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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