An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Minted Coconut Mango

I wanted a light accompaniment to my dinner tonight.  Lucky for me I bought a mango a few days ago.  I had gotten my favorite Indian dish yesterday (palak paneer), which was leftovers tonight.  I ate all the rice yeseterday, so I tossed the palak paneer with some leftover pasta.  This is something I have never done, and it was quite good!  Using up previously frozen food items really pays off, especially when it is stocked.  So a minty coconut and mango salad was a perfect ending to the meal.

To save time, I layered the mint leaves on top of each other before slicing them.

I have found this to be the easiest way, by far, to cut a mango.  Once you have made all the slices, you just bend it backwards and carefully slice the cubes off.  Then I cut them into even small cubes after this.  Or you can always use frozen mango if your grocery store doesn't have good looking mangoes.  Seems that every time I go to Whole Foods lately, they have a huge display of mangoes just begging to be taken home.

I had leftover mango salad tonight, so it will be a nice addition to my toast tomorrow morning.  If you added some red pepper flakes, it would make a nice chutney for a collard green wrap (like in last month's post) or on a sandwich.  Or puree it into a smoothie with yogurt!

Minted Coconut Mango

1 mango, cut into small cubes
Small handful of mint leaves (about 16), sliced into small ribbons
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp honey
2 Tbsp coconut, shredded

Cut mango into small cubes and put in small mixing bowl.  Stack the mint leaves on top of each other and slice into small ribbons.  Toss with mango.  Squeeze 1/2 of lime onto mango and mint.  Mix in the honey.  Stir to fully coat.  Put in serving dish and top with coconut.  Ahhh refreshing!


Sweet Breakfast Quinoa

Hold onto your hats everyone, because this is one tasty breakfast.  I had it this morning and it sweetened my whole morning.  Each bite was a different taste.  One bite would be a citrus sesame while the next a coconut quinoa almond.  I basically raided my fridge, freezer and cabinet for ingredients to mix and flavor the quinoa.

There are so many good recipes out there right now using grains at breakfast, like breakfast couscous.  That seems to be the most popular...and is delicious too.  I went with quinoa because that earthy taste was calling to me from the box in the cabinet.  But use whatever you have on hand...couscous, rice, barley, what have you. 

What a great way to use those leftover grains from dinner last night.  So next time you are cooking grains, reserve a little without a savory flavoring so you can use it in the morning for breakfast.  And use any fruit, yogurt, milk or nut mixture that suits your palate.   And feel free to use more or less of any of the ingredients listed in the recipe.

Sweet Breakfast Quinoa
Yields 1 healthy serving

1 cup prepared quinoa
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp honey
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp shredded coconut
1 Tbsp almonds, raw and chopped
2 small oranges, peeled and sliced
Dollop of plain yogurt

Combine the quinoa, cinnamon, vanilla, honey and coconut into a microwave safe bowl.  Heat for about a minute.  Remove from microwave and evenly stir.   Add flax seeds, sesame seeds, coconut shreds, almonds and oranges.  Top with yogurt.  Enjoy every sweet bite!


Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

An eggplant jumped into my shopping cart the other day.  Upon getting to know me, you will quickly realize that I wear purple in some form pretty frequently.  You know how your eyes open just a little bit wider when you see something you could be a person, or a window display of cupcakes or a colorful sunset.  Well that is how I feel about purple, and bright turquoise lately.  I was never a huge fan of eggplant, until about six months ago.  And now I think of it fairly often...especially in the grocery store on Monday.

The picture above is the final product of what the eggplant so willingly provided.  I decided to make a healthy version of eggplant parmesan.  I roasted the slices with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Then pulled them out, flipped them over and coated with oil, salt and pepper again.  Roasted.  Then put a very thin slice of gouda cheese and cooked a little bit longer.  So this is technically 'Eggplant Gouda', but I will stick with the original name, for traditional sake.  I used a bed of red sauce and a sprinkling of dried parsley for the base.  Voila...dinner is served. 

A quick warning for you all: the recipe below is going to be a little different than usual.  I will do a step by step action of how I prepared the eggplant.  I used to be intimidated by cooking them, or even how to possibly take the weird sponginess out of them.  The steps below made quite a nice, tender result.

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
Yields 2 servings

1/2 large (or 1 medium sized) eggplant, sliced into thin or medium/thin slices 
Olive oil
Cheese (gouda, parmesan or whatever you have on hand), either thinly mandolined, shredded or pre-sliced

Red sauce (like Pizza Stone Extravaganza posting in January or a good jarred variety)

Step 1:  Slice the eggplant in thin to medium/thin slices.  Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.  Sprinkle generously with salt.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  (This step draws out a ton of moisture from the eggplant, making them much easier to cook.)  Below is a picture of the water seeping out of the slices.

Step 2: After 30 minutes, wipe the excess water off the slices with a towel or paper towel.  Flip them over and sprinkle with salt.  Let sit for another 30 minutes.  (When there are about 15 minutes left, preheat oven to 425 degrees.)

Step 3: Wipe the excess water off the slices.  Put a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper on each slice and bake for 15 minutes.  I put the olive oil in a spoon, poured some out on the eggplant, and then used the back of the spoon to spread it around.  The picture below is right after 15 minutes of baking.

Step 4: Take out of oven.  Flip each slice over.  Cover with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes.  Remove when they look almost done.  Meanwhile, heat up sauce.  (I used some frozen leftover sauce from the Pizza Stone Extravaganza in January...feel free to whip some up.  Or use your favorite jarred variety.)

Step 5:  Slice very thin pieces of your favorite cheese: parmesan, gouda, or whatever you have on hand.  I used a mandoline on a thin setting.  You could also shred the cheese.  Or use a pre-sliced variety.  But a little bit goes a long way on these eggplant.  Put a thin slice of cheese (or thin layer of shredded) on each slice.  Return to oven for 5-10 minutes...until nicely browned.

 Step 6:  Ladle a generous portion of red sauce onto a plate.  Layer 4-5 slices of eggplant on top of sauce.  You can also add pasta if you want.  Sprinkle dried parsley.  Dive in immediately. 


Wild Rice Apple Salad (Part 2)

Prepping the wild rice and quinoa before this weekend was so helpful in making this wintery salad.  The instructions I give below are as if you are making all at the same time, but feel free to make the grains ahead and add them to the onion mixture in the saute pan to heat up.  Or use any leftover grain you have waiting in the fridge or freezer to join up with some apples and onions.

So this past weekend, a group of us spent a nice cozy time in a cabin in the mountains.  We arrived with our arms full of snowboards, skis, bags of food, wine, tequila and suitcases full of snow clothes.  On Saturday, we had a little winter adventure playing in the snow.  When three people hit the slopes, K and I went snowshoeing up an unexpectedly steep hike.  It was so much fun!  We had one pair of snowshoes and one ski we would swap every so often.  The snowshoe-less person would get the pole to help balance on the slippery parts.  The best part of the hike was finding an igloo at the end!  We ran over and climbed into the little snow hut...and wow was it cool (literally, haha).  Actually with the exception of the floor, it was quite a nice temperature. 

After climbing out, we met up with the others and headed home to make a feast.  And that it was.  We had baked brie with honey and nuts, dates and almonds, rosemary bread, olives, grapes, tomatoes and wine.  This was just the appetizer phase.  For the meal we had baked asparagus and fingerling potatoes (M's speciality), both topped with truffle salt.  Then freshly boiled crab, baked halibut and wild rice apple salad.  We finished off with a tasting of salted chocolate.  It was such a divine dinner...especially after a full day of snow activities.

Wild Rice Apple Salad
Yields 6-8 servings
3/4 cup wild rice, dry
3/4 cup quinoa, dry
Vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced into small thin slices
2 Tbsp dried sage
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lemons, squeezed and juiced
1 Granny smith apple, cut into small cubes
Olive or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped

Start with cooking the wild rice first because it takes the longest.  Add enough vegetable or chicken broth and water to completely cover the wild rice and more (at least 2 cups) in a medium to large pot (more liquid is better than not can always strain it out at the end).  Turn up to medium heat and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Check every so often to be sure you have enough broth/water in the pot.  Add more accordingly.  After 30 minutes, add the quinoa and more water.  Cook for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat a medium saute pan with the olive or grapeseed oil.  Add the onion.  Saute until soft and translucent.  Add 1 Tbsp dried sage and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Turn off heat and set aside.

Cut apple into small diced cubes.  Put in a medium bowl and juice the lemons over the apples.  This will keep them from turning brown, especially if you have leftovers.   Toss apples in lemon juice. 

Remove the wild rice and quinoa from heat.  Strain if you need to.  Pour into a large serving bowl.  Add the onion mixture and apples and all the lemon juice left in bottom of bowl.  Add in the almonds, remaining sage, enough oil to coat everything, and salt and pepper.  Stir and make sure everything is evenly coated, flavored and mixed.  Add more of anything else, according to your taste.

Serve immediately or refrigerate and eat cold or warmed.  Eat as a light lunch, a side dish to dinner, or as an appetizer before lunch the next day, like we did!


Wild Rice Apple Salad (Part 1)

This posting is going to give you a preview of what I am going to make this weekend...

I wanted to get a head start on my cooking, so I gathered all the ingredients for a grain salad to complement a dinner party this weekend.  The ingredients are as follows:

Wild rice and quinoa cooked with chicken broth and water
3 Lemons
2 Granny smith apples
Raw almonds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

My idea is to saute an onion in olive oil and butter.  Then I will chop the apple into small pieces and soak them in lemon juice so they stay crisp and avoids the browning.   I am visualizing a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper...maybe a little sage.  Toss it all with the apples, chopped almonds and garlic.  A little sweet, a little savory...a lot of love.  It is Valentine's weekend and one with lots of food, fun and wine to be had.

To be continued...


Curried Cauliflower and Chicken Stirfry

Last Friday night, T invited me to a co-worker's wine bar birthday party, which happened to be conveniently down the street from me.  So this was a perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe.  I wanted to branch out for my usual suspects.  Knowing that we would be drinking wine later on in the night, I wanted to fix a filling and flavorful meal.  T has previously professed her love of cauliflower, so I based the dish around it.  Then I thought it needed some protein...hence the chicken.  And I wrapped it all together with some Israeli couscous cooked with mustard seeds and chicken broth and tossed with lots of cilantro and pepper.

I had a little bit of time to prepare, so I prepped everything in advance.  Oh my, that is so nice to be able to do that.  I had every ingredient in a little bowl or strainer, waiting to be tossed into the pan.  I cut the original recipe's amount of chicken in half and doubled the cauliflower so I could use the whole head at one time.  You could definitely make this recipe vegetarian by skipping the chicken and using vegetable broth. 

For the Israeli couscous, I prepared it similarly to the recipe I posted in October.  I toasted the couscous in a small dry saute pan...shaking it frequently to distribute the heat evenly.  I added a small handful of mustard seeds about halfway through the cooking.  Once the couscous became aromatic, I added chicken broth and water, and covered it.  It cooked for about 5-10 minutes, until the water absorbed and couscous was fully cooked.  I tossed cilantro and pepper into the mix and let sit while everything else came together.

We complemented the dinner with crackers, buttery havarti (yes you read that right, and yes, it is as good as it sounds!), olives and red wine.  Olives on top of the buttery havarti on top of a cracker is really good.  Several laughs, good conversation and a substantial better to start the weekend?

Curried Cauliflower and Chicken Stirfry
Adapted from Nancy Leson's Seattle Times December Food and Wine posting
Yields 4-6 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut into small bite sized chunks
1 bunch scallions, diced into thin small circles
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger root, grated with microplane or grater
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp mild curry powder, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 head cauliflower, stemmed and cut into small bite-size pieces
Water, enough to cover and cook the cauliflower
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely minced
Heat a large skillet or wok on medium heat.  Pour in olive oil.  Allow to heat up for a few minutes.  Carefully add the chicken.  Saute until the chicken is almost cooked through. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

With the skillet or wok still over medium heat, add the scallions.  Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. If the pan is dry, add a little more olive oil.  Add the garlic and ginger.  Saute for 30 seconds.  Spoon in the tomato paste, curry powder and salt to taste.  Cook for 30 seconds while stirring.
Pour in the broth.  Stir until all the ingredients are coated and mixed together. Add the cauliflower pieces and enough water to coat the cauliflower.  Cover and adjust the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid maintains a low boil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (adding more water if necessary), until the cauliflower pieces are tender.
Return the chicken to the wok or skillet and stir to coat with the sauce. Add water as needed. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and pepper to taste. Serve with a grain such as Israeli couscous, brown rice or quinoa.  Enjoy immensely.


Black Sticky Rice Breakfast Surprise

Last month I assisted a really fun Thai cooking class by Pranee, the owner of I Love Thai Cooking (  I learned so much about Thai cooking and all the different dimesions each dish holds.  My favorite dish was a refreshing steak salad with lime and cilantro eaten with our hands with a little bit of rice for each bite.  It was a small group of women in the class, on a Friday afternoon, sharing stories in the warm kitchen filled with fresh smells of Thailand.  Pranee is a natural when it comes to cooking and teaching people how to cook with intuition and heart. 

The day ended with a dessert of black sticky rice topped with a lightly salted coconut milk.  Pranee was so nice to give me a jar of this rice to take home with me.  I have been saving it for a special occasion, and that special occasion arrived today: breakfast!

I heated up the rice, and topped it with almonds, dried cherries, coconut and coconut milk.  o-m-g.  What a way to start the day!  You can check out how to prepare the rice on Pranee's website.  The black rice that she gave me was a base of cooked rice without the sugar added yet, so you can choose to add or not add sugar.  Otherwise use any grain you have at home, like couscous, quinoa, rice, oatmeal...whatever you choose can be made into a breakfast vehicle for the other ingredients, for a hearty day starter.

Black Sticky Rice Breakfast Surprise

1 cup prepared black sticky rice (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 Tbsp coconut milk
1 Tbsp shredded coconut
10-15 raw almonds, chopped
2 Tbsp dried cherries
1-2 tsp pure maple syrup

See preparation directions on Pranee's website for black sticky rice.  Heat the rice, and top with coconut, almonds, dried cherries and maple syrup.  Or add anything else you like.  Some crystallized ginger might be nice!


Artichoke and Kale Salad

I went to my friend M's yoga class last night, which was a great follow-up after a fitness retreat last weekend.  It was basically a girl's dream weekend...two workouts a day followed by lunch, a power walk to an herbal apothecary for a talk on aromatherapy and tinctures while soaking our feet in a salt bath, a meeting with a life coach and a nutrition talk, dinner and wine and a night at a fancy hotel...followed by two more workouts the next day and brunch and bellinis.  This was all thanks to Traci, the owner of Fly Fitness (

I felt so rejuvenated and wanted to maintain the feeling, so after a great yoga class last night, I went to Whole Foods on a mission for colorful salad ingredients.  I was set on kale ribbons and artichoke hearts.  I wanted a easily shave-able cheese, so I asked the cheese guy the best option.  He gave me a lot of good I went with the Sarvecchio Sartori, because he said it was made in Wisconsin.  I've mentioned that I by no means am a sports fan, but felt a certain loyalty to the Packers since I am from Ohio and my two best friends S and A are from Milwaukee.

I piled and cut the kale just like on the beet greens post.  Stacking them makes it so much easier and quicker to slice.  I also cut the whole artichoke hearts in half.  The cheese was a nice dry cheese that ribboned easily on the mandoline.  Any hard cheese would do though, such as parmesan reggiano.   And as always, you can use whatever ingredients suit your fancy.  A grilled chicken breast, dried cherries, or apple slices would also be nice.  I whipped up an easy vinaigrette to go with it, which I mentioned the ingredients below.  Use what you like for dressing.  Enjoy! 

Artichoke and Kale Salad
One good sized dinner salad or two small starter salads

1/2 can whole artichoke hearts, halved
6 kale leaves, cut into thin ribbons
1/3 can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Sarvecchio Sartori cheese, sliced very thin in mandoline (or any hard cheese that easily shaves)

White vinegar
Dijon mustard
Splash of maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Cut the artichoke hearts in half and set aside.  Wash and dry the kale and pile each leaf on top of one another.  Slice into very thin ribbons.  Drain the beans and mandoline the cheese.  Prepare the dressing in a small food processor or by whisking...adding the oil last. 

Toss the kale ribbons and beans in the dressing.  Make a nice mound of greens on the plate.  Arrange the artichoke hearts and cheese.  Have with a nice glass of wine and thick slice of bread.  Yay!