Wednesday, February 02, 2011



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The Best Lasagna You've Never Eaten

I have discovered the ultimate improvement in classic comfort food - healthy lasagna! That's right, sans all the fat, but with all the taste...but a very different taste.

I found this recipe on The Kitchn and it sounded like such a great spin on the original (though totally different) I had to try it.

Instead of a heavy, fattening bechemel, you puree cooked butternut squash with a little cheese and milk. I took mine an extra step toward healthy by trading out 3/4 of the cheese with tofu and a little fat free sour cream and honey. Honestly, there are endless various for this "bechemel" - all possibly in your handy dandy food processor. You could do tofu and herbs and make this dish completely vegan.

I didn't have mushrooms to sautee with the card, so I just added some tofu cubes for texture - talk about veggie and protein packed lasagna!

Delicious, not exactly easy (so many pots and pans!), but damn good and eating it provided none of that yucky full feeling of eating traditional lasagna that you know you shouldn't have had three servings of...yeah, you know who I'm talking about. Don't think I didn't see you...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's go to the grocery store!

I'm a self-admitted grocery store junkie. Hitting up 2-3 markets on a given shopping day isn't outside my comfort zone and I can endlessly trail the aisles at interesting or new stores for hours. Why? I think it's my inquisitive nature, born out of my desire to learn about the cultural implications of modern food purchasing. NOT! It's because I love delicious food in pretty packaging!

So when my friend Fritz (yes, that's his name, amazing right?) recommended I visit Super King Market in the far outer reaches of Los Angeles (I think they call it Burbank?), I just had to try it. Was I in for a show!

The best thing about non-traditional supermarkets that cater to ethnic populations is just how much of their traditional cultures are inflected into the stores. Crazy old Korean ladies bumping into you constantly as you grab their prized head of cabbage. Stubborn Armenian women that just dare you to move their cart out of the already-congested produce section. I could go on. I could also show you the bruises on my elbows.

Super King was other-worldly in its representation of ethnic cultures doing what they do best - picking, haggling and hoarding their favorite foods. The buzz of people in the produce section was incredible; you could barely move your cart, let alone alone walk through some of the sections. People were grabbing the sale fruits and vegetables like the megaquake is on the calendar and this was their last shot at filling the pantry!

Needless to say, very fun experience. I eventually abandoned my cart in an empty section and proceeded to make runs back and forth with my goods...always with an eye on my stuff...Yeah, I see you little old Persian lady with the kerchief. Keep your hands off my eggplant!

The store had a great selection of produce you don't see at traditional markets (hello, garbanzo beans in their shell, where have you been all my life! Good for fueling my obsession!) and some great fetas from Greece and France, as well as my new favorite discovery: Menaesh.

Menaesh is a flat bread covered in a paste of thyme, oregano, vegetable oil, sesame seeds and lemon juice (though the lemon juice wasn't listed on the package, you could definitely taste it). I am at a loss in finding anything more about it online but this is how it was spelled on the package, fresh from the bakery.

From the little information I could find online (and comparing it to what I tasted) I'm pretty sure the topping is actually Za'atar (zaatar), a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. It was delicious!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Baking Day!

Yesterday was quite the marathon baking day! Three loaves, all with similar bases and different  fruit/vegetable add-ins. At Cherryvale Farms, we have a commitment to delivering delicious, easy to make mixes that are also healthy, hence your addition of a fresh fruit or vegetable.

In the case of our "Everything But The...Zucchini / Apple Cinnamon / Carrot Raisin" bread mixes, the main add-in is the fresh ingredients you yourself supply. No gummy, rubberized, dried-out fruit or veggie bits in our mixes! No! You're in charge of making the mixes wholesome for your family - we just provide the vehicle to do that. To learn more about what I'm talking about, check out this link for a NY Daily News story on fake blueberries in processed foods. Those little blueberries you thought you were eating in your breakfast cereal or muffin may not be blueberries at all! They might be oil, dyes and gums made to look like blueberries. Ew! I don't know about you, but that grosses me out.

Here's a look at my "Everything But The" Carrot Raisin Bread, Apple Cinnamon Bread and Zucchini Bread (from left to right). Some more fine-tuning and we'll be well on our way to packaging. YAY.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chickpea Casserole

I have an unearthly love of chickpeas. I think it emerged from my love for my childhood cat, Garbanzo. Love the cat, love the thing it's named after, right? I also briefly had a cat named Cucumber.* And my sister has a cat named Cookie. I now have a dog named Walnut. Do we see a trend here?

Anyway, whenever I come across a chickpea recipe, I just have to try it. Earlier this week I came across a Chickpea Casserole with Lemon and Herbs. Added bonus: only mixing and baking involved, no extra pre-casserole steps like sauteing or sweating.  Hands on time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes. Me loves an easy (and healthy!) vegetarian dish.

Main components of the dish are chickpeas, brown rice, yogurt and cottage cheese, as well as the protein from 2 eggs. I halved my recipe since I have no need to feed 6-8 people at this point in my life (give me 5 years?), and the recipe still turned out fantastic.

If you've got a can of chickpeas lying around, I highly recommend making this delicious homage to my childhood cat Garbanzo.

*(I also have a cat named Rosy, alas she did not fit the food names trifecta.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sugar / Candy

I've been thinking a lot about sugar today, which brought me to candy. Oh! Glorious candy!

Personally, I've always been a fan of sour candies and dark chocolate and not much in between. My sister on the other hand, as a child, would devour anything with a hint of sugar in it. As an adult, I try to limit my candy intake, for fear of that dreaded, evil sugar lurking in the shadows ready to gobble up my toned (ha!) waistline.

As I've been researching different sugars (Stevia, Splenda, etc.) I took a moment to reflect on sweetness and why we humans desire it so frantically. It's in our genes, for sure, and in today's processed world it's that much easier for food producers to put traces of sugar in so many products, often without our knowing. We're drawn to sweet. We crave it.

In this research, I learned that products like Stevia (which is derived from a green plant, like sugar is derived from sugar cane) is about 400 times sweeter than sugar, and has less environmental impact. Next I found another great product yet to hit the market: Fruit Sweetness. Also naturally derived, Fruit Sweetness has the same incredible sweetness exponential as Stevia, but it's derived from the flesh of monk fruit rather than leaves. I don't know about you, but I find all of this incredibly interesting.

Anyway, I wanted to share that little tid bit of knowledge today in hoping that, when I devour a nice piece of candy in a few years, it will lack any processed (fake) sugars and instead be sweetened only by the natural sweetness inherent in plants and fruits (as it should be).

Here's a photo I took at Dylan's Candy Bar when I was in New York last summer. Like a kid in a candy store...