Saturday, April 23, 2011

Asparagus - Love or Hate It

When I saw this fresh-looking bag of asparagus at Costco, it started calling my name. My first thought was, just roast it, and it will be OK. Well, this time, I decided to just web search for recipes and how-to’s instead of risking another soggy dish. That bit of research definitely helped. My asparagus was cooked to perfection!

This bunch was two pounds and perfect; no bruises or cuts and tender.
My asparagus cooking has been sort of SO SO…. It’s either been over-cooked or under-cooked. But, I ate it anyway.

A good thing about asparagus other than it being delicious is that it is very low in calories and has no fat. That two-pound package is about 120 calories! It requires very little seasoning; a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is sufficient for a simple dish.

• Asparagus is a member of the Lily family.
• Asparagus spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils.
• Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24-hour period.
• Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer.
• The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking...early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours.
• After harvesting is done the spears grow into ferns, which produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.

Nutritional Yeast
I have a container of nutritional yeast flakes that I had not found much use for. Thru my investigative searching, found that there are numerous uses for nutritional yeast.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1 tbsp serving): 30 calories, <1g total fat, 2.5mg sodium, 160mg potassium, 2.5g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, <1g net carbohydrates, 4.5g protein, <1mg iron.

Info from
Definition: Yellow in color and with a nutty cheesy flavor, nutritional yeast is inactive yeast that is a favorite amongst many vegans because of its unique flavor and similarity to cheese when added to foods. Sprinkle some on hot popcorn or garlic bread, or add a generous spoonful to a stir fry or pasta sauce. Nutritional yeast is also the only reliable food source of vitamin B12, so if you're vegan, it's a good idea to add some to your food regularly. Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk foods or supplement section of your health food store. You can look for either nutritional yeast flakes or powder, but be sure you don't get brewer's yeast by mistake, as it’s quite similar in appearance. In Australia and New Zealand, nutritional yeast is also called "savory yeast" or "savory yeast flakes".

Roasted Asparagus

Simple Steps
Combine 1 tbsp Nutritional yeast and 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, set aside (or more to your liking).

Combine 1 tsp Garlic Herb mix, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano flakes, set aside.
Set the oven to 425F.
Wash and snap the bottom 1/2 inch of the stalks off
Put the asparagus into a plastic food bag with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Shake to coat with olive oil
Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil

Spread the spears over the baking sheet, pointing the bottoms out.

Sprinkle the spice mix evenly over the pan.

Bake about 12 minutes
Remove from oven and sprinkle the Parmesan Cheese/ Nutritional Yeast flakes evenly over the pan.

Return to oven for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and place on serving Dish.

East clean-up: discard the aluminum foil ..
That was a lot easier than I had made it in the past!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kitchen Sink Brownies (Everything but..)

I love those small plastic lidded containers that are about 1/4 cup in size. When I have a tablespoon or two of nuts or nut butter, etc; they come in handy. There were about 10 of those containers with something in them. Well, I decided ENOUGH, either empty everything into the trash or use what’s in them. I took them out and thought; hmmm BROWNIES! The recipe is written to include the ingredients from those containers.

I also have another recipe posted: Black Bean Brownie

Kitchen Sink Brownies

1/ 2 cup black and garbanzo beans (mixed), rinsed and drained
5 tbsp cocoa
1 ounce cream cheese
3 ounces unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp oil (canola, grape or olive)
1/2 cup sucralose sweetener
1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground ancho pepper
1/4 cup Coconut Flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
1/4 tsp guar gum
1 egg
3  to 4 tbsp hot water, if needed
Add Ins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate

Pre heat oven at 350 degrees.

First, place the beans in a food processor with the spices and puree to get rid of any skins

Throw everything else into a food processor and puree until blended. I prefer to pulse everything except the eggs and water in the food processor, then scrape it into a bowl to add egg and any additional hot water if needed. After the batter is smooth enough with any added water, stir in the nuts.

Spray a 9-inch pan with cooking spray and spread the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle the chips evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Cool and cut into 16 squares

Servings: 16
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 138 calories, 7.1g total fat, 2.6g monounsaturated fat, 1.6g polyunsaturated fat, <1g trans fatty acids, 2g saturated fat, 15.2mg cholesterol, 61.8mg sodium, 95.4mg potassium, 17.7g carbohydrates, 2.8g fiber, 14.9g net carbohydrates, ,<1g starch, 6.4g sugar, 3g protein, <1mg iron.

Taste testing

Ummm, pretty good..  Who ate all of the ice cream?

Served up some later with vanilla ice cream - was very good!...

I added the gum just to make sure the brownie wasn't crumbly. Let it cool completely, if you use wheat flour and omit the gum.
Most bean brownies are made using black beans. Garbanzo beans require lots of spice or the brownies will taste ‘beany’.  If you have never had bean brownies, use all black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained.
Sucralose sweetener is same as Splenda. Feel free to use all sugar. As I was mixing this up, wanted to have a brownie that was not too high calorie and high sugar, so added half sugar and half non-calorie sweetener.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pasta Dish - from the Fridge

This is a great way to make a pasta dish without all of the extra starch. When vegetables and low-fat cheeses are added, the need for that pasta gets satisfied without the carb overload. Next to chocolate, pasta is my favorite food.
This is a way to use those small amounts of food from the refrigerator. Left-over make-overs usually taste better than the original dish as the flavors have merged. This dish has a good dose of protein, potassium and iron.
The amounts do not have to be exact; just give it your best shot. A gluten-free brown rice penne was used in this dish. Any pasta in bite sizes will work for this dish. The idea is to not overload the dish with starches, thus the small amount of pasta. Any type of legume (bean) can be used; the taste will vary according to the bean. Black, pinto, brown or red kidney beans work best in this dish.

Pasta Dish - from the fridge
• 1 cup sautéed spinach
• 1/2 cup sautéed sliced mushrooms
• 1/2 cup sautéed sweet peppers
• 1 cup canned beans (equal amounts of black and garbanzo), rinsed, drained and crushed
• 2 ounces uncooked pasta (penne, macaroni, etc)
• 1 15 1/2 oz can stewed tomatoes with peppers, onions, etc
• 1 Tbsp freeze dried salad or Italian Herb mix
• 1 Tbsp dried salt-free Italian spices
• 1 Tbsp minced garlic or dried onion flakes
• 1/2 cup small-curd cottage cheese(2%)
• 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
• 1/4 cup mozzarella, shredded, optional
do not add additional salt

• Spray a baking dish with oil spray.
• Mash the beans, just to crush them, not pureed.
• Open the stewed tomatoes and drain the liquid into the crushed beans.
• Puree the tomatoes in a food processor with the spices. (A small food processor works fine here)
• Spread the pasta over the bottom of the dish
• Place about half of the spinach over the pasta.
• Dollop the cottage cheese over the dish
• Place about half of the peppers and mushrooms over the dish
• Stir the beans and spread it over the dish
• Place the remainder of the spinach over the dish
• Sprinkle the Feta cheese over the dish
• Place the remaining ingredients (mushrooms, peppers) over the dish
• Cover with the pureed tomatoes
• Using a fork or spoon, Push down on the edges to move the sauce down into the dish.
• Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered. You may need to push down the contents of the dish if the liquids are on top.
• Remove from oven and top with the mozzarella, if desired. Allow to cool about 1/2 hour before serving, so the dish will absorb most of the remaining juices.

Great for make-ahead dishes. Refrigerate and re-heat in serving size amounts.

Servings: 4
Yield: 4 meals suitable for lunch.

Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per serving): 276 calories, 9.6g total fat, 1.8g monounsaturated fat, 2.4g polyunsaturated fat, 3.2g saturated fat, 14.8mg cholesterol, 519.9mg sodium, 770.2mg potassium, 37.9g carbohydrates, 8.4g fiber, 29.5g net carbohydrates,  8.9g sugar, 13.9g protein, 4.8mg iron.

Ricotta or additional Feta can be substituted for the cottage cheese.