Thursday, August 28, 2014

True Food Kitchen Kale Salad


At the 2014 Nutrition and Health Conference back in May, I was fortunate enough to have a second row seat to watch Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and originator of this recipe for lemon-parmesan kale salad, prepare it on stage with cookbook author Rebecca Katz. The two of them worked together to whip up an entire intriguingly seasoned, plant-based meal in 30 minutes, just like a really healthy version of a Food Network show, complete with pre-prepped bowls of ingredients and witty banter.

Unfortunately, the only picture that ended up saving to my photo stream from my four days at the conference in Dallas was the one of the cake and bread I snuck out of a session to purchase because I JUST COULDN'T TAKE ANOTHER MEAL WITHOUT SUGAR AND CARBS. 

Conveniently hidden in my purse.
I know. Terrible. I'm going to be the worst dietitian ever. (But that carrot cake was soooo worth it.)

My little exodus in search of sweetness and wheat was not motivated by not enjoying the food served at the conference. It was fresh, expertly prepared, and genuinely delicious. I just really needed some bread and dessert to go with it.

So, sadly enough, I do not have any photos of Dr. Weil preparing this famous side dish served at all his True Food Kitchen restaurants across the country. It's a real shame, because it was a joy to watch him cook. His familiarity with the recipe was apparent, and his adjustments and flourishes were like watching a master painter create a masterpiece. Seriously, if I were a single 60-something lady, well....that's all I'm going to say about that.


Let's get back to the salad. Right, the salad. Like I said, this delightful green dish is a staple at Dr. Weil's True Food Kitchen restaurants, which are based around his anti-inflammatory diet philosophy (now with locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia--if you live in one of these states, I highly recommend checking it out!) Having dined at the restaurant many times, I was familiar with this salad, as it and a sweet potato hash are the two side dishes offered with most entrees. I enjoy both, but I usually choose the salad. So tonight, when I was making dinner and needed something to liven up the half a bag of kale sitting in my fridge, I figured it was as good a time as any to try my hand at this recipe. Having watched Dr. Weil make it, I knew it was not complicated and used simple ingredients. 

I have another kale salad recipe that I enjoy and eat with due diligence, but WHOA, this one had me eyeing the bowl, wondering if anyone else is going to eat the rest before I could get to it. It's actually a little baffling how a salad that is basically just kale with parmesan and a simple dressing could be so appealing and taste so mouthwateringly good. But there you have it. I actually forfeited eating dessert after dinner in favor of eating more of this salad. And THAT'S saying something. Perhaps a little redemption from my furtive cake run at the conference a few months ago. (Though I stand by it. That carrot cake totally hit the spot.)


True Food Kitchen Kale Salad
(From DrWeil.com)

Ingredients:

4-6 c. kale, loosely packed (Dr. Weil recommends black kale, but I used standard green kale, which also worked great)
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 c.)
3-4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
2/3 c. Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. freshly made bread crumbs from lightly toasted bread

Directions:

1. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes.

2. Pour over kale in a serving bowl and toss well (tossing with your hands works well, as it covers more surface area of the kale).

3. Add 2/3 of the cheese and toss again.

4. Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toast and crumble bread. Add bread crumbs, toss again, and top with remaining cheese.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, August 22, 2014

6 Baking Substitutions That Will Make Your Life Easier

Now, which of you will we replace?
Speaking as a home baker, substitutions in recipes are my very, very good friend, and if you bake, too, I'll wager you feel the same way. Whether born of an "oh, crap" moment of realization you're out of an ingredient, or just the desire to bake something a little fancier without having to sign your first-born child away at a specialty foods store, you can always do with the extra kitchen acumen of knowing what can replace what. With a little ingredient do-si-do, you might be surprised what greatness can spring from your mixing bowl. With that in mind, here's a list of some of my favorite quick and easy ingredient substitutions for baking.

1. Cake flour: When I first graduated from making box-mix cakes to fully homemade cakes, I knew I had to avoid recipes with one ingredient: cake flour. I had seen those $7 "Softasilk" boxes on my grocery store shelf (you know, the one with the box design that makes it look like no one has purchased it since 1978?) 


Am I wrong? Does this not look straight out of the '70s?
and had made the conscious decision not to spend that kind of money on approximately four cups of flour. Then along came the Internet to teach me that making cake flour is ridiculously simple and the Softasilk people have a total racket going on. Here's how:

For one cup of cake flour, measure one cup all-purpose flour, then remove two Tablespoons. Replace the two Tablespoons with two Tablespoons corn starch. Mix well.

2. Superfine sugar: Like cake flour, I can't tell you how many recipes I avoided making because they contained superfine sugar. I didn't know what it was, but I was pretty sure it was going to be expensive, too. It may, in fact, be expensive--I still don't know; I've never purchased it. Because come to find out, all it takes is regular sugar and a food processor:

Place the desired amount of superfine sugar in your food processor with a couple of extra tablespoons to account for reduction in volume; process 1-2 minutes until it feels--you guessed it--super fine, like sand.

3. Half-and-Half: Did you ever wonder what half-and-half is half and half of? It's half milk and half cream. Therefore, it's extremely simple to replace by subbing:

1:1 measures of heavy cream and milk (I'd recommend 2%), i.e. 1/2 c. cream + 1/2 c. milk = 1 c. half-and-half.

4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a great ingredient for adding richness to breads, pancakes, and desserts. The only problem is figuring out what to do with the rest of that large, perishable carton of buttermilk after the weekend has passed and the pancakes are gone. You have a few options for substituting:

To make 1 c. buttermilk, measure 1 c. milk, then remove 1 Tablespoon. Replace with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar. Let stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes until curdled.

OR

To make 1 c. of a buttermilk substitute, mix 3/4 c. plain yogurt or sour cream with 1/4 c. milk.

5. Butter/Vegetable Oil: I'd be a fool to say anything can really take the place of butter, but I do frequently want to make my baked goods a bit healthier (though I'm not about to tell you to replace butter with mashed avocado, as I've seen on several blogs. Let's be real here, people.). Even in a rich cake, I've found you can get away with substituting up to half of the butter and/or oil content with unsweetened applesauce. I recently did this in a dark chocolate raspberry layer cake and even I would never have guessed it from the taste. Therefore, if you're actually out of butter, you can:

Mix 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce with 1/2 c. vegetable oil for 1 c. butter.

OR

To decrease fat content, replace 1/2 of the butter with unsweetened applesauce.

6. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate/Cocoa Powder: I had to roll my eyes the time I was looking for a cocoa powder substitute and found a site that recommended subbing 1 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder for regular cocoa powder. Like, yeah, I think I would have figured that one out. If you actually are out of one or the other, though, here's a conversion that works great:

For 1 ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate, use 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder plus 1 Tbsp. softened butter or vegetable oil.

Lastly, one bit of interesting trivia about why the famous baking powder brand pictured above is called Clabber Girl. To "clabber" means to sour, as in soured milk. In the olden days, soured milk was made by leaving milk out at room temperature, to be used as a leavener in baked goods--until 1854, when baking powder was invented. So I guess the Clabber Girl is sparing you the work of actually clabbering, which would take days of waiting for the milk to get sour enough. Thanks, Clabber Girl! Keep on clabbering! Clabber clabber clabber! (Can you tell I really like the word "clabber"?)

At any rate, it's my sincere hope that this list may keep you from spending extra money on ingredients you don't need, or running out to the store in your pajamas at 10 PM for some cake flour. Happy baking!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chocolate Pots de Creme


Pots de creme is one of those desserts I've wanted to try for awhile, since I first saw it in one of my Real Simple cookbooks and realized it's pretty much just chocolate custard with a fancy French name. (Pronounced "po duh cream," if you were wondering...which kind of makes me snicker, because in German "Po" is slang for your bottom.) I'm basically sold on any kind of chocolate pudding/custard, as well as anything that comes in a small ramekin. Maybe it's the idea that I have the whole thing all to myself. Or it could be partly the cuteness factor. (Amplified if you serve it in individual teacups--it looks like solidified hot chocolate.) Anyway, it appealed to me big time.

Fortunately, the end result of this dessert lived up to the hype I had built up for it in my mind. Thick, creamy, rich, and chocolatey to the moon and back. I've served it to guests twice, after realizing that the 2-hour cooling time makes it a great make-ahead company dessert. Now I'm dreaming of (and Googling) other types of pots de creme...honey, vanilla, lemon, butterscotch, and combinations thereof. Which one do you think I should make next?


Chocolate Pots de Creme
(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients:

9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used two 4-oz. semisweet baking bars and 3 Tbsp. chocolate chips)
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. whole milk*
6 large egg yolks
5 Tbsp. white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Whipped cream, for garnish

*If you have 2% milk instead of whole, you can substitute 1 c. 2% milk plus 1/2 c. heavy cream.

Directions:

1. Place chopped chocolate in a blender. Set out 8 ramekins, tea cups, Mason jars or other 6-8 oz. small containers.

2. In a medium saucepan, whisk the cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is almost boiling and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8-10 minutes.

3. Immediately pour cream mixture over chocolate in the blender. Cover and hold the lid with a thick kitchen towel (insurance against chocolate redecorating your kitchen); blend until combined and smooth.

4. Pour the chocolate mixture into ramekins and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Serves 8.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gazpacho


Gazpacho! What in the world is gazpacho? The origins of the word itself are unknown, though theories abound. Some people believe it comes from an Arabic word for "soaked bread"; others claim it has roots in the Hebrew word for "to break into pieces." If you watch the video of Ina Garten preparing this recipe, though, you'll hear her call it a "salad soup." Elsewhere I've seen it described less appetizingly as "liquid salad," which sounds like something a catatonic hospital patient would receive through a tube. I like to think of it as a salsa soup, which is what I called it when my kids asked what we were having for dinner and I didn't want to say "liquid salad." I really couldn't see them running to the table after me calling... 

"Come and get your liquid salad, kids!!"

If you're someone who enjoys salsa, you're highly likely to be a fan of gazpacho. One of my salsa-loving friends refers to tortilla chips as "salsa transportation devices" because, when it's good salsa, don't you really just want the salsa? The chip itself is definitely not the main attraction. Well, what if you didn't have to bother with the chip for propriety's sake? What if you could just eat the whole bowl of delicious salsa? Guess what, my friends?

YOU CAN!!!

And THAT is the meaning of gazpacho.

(You may, of course, have to get over the fact that it's a cold soup, which seems like a contradiction in terms. But once you do, you'll be thankful. As a colossal fan of soup, I can tell you it's a delightfully sneaky way to still get to eat soup in the summer. We enjoyed it with pesto grilled cheese sandwiches and I thought it was the perfect combination. So go get grinding and chopping--summertime is liquid salad gazpacho time!) 

Gazpacho
(Barely adapted from Ina Garten)

Ingredients:

1 cucumber, halved and seeded but not peeled
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 c. tomato juice
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

1. Chop the cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, and red onion into 1-inch cubes. Place each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped (about the texture of a very chunky salsa).

2. After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add garlic, tomato juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, mixing well.

3. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Easy Blueberry Jam


As a parent of young children, I can no longer think about the concept of jam without the image of Dr. Gru from Despicable Me 2 popping into my head, maintaining in that Boris Karloff/drunken Slav accent of his that he is no longer a villain and is on the straight and narrow: 


"I am developing a line of delicious jams and jellies!" 

If you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about, because you have seen this movie approximately 8,000 times and know all its ins and outs, including how the Minions become purple and evil. If you're not, or haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil how the Minions turn evil, but I will tell you that Gru is giving the law-abiding life his level best by abandoning projects like stealing the moon for tamer pastimes like creating fruity spreads--and more power to him. I have a feeling he and the Minions would put out some pretty tasty stuff. 

Since we're talking jams and jellies and tasty stuff, allow me to introduce you to this ridiculously easy blueberry jam, which does not require an army of Minions. Have you ever heard of a jam that 1.) doesn't call for pectin and 2.) takes 20 minutes start to finish? Right, me neither. Most jams and jellies involve a real commitment in the kitchen. This jam, on the other hand, can be slapped together in the time it takes to watch a New Girl episode (or a Ninjago, if we're going to stick with the kids' entertainment theme). It may or may not end up being cheaper than store-bought blueberry jam, but if you hit the grocery store/farmers' market/berry patch on the right week, it just might. Even if it doesn't, though, making your own blueberry jam is a fun way to give yourself and your family a homemade, delicious breakfast treat on toast or muffins, or even to give a friend or neighbor as a thoughtful little gift. Without canning, this jam will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. It could also make a lovely cake filling or an unusual "J" in a PBJ. I know I'll definitely be making it again!



Easy Blueberry Jam
(From Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

4 c. fresh blueberries
1 c. white sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)

Directions:

1. Place the berries and 2 Tbsp. water in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a potato masher, stir and mash the berries until they are bubbling around the edges of the pan, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until dissolved, about 1 minute.

2. Add the lemon juice, increase heat to high, and bring to a rolling boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 218 degrees on a candy thermometer, 8-10 minutes. (If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can do the "cold plate test": place a small amount of jam on a spoon on a plate in the freezer. Check the consistency after a couple of minutes. If it has jelled to your liking, it is done.) Remove the pan from the heat and let cool 5 minutes.

3. Transfer to a heatproof, airtight container and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Basic Mini Frittatas


If I'm being honest, I have to admit I've been stuck in a breakfast rut for years. Not that I mind. Toast, whole grain muffins and quick breads, and cereal have been my trusted morning companions for years. So even if they are same-old, same-old day after day, I just really, really like carbs, so my bread-based breakfasts suit me pretty well. If I had a personal Breakfast Food Pyramid, it would look like this:


As you can see, eggs are not high on this list. (Well, technically, they are high, but in the upside-down-backwards kind of high, like how you want to score low, not high in golf.) Still, there is the occasional morning when something other than straight-up carbs appeals to me, or when I need to make something portable to take to a brunch, or when I give in to my husband's pleas to make these muffin-sized frittatas. Because they really are a wonderful, satisfyingly savory way to make eggs. As with most egg dishes, these frittatas are unfailingly modifiable, so you can pretty much throw in any savory ingredient and wind up with something pleasing. Additionally, they're embarrassingly easy to slap together and reheat beautifully (30 seconds in the microwave) for a convenient protein-y breakfast. I've made them for everything from bridal showers to Easter brunch to a quick dinner for the babysitter to feed my kids. Not that they're going to supplant my grain-focused morning meal, but they certainly are easy, tasty, and healthy enough to make a semi-regular appearance.  


Basic Mini Frittatas
(Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients:

8 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Optional add-ins:

2 tsp. dried parsley (I always add this, regardless of other add-ins, as it gives such nice color!)
1/2 c. chopped cooked meat--ham, salami, bacon, chorizo, etc.
1/2 c. cheese--feta, Parmesan, shredded cheddar, etc.
1/2 c. cooked chopped vegetables--sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, etc.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and generously grease a regular-sized muffin tin.

2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, pepper, and salt to blend well. Stir in any and all optional add-ins. Using a measuring cup to scoop, fill in muffin cups almost to the top.

3. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until frittatas are set in the center and begin to brown on top. Carefully loosen frittatas from muffin cups and serve immediately or refrigerate for later reheating.

Makes about 10 mini frittatas.