Category Archives: I Heart Food

My Favorite Cookbooks…

Adam and I usually eat dinner at home 5 out of 7 nights a week. While we do a lot of on-the-fly cooking without true recipes, we probably use our cookbooks a lot more than most people do in this age of food blogs and websites. Not a bad thing, considering how many we own! (Although, with our impending move, we’re planning on donating a lot of those we don’t use often… if you’re interested in receiving FREE cookbooks, just let me know and I’ll send you a list of what we’re giving away.) I thought I’d do a round-up of the cookbooks that we turn to most frequently. These are predominantly vegetarian, “whole foods” cookbooks, but I think that they’d be a great resource for anyone who just likes to eat good food.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
This cookbook from Heidi Swanson (of 101 Cookbooks fame) is a staple in our house. I love it so much I’ve given it at least three times as a gift. This cookbook is divided up into five sections: Build a Natural Foods Pantry, Explore a Wide Range of Grains, Cook by Color, Know Your Superfoods, and Use Natural Sweeteners… plus a bonus section on Basic Recipes and Techniques. While we probably haven’t even made half of the recipes in here yet, that’s mostly because we keep making the same ones over and over again! A few favorites include:
+ espresso banana muffins (delicious!)
+ creamy wild rice soup with sweet potato croutons (has a great spicy curry kick!)
+ spring minestrone with brown rice (comes together pretty quickly and makes a ton!)
+ giant crusty and creamy white beans with greens (at one point, we were making this one weekly)
+ sprouted garbanzo burgers (also on her website)

Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
The follow up cookbook to Super Natural Cooking, I purchased this book the week that it came out. She divides this cookbook up into meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner, Drinks, Treats, and Accompaniments. There are so many recipes in here that I have flagged that I haven’t gotten around to yet, but here are my favorites so far:
+ chickpea stew (made this recently and added in some fresh spinach to get some extra greens… so good!)
+ white beans and cabbage (excellent with a poached egg on top)
+ bran muffins (okay, this may make us sound like octogenarians, but both Adam and I really like bran muffins and this is a great recipe)
+ little quinoa patties (these take some time, but make them over the weekend and eat them for lunch all week)
+ kale salad (the combination of kale, coconut and soy sauce may sound odd, but it somehow totally works)

Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You by Terry Walters
This cookbook is broken up into seasons (uh, as indicated by the title), which is pretty handy. While there are times that I will make a winter recipe in the summer, or vice versa, it’s nice to be able to flip open to one section and see recipes filled with seasonal produce. Also, the recipes tend to be a little heartier in the winter and lighter in the summer, which is usually how I tend to eat anyway. As an added bonus, all recipes are vegan and almost all are gluten free (or can be adapted to be gluten free), but she’s not at all preachy about the vegan lifestyle. It just happens to be animal-product free, delicious food.
+ crispy sesame carrots (I’m not a huge cooked carrots fan, but these are goooood!)
+ sweet and sour stir fry
+ pineapple tempeh kabobs (a great bbq alternative to veggie burgers)
+ lentil apple walnut loaf (we made this A LOT this past winter – tastes just like stuffing!)

Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well with 100 New Clean Food Recipes by Terry Walters
The follow up to Clean Food, I added this cookbook to my wishlist after enjoying so many recipes from the first cookbook. More of the same, but in a good way. :-) Haven’t had this one too long, so I haven’t made many recipes out of it yet. One I make frequently is:
+ Asian spinach with peanut ginger sauce (this is a super easy and quick weeknight meal, tossed with brown rice or rice noodles)

Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but Rick Bayless includes many “riffs” (as he calls them) on his recipes that are vegetarian, and his recipes are very adaptable. Although we tend to make a lot of the same (delicious!) recipes over and over again, it’s a rare week that we don’t make at least one recipe from this cookbook. A few tried-and-true recipes that we make often are:
+ Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (we make the vegetarian “riff” substituting caramelized onions for the bacon, and often skip the cheese)
+ Swiss Chard (or Spinach) Tacos with Caramelized Onions, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile (unless we make a special stop to pick up queso fresco, we usually use goat cheese)
+ Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms (I don’t even really like mushrooms, but I’ll eat them in this)
+ Mexican Beans with Chorizo and Greens (vegetarian “riff” sans chorizo – we eat this A LOT)

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
Now, we’re had more “misses” with this cookbook than we’d like, but it really is a great fundamental cookbook to have around that I have to include it on a list of recommendations. We’ve learned to read through the recipes in this cookbook more carefully… sometimes it’s as easy as adding sauteed onion and garlic to a recipe to boost up the flavor. Anyone familiar with Bittman’s recipes knows that he provides a ridiculous amount of variations for each recipe. There are so many recipes, I can’t even begin to go through the cookbook and let you know which ones are our favorite.

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Komi

Adam and I don’t really do tangible gifts for birthdays and holidays, instead opting for experience gifts. Massages (for me), great seats to a Yankees game (for him), going to see Elf on Broadway (both of us)… that sort of thing. When Adam tried but was unable to get a reservation at Komi for my birthday this year (reservations fill up FAST and are hard to come by), we immediately decided that we would try to go for his birthday. (And seeing how it was the big 3-0, it was probably a more appropriate occasion anyway.) I called in for reservations exactly 30 days out from the week of his birthday and managed to score a reservation for this past Tuesday night (the day after his birthday).

At Komi, there are no printed menus. Instead, they provide a series of small mezze, building up to 2-3 entree type dishes, and then finishing with desserts. (Yes, plural.) While you don’t order off of a menu, when I made my reservations, I was asked about any allergies, dietary restrictions, and even food preferences. I let them know that I was a vegetarian, but Adam would eat anything. She followed up with asking whether I ate eggs and/or dairy, and also whether we were celebrating any special occasion.

When we arrived at dinner, our waiter explained the structure of the meal to us, confirmed that I was a vegetarian and explained how my courses would mirror, but obviously be different, than Adam’s (as I note with an “A” or “S” below), and again asked whether we had any food preferences. I decided not to let him know I wasn’t a big mushroom fan, just because I felt like at a place like this, I wanted to see what the chef would do. I also knew there would be more than enough food that I wouldn’t go hungry by not eating every bite of every course.

I’m not a food blogger, so I’m not going to go into much detail about the individual dishes, but I just want to get this down somewhere so I can look back on it and think, oh yes, that was one delicious meal. I am definitely forgetting key parts of each dish and my bastardized names for them will not do them justice.

Here’s what Adam and I came up with on the cab ride home…

First Course: bite-sized brioche with yogurt and salmon roe (A); bite-sized brioche with yogurt and sea beans (S)

Second Course: duo of raw fish (A); duo of radishes (S)

Third Course: duo of scallop (A); duo of mushrooms (S)
+ I actually ate the mushrooms! One was a very thin slice of mushroom that had been smoked and went with a coconut puree, the other was pickled. Prepared this way, neither had the weird chewy consistency that I dislike in mushrooms.

Fourth Course: burrata with asparagus two ways (shaved and roasted)
+ Oh my heavens, this was AH-MAZE-ING.

Fifth Course: spanikopita bites
+ Sadly, only one each, because I could easily have eaten a plateful. They basically were these little fried balls with liquid creamed spinach inside.

Sixth Course: egg ravioli (we actually had two different sauces/toppings, but I can’t remember what they were)

Seventh Course: half smoke (A); chickpea fritters (S)

Eighth Course: foie gras (A); avocado with… something (S)
+ Oops, I totally forgot what this course was!

Ninth Course: marscapone stuffed roasted dates
+ I’d read about these and was really hoping they would make an appearance on our menu, and they absolutely did not disappoint!

Moving on to the entree courses:

Tenth Course: pasta with seafood ragu and fried caper berries (A); yukon gold potato gnocchi (S)
+ The gnocchi was very good, but Adam claimed the pasta in his dish was the best he’d ever had.

Eleventh Course: roast suckling pig (A); crispy fried mushroom and roasted potatoes (S); both served with homemade pita, tzatziki, radish and red onion salad, sliced pepperdews, and some sort of savory jam (Horseradish? I don’t know, but it was delicious.)
+ I didn’t like the mushrooms as much in this one. It was one of those ruffly mushrooms and I ate the crispy edges, but didn’t like the stem-part, but that’s just my personal mushroom hang-up. I actually think the chickpea fritters I had a few courses earlier would have been perfect here. Adam could have died a happy, happy man eating his baby pig. (And wasn’t deterred in the least by my comments on how the crispy pig skin he was eating was the same thing used to make footballs.)

Dessert:
Even though we didn’t do the wine pairing, they brought us each a complimentary (and complementary!) glass of dessert wine to have with these dishes.

Twelfth Course: biscuit/shortcake bite with a sweetened, creamy cheese

Thirteenth Course: olive oil gelato, balsamic-glazed strawberries, and a lemon shortbread cookie
+ Olive oil gelato? Who knew? (It was delicious.)

Fourteenth Course: salted caramel, chocolate, and peanut butter torte(?) (I don’t know the best way to describe this; it was three layers with a crispy peanut butter layer on the bottom, chocolate ganache type later in the middle, topped with salted caramel); caramelized banana and coconut sorbet
+ If you were to ask me my favorite dessert flavors, I would probably list: salted caramel, chocolate, peanut butter, coconut and banana. So basically, this was heaven on a plate for me. Seriously, my eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger as the waiter described the course… my mouth may have even fallen open. Adam just started laughing at me after the waiter left, while I was staring, eyes wide and mouth agape, in disbelief at the awesomeness that graced my plate.

Fifteenth Course: elderberry lollipops that came with the check (I think it’s elderberry… I know it’s some sort of unusual flavor and a quick Google search tells me that’s one of the flavors he makes)
+ we still have to eat these!

Special Bonus Birthday Treat: cardamom scented “Rolos”

We decided against the wine pairing, but each chose a Hitachino Nest beer (witbier for me, IPA for him). The sommelier carded us, then handed us back our IDs with an embarrassed apology, noting that we both looked a lot younger than we are, and commenting that he was actually six months younger than Adam. HA!

If you ever have the opportunity to go out for one amazing, splurgeriffic meal, this is the place you should go… and it is worth every penny.

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Baked “Fries”

We’ve been getting eggplant pretty regularly in our CSA and I’ve been stumped with coming up with new ideas for cooking with it (that are appealing to me, anyway). Today, our dinner looked very much like bar food… fries with a variety of dips. Only, it was actually pretty healthy and we didn’t feel totally gross after, as I often do when eating lots of fried food.

Eggplant and Zucchini Fries:
(you could do this with one or both vegetables)
1 eggplant, cut into strips
1 zucchini (or 2 tiny ones), cut into strips
Extra virgin olive oil
Panko breadcrumbs
additional seasonings of your choice (we used Penzey’s 4/S Special Seasoned Sea Salt)
Salt eggplant strips and place in colander over bowl for 10-15 minutes to get some of the liquid out. Rinse very well (otherwise you will end up with way salty eggplant). Place eggplant and zucchini strips in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat.
In a shallow dish, stir together bread crumbs and additional seasonings. Coat strips and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes.
The vegetables themselves don’t get very crunchy, but more like sweet and nutty from the roasting. The breadcrumbs add a nice crunch, though.

Okra Oven Fries
okra
olive oil
seasoned salt (we used 4/S again)
Toss whole okra in oil and rub on seasoned salt. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets in oven at 400* for 20 minutes. (We just threw ours right on there with the eggplant and zucchini.)

I made two dips to go along with our “fries.” (We dipped in some Dinosaur Barbecue sauce as well.)

Curry Dip:
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s brand)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons grated onion or shallot
1/2 teaspoon red curry paste

Sriracha Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
Sriracha sauce to taste (about 1/2 – 1 tsp.)
2 T fresh-squeezed lime juice

For both dips, mix all ingredients in bowl until well combined. Chill if you have time, or serve right away.

This dinner was super fun to eat. We just piled all the “fries” onto a platter, used sandwich sized plates and dipped straight into the bowls at the dinner table. Both of the dips were really yummy and would work well with crudite, chips or crackers.

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Peppermint Bark

I gave homemade peppermint bark (along with fancy glass mugs and flavored hot cocoa) to some hard to shop for relatives. I heard from my mom yesterday that the bark was a total hit… people kept asking her where I bought it! It’s pretty hilarious, because peppermint bark is SO SUPER EASY to make. I mean, the price of peppermint bark online or in the store is just ludicrous considering how simple it is. So, for those of you out there who’ve never made it before, here’s the recipe.
Equipment:
Double boiler, or glass bowl that fits into a pot.
baking sheet with sides
parchment paper
Ingredients:
2 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 bags of white chocolate chips
peppermint extract
crushed candy canes (I found already crushed ones in AC Moore, but you can crush whole candy canes in a ziploc with a rolling pin.)
Directions:
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in double boiler or in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. Once chocolate is melted, pour it into the lined baking sheet and spread evenly. Put into refrigerator for 10-15 minutes (can be done while you clean the double boiler/glass bowl and melt the white chocolate chips). Melt the white chocolate chips, stirring in two or three teaspoons of peppermint extract (or more to taste). Once chips are melted, pull off heat and stir in crushed candy canes. Pour candy cane & chocolate mixture over semi-hardened semi-chocolate layer in baking sheet. Sprinkle a layer of candy cane pieces on top. Stick the pan back in the fridge til chocolate hardens.
Tada! Soooo easy… literally just melting chocolate, stirring, and pouring. Now tell me you’ll never buy store bought again!
(Bark is best stored in the fridge because it makes it easier to break into pieces. It’s also really easy to mix and match extracts and mix-ins and get creative!)

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