Soy-Maple Glazed Salmon with Cauliflower Puree

Soy-Maple Glazed Salmon with Cauliflower Puree

Soy-Maple Glazed Salmon with Cauliflower Puree

After a week-long vacation filled with all-you-can-eat buffets followed by the sobering reality that can only come from a high school reunion, today was the day I had to start eating healthy… again.

I keep trying to stick with this healthy eating concept but my plans always seem to get derailed, which I’m certain has absolutely nothing to do with my complete lack of self-control. Instead I’m blaming everyone around me who requests dessert that I have to make over and over until they come out just right. And while I’m at it I’ll blame the crappy Chicago weather for the short growing season and currently uninspiring local produce, and of course let’s not forget my mom because she thinks I blame her for everything (not true, love ya mom!).

Soy Maple Salmon01 Soy Maple Salmon03 Soy Maple Salmon06

Soy Maple Salmon02 Soy Maple Salmon04 Soy Maple Salmon05

Okay, enough with the excuses. Tonight I made a delicious meal for myself that was pretty darn healthy: soy-maple glazed salmon with cauliflower puree. Sure, I used maple syrup in the glaze but it’s a natural sugar, and you can be certain it was pure maple syrup and none of that corn-syrupy fake stuff. And there’s a little bit of non-dairy sour cream in the cauliflower puree, but it’s just the right amount to add a bit of zazz to an otherwise perfectly healthy side dish.

And what did I think of my oh-so-healthy dinner? It was great of course. The salmon was baked with a sauce made from shallots, soy sauce, maple syrup and lemon juice, which was sweet and a little tangy. The cauliflower puree was smooth and creamy with just a hint of tang from the (non-dairy) sour cream, and was enhanced even further by eating it with a drizzle of the glaze. All in all, a good first step.

Here are the recipes:

Read more of this >>

Share

Healthy Travel Food: Spinach & Apricot Bulgur

Bulgur with Spinach & Apricots

Bulgur with Spinach & Apricots

The best part of my sorta-vacation in Florida this past week was spending a lot – and I mean A LOT – of quality time with my family. Luckily it also included a few mini sessions in an unequipped kitchen with my sister.

And when I say this kitchen had nothing, I pretty much mean it. Okay, sure it had a hand mixer, a mini cutting board, paring knife and a few bowls and pots and pans. But there were no ingredients outside a small shaker of salt. And this time I really mean none. No vegetable oil, olive oil, pepper, flour, baking soda, sugar… you name it, the kitchen didn’t have it.

IMG_1536

The impetus for my sister wanting to learn a few things came from our flight to Florida where I prepared small containers of quinoa with roasted broccoli (an adaptation of roasted broccoli couscous) for a travel snack. Not only did we save a lot of money in airport food, but it was also tastier and healthier than anything we could have found at O’Hare.

So, while I was thrilled my sister wanted to learn how to make a few healthy side-dishes using ingredients like quinoa and bulgur, we literally had to start from scratch. In designing the recipes I focused on produce and basic ingredients that had long shelf lives and were relatively inexpensive. After all, this was just a lesson to show her how these nutritious grains worked so that when she returned home she would feel comfortable using them in the same versatile ways she uses pasta.

IMG_1537

This recipe for bulgur with spinach and apricots was very simple, using just one pot and minimal chopping. Plus, it was filling and nutritious, essentially an ideal side-dish for a busy professional like my sister who is trying to stock her refrigerator with healthy foods for herself and her husband.

The bulgur is hearty and nutty, the spinach slightly bitter which is offset by the sweetness of the dried apricots and squeeze of lemon juice. Finally, the whole dish is topped with a smattering of toasted pecans for added flavor and crunch making a wonderful one-pot dish.

I packed a small container of the bulgur for the plane ride home. No more airport food for me!

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

Share

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Apple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Apple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Apple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

This week I was lucky to escape the windy city in favor of sunny Florida where I’ve been vacationing with my family. While I’ve been enjoying relaxing by the pool with my sister, walking with my dad, and doing puzzles with my mom, I haven’t been able to get in much cooking. And this is especially sad given that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite eating holidays, right up there with Passover and that’s just because I’m a sucker for matzo ball soup.

A few nights ago we were eating dinner with extended family and I was excited, not to mention a little surprised, when my sister, Marci, volunteered the two of us to make a dessert to bring to my aunt’s house for the big dinner. It was a little daunting because the home we’re staying in has a kitchen that isn’t equipped with much more than a mixing bowl, hand-mixer, half-sized cutting board, paring knife, and non-stick egg pan. Despite this, I was up for the task.

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 1 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 2 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 6

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 1 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 2 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 3

And quite a task it was. Marci decided we should make apple cinnamon cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting. Sounds great, I thought, as I turned to the Internet to find a recipe to work off of. Well, it turned out a to be a bit more challenging than I’d anticipated.

For starters, there were very few recipes for apple cupcakes and those that did exist had less than stellar reviews or seemed like they’d turn out more like muffins, which are more dense and often dryer than cupcakes. But eventually we came across this Food Network recipe that I adapted to better fit what we were going for. And it still took a bit of trial and error to reach the right level of apple-cinnamony goodness that Marci was hoping to achieve, but we did it!

The final cupcakes were moist with great cinnamon spice flavor and speckled with small bits of apple pieces. And then there was the frosting. Oh my, it was fantastic, both sweet and tangy with just a hint of apple flavor and was a perfect compliment to the cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting 1 Cream Cheese Frosting 2 Cream Cheese Frosting 3

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

Share

Spinach, Cannellini Beans & Chicken Thighs in White Wine Sauce

Spinach, Cannellini Beans & Chicken Thighs in White Wine Sauce

Spinach, Cannellini Beans & Chicken Thighs in White Wine Sauce

I’m happy to announce my bout with foodblock seems to be letting up a bit. Granted, it’s not as severe as swine flu or something like that, but it has been a bit debilitating for me this past week. Luckily, I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Again, I turned to Twitter to help conceptualize the ingredients I wanted to work with. I was almost there on my own but needed to verbalize it, which is why I’m grateful for social media sites like Twitter: they give communicative and sometimes indecisive people like myself an audience to bounce ideas off of.

Chicken thighs02 Chicken thighs01 Chicken thighs03

Chicken thighs04 Chicken thighs05 Chicken thighs06

Even better, the final dish turned out wonderfully. Basically, I made a one-pot meal of braised chicken thighs with caramelized onions, a lot of garlic, spinach and cannellini beans in a white wine sauce. It was easy, inexpensive and healthy, loaded with protein, fiber and all sorts of good nutrients.

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

Share

Lesson Learned: I Can’t Please Everyone

Yellow Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting

Yellow Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting

It’s hard being pulled in different directions; try to please everyone and usually wind up pleasing no one.

This past weekend my family finally celebrated my sister’s birthday (which was back in September) two days after my parents anniversary. Both occasions are ones I typically make a special treat for, but in this case I had to juggle conflicting taste preferences. Of course to explain this correctly I have to go back in time a bit.

Throughout most of my life, my dad and I always preferred rich, chocolaty desserts, while my mom and sister liked ice cream or vanilla-flavored confections. But a few years ago my mom changed her tune (you can figure out why, right?) and now only wants chocolate, the richer the better. My sister, on the other hand, could still live without it.

For family celebrations revolving around parents, chocolate cake-type desserts are typically requested (especially this cake I made for my dad’s birthday and again for father’s day). But this celebration was supposed to focus more on Marci, so I gave her the first choice for the dessert (although she did get banana bread on her actual birthday) and she asked for yellow cupcakes.

Huh? I certainly didn’t have a recipe for yellow cupcakes in my repertoire. After a bit of searching I found a recipe that looked promising. And, to appease my parents, I decided to top the yellow cupcakes with a fudge-like frosting.

In the end, this was not a great cupcake in either category. The cake was a bit dry and had a slightly odd texture. It was certainly edible, but not a dessert on which I wanted to be judged. And the frosting? Well, it was rich but could’ve used some tweaking.

So here I am, posting a story with no recipe to go with it. But I felt it was important to share with you the fact that even professionals don’t always get it right. The truth is that cooking and baking takes a lot of trial and error before finding the combination of flavors that’s just right. And you’ll know it when you get it because that’s when you and all your eager taste-testers swoon and ask for seconds.

So be brave in the kitchen. Be fearless (except with knives of course; a little fear there is a good thing). And have fun with whatever it is you create.

I’ll leave you with this last thought, a quote someone said to me not long ago attributed to Julia Child: “Never apologize for anything you make.”

Share

Blog Widget by LinkWithin