Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dried Plum and Oat Muffins

Who can resist a perfectly crumbly, gently sweet, wholesome breakfast muffin? And when that very same muffin promotes a certain, um, regularity..well, that is the added benefit of including both prunes and oats in the same muffiny package.

Prunes get a bad rap in the states. Abroad they don't seem to have attained the same stigma of being just a bowl of something old and wrinkly next to grandma's bedside. Rather they can be a welcome addition to baked goods. 

Anywhere raisins are present, chopped prunes can be used for a bit more tangy sweetness and moisture.

In these muffins, toasted almonds give a bit of texture. Oats and a mix of white and wheat flour make them ideal for brekkie. Orange zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg give it a bit of zing. And it's all quite healthy with honey and Greek yogurt added into the mix. 

Careful when they are warm, their addictiveness hides how filling they are. Perfect for a post-run / workout bite too!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fish Cake or Low-Carb Fish Burger?

What better way to power ourselves through the weeks than with a nice fish dinner? Unfortunately, most wallets do not support a steady supply of freshly caught whatever-the-trendy-restaurant-fish-is-at-the-moment. This does not, however, lead one to succumb to fish fingers. Even though I am sure there is a time and a place for reliving such frozen nostalgic goodness, I am even more certain that if you have 30 minutes of kitchen time, the tastiest and tangiest of all fish cakes can be on your plate in less time than a run to the supermarket's frozen aisle.

Fish cakes are what I dined on in university while caring for a well-off Jewish retiree, and they have always held this image for me. Food for discerning women.

I welcome a new age of fish cakes. In fact, I will start calling them fish burgers. I think more men will eat them this way. Burgers are manly. Burgers are burly. And since so many men I meet in Italy admit openly to being on a diet, they will also appreciate the bun-less low-carb aspect. It's a win-win. So while we know these are by definition fish cakes, just tell your family fish burgers are on the menu.

These are tangy. They've got zing from all angles. Horseradish, pickles, capers, and spicy peppers. Eaten with a fresh salad and a crisp, cold, mineraly glass of white wine, they go down with much more taste than any fish finger ever resembled. Fast, keeps the summer kitchen cool, budget-friendly, and most importantly, a fresh and bright taste with a crispy texture. Welcome, my new summer low-carb burgers. 

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Drink Your Peaches - With Bourbon Please.

Peaches are a hit on the menu right now. Peach and goat cheese salad. Peach salsa on fish tacos. Peach and Brie quesadillas. It simply goes on. So why not drink your peaches?

Hailing from the most excellent American state of Wisconsin, I've learned that the Old Fashioned classic can be slightly toyed with by replacing the whiskey with it's grape-based cousin, brandy. This week, having some bourbon in cupboard after the maple-bourbon muffin glaze experiment, I decided to use this, and to introduce another variation - peaches.

An Old Fashioned traditionally consists of whiskey, sugar, bitters, and lemon. More or less depending on your maraschino cherry predilection.

Here, the sugar is replaced by honey and smashed peaches, and the lemon with lime. Some mint is added in, so it takes on a Mojito-Old Fashioned vibe. Whatever the drink tradition may be, it hits the spot on Friday afternoon.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tapenade-Tuna Sandie

Looking to liven up sandwich time? In an effort to stretch the mid-week dollar, tuna is ending up back on my plate. This is not at all as depressing as it might sound. In fact, I look forward to tuna sandwiches as a simple and quick lunch that offers me those omegas and other fishy goodies, all in a can with a pop-top.

The saving grace, tapenade: a Provençal black olive spread. I simply cannot get enough of this tangy condiment. For years, a new jar would no sooner hit the shelf of my fridge before it was headed for the recycling bin...empty, and thoroughly enjoyed.

Here, tapenade livens up whatever best-quality tuna one can procure, married with a bit of capers and mustard, topped with vine-ripened tomatoes and crisp arugula, all stuffed in a fresh slice of focaccia bread. Heaven. For lunch. On a plate.

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Plum - Chili Salsa

A nontraditional salsa in a traditional way.

Fruit salsa reigns supreme in summer on either chicken or fish. Or even just with chips and blended drinks.

Whatever fruit is laying around, mix it up with a bit of jalapenos/chili peppers, lime, red onion, cilantro and/or mint. Add a tomato or some corn if you fear straying too far away from the salsa tradition. Let flavors mesh for a few hours. Devour.

In a salsa, anything goes. Yet concerning the temperature of it, I am a bit more of a purist. I prefer the cool freshness of a salsa atop my meat. Others may enjoy it heated with the meat for the final few minutes.

Either way, bring on the fruity spiciness that is mid-summer.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins with a Maple-Bourbon Glaze

Some might splash in a little Baileys in their morning coffee. Jokes all around of tapping into ones Irishness. Living as an American abroad, I sometimes find myself tending to downplay such Euro familial connections, and instead, head straight for what America stands for. This morning, that happened to be maple syrup and bourbon. 

Yes, banana nut muffins livened up with some mapley-bourbon goodness. 

The muffins are fairly straightforward, with only a hint of maple and bourbon. But the glaze that transpired a few hours later, well, that makes them worthy of bringing to work.

For the first time, I used a bit of gelatin in a glaze. I think it helped the structure a bit. If you've got the extra ten minutes to wait around for it to 'bloom' in the water, I say give it a go. Otherwise, skip it, and the glaze should be a bit thinner, but still work out if the muffins aren't traveling far.

The deep maple-bourbon flavor marriage is grounded with a bit of whole-wheat flour and oats. Absolutely toothsome, and not overly sweet. Out. of. this. world.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Keep the Meat, Not the Heat.

It's seems to be hot in nearly every time zone. Conversations with friends afar keep drifting to 'Its just so hot in my country X.'

After weeks of wailing about the weather and devouring salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and yes, I do mean breakfast), I craved meat. 

I recently hit upon what I consider to be summer-meat-ingeniousness: thin slices of beef, veal, or pork, wrapped around some veg, cooked for a mere ten minutes in a sauce of tomatoes plus broth, with a handful of fresh gnocchi cooking along in the same pan.
Complete dinner, twenty minutes tops, no oven, and one pan.

I am in roulade love.

For last week's version (with much prettier pictures), check out Veal Roulade with Herbed Eggplant & Peppers.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend Chill {Watermelon}

The week finishes. The weekend arrives. Sometimes as early as Thursday. When we are lucky. Sometimes not.

This week finished with an abundance of watermelon in the kitchen.

One glance at the stacks of deep red triangles on the plate and I heard the sound of ice clinking in glass.

Watermelon-basil mojitos were made.

There was still more melon. What better to do while sipping our drinks than make watermelon sorbet? The blender was already out, just a bit more blitzing, mix with strawberry yogurt and the same simple syrup that was used in the bevvies, and homemade sorbet was in the works. No ice cream maker, no problem. Freeze in a shallow metal pan for five hours, then blend again with a bit of milk, and creamy sorbet was gracing my spoon by midnight.

I hope to post more weekend chill ideas using a single seasonal fruit for both cocktail and frozen treat. One moment of post-work blitzing, two very lovely ways to keep cool over the weekend.

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