Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Decadent Scrambled Eggs

(yes this is my breakfast today)

Scrambled eggs. The all American breakfast. And yet, so easy to mess up, surprisingly. Scrambled eggs should be fluffy and moist, but all too often they come out kind of flat and dry. My first theory is that the quality of your eggs truly matters. I only use organic brown cage-free vegetarian fed hen eggs. (whew). They truly have a different taste than the mass-farmed white eggs. Yes, you pay a little more for the eggs, but isn't it worth it for great taste and happy hens?

From Whole Foods market's website regarding their private label eggs (365 Organics): All of the hens that provide our Private Label eggs are kept in a hen house which offers complete mobility. They have room to run around on the ground and usually their feed is placed up on a ledge. They can move freely between these spaces. The hens are provided with as much natural light as possible for 16 hours per day. Artificial light is used to supplement natural light, when needed, to fulfill the 16 hours per day. There are no hens on 100% artificial lighting.
Ok, off my soapbox about eggs.

My second theory is that people use too high of heat to cook their eggs, forcing them to work too fast and rough, and not letting the eggs set properly.

Serves 1
*2 organic brown eggs
*1 tsp. water
*1 Tbs. organic heavy whipping cream
*2 tsp. salted butter
*Lawry's seasoning salt to taste
*1 oz. freshly shredded medium cheddar cheese

1) Using a wire whisk, beat the eggs with the water and cream in a small bowl until well blended.

2) Heat the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Not high, not low. Medium. It's important because too little heat and the eggs won't set correctly, and too much and they'll cook too fast, then get overly done.

3) Starting from the center, use a plastic or silicon spatula and gently drag the eggs around the pan. Gently work the eggs off the sides to the center and keep working in circular motions. At this point, sprinkle some Seasoning salt into the eggs and incorporate it throughout your mixture. You can flip the eggs over when they're about halfway cooked, and keep working them until they're fluffy and no obvious moisture remains to make them look shiny or slimy.

4a) You can add the cheese into the pan and cook it through the eggs for about 20 seconds.
4b) You can place the eggs on a microwave safe dish; taste a little bit to see if they need more seasoning. Then, sprinkle the cheese over the top and microwave for 20 seconds.

5) Serve with your choice of sides - toast, bacon, sausage, fruit, etc.

For every additional 2 eggs, increase the butter by 1 tsp, the water by 1 tsp, and the heavy cream by 2 tsp.

Consider topping your eggs with salsa, avocado, sour cream, bacon bits, tomato slices, basil, etc.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

We all know broccoli soup is a comfort soup. We also know heavy cream is not so good for us. With this flavorful soup, no one will know that there is no cream unless you tell them. And of course if you want to use the yummy stuff like cream and butter, go for it. I'll give you the substitutions at the end.

(PS: I am not a vegan, but I live with one - I just add my dairy on the side to my own dish so I don't contaminate the whole soup)

1 lb of broccoli crowns, cut into florets and equal size stem pieces

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large yellow or white onion, diced in equal size pieces
4 oz silken tofu
1 tsp. garlic powder

Special Tools: Blender or Immersion Stick Blender; bowl of ice water big enough for the onion and broccoli

1) Bring the broth to a boil and wisk in the garlic powder. Add the onions and broccoli and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes until the broccoli is crisp tender. You do not want mushy broccoli.

2) Pour your soup through a colander and reserve the broth. Quickly transfer your broccoli/onion mix to the ice bath to "shock" the broccoli, keeping it bright green and stopping to cooking process. Allow the vegetable broth to cool as well.

3) Add the broccoli/onions to your blender with 1 cup of the broth. Blend on medium speed. Add the tofu and as much broth as you need to create a smooth blended soup.

) Blend the broccoli/onion mix with 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 Tbs butter, and as much broth as needed to create a smooth blended soup.

4) Return to the pot and heat. You can reduce down the liquid (boil it away) if you accidentally added too much broth, but be careful not to let it burn. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5) TOPPINGS!!!! I love a nice medium to sharp cheddar cheese shredded on top, a few red onion dices, and of course, full fat sour cream. Yum! Also good are some nummy garlic butter croutons made from left-over white sandwich bread.

Vegan Black Bean Soup

Black beans are so yummy. They're inexpensive. They're shelf-stable. They're a great addition to food storage. And making them from their dried state, though it takes a little forethought and planning, is way better than using canned beans and is way easy. This soup is spicy, and yummy, and can be used to get more protein and fiber into your family's diet without adding fat or processed ingredients.

The pre-planning part of this recipe requires an overnight soak of the black beans. Before you go to bed, put about 1/2 to 1 cup of dried black beans with 6 cups of COLD water in a tupperware container with a lid. Place in the fridge and let them do their thing. In the morning, dump the beans in a colander and rinse them. You can't use this liquid for cooking because it is full of dissolved starches from the bean that cause "intestinal discomfort" - code for gas pain - and will make the beans basically inedible.

Cook the beans in 6 cups fresh water in a heavy pot for 60 to 90 minutes. Don't boil the beans, but rather bring the water up to JUST a boil, then turn down the heat so they simmer. Beans are done when you can easily smush them between your fingers.
Reserve the cooking liquid.

*the prepared black beans (or 2 to 3 cans of no-salt added black beans, drained and rinsed)
*2 to 3 cups of reserved cooking liquid
*1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced
*2 Tbs. no-sodium tomato paste
*1/2 package McCormick's 30% Less Sodium Taco Seasoning
homemade taco seasoning mix: 1 Tbs. each chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder; 1 Tsp. each paprika, ground oregano, fine sea salt; 1 dash (and I mean a dash) of cayenne pepper
*3 cups low or no-sodium vegetable broth (or 5 cups if you started with canned beans)
*1 Tbs. olive oil
*Kosher or sea salt

Special Equipment: Immersion Stick-Blender or Regular Blender

1) Heat the oil in a stock or soup pot. Gently sautee the onions with a pinch of salt until they are soft and begin to take on a light caramel type color.

2) Add the beans, the reserved cooking liquid, the vegetable broth, and either the homemade or packaged seasoning (remember to only use 1/2 the package, because the spice is strong). Let the liquid come almost to a boil.

3) Stir in the tomato paste; let cook for about 10 minutes.

4) Remove from heat. Allow to cool a bit then CAREFULLY use the immersion blender to blend the soup to a nice smooth consistency. Alternatively, you can carefully transfer the soup in batches to a blender and blend til smooth. Add salt as needed.

5) Un-vegan this soup with yummy toppings: Sour cream and cheddar cheese and chopped onions. Or use the vegan options. Serve either as the main dish, or as a starter.

Million Dollar Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese. Cheese and Macaroni. It's a delicious treat. It's a comfort food. It can also be made really, really badly. I mean, who hasn't in their life eaten a box of THIS STUFF? Yellow death. Loaded with preservatives and salt, it's horrible for you and in all honesty, doesn't really taste that great unless you doctor it up with some real melty gouda, some scallions or shallots, and a bread crumb topping. Even then, it's still pretty foul.

In this post, we'll learn how to make REAL homemade Mac and Cheese with quality ingredients. It's delicious, gooey, cheesey, and has a lot of FLAVOR and really doesn't take much time. It uses a French technique, but never fear. It just sounds impressive. I guarantee your family will want to lick the casserole dish when you're done with this meal.

(for a family size meal):

  • 1 lb. Pasta (rotini, mini-penne, rigatoni, Macaroni shells or elbows - something bite-size that will hold on to the sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups Shredded Cheese (sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, pepper jack, Parmesan, Romano...choose something with a strong taste that will stand up to the pasta - make a mix if you want to)
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. all purpose flour
  • 1 cup non-fat or low-fat milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • panko bread-crumbs

1) Prepare the Pasta

Bring lightly salted water [you need to salt the water to infuse a little flavor into the pasta since we won't be doing anything else to it] to a boil and add16 oz (by weight) dry small pasta - I used mini-Penne pasta, but you can use traditional macaroni, shells, or small rotini, rigatoni, or another smaller pasta. Cook to desired doneness. I like mine a little beyond "al dente" which literally translates to mean "to the tooth." It means the pasta is not hard, but has some resistance and is a little chewy. I prefer mine softer than that.

2) Make your cheese sauce
This sauce starts with a béchamel, one of the Mother Sauces of French cooking. Don't be intimidated, however; it is surprisingly easy to create this sauce.
You will need
2 Tablespoons of butter
2 Tablespoons of All Purpose flour
1 cup of non-fat milk (warmed in the microwave)
1 cup (or a little more) of your favorite shredded cheese* [I used shredded colby/jack]
Salt and Pepper to taste.
*Note: The stronger cheeses, like sharp cheddar or smoked gouda will give a cheesier taste, but the Colby/Jack mix works well too.

We start this sauce with a roux, which is just equal parts butter and flour. Over medium heat in a non-stick pot, melt the butter, being conscious not to let it burn! Once the butter is melted, use a wisk and blend the flour into the butter. Keep stirring, being sure not to let the roux darken, otherwise your sauce will take on the wrong color and perhaps a burned taste. It should take on a very light caramel color.

After about 2 minutes, we turn the roux into the béchamel by SLOWLY adding the milk, about a quarter cup at a time, into the roux. KEEP WISKING or you will get a lumpy sauce. (Note, this sauce will be thick, so if you like it thinner, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup more milk). Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir often, especially the bottom of your pot, until it thickens and JUST begins to boil (anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes). At this point, I add my pepper and salt.

Pull off the heat and add 1 cup of your cheese, a couple handfuls at a time, stirring vigorously to melt it. It will be thick, and cheesy and gooey (mmmm gooey). You may be asking about the other 1/2 cup of cheese. HOLD ON!

3) We Move to the Oven

Spray an oven safe dish with cooking spray. Pour your cooked pasta into the dish, and spread the cheese sauce over the pasta, stirring it together to incorporate all the pasta into your sauce. Smooth it out and top with a very thin layer of bread crumbs. Spread the last 1/2 cup of cheese on top, then load it into a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. It is done when topping is golden brown and sauce is bubbly.

Let set on the counter for about 5 minutes so everything is cohesive and cools enough to be safe, then dish up. Waiting on this gooey treat is the hardest part!

TIPS/Add Ins:

Add frozen peas, spinach, finely diced cooked carrots, small florets of pre-cooked broccoli or cauliflower, etc. when you mix the cheese sauce into the pasta to increase the vegetables in this dish. Your kids will eat it up because who doesn't love veggies smothered in cheese sauce?

Add 1/4 cup of silken tofu to boost the protein in this dish. (Blend 1/4 cup of the milk and tofu in the blender before mixing it into your roux)

Add 1/4 cup of diced chicken or ham if you're into that kind of thing; I don't eat meat.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

Hi guys. Thanks for stopping by. In future posts, I'll try to take photos and post them, especially for difficult or tricky steps of recipes, and of course, a photo of the finished product.

So I love...LOVE...LOVE Italian food. But much of it is really food that is meant to be eaten for celebrations or, in other words, from time to time or special occasions. There are ways to healthify these delicious dishes, however. This recipe doesn't use any frying, and incorporates some fresh veggies (or fungi and fruit, I guess).

  • 1 medium to large Italian eggplant, peeled, then sliced in rounds about 1/4 inch thick (TIP: get rid of the end pieces - you want to see seeds in all the rounds because this is the tender part)
  • 3/4 cup unflavored PANKO breadcrumbs (click here for a 75 cent off coupon)
  • 2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 eggs beaten (or 1/4 cup egg beaters)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 jar of Prego Fresh Mushroom Italian Sauce (or your favorite flavor)
  • 4 to 6 oz mozzarella cheese (Precious or Kraft taste best)
  • 2-3 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese**
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped crimini a.k.a. "baby bella" mushrooms (or white, if you prefer)
  • 1 tbs butter or olive oil
  • cooking spray
  • FRESH Basil (8-10 large leafs, cut on a chiffonade)


  • sautee pan
  • 9x12 rectangular pan (or smaller if you can fit all the eggplant rounds)
  • wooden spoon
  • 2 shallow bowls (one for panko and one for the egg)
  • 1 quart size zip-top baggie
  • a sharp knife (duh, but you'd be surprised!)
  • vegetable peeler (duh, redux)
  • cookie pan lined with foil or parchment paper
  • colander
  • paper towels or clean flour-sack (ie lint free) towels

The Pre-Steps (Mise en place/Everything in Place)

  1. Peel and slice the eggplant. Sprinkle both sides lightly with Kosher salt and place in the colander in the sink. This process is called "sweating" the eggplant. It draws the excess moisture out of the eggplant, reducing the bitterness, and allowing for a crispy "oven-fried" eggplant. Walk away for 2-3 hours. Come back and rinse your eggplant then thoroughly dry them with the paper towels or flour sack towels.
  2. Season your breadcrumbs with 1/2 tsp. of salt and all the Italian herbs. Place in one of the shallow bowls.
  3. Beat your egg/s with a little water, and place in one of the shallow bowls.
  4. Put the flour in the zip-top baggie.
  5. Spray the lined cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375º.

Ok, Let's COOK!

  1. Put the eggplant in the bag with the flour and *shake shake shake* til they're all evenly coated.
  2. Working with one "wet hand" and one "dry hand", gently dip each round into the egg batter, then coat each side with Panko bread crumbs and place on your cookie sheet. Lightly spray the top of the coated rounds with cooking spray and bake for 8 minutes. Flip them over, and cook for another 8 minutes.
  3. While the eggplant is baking, heat oil/butter in your sautee pan and add your mushrooms and a pinch of kosher salt. When the mushrooms have softened, toss in the diced tomato and cook til heated through. (I love this part, it smells soooooo good)
  4. Pour some of the jarred sauce into the bottom of your pan, and if necessary, thin with 1 to 2 Tbs. water*, then mix in the mushrooms and the tomatoes, and a sprinkle of the Parmesan.
  5. Lay out the rounds of the eggplant on top of the sauce, then spoon more sauce on top of each slice of eggplant. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, the fresh basil, and either lay very thin slices or sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the entire pan of eggplant.
  6. COVER with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375º.
  7. Dish up and devour while hot and gooey.


*I found that the sauce was a LITTLE thick, and definitely needed thinning so that the eggplant would soak up all the flavors

**Please please please don't use the green can of shelf-stable Parmesan; invest $3.99 for an 8 oz container of FRESH grated Parmesan from the refrigerated pasta section - it will last a long time and reduce the amount of salt you have to add to your food because of the natural flavor of the cheese.

***You could also bread and bake zucchini or yellow long-neck squash with this method, but it still needs to be sweated like the eggplant though probably not as long (30 minutes to an hour). I would also cut it in half, then into 3 inch long, 1/4 inch thick strips, and I would NOT peel it.