Monday, April 30, 2007

Mother Earth Gardens


We spent last weekend in the lovely Twin Cities visiting Brent & Michelle. It didn't take us long to fall in love with their neighborhood, and they took us to a few places we are still dreaming about.

The first adventure was to Mother Earth Gardens, where Michelle also happens to work. I have never been to a more serene and carefree garden shop. They made it easy to want to grow-your-own; we walked away with scented purchases of German and Roman Chamomile, Thyme, Lavender and Cilantro.

Turkish Delight & Momos

Brent & Michelle also took us to one of their favorite food haunts: Black Sea Restaurant in St. Paul. The husband-and-wife team running the place were so sweet, I had trouble getting upset when told that the Turkish coffee wasn't available late night (who knew?); fortunately, they had baklava and this great box of Turkish Delight for us to take back to Chicago. Yum!

Yet another restaurant we visited was
Everest on Grand, where we failed to remember the camera but will never forget the momos. Ah, the momos. I think we actually became sufficiently addicted to them in the short time we were there. I vow to learn how to make those fabulous little dumplings...

Black Bean Tacos with Pico de Gallo


This is a great dish to make when you feel like something simple, fresh, and healthy...and don't want salad. I highly recommend using corn tortillas, as it doesn't quite taste as good with the flour variety.

Pico de Gallo
1 large or 3 roma tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
juice from 1-2 limes
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & chopped (optional)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Mix everything together and season to taste with the salt & pepper. Set aside for the flavors to blend while you make the rest of the meal.

Black Bean Tacos
1 15-oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 15-oz can black beans, drained, rinsed & mashed
2 T oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 package corn tortillas (about 10-12)
shredded cheese

Begin by heating the oil in a heavy skillet, and saute the onion and garlic until nicely browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the black beans (both mashed & whole), then add about 1/4 c water (use as much water as necessary to achieve just the right consistency).
Simmer on low until well heated through.

Meanwhile, heat the tortillas one by one in another skillet (I like to use a cast iron skillet for this). You could use a little oil in the pan to do this, but it works fine without. Basically, just heat the tortillas until they are pliable and easy to fold (without cracking).

To serve, layer the beans, pico de gallo, and a little shredded cheese and/or guacomole... then happily devour.

Leftovers rating: Medium. The beans will heat up all right, the pico de gallo will last about a day in the fridge and still taste fresh. Additional corn tortillas should be heated up again when eating the leftovers.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Chewy Granola Bars

Snacks are good. They're even better when you can pack a bunch of lovely things into one little square (or rectangle) and enjoy all at once. The granola bar recipes I've tried in the past have all been too dry, crumbly, or tasteless. These are, I think, close to perfection.

2 c oats (old-fashioned or quick)
1 c unbleached flour
1/2 c sugar (raw or brown)
1/2 c raisins (any dried fruit)
1/2 c chocolate chips (or carob chips)
1/2 c wheat germ
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c chopped walnuts (pecans or almonds would work, too)
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c honey
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional; I never seem to have this on hand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and grease.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, raisins, wheat germ, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts. In a smaller bowl, thoroughly blend oil, honey, egg, and vanilla; pour into the flour mixture, and mix by hand until the liquid is evenly distributed. Press evenly into the prepared baking pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are golden. Cool completely in pan before turning out onto a cutting board and cutting into bars. Keep in an airtight container.

Note: Adapted from this recipe.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hummus Pizza

This is a completely non-traditional pizza with endless variations. I started making this on the weekends so that there was enough to time to make the pizza crust in the old bread machine; once that's done, the rest is easy.

1 pizza crust (if you have a bread machine or enjoy making this from scratch, the time spent is worth it)
1 batch hummus (see recipe below) or about 1 -1/2 c store bought
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 small heads broccoli, cut into small florets
2 c shredded colby jack cheese (any cheese would work--use what you like!)


2 cloves garlic
1 15-oz can chickpeas (drained & rinsed)
2 T tahini
1/4 c water
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
Whirl for a few seconds in a food processor until blended well.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place pizza crust on a baking sheet or pizza stone, spread hummus on it (easiest with a rubber spatula). Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper over it, to taste. Arrange vegetables over the hummus, and top with cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly...then slice and serve.

Leftovers rating: Medium/High. Just like any other pizza.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spring Green

By the calendar, spring is already here. But this actually is starting to feel like it, too.

Fortunately, our rented apartment has a deck facing southeast, and while I'd like to build raised beds for everything or big planters....I question exactly how much weight the structure will hold. For now, I have five gallon pots with broccoli and romaine lettuce (photo on the left). They've faired well in the freezing cold we've been having, and I've noticed that with this week's sunshine they've perked up even more.

The only things I seem to be able to grow properly from seed are tomatoes. The seedlings here (on the right) are sprouting in our loft's skylight, and are the Mexico Midget variety from Seed Savers (located in my nativeland of northeastern Iowa).

I made a simple soup tonight--sort of an “everything but the kitchen sink” variety. Lots of veggies (carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, cabbage), a little ham, some tiny soup pasta, and homemade chicken broth. Served with buttermilk biscuits...we ate it all. Spring, here we come!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Creamy Carrot Rice...risotto?

I originally saw this prepared on television, started dreaming about it, and then hunted down the recipe (see note below). You could probably just call this risotto, but that might be blasphemy considering the addition of carrot juice (therefore, “creamy carrot rice”). It’s so yummy...but then, I love carrots so this is perfect comfort food. It goes well with steamed green beans or roasted asparagus. The recipe below serves four, but can be easily doubled.

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup carrot juice (as natural as possible, with no sugar added)

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 cup rice (original recipe calls for long grain, but arborio would work too)

1/4 dry white wine (optional)

1/3 cup finey grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for serving, optional)

Combine chicken broth, carrot juice, and 2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Raise heat to medium; add rice, and cook, stirring until grains are translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir in wine, if using; cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup hot broth mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until most liquid is absorbed.

Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it is incorporated and rice is tender but still a little firm to the bite, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among dishes, and sprinkle with parsley and more Parmesan.

Leftovers rating: Medium. Not quite the same, but definitely edible. Add more Parmesan.
Recipe from Everyday Food: Issue 10, March 2004, page 114

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Taco Seasoning Mix

For every packet of seasoning mix I see in a store, I begin the search for an alternative; the packets are usually loaded with salt (yuck) and msg (double yuck). This is a fabulous blend that can be suited to your own taste buds...and gives you piece of mind knowing exactly what's in your taco.

I've used this with both meatless crumbles and ground beef with equally good results. 2 tablespoons of this mix equals one 1.25-oz packet from the store. This recipe makes about 12 tablespoons.

1/4 c dried minced onion
2 T chili powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp oregano
1 T sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
2 T cornstarch
1 T dried minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin

Mix and blend thoroughly, store in a glass jar for up to six months in the pantry.

To use:
Brown 1 lb. lean ground meat (or meatless crumbles) in large skillet over medium heat; drain grease if necessary. Add 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough filling for 8 to 10 tacos.

Leftovers rating: High. Tacos are good any day of the week.
Note: Adapted from this recipe.

Pad Thai


I was researching various Pad Thai recipes, and finally came up with a hybrid that is fantastic and practically fool-proof. The taste is fresher and lighter than what you'd normally get for carry-out.

7-8 oz Thai rice noodles (half a package)
3-4 T fish sauce

1 T rice vinegar

2 T sugar

1-2 tsp dried chile pepper (suit your taste)

2 T veg oil

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed/minced/pressed

1 egg

1/2 pound shrimp, chicken, or pork (or combination)

1/4 c cubed tofu (press first to remove water)

1 lime, cut into wedges for serving (optional, but highly recommended)

2 tablespoons peanuts (optional)

1 cup bean sprouts (optional)

Soak rice noodles in a large bowl with warm/hot water for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and dried chile pepper in a little bowl. Combine onion & garlic in a little bowl.

When rice noodles have softened (but not too soft) drain well in a colander. At this point, I also usually cut them in half or so to make the next step easier.

Heat oil in wok, add tofu, green onion, and garlic. Stir fry until tofu is slightly browned. Add drained noodles. Stir fry until coated with mixture, this may be sticky. Stir constantly to avoid everything sticking to the wok. Add fish sauce mixture, stirring to coat everything.

Make a little hole in the middle of the mixture, crack egg into it. Let set slightly, then stir into noodles. Add shrimp/chicken/pork if using. Stir fry until cooked.

Serve with lime, peanuts, and/or bean sprouts. These are all optional, but really add great flavor & texture if used.
Perfect with hot sauce and rice.

Leftovers rating:
Low. Seriously, the results are not good.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

BBQ Chicken & Coleslaw Wraps...with a dash of Doctor Who


The inaugural post for Eat Happy! I made this to accompany an evening of Doctor Who (Season 2), and it hit the spot. We've tried it with both sandwich buns and wraps, and the wraps get our vote.

1 rotisserie chicken
1 12-oz bottle barbecue sauce
1 10-oz bag classic coleslaw mix
(I usually shred 1/2 head of cabbage + 1 carrot in my food processor instead)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 T apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 tsp sugar
freshly cracked black pepper
6 wraps

Remove chicken from bones and shred; save the bones for stock! In a large saucepan, combine with barbecue sauce and heat thoroughly.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, cider vinegar, salt, sugar and black pepper in a small bowl. Toss with shredded cabbage.

Place a little of the chicken and the coleslaw on a wrap, and fold over burrito-style. Repeat this with the rest of the wraps.

Great with baked potatoes (organic if we can get them)!

Leftovers rating: High. Refrigerate chicken mixture separate from coleslaw. Fold into a wrap just before eating.