Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life

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Coconut Cornbread

There are many different variation of cornbread, and you will often find all sorts of ingredients being called for that aren’t typical or traditional for this very old recipe.

Cornbread goes back to pre-Colonial America. Native Americans made cornbread, along with many other corn-based products, since corn was a staple ingredient of their diet. Settlers, who were introduced to corn in its various forms, began making cornbread as well, sometimes calling it hoe cake (because they could be made on garden hoes against a fire).

The basic recipe was cornmeal, water, salt, and some form of fat. Over the years since, the recipe evolved to include leaveners, milk or buttermilk, and flavoring ingredients. Cornbread became particularly popular in the American South because corn was a staple crop.

Truly, almost anything can be added to cornbread to turn it into a complementary addition to any meal. It can even be savory or sweet.

For this recipe, I replaced the typical dairy liquid with coconut milk (just cuz). And to boost the coconut flavor, I mixed in some shredded coconut. The flavor is a lot more subtle than you would think, but it’s really good. It makes the perfect snack, breakfast, or accompaniment for chili, soup, or beans.


Coconut Cornbread

Makes 1 cake.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup mild oil (such as sunflower or safflower)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

Grease an 8×8-inch loaf pan (or something of similar size), and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together.In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, and oil.Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, as well as the shredded coconut and corn.

Mix gently just until the ingredients are combined.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.






Roasted Romanesco

Romanesco is both an oddity and miracle of nature. As a member of the brassica oleracea family, it is closely related to cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. In fact, it’s often called Romanesco cauliflower or Romanesco broccoli. They’ve been grown in Italy since the 16th century, hence its name (as in pertaining to Rome).

Its amazing and beautiful form is made up of curds known as fractals—a pattern that is repeated in increasingly smaller scales. The entire head is made up of spirals. Each spiral is made up of smaller spiraling spirals, and those are made up of even smaller spirals. It’s just incredible that this vegetable grows in nature like that. (The photo at right is of one little curd. Not only is it adorable, it’s just crazy to look at.)

Its flavor is typical brassica—in fact, it’s like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. It stays firmer than cauliflower when cooked, and is milder in flavor than broccoli. You can substitute Romanesco for just about any brassica in just about any dish. As I do with so many vegetables, I love to roast them. So simple, so delicious.


Roasted Romanesco

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 head Romanesco cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the Romanesco into curds (individual small heads) and place them in a bowl. Add the oil, salt, and pepper and mix well. Spread the Romanesco out in a roasting pan. Roast until the tip of a knife goes through the curds easily, about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir occasionally. And that’s it!


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Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

What is it about chocolate-covered strawberries that makes them the perfect St. Valentine’s Day delicacy?

Chocolate is the perfect treat for any special occasion, because it, itself, is special. But it’s particularly popular for Valentine’s Day because, as you may know, it’s an aphrodisiac.

You can cover many things in chocolate but why strawberries? Well, just look at them. They’re red (which represents love and passion), they’re sweet, and they’re luscious-looking.

And, finally, the combination is so incredibly delicious and decadent.

And they’re not as fattening as you might think. If you use dark chocolate, it’s only 57 calories for half an ounce of chocolate and one large strawberry (not including toppings).

Best of all, they’re not as difficult to make as they might seem. In fact, apart from any toppings you put on them, the recipe requires only two ingredients…wait for it…can you guess? Strawberries and chocolate!

Make some for your sweetie, or anyone you care about. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

12 large strawberries
4 oz. good-quality dark chocolate
Colored sugar, chopped nuts, or decorating items (crushed candy, jimmies, sprinkles, crushed white chocolate, etc.), optional

Line a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and set aside. (I used a cooling rack as well, but it isn’t necessary.)

Wash the strawberries (preferably using a vegetable wash), and set them on a towel. Pat them gently to absorb excess water, then let them sit to fully dry. Do not remove the husks.

Place the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler (or in a non-aluminum bowl set over a pot). Bring an inch or 2 of water to a boil in the bottom pot, then lower the heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate over the simmering water and let it melt. Stir it gently once in a while. When the chocolate has all melted, give it a gentle stir and turn off the heat.

Using the husks to help you, dip a strawberry into the chocolate and rotate it to cover it all. Let the excess chocolate drip off back into the pot. Rest the strawberry on the wax or parchment paper. Coat a few more strawberries and decorate them (before the chocolate hardens). Continue coating and decorating the rest of the strawberries.

Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Celery Root Bisque with Oats


Celery root, also known as celeriac or knob celery, is one of those vegetables that confounds many people. What is it? Is it really the root of the celery plant? What do you do with it? What does it taste like?

Celery root is related to celery, but it’s a different variety. Whereas celery is cultivated for its stalks and leaves, celeriac is cultivated for the root. Its flavor is definitely celery-like, only deeper and earthier. It’s kind of off-putting in its appearance—big, bulbous, knobby, and usually dirt-encrusted—and is not used as commonly as other root vegetables. But like so many overlooked vegetables, it’s rising in popularity.

As to what you can do with it, many things. You roast them, saute them, gratinee them, use them in soups and stews, and, as in this recipe below, puree them for a smooth, silky bisque.

Celery root bisque is often thickened with potatoes, but I’ve chosen instead to use oats, a trick I learned in culinary school. Oats not only increases the soups nutrition factor, but also makes it less starchy.

Speaking of nutrition, celery root contains vitamin C, vitamin K,  vitamin B-6, potassium, phosphorus, and fiber. It’s been shown to be beneficial for bone health, heart health, and lowering the risk of diabetes.


Celery Root Bisque with Oats

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 large celery root knobs
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chopped celery
½ cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup rolled oats
½ cup parsley*
2 tablespoons fresh thyme*
Freshly ground pepper to taste

*Don’t worry about chopping the herbs or if you have some stems. They’re going to be pureed.

Peel the celery root with a knife or vegetable peeler. Cut up the roots into cubes (you should get about 10 cups). Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the celery and shallots and ½ teaspoon of the salt and sauté until softened, about 5 or 6 minutes.Add the celery root and 1 teaspoon salt and stir. Pour in the broth and add oats. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the celery root is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.Stir in the parsley and thyme and remaining salt.Transfer the soup in batches to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour each batch into a bowl. When all the batches are in the bowl, stir it to blend. Add pepper and stir. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired.If you’ve made the soup ahead of time, pour it back into the pot and heat gently over medium-low heat before serving.

Keep it stored covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.


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Macerated Mulberries

Berries are beautiful things. They are filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, most are low calorie, and all are pretty to look at. How many desserts have been made works of art just by the addition of berries?

Macerating berries takes them a step further. Macerating berries involves simply soaking them in liquid. You can start with fresh or dried berries, or any fruit. This techniques softens the fruit (and rehydrates dried fruit) and draws out their sugars, resulting in a syrup-like consistency, perfect for topping cake or ice cream. Sometimes people add sugar to sweeten them even more. You can use almost any liquid to macerate fruit, such as juice or wine. I chose rum for a nice boozy flavor.

For this recipe, I used mulberries. Mulberries can be found in various parts of the world, including Asia and the United States. They come in white, black, and red, and they are similar in appearance to blackberries, except they’re longer and narrower. Aside from being a good source of magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber, as well as antioxidants, they’ve been known to help improve circulation, lower blood pressure, improve eyesight, boost immunity, improve digestion, and reduce blemishes and age spots. I’ve also read that mulberries are one of the few fruits that contain protein.

I purchased my mulberries in dehydrated form, so macerating was the perfect way to use them. They’re sweet-tart in flavor and complement any dessert, and can be used in place of preserves.

If you can’t find mulberries, try macerating any fruit you like. Enjoy.

Macerated Mulberries

1 cup dried mulberries
2 teaspoons maple sugar
2 cups vodka or dark rum
1 cinnamon stick

Place the mulberries in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the sugar, vodka or rum, and cinnamon stick. Seal the jar and shake well.

Let it sit at least a few hours.Store in the refrigerator or room temperature up to two weeks. (Because of the alcohol, the fruit will stay well at room temperature.)


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Winter Eggnog Pancakes

So, the holidays have come and gone. You’ve shopped until you dropped, partied hardy, and eaten every holiday goodie there was.

Now you’re settling back into a regular routine again. The decorations have come down (maybe), you’ve made your resolutions (possibly), and you’re starting to eat normal and/or healthy food again (hopefully). You open up your refrigerator and find that container of eggnog that never got finished is still there, with still enough eggnog in it that makes you feel bad about throwing it away.

You don’t have to.

There are many ways to use up leftover eggnog, but one of the simplest is pancakes. Eggnog pancakes are kind of like buttermilk pancakes, but they’re richer and more complex.

Okay, so pancakes don’t have to be complex. But it’s really, really great if they’re tasty and satisfying. Made with eggnog, they are.

So, if you’re like me and hate to throw out even a scrap of food, try this recipe with that leftover eggnog. It’s a great post-holiday treat.


Winter Eggnog Pancakes

Makes 16 pancakes.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon maple or coconut palm sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice
1½ cups eggnog
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggnog, egg, and melted butter. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix gently just until blended.Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place several mounds of the batter, a scant ¼ cup each, into the pan about an inch apart. Spread the batter out just a little to ensure even cooking (the eggnog makes the batter thick and it may not spread on its own).Let them cook until bubbles form on top and the bottoms have browned, about 2 minutes. Flip them over and continue to cook until the bottoms have browned and there’s no wet batter on the sides, about another 1 to 2 minutes.Serve with real maple syrup, fruit, jam, or whatever toppings you like.



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Roasted Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

There’s something about mac ‘n’ cheese that makes people crave it, and it’s become American comfort food. It’s a humble, simplistic dish, but it’s such a part of our culinary landscape that everyone from famous chefs to food bloggers have “elevated” it to something grand. But whether you shave truffles in it, top it with a sunny-side egg, mix in cheese that was made by celibate monks in a cloistered hut in the Himalayas, or garnish it with gold dust, it’s still mac ‘n’ cheese.

But you can definitely make it your own. Use different cheeses and vegetables. If you’re a meat eater, you can add meat as well. Change up the pasta—you can go with the traditional elbows, or choose something more fanciful like gemelli, pipette, or campanelli. The only rule here is that you don’t cook it past al dente (tender but still firm), because it will cook a little more in the oven, and nothing ruins a mac ‘n’ cheese more than wimpy, mushy pasta.

You can use any kind of orange winter squash you like. I happened to have a piece of a round, squat variety that came out of my mother’s garden.

Some days are harder than others, and it’s those days when you need mac ‘n’ cheese. Enjoy!

Roasted Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ medium squash (butternut, kabocha, or similar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. short pasta (elbows, gemelli, shells, campanelli, pipette, etc.)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¾ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cups shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs (regular or whole wheat)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 1½-quart baking dish. Set it aside. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.Peel the squash and cut it into small pieces. Place the squash in a bowl; add the oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well. Spread the squash out on the baking sheet. Bake until it’s tender and starting to brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the squash to the baking dish. Lower the heat to 350 ˚F.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt; cook until the pasta it’s al dente (varies depending on what pasta you use, but generally 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain thoroughly and add it to the squash.Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium pan. Stir in the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking often, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste.Stir in the cheddar and let it melt in. Pour into the baking dish with the squash and pasta. Mix well.Melt the remaining butter in a small pan. Add the parmesan and bread crumbs and stir to coat. Spread this over the mac ‘n’ cheese. Bake until it’s bubbly and a bit browned on top, about 30 to 35 minutes. Enjoy!