Monday, May 18, 2015

Crispy Cheesy Zucchini Quinoa Cakes

Spring is here and summer is around the corner and you know what that means, right? It means I am once again faced with an overabundance of beautiful zucchini and need to come up with lots of new ways to use it up. Enter these cute little babies. With Shavuot coming up I wanted to make something dairy but also light as I tend to eat lighter as the weather warms up. These are the perfect little bites of spring- hints of lemon and basil that I think go beautifully with zucchini, some Parmesan cheese because everything is better with cheese, and the exceptionally crispy crust made by crisped quinoa. Delish! Serve with some sour cream mixed with a little lemon and basil and you are good to go. Enjoy!

2 cups shredded zucchini (preferably the dark zucchini not the lighter squash)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
2 Tbl minced fresh basil
1/2  tsp dried oregano
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
oil for shallow frying

Place the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Let the zucchini drain for about half an hour. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa in the vegetable stock or water- rinse the quinoa well, place in a small pot, pour in the water, season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes, until the water has been absorbed. Turn off the flame and keep the pot covered for another 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff the quinoa with a fork.
In a frying pan (the same one you will use to fry the cakes) heat the 2 Tbl of olive oil and saute the onion and garlic.
Mix together the drained zucchini, quinoa and the rest of the ingredients. Season well with salt and pepper. Form mixture into cakes, pressing them together well so they won't fall apart and fry them in a little bit of oil until crispy on both sides.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pretzel Crusted Triple Peanut Cheesecake Bars

You're gonna want to sit down for this one. And by sit down I mean get up and make it immediately. This is THE dessert you need to make this Shavuot. Four layers of chocolate and peanut butter goodness with a salty pretzel and peanut crust, a creamy peanut butter cheesecake filling and an over the top chocolate peanut butter ganache. Sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy and with the winning combo of chocolate and peanut butter you CANNOT go wrong serving this dessert. It is the ultimate Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in cheesecake form and you'e going to have to trust me on this one that it is worth every calorie. The good news is that because it is so rich and decadent you only need a small square to get your fill. You're welcome!

For the crust:
1 cup finely crushed salted pretzels
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, finely chopped
8 Tbl butter
2 Tbl brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

For the filling:
450 grams (16oz) of cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

Preheat your oven to 350.
Line a 9x9 inch pan with baking paper and spray it well.
Melt the butter and mix in the crushed pretzels, peanuts and brown sugar. Press it well into the bottom of the pan and bake 10 minutes until set. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Return to oven for one minute. Remove from oven and quickly spread the melted chocolate over the crust. Let the crust cool.
Meanwhile make the filling- In a mixer combine the cream cheese and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, peanut butter and salt and mix well. Once the crust has cooled, pour the filling over crust and bake for about 30 minutes until the edges are light golden brown and the cheesecake has set. Let cool completely and refrigerate a few hours to set. Once the cheesecake has cooled you can make the ganache.
In a saucepan heat the cream, chocolate chips and peanut butter together and mix constantly with a spatula until completely smooth and uniform in color. Pour over the cheesecake and refrigerate up to 3 days before serving.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Asian Red Cabbage Salad

I don't know about you, but I am always looking for new ways to make cabbage salad. Cabbage is cheap and healthy and my go to veggie for salad when I'm too lazy to deal with lettuce. Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against sweet cabbage salads, you know, the ones that call for craisins, and mandarin oranges etc. but I was kind of getting sick of those and wanted something new and interesting. Well, I recently had a burger that came with a side cabbage salad that was delicious and refreshing and I had to go home and recreate it. This is what I came up with. Lots of ginger, hints of sesame and lots of crunch from the cabbage, kholrabi, and peanuts. It's a keeper!

1 small red cabbage, shredded
2 Persian or Israeli cucumbers, skin on, sliced
1 large kholrabi, cut into matchsticks
4 scallions, sliced
1/3 cup roughly chopped salted peanuts
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Place the cabbage, cucumbers, kholrabi and scallions in the bowl. Dress the salad with the dressing and top with the peanuts and sesame seeds.

1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 Tbl toasted sesame oil
2 Tbl honey
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

 Whisk together and pour over salad.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Red Lentil-Veggie Burgers

Chock full of goodness these burgers are! I am a sucker for a good veggie burger and unlike in the States where you can buy pre-packaged good quality veggie burgers to keep on hand for lazy meal emergencies, I have yet to find good ones here. I wanted to make a big batch of veggie burgers to keep in the freezer and pull out on a whim but had a hard time committing to what kind of veggie burger to make. There are so many options, so many delicious combinations, but I settled on using red lentils and chickpeas as my base and then adding lots of yummy and healthy additions- carrot, zucchini, kale, herbs, onion, oats for texture and sunflower seeds for crunch. The truth is though, you can customize these burgers however you want- use black or white beans instead of chickpeas, green or brown lentils instead of red and though I used cumin here because I love the earthiness of cumin with lentils you could go a different route and use oregano or basil etc. Have other veggies lying around? Throw those in as well! Though these burgers are super healthy, they are also really really tasty- I served them on toasted buns slathered with some Sriracha Garlic Mayo, lettuce and tomato and was in veggie burger heaven! Enjoy!

3 cups cooked red lentils ( 1 1/2 cups raw should make 3 cups cooked), divided.
2 Tbl oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chopped kale or your favorite green
1 15 oz can (about 1 1/2 cups) chickpeas
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of your favorite chopped herbs, I used a mix of parsley and cilantro
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
3 eggs
1/2- 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (depending on how moist the mixture is)
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Canola or light olive oil for frying

In a saute pan, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until the onions start to be translucent. Add the kale until it starts to wilt. To your food processor add half of the cooked lentils, the onion, garlic and kale mixture, the chickpeas, oats, herbs and sunflower seeds. Pulse 2-3 times just to start breaking up the chickpeas and oats, you don't want the mixture to be mushy. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the rest of the lentils, carrot, zucchini,eggs and spices, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Add bread crumbs, enough for the mixture to come together well but not be dry. Form into traditional bun size patties that are about 1/2 an inch thick. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry on each side until crisp, about 3 minutes on each side.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

Who doesn't love a great potato salad? I find myself gravitating often to the basic kind that I grew up with, white potato, mayo, pickles and onions but every once and a while it is fun to change it up, ditch the mayo and try something new and this sweet potato salad hit the spot. Roasted sweet potatoes are my go to addition to salads. I like to roast a bunch of them at a time and then add them to different salads throughout the week. They add sweetness, texture, heartiness and make you feel like you are really eating something substantial. The best thing about sweet potatoes is that they are great with lots of different flavors- you can make them sweet and cinnamony, or go totally savory and they hold up just as well. This is a savory salad which makes a great and colorful side dish to any meal and is great cold, warm or room temperature.The natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes is contrasted beautifully by the warmth of the cumin and is perked up by the lime juice while the black beans add color, texture and earthiness.  Enjoy!

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1 inch chunks
1 large red onion, cut into medium chunks
2 Tbl oil
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/2  tsp cumin
1 red pepper, diced
3 scallions, sliced
1 15 oz (425 gram) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a sheet tray place the chunked sweet potatoes and red onion. Drizzle on the oil, season with the garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and roast until the sweet potatoes are just tender, about half an hour. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Once cool, place the sweet potatoes into a bowl and add the diced red pepper, scallions, black beans and cilantro or parsley. Dress with the vinaigrette and toss gently so as not to crush the potatoes and beans.

For the dressing:
1/3 cup lime juice
1/2- 2/3 cup light olive or canola oil (depending on your preference-less oil will make it more acidic)
1 tsp cumin
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all together and pour over salad.

recipe adapted from Mark Bittman

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Last week the weather forecasts predicted a massive blizzard of epic proportions. Immediately, my thoughts went to last year's blizzard where we were stranded for almost a week and ran out of all basic food (not to mention had no heat or running water for a while.) Apparently, I and most of the country were still traumatized because everyone attacked the supermarkets and stocked up on food, anticipating feeding their families 3 meals a day for weeks as if the Apocalypse was coming. I freely (and sheepishly)  admit that I bought enough to keep us stranded for a good two weeks. Of course, as Murphy's law has it, our blizzard turned out to be just a giant money making conspiracy by the supermarkets and we only got a measly few inches. Needless to say, I and I'm sure lots of other people were left with tons of leftover groceries. Most of what I had left could be used for a while afterwards but I had lots of peppers that were going downhill quickly and this is what became of them.
This is a vegetarian Tex-Mex take on stuffed peppers and they are truly delicious. I used quinoa instead of the traditional rice to make it healthier and added lots of black beans and spices for flavor. Instead of the spices, to make things easier you can substitute your favorite Taco seasoning blend- I personally love the one Trader Joe's makes that has no MSG and I imported a few packets with me last time I was in America. You can also add soy crumbles or your fake chopped meat of choice to this and it would be delicious as well. This recipe makes a lot but is yummy as leftovers the next day. I ate mine topped with sour cream, chopped cilantro and more sriracha and was in healthy Tex-Mex heaven. Enjoy!

5 large green or red bell peppers, either halved with half stem on or whole with tops removed
2 Tbl olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or small hot pepper, finely diced (optional)
1 small zucchini, diced
1 1/3 cups quinoa, rinsed very, very well
1 cup water
1 800 gram (28oz) can crushed tomato, divided
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin (alternatively, instead of the spices you can substitute 2 Tbl of your favorite Taco seasoning mix)
1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
pinch of oregano
1 Tablespoon sriracha (optional)
salt and pepper
3 cups grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite Mexican cheese blend), divided in half
1 1/2 cups crushed tomato (the rest of the can)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp salt

Heat a pot of lightly salted water to boiling and add the halves or whole peppers. Let cook for 4 -5 minutes until softened but still crisp. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute until the onions start to get translucent and then add the zucchini. Saute another minute until the zucchini starts to cook and then add the quinoa stirring it around with the vegetable to let it toast a little. Add the 1 cup of water,  1 1/2 cups of crushed tomato, black beans, cumin, chili powder, oregano and sriracha and season well with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the quinoa is al dente. Close the flame and let the quinoa sit another 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Cool the mixture. Once cool mix in 11/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.

Preheat the oven to 375.
In a bowl mixed the remainder of the crushed tomato with the water and spices. Spread at the bottom of a baking dish. Nestle the peppers in the sauce and fill each with quinoa mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cup of  cheddar cheese on top of each pepper,  cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes until the cheese is nice and melted.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Orange, Cranberry, White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

OK, the title is a mouthful, but let me tell you, these cookies hands down win the best cookie contest (the imaginary one in my mind that is.) Forget about chocolate chip cookies- these buttery, orange-y, chocolate-y cookies will soon be your new favorite. It's not often that I make cookies. I find them tedious and usually un-enjoyable to bake and prefer to make bars or cakes if I have to bake at all, but these were worth every minute in the kitchen. For every Shabbat I make a new and different cake/cookie/pastry for our special family breakfast-some are huge successes and find themselves made again down the line, some are less so. This will be a first for me, but I will be making these cookies again for the second week in a row, that is how delicious they were. Enjoy!

For the orange sugar:
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh orange zest

Mix together and set aside.

For the cookies:
1 cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh orange zest
3/4 cup (150 grams) butter at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or white chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the sugar and orange zest together. This will help to better incorporate the orange flavor into the cookie. Add the butter, egg and vanilla and mix until creamy. Reduce speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat until well mixed and then mix in the cranberries and white chocolate.
Shape the dough into about one inch balls ( I used the smallest size cookie scoop) and roll each ball into the sugar and orange zest mixture and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press down each cookie with the bottom of a glass to flatten them. Bake for about 7-9 minutes until the edges are light golden brown, don't over bake!

Recipe adapted from Land O' Lakes