Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mango Coconut Muffins


I'm probably the last food blogger on earth to discover the world-famous site Smitten Kitchen.  So I've spent pretty much every waking second of free time in the last 48 hours gawking through the hundreds (if not thousands) of posts the First Lady of Food Blogging Deb Perelman has created since 2006. There's plenty to gawk over: this woman does incredible recipe development, gorgeous photos, and has a great sense of humor--and all this in a 42 square foot galley kitchen in New York City. Are you reading between the lines here?

I'm jealous. 

Well, not jealous about the 42 square foot galley kitchen. Just all the other stuff. This is Deb Perelman's full-time job. She spends her days doing what sounds like creative dynamite to me: innovation through cooking. She even has a published cookbook (with dozens of 5-star reviews on Amazon). 

Still, Deb Perelman seems like a totally down-to-earth, accessible person I'd love to be friends with. I'm sure she is. And when I grow out of the maturity level of an 8th-grade-girl I'm sure I will feel far more delight than jealousy while perusing her wonderful blog. For now, I know I can learn SO much from her experience, her cooking methods, her process of recipe creation, and of course the recipes themselves. 

Speaking of which, I'm waxing awfully heavy here for a post about such light, delicious muffins. These mango coconut cuties (adapted from--where else?--Smitten Kitchen) really came together beautifully, a very nice change from my usual choices of fruit in muffins. And despite the fact that, upon seeing them, my 2-year-old exclaimed, "The muffins are hairy!" they do not contain any actual hair. Just "polka-nut," as she later revised her description.

And Deb Perelman, if you ever read this, thank you for blazing the trail for food bloggers all around the world, and for just generally being awesome. Can we be friends?

See? No hair. Just some lightly toasted polka-nut.
Mango Coconut Muffins
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
1 c. mango, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 c. shredded coconut. In a separate bowl, mix oil, yogurt, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry until just combined. Fold in chopped mango. Divide between 12 muffin cups and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. coconut on top.

Bake about 20 minutes.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad


When I made this familiar dish the other night, I said to my husband, "This is my favorite vegetable experience." Spoken like a real food nerd, I know. But seriously, as vegetable experiences go, this is a smokin' good one. Broccoli, zucchini, and carrots at their roasted crispy-sweetest, layered in fluffy couscous with perfectly al dente feta, held together with the undergirding tartness of a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Holy couscous salad, Batman!

While you may assume this is a side dish--and it very well serve as one--it always serves our family as an entree. (Well, an entree that leaves a little room for dessert.) As a vegetarian meal, it's got it all: carbs, protein, and veggies.

Here's the lowdown on how to make it:

Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad
(Recipe is original except for dressing from Food.com)

Ingredients:

For the salad:
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks 
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 c. dry couscous


For the dressing:
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, carrots, and broccoli with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes, turning vegetables every 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, make the couscous according to package directions. 

Also make the dressing: mix all ingredients except the oil together. Add oil to mixture and mix well with a whisk/fork.


Toss couscous with roasted vegetables, feta, and dressing.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

10 Things You Didn't Know about Food Labels



I'm old enough to remember the days before the Nutrition Facts labels. It was 1990 when George H. W. Bush signed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act into law. I may have only been eight years old at the time, but I remember those little black and white rectangles suddenly showing up on food packages (about the time Beauty and the Beast came out, according a child's powers of association). Now, though, it's hard to fathom a time when consumers didn't have access to information about the nutritional contents of their purchased foods (and, come to think of it, a time before Be Our Guest couldn't get stuck in my head for days on end…). I certainly rely on label reading to be sure I purchase the healthiest, safest, least processed foods as reasonably possible for my family. Obviously, the best diet would be heavy in foods that don't come with a Nutrition Facts label--fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs straight from a local chicken, etc.--but even the most devoted whole-foods-dieter has to break down and buy some M & Ms sometimes, right?

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...(these bread crumbs were the worst thing I found in my pantry).

As I've pursued my interest in food and nutrition through lots of reading and taking some dietetics courses, I've gained some inside info on the whole Nutrition Facts game. Here are several things I didn't know until recently. Stick with me as I let you in on the secrets…

10 Things You Didn't Know about Food Labels 

1. 2% or less: Seen this one before? I used to (blissfully ignorantly) assume that everything on the giant list following this phrase comprised 2% or less of the total contents of the product. Nope. "2% or less of the following" means 2% of each of the ingredients listed. Therefore, if 15 ingredients come after this phrase, up to 30% of the product could be contained in this list. Yikes. Also, for these lists there is an exception to the rule that ingredients be listed in descending order by weight. So once you see that 2%, it's pretty much a free-for-all.

2. "Natural flavors": You'd think that "natural" flavor was preferable to "artificial" flavor, right? After all, I'd rather eat a natural chicken than some artificial robot chicken, wouldn't you? Well, come to find out, "natural" flavors are not as straightforward as all that. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, "natural" can mean anything derived from a natural source, such as plant or animal products (as in, not derived from chemicals). This provides a pretty wide range--as this article puts it, "from bugs to beaver butts." Literally. Castoreum is extracted from beavers' anal glands, and certain food dyes are insect-derived. But it's natural!

3. Trans fat loophole: If a food contains .5 grams or less of trans fat per serving, the Nutrition Label can round it down to zero. That means if a product with, let's say, .45 grams of trans fat has five servings, eating the entire container means you have consumed 2.25 grams of trans fat. Research has repeatedly shown that even a modest intake of trans fats significantly raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. The thing to remember is that trans fats occur when fats are hydrogenated, so if the ingredient list includes anything "hydrogenated," it contains trans fats.

4. Don't be afraid of everything with a long and/or unfamiliar name. Yay, something positive! Mixed tocopherols, for example, which you often see in cereal ingredient lists, are simply Vitamin E. Then again, L-cysteine, used in breads and other baked goods, is a frequently made from duck feathers or human hair....and the sodium benzoate in your soda is used as rocket fuel. So just do your research.

5. Soluble and insoluble fiber: Some Nutrition Facts labels offer the extra details of a food's fiber--how many grams of soluble or insoluble it contains. What's the difference between the two? Soluble fiber is, as it sounds, dissolvable in water. This means it can bind fat to help lower cholesterol, as well as reduce high blood glucose. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water--so it's certainly not gonna dissolve in your intestines. This is a good thing, though, as this is the fiber that absorbs fluid as it makes its way through your digestive tract. Translation: this is the one you need more of if you suffer from The Big Block-up.

6. Sneaky sugar: Sugar is sugar is sugar. You may pat yourself on the back as you consider how those Kashi granola bars use brown rice syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup, but keep in mind that's still sugar. The sugar wolf has many sheep's disguises. Alternate names for sugar include: maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, evaporated cane juice, crystalline fructose, sorghum, and barley malt syrup. 

7. Courtesy calculations: The Nutrition Facts label has a couple of what I call "courtesy calculations," meaning that you can actually calculate these figures on your own. Calories from fat, for instance, mean (of course) how many calories per serving are provided by fat in the food. If you happen to know that 1 gram of fat, regardless of the type, contains 9 calories per gram, you will always be able to determine this yourself. Go check your pantry. Every "calories from fat" figure is approximately 9 times the grams of fat listed. 

The second courtesy calculation falls under the carbohydrate figure. You may be aware that sugars are carbohydrates and contribute to the final carb tally on the Nutrition Facts label. (As in, don't be fooled into thinking you're getting 15 grams of whole grain carbs when a cereal's label says "15g carbs" if that cereal also contains 12 grams of sugar.) If you subtract the grams of sugar from the total grams of carbohydrate, what remains is your carbs from starches (like hopefully whole grain).

8. Why alcohol doesn't have Nutrition Facts: The reason alcohol doesn't have to have Nutrition Facts labels is that is it under the jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, not the FDA. Keep in mind, though, that the average 5 oz glass of wine has 120 calories and the average beer has 150 calories.

9. Why some labels include things like magnesium and phosphorus and others don't: It always seems kinda random to me when I see a food label touting its percentage of vitamin K, zinc, or pantothenic acid (What the heck is pantothenic acid?). Well, this is because labeling of any micronutrients beyond Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron is totally voluntary. Products that flaunt their riboflavin all up in your face are just showing off...in a good way.

10. Nutrition Facts font: Okay, last one is a bit of trivia just for fun. The FDA doesn't require a particular font/typeface to be used, so theoretically, companies could get creative and someday you might see a label in Comic Sans or everyone's favorite adorable girly font, "Curlz." Like this: 
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1/2 cup
Servings per container 2
Eat me! I'm ADORABLE!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Two Ways


How would you describe the perfect cookie? I think I would describe it like this:



Wait, no. Like this:


Nope, changed my mind again. Like THIS (as in most of the way eaten):


Hmmmm, I'm sensing a theme here. Chocolate and peanut butter...peanut butter and chocolate...Finkel and Einhorn....wait, what? Certain food pairings were simply meant to go together--wine and cheese, strawberries and banana, and definitely peanut butter and chocolate. I have this daydream that in the Garden of Eden the peanut butter tree was located right next to the chocolate tree, and that's how the magic started. And even though Adam and Eve went and royally messed things up, at least this flavor combination has endured to make for happy tongues and tummies to this day.

In a nutshell, with peanut butter and chocolate, you can't go wrong. Well, okay, maybe you could if you went and added eggplant or something, so just steer clear of a move like that. (I'm guessing you knew that.)

These are two of my favorite PBCH desserts: a soft, chewy chocolate drop cookie with peanut butter chips and a decadent Reese's cup-type bar. Both satisfy the craving for good-to-the-last-crumb dessert comfort food. Now just imagine what it would be like to eat them together. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the peanut butter chips. 

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for about ten minutes, or until just set.

Makes approx. 20 cookies.

A bit ironic that I made both of these the week I did a lesson on dietary fat for my nutrition course...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
(Also adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and  peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8 inch pan.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Chill at least one hour before slicing. Store in the refrigerator.


If you ever need to identify me by my dental records, please refer to this cookie.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Ode to My Crappy Old Cookie Sheet


I'm convinced that every experienced home cook has at least one piece of cooking equipment that looks more like it was excavated from an archaeological dig than purchased from the shelves of Crate and Barrel. Whether it's the ridiculously old-fashioned crank can-opener inherited from grandma, the cantankerous tea kettle that always seems to spurt boiling water on your fingers, or a cookie sheet marred by what appear to be grime hieroglyphics, I somehow find these can be my favorite items to cook with. There's something comforting about cooking with history. 


In this case, I'm pretty sure the "Baker's Secret" is that this pan hasn't been properly cleaned in 10 years.

And so, in honor of one such weathered kitchen companion, I present to you this totally ridiculous poem.....

An Ode to My Crappy Old Cookie Sheet

Oh, crappy ancient cookie sheet,
your smoky, mottled sheen
a dim and murky chestnut pane
that never quite comes clean

Tells tales of crisp-edged cookies
and vegetables of yore,
of strawberries that turn to ice
behind the freezer door.

I'm sure you were a wedding gift
(from whom I don't remember).
I can't recall a time without you,
metal family member.

I'd never think to trade you for
what some might call a better one--
no fancy, shiny pan could match
my stalwart oven veteran.

So though you burn tomatoes
and my onions you have blundered,
you buck like a Pamplona bull
at temps above four hundred,

And even though your face is scarred
with dark and lasting grime,
oh, crappy ancient cookie sheet,
I'd choose you every time.

Battle Scars
How about you? Do you have a favorite well-worn kitchen item?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple


If this dish were a person, it would be that eccentric, crazy-dressing English teacher who had a really good heart. The one who could make the most embittered 17-year-old dude love Shakespeare, even as she paired yellow leopard-print tights with purple snakeskin boots. You know what I mean? With pork, I would never think to pair the flavors of pineapple and onion, but that is exactly what this unusual main dish does, and to great success. Because the onions caramelize as you cook them in the pan, they attain a sweetness that melds beautifully with the tangy-tart pop of pineapple. A hint of cumin and oregano reminds the palate that this is indeed a savory dish (we're talking pork chops, after all), rounding it out as one of those heavenly sweet-and-savory Gestalt combos.

I found this recipe while perusing a library book I recently checked out, Real Food for Healthy Kids. I'm always on the lookout for healthy dinners my kids won't turn their noses up at. Frankly, I'm a little surprised the authors included this recipe, though, since the flavor is so unconventional. Maybe they figured the pork and pineapple theme would remind kids of Hawaiian pizza? Whatever their reasoning, I'm glad they left it in. Paired with rice and a vegetable, it makes a straightforward weeknight meal I will make again. Look for a review of this cookbook on the blog in the near future!

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple
Adapted from Real Food for Healthy Kids

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced pork chops
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks in juice, drained, juice reserved
1 c. chicken broth

Combine flour, cumin, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge pork chops in mixture to coat and set aside on a plate.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook until the underside turns golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side browns, 2-4 minutes more. Remove from pan and keep warm under foil on a plate.

Add the onion and oregano to the pan and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the broth and 2 Tbsp. of reserved pineapple juice. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve pork on individual plates (with rice, if desired) and spoon pineapple-onion sauce over the top.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seven Ways to Avoid Overeating on Vacation

French toast with berries and eggs over-hard at La Bicyclette, Carmel, CA

My husband Anthony and I just returned from a totally delightful trip to Carmel and Monterey, California to celebrate our ninth anniversary. It was quite possibly the best vacation we've ever taken--with no kids for three days, we stayed at an adorable inn,

The Candlelight Inn

slept in until 9:00, rode bikes around Monterey Bay, toured a historic lighthouse, 

Pt. Pinos lighthouse, which had a female keeper from 1893-1914 (how cool!)
took in the gorgeous views on 17-Mile Drive, and even attended mass at one of the oldest missions on the West Coast. 

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission


And we ate. Ohhhh, we ate.

Fact: Grown-ups on vacation are allowed to eat Ghirardelli sundaes for lunch.

For me, food can be the highlight of a vacation. As much as I love to cook, it's exciting and inspiring to eat restaurant food created by real chefs (not to mention the fact that I don't have to do dishes afterward). Restaurant dining gives me the opportunity to try cuisines I wouldn't normally have the guts or experience to try at home. Unfortunately, though, day after day of eating out can also leave me wishing I had packed my Fat Pants. I always struggle with finding the balance between savoring the indulgence of restaurant meals and not returning home with a little excess baggage (not the kind you can check at the gate).

On this particular trip, however, I felt I was able to strike that balance better than I have in the past. (Ignore the photo above with the giant brownie sundae.) I've given quite a bit of thought to what made the difference this time and have come up with some tips on making it to the end of your vacation without needing the seatbelt extender on the flight home. (And lest you think I'm just some schmoe trying to tell you how to live your life, I am pursuing a dietetics degree….so I'm supposed to know about this stuff!)

Seven ways to counteract overeating/poor eating on vacation:

1. Purchase healthy snacks at a grocery store. When I'm eating meals at restaurants don't have a pantry or fridge available in my hotel, I tend to get into a panic mode where I think, "I don't know when I'll get to eat again! Must stuff myself now!" (Come to think of it, that was pretty much my entire four years of college…probably why I was 30 pounds heavier back then.) Buying healthy snacks to keep in your car or hotel room gives you a buffer. If you know you can snack between meals, you're less likely to overeat at the meals themselves.

2. Split meals. Yes, I am going to beat this dietary dead horse. Especially if you don't have a fridge where you're staying, you won't be able to take leftovers home anyway, so split 'em up, baby. Split. 'Em. Up.

3. Don't feel like you have to order an entree every time you go out. When I go to a nice restaurant where the waiter takes ten minutes to tell about the entree specials, I almost feel this weird obligation to order a full entree. Like they're going to know I'm a classless brute if I don't eat their 16-ounce Porterhouse. But you know what? Who cares? There's no law against soup and salad.

4. At a breakfast buffet, look at your plate and ask yourself, "What would my plate look like if I were eating breakfast at home?" Ah, breakfast buffets--the Achilles heel of every hotel guest. Scrambled eggs in a metal pan you could bathe a toddler in, syrupy fruit cocktail, and the ubiquitous do-it-yourself waffle iron. Would you eat this stuff for breakfast at home? If you're generally a bowl-of-cereal or two-pieces-of-toast breakfaster, a heaping pile of pancakes and bacon slathered in syrup is not going to hold up to this question.

5. Write down your day's eating goals. For example, "I will only eat one dessert today" or "I will make sure to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal today." Studies have repeatedly shown that this very small act can have a major positive impact on your day's eating. Take it a step further and keep a food journal of the vacation. You'll end up with a nice little souvenir to remember your trip by, and you'll probably be a lot more mindful about what goes in your mouth.

6. Prevent post-full nibbling. At a restaurant, when I begin to feel full (but still have all that time with food in front of me while the waiter gets the check, we pay, etc.) I have a special trick to avert continued nibbling. I put my dirty napkin on my plate as a signal to myself to stop. It grosses me out just enough that I won't eat off the plate anymore.

7. Drink plenty of water. When we're away from our normal environment, any of our normally healthy habits can go haywire. You may be accustomed to drinking plenty of water throughout your day, but on a plane, in the car, or all day at Disneyland, you naturally have to be much more cognizant about your fluid intake. Water not only keeps you hydrated for your day's activities, but can head off food cravings. The body easily mistakes thirst for hunger. 

How about you? Do you struggle with eating poorly on vacation? What have you done that helps?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Banana-Chocolate Olive Oil Muffins


A couple of weeks ago my husband bought a really nice new camera--a mirrorless DSLR, the Sony Nex-5--and I frankly know very little about it (not a great sign for a food blogger, right?) but I am eager to learn. The funny thing is that I've been experimenting using it to take pictures not of our three beautiful children, but of food, like these delicious muffins (possibly a good sign for a food blogger?) The truth is, muffins don't squirm and don't cry, they don't have to all smile at the same time, and I can easily move them around to where I want them.

My kids, not so much.

These banana-chocolate olive oil muffins are great for plenty of other reasons besides being photogenic, though. With their use of olive oil, all whole wheat flour, and no refined sugar, they are a healthier alternative to a heckuva lot of other muffins recipes out there (I'm looking at you, streusel topping). And in my opinion, they're some of the best muffins I've ever made--really moist, not too overpoweringly banana-y, with a little kick of chocolate inside. 

These never seem to last long in our house, though, because they are such a hit with my (also photogenic, if not easily movable) kids. Here's one of them:



Banana-Chocolate Olive Oil Muffins
(Adapted from Healthy and Fit)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. honey
2 eggs
2 mashed bananas
1/4 c. hot water
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix olive oil and honey. Add eggs and mix, then bananas. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating with the hot water. Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake 17-20 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

10 Unexpected Uses for Greek Yogurt

"Aaaaaahh!" (Do you hear the angels singing?)


If there is any kind of ranking system for trendy foods, Greek yogurt has to somewhere near the top--up there with quinoa and craft beer. I don't think I had even heard of it before about three years ago. And while I don't tend to be a fan of the trendy, whether in food, fashion, or philosophy, I am totally, wholeheartedly on the Greek yogurt bandwagon. Yeehaw! 

You've probably heard all about its health benefits--its surprisingly high protein content for a dairy product, its drastically reduced sugar (and therefore carbohydrate) content as compared to regular yogurt, and even its lower sodium. (Though you do have to read labels and be careful about saturated fat.) All of these pros give it a nutritional edge--definitely worth incorporating into your diet frequently. 

….but how? I mean, you're not a fan of sitting down with a heaping bowl of plain yogurt? Me neither, actually. But in our family's reduced-meat eating habits, I do try to make use of this delightful Mediterranean protein powerhouse in a variety of unusual ways. Here's a few. (And when I say "unusual," I don't meant like changing your oil with it or sleeping in a vat of it or anything, so don't worry.)

1. In Salad Dressing. Mix 1/3 c. each Greek yogurt and mayonnaise, then add 1/4 tsp. salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, and dried parsley for a creamy ranch-style dipping sauce. Tasty with veggies, chips, crackers, etc. (Dilute with milk to thin, if desired for salad.)

2. In Baked Goods. This is one of my favorite uses for GY. There are so many great muffin and bread recipes out there that call for yogurt, giving them a wonderfully moist texture, so why not make it Greek? 

3. As a buttermilk substitute. Does anyone ever really buy an entire carton of buttermilk? Unless you're the flackjap flipper at your local 300-person pancake breakfast fundraiser, I can't imagine why you would, especially when you can make a cup of your own buttermilk by mixing 3/4 c. Greek yogurt with 1/4 c. milk. 

4. In place of sour cream in Mexican dishes, soups, and on baked potatoes. Most likely you're familiar with this one, though you may not go so far as my admirable friend Renee, who brings her own secret stash of Greek yogurt when she goes to Chipotle to avoid the high fat content in their sour cream. Top that...literally.

5. On Salmon. Mix 2 parts mayo with 1 part Greek yogurt and 1 part grated Parmesan cheese for a super simple creamy salmon topping. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Top with chives as garnish.

6. In Faux Cheesecake. As I recently posted for the 4th of July, this is a great way to cut calories in a tasty cheesecake treat.

7. As a topping on waffles or pancakes (instead of butter). Better yet, add fresh or frozen fruit on top!

8. Give it a squeeze. Shake Greek yogurt and a bit of honey together in a plastic squeeze bottle, then drizzle on fruit, cinnamon buns, etc. for a fancy, aesthetically pleasing touch! (A drizzle always looks nicer than a glop.)

9. In healthier mashed potatoes. Yeah, I get it that most people don't immediately think yogurt + garlic + herbs = delicious, but check out these healthy herbed yogurt mashed potatoes.

10. In chicken nuggets. Nope, not as a dipping sauce. Dredge chicken pieces in Greek yogurt before breading with seasoned Panko bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or so. Boom!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce (with a side of Phineas and Ferb)



If you're a parent of young children, you are familiar with that incredible window of productivity known as your child's nap time. Since my 2-year-old blessedly still takes an afternoon nap, I try to get as much done as possible during those couple of quiet(er) hours of the day. My 6 and 4-year-olds are still very much awake at that time, but Legos are a beautiful thing for keeping them entertained...well, Legos and pummeling each other to the ground in what they call "Wrestle Fight." (Did I mention they're girls?...haha, just kidding.)

When my 2-year-old was younger and wouldn't sit through a TV show while I made dinner, I relied on nap time to get prep work done on dinner, easing the pain of her standing at the baby gate screaming her guts out while I chopped vegetables...really not fun for either of us. Since then, the routine of doing dinner prep in the afternoons has become second nature, especially if I want to make a meal that takes longer than a Phineas and Ferb episode. When I meal plan, I typically gravitate toward recipes that I can chop/grate/mix/layer ahead of time.

This is one such recipe. You can mash the chickpeas, chop and process the onions, parsley, and garlic, mix it all up with some egg, spices, and bread crumbs, and mold the result into patties in maybe 20 minutes:


Finished patties before cooking

Stash in the fridge until dinner time and it's ready to bake. Same goes for the tzatziki...without the baking, obviously. This leaves your 24 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for things like checking Facebook and enjoying a glass of wine. 

Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber--peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small onion, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 dash pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4-1 c. dry bread crumbs

In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mash chickpeas until thick and pasty. In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into mashed chickpeas.

In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form balls and then flatten into patties. (I got 13 smallish patties.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with high-quality vegetable oil cooking spray, then place falafel on foil and spray them as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and spray falafel again. Bake another 10 minutes. Finally, broil 1.5-2 minutes on each side.

Serve with tzatziki sauce (and other fixin's as desired, such as pita, tomato, spinach, etc.)