Sunday, January 23, 2011

Molten Lava Cake

Usually, decadent chocolate desserts require tons of time and complicated instructions, but this Molten Lava Cake is as easy as can be.  The recipe comes from Food Gawker, the premiere site to "feast your eyes" on beautifully photographed dishes- and tastes just as good as it looks. I'm not gonna lie, my sister did most of the prep for this moist chocolate deliciousness, but I created the raspberry sauce myself...and did plenty of tasting a long the way ;)

Molton Lava Cake  (recipe link here). We used 6 tbsp butter instead of 1/2 cup as the recipe calls for (8 tbsp), and the consistency was still perfect.
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped*
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave, in thirty second intervals and stirring in between until it is completely melted and mixed.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add chocolate  mixture into the eggs. Add flour and mix until incorporated.
4. Put cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Pour batter into cupcake liners.
5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Serve warm.

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups frozen raspberries
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

1. Heat raspberries and sugar in a medium sized bowl for 2-3 minutes in microwave.

2. Squeeze lemon juice into raspberry mixture and mash together with a fork to achieve desired consistency.

3. Pour gently over molten lava cakes AFTER they have cooled (or else they will cave in!)

*A note about fair trade chocolate
Fair trade products are an important part of social sustainability.  Buying fair trade chocolate concentrates the value of the product in the hands of the producers rather than the corporation.  In a typical free trade chocolate bar, only 3-9% of the value of the chocolate bar winds up in the hands for the farmer.  In contrast, 36.8% goes to overheads and other ingredients, 34.1% to the supermarket, 14.8% to tax and 10.4% to the brand.  Fair trade certified products guarantee a democratically determined minimum floor price, standards for labor conditions, direct trade, community development, and environmental sustainability (no agrochemicals or GMO's). Popular fair trade chocolate brands include Green & Black, Endangered Species (which donates 10% of its profits to support at-risk species and habitats), and select Dagoba bars.

"Fair Trade Certification Overview." Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA. Web. 23 Jan. 2011.                                                                        <>.

"The Facts: Fair Trade." The Internationalist 322. The Internationalist Magazine, Apr. 2000. Web. 23 Jan. 2011. <>.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Vegetable Soup

This recipe was created by none other! Always a fan of root vegetables, leafy greens, and thick soups in the winter, this soup should be made in a large pot (Stone Soup, anyone?) and can serve three generously or be frozen in individual portions for as long as you like. The whole grains and vegetables are flexible to your particular liking, so bear with me as I attempt to dictate my first recipe.

 Above shows the ingredients you will need, but don't be intimidated by the quantity! Its really hard to mess this soup up.

Winter Vegetable Soup
-2 tbsp olive oil                                 -1/2 tbsp oregano
-1 cup chopped onion                       -1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
-2 garlic cloves, minced                    -3 cups low sodium, free range chicken broth
-2 carrots, thinly sliced                      -8 oz diced tomatos, no salt added
-1 parsnip, thinly sliced                     -8 oz cannellini beans
-2 celery stalks, sliced                       -2 tsp lemon juice
-1 cup butternut squash, cubed         -1/3 cup barley (whole wheat pasta or toasted cubed whole wheat bread, ribolilta style can also be used)
-3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced               - salt and pepper to taste
-3 stalks kale (5 cups uncooked)

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add onions and saute for 2 minutes.
2. Add garlic, carrots, parsnips, and squash, saute for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Toss in celery, mushrooms, and spices; mix thoroughly and let cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Pour in chicken broth and bring pot to a boil.  Add barley*
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes, stirring periodically.
6. Add tomatoes + juice and the kale in small batches, putting the lid back on to decrease its volume.
7. Stir in beans, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for 8 more minutes, and serve with a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

*If making this recipe with pasta or toasted bread pieces, add them in after step #6. They do not need to cook as long as the barely, which takes 30 minutes.

The advantages of making your own soup:
Most processed and canned soups, while they may be low in fat and calories, are extraordinarily high in sodium. 1 cup of Progresso's Vegetable Classics Minestrone Soup has 29% of your DAILY sodium intake. Because this recipe uses no-salt added chicken broth and tomatoes, the only added sodium is the salt you pour in by hand.

"Calories in Minestrone Vegetable Classics Soup." Calorie Count. Web. 18 Jan. 2011. <>.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fig and Olive Chicken

This recipe is one of my favorite chicken dishes: its simple to make but features robust and unique flavors, and the combination of figs and olive is perfection-just look at the popular NYC restaurant Fig and Olive, which features the combination in a bunch of its dishes.  Its also a perfect example of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet: the recipe features the LDL cholesterol lowering olive oil in both its natural and processed forms, and uses spices (the dried basil is key for this dish, don't skip it!) for flavoring instead of excessive salt.

I pretty much stick to the recipe when I make this dish, however I did double the olives and figs per serving.  Also, while marinating the chicken in advance definitely enhances the flavor, don't worry if you forget!

Fig and Olive Chicken (adopted from Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, October 2004)

16 sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
8 dried figs, halved
3 tbsp light brown sugar
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
cooking spray
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

  • Combine first 11 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours, turning bag occasionally. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Remove chicken mixture from bag, place in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour broth over mixture, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. Drain chicken mixture, discard liquid. Yield: 6 servings
Why olive oil?
As a monosaturated fat, olive oil has many health benefits.  In addition to lowering bad cholesterol, it contains high levels of the powerful antioxidant polyphenols.  The Mediterranean diet advocates replacing bad fats like butter and animal fats with mono and polysaturated fats (think canola oil and nuts) because they contain linolenic acid.  This type of omega-3 fatty helps to moderate blood pressure, decrease sudden heart attack, and improve blood vessel health.

"Mediterranean Diet: Choose This Heart-healthy Diet Option." Mayo Clinic. Web. 19 June 2010. <>.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Light (dare I say?) turkey chili

This recipe, made rich through vegetables and spices rather than oil and beef, actually has the feeling of a thick soup rather than a heavy food baby here.  Straight from one of my favorite cookbooks, American Medical Association's Family Health Cookbook: Good Food That's Good For You, I topped my bowl with grated sharp cheddar and cilantro and served with a big salad and glass of shiraz...yum!

I was inspired to make this recipe after finding local ground turkey breast at the Tompkins Park Farmers Market last Sunday.  The white meat, although a bit chunkier than the dark, is a healthier and leaner option.  Because all of the flavor comes from the spices, the substitution does not take away from the soup.

I probably would've made this recipe without the turkey if I hadn't found this local vendor.  Did you know that 23% of our energy in the USA is used for processing and packaging our food?  On top of that, the amount of extra fossil fuel required to produce animal feed, housing, transportation, slaughter, etc. makes meat the least energy-efficient food.  Low on the food miles, my turkey came straight from the Hudson Valley that morning.

Turkey and White Bean Chili Verde is the name of this chili recipe.  However, I substituted the green chiles for diced tomatoes, added two chopped chipotle peppers and their juice for spice (which I highly recommend), and used kidney beans instead of white.  I also didn't use cornmeal, which may have contributed to my soup-like consistency, but found the to be chili thick nonetheless.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil   2 1/2 cups defatted lower-sodium chicken broth
1 pound ground turkey                1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped           1 can (4 ounces) green chiles, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced                             Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow or white cornmeal     1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder                          1/3 cup cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1. Heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet, and cook the turkey and onion over medium heat, stirring often, until the turkey loses its pink color and the onion softens, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the garlic, cornmeal, and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cumin and oregano. Add the broth and simmer, stirring often, over medium-low heat, for 10 minutes.  Add the beans and chiles and simmer for 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The recipe can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. Reheat gently before serving.)
2. When ready to serve, add the scallions and cilantro to the chili. Simmer for 3 minutes, then serve.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowed in: what to bake?

Last night, after my company declared it would be closed today in anticipation of the severe snow, I decided to engage in the best activity one can do when snowed in: bake!  After flipping eagerly through my collection of cookbooks, I came to the realization that a. I was missing a lot of ingredients needed to make these decadent desserts, but b. had everything I needed for what I was truly craving: oatmeal raisin cookies.

Taking the recipe straight off my Quaker Oatmeal top, I made a delicious batch of Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  While usually I would substitute half the butter for applesauce to lower the calories, I didn't have any at my disposal, so full butter it was!  I did, however, use whole wheat flour and a generous tablespoon of ground flax seed: it not only added a wonderful nutty flavor to the cookie, but also adds fiber, lignans (natural antioxidants), and omega-3s.

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin cookies:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat together margarine and sugars until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.
4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.
5. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.
6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheetl remove to wire rock.

(makes about 4 dozen)

My favorite winter recipe

Ok, I know that I am in the minority in that I get  more excited by kale than I do about cupcakes.  However, every time I make this recipe I am blown away by how good it is- and it features an array of winter vegetables easy to get from your local farmers market..and cheap!

Pasta with kale pesto and butternut squash: 
Last time I made this, I used collard greens instead of kale, and it came out equally good.  I also substituted pine-nuts for walnuts, which I roasted along with the squash.  The combination was delicious.  Depending on what ingredients I have in the fridge, I've also added chickpeas or sun-dried tomatoes...and always finish with a generous sprinkle of parmesean cheese.

Why kale?
Kale is rich in antioxidants to help fight cancer; folic acid, vitamin A, B, E and K which builds blood cells, prevents cell damage, and serves as an anti-inflammatory.  When steamed, it can also lower cholesterol.  Its also been shown to support the body's detoxification process.  That's a lot of health benefits for $1.99/bunch!

1 ½ pounds diced butternut squash

4 Tbs olive oil
¾ tsp kosher salt (optional)
1 small bunch (1/2 pound)  kale, center ribs removed
8 oz. pasta
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 -4  large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
 zest and juice of 1 lemon

8 oz cooked whole what pasta

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss squash with 2 Tbsn olive oil, place on baking sheet in dingle layer.  Roast until tender, about 30 minutes.

Rinse kale, heat in covered bowl in microwave about 3 minutes until wilted.

Drain kale and put in food processer along with nuts, garlic, lemon, zest and remaining 2 Tbsn oil salt.  Mix well.

Mix pasta, squash and pesto and serve. (This recipe was adopted from the NYT).