Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good Morning Love

I am a morning person. One of those cheerful, happy for a new day, loves the sun shining in my face through the blinds people. It’s sort of weird, considering I am a journalist, and most journalists are night owls. And, I work nights, most days of the week. But, despite that, I’m up by 8 a.m. most days –and that’s a LATE start for me. Weird right?

Well, this morning, I woke up at 7:30 a.m. I stayed in bed for a while, watched a little bit of Good Morning America, then headed downstairs to the kitchen to make an iced latte, my morning ritual. As I reached over the fruit/vegetable bowl to get to the espresso machine, my eyes fell on the potatoes in the bowl. I sort of forgot they were even in there, to be honest. Then I thought…. Hash browns…. Hash brown crusted quiche…

And so, at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, I started cooking. I’m not generally a big fan of breakfast foods, but this is one recipe that I’ll make an exception for. A simple quiche, with green onions (from my newly planted container garden!) crumbled turkey bacon, and cheese… and the best part, a crust made of crispy, golden, hash browns.

  • 3 potatoes, peeled and shredded (you can use frozen shredded potatoes to save time -about 3 cups- just defrost and get rid of any excess water with a clean, dry kitchen towel)
  • 3 T melted margarine or butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 4-5 strips of turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 c shredded cheese, I like to use Swiss
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel and shred the potatoes, making sure to absorb any moisture in them with a towel so that they brown and crisp in the oven.
Mix potatoes with melted butter in a pie plate, and use your hands to form a crust with them. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes are crispy and golden. While crust is baking, mix eggs, green onions, bacon, cheese, salt and pepper together. Pour egg mixture into crust once it’s done, and put into the oven, with the temperature reduced to 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until it is light golden-brown and puffy.

Normally I make two pie plates of this, since it goes pretty fast, but this morning, since it was just for me, I made two mini quiches, using just one egg for each, and saved one for tomorrow. Yum!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Warm Weather, Finally

This weekend, with the warm, intoxicating breeze of ALMOST summer coming in through my windows, all I could think was how I needed to be sitting outside on the fire escape (my own little “patio” of sorts) eating dinner that night. And, so, my next thought was, a nice hot bowl of chili would be perfect to stave off any slight chill that might waft through the night air.

This is one of my favorite recipes to make a big pot of and share with everyone I know. The first time I ever made it was my senior year at BU, with my roommate Tina. For whatever reason, we didn’t have a bottle of beer in our fridge (surprising for an apartment where four 21-year-old college kids lived, huh?) so Tina called upon her friend Matt, who lived in the building next door to us, and bribed him into giving us one in exchange for a bowl of chili when we were done cooking. Since then, this is something I’ve become famous for making for family barbecues, during New London’s annual Sailfest in July, and time’s in between. And, ALWAYS with some freshly baked cornbread. The basic recipe for this is a Rachael Ray recipe, you can find it here. I’ve tweaked mine a little, substituting a can of black beans for a pound of ground turkey, and minor adjustments to the amounts of certain ingredients.

  • 3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 4 T chili powder
  • 2 T grill seasoning
  • 1 T cumin
  • 2 T hot sauce, more or less to taste
  • 2 T worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large peppers, any color, chopped
  • 1/2 bottle beer
  • 2 8oz cans tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup smokey barbecue sauce
  • 1 can black beans, with liquid
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels

  • 1 box Jiffy corn bread mix

Begin by heating the olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add the turkey and season with the chili powder, grill seasoning, cumin, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, breaking up the meat as it browns. Add the chopped onions and peppers, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the beer and cook another 10 minutes, until the alcohol cooks off. Add the tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, black beans, and corn. Heat to a simmer. Serve with warm cornbread.

So I made my pot of chili, brought some over to my mom’s, gave some to my downstairs neighbor Frank, at his store, Muse (an art gallery/shoe store- quirky huh?), and had the rest for my weekly Sister Sunday dinner with Angie.

You can add any toppings to the chili that you’d like, but personally, I prefer to keep it simple, with just a scant sprinkle of shredded cheese and sliced green onions. But I mean, go nuts, add whatever you want.

Also, I had leftover cornbread, and used some of it to make cornbread croutons for salads. I just chopped the leftover bread into small squares, toasted them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes (watching them carefully), and voila!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Wellness Kitchen

Last week, I was at the Durham Public Library waiting for a local author, who I was assigned to photograph, to arrive. Waiting is a game often played by newspaper photographers… in college studying photojournalism, I was taught that it’s always better to arrive early and have to wait a few minutes, than to arrive on time and miss some integral part of your assignment. Nevermind being late. So, as a rule, I’m almost always a few minutes early to assignments. And so, I wait.

As a perused the shelves of books in the downtime, naturally, I gravitated towards the cookbooks, and my eyes became fixed on this one:

The Wellness Kitchen, which focuses on the nutritional aspects of food. It’s full of healthy recipes, complete with a nutrition guide for each, and tons of little facts about the nutrients found in different foods, and the best way to get those nutrients from them.

I’ve mentioned before the fact that I don’t eat red meat. I am certainly not someone who thinks it’s “wrong” to kill an animal for food. Personally, I think it’s all part of a cycle, and we’re all part of a food chain. Really, I stopped eating meat one day when I was in seventh grade, after listening to my geography teacher lament about how chock-full of artery-clogging fat red meat was. I got home from school that day, and just decided “starting tomorrow morning, no more beef or pork.” Also, let me state, for the record, I was an overweight child- that is one of the defining factors in my childhood. But, starting that day, I made a conscious decision to eat healthier. Now, I know that a lean cut of red meat is perfectly fine once in a while, but, it’s been nearly thirteen years, and I don’t have even an inkling of desire for it. So, to this day, I only eat poultry and fish.

During my freshman year in college, I tried going completely vegetarian, but found that I wasn’t having a well balanced diet, so I went back to only not eating red meat. Now, I consciously make an effort to eat healthfully, but I don’t deny myself anything. I don’t believe in “diets.” I don’t think it’s smart or sustainable to cut entire groups of food, like “white” or “carbs” from your daily diet. I think that you should eat things that taste good and are good for you. But indulge yourself a little- I have a sweet tooth, obviously.

So when I came across this book I grabbed it and checked it out. I skimmed through the book, looking for something to try out, and settled on a black bean soup recipe, using dry beans, and some simple, clean flavors. I decided to jazz it up a bit, so added two sweet Italian turkey sausages, corn, a little chipotle flavored Mrs.Dash, and about a quarter cup of barbeque sauce to the recipe. I thought it seemed like a great dinner for the rainy, dreary day that Saturday was, and would be pretty low maintenance, since I was planning to remove wallpaper, and repaint the kitchen that day- always a multitasker. The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sweet Italian turkey sausage links
  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • 9 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash chipotle seasoning
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup smoky barbeque sauce
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • sliced green onions, and (low fat) shredded cheddar cheese, to top with
  • tortilla chips

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil. As they are cooking crumble the meat from the sausage links into the pot.
Cook until the sausage is browned. Add the black beans, then the water. Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, cumin, Mrs. Dash, salt, and barbeque sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one and half hours, until beans are tender. Remove about 1/4 of the beans and liquid from the pot, and puree in a blender (or use a hand blender if you have one). Return the puree to the pot and stir in. Add the corn kernels and heat until cooked through. Top with the green onions and cheese. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 4 servings.

So I got the soup started, set it on a simmer, and began removing wallpaper, sanding, and painting. By the time I had finished one wall, the soup was ready. The barbeque sauce added a little zingy sweetness to it, and the chipotle finished it off, giving it just a hint of heat. I served it up with some blue corn chips, and had my dinner. The only thing I would mention is that if you want it to be a thinner soup, you may need to add a substantial amount of additional water to the recipe- not that it was bad. It was actually great to dip the tortilla chips in, and the following night, my sister, her boyfriend, and my mom were over for dinner, and I served it to them as a dip.

All in all a pretty good recipe (with a few additions on my part, of course). And even though we did add in a few extra ingredients, turkey sausage has only about 1/4 of the fat in traditional pork sausage, and using just a sprinkling of shredded, low-fat cheese adds tons of flavor without doing too much damage. According to the book, the basic recipe (without the turkey sausage, corn, Mrs. Dash, barbeque sauce, and shredded cheese) has the following nutrition information:
Per serving: 374 calories, 4.5g total fat (0.7g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 24g dietary fiber, 65g carbohydrate, 21g protein, 689mg sodium. Good source of: fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, and thiamin.