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. 

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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.