Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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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

 

 


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Black Rice Noodles with White Beans & Cauliflower

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I’m on noodle kick. If you read my blog last week, you know that I wrote about noodles then as well. That blog was about the mung bean noodles that I found in an Asian market. Well, in that same market, I found black rice noodles, and, as usual, I couldn’t resist trying them.

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Black foods are not only striking to look at, but they’re typically high in antioxidants because of they’re high levels of pigments. Black rice is high in Vitamin E, which helps the immune system and protects cells from free radical damage. According to a study from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, black rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries, making it an even healthier choice than brown rice. As a result, black rice is considered one of the new superfoods. And let’s not overlook the fact that these noodles are gluten free! Here’s more about it at Livestrong.com.

The unfortunate part of using black rice noodles is that once they’re cooked, they’re no longer black but a dark purple. But that’s okay—they’re still pretty to look at. And they still stand out beautifully against white beans and vegetables, which is exactly what I did with this recipe. Continue reading


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Italian-Style Mung Bean Noodles

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mung beans

Mung Beans

Mung bean noodles are noodles that are made from dried, ground mung beans. Mung beans have been consumed since antiquity but are unfamiliar outside of Indian and Asian communities. They are an important part of Ayurvedic cuisine, and are popular for sprouting. (Many of the bean sprouts that come with your salad or in your Asian take-out come from mung beans).IMAG3683

Mung beans are a high source of protein—about 3 grams per tablespoon, or 14 grams per cup. They’re also rich in manganese, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and some B vitamins. They’re low on the glycemic index, and high in antioxidants. They’re considered a good food in the battle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and obesity.

Mung beans can be found in Indian and Asian markets, but are slowly starting to find their way onto supermarket shelves as well. You can get mung bean noodles in Asian markets. The logical conclusion would be to use them in a dish with Asian flavors, right? However, I chose to go Italian style with these, and it worked out beautifully. I simply made them the way I would make a dish of traditional Italian pasta—with olive oil, garlic, and vegetables.

Mung Bean Noodles

Mung Bean Noodles

Like many non-wheat noodles, these will not come out al dente, like traditional pasta. Mung bean noodles come out soft and somewhat sticky, so the eating experience will be different than what you get from eating traditional pasta, but it’s pleasant and delicious with a slightly nutty flavor. I like to add a little extra virgin olive oil at the end not only for the extra flavor boost but also to counteract the stickiness of the noodles.

I hope you enjoy them.

Italian-Style Mung Bean Noodles

Makes 2 servings.

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 ounces mung bean noodles
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons grated cheese
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the broccoli out on a baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Stir and continue roasting until tender when pierced with a knife and browned, about another 10 to 15 minutes.IMG_5797

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the mung bean noodles and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.IMG_5795IMG_5802

Split the noodles between 2 bowls, and add broccoli to both, and mix well.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a small pan. Add the garlic and sauté just until it becomes fragrant and starts to color.IMG_5796

Add the paprika, swirl it around, and immediately pour equally over the two the bowls of noodles and broccoli.

IMG_5800Sprinkle grated cheese over the top, then the extra virgin olive oil, and serve.

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Warm Sorghum Salad

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This week in honor of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, I offer you Warm Sorghum Salad.

Okay, the truth is, I already had this blog post and recipe prepared but it seemed like an appropriate time to post it.IMG_5809

Many people don’t know what sorghum is. It’s a grain that originated in Africa and that’s been used in this country for years as fodder—except in the South, where it’s been a fairly popular grain. Also in the South, sorghum molasses often takes the place of regular molasses, honey, maple syrup, and corn syrup. In short, it’s a liquid sweetener that’s used in baked goods, as well for drizzling on biscuits, pancakes, and toast.

I’ve offered other sorghum recipes here, such as Sorghum Pilaf, Sorghum Stir-Fry, and my Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist (using sorghum molasses) even made it in into the holiday issue of Pilcrow & Dagger.

Sorghum is gluten free and inexpensive. But it’s also very use friendly. It’s a diverse grain that can be used in many different dishes. Here’s my Warm Sorghum Salad. It’s great to bring to dinner in the fall and winter, but also to barbecues and picnics in the warmer seasons. And the kale makes it a well-rounded, healthy dish. Enjoy!

Warm Sorghum Salad

Makes 6 servings

1 cup sorghum grain
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup minced shallot
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ lb. mushrooms (preferably a combination of white and baby bella), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 packed cups chopped kale
Fresh pepper
½ small lemon

Dressing
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the sorghum in a mesh strainer and rinse it under running water for a minute or two. Place it in a small pot along with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain well.

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Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the shallot, ¼ teaspoon salt, and saute until soft and translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt and saute until the water they release dries up and mushrooms brown.IMG_5813When you see browned bits in the pan, deglaze with the apple cider vinegar (add it to the pan and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon).IMG_5816

Add the kale and another ½ teaspoon salt and cover; cook until kale is tender.IMG_5818While that’s cooking, make the dressing and set aside.

When the sorghum is cooked, add it to the pan with the kale and pepper and mix.IMG_5821Pour in the dressing and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Squeeze the lemon over it and stir.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm.IMG_5824


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Beet Green Rolls Stuffed with Millet and Eggplant

IMG_5427This recipe is another example of just how good leftovers can be. You can transform the things you have in your refrigerator and pantry, the little bits and pieces that remained behind, into something new and interesting.

I had purchased beets from the farmers’ market and wanted to do something different with the leaves than the usual saute with olive oil and garlic. As much as I like that particular dish, I think I’ve O.D.d on it. So I started thinking about other ways of using them.IMG_5398

I also happened to have leftover roasted eggplant slices and some millet in the pantry. After some thought I came up with this recipe: beet green rolls stuffed with millet and eggplant. Millet is the perfect grain for stuffing because it’s sticky and you won’t have little individual grains skittering across your plate. It will hold everything together. It’s also gluten free, so those of you with (or who have loved ones with) Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, this is a great recipe for you. Further, beet greens are loaded with iron, vitamin C, beta carotene, and antioxidants.

Since I will assume that you don’t just happen to have roasted eggplant slices already in the fridge, or perhaps not even millet in your pantry (even if you do, I doubt you’d have both at the same time), I’ve written this recipe so that you can start from scratch. Btu it’s a very easy recipe—you can even make the eggplant a few days in advance so that you can just jump right into this recipe.

This is the perfect autumn/winter dish—hearty, delicious, and great to bring to gatherings. You can serve it as an appetizer, a main course, or side dish. Enjoy!

Beet Green Rolls Stuffed with Millet and Eggplant

½ cup olive oil, plus extra
1 medium Italian eggplant
¾ cup millet
Greens from 1 bunch beets
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. If you’re using foil, grease it with some of the olive oil.

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices lengthwise and lay them on the baking sheet (use more than one baking sheet if you have to). Set aside 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and use the rest to brush both sides of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning over once, until browned on both sides, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Chop up the eggplant finely and measure out 2 cups. Reserve the rest for another recipe.IMG_5411Meanwhile, place the millet in a small saucepan with 1½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.IMG_5399If the water hasn’t been all absorbed, drain the millet in a mesh strainer. If it needs to cook some more, you can add a little more water and continue simmering.IMG_5402Transfer the millet to a bowl. Add the eggplant, parmesan, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper; mix well.IMG_5412IMG_5413Place the beet greens in a large bowl of water and wash the greens in several changes of water.

IMG_5400Pick out the largest, nicest leaves (you’ll need about 14) and place them on a kitchen towel to dry.IMG_5408Cut off the stems of the leaves. You may need to cut out a little bit of the ribs a the bottom if you find the leaves difficult to roll. IMG_5415Place 1/4 cup of the filling—less, if the leaf is smaller–at the base of a leaf and roll the leaf up. (It’s okay if the leaf tears a bit or the rib pokes through—you’re not making rolls that people will eat with their hand. These are fork rolls!)

IMG_5414Place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining leaves. Pack the rolls close together. Gently brush olive oil over them.IMG_5419Cover tightly with foil. Bake 15 minutes. Transfer them to a serving platter, sprinkle more parmesan over the top, then drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.IMG_5423Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes about 14 rolls.IMG_5430