Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Raspberry Oatmeal

I'm always surprised at the posts that prove to be the most popular. My popularity scale is based mainly around comments and "likes" on Facebook (not exactly scientific, I admit), but that's all I have to go on.

The last surprisingly popular post was my Peanut Butter Oatmeal. Who would've thought that a humble bowl of oatmeal would inspire commentary - and several fans to try it themselves at home! I was, frankly, flattered that so many friends wanted to make my version of oatmeal for breakfast. So, in the spirit of democracy, I present to you Oatmeal Part Deux: Ridiculously Raspberry. Back and berrier than ever!

And speaking of being, ahem, back, you may (or may not) have been wondering about my recent absence. That, my friends, is called the 80-hour work week. While it only comes around every once in awhile, it's always a doozy. Now that the back-to-back 16-hour days fueled with Thai takeout and cans of Diet Coke salvaged (stolen) from conference rooms are behind me, I'm back in the kitchen trying to get my nutrition - and blog! - back on track.

So thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for being as passionate about oatmeal as I am! This simple, yet defiantly magenta, oatmeal was borne - as many of my dishes are - from the need to clean out the fridge and save innocent produce from meeting its maker in the trash bin. Rather than let that half pint of berries go to waste - and bored with putting berries merely on top of things - I dumped them into the oatmeal as it was cooking, and they just melted right in. I had to take a photo of the gorgeous bright pink concoction my aversion to waste created! The taste was exactly as you'd imagine - really, really raspberry-y. It gave a hearty cold-weather breakfast a summery twist.

I hope this oatmeal post proves as irresistible as the first. Thanks, as always, for reading. Eat well and enjoy life!


1 cup water
1/2 cup steel cut oats
pinch of salt
1-2 T. brown sugar
1 T. butter
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
cold milk (optional)


Bring milk to a boil. Add salt and butter. Stir in oats and reduce heat to a simmer.


Add sugar and raspberries. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until oats are tender and raspberries have dissolved into the oatmeal. Serve in a bowl topped with a little cold milk if you want. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stovetop Mac 'n' Cheese & Blackberry-Studded Salad

Poor stovetop mac 'n' cheese, I almost forgot about you! A travesty!

I was chatting with a co-worker (also a food fanatic) about my plans to make macaroni and cheese, and he asked if I was making a baked one or a stovetop version. Being from the south, my inclination is always to bake it, casserole-style. But now that we're (finally!) in the summer months, cranking up the oven is becoming more and more of a chore. And I've done baked mac 'n' cheese on this blog before - more than once!

I thought a stovetop version sounded like a fantastic idea. However, I wanted to make it a.) healthier than your typical mac 'n' cheese (there is a time, a place, and a recipe for the heart-attack version, but a weeknight dinner is not it), and b.) more interesting than a homemade version of the blue box classic. A quickly dying loaf of whole wheat bread inspired me to make a Mediterranean(ish) breadcrumb and red pepper topping, which really took the dish to the next level (and added some veggie goodness - yay!). Sticking with the Mediterranean "theme," I added a can of chickpeas to the pasta to pump up the protein, stretch the dish, and make it even more nutritious (you know I love my chickpeas).

Nothing complements a big bowl of cheesy pasta better than a fresh (guilt-mitigating) salad. And with blackberries on top? Mmmmmm. One disclaimer: I made this several weeks ago and forgot to post it, so the recipe might not reflect exactly the way I made it, but reflects how I'd attempt to make it again. I used a blend of cheeses that I'd picked up from the farmer's market. Of course, any melty cheese would work fine here, although I think the sharper, the better (goat cheese, come to think of it, would be rad).

It's really nice when a comfort food classic not known for its healthiness can get a figure-friendly (to borrow a Rachael Ray phrase) makeover! Hope you're all enjoying your summers, and look out for more posts soon!


1 lb. whole wheat rotini pasta
3 T. butter
2-3 cloves garlic
2 medium shallots, minced
2-3 T. flour
1/2 c. white wine
about 1 and 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper
lots of (1-2 cups) grated cheese (I used grated sharp white cheddar, a couple slices leftover American, and some other cheese I can't remember - just cheese it up! Use whatever kind(s) you like)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs (about 2 cups - I just made mine from some oldish bread)
2-3 T. butter
about 2 roasted red and/or yellow bell peppers, chopped (I used the jarred kind)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes


baby greens mix
several handfuls fresh blackberries
lightly toasted almonds
lemon juice/honey/olive oil/dijon mustard/salt and pepper for the dressing (or any jarred vinaigrette you like)


In a large pot, bring water to a boil. When it boils, salt it and add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in another large pot, melt the butter. Cook the shallots until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Whisk in the flour to make a roux, then cook for a couple minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time. Add salt and pepper. Add the cheese, a handful at a time, and stir until mixture is thickened. Stir in the pasta and chickpeas. Keep warm and gooey until ready to serve.


Assemble the salad and whisk the dressing together. Set aside (don't dress the salad until right before you serve it). In a pan, melt the butter for the breadcrumbs. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and chopped bell peppers. Season with some salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the parsley and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumb mixture has dried out a bit.


Serve the mac 'n' cheese in bowls topped with a few spoonfuls of the breadcrumbs. Serve with the salad. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Eat well and live life, friends :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Indian Feast (feat. Moong Dal)

I'd like to take a moment to discuss thoughtfulness.

There are so few people who actually care about other people's lives. And this isn't my cynical-advertising-copywriter speaking. I think it's true. Sure, there are people in your life who care about you: your parents, your significant other, your close friends. And then there are those special few people who care about, well, everyone.

People who always remember birthdays - and send cards weeks in advance. People who donate to every charity run/walk/jump/bake sale possible. People who keep a mental catalogue of you, your siblings, your siblings' families, and your pets' health - and remember to ask about all those every time they talk to you.

It's safe to say I'm not one of those people. But I happen to know one - and she happened to send me a large container of mung beans. Not because I've been pestering anyone to buy me mung beans, but because I once - in passing (apparently) - mentioned I'm curious to try them. (Giver of the Mung Beans, you know who you are, and this post is for you!)

What better way to celebrate someone's thoughtfulness than to cook something seasoned with thoughts of them? (Loyal readers: don't fret, this is the most sentimental I'll ever get on this blog.) I did quite a bit of research on cooking mung beans. You can buy them with the skins already off (mine still had theirs on, which I'm convinced is more nutritious), and you can soak them (or not) before cooking. I didn't soak them. I left the skins on. And they were delicious.

Not to too my own horn, but - TOOT TOOT! This was by far the best Indian-inspired meal I've made to date. And it might even be the best Meatless Monday meal I've made. Ross said (and I'm paraphrasing): "UGGGHHHHHH, it's [expletive deleted] Meatless Monday, isn't it?" [ONE HOUR LATER:] "Oh my God, these are some delicious vegetables!...The whole point of cooking is to mask the gross taste of vegetables, and you really did that. This is really good. The rice is the best part. And the chapatis are amazing. I'll have another."

I know this meal has a lot of parts, and quite a few ingredients, but nothing about it is difficult. Even the chapatis are super low maintenance - unless you count the fact that Ross had to stand under the smoke alarm, fanning it with a towel, so I could get the pan hot enough to cook them (the perils of apartment living). If you try this meal at home, invite over someone really thoughtful - or at least be mindful of those who truly care about you. It'll make the food taste even better.


Moong Dal:
1/4 c. olive oil
1 cup mung beans
3 cups water (actually I don't know how much it really was - I think it was more. I just kept adding water until the lentils were done)
1 onion, diced
3 finger peppers, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium tomatoes, in chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
fresh chopped cilantro
Cumin seeds (about a teaspoon, whole, toasted)

Homemade Chapatis:
I used this recipe, subbing in 2% milk for the water.
I also used a little more than 3/4 c. milk, and I cooked each chapati in a smidgen of butter.

Creamy Spinach:
1 10-oz. bag spinach leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
a few tablespoons water
big spoonfuls sour cream
salt and pepper

Rice Pilaf:
1 cup rinsed white rice
2 cups water
turmeric (a few dashes)
cumin seeds, whole (about 1/2 tsp.)
1 cinnamon stick
a few tablespoons dried currants
a few tablespoons sliced peeled almonds, toasted
olive oil


In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the 1/4 c. olive oil. Add the onions and some salt. Cook over medium high heat until translucent. Add the finger peppers, bell pepper, turmeric, bay leaf, and toasted cumin seeds. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the mung beans and a few cups water. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, adding more water as needed and stirring every few minutes, until mung beans are tender and consistency is a bit thicker than a stew. Stir in chopped cilantro about 10 minutes before it's done. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.


While moong dal is cooking, prepare the chapatis. Cover with a kitchen towel and keep warm until ready to serve. Also prepare the rice: add rice, water, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon stick to rice cooker (or pot with lid) and simmer until all water is absorbed. Stir in currants and toasted almonds. Fluff with a fork. Keep warm until ready to serve.


Prepare spinach: in a pot with a lid, place the spinach and all other ingredients. Cook over medium low heat until spinach is wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve moong dal and spinach over rice pilaf, with chapatis on the side. Enjoy!
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