Thursday, December 30, 2010

Babaganouj



Should I be reluctant to admit that Zach and I spent the majority of last Sunday reading about medieval history and nibbling babaganouj?



Perhaps so, but it was such a glorious day that I'm going to freely and joyously confess. We did find other activities to occupy us as well, such as working out, playing in the snow, romping with the neighbor's dog, and otherwise savoring the rare and glorious winter weather... and the remainder of our time was spent blissfully reading, chatting, nibbling, discussing, and debating, all the while thoroughly enjoying being amateur philosophers with an abundant bowl of babaganouj...





Babaganouj

2 large eggplants, cut into 1" cubes
4 T olive oil, divided
3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
3/4 cup tahini
3 T lemon juice
1 (14.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup finely crumbled feta cheese

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
~ Scatter the eggplant cubes on a large baking sheet, coat them with 2 T of the olive oil, and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and roast on the upper 1/3 of the oven for 30 min, until very tender. Set them aside to cool a bit.
~ Puree the roasted eggplant cubes with all the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pita bread, crackers, or olive bread!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Kalamata Olive Bread



A true Christmas miracle occurred this year - for the first time in Atlanta in 128 years, it did snow on Christmas Day!



After several inches of snow had fallen - unheard of this far South - we were even able to build Zach's first snowman ever! :-)







The rest of Christmas was equally magical, complete with stockings and presents...



Penzey's spices, craft-beer encyclopedias, and video games for Zach... I'm not sure how I waited all these weeks until I could watch him open his presents! I was so excited - and so was he! :-) Zach has already created an incredible pork roast and a batch of baked tempeh with the Penzey's bicentenial rub!







Zach treated me to sci-fi novels, a Cooks Illustrated online subscription, and this gorgeous Cooks Illustrated soups and stews cookbook! I was overcome with joy!!!



Later that night, our multi-cultural Christmas dinner brought a smile to my face as we set the table and I realized that olive bread and babaganouj danced alongside the cornbread stuffing and collard greens... and I gave thanks for the joy of traditions, in all their glorious incarnations, from across the globe.





Kalamata Olive Bread

(Adapted from Country Living, December 2010)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp rosemary
4 eggs
1 cup 2% milk
6 T SmartBalance Light or butter, melted
1 cup chopped kalamata olives

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9X5" loaf pan with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, stir together the two flours, baking powder, salt, cumin, and rosemary.
~ In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and melted SmartBalance Light or butter.
~ Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
~ Fold in the olives.
~ Scoop the dough into the loaf pan. Bake for 45 min - until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the loaf from the pan, and cool the rest of the way on a wire rack. Serve with butter, hummus, babaganouj, or any of your other favorite spreads!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Collard Greens



Every year in Georgia the weather forecasters predict snow on Christmas day, and while one year they're inevitably likely to be correct the odds certainly aren't in their favor. Still, the chilly winter temperatures have most definitely arrived, which means it's greens season! Kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens - anything dark green, leafy, and hardy enough to flourish throughout our temperamental, rather warm to mildly cool to downright cold Southern winters.

And thus, on this chilly (but yet snow-less) Christmas Eve last night, as Zach and I gathered with our friend Pam and her two sons for a joyous holiday feast, two culinary families merging in the delight of cooking and sharing, collard greens flourished with abandon here - complex, flavorful, and festive green in the center of the table...





Christmas Collard Greens

3 slices uncured, nitrate-free bacon, finely chopped OR 3 slices turkey bacon, finely chopped, plus 1 T olive oil OR 2 T olive oil
2 sweet vidalia onions, chopped
2 lbs collard greens, thinly sliced
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 rounded T turbinado sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

~ In a large stock pot over medium heat, if you're using the bacon or turkey bacon, cook the bacon or turkey bacon until crisp (using 1 T olive oil for the turkey bacon, and no oil for the regular bacon).
~ Add the onion to the pot. If you're making a vegetarian version and not using bacon or turkey bacon, use 2 T olive oil to saute the onion. Either way, saute the onion until limp and translucent.
~ Stir in the collard greens until they just begin to wilt slightly.
~ Pour in the broth, and begin to stir, making sure to scrape up any browned bits of onion (and possibly bacon) from the bottom of the pot.
~ Stir in the apple cider vinegar, sugar, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.
~ Bring the broth to a simmer, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and continue to simmer until the collard greens are very tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and hot sauce if you fancy, and serve warm!





Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Parmesan Beer Biscuits



While driving home from work last Friday evening, I found myself reading rhubarb cobbler recipes on my cell phone - unwisely, perhaps, as texting while driving was recently outlawed in Georgia, and thus I would imagine using the internet on one's phone while driving is likely illegal as well, but as I was trapped in such a completely stationary traffic jam, utterly devoid of even the slightest suggestion of inertia, and I had recently discovered rhubarb (usually quite rare in the southern states) at our local grocery, my actions seemed both hazard free and worth the risk of a traffic ticket. It was thus that I came across the musings of Deb of Smitten Kitchen on her initial hesitations towards cobbler biscuit dough, which, I admit, as a Southerner caused me some initial distress. Cobblers, with light, fluffy, crumbly clouds of lightly sweet biscuit dough, are essential during a Southern summer, and pretty much mandatory for winter berries as well. If you live in Georgia, as we do, few things are as sublime as a Georgia peach cobbler during the height of peach season. In due course, though, I quickly forgave Deb - both because she wrote of her revised opinion regarding cobblers, going on to print a gorgeous, innovative cobbler dough recipe, and because Smitten Kitchen is such a glorious blog, and Deb's writing so witty and filled with her warm spirit that I could forgive her nearly anything, really, even if she said she didn't like cornbread (although it would hurt my heart a little).

By the time I arrived home, with all these thoughts of biscuits sweet and savory I felt the need to make a batch of some form of biscuits immediately - and so I did. Beer biscuits, not at all traditional, to be sure, but wonderful all the same, especially when filled with fragrant handfuls of freshly shaved Parmesan. Zach promptly vouched for the excellence of these biscuits by eating four. In one sitting. I couldn't have felt more proud.





Parmesan Beer Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 rounded T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 tsp basil
1 tsp za'atar
12 oz beer (I used Trader Joe's Simpler Times Lager)
2 oz water

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Gently stir together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, Parmesan, basil, and Za'atar.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the beer and water into the well. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
~ Using an ice cream scoop or similar sized spoon, dollop dough by generous spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes - until the tops of the biscuits are just lightly golden. Serve warm, with butter, SmartBalance Light, etc, of course! :-)


Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Cake



Upon arriving home in Atlanta, returning from Miami, I was greeted with below-freezing temperatures, below-zero wind chills, and snow flurries, all typically unheard of this early in the season. I was also reminded of my fellow vehicular travelers - dozens and dozens of cars rushing by at ferocious speeds, even at 7:30 on a Sunday evening. Even just a few days away, and I quickly became unaccustomed to Atlanta's legendary traffic.

Despite the rather jarring last few miles of my journey home, the moment of arriving home is always blissful, especially when one returns in time to celebrate one of our most special days of the year - Zach's Birthday! Despite the chill temperatures, the house was soon warm with the scents of baking... and there is something so magical about creating a red velvet cake.

Creaming the butter and sugar... (more accurately, creaming the SmartBalance Light and the Turbinado sugar, but that just doesn't have quite the same jaunty ring to it... :-)


Now some frothy, egg-y goodness...


Prepping a perfect little scoop of cocoa powder...


Abracadabra, the batter is red!


Love the contrast between the pristine scoops of flour and the scarlet color already in the mixing bowl...


More magic as the colors begin to blend...


Almost just the right shade of burgundy...


Ah, perfection.


Luxurious batter in the baking pan...


and just when you thought it wasn't possible, it becomes even more vibrantly purple-red after it's risen and baked!


Chocolate frosting, and a Z for my Zach, in his favorite color, of course... :-)


Happy Birthday to my love!


Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Cake

1 T lemon juice
3/4 cup vanilla almond milk
6 T SmartBalance Light or butter
1 rounded cup turbinado sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white
2 T red food coloring
2 T Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8x8" or 9" round baking pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour.
~ Pour the lemon juice into the almond milk, and set aside.
~ Beat together the SmartBalance Light and turbinado sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, and beat until well incorporated.
~ Whisk together the food coloring, cocoa powder, and vanilla to make a crumbly paste.
~ Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.
~ Stir the salt into the almond milk mixture, then add the almond milk alternately with the flour in 3 parts, stirring until the ingredients are well incorporated but not over mixed after each addition.
~ Stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda, and fold into the batter mixture.
~ Fold in the chocolate chips.
~ Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
~ Allow the cake to cool in the baking pan, then invert onto a serving plate to remove the cake. Prepare your frosting as described below. Using dental floss, slice the cake horizontally into 2 layers. Frost the cake between the two layers, on top, and on the sides, and decorate as you fancy!

Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
~ Melt the butter, and stir in the cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amounts of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla, and frost away!



Zach in his newly grown beard, relaxing on his birthday with an oatmeal stout...



Zach and I celebrating his birthday dinner at our favorite Greek restaurant... :-)
Happy Birthday, Darlin'! I love you!




Friday, December 10, 2010

Blogging from the Road!



Perched with laptop in hand at a roadside rest stop, I'm currently en route to a family reunion in Miami! Sadly, Zach is on call for his surgery rotation this weekend, so I'm traveling solo this trip, and dearly missing his humor and stellar sense of direction as I log miles down the coast. Still, though, I'm keeping him constantly updated via narrative text messages and taking an excess of photos which I know he'll view patiently upon my return. :-) As I journey, it occurred to me it might be fun to write a little post about meals on the road - improvised healthy eating from my backseat pantry and cafes along the way!

Yesterday's breakfast still ranks as one of the best meals of the road trip so far...



Perched on top of my frost-covered car (it's cold in Georgia!), multi-grain cheerios, dried blueberries, gogi berries, and probiotic cottage cheese!

Yesterday's lunch was unremarkable (leftover vegetable soup), but dinner last night... Oh my. A pita sandwich filled with hummus, hard-boiled egg, roasted eggplant, cucumbers, and tomato. Definitely my new favorite sandwich... On a road trip! Who knew? :-)



I also discovered it's rather challenging to photograph a pita sandwich, with all the fillings tucked subtly inside... (well, yes, it's challenging to photograph anything while driving, but especially a pita sandwich...) The photo above looks exclusively cucumber-tomato, and the following photo just looks a-jumble... which, I suppose, all the best sandwiches are, a glorious amalgamation of delicious flavors joined in one casual tumble with some really good bread...



Breakfast this morning: warm oats topped with Whole Foods' cinnamon-wheat cereal...



A lovely energizing snack for the afternoon...



Olives, carrots, baby greens, and avocado!

And now, I'm in South Florida already! Sending warm Florida sunshine to you all - and hoping to pack some in my suitcase for my return! :-)