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Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy National Blueberry Pancake Day!

It's January 28 and I'm celebrating one of my favorite holidays - National Blueberry Pancake Day.  I'd like to eat a stack of pancakes filled with blueberries and topped with real maple syrup every day, but I don't.  I have probably eaten thousands over the years, from those first, fantastic, steaming cakes filled with just picked blueberries at Lake View Lodge in Paw, Paw, Michigan, to the short stack at the Coffee Company I thoroughly enjoyed recently.

This year I decided to honor this special day by mixing it up a little and trying a recipe that I've eaten but never made before.  For some reason I thought the Dutch Baby Pancake, which is baked in the oven, could only be made by professionals.  I was always in awe of the Yorkshire pudding-like puffiness that the pancake rose to, in the melted butter covered cast iron skillet.  Covered in a snowy blanket of powdered sugar, then finished off with a squeeze or two of fresh lemon, I thought this is what you order at a restaurant, not what you make at home.  I was wrong.

I adapted a simple recipe I found online, filled it with fresh blueberries and blood orange zest, and seriously I almost jumped for joy when it came out perfect from my very own oven.  A sprinkle of that snowy sugar and a few squeezes of blood orange juice and I was in National Blueberry Pancake Day heaven.  I can believe I ate the whole thing!

(Thanks to The Betty Crocker Cookbook via for the basic recipe.
Thanks to Melissa's Produce Company for the gorgeous, awesomely colored and flavored blood oranges.
Thanks Driscolls for the star of the show - the pleasingly plump blueberries.)

P.S.  My brilliant friend Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious has a slightly different but equally awesome take
on the day, plus much better pictures -

Blueberry Dutch Baby Pancake
2 Tbsp. butter or Earth Balance
2 eggs (thanks Cynthia)
1/2 cup flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. blood orange zest
pinch of sea salt
fresh blueberries
blood orange wedges
powdered sugar

- Put the butter in a cast-iron or other heavy, ovenproof skillet and put in a 375 degree oven.
- Whisk the flour, eggs, milk, sea salt, and blood orange zest in a bowl until nice and smooth, then toss in some blueberries..
- Carefully remove the pan with the melted butter from the oven, pour in the batter, and swirl it around to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for 25 minutes until the pancake has puffed up the sides of the pan and is lightly golden around the edges and crevices.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with extra blueberries, and drizzle with the blood orange wedges.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Inspiration from 50 Best Plants on the Planet

Double Kale Pesto Pasta

In case you haven't heard, Kale is one of Melissa's "The 50 Best Plants on the Planet".  Off the chart amounts of vitamin K, and a great source of vitamins A and C, Kale is super high in fiber and the good amounts of B vitamins in Kale help in balancing blood sugar. Even if you don't quite understand what this means, trust me it's a good thing.

Pixie Tangerine & Kale Salad
Now if you're thinking Kale just has a great personality, think again. Braised or steamed Kale is delicious on its own as a side, or as a flavorful, healthful addition to stews, soups, and sautes. You can roast torn pieces of Kale drizzled with a little oil and smoked sea salt for tasty, crunchy "chips". Appearing in restaurants everywhere, one of the most popular presentations of this green, leafy, nutritional powerhouse is in a fresh salad, where the Kale is cut, dressed, and massaged into tender submission. Embellishments are only limited by your imagination, but do consider some type of citrus, like blood oranges from Melissa's.

When our Los Angeles Food Blogger group recently got together to celebrate all things Kale, aka Kale-a-palooza, I brought Double Kale Pesto Pasta Salad. The pesto featured 2 types of green kale, plus arugula and cilantro, pepitas instead of pine nuts, and white miso paste instead of Parmesan cheese (not missed whatsoever). Representatives from Cut 'n Clean were also there to educate us all about Kale and other leafy greens, including how Kale turns a margarita a vivid and delicious green. Thanks for being there!

Greens, Beans, Squash & Veggie Sausage
Going back to The 50 Best Plants on the Planet, I recently made a plant-based version of Cathy Thomas' Kale and Cannellini Beans with Crumbled Sausage (page 185), substituting Trader Joe's Sausage-less Sausage, adding roasted butternut squash, and Cut 'n Clean's Euro Greens (which includes kale plus Swiss chard, mustard, and turnip greens). Delish!

By the way, although many recipes call for the leafy part only, it's in the Kale stems where all the beneficial potassium is, so use these in your soup and stew recipes for added nutrition, fiber and texture.

Double Kale Pesto Pasta
pesto ingredients:
1 cup curly leaved kale
1 cup plain leaved kale
1 cup arugula
1 cup cilantro                                                    
vegetable oil
1/2 cup pepitas
3 Tbsp. white miso paste
splash of fresh lime juice
salt & pepper

Process the first 4 ingredients in a blender with enough vegetable oil to make a puree.
Add the miso paste and puree again.
Add the pepitas and  lime juice and puree again.
Add salt & pepper to taste.   Cover and set aside.

1 pkg. (12-16 oz.) whole wheat penne pasta (or any pasta you like)
1 pkg. broccoli slaw
1 green bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
3 green onions, cut into julienne strips
2 pkgs. Melissa's Hawaiian-style Tofu, cut into julienne strips
1/2 cup pepitas
3/4 cup fresh cilantro

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Rinse, drain, and cool to room temperature.
Take half the pesto mixture and blend with the pasta.
Add the vegetables, tofu, and pepitas to the pasta and toss to combine.
Add additional pesto to coat pasta mixture to your liking.
Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste, garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve.  

Makes enough to serve a small army or a group of food bloggers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

50 Best Plants on the Planet

Happy New Year Everyone! If you're as happy as I am that the holidays are over and there isn't a cookie or bundt cake or Christmas pudding in sight, please keep reading.

We all know January 1 (well really Jan. 2) is the classic target date for eating healthier, hopefully losing some weight, and with some type of exercise you'll actually do as part of the program.  It's a new year, a fresh start - if you can think it you can do it.

The program that has the best chance of succeeding is the one that inspires you to make better/healthier food choices in general, to eat fewer total daily calories, and to step away from the sofa and move your body. No, I will not be coming over to make you exercise or to monitor your calorie intake. However, I will gladly point you in the right direction to making the wisest choices when you are planning out your meals.

One of the ways to make good food decisions is to know which foods give you the most bang for your buck. These are the foods that pack the biggest nutritional punch, offering health benefits off the charts. Thanks to the folks at Melissa's Produce, who are on a mission to get everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables, their latest book should be your guide. "50 Best Plants on the Planet" is filled with interesting info and simple recipes to help you navigate the road to a healthier way of eating.

I'm going to be using this book a lot, and will share my favorite recipes with you. The first two separate recipes I'm presenting were really born to be together - Sichuan-Style Tofu with Papaya and Green Onions & Sno Pea Stir-Fry with Radishes and Almonds. These 2 recipes are packed with vitamin C, folate, phytochemicals, fiber, iron, vitamin K, antioxidants, minerals, gorgeous color, and great flavors.  Here is a picture of the finished platter, with some jasmine brown rice.  Why not  celebrate National Book Month by getting your own copy of Melissa's "50 Best Plants on the Planet".  (The recipes are on pages 238 and 300.)

P.S.  Any help you can give me on getting off the sofa and with calorie reduction will be appreciated.