Recipes of the Week: Warm Winter Favorites

tuna-salad-with-capersUpgrading the Classic Tuna Salad

Want a tastier, healthier substitute for commercial mayo? Try using plain whole-milk Greek yogurt whenever you’d normally reach for the mayo. If you want to give it even more of that mayo-like tang, just stir a squirt of fresh lemon juice and a small spoonful of mustard into the yogurt. The result? A full-flavored, creamy, and probiotic version of your favorite mayo-turned-yogurt-slathered dishes.

I’ve used that Greek yogurt trick to remake classic tuna salad into an upgraded version of its former self. And instead of pre-made relish (which is usually sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup), I chopped up a dill pickle and tossed in some capers. Both offer a slightly briny and entirely savory kick.

I also included hard-boiled eggs, although rather than coarsely chopping them, I pressed them through a sieve. (Pushing them through a ricer would be even easier, but I don’t have a ricer.) When you do that, you wind up with very fluffy, fine bits of egg. They blend into the dish so well that they transform that Greek yogurt into even tastier version of mayo…which is, of course, an egg-based sauce. Sieving/ricing hard-boiled eggs is simple way of adding a cooked egginess to any sauce you like since the finely shredded eggs just about disappear into whatever you add them to. Or if you want a completely smooth upgraded mayo, you can run the yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, and hard-boiled egg through a food processor. Simple and delicious!

Tuna Salad with Capers & Pickles

Serves 2. Double or triple the recipe as you like.

2 servings whole-grain pasta of your choice (I used gluten-free corkscrews made of amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice)

2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens

1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (low-fat yogurt lacks the flavor, mouthfeel, sateity, protein, and usefulness of whole-milk yogurt, not to mention that it makes no sense to pay someone to water down your dairy products — you can do that yoruself if you’re so inclined)

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice OR to taste

1 tsp. red wine vinegar (optional, but pairs nicely with the lemon juice)

Pinch sea salt

Sprinkling of dill

Spoonful of drained capers

1 large dill pickle, minced

5 oz. can of tuna, water pressed out

Prepare the pasta according to package directions and drain well. Place eggs in a medium pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil uncovered. As soon as the water boils, reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain promptly. Refill the pot with cold water to cool the eggs down — peeling hot eggs can be painful! As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them and let them sit to cool even more while you prepare the rest of the dish. (Pressing hot eggs through a sieve is even more painful than peeling them!)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt with the lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and dill. Add capers, pickles, tuna, and drained pasta. Toss well. Press the eggs through a sieve or ricer, letting the fluffy bits fall right onto the tuna. (I prefer to use my fingers to press the eggs through, but some people like to use the back of a spoon to get those last little bits through.) Toss well and serve. Leftover salad can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.


sauteed-grapefruitMore Ways to Enjoy Winter Citrus

To continue the trend of celebrating winter citrus fruits, I thought I’d share an idea involving grapefruit. You can think of this as a snack idea or a dessert idea depending on how much sucanat you add or if you top the grapefruit with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. (Combining hot-off-the-stove ingredients with chilled-out-of-the-freezer ingredients is always fun. Nothing like contrasting temperatures to add an interesting element to your dishes!) Just be sure to use a sweet variety of grapefruit — tart grapefruits can turn bitter when heated.

Sauteed Grapefruit with Toasted Hazelnuts

Coarsely chop a handful of hazelnuts and heat in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. It will only take 3 to 5 minutes for the hazelnuts to get nice and toasty, so pay attention to them! Also be sure to occasionally shake the skillet to encourage even toasting.

While the nuts toast, peel a sweet grapefruit (Ruby Red is a good choice) into segments. As soon as the hazelnuts are fragrant and turning golden brown, remove them to a plate. Heat a pat of butter in the same skillet over medium heat until the butter is completely melted. Add grapefruit segments and sprinkle each segment with a pinch of sucanat. Cook undisturbed for 3 minutes to allow the segments to develop a little bit of browning on the bottom. Very carefully flip over each segment and cook another minute, sprinkling with additional sucanat if you like.

Serve the segments sprinkled with the toasted hazelnuts. Feel free to serve atop ice cream, or flip the script and top with a dollop of plain whole-milk Greek yogurt sweetened with a dash of maple syrup. This makes a nice snack, dessert, or even breakfast.


carrot-kumquat-muffinsOn the Scrabble Board or in Muffins, Kumquats Are Fun!

Not too many fruits come into full bloom during the winter months, but members of the citrus family do. And the least-known (but possibly the most delicious and definitely the cutest!) member of the citrus family can only be found during the winter months. Enter kumquats! They’re tiny, oval-shaped orange citrus fruits that are curiously inverted from the traditional citrus model. By “inverted,” I mean that the inside is bitter and the outer zest is sweet. The pulp is so bitter, in fact, that I always cut my kumquats in half and squeeze out the pulp before I eat them.

Kumquats are the ideal out-of-hand snack food (halving and de-pulping them is still quicker and less messy than peeling an orange), and they also make great additions to baked goods like muffins and cakes. Their intensely sweet-but-citrusy zest adds a giant punch of flavor, especially when you chop them to release their fragrant oils. I added them to these muffins since I knew they’d compliment the sweetness of the carrots along with adding a fun crunchy texture. (Threw in some pecans and flaked coconut, too. Added texture + added flavor = extra bonus!)

These nut- and citrus-studded muffins make a satisfying breakfast, or you can transform them into cupcakes by spooning on some mascarpone mixed with maple syrup as a last-minute frosting. Either way, they’re a fun way to incorporate some February-inspired winter fruits into your repertoire!

Carrot-Kumquat Muffins

Makes a baker’s dozen.

Dry ingredients:

3/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut

1 1/2 T. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Wet ingredients:

1/2 cup whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows, OR use almond or hazelnut milk*

1/2 cup maple syrup*

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil OR unrefined hazelnut oil

4 eggs, preferably from pastured hens

3 carrots, peeled and finely grated

10 kumquats, chopped (first pop off the little stems, then rinse thoroughly, cut in half, and squeeze out the pulp and seeds)

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin tin with parchment paper cups. (You can use traditional paper cups, but the parchment cups literally fall off of the muffins whereas the paper ones stick and wind up ripping away half of your muffin.)

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and the wet ones in a smaller bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour into waiting cups and bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and warm. I usually have enough batter to make a 13th muffin, so I tuck a parchment cup into a small custard dish and then enjoy that one piping-hot right when the muffins come out of the oven. Baker’s privilege!

If you’d like to frost these, mix a dollop of mascarpone cheese OR whole-milk Greek yogurt with a splash of maple syrup. Frost right before serving and serve immediately. Unfrosted muffins can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


* If you want your muffins less sweet, use 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup maple syrup.

beet-soup-with-hazelnutsBeeting the Winter Blues

One of the easiest ways to make soup is the blender method: place all your ingredients in a blender, press “on,” and let the ingredients puree themselves into creamy soupiness. It’s a common technique for chilled soups, but if you like, you can pour the soup into a pot and heat it through if you’d prefer a hot soup on a chilly winter evening. Likewise, you can customize the base of the soup to suit your preference: chicken broth is the golden standard for savoriness, or perhaps you’d like to go for dairy-created creaminess (cream and whole-milk Greek yogurt are wonderful in soups) or plant-created creaminess (not only is it lushly delicious, coconut milk doesn’t curdle when heated; neither do nut/seed butters, either homemade or store-bought).

For this soup, I used a blend of golden and red beets, then blended them with water, avocado, and Greek yogurt for a smooth, creamy consistency. I opted not to warm the soup through, but that would have been easy enough to do. If you’re an adherent to the soup-is-always-hot school of thought (nothing wrong with that!), the most foolproof way to heat your soup is to hold off on stirring in the dairy-based creamy element until you’re right about to remove the soup from the heat. That way you won’t cause any curdling. If you’re skipping the dairy and sticking to creamy/smooth plants like avocado, nut butter, or coconut milk, you can heat the whole shebang without any worries.

Beet Soup with Hazelnuts & Mascarpone

Makes 4 hearty lunch servings. Feel free to double or cut in half as needed.

4 medium beets (any variety; I used 2 golden and 2 red), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

1 avocado

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. coriander

Handful of cilantro leaves

About 2 cups water OR chicken broth OR vegetable broth

1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt OR whole coconut milk

Toasted hazelnuts for garnishing (optional)

Dollop of mascarpone or additional whole-milk Greek yogurt for garnishing (optional)

Fill a medium pot of water halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add beets, cover, and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce the beets with a fork. While the beets are simmering, you can prepare the hazelnuts if you’re going to use them: chop them and place them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Let cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts are turning golden-brown and are fragrant. This takes no more than 5 minutes, so don’t walk away! (Never walk away from toasting nuts — they can go from perfectly toasted to burnt slag in seconds.) As soon as the hazelnuts are toasted, transfer them to a cool plate.

Drain beets. Add to a blender that holds at least 32 ounces. If you have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, now’s the time to use it! Add flesh of avocado, the lime juice, the spices, and the cilantro. Pour enough water or broth over the beets to cover them. Blend on high until the soup is well-blended, stopping to scrape down the sides and add more liquid if necessary. If you’re going to heat your soup, transfer it to a pot and heat on medium heat until warmed through. Stir in yogurt and remove from heat. If you’re not going to heat the soup or you’re using coconut milk, blend the yogurt/coconut milk directly into the soup.

Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and mascarpone/yogurt just before serving. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.


All recipes courtesy of The Cultured Cook.

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