Baked Falafel with Feta Dip

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I love falafel. It’s my go-to festival food and I’ve made it a few times myself. I’ve always used the falafel mix from a box and then fried it in an obscene amount of oil. Thankfully I stumbled across this great recipe for baked falafel from How Sweet It Is and I don’t think I can go back to the box mix now.

The recipe says this should take a total of 30 minutes but it took me about an hour. This is mostly because I have a terrible food processor and I kept having to switch back and forth between that and my blender. The next item on my shopping list!! Despite it all these came out great and the feta dip went along with them perfectly.

Falafel Ingredients

2 (14 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 large egg
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped *I didn’t have fresh cilantro so I used a teaspoon of dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

20140409-093656.jpgMethod for Falafel

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic, onions, egg, lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, oil, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. Pulse a few times until crumbly but not pureed. Add in half of the flour and baking powder and pulse a few more times until combine. Repeat with remaining flour and baking powder. *I forgot to add in the second half of the flour and baking powder. They turned out fine anyway.

Once the mixture is combined, scoop out about 2 tablespoons worth and form it into a small patty or ball. Place the falafel on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until slightly crisp on top and cooked through.

Spicy Feta Dip Ingredients

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
8 ounces feta, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh parsley + crushed red pepper for garnish

Method for Spicy Feta Dip

In the same food processor (I just wipe/wash mine out while the falafel are baking), add the yogurt, feta, olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pulse and blend until combined, scraping down the sides if needed. I don’t blend the feta completely because I like a bit of texture, but you can do so if you’d like. Scoop the feta into a bowl and give it an extra drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with the parsley and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

 

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Jalapeno Mac & Cheese

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When we ate at The Mill a few weeks ago, my husband ordered their special side of jalapeno mac and cheese. It was really good and he’s been talking about it ever since. We had our first cookout of the season on Saturday and what better time to try to replicate it?

I searched around for some recipes ranging from the super easy to some really complicated ones. Although The Mill’s dish had bacon in it, I had to leave it out to stay true to my Challenge. I finally settled on this recipe from Kitchen Treaty. It had enough heat to satisfy the hot heads but not too much so my son and I couldn’t eat it. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of the finished product but rest assured it was delicious and there weren’t any leftovers!

The recipe and my notes can be found below.

jalapeno mac n cheese ingredientsIngredients

8 oz. pasta of choice
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2½ cups milk *I used 2%
1 cup plus ½ cup grated smoked cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup plus ½ cup medium cheddar cheese, divided *I couldn’t find smoked cheddar so I used sharp and mild cheddar
2 medium jalapeno peppers, stems removed and finely diced (include seeds for spicier chili; leave them out for a milder version) *I left seeds in one of the peppers and it was plenty spicy
1 teaspoon jalapeno Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)

 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, drain.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, dry mustard, salt, and black pepper. Whisk constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
3. Continue stirring with the whisk and slowly pour in the milk. Whisk frequently for about 5 minutes, and then constantly for another 5 minutes or so, until the sauce heats and thickens.
4. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the smoked cheddar, 1 cup of the medium cheddar, jalapeno peppers, and Tabasco sauce, stirring until the cheese has melted.
5. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until coated.
6. Add half the noodles to a two quart casserole dish and sprinkle on half of the remaining cheeses. Add the remaining pastas and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

 

chowder challenged – days 12-16

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I’ve never been good at making chowder. We make soups all the time. It’s our go-to meal when we don’t know what else to make. But a good thick chowder has always eluded me. I’ve used half-and-half cream, whipping cream, flour, and cornstarch but I just can’t get it down.

The picture on the left shows my “cheesy vegetable chowder” I tried to make. As you can see, it is not chowdery in the least. My first problem was that I tried to double the recipe which was probably a bad idea in hindsight because now it’s not good and I have all this leftover soup I don’t want! I also forgot to buy cream and had to use 1% milk which I tried to compensate for by doubling the flour. Plus I used cheap cheese which is probably more plastic than anything. It was a bad situation all around.

A couple days later I found a recipe online for a creamy spinach tomato tortellini I wanted to try. This time I did a little better. My friend pointed out to me that if you’re going to use reduced fat milk, you have to add fat back into it if you want it to be creamy (Duh!!). So this time I melted some butter in a pan, added flour to that and thickened that up before adding the milk to it.  I had more success this time but it still wasn’t that velvety creamy texture I’m going for. I’m sure one day I’ll master it.

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Here’s the recipe for the Creamy Spinach Tomato Tortellini (bombshellbling.com) with my substitutions noted:

Ingredients:
1 container three cheese tortellini (8 oz)
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes *I used regular diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil *I used oregano
1 teaspoon onion flakes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half *used mixture of butter, 1% milk and flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method:
Cook the tortellini according to package directions. While the tortellini is boiling, chop the spinach roughly. Heat a large skillet using medium heat and put the two teaspoons of minced garlic into it. Sautee it briefly until fragrant, about thirty seconds or so. Add into the skillet the petite diced tomatoes (undrained), spinach, salt, pepper, dried basil, and onion flakes. Cook and stir over medium high heat until the mixture begins to bubble. In another bowl, combine the flour and half-and-half (this is when I cooked the butter/milk/flour mixture in a small saucepan). Whisk until fairly smooth. Add the creamy mixture into the the skillet along with the parmesan cheese.
Heat through and reduce the heat to medium low and continue to stir and cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the drained tortellini and mix together gently.

My husband said “this recipe gets a ‘check'”. I guess that’s good, right?

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

I eat at home, too – day 10

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I just realized all of my recent posts have been about dining out and I’d like to point out that I really do cook a lot at home. I was excited to go to the grocery store last night and stock up on lots of yummy vegetables and fruits and not have to go anywhere near the meat section.

Since I was running late we had to come up with something quick which usually means breakfast for dinner. No one can complain about that! I threw together some scrambled eggs with cheese and spinach, buckwheat waffles and a side of fruit. If you like frozen waffles, I highly recommend finding some buckwheat waffles. They actually taste like they’re made from a real product of the earth.

Here’s what’s on our menu for this week:

  • minestrone with grilled cheddar and swiss sandwiches

  • Peurto-Rican inspired beans and rice (family recipe)

  • Stir fried Singapore noodles with garlic ginger sauce

  • Cheesy vegetable chowder 

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

It’s time for a change

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contemplatingI’m used to starting out each new year promising big life changes, whether it be for health, mind, home, relationships, etc., only to never fully commit to any of them. Sometimes I start the year strong but I have yet to follow through on anything. And I know I’m not unique that way.  I’ve learned my lesson and have been honest with myself about how I am and didn’t make any false resolutions this New Years. However, I still want to take strides to enrich my life and hope that has a positive effect on my environment and my family. There are so many changes I would like to make but I must start small.

My husband and I have been “flexitarians” for years  – I rarely cooked meat at home and when we did eat meat we usually stuck to chicken or fish (I suppose technically you’d call that a pesce-pollotarian?). Our meat intake increased when I was pregnant and my iron was low which resulted in daily roast beef sandwich cravings.  And for a variety of reasons, it snowballed into cooking more and more meat at home until it became a staple in our diets again. I guess in my mind, as the working mother of a small toddler, I rationalized it as easier because meat becomes your main dish and then you just fill in the plate around it.  However, I’ve noticed a few things since we’ve added meat back into our regular diet. We have gained weight, our daily ailments have increased (dull headaches, sore joints, just general feelings of ‘blah’) and our grocery bill is higher.

Now that’s not to say I blame meat for all of these things – that would be dumb.  I could definitely exercise more, switch out more caffeine for more water and get back into couponing and extreme budgeting as I used to do. But, I do see heavy meat eating/cooking as my personal gateway to a slew of other poor behaviors and habits that have seeped back into my life.

For this reason, I have decided to try to go vegetarian for Lent. Now, some points of clarification:

  1. Although I was christened as such, I do not identify myself as Catholic. I just consider Lent to be a good block of time to measure by. And I’ve always liked the idea of a personal sacrifice with the goal of gaining more insight and self-awareness.
  2.  I am not anti-meat-eating. As an aside, I do think Americans in general consume way too much meat to be considered a balanced diet which contributes to a large amount of health issues and ugly things no one wants to talk about like inhumane treatment of animals to meet demand.
  3. Notice I said I will “try” to go vegetarian. I don’t expect to be perfect and I’m not going to abide by strict vegetarian doctrine, but I will make my best effort to live 40 days meat free. Why? Just to see what happens.

I’m not sure how successful I will be, but I do hope that by being more conscious of my food intake it will influence other choices in my life and will lead to positive effects on my environment and my family.

I hope to document my journey here to keep track of my thoughts and experience and hold myself a little accountable.

Acquitting Donut Bites

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donut bitesSo, last week I forgot Father’s Day.  We had a lot on our plates what with a vacation ending, family visiting and a toddler acting very “two”. Some things were bound to fall through the cracks. Thanks to Sunday morning television with an abundance of tool commercials, it quickly dawned on me that I was a terrible, horrible wife who had no gift, special meal or even a card with a sloppy hand-print from our son.  Luckily I was able to glom onto another friend’s Father’s Day cookout to give the appearance of a well-thought-out celebration (and gave him enough beer so he couldn’t tell the difference). The next day I baked him one of the many treats I’ve been archiving on my “looks way too good to be healthy” Pinterest recipe board.  That’s how I came across the following recipe for baked donut bites. I brought some of the leftovers into work the next day and I think everyone who tried them would agree that you must forgive someone who makes these for you. They’re that good.

Ingredients

½ cup white sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 24 mini-muffin cups. Mix sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the baking powder and flour until just combined. Fill the prepared mini muffin cups about half full. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

While muffins are baking, place 1/4 cup of melted butter in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Remove muffins from their cups, dip each muffin in the melted butter, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Let cool and serve.

Original recipe source: keyingredient.com

Cannellini & Chard Risotto

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Cannellini & Chard Risotto

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chard, sliced into thin strips, dice small stems and toss large stems)
2 cans/cups cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp. mascarpone cheese
1/2 lemon, juice & zest
fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Method
Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onion, garlic and the stems of the chard. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add one cup of the broth, cook and stir, until almost absorbed. Now add chard leaves, cannellini beans and the rest of the broth. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, then add cheese, lemon juice and thyme. Season with salt, pepper and more thyme if needed. Top it with some grated lemon zest before serving.

Recipe from greenkitchenstories.com
Family grade: B