Archive | January, 2012

Sunday Supper: Healthy & Hearty Borscht

29 Jan

Low Sodium Borscht

Borscht is a traditional Ukranian soup/stew and makes a great hearty winter meal.  My father is part Ukranian and would have my mom make this for us a few times every winter and always on Valentine’s Day (because of the soup’s deep red color).  My mother used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking that I adapted to include meat and make the borscht more of a soup-consistency.  The main ingredients are beets and cabbage, two of the NY Times 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating, so while this is another recipe that doesn’t necessarily photograph well, it is an easy, savory winter meal that is also very healthy.  And delicious!

Healthy & Hearty Borscht
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups very finely chopped beets (I used pre-packaged peeled beets so I didn’t have to worry about roasting/peeling beets)
1/2 cup very finely chopped carrots
1 cup very finely chopped yellow onion
1 pound beef chuck, 1/2″ cubes (optional)
Flour (optional)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups beef stock (low sodium) (Note: For a vegetarian option, use vegetable stock)
1 cup water
1 cup very finely shredded green cabbage
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Sour cream (or 0% Greek yogurt), for a garnish
Dill, for a garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Chop the beets, carrots, onion and cabbage in advance.  Set aside.
2. Lightly dredge the cubes of meat in a bowl of flour.
3. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a saute pan.  Add meat and cook until lightly browned.
4. Heat butter in soup pot over medium-low heat.  Once melted, add beets, carrots and onions.  Stirring continuously, cook until softened.  About 8 minutes.
5. Add beef stock, water, cabbage, red wine vinegar and meat to pot.  Bring to a bubbling simmer.  Once simmering, lower heat, partially cover soup with lid, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Serve hot.  Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream (or 0% Greek yogurt) and dill.

Note: This soup also tastes great cold.  I like it even better reheated as leftovers the next day though because the flavor intensifies and the broth thickens.

Low Sodium Borscht

Sweet Southern Comfort Goes on a Diet!

23 Jan

Healthy Veggie Snack Bag

OK…so the title of this post is a little deceiving; I’m not actually going on a diet, but my New Years resolution this year was to snack healthier.  That’s easier said than done when you work long hours and your office kitchen is always stocked with candy, chips and other unhealthy (and unfilling) snacks.  In order to help me implement this resolution, I turned to my friend Marc Perry, founder of Built Lean, an awesome fitness and weight loss website.  Marc also does personal training sessions in NYC, so I signed up for a couple to help get my butt into gear.  I got some great workout tips, but the most important thing I took away from our sessions was that in order to take my fitness to the “next level,” I would need to change my diet.  (Who knew an 8 oz. glass of orange juice can have upwards of 20 grams of sugar in it?  That is OVER five teaspoons of sugar in your morning drink!)  While I’m not going to stop cooking the Southern-style dishes I grew up with, in the past three weeks, my healthy snacking has already made a huge difference in how I feel. I find that the veggies in pre-packaged veggie snacks can be dry and old and you can’t order hard boiled eggs (Marc’s #1 breakfast selection), so I had to take matters into my own hands.  Every Sunday this January, I have hit up my local Whole Foods and picked up 1 dozen eggs, fresh veggies and some ingredients for a homemade veggie dip.  It takes about an hour to hard boil the eggs (useful tutorial here) and clean/prepare the veggies  and dill yogurt dip (recipe below).  I store the hard boiled eggs and have two egg whites and one egg yolk  every morning for breakfast along with a piece of fruit and a glass of skim milk.  Once the veggies are prepared, I divide them into 5 ziploc bags and take them to the office on Monday.  When an afternoon snack craving hits, I grab a bag of veggies and my homemade dip or hummus instead of the usual cookie or chips.  Not only do the veggies fill me up more than the “bad” snacks, but I also feel a LOT better, have lost a couple of pounds and I’m saving money not buying pre-packaged snacks too.  Let’s see how long I can keep this going in 2012 (and beyond)!

Healthy Veggie Snack Bags & Dill Yogurt Dip
Serves 1 person for 5 days of snacks

healthy veggie snack bags

One Week's Worth of Healthy Snacks!

Ingredients
1 bag baby carrots
1 head celery
5 assorted bell peppers
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound snow peas
1 cup 0% Fage Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1 Tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

Directions
1. Clean all vegetables and cut celery and peppers into bite size pieces.
2. Separate vegetables into 5 sandwich-size ziploc bags.
3. Add dill and lemon juice to Greek yogurt and mix well.  Store in a tupperware container.
4. On Monday morning, bring all 5 veggie bags and yogurt mix to office.  You now have healthy snacks for a week and don’t have to think about it again until Sunday night!

Dill Yogurt Dip

Healthy Dill Yogurt Veggie Dip

Christmas Dinner: Mom’s Standing Rib Roast

11 Jan

Mom's Standing Rib Roast

My mom rarely uses recipes.  If she does, it’s generally by Julia Child or the Joy of Cooking and then she opens up the cookbook but doesn’t really follow it.  For this recipe, she started with Julia Child’s Standing Rib Roast  recipe from her cookbook Julia Child & Company, which pretty much means she followed Julia’s instructions on when the meat was ready but little else.  Here is my mom’s adaptation.

Mom’s Standing Rib Roast
Adapted from Julia Child & Company
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 10-pound rib roast (2 ribs in our case, but it could be 3 or 4 if you are working with a smaller cow)
2 tbsp. butter, room temperature
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cups water
Salt & pepper, for seasoning

Other Items Needed
Low-Sided Roasting Pan
Roasting Rack
Baster
Meat Thermometer

Directions
1. Take the meat out at least 1 hour before you plan to put it in the oven so it gets to room temperature.  Trim the rib roast to remove the excess fat.  Lightly season with salt & pepper – you don’t need much since the remaining fat will provide a lot of flavor for the meat.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Adjust rack position to lower level.
3. Smear the cut end of the beef with butter and place it fat side up (ribs down) on the rack in the roasting pan.  Place carrots, onions and 2 cups water at the bottom of the roasting pan.
4. Place roast in oven.  Every 30 minutes, baste the meat with the juices at the bottom of the pan and check the temperature of the meat in the thickest, middle section of the roast.  If you want medium rare meat, take the roast out of the oven when the temperature reaches 125.  This should take between 2 to 2.5 hours for the cut of meat.
5. When ready, remove roast from oven and cover with tinfoil to keep warm.  Let sit for 15 minutes then carve.
6. Combine fresh grated horseradish with sour cream for garnish/extra flavor.

Mom's Standing Rib Roast

Christmas Dinner: Potato & Celery Root Mash

9 Jan

Potato & Celery Root Mash

Having had such success at Thanksgiving with Bon Appetit’s Creamy Mashed Potato recipe that I adapted, I was eager to try a recipe for Potato & Celery Root Mash that I found in BA’s December 2011 issue.  The recipe calls for fresh horseradish so I thought the flavor would go well with Mom’s Standing Rib Roast.  You can find BA’s recipe here.  I followed this one pretty closely since I have never worked with celery root or fresh horseradish before.  The recipe as well as some useful info on preparing horseradish and celery root are below.  Enjoy!

Potato & Celery Root Mash
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2011
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2″ cubes
1 pound celery root (approx. 2 whole celery roots), peeled, cut into 3/4″ cubes
1 6″ piece of horseradish, peeled, coarsely grated
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Prepare potatoes, celery root and horseradish.  Do NOT peel celery root or horseradish with a vegetable peeler – it isn’t strong enough!  Check out this article for a useful primer on how to peel celery root.  You can use the same technique when peeling the horseradish too.
2. Place potatoes, celery root and horseradish in a large pot.  Add water and cover by 1″.
3. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-high, and simmer until vegetables are tender.  This should take about 25-30 minutes.
4. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Return vegetables to pot; add sour cream, Dijon mustard and butter.
5. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash vegetables.  (Note: This recipe won’t be as creamy as my Creamy Mashed Potato recipe from last month, but it will have a ton of flavor!)  Add reserved cooking liquid if needed (I didn’t need to add anything) if mash is too stiff.  Season with salt & pepper, to taste.

Christmas Dinner: Hot Toddies

5 Jan

Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy

Don’t get me wrong, hot toddies are great, but I’ve always been more of a spiced cider, egg nog or hot chocolate kind of person.  This recipe from Bon Appetit’s December 2011 issue caught my eye because the picture was SO pretty and I could totally envision my family drinking these while sitting around the fire Christmas afternoon opening presents and relaxing after dinner.  I watered down the BA recipe a LOT because it was really strong.  My adaptation of their recipe is below.

Honey-Bourbon Hot Toddy
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2011 Issue
Serves 2

Ingredients
2 tbsp. honey
2 cups water
6 tbsp. bourbon
Lemon juice
Lemon peel, for garnish
Cinnamon stick, for garnish

Directions
1. Heat water on stove until just about to boil.  Take 1 cup of water and mix it with honey.  Stir until honey dissolves.
2. Add bourbon and mix.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice right and mix again.
3.  Divide between 2 mugs or Toddy glasses.  Add remaining water to mugs until you have reached desired strength of drink.  (I filled ours all the way to the top).
4. Add a lemon peel and cinnamon stick to each drink for garnish.  Serve warm.

Honey-Bourbon-Toddy-646

Honey Bourbon Toddy (Photo Courtesy of Bon Appetit, December 2011) - See what I mean about this picture? It's stunning!

Christmas Dinner: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

3 Jan

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I found a yummy looking recipe for pumpkin bread pudding on Smitten Kitchen from back in 2007!  Their recipe was adapted from Gourmet magazine and you can find their original post here.  I used more bread than I should have so to make the dessert creamier and less dry, I added creme anglaise sauce on top.  Both recipes are listed below.  The bread pudding calls for almost the exact same ingredients as a traditional pumpkin pie so this recipe is great if you are looking for that pumpkin pie flavor but a different texture dish.  Creme anglaise is a great recipe because it is so versatile – it can be served warm, cold or room temperature.  In addition to serving on top of bread pudding, I also like to eat it with berries in the morning for breakfast.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2007 Issue

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsp. bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1″) day-old baguette or crusty bread (I used half a ciabatta loaf and a baguette.)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle.
2. Mix together dry ingredients (sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves).
3. Slowly add eggs, milk, pumpkin and bourbon until well mixed.
4. Toss bread cubes with melted butter in another bowl and add to 8″x8″ baking pan.  Pour pumpkin mixture on top.  (Note: Only use as much bread as I did if you like thicker bread pudding.  When I make this again, I will probably do at least a cup less bread and cut the pieces smaller, so that you can see the “soupy” pumpkin mixture in the baking pan.)
5. Bake until pudding is set, which should take about 25-30 minutes.

Creme Anglaise
From the Joy of Cooking
Makes 2 Cups

Ingredients
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups hot milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp rum, Cognac or other liqueur (I used light rum)

Directions
1. Whisk egg yolks in 2-quart saucepan, adding the sugar by fairly rapid spoonfuls – if it goes in all at once, the yolks can turn grainy.
2. Continue beating 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.  By dribbles, stir in the hot milk – stirring, not beating, because you do not want the sauce to foam.
3. Set the saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring slowly with a wooden spoon and reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan.  The sauce should gradually come near – but not to – a simmer.  You must be careful not to over heat it as this will scramble the yolks.  Indications that it is almost ready are that the surface bubbles begin to subside, and almost at once you may see a whiff of steam rising.
4. The sauce is done when it coats the wooden spoon with a light creamy layer thick enough to hold when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon.
5. Next beat in the vanilla, butter and run.  Spoon on top of bread pudding.  Sauce can be refrigerated in a covered container for several days.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

Christmas Dinner: Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

1 Jan Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

Before I get into today’s recipe, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!!  I hope 2012 is a great year for you all!  My resolution is to snack healthier so I should have some recipes up in the next couple of weeks to this goal.  What are your resolutions?

I don’t remember when I first started making this recipe, but it’s an easy side dish to prepare and looks very elegant on the dining table.  This would also be a great dish to serve at a cocktail party.

Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 bunch asparagus
4-6 pieces of bacon
Salt & pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Clean and prepare asparagus by placing all of the stalks so the tips are all lined up.  This will help keep all stalks the same length.  Cut away the white hard ends of the asparagus and discard.
3. Divide the asparagus into 4-6 bunches of 4-6 pieces of asparagus each.  They should be small bunches; the thicker the bunches are, the harder it is to cook evenly.
4. Wrap each bundle together in the middle using one piece of bacon.
5. Season each bundle with salt and pepper.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil so they won’t burn during the roasting.
6. Bake in oven for 25 minutes until bacon is cooked and asparagus is roasted.  They should be cooked through but still crunchy.

Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon