Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Comfort Foods: Superbowl and Spinach Dip

Let me start by saying that I started my day on Sunday on a healthy note by drinking freshly squeezed juice of kale, cucumber and celery, and parsley. I got my superdoses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants all in one glass (see My Juicy New Year, prior post), and energetically plowed into preparing a Super Bowl feast to enjoy with our neighbors. And there the waxing of healthy and nutritious comes to a screeching halt.

This year’s Super Bowl feast was a potluck with four neighbors. Rob, the owner of the 58 inch Visio flat screen and my next door neighbor, brought 3 different types of marinated chicken wings: Cajun, buffalo and teriyaki. Marilyn added her tequila and lime marinated wings to the platter, Connie brought pigs in a blanket and other passed hors d’oeuvres and I rounded out the buffet with cheeseburger sliders, sausage with sautéed onions and peppers (on potato buns), a garlic blue cheese dip with bacon, and a spicy spinach, cheese and sausage dip, served with corn chips and kettle chips. In a fit of guilt, I made a zucchini carrot slaw to have something more than celery and carrot sticks to offer the health conscious among us. As it turned out, there was lots of slaw left over for tonight’s healthy back on track meal!

My inspiration for the dips came from my friend Debbie, who brought the spinach dip to my last indoor tailgate party for the OSU/Michigan game. It was such a hit with everyone, and so deliciously satisfying and decadent, that my Super Bowl guests asked for the recipe.

When you are looking for a bubbling, spicy, cheesy spinach and sausage dip to cure your junk food cravings—try this one. And don’t ask me who won—I spent most of my evening at the food table!

Debbie’s Delicious Spinach Dip

8 ounces Velveeta (I know, I know….)

8 ounces sharp cheddar

8 ounces Monterey jack

8 ounces salsa

1 box frozen chopped spinach

8 ounces of ground sausage, cooked

Thaw and drain spinach, squish with your hands for best results.

Chop all cheeses into small chunks.

Sauté and drain sausage.

Mix all ingredients and place in pottery or glass dish.

Bake on 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. Stir after the first 15 minutes and again at 30 minutes. If cheese becomes too crispy on top, cover the last 15 minutes with a lid to prevent crunchy top. Serve with chips or pita triangles.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Comfort Foods: Snowball Cupcakes

Ole’ man winter hit hard this year. Starting with a white Christmas, we have had our share of snowstorms in January, including a snow day! Growing up in Ohio, I was used to lots and lots of snow—the blizzard of ’78 (coupled with budget cuts) closed schools in my hometown for a month. Even with a month’s worth of schoolwork to finish at home, it still gave lots of time to play in the snow and ice. When it snowed here two weeks ago, Sophie and I made snow angels, took pictures and tried to catch snowflakes on our tongues as we frolicked in the snow.

A dear friend and fellow food blogger, Linda Skelcy (www.thegoodcooknj.blogspot.com) posted pictures of her front porch transformed by the snow and ice on her food blog, along with her recipe for a Snowball Cake. Her recipe inspired me to make a winter comfort food treat for my daughter and her friends to enjoy with hot chocolate on cold winter days. We turned Linda’s recipe into cupcakes, and they are a rich chocolate, fluffy marshmallow bite of deliciousness. Perfect after ice skating, snow man making and igloo building in the snow.

Snowball Cupcakes

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup hot coffee

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Put everything (starting with the dry ingredients) in a large mixing bowl. Plug in your mixer. Beat on low speed (trust me on this one) until well combined. The batter is very thin.

Pour into paper lined cupcake tims and bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 20 minutes. Makes 24 cupcakes

Cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then remove onto racks and cool completely before frosting.

Here comes the snowball part:

Marshmallow Frosting:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup water

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

1/4 salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 bag sweetened coconut flakes

Put all the ingredients except the vanilla and coconut into the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until the sugar is melted. Using a hand mixer beat the mixture for seven minutes or until light and fluffy. Remove from heat and fold in the vanilla.

Working quickly frost the cupcakes. Sprinkle the coconut onto the frosting.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Healing Foods: Glazed Baby Bok Choy with Sauteed Chicken Breasts

As I continue to try to maintain the healthy eating that we started in January, I have been seeking out my favorite food research and recipe sights (and cookbooks!) for inspiration. My friend Marilyn brought me some baby bok choy from Chinatown last Sunday, and I was thrilled when I found out how healthy these vegetables (part of the group of cruciferous vegetables) really are.

According to World’s Healthiest Foods (www.whfoods.org), in terms of conventional nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, and fats), we cannot find another vegetable group that is as high in vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber as the cruciferous vegetables. As a group, the cruciferous vegetables are simply superstars in these conventional nutrient areas.

Vitamin K helps regulate our inflammatory response, including chronic, excessive inflammatory responses that can increase our risk of certain cancers. The amazing K content of cruciferous vegetables is definitely related to their cancer-preventive properties through mechanisms involving better control of inflammation. The concentration of vitamin A,C and manganese are key components in their growing reputation as a powerful antioxidant. One hundred calories' worth of cruciferous vegetables (about 5-6% of a daily diet) provides about 25-40% of your daily fiber requirement. Two additional macronutrients-proteins and fats-also deserve special mention with respect to recent research on cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables can contribute a surprising amount of protein to the diet-over 25% of the Daily Value in 3 cups-and at a very low calorie cost.

So tonight, I am making simple sautéed chicken breasts, and glazed baby bok choy. The caramelized coating that comes from glazing gives a richer taste to the bok choy, and pairs well with the chicken. Healthy and kid friendly—what more could you want for a weeknight meal?

Simple sautéed chicken breasts

2 chicken breast halves, cut in half (makes 4 servings)

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp. Olive oil

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil until hot. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Saute about 5 –7 minutes on each side at medium high heat.

Glazed Baby Bok Choy, rinsed and patted dry

12 baby bok choy

2 tbsp butter

1/2 teasp. Sugar

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add butter and swirl around pan to melt. Sprinkle sugar over butter, and place bok choy in pan side by side. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, and turn over. Cook again 5-7 minutes. They outside leaves should have a bit of brown caramelized coating over them. Serve with chicken breasts