Sunday, October 30, 2011

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

People get abnormally excited over apple cider donuts. I think something in that distinctive smell of a deep fried bubbling ball of dough, cinnamon and sugar drives them into a sense of frenzied enthusiasm and longing: you have hot apple cider? Cannot be fully satisfied without my apple cider donut! I set out to find a lighter version of the calorie and fat laden fall treat we all know and love, and came across this Baked Apple Cider Donuts with Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.

Retaining the same shape, texture and spices as the fried version, this recipe incorporates some great additions and healthful substitutes into the dough mixture: apple butter and fat-free yogurt replace the butter, and baking instead of frying eliminates the oil or shortening necessary for the latter.  Finally, the donuts are dipped in a reduced-fat cream cheese frosting, and voila: you're left with a perfectly sized donut at a fraction of the calories.

If you don't have a a donut making mold, don't worry: you can use a cupcake mold as an alternative. I put little knobs of tinfoil in the middle of each cupcake mold to create my "hole". If you use this method, just make sure the knobs- which should be about the size and shape of a wine cork- are at least half an inch above the batter, as it will rise.  Then just twist each knob upwards and pull out after the donuts have cooled.

Since you don't have to hold back with these moist airy little treats- according to Recipe Girl, one mini donut (sans frosting) only has about 100 cals- enjoy in abundance with a steaming cup of apple cider.

Baked Apple Cider Donuts with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe courtesy of Recipe Girl)
Yield: 12 large or 24 mini donuts
Prep Time: 25 min  Cook Time: 12 mins

granulated sugar for preparing pans
2 cups all-purpose flour I used half white and half whole wheat
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

For Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) light cream cheese
dash of cinnamon
non-fat milk sift other ingredients before adding milk in very limited quantities- I overdid it on the milk and had to make a second batch of icing!


1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat pan with nonstick spray or oil. Sprinkle with sugar, shaking out excess.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, apple butter, maple syrup, cider, yogurt and oil. Add dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Divide half of the batter among the cavities in the prepared pan, spoon about 2 generous Tbsp. of batter into each cavity. Don’t fill them to the top or your doughnuts will lose their holes when the batter puffs up while baking!
3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched lightly. Loosen edges and turn the doughnuts out onto a rack to cool. Clean the pan, re-coat it with oil and sugar. Repeat with remaining batter.
4. Ice your doughnuts, if desired. Sift 1 cup powdered sugar and mix w/ 2 ounces light cream cheese, a dash of cinnamon and enough nonfat milk to create a spreading or dipping consistency. Dip tops of doughnuts into the icing, then set right side up on a rack to let the icing set.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Northern Spy's Kale Salad

Northern Spy Food Co. is a true local and sustainable gem in NYC. Named after one of New York State's classic heirloom apples, this restaurant- a small, unassuming space nestled on a quiet tree-lined East Village block- centers its menu around seasonal and quality, local ingredients. Only two years old, the restaurant's interior space is built with repurposed materials: the wall paneling is derived from lumber yard leftovers; the retail cubbies were chicken coops in their former lives.
I've been fortunate to have the experience of dining at Northern Spy, and was thus thrilled when I discovered that Chef Nathan Foot had posted his famous Northern Spy Food Co. Kale Salad recipe online via TastingTable. I ordered this dish for brunch one day-yes, topped with two poached eggs please!-and could not stop raving about this delightfully fresh crunchy salad. At the time, I was convinced that some type of magical secret ingredient dominated this gustatory treat.

However, after reading the ingredient list, I was surprised to find that the only secret to this spectacular salad was a fresh local batch of black or Tuscan kale. Tossed generously with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper, the kale positively shines. Foot also adds cheddar and Pecorino cheese, toasted almonds and butternut squash to the mix. An optional poached egg adds some protein to the salad repurposes the dish for a brunch time meal.

As I have been kvelling over pumpkin lately, I decided to substitute the roasted butternut squash with some roasted cheese pumpkin and its interior toasted seeds. Adding pumpkin to salads was something I discovered while living in Australia; a  rocket, roast pumpkin and Parmesean salad down under is as easy to find as a Cesear salad here in the United States.

Note that some of the ingredients do not have exact quantities; the reasoning is that this salad should really be seasoned to taste. Prep immediately before eating for maximum freshness. Enjoy!

Northern Spy Food Co.'s Kale Salad
Yield: 2 servings

2 1⁄2 cups chopped or shredded kale (preferably Tuscan or black kale)
1⁄4 cup toasted almonds
1⁄4 cup crumbled Cabot clothbound cheddar (or any
good, aged cheddar)
1⁄2 cup cubed roasted kabocha or butternut squash or pumpkin
Fresh lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pecorino or other hard cheese, for shaving
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)


1. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the almonds, cheddar squash/pumpkin, and pumpkin seeds (if desired). Season to taste with lemon juice and olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Divide salad between two plates or shallow bowls. Garnish shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Crumble Pie

My trip to a local apple orchard on Sunday yielded a half bushel (aka 25 lbs) of freshly picked apples and the overwhelming urgency to bake an apple pie! In my book, no variation of apple pie beats the classic, and this recipe is taken from my great-Grandma: certainly fitting! However, I did add a crumble topping to the pie because I couldn't resist that crunchy oat topping. The result was this Apple Crumble Pie. Feel free to scratch the pie crust for a lighter dish, but keep it if you want that hearty, deep dish pie result.

Simple, delicious and seasonal, this pie is a ton of fun to bake.  Experiment with an apple corer/peeler like this if you get the chance, but an old-fashioned by-hand peel and core gets the job done too.  Make sure to pack in the apples tightly and fill the pie as high as you can; the more layers of apple slices, cinnamon, sugar and butter you can pile, the better.

You can use Sustainable Table's Eat Well Guide to search for a local apple-carrying farm or market. Just type "apple orchard" under keywords, and guide your search by zip code!  If you can't make it to an orchard, many grocery stories like Trader Joe's sell bags of fresh farm-picked apples for a reasonable price.  In apple overload? Check out the Cooking Channel's Best Apple Harvest Recipes for a bounty of recipe ideas on how to use the fruit in sweet desserts and savory meat and vegetable pairings alike.

Apple Crumble Pie
Yield: 1 pie   Prep Time: 15-30 minutes, depending on your method of apple peeling and coring. Bake time: 40 minutes

For the pie:

-1 frozen pie crust (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Pillsbury brand are popular taste-tested options)
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 Tbsp flour
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/8 tsp salt
-4-5 cups apples, peeled and sliced (about 8 apples)
-1 Tbsp lemon juice
-1 Tbsp butter (use 2 Tbsp if not using the crumble topping)

For the crumble topping:
-2 Tbsp rolled oats
-1 Tbsp flour
-1 Tbsp brown sugar
-2 Tbsp chopped pecans or slivered almonds: optional
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
-pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp butter

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel, core and thinly slice apples, set aside in a large bowl.
2. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Divide mixture into thirds: Spread one-third  over pastry lined pan. Add half the apples, layering tightly, and sprinkle one-third sugar mixture over the apples. Add the second half of the apples and coat the top of the pie with the final third of sugar mixture. Sprinkle lemon juice and dot with butter.
3. Assemble the crumble topping by combining oats, nuts (optional), flour, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon in the same bowl used to create the sugar mixture for the pie. Mix in butter with fingertips until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over pie.
4. Bake pie for 30-40 minutes, until apples are mushy and slightly browned, and juices are bubbling.

Serve warm. For the full out apple pie experience, top each slice with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream  a la mode!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mushroom-Barley Soup

This weather puts me in a soup frenzy: the colder and rainier it gets, the more I crave a big steamy bowl of hot soup. Did you ever read the book Stone Soup when you were little? The old folk story tells of hungry travelers passing through a village where no dweller wants to share his food. The travelers place a stone in a pot, and gradually convince each villager to add an ingredient. When they are done, the community has created a delicious filling pot of soup for both the travelers and villagers alike to enjoy. Tonight I made Mollie Katzen's Mushroom-Barley Soup, and as I added each ingredient and watched my soup transform- first sauteing the onions in olive oil, then the carrots, mushrooms and celery, next the seasonings, barley and vegetable broth, and finally vinegar and salt- I felt like I was in Stone Soup! Of course I didn't have a village to share with, but thats one of the great things about these large pots of soup: they freeze beautifully and are easy to defrost at anytime.

Another reason I picked this soup is because it is vegan. After watching Forks Over Knives, a documentary urging Americans to eat as little animal-based foods as possible based on the scarcity of degenerative diseases in regions of the world where animal-based foods are rarely consumed, my roommate challenged herself to eat vegan for a week. As I am proactive about consuming whole foods and mindful of the negative environmental impact animal-based foods have on our earth, I became more conscious of the dairy products I was eating too.  Although not something I am going to cut out of my diet completely, I am happy to report that I was very satisfied with this soup on its own. If you are eating it for a full meal, consider adding beans for protein. If the vegan thing is too much for you, feel free to add Parmesan cheese. Remember, if you use butter instead of olive oil, the soup is no longer vegan!

Warning:  Barley takes a long time to cook! Although the prep time for this soup is a little over an hour, the active time is only about 20 minutes. Try to plan ahead so you can do something else or prepare another part of your meal during the inactive time to avoid the old "a watched pot of water never boils" adage.

Mushroom-Barley Soup (spices and extra veggies taken from Mollie's Lentil Soup. I added vegetable broth too)
Prep time: 1 1/4 hours     Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 to 2 Tbs. butter optional: I used olive oil instead
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 talks celery, diced
1/2 to 1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
3 to 4 Tbs. soy sauce
3 to 4 Tbs. dry sherry or red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
Optional topping: freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: I modified Mollie's directions so you only need to use one pot.
1. Heat butter or olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 more minutes.
2. Add basil, thyme, oregano, and salt. Stir, and add barley. Immediately add vegetable broth and water, cover and bring saucepan to a boil.
3. When the saucepan boils, let the soup simmer until the barley is tender (20 to 30 minutes). Stir in soy sauce and sherry or red wine vinegar, and grind in a generous amount of black pepper. Simmer, partially covered, another 20 minutes over low heat. Taste to correct seasonings, and serve. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Moroccan Pumpkin Stew

Canned pumpkin basks in the limelight as my favorite cooking ingredient of the season. At around only $2 a can, its available in organic and no-salt-added varieties. Usually, fresh foods have a higher nutrient content than their canned counterparts, but you can refrain from pumpkin pulp scooping here: canned pumpkin retains its impressive chock-full nutrients of potassium, vitamin A, and iron. Versatile too, just one can has the ability to turn out savory soups, spiced muffins, sweet breads, and your classic pumpkin pie.

I found this Moroccan Pumpkin Stew recipe via Meatless Mondays. Inspired by Presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt's call for America to voluntarily cut down on meat consumption during both World Wars, the current non-profit initiative aims to reduce our meat consumption by 15% in order to improve both personal health and the health of the planet.
By participating in Meatless Mondays, you can reduce your carbon footprint- the meat industry generates about 1/5 of man-made, climate change-accelerating greenhouse gas emissions- minimize water usage- an estimated 1800 to 2500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef-and help reduce fossil fuel dependence- 40 calories of fossil fuel energy goes into every calorie of feed lot beef, versus 2.2 calories of plant-based protein. Furthermore, Meatless Mondays are beneficial to your personal health: reduced risks for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are all associated with a low-meat diet.
Check out their website for a plethora of meatless breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snack ideas, and Join the Movement!
By the way...I am aware that today is not Monday. But the point is to cut out meat one day of the week if you can :)
I served my stew with pita chips- they added a nice crunch and were a great accessory to scooping up the chunky soup. (Check out my Fava Bean Dip with Homemade Pita chips post for the recipe.) Meatless Mondays suggested serving the stew over couscous with slivered almonds and apricots.

Moroccan Pumpkin Stew (adapted from Meatless Monday, I changed the recipe a bit to more closely mimic a trusty one I already had)
Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 small potatoes, well-scrubbed but not peeled, cut in half optional
1 15 oz can organic, salt-free pureed pumpkin
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Garam Masala spice OR:
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground corinader
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 15 oz can chickpeas
2 cups loosely packed swish chard (or another leafy green vegetable)
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons raisins
splash of red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
optional garnish: nonfat Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds

1. Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium head. Add onions and carrots (and potato if using), and saute for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir in ginger, garlic, and spices. Saute for another 5 minutes.
3. Add canned tomato, vegetable broth, and greens. Cook covered for 5 minutes, until greens decrease in volume. Add canned pumpkin, water, raisins, and chickpeas. Bring soup to a boil, and simmer for another 5-8 minutes.
4. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of red wine vinegar before serving.
5. Garnish with yogurt or pumpkin seeds if desired.

"Why Meatless?" Meatless Mondays. Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <>.
Zeratsky, R.D. L.D., Katherine. "Canned Pumpkin: Better than Fresh?" Nutrition and Healthy Eating. The Mayo Clinic, 17 Oct. 2009. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <>.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Food and Wine Festival: Murray's Cheese Underground

This weekend I was fortunate to had the opportunity to volunteer at the NYC Food and Wine Festival's Murray's Cave Aged Cheese Underground. The beautiful, historic West Village Norwood House was transformed into a four story cornocopia of premiere cheeses, local jams, sugared walnuts, Francis Ford Coppola wine, and Godiva chocolates. I am so excited to share my experience with you!!

A typical display, overflowing with breads, crackers and cheese blocks

Caerphilly, Montgomery's Cheddar, Berkswell

Ossau-Iraty Vieille, Vendeen Bichonne
 Francis Ford Coppola Winery wines to pair with the cheeses

Epoisses, Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Vieux cru des Cremiers
 I love Murray's Cheese for a variety of reasons. Not only did they actively embrace the farm to table phenomenon by featuring local farms at their Food & Wine Festival event, but they even mature their own cheeses in unique cheese caves located right under their Bleeker Street shop! Custom temperature and humidity-controlled rooms allow customers to enjoy their cheeses when they're perfectly ripe. It was so cool to taste these exquisite cheeses that were created so close to our venue; they exuded an unbeatable freshness. Since cheese consumption is costly to the climate, as it has a similar environmental impact to meat, try to minimize your footprint by buying local when possible and sticking to grass-fed, pasturized animals.
Consider Bardwell Farms


Coach Farms, one of my favorite cheeses of the day: goat cheese stuffed with fig marmalade
Hittisau, Fontina, Scharfe Maxx..chopped by me! 
What I learned...
There are over half a dozen cheese families.  I've copied Murray's/ Cork Savvy's "Wine Cheat Sheet"; pull this up next time you're having a cocktail party and forgot if that beautiful Brie you picked up goes with a red or white.

Questions to ask...
Is your cheese from a local producer? Does it come from grass-fed, pasturized animals? When it comes to picking jams, do they have any preservatives? At the Food and Wine Festival event, most cheeses were paired with Harvest Song's pectin, gluten and preservative-free jam. The jam added a vibrant sweetness to the earthy cheese and crackers. Harvest Song owner Sylvia recommended the following pairings: fig jam (my personal favorite!) with goat cheese, apricot jam with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and sour cherry preserves with cream cheese.  Congratulations, your wine & cheese party has officially elevated its status! Click here for the Daily Green's 4 sustainable wine and cheese pairings.
Harvest Song's Rose Petal, Sour Cherry, Fig, and Apricot Jams

Walnuts cured in sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Paired with blue cheese here, but compatible with any cheese!
Now I want to eat wine cheese and jam everyday.
Well, if you want to maintain a healthy weight, you probably can't. Nutritionists shrivel at the cholesterol in these creamy, full-fat cheeses. However, you can definitely enjoy them in moderation with these healthy recipe ideas:
  • Grilled cheese with tomato and arugula: Murray's Hittisau cheese tasted like a ham and cheese sandwich in itself. Slice a few thin layers of your go-to grilled cheese block, and grill in an olive-oil or cooking spray spritzed pan (no butter!) with tomato slices and arugula between whole grain bread.
  • Fig jam with non-fat greek yogurt and berries: all you need is 2 teaspoons of jam to extract its wonderful flavor. Pair with 1/2 cup greek yogurt, and a handful of fresh berries.
  • Gruyere and apple: take a break from the classic peanut butter & apple snack, and try a few slices of Gruyere with a Granny Smith apple.
second floor of the beautiful, historic Norwood House
Want to learn more about cheese?
Murray's offers an array of classes at their Bleeker Street shop, including Cheese 101, The Harmony of Wine and Cheese and Mystery of the Caves. You can enroll through their website. Not a New York native? Add Murray's blog to your blogroll for updates in the cheese world.