Monday, January 30, 2012

Snacks for Superbowl - Part 1 - Dips and Pickles

Yup, it's that time of year when most men (and some women) are tone deaf to anything unless it involves "the game." Do not despair, place healthy, great tasting snacks in front of them and wait for the victory to emerge (and hope the tears and swears are minimal!

Jalapeno Popper Dip is not the most healthy of snacks, but you need a few cheesy dips for the big game day, which only comes once a year. Lots of pickled jalapenos (make them at home!), cheese and a breadcrumb topping. What's not to love? If you have more than 3-4 people eating, consider doubling the recipe. Roars will be heard when it is gone!

Muhammara may be new to you but trust me this will not be the last time you eat this amazing dip. Walnuts, roasted red peppers and the zip of pomegranate molasses will seduce all who try it. Everyone will play the game of trying to guess what is in it - it's up to you whether you will divulge your secrets!

Do you ever try to sneak veggies into "comfort food or snack food? Here's a great recipe for just that approach, Raw Spinach and Artichoke Dip. It has just enough decadence to make eaters think that this can't be healthy, but its base is raw spinach and marinated artichokes. With just a swirl of mayonnaise for creaminess and a bit of jalapenos for kick, this baby is a winner!

Creamy white dips are hard to resist, and when you serve them with lots of cut up vegetables it is practically a salad via your fingers! With this Creamy Garlic Dressing/Dip made with a yogurt base you are not lying to yourself, so eat up! Super easy to make, it tastes best the next day after the flavors have really had time to meld.

At any party I throw, no matter the occasion, there will always be some pickled and briney item. Here's an easy one that looks so gourmet but is really a pantry dish, Moroccan Marinated Olives. Toss olives with oil, spices, garlic and some herbs a few days before your guests arrive and presto, gorgeous marinated olives!

Another reason to serve pickles or brined vegetables is that all of that vinegar helps your body handle all of the cheese and meat that is so often the centerpiece of Superbowl parties. At this time of year, making some giardineria - Italian Quick Pickles - is as simple as picking up some cauliflower, carrots and red peppers at the supermarket and submerging them in vinegar. Add some garlic or herbs to spike them up or leave them unadorned to get their full flavor.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homemade Ketchup - DIY Pantry

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my abhorrence of ketchup - I can't stand the stuff. Don't want it near anything that I plan to eat, won't touch any food that has touched it, squeal like a five year old brat if anyone were to brandish a french fry dipped in ketchup at me. I know it sounds very childish, which it is, leftover from some traumatic childhood incidence that clearly is too painful for me to remember. So no ketchup for me, ever.

Except when I want to make homemade BBQ sauce or Shrimp Cocktail Sauce or Chipotles in Adobo or some other delectable item that includes ketchup in its ingredient list. Then I have to purchase the evil stuff and trick my inner child into ignoring its presence until it is properly disguised in the food of desire.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame

Carrots are one of my life long loves - I munch on them like rabbits and always have some in the frig for a quick snack. This is a quick and easy soup from Smitten Kitchen full of flavor. Saute carrots, onion, garlic and ginger, add broth or water and boil until tender. Puree until smooth and add a dash of miso and some sesame oil and voila! Supper is served!

This is one of those vegan dishes that makes me feel so smug because people are kind of astounded how great it tastes. Letting the pure flavor of the vegetable shine through will make a believer out of anyone. And the drizzle of sesame oil (smoked please!) is the finishing touch that lets your diners know that they are in the hands of a confident cook.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Puffy Pillowy Vegan Pancakes

In the past few months I've been making cautious excursions into the world of vegan cooking, making soyrizo, chipotle bean burgers, and generally leaving the cheese out of some dishes here and there. Venturing into the baking realm of vegan cuisine really daunted me, until I discovered my new food goddess, Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen.

Wow! This chick has really got it going on in the vegan cooking department! Not only has she been doing her own local access television show on vegan cooking, but she's got that DIY streak that I love and she really tests her recipes well so I feel all safe and secure when I make her recipes. After my recent foray into homemade almond milk I checked out her blog for a way to use said milk. Voila these gorgeous pancakes. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dried Bay Leaves - DIY Pantry

I'm starting a new feature on my blog - DIY Pantry. What that translates into is me sharing with you some of the things that I do to stock my pantry with the things that make cooking in my kitchen a joy. A big case in point would be freshly dried herbs.

What's the big deal between your own dried herbs and those you buy in the little bottles? For starters, when you dry your own from fresh herbs, it is almost always cheaper. My bunch of bay leaves pictured above easily filled that 1/2 pint jar and the cost was $2, as opposed to the $4 plus you would have spent on a store bought version. Also, fresh dried is really better quality. Trust me, you will be able to smell and taste the difference.

Of course, if you grow herbs yourself, then you're well aware of what I'm talking about. But if not, check out farmers' markets or good natural food stores which may be carrying the winter herbs like bay leaves or sage or rosemary. Bring them home, hang them in a dark place (a cupboard or closet) that is cool and dry or even place them in a brown bag with handles and allow them to dry. Once the leaves are brittle and crumble easily, you can either store the entire bundle in a jar or crumble the leaves off the stalks.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

White Bean and Chipotle Burgers

I have many gods I pray too - parking goddess, weather gods, good clothes shopping goddess - but most importantly I worship at the altar of Mark Bittman. Although he did briefly desert me when he stopped the Minimalist column for the New York Times - my devastation and tribute noted here - he came back! And while the Minimalist is now in video form (such a hoot!) he does do occasional recipe like columns as well. This burger was inspired by his "Semi-Vegan" post he published after the new year to help people with eat healthy resolutions.

Of course I tweaked it with my own preferences - as Bittman would have wanted. With some homemade chipotle in adobo in the refrigerator I substituted that for the cayenne pepper he recommended. These were so good, I ate the first batch before I had a change to photograph them - no problem making more!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homemade Almond Milk

Almonds are high on the superfood list, especially raw ones. Packed with protein and lots of other nutritional goodies like magnesium and vitamin E as well as folic acid and calcium, everyone seems to be popping them like candy. You can read more here but suffice to say, aside from their high calories, almonds are pretty healthy for you.

The almond milk you can buy in the store is often fortified with calcium and other nutrients. Why would they do that if almonds were already a natural powerhouse of nutrition? Because commercially produced nuts milks are pasteurized which destroys many of its nutrients. So make your own!