Feb 232011
 
I might have never tried this recipe if it weren’t for spite.  Allow me to back track.  Half of my group at work went to a Bone Marrow Transplant conference last week…in HAWAII.  Guess which half I was in?  So, the non-Hawaii, stay-in-cold-dark-nyc half felt a little spiteful, so we decided to plan an awesome luau pot luck lunch at work.  
Normally I would probably have just chosen a generic banana bread and not ventured out of the banana bread box.  But since it was a themed event, I stumbled across this version that involved coconut and lime, making it much more Hawaiian, so I had to make it.  And it very well be the last banana bread I ever make.  


I’m not sure what made it so great.  If it was the fresh banana flavor, or the crispy coconut on top, or the tart lime glaze that perfectly countered the sweetness of the bread.  Whatever it was, I LOVED this bread and would so much rather eat it than be in Hawaii.    

Nutritional Highlights:  This recipe has 3-4 fresh bananas in it (great potassium source), coconut (rich in protein and healthy fats), and a lime glaze (vitamin C).  Plus, a few substitutions make this recipe way healthier than your average bread.  I used half all purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour.  It also calls for only half a stick of butter combined with a quarter cup of plain yogurt, which simultaneously reduces the fat and increases the health benefits of the bread.  Now that being said, I’m saying this is a health choice for a banana bread, not necessarily the world’s healthiest food.  But if you’re trying to make yourself feel better about not being in Hawaii in Feburary, this is your bread.

Coconut-Banana Bread with Lime Glaze

adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 2  cups  all-purpose flour (I did 1 c all purpose and 1 c whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  granulated sugar (I used 3/4 of a cup and it was plenty sweet)
  • 1/4  cup  butter, softened
  • 2  large eggs (or you could use 1 egg, 2 whites…but I went with regular eggs)
  • 1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana (about 3-4 bananas)
  • 1/4  cup  plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3  tablespoons  dark rum (I substituted with orange juice)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/2  cup  flaked sweetened coconut
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  tablespoon  flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1/2  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  fresh lime or lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk to combine.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, rum (or juice), and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool bread completely on wire rack.  





Feb 172011
 

Ever since my first venture into the world of spaghetti squash, I’ve been hooked.  It’s so versatile, tasty, and almost makes me feel like I’m eating pasta.  (Keyword, almost).  But I have come across one problem, and if you’ve ever seen a spaghetti squash, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  They’re huge! And you get so much “spaghetti” out of just one.  Since I’m usually just cooking for one (me), I end up wasting about half of the squash because I can’t eat it all in time.  So my solution to almost any leftover produce?  Throw it in a frittata!

This one had a combo of mostly egg whites with one whole egg, lots of spaghetti squash, some onions and garlic for flavor, some red pepper for color and texture and some fresh herbs for brightness.  They key ingredient was a yummy goat feta cheese that I crumbled on top. 
I know that picture isn’t the prettiest, but for those of you who haven’t worked with spaghetti squash before, I wanted to show you what to expect when dealing with this unique veggie. 
Now one of the complete product…much better. And since I was still only eating for one, I had one big slice for brunch on the weekend and brought the other 2 slices in Tupperware to work to change up my lunch routine.
Nutritional Highlights:  A frittata, if prepared correctly, can be an amazingly healthy choice for any meal.  This one has 5 egg whites and one whole egg to get some of the benefits of the yolk without adding too much fat.  For those of us cutting back on our meat intake, the eggs and cheese in this meal are a great way to get some of the protein we need.  Spaghetti squash is a great veggie to add to your diet to increase variety of produce you eat. A whole cup of it has less than 50 calories and has beta carotene/vitamin A like many other types of sqash.  Plus, it’s straight up cool.  Peeling out the strands is a fun activity and you should try it.  Maybe I should reassess my definition of fun, but either way this is a healthy, versitile veggie that you should try out while it’s still in it’s peak season.
 

Spaghetti Squash Frittata


Ingredients:

  • 5 egg whites + 1 whole egg
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked spaghettis quash
  • 1/4 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 small or 1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cheese (I used a great goat feta but you can use anything: goat, feta, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, fontina, or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoons skim milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs of your choice. 

Instructions:  If you haven’t already cooked you squash, do it.  The easiest method, I think, is to microwave.  stab the squash all the way to the center at least 4 times to allow for ventilation.  Microwave for about 20 minutes (the squash should be hissing from releasing steam when it’s done).  Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before you handle.  Cut in half and remove any seeds pulp from the center.  Then scoop out all the “spaghetti”. 


For the frittata:  Preheat oven to 350.  Heat a oven safe pan over medium/high heat and add a little olive oil or spray with olive oil spray.  Saute the garlic, onion, and bell pepper for about 5 minutes until vegetables are beginning to brown and soften.  Remove from the heat.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites, egg, milk, and season well with salt and pepper.  Add the sauteed vegetables and cooked spaghetti squash.  If usuing fresh herbs, mix half into the frittata mixture and reserve the rest for on top.  Re-spray or oil your oven safe pan and add the egg/vegetable mixture. 


Put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the frittata is just cooked through (shake the pan and see if it jiggles in the center.  Switch oven to broil and pull out the frittata.  Sprinkle with the cheese and put under broiler for about 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. Sprinkle with remaining fresh herbs and serve!





Feb 142011
 

I’m not the huge fan of Valentines Day.  Now I’m not saying I’m going to wear all black tomorrow, but I just don’t need a card or roses or a heart shaped box of chocolates to feel loved on this random day.  But, if you want to show someone you care in a genuine way, cook for them.  Here are two recipes, a dessert and a dinner (in order of importance), that are perfect for your sweetie.

Can’t get more Valentiney than red velvet cupcakes.  Tiny little bundles of love, these guys.


And if you don’t want to just eat dessert, then you can make this amazing fish recipe from Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin (fancy fish restaurant in NYC).  It has the most amazing mushrooms and a rich port sauce that take a light white fish and make it a little more romantic and special.  At first I was a little surprised by a wine sauce and mushrooms with fish, but it definitely works (shouldn’t doubt a super chef I guess).  So happy Valentines day to those of you who care, and happy Monday for those of you who don’t.  Either way, you’ll love these recipes! 

Check out the recipes (I’m too lazy to copy and paste the recipes…but since it’s valentines day you have to love me anyway:
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red Snapper with Cepes in Port Sauce
Feb 082011
 

I attempted to care about the Super Bowl this year.  I swear, I really really tried.  A few weeks ago, the Bears (my home team) and the Jets (my new temporary home team) each had a 50-50 shot of making it in, so I’d almost certainly have at least one team to root for.  But alas, they both lost so I was back to not caring.  Therefore, I focused on what the Super Bowl is really good for–food.

I wanted to take a traditional party app, like creamy-cheesey-delicious spinach-artichoke dip, and make a healthy version that doesn’t sacrifice the taste.  Seems impossible, but was actually kind of was.  I based this recipe on Cooking Lights version, which was awarded their “All Time Best Appetizer” Prize, so it had to be good.
I know people always say this (and it’s usually a lie) but I realllllly could not tell that this was a healthier version.  It was still warm and creamy and cheesey, but the amped up veggie quanity and lower fat dairy products made it not nearly as indulgent. 

Nutritional Highlights:  This dip doubles the quantity of vegetables and replaces all the dairy/cheese products with low fat or fat free versions.  Plus, it’s completely mayo free (always a plus).   My version has garlic, hot sauce, and red pepper flakes to bump up the flavor without adding fat/calories.  Also, always remember it’s not just about the dip…the dippers matter too.  Instead of bread and chips, I brought broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and baked tortilla/pita chips for dipping.  Maybe if you fill up on veggies and healthy dip, you’ll take it easy on the pizza, wings, and chili?  But maybe not…
Spinach-Artichoke Dip
adapted from Cooking Light
Ingredients

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-ounce) package baked tortilla chips (about 16 cups)

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.
Now for my adjustments: That’s the Cooking Light recipe without adjustments (which I wanted to give you cuz it’s tried and true), but here’s what I did. I used 2 cans of artichokes and a whole 16 oz package of chopped spinach to up the vegetable content. I used less cream cheese…1.5 blocks instead of two, and a little extra mozzarella and parm because I like it. The real key to my version was an extra clove of garlic, a good pour of hot sauce (depending on preference) and sprinkle of red pepper flakes on top of a little heat. Another little trick was that once it was just about done cooking, I switched to broil so the cheese on top would get really bubbly and brown if it isn’t already.
Feb 052011
 
So this isn’t a real blog post.  At least not a normal tush cook post.  But I had to post this birthday cake for two reasons.  1) It’s a very important person’s 25th birthday, and 2) It’s ridiculously awesome (I’m working on modesty).  




 So the way this worked was 2 different types of cookie dough (regular chocolate chip cookie dough and a double chocolate brownie cookie dough).  I made the 25 and then surrounded it with the regular cookie dough.  Then I baked the cookie for 20-25 minutes, let it cool, and decorated with frosting and sprinkles.

And here’s the result!  Hopefully Jeff doesn’t look at my blog in the next hour and a half because I’m bring it to his birthday dinner as a surprise.  Shhhh.  Happy Birthday Jeffrey!