Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mint-Infused Hot Chocolate from Clean Living Magazine

Still looking for ways to satisfy my chocolate cravings but in a low fat, healthier way, I found this recipe for a low-fat, non-dairy Mint-Infused Hot Chocolate in the Jan/Feb issue of Clean Eating magazine and had all the ingredients on hand to try it on one of our cooler, windier evenings this week.  

Clean Eating says: "Try whipping up this low-fat, non-dairy hot chocolate when you're in the mood for something rich and chocolaty...without all the calories. Sip it by a warm fire or pour yourself a mug after dinner for a light, but comforting, liquid dessert."

Mint-Infused Hot Chocolate
Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009
(Serves 1)

1 mint green tea bag (decaf or regular)
1/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp light or amber organic agave nectar
Sprigs of mint, for garnish (optional)

Place tea bag in a cup. Pour water over it to make tea essence, letting steep for about 2 minutes.  Squeeze tea bag and remove from cup.  Meanwhile, heat almond milk over medium heat in a small saucepan until very hot, but not boiling. Add to the tea essence, then stir in cocoa powder and agave nectar.  Mix with a spoon until all the cocoa powder has dissolved. Garnish with a sprig of mint, if desired.

Nutrients per cup:  Calories: 98, Total Fat: 3g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Carbs: 19.5g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars: 16g, Protein 1.5g, Sodium 136mg, Cholesterol: 0mg.

Recipe Note: "For a nice variation, use an almond flavored tea in lieu of the mint green tea to make Chocolate-Almond Hot Cocoa."  

Notes/Results:  Very good! It hit the spot and was a pretty guiltless after dinner treat. I did add a bit more cocoa powder to mine and a little less agave for more of a dense chocolate taste. I happened to have almond milk on hand as I like it in my smoothies, but you could also use rice or soy milk too and a different sweetener if you don't have agave. Served in one of my favorite Japanese tea cups (more special than a mug!), this was a comforting, chocolaty drink, with a refreshing taste of mint and it had more richness and flavor than I thought it might. With their Lemon-Artichoke Chicken and Chocolate Cookies already being "keeper" recipes, Clean Living is now three for three for me this month. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuna Burgers with Carrot-Ginger Sauce for Tyler Florence Fridays

My TFF recipe for this week, Tuna Burgers with Carrot-Ginger Sauce, is from Food Network Magazine (Feb/March 09) although it can also be found on the Food Network site here. It's from "Comfort Food Light", where Food Network stars (even Paula Dean!), lighten up comfort food dishes. I love ahi tuna and liked the idea of all the Asian flavors in this recipe.

The magazine says: "The fat in this burger is the heart-healthy, good-for-you kind from tuna, avocado and extra-virgin olive oil."

Tuna Burgers with Carrot-Ginger Sauce
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence for Food Network Magazine
(Makes 4 servings)

For the Sauce
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Burgers
1 pound sushi-grade tuna
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup spicy sprouts, for garnish
4 whole-grain hamburger buns
1/2 avocado, sliced

Prepare the sauce: Pulse the carrot and ginger in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar and process until smooth. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons water and combine; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the burgers: Chop the tuna into chunks. Wipe out the food processor and add the tuna; pulse a few times to break up the pieces. In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, the soy sauce, lime juice, cilantro and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Pour over the tuna and process until well blended. Form into 4 patties; brush each lightly with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Preheat a grill or grill pan. Once hot, add the burgers and cook for 2 minutes on each side for rare, or to desired doneness.

Toss the sprouts in the carrot-ginger sauce. Place the burgers on buns and top with avocado and sprouts.

Per serving: Calories 435; Fat 22 g (Sat. 3.8 g; Mono. 11 g; Poly. 6 g); Cholesterol 43 mg; Sodium 662 mg; Carbohydrate 28 g; Fiber 5 g; Protein 32 g

Notes/Results:  Excellent!  The tuna burgers are quick and simple to make and the carrot-ginger puree adds a big punch of flavor. The ginger adds a great kick and I like the idea of tossing the sprouts in it so you aren't getting too much sauce. I was lucky enough to get some locally caught ahi tuna and most of the vegetables were locally grown and many were from my CSA box. I used some sprouted grain sesame hamburger buns from Ezekiel and added some baby spinach and julienned carrots for some extra vitamins and nutrients. In keeping with the Asian flavor profile, I served the burgers with some marinated Japanese Cucumber Salad (my recipe is below), for a nice light crunch. This recipe is another keeper, healthy and delicious and the flavors would also work nicely with salmon and other fish, as well as ground turkey. Yeah Tyler!

I also made a delicious salad the next day with a warmed tuna burger on top of spinach and romaine, with avocado, radish sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, the marinated cucumbers and some ground flax seed and dressed it with the carrot-ginger sauce.

Japanese Cucumber Salad

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 pinch sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
1 Japanese cucumber

Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Thinly slice cucumber and place slices in bowl, tossing them in marinade.  Refrigerate for an hour or two and serve. 

Take a look at what the other Tyler Florence Friday bloggers made, get their feedback on the Tyler recipes they chose this week and learn how you can participate in Tyler Florence Fridays at the TFF site here.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

All-American Cheese Platter--Barefoot Bloggers Bonus Recipe

This month's Barefoot Bloggers optional bonus recipe was selected by the wonderful Rebecca of Ezra Poundcake who referred the most people to the BB site last month. Rather than picking a recipe, Rebecca wanted us to put our creative Ina-skills to use by designing a cheese platter. I do love this idea, but I am so lacking in any food styling and plate arranging skills that stuff like this makes me feel a bit inadequate. I am much more a stick some flowers in a vase, slap the cheese on a plate kind of gal rather than carefully and artfully arranging everything, but since I am a big fan of Rebecca and I have not missed a Barefoot Bloggers' post yet, I knew I had to attempt it. Below in all its glory, I present my "All-American Cheese Platter." 

As you may have noticed, I have been on a bit of a health kick all month but there are not a lot of ways to make a cheese platter much healthier or lower in calories (besides the requisite fruit of course), without resorting to low-fat cheeses. My strategy for this one then became portion control--make the platter and take it over to a friend's house so that others would consume most of it. Also, if I couldn't make it lower in calories or healthier, I could at least make it more "green". In bon appétit magazine's February 2009 special feature,"50 Easy Ways to Eat Green", number 23 is "Eat American Cheese" so I decided to create a platter featuring all cheeses from America. In addition to the cheeses (listed below), I bought apples and pears from Washington, pecans from Georgia and American-made crackers. (No grapes unfortunately as they were all from Chile).  

The cheeses:
  • Surfing Goat Dairy (Maui, Hawaii):  "Swedish Heart":  A goat cheese with caraway seeds, aged 3 months. (I have been to this little artisan dairy and I got to pet the baby goats)

  • Cypress Grove Chevre (Arcata, California): "Truffle Tremor": Goat cheese with truffle, need I say more?

  • Vella Cheese (Sonoma, California): "Mezzo Secco": A partially-dry Monterey Jack cheese, the companies attempt to return to a 1930's style cheese that was made to hold up in warm weather.

  • Whole Foods:  Wisconsin Cheddar Aged Three Years (this was a good quality but no-name cheese however, I needed some color, it is from Wisconsin and it goes so well with apple and pear).

I am sure that Ina (or one of her merry band of friends) would have made a much more Barefoot Contessa-like cheese platter but I think it at least looks appealing and honestly, for my friends, as long as there is good cheese and plenty of it, they are happy! 

My favorite cheese? Being that it is from Hawaii and is seriously delicious cheese, I should say the Surfing Goat but who could resist a creamy chevre with truffle in it? It's tangy but also earthy and decadent and another perfect cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre. Thanks Rebecca for a fun and different pick this week. You can check out the other Barefoot Bloggers' cheese platters at the BB site here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Puerto Rican-Style Green Rice with Tomatillos (& Shrimp!)

I love the tangy taste of tomatillos and found this recipe for Puerto Rican-Style Green Rice with Tomatillos in one of my newer cookbooks, The Tropical Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Tomatillos are low in calories and a very good source of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber.  

Klein says: "If you like tomatillos, you'll love this unusual rice dish. To turn it into a main course for three or four, add about 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans when you stir in the salsa."  

Puerto Rican-Style Green Rice with Tomatillos
The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, Donna Klein
(Makes 6 servings)

6 large tomatillos (about 3/4 pound), husked, stemmed, and rinsed under warm water to remove stickiness
About 1 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp finely chopped jalapeno chili (optional)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, plus additional, to taste
1 1/4 cups long-grain white rice
1/4 cup mild or medium tomato salsa, preferably chunky style

In a medium stockpot or large saucepan filled with boiling water, add the tomatillos and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Drain. Transfer the tomatillos to a food processor fitted with the knife blade, or to a blender; process until smooth and pureed. Add enough water to the tomatillos to measure 2 1/2 cups total.

In a medium deep-sided skillet with a lid, combine the tomatillo mixture, cilantro, chili (if using), oil, garlic, and salt; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the rice, cover, and reduce heat to low; simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the salsa and additional salt, if necessary. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes; fluff with a fork and serve.

Per serving: Calories 183, Protein 4g, Total Fat 3g, Sat.Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbs 35g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Sodium 208mg.

Notes/Results: Good and tangy with a nice kick from the jalapeno and salsa. I subbed brown long-grain rice for the white rice which is why I think the end result was not so green. This dish is great as a side on its own or a main dish with the black beans but I have been craving shrimp lately so I made some garlic-lime shrimp to eat with it. I marinated the shrimp for about 20 minutes in garlic, parsley flakes, paprika. black pepper and a no-salt herbal blend and then sauteed them in a touch of olive oil until pink and cooked through and then squeezed the juice of a lime over them. A delicious, filling and healthy dinner.

Although it is by no means cold here, the weather the past couple of days has been cool by Hawaii's standards, which means wearing socks and a having a light blanket on the couch. Since we don't often have a lot of blankets sitting around the house, Max has decided that it is his new toy and thinks it is pretty fun to play hide and seek.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spinach & Mushroom Calzones for "Megan's Challenge"--TFF

A new addition to Tyler Florence Fridays this year is "Megan's Challenge". Named after our lovely co-host Megan of My Baking Adventures, it is an optional, once-a-month recipe, selected by Megan, and made and posted by all those "opting in" by the end of the month. This month's pick is Tyler's Spinach & Three Cheese Calzones and being NOT A BAKER! (Have I ever mentioned that before!?), and having never made calzones, I was a bit nervous about this one. Also there is a whole lot of cheese in Tyler's recipe, so I knew I had to "healthy it up" in order to make it meet my current eat healthier goals.  

I decided to cut the recipe down to make two calzones instead of four, get some whole wheat in there, replace the bulk of the cheese with some mushrooms and roasted red pepper, and sneak a little ground flax in for good measure. Tyler's recipe is below and my changes are in the "Notes/Results" section.

Spinach and Three Cheese Calzone
Tyler Florence
(Makes 4 servings)

1 package rapid-rising dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Egg wash
Cornmeal, for dusting

For Dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, bloom the yeast by combining it with warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve, then let stand 5 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour, 1 cup at a time. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and add salt. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn't form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Test the dough by pressing 2 fingers into it. If indents remain, the dough is adequately risen. When ready, knead the dough gently and divide in 4 balls. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes. This will relax the dough, making it easier to stretch. In the meantime prepare filling.

For Calzones: Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. If you don't have a stone, simply grease a baking pan. Roll or spread the dough discs into 10-inch circles, leave the dough slightly thick so that the filling will not ooze out. Spoon a quarter of the filling onto 1 side of the dough round and brush the outer edge with egg wash to help form a seal. Fold dough over to enclose the filling and form a large turnover. Roll up the edges with your fingers to close tightly and prevent leaking. Cut a few slashes in the top to allow steam to escape during baking and brush with egg wash. Repeat with remaining rounds. Sprinkle a pizza peel (or prepared baking pan) with cornmeal and carefully transfer the calzones. Bake directly on pizza stone for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Let the calzones rest 10 minutes before cutting to allow the cheese to set. Serve with basic tomato sauce if desired.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound baby spinach, washed and dried
Salt and pepper
15 ounces ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded fontina
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For Filling: In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add the spinach, season, and continue to cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander and squeeze out the excess liquid. If necessary, drain the ricotta in a sieve to remove excess moisture also. Calzone filling should be fairly dry, because it may leak out or make the dough mushy. Combine spinach, cheeses, egg, and pepper in a large bowl.

Notes/Results:  Really good! I was pleased with the changes I made. I was not sure how much whole wheat flour to put in without changing the texture too much and making it too dense, so after much consultation (thanks Natashya!), I settled on making 1/3 of the flour I used a whole wheat pastry flour. I was a bit worried about making the dough since I have a fear of yeast and no standing mixer with a dough hook (remember--NOT A BAKER! and limited counter space), but it all seemed to work, even using my hand mixer. The calzone crust was flaky, crisp on the outside but soft on the inside and not too dense. For the filling, I omitted the egg, the ricotta and fontina cheeses and cut the total amount of cheese to about 1/2 cup of mixed Parmesan and Pecorino Romano. Since I removed most of the cheese, to keep it interesting, I added about 3/4 cup of sliced cremini mushrooms, 1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper and some extra garlic and red pepper flakes. I also snuck about 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed into my filling mixture--you don't notice it in the calzone and it adds a boost of those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids. To serve it, I made a quick marinara sauce, (basically a canned no-salt tomato sauce simmered with garlic and herbs), and I added a dash of hot pepper flakes to it so both the calzone and the sauce had a nice little kick. I didn't miss the extra cheese at all and was really happy with the texture that the yummy mushrooms added. This healthier version still had lots of flavor so I didn't feel at all deprived.

A great pick Megan, and something I never would have tried on my own. If you want to participate in Tyler Florence Fridays and Megan's Challenge, you can get all the details at the TFF site, here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Greek White Bean Soup for Souper Sunday

My pick for Souper Sundays this week is a healthy, nourishing Greek White Bean Soup from a cookbook I really like, 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi. This cookbook has more than 200 recipes that all feature the 12 "superfoods" that Jacobi lists in her book. I like the easy and good for you recipes in this book, (Her Curried Spinach Dip from the same book, is one of my favorites and I get lots of requests from friends to make it for parties). Dana's follow up book, The Essential Best Foods Cookbook is also great. She also has a website if you want to see more of her recipes and information. 

This soup has two of the 12 "best" foods, onion and spinach, plus healthy lima beans and is virtually non-fat, except for the garnishes. 

Dana Jacobi says: "This is one of the best dishes at Molyvos, an exceptional Greek restaurant in New York City that features less-familiar regional dishes. For a completely fat-free soup, you can skip the feta and olive oil garnish."

Greek White Bean Soup
12 Best Foods Cookbook, Dana Jacobi
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 cup dried giant lima beans
1 large red onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only
2 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach, packed
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese, for garnish
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, optional for garnish

Soak the beans in cold water until their skins are wrinkled and most of the beans have split open, 2 to 4 hours. Drain the beans. Place the beans in a small Dutch oven or deep, heavy saucepan. Add the onion, leek, and broth. Pour in 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are soft, about 1 hour. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Off the heat, using an immersion blender, whirl until half the beans are pureed. Or puree half the soup in a blender and pour the pureed soup back into the pot. At this point the soup may be cooled and refrigerated up to 4 days. To serve, heat the soup until it is almost boiling. Mix in the spinach until it wilts, 3 to 4 minutes. Divide the soup among 4 bowls. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the feta cheese into the center of each bowl. If using, drizzle 1 tsp of the oil over the soup.

Per serving: 278 calories, 8g fat, 3g sat fat, 15g protein, 38g carbohydrate, 12g fiber

Notes/Results:  Excellent! This is a thick, hearty and delicious bowl of soup. It takes just a bit of prep time, you have to soak the beans ahead of time and then simmer them for at least an hour (mine took almost an additional half hour to get them to the right tender but still firm texture), but it goes together quickly and easily. I used 4 cups of broth instead of the 2 cups of broth & the 2 cups of water, but otherwise I kept everything the same. For the garnish I left off the olive oil but did add about an ounce of the feta. The soup is good without any extras but the salty cheese really takes it to the next level.  

Let's see who showed up in the Souper Sunday Kitchen this week:

First up we have a new friend to Souper Sundays, Ulrike from Küchenlatein. Ulrike, who hails from Germany, brought a hearty bowl of Minestrone (also posted in English here), straight from her slow cooker, full of delicious looking veggies, beans and grains. Ulrike has had a weekly soup goal the past couple of years that she has struggled to meet and she is hoping that coming to Souper Sundays will help her achieve it. We will do our best!

Christine from Kit's Chow is back this week with a rich and indulgent Mussel Bisque. Although she doesn't indulge often in soups made of heavy cream, having some extra crème fraîche and mussels in the freezer make an occasional treat like this easy to make. So rich, a small bowl will satisfy, this seems like a perfect soup to kick off a Chinese New Years Eve dinner and to welcome in the Year of the Ox. 

Kim, from Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet is here for her second round up and she has one gorgeous, bright-red bowl of Sweet Red Pepper Soup with her. Kim wrote this soup recipe for all her Twitter friends in the South and Midwest who were complaining about how cold they were with all the nasty weather the cold fronts were bringing them. Lucky friends to have Kim come to the rescue! This flavorful sweet-tart soup is sure to warm them right up.

Another bright and beautiful soup is this Creamy Carrot Curry Soup from the terrific Abigail at mamatouille. A thick, golden orange blend of curry, carrots and yogurt, from one of her favorite cookbooks, this soup recipe is from Germany where it is called Mohrrubensuppe. Abigail wisely triples or quadruples this delicious recipe to freeze some for when the craving strikes and she doesn't feel like chopping and blending. Having such a gorgeous and yummy soup in the freezer would brighten my day.

Laura from Hey What's For Dinner Mom? is here with her take on Bean With Bacon soup. Laura was a fan of the Campbell's version of this classic soup growing up, until she read the label and realized she could do better and make it healthier for her kids (who have never had Campbell's soup), so she created her own. Happy with her more natural version, she's confident that it tastes better too. Looking at the ingredient list and reading about the careful, slow cooking it goes through, I have no doubt she is right! 

Another fan of the beans is Joie de Vivre, who created this Tuscan Style Chickpea Soup that turned out to be one of the best soups she has had in awhile. Chickpeas, potatoes, spinach and chunks of polish sausage made this soup a wonderful dinner with the Whole Wheat Pane di Como she made the day before. Joie de vivre has been following the French custom of a heavier meal at lunch and a lighter meal at dinner and I think a delicious soup is the perfect way to go! 

My good blogger friend Suzie from Munch & Nibble is back from vacation with another refreshing cold soup to share.  For those of you who don't know Suzie, she is in Sydney, and the weather there is hot right now, so rather than warming up, she is looking to cool down with a fabulous, elegant Ajo Blanco or Chilled Almond Soup with Grape Granita. This isn't your everyday soup and requires some effort to make but the results are worth it. What a great combination of flavors and textures--just looking at this icy soup makes me feel cool and relaxed!

Reeni from Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice is going the opposite of cool and refreshing with her hot and spicy Chicken Taco Soup.  She made this fun, taco in a bowl to use up some rotisserie chicken and soon to expire spinach and was delighted with the results. Flavorful with a nice wallop of spice and a great creamy texture from the refried black beans. In her own words this soup was "gratifying, comforting and most of all, lip smacking good!"

Although not the soup she thought it was going to be based on the description in her pressure cooker's recipe book, my foodie friend Andrea from Nummy Kitchen, really liked the Pressure Cooker Vegetable Soup she made. It was billed in the book as "Easy Corn Chowder" but the veggies and wide egg noodles were unlike any chowder she had seen. In any case, Andrea found it delicious, and it made the perfect lunch, especially accompanied by the cute little Sour Cream Cornbread "Loafies" she made.

Sometimes rather than finding something to go with a soup, you need the right soup to go with something special you made. That's the case with the incredible croissants that my friend Natashya from Living In the Kitchen With Puppies, made this week. Needing a soup that was delicate but rich enough to pair with her buttery croissants, she found one in this  Cream of Celery Soup with Pecans and Blue Cheese. The decadent soup, those fabulous buttery croissants and a little white wine made an elegant and delicious meal. 

Wow! Another fantastic range of delicious soup offerings out there. Thanks to all of my friends for sharing their creations at Souper Sundays. Take some time to check out their soup posts for more details on their soups and explore the rest of their blogs too. 

If you want to join us and share a soup or soup-like creation on a Souper Sunday, you can find all the details by clicking the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar.

Have a wonderful week and Happy Year of the Ox!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Curried Salmon Cakes--Recipe "Repurpose"

I have a friend who refuses to eat leftovers, whether at home or a restaurant, once is enough for her. I, on the other hand, love leftovers (sometimes even more than the actual meal), and usually make extra in order to have them. I especially love to find ways to "repurpose" them into something different. Case in point, I made an extra couple of Peppered Salmon Fillets for my Tyler Florence Friday's recipe pick this week and decided to use one fillet to make some small salmon cakes. Since they were already crusted with crushed peppercorns and coriander seeds, Indian spices seemed like the way to go and I added a little cumin and curry powder and a touch of dill, mint and cilantro. 

Curried Salmon Cakes
(1 fillet makes about 3 small cakes)

1 (5-6 oz) peppered salmon fillet 
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp dill, chopped
1/2 tsp mint, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder

Flake the salmon with a fork. Mix with panko, egg, lemon juice, herbs and spices. Make sure mixture is moist but not wet. Form into small patties. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, spray with olive oil cooking spray and add patties, searing on each side about 3 minutes, until lightly browned and warmed through. 

Notes: I find making smaller, 2 1/2" to 3" patties keeps the salmon cakes together better, making them easier to cook. (If you don't have leftover pepper crusted salmon fillets, you could easily use canned salmon and add some crushed black pepper and a little crushed coriander seeds or coriander powder for a similar taste).

Results: Nicely spicy, the salmon cakes were delicious with the chickpea dressing and the tangy, cooling touch of yogurt. I put them on a salad plate, over a bed of spinach and chickpea vinaigrette, threw on some little fresh tomatoes and topped it all with non-fat Greek yogurt. A quick, delicious and still healthy dinner using Tyler's great combo of ingredients.   

Friday, January 23, 2009

Peppered Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Dressing & Fresh Greens for Tyler Florence Fridays

This month, more than ever I have been appreciating the number of healthy but still flavorful recipes Tyler has both on the Food Network website and in his books. Yes, I won't argue that he has many less healthy recipes too, but he has a lot of good-for-you choices, with interesting flavor combinations that taste really great and make selecting my Tyler Florence Friday recipes easy. This recipe for Peppered Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Dressing and Fresh Greens is from Tyler's Ultimate (page 58), has some of my favorite ingredients: salmon, chickpeas, lemon, cumin, baby spinach, mint and dill. Plus anytime I can make a great meal in less than 30 minutes, I am game to try it.

Tyler says "Lemon-chickpea vinaigrette is an easy-to-make component that brings a lot of flavor to the dish while balancing the subtle richness of fresh salmon. Add a bag of fresh spinach and you've got a fast healthy meal you can make in well under an hour."

Peppered S
almon with Creamy Chickpea Dressing and Fresh Greens
Tyler's Ultimate, Tyler Florence
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup black peppercorns
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1 pound salmon fillet, skin on
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt 

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bag (10 ounces) baby spinach
1 bunch of fresh mint
1 bunch of fresh dill

lemon wedges for serving

Put the peppercorns and coriander in a clean spice grinder and pulse to a coarse grind. Pour the mixture out onto a large plate. Roll the salmon in the spices until coated all over. 

Heat a 2-count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is smoking. Sprinkle the salmon with salt, add it to the pan and sear for 4 to 5 minutes to develop a good crust. Turn the fillet and cook 4 to 5 minutes on the other side, until the salmon begins to flake apart when gently prodded with a fork. Put the salmon on a plate, cover with foil and set aside at room temperature. 

For the vinaigrette, open the can of chickpeas and dump it straight into a bowl, without draining.  Add the olive oil, cumin, paprika, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper and stir that up. Spoon about half of the vinaigrette into a blender and puree; stir the puree back into the rest of the vinaigrette to thicken. 

Toss spinach, mint, and dill in a bowl. 

To serve, spoon the chickpea vinaigrette into the center of a platter. Set the salmon fillet on top and mound the spinach to one side. Serve with lemon wedges.

Notes/Results: Tyler comes through for me again! I love the combo of flavors in this one. There is the rich salmon with it's slightly spicy pepper and coriander crust, the cool crisp greens and herbs and the tangy, cumin-flavored dressing. Nutrition-wise, you are getting all the protein, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids from the salmon, fiber and minerals from the chick peas, vitamins A & K from the spinach. It goes together so quickly, you can make the dressing and toss the greens while the salmon cooks. I had a delicious, healthy dinner on the table in no time. I made enough salmon for a couple of extra meals and the chickpea dressing would be excellent on a salad or over veggies too. Another definite keeper for me!

Take a look at our other Tyler Florence Friday participants' recipe picks and see what they think of their choices at the TFF website here. There you will also find more info about TFF and learn how to join in on the fun and flexibility of picking what Tyler recipes YOU want to make each week.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Easy Sticky Buns (Made Healthier)--Barefoot Bloggers

January's second Barefoot Bloggers pick was selected by Melissa at Made By Melissa and was Ina's Easy Sticky Buns from her Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook (page 240). I have never really been a cinnamon roll or sticky bun person--they are fine but not something I go out of my way to eat, however, I always like to try to make things I haven't made before so I was game to try them. Ina's sticky buns are made using puff pastry and lots of butter and while they looked and sounded delectable they didn't seem the best way for me to stick to a healthy eating plan. Although they can't be made into the best food choice, I wanted to lighten them up, reduce the butter a lot, lessen a bit of the sugar, and add some more nutrients, (flax seed, walnuts and dried blueberries), to them. My changes are in red below. (Note: Not wanting to have a bunch of these around, I reduced the recipe by half so all of my changes are for a half batch)

Ina says: "We used to make really delicious sticky buns at Barefoot Contessa, but they took two days to make because the yeast dough needed to rise overnight in the refrigerator. I was dying to find a way to make them easier, so I decided to try baking them with Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough, instead. OMG are they good … and they’re really easy to make! Light, flaky dough filled with brown sugar, toasted pecans, and sweet raisins — my friends go crazy when I make these."

Easy Sticky Buns
Back to Basics, Ina Garten
(Makes 12)  (1/2 batch made 6)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature  (used 4 Tbsp)
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed  (used a scant 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces  (used 1/4 cup mixed pecans and walnuts)
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted for the filling  (1 sheet)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled  (1 Tbsp)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed  (1/4 cup)
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon  (2 tsp)
1 cup raisins  (1/2 cup mixed raisins and dried blueberries)
(2 tsp ground flax seeds)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, (2 tsp of ground flax seed), and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely.

Notes/Results:  Good! They were plenty buttery and had great flavor even with my reductions, and I felt much better about eating them. I should have checked my sticky buns and pulled them out early (at about 25 minutes), as they were a bit brown on the outside. The flavor and texture on the inside were fine. The additions of walnuts, dried blueberries and flax seed were made to get some additional nutrients into these gooey little treats. Both flax seed and walnuts are good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and blueberries are a good source of antioxidants. I sprinkled the ground flax seed on the puff pastry with the cinnamon and brown sugar and it was not at all noticeable in the roll itself. So while sticky buns will never be a "health food" and on my regular recipe rotation since they aren't something I would really ever crave, they are fine in moderation and I felt like I minimized the damage with my changes.

Thanks to Melissa for a great pick--it was fun to experiment with these to make them lighter (and who doesn't want lighter buns?!?), and they were good. Check out how the other Barefoot Bloggers fared with their sticky buns here and get the details on joining BB here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blog Party# 42--Tiki, Two: (Turkey) Bacon-Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms & Pineapple-Mango Paradise

I think in my mind I am running a week behind. Last night I suddenly thought "Blog Party!" and realized I am supposed to have my entry in by Friday for Blog Party #42--Tiki, Two.  

With Barefoot Bloggers scheduled to post tomorrow and Tyler Florence Fridays (on Friday of course!), that left me today to make my pupu and drink and get it posted by the deadline. Not one to turn down a challenge and not wanting to miss my favorite monthly virtual gathering hosted by my friend Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, I needed a fast, somewhat healthy (got to keep those goals) and most importantly a "tiki-fabulous" offering. A couple of months ago I had some bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms at a Japanese restaurant and have been thinking about them ever since. Since rumaki, (bacon-wrapped chicken livers and water chestnuts) is a popular retro tiki pupu, it seemed like the perfect "new wave rumaki" to bring to the bash.

Bacon isn't exactly on my health plan, so I thought I would try my new favorite, nitrate-free turkey bacon, adding some more flavor with a basting sauce of a little low-sodium soy sauce and brown sugar.  To drink, Pineapple-Mango Paradise, my concoction of mango and pineapple juice, made bubbly by club soda, and adding a bit of rum for my friends who want to drink, but perfectly delicious for those who are not imbibing. 

Turkey-Bacon Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms
(Makes 12)

1 package enoki mushrooms
6 pieces turkey bacon
black pepper
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400.  Heat soy sauce and brown sugar over low heat, stirring until combined, turn off heat and set aside. Trim enoki mushrooms and divide them evenly into 12 "bundles". Cut bacon crosswise into 12 pieces. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil,  Set the mushrooms on a bacon slices and season lightly with pepper. Roll up into a tight cylinder, secure with a toothpick and place on baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms and bacon. (Bundles should not be touching on sheet). Baste each bundle lightly with the soy sauce mixture and bake them 10-15 minutes, basting again halfway through, until the bacon is brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

Pineapple-Mango Paradise

1/3 bottled mango juice
1/3 bottled or canned pineapple juice
1/3 club soda
pineapple chunks
*rum optional

Combine all ingredients and serve over ice with an umbrella or decorative stir stick.

Notes/Results: Yum! These are quick, easy and delicious and not that bad on the arteries and waistline either. With a little of the sweet-savory basting sauce, I didn't miss the real full-fat bacon at all. This is a keeper recipe for sure!  The drink is cool, fruity and refreshing either with or without the rum.

Just one of the bonuses about living in Hawaii is being able to throw together a quick Tiki Party.  A Hawaiian print sarong, my tiki mug and swizzle sticks, a basket and a couple of leaves from my backyard and of course a vintage "To You Sweetheart, Aloha, Andy Williams" album for atmosphere.  Add a little of the ultimate Tiki party band, Don Tiki playing on my IPOD and we are ready to party!

So glad I didn't miss this one!  Check out Stephanie's Blog Party Round-up here on Sunday to see what other tiki-terrific pupus and drinks are served.