Lisa on September 22nd, 2014
Bacon, Apple & Onion Fritatta

Bacon, Apple & Sage Frittata

If you’ve been to Spain, you’ve likely had a frittata or two. They’re the ultimate fast food to stuff in your pocket and nibble on as you browse through the calles — potatoes, eggs, and onions, all neatly bundled together in the form of an extra-thick omelet. For my version, I wanted to include a sweet/savory kick, so I added chopped bacon and thinly sliced apples to my eggs. And in the spirit of fall, I added a pinch of sage. If you’d prefer to stick with Spanish flavors — bacon certainly fits that theme! — opt for rosemary or thyme rather than sage.

Since frittatas are thick and therefore a bit tricky to handle, I prefer to cut them into quarters as they cook and then flip each quarter. That seems easier than attempting to flip the entire thing at once. Perhaps you’re a master flipper, though, in which case you might have a different technique. But I find that the quarters re-seal themselves into a single frittata as they finish cooking. Even if they don’t, you’ll be cutting the frittata into pieces anyway — no harm in some pre-cutting.

Bacon, Apple & Sage Frittata
Makes a 12″ frittata.

6 strips bacon, preferably from pastured hogs
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 firm apple, preferably organic
6 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 tablespoon sage
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar, preferably from grass-fed cows
2 medium redskin potatoes, unpeeled, cut into thin slices

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on top of the foil. Lay the bacon strips out over the wire rack. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until the bacon is browned and curling along the edges.

Let bacon cool before lifting the rack out of the baking tray. Pour the rendered grease into a 12” skillet. Add onion and apple and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until onions are soft and fragrant.

While onions cook, crack eggs into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the sage and Cheddar. Coarsely chop the cooked bacon and whisk into the eggs. Add cooked onion and apple.

Generously drizzle the skillet with more bacon grease or extra-virgin olive oil and arrange the potato slices in a single layer. Cover and cook over medium-low for 10 minutes. Potatoes should be tender but not browned. Stir into the egg mixture.

Add another drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or bacon grease to the skillet before adding the egg mixture. Cover and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. To flip the frittata, cut it into quarters and carefully flip over each quarter. As the second side cooks, the quarters will re-join, becoming one single frittata. Re-cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 5 minutes or until both sides are golden-brown.

Slip cooked frittata onto a large plate and serve immediately. Leftover frittata can be refrigerated for a week … which means you’ll have delicious breakfasts all week long!

Enjoy!

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Lisa on September 17th, 2014
Buckwheat Pasta with Sausage Stew & Feta

Buckwheat Pasta with Sausage Stew & Feta

With the nights turning unexpectedly chilly, something warm seems to be in order. Enter baked pasta. You can toss your favorite kind of whole-grain (or no-grain) pasta with your favorite kind of homemade sauce and your favorite kind of cheese, slip the plateful into the oven, and enjoy a last-minute, piping-hot meal. If you turn on the oven before boiling the pasta, the whole shebang is ready in 20 minutes. Can’t beat that kind of quick satisfaction.

I had made sausage and spinach stew a few days ago, so I decided to put a Greek spin on my baked pasta by topping it with the stew and goat’s-milk feta. And because the stew and cheese were so richly flavored, I tossed them with 100% buckwheat pasta. Not only is buckwheat the least-glycemic grain pasta available (read: less starchy), it has a rich, earthy flavor of its own, making it an ideal partner for the stew and feta. Look for 100% buckwheat noodles — also called soba noodles — in a Japanese grocery store or in the Asian section of mainstream stores. Just make sure the noodles are 100% buckwheat if you’re aiming for gluten-free noodles, because most soba noodles contain wheat, kamut, or spelt along with the buckwheat.

Buckwheat Pasta with Sausage Stew & Feta
Makes a big pot of stew, which means at least 4 servings of pasta plus leftover stew.

For the stew:
Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. pork sausage links (such as fresh chorizo), preferably from pastured hogs
15 oz. red beans, undrained
28 oz. diced tomatoes
4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
2 T. thyme
2 T. oregano
8 oz. curly spinach
Sea salt to taste

For the pasta and cheese:
4 servings 100% buckwheat pasta OR your favorite whole-grain pasta (be sure to use gluten-free pasta if you’d like a gluten-free meal)
Feta cheese for crumbling, preferably made with sheep or goat milk

Pour a generous drizzle of olive oil into in a large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook 4 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sausage, stirring to break up the sausage, and cook another 3 minutes or just until sausage is starting to brown. Stir in beans, tomatoes, broth, and herbs.

Bring to a brief boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the spinach and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or until the spinach is soft. Salt to taste if desired.

While the stew simmers, preheat the oven to at least 425F (or you can broil your pasta if you wish, although feta doesn’t melt the way mozzarella and many other cheeses do).

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Buckwheat pasta in particular tends to clump, so try to time the pasta cooking time in accordance with how long the stew has to simmer — since buckwheat pasta requires 8 minutes or so to cook, start cooking it a few minutes before you add the spinach to the stew. Drain pasta and immediately toss with a generous portion of the stew.

Place pasta on individual oven-proof plates and crumble feta cheese onto each serving. (If you don’t have plates that can withstand the heat of broiling, bake the pasta in an 8″x 8″ pan and serve it casserole style. Place in oven and bake/broil for 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Leftover stew can be refrigerated for 4 days or frozen for 2 months — anything with a tomato-sauce base freezes beautifully. If it’s too thick upon reheating, stir in more broth to thin the stew.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on September 12th, 2014
Honey-Pecan Muffins

Honey-Pecan Muffins

When I was in Atlanta for the AJC Book Festival over Labor Day, I had the pleasure of meeting some local food vendors selling delicious homegrown products. Peaches were in abundance, of course, and so were pecans. Specifically, I came across Oliver Farm Artisan Oils, a farm-based company in Georgia that makes several varieties of unrefined oils. Not only is their pecan oil fantastically nutty, Oliver Farm also makes pecan flour from the nut meat that’s left over after the oil has been pressed from the nuts. What a great idea! If you try to grind pecans yourself, they’re so oily that you’ll wind up with pecan butter (which is also scrumptious), but after the pecans have been pressed, they can be ground into a fine flour that’s ideal for everything from baked goods to breading mixes. Pecan-flour-crusted chicken, anyone?

I used my pecan flour to make Honey-Pecan Muffins, which make a great breakfast or snack. Seeing as pecans are a quintessential southern ingredient, I opted to use buttermilk instead of milk in the batter since that’s another down-South tradition. Between the still-slightly-moist pecan flour and the buttermilk and honey, these muffins are wonderfully moist. Feel free to add other spices if you like — cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and/or allspice would all pair beautifully with the pecan-and-honey backdrop.

Honey-Pecan Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.

1 cup raw buckwheat OR sorghum OR brown rice flour
1/2 cup pecan flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 3/4 cups buttermilk, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey, depending on how sweet you want your muffins to be
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with parchment paper muffin cups. Parchment paper is a beautiful thing — you’ll have zero crumb loss when you enjoy your muffins.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and sea salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry mixture, stirring well to combine. Spoon batter into waiting muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes or until muffins are turning golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean and warm.

Let muffins cool on a wire rack. Leftover muffins can be refrigerated for a week. If you like, top your muffins with plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, a generous drizzle of pecan oil, and a tiny drizzle of honey when you serve them.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on September 8th, 2014
Coconut Hot Chocolate

Coconut Hot Chocolate

Want to make seasonally appropriate hot chocolate in the summertime? (Because hey, we can always use an excuse to enjoy chocolate…) Try making it with whole coconut milk. To make it extra-lush, make it with an 85% chocolate bar rather than cocoa powder. The bar method entails a little bit more effort, but it’s worth it — the texture of whole coconut milk + melted chocolate bar is on par with the lusciously thick hot chocolate you find in Spain. If you use Valrhona chocolate, the comparison is even more apt, since that’s the #1 brand of chocolate made in Spain. In fact, you’ll find a Valrhona chocolate shop/café in almost every Spanish city. (I spent a significant chunk of time during my last trip to Spain in said chocolate cafés.)

Coconut Hot Chocolate

Making coconut hot chocolate requires a small pot, a fork, and about 3 minutes. I start by choosing the small cup or mug I want to use, then adding two squares of 85% chocolate to the cup. I fill it three-quarters of the way with unsweetened whole coconut milk and then pour the milk and squares into a small pot. Heat it over medium-low or medium heat, using a fork to swirl the chocolate pieces around in the milk to encourage them to melt faster and not stick to the bottom of the pot. That would cause unwanted scorching. It only takes a minute or two to melt the chocolate. If you want to have your hot chocolate piping hot, continue heating and stirring until it’s reached its desired temperature.

Pour into the waiting cup or mug, using a spatula to get all of the chocolate out of the pot and into the cup. Add a tiny drizzle of vanilla extract and — if you’d like a mocha flavor — a drizzle of coffee extract. Taste and see if you’d like to sweeten your hot chocolate with a teaspoon of maple syrup.

Stir well and enjoy!

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Leeks with Eggs, Spinach & Feta

Leeks with Eggs, Spinach & Feta

Aside from the occasional bowl of potato & leek soup, I must admit that I don’t usually pay much attention to leeks (or, as I think of them, oversized green onions). But leeks are rabidly popular in northern European countries — no self-respecting Dutchman would relegate leeks to only-use-in-soup status. Still, you don’t find much mention of leeks in American cookery, partially because they’re a bit tricky to clean. I had also found leeks to be a bit on the tough side.

Finally, I realized two things when it comes to leeks: I had to trim away more of the dark-green outer layers (that’s the tough part), and I had to cook leeks longer at a slightly lower temp. The latter technique makes leeks take on the rich, almost-creamy character of caramelized sweet onions. Once you have your sauteed leeks, you can keep them in the fridge and include them in everything from omelettes and stir-frys to — of course — soups and stews. So there’s no reason not to enjoy those giant green onions!

Leeks with Eggs, Spinach & Feta
Serves 2. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

2 leeks*
Ghee for cooking the leeks
Double handful green beans, trimmed
1 head broccoli, florets only
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
Generous drizzle of half-and-half, preferably from grass-fed cows
Sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Double handful curly spinach
Feta cheese for topping, preferably made with sheep’s or goat’s milk

To prepare leeks, peel off the outermost layer and discard. Cut away the tops of the outer green layers, trimming each one individually. (You’ll know you’ve gotten to the more tender part of the leek when you see light green layers.) Poke a very sharp knife through the center of the leek about 1” away from the intact bottom. Pull the knife through the layers, heading towards the green tips and going all the way through. Flip the leek a quarter-turn and repeat. In effect, you’re quartering the leek while keeping its end intact. You should now be able to fan out the layers. Rinse the leek thoroughly under cold running water, rubbing the layers with your fingers to dislodge the dirt. Whack against the edge of the sink to dry, then chop each leek, discarding the white bottoms.

Heat a generous knob of ghee in a large skillet over medium heat and add leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat, covering to keep warm.

While the leeks cook, fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the beans and broccoli and simmer for 3 minutes. (Or 5 minutes for more tender veggies.) Drain well. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the half-and-half and the salt and pepper.

Place the skillet with the leeks back onto medium heat and add another knob of ghee. Stir in the eggs, drained beans and broccoli, and spinach, stirring often, and cook for 3 minutes or until the eggs are softly scrambled — they’ll turn creamy and opaque — and the spinach is wilted. Top with the feta cheese and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

* If you’d like leftover sauteed leeks, prepare 4 leeks instead of 2 and scoop out half of them before mixing the eggs and spinach into the remaining leeks. Refrigerate extra leeks for up to a week to use in a variety of dishes.

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Lisa on August 28th, 2014
Greek Yogurt Pasta with Red Pepper & Fresh Basil

Greek Yogurt Pasta with Red Pepper & Fresh Basil

Looking for a refreshing and simple end-of-summer meal? I recently stumbled upon the answer to that question, and not surprisingly, the solution involves one of the top-selling ingredients on grocery shelves these days: Greek yogurt. Fage has been making whole-milk Greek yogurt since the 1920s, but the American public wasn’t overly interested in “ethnic” foods until the 70s and 80s, and unfortunately by then anti-fat campaigns had made considerable inroads into our perceptions of what we should be eating.

That led to the boom in no-fat/low-fat flavored yogurts, many of which contain more sugar than a Coke cup for cup. (Seriously. Check out the number of grams of sugars in non-fat/low-fat yogurt. When natural fat is removed from a product, sugars are almost always put in.) Thankfully, our collective fat phobia seems to be fading, and now more stores carry whole-milk plain Greek yogurt. Use it in dips, smoothies, soups, dressings, sauces, anything you like.

Since whole-milk Greek yogurt is so delightfully thick, I added a drizzle of half-and-half to thin the yogurt just enough to make it more of an Alfredo texture. You’ll also have the juiciness of the tomatoes, which can lend the sauce a slight pink hue. And in terms of textures, I opted to include crunchy raw red pepper and red onion to offset the tooth-tender pasta and basil. Feel free to include any other veggies you might like.

Greek Yogurt Pasta with Red Pepper & Fresh Basil
Makes 4 servings.

About 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
4 servings of your favorite whole-grain pasta, opting for gluten-free pasta if you’re making a gluten-free dish (I used gluten-free corn pasta)
1 red pepper
2 large tomatoes
About 12 fresh basil leaves
Generous dollop whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
Drizzle of half-and-half, preferably from grass-fed cows
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound of cooked free-range chicken, cut into strips, OR freshly sautéed wild-caught U.S. shrimp (optional)

Soak the onion slices in a bowl of cool water for at least 30 minutes, then rinse and drain well. This will take away some of the natural sulfur content of the onions and make them more mild.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While the pasta cooks, remove the stem and seeds from the pepper and cut the flesh into thin strips. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add both the peppers and tomatoes to a large bowl. Roll the basil leaves into a tight cylinder and cut into thin slices, thus creating ribbons (this is called a chiffonade). Toss with peppers and tomatoes.

Add cooked and drained pasta, the yogurt, and a slight drizzle of half-and-half. Toss gently but thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the cream sauce looks too thick, add another drizzle of half-and-half and toss again. Serve promptly, while pasta is still warm. If you’d like to make this a non-vegetarian dish, add the chicken or shrimp. Or add both for a surf-and-turf!

Leftover pasta can be refrigerated for 2 days. If you garnish with the basil rather than tossing it into the pasta, pasta will keep for 4 days. Just be sure to let it come back to room temperature before serving. If you include shrimp with the pasta, only refrigerate it for 2 days.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on August 25th, 2014
Coconut Brazil Nut Pudding

Coconut Brazil Nut Pudding

Looking for a new kind of pudding? Or nut butter? (Yes, they’re related.) If you have a high-powered blender, you can make any kind of nut butter you darned please, from hazelnut to walnut to what I featured in this instant pudding: Brazil nut. The more natural oil a nut contains, the easier it is to blend it into butter. Even if the nut in question doesn’t have a lot of oil, though, you can always add some unrefined oil to create a smooth butter. Just be sure to choose an oil whose flavor complements the nut. (Your best option is to pair the two: almond oil + almonds = almond butter.) Seeing as I’ve never managed to get my hands on Brazil nut oil, I added unrefined avocado oil to my Brazil nut butter. Avocado’s overriding flavor is butteriness, which means it pairs beautifully with just about every food on the planet.

If you don’t have a high-powered blender, you can still go beyond the peanut and find “exotic” nut butters at health-focused grocery stores. Cashew butter would make an excellent substitute for Brazil nut butter since it’s also mild and creamy and likewise is a tropical nut. Or try walnut butter for a nuttier treat. Then just stir with coconut milk and maple syrup and serve!

Coconut Brazil Nut Pudding

Combine equal parts whole coconut milk and Brazil nut butter or cashew butter. Add a tiny splash of vanilla extract and a small drizzle of maple syrup. Stir to combine. Taste and see if you’d like to add a little more maple syrup.

For spiced pudding, stir in a faint dash of cinnamon, cloves, and/or allspice. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days. (Pudding will become thicker when refrigerated.)

Enjoy!

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Lisa on August 22nd, 2014
Scrambled Eggs with Ricotta & Tomatoes

Scrambled Eggs with Ricotta & Tomatoes

The only thing better than coming up with a good recipe is being able to repurpose that recipe! Sometimes all you need to do is tweak a single ingredient. Or, as I’ve done here, you can add another one. I kept the tomatoes and herbed ricotta cheese from my Ricotta-Stuffed Tomatoes, but this time I whisked the ricotta into eggs, scrambled the lot of them, and topped the eggs with halved cherry tomatoes. Voilà! Fresh look, different flavor, new dish. Think of it as an extra-easy omelette and serve it for a quick breakfast or lunch. And hey, if you still have some herbed ricotta on hand, try tossing it with whole-grain pasta and halved tomatoes for a quick dinner. Again, you’ve just swapped out one ingredient and made a whole new dish. So simple!

Scrambled Eggs with Ricotta & Tomatoes
Serves 1 if you assume 2 eggs per serving. Feel free to make as many servings/eggs as you like.

First of all, find the freshest ricotta you can. My favorite is Serra ricotta, which is Michigan-made and only lists milk, whey, salt, and vinegar as its ingredients. Place a generous scoop of ricotta in a small bowl and stir in chopped pitted green olives, chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and rosemary), and a generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.

Whisk together a generous dollop of the ricotta and 2 eggs (preferably from pastured hens). Heat a splash of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the eggs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to scramble the eggs. They’ll suddenly go from slightly runny to firm and gently clumped. When that happens, immediately scoop your eggs onto a plate.

Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on August 18th, 2014
Tomato Stuffed with Ricotta, Olives & Fresh Herbs

Tomato Stuffed with Ricotta, Olives & Fresh Herbs

Tomato season is in full swing! Time to enjoy those garden-ripe beauties. And fresh herbs, too — I liberated some thyme and rosemary from my garden along with the tomatoes. Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand: chives, oregano, marjoram, even mint. In-season tomatoes are so sweet and fresh that they’ll pair well with any herb. To add a contrasting burst of savoriness, I added chopped olives to the creamy ricotta.

Admittedly, a stuffed tomato is a little tricky to eat (make sure all your guests have sharp knives to slice their tomatoes!), but the presentation is too pretty to pass up. If you’d like to make appetizers, you could core and stuff cherry or grape tomatoes to create pop-in-your-mouth treats. Or you could arrange sliced tomatoes on a plate and dollop them with the herbed ricotta. You’ll have a gorgeous summer dish no matter which way you serve your garden-fresh tomatoes.

Tomato Stuffed with Ricotta, Olives & Fresh Herbs

First of all, find the freshest ricotta you can. My favorite is Serra ricotta, which is Michigan-made and only lists milk, whey, salt, and vinegar as its ingredients. Place a generous scoop of ricotta in a small bowl and stir in chopped pitted green olives, chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and rosemary), and a generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.

Cut out the stem of the tomato, then keep cutting around and slightly into the top of the tomato to create an area you can stuff. Top with the ricotta, using a small spoon to mound the ricotta up and over the tomato. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on August 11th, 2014
Broccoli, Green Bean, & Corn Pizza

Broccoli, Green Bean, & Corn Pizza

If you have a garden, you probably have all kinds of veggies hanging off vines and stems. What to do with a random assortment of homegrown produce? You could toss them together to make a quick salad, of course, or you can toss them together to make a summer pizza as I’ve done here. (I even included leftover grilled corn from a BBQ the night before.) I made the crust from scratch using sweet potato, corn, and buckwheat flours, but you could use whatever crust you like best. Ditto for the sauce — I opted for an ultra-simple combination of sliced avocado and Greek yogurt to make an unusual sort of white sauce, but a more traditional tomato-based sauce would work just as well. It’s all about creativity!

Southwestern-Style Broccoli, Green Bean & Corn Pizza
Makes a 12″ pizza.

For the crust*:
1 cup raw buckwheat OR sorghum flour
1/2 cup sweet potato flour
1/2 cup corn flour
2 T. chia seeds, ground into flour in a coffee grinder
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 T. dried Italian herbs
1 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup + about 2 T. whole milk OR water

For the toppings:
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
Avocado slices
Cilantro leaves
Sliced tomatoes
Roasted green beans
Roasted broccoli
Grilled corn (freshly cut off the cob)
Sliced or shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 425F. Get out a 12″ aerated pizza pan and rub with extra-virgin olive oil or butter. Set aside.

To make the crust, place all ingredients except the milk in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. Stir in milk with a wooden spoon, using your hands to knead the dough together when it gets too difficult to stir. (You may have to add another teaspoon or two of milk if the dough is too dry to stick together.) Press into the pan, rocking the heels of your palms back and forth in a rolling motion as you press the dough out towards the edges of the pan. Bake for 12 minutes or until the crust is browning around the edges and has pulled back a little from the sides of the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 400F.

To finish the pizza, cover the baked crust with a thin layer of yogurt and a layer of avocado slices. Add whatever toppings you like, finishing with the mozzarella. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melting and has begun to turn golden brown. Use pizza shears or a rolling pizza cutter to cut pizza into slices. Serve immediately. Leftover pizza can be refrigerated for 5 days.

Enjoy!

* Alternatively, you might want to use your favorite crust or a different one I’ve developed that includes brown rice, corn, potato, and chickpea flours.

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