Friday, December 16, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato Latkes

Kvelling about latkes....look, I'm practically a fluent Yiddish speaker! Amidst the cornucopia of Christmas related Holiday cheer, us Jews sit tight and wait patiently for our lovely little Festival of Lights celebration which is marked by the best traditional Jewish food of the year: latkes!! Translating to potato pancakes in English, latkes are traditionally made with shredded potato, flour and egg; then fried to crispy perfection to create a smooth crust for your condiment of choice: sour cream, applesauce, or ketchup.
However, if you are a New York Jew, there is a pretty good chance you will not be spending your Hanukkah watching your kindled menorah in a backdrop of wintery snow, but rather on the beach at some sun-filled tropical destination. Consequently, your beach body might not be feeling piles of deep-fried potato right about now.
Which is why I present to you this Baked Sweet Potato Latkes recipe! Not only are these latkes infinitely healthier than your traditional type as they use nutrient-packed, beta-carotene full sweet potatoes, whole wheat flour, and minimal oil- if you've ever embarked on traditional latke making, you know they soak up oil like a sponge- but baking a large batch at one time saves the hassle and time of individual pan-frying. A dash of cinnamon and nutmeg enhance the sweetness of the potato, while the onion provides the perfect savory contrast. Plus, they retain the crisp, crunchy texture of your traditional potato pancake- the outside is just not as thick, which I actually enjoy.

Baked Sweet Potato Latkes (from Erin Cooks)
Yield: 12 Latkes
2 pounds grated sweet potatoes
1 medium onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray or olive oil spritzer or use a silpat.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Drop by 1/3-cupfuls onto cookie sheet. Flatten with spatula.
Bake for 25 minutes; flip and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Serve with light sour cream/applesauce and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, or ketchup.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peppercorn-Encrusted Portobello Fillets

I finally got my hands on Tal Ronnen's award-winning cookbook, The Conscious Cook. Growing up eating steak, Tal has mastered veganism the right way: "creating meatless food that is just as mouth-watering and delicious as anything I'd ever had as a meat eater," he affirms in the Introduction to his cookbook. His inventive creations include a "chicken" scaloppini, old bay tofu cakes, and the recipe below: Peppercorn-Encrusted Portobello Fillets.

Because of its meaty texture and porous nature, portobello mushrooms soak up juices and spices beautifully; similarly to a steak fillet. Cooked the way you would the latter, and voila: your simple vegetable has just transformed into a hearty, juicy steak! Without the artery-clogging, cholesterol-rasing saturated fat, that is. Served with mashed potatoes, half way into this delicious meal you won't even remember that you're actually eating meatless.

Tal's recipes are exceptionally detailed and require a lot of ingredients, so I tried to simplify the dish a bit below. I did not make his béarnaise sauce that accompanied the portobello fillet, because I felt that the dish a jus was flavorful enough on its own to meet satisfaction.  I did, however, add some balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard into the leftover marinade to include some elements of the béarnaise in my sauce. Halfway through though, I got a ketchup craving and indulged- that's how "meaty" this dish is! 
The marinade is your traditional mix of garlic, shallots, dry white wine and vinegar, so the peppercorn and thyme crust is what makes this recipe truly outstanding. The crunchy coating serves as the perfect encasement to the tender portobello inside of it. 

Peppercorn-Encrusted Portobello Fillets
Yield: 4 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Make the portobello fillets:
1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect.
2. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, and 1 cup water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Pour the mushrooms and liquid into a shallow container, cover, and set aside to marinate for 1 hour. (or 20 minutes? That's all I did, and I think it was adequate. Obviously the more it marinates the more flavors the mushroom will soak up, but don't balk if you're in a hurry.)

Sear the mushrooms:
4. Remove the mushrooms for the marinade and press between paper towels or in a cotton dish towel to remove the excess marinade. Save what's leftover in the container. Sprinkle with the crushed peppercorns, salt, and thyme, pressing the seasoning into both sides of the mushroom pieces.
5. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms in one layer, working in batches if necesary. Cook until browned and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Assemble the dish:
6. Slice the mushrooms in the bias into 1/4 inch slices, keeping them intact a the base. Fan each mushroom out. You can lean it against a scoop of mashed potatoes or another side to prop up the mushroom. Add balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard to leftover marinade to taste (optional), and spoon sauce over the top and drizzle it around the rim of the place.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roasted Beets with Dill-Walnut Vinaigrette

Although roasted root vegetables are commonplace in my kitchen, I had never before embarked on roasting a beet. I thought I was content with my 69 cent canned pickled version, but a homemade roasted beet proved me wrong! Boasting an exquisite deep purple color and bursting with flavor, warm out-of-the-oven roasted beets are a wonderful treat this time of season and yield so much more flavor than their store-bought counterpart. Straight from the Kilpatrick Family Farm and CSA- and I recommend you get your beets at a local farmers market- this Roasted Beets with Dill-Walnut Vinaigrette recipe pairs the tender sugary root vegetable with toasted walnuts and a fresh dill and shallot dressing. Red wine vinegar and lemon contribute some acidity to the dish, which when tossed and served immediately is refreshing, sweet and tangy all at the same time.  Feel free to top off your salad with a big dollop of Greek yogurt for some filling protein and color contrast.

Three years ago, the New York Times wrote an article posing the question Are beets the new spinach? Like spinach, beets can be considered a "nutritional powerhouse" with their significant source of folate, potassium and vitamin C. Beetroots' greens only add to the nutritional mix by containing high concentrations of beta-carotene, soluble and insoluble fiber, and calcium. According to the American Heart Association, drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure too.

Roasted Beets with Dill-Walnut Vinaigrette
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons juice from one lemon
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I only used 2 tablespoons of EVOO and it was plenty!)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 medium beets-roasted

Roast beets, wrap beets individually in tinfoil or parchment paper . Place in shallow roasting pan, and place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven. Roast until skewer inserted into a beet comes out easily, 45 minutes to an hour. Place walnuts in a skillet and toast over medium heat stirring frequently, until they become fragrant, about four minutes. Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, dill, and oil together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the dressing, sliced or chopped beets, an walnuts together in a medium bowl. Serve immediately.

Shulman, Martha R. "Beets: The New Spinach." The New York Times 4 Aug. 2008. The New York Times. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. <>.
"Specialty Crops: Beets." Sustainable Farming Project. Tufts University. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. <>.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate Puddle Cookies

"Love is not too strong a word to use here. I fell hard for this cookie," wrote Heidi Swanson when she posted this Chocolate Puddle Cookie recipe to 101 Cookbooks last year, and I could not agree more. This recipe has been my go-to cookie for bake sales, potlucks, and out of the blue chocolate cravings ever since. What's its secret? Cocoa powder and roasted walnuts create a rich fudgy feel, but thanks to whipped egg whites and confectioners sugar, the cookie remains light and airy.

The liquidy "puddle" batter produces a gorgeous cracked surface that when gently pulled apart presents an irresistible gooeyness. Baked for only 12-15 minutes, the prep time is even less.  Your best bet is to use a natural unsweetened cocoa powder; its intense flavor will harmonize nicely with the powerful nuttyness of the toasted walnuts.

Due to a lack of  flour, this chocolate puddle cookie is gluten-free. It also features a wealth of health benefits thanks to the polyphenols in the chocolate: Cocoa's flavonoids, a natural phenolic compound also found in fruits and vegetables, reduce oxidative stress. The physiological results are anti-inflammatory and bad-cholesterol-lowering activity, plus a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

Chocolate Puddle Cookies
Yield: 18 large cookies

3 cups walnut halves, toasted & cooled
4 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon real, good-quality vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 320F degrees and position racks in the top and bottom third. Line three (preferably rimmed) baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Chop cooled walnuts coarsely and set aside. Sift together the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Stir in the walnuts, then add the egg whites and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
3. Spoon the batter onto the prepared sheets in mounds of about 2 tablespoons each, allowing for PLENTY of room between cookies. Try to avoid placing more than 6 cookies on each sheet, and placing the batter too close to the edge of the pan.
4. Bake about 12 -15 minutes: until the cookies puff up; the tops should get glossy, and then crack a bit.
5. Slide the cookies still on parchment onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely. They will keep in an airtight for a couple days.

Lamuela-Raventós, R. M. "Review: Health Effects of Cocoa Flavonoids." Food Science and Technology International 11.3 (2005): 159-76. Sage Journals Online. Http:// Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Apple Relish with Fresh Thyme

Inspired by the Honey Sweetened Cranberry Apple Sauce sample at last week's Union Square Farmers Market, I threw together this Cranberry Apple Relish with Fresh Thyme for lunch today and wanted to share.
I was in the mood for something Thanksgiving themed but not heavy on the stomach. I was also a little put off by the butter and loads of sugar in the original recipe, so I set out to sweeten my cranberries with apple juice. Even with the natural sweetness of the apple, the effect was still a bit too tart, so I did end up adding in some honey and maple syrup. Sticking with the fresh thyme, the most appealing part of the dish for me, I added in a quick grind of ginger and the dish was done: tart, savory and sweet all at once. The result was a salsa-like consistency that act as a topping to multiple foods: I ate mine with butternut squash and chicken, but I imagine this salsa would go wonderfully with Thanksgiving day leftovers like turkey and mashed potatoes as well! It's kind of addicting, so don't hesitate to eat it by itself either.

Cranberry Apple Relish with Fresh Thyme

2 cups fresh cranberries 
1 cup water
1 cup apple juice
1 apple, diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Bring cranberries, water and apple juice to boil in a medium sized sauce pan. Turn heat to low and cook cranberries, covered, for about 10 more minutes, or until you hear them pop. Drain excess liquid from pan and add the apple, thyme, ginger, honey and maple syrup. (I recommend starting conservatively on the sweeteners and adding to taste, depending on your tolerance for tartness.) Bring pot to a boil again, mix thoroughly, and serve.
Cranberry Craze
Cranberries are an antioxidant superstar with a short season, so stock up now! Their red pigments contain the bulk of these antioxidant phyto-nutrients, which are shown to combat flammatory diseases, urinary tract infections, and tooth cavities. (All that added sugar makes this last health benefit moot though, so try to keep conscious of your sweetener's quantity.) Check out Clean Plate's Ingredient Spotlight: Cranberries for some more info and recipe ideas on this season's favorite berry.

"Cranberries Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits." Nutrition and You. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <>.
O'Donnel, Kim. "Ingredient Spotlight: Cranberries." Clean Plates. 18 Nov. 2011. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <>.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

Okay, I know I already declared my favorite winter recipe in my Pasta with Kale Pesto and Squash post...but am I allowed to have two? This Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito recipe is one of my absolute favorites; in fact it's what hooked me onto Mollie Katzen and her Moosewood Cookbooks. Brimming with flavor and stuffed (literally) with two Superfoods from WebMD's Top 10 List, these burritos contain the most affordable ingredients and are great to make in big batches and freeze for later use.

What is a Superfood? Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD describes them as "multitasking" foods: providing disease-fighting nutrients, filling so you can enjoy lots of food without excess calories, and easy to include in everyday meals. Beans make the list because they are loaded with both insoluble and soluble fiber: the former which helps lower cholesterol, the latter which fills you up for portion control. Sweet potatoes owe their recognizable orange color to an abundance of vitamin A, and also contain large amounts of vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. In this recipe, the signature sweet flavor of the sweet potato contrasts beautifully with the spice of the chili pepper, coriander and cumin; each flavor is enhanced by a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

A few time-saving tips for this recipe: microwaving the sweet potatoes (about 3 minutes, or until soft)  instead of boiling and heating your tortillas in a pan with a quick spray of olive oil instead of baking them will eliminate over half the prep time. While the original recipe recommends serving with salsa- and I'm sure low-fat sour cream and guacamole would be fitting toppings as well- I love the flavor and texture of these burritos so much I personally prefer to eat them plain.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos (thank you Mollie Katzen!)
Yield: 6-8 servings

5 cups peeled cubed sweet potatoes I didn't peel mine because a lot of nutrients are concentrated in the skins!
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons canola oil
3 ½ cups diced onions
4 large garlic cloves minced or pressed
1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground coriander
4 ½ cups cooked black beans (three– 15oz. cans low sodium cans , drained)
2/3 cup lightly packed minced cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
8 eight-inch whole wheat tortillas
Optional- salsa

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with the salt and water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, warm the oil in a medium skillet or saucepan and add the onions, garlic, and chiles. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the black beans, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and cooked sweet potatoes and puree until smooth. (You can also mash the ingredients in a large bowl by hand using a potato masher. The result will be a less smooth but nicely textured filling.) I used an emulsion blender; the texture was spot-on. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a large mixing bowl and mix in the cooked onions and spices.

Lightly oil a large baking dish. Spoon about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of the filling in the center of each tortilla, roll it up, and place it, seam side down, in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until piping hot. Optional: Serve topped with salsa

Zelman, Kathleen M. "List of 10 Super Foods for Your Diet." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <>.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chestnut Truffles

A virgin to Roasted Chestnuts, I was hooked after my first bite of this creamy white kernel, encased in a rich hard shell radiating warmth in my hands. The taste it produced was completely novel: a surprisingly soft texture produced a mild nutty yet earthy flavor, but the texture almost reminded me of a baked potato. Nutritionally, I was not far off: chestnuts are actually dietetically similar to starchy foods such as sweet potatoes; but contain protein too.  Unlike other nuts, this one is relatively low in fat but rich in minerals, vitamin-C, fiber and phyto-nutrients. It is also gluten-free.
I could've just stopped  after roasting the chestnuts: they were such a tasty snack and I enjoyed cracking them out of their shells, like pistachio nuts.  However, I loved the idea of using this low cal medium in a chocolate dessert to bring out the unique nutty flavor in a healthy way.  The result was this Chestnut Truffles Recipe.
The taste of these truffles are very interesting to say the least. The chocolate and powdered sugar serve as a sweet foil to the notes of bitterness in the brandy and nuts. I guess I would describe them as kind of surprising: when you bite into the traditional hard shell of chocolate and expect a sweet cream or ganache, you are hit with that expected consistency but a totally different flavor. I recommend this: roast the chestnuts, and if you love them try the truffles. If you're not feeling the flavor, skip them :)

These truffles make a great holiday gift! After you dip them in chocolate, you can roll them in cocoa powder and powdered sugar for some aesthetic variety. I only discovered, this however, after a botched chocolate-dipping experience left my truffles looking spiky and messy. I've changed the directions from the original recipe so you can avoid this and produce a smooth, perfect truffle. My solution: heat more chocolate than you need (you can never have too much chocolate anyway) and dip dip dip!

Roasted Chestnuts (these are roasted in the oven rather than over an open fire, but feel free to sing while you make them)

1 lb chestnuts

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut the flat side of each chestnut with a sharp knife. making an X. You MUST do this so they don't explode!
3. Cook for 15-20 minutes. After cooking, remove both the outer shell and inner skin. This will be easiest if peeled when still hot.

Like them? Love them? Can't wait to cook with them? See below!

Chestnut Truffles (from Eating Well)
Yield: about 4 dozen truffles

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup brandy
1 15-ounce can unsweetened chestnut puree*
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided
Optional: unsweetened cocoa powder, powdered sugar 

*You can buy chestnut puree, but its more fun to make it yourself. After roasting and peeling the chestnuts, puree them in a food processor, adding water until puree reaches desired consistency.

 1. Dissolve dry milk in brandy in a small bowl; set aside. Combine chestnut puree, sugar and vanilla in a heavy medium saucepan; heat over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened and stiff, 6 to 10 minutes. (Reduce heat if the mixture begins to scorch.) Whisk in the brandy-milk mixture and continue cooking until the mixture is thick enough to stand in peaks, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to lukewarm, about 20 minutes.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Form the chestnut mixture into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. (Don't worry if the batter is too sticky to form a smooth ball; you'll be able to adjust the shape more easily after they cool.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.
3. Heat 6 ounces chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Stir often, until the chocolate melts and reaches a temperature of 120°F. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat. Add the remaining 2 ounces chocolate and stir until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. Or in a microwave in 30 second spurts, stirring after each session.
4.Dip each chilled ball of chestnut filling into the chocolate mixture. If it is too hot too touch, drop each ball into the chocolate-filled bowl and roll it around with a wooden spoon until fully covered, then scoop out back onto the baking sheet. Transfer the coated truffles back to the baking sheet.* (There will be about 2 ounces of chocolate left over; reserve it for another use.) Let the truffles stand at room temperature until the chocolate has set, about 5 minutes.

*If adding an extra layer of coating, scatter enough cocoa powder and powdered sugar on the parchment paper to cover the surface, and roll each truffle in the powder until all surfaces are covered.
"Chestnut Nutrition Facts." Nutrition-and-You. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <>.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Baked Squash with Red Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Stuffing

This recipe is seasonal, healthy, creative, fun, and flexitarian. What's not to love? The "stuffing", reminiscent of Thanksgiving thanks to its signature mix of diced onions and celery, sage, and cranberries, elicits all the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming holiday. Various dried fruits plus cinnamon and nutmeg add sweetness to the quinoa, while toasted pumpkin seeds bring a fun crunch. Nestled inside an earthy Delicata squash half, this Baked Squash with Red Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Stuffing actually looked like a hotdog!

I am also digging the versatility of this dish. You can serve it as an appetizer, or toss your quinoa stuffing with chickpeas to create a balanced full meal. Feel free to scoop out the squash as you eat and mix it with the stuffing, or eat your squash half for dessert by topping it with brown sugar or maple syrup.

So what makes a dish flexitarian? Coined by Chef Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table (where this recipe came from), the term flexitarian is a union of the words "flexible" and "vegetarian".  Flexitarian food is "convertable, so you can prepare a meat version and vegetarian version simultanously without going to extra trouble- you just separate the ingredients into two bowls or pots before you incorporate the protein," Berley explains.  Case in point: this recipe is originally vegan, but you could add crumbled feta if you are a vegetarian, or diced sausage if you are a carnivore.  The whole point is to include people who eat in different ways, and respecting the different needs of everyone who comes to the table. As the sister of a lifetime vegetarian, this philosophy certainly resonates with me!

A few notes on the tweaks I made to this recipe: I completely eliminated the butter, whose absence was not missed in calories nor taste. I also felt that the dish lacked acidity, so I added a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Red wine or apple cider vinegar would be acceptable too.

Baked Squash with Red Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Stuffing
Serves 8
2 cups quinoa 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
 I used 2 tbsp olive oil                                                         
1 1/2 cups diced onion
sea salt or Kosher salt 
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery                                                                                                         
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage                                                                        
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped the size of raisins
1/4 cup dried currants
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds                                                                                  
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper
4 medium Delicata squash, (any farmers market winter squash works) halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed            

extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

1. Adjust a rack to the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
2. Simmer the quinoa in 4 cups of water until fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While the quinoa cooks, melt the butter (or oil) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, ginger, and sage.
4. Cover the pan and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes (add a tablespoon of water, if necessary, to prevent scorching.)
5. In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa and vegetables. Stir in the dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, and cinnamon, season with salt and pepper.*
6. Brush the skin of the squash lightly with oil. Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking pan large enough to hold them in a snug single layer.
7. Pour 1/2-inch of boiling water into the pan and bake for 20 minutes (you want the squash to have softened slightly, but not completely). Transfer the squash to a plate and let rest until cool enough to handle.
8. Stuff the squash halves with the quinoa mixture, return them, stuffing-up, to the pan, and bake until the flesh can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 30 minutes more.
 *Add vinegar to taste.

Berley, Peter. Introduction. The Flexitarian Table. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

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!