Healthier Granola

The main ingredients

We’ve been on a granola kick in the home of the Spice Raconteurs. It is crunchy, delicious, high in fiber, high in (mostly) good fats and is a nice alternative to boring ole’ cereal or oatmeal in the morning.

I looked at a lot of recipes and finally zeroed in on this tasty recipe that is just asking for you to add your own touch. This version is pretty low on oil/butter and sugar/honey compared to a lot of recipes out there. I don’t miss it, but I don’t like things that are super sweet. If you do, you can, of course add more. Continue reading

Quinoa & Black-eyed Pea Summer Salad

Black-eyed peas & Qunoa Salad
This is one of those lovely salads that sings of summer and summons the vision of (ideally) sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is lovely with herby oregano, acidic lemon and red wine vinegar, salty olives and feta, matched with earthy quinoa and cool cucumber. It is a delcious mix and can be eaten all on it’s own as a vegetarian main dish (for about 2 people) or as a side dish (for about 4). I’d recommend a simply grilled fish to go along with this. If you want to get fancy: fresh fruit, mint and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
This recipe comes from the August 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine and can be found here. I changed the orzo to quinoa for added fiber and protein (and general whole-grain goodness). The original recipe also recommends constructing the salad in two layers so I’ll describe the recipe in that way as well if you want to do something similar to what I did in the photo and make it all pretty. If you just want to get on with the eating, you can most certainly just mix everything together all at once. 
(*Note that you do have to make the quinoa ahead of time, so get that started before anything else if you don’t have any lying around as left-overs).
Black-eyed Pea Layer (layer 1):
  • 1 15 ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (other salad beans like kindney and garbanzos can work well here too) 
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (~1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 Mix everything together and let sit at room temperature about 15 minutes while you chop everything and mix up the other layer. 

Quinoa Layer (layer 2):

  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all this together. 

 Assemble the salad: 

  • 2-3 cups of romaine or other salad green
  • 1/4- 1/2 lb of feta, crumbled (1/2 – 1 cup)
  • 4-8 pepperocini
  1. Layer some of the black-eyed pea mixture in a glass bowl or jar. 
  2. Layer some of the quinoa mixture on top.
  3. Top with a good handful of romaine leaves or other delicate salad green, and some feta crumbles.
  4. Dig in.

Chana (Gobi) Masala

IMG_2350

Indian food confounds me. There are so many spices that,  I don’t really have much experience with. With that in mind, I set out to find a good recipe with which to make Chana (Chickpea) Masala.

I tried one from Nirvana’s Kitchen which was pretty tasty. It has you flavor the cooking oil with whole cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks before you start cooking which lends a subtle, but tasty Indian flavor to the dish. The very next week, Smitten Kitchen posted a chana masala recipe, and was quickly tested over at Serious Eats. Those versions both hail from Madhur Jaffrey‘s Indian cookbooks and so are not terribly different.

Today I did my best to put together a recipe that took the best parts from both, added some cauliflower for a little texture and and came up with something pretty good, but I think someday it could be better.

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil or ghee
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger (I used dried, but think fresh would be MUCH better)
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (taste to make sure your hot pepper isn’t too much first_
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-oz. can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
1 25 oz. can of chickpeas, drained (or 4 cups cooked chickpeas)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon (juiced) (or use amchoor powder which I don’t have)

What to do:

  1. Put the oil in a large pan (I used our wok pan) and heat on low heat. And add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom seeds and stir around. Let steep for a few minutes and then remove the spices
  2. Add the onions, cauliflower and jalapeno to the oil and cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent. 
  3. Add the spices to the oil and stir. Cook about a minute and then add the tomatoes and the chickpeas. 
  4. Cook about 15 minutes until the flavors meld. If you want to, put a dollop of plain yogurt into the mix (about 1/2 cup) while the flavors are developing for a slightly creamier consistency
  5. Serve with rice or whole wheat naan.

Improved sesame and cilantro noodle salad

It is possible that you remember the Sesame and cilantro noodle salad that we posted last summer from Simply Recipes. Well, this is an improvement in health, taste and beauty.

Asian noodle salad

(Damn, I love my Canon f/1.4 50mm)

This recipe is nearly the same, but I’ve added grated carrots and sugar-snap peas. I used whole-wheat vermicelli for some added fiber and I omitted the tofu this time, because we served it with a piece of salmon marinated in a sesame honey glaze*.

What You Need:  
Honey Soy Dressing
1/8 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper (you can use more for a little extra heat)
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce

Salad
8 ounces of whole-wheat vermicelli (i.e. angel hair pasta)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (more is fine)
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 bunch thinly sliced green onions
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and then shredded (try to get long strips for fun!)
1/2 lb. sugar-snap peas, washed and sliced on a diagonal
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

What you do:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions in salted water. Drain.
  2. Prepare the dressing by combining (in a large microwave safe bowl) the oils and red pepper and nuking for 2 minutes. After the oil is heated, and the chili has been infused (yum!), add the honey and soy sauce. Mix well.
  3. Add the pasta to the oil mixture and chill for several hours.
  4. After you’ve mixed the pasta, chop the rest of the ingredients for easy assembly later.
  5. When ready to eat, combine the noodles with the veggies and top each serving with peanuts and sesame seeds.

 * The marinade included:
1 Tablespoon sesame oil, 1-2 Tablespoons soy sauce, 1 dollop of honey and a couple pinches of cilantro. Add these to a gallon-sized Ziploc and mix. Then add the fish (we used salmon) and marinate for about an hour or so. Then grill it. Yum.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Lentils

This soup, from 101 Cookbooks, is delightful. It tastes a little like spring, but provides warm comfort if you happen to be sitting through another spring rainstorm or perhaps, as we had last week, a freak snow storm with the biggest flakes you’ve ever seen.

The coconut flavor is really mild so if you don’t usually like coconut, you should still try it. The curry flavor is luscious and the raisins plump up to add just a little bit of sweetness when you want it. (If you hate raisins, you could try apricots or prunes, chopped.) And, finally, the green onions provide a springy current throughout this thick, hearty soup. This recipe is also really healthy, full of fiber, vegetarian, and gorgeous. As you can see, I served it with forbidden rice which just so happens to be a beautiful dark purple color because I liked how it looked, of course.

What you need:

1 cup  yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
7 cups water
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used the Madras curry powder from Savory Spice Shop)
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins (I used the dark kind and it didn’t seem to matter)
1/3  cup tomato paste (this is about half of a tiny can)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (light is fine)
2 teaspoons sea salt
one small handful cilantro, chopped
cooked brown or forbidden rice, for serving (optional)

What to do: 

  1. Rinse the split peas and lentils until they no longer make the water murky. Place in in a large soup pot, cover with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, then add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Gover and simmer about 30 minutes. 
  2. As the peas cook, toast the curry powder in a small dry skillet over low heat. Watch it to make sure you don’t burn it. When you’re done, find a skillet and put it over medium heat. Add half of the green onions, the rest of the ginger and the raisins. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and saute for another 2 minutes. 
  3. Add the curry powder to the tomato mixture and mix, then add all of that to the peas and lentils along with the coconut milk and salt. 
  4. Simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered. The soup should thicken, but you can cook it longer to make it thicker. 
  5. Serve  the soup over or alongside a scoop of rice. Top with cilantro and the rest of the green onions and enjoy!
Coconut Curry Red Lentils

Summer Grape-Tomato Bruschetta

I went to see Julie and Julia the other day. I liked it. I was generally enamored with the Julia parts and apathetic about the Julia parts, but over all the equation turned out favorable.

At the beginning of the movie Julie makes some tasty looking bruschetta and since then I’ve been craving a fresh tomato bruschetta on crunchy French bread. As luck would have it, Whole Foods had some very tasty looking and multi-colored grape tomatoes on sale a few days ago and so for lunch, I made me some bruschetta. And god damn, it was good.

This makes enough for about 4 pieces of bruschetta. I ate all of them for lunch, but if this was an appetizer this could serve 4.

What you need:

  • 1.5 cups grape tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 10 leaves of fresh basil, julienned (dry basil just won’t cut it, sorry)
  • Sprinkle of sea salt (to taste)
  • About 5 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Ttablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 slices of crusty french bread (I used the “Daily Batard” from Whole Foods)

What you do:

  1. Drizzle olive oil on the bread slices, then place in a toaster oven until slightly golden.
  2. Meanwhile, put all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix.
  3. When the bread it toasted, pile the tomato mixture onto the toasts *
  4. Enjoy! **


* If you’re feeling cheesy, you could spread a thin layer of goat cheese on the toasts before adding the tomatoes.

**This would be terribly enjoyable, indeed, with a nice red wine.

Sesame and Cilantro Noodle Salad with Tofu

This recipe is adapted from the very similar one on Simply Recipes. I didn’t make it up, I just changed it a bit, but it is very tasty! It was just right for a summer evening– cool and can be prepped far ahead of time. I changed the recipe on Simply Recipes by adding sauteed tofu and decreasing the amount of oil. I think that it would also be good with a bit of lime juice and some bias cut snow peas or perhaps grated carrots.

What You Need:

Honey Soy Dressing
1/8 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper (I used Aleppo, and probably a full 1/2 Tablespoon)
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce

Salad
1 package baked tofu (I used the “Thai” flavor)
8 ounces of vermicelli (i.e. angel hair pasta)
Salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (more is fine)
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 bunch thinly sliced green onions
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

What you do:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions in salted water. Drain.
  2. Prepare the dressing by combining (in a large microwave safe bowl) the oils and red pepper and nuking for 2 minutes. After the oil is heated, and the chili has been infused (yum!), add the honey and soy sauce. Mix well.
  3. Add the pasta to the oil mixture and chill for several hours.
  4. After you’ve mixed the pasta, prep the rest of the ingredients for easy assembly later. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Warm a pan on the stove on medium high heat. Add some vegetable oil (about 2 Tbsp) and wait for the oil to get hot. Carefully add the tofu (the oil will spit at you.) Brown the tofu on all sides (about 2 minutes, per) and place in a Tupperware. Add to the Tupperware the chopped cilantro, onions and red pepper.
  5. When ready to eat, combine the noodles with the Tupperware contents and top each serving with peanuts and sesame seeds.

We got about 4 very hefty servings out of this. Best of all, it sits well in the fridge for quick healthy lunches too.

Three Bean Salad


I just love Three Bean Salad, and I thumb my nose at Mark Bittman who said recently, “the three-bean salad was usually a staple of the bad salad bar.” I do agree, however, that most Three Bean Salads, particularly those served on salad bars are quite gross. Generally they’re sickeningly sweet and the dressing is oddly thick. And usually the green beans have come from a can. A can! Now, everyone knows a can is no place for green beans!

This recipe is my own based on an amalgum of other recipes I found as I looked around. It features fresh steamed grean beans and I used some left over garbanzos which I cooked up the other day, though I’m sure a 15 oz. can would work just as well. I also reduced the amount of sugar and oil in the dressing to make it a little healthier. Here is what I came up with…
What you need:

Salad:

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 t. fresh pepper
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1 T. German mustard

What to do:
1. Wash and cut the green beans to 1-inch pieces.
2. Place 1 inch of water in a sauce pan fitted with a veggie steamer on a burner set to high.
3. When the water boils, fill steamer with the green beans and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, chop the onion and red pepper and drain and wash the canned beans.
5. In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
6. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl with the dressing and toss everything to cover.
7. Cover the bowl and put in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the flavors marinate.
8. Enjoy!

Healthy Potato Salad

You know, ever since Dan Quayle insisted on spelling potato with an “e,” I balk every time I have to spell that particular word without aide of spell check. It isn’t because I normally spell it wrong, actually, it’s just that I fear that I may some day, thus resulting in debilitating embarrassment. Kind of like how I have to think about how I’m supposed to say nuclear, so that I don’t haphazardly associate myself with George W. Bush.

However, neither Dan Quale nor GWB have anything to do with this particular potato salad, as far as I know. This salad turned out pretty well considering is has absolutely no added fat and instead utilizes lots of aromatic veggies, and Greek yogurt, my new obsession.

What you need:

  • 5 red potatoes
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 5 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 5 (or so) dill pickles (or a mix of sweet Gerkins and dill if that’s your thang), chopped
  • 1 8-oz. tub of 0% fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 T. German mustard (with the seeds in it), or any other kind of mustard you like
  • 2 T. apple cider vinager
  • 1 T. white sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. freshly groung black pepper
  • 1 t. dry dill

What to do:

  1. Cook the potatoes: Place the potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Cook on high until the water boils, and then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. At 45 minutes, check to see if the potatoes are cooked by inserting a sharp knife into the potatoes. If the knife goes in easily, they are cooked. If they hit some resistance, they need to stick around for a while longer. When cooked, place the potatoes in a bowl of cool water with ice and let sit to coo.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and dill. Whisk together until combined.
  3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1-inch cubes. (I like to keep the skins on for their extra texture and healthiness, but you could peel them before cutting the potatoes up.) Add the potatoes and the rest of the veggies to the dressing.
  4. Using a spatula, fold the dressing around the potatoes and veggies.
  5. Cover the bowl, and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat it. (This will stay good in the fridge for a few days, which is a good thing because this recipe makes quite a bit.)