Monday, November 29, 2010

Israeli Couscous

Not one, not two, but THREE ways to make this side dish. I only started buying Israeli couscous recently; It came as a side dish to one of my 8 nights of chicken dinners post-baby! Yes, 8 straight nights of chicken. I assure you, I couldn't eat chicken for a while after that. Avi & I both loved it, so I started buying it. It's a wheat-based pasta, much larger than traditional fine couscous. There are many brands, but I opt for the Osem 21 oz. plastic container -with a red lid (I read somewhere that Osem was the first brand to make Israeli couscous, asked by Ben Gurion himself- I actually just validated that with the trusty Wikipedia :-). Sometimes it comes in boxes, with a plastic bag of the couscous inside, which you then have to reseal with a rubber band or what not, so this plastic container is just very convenient. FYI, Trader Joe's also sells boxed Israeli couscous! At a great price too. $1.99 I believe, and they provide the best way to prepare the couscous- toasting it as opposed to straight up boiling, which gives the couscous a much better flavor, and I highly recommend doing it this way. Basically, you add a tbsp. or 2 of olive oil to the bottom of a saucepan, add the couscous, essentially toasting, or "sauteing" it for 5 minutes. Then you add boiling water (I use a plug in kettle) gradually (follow whatever water to couscous proportions the box suggests), and salt, and simmer for 8-12 minutes. So here are 3 variations on "spicing up" this otherwise bland grain. 

1) Confetti Pesto Israeli Couscous
-1/2 a red onion, chopped
-1 cloves garlic, minced 
-1 zucchini, chopped small
-3/4 cup chopped eggplant
-1 carrot, chopped
-Homemade or store bought pesto (basic recipe below)

-Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add a pinch of salt & pepper
-Add the zucchini and eggplant & saute only a few minutes until softened. Add to the couscous
-Add the carrot
-Toss the couscous & vegetables with homemade or store bought pesto (I like to make my own, it's so easy especially in the mini food processor: blend 2 cups packed basil leaves, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts, 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste)

 2) Israeli Couscous with Shallots & Wilted Spinach
-2 shallots, chopped
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-3 cups chopped fresh spinach

-Saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil on medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes
-Add the spinach and a tsp. of salt (helps the wilting process)
-Saute until just wilted. You don't want to wilt it too much that the spinach loses its green color.

3) Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous with Balsamic Sauteed Vegetables
**I was excited to find Gefen (100%) Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous, but to my dismay, when I cooked it, kind of tasted like Matzah Meal!!! Since I didn't feel like having an 8th day of Pesach flashback for dinner, I decided to do whatever I could to mask that matzah-y flavor! 

-Saute 1 small onion & 1 clove of garlic in a tbsp. olive oil. Transfer to a glass bowl, and add 1.5 tbsp. olive oil and 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and set aside.
-In the same pan, saute 1 chopped zucchini & a handful of chopped eggplant
-Add everything to the couscous & toss all together
-Add 1 tbsp. fresh chopped dill
-Salt & pepper to taste
-Let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving (refrigerate, or not)

Like any kind of pasta, Israeli couscous on its own is, well, BORING!!! If you don't have a lot of time, tossing the cooked couscous with a little bit of Earth Balance, salt & pepper, and dried parsley for some green color can liven it up just enough to accompany any fish or meat dish, in no time. Or, use your imagination & add practically whatever vegetable you have on hand, sauteed or not, frozen or fresh. It's extremely versatile & can be prepared in no time at all. Just remember to take the extra few minutes to toast it beforehand! 


Sunday, November 28, 2010


I hope everyone is "recovering" from Thanksgiving... Ha! As if we need an excuse to eat a big meal, to loosen our belts, etc. In QC, all the professors always say corny jokes before Thanksgiving about the weeks of prep that go into it, and that they should all expect us back after the weekend having gained a few pounds. Please, they have nothing on our 3 day Yom Tovs, and weekly Shabbos meals whipped up on Friday!

Our Menu
-"Orange" soup with sage served with roasted garlic & sage crostini, ala me :-) (see below)
-Fresh cranberry sauce (mom)
-Sweet potatoes with fresh rosemary (brother Gavi)
-Cranberry Apple Crisp (Shifra)
-Mashed potatoes with caramelized onions & chives (mom)
-Herb & Apricot Turkey (mom & dad)
-Minute Steak Roast with basil, garlic, & tamari sauce (mom)
-Roasted Green & Purple Asparagus with Balsamic Reduction (I made the reduction: bring 1 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1-2 tbsp. sugar to a boil, then let simmer for 20-30 minutes until reduced by more than half, and syrupy. It definitely doesn't smell pleasant but is delicious on vegetables or even chicken!)

-Roasted carrots (mom)
-Flaxed Brussel Sprouts (sister Shifra)
-Apple Cake (mom)
-Flourless Chocolate Cake (me)
-Pumpkin Cheesecake (Shifra)
-Pumpkin Pie (Shifra)

I'm sure I left some things out but nevertheless, everything came out great, and a perfectly carved turkey thanks to my father!

Anyways, we had an amazing Thanksgiving meal, collaborative effort by my parents, brother, sister, and myself! I made the soup (see previous post about soup, it was that recipe) but this time I made it with 2 lbs. of peeled, cubed butternut squash, & then realized that it probably wouldn't be enough for everyone, so I added 4 sweet potatoes & 3 carrots. I garnished each bowl of soup with a sage leaf, because I put sage into the soup itself. And- I took a picture this time!

I also made Roasted Garlic & Sage Crostini:
**Roasted garlic spread on bread, if you've never had it before, is AMAZING. 
-My mom roasted elephant garlic (huge cloves), but you can do this with regular garlic as well. If using elephant garlic, go ahead and peel the big cloves, put in foil, drizzle olive oil & wrap up. Roast for 30 minutes on 400 degrees. If using regular garlic head, cut horizontally across to form 2 halves, sprinkle with olive oil, and wrap in foil & roast. It's just more tedious to individually "unwrap" each clove. This makes it easy to scoop out once roasted.
-Once finished, let cool. scoop out all the garlic into a bowl. Add 3 finely chopped sage leaves and mash with a tbsp. of olive oil.
-Spread onto toasted slices of ciabatta bread.

I could have eaten the entire plate. Too bad we had 9 other people I had to leave for!!!

-Obviously the soup, asparagus & crostini was not the crux of the hearty meal (-turkey!!!-), it definitely added to it! I just wanted to share some of the highlights of our meal!

Hope everyone had a nice long weekend full of food food food!
Good night,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Power Up!

If anyone has ever gone to Sacred Chow in the village, may have seen their "Power Bowls" on the lunch menu, my mom's favorite. Now, I won't say "you must try it" (the restaurant, that is), because it isn't for everyone. It's vegan, but delicious nonetheless, in my opinion. The avid carnivore may shrug their shoulder, but it is great (I recommend the Orange BBQ Seitan Sandwich)! Anyways, the "power bowl" consists of 1 protein, 1 grain, and 1 vegetable. I decided to create my own "power bowl" for dinner tonight (albeit a meat version), in "honor" of Thanksgiving:

-Protein: Herb Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Sweet & Sour Sauce
-Grain: Brown Basmati Rice Blend
-Vegetable: Garlic Sesame Wilted Kale

Herb Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Sweet & Sour Sauce
-1 lb. ground turkey
-1 egg
-1/4 cup ketchup
-2 tbsp. mayonnaise (my secret moist maker!)
-1/4 cup cornflake crumbs (I usually just estimate, sometimes I add more if I need)
-4 sage leaves, finely chopped
-7 basil leaves, finely chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 onion
-1.5 cups finely chopped kale or spinach (or frozen spinach, thawed & liquid squeezed out)

-Prepare the rice according to package directions (I use Rice Select Whole Grain Royal Blend. Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley is an excellent choice as well). Make sure to do this first, because it takes ~45 minutes for brown rice to cook.

-Prepare the cranberry sweet & sour sauce (adapted from Spice & Spirit):
-In a bowl or measuring cup, add a can of jellied cranberry sauce & break up with a fork, and then put into a 3 quart saucepan with 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 4 tsp. lemon juice, & 2 tbsp. water. Let simmer covered. Add a little more water if you want it thinner.

-Saute the onion & garlic until golden, and add the kale or spinach until wilted. Let cool.
-In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg, add ketchup, mayonnaise, cornflake crumbs, sage & basil (they impart amazing flavor into the meatballs) & kale mixture (make sure it's not too hot off the stove or it can "cook" the egg & the meat). Add the ground turkey and combine with your hand, just until incorporated (don't over-mix). Let sit for 10 minutes.
-Heat up a large saute pan with vegetable oil (thin layer). Form the meatballs & add to the pan. I make them fairly small, and I get around 25-30. Saute 3 minutes on medium-high heat and then flip each meatball and saute other side for 3 minutes. Then cover the pan and let cook 10 minutes on medium-low.
**This method makes a golden "crust" on the meatballs. If you don't have time for this step, just add the meatballs directly to the sauce & simmer for about an hour**
-Stir the sauce, & add more water if it's lumpy. Add meatballs to the sauce, and let simmer for 10 more minutes. **You can also just serve the meatballs directly out of the saute pan & pour the sauce over them**

Garlic Sesame Wilted Kale (you can make this all at once -onion, garlic, kale- & reserve some for the meatball mixture. Kale can be substituted for spinach here too)
-1 bunch of kale, roughly chopped
-1 onion, chopped
-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
-Pinch of salt
-2 tbsp. sesame seeds
-1 tsp. sesame oil

-Saute onion, & garlic in olive oil or cooking spray. Once golden, add the kale (or whatever greens you use) & a pinch of salt. When slightly wilted, add the sesame seeds & the the sesame oil (you can use the sesame oil to saute in, but I like to add it right at the end)

-Put the rice in the bottom of a dinner bowl, and add some meatballs on the right side, & the kale mixture on the left side. If that's not a power bowl, then I don't know what is!!!

I've always grown up on hearty multi-course dinners thanks to my amazing cook of a mom (i.e. salad, a protein, a vegetable, & a starch/grain), and I try to cook the same way, as best as I can, because that is what I am used to. I like a variety of textures on my plate, so this "power bowl" is just a new spin on the variety of a meal- layered in a bowl as opposed to portioned out onto a plate! I hope you enjoy.

Be creative & create your own power bowl

Monday, November 22, 2010


Why, when I think of soup, does the "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld immediately come to mind!? I don't even like Seinfeld! Anyways, I hope my soup is that good, though I wouldn't want the same status :-)

I love making soup, I find that it the easiest thing NOT to screw up. Just need good base vegetables (onion, celery, and carrot is considered the "trilogy"), water (or broth), and salt & pepper. Whether it is a pureed soup, or a hearty one, you just can't go wrong. "Invest" in this handheld immersion blender which will make your pureeing job that much simpler. There are more hi-tech ones (like this one by Breville- pro: cordless, con: $$$), but I have found that this one works just perfectly. Plus it's a breeze to clean, the bottom part disconnects with the push of a button. And, with the price of $29.99 (don't forget your trusty 20% off coupon!), you can spring for 2, one for meat as well. I don't have concrete recipes for any of the soups I make, but they basically all involve the same process, just using different vegetables each time. Typically any vegetable you think of can be blended into a delicious soup.

Two weeks ago, just as the weather was really turning, as I was shopping for my produce, I decided to buy wares for different soups that just kept coming to my mind. Soup of the day? Yes, I literally made a different soup everyday! So I will go through my week, or so, of soups. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of my soup- I DON'T KNOW WHY!!!!!! I eat with my eyes first. But, sorry, just imagine that they all looked silky good, and tasted even better...

-Fresh garlic
-S&P, and dried Italian seasoning (blend of oregano & thyme)
-Low sodium vegetable broth (preferred brand: Trader Joe's)

1) Monday: Cauliflower Soup
-One onion
-Olive oil
-Salt & pepper
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 head of cauliflower, cut into individual florets (the smaller you cut them, the faster they'll cook)
-2 big red potatoes, peeled & cubed
-Vegetable broth & water

-Saute one onion in a few tbsp. of olive oil until translucent & then add the garlic
-Add the seasonings salt (1/2 tbsp.) pepper (1/2 teaspoon) & 1 tsp. italian seasoning (tip: it's important to season in every step of the process; just adding s&p at the end won't suffice)
-Add the cauliflower florets & potato
-Add 4 cups of broth & 2 cups of water (better to add less at the beginning, & add more if it's too thick once pureed; it's easier to thin a thick soup, then to thicken a thin soup!)- you can use all water or all broth- the proportions are up to you.
-Add a little bit more salt & pepper
-Bring to a boil, and then turn to low heat until vegis are soft enough to puree with the hand blender.
-Add more water if needed, or you can add milk, or any milk equivalent if you choose. I never use anything but water or broth, I find it's good enough without!

**The versatility with this soup (& any soup for that matter) is that you can substitute the cauliflower with broccoli, for broccoli soup. The potato just acts as a thickening agent**

2) Tuesday: Roasted Potato Leek
-3 leeks, white & light green parts only
-4 cloves garlic
-8 medium-large Yukon gold potatoes (or a 2 lb. bag)
-Salt & pepper
-6 cups of liquid: vegetable broth + water

-Cube the potatoes, toss with olive oil & garlic salt and roast at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. That extra step really makes the soup taste better, but you can do without if on a time crunch.
-In the meantime, slice the leeks down the center, and then chop up. Soak in water and a tbsp. of vinegar (helps release the sand- leeks are notoriously sandy/dirty)
-Once drained, saute the leeks in olive oil (rule of thumb with the olive oil is use just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pot), and add the garlic
-Add the roasted potatoes, salt & pepper
-Add the liquid- the same rules apply- the less the better, and add more later
-Bring to boil & then lower heat to medium-low
-Cook about 30 minutes, until the vegis are all soft enough to puree

3) Wednesday: Butternut Squash
-1 onion, chopped
-1 stalk of celery, chopped
-2 small carrots, chopped
-Shortcut!!! : 2 lbs. peeled & cubed butternut squash (Trader Joe's has this, & at a great price)
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-Salt & pepper
-6 cups liquid
-7 fresh sage leaves

-The process is the same as above- saute all the vegetables, add the butternut squash, season throughout, & then cover with liquid and cook until soft
-As far as the sage leaves though, I love the flavor of sage with butternut squash- it is very apropos for this time of year, especially. You can add the sage leaves whole at the beginning with the onions, and then fish them out afterwards, or you can chop them up and add them with all the rest of the vegetables. Either one is fine.

4) Thursday: Roasted Tomato Basil
-1 onion, chopped
-1 stalk celery, chopped
-1 carrot, chopped
-1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
-1 lb. plum tomatoes
-Balsamic vinegar
-6 garlic cloves, sliced
-1 can cannellini beans (white beans), drained
-1 container of Pomi Chopped or Stewed Tomatoes (I recommend using boxed tomatoes. They sell them at pretty much every supermarket. I try to stay away from canned tomatoes, studies have shown that the acid from the  tomatoes mixed with the metal can is not a good combination).
-1/2 cup marinara sauce
-2 tbsp. tomato paste (I use the Israeli brand that come in little peel back containers, 4 connected)
-2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed well

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half the long way, and scoop out the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt & pepper, and lay on a baking sheet cut side up. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, and put garlic slices in each tomato cavity.
-In the meantime, saute all the vegetables, add Italian seasoning, salt & pepper.
-Add marinara, boxed tomatoes, and tomato paste
-Add the roasted tomatoes
-Cover all the vegetables with water + broth (whatever combination you prefer)
-Mash the beans with the back of a fork until it forms a sort of paste (this thickens the soup without adding any extra fat or carb)
-Bring to boil, and then lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes until everything is soft. Add the basil & the beans, cook 10 minutes, and then puree.

5) Friday: Meat Soup
This is basically a basic chicken soup recipe made with flanken instead. Ok, it's not all that original but nonetheless good.
-2 zucchinis
-2 carrots
-1 onion, quartered
-2 stalks celery
-1 sweet potato
-1 large red potato
-A few sprigs of fresh dill
-Chunks of flanken, trim the fat as much as you can
-Cover all the vegetables with water, and a little salt (I didn't use pepper, or a lot of salt because I made this with the plan of pureeing some for Rosie--> she LOVED it)
-I let it cook for about 3-4 hours.

There are so many variations for soup. I made zucchini soup this past Thursday, recipe thanks to Naomi's mother in law!!! It was a hit, but again, you don't need recipes to make delicious soup. You have all the basic tips & ingredients, so just EXPERIMENT! Add any vegetable you like.. well, I'm not sure if bell pepper soup would be a success, but who knows!

Slurp away,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Potato Pahtato!

What a cliche name for a  blog post about potatoes?! Anyways, sorry for being m.i.a. for a couple days. My post today will be about.. POTATOES!!!!!!!! We lovvvvve any form of potatoes - mashed, roasted, fried, boiled... (as a matter of fact, Rosie just had her first run-in with homemade sweet potato puree last week and it was a succes!) Our favorite is sweet potato (chunks, fries, chips). Here is the low down on some varieties of everyone's favorite starch!

1) Sweet Potatoes= also called yams, really hearty and not only for Thanksgiving!!! Known to be orange, a lot of people don't know that there are white and "pink" sweet potatoes. Anyways, here is a really simple way to make delicious roasted sweet potatoes:

-Cut each sweet potato in half the long way. Then cut each half the long way in the middle (can make 2 long cuts, depends on how big the potato is), and then crosswise to make even chunks (try and make them all the same size, to insure even cooking). OR cut in fries.
-Toss all chunks with olive oil, salt & pepper, and freshly minced garlic (figure 1 clove per 3 potatoes)
-Roast at 450 degrees on baking sheets sprayed with olive oil spray for 45 minutes to an hour, tossing potatoes halfway thru cooking, and rotating the pans.
-Sprinkle with garlic salt as soon as it comes out of the oven
-Serve with garlic mayonnaise (don't knock it till you try it!)

Sweet potatoes also make for a delicious soup, but that's for another post :-)

2) Confetti Potatoes/Fingerling= Trader Joe's sells a little bag of mixed potatoes that they call "confetti potatoes." It's a mix of mini Yukon Golds, purple, red, & fingerling potatoes. Fingerlings actually look like- finger shaped potatoes! For these roasted chips I used the Yukon golds & the purple potatoes. Terra Blue Chips, anyone?? Just cut the potatoes in chip shapes, toss or brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, flip them halfway through, and rotate the pans (same method as above). Sprinkle with salt when you take them out of the oven. Make chips out of any potatoes. I just made sweet potato chips for Shabbos- yummm. 

 3) Red Potatoes= good for use in any of the top methods, but also can be used for this deliciously simple potato salad. I used to screw up all the potato salads I'd ever make, so I gave up for a while. Avi is obsessed with Bagel Boss potato salad, so eventually I sucked it up and made the attempt once more, and believe it was a success:
-9 red potatoes, cut in chunks & put in a pot of water, bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes until pierced easily with a fork, not too soft though.
-Once cooled, add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 3 tbsp. dijon mustard (more if you'd like), and a sprinkle of garlic salt.
-Finish off with chopped dill & scallions. Refrigerate until serving time
(I once made this with roasted, instead of boiled, red potatoes and served it warm, it was delicious!!)

-I don't often use Idaho potatoes, I find they are very starchy and gritty. For mashed potatoes, or regular potato fries I recommend using big Yukon Golds:
-Bake at 425 for 25 minutes

-Get out your graters or food processors and start working on those Chanukah latkas!!!

Till next time,

I have plenty more potato recipes, but will save them for a different time!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Bare Necessities

This post will be different than the others; instead of posting a recipe, I will focus on the things I use in the kitchen (gadgets) that I can't live without! Good knives (paring, santoku, filet) are a given (I recommend this Farberware 22-piece set), but here are some of the tools I use pretty much on a daily basis:

1) Microplane= aka a fine grater. Most generic box graters do not have a good fine grater side, which can be used to grate so many things- typically thought of to zest citrus, it can also be used to finely grate a clove of garlic into almost a paste-like consistency. It is also known for grating fresh Parmesan, or other hard cheeses. I use this so often for adding lemon, lime, or orange zest into my cooking, which boosts the flavor of almost anything, savory OR sweet. Click here to buy!

2) Salad Spinner= if you don't already have one, as it is a pretty common gadget to own, GET ONE NOW!!! It's a "one stop shop" for washing, drying, and storing the clean lettuce. It does a great job at "spinning" the water out. Once dry, pour out the water, lock the top knob in place, and store in the fridge.

3) Mini Food Processor= so I only got this one recently, and I wish I got it sooner! I got the Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor to puree homemade baby food- for an amazing price of $30 at Costco. Needless to say, it has made baby food making EXTREMELY easy and convenient, as I store my regular 7 cup size food processor on top of my pantry and it feel like it weighs more than Rosie. So, I only use it when Avi is home to get it down for me! Plus it's such a hassle to wash. This mini 3 cup food processor sits right on my counter, has one blade and 2 settings (chop & grind- just different directions of the blade).. I discovered so many more uses for it aside for the baby food. I used it to make pesto, chop nuts (I was lazy), and also used it to blend up my balsamic vinaigrette (see previous post)! The most important part- it's a breeze to clean up! Click here to see it!

4) Kitchen Shears= I've been through a few kinds of kitchen scissors and these Kuhn Rikon are by far the best, from my experience. They have many uses, from simply cutting open packaging, to trimming fat off chicken! The cool thing about these, is that they come in different colors, so you can buy a red one for meat and a green one for Pareve, etc.

5) Tongs= the uses for tongs are endless. No need for anything fancy, these from Crate & Barrel work just fine, for a great price.

6) Good Mixing Bowls= I use these Pyrex mixing bowls for Pareve & these Oxo stainless steel mixing bowls for Meat, which also come in dark gray. The Pyrex are great because they are sturdy, microwave/oven safe, and you can prepare in them, heat food up directly in them, and store in them. They are even "nice" enough to serve in. I love the Oxo stainless bowls because they are sturdy and have a rubber no-slip bottom. (On The Next Iron Chef, one of the contestants had one of these Oxo bowls on the stove and accidentally melted it, not realizing!- so they are NOT oven safe!)

7) Squeeze Bottles= these bottles are great to have on hand for condiments you use often. I use them for olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's much easier than lugging the Costco size container every time I need a squirt of oil. I also keep dish soap in one. They definitely make my cooking time easier. 

8) Glass Storage Containers= I like to store my food, especially when hot, in Pyrex Storage or Snapware Glass Lock Storage containers. Save the plastic containers for when you need to take food on the go, or lunch to school/work. The Snapware is great, and seals airtight. 

9) Mandoline= okay, I don't actually have a mandoline but I have been meaning to get one for some time now. I like to make homemade potato chips (baked) and it is very tedious, and takes a while to cut the thin rounds. Same goes for cucumber salad, or even shaved fruit. I hear this Oxo Mandoline is great. Maybe I'll get one soon :-)

Well, everyone has their own tools and gadgets, as well as shortcuts for doing things. These are mine, and I hope I have given some "kitchen smart" insight to all you reading!!!!

Happy Cooking,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2 Ways To Eat...

KALE!!!!!!!!! Kale, which resembles spinach, is actually in the cabbage family along with cauliflower, broccoli, & brussel sprouts. I've only recently discovered it this year and we absolutely love it (to the point that Avi asks for it). My go-to cooking method for kale used to be sauteeing, the same way you'd wilt any greens, with garlic, salt, and olive oil. It got boring, and just wasn't appetizing after a while. It was then that I discovered "kale chips" in Good Housekeeping magazine, and I have been making it ever since, and kale has become a staple in my fridge. 

As most of you may know, I am hooked on the Food Network. Aarti Sequeira won "The Next Food Network Star" and on one of her episodes of "Aarti Party," her new show, she made "Massaged Kale Salad"- I had to try it just because of the name! So I made it, and loved it. I liked the fact that I was eating the kale raw, getting the full amount of nutrients it has to offer, as opposed to cooking it, which depletes some. Kale is a great source of vitamins K & C, and very rich in calcium. Anyways, I put my own spin on Aarti's massaged kale salad, with my own dressing concoction. Once dressed, it can be eaten even the next day and doesn't get soggy.

Don't be afraid of kale, it tastes and can be used/prepared just like spinach.

1) Kale "Chips"
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
-Fold each kale leaf and cut down the center, cutting out the thick rib. Then, cut the leaf into ~4 sections
-Wash and dry the kale very well (tip: the dryer the better; wet kale will sog up in the oven as opposed to crisp= use a salad spinner)
-Lay the kale out onto 2 baking sheets (one big bunch of kale usually yields 2 baking sheets worth), in as single of a layer as possible (some overlapping is okay)
-Toss the kale with olive oil, & a little garlic salt (the kale wilts down A LOT, so a little salt goes a long way)
-Cook for 15 minutes, usually not longer or it will BURN!
-Eat with your FINGERS! :-)

2) Massaged Kale Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 
-1/2 a bunch of kale
-1/2 a mango (I just realized mango has been in the majority of my recipes so far!)
-1/4 cup chopped candied nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds= tip: you can make your own by glazing nuts in 1/4 cup of sugar in a saute pan until it gets syrupy- thank you M for that tip!!! Make a lot and store for snacking!) 
-3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

-Cut out the ribs, and cut the kale into strips (I usually get 6-8 cups of kale strips from 1/2 a big bunch)
-In the bottom of a big glass bowl, squeeze about a tbsp. of lemon juice. Add 1/2 the kale, and literally MASSAGE it! Once it is slightly softened, add the rest and massage more. 
-Add the mango, nuts, and sesame seeds & toss all together with dressing:
Balsamic Vinaigrette:
-1 shallot roughly chopped
-3 tbsp. fresh lemon or orange juice 
-1 tsp. lemon or orange zest
-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
-1.5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
-3/4 cup olive oil
-1 tbsp. low fat mayonnaise
-Salt & pepper, to taste

-Blend all ingredients, add olive oil and mayonnaise last, and blend
(Dressing turns out the best when made in blender or food processor)

(Another good point about kale is that since it is a hearty green, it lasts a while in the fridge. I usually buy 2 very big bunches at once, double bag them, and it can last in the fridge for like a week+. This way, I can use it more than once, in different ways for many dinners)

(P.S. for all you 5-townsers, Gourmet Glatt has the best kale)


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Unknown Grain...

Now, most of you probably will read this post and say "what??" because I am writing tonight about Wheatberries, a grain most people never heard of. Well, it is similar in taste to brown/wild rice, but it is a grain. It has a great crunch to it, and makes for a great cold, or warm side dish. I first tried it from the Mauzone take out counter a few years ago (an extremely oily version to say the least), and just recently read about the health benefits of wheatberries on an email I received. It is a tremendous source of fiber and provides a whole lot of nutrients, as it is a whole grain- it is actually the whole wheat kernel, which consists of the bran, germ, and endosperm. Okay, I'll leave nutrition 101 and get on to the recipe. I haven't seen wheatberries in any of the Kosher supermarkets, so I buy it in the bulk section of the health food store (i.e. Wild By Nature in Oceanside, NY). I store it in a plastic container in the freezer.

Wheatberry Salad  (my spin on Ina Garten's recipe)
-1 cup hard wheatberries
-1/2 a large (or 1 small) red onion, finely chopped
-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
-6 tbsp. olive oil
-3 scallions (the green parts)
-1 carrot, chopped
-1/2 mango, chopped
-2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

-Boil up 3 cups of water, salt the water, and add the wheatberries
-Cook with the cover vented (half on/half off) for 45 min.-1 hr. It should be slightly crunchy but not too hard
-In the meantime, saute the red onion (can use shallots instead) in 2-3 tbsp. of oil. Once translucent, take off the fire and add the rest of the oil and the balsamic and combine. Set aside.
-Drain the wheatberries and let cool before adding the remainder of the ingredients.
-Add the carrots, dill, mango, and scallion greens (you can add whatever you want!), and then add the onion/oil/balsamic mixture and stir everything together.
-Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

This salad can be served cold, or warm, and the longer it sits in the dressing, the better it tastes! It's addictive- but there's nothing to feel guilty about!

Embrace your healthy side  :-)



Who doesn't like Chinese food??? Well, my hubby Avi doesn't, and eats it when he "has" to aka when I make it for dinner :-)
Okay, okay, I didn't make this. For all you connoisseurs (spelled it right the first time!!) out there, this is Abigael's Vietnamese Chicken dish on their Pan-Asian menu and it is DELICIOUS! I decided, why can't I make my own signature chinese food for dinner?? And since most Chinese restaurants load up on the salt & MSG (to the dismay of both our stomachs), I collaborated with, and added my own spin on a recipe I came across in my October issue of Food Network magazine (subscription thanks to Avi) to come up with the best version of my favorite cuisine. Here goes:

Sesame Chicken & Vegetables
-4 chicken cutlets, cut into chunks
-5 tbsp. low sodium tamari sauce (preferred brand: San-J)
-4 tsp. toasted sesame oil (tip: always refrigerate sesame oil once opened, it can go rancid very quickly. If you don't frequently use it, as a little does go a long way, buy a small jar, i.e. Trader Joes, and it will last a while in the fridge)
-4 tsp. honey or agave
-Head of broccoli, cut into florets (frozen holds up well)
-Fresh string beans (frozen are just not the same)
-2 shallots
-2 cloves garlic
-1/2 of a mango, cubed
-Toasted sesame seeds 
-3 scallions

-Season some flour in a ziploc bag with garlic salt (preferred brand: Lawry's- buy the big container from Costco and use it on practically EVERYTHING- shout out to my aunt) & pepper. Blow air into the bag  and add the chicken chunks and shake until all pieces of chicken coated. I have to give props to Avi for that one, the first time I made this, i tediously dipped each cubed piece into the flour-- needless to say, it took forever. For my gluten free readers out there, chickpea flour is my preferred substitute.
-In a measuring cup, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey (if you like it sweeter, go ahead and add more). Dissolve a teaspoon or two of sifted flour (or whatever starch you choose to use) and set aside.
-In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat up canola oil just to cover the bottom, and add the chicken cubes 1 by 1. They only need about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the size and thickness.
-The sky is the limit as far as the vegetables go- you can use snow peas, peppers, but my favorite combination is string beans and broccoli. Blanch the broccoli & string beans (I have one of those plug-in kettles, so I pour boiling water over them in a glass bowl and let them sit covered for a few minutes, just to get the crispness out, but you don't want them to cook too much- a little crunch is good!)
-In a separate saute or frying pan, add 1 tbsp. canola oil, and saute the shallots and garlic 
-Once the chicken has cooked on both sides, add the vegis, shallots, and garlic to the pan, and pour the sauce over. Mix it all together to incorporate.
-Add the cubed mango (a touch I took from a dish at Sushi Metsuyan), chopped scallion, and sesame seeds at the end. Serve over brown rice!

There's always time for a goooooood home made Chinese dish :-) and when you make it yourself, you can control exactly the amount of sodium you are putting in, and you can add whatever you want. 


Sunday, November 14, 2010

PP... puff pastry

Okay... puff pastry is good just about any which way, shout out to T who knows of my undying love for puff pastry. We all know the basics- deli roll, spinach/potato roll... and can even be used for sweet too (pear tart)... but we will go simple and delicious for today's ode to the puff.

After I gave birth, someone made this tomato tart for me and once I was back in the kitchen, I had to make it. It takes like 5 minutes and it's a great side to any meal...

Puff Pastry Duo-Tomato Tart
-1 sheet puff pastry (preferred brand: Pepperidge Farm, thawed)
-Earth Balance
-One red slicing tomato
-One yellow tomato (these aren't always in season, so just red tomatoes can do!)
-Fresh basil, cut chiffonade (roll up the leaves and cut into strips)

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
-On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to a large square, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
-Spread the Earth Balance on the pastry and leave about 1/4 inch border on each end
-Prick the whole square, aside from the border, to prevent the pastry from puffing up too much in the oven
-Lay the tomatoes, alternating between yellow & red
-Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes until golden
-With 5 minutes left, sprinkle the basil onto the tart and return to the oven for the remainder of the time.

-Slice and enjoy :-)

The next recipe I made by default, I was making salmon for dinner and accidentally defrosted the puff pastry (took it out of the freezer to make room, and forgot to put it back in)... so I put the 2 together, and it ended up being a spin-off of Beef Wellington- aka the appetizers that inevitably end up on your plate at weddings...

(Side note: I highly recommend making the switch to wild salmon, wild fish in general, as opposed to farm raised fish)

Salmon Wellington with Cucumber Dill Sauce
-1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
-2-4 fillets wild salmon
-1/2 cup dijon mustard (preferred brand: Grey Poupon)
-1/4 cup honey
-Dried oregano

-1 kirby
-1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
-bunch of fresh dill, chopped, to taste
-2 tsp. fresh lime juice
-1 tsp. dried minced garlic

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees
-Roll out the pastry just to smoothen out the creases
-Marinate the salmon in the honey-mustard mixture (tip: before measuring out the honey, brush a little oil in the measuring cup, the honey will practically slide out. The salmon will be good as well with just olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice)
-Place each fillet on top of the puff pastry and fold over to form a "package"
-Brush the tops with eggwash, and sprinkle with dried oregano
-To make the sauce, grate the peeled cucumber, and combine all ingredients. When the pastries are done (roughly 25-30 minutes), top with the sauce and enjoy!



I have been meaning to make a food blog for quite some time, but as you all probably know, I had a baby (Rosie) in May and she has been occupying all my time! She loves to watch me cook, aka when she is crying and cranky, she sits in the stroller in the kitchen as I whip up dinner... The title of my blog has been under wraps since I decided a LONG time ago that I wanted to do this, and while cooking for Shabbos this past Friday, it just came to me. For all of you non-Office watchers, well, watch! And then you might get it (Michael's "That's what she said"--ring any bells???)! Anyways, nothing seemed original until I thought of this spin on the not-so-famous punch line. I will basically be sharing my recipes (some original, some spin-offs), mostly savory because whoever knows me knows I hate to bake, because I hate exact measurements! A lot of my cooking I don't measure, so I have been trying to "document" how much of what I put in to marinades, for instance, so that it'd come off better on a food blog!
I hope you all enjoy (whoever is actually reading this)!!! And feel free to leave any comments or questions...