Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad

When I made this familiar dish the other night, I said to my husband, “This is my favorite vegetable experience.” Spoken like a real food nerd, I know. But seriously, as vegetable experiences go, this is a smokin’ good one. Broccoli, zucchini, and carrots at their roasted crispy-sweetest, layered in fluffy couscous with perfectly al dente feta, held together with the undergirding tartness of a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Holy couscous salad, Batman!

While you may assume this is a side dish–and it very well serve as one–it always serves our family as an entree. (Well, an entree that leaves a little room for dessert.) As a vegetarian meal, it’s got it all: carbs, protein, and veggies.

Here’s the lowdown on how to make it:

Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad
(Recipe is original except for dressing from Food.com)

Ingredients:

For the salad:

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 c. dry couscous

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, carrots, and broccoli with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes, turning vegetables every 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, make the couscous according to package directions.

Also make the dressing: mix all ingredients except the oil together. Add oil to mixture and mix well with a whisk/fork.

Toss couscous with roasted vegetables, feta, and dressing.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Two Ways

How would you describe the perfect cookie? I think I would describe it like this:

Wait, no. Like this:

Nope, changed my mind again. Like THIS (as in most of the way eaten):

Hmmmm, I’m sensing a theme here. Chocolate and peanut butter…peanut butter and chocolate…Finkel and Einhorn….wait, what? Certain food pairings were simply meant to go together–wine and cheese, strawberries and banana, and definitely peanut butter and chocolate. I have this daydream that in the Garden of Eden the peanut butter tree was located right next to the chocolate tree, and that’s how the magic started. And even though Adam and Eve went and royally messed things up, at least this flavor combination has endured to make for happy tongues and tummies to this day.

In a nutshell, with peanut butter and chocolate, you can’t go wrong. Well, okay, maybe you could if you went and added eggplant or something, so just steer clear of a move like that. (I’m guessing you knew that.)

These are two of my favorite PBCH desserts: a soft, chewy chocolate drop cookie with peanut butter chips and a decadent Reese’s cup-type bar. Both satisfy the craving for good-to-the-last-crumb dessert comfort food. Now just imagine what it would be like to eat them together.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the peanut butter chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for about ten minutes, or until just set.

Makes approx. 20 cookies.

A bit ironic that I made both of these the week I did a lesson on dietary fat for my nutrition course…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
(Also adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and  peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 8×8 inch pan.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Chill at least one hour before slicing. Store in the refrigerator.


If you ever need to identify me by my dental records, please refer to this cookie.

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple

If this dish were a person, it would be that eccentric, crazy-dressing English teacher who had a really good heart. The one who could make the most embittered 17-year-old dude love Shakespeare, even as she paired yellow leopard-print tights with purple snakeskin boots. You know what I mean? With pork, I would never think to pair the flavors of pineapple and onion, but that is exactly what this unusual main dish does, and to great success. Because the onions caramelize as you cook them in the pan, they attain a sweetness that melds beautifully with the tangy-tart pop of pineapple. A hint of cumin and oregano reminds the palate that this is indeed a savory dish (we’re talking pork chops, after all), rounding it out as one of those heavenly sweet-and-savory Gestalt combos.

I found this recipe while perusing a library book I recently checked out, Real Food for Healthy Kids. I’m always on the lookout for healthy dinners my kids won’t turn their noses up at. Frankly, I’m a little surprised the authors included this recipe, though, since the flavor is so unconventional. Maybe they figured the pork and pineapple theme would remind kids of Hawaiian pizza? Whatever their reasoning, I’m glad they left it in. Paired with rice and a vegetable, it makes a straightforward weeknight meal I will make again. Look for a review of this cookbook on the blog in the near future!

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple
Adapted from Real Food for Healthy Kids

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced pork chops
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks in juice, drained, juice reserved
1 c. chicken broth

Combine flour, cumin, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge pork chops in mixture to coat and set aside on a plate.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook until the underside turns golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side browns, 2-4 minutes more. Remove from pan and keep warm under foil on a plate.

Add the onion and oregano to the pan and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the broth and 2 Tbsp. of reserved pineapple juice. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve pork on individual plates (with rice, if desired) and spoon pineapple-onion sauce over the top.

Banana-Chocolate Olive Oil Muffins



A couple of weeks ago my husband bought a really nice new camera–a mirrorless DSLR, the Sony Nex-5–and I frankly know very little about it (not a great sign for a food blogger, right?) but I am eager to learn. The funny thing is that I’ve been experimenting using it to take pictures not of our three beautiful children, but of food, like these delicious muffins (possibly a good sign for a food blogger?) The truth is, muffins don’t squirm and don’t cry, they don’t have to all smile at the same time, and I can easily move them around to where I want them.

My kids, not so much.

These banana-chocolate olive oil muffins are great for plenty of other reasons besides being photogenic, though. With their use of olive oil, all whole wheat flour, and no refined sugar, they are a healthier alternative to a heckuva lot of other muffins recipes out there (I’m looking at you, streusel topping). And in my opinion, they’re some of the best muffins I’ve ever made–really moist, not too overpoweringly banana-y, with a little kick of chocolate inside.

These never seem to last long in our house, though, because they are such a hit with my (also photogenic, if not easily movable) kids. Here’s one of them:

Banana-Chocolate Olive Oil Muffins
(Adapted from Healthy and Fit)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. honey
2 eggs
2 mashed bananas
1/4 c. hot water
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix olive oil and honey. Add eggs and mix, then bananas. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating with the hot water. Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake 17-20 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.

10 Unexpected Uses for Greek Yogurt


“Aaaaaahh!” (Do you hear the angels singing?)

If there is any kind of ranking system for trendy foods, Greek yogurt has to somewhere near the top–up there with quinoa and craft beer. I don’t think I had even heard of it before about three years ago. And while I don’t tend to be a fan of the trendy, whether in food, fashion, or philosophy, I am totally, wholeheartedly on the Greek yogurt bandwagon. Yeehaw!

You’ve probably heard all about its health benefits–its surprisingly high protein content for a dairy product, its drastically reduced sugar (and therefore carbohydrate) content as compared to regular yogurt, and even its lower sodium. (Though you do have to read labels and be careful about saturated fat.) All of these pros give it a nutritional edge–definitely worth incorporating into your diet frequently.

….but how? I mean, you’re not a fan of sitting down with a heaping bowl of plain yogurt? Me neither, actually. But in our family’s reduced-meat eating habits, I do try to make use of this delightful Mediterranean protein powerhouse in a variety of unusual ways. Here’s a few. (And when I say “unusual,” I don’t meant like changing your oil with it or sleeping in a vat of it or anything, so don’t worry.)

1. In Salad Dressing. Mix 1/3 c. each Greek yogurt and mayonnaise, then add 1/4 tsp. salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, and dried parsley for a creamy ranch-style dipping sauce. Tasty with veggies, chips, crackers, etc. (Dilute with milk to thin, if desired for salad.)

2. In Baked Goods. This is one of my favorite uses for GY. There are so many great muffin and bread recipes out there that call for yogurt, giving them a wonderfully moist texture, so why not make it Greek?

3. As a buttermilk substitute. Does anyone ever really buy an entire carton of buttermilk? Unless you’re the flackjap flipper at your local 300-person pancake breakfast fundraiser, I can’t imagine why you would, especially when you can make a cup of your own buttermilk by mixing 3/4 c. Greek yogurt with 1/4 c. milk.

4. In place of sour cream in Mexican dishes, soups, and on baked potatoes. Most likely you’re familiar with this one, though you may not go so far as my admirable friend Renee, who brings her own secret stash of Greek yogurt when she goes to Chipotle to avoid the high fat content in their sour cream. Top that…literally.

5. On Salmon. Mix 2 parts mayo with 1 part Greek yogurt and 1 part grated Parmesan cheese for a super simple creamy salmon topping. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Top with chives as garnish.

6. In Faux Cheesecake. As I recently posted for the 4th of July, this is a great way to cut calories in a tasty cheesecake treat.

7. As a topping on waffles or pancakes (instead of butter). Better yet, add fresh or frozen fruit on top!

8. Give it a squeeze. Shake Greek yogurt and a bit of honey together in a plastic squeeze bottle, then drizzle on fruit, cinnamon buns, etc. for a fancy, aesthetically pleasing touch! (A drizzle always looks nicer than a glop.)

9. In healthier mashed potatoes. Yeah, I get it that most people don’t immediately think yogurt + garlic + herbs = delicious, but check out these healthy herbed yogurt mashed potatoes.

10. In chicken nuggets. Nope, not as a dipping sauce. Dredge chicken pieces in Greek yogurt before breading with seasoned Panko bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or so. Boom!