Kale-Almond Pesto

kale pesto

I am thrilled that in recent years, kale has gained respect as the new ‘it’ vegetable. See, for a good number of years, this leafy, powerful green was cast aside for more delicate offerings like baby spinach and arugula. If kale is the poster child for health and all things good and wholesome in the booming food movement, then I am a supporter, a rebel for the cause. I can’t get enough of the stuff. I shred the Tuscan variety for salads, roast it’s leaves for ‘chips’ and stuff handfuls in my blender, whirring up green smoothies. Why the near obsession? Aside from it’s versatility, you can’t forget that, ounce for ounce, it contains more nutrients and health benefits than just about any vegetable on earth?!

This method for kale pesto includes an extra step you won’t see in traditional basil pesto recipes. Blanching the kale helps retain it’s bright green color, softens it a bit and mellows the flavor just a notch. Don’t skip it.

Aside from pasta,  smear your kale pesto on sandwiches, fold into grain salads or spread on sliced tomatoes and mozzarella for a new take on the classic caprese.

Kale-Almond Pesto

Adapted from True Food Kitchen by Dr. Andrew Weil

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 large bunch kale (about 6 cups), inner stems removed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add kale and cook for blanch for 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water and allow to cool. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can (in a kitchen towel or with your hands.

In a food processor, add the dried kale, garlic, cheese and almonds. Pulse to combine. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil. This will give you a thicker pesto, if you like it thinner, add more olive oil. Pulse in the lemon zest, juice, salt and red pepper flakes, taste, and add more of everything to achieve pesto perfection. Toss with hot pasta immediately or store in the fridge in an airtight jar or container with a layer of plastic wrap over the surface. Will keep for 3-4 days.

Monster Cookies

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Peanut butter-oatmeal-M&M cookies. Need I say more?

These cookies hail from Kelly Senyei’s wonderful site, Just a Taste. Thick, chewy and peanut buttery, these are not the ones you set out for afternoon tea. They’re the ones you bring in a Tupperware to a friend’s for a New Girl marathon. Or on a road trip. Or anywhere, for that matter.

I used commercial PB –  Skippy is my favorite for baking. I suppose you could use natural peanut butter, but the texture might be more crumbly. These cookies do not contain flour, but rely on old-fashioned oats to bind the dough together. I used M&Ms (Easter colored!) but you could sub in (or add) chocolate chips, toffee chips or any other tasty bit that you have lying around.

These go really well with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk. And your DVR lineup.

Monster Cookies

Recipe adapted from Just a Taste

1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3 eggs
1½ cups peanut butter (smooth or chunky, I used Skippy)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup M&Ms (mini or regular)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream together the white sugar, brown sugar and butter with an electric mixer.
  3. Beat in the eggs, peanut butter, vanilla, baking soda and salt.
  4. Stir in the oats and M&Ms.
  5. Scoop 2-to 3-tablespoon mounds of the dough onto a parchment paper- or Silpat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

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Maple-Olive Oil Granola

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I’ve been on a granola-making spree for months now. While my old recipe was good, it was a bit ingredient-heavy and frankly not the best it could me. Enter: Early Bird Granola. This farm market favorite has earned a massive cult-like following, with a price tag to match. Yes, it’s delicious, but in the spirit of DIY (and in an effort to save a bit of cash), I make my own version based on this method from The Kitchn.

‘Olive oil?’ you say. Believe it. The subtle fruitiness of olive oil lends a really interesting depth when combined with pure maple syrup and a heavy pinch of salt. It’s a bit sophisticated; it’s a granola that belongs on dollops of tangy Greek yogurt with winter fruit compote than, say, nonfat key lime Yoplait.

The best part is its’ versatility – you can use any combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit you like. Let me know what variations you create!

Maple-Olive Oil Granola with Hazelnuts & Cherries

3 cups old-fashion rolled oats (NOT quick oats)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried fruit*, roughly chopped (I used cherries)
1/3 cup seeds*, toasted (I used pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup nuts*, toasted and chopped (I used hazelnuts)

  1. Heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix the oats, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir in the olive oil, maple syrup and vanilla.
  2. Spread the granola out on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every so often for even color until light brown and toasty (mixture may appear a bit wet, this is OK).
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, toast the nuts/seeds. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350F until light brown, about 10 minutes (watch them so they don’t burn!)
  5. Transfer cooled granola in a large bowl, breaking up large pieces into chunks. Gently fold in the dried fruit and toasted nuts and seeds. Store in an airtight container for about 10 days (or in the fridge for about a month).

*You can add any combination of fruit/nuts you like. I love working with dried figs, cranberries, golden raisins and apricots. Almonds, walnuts, pecans and even cashews are all welcome additions. I often throw in some sesame seeds, too, for even more crispiness. I’m working on a cacao-nib & coconut oil version…stay tuned.

Quinoa Pilaf with Garam Masala

When people ask me what I do in my “day job”, I tell them I cook a lot of quinoa and saute a ton of kale. These two superfoods are favorites among busy New Yorkers who need their food to multitask. Quinoa, in particular, is a powerhouse. It’s a complete source of protein, naturally gluten free and versatile, easily subbing for couscous or run-of-the-mill rice. I like using it as a base for an Indian-inspired pilaf with toasted spices, plump raisins and a little crunch from carrots and almonds. It’s delicious served warm or cold  and makes a great lunch or light dinner (throw in some chickpeas for a bit more staying power). Now, time to tackle that kale…

Quinoa Pilaf with Garam Masala

Makes about 4 cups cooked quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 small carrots, diced
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 cup quinoa (I used a mix of red and white quinoa)
2 cups water or broth
1/4 cup golden raisins (or another type of dried fruit)
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped (or another type of nut)
Juice of 1 lemon
Handful parsley, chopped
Salt, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and carrots and sweat, about 5 minutes. Add the garam masala and tumeric and stir, toasting the spices until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa, a large pinch of salt and water (or broth). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed (use a fork to check). Remove from heat, add raisins and re-cover. After about 5 minutes, remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork. Gently fold in the toasted almonds and parsley. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

*Garam masala is an Indian spice blend. It can be found at spice shops (like Kalustyans) and at most large grocery stores (like Whole Foods). It’s simple to make your own. Combine 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Try tossing with veggies like sweet potatoes or cauliflower before roasting or as a spice rub for chicken, fish or pork. I’ve also been known to add a pinch to apple sauce.

The Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

These are it (dare I say?) the perfect oatmeal cookie. I don’t use the ‘P’ word lightly, you see, it just sets the bar too high. But these, these are some mighty fine cookies, if I do say so. What makes them different? The basic thick & chewy cookie is bolstered with 2 kinds of oatmeal (old-fashioned and quick) for varying texture. Keeping with the theme, both golden and black raisins add a pop of sweetness. Toasted pecans provide a satisfying crunch. And have patience: a chill before baking allows the dough to “marinate”, melding the flavors and preventing excess “spread” during baking. So follow the recipe, pour yourself a cup of tea and revel.

The Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Yield: About 4 dozen small cookies or 3 dozen larger cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup black raisins
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Repeat this process twice more with the remaining 2/3 of the flour mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and pecans.
  3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or the freezer for about 15 minutes. You can refrigerate the dough for up to 24 hours before baking.
  4. Roll the dough into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten the tops slightly. Bake for 1o to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. They are done when the edges are lightly golden – the tops may appear a bit doughy.
  5. Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the hot baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
-Recipe adapted from  smitten kitchen

Pumpkin Spice French Toast with Roasted Walnuts and Warm Maple Drizzle

It seems like everyone is on the pumpkin spice train these days. This French toast rolls the best of Fall into one. Earthy pumpkin + warm cinnamon + toasty walnuts + sweet maple syrup. Throw in some plaid, a cute pair of boots and a fuzzy sweater and you might be the season’s poster child. Best of all, this dish comes together in about 10 minutes (who says French toast is only for Sundays?)

Pumpkin Spice French Toast with Roasted Walnuts and Warm Maple Drizzle

Serves 2

Ingredients

French Toast:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk (your choice, I used vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 slices whole grain bread

Maple Drizzle:

  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoon walnuts, toasted and chopped*

Directions

  1. Heat  canola oil or butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. In a shallow dish, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, milk, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, pumpkin puree and a pinch of salt.
  3. Place the bread in the egg mixture and flip to coat each side. Transfer to the preheated skillet. Cook on medium-low for about 4 minutes or until bread slightly puffs up and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and continue cooking an additional 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate or to a sheet tray in a 200°oven until ready to serve.
  4. For the maple drizzle, in a small microwaveable dish, combine  maple syrup with pumpkin pie spice. Microwave for about 10 seconds.
  5. Top the french toast with toasted walnuts and drizzle with the warmed maple syrup.

*To toast walnuts, preheat oven to 350°. Place walnuts on a large rimmed sheet tray. Toast for about 8 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden (check them often – they burn easily!) Toast up a whole mess of walnuts and store them in the freezer.

Homemade Nutella

I was first introduced to Nutella, the Italian chocolate hazelnut spread, by my grandmother. Growing up, it was a novelty – and the fact that it was from Europe made it seem extra fancy. Whether slathered on toast, crackers, pretzels or quite honestly, a spoon, Nutella is downright addictive. Flash forward to college, when I spend a semester in Florence. Nutella was crazy-popular and to my delight, better than the U.S. version and much cheaper than imported peanut butter. I like to think of Nutella like instant-dessert – a dollop on anything and you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth. My version is a little thiner than the jarred variety but does the job without added sweeteners, thickeners or preservatives. Warning: this is highly addictive! And yes, that is a homemade croissant…but we’ll save that for another day!

Homemade Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shelled hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup high quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used 62% chunks c/o Scharffen Berger)
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Directions

  1. In a food processor, blend hazelnuts until they reach a peanut butter-like consistency.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your double-boiler. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Reduce to a simmer and place a stainless-steel bowl with chocolate directly over the stove (the bowl should fit comfortably and should be wider than the saucepan). Stir the chocolate to melt. Remove when melted. Cool slightly.
  3. Place melted chocolate in the food processor with hazelnut puree. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and blend.
  4. Store in the fridge.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans and Rustic Cornbread

I know what you’re thinking: “Clare, really? Another weird, mushy vegetarian bean recipe?  And sweet potatoes…again?!” Yes, yes and oh, most definitely, yes. Guys, I admit it, I love me some legumes. As part-time vegetarian (or flexitarian, although that term denotes some crazed body-builder diet) beans are a staple. They’re like the MVP of foods – filling, inexpensive, versatile, and most of all, delicious.

Okay okay enough about legumes. Let’s talk stew. This dish is an interpretation of a traditional West African ‘groundnut’ soup. A base of sweet potato, tomato and red bell and green chili peppers is accented with the richness of peanuts  for an unexpected and decidedly savory finish. Even my meat-eating friends loved this!

As an added bonus, this dish is easy on the wallet and clocks in at around 300 calories per serving. You can make this on the stove top in about 45 minutes or stew all day in the slow cooker. Serve with simple cornbread or couscous.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings

  • 2  tsp.  olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into medium dice
  • 1 15-oz. can red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2  cups low-sodium  vegetable broth
  • 1  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2  cup  water
  • 1  tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2  tsp. kosher  salt
  • 1/2  tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4  tsp. black pepper
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1  (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 3  T. creamy peanut butter
  • 3  T. chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • 6  lime wedges

Directions

Stove top:

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, saute 5 minutes or until translucent.
2. Add sweet potato and next 10 ingredients (through chiles). Cover and cook on medium until sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 mins.
3. Turn off heat and using a potato masher, mash stew until thick and chunky.
4. Spoon 1 cup cooking liquid into a small bowl. Add peanut butter; stir well with a whisk. Stir peanut butter mixture into stew.
5. Stir in chopped peanuts; serve with lime wedges.

Slow cooker:

  1. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender.
  2. Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Add sweet potato and next 10 ingredients (through chiles). Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Spoon 1 cup cooking liquid into a small bowl. Add peanut butter; stir well with a whisk. Stir peanut butter mixture into stew. Top with peanuts; serve with lime wedge

Source: Cooking Light via Jen Loves Kev

Rustic Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 3 T. canola oil
  • 2 cups yellow or white cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder OR 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or  buttermilk*
  • 1 T. honey

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place oil in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or similar-size glass baking dish and transfer to the preheating oven.
  2. Mix cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg and milk (or buttermilk); stir until just combined. Remove the pan from the oven and swirl the oil to coat the bottom and a little way up the sides. Very carefully pour the excess hot oil into the cornmeal mixture; stir until just combined. Pour the batter into the hot pan.
  3. Bake until the bread is firm in the middle and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes then drizzle with honey.  Serve warm.

*Tip: In a pinch, make buttermilk  by adding 1 tsp. white vinegar to 1 1/2 cups milk

Source: EatingWell

Marathon Granola

In a few weeks, I’m running the More/Fitness Half Marathon in Central Park. Despite last year’s race day rain, I signed up again and could not be more excited!

People sometimes ask me if I eat differently while training (I’ve done a full marathon and quite a few half marathons). In my amateur experience, I found it’s particularly important to adjust your eating a few hours BEFORE a run so you don’t end up with cramps or dehydration. Before a run, I fuel up with old-fashioned oatmeal, whole grain toast with nut butter or fruit.

Overall, it’s basic nutrition, people. You probably don’t want to eat Chipotle the night before an 8-miler and it’s usually not the smartest to keep up your college-level alcohol consumption if you want to improve your 10-K time. Just a thought.

Granola is a perennial favorite – crunchy, nutty and perfect for when you want something sweet. It’s also a stellar source of energy (also known as calories). I like to sprinkle this over plain Greek yogurt and fruit for lasting energy before a long run or jam-packed day. It also adds a nice crunch to a bowl of hot oatmeal or mixed in with your favorite cereal. A little goes a long way!

Marathon Granola

Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients:

Dry:

  • 2.5 cups rolled oats (regular not instant)
  • 1 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 2 tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 tbsp sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt

Wet:

  • 4 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp applesauce
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Add-ins:

  • 1/3 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dates, apricots, cherries…)
  • handful seeds (sunflower, sesame…)

Directions: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the wet ingredients. Stir well. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a very large mixing bowl, Mix together the dry ingredients.

Add the wet mixture (while still warm!) over top the dry mixture and stir well. It will be very thick and hard to stir, but keep at it until everything is thoroughly combined.

Spread onto a pan lined with parchment paper or a non-stick mat and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven every 15 minutes and give the granola a good stir to ensure even baking.

Allow to cool for 20-25 minutes on the pan before serving. The granola will stiffen up as it cools. Makes about 6 cups and will keep for 1 month in the fridge in an air-tight container.

-Adapted from Oh She Glows

Zucchini with Couscous Stuffing

I had zucchini…and little else. I remembered a recipe I saw in Real Simple magazine for stuffed zucchini. Suddenly finding myself out of quinoa, void of cherry tomatoes and lacking cannelini beans I improvised with couscous, canned, drained tomatoes and good ol’ garbanzos. A few almonds, some Parmesan and my Sunday night was looking a little brighter.

I’m planning on using the leftover filling to stuff peppers and perhaps eggplant this week. And BONUS JONAS*, the filling is quite tasty on its own, like the grain salads at Whole Foods.

Zucchini with Couscous Stuffing

Recipe adapted from Real Simple magazine

Serves 4

Total Time: 55 minutes

  • 1 cup dry couscous (I used whole wheat)
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans (garbanzo, cannelini etc.) rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained OR 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Cook couscous according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Arrange in a large baking dish, cut-side up.
  3. Fluff the couscous and fold in the beans, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, 1/2 of the Parmesan, oregano and 3 tablespoons of the oil.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini. Top with the remaining tablespoon of oil and rest of the Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake until the zucchini is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

*Bonus Jonas, also known as Frankie Jonas, is the youngest of the Jonas Brothers, the pop group known for their tight pants and wholesome virtues.  For all intents and purposes, any reference to “Bonus Jonas” is not referring to Frankie, but to that “wait, there’s more!” feeling you get, culinary speaking, a sort of post-script, i.e. “I found an extra fry at the bottom of the bag. Bonus Jonas!”