Friday, October 21, 2011

Holding on to Summer Salad.

I just posted this salad to my facebook and judging by the number of 'Like' clicks the colors must appeal to everyone.  I created this salad a few months ago and it has become a huge hit among family and friends alike. The simplicity of this salad is the key. It comes together in mere minutes but I do recommend letting it sit for an hour to allow the flavors to come together. The other appeal of this wonderful salad is that the options for change are limited only to your imagination.

A doctor's appointment a few days ago was a wake-up call. I was placed on cholesterol lowering medication. Frankly, I have no intention of taking them. I will work at changing my dietary habits even more and eating a healthy, colorful, balanced diet without sacrificing flavor. This salad is a good step in that direction.


One can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
1½-2 cups seeded and diced cucumber
A good handful of cherry tomatoes halved or 1 good size tomato seeded and diced
... Half a sweet pepper (capsicum) seeded and diced (any color will do)
2 tablespoons of chopped onion
half a grated garlic (optional)1 tablespoon of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

And now that you have the basic ingredients it's time to have fun. Toss, it all together and get creative.
Alter the flavor by changing the dressing. For acids you can add balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or red wine vinegar. For the seasoning add pepper, mint, basil, parsley or whatever else you feel like.
Added toppings that are wonderful are feta or any tangy goat cheese. If you like up the spice factor by adding diced jalapeno.

Skip the olive oil and make a dressing by mixing yogurt, the seasonings, and onion (plus garlic if using) together. A Yogurt based dressing will work extremely well with some extra chopped onion and plenty of mint.

The chickpeas make this salad is quite substantial. Along with some crackers or toasted pita bread it would make a great light lunch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flavors of India for Breakfast?

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day. I love it when I get to sit with my husband and eat the kind of breakfast my kids wouldn't touch. You know, the grown up kind like a fragrant fritata or a veggie loaded omelet.  This recipe shown here would lend itself well to a light lunch or supper. The inspiration for this loaded scrambled egg comes from the Parsi dish 'Akuri' which is an explosion of flavors right at breakfast. The flavors in this vegetable loaded scramble can be kept light as my husband prefers it, or a bit stronger the way I like it. What's so amazing about this meal is that you can get an entire serving of vegetables right there for breakfast. I am estimating the quantities in this recipe as I have never measured it.

Clicking on this picture will show you a  larger, and more mouthwatering version.

(serves two)

chopped onions - about a quarter cup
roughly diced green peppers (or any other color you have on hand) - a half cup
zucchini quartered lengthwise and then sliced across to yield quarters - 1 cup
tomatoes - seeded and chopped for cooking and garnish - 3/4 - 1 cup
In terms of vegetables, these are the ones I would definitely say are a must
These are the other ones I like to add

summer squash - cut the same way as the zucchini - half cup
corn - cut off one cob or frozen (half cup)
left over potato (especially from Indian meals)
left over chickpeas or Chole (Indian Chickpea stew)

3-4 Eggs (we use half real eggs and half fake liquid eggs due to cholesterol issues)
salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon of ground cumin
¼ teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of any cooking oil (for health reasons I use olive oil)
chopped cilantro (quite optional if you hate them but if you are ok with it, really enhances the flavor)

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions. If you make this for lunch or dinner and like things a bit livelier you could add a small amount of crushed garlic. Too much garlic will overwhelm the balance of flavors in this recipe, so go easy. *Saute the onion until translucent and then add all the vegetables except for the tomato, cilantro, and left over potatoes and chickpeas (if adding). Saute on medium heat for 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the seasonings,  tomato, chickpeas and potatoes (if using) and stir, let heat through for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and then crack over the whole thing, the eggs. Stir gently but do break the yolks. Reduce the heat to medium low and allow the egg to set. Stir gently periodically to make sure all the egg is cooked. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

I love to eat this with a little extra chopped fresh onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. A squeeze of fresh lemon brings out the flavors of all the vegetables.  Serve with it toast or better yet, some toasted pita bread or any Indian roti.

This is a substantial meal which will keep you satisfied during a long morning or comfortably filled on a warm summer night. 

Almost all my recipes lend themselves extremely well to substitutions and additions. To me cooking has always been creativity. I was lucky that I had a mother who is an amazing creative cook and a father, who is a fantastic cook in his own right. My childhood memories are filled with family friends appearing suddenly on a Sunday morning at our door with grocery bags filled with fresh ingredients. 'We brought food, will you cook for us?' And my parents never disappointed them. Everyone was handed kitchen tools, cutting boards, bowls and colanders and given instructions. Soon the kitchen was filled with the sounds of animated discussions, laughter and the aromas of a multitude of spices, herbs and fresh ingredients coming together in an altogether magical way.

*A note on cooking onions for this recipe. If you like a light flavor add the veggies when the onion is translucent. If you like the flavors stronger let the onion start to lightly brown before adding the veggies.

Cooking is a forgiving art. So go for it. And for anything you didn't like, give it to the dog or the sink disposal. I've never heard them complain.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mrs. B's best Zucchini Nut Muffins

The obscenely ginormous, huge, zucchinis from somewhere in Iowa.

Yesterday, when I came back from co-hosting a seminar, my husband met me at the door.
'I have a surprise for you', he announced grandly. 'You've never seen anything like this before!' he claimed and with a flourish presented me with these huge, green objects. 'Have you ever seen zucchini like this before?'

I had to admit I had not. I didn't even know they could get that big. Even the smaller of the two is larger than any zucchini I've ever seen.

Apparently our neighbor had been blessed by someone they knew with cucumbers and zucchini. They knew what to do with the cukes but had no idea what to do with the zukes. But, bless her heart, she knows I love to cook and that I love veggies. What she didn't know was that I particularly adore zucchini.  The kids of course wanted zucchini muffins.

No problema!

I would really recommend clicking on this picture to see the muffin larger as it doesn't really show it as well in the smaller picture.

My son won't touch zucchini unless it's converted in Zucchini Nut Muffins. I found the recipe in a Taste of Home magazine many years ago, adapted it to suit our palate and it's been a family favorite since then. When my son was a toddler at daycare I gave them this recipe. The first time they made this recipe the kids plowed through the first batch of muffins so fast they had to quickly whip up another batch.

Feel free to add or exchange ingredients. This is the recipe they way we changed it from the original.

Mrs. B's best Zucchini Nut Muffins

2 cups un-bleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
3/4 cup plain sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup applesauce (we use unsweetened)
2 cups packed, shredded zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup golden raisins (we don't use that because the kids don't like them)
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar or Washed Raw Cane Sugar for sprinkling (this will give you a crunchy texture on top - big yum! factor)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Combine sugar and eggs in a bowl; blend at medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the oil; beating constantly for 3 minutes. Add the applesauce, vanilla extract and shredded zucchini and blend well. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Now, if you want a more pronounced walnut taste, toast them first until fragrant.

In a separate bowl mix the flours, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and ground flax seed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined but not overmixed.

Pour batter into 24 lined muffin cups or non-stick muffin tins and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar; bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

(You could substitute a half cup of craisins for the nuts and add some quick cooking oats to up the health-factor)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One of my favorite Kitchen tools - the Misto!

I bought a Misto roughly 4 months or so ago and it's become one of my favorite kitchen implements. It is a stainless steel canister with a built-in, easy to prime, pump that you can fill with a bit of your favorite oil.
Why I like it:
a) It was inexpensive. I paid roughly $10 for it.
b) No propellants or additives to my sprayed oil.
c) Because of point 'b' my pans, etc no longer have gummy, sticky, impossible to clean, gunk on them.
d) Because of point 'b' I don't have to wonder what I am inhaling when I use the spray and what I am feeding my family.
e) More economical than regular cooking sprays in the long run.

What I don't like:
Well, only one thing really. I wish it came in different colors because I would love to buy one for other oils that I use. With only one color canister I would get confused and use the wrong oils for my foods if I can't see at a glance which oil I am using.

What do I use it for?
Spray my cooking grates, pans, meats and vegetables, pasta, fish, etc. with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Easy Pizza Dough!

A few months ago one of my son's friends came over for a playdate. For lunch I thought we could all make pizza together. So, along with a base of flat bread I set our cheese, sauce and pepperonis. My son's friend refused to eat. To the evident embarrassment of his mother he pronounced the food 'yucky'.  Poor kid has never seen a pizza without the box....

We like to make our own dough when I have time. It's ridiculously easy!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 + extra cup unbleached white  flour
1 packet yeast
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp + extra for the bowl olive oil
warm water (sorry, I don't measure)

Place 2 tablespoons of flour  in a small bowl.  Add sugar and yeast and about a half cup hot/warm water. Mix well and place in a warm spot.  When the mixture has doubled in size and become bubbly add the starter mixture to the rest of the flour. Add olive oil, salt and more water as needed and knead into a nice, elastic, dough.  If it's too stiff you'll have trouble keeping it from retracting later. The ideal dough is not stiff and not too sticky. Add more flour if too sticky and more water if too stiff.  Knead for about 5 -7 minutes. It's therapeutic. Now pour a bit of olive oil into a good size bowl and  put your ball of dough into it.  Since you want the dough to double in size make sure the bowl will easily accommodate the growth. Swish to distribute the oil. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a damp towel and place the dough in a warm, draft free place until doubled in place.  I like the oven. I turn it on at 170 degrees (my lowest setting) and once warm turn it off.  I open the door for a moment so it can cool a bit more and then pop the bowl with the dough in there and close the door. Voila.

Once the dough has nicely doubled punch it down and divide into two. Hand stretch each piece into a nice piece of pizza base. I make mine rectangular as you can see.  Let rest for 10-15 mins in a warm place. If you like your pizza crust crunchy by-pass this step. Now comes the fun part. Toppings. I like to use Contadina's pizza sauce in their squirt bottle. It keeps well in the fridge. Apply a base of sauce. Some like it saucy. Some don't. We like it on the lean side. The kids like their pizza simple. Just add sauce, cheese and pepperoni. I like mine with tons of veggies and no meat or pepperoni. I also like to use minimal cheese on the bottom (just enough to hold the veggies in place and instead use some left over Brie (I live for that stuff) on top. Sprinkle with Italian herbs and pop in the oven at 370F. Bake until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Now, if you use lots of toppings you may need to keep it in the oven longer than if you make a basic cheese and pepperoni version. The nice thing here is the flexibility. Use up old marinara or spaghetti sauce and veggies.  I've even added left over steak from a steakhouse on the pizzas.  Be creative. Click on the pictures to see a larger version of my pizzas. Then drool.

My raw uncooked pizza featuring zucchini, mushrooms, onions, olives and brie.
Divine, I tell you, DIVINE!

Once cooked this pizza practically begs you to devour it at record speed.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

We are addicted to these pancakes and they make a wonderful Saturday breakfast. We love them with ripe pears although applesauce works well too.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Yield: 15 smallish pancakes

1¼ cups all-purpose flour (we use half unbleached all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix depending how strong you like it (the original recipe calls for separate spices but I am lazy even though I have all the spices mentioned)
1 cup milk  (if you use whole wheat flour you may need about a ½ cup more as the dough gets too thick otherwise)
½ cup pumpkin puree (we like to use a bit more than that)
1 large egg
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 200˚F. Set aside a baking sheet or oven safe serving platter.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Make sure to blot out any chunks of brown sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine the milk, pumpkin, egg and oil or butter. Stir into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter may still be lumpy.
Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat (325˚F for the griddle). Pour the batter on the griddle or skillet in 1/3 cup portions. Use the back of the spoon or measuring cup to smooth the batter into desired circle shape. When bubbles start forming on the top, carefully use a spatula to flip to the other side. Let cook for a few more minutes until golden brown. Transfer the pancakes to the baking sheet or oven safe platter; place in the oven to keep warm until serving. Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed. Serve with cinnamon sugar, honey or  maple syrup.

Adapted from a recipe found at

Droolworthy Mashed Potatoes

you'll need:
1 acorn squash or a butternut squash. Either will work fine. We prefer Acorn.
4-5 Idaho potatoes (good size
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 tbps packed brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

I don't have an exact recipe here for you, bear with me. The good news is that you practically CAN'T screw this up and it will taste heavenly!

This recipe yields a pot of gorgeous, steaming, orange hued, mashed potatoes with the most divine flavor ever. IT man would happily sit down with a bowl of this stuff just by itself and I can't cook this without stealing a lick now and then. OK, a small bowl worth.  But once you try this you'll understand.

Peel and cut up about 3 cups worth of butternut or acorn squash. What you want is approximately 1½ inch size cubes of organgey gorgeousness.  Toss these lovelies with a half, reasonably finely chopped yellow onion, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and no less than 2 tablespoons of butter cut into pieces.   Come one, you know you want it, add another tablespoon, it's sooooo worth it. Now, toss all this together along with some pepper and salt to taste and spread out on an aluminum lined cookie sheet. Pop this into the oven at about 350 F and let it bake. Stir once in a while. You'll probably open the oven door more often than you need to just to smell that amazing, heavinly, aroma of caramelizing onions and squash. Meanwhile peel and cut potatoes. You'll want about 5 cups of potatoes cubes approximately 2 inches in size. Boil these with a pinch of salt until tender. Before you drain them retain 1 cup of the starchy liquid.
When the potatoes are cooked and drained, mash them well. Use some milk if you want, or the starchy liquid you reserved. Cook the squash until quite tender and the onions pleasingly browned. Pour the whole  mess into a bowl and mash. Add the mashed squash to the mashed potatoes and stirr.  This is fabulous with your turkey dinner or any dinner for that matter. If you want to fancy it up for a nice presentation top each serving with a dollop of black pepper crusted goat cheese.

By popular demand I'll be serving this again on Thanksgiving.

Before entering the oven. I had red onions on hand
and they work just fine. For this batch I used Acorn Squash

After coming out of the oven.
I should have added more onions but it's still yummy.