Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Miso Salmon with Cilantro Sauce, Sesame Spinach & Brown Rice

It's about time there was a salmon recipe in this blog!  A very Pacific Northwestern food, to be sure.  The husband and I have only recently started dabbling in cooking with fish.  Fish has always been a bit intimidating (silly, I know), but you must remember our Midwest roots.  The fish we ate was usually perch or walleye and it was always breaded and fried.  So, let's try something just as tasty but a bit less heart-stopping, shall we?

I found the salmon recipe in my new favorite cookbook - Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients.  We had some leftover cilantro from tacos, so it seemed like the perfect use.  "$1 worth of cilantro to justify the $25 worth of salmon," said the husband.  Umm.... yes.  Oops.

I knew just the thing to accompany it - Sesame Spinach.  It's a lot like Gomae, a favorite Japanese dish of mine.  It's also quick, healthy, and a great way to use up any old and limp spinach you might have lying around.

The sauce with the salmon is very good, but potent.  You might guess that when you see the ingredients - cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, etc.  A little goes a long way.  Also useful if you're stuffed up with a cold.  ;-)

I'm very glad we made this recipe, and definitely plan on making it again!  Perhaps when Coho salmon start running in mid-summer...

Miso Salmon with Cilantro Sauce
(from Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients)
Serves 4

1 cup white miso
1/3 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup water

4 wild Alaskan salmon fillets (about 6 oz. each)

Cilantro Sauce:
1 cup packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno (or if you like super spicy, a small Thai bird chile), coarsely chopped (ribs and seeds removed for less heat)
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp canola oil

In a medium saucepan, combine miso, vinegar, brown sugar and the water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until miso and sugar have dissolved (do not boil); removed from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Place salmon in a resealable plastic bag, and add miso mixture, turning to coat.  Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (place bag on a plate in case it leaks).

Meanwhile, puree cilantro, lime juice, shallot, chile, garlic, ginger, oil, and brown sugar in a blender until sauce is smooth.

Heat broiler with rack 6 to 8 inches from heat source.  Lift fillets from marinade and wipe off excess (otherwise it'll burn) and discard marinade.  Place fillets on roasting pan, rack, or a regular pan and broil until fillets are opaque around edges and flake slightly in the center when pressed, 4 to 6 minutes.  Transfer salmon to each of four plates, and serve with cilantro sauce, and prepared brown rice or buckwheat noodles.

Sesame Spinach
(from Power Foods)
Serves 4

1 Tbsp salt
2 pounds spinach, washed and drained (if not already prepared)
1.5 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1.5 Tbsp low sodium tamari soy sauce
1.5 Tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1.5 Tbsp mirin (rice wine)
3 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Bring large pot of water to a boil; add 1 Tbsp salt.  Blanch spinach until just wilted, about 30 seconds.  Drain in colander and immediately begin rinsing with very cold water (to stop the cooking process).  You may use an ice bath if you like, but I preferred to rinse it in the sink.  When spinach is completely cooled, drain.  Squeeze out excess water, then coarsely chop the spinach and place in a bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, tamari, vinegar, and mirin until blended.  Add dressing and toasted sesame seeds to spinach; mix to combine.  The spinach mixture can be refrigerated, covered tightly, up to 2 days.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Melty Cheese Croutons on a Salad

Look, a salad!  Back to some semblance of nutritious and healthy meals.  Well, sort of.  It's a great salad topped with pan-fried, panko-coated, cheesy goodness.  It's protein, so it's fine.  Yes, we're going with that.

This salad has become a weeknight staple for us, and we've got the procedure down pretty well.  We like to serve it with a local artisan rosemary bread, and makes it a wonderful meal.

I've trimmed down the amount of cheese used, only because the original amount was just too much (and we love cheese).  You don't want to finish a salad and have the "ughhhh" feeling.  That's for Thanksgiving.  Or the Super Bowl.  Or a lonely Friday night when you've eaten ice cream straight from the carton.

We also adjusted the ratio slightly as we preferred a bit more of the jack than the goat cheese.  But you can tweak this to your own tastes.  We used a basic goat cheese from Trader Joe's, and a local jack from Mt. Townsend Creamery - New Moon.  This time I also threw in a bit of Beecher's Flagship cheese, just because we had it.

 A tart, fruity vinaigrette cuts through the richness of the cheese in a great way, and is the perfect topping.  This salad has a lot of potential for versatility, and I look forward to updating it with the seasons.

Melty Cheese Croutons on a Salad
(from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 2 servings of 3 medallions each

2 oz. goat cheese, left out to warm and soften a bit
3 oz. semi-firm cheese of choice (we used a jack, Smitten Kitchen used a soft gouda), grated
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 egg
3 Tbsp Panko breadcrumbs
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil, for frying

Mixed greens, of choice (we use spinach)
Carrot, chopped
Sweet peppers, chopped
Beets, roasted and chopped (or if you're lazy like us, canned)
Apple or pear, chopped
Fruity vinaigrette, of choice (we use a pomegranate vinaigrette)

Prepare veggies, and toss in individual bowls.  Set aside, ready and waiting for the croutons!

Mash together cheeses in a bowl, mixing until combined. Form the mixture into six 1-2 inch balls and then flatten each slightly into thick patties. Arrange three small dishes for dredging stations: Place the flour in the first one, beat the egg lightly in the second, and mix the breadcrumbs and salt in the last one.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Once hot, fry each patty until golden and crispy, about two minutes per side. It’s going to get melty, and seem pesky to flip once warm, but that's okay, it's worth it!  Turning with two forks made it slightly less difficult.

If they are quite oily, briefly pause the crouton on paper towels to drain excess oil.  Ours usually aren't, so we put them directly on top of the salad, and top with a fruity vinaigrette.  Serve with your favorite artisan bread.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

It's after dinner.  You're craving something chocolaty.  With peanut butter.  But you want to avoid a calorie bomb - what to do????  Have no fear, I've got a solution!  A health(ier) peanut butter cup smoothie.

It's simple, easy, and has some nutritional value (versus that Ben and Jerry's that you were contemplating, or is that just me?)  Fruit, bit of protein from the peanut butter, and some antioxidants from the cocoa.  Okay, so it's not kale and pomegranates, but it's certainly better than a sugar and fat laden Chocolaty Cake of Death.

I've also used this when I'm trying to cut back on my added sugar intake (or cut back on desserts), and this is an excellent substitute.  It's also a great post-workout smoothie.  Give it a try!

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie
(adapted from Happy Herbivore)
Makes 2 servings

2 bananas
3 Tbsp good quality cocoa
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup - 1 cup of non-dairy milk (I like almond milk), to your preferred texture
Couple ice cubes, optional

Blend together bananas, cocoa, peanut butter, vanilla and 1/2 cup non-dairy milk.  Add milk and ice cubes to desired texture.  Find a friend, and share.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Sweet Potato Hummus

Hummus and I... have never gotten along.  I keep trying hummus because it always sounds like a good idea.  But it never, ever lived up to my expectations.  I tried different brands, different styles, and all with the same result.  Utter disappointment.  However, I spotted this recipe in a friend's cookbook and decided to give it a shot.  Again.  And, miraculously, I loved it!

I really shouldn't be surprised because I love sweet potato in just about everything - marshmallows, soup, tacos, biscuits, etc.  And now I can add hummus to that list - hooray!

Light snack or fun appetizer for a party, and it's healthy.  Oh, and it makes a LOT, so plenty to share with friends!

Sweet Potato Hummus
(from Power Foods)
Makes 4 cups

1 lb. sweet potatoes (about 2)
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, for garnish

Steam the sweet potatoes with your preferred method.  Some options:
1) Microwave: Wash and pat dry your potatoes.  Poke potatoes a few times on each 'side' for the steam to escape.  Microwave until soft, rotating them every few minutes for even cooking. When done, scoop out the inside and discard the peel.
2) Peel and cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces.  Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water; set a steamer basket (or colander) inside pot, and bring water to a boil.  Add potatoes, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer potatoes to a food processor.  Add chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, oil, cumin, and garlic.  Puree until smooth, about 1 minute; thin with up to 2 Tbsp of water (I used about 3 teaspoons).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Let cool; refrigerate for up to 1 week in an airtight container.  Garnish with paprika before serving.  Serve with favorite pita chips and/or veggies.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chocolate Drizzled Potato Chip Cookies

Oops.  Couldn't go one post without something sweet and delicious.  I promise I have been making and eating all sorts of healthy things!  But a friend was hosting a game night, and it's his birthday, so... there's my excuse.  After sampling the final product I have NO REGRETS.

When I first saw this recipe, my reaction was, "Ew."  However, after reading the article, I reconsidered.  There are all sorts of salty-sweet combos that are surprisingly delicious - honey roasted nuts, buttery popcorn and Reese's Pieces (really, it's awesome), pretzels and chocolate, etc.  Salty-sweet is an addictive flavor, and this really hits the spot.

Because it's a Cook's Country recipe, they tried all sorts of potato chips, and found that reduced fat chips worked best.  I would, however, avoid any chili-lime versions and stick with just salted!

A quick and mess-free way to crush the chips is to use a large Ziploc bag and a rolling pin. what my mother did when I was a kid and still use the plastic bag, but crush them by putting the bag on the floor and invite any little helpers to walk on them.  A good stress-reliever, for sure.

 These cookies would be tasty without the chocolate.  But, really, why would we not use chocolate?

Crunchy, salty, and sweet.  Perfection!

Chocolate Drizzled Potato Chip Cookies
(from Cook's Country)
Makes 24 cookies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 oz. reduced fat potato chips, crushed fine (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped fine
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp butter, softened but still cool
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (the original recipe called for 10 oz, but 6 is more than enough)
1/2 Tbsp coarse sea salt (the original recipe called for 1 Tbsp, but I also felt that was too much)

Toast the pecans in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often, until they begin to darken, three to five minutes.  Chop finely.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine flour, potato chips, pecans, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined.  Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture in 3 additions.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls and space 3 inches apart on baking sheets.  Flatten dough balls to 1/4-inch thickness with bottom of floured drinking glass (otherwise they'll stick).

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are just set and lightly browned on bottom, 10 to 13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.  Let cookies cool completely on sheets, about 15 minutes.

Microwave chocolate in a bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes.  Now, you can either:

1) Place cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Pour melted chocolate into Ziploc bag, snip off small corner, and drizzle chocolate over cookies.  Sprinkle coarse salt over warm chocolate and refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.


2) Dip half of each cooled cookie in chocolate, scraping off excess with finger, and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle coarse salt over warm chocolate and refrigerate until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mixed Greens and Bulgur Salad (Vegan)

Happy New Year!  Everyone all cookie-d out?  Feeling the richness of the holidays?  Yeah, me too.  Have no fear, I've got a healthy and tasty dish for you!

This weekend I was doing some meal planning (to avoid the inevitable "oh, we'll just make spaghetti" reaction at the end of the day), and combing through loads of healthy cookbooks and blogs.  I knew I wanted to make my Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup, but was craving some greens-filled side dish to round out the meal in a healthy way.

I came across two recipes and decided to modify it a bit for my tastes.  They included bulgur wheat as the grain, and I was excited to try something new.  I usually use quinoa in this situation, but the husband was looking for something different.

Look at those greens, don't you feel better already?  I used a mix of baby kale, spinach, mizuna, chard, and arugula.  You could also used mustard greens, collard greens, or turnip greens as well.  Whichever of these (solo or a combo) strikes your fancy would work just fine.

And toasting up some walnuts for a topping - heart healthy and yummy.

This recipe called for white wine vinegar, but I didn't have any on hand, so red wine vinegar was my substitute.  Vinegar can quickly overpower, but in this application it's the perfect amount of acid to add flavor to this dish.

Also, one recipe called for dates, and the other for raisins.  I thought I'd give craisins a whirl, and they worked perfectly in it.

I was going for healthy, but I'll be honest, I was a tad worried it would taste a bit like bird food.  The husband shared my trepidation, but we were pleasantly surprised at the wonderful flavor!  Nutty, chewy, with the vinegar adding a complex aspect to it - yum.  A perfect side dish or even a light main dish.

Mixed Greens and Bulgur Salad
(adapted from Eating Well and Eat Well With Janel)
Makes about 6 servings

1 cup bulgur, dry
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
5 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 oz your greens of choice, chopped or thinly sliced, tough stems removed
1/3 c craisins
2-3 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Wash greens (if necessary), remove tough stems, and chop or thinly slice.  Set aside.

Prepare bulgur according to package directions. Transfer to a sieve and rinse under cool water; drain. Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place 5 teaspoons oil and shallots in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until the shallots start to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add greens, craisins and 2 tablespoons water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender and the water evaporates (add another tablespoon of water if the pan is dry before the greens are tender), about 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper, and the prepared bulgur; cook until heated through, about 1 minute.  Sprinkle with the walnuts before serving.