Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ga Ga for Goat Cheese

Cinnamon. Pecan. Goat Cheese.

Oh, yes I did.

Yesterday I made myself a little snack that, incidentally, could also serve as an impressively festive appetizer for a holiday party.

I already disclosed the secret ingredient: Cinnamon-Pecan seasoned goat cheese. Holy yum. I mean, what doesn't go well with goat cheese? On second thought, don't answer that. Just know that cinnamon and pecans go with it really well.

On top of my goat cheese slather you'll find the festive portion of the dish: bright red, dried cranberries, and chopped pistachios. 'Tis the season for holiday color coordination.

Perhaps the best part of this little treat was the crazy accessibility of the Cinnamon-Pecan goat cheese. No, I didn't pick it up at a quaint little gourmet food shop. I didn't even find it at Giant Eagle. I discovered this little gem of a cheese at Aldi--the low-price, do-it-yourself mini grocery store. (PS--I also picked up a few rounds of seasonal Brie...oh goodness yes).

Adam returns from his manly hunting trip tomorrow, so I'll try to have a plate of these goat cheese dream boats waiting for him in the fridge. Let's just hope he's as ga ga for goat cheese as I am.

What's your favorite dish to take to a holiday party?

Pistachio & Cranberry Appetizers
(aka "Goat Cheese Dream Boats")

Ingredients:
  • one whole grain baguette, sliced
  • a little Smart Balance
  • Cinnamon-Pecan Goat Cheese (if you don't have any on hand, trust your foodie instinct and mix some up yourself!)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Chopped pistachios
Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spread the top of each baguette slice with a little Smart Balance (or other non-hydrogenated vegan margarine). Toast in oven for about 5 - 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Spread each slice with goat cheese and sprinkle with cranberries and pistachios.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vegan Bean Burgers

In the world of vegetarian sandwiches, bean burgers are a classic.

Supremely healthy, loaded with flavor, and begging to be loaded with toppings--who needs a meat-burger when you've got beans on your side?

Tonight's vegan bean burger is a Moosewood favorite in our house, seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and soy sauce. Bonus: instead of using bread crumbs as a thickener, the recipe calls for oats! I prepared 6 of these hearty patties last night, with the intent of crumbling one over my lunch salad each day this week. What did I do with the extra one?

Enjoyed it burger-style for dinner, of course!

I kept up tonight's vegan theme by going cheese-less and topping my burger with tomatoes, spinach, avocado, mustard, and ketchup. (As a side note, if you don't mind the whole cheese factor, try my Greek White Bean Burgers...they've got feta stirred right into the mix!).

Enough bean-talk--let's get eating.

Vegan Bean Burgers

I discovered this well-seasoned bean burger recipe a few years ago, and it's been one of my go-to classics ever since. Super simple, lots of fiber, and delightfully delicious!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • a dash of olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 - 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Two 15 oz. cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP ketchup
  • 1 - 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • Burger fixins' : tomato, spinach or lettuce, avocado, pickle
Directions:
1) Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add carrots, chili powder, and cumin, and cook for an additional 3- 4 minutes.

2) In a large bowl, mash the beans. Add the mustard, soy sauce, ketchup, and sauteed veggies. Mix in the oats, and season with pepper.

3) Form the bean mixture into 6 - 8 patties. Heat a little olive oil in the skillet over medium heat, and cook the patties for about 4 - 5 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned.

4) To serve: Enjoy burger-style with all your favorite toppings. Or, crumble over a salad of spinach, avocado, tomato, toasted pine nuts, and your favorite dressing.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chocolate Bread...Forgotten


Friends, I have a bit of a problem today.

My problem comes in the form of Monet's rich, moist, milk chocolate-studded chocolate bread.

I know what you're thinking: "Kylie--That's just the kind of problem I'd like to have!"

Under normal circumstances I would completely agree with you.

This bread, however, was intended for my in-laws. Adam headed North early this morning for a few days of male bonding with his dad. You know--hanging out in the woods in sub-freezing temperatures, hunting for furry, defenseless creatures, coming inside occasionally for a beer and a game of darts.

Can you smell the testosterone?

While I have no regrets about being excluded from this annual bonding ritual, I do miss visiting his parents, who we only get to visit a few times a year. Since I won't be seeing them until Christmas, I wanted to send warm wishes (and a little WV love) in the form of baked treats this week.

Enter Monet's magnificent bread.


The bread was baked, sliced, and neatly packaged. Over-flowing with milk chocolate chips, and screaming to have a slather of peanut butter on each slice, I placed the travel-ready bread on the table to be packed in the car with Adam's hunting gear.

Naturally, about an hour after Adam's departure, I noticed the bread sitting on the table.

Oh, dear.

I had a slice (or two) with my lunch, and I owe Monet many thanks for the recipe--I'll definitely be making mini loaves of it to go with my holiday cookie plates.

But I can't hide my disappointment with forgetting to pack it. Looks like I'll have to make double the treats at Christmas to make up for the forgotten bread :)


Dark Chocolate Bread
(recipe from Monet at Anecdotes and Apple Cores)


This bread is just wonderful--especially with Monet's recommendation of peanut butter on top. The best part though, is the milk chocolate chips sprinkled throughout.


Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 - 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 - 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

  • Directions:

    1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

    2) In a large bowl combine dry ingredients and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry while your electric mixer is turn on medium-low. Mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips

    3) Bake for approximately 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (as a rule, I always start checking quick breads about 8 minutes early, just to be safe!).

    4) For serving, spread your slice with natural peanut butter

    *A variation I might try for my Christmas loaves: 1 tsp. of mint extract into the batter, mint chocolate chips, and a drizzle of melted mint chocolate chips on top.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    The Grill Sergeant


    Since childhood, I can recall my dad taking on cooking duty for a few select menu items.

    He always wore the same brown apron--it read "Grill Sergeant" across the front--and he moved carefully and methodically through the kitchen, preparing food with a precision I rarely witnessed. (I was more accustomed to watching the cooking style demonstrated by my mom: a fast-moving combo of the Iron Chef and Rachael Ray. Don't mess with the Hungry Spoon Mama in her kitchen. She means business.)

    The list of foods my dad has mastered is brief, albeit powerful in the man world:
    • Various meats prepared on the grill
    • French Toast
    • Bacon
    • the Thanksgiving turkey
    • Stovetop oatmeal
    • Chex Snack Mix
    I assume that most men would gladly survive on these items alone if given the option.

    Today, we'll focus on the Chex Snack Mix. Growing up, this treat was only prepared between the day after Thanksgiving and New Year's Day--it's a strictly holiday food in the Hungry Spoon's household-of-origin. And it's only prepared by my rockin' dad.

    With his grill sergeant apron, and his meticulous nature, my dad single-handedly holds the power of signaling the beginning of the holiday season for my family...one pan of Chex Mix at a time.

    I stopped by my parents' house yesterday afternoon to take advantage of their fridge full of leftovers, and, much to my delight, a roasting pan full of Chex mix greeted me in the kitchen.

    Ah, the holiday season has officially begun.

    While there are endless variations to this basic recipe, the traditional version is simple and classic. Set a few bowl-fuls out at your holiday party, or package them up in recycled jars for holiday gifts. Warning: this stuff is addictive. Seriously.

    What signals the beginning of the holiday season for you?

    Dad's Holiday Chex Mix
    (adapted from this Chex Mix recipe)

    I placed small bowls of this snack mix throughout our house for our holiday party last year--there was barely a crumb left by the end of the evening.

    Ingredients:
    • 3 cups corn Chex
    • 3 cups rice Chex
    • 3 cups wheat Chex
    • 3 cups Cheerios
    • 1 - 2 cups pretzels
    • 1 cup peanuts
    • 6 TBSP butter
    • 2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 - 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

    2) Combine cereals, pretzels, and nuts in a large roasting pan. In a saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add in seasonings. Pour butter mixture over cereal and stir to coat evenly.

    3) Bake snack mix for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

    *Fun gift idea: I like to fill recycled nut butter and salsa jars with snack mix, personalize the lids, and add them to food gift baskets/boxes for neighbors and friends during the holidays.




    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Kitchen Cabinet Finds

    On Tuesday evening I got the urge to clean out kitchen cabinets.

    You know how it happens: you're searching for that single obscure item you know is hidden somewhere in your stash (in my case, a pouch of dried apricots). Before you know it, you've emptied the entire contents of your cabinet onto the counter, and you're re-discovering ingredients you had long-forgotten you purchased.

    After discarding an expired box of prunes and an ancient can of sweetened condensed milk, I was left with the good fortune of two cabinet items I didn't even know I had: a bag of pistachios (score!) and a jar of roasted red peppers (super lucky).

    Now the fun begins--what recipe could I create with these bonus delicacies hidden in my cabinet? When all else fails, I turn to a hearty grain as a base, add some unique mix-ins, and stir in a homemade vinaigrette. Voila! A healthy lunch for the next day was ready to go.

    As a side note, I hope you all had a beautiful food-filled Thanksgiving! I enjoyed plenty of garlic mashed potatoes, apple-onion stuffing, sweet potatoes with pecans, and Chocolate-Pecan Pie. The best part of the day, however, was spending it surrounded by my family.

    What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory from this year?

    Bulgur with Roasted Red Pepper, Pistachios, and Cilantro Pesto
    (Inspired by a Cooking Light recipe)

    This is a super light and healthy vegan salad. Pack in tupperware for your lunch at work, or bring it to a holiday potluck--it's red and green colors will fit right in :)

    Salad Ingredients:
    • 1 cup uncooked bulgur
    • 2 cups low-sodium broth (veggie or chicken)
    • a little olive oil
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
    • 1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
    • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
    Cilantro Pesto Ingredients:
    • 1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
    • 3 TBSP fresh, chopped parsley
    • 3 TBSP olive oil
    • 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • a dash of salt
    • ground black pepper to taste
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    Directions:
    1) In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Add bulgur, remove from heat, cover saucepan and set aside.

    2) In a small skillet, heat a dash of olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and saute until just softened, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

    3) Place all of the cilantro pesto ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth, and season to taste.

    4) In a large bowl, combine bulgur, onion, and bell peppers. Stir in pesto until evenly coated, then stir in pistachios.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie


    Friends, I wait all year to make this pie.

    All. year.

    Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie: The ultimate in Thanksgiving decadence.

    This pie is so divine that I'm continually amazed at just how easy it is to make: Spread chocolate and pecans in pie shell. Mix sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Pour liquid into pie shell. Bake. Eat. Hide the rest from your family. (Oops! Did I just say that out loud?).

    As a quick side note, I should mention that I had never tasted any version of pecan pie until I was in graduate school and first experimented with baking and cooking. Pumpkin was the prevailing T-Day sweet in our house, with the apple pie making an occasional cameo appearance. My mom probably feared that baking one of these babies would foster a dangerous addiction that I would never shake.

    I first stumbled upon a recipe for Pecan Pie in Cooking Light magazine--it was for a "lighter" Oatmeal Pecan Pie. After baking it in the pitiful mini-kitchenette of my one room apartment at the time, I instantly became a believer in the Pie o' Pecans. While the light version I initially made was a wonderful and tasty starting point, I've since learned that adding more calories in the name of dessert decadence never hurt anyone. In fact, in only brings happiness, right?

    Thus, I've recently turned to Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie. It's simple, rich, and turns out perfectly every time. It's literally a fail-proof pie. I use my perfect pie crust recipe from NPR's The Splendid Table, but feel free to cut time and use a pre-made crust if needed.

    I topped this guy with a dollop of fresh whipped cream...you know, to cut the sweetness :)

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! What's your favorite T-Day dish?

    Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie
    (recipe from the Food Network's Emeril Lagasse)

    Impress the family with this perfect pecan pie at your Thanksgiving table. Or Christmas table. Or July 4th table. Or random Tuesday-I'm-Hungry--for-Pie table. Remember: I wait all. year. long. to make this delectable dessert.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 - 1/2 cups pecan halves
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 unbaked pie shell (I use Lynne Rossetto Kasper's perfect pie crust recipe from NPR's "The Splendid Table")
    • 4 eggs
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup corn syrup
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • a dash of salt
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    2) Evenly spread chocolate chips and pecans in the bottom of the pie shell.

    3) In a bowl, whisk the eggs, sugars, corn syrup and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 50 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool completely before cutting and serving (I recommend making this pie the night before serving).


    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Happy 100th

    Tonight and tomorrow will be devoted to baking and cooking for the T-Day feast at my parent's house on Thursday. I can't bear to photograph the superb Chocolate-Pecan Pie by my pathetic night-time kitchen lighting (it just doesn't do it justice), so your pie recipe will have to wait 'til morning.

    Instead, today's post (written in between rolling pie crust and chopping sweet potatoes), will highlight my favorite Hungry Spoon recipes. Why, you ask, am I copping out on the biggest food week of the year? Because, friends, today marks my 100th post.

    How do I feel about hitting the hot 100? This about sums it up:

    If you need five more recipes to make before 2010 ends, please add these to your list.

    1) Bulgur-Apple-Almond Salad: Super simple, lots of crunch, awesomely healthy (pictured above). Undoubtedly this is my favorite bulgur recipe--it was also my first post :)

    2) Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting: Anything that comes from Joy the Baker is a winner. Joy literally made me a winner when I entered these puppies in our county fair. (The county fair? I know, totally dorky. But don't expect me to be sewing a quilt anytime soon.).

    3) Garlic & Pine Nut Bean Dip with Homemade Flat Bread: Oh goodness. I initially made the flatbread for a burrito recipe. When we discovered how magnificent it was all on its lonesome, the burrito recipe was scrapped and Garlic & Pine Nut Bean dip was born. Make it. Eat it. Love it.

    4) Barbeque Tempeh Sloppy Joe Sandwiches: It's no secret that hearty, sloppy fork n' knife vege-head sandwiches top my list of favorite entrees. Within the category of favorite entree sandwiches, the Tempeh Sloppy Joe wins first place, hands down.

    5) Pumpkin Cookies: As noted in the post, my family was on the brink of a collective food coma after eating these. What can I say? I have a shameless, unbridled enthusiasm for pumpkin cookies.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, dear readers! I love sharing recipes with you, and I'm truly grateful for each visit you make to the Hungry Spoon kitchen.


    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Apple Crisp Snack

    This week's recipes lack the hearty-vegetarian-full-meal quality you may be used to. With Thanksgiving a mere 3 days away, the Hungry Spoon kitchen is relying on safe n' simple dinner options (tonight: Butternut Squash Risotto), so more time can be devoted to Thursday's feast preparation.


    And a feast it will be. Expect a Chocolate-Pecan Pie recipe coming your way very, very soon.

    In the meantime, I'll keep up with yesterday's snack/healthy dessert trend (Banana Soft Serve anyone?), and provide you with another uber-healthy dessert/snack to munch on: Baked Apples.

    I first made a pan of this Apple Crisp look-alike last month during a lasagna celebration with my friend Alli. I quickly discovered that it doubled as an after-work snack (we all know I can't get enough of those), and it triples as a breakfast oatmeal mix-in. I can bake a pan on Sunday, and it lasts all week. Seriously awesome.

    How 'bout them apples?

    The only downside? I didn't measure a thing. Nope, just went with my foodie instincts and pulled the whole "pinch of this, splash of that" act.

    Tonight, trust your own foodie instinct and whip up a solid batch of baked apples to get you through the holiday eating splurge.

    Baked Apple Crisp
    (A Hungry Spoon unmeasured original)

    As with all of my measure-less recipes, feel free to get creative. I imagine dried cranberries would be a great addition, as would pears and maybe even some orange zest?

    Ingredients:
    • 6 apples, thinly sliced
    • a dash of brown sugar (just a dash!)
    • Lots o' cinnamon
    • Sprinkling of nutmeg
    • Oats (about 1/2 cup)
    • a little Smart Balance or non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (about 1 - 2 TBSP)
    • Optional: fat free frozen vanilla yogurt
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the apple slices with a the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 inch square pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Mix the oats a little Smart Balance, and a dash of brown sugar if you'd like :) Sprinkle over the apples and bake until tender, about 30 minutes or so. If you're looking for a full-out dessert, top with fat free vanilla frozen yogurt.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Soft Serve Surprise


    The picture below features my breakfast from this morning. What does it look like to you?

    Soft serve chocolate ice cream with a little dollop of peanut butter? Or perhaps chocolate pudding with nut butter garnish? A chocolate smoothie in a bowl?

    Mmmmmmm....tasty.

    Would you believe that little glass dish contains only three ingredients: Banana, unsweetened cocoa powder, and all-natural roasted peanut butter (only one ingredient in the peanut butter: roasted peanuts!).

    I know. It's amazing, isn't it? I first read about "Banana Soft Serve" in the blog world this summer. Everyone raved about the wondrous mystery of placing frozen banana chunks in a food processor, whirring for a minute or two, and opening the lid to find what appeared to be soft serve ice cream.

    I was skeptical at first. I mean, come on: Don't frozen bananas thrown into a food processor simply produce...food-processed bananas?

    A few weeks ago I put my curiosities to rest and set out to experiment with this recipe. One frozen banana and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder went into the processor and, lo and behold! Banana soft serve came out. Garnish with a dollop of roasted nut butter and we're in business.

    This delicious dish has served as my dessert many evenings since I discovered it, but, as evidenced this morning, it makes a great breakfast treat, or after-work snack as well. If you're feeling especially decadent, throw in your favorite DQ Blizzard mix-ins--chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, etc. (although, if I'm in the mood for those types of treats, I'd rather just bake a real dessert, you know?)

    At any rate, I'm now a Banana Soft Serve Believer. I'm on the bandwagon. It's never felt so good to follow the crowd.

    Banana Soft Serve
    (recipe from food bloggers everywhere)

    This treat is wonderful as a snack, breakfast side, or for dessert when you need a break from all the holiday treats that will soon surround you.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 banana, cut into chunks and frozen solid
    • 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
    • Optional: a little nut butter for garnish
    Directions:
    Place frozen banana chunks in a food processor. Process for at least a minute, whirring until it appears whipped and takes on the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Add in cocoa powder and process until just combined. Enjoy with a dollop of nut butter if you so choose :)

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Ganache Goodness


    Girls' Night = great female company, plenty of food, and bubbly beverages.

    Hard to beat, isn't it?

    Tonight's girls' night, hosted by my friend Kate, will certainly bring some much-needed relaxation. Hot tub included. We're all looking forward to escaping the hustle and bustle of town, as Kate lives buried in the snow-capped mountains of neighboring Preston County. (I'm only slightly embarrassed that I just used the phrase "hustle and bustle." I'm definitely 26 going on 75).

    I'll be making both a sweet and savory contribution to tonight's festivities, and since we all need more chocolate + peanut butter in our lives, let's begin with the sweet: Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies.

    Brace yourselves. Dangerously awesome cookie recipe to follow.

    As melt-in-your-mouth luscious as these sandwich cookies sound, multiply that times 400 and you might come close to how delicious they are. The ganache is a simple filling made with fine milk chocolate, peanut butter, and cream. Does it get any better? Yep: The cookies are a slightly crisp, very rich, and viciously good.

    This recipe comes for Epicurious, famous for their gourmet recipes and features from Bon Appetit and Gourmet. When it comes to desserts, they won't steer you wrong.

    I'd offer you a cookie, but I doubt there will be any left by the end of the night.

    What's your favorite girls' night culinary indulgence?

    Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies
    (recipe from Epicurious)

    As noted above, these little sandwich cookies are dangerously good. Let's face it: anything with ganache is hard to turn down. You could sandwich ganache between two mushrooms and I just might eat it.

    Cookie Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP brown sugar
    • 6 TBSP butter
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup canola oil
    • 1 egg
    • 1 - 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 - 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
    Ganache Ingredients:
    • 3 oz. fine milk chocolate
    • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 2 TBSP powdered sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 6 TBSP whipping cream
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.

    2) Beat powdered sugar, brown sugar, and butter together until smooth. Add peanut butter and beat until well-combined. Beat in oil. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Inn a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat dry ingredients into batter. Stir in chocolate chips.

    3) Spoon rounded tablespoon-fuls of cookie dough onto baking sheet. I shaped mine into neat little circles since I knew they'd be sandwich cookies :) Bake for 10 - 12 minutes (mine were done at 11 or 12 minutes), or until puffed and just lightly browned around the edges. Allow to cool on wire racks completely.

    4) To prepare the ganache, place the chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the cream is boiling, pour it over the other ingredients and stir until completely melted (I had to microwave the mixture for 10 additional seconds to smooth out the lumps of chocolate). Refrigerate the ganache until spreadable, about one hour.

    5) To make these splendid sandwiches, spread one tablespoon of ganache on a cookie and top with another cookie. Promptly eat. Repeat.


    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Health Loaf Love


    This week I was craving a treat that Adam begrudgingly refers to as a "Health Loaf." Translation: A low-fat, low-sugar quick bread loaded with fiber, fruit, and nuts.


    Needless to say Health Loaves don't fall at the top of the man's favorite foods list. He's more inclined to opt for cheesecake.


    Me, on the other hand? I LOVE a big ol' slice of Health Loaf (although, I prefer to call them by their true names--e.g., Pumpkin-Walnut Bread). Perfect for a breakfast side dish or a snack, a slice of healthy quick bread satisfies my craving for a baked treat without doing the damage of Metabolism Man's cheesecake.


    One of the first places I turn for baking inspriation is Joy's blog. This lady has it going on in the kitchen. Last week she shared a heavenly recipe for Apple-Cranberry-Pecan-Everything Bread. This baby was moist, rich in flavor, and screamed from the pan "I taste like the holidays!"

    I managed to morph Joy's wonderful recipe into a tasty, filling Health Loaf that even Adam enjoyed. (Although, his enjoyment might have something to do with the Nutella he smothered on his slice.). To health-i-fy the bread, I almost completely eliminated the oil, cut the sugar in half, and increased the amount of apples, among other changes. I like each to eat my slices plain n' simple, with a little spread of Smart Balance.

    Today, let's raise our glasses to all the Health Loaves out there. They deserve a little lovin' every now and then.

    What's your favorite quick bread to make? If you have a favorite Health Loaf recipe, please post the link below!

    Pumpkin-Apple-Cranberry-Pecan Bread
    (adapted from Joy's recipe)

    This fruit n' nut loaded bread has completely hit the spot for me this week. Lots of spices, apple chunks, and toasted pecans lend it the perfect holiday flavor...in health loaf form :)

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I cut the sugar in half! Tastes perfect to me, but if you prefer it sweeter, by all means go for the full cup. But remember folks...it is a health bread.)
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp. allspice
    • 1 cup pumpkin
    • 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt (I topped off the 1/2 measuring cup with canola oil though--probably about 2 TBSP total)
    • 3 - 4 TBSP maple syrup
    • 3 TBSP water
    • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (MUST toast 'em!)
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 2 apples, diced
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

    2) In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine pumpkin, yogurt, maple syrup, and water. Gently add to dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Fold in pecans, cranberries, and apples.

    3) Bake for approximately 60 minutes (I think mine was done at about 56 minutes), or until lightly browned and firm. This guy has a strange texture that I love :) Not a moist crumb like non-healthified breads, but rather a dense, smooth texture.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Bell Pepper-French Fry Impostors

    Last week I curled up on the couch during one of my lunch breaks and watched an episode of "30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray."

    Wrapped up all cozy in a blanket, I watched Rachael make Baked Chili Fries with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. Typically, I would barely eye an episode like this. I'm not a fan of hot peppers, and I've never been wild about Ranch (yes, I know: it's completely un-American of me). Plus, even with the word "baked" tacked onto the beginning, "Chili Fries with Ranch Dressing" doesn't exactly sound like something that will be gracing the cover of Clean Eating Magazine anytime soon.

    However, this was no ordinary day. A strange wave of baked-chili-fry fever came over me, and I haven't been able to shake it since. I've literally been fantasizing about this dish. Someone help me--I need some baked fries (or some cowbell) to cure my fever.

    Tonight, fantasy became reality when I made them, ate them, and promptly added them to my list of favorite french fry impostors. We used green bell pepper instead of chilis (what can I say? I'm a hot-foods wimp). These guys were to-die-for! And no wonder I've never liked Ranch dressing--I've never had it homemade. My goodness. We gobbled these suckers up in no time.

    Rachael made them as part of a tail-gating sports party theme, but you certainly don't need to. I watched Glee while I ate my fries...can you think of anything less athletic?

    French Fry Impostors, here we come!

    Baked Bell Pepper Fries with Buttermilk Ranch
    (adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe)

    Despite their healthy-baked cooking method, these guys will still cure your fried food craving. And the ranch dressing is just not optional. Unless of course you decide to make some blue cheese dressing, in which case I would totally approve.

    Pepper Ingredients:
    • 2 green bell peppers, sliced
    • 1 cup flour, divided
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 TBSP dijon mustard
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs
    • 1/3 cup Asiago cheese, grated
    • plenty of ground black pepper
    • salt to taste
    Ranch Dressing Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup non-fat or low-fat buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
    • 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
    • 1 - 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
    • 3 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tsp. (or more to taste) dried dill weed
    • 3 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet (or two) with cooking spray and set aside.

    2) Set up three plates/bowl: one plate with flour only, one bowl with the egg, dijon mustard, and 2 TBSP flour (whisked well), and one plate with the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper mixed together.

    3) For each slice of bell pepper, first dip it in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the bread crumb mixture. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until browned.

    4) To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl.

    5) Dip those tasted pepper slices into the dressing, and say "thank you" to dear Rachael Ray :)

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Stuffed Food is Mighty Tasty


    What's better than really good food?

    Try really good food, stuffed with more really good food.

    Case in point:


    Chocolate cookies stuffed with peanut butter (Please pass me one. Or five.)

    Stuffed Sweet Potato Pockets (I need more of these in my life).

    Today: Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage, adapted from a Moosewood Collective Recipe.

    Mind. Blowing. Check out the unique variety of ingredients loaded into this baby:
    • Savory: onion, bell pepper, carrot, soy sauce
    • Sweet: apple, honey, raisins (yes!)
    • Crunchy: toasted walnuts
    • Awesome: ricotta cheese
    A family friend passed this recipe along to me, which he located in an old Moosewood Cookbook. I'm super grateful. Because they're super good. We enjoyed ours tonight with a simple side salad.

    What's your favorite "stuffed" food?

    Stuffed Cabbage

    These guys are nothing like the traditional salty, meaty stuffed cabbage. The sweetness of the honey, apple, and raisins balance beautifully with the soy sauce, veggies, and crunchy walnuts. You could serve yours on a bed of rice, but who needs rice when you've got delicious food, stuffed with more delicious food?

    Ingredients:
    • 1 head of cabbage
    • 1 carrot, chopped
    • 1 bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 2 apples, diced
    • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
    • One 15 oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 1 TBSP honey
    • 2 TBSP reduced-sodium soy-sauce
    • ground black pepper to taste
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray.

    2) In a large pot of water, pre-boil cabbage until just tender, about 10 - 15 minutes. Drain and remove 6 - 8 large leaves for stuffing.

    3) Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, apple, carrot, and garlic. Saute until softened and lightly browned--about 8 - 9 minutes.

    4) In a large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture with the ricotta, toasted walnuts, honey, soy sauce, and pepper.

    5) Spoon the filling (about 1/4 cup) into each individual cabbage leaf and wrap tightly. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 - 18 minutes.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Spanakopita...in Rare Form


    The first time I tried Spanakopita I was visiting my girlfriends for a weekend getaway in Chicago. Since they all have experience with big city living in one state or another, and I have none at all, they love exposing me to the best that city life has to offer.

    (To be honest, I think they just get a kick out of my wide-eyed state of constant amazement: "You mean there's a train in the middle of the city? Stores that just sell...gourmet popcorn only? An H & M Clothing store right downtown?" Oh Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.).

    But I digress. The real juice in this story is in the Spanikopita I had at an incredible little Greek restaurant in Chicago. Could you eat a piece of heaven with a fork? Could your head melt with pure food satisfaction? Could you fly me to Greece so I could eat Spanakopita for dinner every day?

    When I stumbled upon Ina Garten's recipe for Dinner Spanakopitas in my new Back to Basics cookbook, I knew I had to give them a try. But not without plenty of changes, of course.

    Ina's recipe calls for puff pastry--obviously a delicious, buttery, flaky option that would yield delightful Spanikopita results. However, I decided to go with a healthier and more economical option by using up a leftover package of soy eggroll wrappers I had in the fridge.

    The creative results? Spanikopita Egg Rolls (to be fair, it's not really an egg roll. More like Spanakopita filling baked into eggroll wrappers). I imagine these would be adorable even smaller, wrapped in wonton wrappers.

    These guys sure hit the spot--with feta, spinach, and pine nuts as the base, I got all the spinach-feta fill I needed, minus the heavy load of pastry.

    Are you a big-city person, or small-town gal?

    Spanakopita Egg Rolls
    (Ina Garten inspired this Hungry Spoon creation)

    This is a dish in disguise: On the outside--egg roll. On the inside--a little bite of Greek heaven.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • a little olive oil
    • 6 egg roll wrappers
    • 10 oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed and patted dry
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (approximately--just eyeball it!)
    • 5 oz. package of reduced-fat feta cheese
    • 3 TBSP toasted pine nuts
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

    2) In a small skillet, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened and lightly browned (about 4 - 5 minutes).

    3) Combine all ingredients (except the egg roll wrappers!) in a large bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.

    4) Spoon about 1/3 cup of spinach mixture into the center of an egg roll wrapper. Fold up on each short side, then roll the wrapper up (like a burrito). Place seam side down on baking sheet, and repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. Lightly spray the wrappers with cooking spray.

    5) Bake for 15 minutes. Flip egg rolls over (the bottoms should be lightly browned) and return to the oven to bake on the opposite side for 3 minutes.

    6) Enjoy! These babies are good enough to eat plain, but a dash of marinara sauce for dipping might be fun, too.


    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Move Over, Pumpkin Pie...Gooey Cake Has Arrived


    Sometimes you've just got to put clean-eating on the shelf, and indulge in those decadent dishes that are reserved for the holiday season.

    Enter Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.

    My friend Lisa introduced me to the world of Gooey Butter Cake a few years ago, and since then the pumpkin version has been out-shining the standard pumpkin pie at our annual Thanksgiving feast (Sorry, P-Pie fans. This guy puts those basic pies to shame).

    The recipe I use comes straight from Queen of Southern Cooking herself: Ms. Paula Deen. With Paula at the helm, there's obviously no way around the butter-rific nature of this dessert. I mean, it is called Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake. And I do apologize for the use of a boxed cake mix--I'm not a fan of making desserts that start with a box. However, I'm more than happy to set aside my boycott for this over-the-top holiday dessert.

    It's worth it. I promise.

    Close your eyes, pull the cake mix off the grocery store shelf, and picture that gooey, buttery, pumpkin-y piece of goodness you'll be enjoying in a few hours.

    This dessert is perfect for holiday parties, festivities at work, or as a creative twist on Thanksgiving Day dessert. For an after-dinner dessert at a sit-down meal, serve each piece with a fork (it's gooey). For party situations, I like to cut it in mini squares and place each square in a foil-lined cupcake liner.

    Since I wanted you all to have this recipe prior to your T-Day meal planning, I thought I should make it today so you, too, can try it before you decide to add it to your Thanksgiving menu.

    So as you can see, I made Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake today for your benefit. No benefit to me at all. Nope--I wasn't craving a piece for myself. Not one bit.

    Who are we kidding? I'm just grateful I have a blog to use as an excuse to make these two weeks early :)

    See ya later, pumpkin pie. Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake is on the scene now. And she means business.

    Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

    If you're not up for the pumpkin version, check out Paula's website for tons of variations you can make--chocolate-peanut butter, lemon, vanilla, pineapple, and much more!

    Crust Ingredients:
    • 1 package of vanilla cake mix
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup of butter, melted
    Filling Ingredients:
    • 1 package of cream cheese, softened (reduced fat cream cheese works fine)
    • 1 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz.)
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup butter, melted (yep! I told you this was a butter-rific recipe)
    • 3 - 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. nutmeg
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray.

    2) Combine the crust ingredients with an electric mixer. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and set aside.

    3) Beat the cream cheese and pumpkin together until smooth. Add the vanilla and butter and blend until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and beat batter until smooth. Pour filling over crust and bake for 40 - 50 minutes (mine is usually done around 45 minutes). The cake will not be set, and a toothpick will not come out clean! (hence the gooey part).

    4) Allow to cool on a wire rack completely, then refrigerate for at least a few hours before serving.

    5) You can go back to clean eating tomorrow. For now, just enjoy this heavenly ride :)

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas


    The Hungry Spoon kitchen is typically closed for business on Friday nights. It's date night for us (dinner + ice cream), and let's be honest: a tornado couldn't stand between me and an ice cream date.

    Today, however, we're switching things up a bit. My craving for Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas has been so loud the past couple days, we've actually re-scheduled our dinner date for Saturday so I can silence my demanding stomach (the ice cream date remains tonight though--my yearning for cake batter ice cream never leaves).

    This recipe will rock your socks off, friends. And it doesn't even come from a fancy-schmancy or highly-acclaimed cookbook. A few years ago I found it in a free pamphlet published by the American Heart Association, and it's the only enchilada recipe I've used since.

    If you're looking for a flavorful, filling enchilada with a truly stellar nutritional profile, you've found your match.

    You might even like it enough to re-schedule date night :)

    Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas
    (a recipe from The American Heart Association)

    Say good-bye to the creamy, sauce-laden enchiladas you'll find in a restaurant. This recipe will leave your taste buds begging for more, and your body will thank you, too!

    Ingredients:
    • 9 oz. fresh spinach leaves, stemmed and chopped
    • 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • a little olive oil
    • 3/4 cup fresh salsa
    • 1/4 tsp. cumin
    • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
    • 5 whole wheat tortilla shells
    • low-fat sour cream
    • reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
    • fresh tomatoes, diced
    Directions:
    1) In a large pot, bring several quarts of water to a boil. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute. Drain well and press out extra liquid.

    2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small skillet, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper; cook for 3 minutes and remove from heat.

    3) Combine spinach, green pepper, onion, beans, chili powder, cumin, and salsa in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into the center of each whole wheat tortilla shell. Roll up enchilada-style, and place seam-side down in a 13 x 9 pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes.

    4) Remove enchiladas from oven and lightly brush with sour cream and additional salsa. Sprinkle some cheese on top, and return to the oven for 5 additional minutes.

    5) Serve with chopped tomatoes, extra salsa, and chopped avocado (we didn't have any avocado tonight, but I sure wish we did!).

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    B-Sprouts: Re-Mixed from the 1980's Version


    Did anyone else have less-than-desirable experiences with brussel sprouts as a child?

    Although my mom truly rocks at most everything she creates in the kitchen, I have to admit that brussel spouts just weren't her strong point. Those mini cabbage heads were boiled in water and served straight from the pot just as they were. Needless to say it wasn't the most popular side dish at the dinner table.

    When I brought this topic up with a few of my friends though, I found that perhaps the unpalatable brussel sprout issue wasn't mom, but rather it was the prevailing method of cooking B-sprouts at the time. My girlfriends indicated they had the similar sprout experiences when they were growing up.

    Moms: We don't blame you. You were victims of the time period. Let's move forward though: It's time to redeem yourselves.

    I've found in recent years that I LOVE roasted brussel sprouts. Seasoned just right and slightly crispy on the outside, they're a wonderfully seasonal dish this time of year. While they're delightful on their own (as we had them for dinner tonight), they also make a great add-in to a meal-sized salad.

    Tonight we tossed in a chopped sweet potato when we roasted our brussel spouts (leftover from Tuesday's soup). After the veggies roasted, Adam made a homemade Honey Mustard Garlic dressing to drizzle over the top. Bonus: The dressing is almost completely fat-free (and you'd never know it from the taste). It was definitely as good as it sounds--incredibly scrumptious!

    Today, re-discover your love for brussel sprouts. Mom: This one's for you :)

    Have you discovered a love for a food that you didn't like as a child?

    Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Honey Mustard Garlic Dressing

    Divine. That's all there is to say about this recipe. Simply divine.

    Veggie Ingredients:
    • 1 pound of brussel sprouts, halved
    • Optional: 3 (very) small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • a little drizzle of olive oil
    • a little salt and pepper
    Honey Mustard Garlic Dressing:
    • 4 - 5 cloves of garlic, minced and sauteed in a tiny bit of olive oil (just to soften the bite of the raw garlic)
    • 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
    • 2 TBSP honey
    • 3 TBSP cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup apple cider
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • ground black pepper to taste
    Directions:
    1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat a baking pan with cooking spray.

    2) Drizzle just a little olive oil over the brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. Toss to coat, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place veggies on baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and tender (stir the veggies after 20 minutes).

    3) To prepare the dressing, whisk together the ingredients in a small bowl.

    4) Drizzle a little dressing over individual servings of veggies.