Friday, January 28, 2011

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms and Broccoli Risotto

Last night's dinner and today's leftovers.  I bought a package of portabella mushroom caps on impulse at Earth Fare early in the week, and stuffing them just seemed like the thing to do.  The original plan was to make a stuffing mixture out of spinach and breadcrumbs (the incidental ones from when I made my own croutons for our Thanksgiving stuffing), but I made the mistake of adding too much of the nasty Chardonnay from last Friday to dampen the breadcrumbs, and the result was...nasty.  I realized this just as I was getting ready to spoon it onto the mushroom caps and ended up scrapping it and starting over sans breadcrumbs.  It was just as well - I wasn't sure how much stuffing these mushrooms would hold with the gills intact, so I just chopped up the spinach as finely as I could and mixed in a little lemon juice, pepper and feta.

Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Portabellas:
3 Portabella mushrooms, stems intact
1/2 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove and finely chop stems from mushrooms.  Combine chopped stems with spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and about half (1/4 cup) of the feta cheese.  Spoon onto mushrooms, packing it with spoon.  Top mixture with remaining feta cheese, place on greased (or foil-covered) cookie sheet or shallow baking pan in oven for 20 minutes.

The risotto seemed as good a pairing with the mushrooms as any, plus I haven't made it in a while.  This didn't use anything out of the fridge except some veggie base, but it was still an easy side dish to whip up while the mushrooms were in the oven.

Broccoli Risotto:
2 tbsp Smart Balance or Earth Balance
1 cup onion, chopped (I thawed some chopped onion from the freezer)
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups vegetable broth (I used Better than Bouillon vegetable base)
1 cup frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
fresh ground pepper

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the Smart Balance over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in arborio rice and cook for one minute.  Begin adding hot broth to the rice mixture 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed that amount of liquid.  Repeat until the rice has absorbed all the broth.  Broccoli may be added at this point or at the same time as the last addition of broth.  Stir in Romano and pepper and serve.

Next up: something to dispense of all the parsley, cilantro, red cabbage and carrots in the bottom drawer...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burgers 'n Slaw


Burgers 'n slaw were what I had in mind when I planned this meal, but I wanted to make it vegan.  I had also thought of making oven-baked sweet potato "fries," but Steve didn't think he had room for all three.  So I just made the burgers 'n slaw.

For the black bean "burgers," I used this recipe but substituted flour for the vital wheat gluten, since flour also contains - you guessed it - wheat gluten.  I also used 3 teaspoons of chipotle Tabasco sauce (one of my favorite condiments!) in place of the chipotle peppers that I didn't have on hand.  And I cooked the burgers in a nonstick pan instead of in the oven.  These came out a lot like the black bean cakes they used to serve at Birds on a Wire before it closed, which is fortuitous because I really liked them (with a baked sweet potato on the side) and didn't know how to make them.  I served them open-faced because the only hamburger buns we have are in the freezer and, with clean silverware available, they just seemed unnecessary.  The burgers were good plain or with a small amount of deli mustard on top.

For the ginger jalapeno slaw, I used this recipe but used a little less cabbage - more like 4 cups of regular and two cups of red.  I also added about half a cup of cilantro to give it a little extra yum. 

I kinda wish I'd made the slaw yesterday or early this morning so that the flavors would have had more than an hour to blend, but it was still good.  I'm glad I made this since I have plans in the evening that will preclude cooking again.  Looking forward to the leftovers!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Garden Pasta with Green Olive Pesto and Mushrooms in Chardonnay

I just have to toot my own horn - tonight's dinner was the nuclear bomb!

I knew I wanted to fuel up for tomorrow's long run with a pasta dish and was inspired by this recipe for pasta tossed in a green olive pesto.  It calls for basil, which I wasn't able to find at three different supermarkets, but I did find some Italian parsley and figured I could slightly alter the pesto recipe.  Then I got to thinking that it might also be neat to transform the Barcelona Chicken I made back in June into a pasta dish with green olives (in the pesto), mushrooms and very dry white wine.  So, I made the pesto as described in the above link, but with about a cup and a half of chopped parsley and without the lemon juice - just because I forgot to add it amid all the stress of learning to work the new Cuisinart food processor.  Then I heated a couple of tablespoons of Smart Balance in a frying pan, added about 12 ounces of sliced baby bellas, salt and pepper and let them cook on medium heat until they started browning.  At that point, I added about half a cup of Turning Leaf Chardonnay, which Steve cheerfully surrendered for this purpose after discovering what a nasty wine it is to drink. 

It was much better in the mushrooms!  After tossing the pasta (we had garden pasta on hand, hence the title of this post) with the pesto, I plated it up, spooned the mushrooms on top of that and added the garnish.  Before I made this, I was afraid the pesto would be too strong.  Turns out that if you use enough greenery, the olives don't really register.  If I make this again, I might change the ratio of olives to parsley, or basil, or whatever.  But it was still good this way, and the mild flavor of the pesto really set off the delicious mushrooms, which had time to start caramelizing after the wine had reduced down and been absorbed by the mushrooms.

Turning Leaf Chardonnay - nasty to drink, good for cooking mushrooms!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


...inspired by the "Soup Nazi "episode of Seinfeld.

I've come across a couple of recipes recently that only vaguely resemble the one I make - with chicken, tomatoes and yogurt instead of coconut milk (their version, not mine).  This recipe here is the first one I ever found, years ago, when I went looking for a recipe on  To date, it's the only one I've ever worked from, and it never occurred to me that anyone else made it differently.  So imagine my surprise when I went hunting for recipes and found that nearly all contain chicken, celery, carrots and apples!

Well, the chicken's out because I think I'm done with it (and seafood and red meat) for the duration.  And I don't have any apples, carrots or celery on hand right now - not that I'd want the apples in a soup if I had them.  Really, the reason I decided to make this is to use up the leftover coconut milk from Friday's praram, a jalapeno (with the seeds) and the remaining cilantro.  I might try it one day with carrots and celery if I ever have everything I need to make it that way, but for now I think this version is just as good as any.  It all gets pureed, the coconut milk is stirred in at the very last, and voila - a lovely, silky-smooth lentil-coconut-curry bisque.  Served over rice.

To keep it totally vegetarian, I used Smart Balance instead of the butter and Better than Bouillon vegetable base instead of the chicken broth.  And Steve's been such a good sport about the vegetarian thing.  He bought himself a rotisserie chicken from the Pig the other day, and I told him he could add some to his bowl of soup if he wanted, but he didn't.  He even went back for seconds!

Worst case scenario, he'll have a bigger appetite for snacks by the time 30 Rock comes on.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Indian Rice Salad with Cabbage Poriyal

I finally cut into that head of cabbage that's been sitting in my fridge for over a week.  That means I'll be hurrying to find a recipe (probably Greek) to use up the rest in the next couple of days. 

I also happened across this basmati rice salad recipe for the complementary beans/rice dish and wondered why I hadn't used it since I got my Indian cookbook.  Then I read through the reviews, a couple of which talk about how bland it is.  When I read the quantities of each spice, I couldn't help but agree.  As Indian food and Emeril's cooking go, this recipe is kind of bland.  Maybe that's why I hadn't made it in five years.

Until tonight.  I substituted brown rice for the basmati since we've pretty much switched to that here, used half the rice and kept the spice quantities the same, in effect doubling up on the spices.  If you like spicy food, try it this way.

"Poriyal," according to the authors of Healthy South Indian Cooking, is a type of stir-fry dish to which unsweetened shredded coconut is added at the end.  The ingredient list was relatively short:

2 tbsp canola oil
4-6 curry leaves (I chop mine to distribute them further through the cabbage)
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chilis
2 tsp urad dal
4 cups chopped cabbage
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut.

I started this when the rice was almost done because it comes together fast and you don't want it sitting around getting soggy while your rice or whatever else is still cooking.  Just heat the oil in a frying pan, add the next four ingredients and cook until urad dal turns brown and mustard seeds pop, then add the next three ingredients, stir and cook just until the cabbage wilts, then turn off the heat and stir in the coconut. 

Easy and delicious!  And if you use the basmati rice, it should be done in about 15 minutes, during which you can whip up the cabbage and coconut poriyal. 

Off to watch the last few minutes of Jeopardy.  Good night!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Steve's Birthday and Week in Review

Hmm...blogging more than once per week is turning out to be easier said than done.  I suppose that if this blog covered more than cooking, like my workouts and restaurant experiences, I'd have more to blog about.  As it turns out, last week's sambhar plus some other leftovers carried me into the middle of the week, so I quit cooking for a while so I could dispense with the leftovers.  By Thursday, I was getting too busy to cook again, so I actually ate frozen dinners, like, three nights in a row.  By Friday I decided that I was sick of frozen and I wanted to cook, so I skipped yoga in order to stay home and replay the sweet potato spinach praram.  Excellent fuel for the 10-mile run I did on Saturday morning!

For Saturday's lunch, I borrowed this recipe for garlic greens and white beans (pictured above) to finish off a big bag of kale but substituted black-eyed peas for the white beans because that's what I had in the cupboard.  And Romano cheese instead of the Parmesan, not that there's much difference between the two.

I didn't cook again over the weekend because we had ample lunch leftovers and we dined out on Saturday, Sunday and Monday for our birthday weekend - my birthday was yesterday, and Steve's is today.  So...I cooked for Steve and presented a couple of options for which I had already grocery shopped.  Steve's preference was the Chinese hot pots, so that's what I made.  The only deviations from this recipe were that I made it vegetarian (skipped the chicken pieces and used Better than Bouillon vegetable base instead of chicken broth) and made about a third of this recipe, since I didn't know how well any leftover rice stick noodles would keep.  I also added broccoli and cilantro as recommended in this spicy Thai soup recipe.  It turned out well, and for having over a dozen ingredients, it came together pretty fast.  Which was good, since we were both hungry early this evening.

Soon to come...more seasonal veggie goodness!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bell Pepper and Radish Sambhar

It snowed here in Columbia today, so it was a snow day and I didn't have to go anywhere - yay! 

It's actually been pretty chilly the last couple of days and I don't know what I was thinking when I made myself a lunch of spinach and feta salad plus a cup of cooked lentils and an orange, but by 3:30 I found myself needing snackage that still didn't hold me until dinner.  Looking out the window at the snow-covered lawn, slushy street and little icicles hanging from the roof, I decided that a big pot of soup would be perfect for dinner.  After flipping through a few familiar cookbooks for ideas, I settled on the one that, with a few adjustments, appeared to make the best use of the produce on hand (from Healthy South Indian Cooking):

Bell Pepper and Radish Sambhar:
1/2 cup toor dal
3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 whole dried red chilies
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 red onion, chopped
1/2 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
5 thinly sliced radishes
1/3 cup radish greens, washed well and chopped
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp sambhar powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups frozen green bell peppers, thawed

Boil 4 cups of water, add toor dal and 1/4 tsp turmeric.  Simmer covered until very tender, about 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a 2-quart pot over medium heat.  Add aromatics, cover and cook until mustard seeds pop and urad dal turns brown.  (Be careful not to let the urad dal burn.)

Add onion, radish and remaining turmeric, stir and saute for 3 minutes.  Add canned tomatoes and stir.

Add toor dal, cooking water and one more cup of water to the onion and radish mixture.  Add tamarind paste, sambhar powder and salt.  Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, coriander and bell peppers.  Stir, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with rice or cornbread.

I went with rice because we had some left over, but I did think about making a tray or cornbread muffins.  Maybe tomorrow morning if work is delayed due to road conditions?

Have a good night, and be safe if you have to go out!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oldie but goodie: chickpea soondal and kale with radishes

Well, not so old - I made the chickpeas and the kale during and right after Thanksgiving - but a replay nonetheless.

Now that The Clock-Racing Gourmet has a couple of drawer' worth of fresh produce and is back to racing the clock, I figured that, for tonight's dinner, the sauteed kale with radishes would be an easy way to use up half a bag of kale and half a bunch of sliced radishes.  The chickpea soondal and brown rice didn't dispense wtih any additional produce but were simple and made the meal nutritionally complete.  I threw it together while Steve watched the second half of Basic Instinct II.  Not my kind of movie, so it's just as well that I had raw materials and a need to cook.

Eight days.  I'm starting to weird myself out by how long I've consciously gone without meat.  There are only other two times in my life that I've done this.  One was during my junior year in college, which I spent in Geneva and had to cook for myself in the Cité Universitaire.  It turned out that there, like here, you can save a bundle by not eating meat.  Plus, back then I was so new to cooking that I was afraid to try my hand at chicken or seafood, undercook it and make myself sick. 

The other time I went for months at a time without eating meat was the summer of 2006, when I started training in earnest for my first half-marathon and my first full marathon.  Coincidentally, I had visited the United Nations on a visit to New York City in June of that year and left their bookshop with an Indian (and a couple other) cookbooks.  Since my then boyfriend had MS and wasn't able to eat much of anything while it was hot, let alone find himself tempted to try new things, I ended up doing a lot of cooking for one.  And since I'm not a big meat eater to start with, I pretty much dined on homemade Indian food, based on the recipes from Healthy South Indian Cooking, all summer.  (Then the boyfriend and I broke up, Steve and I got together and I started going out to restaurants again and ordering chicken and seafood.)  Between the nearly vegan diet and the unprecedented weekly mileage, I ended up losing more weight than any other time in my adult life and was also as strong as I've ever been.  Not a bad way to live at all. nice thing about going vegetarian is that my love of chocolate and beer doesn't interfere.  Which is a good thing, because I could go for a little of both right now.  Good night!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Veggie Blue Plate Special 2: Lentils, Polenta and Green Beans

Well, it's January 8 and I still haven't broken my New Year's resolution to go vegetarian this month (and at least 5 other months this year).  It seems like forever since I last cooked anything more than rice and some frozen stir-fry veggies - hence my neglect of this blog - but today we had no leftovers and, after a blustery 10-mile run, I knew that none of the 300-calorie Healthy Choice meals in the freezer would come close to hitting the spot.  So, I finally cooked again.  I thought about using some of the produce (which we've also been low on) that Steve picked up yesterday before deciding that just using what we had in the cupboard and freezer would be quicker and easier. 

The "veggie blue plate" that I whipped up for Steve and myself consisted of the following:

Lentils with Italian herbs:
3 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed and sorted
salt and Italian herbs to taste

Bring the water to a boil.  Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender (no need to stir), about 25-30 minutes.

Cheesy Polenta:
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup plain yellow corn meal
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil.  Lower to medium and whisk in the corn meal a little at a time, getting rid of any lumps that may appear.  (If it starts bubbling before you're done, turn off the heat.)  Once all the corn meal has been stirred in, the mixture should have a texture similar to mashed potatoes.  Stir in Parmesan and pepper.

Green Beans in Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups frozen green beans, thawed
salt and crushed red pepper to taste
1 cup tomato sauce

Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan over medium heat.  Add the green beans, salt and crushed red pepper and stir well.  Lower heat to medium-low, stir in the tomato sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.

The nice thing about this combo was that I didn't have to rinse and chop any fresh produce, because I was already too hungry by the time I started to make time for prep work.  Also, because I was so hungry, I went back for seconds on the polenta.  I'm just glad that Steve was hungry enough to enjoy it as much as I did. 

If you llive in the Southeast and haven't done so already, get to the store today and stock up on whatever you may happen to need for the next few days.  Not because the wintry mix that they're predicting will keep you inside or without power, but just so everyone else who's in a panic about the impending bad weather doesn't beat you to the store and clear whatever it is you need off the shelves.  That can be annoying.

Enjoy your weekend and stay warm!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year, a New Leafy Green?

Well, the holidays are over and we're now four days into 2011. 

This blog post is a little different than usual (my apologies for the lack of photos), since I've done so little cooking since my adventures in mass cookie production two weeks ago.  In a nutshell, I've decided that I consumed far more meat this holiday season than I consider healthy, and it's time for a full-on vegetarian cleanse.  I was actually tempted to try the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart when I heard about it, but I don't feel ready to stop on a dime and give up dairy products as well. Maybe some day, but I'd first rather see how long I can last as a lacto vegetarian (more on that below).  Forthcoming blog posts will attest to my resolve...

Speaking of blog reading the recent slew of posts from fellow food bloggers about New Year's resolutions and evaluation of progress on last year's resolutions, I'm struck by two things:

1) how many people out there actually make New Year's resolutions (I can't remember when I last did - probably for an assignment at school) and

2) how many resolutions people make for one year. 

No wonder they don't stick and people aren't satisfied with their progress from one year to the next!  If you make a dozen or more without a game plan that you can stick to day by day (and allow yourself to falter every now and again and get back on the wagon), then you're doomed to fail.  Especially the common ones, like "join a gym" or "eat less (insert problematic nutrient here)."  But maybe that's being harsh.  In all fairness, there were some instances where people realized during the year that a separate goal was conflicting with the resolution, and in 2011 they've recommitted to that goal while being mindful of unexpected stumbling blocks.

I have a hard time with New Year's resolutions for a couple of reasons.  One, I'm not terribly sentimental about the year changing.  Although I've been aware of good years and bad years, things change bit by bit every day, and every good year has its bad days and vice-versa.  Big things happen each year - sometimes good, sometimes not.

Another reason is that, back when I regularly trained for long distance events, an idea that our coach impressed upon us with regards to races is to set "gold," "silver" and "bronze" goals.  What finishing time would you be satisfied with, what would be better, and what would you consider to be the top of your game?  I tend to have the same approach toward personal goals.  It may seem non-committal to some, but it's a way to make progress without defining progress in all-or-nothing terms.

That all said...if I were to make New Year’s resolutions for 2011, they would probably include some or all of the following:

Fitness/Injury Treatment and Prevention:
1. Do yoga once per week (for flexibility and balance)
2. Continue strength training twice weekly
3. No registering for long distance races before I'm sure I'm ready
4. In the event of injury, see a doctor/chiro immediately and join a gym while on the mend

Healthy food and beverage consumption:
5. Go vegetarian (at least six nonconsecutive months out of the year)
6. Limit adult beverage consumption to one per night when at home and three elsewhere
7. Continue to avoid caffeine and carbonated drinks

Organization, life satisfaction:
8. Start keeping a gratitude journal
9. Blog three times per week, encourage feedback for improving the blog
10. De-clutter, donate old clothes and junk to charity
11. Nurture relationships: stay in touch with people who make you happy, and don’t feel bad about ditching the people who don’t.  (Couldn't have said it better myself, Runner's Kitchen.)

Lest I sound like I too have made too many New Year's resolutions, let it be known that I don't plan on beating myself over the head if some of these don't work out; they simply represent what I think can be done.  I can say for sure that resolutions 2, 3 and 7 are a go.  Resolution 10 is also well on its way, thanks to all the time off in December.  Resolution 5 has been done before for 3 consecutive months, and meat's not something I have to have, so 6 nonconsecutive months should be manageable.  Ditto for #6, although it's easy to lose count when I'm eating a large meal at a restaurant :(  

Resolutions 1 and 4 are doable, although I'm loathe to make new commitments that feel like additional errands.  I really like going to Friday night yoga at Amsa, but it's still hard to get off the couch or remember to stop puttering around the house in time to change clothes and head down to the studio.  Maybe I can work out a home yoga practice that fits my needs?  And I've never really liked going to the gym (at least not since I started running), but I found myself regretting all the time off from cardio workouts when I started running again after my IT band recovery.  #4 is more of a contingency (read "bronze goal") anyway, so we'll revisit the need as the year goes along.

The most challenging category is the last one, since I'm not used to giving this much thought.  I'm deliriously happy with my significant other, so I'm doing better than a lot of other people on that count.  As for the rest, just do what you enjoy, and happiness will follow, right? Well, that's often the case, but...being a solitary person, I often find myself alone with thoughts I'd rather not have, and sharing moments of happiness with others doesn't always come naturally, although I wish it did.  Hence, Resolutions 8 and 11.  #10 is about improving energy flow (one of the few things I took away from Feng Shui for Dummies) and having a greater appreciation for what I have.  Plus I find that the less stuff I have, the easier it is to clean house.  

And as for #9...I've really enjoyed being able to share with others what I'm up to in the kitchen, but I'm also interested in knowing what people think of the blog!  Most of the comments I get (mainly through the Facebook page) are positive ones about the recipes, but I'm curious to know what you (yes, you) think about the blog.  Does the emphasis on recipes make it seem too educational?  Would it be better with more photos?  Would ending each post with a question make it more engaging?  Don't get me wrong - I'm just as happy to stick with what I'm doing, but if there's anything else that my modest readership would like to see, I'd really like to know!

Whew - that was long.  If you made it all the way through, I applaud your perseverence and encourage you to provide any feedback you may have - here, through FB or by sending me an email

Here's to a happy 2011!