Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stir Fried Swiss Chard Rice Wraps with Spicy Honey Cashew Sauce

I always write my blog posts in a Word document first and then cut and paste them onto Blogger. This way, it is easy to check for spelling and grammar errors. Also, when I type posts directly on the Blogger post box, the font sizes never turn out right and uniform, so doing it in Word first keeps me from going crazy and yelling at my computer screen.

Anyhoo, for some reason, this recipe got pushed down as more posts were typed in my Word document. As I was scrolling through my blog post document today, I came upon this and wondered how I could have forgotten to post it?          

These rice wraps were so good and I am thinking about making these again soon! The recipe was inspired from Erin of Naturally Ella’s Swiss Chard and Spicy Peanut Sauce Spring Rolls and my own Roasted Vegetable Rice Wraps with Spicy Almond Crumbles.

This recipe is definitely a delight… delicious vegetables with Indian spices and the cashew sauce added in the wrap gives it a perfect sweet-spicy crunch. A filling appetizer that definitely makes for a complete meal if you’re not up for making an entrée.     

swiss chard stir fry

spicy honey cashew sauce

stir fry with the cashew sauce to be rolled in the wrap

Stir Fried Swiss Chard Rice Wraps with Spicy Honey Cashew Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed with a garlic press
1 medium size onion, sliced
4 kale leaves, roughly chopped
2 Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp garam masala
4 green onion stalks, minced
8 fresh basil leaves, torn

Spicy Honey Cashew Sauce
1/2 cup cashews (I used raw, unsalted), chopped well
1 inch nub of ginger, grated
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha

Chop the cashews with a nut chopper or food processor until broken into teeny, tiny pieces and some particles are powdery.

In a small bowl, mix well together the ginger, honey, and soy sauce.

Heat a small nonstick pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, toast the cashew pieces for about 2 minutes until fragrant and golden. Stir often to avoid getting the cashews burnt.

Pour the wet mixture all over the cashews and turn the heat down to medium low. Stir well for about a minute, making sure all cashew pieces are coated with the sauce. Add the Sriracha and stir for another minute. Move pan away from heat.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until fragrant and golden brown. Throw in the onions and sauté until soft and almost caramelized, about 4 minutes. Toss in the kale and Swiss chard and cook, stirring often, until it wilts, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes, stir often. Mix in the spice mixture and stir well. Turn off the burner and remove pan from heat. Throw in the green onions and basil leaves, mix well.

To make the assembly fast and efficient, put everything in front of you: the rice papers, stir-fried vegetables, spicy honey cashew sauce, a deep plate with warm water, a clean plate to work on the rolls, and a serving plate for the rolls.

Work on one roll at a time. Start by soaking a rice paper in the plate with water, making sure everything is submerged, including the sides. After about 15 seconds, the roll should be soft and sticky. Lay it on the working plate and load one end with the stir-fried veggies and spicy honey cashew. Fold the three sides over the fillings: top, bottom, and the end closest to the fillings and then roll to close. Move to a serving plate.

Do give this a try, you will love it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Spicy Kale and Black Bean Burritos + Fresh Salsa

Weekend Highlights:

1. DFJ and I drove to Spokane on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with his Uncle, Aunt, and cousin Anika. We are having a wonderful time with this lovely family and we will surely be sad to say goodbye to everyone today. Afternoons were spent hanging out indoors playing Labyrinth and Warship as well as some gorgeous outdoor time at Anika’s playhouse and at some parks. Right before her bed time, Anika read us some stories… This girl is one good reader and we were very impressed!  

2. Yoga at Lila Yoga Studio… I went to an H2O Vinyasa class both Saturday and Sunday and had an amazing experience with great teachers: Lee Bear Tobin and Kelly Thielbahr. Bear’s class was powerful and enlightening and Kelly’s class was beautiful, graceful, and challenging. There’s so much I need to learn still and coming to a bigger class showed me what almost superhuman things other students were able to do. Before I met MY yoga teacher, Jenn, I would have come out of both classes feeling frustrated and defeated because I am not as good as everyone else. But she taught me how to believe in myself and in what I can do, to listen and respect my body, and that in time I will get to where I want to go one strong step at a time. When I stepped out into the cool air outside (the classes are heated and I was pouring sweat on my mat and completely drenched) I felt happy, strong, and at peace with myself. Thank you Jenn for teaching me how to be easy on myself and how to have fun in yoga!

3. Atticus Coffee and Gifts: great coffee and very eclectic gift shop… they sell antique trinkets, coffee and tea mugs, coffee and tea making gadgets, bulk coffee and tea, fancy chocolate, books old and new, unique greeting cards, and some cute home decor.        

Auntie’s Bookstore: local bookstore with a great selection of books, friendly staff, and very well organized displays.  

Uncle’s Games: a tiny, local game and puzzle shop with a good collection of awesome games.

4. A trip to the Spokane Trader Joe’s and Asian World Food Market on Division Street. I love Trader Joe’s and although the one in Spokane is pretty small, it is good enough because we don’t have one in our town. The Asian World Food Market is pretty small but had all the Korean food ingredients and a decent selection of Japanese food ingredients that I could ever dream of… Pretty awesome! 

5. Getting a couple of chances to cook in Laur’s beautiful kitchen! Man, I could live in her kitchen… I love the island in the middle, the view the forest (their backyard is literally a forest) from her kitchen sink, the double ovens, the six burner stove top, and her cooking tools.

Speaking of cooking, Happy Food Matter’s Project Monday to everyone! This week’s recipe, Beans ‘n Greens Burritos, was chosen by Jacqui of Good Things Grow. If you haven’t done so yet, go on over to her website to see Mark Bittman’s original recipe and, make sure to check out her delicious recipes and gorgeous pictures. Jacqui, thank you for choosing a simple, healthy, and delicious recipe… Everyone I served it to enjoyed it!

I had a few modifications and this was my version of the recipe.

spicy kale and black beans

Spicy Kale and Black Bean Burrito Filling

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chipotle chili powder
5 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, 15 oz, drained; liquid reserved

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown. Add the onions and cook until soft and almost translucent, about 5 minutes. Toss in the diced carrot and bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Throw in the kale, one handful at a time and cook until it wilts, about 6 minutes. Pour in the beans with a little bit of the liquid (about 2 teaspoons) and cook for about 8 more minutes.  

spicy kale and black bean burrito with fresh salsa and feta cheese

Serve on warm whole wheat or flour tortillas with queso fresco or feta cheese and fresh salsa. Fold into a burrito and enjoy!

fresh salsa with mini heirloom tomatoes

Fresh Salsa

2 cups mini heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
½ tsp chili powder
 ¼ tsp pepper

In a large glass bowl, mix together tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cilantro. Stir together well. Squeeze lime juice and stir until everything is coated with the juice. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper and stir well to make sure all seasonings are evenly distributed. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours to allow flavors to settle. Give the salsa another good stir right before serving. 

Great in burritos, tacos, or tortilla chips!

Today let us remember to say a silent prayer of gratitude to our brave brothers and sisters who have given their lives for the country and say thank you to a war veteran.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Very Veggie Eggplant Lasagna

I was feeling my margarita at 9:00 last night while waiting for this to finish cooking. Lightweight!

Is this a bad thing to do, on a Thursday night? Please don’t judge me. Last night was considered a Friday night. Today is our last Furlough Day for the school year. The state gave teachers a nice pay cut, but they make it so “we are not getting a pay cut, just working less hours.” So, because we don’t get paid, we are also not working during those hours. What’s my say to this? This is a big disservice to students (even though I am well aware that they don’t really care because they’re just happy to have no school). It does not change the fact that they are still getting cheated out of one and a half days of school this school year.

However, let’s look at the bright side… Who does not want a day off or a half day off? This year we have three Furlough Days and my district was nice enough to think of it thoroughly and timed our Furlough Days during 3-day-weekends so we get a nice three and a half day long weekend. There’s even brighter news… summer vacation is in two weeks! Oh the perks of being a teacher, Furlough Days aside!

Another reason why I was feeling good was because of a yoga high… I had another great class last night. My yoga teacher is truly amazing! I love how our classes flow, how it never ceases to kick my butt, and how my teacher encourages us to go beyond what we think we can do but at the same time still listen to our bodies and respect it. Before class started, she told us something that struck me… I wish I could quote her exactly but I can’t remember the very words she used. It sounded like this, “It is okay to fly like a duck. As long as you’re flying, feel like you’re soaring like an eagle.” This statement sums up exactly how I feel when I go to her classes… I feel strong, confident, and beautiful even though most of the time I probably look like a duck.

This was the other highlight of my evening…

The completion of this delicious dish had to wait until after my yoga class because I just had to go… my body needed the workout and my soul longed for the peace.

The combination of the roasted and sautéed vegetables was incredible and made even better after being baked with yummy cheeses. This is not an exaggeration... promise! All the flavors blended so well together and made for a wholesome, earthy, and wonderfully delicious dish. The eggplant taste was pretty dominant and was very well complemented by the sweetness and meatiness of the carrots and beets, while the tomatoes added a sweet and juicy touch. The shallots and leeks added a great depth to the overall flavor and while the spinach taste was barely discernible, I know that tossing a ton in the dish would increase the amount of nutrients. So don’t skimp on the spinach! The mushrooms were a great addition too, as they soaked up the flavors so well and gave the dish a hearty touch. What is a lasagna without cheese, right? The combination of gorgonzola and goat cheese gave each bite a distinct salty and strong flavor. This dish is truly a beautiful combination of flavors and it doesn’t hurt that the color is a natural hot pink!

I’m not going to lie. This may take a while to prepare… probably two hours or so, including cooking time, but it is worth it! Just put on some music, sing, dance, have a margarita or a glass of wine, and chop and sauté your worries away!

1st layer: eggplant 2nd layer: carrot, beet, tomato mixture

2nd layer: carrot, beet, tomato mixture

3rd layer: sauteed vegetables

pour in cheese mixture

make sure to pour cheese mixture evenly

put another layer of eggplant on

keep the eggplant slices snug but not overlapping

layer on the rest of the carrot, beet, tomato mixture

layer the rest of the sauteed veggies and
pour the rest of the cheese mixture...
pop in the oven!

Very Veggie Eggplant Lasagna

large eggplant
kosher salt
olive oil

3 beets, sliced
2 carrots, chopped in half moon pieces
1 ½ cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed with a garlic press
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1 leek, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 portabella mushroom, roughly chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 large green bell pepper, sliced thinly
5 cups spinach, roughly chopped

½ cup gorgonzola cheese
4 tbsp goat cheese
½ cup milk (I used 1%)
1 large egg
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary

freshly grated parmesan cheese (for the topping)

Cut eggplant into long strips, about ¼ inch thick. Generously sprinkle each side with kosher salt. Drain in a colander for 30 minutes.

Move oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil and place in the eggplant slices, making sure the slices don’t overlap. Pour a little bit of olive oil on the palm of your hand and lightly coat the exposed side with olive oil. Roast the eggplant slices in the oven for 2 minutes each side. After roasting both sides, move eggplant to a plate and set aside.

In the same or separate roasting pan, toss beets, carrots, and tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven (already preheated to 400 degrees F) for 16 minutes. Stir halfway through cooking time.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. When the oil is hot, sauté garlic until golden brown. Toss in shallot slices and sauté for 1 minute, just until soft. Add the leeks in along with the bay leaf and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Throw in the mushroom pieces and sauté for 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and smoked paprika. Toss the bell pepper in and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Then add the spinach by the handful, stirring it in until wilted, about 2 minutes. Turn the burner off and move pan away from heat.

In a medium bowl, crumble the gorgonzola and goat cheese together with a fork or wooden spoon. Pour in the milk and mix well with a fork. Beat in the egg until everything is well combined. Stir in the pepper. Then add the basil and rosemary and stir gently until everything is mixed well together.

Generously coat the bottom and sides of a large, glass baking dish with olive oil. Lay eggplant slices close to each other. Layer with half of the carrot, beet, tomato mixture (pour in half of the juice). Then layer with half of the sautéed vegetables. Pour half of the cheese mixture evenly across the pan. Lay the eggplant slices again, top with the rest of the carrot, beet, tomato mixture with the rest of its juice, and then layer on the rest of the sautéed vegetable mixture. Pour the rest of the cheese mixture evenly across the top.

Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 50 minutes. Right after pulling the dish out of the oven, generously sprinkle the top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

You can make this dish for a Memorial Day barbeque this weekend. I guarantee it will wow even the biggest steak eater who scoffs at vegetables. *Wink!*

Have a great long weekend everyone! Amidst all the fun and barbeques, let us remember to give gratitude to our brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for the country.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Cookies

After a loooong time of not hanging out with my other teacher friends, we finally made time to hang out on Saturday night. We all work at the same school but we never even get to see each other at work and when we do, all there is time for is a quick hello or a wave. Sad, right? I have missed my friends and am so glad we got the chance to enjoy some burgers, chips, salad, cookies, Bezzerwizzer and Bananagrams.

A couple of hours before hang time, I pulled out loose bags of flour, a sad looking banana, and leftover heavy whipping cream that needed to be used. These items were placed on the counter and after some pondering, a recipe began to develop in my little head. Ingredients and directions were jotted on my cooking notebook and I was ready for action with some queasiness in my stomach. When I’m baking with no basic recipe to start from, I get nervous… cooking is never a problem because it is easy to add spices and herbs and taste as I go. However, it’s different with baking, once the batter is in the oven, there’s nothing one can do but fret and hope it turns out edible (at the least).  

Today I said goodbye to all-purpose flour… the last little bit in the pantry was used up in these cookies. For a while now, I have been baking with whole wheat or spelt flour, not just because they have more nutrients but also because they taste richer, fuller, and nuttier. Please note that I encourage the use of either whole wheat or spelt flour in these cookies rather than all-purpose, I would have done the same except for I hate being wasteful and just really needed to use up all the leftover all-purpose flour.

These cookies only contain a half cup of sugar, a small amount of chocolate chips, and some coconut flakes. Cookies do not have to be laden with sugar… cutting back on unnecessary evil here. There is no butter in these cookies either… there is, however, some coconut oil, which has 35% more fat calories than butter but is supposedly better for us than butter (who knows?). I also used heavy whipping cream, which (on the bright side) has 50% less fat/per serving than butter. Too much thinking there already, I will stop. Really, I just used the coconut oil because of its nice tropical aroma and the wonderful coconut flavor that it adds to the cookies.

Each cookie resembles a chocolate chip banana bread. Plain, simple, comforting, and delicious! Of course! Who does not like banana bread with chocolate chips? Especially if they’re made a little more special by being turned into teeny-tiny cookies? My friends loved it! I may suck at trivia games, but I can make semi-healthy cookies that are delicious and almost guilt-free. Ever heard of Bezzerwizzer? If you are awful with trivia, call me and I will send DFJ your way so he can save you. We won and I can’t take any credit for our points because it was all him. (Beware though, he takes his sweet time thinking…)

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Cookies (Makes 46-50 small cookies)

1 and ¼ cup all-purpose flour
generous 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 overripe banana, mashed
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
4 tbsp coconut oil
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
a tad of coconut oil, for greasing the baking sheet

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together well the all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix the mashed banana, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer on low just until combined. Add the egg and coconut oil and mix on low until well-combined.

Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture while mixing on low until everything is well-combined and the batter is smooth.

Beat the coconut flakes into the batter on low until well-combined. Fold the chocolate chips and oats into the batter.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Using the palms of your hands, grease the baking sheet with a bit of coconut oil. Using a cookie scoop, scoop one ball of dough at a time and plop onto the baking sheet evenly. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, make small dough balls (make sure to grease your palms because the dough is quite sticky).

Bake for 20 minutes until the edges and the tops of the cookies turn slightly brown.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mexican-Style Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish

Tonight we went on a walk to witness the solar eclipse… there wasn’t much to witness, to our disappointment, because it was so cloudy. We watched the news when we got home and heard that we wouldn’t have really seen it anyway because the best views are in areas in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Northern California. Bummer! The last time I saw a solar eclipse was when I was in 5th grade (I think…).
On the way back from our walk, we saw an accident up the road that involved three cars. Fortunately, no one was hurt. DFJ was very curious and wanted to go up to the scene and gawk… gape, analyze what happened, and gape some more. Yeah, he’s a kid at heart. A very well-dressed man, who was the unfortunate victim of a reckless driver, came up to us with a sheepish smile on his face. It took me a while to realize that I knew who he was… the owner of the gym that we go to. Small world! Since he also teaches classes there, he’s usually dressed in workout clothes when I see him, so seeing him somewhere other than the gym, at an accident site nonetheless, was totally unexpected. Plus, my eyesight is terrible. He explained what happened and we found out that the lady who hit him did not see the red light and ended up crashing into him and another car as they were going. Hmmm... maybe she was too busy trying to look at the eclipse and forgot to pay attention. That lady was lucky she hit a nice guy. My gym owner had such grace during a terrible encounter and I am so proud of him for that and so glad he was not hurt at all.  
Lesson learned: be extra careful and mindful when driving and fight the auto-pilot mode!     
Let’s talk food now… So, this week’s Food Matter’s Project dish, Mexican-Style Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish, was chosen by Sarah of Food and Frederick. For the original Mark Bittman recipe, visit her blog and make sure to read her delicious recipes and some stories about her sweet life. Don’t forget to check out what other FMP members did with this recipe too, you’re definitely going to be in for a surprise. I always am!
For the fish, I settled for 3 fillets of snapper and did exactly what Bittman says to. I drizzled both sides of the snapper fillets with olive oil then tossed on pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper on each side. The fillets were then broiled in the oven for 8 minutes and it came out perfect. Mark Bittman teaches us to cook fish the way it should be… no fuss, no extra additives, just plain and simple with oil, salt, and pepper. The fish was soft, moist, and made special served on a bed of sweet and spicy, fruit salad. Don’t forget to squeeze a bit of lemon on top for an extra boost of flavor, it is essential! A perfect accompaniment to the dish was the side of Spanish rice that I made as per DFJ’s suggestion.

This meal, along with my delicious margarita, made me feel like I was sitting on an outdoor restaurant, enjoying a beautiful sunset in a gorgeous tropical island… feeling young, sunkissed, happy, carefree, and relishing a fantastic dinner with a dashing date. Need I say more? Make this dish, then you’ll see I’m not delusional!      

Mexican Fruit Salad 
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s, Mexican-Style Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish, The Food Matters Cookbook

1 large, ripe, yellow mango, cut in cubes
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 large navel orange (3/4 of it peeled and chopped)
juice of ¼ of the navel orange
1 jalapeno, minced 

½ cup fresh herbs: 
4 tbsp chopped basil, loosely packed
3 tbsp chopped cilantro, loosely packed
2 tbsp chopped mint, loosely packed 

In a medium size bowl, mix together mango cubes, chopped strawberries, and chopped orange pieces. Squeeze fresh orange juice and stir everything together well. Mix in jalapeno and fresh herbs. Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving to allow flavors to settle.

Spanish Rice 
 Adapted from, Spanish Rice II,
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
½ orange bell pepper, chopped
1, 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
1 ½ cup water
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw in the rice, onion, and bell pepper. Stir until the rice is slightly browned and the onion and bell pepper are soft, about two minutes.
Pour in the diced tomatoes and water. Stir in chili powder, cumin, cayenne, paprika, and salt. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. After it boils, turn the heat down to medium low and cook until rice is done, about 22-24 minutes.  

This meal was amazing… fish cooked the right way and served on top of a fiesta of fruit flavors, with a side of flavorful Spanish rice.
Thanks for stopping by and have a great week my friends! Soak up some sun, take a walk, go for a run, do some yoga, read a book, watch a favorite show, relax… do something nice for yourself and smile that beautiful smile!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Greek Yogurt Lentils

Hello everyone! I am not quite sure who visits my blog other than my friends who leave nice comments that always make me smile. You know who you are and I would like you to know that your comments brighten up my day and I thank you for taking time to do so. Someday, I hope we can all get the chance to meet, cook together, or just dine, and be very merry. Wouldn’t that be lovely? If you don’t leave comments, that’s ok too… I’m just curious to know who you are and would like to say thank you very much for stopping by, checking out recipes, and reading some silly stories. A big smile from me to all of you!   

When I first had this lentil dish on my bruschetta, I wasn’t really taken by it… It was good but it seemed to lack something I couldn’t put my finger on. Was it because I didn’t use the exact same ingredients or follow the directions closely? DFJ loved it from the first time he tasted it… and I trust his judgment. This man knows what’s delicious and what’s not and he tells me honestly if something I make isn’t really that great.

However, over the next few days, I came to love this lentil dish and proceeded to eat it in different ways… as a burrito with whole wheat tortillas and melted cheese, dip for Cheez-its (very classy, I know), and poached eggs and cayenne or paprika on top (my favorite)!

The original recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty required the use of puy lentils. I’ve never heard of puy lentils but it’s supposed to be special because of a richer, nuttier flavor from being grown on volcanic soil. I just used regular green lentils and I still loved it! *Wink!* Ottolenghi serves this dish on puff pastry, so definitely do that if you have some on hand.    

This lentil dish tastes like no other I have made before… it has a unique, fresh taste and is creamy, light, and tangy with a cool finish from the cilantro and mint.

Greek Yogurt Lentils
Adapted from Ottolenghi’s Puy Lentil Galletes, Plenty

1 cup green lentils
1 quart water
1 bay leaf

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp olive oil
juice of 1 Meyer lemon 
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp mint, chopped

Rinse the lentils and cook in a large pot with one quart of water and the bay leaf. Start cooking over medium heat with the cover on until it boils, then turn the heat down to medium low and leave the cover slightly opened until the lentils are thoroughly cooked, about 25-35 minutes or more. Check the pot and stir lentils every now and then. Drain lentils with a strainer and set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic until golden brown. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions, let cook for about 6 minutes until soft and translucent. Toss in the kale and stir. Add the cumin and coriander about a minute after tossing the kale in and stir everything together for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat and move the pan away from the heat. Mix the lentils in the pan and set aside to cool down. 

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, and mint. Add the yogurt mixture to the lentil mixture once it cools down. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Serving recommendations:
1. A topping for sourdough bruschetta.
2. A topping on baked puff pastry.
3. Filling for whole wheat tortilla burritos with cheese.
4. Cook lentils in a skillet with poached eggs on top and a good sprinkle of salt, pepper, and cayenne or paprika. Seriously my favorite!

Have a great weekend you guys! Do something that will make you smile!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nutty Whole Wheat Bread

Just when I thought I was finally getting better… my fever got to me again. Sunday morning, I was so tired of sleeping that I just had to do something about it, so I went to my yoga teacher’s special class at the park for Mother’s Day. That was the best decision ever… my body felt light and limber afterwards and I got a good muscle stretch. Throughout the day, I continually felt better that I was even up for a 10 mile bike ride. However, the uphills killed me, by the time we were going up the last hill I felt so out of breath and weak. I shouldn’t have done that, yoga was enough.

On Monday, I didn’t go to work because my throat hurt so much and this is torture for a teacher. I got a good extra day of rest and finally felt good enough to go to work on Tuesday. Talking was very stressful and by the end of the day I felt so run-down and just crashed on the couch after work. But I had promised to send over some dinners to my pregnant friend who is battling extreme morning sickness and will be for the next 5 months or so of her pregnancy. The poor darling is so tired all the time that walking around the house feels like a marathon. So, I gathered up all the strength I had to make a vegetable stir fry (it was quick because I chopped up everything the night before), packed the scones that I baked on Monday, and the lentil stew that I cooked on Monday as well, then had DFJ drive me to her house.

As soon as we got home, I spent some more time in the kitchen making dinner for my friend, Hayley, who happened to be in town to pick up a dress for one of her bridesmaid’s. That was when I started feeling the fever slowly creeping back into my body. I was cold outside yet so warm and tingly inside. It was 90 degrees outside and 78 degrees in the house and I’m wearing a sweatshirt. Poor Hayley saw me at my worst and I probably wasn’t the best hostess either. Fortunately the dinner was a success… I served some of the lentil stew that I made for my other friend (I made a ton), a soba noodle with eggplant and mango from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and my rhubarb spelt bread that I turned into a French toast with rhubarb+strawberry+honey+chocolate sauce. Really, the only thing that I prepared was the soba noodle dish because everything else has been cooked up on Monday. As soon as Hayley left, I fell into a chillfull slumber. It was awful and several times I would wake up drenched in sweat.

So today, I had to stay home again… funny how I sometimes wish for a sick day so I can stay at home and bum around, but when I actually get sick and  have to stay home, it’s not great. I’m bored, clock-watch the whole time and think, “Oh, first period is over… I wonder how so and so did, I wonder if so and so made fun of my substitute, and so on”. Also, because I’m bored I talk to myself and ramble… on and on to you… sorry. I will stop now.

Here is the promised bread recipe… It is actually a very simple bread made special by all the nuts stuffed inside. This lovely bread has a light, thin crust and is soft on the inside. The slightly burnt taste of hazelnut oil and the different nuts gives it a nice, robust taste and makes it the perfect bread for bruschetta, toast, lunch sandwiches, pasta dinners, or plain ole PB and J.

Nutty Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Walnut Bread, 100 Great Breads

2 cups whole wheat bread flour
scant 1 cup white bread flour
scant ¼ cup ground cashews (pulse in blender until cashews resemble flour consistency)
1 tsp salt
5 tsp yeast (active dry)
2 tbsp hazelnut oil
½ stick butter, melted and cooled
1 cup water + 1 tsp water
generous ½ cup walnut pieces
generous ¼ cup sunflower seeds
a tad of butter for greasing the dough and the baking sheet

Put the whole wheat bread flour, white bread flour, ground cashews, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl and whisk well together. Pour in the hazelnut oil, melted butter, and water, and slowly mix together with a wooden spoon. When all the flour has been mixed into the wet ingredients as much as possible, use your hands to mix until all the loose flour is incorporated.

Slowly move the dough out of the bowl into a clean counter, lightly dusted with flour. Make the dough come together by forming it into a ball. Knead for 5 minutes by pressing the dough with your palms and folding it over (repeat the press and fold over process for the given time). When you are done kneading, form the dough back into a ball and coat with a bit of butter. Also, make sure to coat the inside of the bowl with some butter. Place the dough back in the bowl and let rise for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet with butter.

After the first rise, knead the walnuts and sunflower seeds into the dough by doing the same process described above. This might be tricky because the walnuts and seeds will want to keep falling off the dough. Just be patient and knead it back in gently. Shape the dough into the final shape you want it to be (I prefer to make a ball) and place on the baking sheet. Let rise for an hour.    

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Right before popping the dough into the oven, cut a cross on top of the dough using a sharp knife. Bake the bread for 35 minutes until it turns into a nice golden brown color. Carefully, so as not to burn yourself, transfer to a wire rack to cool.     

Have a great Wednesday my friends! Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Mother's Day + Bruschetta, Rethought

Ooops... let's pretend it's still Sunday... This is late but I want to start this post with a shout out to all mothers in the world.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers out there! You are all beautiful, amazing, wonderful, and all of us wouldn’t have made it through life without you.

Mama, Sally, Nanay Claire, and DFJ's mom, we celebrated you today with a delicious breakfast that we would have made for you if we were all together:

sweet and savory crepes

SWEET: apple+banana+honey+cinnamon+vanilla

SAVORY: butter+tomato+mushroom+alfalfa sprouts

don't forget the basil and No Woman cheese

To my beautiful Mama… we have not seen each other in almost four years and I miss you every day. I wish we lived closer to each other instead of a thousand miles away… Someday, I will manhandle you and drag you on a plane to come stay with me and see what my life is like over here. We will cook together, go to yoga classes together, take long walks, go on hikes, go shopping, and get on each other’s nerves at the end of the day (just kidding, or not!). Ma, there are so many things I want to thank you for… but most of all I thank you for loving me always, always, always (even when I was a very unlovable teenager), for teaching me how to be strong and to stand on my own, and for always reminding me to work hard. I am who I am because of you.

To Sally… thank you for all your love and support through the years. I have known you since I started understanding what my mother was saying to me and you have always been the angel godmother to my family back home. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to start anew in this promising country. I am forever grateful to you and Bill for helping me get to where I am now. Many times I find myself daydreaming of the days I spent living with you… those were very special times in my life that I will always cherish. Thank you for being my family here! 

Fast forward a day... now it's Monday:

Happy Food Matters Project Monday my friends! This week’s recipe, Bruschetta, Rethought, was chosen by Laura of chef laura at home. To see Mark Bittman’s original recipe, visit Chef Laura’s beautiful blog. Thank you for choosing a great, versatile recipe Laura! I definitely had fun coming up with different toppings for my bruschetta. To see other brilliant bruschetta ideas, check out what the other FMP members came up with at our website.  

First of all, I have to admit that I did not closely follow Bittman’s directions for preparing the bruschetta. I cut my bread into thin slices, rubbed raw garlic on both sides, toasted them in the oven at 400 degrees F for a few minutes (just until the bread felt warm ), then dropped teeny droplets of olive oil on one side. Second of all, please pardon me for promising to share my recipes later, I have been sick for the past three days and just started recovering today.

This morning, I made my own Nut Whole Wheat Bread to use for the bruschetta… (recipe will be on the next post).

The first round of bruschetta was on the savory side… Greek Yogurt Lentil Bruschetta (lentil recipe will be posted sometime this week). The flavor combination in this lentil dish was new to me and everything together was refreshing and lovely.     

The second round was on the sweet side… Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschetta. One of my all-time favorite snacks or lunch is a piece of delicious bread with some fruit and cheese. So, it was just natural to put all three of my favorite food ingredients into a bruschetta. It is so simple: mix goat cheese with sliced grapes and put it on top of the toasted bread. Every bite is a delight! (Hey, that’s a rhyme!)    

Do come by again in the next few days to check out my Nut Whole Wheat Bread and Greek Yogurt Lentil recipes. Thank you so much for stopping by and hope you all have a great week!

Once again, to all the mother's out there: Happy Mother's Day to you! This day should be celebrated everyday because you all deserve nothing but the best.