Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

As you might have gathered from the name, these pancakes taste like oatmeal cookies! They pack a bunch of whole grains, and you can add your favorite dried fruit. These make a healthy and FILLING breakfast. The oats on the outside of the pancakes get toasted and provide a satisfying bit of crunch.

The tweaks:

I love ground flaxseeds. They add a nutty flavor and lots of omega-3s and fiber. A common trick that vegans use is to sub ground flaxseeds instead of egg. When moistened, they get a bit stickly like an egg. It's a good trick to know, not because I'm vegan, but because I often run out of eggs.

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups old fashioned oats
4 t baking powder
4 T flax ground flaxseed or 2 eggs
2 T brown sugar
1 t cinnamon 

3/4 t salt
handful of raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit
2 1/2 cups milk, plus a little extra if necessary
butter for skillet

Stir dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients, stirring gently. Let stand 5 minutes. Thin batter with extra milk if necessary. Add butter to coat bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Cook pancakes over med heat. Serve with maple syrup. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Ingredient Whoopie Pies (Fat-Free and Gluten-Free)

Red Velvet Cake Whoopie
In honor of Glutenless Goddess's graduation, I made whoopie pies for her party. "What are whoopie pies?" you may ask if you have not been to New England. They are two cake-like chocolate cookies sandwiched together with a filling made of Marshmallow Fluff (AKA marshmallow creme if you are not from New England). I truly feel that this "recipe" is a masterpiece because of its simplicity and versatility.

The tweaks:
These whoopie pies are fat-free and gluten-free. I came up with the recipe after trying out Hungry Girl's recipe for Brownie Muffins, which requires only two ingredients, a box of chocolate cake mix, and a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree. You just mix the two together, and the pumpkin replaces the eggs, oil, and water that the cake mix calls for. Thus, they are fat-free, and you even get a bit of vegetables in your dessert--but don't worry, you can't taste the pumpkin at all. The result is moist, dense, brownie-like cupcakes. Incidentally, you can also make a fabulous Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Bread with just spice cake mix and pumpkin! 

Well, the batter for these recipes is always surprisingly thick, almost like a cookie dough, so it occurred to me to (gasp!) make cookies out of it! They turn out to be the perfect texture for whoopie pies; they are cakey cookies substantial enough to hold their shape. To satisfy whoopie pie purists, the filling need only be Marshmallow Fluff. The wonderful thing about this recipe, besides the fact that it is much healthier and easier than a traditional whoopie pie, is that it is so versatile. You can make this with any cake mix. (I used a gluten-free mix this time; other times I've used Pillsbury Reduced Sugar Chocolate Cake mix.) You could also get creative and make a spice cake whoopie or a red velvet cake whoopie (Duncan Hines makes a fabulous red velvet cake mix that's widely available in grocery stores in the South. I take a few boxes back with me every time I visit my parents.)
The cookies, cooling pre-Fluff

Three Ingredient Whoopie Pies
1 box cake mix (Any kind. This time I used Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Devil's Food)
1 15 oz can pumpkin or squash puree
1 7.5 oz jar Marshmallow Fluff (or marshmallow creme)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Stir the entire box of cake mix and the entire can of pumpkin puree together thoroughly. If the batter is too stiff, add a few tablespoons of water. It depends on the type of cake mix you're using, but I usually add about 2 T. The batter should be thick enough to hold its shape. Drop it by the spoonful onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. (Again, it will depend on the type of cake mix you are using.) The cookies should be cooked through but still moist in the middle. Let cool and then spread with Marshmallow Fluff and sandwich together. I recommend adding the Fluff right before serving. It tends to slowly ooze out of the pies if you let them sit a while. Refrigerating the Fluff may help it stay in place, too. Makes about 15 pies.

The whoopies, halfway gone and getting oozy at the party

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mexican Cerveza Steamed Mussels

I've lived on all three coasts of the US. First was Baton Rouge, then San Francisco, and now Boston. I grew up eating seafood and often crave the salty brininess of mussels. My husband doesn't like the texture of mussels, but loves the broth from this dish. I eat the mussels and share the broth with him, which we soak up with bread.

The goods:

Cooking mussels at home is surprisingly simple, fast, and inexpensive. They only need to be cooked for 4 minutes to come out perfectly tender. Mussels are one of those things that turn out better when you make it at home rather than ordering it in a restaurant. In restaurants, they often sit under heatlamps after cooking, overcooking them and makes them rubbery. Plus, they are super cheap at the grocery store. In grocery stores here they are usually $2-3 per pound. A pound or pound and a half serves 1, so you can have a fancy lookin' dinner for just $3 per person.

The tweaks:

The basic recipe for delicious mussels is some combination of garlic, diced tomatoes, something acidic and alcoholic, like wine or beer, with something green like parsley to garnish. I like to make mine with a Mexican twist. I use a Mexican beer like Corona or Negra Modelo (a darker, richer lager), Rotel Tomatoes (canned diced tomatoes and chilies), and garnish with cilantro. Sometimes I use an IPA instead of the cervesa, which adds a lovely acidity and bitterness.

Mexican Cerveza Steamed Mussels

1 T olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup beer (Corona, Negra Modelo, or IPA)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos
1/2 t salt
3 lbs. live mussels
Handful of chopped cilantro
1 T lemon or lime juice

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time 4 minutes. Serves 2

In a large saucepan, saute the first 3 ingredients. Add beer, Rotel, and salt. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, clean and debeard the mussels. (It's easy!) Have a large bowl of cool water ready. Look at each mussel. If there are little scraggly thread things hanging out the shell, these are "beards". Pull them off and throw them away. If a mussel's shell is open, and it doesn't close when you tap it, throw it away. It's dead. Don't eat it. After you've checked each mussel, drop it into the bowl of water. This will help clean them. Pour out the water and give them a final rinse.

Add mussels, stir, cover, and reduce heat to med-low. Steam, covered, for 4 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Garnish with lemon or lime juice and cilantro. Serve with crusty bread to sop up that delicious broth!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Szechuan Eggplant with Pork

I've really been enjoying Ching-He Huang's Chinese Food Made Easy on Cooking Channel. Strangely, it seems to be the only Asian cooking show on cable. I tend to have Food Network on a lot during idle time, and I often end up eating dinner while watching it. I can only watch someone make tomato sauce so many times. It's refreshing to watch a new style of cooking. I was intrigued by Ching-He's Fragrant Pork, a Szechuan dish that sounded similar to one I used to order in San Francisco. This turned out fantastic! It's sweet, spicy, smoky, tangy, and garlicy. I tweaked the recipe a little--here is what I did:

Szechuan Eggplant with Pork

2 T canola oil
2 lbs (approx 2 small) eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch slices
.75-1 lb ground pork (or ground chicken or turkey)
2 t garlic, minced
2 t ginger, minced

1 cup chicken stock
2 T rice wine vinegar
3 T Chinese chili bean sauce
1 t sesame oil
4 green onions, chopped
1 t sugar or splenda
1 T cornstarch

Red pepper flakes or sambal oelek (optional, if you like it extra spicy like me)

Heat oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet. Fry the eggplant slices with just a splash of water, covered, until softened and golden on the outside, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.


Add the pork, garlic and ginger to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until pork is cooked through and browned. Stir the sauce ingredients together and pour into skillet. Return eggplant to the pan and bring sauce to a simmer. Remove from heat. Garnish with green onions and serve with rice. Serves 4.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

About a week ago, I posted my recipe for California Wedding Roasted Veggie and Smoked Cheese Lasagna. This Roasted Eggplant Parm recipe hits all the same notes as that lasagna--smoky, tomatoey, cheesy--while being much simpler to make. I made it last night for a dinner party--it was a crowd pleaser, and my vegetarian and gluten intolerant friends could eat it.

The tweaks:

Traditional eggplant parm requires so much futzing that the flavor of the eggplant gets completely overwhelmed. Most eggplant parm recipes call for salting and draining the eggplant for a while to draw out bitterness, and then breading and deep frying it. There's no need to salt and drain the eggplant for my recipe. Roasting eggplants naturally sweetens them and removes their bitterness. The slightly charred crust on the roasted eggplant has more flavor than any breaded and deep fried version. All that is needed to finish the dish is some simple marinara and a good bit of Italian cheese.

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan
3-4 eggplants
olive oil nonstick spray
Marinara sauce (stir together 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes, 1 T minced garlic, 1/2 t Italian seasoning, salt, black, and red pepper flakes to taste. Or if you want really simple, buy a couple of cans/jars of marinara.)
1 lb shredded low-fat mozzarella or Italian mixed cheeses

approximately 1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 475. You will need two pans, one that is approximately 10x13, and another that is at least as big as that. You will need both of these pans to roast all the eggplant, but after it's roasted, you'll combine them into one 10x13 pan. Slice eggplant into one-inch rounds or planks. Spray pans and each side of eggplant liberally with olive oil spray. Salt both sides liberally. Cook until browned on both sides, about 30 minutes, flipping once. (Instead of flipping them these days, I just put one pan on the top oven rack and one near the bottom, then switch the pans halfway through.)

Lay one layer of roasted eggplant on the bottom of the 10x13 pan. Spoon sauce onto each round, add a healthy sprinkle of parm and half of the cheese, then repeat for a second layer if you still have eggplant left. Reduce oven to 375 and cook 15 minutes, until bubbling.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quinoa Puttanesca

*So as soon as I started this food blog, my camera officially broke. For now, I'm making due with my cell phone camera. Just keep in mind that my food is at least 50% more delicious than it appears here.

Quinoa is everyone's new favorite superfood. The fluffy little round grains taste like a nuttier version of cous cous. It's a complete protein, and it packs a good bit of fiber as well.

The tweaks: Instead of cooking quinoa in water, I cook it with tomatoes, garlic, and olives, imparting the flavors of pasta puttanesca.

The goods: This is a complete one pot meal. I like to cook a big batch and freeze it in individual portions and take it to the lab with me. This was my staple grad student lunch.

1 T olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
black pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes,
to taste
1/2 t Italian seasoning
1 lb uncooked quinoa (about 2 1/2 cups)
28 ounce can diced tomatoes 
1/2 cup water or broth
small can black olives or a handful of sliced kalamata olives
fresh spinach leaves, optional
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a s large saucepan, saute garlic and spices in oil. Rinse quinoa and add to pan. Add remaining ingredients except spinach and Parmesan. Bring to boil, cover, lower heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, until quinoa is soft and fluffy and all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 more minutes. Garnish with parm, and stir in some fresh spinach leaves until they wilt if desired.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dutch Apple Upside Down Pancake

My husband and I had this for Sunday breakfast this weekend. A Dutch pancake falls somewhere between a souffle and a giant pancake, with a flavor reminiscent of French toast. It is basically a giant, fuss-free pancake. It is made from a simple flour, milk, and egg-based batter, heavy on the egg.

It has no leavener--like a souffle, the eggs puff the pancake as it cooks like this: 

And, like a souffle, it falls after you remove it from the oven and serve, like this:

The goods:
A Dutch pancake is much easier to prep and cook than regular pancakes. Instead of having to pour and flip individual pancakes in batches on the stove, to make a Dutch pancake, you just pour all the batter into a cast iron pan and bake it for a few minutes. It is the perfect thing to feed guests, and the easiest, fanciest, and biggest pancake you might ever make.

The tweaks:

You could just make a traditional Dutch pancake with the batter from the recipe I provide below, but why not add fruit to make the ultimate one-pot breakfast? I cut apples and spread them on the bottom of the pan so they sweeten and caramelize. Then I pour the batter on top of the apples. When the pancake is done, cut slices and flip them over like an upside down cake to reveal your caramelized apples underneath. I make half of the flour in the recipe whole wheat flour to make it healthier.

Dutch Apple Upside Down Pancake

Caramelized apples:
1 T butter
2 apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1 T sugar or splenda
pinch of cinnamon

Pancake batter:

4 eggs
1 1/3 cup milk of choice
1 t vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar or splenda
1 1/3 cup flour (white or half white and half whole wheat works)

Preheat oven to 425. Place a large cast iron skillet in the oven to warm. Remove skillet when warmed, and melt the butter in it. Sprinkle the apples with sugar and cinnamon, and spread them in the bottom of the pan. Return to oven to cook while you prep the rest of the recipe, or for about 7 minutes.

Beat remaining ingredients together with a fork or whisk. Remove skillet from oven and pour batter over apples. Return to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. It's ready when it's puffed and golden brown. It will be impressively poufy when your first remove it from the oven, and then it will slowly fall like a souffle. Cut into slices and top with powdered sugar or syrup. Serves 4.

Alternatively, you could make a plain Dutch pancake without the apples. I like to serve this with syrup or blackberry jam.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadilla plus Guacamole

I almost feel silly posting this non-recipe. It's stupid-simple, but it's a staple in our house. The quesadilla is basically a Mexican grilled cheese sandwich. There are a million possible filling combinations and toppings. Here is my favorite version.

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadilla
olive oil to lubricate pan
2 large flour tortillas (substitute corn tortillas for gluten-free)

1/2 a 16 oz can black beans, drained
4 oz grated cheese (I used Cabot's reduced-fat jalapeno cheddar. It's delicious.)
1/4 t oregano
red pepper flakes to taste

Mash beans lightly with a fork. Mix in remaining filling ingredients, and spread mixture onto half of each tortilla. Fold over tortillas into half moons. Heat quesadillas in oiled pan on medium heat for a few minutes on each side, until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden brown. Cut into triangles. Serves 2.

Serving suggestions:
Guacamole (1 avocado mashed with 1 T sour cream, 2 T salsa, 1 t lime juice, and salt to taste)
Sour cream
Salsa (I like Trader Joes Chipotle Garlic salsa)