Cornbread

Baking has never really been my strong suit, mostly because I hate following instructions. Measuring and sifting and weighing and whatnot, I can’t be bothered. Despite my aversion, there are a few baked goods that always turn out well. I like this particular recipe for cornbread because it’s super easy and you can play fast and loose with the ingredients and it’s always good. It’s good for breakfast, dessert (drenched in honey, mmm!) or as an accompaniment for chili.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (250 g) yellow cornmeal (sémola de maíz)
  • 1 cup (140 g) plain flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • a pinch each of cumin and ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Add-ins: up to 1 cup of corn kernels, cubed cheddar cheese or chopped jalapeños

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 200º C/400º F and grease a square glass pan. In a mixing bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together using a whisk or a fork to make sure everything is well blended. In another smaller bowl, whisk all the liquid ingredients together. Pour the liquids into the dry mix and whisk gently until the batter is evenly blended. Fold your add-ins (whatever combination you choose) into the batter. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake covered with aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and tent with foil, allowing to cool for 10 minutes or so (the foil helps keep the bread moist).

Cornbread is best served warm, but it’s also good toasted the next day.

Servings: Nine squares. 300 calories per square.

Advertisements

Seafood Salad

I like that weird shredded/stick-formed fake crab stuff a lot. What’s it called? Krab, surimi, I have no idea. There are probably better things for you, but in the grand scale of things it’s not that bad. I also really love seafood salad. It reminds me of being a kid, in fact this recipe is based on my mom’s.  My version can be converted into either a cold pasta salad or used as a sandwich filling, handy!

Ingredients:

  • 120 grams of shredded Krissia (that’s the brand of fake crab we’ve got here)
  • 1 can of low-salt white/albacore tuna
  • 1/4 to 1/2 red onion, finely diced (my advice is to add less onion first and then taste, as too much strong onion can overpower everything)
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 TB capers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 2 TB Philadelphia light cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients thoroughly together in a medium-sized bowl. I use a fork in order to flake the tuna properly and get the Philadelphia mixed in evenly. Did you know that light Philly cheese has half the calories of mayo? And it gives the salad a nice creamy texture as well. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to give the flavors a chance to mingle.

Variations:

1. Sandwich filling. This is pretty obvious, right? Nom.

2. Pasta Salad: Boil about 100 grams (two handfuls, approx) of macaroni or small shell type pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, throw in a big handful of frozen peas. Seafood pasta salad is incomplete without peas. Drain pasta well and fold gently with seafood mixture. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.

Servings: Two. Calories: plain salad – 250, sandwich using whole wheat bread – 324, pasta salad with peas – 455

Lentil Chili

We loooooove lentils. They are chock full of fiber (and gas!) and best of all, they’re cheap. Lentil chili is probably our favorite version of lentil soup because it’s spicy (well, the way I make it) and it’s just as satisfying as meat-based chili. As you may have figured out we aren’t vegetarians by a long stretch, but I do like to moderate the amount of meat I eat, and we eat meatless dinners several times a week.

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams (about 1 cup) dry brown/pardina lentils, rinsed to remove any dirt
  • 1 large jar of kidney beans (400 grams), drained and rinsed well
  • 2 cups of onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a large red pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cans of 400g tomate triturado (plain tomato puree)
  • 1 TB sweet pimentón (paprika)
  • 2 tsp pimentón de la vera (smoked paprika)
  • 2 TB oregano
  • 2 tsp hot pimentón
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne (which is hotter than hot pimentón, leave this out if you can’t stand the heat)
  • some canned jalapeño slices if you’re into that
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder*
  • 1/2 tsp dried onion*
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 TB olive oil (the cooking kind, not the good stuff)

* I use both fresh and dried garlic & onion in this recipe because I think that they have a distinct flavor, and I don’t use pre-mixed chili powder as it contains weird random stuff. Chili powder is merely a blend of paprikas, garlic and salt, so why not make your own!

Instructions:

In a largish pot (or pressure cooker) lightly sauté the chopped onions, red pepper and garlic in 2 TB olive oil. When the onions start to go translucent add the lentils and lightly fry, this step helps the lentils keep their shape. Then pour in the triturado and two cups of water and stir. Add all the herbs, spices and salt, etc., stirring through. Add the red beans, mixing them in gently.

Now here’s where things get crazy: you can either pressure cook them (at full pressure which is 15 dpi) for 25 minutes (using the slow release technique) or simmer them on the stove (covered) for at least an hour. If you simmer them on the stove top keep an eye on the liquid, as lentils suck up a lot of water. You’ll also have to stir them on occasion to make sure they don’t burn to the bottom.

Serve as you do regular chili; with pasta, chopped onion, cilantro, cheese, whatever your fancy!

Servings: Approx six. 275 calories (without any cheese, etc.)

Tortellini Salad

A big thanks to my mother who recommended I call this recipe Tortellini Salad rather than “Pasta & Salad,” which what we usually refer to it as. Not too inventive calling it by its component parts, but whatever. The henceforth to be called Tortellini Salad is one of our standard midweek dinners as it takes less than 15 minutes to make, is relatively healthy and darned tasty.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh tortellini pasta – we use Giovanni Rana brand, our preferred kind is Gorgonzola & Walnuts but this recipe also goes well with the Pear & Cheese flavor.
  • A bag of salad – we prefer straight up arugula for its peppery kick, but any mix of baby greens will do.
  • Two medium sized tomatoes, chopped coarsely (again, don’t use Roma tomatoes for eating raw,  they are for cooking!) or approx 6 cherry tomatoes per person.
  • Olive oil – best quality, cold pressed.
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt (Maldon if you’ve got it) and pepper

Instructions:

Cook the pasta according to instructions (the kind we use takes a whopping one minute) and drain. In two plates divide the salad mix and tomatoes, then divide the hot pasta over the top. The hot/cold works nicely! Dress salad with a bit of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, to taste. That’s it, time to eat!

Servings: Two. 540 calories per serving.

Ensalada de Tomate y Atún

This is my favorite salad, hands down. I associate it with Catalan cooking but maybe it’s typical throughout Spain as well. It’s quite light and you need to use the best ingredients possible as it’s very simple. We like to eat it as a side dish to something heavier, like libritos de pollo (stuffed chicken breasts) or skewers.

Ingredients:

  • 800 grams of in-season tomatoes. I prefer Raf, Montserrat or “salad” tomatoes – Do NOT use Roma tomatoes
  • approx 1/2-3/4 cup thinly sliced red onions or spring onions, depending on how much you love onions
  • 75 grams bonito del norte (or the best quality tuna you can get)
  • a big handful of mixed olives
  • 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, smashed and finely diced
  • 2 TB best-quality cold pressed olive oil
  • Pinch of good sea salt, like Maldon

Instructions:

Slice tomatoes in thin wedges and put in shallow layers in a flat-bottomed recipient. Sprinkle onion slices  and salt evenly over top. Whisk together oil, Dijon and garlic clove, then pour over tomatoes and mix in with your hands. This makes a difference! Flake the tuna evenly over the tomato mix and finally sprinkle the olives over the top.

Servings: Four, approx. 130 calories.

Couscous Salad

I like couscous way more than rice, and it’s equally as versatile. This is a really basic couscous salad recipe (not exactly tabbouleh, which has more stuff) that can be jazzed up in a myriad of ways.  It’s a good accompaniment for a meat-heavy or spicy dish.

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams quick-cooking couscous
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced finely
  • handful of chopped mint or basil or cilantro, or a combination thereof
  • small handful sunflower seeds
  • a pinch each of nutmeg, garlic powder and salt

Instructions:

Put couscous, sunflower seeds, spices and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour 160 ml of boiling water over the mix and stir well, then cover and let sit for 5 minutes. After five minutes uncover and fluff with a fork. Stir in herbs.

Servings: Two, approx. 200 calories.

Moroccan Chicken Stew

I wanted something hearty yet healthy, but not the typical chili or beef stew. (Not that I don’t love chili or beef stew!) I tinkered with the ingredients and swapped out beef for chicken and came up with this version. Joel did a happy dance while eating, so I guess it’s a winner!

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams chicken breast, cut into 2 inch “tacos”
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about a cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 doble caldo stock cube
  • a handful (200 g approx) of Aragón, Empeltre or pitted Kalamata olives*
  • 1/2 cup sultanas or golden raisins
  • large jar of garbanzos (400 g), drained
  • smallish eggplant, trimmed and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 1 TB paprika (I use pimentón dulce)
  • 1 tsp pimentón de la vera (hot)
  • 1 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 2 rounded tsp cumin
  • 1 rounded tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

*Note: I can’t find pitted Kalamata olives here without going on an odyssey so I use Aragón olives and use caution not to chip a tooth.

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and throw in the chicken to brown over medium-high heat. When it’s browned turn down the heat and add onions, shallots and garlic. Sauté until transparent. Add the eggplant and carrots and sauté some more until the eggplant starts to soften. Add stock cube, spices and a couple of cups of water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add olives, raisins and garbanzos, add water if necessary. Stir thoroughly but don’t beat up the garbanzos too much. Allow to simmer for at least 15-20 minutes more over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. The last couple of minutes add the lemon zest and stir to warm through. Serve with fresh cilantro and a simple couscous salad if desired.

Servings: Six, approximately. 359 calories per serving.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Moroccan-Beef-Stew-234422