Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taco Salad

I often think that having a second one of myself at home would be pretty great. I'm fun. I'm easy going. I cook. Right now, for example, my stomach is grumbling so loud that it could possibly be mistaken for the thunderstorm outside because it's after 10 am and I haven't made anything for breakfast. (But wait!! I have showered and combed my hair, so let's not go making any assumptions about how productive I will be today.) So, anyway, while this girl lays on the couch wondering what to eat, the other Lindsey would've already made some sweet potato almond butter muffins and the house would smell like fresh baked yum.

Yeah. Since that's not happening... I do have another sweet potato recipe that I'm pretty excited to share with ya'll this weekend. It's sweet. It's smokey. It's spicy. And guacamole.

My recipe is inspired by this one, written by Erin of Naturally Ella. These tacos have made their way into our bellies a few times already. The first time we made them, I was so pleasantly surprised by the flavor combo that I didn't for one second miss the cheese or sour cream that generally adorns your average taco or taco salad.

This go 'round, I decided to skip the tortillas and mix everything together with some salad greens to increase leaf intake (it's all about the beans n' greens, ya'll) while cutting the refined carbohydrates. With a little extra lime juice and a big dollop of guacamole, I didn't need to add salad dressing, but a light avocado vinaigrette would work really well here (if you are so inclined to make some, try blending avocado, white wine vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil with a little S&P).

Did you know that chipotle peppers are really just smoked jalapeños? These babies truly supply the flavor to this dish and cannot be substituted or omitted. Chipotle peppers come either canned in adobo sauce or dried. J and I both keep the dried variety in our respective spice cabinets. While this kind does take a little time to rehydrate and we miss out on the adobo sauce, they're super cheap and so easy to pull out  at a moment's notice (without an extra trip to the grocery store). If you purchase the canned variety, you should omit the water and add the adobo sauce to the blender instead.

Intimidated by the heat of chipotle? The spice is toned down a bit with the addition of honey, but you should probably use a small pepper (or half of a large one), or de-seed a dried pepper if you are not sure you can handle the spice. Definitely use less chipotle if you are reducing recipe. For the guacamole, you may also choose to substitute a de-seeded jalapeño for the serrano since jalapeños are not quite as hot.

 Chipotle Sweet Potato & Black Bean Taco Salad with Guacamole

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min
Servings: 6

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes, cubed (about 3 cups)
4 cloves garlic
1 dried chipotle pepper, rehydrated in ¼ cup warm water for 30 minutes
1.5 Tbsp honey
Juice of 1 large lime
29 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
Guacamole, for serving
10 cups salad greens - or - 12 corn tortillas
avocado vinaigrette, optional (see text)

2 small, ripe avocados
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ large onion, chopped
1 serrano pepper, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 roma tomato, seeds removed and chopped
Juice of 2-3 lime wedges
¼ tsp salt

1. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add onions, garlic and sweet potato. Saute for 4 minutes.
2. In a blender or food processor, liquefy the rehydrated chipotle and water with honey and the juice from one lime. Add the chipotle sauce to the skillet and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add black beans to the skillet and gently mix to combine. Cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until sweet potato is cooked through.
4. While sweet potato mixture is cooking, prepare guacamole. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Add lime juice and salt to taste.
5. Spoon sweet potato mixture over salad greens (or into corn tortillas) and top with guacamole. Serve with a lime wedge and a cold beer.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per salad serving, 6):
Calories 337, Total Fat 10 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 192 mg, Protein 12.4 g, Fiber 15.2 g

Try it this week! As I alluded, the original recipe is for sensational tacos, so if you are in the mood for un-salad, by all means - grab a couple of tortillas and get busy! I recommend small corn tortillas over flour. You won't be disappointed. Either way, the final addition to this delicious tasty fest is a cold beer with a slice of lime. Dos Equis is my favorite. Obvi. 

Speaking of XX, we should probably add that to my invisible grocery list. If I had another Lindsey around here, she'd probably be writing this down and making plans for dinner tonight. Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Life is all about balance.

When it comes to food, I firmly believe that, as long as consideration is given to the proportions of the good, the bad, and the downright sinful, the stars will align and reveal happiness gastronomique.

Exhibit A: exquisitely nutritious meals loaded with vegetables, healthy fats, and light flavors (see examples 1, 2, 3, and 4)
Exhibit B: decadently delicious treats that spare no caloric expense and serve as a reminder of all good things (example 5)

It is time to add to exhibit B, my friends.
In the name of balance, I bring you Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I have been looking for various ways to use up two giant bags of sweetened, shredded coconut ever since J bought way too much for a failed pina colada recipe (almost a year ago!). After a thwarted attempt at making a coconut almond birthday cake, I finally settled on this recipe: Almond Joy Cookie Bars by Heather Christo. My version is only minimally adapted. I *may* have also copied her "worn-in baking sheet" back drop for my photos. Neat trick. 


These guys puffed up a bit during the baking process, but they stayed within the margins of the pan and didn't overflow. Don't worry. 

Don't you just love the transition from lovely afternoon sunlight to dining room overhead incandescent??

Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
Yield 32 bars

1 cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
14 ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 ounces sliced almonds
10 ounces chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a ¼ sheet pan with tin foil and then spray it with baking spray.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and the eggs and whip together until very fluffy.
4. Add the coconut and combine well.
5. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt and then add it to the cookie batter.
6. Gently mix in the almonds and the chocolate chips. Don’t be afraid to use your hands
7. Transfer the dough into the prepared sheet pan and press evenly into the pan.
8. Bake the cookie bars for 30 minutes. Allow them to cool completely before slicing.

Calories 224, Total Fat 13.5 g, Cholesterol 33 mg, Sodium: 122 mg, Protein 3.9 g, Fiber 1.8 g

Chewy coconut. Crunchy almonds. Creamy chocolate. These cookie bars are sweet and rich.
Can't go wrong, man. 

I recommend cutting these into 32 small squares - about three bites each. There will be more than enough to share. Take them to work. Or a potluck picnic. Or an Easter egg hunt. No matter what you do, you'll probably at least burn a few extra calories from all of the coconut mastication (especially when you go back for your fourth and fifth bites).

I don't make cookie bars very often, but I am wondering why not!? These are easier to make than individual cookies, don't require multiple cookie sheets, and I'm not held responsible for producing evenly sized dough balls. Righteous. Anyone out there have a favorite cookie bar recipe to share? Hit me up in the comments. I'm all ears (or eyes, whatever)!

Happy Easter weekend, friends!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cabbage, White Bean & Potato Stoup

Love is when someone offers to scrape the ice from your windshield so you don't have to stand in the wind (even when he didn't think to wear a jacket).

Sunday was definitely a cloudy, grey, rainy type of day that just begs for a hot cup of tea, a certain rat terrier, and maybe even a warm bowl of soup. Blustery winds and nonstop raindrops morphed into an April snowstorm overnight, leaving my poor, exposed car covered in a thick sheet of ice by Monday morning. With those limitations, this cabbage and white bean stew/soup (stoup?) sounded appropriate because crock pot cooking is exactly the kind of thing that makes sense at times like these. In other words, I'm feeling lazy and the thought of eating cold salad just isn't very motivating. 

Heavy on veggies and beans, this stoup is a comfort food that you can feel good about eating in large portions. All good stuff. Fuel. Plain and simple. (...even if all you are fueling is an Anchorman 2 watching party).

The original recipe (Irish White Bean and Cabbage Stew) comes to you via Susan over at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen*. You may be wondering - why Irish soup? Well, to be honest, I actually found this recipe last month when all of the cool kids were whipping up things with reference to St. Patrick's day. Anyway, I took Susan's recipe, doubled the seasonings and added liquid smoke (at her suggestion - good choice). 

Cabbage, White Bean & Potato Stoup

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 4-8 hr (crock pot), 45 min (stovetop)
Serves 6-8

1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
1 to 1-1/2 pounds potatoes, cut in large dice
1/3 cup pearled barley (optional or substitute with gluten-free grain)
2-3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6-8 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked great northern beans (2 cans, rinsed and drained)
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
salt to taste

Crock Pot:
1. Place the vegetables, seasonings, and barley into a large (at least 5 quart) slow cooker.
2. Add enough vegetable broth to just cover the vegetables (start with 6 cups and add more as needed).
3. Cover and cook on low heat for 7 hours.
4. Add beans, tomatoes, parsley, liquid smoke, and salt to taste. Check seasonings and add more herbs if necessary.
5. Cover and cook for another hour.

1. Place vegetables, seasonings, barley, and broth into a large stockpot.
2. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Add remaining ingredients, check seasonings, and add more herbs if necessary.
4. Simmer uncovered for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Calories 318, Total Fat 1.2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Protein 13.6 g, Fiber 16.4 g

J and I served this stoup topped with extra chopped parsley, Caesar salads and (just in case we were in danger of being a little TOO healthy) quick butter biscuits on the side (baked with herbed sweet cream butter). 

I imagine that my friends south of the Mason-Dixon are looking at this recipe thinking, 
"Yeah right! It's already 85 degrees on a cool day!" 
But for those of us less fortunate up here in the Midwest, there may still be a few days yet this spring where soup/stoup/stew is absolutely appropriate.

 If you have a favorite soup recipe, please share it in the comments! 

It took me over an hour to make the words curve like this. Seriously. Photo editing is NO JOKE and I can understand how some people make an entire living out of this process. Holy smokes.

Fat Free Vegan Kitchen is one of those food blogs that I turn to time and again, week after week when I'm planning meals and grocery trips. This site is one I've grown to trust for healthy (and micro-nutrient packed!!) meal ideas. The recipes at FFVK are obviously.. well, vegan. But the good stuff doesn't stop there. Susan's recipes generally follow the nutritarian lifestyle (i.e. Eat To Live). These meals contain very little (if any) added fat and main dishes are heavy handed on beans n' greens. This translates into happy, healthy, homeostasis. Word. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Easy Sweet Cream Home Butter

-- no churning required!

J actually bought a quart of heavy whipping cream for me to make coconut almond cream cake for his stepdad's birthday. Well.... plans unexpectedly changed when Tom told me that he doesn't really love coconut. (Sheesh! J is supposed to know these things!!) Luckily, cake is cake is flour and butter and sugar and eggs. So it was easy to switch gears and make a simple yellow butter cake with chocolate cream cheese buttercream. Crisis averted.

My grandmother was a child of the depression and I credit her with my deep aversion to wastefulness. So, when I didn't use a drop of cream for the yellow cake or chocolate frosting, I knew I had to find some other way to use it up. I scanned the internet for a bit and found a few posts explaining how to make butter and buttermilk with leftover cream.

Easy peasy.
I like butter.
I love buttermilk biscuits. 

And so the fate of the heavy whipping cream was sealed.

Buuttttt..... life got a little busy, as it tends to do, and it was a couple of weeks until I finally made time to do the deed. By that time, the cream was expired by two weeks.


I opened it up and found a few solid chunks. It didn't smell bad, though.... J obviously wanted to toss the cream and move on with life beyond the idea of "home butter," but I wouldn't let it rest. Like any good doctor, I scoured Google for proof that people made butter from curdled cream and lived to tell the tale.*

I broke a spatula in the "squeezing" process, but bottom line:

Lindsey wins. 

Admittedly, this was more work than simply picking up a box of butter sticks at the grocery store, but this was a fun little experiment. It also provided me the excuse to make buttermilk biscuits with dinner that night. Plus, grandma is probably very proud of me.

Waste not, want not!

Easy Sweet Cream Home Butter

Prep time: 20 min
Yield: approximately 1 lb butter & 2 C buttermilk

1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
Seasonings for compound butter (optional )

1. Pour the cream in a large mixing bowl.
2. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the cream on high speed for several minutes, beyond the “whipped cream” stage until the mixture begins to separate into yellow-tinged clumps (butter) and thin, watery liquid (buttermilk). This process will take a few minutes.
3. Once the cream separates, use a spatula to press the small clumps against the side of the bowl. The small bits will combine to form a large wad of butter.
4. Strain all of the butter from the buttermilk. Collect and save the buttermilk for another purpose.
5. Kneading the butter by hand under very cold, running water, wash it until the water runs clear and all traces of buttermilk have been squeezed out.
6. Using your hands or spoons on the side of a bowl or cutting board, squeeze and/or press the butter to remove all of the water.
7. Sprinkle the butter with salt and knead until fully incorporated.
8. If making compound butter, add any combination of flavors at this time.  (*See text)
9. Butter may be refrigerated or frozen when stored in an airtight container or wrapped in wax paper.

A quart of cream made approximately 1 lb butter. You don't have to salt the butter, but it will keep longer in the fridge if you do. I also used about 1/4 of my yield to make a compound butter with some chopped fresh parsley, minced garlic, lemon juice and a bit of lemon pepper seasoning blend. Any fresh or dried herbs would work here, or you could use honey and cinnamon for a sweet butter blend.

I rolled the compound butter into a log shape in plastic wrap. The rest was pressed into the bottom of a Gladware container and both of these kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks before being entirely consumed. So good!! (In fact, we used the last of this butter to make Sunday breakfast crepes as well as a low-fredo sauce for linguine pasta this week. - recipe to come!)

*Of course, butter can been made from curdled or even sour/fermented cream (i.e. cultured butter). Some of you are probably rolling your eyes at my ignorance right now, but this girl grew up in the suburbs with four legged animal varieties that never had the opportunity to produce milk. Ya learn somethin' every day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vegetable Green Curry

Probably since moving to Atlanta for my internship, Vietnamese and Thai food have really become some of my favorite things to eat on this ENTIRE planet. I haven't been to Vietnam OR Taiwan to taste their food at the source, so perhaps that is a bold statement. Nonetheless, I am obsessed with the flavor combination of basil/cilantro/mint and I love everything about coconut milk. PLUS - these types of dishes can be prepared super heavy on the vegetables (which is exactly how I like to cook at home!).

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of my favorite restaurants here in Ames happens to be a little Thai restaurant on Main Street (The Spice - where I've only made the mistake of ordering my food "thai spicy" ONCE). I almost always order the same thing (pad thai with tofu and extra veggies / medium spicy), but my second favorite dish on their menu is the green curry. My pal Nina and I first visited The Spice just a few weeks into our residency and we have been fans of the restaurant ever since. The green curry actually reminds me of her because we both ordered the same thing on our first 'friend date' - and the rest is history. Also notable from that evening - The Spice provides the BEST reusable to-go containers for their curry.

And so... there you have the inspiration for today's post.

This vegetable green curry can  be made vegetarian/vegan with the substitution of soy or tamari sauce for the fish sauce listed below. Fish sauce is pretty inexpensive and doesn't actually make anything taste like fish. This is key because its offensive scent can be misleading*.

* Fish sauce, for those of you who aren't privy, smells like lost piranha souls rotting in a seaweed bucket of decayed shrimp heads and I just happen to have a very large bottle in my cupboard. Lots of Thai dishes call for this and you can find it in the Asian section of most food stores (even the Ames Wal-Mart). My advice to you - DO NOT spill it or sniff it straight unless you want to question God's intention for providing us with the sense of smell.

You can certainly find recipes to make your own green curry sauce, but I just bought the Thai Kitchen brand that comes in a little jar. You can also substitute any veggies you have on hand - the more the merrier, I say! Of course, J was nice enough to go ahead and make a second run to the store to pick up the broccoli I'd forgotten during our trip the day before. Womp womp.

All in all, though, this dish takes very little prep time - a bit of chopping, but you can pull it together in the amount of time it takes to steam some rice. Unless you burn the rice. Then you'll have plenty of extra time while you make another batch..... * ahem.*

I meant to add mushrooms, too, but forgot. The recipe below does not reflect that sad, sad fact.

Vegetable Green Curry

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 6

1 Tbs vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 cup shallots, chopped (about 5 large)
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs green curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
4 tsp fish sauce
2 - 14oz cans unsweetened coconut milk (full fat or light will work)
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into 2” strips
1 medium zucchini, cut into fourths and sliced lengthwise into ¼” strips
1 medium yellow squash, cut into fourths and sliced lengthwise into ¼” strips
1 cup green beans, snapped to 3” length
1 large carrot, sliced
1 cup broccoli, broken into small florets
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 large handful of basil, chopped
1 lime, zested and sliced into wedges
Chili oil or chili garlic paste, to taste
2 green onions, chopped
Cilantro, for garnish
3 cups steamed rice

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, deep frying pan. Sauté the shallots and garlic with the curry paste for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the coconut milk and fish sauce. Bring to a boil.
3. Add vegetables and simmer until veggies are crisp tender.
4. Remove from heat. Stir in basil and lime zest. Swirl with chili oil or chili garlic paste, to taste.
5. Serve over rice. Top with green onions and a generous squeeze of fresh lime. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

Calories 305; Total Fat 8.6 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Protein 5.4 g, Fiber 3.0 g, Sodium 443.1 mg
*as prepared with full fat coconut milk, served over ½ cup jasmine rice.

My recipe very closely resembles the flavors I love in a Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (originally printed in Cooking Light). I encourage you to try that recipe, too, if you like the sound of it!

Hope ya'll are having a good week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Basic Crêpes

Sunday Brunch!

Happy Sunday, friends!

After falling victim to an eight-hour Bravo binge yesterday, it sure feels good to be a little more productive today. And by productive.. I mean that I am no longer wearing a robe and I made something for breakfast. In other words, I did something (arguably) worth sharing!

My first taste of crêpes (aka creepies) obviously materialized at the International House of Pancakes. I haven't been to an IHOP since I lived in College Station, but that doesn't mean I haven't had ample opportunity to eat those thin and delicious skinny pancakes! The first recipe I found was in a cookbook that Greg gave me for Christmas several years ago -- and it's the only recipe I've ever needed! Just like regular pancake batter, the ingredient list for creepies is refreshingly short and relatively cheap. Crêpe batter is characteristically very thin and it easily spreads across the pan. My favorite part about the finished product is that they are oh-so-open to a variety of flavors (both sweet and savory), but in real life according to Lindsey the best fillings are fresh fruit and cream cheese.

I really like to plan ahead for cooking (especially over the weekend), but I almost always forget one or two things at the store. This weekend, those things were broccoli (for dinner tonight) and fresh berries for breakfast.... Nevermind that, though, because I have J and he brought half a brick of cream cheese to use up. (He will also probably end up going out to get broccoli very shortly..). What a guy.

Rather than making fresh fruit compote, I mixed 4 oz cream cheese, 3 Tbs blackberry jam (my last jar from Diane at Hickory Hill Farm!), and just a pinch of ground cinnamon and cardamom. Smear a little of that on one side, fold or roll (we don't judge here), and dig in. Perfect.

Basic Crêpes
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 4

1 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tbs butter, melted
¼ tsp salt

1. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth with little or no lumps.
2. For each crêpe, pour ¼ cup batter into a hot, non-stick skillet (10”) over medium heat. Quickly swirl the batter around the skillet until it covers the surface.
3. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the top of the crêpe begins to look dry and the edges pull away from the pan.  Using a spatula or your fingers, flip the crêpe and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Makes about 9 crêpes
Calories 78; Total Fat 3.1 g; Cholesterol 6.9 mg; Protein 1.6 g, Fiber 0.5 g
*as prepared with unsweetened almond milk and real butter

I doubled the recipe and used two skillets to cut down on cook time. Keep a little extra melted butter on hand just in case your crêpes begin sticking to the pan (but I don't usually need it). I will also drip a little extra batter in the pan if my swirl technique leaves any holes in the crêpe. The edges should cook up lacy and crisp while the middle is flexible and tender.

Reading through several different recipes, you'll notice that most call for variable amounts chillin', restin', and relaxation for the batter. Both raw batter and cooked crêpes should last a few days in the fridge. In fact, some gurus even claim that the batter improves if you make it a day ahead of time. This time is recommended so that the gluten has a chance to relax and the flour particles become fully hydrated prior to cooking in order to make a more delicate crêpe. This relaxation time is much more important if you plan to substitute wheat or other types of flour. I consider this step optional, however, with white flour and have personally never allowed the batter to relax beyond 20-30 minutes. 

I hope you enjoy! If you have made these, let me know what your favorite fillings are. :) 

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