Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Roasted Squash and Purple Potatoes with Baby Bok Choy

Roasting is my favorite way to cook almost any vegetable, but it’s definitely the way to go with root vegetables and squashes. Because it’s so easy, this is the perfect dish to serve at any weeknight meal. But because it’s easily doubled or tripled, it’s ideal for the Thanksgiving table, or for any special autumn or winter meal. Enjoy.

Roasted Squash and Purple Potatoes with Baby Bok Choy

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

6-7 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups cubed butternut or other winter squash
2 cups cubed purple potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
1 small onion, sliced
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher salt
½ pound baby bok choy
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice 1 garlic clove and set aside. Smash the rest with the flat side of a knife blade (hit your palm CAREFULLY down on the blade).Combine the squash, potatoes, onions, and smashed garlic in a medium bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and 2 teaspoons of the salt and mix well. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until the vegetables are tender and golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Stir halfway through.Meanwhile, make the bok choy. Slice off the root end and separate the leaves. Soak the leaves in a bowl of cool water for about 10 minutes. Remove the bok choy and rinse them.Heat the remaining oil in a medium skillet. Add the sliced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bok choy and remaining salt and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat until tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.Place the bok choy neatly on a platter. Spoon the squash and potatoes over the bok choy. Serve hot.

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Fresh Tomato Soup

All of my life, I never liked tomato soup. It always tasted like watered-down ketchup to me. Granted, my experience with tomato soup had been the canned variety, but I also had once or twice tried it in a restaurant or catered affair situation (I can’t remember which) and thought it was equally distasteful.

Then, I found a recipe for tomato soup using fresh tomatoes…and it changed my world. Now I knew what tomato soup was supposed to taste like. And I never looked back.

This is my recipe for fresh tomato soup. The  ingredients are extremely simple and the focus is on the tomatoes. It’s best to make this in summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. It doesn’t much matter which variety you choose, as long as they’re ripe and fresh. Enjoy! Continue reading


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Apple Cocktail

Listen, it’s just been too damn hot to cook. The dog days of summer are upon us. Temperatures are making the mercury in (old school) thermometers cry, and you could fry your entire breakfast on the streets. Understandably, you don’t want to be in the kitchen for any longer than it takes to pour a glass of lemonade.

But most people don’t seem to have a problem spending a few minutes pressing a button on a blender for a nice, frothy, alcoholic beverage With the promise of a delicious fruit-based libation, spending that time at the kitchen counter will be worth it, especially with a recipe as easy as this one.

For this recipe, I used a premade fruit puree by Perfect Puree, but there are other brands of purees out there. There are many different flavors and they’re nice to have around for summertime beverages, as well as desserts and savory dishes. You can keep them in your refrigerator for short-term use, or the freezer for long-term storage. However, if you can’t get your hands on these purees, you can make your own. For this recipe, simply peel and seed a green apple.

Apple Cocktail

Makes 2 cocktails.

2 oz. green apple puree
4 oz. apple rum
ice
Garnish: Sliced apples (optional)

Combing the puree and rum in a blender. Add a few ice cubes and puree. Pour into 2 martini glasses. Garnish the edge of the glasses with apple slices.

Enjoy!


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Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Summer is finally here, and with the coming of sunshine and warm breezes comes the need for pasta salad. After all, you need something easy to bring to all those picnics, barbecues, and beach parties, right?

Pasta salad, however, need not be fattening or unhealthy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. This pasta salad calls for whole wheat pasta, which already is healthier than regular pasta salad, but you can use gluten-free pasta as well. Rather than mayo or other fat-laden dressing, this one uses avocado. It makes the pasta creamy, rich, and loaded with nutrients (plus some good fat). Add raw kale to the mix and you’ve got a healthy, but delicious, alternative.

Kale can be tough, but squeezing kale with avocado softens the leaves. The salt in the dressing further breaks down the cell walls of the kale, helping it along its journey to tenderness.

This is an excellent start to the summer. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 servings.

8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 teaspoons table salt
2 Haas avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 packed kale leaves, shredded*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the tomatoes out on a small baking sheet lined with foil and roast until soft and charred, about 20 minutes.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt and bring to a boil. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes (depending on what pasta you choose). Drain and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a food processor, combine the meat from the avocados, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth.Place the kale in a medium bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over it and squeeze the kale with your hand until everything is well blended. Mix in the balsamic and red pepper flakes, if you’re using it.Add the cooked pasta and parmesan and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust it to your liking.Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

*To shred kale, first strip the leaves off the stems by lightly pinching the stem and running your fingers down the stem to the tip, pulling the leaves off along the way. Stack a few leaves and roll them up into a tight log. With a sharp knife, slice the kale thinly.


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Watermelon Lovely

It would seem I’m on a watermelon kick (last time, I did a recipe for watermelon pickles). But that’s what happens when you buy a big watermelon and are the only one eating it. You find different ways to use it.

This week, I offer you a refreshing drink with a kick to it. I call it Watermelon Lovely because it truly is lovely to look at. It’s very easy to throw together, and it makes the perfect summer libation.

Enjoy!

Watermelon Lovely

3 cups chopped, seeded watermelon, preferably cold
2 tablespoons dark or light rum (more if you want it stronger)
2 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno (more if you want it sweeter)

Garnishes*Puree the watermelon. You should get approximately 2 cups.

Pour the liquid into a pitcher or something large enough to mix other ingredients into it. If it’s not already cold, add ice cubes, chill it, and then strain it.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into 2 glasses and serve.

*If you like, you can decorate the rim of the glasses with colored sugar, crystallized herbs (that’s basil in the picture), or chunks of fruit.


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Pasticcini di Pasqua (Little Easter Buns)

Pasticcini di Pasqua, Little Easter Buns

This Sunday is Easter Sunday, which is traditionally a day filled with of various types of sweet breads (by that, I mean actual breads that are sweetened, not the other kind of sweet breads).

In my book, Vegetarian Italian: Traditions—Bread, I offer a recipe for Pasticcini di Pasqua (Little Easter Buns). I’d like to share that with you here, just in time to bake some for Sunday.

You can get many other Italian bread recipes in that volume, and lots of other great Italian recipes in the other books in that series: Appetizers, Pasta, Soups & Stews, Pizza & Focaccia, Entrees & Sides, Rice & Potatoes, and Desserts. (These were originally in one volume, in several editions, but those are no longer available.)

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate. Enjoy!

Pasticcini di Pasqua (Little Easter Buns)

Makes 4 buns.

2 packages active dry yeast
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 eggs, divided
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Few drops food coloring of your choice
4 soft-boiled eggs, shells intact
2 tablespoons colored jimmies or sprinkles (optional)

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over ¼ cup very warm water. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 1 hour.

Place remaining flour in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture. Beat one of the raw eggs and add to bowl, along with sugar, butter, salt, and orange and lemon zests. Mix well until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 or 6 minutes. Put dough back into bowl, cover with a cloth towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, or overnight in refrigerator.

Grease a baking sheet with butter or nonstick spray, or line it with parchment paper, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 2 or 3 drops food coloring on each soft-boiled egg and use a pastry brush or your finger to spread color over entire eggs. Set aside.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten into ¼-inch-thick disks. Place on baking sheet. Press center of each with your fingers to make an indent and gently place an egg into indents. Gently press dough around egg. Beat other raw egg and brush dough. Sprinkle jimmies or sprinkles, if using, around tops of dough and eggs. Bake until buns are golden brown and puffed up, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in a plastic bag or container in refrigerator.

Serve these on Easter morning at room temperature. Remove egg from center, peel, and enjoy.

 

 


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Delicious Date-Nut Bread

Date-nut Bread is a classic winter holiday treat. In fact, it’s become so popular that December 22 is National Date-Nut Bread Day.

Okay, so it’s January, but the cold winter weather continues to call for hearty, comforting foods, and date-nut bread definitely falls into that category.

Dates originated in the Middle East, and they play a huge role in the cuisines from that part of the world. They made their way to the U.S. via the Spaniards, who were introduced to them by the Moors. They are now a popular crop in California.

The word “date” is derived from a Greek word (dáchtylo), which means “finger.” Dates have been shown to help with constipation; promote bone health and ward off osteoporosis; and aid in intestinal disorders, heart problems, anemia, sexual dysfunctions, as well other health issues. They’re a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. They also contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They’re also a great source of energy, so if you’re doing any kind of physical activity, dates are a great thing to add to your snack pack. Be aware, though, that dates contain a fair amount of sugar, so you don’t want to overdo them, unless you plan on burning them off.

Enjoy date-nut bread for breakfast or a snack, by itself, toasted with butter, or with jam, honey, maple syrup, or anything else you like.

Enjoy!

Date-Nut Bread

2 cups chopped dates
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease an 8×10-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the dates and baking soda in a small bowl and cover them with 1 cup boiling water. Stir. Let them sit until they cool down.In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, allspice, and salt.Add the flour and dates (including the water), and mix with a wooden spoon. Gently stir in the walnuts.Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Cool the loaf on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn out the bread onto the rack and cool completely.Store the loaf wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator up to 5 days.