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September 29, 2009

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes, two ways

I had the wonderful opportunity to host a brunch for Steve's mother and sister last weekend. I knew that these ladies enjoy Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes so I set out to find some ideas online. There were two versions of this fall favorite that jumped out at me, each having something very unique to offer. The first recipe featured whole wheat flour and oat bran, and the idea of a healthier option was very appealing. The second recipe had more traditional ingredients like white flour and lots of butter, but also included roasted pears to serve on top. Since I had never made either version I decided to start with a trial run of the healthier version the weekend before.

This first version turned out well. They cooked up nicely without having to use any butter in the pan, cooking spray worked just fine. What a special treat without having to feel too much guilt!

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes
(from Herbs for Health)

¾ cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup unbleached wheat flour
¼ cup oat bran
½ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Heaping ½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
⅛ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

In a large bowl, combine flours, oat bran, pecans, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt; mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin puree and butter or margarine until smooth; add to flour mixture and stir until blended.

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet, then pour a small amount of batter (about 1/4 cup) per pancake into skillet. (Once skillet is hot, reduce heat to medium-low.) Cook until small bubbles on the surface appear and flip each pancake when the bottom is lightly browned. Turn and cook the other side for about one-half the time as the first side, or until lightly browned.

Serve topped with warm honey, applesauce or fresh fruit. Makes about 20 pancakes.

So after trying the first version I decided that it would be worth giving the less healthy version a try for such a special occasion. Oh and how decadent these pancakes were! The roasted pears were amazing and I'd highly recommend them on top of either version. For an extra special touch you can whip up some cinnamon butter to top off the 'cakes. Just mash a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar into softened butter and refrigerate.

It's difficult to compare the two recipes side by side, because obviously the buttery sugary version is going to taste the best. Personally I could only really give in to something so decadent on a rare and special occasion, so in the meantime I'll stick to version #1. I also plan on experimenting with elements from both recipes to come up with a middle of the road version, to satisfy both needs of being healthy and supremely delicious.

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes with Roasted Pears

(adapted from BnBFinder)

3 firm, ripe Bosc pears, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into wedges
4 Tbsp butter melted
4 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1-1/2 c all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt plus additional for pears
1-1/4 c buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2c chopped toasted pecans plus 1/4c toasted pecan halves

Preheat oven to 425- Toss pears on a cookie sheet with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp sugar and season with salt to taste. Roast pears in middle of oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes. Keep pears warmed in turned-off oven while cooking pancakes.

Whisk flour, remaining 3 Tbsp sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves & salt in medium bowl.

In another bowl whisk buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and remaining 3 Tbsp. butter. Whisk pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chopped pecans.

Brush a large nonstick skillet with some additional butter to create a thin film. Spoon 1/4c of batter per pancake into skillet and cook until brown, about 2 minutes. Flip pancake and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Keep warm in oven while making remaining pancakes. Serve pancakes topped with pears, pecan halves and warm maple syrup.

What a fun afternoon of pancakes and mimosas with a couple of the loveliest ladies that I know! Even the kitties joined in on the fun for as long as they could handle us..

September 27, 2009

Chunky Carrot & Squash Soup with Coconut & Red Pepper Flakes

And now onto the star of my 3 day long soup cooking spree -- Chunky Carrot & Squash Soup with Coconut & Red Pepper Flakes. Unfortunately I can't take the credit for this gem, it is a creation of Jacqueline's from Tinned Tomatoes.

This soup is the perfect marriage of spicy, creamy, and chunky. I seriously cannot praise this soup enough, and neither can several other people that got a crack at the two different batches I made this week. I am definitely guarding the last couple of servings of leftovers with my life. The only thing that I changed is that the original recipe called for 1/2 cup coconut milk and I used 1 cup to make mine extra creamy. Also, it seems that a hand blender would serve well for the light blending needed at the end of the process, but I don't have one so I used a potato masher and this worked great.

Chunky Carrot & Squash Soup with Coconut & Red Pepper Flakes
(from Tinned Tomatoes)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
1/2 medium butternut squash, cubed
3 potatoes, diced
6 carrots, diced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger until softened. Next add the carrots, squash and potatoes and saute for 5 - 10 minutes before adding the herbs and spices. Pour in the stock and cook covered at a simmer for 30 minutes. It is ready once the vegetable are tender. Blend the soup a little, but leave enough vegetables whole for a chunky soup. Stir through the coconut milk and cilantro, and season to taste.

Serves 6-8

Tofu Noodle Panang Curry Soup

I came across an interesting product alongside the tofu products at the grocery store, Tofu Shirataki -- noodles made of tofu. The calories in this product hardly even register at a whopping 20 calories per serving. There are three choices in noodle size: spaghetti, fettuccine, and angel hair -- we chose spaghetti. I like the idea of fooling your mouth to think you are eating carb/calorie filled noodles, and it worked well in this dish, but our stomachs weren't fooled. My roommate and I weren't nearly as satisfied as we would have been from the real deal -- we helped ourselves to 2 heaping bowls of soup and nearly finished the whole pot. I am skeptical on how this product would taste in a pasta dish, but I am interested in giving it a try.

Tofu Noodle Panang Curry Soup

2-3 tbsp panang curry paste
14 oz can coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 cups vegetable broth

2 8oz packages of Tofu Shirataki spaghetti noodles
1-1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 roughly chopped bell pepper
1/2 roughly chopped onion
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced baby carrots
2 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped thai basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp cooking oil of your choice

Heat oil in large soup pot. Saute ginger and garlic over medium heat for 1 minute. Add onion, carrots, bell pepper, and broccoli and saute for 3 minutes. Add in cabbage and mushrooms and continue to saute for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile mix curry paste, brown sugar, and coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat until well blended, then add vegetable broth and bring to temperature. Drain noodles from package and put in a microwave safe bowl and cover with fresh water. Microwave for 2 minutes then drain and rinse noodles, set aside. Once the vegetables are to your desired tenderness stir in broth, and then just before serving mix in basil, red pepper flakes, and lime juice. Serve noodles into bowls first and pour soup over the top.

Serves 2-3

September 26, 2009

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

This past Tuesday marked the official first day of fall, or the Autumnal Equinox, and I celebrated with soup. Not just one day of soup, 3 days in a row of different homemade soups. I'll admit that I got a little over excited about the chill in the air, the fall vegetables cropping up at the market, and well, making soup.

I started my soup spree on Monday with Spiced Cauliflower Soup. This soup is full of spice but isn't hot spicy, so this is a suitable one for those who can't handle fire. Part 2 and 3 of soup week to come.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup
(from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs)

1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
1 large potato, diced
1 small cauliflower, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) grated ginger root
2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground turmeric
1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground cumin
1 tsp. (5 ml.) black mustard seeds
2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground coriander
4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
1 cup (250 ml.) or more, to taste, unsweetened soymilk
salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the potato and cauliflower with the water; cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the ginger and spices. Stir well, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Stir in the soymilk.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. (If your blender does not have a glass bowl, allow the soup to cool a bit first). Return to the pot and reheat just until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Make 4-6 servings. Freezes well.

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins

As a child I could count on finding a peanut butter banana sandwich in my lunch sack at least once a week, and peanut butter banana sandwich day was always my favorite day. I was feeling very nostalgic when I saw the Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins on eat me, delicious. I don't usually jump at the opportunity to bake, but this was one I couldn't pass up. This is much healthier than the average muffin and I love the short list of ingredients. These muffins came together from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, they are delicious!

The only thing I changed from the original recipe below is that I lined the muffin cups since my muffin pans have seen better days and this worked beautifully.

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
(from eat me, delicious)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (207 g)
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 med.)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup light buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, mashed banana, peanut butter and buttermilk until very smooth, making sure all egg has been well-incorporated. Pour into flour mixture and stir until no streaks of flour remain.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tin, filling each just about up to the top.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Remove muffins from tin and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12.

September 20, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

During my most recent grocery run I picked up a gorgeous looking eggplant and some fresh mozzarella balls. I didn't have a particular plan for either of these items, but I had a feeling that they might end up together. I browsed the internet and pretty quickly came upon my inspiration for this version of Eggplant Parmesan. I halved the original recipe and cut the eggplant in round slices rather than lengthwise strips. When stacking the eggplant I moved inward, offsetting the pieces, so I ended up with a 3 layer sort-of pyramid of eggplant (note in the picture below that the top layer is actually only 2 pieces of eggplant). This worked really well, but another option is to cut the eggplant into lengthwise strips like the original recipe so you can layer this more like lasagna.

Eggplant Parmesan
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 large eggplant
1 14-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 lbs of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 cup grated high quality Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves

Cut eggplant into 1/4 inch round slices. Arrange one layer in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle evenly with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant, salting, until all eggplant is in the colander. Weigh down the slices with a couple of plates and let drain for 2 hours.

While the eggplant is draining, prepare tomato sauce. Combine tomatoes, garlic and 1/8 cup olive oil in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to tasted and set aside.

When eggplant has drained, press down on it to remove excess water, wipe off the excess salt, and lay the slices out on paper towels to remove all the moisture. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs. Mix well. Pour beaten eggs into another wide shallow bowl. Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat, and generously coat with olive oil. When oil is shimmering, dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour mixture, then in the beaten egg. Working in batches, slide coated eggplant into hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In the bottom of a 9 inch glass pie dish, spread 3/4 cup of tomato sauce. Top with one third of the eggplant slices. Top eggplant with half of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with one third of the Parmesan and half of the basil leaves.

Make a second layer of eggplant slices moving slightly inward (making a sort of eggplant pyramid), topped by 1/2 cup of sauce, remaining mozzarella, half the remaining Parmesan, and all of the remaining basil. Add remaining eggplant, and top with the remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan.

Bake until cheese has melted and the top is slightly brown, about 30-40 minutes. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 3-4

September 15, 2009

Ginger-Miso Yam Wraps

You might be able to relate to my habit of zealous recipe bookmarking online, in magazines, and in cookbooks. I have the best intentions, of course, but you and I both know that many of these recipes never see the light of day.

When I spotted the recipe for Ginger Miso Yam Wraps, I had more than good intentions. The only thing that caused a few day delay from these making it from the pages of my Vegetarian Times magazine to my plate was having to collect some of the ingredients. Allow me to encourage you to bookmark this one as well and try it as soon as possible! The base ingredients are sweet potatoes, miso paste, and peanut butter. What an odd combo right? Just trust me on this one! Please don't be discouraged by the particularly bad photography, I just think that these babies aren't very photogenic.

I made these in the evening and chilled them overnight to eat for lunch the next day. Helpful note: look for the least stalky collard greens possible. The bundle that I picked up had really huge leaves and thick stalks and I struggled at first rolling these up. After experimenting I found that using the top of the leaves where the stalk was the thinnest and rolling against the stalk worked the best (NOT as pictured below, that was when I first started rolling these, and the stalk prevented at least one end from folding in). If your greens are large enough like mine were, another option is to make two wraps out of each by cutting each in half lengthwise on either side of the stalk and throwing away the stalk. Vegetarian Times notes that chard or flat-leafed kale will also work in place of the collards.

Ginger-Miso Yam Wraps
(from vegetarian times)

2 small yams or sweet potatoes (1 lb.)
2 Tbs. white miso paste
1 Tbs. smooth peanut butter
2 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 oz. firm silken tofu, crumbled (1 cup)
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
8 collard green leaves, stems removed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut thin slice off both ends of yams, and poke skins with knife in several places. Bake 50 minutes, or until soft, turning once. Halve yams, and scoop flesh into bowl. Mash in miso and peanut butter.

Meanwhile, coat skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. Sauté shallot, ginger, and garlic 3 minutes, or until soft. Add edamame, 1/4 cup water, and cayenne; cook 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and stir in tofu,cilantro, and yam mixture. Cool.

Place 1 collard green leaf on work surface. Spoon 1/3 cup yam mixture in center of leaf. Roll bottom edge over mixture; tuck in sides. Roll up to top edge. Place, seam-side down, and repeat with remaining ingredients.

September 13, 2009

Aloo Gobi

I had a wonderful visit to a local Asian supermarket recently. I left with all sorts of goodies like thai basil, coconut milk, panang curry paste, soba noodles, and miso paste. In addition - for just $1, a bag full of these cute little guys got to come home with me. They look so innocent don't they? :)

I have featured these chillies in a few dishes this past week, and the first was Aloo Gobi. This common Indian dish is aptly named in Hindi after the two main ingredients:

Aloo - potato
Gobi - cauliflower

I adapted this recipe from epicurious which involves roasting the vegetables instead of pan frying. On the advice of most of the people who commented on the original recipe I doubled most of the spices, and I was glad that I did. The dish was full of flavor and had a definite kick, but not too overpowering. I would have been able to handle even more spice (almost never too spicy for me!), but I wanted to give my poor roommate a break. If you are looking for very mild spice follow the original recipe.

Aloo Gobi
(adapted from epicurious)

1 (1 3/4-lb) head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh chopped chilli peppers, including seeds (or 2 tsp fresh jalapeño chopped, including seeds)
3 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 2 tablespoons oil, mustard seeds, and1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, chillies, and ginger in remaining oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables and peas. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

September 1, 2009

Spinach and Tomato Quiche with Garlicky Breakfast Yukons

There are many reasons that I look forward to the weekends, but one of my favorite things is having a home cooked breakfast. The only thing I have time to cook on weekdays is oatmeal, which is fine and all, but that cannot compare to goodies like this Spinach and Tomato Quiche with a side of Garlicky Breakfast Yukons.

I saw the Spinach and Tomato Quiche recipe in the April issue of Vegetarian Times and I have been wanting to make it ever since. The main reason that this jumped out at me is the phyllo dough crust. This light crispy crust is much easier to make than a typical pie crust, and it doesn't weigh you down. Note: If you prefer pie crust this recipe for filling will still work. For larger pie pans add 1/2 cup milk per extra egg.

Spinach and Tomato Quiche

(from Vegetarian Times)

6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed, all liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
10 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used sliced roma tomatoes)

Quiche Batter
2 eggs
1 cup low-fat milk
Pinch ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. To make Crust: Coat 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Lay 1 phyllo sheet on work surface, and brush all over with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds. Top with second phyllo sheet, and brush with oil. Top with third phyllo sheet, brush with oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds. Repeat phyllo and oil layers twice more. Sprinkle fifth phyllo sheet with remaining sesame seeds, and top with sixth phyllo sheet. Press into prepared pie pan; trim edges with scissors.

2. To make Filling: Stir together spinach and onion. Sprinkle feta cheese over Crust. Top with spinach mixture. Arrange tomato halves over quiche.

3. To make Quiche Batter: Whisk together all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Pour Quiche Batter over Filling in Crust. Set quiche on baking sheet, and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is brown and center is set.

Garlicky Breakfast Yukons

3-4 medium yukon gold potatoes, halved and sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
seasoning salt to taste
handful of chopped parsley

Heat oil in skillet. Add potatoes and garlic and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, add onion and saute for an additional 10 minutes or until browned to your liking. Sprinkle lightly with all purpose seasoning salt. Remove from heat, stir in chopped parsley, and serve.