Indian Spiced Cauliflower Soup

vegan indian vegetable soup

Almost every year, I succumb to a moment of temporary insanity on December 31st.  I make all sorts of crazy resolutions for the next year. And in the first few weeks of January, those New Year’s resolutions generally hold firm.  I go to the gym, forgo the ice cream, munch on raw broccoli and drag my butt to Pilates class.  But by the third week of the new year, all my good intentions have been waylaid by stressful late nights at the office, snowy winter mornings, movie theatre popcorn with extra butter, and cozy cuddling on the couch.

Let’s be honest.  Am I really going to keep my vow to make it to the gym every single day? Nope. Not likely. And give up ice cream?  Why did I ever want to give up ice cream?  Seriously… what was I thinking?

So I’m trying to bring a little bit of balance to my January.  Healthy, wonderful, delicious food – like this soup.  And a bit of ice cream every now and then too.

This soup is amazingly fragrant, easy to make, and perfect for a cold night.  It actually gets even better the next day, so makes for tasty leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m not usually an advocate of frozen veggies, but in the case of soup, I’ve found that frozen is usually as good as fresh.  So feel free to use a bag of frozen cauliflower in place of the fresh in this recipe.

I really like good, grainy croutons on top of this soup, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.  But a handful of toasted sunflower seeds would be lovely too. And adding a sprinkle of finely chopped hard-boiled egg or a big dollop of Greek yogurt would make this soup into a hearty meal (but would, of course, make the dish no longer vegan). Basically, anything goes. Use your imagination, and enjoy!

vegan curried cauliflower soup

Indian Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4

For the soup:

1 pound fresh cauliflower (about 1 head) chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the toppings:

4 slices whole grain bread, cut in cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or any other fresh herbs you have in the fridge)

Steam the cauliflower until very tender.  Meanwhile, in a large pot, saute the onion in oil over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the ginger, garlic and spices and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and broth to the pot.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes.  Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor.  I like it to retain a bit  of texture, but you can puree until completely smooth if you prefer. Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the almond milk.  Heat until fully warmed through.

Meanwhile, toss the bread cubes with oil, salt and pepper.  Toast under the broiler until golden brown.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls and top with croutons and cilantro.

Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 7:27 pm  Comments (9)  
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Whole Wheat Oat Soda Bread

Irish soda bread

Remember,  back a few months ago, when I made that lovely list of recipes I wanted to try?  Well, I promise that I haven’t forgotten.  That is not quite true, actually.  I have forgotten – over, and over, forgotten to take pictures!  This Sriracha Popcorn was gone before I had a chance to snap a photo. And this Apple Butter made a perfect hostess gift. 

But with Saint Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I was not going to miss the opportunity to show you this hearty oat soda bread.  I did have to bar Jeff from entering the kitchen and slap back my own hand as my itchy fingers attempted to tear off just a bite of crust.  In the end, though, my camera prevailed. 

I made a handful of changes to this original recipe from 101 Cookbooks, making a lovely crusty bread deeper and darker.  This is not a wimpy bread.  It is simple, but it is intense, flavorful, and dense.  If you like your bread fluffy and light, this may not be the loaf for you.  But if you like homemade bread that bakes up in under an hour, well, you can’t go wrong here.  I adore soda bread because it is beyond easy to prepare.  No kneading, no waiting, no fussing.  And it still makes the house smell like fresh bread.

This bread is all crust.  Well, not all crust, but enough to satisfy both me and Jeff.  We’re the kind of people who fight over the end of a baguette.  The seeds here make for a crunchy crust and the free-form round shape of this loaf leaves more of the bread exposed, allowing for the maximum exterior to interior ratio. I like this bread slathered with a good bit of cream cheese.  A generous amount of salted butter is fantastic too – or you could be extra decadent and go for both butter and cream cheese, as Jeff does. And while we’re talking about decadence… this bread is wonderful toasted and topped with nutella. All thoughts of gooey chocolatey nutella aside, the bread itself is actually quite healthy. And if you wanted to keep it that way, you could go for a lovely sandwich with some roasted turkey and fresh avocado.

But I actually think this bread goes best with a big bowl of rich and meaty stew.  The hearty crumb soaks up all the juices and holds up extremely well to dunking.  Next weekend I’ll be making a big batch of Irish lamb stew and another loaf of this oat soda bread and toasting with a pint of Guinness!

fresh homemade bread

 Oat Soda Bread

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups rolled oats

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 3/4 cups fat-free buttermilk (or 1 3/4 cups milk and 2 tablespoons vinegar) plus extra for brushing

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse the oats until they form a coarse flour.  Stir together the oat flour, whole wheat flour, and all-purpose flour in a large bowl.  Stir in the baking soda and salt.  Stir the buttermilk into the flour mixture (if using milk and vinegar, stir the vinegar into the milk and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before stirring into the dough). The mixture should be somewhat sticky, but do your best to gather it into a ball.  Turn the dough out on a floured baking sheet and press into a thick round disk.  Score the top of the loaf with an X.  Brush the dough with a few tablespoons of buttermilk and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.  Move the bread to the top rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes more to crisp the crust. Wonderful warm with plenty of good quality butter!

Published in: on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm  Comments (12)  
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Not Just For Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Feta Tart

french pumpkin tart with feta cheese

February is my least favorite month for cooking.  Oh sure, there is plenty of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, and little else to do besides putter in the kitchen all month.  Even so, every year, right about the middle of February, I lose steam.  With minimal produce for inspiration, and the holiday festivities a faded memory, I cave to take-out and frozen pizza more often than I’d like to admit. 

Do the winter blues hit you too?

As I sit here wishing for spring, planning my vegetable garden and dreaming of tiny strawberries, I’m attempting to jump start spring with a round of spring cleaning.  Today we tackled the basement and the kitchen cabinets.  And do you know what I found lurking at the back of my pantry?  A can of pumpkin.  It may not be a farmer’s market basket, but this vitamin-filled little can really jazzed up our quick winter supper.

You already know about my love of pumpkin.  Layered in a yogurt parfait, swirled into oatmeal, stuffed in ravioli, or baked in a cupcake, you really can’t go wrong with canned pumpkin. The slightly sweet earthy pumpkin works wonderfully with the salty tang of the feta and the nutty flavor of the swiss chard in this simple tart. A sliver of this tart would probably be a very nice appetizer for a fancy dinner party, but a big wedge also works well as a main course served with a big arugula salad dressed in good olive oil and lemon juice.

I like this Easy Olive Oil Tart Crust recipe from the wonderful Chocolate & Zucchini but you can use any tart crust you like.  You could even use refrigerated pie crust dough here and I’m sure the tart would still turn out wonderfully.  I do think that a good tart pan, with a removable bottom, is pretty important, though.  Before investing in a tart pan (really, not a very big expenditure) I made many mediocre tarts in a pie plate.  The too-deep, flat sides of the pie dish result in a soggy crust, and an unpleasant filling-to-crust ratio.  If you don’t have a tart pan, you might be better off making a rustic crostada – just roll out the dough on a baking sheet, spread the filling in the middle, leaving a two-inch border.  Fold the crust edges into the middle, brush with a bit of oil, and bake until golden.

Pumpkin Feta Tart

Serves 6 (as a main course)

1 recipe of tart crust dough 

3/4 cup thinly sliced onion

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups thinly sliced fresh swiss chard

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups canned pumpkin

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Carefully press the crust into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.  Saute the onion in oil over medium heat until soft and just beginning to darken. Add in the swiss chard and cook 1 minute more. Season liberally with salt and pepper and stir in the rosemary.  Remove from the heat.  In a medium sized bowl, stir the pumpkin and the eggs well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove the crust from the refrigerator.  Spread the pumpkin mixture evenly in the crust.  Sprinkle the swiss chard mixture evenly over the pumpkin mixture and top with the feta cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Published in: on February 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm  Comments (12)  
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Orange Quinoa Pancakes

whole grain pancakes breakfast

Sometimes, when it snows, I crave warm, comforting winter foods.  Spicy soups, hearty stews, cheesy quiches, and yes, syrup-drenched pancakes.  Other times, mid-snow storm, I’ll find myself with a hankering for summer sweetness.  I’ve been known to bake up a batch of blueberry corn muffins in a blizzard, and always keep a pint of strawberry ice cream in the freezer for snow days.

I spent the last week in Florida for work, and came home yesterday to this winter wonderland. Sweet, juicy oranges and pretty pink grapefruits were everywhere in Florida. So, of course, I stuffed a few in my suitcase. I’m glad I did because as soon as I got home, I was craving the sunny, bright orange flavor. But, as expected, I was also in the mood for a hearty winter breakfast.

These orange quinoa pancakes fit the bill. They are both sweet and nutty. The hearty texture fills my belly and fortifies me against January weather, while the light orange flavor gives me hope that summer is out there, months away, but out there – eventually. Full of protein, fiber and vitamin C, these delicious little pancakes provide enough power to propel me through shovelling the driveway.  (OK, actually, Jeff does most of the shovelling around here, but after a few pancakes, I certainly could get out there and clear the sidewalks!)

I love quinoa, and often cook up a big batch all at once.  Leftover cooked quinoa is great in pancakes, of course, but also adds bulk to salads, makes for a tasty omelet filling, and is delicious as a breakfast porridge when heated with a bit of milk and honey. You could certainly play around with the flavors here, and other fruits as well.  Adding some banana slices and a handful of raisins to the pancake batter would be yummy. But for today, I’m all about the Florida citrus! These pancakes don’t have much sugar, but if your oranges are good and sweet, just a tiny drizzle of honey is all it should take. 

protein breakfast fruit vegetarian

Orange Quinoa Pancakes

Serves 4

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (plus extra for the pan)

1 egg

1 cup cooked quinoa

2 large oranges

2 tablespoons honey

Sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon.  In another bowl, wisk together the milk, oil and egg.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, and stir in the quinoa.  Zest both of the oranges, avoiding the white pith, and add the orange zest to the batter.  Set the batter aside and let it rest for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, peel the remaining pith from the oranges, and cut the orange segments between the membranes, into little slices. Drizzle the orange segments with the honey and set aside. Heat a greased nonstick skillet (or griddle) over medium heat.  Spoon a scant 1/4 cup of batter per pancake into the heated greased pan and cook until the edges firm.  Flip and cook another two minutes until golden. Continue to cook the pancakes in batches.  Serve warm topped with the orange and honey mixture.

Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm  Comments (13)  
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Cranberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

I believe in dessert.

I believe in dessert every day.  Which is probably why I do not believe in bikinis! 

But in all seriousness, a tiny taste of sweetness, a little bite of pleasure each and every day is my definition of good living.  As I mentioned last week, the folks at Fage (makers of wonderfully creamy Greek yogurt) have asked a handful of bloggers to weigh in on the concept of good living, and to my mind, what it really boils down to is one simple word: dessert.

Dessert is about indulgence, about treating yourself well, about a moment of pure pleasure.  It doesn’t have to be extravagant – a square of dark chocolate, a bowl of sweet berries – but it does have to be savored.  Without guilt.  Gobbling up a cupcake and spending the whole night worried about the calories is not part of living the good life. All bikini jokes aside, I think good living is about finding a balance that includes dessert. 

When I was in high school, I spent a summer in France, living with a family in Lyon.  My French ‘Mom’ made all my meals. My lovely picnic lunch always included a tiny sweet treat.  And our fresh and flavorful multi-course dinners always ended with an indulgent bite of something lovely.  The pleasure of dessert defined that summer.  And yet, I lost 10 pounds.  Go figure.  

Fifteen years later, I still haven’t figured out how to eat like a French woman.  But lightened up treats help me to keep balance and live the good life.  Frozen yogurt is, of course, a constant favorite. Lately I have been obsessing over creamy, tart versions, and am loving making my own. This cranberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt is extra tart thanks to the seasonal fruit, and lusciously creamy when made with Fage Total.

This frozen yogurt would be a wonderful addition to a Thanksgiving spread.  But personally, I like to savor a scoop while sitting on my sunny porch all on my own. The sweet, tart flavor of the yogurt plays off the rich bits of chocolate.  And the color is beyond pretty!  But the best part of this recipe is how quick and easy it is to make.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Frozen yogurt

Serves 4-6

12 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons strawberry jam

18 ounces Fage 2% plain Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a saucepan, cook the cranberries and sugar over medium low heat, stirring often, about 10 minutes, until the berries all burst.  Press the cranberry mixture through a strainer (this will take some effort as it will be thick and jammy, just be patient and press with the back of a wooden spoon).  Discard the solids in the strainer and cover and refrigerate the strained sauce. Once chilled, stir together the cranberry mixture, maple syrup, jam, and yogurt until well combined.  Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers directions, adding the the chocolate chips towards the end of the process.  This yogurt is at its best and most creamy when eaten right away, but can be stored in a sealed container in the freezer for a few days if need be. 

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here:

Published in: on November 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm  Comments (5)  
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Good Living for Breakfast: Pear, Yogurt, and Feta Frittata

greek yogurt frittata

On day two without electricity here in chilly Connecticut, I began to dream of the sea.  On day three, I saw sparkling azure water and white Cycladic houses perched on craggy cliffs. By day four I was imagining myself relaxing in the sunshine on a balcony high above the Mediterranean, sipping coffee from a dainty espresso cup and munching honey-drenched loukamades. By the time the power came back,  five days after our freak fall snowstorm, the Greek Isles were calling my name. 

Enjoying a leisurely breakfast on that hilltop hotel balcony, with the sea breeze in my hair and the scent of Greek coffee filling my nose – now that would be good living!  And with impeccable timing, the folks at Fage Total (makers of luscious, creamy, healthy Greek yogurt), through the magic of Foodbuzz, have asked a handful of bloggers to weigh in on the concept of “good living.”

It would be easy to live the good life on a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach.   But here’s the thing: I’m not in Greece.  And neither are you (well, most of you).  We’re here, in our own real world lives, where we don’t eat breakfast off cobalt porcelain while lounging on hotel balconies. If you’re like me you make a mad dash to work and scarf down breakfast at your desk.  Or maybe you devour a granola bar while driving carpool, or grab a donut from the drive-through.  Despite our busy schedules, good living shouldn’t be reserved for vacation.

I’m on a mission to make good living happen every day.  And I’m starting with breakfast.

fage total frittata recipe

Turning my desk into a cafe in Mykonos may not be realistic, but I can certainly do better than a handful of cereal on a napkin and a paper cup of coffee.  To me, good living is about enjoying the details.  It starts with a good coffee mug.  Mine is pink, heavy and just the right size.  Filled with hot coffee, its rounded shape keeps my cupped hands warm as I sip.  Real utensils, too, are worth the effort.  Although they have to be washed, they make a meal feel like a meal, something to be savored not simply consumed.  I have a stash of spoons, forks and cute little plates in my desk drawer that help me to enjoy the moment of my breakfast, however short.

Someday I might actually make time to eat breakfast at home, but for now, I have an arsenal of quick portable breakfasts that still make me feel pampered. It’s no surprise that most of my favorite quick breakfasts include Greek yogurt – it’s creamy, decadent, and chock full of protein.    The possibilities are endless, but here are just a few of my favorite on-the-go or at work breakfasts:

pumpkin greek yogurt

-My Pumpkin Yogurt Breakfast Parfait 

-Fage 0%, fig jam, and toasted pine nuts layered in a portable container and sprinkled with cinnamon

-An egg, scrambled with a bit of chipotle hot sauce, rolled in a tortilla with canned black beans, a spoonful of Fage 0%, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro if you’re feeling fancy

-Fage 0%, a handful of dried cherries, and a few chocolate chips stirred into (instant or reheated) plain oatmeal

-Toasted ciabatta topped with Fage 2%, orange zest and strawberry jam

-A PB+J parfait: slightly warmed smooth peanut butter stirred into Fage 2%, layered with strawberry jam and sliced banana (and maybe even crumbled crisp bacon if you’re in an Elvis kind of mood!)

-A smoothie made of dried dates microwaved in a cup of orange juice, then whirred in a blender with Fage 2%, ice and honey

-This Pear, Yogurt and Feta Frittata!

This frittata is my latest breakfast obsession. It’s quick to make, so if you can spare a few minutes of sleep, it would be a great candidate for a leisurely at-home weekday breakfast.  But it reheats wonderfully, in either a toaster oven or a microwave, so it’s a perfect take-to-work option, assuming you have kitchen access on the job.  But even if you don’t, this frittata is delicious cold or at room temperature.  And if you’re really on the go, it is incredibly fantastic stuffed into a pita with an extra dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and even a handful of toasted nuts if you like.

fage total

I’ve always been a big fan of the sweet and salty combination.  The salty feta, tangy yogurt, sweet pear and earthy honey make for a fantastic taste experience.  What is really special here, though, is the texture of the eggs.  Adding yogurt to the egg mixture makes this frittata taste anything but healthy.  But it is healthy, and to my mind, good living requires nutrition as well as indulgence.  This frittata fits the bill; it tastes wonderful, looks beautiful, feels decadent and powers me through my morning.  And it works great for lunch or dinner too.  I should know since I just ate it for three meals in a row!

Pear, Yogurt and Feta Frittata

Serves 3-4

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 eggs

3 egg whites

6 ounces fat free Greek yogurt, divided

pinch of salt

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 small pear, thinly sliced

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a nonstick oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Wisk the eggs, egg whites, and half of the yogurt together until smooth and no lumps remain (this can take a few minutes).  Stir in the salt and pepper. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and swirl slowly to make sure it settles evenly in the pan.  Quickly arrange the pear slices on top and then sprinkle with the cheese.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the egg is set and the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven and slide the frittata onto a serving plate (it should slide out easily). Drizzle the frittata with honey and serve with a dollop of the remaining yogurt. Delicious hot or cold!

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here:

Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (16)  
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Healthy Crispy Chicken Tenders – Really!

healthy chicken tenders

Until I met Jeff, I probably hadn’t eaten chicken tenders since middle school.  Between burgeoning food snobbery, a period of vegetarianism, and an increasing awareness of the evils of all things fried, I spent my teen and young adult years choosing salads and ceviche instead of grilled cheese and corn dogs.

But Jeff adores kid food and has no qualms about ordering off the children’s menu. And let’s be honest… who doesn’t love grilled cheese? And corn dogs? And especially crispy chicken tenders.  I can devour a mountain of deep-fried crunchy, juice strips of chicken, especially with a side of creamy ranch dip.  Of course, I don’t usually allow myself to eat a mountain of them… generally just a bite or two stolen from Jeff’s plate.

I’d tried before to faux-fry chicken tenders in the oven, but never had much success.  Jeff and I were looking for that crisp crunch on all sides, and juicy, flavorful chicken. But my breaded and baked failures were soggy on the bottom, and when cooked until crisp on top, inevitably dried out.  They lacked juicy flavor and were a poor stand in for deep-fried goodness.

But when I saw this post on Kristy Rimkus’ wonderful healthy recipe site a while back, a little ray of faux-fried chicken tender hope entered my kitchen!  I’ve tweaked Kristy’s recipe, but the key point is cooking the chicken on a cooling rack, letting the air circulate and crisp up all sides on the tenders.

Arranging the tenders on a greased cooling rack over  a baking sheet results in much crispier chicken.  So does using panko instead of regular breadcrumbs. There is no need to cook the tenders until the panko browns completely, just a tinge of gold will do.  They will be crisp without overcooking, and the chicken will remain nice and juicy!  The trick is to slice the chicken into one-inch strips, so that they cook quickly and evenly.  And, for maximum flavor, I like to dip the chicken in honey mustard instead of an egg wash.  As an added bonus, swapping mustard for egg cuts calories too.

Serve these up with some oven fries and a side of reduced-fat ranch dressing and you’ll be in faux-fried heaven!

weight wtahcres chicken

Crispy Chicken Tenders

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast cutlet

1/2 cup honey mustard

2 cups panko crumbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange a greased cooling rack over a baking tray. Slice the chicken into one-inch strips. Spread the honey mustard in a shallow dish.  In another dish, mix the panko, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Dip the chicken pieces in mustard, wiping of the excess, and then dredge in panko.  Arrange the chicken on the cooling rack.  Spray with cooking spray.  Bake 20-25 minutes until crisp and cooked through.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm  Comments (12)  
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Pumpkin Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

breakfast parfait

Labor Day is behind us, which means no more white pants, but lots more pumpkin goodness. 

I love this time of year.  Sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes are still abundant, but the homey scents of winter squash and cinnamon fill the kitchen.  And let’s be honest, white pants are totally still in the wardrobe! But so are lightweight sweaters and corduroy pants. 

I’m not quite ready to dive into a from-scratch pumpkin pie, but breakfast is a great way to ease into the season.  Pumpkin also happens to be super healthy, although most pumpkin-laced treats are filled with enough lovely butter and sugar to mask all those vitamins and fiber. But this not-too-sweet breakfast is decadent and beautiful despite the lack of butter.  And the best part is that is takes just five minutes – yes, five minutes!  Which means that even weekday breakfasts can be exciting, healthy, and pumpkin-filled.

Pumpkin Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

Serves 2

12 oz plain low fat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of allspice

2 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts, plus extra for garnish

4 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries

In a small bowl, combine half of the yogurt with the pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice and  honey. Spoon a dollop of pumpkin yogurt into each of two glasses.  Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and dried cranberries.  Top with the plain yogurt, then the remaining walnuts and cranberries, and the remaining pumpkin yogurt. Garnish with additional walnuts if desired.

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 6:29 pm  Comments (24)  
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Almond Muesli

bircher musali

I’d love to tell you all that I sit out on my deck each morning, savoring a steamy cup of coffee with frothed milk, leisurely reading the newspaper, thoroughly enjoying a three-course homemade breakfast on good china. But the truth is, I usually run out of the house with my hair still wet and scarf down breakfast at my desk. 

Which is why I have a bit of an obsession with hotel breakfasts; they are a calm, pleasurable, and relaxing way to start the day. And I especially love European hotel breakfasts.  A basket of flakey pastries, a big pot of coffee, and a buffet of flavorful cheeses, fresh fruits, and, best of all, bircher muesli. 

The Intercontinental in Bucharest, Romania makes a lovely, creamy bircher muesli.  So does a tiny Bed and Breakfast outside Bansko, Bulgaria.  A little Inn near Toulouse, France serves a version so wonderfully rich that no amount of tiny, fresh, sweet strawberries can turn these cream-laden oats into a healthy breakfast.

I’ve been experimenting for years, trying to recreate my favorite European breakfast experiences.  The very best traditional bircher muesli is usually made with oats, nuts, dried fruit, full-fat yogurt and heavy cream.  Perhaps it’s a difference in the yogurt, or my discomfort using more than a splash of cream in what should be a healthy breakfast, but I have never quite mastered bircher muesli.

I’ve tried combinations of yogurt, milk, apple juice, soy milk, and cream, some better than others.  In fact, soy milk was a surprising front runner. And then last weekend, I was wandering around Whole Foods with my friend Laran, who happens to be allergic to soy.  We were chatting about the merits of a portable breakfast when it occurred to me that, instead of soy milk,  almond milk might just be the thing to elevate my muesli. And I was right. All the creaminess, and no off flavor.  It may not be quite the traditional European bircher musali, but it is certainly a delicious, healthy, portable breakfast. 

I love that I can make this the night before, and then grab it out of the fridge as I start my mad dash to work in the morning. It would, of course, be just as tasty were I to spoon it into a pretty glass and savor each bite while admiring my sunny flower beds.

Almond Muesli

Serves 2

1 cup rolled oats

1 tablespoons oat bran

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup  dried fruit (such as chopped apricot, cherries, raisins, etc)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

2 cups fresh mixed berries

Stir all ingredients except the berries together in a bowl until well combined.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  To serve, stir well and then spoon the muesli into bowls and top with plenty of berries.  This recipe doubles easily, and keeps well in the fridge for up to three days, but be sure to wait until the last minute to add the berries.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments (10)  
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Not Quite Mom’s: Creamy Chipotle Cauliflower

roasted cauliflower with pepitas

When I was a kid my mom would make a dish she called ‘Hungarian Cauliflower’.  Steamed cauliflower, topped with strained yogurt and toasty bread crumbs with a sprinkle of bright paprika. I haven’t had it in years.  In fact, I hadn’t even thought about it in years – until a few weeks ago.

My mom’s Hungarian Cauliflower was earthy, crunchy, creamy and delicious – a weeknight favorite. It’s funny how old favorites fizzle, though, when you move out on your own.  I can’t tell you why I’ve never made Hungarian Cauliflower, or the famous family ‘Albergetti’ (something akin to homemade Spaghetti-O’s) or even my mom’s potato-chip topped chicken noodle casserole.

But when I stepped into Michael Schlow’s new Boston restaurant, Tico, I can assure you that Hungarian Cauliflower was the last thing on my mind.  I was looking for spicy two textured beef tacos, and sweet tres leches ice cream … not a blast from the past.

Then a small plate of creamy, smoky cauliflower florets arrived on our table, and I was transported. The cauliflower was roasted, not steamed, and the creamy sauce laced with chipotle. But the food memory was there nonetheless.  Tico’s cauliflower was topped with a bit of crumbly, salty Mexican cheese, and crunchy fava beans – not exactly bread crumbs, but quite a flavor combination.

After that meal at Tico, I bought a head of cauliflower thinking I’d make Mom’s Hungarian Cauliflower. Of course, as soon as I got home I realized that we had no bread crumbs – not even a lonely crust of bread from which to make bread crumbs.  Typical of my haphazard shopping. But then again, most of my recipe innovations arise from missing ingredients.

So I roasted the cauliflower and tossed it with chipotle-laced yogurt, sprinkled it with a bit of salty cheese, and a few pumpkin seeds from the back of the cupboard. And I have to say, it turned out quite wonderfully. This recipe has all the nutty flavor and smokey punch of the dish at Tico and all of the homey creaminess of my mom’s cauliflower. And even better… this version is seriously healthy.

Creamy Chipotle Cauliflower

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 medium head cauliflower

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper

3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon bottled chipotle hot sauce

1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets.  Toss the cauliflower with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast about 25 minutes until browned on the edges. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, mix together the yogurt and the hot sauce. Arrange the pepitas on a baking sheet and roast in the 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Toss the cauliflower with the yogurt mixture and top with the cheese and pepitas.  Serve warm.

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm  Comments (15)  
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