Thursday, August 28, 2008

Falafel Pitas/Sandwiches

Even though this recipe did not turn out perfect, my mouth is watering looking at the pictures. Believe me, I ate every single bite, down to the crumbs. Then I had another falafel by itself, with a bit of relish and yogurt on top. Mm, mm, good.

Why wasn't it perfect? Well, I overbaked the falafels and dried them out. I doubled the bake time, as they wern't looking brown, as the recipe called for. Beware, they may be done before they're brown! However, their taste was still excellent. When I give it another try, I'll make an update with my findings. Was it truly me? Or is it the recipe? I'm pretty sure it's me.

The other problem we encountered was our pita. It completely fell apart on us and ripped everywhere as we were trying to stuff the pockets. Ugh. Next time, I'm going to look for some mediterannean flatbread instead. More pliable, and probably less dry. (It's what they use in the "Baked Falafel Sandwich" recipe linked at the bottom, and looks delicious.)

Can you see all the rips in back? This was a messy dinner!

Overall though, making your own falafel is pretty fun. I always wanted to try it. We have a lot of Turkish immigrants in Germany (more in Berlin than Munich), and I used to have a falafel sandwich everyday when I was taking German classes in town. Soooo good. The shop I went to made their own bread, fresh everyday (sigh). Oh, it was wonderful.

If you want to focus on the falafels and not make the sauces/relishes, no worries. Do as my falafel shop did in Munich... mash a couple falafel balls into your pita bread, add a couple slices of tomato on top, a handful of chopped lettuce, a dash of red pepper flakes and a heaping drizzle of plain greek style yogurt. Done! And delicious.

Falafel Pitas
adapted from Cooking Light

1 16 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (6-inch) whole wheat pita, torn into large pieces
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 large egg whites
Cooking spray

2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato
1 cup chopped seeded English cucumber
1/4 cup chopped green onions (I left these out)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 serrano chile, minced (I used red pepper flakes)

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft (log-style) goat cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 small garlic clove, minced

Remaining ingredient:
4 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, halved

Preheat oven to 350º.

Combine 1 cup chickpeas (You will not need the remainder in the can. Refrigerate and use as part of tomorrow's salad!) and next 11 ingredients (through 2 chopped garlic cloves) in a food processor; pulse 8 to 10 times or until finely chopped. Spoon mixture into a bowl.

Add egg whites to chickpea mixture, and stir well. Let stand 15 minutes. Divide mixture into 16 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350º for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. * Be careful not to overbake, as they will dry out.

To prepare relish, combine tomato and next 5 ingredients (through chile).

To prepare sauce, combine yogurt, goat cheese, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 minced garlic clove, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Place 2 falafel patties in each pita half; spoon about 1/3 cup relish and 2 1/2 tablespoons sauce into each pita half. Serve immediately.

Additional falafel recipes:
* After reading hundreds of blogs, I feel like I have seen the good and the bad. The idea of adding additional recipes to the bottom of my posts came from Dine & Dish, a wunderbar (wonderful) food blog. It was an 'ah ha!' moment where I knew, it was going to add fun, more information and depth to my posts. How cool is Kristen to think it up? I hope she doesn't mind me copying her. I look up to her immensely.

Guten appetit!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summertime Pasta, Take II: Farfalle with Zucchini & Tomato

Did you miss Summer Pasta Part I? Don't worry, you can find it here. Or here. Or here. Or here. (sorry, that was just for fun)

But Part II can certainly stand on it's own, and maybe I'm even doing it a disservice by making it a sequel. Ah, well. Moving on.

My review of this recipe... Make. This. Tonight.

It has a light cream sauce! It has a light cream sauce! It has a light cream sauce! I want to shout, from the Alp-mountain tops.

Seriously though, the words "light, cream and sauce" do not go together. It defies logic, and if nothing else, should prompt you to see what it's all about. FYI- I'm not referring to 'light' in calories (although, I think it would do pretty well in that department also), I'm referring to 'light' - not heavy. We're not fans of your typical thick, full after 4 bites, cream sauces. But this recipe, it crosses boundaries people. We're talking, new frontiers.

Speaking of frontiers, as with the first summertime pasta, this one comes from the lovely Pioneer Woman. I changed up some of her measurements and didn't use 'arrowroot', because, who has arrowroot? (If you do, I'm very impressed)

Farfalle with Zucchini & Tomato
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 box farfalle pasta (approximately 4 cups uncooked)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 large zucchini, quartered and cut into bit sized pieces
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (these are delicious in the pasta, so don't skimp), halved
1 clove of garlic, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream (I know - I used the word 'heavy', just trust me)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (I didn't have fresh, and used dried. In that case, use 1/4 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, if you haven't already done so, cut your veggies.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over med-high heat. Put zucchini in the pan and allow to brown. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Make sure the zucchini is nice and brown, then remove from heat and put aside. If you stir only occasionally, you will avoid overcooking the zucchini.

To the same pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, and turn the heat down to medium. Allow to cook until you see the tomatoes starting to soften, approximately 3 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup white wine, and try to whisk or scrape the flavorful bits off the bottom of the pan. When you're done scraping, add cream. Allow to cook until the sauce starts to become thick, 4-5 minutes.

Add the zucchini, and 1/2-3/4 cup of your pasta water to help thin out the sauce. Now add salt and pepper. (Yes, I actually used salt in this recipe, which, I usually prefer to skip - but Tim noticed and said something! So I recommend it)

Place cooked pasta in a large serving bowl and sprinkle with your fresh herbs. Pour the sauce over your pasta, and mix well. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and serve.

Guten appetit!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pregnancy Snacks - Fruit with yogurt

Oh man, Tim is riding me hard on proteins, and I know he's right, but wow - it is sooo hard to get the recommended values of each food group while pregnant. Oops, did I mention I was pregnant? Probably not yet, at least, not here on this blog. Yep, I'm pregnant. So you may see some additional posts about that topic and comments related to the food I'm making, just cause that's a current happening in my life right now.

So back to protein, I was surviving just fine in that department while I was not-pregnant. But now there's extra emphasis, AND extra calories/food I need to eat. Ah!

If you are pregnant, and having a hard time like me, I combined a few sources to make this list of good-snack-foods. It's been helpful. Some are good for protein, and some are good when you need to eat but don't really want to. Whether you're pregnant or not though, these are very tasty, healthy snacks.
  • whole wheat tortilla rolled up with peanut butter and banana (Ok, this doesn't sound so good to me... you? Instead, I've eaten quite a few apples with peanut butter smeared on them. PB is great protein)
  • fresh fruit salad or fruit dipped in vanilla yogurt (see 'recipe' below)
  • raw veggies dipped in hummus (Another favorite. Click here for my hummus recipe. Chickpeas - great, great protein)
  • whole grain crackers with cheese and apple slices (I do the cheese and crackers, forget the apple. Cheese = protein)
  • mixed nuts and dried fruits (raisins, apricots, figs, prunes) - This is a great summer trail mix idea!
  • bean salad with toasted pita wedges (add beans to salad, pastas, etc - easy way to add a bit of protein)
  • a handful of raw almonds (I do this even when I'm not pregnant, very good protein. You can also add chopped, roasted almonds to salad, delicious)
  • bran muffin and milk (prunes, then bran cereal... anyone seeing a trend here?)
  • baked potato with plain yogurt and chives (click here for my twice baked potato recipe. Eating potatoes with skins is a protein source)
  • cottage cheese with canned peaches or pineapple slices (My friend jamie used to like this, or was it ketchup in the cottage cheese?? Anyway, I cant get on board with this - I'd eat the plain cottage cheese though, good protein)
As my 'recipe' for today (which has next to no protein- oh well), I'm giving you one of my favorite summer-time, pregnancy snacks... fresh fruit with yogurt. It's light, refreshing and cold. While I didn't suffer any nausea, this snack has helped me get in a few extra calories when I wasn't really looking forward to eating anything else. It doesn't sound or feel filling. Fruit, esp cantaloupe, is full of liquid, so I also helped myself stay hydrated... another one of my short-comings, drinking enough water.

But this isn't JUST a pregnancy snack, oh no. Think of how nutritious and yummy for a summer afternoon kiddo snack. Or just for you, because it's fresh fruit and yogurt, and who doesn't like both of those?! Very easy to take with you to work.

You can even make it into a fun 30 minute activity with the kids.... give them a 1/4 cantaloupe to scoop (a little melon scoop would be better than a knife, in case you're wondering just what in the heck I'm proposing for your little darlings!), and a couple handfuls of blueberries to wash, let them mix, and add the yogurt and voila - instant fun and instant snack. If you want to add some crunch, put out a bowl of granola or rice krispies or something to also add in. Maybe even graham crackers! Use your imagination.

Fresh Fruit with Yogurt:
I know this is too easy to post, but eh, what the heck.

Pre-cut a half cantaloupe into bite-sized pieces. Then wash and add 1-2 cups of blueberries. Keep in the fridge, covered with saran wrap.

When ready, scoop out 1/3 of your fruit mix, and combine with a small container of yogurt (your choice on flavor, I use vanilla).

A 3/4 full regular cereal bowl kept in the fridge, usually makes 2-3 days worth of nutritious afternoon snacks (depending on how hungry I am - munch, munch, munch!).

Guten appetit!

Friday, August 8, 2008

An oldie but a goodie: Twice Baked Potatoes

I don't know why I don't make these more often, they're delicious! And so easy.

This was one of my mom's staples when we were growing up, and I can see why. We loved them as kids, and they were easy for her to make. I'd say we had them at least once a month. For her though, they are/were a side dish. For me, these are actually going to be our main course (on this particular night) with a simple salad. If I were to add a protein somewhere, it would make for a healthier main dish, but I'm not going to sweat that.

Another thing I love about this recipe, it's very versatile. You can mix up the ingredients, add what sounds good, and it's always tasty. Keep with the basics of potato, cheese and sour cream, and you're good - to - go.

Twice Baked Potatoes:

4 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup shredded cheese, divided (I used a cheddar/emmentaler mix)
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

I also included:
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely

Some variations you can try:
- 3/4 cup broccoli, chopped to 1/4 inch pieces
- use blue cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons chives/green onion, chopped (Tim is a 'green thing' hater, so I tend to avoid chives, cilantro, spinach, etc. in most of my recipes. But chives are very popular in twice baked potatoes, give them a shot!)
- 1/4 cup cottage cheese, and 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- soy made bacon bits

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash, and fork* your potatoes. Place potatoes on a baking tray/cookie sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. Make sure they are cooked through, and remove from oven to partially cool.

* What is 'forking'? (mind out of the gutter, please) Take a fork, and poke the potato all over (20 pokes per potato should do it) to create holes for breathing and releasing heat during cooking.


Just out of the oven

While the potatoes are cooling, combine sour cream, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, milk and butter in a bowl and mix.

Turn down the oven to 350 degrees.

Once cool enough to handle, cut 1/4 top off your potatoes. Scoop out the pulp, and place in your cheese/milk mixture bowl. Try not to tear the potato skin while you are scooping. You will not be using the skin from the 1/4 top, so discard it.

Once you have scooped all the pulp from the potato skins, mash and mix the potato with your cheese/milk mixture. It should form a creamy yet stiff consistency.

TIP: If you prefer a more whipped consistency, break out the electric mixer for 2-3 minutes. If you like the potato mash consistency, then use a regular masher or fork to combine. Up to you!

Using a spoon, stuff your skins with the potato mix. Be sure to fully fill the skins and get the mixture into the ends and sides.

Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and place in the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and potato is warmed through.

Prepared, and ready for the oven

If you have a BBQ dinner coming up this summer, these would be a great side dish. You can make them the day before (wait to sprinkle the cheese on top), leave in the fridge covered in saran wrap, then pop in the oven at your party. You may need to increase the baking time to 20-30 minutes, to ensure they warm through. The less time you spend in the kitchen being monopolized by food, the more time you have to enjoy the party.

Here are some other twice baked potato recipes that have a special twist to their recipe:
Guten appetit!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The answer to a hot summer evening: Asian Noodle Salad

This is a newly formed friendship, but one that has earned a solid, everlasting place in my summer heart. Do you ever feel like you will do almost anything to avoid turning the oven on in summer? Even if it means eating cereal.

Problem solved! Asian Noodle Salad.

This was a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, a blog I have come to read far, far too often. Lazy hausfrau that I am. But I occasionally get off my tush, and make a fun recipe or two - no? And all my 'computer work' (ahem- blog/internet surfing) provides me with cooking inspiration. It's a viscous circle.

For this recipe, I made some modifications that personally, I feel are required. The original recipe, as my friend Michelle said, is a bit like eating your backyard. Tasty, and still delicious, but a little too heavy on the leaves. For me. It's a personal taste thing here.

I find it incredibly important to add tofu, and not forget the cashews. If you are a meat eater, add some cooked chicken (I'm ok with meat, I just don't eat it or cook it. But I'll recommend it.).

This salad is also a great way to use leftovers - as you can substitute any veggies you prefer or have on hand. I lessened the amount of veggie's the original recipe called for, again, trying to weed out that 'backyard'. But fill-er-up or back-off based on your personal preferences.

Also, since I've made this recipe twice, I adjusted which leafy produce I used - first time around, I used baby spinach leaves and napa cabbage. Second time, I used napa cabbage and red cabbage. I much prefered the second version. So that's how I wrote up the recipe, although my pictures will show you spinach leaves.

The sauce, though, is the real money-maker for this recipe. So whatever adaptations or versions you make, just don't mess with the saucy-sauce. Otherwise, cut, chop, boil some noodles and enjoy!

Asian Noodle Salad
adapted from The Pioneer Woman, who adapted it from Jamie Oliver (whew- this recipe gets around!)

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 package linguine noodles - cooked, rinsed and cooled (my noodles were warm, which is OK too)
1/2 head sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 head sliced purple cabbage
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
Chopped cilantro - up to one bunch
1 cup whole cashews, lightly toasted in skillet (I zapped mine in a mini-processor after toasting)
1/2 pound green beans, ends cut off and cut in half
1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes (you can marinate the tofu if you like in soy sauce, up to 1 day ahead - I highly recommend marinating it, yum!)

Additional veggies the Pioneer Woman used: fresh spinach leaves, scallions, yellow bell peppers, bean sprouts, and cucumber

Cook linguine noodles, according to package directions and set aside. Whole wheat noodles would be fantastic in this salad!

While linguine is cooking, chop and mix the cabbage through cashews in a bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil, on med-high heat in a skillet. Once oil is hot, add your green beans and saute for 3-4 minutes. They should still have some crunch. Remove from heat and let cool.
* This step is optional, I like my green beans a bit cooked. But they would be fine in the salad raw.

Place 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over med-high heat. Once oil is hot, add cubed tofu. Allow tofu to brown on most sides - should take approximately 5 minutes total. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and add both beans and tofu to the vegetable mix.

In a large serving bowl, mix the noodles and vegetables together. It's ok if the noodles are all clumpy and stuck together. The sauce will loosen them right up!

Set aside, and make your dressing...


Juice of 1 lime
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 hot peppers or jalapenos, chopped
More chopped cilantro

Mix dressing ingredients together, and pour over salad just before serving. Dressing keeps up to three days before serving, WITHOUT cilantro.

I should have also mentioned that Tim doesn't like cilantro. My sister either. So, no problem! I made the salad and dressing without the cilantro and sprinkled (a ton!) on top of my own plate. If you have more than two people for dinner, chop and place the cilantro in a bowl and let everyone add their own as it pleases them.

My plate, full of cilantro!

Tim's plate, without delicious cilantro

Guten appetit!

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I found this on The Little Window Shoppe's blog recently, and had to share... it looks so fun. Instead of sushi, it's frushi (fruit on sweet rice, served with yogurt).

Great and completely different dessert. I can see this being a fun hit for a casual, friend BBQ.

If you want the recipe and how-to, click here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming great recipe: summer asian noodle salad. A new favorite at our house.

Guten appetit!