Monday, October 20, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds

The weekend took me to Trader Joes, and it is the time of the year again when TJ sells the picturesque and inexpensive Brussels sprouts, right on the stem. $2.99 for about 2 pounds of Brussels in a scenic package? Here, please! Last weekend, a friend of mine brought me a regular and an organic pomegranate, right from her garden in California. Lunch brought both together in an epic package---- roasted oven-roasted Brussels sprouts (which looked a bit more like kale chips once roasted), goat cheese crumbles (also restocked from TJ), pomegranate seeds and balsamic vinaigrette. Fabulous!

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The little pomegranate is the home-grown, organic one.

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Crispy roasted Brussels sprouts.

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Roasted Brussels Sprout salad with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds (2 servings)

  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
  • 1 drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sized red onion, diced
  • 5 baby portabella button mushrooms, sliced
  • another drizzle of olive oil
  • balsamic vinaigrette
  • 2-4 TB goat cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Heat the oven to 400F. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and distribute with a silicone brush. Halve the Brussels Sprouts and roast for ca. 15-20 min. They should be brown on the outside and cooked/tender on the inside.

On the brussels are roasted, heat a pan with another drizzle of olive oil, saute the onion and mushroom until the onions are brown and the mushrooms charred and cooked. Add about a cup of the roasted brussels sprouts to the pan, add some salt and combine the flavors.

Serve with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Easy and fast chili in the rice cooker

It is still warm outside, but fall is the time for chilis.  I tried a very tasty, fast and healthy version with dried beans cooked in the neuro-fuzzy rice cooker really quickly. It has a ‘keep warm’ option and it cooked perfectly on the normal rice setting without needed to soak the beans overnight. I used small beans, a half can of pureed pumpkin, 2 dried ancho chilis, espresso and chocolate, some garlic and bouillon. After it cooked in the rice cooker, I sauted an onion, corn and a hot pepper in a pan and added the cooked chili to add in the charred onion flavor. – Fabulous! And just enough for 2-3 smaller servings. Or 2 hungry people.

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Easy and fast chili in the rice cooker

  • 1 cup of small dried white and/or black beans
  • 2 dried ancho chilis, stem removed
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or instant coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 can of pureed pumpkin
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1.5 teaspoon bouillon mix
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Place the dried beans in the rice cooker. In a blender, add the water, garlic clove, and cut the anchos into smaller pieces with a scissors. Add the pumpkin, espresso and cocoa, and mix all the ingredients until the anchos are really fine-grained. Add the mix to the beans in the rice cooker, and the bouillon mix, close rice cooker and cook on white rice setting. The beans cook slightly softer if the ‘keep warm’ option is used and the ‘cooking time’ is overall about 1h.

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In a saute pan, heat the butter and brown the onion. Add the bell pepper and corn, and saute for about 10min (or until soft). Add the cooked chili mix from the rice cooker, and mix all through, and cook for another 5min. Adjust for salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Whole Wheat Story

We have a beautiful, warm and long Columbus day weekend, with the temperatures hitting the 70s again today. Weather that is inviting to take strolls to watch the leaves turn color or go for a hike. At this time of the year, everyone is grateful for the extra present of warm, sunny days when you can walk around in sweaters without a jacket. – My weekend was (and still is) full of work and without opportunities to do any shopping or hikes. Sigh. Instead, my mind feels like it went on an extra long hike, tired in a good way, having exercised every neuron and having given the whole brain a solid workout, like your body is good tired after a 5h hike. 

This morning I came across an article about whole wheat flours. Knowing that whole wheat is good for you, I still gave up using if for baking because it often ruined baked items by not rising sufficiently or changing the taste and texture in unexpected ways. Nevertheless, a good opportunity to learn more about them and used in a more informed way. Knowledge is power.

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So, here are the cliff notes on whole wheat flours:

  • whole wheat flour is made from red wheat berries, and therefore the color is darker, more reddish. It is basically the entire berry including the bran grounded. It has more protein and needs extra liquid than all purpose flour for successful baking (or use it in combination with all purpose flour).
  • White whole wheat flour is made from the hard white wheat berry. It is also all ground down, but the flour has a white color (please, don’t confuse it with bleached whole wheat flour, which is not a good idea).
  • White whole wheat flour is less nutty, but sweeter in flavor then whole wheat flour.
  • Although all-purpose flour can usually be substituted 1:1 with white whole wheat flour, some recipes might come out too dense. In these cases, use 75% white whole-wheat flour and 25% all-purpose. (This oatmeal recipe might be a good recipe to try)
  • Whole wheat pastry flour is made from the soft white wheat berry, has less protein and is finer ground. It is the closest to traditional all-purpose flour, so in many cases, whole-wheat pastry flour is the best 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour in baking recipes. however, it is still denser than all purpose flour so experiment first.
  • Note about all whole wheat flour: they have more oils from the bran and so get rancid more easily. I personally put all my GF flours, nut meals and whole wheat flours in the freezer.

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I might get me some whole wheat pastry flour and try these delicious fig oatmeal cookies.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Couch vegging

A long weekend ahead! I would like to go hiking and take a trip to shopping town, but I will have to use my time instead to finish a project but at least I’ve reserved time to hangout with a friend who is visiting from the west coast.

Last night when I got home from a very long day in the office I was happy to collapse into my comfy chair and turn on the TV and peruse the internet. This is when I found this graphic.

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A graphic depicting that if one encounters one of these bubbles it increases the risk of death (eventually, but maybe earlier than it needs to be). The size of the bubbles is an indicator of how likely this risk will lead up to a cause of death (depicted in the next graphic).

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Not much has changed that the most likely cause of anyone’s death is heart disease and stroke, then cancer. The first graphic depicts what to avoid…… Yes, avoid that glass of wine. But I also saw that inactivity is an even higher risk factor. Immediately, I wanted to jump off my couch, and get in a walk on my treadmill or in the neighborhood.

I did not. Today is another day to make activity a persistent part of each day, no matter how many other things are going on which bring me to the brink of being a couch vegetable. In this situation it feel counterproductive to actual get up and move, but the opposite is true: more physical activity pumps more oxygenated blood and I will feel less tired.

Now, I only have to convince myself of that when I come home from work….