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Monday, August 31, 2009

Salmon Burgers

Salmon is my favorite fish, and could very well be my favorite source of meat protein. The texture is so smooth and buttery, and the flavor is great on its own or with other ingredients added to enhance it. Unfortunately, the high cost of salmon steaks and fillets prevent me from having it too often. That's why I was delighted to discover a recipe for Salmon Burgers using canned salmon. Granted, it's not as cheap as tuna fish, but it's a whole lot better than the $14.99/lb sample of salmon I recently had at Whole Foods. (It was divine, I tell you. Divine.) And actually, the cost of the salmon burger and bun (excluding any topping you might add) is less than 2 bucks! I think that's a good deal.

I used wild caught Whole Foods 365 Days brand of canned salmon. Canned salmon usually still has bones in it. The easiest way to take out the bones, without getting it all mixed in together, is to turn the can of salmon upside down on a plate or cutting board. Separate the round of salmon in half, and run your fingers down the middle to get rid of most of the bones. Don't worry about getting every last bit; they're soft and it's not a big deal if some of them end up in the burger.

I'm pretty sure I came across this recipe on the Alaska Seafood recipe, but it's not up on their website anymore. It's so easy. The main flavors are salmon, dijon mustard, and soy sauce. Just mix everything together and form into patties. We cook the burgers on the griddle. We've never tried them on the grill, but they seem substantial enough that they would hold together. This recipe makes four servings.

Salmon Burgers

15 oz. canned salmon, bones removed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1.5 tablespoon dijon mustard
3/4 cups plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1 egg

Mix it all together, form into patties, and cook on hot griddle (400 degrees) for about 5 minutes on each side. Serve on whole wheat buns with your choice of veggie toppings. Don't bother with ketchup or mustard; this burger doesn't need either one!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Crispy Oven Chips

There are people out there who probably think I'm crazy for using my oven in August. Since I bake all the time anyways, it's no big deal to me, and I don't notice an overwhelming difference in the comfort level of my apartment. Besides, I only recently perfected recipe for oven chips, so now I want to make them whenever we get potatoes. (If anyone has a suggestion for what to do with potatoes that doesn't involve heat, I would be interested in hearing it!).

These chips are so good plain or with some organic ketchup. In the past, potatoes have been overlooked for their nutritional benefits, but there is really a lot of good in them! They are a good source of carbohydrates, which anyone who does any physical activity needs. They are also a good source of protein, Vitamin C, and Potassium. I use extra virgin olive oil to give a good dose of healthy fat, and I sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder to give it a nice flavor. And the secret ingredient? Halfway through baking, I scatter sesame seeds over the chips to give them extra crunch (plus extra fiber and protein). This is a great snack, side, or appetizer. Pair it with some organic ketchup, and then you get lycopene to boot!

Crispy Oven Chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

several potatoes (on the small side)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

(These measurements are estimates. Use more or less seasoning depending on your taste). Scrub potatoes well. Slice into 1/8 inch thickness. Drizzle a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil and use fingers to spread around pan to coat. Lay potatoes out on pan, being careful not to layer them too thick to avoid one slice getting buried under another. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle seasonings over potatoes, excluding sesame seeds. Toss to coat evenly. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, scatter sesame seeds, and use tongues to toss potatoes, making sure to rotate slices so that they brown evenly. Bake for 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and enjoy! (Serves about 4 sides).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blackberry Buckle

Today is Justin's birthday (yay, happy birthday Justin!!) One of his favorite desserts/brunch foods is Blueberry Buckle. Has anyone else heard of this, or is it just a Michigan thing? I had never heard of it before meeting Justin. It's very similar to coffee cake, but with berries. He requested it special for his birthday, so I set out to the farmer's market last weekend to get the main ingredient. Alas, there were no blueberries, only blackberries. I wanted it to be very fresh and flavorful, so I went with the blackberries instead of getting blueberries at a grocery store from somewhere far away. He didn't mind.

It's a recipe that started with his Grandma Kuk, and was then revised to be healthier by his mom. I have revised it even further to be even healthier (oh, there's always a way!). I have such a sweet tooth, and I love baked goods, but if I made them with the full amount of butter and used only white flour, I would have to exercise a lot more than I do. It's a fun challenge to try and make a not very healthy recipe much healthier by adding whole grains or using a lower fat substitute for butter and oil.

I substituted plain low-fat yogurt for the butter in the cake part of the recipe, but I used butter (actually, Earth Balance) for the crunch topping. Some things aren't worth trying to make healthier, and crunch topping is one of them. If you haven't noticed, I like to add nuts and oats to just about anything I can. I didn't want to do that to this recipe, since I already strayed from the original by using blackberries, but I found a way. I used a blend of almond flour, whole wheat flour, and oat flour. It was just a little experimentation, but it turned out well. You could just use a blend of whole wheat flour and white flour, or even all whole wheat flour, and it would still taste great. And feel free to use whatever berries you have. This recipe is fun to play around with. Hope you like it, because Justin and I sure do!

Blackberry Buckle
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cake Part:
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup plain, low-fat yogurt (drained of any extra liquid)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup almond flour (you can also just grind almonds in a food processor)
3/4 cup oat flour (same as above)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups blackberries (or any other type of berry)

Crunch Topping (mix with two knives until crumbly):
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup Earth Balance (a lower fat version of butter without the trans fat that most other margarines have)

Blend yogurt and sugar. Add eggs and blend. Stir in milk. Add dry ingredients. Blend in berries. Put in greased 12X9 inch pan. Top with crunch topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes until fork inserted comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rustic Lemon Cornmeal Cake

Before my tastes started becaming more “refined”, I would never choose a lemon dessert over a chocolate one. I liked chocolate best, and that was that. But after experimenting with new recipes and broadening my tastes, I found that I actually prefer fruit desserts to chocolate ones. Of course, chocolate is still tops, but I’d rather have it in the form of a smooth, dark chocolate bar or a really good cup of cocoa. I’ve found that creamy chocolate ice cream or thick chocolate cake is both too rich and not chocolate-y enough, which is kind of a paradox.

For dessert, I’ve come to prefer fruit crisps or light cakes. This Rustic Lemon Cornmeal Cake recipe would have never excited me two years ago. I discovered it on epicurious.com, though, and it had a crazy amount of 4 star (or rather, 4 fork) reviews. I had to try it.

Let me tell you, I love it. It’s hard not to eat the whole cake. I made it for guests that were over this evening, and they loved it. I offered them half of the leftovers, but (I think out of politeness) they only accepted about a quarter of it. Now I have to restrain myself!

As I do in most desserts, I replaced half of the butter with plain low-fat yogurt, and substituted half of the all-purposed flour with whole wheat flour. You can’t even tell a difference. The cake is still light and moist (ew, I hate that word, but it’s apt), and quite lemon-y. We served it with fresh blueberries on top.

• 1 1/2 cups (packed) powdered sugar, sifted
• 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon Juice

• 3/4 cups all purpose flour
• 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
• 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
• 3/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado)
• 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup buttermilk*
• 2 large eggs
• 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
• 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, cooled
• 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

For glaze:

Combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in small bowl. Stir with spoon until smooth and paste-like, adding more lemon juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread. Set aside.

For cake:

1) Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides; line bottom with parchment (I use the bottom of the pan to trace a circle on the parchment paper; then I cut it out and it’s the perfect size).

2) Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl; whisk to blend. Whisk buttermilk, yogurt, eggs, lemon peel, and vanilla in small bowl. Pour buttermilk mixture and melted butter into flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, gently fold liquids into flour mixture until just blended (do not stir). Scrape batter into pan; spread evenly.

3) Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes.

4) Immediately run knife around sides of cake. Place rack atop cake in pan. Using oven mitts, hold pan and rack firmly together and invert cake onto rack. Remove pan from cake. Place another rack on bottom of cake; invert 1 more time so that cake is top side up.

5) Stir glaze until blended. While cake is still very hot, drop glaze by tablespoonfuls onto cake; spread to within 1/2 inch of edge (some glaze may drip down sides of cake). Cool completely. Serve with berries of your choice.

*For buttermilk, you can combine 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Parmesan Rosemary Focaccia

I made this bread to use as buns for the Italian-style turkey burgers Justin and I made for guests last night. It came out really well, and looked so lovely with the crispy Parmesan cheese on top and the bits of rosemary. I must say, I’m not much of a rosemary fan, but it adds so much to this focaccia and really completes the bread.

I got this recipe from a downloadable recipe book that Manna Harvest sent me. (I had been poking around their website and added items to my cart that I never ended up buying). I followed the recipe exactly, which is rare for me, but it didn’t look like it needed any improvement. For those of you who have made bread and think it’s too much of a process, or for those of you who want to make bread but feel intimidated by the process, this is a good bread to make.

Yes, it’s still a process, but the mixing and kneading part isn’t too hard. It uses simple ingredients and takes a couple of hours from start to finish (with only about 30 of those minutes being active time). Make a double batch and freeze some for later. You can slice it lengthwise to use as sandwich bread, add it as a side to make a meal out of salad, or just snack on it. So…go for it!

Parmesan Rosemary Bread
Makes 1 “tray”

1 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 package instant yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1) In a large bowl, stir together flours and sea salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Sprinkle sugar and yeast into the well. Carefully pour the warm water into the well (I let the tap water get really hot and use that). Let stand until yeast begins to act, about 5 minutes (meaning a froth-like film will appear on top of the water).

2) Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into well. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture in the center of the bowl. Gradually widen the circle of stirring to take in all of the flour at the sides of the well. Turn out on a floured surface and knead just until smooth.

3) Pour ½ teaspoon of oil into clean large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled, 30-45 minutes (I turn the oven on warm when I start making the dough, then turn it off right before I put it in the oven to rise).

4) Punch the dough down. Use 1 teaspoon olive oil to coat a smallish baking sheet and place the dough on the sheet. Gently press the dough out to about ½ inch thickness in order to cover the entire sheet, including corners. Drizzle remaining olive oil on top.

5) Use the handle end of a wooden spoon to dimple the dough at 1 ½ inch intervals. Sprinkle with rosemary and parmesan. Place in oven in the middle (it should still be warm from the previous rise). Let rise until doubled, 20-25 minutes. Turn the oven on to 375 degrees (without removing the bread). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Let cool (I kept the bread on the sheet, but balanced it on top of an overturned muffin pan to air the bottom of the sheet).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Gourmet Camping

Camping. What does it make you think of? Bugs? Fire? S'mores? Hiking? Something that people don't usually think of when they get excited about camping is food. It's usually low-quality food that tastes great because you're so hungry after hiking all day. And there's nothing wrong with that, once in a while, but why not go all out on your camping trips? Think about it. Often people don't have time to cook during the work week. Camping is the perfect setting to take your time, because you happen to have a lot of time. It doesn't mean you have to lug a bunch of special kitchen tools to make a great campfire meal, it just takes creativity and prep work.

I love camping. I grew up doing it, and luckily, Justin is more of a camper than I am, so we're sure to be pitching many a tent in years to come. This past weekend, Justin and I went camping with my lovely cousin Steph and her wonderful husband Brian. We had oh so much fun gallavanting around Hocking Hills State Park. They were in charge of three lunches and snacks, and we were in charge of two breakfasts and two dinners.

Steph and Brian make their own bread (and it's so delicious!! The recipe is found in More with Less, called Oatmeal Bread, and they add flaxseeds and more whole wheat flour to the original recipe). We had filling sandwiches with deli meat, spicy mustard, and smoked provolone. They also made a big thing of Sweet Corn, Tomato, and Basil Salad, which came from one of my favorite food blogs. Snacks included carrots, trail mix, pretzels, and fruit. We had the same lunch and snacks for all three days, but this was just fine with us. It was delicious.

Day 1: Dinner for 4

Since Justin and I get veggies every week through our food co-op membership, we wanted to make sure to put those to good use on this trip. Our first meal was Cucumber Yogurt Salad (which we made the day before), whole wheat flat bread, and spicy Italian turkey sausage. It was fun to toast the sausages on a stick (except both of mine started to fall off and I had to finish cooking them in aluminum foil on the coals -- I think the trick is to poke the stick all the way through the sausage lengthwise). The coolness of the cucumber salad was a nice complement to the spicy sausage. Some of us wrapped the sausage in flat bread and some of us just had three separate components.

-Shady Grove Farms Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage (1.5 pieces per person)

-Whole Foods Whole Wheat Flatbread (1 piece per person, warmed in aluminum foil over fire grate)

-Cucumber Yogurt Salad (make ahead and keep chilled until ready to serve)

-S'mores (these need no description!)

Day 2: Breakfast and Dinner for 4

For breakfast the next morning we had blueberry- and peach-filled pancakes. They were so delicious, and a really great way to start a long day of hiking. We used Krusteaz Whole Wheat Complete Pancake mix. I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix (using the 18-21 pancake ratio -- it really only makes about 12 good-sized pancakes). Then I added 1 cup each of blueberries and diced peaches. We sprinkled the extra fruit on top and drizzled with honey. We used a camping pans to cook them over our Coleman stove. Wonderful!

Dinner that night was a bit more involved, but still very easy. My inspiration came from a couple of Real Simple recipes that I had torn out of the magazine last June and then forgot about. The first was a salad of Chard with Pine Nuts and Feta (we could have scavenged those pine nuts! says Steph), and the second was grilled potatoes and onions which led me to make...Hobo pies! Hobo pies are veggies, beans, meat, cheese, or whatever you want to put in a tightly packed aluminum foil pocket and cook over hot coals. They're really versatile and you can spice them any way you like. We used potatoes, red onions, cannellini beans, balsamic vinegar, oil, Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning, salt, and pepper. We peeled and chopped and dumped everything in a big bowl, then divided it into four portions, placing each portion into a square of aluminum foil. Be sure to fold over and seal each pocket well, and then fold and seal it again with a second piece of aluminum foil. The last thing you want is to watch your delicious Hobo pie go tumbling into the coals. This was a wonderfully filling and healthy meal, especially with some of the leftover Sweet Corn, Tomato, and Basil Salad that needed to be eaten.

-Krusteaz Complete Pancake Mix (add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and two cups of fruit to the 18-21 amount, and you'll get about 3-4 thick pancakes per person)

-Coffee (boil water on Coleman stove and use with French Press, or use stovetop percolator)

-Chard with Pine Nuts and Feta
(I didn't follow this exactly -- I just threw all the ingredients together and didn't sautee anything. It still tasted great!)
1 bunch rinsed and chopped chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) crumbled low fat Feta
dash Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Combine everything in large bowl and toss.

-Hobo Pies
1 1/2 pounds peeled, diced potatoes
1 red onion, sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 14 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
a good sprinkling of Mrs. Dash
salt and pepper

Peel onions and dice. Slice red onion. Place in large bowl. Add oil, vinegar, beans, and seasonings. There's really no need to measure ingredients, just eyeball it. Or, prepare the dressing beforehand and pour over potatoes, onions, and beans once you're ready to make the Hobo pies. Toss everything together and divide evenly among four large squares of aluminum foil. For each portion, fold one half of foil toward the middle, then close the other half over the middle. Roll in the edges to form a tight seal. Repeat with another square of aluminum foil over the original packet. Place over hot coals and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove with sticks. If potatoes break easily with a fork, it's done.

Day 3: Breakfast for 4: Fruity Oatmeal and Coffee
As you know, I love oats. I haven't been eating oatmeal in the summer, since it's hot, but the cooler morning air at Hocking Hills made it so that oatmeal was a great breakfast option. We added everything to these oats. We were planning to add honey, cinnamon, and raisins, but then we also had leftover blueberries, peaches, and bananas. The result was jam-packed oatmeal with lots of flavor and fiber. It's good fuel to either do more hiking or take down your camp site. We had chosen a walk-in site, so we lugged all of our stuff a quarter mile in a few trips. We didn't regret it, though, since the main campground had people packed in like sardines. This oatmeal gave us great energy to pack up our gear.

6 cups rolled oats
5 cups water
1 cup diced peaches
1 cup blueberries
2 bananas
1 cup raisins
cinnamon to taste (I used about 3 teaspoons)
honey to taste (I used about 1/2 cup)

Bring water to a boil. Add oats, simmer until most of the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Add cinnamon and honey, stir well. Stir in fruit. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Smoothie

Growing up, my older brother was always making smoothies. He would add a bit of fruit and a bit of ice, blend it up, taste it. Add a little more milk, maybe a little juice, more ice. Always more ice. Then he would share some with us, and it unfailingly tasted great. We all loved going to Orange Julius with my mom when we went on mall trips as young kids. The Orange Julius’ tasted so smooth and creamy, and I loved the name of them: Julius. I liked saying it.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to make my version of a smoothie. It’s not just fruit, dairy, and ice. There are a few surprising ingredients as well: almond meal, oats, and wheat germ. I use yogurt instead of milk, and it makes one thick, satisfying smoothie. You can use any fruit you want. The general rule is a few pieces of fruit at ¼ cup to ½ cup each.

Summer Smoothie
Serves 1

1 tablespoon almond butter
¼ cup yogurt
1 small banana
½ peeled peach
¼ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
2 ice cubes

Add everything to blender and blend. Adjust the amount of ice or add milk depending on how thick you like your smoothie. Enjoy!