Category Archives: in the kitchen

NHBPM WEGO Prompt: My Health Library

I fully credit the movie Food Inc. with changing my entire food, and health, philosophy. There were small changes being made up to the minute before I watched it in full, but it was undoubtedly my tipping point. Coincidentally, that film led to an interest in picking up more books on subjects of interest (see: nutrition, food, health, mindset, etc.).

Today’s NHBPM prompt asked for a book report – what’s your favorite book and how does it tie into your health/life? Given the way I’ve added to our “library” over the past two years, that’s a loaded question! I can’t pick one, as these have all added a flavor to life that I didn’t know was missing.

If you took a glance at our bookshelf buffet, your eyes would have a hard time resisting these…

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All the Money in the World   Books

 

Food rules    In Defense of Food

 

Animal vegetable Miracle   Skinny Dish Cooking with trader Joe's

 


Click on any of the above if you’re intrigued. They’re all worth your time, dollars and brain-chewing energy! Most of them are still stacked near my nightstand (except for the cookbook, which clearly belongs right near the food!), dog-eared pages n’ all ready to be picked up and indulged when I’m craving their words.

I’m actually glad I’m only about half-way through In Defense of Food; it’s like fully tasting, and savoring, those last few bites of a decadent dessert.

—–

What’s in your health library?

Any one favorite book that I should be adding to this group?

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Filed under about me, fabulous, in the kitchen, inspiration, things that make me Happy

Roasted Vegetable Medley–Nutrients over Numbers

Before we pull out the forks and dine on a new (to me) vegetable trio, I want to thank you! I put this post out there as a feeler; an open door for dialogue, that could’ve gone in many directions. Every comment brings something to the conversation, which is why I love chatting with you all.

We can all agree that whether or not you add up, intuitively know the numbers, or not, the key is making the “calories count” vs. just counting the calories – thinking nutrients with numbers, or nutrients over numbers.

A bowl of roasted vegetables with leave the nutrients numbers high, and the calorie number low – the first counts for much more.

Thanks to a collaboration with Whole Foods (Tenleytown) last Wednesday evening, I have a large collection of fresh vegetables to get through – some of which have never had a stem in my fridge. Exhibit A:

Brussel Sprout Stalk

Brussel sprouts, on a stalk. Not only have I never purchased or cooked brussel sprouts, but I have also never even seen them on a stalk. It looks like this came straight from someone’s garden (does anyone grow sprouts?? Fancy.). It added an element of fun to the new-vegetable experiment – pick little sprout-bulbs from their roots, then figure out what to do with them.

Betty said it was best to cut off the stem ends, wash them and either boil or steam. My intention was to roast, but I took her advice into account. After all, we assume Betty has cooked many a sprout in her day, yes? Well, she has cooked them at least once more than me.

What goes with brussel sprouts? Two other veggies that were in the please-use-me-now phase. Exhibits B & C:

cauliflower and sproutsPotato Medley

Cauliflower & a Potato Medley* (bag from Trader Joe’s)

Roasted Vegetable Medley: Potatoes, Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts

1 bag (~1.5 pounds) mini-potato medley, washed & cubed
The bag I used had purple, red & gold potatoes
1 stalk brussel sprouts – approx. 3 cups
1 head cauliflower, stemmed & cut into florets
1 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 425*.

Toss the potatoes in 1 tbsp olive oil, season with salt/pepper. Put in a large casserole (9 x 13) dish. Spray or lightly oil the bottom to prevent sticking.  Roast for 20 min.

Meanwhile, wash and rinse the brussel sprouts. Steam in a medium sauce pan for 8-10 minutes.

Combine cauliflower florets and sprouts, stir and add to potatoes in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove, stir & cover with foilroast for another 10 minutes.

roasted vegetable medley

Total cook time is around 50 minutes – time consuming, but worth the easy effort! With very little cooking skill required – really, just stir and let the boiling water and oven do the work! – you’ve got a large batch of roasted, naturally flavorful nutrients. This is the good stuff!

*Purple potatoes are full of the antioxidant anthocyanin – the same powerful nutrient found in blueberries, plums, pomegranates and cherries!

Nutrients in abundance, here’s the breakdown in a “serving” (~2 cups):

Recipe   Nutrition factsNutrition Facts part 2

This batch lasted about two days in our apartment – apparently my taste-buds were on board for two new veggies (I’ve never had purple potatoes, either – where do these come from??), and a hefty dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, fiber, etc.


What new foods have you tested out lately?

What nutrients did you get from it?

Variety is key! Nutrients come in all hues, textures and shapes. I still have kale, beets, another cauliflower head and some sort of mushroom to work with.

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Filed under dinners, in the kitchen, learning, lunches, new things!, Nutrition, recipes

Sauté: Pile the Pizza

I blame the current streak of continuing to cook and create in the kitchen entirely on Betty. It’s her fault; I think she wears that accusation proudly.

The things we’ve been dining on aren’t exactly Betty-style recipes (but they’re D-approved, so that counts for something). Yet, apparently when I open and read a cookbook, suddenly my hands start chopping and the water starts boiling, the seasonings just jump right in, and minutes later we have something worth calling a meal!

Yep. It’s that easy.

The first example of this happened on Saturday night, when I had a few hours to myself at home and a lot of ingredients that needed some attention. See: Roasted Cauliflower & Leeks with Arugula Pesto.

Next up: filling the it’s-been-too-long-since-homemade-pizza! void.


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Sautéed Mushroom, Fennel & Cherry Tomato Pizza

1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1 c sliced mushrooms
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp olive oil
Pizza dough*
Marinara / Pizza Sauce
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (optional, but recommended!)
Dried oregano (or fresh, if you’re fancy)

*We used the garlic & herb dough from TJ’s. Two thumbs up!
Always leave fresh dough out for 20-60 minutes before rolling and forming into something resembling a circle. It’s much easier to work with when it’s at room temperature.

Preheat the oven according to the dough’s needs – in this case it was 425* (if I remember correctly). Meanwhile, prep the veggies (chop, wash, rinse) and heat the oil over medium in a sauté pan. Start with the fennel, and add in the mushrooms after 2-3 minutes. Season with salt/pepper to taste, and dried oregano. Stir frequently to prevent burning; sauté until they’re both softened. For the last minute, add in the cherry tomatoes.

Roll out the dough, top with sauce and shredded mozzarella. Add a generous layer of the fennel, mushroom & tomato mixture. Top with freshly grated parmesan. Bake for 8-9 minutes (or until dough is cooked through and the cheese is melted).

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The “licorice-onion” takes a mild flavor turn when cooked and mixed with some friends. The combination of these three, plus the bonus of sautéing to get the best texture out of them all was a complete success. We dined happily!

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Filed under dinners, food, in the kitchen, lunches, recipes

Roasted Cauliflower & Leeks with Arugula Pesto Pasta

As of late, there is one single factor that will motivate me to create in the kitchen – ingredients on their last leg, vegetables that may not live to see another crisp, fresh-feeling day.

Last week I purchased fennel, leeks and cauliflower to get the wheels turning. These aren’t frequent fridge visitors in our kitchen; a new ingredient means that I must make a new recipe, right? Exactly.

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Leeks were part of a list that was intended to create a Cassoulet, but that hasn’t happened yet. I can’t even recall the last time they stared at me from the fridge; who does this vegetable pair with? Where should it go? What does it taste like??

I sliced away, and made the assumption that this can be roasted, just like anything else. I also made the assumption that it can be friends with cauliflower, because that was to be roasted as well. Add in a blend of herbs, spices and oil, and you’re bound to have some sort of kitchen success!

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Roasted Cauliflower & Leeks

Heat oven to 400* and prepare a baking sheet with oil (spray or rub).

Slice 2 leeks; remove one head of cauliflower from the stalk, and cut into smaller florets. Combine in a bowl, and season with flavors of your choice!

I went with cayenne pepper (perhaps a bit too much…), nutmeg & cumin. I loved this blend, but could’ve gone a little lighter on that kicker. Add in 1 Tbsp olive oil, and mix well.

Roast for 35-40 minutes total – stirring at least every 10 minutes to prevent burning (see picture below – I could’ve done a few more “stirs”).

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Arugula Pesto Pasta

Meanwhile, get going on the rest of the dish!

Linguine Noodles (I made ~4 servings worth)
3 cups fresh arugula leaves
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
Salt/Pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)– optional
1-2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese – also optional, I skipped it this time, but it’s part of a traditional pesto recipe

Cook pasta as directed. While it’s boiling, put the remaining ingredients in a Food processor and pulse until smoothly combined.

Once the pasta is cooked (al dente, of course), drained and ready to go, combine it all into one bowl.

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This has {hopefully just} a hint of spice from the roasted vegetables, but a settling, simple pleasure in the taste of arugula pesto-coated noodles.

An entirely new dish to our kitchen’s repertoire, and an entirely new way (for me) to use leeks,cauliflower and arugula (love that peppery leaf!). This is definitely filed under “experimental win!”.


What have you experimented with lately?

Any tips for leek-using to share? Next time it will either go in that cassoulet, or into a soup.

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Filed under dinners, food, in the kitchen, recipes, weekends

Betty Says: Measure. Cook Rice

Rice did not make a good first impression with me; it bubbled over once or twice (I have to watch this pan? Boring.), tasted either too dry or way too moist, and it did this to my pan:

burnt rice

Multiply that by at least ten, though. The pan was sacrificed, and there wasn’t even a good spoonful of rice to show for it.

From there, I learned my first tip: spray that pan! PAM it, or if you’re not a fan of oil via aerosol, just put a drop on a paper towel and spread it around. The other thing you should do is refrain from burning the rice. That helps immensely.  (Image source)

I avoided cooking this fluffy grain for at least a few years after destroying at least two pans. I was also of the Mitch Hedberg opinion, “Rice is great if you’re hungry, and want 2,000 of something.”  Only on rare occasion did I crave 2,000 of anything.

The next very important lesson that I learned with rice: measure {very} carefully. This didn’t really fit my care-free (read: reckless) kitchen personality, and I chalked up my lack of rice-cooking-skills to failure. I can’t cook rice very well– that’s something I can live with.

Cooked Rice

Fast forward two years, and suddenly I’ve decided to buy long-grain brown rice in bulk from Whole Foods. I also bought some “Wild Rice”, because that sounded more interesting. By the time we moved in August, I was tired of having two containers of rice taking up space, so they were combined.

It’s been housed in one large glass container for five months now, and Betty finally inspired me to give it another try. Chipotle may have had some influence here, too – their burrito bowls with rice get me every time!

In the very first section, Cooking Basics, I realized I’ve been breaking a cardinal kitchen rule for a long time – dry vs. wet measuring cups.

Those on the left are intended for dry ingredients only*. The cups on the right are meant for wet ingredients only. I know this rule, but I cave entirely out of laziness sometimes (wash more than one set of measuring cups? Tough life.)

dry_measuring_cupswet measuring cups

*Also referred to as Graduated Nesting Measuring Cups (you know, because they can all sit inside each other, “nesting”).
 


Alright, Betty, let’s have your rice tips!

  • Measure the water and rice carefully – in their respective dry/wet specific cups!
  • Do NOT STIR while it’s cooking. Risotto is the only exception.
  • When it’s done cooking, fluff with a fork to separate the grains.
  • “Perfectly Cooked Rice: the grains are fluffy and separate from each other.”
  • My addition (I can say this, because I think she would agree): add a little bit of butter or oil, once it’s done cooking. I add either 1/2 – 1 Tbsp butter or 1/2 Tbsp olive oil before “fluffing”. It adds just the right amount of flavor and texture!

Rice and veggies Instagram

Last night, I cooked 1.5 cups of dry rice (yielding ~3 cups cooked*).

1.5 c dry brown rice
3 c water
Salt/pepper shakes
1 Tbsp butter

Bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir gently to separate it around the pan (vs. the lump it sits in when you dump it out of the measuring cup). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes (check the rice after about 30- 35 minutes and assess!). Once the water appears to be all absorbed, remove from heat, add in oil/butter, fluff with a fork and let sit for ~5 more minutes before serving.

For our stir-fry, we sliced and sautéed 1/2 yellow & red pepper, 1/4 yellow onion and 1 c of mushrooms. Add in a little bit of low-sodium soy sauce (~1 Tbsp) and any seasoning you’re craving. Ours also had chopped tempeh, but add in your protein of choice! Mix with the rice, and voila! Dinner is served.

*I always make this in batches, because it’s rare that I want to spend 40-45 minutes tending to rice. Leftovers are a bonus!


What are your rice-cooking tips? Anything you would to our list?

Favorite rice dish (Leftovers = needing ideas)?

{“Fluff” word-usage count: 5}

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Filed under food, in the kitchen, learning, recipes