Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chocolate Chip Patty Pan Bread

This week at work has been so busy! I wish I could say that a daily slice of this no-oil chocolate squash bread was my single indulgence to get me through, but...

let's talk about something else.

Patty pan squash.

I only used about a quarter of the squash in the ratatouille from last week and have brainstormed / Googled other ways to use it up (especially because I got another one in the most recent CSA delivery). One of the recipes I found was from The Harmonious Kitchen. I switched it up a bit by replacing oil with applesauce, reducing the sugar, using 50:50 whole wheat:white flour, and increasing the squash. The end result was a just-sweet-enough, chocolate-chips-in-every-bite, soft and awesome bread.

I made this last weekend when J was in town visiting and we had our first, tentative bites after a 5 mile run, which included an unplanned detour through Wiener Fest*. That's a festival of wiener dogs, in case you were wondering. In fact, a part of me wishes I had a wiener dog just so I could enter it into the races. They actually have a race for "wannabe wieners" that Newton would have qualified for, but let's be honest: watching dachshunds** run is much more entertaining than watching dogs with normal sized legs run.

And look what else we saw:

Isn't this thing so cool??! I think this was part of a "coolest dog house" competition or something, but I haven't done the research to see what exactly was going on. A bunch of really awesome doggie houses were all lined up along the sidewalk here, but this one really stood out. Amazing!

Here is your reference, non-Texas people: Gruene Hall is the most famous dance hall in the central lone star state that plays host to some of the best country music in the entire world (a la REK).

Between J's visit, randomly running (literally) into Wiener Fest at the park, seeing this dog house, and visiting with an old friend (well, she used to be my boss back in the day, but it's been a we can be friends now, I think), last weekend was pretty great. And then the chocolate bread actually turned out pretty great, too, so luckily that just added to the overall greatness.

Chocolate Chip 
Patty Pan Bread

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 25 to 65 min (muffins vs loaf)
Yield about 12 servings

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs
¼ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2-2 ½ cups grated patty pan squash
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. Alternatively, grease a muffin tin (about 18 cups).
2. In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients (applesauce, eggs, and yogurt) and both sugars.  
3. Sift in the dry ingredients (both flours, cocoa, and baking powder). Mix until just combined.
4. Fold in the squash and the chocolate chips.
5. Spoon batter into the loaf pan or muffin tins.
6. Bake the loaf for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If making muffins, bake for about 25 minutes.
7. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a butter knife around the edges (if necessary) and move the bread to a cooling rack.

Calories 232, Total Fat 6.2 g, Cholesterol 46 mg, Sodium: 266 mg, Protein 5.2 g, Fiber 3.1 g

Ordinarily, I'm all about substituting and using the things I actually have around the house, if at all possible. But, the chef's note on the original recipe warns against substituting other types of squash for the patty pan because of different water content.

I chose to fill a 6 muffin tin and then put the rest in a loaf pan. That made my own "servings" count a little weird. But the muffins will bake up much more quickly than the loaf, which is perfect for an impatient someone like me.

Do you see the colorful flowers in the periphery of those pictures? Those were from J -- his contribution to (me and) this recipe, making my photos look a little prettier.

*After writing this entire paragraph about Wiener Fest, I realized that I spelled wiener incorrectly. All of the wieners were wrong.
**This is officially the most I have ever used the word wiener. Ever. In a post that was supposed to primarily be about chocolate, even. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014


In honor of J's recent visit, I think I should start by saying that there is a blister on the inside of my dominant pointer finger. CHOPPING SQUASH. This blister is truly the gift that keeps on giving because it gets squished every time I pick up a fork. So... it gets squished pretty often.

There's proof that this recipe calls for quite a bit of chopping. It is a reminder that (1) I dislike chopping and (2) I REALLY DISLIKE chopping onion and (3) J is really good at chopping.

Unfortunately for J, this ratatouille was chopped, cooked, and down the hatch before he ever got here.

I chose to make this recipe in order to use up more of my CSA box veggies. Ratatouille is always good for that. It's a vegetable stew of sorts, generally containing tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash. I love it because it contains a TON of veggies and it is a pretty adaptable recipe. Use up whatever you have! Only have canned tomatoes? Go ahead! Who actually keeps a dried herbes de Provence blend, you ask? Toss in some extra thyme, oregano, and rosemary! What the hell is patty pan squash? Google it (or use a zucchini)! The addition of the patty pan squash was a new one for me, too, and it turned out wonderfully.

The measurements here are also pretty forgiving, so don't be afraid to use more or less than the suggested ingredients. Just BE SURE to adjust your seasonings. The first time I made a ratatouille recipe, it came out pretty bland. All of those veggies are glorious, of course. But they need salt (and other stuff) for this union to work.

Traditionally, ratatouille is served as a side dish, but I love to eat it as a full meal. Feel free to add a protein of your choice (white beans would be my recommendation, but something like ground beef or turkey would also do the trick).


Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ - ½ cup vegetable broth, divided
1 tsp dried herbes de Provence blend
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 small eggplant, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small patty pan squash, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 small bell peppers, any color, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ pint grape tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small yellow squash, chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
18 oz tube prepared polenta
Grated parmesan cheese, optional

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).
2. Add ¼ cup vegetable broth directly to the onion mixture to deglaze the pan.
3. Add dried herbs, fresh thyme, eggplant, patty pan squash, and bell pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.  
4. Add tomatoes, yellow squash, salt and pepper to the pan. . If mixture appears dry, add additional ¼ cup broth. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until squash and eggplant are tender. 
5. While vegetables are cooking, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Slice polenta into ¼” rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, sprinkling with parmesan during the last 5 minutes of baking time, if desired.
6. Mix parsley and basil into ratatouille vegetable mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
7. Divide polenta rounds onto four plates and top each serving with ¼ of the ratatouille and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Calories 187, Total Fat 3.9 g, Cholesterol 1 mg, Sodium: 414 mg, Protein 4.1 g, Fiber 3.2 g

Seriously, I think that every time I make this dish, I like it better and better. Or perhaps I've become a better cook in the last five years. ;)

Finally, I encourage you all to take a moment some time today and just appreciate how it feels to NOT have a blister on your pointer finger. Just do it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double Sweet Potato Lentil Curry


Aaaahhhhh. Autumn. It's that beautiful time of year in the south when the temperature dramatically dips into the 80's and we begin craving all things cozy and pumpkin and spiced and comforting. Down here in Texas, there are a good many few of us who can't wait to slip into turtleneck sweaters. Amiright?? J/K. Lolz.

Actually, the weather is quite lovely in the mornings. Newton and I can run a solid 2 miles without alarming passers-by that one of us might overheat and die at any moment. So, our seasons here are a little screwy, but I accept you for YOU, Texas weather!

One of the many great things about my little CSA box, is that I don't have to think about what veggies are in season or out of season (despite the weather). The box just tells me.

Last week, my delivery included sweet potato greens, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, okra, onion, patty pan squash, and spaghetti squash. I was able to use three of those items in the recipe I'm sharing today, adapted from smitten kitchen and The NY Times.

What do I mean by double sweet potato? I used the one huge sweet potato along with the sweet potato greens. If you look at the recipes from SK and the NYT, you'll notice that they both used Swiss chard. The fact is, you can use any greens at all. Spinach. Kale. Turnip. Just get 'em in there.

This dish is warm and lovely. Some notes to make it a success:

  • There are a lot of ingredients on this list, and a bit of chopping, but I assure you that the cooking part is easy.
  • The trick is to get the lentils cooked through all the way. No one likes a crunchy lentil. No one.
  • If you don't have garam masala on hand but you do have a plethora of spices, just make your own blend. See my version below the recipe box.  
  • Don't skip the lime. 

Double Sweet Potato
& Lentil Curry

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
½ jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 lb sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
¾ cup dried lentils (I used green)
1 bay leaf
2 packed cups chopped sweet potato greens
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 lime, zested

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent (about 4 minutes).
2. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, garam masala and curry powder. Sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add 3 cups broth, sweet potato, lentils, and bay leaf. Turn heat to HI, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. 
4. Add sweet potato greens, salt and pepper. If lentils look dry, add remaining vegetable broth.
5. Cook for 20 minutes longer, or until lentils and potatoes are tender.
6. Serve topped with scallion, lime zest, and lime wedge.

Calories 220, Total Fat 4.0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 1138 mg, Protein 5.7 g, Fiber 7.0 g

* Garam Masala: (this makes just enough for the recipe above, adapted from here)

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • very scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • very scant 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Aaaaaannnnndddd... Finally, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT SODIUM. The recipe calculator likely used a high sodium broth. To ensure your sodium intake isn't through the roof, I'd recommend using a low sodium veggie broth.

Happy fall, ya'll!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Everything" White Bean Hummus

Bagels. I haven't bought a package of bagels in quite some time, but my favorite is always the "everything" kind. You may chalk it up to my notable indecisiveness, but why choose simply "onion" or "poppy seed" or "sesame seed" when you can have ALL THE BAGELS!?

Oh, that's right. I don't have a toaster.

So no bagels. But what about this Everything White Bean Hummus recipe? After making it, I think I actually prefer the more traditional garbanzo bean hummus, but this recipe was an interesting change of pace.

From the original recipe, I chose to cut down on the oil and salt just a bit, and to add some lemon juice. I have it on medical authority that decreasing salt in my own diet isn't a good idea (hello, hypotension), but there is plenty of seasoning in the "everything" mix that I felt it salty enough.

White Bean Hummus

Prep time: 15 min (or 60 minutes, if you need time to roast the garlic)
Yield: Enough for 6-8 people as an appetizer

2 cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), drained and rinsed
1 head of roasted garlic
½ small lemon, juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

crudité or pita for serving

1. Dump white beans and roasted garlic into a food processor with lemon juice. Pulse until smooth.
2. With the processor running, stream in the olive and sesame oils.
3. Mix seasoning ingredients together.
4. Fold about ½ of the seasoning ingredients into the hummus. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning on top, to taste.

Calories 234, Total Fat 12.1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 297mg, Protein 8.1 g, Fiber 5.2 g

It makes quite a bit of seasoning, so I had extra to sprinkle on salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. I think I still have a bit in the pantry! Try it!

Now... if I could only find my battery charger for the camera, I'd get started on the cocoa chai roasted almonds I made last weekend.  Sigh. Unpacking. Gah.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Smoothie Bowl

Since my last post:

  • I moved (a long way). 
  • I started a new job (the "big kid" kind). 
  • I took a huge exam (nailed it). 
  • I joined a new CSA (deliveries start next week). 
  • And I started a new fitness challenge (#100byHalloween). 

As for all that unpacking that was supposed to happen in August? Still only half finished. (But hey - we can't win 'em all.)

I'll be honest and say that I haven't really been adventurous in the kitchen in the past couple of months. Firstly, with only myself to cook for, I do tend to get a little lazy. And ya'll don't care about my lazy food. Second, I can't find my toaster. Do I use a toaster for many recipes, you ask? No. But I can't remember if I even packed it up or if I simply tossed it out in the heat of the crucial "I DON'T CARE WHAT COMES TO TEXAS ANYMORE" days of Ames.

So how 'bout some smoothies? No toaster required.

I have been on this "smoothie bowl" kick for a couple of weeks now. Mainly, the pictures of these beauties on Instagram are a huge inspiration factor. You should check them out (also try here). Gorgeous breakfast soup.

Normally, I like to liquefy my smoothies to a point where they are more like juice. The Nutribullet lets me do that fairly quickly with the addition of water. The smoothie bowl, however, should probably be of thicker consistency so that you can spoon it up without having to slurp it. Unless slurping is your thing.

The first bowl I invented was a twist on my "Everyday Breakfast Smoothie" which is fresh kale blended with frozen fruit (pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry) and water. I topped this with fresh mango, unsweetened (dried) coconut, rolled oats, and chia seeds.

The second edition was this frozen fruit smoothie (same blend as above) topped with something called "chia pudding" and fresh raspberries. Chia pudding is basically just soaked chia seeds. Remember those "ch-ch-ch CHIA! Pets" from the 80s? Same seeds. I soaked 1/4 cup chia seeds in 1 cup regular almond milk with a dash of cinnamon overnight. You have to stir it up a bit so it doesn't clump, but I find this to be a nice, weird textural addition to the smoothie bowl. And, most importantly, it looks cool.

Finally, my post-SundayRunday smoothie from this morning. Here, I have a new frozen fruit blend (pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, peach, and strawberry), layered with the rest of the chia pudding and topped with fresh raspberries and unsweetened coconut.

I actually made some green smoothie with spinach to layer into today's breakfast, but I was afraid the colors would run.... and that wouldn't be so pretty. So I drank it separately! How's that for taking one for the team?

Anyone else out there on the smoothie bowl bus?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Asian Roasted Vegetable Salad with Vermicelli

WARNING. This is a procrastination blog post. 
I should be studying for boards.

If you have never set foot in an Asian grocery, you are truly missing out on some excellent bargains. Usually they will sell larger volumes of the same items found in the "Asian Foods" section at the American grocery store - but AT RIDICULOUSLY LOW LOW PRICES. (I realize that may sound a bit like a used car commercial, but it's 100% factual). I haven't been happy with the state of affairs in their produce section, but for dry goods and non-perishables - IT'S ON!

As for produce, almost anywhere else is better. I usually just go to the regular grocery store, but occasionally hit up the Sam's super store if I have another reason to head that way. You may be surprised, but Sam's has a pretty solid selection of fresh staples. This includes giant amounts of spring mix for salads. Who needs that much lettuce, you may ask? WE ALL NEED THAT MUCH LETTUCE. I consider it a healthy challenge to finish the entire package before the leaves start to turn. The same challenge applies for most fresh veggies in my fridge. You may remember - it pains me to throw things away. LITERAL PAIN. (Man, I've used a lot of caps already! I'll chill out now...) If only there was a way to use up the salad greens *and* all of the other veggies in my crisper without making a heaping pile of cold chopped salad....

I took a peek in the fridge. I happen to have a bottle of fat free soy vinaigrette from Trader Joe's that I don't love as a salad dressing, per se... (I don't prefer sweetened dressings for salad), but it would work great as a base for a quick veggie marinade. I already had an idea in my head for a warm, soy based dressing for broccoli, carrots, and green beans...

Marinated, roasted vegetables on top of lettuce. That could work.

A step to the pantry -- should I add vermicelli noodles? Why not?! Noodles are far underutilized in salads, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But these particular noodles are an automatic match for fresh vegetables (spring rolls, anyone??). Experimental salad. Let's do it.

Asian Roasted Veggie Salad with Vermicelli

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 4

½ cup fat free soy vinaigrette (I used Trader Joe’s Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1.5 cups broccoli
1 cup fresh green beans, snapped into 2” length
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on a bias
4 spears asparagus, cut to 2” length on a bias
¼ pkg (or two small bricks) Asian vermicelli (bean thread)
6 cups salad greens
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame)
Extra vinaigrette dressing, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Place all chopped vegetables in a large bowl and pour vinaigrette sauce over. Gently stir to coat all veggies.
4. Spread veggies into a single layer on a large sheet pan. Bake vegetables for 20 minutes.
5. When veggies are almost done, bring a pot of water to boil.  Add vermicelli bricks to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, gently agitating noodles with a fork to separate.
6. Strain noodles with a large skimming spoon, or similar. Set aside.
7. Plate 2 cups salad greens topped with ¼ noodles and ¼ roasted vegetables (cooled to warm or room temperature). Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with extra salad dressing, if desired.

Calories 203, Total Fat 4.8 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 279 mg, Protein 4.6 g, Fiber 5.1 g

The salad was good. Again, I simply used up what I had on hand. Other tasty additions might include marinated tofu, scallions and mushrooms. If you can't find vermicelli noodles, you can also sub Japanese soba noodles or omit them altogether.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arugula Spinach Tomato Pesto (ASTP) with Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Aaaaahhhhhhh. The benefit of being (temporarily) unemployed is multifaceted, but one particular bonus is sleeping past 6 am. Every. Day.

Another bonus is having the time to do something other than work, study, or pack boxes. Unpacking.... well that's another story for August. In the meantime, trips to the farmer's market and shoe shopping for one particular upcoming wedding have been a much appreciated change of pace from the daily hospital grind.

Are you ready for another, absolutely delightful permutation of beans n' greens? Not quite to the eat-to-live standards (hello olive oil... and cheese.. and pasta) but full of healthy things nonetheless (arugula-spinach-tomato pesto = ASTP!). The ingredients for the pesto actually make enough for two nights. Use half today and freeze the rest.

The great thing about pesto in general is how forgiving it is. Don't have spinach? Add extra arugula. Prefer less garlic? Reduce it to three cloves. Where the heck to I find pepitas?? Use walnuts.

Arugula-Spinach-Tomato Pesto on Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 5 min
Servings: 4  servings

3 cups packed fresh arugula
1 cup packed fresh spinach
6 cloves fresh garlic
¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts
2 chives
6 large basil leaves
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 - 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 500g package of potato gnocchi
2 oz herbed feta cheese, crumbled (I used tomato basil)

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drop arugula and spinach into boiling water and allow to cook for 20 seconds. Then strain out greens and submerge in ice water. Reserve boiling water for gnocchi (step 5).
2. Peel the garlic and add it along with the basil leaves, pepitas, and chives to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is minced.
3.  Squeeze all of the water from the blanched greens and add them to the food processor along with the tomatoes. Pulse until finely chopped and well incorporated with the garlic mixture.  
4. With the processor running, add olive oil. Blend until well combined. Set half of the pesto aside and freeze for later use.
5. Add garbanzo beans and gnocchi to the reserved boiling water and cook according to gnocchi package directions.
7. Strain gnocchi and beans; scoop into serving bowls immediately. Divide the other half of pesto over gnocchi and sprinkle each serving with feta cheese. 

Calories 436, Total Fat 12.8 g, Cholesterol 12.6 mg, Sodium: 507 mg, Protein 8.7 g, Fiber 4.9 g

This was my first time using gnocchi, which are small, soft, dumpling-like pasta balls. They cook up super quickly, and were easy to find at Trader Joe's and the local grocery store. This ASTP has a great bite from the garlic and arugula, and is lightened up with the tomatoes so that it would be great on any pasta. Or, you can try it one of these other 10 Ways to use Pesto Beyond Pasta from The Kitchn.