An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Coconut Date Rolls

I recently bought a huge five pound box of pitted dates with the intention to re-create Lara Bars.  I also recently received a five pound bag of raw I was perfectly set up to make them!  I actually intended to make little bars shapes, but once I started to puree them, I remembered these date desserts that T made a long time ago.

Thanks to R, I have this lovely plate!

A few highlights about this recipe are:

It is so easy.  It literally took under 10 minutes from start to finish.  It requires three ingredients: dates, almonds and coconut.

They are pretty darn healthy.  Besides the coconut being sweetened, all three ingredients are good sources fiber.  I happened to have bought sweetened coconut last week for cookies that required it, so I used it.  But unsweetened would probably be just fine too, considering how sweet the dates are.

This recipe can be used multiple ways.  You can form them into roll or ball shapes like these.  You can also press it into the bottom of a pie pan and be used as a crust for something like an ice cream pie.  All those new coconut milk ice creams would be so good as the filling.  You can also form it into small bar shapes and have it as a energy-type bar or snack. 

*Possible substitions or additions could be dried apples, cashews, carob powder or dried cherries. 

Coconut Date Rolls
Makes 2 dozen rolls

2 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened

Put all ingredients into food processor or blender.  Pulse until fully pureed.  Form into whatever shape you like or press into pie pan.  Refrigerate or freeze in container large enough to keep them separated.  Easy!


Lemony Israeli Couscous

One of the many dishes that R gave to me for my birthday.  Thank you!!

I hosted a small gathering of six at my house this past weekend.  It was a little pre-party wine and appetizer menu before we went out for my birthday party.  It was a heavily Mediterranean/Italian feast, largely influenced from my PFI adventure last week, that I mentioned in the Feta and Squash Muffins post.  The menu consisted of:
  • Green olives
  • Feta and muenster cheese with apple slices and dates
  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Fig jam and crackers
  • Bruschetta with tomatoes and basil
  • Fajita style chicken
  • Lemony Israeli Couscous
  • Sweet and salty almonds
  • Many flavors of wine
  • A bottle of champagne still waiting in the fridge from D and N

  • A lovely French inspired platter by M, featuring 3 French cheeses, 2 French pates from K, crackers, strawberries and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles

Oh my was it all good!

I adapted this recipe from a Bon Appetit recipe on  I had roasted a bunch of mini red, yellow and orange peppers in the morning, and thought they'd be a colorful addition to the dish.   The recipe also called for Parmesan cheese, which I didn't add.  I wanted to keep it simple and light, though surely the cheese would be delectable.

I had never cooked Israeli couscous before, and found it to be so simple.  Before cooking, the couscous are small little round circles, and when cooked, they remind me of the tapioca balls in Bubble tea.  My sous chef chopped all of the veggies (which was a lot!) and prepared the bruschetta and table set-up.  I would have been frantically running around all afternoon if he hadn't been there!! 

Lemony Israeli Couscous
Adapted from Bon Appetit recipe on Epicurious
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/3 cup Israeli couscous, dry
Salt to taste
1 3/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1/2 bunch or about 1 cup asparagus, cut in small diagonal pieces
1 cup snap peas, cut in small diagonal pieces
1/2 cup roasted red, orange and yellow peppers (home roasted or from a jar)
1/3 cup green onions, chopped 

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a heavy medium. Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until most of couscous is golden brown.  Pour in the chicken (or vegetable) broth, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has soaked into the couscous.  Turn off heat and set aside.

While couscous is cooking, prepare the dressing.  Whisk together 2 Tbsp olive oil, lemon zest, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and 1 clove garlic.  Set aside.

Heat a separate medium/large pan on medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and saute the veggies with the garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook them to your favorite level of doneness.  I cooked them until done, but they still had a crispness to them, about 5 minutes.
Add the veggies to the couscous and toss in the dressing.  Add the green onions and salt and pepper.  Serve warm or cold.  It also makes very good brunch leftovers the next day!


Feta and Squash Muffins

Tomorrow we are having a potluck coffee brunch party at work.  I have been looking forward to this for about a week, ever since I found this fabulous recipe from the 101 Cookbooks blog.  I was sold the moment I saw her pictures.

What a great item to bring to a brunch.  It is so nice to have a savory dish at breakfast.  There are very few things I changed about her recipe.  I didn't include the sunflower seeds or fresh parsley.  I left out the seeds and used dried parsely, basically because I thought I had fresh, and then realized I didn't.  Thank goodness I went to PFI the Italian grocery store yesterday (for the first time) and bought a ton of dried parsley.

I used an acorn squash for this recipe because I just bought one last week.  But you can use any kind, such as butternut or pumpkin.

I also cut the recipe in half because my freezer is completely full and wouldn't have room for extras.  Also, our potluck is only four people, so 4-6 muffins will be just enough.  (And I will have to test one before tomorrow to be sure I like it ;)  But if you have lots of people to serve these muffins to, a full recipe is perfect. 

This background is of my new expandable cutting board accessory!

Feta and Squash Muffins
Slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yields 12 muffins

1 small-medium squash (acorn, butternut or pumpkin), roasted and cubed
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter, unsalted

1 Handful baby spinach, chopped
1 tsp dried parsley, or 2 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup feta
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Cut the squash (whatever variety) in half and take out all the seeds and pulp around the seeds.  Put a piece of parchment paper on baking sheet and put squash on top, cut sides up.  Top with the olive oil and salt and pepper.    Bake until the squash is easily puctured (about 45 minutes).  Let cool slightly.  Carefully cut out the meat of the squash and into cubes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in fridge to cool.

Butter the inside of a muffin tin and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix 2/3 of the squash, spinach, parsley, Parmesan, mustard, and 2/3 of the feta.  Gently fold together.   In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk.  Add to the squash mix.  Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix and top with salt and pepper.  Fold together just until everything is incorporated, so to not overmix.

Spoon into the muffin tin.  Top each of the muffins with the left over squash and feta and a sprinkle of pepper.  Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and the sides are coming away from the tin.  Let cool on cooling rack.     

Serve with brunch or as a side to a soup!


Fall Harvest House Dinner Party

I live in the most lovely apartment building, where we on occasion have dinner parties.  It is such a great opportunity to meet new people in the building and also reconnect with others that have been here for years.  And the outcome is always a beautiful mix of food.  Last night was just one of those nights.

Last night's menu consisted of:
  • Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Carmelized Shallots
  • Wild Rice Dressing with Cherries and Almonds
  • Minted Fruit Salad
  • Tofu Rice Pockets
  • Spinach Salad
  • Pico de Gallo with Tortillas and Pineapple Chicken
  • Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Green Bean Salad
  • Cheese Fondue with Bread and Apples
  • Spicy Sausage and Peppers
  • Lemon Cheesecake Bars
  • Wide range of wines 

What a great way to start out the week with great food and great company.  One thing we concluded was that literally half of the residents in our building have names that start with the letter A. 

One of the interesting things about having house dinners, is learning more about all of us who share the same address.  Generally we tend to find similarities..we have found that our apartment building attracts similarly minded people.  I found out last night that one of the new residents works at the same place I do.  Two people found out they lived in the same neighborhood growing up.  A lot of talk of similiar musical tastes on Pandora. 

One of the recipes we contributed was the mashed sweet potatoes.  Super simple and super flavorful.  The carmelized shallots really made the dish.  I adapted it from the most recent Cooking Light.

Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Carmelized Shallots
Adapted from Cooking Light November 2010

4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp olive oil, to saute shallot
1 large shallot, sliced very thinly
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary ( or 1 Tbsp fresh)
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add sweet potatoes.  Boil until easily broken with fork, about 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile heat a small saute pan on low heat.  Add 1 Tbsp oil.  Saute shallot until softened and slightly tranlucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the brown sugar and stir frequently until shallots carmelize. 

Pour shallots into small bowl.  Use heated pan to saute garlic for a minute.  While the shallots are set aside, they will harden and turn somewhat candy-like.  After they cool off, break apart into small pieces.

Drain sweet potatoes.  Transfer to large bowl.  Use a hand mixer to blend together.  Add rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil.  Add just enough oil to smooth out sweet potatoes.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Top with carmelized shallots.

Serve immediately!


Crunchy Szechuan Green Beans

I have been out for Thai food more often than usual lately, and my friend turned me on to the Green Beans dish.  Every time my brother is in town, we share the green beans at Wild Ginger...but never thought of getting them at a Thai restaurant, which turns out to be a really good idea!

I thought it may be difficult to recreate the sauce, but alas, I have found one that is similar with many dimensions.  It is from a cookbook I mentioned in the Moroccan Carrot spread posting, called Vegetarian Appetizers by Paulette Mitchell.  This has been one of my most useful cookbooks over the past seven years. 

Before starting the recipe, I let the green beans soak in a bowl of water for about 20 minutes because they had a lot of dirt on them.  This really helped when it came time to clean them.

Among the great aspects of this recipe, you can add a protein to make it a full meal.  I chose to add scrambled eggs, but you could also add chicken, pork, tofu or shrimp.  Also the sauce could be used on many other veggies besides green beans. 

This was my first experience with hoisin sauce.  I wasn't totally sure what to expect, but it actually had a very familiar taste to it and realized it is found in a lot of sauces.  And it was really easy to find at the local grocery in the Asian food section. 

The sauce has several ingredients, but all play an important role in making it have several dimensions.  I cut the recipe in half tonight because I was just cooking for myself.   But the recipe below is the full deal.  

Toasted sesame seeds

I didn't veer too far from the original ingredients either.  I just added the egg and rearranged some of the instructions.

Crunchy Szechuan Green Beans
Adapted from Vegetarian Appetizers by Paulette Mitchell

Sesame seeds, toasted
Olive oil for sauteing
1 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1/4 onion, chopped thinly
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Heat a small saute pan on medium heat.  Add sesame seeds.  (Depending on your preference level for sesame seeds, use as much as you like.  In my halved recipe, I used about 2 Tbsp.)  Continually toss the seeds in the dry heat until they start to brown and become aromatic.  Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

If adding a protein (egg, chicken, tofu, pork, shrimp, etc.), cook next and set aside.

In a larger pan, add olive oil over medium heat.  Add the beans and onions.  Cook until tenderly crisp.  This may take awhile depending on the thickness of the beans, about 10-20 minutes.  Make sure to keep on medium heat though, so the onions don't burn.

While this is cooking, make the sauce.  Combine the rest of the ingredients (hoisin sauce through red pepper flakes).   Whisk thoroughly until the consistency is that of cake batter.  Set aside. 

When beans have slightly charred and tenderized, remove from heat.  Add the sauce and mix well.  Toss in the cooked protein and sesame seeds.  Immediately plate and serve.  Add extra red pepper flakes or your favorite hot sauce for more spice.  Can be served alongside rice for a main course or by itself as an appetizer.



Green Olive Tapenade

Those of you who have known me for a long time are probably shocked to see a recipe featuring olives.  But alas, I have turned over a new leaf, and now like olives.  Green olives, that is.  Black olives may be next, but as of now, green it is.

I started liking olives before a trip I took to Italy two years ago.  I knew they'd be everywhere, so I decided to make myself like them.  I started my olive adventure at one of my favorite local Italian pizza places, Via Tribunali.  They have a little help-yourself olive stand on the corner of the bar.  My favorite of all of them were the bright green variety. 

My mom recently discovered canned and pitted green olives at Whole Foods, which was great news to me.  The last time I bought them, thought this would be a cheap way to make tapenade.  It would probably work just as well with canned chopped olives, and of course fancy green olives from the olive bar would be just divine.

This recipe is a combination of two recipes, one from The Professional Chef ( The Culinary Institute of America's cookbook) and the other is the secret recipe from a restaurant I used to work at here in Seattle.  The lemon juice makes it quite tangy, so you use half the amount for less tang.

Green Olive Tapenade
Adapted from The Professional Chef and secret Seattle restaurant recipe
Yields about 1 cup

1 can pitted whole green olives, drained (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 Tbsp capers
Juice from 1/2 of lemon
1 garlic clove, diced roughly
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1/4 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in small food processor (or blender).  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Combine roughly or thoroughly, depending on the consistency you prefer.

Eat as a bread topping, sandwich component or topping for grilled chicken. 


Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Like many others lately, I was zapped by the fall head cold bug.  So tonight, all I wanted was a warm cup of homemade soup.  This recipe is a combination of a Cooking Light recipe and a soup we made when working at a Colorado cafe.  And one of the best parts is the pumpkin!  It adds additional fiber and Vitamin A, and if you aren't a big fan of pumpkin, you truly don't taste it at all.  Nor do you really taste the tomatoes.  But the combination of all the ingredients is so delicious and comforting.

I also added red pepper flakes at the end to give it an extra kick.  It is great with feta or cotija cheese sprinkled on top.  I didn't feature that in this dish tonight, because I am not eating dairy products today.  But please feel free to add cheese.

 I made this soup completely pureed because that is how I like it.  But you can choose to just puree half of the beans and tomatoes and/or leave the onions minced.  Any of these combinations will make a good soup.

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light and Colorado cafe
Yields about 6 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 14.5 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 15 oz can pumpkin

Parsley or green onions
Feta or cotija
Red pepper flakes

In a Dutch oven or large heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add onions and cook until lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cumin.  Mix well and saute for a few minutes.  Put black beans, tomatoes and onion mixture in food processor.  Puree until smooth.

Add the vegetable broth, vinegar, pepper, pumkin and pureed bean mix back into the Dutch oven/pot.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

Ladle into small bowls and top with parsley or green onions and cheese.  Please have more!


Roasted Golden Beet Salad

This recipe was inspired by my best friend B in Washington D.C.  She sent me a picture of a beet salad she made last week, and I haven't been able to get it off my mind.  Beets are one of those vegetables that I have recently rediscovered.  About seven years ago, my roommates and I got really into juicing.  And I had been learning at school all the beneficial effects of beets.  So one night, I pulled out my juicer, and juiced a pint glass-worth of raw beet juice.  And oh my..was it an astringent drink.  I felt like my top lip was permenantly pushed up to the top of my teeth like a rabbit.   I now HIGHLY recommend roasting.

But a few years passed and I was working in a restaurant where they served a golden beet salad.  So I slowly eased back into beets.  But I still wasn't buying them, just eating them at restaurants.

A few weeks ago, T (of ATM) and I made a delicious roasted beet and feta salad, which made me realize how easy they are to make.  As long as you plan ahead, the cooking process is so easy, because the oven does most of the work.  You simply wash and peel the beets.  Slice into halves or quarters, depending on how big they are.  Put in foil.  Add a little olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap loosely with a good seal. 

After they are done, you can slice and serve in a salad with feta or goat cheese, so that it melts slightly.  Or store them in the fridge to use later.  Add to salads, eat sliced by themselves or puree into a soup.

Roasted Golden Beet Salad

1 bunch golden beets, washed, peeled and halved or quartered
Olive oil, salt and pepper to coat

Mixed greens
Goat cheese
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Take the stems and greens off the beets.  The greens are edible and make a great addition to salads and stirfry.  Wash the beets thoroughly.  Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel.  Cut off tops where stems came from.  Cut beets in half or quarters, depending on size.   Place in foil.  Top lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Wrap loosely, but making sure to make a good seal with foil, because the juices can leak out.  I placed my foil package on top of a baking sheet in the oven just in case of leaking.

Roast for about an hour.  Carefully (very hot inside) open package to check on them.  They are done when you can easily slice with knife.  Let cool.  Slice into half circle shapes. 

Assemble mixed greens, goat cheese, walnuts and sliced beets.  Top with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Wow.  You and your guests will be amazed!