Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creamy Avocado Dressing

I love avocado so much!  Especially on a nice big fresh salad!  But once I add that plus my favorite salad dressing (Pizza Hut's Romano Cheese dressing), that really adds a Lot of calories...about 300 to be exact.
So, I kept thinking would it be great if I could use an avocado to create a creamy dressing?!  So that I can get both the avocado flavor and the creamy dressing without all the calories?!  And so I finally tried one today from my favorite cooking blog and it was awesome!  It had a little heat, and a little southwestern kick, so I loaded up my plate with lots of salad mix and spinach, thawed frozen corn, salsa, and a few southwestern flavored Artisan Tortilla Chips, topped it with about 3 spoonfuls of the avocado dressing and that's it!  And it was AMAZING! 

I don't ever buy buttermilk anymore...I just take my measuring cup and add about 1 Tbsp lemon juice and then fill to whatever line I need with my 1% milk and just let it sit for about 5 minutes.  No need to stir or anything.

And I did add the spinach at the end.  It wasn't in the original recipe and I just figured it was a good way to sneak a little extra greens in!  :)  You'd never even notice it...so I'm sure you wouldn't notice if it wasn't in there. 

And I only added about 1/8 cup of olive oil mayo to this instead of the 1/4 cup...and it was divine!  Might try substituting low fat sour cream too, to see how that tastes and of course to lower the calories even more!  But, according to My Fitness Pal (the app I use for counting calories) as I wrote it below, there is only about 65 calories per 3 Tbsp...and that sounds great to me!!!!  :)

Servings: makes 2 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1 small jalapeno*
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 lime, juice
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk**
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (completely optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  1. Puree everything in a blender until smooth. Store in fridge and finish within a few days.

* Leave the seeds in for more heat or remove them for less.
** Use more buttermilk to make it thinner or less to make it thicker.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Red Lentil, Kale, and Bean Chili

I wanted to make a vegetarian meal tonight because we started fasting from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays like they do in Ethiopia, in preparation of bringing our son home...and so this is what I came up with and it was awesome!

1 onion
1/2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
2 soft chicken boullion cubes
2 - 15 oz cans white cannelli beans
1 - 15 oz can dark red kidney beans
2/3 cup dried red lentils
2 tsp Berbere (Ethiopian spice mixture)
4-6 cups chopped kale
light sour cream and cheddar cheese, if desired

1.  In large pot, heat onion and olive oil over medium high heat until onion is soft.  Add garlic and stir for about a minute.
 2.  Add tomatoes, chicken bullion cubes, and 2 cans full of water (use the can from the tomatoes).  Stir.
3.  Add white beans, kidney beans, lentils and berbere and stir together.  Bring to a boil.  Watch the amount of water, and add as needed (the lentils will absorb a good bit of the water).  Keep the soup as brothy as you like it, as it cooks.  Boil for about 20 minutes.
4.   Add kale and stir.  Cook until kale is wilted.
5.  Serve with about a tsp of sour cream and just a little sprinkle of cheddar cheese if desired.

This was awesome with a piece of cornbread!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lentil Wat (Ethiopian lentil stew)

I really wasn't sure what to expect with this dish either.  When we went to the two Ethiopian restaurants we've gone to so far, they both had some vegetarian lentils and yellow split pea stews that I wasn't a huge fan of.  They weren't disgusting or anything, I just didn't want to waste my belly-space on them when I could have such amazing chicken and beef stews!  :)
But this turned out really good!  I'm not ready to make a meal out of it, but I enjoyed it a LOT as a side!

1 onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Berbere
1 cup red lentils
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Mekelesha powder (I didn't have this so I looked up what was in Mekelesha and ended up
        sprinkling in a little cinnamon, cardemom, pepper, cloves, and nutmeg.  Not sure how accurate
        that is, but again, it was really good!)

1.  In medium size sauce pan over medium-high heat, cook onion in oil until onions are soft.
2.  Add Berbere spice and 1/4 - 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, adding water about 1/4 cup at a time to keep the mixture soupy.
3.  Once up to a boil, add 2 cups water and red lentils.  Bring to a boil with the lid on, stirring occasionally.
4.  Add about 1 cup water when the lentils start cooking and getting puffy, if needed.
5.  Add salt, garlic, and spices.  Turn heat to very low and simmer until lentils are soft (about 15 minutes maybe), adding small amounts of water as needed to keep them from drying out.  Remove from heat when lentils are cooked and dissolving.

Serve with Injera!

Shurro Wat (Ethiopian Bean Stew)

I have a confession to make.  When we met with our social worker a while back at an Ethiopian restaurant I bought this little container called Shirro, and thought it was going to end up in the garbage.  The owner is from Ethiopia and he was explaining how to use it and it sounded utterly disgusting when he told me how to use it.  All shirro is, is a powder made from dried and ground up beans.   But you then mix it with onions, oil, and water and turn it into stew.  It just sounds terrible.  But I decided that we need to get used to Ethiopian food (and all kinds of Ethiopian food!) because I won't know what Josiah's favorite comfort foods are until we meet him, and I better know how to fix his favorites when he comes home!
So, we tried it tonight, and I actually made a mistake and added spices that were supposed to go in the lentil stew...but not only did it work, it was really tasty!  I'm actually looking forward to making this on Sunday afternoons now!  And it's so simple!  It's probably supposed to be thicker than mine, but I wasn't sure...it was still yummy!

Little fact for the day - Ethiopians fast from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, so their main source of fat comes from cooking oil.  So, in typical recipes (this one included), Ethiopians would put about 1/2 CUP of oil in it...but since we get our fat from, well, EVERYWHERE here in the states, I'm omitting most of the oil!

Shurro Wat (Ethiopian Bean Stew)

2 onions, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
4-5 Tbsp Shirro (bean flour)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardemom
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Berbere
3 tsp crushed garlic

 1.  Heat onions and oil in sauce pan over medium heat until onions are soft.
2.  Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil with the lid on.
3.  Whisk in shirro until fully incorporated.  If needed, add another 1/2 to 1 cup of water to thin the consistency (I didn't have to do this!).  Cover and cook.
4.  Add salt and other spices and garlic; mix well.
5.  Cover and cook again.  When thick, turn off burner, remove from heat, and cover.  Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

Doro Wat (Ethiopian Chicken Stew)

This was awesome!  I used the original recipe that I had found and switched out all the spices for Berbere seasoning (it's like the National Spice of Ethiopia, a blend of LOTS of other spices that are toasted together).  It's very spicy but it's got a ton of flavors in it and so it really adds a LOT of flavor to the stew!
Oh, and I'm sure the wine isn't really Ethiopian, so we should probably omit that, but it is really good!

Doro Wat (Ethiopian Chicken Stew)

15 oz tomato sauce
1/2 - 2 Tbsp Berbere seasoning, depending on how much heat you can stand
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
3 pounds chicken (I used a mix of boneless/skinless thighs and breasts), CUT INTO Bitesize pieces
1 tsp salt, optional

1.  Make the sauce first by combining tomato sauce, red wine, and Berbere.  Set aside.

2.  In a large skillet, cook onion and garlic in oil until tender but not brown.  Stir in sauce, tumeric, salt (if desired), and chicken.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 40-45 minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve with Injera!

Injera - Ethiopian Flatbread

I don't really know how exactly to describe this.  It's like a spongy sourdough crepe.  I guess that's the best way to explain it.  It's the national bread/carb of Ethiopia, which is the only country that eats that as their staple food, and it's awesome!
We've been to two Ethiopian restaurants so far in our adoption process, so that we can start to get to know the food that our little Josiah is accustomed to, and if you've never had Ethiopian food before, RUN and get some!  It's simple but the flavors are so complex!  It's absolutely delightful!
Of course I can't just limit our Ethiopian food to restaurants because, well, there are none locally, but also because I'm gonna be his Mama, and I need to be able to cook his comfort foods!  So of course I've begun trying to master Ethiopian food at home!  This year, while we're waiting for our newest little guy, we're going to be having a traditional Ethiopian dinner every Sunday...and I'm so excited about that!
Tonight we had some friends over (who had no idea what was on the menu) and they LOVED it!  :)  I wasn't sure I was going to like the injera this time around, but with the rest of the meal it was FABULOUS!  So worth the time and effort!
I wouldn't change a thing about any of the meal tonight!  We had Injera, Doro Wat (chicken stew), Lentil Wat (lentil stew), and Shirro Wat (a stew made out of dried bean powder, which sounds dreadful but was really really good!).


4 cups warm water (not too hot or it will kill the yeast!)
2 cups teff flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat or all purpose flour
2 tsp yeast

***Injera takes a few days to prepare as it needs to ferment!!!***
      You can do it overnight and it's ok, but it's best if it can sit for 3 nights

1.  Whisk all of the ingredients into a large glass or plastic bowl (NOT METAL!) until fully combined.  This will be a thin batter, not a thick dough!

2.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and sit on the counter for 3 full nights (don't move the bowl around!).  You want to make sure that there is lots of space between the injera mix and the plastic wrap so that it can work it's magic!

3.  After the third night, about a half hour before you are going to cook, place the fermented mixture into a blender and add about 1/4 cup warm water and blend for a minute or so.  Let rest for about 30 minutes.

4.  When ready to cook, heat a 12" skillet over medium high heat until good and hot.  Add about 1/3 cup of the injera batter to the pan and while holding the pan, turn your wrist so that it spreads out evenly over the bottom of the pan (it will be pretty thin like a crepe, not thick like a pancake!).  Put the lid on and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the edges start to curl upwards.  Remove the injera from the heat and allow to cool.

5.  Continue with the remaining injera batter.  When they are cool to the touch, roll them up and serve alongside the veggies and meat stews!

Now, I know...typically in Ethiopia they would take a very large platter and cover it with a large 20" around size piece of injera and then place the different stews all around it and everyone would share it...but we don't have a giant skillet, and so I just serve it this way :)  But, the rule is, NO FORKS!  Ethiopians don't use silverware, they use the injera as both a carb to fill their bellies and as their silverware.  You break off bite-size pieces of injera and use it to scoop up or grab little handfuls of stew.  It's SO good! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Healthier Cheddar Onion Cornbread

So I wanted to try cheddar jalapeno cornbread, but for one, I didn't have jalapenos!  For two, I wanted to try to make it a bit healthier.
Last night I made my typical cornbread recipe but I used all whole-wheat flour and lowered the sugar from 1/3 cup to 1/4 cup.  It was still awesome!
So, I decided this time to try to substitute out the shortening.  I used natural, unsweetened applesauce in it's place.  I lowered the sugar to about 1/5 of a cup but would have probably tried even less than that if I had decided on the applesauce BEFORE I added the sugar in!  :)
I didn't want to take any chances of tasting the apple in there, so I added a small handful of chopped green onions in too.  Then, I compared the cheese label to the shortening label and saw that even regular cheddar is still so much less fat and calories than shortening, that I didn't feel guilty adding in a big handful of cheddar (I actually used a blend of cheddar and low-fat cheddar).