Tag Archives: lunch

Ellie Krieger’s Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

3 Feb

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Even though I enjoy cooking, life is busy and sometimes, I just want a big (healthy!) plate of food in front me me without having to work too hard for it.

I’ve talked about grain-based salads before, but I always come back to them because they are an everything-in-one meal. More on them later…

Last week, I went to a book talk for Ellie Krieger’s latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less. Krieger, who is very much a pragmatist, focuses on quick meals that can be prepared from chopping to eating in less than 30 minutes. During the recipe development process for the book, she even purposefully cut the onion slowly to be sure that the recipes would be within her time limit.

In the book, instead of listing “1 onion, chopped” in the ingredient list, she lists “1 onion,” and then later in the methods section, she gives directions to chop the onion. Things get prepared in the little pockets of time during the course of the recipes because that is how most people cook.

Krieger is a nutrition educator at heart, and that is what drives her personally and professionally. She sees a recipe as the perfect nutrition education tool. People want food that tastes good, and tasty food is a powerful motivator. Recipes can also bridge cultural gaps because everyone eats, and often times many cultures have similar foods prepared only slightly different (i.e. we all have some kind of taco-like dish…). Furthermore, recipes can create self-efficacy, or confidence in people when they try the recipe, they feel they can do it and they share it with friends.

It’s true! Sometimes, I am afraid to try a new recipe because it looks intimidating on the surface or I fear the new. Once I try it, though, I often like it, and then I share it with all of YOU.

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Besides being full of ideas and knowledge, Krieger is so down-to-earth and personable, and she truly loves food.

After the way she described this Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta at the book talk, I knew I had to make it right away. The warm grain delicately wilts the spinach, and the burst of sweet grapes complement the slightly melted and salty feta cheese. What a lovely, simple salad.

Bulgur is a quick-cooking whole wheat that is often the basis for a Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Did you know that bulgur has twice the fiber of brown rice?! We reap different benefits and flavor profiles from different grains, so keep mixing it up! But as I always say, if you want to use another grain that you have on-hand, go for it.

Note that you can buy pre-washed spinach for this recipe. I used to think that I needed to do most of the work in the kitchen from scratch (which is I nice ideal), but sometimes “healthy shortcuts” like pre-washed greens, quick-cooking whole grains, and frozen fruits and vegetables, can make the difference between preparing dinner at home versus ordering in.

Krieger says, combining grain and vegetable in this dish does double duty as a side that pairs well with simply grilled or roasted meat or poultry. Or tossed with some walnuts, this would be a great vegetarian entree.

I know what I’m eating for lunch the next few days!

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Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Weeknight Wonders

makes 6 servings

1 cup quick-cooking or fine bulgur wheat

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves

1 shallot (or 1/4 large red onion)

a few sprigs of fennel fronds or dill fronds (I used fresh fennel fronds and dried dill)

1 cup seedless red grapes

3 ounces feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bulgur according to the directions on the package.

While the bulgur is cooking, chop the spinach, finely dice the shallot, and chop the fennel fronds. Place them into a large bowl. Cut the grapes into quarters, and crumble the feta cheese.

When the bulgur is done, fluff it with a fork, then add it to the bowl with the spinach and herbs. Toss well until combined, then let sit until the spinach is slightly wilted and the grain is no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, lemon juice, and the salt and pepper and toss until well coated. Add the grapes and feta and toss to combine.

“Creamy” Chicken Barley Soup

17 Jan

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You know that area right underneath your nostrils? Mine is red and dry because I have been blowing my nose for almost a week now. Yuck. Colds are the worst. I still have energy to go about my usual business, but I’m just a snotty, gross mess.

Alas, chicken soup.

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Funny enough, a few days into the snotty sickness that has been permeating my apartment, I received an email from my boyfriend’s mom with a recipe for a fantastic chicken barley soup. Must have been mother’s intuition that we needed comfort.

This “Creamy” Chicken Barley Soup is heartier than the typical clear-broth chicken soup. Blending some of the broth with cooked potato, onion, celery, and garlic lends a creamy texture without any cream. If your favorite kitchen tool is an immersion blender, raise your hand! Makes life so easy.

Adding a little barley to the soup offers a nice contrast, a bite of texture. Barley is a great source of whole grain, it is rich in fiber and protein, and it turns the soup into its own meal.

I used a homemade turkey stock for this soup. It is so easy to freeze a bunch of leftover odds and ends of vegetables and prepare a quick stock. After I made a vegetable stock, I strained it, and then added it back to a pot with the neck and giblets I had in the freezer from my Thanksgiving turkey. There’s some good dark meat on the neck of a turkey, so don’t throw the neck away! Prepare your stock the day before if you want to get ahead.

So I had turkey stock in my chicken soup. No big deal. If you are short on time, you could just use water instead of stock, and add salt. Or buy stock. Either way.

Note that you could buy pre-cooked chicken, but I found it very easy to just toss two breasts (save the bones for stock if you want!) in the oven while I was preparing the rest of my ingredients.

“Creamy” Chicken Barley Soup

Recipe from Lucy, by way of Jackie

This makes a LOT of soup, about 10 servings (you could freeze extras, bring some to a friend, or halve the recipe)

2 T butter or oil
2 onions, chopped
6-7 celery sticks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C russet potatoes, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1/2 C pearl barley
8 -9 C stock (I made my vegetable stock, strained it, and added the neck and giblets that were in my freezer from Thanksgiving and simmered for ~1hour)
2 bay leaves
1/2 C white wine
2 bone-in chicken breasts (or slightly less than 2lbs), pre-cooked and shredded (see below for how to cook)
salt and pepper to taste

First, cook your chicken breasts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done (165 degrees F). When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones (save the bones in your freezer for stock), and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot melt butter (or oil) and saute onions, celery, garlic until soft.

Next, add potatoes, 6 – 7 C chicken stock, and thyme. Cook until potatoes are soft (15- 30 min), then use an immersion blender or transfer 3/4 of the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

Return this mixture to the pot, add the carrots, barley and bay leaves.  Cook partially covered for 30 minutes. Add more stock for a soupier soup. When barley is tender, add wine and chicken, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few more minutes to warm up the chicken.

Mushroom Pepperoni and Mozz. Pizza with Mike’s Hot Honey

20 Dec

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Me, hovering over the stovetop to snap a picture before I dive into the pizza

There’s a bottle of Mike’s Hot Honey sitting on my desk. Honey spiked with vinegar and chiles.

This spicy honey begs to swirled on cheesy pizza and if there’s bits of oven-toasted cured meat, even better. (For more food pairings, look here).

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I made a quick, no-knead dough with a mix of bread flour and whole wheat flour. Olive oil and a dash of cornmeal go onto the baking sheet before the dough to get a nice crust with color and texture.

The dough recipe makes enough for two pizza pies.

Sauce, fresh mozz, mushrooms, pepperoni, Parmesan, fresh oregano. Top with lots of honey. Enjoy with a big salad (whoops, not pictured, but this meal definitely calls for a big salad).

I had extra toppings leftover, so I just toasted some regular, whole wheat bread, spread it with the toppings, and popped it in the oven for 10 minutes. Another easy option if you don’t want to make the dough recipe.

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Mushroom Pepperoni and Mozz Pizza with Mike’s Hot Honey

For the dough recipe, I used Joy’s version, which was based on Tracy’s version, which was originally from Jim Lahey’s book (it makes enough for 2 pizzas. You can freeze one or save it for the next day). I found the dough to be very shaggy. It ended up working, though, so just let it do it’s thing. I had to knead it one or two times to get it how I wanted.

**NOTE: This dough recipe needs about 2.5 hours to do it’s thing before it can go in the oven. Give yourself enough time if you are making your own dough.

Toppings (for 1 pizza): 

3/4 cup sauce

3-4 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1/8 pound thin sliced pepperoni, cut into wedges or strips (I found pepperoni at the Whole Foods Deli, from Chestnut Valley Charcuterie)

1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded or grated

Toppings after the oven: fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, spicy honey

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees F.

Oil a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, and sprinkle cornmeal over the oil. Place the 1 of the 2 dough balls on the pan and stretch and press the dough out into a flat rectangle.  If the dough springs bag as you’re pressing it out, simply wait five minutes to allow the dough to rest and then try again.  The dough should be very thin. If the dough tears, don’t worry, just press it back together.

Top the dough with sauce, cheeses, mushrooms, and pepperoni.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are charred and bubbling.  Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool for a few moments then slice and top with fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, and spicy honey.  Serve immediately, with a big salad.

Brain Food: Seasonal Frittata with a Potato Hash Crust

25 Sep

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School is in full swing, and I am having writers block like woah.

It is so hard to concentrate when I get paid to stare at these salty gems 3 mornings a week:

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…but I must remember to eat my veggies so that my brain can start working properly again…

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This is a funky time of year at the farmer’s market in New York City. Apples, pears, potatoes, and winter squash abound, but the tomatoes, peaches and plums, and corn are still pulling through for their final hurrah.

I just learned about the “nuke and shake method” for husking corn, and now before I blink my eyes three times, all of the corn will be gone! Drat.

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This is a simple egg bake that you could do with any seasonal ingredients–vegetables, herbs, cheeses, and meat. I adapted the recipe from Sara Forte’s The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook. Sara’s recipe includes sweet potatoes and goat cheese; I happened to have a variety of small colorful potatoes on hand and a ball of mozzarella hanging out in the fridge, so into the frittata they went.

Fresh corn got thrown into the mix as well, because corn + eggs = awesome.

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Sure, I love a good quiche. How could you not love anything baked up in a flaky, buttery crust? But remember, we need brain fuel here, so potatoes for a “crust” will do. A few dashes of hot sauce always help fire up those neurons, too.

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Seasonal Frittata with a Potato Hash Crust

adopted from Sprouted Kitchen, also seen on Cookie and Kate

serves 4-6, depending how you slice and serve

6-8 eggs (I used 6 extra large eggs)

1/2 cup milk

pinches of salt and pepper

2 small sweet potatoes, or about 2 cups of colorful new potatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups baby spinach

1-2 ears of corn, husked and sliced off the cob

3 oz. cheese, mozzarella ball or goat cheese

herbs, hot sauce, salt n’ pepper for topping

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, a pinch of salt and black pepper.
  2. Chop the potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes. In a 10-inch sauté pan (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet), warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and toss to coat, then sprinkle with cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir. Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and have brown marks, 10 to 15 minutes (add another little splash of olive oil if the potatoes start sticking to the pan).
  3. Sprinkle the garlic on top of the potatoes, then the spinach and corn. Cover the pan with a lid or cookie sheet if you have one, and cook until the spinach wilts, a minute or two.
  4. Turn the heat down to low. Whisk the eggs one last time and pour them over the spinach. Crumble or slice the cheese and plop over the top of the frittata. Put the pan in the oven and bake until you can shake the pan and see that the middle is just barely set, about 12 to 18 minutes.
  5. Set the frittata aside to cool down slightly. You can either leave it in the pan or flip it onto a plate. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper, and add some herbs and hot sauce if you’re feelin’ it.

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Sauce

3 Aug

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I recently made the Peas and Shells Alfredo from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Of course, it was outstanding, and dinner was ready by the time the shells finished boiling.

I try, however, to save a heavy pasta cream sauce for those special comfort dinners. Today’s recipe is a riff on that heavier sauce. There’s still shells, there’s still peas, but no cream! The sauce is thickened with boiled and pureed cauliflower, and wow is it good.

Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, kale, collards, and cabbage. It is a rich source of vitamins C and K, thus providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits! You can read more about cruciferous veggies here.

To make this pasta sauce, cauliflower gets boiled and pureed in a blender with milk (you could use non-dairy milk to make the sauce vegan). Added to a saucepan with some nutritional yeast, a little garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of hot sauce, you would never know there was a vegetable hiding in all of that goodness.

I’ve heard the buzz about making mashed cauliflower. It is supposed to be a great alternative to starchy mashed potatoes. Even Bill Clinton agrees. Maybe as the season turns to fall I will experiment with cauliflower mashes…

Until then, this cauliflower cream sauce hits the spot. I used 1% milk (cow’s milk), which allowed my sauce to still fit the healthy bill without compromising on a creamy, luxurious taste. If you still want a little more decadence, you could always stir in a small pat of butter and a grate of cheese to the sauce. I won’t tell if you won’t…

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Sauce

adapted from Baker Bettie 

serves 8

**NOTE: I recommend preparing the sauce and saving leftovers in a tupperware.  Cook the pasta as needed, to order. It tastes fresher.

1 head of cauliflower 

2 cups of milk 

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

salt and pepper

1 lb of pasta (I used various pasta shapes throughout the week with this sauce: shells, angel hair, and egg noodles)

vegetables of choice (I used some frozen peas and a few fresh cherry tomatoes)

optional: fresh basil, dash of red pepper flakes, pat of butter, grate of cheese…

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating up, chop the cauliflower into florets. Boil the cauliflower for 15 minutes, or until very tender. Strain the cauliflower.

In batches, place the cauliflower in the blender with the milk (I did this in 2 batches). Blend until very smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring some more water to boil and cook your pasta until al dente (if using frozen peas, add them to the boiling water during the last 2 minutes of cooking). Combine the pasta, peas and tomatoes, and sauce. Toss with your favorite accouterment and enjoy!

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