Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eggs, eggs, eggs and a mighty good sandwich

I'm predicting there will be a surplus of colored, hard boiled eggs in everyone's fridge this week. Am I right?

You know who you are: parents with eager, bunny loving, egg hunting kids, or the oh-so-cute adult who still dye's eggs as a centerpiece (or even better, to use as seat assignments) for the fabulous dinner you're hosting for your dearest friends. P.S. I want to be you!

Us? Well, I did make blueberry muffins for breakfast. But otherwise, we were an easter bunny, dyed-egg free household and spent the day watching Rocky (the original), spinning and playing on the internet. Basically being lazy goofs. Sometimes, those are the best Sundays!

However, we always have hard boiled eggs in the fridge. While eggs have had a bad rap for cholesterol over the years, most of those studies have been overturned. Eggs are a great source of protein and a yummy, quick snack (peel, and sprinkle with a little pepper- mmm). However, we do discard the yoke when eating hard boiled eggs. Unless... unless, using the eggs for egg salad sandwiches.

Which brings me to today's post: egg salad sandwiches. Egg salad sandwiches are so overlooked, but oh so delicious. Everytime I have one, I wonder why I don't make them more often. I'm thinking of deviating from my tried and true sandwich, to make a curried version later this week (stay tuned for how it turns out!).

I feel a bit silly giving a recipe for something so easy, but hey- we all have different ways to make egg salad. So why not share?

Basic egg salad sandwich:

3 hard boiled eggs (discard 1 yoke)
2.5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 slices whole wheat bread
Leafy lettuce, rinsed and dried (I like romaine leaves)

Peal and mash eggs with a fork. Add Mayonnaise, and mix well.
* The amount of mayo used is based on personal preference. I add a little mayo to my bread, so I don't like to overdo it in the egg mix. Most importantly, start with a small amount and add from there. You can always add more, but you cant take it out once you've added TOO much.

Add pepper to the eggs and mix well. Store in fridge up to 1 day ahead. I typically like to make the egg salad at least an hour or two before, as I think it tastes better having blended the flavors for a while and when it's chilled. Yum.

Spread a thin layer of mayo on your 4 bread slices (if desired), next divide the egg salad and spread evenly onto 2 of your bread slices. Lastly add lettuce, and close up the sandwiches! Makes 2 sandwiches. Double the recipe if you want leftover egg salad for tomorrow's lunch.

As I previously mentioned, there are A LOT of variations on egg salad (adding green onions, watercress for a 'crunch', celery, etc). I like it in it's simplest form (because it's easy), but also, it tastes great! Sometimes when you overdo a recipe, you lose the simple greatness. This recipe can't be anymore simple or great, in my opinion.

Guten appetit!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

Oh happy day! Happy, happy Easter (tomorrow).

I usually leave holiday posts to the last minute, so here I am again... posting the cutest and greatest idea for Easter desert, the day before Easter.

Despite my lateness, I still insist on posting. Just discovering these little gems, I haven't even had the time to make them myself. I also doubt the ability to find shredded wheat in Germany. But still, I must share.

Why? Because I like to believe I have procrastinating friends out there. We share a kinship other organized, on-time, early to rise type people don't understand. So, if you are still looking for that easy (with maximum impact) dessert for Easter, then you've come to the right place! This post is for you, my friends.

Since you've procrastinated, you also don't have time to be reading the random ramblings of a hausfrau... Understood.

I ask you, HOW CUTE are these??

Not only are these little birds nest a dessert, they could also double as part of your table decoration! If you'd like to make them a little more contained and smaller (vs. using a plate), I'd put them in a cupcake cup.

If you are in a rush, or childless, this wont apply to you. But the fantastic blog (Angry Chicken) I found these on, recommended them as a good afternoon project for little hands.

Without further delay, the recipe:

Makes 3 big nests
(Personally, I think smaller nests would be OK, & I'd try to get 4 or 5 out of it)

6 big squares shredded wheat, crushed (about 1 1/2 cup or so, crushed, per nest)
1 bag milk chocolate chips, melted (11.5 oz)
2 small packages Cadbury mini-eggs

Pour the melted chocolate over the shredded wheat and mix well. (If you are working with kids, have them do this in a big bowl with a spoon so little hands don't get burnt)

Dump onto waxed paper and build 3 little mounds. Then using the back of a spoon, make an indent. Fill with eggs and let set.

It takes about 1 1/2 hours to firm up. You can just pick them up and eat them when they dry.

Guten appetit!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

3 Bean Tacos

I mentioned before that I crave protein on occasion. Eggs are a great source, but I believe beans are probably the more common staple for most vegetarians. They can be added to most dishes (salads, casseroles, etc), if not stand alone as a main dish...

On a side note, regarding vegetarian's protein intake related to beans:
Nutritionists used to believe you needed to eat beans + a combo item (rice, grains, pasta) at the same time to make a complete protein. However, they have found that throughout the day, even eating the foods separately, your body will break the necessary combos down for protein. So have your toast in the morning, or rice for lunch, and beans for dinner. You're good to go! If you'd like to find out more about which foods combine for a complete protein, click here. Given that you have a day to eat and combine your food, most vegetarians get plenty of both complete and incomplete proteins needed for a balanced diet.

Getting back on topic, we'd like to introduce you to one of our favorite recipes: 3 bean tacos.

I'm hungry just thinking about them again. But when do I read about or discuss a delicious recipe and not feel the urge to run to the kitchen?

As always, this recipe is easy. Other benefits include speed of prep, better-than-the-night-before lunch leftovers, and they're packed full of good stuff for a healthy weeknight meal. For sorority friends, if you will kindly recall taco nights, one of the best meals at the house. And for those of you with kiddos, taco night was one of my favorite dinners growing up- it was FUN! A child's ability to come to the table and assemble their taco by themselves helps make dinnertime an occasion.

Feel free to mix and match your beans, and the toppings. The greatness of this recipe is the ease, and forgiveness based on your own preferences.

We hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

3 bean tacos

teaspoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper (I just buy 1 large red pepper, and skip the green)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained (* see note below)
1/2 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained (* I choose one of these beans, and use the full can)
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce (I use 1 - 14 oz. can diced tomatoes)
12 taco shells (we use fresh, soft, corn tortillas- yum!)
3/4 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
3/4 cup diced tomato (because I use a full can of diced tomato with the beans, I skip this)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (onion through garlic), and sauté 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, beans, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until thick.

Warm your taco shells/tortillas (highly recommended if using tortillas). Spoon 1/4 cup bean mixture into each taco shell. Top with your choice of toppings, which may include: lettuce, avocado (my favorite!) chopped tomato, shredded cheese, and salsa.

Makes 12 servings (serving size: 1 taco)

Guten appetit!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chickpea & Leek Soup

I ran across this recipe, in printed email format circa 2004, and thought about making it for a dinner party towards the end of the month. I was drawn to the chickpeas, one of my favorite foods. I also thought it was interesting to use them, vs potato which is more standard to see with leeks in soup. AND, this soup got the stamp of approval from my friend Jamie, who sent me the email (not to be confused with Jamie Oliver, who created the recipe).

So, I wondered... Would it be fancy or delicious enough to stand alone as a starter for my dinner party? Did I think it would blend well with my planned main course? And, what the heck do leeks taste like (they're always in something, but not the main flavor, so I really wasn't sure- onions?)?

All good questions, therefore, a trial run was called for.

Chickpea & Leek Soup
Altered slightly, from Jamie Oliver (aka- the other jamie, not my friend. Although, maybe that's too hasty a comment - maybe he'd like to be my friend...)

1 can of garbanzo beans
5 medium leeks (click here to see how to clean and prep leeks)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons pepper
3 cups vegetable stock
Grated parmesan, to taste (I used about 3 tablespoons, plus a sprinkle for presentation)
Extra-virgin olive oil

Remove the outer skin of the leeks, slice lengthways from the root up, wash carefully and slice finely (the thinner, the better). Discard the upper, greener portion of the leek leaves.

Warm a thick-bottomed pan, and add the oil and butter. Add leeks and garlic to the pan, and cook gently with a small pinch of salt until tender and sweet. Add drained chickpeas and cook for one minute. Add 2/3 of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes.

Now decide if you want to puree the soup in some sort of processor, or leave it chunky and brothy. I puree most of the soup with a hand-blender directly in my soup pot, but leave plenty of big chunks for texture.

Lastly, add enough of the remaining stock to achieve the consistency you like. Check for seasoning, adding pepper and parmesan to round off the flavors.

Final consensus: This IS the moneymaker. Great winter comfort food. I say: mmm, mmm, ye-ahh! (Ok- enough 'subtle' hints. Check out Rilo Kiley, if you haven't already. They're on repeat on our iPod, love it.)

The chickpeas added the thickness to the soup I was hoping for, and the leeks tasted a bit like asparagus (wasn't expecing that!). Was a delicious combo, and will definitely make this one again.

No problem serving this soup as a starter with some good chunky bread, although it's warming up so fast here, an end of March dinner party may be too late to serve this yummy warm soup. We had it for lunch, as J.O. recommended: he likes it for lunch with a good drizzle of his best peppery extra-virgin olive oil, a grinding of black pepper, and an extra sprinkling of parmesan.

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fried Rice with Tofu

This is a staple. One of our favorites!

While we include tofu, you can easily omit that if you have a non-tofu eater in the house. Many people don't like the 'taste' of tofu, although it doesn't have much taste. I think it has more to do with the texture. No worries, this recipe is veerrrry versatile.

The recipe is an adaption of Cooking Light's Yang Chow Fried Rice. You can also make their recipe as-is, it's delicious. My take on their recipe is set up for my preferences and as a perfect dinner for 2-3, or dinner with some lunch leftovers.

First thing I try to do with my fried rice, is use up any veggies I have leftover in the fridge. Have an extra carrot you didn't use last night? Great! How about a quarter cabbage from fish tacos? Throw it in! Our favorite combo is usually broccoli, snap peas and carrots. But you can use whatever sounds good or you have on hand (within reason: brussel sprouts, radishes or cucumber would not be my first choice for fried rice).

I also try to make fried rice the night after another rice meal. That way, you can make double the rice you need the first night, and put half in the fridge for your fried rice the next day, making you're prep ridiculously easy. I made this batch of fried rice the day after African Peanut Stew.

I hope you like this one as much as we do!

Fried Rice with Tofu

3 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, or yellow onion (I use yellow, since I always have it on hand)
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked short-grain rice, chilled in the fridge
1 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained of liquid and cut into bite size cubes
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable options: 1 1/2 cup sugar snap peas (washed and ends cut), 1 10-ounce package frozen green peas (thawed), 1-2 carrots (peeled and cut into small pieces), 1/2 cup sliced white cabbage, 1 large bell pepper (washed, cored, and sliced), and/or 1 cup bite sized broccoli florets
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Do try to make your rice ahead of time (night before, or morning of), then put in the fridge. Not only does it make for faster prep, but cold rice wont be as sticky to work with or soak up all the liquids that you also want the vegetables to absorb.

Place your cubed tofu in a tupperware container and sprinkle with 1/4 cup soy sauce. Place top on the tupperware, and shake the container to coat all the tofu pieces with sauce. Marinate for 20 minutes, or up to 1 day in advance.

Heat 3 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, ginger (optional), and garlic; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add rice and stir 20 seconds to break it up.

Make a hole in the center of the rice, and pour in the eggs; stir the eggs around a little as if you are making scrambled eggs, but dont combine yet with the rice. When egg is mostly cooked, combine with rice.

Add your vegetables and remaining soy sauce; stir-fry 3 minutes to cook the vegetables, stirring often. Add pepper and salt; cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring well to combine. When serving, top with cilantro.

Guten appetit!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

West African Peanut Stew

This recipe came from another food blog, Veggie Talk. The author, Nava Atlas, has also turned her recipes into a couple of books. Wondering whether I should add one of her cookbooks to my collection, I decided to try out a recipe from her blog.

So here we are: West African Peanut Stew. Tim's response to this recipe: "You add what? With peanut butter? Our peanut butter, from the jar? With cabbage?" Hmm, not a good start. But I was convinced we'd love it. It combines so many of our favorites: peanuts, sweet potatoes, cabbage, garlic and rice. Rice being the 'uber' magic word, since the second Tim heard the stew goes over rice, there was an immediate change and he was on board to at least give it a go. Hooray, so off I went to the store.

For the stew, I must say, the ingredients (mostly veggies) were easy, and required about 10-15 minutes worth of washing and chopping. After that, it was a matter of throwing everything in the pot, and then starting the rice cooker.

Our review: The flavor and idea of it grew on both of us, and we did have a small amount of seconds. But, we both expected the stew to be a little thicker and more 'peanuty', more like a thai peanut sauce. The combo of peanuts and the sweet potato was yummy! I would definitely make this again, although probably not regularly and not for guests. Made good lunch leftovers.

Next time I make it, I will add more peanut butter, probably double the amount. We also used fresh green beans vs. okra (please! what do you think my chances are of finding OKRA in germany?!), and skipped the scallions and peanut garnish (unnecessary for a weeknight meal).

West African Peanut Stew

6 to 8 servings

Adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups shredded white cabbage
  • 2 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • One 15- to 16-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or more to taste
  • 2 cups trimmed and sliced fresh okra, or one 10-ounce package frozen sliced okra, thawed (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less or to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped scallions for garnish, optional
  • Chopped peanuts for garnish, optional

Heat the oil in a soup pot or steep-sided stir-fry pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until the onion is golden.

Add the cabbage, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer, then simmer gently, covered, until the sweet potatoes and cabbage are nearly tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the okra, then stir in the peanut butter, a little at a time, until it melts into the broth. Stir in the cayenne or red pepper flakes, then simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes longer, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add a bit more water if needed for a moist but not soupy consistency.

Season with salt, then serve in bowls over hot cooked rice. If desired, garnish each serving with chopped scallions and/or chopped peanuts.

NOTE: Okra may not be everyone’s favorite vegetable, but in this dish it is very good. However, if you truly want to avoid it, substitute a 10-ounce package of frozen cut green beans (or 2 cups fresh green beans cut into 2-inch lengths) for results that are equally delectable, if a bit less authentic.

Guten appetit!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Simple Salad

I think most cooks have a simple, go-to salad. It requires no thought because it's simple and you make it so often, and it seems to go with everything.

Mine varies based on what I have on hand, but almost always includes roasted almonds. Almonds are a super healthy nut, packed with Vitamin E, fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, iron and the good fat. We like to keep a bag in the kitchen as a handy snack, although they're addicting, so watch out!

In addition to the almonds, I usually add a few tablespoons of corn kernels or a half can of Mandarin oranges. I'm not a huge cucumber and tomato person, not sure why. In the salad below, I used olives, but Tim wasn't a fan. We went back to corn the next day.


Romaine lettuce
Crushed, roasted almonds (recipes below)
Small can of Mandarin oranges, or corn
1 tablespoon of thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350.

Wash and chop your lettuce, and place in a large bowl. Slice onion and sprinkle over the lettuce.

Place a handful of crushed almonds on a flat baking surface (pie plate or cookie sheet works great), and roast in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn, and you may need to shake or stir them a bit during their time in the oven. They will start crackling a little when they are close to done, and should be removed from the oven when slightly brown and fragrant.

Add almonds, half a can of oranges or corn (save the other half for a salad tomorrow), and parmesan to the lettuce, and mix well.

Vinaigrette Dressing:

1 teaspoon dijon mustard
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil (a good oil is very important)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
pinch of oregano
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together, and drizzle over salad.


First, by 'crush', I mean crush. I usually have a ziplock bag on-hand of raw almonds that I smashed to bits using my heavy can opener. I'll use some and keep the rest for later, refilling my ziplock sack and smashing again as needed. If you want to be less brute about crushing them, you can zap them in your food processor a couple times.

There are two ways to roast or brown your almonds, whether they are whole or crushed. You could also make a large batch ahead of time, and limit your prep day of. But they're so easy and quick to make, and the smell is delicious, that I do them fresh each time we make a salad.

Option 1: Spread almonds (whole or crushed) on a flat baking surface. Place in 350ºF oven and bake 4-5 minutes for crushed and up to 10 minutes for whole almonds. Stir once or twice to ensure even browning. Remove from oven when they are golden brown and fragrant.

Option 2: Toasting, which better for whole almonds. Place almonds in a single layer in a dry skillet, and turn heat to medium. Stir occasionally, until almonds are fragrant (2-5 minutes depending on the form of almonds you are toasting). If the almonds are blanched, let them turn golden brown; if they have skins, let their skins just begin to crackle.

Guten appetit!