Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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roasted eggplant & peppers dip

i love having simple, easy and delicious appetizer recipes on hand.  the secret is to use local, organic/sustainably grown ingredients whenever possible, keep a well stocked pantry of essential items like oils, vinegars, condiments & spices and plan your menu based on whatever produce is in season.

happily, this all comes together beautifully with roasted eggplant & peppers dip.  the recipe calls for eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes...all in abundant quantities right now at my local farmer's market. i always have excellent quality extra virgin olive oil, capers, vinegar, olives and spices in the pantry so this dish is perfect for last minute pool party invites, or lunches, or cocktail parties. you know those days when friends call and say "hey, what are you guys doing? maybe we will stop by after work.  we have wine."   have roasted eggplant dip, some grilled bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, crackers, cheese and some cut up vegetables ready when they arrive.  easy and delicious so you can  enjoy your impromptu party!

this is eggplant week at food network's summerfest.  last year i shared a recipe for grilled, marinated eggplant sandwiches and posted some nutritional facts for this versatile vegetable.  did you know that eggplants are high in fiber and antioxidants?  i like to use different types of eggplant in the same dish.  this summer i have found white, italian and chinese varieties along with the more typical deep purple globe eggplants.  this dip can be made with just one type, or a combination...whatever looks good at the market that day.  oh...and one more thing...try the dip spread on roast beef sandwiches, stirred into hot pasta or as part of a grilled cheese sandwich....really, really good.

roasted eggplant & peppers dip
1 eggplant (about 7 oz)
1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper
2 medium tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tablespoon jarred capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup pine nuts
sea salt
black pepper

preheat oven to 400 degrees. cut the eggplant into cubes about 1 inch in diameter and chop the peppers and tomatoes into bite sized pieces. spread the vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle the 4 tablespoons olive oil over vegetables.  sprinkle a large pinch of salt and pepper each over the top.  roast for 30 minutes.  remove from oven, stir and add back to oven. roast another 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are soft and caramelized.

pour roasted vegetables into medium sized bowl.  add garlic, oregano, capers, olives, vinegar and red pepper flakes to bowl.  stir to combine.  taste and add additional salt, pepper and/or vinegar if desired.  place 1/2 of the mixture in a food processor and pulse until pureed.  stir the puree back into the bowl with the unprocessed mixture.  stir to combine.
meanwhile, toast pine nuts in small skillet until toasted and light brown.  sprinkle on top of dip.  serve with chips, crackers and/or vegetables.

now it is your turn to participate in summerfest. simply leave your eggplant tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. be sure to check out the delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:
Feed Me Phoebe: Grilled Eggplant Baba Ganoush
Jeanette's Healthy Living: Asian Grilled Eggplant With Soy-Sesame Sauce
From My Corner of Saratoga: Ratatouille Fresh From the Garden
And Love It Too: Slow-Cooker Paleo Eggplant Parmesan
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Homemade Baba Ganoush
Made by Michelle: Eggplant Zucchini Muffins
Cooking With Elise: Stuffed Eggplant
Virtually Homemade: Layered Ratatouille la Ratatouille
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Eggplant and Peppers Dip
HGTV Gardens: Garden-to-Table: Eggplant
Thursday Night Dinner: Eggplant Flatbread
Healthy Eats: Going Meatless With Eggplant
Devour: Giada's Rigatoni With Eggplant Puree
Cooking With Books: Sriracha and Honey Eggplant Rice
FN Dish: Eggplant: Champion of the Meat-Free Meal

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

mixed melon smoothie

all photo credits-peter padoven

it is melon week at food network's summerfest, so i thought i would share with you my mixed melon smoothie recipe....my go-to thirst quencher when the weather is really hot.  this refreshing drink is made with a combination of watermelon, cantaloupe & honeydew melon and flavored with fresh mint and ginger.  coconut milk provides some protein making this smoothie perfect for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up snack.   for extra nutrients you could even add some fresh spinach or other mild greens.

the trick to making this smoothie extra special is to cut up the melon into large chunks and freeze them for 1 hour.  this delivers a frosty, icy, frothy, frozen drink.   my husband insists i tell you that adding vodka or tequila makes a delicious cocktail.  that is what he did today when we were taste testing. so...there you go...either a healthy, wonderful smoothie, or a fabulous cocktail.  don't you love versatile recipes?

speaking of health.  i did some research on the nutritional components of watermelon.  thanks to healthmad.com, i learned the following:

•The health benefits of watermelon are really great. No matter how it is sliced, it is packed with some of the most important antioxidants found in nature.

•It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of vitamin A, particularly through its concentration of beta-carotene.

•The beautiful red watermelon is also a source of the potent carotene antioxidant which is called lycopene. These antioxidants travel throughout the body neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are substances in the body that can cause much damage to us. They are able to oxidize cholesterol, making it stick to blood vessel walls and thicken them which can lead to hearty attack or stroke. The lycopene which gives fruits the attractive red color that we find in watermelon can help reduce the risks of prostate cancer.

•It is a surprising fact that watermelon is the only fruit that contains higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.

•Watermelon is a fruit that is rich in electrolytes sodium and potassium that we lose through our perspiration.

•Watermelon is rich in the B vitamins necessary for energy production. Food experts recommend watermelon as a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of vitamin B1 and magnesium. Because of its higher water content approximately ninety percent and calorie value it is ranked more valuable than other fruits.

•Watermelon has a special cooling effect and is exceptionally high in citrulline, an amino acid that our bodies use to make another amino acid, arginine, which is used in the urea cycle to remove ammonia from the body.

•The antioxidants help reducing the severity of asthma. It also reduces the risk of colon cancer, asthma, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and prostate cancer.

•Watermelon is a good source of thiamin, potassium and magnesium which protect our body from so many diseases.

•Watermelon is fat free but helps energy production. It protects against macular degeneration.

to customize your smoothie, you can change the proportions of melon to suit your preferences...all watermelon? perfect.  more honeydew than cantaloupe? fine.  just ensure you equal 4 cups.  i love the taste of the three together.  and the red, orange and green deliver such a beautiful color, don't you think?

mixed melon smoothie
2 cups watermelon cubes (rind removed and seeded, about 2 inches each cube)
1 cup cantaloupe cubes    (rind removed and seeded, about 2 inches each cube)
1 cup honeydew melon     (rind removed and seeded, about 2 inches each cube)
3/4 cup coconut milk ( the type in the carton, not canned)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp minced fresh mint
fresh mint leaves for garnish

place the melon cubes on a parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet and freeze for 1 hour.  place all ingredients in a blender and process until well mixed.  note, the mixture may freeze in the blender.  if this happens, stop processing and stir with a wooden spoon to break up smoothie.  resume processing until frothy.  taste and add additional ginger or lime juice if desired.

pour into tall glasses and garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.  serves 2 in our house.  *** makes an excellent cocktail.  add tequila or vodka to blender with rest of ingredients if you wish...delicious!

now it is your turn to participate in summerfest. simply leave your melon tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. be sure to check out the delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:

Jeanette's Healthy Living: Watermelon-Mint Freeze
What's Gaby Cooking: Melon and Prosciutto Salad
Cooking With Elise: Quinoa Crunch With Melons, Blueberries and Yogurt
Haute Apple Pie: Watermelon and Feta Salad
Cooking Channel: Five Things to Make With Watermelon
Healthy Eats: Melon Refreshers
Ingredients, Inc.: Melon-Arugula Salad
Daily*Dishin: Honeydew Melon Salad With Genoa Salami and Mozzarella Fresca
Made by Michelle: Cantaloupe Popsicles
Chez Us: Cantaloupe Lime Agua Fresca
Virtually Homemade: Melon-Mint Popsicles
Thursday Night Dinner: Cantaloupe With Figs, Basil and Kalamata Olives
Zaika Zabardast: Cantaloupe Soup With Cardamom Infused Cherry Syrup
Sweet Life Bake: Paletas de Melon
HGTV Gardens: Garden-to-Table: Melons
FN Dish: There's More to Melon

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

a recipe for fresh peach cake

i have been making my vegan chocolate cake for years and first shared it with you in 2009.  i call it my "just happens to be vegan" cake because i realized it was vegan after the fact.  the goal was to make a cake that was delicious and healthy...so extra virgin olive oil was used instead of butter, balsamic vinegar substituted for eggs and fresh figs or shredded zucchini provided additional moistness.  this has become my "go to" cake...fast, easy (no mixer , a bundt pan versus layers) and relatively good for you.

recently i have been challenging myself to amp up the "healthy" component, while still keeping the "deliciousness" factor strong.  otherwise, why bother?  using whole grains and eliminating white or brown sugar has been the goal. sneaking in fruit or vegetables is an added bonus. 

this is "peach" week at food network's summerfest.  i decided to rework my beloved vegan recipe by making a vanilla cake and replacing the figs with peaches and coconut.  the chocolate version uses unbleached white flour and white cane sugar.  my revised one uses two whole grains that i love ...spelt flour and teff flour.  spelt flour predates wheat flour by 9000 years!  it is stone ground and very water soluble which helps ensure its vital nutrients are quickly absorbed by the body* (*info from bob's red mill).  while spelt flour is NOT gluten free and therefore not an option for those suffering from celiac disease, it is often a good option for individuals with gluten sensitivity.   according to bob's red mill, "teff flour is made from the smallest grain in the world.  compared to other grains, it has a much larger percentage of bran and germ so it is a very good source of dietary fiber, protein and iron" and it is gluten free. both are available in specialty shops like whole foods and the health food section of large grocery stores. i find that combining these two grains provides a bit of a nutty flavor with a lightness not found with whole wheat flour.

ok...enough of the health lesson...on to the cake.  what can i say except "really yummy".  the olive oil and the large pieces of peaches make this cake unbelievably moist. it is lightly sweetened with only one cup of coconut sugar in the entire cake.  the coconut adds a bit of crunch and packs a lot of flavor.  it is perfect for afternoon tea or after dinner.  (i confess, i sometimes eat it for breakfast ).  i like it plain, but if you are looking for a sweeter dessert, you can add another 1/2 cup of coconut sugar and frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.  and if you want to bag the whole "healthy" premise...you can make it with unbleached flour and granulated cane sugar...  see, i am flexible  :)

fresh peach and coconut cake
3 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp balsamic vinegar of modena
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh peaches, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (i used 2 large peaches)
1/2 unsweetened dried and shredded coconut

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease (use olive oil) a bundt pan and set aside. sift flours, salt and baking soda together into large mixing bowl. bowl. add the remaining ingredients one at a time stirring after each addition until just combined.  you can use a mixer but i just use a wooden spoon and do this by hand. do not over-mix. 

pour batter into prepared bundt pan and bake 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. (begin checking after 45 minutes...do not over bake) remove from oven and allow to cool on rack until just slightly warm. remove from pan and allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.
 ** i like this as is, but you could frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting if desired. 

now it is your turn to participate in summerfest. simply leave your peaches tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. be sure to check out the delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:
Jeanette's Healthy Living: Peach Blackberry Arugula Salad
Cooking With Elise: Streusel Topped Peach Muffins With Peach Butter
Heather Christo Cooks: Peach Coconut Pancakes
Ingredients, Inc: Easy Peach Pie
From My Corner of Saratoga: Grilled Peaches With Caramel-Ginger Sauce and Pound Cake
Dishin & Dishes: Peach Lacquered Chicken Salad
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Easy Peach Limeade
Daily*Dishin: Caramelized Grilled Peaches
Delicious Lean: Smokey Peach Chipotle Grilled Chicken
Thursday Night Dinner: Peach Shortbread
Sweet Life Bake: Jicama Tortilla Salad With Peach Dressing
I Am Baker: Cilantro Peach Salsa
Zaika Zabardast: Donut Peach Quesadilla
And Love It Too: Peachy Coconut Streusel Muffins
Daydreamer Desserts: White Peach Margaritas
Cooking Channel: 4 Savory Uses for Peaches
Healthy Eats: What to do With Overripe Peaches
FN Dish: Peaches Move to the Big Kids' Table

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

spicy roasted red pepper dip with baked corn tortillas

this week we celebrate peppers at food network's summerfest.  i decided to focus on two of my favorites...red bell peppers and jalapeños.  what could be better than combining them to create a quick, easy and delicious dip which is perfect for summer entertaining?

we often have spontaneous get-togethers at our house.  the summer weather in napa can be so unpredictable....chilly and foggy one day, 90 degrees the next.  so we tend to wake up and check the weather each morning then, on those hot days, phone friends and invite them over for a swim date.  (or, sometimes they invite themselves...good friends can do this).  i have a collection of recipes perfect for impromptu events...this one is near the top of the list.

the spicy roasted red pepper dip can be made year round...when fresh, local peppers are out of season, good quality jarred ones are a perfect substitute.  and the baked corn tortillas can be made in less than 15 minutes...how cool is that?

i am not a fan of the baked tortilla chips that are found at the market.  they are too thin for me...and don't have much taste.  while i love hot chips freshly made at mexican restaurants, they are not a healthy option, so this is a once-in-a-while treat for me.  my solution is to buy excellent quality corn tortillas and then bake them myself.  delicious!

the dip can be made in advance making the day of your party even easier.  the chips are a snap!  here's to easy-breezy, fun and relaxing parties this summer...and year round.

spicy roasted red pepper dip
3 red bell peppers
1/2 cup walnut halves
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp chopped jalapeño pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise (i use vegenaise) or plain greek yogurt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

preheat oven broiler.  place bell peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet and broil until skin is blackened. (check the peppers frequently during this process)  remove from oven and, using tongs, turn the peppers and return to oven and repeat this  process.  continue turning and roasting until all sides are blackened.  remove from oven and place the peppers in a tightly closed paper bag or in a saran wrap covered bowl.  allow to sit until completely cool.  remove peppers from bag or bowl and place on a cutting board.  the peel should be very easy to pull off at this point.

toast walnuts in a small pan over medium heat until they begin to brown.  remove from heat and allow to cool.

add peppers and next 5 ingredients to bowl of a food processor.  pulse until combined.  add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  pulse again until the dip is fairly smooth but with a bit of texture.  taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.  serve with tortilla chips (recipe below) and crudités.  i also love this as a topping for roasted chicken, fish or as a sandwich spread.

baked corn tortilla chips
preheat oven to 400 degrees.  stack 6 corn tortillas on top of each other.  using a sharp knife, cut stack into quarters.  spread chips on to two rimmed baking sheets.  do not let the edges of the tortillas touch each other.  bake 10 minutes or until chips are just beginning to brown.(check every couple of minutes to ensure they do not burn).  remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.  they will continue to crisp up as they cool.  ** note, i like mine plain, but you can spray lightly with cooking spray prior to baking and then sprinkle with salt and/or your favorite seasonings.**

now it is your turn to participate in summerfest. simply leave your peppers tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. be sure to check out the delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:

Jeanette's Healthy Living: Stuffed Peppers With Quinoa Grilled Vegetables and Pesto Sauce
Cooking With Elise: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
What's Gaby Cooking: Oven-Roasted Peppers With Herbed Breadcrumbs
And Love It Too: Roasted Red Pepper Paleo Hummus
Feed Me Phoebe: Grilled Flank Steak With Gazpacho Sauce
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Seared Pepper Tacos With Pintos and Avocado Crema
Delicious Lean: Peppery Kung Pao
Daily*Dishin: Shrimp and Chorizo With Red Pepper Chermoula Sauce
Thursday Night Dinner: Black Bean and Sweet Pepper Salad
Cooking Channel: 5 Stuffed Pepper Favorites
HGTV Gardens: Garden to Table: Peppers
Sweet Life Bake: Rajas de Poblano con Elote y Crema
Dishin & Dishes: Bacon, Onion and Green Chile "Jam"
Healthy Eats: Peppers for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
FN Dish: Meat and Peppers

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