Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kasha With Vegetables

I wish I could sing from the rooftops about how much I love kasha. I was first exposed to it at a restaurant in the old Jewish section of a small Czech town that I visited when I was interning at an agency in Prague. All warm and rich and mildly nutty, I think it's a sadly overlooked grain that is equal parts delicious and healthy. So here is the world's easiest recipe, taken straight off the box, and slightly refashioned with exact ingredient proportions. If there are other suggestions for delicious things that can be done with kasha, I would love to know. While I enjoyed a serving of this yesterday with a chicken thigh, I feel like it could be a great side salad at a party for a couscous-type salad during the colder months.

Kasha with Vegetables
serves 4 (or 6, as a side dish)

1 cup kasha
1 egg
2 tbsp butter
2 cups water or chicken stock
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2 carrot sticks, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
15 button mushrooms (although I'm sure crimini would taste splendid here), sliced
1/2 bell pepper (red would be prettier, but green was on sale), diced
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley

(I followed the package's instructions slightly incorrectly but everything turned out fine.)
In a saucepan, heat water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Lightly beat egg in a bowl. Add kasha and stir to coat kernels.

In a medium-sized skillet or saucepan, add egg-coated kasha. Cook over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly until the egg has dried on kasha and the kernels separate.

Quickly stir into the boiling liquid. Cover tightly and simmer 7 to 10 minutes, until kasha kernels are tender and liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in the medium-sized skillet, gently heat oil (I actually used about a tablespoon of the juice and oil that was leftover from cooking 4 skinless chicken thighs in a half tablespoon of olive oil) and add the garlic, onion, celery and carrot. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, then add bell pepper and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the cooked kasha and stir. Heat through, and add the fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional info (for 4 servings, including about a 1/4 tbsp of olive oil that was in the juices added to the vegetables): 229 calories, 9g fat, 8g protein, 6g fiber

Monday, September 20, 2010

Turkey Sausage with Kale and Cannellini Beans

I'm always on the lookout for recipes with kale. Let me clarify -- good recipes with kale. I know it's one of those "power vegetables" you hear hyped, but I've had it in soups and sautéed and found it pretty miserable. (I found a fantastic kale and roasted veggie soup on Simply Recipes that I love, but there's just not quite enough chill in the air to justify turning on the oven for too long right now.) In an issue of Prevention last year (I had a random subscription to Prevention -- long story) they had a great article on how to deal with greens, and the most illuminating pieces of information were to fully remove the tough, bitter stalks as well as to really simmer for quite some time to help break down the leaf's bitterness. So, I modified Fitness's instructions to only let the kale steam for a few minutes; I think kale needs closer to 20 in a covered pot on low heat, and the additions of tomatos also helps to counteract the naturally bitter taste of the green. This recipe will make 3 good-sized servings, which would be great on top of brown rice or tossed up with a little whole wheat pasta and some parmesan.

Turkey Sausage with Kale and Cannellini Beans
(adapted from Fitness)
serves 3

2 chicken or turkey sausages (I used Al Fresco's Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage, $5.99 for a package of 4, and froze the other 2)
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut into 1" thick strips
2 tomatoes, diced
1 15 oz. canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 tbsp fresh)
salt and pepper

Brown sausage over low heat in a large nonstick pan, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add 2 tsp olive oil to the pan and allow it to gently cook for 1 minute. Add the kale and gently toss in the oil, then add 1 tbsp water and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and toss. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the beans and toss. Add the balsamic vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. Continue to simmer uncovered for a minute or two to bring the flavors together.

Serve on brown rice, or mix with whole wheat pasta, a teaspoon of olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Nutritional information: 356 calories, 10g fat, 42g carbs, 27g protein, 10g fiber

Southwestern Orzo Salad

This is the salad I've been eating for the past few days -- it's kind of a variation on a lot of other salads I put together, as it combines lots of flavours I like, plus has plenty of protein and fiber. I had orzo on hand, not to mention lots of the other ingredients (half a pint of cherry tomatoes, for example, from the roasted beets salad earlier in the week), so when I came across it in Fitness, I decided to give it a shot.

Southwestern Orzo Salad
(adapted from FItness)
makes 4 servings

1 cup orzo
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cucumber, seeds removed and diced
1 green or red bell pepper (I used green because they're always a lot cheaper)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 lime
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, grated
salt and pepper to taste
chili powder
red pepper flakes

Cook orzo according to package directions, but err on slightly less time than the package calls for.

In a mixing bowl, combine halved cherry tomatoes, cucumber, diced bell pepper, corn, black beans, feta cheese, cilantro, and lime juice. Add cooked orzo (allow to cool for at least 5, but don't cool with tap water. I think one thing that makes this recipe nice is that the warm orzo helps extract the flavors from the fresh ingredients, allowing the cilantro to slightly wilt and the cheese to soften and incorporate slightly into the dressing) and combine.

Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard in a separate container. Pour over salad mixture and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste, then a dash of cumin, coriander, chili powder and red pepper flakes, and toss again. This makes 4 big servings, which I ate with a slice of sourdough bread topped with cream cheese and some smoked salmon I received as a gift -- not a normal pairing (and not one I would really recommend) but since this is not crazy calorie-wise, you could certainly eat a small bit of chicken breast or other pairing if you wanted more food intake at a meal.

Nutritional information: 310 calories, 9.1g fat (4.7g saturated), 44g carbohydrates, 15g protein, 9g fiber.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lunch: Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

In keeping with my newfound desire to add some new recipes to my repertoire, I came across this salad recipe in the July 2010 issue of Self and decided to give it a try. I am a huge fan of beets, although I don't eat them very often, but after a delicious meal my friend Maya prepared when I was visiting Minneapolis a few weeks back that included a beet and Swiss Chard stir fry and a raisin-infused quinoa, I vowed I would do something again with the mighty beet before the month of September was up.

So here I am, in my kitchen, with beets roasting in the oven and some chicken thighs simmering on the stove. As I was preparing the beets for their roasting, I couldn't bear to part with the beautiful greens and quickly Googled to see if they're edible (they are) and what I could do with them. I found a recipe on one of my favourite sites, Simply Recipes, and decided to give a whirl. I bought 4 chicken thighs yesterday for $1.93 and thought I'd omit the bacon fat from the recipe and just use a leftover teaspoon or so to prepare the beet recipe. The chicken is simmering -- bone in, fat off -- in a half tablespoon of olive oil, prepared using juice from half a lemon, some Mrs. Dash's seasoning, a bit of salt and pepper, and a bit of ground thyme.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
(adapted from Self magazine, July 2010)

16 oz (about 4) medium golden and/or red beets (I opted for red)
2 cups arugula (I have red leaf lettuce on hand, so that's what I'll be using)
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (I have cherry tomatoes on hand)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly shaved
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

The dressing called for in the recipe calls for grapeseed oil, which I don't have, plus sherry vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and dark sesame oil. I made a dressing with 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and a 1 tsp honey, and used about 2 tsp on the portion of the salad I made. (I created a 'base' of tomato, fennel and beets, which I divided into 4 portions, 3 of which are now in the fridge, which I'll combine with the cheese, lettuce and dressing when I eat it next.)

Beet Greens
(adapted from Simply Recipes's Beet Greens recipe)

1/2 pound beet greens (I used the tops from a bunch of beets, it was probably a little less than 1/2 pound)
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup of water
1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1 - 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. I used a small amount of the fat remaining from cooking the chicken in olive oil. Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occassionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until the greens are tender. Stir in vinegar, and serve.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday: Dinner

Tonight for dinner I made a new recipe from the September issue of Fitness magazine: Peanutty Thai Noodles with Sugar Snap Peas. I've been feeling like I need to introduce some new recipes and foods into my diet, and this seemed like an easy way to experiment with rice noodles. And it was! Preparation was super fast, the only changes I made to the recipe were to half the ingredients since the package of rice noodles I bought was 6 oz instead of the 12 oz called for. In the future, I'd probably stick to just make 6 oz as it yielded a huge amount of food, enough for dinner tonight, plus two more servings for future meals. And it's hearty: the chicken broth, peanut butter and soy sauce mixture cooks down and the just-cooked rice noodles absorb the nutty tang so that it feels quite rich and savory, with the cilantro and lime juice adding a wonderfully bright contrast. I ate a third of what I prepared and am stuffed. I also had half a zucchini I needed to use up, so I sauteed that in a teaspoon of olive oil along with half a tomato I had and a clove of garlic, plus a dash of oregano.

Peanutty Thai Noodles
(adapted from Fitness magazine)

6 oz thin rice noodles
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I only had Herb's Ox chicken broth on hand so I definitely did NOT have a low-sodium version of this meal)
2 tablespoons peanut butter, chunky or creamy (I used the creamy version of my favourite brand, New York'sPeanut Butter & Company)
1.5 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 lime

Soak the rice noodles in hot water for 10 minutes; drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together chicken broth, peanut butter and soy sauce and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Add the sugar snap peas and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the noodles and cook for an additional 3 to 5 mintues until the peas are tender and the liquid is absorbed.
Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

400 calories, 10g fat, 22g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 14g protein

Chicken Salad with Egg, Avocado & Tomato

This is a family favorite that my mom makes. If I ever get a new digital camera (my latest one was destroyed at a wedding in Calistoga when someone knocked over a candle, spilling wax all over the lens... ugh!), I'll put up a pic of the pretty way my mom puts together the plate with a serving of chicken salad served on top of red leaf lettuce with alternating wedges of tomato, avocado and hard-boiled egg around the edges.

Chicken Salad (2 servings)

2 cooked chicken breasts (I prepared mine with 1 tsp of olive oil, some Mrs Dash's seasoning, fresh parsley and lemon juice)
1 celery stalk
1/2 red onion
1 tbsp chopped capers
1 - 2 tbsp lowfat mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Dice the chicken, celery, red onion and capers and mix together with the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Serve on top of red lettuce with alternating wedges of tomato, hard-boiled egg, and avocado (in 1 serving, 1/2 a tomato, 1 egg and 1/4 avocado). Drizzle with red wine vinegar vinaigrette (2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/2 clove garlic, salt and white pepper).