Category Archives: Small Meals

Orzo with Summer Squash, Zucchini, and Almonds

My favorite part of having a successful summer garden a few years ago was the prolific summer squash plant. I eat summer squash like there is no tomorrow, every summer. I made this light-ish dinner this weekend to get through the heat (it’s great served cold). I also realized that my new apartment does not have a microwave, so I had to eat cold anyway 🙂

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A deep, seasoned cast-iron worked well for this recipe. Mine is about 12″ across and it fit everything, though I did halve the recipe. Start the orzo water and preheat the oven for the almonds before you start prepping the squash/zucchini. If the orzo is done way before the rest, that’s okay; be sure to cook it al dente so it doesn’t get too soft once you add it to the rest of the food. Toast the almonds then turn off the oven, since you won’t need it again.

Orzo with Summer Squash, Zucchini, and Almonds
Adapted from Orzo with Summer Squash and Toasted Hazelnuts on Epicurious. I’ll try hazelnuts next time. Also note the dice size of the zucchini and summer squash–smaller than you might expect, but it makes for better cooking time.

3/4 cup orzo
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/3-inch dice
~ 1/2 teaspoon salt
~ 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
~1 tsp dried parsley
~1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
~2 teaspoons lemon juice (lemon zest would definitely be better)

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Cook orzo in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain orzo in a colander. While orzo is cooking, toast almonds (6-8 minutes).

While orzo and almonds are cooking, heat butter and oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash, salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, parsley, basil, and lemon juice.

Add cooked orzo to skillet and stir gently. If mixture seems dry, moisten with some reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I ate my leftovers with chopped up cold chicken breast and it was great together!

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Healthy Granola Bars

Frisbee tournaments are my favorite part about summer weather in Boston. The heat and humidity–not so much! But one thing I’ve discovered this year is that they’re a great opportunity to debut some experimental “power” foods that will get us through the 8-hour long days of running (and pantsing each other, of course).

Homemade Healthy Granola Bars

There are a few traditional sideline foods–pickles, PBR, Cheez-Its, Pretzels, candy, the occasional Butterfinger bar to give to a player who drops a disc on a really key play…hehehe. I usually prefer to bring food with more protein, though, because the all-carbs thing makes me crash by the early afternoon. Mike invented some “energy bites” which I’ll probably make again soon and post, but last weekend I decided to try my hand at granola bars.

I don’t usually LOVE granola bars, but they are a great way to deliver a mix of nutrients with some great texture and taste. These came out really crunchy–very similar to the Nature Valley brand granola bars–but they softened (and improved, I think) after sitting in the sun in the Ziploc bag for a little while. They definitely helped power me through the day in small bits, though, and they’re made of (mostly) super-healthy, wholesome ingredients. No fake stuff here!

Healthy Cranberry Almond Granola Bars
Adapted from Epicurious’ recipe for Raisin and Cardamom Granola Bars.

4 cups instant oats, toasted first for about 10 minutes
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1.5 cups toasted raw almonds, chopped roughly
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter (3/4 stick)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line your granola sheet (I used half of an 11×17 pan with thick bars as a result) with aluminum foil that hangs over the edges by at least an inch. Butter the foil. If your oats and almonds need to be toasted, do that first (oats for 10 minutes, almonds for about 6-8, or until they smell like popcorn).

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, cranberries, almonds, and cinnamon. Over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey. Once the butter melts, remove from heat and add vanilla. Combine all ingredients and stir until well coated. If it doesn’t stick together yet, add more honey and continue stirring.

Pour the granola mixture onto the foil. With another piece of aluminum foil, press down the granola so that it sticks together in an even layer. Remove that piece of foil and set it aside. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool for a few minutes, then press down again with the foil. CAREFUL–it will be hot! I used a towel around my hand when pressing down with the foil.

After completely cool, lift from pan using foil overhang. Cut into pieces with a sharp knife.

Curried Chicken Salad with Almonds and Cranberries

Dried cranberries are, frankly, the bomb. I love them in everything. I eat them plain. I eat them on yogurt with blueberries and almonds. I eat them on cereal. I mix them in oatmeal with brown sugar. Earlier this week, I mixed them in with cashews for a tasty broccoli slaw. Today I did something similar–I mixed them in with curried chicken salad and almonds. I think they go particularly well with nuts because together the two give crunchy, soft, buttery, and tart. Mayo and yogurt do a great job of holding them together with a little creaminess.

Curried Chicken Salad with Almonds and Cranberries

This salad isn’t particularly fancy, but it is flexible. I added in some chopped raw broccoli stalks because they were leftover from another project and were getting wilty. I also snacked on a piece of bacon while eating this, so there’s that.

Curried Chicken Salad with Almonds and Cranberries
Makes 1 big serving. Note that my picture shows the salad without stirring together the chicken and romaine; it looks nicer that way! I promptly threw it in a bowl and stirred it up because I like it better mixed.

1 cooked chicken breast, chopped into evenly-sized 1/2-inch pieces
Handful dried cranberries
Small handful raw almonds, roughly chopped
2 stalks of broccoli (stalks only), chopped [optional]
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp plain yogurt
Pinch black pepper
Pinch salt
Pinch curry powder
Small pinch cayenne powder
1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped into thin (1/4-inch) strips

In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the romaine. Add more curry powder to taste (and salt, pepper, and cayenne thereafter). The curry should be the main flavor. Add the chopped romaine and stir well to evenly distribute the chicken salad.

Broccoli Slaw with Cashews and Cranberries

What amazing weather we’ve had here in Boston this week! Torrential downpour for three days last weekend, then summer-like sunny, clear days for the last three. Today–March 20, let me remind you–it reached 75. NUTS. Speaking of nuts, I bought some cashews yesterday and I’m super excited.

In the spirit of spring (I hear today is the first day?), I’ve been kicking into high-gear with my green-vegetable cooking. Last night I made Kale Chips for the first time and ate them so fast that I didn’t take pictures…so I’ll wait until my next post to share those 🙂

Today I made broccoli slaw to eat on my porch while sitting in the sun. Behold.

Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries and Cashews

I adapted Peanut Butter and Jargon’s recipe, which was adapted from The Kitchn’s. The modifications were largely out of convenience: I peeled my broccoli stalks and then chopped them roughly, since I just broke the food processor 2 weeks ago; I roasted/salted my raw cashew pieces while I was prepping everything, since I buy them raw; I accidentally used twice as many cashews as I was supposed to (from the original), and I only used half of the mayo/yogurt sauce since I don’t really need much at all (compared to original). NO MATTER: this was tasty. The recipe below reflects the amounts I actually used.

This would make a tasty side dish for some kind of chicken–I’m thinking grilled on a kebab. It also might work well for a picnic, though it would definitely need to be kept cool, since it has mayo in it (so maybe a backyard picnic instead of a hiking picnic). It’s a great example of experimenting with different combinations and just going with it. Just my kind of recipe these days….

Broccoli Slaw with Cashews and Cranberries
Makes about 6 cups

Adapted from Peanut Butter and Jargon’s recipe for Broccoli Slaw and The Kitchn’s recipe for Broccoli Slaw, which PB&J adapted from. To roast your own nuts, lightly coat in olive oil (I used 1 tsp for 1 cup cashew pieces), then salt, and put in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes.

2 stalks of broccoli, stalks peeled, chopped roughly
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 dried cranberries
1 cup cashews, roasted and salted, chopped (use less if you’re not really into the nut thing)
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
3 Tbsp plain yogurt
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp sugar (omit if you prefer savory–I think I will next time)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground mustard

In a large bowl, mix together the broccoli, onions, cranberries, and cashews. In a separate small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, sugar (if using), salt, pepper, and mustard. Pour the dressing over the broccoli mix and stir well. Let rest on the counter for 30 minutes or in the fridge for an hour before serving. I discovered 2 days later that this doesn’t keep particularly well–the nuts get soggy–so it’s best eaten the day it’s made. Enjoy!

Moosewood Restaurant’s Tamale Pie

I’ve mentioned a few times before that the best thing I’ve learned about cooking during my informal training (that is, living with Mike) is the flexibility of any recipe I find. I *used* to think that if I picked a recipe I wanted, I needed to go to the grocery store and buy every single thing in order to end up with a palatable dish. Nowadays, I shoot for about 25% of the same ingredients, and then anything above that is a bonus!

Moosewood Restaurant has released a few cookbooks that I’ve heard about but never actually held in my hands. I googled a few recipes as a way of deciding whether or not I’d buy my own copy. This recipe for Tamale Pie is from their low-fat cookbook, though I’m not sure it is particularly low-fat in any way. Essentially, it’s a bunch of vegetables with a bit of cheese covered by cornbread. And it’s GOOD. It’s vegetarian, though you could add cooked meat if you wanted to–maybe ground beef, or sausage, or bacon…yum.

The version of the recipe I came across calls for onions, garlic, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, chiles, crushed tomatoes, and beans. I had onions, garlic, carrots, a green bell pepper, golden acorn squash, dried ancho chiles, crushed tomatoes, and frozen corn on hand instead…so I went with it! I think any kind of veggie would work, really, as long as you dice it and let it cook for an appropriate amount of time. Essentially, onions should go in first, other veggies in the middle, and tomatoes last.

Since there is a lot of wait time between each step, I didn’t cut everything ahead of time–I just prepped the vegetables for the next step while the latest set was cooking down. I made the topping batter after I added the tomatoes, too, so everything came together nicely. From beginning to end, this took about an hour to assemble, then 30 minutes to bake.

Tamale Pie
Adapted from Cloudberry Quark’s adaptation of Moosewood’s recipe for Tamale Pie.

2 tsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic (5 cloves)
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 cup water
2-3 medium carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 golden acorn squash, seeded, peeled, diced
½ small dried ancho chile (ground up)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
About 2 cups frozen corn
salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheddar

¾ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup nonfat buttermilk (I used Lactaid milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes)
2 tsp canola oil (I used olive oil but canola is probably better)

Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a big pinch of salt, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, Italian seasoning, the water to prevent sticking, and the carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add bell pepper, squash, chile, and another big pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and corn, a big pinch of salt, cover, cook for 10 minutes. If it looks very wet, remove the cover half-way through. After a few minutes, taste; if it needs more salt, add it. Add pepper to taste. While it’s cooking, prepare the topping (see below). Remove from heat.

Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter and spread the vegetable mixture on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Topping:
In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten egg whites, buttermilk, and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Pour the batter over the vegetable mixture, spreading gently with a rubber spatula. Make sure your dish has enough room above the topping for it to rise. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 400°F, until the top is golden.

Banana Oatmeal Bake with Whipped Cream

I signed up for Twitter a couple of weeks ago. I can’t say that it’s been life-changing, given my current Facebook addiction, but it DID make me aware of National Whipped Cream Day on January 5th.

A few months ago I made whipped cream by hand during a dinner party at Becca and Kiki’s darling abode, but it was comical: the whisk was maybe 2 or 3 inches long and I had an entire pint of heavy cream. Eventually we did get it whipped and we dipped fresh peaches in it and ate the whole bowl. Wonderful.

Since I had spent the morning of Jan. 5th baking this banana oatmeal conglomeration and noticed the NWCD announcement while it was in the oven, I just decided to top it off with the fluffy stuff from the can….and ohhhh my goddd….it was divine. The bake alone is sufficient breakfast food–warm, hearty, simple, nutritious, and can be made in batches–but when you add the whipped cream it is over the top, wonderful, beautiful, subtle deliciousness.

Banana Oatmeal Bake

It’s one of those dishes that doesn’t LOOK too special, but I’ve had it both mornings since then and I’m looking forward to my last serving tomorrow bright and early 😀

I used a recipe from Kath Eats Real Food. I think I would add cinnamon next time to spice it up a bit. Otherwise it is an easy dish that can be multiplied if you have several mouths to feed!

Banana Oatmeal Bake
Adapted from Kath Eats Real Food’s recipe for Baked Banana Oatmeal. Her photos are helpful, too!

3 bananas
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt (I rubbed the salt between my fingers to make it a little finer as I added it)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper (bottom and sides), or lightly grease.

Slice 2 of the bananas into equal-sized slices. Cover the bottom of the lined or greased baking dish with half of the slices.

Combine the oats, baking soda, and salt. Mash the remaining banana. (I found it helpful to peel then microwave the banana for about 30 seconds before trying to mash it). Add the egg, milk, and vanilla to the mashed banana and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined. Pour this batter into the dish over the slices. Lay the rest of the banana slices on the top in an even layer.

Bake for 26 minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the bake, then broil for 3-4 minutes to melt the brown sugar (caramelizing it, essentially).

If you used parchment paper you can lift the whole thing out and cut it up; otherwise divide the bake into four servings and go. Add some whipped cream if you want to send it out of this world.

In which I emerge from midterms with…THE PERFECT STUDY SANDWICH!

I grew up in suburban Massachusetts. Fluffernutter? Oh yeah. I might actually post a recipe for fluffernutter crackers sometime soon, since only a few people I’ve run into in my adult life have ever actually tried them. It turns out that every region has these specialties (whodathunk it, what an observation)…since I started hanging out with Southerners, I’ve discovered all sorts of foods that I never even know existed. Since most of the people who’ve been reading this blog are also New Englanders, or at least live here (thanks, Google Analytics!), I think it’s time to meet your destiny. In the form of a tomato sandwich.

All you need is good, crusty bread, a fresh tomato, mayo, salt, and pepper. And about 5 minutes.

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I don’t have much to say other than TRY THIS IMMEDIATELY. Seriously. It’s so surprisingly good. You should definitely buy a good, ripe, firm tomato–mealy, bland tomatoes simply won’t do. A lot of grocery stores sell them individually, and I bet in the summer you’d be able to get some killer varieties at farmers’ markets.

I used bread that Mike picked up from When Pigs Fly, a bakery with a store in Davis Square. It was crusty and delicious. I think any substantial bread would do; just don’t use the stuff that comes from the baking aisle! It’s too soft and weak to hold up the awesomeness of a tomato sandwich.

Oh, and don’t be afraid of the mayo. Use it with carefree abandon. Trust me.
Don't be afraid of the mayo

Tomato Sandwich

1 heirloom tomato, cut into 1/8″ slices
2 pieces crusty bread, lightly toasted
1-2 Tbsp mayo
Salt and pepper to taste

Spread the mayo on both pieces of bread. Layer the tomatoes on one slice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (you’ll need less salt than you might think, because of the mayo, but don’t be afraid of your spices!). Place the second piece of bread on top, smush down, and cut in half. Voila! Heaven.

Did I mention how well this went with my organic chemistry studying?

Tomato Sandwich + Organic Chemistry