Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Salad (and spaghetti, and lasagna...)

Pin It I have been quite busy lately and as a result I have been unable to post as much as I wanted, or to participate and browse at other blogs (and there are so many great blogs out there!).
But it is not all bad news, there is actually a very good reason for my recent lack of posts (and time). I am planning a trip to Brazil, in fact we are living in 4 days!
I normally see may family and friends once a year (yes, I am lucky, I know), but Andrew has actually never been to Brazil. We both travelled a lot together and been to many interesting places, but never made it to my home place. It's very exciting, and somewhat nerve wrecking too...

But before we take off, I really wanted to participate of this month's Weekend Wokking Event, hosted this time by Heart and Hearth and the ingredient of the month couldn't be more appropriate: Pumpkin! Yum!

I decided to roast my pumpkin not only because it concentrates the flavours, but I can use the roasted pumpkin in a variety of dishes. For this post I pictured a simple salad made with the pumpkin pieces when they first came out of the oven. I often enjoy some warm element in my salads, slightly wilting the greens.
Roasting the pumpkin is fairly easy, once you pass the peel, seed and cut stages.
I mix the pieces of pumpkin with olive oil (bout 1 tbsp for each pound of pumpkin), one red onion, quartered and some fresh herbs ( sometimes it's sage, others rosemary, oregano) salt and pepper. I roast it at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. After that I keep checking every 5 minutes until it's just right, which for me it's still firm, but with some browned spots around the edges.
For the salad, I made a bed of arugula dressed with some olive oil and lemon juice, some shaved Parmesan and a few nuts.
I mixed the leftover roasted pumpkin with ricotta cheese in a food processor and used it in two pasta dishes:
1) a spaghetti with the creamy ricotta-pumpkin sauce
2) a pumpkin lasagna using the ricotta-pumpkin mixture, bechamel and mozzarella cheese.
I hope I will still see pumpkins at the markets by the time I come back to Seattle because I just love pumpkin. I hope you do too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crunchy Chickpea Salad

Pin It There are a lot of good things to say about chickpeas. They are a good source of protein, very low in fat, very filling, and in my opinion, very tasty too. Oh, and did I mention versatility? Chickpeas can be used in soups, salads, as side dishes, or as a snack. And it's pretty inexpensive too. So with all that going for them, why aren't these beans more popular?

My guess is that most people just never see chickpeas on the menu except at Indian restaurants. And while I love a good Chola Masala, I think it is a shame that garbanzo beans don't get more exposure in the restaurant scene.

So I am doing my part to promote these wonderful food! As usual here at Pink Bites, this is an easy dish, healthy and it is a perfect meal for one.

Carrots and celery give this salad a nice crunch, while the sun-dried tomatoes bring a punch of unexpected flavour.

Crunchy Chickpea Salad Recipe:

1 can chickpeas, drained and well rinsed

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, chopped

a handful of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

chopped parsley

shaved Parmesan

Make a salad dressing with 1 part lemon juice or vinegar, 2 parts olive oil (I mix a little bit of the sun-dried tomato oil), salt and pepper.

Mix all ingredients and the dressing, I like to put them in a Tupperware, close the lid and shake it.

Top it with Parmesan shavings and freshly ground pepper.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Maple Baked Acorn with Raisins and Candied Walnuts

Pin It My mom was the first person to show me how great a baked squash can be. She slices acorn squashes and bake them with a little olive oil and salt. Very simple and yet tasteful. I decided to make it a little different, adding sweet maple syrup and cinnamon. I used candied walnuts that I keep in my pantry, but regular ones will do just fine too. This is a beautiful dish that would certainly impress guests. It can be a side dish or a main vegetarian entry.

Maple Baked Acorn with Raisins and Candied Walnuts Recipe:

Adapted from this recipe
You will need:
1 acorn squash
maple syrup
candied walnuts *(recipe bellow), or any other type of nuts
salt and pepper
Cut off stem and bottom of the acorn, so it has a flat surface on each end. Half the acorn and scoop the seeds and pulp out. Place the halves on a greased baking sheet and fill each one with 1 tbsp of syrup, 1/2 tbsp of butter, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, salt and pepper. Mix it up and spread around the edges (I used a brush for it). Place the nuts, chopped as well as the raisins inside the squash cups.
Bake it at 350F for about 40-45 minutes. Every once in a while, if the squash edges are getting too dry, baste it with the syrup mixture, either using a brush or a spoon.
If you are cooking for one person only, make only 1 half of the squash.
Candied Walnuts Recipe:
I favour this recipe (found at the foodnetwork site) over many others from different chefs simply because the nuts are bakes and not deep fried.
1/4 cup powder sugar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp salt
4 oz walnuts (about 1 cup)
Mix all ingredients except walnuts. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the walnuts for about 4 minutes. Drain well and immediately roll the walnuts in the sugar mixture. Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes, watching carefully because the sugar can burn quickly. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grape Gratin

Pin It Here is a dessert that won't take you anytime to make, it's almost impossible to get it wrong and yet, it would impress guests and family members alike.

A little note: if you are the kind of person that doesn't like cherry tomatoes because they burst in your mouth, you are probably not going to like this dessert either...
What you'll get here is a combination of warm grapes bursting in your mouth, a creamy mixture with a hint of vanilla and (my favourite part) a crunchy sugar topping!

Grape Gratin Recipe:

You will need:

Seedless grapes
Sour Cream
Plain Yogurt
Vanilla Extract
Brown Sugar

Pick a baking dish and place grapes on the bottom on a single layer, as snug as possible. Mix equal parts sour cream and yogurt. Add some vanilla extract (the amount will depend on how much you are making). Top grapes with this mixture and sprinkle brown sugar all over it.
Bake it in a hot oven until the top is golden brown. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving it.

This dessert can also be made in individual gratin dishes, I imagine it would look very nice at a dinner party.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

French Onion Soup

Pin It French onion soup is always welcome here at home, I make mine with lots of layers of flavour. I don't skimp on good butter, I use lots of fresh herbs and I buy some good cheese. It's my strategy to make Andrew enjoy this vegetarian soup without feeling like a vegetarian... I find that a lot of meat eater are like that, they may even like something, but if you "label" it as a vegetarian dish they suddenly loose interest.
This recipe is my version that makes 2 - 4 servings, depending on the size of your bowls...and your appetite...

Vegetarian French Onion Soup Recipe:

2 large yellow onions, sliced thin (I use a mandoline)
2-3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/4 cup white wine
1 qt (32 oz) good vegetable broth
salt and pepper
Day old bread
Gruyere cheese, grated

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are soft and brown, stirring every once in a while. When the onions are done and looking brown, add the thyme and the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and then add the broth. If you like your soup thick, leave it like that, if you want to thin it out a bit you can add some water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer the soup for about 10 minutes. Ladle soup into oven proof bowls. Place a slice of bread over it and top it with the grated cheese. Bake it in a hot over (400F) until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

This is my entry for this month's No Croutons Required Event, hosted by Lisa's Kitchen which asked us to make a hearty vegetarian soup that warms the soul and the tummy. I think this one fits the bill!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Penne with fresh, instant sauce for a solo eater

Pin It Why is it so hard to cook for one? For me, it's not about the cooking, since I am used to cooking single size portions. It's the eating alone... Andrew is taking a week course and so I find myself alone and having to feed myself. It should be an opportunity for me to do loads of vegetarian food, but I find myself rather demotivated to cook for myself only. Is it that bad to go a week on Wasa toasts and coffee?

Today I really tried to be good girl and decided to cook a proper lunch, sit down at the dining table and eat at the proper lunch time, even though nobody else was here.

This dish was ready by the time the pasta was cooked. All I did was sauteing some chopped onions in olive oil, add 1 garlic clove, 2 tomatoes seeded and chopped and 2 purple olives, pitted and chopped.

When the pasta (1 cup of penne) was done, I added some of the pasta water to the sauce along with the penne. Stirred in some chopped fresh basil from my window box and seasoned.

Not bad at all! It was very tasty, specially with the addition of grated cheese. And I even made a little basil garnish!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Banana-Date Smoothie

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I was going to start this post by saying that this is a healthy smoothie recipe that is also very easy and fast to make....and then I though, ghee I am becoming repetitive.... But that is a good thing! When it comes to finding easy-quick-healthy recipes, the more the better!

So here you go, another smoothie/snack that's good for you!

Banana-Date Smoothie Recipe:

For one smoothie:

1 cup of buttermilk (you can use regular milk but the tangy taste of the buttermilk contrasts very well with the sweetness of the dates)

1 banana

2 dates, pitted (or as many as you like)


Blend it all and you have yourself a great smoothie!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Maple Syrup and Brazil nut cookies

Pin It The name of these cookies might be a little deceptive. The only Brazil nut in it is the one on top. Other than that it is a pretty simple cookie, but made with maple syrup instead of some of the sugar, which makes it healthier (if a cookie could actually be healthy...) But let's just say it's less bad for you! Brazil nuts are know for being a superfood. They are loaded with unsaturated fat, minerals, vitamin E and selenium. So we don't have to feel too bad when reaching for the cookie jar... Unfortunately I do not know the name of the book where I got this recipe from because I photocopied the page only and forgot to write down the name of the book....

Maple Syrup and Brazil nut cookies Recipe:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
about a dozen of Brazil nuts, split in half lengthwise
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter, syrup and sugar over medium-low heat and let it cool.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix well.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will make it easier to shape the cookies later.
Make golf size balls with the dough, placing them 2 inches apart on a oiled-sprayed baking sheet.
Press one half Brazil nut into every cookie and bake it at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until done. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven, don't worry. I tried to bake it longer and they became a little too hard.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tofu-Caesar Dressing (vegetarian)

Pin It This dressing checks many boxes for me. It's easy to prepare, stores well in the fridge, it's healthy and probably best of all, it's something that both my (vegetarian) self and my husband (not vegetarian) can enjoy. All checked!

The source of this recipe is rather unusual... I found it at Oprah's website. She was trying a 21 days cleanse where she basically had to go vegan. The whole idea was to get people to become more conscious about what we eat. The good thing about it was that some of the dishes she ate (all prepared by her wonderful chefs, of course) ended up on her website with the recipes. That's when I saw this dressing, which was named "Homemade Caesar ". I just though Tofu Caesar was more appropriate. The original recipe makes a LOT of dressing, so I cut it in half, sort of. It makes one "mayo-size" jar like this one in the pictures. To see the original recipe from Oprah's chef, click here. To see my version, just keep reading.

Tofu Caesar Dressing Recipe:

8 oz soft tofu
1/4 cup lime juice
2 garlic cloves (sometimes I use 3, but that makes it really garlicky)
2 tbsp tahini
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp capers
1/2 cup olive oil
a handful of chopped parsley

Blend all the ingredients except oil and parsley. With blender running, slowly add oil. Add parsley and pulse a few times to combine.

Store in a air-tight container and refrigerate it.
I use this dressing for making Caesars as well in chopped salads. It goes nicely with tomatoes and onions.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Spaghetti with Zucchini Blossoms

Pin It I looked in the market for zucchini blossoms all summer long, didn't find it. Now that it's already fall, I see a basket full of them! It doesn't matter, they are always welcome in my kitchen. I've never really seen them with the zucchini still attached to it (as I see in some pictures), every time I see the blossoms they have already been separated from the vegetable.
Most of the time when I see a recipe for zucchini flowers they are deep fried. I didn't want to do that. I think they are too delicate for that. So I decided to pair it with some good old spaghetti. It was really good. Here is how I did it:

Spaghetti with Zucchini Blossoms Recipe:

You will need:
Zucchini Blossoms (as many as you like)
Zucchini ( I used one small for one portion)
Chopped onion (about 1/4 of an onion for 1 portion)
Olive oil

Gently clean the flowers with a soft paper towel and remove the insides (the part that contains the pollen). Cut off the bottom and make a cut along the flower, so you can open . If you see a lot of pollen still in the insides, you can clean it with the paper as well. Cut in strips, not too small, it will wilt later.
With a vegetable peeler, make ribbons from a small zucchini.
Cook chopped onions in olive oil until clear, add zucchini ribbons and flowers. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat.
Add cooked and drained pasta to the pan and gently toss to combine. Top it with Parmesan shavings.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sourdough Vegetable Sandwich

Pin It Here in Seattle there is a place that is famous for their Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl. I remember when I first came across the concept of soup in a "bread-bowl". It was a long time ago in Brazil. I think it's a great idea, and so why not doing the same for sandwiches? If I had to take lunch to work, this would be the kind of meal I would make often. It's travels well, it can be made in advance, and most important it is a wholesome, healthy meal.

Now, of course, you can change the ingredients to fit your taste. You can make it with meat too, such as sliced meats or a sliced turkey or chicken breast. My version is vegetarian and I used what I had in hand (mushrooms, zucchini, mozzarella).

The sky is the limit when it comes to the filling, but the only think to keep in mind is to avoid items that tend to loose liquid because it will make the sandwich soggy. That is why I used fresh mozzarella that is not packed in water, and squeezed all excess oil from the sun-dried-tomatoes.

Sourdough Vegetable Sandwich Recipe:

Cut the top of a sourdough bread and remove the insides of the bread, leaving a small border.

Start layering with all your favourites. For this one I did:

Grilled sliced zucchinis


Mozzarella (not packed in water, or if not possible, squeeze all excess liquid)

Sun-dried-tomatoes (excess oil removed)

Sliced white mushrooms, cooked in olive oil.

Continue layering until the bread is filled. Brush the lid with pesto and close the sandwich. Wrap it in plastic and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chicken and Sage Patties

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Pink Bites is a blog where I share the foods that I cook and eat at home. Real food that is. The kind that works for me, my husband and that fits our life style. For me, that means keeping budget in mind. I believe it is possible to eat healthy and well without breaking the bank.

So with that in mind, I present you, reader, with yet another chicken recipe. This one is great because it can be used in so many different ways. I made these patties for Andrew and kept them in the fridge for a few days. I fried them as I needed, and he ate it in different ways:

1- In a sub sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

2- Alongside brown rice and vegetables for a complete meal.

3 - As a breakfast meal inside an English muffin with cheese and eggs.

It's a good thing Andrew doesn't mind leftovers, or eating the same food for days, because this recipe makes a lot of patties!
I found this recipe at the Martha Stewart website

Chicken and Sage Patties Recipe:

2 lbs ground chicken

1/2 an onion, finely chopped (I used red onion)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp spoon of finely chopped sage

1/4 cup of finely shredded carrots (I used my box grater)

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teas salt

1/4 teas pepper

olive oil, for frying

Combine chicken, onion, garlic, sage, carrot, mustard, salt and pepper. Shape the patties (about 2 inches each) and place them in a baking sheet.

You can fry them right away in hot olive oil for about 2 minutes per side, or you can refrigerate them, covered and fry later. It makes about 17-20 patties.