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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Warm Vegetable and Tofu Salad

Dinner tonight, I made a fresh garden salad with roasted sweet potatoes, crispy panko tofu and caramelized onions. I love warm salads, because you can make them into a substantial main course while keeping the meal light and healthy. With the extra potatoes and onions, you could make a mean egg hash the following morning! Check it out:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
1 small bag peeled sweet potatoes, chopped into 
bite sized pieces
Salt, pepper, dried thyme, basil, garlic and onion powder 
Olive oil 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes with spices and olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and cook about 25-30 minutes and browned. 

Crispy Panko Tofu 
1 package firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces 
1-2 cups panko bread crumbs 
Salt, garlic and onion powder 
Olive oil 

Toss cut tofu in panko and spices until well coated. Add thin layer of olive oil into skillet over high heat. Cook on both sides of tofu until crispy. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grilled Pizza and German Fare!

German Cabbage, Gnocchi, Crispy Kale and Soy Glazed Pork Chops 

Last night I brought over a homemade pesto pizza to my parents house for dinner. We tried to grill the fresh pizza, but the heat was too high from the coals and the bottom of the crust burnt. Thankfully, the top was salvaged and the pizza was of course devoured despite our set back ;). On the pizza, I layered my own almond pesto on the bottom as the "sauce" and topped it with fresh peas, broccoli and fresh mozzarella cheese. For the main course, my mother prepared a delicious meal of sweet German cabbage, crispy kale, cheesy gnocchi and soy glazed pork chops hot off the say we ate well would be an understatement! I watched my mother prepare the cabbage but did not get an exact recipe from her. Below you'll find a rough guess of her cabbage recipe as well as my almond pesto. 

Mom's Sweet German Cabbage
I head red cabbage 
Olive oil 
Apple cider vinegar 
Lingonberry jam 
Brown sugar 
Salt, pepper 

Cut cabbage into small threads, and saute over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Once cabbage has softened a bit, add a splash of vinegar and saute for a minute. Then add a tablespoon or two of the jam and mix well. For a little extra sweetness, add a few teaspoons of brown sugar and saute 1 more minute. Serve immediately with pork chops, spaetzle or cheesy gnocchi. 

Almond Pesto 
1 bunch fresh basil 
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted 
1 tablespoon fresh garlic 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese 
Olive oil 
Salt, pepper 

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients together, drizzling olive oil into mixture until moist. Spread mixture onto fresh pizza dough, veggies or your favorite protein. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spinach & Parmesan Souffles

Last year I was gifted with a set of ramekins as a wedding gift. Over this past year I let them sit in the pantry unused, until today! I found a recipe in Cookinglight magazine and set out to make spinach and parmesan souffles. Souffle has received a reputation of being fussy to make, yet with a little time, they can be quite simple and an impressive statement to your guests. I love the individual portions ramekins provide, while allowing you to freeze extras for a healthy snack on the go!

Click here for a link to the recipe!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blue Corn Crusted Shrimp with Cheesy Grits & Spinach

Tonight I made up a new recipe, blue corn crusted shrimp and cheesy grits. I love the blue color these chips render on the plate. Nobody wants to eat a plate of food all one color, so I sauteed a bit of spinach for nutrients and color. I am also a huge fan of grits, I suppose it's the earthly, nutty texture of this grain that I so adore. Grits are to be cooked by the package directions, with the exception of sharp cheddar and butter added at the end for flavor. The shrimp are super simple to prepare- great for kids or a cocktail party!

Blue Corn Crusted Shrimp
(serves 2)
8-10 large shrimp
1 egg, whisked 
2 cups blue corn chips, blended into tiny bits 
Cajun seasoning 
Cooking spray 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean shrimp and set aside. Mix blended corn chips with a few pinches of cajun seasoning and pour onto a plate. In a small bowl, pour whisked egg. Dip shrimp into egg and then into blue corn blend, fully coating the shrimp. Place on baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, turning once. 
*Plate shrimp over grits, as I have done, serve as an appetizer or over your favorite salad!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Swordfish with a Cilantro Pesto Relish & Roasted Asparagus

What a wonderful, promising day it's been, nearing 80 degrees in March and the smell of spring is in the air. When the weather teeters over 70 degrees my appetite automatically shifts into craving lighter fare such as salads and fish. This reaction must be somehow innate, possibly a primal instinct for the change in crops from winter starches to leafy greens in the spring and summer. Tonight I wanted to keep dinner light and fresh, so I decided to sear swordfish with an herby cilantro pesto. On sale at the market today was a bunch of asparagus for $1.99, so of course I had to go for that! Swordfish is a relatively firm and mild fish making it a great agent for powerful citrusy sauce pairings. Follow my recipe below for a fresh and light summer/spring dinner. 

Cilantro Pesto
(makes about a cup)
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed 
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves 
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper 
1/2 squeezed fresh lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil- enough for pesto be blend easily

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, and spoon over fish, grilled meats or vegetables. 

Pan Seared Swordfish
(serves 2)
2 1 inch swordfish steaks 
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt and pepper

Mix oil through pepper in bowl until well combined. Place room temperature swordfish steaks in ziplock bag and pour marinade over fish. Refrigerate in marinade for 30-60 minutes. When ready to cook, heat large skillet over high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Sear about 2 minutes on each side, or until medium rare. Please note that swordfish is meant to be served medium rare, do not overcook. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brazilian Black Rice with Shrimp & White Wine Sauce

Tonight I made a unique dish using black rice. Black rice, also known as purple or forbidden rice is produced from black heirloom plants. Black rice is traditionally grown in Asian countries, yet has emerged in other tropical environments such as Brazil. Black rice has many health benefits, including 18 amino acids and numerous vitamins. It has a dense, nutty texture and flavor. When cooked, the rice transforms into a shade of purple, from the anthocyanin content. I stumbled upon a recipe by chef Aladim Alves, in Food & Wine Magazine. I found the recipe to be fairly simple and delicious. I love the white wine paired with a smokey tomato sauce to heighten the nuttiness of the black rice. The recipe calls for squid and shrimp, but I decided to just use shrimp as a cost saver. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crispy Wonton Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Baby Bok Choy

Today I made a simple peanut sauce pasta using wonton noodles and bok choy. Wonton noodles, also called wanton mee, is a Cantonese noodle popular in Singapore, Thailand, China and Malaysia. These noodles are often found in soups or stir-fries. I bought my noodles fresh at United Noodles in Minneapolis (as featured in past postings). To create this meal at home, cook your noodles to package directions, then fry them lightly in a pan with hot sesame oil. Toss blanched bok choy, noodles and peanut sauce featured below and waalaa! 

Click here for the peanut sauce recipe!

So Fresh and So Green Green!

Spring is here. 70 plus degrees in early March and there is no turning back. I must say, I have a real love for Minnesotans, Saturday when the temps sky-rocketed, so did the streets and the lakes with just about everyone and their mom emerging out of hibernation to salute mother spring! As a tribute to the earths transformation into green, I have highlighted a few of my favorite green snacks and sides... dig in!

Kale chips!! Potato chips LOOK OUT, we've got your healthier, tastier replacement. A friend of mine introduced me to this easy recipe. All you have to do is cut up some kale, toss with olive oil and salt, arrange on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees, turning twice. Set out for guilt free snacking!

Sometimes the simplist things are the best, like this roasted asparagus brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper. All you have to do is bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. Delish!
HIDDEN SECRET ALERT: $6 mussels and fries available at Sea Change 3-6pm and 8-10pm!! Sitting in a bed of butter, white wine, shallot and a crostini topped with a creamy basil pesto will have you dying for more. The mussels taste fresh and juicy, well worth the $6 happy hour price tag. I highly recommend you try this great deal ASAP :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Goat Cheese, Spinach & Walnut Ravioli

Today I made homemade ravioli using wonton wrappers. Often times ravioli is made with rolled out pasta dough, however I have found that wonton wrappers made of flour, egg, water and salt work just as well. Wonton wrappers are pre-cut into the perfect size and taste great. I used spinach, toasted walnuts, basil, goat cheese and garlic to fill my ravioli. I made a simple sauce to compliment the ravioli filling using cream, basil, garlic and butter. This dish is super easy and delicious. I highly recommend you try my recipe below!

Spinach, Walnut and Goat Cheese Ravioli
1 package square wonton wrappers
1 egg, whisked 
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and water removed
1 cup goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts 
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup minced basil 
2 tsp olive oil 
Pinch salt, pepper and onion powder
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup minced basil
1 tbsp minced garlic 
1/2 cup cream 
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt and pepper 

Boil water in large soup pot. To prepare filling, combine all filling ingredients in bowl and mix well. For sauce, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat, add garlic, basil until melted. Add cream, cinnamon, salt and pepper and set aside. On a large surface, place 1 layer wonton wrapper down and add 1 tbsp filling to the middle of the wrapper. Brush edges of wontons with egg wash, and place a second wonton wrapper on top and press together with your fingers to ensure wrappers are tight together. Boil raviolis in three batches. Raviolis cook in about 2-3 minutes. Drain ravioli and add to sauce mixture. Reheat sauce and combine gently with ravioli and serve!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gandhi Mahal

Begun Borta (eggplant), Chashi Motor Paneer (cheese and peas in
creamy almond and cashew gravy), basmati rice and
Moghal Saagwalla (spinach, onion and lamb). 
Onion Bhaji, eggplant- potato- cauliflower pakoras and papadam  (cumin wafer)
Condiments for appetizer platter: tamarind, cilantro and pickled onion
Ever since I was a young runt my parents have been taking my siblings and I out to Indian restaurants. Because I have been familiarized with Indian spices and flavors, I have learned how to differentiate good from bad Indian food. My parents claim that Gandhi Mahal is the best Indian restaurant in the Twin Cities and until tonight I had never tried it. They claim the flavors reach a complexity few are able to master. Naturally, I was eager to determine it's greatness or lack there of for myself. Gandhi Mahal is located in the Longfellow neighborhood at 3009 27th Avenue South. The interior is painted in rich reds and oranges, giving it a sense of warmth. The restaurant is fairly large with three main dining rooms, booths, tables and a buffet station utilized during lunch. My parents and I slid into a back booth and ordered an appetizer combo to start. The four offerings are all deep fried yet pack more flavor that one might expect out of fried foods. My favorite was the pakora, a fried snack eaten all across South Asia. Pakoras are often made with potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, tomato, chili or plantain. Accompanied by the tamarind, cilantro and pickled onion condiments, the fried appetizers please the senses and the pocket at an affordable $5. For the entrees, we ordered garlic naan, an eggplant, paneer and lamb dish. For starters, Begun Borta the eggplant dish is made with grilled, pureed eggplant, and a slew of spices including: coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, tomato paste, turmeric, garam masala and cumin. The dish was fairly mild and sweet from the grilled eggplant. I am not usually a fan of eggplant, but this was delicious and full of flavor. Secondly, we sampled the lamb dish Moghal Saagwalla, an aromatic combination of tender lamb, spinach, onions, spices and mint leaves. This was my favorite dish because it tasted as if it had been cooking at a slow simmer for days collecting and building flavor by the minute. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender and added a depth to the sauce. Lastly, we try the pea and paneer dish. Paneer is a fresh cheese popular in South Asian cuisine. The cheese dates back to 3000 BCE and is made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar and yogurt. Paneer is my favorite cheese for its density, similar to farmers cheese or queso fresco. The base is a combination of peas almond, and cashew gravy. The gravy is thickened with heavy cream which adds richness to this already luxurious dish. As my parents had eluded, the flavors and spices seem to produce a superior level of complexity compared with other Indian restaurants I have tried. This leads me to believe that they muddle their own fresh spices and simmer their own curries daily (I will investigate and report back!). I was thoroughly impressed and pleasantly surprised by my parents diamond in the rough discovery! 

Click here for a link to their website!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tofu & Brussels Stir- Fry!

Dinner last night was a unique but delicious combination of scallion, tofu, carrot, brussels, and wide stick lomein noodles. Personally, I believe brussels sprouts are one of the greatest vegetables. I cannot understand why they are so despised by a good portion of society. Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family, feature significant anticancer compounds, and are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. What's not to like?! For my dish, I simply quartered the brussels, and stir-fried them together with the carrots and scallions until lightly browned. I also stir-fried the cooked lomein in a small amount of oil to crisp up some of the edges and pan fried my tofu, resulting in a a crispier texture. Last but not least, I added my favorite korean sauce for flavor. Featured below is a recipe for a korean stir-fry sauce. 

Korean Stir-fry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup diced green onion

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic 
  • tbsp sesame oil
  • tbsp sesame seeds 
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste 
  • tbsp sugar 
  • 1/3 cup cold water 
  • tbsp cornstarch 

  • Mix ingredients and allow to boil in a small sauce pan, then reduce heat until thickened.