Monday, November 28, 2011

Barley - Again?

In March, 2010, I wrote about barley.  Well, once you discover a good thing, you stick with it.  And I have discovered barley.  Barley can be purchased hulled, pearled and rolled (quick) cook. 

Hulled barley is similar to brown rice.  It retains the bran and therefore, takes longer to cook than pearled or rolled barley.

Pearled barley is similar to white rice.  The bran has been removed.

Rolled barley is flatter and requires the least amount of time to cook.

Although this recipe is included in my holiday collection, this is a great fall recipe and would be a great accompaniment to pork or chicken.  If this dish does not make an appearance at your holiday table, you can still give it a try.

Butternut and Barley Pilaf

Winter squash contributes a rich, full flavor to a simple barley pilaf.  Gremolada, an Italian mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic, gives the dish a lively finish.

Serves 6.


2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (14 ounce) reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1¾ cups water
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, or to taste


1.  Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

2.  Add broth, water and barley; bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley is just beginning to soften.  Add squash and cook until squash and barley are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.

3.  Add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; mix gently.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Green Beans

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about that ever present Thanksgiving dish – Green Bean Casserole.  This week, before the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to post another green bean recipe for people who just can’t fall in love with the green bean casserole.  I found this recipe after a few failed attempts.  I must say it is my favorite recipe.  I could not stop eating them.  Now how many times can you say that you have been unable to stop eating green beans?

There are a couple of things that I like about this recipe – it can be partially prepared ahead of time and it is cooked completely on the stovetop.  It is quick and simple. 

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Serves 6.


1½ pounds green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1½ Tablespoons olive oil
1½ Tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced 


1.     Fill a Dutch oven about half full of water and bring to a boil.  Add green beans; cover, reduce heat.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain beans.

2.     Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add beans, juice, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with parsley. 

Note:  If desired green beans can be cooked ahead of time and sautéed just before serving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Potatoes - Queen of the Show

Okay, last week was king of the holiday side dishes. This week is the queen.  And a king needs a queen.  In a January post, I wrote about sweet potatoes being the new "in" food for 2011.  In the South, a holiday is not a holiday without sweet potatoes.  In homage to my Southern roots, I had to have sweet potatoes as a part of my healthy holiday side dishes. 

As a kid, we ate sweet potatoes two ways; one was baked with nothing added and the other was candied with lots of sugar and butter.  We considered candied yams a side dish, while some of my Midwestern friends say they are dessert.  When most people talk about sweet potatoes and the holidays, they refer to sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  Although, I didn't grow up with marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, I do like them.  But I am not psychologically attached to them - not like candied yams.

I normally try and throw a little nutrition into my posts, but it's the holidays.  So let's just say sweet potatoes are loaded.  They have some of everything that you need.  This year, we will not bury sweet potatoes beneath marshmallows.  Nor will we load them up with sugar and butter.  We are going to bring out the natural goodness of sweet potatoes.

Southerners often combine sweet potatoes and coconut.  And why not, they are both tropical crops.  Sometime ago, I found a recipe for sweet potatoes, coconut milk and grated ginger.  I thought the combination sounded wonderful and perfect for the holidays.  According to the source, this dish is known as piele in Hawaii.  But whatever the origins, this is a great recipe.  It will surely grace many a family meals.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk

Serves 4.


1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, about 3 medium
3/4 cup "lite" coconut milk
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt


1.  Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.  Microwave on high until tender all the way to the center, 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard skin.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a medium microwavable bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher.  Add coconut milk, ginger and salt; stir well.  Reheat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve warm.

Note:  Sweet potatoes can be baked.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Place sweet potatoes on a baking dish and bake until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green Bean Casserole – The King of Holiday Side Dishes

It seems that you can always tell when Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are approaching.  This is the time of the year when the green bean casserole makes its annual appearance. I talk to lots of people about this dish.  Some people always had it on the holiday table.  Others are just kind of ho-hum about it.  No matter, everyone has an opinion about it. 

And why not serve green bean casserole for Thanksgiving dinner.  It is a uniquely American dish.  The green bean casserole was developed by the Campbell Soup Company in 1955.  The idea was to make a quick and easy dish consisting of items that most people would always have on hand – green beans and cream of mushroom soup. The original casserole contained only 5 ingredients – green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce and French fried onions.   

We decided to update this American classic. We started with a cream sauce and used real mushrooms, onion, and frozen green beans.  It is a little more work than the original, but worth the effort.  However, we did keep the original onion rings.  No one was willing to part with them.  And why should we, this is, afterall a comfort dish and it is the holidays. 

Even though our version is a little more work, it can be assembled ahead of time.  On the day of the dinner, top with onions, bake and serve.  So go ahead and enjoy a little of an American classic.

Green Bean Casserole

Serves 8.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 package (16 ounce) frozen green beans or
            1 pound fresh
1 can (2.8 ounce) French fried onions


1.      Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add mushrooms, cook, stirring until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Stir in flour.

2.      Slowly add the broth, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in sour cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To Assemble Casserole:

1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.      Combine sauce and green beans.

3.     Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour green bean mixture into baking dish.  Place in oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 25 minutes.  Top with fried onions and bake for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, and More Pumpkins!

Yes, that has been my fall.  A neighbor grows a plethora of pumpkins and shares them with me and anyone else who will take them.  She had so many that she was giving them away out of the trunk of her car.  Kind of like an old lady drug dealer.

Now, I too, have an abundance of pumpkins.  I decided to step out of the pumpkin pie routine and try a cheesecake.  Since traditional cheesecake is loaded with fat and calories, I also decided to try and make one with less fat while retaining the flavor of a traditional pumpkin cheesecake (aka, full fat).

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Serves 12.


1 cup ground gingersnap cookies
1 cup walnut halves or pieces, divided
2 Tablespoons butter
1 container (12 ounce) reduced fat cottage cheese
2 packages (8 ounce) reduced fat cream cheese
½ cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
2 cups pureed pumpkin


1.       Preheat oven to 325°F.

2.      Wrap the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan with aluminum foil.  Grind cup of walnuts in a food processor.  In a small bowl, combine cookies, walnuts and butter. Press into the bottom of pan.  Set aside.

3.       In a food processor, combine cottage and cream cheeses.  Pulse until thoroughly combined.  Add both sugars and blend again.  Add spices, vanilla, eggs and pumpkin.  Pulse until completely blended. 

4.       Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake cheese cake at 325°F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The center should not be set.  The cake should giggle slightly when shaken.

5.       Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

6.       To serve, top with toasted or candied walnuts (recipe follows).

Candied Walnuts

1.        Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.       In a medium skillet combine ¼ cup of sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey.  Stir to combine.  Cook mixture until it reached a light golden brown color, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add ⅔ cup of walnuts and stir.  Cook until mixture turns a deep golden brown color, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn on parchment paper.  When cooled completely, break into clusters.

We hope you enjoy or version of pumpkin cheesecake.  Our foodie colleagues thought it passed the test.