November 18, 2013

Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Yes, I made brussels sprouts, the icky green vegetable that everyone loves to hate. They can smell pretty bad and, yes, there is such a thing as being too healthy because too-healthy things usually don't taste good. But these do. As a picky eater, I have found that there are two ways to make things taste better. First, I cook them myself. If I know what's in something, I'm not afraid of what I'm eating. Second, I smother them in things I do like. In this case, that's bacon because there's one way to make anything taste good, it's adding copious amounts of bacon. Add a nice dose of maple syrup and you won't even realize you're being healthy.

These brussels sprouts start by cooking the bacon. That's right; you're not only eating bacon, you're cooking everything in the bacon fat to make sure that smokey, salty goodness permeates every bite. You take the bacon out so that it doesn't get overcooked, then cook the garlic, habanero, and brussels sprouts in the fat to make everything nice and crispy. Add the bacon back into the pan with the maple syrup, but be careful not to burn the maple syrup since you do want to caramelize the brussels sprouts without making them charred and bitter. Ideally, the brussels sprouts will be sweet, salty, and spicy, the perfect dish for Thanksgiving or any night of the year.

3 Cups Brussels Sprouts, Halved
4 Strips Bacon
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1/2 Habanero, Minced
3 T Butter

3 T Maple Syrup

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove and chop, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the butter to the bacon fat.

Cook the brussels srpouts in the skillet until the brussels sprouts are tender, about 12 minutes, adding the garlic and habanero about halfway through. Season with salt and pepper, then add the maple syrup. Cook until caramelized, about 3 minutes.

Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from Authentic Suburban Gourmet

November 14, 2013

Pumpkin White Chocolate Biscotti

I'm convinced biscotti are the perfect dessert for this time of year. They make great gifts, they store well, and you can make them any flavor to suit any taste. This recipe is particularly good for the holiday season because it's full of pumpkin. You can find pumpkin in your latte, pumpkin in your pie, and pumpkin in your Pringles, but I guarantee these biscotti are even better than all of them. 

My pumpkin biscotti are extremely low-fat, but you wouldn't know it. Since biscotti don't need that soft, melt-in-your mouth texture like my peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, you don't need to rival Paula Deen in your butter use. The pumpkin puree provides flavor and moisture without the fat, so you only need a few spoonfuls of oil. 

The biscotti bake up nice and crunchy with a hint of spice and chunks of sweet white chocolate. They make the perfect gift, if you don't save them all for yourself. Don't feel too bad; as soon as my dad heard they are low-fat, he hoarded the whole batch in his office and refused to share, and my sister followed me around in the kitchen sneaking pieces from the cutting board.

3 3/4 Cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Allspice
1/8 tsp Cloves
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
2 T Oil
1 T Vanilla
2/3 Cup White Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 350F and line a cookie tray with parchment.

Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and 2 tsp of the spice mixture.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, oil, and eggs. Stir in the pumpkin and vanilla. Add the flour, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Shape the dough into three logs and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Cool, slice, and bake at 300F for 15 minutes or until crunchy.

Makes 36
Recipe Adapted from Spoonful of Flavor

November 9, 2013

Maple Apple Spice Cake

Sometimes I like to bake in the fall just so I can fill the house with the smell of cinnamon, maple, pumpkin, and toasted pecans. There aren't any pecans or pumpkin in this cake, but I guarantee your house will still smell amazing. 

The maple spice cake is filled with all the spices I associate with fall: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. The maple syrup compliments them perfectly, and you get to use less sugar because it's so sweet. The cake is still not overly sweet, which allows you to top it with the sautéed apples and even a scoop of ice cream (caramel ice cream would be fantastic) without going into a sugar coma. 

The apples are cooked in some butter and brown sugar until just tender; they shouldn't be mushy, but they shouldn't be crunchy, either. You can throw in a pinch of cinnamon for some more flavor or add some more sugar for more of a caramel flavor. I think two apples is enough because I want to taste the cake, too, but you can double or even triple the recipe. Any apples you don't use would be great layered with some granola and yogurt or ice cream for parfaits or just on top of ice cream with some caramel sauce.

2 Granny Smith Apples
1 Stick + 3 T Butter
2/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp + Pinch Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Allspice
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Cloves
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 tsp Vanilla

Heat oven to 350F and line an 8x8" pan with parchment.

Peel and core the apples; cut into wedges. Heat 3T butter in a skillet and add 1/3 cup brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir in the apples and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. Beat the remaining butter and remaining brown sugar in a stand mixr until fluffy. Add the eggs, then beat in the maple syrup, sour cream, and vanilla. Gradually add the flour.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Top with the apples.

Serves 16
Recipe Adapted from Gourmet

November 4, 2013

Vegetarian Challenge - Day 7 (Sesame-Crusted Tofu)

So maybe tofu isn't my thing. I decided a while ago I would definitely try it at the end of this experiment; I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I believe at least a taste is a crucial part of understanding alternatives to current dietary habits. Well, I can now say that after hours of research, a week of meatless eating, and a bite of tofu, I fully comprehend both the environmental and nutritional impact of eating vegetarian.

Though I didn't particularly like the tofu, my dad ate it all. Personally, I loved the breading. It was the jiggly, spongy texture of the tofu itself that made the dish less than appealing. However, people who like tofu (namely my dad) seemed to love it. It takes about 90 minutes to make, but most of that is spent pressing the tofu. All you have to do is slice a brick of extra-firm tofu, sandwich it between a few layers of paper towels, and leave something heavy on top (I used a glass baking dish) to squeeze out the water. Pressing the tofu improves the texture and prevents it from falling apart while cooking. Then, just dip the slices in an egg wash and the breading and cook until crispy. I use a combination of panko crumbs and sesame seeds to make an exceptionally crunchy crust. In addition, the panko gets rich and buttery with only a tiny bit of oil; you get deep-fried texture and taste without all the calories.

Nevertheless, I'm honestly not so sure I'll be eating too much of this tofu. There is no denying soy's environmental superiority (animal protein requires 12 times more land, 13 times more fossil fuel, and 15 times more water), but this week has taught me that there are many ways to help the environment through altering my diet, and not all of them include tofu. Just eliminating meat from one more meal a week can have a huge impact, and I learned that I am capable of doing more than just one fewer meal. While I may not go another whole week at a time, I can cut down my meat consumption significantly to reduce pollution, emissions, resource consumption, and animal cruelty. I hope you make the decision to cut down on the amount of meat you eat, even if just by a meal, so that you can make an impact, too.

1 14oz Block Extra Firm Tofu
2 T Flour
1 Egg
1 T Soy Sauce
1 T Sriracha
1/3 Cup Panko Crumbs
2 T Sesame Seeds

Cut the tofu into 1/2" thick squares. Place in a single layer on top of a few sheets of paper towels; top with more paper towels and place a heavy object (like a cutting board or pan) on top. Let sit for an hour.

Combine the egg, soy sauce, and sriracha. Combine the panko and sesame seeds. Toss the tofu in the flour, dip into the egg wash, and press into the panko mixture.

Heat some oil on a griddle or skillet. Cook the tofu until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes on each side. Serve with more sriracha.

Serves 3-4
Recipe Adapted from Love & Olive Oil

November 3, 2013

Vegetarian Challenge - Day 6 (Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish)

As evidenced by the stolen tartlet yesterday, my grandpa is in town. Even though he's from New York (which isn't exactly the south), he loves catfish. I do, too, and one of my main sources of protein this week is fish. So I made some catfish. It tastes just like the crispy fried catfish from his favorite Cajun restaurant, but it's much healthier because it's baked. The cornmeal crust keeps it crunchy and moist; you won't miss the grease or the oil splatters.

Now let's talk resources. The final component of the various impacts eating vegetarian has on the environment is the reduction of resource consumption. 70% of US grain and 80% of US corn is fed to farmed animals. The amount of grain alone could feed about 800 million people. Granted, grain has much less protein than meat, but it's still a significant amount of food. In fact, the ratio of the amount of food used to produce meat to the amount of meat produced is 5:1, though the ratio is closer to 1.4:1 if you only include the amount of food fit for human consumption since many animals, particularly pigs, eat waste or food inedible to humans.

Luckily, this catfish is delicious enough to make you forget about meat, at least temporarily. I must admit I really want a cheeseburger right now, but it has been almost a week since I've had any sort of meat, so I'm allowed to crave some. But I just have to survive Tofu Monday (is that a thing?) and I can have whatever I want, though that will certainly include this catfish and all the other dishes I've made this week.

1lb Catfish
1 Egg
1/3 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 tsp Hot Sauce
1/2 Cup Cornmeal
2 T Flour
2 tsp Season Salt
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika

Heat oven to 400F and grease a cookie sheet.

Whisk the season salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika together. Combine the egg, buttermilk, hot sauce, and a third of the spice mixture. Combine the cornmeal, flour, and remaining spice mixture. Dip the catfish in the egg mixture and then the cornmeal mixture, shaking off the excess.

Place the catfish on the prepared tray and bake for 12 minutes or until cooked through.

Serves 4

November 2, 2013

Vegetarian Challenge - Days 4-5 (Chocolate Coffee Tart)

I finally had time to bake something this weekend. I've been making all these fish recipes and cheesy dishes as well as practically drinking bowls of queso dip at Mexican restaurants, but I finally had a chance to make some dessert. I decided to make a chocolate coffee tart, which was sent off to my dad. Luckily, I had enough pie crust dough and chocolate filling to make a tartlet for myself, which was promptly stolen by my grandpa, who decided it needed some alcohol. That addition is up to you, but the base recipe is included below.

You may be wondering what I've been eating for the past two days besides queso dip. I had some pasta and macaroni and cheese, but I also went out to dinner, where I had a quesadilla one night and a giant stromboli on the other. Strombolis are like calzones; they are full of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and whatever else you want to add. I have a picture of mine below. Try not to get too jealous. The garlic rolls were pretty fantastic, too, so I just had to photograph them.

I didn't even miss meat while I was stuffing myself with copious amounts of various cheeses. I certainly didn't miss all the antibiotics found in meat, since 50% of antibiotics produced are used for animals to speed growth and reduce disease. Though the number is a little shocking, the goal is reasonable; however, those antibiotics create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are more difficult to treat in humans. In addition to antibiotics, humans also consume trace amounts of pesticides, growth hormones, drugs, and other chemicals used in the process of raising and processing meat. Furthermore, charring meat can produce carcinogens.

But back to the tart. I use my basic pie crust recipe and fill it with the same chocolate fudge filling I use in my chocolate truffle tartlets, which is just a combination of milk, cream, chocolate, and egg yolks. It does need to be baked, but just until set. The filling should be fudgy and rich without oozing everywhere. I top it all off with some fresh whipped cream; I add some instant coffee powder, since it is a chocolate coffee tart. As per my grandpa's suggestion, you can always add a splash of Kahlua or other coffee liqueur when the cream is almost stiff. If you aren't a coffee person, you can omit the coffee entirely and replace it with another extract, like vanilla, peppermint, or coconut. Maybe I'll actually get to eat some if I try a new flavor.

1 Recipe Sweet Pie Crust, Baked (See Below)
1 2/3 Cup + 1 T Cream
1/3 Cup Milk
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
2 T Butter
2 Egg Yolks
1 1/3 tsp Instant Coffee
1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 300F.

Combine 1/3 cup cream and the milk in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Whisk until smooth. Combine the egg yolks and 1T cream, then add to the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared tart shells and bake for 10 minutes for tartlets or 15 minutes for a tart or until bubbly and set.

Meanwhile, whisk the coffee into the cream. Whip until it holds stiff peaks, then beat in the powdered sugar. Spoon onto the cooled tart(s).

Pie Crust:
1 1/4 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled
1 Egg Yolk

Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine the egg yolk with a tablespoon of cold water and add in. Pulse until it begins to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Preheat oven to 375F. 

Roll the dough out to fit a 9-11" tart pan or 8 4" tartlet pans. Grease a sheet of foil, then press onto the tart pan(s). Fill with pie weights and bake until firm, 10-20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, then bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Cool.

Makes 1 9-11" Tart or 8 4" Tartlets
Pie Crust Recipe Courtesy Bon Appetit