Tag Archives: quick

Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles combine the classic flavors of pumpkin pie in a glass

Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles combine the classic flavors of pumpkin pie in a glass

Pumpkin Parfait text

Aside from shopping for gifts, food — both making and consuming — seems to be most folks’ main concern when planning for said holidays.

The thought of preparing a large feast or nibbles for a large fête can be quite daunting, and for most people, the dessert course often seems to be where home cooks are either spending hours preparing or they’re skipping the hassle by just purchasing something from the grocery store. Not to sound like Rachael Ray or Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) from The Matrix, but what if I told you that you could whip up a mouthwatering dessert in thirty minutes or less and be able to brag that you made it all from scratch?

My inspiration for the following recipe came when I needed to whip up a quick dessert, but didn’t have enough time (or motivation) to bake a whole pumpkin pie. These Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles incorporate the flavors of classic pumpkin pie — spiced pumpkin filling, whipped cream, gingersnap cookie “crust” — but take only about a third of the time to make from start to finish. The best part about the dish is that you can make them as individual servings or in one big dish to share.

So if you’re strapped for time this holiday season and/or baking challenged, try out this quick and easy pumpkin treat which is sure to impress all of your guests.
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Paleo Thai Coconut Red Pork Curry with Zucchini “Noodles”

Paleo Thai Coconut Red Pork Curry with Zucchini “Noodles”
Paleo Curry 1 text

A tasty Paleo diet makeover of a popular Thai curry dish.

The Paleo diet. It’s something you’ve probably been hearing a lot about lately — as I like to say (purposely trying to sound like Paris Hilton) “It’s so hot right now.” But what is it anyway? As the name suggests, it is based on the diet that mimics what the cavemen of the Paleolithic era might have grazed upon, wild plants and animals. It includes fruit, vegetables, roots, fungi, nuts, seeds, eggs, and pasture-raised, grass-fed animal protein. Followers of this way of eating subscribe to it because they believe it to aid in healthy digestion and weight loss, and prevent blood sugar spikes, systemic inflammation, autoimmune-related diseases — among a slew of other health benefits. Many people who previously followed strict gluten- and/or dairy-free diets have taken to this diet because it nixes the foods that they cannot eat.

So what’s on the ‘NO’ list? Grains, legumes, dairy, soy, added sugars, booze, white potatoes, vegetable oils, and processed foods. Though there are quite a few dietary restrictions, it doesn’t mean that the Paleo plate must simply consist of a hunk of meat and some bland, boring vegetables. Many Paleo cooking enthusiasts have made it their mission to come up with creative and tasty ways to incorporate the Paleo rules into their (and others’) diet. My friend Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, the upcoming Well Fed 2 (on store shelves later this month) and TheClothesMakeTheGirl.com, is one of those cheerleaders of creative Paleo cooking. She’s been my mentor and inspiration when dabbling in, as she calls it, “dino-chow.”

I do not strictly follow the Paleo lifestyle, but I do love the culinary challenge that it gives me to come up with dishes that are appetizing to Paleo folks and enticing to those (open-minded) non-Paleo people. That’s why I came up with the following recipe for Thai red curry with pork over “noodles.” It’s a Paleo-friendly spin on the classic Thai peanut and coconut milk sauce with red curry paste. I used roasted cashew butter in place of peanut butter (because peanuts are a legume) and substituted coconut aminos for the soy sauce and zucchini peels for the rice noodles. They were easy swapouts and, in my opinion, this dish tastes as good as the original.

In closing, this is only a brief description of the Paleo diet and just the tip of the iceberg. There are also many versions of Paleo out there and, if interested, I encourage you to read up on them and find the one that suits your lifestyle best.
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Balti from Brum: Birmingham’s most celebrated curry

Balti from Brum: Birmingham’s most celebrated curry
Skip the fish and chips and make this delicious English-meets-Indian curry.

Skip the fish and chips and make this delicious English-meets-Indian curry.

Back in March, my fiance and took our pre-wedding honeymoon trip to the UK and Ireland. What excited me most about the trip (besides visiting the Doctor Who museum in Cardiff) was the prospect of sampling the many global cuisines that these countries have to offer. They have become a melting pot of cultures over the past few centuries due to English colonization, immigration, etc., and this in turn now characterizes their food and the way people eat.

While perusing the travel book I brought along, I learned of Balti curry, a now renowned English dish that was created in Birmingham (known as “Brum” by the locals) by North Indian and Pakistani immigrants in the 1970s.

This Punjabi-influenced curry is very aromatic, filled with warming spices, tomatoes, onions and cilantro, and can be made with meat, vegetables or paneer (an Indian fresh cheese). It’s a one-pot dish traditionally served in a metal or copper, two-handled dish called a “Balti”, which means “bucket” in Hindi. Instead of eating it with rice (or even silverware), the diner will scoop it up with naan or chapati flatbread. The best thing about Balti is that it cooks up quickly, like a stir fry, and can be completed in about half an hour — no need to watch over a simmering pot for hours.

Don’t be intimidated by the myriad of spices used in Balti: most of them can be found in specialty grocery stores that have a bulk spice section and the rest can be obtained from an Indian grocer (which is a culinary adventure in itself to visit). I’ve even seen a Balti spice blend sold at Whole Foods under their own brand. As for the protein, beef, lamb, pork or even vegetables can easily be substituted for the chicken.

No need for a passport here as you can take your tastebuds for a trip to jolly old Brum with this easy to prepare, savory Balti dish.
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A fresh take on asparagus: Asparagus-Hazelnut Pesto with Mint

A fresh take on asparagus: Asparagus-Hazelnut Pesto with Mint

Asparagus Pesto 2_logo

Spring is in the air which means your local grocers will have their produce aisles stocked with plenty of colorful seasonal veggies. One of the most accessible vegetables during this time of the year is asparagus. This green, stalk-like vegetable (that’s infamous for making your pee smell funny) is fantastic because it’s so very versatile — you can boil, blanch, broil, grill, steam, saute, and even roast it.

But lately, I had become bored with asparagus because I’ve used it in almost every way possible, and in just about everything. (Except in my cereal. That would be gross.) Luckily, while perusing a recent issue of Food and Wine magazine, I stumbled upon a recipe that used asparagus as a base for pesto. Huzzah! I had to try it, but of course, put my own spin on it as well.

The original version is very similar to traditional Italian pesto, containing basil, olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I decided to use mint in place of basil as it adds a cooling note to the dish. My adaptation of the pesto will also put a spring in your step as it is lighter in calories than most other recipes. I didn’t use much oil in it (water is great for thinning it out without adding calories) and I omitted the Parmesan cheese that’s traditionally used in most pestos — therefore it’s also vegan. But I promise this recipe doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor (but it’ll still probably make your pee smell funny).
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Shades of Verde: Baked egg in avocado with pepita pesto

Shades of Verde: Baked egg in avocado with pepita pesto

Makes for a healthy, filling breakfast.

I must admit that two of my favorite things in the food world are avocados and breakfast. I could eat the soft, green fruit (yep, it’s a fruit) on just about anything and even by itself, and breakfast to me isn’t just a meal that can only be eaten during one time of the day.

Recently, I’ve been pondering: How can I incorporate avocados into breakfast? Yeah, I could chop it up and put it on top of my eggs or slather it on toast, but what about using an avocado as the star attraction on my morning plate? Then it came to me. Instead of putting avocado on top of the eggs, why not put the eggs into the avocado? So I baked an egg inside an avocado half. Think ‘Toad in a Hole’ minus the toast and replaced with an avocado.

Now I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near the first person to attempt this, but the recipe I used below is a fresh and jazzed up way to eat huevos en aguacate (free Spanish lesson for ya there). By itself, the dish is a bit plain, so it definitely needs to be topped with a salsa or sauce. I whipped up a batch of pepita (pumpkin seed) pest with basil and cilantro, and the culinary marriage was a match made in heaven, as the tangy pesto cuts through the fattiness of the avocado and egg. Finish it off with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or hot sauce and you’re set.

Now don’t limit this to just a breakfast — this could easily serve as a lunch or dinner main dish as well. It’s also very filling, so one half of an avocado and one egg per serving is plenty. Bonus: for you folks with dietary issues or on special diets, this recipe is vegetarian, gluten- and nut-free, and perfect for someone following the Paleo diet.
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Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

No lettuce required: Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Salads are a staple of summer and they come in many forms. What pops into most folks’ heads when the word “salad” is uttered is most likely a plate full of leafy greens. While lettuce based salads are well and good, there are other forms of “salad” to consider this time of year, like ones consisting entirely of veggies and/or fruit. They’re a great way to utilize the best produce that this season has to offer and can be a great way to boost the nutritional content of your meal (barring they’re not swimming in mayo or sour cream because that kind of negates the “healthy” aspect).

This first recipe utilizes fresh, raw veggies that are tossed in (my take on) creamy Green Goddess dressing and it makes for a great side for a summer gathering. Instead of smothering this dish in a mayo and/or sour cream based dressing, it gets its creaminess from avocados and buttermilk — the latter being much healthier than you might think (one cup contains less than 100 calories and only 2.2 grams of fat). Make the dressing a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry and feel free to toss the veggies together with the dressing up to an hour before serving.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 4 servings

2 ears of sweet corn (raw)
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 bell red or orange pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed and minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
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Tapas at Home: Spanish stewed chickpeas with chorizo

Tapas at Home: Spanish stewed chickpeas with chorizo

Tapas (or “small plates”) have been a popular restaurant trend for quite some time now; the fad of ordering multiple small plates filled with smoky chorizo, spicy tomato sauce and garlicky shellfish (to name a few) for sharing with tablemates is still going strong. Plus, they’re a great way to try an array of dishes without having to order huge portions that will just end up in a doggy bag.

Here’s a novel idea: You don’t need to venture out to enjoy these dishes, as many of them are pretty darn simple to whip up at home. The ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store and you may even have most of them in your pantry.

Here is an amazingly simple and exotic tapas dish to get you started on your culinary tour of Spain: stewed chickpeas with chorizo, aka “habas con chorizo.” Smoky and slightly spicy cured Spanish chorizo rendered and sauteed with onions and garlic, then simmered with cinnamon, cloves and broth until the liquid and aromatics have reduced and are absorbed by the chickpeas. Sounds complex but, trust me, it’s pretty foolproof and 100 percent delicious.

The key to getting the liquid to reduce is all in the pan. A large sauté pan with sloping sides will allow steam to be released, thus aiding in the liquid reduction process. A pan or pot with high, straight sides will keep more of the liquid vapor trapped inside the vessel and it will take the liquid twice as long to reduce; only choose this type of pot or pan if you’re making a soup or stew.

This dish hails from Catalonia, located in the northeastern region of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Catalan dishes rely heavily on ingredients used in Mediterranean cuisine — tomato, garlic, olive oil, legumes, eggplant, etc. One legume, the garbanzo bean (or “chickpea”), is used often in Mediterranean dishes either whole in salads or stews, or mashed up to make hummus or falafel. Pork products are widely used in Catalonia — since they’re the main producers of pork products in Spain — and cured chorizo (a hallmark of Spanish cuisine) is often used to flavor soups, stews and a range of other dishes. Put chickpeas and chorizo together and you’ve got a hearty, smoky dish that’s adaptable for any occasion (save for Jewish or Muslim holidays).
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Shades of green: Green garbanzo beans are a fresher, tastier chickpea

Shades of green: Green garbanzo beans are a fresher, tastier chickpea

I’m sure most of you have eaten — or at least seen — garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) in your lifetime. The small, beige, dried legumes are soaked and boiled (and are often packaged in a can) and used in a variety of dishes from all over the globe — most notably hummus and falafel — or tossed in vegetable salads and pasta dishes.

But you might want to forgo the dried and canned mature garbanzos for their younger, tastier counterparts: the green garbanzos. Green, or “fresh” garbanzos are little legumes that have been picked earlier than their older sibings, blanched and flash-frozen instead of being matured on the vine and then dried.

Green garbanzos are fairly new to the American food scene, having been introduced to consumers in 2010 by Clearwater Country Foods, and can now be found in some grocery stores in the frozen aisle for a few bucks a bag. I recently discovered these verdant beans and am in foodie heaven, as they have a wonderful flavor and a number of culinary applications.

The flavor of these little green beauties has been compared to that of fresh peas; the taste is nutty and more buttery than that of their dried counterparts. The green garbanzos are also higher in protein, folate and fiber, and they’re chock full of antioxidant vitamins A and C, phytonutrients, iron and minerals.

“It’s just an immature garbanzo bean that is picked in its fresh state, and consequently its nutritional values are higher and it’s much more flavorful,” Doug Moser, founder of Clearwater Country Foods told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “The simple reason is that the natural sugars haven’t turned to starch.”

Green garbanzos can be used in place of standard garbanzos, peas and edamame (soy beans) in a variety of dishes, like the green garbanzo hummus recipe I’ve shared below. They’re fine being heated up on the stove top or in the microwave — just make sure not to overcook them, as they’ll lose some of their wonderful color and texture — or simply thaw them and throw them into a dish as is.

My prediction is that green garbanzos will make their way into home kitchens and onto restaurant menus in a big way this year because of their uniqueness, flavor and nutritional benefits.

Here’s my recipe for green garbanzo hummus with Asian flavorings. It’s a quick, easy and incredibly tasty addition to any party spread, or great as a simple snack with some crudite and crackers. If you’re feeling really ambitious, whip up some fried or baked wonton chips to accompany it.
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Braised red cabbage with apples is a simple and versatile addition to any meal

Braised red cabbage with apples is a simple and versatile addition to any meal

Now don’t turn up your nose right away. I know, I know — sometimes the word “cabbage” brings up images of bland cole slaw or bitter and flaccid boiled green cabbage. Yecch. Luckily, I’ve got the perfect recipe to change your mind about this cruciferous vegetable, and lend color and dimension to your holiday table.

Red cabbage, in my opinion, is green cabbage’s more attractive and flavorful sister, and she’s cheap and easy to boot — inexpensive to buy and easy to cook, that is. Besides using it in the obvious slaw, red cabbage is also great when braised and served as a side to just about any chicken, pork or meat dish, and lends a punch of fuchsia to a table otherwise filled with drab browns and greens.

It’s all about playing with the flavors to pair them with the rest of your meal. Typically, many of us serve Americanized versions of European dishes during the holidays — spiced roasts, herbed vegetables, etc. So for this particular flavor profile, I’ve kept this German-style braised cabbage fairly simple, seasoning it with tart apples and apple cider vinegar, red wine, caraway seeds (often seen in rye bread), sugar and a hint of cinnamon. If you’re planning an Asian-inspired feast, I’d suggest going with flavoring agents like rice wine vinegar, five spice powder, ginger and sesame seeds; for a Latin American fiesta, go with cumin, garlic, chile powder and lime juice.

To kick this dish up a notch (and to please the carnivores), fry a few slices of bacon in the pan and use the drippings in place of the oil or butter. If you’re expecting vegan or vegetarian guests, start the dish with canola or vegetable oil as I’ve done in the recipe below. And any diners with gluten allergies will also be plenty pleased with this edible offering.

Best of all, braised red cabbage is even better the day after it’s made and would make a tasty addition to any leftover turkey sandwich.
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Bi-curious: ‘BLTT’ bivalves in white wine broth

Bi-curious: ‘BLTT’ bivalves in white wine broth


It’s Friday night and you’re: a) wanting to cook up something special for your significant other, b) having friends over and need to whip up something that’s easy to prepare but looks impressive, or c) will be staying in solo with your PJs and your DVR and need something quick and tasty that doesn’t involve greasy takeout.

The dinner solution for all scenarios: Bacon, lemon-thyme and tomato bivalves. It’s a loose interpretation of the BLT — mussels and clams steamed in a broth of white wine, bacon, onions, garlic and lemon-thyme (I needed an ingredient starting with L, and I’m not crazy about leeks) and finished simply with fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley. Oh, and of course there has to be crusty bread served alongside to soak up that tasty broth. Best of all, it’s done in a jiffy and only requires one pan to cook.

Obviously, this isn’t the most prim and proper dish to be eating in front of strangers whom you’d like to impress, which is why I recommend eating it with people who will forgive you for using your fingers and making loud slurping noises (or alone so you can have it all to yourself).

Some quick bivalve purchasing tips: When buying clams and mussels in the seafood section, they’ll typically sort through your bivalves before handing them over to make sure they’re all closed. (Closed bivalves are still alive — which is a good thing.) If you’re picking them yourself or have just thawed a frozen pack, discard any that are open. To double check, tap them on the side of your counter — if they close, keep ‘em; if they remain open, chuck ‘em. Eating dead mussels could potentially result in food poisoning. Reversely, you’ll want to discard any that don’t open after they’ve been cooked, as they’re either really stubborn or dead.

As for cleaning them, give them a good rinse before throwing them in the pot and “debeard” the mussels. No, they’re not ZZ Top wannabes, the “beard” is actually a byssal thread that mussels use to cling to surfaces in the water.
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