October 27, 2012

Quinoa, Spinach and Poached Egg Skillet

This recipe uses the filling from the Quinoa and Black Bean Stuffed Peppers. It's a delightful meal that's cozy, rustic, and substantial while still being light. I love any meal with a soft, barely oozing egg on top. It adds a layer of richness, like velvet, to every bite. 

"Next Night" Quinoa, Spinach, and Poached Egg Skillet: serves 2
6 cups of raw spinach, chopped
Any amount of leftover filling from the stuffed peppers. (See recipe to make from scratch
Optional: 1 chicken breast cut into 1" pieces
Two eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup quality white cheddar cheese

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or dutch oven to medium. Add the spinach, filling, and chicken breast if using. Cover. Allow the spinach to cook down and the chicken to just cook through, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. Distribute the ingredients evenly throughout the skillet, then use a spoon to move some mixture aside to create two shallow "wells." Crack one egg carefully into each "well." It's okay if the whites run over and onto everything else. Cover and allow to cook until the egg is firm around the edges but still soft and runny in the middle. Turn off heat. Use a spatula to transfer half the filling and intact egg on top to each of two bowls. Top with cheddar cheese and serve. 

Slow-Cooker Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

It's been a crazy week. The kind of week where I left work every day and papers were still scattered across my desk. I don't do scattered papers. The scattered papers were like a big red flag -- relax! slow down!  

Enter slow-cooker and these quinoa stuffed peppers, a dish that allowed me to both slow down and relax for an evening. These incredibly nutritious veggie bowls are packed with protein-rich quinoa, meaty black beans, and salty-good cheese. To round it all out, the sweet packaging of bright bell pepper and tomato sauce topping balance those savory flavors perfectly. 

Hmm... Balance. That's another welcome feeling at the end of my day. 

2 T. butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow zucchini, diced
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1.5 cups quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 t. garam masala
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
dash of cumin
1/2 cup quality white cheddar cheese
1 can diced tomatoes in puree
2 t. tomato paste.
2 red or yellow bell peppers, tops cut off and seeds removed inside

Preheat a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add and melt the butter, then add the onion and cook until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and stir, one minute, then the zucchini, and cook another minute more. Add the quinoa and stir to toast lightly, 2-3 minutes, then add the stock, beans, garam masala, salt, pepper, and cumin. Stir and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa grain is translucent and the grain has developed a "tail" off the end. Stir in cheddar cheese at the last moment.

Inside the crock pot, stir together the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Use a spoon to fill each bell pepper with mixture. Carefully place each pepper into the crock pot and set to low 7-8  hours or high 3-4 hours. Spoon tomato sauce over pepper and serve.

Use leftover filling to create "Next Night Quinoa, Spinach, and Poached Egg Skillet." It's delicious!

October 13, 2012

Peanut & Coconut-Crusted Tofu Nuggets

I didn't know tofu could satisfy the "battered-and-fried" craving, but now I've tasted that it can. Thankfully, these are battered but they are not fried, and they've still got all the crispy flavor of a nugget that's taken a dunk in the oil hot tub.

I first came across some form of coconut-battered tofu at Whole Foods years ago. When I lived in downtown Manhattan I used to wander to the Houston Street Whole Foods daily on my work lunch break. For the better part of an hour I'd find myself cruising through the food-porn library that is publicly known as their prepared food bar (added bonus: the Houston Street Whole Foods has a DESSERT BAR, too. It's just not appropriate. There should be a rating warning on that).

Anyway, back to my point. One day this battered, crisp, coconutty tofu appeared. Since it made its debut years ago (it's been a regular on the prepared food line since) I've been wondering, "how did they make that?"

Prayers/fantasies/longing has been answered.

Dare I say these might rival than the ones I can pick up at Whole Foods? You'll have to try them for yourself. WF, I love you, but this recipe involves peanuts, too, and I love peanuts. Plus the price on that prepared food is kind of steep... No matter how little I put in my container it always weighs enough to be $12 for five, admittedly delicious, bites... I still haven't figured that equation out.

This equation is fail proof: peanuts + coconut + tofu = party for your palate.

Peanut & Coconut Crusted Tofu: makes about 16 "nuggets". Adapted from Cooking Light.
1 14-oz package water-packed extra-firm tofu
1/2 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Cut tofu lengthwise into 4 1/2 inch slices. Place on several layers of paper towel, cover with additional paper towels, and let absorb for five minutes. Cut each tofu slice again in half lengthwise, then cut strips in half crosswise to create 16 "nuggets."
Place peanuts in food processor; process until ground. In a shallow bowl, combine peanuts, coconut, cayenne, and Panko, stirring well. Combine coconut milk and egg in a shallow dish, stirring well. Place flour in a separate shallow dish.
Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and swirl to coat. Dredge half of tofu in the flour, dip in egg mixture allowing excess to drip off. Dredge in peanut-coconut mixture. Add coated tofu to pan. Sautee a few minutes per side, turning each piece after a few minutes, to allow each side to brown separately. Repeat with the second batch.

Serve as desired. I put them in warm corn tortillas topped with shredded lettuce, guacamole, onions, and cheese. Delish!

October 4, 2012

Chocolate Chip Walnut Blondie Thins.... With No Butter or Flour in Sight

Okay, I did it. I made dessert out of beans and other healthy things.   

"Gross! Ew!" my sister groaned on the phone when I told her my plan, "I like my dessert to be dessert and healthy stuff to be healthy."

I get you sister-friend, I really do.

But first you have to try these blondie thins. You'll want your dessert to be healthy and your healthy stuff to be dessert, and then you'll be so mixed up you'll have no choice but to agree with me when I say that these chocolate-chip walnut bad boys are too darn tasty to care what's in 'em.

The only thing I'll change next time is to double the batter and make them thicker, like traditional dessert bars. But then they wouldn't be thins (okay, I had to call them thins because I spread the batter thinly into the pan.... This was likely because I couldn't stop eating the raw batter, which is totally safe to eat and I'll probably make just a batch of that next time, too). We could just call them cookie bars, because they're soft, gooey, and chewy, just like the blondie's cousin, cookie.

Semantics aside, whether you bake them thin or thick you'll certainly be glad you did in the first place. Looks like I'll be having these (healthy) cookies at breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Chocolate-Chip Walnut Blondie Thins: makes 16 squares. Inspired by Deep-Dish Cookie Pie. This recipe has less sugar and a few more taste-boosting ingredients.)
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup cinnamon or regular applesauce
1.5 tablespoons canola oil
1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, coarsely chopped

Optional delicious-boosting ingredients:  *note: If not using, decrease applesauce by half
1 tablespoon ground flax-seed
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon PB2 peanut butter powder or regular peanut butter

Set aside an 8x8 non-stick baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (toast walnuts in there as it preheats as a time and energy saver). Meanwhile, add all ingredients except walnuts and chocolate chips to a food processor and process until smooth. Consistency and taste will be like a sweet, thick hummus. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Spread evenly into the pan, using damp fingers or spatula for greater ease. Bake 20 minutes. Cool 5-10 before cutting into 16 squares.

October 2, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Is it a giant Reeses cup? No, it's better than that. 

Yep, I said it's better than that.

I know. I couldn't have imagined that there was anything better than an enormous, platter-sized peanut butter cup either. But then this happened. As my birthday approached I jokingly said to M, "How about you bake me a cake this year?" All right, I was 30% joking and 70% seriously praying that someone other than a restaurant would serve me dessert on my birthday. 

Is it wrong to want your husband to bake you a cake? Is it so bad to realize that my husband is awesome in every other way, but by baking me a cake he could actually achieve being-the-perfect-husband for just a day? 

My mom said, "Lauren, you didn't tell him to do that!" I did. 
I might have even suggested it more than once. 

But dang! He knocked it out of the park! Does my husband know me or what? I almost fell over when I was hanging by the candy table at my S'mores Birthday Party (more on that totally fun shindig later) and out of nowhere came M, holding a candle-blazing cake stand with this on it. 

I had not expected him to bake for me. But I certainly didn't expect him to dream of a cake so outrageous... I swear the moment almost trumped our wedding proposal. 

You know you married the right man when he knows exactly what dessert will make you weak in the knees... something so peanut-buttery, so lusciously creamy, and so chocolate-fudgey as this. 
Cheesecake + Peanut Butter Chocolate = best birthday I've ever had. 

M, you're on as head birthday baker for the rest of my life.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake: (adapted from Nigella Lawson)
Ingredients: (all should be room temperature before you start)
1/2 (14-ounce) box cinnamon graham crackers (2 cups crumbs) 
1/2 cup salted peanuts 
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp

1 bar regular cream cheese
1 bar 1/3 less fat cream cheese
3 eggs 
3 egg yolks 
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup sour cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

9-inch springform pan

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Process the crackers, peanuts, dark chocolate chips, and butter in a food processor. Once it comes together in a clump, turn it into a springform pan and press into the bottom and up the sides to make the crunchy crust. Put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Add all the filling ingredients to a food processor and pulse until it becomes a smooth mixture.
Pour and scrape the filling into the crust and bake for 1 hour, checking after 45 minutes. The top, only, should feel set and dry.Take the cheesecakes out of the oven and set aside while you make the topping. 

Warm the sour cream and semisweet chocolate with the brown sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat. Gently whisk to blend in the chocolate as it melts, then take the pan off the heat.Spoon and spread the topping very gently over the top of the cheesecake, being as careful so as not to break the surface, though it is okay if  you do.  Put it back in the oven for a final 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool. 

Serve when set. 

Make Ahead:
Make the cheesecake up to 2 days ahead. Do not cover until completely cold, then cover with a plate or plastic wrap, making sure that the covering does not touch the surface. Remove from pan and serve as directed in the recipe. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days total.
Freeze Note:
The cheesecake can be frozen for 1 month. Make sure it is thoroughly chilled then wrap, still in its pan, in a double layer of plastic wrap and layer of aluminum foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and eat within 2 days. Do not worry about condensation that may occur. 

Pin it on Pinterest!


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