Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate-Almond Butter Balls

Before I shelve Carb-Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson for awhile and focus on other cookbooks, I have one more recipe to share with you; Chocolate-Almond Butter Balls. Robin states: "These tasty treats go together in a flash, look pretty, and have enough healthy ingredients that you could eat them for breakfast!" But do they have what it takes to pass the "Workplace Test"?!? Where I work we have three basic kinds of eaters: 1) Only if it's healthy, 2) Healthy-smealthy--only if it tastes really good & 3) If there is food on the counter, I'll eat it! Although work gets a lot of leftover things I make that I don't want hanging around my house or hips, I try to look for recipes that make all three groups happy (actually group 3 is satisfied no matter what I make) These little chocolaty treats seemed like they would fit the bill nicely.

Chocolate-Almond Butter Balls
Carb-Conscious Vegetarian, Robin Robertson

1/2 cup almond butter
1 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup agave syrup
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup ground toasted almonds

In a food processor, combine the almond butter, wheat germ, agave syrup and cocoa; blend until well combined.
Roll into 1" balls and set on a baking sheet. Roll in the ground nuts and refrigerate until firm.
Makes about 20 (Per ball: 85 cal, 6 g fat, 3 g protein, 2 g fiber)

Results: Excellent! They do go together quickly and taste great. The combo of the chocolate, almond butter and toasted almonds is delicious. They don't scream "healthy" but the Vitamin E, other minerals and essential fatty acids in the wheat germ combined with the protein, vitamins and MUFAs (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) in the almonds make these little bites a pretty healthy, satisfying snack. They were eaten pretty quickly and passed the "Workplace Test" with all three groups enjoying them. I would make these again and would also try them with dried cherries or replace the almond butter and almonds with peanut butter and ground peanuts for variety. Robertson also notes that for special occasions you could add a tablespoon of amaretto or another liquor to the fixture before rolling them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Spicy Portuguese Kale Soup and Mushroom Toasts

This is the recipe I actually pulled Carb-Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson out for. You see I get a bag of Kale every week in my CSA box and coming up with different things to do with it gets a bit tiring. I have made Portuguese soup with kale, sausage and potatoes before and I thought it would be interesting to try an all veggie version. I also had some leeks and fennel leftover from last week and thought I would toss those into the pot too.

Spicy Portuguese Soup
Carb-Conscious Vegetarian, Robin Robertson

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
3 1/2 cups chopped kale
1 Tbsp low-sodium tamari soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1 cup cooked white beans
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh marjoram or 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, kale, tamari, red-pepper flakes, bay leaf, and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the beans, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. About 10 minutes before serving, stir in the parsley and marjoram. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Serves 4 (per serving 157 cal; 5 g fat; 8 g protein; 6 g fiber)

Notes/Results: I made a few changes, increasing the garlic to 3 cloves, adding two chopped leeks and two small fennel bulbs chopped. I also added 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (up from 1/8 tsp), some black pepper and another cup of broth. The author writes that for a heartier soup, saute thin slices of vegetarian sausage links and add them to the soup when ready to serve. This is a good flavored soup, hearty on its own or you could add the veggie sausage links. I grated some Pecorino-Romano cheese on top before serving and it added a nice touch. A good way to use up leftover greens and veggies--I would make it again. Today was a bit hot for soup but it will make for good lunches in the cold of the office air-con.

Now for the toasts: in the spirit of using up things, I took the oyster mushrooms from my CSA box, and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper. I toasted some leftover baguette, drizzled some olive oil and sprinkled sea salt on it then topped it with the sauteed mushrooms. I added some grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, some black pepper and leftover thyme leaves. Yum! No seriously, I mean YUM!!! I am going to be sad when the mushrooms go away from my CSA box.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Soy Good "Egg" Salad

Today's recipe comes from Carb-Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson. You may be thinking; "Hey, I read your blog Deb, and you appear to be neither a vegetarian, based on all that lamb you eat nor particularly carb-conscious after all that bread I see you enjoying so whats up with the cookbook?" My cookbook collection has no bounds or prejudices and since I dabble in eating a more plant-based diet by eating no or little meat a couple of days a week, my collection has a lot of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. I bought this book at Costco as I have one of the author's other books; Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker and I like her recipes. I have had eggless "egg" salad from the natural foods store before but generally find them to be too one dimensional and much too mustardy. I liked the ingredients for this one and thought it would be good for a healthy lunch.

Soy-Good "Egg" Salad
Carb Conscious Vegetarian, Robin Robertson

1/3 cup soy mayonnaise
2 Tbsp tahini paste
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 lb extra firm tofu, well drained, squeezed and patted dry
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp chopped scallion or green onion
1 tsp capers, rinsed, drained and chopped (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, tahini, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, paprika, turmeric and ground red pepper, stir well.

Place the tofu in a large bowl and crumble it with a fork. Add the celery, parsley, scallion and capers. Stir in the mayonnaise mixture and blend well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. When ready to serve, taste to adjust the seasoning.

Serves 4 (per recipe 190 cal, 16 g fat, 9 g protein, 2 g fiber but replacing the mayo with Greek yogurt and a bit of low fat mayo brings those calories and fat counts down)

Notes/Results: I reduced the mayonnaise (and I only had light regular mayo) to 2 Tbsp and used Greek yogurt for the rest of the 1/2 cup soy mayo requested. I also doubled the capers and did not chop them--I love me some capers. I also added some ground black pepper and used a chipotle powder in place of the ground red pepper for a bit more smokiness. The flavor of this "egg" salad is delicious and has lots of layers--smokey, tangy, just enough mustard. The texture is not exactly egg salad-like but it is close and there is no messing with boiling eggs, peeling and chopping them. I ate it for lunch wrapped in green lettuce leaves but would also eat it it as a sandwich, a salad topper or on crackers. I will make this again.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Miscellany--`Aha`aina Recipes, I'm a Chocoholic and Some Longan to Share

Happy Happy Friday! Since I have a few different things to mention, I thought I would do it all in one post today.

First off, my friend Michelle of The Accidental Scientist has posted more photos and a lot of the recipes from the `Aha`aina, or "Great Feast" that happened last Saturday. (See my post about this incredible event here) So if any of the pictures of the fabulous dishes we ate caught your eye, you can look for the recipes here on her site. Also if you happen to be cruising by Foodbuzz, see the 24;24;24 event posts and want to give the`Aha`aina a buzz, that would be very cool.
Here's a few more pictures to whet your appetite!

Second, the wonderful and talented Teresa of two blogs: Mexican-American Border Cooking and Mexican Chocolate Lore and More has given me a very cute and appropriate award she created herself, the "I'm a Chocoholic" Award.
Hmmm...How did she know?!?
If you have not visited Teresa's blogs yet, I highly recommend them both. You can learn a lot and she has some wonderful recipes too. Thanks Teresa--I am "wearing" the award badge proudly on my blog!

Finally, for the past two weeks my CSA box has had a bag of Longan in it and I thought I would share them with you. A Longan is a tropical tree, native to China, that bears a lychee-like fruit. Longan translates to "dragon's eye" referring to the way the peeled fruit's translucent flesh over a rounded black seed looks like an eyeball. The fruit is peeled and eaten fresh, can be dried and is also sold in cans of syrup in Asian markets here. The flavor is a bit less sweet than that of a lychee and I think it has more floral tones. In Chinese medicine it is reported to be good for the skin, rejuvenating and a good "sexual tonic." (oh my!) They make a nice healthy snack and I like to eat them when they are really cold.

I hope you all have an incredible weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup--Barefoot Bloggers

I was excited to try the second Barefoot Blogger's recipe for September, Ina's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup selected by Chelle of Brown Eyed Baker. This recipe was from The Barefoot Contessa's "Mystery Guest" episode where one of Ina's fabulous friends brings a surprise guest (Mel Brooks) to her house for dinner. This was also the episode that gave us the Parmesan Chicken we made in June and Ina also served Blini with Smoked Salmon. Damn Ina, that is a lot of rich food-I hope Mel made it out with his arteries intact!

I make a lot of soup but have never made cream of mushroom soup before. Wild mushrooms aren't cheap here and I probably should have tried to reduce the fat content a bit but I thought if I was gonna do it--go big! and I bought all the ingredients listed. I'll apologise now for the pictures--I started out strong but was multitasking with my Royal Foodie Joust entry and I had the almost tragic finger tip removal incident. By the time I got the soup plated and ready to shoot pictures my throbbing finger and I were so over it that I just kind of snapped a few quick ones of the finished product.
You can find the recipe here on Food Network or on page 48 of The Barefoot Contessa At Home.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
Yields 5-6 servings

5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.
Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown.
Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Results: This is a very creamy, decadent, flavorful soup--I would definitely reduce the fat if making it again. It was a lot of steps but it went together easily. I served it with some baguette slices rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and crisped in the oven, then topped with goat cheese, black pepper and a sprig of fresh thyme. (Yum!) Truth be told, although I liked the soup, I was more interested in the cheese toasts than the soup itself the night I made it. It wasn't until my third bowl, a couple days later that the flavors seemed to pop and I really loved the soup. I think it definitely is better after sitting around for a couple days. You can check out how the other Barefoot Bloggers liked it here.

Great choice in recipes Chelle! Come join us at Barefoot Bloggers (you can get the scoop about this fun blogging event here). If you join now you can delight in cooking the incredibly wonderful recipe picks from Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook and well...ME! It seems that a couple of people are no longer Barefoot Bloggers and I am the second pick in October now. (Woo hoo--moving on up!) I sent my pick in to Tara today so tune in soon to see what yummy dishes Rachel and I have selected!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Middle Eastern Pizza on Chipatis

After a busy cooking weekend between the incredible `aha`aina, the Royal Foody Joust and this week's upcoming Barefoot Bloggers post, I am just a little "reciped out" so I thought I would post about some quick and easy pizza I made last week. Using leftover Chipatis and Dukka from Blog Party #38 Stephanie's Birthday Bash (you can find the recipes and info on them here) and a few ingredients from my fridge, I made exotic and yummy pizzas with a Middle Eastern Flavor.

Middle Eastern Pizzas

Chipatis (or any type of flatbread--you can find some examples here)
good olive oil
seasoned ground meat (I used ground lamb with cumin & curry)
roasted garlic
sauteed mushrooms (I used the oyster mushrooms from my CSA box)
feta cheese
dukka (optional)
fresh mint leaves, chopped (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on Chipati and top with meat, garlic, feta and dukka (if using). Bake in oven about 8-10 minutes until heated through and cheese is soft. Garnish with chopped fresh mint and enjoy.


Results: I really loved the combo of flavors on the crisp chipatis and the dukka, with its combination of toasted nuts and spices, added a nice crunch. A simple weeknight dinner served with a salad and it definitely inspired me to try some different flatbread & topping combinations.

Max wants you to know he had an exhausting weekend too!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Memorable Foody Event--An `Aha`aina for Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 with Swedish Kalua Pork Cabbage Rolls (Kaldomar)

Food Blogging these past almost 6 months has brought a lot to my life the most meaningful thing being great new friends and experiences. One of the most memorable experiences has to be the event I attended this Saturday. An `aha`aina, or "great feast", hosted by the incredibly wonderful and talented Michelle at The Accidental Scientist as part of the Foodbuzz 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs Event. When Michelle first told me what she was proposing to Foodbuzz for this event, I was sure she had a winner and would be chosen. The `aha`aina was the precursor to the more modern-day luau when King Kamehameha II brought the masses and all social classes--rich, poor, royalty and commoners, to share food and fellowship as one group or ohana (family). This opened up Hawaii to all sorts of new foods as people brought and shared the foods from their regions, countries and cultures.

That is exactly what happened on Saturday! About 30 of us, headed to a private, secret little island location of Oahu (I'd tell you where we were but then I would have to kill you!). I will say this--could anything start a gathering off better than arriving to it on a small motor boat shuttle? In this perfect spot for a party we gathered, pans, plates and dishes in hand.
Michelle and her fun and fantastic husband Mike (referred to as LB on her blog), tasked us with either creating a new version of a traditional Hawaiian dish, using ingredients that are prominent staples of our country or ethnic background or making a traditional dish from our country or our ethnic background using locally available Hawaiian ingredients. I was amazed at how seriously and with what great spirit people took the assignment--so much amazing food and wonderful interpretations of so many dishes--over 16 different nationalities and cultures were so wonderfully represented. I tried at least a bite of every dish and was blown away with the creativity and the incredible flavors--I only wish I could have eaten more! Even though most of the people there didn't know each other well, there was such a sense of sharing and community, which is the beauty of people coming together over good food, cooked lovingly.
Here are a few pictures of only some of the incredible dishes from respectively: Hawaii, England, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Fiji, & Japan. You can check out Michelle's post with more details of the event and many more fabulous pictures here. Recipes for the dishes will be posted soon on her site too.

I struggled a bit with what to make as I don't have a strong cultural identity. I am made up of 1/4 each of Swedish, Danish and German, with 1/4 of a miscellaneous mix. Outside of the occasional Swedish pancakes or meatballs, the rare Danish ebelskiver or some German sausage and sauerkraut, we didn't eat a lot of food from the cultures that make up me. I finally decided on Swedish Cabbage Rolls (Kaldomar) only "Hawaiianized" with Kalua Pork.

Cabbage Rolls or Kaldomar are a classic Swedish dish where the cabbage is normally stuffed with ground beef or pork, onion and either rice or bread crumbs. It is believed to have originated when the Swedish King Karl XIII was campaigning in Turkey in the 1700s and brought back the idea of making a “dolmades” or stuffed grape leaves. Since there are not a lot of grape leaves in Sweden, cabbage was used.
In searching the Internet there were many recipes for this dish—some baked, some fried, some using a sweet syrup, some using a creamy sauce, some with breadcrumbs, others with rice so I took inspiration from all of them and came up with what sounded best to me. To add the Hawaiian touches to the dish, I substituted Kalua Pork (smoked, shredded pork butt) for the ground meat. Here in Hawaii you can buy containers of Kalua Pork at the store but it is simple and much cheaper to make your own—all it takes is liquid smoke, some time and a slow cooker. Since allspice was featured in a lot of the recipes, I decided to add Chinese Five Spice, since this seasoning is used frequently in cooking here and I felt it would compliment the smoky flavor of the Kalua pork. In Sweden, this dish is traditionally served with small boiled potatoes and Lingonberry preserves, I dressed my potatoes with butter, parsley and red Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt and served it with Poha Jam (poha is a sweet/tart berry grown in Hawaii).

Kalua Pork Cabbage Rolls “Kaldomar” from Sweden
Serves 6 as a meal (even more as a pupu!)

1 large head Savoy cabbage or 2 smaller heads green cabbage
Water to boil cabbage in
1 tsp salt

1 small yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups cooked white long grain rice
½ cup milk
2 cups cooked Kalua Pork, shredded (see recipe below)
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
Salt and pepper to taste
½ stick of butter (to top cabbage rolls when baking)

1/3 cup liquid/drippings from cooking Kalua Pork (cooled and fat skimmed off)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
3/4 cup milk
½ cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped for garnish

Core cabbage and cook in salted boiling water until leaves are slightly soft and easy to remove (about 10 minutes). Remove cabbage from water, peel off leaves one by one and place on a towel to drain.

While cabbage is cooking, saute onion in butter until soft and translucent. In a pan, place cooked rice and mix in milk, cooked onion, Kalua pork and five spice powder; add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To assemble rolls: Take a cabbage leaf, trim any thick edges and trim the coarse center vane (Its easiest to make a small “v” cut into the leaf). Put a 1 ½ Tbsp of the filling on the cabbage leaf, fold up the bottom of the leaf, tuck in the sides and roll up to the top (thin end) of the cabbage leaf, as tightly as you can. Place the cabbage roll, seam side down in a large oven proof pan or casserole. Repeat and fill casserole, packing rolls tightly together to keep them intact. Once pan is filled (about 24-26 small rolls), place several pats of butter on top of leaves and place in oven to cook about 20-25 minutes until rolls are slightly brown on top.
While cabbage rolls are cooking, make sauce. Place liquid/dripping from Kalua Pork in pan with Tbsp butter. Once butter is melted, add 2 Tbsp cornstarch and five spice powder and blend. Gradually add milk and cream, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth and heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove cabbage rolls from the oven, top with sauce and serve with the boiled potatoes and preserves.

Easy Slow Cooker Kalua Pork:

4-5 pounds Pork Butt Roast
1 Tbsp Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt (or substitute regular sea salt)
2 Tbsp liquid smoke flavoring

Trim any excess fat from pork butt. Using a fork, pierce the pork butt all over. Rub pork butt with liquid smoke and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low for 12-16 hours depending on size of roast (Two 2.5 lb roasts took about 12 hours, one 4.5 pound roast took about 16). Turn roast once during cooking time. Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving the cooking liquid. Shred pork, adding some of the drippings/cooking liquid if needed to add moisture to the meat. Allow the surplus dripping/ cooking liquid to cool; skim fat from the top and use if needed for sauce or gravy.

Results: Surprisingly (to me anyway) the recipe worked well. The sauce with the smokey drippings from the Kalua Pork and the Chinese Five Spice was incredible--I could have just eaten that on my potatoes. The cabbage rolls were a bit tricky to master the tight wrapping necessary--packing them into the casserole helped. I had 26 rolls in the dish and all but one were eaten so considering I thought I might be known as the weird one who brought cabbage to a potluck, I guess people liked them!

The Kalua Pork makes enough for leftovers and since some potatoes were left, I had an excellent Sunday morning breakfast. (If only I had leftover sauce!)

Many thanks to Michelle and Mike for an incredible, unforgettable event and of course to Foodbuzz for coming up with such a great idea for a mass blogging event! With 24 Bloggers hosting 24 meals in 24 hours, I am sure there were many unique and wonderful events out there this weekend. Maybe I am biased but I think few could have possibly had the heart, spirit and sense of friendship that our `aha`aina had. There is a saying (and a bumper sticker) that says "Lucky we live Hawaii" and I know that those of us that were fortunate enough to attend this gathering truly know how lucky we are!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Behold the Dragon Fruit!

Sometimes you have to post things that are just too beautiful not to share like these Dragon Fruit, (also called "pitaya" or "pitahya" in Central and South America). These were grown locally (I believe on the Big Island) and I love how their colorful scales make them look like beautiful tropical fish. The fact that they happen to taste delicious and are very good for you is a bonus. Rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C and assorted other minerals, Dragon fruit have similar seeds and texture to a kiwi. The taste is mild and sweet; kind of like kiwi mixed with pear and a bit of melon thrown in. Although the two colors here are different varieties, they taste very similar.

Sometimes they can be pretty expensive. This week our new Whole Foods had them for $9.99 a pound, Foodland (on a special for members) had them for $5.99 a pound. I got these at a Farmer's Market for $4.00 each.
Dragon fruit make a spectacular addition to a fruit salad or even better, just chopped and served in their own beautiful hollowed out shell. I prefer them icy cold with a small squeeze of lime juice.

Max (appearing as "Cat Dracula"), on the other hand prefers to get his antioxidants and vitamins by sucking the "blood" or chlorophyll out of his tray of "Kitty Grass".

Happy Aloha Friday Everyone! Have a wonderful weekend.