Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Meatless Monday ++

I’ve tried to embrace the Meatless Monday movement, really I have and I’ve found that it’s actually relatively easy to make the switch from serving meat focused dishes to going vegetarian or meat free one day a week.  In fact, I’m probably going meatless more than one day a week.  So, if you haven’t heard of the Meatless Monday movement, I encourage you to visit the website, http://www.meatlessmonday.com.  What started as a local movement by a non for profit with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health quickly gained legs and has spread both nationwide and globally. Partnering with the Mondays Campaigns, the meatless movement is also a program that is being executed in public schools across the country educating children to make smarter decisions with their health and eating. 

There are many reasons to consume less meat among them, decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, decreased risk of diabetes and lessening your carbon footprint and reducing fossil fuel dependence.  Coming from a family of serious hunter & meat eaters, I can’t say that a vegetarian lifestyle was one that I was EVER introduced to.  In fact, when my brother married a vegetarian my mother admitted to me that she was completely perplexed at holiday parties, at a loss at what to serve the new family member.  I also recently took a vegetarian cooking class and when one of the participants was asked why she was here, she also answered “my son married a vegetarian”, so there is definitely a bit of an education that needs to happen since we’ve been so ingrained as a culture to have meatloaf and potatoes or steak and creamed spinach.  But really, the options available are limitless and all it really takes is a bit more ingenuity to create delicious dishes to enjoy that will leave you not missing meat AT ALL. 

This bean and enchilada recipe is a lighter version of the Mexican food we all know and love, is fast and easy to make and includes a minimal bake time, which is ideal during this heat!  I’ve mentioned previously that I believe that tortillas are a pantry staple as their use is limitless. Right off the top of my head, I can tell you that I use tortillas to make a variety of filled quesadillas, I’ll cut them into triangles sprinkle with sea salt and bake them for quick nacho chips to serve with chili or they will also work in a pinch for lunch wraps. Cheap, long lasting and versatile- hard sell, right?  The sauce that this recipe produces is also great for other uses, I used the excess from this meal to make a tamale pie later in the week and it was delicious.

Bean & Cheese Enchiladas
Serves 8

1 Cup of low-fat cottage cheese
1 Can (15.5oz) of black beans, rinsed and drained
Salt & Pepper
15 Corn Tortillas
Nonstick Cooking Spray
3 Tablespoons Olive oil
3 Garlic cloves, finely diced
1 Large white onion, finely diced (see onion dice tutorial here)
4 Teaspoons Chili Powder
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1 Can of Tomato Puree
1 Cup of Vegetable Broth

Preheat oven to 350°. In a food processor, process the cottage cheese until its smooth.  Transfer the cottage cheese to a bowl and add the drained black beans seasoning with salt and pepper. Wrap your tortillas in dampened paper towel and microwave until soft and warm, 2 minutes. One at a time, spray both sides of each tortilla with cooking spray (typically in Mexican dishes you would drench these in butter) and place about two tablespoons of the cheese & bean mixture down the center and roll your tortilla around the filling. Place tortillas seam side down in your baking dish. Once through with filling, bake your tortillas for about 8-10 minutes.

While your tortillas are baking, make the sauce. Heat oil in a saucepan and add garlic and onion and cook, stirring until the onion softens and becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and whisk in the vinegar, tomato puree and broth, bring the whole mixture to a simmer and cook for five more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to blender after it is slightly cooled and puree until smooth, using CAUTION with hot liquids in the blender!

To serve spoon the sauce over the enchiladas. I also like to make a salsa variant that I picked up at a Peruvian restaurant recently. I dice tomatoes, and a jalapeno pepper (I remove the seeds but you can leave them for extra heat), thinly slice up purple onion and add the juice of one lime, seasoning liberally with sea salt. I usually make this before cooking to give it sufficient time to marinate. This “salsa” is such a fresh, lively addition to ANY dish but I particularly love it in lieu of traditional salsa or served with a nice skirt steak. YUM.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Singular Sensation Cooking

People have various excuses for not cooking- I’ve heard everything from the usual “I don’t know how to cook”, to the “I don’t want to clean up the mess afterwards” complaint.  Sometimes “it’s too complicated” or “I don’t have any food in this house”.   Whatever excuse you might have, I’m here to tell you that today’s “recipe” will make all of your arguments null and void because today’s entry involves ONE ingredient. Not two or three, but ONE ingredient that you likely already have in your home.  So, I can’t even classify this as a “recipe” since there is no cooking involved.  I guess it would be considered more of a food manipulation, taking one thing & changing its texture.  But the reason why I’m including it in here is because it’s such an “AHA” moment when it’s finished, so amazing and strange you will stand there scratching your head going “this is amazing” when you are done. I was.

Here’s how it goes:  take two slightly overly ripened bananas, cut into slices about a quarter of an inch thick, place sliced banana on a cookie sheet in your freezer.  

Remove frozen bananas after about 2.5-3 hours (seems to be MY magical number) dump frozen bananas into your food processor and blend or chop.  At first the banana will look coarsely chopped and kind of grainy-

But continue pulsing until the magical moment where the banana becomes creamy like a luscious ice cream!  

At this point, you can eat it right from the food processor as an amazing, creamy, natural, perfect banana ice cream OR you can add some tasty flavorings.  I’ve tried the following: 

1 teaspoon of cocoa for a delicious chocolate banana result
1 tablespoon of peanut butter for a BEYOND peanut butter/banana result
1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup plus walnuts for a maple walnut banana result
1 tablespoon of Nutella for a ridiculously decadent result = )

ALL of the above are delicious and the quantity mentioned above will give you enough for one perfect portion.  Here’s one caveat worth noting, you will want to make tons & tons of this since the phenomenon of it will excite!  But, in my experience it does not freeze well and should be made as you plan to consume it.  I’ve thought about freezing this into popsicle molds which I believe will work but I’ve yet to get around to purchasing more bananas since I used an entire bunch testing out the above flavor additions.  My absolute favorite of the flavors I made was the peanut butter.  

SO, go make some natural, yummy ice cream. Make it for breakfast on a hot day, sprinkle it with granola, feed it to the kiddies- I guarantee your mind will be blown over the ease and deliciousness of ONE ingredient ice cream.