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)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Quinoa Soup: an updated Peruvian specialty

A few months ago we spent some time exploring Peru and a bit of Bolivia with our friends and travel buddies Matt and Mackenzie.  As much as the locals raved about it, Cuy (guinea pig, often translated guinea pick or something similar) turned out to not really be my thing.  I did try it, and since my US diet is 90 percent vegetarian, with the other 10 percent being chicken or fish, that was an accomplishment.  Picture REALLY greasy chicken wings, then add four legs and usually a head, and you have Cuy.  

Peruvians have another local specialty that quite fit my fancy: Sopa de Quinoa.  Thanks mom, for buying me 2 pounds of bulk quinoa my senior year of college and introducing me to this lovely seed.  For that is what quinoa is: a seed.  I used to argue with the boyfriend, he had read somewhere that it was a seed, but I insisted it was a grain.  Alas, settled by wikipedia: it is a seed.  In Peru, it is frequently cooked into a brothy, flavorful soup and served as a first course.  I have created my own replica, which I have to say, I liked a bit better than the originals.  The Peruvian version is always made with chicken broth, and is typically very salty, but vegetable broth makes a nice alternative.  
Sacred Valley: May 2010

Sopa de Quinoa
·         2 cups chicken or vegetable broth*
·         3 cups water
·         1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
·         ½ onion, diced
·         2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
·         2 stalks celery, chopped
·         2 carrots, chopped
·         2 teaspoons cumin
·         ¼ teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
·         2 red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
·         1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
·         1 ripe, firm avocado, sliced or cut into small pieces
·         ¼ cup chopped cilantro
·         ½ lime, cut into wedges
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         Salt and black pepper to taste
*Using vegetable broth provides a fat-free alternative to the more traditional chicken broth-based soup. 
1.   Heat olive oil over medium high in a large pot or dutch oven, add celery, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, cumin and chili powder and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.
2.   Add quinoa, sauté 1 minute longer
3.   Add broth, water and corn, bring to a simmer over medium low heat.  Simmer 45 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are soft. Add salt and black pepper to taste while simmering. 
4.   Serve topped with cilantro, lime and avocado

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Too much garlic: I thought it impossible.

Tonight was Mexican night: Chicken Enchiladas Verde and Mexican rice, topped off with Pacifico.  The enchiladas were a typical first attempt at a new recipe…not bad, but not perfect.  Part of the problem was my lazy recipe reading, resulting in too much garlic overtaking the tomatillo salsa flavor. A little avocado and cilantro made them more than edible, but you will have to wait until trial number two (the adjustment) to have the recipe.  However, the rice is fantastic.  Fluffy, flavorful, and whole grain it has quickly become a favorite side dish. 

Mexican Rice
Adapted from

·         2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
·         1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
·         2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
·         1 teaspoon ground cumin (more to taste)
·         ½ onion, diced
·         ½ green pepper, diced
·         1 diced tomato
·         1 ½ cups chicken broth
·         1 ½ cups water
1.       Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with cumin.
2.       Stir in garlic, green pepper and onion and cook until tender. Stir in tomato and add water and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is soft and has taken up liquid (35 minutes). Fluff with a fork.