Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sweet Potato Hash

This recipe is adapted from one in Mollie Katzen's "The Vegetable Dishes I can't Live Without."

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups minced red onion
2.5 lbs sweet potato, cooked, peeled and diced
2 tsp minced or crushed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
approx. 7 oz package seasoned & baked (or baked, smoked) tofu, cut into thin strips ( I used Trader Joe's teriyaki baked tofu)

1. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté for 5-8 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.

2. Stir in sweet potatoes, garlic and salt, spreading the mixture to allow maximum contact with hot pan. Wait 5 minutes, then stir it around again, letting it cook until everything becomes crisp on the edges (maybe 10-15 minutes more).

3. Season to taste with black pepper, then stir in tofu. Taste to adjust the salt.

Yields 4-5 servings.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spicy Pear Cookies

One of my longtime yoga students makes about 20 varieties of cookies each year for the holidays. For the past several years, she has brought a platter of cookies, just before Christmas, to share at the end of class. A long time ago she made a pear cookie that I absolutely loved. The recipe is lost, so now we are trying to find something like it. So I found this one on allrecipes.com and asked Abel to help me make it, so he would stop hammering the fridge with the ice cream scoop and using the kitchen tongs to pinch my legs!

This recipe seems pretty uninteresting, but take my word -- the cookies are very good. They were a huge hit with everyone last night after dinner.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 pear - peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger, then mix into batter. Stir in pears, raisins and walnuts. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Classic Macaroni Salad

This is so totally NOT good-for-you, but it's really yummy in the classic American junk food sense. I think the sugar is the magic ingredient. We had this for dinner tonight, along with hot dogs, baked beans, french fries, and collard greens. Not every night is gourmet around here, that's for sure!

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (I prefer the multi-grain kind, like Barilla Plus)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 1/4 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 small onion, diced (1/2 cup or less)
2 stalks celery, chopped small
1/2 green pepper, chopped small
2-4 Tbsp grated carrot
2 Tbsp pimiento or stuffed green olives, chopped small

Cook pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients in a bowl. When pasta is done, rinse thoroughly with cold water, then stir into sauce.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Local?

This article appeared in the premiere issue (Fall 2008) of Edible South Shore magazine. Read it here, or download a pdf with lots of pretty pictures at the following link: http://www.ediblesouthshore.com/content/index.php/articles/fall-2008.htm

Since I began researching the article, back in July, I've made an effort to plan our meals using more local, seasonal produce. It's gotten us to eat more squash and less salad, which is a good thing when it's autumn in New England.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein

Eating locally-grown food is becoming more relevant to the residents of Southeastern Massachusetts. We have an extensive array of farms, orchards, vineyards and cranberry bogs right in our back yard, and we’re seeking them out in greater numbers. The popularity of farmers’ markets is on the rise, and we’re purchasing local produce, eggs, milk, bread, meat and plenty more at farm stands, Pick Your Own venues, and specialty stores. Plus a number of area chefs are seeking out local foods for their restaurant tables.

What’s good about local food? Where can we get it? Why should we eat it?

Local is Fresher
“What our customers get is a thousand miles fresher than what you find at a supermarket.” That’s one of the main reasons the Fruit Center Marketplace in Milton and Hingham stocks local foods, says marketing director Michael Dwyer.

Locally grown produce doesn’t have to cross the country by plane or truck, or sit in cold storage for days. Most often it is picked within 24 hours of when it is sold to you, which is significantly shorter than what you’ll find in the average grocery store.

“We have salads from Maine, nice and fresh,” says Marlon Garcia, produce manager for Whole Foods Market in Hingham. “You can tell the difference between California and here.”

Local Tastes Better – and It’s Better for You.
Because local food doesn’t have to travel as far, it can be harvested at its peak. A peach picked in Bridgewater this morning and sold at a farmers’ market this afternoon can be ripe to bursting. A peach picked in Georgia, trucked to the airport, flown to a produce distributor in Boston, then transported to your local store is just not the same: it has to be picked sooner and less ripe in order to survive the long journey.

Locally-grown food is better for you too. According to the FDA, some of the vitamins in fresh produce are depleted 50% or more within a week or two of being harvested. So if you choose a Middleboro tomato over one from New Jersey, you’re getting significantly more nutritional value from it.

You’re also lessening the risk of contamination. When you buy local, your food travels a much shorter route from the farm to the table. Thus it’s easier to track potential problems. “There is a certain comfort in knowing where you food comes from. All those recalls really make you think about who’s handling your food,” says John Hornstra, fourth generation owner of Hornstra Farms in Hingham. “We firmly believe in supporting agriculture in the Northeast, so we have better control over what we’re eating,” says his sister and co-worker Alison. “Knowing the source of our food, protecting the food supply, making sure that we have local land open to grow food on in the future.”

Shopping at farm stands or farmers’ markets, you’re more apt to know what you’re eating. “People like to see where their food came from, to actually talk to the farmer, to find out how the food was grown, if it was sprayed with something,” explains Karen Biagini, co-manager of the Marshfield Farmers’ Market. “It makes you feel good because you know where the food is coming from,” says Rehoboth resident Prudence Stoddard.

It’s better for the local economy.
Buying local helps keep money in our communities. When you buy lettuce from Carver instead of California, your money goes right back into the local economy, supporting the value of our real estate, the maintenance of infrastructure like roads and bridges, the quality of our schools. It can even help to enliven downtrodden areas.

The influx of big box stores just off the highways has put the pinch on many of the smaller, family-run businesses of Southeastern Massachusetts. As a result, our downtown areas – take Plymouth for example --have seen better days. But this summer, Plymouth has received a boost in the form of a Saturday farmers’ market on the Courthouse Green. “People were eager to come. Right out of the gate they were here, walking downtown and checking it out,” says market manager Barbara Anglin. “It reminds people that there is a heart in the center in their town. It helps them to remember and appreciate that there is commerce going on here.”

“Farmers markets are a proven tool to do that,” says Anglin, citing a nationwide study. “For every dollar spent in a farmers’ market in a downtown district, four more dollars are spent in that district.” A British study discovered that money spent on local food was twice as likely to be reinvested in the area than money spent at a supermarket chain.

Buying local supports our communities, but even more, it supports our farmers. Nationwide, farmers on average receive only 20 cents of each food dollar – the rest covers costs like transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing. But if they sell directly to the consumer, they receive much more. So when you buy produce or eggs from the farm stand or the farmers’ market, you’re helping the farmer get the full retail value for her food. Even if you’re buying it from a store, it still helps the farmer because you’re choosing her lettuce over the lettuce from California.

“The interest now in local growers -- it’s really nice to see,” says Donna Blischke of Web of Life Organic farm in Carver, who offers seedlings, produce, and eggs, plus chicken and turkey.

Garcia says that it is company policy at Whole Foods for produce buyers to pay a little bit more for local food. Especially in the summer, “we can pay the farmers 10-15% more than we do for the stuff from California or other countries. It’s more expensive for us, but we do it to support the farmers.”

Why should we support local farmers? For one, farms provide jobs. Furthermore, the taxes towns collect from agricultural development actually earn communities 70 cents on the dollar. Compare that to residential development, which costs a community $1.25 per dollar earned. When we support farmers, it gives them an economic incentive against selling their land to the highest bidder, which in turn helps us to preserve open space. “It’s more power for all of us,” explains Anglin.

It’s better for the environment.
According to Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1500 miles to get there. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other best-selling books on food, elaborates on this point. “It takes seven to ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate,” he writes. “Only a fifth (of that energy) . . . is consumed on the farm; the rest is spent processing the food and moving it around.”

This massive consumption of fossil fuel for the sake of feeding ourselves takes a huge toll on our environmental resources – and it is largely unnecessary. While we may not choose to source all of our food locally, even committing to buy 10% of what we eat from within a 100-mile radius could drastically reduce our nation’s reliance on fossil fuel. A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country.

“We just can’t have strawberries in the middle on winter from Chile – it isn’t sustainable,” explains Margie Baldwin, co-owner of Mattapoisett’s How on Earth, a store that sells only local products. “We are used to having what we want when we want and that doesn’t work anymore.” We’re not only paying the price through the challenges associated with global warming, we’re getting poorer quality food. “You can buy strawberries in the grocery store in winter but they don’t taste like strawberries,” says Karen Biagini. “They’re just these big red things.”

Maintaining local crops also makes us less susceptible to diseases and natural disasters. “The important thing is that there be multiple food chains, so that when any one of them fails – when the oil runs out, when mad cow or other food-borne diseases become epidemic, when the pesticides no longer work, when drought strikes and plagues come and soils blow away – we’ll still have a way to feed ourselves,” writes Pollan.

Organic vs. Local
People who are conscientious about what they eat often wonder which is better: locally grown food or organic. “Organic” means the produce grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and the animals are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. People choose it to avoid the threat of what may result from consuming such chemicals. However these days organics are often grown on giant factory farms, usually on the West Coast, and thus rely on a huge outlay of energy in order to reach our dinner plates. Plus they require packaging and refrigeration – so the cost to the planet is high. Which do you sacrifice first – your own health, or the health of the nation at large?

The best solution would be to choose local produce that is organically grown. Often a local farm is already using organic methods, but hasn’t gone through the complicated process of obtaining organic certification. And even if it’s not organic, a small farm is probably less aggressive about using chemicals than its factory-size counterpart.

Local Food is Social
Nearly everyone I spoke with for this article – growers, chefs, store managers and consumers – seemed to agree on a single point. Buying local helps to build community. “It’s neighborly,” says Lorrie Gampp of Summer Dreams Farm in Marshfield. Going to the farm stand and chatting with the grower, running into a friend at the farmers’ market, striking up a conversation with a stranger at the You Pick It raspberry farm . . . we’re creating social ties that only strengthen our communities. “You meet up with people that you haven’t seen in a while, and that makes you feel good,” says Debbie Lenahan of Norwell.

Plus you can learn something.
Buying local encourages you to try something new. At the farm stand, you may find an item you haven’t tried before – squash flowers or mustard greens, bite-size plums or purslane. Local growers may offer more variety too – they are often willing to try out a new type of lettuce, for example, when a grocery store won’t because the demand isn’t there. “We offer 14 varieties of heirloom tomatoes,” Gampp says.

Local can save you money too.
“I price everything I have at or below grocery store organic prices. Some are one-third the grocery store price,” says Gampp. Because costs such as cross-country transportation are not a factor, local food is often less expensive than what you find in the supermarket. “We’re eliminating the middle man,” says Biagini. Blueberries at Tree Berry farm in Norwell this summer were $2.60 per pound to pick your own. They averaged around $2.99 per pint at the grocery store.

But saving money is not really what it’s about. “It’s about superior nutrition, superior freshness, and if it costs a few pennies more, I think it’s worth it,” Biagini continues. The farmers have to support themselves, and justify the work involved in transforming dry seeds into fresh produce. ”Even if you do pay a premium, when you get home, everything you bought is good – the berries on the bottom of the carton are as good as the ones on the top,” says Linda O’Callahan of Marshfield. “It’s a better value because you’re getting everything you pay for – nothing has to go into the compost.”

But can we do it year-round?
One of the major challenges of eating local is what to do in the winter when nothing much grows here. The first step is to buy extra when a certain food is in season. You can freeze strawberries, or make jam. You can turn an abundance of tomatoes into sauces and salsas. You can make pesto or pickles or fruit leather and stock it all away for the colder months. If you’re not adept in the kitchen, you can look to local growers, like Web of Life, or C.N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater, who have done it for you, supplementing their produce offerings with homemade goods like these.

Another step is simply to be conscious about the foods you choose. Can you hold off on apples from New Zealand next summer and wait for the local ones to come through in September?

Where To Find It
In the summer and fall, local foods are available nearly everywhere. Most towns host at least one farm stand, and Pick Your Own berry farms and orchards are scattered throughout the region. Even a standard supermarket stocks some locally grown produce in July and August.

In 2008 there were ten weekly farmers’ markets in Plymouth County and thirteen in Bristol County. From Attleboro to Dartmouth, Brockton to Fairhaven, Hingham to Plymouth, you could find an outdoor market any day of the week from June to October. What could you find there? Fresh-picked produce to be sure, but also eggs, baked goods, homemade condiments, seedlings, even lobster.

Produce buyer Pietra Hotokka of Good Health Natural Foods in Quincy and Hanover says her stores carry local produce when it’s available. “All of our lettuces are from Happy Valley Organics (of South Deerfield, MA),” she says. “Our blueberries come from Prospect Hill Farm in Plympton.”

Whole Foods Market in Hingham boasts a relatively high percentage of local produce. “August and September are the most local, with 40-50%,” says Garcia. Some of his sources include strawberries, potatoes and greens from Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable; blueberries, corn, squash and cucumbers from Sauchuk Farm in Plympton; the list goes on and on.

Hingham’s Hornstra Farms delivers milk and other premium products to 3500 South Shore homes. “Ninety percent of what we sell comes from New England,” says Alison Hornstra. “Our milk is produced at our family farm in North Haverhill, NH – it’s antibiotic free, with no artificial hormones. And we just recently brought in organic milk from Dracut. We have Bliss Bros. ice cream from Attleboro, frozen chowders from Marion, cider from Harvard, Massachusetts, and our beef is from family owned farms in New England and NY.”

The Fruit Center Marketplace is known for its fresh and beautiful produce, but it is also a leader in supporting local food. “We are very focused on our community and thankful for our customers,” says Dwyer. “As a part of that we like to support local businesses and the local economy. An example is our coffee. We have some well-known national brands like Peet’s and Green Mountain, but we also have had tremendous success with Redeye Roasters, coffee roasted right in Hingham. People come here looking for it -- we’re one of the few places that have it. “

“Also, 90% of our bakery products are local – Fratelli’s in Quincy, Baking with Joy in Weymouth, Fancypants Bakery in Walpole. They are incredibly fresh, incredibly unique, and people understand that there is a tremendous difference from those produced in huge quantities on assembly lines.”

Chefs too are interested in local food. “We grow as much as possible ourselves -- lettuce, squash, herbs, garlic, snap peas, green beans, tomatoes, says Robin Salazar of Pembroke-based Cooking from the Heart, which creates entrees, soups, and salads and delivers them to your door. “I always get winter squashes and cranberries from Sunrise Gardens farm stand in Plympton,”

Diane Kunkel, who runs the Rockin’ K Café in Bridgewater, adjusts her menu as the seasons change. “We make gazpacho when the tomatoes, cucumbers and onions come in, and corn chowder when the corn comes in. In the fall we have a local stew with squash, sweet potatoes and corn.” Kunkel gets a lot of her produce from CN Smith and Hanson Farm, both in Bridgewater. “Plus, my husband is an organic grower, so we use our own eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peaches, and raspberries. People really do appreciate that we’re getting it from a local farm,” she says.

Executive Chef Kevin Long has been with Hingham’s acclaimed Tosca since 1995. He uses as much local food in the restaurant as he can. “Everything we can get -- it’s been a huge focus of ours for a long time. It’s a little more work, higher prices.” But it’s worth it. “The products are great and you want to be able to work with these people, support the market, support sustainability.”

Long lists Island Creek Oysters of Duxbury and Lipinski’s Farm of East Bridgewater among his regular sources. Then there’s Eve’s Garden of South Dartmouth. “We get everything from her – greens, herbs, herb flowers, squash blossoms, wild harvested roots, berries, mushrooms,” he raves. “And there’s a farmer right in Hanson with the most unbelievable tomatoes. We also buy summer squash, zucchini, snap peas there, all hand-picked. The stuff is phenomenal.”

At Tosca, it’s not just the produce that’s local. Their milk and cream come from Hornstra Farms, much of their cheese is from New England and New York, and specialty meats often come from Vermont. “It’s all about supporting your local farmers and the local economy,” says Long. “The paramount thing is that the products are generally better.”

How to spread the word.
As more of us eat local, the more it will help our farmers, our economy, and the planet. They key is to get the word out. Talk to the managers of the stores you frequent and ask them to stock local products. Tell your friends and family about the benefits of eating what’s grown nearby. Consider creating just one meal a week with foods grown or produced only within New England.

Share this magazine with them too. The mission of Edible South Shore is to transform the way consumers shop for, cook, eat and relate to local food. We are committed to sustaining the unique local flavors and economic viability of Plymouth and Bristol counties, connecting people with local growers, retailers, chefs and food artisans, and encouraging those relationships to thrive.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Honey Glazed Sweet Potato Spears

Sweet, caramelized at the edges, and so yummy.

5 long, slender sweet potatoes (about 10 oz each)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
2-4 Tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 400. Peel sweet potatoes and quarter them the long way -- or cut into spears no thicker than 1/2 inch wide. Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer in a rimmed cookie sheet or baking pan. Roast for 45 minutes, then drizzle with honey and roast 15 minutes more.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

My friend Janel made this soup last week when Abel and I went to visit her and her kids. It's from the latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook -- and it's amazingly good. I made it the other night, and we all loved it here, and so did my mom and sister when I brought them leftovers. Here's my shorthand version of the recipe.

3-4 lb butternut squash (about 2 medium), peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Macintosh apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups stock (I used veggie broth)
1/2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss squash, onion and apple chunks together in a bowl with olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Spread mixture in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets, and roast for 35-45 minutes. Puree mixture in batches with stock, and then gently reheat. Stir in curry, and taste to see if you need more salt & pepper.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

These are relatively easy to make, and a great cookie for grown-ups (not too sweet), perfect for dunking. The recipe is adapted from the Hershey's Homemade cookbook. Sometimes I also add dried cherries or dried cranberries, or even some cinnamon.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup toasted almonds, in chunks or slivers

Chocolate Glaze: melt together
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tbsp butter or margarine

Heat oven to 350. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs and almond extract: beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; blend into butter mixture, beating until smooth. (Dough will be thick.) Using a wooden spoon, work almonds into dough. Divide dough into halves. With lightly floured hands, shape each half into a rectangular log, about 2 inches in diameter and about 11 inches long. Place logs on ungreased cookie sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Bake 30 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 15 minutes. Cut logs at a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Discard end pieces. Place slices, cut side down, close together on cookie sheet and bake 8-9 minutes, then turn them over and bake 8-9 minutes more. Remove from oven, and cool on cookie sheet on wire rack. Prepare chocolate glaze. When biscotti are cool, drizzle (or spread one side) with chocolate glaze.

Karen's Turkish-ish Braised Carrots

My friend Karen shares some fantastic recipes with me, and this is one of the latest favorites. She got it from another friend, who said it was "quite possibly adapted from Nigel Slater." My sister Marnie requests this dish frequently, and between the two of us, we have no trouble polishing off the entire pan. I've adapted it to be dairy-free. The final two ingredients are not to be skipped. Find them at your local ethnic food store section (or online) -- they're what makes the dish truly delicious.

1 lb. carrots
1 Tbsp Earth Balance margarine
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup plain soy yogurt
1 tsp za'atar
2 tsp pomegranate molasses

Peel the carrots and cut them into large chunks. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the margarine and oil together. Add the ginger and coriander and stir. Add carrots and water and stir to coat the carrots. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, covered, until the carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It's okay to let the carrots develop some brown, caramelized spots -- yum, yum. When ready to serve, stir in the yogurt, za'atar, and pomegranate molasses.

Serve over rice or Israeli cous cous, or as a side dish.

Squash with Sage & Thyme

This recipe is derived from a dish in Annie Somerville's "Fields of Greens" (her squash and leek turnovers are amazing, but too labor-intensive for a weeknight).

cooking spray
1 acorn squash, peeled & cubed (approx. 1 inch cubes)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried sage (or 1 Tbsp fresh, snipped into ribbons, if you have it)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Toss remaining ingredients together in baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then 15 minutes more uncovered, adding water if necessary if squash looks like it's drying out.

* A note about peeling the squash. Yes, it's complicated. My suggestion is to cut the squash into crescents, cutting along the "valleys" between the ridges. Then each crescent will be easier to peel. Look for squash that aren't deeply ridged -- that will help too. Or just use butternut or delicata squash, which is easier to peel!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Curried Rice & Lentils

To read it, this recipe doesn't sound like much. But it's delicious, and really satisfying in that "good wholesome food" kind of way. It's fairly quick and easy too. I serve it with a steamed vegetable -- tonight it was green beans. This is adapted from a couscous recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites.

1/2 cup dried lentils
1.5 cups water
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
2 tsp canola oil
2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger root
1 Tbsp curry powder
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 cup peeled & diced carrots
2 cups baby spinach, lightly packed
1/2 cup chopped scallions
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, combine the lentils and 1.5 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until tender, about 35-40 minutes. Drain off excess water.

In another small saucepan, combine the rice and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

After the rice is cooking, warm the oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic, ginger, curry and cayenne, and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup water, salt, and carrots. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, cover and cook another minute or two, until spinach wilts. Add the scallions, rice, and drained lentils, and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

I have two or three boxes of Ibarra (a Mexican baking chocolate) in my cabinet, purchased with the intent of using it for many, many cups of Mexican hot chocolate. But right now I can't drink milk, and I don't really like the taste of soymilk when it's heated. There the Ibarra sits, gathering dust on its bright yellow box, making me feel sad and guilty. What to do? Make brownies instead! I found three recipes on the internet, and so far this is the one I like best.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
2 tablets (6.5 oz total) Ibarra Mexican chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour (or cocoa powder!)

2. In a 2-3 quart saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the two kinds of chocolate, stirring frequently, until smooth.

3. While chocolate is melting, toast pine nuts by spreading them on a baking pan and placing in the heated oven for 5-8 minutes, shaking pan often, until nuts are golden. Remove from pan immediately.

4. Remove chocolate from heat and stir in brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, flour and pine nuts.

5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until edges feel firm to the touch and turn a shade darker.

6. Run a knife between pan rim and brownie. Let cool in pan on a rack for 1 hour. Cut into squares.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Zucchini Sticks

2 medium-to-large zucchini
cooking spray
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 tsp Mrs. Dash garlic & herb

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Combine breadcrumbs and Mrs. Dash in a bowl.
3. Cut zucchini into sticks about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide and arrange on an oiled baking sheet.
4. Spray zucchini lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle breadcumbs on top.
5. Turn over zucchini over and repeat with spray and breadcrumbs.
6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crispy.
7. Eat while hot/warm, plain or dipped in something yummy.

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables & Basil

This recipe was inspired by a dish called Pasta Athena that I enjoyed with my friend Karen at the Garden Gourmet in Charlottesville, Virginia in the early 1990s. It's also based loosely on some of the pasta dishes in Annie Somerville's excellent book, "Fields of Greens." But it's not exactly like any of those. I serve it with garlic shrimp for my husband and Trader Joe's vegetarian meatballs for me.

1 package Trader Joe's shelf-stable gnocchi (1/2 lb or so)
3 Tbsp olive oil
10 oz. white mushrooms, slices
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup white wine
1 small to medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 package baby spinach (3-4 cups)
2 medium size tomatoes, chopped
up to 1 oz fresh basil, cut into ribbons
2 Tbsp pine nuts
pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it's ready, cook the gnocchi according to package directions.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the mushrooms over medium high heat with 1/4 tsp salt. When the mushrooms are golden and almost crisp on the edges, add the wine and garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes. Stir in the zucchini and the rest of the salt, and cook until the zucchini softens. Then stir in the spinach, tomatoes, and pine nuts, and continue to stir until spinach is wilted and all is heated through. Stir in the basil and pepper to taste.

Combine the drained gnocchi with vegetable mixture and serve immediately.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No-Guilt Fudge Chip Muffins

From Health magazine, a recipe developed by celebrity chef Bethenny Frankel. These are dairy-free and 154 calories each. Oh, and they're wicked good. The recipe makes 8 muffins, but I prefer to make a dozen slightly smaller muffins instead (thus the calorie count goes down closer to 100).

cooking spray
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (i use white sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup oat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup semi-sweet dairy & gluten free chocolate chips (i use regular ones)
powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place paper liners in muffin tin and coat them with cooking spray.
2. Combine applesauce and next 4 ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the next 6 ingredients. Add oat mixture to applesauce mixture, stir until blended. Stir in choc chips.
3. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake 20-22 minutes, rotating the pan a half-turn after 10 minutes. Muffins are done when tops are firm to the touch.
4. Cool slightly. Top with powdered sugar, if desired.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black Bean Chili

A friend just asked for this recipe (which she misplaced). It's a good thing -- I otherwise might have forgotten all about it. I haven't prepared it myself in years, but now I'm going to. You can substitute canned beans if you prefer -- but you'll need a lot of them (like 4 cans).

4 cups dry black beans & water for soaking
5-6 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
2 1/4 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
crushed red pepper or cayenne, to taste
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 green bell peppers
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup tomato puree
8 oz. canned diced green chiles

Soak beans in 8 cups water overnight.

Bring beans and water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 2 hours. Drain off all but 2-3 cups water.

In a separate pan, sauté peppers with garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and red pepper/cayenne in olive oil, until peppers are tender.

Add sauté to beans, along with tomato puree and green chiles and simmer on low for about 45 minutes. Stir in lime juice before serving.

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zucchini Apple Bread

A new discovery this fall. I found the concept at the farmers' market and found the recipe online.

2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 + 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated apple

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 1 - 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, white sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Fold in walnuts, zucchini and apple. Pour into prepared pan.

3. Bake 1 hour, or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

READY IN 1 Hr 20 Min
Recipe yield 1 - 9x5 inch loaf
Servings: 12

Nora Lemanski Bacon's Apple Cake

The arrival of cooler weather reminds me of my grandmother's apple cake, another autumn tradition.

2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
3/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 cups diced apples

Combine wet ingredients. Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in nuts, chocolate and apples. Pour into tube cake pan and bake at 325 for 1 hour.

Rosemary-Lemon Baked Tofu

This is really tasty and really easy to prepare. From "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics," with minor adjustments.

1 cake firm tofu
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried -- crumbled or powdered)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400.
Cut the tofu into 10-12 rectangular slices and arrange in a single layer in a baking pan or on a cookie sheet with raised edges.
Whisk together all other ingredients and pour over the tofu.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until tofu begins to brown at the edges.
Serve warm or cold.

Flemish Farm Soup

Marnie, my sister, comes over for dinner every Tuesday night. Usually when I am stumped for meal ideas and ask her for suggestions, she says, "That soup." The ingredients are ordinary, but slow-cooking the onions makes this soup very flavorful. Don't skip the croutons! This recipe is only marginally different from the one in "Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special."

3 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 cup peeled and thinly sliced carrots
1 cup peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (1-2 tsp dried)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
4 slices French bread, cut on the diagonal (I prefer a hearty multi-grain bread, cut into quarters)
4 slices of gouda or edam cheese (optional)

In a heavy soup pot on medium-low heat, cook the onions and salt in the olive oil for about 30 minutes, until thoroughly limp and brown. Keep the soup pot covered so the juices will not evaporate, and stir frequently to prevent the onions from sticking.

Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, and stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes (or more). Stir in the parsley, dill and pepper. Cover and simmer on very low heat as you prepare the croutons.

Preheat the broiler.

In a small skillet on low heat, warm the butter or olive oil. Stir in the caraway seeds, sauté for a few seconds, and remove from the heat. Brush the bread slices with the warm liquid, and top each with a slice of cheese (optional). Broil for a few minutes, checking frequently to avoid burning.

Drop a crouton into each bowl of soup before serving.

Yields 7 cups (4 servings).
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes.

Pumpkin Muffins

A yoga student reminded me of these this morning. A different yoga student gave me the recipe 10 years ago. I make them every fall. Maybe they're actually cupcakes. You decide.

1 cup sugar
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
2 cups flour (or use 1 cup oat flour, 1 cup white flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 package chocolate chips

Combine wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake in muffin tins at 325 for 25-30 minutes. Makes a dozen.

Pickled Red Cherry Peppers

I'm actually the only one in the house who will eat these. My parents and sister like them, though. I found this recipe online after being given a bag full of cherry peppers. They're the first thing I grab from an antipasto platter, so I was happy to finally learn how to make them myself.

18-20 red cherry peppers, washed
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 - 1 tsp pickling spice

1. Preheat broiler. Broil peppers 7-12 minutes or until blistered.
2. Place peppers in paper bag and let sit 15 minutes until skins loosen. Remove skins (more or less).
3. Bring vinegar, sugar, water and pickling spice to a boil.
4. Place peppers in sterile jar and pour vinegar mixture over them. Let cool.
5. Cover and let stand overnight (in fridge). Keep refrigerated.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Local Food Raves #1-5

These Local Food Raves appeared in my Marshfield Mariner "Around Town" column earlier this year. The idea of the Local Food Rave is to highlight good food available in Marshfield itself. More to come . . .

LOCAL FOOD RAVE #1 (April 2008)
Pacini’s Tuscan Wrap. Once a month (twice if we’re lucky) a few friends and I get together for lunch and conversation. While the kids play, we enjoy takeout from Pacini’s Restaurant, at 1810 Ocean Street in Marshfield. Our collective favorite: The Tuscan Wrap -- mixed greens, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers and tangerine slices, served with balsamic vinaigrette and garlic toast. The Pacini’s staff knows just who we are when we call to order, “Four Tuscan Wraps; one with no red pepper.” Watch future columns for more local food raves.

LOCAL FOOD RAVE #2 (May 2008)
Want to try something different and delicious? Check out the flatbreads at Hola, the tapas restaurant in Marshfield’s Library Plaza. A flatbread is a very thin, crunchy grilled bread served with your choice from a variety of toppings. It sounds like pizza, but it’s really much more than that. You might choose the tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella bread, with or without pepperoni, or the one with roasted seasonal vegetables, mushrooms and manchego cheese, or how about corn, aged cheddar and bacon? The menu changes seasonally, but there are always numerous flatbreads to choose from. My husband and I have tried four or five of them so far, and they have all been quite good.

LOCAL FOOD RAVE #3 (June 2008)
There are so many things about Arthur and Pat’s restaurant that I love, and so many items on their menu that I could easily include in the Local Food Rave. Where to begin? How about something unexpected? Did you know you could buy a loaf of bread there? Arthur and Pat’s offers a delicious multi-grain sliced bread that’s hearty yet light, and perfect for toast, grilled cheeses, and any other type of sandwich. The loaves are huge, so they last a long time, and taste great even when they’ve been in the freezer all winter long (I stock up for the 6 months each year that the restaurant is closed). Stop in and check it out! They’re on the Esplanade in Brant Rock.

LOCAL FOOD RAVE #4 (July 2008)
Looking for something cool and refreshing to help beat the summer heat? Check out Dr. Smoothie at the Corner Café, at the intersection of Routes 3A and 139. For $3.95, you can enjoy a 16-oz. smoothie consisting of nothing but crushed fruit, water and ice. They’re delicious – and there’s no sugar, no corn syrup, no artificial flavors or colors. The 100% natural, non-dairy, lactose-free, fat-free smoothies are made to order and come in such flavors as strawberry, mango, pineapple paradise, lemonade, four berry blend, acai-blueberry-pomegranate and strawberry banana. So yummy! I think I’m gonna go try another one right now . . .

LOCAL FOOD RAVE #5 (August 2008)
It’s the time of year to eat locally grown corn on the cob – so sweet, so crisp, so fresh-tasting. Yum! During the week, I buy mine at Nessralla’s Farm Stand, on Ocean Street/Route 139 near Rexhame. It’s grown by the Nessralla family in Halifax. On Fridays, I sample from the many different farmers who sell their wares at the Marshfield Farmers Market, at the Fairgrounds from 2 – 7 pm. There you can find corn and other locally grown produce from Marshfield, Middleboro, Carver, Kingston, and more. Buying local food helps support neighborhood farms, cuts down on the use of fossil fuels, and puts money back into our own community.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Warm Potsticker Salad

Adapted from a recipe in "Real Simple" magazine. Using BOTH the peanuts and the seitan may be overkill.

1 bag of frozen vegetable pot stickers
1 cup chopped seitan plus 1 Tbsp canola oil (optional) or teriyaki Tofettes, quartered
2 cups fresh sugar snap peas or snow peas, trimmed
2 medium carrots, sliced in rounds or half moons
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
2 scallions, chopped

1. Prepare the potstickers accordingly to directions on package.

2. If you're using it, sauté the seitan in the canola oil until browned.

3. Steam the snap peas and carrots in a steamer basket until tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl or serve warm (also good chilled).

Cinnamon-Raisin Peanut Butter

From Peanut Butter & Company

You can buy this in a $5 jar from Peanut Butter & Company, or you can make your own from scratch. We like this on rice cakes, whole grain toast, even waffles.

1 cup natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon

If you keep your PB in the fridge, let it warm to room temperature. Stir in the other ingredients by hand. Try not to be a glutton.

Pan-Grilled Peaches

Adapted from a recipe in a Whole Foods Market pamphlet.

4 large ripe peaches
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Rinse peaches and blot dry. Cut each in half and discard pits.

2. Combine butter, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix thoroughly until sugar dissolves and then set aside.

3. Place peaches, cut side down, in nonstick skillet, and heat over medium-high heat until nicely browned, basting with butter-sugar mixture. Turn over and cook the other side the same way.

4. Serve immediately.

Serving Idea:
I cut up the leftovers and put them in my oatmeal or hot rice cereal the next morning. Not exactly a low-fat breakfast, but so yummy.

Red Lentil Dal with Byriani

RED LENTIL Dal (adapted from The Tao of Cooking)

1.5 cups split red lentils
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp. minced garlic
pinch sugar
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 Tbsp canned green chiles ( i used 1 light yellow pepper, semi-hot, instead)
2 tsp. curry powder
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Cover the lentils with water. Add salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes, adding more water if needed.

Heat butter in a skillet. Add cumin and garlic and cook until they start to brown. Add onions and sugar and cook until onions are soft. Add ginger, chiles or pepper, and curry powder. Cook 3-4 minutes and add to lentils. Stir and taste for seasoning. Add cilantro (if desired) just before serving.

BYRIANI (adapted from The Tao of Cooking)
2 cups water
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 tsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp cumin
1 cup slices onion
1 small green pepper, diced
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground cardamom
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

Combine water, rice, butter, salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook 35-40 minutes.

Heat oil in skillet. Add cumin, onion, peppers, and cook until onions soften. Add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, raisins and tomatoes. Cook 3 more minutes. Add grated carrot and almonds. Mix with cooked rice. Season with salt to taste.

Ideas for Accompaniments:
We had steamed cauliflower and a green salad with goat cheese, sliced apple and balsamic vinaigrette. I also served the following Clean Out The Freezer experiment: half a bag of cole slaw mix (grated cabbage and carrots) sauteed in olive oil with onion, garlic and salt -- it was surprisingly good.

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

adapted from a recipe in "Health" magazine

2/3 cup stone-ground yellow corn meal
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp butter, diced
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 Tbsp ice water

2 ounces softened goat cheese
2 Tbsp fresh basil, cut in slivers with kitchen shears
3 medium (1.5 lbs) fresh tomatoes, in thick slices
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. For the tart shell, combine corn meal, flour, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse 4x or until blended. Add butter and olive oil and pulse 10 seconds or until mixture resembles a coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add ice water through the food chute, processing just until blended. (Do not allow dough to form into a ball). Chill 15 minutes.

3. Press tart shell mixture into a 9x12 inch tart pan (I used a round springform pan lined with parchment).

4. Bake tart shell at 400 for 20 minutes. While the tart is warm, spread with goat cheese over the top, then sprinkle on the basil. Add tomato slices in overlapping concentric circles. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake for 15 minutes at 400. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing.

Ideas for Accompaniments:
We had this with corn on the cob, leftover roasted beets, leftover steamed cauliflower and green beans. I had a Tofurkey Italian sausage too, and the boys had fish sticks. (Friday is Eat The Leftover Vegetables Night around here.)

Why Another Blog?

I generally plan a week's worth of dinners every Friday night, and shop at three different food stores (Trader Joe's, Good Health --our local health food store, and Stop & Shop) on Saturday morning. Sometimes the meal planning goes fast and easy, but other times it seems impossible.

I know I'm not alone in this. I started this blog to share the recipes that have worked well for me and my family, but also to inspire me when I run out of ideas. ("What were we eating LAST August? Oh yeah, I could eat that again.")

A little bit about our diet. I'm a vegetarian and I try not to eat much dairy because it doesn't agree with me (yet I love it). My husband eats pretty much anything. My son, who is two, is a wild card. If something is listed here on the blog, it doesn't necessarily mean we ALL liked it enough to eat it again. But it has to be good. I don't want to waste my own time posting it, and I don't want to waste YOUR time either.

Please share your own recipes with me.

Thanks for reading this,