January 31, 2010

The Sunday Report: Prep for the week ahead

Here is this Sunday's prep report:

  • The staples: beans (chickpeas) and grains (hulled barley and spelt mix)

  • The pyrex containers in the back -- savoy cabbage salad with avocado (not pictured), roasted veggies (cauliflower, sweet potato, butternut squash with thyme, lemon juice, olive oil and rosemary; no steaming)

sauteed mushrooms with bacon

  • Faux seaweed soup with mushrooms (not pictured)

Spicy Stew with Leftover Chicken

The sumac chicken was tasty, but I cooked it in the middle of the week, so we could not finish it. I like using leftover chicken for stews or salads, especially when the chicken is roasted. The dish cooks faster and the chicken adds another layer of flavour, that is hard to accomplish if you start with raw meat.
The two beautifully roasted chicken breasts, nobody cared to have, were perfect for my spicy stew. A friend of mine cooked the stew for me few years ago, and I' ve been cooking it quite often since then. It is a very healthy and delicious meal. You can use whatever vegetables you have available, and play with different spices as well. My friend was recommending using exactly seven vegetables.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 bell peppers - red and green
  • 2 cups of cabbage
  • 2 cups of mixed beans, chickpeas
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 Thai chili peppers
  • 2-3 potatoes, not pictured
  • 2 cups cubed chicken 
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt to taste
  • black or white pepper
Wash and chop your veggies. Try to make them equally sized. Start with sauteing the onions and the garlic. I usually add the salt and the rest of the spices to the onions, so I can extract most of the flavour. Then I add the carrots, the celery, the beans, the cabbage, the peppers, in order depending on the time required to cook. Add two cups of water and reduce the heat. When the carrots become soft, add the chicken, the zucchini, and the potatoes.

When the stew is ready, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve the stew on top of couscous or quinoa.

January 30, 2010

Blueberry Muffins Re-invented - Vegan Style

When I saw Plodova Salata's blueberry muffins this morning, I was...inspired and I wouldn't let the lack of eggs and milk prevent me from whipping up some good breakfast delights for SM.

A quick glance in the fridge revealed that I still had some almond milk on hand. The egg-replacement issue was a little harder to fix. I recalled an article in the New York Times that discussed replacing eggs with ground flax seed in a cookie recipe. As far as I could recall, the experiment yielded some pretty good results.

Here were my modifications to PS' Blueberry muffin recipe:

  • Swapped regular milk for unsweetened low fat almond milk
  • Replaced 1 egg with 1tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water (read more on this here) - I placed the bowl with the mixture in the freezer for 5-10 minutes
  • Used half a frozen banana instead of the blueberries
  • Added a couple of tablespoons of dried cherries, almonds and pistachios
  • Added some cinnamon and extra vanilla
  • Used whole wheat pastry /cake flour which is really fine
  • Usd only 3tbsp of sugar

I blended all of the liquid ingredients in my blender:

The consistency of the mixture was very thick (I think because of the banana addition...). Next time I need to add a bit more moisture or fat.

I think I could have baked the muffins for only 20 minutes (vs. 25)

The muffins were not sweet and definitely benefited from the confectioner's sugar. They paired very well with the sweet Lupicia Golden Honey Dew tea.

The muffins were very light = they definitely exceeded my expectations!

Curious about the nutritional info? Take a look below - 3g of fiber!!!

January 29, 2010

Easy, Fast and Light Muffins with Blueberries

This is a recipe for muffins, but if you don't have the cups, use fluted baking pan. It's really simple to make, with less calories and ready to eat in 40 min.


1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries - fresh, or frozen, but give them some time to warm up at room temperature

Step 1:

Heat oven to 400F. Grease bottom only of 12 muffin cups or baking pan.

Step 2:

Beat milk, oil, vanilla and egg in a mixing bowl. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt at once, just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Transfer the batter in the baking pan and put the blueberries on top of it. Stir batter gently around them until they are slightly covered.

Bake for 20 -25 min, until golden brown. Dust with vanilla sugar, or just powdered sugar.

Rated "R" for Vegetarians - Roasted Sumac Chicken

Sumac is the wonderful spice, we taste on the Middle Eastern kebabs. It is extracted from the berries of a bush that grows wild in the Mediterranean region, especially southern Italy and parts of the Middle East.
Often utilized in Arabic, Indian, and Lebanese cuisine as a rub on meats and kebabs, it can also be added to marinades, soups and stews, rice dishes, casseroles, salad dressings, dips, and many other dishes for additional elements of flavor. It can also simply be used on the table as a condiment to replace salt and pepper.
Sumac has antimicrobial and antioxidant activity.
The sumac spice was the inspiration for my roasted chicken. I used a whole, "hopefully" organic chicken, bought at Costco.
STEP 1: Defrost, wash, and pat dry the chicken with paper towels.
STEP 2: It is said that butterflying the chicken would allow more even and faster roasting. With the breast down, cut along each side of the backbone to remove it.
STEP3: Flatten the breastbone. Use your hands or a meat ponder to achieve fairly even thickness. Tuck the wings behind the back.
STEP 4: Rub the chicken with olive oil, salt, cumin, black pepper and sumac.
STEP 5: Peel couple of potatoes and cut them in 1/3 inch thick slices. Spread the potatoes in an even layer in the roasting pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pour 1 cup water. The juices and oil coming out of the chicken are enough to season the potatoes.

STEP 6: Preheat the oven to 500F. Put the pan on a middle low positioned rack and bake for 45-50 minutes. The temperature in the thickest part of the breast should be 160-165F and for the thighs should be 175F. The skin should be deep brown and crispy.

STEP 7: Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Carve the chicken and arrange on a plate with the roasted potatoes and sprikle with fresh parsley.

 The chicken was delightfully crisp and moist. The sumac added a lemony, favorable tart and tangy flavor.

January 28, 2010

Beans and greens for Thursday lunch

I had a business dinner on Wednesday evening and did not get a chance to cook. The lunch below took no time to prepare on early Thursday morning:

Bean salad:

  • grape tomatoes
  • canellini beans
  • red onion
  • parsley
  • wheatberries for crunch
  • pinot noir vinegar
  • EVOO
  • samardala
  • ground black pepper
Sauteed swiss chard

  • swiss chard
  • chili pepper flakes
  • EVOO
  • salt
Greens served on a bed of brown rice+whole wheat berries with bean salad on the side

P.S. Got an e-mail from Scratchunka Mimunka later in the day that the lunch was delicious!

January 27, 2010

Eat Jalapeño, lose weight!

This is from a post, I've read recently in "Skinny in the City".

"The jalapeño is a type of chili pepper and its burning sensation is hard to ignore. Basically, you know if you’ve eaten one or not.

A study published in Clinical Nutrition last year found that capsaicin, in combination with green tea, can help promote a feeling of fullness and aid with weight loss. In addition, researchers in South Korea have been feeding mice capsaicin extracts and finding that it results in lowered inflammation and leptin, a hormone that plays a key role in appetite and metabolism. More investigation is needed on the topic but if spicy food can help my metabolism, sign me up!
On a much more basic level, spicy foods can inhibit you from eating too much too fast. I’m not saying you should go out to Wendy’s and get their new spicy chicken nuggets or start eating fried jalapeño poppers. But you can enjoy jalapeños sliced over a salad or baked chips with low-fat cheese. You can also grind them into dips, and use chipotle sauce on any entrée to give it heat."

Salmon Fillet - Oven Roasted

Our family favorite is ZK's barbecued salmon, but it's raining and it's cold outside, so this is my indoors alternative.


1 salmon fillet ( from Costco)
2 tsp. olive oil
juice from 1 lemon

Step 1

Cut the fillet in uniform pieces, wash, tap dry with paper towels. Season with salt, olive oil and lemon juice from both sides. Arrange in a roasting pan , sprinkle the whole cumin and leave to rest at least for 30 min. before roasting.

Step 2:

Preheat the oven to the max - mine is 450F, but 500 is even better. Put the pan in the oven and after 2-3 min. reduce the heat to 300 - 325F. Every oven is different, so you have to experiment. The idea is to seal the fillet at the beginning to preserve the juices. Bake for about 20 min, or until the inside temperature of the thickest part is 125F. Switch to "Broil" for 3-4- min.

Enjoy with salad and easy Basmati rice on the side.

Green Breakfast Smoothie + Almond Milky Oats

Here's to a healthy start of the day: Green smoothie

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 tangelo orange
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 collard leaves (not pictured)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
Almond milky oats
  • Bob's Red Mill steel cut oats
  • Kirkland's dried mangoes and berries
  • Almond milk
  • Madagascar Bourbon vanilla powder
  • Topping: Kirkland's wholesome fruits & nuts

January 26, 2010

B(i)G Cooks - Big Tips: Carrot storage

I would like to introduce this recurring "column" to share best practices with respect to a multitude of topics. Please e-mail me your "tricks" or do a post under the "B(i)G Cooks - Big Tips:" title.

Today's topic is inspired by one of the many tricks Slaninka has up her sleeve, namely how to store carrots and keep them at their freshest. She shared this tip with me a few months ago and I haven't looked back:

Always remove the carrot tops to prevent these root veggies from going "limp" and preserve their crisp texture. Keep refrigerated.

Marulka's Weekly Produce Report: Farm Fresh to You ( I mean ME)

The winter bounty is here to stay.

Check out my weekly produce report - boxes bursting at the steams...a true fruit and veggie bonanza

My Mother's Sweet Walnut Bread ...

The recipe for this delicious sweet bread I got from my mom. She's been making it for us for years, at first for me and my brother, then for our children. It goes well with tea, coffee, or yogurt. You can have it at breakfast or for desert.
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 3 cups of flower
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 lemon - juice and zest
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • Optional - dry fruits, chocolate chips
STEP 1. Using the whip attachment beat the eggs and the sugar, till the sugar resolves.

STEP 2. Add 1 cup of flower and mix it well.Change the whip with the paddle attachment, if you use stand mixer. From this point till the end, my mom was mixing the rest of the ingredients into the batter using a fork.

STEP 3. Add the oil, and the 2 cups flower with the baking powder and soda in them, the lemon zest and juice, and the water.

STEP 4. Lightly oil and flower a baking pan. Mix the dry fruits ( I had plums and apricots), the walnuts, and the chocolate chips into the batter. The options here are quite a lot. You can add cocoa to the batter, or another type of nuts. You can put the walnuts on the top.

STEP 5. Preheat the oven to 380F and bake for 40-45 minutes.

STEP 6. Check if the bread is baked using a tooth pick. You should not see any moistured batter on the tooth pick. Cool off the cake on wire rack for an hour.

STEP 7. Slice and eat :). The fruits and the nuts are heavy and they form a delicious crust on the bottom.

New York Times: A better brain after weight lifting

...at least as far as all the older ladies are concerned according to a brief article in the New York Times. Thoughts?

January 24, 2010

The Sunday report: Prep for the week ahead

Eating healthy with our insanely busy schedules and tempting high-calorie daily restaurant meal allowances can be quite difficult. Over the weekend, I try as much as I can to prepare for the week ahead. I cook batches of our diet staples, which include beans, whole grains, dairy products (and the occassional baking goods), which I refrigerate and use during the week. My objective is to make breakfast and dinner and pack healthy lunches during the week as often as possible.

I will plan to report it all in this recurring weekly Sunday evening post.

This weekend's run-down:
  • Soaked and cooked canellini beans (used one third along with the broth for a soup for Sunday dinner and Monday lunch ---tune in for the recipe tomorrow!)

  • Spelt / kamut berry whole grain mix - I use it as a whole grain for breakfast, as a topping (kind of like cheese) on gratins, or when I want to add an interesting texture to soups, stews, salads, etc.

  • Medium grain brown rice - I use it as a side, breakfast or an add-in to soups and stews

  • Yogurt for breakfast / afternoon snack (made a groundbreaking discovery --> heating up the milk in the rice cooker is a piece of cake)

  • Biscuits for Scratchunka Mimunka's breakfast or lunch


I had some leek leftovers and wanted a soup! Something lite and warm. The recipes I checked called for much more leeks that I had, so I decided to add more veggies and see what will come out of it. Soup was very good!


2 1/2 cups of chopped leeks, the dark green part included
2 carrots
1 stalk celery
1 red bell pepper
8 midsized potatoes
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt, black pepper, dill, Cayenne to taste


Put the olive oil and the butter in a pot. When heated, add the leeks, increase the heat and cook for about 8 min, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots, celery and bell pepper, and cook another 8-10 min.


Add evenly cut potatoes, cook for 3-4 min, add salt, black pepper, dill, Cayenne (optional). Cover with hot water - about 6 cups. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes are soft - about 20 min. I use Zepter and when the thermometer riches the red zone I turn off the heat and live the soup for 1 hour. You can do the same with dutch oven, but the regular pot is just fine.

Next time I will make a cream soup out of this recipe and serve it with croutons.