Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cranberry and Toasted Pecan Bread with a Citrus Glaze

This Friday, February 1st is the 10th annual Wear Red Day, a national campaign raising awareness on the leading killer of women: heart disease. Thankfully women have started to realize that heart disease is a serious health issue not just affecting men. The cool thing is, each of us can make lifestyle choices that can positively impact our destiny. By taking care of our bodies, not smoking, exercising regularly, drinking alcohol in modest amounts and eating well, we can seriously reduce our risk.

Most everything served up here at the Lou is heart healthy, including this Cranberry and Toasted Pecan Bread with Citrus Glaze. Half of the flour has been swapped out for whole-wheat flour and the pecans contain heart healthy nutrients such as folic acid, calcium, magnesium, fiber and vitamin E.

This quick bread also features cranberries and citrus, which are both antioxidant rich and in season during the winter months. When bags of cranberries are on sale during the holidays, I like to stock my freezer (hoard?) for later use. Eating seasonally offers the best that nature provides at that time of year. Often produce that’s in season is more affordable and flavorful. For other fruits and vegetables now in season, check out Cooking Light’s Produce Guide, an excellent resource highlighting what’s in season during each of the four seasons.

So this Friday, show support for National Wear Red Day by wearing red and trying this Cranberry and Toasted Pecan Bread crumbled over a container of vanilla yogurt. Your heart will thank you.

Cranberry and Toasted Pecan Bread with a Citrus Glaze

Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray, dust with flour.
  2. In a small skillet, toast pecans over medium heat for about 1-2 min being careful to not burn.
  3. Toss cranberries and pecans in 1/8 cup of flour in a bowl to coat.
  4. Combine remaining flour, baking powder and salt in medium mixing bowl.
  5. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl on medium speed for 1 minute. Add eggs and beat until just blended. Add in vanilla and almond extract.
  6. On low speed, slowly add some of the flour mixture, then milk, alternating until all incorporated. Stir in cranberry and pecans; divide batter between pans.
  7. Bake about 55 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  8. Whisk powdered sugar and lemon (or orange) juice to make glaze. Drizzle over cooled slices of bread.
until next time...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Three Cheers for Chorizo, Spinach and Sweet Potato Soup

Last year around “the big game”, I posted a recipe for a Chorizo and Lentil Stew that was outta this world. For this upcoming Super Bowl, I have another sassy, spicy number with chorizo as the MVP: Chorizo, Spinach and Sweet Potato Soup.

Chorizo is a Spanish sausage that has quite a bit of spunk. Although chorizo is by no means considered a health food, a little goes a long way, adding really great flavor and heat. The nutritional benefits of the other ingredients in this soup (sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, lime…and even the cumin!) more than outweigh the not-so-healthy-but-gosh-darn flavorful chorizo.

This soup is definitely a winner, and will have you scoring a touchdown in your kitchen!

Chorizo, Spinach and Sweet Potato Soup (adapted from Food Network Magazine, Nov. 2012)

  • flour tortillas, cut into thin strips
  •  cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 pound chorizo sausage (Todd Geisert, Washington, MO)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (Zimmerman's Produce, Vandalia, IL)
  • 14-ounce can tomatoes (I used 2 large tomatoes that I had in the freezer. Run under warm water to slip off skin, chop)
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • avocado, pitted and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 375. Spray tortilla strips with cooking spray, spread in a single layer on cookie sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, allow to cool.
  2. Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat; add chorizo and cumin, cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add sweet potato, broth, tomatoes, 1 cup water; bring to boil then reduce to simmer; cook about 15 minutes until potatoes tender.
  4. Add in spinach, divide among 4 bowls, top with a squeeze of lime juice, cilantro, avocado and baked tortilla strips.
This week's question: who do hope wins "the big game"?

until next time...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce

I must have chicken on my mind.  This month’s issue of Cooking Light highlights chicken 25 ways, which reminded me of a recipe from the September issue that I wanted to try: Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce.

Yep, the recipe contains beer and my kids ate it. But before you turn me in to the authorities, realize all of the alcohol evaporates out as it reduces. The resulting sauce is a rich, comforting, sweet and salty combination.

Here in the Lou (arguably the beer capital of the world), we are fortunate to have a wide variety of really good local beer options. I used a less known microbrew from the outskirts of St. Louis, mainly because I had it on hand. It would be fun to see how the flavor profile would change based on the type of beer used.

Although it is not easy to eat locally in the middle of winter, it’s not impossible. This recipe contains staples such as mustard, honey, onions, and beer, all produced in areas close to the Lou.  Thankfully many farmers are using hoop houses to grow vegetables during the cold months. I purchsed some locally sourced carrots that I served lightly steamed, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of honey.

Oh- and before you go… remember this quite unusual burger? 
A few days ago I found out that my Succulent Blueberry Turkey Burger with Ginger and Lemongrass served with Blueberry Ketchup won the Savory Grand Prize in the Mama’s Plate Update Blueberry Blogger Recipe Contest. I was freaking-out-excited when I got the call!! (Acceptance speech): I’d like to sincerely thank the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council for this big honor and for thinking that my original recipes were tasty enough to win. I’d also like to thank my friend Dawn for the idea to add the lemongrass. I agree Dawn, it's what made the recipe award-winning!

Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce (adapted from Sept. '12 issue of Cooking Light)

Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken, sprinkle with pepper, cook about 6 minutes on each side until done. Remove chicken from pan.
  2. Add onions, cook about 1-2 minutes until translucent.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together beer, soy sauce, mustard and honey.
  4. Add mixture to pan, bring to boil, gently scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Simmer liquid until reduced, about 4 minutes.
  5. Return chicken to pan, to coat with sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
until next time...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicken Ciabatta Sandwich with Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Tapenade

The holidays are now behind us, but my mind keeps fondly wandering back to a couple of special homemade gifts that I received.  One was a jar of homemade marinated olives from a dear friend that shares a passion for healthy, local and sustainable food. Oh, how I wish I could’ve offered a few of these olives to you- they were so good! If I had to guess, they were marinated in olive oil, lemon zest, rosemary, and did I detect a hint of crushed red pepper?

When handing me the jar, my friend mentioned that the olives needed to be eaten within the next couple of weeks. Uh, that wasn’t a problem- they were devoured within a matter of days! Later that week, when she asked how I ended up using the olives I had to fess up- many of them were spooned right into my mouth!

I figured I’d make better use of the remaining olives by creating something that the family could also enjoy. I made a chicken ciabatta sandwich with goat cheese, roasted red pepper and olive tapenade. I cooked the chicken breasts in some of the oil from the olive jar, which added a ton of flavor to the cooked chicken. A layer of fresh local goat cheese (chevre) was slathered on the multigrain ciabatta bun adding just the right amount of tanginess. A handful of organic spring lettuce mix, a slice of jarred roasted red pepper, topped with the crown jewels- the marinated olives, rough chopped. I smile just thinking of how good that sandwich was! Of course if you do not happen to have a jar of homemade marinated olives on hand, using jarred olive tapenade would work great.

The other gift that keeps bringing a smile to my face is a set of cloth napkins with a printed “wordle”, a word cloud in the shape of an apple, created using words from my blog! Wordles can be created using any words and can be formed into any shape. Once the wordle is created, it can be produced onto just about anything you can think of including mugs, t-shirts, canvases, etc. Check out if you are interested in creating your own wordle.

Question: what gift did you receive that keeps bringing a smile to your face?

Chicken Ciabatta Sandwich with Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Tapenade

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, halved
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese - I used Heartland Creamery Chevre, Newark, MO
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers
  • 1 cup spring lettuce mix, preferably organic and local when available
  • about 1/2 cup chopped mixed olives or jarred olive tapenade
  • 4 whole grain ciabatta buns
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Add chicken breasts; cook about 5 minutes on each side until fully cooked.
  2. For each sandwich: spread about 1/2 ounce goat cheese on one bun; add 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 chicken breast, top with about 1/4 cup lettuce and 1/8 cup of olives or tapenade. Add top bun and enjoy!

until next time…

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Sunday Road Trip to a Farm Reminds Us Why We Choose Local

No recipe today, just a story that will live in our hearts and memories for a long time to come.

On Sunday afternoon, our family took a road trip to Windcrest Dairy, a farm located about 45 minutes outside of downtown St. Louis. We are quite fond of the yogurt that this dairy produces so when Kurt the farmer invited us to come visit the farm we jumped at the chance.

The tour started with a glimpse into where the milk is processed and how the yogurt is made. 

We then took a walk to meet ‘the ladies” some of which were in the maternity ward about to give birth, 
this gal is huge- definitely very preggo!
others were getting their fill of wholesome feed, all of which is grown on the premises.
ya gotta wonder what she is thinking staring right at me!
And this little gal was having a ball running circles around us.

I wanted to take this one home!
The highlight of our visit had to be our kids getting the chance to hand milk one of the cows.

Visiting the farm was such a great experience for all of us. Meeting the people that care for animals that provide us nourishment was humbling and moving. The trip was a terrific reminder of the effort and dedication that goes into running a small family farm.

Being committed to eating locally whenever possible supports our local economy and individuals such as Kurt and his family. It provides the opportunity to chat with the people that feed us and ask questions, and helps us gain a deeper connection to where our foods originate. It limits the miles our foods travel therefore minimizing the environmental impact. And certainly, it allows for fresh, just off-the-farm food so it often tastes better!

If you are a fellow urban dweller, I encourage you to think globally, eat locally and take a trip to visit a farm as soon as you can. And please share your stories if you do!

until next time...


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Semi-Vegetarian Tortilla Soup- twice as good as the original

Don’t ask me why but there must be something about the New Year that brings out a hankerin’ for tortilla soup. Maybe it has to do with the cold weather. Maybe it has to do with the limited local foods that I can find at this time of the year. Or maybe has to do with experiencing a major “senior moment”.

A couple of days ago I purchased some fresh spinach, local tofu, dried smoked chipotle pepper and red onion at a St. Louis Community Supported Agriculture program and decided to use the items in a tortilla soup. While sitting down and enjoying our meal, the kids and hubby said they recognized this soup and thought that I had made it before. If there is one thing that is certain in my kitchen, it is seldom that I make a dish twice.

Well, indeed I did. Last year in January, I wrote a post about a Vegetarian Tortilla Soup that was so delicious, even though the photograph does not show it (check out the link to see). I’ll-be-darned. I made almost the same soup without even realizing it until sitting down to write this post.

So please excuse my mental lapse and almost repeat recipe but please enjoy the new and improved version of Semi-Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. This time around I made it more kid friendly by adding cubed cooked chicken along with the extra-firm tofu, making it semi-vegetarian. I added a can of fire-roasted tomatoes for more smokiness. And I added a squeeze of fresh lime juice right before serving that really brightened up the flavors.

Just like last year, I leave you with Feliz ano Nuevo, or Happy New Year- to a great year ahead and many more bowls of tortilla soup!

Semi-Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

  • 1 dried chipotle pepper
  • 1 can (15 oz) fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 container (14 oz) extra-firm tofu
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 3 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
Cooking Directions
  1. Break apart the chipotle chile, removing stem; combine with tomatoes and juice in the food processor or blender.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large pot. Add onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add to blender or food processor; blend ingredients until pureed.
  3. In same pot, add 1 more Tbsp. oil and cook chicken; remove to plate.
  4. Drain tofu, pat dry and cut into ½ inch cubes. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in same large pot, brown tofu cubes for about 3 minutes.
  5. Pour puree back into large pot with tofu, heat for about 5 minutes. Add broth, bring to boil, then simmer.
  6. Add cooked chicken and spinach to pot, cook until greens are wilted, about 2 minutes.
  7. Ladle soup into bowls, sqeeze fresh lime juice, top with avocado, cheese and a dollop of plain yogurt.
until next time...
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