Friday, August 19, 2011

Cross Country, Cookbooks, Casserole, and More...

I have been cooking up a storm, but I never get around to posting all these recipes! Cross Country practice started yesterday with two practices in one day, and it just keeps going until after Thanksgiving, so that will eat up most of my time...that and school, which starts in less than two weeks. Ahhh! I'll try to keep up with the blog as much as I keep cooking, so go ahead and subscribe if you want an email every time I post a yummy, healthy recipe (or a few recipes, in this case).

Oh, Did I ever mention that I am a cookbook fanatic? I hoard these things, and my stack just keeps growing. My latest reads are:
Clean Food by Terry Walters
Clean Start by Terry Walters
Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein
Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny
Double Delicious (also love Delectably Delicious!) by Jessica Seinfeld

The only thing is that I never quite follow a recipe...I just read recipes for flavor profiles and then go ahead and make my own version. For example: I will read a recipe for, say, curried butternut squash soup, and think, "Oh, that's a good idea!" and head off for the kitchen, leaving the recipe behind. Then I'll start throwing together onions, herbs, squash, spices, and broths and hope it turns out well. I could have easily follow the recipe and have at least some reason to think that it would turn out well, knowing that whoever wrote the cookbook must have tested it, but I have more fun creating it on my own.

Anyway, this recipe I actually did come up with by myself, just with the inspiration of creamy cashew sauces that I've seen on the internet, which I actually have been wanting to try for a while. This recipe just popped in my head, and honestly, I was fully expecting it to be one of those dinners where we all went, "It's okay...let's eat bread and cheese for dinner instead." But no, it was flavorful and delicious, and it uses probably my favorite food ever...chickpeas!

Chickpea, Cashew, and Polenta Bake
1 tube (I think about 1 lb) precooked polenta
3 cups cooked and drained chickpeas, divided (about 2 cans)
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup vegetable broth
1 handful fresh basil (about1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup grated carrots
salt and pepper
cooking spray

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 glass dish with cooking spray.
2. Slice the polenta into about 1/4 inch thick rounds, then lay them in a single layer in the baking dish, breaking up some of the pieces to fill gaps.
3. In a blender, puree 1 cup of the chickpeas, the cashews, vegetable broth, basil, garlic, cumin, and a few dashes of salt and pepper.
4. Mix the sauce with the remaining 2 cups of chickpeas, and the carrots.
5. Spread the chickpea mixture evenly on the polenta rounds, then bake for 30-35 minutes, until the dish is heated through. 
-I added carrots because they were the only vegetable I had around and I thought the dish needed some color. Feel free to substitute any other chopped or grated veggie.
-If you are not as big of a fan of chickpeas as I am, you can use white beans instead.
-I can find the cooked polenta at Trader Joe's, near the pasta, but I have also seen it at Whole Foods and some other natural/organic markets, maybe even with the pasta or international foods in regular supermarkets. Also, they come in other flavors like Italian herb or parmesan (I think) but I usually go for the plain one, which is really just cornmeal, water, and salt.

After becoming addicted to that creamy cashew sauce, I wanted to make it again when my mom bought artichokes at Trader Joe's and asked me to come up with a dipping sauce. But, of course, I used up the last of our cashews on that sauce a few nights before! So I experimented with almonds, added too many chickpeas, and came up with this:

Almond-Thyme Hummus
It would have originally been "Creamy Almond Dip" or something along those lines, but I finally just admitted that it's pretty much hummus, and just decided to call it that.
1/2 cup almonds
2/3 cup chickpeas
1/2 to 2/3 cup vegetable broth, depending on how thin you want your hummus
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add a few more chickpeas if you want a thicker spread or a little more liquid if you want it thinner.

I'll share how to make steamed artichokes, also, since they are fun for dipping in creamy sauce hummus.

Simple Steamed Artichokes

3 fresh artichokes
1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, peeled
salt and pepper

1. Place a steamer basket in a large pot, and fill the pot with water, just up to the level of the steamer basket. You don't want water peeking up through the holes of the steamer basket, but you want enough water so that it won't just evaporate in a few minutes (in which case you would simply add more water...).
2. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon into the water, then place the squeezed-out lemon half in the steamer basket, along with the garlic cloves. Trim the artichokes (see this methodthrough step 4) and place them in the steamer basket, as well.
3. Slice the other half of the lemon and lay the slices on top of the artichokes. Season them with salt and pepper.
4. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30-50 minutes, depending on how big your artichokes are. When it's they are done, you should be able to push a fork through the bottom of the artichoke and pull it out with no problem.
5. To eat the artichoke: pull off the "leaves," dip them in something yummy, and scrape the ends with your teeth. All the "meat" is on the tip of the leave that's closest to the heart, and the leaves get more tender as you make you way to the center. When you get to the center, make sure you scrape away all the little hairs that are attached to the heart, and then you're left to enjoy that big chunk of delicious artichoke meat!

Here's another classic, simple recipe that's great for summer!

Caprese Salad

2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl or on a plate.

Also, I made that zucchini pizza crust the other night, with a mixture of zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Mix it up and use the veggies you have on hand! But this pizza was mainly inspired by CPK's greek pizza, which I really love. I topped the pizza with tomato sauce, crumbled feta cheese, shredded mozzarella, chopped spinach, and chopped red onion, and chickpeas, then baked it until the cheese was melted and bubbly. After it was baked, I topped it with a spicy cucumber-yogurt sauce.

Spicy Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
1/2 an English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper
1/2 clove garlic, crushed

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. To top a pizza, put the sauce in a ziploc bag and cut a hole in the corner so that you can squeeze the sauce out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Sweets

I love nothing more than cooking all day long in the summer, and today was no exeption. Except this time, everything I made was pretty much dessert. Some days are just better when you eat dessert all day long...I'll need some vegetables tonight, I guess. Here's what I made today (and yesterday):

Honey-Almond Chewy Bars
I've wanted to come up with a chewy bar recipe for a while, but most of the recipes I've researched use peanut butter, which I'm actually not a huge fan of (plus, we didn't have much on hand), so I went with almond butter, which makes everything taste better, in my opinion. These are super easy and can be made into bars or little granola balls (not really granola, but what else do I call them?...) which I think are more fun than bars! :)

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups puffed brown rice
1/4 cup chopped almonds

1. Mix together honey, almond butter, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small microwaveable bowl, and microwave until the mixture is runny, about 1 minute. (you could also heat the mixture in a small saucepan)
2. In a large bowl, combine the puffed rice, almonds, and the honey mixture, stirring until all the rice is coated.
3. Line an 8 x 8 metal pan with plastic wrap and spray it with cooking spray.
4. Pat the rice mixture into the pan, pressing to make sure that it is packed tightly.
5. When the mixture cools, remove from the pan and cut into bars or roll into balls for a fun treat!

Gluten-free Banana Bread
I know I just made gluten-free banana muffins, but I think that just turning that recipe into a quick bread would result in a quick bread that is a little to fluffy with not enough of a crust for my liking. I think this bread turned out great, and I will definitely try it with other purees in place of banana. Also, as a note, I weighed some of the dry ingredients in this recipe because I wanted the measurements to be really accurate, which is important in baking--and even more important in gluten-free baking! You can sub gluten-full flour for the gluten-free flours and cornstarch if you want, but I would suggest still weighing these ingredients.

3.5 oz brown rice flour
2.5 oz garbanzo bean flour (as long as the flours add up to 6 oz, you could use a little more or less of each flour)
1 oz cornstarch
1 oz ground flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup mashed banana
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water (or milk)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine the dry ingredients (flours through cinnamon) in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the bread.
6. Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the bread out of the pan and allow to cool more on a wire rack.

"Recycled" Berry Crumble
Ok, that sounds really weird, but don't worry, I'm not taking food from the trash or anything. Let me explain:

Don't those scones look yummy?! They are gluten-free walnut and candied ginger scones, and their flavor is wonderful (and trust me, the batter was delicious). However, they are very, very, very crumbly. I picked one up and it turned to sand in my sad.

Good thing I can get creative! If you bake something that just doesn't turn out right (but still tastes good), here's a great fix for you. I think this would really only work if your baked good turns out too dry, not too moist, since you want to use baked-good crumbs, not baked-good goop. If you didn't happen to mess up, but you still want to make a berry crisp, I would suggest using graham cracker crumbs, gingersnap crumbs, biscotti crumbs, or other crumble-able things mixed with some chopped nuts and spices.

2 cups baked-good crumbs (crumbly cookies or biscotti, dry quick breads, muffins, or scones, etc.)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 egg whites
2 lbs frozen berries (I used 1 lb strawberries and 1 lb blueberries)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
zest and juice of 1 lemon

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F
2. Combine the crumbs, oats, syrup, oil, and egg whites in a bowl.
3. Chop up the frozen strawberries and combine them withthe blueberries, cornstarch, and lemon zest and juice in a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
4. Top the berry mixture with the crumble topping and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the berries are thickened and the topping is golden brown.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

I made this recipe about a weeka ago, but I never got the chance to post it. My mom has been saying that I'm "allowed" to make a shirmp and corn chowder--meaning she really, really wants me to make it--for quite a while, so I finally decided to accept my privilege and make some chowder!

Shrimp and Corn Chowder
olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 medium baking potato, finely chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 12 oz can evaporated skim milk (not sweetened condensed milk!)
1 cup vegetable broth
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 lb medium shrimp
salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and thyme. 2. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the onion is soft and transluscent.
3. Add the potato, corn, evaporated milk, and vegetable broth.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the potato is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. In a medium bowl, mix the lemon zest, shrimp, cumin, and some salt and pepper.
6. Heat a skillet over high heat, add about a teaspoon of olive oil, then cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes, until just cooked through.
7. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the shrimp.