Baked Jalapeno Falafel


Last night I was just not in the mood to make dinner. At all. The last week I’ve been straining to find motivation…for basically everything. Work, cleaning, reading, exercising, cooking…I think I’ve been using up my last drops of motivation for marathon training, and my body is saying it needs a break.  But with a spendy vacation coming up, and less than 16 days until the Portland Marathon, I thought it would be a healthier, more economical option to just suck it up and have a home-cooked meal. It took every ounce of my being to get this dinner on the table-er–couch, but I did it. And surprise, surprise, I’m glad I did, because this meal was packed with protein and fiber, and just eating it gave me a little more energy…and motivation to wash the dishes afterward.

Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

1 small jalapeno (or 2 or 3 if you really want some heat)

1 T lemon juice

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp-1 tsp salt, to your taste

pepper, to taste

cayenne, to taste

1 tsp baking powder

drizzle of olive oil (1 to 2 tsp)

1/2 cup fresh parsley

Yes, the mixture will look a little green.

In a bowl, mash beans with a potato masher or fork.

In a blender or food processor, puree onion, jalapeno, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Add to mashed beans and mix well.

In a small bowl, beat together (with a fork) spices, baking powder, egg and olive oil. Add to bean mixture and mix well. Add bread crumbs and mix. The mixture should hold together well to form patties. Form into 2- or 3″ patties.

It sure doesn't LOOK like falafel, but it is a whole lot healthier and packed with flavor.

This falafel will not be the same as in Mediterranean restaurants because it is not deep fried. It will have a soft texture. To make it healthier, I pan fry falafel over medium-high heat (with just non-stick spray or a little Smart Balance) on each side until browned. Then bake for about 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Best served with hummus or tzatziki and pita, on the couch in PJ’s watching Modern Family. Enjoy!

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Spicy Vegetarian Lentil and Red Bean Chili


I just realized that every dish I’ve blogged about (besides dessert) so far has had meat in it.  In reality, Novin and I like to eat vegetarian meals at least once or twice a week to avoid overdosing on the red stuff. Plus, it’s said that cutting down on meat-eating can help the environment, promote weight loss, heart health, save money…and the list goes on. When we do eat meat, we buy the locally raised, grass-fed “happy cows and chickens,” as my uncle likes to say.

Since the weather turned fall-like basically overnight, I thought a hot bowl of chili-vegetarian chili-sounded good. Not to mention, super super easy since I could throw everything in the slow cooker (my best friend) and forget about it.

You can’t really screw up this recipe. When in doubt, just add more spices or tomato sauce. If it’s too thick for your taste, add a little water. As usual, I didn’t measure everything out exactly, just kept adding spices until it suited my taste. If you don’t have the patience for dried beans to cook, go ahead and substitute a can or two of beans. Since we ran out of tomato sauce, I used fresh, chopped tomatoes.

Everything thrown into the slow cooker. Ready for cooking!

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried green lentils

1/2 cup dried red beans (you can really use any bean you want)

1 can diced tomatoes (or 2-3 large fresh tomatoes)

1 can tomato sauce

1 bell pepper, any color

4 cups low-sodium broth (I used chicken, but if you are a true vegetarian use vegetable broth)

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

garlic powder 1-2 tsp.

oregano 1-2 tsp.

onion powder 1-2 tsp.

a pinch of cayenne, or more if you like heat

chili powder, about 2 T

ancho chile powder 1-2 tsp. (optional; I like a lot of heat in my chili)

1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (in a can), pour in a little of the sauce too

1-2 T ground cumin

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1/2- 1 cup zucchini (because I STILL have zucchini relentlessly coming out of the garden)

vegetarian soy Chorizo sausage (optional, but really adds flavor)

salt, to taste

Throw all ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave for work, or put in night before and refrigerate until you have to leave in the morning. Turn on low heat…and come home to dinner! (Mine cooked for about 10 hours.) Serve with a piece of whole wheat toast. (I like my toast with a little Smart Balance Light butter spread and a sprinkle of garlic powder for a light garlic toast.)

Makes 4-6 servings.

Pineapple Pie


Not picture perfect, but tasty nonetheless...

Last month Novin and I had dinner at my grandpa’s house, and he said he had a special pie for us for dessert. My first thoughts: “OoOoooOoooh!”

As a sweet-o-holic, I wanted to know what it was right away. “It’s a surprise,” he said. “I’ve never bought a pie like this before; it’s really different,” my grandpa said.

Since he was never known to be the most adventurous eater, I took a stab at guessing. “Sweet potato? Mango? Chocolate peanut butter crème?! It better not have milk in it, I’m allergic! If it does and I can’t eat it, I just might die!” The suspense was killing me.

So after we finished our last bites of chicken sausage and potato pancakes, he brought out this “surprise pie.”

I took one look at it…it was an apple pie. “Grandpa, you mean to tell me you’ve never bought an APPLE PIE before?” His face went blank. “Huh?!”

The label idiotically said “Pie apple,” which he misread as “Pineapple.” Who labels it as “Pie apple” instead of “Apple pie”? C’mon, Fred Meyer! Why did you have to confuse my poor old grandpa and make us all have to settle for apple pie when we were expecting an amazingly special pie? So of course I ate double servings of the apple pie in hopes that eating MORE of it would make me more satisfied with it. Yes, that is how my logic works. Don’t get me wrong, I like apple pie, but store-bought apple pie just doesn’t do it for me.

So my grandpa was disappointed, and I was determined to make things right. I promised to make him a pineapple pie for his birthday, which is exactly what I did.

I was apprehensive at first…the last thing I wanted was a pie full of soggy pineapple slices. So I went online in search of a good pineapple pie filling, and stumbled across a blog called “Stay @ Home Mom.”

http://sahmsite.info/2010/03/29/homemade-pineapple-pie-filling/

I followed her recipe, but tweaked the sugar and butter amounts:

Homemade Pineapple Pie Filling

1 fresh pineapple

1/3 cup sugar

2 T butter

½ cup water

2 T cornstarch

pinch of salt

Slice pineapple into small chunks. Puree ½ of the pineapple in a blender. Strain out some of the juice so the filling doesn’t become too runny. In a pot over medium-high heat, stir pineapple chunks and puree. Add sugar and salt. Mix cornstarch and water together well, making sure there are no clumps. Add to pineapple mixture, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until filling resembles a jam.

2 Crust Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups flour

2 sticks COLD butter (1 pound, yuck, I know! Shhh don’t tell anyone, this is what makes it GOOD)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

6-8 T ice water

In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar. Cut cold butter into chunks, and add to flour mixture. Using hands, mix butter into dough, until it begins to clump. Make sure to leave small chunks of butter in the dough, so the dough will become flaky. Begin adding water tablespoon by tablespoon, mixing by hand as you go, just until you can pinch some of the dough together and it sticks. You may or may not have to use all of the water. Form dough into a ball (it should still feel a bit crumbly, not super sticky or smooth) and refrigerate in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes to an hour. You want the butter chunks in the dough to be nice and cold when you roll it out later, again– for that flaky crust! Split ball of dough in half, and roll out each dough on a floured surface for a 9″ 2-crust pie. Trim edges, and dust with white sugar for a shimmery top crust. Cut slits in the top crust (or cut fun shapes) so steam can escape.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Try it out and let me know if you like it! Grandpa did.

Our camera battery died right before we were about to cut into it, so I didn’t get better pictures. 😦

Veggie and White Bean Pasta with Turkey Meatballs


Tomorrow is a big day for me. I’m doing a 21 mile run, the longest run I will complete before the Portland Marathon. So naturally, for dinner tonight I immediately thought of pasta. My marathon training group says carbo loading isn’t necessary, but what is the point of running so much unless you can stuff your face with pasta? Plus, I’m convinced it makes me run better.

Tonight I decided to make a tomato sauce from scratch, since our garden is spewing countless numbers of juicy, ripe tomatoes. If this meal doesn’t give me the energy to get through 21 miles, I’m not sure what will. This dish has the perfect balance of fiber and protein and is packed with vegetables. If you don’t have the time to make your own sauce from scratch, just use your favorite spaghetti sauce.

Ingredients (for both meatballs and pasta sauce)

1 large onion

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic

1/2 large carrot

1 cup mushrooms

1/2 cup celery

1/2 cup zucchini

6 large tomatoes

1 cup white beans

1/2 pound lean ground turkey

1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil, dried (or a few fresh basil leaves)

1/4 cup red wine

garlic powder

salt

pepper

cayenne

olive oil

1 egg white

Pasta Sauce:

In a large pot, boil water. Add tomatoes to blanch; remove from heat when tomato skins start to peel. Put tomatoes in a food processor or blender and drizzle in a little olive oil.  Puree until no longer chunky.

Saute 1/2 onion, 3/4 of the bell pepper, celery and carrot over medium heat in a pan until veggies begin to soften. Put tomato puree back in large pot over medium-high heat. Add sauteed vegetable mixture. Add 2 tsp garlic, red wine, 1 tsp oregano, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Add zucchini, mushrooms and beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve over whole wheat pasta.

To make meatballs:

Mix together ground turkey, 1/2 chopped onion, 1/4 of the red bell pepper, 2 cloves garlic, bread crumbs, egg, 1/2 tsp oregano and salt and pepper in a bowl. You can also put the vegetables in a food processor or blender to grind them up finely. Roll into 2-inch balls and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Oregon Berry Crisp


My labor day weekend was enjoyed in pretty much the same way everyone else likely spent the holiday…with family, food and lots of sun.

Sunday we made a trip up to the Oregon coastal town of Astoria for a BBQ salmon feed at my great uncle’s house. He makes his living fixing up boats, and sometimes his payment from customers is fresh-caught Chinook salmon. I couldn’t miss out on this occasion, even if it required surviving a 2 to 3+ hour drive in an SUV jam-packed with family members…during Labor Day weekend traffic.

With tons of Oregon raspberries and blackberries in my freezer that I hand picked at one point over the summer, I decided to make a berry crisp as my contribution to this feast.

The crisp had to endure a long, bumpy and winding ride in a cooler at the back of my grandpa’s car which made the presentation less than perfect, but still oh-so-delicious.

It was a perfect finish to a smorgasboard of grilled salmon, salad, mac n’ cheese, and corn on the cob….washed down with a Coors Light.

The food was well worth the trip, but the resulting food coma made the ride back that much harder to take.

My little sis seems to approve!

Be forewarned…this is not a lightened/healthier version of crisp…just a very delicious one worthy of bringing to potlucks. Try it out–it’s an extremely easy but impressive dessert, and can be made with any fruit if you don’t live in Oregon and have berries as good as ours. 🙂

Ingredients

2-3 cups fresh blackberries (I used Oregon Triple Crown blackberries)

2-3 cups fresh raspberries

2-3 T white sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups oatmeal (I used the one-minute oatmeal)

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into chunks (do not melt)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9×13 pan, add berries. Sprinkle white sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon on the berries and mix so berries are coated evenly. In a large bowl, add flour, oatmeal, 1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and butter. Using hands, mix well so butter is incorporated well in mixture (should be moist but crumbly). Crumble mixture over berries. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until topping is golden brown and crisp. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and good company!

Mom Does it Best: Filipino Pancit and Thai Chicken Larb


Chef Mom!

Labor Day is supposed to be a holiday away from laboring, but in my family, we see it as an entire free day to cook! So for this blog, I thought it appropriate to feature none other than the best–my mom–as my next “featured guest chef.”

And when she cooks– she really cooks. Nevermind the fact that there were only 7 people to feed, she made enough food to feed a small country.

So I spent the holiday at my mom’s house, relearning how to make a few of her most famous dishes (I always forget!). She made chicken caldereta and pancit, both traditional Filipino dishes; chicken larb, a Thai salad; a spaghetti squash and carrot salad with a spicy vinegar dressing, a shrimp and vegetable dish and some sort of brothy soup…which were basically ignored because we were overwhelmed with everything else on the table.

Recreating her recipes isn’t exactly easy since she doesn’t measure out her ingredients, just tastes as she goes…so I did my best writing out her ingredient amounts…just be sure to taste as you cook!

Thai Chicken Larb

2 chicken breasts

1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chilis

2-3 limes

1 tsp oyster sauce

3 sprigs mint

1/2 onion, sliced thin

2 T toasted rice, ground

cracked pepper, to taste

1 9 oz bag sprouts

Instructions:

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Put on broiler pan and broil until no longer pink in the middle. Let chicken cool, then finely chop. Add to a large bowl.

Toast rice over medium low heat until browned. Be careful not to burn. Using a mortar and pestle (or food processor), finely grind rice. Add to bowl. Finely chop green onion, Thai chilies, and mint. Add to bowl.

Add oyster sauce, squeezed lime juice, sprouts and cracked pepper. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Salad can easily be adjusted to your taste by using more or less lime and oyster sauce. Serve with lettuce or cabbage leaves to wrap up chicken larb, and enjoy!

Pancit (Bihon)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 onion, chopped

canola oil (enough to fill the bottom of the wok)

about 4 cups water

1 package pancit bihon mix (can be found at Asian groceries, see photo below)

3-5 T soy sauce

1- 14 oz package rice noodles (package might say “rick sticks”, can be found at Asian groceries)

3-4 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1 shredded carrot (for color)

1 large chicken breast

salt

pepper

1 egg, for garnish

cilantro, for garnish (optional)

green onion, for garnish (optional)

Boil chicken breast in the 4 cups of water with salt and pepper until cooked through. Let cool. Shred chicken into small pieces. (Reserve water for noodles later)

Add oil to wok. When hot, add onion and garlic; saute for one minute. Add shredded chicken and saute for another minute or two. Add water that chicken was boiled in. Add pancit mix (shown in photo) and soy sauce. Push chicken to one side of wok then add noodles to liquid.

When noodles start to soften in the liquid, cut with scissors to shorten. Mix everything together until noodles are soft and fully absorb all of the liquid. Add cabbage and carrot, mix for another minute or two or until cabbage just barely begins to soften but is still crunchy.

Cooking for us is a family affair.

In a small pan, fry the egg. Slice thinly, and garnish the noodles with the egg slices. Serve with lemon wedges. (I like to squirt about 3-4 lemon slices on my own serving until the noodles are drowning in lemon juice, yum-o-yum. Not everyone will like it like that though, so just serve the lemon on the side)

Good luck!

Novin likes to sneak samples…

Salmon Patties and Baked Zucchini Fries


Today’s recipe was made by my boyfriend Novin, who is my first featured “guest chef” of many more to come…

Salmon patties are one of only two ways Novin will eat salmon. Up until a few months ago he refused to even taste one bite of salmon that I promised was delicious, no matter how it was prepared. I think he realized just how darn healthy salmon is and began experimenting with ways to make it “not taste fishy.”

Well, I think he was successful, and I ask him to make these on a regular basis. I think even fish-haters would like these. They’re simple enough to serve on a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve for dinner guests too. Thanks, Novin, for a great dinner!

Ingredients

1 pound coho salmon fillet, shredded

1 egg

1 T buffalo wing sauce (he used a spicy garlic wing sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings)

about ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (seasoned bread crumbs add good flavor)

½ cup cornmeal

dash paprika

dash of dried dill

dash of pepper

dash of garlic salt

dash of cayenne

canola oil for frying

Shred salmon as demonstrated in photo below.

Add egg, seasonings and breadcrumbs. Mix all ingredients together well. (If the mixture is too moist, you can add more breadcrumbs. You want the mixture to be able to hold its shape when formed into a patty but not dry.) Form into patties, and coat each side with cornmeal.

Fry patties in a skillet (cast iron works great) on medium heat in a thin layer of oil, 2-3 minutes on each side, or until done in the middle.

Serve with lemon slices, or top with tartar sauce or this dill aioli:

http://www.grouprecipes.com/32176/mini-crab-cakes-with-lemon-dill-aioli.html

Makes about 2 servings. Enjoy!

Baked Zucchini Fries

Since we still have loads of zucchini coming out of our garden—and of course Novin doesn’t care for zucchini—I have to come up with ways to “hide” the zucchini in dishes or cover up the taste with sauces. I decided to try out baked zucchini fries, which I thought would go well with the salmon patties. If he didn’t like them, well…more fries for me I guess.

Now, Novin is the kind of guy who will at least try anything once. But to my surprise, he didn’t stop at just one fry! He actually seemed to enjoy them! Success! His only comment was, “They need more salt.” Easy fix.

For this recipe I didn’t measure out everything, just estimated. If you want to kick up the flavor of the fries, add cayenne pepper and paprika to the cornmeal/flour mix.

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini

about ¼ cup flour

about ¼ cup cornmeal

about ¼ tsp salt

about ¼ tsp pepper

about ¼ tsp dried basil

1 egg white

marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (I used the toaster oven)

Slice zucchini into 1-inch wedges. In a bowl, coat zucchini slices with egg white.

In a ziplock bag, add cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper and basil (and cayenne and paprika if you choose). Put zucchini in the ziplock bag and shake until pieces are completed coated. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Arrange zucchini pieces on baking sheet so none are touching. Spray zucchini pieces with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip pieces over and bake for another 10 minutes. For the last 5 minutes or so, turn on broiler and broil until pieces start to lightly brown.

Serve with marinara sauce to dip.

Makes 2-3 servings. These would also make a great appetizer for dinner guests, just double or triple recipe.

Filipino Chicken Adobo


Chicken Adobo is one of those staple dishes you’ll find at any Filipino gathering, and one of my favorites growing up. It’s a versatile dish in that it is perfect to feed to a crowd, but also perfect for an easy weeknight meal. Chicken Adobo is a simple dish with really strong flavor, using just garlic, soy sauce and vinegar.

When I was a kid my mom would take me to Filipino potlucks, and it was common to find four or five adobo dishes on the table, but they all tasted different (mom would always comment that hers was the best). That’s the tricky thing about adobo…the soy sauce to vinegar ratio. Some people like it salty with less vinegar, and others—like me—prefer it on the spicy, vinegary side. After years of practice and experimenting with making adobo, I think I have finally mastered it to where even my mom’s Filipino friends say it’s the best they’ve ever tasted!

I use a Filipino spicy vinegar with chili peppers to add an extra kick, which can be found at Asian grocery stores.

I also add in dried lily flowers (sounds weird, I know, but really delicious!) in the last 10 minutes of cooking because that’s how my mom taught me to make it, but it will still taste great without it.

You can really “adobo” anything, including vegetables, but it’s traditionally made with pork or chicken. Adobo is a very forgiving dish, so if you find you don’t like the soy sauce to vinegar ratio in this recipe, you can add one or the other to adjust it to your taste. You can also add water to dilute the sauce to your taste if it’s too strong.

Try it, and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

2 tsp. canola oil

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup spiced vinegar

6 pieces chicken legs or thighs (bone in)

1 cup water

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, chopped

fresh cracked pepper

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup dried lily flowers (optional, and can be found only at an Asian grocery)

In a large pot, add canola oil and brown chicken pieces over medium-high heat. Turn heat down to medium and add onion; saute a few minutes. Add soy sauce and vinegar, water, garlic and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low so the sauce just simmers, cover and cook until meat is tender and falling off the bone. This can take up to an hour so if you’re short on time, you can throw all the ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and cook on low until you get home from work! If using lily flowers, add in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Add fresh cracked pepper, and serve chicken over rice with lots of adobo sauce! (To make the dish healthier, I served over red rice with steamed snow peas and baby bok choy). Serves 2-3.

Lamb Ragu with Pumpkin Zucchini


With half a human head-sized zucchini left after baking the zucchini bread, it’s time to make dinner. Tomorrow I’m starting my birthday morning with a 13-mile training run, so immediately pasta comes to mind. Except…I happen to have a tube of polenta in the pantry…which sounds a little more gourmet. I also happen to have Oregon-grown lamb from SuDan Farms in the freezer, and garden fresh tomatoes. I like to use local ingredients whenever I can…so it looks like my next meal is going to be pretty darn close to completely locally grown. Not to mention, super quick and easy! Lamb ragu with zucchini, it is! The following recipe makes 2-3 servings, but you can easily double the recipe. Lamb Ragu is also a very versatile recipe; you can add carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms or any other veggies you like. Instead of polenta, you can also serve over whole wheat pasta, quinoa or brown rice.

1/2 pound ground lamb

2 tsp. olive oil

3 roma tomatoes, chopped

1 shallot, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups zucchini, chopped (doesn’t have to be pumpkin zucchini)

1/2 tube prepared polenta

1 can tomato sauce

1/4 cup red wine

a few mint leaves (or basil if you prefer)

parsley to garnish

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

dash cayenne pepper

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

In a large pan, add one tsp. of olive oil and saute ground lamb until browned on medium-high heat. Add shallot and saute until soft. Add tomatoes until they begin to soften. Add zucchini and garlic, saute a few minutes. Add can of tomato sauce and red wine, bring to a boil. Turn down heat after a few minutes and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Add cayenne, salt, pepper and mint leaves.

Cut the half tube of polenta into 1-inch slices. Cook according to package directions, or saute on each side in 1 tsp. olive oil for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat.

Pour ragu over a few slices of polenta, and garnish with chopped parsley and parmesan if you like. Serve with a simple salad.