Lisa on January 26th, 2015
Corn & White Bean Chili

Corn & White Bean Chili

When the days are chilly, it’s time for chili! This vegetarian take on a favorite winter classic only takes about 30 minutes to make (most of which involves the chili happily simmering away with no further effort on the part of the cook) and can be kept in the fridge for a week as tasty leftovers or frozen for future meals. And of course you can gussy up your chili with a slew of optional toppings, from minced green onions to shredded cheese to a dollop of sour cream or plain whole-milk Greek yogurt. The latter is my favorite, but add whatever “extras” you like. If you’re more of a fan of meaty chili, just stir in ground beef, chicken, or pork — preferably of the pastured variety — when you add the garlic. Another beauty of this chili? Since the ingredients are mostly non-perishable, you can keep the fixings around and enjoy a pot of chili whenever you want to turn chilly winter nights into chili winter nights.

Corn & White Bean Chili
Makes 4 servings. Feel free to double the recipe if you’d like (long-lasting) leftovers.

2 carrots, chopped (it’s best to buy organic carrots and then scrub them rather than peel them)
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
15 oz. canned diced tomatoes
15 oz. canned Great Northern beans, preferably canned in a BPA-free can
1 T. chili powder
1 T. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup frozen corn (no need to thaw)

Optional toppings:
Whole-milk plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Shredded Cheddar cheese, crumbled feta, or whatever cheese you like best
Minced green onions
Chopped avocado
Chopped cilantro
Sliced jalapeños

In a large pot over medium heat, cook the carrots and onion with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes or until the veggies are getting soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

Add the broth, tomatoes, beans (including the liquid from the can), and spices. Let simmer for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. If the chili starts to boil, reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Stir in the corn and heat through for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately, garnishing with the optional toppings if you like. Leftover chili can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for 2 months.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on January 23rd, 2015
Cold-Brew Coffee with Cardamom

Cold-Brew Coffee with Cardamom

Ever tried cold-brewed coffee? It’s richer in flavor, typically higher in caffeine, and frankly, much easier to make. And contrary to what the name may seem to imply, you don’t have to drink cold-brewed coffee cold: you can heat it just as easily as you can ice it (or enjoy it at room temp). The one caveat is that because the flavor of coffee beans comes through more strongly when they’re cold-brewed rather than brewed with boiling water, you’d better start out with beans that taste good! (Although you might as well always enjoy coffee that tastes good…)

Making cold-brewed coffee couldn’t be simpler. First, grind some fresh-roasted beans. (Folks in Metro Detroit might want to check out Chazzano’s in Ferndale — they are hands-down the best coffee roasters in the D!) Then stir the beans into filtered water, using a ratio of about 4:1 of water to beans. Let the coffee brew for 12 to 24 hours, depending on how pronounced you want the flavor to be. The final step is to strain the coffee by pouring it through a colander lined with cheesecloth or into a jar with a coffee filter draped over the top. I prefer the latter method — I rubber-band a standard coffee filter into the top of a jar, letting it hang down into the jar to form a cup. Pour enough to fill the filter, let the coffee drip through, and repeat until all of the coffee is filtered. If the grounds start to make the filtering process too slow, remove that filter and rubber-band on a fresh one. Or you can let the beans and water sit in a French press overnight and just press the plunger down to filter it. So simple!

And when you cold-brew your coffee, you can create fun flavors. For this batch, I added some cardamom pods to give the coffee some Vietnamese flair. Or you could add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, vanilla beans, etc. They’ll float to the top, so you can simply pluck them out before filtering your coffee. For a stronger flavor, stir in ground spices or vanilla extract. Once you’ve brewed your batch, you can heat it by diluting it 50/50 with boiling water, heated milk, you name it. Stir in a drizzle of cream if you like! Again, cold-brewed coffee is stronger than traditional coffee, so it’s best to dilute it.

Once you’ve made your batch, you can stash your cold-brewed coffee in the fridge for 2 weeks. Unlike coffee brewed with heat, the flavor of cold-brewed coffee won’t change, so it will taste just as good a week later. See what I mean about cold-brewed coffee being so much easier and convenient? Give it a try!

Enjoy!

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Lisa on January 19th, 2015
White Tuna with Kumquats & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

White Tuna with Kumquats & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

If you’ve ever had white tuna in sushi, you know how buttery it is. Or maybe you’ve lightly sauteed that sashimi-grade white tuna as medallions. It’s pretty easy to find white tuna wherever sushi ingredients are sold. What recently caught my eye, though, was white tuna being sold at my local fish market. It wasn’t sashimi-grade, but I knew it would be lovely cut into 1″-thick slices for sauteing purposes. This same idea would work with cod, grouper, or sea bass since those varieties of fish are similarly meaty.

I included pine nuts in this recipe to give the fish a buttery/nutty flavor. And to contrast that, I threw in some sweet/tart kumquats and equally sweet/tart sun-dried tomatoes. Contrast is what makes a dish stand out! I squeezed the kumquats before slicing them to add to the fish, but if you’d like more tartness in your dish, capture the kumquat juice and drizzle it over the fish before serving it. (Kumquats are inside-out citrus fruits: their outside is sweet and their inside is sour.) And be sure to give the tomatoes at least 20 minutes of soaking time to soften them.

White Tuna with Kumquats & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 2 generous servings.

1 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, julienne-cut if possible (or chop them after they’ve soaked)
4 kumquats, cut in half and juice and seeds squeezed out
1 lb. white tuna, rinsed and patted dry
Handful of pine nuts
Dill for garnishing

Place the tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for at least 20 minutes to soften. Drain well. Cut the kumquats into thin slices and set aside. Cut the tuna into 1″-thick slices. If it has skin, it will be easiest to cut the tuna into slices with a knife — leaving the skin attached — and then use kitchen scissors to snip through the tough skin.

In a large skillet, heat a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the tuna slices, trying not to overlap them. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until each slice is halfway done — you’ll see that they are turning opaque halfway up. Flip each slice over gently and add the soaked tomatoes and sliced kumquats. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.

Cook tuna for another 3 minutes or until the slices are lightly browned on each side and they’re completely opaque when cut in half. Serve immediately, garnishing each portion with dill. Leftover tuna can be refrigerated for 1 day.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on January 15th, 2015
Chocolate-Cashew Muffins

Chocolate-Cashew Muffins

You’ve seen chocolate muffins on my website before — I can’t resist coming up with new twists on my favorite kind of muffin — but this is the first batch I’ve made with cashew flour. Some nuts are too hard to grind with a standard coffee grinder (hazelnuts come to mind) and some nuts are too oily to grind into flour (although if you toast walnuts and pecans first to dry them out, you can easily make walnut and pecan flours), but a few nuts are just right. Almonds and cashews are prime candidates for homemade flours. They’re soft enough to pulverize with a small blade, plus they have a buttery, creamy flavor. Raw cashews in particular add a mild richness to baked goods.

I’m surprised that cashew flour isn’t sharing grocery store shelves with other nut flours, but then again, it’s so easy to grind yourself — and it’s so much fresher that way! — that not being able to buy cashew flour isn’t a problem. Raw whole cashews are easy to find, after all. And DIY nut flours are typically half the cost of pre-ground nut flours.

Chocolate-Cashew Muffins
Makes 9 muffins.

1/2 cup cashew flour (make your own flour by grinding raw cashews in a coffee grinder)
3/4 cup buckwheat flour*
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably non-Dutched or “natural”
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup, depending on how sweet you want your muffins to be
4 T. butter (1/2 of a stick), melted, preferably from grass-fed cows
1 egg, preferably from pastured hens
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with 9 parchment paper cups and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until well combined.

Scoop into the waiting muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and warm. Leftover muffins can be refrigerated for 4 days.

Enjoy!

* This is a gluten-free flour. If you’d rather make wheat-based muffins, substitute 3/4 cup spelt, kamut, or whole-wheat flour.

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Lisa on January 12th, 2015
Zucchini & Shallot Pasta

Zucchini & Shallot Pasta

For years, I’ve heard about spiralized zucchini being used as a substitute for spaghetti. Early spiralizers seemed to take up a lot of space, though, so I never had a chance to try my hand at making zucchini into noodles. But my ever-creative-in-the-kitchen mom got me a simple spiralizer for the holidays that looks like an hourglass and stands about as tall as a water glass. It’s the perfect kitchen tool: it’s handy, easy to use, and doesn’t take up much space. Can’t get better than that. And as it turns out, it’s incredibly easy to spiralize zucchini — all you have to do is twist it as you push it through the blades. (Which, by the way, are located at a safe distance from your hand. It seems as though you’d have to make a serious effort to cut yourself whilst spiralizing.)

For this recipe, I used a 50/50 blend of brown rice spaghetti and spiralized zucchini. You can eat the zucchini raw, but I find that slipping the strands into the pasta water for the final 3 minutes of cooking time results in a more pasta-like texture. Raw spiralized zucchini, though, is ideal for coleslaw and salads. Frankly, the strands are so pretty and have such a pleasant crisp, fresh texture that a plate of spiralized zucchini makes a fun appetizer, too. Just be sure to occasionally break the strands as you spiralize them — if you keep on going, you’ll have a plate of never-ending strands. But perhaps that’s what you’d like!

Zucchini & Shallot Pasta
Makes 4 servings.

2 shallots, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 zucchini, ends trimmed
4 servings of whole-grain pasta of your choice (be sure to use gluten-free pasta if you’re making a gluten-free dish)
Small bunch cilantro, leaves only, chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped cooked chicken (optional)

Saute the shallots with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat if the shallots are browning too quickly. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.

While the shallots and garlic cook, spiralize zucchini according to the directions on your particular spiralizer. (I used Veggetti.) Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to the package directions, adding the spiralized zucchini during the final 3 minutes of cooking.

Drain well and toss with the shallots, garlic, and cilantro. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, the salt and pepper, and the chicken (if using). Toss again and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on January 8th, 2015
Oatmeal Hot Chocolate

Oatmeal Hot Chocolate

If you’ve ever had hot chocolate in Spain, you’ve doubtless marveled at how thick and rich it is. That’s often due to the presence of cornstarch, which is absolutely tops at thickening everything from sauces to beverages. Unfortunately, though, cornstarch carries a high glycemic load, which is to say it causes blood sugar to rise very quickly. Enter oats! They also have the ability to thicken whatever you stir them into, be it water + oats = oatmeal or broth + oats = porridge. And rolled oats are soft, which means you can run them through a standard coffee grinder to make DIY oat flour that you can stir into hot chocolate (or whatever you like) to thicken it. You may have a few spoonable oats at the very bottom of your mug, but who doesn’t like chocolate oatmeal? Think of it as a bonus!

Oatmeal Hot Chocolate

Place 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably non-Dutched, a.k.a. “natural”) into a mug. Add 2 tablespoons oat flour and anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, depending on how sweet you’d like your hot chocolate to be. Maple dissolves readily into water, so you might want to start with 1 teaspoon and add more to taste. Fill the mug 3/4 of the way with boiling water and stir well to dissolve the oat flour. Add a splash of whole milk, half-and-half, unsweetened coconut milk, or whatever kind of milk you like best. Stir in a small drizzle of vanilla and taste to see if you’d like more maple. And enjoy your warm and luxurious hot chocolate!

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Lisa on January 5th, 2015
South-of-the-Border Hummus

South-of-the-Border Hummus

“Fusion” hummus has been the rage for years, and it doesn’t seem like the trend will slow down any time soon. Chipotle hummus, roasted pepper hummus, cilantro hummus … you name it. So why not south-of-the-border hummus? I blended my leftover Fiesta Portabello toppings with chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic to create this fusion batch, but it would be equally delicious made with leftover fajita veggies or even fresh salsa. If you’re a pepperhead, add your favorite chile to the mix! Just remember to let dried chiles soak in hot water to soften them before attempting to blend them into velvety smoothness. And if you want chile flavor without quite as much chile heat, scrupulously remove the ribs and seeds before using your pepper. I’m not a “hot stuff” kind of girl, so I went with my standard (very mild) canned green chiles when I made this batch of fusion hummus.

South-of-the-Border Hummus
Makes about 3 cups of hummus.

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
15 oz. chickpeas, drained but liquid reserved
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. tahini
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
About 1 cup of leftover Fiesta Portabello veggies or fajita veggies OR 1/2 cup fresh salsa

Place the garlic in a small pan and add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Sauté for 3 minutes over medium-low heat or until garlic is fragrant and starting to turn golden brown. Scoop the garlic and oil into a food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth, adding a drizzle of reserved chickpea juice or more extra-virgin olive oil if the hummus is too thick. Season to taste with sea salt.

If you like, garnish the finished hummus with a dash of chili powder and a spoonful of chopped/canned chiles. Serve with veggies, whole-grain corn chips, or whole-grain flatbreads like crackers. (Be sure to serve gluten-free chips/breads if you want a gluten-free dish!) Or use the hummus as a condiment or as the basis for a dressing or marinade.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on January 1st, 2015
Fiesta Portabellos

Fiesta Portabellos

One of the many great things about mushrooms is that they grow year-round — it’s just as easy to find fresh portabellos in the winter as it is in the summer. (Of course, regional wild mushrooms have much shorter seasons.) And since mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, you’ll never run out of mushroom-inspired ideas! I had leftover diced canned tomatoes and chiles, some fresh cilantro, and lots of Cheddar on hand, so I thought I would make a Mexican-themed portabello. ¿Por qué no? Or if you have already-made salsa, just spoon some of that onto the portabello and top with the cheese. So simple … which is exactly what you’ll want after the hurry-and-scurry of the holidays.

Fiesta Portabellos
Makes 4 medium portabello mushrooms. The recipe can easily be cut in half or doubled if you like.

4 medium portabello mushrooms, stems cut off at the base and discarded and the tops wiped clean with a damp paper towel
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed, flesh cut into thin slices
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 T. oregano
1 to 2 cups diced canned tomatoes (one 15-ounce can = 2 cups)
Large spoonful of canned diced chiles
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves only, chopped
Shredded Cheddar for topping, preferably made with milk from grass-fed cows

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper or foil and set aside.

Place the cleaned mushrooms in a large skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes undisturbed to soften the mushrooms and to give them a deeper, more smoky flavor.

In a medium pan, saute the onion and pepper with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, and chiles and let cook for another minute or two to marry the flavors. Stir in the cilantro.

Place the cooked mushrooms in the baking pan and top each with the pepper-and-tomato mixture. Cover with the shredded Cheddar, pressing it down slightly to help the Cheddar stay in place. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.

If you like, garnish the mushrooms with additional oregano and/or chopped cilantro before serving.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on December 29th, 2014
Holiday Eggnog

Holiday Eggnog

Although I’m a make-it-from-scratch kind of girl, even I will admit that some things are easier to buy than make: pasta, for example, or mustard (without any sugar added, which can be frustratingly difficult to find). Canned beans and pumpkin come in handy, too. But most of the time, DIY beverages/condiments/dishes are far more delicious and of far higher quality than their manufactured counterparts.

Case in point: eggnog. Its ingredients should simply be eggs, cream, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and nutmeg. Pretty simple. (Add a splash of rum or coffee if you like.) But maintaining that silky smooth eggnog texture everyone expects through shipping, storing, and just sitting around for weeks means that commercial eggnog often consists of — and this is an actual label I’m quoting — corn syrup, dextrose, artificial and natural flavor, guar gum, and carrageenan.  You would probably not include those in your DIY eggnog. Even if you wanted to, good luck finding those ingredients in a grocery store.

On the contrary, if you use pastured dairy and eggs in your DIY nog and just a splash of maple syrup for sweetness, you’ve got a beverage that’s just as nutritious as it is delicious. It’s holidays without the guilt! And fortunately, eggnog is easy to make — it takes just a few minutes to simmer to cook the egg yolk, and then it just needs to be chilled before serving. The only difficult part is not glugging it immediately as its enchanting aroma fills the kitchen!

Holiday Eggnog
Makes 2 small servings. Double or triple if you like.

1/4 cup + 2 T. whole milk, divided, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/4 cup + 2 T. cream, divided, preferably from grass-fed cows
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg yolks, preferably from pastured hens
2 tsp. maple syrup*
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Coffee, rum, or bourbon for garnishing (optional)

Pour 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup cream into a small pot. Pour the remaining 2 T. each of milk and cream into a medium bowl and whisk in the vanilla. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, maple syrup, and nutmeg. Set that aside, too.

Heat the milk and cream over medium-low just until it starts to steam. (It’s easier to see the steam rising if you have a black stove top, but even with a light-colored backdrop, if you look closely, you’ll see the steam.) Pour the hot milk and cream into the egg yolk mixture in a thin, steady stream, whisking as you do so. Pour the mixture back into the pot, again whisking constantly, and continue to heat over medium-low for 2 minutes or until the nog starts to thicken and the color lightens. (It will also start to steam slightly.)

Immediately pour the heated nog into the bowl with the milk, cream, and vanilla and keep on whisking for another 15 seconds. This will cool the nog so that it doesn’t overheat — you don’t want your yolks to cook into visible bundles. If they do, pull them out with a fork and discard, or you can strain your nog through a cheesecloth when it’s cool. Or do what I do and think of them as bonus bits of nog and just drink them. If you’ve been whisking steadily and haven’t overheated the nog, it’ll be silky smooth.

Pour nog into a glass jar and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish each serving with more nutmeg if you like, and/or add a shot of coffee, rum, or bourbon for an extra boost of flavor.

Enjoy! And Happy New Year!

* Or use 2 tablespoons of maple syrup if you like really sweet eggnog. Using 2 teaspoons highlights the creamy/rich aspect of the cream and eggs rather than the sheer sweetness you find in most commercial eggnog.

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Lisa on December 22nd, 2014
Bacon Cornbread

Bacon Cornbread

Thinking about making stuffing to go with your holiday meal this week? You might want to try making bacon cornbread. Not only is it great stuffing material, it’s delicious as a fry bread — cut a slice and then cook it in a generous pat of butter until golden. I like to use tongs to turn the slice so that it can get buttery and golden on all six sides. And then I like to serve it with a poached egg on top. The bacon drippings give the cornbread so much bacon flavor that you’ll swear you’re having a strip of bacon with your eggs.

Of course, you need to make a batch of bacon (about 1/2 pound) to have enough drippings to make the bread, so you could enjoy that strip of bacon along with the bread and eggs. Or you could use the bacon in any number of dishes, from salad with bacon vinaigrette to roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with chopped bacon. “Having” to make bacon to make the bread is a bonus!

Bacon Cornbread
Makes an 8″x 8″ pan.

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal (not degerminated — the most nutritious and tastiest part of cornmeal is the germ!)
1 cup raw buckwheat flour OR sorghum OR brown rice flour*
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/4 cups milk or buttermilk, preferably from grass-fed cows
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1/4 cup + 2 T. bacon grease**

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. If the bacon grease is solid, heat it gently just until it melts, then whisk 1/4 cup into the milk and eggs. Pour the remaining 2 T. into the baking dish.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, scoop into the baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is turning golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack. The cornbread can be made into stuffing, served as-is, or sliced and fried in butter for a savory and crisp side dish or breakfast. Leftover cornbread can be refrigerated for a week.

Enjoy!

* These are gluten-free flours. If you’d like to make a wheat-based version, use 1 cup of kamut, spelt, or whole-wheat flour.

** To render bacon grease, place about 1/2 pound of bacon slices (preferably from pastured hogs) on a wire rack, trying not to overlap the slices. Set the wire rack into a rimmed baking pan and bake the bacon for 20 minutes at 375F. Remove from oven, then carefully lift the rack up and out of the baking pan. Pour the grease into a glass jar (wear oven mitts while handling the hot pan!) and either use immediately or refrigerate to use later.

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