Sunday, March 31, 2013

Finally Feeling Like Spring

Up here in New England, we're kind of curing Phil the Groundhog a bit.  Early spring he said, then we get dumped on with two more storms and about 18 inches of snow.  Well after a week of 50+ degree days, the piles are finally melting down and it's pretty evident that spring is coming.

With the onset of warmer weather, I'm looking forward to planting my garden, flip flop weather and fiddlehead season.  For those of you who may be unaware, fiddleheads are a fern that grows from mid-April until late May in the northeastern US.  Their slightly firm, spiral-shaped buds that have a sweet, nutty, earthy herbaceousness to them an really do make a perfect stir fry or side dish.  They really can only be fully enjoyed at the peak of freshness so definitely plan to check them out while you can.

I personally think that they're really at their best when prepared simply and allowed to shine as an ingredient unto themselves.  Make sure you clean them well however.  Their coiled shape lends to dirt getting trapped inside.  Just run them under cold water in a colander and using your fingers, brush any accumulated dirt out of the coil of the fern.

Sautéed Fiddleheads with Lemon Citronette

1/2 pound of fiddleheads
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
1 spring onion (bulb and stalk, finely chopped)
1 large garlic clove (minced)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

- Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil and blanche your fiddleheads for about 1 minute (they will darken in color)
- In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in the grape seed oil until translucent
- Combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, zest, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper until emulsified
- Add the fiddleheads to the skillet and sauté for about 5 minutes
- Toss the citronette with the fiddlehead and onion mixture to evenly coat and serve immediately

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A New Twist on Veggie Burgers

So lately, I've been starting my day out with a lot of veggie burgers and while I think Boca and Morning Star Farms make some pretty solid products, I wanted to try my hand and making my own. Here's a pretty interesting twist on your standard veggie burger that I found to be outside the box and still pack a protein punch.

Macadamia Nut Burgers with Minted Plum and Red Bell Pepper Salsa

1 medium onion
1 large garlic clove
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 tablespoon coconut oil, divided
2 cups of cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups of raw macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon Tahini
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 carrot, shredded

- Sauté onion, garlic and vegetable cube in half of the the coconut oil over medium heat until onion is golden and translucent
- Chop the macadamias in a food processor until it forms a coarse meal and add the rice, tahini, yeast, salt and onion mixture
- Pulse until the rice is partially broken down yet still as a grainy texture [you don't want a it to turn into a paste]
- Pour the mixture into a large bowl and fold in the carrot
- Form into 6 patties and place them in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes
- Using a medium-hot skillet, sauté the patties in the remaining oil until golden brown on each side
- Serve with salsa

1 light fleshed plum, chopped coarsely
2 small red bell peppers, chopped coarsely
1/4 of an red onion, finely diced
1 finely chopped chili
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs fresh mint, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbs olive oil

- Combine all ingredients and allow them to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Little Monday Indulgence

So I've been trying to ensure that the recipes I share are for the most part, nutritionally sounds and health conscious, however sometimes we all just need a little indulgence.  Today, I wanted to share with you all, a recipe I learned while I was in South Africa about six years ago.  It's for a Rooibos Butter Teacake and they are absolutely divine little morsels that pair exceptionally with a hot cup of tea or coffee.  Everything in moderation...

Rooibos Butter Teacakes

1/4 cup finely ground loose rooibos tea leaves
1 1/4 cups of hot water
2 1/2 cups of cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 demerara sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 whole eggs plus 1 yolk

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Spray molds or muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray
- Combine rooibos tea and hot water in a large bowl and allow to steep for 5-8 minutes
- Whisk together four, sugar, baking soda and salt
- Strain the rooibos though a fine mesh sieve, there will still be bits of tea leaves in the liquid
- Add honey, melted butter and eggs to the rooibos mixture and beat on high for 2 minutes
- Add half of the dry ingredients mixture and half of the butter milk and continue beating for an additional minute
- Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk
- Once all ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture has been aerated, pour into your molds
- Fill each mold or tin 2/3 full
- Bake for 18-25 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and removed cleanly
- Allow to cool at room temperature before removing from the molds

Monday, March 18, 2013

Power Yoga Evolution & Sol Bean Cafe

My friend Renee and I have started a monthly hot yoga date tradition recently and I just wanted to share  some of the great finds it's lead us to.  Power Yoga Evolution in North Andover, MA is a fantastic studio that welcomes beginners and advanced students alike.  Instructor Rob Iorio's Saturday morning 90 minute class was a blend of students encompassing many levels and he managed to instruct the workout to accommodate each of them.  His "challenge yourself but still go at your own pace" approach really opens doors for someone who's just starting out but wants to really push what they're capable of.  He also finds a way to balance a relaxing vinyassa flow with a bit of comedy and fun to keep it light.

Hot yoga in general is an activity that I've developed a love/hate relationship with.  During the class, I won't deny that there are moments where I would rather be gouging out my own eyeballs with a spoon, but afterwards, the clean refreshed feeling is more than worth the agony.  A couple of recommendations if you're trying out hot yoga for the first time: (1) Wear moisture wicking fabric clothes - and I mean down to your underwear.  Cotton is not your friend as you'll be sweating more than you probably have in quite a long time.  (2) Invest in a yoga towel, otherwise you'll be sliding all over your mat.  (3) Bring a smaller towel too, just trust me.  (3) Fill your water bottle halfway the night before and freeze it.  You'll appreciate cold water when you're in a classroom that tops 100 degrees.  (4) Don't eat to much beforehand, but definitely go into class nourished.  I recommend a piece of toast with some almond butter.  (5) Plan to eat right afterwards, you'll be ravenously hungry.

This past week, we tried the Sol Bean Cafe in Middleton for our post-yoga lunch date and I really can't say enough great things.  The place has an earthy, artistic vibe to it creating a cozy feel.  The menu consists of freshly pressed juices and smoothies, coffees, and an array of interesting and health conscious wraps and bowls.  While nothing is overly innovative, the flavor combinations they use are one's I probably wouldn't have come up with on my own.  This past week, I opted for a Lemon Zinger Juice (cucumber, spinach, kale, ginger, apple and lemon) and a Delightful Wrap (spinach, goat cheese, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, apples, pine nuts and raspberry vinaigrette on a whole wheat wrap).  Both were absolutely delicious and satisfying after our workout.

I'm definitely looking forward to our next Saturday yoga and lunch date.   If you're in the area, you should come join us!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Up Close & Personal: My Culinary Philosophy

I've been asked on several occasions what my culinary philosophy is.  Honestly, it's something I never really gave much though to until recently.  I like to cook and in most instances, I cook whatever sounds good to me at that particular moment in time.  It actually took a bit of thought and soul searching to really figure out how to articulate my beliefs in regard to the culinary world.

I love the holistic-ness food can have.  I'm fascinated to know every facet of where my food came from, how it was cultivated, raised and harvested - the ultimate journey of how it arrived on my plate.  From this perspective, I'm a true advocate of the farm to table movement.  I feel that to really understand and know what we're eating, we have to understand its origin.  Sometimes, that backstory is less than pretty but that's the reality I think we all need to understand when we decide to eat something or feed it to our families.  I understand how factory farming works, do I like it?  No, of course not, which is why I support companies like Nieman Ranch and Snake River Farms for taking less profitable, more humane approaches to meat production.

I'm a die hard proponent of the nose to tail philosophy.  If an animal is giving it's life to feed us, it's our duty to make sure that that animal is honored by using every possible part of it.  It doesn't hurt that offal accounts for several of my favorite foods, but even if organ meat isn't your cup of tea, there are ways to use the entirety of an animal without being wasteful.  The same idea holds true with plants.  Use your scraps and peels to flavor stocks or compost them for your garden.

I'm also fascinated by culinary innovation and the science behind food.  Yes, I cook with xanthan gum, arrow root starch, agar and maltodextrin.  No, I don't feel as if I'm "defacing" or "degrading" my food.  The culinary world presents so many possibilities and is literally changing everyday, how can you close your mind to that?  One of the most memorable dishes I've eaten in recent past was a Tomato Water Martini created by subjecting a tomato puree to a high speed centrifuge.  No chemicals needed, just physics to separate the "water" from the pulp.  The result was a clear liquid with the most intense tomato flavor I could imagine.  And heck, I just think stuff like that is cool.

Do I think that good food can come in a prepackaged form?  Of course I do.  We eat frozen pizza, pre-made granola bars and an array of things that frankly I just don't have time to make from scratch on a daily basis.  While I don't think your diet should subsist entirely on processed food, it has it's place in the world and yes, it can be good.  Personally, I love American Flatbread Company pizza and Amy's Organics frozen enchiladas.  I don't eat them every day (or every week for that matter), but yes, they do find there way into my diet.  The idea of creating everything in my kitchen from scratch is a wonderful pipe dream and if we ever win the lottery, then I'll have bountiful time to do so.  Until then, I'm a realist and accept the place prepackaged foods have in my world.

I've yet to come across a food I'm not at least willing to try.  I know I'm not going to instantly fall in love with everything I eat, but being open minded to new flavors, textures and ingredients is half the fun of eating.

Along with all of that, I do recognize that food is essentially fuel to us and I try to eat a balanced diet to subsidize the fact that I do lead an active lifestyle.

So with all that being said, this is what I've come up with: I believe in creating great food, however you personally define that, being open to new culinary experiences and sharing it with the people who matter to you. Ultimately, I feel that feeding people and sharing something you created with those you care about is the greatest expression of love.  That my friends, is my culinary philosophy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wine Country Chicken Salad

I love buying a rotisserie chicken over the weekend and just having it in the fridge to pick on throughout the week.  It makes for a great quick meal option, high protein snacks and let's be honest, there are limitless things you can do with a basic cooked chicken.  One of my personal favorites is to take a classic chicken salad recipe and give it a healthy makeover.  My wine country chicken salad clocks in under 200 calories per 1/2 cup serving with over 16 grams of protein and no saturated fats.  I pair it with a whole grain lavosh, alfalfa sprouts, spinach and some sliced avocado for a great lunch wrap or use Belgian endive leaves to scoop and create a quick, easy snack.

Wine Country Chicken Salad

6 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/8 cup finely diced shallot
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh sage
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

- Combine all ingredients until well incorporated
- Store in an airtight container for up to one week

"The Little Book"

It's been brought to my attention the there may be an interest out there in my wealth of random, semi-useful kitchen tips and that brining them to the masses in a convenient and easily accessible format may be something I should consider.

Introducing, The Tipsy Cupcake Facebook Page and the "Little Book Tip of the Day," the newest additions to the Tipsy Cupcake family.  'Like' the page for quick snippets of [hopefully] useful information, ideas on creative swaps to save calories, bit of culinary innovation and advice on living a healthy lifestyle.  Think of it as a lighter, daily digest version of my blog.

I've also decided to expand my give away to include 'likes' on the new page - double your chances of winning by following the full site and liking the Facebook page!  It's your chance to win a personalized dessert box, courtesy of The Tipsy Cupcake.

Five Ingredient English Muffin Bread

In most instances, baking your own break is a pain in the neck.  I'm an advocate of homemade over processed in nearly all instances, but I'm also a realist.  Most people, myself included, just don't have tim for it.  That however doesn't change the fact that I love the smell of a fresh crusty loaf baking; the sensation of piercing the outer shell as steam pours out of your newly formed confection.  This has lead me on several occasions to find easier, more accessible options for baking your own bread at home without all the hassle.

Below is the recipe for an incredibly simple, five ingredient bread that takes on the consistency of an english muffin.  Yes, you read that right, english muffins in bread form.  And it's easy - I promise.

English Muffin Bread (yields one large loaf or two small loaves)

1 2/3 cups warm water
1 package of rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw sugar
3 2/3 cups of bread flour
1 tablespoons butter for greasing your pan(s) and brushing the tops of your loaves

- Preheat oven to 350 derees
- Combine all ingredients (except the butter) in a stand mixer bowl and beat on medium with a paddle attachment until well incorporated (you can also mix it by hand with a rubber spatula) - note: the dough will be very sticky
- Grease your loaf pans well with butter, reserve remaining butter
- Spoon the dough into your loaf pan(s)
- Allow to rise until it reaches the top of the pan(s) - usually about 45 minutes to an hour
- Bake for 35 minutes
- Melt the remaining butter and brush on the top of your loaf
- Return the bread to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown
- Cool to room temperature before slicing
- Bread is best served toasted, I recommend with butter and honey

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Dad's Chilled Whole Grain Salad

For all of you carb-fearing dieters out there, stop being afraid of whole grains!  In the past, I’ve fallen victim to the Akins and South Beach hype.  Yes, they are both quick ways to shed a few pounds and if you’re looking for relatively fast gratification, I can’t deny that they work.  Despite what the propaganda preaches however, neither are sustainable ‘lifestyle’ options over the long term, particularly if you lead even a remotely active lifestyle. 

People, grains are a good thing!  Eat them.  There’s a reason that they’re a foundation block at the bottom of the food pyramid.  The key however, is eating the right grains.  As long as you’re avoiding the polished, bleached, over processed variety, you’re making healthy eating choices that contribute to your long-term health and wellbeing.

I’m a huge fan of Earthly Choice Heritage Grain Blend.  They’re 100% organic, gluten free whole grains that pack a great serving of fiber and protein.  The blend of amaranth, red and gold quinoa and wild rice makes a fantastic side dish, or chilled salad.  Below, I’ve adapted one of my dad’s recipes that makes a great spring dish using the blend. 

Chilled Whole Grain Salad

2 cups Earthly Choice Heritage Grains, prepared and chilled (or the grain blend of your choice)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 asparagus spears
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

- Prepare grains according to package directions and chill to room temperature
- Blanche asparagus spears for 4 minutes or until bright green in color
- Chop spears into 1/2-inch sections and toss with the grains
- Add diced cucumber and bell pepper and toss to combine
- In a small pitcher, mix olive oil, vinegar and Italian seasoning and pour over the salad
- Season with salt and pepper
- Top with crumbled feta and serve at room temperature 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sharing Some Wisdom from a Culinary Icon

Snow White's Dessert Bar

So my little friend Evelyn is turning five next weekend and being the proponent of Disney Princesses that she is, she choose a Snow White theme to celebrate her landmark day.  Per her (and her mother's) request, I created a selection of themed desserts for her party that are both kid friendly and interesting enough to keep the adults happy as well.

The display includes vanilla bean milk cupcakes with buttercream icing, oreo cheesecake 'apple' cake pops, wild Maine blueberry pie pops and mini raspberry rice krispie 'apple' treats.  In planning a buffet for a group with several options and taking into account that they'll be serving pizza first, I prepared 2.5 pieces of dessert per person, which should provide a satisfying sampling without an abundance of leftovers.

I used a milk cake recipe for the cupcakes because it creates a slightly denser cake which is less crumbly (an important feature in a room full of five year olds).  It also freezes well if you're looking to bake them in advance.

Vanilla Bean Milk Cupcakes (yields 15 cupcakes)

1/4 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup low fat milk

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Line your cupcake pans with paper cups
- In a stand mixer, cream you butter and sugar together on medium speed until the consistency is light and fluffy
- Continuing to mix, add your eggs one at a time until they are well incorporated
- Add yogurt, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and bean scrapings
- Combine all dry ingredients together and gradually add to your wet ingredients
- Beat the batter on high speed until all ingredients are well incorporated and free of lumps
- Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out clean
- Allow to cool on a rack at room temperature before icing