Monthly Archives:

February 2013

Creamy Butternut Pasta with Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

Butternut Squash Pasta with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

I’ve been cooking and shooting a lot in the dark. Well, not complete darkness, but under dimly lit kitchen lights that just can’t compare to the sunshine of my dreams. Welcome to the work world, where everyday can’t be a sunny Sunday afternoon spent in the kitchen. That’s okay. That makes those Saturdays and Sundays that much more appreciated.

My weeknight photos, however, are starting to bear a slight resemblance to a late night murder scene. Though, perhaps this feeling takes hold of me not from the harsh lighting bestowed upon my squash, but from the fact that this past week, I killed the last remains of my parents’ summer garden. Tears. No more homegrown garden cooking will be going down in my kitchen until spring arrives. My last leftover item now lay roasted, among other ingredients, in the leftovers of my fridge.

Butternut Squash

Sweethearts.

Luckily, this year I found a spot in the city to yield my own plants. The thought of that puts a smile on my face. Rather than travel to my parents’ house to workout in their garden and tow a bunch of produce home, I’ve finally found a place to start my own growing. Fortunately, one of my friends has a spot in a local community garden that she’s willing to share with me. Time to put my days as a full-time summer farmer to work. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, I’m savoring the last of last summer’s squash in this light and creamy pasta dish. It’s nuttiness, paired with that of the toasted walnuts and the sharpness of a good blue cheese, makes this one dish worthy of a final farewell to 2012. The cream sauce is light, but where it lacks, the butternut squash sweeps in. Its softened flesh from a pre-roast in the oven melts itself onto the pasta, eliminating the need for a heavier sauce here. Make sure to dry toast the walnuts in a skillet or cast iron pan prior to topping off your plate. It really pulls the whole dish together.

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Simple Mexican Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Mexican Stuffed Baked Potato

Let’s wipe out time. Watches, they can stay. I like how they look on the wrists of both men and women. But time, that can go away. If time went away, so would 99% of my stress, and probably yours too.

Deadlines. And bedtimes. And meal times. And making time. If there’s one thing consistent in my life, it’s running out of time. If that whole concept could just be gone, then we’d all be breathing a whole lot easier. Is anyone listening to me? Does anyone have time to read this? Does anyone have time to find me a solution?

In the meantime, I’ve been fitting in a lot of simple meals like this. Who says you need bunches of minutes to make something delicious?

It’s hard to get tired of Mexican. I know people that consume tacos as least 3-4 times a week. While this is a little much for me, I can endorse the fact that the combination of avocado, salsa, and cilantro is one that rarely ever gets boring.

Wraps, I will often eat as many as four days per week. From hummus to breakfast to tacos, tortillas are the easiest way to bundle up ingredients into a delicious, portable package. However, I don’t always want to be eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is how this baked potato idea was put into action.

Wanting to avoid duplication from a prior lunch, I created a taco in potato form. It’s one of the simplest meals you can make. I leave the ingredient amounts up to you so the meal can be tailored to your own personal preferences. For me, that means heavy on the avocado.  I’d love to hear your potato toppings suggestions too.

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Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

I get an email from my mom earlier this week relaying my grandpa has the flu, my grandma is about to undergo surgery, and that I should probably find a new spot to purchase avocados. It’s good to hear my grandma’s surgery is not considered high risk, though it’s possible my avocado buying is. Also good to know my very first blog reader is still tuning in, one that’s looking out for me, too.

You see, after my mom got around to reading my last post containing avocadoes, she wanted to let me know $2.00 was a crazy price to pay when she was at home getting the green gold for 88 cents a pop. Unfortunately, her go-to grocery store doesn’t exist in Philadelphia, and I’m stuck paying the price of a whole happy meal nearly every time I need to indulge in an avocado. Yes, my mom’s right. One avocado for $2 does seem a bit ridiculous. But the thought of putting that money towards a McDonald’s burger doesn’t even cross my mind. At least I can be fully satisfied with my double dollar purchase every time it goes towards quality food.

I guess there weren’t enough guac-makers this Super Bowl season because right after the occasion, every store I walked into held a doorway display of avocadoes. Of course I couldn’t walk by without grabbing few, which ultimately triggered this recipe. Avocadoes are a perfect and necessary tortilla soup topper.

Tortilla soup is light and brothy. It’s the kind of meal that will be there for you when you need a little detox. However, it’s certainly not a meal deprived of flavor. Lime, cilantro and jalapeno team up to create one invigorating bowl of soup. The avocado and cheddar cheese toppings add just a touch of richness, and with the crunchy tortilla strips, pack each bowl with satisfaction.

If you can dedicate the avocado, this should rank high among your other soup recipes this season.

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Skillet Soba, Baked Tofu and Green Bean Salad With Spicy Dressing

Soba with Tofu

This one’s for the tofu lovers. And the tofu haters. A gingery marinade and bake in the oven yields tofu that’s anything but slimy and bland. Perfectly crisped on the edges, this flavorful rendition serves as a great introduction to the ingredient.

I picked this recipe up off of the New York Times Recipes for Health column, which as I’ve expressed before, generally churns out tons of great ideas. It’d been awhile since I made a sesame soba noodle dish, so I decided to give this one a go.

Every time I eat soba noodles, I’m pretty sure I decide that I like them better than traditional Italian pasta. They are extra nutty from the buckwheat in which they’re derived, and have this chewy texture that won’t ache your jaw like an al dente pasta might do. Soba is also unusually smooth on the outside and lends itself well to both cold and hot dishes. For instance, I enjoyed this recipe under both circumstances.

While I’m on this PR pitch for soba noodles, let me also mention the variety is also lower in calories and carbs than traditional wheat pastas, and contains a lower glycemic index. This means your blood sugar is less likely to spike than with wheat pasta (particularly non-whole wheat varieties). Blood sugar spikes ensue energy crashes, the food hangovers we’d all like to avoid.

So have I sold you yet? Do you want to make your own soba noodles and crispy tofu? This New York Times recipe is another winner. For an extra satisfying punch, I recommend topping your plate with a drizzle of sesame tahini and Sriracha if you enjoy some heat.

Soba Noodles

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Vegan Dark Chocolate Mousse Phyllo Cups

Chocolate Mousse Cups

Valentine’s Day rarely contributes much normalcy to my life. One year, I ended up at a Tex Mex themed bar in the middle of the ghetto. While neon-colored margheritas were ubiquitous, not a soul was dining on any food. Regardless, my date insisted we stay for dinner. The music was so loud it was hard to object.

The next year, I went out for pizza with one of my best friends. A boy, who would later become my boyfriend, ended up joining us out. Towards the end of the dinner, my friend accidentally tipped over her cup of ice water, which then went all over the boy’s lap. It was below freezing outside, but thankfully he took it well. There were no first kisses that night.

Last Valentine’s Day, I came home to a huge package in the mail. I was given a large bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolate, and an assortment of pastries from a local bakery. All sounds fantastic, right? Sure it was fantastic, but unfortunately the friend zone conversation I had to have with my admirer didn’t go over so well. He no longer speaks to me anymore.

This year? This year I’m flying solo with no plans in mind, and I’m fairly certain it will be the most normal Valentine’s Day I’ve had yet. Although, living in a city, you never know what could happen. If Valentine’s Day does end up as just another Thursday night with a square or two of dark chocolate and a good beer to myself, and maybe a phone call with a girl friend to BS about life, I’ll be 100% okay with that. Sometimes normalcy is fine by me.

Phyllo DoughPhyllo Cups

If you are, however, looking for something a little out of the ordinary to celebrate V-day, might I suggest this recipe. Chocolate mousse is a classic, and loved by all. But this definitely isn’t your classic mousse. While it tastes every bit as rich as the real deal, here, heavy cream is swapped for silken tofu to create a much lighter version of this chocolaty treat. Scooped into phyllo cups, whether its for your best friend or your lover, these are bound to impress your date. And trust me, unless you tell them, they’ll likely never guess the secret ingredient. If you want to keep the whole recipe vegan, simply ditch the phyllo cups for a graham cracker based crust. Make mini tarts for an equally adorable treat.

Click here for recipe…

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