Whole Wheat Blondies

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We had our first snow of the season today. Just a bit of snow–enough to put schools on a delay, but not enough to cause mayhem. I was hoping for snowmageddon, but no such luck. Still, it was a great day for homemade breakfast, baking these awesome whole wheat blondies and organizing the kitchen. I love days like that.

These blondies are rich and delicious and with whole wheat flour, they are also filling. We made them with local new crop pecans and chocolate chips. If you don’t like chocolate, just leave that out. Either way, they are amazing with Blue Bell butter pecan ice cream. The original recipe for these blondies comes from Lauren Chattman’s “Mom’s Big Book of Baking”. Here is our version!

Whole Wheat Blondies

  • 1 cup whole wheat, all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick organic, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed, organic light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped new crop pecans
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ square baking pan with foil.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove pan from heat.
  4. Stir in the brown sugar and combine well. Quickly add the egg and vanilla and stir well.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.
  6. Stir in nuts and chocolate. Batter will be thick.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack.
  9. When cool, grab foil and pull the entire pan of Blondies out and place on a cutting board. Cut into 9 generous squares.
  10. Serve warm.
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Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas

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Quesadillas have come a long way, baby. Back in the day (the 80s for me), restaurants that served quesadillas to us suburban folk stuck pretty much with overly salty cheese and maybe chicken. I thought they were the most boring of all Tex-Mex foods. Really though, they are a genius way to make the most of little bits of leftovers, and the flavor combinations are pretty much endless. This recipe is based on one from Sugar Dish Me (HERE is the original recipe) and we really like it. It has a great combination of flavors and is very high in good-for-you veggies.

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We used a very large, leftover sweet potato, some Swiss chard from our garden, leftover black beans and some chorizo sausage from Mae Farm. You can top your quesadillas with whatever you like. We are using our homemade tomato salsa and some unflavored Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

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You could go vegan with this by leaving off the meat, cheese and sour cream and it would still be awesome.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas (serves 4)

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 large or 2 small organic sweet potatoes, roasted
  • 1 lb. bulk hormone free chorizo sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 bunch organic Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 cup of cooked (or canned) organic black beans
  • 2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 jar homemade (or store bought) salsa (optional)
  • 1 small container of unflavored Greek yogurt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and bulk sausage. Brown sausage and remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Remove all but 2 tbsp. of the fat from the pan. Return pan to heat and add onions and Swiss chard. Cook for 2-4 minutes, until onion is starting to brown and chard is wilted. Remove from heat.
  4. Chop the chipotle peppers and set aside.
  5. Mash sweet potato flesh until smooth and set aside.
  6. Spread sweet potato puree on half of each tortilla.
  7. Top sweet potato with about 1/2 cup of cooked sausage.
  8. Top sausage with onion/chard mixture.
  9. Top onions with black beans and peppers.
  10. Top the beans with shredded cheese.
  11. Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the filled side to make a half circle. Press down a bit to make it all stick together.
  12. Put filled tortillas onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  13. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut each quesadilla into 2-3 triangles. Plate and serve with your choice of condiments!

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Cornmeal Dusted Trout

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I love fish and I’m thankful that my family does, too. We try to eat as much as we can, but in keeping with our budget, that ends up being one or two times a week. We are lucky that we are within a couple hours of the Atlantic coast and a small business, Locals Seafood, does a great job sourcing from North Carolina waters and delivering amazing, impossibly fresh seafood. Unless your family can’t stand it, buy fillets with the skin on. The skin crisps nicely and is good for you!

This week, we picked up trout and it was delicious. I love poaching thick fillets, but for thinner fillets like trout, we find pan searing or pan frying the best way to enjoy it. This recipe is very quick and simple and uses corn meal ground in Selma, North Carolina as a light coating. Because it uses a small amount of olive oil to brown the fish, this is better for you than deep fried and battered fish and MUCH healthier for you than processed fish sticks.

We served this fish with summer corn and green beans that we blanched and froze over the summer, but it would be very good with winter greens and roasted root vegetables as well.

Cornmeal Dusted Trout (serves 3)

3 fillets of trout (flounder works well, too)
1/2 cup of stone ground cornmeal
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil or coconut oil

Set a cookie cooling rack over a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
On a plate or tray, sprinkle cornmeal and spread around the plate.
Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper.
In a cast iron fry pan or saute pan, heat the oil over medium high heat.
Dredge fillets in cornmeal, pressing the corn flour into the fillets.
When oil is hot (not yet smoking), add the fillets, skin side down.
Allow fillets to brown, about 2 minutes.
CAREFULLY, with tongs, turn fillets and brown on the skinless side. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until nicely browned.
Remove fillets from pan and put on cooling rack.
Sprinkle with a bit of additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

“Happy” Calories and “Healthy” Cookies–Corporations Try to Rationalize Sugar

Today I am the food curmudgeon.

To listen in on the crazy rationalizing food companies are doing these days, you would think that the obesity epidemic is all related to our irresponsible selves badly, badly abusing the fine foods they produce. Now, I’m all for sharing responsibility, but really? Check it out:

“Sharing a laugh with friends.” That is part of Coca-Cola’s solution to curbing the weight gain resulting from drinking soda. I kid you not. Apparently, we are a nation plagued with obesity because we are not laughing enough. Or dancing enough. Whatevs, it is NOT because of the  free soda refill, celebrity endorsements of high sugar sodas (I’m talking to you, Beyoncé) or the fact that a 12 pack of soda is often cheaper than any beverage outside of tap water.

In an upcoming series of commercials intended to make Coca Cola “a part of the conversation” about obesity, the company will release ads that feature ways to burn off the 140 “happy calories” in a soda. Say what the what? “Happy” calories? Is there “joyful” diabetes, too? That kind of marketing b.s. masks the true nature of soda beverages and conveniently moves the burden of responsibility off the company and squarely on the consumer (it’s not our product, it’s your laziness).

Which brings us to”laughing with friends”. Coca-Cola is trying to convince consumers that there are easy, fun ways to burn off the “happy calories” of their sodas. And “laughing with friends” is on the list. Hmmm, could laughing really be the answer? According to ask.com, it would take a full 60 minutes of constant laughing to burn off one 140-calorie soda (that’s a 12 oz. soda, no refills). One hour of non-stop laughing. Who does that? You would also have to dance for 30 minutes straight to burn off one soda. That’s just burning off the beverage–it doesn’t include any food you eat. Like a cookie…

Speaking of cookies, Girl Scouts have a new mango creme cookie with something called “nutrifusion” that adds vitamins and fruit extracts to make their addictive cookies a bit “healthier.” My own troop was pretty grossed out to find that “nutrifusion” includes mushroom extract, although they were ok with the actual cookie taste. But instead of including any real fruit, the cookies (which still include a good deal of saturated fat and processed sugar) include hyper-processed fruit extracts. It’s bad enough to send kids out there hawking unhealthy food (if you see us coming, you can always say no), but to pretend that a cookie is something other than an unhealthy dessert food is ridiculous. Here’s my idea: let’s just call it a “cookie” and put the calorie content on the front of the box. Or better yet, give the girls something to sell that doesn’t include saturated fats and sugar. For a wonderful perspective on this, see THIS article from The Lunch Tray.

You can put mushrooms in a cookie or claim some calories are “happy,” but at the end of the day, it’s still the same thing–unhealthy, sugar-laden food that contributes to our ongoing national health issues. And there’s nothing really happy about that.

Pesto Chicken Pizza

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Did you know that making pizza could make you an environmental hero? Yesssiree. Using up your leftover food not only saves you money, it saves the environment. Americans annually throw away millions of pounds of food that ends up rotting in landfills (read HERE). Most of that is restaurant waste, but families contribute a good chunk as well. That’s why I love basic recipes that can use a wide variety of foods we happen to find left over in our refrigerator. Here are some ideas:

  • Omlettes and quiches
  • Stir fry
  • Quesadillas
  • Pizza
  • Crazy salads

Of all these, our favorites are stir fry and pizza. This week we found ourselves with a little fresh broccoli, 2 cups of leftover roast chicken and some leftover mushrooms that HAD to be eaten or they would be compost. Since I usually have whole wheat flour and yeast, we had pizza night. Ellie made a yummy buffalo chicken pizza and we made this delicious pesto chicken pizza using defrosted pesto that we made and froze this summer. It was so good that Tom thought I should post it. So, here it is!

Pesto Chicken Pizza

  • 1/2 recipe whole wheat pizza dough or 1 ready to heat crust
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1.5- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. On a baking sheet, shape your pizza dough into something that resembles a circle (or not, it’s your pizza!).
  3. Spread the basil pesto over the dough, extending pesto to 1-2″ from the edge.
  4. Top pesto with the sliced mushrooms and chopped broccoli.
  5. Top vegetables with the chicken.
  6. Top all of it with cheese!
  7. Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is very melty.
  8. Don your superhero cape and serve this pizza to your grateful citizens!

Football Sadness and Three Pepper Chili

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Well, the Denver Broncos are finished for the season and I am sad.

It was a fun season and I enjoyed wearing my John Elway jersey every Sunday. But life goes on and I’ll have fun watching how the rest of the season progresses. I love football and I love football season food. One thing I am not sad about is the amount of fresh vegetables we froze and put up this past summer. What a wonderful gift we have given ourselves this winter! We made this chili to watch Denver’s final game using our frozen summer tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, sweet peppers and onions to make this three pepper chili. This chili is packed with protein from organic kidney and black beans as well as ground beef from Rare Earth Farm. You could also add carrots and other vegetables as well and adjust the seasonings to your own taste (I like my chili hot).

Great on a cold day, even better if your team is winning 🙂

Three Pepper Chili

  • 1 organic onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves of organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 sweet peppers, trimmed and chopped (or 1 bell pepper)
  • 2 smoked chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 lb. of ground beef (preferably local and hormone free)
  • 2 cans organic red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 can organic black beans, undrained
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. dried chili pepper
  1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic. Cook until transparent, lowering heat if garlic begins to brown (or you can remove the garlic and add it back in with the tomatoes).
  2. Add the ground beef and brown.
  3. Add the peppers and cook an additional 5-8 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, beans and dried seasonings and simmer for 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and correct if necessary.
  5. Serve with shredded pepper jack cheese or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

 

Week 3 Budget and Menu

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Our menu this week features summer tomatoes we tucked away in the deep freeze!

Here we are entering our third week of January and can you believe it is going to be in the 70s all week? What the heck happened? My lenten roses are blooming, I have buds coming out of the ground. STOP!!! I want to tell all my plants to please, please go back to sleep, because before we know it the weather will turn cold again and everything will croak. But somehow there is no global warming. Right.

So, in light of this crazy weather, our menu this week focuses on some dishes that are not the survive-the-frigid-cold comfort food we would typically eat in January. I’m adding in some extra seafood this week because we haven’t had enough of it lately and our seafood dishes are always light and fresh. We are also taking advantage of the Swiss chard in our garden, which is loving this balmy weather!

Budget

  • Mitchell family pantry (raspberry jam, salsa, frozen tomatoes, tomato sauce): $15.00
  • Locals Seafood (flounder, striped bass):
  • Mae Farm (sausage, chorizo):
  • Rare Earth Farm (buttermilk, eggs):
  • Misc. farmers market vendors (carrots, onion, sweet potato, fennel, kale):
  • Trader Joes (tortillas, capers, olives, frozen fruit, soy milk):

Menu

  • Sunday–cornmeal dusted NC flounder, Swiss chard, roasted broccoli
  • Monday–sweet potato/black bean/chorizo quesadillas, kale chips
  • Tuesday–breakfast for dinner; whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, Mae Farm sausage, apples
  • Wednesday–NC striped bass with tomato and fennel compote, chard
  • Thursday–pasta with roasted tomato sauce
  • Friday–baked sweet potatoes and leftovers
  • Saturday–out for dinner; date night!

Get Your Smoothie On!

Low-Fat Strawberry-Banana Yogurt Smoothie 1 cu...

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know I scored a wonderful VitaMix blender by getting the last year’s model on sale on amazon.com. I love that blender. While it was still about $250.00, that was far less that the $400 commanded by the new model, so you know, it seemed like a bargain. And since I’ve used it almost every day for three years, I feel I’ve gotten some good use out of it! That thing will crush, pulverize and liquefy just about anything in seconds flat, I tell you. Because of that, we have smoothies pretty much every morning. I’m wondering now with the new year if I should vary our smoothie offerings a bit. I’ve read about oatmeal smoothies and kale smoothies, but I just haven’t committed to making any smoothie menu alterations.

Today, I found this great Smoothie Flowchart on the Eating Rules blog (www.eatingrules.com). I love it because it takes some of the total guess-work out of the process (and guessing is not good for me before coffee). Feeling sweet? Go with fruit and other ingredients. Feeling savory? There are menu ideas for that, too! I printed a copy and will post in on the fridge for quick smoothie making.

Here is our tried and true recipe for awesome, thick fruit smoothies that are really like having ice cream for breakfast without the guilt 🙂 Using frozen fruit definitely works better than using ice cubes–I think they really water a smoothie down. If you are using small berries, use the 3 cups. For frozen strawberries or frozen mango, go with 2 cups. You can play with the proportions to see what you like best!

Mitchell Family Fruit Smoothies (makes 2 smoothies)

  • 2-3 cups frozen organic fruit
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 cups of organic soy milk or almond milk
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional)

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy. Add more soy milk if the mixture is too thick for your blender. Scoop into glasses and enjoy!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel

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Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

I found this recipe today in the New York Times and it may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and some organic olives and capers, I think this will be a winner. When we canned and froze tomatoes over the summer, I envisioned being able to coax a bit of summer in the dead of winter and this may do just the trick. For Tom, I will leave off the olives (actually, I will add them to my plate :-)) so we can both be happy. Will post photos of the final product!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (I’m using NC striped bass)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I will pan sear these babies).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…

Resolutions for A Healthier Food System

Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson from Food Tank (the food think tank), wrote this great piece on new years resolutions for a better food system (click HERE for the article). Here is a summary, but definitely check out the full article!

  • Ways we can improve our food system in 2013:
  • Grow more food in cities
  • Create better access to sustainable food
  • Demand healthier food
  • Cook at home more
  • Share meals with others
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Waste less food
  • Involve young people in farming and cooking
  • Protect workers
  • Love your farmers
  • Recognize the role of governments
  • Shift the focus from higher yield to great quality
  • Fix the broken food system

What are your new years resolutions?

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