Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carrot Salad

About two month ago my family celebrated Alyssa's graduation with a luncheon at a Russian restaurant in Queens. Well, it is difficult to stop eating when all of the food in front of you looks so good.  But considering that you have all of your relatives around you, you also don't want to embarrass yourself by looking greedy and eating non-stop.  This is with one exception, I couldn't stop eating the carrot salad that was in front of me.  Seriously, it was like I had never eaten carrots before and I needed to catch up for all of the time I lost.  I think I ate enough to turn orange.

Now, it is not like I haven't tried this salad before.  I remember eating it in the past but somehow, this time around a new relationship was born.  Of course, I set out to replicate it when I got home.

I first tried to make the salad using carrots that were grated with a food processor.  While the taste was there, the texture just wasn't.  The carrots were too mushy when they needed to be like matchsticks. This is the salad with grated carrots.  It think that it does look pretty but the texture wasn't right. 

Of course, I didn't quit, I had to order a mandolin and try again.  This time the salad was perfect.  It is sweet from carrots and a little bit spicy from the garlic and the black pepper.  With the mandolin, I was able to cut the carrots so that they were thicker and more like sticks.  The carrots maintain their crispiness in this shape and give the proper texture to the salad.


1 pound of carrots, peeled
Juice of one lemon
4 large cloves of garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
Black pepper to taste

1.  Using a mandolin, cut the carrots into matchstick sized pieces.

2. Using a mandolin, slice the garlic cloves into thin pieces.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the carrots, lemon, olive oil, garlic, and black pepper.  Adjust the ingredients to taste.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Red bean and Pepper Pate

Sorry for being MIA for the past week.  I did not have my camera so I could not take good enough pictures so I had to take a small break from blogging.

Now that I have my camera back, I decided to make a recipe that I found on NY Times.  It is a red bean and red pepper pate that can serve as a great dip for a large gathering.  It is easy to make and an inexpensive dish that would feed many people. 

I am more and more realizing that I do not love peppers, there is something about their taste that only allows me to eat a little bit at a time.  In this dish, the red pepper taste is much less obvious, I find that the texture of the red beans is most dominate.  Again, I would not eat too much of this dip at a time but it is a good option to serve to those 'normal' people who are not picky selective eaters like I am. 

makes 10 portions

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed, or 1 2/3 cups cooked red beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely diced red pepper
1 serrano chili, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound grated tomatoes or 1/2 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil a 5-cup baking dish.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onion, red pepper and serrano chili. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes.

3. Add the garlic cloves. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute.

4. Stir in the tomatoes, paprika and cayenne, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. Using a food processor, add the beans and eggs and process. 

6. Add the lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Process until smooth. Add the tomato-onion-pepper mixture, and pulse to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into the prepared baking dish, and cover tightly.

7. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pate is set and the top is just beginning to color.

8. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature or cold.



Friday, July 15, 2011

No Calorie Friday: Tiramisu

In all recent trips to Whole Foods, I seem to constantly get pulled toward their dessert display.

They have a really good dessert display.

In the midst of all of the delicious and tempting looking dessert, the one that most often finds its way into my shopping basket is tiramisu.

Now after several suspicious appearance of the tiramisu, I decided that it was time to make my own version.

After doing some research into the dessert, it appears that there are two ways to make it: an easy version using store bought lady fingers, or a more time consuming version with home made cake.

I actually began by trying to make it with lady fingers and cream cheese (instead of marscapone cheese as the recipe calls for.  Unfortunately, that version was a failure.  The cream cheese was not thick enough and the cake essential drown in the cheese.

The second attempt was much better.  I was able to locate marscapone cheese in my local Trader Joes store and I made my own cake.  It is a dessert that probably takes practice to make in order to get a flavor that is satisfactory so I can see myself playing around with the recipe in the future.  I consider that better than salivating in Whole Foods.

The Cake

1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a small sauce pan bring milk to a boil and set aside.

2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. 

3. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs until thick. Gradually add sugar, blending well. 

4. On low speed, mix in the milk, dry ingredients, and vanilla.

5.  Pour into a cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.

Tiramisu Filling

16 oz marscapone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 tablespoon rum
1/2 cup of freshly brewed espresso or strong-brewed coffee

Cocoa powder and shaved chocolate to top 

1. In a large mixing bowls, mix together the marscapone cheese, sugar, and vanilla and set aside.

2.  Combine the rum and coffee and set aside.

To assemble:

1. When the cake is cool enough to handle, use a bread knife and cut into 3 even layers.

2.  Using the same pan that the cake was baked in, put one layer of cake.  Take 1/3 of the coffee and pour it over the cake.  Top with 1/3 of the cheese mixture.  Repeat for the next two layers.

3.  Sprinkle the top layer with cocoa powder and shaved chocolate.

4.  Chill in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I am not a soup in the summer type of girl.  Honestly, I am not a hot coffee or hot tea or hot anything in the summer type of girl.  My body temperature seems to rise very quickly in the summer and then doesn't come back down.  So I usually coordinate my food with the temperature outside.  Warm foods in the winter and cold foods in the summer.  It helps keep me balanced.

So the idea of eating soup in the summer never really occurred to me, even when indoors and in air conditioning.  However, in recent trips to restaurants, my boyfriend has consistently ordered soup and then offered to share with me.  It turns out that soup in the summer is not that bad.  Let me interject: it should be eaten in a cool place!  Hmmm, so maybe this is a lesson that I need to be more open minded?

In this spirit, I decided to make borscht.  This is a traditional Ukrainian beet and vegetable soup.  There are many different versions of borscht, all delicious in their own way.  Unfortunately, I cannot claim that this is a secret family recipe.  Yes, my mom makes good borscht but it was not a staple food when I was growing up.  I had to reinvent the dish by referring to different recipes and picking what I liked.

Because this version includes tomatoes, it is more red in color.  Other recipes for borscht contain more beets so the soup is more purple in color.  And I promise for those of you who are not sure about eating beets (as I used to be, not that long ago), you can't even taste them!

(Note: the recipe is vegetarian but I threw in some cooked, shredded chicken to make the soup more filling.  The soup can be made without meat or by adding any type of meat that you may prefer).

makes 8 portions

1 potato, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups of beets, peeled and thinly sliced (I used beets that were already steamed and cleaned)
8 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 teaspoons salt
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced
3 cups chopped cabbage
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
sour cream or plain yogurt, for topping

1. In a large pot, add the potatoes and the vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature to a simmer.  Cook the potatoes for 10 minutes.  (If you are using fresh beet, also add the beets in at this stage).

2.  In the mean time, heat the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan.  Add the onions, celery, carrot, cabbage and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft.

3.  Now return to the large pot with the potatoes and stock.  Add the beets, and the other vegetables.  Add the cider vinegar, honey, tomato sauce, salt, and pepper.  Cook on low heat for about 45 minutes.

4.  Serve with fresh dill and a spoon of sour cream or yogurt.



Friday, July 8, 2011

No Calorie Friday: Cappuccino Cookies

I just ate way too many cookies, all before eating an normal meal for the day.  Isn't that the beauty of cooking for yourself? Eating your meals in whatever order you want.  

For today's no calorie Friday, I decided to make a chocolate cookie.  These are low-fat, do not contain too much butter or sugar, all things that I look for in a perfect cookie.  Personally, I hate the idea of being tempted by a dessert and consuming 1/3 or more of your daily calorie intake from that one treat.  These cappuccino cookies do not take a long time to bake and they come out really soft and not too sweet, perfect for eating with tea or coffee.

makes about 32 cookies

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of dry instant coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 egg whites
1/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup power sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixture until soft.

3. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, coffee granules, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Beat until combined.

4. Add in the egg whites and yogurt and beat until combined.

5. Add in the flour and beat until combined.

6. Take about one tablespoon of dough and roll into a bowl.  Dust the dough with powered sugar.  Place each cookie on a baking tray, about an inch apart.

7. Bake for about 10 minutes until the surface is firm.



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Baked Beans and Greens

I know that there are people who like to plan out their meals for an entire week in advance but I tend to cook on a whim.  I collect ideas and recipes in my head and when the mood strikes me, I decide to make one of these stored recipes. Sometimes I feel that this method fails me, either I end up buying more than I need at the grocery store and have food in the fridge that spoils before I use it or I have to make several additional trips to the store to pick up a few extra ingredients for the dishes that I want to make.

I envy those people who can plan out all of their meals in advance of the week.  I liken it to packing for a trip,  I never pack in outfits and I always seem to overpack.  I follow this trend when food shopping.  Either I like the spontaneity of coming up with a meal idea or I just can't commit to an entire week already planned out for me...

This is a recipe that I saw in a magazine and had been stored as a picture on my phone for the past few weeks.  I have been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my cooking so I thought that this would be a perfect dish to try.  The beans make it a nice hearty meals and the vegetables and herbs add a lot of flavor to it.  With a piece of bread, it makes a perfect, light lunch.

makes 8 servings

1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Small bunch of Swiss chard and/or collard greens, stems removed and leaves chopped
4 plum tomatoes, cut
1 15-oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can of white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

2.  In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper.  Cook until the vegetable are soft, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the chard and collard greens to the pan and 1/4 cup of water.  Cook for several more minutes, until the leaves soften.

4.  Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.

5.  In a large bowl, combine the beans with all of the vegetables from the pan and then add the spices.  Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish or baking pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

How do you prefer to cook?  Planning out meals in advance or coming up with ideas on a whim?


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Eggplant burger with zucchini and fries

Summer weekends at my house are all about grilling and this holiday weekend was no exception.  My father made three different types of steaks and three different types of chicken to feed the guests that we had over.  He cooks so that there are always leftovers and one time grilling fed us for the rest of the weekend.  That is not to say that there weren't other things on the menu like grilled asparagus, corn, pineapple, and different salads, but meat was the main course.

Now after a meat overload, I think that I am going to stick to vegetables for the rest of the week to balance out my diet.  I had seen a Food Network show last week that mentioned a restaurant serving an eggplant burger and it had caught my attention.

I must admit that I have never ever tried a veggie burger before.  I know that there are a lot of people out there who enjoy them but some how the idea of a vegetable burger never appealed to me.  The eggplant burger on the other hand sounded like an exciting to alternative.  Sometimes when surrounded by some much grilled meat at BBQs I forget that there are other options out there for the people who do not eat meat or who may want a lighter meal that day.  So I attempted to create an eggplant burger that could be a substitute for any vegetarians who attend my father's grilling extravaganza and I am very happy with the result.  The burger is nice and juicy and combined with the cheese and the spices, it softer and more flavorful than a hamburger.

Eggplant Burger 

Makes 4 medium sized patties

2 small or 1.5 medium eggplants, cut into small cubes
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1/4 cup of freshly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Cooking oil

Slices of your favorite cheese
Hamburger buns 

1. Put the eggplant into a large pan filled with 1/4 cup of water.  Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.  (I use water to soften the eggplant to avoid using a lot of oil).  When the water is almost gone add some oil so that the eggplant doesn't get stuck to the pan.  Cook for about 15 minutes.

2.  Add the garlic and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the eggplant has shrunk and is soft.

3.  Pour the eggplant onto a large cutting board and chop the eggplant until it becomes close to a puree.

4.  In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, bread crumbs, and spices.  Separate the mixture into 4 even portions and shape into a medium sized pattie.

5.  Fry in vegetable oil in a large pan for a few minutes on each side until it browns.

6. Serve on a toasted bun, with melted cheese.

Baked Zucchini strips

Makes 4 servings

2-3 Zucchinis, cut into 1/4 inch thick strips
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup eggplant
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Line a baking tray with aluminum foil.

2. Toss the zucchini strips with olive oil and spread them evenly over the tray. 

3. Cook for about 10 minutes.

4. Mix the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl and set aside.

5. Take the tray out of the oven, turn the zucchini over, and then sprinkle the bread crumb and cheese mixture over them.

6. Bake for another 5 minutes, until the cheese melts and serve warm.

Baked French Fries
Makes 4 servings

3 potatoes, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Line a baking tray with aluminum foil.

2. Toss the potato strips in a medium bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and then spread them evenly on the baking tray.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the potatoes become soft and the edges are browned.  Check on the potatoes at least twice to toss them in the pan.  More oil should be added if they get stuck to the foil.

Serve warm.

Do you have any vegetarian favorites for the summer months?


Friday, July 1, 2011

No Calorie Friday: Orange Yogurt Muffins

Well after another long and painful week, I am done with summer courses and am now two classes closer to a masters degree!  There is not much to say other than a sigh of relief...I can finally enjoy summer!

I think that we all need a no calorie Friday this week because 4th of July is all about eating and relaxing. So I am starting the long holiday weekend off with a batch of muffins.  I made them smaller, more of a cupcake size so they are perfect for a  small snack.  Best of all the recipe is very easy and quick to make.  The result is a very delicious treat that is a perfect mixture of sweet and citrus-flavored especially when they are still warm from the oven. 

makes 12 small muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 8-oz container of honey yogurt (or another sweet flavor)
1/3 vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 freshly squeezed orange juice

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line a 12 muffin cup tray with baking cups.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

3.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg, yogurt, oil, and vanilla.

4. Pour the wet mixture into the center well of the dry mixture and stir until the batter is just moistened.

5.  Spoon batter into the muffin cups.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.

6.  While the muffins are baking combine the orange juice and powdered sugar to create a glaze.  Drizzle the glaze over the warm muffins and serve immediately.

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!  I hope that it is filled with fun, relaxation, and good food!