I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world but here it is the Winter-That-Never-Ends or the Spring-That-Never-Comes (there are still 3 feet of snow where my poor mom lives in the Upper Peninsula so I’ll hush now). Today was dark and rainy, so dark that I had to turn on the lights in my house as though it was nighttime. I needed a pick-me-up. Pronto. So I made this lively and lovely fajita recipe, courtesy of Mark Bittman. Thanks to the darling Margarita at Let’s Cook and Be Friends for choosing this recipe as the Food Matters Project recipe of the week. The original recipe is called “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas” and can be found on Margarita’s blog by clicking here. This being a vegetarian blog, I ended up making mine with seitan (seasoned wheat gluten) instead of steak. But if you prefer, you can substitute meat or any meat substitute in this recipe and it will still be delicious. If you want to check out what the other FMP bloggers came up with, head to the Food Matters Project website for more.
This recipe uses jicama, an often forgotten vegetable in my cooking repertoire. Jicama tastes a little bit like a green apple when it is uncooked. Cooked, it retains a pleasant crunch and light sweetness. The pineapple and limes in this recipe really bring out the tropical flavors of this dish.
Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.
I tried these in taco-form initially but really ended up coming to the conclusion that this is just as good as a stand-alone or served over a bed of rice.
Each bite is a reminder of the summer that I know will eventually come. It was a great pick-me-up today and along with my chaser of hot yoga, by the end of the day I was sitting pretty. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze
Adapted from “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas”; Mark Bittman, The Food Matters Cookbook Makes: 4 servings Time: 40 minutes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces of seitan, thinly sliced (don’t feel limited by this–if you prefer you can use steak, chicken, tofu, or any other protein you want–this dish would also be great with veggies alone if you don’t have protein on hand)
Salt and black pepper
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like jalapeno or Thai), seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup water
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Warm corn or whole wheat tortillas, for serving, optional
Put a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and, a few seconds later, the seitan/protein. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir immediately. Cook, stirring every 20 seconds or so for just a minute or 2 until it has some nice charring on it. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, bell peppers, chile, and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the seitan/protein.
Raise the heat to high again and add the jicama, radishes, and carrots. Stir immediately, then cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the vegetables soften and begin to char slightly, 3-5 minutes. Transfer everything to the plate with the seitan/protein.
Add the pineapple, lime juice, and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the glaze thickens a little. Return all the vegetables and seitan/protein to the pan and toss to coat with the lime and pineapple mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas.
Another Food Matters Monday has snuck up on me! And thank goodness it has, because this was a recipe worth making. Thanks to Laura for choosing this recipe. Laura is a personal chef (I’m so jealous!) so I knew this would be a good one. Check out Laura’s creation on her blog, Chef Laura At Home.
This is the second time I have used pine nuts in a dessert…and the second time I’ve been impressed with the results. The first time I used pine nuts in a lighter lemon bar recipe from Cooking Light Magazine and they were fantastic. If you want to try that recipe, and I hope you do, click here! The lemon bars were under 120 calories per bar and were the brightest and tastiest lemon bars I’ve tasted.
Anyway…I digress…this dish was also quite good. Lightly sweetened and topped with a crunchy topping, this dish is great for dessert, or would even be good at breakfast with some yogurt. Thanks again to Mark Bittman for giving us a reminder that dessert doesn’t need to be sickeningly sweet to be satisfying.
I made some of mine in a pie dish and the rest in 4 souffle cups to give to my sweet neighbors that let me park in their driveway when the plows haven’t done a good job on the slushy roads. Whether you are using small souffle cups or a large pie dish, you’ll know its done when it gets bubbly and your kitchen smells of summer. Enjoy!
Berry Crisp with Pine Nut and Hazelnut Topping; adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman
Makes: 6 to 8 servings Time: 40 to 50 minutes
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
4 to 6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or a mixture of the two
1 cup pine nuts
½ cup sugar
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Heat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking dish with a little butter. If you’re using frozen berries, set them in a colander to thaw for a bit while you prepare the crust. Mix together the pine nuts and hazelnuts. Put ¾ cup of the pine nut/hazelnut mixture in a food processor along with the 4 tablespoons butter and sugar; let the machine run until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the rest of the pine nut/hazelnut mixture, flour, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt and stir with a fork until crumbly. (You can make the topping ahead to this point, tightly wrap, and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to several weeks; thaw before proceeding.
Spread the berries in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the lemon zest. Crumble the topping over all and press down gently. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is just starting to brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately, or at least while still warm.
A while back I taught you all how to make your own yogurt. I recently also shared this how-to with updated photos on the Grand Rapids Cooking School Blog. Now that you know how to make your own yogurt, wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to make your own granola to eat with that yogurt? Granola is a great breakfast and a great snack but is often so expensive to buy in stores and is often much higher in calories than it needs to be. The good news is that it only takes about 40 minutes (only 10 minutes hands-on) to make a large batch of granola. Not only is it considerably less expensive, it is so much tastier and you can put anything in it that you want.
Below is a basic granola recipe that can be easily adapted to suit your needs. For the oil, you can experiment with olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil. For the sweetener, you can try maple syrup, agave, or honey. For the fruit and nuts, try any combination that you like.
If you are still not satisfied with your options (I thought I had perfected granola until my sweetie begged for clumpy granola), read on past the recipe to learn how to make CLUMPY granola!
4 cups rolled oats (be sure not to use quick oats)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup dried fruit (I switch it up depending on what I have on hand. I have used raisins, dried apricots, currants, cranberries, or diced prunes–I bet dried blueberries would be great too!)
1 cup nuts and seeds (I usually do a mix of chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, and raw sunflower seeds…but any combination of nuts and seeds will work!)
5 tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp real vanilla extract
½ cup real maple syrup, agave, or honey if you aren’t vegan
Optional: sesame seeds, flax seeds, coconut flakes…anything else you want to add!
Preheat oven to 300°
Mix together oats, cinnamon, salt, nuts and seeds in a big bowl. Please note: I have added fruit to the mix at this point mostly with success…but due to burning the fruit a couple of times during the baking process I now choose to add it at the end!
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring until all dry ingredients are well coated. Spread mixture onto two oiled baking sheets (make sure they are rimmed sheets!).Spread evenly and press down firmly into a single layer with a spatula. You can leave an empty space in the middle of the pans to create another “edge” to prevent an uncooked middle.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until granola is golden brown and crisp at the edges. You can bake it to your preference. One time I made the granola lightly browned:
And the next time I baked it a little longer:
6. Add fruit to the granola while still warm. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on baking sheet before eating and at least 30 minutes before storing (allow to cool completely). Store in an airtight jar.
Now, since you’ve been so patient, I’m going to tell you the secret to making clumpy granola…egg whites! I’m not sure yet how to make a vegan clumpy granola but so far, as a non-vegan, egg whites are doing the trick for me. If you want clumpy granola, mix 2 egg whites into your wet mixture before adding to the dry. When you bake the granola, be sure not to stir it while baking. This will break up the clusters. When the baking is complete, allow to cool completely before breaking the granola into nice big chunks. There will be some chunks and some free bits too.
Now enjoy your amazing homemade granola and yogurt!
Welcome to another Food Matters Monday! Yes, I know it’s Tuesday but for my sake, let’s pretend it’s Monday. This week has been a doozy already between work ramping back up and searching for a car after mine decided to slide off the road in an ice storm two weeks ago. Eek! Thank goodness for this week’s Food Matters recipe. This week Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Cam chose a warming and comforting recipe and if she was standing here now, I’d hug her and we’d eat cardamom scented pear crisp together.
This recipe is quite basic–just your typical fruit crisp–until you get to the last ingredient: cardamom! I’ve used cardamom extensively in Indian cooking but have never thought to use it in a dessert until now and certainly didn’t realize how many other cultures use cardamom, both in cooking and for other purposes as well. Cardamom is used often in Scandanavian cooking as a spice in baked goods such as stollen and spice cookies. Cardamom can also be found extensively in African cooking. Not only that, but the ancient Greeks and Roman’s used cardamom as a perfume!
I also just learned about it’s medicinal qualities. Among other things, cardamom is great for digestion problems (heartburn, intestinal issues, loss of appetite) and cold symptoms (cold, cough, sore throat). Let’s just say cardamom is my new favorite spice.
I made my crisp gluten-free using brown rice flour as a substitute for the wheat flour. Other than that I stuck to the recipe exactly and served it warm with vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmm!
To see what everyone else made (there are always many variations), click here to go to the Food Matters Project website and read through the comments.
Cardamom-Scented Pear Crisp
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Project Cookbook
4 tablespoons butter + some for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice flour
pinch of salt
3 lbs pears, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon cardamom
Heat the oven to 400°. Grease an 8 or 9″ pan with a little bit of butter. Cream the butter, oil and sugar together, using a mixer or fork. Stir in the nuts, lemon juice, oats, flour, and salt, until combined and crumbly. You can make the topping ahead of time, if you like.
Put the pears in the prepared dish, sprinkle with cardamom, and toss to coat. Crumble the topping over all. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the crust is starting to brown, 30-40 minutes. Serve immediately, or at least while still warm.
I hope this day after Christmas finds everyone well. For me, this cold and peaceful winter morning involved staying in bed late, drinking tea, and best of all, enjoying baked oatmeal.
I am a bona fide oatmeal lover. I never ever thought I would be such a goody-two-shoes that I would eat oatmeal every morning. But somehow this routine has a solid foothold now. I have rolled oats, steel-cut oats, quick-cooking steel-cut oats, quick oats and oat bran on hand at all times. When I travel for work, I have BetterOats packets on hand for snacking and mornings in the hotel. So when I came across baked oatmeal after hearing people rave about it, I had to try it. I had noticed a recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday and went at it.
We have been trying our hand at baked oatmeal recipes over the last week and I can’t get enough of it. Next week I’m throwing a brunch for my lovely former roommate and her out-of-town guests the day after her wedding. Being that some guests are vegan, I tried my hand at making a vegan version of baked oatmeal, launching off from Heidi Swanson’s baked oatmeal recipe from Super Natural Every Day. Her version includes eggs, butter, and milk (and her version is delicious, I can attest) but with a few tweaks, everyone can enjoy the miracle of baked oatmeal. I replace the milk with non-dairy almond milk (you can use soy if you prefer but I prefer the lighter taste of almond milk), the butter is replaced with oil, and the egg is replaced with a half of a mashed banana. If you like oatmeal you will love this version, which is like a mildly sweet dessert for breakfast. Without the guilt. And having tried a dairy version and my vegan version, I can honestly say I liked the vegan version even better.
2 cups of rolled oats (use ‘old fashioned’ oats, not ‘quick’ oats)
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 cups almond milk, soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/2 banana, mashed
2 Tbsp canola or coconut oil (melted if hard)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips
Raspberries, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375° with a rack in the top third of the oven. Oil the inside of an 8 inch square baking dish.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar, if using, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, if using, the non-dairy milk, 1/2 mashed banana, the oil, and the vanilla.
Arrange the banana slices in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the non-dairy milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the countertop to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Cut into squares and serve in bowls. Drizzle with maple syrup and pool some almond or soy milk on the bottom. Serve with a few raspberries if you have ’em.
Our Food Matters Project recipe this week is Apricot Polenta Cake, chosen by Jen from Prairie Summers, a charming blog with many bright and flavorful European dishes and whole food dishes (and if you want something sweet, try her lemon cheesecake–mmmmmmm!). And what a great choice it is! Anything that has cornmeal in it is usually a favorite of mine and this dessert recipe is no exception. This fruity cake is the perfect balance of rich and sweet with neither quality overpowering the flavors of corn and apricot. It reminds me of my favorite scones from the Nantucket Baking Company–both have a great depth of flavor with chewy apricot bites and a soft and crumbly texture.
The cake took a little bit of time (chopping the apricots, cooking the polenta, beating the egg whites) but was well worth every second. I would serve this cake with some greek yogurt or a small dollop of whipped cream on the side. But it is also fabulous plain enjoyed with your morning coffee…trust me…for a moment this morning I forgot I had to work today!
The other Food Matters participants came up with all kinds of variations using cherries, berries, plums, and making cakes, tarts, even a soup! To check out these and other variations, head here.
Apricot Polenta Cake; from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook
Time: 1 hour plus time to cool
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup chopped dried apricots
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking pan with a little oil. Put the cornmeal and salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 1 and 1/4 cups water to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl. With an electric mixer (or a whisk) beat 1/3 cup oil with the sugar until creamy; add the egg yolks and beat until thick, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary (this will take 5-7 minutes). Mix in the polenta until smooth, then mix in the dry ingredients until smooth. Add the orange juice and apricots and stir until blended.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks (When you remove the beaters or whisk, a soft peak should fold over onto itself). Stir them thoroughly but as gently as possible into the batter (the base batter is fairly thick and it’s okay if the whites aren’t fully incorporated).
Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan. Invert it out onto a plate if you like and sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Store at room temperature, covered with wax paper, for a day or 2; use plastic wrap and it will keep for an extra day or so. (Dust again with powdered sugar after storing and before serving).
Alright, I know what you are thinking…I’ve met many a balsamic/fruit doubter in my day. I thought the same thing when I saw this recipe from Kate, which was featured in the summer issue of Foodie Crush magazine. I encourage everyone to check it out-it is a free online magazine featuring some of the best food bloggers out there. I’ve had a lot of fun cooking along with Kate through The Food Matters Project. I always look forward to seeing her variations and excellent photography so was thrilled to see her featured in the Whole Foodies section of the magazine.
Because I have faith in Kate’s food choices, because it just looked so pretty in Foodie Crush, and because I had just made homemade yogurt the night before, I simply had to make this dish. And I’m so glad I did. This was like a party in my mouth. Crazy good. And I made extra balsamic-honey glaze and have already used it on grilled flatbread with peaches, arugula, and goat cheese. Can’t wait to come up with a zillion other uses for it! See below for my variation on the recipe and head over to Kate’s page for the original!
Vanilla Yogurt with Cherries, Pistachio, and Balsamic-Honey Glaze
1 tablespoon raw sugar (I used sucanat but you can use turbinado), optional
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar (I used cherry infused balsamic vinegar from Cherry Republic)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, crumbled
Strain yogurt: Line a fine mesh sieve or colander with cheese cloth. Spoon yogurt into it and let sit for 1 hour to drain. The consistency will be thicker and creamier. If the yogurt is too thin for your liking, you may strain longer until the consistency is what you like.
In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt and the vanilla extract. In another bowl sprinkle cherries with sugar (optional).
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the balsamic vinegar and honey. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour the liquid into a small bowl and allow it to cool.
Spoon yogurt into individual serving bowls, swirl in a spoonful of sauce, and top with cherries and crumbled pistachios.
Already week 16 of the The Food Matters Project! This week was Mexican Style Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish. As you can already see, I didn’t make the fish. And I went my own way and made a totally different fruit salad. I posted this fruit salad with lime-basil dressing way back in the early stages of trying to start a blog (before a 1 and 1/2 year hiatus), when I had nary a clue about how to photograph food. Apparently I didn’t even think to photograph my fruit salad so I jumped on this opportunity to make it again and give it the justice it deserved. I have been having a great time learning how to photograph food and have had successes and failures, as you’ve seen. I hope the photo of fruit salad does it justice because really and truly, you must try this fruit salad. Do me a favor, do you a favor, do everyone you know and love a favor and make this fruit salad. Fruit salad is perfect in its simplicity but this sweet dressing takes it to a place you never knew it could go. You will want to make it this way every time. And you can! It takes an extra 3-4 minutes to make the dressing so just do it.
If you’d like to check out the Food Matters Project recipe for Mexican Fruit Salad with Broiled or Grilled Fish, go to Sarah W.‘s blog, Food and Frederick, and check it out–it looks wonderful. The FMP group is a pretty spunky and innovative bunch so they have come up with some wildly delicious-looking variations on the recipe this week. Check out their versions on The Food Matters Project website and be inspired.
Fruit Salad With Lime-Basil Dressing; Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, March 2008
1/2 cup light agave nectar (you can substitute sugar if you don’t have agave)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
4 cups cubed pineapple (about 1 medium)
1 cup quartered strawberries (about 1 pound)
2 cups cubed peeled mango (about 2 large)
2 kiwifruit, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
3/4 cup blueberries
1 cup red or green seedless grapes
Combine agave nectar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in basil and lime zest. Cool. Strain sugar mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
Combine pineapple and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with agave mixture; toss gently.
NOTE: You can use any fruit you want–the above fruits are suggestions only.
I mentioned in a recent post that I was trying to find new alternatives for sweets that use little or no refined sugar. These little nuggets of goodness will make you feel so much better about snacking! I found and adapted a recipe from the Whole Living Detox Plan. Don’t let that scare you–these are worth a try and are a great pick me up.
These fruit and nut balls take about 10 minutes to whip up and I imagine they would be a great “cooking” project if you have little ones–they can help you to make the crumbles into balls and roll the balls in sesame seeds or coconut.
This recipe is extremely versatile. I used dates, prunes, raisins, and figs for the fruit. For the nuts/seeds I used walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seed, and pumpkin seed. Next time I will try with just dates and walnuts or almonds because I love the combination so much.
2 cups mixed dried fruit
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds
1 TBSP nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew).
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds or unsweetened shredded coconut
In a food processor, pulse dried fruit; transfer to a bowl.
Pulse nuts and seeds until finely chopped. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut, cashew, or almond butter to the food processer. Add the chopped fruit, a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Pulse to combine.
Grab small handfuls–about 2-3 tablespoons. Form 1-inch balls; roll each ball in sesame seeds or in shredded unsweetened coconut. Refrigerate in an airtight container to harden slightly. Can also be kept on counter.