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Fairytale Pumpkin Soup with Shiitake “Bacon”

9 Nov

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Tis the season for pumpkin soup! My friend Lizzette gave me a ~*fairytale pumpkin*~ (look it up) the other week and it was almost too beautiful to eat. But, because I don’t like to waste food, I hacked the pretty pumpkin into quarters and scooped out the seeds, cleaned and roasted the seeds and baked the pumpkin quarters with olive oil until super soft. Tip: whenever you make a winter squash or pumpkin soup, the flavor is so much better if you have time to roast the squash/pumpkin instead of boil it.

This fairytale pumpkin was absolutely gorgeous outside and inside. The inside flesh was a kind of vibrant orange that almost looked fake. Stunning. Continue reading

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Learning to Make Arepas

12 Oct

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Arepas are delicious corn cakes with origins in Colombia and Venezuela, and ever since I tried them at The Arepa Lady in Jackson Heights and at Caracas at Rockaway Beach, I wanted to learn to make them at home. So I met up with my friend Lizzette, who gave me some key pointers for making arepas.

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The first tip? Use this P.A.N. flour. I originally purchased another brand of arepa flour, or pre-cooked yellow cornmeal, and it was no good. I made some pretty sad arepas. P.A.N. or bust. I found the flour at a grocery store near my apartment, but if you can’t find the flour near you, it is available online.  Continue reading

Homemade Miso Ramen

29 Sep

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After spatchcocking a chicken the other night (recipe here), I saved the backbone to make a chicken stock.

To make a light chicken stock: Place the backbone and a few other chicken bones/discards into a pot with a chopped carrot, onion, and celery stalk and cover with water. Let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, partially covered. Drain the solids out and you get a beautiful homemade chicken stock. Salt to taste. Skim some fat off during simmering or after refrigeration.

I was contemplating a recipe to make that would let the homemade chicken stock shine, and my boyfriend suggested/challenged me to make ramen. Genius! Sometimes I need a little outside input to get my creative juices going again.

And guess what? Making ramen at home was not as scary as I thought it would be.

Granted, I made a somewhat simplified version compared to what one might find at a Japanese ramen shop, but I appreciate my less salty, vegetable-topped ramen for it’s purpose as an amped-up dinner at home. Having the chicken stock already prepared from the day before saved me a lot of time, too.

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I cooked all of the components of the ramen dish separately, but I was multitasking the whole time and only used 2 pots in the process. As the miso broth was simmering, I made 7-minute eggs* and set them in an ice bath while I steamed some broccoli and boiled my ramen noodles (eggs, broccoli, and noodles were all cooked in the same pot at different times). I kept everything separate until serving.

To serve the ramen, I placed cooked noodles in the bottom of a serving bowl. Then I ladled in hot broth and placed egg halves and vegetables on top.

*This was also my first time making a medium or 7-minute egg. It was so good, I need to do this more often.

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I had broccoli and greens on-hand at home. Use whatever seasonal vegetables you want. Also, you could add some ground pork or chicken to this recipe after sautéing the shallot/garlic/ginger. Cook until no longer pink and then add the miso/bean/sesame and follow the rest of the recipe.

Homemade Miso Ramen

adapted from Just One Cookbook

makes 2-3 servings

For the broth:

1 shallot or a small onion

2 garlic cloves

1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons white miso paste

1 teaspoon fermented black bean paste (not super spicy) or chili bean paste/La Doubanjiang (spicy)

1 tablespoons crushed sesame seeds

4 cups chicken stock, homemade if you have it (or vegetarian stock or water)

Noodles:

2 servings of packaged ramen noodles (do not use any of the powders or sauces that come with)

Toppings:

7-minute boiled eggs

steamed broccoli

fresh greens

more “authentic” might be: pickled red ginger, nori (seaweed), bean sprouts, corn, scallion, Japanese chili oil, pork or chicken

Directions: 

Finely chop the shallot and garlic. Mince the ginger with a microplane.

Heat the sesame oil in a pot. Add the garlic, shallot, and ginger and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the miso, bean paste, and crushed sesame seeds and stir. Add a little of the chicken stock to deglaze the pan and smooth out the miso paste, then add the rest of the chicken stock and stir. Simmer this while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

-Make your eggs. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Set two eggs on a large spoon and gently set them into the boiling water. Set the timer for 6 minutes, then spoon the eggs out of the boiling water and into an ice bath.

-Next, set a steamer over the same water you used to boil the eggs. Steam the broccoli, covered, for about 4 minutes. Set aside.

-Using the same pot you boiled the eggs and steamed the broccoli in, bring water to a boil and cook the ramen noodles for about 3 minutes.

To serve:

Spoon cooked ramen noodles into serving bowls. Ladle the miso broth on top of the noodles. Place your toppings–eggs, steamed broccoli, fresh greens–over the broth and noodles. Enjoy!

“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.

Yellow Split Lentil Dal with Seasonal Veg.

4 Jul

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A year ago I was blogging about green split lentils and blubbering about leaving my amazing job as a pastry cook.

Today I am officially done with my first year of nutrition graduate school!!! Woo woo. To celebrate, I will bring you full circle and present another split lentil recipe: Yellow Split Lentil Dal.

No matter how many different things I learn about in my nutrition classes, I always come back to FOOD.

A big fan of reading (and drooling over) Martha Rose Shulman’s NYTimes Recipes for Health, I never actually made anything of hers until recently. In the last month, I’ve gone on a Martha spree, making an eggplant pasta inspired by her recipe, finding my new FAVORITE way to prepare steel cut oats, and reading about her “sweet secret” (I guess there are a lot of us “health mavens” who find a niche in the world of dessert!). And this week when I bought a beautiful bag of yellow legumes, where did I find the inspiration to make a spiced lentil dal? Yep. Ms. Shulman strikes again!

Yellow split lentils (or peas) are super high in protein (10g per serving) and fiber (3g soluble fiber, 7g insoluble fiber per serving), and are a great source of folate and magnesium, with a decent amount of iron and zinc. Yay for plant-based protein! The slight downside is that they take about 45 minutes to cook, but you can just get your brown rice going in a rice cooker and simmer the lentils on a pot and by the time you’ve checked your email and browsed the Internet for what feels like a moment, dinner is basically ready.

Ooo and apparently yellow split peas can be used in baked desserts? Has anyone ever seen or tried a dessert with split peas in it?!

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Yellow Lentil Dal with seasonal veg.

adapted from Martha Rose Shulman of the NYTimes’ Recipes for Health

**I loved the flavor of the cumin seeds with the garlicky vegetables. I happened to have a bunch of seeds laying around from when I made these roasted nuts a while back. Feel free to use ground cumin if that is all you have on hand. 

1 cup split yellow lentils, rinsed

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1/2 medium onion (intact), peeled

Salt to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons oil

1-2 cups finely chopped seasonal veg. (I used a few asparagus sprigs, a small broccoli stalk, and a yellow squash)

1 plump garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1. Combine the lentils, ginger, turmeric and onion half (don’t chop it) with 1 quart water and salt to taste (about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons) and bring to a gentle boil. Stir only once to make sure there are no lentils sticking to the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat to medium – the lentils should simmer briskly – and cook uncovered until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Stir in the lime juice. Stir together and simmer for another minute. Turn off the heat and using an immersion blender, an Indian mathani (a wooden tool used for mashing dal) or a wooden Mexican hot chocolate mixer, partially pureé the dal. It should be thick but not like a pureed soup.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and allow to sizzle, stirring, for 10 seconds. Add the garlic and cook until lightly colored, about 15 seconds. Add the vegetables and cook until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the lentils.

Serve over your favorite grain. I used short grain brown rice.

French Lentil Soup

7 Apr

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When it comes to legumes, I almost always think of beans, too often forgetting about lentils (shame on me). Lentils are so easy to make and provide a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium.

This soup is great for a light lunch or dinner, or even a mid-day snack. After a quick chopping session, everything gets thrown into a pot and simmers for an hour. This provides time for you to get other things done, allowing the soup to be left alone except for a little stir here and there.

Flipping throughAlice’s In the Green KitchenI was reminded of her “green kitchen manifesto:”

green kitchen manifesto

I understand that sometimes these tips are easier said than done, and that location and income are huge factors that affect the desire and ability to keep a green kitchen. Try focusing on 1 or 2 of these components, and see where that takes you…

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I purchased my French lentils in the bulk section of my local health food store. Aren’t they beauties? These girls are hold their shape nicely when cooked, and pack such a comforting flavor.

The soup is great on it’s own with some toast or pita. You can also serve it with fluffy brown rice or quinoa. A few dabs of yogurt or a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar add some oomph. Or even a poached egg right on top, the yolk dripping right into the broth…

French Lentil Soup

4-6 servings

adapted from Alice Waters’ In the Green Kitchen

1 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and diced (I used 1 carrot and 1 parsnip)

1/2 onion, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 cup French green lentils, rinsed

7 cups of water or vegetable stock

Fresh ground pepper

Heat a large saucepan or soup pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots, onion, celery, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to dry and soften. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender and the onion translucent. Add the garlic and cook briefly to release the aroma.

Add the lentils and stir while adding the water/stock and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the lentils crush easily and have a creamy texture. Mash some of the lentils in the pan using a whisk or a quick go with the immersion blender to thicken the soup slightly. Season with pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Easy DIY Recipe: Homemade Vegetable Stock

13 Mar

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For the last month or so, I have been saving my vegetable scraps in the freezer with a plan to make my very own VEGETABLE STOCK!!!

All of the carrot tops and parsnip nubs, the onion peels and fennel fronds that I normally would discard/compost are actually quality components of an unctuous stock. Thrown into a pot with a little water and good simmer on the stove, and I had my own preservative-free stock ready in an hour’s time (hands-off time!).

I froze my stock in ice cube trays, noting that 6 cubes is the equivalent of about half a cup of stock. Now I have flavor at my hands, ready-to-go whenever I am in a pinch. I see risotto in my future…

Here’s to getting one more bang for my buck.

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Homemade Vegetable Stock

via vegetarianventures

4-5 cups vegetable scraps (you can use them right from the freezer)

flavoring (bay leaf, Parmesan cheese rinds, herbs, salt, peppercorns…)

garlic (if you don’t already have scraps of garlic in your frozen veggie bag)

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water (just enough so all the veggies are covered). Bring water to a boil and let simmer for an hour (don’t let it simmer for much more or it starts to lose flavor.

Strain the vegetable mixture and discard the scraps. Let cool completely and either use right away or freeze/refrigerate in quantities that will suit you best (ice cube trays was a genius idea, I also did some in pint size containers).

Store in fridge for up to 5 days and in freezer for up to 3 months.