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