Bidding a Fond Farewell to Winter

Despite the temperature, we've had gorgeous sunrises this month.

Despite the temperature, we’ve had gorgeous sunrises this month. #nofilter

This past weekend, the first weekend of spring, I decided to say goodbye to the winter of 2015, that dark, cold, icy, snowy, did I say COLD, winter. In my kitchen, this means saying goodbye to some of my favorite root veggies: turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, and hello to spring asparagus, radishes, and peas. So I decided to make one last Brussels sprouts recipe before I closed the door on the season.

Now, I’ve purchased one bottle of fish sauce in my life and it’s still sitting in the refrigerator. Used in that rare Asian dish, it lasts forever so it just sits in the door of the fridge waiting for that next recipe. But when I spotted a page of fish sauce recipes in the April issue of Cooking Light, I knew I could kill two birds with one stone, bid adieu to winter and use up a little of the sauce!

It is definitely time to make a season switch; the sprouts I bought, normally bright green and round like a golf ball, were small and oval with just a tinge of green. This is a simple recipe, you measure everything and place into a bowl and just pan roast the sprouts. I added a bit more crushed red pepper, so on a blustery 14-degree day, it was a welcome warm side dish to roasted chicken, but I thought it could be equally tasty on a bed of rice or quinoa. (Vegetarians, you can still make this, just leave out the fish sauce, it will still be delicious!) So, goodbye winter! Hopefully Mother Nature will take a look at the calendar and realize we need to warm up!

brussels
Sweet and Savory Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

Combine water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let stand at least 20 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add Brussels sprouts to pan in a single layer, cut side down. Cook, without stirring, 5 minutes or until cut sides are evenly browned. Turn sprouts, and reduce heat to medium; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Increase heat to medium-high. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, tossing to coat sprouts. Cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Mark Bittman in Berkeley          

berkeley

(Photo by Jim Wilson/New York Times)

One of my favorite food writers hands down is Mark Bittman. He can take three ingredients and make a dish fit for a king; his creativity in the kitchen is simple yet elegant. This lifelong New Yorker recently moved to Berkeley (which I take is a temporary move) and he writes elegantly about the winters farmer’s market in California’s Bay Area. Sigh. It honestly does sound like heaven to those of us in the snowbound states. You can read about his adventures by clicking here.

Brownies

Simple as that.

I try not to repeat recipes too much, but when something I wrote about three years ago is so delicious, I only thought it was fitting to bring it forward so new readers can take advantage! (Plus, I made these twice last week, so they are the forefront of my mind)

Baking is definitely not a specialty of mine; give me a piece of meat or a pile of vegetables and I can create something delicious, but baking is more specific and goes against my devil-may-care attitude I have in the kitchen. Unless it is super easy. Which this recipe is and trust me, you’ll be the bell of the ball if you share these with friends or foes. (Or the bell in your own home. Either way, you’ll be a star!)

Originally printed in the New York Times in 1943, it was noted these treats traveled well in a soldier’s care package. Trust me, those soldiers were lucky! The recipe I grew up making were mediocre; they were nice and soft right out of the oven, but were rock hard the next day. When I found this recipe, they turned into my go-to brownies. Deep, dark, and soft, even the next day, they are delicious enough that I even broke my “no sweets during Lent” vow and had two small ones. And it’s simple, it comes together in about ten minutes! You know how the Betty Crocker box mix gets “glossy” on top when it’s done cooking? This does, too, and it’s homemade, so you know what is going into it!

Note Amanda Hesser’s tip at the end (which I will say, dividing the pan into 16 is hardly a small bite, it’s a normal size brownie in my opinion), and I’ll add to that; make these and take a nice long walk in the March light and don’t worry about the stick of butter and cup of sugar!

brownies

Brownies
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010. Makes 16 brownies.

¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.

Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.

serious eaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A New (to me) Food Website
I can never have too many food websites to wander and dream. Friend and reader, Carol, sent me an email the other day, asking if I knew about the website Serious Eats. I didn’t, and of course immediately visited. Funnily enough, what caught my eye were a lot of articles focusing on Asian dumplings, like I wrote about last week! This website has the potential for losing lots of hours online, looking at recipes, checking out recommendations. You should check it out, too! www.seriouseats.com.

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

dumplings3I love dumplings of all sorts, but I’m particularly fond of pork dumplings that you can order in Thai or Chinese restaurants. Now I have a pitch-perfect recipe to make them at home that is relatively easy, healthy, and most importantly of all, delicious!

I made these for a special Saturday night dinner, and they were so good, we almost ate the entire batch! I’ll admit, dumpling making is tedious and time-consuming, so pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re going to be standing and folding for a while (unless you grab some help), but the end result is so worth it! The filling tastes like what you’d find in a restaurant, and the sauce has just the right amount of heat. I cooked the mushrooms and onions in a spicy sesame oil to add even more spiciness and it was so good!

I buy my dumpling or wonton wrappers frozen (Twin Marquis, a company out of New York) from the Asian market, but because I get there only about twice a year, I keep them in the freezer and defrost a package when I need them. Works perfectly!

I decided to make another batch of these to freeze. Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you're ready to eat!

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you’re ready to eat!

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
4 ounces thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
5 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces lean ground pork
40 gyoza skins or round wonton wrappers
Cornstarch
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/2 cup onions, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove from pan; cool slightly. Combine mushroom mixture, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, hoisin sauce, pepper, and pork in a medium bowl.

2. Arrange 8 gyoza skins on a clean work surface; cover remaining skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons pork mixture in the center of each skin. Moisten edges of skin with water. Fold in half; press edges together with fingertips to seal. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch; cover to prevent drying. Repeat procedure with remaining gyoza skins and pork mixture.

3. Combine 1/4 cup hot water and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add remaining 1/4 cup green onions, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, and sambal, stirring with a whisk until well combined.

4. Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Generously coat pan with cooking spray. Add 10 pot stickers to pan; cook 30 seconds or until browned on one side. Turn pot stickers over; carefully add 1/3 cup water to pan. Cover tightly; steam 4 minutes. Repeat procedure in batches with remaining pot stickers and more water, or follow freezing instructions. After cooking, serve pot stickers immediately with dipping sauce.

TO FREEZE: Freeze dumplings flat on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn­starch 10 minutes or until firm. Place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag with 1 teaspoon cornstarch; toss. Freeze sauce in a small zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 2 months.

TO THAW: Thaw sauce in the microwave at HIGH in 30-second increments. No need to thaw pot stickers.

TO REHEAT: Follow recipe instructions for cooking, placing frozen dumplings in pan and increasing steaming time by 2 minutes.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day With a Feast!
fourleaf cloverI don’t have a speck of Irish blood in me, but I always like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because 1. The month of March is halfway over, one step closer to April and springtime; and 2. Who doesn’t want a big dinner of corned beef and cabbage? Cooking Light has created a special menu of healthy Irish recipes just in time for the holiday! You can check them out here. I think the Ploughman’s Lunch Platter sounds divine!

 

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

A couple of months ago, I went to a Chipotle for the first time. Am I the last person on earth? While I’d heard about the healthy fast food chain, I’d never been to one; Vermont just barely got its first a few years ago. But on a cold January day, I decided to treat myself to lunch. And while it was delicious, I knew I could make a healthier and less expensive version at home. And I have!

This dish is so easy and healthy that it’s become a staple for Wednesday night dinners. When it’s the middle of the week, I don’t feel like cooking or I get home late and don’t have the time, so this is something you can make with kitchen and fridge staples or with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Before you leave the house in the morning, put a cup or so of frozen corn in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge. (If you forget this step, just put it in a bowl when you get home, as it thaws pretty quickly.) When you get home that evening, start boiling water in a saucepan to make a batch of rice, preferably brown. While that is cooking, take out a mixing bowl and add to it a can of black beans, the thawed corn, a few halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of scallions, and if you like heat, chopped jalapeno, and mix. Add a dash of salt, a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, some lime juice to taste, and a little bit of cumin. In a deep dish bowl or plate, add about a half cup of rice, add some of the black bean salad, and top it with avocado, salsa, sour cream, more cilantro and/or scallions, lime juice, or your favorite topping.

You can really make this dish your own. I thought about adding black olives next time or perhaps some shaved cabbage or sliced radishes. Instead of black beans, you can use another kind of bean or shredded chicken, pork, beef, or even fish. If you don’t like rice, you can leave it out or substitute another grain. Instead of cumin, use coriander or another favorite spice.

It was interesting that as I was working on this recipe, this story was printed in the New York Times. So now I know my version has fewer calories and is definitely healthier! (Although I will add, the restaurant can be healthy if you make the right choices!)

mvk burrito bowl

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

1 can of black beans
About a cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
A couple of tablespoons chopped scallions
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
A dash of salt
One jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
A dash or two of cumin powder
Cooked brown rice
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, cilantro

1. In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno pepper (if using), and to taste, salt, cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, and mix. To a plate or bowl, add a half cup of rice, top with the salad and added condiments.


eggsMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
Bravo, albeit a few decades late, to the U.S. government who finally realizes that low-fat food is not good for you! This article from the New York Times last week focuses on a new study, which is linked in the article. The government has said that cutting fat and cholesterol may have worsened Americans’ health, because by clearing our plates of meat, eggs, and cheese they were replaced with more grains, starchy vegetables, and pasta. The real takeaway is to eat real food, not processed or manufactured.

Cauliflower Soup with Shiitakes

When I am looking ahead at a week of sub-zero temps, I know a salad for lunch just isn’t going to cut it; I need something warm to eat midday and in the evening, too. When I saw a photo of this creamy white soup with a small dollop of shiitake mushrooms on top, I knew I had to try it!

I think cauliflower gets a bad rap. I’ve always liked it; this time of year I’ll just chop and roast with a little bit of olive oil or sometimes I’ll make “mashed” cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, but I can see where some people see it as a blah vegetable. If you’re watching your grocery bill, you can usually find it on sale and it makes for a couple of side dishes. Yet I admit, it is a real pain in the neck to chop, little pieces go everywhere, and I’ll find bits on the floor and counter days later despite my best cleaning efforts. But when it is $2.99, I can’t resist such a good price!

I love shiitakes and rarely buy them because of their price, but I found a package for $4.99, which made for two meals, plus they were already sliced, so the work was already done for me!

My medium cauliflower head was more than four cups chopped, but I used it all and just added a bit more broth to thin it out. And the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar was the perfect complement and added a little zing to what would be an otherwise ordinary soup!

cauliflower soupCauliflower Soup with Shiitakes

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth or water and use a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce or use all sherry vinegar.

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head)
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson), divided
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 (3.5-ounce) package shiitake mushroom caps
1 teaspoon lower-sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 5 minutes or until leeks are softened, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, 1 cup and 6 tablespoons stock, 3/4 cup water, and thyme. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes or until cauliflower is very tender. Place cauliflower mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return to saucepan. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, milk, butter, and pepper. Keep warm.

2. Thinly slice mushroom caps. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add mushrooms; sauté 6 minutes or until browned. Add remaining 2 tablespoons stock, Worcestershire sauce, and sherry vinegar. Cook 1 minute or until liquid is reduced and syrupy.

3. Spoon about 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with about 2 tablespoons mushroom mixture. Sprinkle evenly with parsley.

Need more cauliflower inspiration? Try this one, Creamy Cheese Cauliflower Soup.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Scrambled Eggs

mccartneyHere’s a little bit of trivia for you this week. Did you know when Paul McCartney wrote the song “Yesterday,” to substitute a working lyric they used the words “scrambled eggs?”

I doubt he also wrote about waffle fries and tofu wings, but this is something silly for this Wednesday morning. This clip is from a couple of years ago, before Jimmy Fallon took over “The Tonight Show.” You can watch and listen to the song here.

A Sweet Treat for the Sweet Day: Double Chocolate Cookies

valentines useWhile I’m not that crazy about the actual “holiday” of Valentine’s Day, I do use it as an excuse to make something sweet for the Eater of the House (plus myself!). Since Shrove Tuesday is coming up and my annual 40 days of no sugar is almost here, I decided to make something delicious and chocolaty before I can’t!

These little cookies are a true delight, just 100 calories, and since they are small, the size a bit bigger than a quarter, you are getting just a bite-size of deep, rich chocolate flavor. The batter itself isn’t particularly sweet, but the chocolate chip adds just the right amount. And it comes together super easy and most of the ingredients you probably have on hand. Some of the cookies I molded into a ball and some I just spooned on the tray. I have to say, the molded ones look a lot better (see below); the others, while delicious, had something to be desired in terms of their appearance! (As you can imagine!)

For years I have always used King Arthur flour for all baking,  but it wasn’t but a year ago that I switched to all-purpose flour for most of my baking except from bread. KA has a high gluten content, and while all of my goodies turned out alright, an all-purpose flour like Pillsbury or Gold Medal make things a little lighter, I think.

The directions are right, don’t overbake them; I found them similar to the texture of a brownie. And the way I look at it, they say a little bit of chocolate is good for you, so these are perfect to make for your own sweetheart this weekend!

choco cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

The secret to these rich chocolate cookies is not to overbake them. For a gooey, creamy cookie center, pull them out of the oven when they are still a bit glossy.

Makes 26 (serving size: 1 cookie)

6.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add chocolate; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Drop dough by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pan 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Soups, Broth, and Stocks

zoup1It seems like everywhere I turn these days I’m seeing something about bone broths. I never really knew what anyone was talking about until I listened to Tom Ashbrook’s On Point episode last week and realized I’ve been doing this for years, since I boil up my chicken and turkey carcasses after dinner.

Two of my favorite cooks, Ming Tsai and Bridget Lancaster, joined Tom to talk about soups, broths, and stocks. The show was so inspiring that I thawed a package of homemade chicken broth and made chicken noodle soup this past weekend. Mind you, this was the second soup I made in a week. When it’s as cold and snowy as it’s been here in the Northeast, you need something warm and comforting when you come in from shoveling! And this show was the perfect inspiration

You can listen to the story by click here: Get It While It’s Hot: A Show About Soup.

Miso Chicken

Along with all the activities of my friends around the world, my Facebook feed is filled with recipes and cooking tips from a variety of magazines and newspapers. One evening, I saw a photo for Miso Chicken and even though dinners were planned for the week, I thought I want that now! A velvety, dark miso sauce glazed over chicken breasts, this recipe is super easy and makes you feel like you are cooking so­­mething much more elaborate for a weeknight supper.

The marinade comes together quickly, so you can either make it in advance or whip it up when you get in the door. I had some really large chicken breasts so to save time, I cut them in half so they would cook quicker and more evenly. I wanted a warm dinner all around so I served this with coconut rice (brown rice cooked with a little bit of coconut milk with some added coconut flakes and cilantro stirred in at the end), although you could make a cucumber salad or even a rice noodle salad to complement all the flavors.

For those looking for a gluten-free version, use tamari instead of soy sauce.

miso chixMiso Chicken
This recipe first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

If you can’t find miso, substitute 2 teaspoons anchovy paste and 1 teaspoon tahini instead. With miso, the darker the color, the more pronounced the salty flavor.

1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 teaspoons chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic bag. Add vinegar mixture; seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour, turning once.

2. Preheat oven to 400°.

3. Remove chicken from bag; reserve marinade. Place marinade in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes or until syrupy, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; divide mixture in half. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl. Add chicken; sauté 4 minutes. Turn chicken over; brush chicken with half of marinade mixture. Place pan in oven; bake at 400° for 6 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from oven; brush with remaining half of marinade mixture, turning to coat. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: From Detox To Elimination Diets, Skipping Sugar May Be The Best Bet
With the start of the new year, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I heard about someone I know doing some sort of elimination diet. I am always fascinated with these and have to admit the idea of totally cleansing my body of all toxins is appealing. Unrealistic for me, but appealing all the same.

One thing I have been watching lately is how much added sugar I eat in addition to sugar in fruits and other carbohydrates. I thought you might find this article interesting too. You can read or listen to the story here