Archive for November, 2008

20
Nov
08

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash

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When I was growing up brussels sprouts got such a bad rap.  Hated by many.  To be honest my mother never really made them so my only experience eating them was outside the home.  And from what I remember, I didn’t like them.  Flash forward to today and I’m making them!  And I love them.  Why on earth do so many people despise brussels sprouts?  I’ve come to realize it’s most likely because they were prepared poorly and with a complete lack of creativity.  Most people probably just boiled them and threw them in a bowl. 

I do like to eat healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so it seems logical I would one day incorporate brussels sprouts into my cooking.  These adorable mini cabbages are loaded with vitamins, potassium, calcium and are very high in fiber, so they help to fill you up.  And as luck would have it, they are low in fat and calories.  November is prime time for brussels sprouts, so the markets are filled with them.  You can see from the above photo that I took at the Union Square Farmer’s Market how they look before they are picked and presented to you in the grocery store.  Quite dramatic, right?

Tyler Florence was the one that inspired me to make this dish.  Last month my cousin and I got tickets to the NYC Food & Wine Festival and saw Tyler at a cooking demonstration.  I love his shows and recipes and let’s face it, the guy’s adorable.  We just loved him in person, he has such a great personality and is quite funny.  Here’s a picture of him cooking away…

 

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One of the recipes he prepared that day (and what he’s actually preparing in this photo) was this brussels sprouts and bacon hash number.  It sounded interesting so I tried it at home and have to say it was really good.  Actually, it was great.  Yes, a brussels sprouts dish was great.  I kid you not.

In this recipe the sprouts are actually sliced, which is a fantastic idea.  I bet if you didn’t tell people this was a brussels sprouts dish they might not even notice!  And there’s bacon in here – you can never go wrong with bacon.  I did make one substitution, his recipe calls for pearl onions, I used shallots instead.  That’s the only ingredient change I made. 

Here is what you will need to make my version of this dish…

 

5-6 slices of bacon (I use low sodium bacon), cut in a medium dice

1 pint of brussels sprouts

2 springs fresh thyme

6-8 fingerling potatoes (or small white potatoes), cut in half and then in half again

2 large shallots

1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1-2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

 

Saute bacon in a large pan until just starting to crisp.  Remove from pan and discard 1/2 of the fat renderings.  To the renderings add the brussels sprouts, shallots, potatoes and thyme and stir.  Season with pepper and a little bit of salt (the bacon is salty so be careful).  Cook until slightly browned.  Add chicken stock and steam for 5- 10 minutes, until veggies are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.  I put the lid on the pot for part of this time.  Add balsamic vinegar and toss to coat.  Add the bacon back to the pan and stir all ingredients together to combine.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.  And now for the final product…

 

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If you have any leftovers do yourself a favor and put a fried egg over this hash in the morning.  You’ll thank me.

Tyler’s original recipe can be found here http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/bacon-and-brussels-sprout-hash-recipe/index.html

16
Nov
08

Orange Cranberry Muffins

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There is something so heartwarming about baking your own muffins in the morning.  I just love how the whole house smells while these babies are cooking in the oven. 

These particular muffins are very easy to make.  They do not require any special equipment, nothing that needs to be plugged into an outlet.  You only need some bowls, a whisk and a spoon.  Can’t get much easier than that! 

The orange definitely gives a nice zing to these muffins and I am glad I tried them.  Now, if you are one of those people that love a very spongy muffin, this one might not be for you.  It’s a touch on the more crumbly side, just a touch.  Personally, I don’t mind that.   I also love a muffin to have a slightly crunchy top.  I find the crunch of the top combined with the softer interior is a lovely combination. 

I believe it is the healthy wheat germ that makes these muffins crumbly.  When you hear all the impressive health benefits of wheat germ you will feel happy these muffins include some.  Wheat germ is not a ‘germ’ (ha!) it is the kernel of wheat and is a rich source of protien, fiber, unsaturated fat, folic acid and most especially vitamin E.  Wheat germ also contains vitamin B complex which helps in coping with stress.  And we can ALL use some help with that these days! 

I make a cranberry butter to slather over these slightly crumbly muffins.  It really takes them over the top.  And the cranberry butter couldn’t be easier to make.  I’ve detailed how to make it at the end of this post.

Here’s the recipe for 12 muffins, adapted from Cooking Light…

1 1/2 cups flour (I used 1 cup white flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp grated orange zest

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large bowl, stir with a whisk.  Make a well in the center of the mixture.

Combine brown sugar, oil, zest, juice and eggs, stir with a whisk.  Pour egg mixture into the well in the dry mixture, stirring until just combined.  Spoon batter into muffin cups.

Cranberry Butter:

Combine 1/2 stick of room temperature butter with roughly 4 tablespoons of cranberry preserves.  Mix until well combined.  If you prefer the cranberry butter to have a more cranberry flavor, then feel free to add more preserves.  Alternatively, use less if you choose.  Enjoy!

 

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11
Nov
08

Granola Grabbers

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Who can resist a healthy cookie?  Not me!  Sure, these have the traditional butter and flour, however, the main ingredient is granola.  I make my own, so that makes these cookies even more healthy.  My prior post details my granola recipe,  you can find it in the right hand column under Recent Posts. 

This recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Granola Grabbers.  I have made several changes to the recipe.  First, I make my own granola instead of using store bought.  In my granola I already have almonds and coconut, so they did not need to be added.  I use other nuts in my granola, so now these cookies have walnuts and pecans in them.  I omitted the peanuts and added chocolate and cranberries.  In my opinion, a cookie should not be without chocolate!  Particularly one with this many ingredients in it.  Also, I cut back slightly on the butter using 13 tablespoons instead of 14.  I noticed zero difference from the first time I made these using all 14 tablespoons.  Next time I make them I will try it with 12, any less than that I think could be a problem. 

These cookies came out delicious.  I was apprehensive about bringing them to my parents house for everyone to try, thinking they would be adverse to a ‘healthy cookie’ and not like the oatmeal/granola taste.  Oh, how wrong I was!  They LOVED them.  Even my ever-critical brother (that doesn’t even cook!)…he had six of them.   My co-workers also loved them, they were a big hit.

Here’s my version of this healthy cookie…

3 cups granola without fruit

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate, cut into chunks

1/3 cup wheat germ

13 tablespoons butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 sugar

1 large egg

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup flour

Make homemade granola (see recipe in right hand column under Recent Posts).  Allow granola to cool.  Put it in a large bowl and add the cranberries, raisins and wheat germ.  Mix together.

Beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the sugars and beat for another 3 minutes or until creamy. Add the egg and salt and beat until well blended.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour in three additions (not all at once).  Mix until just incorporated, then steadily add most of the granola mixture. Once that is just blended turn off the mixer and add the remaining granola and all the chocolate, mixing by hand with a sturdy spatula.

Scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough.  I use an ice-cream scoop.  Pack the scoops between your palms and arrange the mounds on the baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.  Flatten the mounds slightly with your fingers.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back midway.  Cookies should be golden brown, but not firm.  Allow to rest for 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

04
Nov
08

Homemade Granola

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You have to watch out with some store bought granola, they can be quite fattening.  When someone wants to be healthy and they think that eating granola is a step in the right direction, it can be frustrating to learn how fattening some of them could be!  Granola is usually associated with health and goodness.  It should be heart-healthy and surely not something that will make us fat.  We’ve got chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting to do that! 

Granola is usually filled with nuts and yes, nuts can be fattening, but they are the good kind of fat.  I think where the store bought versions get us is with the oils.  They really go overboard cooking it in alot of oil…the more the granola is sticking together in clumps, the more oil and sugar they used to cook it.  I use a very small amount of vegetable oil or canola oil, a heart-healthy oil.

I make my own granola and quite frankly will never again buy it from the store.  There is simply no reason to.  It’s beyond simple to make and I know exactly what I’m putting into it.  Not to mention the store bought ones can be quite pricey!  Also, I really love my granola to have a nice crunch to it and I’ve noticed some store bought ones just don’t measure up. 

My favorite way to eat this granola is in low fat vanilla yogurt.  Dear lord, it’s delicious.  Not sure about you, but I like a little crunch in my yogurt.  I add about 2 tablespoons of granola to the little cup of yogurt and mix it all up. So simple!  I have this for breakfast often.

I usually make a large batch, it keeps well in an air-tight container for several weeks.  I would say I make a batch every 2-3 weeks or so.  I get a wave of panic over me when I see my stash is getting very low.  I like to have it on hand all the time.

Here’s what you will need…

 

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (i usually use just a touch less than a 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup agave nectar (or any good honey)

1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, walnuts, pecans and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  In a small bowl whisk together the oil, honey and vanilla extract (if you choose to include it).  Pour the liquid mixture over the oat and nut mixture and mix well.  You do not want the mixture to be soaked.  You just want it coated and slightly moist.  Most of the time I don’t even use all this oil/honey mixture if it starts looking too wet and clumpy.  Use your judgement. 

Pour into a large sheet pan (with a rim).  

 

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Bake until everything turns a nice golden brown color, roughly 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking.  You really must watch it, it goes from cooked just right to burnt VERY quickly.  The color change is amazing, right?

 

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And look, not one clump.  Not one to be found. 

Allow to cool completely before storing.  I like to keep the granola in this ‘plain’ state, as opposed to adding in dried fruit.  Once you add the fruit the shelf life decreases dramatically.  However, it is a nice touch (change) to add some dried fruit to a small portion of the granola to eat immediately.  I like adding dried cranberries and/or dried chopped apricots.




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