Thursday, November 3, 2016

Roasted Belgian Endives with Leeks

Roasted Belgian Endives with Leeks
I'm not sure if I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, but I have been trying out some new side dishes the past couple of weeks just in case. Thanksgiving side dishes are usually starchy and carb-y, so I want to add some fall vegetables into the mix. There are so many fall vegetables available at the market right now, so it should be easy to add some cabbage, brussels sprouts, beets, parsnips, radicchio, and Belgian endives to your Thanksgiving table next to the sweet potato casserole this year. 

The Belgian endive is a leafy vegetable in the chicory family which is a good source of fiber, folate and vitamins A and K. The plant is grown underground or indoors so that the head doesn't open up like a lettuce. They look like compact, light green-towards-white bulbs. You peel the outside leaves, trim the stem end and eat the inside leaves raw or cooked.  

You probably know the Belgian endive as a bitter salad green. However, roasting them with vingear cuts down the bitterness and results in a very tasty side dish or warm salad for lunch. You can omit the butter here, but I really liked how it adds a creaminess to the dish and goes well with the delicate leeks. 

I roasted the vegetables at a lower temperature to keep the leeks and endive leaves from burning. If you need to serve more people, you can double the recipe and serve as a side dish. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kitchen Tools: About Spiralizers

This fall, I have significantly increased my consumption of vegetables and fruits in an effort to eat healthier. I have also included fall pumpkins and squash into my weekly menus. Interestingly, pumpkins and squash are treated like tomatoes in that they are actually fruits (botanically), but they are considered to be vegetables under US law! The US Supreme Court actually ruled in the late 1800s that a tomato was a vegetable for customs regulations, so it could be taxed (they imposed tariffs on imported vegetables but not fruits back then). Anyway, I thought this was interesting because it was accounting AND food related. 

So, to help add more vegetables to my diet, I have been using a kitchen tool called a spiralizer at least once a week. It must be working, because lately family, friends, and acquaintances mention my weight loss. I also feel healthier and less lethargic. I credit this awesome invention with helping me jump-start a much healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to buy yet another kitchen tool, some supermarkets sell “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) and cauliflower “rice” (crumbles) near the bagged salads. You can easily swap out pasta and rice with these pre-cut vegetables. 

So what is a spiralizer? A spiralizer falls into the category of kitchen cutting tools such as mandoline slicers and julienne peelers. A spiralizer has one or more blades (usually removable and interchangeable) that cut a vegetable into long, thin ribbons or "noodles" (such as zucchini noodles or “zoodles”).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Don’t be Intimidated by Lamb!

My family is from Thessaly which is often called “the bread-basket” of Greece due to all the flat, fertile wheat fields. My mother’s family has been farmers for years and they had a flock of sheep. They still maintain large fields of wheat, corn and cotton just outside the village. My father’s family is from a village a little higher in the hills and they were shepherds and cow-herders. My uncle still had a huge flock of sheep up until the 1990s when we went to visit! That was cool for us to see, being city kids from New York. I watched my grandmother make feta and kasseri cheeses from the sheep’s milk and they served lamb for any big celebration, as well as Easter. In the US now, we still keep many of the traditions and have lamb at Easter with roasted potatoes and other seriously delicious traditional side dishes.

OK, I know lots of people are intimidated to even try cooking lamb because it’s too expensive. Some ingredients we find at the market can be very expensive (think: some cuts of steak, lobster, scallops, veal, lamb). However, you don’t need to cook a whole leg of lamb; lamb chops are the answer! My market had some really nice lamb chops so I bought them. Then, of course, they went on sale the very next day…

Others don’t like lamb because of the strong gamey taste (you are buying the wrong lamb!) or think it will come out chewy. This might be because you haven’t yet tried Greek-style lamb chops! If we go to the Greek restaurants and tavernas in Astoria here in NY for dinner, I will usually order “Paidakia (Pa-eee-tha-kia)” or grilled lamb chops. These are made well-done since that is how most Greeks like them. I know there are those out there that prefer their meat medium-rare, but seriously, try some well-done Greek lamb chops. They are rich with flavor and not at all chewy. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Acorn Squash with a Greek Flavor

Honey Walnut Acorn Squash Fall Recipes
Today we are going to have fun with fall squash and give it a Greek flavor. And no, that does not mean feta cheese... I'm talking about honey!

My favorite breakfast is 2 slices of toast with a light touch of butter and honey drizzled on top while the toast is still hot. This is a breakfast that my Grandparents in Greece made along with toast with olive oil and sugar sprinkled on top. 

Greek honey is usually a thick thyme or wildflower honey. It has a deep, rich flavor; it isn't just "sweet." A little goes a long way. Recently, my mom gave me a jar of Greek honey and I have been putting it on everything! 

I bought an acorn squash and was looking for some fun fall recipes to try with it, but everything was butter and brown sugar. I wanted to try something different. I was eating my butter and honey toast and thought: why not add some Greek flavor to this squash? I decided to make it with walnuts and honey and sprinkled some cinnamon on top. I sliced it in half and baked it with a little butter, crushed walnuts and honey. It was so good! It tasted like I was eating a Greek dessert! There you go – Baklava but healthier!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Ultimate Comfort Food - Slow Cooker Roast Beef!

Slow Cooker Roast Beef Comfort Food
The Fall is the perfect time to break out your slow cooker and make some of your favorite fall comfort foods! I haven't used my slow cooker since last winter. I feel like spring is for making lighter dishes like sautes with fresh peas and summer is for grilling lean meats along with summer vegetables and fresh tomato salads. When fall comes around, pumpkins and squashes such as acorn and butternut are plentiful and we start seeing more root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and turnips. 

The weather is getting cooler here and beef roasts were on sale at my local market, so I decided to make a healthy slow cooker roast. I found large loose carrots and parsnips - perfect for our fall slow cooker roast! 

I am always looking for slow cooker recipes that are simple and don't use too many processed ingredients such as soup mixes or high sodium broths. They are so hard to find! So, I decided to try an experiment and make my regular, delicious oven roast beef recipe in the slow cooker.