Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Smoky Butternut Squash, Black Beans and Tomato Bisque

This might be my most simple yet soul satisfying recipe yet. It was created from a need for a warm bowl of food and a desire to use the excess of roasted root vegetables stocked in my fridge.  Part leftovers, part fresh ingredients, I truly feel this recipe could be accomplished by anyone and enjoyed by all. The flavors of the sweet squash, acidic tomatoes and smoky cumin and paprika marry well in this dish and only get better the next day. Take 15 minutes and give this one a try. Enjoy!

1 large bunch of kale

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP. olive oil
2 cups butternut or root vegetable puree (pumpkin puree can be substituted)
1 32 oz. can of whole tomatoes
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 can black beans, drained

To prep the kale, hold onto the woody end of the leaf, cup the stalk loosely with your other hand and pull the leaves off the stem. Discard the stem and chop the leaves up relatively small. Open the can of whole tomatoes and add to a blender. Pulse twice to leave the tomatoes chunky. Drain the black beans very well. Add the olive oil and garlic to a large pot and turn heat to medium. Allow the garlic to cook for about 1 minute then add the washed kale to the pot. Stir frequently to allow the steam to cook and wilt the kale leaves. Cook for about 4 minutes. Add the puree, tomatoes, black beans and spices. Stir everything together and allow it to come up to temperature. Stir constantly to avoid any splatter or burning on the bottom. Allow to cook for 5 minutes or so and serve.  May be garnished with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds). Serves 4.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Brined Pork and Farro Quinoa Grain Salad

Have you had it with tasteless, juiceless pork chops? Let me tell you the secret that all great chefs know--take the time to brine!

Brining meats is all the rage in professional kitchens and high-end cooking magazines. Most cooking experts agree that brined poultry and meat are more flavorful and succulent. The results are particularly apparent when the meat is cooked in the smoky heat of a covered barbecue, because the brine helps to mask bitter components in smoke that can make foods taste unpleasantly acrid.

Top reasons to use the brining method for pork and poultry of all varieties:
  • Brining is very easy, economical, and requires no special cookware.
  • Brining is like a marinade as it keeps food moist and tender. Brining or salting is a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of the meat resulting in a moister product when it is cooked.
  • Most brines start with water and salt - traditionally, 3/4 pound of salt per gallon of water, but since we're not concerned with the brine as a preservative, you can cut back on the salt. In my recipe, I just used ½ cup of Kosher salt and it's great!
  • You can add flavor in all sorts of forms such as herbs and spices. Use brown sugar, honey or molasses in place of the sugar (some sweetness tends to offset a saltiness the brine might otherwise impart). You can use apple juice, cider, orange juice, beer, wine, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, stock, tea, or other liquids to replace some or all of the water. You can also put together decidedly Oriental flavorings with soy sauce or the Japanese rice wine mirin.
This recipe developed from an abundance of dried goods that have been sitting in my pantry. I swear, lentils have a way of multiplying themselves. Well, here is a new way to use some that might be sitting in your pantry. 
Miso Brined Pork Loin and Plant Protein Pilaf
-1 whole pork loin, about 1 pound
-4 peeled garlic cloves, divided
-10 black peppercorns (or a few sprinkles of black pepper)
-½ cup molasses
-½ cup Kosher salt
-½ cup miso paste
-1 cup farro
-½ cup red quinoa
-½ cup green or brown lentils
-4 cups water or chicken broth
-1 bunch of collard greens
-2 cups sugar snap peas 

The night a large pot filled with water,  place 3 peeled garlic cloves, 10 black pepper corns (or a few sprinkles of black pepper), ½ cup molasses, ½ cup Kosher salt and ½ cup of miso paste. Bring the water temperature up, but don't let it boil. Remove from heat, allow the mixture to cool and add your pork loin. Allow the meat to brine in the liquid overnight in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill. Dump the liquid and pat it dry. The meat is seasoned and does not require anything in addition.

To grill, fill a large chimney starter with natural lump charcoal and light. Once the charcoal is ashy and white, approximately 30 minutes, dump the hot charcoalonto the lowest grate of the grill and spread into an even layer using extra-long tongs. Place the cooking grate back on the grill and cover with the lid; heat the grate to medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Brush the grill with vegetable oil.  Place tenderloin in the center of grate. Cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, turning every 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.

In a large pot, combine farro (or hard wheat berries), red quinoa, lentils and 4 cups of water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook at a simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Test drive a bite and make sure everything is tender, but not to the point of mushy.

Meanwhile, cut the hard ribs of the collard greens out of the vegetable and discard. Then chop the leaves into roughly 1 inch squares. Wash and set aside. Wash the snap peas and then cut in half.

When the pork is almost finished grilling, add scallion and garlic into a skillet with a dash of oil. Sautee for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock to the pan, stir then add the greens, peas and 3 cups of the cooked grain mixture. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed almost completely, about another 10 minutes.

Serve 1 cup of the mixture with the grilled pork. Serves 6. 
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 
Bay Athletic Club
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Seared Venison, Brown Rice and Baby Bok Choy

The holidays are here and although you might be finding yourself at a few more gatherings, in reality it's time to think New Year's resolutions. I hope this year's list includes cleaning up your nutrition and learning how to cook! 

To help you, I've decided for this Week's Wake Up Your Palate to showcase the "Big Three" of healthy cooking; seared protein, brown rice and vegetables.  Don't tune out, just yet!  We are going to make them delish so you crave the healthy stuff. With a little planning, and reading this entire article all the way through before you start cooking (remember your mise en place?) , you will be able to master the art of a well-rounded dinner and perhaps even start adding in flourishes of your own. 

More than a one-time recipe, this is a how to guide for cooking and the actual ingredients can vary based on what is available to you. I've ordered the meal elements based on how much time they will take you, so start at the top and go from there. The cooking tips are built right into the recipe. Enjoy! 
Seared Venison, Brown Rice and Baby Bok Choy 

-8 oz. Venison steak, chopped into 1 inch pieces (substitute flat iron cut of beef or chicken breast)
-1/3 cup olive oil
-¼ cup Worcestershire  sauce
-1 TBSP fresh Rosemary
-1 clove garlic, minced

Combine above ingredients in a glass bowl and marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, overnight preferred.  10 minutes before you are ready to eat, heat a skillet with a small amount of cooking oil over medium high heat.  Alternate where you scatter the protein around the hot skillet to keep the temperature up in the pan and cook on one side for 4 minutes or until a nice brown sear appears. Flip each piece and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and get ready to plate your dish.

Whole Grain
-1 cup brown rice
-3 cups water or broth
-1 bay leaf
-Black pepper and salt

This is the ultimate way to make rice! After years of crunchy, burnt on the bottom or overdone rice, I was about to give up until one day, I started making rice and had to stop about 20 minutes into the cooking time. I came back from the store, about 20 minutes later and resumed rice ever!
One hour before dinner is to be served, or the night before, place the above ingredients in a sauce pan over medium high heat, uncovered. Bring to a bowl, reduce heat to very low and cover. Continue to cook for 20 minutes and then turn off heat. Wait 20 minutes before returning heat to high. Once you see steam, turn the heat down to very low one last time and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to eat.

-2 Baby Bok Choy stalks, cut in half, lengthwise and rinse well (substitute any dark leafy greens if these cannot be found)
-1 cup frozen peas
-1 clove garlic, chopped

While the meat is searing, In a non-stick skillet, over medium high heat add oil and garlic. Heat for one minute then toss the greens into the pan, continually stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the peas to the pan and cook until they are hot, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Let's plate! Layer one hot dinner plate with 1 cup brown rice, 4 ounces of protein and one half of the vegetables. Suggested garnish: a squeeze of a lime and a dash of Sriracha. Serves two.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Healthy Feta Dill Dip for Your Holiday Party

You may have noticed...we are in the midst of the holiday party season. You might find yourself requested to bring a dish to pass, as I was recently, and want to choose something healthful.  Let's look beyond the cheese platter and cold cuts. Not sure what people would like? I'm here to help.

Over the past weekend, Bay Athletic Club had their annual Holiday party and the managers were asked to bring an appetizer. I wanted to re-create a wonderful appetizer that I saw at a party the day before, but didn't feel cream cheese and sour cream were fitting for the healthy vibe of our party. Inspiration! I love working with butter beans and created a healthier hummus earlier this year using them, so why wouldn't they work for another cold dip or spread? Answer? They did. The appetizer was a hit and almost as popular as Sarah Morrison's guacamole. Perhaps we can get her to guest author on a Wake Up Your Palate soon.

This recipe is easy, fresh and healthful. I hope your guests enjoy it as much as you love the ease in making it. Enjoy! 

Butter Bean, Feta, Greek Yogurt and Dill Party Dip

-1 can butter beans, drained
-4 oz. Feta Cheese
-½ cup Greek Yogurt (Recommend Faye brand)
-3 TBSP. fresh dill, chopped
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. ground black pepper

Serve with 1 whole sliced cucumber and ½ loaf of crusty bread

Special Equipment: Food Processor or Blender
In a food processor or blender jar, layer the drained butter beans, feta cheese,  dill, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Pulse 5 times to stir and then process on a low speed until the mixture is homogenous. The mixture might not be perfectly smooth, this is normal. Let it cool and solidify in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (make ahead covered  up to 3 days).  Before the guests arrive, peel and slice your cucumber and bread and spread 1 tsp. of dip on each cucumber slice. Put the rest of the dip into a festive container, place on a platter and spread the bread  around the perimeter. 
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Winter Squash Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

In the cold months of winter, people still crave a healthful salad, whether it's before dinner or for lunch. Unfortunately, much of the popular salad ingredients like cucumbers, tomatoes and even regular lettuces are out of season. This leads one into a it better to forgo salad altogether until in-season veggies are plentiful or eat ones that have been grown half a world away that might have less flavor and nutrition? My best solution? Think outside of the salad box. Here is a list of great salad ingredients that are in season in the winter and are all very nutritious.

1. Spinach
2. Beets
3. Hard squashes
4. Brussels spouts
5. Carrots
6. Unique chicory greens like endive, frisee (curly endive), radicchio and escarole
7. Storage friendly toppings like nuts and seeds
Perhaps you've never tried some of the above ingredients on their own even, but trust me, tossed together they make a beautiful salad and since they are harvested in the fall and winter months are far more nutritious than your hot-house tomatoes and iceberg lettuce. Try a few of the stars of the list in my newest recipe. I made this for dinner to accompany a flank steak at my parents' house last weekend and they both said it was one of the best salads they've ever tasted. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the goat cheese...

Winter Squash Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

-1 small butternut squash
-2 TBSP olive oil
-1 tsp. salt
-½ tsp. pepper
-1 large bunch of spinach
-4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
-3 TBSP. roasted pepitas

-1 TBSP Dijon mustard
-1 TBSP maple syrup
-1 tsp. ground thyme
-1 tsp. ground rosemary
-¼ cup olive oil
-3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
Place in a jar and shake until well combined.
Directions:Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop squash into small cubes. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper and bake for 45 minutes or until some spots are blackened.

Allow the squash to cool slightly before assembling salad. Divide between four and plate the squash, spinach goat cheese and top with a dusting of pepitas. Dress with the vinaigrette, about one to two tablespoons per plate. 
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Cleanse Your Body after Thanksgiving Festivities!

I hope you have the mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing out of your system by now, but I bet there's a chance you are still feeling bogged down from the heavy feast.  This week I'd thought it'd be a great idea share some cleansing solutions that I have used myself. Once the last of the turkey sandwiches are eaten, follow these steps to feel lighter and healthier.

1. Drink water. Go to the tap, fill it up. Drink. Repeat all day. Get in at least 64 ounces of water. Your body actually uses water to flush waste from your cells and it is imperative for healthy digestion and a reved up metabolism.

2. Garlic. Chop it into avocados for a wonderful healthful spread or dip. Pop it into any recipe you can tolerate. Why? Garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that activate the liver enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins from the body. This bulbous relative of the onion also contains allicin and selenium, two powerful nutrients proven to help protect the liver from toxic damage and aid it in the detoxification process.

3. Grapefruit.  Eat them up and especially now, they are in season! Grapefruits are rich in natural vitamin C and antioxidants, two powerful liver cleansers.  Like garlic, grapefruit contains compounds that boost the production of liver detoxification enzymes.  It also contains a flavonoid compound known as naringenin that causes the liver to burn fat rather than store it. Nobody wants a fatty liver. 
While creating the big meal of the year is very fun for me, I really am quite tired of the flavor profile by the time the weekend is over. I crave the clean crisp flavor of scallions, lime and fresh greens.  By combining these elements with rich broth and the other white meat, pork, you'll feel satisfied but not weighed down. I hope you'll enjoy this quick and interesting weeknight noodle dish. 

Brothy Bok Choy and Pork Noodles
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup oil
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP. oil
6 to 8 oz. pork, chopped
64. oz. vegetable stock (unsalted)
1 head of Bok Choy
2 cups of sugar snap peas, sliced in half
6 to 8 oz. Chinese noodles
1 lime, sliced
2 scallions, green and white, sliced and divided

In a small bowl, whisk the fish sauce, vinegar, oil, ginger, coriander and pepper together and set aside. Chop the bok choy into large chunks with the all-white section discarded.  In a large pot add the 1 TBSP. oil, garlic and pork. Cook until the pork is browned. Deglaze the pot with the fish sauce mixture, stirring well. Add the broth and bring to boil. Add the bok choy and peas to the pot and return to a boil. Add the Chinese noodles to the pot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Serve in large bowls and garnish with scallions and lime. Squeeze the lime on right before eating to give a kick of freshness to the broth. Serves 4.

Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Mushroom Agnolotti, Sweet Potato, Kale and Bean Soup

 I am ready to try new takes on old family favorites. Speaking of which, I'm sure your family, like mine, has some ubiquitous choices that are perhaps less than healthful. My best advice? Skip the true junk food (marshmallows aren't nutritious) and take small servings of your very favorite things if you can't find a way to lighten them up.

Vegetable soups are a wonderful (and easy) way to start a large dinner. Roast your favorite root vegetables (400 degrees for 45 minutes), blend until smooth, and combine with 4 to 6 cups of stock and heat. Homemade soup with no cream, yet still creamy and you control the amount of salt added. Adding a dish like veggie soup to start your feast will help fill you up with healthful vegetables so you eat less of the junk later.

Mushroom Agnolotti, Sweet Potato, Kale and Bean Soup

-9 oz. Wild Mushroom Agnolotti (suggest Buitoni brand)
-32 oz. chicken stock (unsalted)
-1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
-1 can of butter beans, drained
-1 TBSP (each) chopped fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
-1 bunch kale, chopped and washed well
-1 small onion, chopped very fine
-2 TBSP. oil
In a large pot, add oil and onion and cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the sweet potato, toss and then add chicken stock. Cook for 30 minutes in a soft simmer. Add the agnolotti, butter beans, kale and herbs to the pot. Bring back to a boil and cook for 6 minutes. Serves 6. 

I'd love to hear your feedback! 
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Monday, November 11, 2013

Maillard Reaction = Flavor and a Great Fall Soup

This week's recipe joins my two loves, science and cooking, together in the Maillard Reaction.  The Maillard reaction gives toast its distinctive flavor, beer its dark color and self-tanning products the power to turn skin brown. It is responsible for literally hundreds of flavor compounds including artificial maple syrup! Simply, this special reaction naturally makes food taste better and also gives a signature brown color (grilled steak or fish, pretzels, baked bread). 

How does it work?  When amino acids (the building blocks of all protein) and sugars are heated, they interact with each other and combine to form new aromas and flavors.

The Maillard reaction occurs in cooking almost all kinds of foods, although the simple sugars and amino acids present produce vastly different aromas. This is why baking bread doesn't smell like roasting meat or frying fish, even though all these foods depend on the same Maillard reactions for flavor.

The Maillard reaction, or its absence, distinguishes the flavors of boiled, poached, or steamed foods from the flavors of the same foods that have been grilled, roasted or anything cooked at temperatures above the boiling point of water.

Using this information, your cooking at home can be raised to a better and more flavorful place without adding fat, sugar or salt. In my opinion, it separates a meal that could be amazing into one that actually is. 
This recipe is going to double down on the Maillard Reaction for optimal flavor. We are adding a whole host of flavor combinations by first browning the chicken and then the mushrooms and garlic. You get the flavor off the bottom of the pan by deglazing with broth or water and then scraping up the bits with a wooden spoon.  You could certainly take all the ingredients and place them in the pot at the same time and cook it till tender, but it would not taste the same since it is lacking the Maillard Reaction. This soup is fast, slightly sweet and 100% wholesome. Toss it together in about 30 minutes and enjoy a hearty weeknight soup that will satisfy all the mouths in your home.

Chicken , kale, wild rice and root vegetable soup
-2 Breasts of chicken, chopped
-1 head of kale, chopped, discarding the tough spine
-½ cup of wild rice
-1 cup cremini or baby portabella mushrooms
-2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
-1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
-8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
-Black pepper to taste
-1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
-2 TBSP olive oil, divided

In a large pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned. Remove from the pan and reserve. Add second tablespoon of olive oil, mushrooms and garlic then cook until the mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes.  Deglaze the pot with 1 cup of broth. Scrape up the browned bits of flavor with a wooden spoon. Toss in cooked chicken, wild rice, butternut squash, black pepper and cayenne (if using). Bring the soup to a boil and then lower heat, simmering until the butternut squash is fork tender.  Add the washed and chopped kale and cook an additional 4 minutes. Ladle into your bowls and enjoy. 
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 
Bay Athletic Club
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Monday, November 4, 2013

Healthy Pizza, Finally, and Bacon is still Present

Eating healthfully can leave one wanting for comforts like pizza. I get it! I have begun using whole wheat naan bread and simple toppings to satisfy my craving for that bready, cheesy treat. The best part of making your own pizza is you control the amount of salt, fat and have the chance to add unique vegetables that are usually not available at the local pizzeria.

This week, I've created two simple and straightforward recipes that will satisfy adults and kids alike. The first recipe features the traditional flavors of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. As an added bonus, there are step by step pictures to make pizza night for family even easier to make

Preheat oven to 400º.  Slice 2 roma tomatoes into ½ inch slices and then place on a baking sheet and top with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and salt.
 Step 1
Place in oven and roast tomatoes for 20 minutes.

Step 2
Reduce oven temperature to 350º. Place 2 whole wheat naan flatbreads on a baking sheet. Top each flatbread with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic, spread evenly.

Step 3
Top each flatbread with 4 oz. of freshly sliced mozzarella.

Step 4
Next, evenly distribute the roasted tomatoes on top of each flatbread.

Step 5
Place flatbread in oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Step 6
Top each flatbread with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of fresh chopped basil. {will need a total of 3 T. of basil}

Step 7
Lastly, drizzle a Balsamic Reduction over the top to finish it off! (slowly heat 1/2cup of balsamic vinegar with 1 tsp. sugar in a small pot until it is syrupy. )

If you'd like a twist from the traditional pizza flavors, try the second pizza recipe that you have the method down pat!
Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach and Bacon Flatbread "Pizza"
-1 tsp. olive oil
-1/2  medium butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled, seeded, and diced
-¼ lb. thick-cut bacon, sliced crosswise
-Cornmeal, for sprinkling
-2 whole wheat Naan bread
-3/4 cup of mixed baby greens (spinach, bok choy, kale), sliced
- 4 oz. of fresh mozzarella, sliced
-¼ cup Parmesan, finely grated
-2 tsp. aged balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Lightly coat a roasting pan or heavy baking sheet with oil , then scatter with butternut squash and bacon. Roast 25 minutes, tossing ingredients around once or twice so they brown evenly on all sides. Remove from oven and increase temperature to the highest setting, usually 500°F.
Sprinkle a large (12-by-17-inch) baking sheet lightly with cornmeal.  Place Naan bread on baking sheet. Scatter with mozzarella and Parmesan. Scrape roasted vegetable and bacon mixture over bread. Bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped baby greens and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Monday, October 21, 2013

This recipe was created for a lunch hiking trip where I hosted Adventure Club participants on a 5 mile hike through Chippewa Hills in Ossineke.  It was a perfect day, the colors were beautiful and the sun was out.  Adventure clubs were always fun, a little nerve racking and always delicious.  You would not expect cooking out in nature to be described as gourmet, ever, but really, for a wrap these are pretty much spot on.  Roasted root vegetables offer a complex base, wine simmered pears give tang and tart, caramelized onions show off their sweet side and heady blue cheese gives that amazing umami flavor essential for delish food.  Take these little wraps with you on your next adventure.  The list of ingredients is longer, but don't let that be a deterrent. These wraps can be made ahead of time (even frozen), wrapped in foil and reheated, perhaps on a camp grill like we did back in the woods for a day of adventure.  Enjoy.

Ro0t Vegetable Roll-Ups
-1 small rutabaga, diced
-1 small butternut squash, diced
-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
-1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
-1 large sweet onion, chopped
-2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
-4 TBSP olive oil
-4 TBSP good balsamic vinegar

-4 Bosc pears, peeled
-1 bottle of dark red wine (a blend or table red are my favorites to use)
-1 sprinkle or nutmeg

-2 large sweet onions, sliced into rings
-2 TBSP olive oil
-1 TBSP raw sugar
-salt and pepper

-4 to 6 oz of blue cheese crumbled, goat cheese or sharp cheddar (your choice)
-8, 8-inch whole wheat tortilla shells

Heat oven to 400.  Mix all root vegetables, onion, garlic, olive oil and balsamicvinegar in a roaster.  Add 1/4 cup of cold water and salt and pepper to taste into pot and roast uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes until tender.

Peel Bosc pears and place standing into a sauce pot with the wine, 1 cup of water and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until liquid is evaporated.

Place sliced onions, olive oil, raw sugar and a pinch of salt in a saute pan.  Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and cook partially covered until caramelized.

Combine all room temperature ingredients into a tortilla, wrap up in foil and place on the grill or under your broiler.  Heat on both sides for three to five minutes and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The cabbage family is a large and diverse group of super healthful vegetables. In any supermarket you'll find arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, greens, bok choy, radishes and turnips. They have been favorites of people since the beginning of agriculture and unlike most of our produce; crucifers have virtually remained the same since our ancestors were picking them. They might not taste extremely sweet and maybe to some a little bitter, but really, that's a good thing. The more bitter a vegetable, the more glucosinalolates are present. Glusosinolates are the building blocks of our bodies cancer fighting cells, but they can also taste bitter or even spicy.

Brussels spouts, of all the crucifer vegetables, have been found to have the highest levels of these cancer fighting compounds. Even though they are one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, we are not eating them. On average, adults in the United States manage to eat only half a cup of Brussels sprouts each year. We eat 250 times more white potatoes! With my recipe this week, I plan to change that. I don't love the traditionally steamed Brussels sprout. However, with a little slicing, amazing dressing and Parmesan cheese...these sprouts turn out delicious. I pair them with other crucifers, red cabbage and baby greens like kale and bok choy in this quick and easy fall salad. 
Unlike onions that become sweeter when you cook them, cabbages become more bitter the longer they cook.  For my recipe this week, I decided...why not leave them raw to maximize their sweetness. Paired with nutty crushed sesame seeds (tahini), salty miso, crunchy almonds and parmesan cheese, this dish packs not just a nutritional punch but a flavor burst too! Honestly, after my first bite, I said, "Wow, that's one of the best things I've ever eaten!" My fiancé said I frequently exclaim this, but friends, really, this stuff is just as good tasting as it is good for you. Enjoy! 

Brussel Sprout and Baby Greens Salad with 
Tahini-Maple Dressing
-1/4 cup tahini
-2 TBSP rice vinegar
-2 tsp white miso
-2 tsp maple syrup
-pinch of red pepper flakes
-1/4 cup water
-1 TBSP minced shallot
-1 small garlic clove, finely grated
-dash of sea salt
-1 container of mixed baby greens (bok choy, kale, etc)
-12 brussel sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
-1 cup of red cabbage, shredded with a knife or box grater
-1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
-1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

Chop the baby greens and cabbage into small, bite-sized pieces and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Chop off and discard the stem end of the brussels sprouts and any discolored outer leaves.  Slice the sprouts as thin as possible, then use your fingers to break up any clumps.  Add the sprouts to the bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, vinegar, miso, maple syrup, shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Whisk in the water until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Pour the dressing over the veggies and mix well.

In a small pan over medium heat, toast the almond, stirring frequently, until fragrant and turning golden (this will take less than five minutes so watch carefully).  Add the toasted almonds and parmesan shavings to the salad and toss.  Serve immediately.  As a main, serves 2 and as a side, serves 4.
Kelly Bowlin
Kelly Bowlin
Administration Director & BAC Foodie :) 
Bay Athletic Club
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Stress Less in the Kitchen

Cooking can be intimidating, stressful and worrisome for many.  I feel that with a little practice and a couple of go to recipes, anyone can become a more confident cook.  The key to pulling off any recipe is preparation and having your ingredients ready to cook.  This process of kitchen organization called "mise en place" (pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs) is what the pros use to keep their kitchen "lines" in working order during the busy rushes.  Translated "to put in place."  It is one of the first lessons taught to new chefs in culinary school, and there's a reason for it.

Many home cooks make the mistake of jumping right into a recipe with little or no prep, figuring they can chop the garlic while the onions are sauteing.  Then 4 steps into the recipe they discover they needed to reduce some balsamic vinegar before adding it to the dish.  Then all the timing (and flavor) is thrown off.

Perhaps nobody has suggested this idea of prepping before the heat goes on, but it's similar to asking someone to preheat a grill or saute pan before starting to cook.  Your timing will be as good as a professional chef if you have all of your ingredients out, chopped, washed and spices pulled from the pantry.  If you follow mise en place, you will be able to concentrate on how the food is cooking and what it tastes like.

Here are some tips:
1.  Before you start cooking, read the recipe all the way through to the end.
2.  Gather all the ingredients that you need to prepare the recipe.  This will save you from having to ask your significant other to run to the store.
3.  Think about all the steps involved with the process from start to finish.  Most recipes help you by walking you through the steps in order and offering helpful hints for when to multitask using phrases such as, "meanwhile" or "set aside."
4.  Wash all veggies, chop everything that is required and measure out the wet and dry ingredients.
5.  Place ingredients where it would be easy to reach for them while you are cooking.  For example, set the chopping board of veggies near the side of the stove next to the olive oil and spices you will saute them in.  Leave the greens in a colander near the plates you serve them on.

I encourage you to practice this one skill and "put everything into place" before you get started and your dishes will come out better and you will enjoy the act of cooking more than ever.  For my recipe this week, baked polenta with crumbled turkey sausage and a steamed egg, you can practice you mise en place, because if you don't, you'll have burnt eggs or uncooked and crunchy polenta.  Let's get prepping.

Baked Polenta with Crumbled Turkey Sausage 
and a Steamed Egg  
-1 cup of polenta
-3 cups of chicken or veggie stock
-1 cup of milk
-1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs or your choosing (I used parsley and oregano)
-9 turns of the black pepper mill
-1/4 tsp salt
-1lbs package of lean turkey sausage
-1 cup of salsa
-1 to 2 eggs per person
-1 cup of water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Oil the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish. Combine all of the first six ingredients into the baking dish.  Using a fork, mix well and settle the polenta evenly throughout the bottom of the dish.  Cover with tinfoil.  Place in the oven for 60 to 80 minutes.  You do not need to stir or do anything else!

Meanwhile, saute the turkey sausage over medium low heat until well done. Cover when cooked and keep warm.

When the polenta is cooked completely, pull it from the oven, keep it covered. Before you start cooking the eggs, warm your salsa, set the table, get the drinks and napkins out and in place.  Warm a plate in the microwave to keep the eggs warm while you cook the whole order.

Turn on the skillet that has a fitting cover to high heat.  While the pan is heating, cut the polenta into 3 by 4 inch squares with a knife.  Serve one slice per plate. Add you fat of choice to the pan (non-stick spray, olive oil, butter) and then the egg or eggs.  Let the bottom of the egg cook completely then add a few tablespoons of water and cover quickly.  This will steam the rest of the egg to your desired doneness.  Remove from the pan and repeat until all eggs are done.

Assemble you plates:  a polenta square is your base, sprinkle a bit of turkey sausage on the top, finish with the egg and finally a dollop of salsa.

I made this dish recently for a family brunch.  Everyone from my foodie of a mother, grandmother who loves butter, stepfather who will eat anything and slightly picky fiancee enjoyed the flavor and texture combinations.  It's a simple dish, but you have to have your timing right.  Good luck chefs!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rosemary and Sage Chicken Burgers with a side of Apple Slaw

Herbs add health and flavor...

Did you realize that herbs (and spices) such as rosemary, basil and sage have far greater concentrations or antioxidants and phytonutrients than most fruits or vegetables.  In fact, basil has nine times more phytonutrient power than the super food spinach!  Phytonutrients are found naturally in plants and help protect them from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats.  When we eat these plants we benefit from the power of their protective compounds.

Normal body functions produce substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells.  When these healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptilbe to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers.  Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, which include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants found in rosemary help stimulate your immune system and brain function, improve circulation, digestion and protect you from cancer causing toxins.

The Recipe! 
Rosemary and sage combine their forces in this delish recipe and pack a healthy punch in the form of phytonutrients and antioxidants to kick cell damage out of the body.  Get your healthy dose of good green stuff with my Rosemary Sage Chicken Burgers.  The flavors combine to marry the grilling season of the summer and the crisp cool air of the fall.  Enjoy!

-1 lb. ground chicken
-1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
-1 TBSP chopped fresh sage
-1/4 tsp salt
-4 whole grain buns
-1 cup baby spinach leaves

Chive Dressing
-1/2 cup greek yogurt
-2 TBSP chopped fresh chives
-1 TBSP honey
-1 TBSP Dijion mustard
-2 dashes each salt and pepper

Apple Slaw
-3 green apples, peeled, cored and grated
-1 tsp fresh lemon juice
-1/4 tsp salt
Preheat grill or pan to medium high.  Combine ground chicken, rosemary sage and salt in a medium-sized bowl; form into four patties.  In a small bowl, combine chive dressing ingredients.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine slaw ingredients. Grill patties four minutes on each side or until juices run clear.  Toast the buns and spread each top with chive dressing.  Place burger on bun and top with slaw and several spinach leaves.  Serves four.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Late Summer Lentil Salad

As the last summer rays ripen the tomato vines, plump up squashes and stretch out green beans, I'm looking to use the most healthful ingredients in a filling, yet light summer salad.  Pairing lentils as my base and layering with loads of fresh crunchy beets, tangy feta cheese, earthy eggplants and super food spinach creates a summer salad that is as easily used as a side dish or vegetarian main dish.  Other than the lentils and olive oil, I purchased everything at a farmer's market. Enjoy!

-1 cup of green or brown lentils, picked through and washed
-3 to 4 cups of washed baby spinach or other mixed baby green
-1 small purple eggplant or several baby eggplants
-1 large beet, peeled or several small beets, peeled
-1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
-10 to 12 chopped kalamata olives
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1 tsp fresh lemon zest
-1 juice of one lemon
-fresh cracked black pepper 
-sea salt to taste

Using a zester or the smallest option on a box grater, rub a washed lemon down to just when the white pith begins to show.  Then rotate and repeat until you have about 1 tsp of zest, which is full of flavor with the lemon oils that are in the skin opened up.  In a small bowl, add the zest, juice of the lemon, 1 tsp salt, 15 turnsof the pepper grinder and whisk in the olive oil.  Set aside.

Cut the eggplants, lengthwise, in half. Dust with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and drizzle a small amount of oil over the flesh.  Place under a broiler, skin side up for 5 minutes, flip and broil other side until the flesh is blackened slightly.  Cool and chop into medium size pieces.

In a sauce pan, fill to halfway with water and add the cup of lentils.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium, keeping the lentils at a steady simmer.  The lentils will take about 25 minutes to cook.  Taste test one or two lentils and make sure they are tender and no crunch is left. Depending on the age of your lentils, they might need a littler longer to become tender.  Be sure not to overcook and let them become mushy.  Drain the lentils and set in a large bowl.

Wearing gloves to protect your hands from staining slide the peeled beets over a box grater or cut them into thin slices. Add to the warm lentils.  Toss in the eggplant, olives, baby greens and feta and toss well with dressing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serving size is 1 cup.