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Vegan Chocolate Loaf with yogurt, warmed cherries, and chocolate balsamic

6 May

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Because it’s Tuesday.

Because I’m in the thick of finals (last semester of grad school!).

Because I like to eat “healthified cake” for breakfast. 

Because sometimes, I like to plate my food up fancy. 

I ate a slice of this chocolate loaf for breakfast today. No shame. Vegan chocolate loaf cake with some plain, low fat yogurt, frozen cherries that were warmed in the microwave and poured on top, the juices seeping into the cake, and a final glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar that I re-discovered I had in the cabinet. This could easily be dessert.

Healthy decadence is my jam.

Nicole from CucinaNicolina and I are on the same page in terms of our mindset that life is too short not to have a slice of something sweet, especially when that sweet something is homemade, with a little bit of health mixed in. Throwing in some whole wheat flour and a sprinkling of ground flaxseeds helps make cake an acceptable breakfast in my opinion. Oh, and there’s a cup of coffee in hiding in the loaf, too. I always have a little extra from my morning French press, so this was a great excuse to use it up.

This weekend, I tasted the Brooklyn based White Moustache yogurt in sour cherry flavor. The yogurt company is a father-daughter business, and the yogurt is made from Hudson Valley Fresh whole milk and live probiotic cultures. While the price is steep, this yogurt was a real treat, and was worth every penny. Plus, you get to keep the container to re-use.

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This sour cherry combo got me craving cherries. Since cherry season is not quite here, I found some frozen cherries and just heated them up and poured them over this vegan chocolate loaf. Cherries, chocolate, and creamy yogurt were meant to be together!

Since I gobbled down my jar of White Moustache yogurt, I served the cake with my other favorite brand, Wallaby Organic Plain Low-fat Greek Yogurt. If you want to keep everything vegan, just omit the yogurt or make some sort of coconut based cream.

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Vegan Chocolate Loaf

adapted from Cucina Nicolina

makes 1 loaf or ~8 servings

Nicole says, “As always, replace the whole wheat pastry flour and/or spelt flour with all purpose if that’s all you have. A non-dairy milk or plain water can be swapped for the coffee, but I love the coffee note in there and would be loathe to miss it.” I used whole wheat and all purpose flour to keep things simple, and yes, I LOVED the coffee note.

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds

3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used slightly less)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup room temperature coffee

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard sized loaf pan with oil or butter (omit butter if keeping this vegan) and lightly dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, flaxseeds, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together coffee, olive oil, and vanilla.

Dump the wet ingredients all at once into the dry and whisk until just combined. The batter will be more firm than wet.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt, some warmed cherries, and a glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar would work, too). 

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.

Morning Glory Steel-Cut Oats

13 Jan

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Over the last year, I have really grown an appreciation for a morning bowl of oats. Maybe because New York City (vs. my old stomping grounds in California) has real seasons, so I crave something hot in the morning during the inescapable winter chill. Even during the beating heat of summer, I ate cold “overnight oats” or “muesli” for breakfast.

Rolled and steel-cut oats my go-to choices, but I have also enjoy a porridge made from farina, millet, amaranth, or barley. When I have an early morning shift at the bakery, I sometimes take along a packet of instant oats for breakfast, but I only buy the original or plain versions where the ingredient list only says “rolled oats” and not much more. No need for those extra fake ingredients when I can simply add my own sweeteners and toppings to plain instant oats.

I used to heat rolled oats in the microwave, which is totally acceptable and tasty, but when I can take the extra few minutes, I now prefer to cook my oats on the stove. I use a mix of milk and water to cook the oats because I like how creamy they get from the milk.

I saw that Cookie and Kate posted these Morning Glory Oats the other day, using coconut milk for some of the cooking liquid. I recently made Split Pea Soup that used only 1/2 cup of coconut milk, and I have been trying to find ways to use up the leftover milk. Perfect.

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I modified her recipe, which is a modification of the original recipe from Megan Gordon’s new cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. This recipe uses steel-cut oats, but you could also make this with rolled oats, quick oats, or another breakfast grain.

Shredded carrot strands and wintry spices make this hot, creamy breakfast feel like dessert. Orange zest adds zing, and a swirl of yogurt at the end cools the oats and adds to the healthy decadence (omit the yogurt and use nuts or nut butter if you want this recipe to remain vegan).

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Morning Glory Steel-Cut Oats

adapted from Cookie and Kate, originally from Megan Gordon‘s Whole Grain Mornings
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (from 1 large carrot)
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground ginger
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest (from slightly less than 1 orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 or more tablespoons maple syrup (or honey or agave nectar or brown sugar)
  • yogurt, for serving
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, bring the water and milk to a boil. Stir in the oats, carrots, dried fruit, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Bring the mixture back to boil, then decrease the heat to low and partially cover the pot.
  2. Cook the porridge, stirring only occasionally, until it begins to thicken and the oats are soft yet chewy. Check for doneness after 25 minutes* of cooking (it might need a few more minutes of cooking).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest and vanilla. Add maple syrup (or other sweetener), to taste. Cover and let the oatmeal rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  4. Serve the oatmeal with a swirl of plain yogurt.

*Rolled or quick oats will cook much faster than steel-cut, anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.

Fall is Coming: Pumpkin Farina

7 Sep

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I forget sometimes that pumpkin is a vegetable. It has such a creamy taste to it, and so often gets sweetened and used like a dessert. But low and behold, half a cup of plain pumpkin puree is low in calories (about 45 calories) and fat, and contains a hefty amount of vitamin A and potassium.

So let’s get on the vegetable-for-breakfast bandwagon and cook up some Pumpkin Farina!

Are you familiar with Farina? Some people call it Malt-O-Meal because that is one of the name brands, but it is basically the same thing as Cream of Wheat. You could definitely swap regular oats or steel cut oats (or millet, or quinoa, or couscous, or amaranth, or bulgar…) if you prefer those, I just chose to use Farina this morning.

The exciting thing about Farina is that, like regular old-fashioned oats, it only takes about 5 minutes to cook!

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Plain pumpkin puree gets swirled into the nearly cooked cereal grain. Without any seasoning, plain pumpkin puree tastes a little too…plain. To bring out the fall flavors, throw in some spices–I used cinnamon, but feel free to add nutmeg, ginger, cloves…–and a nice dash of maple syrup and vanilla extract. I also stirred in a little spoon of ground flaxseed to boost the healthy fats.

If you use a non-dairy milk, boom, vegan breakfast.

Toppings can be endless. This morning I used a dried fig sliced in half and a little sprinkle of coconut chips.

Warm milk, soft cereal grains, and smooth pumpkin make for a breakfast that tastes like dessert, but packs in a lot more nutrition.

Sayonara summer. Fall is coming.

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Pumpkin Farina

adapted from Healthy.Happy.Life

makes 2 big bowls

**NOTE: If you use a different cereal grain, check to make sure you use the correct ratio of grain to liquid. 

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup milk (use a non-dairy milk to make this vegan)

1/3 cup Farina or Cream of Wheat

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

additional milk for topping

garnish: dash of cinnamon, dried or fresh fruit, coconut chips

Directions:

1. Bring water and milk (2 cups total) to a boil. Add salt and farina. Constantly stir gently. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.

2. Continue stirring until the cereal thickens. At this point you can stir in the cinnamon, flaxseed, vanilla, and maple syrup. If you desire a thinner cereal, add in additional milk.

3. When cereal has cooked into a thick consistency (like thick applesauce) turn the heat to low.

4. Stir in the pumpkin over low heat.

5. Turn off heat and spoon cereal into bowls. Add a dash of cinnamon and a splash of milk on top. Top with dried or fresh fruit and a sprinkle of coconut chips.

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