Category Archives: Appetizers

Baked Squash Blossoms with Goat Cheese and Feta

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What a weekend. What a life! One year ago, my weekends primarily consisted of work, work, working on my house. Every weekend I’d have a list full of tasks to tackle: sweep, mop, dust, weed the garden, post a blog post, grocery shopping…..etc. etc. etc. My life has changed so much to one where productivity is not the ultimate goal. Don’t get me wrong…I value productivity and feel good about myself when I’m getting things done. I’m proud to be a hard worker. But it never seems to be enough. I never make it through my list and I always feel like I’ve failed because of it. I’m starting to learn that when the goals you set are unreasonable, you will always feel like you have failed. I recently started something new–now rather than focusing on how many things I have left on a list, I start a new list of what I have accomplished and that list never fails to make me feel better than the list of tasks yet to be done.

My life has changed so much in the last year. I still have the same old anxieties about productivity and accomplishment. But I now have someone who balances me out (most of the time). Last winter when we threw our first potluck together, we were so busy making food that I didn’t get around to mopping. I kept fretting about it and was getting pretty cranked up about it until Drew said something that stopped all of the nerves. He said, “you know…all of these friends are going to come tonight and when they leave, they will all talk about what a fun time they had. And I guarantee none of them will say that they had a fun time but it would have been more fun if only Aura mopped the floor.” Sigh. So simple. But left to my own devices, I’d never have gone down that train of thought. Thank goodness for my voice of reason. Lucky girl.

This weekend was such a far cry from weekends of old! Drew and I crammed in about every fun thing we could think of. It all started with a long walk downtown with the pup after dinner on Friday. Our walks are always wonderful meanders through downtown with no agenda and no idea of when we’ll get home. We are so proud to live in the city of Grand Rapids and proud to see all of the progress made here in the last several years. Grand Rapids has so much to offer…an incredible sculpture park, a small but beautiful zoo, the largest art competition in the world, award winning restaurants and breweries, a great baseball field for the Tiger’s farm team, live outdoor music for free almost any night in the summer, two brilliant farmer’s markets…I could go on.

imageThis weekend Grand Rapids got even cooler with the introduction of Movies in the Park at Ah-Nab-Awen park. We stumbled upon this new treasure on our walk Friday night. We were so surprised and thrilled to see a 20-some foot inflatable screen set up in the park with the city lights as a backdrop and about 700 residents watching Princess Bride on chairs and blankets. It was so wonderful to see and made our hearts swell with happiness. We are looking forward to the 16th when we can watch Back to the Future (and come armed this time with popcorn, root beer, the pup, and lots of friends!). Way to go, Grand Rapids! image

On Sunday we headed out to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, one of the U.S.’s top 10 places to visit. It was incredible. Although I’ve been indoors to see the plants and art inside, this was my first time in the outdoor sculpture park and I was blown away. Here are a few of my favorites.

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Ahhhh….the weekend is over but the memories remain.  One way to preserve those memories is by sharing a dish we made after shopping at the Fulton Farmer’s Market.  One of the rarest and most exciting finds this time of year are squash blossoms.  These pretty flowers make their appearance at the same time we start seeing an abundance of zucchini fruit lined up at stall after stall.  Only one farmer at the Fulton Market carries these pretty flowers (The Barry Patch) and I have a hard time passing them up.  They are very fragile and will not keep long so I recommend buying only when you plan to use them that day.

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When I was a kid my mom would batter and fry these blossoms but being health conscious I prefer to bake them.  I set out on a search for baked squash blossom ideas.  After a quick search, I found some stuffed squash blossom bruschetta from Cooking Light’s June 2005 issue. I didn’t have everything the recipe called for so I came up with a version using cows milk feta, goat cheese, and fresh herbs. This recipe results in a crisy exterior and warm, rich interior…and a taste that is not masked by the heaviness of oil. And so beautiful!  A perfect way to cap off a perfect weekend.  Hands down, this has become a new favorite summertime dish.

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Baked Squash Blossoms with Feta and Goat Cheese

  • 1/2 cup goat cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cow’s milk feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • ⅓ cup chopped basil and/or parsley
  • Salt
  • 12 squash blossoms, if attached to baby squash, leave squash attached.
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Mix together cheeses, 1 lightly beaten egg, and herbs. Season with salt.
  3. Put the remaining 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk. Put the panko breadcrumbs in another bowl.
  4. Carefully spoon filling into each squash blossom and twist loosely at the end to close.
  5. Dip each stuffed squash blossom in egg, then breadcrumbs, and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Radishes In Browned Butter and Lemon: A Lesson in Change

Chive Blossoms

Wow…I had the craziest dream.  I went on a two week vacation through several states, came back to hold my sweeties hand through a major surgery and recovery, started a new corporate job, threw a large birthday/recovery party, and went to two music festivals, all in just over a month.

Wait a minute….I’m pinching my arm…and I can feel it.  It must not be a dream after all.  So why do I feel so out of it?  I’m the kind of girl who likes routines.  I mow the lawn on Saturday.  I eat oatmeal every morning and have one cup of coffee.  I go to yoga 4 days a week (well…errrr…until my neat little life flipped upside down and all around a month ago).  I eat my veggies.  I know exactly how long it takes me to eat breakfast, drink coffee, take a shower, put on makeup, and blow dry my hair (one hour and 10 minutes).

In one short month I have gone from working from home for five years to working in an office five days a week, eight to five.  I have gone from jeans and tees to high heels, slacks, and non-iron fitted shirts, equipped with a badge that gets me in and out of the building.  I have gone from cooking lunches when I wanted to eat (and taking photos of them) to brown bagging it from noon to one each day.  Home office to cubicle.

I’ll admit, at first I was VERY skeptical.  I believe I even yelled over my shoulder one angry morning early-transition (not enjoying the new 6:15 wake-up time), “I am not convinced!!!”  Yeah, I can be a real drama queen when I want to be.

But you know what?  I had a change…a big ‘tude change.  I decided on my seventh day of work that I could make this as hard as I wanted or as easy as I wanted.  And from henceforth and ever more I have been quite pleasantly surprised at how well adapted I have become.  I bought a daylight lamp for my cubicle.  I had some fun ordering a new wardrobe online and feel pretty darned smart in my fancy new clothes.  I love my new coworkers and have discovered after taking a dISC analysis that I am a “i”, which means that I am the social butterfly, like interacting with coworkers, and bring energy to a team.  I’m beginning to think that working with people (in-person) is really good for me.

And the most wonderful thing of late is that I have watched my sweetie go from sick and not able to eat a month ago to healthy, energetic, and happy.  We have gone for two bike rides, many walks, and have started to enjoy cooking together again now that food is not a battle.  It really brings tears to my eyes that he can finally enjoy my cooking again and that we can enjoy our time in the kitchen together.  When we started dating he said that there was no place he would rather be in the whole world than with me in the kitchen.  Sold!  I knew we’d be just fine from there on out.  And fine we are.

Radishes

We recently went to the farmer’s market and found some beautiful radishes.  Reds, purples, and whites, all bundled together.  Radishes are so beautiful to me.  I’m not sure what the history of radishes is but to me, they symbolize life and renewal.  Their peppery bite makes me feel alive and their emergence at the farmer’s market makes me think of spring and fresh starts.

Radishes in Blue Bowl

In celebration of fresh starts, I wanted to share this recipe with you.  I found this in the April issue of Cooking Light Magazine and knew I would like it.  My favorite way to eat radishes is with some fresh butter and flaked sea salt so this browned butter version appealed to me.  This recipe is also only 42 calories for 3/4 cup!  Not half bad.

I didn’t use my radishes immediately so I had to cut off the greens when they were no longer fresh.  In their place, I shredded baby collard greens from the farmer’s market and they were a fantastic substitute.

Radishes In Skillet

Cooking Light has a bunch of great radish recipes.  If you are looking for inspiration, check them out here.  In this dish, the radishes are blanched then sauteed in butter with lemon and radish greens.  Most people haven’t had cooked radishes so I like to surprise and ‘bend the rules’ with dishes like this (I like to roast them too).  I hope you can embrace change in your life, whether it’s from Tom’s to heels or trying cooked radishes for the first time.

Radishes in Browned Butter and Lemon

Radishes in Browned Butter and Lemon; Cooking Light, April 2013

  • 3 cups radishes, halved lengthwise, with root and 1-inch stem left on
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup torn radish leaves (or another green such as collards, turnip greens, or kale if the radishes don’t have their tops)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add radishes to pan; cook 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.
  2. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until butter is browned and fragrant. Add rind, juice, and salt; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; stir in radish leaves and pepper.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts

Roasted vegetables with cheese sauce and toasts

Welcome to another Meatless Monday with the Food Matters project!  I say that half-joking because everything on my blog is meatless, Monday or not.  This week Lexi from Lexi’s Kitchen chose “Reverse Fondue” for the Food Matters pick of the week.  If you have a minute, check out Lexi’s blog.  She grows her own vegetables and has tons of tasty recipes.  I have been meaning to try her baby spinach salad with dates and almonds for a couple of weeks.  It looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it.

I had such a busy, busy day today and had about 30 minutes to whip together lunch (and exactly 7 minutes to eat it!).  This no-fuss recipe was easily done in that span of time.  All I had to do was rough-chop some veggies, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for a short time.  While that was happening, I mixed together the cheese sauce, which was a five-minute-max project and pretty impossible to screw up.  Slice up a few pieces of bread from a baguette and toast a moment, and voila!  Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts.

Veggies Read to Roast

Feel free to experiment.  This recipe is hard to go wrong with.  Use any veggies good for roasting, use any cheese you want, any kind of bread you want (or skip the bread if you want).  Piece of cake.  I couldn’t help thinking when I made this that this trick is how parents get their kids to eat veggies (broccoli with cheese sauce, anyone?).  I felt a little childlike digging into this dish myself.  Not a bad thing in the middle of a hectic workday.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts

Roasted Veggies With Cheese Sauce and Toasts, adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • Stem of broccoli, shaved then sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 carrots, sliced diagonally in about ½ inch pieces
  • 1 turnip, cut into wedges
  • ½ medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz vegetable broth or chicken broth if you aren’t vegetarian
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 oz cheese (I used a combination of Swiss and goat cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 450°.  Cut all of the veggies roughly—they don’t need to be perfect.  Spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until crisp-tender and beginning to brown. 
  2. Meanwhile, cut a few ½ inch thick slices of baguette and place in the oven on another sheet or move the veggies over to make room for the bread if you only have a few slices.  Toast until browned but still soft in the middle.  This should take less time than the veggies, about 10 minutes. 
  3. While the veggies and bread are in the oven, mix cornstarch with broth in a small saucepan.  Bring to a soft boil and add cheeses.  Stir continuously until all of the cheese has melted.  Pour into a small bowl and put a pinch of pepper on the top if you like. 
  4. Serve the cheese sauce with the roasted veggies and the bread on the side. 
  5. Dip away to your heart’s content!

Homemade Kimchi

Ever since my big brother sent a gigantic Pickl-it jar to me for my birthday (with a card that said, “From the best brother in the world”) I’ve been in the mood to make and eat fermented foods.  I’ve always been a little nervous about fermenting things myself but this gadget takes the mystery (and fear) out.  I’ve got a big jar of sauerkraut going right now…can’t wait to try it out!

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The only bummers about this jar are that a) it is huge so I have to make A LOT of one thing at one time and b) I want others so I can pickle other foods simultaneously.  Recently, while lacto-fermenting a batch of mixed veggies (cauliflower, carrots, celery, and radishes, which turned the batch a nasty pink color…lesson learned) I had a hankering for Kimchi.  Much to my delight, I found a recipe that didn’t require any elaborate process, unless you call hanging out in the fridge for a week elaborate.

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This recipe, from Serious Eats, was exactly what I had in mind.  I wanted an authentic recipe and I wanted to know how to make it without shrimp paste, which I find to be a bit much for me.  This recipe shows you not only how to make it without shrimp paste, but how to make it vegetarian!  I’m fine with fish sauce so made my version with it but it was great to find out that you can use miso as a fine substitution, which I will surely try for next time.

I had some kimchi yesterday with my special grain blend for a snack.  To make my grain blend, cook wild rice and brown rice with water to cover for 25 minutes.  Add farro, black and/or white quinoa, and radish seeds.  Cook another 15-20 minutes covered on low heat.  Turn off and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing.  The radish seeds are my favorite part.  they pop in your mouth and are so fun to eat!

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Homemade Kimchi; from Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 large head napa cabbage, cored and separated into individual leaves, about 1 pound total
  • 1 small daikon radish (about 4 ounces)
  • 8 scallions, greens roughly chopped, whites reserved separately
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • One 2-inch knob ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 cup Korean chili powder (kochukaru)
  • 2 tablespoons white or red miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Place cabbage leaves, daikon, and scallion greens in a large bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Toss to combine, cover, then let sit at room temperature until cabbage is wilted, at least 1 hour and up to 12. It should release about 1/4 to 1/2 cup liquid.
  1. Meanwhile, combine scallion whites, garlic, ginger, chili powder, miso paste or fish sauce, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until rough paste is formed, about 30 seconds total, scraping down sides as necessary.
  2. Once cabbage is wilted, add chili mixture and turn to coat. Add 1 cup water to mixture. Taste liquid and add more salt as necessary (it should have the saltiness of sea water). Pack kimchi into mason jars, pressing down firmly to pack tightly and using a chopstick to release any air bubbles trapped in the bottom of the jar. Cover the kimchi with its liquid.
  3. Seal the jars tightly and allow them to sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to ferment at least 1 week before eating (see note). Kimchi will last for up to 1 month after opening. Alternatively, place directly in fridge and taste daily starting after the first week until it’s as sour as you like it. Consume within 1 month.

Notes: This kimchi will get more and more sour as it ages. It can be eaten immediately, but is optimal at around 3 weeks. For a more traditional kimchi, replace the miso paste with 1/4 cup fish sauce or 2 tablespoons jarred brined tiny shrimp. It’s normal for the kimchi to produce lots of gas as it’s fermenting. Your jar’s lids may pop open when you open them and bubbles may appear in the liquid. Do not be alarmed.

As for the kochukaru—Korean dried chili powder, this is perhaps the only ingredient that can be a little tough to track down, but it’s absolutely essential. Korean chilis are a lot more about flavor than heat. You can pack a whole load of chili powder into your kimchi before you end up with a significant amount of heat. I haven’t found any other pepper with a similar flavor profile and heat/aroma ratio.

Creamy White Bean and Celery Root Dip With Fresh Herbs

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Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  Today’s recipe choice, selected by Lexi at Lexi’s Kitchen, is something that will surely find its way onto my (healthier) holiday spread.  It is creamy, simple, delicious, and so much better than many of the creamy dips out there.  I’ll take this over Rondele any day!

White Bean and Celery Root Puree

This was also a great opportunity for me to pull out some of my pre-cooked beans to use.  I recently read something about cooking beans in Super Natural Every Day that inspired me.  Heidi suggested cooking beans and storing them in the freezer in freezer bags so they are quickly ready to use.  I had been storing my cooked beans in Pyrex but it always took so long to thaw out the block of beans so this new method was worth a shot!  I cooked up some garbanzo beans, mung beans, white beans, pinto beans, and black beans, all in separate large pots (I felt a little crazy with so many pots bubbling away but I knew that the result of my madness would pay off!).  I let each pot cool, drained the beans (let sit in the colander for a couple of minutes until all the liquid is gone), and scooped beans into sandwich, quart, and gallon freezer bags.  Now I have beans of all types for any size recipe: larger recipes (soup), medium recipes (like this bean dip), and single portion sizes for when I just want to add some beans to a stir fry or salad.  Genius!

I modified the original recipe to give it a little more oomph with some garlic and fresh lemon juice.  I also had a celery root hanging around and begging to be put to good use so I cooked that up and pureed it with everything.  If you love celery root as I do, it is a great addition but completely optional.  This dip is great without it too.

Check out what the other Food Matters Project participants came up with here.  They are a creative lot!  For visual inspiration, check out the FMP Pinterest board.

White Bean and Celery Root Dip With Fresh Herbs

White Bean and Celery Root Dip With Fresh Herbs; adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

Note from Bittman:  This puree has a stunning green color from all of the fresh herbs and is the perfect dip-warm, cold, or at room temperature-for toasted bread or crudites.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 leek, white part and some of the green, trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped; or 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped mixed mild herbs, (I used parsley, cilantro, and mint but you can also try basil or chervil as options)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, tarragon, or thyme
  • 3 cups cooked or canned cannellini, navy, or other white beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 small celery root (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • About 1 cup bean-cooking liquid, stock or water, or more as needed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Crudites and crackers to serve
  1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped herbs and garlic and cook a minute or 2 more.
  2. In the meantime, add cubed celery root to a small pot with water to boil.  Boil for about 10 minutes or until very soft but not breaking apart.
  3. If you want a smooth dip, transfer the beans, leek/herb/garlic mixture, lemon juice, and celery root to a blender or food processor and process, adding as much liquid as you need to make a smooth but not watery puree. If you want a lumpier texture, mash the beans right in the pan with a fork or potato masher, adding liquid slowly to get them as soupy as you like.  Note:  I saved a couple of spoonfuls of the un-processed bean mixture to top the dip with.  I also added a sprinkling of pine-nuts.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; taste and add more if necessary. If you want your dip hot, heat and serve immediately or keep warm over low heat for up to an hour or so. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil if you like.  This dip also tastes quite good cold!  I served mine with carrots, cauliflower, radishes, and rye crackers.  Mmm!

Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters With Thai Dipping Sauce

I’m really excited to be hosting The Food Matters Project this week.  It’s been such a wonderful habit to get into, cooking a new recipe every week for this project.  There have been some real surprises as the weeks have rolled by.  I have a tendency to buy cookbooks that have gorgeous color photography but Bittman’s cookbook has nary a photo in sight.  Though at first I wished for some photos, there is something to be said about being able to create something to look like you think it ought to, rather than mimicking what you’ve seen.  My choice of recipe for this week, chosen after thumbing through the entire cookbook (again), was another tasty surprise.

I made the fritters following the recipe to the letter.  For the sauce, I modified slightly, adding carrots and some Habanero hot sauce for a truly spicy dipping sauce.  Hot out of the pan, these fritters are amazing and I recommend eating them as soon as possible.

Head here to check out the other FMP member’s tasty creations.  And stop by the newly updated Pinterest board for visual inspiration.

Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters With Thai Dipping Sauce; from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

“Crazy good, crazy simple–and not to mention pretty–these pan-fried fritters are best with peak summer corn, but frozen works all right too.  Or, since fresh sweet potatoes are available all year, you can just skip the corn and increase the quantity to 3 cups.”

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce) or soy sauce, or to taste*
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of red chile flakes
  • Pinch of sugar, optional**
  • 2 cups grated sweet potato, squeezed dry if necessary
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen are fine)
  • 1 fresh hot chile (like Thai), minced
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chile flakes, and sugar if you’re using it in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon water.
  2. Heat the oven to 275° F.  Put the sweet potato, corn, chile, scallions, cilantro, egg, and flour in a bowl and mix well; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate the batter for a couple of hours before cooking.)
  3. Put about 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, drop spoonfuls of the sweet potato mixture into the oil and spread them out a bit.  (Work in batches to prevent overcrowding and transfer the finished fritters to the oven until all are finished.)  Cook, turning once, until golden on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the dipping sauce.
  4. Fancier Fritters:  When dropped fritters aren’t quite elegant enough for the occasion, you can dust your hands with flour and shape the fritter batter into small patties, cylinders, or other shapes.  Cook immediately or refrigerate, loosely covered, for up to a couple hours before cooking.  To make croquettes–which are essentially breaded fritters–set up 3 bowls:  one with flour, one with an egg beaten with a splash of milk, and another with bread crumbs (preferably made from whole grain bread).  Carefully dredge each shaped fritter in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally the bread crumbs.  Fry until crisp and golden.

*I used fish sauce because I love it…but this recipe won’t be vegetarian if you use it.  If you are vegetarian, use soy sauce instead.

**I did include the pinch of sugar.

Roasted Balsamic-Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts

“Brussels sprouts are misunderstood–probably because most people don’t know how to cook them properly.”  -Todd English

I see you there in the frozen food aisle, hands poised over a bag of brussels sprouts.  You know they are good for you so you choke them down.  You may be about to torture your children by putting them on their plates tonight, dreading the inevitable negotiations at the table (no dessert unless you eat your brussels sprouts!).  If I were your grocery shopping angel I would say:  Stop!  Step away from the frozen brussels sprouts and take a walk to the produce section to get some of these fresh little cabbages and you won’t be disappointed.  Call them baby lettuces, as Jenny Rosenstrach does and everyone will adore them, even kids if you have ’em.  Drizzle some sweet balsamic glaze on them and you will wonder why they ever got a bad rap in the first place.

I never had to get over the brussels sprouts hurdle.  My mom was kind enough (and whole-foodsie enough) to never torture us with frozen or canned brussels sprouts.  She told us stories of living in Santa Cruz and picking stalks of brussels sprouts from the cliffs by the ocean.  With such a romantic back story, they had to be good.  Every autumn and winter I turn to these gems for comfort.  I typically saute them in some olive oil with a generous dusting of sea salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  Toss some parmesan cheese into it all and I’m in heaven.  Another favorite is sauteing in some butter with a tiny amount of prosciutto and shallots sautéed along with the sprouts.  A-maz-ing.  But when it is just getting to settle into the beginning stages of winter and frost is on the ground, I use any excuse to turn on my oven.  Hence this version of roasted sprouts with a comforting balsamic honey glaze.  In my opinion, there are few things better than an oven-warmed kitchen and a sheet of sweet, salty, and crispy brussels sprouts.  Watch out, though…you’ll find yourself popping one after another into your mouth.  They are that addictive.

Sold on brussels sprouts?  Good.  Here’s how you make them.

Roasted Balsamic-Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts

  • 1.5  pounds Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt And Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey (or agave nectar if you are vegan)
  1. Trim Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half or quarter if desired (or you can leave them whole). Arrange on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brown.
  2. Combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and reduce until very thick, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts. Toss and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4

Roasted Garlic and Siracha Tofu Mayo With Sweet Potato Fries

My best friend came with her cousin and baby to spend the day with me at Artprize 2012 yesterday.  As we sat down to tuck into some addictive seasoned fries at Stella’s Lounge, we turned to a conversation of condiments for fries.  Gobs of ketchup, mayonnaise, vanilla ice cream (!), malt vinegar, siracha-mayo.  When I returned home and looked at the Food Matters Schedule for this week’s recipe and found that it was tofu mayo (chosen by Sopie at Biographie de ma faim), I knew what had to be done!  The good old fry was about to get a makeover in my kitchen…and it was about to be served up Amsterdam-style with some mayo (albeit a vegan version)!

I roasted up some hand cut sweet potato fries and some teeny fingerling potatoes.  Then whipped up some tofu mayo from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook.  A couple of dips later…I wasn’t really feeling it.  The tofu mayo wasn’t really doing it for me.  Maybe it was because I used Nasoya tofu and it turned out kind of runny…maybe the color was a little too non-mayo for me.  Whatever it was, I knew I needed to make some changes a la Aura.  I roasted a head of garlic (wrap a head of garlic in some tin foil and pop into the oven at 350° until the garlic is smushy on the inside, about 1/2 hour) and pureed it with the tofu-mayo.  Better.  Still not satisfied, I reached for one of my tried-and-true kitchen weapons–Siracha, aka Rooster Hot Sauce.  A generous squeeze went into the mayo and voila!  A perfect, guilt-free vegan dipping sauce/mayo.  For the original recipe, head to Sophie’s blog, where she has also posted a bread-and-nut mayo recipe.  To see what the other Food Matters Project bloggers came up with, head here.  For my Roasted Garlic-Siracha Tofu Mayo recipe, read on!

Roasted Garlic Siracha Tofu Mayo adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Project; Makes about 1 cup

  • 6 ounces soft silken tofu (about 3/4 cup) *
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar, optionnal
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender. Turn the machine to a medium speed that keeps things moving without splattering. Let it run for a minute or 2, then turn it off.
  2. Scrape the sides of the container with a rubber spatula, turn the blender back on, and repeat the process two more times. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately (or store in a jar for up to several days).

*I used Nasoya silken tofu and found my mayo to be a little on the runny side.  I would use Mori-Nu for better results.

Aged Cheddar Almond Cherry Spread

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe was cheese-nut balls…chosen by Jess at Cheese Please.  Think holidays and those orange cheese balls covered in sliced almonds that can be found on many a buffet.  Well, in classic Bittman style, he has reinvented this classic to a more flavorful and less processed version that is so much tastier than the store-bought kind.

I used Bittman’s recipe as a starting point but created my own version, which can be served as a spread or chilled and formed into a patty or ball.  This recipe will certainly find its way onto my holiday tables!  Feel free to substitute different cheeses, nuts, or additions like caramelized onion, roasted garlic, or fresh herbs.  This is one of those recipes that if you use quality ingredients, you can’t go wrong.

Aged Cheddar Almond Cherry Spread; adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Project Cookbook

Time:  10 minutes

  • 1.5 cups raw almonds
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, optional
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces aged cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced dried cherries or cranberries
  • sliced almonds for garnish or for rolling, optional
  1. Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped and almost paste-like.  Add the lemon juice, cayenne, Parmesan, cheddar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/3 cup water.  Process until the mixture is creamy and spreadable; add a tablespoon or 2 more water if it seems too thick.
  2. You can serve this as a spread (as in my photos) or chill for 1/2 hour and shape the mixture into balls or disks.  If you go that route, shape the mixture into 1 large or 2 medium balls.  Roll the balls into sliced almonds, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate to set up firmly.
  3. Serve with crackers, bread, or crudites.

Crisp Black Rice Cakes with Stir-Fried Vegetables

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe wasn’t one that initially popped out at me when first thumbing through the cookbook.  This is one of those simple recipes that I passed over but was asked to reconsider when it was chosen for this week’s recipe by the gals at Small Kitchen College.  And what a great pick it was!  I finally have a functioning stove again and have had the pleasure of cooking for some dear friends who stayed with me this weekend.  The theme of food this weekend was simple, simple, simple.  We had many simple salads, mushroom-lentil burgers, and corn on the cob.  Today for lunch we whipped up this rice cake recipe and it was just what the day called for–simple and healthy.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about this one (words spoken by this skeptic:  “Why not just stir fried vegetables over rice?  Why does it have to be cakes?  Why won’t these stick together?  Aargh!”).  But when we sat down on my patio to dig into this rainbow of colors, all doubt slipped away and we all were delighted to be tucking into this light meal before heading out for Sunday fun.

For the original recipe, which uses basmati rice and chicken, head on over to Small Kitchen College.  While you are there, check out the links to budget-friendly meals, an ode to Julia Child, and the girls’ latest impulse buy…truffle salt!  One of my favorite things about the Food Matters Project is checking out everyone’s blogs and this gem doesn’t disappoint.

Now onto my own experience with the recipe…I used black rice in my recipe because it is just so pretty.  Also, a recommendation–the sesame oil really made it difficult for me to shape my cakes and I would have preferred in hindsight to add it to the finished recipe for flavor.  The rice, which was sticky when cooked, did not bind after stirring in the sesame oil so I had to add almond meal until the cakes bound together.  If your cakes do not stay together during the cooking, no biggie!  It will taste just as good all crumbled up, scout’s honor.  I also used whatever veg I had on hand and omitted the chicken.  Feel free to use whatever sticky rice you have and whatever veg you have on hand.  Make it simple!

Crisp Black Rice Cakes with Stir Fried Vegetables; adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook

  • 3 cups soft-cooked rice (I used forbidden black rice)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more as needed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 cups diced vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • thinly shaved red cabbage for garnish
  • sesame oil for garnish if desired
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Sprinkle the rice with salt and pepper then use your hands to form the rice into 1-inch-thick cakes.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet or double burner griddle over medium heat.  When it is hot, add the cakes to the skillet, working in batches if necessary, and cook, turning once and until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side.  Transfer the cakes to the oven to keep them warm.
  3. Put the remaining 1 tablespooon vegetable oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat.  After a minute, add the onion and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or so.  Add the remaining vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the fish sauce, a few tablespoons water, the lime juice, and the tamari/soy sauce.  Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens a bit, about a minute.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve the stir fry on top of the cakes, garnished with sesame oil and thinly shaved cabbage.

NOTE:  If your rice cakes are not sticking together, try adding some almond meal bit by bit until the rice sticks.