Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

My sister and I had a day of holiday baking after my recent return to the Pacific Northwest.  This means I baked, and she sat on the counter eating dough.  Still, sister bonding time is wonderful since we rarely see each other.  On our list was Gingerbread cut-outs, Holiday Fudge, and Mexican Wedding Cakes. Gingerbread is by far the least fattening of the three, hence its appearance on SG.

Gingerbread cut-out cookies are a beloved holiday treat, and one of the healthiest options.  Granted, this is stretching the word healthy, but when compared to your standard butter or sugar cookies, gingerbread uses spices and molasses for flavor and moisture which replace much of the butter and sugar.  These cookies are not too sweet which allows for copious frosting if desired, and they are on the spicy side.

Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour plus ¼ cup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup unsulphured molasses (to prevent from sticking: spray measuring cup with cooking spray prior to measuring)
1.       In a large bowl, combine 2 ½ cups flour, salt, baking soda and spices
2.       Beat butter and sugar until creamed (light and fluffy)
3.       Add egg and continue beating until combined, add molasses and continue beating until fully combined
4.       Gradually add flour and spice mixture until all combined. 
5.       Add last ¼ cup of flour or less until dough begins to clump together, but is still slightly sticky
6.       Make into two balls, and refrigerate 1 hour
7.       Roll out to ¼ inch thickness and cut into shapes
8.       Place on baking sheet and bake 6-8 minutes at 350 degrees

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • confectioner's sugar
1.       Beat together butter with milk.  Add confectioner's sugar until desired consistency.  If too thick, add more milk. 
2.       For a cheaper pipette: cut the corner off a sandwich bag, and fill with icing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Black Bean Soup

Firstly, I would like to apologize to my faithful readers (all 7 of you), these grad school finals have kept me from my beloved kitchen.  My other love, the mountains, has also been pulling strongly.  Not to worry, only one more final to go, then 3 weeks of holiday cheer.  Get ready for some marginally healthy baked goods!

Last week I did use some procrastination steam to make a lovely black bean soup. Soup is wonderful for busy and frugal types: it takes minimal prep time, it freezes well, and its cheap.  This soup is hearty and healthy, and it tastes good. It is adapted from a recipe in The New Laurel's Kitchen, which I recently acquired for $.97 (plus $2.95 shipping), and is a great resource for any aspiring vegetarian cook.

This makes about 9 cups or about 6 servings, I would recommend doubling it if you have a seemingly bottomless significant other and want some leftovers for freezing.

Black Bean Soup
Adapted from the New Laurel's Kitchen
  •          1 ½ cups black beans (dried)
  •          4 cups water
  •          2 cups vegetable stock
  •          ½ onion, diced
  •          2 tablespoons olive oil
  •          2 large cloves garlic
  •          2 stalks celery
  •          2-3 small red potatoes
  •          1 carrot
  •          1 bay leaf
  •          1 ½ teaspoons oregano
  •          ½ teaspoon chili powder
  •          1-2 teaspoons cumin
  •          1 teaspoon salt
  •          Black pepper
  •          1 lemon, juiced

1.       Rinse the beans and place in large pot along with water and vegetable stock, 
       cover loosely and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally.
2.       After about 1 ½ hours, sauté onion, garlic, and celery in oil until soft.  Add to beans. 
3.       Wash potatoes well, and chop along with carrots into small pieces, add to beans along with all the seasonings. 
4.       Allow to simmer another 1- 1 ½ hours, or until beans are soft.
5.       Stir in lemon juice
6.       Puree ½ of the soup to thicken the broth.
7.       Remove the bay leaf and serve.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homemade Vegan(ish) Ravioli

Over the last week I have turned in two projects, taken a competency, taken an exam, and given a presentation. So of course, on Tuesday afternoon, I decided to undertake homemade ravioli.  I do not own a pasta roller, or even a conventional rolling pin.  Therefore, what seemed to be a rather simple pasta recipe turned into two hours of fighting dough, cutting out individual discs, and then re-rolling each before stuffing them (this is after baking the squash and making the filling ~1 hour).  I must remind you: this was three hours that I was not working on any of the aforementioned school-related tasks. Bliss.  The boyfriend came home about 2 hours into battle ravioli, looked into the kitchen, and decided to turn away.

Aside from my fight with the dough, the raviolis turned out beautifully, and most importantly delicious.  They can be made completely vegan by omitting the eggs from the dough and increasing the water until the consistency is correct, and leaving the mozzarella out of the filling.   I stuffed some with just the vegan filling, and some with a little cheese, and even the boyfriend couldn't really tell the difference.  

While this recipe seems simple, be ready to work those biceps.  If you want to forgo the pasta-making experience, use wonton wrappers.  

Vegan(ish) Ravioli

  •          1 small block extra firm tofu
  •          1 small acorn squash
  •          2 cups fresh spinach
  •          4-6 leaves fresh basil
  •          5-6 cloves garlic
  •          2 tablespoons onion, diced
  •          2 tablespoons olive oil
  •          1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, yields a cheesy flavor)
  •          Salt and black pepper
  •          Grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
  •          3 cups all purpose flour
  •          2 eggs—optional (can substitute more water for a vegan ravioli)
  •          ¼ cup olive oil
  •          ¼ cup plus 1-4 tablespoons water
  •          ½ teaspoon salt

1.       Chop squash into 6-8 pieces, and roast at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until soft, allow squash to cool until able to handle.
2.       Remove squash from tray, and roast garlic cloves 5-6 minutes to remove raw flavor
3.       Heat olive oil over medium low heat, add onion and spinach; sauté until spinach is limp and feathery
4.       Scoop squash into blender or food processor; add spinach mixture, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth
5.       Crumble tofu very small to resemble ricotta cheese into a medium mixing bowl
6.       Add squash mixture from blender, nutritional yeast, and more salt and pepper to taste. 


1.       Beat eggs with fork, add olive oil, water and salt.
2.       Add 1 cup of flour, and combine.
3.       Add rest of flour and beat with mixer.
4.       Continue to add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you can combine into a stiff dough with fingers.
5.       Roll dough out to less than 1/8 inch thick and cut into discs with a drinking or wine glass
6.       I had a difficult time getting the dough thin enough (probably due to my use of a wine bottle as a rolling pin), so I ended up using a small wine glass to cut the circles while the dough was still thick, then rolling each one individually just before filling. 


1.       Take a small scoop of filling and place in the center of your pasta (or wonton wrapper)
2.       Wet the edges, and fold over to close
3.       Use a fork to press along the edges
4.       Spoon into boiling water 8-10 minutes, or until about 1 minute after they rise to the surface
5.       Serve with your favorite marinara or other sauce
6.       Extras? Freeze them for later!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guilt-Free Chicken Chili

Well, winter finally decided to come to Denver after two months of weather-confusion, and on Tuesday we had our first snowfall of the season.  Ok, so it was only about 1/2 an inch, and it lasted for an hour, but I am willing to celebrate regardless.  Plus, it has been dumping in the mountains.  To celebrate what is arguably my favorite season (the others have decent contention as well), I made some hearty, healthy chili.

Chili often gets written off as time-consuming or unhealthy.  This one is neither. The recipe originated from Real Simple's Chili for a Crowd, but has been adapted very liberally.  My two favorite things about this chili:  I combined white chicken meat and red chili (probably shameful to true connoisseurs), and it has beer.  It can also be easily transformed to vegetarian: scrap the chicken, add a few more beans, and switch out the chicken stock for veggie stock.  It went well with some simple low-fat buttermilk cornbread (recipe to come) and pale ale.  

This takes about 1 hour, and will serve 6-8 hungry people.  It freezes very well.

Chicken Chili (serves 8)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup of chili powder (if desired add 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 12-ounce bottle or can of lager beer
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans
  • 1 15-ounce can great northern or white kidney beans
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper


My favorite toppings are listed below, but be creative.  Cheese and sour cream are popular with dairy-lovers.
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Diced avocado
  • Scallions
1.   Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onions, garlic, and bell peppers and sauté until onions are transparent (about 5 minutes)
2.   Add chicken, cumin and chili powder(s) and cook 5 more minutes, stirring often
3.   Add tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes before adding diced tomatoes, beans, 1 teaspoon of salt and some ground pepper and cook 10 minutes
4.   Add beer and broth, and reduce heat to medium-low, simmer uncovered 30 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste
5.   For a richer flavor: add a little extra broth and simmer 15 minutes longer on low heat

Friday, November 5, 2010

Baked Tofu--one recipe, endless options

Tofu is well known as a vegetarian or vegan staple.  It is high in soy protein (9 grams per 4oz serving), and can adopt any flavor.  It also is remarkably cheap.  However, many despise its somewhat "slimy" texture, or want to migrate from the basic stir fry recipe.  Enter: baked tofu.  While baking tofu takes a bit longer, it has deep flavor and bolder consistency.  The longer you bake it, the chewier it will get.   
I used the marinade below, but any sauce with a low oil content will work.  Since tofu is so absorbent, a very oily sauce will yield a greasy mess. 

Baked Tofu
Adapted from
·         1 block extra firm tofu
·         3 tablespoons sesame seeds
·         ¼ cup soy sauce
·         1 teaspoon powdered ginger
·         1 teaspoon curry powder
·         Black pepper

1.   Rinse tofu and pat dry with paper towels, place on a plate between paper towels, put another plate on top and weight with a can, allow to sit for 5 minutes to remove some more of the water
2.   Place everything except tofu and sesame seeds in a medium bowl and cut tofu as desired, strips are good for dipping, cubes for croutons or larger to maintain some silky texture
3.   Add tofu and allow to sit 15 minutes
4.   Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray or wipe cooking oil over a large baking sheet or in a baking pan
5.   Lay out tofu in a single layer, sprinkle seeds over and bake tofu 10 minutes, flip and bake 10 more minutes. 
6.   The longer you bake, the chewier the tofu will become, up to about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Whole Wheat Pancakes
Since I can remember my dad had made us pancakes on Saturday mornings.  I would help, wearing an ankle-lenth apron and standing on a kitchen chair backed up to the counter.  These beauties ruined any taste for the stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth Bisquick American favorite.  Using whole wheat flour gives the pancakes more structure and therefore more fluff, as well as being much better for the body.  Depending on the type of flour you use and its degree of absorbancy, a little more milk may be necessary for optimal batter thinness.  This past weekend the boyfriend and I enjoyed a lazy morning full of fluffy whole wheat goodness topped with raspberry syrup, and I just had to share the love.   
Whole Wheat Pancakes
The New Laurel’s Kitchen: a handbook for vegetarian cookery and nutrition
·         2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1 tablespoon brown sugar
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         2 large eggs
·         2 ½ cups lowfat milk
·         2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
·         Bananas or blueberries if desired

1.       Combine flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt
2.       In another bowl, beat eggs and add milk
3.       Add dry ingredients and stir briefly (you should still have some lumps), if too dry add a little more milk ¼ cup at a time
4.       Stir in oil
5.       Heat griddle or heavy bottomed pan, hot enough that when you sprinkle water drops on the surface they dance
6.       Pour batter onto griddle by spoonfuls and add blueberries or banana slices if desired
7.       Cook over medium heat until bubbles form and pop
8.       Flip and cook 1-2 minutes until golden brown on the other side
9.       Top and enjoy!  My favorite toppings are plain yogurt and homemade berry syrup

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Recipe Redesign: Spinach Artichoke Dip

Last night my friend Laura had us girls over for pumpkin carving, Halloween watching, and apple cider drinking festivities.  Everyone chipped in and made delicious snacks to keep us from passing out secondary to spiked cider consumption.  Awhile back I found a recipe for spinach artichoke dip that I was hoping for an occasion to try.  This recipe is rather unique as it takes the dip back to its pre-American days; translation: no cheese and you can actually taste the artichoke.  It is amazingly flavorful and everything is fresh and light, making for a guiltless snack.  I served it with pita chips, but toasted baguette or crackers would also go well.  I doubled the original recipe, which yielded about 4 cups of dip.    

Spinach Artichoke Dip
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch (3-4 cups) spinach, stems removed
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed under a knife
  • 2 6 ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • ~1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt
 1.     Heat olive oil over medium-low heat and add spinach and a pinch of salt. Sauté stirring frequently until leaves appear glossy, limp and feathery. 
2.      Add garlic and cook another minute or two to soften the raw taste, add artichoke hearts and allow to heat through (this lets the brine combine with the oil). 
3.      Transfer mixture to blender or food processor and add lemon juice, pulse 5 to 6 times until spinach is broken up a bit.  
4.     Add ½ cup yogurt and pulse 2 more times.
5.     Transfer to bowl and mix well, add the rest of the yogurt until you have found a good spinach-yogurt balance (I say this because bunches of spinach are all different sizes).  If you have about 3 ½ to 4 cups of spinach, 1 cup of yogurt should be perfect. 
6.    Serve immediately or at room temperature. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chipotle Black Bean and Spaghetti Squash Pancakes: The Little Squash that Could

For two weeks, my 79 cents per pound spaghetti squash has been on the kitchen table begging for creativity.  While it makes a nice ornament, a recipe search was necessary.  After google searching spaghetti squash, I found a recipe for modified potato pancakes using the squash in place of the potato.  Intrigued, I started to think of ways to expand on the idea (i.e. make it less boring), since it only called for eggs and squash.  The result: Chipotle Black Bean and Spaghetti Squash Pancakes.  That squash had NO idea what was coming!  These were so delicious the boyfriend couldn’t even save one for lunch.  The amount of spices makes for a mild to moderate kick.  I would recommend trying one, and adding more seasoning if desired. 
Chipotle Black Bean and Spaghetti Squash Pancakes
·         1 2 pound spaghetti squash
·         1 15 oz can (or 1 ½ cups soaked) black beans
·         2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro (plus more for topping)
·         1/3 of one onion diced
·         3 cloves garlic pressed
·         1 teaspoon lime juice
·         1 teaspoon ground cumin
·         ½ teaspoon ground chipotle chilis
·         ½ teaspoon medium-hot standard chili powder
·         3 eggs
·         2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
·         Queso fresco (crumbled)
·         Mashed avocado
·         Fresh salsa
·         Cilantro
·         Tomato

1.       Chop squash into large pieces, remove seeds and roast 1 hour or until soft at 375 degrees.  This step can be done early and the squash stored in the refrigerator until making the pancakes. 
2.       After the squash is cooled enough for handling, scoop squash off peel into a medium bowl.
3.       Add beans, chopped cilantro, onion, garlic, lime juice, chipotle chili powder, traditional chili powder, cumin and eggs. 
4.       Mash all ingredients together, making sure to break up all pieces of squash. 
5.       Heat oil over high in a large skillet, and pre-heat oven to 375.
6.       Drop small handfuls of mix into the skillet; cook 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
7.       Transfer to baking sheet and bake for 5 additional minutes.
8.       Serve with toppings or wrap in a tortilla.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Bread for Celebrating Fall

Fall seems to have already left Colorado, and is yet still beginning.  The leaves have turned, but the daytime temperature finally dropped below 75 degrees only a few days ago.  This past weekend we spent a lovely fall day in Longmont with our friends Katie, Grant and Megan, celebrating the season as well as the letter P.  Grant raises honey bees and taught us the wonders of Mead (honey wine) making, flavored with fresh palisade peaches.  We also carved a 95 pound pumpkin by the name of Prudence.   

Peach Mead

Prudence, Prudy for short

As my contribution to the festivities, I made pumpkin cream-cheese muffins for a mead-making snack.  I used ½ of the batter to make the muffins, then added a cup of walnuts, and made one loaf of pumpkin bread.        

Pumpkin Bread (or Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins)

·         1 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour
·         1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
·         2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or home-made)
·         1 teaspoon baking soda (use 2 teaspoons at sea level)
·         2 teaspoons cinnamon
·         1 teaspoon cloves
·         1 teaspoon nutmeg
·         4 eggs
·         ¾ cup oil
·         1 ½ cups granulated sugar
·         4 ounces of cream cheese (for muffins)
·         1 cup walnuts (2 if making 2 loaves bread)

DIY pumpkin puree

1.      Cut 1 pie pumpkin in half and remove seeds (either discard or save for roasting later)
2.      Cover with foil and roast 1 hour in 375 degree oven.
3.      Scoop into blender or food processor once cool enough to handle, and blend until smooth
4.      Store ~1 week in refrigerator or freeze for use later.  

Pumpkin Bread

1.      Grease 2 bread pans with oil or cooking spray.
a.       For easy removal: cut a piece of parchment paper the same size as the base of your bread pan, place over oil, and then re-coat with oil.
2.      Combine all dry ingredients and sift together with whisk.
3.      Combine pumpkin, oil and eggs.
4.      Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, stir until well combined.
5.      Stir in walnuts (if using)
6.      Split into 2 bread pans, or muffin tins.
7.      Bake 50-65 minutes or until knife comes out clean in 325 degree oven (350 if at sea level).
8.      Allow to cool prior to removing from pan.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

1.      Fill muffin tins ¾ full with batter.
2.      Scoop 1-2 tablespoons cream cheese into each muffin and press down gently.
3.      Bake 20-25 minutes in a 325 degree oven (350 if at sea level)