Friday, April 29, 2011

Lentils: A Hero in Disguise

I think lentils must be the unsung heroes of the legume world.

These little pods are truly a nutritional powerhouse. For every cup of lentils, you're packing 16 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein.

It's like music to my fiber-lovin' heart.

Plus, lentils are super versatile. You can use them as a base in veggie burgers, toss some into a pasta dish, or jazz 'em up for a lovely side dish.

Unfortunately, I feel like these guys are often forgotten in the vast world of beans, legumes, and other vegetarian protein sources. Their blase color leaves much to be desired, am I right?

But friends, don't judge a book by its cover. It's time to get over the boring lentil look and look inside for the all the wonders this rockin' legume has to offer.

My friend
Diane recently emailed me a recipe for her family's Favorite Lentils--they're cooked in veggie broth and spices, and seasoned with a sherry-mustard vinaigrette. Seemed simple enough.

So I made the lentils. I ate the lentils. I promptly fell to my knees and shouted "Hallelujah for lentils!"
This is the best lentil dish I've ever eaten, friends.

Need proof? I actually made them
again the next night. I repeated the recipe the very next day. We just couldn't get enough of Diane's fabulous lentils.

Now it's your turn. Make, eat, and shout "Hallelujah for lentils!"

Warm Lentils with Sherry Vinaigrette
(adapted from
Diane T.'s recipe)

  • 1 cup lentils
  • veggie broth
  • 3/4 tsp. - 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 - 2 stalks celery, finely diced
Vinaigrette Ingredients:
  • 3 TBSP sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 - 3 TBSP olive oil
1) Place lentils in a large pot and cover with veggie broth (about 3 cups). Add remaining lentil ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the liquid is mostly absorbed.

2) To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk ingredients together in a small bowl. When lentils are done cooking, pour vinaigrette on top and stir to combine.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Family Tradition

Bunny Cakes have made an annual appearance on my family's Easter table for as long as I can remember.

Every Easter, my mom, my sister, and I would make a Bunny Cake for each of our neighbors, plus the grandparents, as well as our own table. My sister and I would walk to each neighbor's house, most likely leaving a trail of green coconut and jelly beans behind us (I'm also assuming I had chocolate around my mouth--it was a semi-permanent look for me as a kid).

Bunny Cakes were frosted with only two distinct flavors at our house: Pink Frosting or Coconut Pecan. I was always a Coconut-Pecan girl, myself.

Ah, memories.

For the past few years, I've maintained the title of "Keeper of the Bunny Cake" for the family. I've upgraded from the Funfetti boxed mixes we used as a kid, to now making a classic vanilla cake recipe (known as the Dinette Cake) from Betty Crocker's old-school cookbook. For frosting, I use a basic buttercream with almond extract. In the words of Ina, How easy is that?

I asked Adam yesterday if I should make Bunny Cakes for all of our neighbors this year. He looked up from the pile of frosting-coated, coconut-caked dishes he was washing, and I knew it would be another year before Bunny Cakes made an appearance in our kitchen :)

Bunny Cakes

While I went with a classic white bunny for this year's cake, why not get creative with your Easter dessert centerpiece? Use strawberry, lemon, or even caramel frosting. Coat your bunny with coconut--or coat your bunny with chopped, toasted pecans. The sky is the limit in bunny decorating.

Dinette Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 - 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 - 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Other Bunny Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 recipe for your favorite frosting
  • jelly beans
  • coconut, tinted with green food coloring
  • large marshmallows
  • optional: chocolate chips
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 inch circular cake pan with cooking spray.

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine dry cake ingredients. Add milk, shortening, egg, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 - 60 seconds. Beat on medium-high speed for an additional 2 minutes.

3) Pour cake batter into pan and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place cake on a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 3o minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

4) To assemble the bunny body: Cut the cake into two equal halves. Generously frost one side of one of the cake halves. Sandwich the two cake halves together, frosting side in, and set the "cake sandwich" up (flat side down) on your serving platter. Frost the outside of the cake generously.

5) To make the bunny face: On one end of the cake, attach three large marshmallows in the shape of an upside down triangle. Cover generously with frosting. Affix two chocolate chips with frosting for the eyes, and a pink jelly bean for the nose. Cut ears out of paper. Attach one large marshmallow to the opposite end of the bunny for a tail.

6) Sprinkle green coconut and jelly beans around the bunny for serving.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yogurt Coffee Cake

When I got out of town for a few days, I have fairly accurate picture of what goes on in the house while I'm gone.

Single Man Mayem ensues.

Let me explain:

Netflix viewing is surely restricted to episodes of Entourage, Family Guy, and various manly action-thriller movies that involve explosions, guns, and large sums of money.

Internet news is limited to ESPN--hockey scores specifically.

Shaving? Who needs it.

And food? I could right a book on the diet of bachelors. I have no doubt there are a lot of fried potatoes, beer, and chocolate chip cookies on the menu.

Last week, I traveled out of town for the annual state Social Work conference. Prior to leaving, I did my wifely duty of preparing several dishes for Adam to eat in my absence. Although the man does at least 50% of the cooking in our house (if not more), I know that when I'm gone and Single Man Mahem occurs, his cooking skills go out the window...right along with his desire to tune into Grey's Anatomy with me.

For breakfast, I created a variation on his mom's fantastic coffee cake recipe. This delightful breakfast ring is moist and sweet--almost like pound cake for breakfast. I made a huge bowl of nutty crumb topping to layer in the middle and cover the top. I could eat that crumb topping straight out of the bowl if someone let me.

Did I need to tell you that the cake stand was empty when I returned home?

Yogurt Coffee Cake

(recipe adapted from Adam's mom, Kathy)

This is one of my go-to company-is-coming breakfasts. Apparently, it's now also the breakfast I make for Adam when I go out of town. I need to start making it for me!

Cake Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 - 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
Streusel Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 - 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 TBSP cold butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Glaze Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • about 2 TBSP milk
  • splash of vanilla
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9 " tube pan with cooking spray.

2) In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for the cake. Add eggs and beat well. Fold in the sour cream and vanilla. Sift together remaining dry ingredients for the cake and fold into the batter.

3) To prepare the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in butter and "stir" with a fork until crumbly. Stir in nuts.

4) Pour half of cake batter in the tube pan. Sprinkle with half the crumb topping. Pour remaining batter on top and sprinkle with remaining crumb topping. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a lightly browned a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5) Combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl, adding more sugar or liquid to reach desired consistency (as needed). Drizzle over the top of the cake.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Moroccan Bread Salad

Today I'm going to share my all-time favorite dinner salad with you.

Yes, favorite.

This meal-size salad has garlicky, toasted, homemade bread croutons in it. And crunchy, toasted almonds. Plus protein-rich chickpeas and some creamy, garlic-seasoned cheese.

To be honest, I'm not sure how it is that I've been blogging about food this long, and still have yet to share the Moroccan Bread Salad recipe. It kind of feels like I've been hiding something from you.

I spotted the Moroccan Bread Salad in a Rachael Ray Magazine when Adam and I first got married. We had just entered the new world of "cooking," and were quickly turning into recipe-hungry cooking machines. Everything was so new and exciting--and I mean everything. Neither one of us had ever purchased or used cumin before. I had never even heard of cumin.


So I bought my first bottle of cumin, made this recipe, and instantly knew it was a keeper. We often feature it when we have friends over for dinner; we even made a bowl-ful for Christmas dinner at Adam's parents' house once.

Make it. Eat it. Love it.

And forgive me for holding this one back for so long.

Moroccan Bread Salad

This recipe is quite simple to throw together--you can prep most of the ingredients while the seasoned bread cubes are toasting. And, while purchasing a hearty loaf of peasant bread is perfectly acceptable, isn't it so much more fun to use a loaf of homemade bread?

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • One 1 lb. peasant loaf, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 oz. Swiss or seasoned Havarti cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2) In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, the garlic and cumin. Add the bread and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake until toasted, tossing occasionally (it took about 12 - 14 minutes for mine to toast).

3) Meanwhile, mix the celery, chickpeas, cheese, almonds, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in the same bowl. Add the bread and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I'll Take Chocolate in My Cookies, Please.

My intern's favorite type of cookie is Oatmeal Raisin.

Yes, I said raisin.

I tease him about this mercilessly. He tells me raisins are what all the cool kids are doing these days. I tell him I've always been a nerd.

A nerd who prefers chocolate and peanut butter and pecans in her cookies.

But who am I to question a person's cookie preference? Desserts are such a personal thing. And if everyone in the office loved chocolate, the treat-to-person ratio would be far smaller when someone brings a plate full of cupcakes in for sampling.

So, I'll give my intern a pass on the whole Oatmeal Raisin Cookie thing. I promised I would make him a batch before he graduates next month. In the meantime, I'm taking baby steps by starting with Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Cookies.

Did I mention they're vegan?

Vegan-licious, that is. They're moist and tasty and full of banana + milk chocolate flavor (Note: for truly vegan cookies, you'll need to use vegan chocolate, as opposed to milk chocolate. I was willing to sacrifice their full vegan nature in the name of milk chocolate). Adam says, "They're great. But they taste too healthy to be a cookie."

That's my guy. Looks like I just found an excuse to make brownies this weekend :)

Chocolate Banana-Oat Cookies

I definitely wouldn't call these a "health" cookie--unless you count adding oats to a dessert as healthy. And definitely go with the pure milk chocolate on this one--Although, that de-veganizes the recipe, I feel like milk choco is getting the shaft in all the trendy chocolate recipes lately...and her good taste and flavor just shouldn't be passed up.

  • 1 large, super-ripe banana (it's got to be browning!)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chunks
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

2) In a large mixing bowl, mash the banana. Stir in the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and stir until well-combined. Fold in chocolate chunks.

3) Drop the dough by rounded tablespoon-fuls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges (remember--it's always acceptable to under-bake vegan cookies).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Cookbook that Changed Your Life...

I've heard of life-changing books. And world-altering experiences. Even movies that change someone's fundamental perspective on life.

What about life-changing cookbooks, friends?

Come on: I know you've got one on your shelf, too. For me, it's that veggie burger bible I can't stop bragging on. I'm like a proud cookbook mama, with no children of course.

I've been urging you to get creative with your meatless patties for the past few months...Trying to pull you out of that veggie burger rut you were in. From Cauliflower-Dijon Patties to Edamame + Apple Sammies, the Veggie Burgers Every Which Way cookbook has changed my life.

What can I say? Some people read life-changing books. I read life-changing recipes.

Today, let's talk about how goat cheese rocks my socks off. That tangy, soft cheese has something going on that I simply can't resist.

And sun-dried tomatoes? Surprisingly sweet and equally tangy.

Together, these ingredients are the star guests at my rockin' veggie burger party. This is another one for the books, friends. Get out your recipe box and invite over your vege-head and meat-eating friends. This meatless patty will please the whole table.

We topped our patties with an Apple Pico de Gallo and (more) goat cheese (heavens, yes!). And, while Adam enjoyed his atop a homemade bun, I opted for a bun-less burger...times 2 (double the goat cheese, double the pico de gallo, right?).

Enjoy your weekend, friends. And please tell me: What's your life-changing cookbook?

Sun-Dried Tomato + Goat Cheese Burgers
(recipe from Lukas Volger's Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)

  • 1 - 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground flaxseed
  • 10 scallions, thinly sliced about 1 inch into the dark green parts
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • olive oil
  • Pico de Gallo
1) Do ahead: Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl of water and allow them to rest and re-hydrate for about 2 hours.

2) Combine corn and eggs in a food processor until chunky and partially processed.

3) In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, cornstarch, flaxseed, and baking powder. Stir in the corn-egg mixture, scallions, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Crumble in the goat cheese and season to taste.

4) Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop the mixture by 1/4 cup-fuls onto the skillet and press lightly to flatten into burger-shaped patties. Cook until golden brown on the bottom (about 4 - 5 minutes). Flip and cook until the other side is nicely browned.