Roasted baby potatoes with broccoli and cheese recipe

perfect little bite

Because I have no association with either football team in this year’s Super Bowl, all I really care about is what we’re going to eat!  I’m have no need to read the sports pages or listen to the experts, trying to figure out if my team has a wining chance.  No big deal. I’ll just ponder my repertoire of chili recipes and decide what other deliciousness I can whip together for our little group.  I asked Daughter #1 for some suggestions, and she started begging me for these little cheesy broccoli potato bites.  Great idea!

little yukon golds

slice in half

I’ll be honest, I don’t normally make these for the Super Bowl because I usually have a baked potato bar happening and that would be a little redundant.  But I do make these baby potato hors d’oeuvres very often for dinner parties, sometimes with broccoli, sometimes with lemon creme fraiche and smoked salmon or roasted cherry tomatoes.  But for the Super Bowl, I keep things really casual.  Broccoli it is!

roast potato halves cut-side down

Just like the mini chicken tostadas I posted the other day, I actually think a mini version of a baked potato is better than the  real thing.  These little bites are super easy to eat and you get the perfect ratio of potato to broccoli to cheese.  And the entire bite has a nice bit of saltiness and crispiness.  Love it.  AND I think we can all agree, this is reasonably healthful stuff to boot!  Even if you don’t eat cheese, I’m sure you have found a good non-dairy cheese that you can sub for the mozzarella here.  Keep in mind, the melted cheese is what helps the broccoli stick to the potato.

the cheese helps the broccoli stick to the potatoes

Although these baby potatoes are great any time of the year, I do think they’re better suited for cooler weather, or maybe I should say mind-numbing cold weather, depending on where you live.   Ugh, sorry if that’s you.  Regardless, these bites could very well be the perfect party food.  They’re delicious right out of the oven, but they also stay warm for quite a bit.  And I think they taste perfectly delicious at room temp, too.  You can make the potatoes and the broccoli the day before and then just assemble them with the cheese and bake before you want to serve them.  I promise, these will score you major points!

mini potato broccoli cheese bites | pamela salzman

I could actually eat way more than three of these!

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Broccoli and Cheese
Author: 
Serves: makes 24 pieces
 
Ingredients
  • 12 small potatoes, scrubbed and halved (I cut in half the long way)
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound broccoli crowns, cut into 24 bite-size florets
  • ⅓ cup shredded mozzarella or fontina cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Place potatoes on parchment paper – cut side down and bake for 30 minutes (until golden brown and tender). Leave oven on if serving right away.
  4. Place broccoli in a steamer over boiling water and steam until just tender, about 3 minutes (or blanched in salted water for 2 minutes.) If cooking the broccoli ahead of time, remove from the pot and immediately refresh under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Top each potato with a pinch of cheese and then a broccoli floret and bake until cheese is melted or broil it for a few minutes to speed things up.
  6. Sprinkle each with a pinch of grated cheese, if desired.
Notes
Potatoes can be made the day before and refrigerated; broccoli can be blanched the day before and refrigerated.

Other complementary toppings include smoked salmon and crème fraiche, pesto and roasted cherry tomato halves

Mini Chicken Tostadas Recipe (vegetarian adaptable)

mini chicken tostadas | pamela salzman

You guys know I love watching football.  However, I’m not such a fan that I’ll watch just any game with teams that I don’t care much about.  So unfortunately for me, this has been a very boring season.  All the teams I root for didn’t make the playoffs.  And even the teams I root against didn’t make the playoffs, so I really had very little excitement this year.  But I still love having friends over on Sundays and I always have fun making tasty nibbles for everyone to enjoy during the games.  All is not lost.

Trader Joe's organic tortilla rounds

Since the Super Bowl is coming up, I know many of you will be hosting friends and family at your house or will be invited somewhere.  Now is the perfect time to figure out a few fun, easy and delicious game-day recipes.

slow cooker chicken taco meat

We always have a few people over for the Super Bowl – nothing big because otherwise my husband can’t “concentrate” (on the game, not in general.)  I usually keep a big pot of chili (see these recipes for vegetable chili, Southwestern turkey and black bean chili, and veggie-sweet potato chili) on the stove with a topping bar on the kitchen island and some cornbread.  I also will have either a taco bar or a baked potato bar as well.  It’s all easy, can be prepped in advance and I think most people like to customize their own meal.

top each tortilla round with a pinch of chicken

You must try these mini chicken tostadas!  My kids go crazy for them.  A tostada is a fried, whole tortilla topped with variety of goodies – shredded chicken or beef, refried beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, really whatever you would put on a taco.  I find tostadas a bit awkward to eat, but these mini ones are much less messy and they are still customizable.

top the chicken with a pinch of cheese

I like to bake my own tortillas to make chips, but only when I have time.  I’ll give you directions for how to make your own baked mini tortilla rounds for this recipe, but if you’re having a crowd, I would probably just go get the round, organic tortilla chips from Trader Joe’s or elsewhere.  Maybe less healthful than baking your own, but much easier if you have a lot of other things to do.  Make some chicken taco meat the day before either in the oven or the slow cooker and you’ve got a very easy crowd-pleaser!

bake until the chicken and cheese are warme

The way I like to make these is to put a pinch of chicken and cheese on each tortilla round and bake them for a few minutes or until the cheese melts a little and the chicken is warmed through.  But, if you make your chicken the same day and it’s still warm when you put it on the chip, it’s up to you if you still want to pop them in the oven.  Then just top them however you like.  I also make these vegetarian with refried beans instead of chicken.  Either way, they’ll be a winner!

mini chicken tostadas | pamela salzman

Mini Chicken Tostadas
Author: 
Serves: makes 18, but the recipe can easily be multiplied to make more
 
Ingredients
  • 6 6-inch soft corn tortillas
  • unrefined olive oil for brushing tortillas
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken taco meat (click here for a slow cooker and oven version) or use 1 -2 cans of refried beans for a vegetarian version
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese (or Monterey Jack or cheddar)
  • Additional toppings: guacamole, salsa, sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced scallions
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if you have an aluminum or nonstick pan.)
  2. Brush both sides of each tortilla with a little olive oil.  With a 2 ½-inch cookie cutter, try to cut 3 rounds from each tortilla.  You can bake the scraps to make crispy bits to top a salad or soup.
  3. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.  They will crisp up as they cool.  These can be made the day before and kept in a covered container at room temperature. Or, instead of making baked rounds, buy round tortilla chips.
  4. When ready to serve, preheat oven once again to 375 degrees.  Put a pinch of chicken and a pinch of cheese on each.  Bake until chicken is warmed through.  Top with desired accompaniments.

Cauliflower crust pizza recipe (grain-free)

Grain-Free Cauliflower Crust PIzza | Pamela Salzman
Grain-Free Cauliflower Crust PIzza | Pamela Salzman
Photo by Erica Hampton

I always spend Christmas week in New York with my family and it’s a great time catching up, celebrating and eating.  Eating a lot.  It’s a bit hard for me to follow my normal food routine when I am there.  I don’t have my juicer, or access to the juice bars which are all over the place where I live.  We visit with a lot of family and go out to eat more often than I do at home.  But one of the main obstacles to my eating beet greens and quinoa as often as I like is that my husband’s favorite food group is pizza.  Make that New York pizza.  His second favorite food group is pasta, the kind with gluten.  And then it’s anything “alla Parmigiana.”

prepping the cauliflower

So when we go to New York, he’s like a kid in a candy store, except all the candy has dairy, white flour and tomato sauce!  Of course, I have a slight weakness for good NY pizza myself and I partake in the food fest, too (although maybe not quite as much.)  Ironically, after we indulge in pizza for most of the week on Long Island and Brooklyn, we get together at the home of one of my cousins in Westchester and have, if you can believe it, a “pizza tasting party” with a few of my cousins and their kids.  I swear.

squeeze the heck out of the cooked cauliflower

Grain-Free Cauliflower Crust PIzza | Pamela Salzman

We each bring a few pies from our favorite pizzerias and taste them all.  There’s clam pie from Pepe’s and Sicilian from Sal’s; a cheeseless pizza from Polpetina and a classic from Johnny’s.  There are others that I can’t even remember.  The first few years that we did this, we actually voted to determine which was the best pie.  Now we don’t even pretend we care.  We just eat it all and wash it down with Chianti.  And this year, a heating pad came out at bedtime.

crust mixture

I don’t normally like to mess with a good thing, but sometimes curiosity gets the best of me.  A few years ago, I noticed a lot of recipes flying around the internet for pizza crust made out of cauliflower.  Life has taught me, among other things, that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  And cauliflower crust pizza recipes proved that point.  I tried a bunch and didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  The cauliflower crust was usually mushy and fell apart, and the pizza would have to be eaten with a fork and knife.  That didn’t fly in my house.

make little minis

But I have always been intrigued with the idea of making a treat like pizza something I could eat a little more frequently and then I saw the recipe that I knew would work.  And I saw the step that was missing from all my previous attempts and I kicked myself.  How could I not have thought of squeezing the cauliflower dry?!  After another attempt, I was actually able to make a pizza that tasted enough like pizza that I could pick up and eat it out of my hand.

prebake the crusts and then top with sauce and cheese

baked and ready to eat!

I didn’t think my husband would actually like this at all, so I was pretty close to not even letting him sample it.  But he came home one day and the house smelled like pizza and there was no stopping him.  He LOVED this!  And so did my girls!  Mr. Picky still has issues with cheese and isn’t a pizza fan anyway, so he was predictably lukewarm about it.

cauliflower crust pizza in the making

bake again

My only caveat here is that it’s not an “instant” recipe.  You have to cook and squeeze the cauliflower dry, then make and prebake the crust.  All steps I think are worth it for a pretty nutritious pizza.  As you can see in the above pictures, I  made a large pizza and then many mini pizzettes, which I think would be amazing for a party.  So much of this recipe at be done ahead of time, including make the crust batter or even pre-baking the crusts!

Hoping you all may enjoy good health and much happiness in 2014!!

 

Grain-Free Cauliflower Crust PIzza | Pamela Salzman

 

Grain-Free Cauliflower Crust PIzza | Pamela Salzman

 

5.0 from 5 reviews
Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Author: 
Serves: makes one 10-12-inch pizza or twelve 3-inch pizzettes
 
Ingredients
  • olive oil for brushing on pizza stone or baking sheet
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (about 1 ¼ pounds), cut into large florets
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino-romano cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon almond meal/flour (optional, but I think it makes the crust a little “breadier”)
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten with a fork (1 whole egg works, too. I think 2 egg whites makes the crust just a little crispier.)
  • Desired accompaniments: marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven as it is heating up.
  2. Brush a large piece of parchment paper with olive oil (big enough to fit your pizza stone or baking sheet.)
  3. Place the cauliflower in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for about 30 seconds until you get very small pieces (resembling snow or rice.) You should end up with about 3 cups of cauliflower.
  4. Place the cauliflower and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to steam for about 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Drain in a fine mesh sieve and allow to cool. (If you use a colander to drain, you will lose a lot of cauliflower.)
  5. When the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it all up in a clean, thin dish towel and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. The less moist the cauliflower, the crispier the crust will be.
  6. Transfer the squeezed cauliflower to a bowl and stir in the parmesan or pecorino, mozzarella, salt, dried oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and almond meal/flour. Add egg whites and mix with your hands until combined.
  7. Using your hands, form the mixture into tightly packed 3” rounds or a 10-12” round and place them on the oiled parchment paper.
  8. Slide the parchment paper onto the HOT baking sheet or pizza stone. An inverted baking sheet or a pizza peel can help with this.
  9. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the crust starts to turn golden brown.
  10. Remove crusts from oven and top with desired toppings, then place back in the oven and cook for another 7 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. You just don’t want to overdo it with any toppings that are very wet.
  11. Allow to cool slightly and serve.
Notes
You can bake the crusts earlier in the day and refrigerate them until ready to top and bake.  Or you can make the batter the night before.

 

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins Recipe

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

I know time flies when you’re having fun, but these days I think it flies because everything moves at warp speed, whether you’re having fun or not.  And sometimes I think it’s not very fun when life happens so quickly, especially when you’re eating good food!  Eating is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  Thankfully I get to do it several times a day, every day.  But very few things annoy me more than having to rush through a very delicious meal.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

That’s what I was thinking the other day when I made these stuffed sweet potato skins.  I enjoyed them so much that I didn’t want them to end.  Need help with your math homework?  No problem!  Come back in 20 minutes.  Ooops.  Forgot to call my mom back.  She can wait.  I have a sweet potato party on my plate and I’m not ready to leave.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

Cinco de Mayo, one of my favorite food holidays, is just around the corner.  I know.  It’s MAY in like 5 days!  I had no plans to include this recipe on the blog but I made it on a whim last week and I knew I had to share it with you.  Although I can say with 99% confidence that you will never find this recipe on the menu of any Mexican restaurant, so maybe it’s not Cinco de Mayo fiesta fare if you are having people over.  BUT, the flavors here are totally South of the border and it’s such a healthful and satisfying meatless meal, you should make it no matter what day it is.

Sauteed onions, jalapeño, spices and cilantro

If you are not a sweet potato fan (stop it!  really?), then maybe substitute a baked potato.  But sweet potatoes are sooooooo nutritious and I never feel like I need dessert afterwards.  They’re the perfect natural antidote to my sweet tooth.  The best part of this recipe is the contrast between the creamy sweet potato and the smoky corn and a hint of spice.  I made these about as spicy as my family would like them, but you can go as hot as you want.  Serve with a green salad or some grilled asparagus and you’re all set.  My girls and I loved them, and Mr. Picky ate half of one and said they were “okay.”  I think if I had let him eat it with corn tortilla chips, he would have finished the whole thing.

sweetpotato

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

For those of you like me, who very much like to either prep some or all of your meals in advance, it’s your lucky day.  You can make this entire thing ahead and bake it just before dinner until it’s nice and hot.  Or assemble different parts of this ahead, like baking the sweet potatoes or sauteing the onions.  The cheese on top is very optional.  I had mine without, as did Mr. Picky, and still loved it.  My daughters added extra on top of theirs and asked me to tell you that they don’t think the cheese is optional and that if they were writing the recipe, they would double the cheese.  Okay, girls.  Have it however way you want.  Just don’t rush me.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined olive oil, coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • ½ of an onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • ½ ripe avocado, flesh scooped out
  • 6 Tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Cheddar or Monterey Jack or dairy-free Daiya (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, bake sweet potatoes until tender, about 45-60 minutes.
  2. While sweet potatoes are baking, place corn in a medium heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Do not add anything else to the pan and do not stir so that the corn gets a little charred. Then toss a little and cook corn until browned and toasted on the outside. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the black beans to the corn.
  3. You can use the same skillet to sauté the onion and jalapeno. Warm the oil in the skillet and sauté the onion and jalapeno until tender and translucent. Stir in the spices and salt and cook for 1 minute more. Add the cilantro to the pan and turn off the heat. Toss to combine the mixture and transfer to the bowl with the corn and beans.
  4. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven. Allow to cool slightly so you can cut them easily or use rubber gloves if you’re in a rush and you don’t want to burn your fingers. Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop most of the flesh out and leave the skins intact. I like to leave a thin layer of sweet potato to help these stay together better. Transfer the scooped out sweet potato to a large bowl and leave the skins on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Add avocado to the sweet potato in the bowl and coarsely mash together, but don’t make a puree. Add the corn, bean and onion mixture to the mashed sweet potatoes and stir gently to combine.
  6. Preheat the broiler in your oven and arrange the oven rack to the second level from the top. Scoop the filling into the skins. It might seem like you have too much, but you should use it all and make them nice and full. Sprinkle each with cheese if desired and broil for a couple minutes or until cheese is melted.
Notes
*If making this in advance, remove prepared sweet potato skins from the refrigerator and bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

Creamy polenta recipe

People have asked me (actually one person in particular, i.e. my Italian-born father) why I don’t have more pasta recipes on my site or on my class menus.  I know everyone loves pasta and it’s super easy to make, but I think the internet and cookbooks have more than enough pasta recipes to keep everyone busy.  But more importantly, I think most people eat waaaaay too much pasta.  And not just too many times in a week as my family was guilty of when I was a kid, but also too much in one sitting.

I’m not a big fan of processed wheat flour which is nutritionally empty, loaded with hard-to-digest and inflammatory gluten, and causes a spike in blood sugar especially when eaten in large quantities.  When blood sugar surges, the pancreas releases insulin, a fat-storage hormone which is also pro-inflammatory.  If people could eat 1/2-1 cup of pasta in one sitting without any other concentrated carbohydrates at the same meal (that’s right, pasta plus garlic bread plus French fries is NOT a balanced dinner), and perhaps no other gluten-containing foods the rest of the day, I think we’d be in better shape, so to speak, than we are now.  But it is really, really easy to overeat pasta.  If you go to your neighborhood Italian restaurant, pasta is very often served as a main course, as opposed to in Italy where it is served in a much smaller portion as a first course.  American restaurant portions can be upwards of 8-12 ounces per serving which is about 4-6 times the recommended serving size.  Insanity.

Believe me, I love pasta as much as the next person, but I don’t love its effect on my body.  When I do eat pasta, I like to load it with vegetables and limit myself to a 1 cup serving.  I also try to rotate different pastas in our meals, including ones made from brown rice, quinoa and spelt.  But over the last few years, I have really enjoyed finding tasty and nutritious substitutes for pasta, such as spaghetti squash, millet-cauliflower mash, zucchini “noodles” and very often polenta.

Polenta is kind of like grits, but from ground yellow corn.  You can find fine, medium or coarse ground.  It does have a little bit of a corn flavor if you make it with just water and salt.  But add some grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and a bit of olive oil or butter and you’ve got yourself a bowl of spoon-lickin’ goodness.  I really don’t know why more people don’t eat polenta.  It’s super easy to make, incredibly affordable, gluten-free and pretty nutritious (try to get organic or non-GMO.)  Most of all, it’s really creamy and luxurious-tasting.  I prefer it thick and pourable, rather than firm and sliceable, but that’s fine too.  I like to eat it with anything that I would serve on top of pasta such as meatballs, saucy vegetables, juicy greens, sautéed shrimp and so on.  I usually make the coarse-ground kind because I like a little texture, but if I’m strapped for time I’ll throw some fine ground cornmeal into the pot and I’ll have it ready in 5 minutes and it’s very silky smooth.  I think my girls like the “instant” polenta better because it’s creamier.  They’ll eat it with anything I mentioned above.  Mr. Picky has really only had a bite or two of polenta at a sitting and he thinks it’s “okay.”  He always mentions he would prefer pasta.  Thanks for the feedback, dude.  What I will do for the little guy is make sure I cook something else that night that I know he will eat like meatballs or lemon-thyme chicken.  Because if it were up to him, we’d be eating pasta every night.  Insanity!

Creamy Polenta
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 5-6 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup polenta*
  • 1-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, unrefined olive oil or organic Earth Balance (I prefer butter)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt. Then add the polenta to the pot slowly, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook COVERED, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, about 20 minutes. The polenta can be eaten now, but the flavors develop more and you’ll lose some of the grittiness if you can allow it to simmer another 20-30 minutes. Not essential, though.
  2. Stir in the butter and cheese and serve immediately or keep warm in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Polenta should be pourable and creamy. If it’s too thick, stir in more liquid.
Notes
*You can also do a more “instant” version of this using instant polenta or fine ground cornmeal (like the kind you use for corn muffins.) That will take you 5 minutes.

Other options: For extra richness, you can stir in an additional ½ cup of whole milk or plain, unsweetened hemp milk at the end, or some mascarpone or cream cheese; Mozzarella or fontina cheese.

You can also add corn kernels, roasted garlic, or herbs, such as rosemary, basil or parsley.

 

Kale Pesto Recipe

When I was a child, my family ate pesto all the time in the summer and early fall.  In fact, to me the smell of basil, garlic and cheese in the food processor is synonymous with warm, lazy days at the beach or on my parents’ hammock under a big, breezy tree.  It was one of the few things my mom made without a recipe because she made it so often and could likely do it in her sleep.  Also, my father always planted way too much basil so Mom was forced to use it  up more quickly than it grew.  Traditional basil pesto is the only pesto that I ever knew until I started over-planting my favorite herb, parsley, and mixing it with basil for an ever better (in my opinion) pesto.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard about the huge spectrum of pestos out there not made from basil but from all sorts of herbs like cilantro and mint to leafy greens such as spinach and arugula and even peas or sun dried tomatoes.  The result is a brave new world of pesto-adorned dishes beyond pasta in the summertime.  The good news is that all pestos are super simple to make and help me make my boring meals more exciting.  “Another turkey sandwich?”  No, a turkey sandwich with pesto!  Oooh, ahhh.  “Grilled fish” doesn’t have the same appeal as “grilled salmon with cilantro pesto!”  Although when I introduced kale pesto to my family, they were skeptical.

Kale, which is my absolute favorite superfood, is more nutrient-dense than most any food on the planet, so I try to incorporate it into our meals however I can.  I love how hearty and flavorful kale is, but it can be a little bitter for the kids if I don’t try to work around that.  My standard pesto is made with pine nuts or pine nuts and walnuts.  Both are soft nuts that get ground very easily, but can be also be a tad bitter.  So I subbed blanched almonds to keep the pesto from getting too harsh and loved it, even though almonds don’t grind up quite as finely.  The only other change I made was to add a touch of lemon juice which brightens the whole thing up and again, cuts any bitterness.

I made kale pesto in two different ways.  The first with all kale and the second with mostly kale plus basil.  All kale pesto tastes reminiscent of broccoli which makes sense since they’re both in the cruciferous family.  It’s so totally yummy with a hearty whole wheat or spelt pasta, stirred into soups like lentil, mushroom-barley or minestrone or slathered on a quesadilla with leftover roasted veggies and cheese.  I imagine it would be great on a baked potato with veggies or in an omelet with goat cheese and mushrooms.  Then I made another version with mostly kale and some basil and it tastes much more like the version you’re used to, but more substantial and maybe with a little more bite.  So many people in my classes this month thought it was even better than an all-basil pesto.  In class we ate it poured on a grilled chicken paillard.  Sunday, I took some pasta with kale-basil pesto and chickpeas in Chinese takeout containers for a beach picnic and then used the leftovers yesterday on a grilled whole wheat pizza with ricotta, sauteed garlic spinach and fresh mozzarella.  Insane.

Feel free to use whatever kale you can find, but the curly green variety tends to get processed more finely in the food processor if that matters.  Although in these photos I did use the Dinosaur (Tuscan) variety because I typically have that on hand for salad and juicing.  However you try it, and I hope you do, pesto is a busy cook’s good friend anytime of year.  Tell me your favorite ways to enjoy it!

Kale Pesto
Author: 
Serves: makes just under 2 cups
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup blanched almonds, walnuts, pine nuts or a combination (use sunflower seeds for a nut-free pesto)
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 cups kale (dinosaur or curly green), stemmed and torn into large pieces (so it’s easier to measure)
  • 2 cups basil leaves (or use all kale)
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ cup unrefined, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Toast nuts, stirring frequently, in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly golden. If you are a “nut-burner,” just skip this step and put them in the food processor raw. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If you're using sunflower seeds, just use those raw.
  2. Place nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until very finely chopped.
  3. Add kale, basil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and pulse until chopped.
  4. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a steady stream until you achieve a smooth texture. Add cheese and process until well combined.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add additional olive oil to make a looser pesto.
Notes
*Pesto freezes really well!

Spinach Risotto Healthy Recipe

Spinach Risotto Recipe

I had a bad day recently and what I really wanted to do was inhale a pan of brownies, but I had just published a post about how I beat a sugar addiction and I didn’t want to be a healthy hypocrite.  Instead I set out to make a pot of spinach risotto, my culinary equivalent to a big hug.   If you’re not a spinach fan, I’m not going to be much fun for you this week and next.  We are on the verge of spring, Nature’s new year.  I really feel the resurgence of energy and life that comes back in spring and I get so motivated to start fresh, clean a closet, reorganize a drawer, set some healthful resolutions.  Nutritionally speaking, Nature wants us to start fresh, too, so she gives us lots of dark leafy greens like spinach.  If winter added a few pounds or you have a build-up of mucus or stagnant energy, leafy greens can help.  You already know that greens are super nutrient-dense, but it’s all that chlorophyll that helps the liver to detoxify.  Now if you’re in a habit of eating seasonally, you don’t even need to know this since you would make it happen naturally.

Spinach

As I mentioned in my Spinach and Avocado Smoothie recipe, you have a fantastic window of opportunity with St. Patrick’s Day coming up to make green food.  So I thought today would be a great time to post this spinach risotto recipe.  Please don’t get put off by the word “risotto.”  It doesn’t imply something hard to make, easy to screw up or super labor intensive.  In fact, risotto is something I make when I don’t have a lot of time or I need to make do with bits of this or that in the fridge.  This time around I was overzealous  with my purchase of spinach and wanted to find a good place for it.

Most people think making risotto requires a permanent spot in front of the stove and non-stop stirring.  Not so.  You do have to add a bit of broth to the pot every five minutes and give a quick stir, but you can be accomplishing other things at the same time, such as testing someone on his spelling words, prepping some vegetables, or breaking up an argument between two teenage girls over borrowing clothes.  If you don’t have the patience to be in the presence of teenage girls in the kitchen for too long to stir traditional risotto every five minutes, check out my very easy Artichoke and Spinach Barley Risotto — saute, dump and bake.  Otherwise, timing is the only tricky part since you want to serve risotto as soon as it’s done.  My first round of photos didn’t turn out all that great, so I reshot the plate about 15 minutes later and the risotto had already lost its lovely soupiness and thickened up.  Not the end of the world, of course, but I prefer risotto a little more “pourable.”

Risotto is often served as a first course for dinner, but we’re not in a habit of eating dinner in courses at our house, are you?  So I serve it as a side with other dishes that are a little lighter.  The night I photographed this, I served it with roasted shrimp and a green salad.  I very often serve fish with risotto, such as spice-rubbed or poached salmon with a fresh tomato salsa.  Steamed asparagus, roasted carrots or a grated carrot salad would also complement nicely.  If you do think you will serve this as part of a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, why not give everybody a jump start on spring cleaning and serve everything green?  Enjoy!

Spinach Risotto Recipe

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Spinach Risotto
Author: 
Serves: 6 as a side dish
 
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces spinach leaves, washed
  • 3 ½ - 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice, do NOT rinse
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
Instructions
  1. In a wide saucepan you will use for the risotto, bring ½ an inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach leaves and cover. Steam for one minute. Stir the spinach and continue to steam until just wilted.
  2. Transfer the spinach to a blender (I pull the spinach out with tongs) and discard the cooking liquid. Puree the spinach and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring all the stock to a boil and turn off the heat. In the same saucepan that the spinach was cooked in, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté gently until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.
  4. Add the rice to the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Sauté rice for 2 minutes. Pour the wine into the saucepan and stir occasionally until it has been absorbed.
  5. Add the salt, zest, and 1 cup of the warmed stock and bring to a lively simmer. The pot should be simmering with active, not furious bubbles. Once the stock has almost been fully absorbed, add another ladleful or about ½ cup and stir occasionally.
  6. After 20 minutes, taste the rice for doneness. Ideally, it is still al dente.
  7. Stir in the cheese and spinach puree. Give the risotto a nice, brisk stir. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It should be loose and almost soupy. Serve immediately.

Mini-empanadas with mixed greens

Well, like it or not, it’s officially holiday season!  Even though there’s so much to love about the holidays, I just wish it didn’t all happen at once.  Do you ever have that feeling?  But one thing I truly look forward to is getting together with friends for a good, old-fashioned cocktail party, provided I get invited to one.  I love mingling and chatting with lots of different people and eating fun little noshes at my leisure.  However, if you ask me, I do think there’s a little room for improvement in the hors d’oeuvres arena.  (Maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to too many parties.)  You know what I mean, right?   Lots of baked brie with chutney, sad-looking crudite with not-homemade hummus, or tomato-basil bruschetta…in the winter!  We’re going to step it up a notch today, folks.  You need to bring an hors d’oeuvre to a party either this weekend or next, correct?  Although I have several fab party recipes on the site already, these empanadas are tied for my favorite with the Zucchini-Gruyere Tart, which is a winner every time.

Empanadas are these delicious little savory hand pies.    It’s almost like a small tart that has been folded over.  Whereas there are infinite fillings you can use, empanada pastry dough is usually stuffed with seasoned ground beef and fried.  We’re not doing any of that.  When I noticed a recipe for empanadas in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone using leafy greens and olives, I knew I had to try them.  I have tweaked the recipe over the years to make it simpler and sometimes I add finely diced precooked turkey sausage to the greens — delicious, I tell you.  My kids are crazy for them and I really don’t think they even know what they’re eating.

After my last class the Friday before Thanksgiving when I thought I might collapse, I realized that two months ago I had volunteered my house for a pot luck dinner the NEXT night because, you know, it seemed like a bonehead  good idea at the time.  Well, what was a good idea was that I offered to do a turkey since I would have a leftover demo bird from Friday’s class as well as an hors d’oeuvre, knowing full well that I could make these scrumptious little empanaditas in October and freeze them.

Daughter #1 and I had fun making them one afternoon when she had a day off from school.  You don’t have to make the pastry from scratch like I did.  I have seen prepared empanada pastry rounds in specialty markets, or you can cut out rounds from pie crusts.  But if you have ever made cut-out cookies, you can do this.  I normally just roll out the little rounds and leave them with imperfect edges, but I was surprised that my daughter wanted to take the time to use round cookie cutters to make them “prettier.”  If you don’t want or need to freeze the empanadas, you can roll out the rounds the day before and keep them well-covered.  You can also make your filling in advance and then assemble the empanadas before you bake them.  Let me just tell you right now, you should make these whether you’re party-bound or not and freeze them for a rainy day.  My kids will pull them out of the freezer and pop them into the toaster oven for an after school snack or to eat with a bowl of soup on the weekend.  You can even stick them in a lunchbox!  Do my good ideas ever end?  Can you tell I’ve had too much green tea today?!

 

Mini-Empanadas with Mixed Greens
Author: 
Serves: makes 24 mini-empanadas
 
Ingredients
  • Empanada Dough:
  • 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (you can sub out ½ cup with whole wheat pastry)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks + 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons ice water
  • Filling:
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or ghee
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 12 cups mixed chopped greens such as Swiss chard, beet greens, kale, spinach, and/or escarole
  • ⅔ cup shredded fontina cheese (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon milk
Instructions
  1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. With the machine running, slowly add the water through the feed tube and pulse until a ball of dough comes together.
  2. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Use your hands to pat the dough into a disk. Wrap the dough with the parchment (or plastic wrap) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Divide the dough into 24 pieces: first cut 8 equal wedges, like a pizza. Then cut each wedge into three pieces. Roll each piece into a 4-inch circle. Transfer to a sheet pan and refrigerate.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: Heat oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes. Saute until the onion is tender, about 4 minutes. Add the greens and sea salt and pepper to taste and cook until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. If there’s a lot of moisture, drain some of the liquid.
  5. Add the cheese to the greens and taste for seasoning. Allow to cool slightly before filling the pastry.
  6. Place a spoonful of filling on the lower half of each dough circle, then fold the pastry over and seal the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush with the beaten egg and milk mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned. (If you are baking these directly from the freezer, bake an additional 10-15 minutes.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes
If you would like to add some precooked turkey sausage to the filling, take 4 (about 12 ounces) and diced them up. Add them to the pan with the onion, etc. Reduce the greens to 10 cups.

If you have a few tablespoons of leftover filling, save it the next day for an omelet. Yum!