Monday, February 27, 2012

Sauteed Leeks

Do you know what makes a fabulous side dish to almost any meal? Sauteed leeks! They are super simple to prepare, use a minimal amount of ingredients, and taste delicious! Related to garlic and onions, they have a similar yet different flavor, and many of the same nutritional qualities. We ate these leeks as a side dish with a grilled organic steak and garlic potatoes, but they also compliment chicken, fish or tofu dishes. Leeks make a great addition to soup, and are a great topping on a homemade pizza!
Cut, raw leeks - ready for cooking!
Leeks are a great addition to a meal, as they provide a good amount of folate, as well as flavonoids and antioxidant polyphenols that help protect our blood vessels and cardiovascular system. So get cooking!

The finished product - yum!
Sauteed Leeks
Ingredients:
3 Leeks (firm and straight, no yellowing)
2T Butter

Directions:
- Trim the tops and bottoms off the leeks, cut in half lengthwise and rinse under cool water to remove any dirt.
- Slice the leeks in 1/4" slices, using white and light green parts only.
- Let the cut leeks sit for about 5 minutes (this helps release their nutrients).
- Heat butter in a saucepan, over med-high heat. Do not let it brown.
- When butter is hot, add leeks and sautee until soft and fragrant (about 8 minutes).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Maui-Grown Heirloom Tomatoes

Three varieties of organic, Maui-grown heirloom tomatoes.
With the weather in San Francisco being so cold and windy recently, I've been thinking back to the vacation I took to Maui this past December. I love the warm, sunny weather there, but the other thing I love about the island is all of the organic, local produce that you can get year-round! Pictured in this post is just one example: Organic, Maui-grown heirloom tomatoes that we bought at Whole Foods in Kahului and prepared for lunch the same day. I picked these three tomatoes for their different outer colors of yellow, red and dark green, but we had no idea the amazing kaleidoscope we would discover when we cut them open! They would have tasted great plain, but we opted to get a bit fancy. Topped with some mozzarella di bufala and local basil, and drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Alaea salt and cracked pepper, it was the perfect lunch to compliment the Mediterranean-like weather.

Locally grown tomatoes and basil, with Italian mozzarella di bufala.

Lunch for two: Caprese Salad.

Valentine's Day

Who wants to go out on Valentine's Day and pay a fortune for one of those prix-fixe menus? Not this gal! Here are some pictures from a lovely, home-cooked Valentine's Day dinner with my sweet heart...
Beautiful flowers, a great start to the day!

Arugula Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette and Parmesan

Sweet Potato, Onion, Garlic, Shallot, Carrot and Fresh Herbs - Ready to roast!

The Organic Chicken - covered in herbs, ready to go into the oven!

The Roasted Chicken, with root vegetables

And for dessert: Chocolate Pudding with organic berries and whipped cream

And thank you to my dad for this lovely box of Maui-made chocolates from Sweet Paradise! So delicious, and great for sharing!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Butternut Squash, Chard and Leek Risotto

It was a dark and stormy night...the perfect weather for a warm, hearty meal! Okay, so it wasn't actually stormy, but it was dark and it was cold outside. In deciding what to make for dinner, I looked in my fridge and around my kitchen and thanks to my CSA I had squash, chard and leeks (among other things). After scouring the internet for inspiration on how to use these three ingredients, I came across some ideas for dinner, and ended up with this risotto. With a few minor tweaks, it could easily be made vegetarian or even vegan. It can be a stand-alone dish, or you could serve it with a side salad. Like most risotto recipes, this makes a LOT of food, and we all know I'm a huge fan of leftovers!
A hearty serving of risotto.
Besides being delicious, this recipe provides you with a lot of helpful vitamins and nutrients too! Check it out:
Butternut Squash: Low in calories, high in fiber, has TONS of Vitamin A (used by the body to repair skin and mucus membranes, and essential for good vision), Vitaminc C, is rich in many B-complex vitamins (folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, and pantothenic acid), and it contains essential minerals. It's a bonus if you eat the seeds, as these have vitamins and minerals too, as well as the essential amino acid Tryptophan (this converts to GABA in the brain, which can help to stabilize moods).
Chard: A dark leafy green high in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, Vitamin K (needed for calcium absorption), calcium, and may help regulate blood sugar.
Leeks: An Allium vegetable (like it's cousins garlic and onion), supports our cardiovascular system, folate, manganese, iron, flavonoids, and antioxidant polyphenols.
Butter: Yes, butter is actually good for you if it comes from organic, pasture-raised cows. It contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, K and D, and also selenium and iodine (needed by our thyroid). It contains fatty acids that boost our immune system and are easily broken down for energy and not stored as fat. Butter does have cholesterol, but did you know our bodies require cholesterol for intestinal, brain and nervous systems?

But anyway, on to the recipe...

Butternut Squash, Chard and Leek Risotto (serves 4-8)
Ingredients:
1 Butternut Squash - peeled, seeded and diced
3T Olive Oil
2 Leeks - sliced thin
2 Cloves Garlic - chopped
1 Bunch of Chard - remove stems
4C Chicken or Vegetable Broth, plus 1C Water
4T Organic Butter
2C Arborio Rice - rinsed
1 1/2C Dry White Wine
3/4C Parmesan Cheese - freshly grated
1/4t Nutmeg
2T Fresh Sage - minced
Toasted Pine Nuts as garnish

Directions:
- In a large skillet or heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat 2T oil over medium heat. Add Squash and cook until soft, about ten minutes.
- In a separate saucepan, bring the Broth to a simmer, then keep warm over very low heat.
- When Squash is done, put it in a bowl and set aside for now.
- In the same (hot) pan over medium heat, add 1T Oil and coat the bottom. Add the Chard and cover. Let the chard steam for a couple of minutes, then uncover and continue to cook until the chard is wilted. When done, put chard into a strainer.
- After removing the chard, into the same pan put 3T of butter. Melt completely, then add the Leeks and Garlic. Also add some Salt and Pepper to taste. Saute, stirring frequently, until leeks are softened.
- Add the Arborio Rice to the pan, and stir until rice is translucent. This should only be a few minutes.
- Add the Wine, and continue to stir until all liquid has been absorbed.
- When all wine has been absorbed, add 3C of Broth and the squash and stir to combine.
- Let the mixture simmer, and stir every few minutes. When the bottom begins to get sticky, add more broth a half cup at a time, stir and simmer. Continue like this until the rice is al dente.
- When the rice is done, turn off the heat and add: 1T Butter, Parmesan, Nutmeg and Sage. Stir to combine.
- Squeeze any excess liquid out of the chard, and roughly chop. Add to the rice and stir.
- Taste the risotto, and adjust any spices, if necessary.
- Plate the risotto in shallow bowls, and top with freshly toasted Pine Nuts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healthy Superbowl (or anytime) Snacks!

Black Bean and Corn Chili
On a recent weekend, my boyfriend and I had some friends over to watch football. Typically, an event such as this would include corn chips, fried chicken, pizza, or something (anything) that involves a lot of grease and fat. This can taste good in the moment, but usually leaves everyone feeling heavy and gross...am I right? This time around, I wanted to make some healthier options that would still taste good. With the NFL Superbowl coming up this Sunday, I wanted to share our menu with you in a special bonus post this week. Perhaps you'll find something that your group of football-watching fans will enjoy. You'll find all the recipes at the end of the post.

1. The first thing was something to stand in for potato chips to satisfy the crispy, salty craving. The great Kale Chip to the rescue! I put in a little too much salt, but these suckers were gone in less than ten minutes, even before most people had arrived. Next time I'll buy another bunch of kale so more people will get to enjoy them. Thanks to my boyfriend for being my model holding the plate!
Kale Chips with Olive Oil & Salt

2. Next, I wanted to have something crispy to dunk into a dip. In the past, this is where I would do tortilla chips and guacamole, but I opted for a raw veggie platter with fresh hummus this time. I passed up the pre-cut veggies at the grocery store that never taste very good (and usually are not organic) and chopped up my own organic carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, and radishes. And I was amazed at how quickly the guys gobbled them up! I was glad I had extras ready to go for a second helping.
Organic, raw, fresh veggies - served with hummus
3. For the main course, instead of the usual pizza or fried chicken, I went for a healthy chili recipe. While it turned out more of a soup consistency, it was delicious and easy to make, and will certainly become a regular in my soup repertoire. Oh, and a lesson I learned the hard way: chili powder is NOT the same thing as cayenne! When I made the chili a second time I made that mistake, and it was so spicy I could barely eat it. Oops!
Black Bean Chili, topped with Cilantro and Organic Cheddar
Enjoy the football game, Superbowl or otherwise! Go 49ers!
And now, here are the recipes...

Kale Chips (one bunch serves 2-4 people)
Ingredients:
One bunch of Kale, washed and ripped into pieces
Olive Oil
Salt
Lemon (optional)

Directions:
- Heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Wash and dry kale, then rip leaves into pieces. Discard the stems.
- Toss leaves with a splash of olive oil and salt to taste. Add lemon if desired.
- Bake for about ten minutes, and keep a close eye on the chips, as they burn fast!


Black Bean Chili Soup (Makes 4-6 servings)
Ingredients:
1 Quart Vegetable Broth (I used Whole Foods' brand)
1 Can/14.5oz Diced Tomatoes (I used Pomi, as they use BPA-free packaging)
1T Olive Oil
1 Organic Yellow Onion, diced
1 Organic Bell Pepper, any color, diced
3T Chili Powder
1t Ground Cumin
1t Oregano
2 Cans, drained Black Beans (Click here to see the website for one of my favorite brands.)
2 Cans, drained Organic Corn or Hominy (organic = no GMO)
3 large Garlic Cloves, minced
1oz Bittersweet Chocolate
1/4C Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Shredded Cheddar Cheese, for garnish

Directions:
- In a pot, combine tomatoes (including their liquid) with the broth, and heat until steaming, then keep warm.
- In large pot (or Dutch-oven), heat oil over med-high heat. Add onions and peppers, saute until golden brown, about five minutes.
- Add chili powder, cumin and oregano, stir to saute until combined and fragrant.
- Add beans and corn, also add broth mixture. Heat until simmering, then reduce heat to low.
- Partially cover, stirring occasionally, and simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors have all combined, probably 20-30 minutes.
- Stir in garlic, chocolate and cilantro. Simmer a few more minutes to blend the flavors.
- Turn off heat, let stand about five minutes, then serve topped with more cilantro and a pinch of cheese.