Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's For Dessert: Tiramisu


After having yet another disappointing tiramisu at a local restaurant (name withheld to protect the guilty) I decided it was about time I gave it a whirl. I've been a little scared to try and make tiramisu, one of my favorite desserts, though after taking a look at the recipe, it didn't seem at all as daunting as I had made it out to be. The biggest debacle was finding the ingredients -- it took three stores until we finally found mascarpone cheese. The only choice for ladyfingers was a packaged brand that contained about a zillion ingredients, so I decided I'd have to make my own. For the liquor, I opted to use brandy, though other options include dark rum, cognac, or marsala wine. (I picked up one of those tiny $1 bottles of brandy at the Safeway liquor store.)

Step one was making the ladyfingers. They turned out a little flat, but tasted fine. I think one problem was that I didn't have the correct tip for my pastry bag . . . guess I'll have to upgrade next time I'm at the kitchen gadget store! Otherwise, they were fairly easy to put together. The recipe I used was from the Joy of Baking.

Ladyfingers
Theoretically the recipe makes 4.5 dozen; I barely got out 19!

1/2 C organic pastry flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
5 T raw sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/8 t cream of tartar
1/3 C powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you'd like, mark the underside of the parchment paper with three parallel lines to aid in piping your ladyfingers.
2. With the aid of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to beat the egg yolks and 2 T raw sugar until thick and pale yellow (about 5 minutes).
3. If you do not have another mixing bowl, spoon the yolk mixture into another bowl and clean the mixing bowl. Sift the pastry flour over the yolk mixture, but do not stir it in.
4. In the clean mixing bowl, use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip the whites until soft peaks form. At this point, add 3 T raw sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form and the egg whites appear glossy.
5. Fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture in three parts.
6. Place the batter in a pastry bag with a 1/2" round tip. (I used a random icing tip.)
7. Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheet in 3" lines, approximately one inch apart.
8. Sift the powdered sugar over each piped ladyfinger.
9. Bake the ladyfingers for 8-12 minutes, or until they are barely brown in color, and firm, but spongy to the touch.
10. Remove the parchment paper with the ladyfingers from the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for a couple minutes then place each ladyfinger directly on the cooling rack to completely cool.
11. Use the cooled ladyfingers immediately (or freeze for later use).

Tiramisu
(Adapted from a recipe on the container of BelGioioso mascarpone cheese)
Makes 4 large individual servings

3 egg yolks
1 C espresso or very strong coffee, cooled
3 T raw sugar
2 T brandy
8 oz container mascarpone cheese
1/8 C cocoa
20 ladyfingers (or 19 works too!)

1. Combine the egg yolks, coffee, raw sugar, and brandy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat together the ingredients for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth (about 5 minutes).
2. If you do not have another mixing bowl, spoon the mascarpone cheese mixture into another bowl and clean the mixing bowl for its next use.
3. In the clean mixing bowl, add the 3 egg whites and a pinch of raw sugar. Beat the egg whites using the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
4. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone cheese mixture. Be careful not to overmix.
5. For my tiramisu, I made four individual servings -- obviously, you could opt to make one large serving instead. To put together the tiramisu, quickly soak a ladyfinger in the remaining coffee (I dipped each ladyfinger in the coffee using tongs for about 1 second; if you leave the ladyfinger in the coffee too long it will fall apart) and place along the bottom of your serving dish. (You can cut the ladyfingers to fit to ensure the entire bottom of the dish is covered.)
6. Add a layer of mascarpone cheese over the ladyfinger layer.
7. Sift cocoa powder over the mascarpone cheese layer.
8. Continue the process by adding another layer of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, then mascarpone cheese, then sifted cocoa powder. End with a cocoa-covered mascarpone cheese layer.
9. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What's For Lunch: Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Sandwich

For today's lunch, I opted to make one of my faves -- a tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwich on fresh ciabatta bread. Yum and a half -- and quite simple to make!

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Sandwich
makes 2 sandwiches

1/2 loaf organic artisanal ciabatta bread
1 clove garlic
fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 organic basil leaves (rinse and pat dry)

1. Cut the 1/2 loaf of bread in half vertically. Then slice bread horizontally. (This will give you 4 slices of bread.)
2. Rub each slice of bread with the garlic clove.
3. Construct each sandwich by layering each slice of bread with the thinly sliced mozzarella, tomato slices, and basil leaves. Carefully place one slice of bread on the other to make two separate sandwiches.
4. If you're lucky enough to have a panini press, place your sandwich on the hot grill until the cheese is nice and gooey. I placed both sandwiches on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler for a couple minutes on each side.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What's For Dinner: Pasta with Lentils, Kale, and Cherry Tomatoes

Yesterday, Martha Stewart featured winter greens on her show--and I thought I'd make use of her recipe for kale with tomato, garlic, and thyme. I melded this recipe with one for pasta with lentils and kale on Epicurious I had serendipitously seen on a blog earlier this week.

Pasta with Lentils, Kale, and Cherry Tomatoes
makes 3-4 servings

For the lentils:
1/2 C lentils
1/4 t fine sea salt
2 C water

1. Simmer the lentils in salted water over low to medium low heat for about 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils have softened.
2. Once softened, remove the lentils from the heat and drain off the water. Set aside.

For the kale:
2-3 stems of kale
salt
water

1. Wash the kale and pat dry. Remove the stems and stalks and roughly chop.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the kale and boil until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
3. Remove the kale from the water with tongs and place in a colander. Squeeze out any excess water. Set aside. Save the cooking water.

For the pasta:
3 C pasta (I used a mix of penne and gemelli)

1. Add the pasta to the water leftover from cooking the kale. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions.
2. Once cooked, drain the pasta, reserving 1 C of the pasta water. Place the cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl.

For the garlic, tomatoes, and thyme:
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 t fresh thyme leaves (about 1 sprig)

1. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
2. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds (stir constantly).
3. Add the cherry tomatoes and thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes (the tomatoes should begin to break down.)
4. Add the kale and prepared lentils and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Next, add the kale and lentil concoction to the pasta and toss to combine. Add the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to keep the pasta moist. Plate up and Buon Appetito!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's For Dinner: Pizza

When I was in Santa Fe, I ran into Border's to grab a magazine or two for the plane ride home. My eye was instantly drawn to donna hay magazine (apparently Donna Hay is the Martha Stewart of Australia) -- it probably didn't hurt that there was a mouth-watering cherry tomato, basil, and mozzarella pizza on the cover. Issue 47 is full of great recipes and absolutely gorgeous photos. For tonight's dinner, I decided we would try out her pizza dough recipe. I put D on dough duty while I was in pottery class, and we made the pizzas upon my return home.

We opted to cut the dough in half and make two pizzas. One Greek pizza and one margherita pizza.

Basic Pizza Dough
Adapted from the basic pizza dough recipe on p. 147 of donna hay magazine, Issue 47
makes 2 30 cm pizzas (we just cut one 60 cm round in half for our two pizzas)

1 T dry yeast
1 t raw sugar
1 C lukewarm water
2 1/2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t fine sea salt
1 T olive oil

1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and water in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside in a warm place for about 5 minutes or until bubbles appear.
2. Put the flour, salt, and olive oil in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture in the well and mix together with well-floured hands to form a dough.
3. Knead dough on a lightly-floured surface for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into two equal-size balls. Cover the balls with a clean, damp cloth and and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until the balls have doubled in size.
4. Press each dough ball into a round and roll out on a lightly-floured surface.

Greek Pizza
prepared crust
olive oil
1/4 C red onion, sliced
12 kalamata olives, chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced (remove seeds)
1/2 C feta cheese, crumbled

1. Drizzle olive oil over the crust.
2. Add the feta cheese, red onion, kalamata olives, and tomato slices.
3. Bake at 425 degrees on a baking stone for 20 minutes.

Margherita Pizza
prepared crust
1/4 C tomato sauce
fresh mozzarella, sliced (or shredded if you prefer)
1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced (remove seeds)
6 organic basil leaves (wash and pat dry), cut into rough strips

1. Cover the crust with a generous amount of tomato sauce. Be sure to leave the edges sauce-free.
2. Add the mozzarella slices, sliced tomatoes, and basil strips.
3. Bake at 425 degrees on a baking stone for 20 minutes.

After removing from the oven, let both pizzas cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into slices. Note: A glass of two-buck Chuck makes an excellent accompaniment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's For Dinner: Enchiladas


Time to give the slow cooker a rest! D brought back some corn tortillas (with only three ingredients: corn, water, and lime!) from Santa Fe, so I decided that enchiladas were in order. I melded together two recipes; one from the New York Times and another from the Food Network.

Black Bean Enchiladas with Seasoned Rice
makes 2-3 servings

For the Black Bean Enchiladas:
olive oil
1/2 C white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 C salsa (your choice of spiciness, I used medium)
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
6 corn tortillas (I used a combination of yellow and blue corn tortillas)
1 small can tomato sauce
cumin
chili powder
taco seasoning [optional; I prefer a hand-mixed blend]
1 C pepperjack cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place 2 T olive oil in the bottom of a thick pot over medium heat. Saute together the onion and garlic, about two minutes. Add in the black beans, salsa, and chopped chipotle peppers. Stir to mix. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the black bean mixture from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, add 1-2 T of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add in a pinch of cumin and a pinch of chili pepper. (I ran out of cumin midway through so substituted a pinch of hand-mixed taco seasoning from the Savory Spice Shop.) Mix in 3 T of tomato sauce. Soften one tortilla at a time in the tomato mixture, cooking for about 10-20 seconds on each side. Move the tortillas to a flat surface after softened.
5. To put together the enchiladas, place several spoonfuls of the black bean mixture into the middle of each tortilla, and roll. Place the enchiladas seam-side down in a shallow baking dish.
6. Cover each enchilada with an equal amount of the shredded pepperjack cheese.
7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Serve the enchiladas alongside Seasoned Rice:

1 C water
1 C instant brown rice
2 t taco seasoning
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Add the brown rice and taco seasoning. Cover and reduce the heat to low/medium low. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. After five minutes, give the rice a stir. Re-cover and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Add the chopped cilantro to garnish.
*Rice always seems to take forever to cook here at high altitude (7200') -- I tend to cook the rice on low/medium low for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

Plate and serve the enchiladas and rice. Optional garnishes include sour cream, guacamole, and/or salsa.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's For Dinner: Venison Stew

Another slow cooker night for us. Tonight I tossed together a venison stew. And like yesterday's recipe, I again overdid it with the vegetables, but I enjoy a really chunky stew. This recipe is adapted from a "Beef Stew for Two" recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Slow Cooker Favorites made Healthy cookbook.

Venison Stew for Two
makes two (large!) servings

8 oz venison, cut into 1-inch cubes (feel free to substitute another game meat or grass-fed beef or buffalo!)
1 C tomato juice (I use 1 small can of Campbell's tomato juice)
1/2 C vegetable broth
1/2 C chopped potato
1/2 C chopped carrot
1/2 C frozen cut green beans
1/2 C chopped celery
2 t quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 t dried thyme
1/8 t fine sea salt
1/8 t ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Add all the ingredients into a 2-quart slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on low heat for 11 to 12 hours or on high heat for 5.5 to 6 hours.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's For Dinner: Thai-Style Veggies with Brown Rice

My slow cooker is definitely one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. Just toss in a bunch of veggies, broth, and maybe some meat, and several hours later, voila!, dinner is made. So easy! For this evening's meal, I'm making Thai-Style Veggies with Brown Rice, a two-serving recipe from my go-to slow cooker cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens Slow Cooker Favorites made Healthy. This recipe is super-easy to make and has great Asian-inspired flavors. Yum!

Thai-Style Vegetable Rice
makes two (large) servings

1 1/4 C vegetable broth
1 C frozen edamame (shelled)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 C sliced carrot
1/4 C frozen peas
1/2 t curry powder
1/4 t ground cumin
1/8 t ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced

1 C uncooked instant brown rice
1/4 C reduced-fat unsweetened coconut milk
1 T fresh cilantro
2 T unsalted whole cashews, chopped

1. Combine the broth, vegetables (I tend to add more veggies than required), spices, and garlic into a 2-quart slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 4.5 to 5 hours or on high for 2 to 2.5 hours.
3. If cooking on low, turn to the high-heat setting and stir in the brown rice. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in the coconut milk and cilantro.
4. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of chopped cashews.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where to Eat: Santa Fe


After exploring the plaza downtown and running some errands elsewhere in the city, D and I were definitely ready for a lunch break. I had one more restaurant on my mind to try -- Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe. We popped the address into our GPS, which made finding the place a lot easier. Its location, though not far off the beaten path, is a little random. Upon your arrival, you are apt to ask "Is this the right place?" given its industrialish warehouse location. But upon closer inspection you'll note the full parking lot and then spy the entrance surrounded by "Best of Santa Fe" awards. Don't be fooled by the warehouse atmosphere--once inside you are transported to a cozy bakery and cafe.

D and I were quickly seated in the cafe's upper level (reached by a winding staircase). The upper level is bright and airy (there was a nice breeze coming in through an open window) and the walls are covered in warmly-colored landscape art. Upon perusing the menu, the biggest question was what to order given the many tasty options.

D opted to go the breakfast route and ordered the Almond Raspberry French Toast. This entree was described as "two thick slices of freshly baked challah, batter dipped, then dredged in sliced almonds and griddled to golden brown, [and] served with raspberry-almond sauce" -- and its taste definitely matched its description.

I opted to go the lunch route. (As a connoisseur of grilled cheese sandwiches, my eye (and stomach) is often drawn directly to that selection if available!) I ordered "The Bistro" sandwich, a "French grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere, apple slices, and grainy mustard grilled on our home baked, thick sliced sourdough levain." The sandwich typically also comes with either "naturally raised smoked ham from Niman ranch" or "vegetarian ham" -- however, I'm not that big a fan of ham, and the idea of "vegetarian ham" really doesn't sound all that appetizing to me. (As a vegetarian, I was never really into things that are supposed to taste like meat, given that being a vegetarian, I was actively choosing NOT to eat meat!) Anyway, though the blurry BlackBerry photo does it no justice, the sammy was delicious. And did I mention it came with rosemary garlic fries? Yum -- definitely need to figure out how to make those at home!

D and I managed to save room for dessert this time around. After looking through the dessert menu, we opted for the carrot cake. In addition, I ordered a delicious Mexican hot chocolate (the restaurant also offers hot chocolates made with American, Belgian, or Italian chocolates). The carrot cake was a-mazing:

It came garnished with a (tall!) puffed rice-sugar ornament and fresh cut strawberry. It was heavenly -- the perfect flavor combination to end our meal.

Like the other restaurants we visited in Santa Fe, Chocolate Maven pledges to use "no artificial flavors, preservatives, or synthetic additives; hormone-free, naturally-raised chicken, beef, ham, and eggs; unbleached, unbromated regionally grown flours; GMO-free certification on many ingredients; many seasonal ingredients from local farms and farmer's markets; and no hydrogenated oils. Ever." In addition, the restaurant now features farmer's market-inspired dinners.

Chocolate Maven is open daily for breakfast from 7a to 3p. Lunch is offered 10:30a to 3p Monday through Friday, and brunch is served 9a to 3p Saturday and Sunday. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday from 5:45p to 8:45p. In addition, high tea is available Monday through Friday from 3p to 5p.

It was really heartening to find a town with so many options for those seeking meals made with organic or locally-produced ingredients. We didn't even get to half the restaurants that participate in the town's farm-to-table program. I really hope I get another chance to visit this vibrant city and hit up several more of the great restaurants Santa Fe has to offer.

Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe
821 W. San Mateo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 984-1980


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where to Eat: Santa Fe


[Via flickr]

For dinner on Saturday night, we opted to hit up Cafe Pasqual's. This restaurant features a menu inspired by flavors of the Southwest, Mexico, and Asia. And of course, yet again I was excited to find that Pasqual's emphasizes the use of ingredients that are seasonal, fresh, organic, and naturally-raised.

Given the small size of the dining room and the cafe's popularity, reservations are recommended for dinner. Though we could have opted to take an earlier reservation by sitting at a shared table, we opted to dine a little later (at 9p) to ensure a private booth. (Though the folks seated together at the shared table seemed to have created quite a camaraderie together!)

[Secreto cocktail --- and note all the great fresh produce lining the bar!]

D and I began our evening by enjoying a cocktail at the Secreto Lounge located in the Hotel St. Francis. I enjoyed a Secreto cocktail, which featured muddled grapes, strawberry, organic rosemary, and red wine along with a few choice liquors. Long story short, it was delish!

[Via flickr]

Following our stop for cocktails, we continued down the block to Cafe Pasqual's. We were seated immediately and quickly dove into the menu after taking in the great decor. (Note the brightly-colored papel picado hanging across the ceiling in the above photo.) Everything on the menu looked so good! We started out by sharing a vegetarian tamale -- so spicy and good. For my main entree, I chose the enchiladas with sauteed chard, grilled zucchini, and jack cheese. The enchiladas were served with a grilled banana, fresh corn torte, and cilantro rice. I opted to have my enchiladas "Christmas-style" meaning it was served with both the red chili and green chili sauce. Oof! So much food. And SO good. I was definitely gulping down some water, though -- quite a bit of spice for me. But not distressingly spicy, just a nice kick. (A bite or two of the cilantro rice also helped calm the burn, too.) D ordered the organic chicken mole enchiladas which also came with cilantro rice, a fresh corn torte, and an orange-jicama salad. Long story short, after eating we were absolutely stuffed to the gills . . . and depressingly unable to even consider dessert. (Well, okay, we did look at the menu but nothing was able to overcome our extreme satiation!) Some folks at nearby tables did order dessert and everything looked quite tasty.

Cafe Pasqual's is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday from 8a to 3p, and for Sunday brunch from 8a to 3p. Dinner is served daily from 5:30p. Though not exactly budget-friendly, Cafe Pasqual's is perfect for a special night out. Dinner entrees range from $23 to $38. Breakfast and lunch entree prices are a bit kinder to the wallet.

Cafe Pasqual's
121 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 983-9340

Friday, January 22, 2010

Where to Eat: Santa Fe


After taking a look at the menu and philosophy of Tree House Pastry Shop and Cafe, I knew I had to go there for a meal. According to the cafe's website, "[it] is an all-organic, vegetarian pastry shop and cafe with a menu based on the local agricultural products grown and harvested in and around Santa Fe" -- definitely right up my alley! Given that the kitchen closed at 3p on Saturdays, and was not open on Sunday or Monday, I had to make this cafe my first destination. I booked it straight there after arriving in Albuquerque. (Santa Fe is about an hour and a half drive north of Albuquerque.) There was a slight snafu when I discovered the directions I had printed out the night before were to the cafe's old address, but luckily Google maps on my BlackBerry helped lead me to the right place.

The cafe is located in the Lena Street Lofts, a new loft development that intermixes loft living with a variety of businesses, including several art studios. The cafe itself is located in an open and airy adobe building encompassed by floor-to-ceiling windows that allow in ample light. Cafe service is casual and low-key; you order at the counter and your meal is brought to you by a friendly employee when it is ready.

Tree House features a changing menu; daily specials are written on the chalkboard. I was starving upon my arrival, having only had a chai latte at the secret Starbucks kiosk in the Denver airport several hours earlier. For my lunch, I chose the local tempeh wrap -- a whole wheat tortilla filled with house-made hummus, seasonal veggies, lentils, marinated tempeh, and sunflower sprouts. The wrap was served with a lightly-dressed salad of mixed greens. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint, and was the perfect antidote to my rather-ravenous hunger.
In addition to serving breakfast and lunch, the cafe also offers a variety of pastries, including muffins, scones, croissants, brownies, and cupcakes.

The cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8a to 4p. During the winter months, the cafe is closed Sunday and Monday. Breakfast is served from 8a to 11:30a and lunch is served from 11:30a to 3p. Entrees range between about $5 and $14.

Tree House Pastry Shop and Cafe
1600 Lena Street
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 474-5543

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where to Eat: On Vacation

[Via flickr]

When eating at home you can easily control the ingredients that go into your meals. This is typically not the case when you are traveling, especially if you want to avoid processed ingredients. Prior to my recent trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I did a little online sleuthing to find out what my meal options would be. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the city is home to a number of different restaurants that focus on organic and/or locally-produced ingredients. In fact, the farm-to-table movement is alive and well in Santa Fe. Following are a few tips that helped me determine where to eat during my visit.

(1) Make use of the Internet! Google is definitely your friend when it comes to finding out what the restaurant scene is like in a new city. I used the search terms "organic restaurants Santa Fe" to find a list of restaurants that featured organic ingredients on their menus. This search provided a list of several possible restaurants to check out.

(2) Once you have a list of restaurants, check out their websites if possible. Doing so will often give you the chance to peruse the restaurant's menu and determine what the restaurant's hours are. I found this step to be crucial in planning out my Santa Fe restaurant game plan, as some restaurants closed early and others weren't open every day of the week. Knowing this information, I was able to make a loose schedule of what restaurants I wanted to try and for which meals I wanted to hit up each restaurant. For example, after taking a look at the menu at the Tree House Pastry Shop and Cafe, I knew I had to catch a meal there. And given that they weren't open Sunday or Monday, and the kitchen closed at 3p on Saturday, I definitely made sure to head straight there after my 12:30p arrival in Albuquerque.

(3) Find out where the locals eat! Little holes in the wall where you might not otherwise think to go could be be hidden gems. Avoid chains at all costs. Not only are you missing out on local cuisine, but you also are likely to get a meal full of processed ingredients, given the need to ensure that a fajita in Fargo, ND looks and tastes exactly like the one served by the same restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida.

(4) Check to see if the city or region you are visiting has a local co-op or natural foods store. In addition to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, Santa Fe is also home to La Montanita Co-op, an awesome independent natural foods grocery store. A co-op or natural foods store (or even a regular grocery store if in a pinch given the amount of local produce and organic products offered these days by major chains) is an excellent alternative if you are having trouble finding restaurants to visit during your stay. Here you can find ingredients to make your own meals or snacks during your trip.

Next up: My picks for Santa Fe restaurants.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's for Dinner: Southwestern Bulgur Salad

Tonight's dinner was a riff on my favorite Southwestern salad. For this version, I added in some cooked bulgur to add a different texture and flavor to the dish.

Southwestern Bulgur Salad
makes one serving

1/4 cup bulgur
1/2 cup water
couple handfuls of organic baby spinach
about 1/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup black beans
1 small avocado, diced
handful of organic grape tomatoes
few shavings of vintage white cheddar cheese
sour cream [optional]

1. To cook the bulgur, add the bulgur and cold water to a small pot and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, put together the rest of your salad. Toss the ingredients to mix, adding the bulgur once it is ready.
3. Garnish the salad with a few shavings of cheddar cheese and a small dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's for Breakfast: Pumpkin Muffin

Today's breakfast was a treat leftover from a weekend trip to Santa Fe -- a pumpkin muffin bought at the La Montanita Co-op made by Chocolate Maven, an awesome local bakery that focuses on natural, wholesome, and organic ingredients. D and I had a chance to grab lunch at the cafe later during our Santa Fe adventure; stay tuned for a post about our meal there. To continue that theme, posts this week will focus on my recent trip to New Mexico and how I managed to stay true to my quest to eat fewer processed foods. Lucky for me, Santa Fe is quite the destination for organic and locally-produced foods!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's for Lunch: "Menagerie" Salad

I think the real name for this type of salad is a "garbage" salad, but that isn't really the most appetizing name. So, I've decided to name this a "menagerie" salad, as it's got just about a little bit of everything in it. The base is baby spinach and to that I've added some chopped vine-ripened tomato, about 1/4 cup black beans, chopped cucumber, and some feta cheese. The whole shebang is topped with homemade croutons and a simple dijon balsamic vinaigrette that I quickly whisked together.

Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
makes one serving

1 tsp dijon mustard
a couple glugs balsamic vinegar (about 1 T)
about half as many glugs of olive oil (about 1/2 T)
pinch of black pepper
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of oregano

1. Whisk together the dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano.
2. While still whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Easy right?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's for Breakfast: Yogurt and Fruit

After eating steel-cut oats for nearly every breakfast, I was definitely ready for a change! I initially thought of doing some sort of egg dish, but decided something a little lighter was in order. Hence: a super-easy combination of yogurt and fruit. For the yogurt, I used an all-natural brand (watch out for anything labeled "lite" -- as these types are rife with random ingredients and the ubiquitous corn syrup!). Though earlier in my life I had a bit of an obsession with those "lite" and "fat-free" products, I've since determined that a little bit of the "real thing" is a lot better than a whole lot of fake stuff melded together to (often poorly) imitate the real deal. But, that's a whole 'nother post for another day!

For today's yogurt and fruit, I dished about a cup of yogurt into a bowl and topped it with a handful of raspberries and banana slices (about half a banana). I then topped the fruit-n-yogurt combo with a few chopped pecans and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Completely easy to throw together and yet filling -- and most importantly, tasty!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's for Dinner: Red Pesto Pasta with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

For tonight's dinner I adapted one of my favorite recipes from 101 Cookbooks. I opted to make the full recipe, as leftovers will be a great option for lunch next week. In addition to the red pesto, I topped the pasta (which is served atop a bed of organic baby spinach) with some crumbled feta cheese and roasted grape tomatoes.

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

2 handfuls of organic grape tomatoes
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch coarse sea salt
pinch black pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place the grape tomatoes in a glass baking pan.
3. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar.
4. Pour the oil mixture over the tomatoes and toss to coat.
5. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt and black pepper.
6. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until shriveled.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's For Dinner: Individual Crustless Spinach, Baby Portabella, Tomato, and Cheddar Cheese Quiche

Okay, yes, it's another quiche . . . but this one is made from different veggies and cheese (and fungi!) than Monday's version, so I think it totally counts as a different meal. That's the great thing about quiche -- just a few different ingredients and you get a completely different flavor than before.

Crustless Spinach, Baby Portabella, Tomato, and Cheddar Cheese Quiche
makes one serving

unsalted butter, for ramekin
1 large farm egg
1/8 C organic half-and-half
pinch ground pepper
pinch coarse sea salt
pinch ground nutmeg
1/3 C vintage white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 T vine-ripened tomato, seeded and diced
2 T baby portabella mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
1 T fresh spinach, chopped into small pieces

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter one 8 oz ramekin.
2. Whisk together the egg, half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the veggies and cheese.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekin. Place the ramekin on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

For an accompaniment, I made a side salad of baby spinach, dried cranberries, pecans, and roughly-crumbled feta cheese. For dressing, I used balsamic vinaigrette (leftover from the other day) and of course I also topped the salad with some homemade croutons.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's for Dinner: Greek Salad

One of the things about living (and eating) as a singleton is that it's hard to use up produce in one meal. For example, from last night's meal I have leftover red and green peppers. So, I decided that tonight I would use up my leftover veggies in a greek salad. I referenced Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) in a previous entry, and she's come in handy for another recipe. My greek salad for one is based on this recipe from a recent episode of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.

Greek Salad
makes one (big!) serving

1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch quarters
1/4 red bell pepper, large-diced
1/4 green bell pepper, large-diced
1 small vine-ripened tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced in half-rounds
1 cup organic baby spinach
1/2 inch slice of feta cheese, broken into rough cubes
a few calamata olives, pitted [optional]

For the vinaigrette:
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Combine the cucumber, red pepper, green pepper, tomato, red onion, and baby spinach in a medium-sized bowl.
2. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt, and black pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
3. For a single-serving salad, pour 2 T of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. (The remaining dressing can be stored in the fridge.)
4. Top the salad with the roughly-crumbled feta cheese.
5. Let the salad rest for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.

Traditionally, a greek salad is also topped with kalamata olives; however I have to be in a certain kind of mood to eat olives (read: they need to be stuffed with some sort of cheese and also accompanied by a fine red wine). So, add the olives if you love 'em; in my case I'll leave 'em out of tonight's dish.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's for Dinner: Quinoa with Sauteed Veggies

Last week I made quinoa for breakfast and tonight I brought it back for dinner. (Last week I used the red variety, tonight the spotlight is on the white variety.) To my quinoa I added some sauteed veggies, including red pepper, green pepper, shallots, and baby portabella mushrooms as well as some black beans and a garnish of "vintage white" sharp cheddar cheese. Yum!

Quinoa with Sauteed Veggies
makes one serving

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup quinoa
pinch taco seasoning (I used a hand-mixed blend from the Savory Spice Shop in Boulder, CO)

2-3 T olive oil
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1/8 cup baby portabella mushrooms (sliced)

1/8 cup no-salt-added black beans
white cheddar cheese to garnish (I used Tillamook "vintage white" extra sharp cheddar)

1. Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a small saucepan. (Rinse your quinoa beforehand if necessary; the brand I used today was pre-rinsed.) After the water comes to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a saute pan. Saute the red pepper, green pepper, mushrooms, and shallots over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes.
3. When the quinoa is ready, add a pinch of taco seasoning and the sauteed veggies along with the black beans and stir together to mix.
4. Spoon the mixture onto a plate and garnish with white cheddar cheese.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's for Dinner: Couscous with Veggies and Feta Cheese

A single-portion meal is again the focus of tonight's dinner. This meal was super-simple to put together and really quick to make, too. You could use whatever veggies you have on hand to enhance this dish; in my case I had a languishing roma tomato and some leftover broccoli florets. And of course, any dish is better with a little cheese (right?); I added some small cubes of feta cheese as a garnish.

Couscous with Veggies and Feta Cheese
makes one serving

1/3 cup couscous
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup no-salt-added black beans
1/2 cup broccoli florets, cooked
1 small roma tomato, chopped
feta cheese to garnish

1. Bring 1/2 cup of water to boil. Stir in 1/3 cup couscous, and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
2. In the meantime, cook the broccoli florets. (In my case, I nuked the leftover florets for about 2 minutes.)
3. Drain and rinse one can of no-salt-added black beans.
3. Chop one roma tomato. Remove seeds.
4. After the couscous has absorbed all the water, add 1/2 cup black beans, 1/2 cup broccoli florets, and chopped roma tomato. Stir all the ingredients together.
5. Spoon the couscous mixture onto a plate. Garnish with feta cheese.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What's For Dinner: Individual Crustless Broccoli Pepperjack Quiche with Mixed Greens


One thing that I always found to be a pain when living by myself is that making meals from scratch often resulted in days upon days of leftovers. Since I'm on my own for the next week or so, I thought I'd focus on recipes that involve individual portions. Tonight's dinner is an individual quiche. One of the great things about making quiche (and a crustless quiche in particular) is that you can often use whatever vegetables and/or cheese that you have on hand. Since I have a ton of pepperjack cheese and leftover broccoli from last week's jacket potatoes, those ingredients will be the focus of tonight's dish. I based my individual quiche off of a recipe from Martha Stewart.

Crustless Broccoli Pepperjack Quiche
makes one serving

unsalted butter, for ramekins
1 large farm egg
1/8 cup organic half-and-half
pinch ground pepper
pinch coarse sea salt
pinch ground nutmeg
1/3 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup broccoli florets, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter one 8 oz ramekin.
2. Whisk together the egg, half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the broccoli and cheese.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekin. Place the ramekin on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

For an accompaniment, I made a side salad of mixed greens and cucumber. To the salad I added homemade croutons, balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and some freshly-grated romano cheese.

The crouton recipe is based on this one by The Neelys (Food Network).

Homemade Croutons
2 slices homemade bread, cut into cubes
salt
pepper
dried herbs (I used rosemary, Italian seasoning, thyme, and savory)
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Toss together the bread cubes with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
3. Spread the bread cubes onto a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Balsamic vinaigrette is a super-easy salad dressing to make. The recipe below is based on this one by Emeril Lagasse (Food Network):

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1. Combine ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's for Breakfast: Pancakes

Making pancakes doesn't require a pre-made mix -- all you need is a few simple ingredients, and voila, perfect pancakes! One of D's favorite blogs is Cold Antler Farm, written by Jenna Woginrich. On her blog, Jenna writes about the trials and triumphs of her foray into homesteading. Today's pancakes are based on the recipe found on her blog:

Cold Antler Pancakes
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1 farm egg (ours came from the Co-op via Patty's Pullets!)
1 1/3 cups organic skim milk

Aunt Jemima's and all those other "maple-flavor" syrups are out of the question given most are made up of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and wads of "caramel color." Back on the table is pure maple syrup. Currently Grade A, though we hear Grade B is actually tastier, a bit thicker, and less sugary.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What's for Dinner: Pasta with Spinach Pesto

Though I definitely love me some Barilla tomato and basil pasta sauce, it's currently off the approved list. So, fresh pesto to the rescue! I am a huge fan of basil pesto, but never seem to have it on hand when the pasta urge hits. Luckily, I do seem to always have iron-rich spinach on hand, which is the main ingredient in this recipe, featured in a recent issue of Real Simple magazine. Pesto is super simple to make, especially if you have a food processor. Just toss in a few cloves of garlic (I always err on "the more garlic, the merrier" side), walnuts (or toasted pine nuts); give it a whirl, then add in the spinach with a generous glug of olive oil. Add in some freshly grated Parmesan, give it another whirl, and it's done. For a little extra zest, I also squeezed in some lemon juice this time around. After the pasta was finished cooking, I tossed it with about a tablespoon or so of pesto and garnished the dish with some lemon zest and another bit of grated Parmesan cheese. Any leftover pesto can be kept in the fridge for a few days and up to a week.

Friday, January 8, 2010

What's to Drink: Lemon Water

One of the major changes due to this new food plan is what I can drink . . . no more corn syrup/artificial color/etc. . . . which means no more soda (er, pop? soft drink? Coke?) or Propel for me. And, I have to admit I am a sucker for the carbonated crack. In fact, a diet A&W root beer would be just grand right about now! However, that's not in the current plan. So I need to come up with alternate drink choices. One of the main things I've been drinking of late is water with a few slices of lemon. I am one of those people who would prefer not to drink plain water -- it's just so BORING. So I definitely need to add something for a littler flavor. A few slices of lemons does just that -- adds enough citrus flavor to cut the plain water taste (and honestly, the tap water here does taste a bit funky if not filtered anyway). We recently bought a big ol' bag of lemons and some limes at the grocery store so we have plenty to go around.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What's for Dinner: Southwestern Jacket Potato

Tonight's dinner was a fairly easy one -- jacket potato with a side of broccoli florets garnished with some pepperjack cheese. On the potato: some more jack cheese, black beans, salsa, and broccoli. Baking potatoes at high altitude is a little trickier than baking them at lower altitudes -- this one was baked for about an hour and a half at 400 degrees.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's for Breakfast: Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

The raw ingredients (ground cinnamon, red quinoa, fresh raspberries, whole pecans, skim milk (not pictured: water)):

The finished product:

Today I was ready for a new breakfast, having had steel-cut oats for the past five days. Clicking through some of my favorite cooking sites on the Internet last night, I came upon this gem at 101 Cookbooks: warm and nutty cinnamon quinoa.

After a quick run to Safeway for some fresh raspberries, I was ready to put together my breakfast. After giving the quinoa a quick rinse, I cooked it in a mixture of milk and water until nearly all the water was absorbed. The quinoa was then taken off the heat and allowed to rest for 5 minutes. In the meantime, I chopped the pecans and toasted them on the stove for a couple of minutes. When the quinoa was ready, I mixed in a handful of raspberries and a pinch of cinnamon. This mixture was spooned into a bowl and topped with the toasted pecans, a couple raspberries, and a drizzle of agave nectar.

Though I've only ever eaten quinoa as part of a dinnertime meal before, this combination of ingredients made for a tasty, satisfying, and filling breakfast.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mid-Morning Snack

I am a huge fan of snacking, and given our new dietary restrictions, snacking is definitely not as easy as it used to be. (Which, I figure, in the long run is probably a good thing!) During the workweek, I typically take a break around 11a or so for a quick mid-morning snack. This usually consists of a cup of organic green tea, and in the past, a graham cracker with a slathering of either peanut butter or, more recently, nutella. However, until I figure out how to make my own graham crackers, those are out of the running. The same with nutella, as, though it lacks preservatives, it does have artificial flavors. (Peanut butter is still okay given we eat the natural type which is made up of only peanuts and a smattering of salt.) So, today I supplemented my cuppa with a cocoa espresso banana muffin from those leftover from this weekend. Still as good as ever!

Monday, January 4, 2010

What's for Dinner: Tex-Mex Salad

This salad is one my favorite things to eat. It is loosely based off the veggie tortilla salad on the menu at Lennie's in Bloomington, Indiana. This salad is very easy to throw together: for today's version I used a generous helping of spinach leaves, one cut up roma tomato, some sliced cucumbers (a new addition), black beans, avocado chunks, and freshly shredded pepperjack cheese. The salad is garnished (liberally) with organic salsa and a dollop of sour cream mixed with fresh chives (in previous versions I've used ranch dressing, which is off the list for now). Typically I add some crumbled tortilla chips, but unless I make them myself, those are also off the list of allowed foods. Regardless, it's still pretty delish!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's For Lunch: Yogurt and Granola

Given that we've been cooking up a lot of food in the past couple of days, today the plan is to eat some of the leftovers. However, I thought I'd try something new for lunch, given that I've got a big container of granola leftover from last night.

Voila -- organic vanilla yogurt with homemade granola. As mentioned last night, this granola is based on the Barefoot Contessa's recipe. I made a few changes, including decreasing the amount of sliced almonds to 1/2 cup and adding 1/2 cup of raw sunflower seeds; for dried fruits I used dried apples, dried pears, and dried cranberries; I also used unsweetened shredded coconut and decreased the amount of butter in the honey sauce to about 2 T. Though the recipe is meant to make granola bars, someone decided to break into them about 2 hours and 55 minutes too early into the cooling period, so we ended up with chunks. However, since I mainly plan to use granola in the manner shown above (with yogurt), I decided to make the crumbles even smaller. And holy cow, this stuff is delicious!

What's To Eat: Day Two

Day two has come and nearly gone and we are still on track! Guess it's still quite early in the game, though! Today's meals in pictures:

For breakfast, the classic scrambled eggs and homemade hashbrowns.

Oh, and some espresso banana muffins via Super Natural Cooking. For the second batch, I added a couple tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. A brilliant decision, really.

After breakfast, we headed out to Big Hollow Co-op and scored some major ingredients: bulk wheat berries, pearl barley, and raw sunflower seeds. We also picked up some dried pears, dried apples, honey from Cheyenne, and fresh farm eggs and milk.

Back home, it was snack time. We finished off the potato skins from yesterday and I also made up a fresh batch of hummus.
D spent a good portion of the afternoon baking bread (he had started two loaves yesterday--a breakfast bread and a rustic peasant white bread). We enjoyed a slice of the rustic white bread with dinner:
In addition to the fresh-baked bread we also had venison, broccoli with jack cheese, and mashed potatoes left over from yesterday's potato skins.

This evening, I baked up some granola bars (seen on an episode of Barefoot Contessa this morning) for D to take along when he hits the road for New Mexico tomorrow. They are currently cooling on the stovetop; tasting of the final product will have to wait til tomorrow morning!

Friday, January 1, 2010

What's For Dinner: Homemade Chicken Barley Soup

Tonight's dinner consisted of chicken soup made from leftover organic chicken from our Christmas meal last week. D was the soupmaster and along with the homemade broth and bits o'chicken, he added in fresh veggies (including carrots, celery, garlic, and onion) along with a variety of beans and barley. Good stuff and a great way to start off a month of homemade dinners.

A highlight of the afternoon was making potato skins from The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook -- a really easy recipe to follow and excellent results. An added bonus is that we now have a ton of mashed potatoes to eat later in the week!

And Thus It Begins

Following breakfast, D and I headed out to the local grocery store to pick up a few ingredients missing from our pantry: whole-wheat flour, (unrefined) coconut oil, dry beans, and a TON of fresh produce including oranges, lemons (soda will be replaced by water with lemon), limes, avocados, and a couple sweet potatoes. We will need to hit up a speciality store to find a few other things, including wheat berries and dried fruit. There are two natural foods stores in town--Whole Earth Grainery and Big Hollow Food Co-op. Whole Earth Grainery carries bulk organic flours and other items and Big Hollow Food Co-op carries a variety of foods including organic dairy products, bulk grains, and organic meats. Tomorrow we will visit Big Hollow when it reopens following the New Year's holiday; Whole Earth Grainery is closed until January 19th. If we don't find the items we need at either place we will have to head down to Fort Collins, home to the nearest Whole Foods Market.

What's For Breakfast: Steel-Cut Oats with Dried Cranberries and Pecans

This morning's breakfast: steel cut oats with chopped pecans, a handful of dried cranberries, and a drizzle of agave nectar.

Saying Goodbye to Processed Foods

We just cleaned out the cupboards -- gone is the white granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, and any foods with artificial flavors, "natural flavors," and any other dubious ingredients. (Oh, Nutella, how I shall miss thee.) Starting tomorrow, the plan is to cut out all processed foods from our diet and rely solely on whole ingredients. Meaning, no more honey nut Cheerios for breakfast, no more soda (ubiquitous corn syrup and artificial colors), and in general, no more meals from a pouch, box, or can (aside from whole canned items such as beans or vegetables, so long as there are no additional ingredients). Our initial goal is to go the whole month of January without eating any processed foods; and once that goal is (hopefully) met, we will reevaluate our diet.

The plan for this blog is to record the contents and preparation of our meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) and the challenges we face as we make a drastic change to what we typically eat. It should be an interesting ride!

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