Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Head over "Heals" for Agave Syrup

I am head over heels for agave syrup, the nectar from the Agave tequiliana plant. My new favorite natural sweetener is low on the glycemic index, which means that it causes small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - that means no major sugar highs or sugar lows. It is also 25% sweeter than regular sugar, so you use less.  I use this every morning in my coffee and found that it is a great way to sweeten iced coffee because it dissolves so easily.

Here my recipe for iced coffee:

  • 1/2 cup dark roast coffee beans
  • 6 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tbs agave syrup

Add the coffee grinds and the hot water to a French press, stir. Brew the coffee for 10 minutes.  Press and pour the coffee into a pitcher.  Add the agave syrup and stir, cool then place in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning add milk and enjoy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Made It! Zucchini Risotto

I've made risotto before, but this zucchini risotto was out of this world! I couldn't really taste the shredded, caramelized zucchini, but I loved the deep, rich color it gave to the dish. The technique of shredding the onion was a new concept for me and I thought it worked really well - no tears! The bacon added a delicious saltiness and I am now worried I may never make risotto again without bacon. Although the parmesan tuiles were easy to make, I didn't care for the flavor; they were a little bitter. The highlight of this dish, however, was the balsamic reduction. It took a simple, rustic meal and elevated to a gourmet level. If you make this dish, you have to try the reduction! It was simply exquisite!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Reads: "The Kitchen must be as Crucial as the Clinic"

This quote is from an awesome article in the NY Times, Doctor's Orders- Eat Well to be Well, about one doctor's mission to teach patients about the link between cooking and nutrition as a way to combat disease.  As some of you know, I am an ICU RN, and I have seen the debilitating effects of heart disease, diabetes, obesity on many of the patients that I care for.  Recently, I have been trying to find a way to bridge nursing and my love for food and cooking (hence this blog).  As the article points out, rather than seeking medicines and scrips for every ailment, we need to get into the kitchen and learn how to cook healthfully.  The idea of healthy eating may make some people squirm - some may think it is flavorless and dull.  But to me healthy cooking is about respecting the ingredients and the environment - making a conscious choice to eat locally and seasonally - using fresh, unprocessed foods and to capture the essence of the ingredient at its peak.  It all starts by getting back into the kitchen and cooking!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zucchini Risotto with Crispy Bacon, Balsamic Reduction and Parmigiano Crisp

It may be hard to believe with this hot summer-like weather, but today is the first day of fall.  I can feel the seasons shifting - the days are getting shorter, and the nights are cooling down.  For dinner tonight, I am looking for a dish that retains the freshness of summer while moving more towards the typical fall comfort food.  This zucchini risotto is the perfect dish to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall.  I am using fresh lightly sautéed zucchini and water instead of broth to give this dish its summer lightness, however the deep base of caramelized zucchini along with the creaminess of the risotto creates a comforting fall dish.

Made it! Chilled Noodle Salad

I made a variation of the Chilled Udon Noodle and Shrimp Salad yesterday night for dinner. It was absolutely delicious! I added some peanut butter to the dressing since I was in the mood for a creamier sauce. It was a really nice addition. I didn't use the tamarind paste or the hot pepper, but those were optional extras in my opinion. I only pickled the cucumbers and radishes for about an hour and I thought they turned out really well. Instead of shrimp, I pan-fried some steak and then thinly sliced it for placement over the top of the salad. I also changed my veggies a bit too and used raw tomatoes and carrots. I garnished with cilantro, mint, thai basil, toasted salted peanuts, and toasted coconut (just because I had some leftovers from another meal). The best part of this dish is that you can prepare most of it in advance (all the chilled components) and then within a matter of minutes (or however long it takes to grill steak or saute shrimp), you have a really satisfying meal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pesto Pizza

Tonight I made pesto pizza using the basil and poblanos from my roof deck garden. I decided to throw in the poblanos at the last minute because they were sitting on my counter, left over from a previous meal. The poor rejected poblanos ended up adding a bonus piquant flavor to a traditional basil pesto, which was delicious.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Made it! Chicken Flatbread Wrap

I made this Chicken Flatbread Wrap last night and had mixed feelings about it. Overall, I thought the flavors had potential. My version lacked some heat, so when I make it again, I will not be shy about seasoning well...maybe even over-seasoning. Normally, I am not a fan of eggplant, but I loved this baba ganoush. It was so easy to make and provided a nice, healthy creaminess to the sandwich. The onions added a needed sourness. I also wanted to get a veggie in there (so I wouldn't have to make a side dish) so I simply sauteed some extra rapini I had, which added a nice bitterness. The chicken patty itself was the star of this dish. It was packed with flavor and was very moist. I pre-made two extra patties and froze them for easy re-heating for another meal later in the week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Flatbreads with Baba Ganoush, Pickled Onions and Feta Cheese

This dish has become a regular on my dinner table.  It was inspired 5 years ago, after moving to DC and meeting my husband, Jeremy.  I was immediately smitten and knew Jeremy was special when he told me he had just bought a leg of lamb from, of all places, Costco - my favorite!  We spent hours on the lamb, infusing it with garlic and olive oil and grilling/smoking it low and slow over charcoal on the roof deck.  Then we built an amazing sandwich with the lamb and grilled eggplant.  Most of the time, however, slow cooking for 4+ hours is not an option.  This recipe has been transformed over the years, still capturing the essence of the original dish, but now it can be easily prepared after a long day's work.

Left: the inspiration - grilled lamb sandwich.  Right: the new, easier recipe

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lao Pork Meatball Skewers at Adams Morgan Day

I just got home from walking with my husband through the Adams Morgan Festival, which is a street fair that celebrates local establishments in my neighborhood in DC.   This was the first time I have been able to attend since moving here 5 years ago.  After running errands all day, I was tired and not expecting much from the outing to the street fair.  We got to 18th Street, and it was packed.  This morning’s rain storm gave way to sun, and everyone’s mood was elevated – everyone was dancing, smiling and eating their way up the street.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chilled Udon Noodle and Shrimp Salad with Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes

I woke up today excited about the prospect of this blog, but then I realized that I needed to get cracking on my dinner plans.  But what do I feel like eating and making?  I ask this question everyday. To me it is the most important question of the day.  My answer put me in a great mood, excited about the whole process of preparing the meal - the shopping, the cooking and, of course, the eating (it also makes the dreaded cleaning bearable).  Today I was inspired by summer's end and wanted to revive one of last year's favorite summer meals, Chilled Udon Noodle Salad, and I felt like adding shrimp tonight as the protein (I have used skirt steak, tofu and chicken in the past).

The end product, Chilled Udon Noodle and Shrimp Salad with Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes