Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reverse Strawberry Shortcake

Or.... creamy pudding mousse with macerated berries. To macerate berries means to let them sit [in a little liquid] and develop a bright and delicious softened flavor. You'd be hard-pressed to find many easier desserts.

The summer heat continues....and who wants to bake in this weather if you don't have to? In my quest to find a quick, but delicious, dessert to bring to dinner with the neighbors, I was inspired by a lemon-raspberry version of this in a Rachel Ray book I had perused some days before. The dessert turned out really good--a perfect ending to grilled shish kebabs with the neighbors.

I know the words "dessert" and "healthy" don't usually go hand in hand--and when they do, the result is usually unimpressive. But, at least this one is fat-free!


1 (5.1 oz) pkg. instant vanilla pudding
3 cups skim milk
1 carton fat-free whipped topping (like Cool Whip), thawed

1 lb. strawberries (or a little more is even better!), sliced
2-3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (or orange liquer like Cointreau/Grand Marnier)

In addition:
*Shortbread-type cookies, preferably thin and with crunch
Mint, for garnish (optional)
In a medium bowl, make the pudding according to the package directions by whisking together the pudding mix with the milk until it thickens (about 2-3 minutes). Fold in the whipped topping and pour into prepared dishes--you can get 6 big servings, or 8 smaller servings out of this recipe. I think martini glasses (as pictured) make for a nice presentation; however, clear plastic cups work out just as great for casual entertaining as they make transport easier, require less clean-up, and there's no fear of breakage.

Chill the puddings for several hours (or overnight).

Gently mix together the strawberries, honey, and lemon juice. Let the berries macerate for at least two hours before assembly.

Right before serving, divide the berries evenly over the pudding cups. Add a couple cookies to each cup or on the side, and garnish with mint (optional).

Makes 6-8 servings.

*Cookies shown are Pepperidge Farm brand "Bordeaux."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lime & Thyme Potato Salad

It's summertime and the most popular American side dish seems to be potato salad--a terrific accompaniment to grilled foods such as burgers or shish-ka-bobs (such as we're having tonight). This is our house's version--a refreshing take on an established traditional side.

I found the original version of this recipe in a 2006 Better Homes & Gardens magazine (which I could not locate online). And, though I'm not a fan of potato salads (all that mayo and vinegar and still bland)--this one spoke to me. Feel free to play around with add-ins--I know a lot of people prefer olives or pickles in theirs. One of these days, I will try to include my mother's AMAZING Romanian (non-mayo) potato salad. There's just nothing like it.

In the meantime-this just does fine. Since first making it, I've tweaked with the recipe. I noticed that you can substitute plain, non-fat (Greek style) yogurt for the sour cream. And when using regular mayonnaise--we've really enjoyed Kraft's healthier olive oil version. Feel free to double the recipe--I usually do when entertaining because we don't just go through the effort of making potato salad just for us.


Approximately 8 cups cooked potato cubes (new/red-skinned potatoes or gold/Yukon potatoes)
1/2 cup mayonnaise/Vegeneaise
¼ cup light sour cream
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. finely shredded lime peel-no skimping on this one!
Juice of one lime
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh thyme
1 tsp. each salt
1 freshly cracked black pepper

4 scallions (green onions), chopped (white and green parts)
2 celery stalk, diced or cut in half-moons
5 hard-boiled eggs, diced

In a very large bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together. Gently add the warm potatoes over the dressing and very gently turn and toss together. Cool a couple hours.

Add the scallions, celery, and eggs (and any other optional ingredients). VERY gently toss all ingredients together. If salad seems too stiff after chilling, stir in a splash or two of milk.

Chill for several hours (or an afternoon). Salad can be made a day ahead-it actually tastes better the second day!

Serves 8-10.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Real Men Eat Quiche: Broccoli, Ham, and Cheese Quiche, Anyway

We happen to be quiche people. Not sure if you all remember this book, but in our family's house, masculinity is well-established and thanks to my mother in law, this man will eat anything....that's not to say he doesn't have preferences (which he firmly establishes with "that's not my favorite"). But if you think about it, a quiche can be a complete meal....carbs, proteins, some veggies....I'm not saying it's the healthiest meal, but there are worse ways to go, and a home-made quiche is WAY healthier than one you order at a restaurant since you control the fat content.

This is a relatively easy quick prep time recipe! And the best thing? You can make it ahead of time and freeze it!
Only a vegetarian can understand this, but I had some imitation "ham" around--yup, made with soy. After a quick search on the internet, it turns out that there is a LOT of meat substitutes made in Asia. Why so? Well, there are a lot of Buddhists to cater to--so if you are wondering where one would purchase said "fake ham"--try an Asian market if you can't get to a natural health foods market. And don't knock it 'til you try it. I'm not saying it tastes like ham....but we like it.


1 refrigerated pie crust (from 15-oz .box), softened as directed on box*1 onion, sauteed
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked ham (or vegetarian ham)1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (this ends up being 6 oz-and you can try different cheeses)
1 1/2 cup broccoli florets
4 eggs (you can do 2 eggs, and 2-3 egg whites instead)1 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make pie crust as directed on box for one-crust filled pie using 9-inch glass pie pan.

Saute the onion in the tiniest bit of oil.

Layer the ham, cheese, onion, and broccoli in pie crust-lined pan. In medium bowl, beat all remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour over broccoli.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges. Really good!

You'll be a better person than me if you serve this with another veggie on the side. I gave in to the husband's love of sourdough bread.....

*I tried this quiche in this frozen whole wheat crust (not defrosted-but that part turned out fine) because I wanted to make it healthier--I think I may make my own crust next time with half white flour and half whole wheat flour next....in my opinion, it was a bit "grainy" as only a whole wheat option.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Roast Banana-Pumpkin Seed Bread (with Rum Raisins)

WOW WOW WOW is all I can say about this banana bread. I've tried a LOT of banana bread recipes...but this one.....well, it just takes it to a whole new level of amazing. Rum raisins? Roasted bananas? Coconut milk? Pumpkin seeds? Really? Yes! It's worth a little bit more effort. This is my second time making this recipe. This is the kind of recipe that makes you wish you were my neighbor.

I almost want to encourage you to go ahead and double the recipe and make 2 loaves if you're already going through the effort. It's that good. The coconut marries well with the rum raisins.....you'll imagine you're eating banana bread in the tropics.

This recipe comes from Stephen Pyles' book Southwest Vegetarian. And to be fair, I found it on one of my absolute favorite sites-101cookbooks.com. I love, love, love Heidi's work and her photography. Maybe one day I can grow up and be just like her.....in the meantime, I'll settle for inspired average girl and continue to try things like this...below is my version--with a little more fiber and a little less fat.


  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (I used dark raisins)
  • *1/3 cup dark rum 
  • 2 ripe bananas, unpeeled
  • 2 cups cake flour (I used half cake flour and half whole wheat pastry flour)**
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (I used aluminum-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened (I used half light butter and half salted butter with success)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Powdered sugar (really optional)

*(author recommends 1/2 cup Myer's brand rum--but I found that's too much and you end up wasting it)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine the raisins and rum. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let stand for 1 hour. Strain the plumped raisins and set aside; discard any remaining liquid.

Place the bananas on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the skins are black and they have started to seep. Remove from the oven , set aside, and let cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl (sorry to disappoint, but I skipped the sifting stage). Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Turn the machine to low and add 1 egg. Mix until completely incorporated and then add the second egg. Mix again until completely incorporated.

Meanwhile, squeeze the flesh of the bananas out of the skins and into a small mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk and vanilla and mash together. Add half of the banana mixture to the electric mixer bowl and blend thoroughly on low speed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining banana mixture, blend thoroughly, and add the remaining flour mixture; mix just enough to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Fold the pumpkin seeds and reserved raisins into the batter and pour it into a lightly greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack, slice, and serve warm.

If desired, sprinkle with the powdered sugar and glaze briefly under a preheated broiler.

Makes 1 loaf.

**If you don't have cake flour (which I did not have on hand), the perfect substitute for 2 cups of cake flour (as the recipe calls for) is 1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch. I did this for the first time and was very impressed by the result.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Marvelously Meatless: Mushroom Stacks

Once in a while, in the life of a culinary experimentalist, a recipe will come along that will blow you away--usually it's one that doesn't require major skill or complicated ingredients. It's a recipe that pares a dish down to basic, wholesome ingredients. This is that kind of recipe for me.

I must give kuddos to Tosha Kurzynske--the sister of a good friend of mine (Heather) that made something like this for us back in college when we were able to have a weekend getaway to Lexington, KY. Their sister, Nikki, and her family do an Asiago cheese version and serve it at every New Years---what a great idea! Thank you girls and your mom (the nutritionist) for wonderful experiences-but also for inspiration.

And, yes, I put that plate out on my patio ledge because I needed the light. I'm just that dorky--and running out of options.

I hope you love this--and of course you can substitute Vegan cheeses.


Makes 4 servings.

1st Layer: Cheese Grits Base
• 4 ½ cups water
• 1 cup old fashioned grits
• 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese of your liking-asiago is a good option. You can skip the cheese, but I think the dish wouldn’t be the same without it.)
• 1/8 tsp. paprika
• 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
• Salt & pepper to taste

In a medium-sized pot, boil water. Slowly stir in grits. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 12-14 minutes or until the grits have thickened—stirring occasionally. While the grits are cooking, you can start on the portabella layer. When grits have thickened, add the cheese, garlic powder, paprika, and salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

2nd Layer: Mushroom
• 4 big portabella mushroom caps, stemmed
• Olive oil or olive oil spray
• Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Clean portabella mushrooms by shaking off any excess dirt. I like to peel the skin right on top, but you don’t have to—just a quick rinse will do either before or after and then shake off any excess water. Place mushrooms (caps up) on a big baking sheet (you can add tinfoil to the pan first to help with cleanup). Drizzle with olive oil (or use olive oil spray-I prefer this method) and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms in the preheated oven and roast for about 20 minutes.

3rd Layer: Spinach
• 10 oz. frozen, chopped spinach

Defrost spinach according to package directions (my package said to microwave for 7-9 minutes). Drain well.

Garnish: Tomato and Black Eyed Pea Relish
• 1 (15oz) can black eyed peas, drained
• 2-3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
• 1 bunch chives, finely chopped
• 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
• 1-2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
• Salt & pepper to taste
• Pinch of sugar (optional-I don’t care for it but I was told the relish was supposed to be sweet)

Gently mix all these ingredients together, being careful not to smash the peas.

Topping (optional):
• Grated cheese (your choice)


Assemble the stacks by dividing the grits out among four plates. Then top the grits on each plate with a portabella mushroom. Next, divide the spinach evenly among the four plates.

Then, you can either top the stacks with the black eyed pea and tomato mixture or you can surround the stacks with the evenly divided mixture. Either way, it makes for a great presentation.

I thought they needed a little finish so I sprinkled the mushroom stacks with a mixture of grated Parmesan-Reggiano and Asiago cheeses. (Some of you may scoff at mixing sophisticated Italian cheeses with the down-home nature of Wisconsin Cheddar—but let me tell you—it was good!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baked Black Bean and Millet Burgers (Vegan)

Maybe I am a hippie down deep inside.

I have been looking for ways to use millet. I have mainly used it in my daughter's hot cereal--mixed with oatmeal, applesauce, and wheat germ (she loves it). I had cooked up too much and in an effort to conserve, froze it. I'm happy to say that it defrosted just fine. However, for those of you that don't have cooked millet on hand, I have included cooking directions.

What is millet?
Millet is a good-tasting grain that has a nut-like flavor and is mildly sweet.
Apparently, it has been touted as the sixth most important grain because it sustains 1/3 of the world's population. Funny how we think of it as an exotic ingredient in the states--in actuality, millet is used to feed cattle. However, it's a staple of the diets in India, Japan, Africa, China and the Soviet Union. Millet was used to make bread during Biblical times. According to wikipedia, the protein content in millet is very close to that of wheat; both provide somewhere between 11-15% protein by weight.

Millet has lots of fiber, is rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B6 and folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Since millet contain no gluten, it is not suitable for raised bread.


1/4 cup millet
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. flour (I used oat flour, but wheat or all-purpose would work fine)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup salsa
2 cans black beans, drained

For serving:
Whole grain buns
Sliced cheese (Monterey Jack is particulary good on these)
Guacomole (A MUST!)

In a medium saucepan, add the water and millet. Cook on a high flame until the water is boiling. When the water has boiled, cover the pan, and reduce heat to low. Simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes until the water has been absorbed and millet has slightly puffed up. It should double in size.

While the millet is cooking, over medium heat, saute the onion with the olive oil until almost translucent. Then add the bell pepper. Continue to saute until the bell pepper has softened (~1-2 minutes). Turn burner off and add your seasonings, flour, cilantro, and salsa.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

At this point, I added my black beans to the mixture and using the back of a big fork, mashed them. The beans shouldn't be perfectly pureed...I would recommend you use a small food processor, but mine does the job all too well and I would end up with a black bean puree. (Plus, who wants to wash more dishes?). But, if it's easier for you to process the beans a couple of times until they are mostly mashed, by all means-go for it.

Form the mixture into patties (I managed to get 8 burgers out of the mixture).

In the interest of saving fat, I decided to place the patties on a cookie sheet and bake them. If you wish (and this would raise the delicious factor) you could fry them. However, once you place them in the oven, bake them for 10 minutes and then flip them and bake them for 10 more minutes.

Serve warm on a bun with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and guacomole.