t chili powder into onion and garlic and combine, sauté for an additional minute.  Crumble tofu into various size chunks saucepan and mix. Add additional 1/2t of Chili powder.  Stir and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add 3 peppers.  Stir.  Add kidney beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Mix thoroughly.  Add 14oz tomato puree and stir.   Add corn and stir.  Cover and let simmer on med low heat for 30 min.

Serve with homemade baked tortillas. 

Prep Time: 10 min, Overnight if you freeze the tofu
Cook Time: 40 min
Difficulty level: Easy