Monday, December 28, 2009

Three Cheese Mac 'n Cheese

Here I present a rather non-traditional, non-yellow, non-elbow macaroni mac 'n cheese dish, with spinach, chickpeas and vegetable stock thrown in for good health. It's a light yet no less cheesy version of a classic dairy dish. I made it a couple of times last week to rave reviews. I hope you like it!

1 box whole grain pasta, cooked according to package directions

2 tbsp margarine (I use earth balance veggy sticks)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups pareve vegetable stock
1/4 cup almond milk (regular milk, half and half, or cream will also work well)
1 cup low fat part skim ricotta
1 cup shredded or pulsed parmesan reggiano cheese (plus extra for later)
2 oz or 2 slices light muenster or monterey jack cheese
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (broccoli or cauliflower would also work fine)
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper (or to taste)

In a large, wide-bottomed saucepan, combine the margarine and flour and make a roux by cooking together for a minute or so until pasty and bubbly. Add almond milk and vegetable stock slowly and mix thoroughly until there are no lumps. You should have a nice sauce that coats the back of the spoon well. Add the ricotta and parmesan cheeses and mix until incorporated. Add salt and pepper and correct the seasoning. Add the veggies, chickpeas and the pasta, correct the seasoning again. Transfer to a baking dish and top with parmesan and muenster/monterey jack cheese. Bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweet Potato and Leek Latkes

After we're done making regular classic latkes for a couple of Chanukah nights, it's time to think outside the [white potato] box and get some anti-oxidents and vitamins into our bloodstreams!

I made latkes tonight with sweet potatoes and leeks and they turned out great. Let's face it -- fried anything would probably be pretty good. But these taste just like latkes should. Crisp and delicious and mightily Chanukah-esque. I hope you enjoy these as much as my [vegetable hater] husband and I did.

6 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped fine in food processor
6 leeks, white and very light green parts only, washed and chopped fine in food processor
3 eggs
2 tsp salt (or to taste, 2 tsp makes a very savory latke)
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour

vegetable oil for frying (I use Mazola Corn Plus!)

Let sweet potatoes drain a bit before combining with other ingredients. Heat oil in a wide bottomed pan until very hot, and fry latkes until brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a warm oven and serve hot!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scottish Oatmeal Shortbread Squares

I was inspired by Amy, a fellow blogger over at Baking and Mistaking to make Scottish shortbread with oatmeal. I was all ready to make her version, but then, while talking with my mom, she pulled out a very old, out of print cookbook from McCall's Magazine that she got for her wedding which had a amazing recipe that I just had to try. Like Amy's recipe, there are few ingredients, but in this one there's a ton more oatmeal, which is a whole grain! Now, while I won't look you in the eye and tell you this is health food, I do feel better about serving these than say, chocolate covered marshmallows...

I will tell you that this recipe is quick and easy and it's a perfect thing to bring to friends for dessert on a cold winter evening. And it really tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen!

3 cups quick cooking oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 tsp vanilla

(optional) 1 high quality Swiss dark chocolate bar for dipping, melted in the microwave and stirred with a teaspoon of vegetable oil.

Mix ingredients only until incorporated, until it resembles a coarse cornmeal. Press with your fingers into square pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Score (slice) into squares as soon as it comes out of the oven. Makes 18 generous squares.

If dipping, place dipped cookies on parchment paper and store in the refrigerator until set.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Classic Potato Latkes

It's difficult to do my "classically kosher" thing [which is to take classic Jewish recipes and update/modernize them with today's healthy options for less fat and oil] with something as classic and traditional as latkes, because the whole point of latkes is that they are fried in oil, to remember the miracle of the oil that burned in the Temple for eight nights instead of just one.

Also, I can't fully support some people's crazy notion (most recently seen in the NY Times) that latkes are supposed to be fried in olive oil. This is a culinary falsehood. Latkes will simply not brown and crisp up well with olive oil, because olive oil has a low burning temperature. The corners are likely to burn before the insides are even done cooking. So forget about it and use vegetable oil!

The one thing that I do actively suggest is to use Mazola Plus! vegetable oils, which are fortified with omega threes. It is comparatively healthy and it tastes great. For latke frying, I would recommend Mazola's Corn Plus.

Introduced in 2007, Mazola® Corn Plus!™ is a unique combination of pure corn and canola oils. It is a delicious way to cook plus it is a heart healthier option to other fats and oils. The pure, light flavor of Mazola® Corn Plus!™ is ideal for all types of contemporary cooking from salad dressings and marinades to cakes and cookies. Mazola® Corn Plus!™ is naturally cholesterol free and provides 600mg of Omega-3 per serving.

And away we go with the world's best latkes, otherwise known as the best latkes ever (My mom's recipe, of course)! Not only is this recipe delicious, it's also easy. A freilichen Chanukah to everyone!!

5-6 Russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and grated (or pulsed in food processor)
2 yellow onions, grated (but less likely to make you cry if you pulse it in a food processor)
2 large eggs (or two eggs worth of pasteurized egg substitute)
2 tbsp flour
1 and 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt (plus more for garnishing)
cracked pepper to taste

Mazola Corn Plus! or vegetable oil for cooking

After you have grated or pulsed (grating will give you a lighter latke, pulsed will give you a more pancake-like potato pancake) the potatoes, place them in a sieve or spaghetti strainer to drain, or put them in layers of cheesecloth or paper towels and squeeze the water out. Mix ingredients together until combined.

In a wide bottomed non-stick saute pan, heat vegetable or canola oil until very hot, and place either large or small spoonfuls in pan (depending on whether you want full size or mini latkes), and flatten only at the beginning. Don't crowd them. Wait until the corners have started to get very brown, and flip.

When the latke is done, you will know because it will smell amazing and look crisp and delicious on both sides. When removing latkes from the pan, ideally with a slotted spatula, place on several layers of paper towel to sop up excess oil, and garnish with coarse salt. Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve!

Serve traditionally with applesauce or sour cream (But I like them best plain).

This recipe tends to make 12 large or 24 mini latkes.

Potato Latkes on Foodista

Olive Oil and Herb Master Boule Bread

Okay, so in my continuing travails on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day thing, I actually mixed up some bread today and it really only took about five minutes, but it did, surprisingly result in a delicious, crusty loaf.

I mixed up some dough, added dried herbs for flavor, sat it on the counter for three hours while I went to Tenefly to tutor a restaurant manager to pass the ServSafe exam, then came home, shaped it and baked it. You still need to remember that with this artisan bread baking business, you still have to preheat the oven for 25 minutes, without forgetting the breadstone, and organize your brain enough to have a sprinkling of cornmeal on your pizza peel, but generally, it has gotten easier, and I am able to say, I got closer to the five minutes of artisan bread baking as opposed to what was closer to the seven hours that it took me the first time I tried it.

Here's what I did:

3 cups warm water mixed with 1 and a half packages dry yeast, mixed with 1 and a half tbsp kosher salt.

Add to that 6 and a half cups of flour, 2 tsp dried thyme, and 2 tsp dried rosemary. Mix until incorporated.

Place mixed, unkneaded contents in a container with a cover, and affix the cover but not tightly.

Leave home and do something with your life. Then come home ready to prepare dinner. (I understand this can be left out for 5+ hours).

Then, I took approximately half the mixture and shaped it into a round loaf. No kneading. I placed flour on the top of the loaf, and slashed it horizontally with a knife. I then brushed it with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt, some granulated garlic and additional herbs, and placed it in a hot 450 degree oven on my breadstone, and baked for approximately 30 minutes until brown and crusty!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pareve Mexican Vegetable Soup and Corn Bread

I saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa recently, and she served an enticing and decadent dairy cornbread with a mexican chicken soup. The flavor combination looked amazing if a bit verboten, and I set out immediately to try and see if I could make both pareve, so that these two dishes could be served with either dairy or meat dishes.

The cornbread came out light and airy and I left out the cheese and scallions she used, because I am a bit of a cornbread purist and I don't want anything mucking it up. The Mexican soup I watched Ina make bears little resemblance to what I ended up with, and it's now something new all its own. She used tortillas to thicken hers, and I used potatoes, but the whole thing is just gorgeously scented. Ina used coriander and cumin, which I used but also added a bay leaf and smoked paprika. She also used a jalapeno in hers (without seeds), but I didn't have any in the house so substituted a small pinch of cayenne. Plus, I don't like cooking with jalapeno because I ALWAYS end up forgetting that I just minced one and somehow touch my face hours later and it burns. Even when I wear plastic gloves!!

Corn bread:

3 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 sticks margarine (1/2 pound), melted
3 eggs
2 cups soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or MimicCreme
1/3 cup scallions (optional)

Sift together first five dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients and mix the dry and wet just until incorporated; do not overbeat. Let sit for 15 minutes before baking at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Mexican vegetable soup:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, minced
1 box white mushrooms, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 small pinch cayenne
1 bay leaf
10 cups water
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Before serving: 4 oz. almond milk, diced avocados, tortilla chips

Saute the onions, carrots and mushrooms in olive oil until softened. Add the rest of the ingriedients and simmer for 1 hour. Puree if you wish. Before serving, add several ounces of almond milk to add creaminess, and serve with tortilla chips, sliced avocado and of course, fresh hot cornbread!