Monday, November 24, 2008

Rhew Pecan & Carrot Bread . . . with Flax

Last weekend my friend Becca's mom gave me one pound of Rhew Orchards delicious Texas Pecans...(you can find yours at Austin's downtown farmer's market on Saturday mornings) so I decided to try a few different fall recipes involving that delish treat.

While Pecan Pie was luring me - I decided that I'd look for something on the healthier side and I came across a fantastic recipe on Cookie Madness. It was so good, that we only made one tiny modification, replacing some of the oil with ground Flax seed to make it a smidge healthier:))

Try this super bread for the holidays - it is amazing toasted with a little butter!

Rhew Pecan & Carrot Bread with Flax

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots, I used my trusty Cuisinart to chop em tiny
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine the shredded carrots, boiling water, brown sugar, oil and orange zest in a medium bowl. Let this mixture cool while you mix the remaining ingredients.

Stir together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs and stir them with the vanilla into the carrot mixture. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture. Add pecans, then stir until well mixed (do not beat with a mixer).

Pour the batter into the pan and bake on the center rack for 1 hour. Cool, flip out of the pan...serve warm with a little butter.

I have a feeling this would make a pretty phenomenal base for an extra special French toast!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turkey 2.0 . . . Thank you Butterball!!!

I just had to share Butterball's foray into web2.0 communications because it is creative and could be the saving grace for one of us this Thanksgiving:))) A colleague forwarded me the info and it is probably useful this week as you'll all be out buying your birds this weekend . . .

So, Butterball has a Turkey-Talk Line that has been around for years . . . you call in and ask for advice on how to cook that big, intimidating bird that you are probably serving to a large number of people you may be meeting for the first time and are hoping to impress . . . or at least not send to the ER with food poisoning. I have to admit, cooking big birds scares me and I have only ever done it with an experienced co-chef . . . so if I were in charge of Turkey - I would need this service. This year, Butterball is adding a decidedly more techie element to the service with Turkey Texts that send you advice wherever you are, a mobile phone friendly site and even a blog.

Check out the full story or just sign up for Turkey Text advice on Butterball's Site, where they also have a pretty nifty calculator to help you estimate how many pounds of turkey you need based on number of people and even your eating habits (heavy or light eater . . . do you want leftovers?).

I signed up for Turkey Text messages just for fun . . . and because perhaps they'll send me some helpful hints that I can share with my brother Eric, who is in charge of the bird this year. Hoping that all of you are ready to enjoy an excellent holiday next week and that this little Turkey Tidbit might help you out;)))

Gobble gobble . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Extra Firm is not Firm Enough . . . .

TOFU y'all ... get your minds out of the gutter!!!

Seriously though. John and I have been eating red meat for four days, not intentionally, but because I made stew that lasted two days, we had amazing lamb and goat at the Clay Pit and then we had Lebanese food at my friend Joan's house. That left me wanting protein without the meat:)))

So tonight I thought I'd make a quick tofu and veggie stir fry. I did. And while it tasted good, I am bummed about texture. I have tried tofu a few ways and have only ever loved it in blended or mixed up form (see my posts on tofu in lasagna and tofu based sun dried tomato spread). I have also tried some tofu tricks like draining and freezing it first to make it more firm, but frankly none of these methods have ever yielded the tasty, firm tofu that I get at professional establishments. I am not quite sure what to do and I appeal to you, my readers and friends, to share any and all tips that you might have.

So while today's recipe was super simple and follows below, I cannot claim it among my best.

Ginger Scented Tofu Veggie Stir-Fry

Put the quinoa and water on to boil. Reduce to a simmer and then turn off with the lid on. Let sit for 20-25 minutes until all water is absorbed and the quinoa is can be fluffed with a fork.

While the quinoa cooks, dice the tofu and pour the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar over it in a plastic container. Heat 1/2 of the oil in a Teflon coated pan and saute the onion for 2-3 minutes, add the tofu gingerly so it doesn't crumble. Use a spatula and tongs to turn the tofu and brown it on all sides, again gingerly so you limit the crumbling (this is my issue). Place the onions and tofu in a dish and reserve.

Put the remaining oil in the pan. While this heats, mix the remaining soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and herbs together in a small dish. Once the oil is hot, add the bell peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the pre-cooked carrots and snap peas, sauteing for another 1-2 minutes. Add 2/3 of the sauce mixture, mixing and letting this cook for about 2 minutes. Add back the tofu/onion mixture and the remaining sauce, combining all ingredients and bringing up to temperature.

Serve in bowls with 2/3 cup quinoa and half of the tofu stir fry on top with crushed cashews as a garnish. This is a very quick, light and satisfying meal, even if the tofu is pretty weak:(

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bad Economy Broccoli Stem Soups . . .

While we may not be in anything like what my Oma (German for grandma) experienced post WWII, I recently found myself exhibiting very thrifty tendencies . . . these tendencies were the genesis of my 3-versions of Bad Economy Broccoli Stem soup:))))

The economic part of this discussion is the use of what you might have thrown away before . . . a few posts ago, I mentioned that I made broccoli for 12 as a side. That left me with a lot of stems . . . I saved them and a few nights later made soup (for 2 hours . . . ) three different ways. Needless to say, it was a creative endeavor.

With my creative juices flowing . . . I decided to split the soup base into 3 parts:
1) the simplest, pure broccoli soup with some herbs
2) the most common, broccoli soup with cheddar . . . mmmm
3) the most unique, only 1 recipe that I could find online, broccoli and sweet potato soup

Read on to try some of my informal efforts and decide which one you like best on your budget!

Base Broccoli Stem Soup (enough for 1 pot, i made about 2.5 times this amount and then split into my experiments)
  • 2-3 cups of diced broccoli stems, remove any dried or hard edges first
  • 1/4 red onion finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cups Chicken Broth, I used chicken stock that we made from a leftover rotisserie chicken from earlier in the week
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sautee the onions and garlic. Add the veg & stock, simmering the broccoli stems in the chicken broth until they are soft. It took about 75 minutes for mine to get to the point where I could puree them with a hand blender. Cuisinart's multi-function hand tool is the one I always rave about . . . and for under $40, it has gotten more than its fair share of value in my home:)

Once you have blended the base soup, you can proceed with thickening it and/or modifying it creatively:) To thicken it, I made a roux, which is a simple butter & flour mixture that serves to thicken a number of sauces and stews in various cultures. To make the roux, melt the butter on medium-high in a small saucepan until it is mildly browned. Add the flour in small batches, stirring continuously until the combination resembles a light brown paste that is just a bit runnier than toothpaste. Mix the roux into the soup and let it cook a bit longer to thicken. This with a little salt, pepper, thyme and paprika became the basic soup.

For my two other variations, I proceeded as follows:
Broccoli Soup with Cheddar
Super easy. I shredded about 1 cup worth of cheddar and slowly added this to the warm soup, blending it in completely. Then I seasoned with salt, pepper and again thyme. Done. Serve with a little crusty bread and cheddar for a warm winter meal.

Broccoli and Sweet Potato Soup
This one was a little more work only because I had to repeat the cooking process with the sweet potato. Dice one sweet potato and then simmer it in water until the chunks are very soft. Hand blend and mix together with 3-4 cups of base broccoli soup. Season with ginger, salt and pepper for a delicious and fall spicy soup. This one ended up tasting close to a butternut squash but slightly less sweet. mmmmmm . . . my fave of the whole batch.

Wishing you all a great fall and looking forward to bringing other tasty, healthy and budget friendly recipes your way:)))

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lowfat Liberal Sundried Tomato Dip & Spread

Friends . . . I made something DELISH!

With a few random ingredients and a moment of inspiration before I headed over to my friends Allison & Clark's election watching party, I whipped up a new creation, that for this election season I dubbed my new Lowfat Liberal Sundried Tomato Dip & Spread. And let me tell you . . . it is so low fat, that you can use it liberally everywhere from veggies to a piece of toast, and you'll never guess what is in it! YUM!

Lowfat Liberal Sundried Tomato Dip & Spread
  • 12-15 Sundried Tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/3 Package Lowfat Firm Tofu, like MoriNu
  • 1/3 Cup Lowfat / Natural Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup Lowfat Sour Cream
  • 1 Liberal Squeeze Italian Seasoning from Gourmet Garden
  • Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Here is the fun and easy part . . . put all the ingredients in a blender or Cuisinart (my fave gadget) and blend to your desired consistency. Seriously. That is it. So good. So good for you. So many Obama fans amazed at how darn good for you this tasty stuff is!!!

Interestingly, my inspiration was a recipe that was similar, except that it called for mayo instead of all my dairy/tofu combos. Yuck. Mayo. No way, no how. Needless to say, this worked so well that I am tempted to replace more things with tofu in the future. Stay tuned and enjoy some Lowfat Liberal Sundried Tomato Dip this football and holiday season:))