Sunday, February 5, 2012

week 4: baked rigatoni with fire roasted tomatoes

For Week 4 of my New Year's Cooking Challenge I decided to make dinner for my boyfriend, Erik. He's a hardcore meat eater so I decided to appease him (although just between you and me, I'm planning on slowly but surely introducing vegetarian meals into his diet) with a baked pasta dish with ground beef. I didn't make too many variations besides using rigatoni instead of ziti pasta, so I'll just link to the recipe I used from We both loved it and would recommend it as an easy change from the same old noodles and sauce.

Monday, January 23, 2012

cooking challenge week 3: whole wheat and millet banana bread

The third recipe of my New Year's Cooking Challenge was inspired my good friend Angela Hurley, a fellow lover of all things food and nutrition. She brought some whole wheat banana muffins to share at our bi-weekly small group for our church group, St. Paul's Outreach, and it was love on first bite. On top of the normal yummy-ness you can expect from banana muffins, these had an extra surprise: they were crunchy! I know you're wondering why you would want something crunchy in your muffins, but trust me, you do. The crunch in Angela's muffins came from the addition of millet, a nutrient-rich little grain/seed that is the main staple in the diets of many of the world's citizens (my roommate Joe subsisted on them for two months while studying in Senegal). The recipe Ang sent me (by Joy the Baker) was actually for bread, so that's what I decided to make. I made two loaves, one with chocolate chips (for Joe, who insists that no baked good is complete without chocolate) and one without. They turned out flawlessly, super-moist and with the perfect amount of sweetness. I highly recommend you try this recipe!

Whole Wheat and Millet Banana Bread
by Joy the Baker

- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs (I used a flaxseed substitute, 4 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 12 Tbsp water)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 4 medium bananas, mashed
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup raw millet, rinsed

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans and set aside (I actually needed slightly larger pans).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, oil, sugars, and eggs.  Beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Whisk in the vanilla, buttermilk, and mashed bananas.  Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Stir in millet.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Carefully pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients.  Use a spatula to fold the batter together.
4. Divide the batter between the two prepared baking pans.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Banana bread will last, well wrapped at room temperature, for up to five days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

cooking challenge week 2: sweet potato and lentil curry

Sweet potatoes, lentils, and curry. Seems like a recipe for success, yes? My second adventure in cooking new things was mostly a success, but there were a few mishaps again. Oh well, you can't learn if you don't make a few mistakes, right? Although in this case I'm not exactly sure what went wrong, so maybe that doesn't actually apply here...

For my second week I decided to cook Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry, based on a recipe I found on I made a few modifications, which I designate in parentheses with the original recipe below. 

Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry
- 2 Tbsp medium curry paste (I used powder but mixed it with some oil)
- 3/4 cup red lentil (I used brown lentils)
- 2 bay leaves (I omitted) 
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, cubed
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated (I just used ground ginger)
- 2.5 cups chicken stock, made with stock cubes
- 4 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves ( I substituted about a tsp of thyme)
- salt and black pepper, to taste 

1. Heat a medium saucepan and add the curry paste. Cook, while stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the lentils, bay leaves, onion, and sweet potato, ginger and chicken stock. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the sweet potato is cooked. Season with salt and black pepper.
  • 2. Place the cooked rice on 4 serving plates, spoon over the curry and scatter with coriander leaves.

  • ---
    Overall I really enjoyed this dish, but there were a few glitches that kept it from being perfect. The recipe didn't specify whether the lentils should be pre-cooked or not, so I just added them dry. Despite my hopes that it wouldn't be too much of a problem, the sweet potatoes got done way before the lentils did. Afterwards, though, I think I might know why. The directions says to heat to boiling than reduce to low. Well, I forgot the low part. Nonetheless, though, I'm not sure how the lentils could be cooked to completion without overcooking the sweet potatoes. Another issue was a lack of flavor. It was fine, but I think I should have done more to substitute for the coriander, possibly by (a) either actually buying coriander or (b) using more thyme. Despite these mistakes, this is a great, easy-to-make dish. I highly recommend it! 

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