Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maple Dried Plum Granola Bars

Mother Hubbard's cupboards have tumbleweeds blowing through them. More specifically, our seemingly bottomless stash of granola bars, snacky fruit bars and healthy type treats has run dry. Necessity being the mother of invention, these lovelies came to fruition this afternoon.

Now I fully admit subscribing to the once bitten twice shy mantra. In this instance, its using sweet potatoes for a binder or a sweet substitute ingredient. I've been burned by this tasty minx once before, trying to recreate Mimi's Cafe sweet potato buttermilk biscuits. The results were less than stellar. Safe to say, I proceeded with cautious optimism into this granola foray, but was rewarded handsomely.

Maple Dried Plum Granola Bars
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup chopped California dried plums
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until a large ball of sticky granola goodness is formed. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press granola onto parchment paper with damp hands until it is 1/2 inch thick throughout. Bake for 25 minutes. Cut into 12 even bars shortly after removing from oven. Store in air tight container for up to two weeks.

In other exciting news, SoCal Sustenance will be hosting its first giveaway shortly, and its a pretty darn good one. I'm excited for a chance to say thank you to those of you fabulous readers who've taken part in this blogs growth and development in the past 9 months. I hope you have enjoyed it just as much as I have. Stay tuned SoCalers, you're not gonna want to miss out on what's to come!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Panko Ginger Shrimp with Citrus Sauce

Last week a good friend and I went to a fabulous lunch to celebrate her new job and 30th birthday. Significant events such as those warrant a formidable lunch selection, so we decided on Katsuya in Glendale. Neither of us had been there before, and we both enjoyed it immensely. As those of you still drying out in Southern California may remember, last week brought more rain to the region than we typically see in a year. Of course we picked a downpour day to go to lunch, but it worked out splendidly. With no one but a sparse few other brave, damp souls in the restaurant, we were treated to the waitstaff's undivided attention and their hugely helpful suggestions.

Lunch started with a cocktail that served to be the inspiration of dish, in a roundabout way. "The Dragon" was a perfect blend of vodka, ginger and yuzu. Yuzu was a new thing for me, and it happens to be a type of Asian citrus that tastes like a grapefruit-mandarin hybrid. I was smitten, with both Katsuya and yuzu. After a fruitless (get it? :)) search for the elusive fruit, I settled on satsuma mandarins as a yuzu stand in, and out of the depths of my gray matter sprung forth this really, really yummy shrimp. Serves one as a meal or two as an appetizer.

Panko Ginger Shrimp with Citrus Sauce
1 lb jumbo shrimp, deveined and peeled (16-20 shrimp)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs

Citrus Sauce
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (I used oranges and satsuma mandarins)
1/3 cup mirin
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

Rinse shrimp and devein by peeling the shell off. Use a paring knife to make a shallow slit along the back from the head to tail. Look for the black sand vein that runs along the center of the back. If the vein is there, use the knife tip to carefully remove it, Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and dry with paper towel.

Combine ingredients for citrus sauce in a medium saucepan. Slowly bring just to a simmer and reduce to medium low heat. Reduce sauce for 20-25 minutes, until thickened and reduced by half.

While sauce reduces, crack two eggs into a small bowl and whisk together. In a larger bowl, combine flour, panko, coconut, ginger powder, salt and red pepper. Mix thoroughly. With one hand, dip shrimp in egg wash. With the other hand, dredge egg washed shrimp in flour mixture. Press flour mixture firmly into shrimp. Repeat with remaining shrimp.

Check on citrus sauce, stirring occasionally. Place just enough oil in a skillet to coat the bottom. Heat for three minutes over medium heat. Cook shrimp in batches of 5 or 6, cooking until golden brown. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side and remove from skillet. Plate with citrus dipping sauce and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Balsamic Lentil Salad with Edamame

I've been slightly enthralled with lentils since my venture to check out the Rose Bowl Parade floats a few weeks back. Having never cooked them, or eaten them to the best of my knowledge it was high time to investigate. That curiosity has been combined with the fact that I need to add more fiber and protein dense foods into my repertoire. Recently, I've become oddly enamored with this thing called running, and have stuck with a training program for three weeks. That may not sound like much, but its exactly two weeks and six days longer than any prior attempt. Eating whole foods with solid nutritional components is becoming essential, and this combination seemed like a good bet.

For the record, edamame is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. It's a solid source of protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, and isoflavones. Isoflavones are compounds found only in soy that have been shown to significantly reduce serum cholesterol levels. Lentils also are protein powerhouses, being rich in dietary fiber as well as B vitamins, folate and magnesium. So go ahead, mix up a batch and eat guilt free, knowing that you are putting lots of good for you stuff in your belly.

The first pass at this salad wasn't the success I had hoped for. The combination of colors and textures of the ingredients were largely lost into a vat of grey toned mush, as my first error was to boil two types of lentils and split peas together. Fail. Fear not, no lentil went to waste, as I've saved the first attempt for a lentil soup.

It may not have been the most time or energy efficient method, but I decided to preserve the color of each component to boil them separately. The yellow split peas took a bit longer, so they have an extra 10 minutes of boiled love to their name. The end product was tastier than I could have imagined.

Balsamic Lentil Salad with Edamame
1 cup black beluga lentils
3/4 cup orange lentils
3/4 cup yellow split peas
3/4 cup red onion, diced
3/4 cup edamame, shelled*
1/8 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar**

Place each lentil and split peas in their own bowl. Add two to three cups of water and rinse, checking for small pebbles, dirt or other organic matter. Remove any non-lentil or non-pea matter.

Place three saucepans with three cups of water in each over medium high heat. Let water come to a boil and add first three ingredients to their own individual saucepan. Bring lentils and peas to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer lentils for 15 minutes, until cooked through. Peas will require an additional 8-10 minutes of boiling.

Strain water from lentils and place in a bowl to cool. Repeat with the peas when they are cooked. Let all cool for 15-20 minutes. While lentils and peas cool, shell edamame. *This required 9 oz unshelled edamame. Dice red onion. When lentils and peas are cooled, combine all and add sea salt. Mix thoroughly. Cover and place salad in fridge and chill thoroughly before serving. ** To maintain color of salad, add balsamic shortly before serving.

As a side note, I left the lentils and peas with a slight bit of al dente tooth to them. My first attempt - see the aforementioned gray mush referenced above- was way too cooked and simply had minimal texture. If you are particular about the texture of your lentils, stand by at the end of cooking and test often until your desired chew level is achieved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chai Risotto Dessert Egg Rolls

So how many of you checked this out just out of morbid curiosity? The what in the heck did she go and do now knee jerk response that made you click on over and take a look see.. hopefully this will not disappoint.

The origin of this dish is simple. It was high time to fill up the fridge and pantry once again as they were beginning to echo if you shut the door too hard. Yet another epic Costco trip commenced.

Surveying our purchases, we were now the proud new owners of roughly 5 lbs of kiwis. As you know those little stinkers aren't all that big, and that's alot of kiwi. The quest for a kiwi laden dish began.

This was supposed to be a healthier, non fried version, specifically a spring roll. Turns out in my haste I grabbed egg roll wrappers... hmmpph. Well, egg rolls it is. After poking around the old interweb for awhile, I realized I wasn't quite sure what I was making. What's the difference between and egg roll and a spring roll? I found a vast amount of variances. For your reading pleasure, here's what I learned.

An egg roll has meat and is typically thought to be Chinese, while a spring roll is mainly vegetable and noted as Vietnamese cuisine. Egg rolls are wrapped in square wonton like skins, while spring rolls are wrapped in lighter rice paper rounds. Egg rolls are wider, thicker, and typically fried, while spring rolls tend to be more delicate and slender, and can be fried or raw. So what exactly is it that I made? A blintz? Lumpia? Final verdict seems to be that I made a fried, square wonton wrapped, fruit and risotto filled... hybrid roll? Who knows. At least I've learned the difference between the two, and that next time I'll make sure to get spring roll wrappers.

Chai Risotto Dessert Egg Rolls (Adapted from Vegetarian Times)
4 chai tea bags
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 Tbsp agave (or honey)
1 vanilla bean
4 kiwi, finely diced
6 strawberries, finely diced
1 package egg roll wrappers
Oil for frying

Vanilla Orange Dipping Sauce
3/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
Zest of 1/2 orange

Boil 4 cups of water, and steep tea bags. After 5 minutes, remove tea bags and set aside.

Place rice in large saute pan over medium-high heat. Slowly add hot tea, allowing rice to absorb tea after each addition. Make sure to stir risotto continuously. Add agave and scraped vanilla seeds into pan before adding last 1/2 cup tea. Cook until rice is tender, and remove from heat. Cool for five minutes. Fold in diced kiwi and strawberries.

To make rolls, carefully lay wrapper flat on work surface, and place 1 kiwi slice and 1 strawberry slice side by side in center. Spoon 2 Tbsp of rice mixture atop the fruit. Fold in sides of spring roll wrapper, and tightly roll up. At each fold, moisten edges with water and smooth down together. Moisten edge of wrapper with water to seal the roll shut.

Heat oil over medium high heat in large, high sided pan for 3-5 minutes. Carefully place egg rolls in hot oil, and cook until golden brown on each side (4-6 minutes). Remove rolls and place on paper towel lined plate to cool.

For sauce, combine all ingredients in saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until thickened. Cool and place in refrigerator, covered. Serve rolls with small bowls of the dipping sauce or one communal bowl, depending on your company.

A few afterthoughts...

Frying is NOT my thing. The extent of my frying knowledge is limited to wontons and funnel cakes, both made on the same day we purchased a small fry daddy on a whim. It's been collecting dust since. Fried turkey, however, is something not to take lightly and a magical entity of its own right. Never made one myself, but have absolutely polished off my fair share.

A large part of the appeal of this recipe for me (not my creation, the original linked above) was its healthiness and visual appeal. Sadly both went down the tubes a tad with my egg roll skin blunder. I'd remake this in a heartbeat with spring roll wrappers. Visually I'm not jumping up and down excited about the brown tint that the chai gives the risotto... I mean who really wants to eat a brown dessert that isn't chocolate? Jasmine or another flavorful light tea might solve that, but the subtle undertone of spice and fragrance of chai really is rather warm and enticing. The strawberries took on a bit of a tartness after cooking which was disappointing. This as well could be avoided with using this recipe with spring rolls.

Feel free to check out the links below to assist with spring roll and egg roll making.. enjoy!
How to Roll a Spring Roll
How to Roll an Egg Roll
(Note: In the demo these are rolled on a diagonal, I rolled mine as a square)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chorizo Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Nothing like finding a convenient excuse to make something tasty. Trying to be more protein and fiber aware in 2010, quinoa is a perfect vessel to sneak some extra health into any dish. This nutty seed was a dietary staple of native Incas of the Andes region for over 5000 years. Despite near total elimination of quinoa when Spanish conquerors attempted to destroy Inca culture, it was recently popularized in the US in the 1980's. Quinoa is packed full of heart healthy benefits, and rich in minerals like magnesium, iron and riboflavin. Along with the multitude of health benefits, quinoa readily absorbs any flavor imparted on it, and makes a fantastic, healthy addition to any meal.

Chorizo Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
(8 servings)
4 large bell peppers
12 oz pork chorizo
1 cup quinoa
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
4 garlic gloves, finely diced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
8 oz queso fresco
Fresh cilantro

Wash bell peppers thoroughly and pat dry. Cut top to bottom, starting through the stem and cutting to bottom of pepper. Remove seeds and veins from each half pepper, and repeat for all four. Place the eight pepper halves on a baking sheet and place in 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until peppers are slightly softened.

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil. Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer or sieve for 30 seconds and drain. Place rinsed quinoa in boiling chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed (10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Quinoa will appear translucent when its finished and a white ring will be visible around the saucepan. Remove from heat.

As quinoa is cooking, place chorizo in a large saute pan over medium heat. Break up chorizo into small bits with a wooden spoon. Cook through until lightly browned. Drain excess oil from chorizo. Mix drained chorizo into quinoa.

Place onion in the same saute pan used for chorizo and sweat onions until translucent. Add garlic and jalapenos, cooking on medium heat for two more minutes, stirring throughout.

Combine onion mixture with quinoa and chorizo. Add black beans, cumin and red pepper flakes, stirring until completely mixed.

Remove peppers from oven and cool for 5-10 minutes. Spoon mixture by heaping tablespoons into peppers, packing it firmly. Top with crumbled queso fresco, and return to 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove and top with fresh cilantro, and serve.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Playing With Your Food is Encouraged

Happy 2010 to all and welcome to the new decade! Hopefully you had a safe and fun holiday season and by now have properly recovered and rehydrated. Pasadena is just starting to wind down from an eventful few days, namely the Rose Bowl and the Rose Bowl Parade. Tens of thousands of football fans, parade goers and New Year's revelers descended on Pasadena en masse, and by this time tomorrow it should be a little quieter. The parade floats are on display for two days after the parade, so I thought it was time check off seeing the floats from my California bucket list.

I knew the floats were created with precision, patience, painstaking detail and oodles and oodles of flowers. What I didn't realize was how much fruit and vegetable matter was used. Here's a non traditional post for your viewing pleasure, highlighting the amazing uses of some common pantry staples.. who knew?!?

Orange leaves, dried chrysanthemum, split peas and yellow lentils

Pineapple and lime skins, orange slices and kidney beans

Green split peas, dried parsley, dried lima beans and corn husks. Each corn husk was hand cut and individually ironed

Kidney and pinto beans, orange lentils, crushed yellow lentils and corn husks

Green split peas, black beans, ground white lentils, ground split peas

Black beans, coconut flakes and dried chili pepper flakes

Nori seaweed, ground coffee, coconut, lima beans