White Beans, Spinach & Two Pounds of Buyer’s Remorse

White Beans & Spinach

White Beans & Spinach

What is it about Costco that can trick your mind into believing you need a 12 pound bag of anything? Do they change the oxygen levels in the store or something? I usually try to keep my purchases simple and only buy products I’ll either use quickly or actually have room to store, and if you saw my apartment you’d know it doesn’t leave room for much.

But why is it that I almost always leave Costco with something I don’t really need, and often don’t want? I think the biggest factor might be that I only go to Costco after a weekend workout because it’s convenient, and going hungry can definitely be a hindrance.

In this case the “accidental” purchase was a grape tomato bruschetta mix. Not exactly a coincidence as this particular sauce was one of the sample items served with grilled salmon. Being famished from the killer workout, I tried the sample and really enjoyed it, so much so that I bought it – a freakin’ two pound jar!

The second I got home I was struck with buyer’s remorse, for that and the case of juice, but that’s another story. What was I going to do with this? Surely, I wasn’t going to be buying baguettes every day and making crostini with the bruschetta topping. I needed to find another use for it.

The first thing I tried was to mix a little in with cooked quinoa. It was fine, but not something I was overly eager to try again. The next experiment was to add the mix to one of my favorite combinations: white beans and spinach!

I make this often with slight variations depending on what I have on hand: garlic and lemon juice, olive oil and halved cherry tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, bacon with any of the above combinations, and more.

In this case, I cooked down a half bag of baby spinach over low heat until wilted, added a can of rinsed and drained white beans, and then heated it with about 2 tablespoons of the bruschetta mix. It was really good!

Granted, I’m going to have to make this twice a week until September to use up the jar, but it was a deliciously healthy solution.

And when the jar is gone, I’ll continue to make the dish but with my own bruschetta mix. It’s actually quite easy: mix diced tomatoes with olive oil, chopped basil, and maybe a little minced garlic. Simple, clean and very healthy.

Here’s the recipe for White Beans and Spinach:

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Cauliflower Poppers

Cauliflower Poppers

Cauliflower Poppers

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago I couldn’t stand cauliflower. In my mind it could only be bland, dull and steamed with carrots and broccoli. It just didn’t appeal to me.

I’ve grown a lot since then and now I really like cauliflower, not as much as broccoli, but it’s become an enjoyable and even versatile vegetable for me. My favorite ways of preparing are soup (Curried Cauliflower Coconut), pureed like mashed potatoes, and roasted.

This recipe for cauliflower poppers is a simple yet flavorful preparation that was sent to me by a Twitter friend and fellow foodie Aviva Goldfarb of The Six O’Clock Scramble. The recipe is a favorite of Aviva and her family, and now a favorite of mine, too. I followed her recipe for the most part, the only difference being that I added a little ground ginger to the spice mix just for a bit more flavor and slightly decreased the amount of chili powder because I’m sort of a wuss when it comes to spice.

Either way, the cauliflower poppers are delicious as a side dish or, as in my case, a meal in itself.

Here’s the recipe:

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Porcini Wild Rice

Wild Rice

Porcini Wild Rice

One of my favorite things are grain-type salads that can be eaten hot or cold. While I’m absolutely a hot-food person (have you ever seen a sandwich on this blog? uh, no), once in a while it’s nice to have something filling and healthy in the fridge that I can easily munch on. This porcini and wild rice dish fits the bill: it’s fantastic heated and served with beef, chicken or fish, and just as good chilled with a few greens.

The key to this recipe is that it’s all about texture. The silky smooth umami-esque reconstituted porcini mushrooms, the rough wild rice, chewy dried cranberries, and crunchy pecans all make for an incredible mouthful. Plus, it has that whole sweet-savory thing going on that I love so much.

I first ate the porcini wild rice salad for dinner with steelhead trout that had been marinated in a garlic and balsamic vinegar reduction, then had leftovers for lunch the next day with a piece of leftover steak. Both times it was fabulous and incredibly nutritious with a small side salad or wilted baby spinach.

Porcini Wild Rice

Porcini Wild Rice

Here’s the recipe:

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Rosemary Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Rosemary Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Rosemary Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

The current temperature is 8°F with a frigid windchill of -11°F. Not to get all weather-person on you, but it’s freaking cold here, the type of cold you feel in your bones even indoors with the heat on, wrapped in a blanket, wearing heavy-duty socks you may or may not have had for 11 years.

The point being, tonight I needed to warm up from the inside out. While a bottle of wine would’ve been an easier solution, what I really wanted was a hearty, filling dinner, one that wouldn’t require too much fuss because, let’s face it, I wasn’t giving up the blanket.

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And that’s why I love making mashed potatoes out of yukon golds. They’re a very rich, yellow-colored potato that I’ve always felt was more forgiving than the typical russet, at least where mashing is concerned. For starters, yukon golds don’t dry out as easily and therefore don’t need as much butter or cream (yay for being a little healthier). Also, the texture is so silky that I prefer using a hand-held potato masher rather than a ricer (a MUST in my book for russet mashed potatoes) and leaving the potatoes just slightly chunky.

Originally I’d planned on adding roasted garlic to the rosemary, butter, sour cream and potatoes, but somehow didn’t realize I’d run out. I was kicking myself until I tasted the result without the roasted garlic which is when it hit me that these potatoes didn’t need it.

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In fact, I later found some garlic, roasted it in the oven and mixed it into the leftovers and still felt the dish was better without. Who knew? (Of course this didn’t stop me from eating half the head of roasted garlic on it’s own — you saw that coming, right?)

And the rest of the meal was just as good. I served the yukon gold mashed potatoes with roasted turkey and broccolini. The turkey was actually a leg/thigh piece I found for a great price at the grocery store. I roasted it very simply with salt and pepper at 400°F for about 50 minutes (until an over thermometer read 165°F), and added the broccolini to the pan for the last 15 minutes.

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Oh, that broccolini, I could go on about it for days. Just like the fingerling potatoes I roast in the same pan as a whole chicken, the broccolini was amazingly crisp and salty from the turkey fat and so addictive that I ate all of it. Sometimes it just doesn’t get any better than a vegetable roasted in poultry fat…

Here’s the recipe for rosemary yukon gold mashed potatoes: Read more of this >>

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Kabocha Squash Stuffed with Caramelized Onions, Spinach & Mushrooms

Stuffed Kabocha

Stuffed Kabocha

I’m kicking myself. Yes, you read that right. I am sitting here on the couch kicking myself for being dumb.

Well, I would be if I hadn’t quit yoga a few months ago and could actually move my leg that way. But rest assured, mentally I’m kicking myself.

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Why you ask? It’s because more than a year ago  – precisely 1 years and 28 days – one of my favorite food writers posted a recipe on her blog that I’ve been unable to get out of my mind. This entire time I’ve thought about the recipe but never actually got around to making it until this weekend. And it was incredible!

Last fall Dorie Greenspan wrote what she called a “recipe in progress” for pumpkin packed with bread and cheese. It looked great, all gooey and oozy and warm and hearty. But she called it a recipe in progress because it was really about applying the concept of stuffing a hallowed pumpkin or gourd with countless combinations of ingredients.

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While Dorie’s recipe used cheese and cream, my lactose intolerant self decided to limit the dairy to just a small amount of cheese. In its place I added a bunch of sauteed vegetables to the filling for a well-rounded main course or all-in-one side dish.

Instead of a pumpkin I used kabocha, also known as Japanese pumpkin. It has a flavor similar to pumpkin but the flesh is a bit drier, which works well in this preparation, and has a green skin that is beautiful in contrast with the vivid orange interior.

Oh, and did I mention this stuffed squash is incredibly healthy? Kabocha is rich in beta carotene, iron, Vitamin C and potassium, and vegetables like spinach and mushrooms add calcium and other nutrients.

Kabocha

Here’s my take on a recipe in progress: Read more of this >>

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