making do, kitchen edition

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Let’s talk about those days when you don’t have time to hunt down recipes, shop for and prep amazing ingredients, and spend an hour putting a meal on the table. In other words, most of our lives nearly all the … Continue reading

soy snack break

After recouping from last week’s presentation with multiple mugs of hot chocolate, food for fun is ready to hit the blogging circuit again. This week, I offer the six recipes featured last week when presenting a Snack Break at a client’s annual meeting.

Minnesota Soybean has been a long-time partner and my work with them has taught me that soyfoods can be a fun tool in the kitchen. Why not include them in your ingredient palette when you’re thinking through meals, snacks, and even the sweet stuff?

True, some people have allergies to soy and there have also been whispers of soy’s “dark side” in certain media circles. To those with allergies, skip right over these recipes, or try subbing in another type of nut, nut milk, green veg, or flour. And to those who believe soy has that dark side, I’d offer that moderate consumption of soy has yet to show negative effects in any study to date. On the plus side, it’s a strong source of plant protein and fiber and has been proven to reduce high cholesterol levels, possibly prevent against certain hormonal cancers, yadda yadda yadda.

Shopping for and cooking up the snacks for the presentation was loads of fun–as a writer, it’s a treat to move around and create something tangible (and edible!) for a work project. An overestimate of attendees meant there were plenty of leftovers, which I wish I could serve up here. Instead, I’ll post photos and recipes and invite you to try a little soy.

green tea edamame

Green Tea Edamame

  •  1 quart water
  • 4 tea-bags green tea
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen edamame
  • Sea salt to taste

In medium pot, bring water to a boil. Remove pot from heat; add tea bags. Steep 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove and discard tea bags. Return pot to medium heat. Bring tea to a gentle boil. Add edamame. Cook about 7 minutes or until beans are cooked through; drain and discard tea. Sprinkle edamame with salt. Serve immediately. Makes 4 (generous 1-cup) servings.

soy sconesSavory Spring Scones

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar plus enough soymilk to measure 1 cup
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup soy flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • Dash cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 500°F. In measuring cup, combine vinegar and soymilk; let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in soured soymilk until dough forms. Stir in onions and pepper.

Turn dough out onto well-floured surface; knead dough gently 8 to 10 times, sprinkling with flour as needed. Pat dough into 8-inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut circle into 8 pie-shape wedges, pressing down with knife without sawing. Sprinkle baking sheet with flour. Gently transfer wedges to baking sheet.

Reduce oven to 450°F. Bake scones 20 minutes or just until golden. Makes 8 scones.

tofu saladEgg & Tofu Salad

  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives
  • 4 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed soft tofu, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, and chives until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; stir gently to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste. Makes 4 cups.

Edamame-Chile Hummus

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen edamame, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons each seeded diced red and green jalapeño chiles
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In food processor, combine all ingredients; cover. Process until blended, but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning as desired. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

pumpkin granolaPumpkin Soynut Granola

Love pumpkin? Go ahead and double the pumpkin puree.

  • 3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup roasted soynuts (can use Cinnamon-Roasted Soynuts, recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, toss together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.

In small bowl, stir together maple syrup, pumpkin puree, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir into oat mixture until coated. Stir in cranberries, soynuts, and pumpkin seeds.

Spread mixture evenly on baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before storing in covered container. Makes 5 cups.

1386593552042Cinnamon-Roasted Soynuts

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups soynuts
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, beat egg white just until frothy; beat in vanilla. Fold in soynuts. Stir in brown and granulated sugars and cinnamon.

Spread soynuts evenly on baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until just lightly browned. Cool slightly, breaking up any clumps before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

All together now:

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

gettin’ your freekeh on

If I ran analysis and crunched numbers, I could tell you exactly how many food for fun recipes are “healthy” and how many not so much. But since running analysis and crunching numbers sounds a bit dry, I’ll just say that the “better for the soul than your waistline” recipes found here far outnumber the “good for you” recipes.

Yet. If this blog more accurately reflected how I cook, it would offer a better balance. While I love my sweets (and my cocktails), the meals I make tend to showcase whole grains, veggies, lean proteins, etc. That said, the sweet stuff garners more attention (and generally seems more fun), so I don’t often include main dishes here. But today I will.

Epicurious.com‘s recipes grace my email box daily and today’s caught my attention. I’d just been thinking supper possibilities as I opened the email and Stir-Fried Buckwheat sounded good. With a bag of buckwheat groats already in my freezer (or so I thought), this recipe would make a healthy vegetarian entrée.

What intrigued me most was how the grains were cooked. First, they were mixed with an egg, then toasted for a brief time in a large saucepan. Vegetable broth was added and the grain simmered 15 or so minutes until the broth was absorbed. The cooked grain was then spread out on a baking sheet, each kernel separated as much as possible for cooling. When added to the stir-fried and seasoned veggies, the grains mostly remain separate.

cooling the kernels

cooling the kernels

A quick search of the freezer failed to uncover buckwheat groats, but I found freekah and gave that a go instead. (Do you know freekeh? I first discovered it a year or so ago and figured it as the next quinoa. Billed as cracked green wheat, it’s chewy, slightly sweet, and adds variety to a whole grain repertoire. As for being the next big thing in the grain world, it’s now sold at Costco–a sure sign of being mainstreamed.)

freekah: a young, green cracked wheat

freekah: a young, green cracked wheat

Another change was subbing curry paste for the chile paste as that’s what I had on hand (paste is paste, right?). As well, I didn’t have any green beans, so added color with a handful of chopped fresh mint.

Stir-Fried Freekah

Stir-Fried Freekeh

Nutritionally, it makes a better side than main as it’s all carbs, but a sprinkle of peanuts upped the protein content. Though my girls weren’t impressed, I was. Reminiscent of fried rice, it also had its own personality: warm and slightly salty and savory and herby. I’ll definitely be making it again.

up close and personal

up close and personal

So while food for fun will continue highlighting ice cream, cookies, cakes, bread, adult beverages, and the like, it’ll also serve up the occasional healthy dish. The way I see it, not-so-good-for-you food can be enjoyed (relatively) guilt-free when you’ve filled up on the good stuff first.

carb cravings: the cookies and bread edition

The better part of my weekend was spent developing no-carb recipes for a client who is assembling a cookbook. This was a tough project for me as guidelines called for essentially zero carbs other than vegetables. The allowed foods list contained a fair amount of meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, and oils along with limitless non-starchy veg. Fruits? Lemons, limes, berries, and apples, and then only “in moderation.” Even dried beans were given the cold shoulder and limited to occasional consumption. Whole grains? Not even on the Allowed list. (Quinoa and a few others were occasionally acceptable, but anything wheat-related was a no-no.)

While I was up for the challenge, it hurt to shun grains, legumes, and fruits as they add variety to a daily diet and have so much to offer nutritionally. But working for a client, I pushed personal feelings aside and stepped up to the no-carb plate. While I made some progress (Venison-stuffed bell peppers? Salmon salad? Winners both.), there were a few recipes I just couldn’t like. (Talking to you, spinach bread and kale smoothie.) More tweaking lies ahead, but by the end of the weekend my kitchen needed some carb karma.

Oatmeal cookies seemed a good choice, so I put together a batch using a recipe clipped from the newspaper years back. Chocolate chips were replaced by a handful of leftover red and pink m&m’s, another small amount of red “chocolate” chips (must have hit the day-after-Valentine’s rack at the grocery store), and a much larger amount of pretzel m&ms. The cookies were fantastic and loved by all; just by baking them I started feeling better about my no-carb recipes.

oatmeal m&m cookies

oatmeal m&m cookies

My husband, a willing if wary no-carb taste-tester, must also have been scarred by my project as he announced today that he was going to bake bread. While not completely out of character for him, it’s been ages since he’s made bread and his declaration cracked me up. He, too, must have sensed the kitchen’s need for carbohydrates. His chosen recipe was a no-knead oatmeal loaf and when time came to put the dough into pans, he happened upon my new loaf pan. Sold as a three-slot lasagna pan, this “kitchen toy” was recommended by a friend who uses it to bake multiple types of quick bread at once. Hubby’s bread dough filled two of the three slots, giving us two spectacularly amazing soft, fragrant, and golden loaves of carbohydrate bliss.

dough starting to rise

dough starting to rise

just-baked bread is very near the top of my Favorite Things in Life list

doesn’t get much better than just-baked bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

I get that consuming excess carbs can pack on the pounds. I get that protein and fat satiate in ways that carbs cannot. But I also believe that there’s room in a healthy diet for carbs–especially the whole grains that provide fiber and lots of B vitamins. While I’m not fond of the mantra “everything in moderation” (everything? really? there goes the moderation, then), it does apply to most food situations. No-carb diets may be important for folk in critical health situations and may also help jump-start weight loss. But I’m all for including some of (almost) everything in what I eat. Kale and spinach. Cookies and bread. I’ll gladly make room for all of it. If you feel likewise, here are two rock star carb recipes.

Oatmeal-Candy Cookies

adapted from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups m&ms (the pretzel variety is an especially fun cookie stir-in)

Heat oven to 325°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In bowl, beat together butter and brown and granulated sugars with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, beating until combined.

In separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and powder, and salt; mix well. Add to butter mixture; beat on Low speed until blended. Stir in m&ms.

Drop tablespoons of dough at least 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown at edge. Cool briefly on baking sheets; transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

No-Knead Oatmeal Bread

adapted from a recipe found in 2010 Minneapolis Star Tribune Taste

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  •  1/2 cup honey or light molasses
  •  1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour

In large bowl, combine boiling water, oats, honey, butter, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, mix well. Blend in eggs. Add flour until well blended yet still a soft dough. Place dough in greased bowl; cover. Refrigerate until needed, at least 2 hours.

Grease 2 (9×5-inch) loaf pans. On well-floured board, shape dough into 2 loaves. Place in pans; cover. Let rise 1 hour or until double. Bake at 350°F 1 hour or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when removed from pans and tapped on the bottom. Makes 2 loaves.