Chocolate Cheese Babka and Le Crueset Winner

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When I was really little, we would go to my grandparents house for Easter. At breakfast, they always had this really good bread called babka. I had forgotten all about it until a few years ago, when something triggered the memory. I went searching for some, but I could only find one bakery that had them and it was way more than I wanted to pay. Ever since, I’ve looked for them each year at Easter to no avail. This year, I decided I would just make my own already. A quick search of the internet showed me that this was easier said than done – recipes were few and far between, they seemed to have crazy differences (some had tons of sugar and few eggs, others few eggs and tons of sugar), and most recipes seemed like they would feed an army.

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A little research showed me that there are actually two types of Babka – an Eastern European/ Polish kind and a Jewish kind. The Polish babka is an eggy bread that is traditionally served at Easter, while the Jewish version is closer to a cake with a streusel topping. The Polish version was definitely what I was looking for, so I sent out a twitter message asking if anyone knew of any good recipes for it. It actually turned out that Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet was baking Babka that day too, and we shared out progress as we went along. It didn’t take long to realize that the recipe I was using was no good – my dough wasn’t rising at all! Hers was successful though, so she very kindly emailed me the recipe that she used. I gave it another try the next day, with much more success. The resulting bread was light and fluffy, with an eggy and slightly sweet dough that is similar to brioche. I filled my bread with chocolate and cheese, which I thought I remembered from my grandparents, but i think I actually remember it from when I was a little older and we bought babkas at the grocery store. When I read her post about eating raisin-studded babka slathered with butter, I remembered that’s how we ate it back then. Either way thought is delicious, and this would be a special treat on Easter morning.

I don’t have a bundt or tube pan so I made a makeshift one using a springform pan and a ramekin. I just set the ramekin upside down in the center of the pan and twisted the bread dough around it. It worked just fine, so I’m glad I didn’t go out and buy a special pan for this.

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Copyright Lauren Keating © 2007-2010. This feed is for personal enjoyment only, and not for publication. Please contact lk@healthy-delicious.com if you are not reading this in a news aggregator, the site you are viewing is guilty of copyright infringement.

Lemon Chicken with Leeks and Thyme

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My Mom makes awesome lemon chicken. This isn’t it.

I’m not allowed to make hers anymore. See, I tried to make hers once – years ago before I had a decent kitchen or knew how to cook. I called and got the recipe, gathered the ingredients the best I could (wine had to be omitted since I was underage and couldn’t get any), and set off to make a delicious dinner. I’m not sure what happened, but what I ended up with wasn’t delicious at all. It was actually pretty gross. Shawn, who loves my mom’s version, has never let me live it down. Occasionally I’ll say something about wanting to make lemon chicken, but he just gives me a look and begs me to please just make something else.

This time I promised him it would be different. I wouldn’t use Mom’s recipe. In fact, I would make it as different from hers as I could, and the only similarities would be that it included lemons and chicken. He hesitantly said ok, so I came up with this recipe. It was a success!

The highlight of this dish is the sauce, which is a lot more like a gravy than my mom’s version. The sauce is very bright, and the lemon flavor is extremely powerful without being at all tart or sour. I kept the seasonings simple, with just some thyme and leeks, which I cooked right in the pan with the chicken so they would soak up the lemon while infusing the sauce with their subtle flavor. Together, the lemons and the leeks scream “spring!” and this is the perfect dinner for a rainy March or April night. I served this with rice, but mashed or roasted potatoes would also be nice with the sauce.

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Copyright Lauren Keating © 2007-2010. This feed is for personal enjoyment only, and not for publication. Please contact lk@healthy-delicious.com if you are not reading this in a news aggregator, the site you are viewing is guilty of copyright infringement.

Meat Free Friday: Mediterranean Vegetable Frittata

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We don’t make fritattas very often, and I really don’t have a good excuse for that. They’re healthy, super easy to make, and so much more convenient than omelets if you’re cooking for a crowd. Since you don’t have to worry about folding it, it’s easy to pack it chock full of vegetables – I like to think of the egg as a binder for the veggies rather than as the main component of the dish.

You can use whatever vegetables you have around, which makes fritattas a great way to use up leftovers, but I always try to include eggplant when I make them. It doesn’t sound like it would go well with eggs, but trust me — it’s delicious. For this Mediterranean version, I also added some sun dried tomatoes, a few spoons full of pesto, and a light sprinkle of feta cheese. The resulting dish was phenomenal! The tomatoes and pesto really kicked things up a notch and made this fritatta special.

I forgot to put the spinach I had in it, so I made a little salad with it on the side. Since the fritatta was so savory, it went really well together. If you want to add more bulk to your eggs though, you can wilt the spinach with your vegetables.

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Copyright Lauren Keating © 2007-2010. This feed is for personal enjoyment only, and not for publication. Please contact lk@healthy-delicious.com if you are not reading this in a news aggregator, the site you are viewing is guilty of copyright infringement.

Odds, Ends, and a Le Crueset Giveaway!

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I can hardly believe it, but I missed the 1 year anniversary of me starting Healthy-Delicious.com! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. I’ve had the blog for much longer than that, but I only started posting regularly last winter, and it was last March that I moved it to my own domain.

Anyway, CSN stores offered me a product to giveaway and I thought it would be a fun opportunity to give away a great gift to one lucky reader in celebration of the blog’s birthday. This is a good one, folks! I spent hours pouring through the CSN websites choosing the perfect gift… they have everything imaginable: from cooking gadgets to board games, and dog beds to tv stands. It’s all divided up into smaller stores though, so it’s pretty easy to navigate. They also have some really awesome deals and special values on some of my favorite cookware. So what did I choose for you? You’ll have to read on to find out. ;) You won’t want to miss this one! (pssst… it’s something from Le Crueset!)

First, see all that delicious food up there? Remember last year’s 24-hour NYC food whirlwind? Well, we did it again, and this year it was even better! I met up with Mo, Sarah, and Carol on Saturday and we proceeded to eat our way through NYC (sharing portions here and there so as to not be completely gross about it!). Our first stop was the Radiance Tea and Book House, where we shared a pitcher of the most amazing iced tea I’ve ever had (It was sweetened oolong tea with honey soaked fruit in it – it was almost like sangria with all that fruit!) and I ordered a side order of soupy pork dumplings. I love dumplings, and these were some of the best I’ve ever had. Sarah had an awesome looking ice cream sundae with homemade green tea, red bean, and mango ice creams and Carol ordered a really fun sticky rice and bean dessert with coconut milk and toasted nuts. I had a bit and it was SO GOOD! This place was a real find… not too crowded for a Saturday afternoon, it was the perfect place for a nice leisurely chat so we could all catch up. We did some sightseeing and stopped at the cutest little cheese shop for a snack – nothing like eating cheese on the sidewalk! Did some more sightseeing before we parted ways for dinner. Mo, Sarah, and I headed back to Mo’s neighborhood for a repeat of last year’s roast pork – which as even better this year! We also shared a few pitchers of sangria. [....]

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Copyright Lauren Keating © 2007-2010. This feed is for personal enjoyment only, and not for publication. Please contact lk@healthy-delicious.com if you are not reading this in a news aggregator, the site you are viewing is guilty of copyright infringement.

Review: Secrets of a Skinny Chef

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They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and in this case I’m glad that I didn’t. I’ll be honest: Secrets of a Skinny Chef probably isn’t a cookbook that would catch my eye if I was browsing around Barnes and Noble. The cover is a dull yellow-green color (I couldn’t even take a decent photo of it!), the cartoon is kind of hokey, and there’s something about the word “skinny” that really turns me off. But the description pulled me in – Jennifer Iserloh and I share a similar food philosophy that includes moderate portions of real foods, lots of veggies, and not falling victim to food fads. Plus, her recipe for mac and cheese loaded up with cauliflower sounded really good (ever since I made that gratin, I’ve been obsessed with the combination of cauliflower and cheese).

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In terms of layout, the book is very no-frills. Although there is a small insert of photos in the middle, the rest of the book is printed simply in two colors with a few small illustrations here and there. So you’ll have to use your imagination and actually read a little to decide which recipe’s you want to try. Which might be a good thing because, if your like me, you probably don’t usually bother to cook the recipes that don’t have photos. And you just might be missing out on some good ones.

The book covers a really wide range of dishes, with chapters dedicated to everything from breakfast to side dishes to desserts. There are also some really cool extras, like a “skinny shopping list” and a section dedicated to using up leftovers. None of the recipes call for “diet” foods or specify that you use a specific brand of something, and all of them include nutrition information. The recipes are straightforward and easy to make — not intimidating at all for those of you who aren’t “cooks.” They don’t involve complicated or expensive ingredients, and they’re fast to cook up.

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The first recipe that I made was the shrimp and corn fritters with sweet chili sauce. It was incredible!! The fritters were light and fluffy in the center, but crisp on the outside, and the seasoning mixture in them was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. The sauce was a lot spicier than I expected, but it was full of flavor and paired perfectly with the fritters. The sweetness of the corn also went really nicely with the spicy sauce. One serving didn’t look like much on my plate, but the three fritters (302 calories) and a side of asparagus was more than I could finish. I plan to make these again soon!

The second recipe I made was the mac and cheese that I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, this recipe and I didn’t get along very well. It was most likely my fault – I was in a horrible mood when I started cooking and it was late and I was cranky. But my pasta turned to mush and my sauce was more solid than creamy.

The last recipe I tried was the pork lo mein, hold the grease. While I wouldn’t call this dish lo mein (the sauce wasn’t what I was expecting) it was, again, an excellent dish. It was packed full of filling vegetables, and the sauce had a ton of flavor. I also really enjoyed the use soba noodles in this recipe. For 293 calories, this dish was not only much tastier than take-out, but much healthier too.

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The verdict: Secrets of a Skinny Chef contains 100 healthy recipes that are easy and accessible to make. It may not appeal to the more experienced cook that is looking to be challenged and inspired, but it’s a solid collection or recipes for more casual home cooks who are looking to eat healthier without sacrificing flavor. The recipes are family friendly, and I think they would also be great for parents who are trying to encourage their children t eat more vegetables (you might just have to tone some of the spicier recipes down a little).
Would I buy this book? A few years ago, I not only would have nought the book, but I would have cooked from it almost every day. I wouldn’t buy it today, but only because my cooking skills have evolved and the books that I buy tend to be more specialized or “gourmet.” I’ll still refer to it though, and I have marked a few more recipes that I want to try. While I wouldn’t buy it for myself, I would have no hesitation recommending it to a friend who was looking to lose weight in a healthy way or just wanted to learn how to cook without relying on processed foods.
Secrets of a Skinny Chef is available at Amazon.com for $13.49.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this cookbook to review, but the opinions are my own.

Linguini with White Clam Sauce

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I remember for a while when I was young, we had linguini with clam sauce fairly often. I don’t know if the traditional dish had a surge of popularity in the 80s-90s or what. A Google search really didn’t provide me with any information on that. Anyway, we ate this stuff a lot when I was a kid. And then it sort of disappeared. To be honest, I totally forgot that it ever existed. Then, a few weeks ago, Shawn and I went out to a seafood restaurant. As we stood up to leave, I saw that one of the people at a table near us was eating a big bowl full of pasta with clams. It looked so good! The memory of white clam sauce came flooding back to me, and I knew that I would be making it in the near future.

When I sat down to try to create my recipe, a funny thing happen. I thought, “But clam sauce comes from a can!” and I got a little confused. Those of you who know me, know that I would never eat sauce from a can, so this really made me laugh. Of course you can buy a canned version of the sauce, but why do that when it’s so easy to make from the simplest ingredients?

Really, this sauce is super simple to make and requires little more than wine, garlic, onion, and parsley. I did use some canned baby clams in their juice but, looking back on it, fish stock would have worked just as well to thin out the sauce. This linguini and clam sauce doesn’t take long to make at all, and the use of fresh ingredients results in a dish that tastes so much better (and so much less salty!!) than anything you can get from a can.

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Copyright Lauren Keating © 2007-2010. This feed is for personal enjoyment only, and not for publication. Please contact lk@healthy-delicious.com if you are not reading this in a news aggregator, the site you are viewing is guilty of copyright infringement.