Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!!

Would you like some "worm pasta" for lunch today?

Or perhaps you would prefer to snack on some monster mouths??

Not that we like gross foods, but we do like to have some fun in the kitchen, and today we did have monster mouths for breakfast and worm pasta for lunch. And as weird (or gross) they may sound, they were delicious!
For the mouths it is as simple as can get, apple slices + almond butter (or pb) + mini marshmallows, quite a fun and delicious bite! (and with the exception of the marshmallows in there, also quite a nutritious snack. Nut butter + apples make a balanced snack with protein, fats and good carbs, plus all the goodness apples/fruits has to offer).
The pasta was homemade bucatini, the spaghetti-like one that has a whole in the middle and looks like a straw, and it was freshly made by the husband. It was fun making the pasta, and eating it too!
We added a bit of pumpkin puree to the pasta dough and it made the pasta incredibly delicious. You can actually taste the pumpkin, but it makes the dough soft and with a wonderful texture.
Then, being Halloween along with my obsession with pumpkin lately, we had to have a pumpkin sauce!
I made mine inspired on HEAB's pumpkin goat cheese sauce, and it turned out into a delicious Creamy Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pasta Sauce!! I didn't follow the recipe posted by Heather, basically just got the idea from the combo of pumpkin and goat cheese, so I am posting here the way I did.
It could not be more simple or easy to make, and it was so good, I scraped every single bit of the sauce with a spatula before washing that pan. Oh, and adding a shaving of Parmesan cheese on top made this even better.
Hope you all have a great and safe Halloween! Matheus is beyond excited and can barely wait to go out tonight. At least now he has a belly full of nutritious food so a bite or two of candy won't hurt.
Happy trick or treating!

Creamy Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pasta Sauce

2 small shallots, chopped
4 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
ground nutmeg (I never measure this, just grind a bit on top of the sauce)
1/8 tsp ground (rubbed) sage
1 to 2 oz goat cheese (again, I didn't measure, just took a blob and added to the sauce, I believe I used about 1 oz).
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute garlic and shallots in a pan until soft. Add pumpkin puree, broth, cinnamon (it might sound weird the cinnamon in here, but I promise, it taste good!), nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Bring sauce to a boil, add goat cheese and mix to incorporate. Add your favorite shape of cooked pasta to sauce and toss, serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
(We used bucattini, but I think penne pasta would be awesome with this sauce!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Oat Bran

How can you not start your day in a good mood with such a bowl like the one above for breakfast?
I am a firm believer that eating breakfast is essential to start your metabolism in the morning (after hours of fasting overnight) and get you going through your day.
With that in mind I always try to make our breakfast nutritious and delicious, and with a kid in the house sometimes the fun factor enters in the mix and we are sure to have a great start in the morning.
For the bowl pictured above I cooked 1/2 cup of oat bran with 1/2 cup water, 1 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin, about 1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon, a dash of ground clove (or sub 1/2 to 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice) and sweetener to taste (I make mine unsweetened, but Matheus likes his with either honey or maple syrup). Put everything into the pan and cook on medium until oat bran is cooked and you achieved the desired thickness.
I like it more loose than most people, not a fan of thick and gummy oats or oat bran. I like it a bit on the wet side, and since it thicken as it sits, I always take it of the stove before it gets to the consistency I like.
Ultra easy to make, plus oat bran cooks so fast that in less than 10 minutes you have a nice and warm bowl of steamy goodness! Top with a tablespoon of almond butter and you have a totally nutritious breakfast to start your day. (Coconut butter is also amazing with oats and oat bran! I am slightly obsessed with this combo lately...)
And if you are like us, you will strategically place that almond butter right in the center of your bowl, then add a couple of raisin eyes, a chocolate chip mouth and your masterpiece is complete: Mrs. Pumpkin Oat Bran is in the house! (And boy those chocolate chips were delicious in there, melted chocolate goodness!)
The same ingredients are just as good with oatmeal in place of the oat bran. It may take a couple more minutes to cook, but so worth it.
I love oats in all forms!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My best Apple Cake yet!

Fall is definitely here and that to me translates to not only colder weather (which I do not like) but mostly to lots of pumpkin (which I love), butternut squashes, acorn squashes, all winter squashes, cinnamon, and of course apples. Even though we have apples available year round it is during fall - their peak season - that they are the sweetest and have the most delicious flavors.
For the past couple weeks we have been inundated with apples in our CSA box, so we have been eating them out of hand, taking to school as a snack, and also making delicious homemade applesauce - a favorite of mine and Matheus' too.
With an urge to bake and lots of apples staring at me from the fruit bowl on the counter top I entered the kitchen ready and full of the best intentions to create something delicious, nutritious and also easy to make.
I am happy to inform that my mission was accomplished and it turned out into a Vegan Apple Cake that is definitely the best apple cake I have ever made.
The first cake I baked was left on the counter while I went out for a few hours, and upon my return half of it was gone, the husband really liked it. We polished the rest of it the next morning for breakfast, so I didn't even had a chance to take a picture.
Since we loved it so much, and yes, I still had apples on the counter, I made another one. This time I rushed and did take a picture though! phew! (and as you can see in the pic, there were even more apples around!)
There is nothing fancy about this cake but the flavors are spot on, I also think it looks great, and better than anything: it makes your house smell wonderful as it bakes!
And as I said before, it is super easy to make. It is the "mix-dry-with-wet" type cake, no mixer, no special equipments needed, plus you can have it in the oven in no time.
When it comes to cake, the simple ones are my favorites (I am not an icing, filling, "stuff in the middle of my cake" gal), and this apple cake even though as simple as it turned out is also flavorful, fruity, and fragrant. Perfect to have with tea, or maybe a cup of warm milk.
One note: I used my homemade applesauce but you can certainly use any apple sauce or pureed apple you have - I actually used the store bought plain applesauce on the second cake I baked as we were out of the homemade deliciousness (it never lasts long!)
If you like apple cakes definitely try this one, and then let me know what you think. Around here it was a massive success. The last piece of the second cake I baked was hidden by Matheus one night so he could have it for breakfast on the next day (he was afraid dad would eat it!). And right then, after breakfast I got another request to make some more, from both boys.
You can't make a mom who loves to cook happier than when you say you love her food and ask for more!

See what I mean by "mix-dry-with-wet" kind of cake?! All you need for this are two bowls. I used a pan with removable sides for this and lined the bottom with parchment paper, but any 8 or 9 inch round cake pan should work, just make sure you oil it a bit.

Vegan Apple Cake

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a round cake pan (either 8 or 9 inches)

In a small bowl mix together:
6 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil (or another neutral oil you might like)
1/4 cup almond milk (or soy milk, or milk of your choice - if using cow's milk this won't be vegan anymore)
1 tsp. vanilla

In a big bowl mix together:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp cinnamon (looks like a lot, but trust me, it makes the cake taste and smell incredible!)
2 tsp baking powder
3 small apples, cored and chopped (peeled if you prefer)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix until combined. Pour batter into pan (it will be thick) and flatten with a spatula or back of a spoon. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until your house is smelling amazing and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Awesome Brown!!

Being a foodie as I am, and one that likes science at that, it is no surprise that one of the food personalities I love the most is Alton Brown. His show, Good Eats, is one of my very favorite ones and I have been watching it since the beginning, around 2000.
In the show Alton is the most fun and creative person around food I have ever seen, he explains not only how to prepare a particular food but also the science behind it, the how's and why's something acts the way it does during cooking, which is why I like his show so much, learning is something I love to do and when it relates to food... sign me up for it!
I absolutely love his Good Eats show and as I learned that Alton Brown was coming to Raleigh (almost 2 months ago) I immediately reserved the date on my calendar and assigned the husband as the primary caregiver during the hours I would spend at the local independent bookstore that my idol was doing his appearance.
I knew that a few hours of waiting would take place, so I sat there, walked to Whole Foods right next door and got me some soup, came back, sat a little more and read his most recent book cover to cover, and patiently waited for my turn to get up there and get not only an autograph but also a picture! Awesome! I loved that he took pictures with everyone.
A bit before the signing began he also did some talking and answered questions from the audience.
Now, he seems fun and nice on the show, right? And he is that and much more in person! I was impressed by how nice he was, so funny, I laughed the whole 40 minutes he talked! Entertaining, smart, funny, and knows how to cook, what else would you want on a man?! Oh yes, and since it was a school night he made sure that those with kids would be the first ones to get their book signed, how cool is that? (And I left Matheus home... bummer!) True gentleman!
It was really fun to meet Alton Brown, he is all I thought he would be and more, definitely my favorite food star. Awesome, awesome Brown!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Flourless Crepes a la HEAB!

After having these for lunch two days in a row I just needed to take a good picture and post here this ridiculously easy recipe that I have been enjoying: Flourless Crepes (or egg crepes as I have been calling at home). The recipe is super easy and I learned it from Heather, from HEAB, one of my favorite blogs!

It is so simple, but turns our so good and delicious that I could not even believe my tastebuds!
After having a bright and sunny morning all for myself with no classes (fall break! yay!) and yoga with my favorite instructor, I came home with a hungry belly and ready for something delicious and quick. Couldn't be more perfect than these!

All you need are 2 eggs and a 1/4 tsp of baking powder, that's it. Whip both together and pour into your preheated (I add a bit of olive oil so it doesn't stick) pan just enough "batter" to fully coat the bottom. Cover with a lid and let it cook for one to two minutes. That's all people, there isn't even a need to flip! Remove from the pan and load your fillings.

Which brings me to the point: the filling. That's what I loved the most about these. I filled mine with chopped tomatoes, chopped avocados (both which I seasoned with salt and pepper) and goat cheese. Oh my world, the creamy filling was amazing! If you never had eggs + avocados then you need to try, it is a great combo. Add some goat cheese and it is incredibly good, soooo creamy, I love it!

I made my crepes in a 8-inch skillet, just because it is my newest one nothing is sticking to it. But you can make them bigger in a 10 or even a 12 inch. Since mine was smallish I made 4 crepes. I know, you only see three of them there, and that is because I could not resist the first one, I simply sprinkled goat cheese on it, rolled it up and went to town... goat cheese and eggs is a pair made in heaven.

I had my crepes on top of a spinach and arugula salad topped with grilled zucchini rounds, pair this with a piece of warm and toasted whole grain bread with a bit of butter and you have a delicious meal without much effort at all.

By the way, I love arugula salad, and wanted to share the way I dress my salad, I don't have real measurements, but here is the method: put arugula into a bowl, season with salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, some sprinkles of white balsamic (or rice) vinegar, and a drizzle of honey! Yep, honey, that's what makes this salad taste so delicious. The sweetness of the honey pairs beautifully with the peppery flavors of the arugula, I love this salad and had it throughout the summer, never get tired of it!

Hope you guys like the Flourless Crepe idea it as much as I and Heather did!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Easy veg weeknight meal!

Sometimes all we need for a good meal is something easy to prepare and that taste good right? With all the studying and attending classes for my masters degree plus life as a stay home mom, take to school, pick up, soccer practices, playdates, and more, there are days when I don't have that much time to get dinner on the table, so the less complicated the dish the more appealing it is to me.
This is a recipe that fits perfectly for such days, easy and quick to put together, tastes delicious and makes everyone happy! Serve with a side salad, maybe some rolls or something of the like, and you are good to go! (just make sure to have your phyllo dough defrosted)
Could not be better!
I got the recipe idea from one of my favorite magazines, Vegetarian Times. I like their recipes a lot, usually pretty flavorful and uncomplicated, and vegetarian to boot, score!
Another plus of this recipe? You can adapt to whatever veggies you may have in your fridge, just make sure it is not something too moist/watery, and you are good to go! :-)

Spinach, Feta, and Tomato Quiche
(Adapted from Vegetarian Times)

8 sheets of phyllo dough
Olive oil to brush the dough
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out (make sure to really squeeze this baby, they have a lot more water than you imagine) - by the way, I seasoned my spinach with salt, pepper, and garlic powder before adding it to the quiche.
1/3 cup feta cheese - I used ricotta salata since I had that at home
Cherry tomatoes to fill the top - I used a combo cherry tomatoes from the backyard and chopped roma from the CSA box as that was what I had on hand
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
dash of Salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven 350F.
Brush a pie plate/pan with olive oil and layer one sheet of the phyllo dough in it, brush dough with olive oil and repeat the layering and brushing with all other phyllo dough sheets. When done tuck in the parts of dough that are hanging around the plate (or trim if you prefer, I love the crispy borders and don't like wasting it, so I tuck it in!).
Sprinkle the crust with the cheese, top with the spinach and layer the tomatoes on top of that.
In a bowl beat the eggs with the milk, season with salt and pepper, and pour over the veggies in the prepared crust.
Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the egg is set.