Rosemary White Bean Dip

Last Saturday night, Joe and I met up with a group of our friends for dinner at Anthony David’s in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Upon sitting, our server presented the table with a basket of crusty bread and a small vessel loaded with the most marvelous white bean spread.  Not only was the spread delicious, it was addicting.  We kept going back for more and unabashedly requesting a fresh replenishment course after course.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I would have been completely satisfied for the night feasting on those two things only (and of course my glass of red wine).  However, I still went on to enjoy another sensational meal of grilled octopus, Chilean sea bass, and bourbon glazed doughnuts [drooling on my keyboard right now] at one of Hoboken’s finest establishments…

As I kept going back for another taste of the dip, I became determined to crack the code on this spread:  Cannelini beans or chickpeas.  Cannelini.  A hint of herbs… Yes, rosemary. Garlic…  Always!  Good olive oil… check.  Salt?  Obviously!  I was fairly sure I had this recipe figured out, so I made some table-side notes in my phone and decided to give it my best shot this week.  After tinkering with the measurements, pureeing, and taste-testing along the way, I was pretty confident I nailed it or at least got pretty darn close.  I recommend serving this guiltless spread with pita chips, crostini, or even veggies if you want to keep it super-light.  During a time of holiday decadence and overindulgent fare, you need not feel guilty luxuriating in this bean dip.  It’s composed of whole ingredients that are good for you, so put it out at your next gathering, dig in, and enjoy.

Rosemary White Bean Dip

1 can rinsed and drained cannelini beans
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic (skin on)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup + 2Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wrap garlic in a loose foil pouch and roast until soft, about 30 minutes.  Peel garlic and put in food processor along with beans, rosemary, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.  Pulse to combine.  With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil and process until smooth.  Transfer to a small bowl and serve with pita chips, veggies, or crostini.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

A few notes:

  • I roast the garlic in my toaster oven.  No need to heat up a large oven for a little bit of garlic.
  • I highly recommend using fresh rosemary.  Dried might work, but I doubt the results will be as pleasing.  If you try it, let me know how it works out.
  • I hate to sound like my girl, Ina Garten, because she always says things like this, but please use “good” olive oil.  “Good” olive oil will be the difference between a flop and a success, especially in a recipe like this where it’s one of the main ingredients.  It will add loads of flavor and bring depth to this dip.  Now, by “good” olive oil, I mean extra virgin and ideally cold-pressed.  If it’s golden yellow or yellow-green, you’re probably working with a nice bottle.  I use Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
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Posted in Appetizer | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

‘Tis the season to simmer heart healthy whole grains with traditional holiday spices and one of the most delectable winter fruits.

The pomegranate:  an absolute bear to dissect; akin to performing  surgery on the flesh, skillfully separating the ruby colored arils from the pulpy membrane,  magenta juice soaring through the air.  However, no matter how many splatters and stains result, I always seem to forget the gruntwork once I bite into those tangy-sweet seeds.  Actually, it’s completely inevitable as I revel in the flavor – I will end up cutting into a pom again…

I’ve enjoyed them alone or mixed with Greek yogurt, but today I joined them with my favorite hearty breakfast staple, oatmeal.  The sweet and sour notes of the juices complement the base flavor of the oats, while the apple, maple syrup and spices bring the entire dish full circle.  I hope you enjoy my new seasonal breakfast favorite!

Christmas Oatmeal

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups water or milk
1/2 pomegranate, seeded
1 Rome apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 cup maple syrup
Zest of 1/2 navel orange, plus more for garnish

 

Combine cinnamon stick and water in a small pot and bring to boil over high heat. Add oatmeal and apple and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for 10 minutes or until desired consistency. Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick. Stir in maple syrup,  orange zest, cinnamon, and allspice. Ladle into bowl and top with pomegranate seeds.  Garnish with additional zest and cinnamon to taste and finish with a drizzle of maple syrup.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do and let me know in the comments…

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Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

I was a very deprived child, but did not know until a couple of years ago…  My mother never, ever prepared brussels sprouts for us.  Okay, so maybe I wasn’t exactly a deprived child, but I can’t help feeling a little slighted that I didn’t get to try my new favorite veggie until a couple of short years ago.  If I had only known that I would fall in love with these nutritional powerhouses at first bite I would have started to realize their benefits much sooner.  But isn’t hindsight always 20/20?

Brussels sprouts are the notorious vegetables oft referenced in children’s books that every little boy and girl seemed to fear and loathe – broccoli and cabbage’s ugly little stephchild.  It’s only natural then that as a child, I thought I had it pretty good never once having an encounter with them.  So after the reputation these little guys earned throughout the years, why in the world would I ever want to try them?  Well, I read an article several years ago about their health benefits and became intrigued quickly.  These mini green cabbages are brimming with vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, and an important chemical compound called glucosinolates.  Glucosinolates ramp up the body’s antioxidant systems, which in turn neutralize and eliminate excess toxins and free radicals floating around our insides that can damage our DNA and potentially even lead to cancer.  While glucosinolates can be found across the board in the cruciferous vegetagble family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), the highest concentration of this compound is found in brussels sprouts.   After learning these facts and tasting brussels for the first time, I was sold.  I would be doing my body and palette an injustice not incorporating them into my diet.

There are countless ways to prepare brussels sprouts, but it is best to avoid boiling them.  When you use this technique, most of the nutrients pass out of the veggie into the water and you end up losing out on all of the marvelous health benefits.  Instead, it is much better to saute, roast, or steam them.

Today, I joined my bitter green friends with pancetta.  Pancetta is basically Italian bacon; a cured and spiced piece of pork belly that adds mucho flavor to any dish you join it with.  You can find pancetta at the deli counter in your supermarket or your local Italian specialty store.  Wherever you choose to purchase it, I advise against buying anything prepackaged or already diced.  I’ve cooked with the prepackaged version before and was less than thrilled with freshness and overall taste.

This is a pleasing first-time experience for the brussels sprout virgins out there, so if you haven’t ever tried them or simply gave them up after childhood, I beg you to reconsider.

Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts
1/3 lb. pancetta, diced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
Pinch of sea salt
Fresh ground pepper


Rinse brussels sprouts in a colander under cool water and drain.  Remove stems and any discolored or yellow leaves before slicing in half vertically.  In a large skillet, saute the pancetta over medium low heat for about 5 minutes until most of the fat has been rendered and the dice is light golden brown.  Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.  Return the skillet to the heat, add the olive oil and garlic, and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the halved sprouts and raise the heat to medium.  Cook for approximately 10-minutes or until they are fork tender.  They should be bright green and have a nice golden brown crust on the edges.  Return the pancetta to the skillet and toss with the sprouts to warm through for one minute.  Remove skillet from heat and season sprouts with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with pecorino romano cheese and serve immediately.

A few notes:

  • Ask the worker at the deli counter to cut you a couple 1/4-inch thick slices of the pancetta.  This will cube nicely and should be plenty.
  • It’s easier to cut the pancetta if you stick it in the freezer 20 to 30 minutes before you need it.  The cold temperature hardens the fat and consequently it’s a lot easier to get a knife through there.
  • Pancetta and cheese are both very salty.  I would use a very light hand with the sea salt in this dish, if you choose to use any at all.
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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

We might be at the end of pumpkin season, but I had to squeeze in this post…  These pancakes are absolutely divine, easy to make, and basically very nutritious.  Okay, they’d definitely be healthier without the candied walnut topping, but this is what I call a “special occasion” or “weekend breakfast” – something you’re not going to be eating Monday through Friday.  Joe discovered a pumpkin pancake recipe in his Men’s Health magazine, ripped it out, and casually left the page somewhere it would be discovered…   Translation:   “Please make this for me!”  Anything for him.  So, I worked with the recipe and did my own take on it.  Let me know what you think!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes
Inspired by Men’s Health Pumpkin Pancakes p.54 October 2010

Serves 2 (or 4 sides)

1 cup whole grain pancake mix
1 ½ Tbsp. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. ground flax seed
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. all spice
¼ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup almond or regular milk
½ cup canned pure pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pure maple syrup
Candied walnuts* recipe after

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to blend.  Whisk milk, pumpkin, egg, vanilla, and olive oil until smooth.  Pour pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredient bowl and mix until well-combined.  Heat griddle over medium high.  Ladle approximately ¼ cup of batter onto griddle for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles form in the batter and the edges begin to brown.  Flip and cook other side.  Drizzle with with maple syrup and garnish with candied walnuts.

Candied Walnuts

2/3 cup shelled walnuts
3 Tbsp. demerara natural sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place walnuts on a foil lined baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.  Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.  Pour the maple syrup and honey into a small microwaveable bowl and set aside.  Upon removing the nuts from the oven, microwave the maple-honey mixture for about 15 seconds on high.  Stir well until combined and then add toasted nuts, making sure to coat evenly.  Spoon wet nuts back onto the lined baking sheet, being careful not to get any excess drippings on the foil.  Sprinkle the wet nuts with about 1/2 of the sugar mixture and shake them around until well coated.  Return the sheet to the oven for 10 minutes, tossing the mixture once in the middle of baking.  The nuts should be bubbling and rich brown when ready.  Remove the tray from the oven, ensuring all of the raw sugar is now melted.  Let cool for 1 minute and then begin acting quickly, transferring the nuts from the foil-lined sheet to a piece of wax or parchment paper.  After letting cool an additional 10 minutes, separate any nuts that are stuck together.

A few notes:

  • I use Arrowhead Mills multigrain pancake mix
  • The consistency of the batter may vary based upon the pancake mix you use.  Play around with the amount of milk until desired consistency is reached.
  • How about a dollop of maple whipped cream?  Maybe next time…
Posted in Breakfast | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Leslie’s Anniversary Bread

I couldn’t think of any better recipe to christen my blog with than our weekly breakfast staple, Leslie’s Annviersary Bread.  I received this recipe from my running buddy, Leslie, hence the namesake.  We became fast friends when I joined a local running club and realized that we both shared a mutual obsession with food, cooking, and health in general.  We were both training for our first half marathon and spent the majority of our runs chatting back and forth about what we had cooked the night before or over the weekend, hearts pounding as we hit the pavement and mouths salivating as the ingredients were listed.

Carol, Me, and Leslie

She crafted this recipe to satisfy the nutritional needs of her husband, Jay, who worked long hours and didn’t have enough time to sit down and eat a proper breakfast.  Leslie jam packed it with wholesome ingredients to ensure he had a great foundation for his busy day. And better yet, she decided to put this dough in a muffin pan, so he could grab and go.  These muffins supposedly freeze well, but honestly, this goody hasn’t lasted long enough around our house to warrant freezing!

Since receiving this recipe in the spring, I’ve made it countless times and experimented often.  I will share those variations with you in the future, but first enjoy the original as Joe and I have for months and weeks on end.

I like to devour this bread toasted with a scrambled egg on the side and a cup of coffee.  No better way to start the morning…

Leslie’s Anniversary Muffins

Yields 12

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp ground flax seed
½ – ¾ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
2 cups oatmeal (regular not quick cooking)
2 ripe bananas
½ cup natural applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and flax seed in a bowl. Stir in walnuts, cranberries, raisins, and oatmeal.

Mash the bananas in a separate bowl with a fork until smooth and no remaining lumps.  Stir in the applesauce, egg and vanilla until combined.  Then whisk in the canola oil quickly so it emulsifies.  Stir in the maple syrup.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir until combined.  Spray muffin pan with cooking spray and then evenly distribute the batter with a spoon.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 1-2 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.
These muffins can keep in the fridge for a week, but also freeze well.

A few notes:

  • I’ve never made this recipe in a muffin pan.  I like to instead bake as a loaf so that we can better control portion size.  It needs to cook about twice as long when you do it this way.
  • Leslie recommends Motts All Natural (no sugar) apple sauce in premeasured containers.  Perfect size for this recipe.
  • I substitute organic extra virgin olive oil for the canola oil.  No reason in particular.  Simply, canola oil is something I’ve never stocked my pantry with.
  • I had a surplus of fresh cranberries from the Thanksgiving festivities, so today’s loaf was made with them in place of the dried cranberries.
  • I like to sprinkle some oats on the top for a rustic looking bread.  Pat them gently on the wet batter so that they become encrusted when baked and won’t fall out!
Posted in Breakfast | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment