It is autumn and that means pomegranate time! I love pomegranates but I hate getting the arils (seeds) out of them. I pretty much have avoided them unless I was willing to shell out the cash to buy the arils in a package. Then to be honest they are often slimy and not so great. But lo and behold I discovered recently that cutting open a pomegranate doesn’t have to look like something was butchered in my kitchen! I can’t believe I didn’t know this until a couple of weeks ago–how did I miss this? This would have saved my children and myself a lot of anxiety every autumn when they wanted my to buy whole pomegranates and I would try my best to avoid it or get really crazy with bibs and aprons and tons of paper towels to contain the flying red juice. Sorry kids! Click here for detailed instructions on how to accomplish this feat and keep your hands their natural color.
I got this recipe idea from the wonderful chef my husband hired for my birthday recently. She made this incredible little appetizer of crostini, grilled Haloumi cheese and pomegranate seeds. The flavors were so incredible and so autumn-like! So today I was trying to come up with an interesting salad with pomegranate seeds and then I thought about the warmed Haloumi cheese and voilà, this is what I came up with. Hope you all like it as much as we did!
Vibrant pomegranate, fennel, tomato, baby lettuce and Haloumi salad is full of wonderful autumn flavors .
Credit: adapted from Haloumi, Pomegranate and Rocket Salad on Taste.com.au
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
180 grams Haloumi Cheese, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
12 ounces of mixed baby lettuces
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, reserve some fronds for garnish
1 pomegranate, seeded (see this page for excellent instructions)
Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking to emulsify it. Set dressing aside.
Place the greens and fennel slices in a large serving bowl.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the pine nuts to the dry pan and toast for a few minutes. Careful they burn fast! Remove pine nuts and set aside.
Add a little cooking spray to pan and heat up again. Add the Haloumi slices and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until slightly browned. Remove from pan and place on top of salad.
Heat up the tomato halves in the hot pan for just a couple of minutes, adding a little salt and pepper and spread them on top of the Haloumi on the salad. Add the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and serve with the dressing on the side (or toss if you prefer).
I braised the chicken and vegetables in a ceramic dutch oven, but the inspiration recipe cooks it in a crock pot. Either way, this is a pretty easy and healthy recipe that you can throw together the night before or in the morning and cook all day in a crock pot or for a couple of hours in a dutch oven. I made this very mild so the spice phobe will eat it and the rest of us can add chopped chili peppers at the table, but if you don’t have any spice phobes it would certainly be better with spicy peppers cooked in it!
1 quart of no-salt or low-sodium chicken stock (or broth)
1 small sweet onion chopped (or half a large onion)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large bell peppers (whatever color you like) chopped
2 jalapeños chopped (seeded if you want less heat)
2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and cut off the cob
1 – 14.4 oz. can of no salt added roasted tomatoes with the liquid
1 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or fresh, use a few sprigs and pull the stems out before serving)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast meat, sliced in quarters (can leave whole if you are willing to cook a longer time or are putting in a crock pot all day)
1 – 14.4 oz can of no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
chopped romaine lettuce (about 1 cup/person)
*Mexican brown rice (or whatever you prefer)
approx. 1 cup of shredded mixed Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar) – Optional
guacamole, diced tomatoes and a few pieced of chopped cilantro as a topping — optional
*Mexican Brown Rice: Cook rice with 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken broth, 1 tsp of chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin and a shake of oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook according to rice package directions (I like to use a rice cooker).
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large dutch oven combine chicken stock, onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeños, corn, tomatoes with their liquid, and spices. Mix well and then add chicken.
With the lid on the dutch oven, put the chicken mixture into the the oven for an hour and stir it occasionally.
After the first hour check that it has not become too dry, there still should be plenty of liquid in there. Add the black beans and cook another 30 minutes without the lid, or until the chicken is falling apart and the liquid has mostly evaporated and the dish looks more like a stew and less like a soup.
Remove pot from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Serve by first layering a cup of chopped lettuce, a 1/4 – 1/2 cup rice, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture, a sprinkling of cheese, a dollop of guacamole, a sprinkling of diced tomatoes and a few sprigs of cilantro.
Note: This can also be put into a tortilla and eaten like a taco; or put into corn tortillas with a spicy red Mexican sauce and melted cheese to make it enchiladas; or spread chicken mixture over tortilla chips and melt cheese over it for nachos. It would also be very nice as a vegetarian dish with extra vegetables and sub the chicken stock for vegetable stock and leave the chicken out. The possibilities are endless!
As I was making my son breakfast I noticed that I had two perfectly ripe bananas. Too ripe for eating but perfect for baking, so I whipped up a quick batch of banana muffins. Yum! These are so delicious and quite healthy too with the whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour and almond meal, only a cup of sugar and wholesome bananas, eggs and yogurt. Try it for a quick breakfast with some fruit or a healthy snack.
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I use non-fat, but use what you prefer)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 large eggs
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries, juice sweetened or unsweetened (watch out, these can have a lot of sugar added) or raisins
1/4 cup nuts of choice (I used pumpkin seeds today)
parchment paper muffin liners
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine flours and next 7 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk.
In a small bowl mix with a whisk the yogurt, oil, egg, banana and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the cranberries and nuts. Stir gently.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring just until moist. Will be pretty thick.
Spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with parchment paper muffin liners. The parchment liners don’t require any oil, they are non-stick and are an incredible find! If you don’t have these then lightly spray your muffin tins with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
I usually freeze half the batch to put in a lunch box or enjoy at a later date.
Pretty warm day here in the Bay Area. I decided I would make crab cakes Crab Cakes and a tomato, corn and avocado salad. This was based on what looked fresh at the grocery store today. Just a quick salad that I threw together, no actual recipe, but I tried to capture it the best I could in the recipe below. Enjoy!
Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad with Ricotta Salata
1 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters depending on size
1 avocado, diced and soaked in lime juice
1 tablespoon lime juice (approx)
2 ears of fresh corn, cooked and sliced off the cobb
2 tablespoons ricotta salata cheese, very small dice
freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Combine the tomatoes, avocado with lime juice, corn and ricotta in a medium bowl. Try to add the corn while it is still hot or warm, it warms up the rest of the salad and makes the flavor more intense. Mix well.
Sprinkle with the salt, pepper and olive oil and mix well.
So easy and so delicious! I got the recipe from Feed Me Phoebe and I have made it several times. The first couple of times I used Great Northern beans instead of Garbanzo beans and I have also used marinated artichokes instead of water-packed artichokes, but I think it is healthier with the water-packed artichokes. I have also added a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach in the past, which I would have done today, but I am out of spinach! The hummus is great any of these ways. Below is the basic recipe, pretty much unchanged from Phoebe Lapine’s recipe.
I took a little blogging-break, but hopefully I am back for the next month or so. June blog entries will probably be very light if at all. But hey, who wants to cook in the summer anyway! This a a very simple and easy dish to slowly get myself back in the swing of writing again. This is a Food & Wine recipe that I added asparagus and mushrooms to. A very flavorful and nice quick weeknight dinner.
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (or white button), cut into thick slices
1 pound asparagus, ends broken off and sliced into one-inch pieces
fresh ground pepper
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (save time and buy it deveined, it is worth it!)
2 tablespoon small capers, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a very large skillet heat some olive oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Add the asparagus and the shrimp and cook over high heat until the shrimp are lightly browned and barely opaque, about 2 minutes.
Add the capers and cook for 30 seconds. Turn the shrimp and add the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley. Cover and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the sauce is slightly reduced. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a dish and spoon the sauce on top. Add a sprinkle of the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley and serve. Enjoy with some crusty whole wheat bread or rice.
Wow, ten days have passed since I last posted a recipe! My daughter was home for spring break and she was bored so she decided she would do a lot of the cooking, so Helpful! But she doesn’t follow recipes or want to participate in my blogging project, so I haven’t had much to post. Thank you again Melissa Clark and New York Times Cooking for this recipe! This is a very healthy and hearty vegetarian soup that can be bulked up further with lentils, grains or sausage (no longer vegetarian then) if one desires. We decided we just wanted a warm vegetarian soup that wasn’t too heavy, so we left it as is except we added a can of chopped tomatoes and some broth to the recipe.
1 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms such as shiitake, cremini, oyster, etc. medium dice
½ lb shallots, finely diced
fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped (use a little less if dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground allspice
one 14.5 oz can chopped peeled tomatoes (organic or no salt added if possible)
4 cups water
1 cup of low-sodium vegetable broth
5 ounces baby spinach
fresh lime juice, to taste (I cut one lime and served the wedges with the soup so people could squeeze in as much as they wanted at the table)
plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread out chopped mushrooms and shallots on a large lightly oiled sheet pan. Sprinkle vegetables with a little salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes and then stir. Roast for another 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have substantially shrunk and most of the liquid has evaporated. You can alternatively do this in the pot you are going to make your soup in by sautéing the vegetables.
Heat a large pot over medium heat, add a little olive oil to just barely coat bottom of pot, after that is heated add the mushrooms and shallot mixture, tomato paste, thyme, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice. If you like a little more spice, add a little more of all spices as I did. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in can of tomatoes including the liquid, 4 cups of water and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook gently for at least 20 minutes. I simmered for over an hour because I had the extra time. Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted, 1-2 minutes.
Using a blender or food processor, coarsely purée 1/2 of the soup and add back to unprocessed soup. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve in bowls with a squeeze of fresh lime, sprinkle of thyme and an optional dollop of yogurt. Enjoy!
The only one who usually eats pasta in this house is my son, and frankly he can eat enough of it for all of us if I let him! We call him a “pastaterian.” I came across a Food and Wine recipe entitled Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognesethat I based this recipe on. I changed several things, most importantly I added ground beef and a little chicken breast sausage to 3/4 of the the recipe to satisfy my son who was craving a meaty Bolognese sauce but still left lots of vegetables in to make it healthier than a traditional almost all beef sauce. I also left 1/4 of it vegetarian to satisfy my daughter. The original recipe also called for eggplant but since I added meat I left out the eggplant. Overall we all really liked how both the meat and the vegetarian versions tasted. I noted where you can add the meat or leave it out depending on your preferences. Note: The quantities may look large in the pictures because I doubled the recipe so I can serve it again for a kid party in a couple of days.
3/4 lb lean grass-fed ground beef –IF it will not be vegetarian.
1/4 lb mild ground chicken breast sausage —Note: This may be hard to find, at Whole Foods they made this up for me, just ask you butcher, or just use plain ground chicken breast or pre-made chicken sausage or lean ground beef. I think spicy chicken sausage would be really good except for my spice phobe… so I used the mild sausage.–IF it will not be vegetarian.
1 lb cremini mushrooms, small dice
½ lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps diced
fresh ground pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon mild white miso (this is surprising but turned out to be worthwhile)
one 2-inch chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus grated cheese for serving
one 14.5 oz can crushed peeled tomatoes (organic or no salt added if possible)
one 14.5 oz can chopped peeled tomatoes (organic or no salt added if possible)
3 thyme sprigs (or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme)
1 tablespoon of dried oregano (I probably add more, but I don’t measure)
½ teaspoon sugar (or honey, to cut the tomato acidity)
1 package of fresh tagliatelle pasta (or pasta of your choice)
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil (I think fresh is important here, dried basil really doesn’t taste the same, but do what you can)
In a small bowl, cover the porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of boiling water; soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Finely chop the porcini mushrooms, discarding any tough bits. Drain mushrooms, reserving 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. Chop the mushrooms finely.
In a large pot (I like to use an enameled cast-iron casserole, it cleans up easily) heat 1–2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes. Add additional oil if needed and then add the ground beef if using, chicken sausage if using, cremini, shiitake and chopped porcini mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and miso and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chunk of cheese, tomatoes and their juices, thyme, oregano, sugar and reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and bring to a simmer.
Halfway cover the pot and cook over low heat so it simmers gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 1–1.5 hours. Discard the thyme and oregano sprigs (if using fresh herbs); season the sauce with salt and pepper and more oregano and thyme if needed.
In a pot of boiling water (salt optional), cook the pasta until al dente. Drain
Add the pasta and chopped basil to the sauce; toss to coat. Serve in bowls, topped with grated cheese.
I love, love, love Spanakopita, but I seldom make it because it is such a pain to deal with the phyllo dough. I made it today because I planned on making Fennel and Feta Salad with Bacon and the only cow’s milk feta I could find (my preferred feta) was giant-sized, so I decided to make some Spanakopita along with the salad to use up some of the feta. Unfortunately I still have a lot of feta left over. I usually make this the traditional way in rolled up triangles, but today I was going to make it easier and less fussy by putting it in a 8×8 baking dish and then cutting it into pieces. At the last minute I decided that it tastes so much better in individual packets, so I tried something different, muffin tins! You can see from the pictures that I am not going to win any awards for my presentation, they don’t look very uniform or very pretty, but they do taste incredible! So, I will probably not make them in muffin tins again, probably go back to rolling up triangles or trying the casserole approach. I based this off of a recipe from the Kosher Gourmet, adding mushrooms and herbs to the dish and only used 1 pound of spinach/baby kale/baby chard mix since I was adding a bunch of mushrooms.
Servings: 6-8 depending on whether it is a side dish or a main course
1 pound fresh spinach (today I actually used 2/3 spinach and 1/3 mixed spinach, baby chard and baby kale)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
6 large cremini mushrooms, small dice
1 large garlic clove (or 2 small), minced
1/2 cup cottage cheese
~6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced (dry is ok, use a little less)
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, minced (dry is ok, use a little less)
1/2 Tablespoon fresh thyme, minced (dry is ok, use a little less)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large eggs
Phyllo Dough – either thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using or thaw on kitchen counter for two hours.
Place the cottage cheese in a strainer over a small bowl and let it drain for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Working in bowlful batches, fill a microwave proof bowl with the spinach or whatever greens you are using and microwave for two minutes. Place cooked spinach in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside and repeat until all the spinach is cooked and squeezed out. Chop up the spinach and place in a large bowl.
Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion and mushrooms with a little salt and pepper until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and chopped herbs and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
Mix together the pressed spinach, drained cottage cheese, cooked onion mixture, feta, lemon juice and nutmeg. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together the eggs and stir them into the spinach mixture.
Lightly grease a 8″x 8″or 9″x 9″ casserole dish if making this the casserole method (highly recommended to save time!). Or if you are going to put in muffin tins grease those or if you are going to roll in triangles prepare a lightly oiled cookie sheet so the triangles have somewhere to land.
Unroll the thawed phyllo dough on a large work surface. If necessary, cut the pastry to 9- by 13-inch rectangles. Place plastic wrap over the phyllo dough with a damp dishcloth over the plastic at all times to prevent the thin sheets from drying out.
Casserole Method: Lay one sheet of phyllo on the bottom and brush it or spray it with olive oil. Continue layering five more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with olive oil. Spread the spinach mixture evenly over the pastry. Layer five more sheets of phyllo over the spinach, giving the top layer a final brush of olive oil. Lightly score the top layer of phyllo into eight squares with a paring knife. (This makes the pie easier to slice after baking.) …Or roll into traditional triangles or use the same layering technique in muffin tins.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pie is golden-brown and the top layers of phyllo are crisp. Allow the pie to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Keep them refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze. Leftovers will need to be reheated in the oven to regain their crispiness.
Tonight is a Thursday and I start to get a little lazy by Thursday. I was pretty busy today and wanted to buy some specialty items at Trader Joe’s so I thought I would try to find dinner items there as well. I came across some pasteurized and packaged crab in the refrigerated section and decided I would make crab cakes and arugula (rocket) salad for dinner. Easy enough! Maybe throw in a hunk of garlic bread for my almost-teenage son (he is difficult to fill up lately!). I have been making crab cakes in the oven for years, but I keep trying slightly new recipes. I am not a fan of mayo, so I always use non-fat plain greek yogurt in it’s place, although I have experimented with leaving the yogurt out as well, I think the crab needs that moisture, so today I am leaving it in. One can also pan fry them, they may be better, but you have to be willing to use a little more oil with that method.
2 green or spring onions, green part only finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt (I used non-fat)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of paprika
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 large egg , lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
1 pound lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed (today I used some I bought from Trader Joe’s in a refrigerated package, when it is available I use fresh crab, but today I used what is quick and easy – it is Thursday)
Canola oil or cooking spray
Quick Cocktail Sauce
1/2 cup of organic ketchup
2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
dash of hot sauce
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium sized bowl mix the first 11 ingredients together (red bell pepper through egg yolk). Add 1/3 cup of the Panko to the mix and put the other cup of Panko in a shallow bowl to use later to coat the patties. Add the crab and mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Shape the mixture into 8 patties and set on a plate. If you have time put the patties in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (you can make cocktail sauce and a salad while they sit in the fridge!). This helps them to firm up a bit, but will be ok either way.
If you are making cocktail sauce, just mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Easy! I probably add a lot more horseradish, but I like it spicy!
Remove crab cakes from the fridge. Lightly dredge in the reserved Panko. Place Panko-crusted crab cakes on a pan lightly coated with cooking spray or oil of choice. Bake for 15 minutes on each side or until golden on each side. Serve with cocktail sauce or sauce of choice. I also made a simple salad with arugula, sliced cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and very thin shavings of parmigiano Reggiano cheese with a light lemony vinaigrette. Enjoy!