An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Simple Broiled Grapefruit

Whoa it has been over a week since my last posting...and I am so glad to be somewhat back in the swing of things.  It is officially New Year's Eve with a time of 12:28am, so being back in the swing of things probably won't truly start until Monday.  But alas, I am back.  I have been traveling across the country via Texas and Colorado to get to and from Ohio for the holidays.

I was lucky enough to avoid any sort of crazy weather this holiday season.  I purposely chose to avoid any potential snow storms in the northern midwest, so I flew through Texas to get to Ohio...annnnnd success!   Although a little out of the way, Texas was actually a pleasant balmy 67 degrees as I exited the plane. 

But back to the business of food.  We had so much good food over the holidays that I couldn't even begin to list everything off.  Instead, I will highlight it in different posts as we enter into 2011.  Today's entry is going to be short and sweet...literally.

The second to last morning in Ohio, my parents and I went to an early yoga class, and then came home to have a hearty breakfast.  My mom had bought a couple of grapefruit with the idea to broil them for a breakfast appetizer.  What a great way to start the day off after doing at least 50 push-ups in yoga class, which by the way has made my arms sore (in a good painful way) going on two days now. 

The following recipe is so simple.  All my mom did was sprinkle a little sugar on top of the grapefruit and broiled them for about 10 minutes.  You could also add brown sugar to make a carmelized taste.  Or a hint of cinnamon or vanilla extract.  Honey or pure maple syrup would be interesting as well.  Whatever you choose, just add a little bit, so to not overpower the fresh taste of the grapefruit.

We started off by eating the broiled grapefruit, and then complemented the meal with eggs and toast with a vanilla pear spread topped with ground flax seeds.  Out of the three of us, I was the lucky one the get the extra half.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

Simple Broiled Grapefruit

2 grapefruit, cut in half
Sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to broil.  Cut the grapefruit in half.  Take a knife to cut around the edges and between the individual slices to make it easier when it comes to eating the grapefruit.  Sprinkle each half with a little bit of sugar.  Place the grapefruit halves on a baking sheet.

Broil for about 10 minutes or until the juice bubbles.  The fruit will rise a little from the peel as it cooks.  Take out of oven and enjoy as a breakfast appetizer!


Pumpkin and Zesty Cabbage Tacos

I have had a folded piece of paper in my wallet for over a month now.  And on this piece of paper is the recipe for these pumpkin tacos, just waiting to be a side dish at a party.  So last weekend presented itself with two perfect occasions.

Friday night, ATM (my two girlfriends and I) had our Christmas celebration.  We do something special each year to celebrate ATM style.  One year we took the train to Vancouver for the weekend.  Another year we went to a restaurant up the street from our house and had happy hour and presents.  This year, we got together at my place for food and wine.

As usual, we had a lot of good conversation, a spread of goodies and a glass of champagne to clink the night off right.  We finished the night off with a taste of a new drink that T brought over: Chocolate Red Wine.  Sound good or weird?  It was a little bit of both actually.  I was the color of chocolate, but had an amaretto, sweet wine taste.  We just took a few sips, while we also sampled a chocolate torte I had taken out to the freezer.

And then, on Sunday I got invited to the most lovely gathering of girls at a Wine and Dough party.  It was a group of girls that get together each year to make Christmas cookies and drink wine, and each person is encouraged to invite a new attendee.  I was just that person, invited by my friend S...and was so honored!  So what we did was bring cookie dough, an appetizer and wine.  And what a spread of cookies and food did we have.  For cookies we had mexican wedding cakes, biscotti, chocolate ginger cookies, blueberry coconut white chocolate cookies, gingerbread cookies and I brought a fresh batch of coconut date rolls that I mentioned several posts back.  And I made another batch of the pumkin tacos.  It was such a fun night getting to know a whole new group of great girls.

So this recipe for the pumpkin tacos was also quite an interesting dish.  The slaw didn't call for any type of dressing, so I whipped up a quick one to top it off.   And at both parties, we all decided that a little protein would make it a complete meal.  So on Friday, we added some of T's chicken sausage and apples.  On Sunday, the girls were adding sauteed tuna.  Anything you think sounds good could be added!

Pumpkin and Zesty Cabbage Tacos
Adapted from Sunset Magazine

Cabbage Slaw ingredients

2 cups very thinly sliced savoy cabbage
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, sliced thinly
Juice and zest of 1 1/2 oranges
Dash red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pumpkin Spread ingredients

2 Tbsp butter
Dash red pepper flakes
1/4th tsp allspice
1 can pumpkin puree
3 oz. lowfat cream cheese
3/4 tsp salt
Juice of 1/2 orange

Small corn tortillas

Mix the cabbage, cilantro and green onions together.  Make slaw dressing by whisking all ingredients together except the olive oil.  Slowly drizzle the oil in last, while whisking all ingredients together.  Toss with slaw ingredients.  Set aside.

Toast red pepper flakes in a hot dry saute pan.  Cook until flakes darken.  Turn off heat and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat, swirling often, until foaming and golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the toasted chilis and stir for about 10 seconds.  Reduce heat and stir in pumpkin, cream cheese and salt.  Cook until cheese melts and is smooth, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in juice and transfer to a serving bowl.

Place tortillas on a plate, cover with a napkin and microwave for about 1 minute, or until warmed.

To assemble, spoon the pumpkin spread on the tortilla.  Top with slaw.  Eat as is, or add protein such as grilled chicken or fish.  Enjoy!


Sweet Potato Crusted Frittata

I really am not sure what has happened to has been one huge whirlwind of a month for me.  I barely have had time to do my dishes, let alone go Christmas shopping.  So the other night we had a window of an hour and a half to go grocery shopping, do dishes, cook dinner, sit down to eat it and then off to an evening meeting.

The other day I saw a frittata recipe layered with sweet and red pototoes.  I thought of it on the busride home as a quick and easy recipe to whip up with a side of shredded Brussels sprouts...a good solid dinner to fuel us for the rest of the evening.

Last summer I was inspired to buy a mandoline after my mom told me how great her new one was.  After months of looking around at every kitchen store, I came upon an inexpensive one at Ross with all kinds of interchangable blades.  It has been such a nice addition to my kitchen.  You can decide how thick or thin to slice things, and it comes with a safety guard so you don't slice your fingers off.

So to start the frittata, I 'mandolined' the red potatoes and the sweet potatoes.  It literally took under a minute!  Then to save a little time, I put them on a plate and microwaved them for 2 minutes, turned, and 2 minutes more.

For the rest of the dish, I chose red peppers, garlic and dried parsley.  We used egg substitute because that is what I had on hand and also did it cheese-less for something a little lighter.  But cheese would definitely make it even better.  I spiced it up with black pepper and red pepper flakes too.  But any variety of vegetables and spices would work.

The final product right before putting in oven
I have to say...this recipe was even better than I expected, especially without adding cheese.  There were so many different textures and flavors to chew through.  The sweetness of the potatoes, the crunch of the peppers and the peppery bite in the aftertaste made for a complete meal.

Sweet Potato Crusted Frittata

1 medium sweet potato
1 medium red potato
Olive oil
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, diced and divided
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2-3 eggs
1 Tbsp dried parsley

Prep the potatoes by slicing with a mandoline, food processor or carefully with a knife.  Toss with a little olive oil, put on plate, cover with napkin and microwave for 2 minutes, turn, 2 more minutes.  In a large pan, layer the potatoes and cook on medium heat.  I alternated between covering and uncovering the pan.  Flip the potatoes occasionally to adequately brown them.  Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper to give them some extra flavor.  You may need to add a litte extra oil, to avoid charring them.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

On another burner, heat a small pan on medium heat and add a little olive oil.  Saute the red peppers and half of the diced garlic.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Saute for just 1-2 minutes because they will cook again in the frittata.  Turn off heat and set aside.

When potatoes are done, (not the raw crisp taste anymore), transfer them to a medium oven safe saute pan, lightly coated in oil or Pam.  Layer them as flatly and evenly as possible.  Sprinkle the red peppers and some red pepper flakes.  Pour in the eggs.  Turn heat on medium.  Add the rest of the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Cook on stove top until the egg seems to be firming up on the sides.  Transfer to the heated oven.  Keep in oven until the frittata is fully cooked and browned on top. You can put it on broil right at the end to quicken the browning process.

Take out and slice into wedges with pizza cutter.  Serve with a side of your favorite vegetables or as a brunch or dinner item. 


Share Our Holiday Table Recipe

I have mentioned a great organization that I volunteer with for the past year called Cooking Matters.  It was formerly known as Operation Frontline.  Last week I went to Seattle's launch party of the new name, which by the way was so much fun!  Cooking Matters is one component of Share Our Strength- No Kid Hungry, and organization commited to ending childhood hunger in the United States.

What we do at Cooking Matters
Provide a six week cooking and nutrition class series for low income populations of all ages around King County.  Each week focuses on a different food category and nutrition topic.  For example, one week focuses on grains and fiber.  So the chef will feature two recipes that the participants will cook that have whole grains such as a quinoa salad or barley lentil soup.  Then the nutritionist will do an activity discussing whole grains with posters of what each of them look like and how to read labels and ingredients.

It is such a rewarding and fun group of people to work with and this is just one portion of Share Our Strength.  You may have seen commercials on the Food Network about other programs or heard about them online. 

Share Our Holiday Table
This year Share Our Strength had an online progressive dinner potluck called Share Our Holiday Table, made up of food bloggers contributing recipes for each day of December until a full meal is built.  You can check out all the wonderful recipes that dozens of fellow food bloggers contributed at: 

The following recipe is my contribution to the cause and I hope you will try it out!  It is a simple side dish you can make for the holidays that is colorful and full of fresh lemon flavor. 

If you would like to donate to this hugely impactful organization, you go to the website:

Happy Holidays!!

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 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 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 like them to have a little crispness left, so I sauteed about 5 minutes.

Combine veggies with the couscous and toss in the dressing.  Sprinkle green onions, salt and pepper on top.  Serve warm or cold.  It also makes very good brunch leftovers the next day!


Peppered Popcorn

I just shopped until I dropped tonight after work.  I have pretty good lifetime training in the department of shopping, but after a day of work, three hours was my maximum.  I started getting the tingling in my limbs and spinal cord that says "Please sit down soon...and have a glass of water and food!"  You know it is a long night when sitting in your car to drive home is heavenly.

Before leaving on this adventure, which by the way was my first present-buying outing this year, I fueled up with two eggs and sauted Brussels sprouts (made exactly like the September posting).  I wanted a solid protein meal before I hit the road.

On the way home I brainstormed ideas for a small snack to accompany a glass of wine, and came up with popcorn.  This is always the fallback snack.  Popcorn kernels are something I can almost be guaranteed to have in the pantry.  And my parents just recently bought me a microwave air popper, which has dramatically changed my way of snacking.  E and I find ourselves making popcorn a lot!

Popcorn has so many good features.  Nutritionally speaking, it is high in fiber and protein and low in fat.  Culinarily speaking it is a vehicle for an endless list of flavorings.  Tonight I went for a simple savory taste of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  You can also add nutritional yeast, which is a vegetarian's best friend for a Vitamin B12 source.  One of my classmates from graduate school had the most interesting recipe for popcorn that included nutritional yeast, curry powder, garlic salt and spirulina powder.  If you are reading this, Susan, correct me if I am wrong about these ingredients...but regardless, it was the most multidimensional flavor profile I had ever had on popcorn.

You can also make sweet popcorn.  This year for the Fourth of July I made cinnamon and sugar popcorn, bound together with butter.  This in addition to a whole list of other July foods, fueled us up for a night of dancing on the boat.

So what I am basically saying is that you can always go for the classic butter and salt.  But try branching out a little.  Treat your popcorn like an open canvas to mix spices you see on your spice rack.

Peppered Popcorn
makes about 15-20 cups popped popcorn

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Air pop your popcorn.  Each air popper has it's own limit of much you can pop at one time.  Mine can hold 1/2 cup kernels.  But if yours holds less, then you can do it in installments.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Top with salt and pepper to your taste preference.  Add cayenne for even spicier punch.


Sauteed Beet Greens

So you bought a bunch of beets to make roasted vegetables...and before scrubbing the dirt coated beets, you chop off the greens and toss them in the garbage.  Stop!  Rewind.  Fill your sink with cold water first.  Then, as you are about to drop the greens into the garbage, put them in the sink to soak and clean off the dirt.  The greens are completely edible and packed with nutrients and provide a nice side dish. 

I learned this from taking the food preparation classes at Bastyr.  What a great way to use the whole food.  Another trick they taught us was how to efficiently cut them, once you take them out of the sink and towel dry them or salad spin them.

First: Stack a few leaves on top of each other on a cutting board, putting the largest leaf on the bottom.

Second: Roll the greens into a large sushi roll shape.

Third: Make cross sectional slices through the roll.

Four: This creates festive green ribbons.

You can now choose to saute them or you can eat them raw in a salad.  Cut the stems into eraser-sized bits to add to the mix for a little extra fiber.  You can use this method for any green, such as kale, chard or collard greens.  I sauted the greens, using the recipe below, and ate them as a side to scrambled eggs.  It made for a nice light dinner after a long workout at the gym.

Fun, easy and quick way to impress yourself and others!

Sauteed Beet Greens

Greens from two bunches beets (or however many bunches you have)
Olive oil
1 clove garlic
Pepper to taste
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

Clean off beet greens in a sink of cold water.  Pat dry with towel or salad spinner.  Stack a few greens on top of each other and make a large roll.  Cut cross-sectional cuts to make ribbons.  Repeat with remaining greens.  Cut the stems into small pencil eraser sized pieces.

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Saute the stems for a few minutes.  Add garlic.  Saute for a minute.  Add greens and toss to coat with garlic and oil.  Stir until the greens decrease in volume.  Add pepper.  Pour in soy sauce and stir to coat greens.  Cover and let simmer for a minute or two.  Uncover to let soy sauce reduce.  Turn off heat and serve as a side dish to dinner or as a healthy snack!



Cinnamon Apple Compote

Last week's full calendar carried over into the weekend with a lot of social activities!  Yesterday morning I had a few hours to catch my breath and make a bite to eat.  I wanted something warm and hearty and to encompass ingredients residing in my  kitchen.

The Thanksgiving cranberry chutney and a mango chutney from one of the cooking classes that I have been assisting inspired me to cook up a few apples.  It was the perfect opportunity to evolve them into something warm and flavorful to put on my toast.

The purpose of a recipe like this is to use things already on hand.  So any sort of fruit will do.  Leftover pears or apples or frozen mango or peaches.  I had tidbits of slivered almonds and sesame seeds (leftover from making my crunchy szechuan green beans) and tablespoon's worth of crystallized ginger.  But use any sort of nut or seeds you may have. 

I am slowly but surely working through a giant bag of dried cherries, so I tossed in a good portion of them.  The cherries darkened the compote quite a bit.  If you pureed the mix after it is cooked, it would probably to very similar to apple butter.  Any sort of dried fruit will work though.  I added a sizable portion of vanilla extract because there is this vanilla pear butter that I splurge on sometimes, so I thought would be a great way to make it taste like that.

Basically, combine any fresh fruit, nut and dried fruit with your favorite flavorings to make a hearty spread for your toast.  And as a byproduct, your house will smell of spicy sweet holiday season!

Cinnamon Apple Compote
makes about 2 cups

2 apples, diced into small cubes
A large cup of water to use throughout cooking process
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cherries
4 whole cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Heat a medium saute pan on medium heat.  Add apples and enough water to generously cover them.  Add the cinnamon.  Stir, cover and let boil for about 10 minutes.

You will have to continually add water to the cooking apples to keep it from burning, so have the cup on hand throughout the process.  Add more water here if necessary.

Toss in the cherries and cloves.  Stir well, and cover.  The cherries soak up some of the water, so keep adding it to maintain a syrup-like consistency in the bottom of the pan.  Lower heat and cook for 10 more minutes.

While this is going on, get a small saute pan and put over medium heat.  Add the almonds and sesame seeds in the dry pan.  Continually flip them around in the heat until they begin to brown and become aromatic.

Add ginger and vanilla to the apples and cherries and stir well.   Add a little water if necessary.  This will be about the time to stop adding water so it can fully reduce.  Add the almonds and sesame seeds.  Mix well.  Turn off heat and let the flavors blend.

Serve hot or cold on a piece of toast or mixed in with yogurt and granola.  Or eat with a spoon!


Asparagus and Onion Omelet

I have recently stepped onto the food train that has been speeding through my life.  In order to learn more about cooking and teaching methods, I am assisting chefs at different cooking schools around town.  And wow has it been such a great (and exhausting) learning experience.  So this week has been a really busy week with attending talks on food and assisting chefs.  

Last night I had fifteen minutes at home after work to whip up something healthy and protein filled to give me a boost before class.  On my way home I was going through the catalog of foods I knew were in my pantry, fridge and freezer.  I started off thinking of truffle popcorn, because that would be easy to eat in the car.  But then thought it may not be satisfying.  Then I moved to the freezer...leftover beet burgers with a slice of goat cheese.  Hmm, I already had that for lunch.  Then I remembered eggs!  

Liking eggs is a relatively new concept for me, so they don't always show up on the mental radar.  But alas they did yesterday, even before getting home.  Then I remembered a small bunch of leftover fresh parsley from Thanksgiving.  And oh, I had frozen asparagus.  This was materializing so nicely, that my walking pace quickly picked up.

So in fifteen minutes, I took out frozen asparagus, chopped them into tiny pencil eraser size.  Found about an eighth of an onion...chopped that.  Sauteed them together.  Made the eggs in a separate smaller pan.  Sprinkled them with parsley and flipped over.  Added the asparagus and onion and glued it together with a small sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  The perfect quick appetizer or breakfast!

Asparagus and Onion Omelet
makes 1 healthy sized serving  

1 tsp olive oil
1/8th onion, diced
3 spears of asparagus
2 eggs, whisked
1/3rd bunch fresh parsley, minced
Sprinkle of parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in medium pan over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until softened and slightly browned.  Add asparagus and saute for another minute or two.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your taste preference.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Heat a small pan and spray with cooking spray or use a little olive oil.  Add eggs.  After 1-2 minutes, put in the parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Flip when egg is firm enough to hold together.  Pour the asparagus and onions into the egg.  Sprinkle the parmesan.  When other side is done (a few minutes), fold omelet over to glue together.  Turn off heat and let sit in pan for final flavor marriage.

Plate and eat immediately.