Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Vegetable-Bean Stew with Spaghetti Squash

Very often, my stews and chilis are built on whatever produce is in season and available at the farmers’ markets. I’ll be honest—I don’t get everything at farmers’ markets. I’d be constantly broke. But I’ll find one or two or three items that are in season, sometimes only briefly, and that look particularly good. In this case, I had some gorgeous greens from a couple of bunches of beets, beautiful red onions, and bright, fresh out-of-the-ground carrots. I gathered a few more vegetables and assembled this stew.

But the beautiful thing about vegetable stew is that it’s wide open to ingredients. You can use whatever vegetables you like, whatever beans you like, and whatever herbs and spices you like. Or omit any of those things.

I had the good fortune of having several cloves of garlic in the refrigerator that I had pan roasted. I chopped those up and added them. If you want to add an extra depth of flavor, you can pan roast a few cloves before you begin the stew.

Vegetable-Bean Stew with Spaghetti Squash

1 small spaghetti squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
3 to 5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup red wine, broth, or water
2 cups chopped green pepper
2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes
1 ½ cups chopped carrots
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3 cups beans of your choice (such as Great Northern, pinto, cannellini, etc.)
4 cups (cleaned) chopped greens (such as beet greens, kale, chard, etc.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt*
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly chopped herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Split the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings from the center. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet. Roast until the tip of a knife goes through the flesh easily, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven. When they’re cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape out the flesh. Place it in a bowl and set it aside.Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 o 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.Add the tomato paste and stir it in until it’s well blended. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. When the bottom of the pot starts to get dark streaks, pour in the wine and stir it in. Scrape up the dark bits from the bottom of the pot.Add the green pepper, tomatoes, and carrots. Stir and cook 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender but still firm, about 10 to 13 minutes. Add the beans, greens, salt, and black pepper. Stir and cook another 5 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Stir in the herbs. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.*Salting is best done in stages. Add a little bit of salt whenever you add a new ingredient. This gives each item a chance to absorb the salt, and it builds layers of flavor. This kind of instruction is difficult to impart in a recipe, but I have faith in you, my dearest readers.

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Quick Omelet Cups

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Today’s recipe is one that I created in order to have quick, easy-to-transport, and easy-to-heat breakfasts that fit in with a low-carb diet. Working a full-time job, commuting 15 hours a week, and having a writing career on the side makes it difficult for me to prepare meals for myself on a daily basis.

Obviously, I love to cook, but lack of time and energy keeps me from doing a whole lot of it. To be truthful, I rely on my mom’s leftovers to get me through the week. But when there isn’t enough for a week’s worth of lunches and dinners (never mind breakfast), or when I’m on a particular diet, I have to engage in a long, arduous cooking spree on the weekend.

And that’s what happened when I created these omelet cups. I needed something that I could have for breakfast that would fill me and that I didn’t have to think about–I could just grab some and go.

I wanted to pack them with as many veggies as I could, so I got what was fresh at the farmer’s market that week: zucchini, summer squash, and green beans. Spinach is always a good veggie option for egg dishes, but needed to make this fast (especially because it was a thousand degrees that day and I didn’t want to spend more time in my hot kitchen than I had to). But you can certainly use fresh spinach if you want to.

These are very easy to make, are wonderfully transportable, and easily heated in a microwave or toaster oven. Or eaten at room temperature. They are not only low carb, but gluten and wheat free as well. And since this makes a batch of 12, you can throw some in the freezer for three months.

Enjoy!

Quick Omelet Cups

10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped green beans
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped summer (yellow) squash
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 large eggs
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach and set aside. Grease the cups of a standard 12-cup muffin tin (or 2 6-cups tins) and set aside. (If you want, you can use paper muffin cups.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a wide frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent.IMG_6163

Add the green pepper and continue sautéing until the pepper softens. Add the green beans, zucchini, summer squash, salt, and black pepper. Continue sautéing, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened and begin to brown.IMG_6164Add the spinach and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.IMG_6165Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the cooked vegetables, along with the cheese.IMG_6170Ladle equal amounts into each of the 12 muffin cups.IMG_6173and bake about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of an omelet cup comes out fairly clean.IMG_6176Serve hot or at room temperature. These can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week, or frozen up to 3 months.IMG_6184

 

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Triple-Flavor Ice Cream Cake with Gluten-Free Cookies

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What do you do when you have a birthday lunch or dinner to go to, and one of the people going has Celiac Disease and can’t have regular cake, but it’s 100 degrees F out and the thought of turning on the oven to bake a gluten-free cake makes you want to cry?

You make an ice cream cake.

Make an ice cream cake? Why not just buy an ice cream cake, you ask.

Well, let me explain it to you this way. I come from an Italian family. My father loves telling stories about how when he was a boy, he would go up into the mountains in his hometown in Italy and pick fresh chestnuts and eat them until he got sick, and how he remembers the cheeses and curing meats hanging in the kitchen of his family home. I have a mother whose idea of a simple meal consists of a minimum of six different dishes—for the second course, mind you—and for whom a “quick” sauce means opening up a jar of home-canned tomatoes. So, you see, buying a Shop Rite ice cream cake won’t do. Even Cookie Puss wouldn’t be able to charm his way onto my parents’ table.

Anyway, back to the cake. I drew the line at making the ice cream from scratch, so I went out and bought three different flavors: white chocolate raspberry truffle, coffee caramel, and pineapple coconut.

I also bought gluten-free cookies, which I crushed to put in between the layers. Each flavor of ice cream was different layer, with the cookies in between.

The end result was a very attractive and definitely delicious dessert that was simple to make and let the house stay unbaked in the middle of summer. Huge plus. Continue reading


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Picnic Posole Salad

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I’ve been making posole salad for picnics, parties, and barbecues years. I think people enjoy it because it’s both something different from the usual fare, while offering something familiar and not too “out there.”

hominy

Dried hominy

So what is posole (or pozole)? Not everyone outside of the Latin community is familiar with posole. Posole means “hominy” (from the Nahuatl word pozolle), and actually refers to a stew, popular in Mexico and made with hominy and pork or chicken. But it is sometimes also used (loosely and unofficially) to refer to the hominy itself, which is properly called mote. Corn, in general, is known as maize.

Mote is maize that has had its hulls removed through a process known as nixtamalization. This involves boiling the kernels in a water-and-lime (or ash) solution. The resulting product is used in many traditional dishes throughout Latin America, the most commonly known being posole stew, a dish that goes back to the pre-Colombian Aztecs. Continue reading


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Oat Noodle Salad with Umeboshi Plum Dressing

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Yes, I’m still on a noodle kick. This time I’ve created a recipe using oat flour noodles. The nice thing about gluten-free noodles is that they’re lighter than wheat noodles, but like wheat noodles, they can be used in a variety of ways.IMG_6043

For some reason, these noodles are sold in packages with the odd weight of 13.4 ounces. I don’t know how or why they came up with that number, but it makes it awkward to create a recipe. (They probably started with 380 grams and it just happens to convert to 13.4 ounces, but why 380?) Well, I used approximately 10 ounces, which is three of the bundles that come in the package in the photo.

In this recipe, I’ve paired oat noodles with string beans and Japanese yams (although, if you can’t find Japanese yams, you can use sweet potatoes). The noodles and yams will soak up the dressing very efficiently, so if the salad is too dry for your tastes, you can add a little more olive oil, but the salad will not be oily in the slightest.

Ume Plum

Ume Plum

For the dressing, I used an umeboshi plum. Umbeboshi plums, a Japanese specialty, are ume plums (but more closely related to apricots) that have been salted and fermented. In the world of natural healing, umeboshi plums are considered miracle workers. If you divide foods into acidic, alkaline, and neutral, umeboshis are alkaline and can adjust imbalances in your body. It’s been used in Asia, particularly, Japan, China, and Korea, for centuries for a variety of ailments, including fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, colds, indigestion, headaches, and hangovers, among other things. Samurai soldiers were given umboshi as part of their field rations. They not used the plums to help them battle fatigue, they also used them to flavor foods such as rice and vegetables. Umeboshis also acted as a water and food purifier. Continue reading


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Broccoli and Beans Braised in Saffron Broth

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Saffron

I’ve been so busy lately that I have a stack of magazines that have been piling up, waiting to be read. I finally read the holiday issue of Saveur magazine. There was an interesting article in there by Andy Isaacson about saffron. What made this particular article different was that it talked about domestic saffron, and, in particular, saffron grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Skunky saffron

Skunky saffron

Yeah. Who know that Amish people grew saffron? Apparently, it’s part of their heritage. And that got me thinking about how very little Americans use saffron, while in some cultures it’s an integral part of their cuisine. Of course, cost is a factor—saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (anywhere from $1500 to 10,000 per pound). I almost laughed myself silly when I saw some saffron in an Asian market for $1.99. It was the skunkiest saffron I’d ever seen and wondered what it really was (it looked like singed gorilla hair).

Well, that in turn reminded me that I still had some great saffron that my brother brought me from Morocco, and I was inspired to use it in this dish. In this recipe, you have protein, heart-healthy vegetables, and the exotic saffron to give it a special flavor, aroma, and color. Enjoy!

Broccoli and Beans Braised in Saffron Broth

2 cups dry white beans
3 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of saffron
1 large head broccoli, cut into large florets
1 large onion, sliced
3 or 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Clean the beans by rinsing them and picking out any stones or debris. Place them in a medium saucepan pot and cover with water by about 3 inches; bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 minutes, then shut the heat and let the beans set for about an hour. IMG_5909

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Crush the saffron into the broth and let it sit for a few minutes.

Drain the beans.

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Transfer the beans to a large casserole dish. Pour in the broth. Combine the broccoli, onions, salt, and pepper and place them on top of the beans. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.IMG_5919

Stir the contents, and bake another 20 minutes to thicken. If it seems dry at this point, add another 1 cup of broth or water.IMG_5921

Serve with brown rice or noodles.IMG_5924


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Black Rice Noodle Pie

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Hey, all. Gluten-free noodle time again! Those black noodles I bought and made last time turned out so good, I wanted to do something else with them. But what? Pasta pie, of course!

Pasta pie is nothing new, but I wanted to give it a new spin by using the black rice noodles. It’s not only tasty, but visually stunning as well. Texturally, of course, it’s a different experience than regular pasta pie, as it always is when replacing regular pasta with gluten-free noodles. The result is a tender, yielding pie, and it won’t sit in your stomach like a brick.

Look for black rice noodles in Asian markets and give this a try. It’s beautiful, fun, and, most important, delicious. Enjoy!

Black Rice Noodle Pie

Makes 8 servings

Approx. 14 oz. black rice noodles (or other gluten-free noodles)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup milk
2 medium eggs, beaten
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 to 8 slices deli provolone cheese (about ¼ lb.)

IMG_5881Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.IMG_5882IMG_5883

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, stir, and cook until firm-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.IMG_5868

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining olive oil and mix throughout the noodles. Add the milk, eggs, ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper. Mix well. The noodles will clump together, so stir well. Tear a couple of slices of the provolone into small pieces to make ¼ cup and stir that into the noodles.IMG_5884

Lay 2 or three slices of provolone on the bottom of the cake pan.IMG_5887

Pour the noodles into the pan (scrape the bowl to get any bits of cheese). Lay 3 or 4 slices across the top of the noodles, then sprinkle on the remaining Parmigiano.

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Bake until set (a knife inserted should come out just barely wet) and the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let it sit 5 to 10 minutes.IMG_5889

Remove the ring from the pan and invert the pie onto a plate. Remove the bottom and the parchment paper and invert it again onto a serving plate.IMG_5896IMG_5899

Cut into 8 wedges. Serve hot.IMG_5905