Tag Archives: breakfast/brunch

Brunch: Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata Recipe

25 Jan

I relish in a good weekend brunch but sometimes the struggle to find a reservation, battle the weather, or even worse… wait an hour, makes hunkering down to a comfy, conversation-friendly meal at home way more appealing.

Strata is a layered casserole, usually including eggs, cheese and bread. Although it requires a little planning ahead, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser. Prepared ahead of time and baked in the oven, it requires no fussy juggling between entertaining and cooking. You literally prep it the day before, let it sit overnight, and throw it in the oven an hour before your guests arrive.

The recipe below is adapted from Gourmet (RIP). My version is a little healthier using WAY less cheese (and low-fat), whole wheat bread, 1% milk instead of whole, and as many organic ingredients as possible. It was still delicious although you definitely taste the tang of the whole wheat. If you don’t love whole wheat’s sour nature, you may want to go 50/50 (white/whole wheat) but I enjoyed the contrast against all the dairy. Of course, you can go to the original recipe for the full-fat version.

And yes some of you may remember strata making quite a scene in a 2005 holiday movie. Any guesses?

Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata

Adapted from Gourmet (sniffle), February 2003 via Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 (10 ounce) package organic frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped organic onion (1 large)
Less than 1T just for prepping baking pan
Salt & pepper (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed organic whole wheat baguette in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
1 to 1.5 cups shredded organic low-fat chedder or Gruyere (3-4 oz)
1/2 c finely grated parmesan
2 3/4 cups organic 1 % milk
9 large organic eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Procedure:

1. Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Sauteed onions and spinach

2. Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Tip: When you finish a stick of butter, save the wrapper to grease pans. Or you can always lightly dip a paper towel in softened butter to prep a pan. You can also spray lightly with canola oil. Top with one-third of bread cubes,one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

Prepped Spinach and Cheese Strata

4. The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yummers!!! Don’t forget the hot sauce!

Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata

Mixed Berries

Ingredients:

1 cup of each organic berry (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Orange zest

Juice from 1/2 to 1 orange

2T chiffonade of mint

Procedure:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. If berries aren’t sweet, drizzle 1 T maple syrup (only if needed). Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mixed Berries

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Chocolate Nut Smoothie Recipe

29 May

Happy Memorial Day weekend, Food Buffers! It’s officially warm here in NYC. When it’s hot, I want my food cold (along with frosty beverages and an ice bath to soak in). What can I say? I grew up in Maine, I wasn’t made for high heat. I’ve had a smoothie every day this week and been playing around with different flavor combos.

This Chocolate Nut recipe is the perfect jump-start to the morning, or a great afternoon snack. It has a creamy, smooth texture that’s truly satisfying and is packed with nutrients and quality protein. I love making smoothies at home because I can control the portion/calories and quality of ingredients. Plus, they’re fast, healthy, and filling. If you buy smoothies when you’re out, be careful. They can be loaded with calories, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients. Try to see a list of ingredients in the smoothie. Stay away from anything with purees, tons of juices, added processed ingredients/sugars, or fillers like frozen yogurt. Look for organic or raw ingredients, whole fruits, etc.

I’ve used the antioxidant/health benefits of dark chocolate as an excuse to eat more of it (and I know I’m not alone here), but if you really want to reap the benefits, from what I’ve learned, raw, organic cacao is the way to go. Cacao nibs are crushed, peeled cacao beans. They’re deemed a “superfood” and are high in antioxidants so you get the good stuff without all the sugar. According to LiveSuperfoods.com, “Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea.”

This Chocolate Nut smoothie reminds me of chocolate milk, but better. Get your smoothie-on this holiday weekend!

Chocolate Nut Smoothie

1 cup hemp milk

1 tablespoon cacao nibs

1 frozen banana

1 tablespoon almond butter

optional: add in 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil for added nutritional benefits like fiber and Omega-3s. 

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth in a high-powered blender (like Vitamix). Drink immediately!

Please keep in mind I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, or dietician so if you have any health concerns or dietary questions, please see a medical professional. Here are some other great resources if you want to learn more about cacao nibs and the nutritional benefits.

http://www.rawcacao.com/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/356782-cocoa-nibs-nutrition-information/

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columnnn/nn100218.html

http://www.medscicommunications.com/just_for_fun.htm

For the Love of Young Coconut

3 Apr

You already know I’m obsessed with kale smoothies, particularly the coconut kale smoothie from Naturewell in LA.

I’ve been too chicken to buy a young coconut, and mine for my own coconut meat, but Whole Foods had some in stock so decided it was time to take the plunge.

Here are a couple great links on how to do it. I took suggestions from both and the gist is, be ready to wack that knife and curl your fingers so you don’t lose a digit.

How to Open a Young Coconut

How to Open a Young Coconut – with step by step visuals

Young Coconut

Here’s what I did:

1. On a very stable surface (I used a cutting board with gripper bottom), begin cutting off the white outside layer around the pointed top of the coconut, using your knife.  Continue scraping off the outside layer until you hit the brown shell.

2.  At the base of the pointy part, strike the knife or cleaver a couple times. It took me a few hard strikes until the knife was in there. Pry the top open with your knife. BE CAREFUL with this entire process. Make sure your work surface is stable and your fingers are out of the way. When you get it open, the juice will flow out so quickly upright the coconut so you don’t lose too much liquid. The coconut is surprisingly full (mine was completely full to the top).

Opened Young Coconut

Coconut Top

Coconut Top Opening

Fresh Coconut Water - look how much was in there!!!

3. Using a spoon or ice cream scooper, scrape off the thin layer of white meat inside the coconut. Be careful not to press too hard, as you want only the white layer and not the brown stuff behind it. Cut off any brown parts so you don’t have any hard particles in whatever you end up making.

Young Coconut Meat

4, Store the coconut meat and juice in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

Benefits of coconut meat & juice:

Coconut water is high in potassium and electrolytes making it a great workout hydrator. Skip all those fake drinks filled with artificial colors and added mock-nutrients and hydrate with this amazing refreshment.

The first thing I did was make a smoothie (shocker, I know). I had some frozen pineapple which inspired a pina colada smoothie. I was tempted to add rum, but figured working out with a buzz-on probably wasn’t my smartest move.

Pina Colada Smoothie

1 cup frozen pineapple

1 frozen banana

1/4 cup coconut meat

1/4 cup milk (I use hemp – add another 1/4 if you need it)

1. Blend together until completely smooth. Add additional milk if necessary.

2. Drink immediately!

Pina Colada Smoothie

Last Day to Check Out Martha Stewart’s Pie Pop-Up Shop NYC

27 Mar

The “pop-up” store/stand/restaurant is the buzzy marketing tactic of the moment. We’re seeing them all over Manhattan so it was only a matter of time until Martha Stewart had one. To launch her latest book, Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts, Martha Stewart’s Pie Pop-Up Shop opened Saturday in the Little Owl’s event venue. This weekend only, from 10am-6pm, people can flock to the shop to stuff their pie-holes. Kind of ironic that it’s right next to Equinox.

Martha Stewart's Pie Pop-Up Shop Entrance

Close-Up of Entrance

I’m not the biggest pie/tart fan, and this obvi was not vegan paradise, but I’m a sucker for foodie events so had to check it out so I could share with all of you!!

I spent a total of MAYBE 15 minutes there. It was small and crowded. I went straight for the pies and was disappointed to see there wasn’t much left at 1pm.

Depleted Pie Case

Saturday's Pie Menu (at 1pm)

All the fruit pies were gone. I got the last coconut cream pie and snagged a vegetable tart, and a spinach feta turnover.

The coconut pie was I-N-S-A-N-E. Toasted coconut on whipped cream…mmmm soooo coconuty, rich, and creamy. The chocolate cookie pie crust was delicious, think it had some coconut in it, but the sandy texture didn’t hold together at all. Luckily, I could use the thick filling to pick up any crust stragglers. I was still so surprised how much I loved this one, I’m considering going back for another.

Coconut Cream Pie

I intended to only have two bites. Ooops.

Leftover Coconut Cream Pie

The Vegetable Tart with zucchini, tomato and red onion looked gorgeous, but was disappointing. It was bland and when I bit into it, the vegetables completely deserted the tart, leaving the crust naked. I had no problem only having a bite of this one.

Vegetable Tart

I thought the Spinach Feta Turnover was going to be boring, but I was blown away by the soft, pillowy, dough. The large salt crystals on the outside reminded me of a pretzel croissant which I adore.

Spinach Feta Turnover

The filling itself was not memorable. I really didn’t taste any feta in here so they either missed this one or there just wasn’t much there to begin with. I could have eaten a basket full of just the turnover dough.

Inside of Spinach Feta Turnover

In the back they have a demo kitchen where they’re making fresh batches of pies and answering questions. [No, there weren’t any Ms. Stewart sightings while I was there]. We were informed that the eggs in the bowl were of course, fresh-picked from Martha’s farm.

Putting Egg Wash on the Rhubarb Pie

Explaining Use of Beans as Weights in Pie Crust Baking

If you’re in the neighborhood today, it’s worth swinging by to grab a snack. They’re mini, personal pie size at $3.00 each. Yesterday they limited to one pie per person (I interpreted that as one FLAVOR per person). The pie shop is open until 6pm today so take advantage of this beautifully sunny day and make it a pietastic Sunday!

If you get a chance to go, please share your experience here. What did you think? I’d love to hear about any other flavors I didn’t try, or thoughts on those I did.

MS Pie Pop-Up Shop, photo from MarthaStewart.com

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

23 Mar

I keep going bananas for bananas. I bought the last bunch intending to freeze them for smoothies/ice cream/snacks, and the next thing I know, I look on the counter and they are brown. WTH happened? Anyway, I couldn’t let them go to waste so that meant one thing… banana bread!! I found a recipe on Food52 and vegan-ized it.

Now don’t get all weirded out that it’s vegan. Open minds people!! I don’t eat anything that taste like poo and will never sacrifice taste no matter what. Healthy, natural, low-fat (no oils), low-cholesterol food can taste amazing too. I guarantee you wouldn’t know this was vegan…next time I won’t tell you.

I used vegan margarine instead of butter and added a fourth banana to ensure the bread was moist. [Ugh. Still hate the word moist.] I also found a fantastic egg substitute. There are products available like Ener-G Egg Replacer which has the following ingredients: potato starch, tapioca starch flour, leavening (calcium lactate [not derived from dairy], calcium carbonate, citric acid), sodium carboxymethylcellulose, methylcellulose. I avoid consuming things I cannot pronounce, so I looked for natural egg replacements. Peta has a great list here. I decided to try the flax egg since it’s simple, I had the ingredients on hand, and I liked the idea of adding in nutrients instead of replacing them with chemicals.

I’ve made quite a few banana breads and was shocked how well this came out. This recipe just proves that tasty food can be healthy, and vegan. This wasn’t just good for a VEGAN banana bread, it was great for any banana bread. It was moist on the inside, with a crispy, brown, carmelized crust. I mashed the bananas but kept it somewhat chunky so there are little bits of banana threaded throughout the bread. Deeee-lish!

I had a couple pieces and had to send the rest to the hubbie’s office for fear I’d eat the entire loaf in one sitting. From what I heard, they didn’t have any issues devouring it either…and I don’t think anyone knew it was vegan. You could adjust this recipe a million ways by substituting the chocolate chips with dried cranberries or cherries, or adding nuts if that’s your thing. I’m generally anti-nut in baked goods or ice cream. If you make any adjustments, please share in the comments!!

This recipe was also simple and quick. The batter came together in less than 30 minutes, then you pop it in the oven and wait for your home to smell fantastic.

Happy baking 🙂

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Makes (1) two-pound loaf
  • 3 tablespoons vegan margarine, melted
  • 4 large, ripe organic bananas mashed
  • 1 flax egg (3 T water & 1 T ground flax seed)
  • 3/4 cups organic vanilla cane sugar (or regular sugar) *
  • 1 cup organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup organic semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon organic premium vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and coat a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan with canola oil spray.

2. Peel the bananas and in a large mixing bowl, mash them well with a fork. Stir in the sugar and vanilla.

Mashed Bananas

Vanilla Sugar

3. Make the flax egg. Heat the 3 T water in the microwave until warm (about 30 sec). Stir the ground flax seed into the water. Add the flax egg to the bananas and mix thoroughly. Add the margarine.

Adding Flax Egg

4. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the chocolate chips to the dry mixture tossing to ensure they’re completed coated with dry mix. This will prevent them from sinking during the baking process. Fold the dry ingredients gently into the wet, mixing just until you no longer see any streaks of raw flour. (Do not over-mix, or the banana bread will be tough!)

Whisking Dry Ingredients

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and let rest for five minutes. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean and the bread is just starting to come away from the sides of the pan.

Banana Bread Batter

Batter in the Loaf Pan

6. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto the rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The bread has a lovely, crisp crust when it’s fresh. You can wrap leftovers in foil to store. This bread definitely tastes best the first day as it loses it’s crisp crust by day two but still has that delicious banana taste!

Hot out of the oven

Mmmm check out that big banana chunk

Chocolate Chips Galore!

*To make vanilla sugar, simply add a vanilla bean to a canister of sugar. I never take the bean out and just keep refilling the canister with fresh sugar. This is an easy way to add that extra something to baked goods as well as tea, coffee, or homemade cocoa.

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