Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Blueberry Pancakes

Cottage cheese is the secret ingredient to this scrumptious, fluffy recipe for Best Blueberry Pancakes. Filling in for a more caloric ingredient such as butter, cottage cheese keeps the pancakes light but satisfying.  Also, it pairs perfectly with fresh blueberries and a touch of lemon rind.

A lot of people shy away from cottage cheese because of the curd-like consistency, but its texture is disguised once it hits the batter. If the curds really turn you off, you can buy whipped cottage cheese, which is similar to ricotta- Friendship makes a nice 1% milkfat one.

Cottage cheese makes a wonderful hunger quick-fix because it is very filling,  but one of the lowest-fat dairy products out there. This is because it is made up mostly of slow-digesting casein protein and contains few carbohydrates. It is also a significant source of calcium. Be cautious though: cottage cheese is surprisingly high in sodium, so try to find a low-salt version if possible.

Whole wheat flour and an abundance of antioxidant-filled blueberries make this pancake recipe an energy boosting and guilt-free start to your day. Make sure you cook them thoroughly though, I undercooked my first batch and the middle was pure batter!

Best Blueberry Pancakes (from Eating Well)
Yield: 6 servings, 3 pancakes each

1 cup whole-wheat flour, plus 1/3 cup white all-purpose flour*
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
3/4 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries
Optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

*The original recipe called for only white flour, but I substituted most of it for whole-wheat to to make the recipe healthier. However, I think this made the batter thicker and dryer than it should've been, so I added extra milk- about 1/2 cup- until the consistency was appropriate.

  1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, flax seed (optional) and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk eggs, cottage cheese, milk, lemon zest and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Moisten a crumpled paper towel with canola oil and use it to lightly oil a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Spoon on about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bottoms are golden and small bubbles start to form on top, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Lightly oil pan between batches. (Adjust heat as necessary for even browning.) Serve hot.
1. Whi
"Cottage Cheese: Healthy Food of the Day." Answer Fitness. Apr. 2008. Web. <>.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Grilled-Cheese Perfect Tomato Soup

Because I am extremely prone to on-the-spot food cravings, I keep myself armed with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything iphone App. At exactly 11am my stomach demanded chunky tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner, so I whipped out my phone where Mark presented me with a plethora of possibilities: pureed tomato soup, wintertime tomato soup, tomato and bread soup, tomato-garlic soup....I combined my favorite elements of each to produce this hearty, satisfying, Grilled-Cheese Perfect Tomato Soup.
You can't be fooled with tomato soup: when its good, its really good. Mark explains that the trick to producing a quality tomato soup is tomato paste: "Most tomato soups are simply not tomatoey enough," he explains, assigning paste the role of adding "depth that even good fresh tomatoes sometimes lack."

Tomato paste is indeed the foundation of this soup recipe, as it is the first ingredient added to the oil and coats the veggies as they saute in the pot. I added garlic and celery to the onion and carrot, as I wanted my soup to be thick and chunky for optimal grilled-cheese dipping. My next ingredient was canned stewed tomatoes, which take 15 minutes to "break up" and produce an enticing aroma as they do. I ended up using an immersion blender briefly at the end to produce my desired consistency, but the tomatoes got so soft they could easily be smashed with a fork too.

Sugar plays a key role in the soup as well, adding that special sweetness to the natural acidity of the tomatoes. I also added in a generous tablespoon of balsamic vinegar at the end, which served to enhance the sweetness even more. The result was a hearty, chunky classic tomato soup that I devoured in about .5 seconds with my whole wheat and cheddar grilled-cheese. Craving adequately satisfied? Check!

Grilled-Cheese Perfect Tomato Soup
Yield: 4 Servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato (canned is fine; include the juices)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock*
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves for garnish (optional)

*If you are pureeing your soup, use only 1 cup of broth

1. Put the oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add the tomato paste and let it cook for a minute, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomato and the herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up, 10-15 minutes. Add the stock, stir, and cook until hot, then adjust the heat and simmer until the flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar, taste and adjust the seasoning. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more stock or water. Garnish with the herbs and serve.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quinoa, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad

Happy New Year! I apologize for the lag in posts (re: Jews going away for the holidays, above) but I'm back in action and excited to share with you this appropriately-labeled "fresh start" recipe from Bon Appetit: Quinoa, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad.

2012 is all about superfoods- fine, I made that up, but a collective push for consuming the most nutritious fruits and vegetables is certainly trending so why not?- and the all-star ingredients of this salad are listed in the recipe name. The flavors merge in the most interesting way- the sweetness of the pomegranate jewels, tartness of the lemon segments, and refreshing bite of mint and fennel all come together... while forming the ultimate crunch. Subtle hints of dill and cilantro, serrano chile and cumin give a nice kick to the earthy quinoa base. I also loved the texture and shape of the fennel- by slicing it thinly but keeping the bulb intact at the base, the lightly sauteed segments fan out like tentacles in the salad, similar to a calamari steak. Generously dotted with the magenta seeds, it looks really beautiful too.

Quinoa, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad (from Bon Appetit)
Serves 4

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil (I halved the olive oil to 1/8 tbsp, and it was plenty)
2 medium fennel bulbs (2 1/2 pounds), cut lengthwise into 1/4"-thick slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 lemon
1 serrano chile, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1/2 small pomegranate)

1. Heat 1/8 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel is just tender and lightly golden, 10–12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, cumin, and sugar; cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain; return to pan. Cover; let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork; transfer to a large bowl. 

3. Using a small sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from lemon. Cut between membranes to release segments; discard membranes and roughly chop. Add lemon with any juices and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to quinoa; stir. Add fennel mixture, chile, and herbs. Toss gently to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer salad to a platter; sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.