Thursday, December 11, 2014

Savory Yogurt with Balsamic Tomatoes

I always used the think of yogurt as a sweet food.  Maybe it's because all the flavored versions are sweet and full of fruit.  Maybe it's because I used to associate sweet with breakfast, and yogurt was always a breakfast food in my mind.

Whatever the reason, I recently realized that my all-time favorite breakfast is not only savory, but it also features something distinctly yogurt-like.  You see, there is a special place in my heart for the classic Israeli breakfast of chopped salad, labneh sprinkled with zaatar, and a little bread to lap it all up. Labneh is a thick spread that I've heard compared to both yogurt and cheese.  Really, it's something in between.

The point is, I was recently inspired by my love of the savory labneh to look at yogurt in a whole different way. Yogurt is a great, easy snack, packed with good stuff. Greek yogurt is even better with a large wallop of protein thrown in there. While the fruit flavored ones are a fantastic snack, I also love the plain yogurt and how tangy it is. 

For the last few weeks, plain Greek yogurt and crackers has been a go-to breakfast or snack for me. I love the way plain, tangy yogurt pairs with sweet tomatoes. Everything is always improved with a little balsamic vinegar, in my opinion, but you can feel free to keep the tomatoes plain. I tend to buy Chobani since they're the most widely available, but any brand will work. Whatever brand you use, I highly encourage trying a savory twist on yogurt. You might even find a new favorite breakfast combo.

What's your favorite way to eat yogurt?

Savory Yogurt with Balsamic Tomatoes
Serves 1


6-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup (or a single serving container) plain Greek yogurt
Crackers or toast (Wasa crackers pictured here)


1. Mix the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

2. Thickly spread the yogurt over crackers or toast. Spoon the tomato mixture over the yogurt, drizzling some of the extra balsamic on top. Eat immediately.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Minestrone Soup

This month’s RecipeReDux theme is “A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful,” which makes sense for November, because, you know, Thanksgiving. My immediate thought was minestrone soup. Now, for me, this memory is more of a late September/October memory than a Thanksgiving memory, but I’m thankful for it all the same.

I might have mentioned this in the past, but my favorite Jewish holiday is Sukkot. It happens every fall. We build a hut, or sukkah, in the backyard and we eat our meals in it for a week. I remember having fun decorating the sukkah with lights, strings of beads, and the longest paper chains we could manage as kids. I remember hosting my class in the sukkah every year. School was only a block away from my house, so we’d make a special, mini field trip to my backyard, where my mom would be waiting with snacks. But for me, the most memorable part of this beautiful holiday was always the minestrone soup.

Sukkot happens at the beginning of the fall season. The later it happens during the year, the colder it is and the happier I am. My favorite memories are eating in the sukkah at night, being cold, trying to huddle closer together at the table for warmth. Then, my mom would bring out the first batch minestrone soup of the year (we lived on that stuff all fall and winter long), and we would delightfully hunker down over our steaming bowls of soup and drink up the warm deliciousness. This is one of my all time favorite food memories.

The minestrone soup is no longer a magical soup for me, now that I understand that my mom made it because it was ridiculously easy to put together, but it still holds those wonderful memories in it. I should note that my family calls it minestrone because that’s what it most resembles, but my mother is a Hungarian Jew who was just trying to find a soup all three children could enjoy, so it’s not the most authentic recipe. And that’s totally fine by me.

This soup calls for a couple of canned goods, some fresh veggies, and not a whole lot of time on the stove. Not only is it comfort food for me, but it’s a very dorm-friendly recipe, one that I plan on using all winter long. While there are some basic ingredients that make this soup what it is, there are also a number of optional additions that we’ve added in the past, depending on what we have on hand. Here I’ve made the most basic version, but I’ve also included a list of additions.

One thing to note is that there are no noodles in this minestrone. I don’t know why, but noodles in soup have never really appealed to me. They tend to feel like mushy blobs of nothing, so I leave them out. Growing up, we’d sprinkle croutons over the soup instead to give each bite a nice little crunch. Delicious.

What food memory are you thankful for?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Five Spiced Sweet Potatoes

This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “Spooky Spices.” The idea is to tackle a spice that has been haunting (or intimidating) you. For me, the choice was immediately obvious: Five Spice Powder.

I don’t know what it is about this spice mix, but it’s always intimidated me. It just smells so...unfamiliar. So this month I decided to tackle this spice blend. The Flavor Bible managed to fail me completely (it lists chicken, pork, duck, and stir fries as good flavor pairings) and my initial google searches for recipes turned up chicken or noodle/stir fry dishes. While I’m always game for a good stir fry, I’m also currently living on a student’s budget (refer back to my last post on my tiny room for details), so I decided not to go all out on some big or elaborate recipe. Finally, I stumbled across a simple, beautiful, easy, and best of all, cheap recipe for sweet potatoes with five spice powder. Perfect.

Turns out this dish is fantastic! The lime juice adds a little tang and the five spice powder helps bring out the sweet earthiness of the sweet potatoes. It’s also ridiculously easy to make. I made this in just over half an hour, in my toaster oven. Easy to make, easy to clean up, and definitely easy to eat! Turns out this spice isn’t so spooky after all

What spice scares you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Beginnings (And A Tiny Kitchen!)

Tonight is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I think it’s fitting that this year it coincides with the beginning of a very exciting opportunity for me. As you know, about a month and a half ago I moved from a pretty spacious one bedroom to a tiny studio with barely any kitchen. Before the move, I pared down my kitchenware considerably, putting some of the less essential things in storage.

The kitchen I worked with all of August
The big news is that I have since moved again! I had a last minute opportunity to start my Dietetic Internship six months sooner than originally planned, so I once again packed up my life and moved. This time, I’m living in less that 100 square feet, in a dorm room. Which means that I once again had to weed through my kitchen and pick out just a few, absolute, essential pieces to take with me. 

My essential pantry items!

Now, I’ve lived in dorms and apartments with fully functioning kitchens for the last 6 years, and as you might know by now, I very much enjoy cooking food. So you better believe that I’ll be using the communal kitchen regularly, though I also rigged up a small personal kitchen space in my room for daily use. All this means that my kitchen supplies have to be 1) extremely portable and 2) significantly reduced. So I came up with a list of my absolute kitchen essentials:

My new digs!

Knives: Good quality knives make life easier. However, since this is a temporary set up for me, I brought my B-list knives (and will slowly go crazy over the next year using them). Either way, there are only 3 knives that you really need; a paring knife (though if you’re desperate, you could skip this one), a serrated knife, and a chef’s knife (the bigger and the heavier the better, in my opinion, and definitely the most important of the three). Ditch the huge set and just take these.

Cutting Board: I only need one. I love my wood cutting board, which just happens to be small and portable. If I ate meat or fish, I would add a similarly sized plastic cutting board as well. But I don’t, so only the one is necessary.

Pots and Pans: Because I am in a dorm, with limited storage, cooking for one, this list is different than what I would consider essential in a permanent kitchen. I brought with me a small, non-stick pan, and a 4 quart saucepan with a lid. That’s it. I would LOVE to have brought my 10 inch cast iron skillet, which I use ALL THE TIME, but it’s heavy and not particularly portable, so into a box it went along with all my larger scale pots and pans.

Baking: I rarely bake. At most, I roast vegetables in the oven. Since I have a toaster oven anyway, I figured I would keep my baking supplies to things that fit in there. So, I have a square cake pan, the roasting tray that came with the toaster, and tons of tinfoil. That’s it!

Utensils: One wooden spoon, one silicon spatula, and one set of tongs are all I need to accomplish what I want. Oh, and my large strainer, which I can use to drain beans, pasta, or cold brewed coffee.

Appliances: I happen to have a Cuisinart immersion blender with several attachments that cover most of my bases. I’ll be bringing all of those with me, minus the whisk. I also have my aforementioned toaster oven, an electric tea kettle, and a mini fridge. When it gets colder out I’ll probably bring my crockpot back from my parents’ house (but it’s not necessary yet). I might change my mind and bring in my personal blender later, but for now this is all I’ve got.

Eating: I’m bringing plates, bowls, and silverware for 2. I use mason jars as food storage and decided that they can totally double as drinking glasses. Again, I’ll be living in a dorm room, so space for both storage and guests is limited. But this way I can handle having a friend over or a weekend guest. If for some reason I am feeding more people than that, I can always grab paper plates and plastic cups and silverware from any store.

Misc: Can opener, vegetable peeler, scissors, and measuring cups and spoons are all on my must-have list. Also on that list are mixing bowls (minus the largest two of my set) and food storage containers, which for me is the aforementioned jars and also my handy glass tupperware.

That’s it! And, with the exception of the appliances, it all fits rather nicely on this little rolling cart for maximum portability. I plan to take the whole thing, roll it down the hall, cook up a storm, clean up, and roll it back to my room at least once a week. Needless to say, it will be very interesting to see how this next year of tiny living (and blogging!) goes.

Oh, I also moved from this view:

To this one:

Sigh.  It's only one year.

If you had to pare down your kitchen to the absolute bare essentials, what would be on your list?

Wishing everyone has a happy and sweet new year!  Here's to new adventures!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Apple Walnut Salad

Summertime means salad time in my mind. All I want is something light and crisp to eat, none of these heavy meals. Just give me fresh fruits and veggies, and very little else, and I will be one happy camper.

I made this salad for a shabbat dinner I hosted at the beginning of the summer. I made it because all my normal go-to salad ingredients were being used in other dishes in the meal, so I had to think a little out of the box. I had three different kinds of beautiful greens from my CSA box, so I put them all together, chopped up a few apples, sprinkled on the nuts, and tossed it all with my new obsession, my homemade honey mustard vinaigrette. It was so good, that I made it again the next week. And the next. In fact, I’m eating it right now.

The point is, this salad is simple, crisp, refreshing, and delicious. The sweet apple is nicely offset by the tart cherries, and the walnuts add something to crunch on. The honey mustard vinaigrette is light enough that it doesn’t take away from the freshness of the salad. The whole thing is quick to throw together and always comes out well. This is not a salad that can be your entire meal, but it is a lovely accompaniment to a light sandwich or a chilled soup. I highly recommend eating it outside on a warm sunny day or a breezy summer evening.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Brownie Bites

This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “Bars and Bites for Brown Bags.” It’s actually very fitting that this comes at a time when I’m running around like crazy (to be fair, when am I not?). You see, for two weeks every summer, my family goes down the shore. This year, I’m back and forth during the week so that I can go to work. This means that my fridge is annoyingly empty yet I have little desire to fill it.

But I still have to make my lunch so that I have anything to eat at work. That’s where these brownie bites come in! These bites are delicious, packed with seedy goodness, feel like a decadent indulgence, and can happily hang out in my fridge or freezer while I ignore them half the week.

Similar to my no bake oatmeal cookies, these brownie bites start with nuts and dates. The dates keep things together while the nuts add some heft. Then I add seeds. Here, I chose a mixture of chia and hemp seeds because, well, they happen to be in front of my face when I made these. Sesame or flax seeds would also work well, or replace the seeds with the equivalent amount of ground walnuts and call it a day. Finally, some cocoa powder and vanilla are added in to round out all the flavors.

Take the mush, roll it into balls, pop them in the fridge, and consider dessert for the week made. For me, I like to eat these as my afternoon indulgence snack. You know, around 3 pm when you’re not really hungry but you need a quick break from work? Yea, that’s when I eat these. It’s like a quick piece of paradise in the middle of the afternoon.

What snacks go into your lunch box?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Everyone knows that my go to salad dressing is my balsamic vinaigrette. I’ve used it so much that it totally has its own reputation by now. But a few months ago, I sadly smashed a full, unopened bottle of balsamic vinegar leaving me with too little balsamic and a salad that had to be dressed for dinner in a few hours. So I had to think of something else to use to dress my salad and I decided to try my hand at a honey mustard vinaigrette.

Oh. My. Goodness. This stuff is good. So good, I think I’m ready to replace my usual go to vinaigrette with it. Instead of balsamic, I used white wine vinegar, but I’ve also made a version of this without any vinegar if you don’t have it on hand. I love the sweet mustard flavor that comes through in this dressing. I keep the seasonings minimal so that they don’t overpower the mustardy goodness, and I thinned it out a little with some water because I decided that there was plenty of oil in there already.

Side note: I’ve discovered that by using just a little water in a vinaigrette, you manage to maintain all the flavor, keep the dressing thick enough to really coat your salads, but you get to thin it out slightly, which also helps stretch the use of each batch. The trick is not using too much water, which will make your dressing a thin, runny mess that pools at the bottom of your salad bowl. Nobody wants that.

Anyway, I highly encourage branching out from your usual routine and trying something new every once in a while. You never know when you’re going to come across a new favorite!